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