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Book One: Santa & the Lost Princess
Being the heretofore most secret Annals of Santopia as related to Sir Nicholas by the High Custodian of the Santa Museum & Historical Society
Sir Nicholas Throckmorton
Gramercy Park Press
SANTOPIA Book One: Santa & the Lost Princess Copyright © 2009 by Gramercy Park Press All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form whatsoever without written consent of the publisher, except for brief passages quoted in reviews. This is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to events, localities, or actual persons, is entirely coincidental. Published simultaneously in Canada and the United Kingdom. Printed in the United States of America First Edition ISBN-13 -978-0-9817154-0-7 ISBN-10 -09817154-0-0
santopia.com www.Cover Art & Map by Max Forward A paperback original from Gramercy Park Press www.gramercy-park-press.net 4 .
Dedication To Amanda Throckmorton Her name is Amanda. a dealer in fun. and that’s what I hear. And she likes a slice of my cinnamon bun! If you are what you eat. but not so a tuffin. This is her book—I’ll give it away. Give her no spinach. some milk and ice cream. the dear. She’s a dealer in magic. no green Brussels sprout. give her some cookies. or that’s what they say. ’Cause she’d rather smile and munch on a muffin. 5 . Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful dream? She’ll have a small tiffin. She’s sweet with her cakes and her candies. She’ll put an army of veggies to rout! No.
So here’s to Amanda. But that’s not a problem. we all muddle through. Hurry! / 63 Chapter 17 – Gelf Spicata / 65 Chapter 18 – The Grand Sleigh / 68 6 Table of Contents .She may not be a Throckmorton. We love you so much—whatever your name! Preface / 5 Chapter 1 – A New Son! / 7 Chapter 2 – The Flying Trelves / 14 Chapter 3 – The Death of Connie / 18 Chapter 4 – Journey to Drear / 20 Chapter 5 – The Birth of Noelle / 26 Chapter 6 – Two Storks / 29 Chapter 7 – Taraxa and Inula Worry / 31 Chapter 8 – The Princess Dazzle / 33 Chapter 9 – Taraxa Sets Out / 34 Chapter 10 – The Volcanic Palace / 38 Chapter 11 – The Santa Museum / 49 Chapter 12 – The Schism / 51 Chapter 13 – Back to Drear / 53 Chapter 14 – No Slookery Juice for Baby! / 58 Chapter 15 – Master Control / 60 Chapter 16 – Hurry. Henry. you’re not quite to blame. that’s true.
Santopia. As I am far into old age. the story can be told! Now that the current Santa has granted permission to reveal the true and accurate history of his homeland. a heavy burden is lifted from my gladdened heart. it is my fervent hope that I will have the 7 .Chapter 19 – A Job Well Done / 71 Chapter 20 – Into the Koliback Wood / 74 Chapter 21 – A Vexing Problem / 77 Chapter 22 – Across the Hyssopus Field / 79 Chapter 23 – The Sending Off Ceremony / 84 Chapter 24 – Setting Out / 88 Chapter 25 – The Forest of Shadows / 90 Chapter 26 – The Flying Trelves Deployed / 97 Chapter 27 – The Magic Staff / 102 Preview of Books 2 – 5 of The Annals of Santopia: / 111 SANTOPIA Book One: Santa & the Lost Princess Preface Finally.
my modest goal in this first volume is to tell you the story of a true Princess of Santopia. and how she came to be lost. Though the history of Santa is a long tale spanning many centuries. it is certainly one of my most favourites.strength to set down this history before I am taken away. Sir Nicholas Throckmorton London 8 . While this is certainly not the first book in the whole history of Santopia. Perhaps that’s because it is also the story of the first Santa that I actually knew personally. and though I did not come to know him intimately until he was an old man. his story begins—does not every story?—on the day he was born.
Well. What better way to wake up than with the sound of cheerful bells ringing every morning? So down through the centuries it became a custom to erect a small cluster of bells at the top of each new house the day it was built and before the Elves moved in.A New Son! In faraway Santopia.Santopia Book One: Santa & the Lost Princess Chapter 1 . When the new Elf family moved in on that first day (only Elf families get houses—before they are 10 . jingle-jinglejingle and jangle-jangle-jangle every morning when they wake up. for the simple reason that Elves like to hear them ring-ring-ring. Santa always told the Elves that it was up to them to be happy when the new day started. there’s always more than one bell. there’s a bell on every rooftop.
married. as was her habit. the father Elf would pull the string that ran down the side of the house to the front door. push. and the new house was ready! From then on. And so it was that Elf Duncan opened his eyes with a start when he heard bells ringing. ringing. jab. and his wife. ringing. mother Elf would ring the bell to call in her children for meals. Elves live in Blue Boy Barracks and Elfies live in Pink Girl Barracks). “Wha—? Wha—?” was all he could manage to say. And during the day. or to signal an emergency. baking the oversized morning bun they’d share before going off to work— she to her job in the Santa Museum. Elfie Molliso. so much did it hurt. pushing on his shoulder. and 11 . Duncan! Hurry!—this must mean the baby’s born!” Elfie Molliso. ringing the bells for the first time. “Hurry. when father Elf went to work. jabbing his shoulder. push. had been up much earlier than Duncan. to do their chores. he would ring the bell on his way out. One could even accuse her of jab.
Molliso—just put on the kettle. where he was Foreman. Molliso dashed through the red 12 . have a pink tint to their cheeks) and she regarded her husband with disdain.he to Toy Workhouse No. The pink in her cheeks got pinker (all Elfies in Santopia. “All right. Duncan! This very instant!” she commanded. 7. Let me find my cap. will-ya? I’ll have a cup before we join the town. Duncan took a little longer to raise himself from what had been a deep slumber. “You are coming into the street with everybody else. of course. He’d had a long month. I’m coming.” Elfie Molliso’s small head popped through the doorway into the bedroom. “All right.” Sure that Duncan was right behind her. Duncan’s mouth stretched itself into a wide yawn. The blue tint in his cheeks (all boy Elves in Santopia have a blue tint to their cheeks) grew a little bluer as he fully roused himself. all right! I’ll be right behind you. working to get all the toys in his division ready for Christmas.
front door of their cottage faster than a brisk North Wind. and his lips curled into a mischievous grin as he spied a large hot cinnamon bun Molliso had just taken out of the oven and left on the kitchen sideboard where it was sending out sweet hungerinducing aromas. she’d think he was lost in the cheering crowd. He thought by the time Molliso turned around to find him. his eyebrow arched up. Duncan crawled out of bed—it was but a short hop to the floor for one so small —and pulled on his pale blue jumpsuit with its gold badge on the right breast pocket indicating his rank as Foreman of Toy Workhouse No. 13 . 7 and his yellow cap with a miniature four-inch flag pole with a tiny version of Santa’s pennant hanging from it. and then padded into the tiny kitchen where he put the kettle on. Elf Duncan’s nose twitched involuntarily. went to a wash bowl in the corner and splashed his face with some water to wake up a little more. He shook his head to get rid of the cobwebs.
Santa. before joining the surging throngs now filling the quaint streets. Chief of all the Elves. Here it was. gathered in Connie’s bedchamber to view the newborn babe.Maybe he could drink two cups of tea. alleyways and narrow passages of Santopia. Connie. High above the town. ringing out in celebration as all of Santopia poured into the streets to welcome a new Prince born to Santa and his wife. the Great Wizard of Santopia. just two days before Christmas Eve. Santa Pops. Santa knelt beside her. Ameritus. held up her baby boy to Santa’s outstretched arms. and Connie’s doctors and attendants. and the bells from every rooftop jingled and jangled. Lord Elfington. “You look so weak. my dear. the very picture of exhaustion. were her husband. Connie. he thought. Will you be all right?” 14 .
Santa. “Look. I’ll be here. my dear—don’t worry about me. he’s so adorable!” “I just love to look at him.” said the doctor. The physician came around the headboard and sat on the bed to hold Connie’s hand as she fell asleep with fatigue. and then I’ll be back by your side. languishing. I love you more than anything. Santa.” Connie said with a weary smile. “Go.” Connie said tenderly.” Santa said with a giggle.” “You have Christmas in two days.” “I love you more than Christmas. but glanced up over the headboard where Connie’s chief physician stood next to Lord Elfington and the man shook his head. “And I love to look at you looking at him. 15 .” “Show the people our boy. “How’s Connie?” asked Santa Pops. don’t worry about me.“Oh. “I’m going to show the people our new son.” Connie said. Santa smiled at her.” Santa took the squealing baby and walked over to stand by his father. “I’ll be back quickly.
his protectors and guardians.“Not so good. were festooned with 16 .” said his dad. deep breaths as if by so doing he might somehow magically improve upon his height. so we can come back to her. Santa turned to all the dignitaries in the room. Santa Pops. drawing himself up to his full height of four feet ten inches. he was destined to remain short. The Wizard took in a couple of long. Wizard?” “Indeed you are right. “I name my son Prince Nicholas. Even the Wizard’s Welves. eh. complicated moustaches and sideburns. (All Wizards in Santopia are short. “It would not be out of order for the Wizard to issue a Prophecy on such a momentous occasion. then.” “Let’s get through this. Alas.” said the Wizard. but not as short as Elves. heir to the Kingdom of Santopia!” There was great cheering from all the notables. for all his other magical powers. Santa Pops nudged the Great Wizard. They were distinguished by their highly intricate facial hair designs—that is.
Great Wizard of Santopia. “I. Ah. when he is invested with mystical powers at the Ritual of the Green Gloves and proclaimed the future Santa. the Prince will claim her as his bride and future Queen!” The buzz in the room rose. “… and on his eighteenth birthday. catching the glances of all the people looking at him in high expectation while he turned over in his befuddled mind the different prophecies that he could conjure. and nodding heads indicated general approval of the Wizard’s Prophecy. Ameritus.) The Wizard’s eyes dashed about the room.elaborate designs of facial hair. Santa turned. proclaim the first girl born after Prince Nicholas to be his rightful Queen …” There was a murmur throughout Connie’s bedchamber. Santa caught the twinkle in the Wizard’s eye. And they were a full foot shorter than the Wizard. yes! he thought. 17 . still holding the child.
“You please me. What better way than this to bring about such a fine deed?” “I hope you and Santa are not blessing Drear’s heart with a goodness that is not there. As Santa moved out to a large terrace overlooking the town square to show the new Prince to the wildly cheering Santopians gathered before the Palace. he whispered. Great Wizard. Santa. Over the cheering and clamouring in the square below. we will be able to bring more happiness to her people when they rejoin our Kingdom. if she is blessed with a girl.” said Santa Pops as 18 . knowing how the Baroness has always hated Christmas?” The Wizard nodded. but Santa has always wanted to change her heart. bring more happiness to the people of Drear. Great Wizard. “Ah. Santa Pops moved closer to the Wizard.” said the Wizard with a bow. With the Baroness von Drear so close to giving birth to her child. “Do you think a marriage between the houses of Drear and Santa is wise.” “I am happy you are pleased.
“I wonder. 19 . Even the Wizard himself could not undo a Prophecy once he declared it. When she married (far below her station.” mused the Wizard. Santa Pops knew full well there was no undoing a Wizardorial Prophecy. But everybody in the Kingdom knew who wore the pants over at Castle Drear. all he saw was trouble if Drear delivered a girl. This became a perplexing situation to which Santa Pops realized then and there he’d have to devote a lot of thought. “What?” replied a sullen Santa Pops as he snapped out of his reverie. As he thought about it. There was always the possibility the Baroness would have a boy—the Drear line had always run to boys. the Baroness was the first woman ever to hold domain over the Realm of Drear. some in the Kingdom thought) she elevated her new husband to the title of Count. In fact.they both moved onto the terrace to look upon the happy multitude of Santopians throwing their caps up to the sky.
He had to get back to the Realm as fast as the sleigh could carry him. 20 . the High Representative from the Realm of Drear. That meant driving the Hyssopus-bred reindeer relentlessly hard and fast across Frozen Lake. (Couriers rode in a sling precariously balanced between two Flying Trelves.” he told his Gelf driver. He knew how urgently the Baroness von Drear wanted to know about the birth. Gelf Spicata. ran down to the lakeside and his waiting sleigh. and his very precise instructions were to send the Courier back on Flying Trelves with all the details of the birth. She’d sent an Official Skelf Courier along with him.“How do thousands of Elves find their caps after they throw them all into the air?” Chapter 2 – The Flying Trelves As the news of Prince Nicky’s birth spread over Santopia. The driver nodded.) “We have to hurry.
and one bounced up and down in the sling with every flap of the 21 .But the driver knew what Spicata knew: it was still half a day’s trip back to the Castle. followed by the two Flying Trelves carrying the sling. even if they changed reindeer midway at the Wizard’s Volcanic Palace. although it was considered very inelegant for a Gelf of his standing to fly in a sling. Trelves formed the rank and file of the security forces in the Realm of Drear. He’d actually flown in a sling twice before. But he’d been thrown with them much more since he rose to become the Count’s right hand Gelf. you’re to tell the Baroness that Santa has a new son. as Spicata got into the sleigh. it was a rough-and-tumble mode of transport. either the Grounded or the Flying variety. He didn’t much like Trelves. sir?” “Yes. and that Ameritus the Wizard has prophesied …” Spicata watched as the Flying Trelves readied the sling. Though it was quick work to get across the lake in just a couple of hours. “Orders. The Courier came up.
And drooled. And their drool was not only wet. Flying Trelves provided the only form of airborne travel in the Realm. My clothes will be ruined. but that was all. the Baroness wouldn’t be caught dead “slinging it” between two drooling Trelves. I’m going back in the sling. it was smelly.” “Sir?” “You’re going back in the sleigh. The Baroness had her ordinary reindeer bred in the Hyssopus Field and her fierce. thought Spicata. “Courier!” “Sir?” “I’m bumping you. Only Santa had the Helleborean Reindeer that could fly. And drooled. Then there was the whole distasteful matter of Trelf drool. But he would be first back with the all-important news! Not half a day behind the news.Trelves’ wings. Trelves drooled. As for the sling. Ugh. fire-snorting Reindeer Flagare bred on the far side of the Frizolean Glacier used only for her personal transport.” 22 .
The two Trelves looked at each other in alarm—they’d never carried such an important person on a mission in their whole lives. “Let be quick about it,” ordered Spicata. He’d never liked the look of the Flying Trelves. They had scales where others (like Gelf Spicata) had skin. Their eyes were too far apart and higher on the head than normal. This made it difficult to look one “straight in the eye” because the Trelf constantly had to turn a little bit this way or a little bit that way to see you properly. They had what could only be described as minirhinoceros noses that came up from a large base into a tiny point—a rather sharp tiny point at that, Spicata knew all too well. A cornered Trelf was a nasty customer when he came at you with his nose. Flying Trelves, of course, never got cornered. They just flew up and over you, if they could get a running start. The Trelves lowered the sling and Spicata stepped into it, one leg in each hole. The ends of the sling were attached to a long pole that each Trelf
carried over his shoulders and held with his hands so the occupant of the sling was suspended—helpless as a baby— between the two Trelves. Getting airborne was considered one of the more undignified aspects of “slinging it.” The occupant of the sling had to run along the ground as the Trelves got up enough speed to lift off, waddling along like a baby in a potato sack race. “Hand me that lap rug,” he told the Courier, who gave him the item from the sleigh. “All right, you two, back to the Castle!” The Flying Trelves positioned themselves on Frozen Lake with a clear expanse ahead of them. At a nod from Spicata, they started trotting along the ice, Spicata slipping and sliding as they got up their speed. Finally, they lifted off, and Spicata immediately remembered that he’d vomited multiple times on his two previous trips in a sling. Well, he thought, there’s nothing to be done about it. He wrapped the lap rug around
his face and expensive uniform to shield them as much as he could from the drool that began to flow in abundance from the wide toothy mouths of the Flying Trelves. Chapter 3 – The Death of Connie As Santa was lifting his son and showing him to the overjoyed people of Santopia, Connie’s physician came through the door onto the terrace and whispered to Santa Pops. Santa Pops leaned over to the Wizard. “Wizard, go to Connie. She needs your magic.” The Wizard nodded and withdrew with the physician. “You, too, Lord Elfington,” Santa Pops nodded. “See what you can do.” Santa Pops slowly came up behind Santa and, in full view of the crowd, began waving to thunderous cheers from below. The people revered Santa Pops, but loved his son just as much. They made a fine pair standing on the terrace, both in their red cadet-style uniforms, Santa Pops a robust old man
in his seventies with a big belly and a bald head fringed with snow-white hair. broad-shouldered. waved one last time to the crowd.” whispered Lord Elfington. A few minutes later. athletic. Santa Pops handed the baby to an Elfie nurse and rushed over to the bed where Santa was already on his knees sobbing with his face buried in Connie’s lifeless hands. 26 . he and the other dignitaries withdrew from the terrace and the huge glass French doors were closed behind them.” Santa handed Nicky over to Santa Pops. “Too late. Santa Pops had to raise his voice to be heard over the throng. commanding. his salt-andpepper hair giving him just the right touch of authority. when Santa Pops thought the people had seen enough of their future Santa. handsome. “You should go back to Connie!” The look in his dad’s eyes left no room for misinterpretation. and dashed back into the bedchamber. his son the very picture of a man in his prime. “I will hold the boy for the people.
spitting out two quarts of drool onto his dripping lap rug. more drool spattered from his wide mouth. Chapter 4 – Journey to Drear After two hours in the air.” said the Wizard. “Don’t speak to me!” Whenever a Trelf spoke. knelt beside him and put his hands on Santa’s shoulders and gave them a fatherly squeeze. “Comin’ up on the Castle. the less said.” announced the Trelf to his left. the better. Trelves actually could not close their mouths— they always had that open-mouthed vacant look that clueless stupid people had. Spicata was soaked through and through with hideously smelling Trelf drool. Santa Pops crept up silently behind his son with tears in his eyes. in their case. he’d vomited not two. 27 . but three times! Ugh. And. Words were not necessary to convey the grief that filled the room. he thought. sir.“So sad. And with so much drool running.
On the far left side of the Castle was the Baroness’s suite. saw no spring or fall or summer. There was Castle Drear in all its majesty. Castle Drear had been added to by each successive ruler till now there must have been a thousand rooms in the Castle (nobody had ever counted them all). a whole world suspended a thousand feet above Frozen Lake. a place where winter dwelt year-round. This is where Spicata would land today. which was both wide and deep. 28 . half of the huge structure protruding from the mountainside like a massive outgrowth. built on a massive outcrop of the Verbena Mountain Range.Spicata looked up. It was a world of ice and mountain stone that never thawed. the other half buried deep within the caverns and caves and passageways dug into the depths of the mountain over the generations. Flying Trelves were always landing on the Terrace in an emergency. The many rooms in her vast apartment gave off onto the Long Terrace.
The Forest circled about a quarter of Frozen Lake. and the Forest of Shadows began. The Long Terrace actually jutted out above the tunnel. The opening in the Forest was immediately next to the Terrace. Legend had it that the original Santa had a hut placed on a broad ledge where he installed a small outpost garrisoned with his Purple Elves 29 .The Verbena Mountains ended abruptly at the Long Terrace. the Verbenas the remaining threequarters. and was the reason why the Castle had been built so far up. hugging precariously to the mountainside. It was from the Long Terrace that the Baroness sat in her throne made of wood and thistles every Christmas Eve to acknowledge Santa as the Grand Sleigh appeared and the Forest magically opened a leafy passageway through which Santa piloted his way to the Other World. as did the Forest. The mountains rose over two miles high. It was a stupendous sight to see the huge branches of the Forest creak and groan and pull apart to create the magical tunnel for Santa.
Spicata prepared himself for a rough landing. This was a sight Spicata had never seen before. the Great Wizards of 30 . The Wizard’s Volcanic Palace was quite a sight even when one approached it in a sleigh—but to see it from the air made it even more unbelievable. There was nothing left for him to vomit out of his churning stomach. For longer than anyone could remember. His last upheaval had occurred when he and his Flying Trelves had gone through a sudden flash of heat rising from the Volcanic Palace. and some of his spit-up must have landed on one of the Wizard’s chubby little Welves standing guard on one of the ramparts.to monitor the Forest as it slowly grew to the same height of the mountain range. cutting off access to the Other World. As his Trelves slowly descended on approach to the crenulated parapets of the Long Terrace. because they heard a cursing wail rise up to them right after Spicata had last burped up his vomit.
The Great Wizard of the time had gone to the Volcano and made the peace—Cacus would retire to the molten regions below if Santa would let the newcomers rule Drear. The Volcano had long been a retreat for Cacus. The last eruption took place during the Schism— when Drear became semi-autonomous from the Kingdom of Santopia. Cacus demanded the Wizard and all his descendants live in a Palace built on the side of the Volcano. (Cacus reminded the Wizard that Santa had brought in the ancestors of Drear himself. God of Fire. The firestorm was so great even Santa could not get around it with his army of Felves (Santa’s Flying Elves) to cross Frozen Lake to subdue the uprising in Drear. and when it erupted. son of Vulcan.Santopia had lived in a Palace built on the side of a live Volcano. Lava would flow. slowly and steadily. the rulers of Drear took the opportunity to rebel against Santa. down the Volcano on all sides in brilliant orange and red rivulets into Frozen Lake where they would send up a continuing 31 .) As a condition.
and as far as Spicata knew. The Flying Trelves touched down. run. it’s Spicata!” he heard the Count say. the Volcano would die and sink into the depths of Frozen Lake and the Wizard would be free to return his Household to Santopia. was his burning stomach and his soaking wet and slobber-smelling tunic. however. What was true. running. coming up to the Long Terrace. If the houses were ever united by marriage. Spicata heard a trumpet sound their approach. But that was legend. and a few seconds later he saw the Count and Baroness rush out from her suite.burst of steam—just to remind the Wizard that Cacus was living not too far below. “Why. 32 . slower and slower and slower. their feet run. And all would be well as long as there was peace between the houses of Drear and Santa. as they tried to brake to an elegant stop before the Baroness. Spicata and the Flying Trelves sank lower and lower. none of it was necessarily true.
33 . “I apologize to my lady for—” “Enough of that.Once they were stopped. When she heard the news.” snapped the very pregnant Baroness. He turned and saw the look of horror on the faces of his masters. Everyone knew the Baroness was due to have her child in just a few days. He moved toward them. but they took two steps back. You can clean up afterwards. but he kept tripping. Make your report. Spicata fussed in a futile and awkward attempt to get out of the sling with some semblance of dignity. Spicata. Spicata looked down —he was dripping wet and a large pool of drool formed at his feet. Drear’s eyes widened. and even more important. word of the Wizard’s Prophecy. Spicata delivered his news about the birth of Prince Nicky. The Baroness brought a handkerchief to her nose and the Count raised his fingers to close off his—they could smell the drool on him from twenty feet away.
her haughty Skelf physician entered with two assistants. “Summon my physician!” Moments later.” “My lady. Her husband was beside himself. (Skelves are much taller than Trelves and Gelves. 34 . Back and forth she paced. my dear— stay where it is warm.” “I know what to do!” she announced. Drear paced anxiously from one end of the Long Terrace to the other. and consider themselves quite above the other two kinds of Elves that inhabit Castle Drear. back and forth. and report back to me—we will have more to ask you later.) “I will have my Princess now!” she demanded. She clapped her hands and a couple of her squat ugly Gelf attendants with their oversized jowls hastened over to her.“Leave us. Clean yourself. And they do not drool.” Spicata bowed and backed away from Drear until he could turn and race inside the Castle to a hot bath. “Please come back inside. Spicata.
Our daughter shall be Queen of Santopia! Finally! The two parts of Santopia joined together again! The end of the Schism!” Chapter 5 – The Birth of Noelle But as the frightened doctor and his assistants began their work. “My dear. you are not—” She dismissed him with a wave of her hand. far below the pediments of rock and ice unthawed for centuries that formed the dark and ominous Castle Drear. and even as the bells were still ringing out all over Santopia. “Baroness. “Don’t you see what this means. a baby girl was born in the warmth of a hut in a small village in the 35 . then back to the Baroness.The Skelf physician looked at his assistants. “But …” he protested. Count? We must ensure our child is next born. is it safe?” A fire burned in Drear’s eyes. “Silence!” The Count stepped forward.
Taraxa. rocking Noelle in her arms. but for now. “You’re very weak. but no Christmas for us. why don’t we call her Noelle?” Taraxa looked admiringly at his wife. we’ll call her Noelle. Taraxa.Koliback Wood to Inula and her husband. “It’s so close to Christmas. we’ll think of something different later. 36 . She put her arms around his massive shoulders.” “I know. Here. a coal miner. you know what the Baroness thinks about Christmas.” “Well.” Taraxa leaned down and kissed his wife gently on the forehead.” scolded the midwife. strong from hauling coal up from the Tilldeppen Mines halfway across the Verbenas toward the Glacier. Inula. but still beautiful with her long raven-black hair and piercing green eyes. “A difficult childbirth.” said the midwife.” “You have to rest. Christmas in Santopia. “Inula. now pale and weak after childbirth. What makes her so hard?” “It’s been that way for generations. Inula. I will hold the child.
” said Taraxa. they went wild.” said the midwife. “Maybe this will bring you good fortune. “I’ll be fine. The child.” “I only need a few days. So it did not take long for word of Prince Nicky’s birth to trickle down into Taraxa’s village. “A great thing to be born the same day as a Prince.” But when the villagers heard about the Prophecy that came along with Nicky’s birth. 37 . “the child is sturdy as one ‘o them Helleborean reindeer over in Santopia.” Taraxa said when he heard the news. “We have all the time in the world. “Yes.” she chuckled.” In any tightly closed world such as that controlled by Castle Drear.” Inula said.“You’re lucky to be alive. now.” “There’s no rush. a ferociously efficient rumour mill exists that passes news down by word-ofmouth faster than any Flying Trelf can carry it. Everybody rushed into the hut where Inula lay with her little Noelle to congratulate them. stroking Inula’s hair.
Other villagers crowded into the small hut.” “Sure. rich—living in splendour in Santopia.” 38 . “that your little one is destined to be Queen of Santopia. “No.” said one. the Prophecy said the young Prince will come to claim the girl. “Nothing like this has ever happened before. “What does this mean?” Inula cried out.” said Yarrow.” “Well.” railed the hysterical midwife. even if Ameritus the Wizard issues a Prophecy.” “We don’t even know if the young girl will live to be a year old. “It means. rich.The shock was complete. “She’ll have to be dealt with.” laughed Groomsman Yarrow. that’s what it means!” “You’ll all be rich. “but how does Taraxa get word to Santa about his little girl?” “The Baroness doesn’t just let her people skate across Frozen Lake to freedom. when he’s eighteen.” said another villager.
“Much less eighteen!” On and on the chattering villagers went until Taraxa threw them all out.” he said. “Open the Terrace doors—the heat is too much in here.” the Count ordered a Gelf standing in the corner. “Inula’s weak as a sapling. “Everybody leave and let her have some quiet time with the baby. driving out any heat coming from the two fireplaces. hauling herself up onto her stubby feet. “Inula needs her rest. He went to the huge French doors giving onto the Long Terrace and threw them open. she called to her husband.” “Damp the fire. All the Skelves and Gelves in the room shivered as the Frizolean blast filled the room. All of you—out!” Chapter 6 – Two Storks? As the Baroness lay sweating and writhing in her bed in the pain and joy of childbirth. 39 .” demanded the midwife. admitting a wave of freezing air.” “Yes.
there flies the stork!” The Count turned and ran out onto the Terrace to see the stork with its wide wings majestically approaching Castle Drear to take up a steady circular orbit over the highest towers. it comes. and she would be future Queen of Santopia. gently coming down toward the Castle. Count. it comes!” The Count raised his eyeglass and scanned the horizon. Hopefully. Suddenly.But the Baroness took a deep breath or two and smiled. Slowly. Her eyes went wide with excitement and apprehension. “Yes. it would be a daughter. 40 . he would be a father. He raised his glass and watched as the stork circled and circled. her smile was gone. She lived for the cold. ever more slowly. She loved it. He could just make out the Frontier Outpost Stations a few miles out on Frozen Lake. When it landed. Every winter these Outpost Stations had to be erected to prevent their subjects from escaping across the lake to Santopia. “Look. my wife. it descended.
a sudden movement caught his eye. They told him the latest news—the Baroness had that afternoon forced her baby’s birth ten days early. And it was a girl! 41 . this one rising from the dense Koliback Wood a thousand feet below the Castle. Taraxa came out. But just then the Baroness cried out. He raised the glass to his eye and saw a second stork. “What’s this?” he mumbled to himself.He heard the Baroness cry out as the doctors worked on her. and he ran to her side. Chapter 7 – Taraxa and Inula Worry It wasn’t long before Groomsman Yarrow and the midwife crept up to Taraxa’s hut and called his name softly. He adjusted his eyeglass—there was no question about it: a stork in the Koliback Wood. He had to go back. But as he turned.
“We can all say Noelle was born this afternoon. “We will help you.” “We will support you.Taraxa looked over their shoulders and saw all the other villagers gathering behind Yarrow and the midwife in the twilight. not this morning. “Friends. They all knew what it would mean if the Castle learned Noelle had been born before the new Princess.” Taraxa said to his neighbours. guiltily.” Everybody nodded. The Gelves know Inula was to have a child. “That is what we will tell them. Where two hours earlier had been a sea of happy faces and a chorus of good cheer now looked like a crowd of sad people shuffling quietly in a funeral march. but they don’t have to know the exact hour she was born.” “The Gelves won’t make their daily rounds until tomorrow midday.” said Groomsman Yarrow.” said the midwife. in any case. “you must help us. All the neighbours nodded and mumbled their assent. 42 .” said Taraxa. creeping up quietly.
to get out of the coal mines and into a job up on the surface. “I have a plan. After he explained.” “What’s to be done?” “A storm is coming out of the mountains tonight. cutting timber. leave the warm hut to look over the lake. 43 . looking over to his wife and child. hauling food.” said Inula. “What do you really think?” asked Inula when they were alone.” he said bluntly.” “Yes. holding them for a long time. She’d been watching Taraxa pace back and forth. Sadness engulfed him. They always do. return to stoke the fire. “We are doomed.” He knelt by his wife and daughter and took them both in his strong arms. his wife nodded. Tomorrow there will be a pretty price on all our heads.” “Even if it’s just to get a better assignment. the neighbours left the new family to themselves.” he whispered.After a while. “someone will tell. Taraxa put more wood on the fire. “All of us.
“A storm is coming. It’ll be a savage night out. It’s only a matter of time. I don’t want our little Dazzle to catch a cold. gently swaying back and forth. close the doors.” The Count walked over and put his hand on his wife’s shoulder. Count.” “Good. The Count’s spies are everywhere. 44 .“Yes. lulling the baby to sleep. you are right. my dear.” said Taraxa. Look at her. Drear cradled the little Dazzle in her arms. So beautiful. Soon then! Chapter 8 – The Princess Dazzle The Count von Drear came into his wife’s chamber and closed the Terrace doors.” “Yes. He rose and walked outside to get a better look at the dark clouds gathering high above the mountain peaks surrounding Frozen Lake. She’s so beautiful.
The flawless skin. “Actually. looking at the baby’s reddish hair and bright brown eyes. a mighty blizzard borne by the Monarda Winds swept down out of the high Verbena Mountains and over the Frizolean Glacier and onto Frozen Lake. enforced the order. The firm chin.” “Born to be a Queen.” said the Count. I think you’re right. it’s just like yours. The lands controlled by Drear 45 . But the strawberry blonde hair. Visibility would soon be zero.“Looks just like you. She does look just like me. my dear. it was explicitly forbidden to leave without special permission of the Skelf bureaucrats at the Castle.” “Born to be a Princess. as well as sentries posted at all trails and passes leaving the Realm. my dear Count. The velvety eyes. and a Queen she shall be!” Chapter 9 – Taraxa Sets Out As dusk approached. In the Realm of Drear.” the Baroness corrected. The Count von Drear’s spies. my dear.
There were small spoil islands dotting the lake—once you reached the half-way point—but these were inhabited by the Welves. bundled her up tight and warm in a backpack that Taraxa would wear on his journey. There was no safe harbour anywhere. Taraxa crept out and dug a makeshift grave. Inula had nursed Noelle. and thence to the freedom of Santopia on the far side. Taraxa prepared to venture forth. made it to the Wizard’s Volcanic Palace in the middle of the lake. there were Trelf sentries positioned at the Frontier Outpost Stations a couple of miles out on the lake. and then as she slept soundly. Even so. 46 .backed up onto Frozen Lake. some lucky souls had escaped. controlled by the Great Wizard. But even sentries cannot see through a blizzard. As the blizzard came down and the villagers withdrew to the warmth of their sheds and huts. daring— and dangerous. and as it blew down onto the lake. In the distant past. Taraxa’s plan was simple. but that was no escape.
He would have to follow the road or be lost in the 47 . the fierce Monarda Winds howling and screaming in his ears. leave Noelle in his care. After their story was accepted and Inula strong enough to make the journey. And during the night. which led to Ice Cube Road. There was a Frontier Outpost Station at the Urtica Road. and return home before dawn. Or try! Under cover of the blizzard and nightfall. which was the main road to the Volcanic Palace.In the morning. and when he was far enough out to be invisible to them. Taraxa skated out onto the lake a mile away from the Outpost Station in order to avoid the Trelf sentries posted there. they would both attempt to escape forever across Frozen Lake. he and Inula would put out the word that Noelle had died during the night. turned back to catch the road. Taraxa struck out across Frozen Lake. Taraxa would try to make it to the Volcanic Palace to seek the Wizard’s help.
Luckily. about an hour into his journey. swooshh. But still. his strong thighs seized up and he had to stop to rest for a few minutes before moving on. He was concerned that the ruts made by the sleigh traffic would fill in and the sight of the road be lost to him. but every mile there was a signpost. Then the pain became so great. Taraxa’s muscles strained as he pushed himself harder and harder against the fierce winds. and Taraxa’s legs fell into a swift and steady rhythm as one leg went out ahead of the other— swooshh. swooshh—he was thankful now for the heavy loads of coal he had carried on his broad shoulders deep in the Tilldeppen Mines. and he had to be careful not to miss one lest he and Noelle perish in the cold.blizzard. he lifted a small flap to check on little Noelle. When he stopped. But the 48 . His legs were as stout as any of the workers who slaved away for the Baroness. the high wind kept the snow moving.
Back in the Koliback Wood. he’d almost been caught by a sleigh bearing down on him. Then. Inula crept out of her hut. but he looked up at the last minute and saw the lamps burning on either side of the driver.little baby never cried out. he hauled himself to his feet and resumed his exhausting journey. Twice on his journey he had heard the sleigh bells. Once. with a deep breath. each time. Taraxa quickly closed the flap to keep the warmth from his body inside the backpack. and 49 . with his head down and his shoulders hunched forward with his rhythmic skating. Taraxa occasionally raised his earmuffs to listen for sleigh bells. fighting against the whipping Monarda Winds. and dashed off the road a distance to let the sleigh coaches pass.
and rushed to get back into the hut for warmth—and privacy—so no one would see her cry her heart out. She caught herself in a trembling shiver. And then a great sigh came from her. It was not uncommon for babies to die so soon after birth. Her thoughts turned to Taraxa and her little girl. and she could feel the heaving sobs rising from her belly. She had carried Noelle for nine months. It was just a fresh grave among a lot of older ones. No one had seen him dig the small trench and fill it with chopped firewood. Would she ever see Noelle again? Would she ever see Taraxa again? 50 .went to the rise behind the clearing where Taraxa had made the grave. and then to have her in her arms but for a single day—not even a whole day—a few short hours. where just the day before Noelle lay warm and comfy. Nine months. Conditions were not the best in their little village. safe and secure against the harshness of the world.
51 . Chapter 10 – The Volcanic Palace After four gruelling hours. And a few minutes later. Even against the howling Monarda Winds and sheets of blinding snow. even as weak and exhausted and worried as she was. they would make a bold break away from the evils of Castle Drear and begin a new life in Santopia. a beacon of hope. trying to sleep but unable to. As soon as she did. Taraxa could make out the lava flows streaming bright red and orange down every side of the Volcano. Soon he could see the layer of steam circling the base of the Volcano where the lava hit the lake. If Taraxa returned. they twinkled into the night. rising up the side of the Volcano. To regain her strength. he could see the lights in the Volcanic Palace itself. She had to force herself to sleep.What would she say to the villagers if he did not return by dawn? She lay awake.
Their world was so small—an underground network kept the gossip and rumours flowing—all the inhabitants knew everything about every part of the Kingdom. That had been many years ago. Taraxa came up to the cloud of steam and saw a well-marked road that led through the steam into the heart of the lower court. And even though he’d never been beyond the Volcanic Palace to Santopia. He just knew he had to get back to Inula before dawn or their plan would fail. when he’d been sent as a last minute replacement as part of a team delivering a load of lumber the Wizard needed for a new wing he was adding. but he remembered everything about the trip. He also saw a dozen Welves waddling toward him as they lowered 52 . so he had not made good time. His skates were slowed by the drifting snow thrown off by the blizzard.He was thoroughly exhausted. even though they were forbidden to travel there. he knew all about it. only once. Taraxa had been to the Volcanic Palace once before.
“What’s all this?” 53 . “I must see the Wizard!” One of the Welves. Turn back!” “I can’t!” yelled Taraxa. “You’ve come from the Realm of Drear! It is forbidden for you to come here! The Baroness will be furious if we let you in.their pointed lances at him in a defensive manoeuvre. “I need help!” Taraxa yelled over the wind. The Welves all had faces of little old men with intricately shaped moustaches. Little Noelle started crying. As the sole Guard of the Great Wizard. There were more than a dozen Welves. they were not very imposing. “Halt!” cried several chubby Welves in unison. with a gold braid over his shoulder. He was obviously Captain of the Guard. stepped forward. each quite different from the other. but Taraxa had heard they were fierce fighters when called upon. He slung his backpack off his shoulder and opened it up. who had lower bodies like penguins—round and gelatin-wiggly with fat—and they waddled rather than walked.
sitting bolt upright. meanwhile. you’ll just have to come inside and warm yourself. all the time. sir!” replied the Welf. She is part of his Prophecy.” The Wizard. rap.“The Wizard must see this child. and I will see if the Great Wizard will receive you. “Wha—? What’s that?—who’s there?” he called out. “Well. doesn’t he?” asked the Captain. was upstairs and very ready for bed. turning to a subordinate Welf. Great Wizard. but the Captain of the Guard sends his 54 . His Welf valet opened the door with a creak. “Sorry to disturb you. The Wizard issues prophecies all the time. rapping at his door. He’d just donned his flannel nightshirt and adjusted the cotton placeholder that wrapped around his extravagantly coifed whiskers and was cozily settling into bed snuggling up to his hot water bottle when there came a rap.” “I have no idea what you’re talking about. “Why. yessir.
he says it’s a coal miner from the Realm of Drear.” The sleepy Welf. Great Wizard. yes. “A coal miner?” “From the Realm of Drear. well. but the Captain of the Guard says the coal miner has a little girl who fulfills your Prophecy.” “Coal miner? … little girl? … Prophecy?” “According to the Captain of the Guard.compliments and desires you to receive a. yawned (or stifled a yawn) smacked his lips and rubbed his eyes as he bowed.” “From the Realm of Drear? A coal miner. your Grace. but of course he didn’t dare in front of the Great 55 . milord.” “It can’t wait till morning? There’s a blizzard outside coming off the Frizolean Glacier!” “Yes. uh.” The freezing Welf was finding it harder and harder not to yawn. very put out to have been shuffled out of bed on this cold night for any errand whatsoever. you say?” the Wizard scratched his head under his nightcap. “According to the Captain of the Guard.
this was the strangest fire he’d ever seen.Wizard. not a proper one. He shuddered with cold. “This better be good. but after a few minutes the heat from the fire began to make a difference and he felt himself—little by little—thaw out. Taraxa had to admit. “Welf! Fetch my gown and slippers!” The Captain of the Guard. But he could move his feet and wiggle his toes to keep them warm out of sight beneath his long nightshirt. glad to have any reason to come indoors from the bitter cold outside.” said the Wizard as he slipped one foot out of his warm bedclothes and touched the icy slate floor. He yanked his foot back under the covers. in any 56 . stood with two of his subordinate Welves warming themselves as Taraxa sat in the chair close to the fire holding Noelle in one arm while sipping hot chocolate from a mug in his other hand. It wasn’t even a fire.
nodding toward the wall of fiery lava. “just coal.” stammered an awestruck Taraxa. “No. one by one. where it disappeared to wherever lava disappears. of course.” said the Captain of the Guard. but here he was now. I’ll wager. the Palace is as warm as a summer’s eve all year round.” “Usually. On his first—and only—trip delivering lumber.” Taraxa looked around him at the splendour of the Volcanic Palace. Rich tapestries hung from the walls. A lava flow came out from under the high mantelpiece and gently oozed down a slab of slate until it reached the hearth. using four-foot long rods with flaming tapers to reach the eight-foot high candelabra. He’d never seen anything like it before. Large antlers hung 57 . It’s all coal. he never got to go inside. “They don’t have this sort of thing over at Castle Drear.case. ten huge floor candelabra with three dozen candles on each one threw off light as the Household Welves lit them up. It’s only when the Monarda Winds come over the Frizolean Glacier that it gets like this.
heavy oaken tables and ornately carved chairs cluttered the Wizard’s Great Hall.” “Thank you. all that hair on their faces. 58 . If you’ve come all the way from the Realm of Drear in this blizzard. Taraxa started to get up. Great Wizard. Gold and silver plate and armour. my good man. A far cry from Taraxa’s modest hut. stained glass.over the lava fireplace that itself was so big a grown man could stand in it with another man on his shoulders and still not reach the mantelpiece. “No. If only to be born a Wizard. Some of the whiskers on the Welves were more intricate than the gargoyles carved into the columns holding up the cedar roof beams. But still. you’ll need this fire. remain seated. There was a commotion in the corridor and the Wizard came rushing into the Great Hall with several waddling Welves feverishly trying to keep pace with him. “Now what have we here?” “This is my daugh—” Taraxa began. he thought.” Taraxa sat down again.
Got a special batch from Santa Pops himself this morning when I was at the Palace for the birth. “What this man needs is some Slookery Juice. looking at little Noelle.“No. The Wizard sat down in the chair beside Taraxa and put his hands on his knees.” The Welf rapidly waddled (if a Welf can rapidly waddle) off to the pantry. There was an oddly reassuring hiss to the lava as it moved. “You say this baby has something to do with my Prophecy?” In a few minutes.” He turned to a Household Welf. Bring some immediately—enough for two— and we’ll warm it up right here in the lava fire. This is Slookery Juice.” 59 . I’ll hear that in a minute. “In a minute. The Wizard took the portions from the Welf and poured them into a cast iron pot on an arm and swung it out over the flames spitting out from the lava as it flowed down the smooth slab of slate. the Wizard had heard Taraxa’s story and the Welf was back with the special life-restoring brew. we’ll have a real drink.
“Whew! It’s strong!” “Santa Pops likes it strong. “Careful—it’ll be hot. he drank it faster. as it cooled. Here. brought low with grief on what should have been the happiest day of his life. it’s true.” “Thank you.” Taraxa thought of his weakened Inula back in the village and wished he was with her. “It’s time we moved. A Welf swung the arm back out and breathed in deeply the aromas wafting out from the pot. Great Wizard. not four— we must hurry!” 60 . The Wizard gave him a cross look. and the Welf immediately tipped the pot over into the two cups the Wizard was holding.” “Yes.” Taraxa sipped at the steaming brew. Captain! Call for my fastest sleigh! And have the sleigh master harness six reindeer. little by little.“We heard that Connie died. have another cup. You should have seen poor Santa.” The Wizard stood up. Then. The Wizard handed one to Taraxa.
“Well. “My dear Taraxa—and I can tell you this 61 . “while I go and change and the sleigh is brought round.” “But you’re the Wizard. “You’re waiting here. I’ve given that a lot of thought over the years.” the Wizard said. “I must return before daylight or all will be lost.” Taraxa protested. Ameritus the Wizard stood up and put his hands on his hips akimbo. I need for you to take Noelle.” The Wizard leaned down and close to Taraxa. and I’ve come to realize that while I might have been invested with certain magical powers.” “Captain. His whiskers twitched wildly. you heard me! Now!” The Captain and his Welves dashed off and soon the whole house was rising. The Wizard leaned toward Taraxa. I will get you back in time—but we must go to Santa Pops first—he will know what to do. this does not make me smarter than Santa Pops.“Your sleigh? But Great Wizard.” Taraxa said.
They exchanged 62 . all four-feet eight-inches of him. “You drink the rest of that Slookery Juice and be sure you don’t give any of it to the Welves here—after a dram or two of that stuff they’ll be wallowing around the floors pathetically like a colony of beached walruses. “So we’ll go to Santopia and seek out his counsel.” A couple of the Welves within earshot narrowed their eyes. and then turned back. Maybe they weren’t quite thawed. he’d have heard one of the Welves come out with a subdued “Grrrr. my dear man.” They were hoping there might be a bit of Slookery Juice left over after the Wizard went to bed. I should say.because you’ll be leaving soon—I try not to confuse my talent with Santa Pops’s brains. If the Wizard had been listening closely.” “To Santopia?” Taraxa couldn’t believe his ears.” The Wizard stood back up. my dear brave man.” The Wizard turned to go. “We? I’m going to Santopia?” “Yes.
In no time at all. the Wizard. into which the Wizard rather nimbly hopped. returned dressed in a heavy thick robe made of the fur of Frizolean Wolfhounds (the best you could get) collected Taraxa and led him along a corridor to a very grand and dramatic staircase that led down to the lower outer courtyard. Drive on!” the Wizard yelled to his 63 . “Come along. “We’ll be there in less than an hour.glances. As it was. On each side of the wide stairs ran a rivulet of crackling lava in trenches carved out specifically to control the downward flowing liquid rock. they planned on licking the cast iron pot as soon as the Wizard was safely off on his journey across the lake. Far below the stairs the steam rose where the lava hit the lake with a loud hissssss that never abated. Slookery Juice was extremely hard to come by. we must make haste!” Waiting for them in the lower courtyard was a large (and mercifully) covered sleigh. carrying his Staff. Taraxa.
sending the reindeer bolting away into the night. But that was all in the past. But it had been his great-great-great-great-grandfather who had brought the Baroness’s ancestors into Santopia and established them in the Realm of Drear. The future lay ahead.sleigh master. He thought of his sweet Inula lying warm in their small hut. He was going to meet the legendary Santa Pops. His famous exploits in the Other World made for many a good tale around the fireside. unknowingly planting the seeds that over the years flowered into the problems they were all living with today. who cracked his whip. He had brought wars to an end. and encouraged what Goodness there is in the Other World to triumph over Evil. She was wide-awake worrying about him … and 64 . “Santa Pops!” Taraxa breathed out in a soft voice to himself. and he knew she was not sleeping. and grandfather to the newly born Prince Nicholas. saved millions of people. Santa Pops was the father of the current Santa.
Old staffs. 65 .” he said. It was three stories high. on a glance from Santa Pops. The Purple Elves who guard the Museum brought cups of steaming Slookery Juice and. Santa Pops nodded gravely as he gently rocked Noelle back and forth. whips. “This is my great-great grandmother’s basinet. “Fit for a Queen. tapestries. He would be back tomorrow—he had to be back tomorrow. or all would be lost. After hearing Taraxa’s story.” said the Wizard sheepishly as he settled with Santa Pops and Taraxa around a warm and welcome fire in the Santa Museum’s Grand Foyer. Chapter 11 – The Santa Museum “Even Wizards make mistakes. retired out of earshot. and every inch of available wall space was filled with historical objects of one kind or another.” Taraxa took the opportunity while the Wizard and Santa Pops conferred to look around the Grand Foyer.Noelle.
then spreading out along the shore and up onto terraces cut into the base of the mountain. The town itself was much larger than he envisioned. The Welf sitting with the driver atop the sleigh announced the Wizard and they passed through the ornamental gates and into the town itself. jewel boxes. nestled at the base of the Verbena Mountains on exactly the opposite side of the lake from Castle Drear. unusual toys. beginning on several islands close to land. portraits of all the past Santas he could see leading down one long corridor. with the Palace perched on a ridge just above the town. down broad lanes and avenues until they came to the imposing structure of the 66 . When he and the Wizard had finished their bumpy journey in the covered sleigh. They’d been met by a contingent of Purple Elves (who were to Santopia what the Trelves were to Drear). Taraxa had leaned out to have a look as they approached Santopia.reindeer harnesses.
” “Taraxa. and I will protect you here in Santopia.” Chapter 12 – The Schism 67 . The Wizard broke in on his reverie. The Wizard and I will devise a plan.” The Wizard rose from his chair. “What do you suggest. “Then we must go now if Taraxa is to return by dawn. “You will leave her with me.” “But what of Noelle?” asked Taraxa. Back inside the Grand Foyer.Santa Museum. When she is able. For now. you must bring her with you in secret to the Wizard—he will bring you to me. Santa Pops? Time—we haven’t much of it. you did the right thing by bringing Noelle to the Wizard. you must return to the Realm and see to your wife. Santa Pops seemed to have drifted off into another world as he rocked the basinet. The Wizard explained that all retired Santas go to the Santa Museum to live.
She looked on Santa. alone. Santa was in the bed he’d shared with Connie. In eighteen years.” she said.” “I know.” said Santa as he pulled himself wearily to his feet. Christmas is day after tomorrow. 68 . anyway. alone and beset with sad thoughts and missing his dear wife very much. “He’ll be there tomorrow. when Nicky came of age. “I know. Santa. I’m too tired to think. thinking about the Wizard’s Prophecy and all the ramifications it entailed now that word had come to him of the birth of Princess Dazzle.In the Palace. Connie would have wanted it. Molliso. the boy would end the Schism with his marriage to Dazzle.” Now he was snuggled in bed. His dad had sent over Elfie Molliso from the Museum to help out in the nursery. as he sat by the cradle and stared at the sleeping boy. a little tear in her eye. “You should get some rest. Better to lose myself in work. He’d been down to the nursery earlier to see if his son was sleeping soundly.
But he could work with his new son. When he was younger. There might have been a little jealousy involved. educate him. he’d toyed with marrying the Baroness himself.Connie had never liked the Baroness. and get him to understand the importance of the Unification. Then he met Connie and forgot all about the Baroness von Drear. Santa pulled the warm flannel sheets closer around him. train him. his dad didn’t trust her. She married the next year. a minor noble from beyond the Frizolean Glacier. and steered him away from her. But it was well known that the Baroness was not friendly toward the idea of Christmas. and then elevated him to the rank of Count. It would take a lot of work to merge Drear and Santopia into one Kingdom—the way it had been before the Schism. 69 . now that it was official. Still. with the snow pelting the windows. The blizzard raged outside. thus ending the Schism. the Prophecy was a good thing.
Taraxa. Then the Welves will take you in the sleigh as far as the Urtica Road. “For all my magic. “Do you think I can make it by dawn?” Taraxa looked worried.” Taraxa went in and ate some food. along with six freshly harnessed reindeer. It would be a very desperate man to be out on a night like this.He pitied anyone out tonight. drank the hot chocolate with the powerful Slookery Juice and rejoined a new team of Welves at the sleigh. you will come in for some hot chocolate fortified with a little Slookery Juice. No one must know you came to me. No. The Wizard creaked as he lifted himself out of the sleigh. and eat a bite or two. I cannot ease the pain in my old joints. 70 . but they must turn back as you approach. Chapter 13 – Back to Drear The Welf sleigh master made very good time getting the Wizard and Taraxa back to the Volcanic Palace.
uncomplicated joy.” said the Count as 71 .“May the Santopian Spirit go with you. the words of Santa Pops echoed in his ears: “Go secretly! Go safely!” The Count von Drear had never seen his wife so completely taken over with joy—sheer. As he moved out. Taraxa bid farewell to the tubby Welves. my dear. An hour later. all one had to do was look at Drear take in the sight of Dazzle and it all made sense. No. skating like a madman in a race to beat the light. my boy.” intoned the Wizard as the sleigh master cracked his whip and they lurched away toward the Realm of Drear. But it wasn’t unexplained. “There is so much happiness in the Kingdom. Waving their fat little arms. they turned away in the direction of the Volcanic Palace and Taraxa turned toward the Realm. unabashed.
” “I have.” “I’m sure Santa was behind the Wizard’s Prophecy.” “It has been a long time since the Schism.he walked over to his wife. In the palace of Santopia.” “It’s a shame about Connie. “Christmas Eve is tomorrow.” A cruel silence filled the room. but I have other plans. but not on his terms. broken only when the Baroness spoke. a pity. Santa wants this match as much as we do. “Yes. too. they have a new boy.” “Santa’s long wanted to reconcile the Realm to the Kingdom. Here in Castle Drear.” The Count cleared his throat. He thinks we will give up our Dazzle to return the Realm to his complete control.” “Who will someday marry our little girl and bring the Kingdom together again. all is bright. “You’ll remember the matter of the second stork?” 72 .
Count.” “I’ve assigned my best Gelf.” “An hour too long. Spicata. When he reached the lakeside. and having been driven over halfway back in the Wizard’s sleigh. and in the predawn light skillfully skated between two of the checkpoints guarding the roads leading out of Drear onto the lake. How long was it before Dazzle was born?” “Maybe an hour.” “It’s not so important how many. but when!” With so much time to rest. Taraxa had been able to make good time skating back to the Realm. he took off his skates and climbed up the 73 .“Yes. my dear Count. to find out how many baby girls were born yesterday. He easily avoided the sentries on the Ice Cube Road.
She marvelled at his tales of the Santa Museum. how they were to join Noelle as soon as they could slip away from their lives in the village and cross the lake secretly. And. being careful to make sure none of his neighbours saw him as he crept toward his hut. And how helpful the Wizard had been. where all sorts of ancient Santopian artifacts were housed. and how Noelle was in the safekeeping of Santa Pops himself. And they had to buy a little time so Inula could recover her strength. before the villagers rose. holding Inula close and telling her of his amazing adventure on the far side of Frozen Lake. So. even more important.steep trail that led the hundred feet above to the wide ledge where his village was located. they quietly slipped out of their hut and went to the little grave on the rise where the village’s cemetery was 74 . they had to make a convincing show for all their neighbours. He was well inside when dawn rose. But for all that to happen.
calling upon help from others only if it was needed. “Oh!” cried the midwife. “it was almost a relief when she passed away. lowering his head.” 75 .” he said.situated. “She was so hot with the fever. and soon the whole village was mesmerized by Taraxa’s sad story of how poor little Noelle had succumbed to fever during the night. The first one to see them was the midwife. Her cry brought others out into the cold morning. as she rushed up to the gravesite. and there they knelt by the grave filled only with chopped wood. “That child seemed the picture of health when last I saw her. It was common practice in the Realm for each family to tend to its own death rites. “I wanted to put her to rest immediately. and to mourn in its own private way. knowing how weak she was the day before. who was hurrying to check on Inula.” he said. and so we made our private ceremony last night.” Everyone understood.
I say. bacon and a heavily buttered blueberry scone from the 76 . Santa Pops had planted the Rose Garden himself. Chapter 14– No Slookery Juice for Baby! When the Santa Museum staff all woke up and started the fires. What made this Rose Garden so special was that it bloomed all year long. He was just helping himself to a heaping pile of scrambled eggs. when he first moved to the Santa Museum on his retirement.” “Mmm. even when the snow was falling. a room very special to Santa Pops because it overlooked a magical Rose Garden through a large glass wall through which he could see his prized creations. “Very unusual.” was all Groomsman Yarrow could mutter in reply.whispered the midwife to Groomsman Yarrow. Santa Pops took little Noelle into the breakfast room. Santa Pops quickly realized how much he’d forgot about raising kids.
Elfie Molliso came sauntering in. “You called for me. He called out to the Purple Elf on guard at the door.” “Well. “Send for Elfie Molliso!” And before long.” 77 . Santa Pops?” she said. Perhaps you’re right. “Yes. you are.sideboard. I was going to give this little girl a dram of Slookery Juice and some scrambled eggs before I caught myself. and then did a quick double take as she looked at the bundle Santa Pops was holding in his arms. Elfie Molliso?” “Am I to answer that question before I know where the baby came from?” “Yes.” “Nothing has ever stopped you before. That would have opened her eyes a little too wide. is a big problem in a little package. if I may correct you. sire.” “And I’m very happy that you didn’t give the poor little thing any Slookery Juice. Elfie Molliso.” “A baby. I seem to have a little problem. Elfie Molliso. I think. sire. what would you advise. when the little thing promptly started crying.
“Look at her. One day old. milord?” “Molliso has something for you?” “Yes.“How old is the child. extending his pinkie finger delicately as he picked up his steaming cup of Slookery Juice. taking a deeply satisfying bite out of the scone. “One day!!” cried Molliso. “Yes. 78 .” Molliso rang the bell on the table and a Purple Elf appeared at the doorway. Poor thing. Have Cook prepare some warm reindeer milk and fetch a baby bottle from the storeroom. followed by a draught of Slookery Juice. And make haste!” The Purple Elf ran out at a clip.” “One day. Chapter 15 – Master Control Santa Pops and Elfie Molliso weren’t the only ones up early—Santa himself had risen before dawn and hurriedly made his way to Master Control. then? She doesn’t look to be a week old. “Maybe a day and a half.” said Santa Pops.” said Santa Pops. just a short walk down Candy Cane Lane.” “Almost two.
sitting in his big chair covered with the luxurious hides of Frizolean Wolfhounds and looking out through huge windows over hundreds of Elves scurrying around in the Main Chamber below. In ancient times. even though he was not an Elf himself. Santa came in and saw the tall and dignified Lord Elfington going over progress reports with his staff. “As much as it can be the day before we leave. He was Chief of all the Elves. But all in all. so it was decided that someone had to manage them not only for their own good. where all the 79 . With only one day left before Christmas Eve. but for the good of Christmas as well. “Everything in order?” Santa asked Lord Elfington. Elves were thought to be far too mischievous.” said Santa.” “Excellent. all of Santopia was in a frantic rush to get everything ready for the big moment when the Grand Sleigh lifted off and soared across Frozen Lake on its way to the Other World. Santa. we’re in very good shape.which connected the Palace to Master Control.
She came running over to Santa’s chair. She’ll understand why I can’t be there right now. Santa. and then it would be loaded aboard the Grand Sleigh in the adjacent Departure Concourse.” “Elfie Laburna!” Santa called out. Elfie Laburna was the Chief of Master Control. Santa.” “Yes. The Quality Assurance Section would pass on the construction of the gift.” “Yes.presents Santa would take with him were brought before being matched against the Final Verification List where each gift would be checked—checked twice. 80 . that is—against the name of the boy or girl who would be receiving that gift on Christmas Eve. “Lord Elfington. you’d better put together a delegation to go to Castle Drear to convey our happiness at the news of the birth of the Baroness’s little girl. I’ll give you a letter. the first Elfie ever to hold such a high position in the hierarchy of Santopia.” “And you’d better lead the delegation yourself.
“There was a report from the Purple Elves.” “I believe I’ll have a cup of Slookery Juice.” She moved away and ordered the Juice.” “That is odd. that the Wizard visited so late. I thought.” “Yes.” “Elfie Laburna gave me the weather report from the Verbena Meteorology Unit little while ago and everything looks perfect. but clear. Santa. Cold. Hope we won’t have to deal with conditions like that on Christmas Eve.” “Yes?” “It appears the Great Wizard came at a very late hour last night and paid a visit to your father in the Santa Museum. The old thing loathes being out after sunset. Santa. I’m sure it’s nothing. and especially in that blizzard we had last night. sire.” “The Monarda Winds were specially fierce. Lord Elfington came over with a paper in his hand.” “Very good.” 81 .“Yes.
then. Hurry! Henry was certain he could have the Hifalutin Systematic Model SC-41 repaired in time for him to hitch a ride on the Grand Sleigh.” “Plenty of time.” “Yes. had let Henry know they still could use three hundred forty-two more units from the machine before the Grand Sleigh took off for the Other World. plenty of time. In fact. Elf Brightfellow.“Will Henry be finished repairing the machine in time to travel with us? I don’t want to have to send the reindeer back so soon if we don’t have to. 82 . he was hoping and praying that he’d have it fixed up and ready to go by later this morning. in charge of the Hifalutin Systematic Model SC-41.” Chapter 16 – Hurry.” “Elf Brightfellow reports he should be finished with it later today. Henry. replacement gifts would have to be substituted for those items. Santa. otherwise.
down the huge spiral staircase into the Grand Foyer and across into the breakfast room where he saw Santa Pops already tucking into his scrambled eggs and haddock. which looked much more like the real Santa Pops than the current Santa. But old images are hard to break. a quizzical look on her face. and this is what people in the Other World thought Santa looked like. if they believed in him at all.Santa was always very interested in the condition of the Hifalutin Systematic Model SC-41 because the toy that it manufactured was none other than a miniature Santa—just the right size for stuffing a stocking! This particular toy version portrayed Santa as the widegirthed old man. So Henry was in quite a rush when he quick-footed it from his room upstairs in the Santa Museum. Elfie Molliso. had a bottle of milk and was feeding a baby. “Hello.” Henry said as he moved straightaway to the sideboard where he filled his plate with some poached eggs.” “And the rest o’ the day to you. he noticed. Santa Pops. Henry. 83 . Top o’ the mornin’.
the best. you know that. several braised lambs’ kidneys.” Henry acknowledged. “So. “I always sleep like a baby when I visit Santopia. a rasher of bacon.” Molliso began before Santa Pops cut her off. Mister Henry. indeed!” Santa Pops noticed Elfie Molliso’s peaked ears suddenly seemed a bit 84 . some fried bread. some herring. “A pleasant sleep. fried tomatoes. “Speaking of babies …” “This isn’t Prince Nicky.black pudding.” “Elfie Molliso. and a few sizzling sausages before sitting down next to Santa Pops. you’re baby-sitting young Nicky already?” “Well ….” Henry cocked his head to look at the baby.” “Good morning. this baby has quite a story behind her.” Santa Pops explained. “The blizzard didn’t keep you up?” Santa Pops went on. Quite a story. my old friend?” “Ahh. a mutton chop. well. “Oh?” “Ah.
And while most Gelves were no more than three feet tall. Gelves were higher in the pecking order than Trelves. He was commander of Brigade HX-2. Spicata had earned his reputation for ruthlessness by many betrayals over the years. squat 85 . or henchman.more peaked than usual. and the pink tint to her cheeks got pinker. he only seemed to rise faster than anyone else. as many in the villages referred to him. the super secret special force the Count maintained to spy on all the inhabitants of the Realm. “Yes. He’d seen his chance to rise early in his career. but not as high as Skelves. the Count von Drear. but for each dark and dirty deed he committed. Spicata had worked his way up over the years so that he was now the Count’s most trusted Gelf advisor. a story the particulars of which I will relate to you when we are … alone!” Chapter 17 – Gelf Spicata Gelf Spicata made his way to the private reception chamber of his master.
anywhere. who. He didn’t even fear the Count. Two extra inches made the world of difference to a Gelf. In the past. but he could do his best. was another matter. Everyone feared her! Spicata was responsible for maintaining the checkpoints along the lakeside that had turned the Realm almost into a prison camp. before the Schism. everyone knew. He’d even gone to the trouble and expense of having lifters fitted into his boot heels. He’d never be as tall as a Skelf. with huge jowls. The Baroness. however. had married far above his station.and ugly. Spicata had gone to great pains to have his jowls reduced and to ensure his grooming was a cut above all the other Gelves serving in the Castle. Spicata had been sent on missions as High Representative to the lands beyond the Verbena Mountains and the Frizolean Glacier. He feared no Elf. Now. He thought he was essential to the Count’s position in the Castle. there had been freedom of travel between Drear and Santopia. very few people alive 86 .
had ever seen Santopia. Everything about it was rumour, rumour and more rumour. Only the Baroness and the upper level of society in Drear ever went to Santopia. Such were the rules in the Realm of Drear, so different from those in Santopia. With an air of authority, Spicata strolled down the corridor leading to his master’s chamber. The Trelf guards knew him well and did not challenge him, but merely whipped open the double doors leading into the Count’s receiving room. “Well?” demanded the Count when the doors closed behind Spicata. “The Trelves under my command have taken a thorough canvas in the Realm, Count, and each village liaison has reported to me personally. Only one baby was born yesterday, a little girl born to a coal miner named Taraxa, in the Koliback Wood, and she died shortly after childbirth.” “Ah,” the Count breathed out a sigh of relief. “My wife will be pleased. This will save us all much … difficulty.”
They both turned their heads at the sound of a heavy footfall in the corridor outside. Suddenly, the Baroness barged through the doors. “Gelf Spicata!” “My lady,” Spicata bowed, taken aback. “Well, how many babies did you find?” she spat. The Count came from around his desk and took his wife’s hands in his. “There was only one baby born, my dear, and it was a girl, but she died.” “Are you sure?” Drear looked at Spicata, not the Count. “I’ve been told of the grave, my lady.” “And the parents? Have you interrogated them?” “No, Baroness.” “See that you do. Have you seen the baby’s body?” “She was buried during the night, Baroness.” “Bring the parents to me. I want to make sure the baby is dead, that there wasn’t a switch of some kind. How many
babies were born the day before, the week before? Bring them all, Spicata— the babies, the parents—all of them! Bring them to Castle Drear.” “But if the baby died,” the Count’s voice trailed off. “How do we know, once the Wizard’s Prophecy was proclaimed, that one baby wasn’t changed for another? We don’t know, that’s the answer. No, I want them all here. I know what to do with them! These peasants will not stand between my Dazzle and the throne of Santopia!” “My lady,” Spicata bowed. “I have to change now to receive Lord Elfington and a delegation from Santopia to give thanks for Dazzle. Count, I’ll want you with me when they get here.” With that final word, the Baroness turned and in a swirl of her long Forest green robes, swept out of the chamber. Chapter 18 – The Grand Sleigh As morning gave way to afternoon, all was at a fever pitch in Master Control,
“Everything in order. mounting a raised platform where Elf Shotgun was overseeing the loading process. The same every year. factories. Lord Elfington had gone down to the high-ceilinged. warehouses and craft shops in Santopia.” Shotgun said with a sort of ho-hum attitude. it really is. the only Elf authorized to pilot the Sleigh if Santa or Lord Elfington were disabled. hangar-like Concourse to oversee the final preparations. storerooms. He wore a specially tailored gold uniform (of which he was perhaps a little too proud) that had on it more braid than a French admiral.the Main Chamber and the adjoining Departure Concourse where the Grand Sleigh was being loaded with the last minute orders that kept pouring in from all the workhouses. your lordship—though it doesn’t look like it’s in order. Shotgun?” Shotgun was Chief Gold Elf and Master of the Grand Sleigh. 90 . “Yes. looking at his clipboard and barking orders to his subordinates.
Elves were now hanging Santa’s pennant from the short stern mast. painted Christmas green with white trim.“And the reindeer?” “A little anxious to start. Several decks high. I’m sure. Huge cranes were swinging over the main cargo hold amidships and lowering sack after sack full of presents into the safety of the 91 . and smiled with satisfaction.” The famed Helleborean Reindeer— each the size of a two-story house and bred specially for this journey—would be brought in late tomorrow afternoon and harnessed to the Sleigh—now they were resting for the arduous trip ahead. but we’re doing our best to keep them down. Other Elves were testing lights on the mast projecting from the bow—lights that would show the way through the Forest of Shadows on Christmas Eve. A high main mast rose from the centre where a lookout was posted in the crow’s nest during flight. it was more like a small Art Deco ocean liner than a proper sleigh. Lord Elfington looked up at the massive structure of the Grand Sleigh.
Conveyor belts ran from racks on the ground up into the middle of the ship. Chapter 19 – A Job Well Done 92 .Sleigh’s interior. as the Elves sent off a full year’s work. loading. preparing for the reindeer. Elf Shotgun. Other Elves were laying the harnessing rigs far out in front of the Sleigh. I’ll be in Master Control should you need me. Elf Shotgun ticked off a box on his list. Dozens of Elves ran up and down the gangplanks.” “Yes.” “So it seems.” Shotgun bowed slightly. “It seems Henry was successful repairing the Hifalutin Systematic Model SC dash four-one. Several Elves came trotting by carrying bags of small Santa toys. unloading. with busy Elves at either end loading. unloading. The warehouses of Santopia would be emptied out today and tomorrow. carrying more fragile presents to their safe berths within the ship. milord. so it seems.
“I wonder what’s actually in Slookery Juice.” “You’d have to ask Santa Pops. Santa Pops sent it down. relaxing after a long day’s work. spitting out Santa doll after Santa doll in an endless stream. Henry took another long drink from the hot cup and smacked his lips again. He smacked his lips. 4. The Hifalutin Systematic Model SC-41 was purring along quite nicely. 4. Foreman of Little Work Shed No. Henry —he’s the only one who knows the recipe. Elf Brightfellow. that’ll keep me up all night. He noticed the envious look in Brightfellow’s gaze. brought over a steaming cup of Slookery Juice. “I thought you might be wanting a cup of this instead of the usual Earl Grey. why not?” Henry took the cup and drank deeply from the dark steaming liquid. But. 93 . Henry.” “Well.” said Brightfellow. thank you very much. oh.Henry was sitting on a stool in the Little Work Shed No.
will you?” “Well. I agree with you.” “I dare say. if you promise not to tell. spitting out toy after toy after toy. At least you’ll make the trip back with Santa this time. which was strictly reserved for Santa and his immediate family and guests.” said Brightfellow. Thank you. “This stuff is worth fighting for. Take the last sip. Brightfellow drained the cup and smacked his lips.” Henry promised.” Henry said. “Ahhh.“No one’s around.” Brightfellow said as his nose turned red and his eyes teared up.” “Yes. “I won’t. looking over his shoulder at the Hifalutin Systematic Model SC-41 chugging along in perfect working order. Henry. who brightened considerably at the prospect of getting a taste of Slookery Juice. Remember when you had to stay for two weeks after Christmas? When was that? Two years ago?” 94 . Brightfellow. “I’m glad this old girl is working again.
And old man Hifalutin could be such an irritable arrogant taskmaster.” Actually. Over the years. Henry had come to know Santa Pops quite well. He was finding his time in Santopia much more fulfilling than his time back home in the Other World. my friend. Back there.” “I’ll never forget that. Brightfellow. and considered Santa Pops to be his best friend. a place he loved more and more as he got older. You didn’t forget how to repair the Hifalutin Systematic Model SC dash four-one.” “You’re not that old. and he’d come to get Henry to 95 . he had only his work to occupy his time at the Hifalutin Universal Intercontinental Amalgamated Toy Machine Manufacturing Company of London. Henry was of two minds about being “stranded” in Santopia. but I may be mistaken. when his old friend was the current Santa.“I think it was three years ago. Henry thought back to the first time they met. ever since his wife Betsy died a few years before. They were both very young. I forget things at my age.
” Brightfellow bowed.bring him back to Santopia from the Other World to repair a broken toy machine. It’s such a waste of a trip for the Grand Sleigh to take me down all by myself. “Perfect. Henry. “Sire. “Thought you might care for a quick skate on Frozen Lake before you head back tomorrow. Gelf Spicata was up well before dawn to waken his crew of thuggish Trelves to begin the trek to 96 .” Just then there was the tinkle of a bell at the door as Santa Pops came in. welcome.” Chapter 20 – Into the Koliback Wood Christmas Eve morn. “That would be superior. Do we have time enough to go as far out as Scruff Island?” “I think so.” Henry beamed. I’ll just fetch my skates. Brightfellow.” said Santa Pops. my good friend. much as I would like to stay. “It’s better that I go down with Santa now.
he’d sent a contingent of Trelves to hide out on the perimeters of the village so that no one could escape. capture them all at the same time. with no warning. the main source of grain production in the Realm. as well as their parents. The Baroness herself saw as much. Earlier. Groomsman Yarrow and Spicata’s platoon Trelf sergeant were waiting for him at Tremulous Creek. that the grave was a trick to fool him. 97 . He was sure they were hiding the baby. Spicata had told Yarrow to be waiting for him—he wanted to surprise Taraxa and Inula in their hut before dawn. which divided the Koliback District from the Hyssopus Field. But he wanted to capture Taraxa and Inula himself. Spicata had sent other teams to collect the babies born the week before Dazzle.the Koliback Wood. where he arrived just as day was breaking over the Verbena Mountains. Spicata wanted to capture all the parents in all the villages where babies had been born the previous week.
But Yarrow was not as smart as Taraxa, who had seen him the day before suspiciously loitering around not far from his hut, and spending a little too much time with the midwife. He’d caught their furtive glances. And planned ahead accordingly. Shortly after dawn, Spicata entered the village and had his Trelves storm into Taraxa’s hut. They quickly came out empty-handed. “What? Nothing?” he screamed at them, pushing them aside so he could go in and check for himself. When he came out, he looked at Yarrow. “The grave’s this way,” said the groomsman. Quickly enough, the shallow grave was dug up, revealing the small pieces of firewood and not the body of a newborn babe. “We’ve got to find that baby, if not the parents, at least the baby!” Spicata yelled, turning on the village folk. “Did no one see anything? Anything at all? Where could they be?”
The utterly blank stares coming from the villagers did nothing but exasperate Spicata, push him into a frenzy. It was all he could do to maintain his outward composure. How had they escaped? He’d posted sentries around the village the night before. What else could he have done? He could not exactly go back to the Baroness and say nobody knew anything. Nobody saw anything. Nobody did anything. And the Baroness? She was likely to do something—something like cut his head off! Spicata did not even want to think about her reaction when she found out he could not find the parents, that somehow they’d escaped his series of checkpoints and web of spies. Not to mention the baby!
Taraxa and Inula were quite safe—for the moment—hiding in a snow-covered lean-to in a deserted place by the lake
beyond the last checkpoint where the mountain wall came down so steeply there was no need for checkpoints further on. In the dead of night, he packed the few things they would need for their journey and took Inula out of their village, across Tremulous Creek where it was frozen over, hours before the sentries were posted, up a treacherous mountain pass, then back down the other side, going the far way to get around the last checkpoint. Now Inula was resting in a lean-to by the lakeside, conserving all her energy, which she would need when they made their dash across the lake. Taraxa had everything timed to the last minute—his plan was to set out when the Grand Sleigh reached the halfway point as it flew high over Frozen Lake. Every year, when the Sleigh reached the Volcanic Palace, a loud horn blast could be heard all over the Kingdom announcing the approach to Castle Drear. When they heard that blast, Taraxa and Inula would set out—everyone in
Santa Pops with a worried expression on his face and Henry with an astonished one on his.” “And my son. he’s set on Dazzle marrying Nicky.Castle Drear would be gathered on the terraces and ramparts to see Santa off into the Forest—it was a ritual that was repeated year after year after year.” “Yes.” Henry said at last. and I agree with you that little Noelle hasn’t a chance against the Baroness. Taraxa knew this was their only chance to make it out of the Realm alive —when everyone’s attention was taken up with Santa as he travelled to the Other World. Henry. He sees that he can change the Baroness with the marriage 101 . well. my old friend. “You do have quite a problem. Chapter 21 – A Vexing Problem Henry and Santa Pops were sitting by the fire in the Grand Foyer. “You’ve spent enough time in Santopia to know the Baroness.
” “Eighteen years is a long time for you to protect Noelle in such a small world. “Surely there must be a solution. And. 102 . “He only wants to save the people of Drear by bringing them back into the Kingdom.of her child and his. Prince Nicky would become a man.” “But what does Drear bring with her when she comes?” “Well. “That may well be. following the Prophecy. And I see only the darkness in her heart.” sighed Henry. claim his Queen.” “I don’t see how I can elude the Count’s well-paid network of spies here in Santopia.” said Henry. and be anointed the next Santa at the Sacred Ritual of the Green Gloves. I have my magical powers.” In eighteen years.” “Santa’s motives are pure. “The solution the Baroness has in mind is removing Noelle. my old friend. you have eighteen years to work it out.” Santa Pops nodded and sat back in his chair. But the solution eludes me. We still don’t know the fate of her parents.
He interrogated every inhabitant of the village. and she will do everything she can to rid herself of this little girl once she discovers that I have her with me. you know. destined to be the future Queen of Santopia.” Henry nodded.but the Baroness has powers of her own. And without proof in the form of this girl’s parents. like me. in fact. under every roof for any evidence of Taraxa. 103 .” “Can’t you go to Santa?” “He’s stubborn. I don’t think Santa would believe me or the Wizard that this little girl here is. I have something for you to consider.” “A vexing problem. looking into every hut. What if …” he began. Inula and Noelle— he knew her name by now. “Indeed. personally. Chapter 22–Across the Hyssopus Field Spicata personally led the search throughout the village. “Santa Pops.” Henry leaned forward in his rocking chair.
He went into Taraxa’s hut. and his master. All Spicata knew was that he had a little time. But he had to keep going. dismissing everyone. at most. He could not. and sat down. But as soon as the Grand Sleigh disappeared into the tunnel. No—he’d be expecting results! This he knew.” Spicata demanded from an underling. put himself in Taraxa’s mind. had to come up with a plan. ordered the smouldering fire to be brought up. would not return to Castle Drear as the bearer of such unacceptable news. the Baroness’s attention would turn to him. would be expecting news. “Bring me a bowl of Gluckety Goop. So he had a few hours. preparations were being made for the Sending Off Ceremony over which Drear presided every Christmas Eve as Santa approached the Forest. He had to think ahead—think ahead to what Taraxa was planning. before the Baroness sent word for him to report back. In Castle Drear.He got nowhere. What would a 104 . the Count.
snort. Spicata’s Gluckety Goop was brought and he quickly tore into the stew of potatoes. The midwife told Spicata that Inula was weak from childbirth. It was a hideous thing all Gelves had a habit of doing when they were about to put on the feedbag. onions. Spicata always made an excited snorting sound when he smelled Chalalazada meat. A lot of people didn’t like Chalalazada meat. He couldn’t travel fast. And the only place Chalalazadas thrived in the entire Realm was in the Koliback Wood. Such factors would limit Taraxa’s options. carrots and Chalalazada meat. it should have been Inula. But when he was around Chalalazada meat. but Spicata adored it. that if anyone should have died. he couldn’t help himself. as the baby was as stout as could be expected. so you could always find it in the local Gluckety Goop. snorted 105 . and snort. thinking it a little too gamey. and Spicata had taken lessons to restrain himself from this primitive tendency.desperate man do? He had the added burden of taking his wife and newborn baby with him.
the very first thing Spicata noticed was the smell of cooking Chalalazada meat. and into the Northern Frontier. But that led only deeper into the Realm. as the fields were not farmed right now. but to the southern reaches of Frozen Lake. built on a vast terrace. He’d started snorting immediately and couldn’t stop himself. There were only two or three routes out of the area. 106 . The limited field space was used for cultivation. and was much too valuable to be used for living space. too. led nowhere. Worse than hiccups. One way out was across Tremulous Creek. but this time of year it was empty. up one of several treacherous mountain passes. When he had led his Trelves into the village. This path. Most of the villages were built out of the rock and ice. Another way was across the Hyssopus Field.away. devoid of life. as the village was located on a large outcropping from the mountains. but just a hundred feet above the lake.
directly to the lake. All Taraxa had to do was reach the Volcanic Palace halfway across. and later. where. basically rolling the dice and taking a long shot at gaining his freedom? Surely Taraxa knew Spicata had checkpoints at regular intervals along this route and surely his Trelves would frustrate any escape plan. this time of year.Then there was the path directly down the mountainside. in the dead of winter. or set out across the wastes of Frozen Lake. and the few peasants who had escaped Drear found a warm reception at the Volcanic Palace. in Santopia. Perhaps Taraxa thought 107 . he would be captured by Spicata’s Trelves. and across it to freedom in Santopia. eventually. Question was—would Taraxa journey deeper into the Realm. the checkpoints were only situated every half-mile or so in a broad semicircle sweeping out into the lake meant to cover all the potential escape routes from the Realm. and the rest would be easy. The old Wizard always sided with Santa against the Baroness. Of course.
It was a longer journey for his sick wife and newborn babe. doubling back to go down the mountainside to the lake where there were no checkpoints. but it was. when Spicata thought more about it. which was deserted this time of year. But there’s one thing Spicata learned after years in the torture chambers of Castle Drear: a desperate man is always more optimistic than rational. 108 . the smartest thing to do. but only travel half way. make out across the Hyssopus Field. Such a man might cross Tremulous Creek at night. It would then be even smarter for Spicata to take up a position between the pass leading down from the Hyssopus Field to the lakeside and the route over uncharted ice leading to the Ice Cube Road.he was smart enough to slip between two of them undetected. Everything he’d been told about Taraxa led him to believe that he was a man of great courage and resourcefulness.
“Shouldn’t we be back at the Castle for the Sending Off Ceremony?” “If we don’t come back with Taraxa and that brat of a baby of his. Spicata thought derisively as he scooped out the last of his Gluckety Goop with his hand.” His sergeant came up.” 109 . We are going down the mountain. they think they’re so smart. “Round up as many lake-sleighs as you can find.Humans. Santa won’t be the only one who gets sent off tonight.” he barked. chewing thoughtfully on the last tough but tasty slice of Chalalazada meat. He wiped his hands on his pants instead. but remembered all those expensive lessons he’s paid for to learn manners that would set him above all the other Gelves in the Castle. He almost wiped his hands on his tunic. which was his Courier. “Have them ready for us on Frozen Lake. Spicata came out of Taraxa’s hut and walked over to his single Flying Trelf. Sergeant.
Elf Shotgun personally took charge of the Elf team leading out the Helleborean Reindeer to the Grand Sleigh. Long leather straps were extended from the bow of the Grand Sleigh down the centre between the rows of reindeer down the length of the harnesses. First. indeed. really. Each reindeer was as big as a house. Felves (or Flying Elves) raised the harnesses to the reindeers’ necks. each reindeer had a cluster of bells strung in 110 . more like a flexible bridge. Then.Chapter 23–The Sending Off Ceremony As dusk approached. and Elves were quite puny by comparison. out to the foremost reindeer. tools and techniques had been developed to make the process manageable. to harness a Helleborean reindeer. But over the years. It was a very delicate matter. Elves could then run up and down affixing the harnesses and securing everything. Along this leather strap. As a final touch. the reindeer were placed in position in front of the Sleigh.
They were resplendent in their distinctive gold uniforms and now made their way aboard the Sleigh.his antlers and laced around his neck. Quite without anybody taking notice. The Gold Elves (the highest order of Elf) were special Elves selected to make the journey every year with Santa. with Lord Elfington at the helm. the whole of Santopia gathered there to witness the event. Santa emerged from the Palace and waved to the people. Tagging along 111 . Santa Pops came around the stern of the Sleigh with Henry. the Grand Sleigh was pulled out by the reindeer into the great circular plaza below Santa’s Palace. Finally. the huge ornately carved doors of the Departure Concourse were opened to great applause and. making certain everything was shipshape for the long journey ahead. Wild cheering drowned out every other sound as the Santopians celebrated the end of their labour for one more year. Shotgun thought this made for a very merry sound as the Sleigh danced through the night sky.
recruited to help load in Henry’s baggage. Henry and Duncan quickly and quietly disappeared below to stow his gear in Henry’s cabin far forward in the hull. Henry carried the original backpack in which Taraxa had carried Noelle. And. while Duncan pushed a large trunk on wheels with Henry’s other things and special tools he’d brought to fix the Hifalutin Systematic Model SC-41. It was customary for the retired Santa to embrace the current Santa at the conclusion of the Sending Off Ceremony. as Henry was an old friend of Santa Pops’s and would naturally walk with him from the Santa Museum to the Grand Sleigh. Then he turned to the crowd. First thing on board. Santa bid farewell to the Palace staff gathered on the top step. no one paid any attention to them beyond the usual courtesies as they moved up the gangplank. went down the huge staircase leading to the courtyard. he walked down the leather strap between the reindeer. and went up the gangplank.was Elf Duncan. speaking personally to each one. The crowd could 112 .
” “Go stay with the baby and send Duncan out here.” “What do you mean?” “Leave Duncan in the cabin. Then Santa Pops hurried down the gangplank as the Gold Elves drew it in.” said Henry. “No! Wait! If Santa sees you leave during the Ceremony.see the reindeer eyes light up as Santa petted each one on his big fierce head. 113 . You stay here. He shook Henry’s hand and embraced his father. “Where’s Duncan?” “The baby started crying so he’s trying to keep her quiet. turning to leave. Henry came up from below decks to stand next to Santa Pops. and Santa Pops pulled Henry’s sleeve. it’ll raise suspicions. Then Santa began to make his way aft to take his position at the helm next to Lord Elfington.” Santa was now amidships. looking guiltily to his left and his right. We can’t leave him aboard.” “All right.
Santopians suddenly grew very quiet. the spirit of Santopia and Christmas itself. will live and be sanctified for another year. And if it is true.” All the people gathered together in the plaza sent up a wild cheer as Santa took his place at the helm and urged the Helleborean Reindeer forward.Santa raised his arms. as we all believe. where we will spread the message of good cheer and humble thoughts of thanks to all the many peoples living there. It’s magic so ancient That no on can know. “To all Santopians: I go now to the Other World. Santa spoke: Up Dasher and Dancer! Up all and away! How we can do this. This was a very special moment in all their lives. But a crack of the whip And the reindeer will go!” 114 . Immediate silence. No one can say. stilled with awe. that it is better to give than to receive.
dragging the Grand Sleigh forward an inch. working their way around the circular path that surrounded the plaza. until finally. after what seemed like an eternity. then another inch. When Santa judged the speed fast enough for a take-off. he shouted a command. Down the ramp the Sleigh followed the mighty reindeer until they reached the bottom at their fastest speed. cracked his magical whip again. came onto the lake and soared up into the sky! 115 . and another. they broke into a light trot. and consulting with Lord Elfington and Elf Shotgun.Santa twirled his magical whip high over his head and brought it down with a loud Crack! The huge animals lurched forward with a jolt. building up their speed. straining against their harnesses. and the Helleborean Reindeer veered off the circle in front of the Palace and down a long wide ramp that offered an unimpeded route directly to Frozen Lake.
He went back to get Inula. too.Chapter 24 – Setting Out Darkness was falling over the Realm. The way looked clear. “What should we take with us?” “Nothing. Leave it all here.” he replied softly. He had taken the precaution of garbing himself and Inula in white.” he lied. She looked much weaker than the day before. Have a bite to eat. at least for now. Taraxa crept down to the lake to see if anyone had followed them. It was getting late. to be with her. “I feel stronger. Leaving Inula in the little shelter he had built for her. “Is it time?” she asked. and she had rested now for several hours. so they would stand out less against the white wastes of Frozen Lake. At least he knew Noelle was safe. and then we take nothing 116 . “Nearly. Taraxa knew they had no choice but to press ahead with his plan. Still.” “And you look it. How he longed to see her.
The Great Wizard will see to it that we get to Santopia.” “And sweet Noelle.” They’d just made their way to the lake bank when they heard it: a loud foghorn blast coming from the Volcanic Palace as the Sleigh passed over it.” “And sweet Noelle. but still in line to intercept the Ice Cube Road. “Now! Let’s go!” said Taraxa. All we have to do is make the Volcanic Palace. but to the south.but some water. Far ahead. skating as fast as they could. angling away from the shore far enough to remain out of sight. As they moved out away from the land. and they set out onto the lake. he could make out the Grand Sleigh high in the sky hurtling majestically toward the Forest. Taraxa could see the ugly bulk of Castle Drear slowly emerge into his view. sticking out a thousand feet up the mountainside like a cancerous growth. “We have to hurry!” 117 .
Surely. he would intercept Taraxa as he made his escape. If he judged correctly. But still not greater than losing Taraxa and the newborn girl. to Castle Drear to report on his manoeuvre. The danger of losing some of his Trelves to desertion was too great. the Count would recall him. if he had acted too late. his only Flying Trelf. If not. or if Taraxa remained in hiding another day. Chapter 25 – The Forest of Shadows As the foghorn blast sounded out over the Volcanic Palace. all was lost. or two. Spicata stopped his men and deployed them along the road. the Count von 118 .Gelf Spicata was able to commandeer half a dozen lake sleighs and make his way about an hour out onto the Ice Cube Road. Then he sent a Courier. all within hailing distance.
Drear hurried into his wife’s chamber. He found her cuddling Dazzle in her arms, the very picture of contentment. Until she looked up at him. “What have you heard from that dirty little Gelf of yours?” “Nothing yet, my dear, nothing yet.” “The weather’s fair enough—I think I’ll take Dazzle out to the Sending Off Ceremony for Santa. Is everything ready?” “All is ready. The entire Household is gathered on the parapets. The Flying Trelves are ranged above the castle in full formation.” “Good, then.” Drear rose and made her way toward the Long Terrace high over the lake. Household Gelves whipped open the tall French doors as she approached. When she walked out, the Count made a signal and there rose from her people a joyous cry of support. Drear graciously acknowledged the happy greeting, not that she was used to it. She even smiled. “The people seem genuinely happy, Count.”
“Indeed they do, my lady.” “Perhaps we do not tax them enough.” “I believe they are happy to see you with such a beautiful child, my dear.” “Well, she is beautiful, and as you said, she looks just like me.” Drear went to a great carved chair on a raised platform by the edge of the Terrace ramparts and sat down. She looked in the distance and saw the Grand Sleigh approaching at somewhat less than half its speed. Santa always piloted the Sleigh through the dark Forest at slow speed. Drear snapped her fingers and a Skelf attendant came over and poured a glass of Champagne for her. She reached over and picked up the glass and took a sip. “A little warm, I think.” She placed the tip of one of her very long fingernails against the side of the glass and ice crystals formed inside the liquid. She took another sip. “Ahhh, better.” Below the ramparts were gathered the people of the Realm. On the ramparts
on either side of her, stretching along the side of the Castle, were the people, Skelves, Gelves and Trelves of her Household. Above the turrets her Flying Trelves hovered in position.
On the Grand Sleigh, Lord Elfington gave a nod to Elf Shotgun, who raised his megaphone and boomed out an order. “Trumpets to the foredeck!” Gold Elf trumpeteers raced forward along each side of the bow, an even dozen on each side, and prepared themselves. The Squadron Leader gave the all clear to Shotgun. “Sound!!” The trumpeteers raised their instruments and blasted out Santa’s Fanfare, loud and clear. The sound could be heard all over Frozen Lake as it ricocheted off the high mountains and reverberated all over the Kingdom.
The mammoth branches in the Forest continued to respond to the magical sound of Santa’s Fanfare by spreading apart. a Trelf detachment manning the battery began firing eleven guns in a formal salute to Santa. the huge green branches in the Forest began to creak and groan. At the sound of the Fanfare. 122 . echoing forth with a cacophony of sounds that sent fear shuddering through anyone who heard them.Drear’s eyes turned from the Grand Sleigh to the Forest of Shadows just beside the Long Terrace. On the Grand Sleigh. On a rampart high above the Baroness. the Gold Elves moved up and down the starboard and port sides of the great ship. lighting the side lamps one by one. widening. until they were all gloriously ablaze. Santa’s pennant fluttered briskly in the wind. separating to clear a path: a large round tunnel through the heart of the Forest.
“Not really.” Duncan raised a doubtful eyebrow. I’m sure. Henry. on all my past trips.” “And what will you tell Santa about me?” “We could say you tripped and hit your head and only came to after the ship was aloft. “Have you got anything better?” Duncan sat down on a low stool and stroked his chin. “Santa Pops thought it would be too dangerous for me to leave the Sending Off Ceremony. it’s usually Lord Elfington who sees me off.” “Well. below decks. in his cabin far forward in the hull.” “Santa deals very severely with stowaways. he’ll be busy.Meanwhile. Santa’s got a million things on his mind. Henry was devising a new plan with Duncan. Elves have stowed away 123 . so we’ll have to explain to Santa why you’re aboard.” “He might think you stowed away.” “Oh. That’s as good as anything else. They deposit me very quickly. keep him busy while I get Noelle off the ship when we get to London.
knowing she was looking out for him. They might even lose their house and be assigned to smaller quarters. Duncan was overjoyed to be making the journey. She’d kill him! Duncan had been mightily shaken when the Sleigh first lurched into motion. For his part. They’d have to forfeit the week coming to them at the Steaming Springs Spa halfway up the Glacier.before. A mere foreman in a 124 . He always stood next to her during the annual Sending Off Ceremony. It was only in the cards for Gold Elves to go to the Other World. He’d gone to the porthole to look outside.” Duncan could see the consternation on Molliso’s face when she found out he’d lost his position as Foreman of Toy Workhouse No. and lost all their rank when they got back to Santopia. He even saw Molliso standing next to Santa Pops waving at the Sleigh—little did she know where he was! He even saw her look over her shoulder a couple of times. No one had come to tell him it was time to leave the Sleigh. 7 because he got caught stowing away on the Grand Sleigh.
the thousands of townsfolk gathered on the ramparts. “I’ve got to go on deck as we pass Castle Drear. the Trelves with their cannon booming out a salute 125 . Duncan went to a forward starboard porthole where he could see everything —the Forest with its dark leafy tunnel looming ahead of them. Duncan. than the misty river Thames at night.” Then they heard the Fanfare. the Baroness on her Terrace. Once we’re in the Forest. I’ll come back and we’ll work out the details of what we’re going to tell Santa. Castle Drear on the starboard beam. even if I do lose my position. Henry left the cabin to go on deck to witness the great event as it happened —that moment when the Grand Sleigh slipped past Castle Drear into the darkness of the Forest.” “Right-ho!” said Duncan.workhouse had no place on the Grand Sleigh—ever! “I can’t tell you how excited I am to be on this trip.” said Duncan. “I’m afraid you won’t see much more of the Other World.
She rose and bowed to him and raised her glass.from the highest turret.” replied Lord Elfington. Santa hadn’t even noticed him creep onto the deck from the passageway. Henry drew a sigh of relief. her new baby. He stepped to the side of the quarterdeck as the guns sounded out and raised his hand in salute to her. year in and year out. their ugly scaly wings in a slow-motion movement to keep them in perfect stationary position. the Flying Trelves ranged above all this in flawless parade formation. “She must be very excited about the Prophecy. He was too occupied looking at the Baroness in her chair.” said Santa. Each smiled to the other. Once on deck. just as she had done every year. 126 . “I’m sure she is. drinking her glass of Champagne. But this time there was a bundle in her arm.
actually. 127 . In the distance. He sent the Flying Trelf back with the location so Spicata’s men could investigate further. a Gelf came over and bowed to the Count. The Count looked beyond the ugly little beast and saw Spicata’s Flying Trelf make his landing on the Terrace. While Drear was paying homage to Santa. He moved his eyeglass along the various paths away from Spicata and back to the lake bank. but he’d heard more than enough to make him wary of her. surveying the vast expanse of Frozen Lake far below. He thought he saw two little white specks moving slowly across the lake. But he couldn’t be sure. In another moment. he could see Spicata’s men lining the Ice Cube Road. he though he could j-u-s-t make out two small figures working their way toward the road. He’d never met the Baroness. The Count moved away from his wife and over to the Trelf to get his report.Elf Shotgun just rolled his eyes. he was at the rampart with his eyeglass. After a moment.
however. It was also about that time he realized Inula couldn’t complete their journey.Chapter 26 – The Flying Trelves Deployed! Taraxa and Inula had made it about half way to the Ice Cube Road when they heard the trumpeteers on the Grand Sleigh sound Santa’s Fanfare. He knew he was heading in the right direction. “It might be better if you just went on without me. “You need to rest. Taraxa. but forcefully. whipping out a large white canvas with which he covered them both. sadly. He looked into her eyes and saw that she knew how hopeless it was. “Why are we stopping?” she asked.” he said simply. would never see her daughter again. but there was no way he could imagine them making the whole trek. 128 . “Am I that slow?” was all she asked. He stopped and sat down with Inula.” “No.” he said simply. They weren’t even far enough along for him to make out the markers on the road.
” Drear went to the rampart and took the Count’s eyeglass. “Where is this slimy Trelf?” “I sent him back to Spicata with a sighting I made. and told the Baroness about the Trelf’s report. She is with good people.“I would feel better knowing Noelle had one of us rather than neither. “I can’t see anything. It has to be the peasants escaping with their baby. We both make it to her. and was gone.” The Grand Sleigh roared through the tunnel deep into the Forest with a huge SWOOSSSSSSSHHHH.” “No. The Count gave the order for everyone to stand down.” she said. The huge branches began to close upon themselves again. or neither of us does. scanning the lake desperately. “And it’s getting dark!” 129 .
” Drear mused. The Count ordered them back into formation.“Look over there! About midway between the Ice Cube Road and the lake bank in the direction of the Hyssopus Field. We will need them. “Call back the Flying Trelves. “Get another glass for the Count.” She looked at the sun setting over the highest of the Verbenas. Together. “I think I saw something move!” 130 . “Spicata hasn’t enough men to cover the Ice Cube Road. I see nothing! I see that Spicata’s Courier has landed and his Trelves are setting out in that direction.” She glanced over her shoulder. hundreds of them. “Wait!” said the Count. they watched as Spicata’s Trelves moved off.” “Ahh … Still.” A Skelf dashed into the Baroness’s chamber and returned immediately with a second eyeglass. “If it’s not too late!” The Flying Trelves. They moved into position above the Terrace and the officers flew down to stand by for their orders. were just standing down.
The Baroness turned to the Count and smiled. Bring them to me immediately. “Yes! You’re right! I see it! They’re wearing some sort of white camouflage. He’ll never even know about this insignificant threat to our future. “At least Santa can’t interfere. as well as their baby. Especially the baby! You must catch them before nightfall or we’ll lose them!” The General flew up into the air followed by his officers.The Baroness brought her glass up and looked.” 131 .” The Baroness turned to her top Trelf commander. move out immediately in support of Gelf Spicata on the Ice Cube Road. Intercept the couple attempting to escape the Realm. “General.
not out here on the Ice Cube Road. they would have been protected by darkness. they just might have a chance. but not enough to obscure them. Taraxa now realized his fatal error. with the sun now falling behind them. if he could avoid Spicata’s Trelves until nightfall. But when Taraxa looked ahead. While he saw Spicata’s Trelves approaching. now that dusk was falling. He thought all the Trelves would be formed up at Castle Drear paying respects to Santa. quickly wrapped up the canvas. Taraxa quickly whipped out the white 132 . He and Inula were all in white. they were wearing black uniforms. A brisk wind was working its way up. he saw the long line of Spicata’s squad heading toward them. Totally helpless. Now they were sitting ducks. He should have waited till nightfall. Taraxa got Inula to her feet.On the lake. Even with a weaker Inula. as he looked over toward the mountains. Still. and they began to make their way again. and colder weather.
he could see the great branches of the Forest closing behind the Grand Sleigh.canvas cover and unfolded it over Inula and himself. and pray for darkness. faster. Perhaps he’d even be assigned a larger room in the Castle. you filthy Trelves. “Crouch down low. faster. who. thought he saw something. let’s hurry it along.” Spicata’s Trelves moved out in the direction ordered by the Count.” Spicata looked over his shoulder at the sun just falling behind the Verbena Mountains. maybe even a two-room suite. faster! We must find them before night falls. 133 . suddenly excited at the prospects of capturing Taraxa and the baby girl. In the distance. Surely the Baroness would reward him lavishly. It’s our only hope. according to the just-arrived Courier. Maybe I was right! thought Spicata. Inula. With a window! “Well.
Then it would be blind man’s bluff in the darkness. “Can anyone see them?” No one could. Spicata saw hundreds of Flying Trelves heading his way.They might have a half-hour.” said the Count. “They’ve disappeared!” cried the Baroness. but not much more. I can still make out Spicata’s men in their dark uniforms quite clearly. In the distance. lowering his glass. “But they’ll quickly disappear when dusk settles in. 134 . He could tell they wouldn’t get to him in time to help—darkness was falling fast.” “Bring my Staff!” the Baroness called out to one of her Skelf attendants. And a wind was getting up which would throw a little snow into the air. Chapter 27 – The Magic Staff “I’ve lost sight of them!” said the Count. “No! No! It’s obvious—they’re wearing white.
” “But we might be able to capture them!” “And if our incompetent Trelves lose them in the night?” The Count did not answer. Spicata’s squad should be in the area where I lost sight of the figures in white. “And I will not let these people escape with that child into the custody of the Wizard or Santa Pops. “But what about my Trelves? And Spicata?” 135 . The Count brought his glass up and looked in the direction of Spicata’s men.“What are you doing?” “I’m going to let the Pirandelves finish the job for us. Drear raised her Staff and pointed it toward the lake.” The Count brought down his glass. All our plans would lie in ruin.” “Santa is gone!” she said with a snarl. “How will you know where to strike?” “I believe if we wait a minute or more.” “But Santa has forbidden you to call out the Pirandelves! They are banished under the ice.
promote from within. Spicata had sent his men out in three staggered rows. and spoke: “I command the Pirandelves to strike and destroy all within reach!” Spicata saw the flash of light set out from the Long Terrace. Just think— this will give you a chance to . He’d rather liked and grown attached to the hideous little thing. Spicata is a nasty little creature..” The Count felt a momentary sadness —he was going to miss Spicata. Drear pointed her Staff as she looked through the eyeglass. He immediately knew what was coming. You can always forfeit a few Trelves and Gelves. In any case. He remained in the last row as a sort of hedge against his prey slipping through.. oh. Never liked him. Luckily for him. stop fretting. dear. all well ahead of him. 136 .“Oh.
For a brief moment. and the Baroness obviously wasn’t taking any chances. He could tell they hadn’t spied him because they hadn’t moved forward faster to challenge him. But as he saw now.He looked up and saw the army of Flying Trelves making their way across the lake. Taraxa had been peeking from the cover of his white canvas and observed Spicata’s Trelves slowly moving toward him. I think we have a chance. Taraxa’s spirits lifted.” And then he saw the white bolt out of the corner of his eye. He also saw the army of Flying Trelves moving in their direction. The bolt began at the Castle. But he knew they would be helpless once night fell. “Inula. and fear struck deep in him. rose up like a graceful arc of bluish-white 137 . They could not make it before nightfall. it would soon be every Gelf for himself. closer and closer.
Taraxa knew what would happen the moment the bolt hit the ice and broke an opening through to the waters below. “What is it?” cried Inula.lightning. achingly slow. but not as fast. in fact. you will fly me away from here. sir?” “I’m the message now. Inula! Get up! We have to move back. As fast as we can or we are lost!” Just before the bolt hit the ice. Spicata called over his Courier. thought Taraxa.” He took off his belt and leather strap than ran from his epaulet down across his chest and wrapped it around him and the Courier. “When I give the signal. “A message for the Castle.” 138 . “Get up. and then started downward—aiming directly at the space between him and Spicata’s Trelves.
only heard the horrible tales about them. Clawing their way up from the several holes in the lake created by the bolt were the deadly Pirandelves. my loyal servant. each the size of two fully-grown humans. Spicata’s terrified Trelves started to scatter. “Save your strength!” The water continued to soar upward. “Not yet. the water erupted in a geyser that rose in a roar high above them.“But I’m not strong enough to carry you!” “You’d better be!” Just then the bolt struck the lake and burrowed deep down into the ice. not yet!” cautioned Spicata as the Courier struggled against him. slimy. red scales and voracious appetites. When it found the freezing water below. but large. pointy-nosed lizard-like animals of the deep famed for their razor-sharp teeth. And now they came. 139 . Most of them had never seen a Pirandelf before. like a volcano spewing forth frozen water rather than lava.
When the victims came to the precipice. The Cretins. enslaved to the Pirandelves. The Trelf was then taken back to the hole in the ice and thrown down into the water. thus breaking the neck. 140 . who laboured below the water. after the foraging expedition was over. their favourite form of attack being to grab the Trelf by the head. Another form of sport the Pirandelves enjoyed. they were forced to jump into the icy water where they drowned or were dragged alive to underwater pens watched over by the Cretins. collected the catch and the Pirandelves feasted later. They ripped through the poor Trelves’ puny weaponry. It was a like a game to them. when they saw there was no force sufficient to repel them. give him a good swing.They poured forth from the holes in the lake and instantly began attacking Spicata’s men with a relish Spicata had never seen in any animal or human. was to surround their prey and force them toward a hole in the ice.
each Trelf dropping his lance and running in a different direction. forcing his wings into overdrive. The Pirandelves had been instrumental in helping the rulers of Drear fight off Santa’s forces during the Schism. One powerful swish of a red-scaled tail could knock a Trelf to his feet. Then the powerful jaws and razor teeth finished the work. Santa had banned them from the surface. they foraged quickly and retreated to the depths. pushing and pushing against the ground. you fool.It was so rare that the Pirandelves were allowed above the lake that when they were freed. But they were no match for the quick-footed iguana shaped Pirandelves. 141 . Spicata’s Courier Trelf struggled to fly. “Now!” yelled Spicata as the Pirandelves waded through the first two lines of his men and started to work on the third. “Come along. you can do it!” Spicata pulled out his knife and held it to the Trelf’s neck. His whole squad was routed. but they were bound by an ancient oath to obey the Baroness when she called to them.
142 . His Trelf was drifting toward the Pirandelves rather than away from them. you fool. foot by foot. but they were inches out of reach. afraid to move any lower. “Cowards!” Spicata screamed. He called for them to come help him. “I can’t fly away! You’re too heavy!” “You don’t have to fly away—just keep us above them!” Several Pirandelves jumped up at them. Looking over his shoulder. Spicata’s Courier was laboring mightily against all the extra weight. “Don’t move toward them.“You’d better do it!” After much effort. “I can’t steer! I can’t!” cried the Trelf. Spicata allowed himself a laugh as his Courier moved higher and higher. go the other way!” Spicata commanded. ever so slowly. the Trelf rose in the air. he saw the approaching army of Flying Trelves come to a hovering stop. but they kept their distance. slowly away from the deadly Pirandelves. “Cowards! All of you!” But his cries were ignored.
143 . “They’re playing with us. toward our army!” But the Trelf was slipping lower and lower. the Courier slipped his arm under the leather strap holding Spicata to him. the Pirandelves began their game of shunting and faking. rather like football players throwing blocks for one another. Seeing the pair totally defenceless. and Spicata dropped with a raging scream straight down. Inula buried her face in Taraxa’s arms. Taraxa and Inula stood tall and proud. As the Pirandelves surrounded them.“Fly the other way. landing just a few feet from one of the water holes. Suddenly. ragged-edged water hole.” Taraxa answered stoically. “Why aren’t they attacking?” cried a terrified Inula. even as the feinting Pirandelves forced them closer and closer to a gaping.
much less the fate of her parents. he saw the Flying Trelves had finally launched an assault of sorts. Spicata dropped down out of the air right next to Taraxa. all three of them turned to a face a dozen Pirandelves tightening the circle around them. 144 .They could hear the cries of the dying Trelves in the water below. A lance jarred him as it landed in the ice next to his foot! Looking up. momentarily giving him a fright that scared him more than the Pirandelves. Spicata got up.” “No matter now!” Spicata had long since given up any interest in the little girl who had got him in this mess. And he heard more screams coming from the water hole just behind him. little good that it would do him. Suddenly. calling out for mercy and help that would not come. Spicata heard the wailing cries of the last of his squad dying under the assault. “Taraxa!” “I am. Now. He still held his knife. In the distance.
As each column came within reach of the Pirandelves. and that when he went into the hole. the Trelves hurled their lances. 145 . Taraxa and Inula would die. the Cretins waiting there would collect his body and dump it in the waiting underwater cages where he’d later be eaten by the Pirandelves. he could breathe underwater. the red scales on a Pirandelf were like metal. dead or alive. Even though the lances were bouncing off the backs of the Pirandelves. But unlike humans.coming low and throwing their lances at the Pirandelves. the Trelf assault was forcing the Pirandelves to turn away from the trio hovering by the water hole. Of course. Spicata heard the freezing water churning in the hole behind them. and the lances ricocheted harmlessly off the hideous creatures. and thought how ironic it was that he was actually one-eighth Cretin (on his grandmother’s side). Arrayed above him were hundreds of Flying Trelves now approaching in orderly column after column.
but then. Taraxa!” END OF BOOK 1 PREVIEW OF COMING BOOKS BOOK 2: Santa & the Gullible Gelf. without any warning. an errant Pirandelf tail swept all three of them into the icy water pit below. Spicata actually thought they might make a run for it as he stood side-by-side with Taraxa and Inula. if only the Flying Trelves could keep up the attack long enough. suddenly.and stand up on their hindquarters and swipe at the Flying Trelves as they swooped down. For a moment. The last thing Spicata heard before he hit the water was Inula crying out: “I love you. In which we follow the adventures of Spicata and Noelle’s 146 .
all her suspicions are roused.net 147 . In which young Prince Nicky discovers he is not destined to marry von Drear’s daughter. In which we learn of Elf Duncan’s experiences in the Other World after he is accidentally smuggled off the Grand Sleigh. Eighteen years have passed and we pick up the lives of Noelle and Nicky just before Nicky is to claim von Drear’s daughter. Email: email@example.com. thinking Noelle perished with her parents and Spicata in the icy water hole on Frozen Lake. still unaware of her true identity. has waited eighteen years for this moment. Send us your email address if you wish to be notified when the next book in The Annals of Santopia is published. BOOK 4: Young Santa & the Secret Voyage. as his Queen. returns to Santopia three days before Nicky’s eighteenth birthday. and how Henry plans his secret return to Santopia. The Baroness. but another girl who is hidden away in the Other World. BOOK 5: Santa & the Ritual of the Green Gloves.net www. Noelle. the Princess Dazzle. the Princess Dazzle.parents after they hit the water and are surrounded by the Cretins. So when the Count informs her that a girl has been brought in from the Other World instead of Henry to repair a broken machine. BOOK 3: Santa & the Return of Elf Duncan.
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