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