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