Copyright © 2013 Halley Halford
Disclaimer. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents, are either the product of the author‟s vivid imagination, used in a fictitious manner or extraordinarily coincidental. Any resemblance to persons living or dead or actual events is purely coincidental.
SECOND EDITION JUNE 2013
ISBN-10: 1490466576 ISBN-13: 978-1490466576
In Loving Memory Dr Julie Louise Steele 10th February 1971 – 3rd September 2010
Opening the Lost Eye. The wandering stars twinkled like glitter strewn across the dusky twilight speculating how long it should be before one of them would muster up the courage to wake Draco. There was trouble stirring below them on Planet Yarn and had been for a fair few months. It was the dragons you see, and dragons were Draco‟s responsibility. The Little Dipper nudged a nearby constellation and whispered in its squeaky voice. “Shouldn‟t one of us wake Draco?” It received no response so it shoved a little harder, sending a couple of stars shooting off in all directions. “Not now,” said The Big Dipper sternly. “You know how lazy Draco is and he‟s sure to be in a bad mood if we wake him. You do it, you‟re closer anyway.” “But you‟re bigger than I.” squeaked The Little Dipper. The arguing had disturbed Draco who, as predicted, was not in a good mood. “Must you two bicker like that? Can you not clearly see that one is trying to sleep?” he asked. “There‟s no time for sleeping,” squeaked The Little Dipper. “Trouble is stirring on Planet Yarn below us.” “Trouble?” asked Draco. “Yes, a crisis even. Terrible business.”
“Crisis?” “Yes, Lady Oktober is turning them domestic. There won‟t be many fire- breathing dragons left at this rate.” Squeaked The Little Dipper. “Go on.” Said Draco. “I know that when you lost your eye on your last visit to Planet Yarn, it became a sensitive subject, but it‟s meant you haven‟t been able to watch over the dragons as you should. Lady Oktober has taken full advantage of this.” “But how on Yarn has she managed to domesticate them?” asked Draco. “The Heliotrope Lagoon at Dragons Cove.” Started The Little Dipper. “Yes?” said Draco as though this was going somewhere. “She‟s replicated the liquid in the lagoon. She has many sites around Norwood where the dragons will drink from. You know they can‟t resist the colour.” “Of course they can‟t resist. The liquid from The Heliotrope Lagoon is what they use to sustain their inner pilot lights.” Said Draco. “But her version of it gives the beast‟s brain- freeze.” Said The Little Dipper. “Brain- freeze?”
“Yes, it extinguishes the dragons‟ internal fire, rendering them about as ferocious as your average house cat. Then she sells them on for profit as „guide dragons‟.” “What!” Draco spat. “That hideous wo man, interfering with the laws of nature. It won‟t do, I will have to go back down there and sort this out.” “If he can stay awake for long enough,” sniggered The Big Dipper to The Little Dipper. “You know how lazy he is.” Draco overheard the comment but allowed it to pass over him. There would be many dragons to revert back to fire-breathing beasts. Perhaps he could delegate the work to somebody else whilst he supervised the process. Perhaps he‟d make life a little uncomfortable for Lady Oktober too, it appeared she deserved it. He found Lady Oktober to be a little suspicious and wondered how it was possible that one witch could possess so much control over many dragons. He was starting to suspect that maybe Lady Oktober had come into possession of his eye. That would certainly explain her ability to achieve such powerful magic. It was a lead at least. The people of Planet Yarn weren‟t too pleased to see him on his last visit but it wouldn‟t stop him going. “I‟ll be back before you know it.” He said as he quivered and quarked.
As he did, the Draco constellation manifested into a single ball of light, which shot out of the sky like a falling star.
The Fiddler and the Mouse It was around seven in the evening when Draco arrived at Planet Yarn with a hefty Thud! The ground was chalky and flew up into the air on impact, entering his nose, mouth and eyes rendering him momentarily senseless. It had been donkey‟s years since he‟d left the company of the stars above him, which we know to be an accurate measurement of a long time. He had taken human form again this time, the same long black trench coat with scarf and battered old hat which would keep him warm if it even mattered. He found his feet immediately and to his surprise, he‟d remembered how to walk. Kind of like riding bike. He tightened his heavy scarf and, cocking his battered hat, he set off alone down the chalky hillside, a mere silhouette against the glowing horizon. He was travelling downhill which required only shallow breath and he was grateful as he resented the density of the atmosphere, interstellar gas circulated much easier in his opinion. The distant glow from a town called Gheywood beckoned and it would be the first of three towns he would visit to find his idiot to delegate his cause. He decided his perfect candidates would be insolent and valiant enough to not falter on their journey. To secure this, he decided he‟d curse them until the job was done.
It seemed a little harsh perhaps, however, Draco just wanted to go home as soon as possible to rest. When he arrived at Gheywood, he was completely under-whelmed. It was a plain and featureless place which, had it not been for the faint glow, would cease to exist in the growing darkness. Winter was almost over and Mother Nature had already began her spring cleaning, dusting off the snow and promising to polish each leaf to reflect her perfect beauty. The residents of Gheywood were far too busy to appreciate or recognise this as they bustled about their business in their blind ignorance. Draco watched with disbelief as they swaggered to and fro with their guide dragons on a length of rope just long enough (as the expression goes.) The dragons looked ferocious as ever, though their inner fires had been extinguished, the heat faded from their eyes which were glazed over with silver filigree. They trotted obediently beside their „masters‟ carrying various items of household use and anything else they could be overloaded with. Draco‟s concentration was snatched as a group of screaming brats charged past him with an angry woman in hot pursuit. She flailed a rolling pin wildly in the air and was shouting the kind of profanity the children would repeat in the playground the next day. The
satisfying thunk! of a clipped ear suggested that she‟d successfully collared one of them in her haste. From the corner of his peripheral, Draco noticed a donkey roaming freely upon the dusty cobbles. It looked sad and lowly as donkeys often do and he considered its practicalities. Upon pursuing the animal he‟d decided to call Clementine, he was left breathless in a cloud of dust as Clementine poked his head around a corner to see if he was still being followed. Draco had given up the chase as he was felling rather tired and wasn‟t in the mood to play Clementine‟s game. The lowly donkey snorted and trotted off feeling rejected. It was by chance that Draco stumbled upon an alleyway where he‟d find his first idiot. It was a bakery called „Milo‟s‟ it promised quality and good service, though Draco knew only too well that humans often lie. A fat cat lay on the ground enjoying his twilight nap and Draco shooed him out of the way. “Fickle feline.” He sneered as his foot made contact with the furry critter. Opening one eye, it looked up at Draco and sighed. “What brings you here again?” asked the cat. “Twain? Is that you?” said Draco surprised. “What happened to you Twain?”
“Yes it‟s me.” Said the cat. “It was Lady Oktober‟s doing. She kidnapped me and turned me into her cat, the woman is out of control Draco. She‟s kidnapped the queen too, nobody knows where she‟s hidden her and King Merlot is being held hostage in his own castle by a black knight called St. Nick.” “Is this the same Lady Oktober that is domesticating these dragons?” asked Draco signalling towards one of the beasts as it trotted past on a leash. “Yes, she‟s a frightful sight to look at. She came from nowhere it seems and suddenly she‟s taken over.” “What else has she been doing?” asked Draco. “Where do I start?” Said Twain. “Not only does she sell the dragons to the townsfolk, she also has a factory where their food comes from. I think she‟s making a good profit from it.” “What on Yarn is she feeding them?” said Draco. “Vera plants,” said Twain. “It‟s the only food she endorses. She said if they‟re fed anything else then they‟ll revert back to their fire breathing ways.” “What a load of old rubbish,” said Draco. “She makes me furious already. Where can I find her?” “She‟s being held up at The Sad Spider. It‟s a tavern in Norwood.” Said Twain. “What on Yarn is she doing there?”
“She‟s upset some crows, killed their mother apparently when she was putting her spell together and they chased her into the tavern. They‟ve got her ring and she‟s powerless without it.” “Interesting,” said Draco as he removed his battered old hat and brushed the dust away revealing his face.” “Wow, you truly are hideous to look at aren‟t you?” said Twain. “So this ring,” interrupted Draco. “What does it look like?” “It‟s got a yellow stone but that‟s about as much as I know. She took me to Dragons Cove to get a sample from the Heliotrope Lagoon, we had to fly in during the early hours because we didn‟t have visas. After that, she spent all her time in her little hut in the woodland trying to modify the liquid so the dragons that sipped it would get brain- freeze. If you go into the woodland, you‟ll see the ponds there glow just like The Heliotrope Lagoon.” “That dastardly woman,” Said Draco. “I‟m in two minds whether to confront her or not, I need to put an end to all this and turn the dragons back.” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “I need to find a few people to do it for me, along the way I may be inclined to make things very awkward for the witch.” It was clear to Draco by now that Lady Oktober did in fact, have his eye in her possession, albeit set within a ring by what he‟d just been told. He would get it back
but he‟d have some fun in the process. The idea of changing every single dragon back single- handedly was daunting. Draco was far too lazy to do it all himself. “Good to speak with you Twain, I‟m off in here now,” he gestured towards Milo‟s bakery. “I‟m sure to see you soon before all this is over.” “I can‟t wait.” Said Twain sarcastically and returned to enjoy his twilight nap. The heat hit Draco like a blanket at the door, the warmth meeting his bitter cold breath soon became uncomfortable underneath his heavy scarf. Eyeing rows upon rows of pastries and rolls of indeterminate freshness, he was interrupted. “Fresh?” The voice which was not especially assertive, was that of an unhappy customer, who decided that aggression was the way forward and an excellent substitute for intelligence. The customer slammed the „fresh‟ loaf onto the glass counter which nearly cracked. A few depressed looking cherries rolled across the floor. They didn‟t quite reach the exit, and it became apparent that they were doomed to be consumed. “I paid two shrabn‟l for this loaf and on return home, my old lady found it to be stale and housing a small mouse. Where do you stand?”
Milo, the proprietor of the raggedy establishment, fondled his greasy beard whilst examining the loaf with his other hand. “I have no idea how the rodent became embreaded,” he sniggered “But it is not of this establishment and there shall be no reimbursements. That is my final word on the matter.” The customer did protest, for it was his last two shrabn‟l. Draco interrupted them. “Excuse me but if you did indeed sell that loaf to this gentleman, then you should compensate him. You‟ll lose customers with an attitude like that. The customer is always right.” Milo scoffed at Draco. “And what do you know? I will not pay for the mistakes of other bakeries. If people choose to shop elsewhere around here, they can‟t expect me to cough up when they receive shoddy loaves like this. I‟ve never seen this customer before in my life. No, there will be no reimbursements.” “But I was in here only this morning.” The customer protested.. “I wouldn‟t forget a face like yours lad, you‟re lying and it‟s something I do not condone. You can leave this shop and take your disgus ting loaf elsewhere.”
Draco purchased another loaf and handed it to the customer. “What an extraordinary display of human compassion,” scoffed Milo. “Move along now before I fetch up my dinner.” Draco couldn‟t help but feel deeply insulted, he‟d never met such an audaciously rude individual before. The customer moved quickly across the shop floor sensing the approaching storm. “Thanks Mista.” He paused and looked up at Draco before siding his way quickly past. He tucked the loaf into his tatty overcoat as it was beginning to drizzle outside. The rain pitter pattered at the window pane in short bursts and the bustle outside moved onto warmer dryer places mostly. Milo stood behind the counter sorting through a pile of letters. He examined a small white envelope at armslength as though he was struggling to read the writing. His hands quivered and his palms were sweating. He opened it slowly and read.
Dear Father, As it is soon to be my sixteenth birthday, I have but one wish. A desire to operate as a herbalist, it‟s something I‟ve been learning lots about through mother (who says Hi by the way) I know that you‟re disappointed the baker profession didn‟t work out for me but it doesn‟t run in my blood as herbalism does. I‟d really like to trade from your premises as rent is high at the moment. This is the way in which I have chosen to make my living. Mother is still angry that you threw us out on our ears after that argument, so I don‟t think she‟ll be joining me anytime soon. She said something about hell freezing over (although I‟ve heard it‟s quite warm down there.) She called you words I daren‟t pencil on paper for fear the word goblins will eat them. Anyway, think about it. I hope you reply this time. Yours Estranged Henrith Pollock . Milo ripped the letter to pieces but he saved the area with the address on lest he changed his mind – which was unlikely.
“Home time.” Milo pointed to the door interrupting Draco as he picked up a croissant. “Don‟t you have a home to go to?” “Well yes Milo, yes I do,” He smiled. “Mind if I call you Milo?” “A paying customer can call me anything he likes.” “And the customer would always be right? Right?” said Draco. “Well… Erm…” “You‟re obviously an intelligent person Milo,” Draco paused with a half- smile. “You make a good living from your vocation and sharp tongue do you not?” “I guess I do…” Milo unfurled which left him standing tall and proud. “Good, good for you. I was hoping that perhaps you would share some of your wisdom with me by teaching me how to bake a simple loaf. As payment I offer this gold sovereign ring.” He thrust his hand forwards dramatically and it glistened with a cheeky wink. A gold sovereign? Though Milo as he almost laughed out loud thinking his luck had changed. The fellow stood before him was clearly a twit of the highest order knowing no gain of money. Of course he would teach him how to make the simplest loaf. He‟d use his cheapest ingredients and over complicate the entire process. The customer would look up to him
then, he fantasized. He did say he was an intelligent fellow after all didn‟t he? He savoured that idea for a short time until he became aware that his daydreaming had left an awkward silence. “Er, yes sir of course, I‟d be only too happy to show you the tricks of the trade. Do me a favour though please and pull the bolt across. We need not be disturbed if I‟m to give you my undivided attention.” He shot a greasy look at Draco and rubbed his greedy mitts together. “Through the back, this way sir,” Milo skipped gleefully leading the way. “This way, mind your head and your step, I say, what a tall and handsome fellow you are sir.” Nausea flooded Draco‟s stomach, he despised grovelers. They were a waste of foot space on land and they leached off the air. In the back room was a small, filthy kitchen. It was uncomfortably stuffy and the wall was beginning to fall away, leaving puddles forming between the valleys of cobblestone flooring. The floor near glistened under the oil lantern upon the wall, giving the impression of cleanliness. This was just an illusion though. A clatter of tins from a pile on the floor sent a little mouse running for its life. It scurried to a large crack
within the wall where it had made its home almost certainly. Draco remembered the mouse loaf and he shuddered. He was handed what appeared to be an apron or rather a piece of cloth as the strings had been cut in hasty removal. “Are you a family man?” Probed Draco. Milo‟s face scrunched a little and he turned up his nose as if he had trodden in something unpleasant. “Used to be sir, a wife and drip of a son, they used to work here not too long ago, not terribly hard mind you. They‟re living in Norwood now I hear. People have said they seem happier than ever but how can they be with nothing? I know deep down they‟re unhap py but I doubt they‟ll return anytime soon. That‟s what pride does to you, leaves you out in the gold - I mean cold.” All the time he was eyeing the gold sovereign ring. “Anyway let‟s get started,” said Milo, “There are five vital ingredients to a loaf. The first is flour, I get this from the old mill because have a loyal friend who works there if you know what I mean.” He winked and nudged Draco. “The second is yeast, a controversial ingredient. There are some who believe it has magical properties, contains knowledge no less and swells the bread like a brain absorbing knowledge. Ironically these people have no brains whatsoever.” Draco hated Milo‟s attitude already.
“We also need butter, salt and tepid water,” he continued “You can check the temperature of the water against your wrist, it should be neither hot nor gold.” Milo gave a demonstration. “We add the flour and the yeast then mix in the water. It sounds easy enough sir but you can never be too sure of yourself. This is the secret of good bread making.” “Now we use a wooden spoon to mix it all together, you‟re familiar with the concept of mixing aren‟t you sir?” Draco raised an eyebrow and nodded. He could mix exceptionally well and in fact, he was mixing up a hideously delicious spell alongside these five vital ingredients. A little spell he‟d been saving up for such a person as Milo. He thrust his palms into the concoction and with every twist and turn of the dough, the spell had imprinted itself into the mixture. “Finally we seal the dough with water.” Said Milo. An excellent way to bind this spell Draco smiled to himself. Milo handed him a small tin and watched as he transferred the dough. Both tins sat alongside each other in the clay oven and Milo produced a pipe from his pocket and chuffed away hazily. “They may double in size sir though yours is unlikely to do so as I explained earlier, baking is tricky business, very easy to get wrong sir, very easy.”
When it was time to retrieve the bread from the oven, Draco looked pleased because his loaf was bigger and looked more appetising that Milos‟. “That‟s my loaf!” he said shiftily. “But I specifically remember putting my loaf in that exact tin.” Draco protested. “The proof will be in the taste,” said Milo. “When things look too good to be true, it is usually because they are.” With that, he tore into Draco‟s bread. He simply could not keep his greedy mitts off, and it was in this moment of greed that the first curse was born. “What‟s happening to me?” shrieked Milo clutching at his throat dramatically as his short tubby frame became slim and elongated. His clothes stretched as far as would allow before ripping away from his body exposing new attire underneath. A pea green three piece suit with tails. The trousers looked delightfully uncomfortable Draco noticed. Milo ran toward the mirror, he could do nothing as he watched his baldness become host to a full head of light shiny curls.
“What have you done to me? My clothes and body have changed. I‟m taller than the man I used to be, I‟m feeling rather strange. What have you done to me? What‟s happened to my voice? You‟d better change me back before I take away your choice Draco picked up a pastry which on contact, immediately warped into a small fiddle. He presented it to Milo. “You‟ll do no such thing you silly man, I‟ve placed a curse on you that will not be lifted until you have run an errand for me.” Milo tried to speak but stopped himself. “That‟s right,” said Draco. “Every word that comes out of your mouth from now on will rhyme. That way, it will make your insults humorous and less offensive to everyone. Listen carefully now, you will journey to Dragons Cove where you will bring back some samples from the Heliotrope Lagoon, you must use those samples wisely to put an end to the guide dragon cr isis.” He turned to the window and gestured as one trotted past with its „master‟.
“Rest assured you won‟t be alone though, there will be other morons like yourself that you‟ll meet along the way so you‟ll be in constant good company.” Milo cleared his throat, his voice was shaky. “A Journey to the Dragons Cove? A dangerous and lonely road? With a band of men as dumb as hell, In a bid to unlock and break a spell?” Draco chuckled with pure delight as he took much satisfaction from Milo‟s discomfort. He considered travelling alongside the morons for entertainment purposes but he was far too lazy. He shook it off, turned his back and headed in the direction of the alleyway where the lonely donkey he‟d named Clementine was waiting for him. He caught sight of Twain as he fed a carrot stick to Clementine. He knelt down and presented the cat with the mouse loaf from his inside coat pocket. “An easy catch for you today Twain.” He said. Back inside the muggy bakery, Milo was pacing back and forth. He couldn‟t possibly live like this and he couldn‟t afford to let anybody see him in this state either. He didn‟t want to go to Dragons Cove but perhaps he‟d have no choice. The shame - he imagined, if somebody were to see him like this. Especially after the manner in
which he‟d spoken to some of his customers. It could well put him out of business. Yes, he decided, he‟d go to Dragons Cove and get his curse lifted, he wouldn‟t leave until after dark though - scrap that idea, he was afraid of the dark. He threw together a rucksack of provisions, mostly food and material to fashion a bivouac, he decided he‟d take a small amount of money which he‟d be unlikely to spend, he couldn‟t see why this journey should be at his own expense.
The Psychic Who Didn‟t See it Coming.
10 Miles away from Gheywood (as the crow flies) Draco rode upon the back of Clementine who he‟d fed and watered but still looked rather morose. The donkeys‟ spirit didn‟t lift either when they passed a carrot field, the atmosphere became a depressing one. They arrived at Norwood which proved to be a town of many features, being full of tall buildings for little people galore, a place of worship for those that were into that sort of stuff, and a quaint market which added to the atmosphere. He had tired of the melancholy Clementine and decided to ditch him before he sucked the life from him like one of those emotional vampires you hear about. He distracted the donkey with a carrot shaving before ducking into the nearest building he could find. It was a small hut held together with twigs, straw and mud, and the air was thick with the intoxicating stench of incense, bringing a bout of nausea to those that disliked the smell. „Norwood‟s Psychic Extraordinaire‟ a banner hung from the ceiling with too many buntings in his opinion. I‟ll bite thought Draco. It was quiet and dark inside, which made bumping into people and things easy for those that weren‟t used to such blackness. At each table sat a psychic of some
variety. Palm readers, crystal ballers, tarot card readers, astrologers. People were queuing nervously clutching at anything that may be considered as currency for a reading. There were silver spoons, head lamps, hairbrushes and pies. Posies of roses and teddy bears with no eyes. Draco jumped the queue but nobody said anything nobody would, instead they stared at this extraordinary gentleman with his reptilian eyes and shadows shrouding his face. He moved towards the darkest corner of the room where a man sat underneath a dim light, his thinning blue wispy hair set off his blue eyes against his paler than pale complexion. He was clad with jewellery. Draco had barely approached the table and the man had already noticed the gold sovereign on his hand. “Cross my palm with silver or gold and I shall tell your fortune through palm reading, for I am Fyn the Great.” “Why so great?” Asked Draco amused. “It‟s my title, you know, like Lord, Lady, Laird etc.” He was unconvinced but none the less intrigued. Sitting down on a rickety chair, he searched his body for silver which may or may not appear. “Excuse me Fyn,” a stranger interrupted them. “Thanks for your accurate reading earlier, I asked her and she said yes.” He winked at Fyn which suggested that
perhaps he was employed by the psychic. As he walked away, he stumbled on a foot sticking out from underneath the table. “Mind your step.” Smiled Draco, showing a couple of his razor sharp teeth. Fyn looked a little nervous but relaxed as a silver coin was plucked from the air and placed into his grasp. “Let me see.” He observed Draco‟s palm which was large, scaly and not particularly pleasant to hold. “How interesting.” He said, as he tucked strands of blue wispy hair behind his ears and leaned in closer to get a better look. “You don‟t appear to have a normal lifeline. It doubles back on itself in a figure of eight.” He traced his finger along the line to show Draco. “Looks almost like the symbol for infinity,” He sniggered “Can‟t tell you much more than that I‟m afraid.” “And why‟s that?” said Draco. “Well, there‟s nothing e lse to tell really, no indication of marriage or children and in fact, it would appear that you merely exist.” “You‟re a charlatan.” Sneered Draco. “Not at all, see young Jose over there?” he pointed a couple of tables along. “He read a young lady‟s fort une just last week and she struck gold in this very town. She found an old treasure chest in the woodlands you see.” Draco raised an eyebrow.
“Fair enough, I shall be having this back though.” He snatched at Fyn‟s hand which was curled in a tight fist and he twisted it anti-clockwise bringing him to his feet, Fyn‟s arm was strewn uncomfortably across the table. Draco opened the clenched fist and retrieved his gold sovereign that Fyn had pilfered while distracting him with the treasure chest fabrication. “You can‟t take that back, you owe me for the reading.” “It was hardly a reading though was it? Besides, I‟ve already paid you in silver.” Fyn took back his hand and rubbed his sore wrist furiously. He cleared his throat intent on causing a scene. “Thief, Thief!” He shouted. The crowd formed a crescent around Draco. “Now let me tell your fortune.” He boomed. “You will join an ongoing quest to reach Dragons Cove, where you will help to solve the guide dragon crisis with three other morons. Within the next twenty minutes you are likely to feel queasy as you take on a new form. This is your curse, please think of it as a gift from me in payment for your reading. I can be of no further assistance for now. You must help yourself, a skill you have already acquired at the expense of others.” He walked towards the door and nobody would step in his way.
Outside the shack Clementine was waiting for him, and Draco decided he would keep him a while longer. Misery loves company after all. After he‟d stopped laughing to himself about Milo and Fyn‟s latest curse, he decided they‟d travel through Norwood‟s woodland to see for himself what the witch had been up to. He wondered how many morons he would need to run this errand for him and how easy it had been to manipulate them so far, he‟d prefer to do as little labour as possible if he could help it. Clementine jerked to a halt as they entered the woodland and looked up at the tall trees that surrounded them. It made him feel dizzy and nauseated as the trees towered above them like projecting spears through the ground. “Come on Clementine,” said Draco. “There‟s nothing in here that can hurt you so long as you stick with me.” Clementine snorted, partly because he didn‟t have much faith judging their creepy surroundings – partly because he didn‟t particularly like his new name, though he had no means to communicate this which depressed him ever so. Draco slapped him on his hide to signal it was time to push on. Something rustled in the undergrowth, causing the donkeys eyes to dart about, but Draco insisted they investigate. Clementine felt his stomach flutter and his hooves as though they were filled with lead,
nevertheless he moved forwards one shaky leg after another. Stood in a small clearing they watched a dragon of medium stature drink from one of Lady Oktober‟s purple ponds. It shivered uncontrollably and short bursts of smoke puffed from its nostrils. Once the fire had dried up, a small stream of smoke simmered and sizzled as it met with the cold air. The dragons piercing red eyes faded until they turned a pale shade of dull grey. It slumped on its hind legs looking quite dazed and confused. Draco was astonished. He walked through the clearing, gazed into the purple pond and reached into his pocket, pulling out a vial of purple liquid. He compared the two, they looked identical. So this is what the witch has been up to then ? He thought. Shame on you Lady Oktober. This means that she absolutely must have the yellow stone to produce such a result. He smiled inwardly through his shock. The contents of the vial in his hand were one hundred percent authentic, collected himself – by hand – from the Heliotrope Lagoon at Dragons Cove. He started towards the great beast that looked thoughtfully at him and he petted its scaly head. “Don‟t you worry, it would appear that today is your lucky day. Had I not been passing, you‟d be sold on by
the witch. I will release you from her spell and you must return to Dragons Cove to warn the others to stay clear of these woodlands, for it has claimed too many of your kind already.” The dragon dribbled a little and Draco forced open its mouth as he poured in the purple liquid. He stood back well out of the way. It was like watching an old car start. At first, the dragon coughed and spluttered, it choked and a small ball of fire flew from its mouth, followed by another, and another until it had singed most of the trees within the vicinity. The dragon inhaled deeply, in through the nose out through the mouth, the oxygen provided plenty of fuel for the fire. The opacity of its pale grey eyes vanished and was replaced by the colour of burning scarlet. It stretched to maximum wingspan and bellowed so loudly that the trees shook. Some of the smouldering branches fell into the pond and they froze after a couple of moments had passed. “Easy, easy now,” said Draco. “Remember what I told you, now go and do not return here.” The dragon took flight as though he‟d understood, but Draco couldn‟t be sure. Brain- freeze could have a terrible effect on the short term memory. As the dragon rose off the ground flapping its enormous wings, dust blew about and Clementine batted it away
from his eyes with his long eyelashes. They decided to move deeper into the woodland. There were likely to be many more dragons wandering but Draco didn‟t want to interfere too much, not if his plan was to be successful. He was certain that the witch had the yellow stone, and they would be certain to cross paths sooner or later. He‟d decided that four was a nice round number to make up the quadripartite. His first two morons were already well on their way to Dragons Cove he hoped. They heard a further rustling through the trees, though the heavy footsteps sounded more human that dragonlike. Draco thought it might be somebody he‟d like to introduce himself to.
The Congregation. A murder of crows had congregated outside a wellknown tavern in Norwood called The Sad Spider and they were heckling a lady inside. “Lady Oktober, Lady Oktober. Come outside and play with us, let us peck o ut your eyes and nest in your hair.” The largest crow of the group was called Elgor, it had the wingspan of an eagle and a temperament just as savage. On the end of its long black beak it held a ring that glistened as the day drew to a close. Inside The Sad Spider a log fire roared to drown out the buffoonery as the locals were full of merriment (and ale) but something was stirring beneath the pleasantry. From the darkest corner of the room, a darker shade of black shadow had emerged, it was Lady Oktober who had become a semi-permanent fixture there for some months now. The crows had begun starving themselves purposefully and promised a savage attack if she were to leave the premises. They were convinced that Lady Oktober had poached their mother from the family nest when they were vulnerable babies. Self-sufficiency had proved difficult for the blind baby crows and it evoked feelings of rage and resentment towards the witch. Their mother – they thought, a mere ingredient in a spell the witch had used to cast upon the dragons. They were then captured and sold on as „guide dragons‟ for the sum of one hundred
shrabn‟l, a small price to pay for such a magnificent beast. Alongside this, she also operated the „Vera Plant‟ factory. It was to be the only food endorsed by the witch as being safe to feed the dragons. Fed anything else, she couldn‟t guarantee they wouldn‟t revert back to their fire breathing ways and nobody wanted that. The townspeople were sceptical of course and thought that perhaps it was nothing more than a money spinner for her, but it was the uncertainty that kept them buying the Vera Plant. She was the true definition of a witch. Her hair was long, green and ratty. Her clothes were dull, dark and tatty. Her battered old cranky nose had that all important wart on the end which would always be in her line of vision. She was hideously ugly through and through. She slumped over her broomstick and sighed. Her cat had gained a fair bit of weight recently and had run away (or slinked off as cats tend to do.) One crucial element was missing from this hideous woman, she possessed not one ounce of hocus-pocus as it was the yellow stoned ring that contained all the magic and without it, she was just as vulnerable as everybody else. More-so because the angry crows were lurking outside waiting for her. Before she became trapped at the tavern she was feared by many, and people would only enter the woodland to
purchase a guide dragon from her. She couldn‟t help but feel their prejudice eyes upon her all the time. S he may have looked like your stereotypical witch, but she was far from it in her opinion. The landlord at The Sad Spider had invited her to stay for as long as she needed, mostly through fear, and she‟d stayed ever since. The customers at the Inn ignored her as she gradually blended into the shabby dark furniture. Each day became more mundane than the one previous and she‟d almost completely given up any hope of getting her ring back. A short way from The Sad Spider, a unicorn was galloping like it had been given two new pairs of legs. Except it wasn‟t really a unicorn. Instead there were two rather large unprepossessing bulls horns where there should have been one. It was a rather awkward looking creature. Noticeably distressed, it burst into the tavern. The locals paid notice, sure they‟d seen unicorns before but this one had two horns. “What is your name oh wondrous beast?” They begged with wonder and romance in their eyes. “My name is Fyn the Great,” he started. “I‟ve arrived from the town. Less than an hour ago, a man called Draco came to me for a palm reading but I couldn‟t tell him much so he cast a spell upon me and I found myself doubled over growing these great things.” he gestured to where his horns did lay as best he could.
Fyn failed to mention the countless people he‟d scammed during the day and the pilfering of Draco‟s gold sovereign ring. The locals looked baffled for a short while but shrugged it off and soon went back to their drinks. It was a remarkable story but it was also the age of witchcraft and wizardry so anything was generally accepted. A large pitcher of ale was poured for Fyn and placed on the bar. “Any chance of a straw?” He asked. The tavern was loud once more and Fyn found a resting place by the open fire which warmed his spirit ever so slightly (though this may have been the ale.) He felt a cold touch upon his blue mane. “Draco eh?” she whispered. “Wonder what he‟s after this time?” “You know of Draco?” said Fyn. “Yes, most people know of him. They know that he visits now a nd then when there‟s a disturbance between the balance of humans and dragons. Though he hasn‟t been doing such a great job of it lately.” She slumped back into her chair with an uneasy grin. Fyn felt uncomfortable as she eyed him. She had his undivided attention now and she was ghastly in every sense.
“He‟s told me I have to go to Dragons Cove, take a sample from the Heliotrope Lagoon and use it to solve the guide dragon crisis. How am I supposed to know anything about that?” The witch smiled, but inside she knew that Draco was on to her. She didn‟t want people interfering in her business and she couldn‟t let anybody in on her secret either because she knew Draco wouldn‟t be pleased. “I can help you perhaps, but I need a favour first.” Said Lady Oktober. “What is it you want? I‟m incapable of most human tasks now.” Said Fyn as he held up a hoof. “There‟s a mass of crows outside is there not?” Fyn nodded his head. “The ringleader has something that I need. It‟s a ring with a yellow stone.” “What do you suggest?” He asked. “Did they see you enter?” Fyn shook his head and together, they concocted a dastardly plan that would free the witch from The Sad Spider. Outside, the crows were constructing a pecking order, each wanting to be the first to scratch the witch‟s eyes out. They were disturbed by a commotion outside the tavern flew over to listen.
“Help! I‟ve snared a witch, her feeble attempt to turn me into a unicorn has failed and she‟s tied up in this string. I was to drag her through the town kicking and screaming but she‟s not budging an inch.” Fyn‟s voice was desperately genuine, so the crows joined him but to no avail, they were simply not strong enough to pull her outside. Elgor, the ring- leader who was considerably bigger than the rest, took to the air and grasped at the string with its large beak, the yellow stoned ring slid quickly down the string and landed behind the tavern door. All fell silent. With an almighty Roar! Lady Oktober ejected herself from behind the door and teased the crows as she circled above them on her broomstick. “Can you change me back?” shouted Fyn. “Please?” “No chance,” she cackled. “I didn‟t promise you anything except helping you and maybe one day I will. I said nothing about lifting your curse and for now you are no use to me. Follow your trivial pursuit and you may learn something about yourself. The only person that can lift a Draco curse is Draco himself.” Who was she to interfere? She thought. The witch flew jagged in the direction of her woodland with the crows hot on her trail. Where is that blasted cat Twain? She thought to herself.
Sour Grapes. Deep in the destitute woodland, it was raining ever so lightly and the raindrops bounced off leaves onto various surfaces of green shrubbery. Those that did not conform, preserved themselves for the matinee thus becoming a collection of raindrops that would eventually form a „main- drop‟ which was enough to give anybody a good soaking. It was another early morning in Norwood, and the birds assembled as they sang the dawn chorus regardless as to whether or not they could hold a tune. He sun would rise hesitantly every morning until it was over. Unbeknownst to the birds, something sinister was creeping through the undergrowth below them, it was man shaped mostly and had the intelligence of your average dead gnat. His name was Bo and he was Norwood‟s resident poacher. Sometimes he poached for food but more often than not, it was for the thrill of the kill. Since Lady Oktober‟s departure some months ago, he had been trespassing on her land, sleeping in her cabin and eating her out of house and home. Not the best digs, though it was free living so he wouldn‟t complain. He snippety snapped as he heavy footed the fallen foliage, he was a good marksman but his hefty weight let him down on occasion as prey often heard him coming. Bo was hunting for his evening meal and sweating profusely underneath his cotton clothing when
something caught his eye. It was the bird with one hundred eyes (affectionately known as the peacock) that was stood only yards away from him. It was teasing a beetle that had the misfortune of landing on its back. Slowly does it Bo, he thought to himself. Don‟t be hasty man, you have all the time in the world. He could almost taste the marinade he would prepare for the bird. It would be wonderful and he may even share it with friends. Who was he kidding? He didn‟t have any friends, let‟s not get carried away. He inched his way forward and lifted his weapon fumbling for the trigger when suddenly, the largest „main-drop‟ splat splattered onto his ear startling him. He fired the gun up into the air and the peacock flew up (very badly as peacocks do) to the safety of a nearby oak tree. Bo jolted as if a lightning bolt had charged though him and furiously, he shook his fist and yelled at the bird. “You had a mighty lucky esc,” he was interrupted by laughter and full of rage and adrenaline he investigated its source. He saw a foot dangling down from the branch where the peacock had landed and there sat a man carving a piece of wood. His hungry reptilian eyes made contact with Bo‟s and he wore a half smile on his face. “Good morning.” Said Draco.
“What‟s so good about it?” said Bo. “You‟ve scared away my dinner, what you going do about it?” “Absolutely nothing at all because that bird didn‟t belong to you.” “Well I saw it first which means that it is… was my bird.” “It belongs to mother nature. If you want to go around killing things then why not find something your own size? There are plenty of mad dogs in here,” Draco paused. “Perhaps there might be some dragons too if you look carefully.” “I had dragon last week,” said Bo grimacing. “Terribly chewy.” Draco looked shocked and disgusted. “Yes, I was out here one evening and the stupid thing was wandering around bumping into trees, dopey old thing it was.” Draco could barely believe that Bo had actually killed and eaten a dragon. “What a cowardly insect you are! You know the dragons around these parts are bewitched which means they can‟t fight back. Above all else, they‟re sac red animals are you mad?” “Look here you,” Said Bo as he waved a fat finger in the air. “I don‟t know or even care who you are but this
is my woodland now the witch has gone. So you can leave right now and let me go back to my hunting.” Draco looked seriously at the vile human being stood in front of him. “No, it will be you who leaves you disgusting man.” “I‟ll do as I please whilst I‟ve got this in my hand,” said Bo flailing the weapon about in the air. “You‟ll respect me and you‟ll do as you‟re told. Now get out of my woodland.” “How can you demand something like respect which can only ever be earned over time? As for your weapon, I know you‟ve fired your last round.” Bo knew this already and he didn‟t appreciate being reminded by some idiot up a tree. He wasn‟t the shiniest button and he didn‟t know an awful lot, what he did know though, was that asserting himself over others and intimidating them made him feel warm inside. “There are no „sirs‟ here. My name is Bo, a name you will remember after I throw you off my property,” he said. “My weapon may be out of ammunition but it won‟t stop me climbing up there and giving you what for.” He shook his fist. “Go right ahead” said Draco, and he continued to carve whilst an angry Bo embarked on his latest catch. The tree was warped and difficult to climb and the bark burnt against his rugged hands as he struggled to find
his grip. His white cotton shirt and trousers were covered in green mossy ooze and sap and his stomach that bulged from under his shirt became slightly grazed as he moved along the tree trunk. It was the type of graze that hadn‟t broken the skin so he didn‟t feel it warranted a complaint. When he‟d reached the branch where Draco was resting he was rather out of breath and very irritable. “Maybe you‟d appreciate a little rest?” Said Draco, and he blew the loose shavings from the lamp he‟d carved. The shavings danced about and glistened in the morning breeze for a couple of seconds, even Bo could see the beauty in this surely? It reminded him of the stars, of twilight, of looking into his mother‟s eyes before they took her, Oh how he missed his mother. The way in which the shavings lingered unsettled him so he backed away and twisted his face. They spun into a vortex, turned on their imaginary axis and headed straight for him. Bo was sucked quickly into the lamp and small belch followed. Draco secured the lamp by placing a lid on top but not before peering in to have the final say. “I‟m sure you‟ll be very comfortable in there Bo, others will be along shortly and at least one of them will be foolish enough to set you free if only for a short time,” he continued. “You will journey to Dragons Cove where you will bring back some samples from the Heliotrope Lagoon. You must use those samples to put an e nd to the guide dragon crisis.”
He paused and looked at the lamp. “What was that Bo? Don‟t have much to say anymore do you?” He carved a message on the lamp “Knock three times and say hello to Mr Bo” Draco jumped down from his branch and set the lamp down under a rock beside the winding pathway. He thought it quite fitting. He moved a little further into the wood and untied Clementine from a tree. “Come on Clementine, only one more idiot to find and we can have a rest and watch the fun unfold. Let‟s leave the woods now, I know you don‟t like it here.” The donkey didn‟t like the woodland at all but he hated his chosen name more. They left Norwood and travelled north to Gheyton.
Curiosity Almost Killed the Cat. Sauntering along, the fat cat from the alleyway decided it was time to put in an appearance. Thinking that maybe Lady Oktober would appreciate him now. His name was Twain and he was rather a precocious feline but not at all fickle. Outside The Sad Spider, a group of people were gathered on benches. They disappeared inside after a short while to re- fill their jugs and a lone drinker sat eyes ajar. Twain approached with caution, intoxicated people were of a different species sometimes when drunk. They either loved or hated - both with a passion depending on how they were prompted by their peers of course. He jumped upon the bench. “I‟ve come for Lady Oktober can you pass on a message please? She‟s inside.” “She left a couple of hours ago I‟m afraid, something unicorn, something birds can‟t remember owt else. You‟re a pretty cat aren‟t you?” Twain allowed the drunkard to scratch an area behind his left ear for a short while until the door swung open. He jumped from the bench and disappeared into a shadow. She wasn‟t in the tavern, he shot a quick glance inside before the door closed. The lively atmosphere was evidence enough.
“Who were you talking to?” the drunks asked the drunkard as they returned to the bench. “A talking cat would you believe?” They looked around but could see no cat, they looked at each other amused and the drunkard pushed his drink aside. There had been no evidence of Lady Oktober at The Sad Spider, the place they had lost touch and unfortunately there were no animals allowed at the tavern “GIDE DRAGUNS ONLY‟ as the painted not ice stated. All foam, no beer sighed Twain. What use was a dragon as a guide anyway? Everybody knew how fickle they could be. One minute they‟d be helping you across marshland or carrying your shopping, the next you‟d be on the grill at one of their infamous human barbeques. Dragons always always had an ulterior motive. The imagery humoured him somewhat. His attention shifted to a grasshopper who bounced boldly through the barley at the side of the blue dusty track that was glowing in a peculiarly subtle way. The ferocious feline gobbled the grasshopper after one almighty fell swoop. Much more satisfying than the mouse loaf he thought. He slinked down the dusty path occasionally pouncing on his shadow until the novelty wore off. He caught sight of something mildly
stimulating sticking out from under a rock. Curiosity was unlikely to kill the cat on this occasion he thought. He pawed it a couple of times and it rolled out down a small slope. It bounced, once, twice, three times. Out popped Mr Bo rather disorientated. He turned to glare at the moggy that shrieked and scarpered into a bush. Twain watched Mr Bo as he trembled in his fur between the branches. Clinging onto a sturdy branch with all his might, Mr Bo‟s voice bellowed throughout the land. “Nooo” His voice echoed as he was sucked back inside without a wish to grant. Milo had managed to reach the woodland at Norwood and he‟d been watching from behind a large boulder, a place he‟d stopped to perch as his rucksack was very heavy indeed. How appealing he thought. A genie in a lamp. Perhaps with such a lamp I could use one of my three wishes to lift this curse and use the other two to secure a brighter future for myself. (Fortunately his internal monologue was exempt from the curse.) Quite out of character, he skipped jovially over the where the lamp was resting and he rubbed it three times. Nothing happened. So he rubbed it again. Still nothing.
He examined it closely and read the inscription out loud. “Knock three times and say hello to Mr Bo” It rhymed vaguely so technically was in accordance with the curse. He knocked three times and placed the lamp on the ground before him. With a sudden jolt, Mr Bo projected himself from the lamp. He whirled around manically before suspiciously setting his eyes upon the fiddler. “Who on Yarn are you and why are you wearing such a ridiculous outfit?” “I‟m a fiddler, ten miles I‟ve roamed, Discovered your lamp near an overturned stone. Once a baker, But it was revoked by a man with a smile and a long overcoat. He sent me forth, for a cure I now seek To lift a curse, with three others to meet” Mr Bo was in hysterics. Draco had a wicked sense of humour obviously. He stared at Milo in astonishment. “What is your name sir?”
“Milo is my name, fiddling all night and singing all day. Tell me sir, why it is so, he carved your name as Mr Bo?” “Because my name is Bo. Short for Bob.” Milo giggled, at least The Draco had granted him that much. Mr Bo looked at Milo thoughtfully. “I too have fallen victim to this Draco person you spe ak of. I‟m now trapped inside this lamp he carved for me. He said people would come along to join me on a journey, we‟re supposed to be resolving the guide dragon crisis I remember him saying,” He scoffed. “Don‟t know why he can‟t do it himself. I know nothing about dragons.” “Oh Mr Bo, you can travel with me and in return, reward me wishes three” Milo watched and waited for a reply. “I don‟t think I‟m one of those magical genies Milo.” He snorted. “I‟ve been wishing my way out of this lamp for the past couple of hours. I think it was punishment rather than for the benefit of others. I know I‟m feeling a little peckish though.” Said Mr Bo. He crouched down and picked up an apple snail, eating the apple and discarding what was now a slug.
The slug glared malevolently at him, it had taken an awful long time to develop its apple and now it‟d have to start over again. Slugs weren‟t as desirable as snails and it slowly slithered off to sulk and plot its foolish revenge. Milo stared at Mr Bo with reservations. He thought it were possible that Mr Bo did possess magical powers and that he was just after a free ride so to speak. He would be keeping a close eye on him for sure. They set off down the murky beaten track together, Mr Bo was back inside his lamp and Milo was carrying him. A little further down the way, Milo was looking for something to eat and he spied some berries on an overhanging tree. He knocked three times on the wooden lamp and Mr Bo appeared as expected. “Can I eat berries, the colour of red? I had to be certain, lest I ended up dead.” Mr Bo examined the berries. “Yes, these will be fine I‟m sure,” he sighed. “Though if you do feel odd after eating them be sure to leave my lamp somewhere it can be found there‟s a good chap,” He descended into his lamp. Milo popped a couple of the berries into his mouth, they were a little bitter but did him no harm.
Something was occurring through the trees and he leaned closer to get a better listen. In a clearing he spotted a rather forlorn unicorn so he crept upon the wondrous beast. He‟d heard about unicorns inhabiting this part of the woodland before, though he was yet to see one until now. As he drew closer, he realised it wasn‟t quite a unicorn, for it appeared to have two great bulls horns. “I‟m Fyn,” interrupted the unicorn. “Please excuse my appearance, for I was recently transformed into this hideous creature by a man they call Draco.” “A lonely road, I travel light. On Draco‟s terms which born from spite. At first there was one, lonely as can be, then Mr Bo and yourself makes three” Milo shifted uncomfortably, foot to foot and anticipated the inevitable ridicule as Fyn collapsed in a fit of laughter as he‟d expected. “Whatever is the case with you, you silly little man? Has Draco put a hex on you too? Why else would you speak in such a strange manner and who is Mr Bo? A mere figment of your imagination perhaps?” Fyn smirked and rolled his eyes. “I am looking for Lady Oktober, the resident witch of Norwood. She played a
wicked trick on me and now I‟m going to track her down and leave her to the hungry crows.” Milo produced the lamp and showed it to Fyn, he knocked upon it three times. Sure enough, Mr Bo appeared and had been listening to the entire conversation. “Greetings Fyn, I am Mr Bo. I shall explain t he current situation because Milo will make a song and dance of everything. Amusing as it is, it‟s annoying after the novelty wears off,” he smiled at Milo. “Which means we‟d be here all day. Milo used to be a baker, he was transformed into this fiddler by Draco. He can only communicate in verse and play his fiddle. Same story for me except I was erm... a groundskeeper in these very woods in fact. Draco gave me to this lamp through no fault of my own and told me to wait for others to come along. There will be four of us eventually.” Just then, there was a tremendous crash and they carefully moved towards its source. It was a dragon captured in a net - hanging from a tree looking very agitated. They were sought after creatures and had much monetary value. Milo rubbed his greedy little mitts together just as a face appeared from behind the trees. A tall fellow with splints on his legs emerged. “Aha! Finally caught meself a gud wun.” He grunted with delight. “I‟d advise against that,” said Fyn. “That dragon be longs to Lady Oktober, they‟re very difficult to
domesticate unless they‟ve been drinking from the ponds.” “I know all about the witch and what she gets up to,” snapped the stranger. “But she „aint here anymore is she? She placed a curse on me a long time ago she did, used me as a pin- cushion she did. Voodoo Billy‟s the name. Bin no injuries for months now, I say the ode witch is dead – good riddance and this dragon is my property now.” “Can you tell us where her house is within this woodland?” Asked Fyn. “Wut‟s it worth?” He replied with a greasy smile. “A genie in a lamp that grants you three wishes?” Said Fyn. Voodoo Billy looked sceptical but he was talking to some kind of unicorn so he decided he had nothing much to lose. Fyn signalled to Milo who presented the wooden lamp to Voodoo Billy who couldn‟t believe his luck. “Why would you want to gimme me such a lamp?” asked Voodoo Billy. “I could send all yer souls to the devil with just one wish if I wunted.” “Why would you want to do that?” quizzed Fyn “And who is this devil character you speak of? Surely that would be a waste of one wish. We‟re just three - I mean two decent fellows, looking for directions to the witch‟s house.”
Mr Bo was inside the lamp listening to every word. “Mr Bo eh?” scoffed Voodoo Billy. “Doesn‟t sound very magical to me.” He tapped three times on the wooden lamp and Mr Bo appeared as anticipated. “Greetings good sir, I am the genie of the lamp Mr Bo. I shall grant you three wishes, whatever your heart desires, I can give you riches beyond your wildest dreams.” Voodoo Billy was astounded. “Well, for my first wish, I want to tame this dragon, possess his soul and for him to call me master.” “As you wish.” Mr Bo waved his arms around in the air and muttered magical mumblings under his breath, something that sounded like a spell but had no substance whatsoever. “The spell is complete Mr Voodoo, step forth and claim your property.” Voodoo Billy untied the dragon. At last, he owned the essence of his very own dragon. It embraced him and quickly burnt him to a crisp. The others watched in amazement and were more surprised when the dragon bowed its head with gratitude and flew off. “We almost believed you had magical powers for a moment there Mr Bo.” Joked Fyn as he slipped a sample of the pools glowing water into a vile. He thought it may come in use further along.
Twain‟s Day Out. Tiptoeing through the bluebells, Twain crept into Lady Oktober‟s humble abode. Actually this was an understatement because it was an absolute tip and looked like a bomb had gone off with no survivors to tidy up the mess. The walls were caked in oil and grease, and the woodchip was slowly peeling away. Twain secretly liked to pick at the woodchip when nobody was looking. The feeling of the wood flaking underneath his claws was somewhat gratifying and he didn‟t care if he‟d be strung up for doing it either because he enjoyed it so. Anybody else may have considered giving it a lick of paint but Lady Oktober had really let the place go. There were empty tubes, half- filled test-tubes and a rainbow of ooze on the floor. There were cobwebs and jars of lizards with their gizzards hanging out and unsecured jars. Lady Oktober‟s nails were frightfully long which was probably why she couldn‟t close them. A newt with his face squashed up against the jar was Twain‟s favourite though. He retired to his old resting place - a blue woven mat next to the cauldron which was strangely still bubbling away. Drifting off to sleep, he was rudely awakened by a long knobbly finger. “Oi, pest!”
It was Lady Oktober, she had finally returned from The Sad Spider and she wasn‟t happy. Her clothes were more torn than usual and her face had been pecked at. “You good for nothing mog, I‟ve been at that tavern for almost six months because of those pesky crows. I thought cats chased birds; you made no effort to get my ring back whatsoever! I had to use my brains in the end and recruit some useless old fool. We tricked them good though Twain, they‟re unlikely to be showing their beaky faces again anytime soon. Out of sheer embarrassment if anything.” She cackled in a way that only a witch could. “So what tricks have you been up to while I‟ve been away? Have you been keeping a watch over the dwarflings at the Vera Plant factory?” “No. I‟ve been waiting here patiently for you to come and feed me, the ring pull on the tins of cat food are rather difficult to open when you lack thumbs.” Said Twain. “You sarcastic sourpuss,” she roared “I shall turn you into something different, something amphibious like a... like a frog, only less cliché.” She paused while the cogs turned. “A platypus, I shall turn you into a duck billed platypus.” She looked pleased with her choice. “A Platypus is not an amphibian.” He replied casually. “Lays eggs don‟t it?”
“Yes.” sighed Twain. “However, the young feed off the mother‟s milk. That is the difference between a mammal and an amphibian” “Perhaps it‟s time I traded you in for something with a little less cheek then,” said Lady Oktober in a threatening manner. “Something bigger that I can ride around on, the broomstick is a little cliché don‟t you think?” Twain shrugged his shoulders, he was a talking cat after all. “Having a pet is a big responsibility,” he said. “You have to feed them, pet them occasionally and constantly reassure them of how pretty they are, I suspect this is why I have an inferiority complex.” “Interior what?” Quizzed the witch, poking in her ear. “What‟s wrong with the interior? This is a palace and it‟s your privilege to be living here. I see you‟ve bee n at the woodchip again.” She wagged her finger before the profanities began to roll of her tongue like slicken black tar. Lady Oktober took to her place of rest which was a hammock in the corner of the room, fixed to the wall with industrial strength staples. She had a long evening ahead, there were at least ten dragons in the woodland tied up in nets. This was just an estimate as she‟d flown past them. The ponds needed re-filling and the liquid was stewing in the cauldron.
Twain coughed up a large fur ball, he was tired of being a cat, he was tired of being the witches‟ cat. He often thought about his previous life as Old King Merlots magician. The merry nights of comfort, courtesy of the south. All he was chasing these days were mice and occasionally birds. Unless they were crows. The witch had kidnapped him one night, on his birthday when he was most vulnerable. Turning him into her cat. It was almost impossible to break the spell alone, with others though it was perhaps possible. An interesting thought for him to consider. Where there‟s a will there‟s always a way right? Wrong! When you‟re a cat anyway. He crept out of the shack but not before giving it one last look over, there‟s nothing he would miss here except perhaps the woodchip. Hardly worth staying for though was it? As he slinked through the woodland, he heard a series of loud footsteps. He took cover halfway up a tree and kept himself poised and ever so still. The group of men came crashing through the brambles looked flushed and agitated. Twain watched Fyn lower his head to take a sip from the purple pond. “I wouldn‟t do that!” he snapped.
“And I suppose this is Draco taking form as a cat this time is it?” scoffed Fyn “It‟s about time you showed your face.” He‟d mistaken Twain for Draco, though he was sure to correct him. Why would Draco want to take shape as a cat, he‟d only been a cat for a short time and he despised it already. Milo was quick to pipe up. “A talking mog with your coat of black, we have ventured for days going forwards and back. Have you a clue you can share today, to lift the curse That Draco did lay?” “Basically, we need some advice,” interrupted Fyn. “We know we‟re supposed to be going to the Heliotrope Lagoon for some samples, but we don‟t know what to do with them afterwards. Draco has ordered us to resolve the guide dragon crisis before he will lift our curses.” Twain sniggered, what a sense of humour Draco had. “Settle down you pair” Said Twain. “Oh there are three of us.” Said Fyn, as he held up the wooden lamp. Twain flinched, it looked familiar. Out popped Mr Bo as it was tapped three times.
“If you pipe down, I will try my best to explain the situation.” He went on to explain how he‟d once been the great magician Twain, loved and respected by many, especially Old King Merlot and his Queen Lady Mildred, and how one particular night of merriment, there had been too much cheer and Lady Oktober had stormed the castle. Twain had been incapacitated and she cast a spell on him, turning him into her cat. She‟d kidnapped the Queen and stashed her somewhere dark and dank probably and she had employed a black knight to keep Old King Merlot in check so he couldn‟t leave his castle. His servants had been transformed into dwarflings who now operated the Vera Plant factory in the castles dungeon. The Vera plant was a good source of income for Lady Oktober. “So the plant doesn‟t really tame the dragons then?” quizzed Fyn “She‟s just selling them as placebos?” “Yes” Replied Twain “I think so anyway, though the people are naïve enough to buy them every day” “And the pools…?” Asked Fyn. “It‟s a potion, riddled with spells. Its colour imitates the Heliotrope Lagoon, this is why the dragons cannot resist it. Even the tiniest sip will give them brain- freeze rendering them with as much killer instinct as your average pet. It‟s all about money,” he continued “It‟s always been about money. Lady Oktober wears a yellow ring on her left ring finger, without it she is no
more powerful that you or I. I‟ve no intention of going back to her, maybe I could tag along?” The group thought for a moment. “Looks like we have found our fourth person” Said Mr Bo “Well, not exactly,” said Twain. “My curse wasn‟t placed by Draco so there must be another that you have yet to meet.”
Nigel Meets Draco. "You see children, if it wasn't for your ancestors the majority of you snot faced brats wouldn't be here today." Nigel circled the stone stopping momentarily to comment further about the memorial that stood in the centre of Gheyton. It was made from marble and each name was carefully engraved. "Heaven forbid there to be another war with the dragons because your generation aren't going to be much good. You've all become far too lazy with your modern ways of doing things. I mean honestly, you each have your own indoor toilet these days, when I was a lad, we had to share a block with the entire town. Terry! Will you get that finger out of your nose boy?" Terry examined his finger and wiped away his shame. "Impossible child." Nigel muttered underneath his breath. "A lot of the men on this list however, were forced into battle, if it hadn't been for that they'd have certainly been lazing about on their backsides. Look Jeoffries, this is your grandfathers name isn't it?" Nigel pointed towards the bottom of the stone. "Yes sir." Said Jeffries, squinting to read the tiny writing. "He's right at the bottom lad, see it goes in order of achievement. I see it's a gene he's passed down over the generations." He smirked at Jeoffries, whose bottom lip
began to quiver. Some of the other children sniggered. Nigel was a real nasty piece of work. He grew up in a large family, and when he wasn't being ignored, he was being spoken down to. He had very low self-esteem which he projected onto the students of his history class, making their lives very difficult. "Right children, this way. Terry take that finger out of your nose right this instant before it gets stuck up there!" They walked to the next point of historical interest and stumbled upon Draco snoozing underneath his long black overcoat, next to Clementine. "See here children we have your everyday panhandler taking advantage of the good natured people of Gheyton." He kicked Draco‟s dusty coat and snorted before turning back to them. "This is what your ancestors fought for, apart from yours Jeoffries. No yours probably fought to the front of the dinner queue like this riff-raff here." He went to kick Draco a second time but he woke and clasped his hands around Nigel‟s ankle, rose to his feet and dangled him upside down in the air. The children squeaked with delight as their miserable history teacher squirmed like a fish on a hook. "Put me down you great oaf!" snapped Nigel. "I don't know where you've been."
Draco released his grip on the ankle and the teacher landed in a heap on the floor. "Stupid ignoramus, stupid children," Nigel glared at them. "Just you wait until you're back at school. There'll be no lunches today. What would your grandfather think Jeoffries?" One of the chunkier children began to sob. "You cannot deny the children their dinners because you feel foolish." Said Draco. "I can do whatever I please," said Nigel as he dusted and patted himself down. "A mere beggar like you, think you can tell me what to do. I mean really!" "Seems you do a lot of shouting for a little man." Draco smiled a half smile. "His bark is worse than his bite Mista." said Jeoffries. "Shut it Jeoffries." Snapped Nigel. "Terry, don't you make me tell you again about that finger up your nose. We'll see when we get back to school which is worse; bark or bite." He sneered. The children shrunk backwards with fear painted across their little faces. Draco took a lump of cheese from his inside pocket and placed it in his mouth. All the time, maintaining eye contact with Nigel. "Are you going to chew that," snapped Nigel. "Or just savour the taste? I don't suppose you'll be getting
another meal anytime soon unless somebody takes pity on you, being a tramp and all." He threw back his head and roared with laughter. Draco said nothing, but reached into another pocket where he pulled out a small pea shooter. He placed it in his mouth and blew forcefully into it. The small piece of cheese flew through the air and landed in Nigel‟s mouth. He coughed once but the cheese was already making its way into his digestive system. "You disgusting man, heaven knows the type of disease you might have given me now." He was retching but the cheese would not come back up. Draco said nothing again but crouched down and woke Clementine. "Answer me you shameless man." Nigel ordered as he tried once again to kick him. Draco rose to his feet and drew has face close to Nigel so he could see the texture of his scaly complexion. The children waited anxiously for something to happen, something that might have meant their history lesson was cancelled, maybe they'd have to go home which would be even better if their teacher were to meet his death by the man with the scaly face. Draco smiled a big wide smile which showed a row of sharp yellow teeth. His eyes widened. "BOO!" He screamed in Nigel‟s face.
The children screamed and jumped about as their history teacher had been turned into a small mouse which was scurrying between their shoes looking for a safe place to hide. He was wearing his own pair of tiny green shoes. The children tried to stamp on him but he scuttled into a small amount of shrubbery. They each took turns to stroke Clementine though their attention was soon brought back to the hedges where their history teacher emerged looking rather red-faced. "I suppose you thought that was funny did you?" "I found it to be rather humorous, I won't lie." He replied. "You'd be wise to avoid confrontation from now on," said Draco. "Lest you turn back into a rodent again you‟ve been cursed you see." "C...Cursed?" Gulped Nigel. "Yes, I do believe that is what I said.” "Then how is the curse lifted? Can it be lifted?" "Yes, yes it can. But you need to do something for me first." Draco wrung his hands together, his eyes glinted. "You will journey to Dragons Cove where you will bring back a sample from the Heliotrope Lagoon. With that sample, you will find a way to resolve the guide dragon crisis because you see; the witch has a spell on them." He lifted his hand and gestured towards the people that were swaggering about with their guide
dragons on a piece of rope. "B..But, how am I expected to do that alone?" "Oh, you won't be on your own so don't worry about that. No, there are other morons that are on their way to find you as we speak." Jeoffries sniggered and Nigel spun around to sneer at him. "Silence!" He commanded but his voice wasn't at all commanding, in fact; it squeaked. "There may even be room at the very bottom of that memorial for your name if you're lucky Nigel. All these men you have been mocking gave their lives to a cause they felt was worthwhile." He winked at Jeoffries. Nigel turned the colour of snow. "B…But I don't know what to do." he continued. "I can be of no assistance to you now, you must help yourself; a skill you have already acquired at the expense of others." Said Draco. "Is there going to be another war Mista?" Asked Terry with his finger up his nose again. "Perhaps." He replied and climbed onto Clementine‟s back, gradually disappearing from sight. "Children! Back to school now!" ordered Nigel. The Town Hall's bell rang out loudly causing Nigel to almost leap out of his skin. To the children‟s delight, he
quickly turned into a mouse and scurried around on the floor. The children laughed with glee and made their way back to school in time for their lunch, leaving the mouse to find his own dinner on the ground.
Corpse Lilies and Scaredy Crows. The three men and Twain, found a spot for their evening camp. It was a small area on the outskirts of Norwood‟s woodland. They hadn‟t travelled far because they seemed to run into situations at every turn. They didn‟t particularly enjoy each-others company but they were fairly stuck within the group. Milo unpacked his large canvas sheet and some ropes. “A volunteer to climb the trees, To secure the sheet So step up please. If you want to sleep underneath the gloom Don‟t help at all And I‟ll have more room.” Milo threw the canvas sheet up and over a sturdy branch and Twain agreed to climb the tree to guide it into place. Fyn ensured the sides were held down by tying some rope to some sticks and pushing them far into the ground with his hooves. When they‟d finished, they had something that would serve its purpose for the night. “We have ourselves a tent.” Said Fyn. “But the witch?” said Mr Bo as he emerged from his lamp. “Won‟t she be walking around here tonight?”
“I doubt it,” said Twain. “She‟s got loads of work on at the minute, I don‟t think she has time to be creeping up on unsuspecting campers in the middle of the night.” Mr Bo shrugged. They gathered underneath the canvas as it began to drizzle outside. The rain pattered on the side of the tent. “What was that?” Fyn‟s pulse began to race. “It‟s just the rain,” said Twain. “Like I said, Lady Oktober is unlikely to be walking around at this time of night.” “But it sounds like something tapping on the tent.” “Indeed it does, but it‟s just the rain. You need to sleep because we have a long day ahead of us tomorrow.” Twain rolled over trying to reach sleep. They‟d each used a pile of leaves as bedding. The y didn‟t care to think of the creepy crawlies that might be lurking somewhere within the pile. The tent began to leak after a short time and most of them had fallen asleep. Its constant drip was annoying Fyn who needed complete silence. He was paranoid about the tapping on the side of the tent and was sure he‟d seen a shadow pass by. He scoured the area to find something that could catch the drips before it soaked the ground and he happened across Milo‟s shoes. He‟d struggle to remove them
without the fiddler waking up and giving them all a headache with him rhymes. So he looked again. Tucked away near him he found Mr Bo‟s lamp. It would be perfect he thought so he pushed it into the centre of the tent with his hoof. He didn‟t stop to consider the consequences. Aligning the spout with the drip, the water soon began to run inside and all was silent again. He closed his eyes and tried not to think about the rain as it landed on the tent. “Patter patter, sniff sniff.” Fyn was sure he‟d heard somebody snivelling outside the tent. His body was paralysed, his limbs tingled and he struggled to hold his stomach as it tried to flutter away. “Patter patter. Ahem!” Fyn jolted up and kicked Twain. “Pssst. Cat,” he whispered with urgency. “Cat, there‟s somebody outside.” “There‟s nobody outside Fyn, go back to sleep.” “There is somebody outside. I heard them clearing their throat like they were trying to get our attention.” “Course you did.” Smiled Twain not opening his eyes. He had made himself comfortable and wasn‟t going to move a whisker. Fyn closed his eyes and hoped for sleep which arrived a couple of minutes later.
He was galloping through Norwood, the sky was alight with red flames dancing around him. But he wasn‟t alone. Upon his back rode Lady Oktober, buildings collapsing around them, broken glass showered down. The witch screeched as dragons took to the air with humans in their mouths, the humans were screaming for help. He wasn‟t quite sure what he was running from. Was it Lady Oktober?” Something jolted him from this nightmare. In the middle of the tent, the lamp spluttered and gargled. It was overflowing and bubbles of air popped as they surfaced. Fyn knocked the lamp onto its side and the water emptied on the ground near Milo. It soaked up his trouser leg which gave the appearance of a toilet accident. Fyn found this very amusing. The water didn‟t disturb Milo at all. “Patter patter” The noise started again on the tent but it was louder and more demanding this time. Fyn was terrified and he knocked three times on Mr Bo‟s lamp because he‟d feel safer if somebody else was awake. Mr Bo emerged with a towel wrapped around his head like a turban it made him look more like a genie than ever before. He scowled at Fyn as he wrung out his wet clothes. “I suppose you thought that was funny? I nearly drowned in there fool.”
“Shhh, keep your voice down, there‟s somebody outside. I‟m certain of it.” Outside the tent, Lady Oktober could hear them whispering. She was soaked through and through. She‟d put up signs in the woodland warning people not to camp and not to trespass as she couldn‟t guarantee their safety with all these dragons landing there. She poked her head in the tent. Her black beady eyes gave a penetrating stare some might consider malevolent. Her hair stuck to her face as the rain dribbled down it. She looked like something from a horror film. She smiled a grisly grin at them, genuinely trying to be friendly. Fyn nearly jumped out of his skin when he spotted her. He yelped and charged about the tent, desperately trying to find or make another exit. The commotion had woken the others who followed suit. Grabbing their belongings and Mr Bo‟s lamp, they scrambled through a rip in the tent running out of the woodland and not looking back. Lady Oktober was puzzled, she knew she looked hideous but she hadn‟t deliberately tried to scare them. Least there wasn‟t going to be a confrontation about trespassing she thought as she tidied up the canvas sheet.
When they‟d decided there was enough distance between them and the witch, they stopped on a grass verge to catch their breath. It was beginning to get light. Planet Yarns neighbouring planets, looked like they were suspended on a giant mobile in the dusky sky. Fyn looked at the wet patch on Milo‟s leg and laughed. “It wasn‟t that scary.” He sniggered. Mr Bo emerged from his lamp as Milo knocked upon it three times. He‟d brought a map out with him which he unfolded albeit rather soggy. He scowled at Fyn. “I‟ve found this map for us, I think it‟s an old one but we should still be able to use it. Should save us some time.” He laid the map on the ground, pointing it in the direction they were facing. “It‟s not too far at all really.” said Fyn as he leaned over to examine it. “Well it isn‟t to scale you know Fyn. Each square on the grid is equal to a mile.” Said Mr Bo. “Oh I see.” Fyn was rather red faced, he hadn‟t read a map before and felt silly now. “However, it is closer than we first thought. See this row of fields? It looks like the quickest route.” Fyn leaned over again.
“What‟s Serpents Loch? Sounds a little dangerous doesn‟t it?” “A Loch of water Won‟t slow us down. We‟ll drift across On a raft that won‟t drown.” Milo was glad to finally have something useful to say. “What a silly little rhyming man you are Milo.” Fyn snorted. “And just what are you supposed to be? Mocking others, mocking me. We will float and you will drown, If you can‟t hold your tongue from making a sound.” “Stop it you two!” spat Twain. “I‟ve heard enough of it. We‟ve got a long way to go and we don‟t need you two at each other‟s throats.” “That‟s right Twain.” They spun around to see where the voice was coming from. It was Draco, sat on the grass verge behind them. The group looked very angry with the exception of Twain. They‟d all fallen victim to Draco and were struggling to adapt to their individual curses. Some might say they deserved it though.
“How are you getting on?” He smirked. “Rather you lot than me.” Fyn shot him a deathly stare. “There‟s no point looking at me like that, if you three hadn‟t been so rude to me in the beginning, you wouldn‟t be in this situation would you?” “Which way will lead us to Dragons Cove, Getting there quickly travelling by road?” Milo presented the map to him. Draco‟s sides were fit to burst. “Oh Milo, my favourite ever curse, you‟ve turned into quite a memorable character haven‟t you?” Say some more rhyming words won‟t you.” Milo blushed but felt angry too. “I‟ll give you some inspiration shall I? Here what‟s this?” He reached into his pocket and pulled out an orange. “I beg you to find something that will rhyme with this.” He looked at Milo‟s clothes, noticing the water mark on his trousers. “What‟s that stain Milo. Thought you‟d have grasped the basics of toilet training at your age by now.” Fyn sniggered and Draco turned his attention to him next. “And you Fyn, I wish I‟d hung about to see what a ridiculous looking creature you‟d turned into.”
“I wish you‟d hung about too,” Fyn retaliated. “How about that tree?” He gestured towards a nearby oak. “I see you haven‟t lost your fighting spirit which is nice. You‟re probably going to need it.” He crouched to the ground and picked up Mr Bo‟s lamp, knocking upon it three times. Mr Bo appeared with the towel still wrapped around his head. Draco laughed out loud. “Oh Mr Bo, you do know you‟re not a real genie don‟t you?” Mr Bo blushed. “To answer your question earlier Milo,” he pulled a piece of charcoal from his pocket. “This is the quickest route and it doesn‟t include any roads.” He drew a „you are here‟ circle on the map and a black line straight to Dragons Cove. It was more or less a straight line through fields and straight across the Loch. He continued the line to a small picture of a castle at Pottons Rest. “Pottons Rest?” asked Fyn. “Why do we need to go there?” “Because the plan has changed ever so slightly,” he replied. “My prerogative.” They all sighed.
“Pottons Rest, Home of the King. What would be our business with him?” Said Milo awkwardly leaving himself open to ridicule again. “That‟s where the Vera Plant factory is. The quickest way for you to resolve the guide dragon crisis is to put the Heliotrope Lagoon samples in their food source,” he rolled his eyes. “I can‟t believe I had to spell that one out for you. You really are a dense lot aren‟t you? I forgot to mention that you will be rescuing Old King Merlot too.” “Rescuing him from what?” Asked Mr Bo. “From the black knight of course. He goes by the name of St. Nick. One of the greatest warriors that ever did live. Or so I‟ve heard.” The men shrunk back looking increasingly worried. “Calm down, I‟m only joking. Though there is a black knight, I have no idea how handy he is with a sword. I‟m sure you‟ll be fine.” “Anyway,” he continued. “I can‟t stand about chatting all day. I don‟t suppose any of you have seen my Clementine have you?” They looked at each other and shrugged. “Another orange joke?” Said Fyn
“No, Clementine is my donkey. He‟s wondered off somewhere.” he replied sharply. “I will be meeting you at the castle when you‟ve finished running this errand for me. I‟ll stick to my side of the bargain if you stick to yours. I may check in on you periodically.” He smiled at the men, it wasn‟t a genuine smile. “I‟ll be off for now, wouldn‟t want to leave a bad taste in your mouths would I?” Draco glittered until he faded away. “I can‟t stand him.” Spat Fyn. In front of them, another field to hot foot through. A notice was barely spotted half- cocked behind some shrivelled vines. BEWARE THE BLIGHTYBUG! SHOULD YOU BE APPROACED BY ONE FOLLOW THESE PRECAUTIONS; 1.) SHOUT LOUDLY 2.) WAVE HANDS IN THE AIR 3.) USE LANGUAGE (THESE PESTS ARE OFTEN OFFENDED BY PROFANITY AND WILL FLY AWAY) “Oh bugger!” Said Fyn. “Flaming blightybugs, they can give you a nasty nip you know” “Did you hear that Mr Bo? A blightybug non-the- less.”
“So long as we‟re calm, the blightybugs won‟t bother us if we don‟t bother them.” Fyn tried to convince them. The barren ground was sodden and the soil looked contaminated. One by one, they group started to sink into the seemingly bottomless quagmire as they tried to walk across. “Don‟t make any harsh movements,” yelled Fyn. His voice echoed through the marshland. “The more you struggle, the likelier you are to be sucked down.” He freed himself, hooves and all and he pulled Milo and Twain free. Mr Bo had been tucked up safely in his lamp the whole time. Twain and Fyn shook their fur simultaneously, they had that in common at least. Even Mr Bo had come out to see what the fuss was about, Milo had knocked three times on his lamp, he couldn‟t see why he should be getting off so lightly. Slumped on a verge, they looked out and over the field. Rows upon rows of flowers in full bloom, armies of blightybugs pollinating each cyclopean flower. They had a rather unorthodox method of pollination too. They‟d chew on the flowers guts, fly over to the next and spew the contents of its stomach up. Pretty disgusting by anybody‟s standards. Over the sound of spewing blightybugs was more importantly, the stomach churning stench. The
graveolent whiff of the Corpse Lily. A flower stinking to low hell of a hundred corpses rotting in the ground. “Ah yes, the Corpse Lilly,” said Mr Bo. “What a god awful whiff and it look as though they‟re in full bloom. Happens but one week out of the whole year, you‟ve come at the r ight time.” He sniggered and disappeared into his lamp. Milo tapped three times on Mr Bo‟s lamp. “Yes?” He questioned as he was confronted by the angry faces. “There‟ll be no „copping out‟ Mr Bo,” said Fyn. “We‟re all in this together, we each have a responsibility to reach Dragons Cove and we each must obtain a sample from the Heliotrope Lagoon. There will be no tagging along. At some point, you will have to prove your worth, for it will be a very slow journey on your own, how many miles per hour does a wooden lamp travel roughly these days?” Mr Bo huffed and slid back inside his lamp rather cross and hurt. It would be simply hopeless to trudge the sludge (and goodness knows what else) the stench was perfectly awful; morale was at an all- time low. Twain emerged from the shrubbery with various flowers he‟d extracted from the ground. “I have a plan.” He said excitedly. “If we were to each fashion a mask from vine, in the style of say... a basket.
We could pack it to the brim with sweet smelling petals. It would keep out the stench and we‟d easily make it across.” The other looked at him thoughtfully, he was right and it could work. “The longer the basket, the better.” He finished. There was a flurry of hands, each trying to acquire as much vine as possible before further mist settled on the field. There was only a thin layer but the impending rain would bring more. “Roses and bluebells, rosemary and thyme. Weaving a basket that‟s made out of vine. A shield for my nose and a cure for the smell, we‟ll walk along proudly where others have fell.” Milo was singing. The others joined in too for it was rather a catchy tune. In higher spirits than before, they secured the baskets upon their noses. There were a few giggles circulating the group, they looked like man-crows. If such a hybrid failed to exist before then it certainly did now. With the exception of Twain of course, he looked very peculiar with his new muzzle. The beaky bunch set off slowly and cautiously across the field of corpse lilies. The mist was thickening and
the air was chewy but it also smelt pleasant thanks to Twain and his marvellous idea. “Walk briskly but do not run and keep an eye open for the blightybugs, I hear they give you a nasty nip” Said Fyn. They had less than a mile to walk through the sludge, the putrid corpse lilies lay awkwardly in the field, like a morbidly obese individual trying to find comfort; but resigning themselves to a lesser position. Its petals, not too dissimilar to a lion‟s mane (sans the pride) looked like giant slices of pepperoni you wouldn‟t want to eat. They were spattered in white spots. Tears of the devil thought Fyn and he chuckled as a wicked thought transpired. He reached out to Mr Bo‟s lamp Milo was carrying, and tapped on it three times with his large beastly horns. “Do join us in the field of foul Mr Bo.” He laughed. Mr Bo emerged with a clothes peg on his nose. “You didn‟t tell us you were harbouring clothes pegs!” Twain was very angry. “You didn‟t ask.” “Now then Mr Bo, we‟ve all been talking and...” Fyn was interrupted by the growing fear rising up in Mr Bo‟s eyes.
“Whatever is it?” He asked. His instinct told him to turn around but he really didn‟t want to. Amongst the now vaguely opaque mist and in the not too far distance, was the outline of a shabby scarecrow. The setting was suitably eerie for this type of meeting and there was certainly something sinister looking about the scarecrow. “I don‟t remember passing a scarecrow.” Said Fyn. His voice was shaky and isolated as if his only defence were these words, perhaps last words? Milo shook his head and Twain looked at the ground, they looked equally as uncomfortable as the corpse lilies. “Perhaps it‟s Draco?” whispered Twain. “He has a long overcoat and hat not too dissimilar to that one.” Either way, they didn‟t particularly want to wait around to find out, there was something deliciously dark and sinister about this scarecrow. They shifted slowly onwards, looking like three very scared crows, though quickly enough to avoid being sucked into the bog. “Ouchh” Yelped Fyn. He flicked the blightybug from his mane. It cackled as it hum-buzzed away, gnashing its teeth. Milo looked over his shoulder.
“Crikey crikey look behind, he‟s gaining on us I think you‟ll find. He looks much closer than he did before, let‟s run for our lives like never before” “You‟re over reacting Milo.” Said Fyn shakily, he was convincing only himself and he wasn‟t even doing a great job of that. The scarecrow did look as though it had gotten closer though. “Hello?” Fyn‟s voice echoed through the mist. The group watched in anticipation, watched for movement and watched for evidence of danger. There was nothing, the scarecrow stool patiently sti... “RUN! Run for your sad, twisted, pathetic little lives.” Shouted Fyn cantering off and leaving the others to fend for themselves. There was incredibly urgency in his voice. The others took flight also, running as fast as their legs would carry them. The scarecrow was pacing towards them in a sweeping motion, almost like a whirlwind. It could move incredibly quickly for a corpse. In its fury, it spewed straw from inside its jacket and a trail of thick black slime oozed from behind him The field was drowned with a deafening chorus.
“Ring a ring of roses, a basket on your noses. An issue and issue you‟re all drawn down” In turn, they each felt a tight grasp around their various body parts. The sensation was one of being hoisted up as opposed to being drawn down as previously suggested. The men didn‟t dare open their eyes, they barely dare breathe a breath until everything was silent. It was then that they opened their eyes. The draon from Lady Oktober‟s woodland towered above them. “You called for me?” boomed the dragon‟s voice as it resonated. “My name is Ekho.” “I don‟t remember actually calling for you but I‟m grateful you came anyway.” Said Fyn. “Any Echo is a call,” said the dragon. “Also, I was following you, I hope you don‟t mind? The treacherous path you are following will be dangerous at times and I knew you‟d need help eventually. I wish to assist you on the remaining journey when I can, think it as payment for you saving my life in Lady Oktober‟s woodland.” A unanimous decision was made, not only would it be useful to have a real dragon on side, it would be pretty darn cool too.”
Meeting Niggling Nigel. The group of men walked a little further until they reached the next destination on their map. They were dog tired and in desperate need of a hot bath. The stench of the corpse lilies hung over them like a bad omen. The town was Gheyton and it offered a wide range of accommodation, from bed and breakfast to something a bit fancier, they could take their pick. It would be nice – they thought, to sleep in a warm clean bed. Last night‟s camp had proven to be a complete disaster from start to end and would never be mentioned again if they could help it. They each shuddered in retrospect. There was a large brass statue of a man with a spear holding a dragons head underneath his arm. It was the statue that gave Gheyton its town status. Across from the statue, stood an Inn called The Winking Goblin, it glowed the colour of warmth and the aroma of home cooked food escaped every crevice. “Looks as good enough place as any,” said Fyn. “The sign states they have vacancies so what are we standing about for?” They stood in the doorway and the whole place went completely silent. They had one hundred pairs of eyes upon them and the band had stopped playing their fiddles and percussions too. Everybody gawked at this
strange assembly of human/animals stood in the doorway. “Have you a room for the night?” Fyn asked politely, almost as if he wasn‟t a unicorn/bull. Heads and eyes turned to a huge round lady who stood behind the bar. “Got a room Rose?” Mimicked a gentleman with teeth like burnt fence posts. “A room for a man with a disgusting pea green suit and his pets. Look everybody, he‟s brought his kitty along too.” He banged his tankard on the bar, pointed at Twain and the whole Inn howled with laughter. “Anybody know any jokes about a horse walking into a bar?” he continued. “There must be some that we haven‟t exhausted already?” “We do have rooms but not for animals,” snorted the pig lady. “Even ones that can talk.” Milo blushed. She gestured to a notice hanging on the wall that stated „Gide Draguns Only‟ “We have a nice barn outside that may be suitable, got a bath it has. Nice field for grazing.” She smirked at Fyn. “You‟re too funny Rose.” Laughed the man with the teeth, as they continued to mock the group. “We‟ll take it.” Snapped Fyn. He would think of a way to get his revenge on the great spherical woman.
“That‟ll be ten shrabn‟l then.” The landlady thrust forward her fat hand. “But it states five shrabn‟l per night on the board outside.” Said Fyn. “I know it does.” Rose rolled her eyes. “I wrote it. The barn is bigger so it costs more, take it or leave it.” Fyn huffed, revenge would be sweet and inevitable. He took the keys in his teeth, resisting the urge to bite Roses hand off and they wandered outside. “Don‟t you want to know where the barn is?” Asked the moon shaped woman. Milo nodded, he daren‟t open his mouth to say a word for fear he‟d leave himself open to certain ridicule. Sleeping in a barn was undignified enough for one day. “This way.” She marched them to a large building opposite The Winking Goblin, and the huddle inside the Inn went back to their business. Rose unbolted the door and a colony of bats whooshed past her face, she squealed. “Laugh and it‟ll be twenty shrabn‟l.” She hissed as she lit a torch and secured it on the wall. “Sweet dreams.” She scoffed and slammed the heavy door behind them before returning to the bar. “What an absolute vile woman.” Spat Fyn.
“It‟s because she‟s round And she looks like a pig. Her manners are shot And she hides under a wig.” said Milo. “A wig you say? How could you tell?” Said Fyn. “Her hair doesn‟t recede, For a woman of age said. It‟s not spattered with grey But a deep vibrant red.” Milo stretched and pulled down a bale of hay on which he‟d be sleeping that night. “Interesting.” Said Fyn as he examined the barn, looking for his own resting place. “Four star eh? I suppose that‟s the bath is it?” He gestured towards a trough full of water. It was dank, depressing and the walls were coming down. “At least it isn‟t leaking though.” Said Mr Bo as he shot Fyn a dirty look. Twain was in his element, he‟d never seen so many spiders in one place before. He hated himself for eating them but they‟d become somewhat of a delicacy for him recently.
He pounced on one without hesitation. One slurp committed its body to his mouth, leaving eight legs flailing about trying to clutch at the last of its life. By the second slurp it was gone. “What a disgusting display,” snapped Fyn. “You don‟t know where that spider has been.” “In this barn? In a web somewhere?” He replied sarcastically. “So what‟s the plan for tomorrow then?” Interrupted Mr Bo who was looking at the map. “The route Draco has drawn for us takes us straight across Serpents Loch. Any ideas how we‟re going to get across it?” “We‟ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” Said Fyn. Mr Bo looked at the map and back at Fyn again. “It‟s the lack of bridge that is the problem Fyn.” He sniggered. “It‟s the lack of brains that‟s the problem.” He retaliated. “It‟s an expression. Oh never mind.” He rolled his eyes. “Anybody know how to make a raft of some kind?” Nobody said a word. “Anybody?” “How difficult can it be? I mean really?” Said Mr Bo. “We‟ll see what resources we have when we get there. There‟ll be something we can use.”
“Can‟t we just go around The Loch?” Asked Twain who didn‟t want to chance falling in and getting wet. “Do you almost certainly want to get eaten?” said Mr Bo. “There are forests either side labelled „Crocodilians‟ and „Mad Dogs‟ doesn‟t sound like friendly terrain to me. Besides, if there is a serpent in the Loch, we‟re unlikely to come across it. People have been going on about it for years. All stories and myth though, no actual hard evidence.” “A raft it is then.” Said Fyn. Twain had quickly turned his attentions to a mouse that had been scuttling around the floor. He amused himself by dipping its tiny head in and out of the trough periodically and popping it into his mouth to absorb the moisture. The mouse was wearing the tiniest pair of green shoes. This gave Fyn a devilish idea. It wasn‟t long before darkness had filled the room and everybody was asleep. They were all exhausted and this was the most comfortable they‟d been for some time. Twain had the mouse tucked underneath his paw, he was purring away deep in sleep. Fyn however, was awake and he crept as quietly as he could and removed the mouse from Twain‟s possession. Holding the quaking rodent between his teeth, he crept quietly out of the barn. The lights were off in the tavern
which meant the people inside had also retired to bed. He noticed that the door leading down the cellar was flapping about in the wind because it had been left unbolted. He slipped inside. There were ales and spirits old and young lined up on the wall, he continued soberly through to the living quarters where there were unfortunately more stairs which he would struggle with. It was a good cause so he didn‟t mind so much. The mouse wriggled and squirmed and bit Fyn‟s mouth so hard that he was certain he‟d drop it and stamp on it. But he didn‟t. He continued up the staircase until he came to the chamber of the great circlet. The door was open ajar. He stepped in and slipped the mouse underneath the landlady‟s bedclothes, leaving just as quietly the way he‟d came. He hardly remembered the journey back to the barn as his ears rang and adrenaline raced through his blood. Returning to his spot amongst the hay, he waited quietly in the darkness. Then it happened. The sound he‟d been waiting for which started out as a squeak, progressively grew into a piercing blood
curdling scream. It would have shattered the windows had it been a few decibels louder. Rose, the landlady had obviously found the furry intruder. “Ohhh. Help me pleeease. An intruder in my chamber. A man! A man!” She squealed like a pig in an abattoir. Fyn sniggered and within a minute, there was a commotion outside the Inn where people had gathered. Footsteps moved swiftly past the barn door and a whiney man‟s voice could be heard whimpering. “A mouse, a mouse. He turned me into a mouse.” The voice trailed off as it moved further away. A thud of angry footsteps pounded the ground after him and the man with the teeth checked inside the barn. “Any of you seen a man loitering around here tonight?” “No, not seen anything. What kind of wakeup call do you call this?” Snapped Fyn. The man shrugged his shouldered to express his lack of interest and he soon left to join the search, leaving the barn door wide open. Fyn sighed and climbed to his feet to close it. Everybody was awake now and they were intrigued by Fyn‟s sudden light heartedness. “What have you done?” Asked Twain. “You‟ll get us kicked out if this has anything to do with you.”
He smirked at them. “I had my revenge on the moon shaped lady. I crept into her chamber and I placed that mangy mouse of Twain‟s underneath her bedclothes whilst she was asleep.” Twain looked disappointed and angry, it was his mouse and he didn‟t like it when others touched his property. The footsteps rushed past again and the group lowered their voices to listen. “Think he‟s run away.” “Yeah, we scared him off good an proper. He won‟t be back here anytime soon. Sneaking into a lady‟s chamber like that. The swine.” The footsteps turned in the direction of the tavern and the men were soon gone. They all tried for sleep again, tomorrow would be another long gruelling day for them. Fyn hadn‟t remembered seeing a man in Rose‟s chamber but he was sure it couldn‟t have happened to a nicer lady. He closed his eyes and the vivid dreams began again. He was riding through Norwood with Lady Oktober upon his back. The air rushing against his face made it all seem so real. They were on the same side this time though it seemed as he didn‟t feel threatened by her at all.
The dragons clambered up the chimney‟s and ripped out windows. Buildings ablaze. Lady Oktober opened her mouth to say something. “Ack! Ack!” He was suddenly rudely awoken. “Ack! Ack!” they were all woken and Milo lit the torch on the wall to see where the sound was coming from. There was an intruder in the barn and he was dunking Twain‟s head in and out of the trough, holding him by the scruff of his neck. “Not very pleasant is it mouser?” He hissed. The others watched with a mixture of horror and delight. They may have wanted to intervene but they were frozen on the spot like statues. The intruder threw Twain onto the floor and stepped forwards to introduce himself. “My name is Nigel, no need for introductions because I know who you all are. I was in here earlier listening to your conversations.” He glared at Twain. Everybody stood still looking at each other, mouths open wide. “What on Yarn are you supposed to be?” he asked Fyn. “I‟ve never seen anything quite so ridiculous looking in my life.” He turned to Milo. “Don‟t even get me started on you and that genie type thing you keep in that lamp.”
Fyn had heard quite enough. “Silence!” He ordered. “Oh Fyn, as you get to know me, you‟ll realise I don‟t take orders from anybody. Especially strange looking unicorns such as yourself.” “Why are you here then if you don‟t take orders?” He retaliated. “Same reason as you I suspect. To lift the curse. I will not be ordered around. As I said, you‟re far too ridiculous for somebody like me to take seriously.” Fyn lowered his head, displaying two sharp horns and he sc raped his hoof across the ground like you‟d expect see bull do. He was ready to charge at Nigel. Nigel panicked and before too long, was scurrying about underneath a pile of clothing on the floor. He turned in the direction of Twain who – delighted; picked him up by the tail. He dipped his tiny head in the trough again. “We shall christen you Niggling Nigel.” He said, and they all laughed. It was considered to be a good end to a long day, one of more to come.
Serpents Loch. The next morning, they planned to leave the barn as quickly as possible, not wanting to bump into the hideous landlady. They packed up their things and made a dash for the door. It creaked open a lot louder than they‟d anticipated. Fyn poked his head around. “I‟ve been waiting for you,” said a pig- like voice. “I know those goings off last night were something to do with you lot.” Rose sat on a tree stump outside the barn, chuffing on a cigar. “I don‟t know what you‟re talking about,” said Fyn. “And if you don‟t mind we‟ll be on our way, we have a long day ahead of us.” “Just know this horse,” said Rose as she lowered her unkempt brow. “I‟ll be keeping my eye on you and your friends.” “But I just said we‟re leaving now you silly woman.” Fyn scoffed. Rose didn‟t say a word but the veins stood out on her neck though her temper was fit to burst. “You didn‟t say there were five of you,” she said as she did a headcount. “There were only four of you last night which means you owe me ten shabn‟l.” “And the commotion outside disturbed our sleep last night, besides, there were five of us last night. It‟s not our problem that you cannot count.”
The group moved quickly past her ignoring the profanity that dripped from her mouth. “Bentley! Bentley!” she shouted. “Bentley come quick, they‟re making off without paying.” The group began to sprint away before the landlady‟s friend came out to cause further trouble. After making off without paying for Nigel, they landed at Serpents Loch against a small row of cliffs. Wandering wearily looking for something to satisfy their hunger, Twain spotted what looked like a crab, unfortunately it was just the empty shell of a hermit crab, even seaweed would have been acceptable at this point they agreed. At that moment, a small tide brought in an abundance of seaweed, they would have better hoped for fish instead. They chowed down on the seaweed and though it was salty, it would provided essential nutrients. The only way across Serpents Loch was straight across and the route around was long and dangerous, it'd be safer swimming and the option of flying across was slim as Ekho had gone to Dragons Cove to prepare the other dragons for the groups arrival. Without the prep talk, things could get very bloody messy indeed. They would be in very real danger of being burnt to a crisp on the infamous human barbeque. With all other options extinguished, they decided that what they really needed was a boat of some variety and
even a raft would perhaps do for now so long as it kept them out the water for long enough. Of course this wasn't their only problem, the loch was inhabited by the infamous Reginald, a sneaky and cunning sea serpent with a large single horn for his face, fairly handsome too they'd heard (or as handsome as a serpent could be) They could only hope that Reginald would let them be if they were to pass through the loch peacefully, they had little other than hope and besides, there was no evidence that he actually existed. "Go fetch that wood over there will you Milo." Said Fyn. Milo dug his hand into a pile of bark, looking repulsed as he held up the slimy materials. "A sticky mess and a job I despise, Let us turn back now, is what I advise. Be us alive or be us dead, this quest will do nothing but fill us with dread" "I know that!" snapped Fyn. "But we're incredibly close to Dragons Cove, do you really want to live with this curse hanging over you forever?" "Let's just built the raft and get across the water shall we?" Sighed Twain. He was tired of the arguments, tired altogether but knew slacking off would get them nowhere. He was beginning to regret joining them, but
the thought of going back to being Lady Oktober‟s cat was a far worse fate. They were all getting rather fed up of Mr Bo too and Nigel decided that it was about time something was said. He belted the lamp three times. "Mr Bo! Mr Bo! I want to speak with you immediately.” Mr Bo emerged with splinters in his hands. "I'm having a small crisis at the moment if you don't mind." He snapped and disappeared back into his lamp. "Well! I say!" Huffed Nigel. Less than half an hour later, with most of the group pitching in, they‟d finally built a raft. The group stood back to admire their joint effort. It was a truly abysmal sight, there were holes and the water would be certain to get in where the vine had been badly woven. It was unlikely capable of keeping Mr Bo's lamp afloat even. An obnoxious laughter suddenly engulfed the Loch. "Her Her Her, vhat an amusin displeh. How verrh funneh t'vas to votch you vild a vaft ov vubbish. It was the infamous serpent Reginald who spoke with an obnoxious accent. "I vill vlet you leeve if ya can svim across zee lach vithouta drowning, If ye become leemp viv svimming, I might just eeat ya.” He disappeared into the water with a splash, leaving them all dumbfounded.
"Nobody said he could talk." Said Nigel as his eyes were fixated on the water. Morale was low again and the idea of building a stronger raft was something to be considered though not tonight as it would soon be getting late. Back tracking was an option also, though they'd lose a couple of days and none of them knew how to read a map really. They'd need to set up a camp here for the night and sleep on it and it was in a nearby cave that they decided to do just that. The cave was damp and water ran down the slimy walls which saturated the floor. Twain didn't care for water one little bit, he also didn't like being eaten by serpents so he decided that he could sacrifice one evening of discomfort in exchange for his life. The camp had drifted off to sleep around the time their abysmal raft had drifted off into the Loch. Everything was very quiet and still. The moon emerged and sparkled over the Loch, the water was a shade of dark blue and it rippled as a wandering moonbeam fell upon the water. Amidst this beautiful scenery a vengeful apple snail lay in wait (though it was much more a slug now) it hadn‟t forgotten Mr Bo‟s crime at Norwood. It was without a shell but fuelled with revenge. Slithering slimily over the piles of rocks and sand, it slithered closer and closer to where Mr Bo's lamp did
lay inside the cave and, after what seemed like an eternity, he positioned himself under the lamp and made his way slowly (very slowly in fact) towards the caves exit. The others were in deep sleep as the apple snail slithered slowly. The salty ground was close to torture for the snail, he'd been in there for so long that he was beginning to dry out rather a lot. Salt had a tendency to do this to slugs and snails. After another hour or so had slithered by, he'd almost given up o n the revenge idea as he‟d become exhausted carrying Mr Bo‟s lamp on his back. It was almost ten times his own weight. He began to think that perhaps he had bitten off more than he could chew? This reminded him of Mr Bo's crime and immediately spurred him on to struggle out of the cave. It was almost light when he finally reached the edge of the loch and the early morning rays appeared to tickle the water as it rippled by command of a light breeze. He pondered for a moment whether the sun had ever tired of being up before everybody else. What would happen if for one day only, the sun decided it wanted to lay in for a couple of hours? Complete chaos would ensue perhaps. What a heavy burden the sun must carry. he thought to himself.
He shed the tiniest, salty, snail tear which stung terribly. How cruel Mother Nature could be he thought as his left tentacle retracted. Mr Bo's lamp has moulded to the contours of the slugs body and the idea was to roll it gently into the loch where he would eventually meet the serpent if he hadn't drowned by then of course though he wasn't quite sure how the „magical‟ lamp worked. Unfortunately, he'd pondered too long and now there was a voice behind. "Wait!" It was Fyn, wide awake and in pursuit of the lamp. The slug felt desperate, he could not let this injustice go un-served, Mr Bo had to be punished. As Fyn moved closer, the apple snail made a noble decision, he would give his own life to the cause. It wasn't an easy task either, though his tiny body was pumped so full of adrenaline he was able to project himself into the water just before Fyn was able to grasp at the lamp. Missed! The foolish apple snail looked out at the sky, the sun was moving farther and farther away as he sank deeper and deeper into the loch, he longed to bring it down into the darkness where he was headed. He lay on the loch bed accepting his foolish fate for a few moments and he
realised he could breathe underwater almost as second nature. Perhaps Mother Nature wasn't such a bad old girl after all He thought. Keen to share his amphibious revelation with his own kind, he surfaced completely forgetting about Mr Bo's lamp still attached to his back. "Gotcha!" Said Fyn as he swept it up into the air. He quickly let out a shriek and dropped the lamp as he realised upon reaching, he'd accidentally dropped the contents of Lady Oktober‟s potion into the water. He was very cross with himself and turned to start back towards the cave, he hoped it would become useful but that thought had become nothing more than hindsight now. Crackle Crackle. The sound was flat but unmistakable. There was little more than deathly silence, the water could no longer be heard rippling freely in the breeze and the birds had stopped singing. Crack crack Crackle. Fyn‟s eyes wide ned when he found the source of the noise. The loch had formed a frozen crust and was glowing like the Heliotrope Lagoon. It was Lady Oktober‟s potion that had frozen the loch when it spilled out. Some kind of miracle he thought and he knew it would be useful. He whooped and trotted back
to alert the others almost forgetting Mr Bo's lamp that lay in the sand. He turned and picked it up carefully in his mouth before dropping it again in disgust. There was a squashed slug stuck to the underside. With his hoof, he rolled it about in the sand like a football for a short time and the slug quickly dissolved. Lamp clamped between his teeth; Fyn cantered towards the cave. "Quickly now everybody outside, we have a chance to get across the loch but we must leave immediately.” He explained what had happened and the others leapt into action. The entire lake was glowing bright purple and the layer of ice was thick enough to walk on. "We have to go now before the sun is overhead," said Fyn with a mixture of excitement and nerves. "Else it will defrost. I knew that potion would be useful." The others agreed as they shuffled across resisting the temptation to look down, if the ice did fall from underneath them at least they wouldn't see it coming. Not too far into the watery depth, he lay in wait. An angry serpent was stirring, it was his loch and he couldn‟t help but feel he was being deprived of an easy meal. Fyn could no longer resist and gazed below the surface which looked like an enormous amethyst. Something
glistened but couldn't quite make it out, it darted about, disappeared and reappeared. It put them all on edge. Upon close inspection, Fyn could see it was Reginald, he looked cheated and furious and he mouthed something to Fyn. The group tried their best to ignore him and keep their eyes front which was just as well because lip-reading that type of profanity would certainly have caused offence. Reginald disappeared suddenly which filled Fyn with dread as he remembered the mammoth horn the serpent had on its head, he was almost more a unicorn than him, though he had the advantage of legs, legs that were trembling right now. Half fear, half from the chill of the ice. They walked cautiously across the thick purple ice and Fyn was almost absolutely certain that Reginald had given up, he exhaled a huge sigh of relief as they were almost to the other side. Milo began to feel a sense of impending doom and before he could open his mouth to communicate through the medium of rhyme, a low tremble came from beneath the ice. They hurried along quicker than before but as not to break the crust. With the tremble came a larger rumble and a sense of foreboding. With a Crack and an uplifting roar, Reginald projected himself through the surface with his great horn. He ripped savagely through the ice and disappeared just as quick.
Terror filled the eyes and hearts of each of them and they tried to make their exit as quickly as possible. Reginald could smell their fear and adrenaline, it guided him to his next spot. "Crash!" He smashed through again, and this time, ice scattered everywhere and covered them all with a light dusting of snow. The impact knocked them each to their knees and they tried to run so fast they were barely moving. Fyn called for Ekho. "Help!" His voice echoed and they waited. Waited to be rescued, waited to be eaten. Reginald‟s aim was becoming more precise as he smashed though the ice again. Almost losing Twain, Milo grabbed the mog by his tail. He shrieked and clawed at him but it was preferential to being drowned. Ekho arrived there in what felt like hours, though it was in reality probably a minute or two. The dragon didn't hesitate for even a second to consider the consequences of its next move. It waited for Reginald to surface from the loch and when he did, engulfed him in flames so as to scald him within his own element. Unfortunately, it didn't go quite to plan and the serpent dragged Ekho down into the murky depths. The flames had melted the ice away
quicker than before and the group were now running and galloping as fast as their limbs could cope. With a certain watery death only inches from their heels. The ice slid slowly into the water and offered to relieve them of their mortality by means of watery death.
A Flight of Dragons. The melancholy mob stared out over the loch, frozen in time like a painting. They'd made it across, but at what cost? Ekho had lost its life for a good cause but Fyn couldn't help but feel the blanket of guilt elope an area in his chest where his heart might have been once, it tightened almost as if to suffocate, resulting in a lump forming in his throat. It felt uncomfortable so he swallowed it down. It was him that had summoned Ekho to assist them and just as he thought he couldn't feel any worse, a new fear presented itself. "What's wrong Fyn? Asked Nigel, he didn't normally show concern but they had just been close to death so it was probably a side effect of the shock. "It wasn't your fault you know, Ekho offered to protect us remember? There's nothing that any of us could have done to have made it end any better." It was no consolation but there was truth in those words and truth often has the power to set you free. Though for now, he was in a deep state of shock and regret. Fyn shook his head, his eyes fixated on the ripples. "You don't understand do you? You're an idiot, you all are. What if Ekho didn't make it to Dragons Cove to warn the others we‟re on our way? They won't be expecting us will they?"
He turned slowly to look at the others and as the enormity or the situation was realised, insults were soon tossed into the air. "You fool Fyn!" Screamed Nigel waving his finger of judgement in the air. "Why did you have to call Ekho you scaredy cat?" Twain looked offended. "How can we be expected to show our faces at Dragons Cove now? We can't well walk in there and say, Oh hello, we've been travelling for days and days because Draco has cursed us all and what he really wants is for us to fix the guide dragon crisis to save your species except, oh yes, we haven't saved a single dragon yet and we've managed to kill one off already, so sorry about that." He paused, took a deep breath and waited for the flush to drain from his face. "Not to mention how angry Draco will be! You really believe he'll lift the curse after this? Think again you dozy mare." Fyn was fuming, he turned to Nigel, lowered his horns and butted him into the loch. A petrified Nigel was thrashing about in an overly dramatic way, he was barely submerged to his waist but he was wailing that he couldn't swim. "Help! Help!" He gargled, water had managed to find its way into his mouth, it was big enough for sure. Fear devoured him and before it registered with anybody spectating to dive in and save him, he had disappeared and all that remained was a pile of clothes. From under
the piles though, a mouse was wriggling until it quickly stopped moving. Milo held his belly and laughed as he hopped from foot to foot. Twain struggled to resist the urge of nature and dived into the loch. He picked the tiny rodent up by the tail between his teeth and placed him on the ground whilst Milo rescued his clothes. Fyn looked at the others with dead eyes, they had been disturbed by his outburst even though the outcome had been fairly humorous. Mr Bo heard the laughter and Milo tapped three times on his lamp so he could provide further witticisms. Whilst the others were arranging Nigel‟s clothing as Mr Bo watched over the mouse. "He isn't breathing!" His voice commanded and they rushed to the tiny rodents‟ aid. It was true, there he lay with his tiny little legs outstretched. There's only one thing for this now thought Twain, and he seized the opportunity. He pounced on the mouse and examined every inch of it, if he was to be judged he might as well make the most of the situation. His back was turned to everybody else who assumed he was trying to revive the creature. Twain bent down and whispered in its tiny mouse ear.
"My dear little mouse friend, as I stand above you as the food chain intended. I say this prayer with delight. “ “To the lord up high, his soul will fly to the demon below, they'll kick him so. As pretty as a picture, with a taste to please. I'll count to three before you can say cheese." With that he lunged forward to take a bite and as his tooth brushed against the mouse‟s fur something extraordinary happened. The mouse quickly turned back into Nigel who was shivering. These kind of things happened now and then on Planet Yarn but as it was becoming a regular occurrence, it could no longer be called an extraordinary event. The others cheered (apart from Fyn who looked disappointed) they seemed to think Twain had saved Nigel‟s life. "I really don't know how to thank you Twain," Said Nigel through teary eyes. "I know it goes against your nature and I am moved that you were able to put that aside to save me. You're a true friend." He beamed at Twain who managed an awkward half smile. "I'll never forget this." Nigel reassured him. Despite being frozen to his core he managed a warm smile. You already have thought Twain to himself. The attention shifted to Mr Bo.
"What have you been up to then Mr Bo?" Asked Twain. "What exactly do you do all day long inside that lamp of yours?" "Well, it might be of some interest that I've had Draco over for dinner today" The others shared a puzzled moment. Where was he getting all of this food from? "He's deeply disappointed with everybody and said we should all be working together instead of fighting and having our own secret agendas." Twain tried not to make eye contact with Nigel. "He's issued this warning." Mr Bo cleared his throat as he produced a scrap of paper from the lamp. The task on which you have been entrusted, you continue to fail due to your own misgivings. You must now learn to trust each other to lessen the strain. You will progress much quicker as a team. You have been responsible for the loss of three lives and have saved none. If you fail this task, you will be cursed for eternity. That is all. P.S. Don't feel too bad about Ekho.
After reading the notice, it popped in the air. That certainly burst their bubble, and how symbolic thought Twain who none of this affected too directly. The five of them set off towards Dragons Cove which was easily in sight now and as it was mostly downhill (not in a literal sense they hoped) they were able to pick up speed. Rocky underfoot, Fyn had to stop on several occasions to liberate his hooves from pieces of stone. Berries picked from the long overgrown grasses and bushes at the side of the road sustained them for a while, as did the bread that Nigel had stolen from the Inn (though it was rather soggy since the loch incident.) They approached a mountainous cave and through it they could see the glow of the Heliotrope Lagoon. There were two dragons standing guard at the mouth. This was customary. They had no idea how this was going to play out but they knew that they had nothing much to lose, their souls belonged to Draco pretty much already. Wurzal and Slapstick were leaning arrogantly against the entrance. They were playing a game of I spy and although this may sound relatively harmless in a way that could divert your attention away from their ferocity, the rules held a slightly more sinister meaning. They were spying on the group and had been for a while and had no intention of letting them pass through to the lagoon. Generally speaking, they ate everything they spied.
"Who goes there?" Boomed Wurzel. He winked and nudged Slapstick whose eyes goggled about like the sort of eyes you'd find on a child‟s birt hday card. Fyn stepped forward and the others hadn't complained, he had assumed the leadership role for this task. "We have been sent by Draco to solve the guide dragon crisis." He yelled up to the dragons. Wurzel and Slapstick studied each other and thought for a moment. "Have you a visa?" "A visa?" Quizzed Fyn. "Yes, a visa. We must see it before we can let you pass." They struggled to hide the sniggers which they dressed up as sneezes. "We don't have visas," Shouted Fyn. "Where would we obtain such a document?" "It's unlikely that Draco would have sent you all this way without a visa." Sniggered Wurzal and he nudged Slapstick again. The group were exhausted, a lot had built up to this point which they considered to be one of their main obstacles. They were hoping it would go much smoother than this and they needed a little help. Fear had turned into anger and Nigel stepped forward to everybody's surprise.
"Now listen here,” He commanded. The dragons drew close out of curiosity. "We have been attacked by a serpent, starved and humiliated, we each carry a curse and we've been amongst terrible company the whole time. I suggest you let us pass through and continue our journey for the sake of your species." "Silence fool!" Bellowed Wurzel. The colour drained from Nigel‟s cheeks and exited at his feet or so it felt. His head was fuzzy for a second and now was his coat. Once again fear had turned him into a small rodent and he scurried about the floor. Twain resisted the urge, he couldn't eat him now people thought he was a hero could he? Wurzel and Slapstick looked down at the mouse and froze instantly on the spot. Springing into action soon after, they clambered over each other to escape the mouse. Milo was laughing again from his belly and tapped on Mr Bo's lamp three times so he would enjoy the display also. The two dragons took flight and their screams were echoing through the mountains. Some dragons were scared of mice apparently. Mr Bo was waving a piece of paper in the air. "Another demand from Draco?" Asked Twain. "Nope. It's your visas."
Entering Dragons Cove the group felt like royalty, they strutted over to the Heliotrope Lagoon and knelt to obtain their samples. It was like looking into an amethyst as the water glowed within the bottles. They could see the attraction, it was simply mesmerising. "That's not enough," snapped Fyn. "I need more, give me another bottle." They didn't argue, he'd got them this far up until now and half trusted his judgement. In turn they all felt a small sense of satisfaction. They'd each achieved something great by getting this far and surviving. I was almost time to consider rescuing Old King Merlot and his Queen, Mildred. With this is mind, they moved along to exit the Cove but were cut off by a group of sinister shadows that landed before them. Stepping into the light, they were surrounded by many dragons. Dragons of all ages, young and old, immature and wise. Fat, small, broad and tall. They silenced as a particularly ferocious dragon stepped forwards. It was Rocky-D, recognisable by the ruby-clad crown he wore upon his head. Bo produced the visas once more. "We have a right to be here." He said shakily as he waved them about in the air. Rocky -D pondered this thought for a second and scorched the paper with his breath. It singed Mr Bo's
eyebrows and he hopped back inside his lamp although the smell of burning lingered in the air and they suspected it was the infamous human barbeques they‟d been hearing about. "We know who you are and we know why you're here," boomed Rocky-D. "Contrary to what you may think, we're awfully glad you came and we cannot thank you enough for what you're doing to save our species." The group exhaled that breath. "About Ekho...” Continued Rocky - D. Fyn could feel judgemental eyes fall upon him, even though eyes were more likely to roll due to their spherical form. This was paranoia though. "He didn't make it unfortunately." Explained Fyn as he disturbed the soil with his hoof. "He?" Quizzed Rocky - D. "Ekho is a girl and she very much made it. She is resting in the Great Hall. The Loch you froze with Lady Oktober‟s potion gave her brain- freeze. It's lucky she got here before it set on fully else goodness knows where she'd be now. A small sip from the lagoon has cured her." The men were relieved and Fyn felt as though a burden had been lifted but he also felt a little silly and cheated by Ekho. How dare he or even she make him feel so terrible for so long. "So what happened to Reginald?" asked Twain.
"Let‟s just say that he looks like a ra ther large pretzel at the moment, until he works out how to untie himself." Chuckled Rocky - D. "You must stay here this evening," he explained. "This Cove can be very dangerous for humans and half unicorns at night time, we get a few undesirables around here. St. George will show you to your quarters." "St. George?" Quizzed Twain. "Yes, dragons that have slain knights of Old King Merlot‟s round table are named after them and each year we dedicate a holiday to that dragon. Today for example, is St. Georges Day which is why you may struggle to get anything to eat this evening unless you hunt it yourself or like barbequed human? Dragons don't work on St. George‟s day." He smiled. A fairly pleasant conversation had taken a dark turn, it wasn't meant to be dark, they were who they were and didn't need to change for anybody, especially to line Lady Oktober‟s pockets. "Tomorrow we shall fly you to Old King Merlot's castle," Said Rocky - D. “But for now you must rest.”
A Bull at the Gates. Fresh as a daisy, the sun did rise a couple of hours later than expected. Planet Yarn was still turning so this old celestial soul may have gotten away with it. It had been a blue moon the previous night anyway. Opening a half eye, Twain scoured the room for vertical beings but everybody was sleeping soundly. He plucked a single whisker from his face to validate his existence, it was a painful confirmation but good to know. It wasn‟t often you‟d hear tales about a successful night spent in the dragons quarters without being eaten, though this was an assumption really as he‟d never heard a story either way. He pounced on Milo and pawed his face a little (as cats do when they‟re hungry or want their egos stroked.) Nigel was vertical at this point and threw a stone at Twain. It hit Milo instead and awoke him from his slumber deep. “I spy with my little eye… something beginning with F.” Said Twain. Nigel contemplated this for a short while before forcing his opinion. “Food! Show me the food that begins with f.” He said. “No, guess again.” “Forget me not‟s?”
“Hmm, I‟d forgotten about those, a nice try but no” Said Twain. “Where is Fyn? Has he already gone? Did he leave a note to explain to someone?” Milo was the first to realise they were a person down. Twain sighed, the others hadn‟t seen it coming obviously. The talk about how Fyn had become cursed by Draco and his running with Lady Oktober. She had corrupted him – he should know. It was fairly obvious to him what had happened, Fyn had taken the lagoon samples back to Lady Oktober to practice her craft with the false promise that she could lift his spell. He didn‟t understand why though, they were almost there. “Fyn has deserted us,” he sighed. “Gone to aid Lady Oktober no doubt, they probably had it planned all along.” “There‟s treachery afoot!” yelled Nigel. “Why would he help her though? I don‟t understand.” “I suppose he takes the sample for her to modify in exchange for lifting his curse.” Said Twain. “Then why didn‟t we do that in the beginning?” “Let me think,” said Twain sarcastically. “Lady Oktober has no means to lift this curse, it makes no
sense that Fyn would betray us – to me anyway. He‟s weaker than he let on.” “So what now?” “We just carry on as we are, get to the castle and rescue Old King Merlot and the Queen, water the Vera plants with the Heliotrope sample…” “We have no samples!” snapped Nigel “Fyn took them all remember?” “Well we‟ll need to take some more, I‟m sure the dragons will understand, today is Wednesday and the Vera Plant is dispatched in a few hours. In the unlikely event that Fyn has reached Lady Oktober, they will surely be on their way to stop us.” Said Twain. “Am I interrupting anything?” Interrupted a voice, it was Rocky-D. “It would appear we‟ve been deceived” Said Twain. “Oh?” “We woke up this morning to find Fyn and the samples were missing.” “Ah, the unicorn thing, of course. He was seen loitering this morning but we assumed he was sleep walking until we saw the time, it was rather dark for that time of morning,” He paused for a moment. “Anyway, I‟ll ensure your deliverance to the castle as soon as possible. I just need to sort a few things out first.”
“What things?” asked Nigel. “You haven‟t arranged transport yet?” “The problem we face is that it‟s St. Johns day today and none of the dragons w ill be working, I‟m working on it though. In the meantime, help yourselves to any samples you might need. You can use these.” He thrust a couple of empty vials upon Nigel. “These will do the trick I‟m sure, they belonged to a rather tasty alchemist if I re member.” “Can‟t you force the dragons to work today?” Asked Nigel. “You‟d think so wouldn‟t you? But rules are rules.” Rocky – D departed, leaving a trail of thick black smoke behind him. He stomped into the centre where lay a statue of the great Draco and he fixed a notice upon it. WANTED Three valiant dragons to chaperone our four heroes To the gates of Old King Merlots castle. Your reward – Eternal gratitude and an extra portion and half of human at the celebratory BBQ. Sign below to register your interest by twelve o‟clock. There were the odd hoax signatures which were to be expected, „Ivor Badbach‟ was a favourite. It was suggested that Young Red and his brothers should be chosen to escort them as they had not a day‟s
work experience under their belts. Before acceptance had been confirmed though, Eugene, Mertol and Brucie came forwards. They were all of blue bloodline and had volunteered for their own reasons, which were mainly fame and recognition. It always helped if you were second, third and fourt h in line to the dragon‟s throne and people actually liked you. Young Red and his two brothers had offered their extra portion of human to the less fortunate but such was life. The two men, Twain and Mr Bo mounted the backs of the three dragons. The diamond encrusted saddles were uncomfortable and ridiculous, a single one could have fed a family of ten for a year. They set off on their uncomfortable, but short journey. They soared high and low, managing to avoid the turbulence. It was a journey of little description and many an awkward silence. Comparable to a visit to the local hairdresser. The sun‟s rays engulfed the heavy thick clouds and they glowed like a corona. The warmth swept over them in a way oh so gratifying and then finally they landed at the foot of the castle gate. They said an awkward goodbye and the three aristocrats flew back in the direction of Dragons Cove muttering to one another. The black knight, had been observing them for some time and looked suitably uncomfortable for the duration
of the dragons landing, this eased though after they‟d flown away. The two men approached with their feline in tow and Mr Bo‟s lamp concealed. You never knew when you‟d need to pull a trick like that out of your sleeve, it was human nature for people to be greedy. “Who goes there?” bellowed the black k night in a voice that almost wasn‟t his own, he was a small scrawny fellow but had a big voice. “What‟s the deal with the dragons? A rather peculiar method of transport don‟t you think?” “Guide dragons,” interrupted Twain quickly. “You‟ve surely heard of guide dragons?” “Indeed I have.” Said the black knight straightening his badge. His name was St. Nick, or so his badge read from underneath a familiar logo „Oktober Industries.‟ He must have been sweltering today as the heat was rather intense. They thought. “So then my good men, how can I help you today?” “We‟ve come to rescue Old King Merlot and his Queen.” said Nigel. “Rescue?” St. Nick almost lost his footing. “You ridiculous men, he doesn‟t need rescuing. I‟m merely keeping an eye on him.” he laughed. “Lady Oktober‟s orders, though I‟d like to get out of here as soon as possible and go to Dragons Cove to get back the kings ruby‟s.”
“His crown?” asked Twain. “Yes his crown.” “Well you can leave King Merlot in our capable hands whilst you go there.” Said Nigel. St. Nick shook his head. “I don‟t think so, it‟s my duty to watch over him, make sure he doesn‟t leave and get into bother. You‟d need something pretty amazing in exchange to change my mind.” “Like what?” Asked Twain. “Like a wish perhaps? You are a talking cat after all. The great magician Twain are you not? Lady Oktober said you‟d be along sometime or other. She said she hasn‟t forgotten about the woodchip. So what do you say talking cat? Have you a w ish in return?” “Perhaps I do, what will you wish for?” St. Nick thought for a moment before his expression turned to that of smugness and he laughed. “I wish for a magical lamp with a genie that will grant me a further three wishes.” He howled with laug hter. “Very well” Said Twain and he summoned the lamp from Milo‟s sleeve. The knights‟ expression turned from shock to greed to shock and back again. Sure enough, he read the inscription and tapped three times on the lamp.
Out popped Mr Bo. Taken aback, he stumbled into a nearby ditch and trembled beneath his chainmail, a combination of fear and excitement. He clambered to his feet and greeted Mr Bo. “For my first wish Mr Bo, I wish for a visa to Dragons Cove, they can‟t refuse me entry with one.” It was true, and it was also true that Mr Bo produced a visa from his lamp. He‟d held one back from earlier though it was a little scorched. St. Nick couldn‟t believe his luck and let out a squeak as he was handed the piece of paper. “For my second wish, I want my very own guide dragon that will escort me to Dragons Cove where I will find a way to get back the kings crown.” They looked at each other uncomfortably, this wasn‟t going as well as they‟d hoped but Mr Bo appeared to have a plan. “As you wish.” He said and called for Ekho. This plan was only going to work if the dragon was close enough to hear them, and if Ekho had forgiven Fyn for almost drowning her through carelessness. Mr Bo explained the situation to Ekho who sure enough, offered her assistance. Ekho appeared to understand the situation.
“This knight wishes for you to escort him to Dragons Cove where he will return with the kings‟ crown.” “Very well.” Said Ekho as she lowered herself so St. Nick could climb onto her back. “Wait!” Shouted Mr Bo. “You haven‟t made your third wish!” “Of course,” said the knight. “I wish my name to be remembered forever amongst the dragons.” And with that they flew off until they were but a tiny speck on the horizon. “I‟m sure that last one won‟t be a problem,” laughed Twain. “Didn‟t Rocky – D mention that the dragons were named after the knights they kill?”
Lady Oktober/Mildred‟s Story. The snow pressed gently against her soft leather shoes as she roamed the hawkish meadow. It fluttered onto her auburn hair and she closed her eyes and stuck out her tongue. The wind whisked an ashen flurry against her face and she smiled. At seven years old, the young Mildred had not a single care in the world. She scrambled to her favourite place on an old dead tree which was once the lungs of the planet, it now hung lazily on its side. She had become used to its gnarly branches as she climbed to her favourite spot. It was here that she did most of her observations. She liked the way that the wind rushed through the trees on the wooded horizon and the calming sound it made and the way the reeds swayed in the breeze before changing direction. On this occasion, she would be observing the snowman she had just built. There was a shortage of stones so it had only two eyes. A crow landed on the ground in front of her, it would begin the start of a friendship that would live with her for years to come. It laid a yellow stone on the ground in front of her and began pecking for worms. She jumped down from the branch and landed with a thud as she tumbled into a snow drift.
On the horizon, a single man dressed in a long overcoat and shabby hat was turning over the snow with his foot as though he‟d lost something. Mildred picked up the yellow stone which glistened with a faint amber glow. She wasn‟t sure whether or not it had magical abilities but it certainly looked and felt magical. She held it tight in her sweaty palm and closed her eyes, willing her snowman to move towards her, willing it to sprout legs that she‟d failed to provide it. A chilly presence rushed against her face and she slowly opened her eyes. The snowman was nose to nose with her, had she provided one for it and its face contorted at it tried to communicate with her. She lifted her hand and drew a mouth on its face and its coiled words sprang to life. “You must leave this place Mildred. You must leave here and hide the yellow stone because nobody can ever know the powers that lay hidden beneath its amber undertones. Do not be foolish with its power and when the time is right, it‟ll serve you well. Keep your distance from Draco.” “Who‟s Draco?” she asked. “Him.” The snowman pointed to the horizon. “He won‟t cause you any physical harm but if he knows the stone is in your possession, he will make your life very difficult indeed.”
Mildred stared blankly at the snowman and blinked. “You‟d better get on home, the sun will be here soon and I will be gone. Take care take care.” He waved as she disappeared into the distance, leaving behind a faint trail of footprints which would soon be filled by further snow fall. He held out his arms, closed his eyes and pointed his face towards the sun. Water dripped from his brow and dropped from his tiny black eyes. He had no fear of melting as he had lived and breathed, if even for a short time, which was more than any snowman could possibly have wished for. Mildred kept the stone hidden away as she was advised, in a tattered old jewellery box. The crow from the meadow would visit her often and sit on the ledge of her bedroom window and she would stroke it and tell stories she‟d made up about Draco. She took the stone out occasionally to admire it and decided that she would have it set into a ring so she could look at it on a more permanent basis. Although she had been advised against using it unless she had to, she decided that it would be wise to see if it still worked after all these years. She only used it for a pressing issue like never having to eat squelch ever again. It was a putrid combination of mashed yam and Brussels sprouts and she cast a little spell which made it taste like sugary treats instead whilst still absorbing the goodness and vitamins of the vile dish. Her food play was never to be discovered as
her parents as they were always far too busy to take dinner with her. As the years passed, Mildred discovered the male species and it was to Prince Merlot that she‟d be wed. The love of her life and heir to the throne, though he suffered from a nervous disposition which meant that she wore the trousers mostly. One twilight, the dragons descended upon the towns and they set fire to a large area of homes and local businesses. That night the sky glowed yellow and everybody would remember it. A great deal of lives lost. Old King Benedictus travelled a lonely journey to Dragons Cove to speak with the head dragon Rocky-D, unfortunately he would never return and Rocky-D would wear the kings‟ crown from that day forth. Mildred soon became Queen and ruled with Old King Merlot, the dragons ceased to attack, seemingly satisfied with the ruby encrusted crown finally in their grasp. One warm day in the castle grounds, Queen Mildred roamed amongst the many waterfalls. The spray from the water she found refreshing as it cooled her skin. She knelt down to take a sip and the Old King Benedictus‟ reflection appeared to her. The waterfall ceased to roar as he spoke gently.
“My dearest Queen Mildred, harsh times are impending of which you do not know. For the fiery demons are plotting to take over your kingdom and for as far as the eye can see. You must take control of the situation and do whatever you can to protect your legacy. Keep a watch over my son and do your best to protect him for he is sure to become corrupted by magic if it is relied upon in his presence. Trust nobody but your own instinct and help him see that I have never truly left him. Only a ring of yellow fire can match the strength of the dragon‟s furnace, I believe you have this. Take care Queen Mildred, The future generations depend on you.” It was Sunday evening on the first day of October and it marked the great magician Twain‟s birthday. Everybody within the castles walls were celebrating and they fell about in fits of intoxicated laughter. Queen Mildred slipped soberly away. She searched through her dressing table and found the old jewellery box where she‟d stashed the ring. She squeezed it onto her finger and wished herself into a hideous witch. Her grand garments had turned into black tatty rags, her elegant nose had doubled in length and there was a huge wart on the end which would always be in her line of vision. Her pale green eyes that once shone like emeralds were now black and beady. The only consistency was the ring. She climbed out of the window and on to a ledge with help of a broom she‟d found in her wardrobe. She
could see the warm glow from a window nearby and heard the cheer of birthday wishes. She hovered on her broomstick and peered inside. Twain was almost unconscious slumped over the table, his purple wizard hat had been replaced with something more festive. She seized the moment and tore through the window. The party gasped and they cowered behind any object they could find. King Merlot took a tumble and knocked over a barrel of ale which guests were soon to be slipping about on. Curtains were pulled from the windows as they were grasped to prevent slipping. She flew over to Twain who was unresponsive, and tapped him three times on the shoulder. “Come with me mouser.” she cackled and tossed him effortlessly onto her broomstick. “Little minds make little people.” She roared and turned the party guests into dwarflings before ordering them down into the dungeons below. King Merlot cowered behind a barrel desperately searching the room for his queen. The witch howled with a laughter that shook the room, the echoes bounced from wall to wall. She left a note for the king in Twains‟ purple hat and she flew out the window. On her exit, she saw a handsome young fellow approaching the castle dressed in a suit of black armour.
“Protect and serve.” She shouted as she screamed past him. He froze to the spot outside the castle and pulled down his helmet to conceal his face. Drew his sword and stood perfectly still. “Oh Twain.” Wept King Merlot clutching at the purple hat. Something crinkled inside and he fumbled about until he found a letter which read: “King Merlot, I have your queen and I have your wizard. For your own safety, do not attempt to flee the castle. That is all. Regards Lady Oktober.” He ran to the window and looked out into the clear night, on the horizon he could see the witchs‟ silhouette and a cat perched on her broomstick against the back drop of the moon. He looked down to the ground and noticed a black knight staring back up at him with a strange expression on his face. The king was filled with dread, his whole support network stolen away from him. What would he do? He sat and he sobbed for his losses. It had taken Lady Oktober a fair amount of time to decide how she was going to approach this dragon invasion situation. It would almost certainly involve a spell of some variety, of this much she was sure.
She arrived at the conclusion that she could prey on the dragons weakness by imitating the water from the Heliotrope Lagoon which they drank to sustain their internal fires. They couldn‟t resist purple liquid and it was the perfect way to snare them. Her potion, once sipped, would give them brain- freeze and no longer able to breathe fire. This way she could keep them under observation and know they were causing no harm, though she‟d have to find them responsible owners of course as she couldn‟t house them all. So what if she had to charge for the privilege of owning a dragon? She‟d have to call them guide dragons though to make them sound more appealing. Spell ingredients didn‟t come cheap and she reminded prospective buyers of that. The crow from her childhood popped in now and again to see her at her new mud shack in the woodlands of Norwood. It would sit in the window and sing her the songs she used to whistle along to in her youth. One day it flew in and perched in the rafters above her, it made a nest and had baby crows. It was a delightful sound to hear the baby crows chirping away for the first time. Tragedy struck when the crow perched over the hot cauldron one day and fainted from the heat. It fell straight into the cauldron as Lady Oktober was perfecting her spell and bobbed up and down for a short while until it sank to the bottom.
The water replicated that of the Heliotrope Lagoon, low and behold her spell was complete and she shed tears of both relief and sadness at the loss of her childhood friend. It seemed the crow was a necessary ingredient after all. The baby crows became a burden on her as she couldn‟t get anything done with their constant chirping and eventually she moved them to a tree outside where they could source their own food. She single handily dug the ponds in the woodland and filled them with her purple potion. It wasn‟t long before passing dragons stopped to take a sip and she‟d snare them when she could w ith the traps she‟d set. Some of them wandered around the woodland in a daze and she‟d have to find a home quickly for them. Lady Oktober employed a man called Billy who was supposed to gather them up and ease the load on her but he was clumsy and accident prone which meant he took far too much time off work for little or no reason. She rarely saw anybody in the woodland unless they were purchasing a guide dragon for her and she was beginning to think that people were making up grisly tales about her behind her back. It was never her intention to make money from the sale of these dragons but the whole process was costly and somebody had to pay for it never-the- less. The Vera plant was fairly cheap for the witch to source and she watered them with the potion. Running the
Vera plant factory wasn‟t cheap as she had a minimum wage to pay the dwarflings who were lazy and disrespectful sometimes. She made very little in the way of profit but then it would never be about money. Treating herself to a couple of hours off one day, she went to lunch at The Sad Spider tavern but was unable to take Twain in with her because the rules stated „Gide Draguns only.‟ On the way, she was viciously attacked both verbally and physically by a group of crows that had followed her. They showered her with accusations of all kinds, murdering their mother to use in her spell was the worst. They tried to peck at her eyes and as she covered her face with her hands, the crows slipped the ring off her finger. One became tangled in her hair which was very frightening for her. She ran into the tavern and waited for them to clear off. But they didn‟t. Six months passed and she felt like a burden, but the owner fed her non-the- less and said she could stay as long as she needed to. It was nice to be in a place where such stigma didn‟t exist. One day, a strange creature came into the tavern and with its help, they managed to get her ring back successfully and she was able to leave in one piece. She was a little harsh on the creature as it‟d cro ssed Draco and he‟d turned it into a hideous beast. She knew
that turning him back would probably draw his attention and she really didn‟t want that. She decided that she could probably rely on the creature again though and tried to reach him shortly after that via message in a blue bottle. It read: Dearest Fyn. Please accept my humble apologies at our meeting last. I am unable to break your Draco curse as it may jeopardise a plan I have in motion. There is a storm on its way and I may need your help. Tell no one for we can trust no one. The dragons are planning to attack and I‟m doing my best to subdue as many as possible but Draco has other plans and others doing his dirty work. He‟s sent you on this quest for his own gain. Upon reaching the lagoon, bring me a sample if you can and meet me on top of the chalky hill outside Dragons Cove, where we will return to Norwood together. If you don‟t, they are certain to take over. I shall see you at four o‟clock am on Wednesday. Yours Lady Oktober/Mildred Her next venture would be to get to the castle before the men did. It was difficult for her because it would mean a confrontation with her husband King Merlot, and
explaining her reasons for what she did. She didn‟t have time for that. She had to hunt down any dragons roaming the woodlands too and ensure they had a good home to go to. She didn‟t have the heart to leave them out in the cold. Fyn would return to her hopefully, she just had to sit tight and wait until Wednesday to see.
St. Nick – The Legend. They touched down at Dragons Cove a short while later. Ekho tried to shake St. Nick from her back though he decided to climb down her tail instead. They stood in the midst of an awkward silence. “Well St. Nick, here you are, safe and sound.” Ekho smirked slightly but tried to disguise it with a sneeze, though St. Nick decided it was definitely a smirk. “Erm, good luck then valiant knight.” Said Ekho as she stretched out her wings and lifted slowly off the ground. She paused momentarily to glance over her shoulder. A look that said „I told you so‟ in advance, before flying back in the direction they‟d came. Wurzel and Slapstick were loitering outside the entrance to Dragons Cove as expected, looking as though they were up to no good. St. Nick dusted himself off and wiped away the bugs that had impacted his helmet during flight. Wurzel nudged Slapstick whose eyes began to roll around like a pinball. “What have we here then? Tell me black knight, do you come in peace?” “That would depend.” Said St. Nick, arranging his chainmail. “Depend on what?”
“On whether Rocky-D will surrender King Benedictus‟s crown peacefully.” Wurzel scoffed and turned to Slapstick. “This I have to see,” he whispered. “So then, have you got a visa?” St. Nick reached into his chainmail and produced the scrap of paper Mr Bo had given to him. Wurzel looked down his nose at it. “Looks authentic enough to me, you may pass St. Nick.” The dragons moved aside and giggled as he passed through the entrance. St. Nick examined his surroundings carefully. He looked for escape routes should he need one, he looked for anywhere that would be dangerous to hide. Cracks and crevices had the potential to become an oven for him should he be pursued into one by a dragon. He made his way towards the centre where the dragons were shifting about. They carried books to their next lessons. Even dragons attended school on Planet Yarn, their main subjects being based around Geography and Human Psychology. Topics they find useful. Through the shifting, some stopped to stare at St. Nick, they weren‟t threatened by him, human‟s often visited Dragons Cove, though they rarely left in one piece. His confidence led them to believe that he was meant to be there anyway.
From the distance, a dark shape was flapping towards him, as it drew closer, he could tell its Wurzel shape. The dragon stretched its feet forward to land but made a sandy mess instead. “His Highness will be with you shortly, in the meantime, please taken a seat.” He gestured towards a bench covered in soot. A tower stretched up into the sky, not quite greeting the clouds. A toxic black smoke emitted from a lonely window and Rocky-D was sizing up St. Nick from the safety of the heights. “How many dragons did you say?” asked Rocky-D in a gruff voice. “Twelve according to my sources.” Archibald was Rocky-Ds advisor, wherever the dragon king went, Archibald wouldn‟t be too far behind. He wasn‟t as powerful as the younger dragon but what he lacked in brawn he made up for in brains. Right now, he sat with an abacus, calculating the probability of a victorious battle for the dragon king. “And no battle- scars you say?” Rocky-D twirled his short beard in his talons. “Emotional scars perhaps, he was very much disturbed by the death of King Benedictus. He hasn‟t lost a b attle yet.” Archibald continued to fiddle with the wooden beads on the abacus.
“What on Yarn are you doing?” snapped Rocky-D. “It‟s an abacus, belonged to that tasty alchemist if you remember? I watched him use it once to make decisions, it‟s never let me down.” “So it definitely works then?” “Yes of course.” “And what is it telling you?” “It‟s telling me that you have a seventy percent chance for victory.” “And how can you possibly tell from a few wooden beads?” Archibald moved the beads back and forth quickly, they squeaked as the moved across the metal rod. He picked up a piece of wood from the stove and turned it to charcoal with one burst of fiery breath. He wrote an equation on the wall. “Never mind, I don‟t have time for this. I‟m just going to have to talk to him aren‟t I?” He climbed upon the windows ledge and braced himself for the confrontation. After rubbing away the black soot from a plaque, St. Nick recognised the bench immediately. It was the memorial bench that had been missing for years from the castle gardens and the plaque read:
In loving memory of His Royal Highness King Benedictus. Taken but not forgotten. May his soul rest in peace. St. Nick sat on the bench and had a personal word with the deceased king. “Your Highness, I come today to avenge your death. To return your ruby encrusted crown to its rightful owner, your son King Merlot. No longer will the people of Planet Yarn fear Rocky-D and his brutish clan. I pray you bless me with courage,” He paused in thought. “And luck, a little b it of luck would probably be helpful too.” A snort from behind soon brought St. Nick rapidly to his feet with his sword drawn. “Relax.” said Rocky-D as he circled him. A crowd of dragons had gathered in the centre, they placed their textbooks on the ground and used them for seating. “St. Nicholas I believe?” “St. Nick for short.” He replied nodding his head. “Any takers for St. Nick? An unusual name but neverthe- less it could be yours for the price of a battle.” Rocky- D‟s eyes swept around the crowd who tried desperately to avoid his eye contact.
There was complete silence. “Really? No takers for St. Nick? Nobody keen on the name?” “You won‟t take my name,” shouted the black knight. “But I will take back the crown.” “That‟s what you think.” Hissed Rocky-D as he lunged forwards knocking the knight off his feet. St. Nick shielded his face and pushed against the force that the dragon king projected upon him with his fiery breath. He flailed his sword in the air with courage, catching one of the dragons‟ claws. “Saved a job for the nail clippers.” Scoffed the dragon as he examined his talons. “You‟ll have to do better than that.” He swung his great long tail along the floor with the intention to knock the knight off his feet. Experience had taught St. Nick that this was a sneaky move the dragons had used in battle for centuries. He jumped upon the dragons‟ scaly tail and ran along the full length until he‟d reached the middle of its back. He drew his sword high in the air to plunge into its scaly flesh. Rocky-D opened his wings full span and St. Nick stumbled as the dragon king tried to shake him off. The knight pierced a hole in the beasts‟ wing as he fell to the ground.
“Nothing a little regeneration won‟t fix,” spat Rocky-D “Little the same can be said for yo u. You will die here today just like your friend King Benedictus.” “You‟re not worthy to mention his name.” said St. Nick as he took a swing at the dragons chest, he missed but quickly followed by digging his shield into the dragons foot. It let out a yelp as flames shot from its nostrils and mouth. “That hurt!” bellowed the dragon king as flames licked the knights shield again. “That was nothing,” jeered the knight. “I‟m merely getting warmed up.” Rocky-D limped about as he snapped his huge teeth at the knight who vaguely missed being caught up in his huge grizzly yellow jaws. The knight used his shield to jam into the beasts‟ mouth, as he pulled it back, one of the dragon kings teeth fell out onto the floor. Rocky-D wailed as blood trickled from his mouth. “That! Was a dirty trick.” he glared at St. Nick. “This shield is made of titanium,” beamed the knight. “I‟ve yet to find something that can break it. An alchemist friend made it for me.” “A tasty alchemist friend by chance?” slobbered Rocky-D as the saliva was mounting.
“You tyrant!” yelled St. Nick and he took another swing at the dragons face. “I will not leave here without King Benedictus rubies. Be it on your head or be it not.” The dragon spat a fireball in his direction and the knight ducked under t he beasts‟ stomach. “This is my crown, I won it fair and square.” Slobbered Rocky-D. “And look at the size of you. Hardly what I‟d call fair,” Said St. Nick. “I swore I‟d bring back the crown complete with diamonds and ruby intact, and that is exactly what I intend to do.” “Oh how he wailed about his precious Ruby moments before his death.” Laughed Rocky-D as he swept his long tail along the sandy ground again. This attempt successfully managed to sweep the knight off his feet and he landed on the ground with a thud, knocking the wind from out of him. His sword and shield had landed a few feet away but we‟re not within scrambling distance for the disorientated knight. Rocky-D lowered his face close to St. Nick, hatred raged through his eyes like an eternal furnace preparing to incinerate him on the spot. St. Nick closed his eyes and prayed for luck, prayed for strength, for anything else as the sweat and fear seeped through every single pore on his body.
“Enough!” shouted a feminine voice. “That‟s quite enough, look at the state of this place, it‟s a mess.” St. Nick opened his eyes slowly, his eyes swept the surroundings, searching for the voice. To his surprise, Rocky-D had lowered his head as one would in the presence of royalty. He glared at St. Nick from underneath his heavy eyebrows. With his vision blurred from the settling smoke, he squinted as a shape came into his line of sight. It was female shaped though rather spherical. “Why do you not bow your head knight?” she demanded as she looked down her long crooked nose as though it was a laser sight. “Because there is only one ruler of this land, His Royal Highness King Merlot, that‟s why.” He looked her square in the face. The dragons gasped with disbelief as the hideously ugly, rather round female shot the knight an icy stare. Her inner ugliness showed on the outside too which wasn‟t uncommon. “Do you not know who I am?” she asked in an obnoxious tone, full of self-entitlement. “I‟ve never seen you before but I can tell you think you‟re something you‟re clearly not.” Perhaps it wasn‟t the smartest thing to say, considered St. Nick, though it was too late now.
“Let me educate you knight. I am the rightful ruler of this land.” “Really? I‟ve never heard of you.” The knight smirked. “Perhaps not, my name is Princess Ruby.” she circled the knight who was sitting at least upright now looking rather confused. “Still don‟t know you.” Said St. Nick, careful not to take his eyes from the princess he knew nothing of. “I‟m King Merlot‟s sister, kidnapped when I was a small child and taken to live with the dragons. My father King Benedictus left me in the garden one day unattended whilst he talked utter nonsense with that dreadful alchemist friend of his. That silly old man and his potions, no wonder he got eaten.” She swung around to face St. Nick. “And my father, too coward to recue me, told people I was dead. Of course by the time he did find his courage I didn‟t want to be rescued anyway. Too little too late as they say.” St. Nick stood with his mouth agape. “When my father died,” she continued. “I was next in line for to the throne, seeing as my mother a commoner would never get a look in. He was probably too ashamed to tell people the truth of what happened. Instead he had another son and forgot all about me. Death was his foolish fate, he came for his crown and paid with his life.” Her smile unnerved the knight.
“I was told he was adamant he wanted his Ruby back.” Said St. Nick. “I assumed he was referring to the crown as it had a large ruby on it.” He pointed to Rock y-Ds head where the crown sat. “Turns out he was coming to rescue you.” “Well it‟s too late now,” snapped Princess Ruby as she folded her arms defensively. “Far too late, I didn‟t want his crown, I shall have my own when I am Queen of Planet Yarn. They should never have made Merlot king, he can barely stand due to his lack of backbone, I suppose he gets that from our father.” “What makes you think people will accept you as their queen?” asked St. Nick. “They look up to King Merlot, they‟ve never even heard of you.” “But they soon will.” She smiled. “Him and that wife of his Mildred, they shall become my slaves and live in the servant‟s quarters, I‟ve had years to plan this.” As the enormity of the situation was realised by St. Nick, Rocky-D seemed a little less of a threat than before. He imagined himself plunging his sword through the princess‟s heart and he looked over to where it lay on the ground, there would be consequences almost certainly. King Merlot would likely want a say in his sisters‟ fate, a sister he knew nothing of. He needed to get away, back to the king and warm him of her intentions. “So what now?” he asked the hideous princess. “Must I fight to the death?”
Princess Ruby shrugged her shoulders and looked at Rocky-D who had helped to raise her from an infant. “It doesn‟t have to be as cliché as that I suppose.” She shook her head slowly but thoughtfully. “If it is your wish, you may return to the castle, warn my brother if you must. I‟d love to see his face when he hears about me,” She smiled a wicked smile. “The dragons will be attacking both Norwood and Gheywood by now I‟d imagine, the calm before the storm.” “What‟s the catch then?” asked St. Nick. “There is no catch black knight, though if you‟d prefer to be on the winning team you can join us, if now you may leave. You came for my father‟s crown and will leave with your life. That alone makes you a better man than him already. But know this,” she waged a finger at him. “If you do leave and return, you will not leave in one piece, this I can guarantee.” She tapped her foot impatiently and Rocky-D looked as though he was ready to pounce on him at any given moment. St. Nick slowly rose to his feet considering his options. He wasn‟t a coward, but realised he was greatly outnumbered as the dragons began to gather around where the stood. He quickly weighed up the situation and quite out of character, he fled. St. Nick stumbled forwards into the sand as his legs almost overtook him. He picked himself up and
continued to flee towards the exit where Slapstick and Wurzel were howling with laughter. They taunted him as he ran past them but he didn‟t care. He‟d made it out alive. Had Rocky- D been the only problem, he‟d possibly have slain the dragon king and the others would have retreated without their ring leader. But the leader wasn‟t Rocky-D, it was the dragon princess.
Playing With Fire. They swaggered up to the grand wooden door and gave the large brass knocker a rattle. Nobody came. They rattled it again but still nobody came. “Shhh. They‟ll see us you great oaf.” Whispered a voice that crackled in a smooth dreamy sort of way. Nigel looked around him but he could see nobody. He rattled the door impatiently. “We‟re here to rescue the king.” His voice echoed throughout the courtyard and he turned to the others. “After all we‟ve been through to get here. We‟re stood outside politely. Why don‟t we just force our way in?” “Because of the dwarflings,” said Twain. “We don‟t know enough about their temperament and they might be armed.” “Ha ha ha.” Milo flung his head around. “Who is that? What voices ring We‟ve travelled far to Rescue the king. Let us in, let us in.”
Laughter engulfed the courtyard, its source soon to be discovered. The sprites sat at opposite ends of the great wooden door, faces cast in stone like expression. They wouldn‟t have moved a muscle assuming they had any. Nigel drew his face up close, nose to nose with the statue almost touching. “What a perfectly hideous artefact.” He turned up his nose. The statue blinked twice and smiled a grisly grin which reached from one ear to the other, displaying a row of sharp yellow teeth. Nigel stumbled backwards in fright and lost his footing. He soon became a small furry ball scurrying around on the floor. “Quick, stamp on its edd Earnest.” Laughed the other sprite whose name was Gor. “Silence!” Boomed Mr Bo. Milo had released him from the lamp in hope he would intimidate the sprites. “Ooo Earnest, look it‟s a genie in a lamp,” Laughed Gor in an effeminate manner. “Gis us a wish or t hree will you genie?” “Open the door first and I‟ll consider it.” Said Mr Bo. “Can‟t. Need the passphrase.” Said Earnest. “Password?”
“No passphrase.” Said the spritely duo in unison. Twain stepped forth, “Which direction does the red river flow? It flows into the mouth of the Old King Merlot. Does he drown or does he sink? He drowns his sorrows in the little red drink.” “Twain? Is that you?” said Gor. “It sounds like you Twain but it doesn‟t look like you. You‟re all furry.” The sprites burst into a fit of laughter and the door creaked open ajar. They tread cautiously inside and were hit by a wall of stench of the fusty variety. The once grand hall that Twain remembered was dark and dismal and littered with old cobwebs. The webs were too old and too damaged to have spiders living in them so the only thing that would be crawling here is their own skin. They walked the length of the great hall which led through into the library, Twain inhaled deeply, it was his favourite part of the castle with its smell of leather bound books. Strangely the library had no cobwebs and the furniture had been covered over with white cotton dustsheets. In the farthest corner of the room, a single dust sheet quivered on the floor. “Your Highness?” Nigel took a step forward. “Who are you? Let me be.” The dust sheet quaked.
“Your Highness, we have come to rescue you.” “I‟m nothing without my queen,” Sobbed the dust sheet. “Where has that ghastly woman hidden her, do tell me please.” “Please come out from underneath that sheet Your Highness.” Said Twain. “Twain? Is it really you Twain? Well I don‟t believe it, where are my glasses.” King Merlot fumbled around underneath the sheet and emerged with some very thick lenses which made his eyes look enormous. “Oh Twain. What did that feckless woman do to you?” “Turned me into a cat Your Highness,” Twain bowed his head. “Almost six months ago.” “Six months have passed already?” The king moved over to the window. Looked out and sighed. “Oh where is my beautiful Mildred.” “I haven‟t seen her since that night of the party Your Highness. You know, when she took her, took us both. Lady Oktober hasn‟t mentioned her once in all that time. I‟m sorry Your Highness.” The king blinked his tears away and swallowed away the rising lump in his throat. “How did you manage to get around the black knight? You know Twain, he hasn‟t said a single word to me in all this time. Each time I‟d look out the window, he‟d
be staring up at me. I didn‟t dare go down to him because he looked like a madman.” “With a little w it and common sense, We can speak of him in the past tense. His hunger for heroism and selfish greed Have led him to the place where the dragons will feed.” The king blinked at Milo with a confused expression. “Your Highness, he wanted to go to the Dragons Cove to return with your father‟s crown. He believed he was invincible.” Said Nigel. “Oh, I see now,” The king smiled. “So I‟m free to come and go as I please now?” Milo nodded. “We have all been cursed by Draco.” Said Mr Bo. He explained how Lady Oktober had been domesticating the dragons and selling the Vera Plant from the factory in the dungeons below their feet, making a profit. That they had to restore the dragons to their previous fire breathing glory before Draco would consider lifting their individual curses. “Quite a story,” Said the king. “So you need to find a way to sneak the Heliotrope samples into the dragon‟s food source before they‟re despatched when?” “Today your Highness.”
“But why would this Draco fellow want the dragons breathing fire again? Has he not witnessed the chaos they cause?” “We‟re in quite a predicament Your Highness,” said Nigel. “We don‟t want to irritate him but if we don‟t do as he asks, another war may break out and nobody wants that. Nobody is prepared. We‟ve been to Dra gons Cove already, the dragons seemed grateful at what we were doing and even hailed us as heroes. There may be a chance we could live in harmony with them after this. They were very hospitable indeed.” The king stared deep into space as he considered the situation. “They would though wouldn‟t they? Ever so fickle are dragons.” Twain nodded in agreement. “Is there nothing you can do to remedy this Twain? Have you no magical ability at all or did that evil woman strip you of that too?” “I‟ve nothing Your Highness.” “I see.” Said King Merlot. “We need to get a wriggle on, the Vera plant is being despatched today.” Said Nigel. “Follow me,” said the king. “I think I have an idea.” They weaved through the cobwebs in the grand entrance hall and followed the king outside into the courtyard.
He smiled as he felt the warmth of the sun upon his pale complexion. They crept around the castle until they reached an old door that was unlocked. “We never did get round to having this fixed,” said the king as he ducked inside. “Come along.” It was a small damp room that smelled of rust and dead pigeons. There was a large water tank situated in the middle. “Where does this tank lead?” Asked Mr Bo. “This tank serves the dungeons,” Said the king. “This is the water supply for anything below the castle living quarters and if you have a look over here, it is linked to a very basic sprinkler system. Mildred was always paranoid that a fire would break out down here so we had it installed.” “The problem though is if we add the heliotrope sample to the water, unless it‟s used almost immediately, we can‟t guarantee that it won‟t freeze the water as we discovered with Lady Oktober‟s imitation at Serpents Loch.” Said Twain. “Serpent‟s what?” Quizzed the king. “It‟s a very long story Your Highness which we will tell you once this is all over.” “Okay. We will need a volunteer to go down into the dungeons and raise an alarm of fire,” said the king. “In
six months, I haven‟t seen a single dwarfling but I‟ve often heard them clattering about and heard their squeaky voices. I do not know their temperament. So whoever goes will need to be very cautious indeed.” Everybody looked at the floor and nobody volunteered. “How will the person know when to raise the alarm?” said Mr Bo. “When will the sample be poured into the water tank?” They listened carefully and could hear the dwarflings clacking their trolleys around. “When we hear chaos ensue, that‟s when we‟ll pour the sample,” said the king “Because that will be the moment before they turn on the sprinklers.” ……. “Twelve O‟clock and the cart rolls up!” A voice squeaked, though it was also dominant and commanding. “Come along, come along. We need to get this lot watered before the cart gets here and we‟re behind again.” The dwarflings waddled about in their oversized garments which were held up by a pair of green braces. “We‟re just bringing them out now Jimmy.” Squealed a voice. “You‟ll be the death of us you will.” “I can live with that on my conscience,” squeaked Jimmy. “What I can‟t live with t hough is Oktober
breathing down me neck because we‟re running behind. It‟s me that gets it you know. Chop chop.” Twain slinked slowly down the dismal staircase and squeezed through the door trying to remain as inconspicuous as possible. “Kimmy? Kimmy! Bring that tray over here quickly.” Squeaked Timmy. Twain sighed a little then he spotted his opportunity. A row of oil lamps sat on a table nearby. If he could knock them off the table, they‟d fall down onto the straw below which looked like the dwarflings beds. On the other side of the room were more lamps and straw. This place could go up in flames very quickly if he timed it right. “Come on Timmy,” snapped Jimmy. “Stop dragging your feet young man.” Twain took a deep breath and leapt into the air, he ran along the table and knocked of the glass lamps that shattered, and the straw began to smoulder. “What the? Quick, get a bucket of water now!” screeched Jimmy. “Ahhh. Somebody catch that flaming cat before it causes any more damage.” He wailed. Twain dodged the dwarflings in their desperate attempt to collar him. He leapt upon the second bench and more lamps came crashing down onto the dry straw. Adrenaline surged through his body and it was only at this point that he detected the smell of burning fur,
followed by the agonising pain as he was slowly roasting. Timmy rushed towards the straw with a pail of water and Twain leapt into the air towards him which made Timmy slip and spill the water down himself. “It‟s like a flaming circus in here,” shouted Jimmy. “Turn on the sprinklers quickly before the whole place goes up. We have to preserve the Vera plants.” Kimmy rushed to the wall and tugged hard on the big wheel until the pipes above them rattled and purple water showered them. Twain rolled around in agony as his fur became matted and crisp. Kimmy picked him up and looked into his half open eyes. “You silly feline.” She sniffed. There was something remarkably familiar about the cat which stirred some emotion deep inside of her. She placed him on the bench as Jimmy barked his commands at her. “They‟re here. The cart is outside!” He squealed. “They‟re ready to go Jimmy, look.” The Vera Plants were glowing radiantly as they always did after being watered with the witch‟s potion. “How strange,” he rubbed his chin. “Stuff must have got into the system somehow. I swear it gets everywhere.” He looked at the clock and shrugged.
“They look okay I suppose, load them up and send „em out.” Twain exhaled a long slow shaky breath of relief. If he would die today on this bench, it wouldn‟t have been entirely in vain. He closed his eyes as the dwarflings rushed back and forth carrying the racks of Vera plants they were loading onto the horse drawn cart outside. He thought about his life in general, remembering the happy times and the good that he‟d done. Then he remembered his friends and how… A larger than average seven legged spider scuttled across the bench in front of him and paused to look at Twain with his kaleidoscopic eyes, he assessed him nervously from every which angle. “You know Twain, spiders have eight legs and cats have nine lives.” “I‟m not really a cat though.” Said Twain as he closed his eyes again. He though he must really be hallucinating now. “Your choice Twain,” shrugged the spider. “You are what you are and whether or not you choose to accept that is up to you.” “What happened to your leg?” Asked Twain. He wasn‟t really interested but it distracted him from his current situation.
“Was born like it unfortunately,” said the spider. “Felt hard done by until I accepted it.” “Who are you?” Twain asked. “Why - I‟m the legendary Sad Spider. A mere figment of your imagination they‟ll say if you speak my name. I don‟t spin webs or suck the life from things that have the misfortune of getting caught up in it. I bring hope and inspiration to those that need it – when they need it.” Twain closed his eyes and waited for the impending death that he felt was approaching. “You have eight more lives Twain, which is one more than the number of legs I have.” Twain opened an eye. “Can I not die in peace?” He asked sarcastically. “You‟re not dying Twain. However, you are slowly cooking. You need to roll yourself over onto the floor because it‟s cold and the water will soothe your burns.” Twain blinked at the Sad Spider. “Now!” It shrieked, and its eyes bulged like two inflated black balloons and its mouth opened wide, displaying a row of sharp slimy teeth which dripped with yellow grease. Twain jumped almost out of his skin with terror and tumbled off the bench onto the floor.
He felt relief as the water cooled his burns almost instantly, though he could very much feel the extent of the damage the fire had done to him. He peered around the room but the Sad Spider was nowhere to be seen.
The Kings Promise. “Good afternoon Lady Oktober, lovely day isn‟t it?” The last customer had arrived to pick up their guide dragon, they‟d been boring the witch with their plans to have the dragon work on their farm. The witch was in a hurry though, she had an hour to reach the castle and this customer was holding her up. “Not really,” she replied. “I have no idea why people make such a fuss of small talk and the weather etc. For your information, it isn‟t afternoon yet, not for another hour. That‟ll be one hundred shrabn‟l please.” She thrust her bony hand towards the customer who was rooting around in their pocket looking for the money - guide dragon on rope in the other hand. “I‟ll be sending out a batch of Vera plants today, you‟ll be able to get them from any reputable market trader but you‟d better go soon because people will be queuing already.” The customer handed her the money and turned to go on her way with her new pet. “Thank you and actually, it is midday. Did you not remember to put your clock forward an hour at midnight?” Lady Oktober stood perfectly still and silent whilst she absorbed this new information. The customer left
shortly afterwards before the witch swiftly sprung to life. “Fyn! Fyn! Come quick!” “Yes?” He emerged slowly looking bleary eyed. “What? What is it?” “Daylight saving, that‟s what „it‟ is. Or at least it was, at midnight.” “Which means?” His voice trailed off. “Which means, that the Vera plant has already been dispatched.” She snapped. “Come on, we need to get to the castle as soon as possible, if your friends made it first then this could be a real disaster.” “But the black knight?” Said Fyn. “Ah, yes the black knight. Well it‟s possible that he‟s slain them all but it‟s unlikely, I don‟t believe he‟s aggressive unless provoked.” She pushed past him and grabbed her broomstick then stopped as Fyn looked at her with his head tilted to the side. “I‟m not going to fit on that am I? You‟re going to have to go on your own.” “Can‟t,” She snapped. “I need you to come with me, explain to the others why I did what I did. They‟ll probably try and lock me up otherwise.” “And what do you think they‟ll do to me?” Said Fyn.
“Well, we‟ll soon find out I suppose now come along.” She climbed up onto his back and they set off out of the woodlands and towards the town. “It‟s too late, we‟re too late.” Screamed Lady Oktober as they rode through Norwood, desperately trying to dodge the flying debris. The library was ablaze and people were pushing and shoving outside a church, desperate to get inside to safety. “Only the lord can save us now.” Shouted the town crier as he wobbled outside the church. Just then, a bolt of jagged lightning struck the church which obliterated everybody inside and those that were stood outside.” A shadow rose in Lady Oktobers eyes, the dragons were rising and they weren‟t happy at all, destroying anything in their path They were smashing through windows and a shower of glass rained down over them. They were climbing out of chimneys too, the majority carrying their „masters‟ in their mouths, all of whom were familiar customers to Lady Oktober. They ducked as the black shapes swooped overhead. “Do something,” cried Fyn. “Use some magic or something.” “I can‟t.” she yelped. “There‟s too many of them and they won‟t stay still. We need to get to the castle and
make sure King Merlot is still there. Or before Rocky-D turns up.” Which was inevitable she thought. The townspeople threw stones at them as they passed through. They were shouting profanities and accusing the witch of all sorts of black magic. “I was trying to do the right thing.” She wept into Fyn‟s wispy blue mane as they stopped on a chalk hill outside Norwood. “You haven‟t done a good job of it so far though have you?” Said Fyn. “I think you‟d be best to fess up when you get to the castle. Everybody‟s after our blood.” “I will,” said the witch “But there are other issues, like Rocky D and Draco.” “Who or what is Draco anyway?” asked Fyn. “Why did he use us like he did?” They had slowed considerably, almost to a stop now as they were both considering the trouble waiting for them at the castle. “He‟s not a man, he‟s a child of the universe like each and every one of us and he can change form when it suits him. He lives amongst the moon and the stars and dragons are his speciality. He‟s supp osed to keep an eye on them, make sure they don‟t get out of control, keeping the balance you know.” Fyn listened intently.
“Unfortunately, he‟s very lazy and manipulative, if he can get others to do his job for him then he‟ll have them doing all sorts. Yo u‟re one of the unfortunate ones.” She said. “Still, last thing I heard, he was looking for something so I suppose that‟s why you haven‟t seen him much. He‟s supposed to be keeping an eye on the dragons but he hasn‟t.. The dragons stole King Benedictus‟s crown last time they attacked, they also took his life.” “I wonder what they want this time then.” Said Fyn. “I really don‟t know but I fear we‟ll be finding out soon enough.” Said the witch. “King Benedictus appeared to me one day you know.” Said the witch. “Told me that the dragons were planning another attack and I had to do something about it.” “Ah, is that why you started taming the dragons and selling them on as pets?” Said Fyn. “Well, it‟s not as though I was making a profit Fyn,” Said Lady Oktober. “It doesn‟t come cheap to fill the ponds and snare them you know. Plus all the labour which I take no payment for.” “And the Vera plant?” Asked Fyn. “I suppose you make nothing from that.” He winked as though he was in on the scam.
“I don‟t make a penny fro m that either, the production costs are astronomical and don‟t forget I have to pay for despatch too; and wages.” Replied the witch. “But do the dragons actually need the plant? Or is it part of a scam as people are saying?” “People are calling it a scam?” The witch was puzzled. “Yes, they think you‟re just saying that the dragons need to be fed a Vera Plant diet so they‟ll buy them from you. “What a complete load of tosh,” sniffed the witch. “The Vera plant is imperative to their diets as it‟s watered with the spell which will sustain their current state. If they eat anything else, I can‟t guarantee they won‟t start breathing fire again.” She continued. “If they want to believe that then let those foolish morons feed their guide dragons whatever they like and suffer the consequences. This is why I took on the identity of the witch, I couldn‟t jeopardise my current position as Queen.” She sighed. “So you really are the Queen?” asked Fyn. “What about Twain? Why did you turn him into a cat?” “Well, to be honest it was because I didn‟t want to be on my own and truth be told, Twain would be more than a match for me. This is why I had to suppress his magical abilities.” “So he has no magical abilities whatsoever?”
“Well yes but they‟re so suppressed that he‟d never know.” “But why did you turn him into a cat? Apart from the companionship of course?” “Ah that one is easy. Cats are very selfish, very selfabsorbed creatures. Can‟t see past the ends of their own noses sometimes. He‟d be unlikely to find his magic underneath all that smug complacency.” “Yes, you‟ve described him to a tee. Self-absorbed Twain.” Laughed Fyn. “Will you ever change him back?” “Of course,” Said Lady Oktober. “I‟m likely to need his help now more than ever.” “And what if he won‟t agree to he lp, what if he resents you or worse still – turns against you?” “It‟ll be ok. I‟m sure he‟ll be grateful to be walking around on two legs again. Don‟t you worry about that.” “And what about the King? Do you think he‟ll forgive your deception? He might have us both done for treason.” Fyn was panicking. “It‟ll be fine. Once I explain the circumstances and that King Benedictus spoke to me, he‟ll understand. He is my husband after- all.” Another shadow swooped overhead, they could hear the muffled cries. “Help! Help me.”
The voice trailed off into the distance as the dragon flew in the direction of Dragons Cove with many others until they became but a small speck on the horizon. “Oh what have I done!” She cried. “Come on Fyn, we need to get to the castle now.” They cantered for a while until the castle was in sight and stopped outside the gates that were swinging open and closed in the gusty breath of the wind. “Are you ready?” Asked Fyn. ……. “Come quickly! Look.” Said Nigel, he was standing at the library window. “It‟s that traitor Fyn and that witch, Lady Oktober.” He spat. King Merlot made a strange sound of shock and passed out into a heap on the floor. “Quick Milo,” commanded Nigel. “Get him up onto that chair, we can‟t leave him on the floor.” Milo hoisted the king up onto a chair and he started to come around. “Ah, visitors,” he said. “How lovely. I‟ve just had this terrible dream about witches and unicorns at the door.” “It wasn‟t a dream Your Highness,” said Mr Bo. “The dwarflings must have left the gate unlocked.”
Nigel, Mr Bo and Milo, made their way into the grand entrance with the exception of King Merlot, and they waited for a knock at the door. “What makes you think she‟ll be so civil?” asked Mr Bo. “She might just break down the door. Her and that unicorn we thought was our friend.” Milo peered through a crack in the door to see if they were any closer, his eye met Lady Oktobers‟ and he jumped back. “She‟s here, she‟s here. My body is filled with fear. She‟s here with Fyn, don‟t let them in. The wicked witch is here.” “Compose yourself Milo.” Snapped Nigel as he pushed past him and spoke through the crack in the door. “What do you want you traitorous couplet? If it‟s the king you‟re after, you‟ll have to get through us first.” Milo took a shrunken step backwards after Nigel had offered him up as volunteer. Milo was afraid of the witch, anything with magic actually. Anything he was not in control of. “I‟m here to help, I‟ve only ever tried to help, you just don‟t realise it,” She sighed. “You were never meant to get this far. You were never meant to turn the dragons
back. Draco manipulated you into doing his own dirty work for him. I hope you feel silly. Where is he now that the dragons rise up? Has he lifted your curses? I think not.” “It‟s absolute chaos out here, the dragons have turned wild and savage. They‟ve practically set every building in Norwood alight and it‟s likely that the castle will be another one of their targets if nothing gets sorted out. The people need the king to restore their faith in his authority, he must speak with them, they‟re rioting and all sorts of madness.” A crowd could be heard in the distance, they were shouting and screaming. “Quick, open the door.” Shouted Fyn as he banged and rattled on the door. “Is this whole story true Fyn?” Asked Nigel. “Not that I trust your input anyway.” “Yes, it is true. I had to slip away at Dragons Cove and I know you all think I deserted you, truth is, the dragons were watching my every move. They keep watch during the night you see. I left a note for you but had to leave it somewhere the dragons wouldn‟t find it. I rolled it up and tucked it into Twain‟s barrel on his collar. You have to let us in.” “No.” Said Nigel. “I don‟t actually have to do anything you tell me. Fetch Twain Milo, let‟s see if Fyn is telling the truth or spinning a yarn.”
“Send the dwarflings up whilst you‟re down there.” Shouted Lady Oktober from behind the door. Milo walked down the slimy steps, the wall was pelted with green ooze which ran down onto the staircase. He didn‟t want to think about it for second longer so he concentrated on trying not to slip. At the bottom, he assessed any danger but didn‟t feel any immediate threat. He creaked the door open and noticed that the dwarflings were gathered in a circle surrounding something. Quite by accident, he stepped on a piece of glass which crunched underneath his foot. A couple of the dwarflings spun around whilst the others stood silently. “Who are you?” Asked Timmy. “My name is Milo, my intentions are pure. The Lady Oktober waits at the door. She‟s asked for your service Of that I am sure. We won‟t let her in „cos she‟s trouble and more.” He felt he had communicated that rather well. Kimmy giggled and blushed at him before stepping aside.
Timmy was holding a bundle of cloth in his arms. “I‟m looking for a cat Of a peculiar name. He‟s as black as night, His eyes shine bright. The moggys name is Twain.” A silent tear rolled down Kimmys‟ cheek and Timmy presented Milo with the bundle of cloth. He held out his hands and gasped, dropping to his knees. Peering into the bundle, he saw Twain or rather, what looked like Twain. His fur was matted and smouldering. He was barely alive and was taking short shallow breaths. He gathered together the damp bundle and turned towards the steps. The dwarflings would follow him in procession. They slowly climbed each slimy step. Milo fell deeper and deeper into despair with every step he took. It was Mr Bo who was the first to notice them. “Where‟s Twain?” He asked. “That cat deserves a pat on the back for his bravery. He‟s got some guts I‟ll say.” Milo silently placed Twain on the ground and they gathered around him. His body was limp and his fur matted and charred. His face had a burnt patch near his chin also. He looked in terrible shape.
“Look what you‟ve done now you hideous woman. See what you‟ve done!” Shouted Nigel. “I can‟t see anything from this side of the door.” said Lady Oktober. Nigel pulled angrily at the door and man handled her through the entrance. “Oh Twain.” She cried and dropped to her knobbly knees. “Oh Twain, I‟m so sorry. It‟s all my fault.” The king appeared behind them. His eyes were puffy and red where he‟d been crying. “Get out of my castle you vile woman.” He shouted, his voice firm but with squeaky undertones. “He‟s still breathing.” Said Nigel. The sprites looked in and crept ever so slowly, they quietly blended into their surroundings and whispered. “Twain, it‟s time to wake up now Twain.” “Explain yourself Oktober.” Snapped King Merlot. “You wouldn‟t understand if I did.” She replied. “Are you trying to insult my intelligence?” “No of course not but it‟s complicated.” She didn‟t take her eyes off of Twain lying on the pile of cloth. The tears dripped down from her beady eyes and large drops spattered onto the floor.
“Turn him back at once!” Ordered King Merlot. “Then I‟ll banish you from this land for good.” “I can‟t, I need to be in the right frame of mind for a spell to work. Sadness is not a strong enough emotion and it clouds everything. Right now, I feel little other than sadness.” Outside an angry crowd was shouting for the witch‟s blood. They were jeering the king and mourning for lives lost. Within the bat of a wing, the crowd fell into a wave of silence. Then came a single knock at the door. “Who is it?” Stuttered Old King Merlot. “The one they call Draco.” Replied a voice on the other side of the door. “You have to let him in Your Highness.” Said Fyn quietly. “Isn‟t he… you know – bad?” The king stammered. “He won‟t harm you if that‟s what you‟re concerned about.” Said Lady Oktober, all her attention was focused on Twain and she sat gently stroking his paw. “I know what he‟s here for.” “Very well, if today is to be the day I die, I refuse to go without a fight.” He reached to a display on the wall and grabbed the sword that belonged to his late father King Benedictus.
The door creaked and Draco stepped in, he smiled at the men as though they were old friends which they found unsettling. He nodded at the men. “It was a job well done, you me n did me a great service, saved me a whole load of messing about. Shame about the casualty mind you.” He looked at Twain. “All for a good cause though eh?” Lady Oktober climbed to her feet, her expression was one of a thousand daggers. “This is your fault.” She spat. “This happened last time and you were behind it. You‟ve let it happen again. It‟s your responsibility to keep an eye on the dragons.” “That may be so but do tell me why you thought it would be necessary to domesticate the dragons like you did?” He replied with a smirk. “Because I was told to do something about it.” “By whom?” “By the king.” “Liar! She‟s a liar.” Shouted King Merlot. “I‟d not seen this hideous woman until the night she broke into the castle and kidnapped Twain and my Mildred.” Draco turned back to Lady Oktober. “Not that king.” She snapped, and King Merlot breathed a sigh of relief.
“His father, King Benedictus, the one killed by Rocky – D. Remember that incident?” “Yes I remember of course.” Said Draco. “Another unfortunate incident but nevertheless, it was his pride that killed him. What did he expect going to Dragons Cove alone?” He shot a sympathetic look at King Merlot. “You were supposed to be keeping an eye on the dragons,” said Lady Oktober again. “The townspeople ran riot that night and we all had to start over. The situation today is not too dissimilar.” “That is indeed true.” Said Draco and he leaned closer to Lady Oktober. “But somebody stole my eye didn‟t they?” Lady Oktober sat in silence stroking Twain‟s paw. “It‟s no coincidence of course; that you‟ve all ended up here together.” He said. “What does that mean?” Said King Merlot. “Well, it means that I needed the guide dragon crisis resolved and I also wanted to find my eye which I do believe Lady Oktober can help me w ith. It‟s made less work for me having you all running round, It‟s led me to the place I can collect my eye and resolved the crisis.” “I promised these men that upon completion that I would lift their curses and I shall. That is if they wish to
be changed back?” He eyed the men who said nothing but their eyes gleamed. “But I want my eye back first, something I think the Queen may be able to help me with.” “We don‟t know where she is!” Shouted King Merlot. “This hideous woman has kidnapped her and we haven‟t heard word since.” Milo tried to calm the king down as he was becoming agitated and angry. Lady Oktober remained focused on Twain‟s paw. “Interesting,” Said Draco as he studied her. “So you haven‟t told him then?” “Told me what?” Said King Merlot. “All shall be revealed soon enough,” he said “But remember this King Merlot, I have brought before you today, four of the noblest, most valiant knights I have ever met.” King Merlot scoured the room looking for four men dressed in armour but he could see nothing of the sort. Draco closed his eyes and lifted his hands from his side. He moved them slowly out to the side and Milo, Mr Bo, Nigel and Fyn rose up into the air. “A baker, a psychic a poacher a pain Completed a journey that wasn‟t in vain. They each found themselves and they set those beasts free,
Thus breaking the curse that I set upon thee. Move forward brave footmen, „cause war won‟t retreat, And I‟ll dress you in armour from your head to your feet.” It was generally considered to be a good undoing spell and the men lingered in the air for a short time. King Merlot and Lady Oktober were able to catch a glimpse of the men‟s former identities before Draco dressed them head to toe in shiny new armour. He lowered his hands and the men landed roughly on the ground. Armour clattered. “Apologies,” Said Draco. “I‟ve never done that before.” Everybody looked pleasantly surprised. If only Twain were conscious to see it though they thought. “You‟re going to need these four knights King Merlot, you will need to cling to them because they will be your lifeline for the foreseeable. Another war is on the way, the dragons are angry and more lives will be lost. I cannot interfere too much until the natural balance is restored.” They stood in silence though Lady Oktober could be heard softly weeping for Twain. King Merlot ordered the men to form an orderly line and – with his father‟s sword still in his hand – he knighted the men one by one.
“Time for a revelation now Lady Oktober,” Said Draco. “and time to give back something you‟ve been keeping for so long, something that doesn‟t belong to you.” “But the king said I‟d need it.” She replied, her eyes fixed on Twain. “Indeed and I should know because I was there. Afterall, I created that mirage when I realised it was you who had taken the stone.” “What!” she snapped. “You manipulative twit!” “I don‟t think you could count it as manipulation when it belonged to me in the first place. I had to bring you all together somehow. You were slowly putting the dragons in a zombie like state and I had to intervene. Finding these men saved me a lot of time though and it‟s no accident that you all ended up here.” She scowled at him. “All I ask is for what rightly belongs to me. If I‟d have had it from the beginning, things would never have escalated.” “I‟m completely lost now, I‟m not following you.” Said King Merlot. Lady Oktober looked down at Twain again, she sobbed quietly and removed the yellow stoned ring from her finger and tossed it to Draco who held it up to the light examining it.
“Yes, this is definitely it,” he smiled. “Shame it‟s been set so nicely into this silver ring, I won‟t be needing this part obviously.” He removed the stone before tossing the silver ring back to Lady Oktober. “Bring me the magician‟s cape.” He ordered . The dwarflings that were hiding just inside the library sprang into life and returned with the purple cape. “Wait,” Said King Merlot. “If the witch placed the curse, hadn‟t it better be her to lift it else something could go wrong and cause all kinds of other problems.” Draco shook his head. “I‟m afraid not. She is full of guilt and if anything, that could make things go terribly wrong. Besides, she has no magic anymore.” “I see.” Said King Merlot. “I suspect you feel rather foolish now Lady Oktober? I dread to think what your attachment to Twain is. I‟m guessing it‟s another one of your tricks to deceive us in some way to keep you inside these walls perhaps whilst the crowd outside screams for your blood. I should toss you outside and let them see to you.” Draco peeked through the crack in the door and smiled a half smile. “There‟s a small group of crows just the other side of this door, they look rather hungry.” Lady Oktober rolled her eyes but something sank in the pit of her stomach.
Draco cleared the area and he placed the purple magicians‟ cape over Twain‟s flaccid body until he was completely covered. He took the yellow stone and placed it in the cat‟s mouth. “Let him rest for a short while, he is certain to awaken shortly and he will be tired. Transfiguration can be a tiring process.” They waited in silence; all eyes were on the cape. After a short time, they could hear coughing from underneath. A transformation was indeed taking place beneath the cape and it began to move, jerking violently across the floor; until the man shape beneath it way laying still. They watched his chest rise and fall in repetition. King Merlot stepped towards Twain to remove the cape. “I wouldn‟t do that if I were you.” Warned Draco. King Merlot dropped the corner he was holding. “It‟s not an attractive transition you know, from cat to great magician. Spare him his dignity.” Another cough and splutter came from underneath the cape and the yellow stone was projected across the cold floor. Draco knelt down and picked it up with a smile.
“I must be on my way soon, but I believe Lady Oktober has a confession to make before I leave. Whether or not she will is up to her I suppose. I cannot influence that.” King Merlot looked at the witch and wondered what the hideous woman could possibly be hiding. Tears streamed down her face, the large, heavy drops of sorrow rolled down her clothes as she wept. “Please forgive me, I was trying to do what I thought was right. I know I was wrong now. I didn‟t mean to cause anybody any harm or suffering, especially Twain.” She looked to the cape on the floor and back towards the king. “And I didn‟t mean to hurt you either.” “What does this mean?” he said. “I was trying to protect you.” She continued. “I‟m truly sorry.” She lowered her head and looked at the floor and it was then she noticed she was standing in a large sticky black puddle. The blackness had drained from her clothes, the wart had vanished from her line of sight and her black beady eyes, though brimmed with tears had returned to a sparkling emerald green. “My Queen!” Shouted King Merlot and he embraced her. “I‟m so sorry I caused you so much pain and suffering.” She wept. “I was just trying to protect you. If I‟d have
known the mirage was Draco, I would never have gone through with any of it.” Tears dropped from his eyes and he smiled ever so lightly for the first time in what seemed like Donkeys years. The dwarflings too were stood in puddles, though their own were green. Kimmy smiled at Milo. “I will leave you now,” said Draco. “My work here is done for now.” He peered outside the door where the crowd stood in silence waiting for King Merlot to put in an appearance. “Your people need you more now than ever King Merlot. Be strong and you will find peace with the dragons. You have four valiant knights that have already risked their lives countless times for a king they‟ve never met.” He stepped out the door. It was almost twilight and the stars were shining brightly against the dusky blue sky. Neither cloud nor aurora dare obscure the sky for in its clarity a manifestation appeared at the vacant site of the constellation Draco. It sucked up Draco until he was scattered across the sky where he belonged next to his celestial brothers and sisters. They stared for a moment. A new star had appeared, a yellow star and it winked back down at them.
Draco had finally found his eye. Back in the grand entrance, Twain was coughing and spluttering underneath his purple cape. He sat himself up and rubbed his head. “Twain!” Shouted King Merlot. “Twain, you‟re back. Oh how I‟ve missed you Twain.” The four knights struggled to hide their emotion at the news but they kept their composure, they had a lot of responsibility resting on their shoulders now. “I had a most awful dream Your Highness.” Said Twain. “Why does my mouth taste like spiders? And why do I have kitten breath? And what‟s this?” He lifted his hand to his chin where a burn had left a scar. “A burn on your chin is not to be feared. It‟s the mark of a hero, you can always grow a beard.” Everybody stopped and stared at Milo who looked rather angry and cheated. “Ha ha, he didn‟t change everything back then?” Laughed Bo. “Perhaps he thought it was too amusing.” Said Nigel. “I told you he had a sense of humour,” sniggered Twain. “Now where‟s the witch, I suppose she‟s around here somewhere.”
“I‟ll explain everything to you very soon Twain, when you‟re well again. It‟s a very long story.” Said Queen Mildred. King Merlot ascended the steps which led to the great balcony, his four knights in tow. They stood in pairs at the king‟s side. “Ladies and Gentlemen, people of Planet Yarn. Bad times are approaching again, there is another war breaking out over our towns and for as far as they eye can see. Rest assured, the dragons will not prevail this time. I will soon be leaving for Dragons Cove, accompanied by my four knights and anybody who wishes to volunteer their services. A position that is open to both ladies and gentlemen. Please register your interest with the castle staff. That is all.” The crowd mumbled. “What if you do not return Your Highness?” asked a voice from the crowd. King Merlot thought carefully about the question for a moment before he found his answer. “Should I not return like my father, The Queen shall inherit my throne. However, this is only a precaution as I will bring back my father‟s crown, be it attached to Rocky Drago‟s head or be it not.”
The crowd cheered and it washed over King Merlot, he‟d managed to restore their faith in him for the first time in a long time. The group of crows turned away when they realised the witch was nowhere in sight. It was possible that they would one day put their grievance behind them but it wasn‟t a certainty. Kimmy sat at a wooden bench in the grand entrance and took the volunteers names. “Name please?” She asked. “St. Nick.” replied the black knight with a smile and a knowing glint in his eye.
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