Storm Jaxon hated Captain Sküljagger.
Hated him, pure and simple.
The reason was easy. For ten years, Sküljagger had ruled
the island of Westica with all the cruelty in his Kiltish heart.
For ten long and deadly years, he had silenced anyone who
opposed him...with one swing of a Kiltish battle-axe.
Ten years was enough of Sküljagger.
As far as Storm was concerned, the time had come for
things to change.
The time had come for Westica to be free again.
1 THE SWORD
Storm Jaxon ducked behind a barrel, crouched down,
and got ready to strike. He knew it was a crazy plan. He knew
that one wrong step would land him in Sküljagger's savage
But he wanted that sword.
From his hiding place, Storm had a perfect view of Gauntlet
Grounds—the giant field where Sküljagger trained his Kiltish
troops for battle. The sword was sitting on a brown crate, near
the edge of the trampled grass.
Its golden handle flashed once in the morning sun.
"Sküljagger's sword," Storm muttered, shaking his head.
"I must be insane." As usual, Storm was chewing a chunk of
homemade gum. He blew a snap-cherry bubble, popped it,
and gazed at the Captain's sword. "It's just begging for a
Storm watched Sküljagger march around the field, shouting
at his troops. The Kiltish Army was the largest, fiercest force in
the world—and Sküljagger was the Army's fiercest Captain.
Storm could see the cruel glint in Sküljagger's one good eye.
"I've heard that some foolish Westicans are talking about
revolution," Sküljagger shouted. He threw his head back in
laughter. "Ha! What a delicious joke! I'd love nothing more
than to crush the Westicans—crush them like pathetic bugs—
then feed the left-overs to the battle-dogs. How does that
sounds, my mighty steel-masked men?"
The warriors lifted their rifles and shouted their infamous
battle cry. It was a high-pitched scream—like the sound of a
war-crazed, two-headed Kiltish battle-dog.
Storm felt a cold line of sweat run down his side. At any
moment, Sküljagger could turn and march back to his sword.
It was now or never.
"Ingawa!" Storm whispered, then surged across the rocky
ground. He grabbed the handle and pulled the sword free.
The fine silver blade vibrated in his hand like a living being.
Storm smiled, gripped the golden handle tighter, and took off
After only three steps, though, Storm felt his boot catch on
a hidden root. He tripped forward and smashed the sword
against an empty metal barrel. The barrel thundered like a
Chinese gong—and Storm tumbled to the ground.
Sküljagger spun around, his good eye blazing fire. Every
Kiltish warrior cocked his rifle.
Storm snatched the sword from the dirt and leaped to his feet.
"Crush that foolish cockroach!" Sküljagger screamed. "I
must have that sword back. I must!"
Storm sprinted toward an old pier, pumping his arms like
mad. The sound of the Kiltish battle cry pierced the morning air,
and an icy chill shot up Storm's spine.
"Whatever you do, don't choke now," he said to himself.
Storm knew the city of Tuscamesh like the back of his hand.
He had lived in the Westican capital all his lfie, and knew every
house, every factory, and every winding street by heart. If he
could make it across these bridges and piers, he'd end up at old
Mr. Roop's warehouse. If he was lucky, maybe he could lose
the Kiltish in there.
But if he wasn't lucky....
Sküljagger pulled a long pistol from his belt. He took aim at
Storm's back, and a gruesome grim crossed his face.
"This'll teach that Westican worm to touch my sword."
A shot rang out, and Storm heard the bullet whiz past his
ear—exploding a crate just beside his head. He leaped across
a hole in the old wooden pier, then sailed over a barrel like a
Storm glanced over his shoulder. The Kiltish warriors were
gaining on him.
"I must have that sword!" Sküljagger screamed, reloading
his pistol. "Fire at him, fire!"
Storm ducked down between a small brown crate and a big
yellow barrel, just as twenty rifle-shots ripped through the air.
The hail of bullets turned the crate into pulp, showering Storm
with shreds of wood.
"Whoa!" Storm cried, looking down at a hole that a bullet
had torn in his shirt. "Was that close or what?!"
A sudden burst of energy rushed through his body, and
Storm sprinted off—faster than he ever thought he could. He
jumped, dodged bullets, and leaped from pier to pier. Soon the
Kiltish warriors lagged behind, slowed by their masks and
heavy armor. Storm jumped onto an old stone bridge, looked
over his shoulder, and grinned.
He was almost starting to like this.
"Sound the general alarm!" Sküljagger yelled, cupping his
mouth with both hands. His eye flamed with rage as
Storm grew smaller and smaller. "Call out every
Kiltish fighter in Tuscamesh," Sküljagger pointed one
long, crooked red finger at Storm's back. "I want that
worm's head brought to me on a silver platter!"
"Sound the general alarm!" the Kiltish warriors
A moment later, Storm heard the alarm bell
ringing from the tallest tower in town. In a
moment, every Kiltish warrior, sailor, and Black-Mask would be
scouring the streets of Tuscamesh.
One thing was sure, Storm didn't want to meet any
Black-Masks. They were Sküljagger's personal guard—fiercely
loyal, and highly-trained in the martial arts. Only those who
had advanced beyond the black-belt stage of training were
awarded the honor of a Kiltish black-mask. It was rumored
that a Black-Mask could out-think, out-punch, and out-kick
even the most deadly martial masters of the world.
Storm crossed the final bridge, and sprinted toward Mr.
Roop's warehouse. He remembered a small secret window,
hidden in a back room of the ancient building. If he could
make it to the window, he stood a chance of getting out alive.
But the streets were already crawling with Kiltish.
He raced across the road, jumped onto a chain, and swung
through an open window—right into the heart of the ware-
"He's in the warehouse!" a Kiltish sailor called.
"Company Blitz, take the front! Company Ravage, the
"Swing your chains, and take no prisoners!"
Storm scurried away from the window, leaned back against
a wall, and tried to catch his breath. It felt
like the entire Kiltish Empire was after him.
He glanced down at the gold and silver
sword in his hand.
"I hope you're worth the trouble,"
Storm muttered—as if the sword could
Next, he turned a corner and entered a
giant room filled with barrels, crates, and
boxes. He rushed toward a stairway at the
end of the room—leaping and dodging over
obstacles along the way. But as he got
closer to the stairway, he heard Kiltish
boots pounding up the steps.
He stopped short and spun around, trapped.
"There he is!"
"Don't let the insect escape!"
Kiltish sailors were blocking every door. They rushed
toward Storm, swinging skull-chains that whistled in the air.
There was only one way out. Storm scrambled up a ladder,
jumped onto a stack of six dark brown crates, and smashed
open a secret window with the
sword-handle. He shimmied
out—tearing his pants on the
broken glass—and slid down
the rain gutter with one arm.
"He's down there!" the
sailors shouted, too big to fit
through the window. Their
faces flushed red with fury.
"I need to get to the old
part of town," Storm said, his
chest heaving. "And I need to
get there now."
The old part of Tuscamesh
was a maze of thin alleys and
curving streets. Even some Westicans got lost in the
labyrinthine passageways. If he could make it to the old town,
he was sure he could lose the Kiltish.
He knew a short-cut across some old bridges.
"Too late to worry about safety," Storm muttered, as he
turned and sprinted toward an old bridge, leaping over a sign
that read: "DANGER! BAD BRIDGES! KEEP OFF! DANGER!"
Storm caught a glimpse of something black in the distance
ahead. It ducked behind a barrel, then disappeared like the
shadow of a blade.
"Uh-oh," Storm said, his heart sinking. "A Black-Mask."
He ran forward carefully, ready to swing the sword.
Suddenly a black blur appeared out of nowhere, chopping
rock-hard arms and slicing the air. Storm screamed and
ducked his head. The Black-Mask's bladed foot missed his
neck by an inch.
The Black-Mask landed in ready position—hands up, legs
apart, shoulders hunched. They squared-off, circling and star-
ing daggers at each other's eyes.
Suddenly the Black-Mask exploded into action. He spun
around and sliced the air into pieces, screaming a high-pitched
scream. Storm ducked, and the Black-Mask's foot-blade tore
"You're quick, for a kid," the
At that, Storm attacked,
swinging the sword with all his
might. The Black-Mask jumped,
dodged the blade, and landed
near the edge of the bridge.
But one foot landed on a loose
stone, and the Black-Mask lost
Storm saw his chance and
moved like lightning. He
grabbed a brown keg and
heaved it forward. The keg
knocked the Black-Mask
backward—and over the edge
of the bridge.
By the time the Black-Mask splashed into the water—far,
far below—Storm had already spun and sprinted off.
He ran into the winding streets of the old town, past farm-
ers pushing carts of snap-cherries, purple sea-grapes, green
island-limes, and tasty Westican-oranges. Storm used those
fruits to flavor his homemade bubble gum, and all the mer-
chants knew him by name. He passed tired Westican workers
on their way to the jemerald mines. He smelled the warm
smell of Westican bread rising from Pym's Bakery.
And there wasn't a single Kiltish warrior in sight.
Storm smiled. He stopped running, and strolled across the
stone bridge that led toward home.
"I don't believe it," Storm said to himself, smiling and shak-
ing his head. "I just stole Sküljagger's sword."
As he walked through the winding streets, Storm thought
about Captain Sküljagger.
He would never forget the day that Sküljagger sailed his bat-
tle fleet into Tuscamesh Harbor. Even though Storm had been
very young at the time, he could still remember the sound of
Kiltish cannonballs ripping through the air. He could remember
his first glimpse of Sküljagger, too—a giant man with a scalded
skull, laughing as he slashed his way down Bladeback Street.
Storm's mother had been killed that day. She had been a
doctor at a Westican hospital. The hospital had been destroyed
by cannon-fire from Sküljagger's own personal battleship.
Sküljagger's force crushed Westica in less than a day. From
then on, Westica was no longer a proud, free nation—as it had
been for a thousand years. It was just another, tiny part of the
mighty Kiltish Empire.
Worse yet, it was Sküljagger's part.
Storm gripped the sword tighter in his hands. As far as he
was concerned, Sküljagger deserved whatever he got.
Storm caught a glimpse of his house in the distance.
Another two-hundred yards and he'd be home, safe and sound.
"Halt, worm!" a voice shouted.
A pistol shot rang out, and a bullet smashed through a win-
dow beside Storm's head.
It was Sküljagger. The Captain was running at full speed,
his purple cape flowing out behind him like a sinister wing.
"Give up, you miserable scum-worm!" Sküljagger shouted.
Storm ducked into a side-alley, and ran for his life. He
needed a plan, and he needed one fast.
That's when he saw ten rain barrels, lined up in a row along
the thin winding alley.
He jumped inside the last barrel and ducked his head, just
as Sküljagger turned down the alley.
"You're crazy if you think you can escape!" Sküljagger cried,
looking down the empty alley-way. "You stinking pond-scum!"
Storm listened to Sküljagger's heavy steps. They grew closer
and closer, until they stopped right beside the barrel. Storm
held his breath. A silence fell that seemed to last forever.
Then—at last—the footsteps started up again, moved away, and
disappeared down another alley.
Storm let out a quiet sigh of relief. He reached out of the
barrel and tapped the sword against the closest window.
"Who is it?" a voice asked from inside.
"It's me," Storm whispered. "Let me in, fast!"
"Storm!" the young man shouted, yanking open the window
and looking down. "What are you doing in the rain barrel?"
"Shut up!" Storm said, handing him the sword. "Just grab
the sword and help me in."
It was Storm's best friend. His real name was R.L. Wright,
but everyone called him Wits.
Basically, Wits was a genius. His bedroom looked like the labo-
ratory of a mad scientist—with wires, test tubes, and strange con-
coctions covering his desk, and complicated diagrams tacked onto
his walls. Wits knew how to make the finest crossbows in Westica,
using twine from the bark of the finger-tree. He knew how to
weave rope from the vines of the moss-plant. And, to top it off, he
was almost as much as a daredevil as Storm.
Wits snatched the sword, dropped it to the floor, and pulled
Storm through the window.
"Ingawa!" Storm said, jumping to his feet.
"Ingawa!" Wits answered.
The two friends raised their hands in the air and slammed
them together. The "ingawa" was their secret greeting.
Only one other person in the world knew the "ingawa"—and
that person was Trina Wright, Wits' half-sister. Trina knew the
Westican jungle as well as Storm or Wits, and was the best
crossbow shooter Storm had ever me.
"I thought I heard your voice, Storm," Trina said, ducking
into the room and giving Storm a quick ingawa. Right away,
Trina spotted the shining sword.
"What is that?" she asked.
"Ahem," Storm cleared his throat, as if getting ready for
the announcement of the year. "It's Sküljagger's sword."
"Sküljagger's sword?" Wits and Trina said at the exact same
Trina turned pale. "You mean you stole it?"
Trina rushed over and slammed the shutters closed. Wits
locked the door and leaned his back against it, breathing hard.
"This is serious," Trina said in a whisper.
"Did he see your face?" Wits asked.
"Not a chance," Storm answered proudly. "The only thing
Sküljagger saw was my back."
Wits broke into a little grin, and shook his head. "I can't
believe you actually did it!" he said, excited. "INGAWA!"
"But haven't you heard the rumors?" Trina asked.
"What rumors?" Storm asked.
"It's supposed to be a magic sword," Trina answered. I've
heard that Sküljagger found it in a jemerald mine. Some people
even say Sküljagger talks to it."
"Magic sword, hah!" Storm laughed. "No such thing."
"Easy, smart guy," Wits aid. "There are plenty of weird
things in the world." He started counting things off on his fin-
gers. "There are power stones and inexplicable force-fields and
maybe even ghosts. Just yesterday I was studying an ancient
cliff-face near the beach. It had strange writing all over it—and
it wasn't Westican writing, either. Where did it come from? A
lost civilization?" Wits shrugged. "So who knows, maybe the
sword is magic."
Storm leaped to his feet and swiped the sword through the
"Dear magic sword," he said, talking into the handle, "Please
make me a huge breakfast of bladeback steaks and bread. "And
while you're at it, let me blow magic flavor bubbles that make
Storm waited a moment—and nothing happened. Wits
and Trina couldn't help but laugh.
"So much for magic swords," Storm said.
Still, it was an incredible sword. There was a big hole in the
blade, right near the handle—where a jewel might have been. Right
below the hole was a tiny inscription, which read, "LDL DRU."
"I'm starting to get a isn't that stupid.
feeling," Trina said. "A If he cancels Mask Day,
strong feeling." he'll have a riot on his
"Uh-oh," Storm said. hands."
For as long as Storm could "I wouldn't put any-
remember, Trina had got- thing past Sküljagger,"
ten strange feelings when- Trina said.
ever something big was Storm looked down at
about to happen. It was as the sword in his hands. He
if she had an amazing sixth knew that Wits was right.
sense. If Sküljagger actually can-
"I've got a feeling that celled Mask Day, there
Sküljagger is going to can- would be big trouble.
cel Mask Day," Trina said. There would be
"All because of this sword." revolution.
"What?!" Wits And Mask Day was
exclaimed. "Sküljagger tomorrow.