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Book One: Santa & the Lost Princess
Being the heretofore most secret Annals of Santopia as related to Sir Nicholas by the High Custodian of the Santa Museum & Historical Society
Sir Nicholas Throckmorton
Gramercy Park Press
SANTOPIA Book One: Santa & the Lost Princess Copyright © 2009 by Gramercy Park Press All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form whatsoever without written consent of the publisher, except for brief passages quoted in reviews. This is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to events, localities, or actual persons, is entirely coincidental. Published simultaneously in Canada and the United Kingdom. Printed in the United States of America First Edition ISBN-13 -978-0-9817154-0-7 ISBN-10 -09817154-0-0
com www.Cover Art & Map by Max Forward A paperback original from Gramercy Park Press www.gramercy-park-press.santopia.net 4 .
the dear. Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful dream? She’ll have a small tiffin. She’s sweet with her cakes and her candies.Dedication To Amanda Throckmorton Her name is Amanda. give her some cookies. This is her book—I’ll give it away. She’ll put an army of veggies to rout! No. 5 . some milk and ice cream. ’Cause she’d rather smile and munch on a muffin. Give her no spinach. and that’s what I hear. but not so a tuffin. or that’s what they say. no green Brussels sprout. a dealer in fun. She’s a dealer in magic. And she likes a slice of my cinnamon bun! If you are what you eat.
She may not be a Throckmorton. So here’s to Amanda. We love you so much—whatever your name! Preface / 5 Chapter 1 – A New Son! / 7 Chapter 2 – The Flying Trelves / 14 Chapter 3 – The Death of Connie / 18 Chapter 4 – Journey to Drear / 20 Chapter 5 – The Birth of Noelle / 26 Chapter 6 – Two Storks / 29 Chapter 7 – Taraxa and Inula Worry / 31 Chapter 8 – The Princess Dazzle / 33 Chapter 9 – Taraxa Sets Out / 34 Chapter 10 – The Volcanic Palace / 38 Chapter 11 – The Santa Museum / 49 Chapter 12 – The Schism / 51 Chapter 13 – Back to Drear / 53 Chapter 14 – No Slookery Juice for Baby! / 58 Chapter 15 – Master Control / 60 Chapter 16 – Hurry. But that’s not a problem. that’s true. Henry. we all muddle through. Hurry! / 63 Chapter 17 – Gelf Spicata / 65 Chapter 18 – The Grand Sleigh / 68 6 Table of Contents . you’re not quite to blame.
Santopia. it is my fervent hope that I will have the 7 . As I am far into old age.Chapter 19 – A Job Well Done / 71 Chapter 20 – Into the Koliback Wood / 74 Chapter 21 – A Vexing Problem / 77 Chapter 22 – Across the Hyssopus Field / 79 Chapter 23 – The Sending Off Ceremony / 84 Chapter 24 – Setting Out / 88 Chapter 25 – The Forest of Shadows / 90 Chapter 26 – The Flying Trelves Deployed / 97 Chapter 27 – The Magic Staff / 102 Preview of Books 2 – 5 of The Annals of Santopia: / 111 SANTOPIA Book One: Santa & the Lost Princess Preface Finally. the story can be told! Now that the current Santa has granted permission to reveal the true and accurate history of his homeland. a heavy burden is lifted from my gladdened heart.
and how she came to be lost. Sir Nicholas Throckmorton London 8 . Though the history of Santa is a long tale spanning many centuries. my modest goal in this first volume is to tell you the story of a true Princess of Santopia.strength to set down this history before I am taken away. While this is certainly not the first book in the whole history of Santopia. 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. it is certainly one of my most favourites. Perhaps that’s because it is also the story of the first Santa that I actually knew personally.
Santa always told the Elves that it was up to them to be happy when the new day started. When the new Elf family moved in on that first day (only Elf families get houses—before they are 10 . 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. there’s a bell on every rooftop. for the simple reason that Elves like to hear them ring-ring-ring.Santopia Book One: Santa & the Lost Princess Chapter 1 . jingle-jinglejingle and jangle-jangle-jangle every morning when they wake up.A New Son! In faraway Santopia. there’s always more than one bell.
as was her habit. ringing the bells for the first time. push. had been up much earlier than Duncan. And during the day.married. “Hurry. Elves live in Blue Boy Barracks and Elfies live in Pink Girl Barracks). and 11 . ringing. push. he would ring the bell on his way out. so much did it hurt. “Wha—? Wha—?” was all he could manage to say. pushing on his shoulder. And so it was that Elf Duncan opened his eyes with a start when he heard bells ringing. and the new house was ready! From then on. Duncan! Hurry!—this must mean the baby’s born!” Elfie Molliso. the father Elf would pull the string that ran down the side of the house to the front door. or to signal an emergency. jabbing his shoulder. to do their chores. One could even accuse her of jab. Elfie Molliso. baking the oversized morning bun they’d share before going off to work— she to her job in the Santa Museum. when father Elf went to work. and his wife. ringing. jab. mother Elf would ring the bell to call in her children for meals.
7. Duncan’s mouth stretched itself into a wide yawn. Molliso dashed through the red 12 . working to get all the toys in his division ready for Christmas. have a pink tint to their cheeks) and she regarded her husband with disdain. “All right.he to Toy Workhouse No. all right! I’ll be right behind you. “You are coming into the street with everybody else. Molliso—just put on the kettle.” Sure that Duncan was right behind her. of course.” Elfie Molliso’s small head popped through the doorway into the bedroom. Let me find my cap. will-ya? I’ll have a cup before we join the town. where he was Foreman. Duncan! This very instant!” she commanded. Duncan took a little longer to raise himself from what had been a deep slumber. “All right. I’m coming. The pink in her cheeks got pinker (all Elfies in Santopia. He’d had a long month. The blue tint in his cheeks (all boy Elves in Santopia have a blue tint to their cheeks) grew a little bluer as he fully roused himself.
his eyebrow arched up. 13 . and then padded into the tiny kitchen where he put the kettle on. 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. and his lips curled into a mischievous grin as he spied a large hot cinnamon bun Molliso had just taken out of the oven and left on the kitchen sideboard where it was sending out sweet hungerinducing aromas. went to a wash bowl in the corner and splashed his face with some water to wake up a little more. He shook his head to get rid of the cobwebs. she’d think he was lost in the cheering crowd.front door of their cottage faster than a brisk North Wind. Elf Duncan’s nose twitched involuntarily. He thought by the time Molliso turned around to find him. 7 and his yellow cap with a miniature four-inch flag pole with a tiny version of Santa’s pennant hanging from it.
Here it was. held up her baby boy to Santa’s outstretched arms.Maybe he could drink two cups of tea. my dear. Ameritus. Connie. and the bells from every rooftop jingled and jangled. just two days before Christmas Eve. ringing out in celebration as all of Santopia poured into the streets to welcome a new Prince born to Santa and his wife. High above the town. and Connie’s doctors and attendants. gathered in Connie’s bedchamber to view the newborn babe. Lord Elfington. alleyways and narrow passages of Santopia. before joining the surging throngs now filling the quaint streets. Connie. the Great Wizard of Santopia. the very picture of exhaustion. he thought. were her husband. Chief of all the Elves. Santa. Will you be all right?” 14 . Santa Pops. Santa knelt beside her. “You look so weak.
Santa smiled at her. “How’s Connie?” asked Santa Pops. and then I’ll be back by your side. he’s so adorable!” “I just love to look at him.” Santa said with a giggle.” “Show the people our boy.” “You have Christmas in two days. “I’m going to show the people our new son. my dear—don’t worry about me. “Look. The physician came around the headboard and sat on the bed to hold Connie’s hand as she fell asleep with fatigue. I love you more than anything. don’t worry about me. “Go.” Santa took the squealing baby and walked over to stand by his father.” said the doctor. I’ll be here. Santa. 15 . “And I love to look at you looking at him.” “I love you more than Christmas.” Connie said with a weary smile. “I’ll be back quickly.” Connie said tenderly. languishing. but glanced up over the headboard where Connie’s chief physician stood next to Lord Elfington and the man shook his head.“Oh.” Connie said. Santa.
his protectors and guardians.” said the Wizard. The Wizard took in a couple of long. complicated moustaches and sideburns. Santa Pops. he was destined to remain short. drawing himself up to his full height of four feet ten inches. “I name my son Prince Nicholas. “It would not be out of order for the Wizard to issue a Prophecy on such a momentous occasion. for all his other magical powers. but not as short as Elves.” “Let’s get through this.“Not so good. heir to the Kingdom of Santopia!” There was great cheering from all the notables. so we can come back to her.” said his dad. Wizard?” “Indeed you are right. Even the Wizard’s Welves. Alas. Santa Pops nudged the Great Wizard. They were distinguished by their highly intricate facial hair designs—that is. were festooned with 16 . deep breaths as if by so doing he might somehow magically improve upon his height. Santa turned to all the dignitaries in the room. eh. then. (All Wizards in Santopia are short.
proclaim the first girl born after Prince Nicholas to be his rightful Queen …” There was a murmur throughout Connie’s bedchamber. And they were a full foot shorter than the Wizard. and nodding heads indicated general approval of the Wizard’s Prophecy. 17 . the Prince will claim her as his bride and future Queen!” The buzz in the room rose. Santa caught the twinkle in the Wizard’s eye.elaborate designs of facial hair. Ah. yes! he thought.) The Wizard’s eyes dashed about the room. “I. Ameritus. “… and on his eighteenth birthday. 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. Santa turned. still holding the child. when he is invested with mystical powers at the Ritual of the Green Gloves and proclaimed the future Santa. Great Wizard of Santopia.
if she is blessed with a girl. Santa Pops moved closer to the Wizard. but Santa has always wanted to change her heart. 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. we will be able to bring more happiness to her people when they rejoin our Kingdom. “Ah.” said Santa Pops as 18 . 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. he whispered. With the Baroness von Drear so close to giving birth to her child. Santa.“You please me. Great Wizard. Over the cheering and clamouring in the square below. bring more happiness to the people of Drear. knowing how the Baroness has always hated Christmas?” The Wizard nodded. “Do you think a marriage between the houses of Drear and Santa is wise. Great Wizard.” said the Wizard with a bow.” “I am happy you are pleased.
This became a perplexing situation to which Santa Pops realized then and there he’d have to devote a lot of thought. But everybody in the Kingdom knew who wore the pants over at Castle Drear. some in the Kingdom thought) she elevated her new husband to the title of Count. There was always the possibility the Baroness would have a boy—the Drear line had always run to boys. In fact. “What?” replied a sullen Santa Pops as he snapped out of his reverie.” mused the Wizard. the Baroness was the first woman ever to hold domain over the Realm of Drear. “I wonder. As he thought about it.they both moved onto the terrace to look upon the happy multitude of Santopians throwing their caps up to the sky. When she married (far below her station. Santa Pops knew full well there was no undoing a Wizardorial Prophecy. all he saw was trouble if Drear delivered a girl. 19 . Even the Wizard himself could not undo a Prophecy once he declared it.
) “We have to hurry. and his very precise instructions were to send the Courier back on Flying Trelves with all the details of the birth. 20 . the High Representative from the Realm of Drear. He knew how urgently the Baroness von Drear wanted to know about the birth. (Couriers rode in a sling precariously balanced between two Flying Trelves. The driver nodded.“How do thousands of Elves find their caps after they throw them all into the air?” Chapter 2 – The Flying Trelves As the news of Prince Nicky’s birth spread over Santopia.” he told his Gelf driver. He had to get back to the Realm as fast as the sleigh could carry him. ran down to the lakeside and his waiting sleigh. She’d sent an Official Skelf Courier along with him. Gelf Spicata. That meant driving the Hyssopus-bred reindeer relentlessly hard and fast across Frozen Lake.
He didn’t much like Trelves. either the Grounded or the Flying variety. even if they changed reindeer midway at the Wizard’s Volcanic Palace. sir?” “Yes. you’re to tell the Baroness that Santa has a new son. as Spicata got into the sleigh. followed by the two Flying Trelves carrying the sling. although it was considered very inelegant for a Gelf of his standing to fly in a sling.But the driver knew what Spicata knew: it was still half a day’s trip back to the Castle. and that Ameritus the Wizard has prophesied …” Spicata watched as the Flying Trelves readied the sling. and one bounced up and down in the sling with every flap of the 21 . it was a rough-and-tumble mode of transport. “Orders. But he’d been thrown with them much more since he rose to become the Count’s right hand Gelf. He’d actually flown in a sling twice before. Trelves formed the rank and file of the security forces in the Realm of Drear. Though it was quick work to get across the lake in just a couple of hours. The Courier came up.
” 22 . But he would be first back with the all-important news! Not half a day behind the news. Ugh. thought Spicata. The Baroness had her ordinary reindeer bred in the Hyssopus Field and her fierce. but that was all. the Baroness wouldn’t be caught dead “slinging it” between two drooling Trelves. Trelves drooled. fire-snorting Reindeer Flagare bred on the far side of the Frizolean Glacier used only for her personal transport. it was smelly. And drooled. Then there was the whole distasteful matter of Trelf drool.” “Sir?” “You’re going back in the sleigh. I’m going back in the sling. As for the sling.Trelves’ wings. Only Santa had the Helleborean Reindeer that could fly. “Courier!” “Sir?” “I’m bumping you. My clothes will be ruined. And their drool was not only wet. And drooled. Flying Trelves provided the only form of airborne travel in the Realm.
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
his salt-andpepper hair giving him just the right touch of authority. “You should go back to Connie!” The look in his dad’s eyes left no room for misinterpretation. 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. handsome. he and the other dignitaries withdrew from the terrace and the huge glass French doors were closed behind them.” Santa handed Nicky over to Santa Pops. “Too late. his son the very picture of a man in his prime. Santa Pops had to raise his voice to be heard over the throng. commanding. 26 . athletic. A few minutes later.” whispered Lord Elfington. “I will hold the boy for the people.in his seventies with a big belly and a bald head fringed with snow-white hair. and dashed back into the bedchamber. waved one last time to the crowd. when Santa Pops thought the people had seen enough of their future Santa. broad-shouldered.
Spicata was soaked through and through with hideously smelling Trelf drool. he’d vomited not two.“So sad. 27 . And. in their case. Chapter 4 – Journey to Drear After two hours in the air. the better. more drool spattered from his wide mouth. And with so much drool running. “Don’t speak to me!” Whenever a Trelf spoke. Santa Pops crept up silently behind his son with tears in his eyes. he thought. Words were not necessary to convey the grief that filled the room.” said the Wizard. spitting out two quarts of drool onto his dripping lap rug. the less said. but three times! Ugh. Trelves actually could not close their mouths— they always had that open-mouthed vacant look that clueless stupid people had. “Comin’ up on the Castle.” announced the Trelf to his left. knelt beside him and put his hands on Santa’s shoulders and gave them a fatherly squeeze. sir.
Spicata looked up. the other half buried deep within the caverns and caves and passageways dug into the depths of the mountain over the generations. saw no spring or fall or summer. The many rooms in her vast apartment gave off onto the Long Terrace. There was Castle Drear in all its majesty. a place where winter dwelt year-round. This is where Spicata would land today. a whole world suspended a thousand feet above Frozen Lake. 28 . On the far left side of the Castle was the Baroness’s suite. which was both wide and deep. Castle Drear had been added to by each successive ruler till now there must have been a thousand rooms in the Castle (nobody had ever counted them all). half of the huge structure protruding from the mountainside like a massive outgrowth. It was a world of ice and mountain stone that never thawed. built on a massive outcrop of the Verbena Mountain Range. Flying Trelves were always landing on the Terrace in an emergency.
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. and was the reason why the Castle had been built so far up. The opening in the Forest was immediately next to the Terrace. 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 .The Verbena Mountains ended abruptly at the Long Terrace. the Verbenas the remaining threequarters. as did the Forest. hugging precariously to the mountainside. The Long Terrace actually jutted out above the tunnel. and the Forest of Shadows began. The mountains rose over two miles high. It was from the Long Terrace that the Baroness sat in her throne made of wood and thistles every Christmas Eve to acknowledge Santa as the Grand Sleigh appeared and the Forest magically opened a leafy passageway through which Santa piloted his way to the Other World. The Forest circled about a quarter of Frozen Lake.
Spicata prepared himself for a rough landing. There was nothing left for him to vomit out of his churning stomach. His last upheaval had occurred when he and his Flying Trelves had gone through a sudden flash of heat rising from the Volcanic Palace. As his Trelves slowly descended on approach to the crenulated parapets of the Long Terrace. This was a sight Spicata had never seen before. The Wizard’s Volcanic Palace was quite a sight even when one approached it in a sleigh—but to see it from the air made it even more unbelievable. cutting off access to the Other World. and some of his spit-up must have landed on one of the Wizard’s chubby little Welves standing guard on one of the ramparts. For longer than anyone could remember.to monitor the Forest as it slowly grew to the same height of the mountain range. the Great Wizards of 30 . because they heard a cursing wail rise up to them right after Spicata had last burped up his vomit.
Cacus demanded the Wizard and all his descendants live in a Palace built on the side of the Volcano. and when it erupted. 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. down the Volcano on all sides in brilliant orange and red rivulets into Frozen Lake where they would send up a continuing 31 . God of Fire. slowly and steadily.Santopia had lived in a Palace built on the side of a live Volcano. The Volcano had long been a retreat for Cacus. son of Vulcan. the rulers of Drear took the opportunity to rebel against Santa. (Cacus reminded the Wizard that Santa had brought in the ancestors of Drear himself.) As a condition. Lava would flow. The last eruption took place during the Schism— when Drear became semi-autonomous from the Kingdom of Santopia. 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.
burst of steam—just to remind the Wizard that Cacus was living not too far below. and as far as Spicata knew. and a few seconds later he saw the Count and Baroness rush out from her suite. 32 . running. coming up to the Long Terrace. none of it was necessarily true. their feet run. Spicata and the Flying Trelves sank lower and lower. slower and slower and slower. as they tried to brake to an elegant stop before the Baroness. was his burning stomach and his soaking wet and slobber-smelling tunic. it’s Spicata!” he heard the Count say. “Why. however. What was true. The Flying Trelves touched down. the Volcano would die and sink into the depths of Frozen Lake and the Wizard would be free to return his Household to Santopia. If the houses were ever united by marriage. run. And all would be well as long as there was peace between the houses of Drear and Santa. But that was legend. Spicata heard a trumpet sound their approach.
Spicata delivered his news about the birth of Prince Nicky. He moved toward them. Drear’s eyes widened. The Baroness brought a handkerchief to her nose and the Count raised his fingers to close off his—they could smell the drool on him from twenty feet away. You can clean up afterwards. but he kept tripping. When she heard the news. Everyone knew the Baroness was due to have her child in just a few days. Spicata fussed in a futile and awkward attempt to get out of the sling with some semblance of dignity. word of the Wizard’s Prophecy. and even more important. He turned and saw the look of horror on the faces of his masters. Spicata looked down —he was dripping wet and a large pool of drool formed at his feet.Once they were stopped. “I apologize to my lady for—” “Enough of that. Make your report. but they took two steps back. Spicata.” snapped the very pregnant Baroness. 33 .
and consider themselves quite above the other two kinds of Elves that inhabit Castle Drear. She clapped her hands and a couple of her squat ugly Gelf attendants with their oversized jowls hastened over to her. back and forth. my dear— stay where it is warm.” “My lady. Clean yourself. “Summon my physician!” Moments later. Drear paced anxiously from one end of the Long Terrace to the other.“Leave us. And they do not drool. 34 . her haughty Skelf physician entered with two assistants. (Skelves are much taller than Trelves and Gelves. Back and forth she paced.) “I will have my Princess now!” she demanded. Spicata. “Please come back inside. Her husband was beside himself.” “I know what to do!” she announced. and report back to me—we will have more to ask you later.” Spicata bowed and backed away from Drear until he could turn and race inside the Castle to a hot bath.
you are not—” She dismissed him with a wave of her hand. “My dear. is it safe?” A fire burned in Drear’s eyes. far below the pediments of rock and ice unthawed for centuries that formed the dark and ominous Castle Drear. then back to the Baroness. and even as the bells were still ringing out all over Santopia. Count? We must ensure our child is next born. “Baroness. a baby girl was born in the warmth of a hut in a small village in the 35 . “Silence!” The Count stepped forward. 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. “Don’t you see what this means.The Skelf physician looked at his assistants. “But …” he protested.
” “I know. “Inula. but still beautiful with her long raven-black hair and piercing green eyes. strong from hauling coal up from the Tilldeppen Mines halfway across the Verbenas toward the Glacier. we’ll call her Noelle. Taraxa. “It’s so close to Christmas. “You’re very weak. “A difficult childbirth. Christmas in Santopia. She put her arms around his massive shoulders. rocking Noelle in her arms. a coal miner. but no Christmas for us. What makes her so hard?” “It’s been that way for generations. Inula.” “Well. Taraxa. but for now. why don’t we call her Noelle?” Taraxa looked admiringly at his wife.” said the midwife. Here. we’ll think of something different later. Inula.Koliback Wood to Inula and her husband. I will hold the child. now pale and weak after childbirth.” Taraxa leaned down and kissed his wife gently on the forehead. you know what the Baroness thinks about Christmas.” scolded the midwife. 36 .” “You have to rest.
” “I only need a few days. “Yes. “A great thing to be born the same day as a Prince. “I’ll be fine. “the child is sturdy as one ‘o them Helleborean reindeer over in Santopia. stroking Inula’s hair. So it did not take long for word of Prince Nicky’s birth to trickle down into Taraxa’s village. now. “Maybe this will bring you good fortune.“You’re lucky to be alive. Everybody rushed into the hut where Inula lay with her little Noelle to congratulate them.” said the midwife.” “There’s no rush. The child. “We have all the time in the world.” said Taraxa.” she chuckled.” Taraxa said when he heard the news. they went wild.” In any tightly closed world such as that controlled by Castle Drear.” But when the villagers heard about the Prophecy that came along with Nicky’s birth. 37 .” Inula said. a ferociously efficient rumour mill exists that passes news down by word-ofmouth faster than any Flying Trelf can carry it.
Other villagers crowded into the small hut. “Nothing like this has ever happened before. “No.” 38 . even if Ameritus the Wizard issues a Prophecy. “She’ll have to be dealt with.” said another villager.” said Yarrow. rich—living in splendour in Santopia.” laughed Groomsman Yarrow. “What does this mean?” Inula cried out. rich.” “Well. that’s what it means!” “You’ll all be rich. “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.” railed the hysterical midwife. the Prophecy said the young Prince will come to claim the girl. “that your little one is destined to be Queen of Santopia. when he’s eighteen.” “We don’t even know if the young girl will live to be a year old.The shock was complete.” said one. “It means.” “Sure.
” demanded the midwife. 39 . “Inula needs her rest. hauling herself up onto her stubby feet.” “Damp the fire.” the Count ordered a Gelf standing in the corner. admitting a wave of freezing air. driving out any heat coming from the two fireplaces.“Much less eighteen!” On and on the chattering villagers went until Taraxa threw them all out.” he said. 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. “Open the Terrace doors—the heat is too much in here.” “Yes. she called to her husband. All the Skelves and Gelves in the room shivered as the Frizolean blast filled the room. He went to the huge French doors giving onto the Long Terrace and threw them open. “Inula’s weak as a sapling. “Everybody leave and let her have some quiet time with the baby.
her smile was gone. 40 . gently coming down toward the Castle. “Look. Every winter these Outpost Stations had to be erected to prevent their subjects from escaping across the lake to Santopia. Count. Hopefully.But the Baroness took a deep breath or two and smiled. and she would be future Queen of Santopia. ever more slowly. there flies the stork!” The Count turned and ran out onto the Terrace to see the stork with its wide wings majestically approaching Castle Drear to take up a steady circular orbit over the highest towers. He could just make out the Frontier Outpost Stations a few miles out on Frozen Lake. She lived for the cold. my wife. Suddenly. Her eyes went wide with excitement and apprehension. it descended. it would be a daughter. “Yes. it comes. he would be a father. it comes!” The Count raised his eyeglass and scanned the horizon. Slowly. She loved it. When it landed. He raised his glass and watched as the stork circled and circled.
a sudden movement caught his eye. Chapter 7 – Taraxa and Inula Worry It wasn’t long before Groomsman Yarrow and the midwife crept up to Taraxa’s hut and called his name softly. this one rising from the dense Koliback Wood a thousand feet below the Castle.He heard the Baroness cry out as the doctors worked on her. Taraxa came out. And it was a girl! 41 . He adjusted his eyeglass—there was no question about it: a stork in the Koliback Wood. and he ran to her side. But just then the Baroness cried out. He raised the glass to his eye and saw a second stork. But as he turned. He had to go back. “What’s this?” he mumbled to himself. They told him the latest news—the Baroness had that afternoon forced her baby’s birth ten days early.
Taraxa looked over their shoulders and saw all the other villagers gathering behind Yarrow and the midwife in the twilight. “We will help you.” “We will support you. All the neighbours nodded and mumbled their assent. “you must help us. They all knew what it would mean if the Castle learned Noelle had been born before the new Princess. “Friends. The Gelves know Inula was to have a child. creeping up quietly. 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. guiltily.” said Groomsman Yarrow. not this morning.” said the midwife.” Everybody nodded.” “The Gelves won’t make their daily rounds until tomorrow midday. “That is what we will tell them. in any case. 42 . “We can all say Noelle was born this afternoon.” Taraxa said to his neighbours.” said Taraxa. but they don’t have to know the exact hour she was born.
the neighbours left the new family to themselves. “someone will tell. They always do. “We are doomed. Tomorrow there will be a pretty price on all our heads. Taraxa put more wood on the fire. leave the warm hut to look over the lake.” he said bluntly. “All of us. his wife nodded.” “Yes. Sadness engulfed him. to get out of the coal mines and into a job up on the surface. return to stoke the fire.” “Even if it’s just to get a better assignment.” He knelt by his wife and daughter and took them both in his strong arms. She’d been watching Taraxa pace back and forth.After a while.” he whispered. “What do you really think?” asked Inula when they were alone. “I have a plan. cutting timber. looking over to his wife and child. hauling food. 43 .” “What’s to be done?” “A storm is coming out of the mountains tonight. After he explained. holding them for a long time.” said Inula.
lulling the baby to sleep. you are right. He rose and walked outside to get a better look at the dark clouds gathering high above the mountain peaks surrounding Frozen Lake. Look at her.” said Taraxa. “A storm is coming. It’s only a matter of time. It’ll be a savage night out. The Count’s spies are everywhere. I don’t want our little Dazzle to catch a cold. Soon then! Chapter 8 – The Princess Dazzle The Count von Drear came into his wife’s chamber and closed the Terrace doors.“Yes. close the doors.” “Yes. She’s so beautiful. 44 . gently swaying back and forth. Count.” “Good. Drear cradled the little Dazzle in her arms. my dear. So beautiful.” The Count walked over and put his hand on his wife’s shoulder.
“Actually. The velvety eyes. She does look just like me. The Count von Drear’s spies. The lands controlled by Drear 45 . I think you’re right.“Looks just like you. and a Queen she shall be!” Chapter 9 – Taraxa Sets Out As dusk approached. as well as sentries posted at all trails and passes leaving the Realm. The firm chin. it’s just like yours. my dear Count. But the strawberry blonde hair. looking at the baby’s reddish hair and bright brown eyes. my dear. it was explicitly forbidden to leave without special permission of the Skelf bureaucrats at the Castle.” the Baroness corrected. The flawless skin.” said the Count.” “Born to be a Queen. my dear.” “Born to be a Princess. Visibility would soon be zero. enforced the order. In the Realm of Drear. 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.
there were Trelf sentries positioned at the Frontier Outpost Stations a couple of miles out on the lake. But even sentries cannot see through a blizzard. As the blizzard came down and the villagers withdrew to the warmth of their sheds and huts. There were small spoil islands dotting the lake—once you reached the half-way point—but these were inhabited by the Welves. 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. made it to the Wizard’s Volcanic Palace in the middle of the lake. Inula had nursed Noelle. bundled her up tight and warm in a backpack that Taraxa would wear on his journey. controlled by the Great Wizard. daring— and dangerous. 46 . Taraxa’s plan was simple. In the distant past. and then as she slept soundly. Taraxa prepared to venture forth. Taraxa crept out and dug a makeshift grave. There was no safe harbour anywhere.backed up onto Frozen Lake. but that was no escape.
Or try! Under cover of the blizzard and nightfall. which was the main road to the Volcanic Palace. turned back to catch the road. and return home before dawn. There was a Frontier Outpost Station at the Urtica Road. Taraxa would try to make it to the Volcanic Palace to seek the Wizard’s help. Taraxa struck out across Frozen Lake. and when he was far enough out to be invisible to them. he and Inula would put out the word that Noelle had died during the night. Taraxa skated out onto the lake a mile away from the Outpost Station in order to avoid the Trelf sentries posted there. the fierce Monarda Winds howling and screaming in his ears. And during the night.In the morning. they would both attempt to escape forever across Frozen Lake. After their story was accepted and Inula strong enough to make the journey. He would have to follow the road or be lost in the 47 . which led to Ice Cube Road. leave Noelle in his care.
But still. His legs were as stout as any of the workers who slaved away for the Baroness. 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 every mile there was a signpost. and Taraxa’s legs fell into a swift and steady rhythm as one leg went out ahead of the other— swooshh. Taraxa’s muscles strained as he pushed himself harder and harder against the fierce winds.blizzard. he lifted a small flap to check on little Noelle. But the 48 . Then the pain became so great. about an hour into his journey. swooshh. and he had to be careful not to miss one lest he and Noelle perish in the cold. When he stopped. 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. the high wind kept the snow moving. Luckily.
Back in the Koliback Wood. Twice on his journey he had heard the sleigh bells. Once. each time. Taraxa occasionally raised his earmuffs to listen for sleigh bells. and dashed off the road a distance to let the sleigh coaches pass.little baby never cried out. he’d almost been caught by a sleigh bearing down on him. with his head down and his shoulders hunched forward with his rhythmic skating. Then. but he looked up at the last minute and saw the lamps burning on either side of the driver. Inula crept out of her hut. fighting against the whipping Monarda Winds. with a deep breath. he hauled himself to his feet and resumed his exhausting journey. and 49 . Taraxa quickly closed the flap to keep the warmth from his body inside the backpack.
No one had seen him dig the small trench and fill it with chopped firewood. Nine months. and she could feel the heaving sobs rising from her belly. Would she ever see Noelle again? Would she ever see Taraxa again? 50 . She had carried Noelle for nine months. and rushed to get back into the hut for warmth—and privacy—so no one would see her cry her heart out. safe and secure against the harshness of the world. Conditions were not the best in their little village. Her thoughts turned to Taraxa and her little girl. and then to have her in her arms but for a single day—not even a whole day—a few short hours. It was just a fresh grave among a lot of older ones. And then a great sigh came from her. She caught herself in a trembling shiver. where just the day before Noelle lay warm and comfy.went to the rise behind the clearing where Taraxa had made the grave. It was not uncommon for babies to die so soon after birth.
Even against the howling Monarda Winds and sheets of blinding snow.What would she say to the villagers if he did not return by dawn? She lay awake. As soon as she did. Chapter 10 – The Volcanic Palace After four gruelling hours. 51 . trying to sleep but unable to. Soon he could see the layer of steam circling the base of the Volcano where the lava hit the lake. he could see the lights in the Volcanic Palace itself. rising up the side of the Volcano. And a few minutes later. a beacon of hope. even as weak and exhausted and worried as she was. To regain her strength. If Taraxa returned. She had to force herself to sleep. they twinkled into the night. Taraxa could make out the lava flows streaming bright red and orange down every side of the Volcano. they would make a bold break away from the evils of Castle Drear and begin a new life in Santopia.
only once. He also saw a dozen Welves waddling toward him as they lowered 52 . His skates were slowed by the drifting snow thrown off by the blizzard. so he had not made good time. but he remembered everything about the trip. That had been many years ago. Their world was so small—an underground network kept the gossip and rumours flowing—all the inhabitants knew everything about every part of the Kingdom.He was thoroughly exhausted. And even though he’d never been beyond the Volcanic Palace to Santopia. 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. even though they were forbidden to travel there. he knew all about it. when he’d been sent as a last minute replacement as part of a team delivering a load of lumber the Wizard needed for a new wing he was adding. He just knew he had to get back to Inula before dawn or their plan would fail. Taraxa had been to the Volcanic Palace once before.
stepped forward. each quite different from the other. Turn back!” “I can’t!” yelled Taraxa. who had lower bodies like penguins—round and gelatin-wiggly with fat—and they waddled rather than walked. As the sole Guard of the Great Wizard. He was obviously Captain of the Guard. He slung his backpack off his shoulder and opened it up. The Welves all had faces of little old men with intricately shaped moustaches. Little Noelle started crying. but Taraxa had heard they were fierce fighters when called upon. “What’s all this?” 53 . “You’ve come from the Realm of Drear! It is forbidden for you to come here! The Baroness will be furious if we let you in.their pointed lances at him in a defensive manoeuvre. with a gold braid over his shoulder. “I must see the Wizard!” One of the Welves. There were more than a dozen Welves. “I need help!” Taraxa yelled over the wind. “Halt!” cried several chubby Welves in unison. they were not very imposing.
yessir. doesn’t he?” asked the Captain. rapping at his door. The Wizard issues prophecies all the time. “Well. you’ll just have to come inside and warm yourself.“The Wizard must see this child. His Welf valet opened the door with a creak. 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. rap. turning to a subordinate Welf. and I will see if the Great Wizard will receive you. “Why. “Wha—? What’s that?—who’s there?” he called out. meanwhile. but the Captain of the Guard sends his 54 . She is part of his Prophecy.” The Wizard. all the time. Great Wizard. “Sorry to disturb you. was upstairs and very ready for bed.” “I have no idea what you’re talking about. sitting bolt upright. sir!” replied the Welf.
but of course he didn’t dare in front of the Great 55 . milord. well. your Grace. “According to the Captain of the Guard.” “Coal miner? … little girl? … Prophecy?” “According to the Captain of the Guard.” “It can’t wait till morning? There’s a blizzard outside coming off the Frizolean Glacier!” “Yes. but the Captain of the Guard says the coal miner has a little girl who fulfills your Prophecy.compliments and desires you to receive a. Great Wizard.” The sleepy Welf. yawned (or stifled a yawn) smacked his lips and rubbed his eyes as he bowed. yes.” “From the Realm of Drear? A coal miner. very put out to have been shuffled out of bed on this cold night for any errand whatsoever. you say?” the Wizard scratched his head under his nightcap. he says it’s a coal miner from the Realm of Drear.” The freezing Welf was finding it harder and harder not to yawn. uh. “A coal miner?” “From the Realm of Drear.
stood with two of his subordinate Welves warming themselves as Taraxa sat in the chair close to the fire holding Noelle in one arm while sipping hot chocolate from a mug in his other hand. “This better be good. not a proper one.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. But he could move his feet and wiggle his toes to keep them warm out of sight beneath his long nightshirt. Taraxa had to admit. in any 56 . “Welf! Fetch my gown and slippers!” The Captain of the Guard. He shuddered with cold. this was the strangest fire he’d ever seen. He yanked his foot back under the covers.” said the Wizard as he slipped one foot out of his warm bedclothes and touched the icy slate floor. It wasn’t even a fire. glad to have any reason to come indoors from the bitter cold outside.
” said the Captain of the Guard. “They don’t have this sort of thing over at Castle Drear. He’d never seen anything like it before. where it disappeared to wherever lava disappears. On his first—and only—trip delivering lumber.” “Usually.” stammered an awestruck Taraxa. It’s only when the Monarda Winds come over the Frizolean Glacier that it gets like this.” Taraxa looked around him at the splendour of the Volcanic Palace. A lava flow came out from under the high mantelpiece and gently oozed down a slab of slate until it reached the hearth. the Palace is as warm as a summer’s eve all year round. of course. It’s all coal. nodding toward the wall of fiery lava. ten huge floor candelabra with three dozen candles on each one threw off light as the Household Welves lit them up. “No. he never got to go inside. “just coal. one by one. using four-foot long rods with flaming tapers to reach the eight-foot high candelabra. Rich tapestries hung from the walls. Large antlers hung 57 .case. but here he was now. I’ll wager.
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. A far cry from Taraxa’s modest hut. Some of the whiskers on the Welves were more intricate than the gargoyles carved into the columns holding up the cedar roof beams. If only to be born a Wizard. he thought. stained glass. 58 . “No.” “Thank you. heavy oaken tables and ornately carved chairs cluttered the Wizard’s Great Hall. But still.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. my good man. Taraxa started to get up. remain seated. you’ll need this fire. If you’ve come all the way from the Realm of Drear in this blizzard. Great Wizard. “Now what have we here?” “This is my daugh—” Taraxa began. all that hair on their faces.
“In a minute.” He turned to a Household Welf. looking at little Noelle. the Wizard had heard Taraxa’s story and the Welf was back with the special life-restoring brew.” 59 . “You say this baby has something to do with my Prophecy?” In a few minutes. The Wizard sat down in the chair beside Taraxa and put his hands on his knees.“No. Bring some immediately—enough for two— and we’ll warm it up right here in the lava fire. There was an oddly reassuring hiss to the lava as it moved. we’ll have a real drink. This is Slookery Juice. Got a special batch from Santa Pops himself this morning when I was at the Palace for the birth. “What this man needs is some Slookery Juice.” 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. I’ll hear that in a minute.
as it cooled. “Careful—it’ll be hot. The Wizard handed one to Taraxa. The Wizard gave him a cross look. and the Welf immediately tipped the pot over into the two cups the Wizard was holding. You should have seen poor Santa. “It’s time we moved. little by little. it’s true. Then.” “Thank you. brought low with grief on what should have been the happiest day of his life. Captain! Call for my fastest sleigh! And have the sleigh master harness six reindeer. not four— we must hurry!” 60 .” “Yes. Great Wizard.” Taraxa sipped at the steaming brew.” The Wizard stood up. “Whew! It’s strong!” “Santa Pops likes it strong. A Welf swung the arm back out and breathed in deeply the aromas wafting out from the pot. he drank it faster. have another cup.” Taraxa thought of his weakened Inula back in the village and wished he was with her.“We heard that Connie died. Here.
His whiskers twitched wildly. you heard me! Now!” The Captain and his Welves dashed off and soon the whole house was rising. this does not make me smarter than Santa Pops. I will get you back in time—but we must go to Santa Pops first—he will know what to do.” Taraxa protested.“Your sleigh? But Great Wizard. “Well. “I must return before daylight or all will be lost.” “Captain. I’ve given that a lot of thought over the years. “My dear Taraxa—and I can tell you this 61 . “while I go and change and the sleigh is brought round. and I’ve come to realize that while I might have been invested with certain magical powers.” “But you’re the Wizard. I need for you to take Noelle. Ameritus the Wizard stood up and put his hands on his hips akimbo.” the Wizard said.” The Wizard leaned down and close to Taraxa. “You’re waiting here. The Wizard leaned toward Taraxa.” Taraxa said.
my dear brave man. 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. he’d have heard one of the Welves come out with a subdued “Grrrr. Maybe they weren’t quite thawed.” The Wizard stood back up.because you’ll be leaving soon—I try not to confuse my talent with Santa Pops’s brains. “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. They exchanged 62 . “So we’ll go to Santopia and seek out his counsel. If the Wizard had been listening closely.” “To Santopia?” Taraxa couldn’t believe his ears. “We? I’m going to Santopia?” “Yes. my dear man. I should say.” The Wizard turned to go. and then turned back.” A couple of the Welves within earshot narrowed their eyes.
into which the Wizard rather nimbly hopped. As it was. they planned on licking the cast iron pot as soon as the Wizard was safely off on his journey across the lake. Taraxa. “Come along. “We’ll be there in less than an hour. In no time at all. Drive on!” the Wizard yelled to his 63 .glances. the Wizard. 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. Far below the stairs the steam rose where the lava hit the lake with a loud hissssss that never abated. carrying his Staff. On each side of the wide stairs ran a rivulet of crackling lava in trenches carved out specifically to control the downward flowing liquid rock. Slookery Juice was extremely hard to come by. we must make haste!” Waiting for them in the lower courtyard was a large (and mercifully) covered sleigh.
The future lay ahead. and grandfather to the newly born Prince Nicholas. saved millions of people. He was going to meet the legendary Santa Pops. But it had been his great-great-great-great-grandfather who had brought the Baroness’s ancestors into Santopia and established them in the Realm of Drear. But that was all in the past. His famous exploits in the Other World made for many a good tale around the fireside. He had brought wars to an end. “Santa Pops!” Taraxa breathed out in a soft voice to himself. She was wide-awake worrying about him … and 64 . Santa Pops was the father of the current Santa. unknowingly planting the seeds that over the years flowered into the problems they were all living with today. sending the reindeer bolting away into the night. He thought of his sweet Inula lying warm in their small hut. and he knew she was not sleeping. who cracked his whip.sleigh master. and encouraged what Goodness there is in the Other World to triumph over Evil.
whips. 65 .” 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. retired out of earshot. The Purple Elves who guard the Museum brought cups of steaming Slookery Juice and. It was three stories high. He would be back tomorrow—he had to be back tomorrow.Noelle. Chapter 11 – The Santa Museum “Even Wizards make mistakes. “Fit for a Queen. Old staffs. and every inch of available wall space was filled with historical objects of one kind or another. tapestries. or all would be lost. Santa Pops nodded gravely as he gently rocked Noelle back and forth.” he said. After hearing Taraxa’s story. “This is my great-great grandmother’s basinet. on a glance from Santa Pops.” Taraxa took the opportunity while the Wizard and Santa Pops conferred to look around the Grand Foyer.
The town itself was much larger than he envisioned. unusual toys. The Welf sitting with the driver atop the sleigh announced the Wizard and they passed through the ornamental gates and into the town itself. 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). portraits of all the past Santas he could see leading down one long corridor. 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. jewel boxes. Taraxa had leaned out to have a look as they approached Santopia. nestled at the base of the Verbena Mountains on exactly the opposite side of the lake from Castle Drear. with the Palace perched on a ridge just above the town. then spreading out along the shore and up onto terraces cut into the base of the mountain.reindeer harnesses.
“You will leave her with me. and I will protect you here in Santopia.” “Taraxa. “Then we must go now if Taraxa is to return by dawn. you did the right thing by bringing Noelle to the Wizard. The Wizard broke in on his reverie. Back inside the Grand Foyer. you must bring her with you in secret to the Wizard—he will bring you to me. The Wizard explained that all retired Santas go to the Santa Museum to live. The Wizard and I will devise a plan.Santa Museum. “What do you suggest. For now. you must return to the Realm and see to your wife. Santa Pops? Time—we haven’t much of it.” Chapter 12 – The Schism 67 . When she is able.” The Wizard rose from his chair.” “But what of Noelle?” asked Taraxa. Santa Pops seemed to have drifted off into another world as he rocked the basinet.
” she said. a little tear in her eye.” “I know. when Nicky came of age.” Now he was snuggled in bed.” said Santa as he pulled himself wearily to his feet. “You should get some rest. Christmas is day after tomorrow. Better to lose myself in work. alone and beset with sad thoughts and missing his dear wife very much. “I know. thinking about the Wizard’s Prophecy and all the ramifications it entailed now that word had come to him of the birth of Princess Dazzle. He’d been down to the nursery earlier to see if his son was sleeping soundly. Molliso. Santa was in the bed he’d shared with Connie. His dad had sent over Elfie Molliso from the Museum to help out in the nursery. She looked on Santa. “He’ll be there tomorrow. anyway. the boy would end the Schism with his marriage to Dazzle. as he sat by the cradle and stared at the sleeping boy. I’m too tired to think.In the Palace. In eighteen years. 68 . alone. Santa. Connie would have wanted it.
a minor noble from beyond the Frizolean Glacier. She married the next year. Santa pulled the warm flannel sheets closer around him. The blizzard raged outside. and steered him away from her. It would take a lot of work to merge Drear and Santopia into one Kingdom—the way it had been before the Schism. There might have been a little jealousy involved. he’d toyed with marrying the Baroness himself. now that it was official. train him. thus ending the Schism. But it was well known that the Baroness was not friendly toward the idea of Christmas. Then he met Connie and forgot all about the Baroness von Drear. Still. and then elevated him to the rank of Count. When he was younger. and get him to understand the importance of the Unification. educate him.Connie had never liked the Baroness. the Prophecy was a good thing. with the snow pelting the windows. 69 . But he could work with his new son. his dad didn’t trust her.
70 . The Wizard creaked as he lifted himself out of the sleigh. Chapter 13 – Back to Drear The Welf sleigh master made very good time getting the Wizard and Taraxa back to the Volcanic Palace.” Taraxa went in and ate some food. “Do you think I can make it by dawn?” Taraxa looked worried. along with six freshly harnessed reindeer. “For all my magic.He pitied anyone out tonight. but they must turn back as you approach. I cannot ease the pain in my old joints. 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. and eat a bite or two. It would be a very desperate man to be out on a night like this. No one must know you came to me. drank the hot chocolate with the powerful Slookery Juice and rejoined a new team of Welves at the sleigh. No. Taraxa.
skating like a madman in a race to beat the light. the words of Santa Pops echoed in his ears: “Go secretly! Go safely!” The Count von Drear had never seen his wife so completely taken over with joy—sheer. Waving their fat little arms. Taraxa bid farewell to the tubby Welves. But it wasn’t unexplained. As he moved out. all one had to do was look at Drear take in the sight of Dazzle and it all made sense. unabashed. my boy. An hour later. they turned away in the direction of the Volcanic Palace and Taraxa turned toward the Realm. No. uncomplicated joy.“May the Santopian Spirit go with you. “There is so much happiness in the Kingdom.” intoned the Wizard as the sleigh master cracked his whip and they lurched away toward the Realm of Drear.” said the Count as 71 . my dear.
He thinks we will give up our Dazzle to return the Realm to his complete control.” “It’s a shame about Connie.” A cruel silence filled the room.” “Who will someday marry our little girl and bring the Kingdom together again. In the palace of Santopia. but I have other plans.” The Count cleared his throat. “Yes. a pity. too. Santa wants this match as much as we do. but not on his terms. they have a new boy. “Christmas Eve is tomorrow. all is bright.” “I have. “You’ll remember the matter of the second stork?” 72 .” “Santa’s long wanted to reconcile the Realm to the Kingdom.” “I’m sure Santa was behind the Wizard’s Prophecy.” “It has been a long time since the Schism. Here in Castle Drear.he walked over to his wife. broken only when the Baroness spoke.
Count. Spicata.” “An hour too long. he took off his skates and climbed up the 73 .” “I’ve assigned my best Gelf. my dear Count. to find out how many baby girls were born yesterday. How long was it before Dazzle was born?” “Maybe an hour. and having been driven over halfway back in the Wizard’s sleigh. but when!” With so much time to rest.“Yes.” “It’s not so important how many. He easily avoided the sentries on the Ice Cube Road. When he reached the lakeside. Taraxa had been able to make good time skating back to the Realm. and in the predawn light skillfully skated between two of the checkpoints guarding the roads leading out of Drear onto the lake.
they had to make a convincing show for all their neighbours.steep trail that led the hundred feet above to the wide ledge where his village was located. He was well inside when dawn rose. So. how they were to join Noelle as soon as they could slip away from their lives in the village and cross the lake secretly. where all sorts of ancient Santopian artifacts were housed. and how Noelle was in the safekeeping of Santa Pops himself. And they had to buy a little time so Inula could recover her strength. even more important. before the villagers rose. And how helpful the Wizard had been. And. But for all that to happen. holding Inula close and telling her of his amazing adventure on the far side of Frozen Lake. they quietly slipped out of their hut and went to the little grave on the rise where the village’s cemetery was 74 . being careful to make sure none of his neighbours saw him as he crept toward his hut. She marvelled at his tales of the Santa Museum.
“it was almost a relief when she passed away. The first one to see them was the midwife. “Oh!” cried the midwife.” Everyone understood.” 75 . “I wanted to put her to rest immediately. as she rushed up to the gravesite. and to mourn in its own private way. “That child seemed the picture of health when last I saw her. Her cry brought others out into the cold morning. knowing how weak she was the day before. It was common practice in the Realm for each family to tend to its own death rites. calling upon help from others only if it was needed. “She was so hot with the fever. lowering his head. who was hurrying to check on Inula. and soon the whole village was mesmerized by Taraxa’s sad story of how poor little Noelle had succumbed to fever during the night.situated. and there they knelt by the grave filled only with chopped wood. and so we made our private ceremony last night.” he said.” he said.
” was all Groomsman Yarrow could mutter in reply. bacon and a heavily buttered blueberry scone from the 76 . He was just helping himself to a heaping pile of scrambled eggs. even when the snow was falling. I say. What made this Rose Garden so special was that it bloomed all year long.” “Mmm. Santa Pops quickly realized how much he’d forgot about raising kids. Santa Pops had planted the Rose Garden himself. when he first moved to the Santa Museum on his retirement. Chapter 14– No Slookery Juice for Baby! When the Santa Museum staff all woke up and started the fires. “Very unusual. 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. Santa Pops took little Noelle into the breakfast room.whispered the midwife to Groomsman Yarrow.
” 77 . Perhaps you’re right.” “A baby. is a big problem in a little package. Elfie Molliso?” “Am I to answer that question before I know where the baby came from?” “Yes. He called out to the Purple Elf on guard at the door. you are. sire. and then did a quick double take as she looked at the bundle Santa Pops was holding in his arms. “Send for Elfie Molliso!” And before long. That would have opened her eyes a little too wide. sire. Elfie Molliso.” “Nothing has ever stopped you before. when the little thing promptly started crying. if I may correct you.” “Well. Elfie Molliso. I was going to give this little girl a dram of Slookery Juice and some scrambled eggs before I caught myself. Elfie Molliso came sauntering in. “You called for me. what would you advise. “Yes.” “And I’m very happy that you didn’t give the poor little thing any Slookery Juice. Santa Pops?” she said. I seem to have a little problem. I think.sideboard.
taking a deeply satisfying bite out of the scone.“How old is the child. milord?” “Molliso has something for you?” “Yes. “Yes. Have Cook prepare some warm reindeer milk and fetch a baby bottle from the storeroom.” said Santa Pops. Poor thing. then? She doesn’t look to be a week old. followed by a draught of Slookery Juice. “Maybe a day and a half.” “Almost two.” Molliso rang the bell on the table and a Purple Elf appeared at the doorway.” “One day. And make haste!” The Purple Elf ran out at a clip. “One day!!” cried Molliso. “Look at her. extending his pinkie finger delicately as he picked up his steaming cup of Slookery Juice. 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. 78 . One day old. just a short walk down Candy Cane Lane.” said Santa Pops.
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. Santa. He was Chief of all the Elves. but for the good of Christmas as well. But all in all. 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. Santa came in and saw the tall and dignified Lord Elfington going over progress reports with his staff. we’re in very good shape. even though he was not an Elf himself. where all the 79 .” said Santa. Elves were thought to be far too mischievous.which connected the Palace to Master Control.” “Excellent. In ancient times. “Everything in order?” Santa asked Lord Elfington. so it was decided that someone had to manage them not only for their own good.
Elfie Laburna was the Chief of Master Control. “Lord Elfington. She came running over to Santa’s chair. Santa. that is—against the name of the boy or girl who would be receiving that gift on Christmas Eve. She’ll understand why I can’t be there right now. and then it would be loaded aboard the Grand Sleigh in the adjacent Departure Concourse. I’ll give you a letter. 80 . the first Elfie ever to hold such a high position in the hierarchy of Santopia.” “Elfie Laburna!” Santa called out. The Quality Assurance Section would pass on the construction of the gift.presents Santa would take with him were brought before being matched against the Final Verification List where each gift would be checked—checked twice. 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 you’d better lead the delegation yourself. Santa.” “Yes.” “Yes.
” “Elfie Laburna gave me the weather report from the Verbena Meteorology Unit little while ago and everything looks perfect.” 81 .” “Yes. Lord Elfington came over with a paper in his hand. The old thing loathes being out after sunset.” “Very good. I thought. but clear. Cold. Hope we won’t have to deal with conditions like that on Christmas Eve.” She moved away and ordered the Juice. sire. I’m sure it’s nothing.” “The Monarda Winds were specially fierce. “There was a report from the Purple Elves. Santa. and especially in that blizzard we had last night.” “I believe I’ll have a cup of Slookery Juice.“Yes.” “That is odd. that the Wizard visited so late. Santa.” “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.
plenty of time. otherwise.” “Yes. Hurry! Henry was certain he could have the Hifalutin Systematic Model SC-41 repaired in time for him to hitch a ride on the Grand Sleigh. replacement gifts would have to be substituted for those items. Elf Brightfellow. In fact. had let Henry know they still could use three hundred forty-two more units from the machine before the Grand Sleigh took off for the Other World.” Chapter 16 – Hurry. in charge of the Hifalutin Systematic Model SC-41.“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.” “Plenty of time. he was hoping and praying that he’d have it fixed up and ready to go by later this morning. Henry.” “Elf Brightfellow reports he should be finished with it later today. 82 . Santa. then.
and this is what people in the Other World thought Santa looked like. if they believed in him at all. Top o’ the mornin’. down the huge spiral staircase into the Grand Foyer and across into the breakfast room where he saw Santa Pops already tucking into his scrambled eggs and haddock. Santa Pops.” Henry said as he moved straightaway to the sideboard where he filled his plate with some poached eggs.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. 83 . had a bottle of milk and was feeding a baby. which looked much more like the real Santa Pops than the current Santa. he noticed. Elfie Molliso.” “And the rest o’ the day to you. So Henry was in quite a rush when he quick-footed it from his room upstairs in the Santa Museum. “Hello. a quizzical look on her face. But old images are hard to break. Henry.
“A pleasant sleep.black pudding.” Henry acknowledged. “So. my old friend?” “Ahh.” Santa Pops explained.” Henry cocked his head to look at the baby. well. the best. Quite a story. a mutton chop. and a few sizzling sausages before sitting down next to Santa Pops. you know that. fried tomatoes. “The blizzard didn’t keep you up?” Santa Pops went on.” “Elfie Molliso. “I always sleep like a baby when I visit Santopia. some herring. “Speaking of babies …” “This isn’t Prince Nicky. a rasher of bacon. several braised lambs’ kidneys. some fried bread. “Oh?” “Ah. you’re baby-sitting young Nicky already?” “Well ….” Molliso began before Santa Pops cut her off. this baby has quite a story behind her.” “Good morning. indeed!” Santa Pops noticed Elfie Molliso’s peaked ears suddenly seemed a bit 84 . Mister Henry.
the Count von Drear. He’d seen his chance to rise early in his career. and the pink tint to her cheeks got pinker. but for each dark and dirty deed he committed. or henchman. a story the particulars of which I will relate to you when we are … alone!” Chapter 17 – Gelf Spicata Gelf Spicata made his way to the private reception chamber of his master. the super secret special force the Count maintained to spy on all the inhabitants of the Realm. And while most Gelves were no more than three feet tall. he only seemed to rise faster than anyone else. “Yes. Spicata had earned his reputation for ruthlessness by many betrayals over the years. as many in the villages referred to him. but not as high as Skelves. He was commander of Brigade HX-2. Gelves were higher in the pecking order than Trelves. squat 85 . Spicata had worked his way up over the years so that he was now the Count’s most trusted Gelf advisor.more peaked than usual.
He didn’t even fear the Count. there had been freedom of travel between Drear and Santopia. Everyone feared her! Spicata was responsible for maintaining the checkpoints along the lakeside that had turned the Realm almost into a prison camp. Now. but he could do his best. before the Schism. with huge jowls. who. Spicata had been sent on missions as High Representative to the lands beyond the Verbena Mountains and the Frizolean Glacier. anywhere. however. very few people alive 86 . He’d even gone to the trouble and expense of having lifters fitted into his boot heels. He thought he was essential to the Count’s position in the Castle.and ugly. The Baroness. Two extra inches made the world of difference to a Gelf. had married far above his station. In the past. everyone knew. was another matter. He’d never be as tall as a Skelf. He feared no Elf. Spicata had gone to great pains to have his jowls reduced and to ensure his grooming was a cut above all the other Gelves serving in the Castle.
had 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,
“Yes. Shotgun?” Shotgun was Chief Gold Elf and Master of the Grand Sleigh. mounting a raised platform where Elf Shotgun was overseeing the loading process. “Everything in order. 90 . Lord Elfington had gone down to the high-ceilinged. factories. it really is. The same every year.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.” Shotgun said with a sort of ho-hum attitude. your lordship—though it doesn’t look like it’s in order. the only Elf authorized to pilot the Sleigh if Santa or Lord Elfington were disabled. hangar-like Concourse to oversee the final preparations. storerooms. He wore a specially tailored gold uniform (of which he was perhaps a little too proud) that had on it more braid than a French admiral. warehouses and craft shops in Santopia. looking at his clipboard and barking orders to his subordinates.
and smiled with satisfaction. Elves were now hanging Santa’s pennant from the short stern mast. Lord Elfington looked up at the massive structure of the Grand Sleigh. Huge cranes were swinging over the main cargo hold amidships and lowering sack after sack full of presents into the safety of the 91 . but we’re doing our best to keep them down. painted Christmas green with white trim.“And the reindeer?” “A little anxious to start.” 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. I’m sure. 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. A high main mast rose from the centre where a lookout was posted in the crow’s nest during flight. Several decks high. it was more like a small Art Deco ocean liner than a proper sleigh.
The warehouses of Santopia would be emptied out today and tomorrow. Several Elves came trotting by carrying bags of small Santa toys.” “Yes. unloading. Other Elves were laying the harnessing rigs far out in front of the Sleigh.Sleigh’s interior. carrying more fragile presents to their safe berths within the ship. loading. with busy Elves at either end loading. I’ll be in Master Control should you need me.” “So it seems. Elf Shotgun ticked off a box on his list. Dozens of Elves ran up and down the gangplanks. so it seems. as the Elves sent off a full year’s work. unloading. Conveyor belts ran from racks on the ground up into the middle of the ship.” Shotgun bowed slightly. milord. “It seems Henry was successful repairing the Hifalutin Systematic Model SC dash four-one. Chapter 19 – A Job Well Done 92 . Elf Shotgun. preparing for the reindeer.
that’ll keep me up all night. oh. brought over a steaming cup of Slookery Juice. “I thought you might be wanting a cup of this instead of the usual Earl Grey. relaxing after a long day’s work. “I wonder what’s actually in Slookery Juice. spitting out Santa doll after Santa doll in an endless stream. He noticed the envious look in Brightfellow’s gaze. Santa Pops sent it down.Henry was sitting on a stool in the Little Work Shed No. Henry took another long drink from the hot cup and smacked his lips again.” “Well. why not?” Henry took the cup and drank deeply from the dark steaming liquid. Foreman of Little Work Shed No. Henry. 4. Henry —he’s the only one who knows the recipe. He smacked his lips. The Hifalutin Systematic Model SC-41 was purring along quite nicely.” said Brightfellow. 93 . 4. But. thank you very much. Elf Brightfellow.” “You’d have to ask Santa Pops.
I agree with you. who brightened considerably at the prospect of getting a taste of Slookery Juice.” said Brightfellow.“No one’s around. “Ahhh. looking over his shoulder at the Hifalutin Systematic Model SC-41 chugging along in perfect working order. “This stuff is worth fighting for. spitting out toy after toy after toy.” Henry said. “I won’t. Thank you. Brightfellow drained the cup and smacked his lips. “I’m glad this old girl is working again. Remember when you had to stay for two weeks after Christmas? When was that? Two years ago?” 94 . will you?” “Well.” Henry promised.” “Yes. Take the last sip. if you promise not to tell. At least you’ll make the trip back with Santa this time.” Brightfellow said as his nose turned red and his eyes teared up.” “I dare say. Henry. Brightfellow. which was strictly reserved for Santa and his immediate family and guests.
he had only his work to occupy his time at the Hifalutin Universal Intercontinental Amalgamated Toy Machine Manufacturing Company of London.” “You’re not that old. I forget things at my age. my friend. Over the years. He was finding his time in Santopia much more fulfilling than his time back home in the Other World.” Actually. You didn’t forget how to repair the Hifalutin Systematic Model SC dash four-one. Henry was of two minds about being “stranded” in Santopia. and he’d come to get Henry to 95 . And old man Hifalutin could be such an irritable arrogant taskmaster. Back there. when his old friend was the current Santa. Henry thought back to the first time they met. ever since his wife Betsy died a few years before.“I think it was three years ago. but I may be mistaken. Brightfellow. and considered Santa Pops to be his best friend. a place he loved more and more as he got older. They were both very young. Henry had come to know Santa Pops quite well.” “I’ll never forget that.
“Thought you might care for a quick skate on Frozen Lake before you head back tomorrow.” said Santa Pops. welcome. It’s such a waste of a trip for the Grand Sleigh to take me down all by myself.” Henry beamed. “It’s better that I go down with Santa now. “Perfect. Henry.” Brightfellow bowed.” Just then there was the tinkle of a bell at the door as Santa Pops came in.” Chapter 20 – Into the Koliback Wood Christmas Eve morn.bring him back to Santopia from the Other World to repair a broken toy machine. much as I would like to stay. Gelf Spicata was up well before dawn to waken his crew of thuggish Trelves to begin the trek to 96 . “Sire. “That would be superior. Do we have time enough to go as far out as Scruff Island?” “I think so. I’ll just fetch my skates. Brightfellow. my good friend.
with no warning. Spicata had sent other teams to collect the babies born the week before Dazzle. Groomsman Yarrow and Spicata’s platoon Trelf sergeant were waiting for him at Tremulous Creek. But he wanted to capture Taraxa and Inula himself. he’d sent a contingent of Trelves to hide out on the perimeters of the village so that no one could escape. that the grave was a trick to fool him.the Koliback Wood. capture them all at the same time. 97 . The Baroness herself saw as much. the main source of grain production in the Realm. He was sure they were hiding the baby. which divided the Koliback District from the Hyssopus Field. Spicata had told Yarrow to be waiting for him—he wanted to surprise Taraxa and Inula in their hut before dawn. Earlier. where he arrived just as day was breaking over the Verbena Mountains. as well as their parents. Spicata wanted to capture all the parents in all the villages where babies had been born the previous week.
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
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. He sees that he can change the Baroness with the marriage 101 . Chapter 21 – A Vexing Problem Henry and Santa Pops were sitting by the fire in the Grand Foyer. Santa Pops with a worried expression on his face and Henry with an astonished one on his. well.” “And my son. my old friend. 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. he’s set on Dazzle marrying Nicky. Henry. “You do have quite a problem.” Henry said at last. and I agree with you that little Noelle hasn’t a chance against the Baroness. “You’ve spent enough time in Santopia to know the Baroness.” “Yes.
my old friend. claim his Queen.” “Eighteen years is a long time for you to protect Noelle in such a small world. And I see only the darkness in her heart.” said Henry.” Santa Pops nodded and sat back in his chair.” “I don’t see how I can elude the Count’s well-paid network of spies here in Santopia.of her child and his. 102 . and be anointed the next Santa at the Sacred Ritual of the Green Gloves. We still don’t know the fate of her parents. “That may well be. “The solution the Baroness has in mind is removing Noelle. Prince Nicky would become a man. you have eighteen years to work it out.” “Santa’s motives are pure.” In eighteen years.” sighed Henry. And. But the solution eludes me. “He only wants to save the people of Drear by bringing them back into the Kingdom. I have my magical powers.” “But what does Drear bring with her when she comes?” “Well. “Surely there must be a solution. following the Prophecy.
” “Can’t you go to Santa?” “He’s stubborn. and she will do everything she can to rid herself of this little girl once she discovers that I have her with me. destined to be the future Queen of Santopia. personally.” Henry leaned forward in his rocking chair.but the Baroness has powers of her own. like me. under every roof for any evidence of Taraxa. you know. 103 . 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.” Henry nodded. What if …” he began. Inula and Noelle— he knew her name by now. looking into every hut. Chapter 22–Across the Hyssopus Field Spicata personally led the search throughout the village. “Indeed. I have something for you to consider. He interrogated every inhabitant of the village. in fact.” “A vexing problem.
the Count. would be expecting news. All Spicata knew was that he had a little time. What would a 104 . the Baroness’s attention would turn to him. ordered the smouldering fire to be brought up. He had to think ahead—think ahead to what Taraxa was planning. No—he’d be expecting results! This he knew. dismissing everyone.” Spicata demanded from an underling. had to come up with a plan. He could not. preparations were being made for the Sending Off Ceremony over which Drear presided every Christmas Eve as Santa approached the Forest. and sat down. But as soon as the Grand Sleigh disappeared into the tunnel. In Castle Drear. at most. So he had a few hours. But he had to keep going. before the Baroness sent word for him to report back.He got nowhere. and his master. He went into Taraxa’s hut. “Bring me a bowl of Gluckety Goop. would not return to Castle Drear as the bearer of such unacceptable news. put himself in Taraxa’s mind.
that if anyone should have died. but Spicata adored it. it should have been Inula. onions. as the baby was as stout as could be expected. It was a hideous thing all Gelves had a habit of doing when they were about to put on the feedbag.desperate man do? He had the added burden of taking his wife and newborn baby with him. carrots and Chalalazada meat. snort. snorted 105 . thinking it a little too gamey. Such factors would limit Taraxa’s options. and Spicata had taken lessons to restrain himself from this primitive tendency. he couldn’t help himself. and snort. Spicata’s Gluckety Goop was brought and he quickly tore into the stew of potatoes. He couldn’t travel fast. But when he was around Chalalazada meat. so you could always find it in the local Gluckety Goop. And the only place Chalalazadas thrived in the entire Realm was in the Koliback Wood. A lot of people didn’t like Chalalazada meat. The midwife told Spicata that Inula was weak from childbirth. Spicata always made an excited snorting sound when he smelled Chalalazada meat.
When he had led his Trelves into the village. as the village was located on a large outcropping from the mountains. This path. There were only two or three routes out of the area. Most of the villages were built out of the rock and ice. One way out was across Tremulous Creek.away. the very first thing Spicata noticed was the smell of cooking Chalalazada meat. Another way was across the Hyssopus Field. as the fields were not farmed right now. and into the Northern Frontier. but this time of year it was empty. up one of several treacherous mountain passes. and was much too valuable to be used for living space. The limited field space was used for cultivation. devoid of life. too. But that led only deeper into the Realm. Worse than hiccups. but just a hundred feet above the lake. He’d started snorting immediately and couldn’t stop himself. but to the southern reaches of Frozen Lake. built on a vast terrace. led nowhere. 106 .
this time of year. basically rolling the dice and taking a long shot at gaining his freedom? Surely Taraxa knew Spicata had checkpoints at regular intervals along this route and surely his Trelves would frustrate any escape plan.Then there was the path directly down the mountainside. the checkpoints were only situated every half-mile or so in a broad semicircle sweeping out into the lake meant to cover all the potential escape routes from the Realm. and later. Perhaps Taraxa thought 107 . or set out across the wastes of Frozen Lake. Question was—would Taraxa journey deeper into the Realm. where. he would be captured by Spicata’s Trelves. eventually. The old Wizard always sided with Santa against the Baroness. and the rest would be easy. and the few peasants who had escaped Drear found a warm reception at the Volcanic Palace. in Santopia. in the dead of winter. and across it to freedom in Santopia. directly to the lake. All Taraxa had to do was reach the Volcanic Palace halfway across. Of course.
he was smart enough to slip between two of them undetected. Everything he’d been told about Taraxa led him to believe that he was a man of great courage and resourcefulness. Such a man might cross Tremulous Creek at night. But there’s one thing Spicata learned after years in the torture chambers of Castle Drear: a desperate man is always more optimistic than rational. It would then be even smarter for Spicata to take up a position between the pass leading down from the Hyssopus Field to the lakeside and the route over uncharted ice leading to the Ice Cube Road. doubling back to go down the mountainside to the lake where there were no checkpoints. but only travel half way. It was a longer journey for his sick wife and newborn babe. 108 . when Spicata thought more about it. but it was. make out across the Hyssopus Field. which was deserted this time of year. the smartest thing to do.
” he barked. “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. He wiped his hands on his pants instead. We are going down the mountain. which was his Courier.” 109 . Santa won’t be the only one who gets sent off tonight.” His sergeant came up. He almost wiped his hands on his tunic. but remembered all those expensive lessons he’s paid for to learn manners that would set him above all the other Gelves in the Castle. Spicata thought derisively as he scooped out the last of his Gluckety Goop with his hand. chewing thoughtfully on the last tough but tasty slice of Chalalazada meat. Spicata came out of Taraxa’s hut and walked over to his single Flying Trelf. “Have them ready for us on Frozen Lake. Sergeant. “Round up as many lake-sleighs as you can find.Humans. they think they’re so smart.
Elf Shotgun personally took charge of the Elf team leading out the Helleborean Reindeer to the Grand Sleigh. It was a very delicate matter. Along this leather strap. out to the foremost reindeer. Then. to harness a Helleborean reindeer. each reindeer had a cluster of bells strung in 110 . tools and techniques had been developed to make the process manageable. But over the years. Felves (or Flying Elves) raised the harnesses to the reindeers’ necks. more like a flexible bridge. the reindeer were placed in position in front of the Sleigh. indeed. Long leather straps were extended from the bow of the Grand Sleigh down the centre between the rows of reindeer down the length of the harnesses. First.Chapter 23–The Sending Off Ceremony As dusk approached. Elves could then run up and down affixing the harnesses and securing everything. really. Each reindeer was as big as a house. As a final touch. and Elves were quite puny by comparison.
The Gold Elves (the highest order of Elf) were special Elves selected to make the journey every year with Santa. the whole of Santopia gathered there to witness the event.his antlers and laced around his neck. the Grand Sleigh was pulled out by the reindeer into the great circular plaza below Santa’s Palace. Wild cheering drowned out every other sound as the Santopians celebrated the end of their labour for one more year. 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. Santa emerged from the Palace and waved to the people. Tagging along 111 . They were resplendent in their distinctive gold uniforms and now made their way aboard the Sleigh. with Lord Elfington at the helm. making certain everything was shipshape for the long journey ahead. Quite without anybody taking notice. Shotgun thought this made for a very merry sound as the Sleigh danced through the night sky. Finally.
It was customary for the retired Santa to embrace the current Santa at the conclusion of the Sending Off Ceremony. And. Then he turned to the crowd. and went up the gangplank. he walked down the leather strap between the reindeer. no one paid any attention to them beyond the usual courtesies as they moved up the gangplank. Santa bid farewell to the Palace staff gathered on the top step. 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. recruited to help load in Henry’s baggage. 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. Henry carried the original backpack in which Taraxa had carried Noelle. speaking personally to each one.was Elf Duncan. Henry and Duncan quickly and quietly disappeared below to stow his gear in Henry’s cabin far forward in the hull. went down the huge staircase leading to the courtyard. The crowd could 112 .
Henry came up from below decks to stand next to Santa Pops. turning to leave. Then Santa Pops hurried down the gangplank as the Gold Elves drew it in. 113 .” said Henry. “Where’s Duncan?” “The baby started crying so he’s trying to keep her quiet.” “All right.” “What do you mean?” “Leave Duncan in the cabin. You stay here. Then Santa began to make his way aft to take his position at the helm next to Lord Elfington.see the reindeer eyes light up as Santa petted each one on his big fierce head.” “Go stay with the baby and send Duncan out here.” Santa was now amidships. and Santa Pops pulled Henry’s sleeve. “No! Wait! If Santa sees you leave during the Ceremony. He shook Henry’s hand and embraced his father. it’ll raise suspicions. looking guiltily to his left and his right. We can’t leave him aboard.
Santa raised his arms. This was a very special moment in all their lives. “To all Santopians: I go now to the Other World. Immediate silence. It’s magic so ancient That no on can know. And if it is true. But a crack of the whip And the reindeer will go!” 114 . where we will spread the message of good cheer and humble thoughts of thanks to all the many peoples living there. that it is better to give than to receive. Santopians suddenly grew very quiet. as we all believe. Santa spoke: Up Dasher and Dancer! Up all and away! How we can do this. the spirit of Santopia and Christmas itself. stilled with awe. 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. will live and be sanctified for another year.
and another. When Santa judged the speed fast enough for a take-off. working their way around the circular path that surrounded the plaza. then another inch. he shouted a command. dragging the Grand Sleigh forward an inch. came onto the lake and soared up into the sky! 115 . 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. straining against their harnesses. 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. cracked his magical whip again. Down the ramp the Sleigh followed the mighty reindeer until they reached the bottom at their fastest speed. after what seemed like an eternity. until finally. building up their speed.
” he lied. At least he knew Noelle was safe. “I feel stronger. “Nearly. How he longed to see her. He went back to get Inula. He had taken the precaution of garbing himself and Inula in white. Leave it all here. so they would stand out less against the white wastes of Frozen Lake. Leaving Inula in the little shelter he had built for her. Still. The way looked clear.” he replied softly. at least for now. to be with her. “What should we take with us?” “Nothing. “Is it time?” she asked. Have a bite to eat. Taraxa crept down to the lake to see if anyone had followed them.” “And you look it. too. and she had rested now for several hours. Taraxa knew they had no choice but to press ahead with his plan. It was getting late.Chapter 24 – Setting Out Darkness was falling over the Realm. She looked much weaker than the day before. and then we take nothing 116 .
All we have to do is make the Volcanic Palace. skating as fast as they could. Far ahead. sticking out a thousand feet up the mountainside like a cancerous growth. Taraxa could see the ugly bulk of Castle Drear slowly emerge into his view.” “And sweet Noelle. “Now! Let’s go!” said Taraxa. “We have to hurry!” 117 .” “And sweet Noelle. The Great Wizard will see to it that we get to Santopia. but to the south.but some water. angling away from the shore far enough to remain out of sight. but still in line to intercept the Ice Cube Road. As they moved out away from the land.” 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. he could make out the Grand Sleigh high in the sky hurtling majestically toward the Forest. and they set out onto the lake.
Gelf Spicata was able to commandeer half a dozen lake sleighs and make his way about an hour out onto the Ice Cube Road. The danger of losing some of his Trelves to desertion was too great. If not. all was lost. if he had acted too late. 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. he would intercept Taraxa as he made his escape. the Count would recall him. his only Flying Trelf. Spicata stopped his men and deployed them along the road. Surely. or if Taraxa remained in hiding another day. or two. all within hailing distance. the Count von 118 . to Castle Drear to report on his manoeuvre. Then he sent a Courier. If he judged correctly.
Drear hurried into his wife’s chamber. He found her cuddling Dazzle in her arms, the very picture of contentment. Until she looked up at him. “What have you heard from that dirty little Gelf of yours?” “Nothing yet, my dear, nothing yet.” “The weather’s fair enough—I think I’ll take Dazzle out to the Sending Off Ceremony for Santa. Is everything ready?” “All is ready. The entire Household is gathered on the parapets. The Flying Trelves are ranged above the castle in full formation.” “Good, then.” Drear rose and made her way toward the Long Terrace high over the lake. Household Gelves whipped open the tall French doors as she approached. When she walked out, the Count made a signal and there rose from her people a joyous cry of support. Drear graciously acknowledged the happy greeting, not that she was used to it. She even smiled. “The people seem genuinely happy, Count.”
“Indeed they do, my lady.” “Perhaps we do not tax them enough.” “I believe they are happy to see you with such a beautiful child, my dear.” “Well, she is beautiful, and as you said, she looks just like me.” Drear went to a great carved chair on a raised platform by the edge of the Terrace ramparts and sat down. She looked in the distance and saw the Grand Sleigh approaching at somewhat less than half its speed. Santa always piloted the Sleigh through the dark Forest at slow speed. Drear snapped her fingers and a Skelf attendant came over and poured a glass of Champagne for her. She reached over and picked up the glass and took a sip. “A little warm, I think.” She placed the tip of one of her very long fingernails against the side of the glass and ice crystals formed inside the liquid. She took another sip. “Ahhh, better.” Below the ramparts were gathered the people of the Realm. On the ramparts
on either side of her, stretching along the side of the Castle, were the people, Skelves, Gelves and Trelves of her Household. Above the turrets her Flying Trelves hovered in position.
On the Grand Sleigh, Lord Elfington gave a nod to Elf Shotgun, who raised his megaphone and boomed out an order. “Trumpets to the foredeck!” Gold Elf trumpeteers raced forward along each side of the bow, an even dozen on each side, and prepared themselves. The Squadron Leader gave the all clear to Shotgun. “Sound!!” The trumpeteers raised their instruments and blasted out Santa’s Fanfare, loud and clear. The sound could be heard all over Frozen Lake as it ricocheted off the high mountains and reverberated all over the Kingdom.
widening. On the Grand Sleigh. 122 . separating to clear a path: a large round tunnel through the heart of the Forest. echoing forth with a cacophony of sounds that sent fear shuddering through anyone who heard them. the huge green branches in the Forest began to creak and groan.Drear’s eyes turned from the Grand Sleigh to the Forest of Shadows just beside the Long Terrace. The mammoth branches in the Forest continued to respond to the magical sound of Santa’s Fanfare by spreading apart. At the sound of the Fanfare. a Trelf detachment manning the battery began firing eleven guns in a formal salute to Santa. until they were all gloriously ablaze. On a rampart high above the Baroness. the Gold Elves moved up and down the starboard and port sides of the great ship. Santa’s pennant fluttered briskly in the wind. lighting the side lamps one by one.
” “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.” “Oh. below decks. so we’ll have to explain to Santa why you’re aboard.” “Santa deals very severely with stowaways. Elves have stowed away 123 .” Duncan raised a doubtful eyebrow. That’s as good as anything else. Santa’s got a million things on his mind. he’ll be busy. They deposit me very quickly. it’s usually Lord Elfington who sees me off. Henry was devising a new plan with Duncan. in his cabin far forward in the hull.” “He might think you stowed away. I’m sure. “Santa Pops thought it would be too dangerous for me to leave the Sending Off Ceremony. “Have you got anything better?” Duncan sat down on a low stool and stroked his chin. “Not really. on all my past trips.” “Well. keep him busy while I get Noelle off the ship when we get to London. Henry.Meanwhile.
7 because he got caught stowing away on the Grand Sleigh. It was only in the cards for Gold Elves to go to the Other World. They’d have to forfeit the week coming to them at the Steaming Springs Spa halfway up the Glacier. He’d gone to the porthole to look outside. A mere foreman in a 124 . No one had come to tell him it was time to leave the Sleigh.” Duncan could see the consternation on Molliso’s face when she found out he’d lost his position as Foreman of Toy Workhouse No. knowing she was looking out for him. They might even lose their house and be assigned to smaller quarters.before. He even saw Molliso standing next to Santa Pops waving at the Sleigh—little did she know where he was! He even saw her look over her shoulder a couple of times. He always stood next to her during the annual Sending Off Ceremony. and lost all their rank when they got back to Santopia. She’d kill him! Duncan had been mightily shaken when the Sleigh first lurched into motion. Duncan was overjoyed to be making the journey. For his part.
” Then they heard the Fanfare. than the misty river Thames at night. Castle Drear on the starboard beam. “I’m afraid you won’t see much more of the Other World.” “Right-ho!” said Duncan. I’ll come back and we’ll work out the details of what we’re going to tell Santa. “I’ve got to go on deck as we pass Castle Drear. even if I do lose my position. the Trelves with their cannon booming out a salute 125 . Duncan. the thousands of townsfolk gathered on the ramparts.” 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.workhouse had no place on the Grand Sleigh—ever! “I can’t tell you how excited I am to be on this trip. Duncan went to a forward starboard porthole where he could see everything —the Forest with its dark leafy tunnel looming ahead of them. Once we’re in the Forest. the Baroness on her Terrace.
“I’m sure she is.from the highest turret. drinking her glass of Champagne.” replied Lord Elfington. Henry drew a sigh of relief. He was too occupied looking at the Baroness in her chair. He stepped to the side of the quarterdeck as the guns sounded out and raised his hand in salute to her. just as she had done every year. Once on deck.” said Santa. the Flying Trelves ranged above all this in flawless parade formation. her new baby. their ugly scaly wings in a slow-motion movement to keep them in perfect stationary position. “She must be very excited about the Prophecy. She rose and bowed to him and raised her glass. 126 . But this time there was a bundle in her arm. year in and year out. Santa hadn’t even noticed him creep onto the deck from the passageway. Each smiled to the other.
a Gelf came over and bowed to the Count. But he couldn’t be sure. The Count looked beyond the ugly little beast and saw Spicata’s Flying Trelf make his landing on the Terrace. In another moment. he though he could j-u-s-t make out two small figures working their way toward the road. He moved his eyeglass along the various paths away from Spicata and back to the lake bank. actually. he could see Spicata’s men lining the Ice Cube Road. While Drear was paying homage to Santa. he was at the rampart with his eyeglass. In the distance. He thought he saw two little white specks moving slowly across the lake.Elf Shotgun just rolled his eyes. He’d never met the Baroness. He sent the Flying Trelf back with the location so Spicata’s men could investigate further. After a moment. but he’d heard more than enough to make him wary of her. surveying the vast expanse of Frozen Lake far below. The Count moved away from his wife and over to the Trelf to get his report. 127 .
“Am I that slow?” was all she asked. It was also about that time he realized Inula couldn’t complete their journey. “You need to rest. He looked into her eyes and saw that she knew how hopeless it was. however.” “No. He knew he was heading in the right direction. whipping out a large white canvas with which he covered them both. “It might be better if you just went on without me.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. would never see her daughter again. but there was no way he could imagine them making the whole trek. He stopped and sat down with Inula. They weren’t even far enough along for him to make out the markers on the road.” he said simply. but forcefully. sadly. “Why are we stopping?” she asked. Taraxa.” he said simply. 128 .
” The Grand Sleigh roared through the tunnel deep into the Forest with a huge SWOOSSSSSSSHHHH. We both make it to her. and was gone. and told the Baroness about the Trelf’s report. scanning the lake desperately. The huge branches began to close upon themselves again. “Where is this slimy Trelf?” “I sent him back to Spicata with a sighting I made. “I can’t see anything.“I would feel better knowing Noelle had one of us rather than neither. It has to be the peasants escaping with their baby. “And it’s getting dark!” 129 .” she said. or neither of us does.” “No. She is with good people. The Count gave the order for everyone to stand down.” Drear went to the rampart and took the Count’s eyeglass.
” “Ahh … Still. We will need them. The Count ordered them back into formation. hundreds of them.” She glanced over her shoulder. “I think I saw something move!” 130 . They moved into position above the Terrace and the officers flew down to stand by for their orders. “Call back the Flying Trelves. “If it’s not too late!” The Flying Trelves.” A Skelf dashed into the Baroness’s chamber and returned immediately with a second eyeglass.” She looked at the sun setting over the highest of the Verbenas.” Drear mused. “Wait!” said the Count. they watched as Spicata’s Trelves moved off.“Look over there! About midway between the Ice Cube Road and the lake bank in the direction of the Hyssopus Field. “Spicata hasn’t enough men to cover the Ice Cube Road. I see nothing! I see that Spicata’s Courier has landed and his Trelves are setting out in that direction. were just standing down. “Get another glass for the Count. Together.
He’ll never even know about this insignificant threat to our future. “General.” The Baroness turned to her top Trelf commander. Bring them to me immediately. The Baroness turned to the Count and smiled.The Baroness brought her glass up and looked. as well as their baby. “Yes! You’re right! I see it! They’re wearing some sort of white camouflage. 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. “At least Santa can’t interfere. move out immediately in support of Gelf Spicata on the Ice Cube Road. Intercept the couple attempting to escape the Realm.” 131 .
While he saw Spicata’s Trelves approaching. Now they were sitting ducks. they would have been protected by darkness. Even with a weaker Inula. quickly wrapped up the canvas. not out here on the Ice Cube Road. as he looked over toward the mountains. He should have waited till nightfall. Taraxa now realized his fatal error. But when Taraxa looked ahead.On the lake. they just might have a chance. Totally helpless. Still. He and Inula were all in white. if he could avoid Spicata’s Trelves until nightfall. He thought all the Trelves would be formed up at Castle Drear paying respects to Santa. with the sun now falling behind them. and colder weather. now that dusk was falling. Taraxa got Inula to her feet. he saw the long line of Spicata’s squad heading toward them. and they began to make their way again. Taraxa quickly whipped out the white 132 . they were wearing black uniforms. but not enough to obscure them. A brisk wind was working its way up.
let’s hurry it along. Perhaps he’d even be assigned a larger room in the Castle. faster. Surely the Baroness would reward him lavishly.canvas cover and unfolded it over Inula and himself. according to the just-arrived Courier. Inula. With a window! “Well. who. and pray for darkness. It’s our only hope. thought he saw something. faster. you filthy Trelves. suddenly excited at the prospects of capturing Taraxa and the baby girl. faster! We must find them before night falls. Maybe I was right! thought Spicata. In the distance.” Spicata looked over his shoulder at the sun just falling behind the Verbena Mountains. he could see the great branches of the Forest closing behind the Grand Sleigh.” Spicata’s Trelves moved out in the direction ordered by the Count. 133 . “Crouch down low. maybe even a two-room suite.
134 . “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. In the distance. “No! No! It’s obvious—they’re wearing white. lowering his glass. Spicata saw hundreds of Flying Trelves heading his way. Then it would be blind man’s bluff in the darkness. but not much more. And a wind was getting up which would throw a little snow into the air.” “Bring my Staff!” the Baroness called out to one of her Skelf attendants.” said the Count. Chapter 27 – The Magic Staff “I’ve lost sight of them!” said the Count. “They’ve disappeared!” cried the Baroness.They might have a half-hour. I can still make out Spicata’s men in their dark uniforms quite clearly.
Spicata’s squad should be in the area where I lost sight of the figures in white.“What are you doing?” “I’m going to let the Pirandelves finish the job for us. “But what about my Trelves? And Spicata?” 135 .” “But we might be able to capture them!” “And if our incompetent Trelves lose them in the night?” The Count did not answer. Drear raised her Staff and pointed it toward the lake.” “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. All our plans would lie in ruin.” “But Santa has forbidden you to call out the Pirandelves! They are banished under the ice. “How will you know where to strike?” “I believe if we wait a minute or more. The Count brought his glass up and looked in the direction of Spicata’s men.” The Count brought down his glass.
stop fretting.“Oh. He’d rather liked and grown attached to the hideous little thing. dear. Drear pointed her Staff as she looked through the eyeglass. Luckily for him. Spicata had sent his men out in three staggered rows... Never liked him.” The Count felt a momentary sadness —he was going to miss Spicata. oh. and spoke: “I command the Pirandelves to strike and destroy all within reach!” Spicata saw the flash of light set out from the Long Terrace. all well ahead of him. He immediately knew what was coming. 136 . In any case. Just think— this will give you a chance to . He remained in the last row as a sort of hedge against his prey slipping through. promote from within. Spicata is a nasty little creature. You can always forfeit a few Trelves and Gelves.
Taraxa had been peeking from the cover of his white canvas and observed Spicata’s Trelves slowly moving toward him. He could tell they hadn’t spied him because they hadn’t moved forward faster to challenge him. Taraxa’s spirits lifted. and the Baroness obviously wasn’t taking any chances. For a brief moment. I think we have a chance. rose up like a graceful arc of bluish-white 137 . He also saw the army of Flying Trelves moving in their direction. “Inula. But he knew they would be helpless once night fell.” And then he saw the white bolt out of the corner of his eye.He looked up and saw the army of Flying Trelves making their way across the lake. But as he saw now. They could not make it before nightfall. closer and closer. The bolt began at the Castle. and fear struck deep in him. it would soon be every Gelf for himself.
in fact.” 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.” 138 . Spicata called over his Courier. Taraxa knew what would happen the moment the bolt hit the ice and broke an opening through to the waters below. “Get up. thought Taraxa.lightning. achingly slow. Inula! Get up! We have to move back. but not as fast. “A message for the Castle. As fast as we can or we are lost!” Just before the bolt hit the ice. sir?” “I’m the message now. you will fly me away from here. “What is it?” cried Inula. “When I give the signal. and then started downward—aiming directly at the space between him and Spicata’s Trelves.
pointy-nosed lizard-like animals of the deep famed for their razor-sharp teeth. Spicata’s terrified Trelves started to scatter. red scales and voracious appetites. “Save your strength!” The water continued to soar upward. Most of them had never seen a Pirandelf before. like a volcano spewing forth frozen water rather than lava. only heard the horrible tales about them. slimy. Clawing their way up from the several holes in the lake created by the bolt were the deadly Pirandelves.“But I’m not strong enough to carry you!” “You’d better be!” Just then the bolt struck the lake and burrowed deep down into the ice. but large. not yet!” cautioned Spicata as the Courier struggled against him. 139 . When it found the freezing water below. each the size of two fully-grown humans. And now they came. the water erupted in a geyser that rose in a roar high above them. “Not yet. my loyal servant.
after the foraging expedition was over. The Cretins. when they saw there was no force sufficient to repel them. They ripped through the poor Trelves’ puny weaponry. was to surround their prey and force them toward a hole in the ice. It was a like a game to them. enslaved to the Pirandelves. The Trelf was then taken back to the hole in the ice and thrown down into the water. thus breaking the neck. When the victims came to the precipice. their favourite form of attack being to grab the Trelf by the head. 140 . give him a good swing. collected the catch and the Pirandelves feasted later. who laboured below the water.They poured forth from the holes in the lake and instantly began attacking Spicata’s men with a relish Spicata had never seen in any animal or human. Another form of sport the Pirandelves enjoyed. they were forced to jump into the icy water where they drowned or were dragged alive to underwater pens watched over by the Cretins.
forcing his wings into overdrive. each Trelf dropping his lance and running in a different direction. Santa had banned them from the surface. you fool. 141 . The Pirandelves had been instrumental in helping the rulers of Drear fight off Santa’s forces during the Schism. “Come along.It was so rare that the Pirandelves were allowed above the lake that when they were freed. Spicata’s Courier Trelf struggled to fly. pushing and pushing against the ground. they foraged quickly and retreated to the depths. His whole squad was routed. but they were bound by an ancient oath to obey the Baroness when she called to them. One powerful swish of a red-scaled tail could knock a Trelf to his feet. “Now!” yelled Spicata as the Pirandelves waded through the first two lines of his men and started to work on the third. Then the powerful jaws and razor teeth finished the work. 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.
go the other way!” Spicata commanded. the Trelf rose in the air. “Don’t move toward them. Looking over his shoulder. He called for them to come help him. “Cowards! All of you!” But his cries were ignored. but they kept their distance. he saw the approaching army of Flying Trelves come to a hovering stop. but they were inches out of reach. 142 . you fool.“You’d better do it!” After much effort. His Trelf was drifting toward the Pirandelves rather than away from them. “I can’t steer! I can’t!” cried the Trelf. foot by foot. “I can’t fly away! You’re too heavy!” “You don’t have to fly away—just keep us above them!” Several Pirandelves jumped up at them. slowly away from the deadly Pirandelves. Spicata’s Courier was laboring mightily against all the extra weight. ever so slowly. Spicata allowed himself a laugh as his Courier moved higher and higher. afraid to move any lower. “Cowards!” Spicata screamed.
Taraxa and Inula stood tall and proud. even as the feinting Pirandelves forced them closer and closer to a gaping. toward our army!” But the Trelf was slipping lower and lower. Inula buried her face in Taraxa’s arms. Seeing the pair totally defenceless.“Fly the other way. ragged-edged water hole. 143 . the Courier slipped his arm under the leather strap holding Spicata to him. “Why aren’t they attacking?” cried a terrified Inula. As the Pirandelves surrounded them. and Spicata dropped with a raging scream straight down.” Taraxa answered stoically. “They’re playing with us. the Pirandelves began their game of shunting and faking. Suddenly. landing just a few feet from one of the water holes. rather like football players throwing blocks for one another.
144 .” “No matter now!” Spicata had long since given up any interest in the little girl who had got him in this mess. calling out for mercy and help that would not come. Spicata heard the wailing cries of the last of his squad dying under the assault. Spicata got up. And he heard more screams coming from the water hole just behind him. much less the fate of her parents. momentarily giving him a fright that scared him more than the Pirandelves. he saw the Flying Trelves had finally launched an assault of sorts. all three of them turned to a face a dozen Pirandelves tightening the circle around them. little good that it would do him. Suddenly. “Taraxa!” “I am. In the distance.They could hear the cries of the dying Trelves in the water below. Now. A lance jarred him as it landed in the ice next to his foot! Looking up. He still held his knife. Spicata dropped down out of the air right next to Taraxa.
and that when he went into the hole. the Trelf assault was forcing the Pirandelves to turn away from the trio hovering by the water hole. Taraxa and Inula would die. As each column came within reach of the Pirandelves. he could breathe underwater. and thought how ironic it was that he was actually one-eighth Cretin (on his grandmother’s side). and the lances ricocheted harmlessly off the hideous creatures. Of course. Arrayed above him were hundreds of Flying Trelves now approaching in orderly column after column. dead or alive. 145 . 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.coming low and throwing their lances at the Pirandelves. But unlike humans. Spicata heard the freezing water churning in the hole behind them. Even though the lances were bouncing off the backs of the Pirandelves. the red scales on a Pirandelf were like metal. the Trelves hurled their lances.
Spicata actually thought they might make a run for it as he stood side-by-side with Taraxa and Inula. but then. For a moment. an errant Pirandelf tail swept all three of them into the icy water pit below. without any warning.and stand up on their hindquarters and swipe at the Flying Trelves as they swooped down. if only the Flying Trelves could keep up the attack long enough. Taraxa!” END OF BOOK 1 PREVIEW OF COMING BOOKS BOOK 2: Santa & the Gullible Gelf. suddenly. In which we follow the adventures of Spicata and Noelle’s 146 . The last thing Spicata heard before he hit the water was Inula crying out: “I love you.
and how Henry plans his secret return to Santopia. as his Queen. In which young Prince Nicky discovers he is not destined to marry von Drear’s daughter.parents after they hit the water and are surrounded by the Cretins. but another girl who is hidden away in the Other World. returns to Santopia three days before Nicky’s eighteenth birthday. still unaware of her true identity. the Princess Dazzle. all her suspicions are roused. Email: santa@santopia. Noelle. BOOK 5: Santa & the Ritual of the Green Gloves.net 147 . the Princess Dazzle. thinking Noelle perished with her parents and Spicata in the icy water hole on Frozen Lake. In which we learn of Elf Duncan’s experiences in the Other World after he is accidentally smuggled off the Grand Sleigh. BOOK 4: Young Santa & the Secret Voyage. Eighteen years have passed and we pick up the lives of Noelle and Nicky just before Nicky is to claim von Drear’s daughter. Send us your email address if you wish to be notified when the next book in The Annals of Santopia is published. has waited eighteen years for this moment.net www.santopia. The Baroness. 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. BOOK 3: Santa & the Return of Elf Duncan.
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