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