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