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