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  • Writer's pictureOliver Sun

LEWIS


I

Owls and Swans

Lewis was the only son of his father who was a lawyer and his mother who was a novelist. Lewis and his family all inhabited the tallest oak in the Wood which had many tall oaks to inhabit from. He was better known better to his other relations as Owl Lewis but despite that, was still known as Lewis. But all that happened when he was only a newborn infant and knew nothing of the sort, apart from how to weep, scream and shout if he needed his usual dinner which was wild mice. But it was one peaceful day when one of wolverines of the wood came to alert his family that huntsman were nearby. “You need to hand your infant over,” commanded the wolverine. “You pair of owls can fly away to another distant land, but your boy here cannot escape but don’t worry, please, calm down. We’ll take diligent care of him we promise,” and the pair of owls waved goodbye one last time before reluctantly handing over their son, wrapped in a ragged towel.

Nine years later…

“Wake up, wake up!” chirped a merry voice, just outside Lewis’s bedroom. After the whole tragedy with all the huntsmen which he did not know the muddiest about (newborn owlets cannot remember anything), he had been volunteered to be taken in by a childless pair of swans. It was a bit like an auction, but it was not for a property or land but for a baby owl, or specifically an owlet. Owl Lewis’s new parents were Herbert Swan and Nelly Swan who were a pair of swans who were perfectly ordinary and could talk a million a minute. Mrs Swan was now demanding him to wake up. On the end table, the alarm clock read simply eight o’clock and had gone off. He could hear the frypan which had oil on it in the kitchen. “Hurry up, dear Lewis! Hurry and wake up. I’m running late for work and your poor father needs an injection done within three hours! Every day is a busy day! Don’t dillydally, dear. You know how much I and your pa hate little owlets who dillydally! Oh, and speaking of who, your pa is in the kitchen. Breakfast’s been on the table for half an hour now and it’s cold! How does trout for breakfast sound to you?” “Splendid,” replied the owlet, threw himself out of bed and flew into the kitchen. “I’m terribly sorry, ma, that my trout is cold. I’ll eat it right away.” “Sit down,” said Mr Swan, who’d eaten ten whole plates of trout already. “When I was in my childhood, the only thing I loved for breakfast was trouts! Every week, I and my pa would head out into the trout-river and fish for trouts to fry. I tell you trouts are only delicious we they’re freshly fished from the river.” “Don’t be silly, dear Herbert,” said Mrs Swan. “Fried trouts are also delicious when they’re freshly brought from the supermarket, and it takes more work to fish the trouts from the river. You have to wait and pull the rod when you think you’ve caught something, lift the fish onto dry land to let it suffocate a bit, get the fish to stop wagging around and cut it. But no, from the supermarket you head off to the market, you enter the market, you buy, you pay, and you leave. And… oh dear! Oh dearie, dearie me! I better stop this chitchat. I’m running late for work! I should’ve been there by eight-fifteen and now it’s already twenty past eight! I’ll be off! Bye, Lewis. I’ll be back by seven pm!” With that, Mrs Swan burst out of the river-burrow without even waiting to put on her boots and waddled off with her webbed feet as quickly as she possibly could, which was not at all quite quick. “Now then Lewis, is there anything particular you desire to do,” said Mr Swan. “It’s winter now and we could skate in the icy pools which have been chilled to solids. But… I don’t have skating blades, the problem is, so that won’t be possible. Do you want another course of trout? We’ve plenty of that, don’t worry about our stocks run out,” and Lewis was fond of trout and so he agreed to that, before Mr Swan waddled over to the refrigerator to have a look to see how much more trouts they had and was rather expectant for the trouts to even pour out the moment he opened the refrigerator. “Let’s see here, then!” and he opened the refrigerator only to find a million bottles of tomato sauce pour out of the refrigerator (instead of trouts) and the bottles flood the living room. Mr Swan falls over and he reappears out from the flood to close the refrigerator in case there were more surprises in there, which there was not for the bottles of tomato sauce had left no room for mustard or barbecue sauce. “Holy trifle with treacle fudge in the middle with whipped cream on top and finished with a cherry that is delicious!” screamed Lewis bewilderedly. “Where did all these bottles of tomato sauce come from?” “Maybe just wasted a tiny bit of our money on it,” spluttered Mr Swan. “Don’t worry, dear! We could quickly clean this mess up before your mother comes home, and I mustn’t forget that I have an injection at noon today, but in this weather I suppose my injection will be cancelled. Now, Lewis, be a good boy and help me with this mess,” and Lewis did, for he did not want to be told off by his mother, and his mother was quite well at that which was not very well at all, for Lewis at least. “We need to hurry, hurry, hurry!” continued Mr Swan. “In this weather, your mother will be home early from work. She will not be happy when she…” Ding dong! “Open the door, my dears!” chirped Mrs Swan’s voice from the front door. “I’m home early for work, due to all this weather. Allow me in! Don’t lock me out, for according to the weatherman there will be a severe snowstorm in an hour. Oh, and Herbert, your injection will be cancelled for today. But, oh, don’t worry about that, dear Herby! Dr Bear has been genuinely nice and scheduled your injection for tomorrow, which is Wednesday.” “Oh no,” whispered Mr Swan in panic. “I suppose that will be your mother. She won’t be happy when she sees this, but once more, she could help us clean up all this. Just let her in, and I’ll talk it all out. She’ll forgive me, I hope. Lewis, be a splendid boy and help answer the door. I’ll do my best.” I hope pa knows what he’s doing, thought Lewis worriedly. His mother will probably scream the whole burrow down, and all will be left of it, a pile of gritty dust and a chimney on top. Nobody will want that, but that will be rather unlikely to occur. A swan can scream loud, but not loud enough to scream down a stable piece of architecture, of course. Lewis opened the door with reluctance, still wondering if his father knew what he was doing. “Hullo dear Lewis!” said Mrs Swan. “Now, let me in. Due to the weather conditions work for today was cancelled, for there shall be a dangerous, icy snowstorm at one o’clock. I’m a bit cold, since the radiator isn’t on in here, and forgot about my boots when I left! I’ll hang my scarf up in my wardrobe.” Lewis was happy to listen to his mother talk a bit more, since that will give Mr Swan more time to clean up the bottles of tomato sauce. “Now,” said she finally with a breath, “Let me in. Herbert, dear! Herby, pour me a cup of hot cocoa with flakes. Hot cocoas are better with flakes.” “Well, Nelly dear, you see, oh never mind! You won’t believe me anyway. Just come here, and have a little look for yourself, Nelly,” snapped Mr Swan in distress, and led Mrs Swan to the living room guiltily. Mrs Swan took a look inside the room, after her husband had quickly poured her a cup of hot cocoa with flakes, and screamed. Lewis did not bear say a word to his mother about that and so he kept silent in a little corner, clasped his wings over his ears and gulped. But nobody could hear the gulp, for the gulp cannot be heard over the cacophony, the loud din of Mrs Swan’s scream. “Herbert!” she shouted. “What the, tell me at once what you’ve done, and Lewis too. Lewis, dear, come here at once! Immediately! I am very ashamed. Both of you! You shouldn’t be happy about this mess you’ve occurred,” snapped Mrs Swan. “We could be kicked out of our burrow by police, for not taking diligent care of our property! Look at this, you’ve even knocked over my porcelain pot! Do you know how long it took for my sister to make that? It was a special present!” “Well now, Nelly, do calm down a bit. I’m sure it’s not that bad,” said Mr Swan coolly. “I say we clean it up. Be a pleasant swan and help me do it. But, oh Nelly, do walk slowly, for if you don’t, you’ll be haunted by a dollop of…” but he never had the chance to finish what he was about to say, for the moment he began to waddle around the room frantically, picking up bottles, one bottle which is foot stepped on seemed to have been left open and haunted him with tomato sauce. “Or indeed, this happens,” he continued, and faced his wife. “Now, allow me to help you…” “Ugh!” cried Mrs Swan. “I’ve been splat! Oh, you are such an onion, Herbert! How could you have even made this mess? It’s downright impossible, I tell you! Answer me, Herbert, at once.” “Nelly, my dearest wife, please do not panic,” said Mr Swan, in attempt to be a bit more romantic but, that was a rather stupid thing to try, for Lewis was looking in the corner confusedly at all the hullabaloo between his parents. “Lewis wanted another trout, but the refrigerator seemed to really be packed to the brim with this. Now, Nelly, I hope this teaches us both a valuable lesson, to never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever buy any more tomato sauce again, clear?” “Oh, poppycock and fiddlesticks Herbert, how stupid! When you went to the market, I told you to buy one bottle of tomato sauce, not a million!” “Oh do forgive me!”


II

Brews

Lewis abruptly snapped out of his dream. It’s… it’s just a dream, he thought soothingly. Nothing much to a dream… calm down, steady breathing, calm down. He calmed down a bit and held up his wand and muttered a spell which he’d acquired from Madame Hoover who was the third year head. At the tip of his wand came a little sparkle which allowed him to see the stone walls and the other owls on their beds. He was in his dormitory at Wisewand, which was academy that tutored spells. Magic spells and enchants and all that. Each pupil had their wand of their own length and made with the feathers of a phoenix, the talons of a dragon, the teeth of a dryad and the very moment a pupil comes to Wisewand, they’ll have to stay in their own private bedroom for a nurse or professor to come by and assure that the pupil is not a ‘Snail’, which is a non-magical owl. Snails are deadly to magic, when they acquire magic, they’ll cause mischief and create a world domination under their thumb and nobody at Wisewand wants that, of course. Wisewand was securely guarded by the Feather, the feather of a hawk. A particular hawk who went by Madame Witcher, who was the first ever headmistress of Wisewand, before even the tenth century, Wisewand had been there all the time, hundreds and hundreds of years before even some great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents were born. But as the centuries went on, none of the professors or pupils at Wisewand seemed to notice that the feather seemed to run out of magic and cannot enchant more. Even Madame Hoover, the head of the third years, was not the least aware of that. She would pass by the plinth where the feather was perched in an utter most precarious way, smile at it, and wander away. But it was now nearly dawn. Lewis was weary and quite awake all at once. No sound he heard, apart the rats which’d apparently moved into the Wisewand premises last winter to flee from the gusts of vile winter wind. “What a bewildering dream,” he murmured, since he did not know what else to say in such an odd and eyrie moment, when he was the only awake pupil in his dormitory. “Well I never, I must say… yes, bewildered, bewildered. Oh, it’s one o’clock already. I really do hope our lesson which will be upcoming isn’t brews. Sir Dimble looks like a complete mess!” “Good morning!” called Sir Dimble. He was the Brews tutor, and had a ridiculously large moustache pinned to his ridiculously small face which he never shaved. Sir Dimble was Lewis’s least favourite tutor, due to how quickly he spoke and that he spoke in tongue twisters. “I say, the old grouch’s robes are torn more than usual,” said Lewis jeeringly. “When he earns a more money I recommend him to buy new robes. He’s messier than a grey rat, he is. Madame July’s tame rats are cleaner than him! Oh I do wish he would walk out the dormitory room. What a grey rat! Indeed he is. He could be mistaken as an overgrown grey rat who’s cut away its ears and grown a pointy mouth.” “Now, pupils. Our very beginning lesson will be brews. We will brew this brew, which is very advanced to brew, so when each one of your brew your brews, remember, be careful with your brews. Don’t hurry. On with your robes, now,” said Sir Dimble. “Now, I’ll lead the way. We’ll head over to the Brews room and have our lesson there. We will need our wands for this lesson. We’ll have to conjure kemicul, a very advanced potion to conjure, which we’ll put in our brews. We will brew a brew which will transfigure anyone into a cat. Now, chop-chop. Into your robes and have your wands in your hands! Quickly, I’ll lead the way to the Brews room.” It was still dark in the palace, and Sir Dimble bumped into many suits of armour, and a statue of Madame Witcher on a mannequin plinth. But it was so dark at that time, that when he bumped into the statue, he didn’t see the plinth the statue was on and thought the statue was a ghost. “Oh my word!” said he, bewildered. “It’s a ghost! I knew this place was haunted. Heaven’s sake! It is very peculiar to encounter a ghost currently. Stand back, children. Sir Dimble will chase away this scary monster, this nasty wraith, this horrifying thing! Bombardus!” and with that, the pupils all saw the statue erupt into little stone pieces. “Wait a minute,” said Sir Dimble. “Stone. No, it’s not to be stone, silly. When you bombard a ghost with Bombardus, all which is remained will be steam. White, pure steam. Oh dear! I must’ve been mistaken! I’m bombarded…” and he let out a scream. “Oh no, oh no, oh no,” he panicked. “I will have to pay the repairs! Which will cost… seven hundred thousand gold! Oh no! More than that in case Barclay[1] wants additional parts on the statue! Oh no. Oh no. I’ll be bankrupt! I won’t have any more gold when I pay it. Oh no!”

“Don’t blubber so much,” said Norris. Norris was the most brainy pupil in the whole grade. It was obvious, too. He had round spectacles and a neat robe that was blacker than ebony. Norris knew his spells, enchants, potions etcetera better than every other owlet in the year. “Sir, consider some light. Here borrow my wand. Lightus,” and a little spark appeared out his wand. It was the same little spark that Lewis had conjured out of his wand back in the dormitory. Sir Dimble took it with pleasure. “Oh good,” he said. He took the wand, but then remembered how stupid it was the hold two wands at once, and so he gave Norris the wand back and lit his own. He waved his wand around. “I do say, these are very well-looking statues!” he said. “Look at this, this gargoyle.” “Professor!” snapped Norris. “We are not here to admire statues!” “Oh yes! Silly me,” said Sir Dimble embarrassedly. “Very well thank you, Norris. I do wonder what I’d do without you. Now come on. It won’t take very long to reach the Brews room.” He lead the way and it was one hour until they, at last, arrived at the Brews room. “Wisewand must be a simply enormous palace of wizardry and witchcraft!” Sir Dimble said quickly in case any of the pupils blamed him for the delay. “Anybody can be lost in it. Now, come in. You will see chalices on your bureaus. In your chalice, I have stirred smoky cappuccino with buttery milkshakes.” (which’re drinks that’re only stirred in the magic world. But I don’t recommend them), “Smoky cappuccino and buttery milkshakes are what we will need to brew our brew today. I absolutely love them! Smoky cappuccino is so sweet, and buttery milkshakes are so warm! Don’t worry, pupils. Each one of you will be able to sample a cauldron of them to taste the magnificence!” As he said that, the pupils winced at the thought of smoky cappuccino and buttery milkshake. “Now, hurry up.” Lewis walked into the Brews room. Smoky cappuccino and buttery milkshake had a smell strong enough to make your eyes water. Sir Dimble ordered the pupils to sit, and they sat. “We will brew a brew today which will tell you your true destiny… or doom!” said he dramatically. “But I don’t think that anybody will die this year,” and this note panicked everybody apart himself. “Oh calm down. Brews which tell you your destiny or doom are highly unprecise. Hang up your coats on the coat-hangers in case you have any,” but none the pupils did. Lewis thought Sir Dimble rather silly to wear a thick coat during summer, where the temperature in the wood was over the burning temperature of thirty. Sir Dimble walked to a little wooden desk at the very front of the classroom which had piles of books on it and a globe.

“Now! On your desks, children, you will see a chalice in which we shall brew. It has all the smoky cappuccino and buttery milkshake in it, so no need to add it in ourselves! It is red, you can see. It is redder than red wine! Because, well, dragon blood is indeed redder than red wine. Do not panic! You will each be able to have a sample of dragon blood as well,” and the pupils winced even more, “But none o’ this drink talk! It’s making me thirsty. Whatever! Let us begin. It is a very, very hard brew to brew, so please do not worry in case you mess it up. It is very common to mess up, even I, a well-trained Brews tutor, can mess it up. We will add the tooth, which was recently plucked out the snapping jaws that belonged to a Billiartango! It is a very scary monster, which lurks in swamps, melted ice pools, and wet caverns. Its diet consists in… oh, hold your tongue! Sorry, pupils, I’m trying to hold my own tongue! It is obviously Sir Bovil’s occupation to tutor you your magical creatures subject! I’m a Brews teacher… a Brews teacher…” “Sir Dimble! Your brew…” cried Bouvier, a pupil, as a crack appeared in Sir Dimble’s chalice, but it was rather surprising when Sir Dimble showed no concern in what Bouvier had cautioned. “I’m a Brews teacher… oh don’t worry! It’s only the Kemicul, an acid, which is contained in my brew, it came from the dragon blood, which damaged the glass,” and he raised his wand at the chalice and he muttered the spell ‘Spectotrum’. Within seconds, the crack disappeared. “New spell!” said Norris, the brainy owlet, as he took his quill, pulled out a notebook out his robes and quickly scribbled the word, ‘Spectotrum – to mend something like a crack’ in his notebook. “Sorry, sir. Spells are so wonderous! I wish you could continue,” he said. “I’ve added the tooth in, to assure you, and so have the other pupils in the classroom.” “Now peer in closely, peer in very closely into your chalice,” said Sir Dimble, as he did in his own. “See! See. Oh, I can see good in mine, that’s well. I see me in lovely woollen socks, playing the cello, talented me, listen to this Brahms lullaby I am playing in the chalice… hang on, this isn’t well! I’m the Duke’s servant. Oh look now! I’m the Duke now, as the Duke is now old and retired. But then I get dethroned (pity!) because they now know that I’m only a servant, and I’m back to Wisewand as a tutor and… yup! Well, that’s what my chalice tells me! Oh I have a long way to go! Well… maybe despite that I’m a bit old, seventy-one I am! Ho, ho.” “I’ve always wondered why your beard was so long!” said Dominique, a pupil, who had very, very long robes longer than drapes, a wand as thin as a rope and thick, round spectacles that made both his eyes look like white tennis balls with black drawn on them. Dominique’s spectacles have been his major aspect, since his thick, round spectacles were the thickest in the whole grade, and were even thicker than Norris’s which were the second-thickest beside Dominique. I must tell you, that Dominque and Norris have rivalled to see who could wear the thickest spectacles and Dominique seemed to be the current winner (which to be honest, is a very stupid thing to do). “Indeed, Dominique Brown,” said Sir Dimble. “Now, back to our lesson please! None o’ this silly chitchat about my age. It is very rude to talk about an old person’s age, so I plead you to shut up. Oh good, now! Is everyone done with watching their destiny or doom through the chalice?” But that moment, there was a shrill scream at the back of the classroom. “Argh!” It was Lewis. “S-s-sir… I saw the worst that could happen, ever, in my chalice. I only have one single acquaintance in Wisewand, you see. Her name… it’s… it’s Julia, in the other class, now in the astronomy room with Madame Wickets. Well, I saw her carried away… in a little truck that was occupied by many stout, bearded huntsman… and into the distant lands she went. It must be a curse upon her.” “Ar…” Sir Dimble tries to scream as well, but chokes in the middle and stops. “I suppose I haven’t gotten the hang o’ screaming then!” he said quickly. “Well Al… I mean, Lewis, is this ‘Julia’ you say very, maybe, significant to you?” “Yes, sir.” Sir Dimble is suddenly pale and overwhelmed. “Oh no! We can’t have a pupil here, carried away by huntsmen and killed! How terrible! Hang on, let me see your chalice,” said he. Slowly, rather bewildered, with his lip twitching about but no sound made, walked over to the pupil’s desk. “Oh I see… hang on! Only the person who brewed the brew can be able to see what they see, deeply… deeply… in their chalice. I think this will help,” he raised and wand and muttered, “Daunalvia.” Words cannot describe how he twitched. Quickly, perhaps. It was the only part on his head that moved. “Julia Valve, you say… very interesting, very interesting. Julia Valve, caught up in a net and journeyed to some weird Human world! We stand a distance away from them. I see many with guns and coming over the wood. Humans cause murder at every corner here and there in this wood which Humans are certainly not allowed in! Humph,” and he scrunched up his already wrinkly head in rage. “We cannot let them take Julia away…” “Be quiet, Sir Dimble. Julia Valve, in the astronomy room, is right beside the brews room,” said Norris. “She’ll probably hear you, anytime soon, she’s going to stomp into our room and…” “What are you talking about? Lewis, tell me what all this ridiculousness is, all this… well, what shall I call it? Nonsense!” came a very angry voice which was directly outside the brews room. It was Julia, not very happy. “Me, you say, driven away to a Human world and get…” “Now, Julie,” said Sir Dimble. “Do calm down.” “… killed! I can’t calm down! It is a typical thing to listen to! Why do I always get bothered when I go by the brews room? Just last week I heard that something awkward is supposed to happen to me by the time when the time is precisely at noon, October the 3rd! Oh, and Sir Dimble, do buy new robes,” and with that, she stormed away with rage, as he murmured quietly, “Of all the stupid things!” repeatedly. Sir Dimble smiled weakly. “I’m sorry about Julia,” said Lewis awkwardly. “She can be bit… grumpy at times. She’ll probably calm down. Julia’s easy to calm down. All she does is meditate with Madame Bethany, the meditations tutor. But, sir, I still am very concerned about her and what I saw in my chalice.” Just that moment, the bell rang. “Breaktime! We’ll have a conversation soon, Al,” said Sir Dimble. “Now! You may leave the room and remember, when break ends, be sure to meet Madame Violette at the courtyard to attend your broomstick lessons,” and Lewis winced at that. Broomstick lessons were his least favourite. It was highly dangerous, even though you were to wear protective gear. He ignored that he’d nearly, just nearly, had broken his wing last year and ended up in Doctor Beatrice’s cabin, and rushed out the brews room and bumped into Julia at the courtyard. “Oh, hullo,” said Julia. “Lewis, do you think that all this, about me, carried away by huntsmen… this is all true?” “Maybe yes, but maybe not,” replied Lewis. “Sir Dimble did say that these destiny and doom brews were highly inaccurate. I could see why. When Sir Dimble looked in his own chalice, he said he saw him as the Duke’s servant, with lovely woollen socks and playing the harp, then… well, it was pretty weird.” “Lewis, we need to soothe it all through so that we could assure ourselves. So, your chalice can be saying many things. We need to concentrate on what your chalice is trying to tell you. I know it may obviously seem like a warning it may not be. Well, partially a warning, at least. Maybe it were trying to tell you to do something? I know… your chalice seems to not be…” “Well, it’s good thinking,” said Lewis amusedly.

“Lewis!” cried Sir Dimble, who was busily running down the hallway, trying to make it to Lewis, who was standing there, not knowing what to do. Sir Dimble was holding a silver chalice in his old, shaky wing. It was still so dark at that time, (two thirty am, to be precise), that either the pupils can tell in case it really was Sir Dimble or someone else. Sir Dimble slowly began to appear in the misty darkness. “Now, Lewis, you may be a bit annoyed with me.” “No I’m not!” “Well, yes. But look deeper, Lewis. Look deeper. Much, much deeper. Deeper and deeper, Lewis, down into the chalice. Deeper…” “Well? What do you see?” asked Julia.

III

Huntsmen in the Wood

Just that moment, Barclay appeared behind them. “Mr Wells! Mr Barclay Wells!” said Sir Dimble. “I’ll be back to my desk, in a bit! I’m terribly sorry, Barclay… I’m always getting distracted, aren’t I? I really should concentrate more! I’ll be back at my desk in a second. I beg, Barclay…” “Do calm down, Hilary Dimble,” said Barclay calmly. “Do cool down since there is nothing to be sorry about. I am not here to tell on you, there is nothing to tell about, so please calm down. But I do have other news… and promise not to panic when I tell you what I am about to tell you. Now, stay calm, because I am here to warn you that… men are in the wood.” “Oh, that’s all right then… what! Sorry, I must be delirious,” said Sir Dimble. “I think you said… men are in the wood! I apologise, Barclay. I must certainly be delirious! Men haven’t come here since nine years ago, when they took away nearly one hundred owls. Ninety-nine precisely. Oh, it was brutal! Brandon Doyle was nearly taken away, he was my best man at my wedding, but quite luckily, with a dodge and swoop, he was able to escape even the bullets. Brandon was a legend.” Sir Dimble realised that the two pupils were right beside him, listening to the adults’ conversation and were both ultimately worried. “Lewis, Julie, don’t be scared. Suppose the chalice is a liar,” said Sir Dimble. “I’ll make an announcement over the school. I’ll tell them it’s not a swindle. Back to your dormitories, now. I’m praying that the chalice is a liar. I think the chalice can hear us. It’s very angry about what we said about it. See, look! It’s shaking around in rage,” and indeed it was, but it stopped when it apparently tipped over and made a small puddle. Sir Dimble gently picked the chalice up and placed it up on the little rock wall on which they were sitting. Suddenly, Sir Dimble’s tone abruptly changed. “I can see, Lewis, that this is no ordinary chalice. I’m very sure this chalice wants to help you.” “What use is a chalice? It can help me drink wine, drink juice, drink lemonade… but it can do nothing to help me now, you know! I say, Sir Dimble, you really are getting stupider as the day goes by.” “I remark, Lewis, you’re not the first one to say it,” said Sir Dimble. “Hilary Dimble,” interrupted Barclay. “I think we are talking too much in one subject than we are in another one, and this other one quite important indeed. Huntsmen, Dimble. We need to get all the pupils, all the tutors, and every single owl to hide indoors. We are not leaving a single owl out here. I’ll go alarm Stephanie Macmillan. She’ll call out an announcement over the whole school.” “What about me!” said Julia. “Me, Sir Dimble. Do you suppose that I really will be taken away?” “Yes, no, maybe,” spluttered Sir Dimble. “Oh bother, worry and worry about all that later. Just go to your dormitory and do not come out! Willard Sweeney will be guarding the corridors and halls and will make sure that no pupil comes out. He will be on day duty and night duty.” With that, Lewis and Julia quickly ran into the premises, while Barclay went to tell Madame Macmillan, and Sir Dimble ran in a random direction since he did not know where to go. Before considering, and before he knew it, Sir Dimble was screaming, “EVERYBODY RUN FOR YOUR LIVES BECAUSE THERE ARE HUNTSMAN IN THE WOOD!” “D’you think we’ll need the chalice? You know, just in case,” said Julia, as she and Lewis had reached the hallway. “Maybe Sir Dimble was right… even though he is a tiny bit stupid, about the chalice wanting to help you. Know what, Al, I’ll hurry back down into the courtyard to get the chalice.” “Don’t you dare,” said Lewis. “What if the huntsmen are waiting outside the double doors? I do not think Sir Sweeney will be very glad to come across a pupil heading outside. Don’t be daft, Julia. I must tell you, Julia, that the Old Ogre… I mean Sir Sweeney, he’s already on duty.” Just that moment, Sir Sweeney came along. He was a tough owl, and walked in a way which made the pupils want to get out of the way wherever he went. He approached Lewis and Julia in a very cautious way. “Whatcha talkin’ abou’?” asked he. “Somethin’ abou’ goin’ ou’side, ay! Now, I don’ wanna scare yeh little twerps, but I tell yeh this, no little twerp has ever gone pas’ me! No little twerp, no little twerp like yeh, ever gone pas’ me! I catch a little twerp escapin’ and that little ick is suspended right on the spot! I tell yeh, yeh gross twerps, that yeh are under suspicion!” and Sir Sweeney walked away, smirking. “I have a queer tingle in my body which tells me that he’s usually threatening the pupils around here,” said Lewis. “I say we stay out his way. He’ll beat us up when he’ll catch us outside. Bye, Julia. I’ll head to my dormitory you head to yours. Your dormitory. Do not go out, do not even think of it,” he added. “Well… in case you were thinking about doing that.”

With that, Lewis and Julia headed away to their own dormitories, separated into two genders. Madame Laughlin greeted the male owlets into the male dormitory kindly. She was an old dear who walked with a walking stick, and was strict but lovable at the same time. “Well then! Lewis, hurry into your dormitory. We won’t want a dead body lying around here. I’m only kidding, dear. But, seriously, try not to come across those vile wretches, those hairy blunderheads, those ugly cuckoos or they’ll shoot you with their guns,” said Madame Laughlin sternly, and gently patted Lewis on the head. “Now, in you go, in you go. You will not like those huntsmen, I tell you! Keep away, don’t even try to hunt those cuckoos down! I suppose all that’s going to do is those cuckoos to hunt you down instead. Oh, have I ever told you about my aunt…” Lewis walked into the dormitory in case Madame Laughlin was going to blurt away about her aunt. “Hullo,” said Harvey Brown, who was Lewis’s acquaintance. “So you’re in here as well. I suppose being trapped in our dormitory is better than being hunted down by those cruel brutes. My grandmamma, who moved away to live in the great snowy mountains, said when she was a little girl, she encountered a huntsman once. My grandmamma was lucky, you know. She escaped between the huntsmen’s legs, and she blasted away into the bright blue sky.” “Oh!” said Lewis, quite entranced by Harvey’s tale. “Hang on, keep quiet, Harvey,” and he took a glimpse out the window, and heard a loud bang, a bit like a gun, and then a manly groan which said, “Oh missed that badger! I missed that icky badger! Oh, the thing with those badgers, those…” and the groan swore so badly that Lewis had to close the window. “Harvey, the huntsmen are here. Quiet. Silence, everybody,” said Lewis, raising his voice to speak to the owls in his dormitory. “It’s the huntsmen! Out the window! Here! Silent!” and the whole dormitory was silent. “Well, pupils! I suppose that the… oh, good. You’re silent already, then! I won’t have to worry much about that,” trilled Madame Laughlin, who’d previously walked into the dormitory. “Now, I need to speak with you. Do not try and run away, out this dormitory. Nobody touch the door, not even I. It’s all settled now, please quieten down. I must tell you that those ugly, hairy huntsmen are right out there! We do not want to attract them. We do not want them to shoot us and boil us with carrots and beetroot in a hot, steaming pot! Kenneth Moore, pull down the drapes.” Kenneth Moore who was a skinny little owlet, went over to the windows to pull the drapes down. In a brisk second the whole dormitory was pitch black. “I must say, it is particularly dark in here,” remarked Madame Laughlin. She took a candle out her pocket, lit it, and placed it on a nearby table. “How lovely! Now, everyone be…” though Madame Laughlin was interrupted by a loud bang which startled her and the pupils in the dormitory. “Oh goodness,” gasped Kenneth Moore. “Madame Laughlin, pray ask, d’you think that bang could possibly be… a huntsman? You might think me very silly and you might doubt what I have said, but really, seriously, I really think I might be men. I think they’ve broken…” “Men have broken in!” cried a helpless voice outside. “Hurry up! Let me in! It’s me, Sir Dimble! Let me in! Now! It’s me, Hilary Dimble! Brews tutor! Let me in! Now! Hilary Dimble! Let in! Brews tutor! No brews! Let in! NOW! Let Dimble…” Kenneth Moore began to wave his wings around nervously. “Oh no! I swear we do not want any men in here. Oh, and Madame Laughlin, I advise you perhaps not to let Sir Dimble in. You know, he’s a bit… weird and… talks in riddles.” “Don’t be silly!” said Madame Laughlin, irate with how the owlets were behaving. “I’ll let him in. Oh, and he certainly does not talk in riddles. Sure, he’s a bit weird, but we don’t want him to die, do we? I suppose we can’t leave him out there. You may come in, Hilary.” Sir Dimble leaped in, without moment’s hesitation. “I was… chased!” he panted. “By… men! I was pursued like a little rat by these big grey dogs! Big grey dogs… these men! I nearly died you know! I were nearly caught and boiled up in a pot with carrots and beetroot! Oh, holy cow! Oh, goodness. I need time to catch my breath back…” and grunted and gasped several times in great distress. “Lewis,” he said at last. “I have to tell you something! I have to tell you something!” Lewis looked up, surprised. I was very unusual that he was told anything personally, relevant only to him. “Lewis! I must tell you, Lewis. It is something very urgent. Very urgent indeed. It seems to be that the chalice is no liar. It was… warning us! It’s really happened now, Lewis. Hang on, I’ve got asthma. I need to take it slowly…” “Heaven’s sake, Hilary!” cried Madame Laughlin. “Monsieur Dimble! Hilary Dimble! Hilary, you certainly do not have asthma. You’re in great distress, that’s what. Now, I do tell you to calm down. I’m sure Lewis here would not be very enchanted by what you’re going to tell…” “Wendy Laughlin, give me a chance to speak! Lewis, I’m to tell you that… Julie, well, she’s gone. She doesn’t happen to be in her dormitory,” spluttered Sir Dimble, shaking.

“So you’re telling me that Julia’s been taken away? But I think Sir Sweeney would’ve seen what happened clearly,” said Lewis. “It’s impossible to take Julia away without anyone noticing. Barclay told me that guards are at duty in every single nook and cranny! Every single nook and cranny. It’s impossible to steal a pupil out now. Barclay’s going a bit mad, I must admit. He’s even putting a couple monsters in here. Just then, I think I saw a great big Billiartango, walking around our premises like a great, big, ugly nincompoop! Oh, I hate those things.” “I’ve brought the chalice here, Lewis,” said Sir Dimble. “I’m very sure the chalice actually wants you to… to attempt save Julia. But I cannot risk it! It is against the law to kick a helpless owlet into the wood while there’re huntsmen around. Huntsmen around every single tree out there.” Out Sir Dimble’s robes came a chalice. It was Lewis’s chalice, and was shaking around in rage once again. “I’m not lying to you,” continued Sir Dimble. “It really wants you to… to… to go on bring Julia back. Wait, everyone silent! I’m listening to a peculiar sound out this window,” and indeed there was weeping. It was Julia, dragged by huntsmen. “Let me go!” whined Julia’s quiet little voice. She was struggling. “Let me go! Have mercy! Let me go! Oh, mercy! I beg, please! Have mercy! Let me go! I don’t ever want to…” “Oh, hold yeh tongue!” growled a huntsman. “Willoughby, take care o’ this wee owlet, I’m goin’ ter go hunt down that deer which I missed earlier. Deers are a hard thin’ ter catch, yeh know. It takes ‘ard work ‘n’ luck. Huntin’ is all ‘bout luck! Willoughby, I’ll leave yeh with this wee bird.” “Seems good ter me!” said the man called Willoughby. “I will not let this wee bird out o’ me sight. Yeh heard me, yeh icky little owl. So don’t yeh try and… and… escape. Yeh have no chance to escape, yeh! I will have a good ol’ chuckle ‘bout catchin’ yeh in case you really do escape.” Meanwhile, back in the dormitory, Lewis was shaking with worry. Sir Dimble put his wing gently on Lewis’s shoulder. “You know what, Lewis,” he said. “I think there’s nothing we can do. We will have to let Julie… well, maybe you’re a bit young to hear this word but… Lewis? Lewis! Lewis! You, Lewis! Don’t you dare… come over here, Lewis! Get off! NOOO!” Lewis was perched on the windowsill, by the open window, and was aimed towards Willoughby, a tall, chubby man who was heavily armed with a gun and a lasso, who had Julia. He seemed ready to blast away any moment. Madame Laughlin joined in with the commotion, desperately trying to convince Lewis to come back, and Sir Dimble was even now desperately trying to pull him back, which ended rather unpleasantly, since Sir Dimble collapsed on Madame Laughlin and the two tutors were piled up in an owl pile. “Hilary Dimble! Your bottom is in my head! Hilary Dimble, we need to arrange ourselves! Oh dear. Hilary, did you just blow away? I must say, Hilary, it is very windy in here. Your wind, Hilary! Hilary Dimble, how dare you blow your bottom right in my nostrils!” screamed poor Madame Laughlin. She reappeared, coughing and spluttering, as the wind spread around the whole dormitory. “Oi! Come away from that window, Lewis! Boy! LEWIS! Nooooo!” But it was too late, as the little owl had already blasted away, out the window, aimed straight at Willoughby. Julia spotted Lewis, soaring away in the air. “Hey! Over here! Over here!” she cried, desperately, as loud as her little voice can reach. Willoughby looked up. In his terror, there in the bright blue sky was a barn owl, about to bump him over. With that, he grabbed his gun and waved it at the owl in the sky. “I’ll git yeh!” he hollered. “I’ll git yeh! Stay still, yeh! I’ll throttle yeh until yeh can’t breathe no more! I’ll git yeh! I’ll git yeh, yeh little icky twerp! Yeh disgustin’ creature!” But then, Willoughby realised how stupid he was being, threatening the owl when he hadn’t even cocked his gun yet. He quickly lowered it, and tried to cock it. He fidgeted, grunting. “Oh, this useless thin’!” he groaned. “Hurry up, pistol! Or I’ll be bonked over by an owl!” Lewis didn’t waste a second. He dived right at Willoughby and within seconds the weighty man was knocked out cold. Lewis had crash landed as well, with a bruise on his wing and a small cut across his other wing, but his injuries were not as serious as the huntsman’s, since he had used Willoughby as a trampoline. “Julia, are you alright?” he asked, brushing his cut wing gently. “I suppose,” said Julia. “Ugh! Blood, Lewis! You’ve got a small red smudge over your wing. Not much, but still, you’ve cut your wing. You’ve cut your wing, Al! I can recognise a cut in any second, you know. My granddad’s a doctor, and he can recognise a cut without even looking at it. He was a marvel. I really hope I had a bandage with me, that’s what my granddad used to cure cuts. When we get back I say we visit the sick room. Nurse Octavia will glue you back into one piece.” “But I am in one piece, Julia. I don’t need to be glued into one piece. Unless it’s a catchphrase your granddad said. Your relatives all seemed to have a catchphrase. You said that your little sister’s catchphrase was, ‘Mummy!’, your grandmother’s was something a bit like, ‘Has anyone seen my spectacles?’, your brainy cousin’s was, ‘I need my study books!’, your grand uncle who was a gardener was always saying, ‘Mowers, that’s what I need,’ and… how many relatives do you have?” “Not sure,” said Julia, trying to count in her head. “But we really must be going. We need to get you to see Nurse Octavia, or your wing may get. I’ll say nothing about what you did, as I am sure you will be suspended. Well, at least, whoever saw it will suspend you, but I am sure they’ll understand when we talk it through. I’m overly impressed, Lewis, that you really are in one piece, though. Oh, and my granddad’s catchphrase was not, ‘We need to glue you back into one piece’. I think it was, ‘My stethoscope is broken!’ Well, I suppose that’s the thing with granddads, always complaining that something is broken. But, once again, my granddad’s stethoscope did always break.” Without hesitation, the pair soared through Nurse Octavia’s window, were the nurse lady was busily bandaging Sir Sweeney’s cuts, who was sitting on a little bed. Sir Sweeney’s manly voice was not so manly anymore as he was now injured all around, couldn’t speak properly, and had a high little squeaky voice. “I must thank you, Octavia,” he murmured. “It was that time when, standing right beside me was a man! I tried to battle him back, honestly I did, but he won the war. Well, I suppose he was running too quick and ended up plummeting out the window. It was certainly a moment which I had to laugh on, Octavia, but that man didn’t perish as he landed in the soft soggy soil where our plums were planted in the garden. So that’s a shame because he probably ruined a plum or two, but he was now out our premises, so he couldn’t get back in, as all the doors and windows were locked. We only opened the windows on the higher grounds, but he had no ladder or something to…” but he paused abruptly as he looked at the two owlets in the sick room, “Oi! It’s you! I really have a good mind to suspend you, caught out your dormitories! Humph, I’ll suspend you right on the spot! I’ll be meeting you two twerps in my…” “Do calm down, Sweeney!” snapped Nurse Octavia. “I’m supposed to do my duty! Now then, tell me why you two little owlets are out here, and pray tell which one is injured or sick. I have all the things possible to cure any owl who is bruised, sick, cut or sometimes even near their peril!” and it was true too. Her shelves were lined with all the things which a nurse’s room kept. “Lewis got a cut wing,” said Julia presently. “It’s only a cut, but as my granddad is a doctor and he has once said, ‘Any injury is an injury, no matter how small it is or how deadly it is,’ and I wished he hadn’t said that, since his saying has gotten me concerned about him. But we mustn’t talk gibberish, now, Nurse Octavia, as Lewis needs a bandage or two.” “Hmm,” mused Nurse Octavia. “I see. A cut, well… I suppose I’ve treated injuries and sicknesses more deadly than malaria, and cuts are in the lower class. Not very deadly, but needs to be treated at once, as we’ll have to amputate it in case we don’t. Sit down, boy. Hang on a minute, where are my bandages? Ah, yes. Here in the ‘B’ row,” and she grabbed her bandages. “I’ve been using these bandages since twenty years ago, when I began to work here in the Wood. At that time I and my bandages worked at a clinic. I were only a young, young woman without wrinkles at that time. It was a memorable moment when I had my first patient. His name was Hog, and he had a terribly bad splinter. I did not know what to do. I thought it was obvious that I had to get a pincer at once and pull the splinter out. I should’ve gone more gentle on Hog since he stormed out my room without even paying! Oh, typical owl, Hog was. But sure, it was my mistake, too, trying to pull the splinter out too hard, I admit it, but pulling splinters does hurt that much. I think.” As she said all this, she was bandaging Lewis’s wing. “Done!” she sighed, and mopped her brow with a hankie. “I must say, in all my twenty years being a nurse I have never been this busy! Owls all injured here and cut and bruised by huntsmen! But at least my salary grew by ninety percent. Now, you two youngsters need to be back to your dormitories. I hope you know your way back. Don’t dawdle or skedaddle or dillydally around the place, dears. You saw quite precisely what had happened to Sir Sweeney, did you? You’ll be ending up back in my room second time today!” and that brought Nurse Octavia to hurry the two owlets out her room.


IV

The Old Man Under the Hood

“I really am glad you’re back, Lewis,” said Madame Laughlin. “You would be caught in the hour, the witching hour, and I will tell you at once what the witching hour is. It is when the clocks strike midnight, and suddenly, hooded men come galloping on black horses. It is the hour that only will only commence when there are huntsmen about. Horrible! My granddaughter once had stayed up a bit too late and saw these wicked hooded men on black horses. But we are not letting anyone in this dormitory be caught. We will have windows locked at lights out, and no lamp will be permitted to be alight. Now, it’s three o’clock in the morning, so we honestly must have our brekky by now. We’ll have to walk together to the Dining Hall. We’ve managed to get a new cook at the Dining Hall. His name is Beer, he is… not so smart , and his meals may not precisely be… ‘merry’. But I’m sure you’ll respect Beer just the way you treat your tutors. Now, come on. We will be walking quietly, not to attract any ugly idiots this morning! Oh, yes, dear Kenneth Moore, when I say ‘ugly idiots’, I am speaking ‘huntsmen’, because that’s what they are. Huntsmen are ‘ugly idiots covered with little hair sprouting around their body.’ Ugh! Disgusting things,” and she talked no more, as she pulled open the double doors and lead the pupils out. “Now, the Dining Hall is on the third storey. It may be a long journey there, so be patient.” Madame Laughlin was correct. It was three-thirty am by the time the owls arrived at the Dining Hall. All the tables were very long, set with candles and tissues set with eating instruments on it. It was a rather posh arrangement, with a chandelier. “What a very marvellous hall!” remarked Lewis, pretending he had never been in the Dining Hall all his living. He was greeted by Beer, a moustached owl who had an Italian accent. “Hullo, hullo!” he said. “You must be a pupil at this magnifico place! I am very pleased to be your cook. Now, tell me at once what you want today! We have a special meal, and I shall tell you what I have to surprise you with! Drumroll please… sugary slug soup! No? Are you sure, signor? No sugary slug soup? My top three meals! Now let me see, not sugary slug soup then. I think you will like… wriggly worm smoothie! It looks like this. Oh, I must have not made it right! I think the wriggly worms are still alive. No? Darn and blast!” “I’ll just get a drink, Beer,” said Lewis quickly. “But signor, it is dull to drink without eating,” replied Beer gloomily. “Oh, alright, signor. Drinks, drinks… I have succo di lumaca! Known as slug juice. I hope you like slug juice, signor. Slug juice is also known as succo di lumaca, as it originates in Venice, Italia, at around the eleventh century. It is pronounced succo di lumaca in Italian. We give thanks to the Italia culture, as succo di lumaca is my top drink. Always order it at restaurants. I only go to Italia restaurants. No other restaurant is able to produce any succo di lumaca! I am not sure why. Is it because it is too complicated and delicious to resist and the cooks drink the succo di lumaca stealthily? I think so. Italia is a marvel to be able to produce succo di lumaca. Succo di lumaca… simply sipping on succo di lumaca… we do not say slug juice. We say succo di lumaca, to pay our respects to Marco Marino, the Italian owl to invent what is now succo di lumaca. It used to melted marshmallow originally when Marco Marino invented it, but is now succo di lumaca. Melted marshmallow is horrible. Utterly stupid! Now I’m actually very annoyed with Marco Marino to have invented melted marshmallow. Stupid Marco Marino.” “Maybe I’ll just have some water,” replied Lewis. “I… uh… like succo di lumaca, Beer, but I’m not very hungry. Water is alright. I’ll just have some water. I don’t need a jumbo brekky, Beer.” “You sure, signor? We do have lumache schiacciate, or squished snails a great dish invented by a cook who lived at the early seventeenth century in Italia called Silvio Damico who… hey! Where is that boy gone? Boy! Ay, come here! You need to pay...” “Beer,” snapped Madame Laughlin harshly, who was standing in the queue. “Our pupils don’t have any money. Don’t think they’ll pay. You’ll receive your salary when dinner here at the Dining Hall is done. Oh, and Lewis is only trying to escape…” “Escape my precious foods?” gasped Beer. “I meant the boy’s trying to… uh… sit down. Yes, there he is! Sitting down by Julia and Harvey. You know, Beer, I don’t need brekky today. Unless there is any hot tea. I hope you have hot tea. Uh, no slugs in it, Beer. I’m being very honest, Marty Beer, no slugs or worms or snails or…” But Madame Laughlin never got the chance to complete her sentence, as she was interrupted by a hooded man coming in, through the door, on a black horse. Beer screamed and toppled over. “It’s a man!” he suddenly cried, as he managed to get up. “He’s got a hood on! Oi, go away, you rascal! Don’t you come here or I’ll drench you with my… succo di lumaca and lumache schiacciate! Don’t you come near! Don’t you come near! Don’t you…” “I wish no harm,” murmured a voice under the hood. It only had a pipe dangling out the hood and its head had been covered completely. He walked over to Beer, abandoning his horse. “You,” said he, as a long wrinkly hand touched Beer. “He’s a man!” screamed Beer. “It’s a man’s hand! I say we need to leave this room! He’s going to… kill me! You leave me alone! You get that hand away…” Beer suddenly disappeared when he had been touched by the man. All that remained was Beer’s moustache. “I do say,” murmured Madame Laughlin. “Beer’s gone but his moustache is not! What a complete disaster,” and she pulled out her wand, “You! How dare you… You leave me alone…” “I wish you to put that wand down, ma’am,” said the hooded man. “I do not need much, as I am not a greedy beggar. But I want to take two pupils away, who are currently on the table chattering right now. I wish to take these two pupils away: Julia and Lewis. Now, let me take them…” “No!” pleaded Julia. “Leave me alone… argh! LEWIS! He’s got me! He’s got me! He’s got both of us!” She pulled out her wand, and pointed it at the hooded man to threaten him, but the man did not react. “You,” the man said, as pointed his long bony hand directly at Lewis. “I promise all the owls in this hall, I’m no bad soul. I’ll take Lewis here, and I’ll be on my way. Oh, let me take them.” “Let them go!” yelled Harvey, who stood up and pointed his wand at the man. “Let them go right this instant, or I’ll… or I’ll… blast you to pieces,” then he bent down to speak to Norris, who sat right beside him. Norris shrugged when Harvey asked which spell that was, which meant trouble. “I may not be able to blast you to pieces, mister, but I’ll… I’ll…” “I shall talk no more,” said the man, who had pushed both pupils he wanted to take into a sack. “I will make my quick departure. Stanley, good boy, come here,” and his black horse walked steadily, prudent not to step on anyone, over to the hooded man, who mounted the horse. Harvey leaped up in attempt to knock the sack out the man’s hands. But that moment, the man clapped thrice and he and his black horse both suddenly disappeared. He did not ride away, but indeed magically clapped three times and disappeared. Harvey landed on the ground. “Oomph,” he cried. Madame Laughlin rushed over to help him up. “We need to organise a search party. You know, that hooded man can be anywhere. He can be just in this wood, or in the Snowy Mountains, or perhaps on the moon.” Meanwhile, in the sack, the two young owls both heard the hooded man’s husky voice beckoning them to crawl out the sack. Lewis did, with his wand in the air. But both owlets were particularly surprised to see the man smiling. He was not in his hood anymore. What had been under the hood was an old, wrinkly man, with a bushy moustache, a monocle on one eye, and a little bower hat on his head. He was a man who usually seemed upper-class and particularly posh. He had a bowtie, which was rather large. He wore long pants, as upper-class and particularly posh men do not wear shorts. He had a heavy pocket watch that was embroidered with something silver. It was a watch which, listening closely, you would hear it ticking every second. He had a cane, which had been put down. “Where… are we?” wondered Lewis, though did not dare say it out loud. “We are in my manor, Hull Street, No.4,” said the man, reading the little owl’s mind. “My manor is a very big one, and I’m a posh man. You can tell that, as these clothes are what I wear all day.” “Oh, pooh. I think wearing that all day in midsummer will be rather hot,” observed Lewis, again not saying it aloud. “Indeed it does get rather hot in midsummer, especially when you wear it all day long. Which is why I like my showers running with cold water. Maybe not your liking, but is certainly mine. Men who were thick velvets and bowties all day in midsummer will probably agree with me,” said the man, reading the owlet’s mind once more. “Now! Manners, my manners. Let me introduce. You may call me Mr Howard, but you are to call me Mr Howard only by special permission. I do not allow anyone else to call me Mr Howard, as I tell them to call me ‘Lysander’, even though ‘Howard’ really is my surname, whilst ‘Lysander’ is not the name which is supposed to come behind ‘Howard’. I think ‘Lysander’ is such a grand name, and I like it. You can call me either ‘Mr Howard’, ‘Sir Howard’, or ‘Lysander’. But I like ‘Mr Howard’, and that is what I want you to call me. Now tell me who you are. Which one is the gentle-owl and which is the lady-owl?” “No I should not,” snapped Lewis, “Because I want to know what you are going to do with us, in your manor which I think is probably in a suburb called Nowhere. Are you a huntsman in disguise as an old man to catch us?” “No,” said Mr Howard. “You’re Lewis, I’m sure, and you better be… oh, well, you’re an owl and you don’t understand. I am saving your dear soul right now, keeping you where those huntsman cannot come, you know.” “Well, you needn’t dress up like a hooded man on a black horse, who are supposed to come in our wood by the witching hour,” said Lewis, even though that Julia was gesturing him to be quiet. “Why do not you just come into our dining hall, dressed up like this?” “Oh, you see, I have been trying to get you ever since the minute you were born. Lewis, my dear owl, you are the one who every huntsman in trying to hunt,” said Mr Howard. “You too, Julia. I dressed up like that, as the men on the huntsmen’s side all wear such and ride black horses, and those that do not are certainly not on their side. I don’t want to be killed by those men.” “What’s so special about us?” asked Julia, who did not succeed at her attempt to stay silent. “Oh, you’re the only owls who are actually magic. All the other owls, (not Barclay) are not really magic. All the other owls are only doing magic, but that doesn’t mean they are, themselves, magic. Only doing magic shows no evidence that there is magic running in them. What the huntsmen want is your soul. It’s just my way to say ‘they want to kill you’. Don’t panic, my manor, which named ‘Star Manor’ ever since I brought it, it’s a beauty, and it is certainly not anywhere near your wood, which means no huntsman is able to come and catch you here. Oh, and I also have guards on my side, marching here and there. My guards know every nook and cranny around here nearly as well as I do!” he added proudly. “I’ve hired precisely seventy-three guards now, and seventy-two I hired directly out the army! Believe it, my dear owlets, I’ve hired seventy-two which I hired directly out the army, and the remaining one that has not been hired out the army is my pigeon. An aggressive one, too. But I’ve tamed it and I’ll tell it not to come pecking you, Lewis and Julia. It only pecks strangers. Well… I suppose Simon, a guard, was pecked by dear old pigeon. Oh dear! I’m rather scared when I come across him, you know, my pigeon. But he’s always saying, “Oi! You!” to me on purpose to startle me, and bursts out laughing. More like cackling. He’s an old pigeon.” “I’m more interested in a trout or two than listening to you blab away about all this and that,” said Lewis, who still did not trust Mr Howard wholeheartedly. “I’ve hardly had anything to eat. But staying hungry is at least a way to not eat succo di lumaca and lumache schiacciate. I hope you have trout. I like trout as my brekky, lunch and dinner.” “I do indeed,” said Mr Howard. “I’ll cook it right away, and get the guards out the dining hall if they please. Yes, I have dining hall, as my manor is a very large one, as said earlier. It’s nearly as large as yours, the one I wore the hood in and rode the black horse into.” “Wait,” said Lewis. “I have a question.” “I see,” said Mr Howard. “Well, I can wait. I suppose tea isn’t much a pleasure, you know. I guess tea can wait. Oh, do carry on, dear Lewis.” “I don’t understand how you made Beer disappear by touching him,” replied Lewis. “I… I mean, Beer was standing right there, trembling, with his wand up and you touched him… and… and… all that remained was his moustache. How… I mean, you’re not magic, are you?” “I’m not,” murmured Mr Howard, sitting down in an armchair, as he placed a pipe in his mouth and chewed on it. “But my hand is,” and with that, he clenched up his hand. “It’s the magic, it’s returning to me now. Look here, I can make anything happen with my hand. I can let bald penguins soar right through my window. All you do is tell me how many bald penguins you want.” “One-million-eight-hundred-and-seventy-seven-three-hundred-and-eighty-nine,” spluttered Julia randomly without hesitation. “You said so,” said the man. His moustached twitched, and he unclenched his hand. “Hold on to your hats!” he cried, as he did to his own bower hat, and that moment, many bald penguins came crashing in through the window. It alerted all the guards, including the pigeon. When the pigeon went diving at the penguins, he did not succeed. A penguin hit him instead, and he toppled down to the ground, and so that did happen to many other guards. “Argh!” cried a guard, dodging bald penguins. “Stop it!” cried another, trying to shoo the penguins away. “I want my mummy!” bawled the last, bursting into tears. All the guards were soon knocked to the ground by bald penguins soaring in the manor, and some had to throw spoons around. But as many were throwing spoons around, what happened was that each guard was knocked over by spoons being thrown by the others. “Argh!” cried a guard, dodging spoons. “Stop it!” cried another, trying to shoo the spoons away. “I want my mummy!” bawled the last, bursting in tears. “Oh dear,” murmured Mr Howard. “Now this is very chaotic. You know what, I’ll going to allow the penguins to go back to Antarctica. Oh my, look there! It’s a flying guard!” Indeed, a tall, thin guard was soaring in the air on a bald penguin. “Attaboy!” cried the guard, who soon toppled over. It was like the moment in a rodeo show, when the horse would knock down its rider with great pleasure, and the penguin was in great pleasure to do just that. “I’ll stop this right now,” said Mr Howard. “I’ll have to kick out some guards, you know. Honestly! Stop throwing spoons! You’re hitting each other! Oh my,” with that he snapped his hand, and in an instant, all the bald penguins were gone. Mr Howard’s manor had become quite a mess with unconscious guards all laid here and there. “Hm!” murmured the man grumpily. “Honestly! I cannot possibly live in this estate with all these guards lying around. It gives me a chill! I say you all get up, guards, and go back to duty. You look dead, you know. It’s like a million corpses lying in my manor!” “We should move,” replied Lewis. “I’m sure you’re wealthy enough to be able to buy a manor somewhere else, maybe in the wood or by the seaside. You’ll be even wealthier when you sell this manor, and you’re already very wealthy. Which means you’ll have at least three-hundred million. It’s a rough estimate. Anyway, you’ll have enough money to buy a new manor. I say we contact a real estate agent and buy their largest manor.” “Ah, great thinking,” said Mr Howard. “I’ll call William Brooch. He was the generous man who sold me this manor. I won’t say such a ‘good’ manor, there’s a leak in the third bathroom on the seventh storey. But yes, I’ll call William Brooch. He’s marvellously busy these days, he told me. Dear William wants to be called Mr Brooch. Mr Brooch is so busy that his salary has grown. By seventy percent! He’s a wealthy man, now. Nearly as wealthy as me! Dear William Brooch told me that he currently brought a house that takes up seven acres. Seven acres! Not as big as mine,” added Mr Howard, trying his hardest not to boast. He walked over to a telephone and dialled a number. Mr Howard waited, and suddenly said, “Ah! Mr Brooch. I’m Mr Howard. You’re doing marvellous, I suppose, congrats! You got a seven-acre mansion! I congratulate you, Mr Brooch. Now, I hope you have time. I’m rather interested in selling my property, my monstrous manor. Yes. It’s on Hull Street, No. 4. Selling my property, I would want to then buy another manor in return. I want a bigger manor than my old one. Selling my property, you say? Mm hmm… it cost me eight million British pounds to buy me my old manor. You reckon that? Very interesting! I see, my new manor on Derrick Drive No. 2, you say? Seventeen acres! Wow! I’ll buy it straight away, thanks.”


V

The Rich House Seller

“We’re buying it,” said Mr Howard to the two owls who were listening closely, as he hanged up and put his telephone down. “I’ll be moving out my old manor with my guards, including the old pigeon. William Brooch said we can meet at my new manor, Derrick Drive No. 2 when it is Sunday, this Sunday. Sunday seems to be right tomorrow! I’m rather jolly to meet him, Mr Brooch, you know. I know all about his achievements! I think we’re able to meet him today, well, only at his manor, which covers seven acres. I shall get my tie out and put on my best bower hat! Housekeeper, come here!” An old stout woman came stumbling along with a mop in hand. “I think, master, bald penguins just came to visit. I’m sorry, Lysander Howard (is Lysander really your name?) but those stupid bald penguins broke a plate or two! I’m sorry, I really deserve to be kicked out don’t I?” but the truth was, the housekeeper didn’t ever wanted to be a housekeeper. “Mary, I am not going to kick you out, due to something that you didn’t commence,” said Mr Howard. “Instead, Mary, may I ask you to get the mare out. I’m heading over to a very wealthy house seller, Mr Brooch.” “Mr Brooch, you say! He’s that merchant right down the road. He gave me this bracelet,” said the birdbrained housekeeper. “What a generous man who was. It was cheap, too! Only a penny or two and that settled it. Maybe not literally a penny or two, but it was cheap.” “No, Mary. He’s the generous man who gave us this manor,” said Mr Howard. “I’m rather interested in moving manors. I’ll be selling this one. We’ll be living in a much bigger one. I am quite sure our new one, on Derrick Drive No. 2 covers seventeen acres! Imagine that! It is huge, seventeen acres. It’s nearly double our current manor.” But the housekeeper had already gone to get the mare out. “Here, Missy. Oh, come here, you horse,” Missy was the mare’s name, “Out!” grunted the housekeeper, pinching her nose tighter and tighter as she urged closer to the manure pile. “Oh, do come along, Missy,” said Mr Howard. “I’m certainly not whipping mares today!” and as the moustached man said that the mare trudged out into the mud, relieved to hear that she was not going to be whipped today. Mary, who was standing right beside Missy, was knocked over by the creature and landed right in the manure pile. Squelch! “Here now, that’s a good Missy,” said Mr Howard, as he patted the mare gently and gave her a carrot. “Now, I’ll tie Missy up to the horse carriage. I want you, Mary… Mary! You better have a good and proper bath. You seem like you’ve just been messing around in the manure pile!” “I have,” sobbed Mary. “Now then!” snapped Mr Howard, as Mary walked up the stairs to the bathroom to clean up. “I’d better tie Missy up to the horse carriage and get her ready.” “We can help,” said Julia. “No we can’t,” said Lewis. “We don’t know how. I don’t even know how to tie a knot! Oh woe. I better be taught how to. I’ve always been told that not knowing how to tie a knot can be evident to show that there is stupidity inside you.” “No, I don’t need help,” said Mr Howard. “You two just sit back in the carriage while I tie it up to the mare, and we’ll soon be on our way to Mr Brooch’s place.” With that, the owlets both hopped into the horse carriage as Mr Howard tied Missy to the carriage. When all had been settled, the man clambered in to join the owlets. “Jerry, come over here,” said Mr Howard, and a man with a long grey beard and bushy eyebrows quickly clambered into the carriage. “He’s the driver,” said Mr Howard, and shouted once again, “I want Simon and Douglas, please,” and two guards came marching along. Simon and Douglas both clambered into the carriage. “Simon and Douglas are the guards,” said Mr Howard. “All horse carriages have guards in them, in case there are assassins around.” “We’re going,” said Jerry. “Missy, away we trot! Missy! You are being most disobedient, I tell you. Move, Missy… woah! Missy’s moving at last. Slow down, Missy. Don’t gallop.” It was a pleasant morning to be on. Down by the riverbank the toads sang their symphony, and above the river, above where the tadpoles held their swimming carnivals, were the pink waterlilies which attracted to honeybees. “What an ideally fine day!” said Jerry. “I won’t be surprised to see the roads to be packed today. Look at all this greenery! I think Missy is agreeing with me. Hear her joyous neighs in agreement! Now, dear Mr Howard, do tell me about who’re on the roads today.” “I don’t even know who are on the roads today, Jerry, or at least your request to me to tell you about who’s on the roads today… which I’m not sure really is a request… is a request that I don’t need to do. You know about who’s on the roads today better than me, Jerry, you’re the driver here, in the horse carriage. Don’t think I’ll be telling you about such.” “It’s just my driver talk,” said Jerry. “It’s rhetorical. Drivers are always talking about those yams their spread in public and the worst roads to go on. But, once again, you can give the answer that the newspaper boy is on the roads, he is. We can be sure that he’s on the roads. He’s always bustling along and throwing newspapers at people. His name’s Bill. Or John, I think it is. No, no, I’m quite sure it’s Bill. Ah, yes! Billy, that’s right. His name is Billy.” “Well, newspaper boy or not, we seem to have arrived dear William Brooch’s manor. It is bigger than what I pictured. Seven acres, though, his manor is. How marvellous! I’m sure it will be a pleasure to meet him,” said Mr Howard. “I and these two owlets here will be going to meet him. Jerry, I want you to let the mare have some time on the moor that lays beside Mr Brooch’s manor, and put the horse carriage somewhere. I’ll be back soon!” and Lewis and Julia jumped out the horse carriage, along with Mr Howard. Mr Brooch, the wealthy house seller was standing by the double doors, admiring the marvellous morning which he was on. He was interrupted by Mr Howard, who said, “Hullo. You must be Mr Brooch.” Mr Brooch turned his head at his visitor. “Why, hullo,” he replied in return. He was a man who had a bushy white moustache, neatly shaved. His hair was white, too. On his head sat a tall black top hat. He wore a handsome business suit and a tie, long trousers and shoes which were leather and shiny. So shiny that you can see your own reflection in it.

“Who are you?” demanded Mr Brooch severely. “I do not want any, say, thieves coming in my manor. I want you to tell me who you are, whether you’re Ned Kelly or Hitler, whether you’re some notorious pirate in disguise or even a ghost. I want you to tell me who you are, whether you may be Isaac Newton or Ludwig van Beethoven, who are both dead. You look a bit like an emperor in disguise, even though emperors are not any more now. Now tell me who you are, whether you may be a polite gentleman who never has the mind to travel or to go on what those people call ‘journeys’, or whether you may be an adventurous spirit, who desires to travel around the world in eighty days and would depart your own suburb every now and then to visit your grand uncle in Norway, or whether you’re…” “Be quiet, you!” snapped Mr Howard, rather shocked by his own outburst. “My name, with great pride upon all my relatives, is Mr Howard. My pa was a clergyman in a church, and I had a ma who was a lecturer. ‘Howard’ is a very upper-class and a very well-done surname, I admit it, and I’m sorry to all those people who have lower-class and unwell-done surnames but all you need to know is that my surname is a great pride upon all my relatives who have the surname ‘Howard’. I am an upper-class and well-done gentleman, so the name suits me. Suits me very well indeed.” “Ah!” said Mr Brooch, smiling. “You’re Mr Howard, eh? You’re that gentleman who called me on the telephone. You’re moving to a seventeen-acre manor on Derrick Drive, then! Oh how marvellous. Now, do come in, as I have tea. We can talk and blabber in my manor than outside here, being struck right on the cheek by the shining sun. Oh, I hate it.” Mr Brooch was a very wrinkled man, who mostly wore the clothes that Mr Howard wore, only without the monocle on the eye. In his manor were butlers bustling around busily. All the butlers were carrying either the most marvellous meals you can imagine or the poshest tea sets that were only owned by royal people. Mr Brooch was a strict man but polite to his visitors. He never allowed visitors, though, to touch any precious treasures which seemed as though were clearly saying to you, “I’m a shiny sapphire!” or “I’m a precious ruby!” and so. “Don’t touch those,” said Mr Brooch, as Mr Howard reached out to a priceless diamond.

“Here’s the lounge,” said Mr Brooch. “Sit down in an armchair and have a break beside the burning hearth. Now, about the manor, yes. Seventeen acres, Derrick Drive No. 2. Derrick Drive is a street that has many marvellous manors. Such as the one Miss Lucia lives in. I sold a thirteen-acre to her last week. It was a great sale,” and he closed his eyes, as he placed his wrinkled hands near the hearth to warm them up a bit. All I can tell you now is that this is a tale that all owls on our planet deserve to be told about.


Epilogue

But it is not the end just yet. As many classics have an epilogue, the tale you hold currently in your hands shall have one to. Many people wonder about what happened to Beer. Well, that is something that I have heard only very little about, as Beer was not seen in weeks and weeks, eight weeks to be precise, but when the men had cleared away, there in the dining hall was Beer! He was seen, but what happened to him, as most people still wonder. What happened to him was something that Beer vowed to never tell anyone, which means I do not have anything to write down, and you will have your question unanswered. What did happen to Beer is what everyone wants to know. One thing that I should mention was that when Beer came back, his moustached wasn’t on him, and that is answerable, as when Beer disappeared, you may remember that he had gone but not his moustache, and his moustache would not pin back onto him, even when he used glue. Which also answers the question why everyone started to call him ‘Mr Moustache-Less Beer’. Beer (or should I say ‘Mr Moustache-Less Beer’), was unemployed but had enough luck to be employed as a cook at a restaurant run by a kindly old badger, and this tale like many other tales has a happy ending, and that, I now declare, is the end.

[1] Barclay is an ancient owl who is the current headmaster of Wisewand.

THE END!

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