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