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  • Writer's pictureOliver Sun

The CHILDREN and the BADGER (A tale by Oliver Sun)

I The Badger that Visited one Morning

It was winter, and in the land of Wreazidole, which neighboured the lands of Kroniel and Sturuth, a steady snow fell, covering nearly everything it touched. Prince Cyril, the son of the king, a stern man who rarely spoke and was usually polite, was still squirming around in his bed while Gilbert and Lucy slept in other rooms, his two elder siblings. Being the youngest, Cyril was the one which who was the that was the hardest to care for. “Cyril’s quite a child,” said King Baron one day to his wife, Queen Belinda. “I guess there isn’t anything we can do. If we throw him away then our royal line will end.” Queen Belinda, who was even less communicative than the king, simply nodded, but her mouth was kept shut, for it was a rude subject to talk about a person in secret from the person you are speaking about. But she thought it ruder to ignore what one had to say to you (especially the king), and so she said, “Ah, yes, yes. Be quiet, dear. Cyril’s right in the other room,” and that didn’t sound quite right, as she knew Cyril was, in a matter of fact, not in the other room but thought it would keep the king quiet. Cyril heard three knocks on the bedroom door. “Get up, Cyril,” said Lucy, who’d all of a sudden come into Cyril’s room. “We are not, I’m sure, going to school today, Cyril. It’s Saturday, that’s why. Mother is at the door, by the looks of it,” and indeed the girl was right. Queen Belinda lead her children to the dining hall, where a gigantic, long table was, spread with a tablecloth. “Cyril, can you pass me the salt?” said King Baron as politely as he could. “Why should I?” said Prince Cyril. “Get your own salt. What’s wrong with you? Why do people have to pass you the salt? I’d much rather grab the salt myself than allow someone’s grimy hands touch the salt. You don’t want me to pass you the salt. My hands… look at them! Grimy, you can see here.” “Fine, Cyril. If you won’t behave yourself then I’ll get a pair of cleaner hands to pass me the salt!” said the king angrily, surprising himself with his own outburst. “Gilbert, pass me the salt.” Gilbert, a tall and skinny prince, passed the salt as his father instructed. “Here you are, father. Cyril,” he added, “Sit straight. Eat your beef without opening your mouth, Cyril brother. Your hands really are grimy,” and with that, he admired his own hands. “Let me in!” cried a voice outside the front door. “I’m freezing! Let me in! I’m dying of cold! I’m coming in if you’ll let me in. I’m freezing! It’s like it’s Antarctica outside here. I’m freezing! Oh, just let me in! I’m freezing! I’m going to die of cold! Goodbye, world! It’s been a good time with you! I say, what does Heaven look like anyways?” Queen Belinda got up from her chair and opened the door. “Do come in… where are you? There’s no one here,” and she looked around in case whoever was at the door really did die of cold and was lying flat on the ground, but she saw no dead body. “I’m down here, ma’am,” said a gentle voice. Queen Belinda took a look at her feet. Indeed, she saw a badger, standing on its hind legs, talking, no taller than her waist. She said, rather surprised, “Come in. Poor you! We have a fire running in here, you can sit beside the hearth and warm yourself up a bit. Poor you! Where’s your home? Don’t you have a home?” “Ah, no, you see,” said the badger, as he walked in and untied his scarf and tugged his feet out of his boots. “My home is now covered up in thick snow, you see. I managed to escape safely. I have no family. I’m a bit too ugly for lady badgers. Thank you for your invitation. I say, I’m starving. I need to eat something! Oh woe. My burrow didn’t stand a chance. I’m terribly sorry to interrupt your morning routine. I tried a few other houses in this beautiful place, honestly, but those horrible townspeople didn’t let me in. Well… they didn’t let me in after I ate all the biscuits in their biscuit tins. People! No one cares if I eat or not, do they? I’m a badger and I need to eat. Do you have biscuits in here? I do hope so. Bon appétit!” “Yes,” replied the queen. “Tins and tins of them, actually. Feel free to make yourself at home. We’re now having our breakfast, you see. Cyril…” she paused and whispered in a quiet voice, “Cyril’s our youngest boy, you see. He can get a bit… um… mischievous.” “I understand,” said the badger. “Boys! Boys are always throwing rocks these days. Only the boys who are the boys of wealthy people don’t throw rocks. Are you wealthy? You do seem wealthy. Look at this, what a palace! You must be the queen. Hang on, I feel like I’m missing something that I really need to say. Oh yes! Let me introduce myself. My name is Brandon. Brandon Badger, at your service.” “Queen Belinda at yours,” said Queen Belinda. “Come in. Have a biscuit tin or… yes, yes. Have whatever you like. I think you’ll be very happy sitting by the hearth.” “I will, ma’am,” said Brandon. “I’ll be pleased enough,” and he walked in pleasantly. He caught the sight of the family having their meal at a ridiculously long table. “Hullo!” said he. “I’m a badger, as you can see, a badger as fine as can be. Brandon Badger, please. You must be… you must be the king!” and he pointed as King Baron. “I’ll be staying with you, Mr King Whatever-Your-Name-Is, until winter passes and I can move out of your fine palace, as it will be warm at that time and I won’t be killed by the freezing weather. Oh, it’s freezing out there!” “I am Baron. King Baron,” said the king in reply politely. “I rule Wreazidole fairly, as a wise ruler, a very peaceful man. I visit church daily with my wife and children. I, by far, is a polite king, as you can see. Wreazidole is the land which neighbours both lands of Kroniel and Sturuth, one in the west and one in the east. I shall not mention what land is in our north. A land called Calarau. Wreazidole is allied with Kroniel, and we are both bitter enemies of Calarau. I have had many discussions with King Donavan, who rules Kroniel. I and Donavan are discussing what we shall do about Calarau. This is putting both of us into a terribly hard decision. Calarau has many more knights and soldiers. It is a very mighty land. It is a land larger than Wreazidole and Kroniel together, and has more knights than Wreazidole and Kroniel together. Wreazidole has sadly lost many and more of its knights already from the wars which Calarau declared. It’s not just about us and Kroniel. Calarau has taken most of Sturuth, too. Looking at an atlas of Wreazidole, Kroniel, Calarau and Sturuth, you will see that Sturuth will be no more than a dot.” “Yes, yes all that,” said the badger. “History! How I hate history. Never wanted to learn about it! Poor you, Mr King Baron. You must be worn out. I cannot imagine how you are meant to be happy when your land is being taken over by Calarau. I always wanted to be king. Now you’ve made me lose my interest! Kings don’t ever seem to smile.” “You know what, Mr Badger,” said King Baron, slightly irritated, “You can have some of the biscuits now. We’ve got tins and tins. Last time I counted there were twenty tins in the cabinet. I’m only talking about the cabinet. I suppose there are much more tins in the cupboards and shelves. When you’re full you can have a walk around our palace.” Brandon obeyed. He climbed into the sink and opened the cabinets. He rummaged for the tins he wanted and found them at the back. “Biscuits!” he cried. The badger tipped the whole tin into his mouth. By the time he was full, three tins had already gone. Lucy, a polite princess who was fond of animals and hated to see them in distress, grew fonder of Brandon by the minute. At the beginning of the day when Brandon had only made an arrival, Lucy felt sorry for the badger. When Queen Belinda was washing the dishes, Lucy began to feel like Brandon was a cuddly bear. By now, Lucy wanted badly to meet him. She found the badger trudging up the staircase. Lucy didn’t say anything at first. She thought something looked rather wrong with Brandon. “Brandon?” she said as she tried to follow the melancholy badger. “Is something wrong or what?” “Don’t you worry about me,” murmured the badger, looking at Lucy. “You must be a princess. You must be the daughter of the king, in other words. Hullo. I’ll be on my way. Goodbye. It is alright, honestly.” “Brandon, if you have nothing to be so gloomy about, why are you being gloomy in the first place?” said Lucy. “Miss Hartenfield says that you shouldn’t do something in the matter of seeing no point of doing that thing in the first place. Miss Hartenfield is the wise old lady down the road. She’s a pauper but is a jolly one. Miss Hartenfield is always giving her advice to us people. She especially likes me. Not only because I’m a princess, but how polite I am. Miss Hartenfield gave me a bracelet the other day. From the statement, ‘don’t do something in the matter of seeing no point of doing that thing in the first place’, tell me what is wrong. If nothing is wrong then you should be all fine and ungloomy. Speak up, you black-and-white creature.” “Fine,” said Brandon. “If you’re so interested in hearing in what I have to say, then this is what I want to say. I overheard your brother Cyril saying something about throwing me away. I don’t want to be thrown back on the streets of Wreazidole. I tell you, that snow is wicked. Is there any way you can help? Anything?” “Let me see,” said the girl. “I can tell the king and queen. I think they’ll be angry with Cyril. But that doesn’t do anything to stop Cyril from throwing you away. I know! I’ll let you stay with me for the rest of the day and so forth. Cyril won’t dare come catch you to throw away when you’re with me. So there! But first of all, I need to talk with Cyril. Miss Hartenfield says that the best way to deal with people is to talk it out with them. I think that is fairly good advice from a pauper of a lady.” Brandon followed Lucy to find Cyril. The princess was in quite a hurry and was very grumpy with Cyril to have even thought of such a wicked thing. She thundered down the corridors and down the hallways, as the badger, walking beside her, kept trying to calm her down, saying things such as, “There, there, maybe Cyril was only having a little hoax,” and “Maybe it’s not such a big deal,” even though he knew that it indeed was a very big deal. Cyril was found in his bedroom. “Cyril!” shrieked Lucy. Cyril suddenly jumped out of the bed. “Yes? Is there a problem?” he said innocently. “What’s wrong? What’s wrong? Are the fish in the fountain all wiped out by aliens? Are you going to kill me? Is…” “Oh, be quiet, you!” snapped Lucy. “Brandon told me that he overheard you saying a thing about throwing him away! Do you know, Cyril, how cold it is out there? If you throw the poor black-and-white animal out in the snow he’ll perish! It is being horribly heartless, Cyril, for you to talk about throwing the poor thing away. Heartless!” “Heartless, you say?” said Cyril. “Well then what’s the big red pumping thing in my chest? It’s a heart, isn’t it? So that proves I’m not heartless. I’m wholehearted. I’m not half-hearted either. I don’t have one half of a heart, do I? So I’m wholehearted. There!” “I shall be rather happy to give you a good old bite!” snapped the badger, baring his sharp teeth. “Come here, you nasty boy! I have known boys. Always whispering things behind your back when you’re not looking! I don’t know exactly what they whisper, but I have never known to hear that there is a boy… a royal one too, who wants to throw me away! It is the most horrible thing I can ever imagine!” “Perhaps there really is something we could try,” said Cyril quickly, before the badger had bit him, “To mind our own business. Goodbye!” That ended the conservation quite quickly.

II Brandon meets Gilbert

Lucy left the bedroom where Cyril was with the poor badger by her side. Brandon was trying to hold back tears, while clinging onto the girl’s hands. “Come on now,” said she. “We better tell the king and queen. They’ll give Cyril a good yell at. My brother really does need a good yell at. Now come on, you badger. We could tell my brother Gilbert, too, but he doesn’t yell at younger brothers with despicable behaviour. He has a secret little room behind the bookshelves. It has a bed, for one. There’re bookshelves in his room. I do say, I’m already surprised not only about the secret room, but also about how the boy has so many bookshelves in his own room. Cyril doesn’t know about the room, you know. He won’t find you in there. Not even father or mother know about it. It’s just a little secret me and Gilbert keep between ourselves. Now come on.” They came across Cyril while walking down the hallway to Gilbert’s room. Lucy was still rather angry with her brother, and she simply glared. Brandon glared, too. Cyril, a shy and timid boy, kept his head down as if he had never seen Lucy before in his entire life. At last, they arrived at Gilbert’s room. “Come in,” said Gilbert. He was a thin boy with the most thickest spectacles you can ever imagine. He had weakened his eyesight from staying up to late. Gilbert was the boy who King Baron and Queen Belinda sent to do things such as the daily groceries or to empty out the bins. The king and queen did not allow Cyril to do it, believing that the only thing Cyril would do was either cause a good plenty mischief and if he wasn’t doing that, he would even run away from home, perhaps settling somewhere many miles away from where he lived. Lucy and Brandon both walked into Gilbert’s room. “Hullo, Gilbert,” said Lucy shyly. She wasn’t used to speaking with Gilbert alone. “We have something very important to say to you. Brandon is in grave danger, you see. Very grave danger. You get my point. I do not want Cyril to hear this. If he does, he will be rather angry with me.” “I don’t like the looks of him,” said Brandon. “Gil whatever his name is a boy. I have a serious mistrust in boys. Always throwing rocks at you. Can we go, please? I don’t like boys. Horrible, icky, annoying… you know. I may be a boy-badger myself, but I am not a boy-person. I don’t like boys. In fact, I hate them.” “Gilbert won’t do that. After all, there aren’t any rocks to throw around in his room. It is dry and bare, his bedroom, with nothing to throw around. Apart from the books on the shelves. He’s got plenty of that. But nobody’s going to be throwing Shakespeare, are they? No, of course not. Gilbert can help you. He is going to let you stay in that secret room I told you about. Don’t you worry about him.” “What is it, Lucy?” said the prince. “Something about Cyril, then? I thought so. Go on then, tell me. Drop your voice if you don’t want him to hear you. He’s got ears as sharp as a dog’s. He heard me muttering to myself about writing the newspapers last night. A horrible eavesdropper, Cyril. He heard me muttering about the newspapers while lying in his bed three rooms away. He’s got ears, you know. He’s not deaf.” “Right then,” said Lucy, dropping her voice. “Brandon told me about overhearing that beastly brother of ours whispering to himself about throwing the poor badger away. He is being heartless, you know, Cyril. We’re trying to hide this badger here from Cyril. We were wondering if you could let Brandon stay in your secret room?” Gilbert looked thoughtful. “Well… it is horrible for Brandon to be thrown away,” said he. “My answer is yes. He can stay in there for however long he likes. Keep it secret from Cyril. Come on, you badger,” and he rose from his bed. Brandon followed the prince. It was fascinating. Gilbert drew his hand across his bookshelves, until he found a gap that parted the bookshelves. “Ah ha,” and he pushed the bookshelf to the side, before a large hole was revealed in the wall. The boy clambered in. “Come on in,” he called from inside. “It is an utter marvel in here. A bijou room in here. But promise me one thing, Mr Badger. Do not tell any soul… any soul that there is a secret room right in my room in the palace of King Baron and Queen Belinda. Right?” “Yes, Prince Gilbert,” said Brandon solemnly, as he climbed into the hole. Behind him crawled Lucy, who was rather excited to see the secret room herself. Brandon saw in the room a lamp, plenty of bookshelves and had a window to open and see the outside. But the window was drawn by curtains and it looked exactly like any ordinary wall you see on a palace when you look from the outside. “I think I would be a very happy badger in here,” remarked the badger, grinning. “I am lucky, Prince Gilbert, to have a loyal prince by my side to hide me from a beastly brother. Goodbye!” Gilbert and Lucy climbed out the hole and slid the bookshelf back to how it was to be. That moment, they heard three knocks on the door. “Come in,” said Gilbert. “Oh! It is you, then,” and when he said that he meant that his beastly brother had come into the room recklessly. “Did I hear something about a secret room?” he demanded. “Well?” “No!” said Gilbert. “Ow! Don’t you kick me!” and as Cyril kicked him right on his left shin, he tripped over and his spectacles went flying through the air, bumping against the alarm clock by Gilbert’s beside table, and the alarm clock went off. Lucy picked up the spectacles. She gave them to Gilbert, who pushed the spectacles up his nose. “Never mind about all that and things,” said Cyril. “I demand, where is that badger? I want you to tell me right now. I will only be shortly with him. Going out for a little trot down the road with that black-and-white thing. I won’t be long, I promise. Oh, tell me where that badger is. I will only be shortly, out for a trot down the street.” “Well technically you will be killing Brandon and yourself,” said Gilbert. “It is a severe weather outside, brother. It isn’t like we’re fond of you… I mean, you’re our brother, it’s just… oh never mind. We are more fond of that badger. We do not want him to freeze to death out there in the streets. So shoo. We don’t want you here.” “Mr Dermott is out there, for one,” said Cyril. “Look, he’s walking down the pavement. He seems to now be in his car. Fancy car, Mr Dermott has. A flashing Rolls Royce. I tell you Mr Dermott is a rich man from being an entrepreneur. What that might be. He lives in the large mansion on Venue Street. Oh please! All I want is to know where that black-and-white, biscuit-eating badger is. It will only be a short little trot around the place.” “Hang on a minute!” said Lucy. “Cyril… you… you want to… you want… to… you… to… throw Brandon away!” and these last three words were like arrows piercing right into Cyril’s heart. Gilbert simply looked, trembling. “No, Lucy,” said Cyril. “Why would I do such thing?” “Because you hate him!” screamed Lucy. “You’ve hated that badger the moment he came here! You hate him!” and within moments, Gilbert was stunned. “You hate that badger! You’ve always hated him!” Cyril decided it was best to flee for the moment. Without a ‘goodbye’, he leapt out of Gilbert’s bedroom. “Gilbert. We really should get all those bad thoughts out of Cyril. It is a bit hard to say this, Gilbert, but we’re Cyril’s siblings. Elder siblings, right? I cannot believe it… but I feel guilty. We cannot take bad thoughts out of Cyril. We’re not being a great sister or brother to him. Oh, poor Cyril,” and Gilbert was even more stunned, in what he was stunned at was not the bad thoughts in Cyril’s head, but how Lucy can say that. He felt guilty himself. Within moments, both Lucy and Gilbert cared very much for Cyril. “I know,” said Gilbert, “Perhaps we should see him.” He lead Lucy out of the door, (after telling Brandon to stay in the secret room and not to come out), and found Cyril skipping merrily down the hallway. Gilbert told Lucy to stay out of sight and they hid behind a gigantic leafy pot plant. “When will be confess?” asked Lucy. “We’ll need to confess and apologise for being such terrible siblings.” “Be quiet, sister. Listen to what Cyril is saying. Oh word! Listen, Lucy,” said Gilbert, but Lucy had already heard. Cyril was saying to himself, “I will get my hands on that badger one day. When I get my hands on him… he will be no more than a totally dead badger! As if Lucy and Gilbert even know what I’m plotting!” “Right,” said Gilbert. “We are definitely not confessing to Cyril. No chance of that! No chance of that anymore! We better head back to my room. We’ve got to tell that badger what trouble he is in. Or he really will be a totally dead badger!” “Yes, let’s,” said Lucy, and she and her brother both hurried back into Gilbert’s room. Gilbert locked the door in case Cyril came in and discovered that Brandon was hidden in the secret room. Gilbert pushed the bookshelves over, and clambered into the hole. “I must say, it is dark in here,” said Lucy, for the light had disappeared when Gilbert had pulled the bookshelves together again. Brandon was sitting on a stool, helping himself to a tin of biscuits he had found in the drawer of the secret room. “Oh, hullo!” he said, on the sight of Lucy and Gilbert walking over to him. “What news have you got?” “Brandon, you’re in terrible trouble,” said Gilbert. “We were down in the hallway, and we found Cyril, skipping merrily. We hid behind a large pot plant. Cyril was whispering to himself about you being a goner when he gets his hands on you. Don’t you worry. I’ll think of something. With Lucy. I mean, by far, we’ve hid you in a pretty good place. He doesn’t know a single clue about my secret room.” “Oh dear,” said Brandon. “Trouble, you say? Well! Ahem. Trouble. Cannot stand it.” “We’ll be going now,” said Gilbert. “Stay in here. You can keep the lamp on if you like, of course. It doesn’t have to be so dark that even coal is brighter than in here. After all, we’re hidden behind a bookshelf.” Lucy and Gilbert clambered out of the secret room. Within moments, King Baron had come over to the room to call his children in for bedtime. “Where is that badger?” asked the king. “I haven’t seen him all day.” “Oh, he’s happy enough,” said Gilbert, grinning. “He’s happy enough indeed.” King Baron was rather concerned afterwards.

III The Boy on the Griffin

Lucy, Gilbert and Cyril all head into their own bedrooms. King Baron said, “Goodnight my love,” to Lucy and Gilbert but to Cyril he plainly said, “Goodnight Cyril,” and that meant the day had ended, for when King Baron would say, ‘goodnight’, it meant that it was bedtime. It had been quite a long day, thought Lucy, as she felt her eyelids growing heavy. Quite a long day… yawn! Within moments, the whole kingdom of Wreazidole, a quiet little kingdom at night with no merchants shouting ‘Six avocadoes for five!’ after dark, was soon asleep. Only the guards who stood by the double doors of the palace were still aware of everything. If you were now in Wreazidole, you would be rather tired too, unless you were a guard at the palace. Lucy was still bothered about Brandon, but thought him safe with Gilbert there. It was midnight. Lucy had woken up from a nightmare. She captured her breath, for her nightmare truly was a very nightmarish nightmare, and nightmarish nightmares are usually the ones that chill your spine the most. It seemed all silent until she heard a voice shout, “Get away from me, you big beast! Get away from me!” Lucy thought it too loud for her to sleep. It was a yell which had come from Gilbert’s bedroom. “Gilbert?” called Lucy. “Gilbert? What are you talking about? Big beast? Get away?” She clambered out of her bed and quickly dressed herself. Lucy opened the door to the prince’s bedroom. A sight of terror met her eyes. Standing right in Gilbert’s bedroom, a massive one too, was a griffin. Prince Gilbert had a sword in his hand. “Poppycock and fiddlesticks!” cried Lucy. “What… is… that… beast… doing… in… here?” “Don’t ask me!” said Gilbert. “Ask Cyril! He’s on top of the griffin. I cannot believe a prince of a polite royal family could do this! But no time to chitchat. Watch out for the griffin’s swoop! Its beak can slice a pumpkin in half easily! Or a lamp, that is,” and there on the floor was a lamp, which had been pierced in half. “Hullo, brother. Hullo, sister,” said Cyril wickedly, standing on the head of the griffin. “You may have expected this oh so unpleasant visit! Griffin. Find that badger!” The griffin obeyed. It began tracing its talons across the wooden floor. Part of the floor was soon slightly pierced. The griffin drew nearer and nearer to the bookshelf which the secret room was. It knocked over the shelf, revealing the big hole in the wall. “No!” cried Gilbert. “Nothing to see there! Oh, get away from there, you big beast.” “Oh, nothing to see there, you say, Gilbert?” asked Cyril darkly. “Nothing to see there, eh! Griffin. Find that badger, whether we may be near or far, whether the badger may be in a distant land or he may be hiding right here. I say he might be hiding right in this big hole. Griffin! Go on. Obey me, find that badger right now. Right now! Good griffin.” “Holy butter-on-bread!” cried Lucy. “They’re going to find Brandon! Griffin. No, you big beast. Griffin! Oh, stop it, you! Cyril… how could you have grown up to be so evil?” The griffin stretched a talon in, and pulled out a badger. Brandon was asleep. Cyril was being cautious, whispering to his griffin, “Quiet, you griffin. Don’t wake the badger up! Good riddance, my good brother and good sister! Good riddance! Say goodbye to your little badger friend. Good riddance!” and the griffin took off into the night sky via the balcony. “Quick,” said Lucy, “We need to get Brandon back. Or he’ll be no more than a dead badger!” She hopped over the balcony banister, and climbed down. Gilbert’s bedroom wasn’t a bedroom on a high floor, and she hopped off the banister without a bruise or a cut, into a hedgerow. Gilbert followed her. They could see Cyril on the griffin flying away. Cyril was riding away on his griffin further and further away. All hope seemed to be lost. But it wasn’t long before a Gilbert produced a thought. He hurried away to where a very grand royal family car was. Lucy followed after him. “Gilbert, we can’t do this,” said she and she meant it. Her brother (whom Lucy now thought was out of his mind), a prince who never listened to many people’s opinions, was about to drive the car, even though he was only thirteen. Gilbert climbed onto the driver’s seat. Lucy reluctantly followed. But the thought of Brandon being thrown away, perhaps killed, made her keep going. “I must say,” said Lucy, “Are you sure? You can’t drive.” Gilbert ignored her, (for as I said before, he was a boy who never listened much to the opinions of others), and stamped his foot down on the accelerator. Within seconds, the family car had begun. “Oh dear,” said Gilbert. “I’ve made a horrible mistake. I forgot to pull open the main gates! Hold on to your hats. We’re going to ram it over!” and indeed it was a horrible mistake. The family car rammed into the main gate, which fell over. It was a once-grand car, now a car which’d rammed right into a gate and ended up with a scratch or two. Within moments, the car was speeding down First Avenue. Lucy had to hold on. But the car abruptly stopped at some point in Elmer Street. “What is it?” asked a determined Lucy. “Why have we stopped? Come on, we have to keep going.” “I’m afraid we can’t,” said Gilbert. “It’s no good! We seem to have run out of fuel. We cannot drive a car without fuel. Exactly like fishing by the river without a fishing rod. It is exactly like writing without something to write with. My point is, we’re out of fuel.” “We’ll have to travel the rest of the way on foot,” said Lucy. “But what about mother and father? Come on, Gilbert. Follow that griffin!” and with that, she clambered out of the car. Gilbert followed her out into the eyrie night. “It’s no good,” said Gilbert after a few steps of sprinting. “We can’t catch up! Look, the griffin’s going. Not to here, either. Away into the distant lands. Over the mountains and far away. Oh, that reminds me of a poem. O’er the mountains and far away, to the rich old merchant with money to pay, I go down the road gleefully, clutching a bag of gold with me…” “Your poem can wait,” snapped Lucy. “Over those mountains is… Calarau. Gil! It is heading for Calarau. The griffin is heading for Calarau! I do say, Growlers Camp, the most secure prison in Calarau and anywhere, is a good place to drop Brandon off at and that must be where Cyril’s heading. But we are of the royal family from Wreazidole. If we cross the border to Calarau… I suppose we will be sentenced to die. I say we dress up as the people of Calarau do. So that they don’t suspect us.” “It’ll be months until we can arrive there by foot,” said Gilbert. “I say we hire a horse. I think Mr Bernadotte has horses for hire at his place. He lives on Bronze Road. Hurry up Lucy. Shouldn’t be too far from here,” and his sister thought Mr Bernadotte a lovely old fellow and so she agreed to that. They started down a cobbled path before the pair came across a perfectly fine little villa. It was an old one, but pretty. Every aspect of it was old and pretty, even simply the brass doorknob. “I suppose this is where Mr Bernadotte is,” said Gilbert. “We’ll knock.” With that, they hurried up the driveway and knocked on the door, for that is what you would do when you want to assure that a house is the house you want to go to, and in a polite manner. Being royal, they did perhaps everything in a polite manner, and, in this case, knocking on the door was a very polite thing to do. An old man with grey hair and spectacles came over. He had a bushy moustache and seemed to have only gone to bed, since he held a lit candle in his hand. This old man seemed much like one who was used to the countryside and came from there, but this man was not a man who was used to the countryside, nor did he come from there, but this man was definitely Mr Bernadotte and that was who he was. “Mr Bernadotte at your service,” said Mr Bernadotte. “Ours at yours,” said Lucy. “I’m Princess Lucy, daughter of King Baron his Highness and this is my brother, Prince Gilbert, son of King Baron his Highness once again. We have come to hire a horse, whether you may or not are able to give one to us right now.” “Why! I am utterly sorry,” said Mr Bernadotte. “Did I forget my manners? I’m talking to the children of the king and queen their highnesses! Why, hello, hello. A horse, then. Not much when you’re asking me. I’ve plenty of them. I’m glad that you want to hire a horse. There is no more room in my stables to breed anymore! Now come in. A cup of tea before we may start? Do you have time for that, perhaps? It is a yes or no.” Lucy was looking rather forward to tea and was wondering whether to have tea or to not and continue on with this horse-hiring business. But her brother Gilbert decided to not have tea. Before the princess can say, “Yes, that would be lovely,”, Gilbert said, “No, sir. We don’t have time for tea,” and that was that. Mr Bernadotte led them inside. He was about to pour some tea, though quickly remembered that he had awaiting visitors. “Where are you going, first, with one of my trusty steeds?” asked he, and this made the children both speechless. They opened their mouths but no sound came out. His reply was, finally, ‘a place that borders Wreazidole’, and that wasn’t a lie, for Calarau indeed bordered Wreazidole. “Right,” said Mr Bernadotte, more severely this time, and trotted off to the stables. “I have the perfect horse for you. Say hello to Bishop!” Bishop, a dazzlingly handsome male-horse stood in the stables determinedly. The pair of children hurried to the stables to see Bishop. “Hullo, B… argh!” screamed Gilbert. He was knocked over by Bishop’s nose, which rather sensitive, and his nose Gilbert touched with a whole hand. Gilbert got up, and heard another ‘argh’ from Lucy, who happened to have been knocked over as well. “He’s nervous around you,” said Mr Bernadotte. “A horse takes time to get to know you. Bishop, well… he’s a shy one, you see. Bishop does not trust you yet. Give him a carrot. Or two. Bishop will really prefer three. Maybe four or five. Or six, yes, a wonderful number of carrots. Perhaps seven.” When Bishop began to calm down a bit from the carrots, Mr Bernadotte told them to mount him. Within moments, the children found themselves on Bishop’s back. He was a wild horse, mane flapping in the wind as he galloped. “Good luck with Bishop,” said Mr Bernadotte. “Where’s the money? You need to pay, you know. Because you’re royal children, I’ll let you pay only once, with fifty. Fifty is alright,” and Bishop galloped off after paying, away into the distance, until, if you were standing where the horse-keeper was, you would no longer see two children on a horse, but simply a tiny little dot, no larger than a common soldier ant.

IV The Wicked King

Nothing but was on a horse to sit on and nothing but were pine trees and dead buffalo by the road to see. It was a rather boring trip indeed and not until noon, hours after they had hired Bishop, they’d finally arrived by the mountains. On the pinnacle? No. It was simply beside the mountains and a sinuous road awaited them. Bishop slowly examined the road. It had sharp bends and had no fences to prevent you from falling either. “I do say, what a perfectly fine road, how easy to ride through,” said Gilbert sarcastically. “Oh, be quiet, you!” said Lucy. “Sarcasm is not helping here. What’s in this pouch that Bishop has got by his side? Ah! Exactly what we wanted. A dusty old map,” and after a glance at the map she had taken out from the pouch, she wiped the dust of it with her hand. Bishop sneezed. “Oh, woe,” she cried. “Only a little corner is left of the map. All of the rest has… magically fell off. What only lasts on the map is a grocery store.” “Blow on it,” suggested Gilbert. “Fine. If you won’t, I’ll do it,” and he did. Another bit of the map appeared. “It’s a magic map!” said Lucy. “It may be. Blow, blow, blow!” After blowing for five or six more minutes, the whole map seemed to appear. Beside a rather tall and dull mountain, (the one they were at), were too silhouettes of people. One was marked ‘Lucy’ and one ‘Gilbert’. “Golly!” said Gilbert, spellbound. “It really is magic,” said Lucy, mystified. “Look here, Gilbert. On the other side of the mountain is a silhouette of a griffin with the word ‘Griffin’ on it. Another silhouette shows of another person, marked, ‘Cyril’. They’re moving! The silhouettes are moving! What a wonderful map. Or a magic map, I should say. We’ll be needing this. I’ll keep it safe in my satchel,” and that she did. Lucy rolled up the map and managed to push the map into her satchel. Gilbert said, “Giddy up!” and indeed Bishop giddied up the road. I cannot say that Bishop galloped off at high speed, but only a step-step trotting pace. The horse slipped a few times and every time that happened, a few pieces of gravel would tumble all the way down the mountain. “Don’t look down,” said Lucy. “If we fall, it’ll be the end.” After cautiously trotting up the road they at last arrived at the pinnacle. Ahead of them was a rather large town, filled with the ends of houses and stray dogs. “There!” said both of the children at once. “That must be Calarau,” said Gilbert. “Gallop on, Bishop. Trot down the mountain. Cautiously, ah, there we are, boy. I can see a palace emerging from the mist. It must be where King Smear, who rules Calarau, lives.” Down the mountain Bishop trotted. Along the way, Lucy, who’d pleasantly brought along two robes to disguise her and Gilbert, told him to try it on. Gilbert did so, it fitted and made him look not any more than a poor beggar even though he was a prince. Lucy did as well and looked no more than an utter nincompoop. “I say, it is rather rowdy in here,” whispered Gilbert, trying to sound like a poor beggar rather than a posh royal boy in case anyone heard him. “We’re in Calarau, then. Look at Bishop. Oh, poor horse. He seems to be shuddering in fright. Oh, poor Bishop. Giddy up, Bishop. Good boy.” “Aye,” whispered Lucy, putting on a poor sort of accent. “We’re trotting down Maple Street. I do say, brother, which way does King Smear live? King Smear, ruler of Calarau. All hail him and all that,” and an old man who was passing by heard them say the name ‘King Smear’ and added, “All hail King Smear!” and smiled to bear his yellow teeth. It was twenty minutes until they had finally arrived by the grand double doors that led into Clovers Palace where King Smear lived with Queen Geraldine and their three sons who had lived a life exactly as horrible and ghastly as their own parents did. Gilbert and Lucy sat on Bishop as they trotted through the double doors. A guard stopped them in an abrupt moment. “Stop there!” said he. “Who are you?” “Beggars,” replied Gilbert, putting on his beggar sort of voice. “Come to visit All Hail King Smear. In hope of him giving us some money. Let us through. We haven’t bread to eat for a whole day, let alone that feast All Hail King Smear is fed. Come on, now.” Without further ado, the guard let the two so-called beggars into the palace to visit the king. “Your horse may stay out here,” added the guard. “Hand the mighty steed over. I do not allow any wild things into our palace. Despite all the spiders. But don’t mind the spiders, they aren’t venomous. King Smear prides himself in having that many spiders. I might even say he’s a madman… in fact, only a month ago, he found a tarantula and he even named it Pierre. Scared the housekeeper out of her wits, it did. She didn’t come out of the wardrobe until the next day! But I suppose beggars are used to seeing spiders.” With the thought of spiders in mind, the ‘beggars’ both strolled into the palace, leaving Bishop outside with the guard. “D’you think, by any chance… we’re too late?” asked the prince. “King Smear’s a nasty one. Perhaps Cyril is secretly allied with King Smear and a moment later their alliance Cyril’s bringing badgers to him. Growlers Camp should be a fifty metre horse-trip away from here.” King Smear heard their chatter and came haughtily down the staircase. He had an old scar across one eye and always held his sceptre to threaten people with. His face seemed sour and grim with a grey beard which went down to his chin and no further. He had a great mass of long grey hair and a cloak which made him seem more noble than he really was. His cloak only made him feel noble, despite the fact the townspeople only little saw him down the street and said ‘good morning’ to him, for whenever they saw him down the street, they were told to say ‘all hail’, however reluctant they may have been to say it. King Smear had always been very stern on his visitors. Little did he give them tea which they wanted. For if one wanted black tea, they would get white tea, and if one wanted green tea, they would get white tea as well, and if one wanted white tea, they would get neither black tea nor green tea, but tap water. It was today which King Smear seemed oh so especially sterner than usual. “Visitors!” said he, holding up his sceptre. “We’re beggars,” said Gilbert. “Only visiting. Let us go on our way, King Smear, chap. It is awfully hot in here. My name is Gilbert along with my sister here Lucy. We aren’t a group of thieves. I say, have you had a visitor today namely Cyril?” “Ah, yes indeed,” said King Smear. “But you aren’t Gilbert and Lucy of King Baron? I speak particularly of the royal family in Wreazidole. Maybe not. If you are… then away with you and your head. Now, answering your inquiry. Indeed I have had a visitor, with the name Cyril, if that is who you speak of. He’s a boy, no taller than you two, and Cyril came flying on a griffin with a badger he caught. The badger’s name was something a bit like Brandon. In fact, Cyril is still here right now. Oh, and you two, why go now? Come in, sit down, have some tea. I need to speak to Cyril, you see, but you two can have your tea next to us as we talk about imprisoned badgers and all that.” Gilbert was about to say, “No, sir, we don’t have time for tea,” but Lucy interrupted, before Gilbert can even open his mouth, by saying, “Yes, sir, that will be splendid,” and this surprised Gilbert, who whispered back to her, (as King Smear led them to a room in which they had tea in), “Lucy… we don’t have time for tea. Whether get the badger back or not, we can’t have tea in a moment like this.” “Don’t you see, you nincompoop?” asked Lucy. “Brandon may still be where Cyril is. I say, I think it may be a bit more obvious now. If we go have tea, where Cyril is, there is a chance that we will be able to get that badger away from our nasty brother.” “You’re a genius!” said Gilbert. “You’re a complete nincompoop,” murmured Lucy, rolling her eyes. “My point is, we are getting that badger back. Now shh, shoosh and shush. King Smear may hear us, and that we won’t want,” and as she said that King Smear slowly turned the doorknob on a door which led into the billiards room where a fire was lit. As they had been told, indeed Cyril was sitting in an armchair. Lucy predicted right. Brandon stood right next to the armchair that Cyril sat on. He starred carefully at the so-called ‘beggars’ as they were led by King Smear into the billiards room. “Sit down,” said King Smear. “Here is your tea,” and he brought a teapot and a few cups over. He smiled a bit, wickedly, as he looked at Gilbert and Lucy both sipping down the tea. “Goodnight,” he hissed evilly. Within six seconds, the two visitors both lay back into their armchairs, eyes closed. King Smear, a very horrible man as said many times before, and had poisoned the tea and this made both Gilbert and Lucy doze off. “Right then, Cyril,” said King Smear. “About that silly old badger of yours…”

Gilbert and Lucy woke up soon from the poisoned tea. When they did, they didn’t see a fire in a perfectly good mantelpiece, but plain stone walls and with no light. What they were sure of was that they were certainly not in the billiards room they had been invited to tea in. “Where… do you think we are?” stammered Lucy. Her question was answered soon by a nearby sign which read:


“Gilbert!” whispered Lucy as Gilbert urged closer to hear what she had to say. “We seem to have found ourselves in Growlers Camp. But how? We were in a billiards room and then… there was nothing. Maybe I passed out. Now we’re in Growlers Camp.” “King Smear must have poisoned that tea, and now he’s thrown us into a cell at this oh very damp place. Crikey! We’ve no way out now. We’re trapped!” and indeed he had a point. Growlers Camp had guards perhaps about everywhere and each guard was armed with cutlasses they would brandish at you as a warning and they carried lanterns. Even though guards were to threaten you the lanterns they carried were the only light which you receive within five days, the interval of days when a guard comes to visit your cell. Cells were wet with barely any place to sit down on and the beds were as hard as stone. A burly guard armed with a pistol and cutlass came strolling along each of the prison cells with a pipe in his mouth as he carried a lantern in one hand. He said, “King Smear assigned I, Elvis Beaver, who is the most honoured guard in Clovers Palace, to visit you prisoners and if you mess with me, King Smear has told me to inform Albert the royal executioner,” as there were many words of disapproval from the prisoners at hearing all this. “SHUT YOUR PIEHOLES!” snapped Elvis. “I hope you are all doing sufferingly. Suffer is what I want you to do. Everyone who is behind bars is welcome to suffer,” and Elvis made a departure without a ‘goodbye’. When Elvis closed the door behind him, Gilbert and Lucy can still hear him chatting to someone who seemed to have a higher title than him, but little can they hear what the burly guard said, for a thick wall and a thick door separated where the cells were and the place where the guards had rum and played pool and had the finest cigars they could afford. “I say it’s gibberish,” said Gilbert. “Yes, quite so,” murmured Lucy, and they went to bed (which was as hard as stone), a bit of chatter still going on in between the guards, although nobody could hear them.

V Flynn Hare and Fiddle Rat

When Gilbert and Lucy had fallen asleep not even for half an hour they were startled, a small twitching sound in their cell. Lucy heard it first. “It may be a rabbit,” said she, for Lucy did well in observing what something may be by their sounds. Indeed she could be right at times, and she was quite right, although not exactly a rabbit. For something a bit like a rabbit, (although not a rabbit, as said before), had hopped into their cell whilst the pair were in their bed and unaware of rabbit-like creatures hopping into their cell. “Why hullo,” said Lucy. “Are you a rabbit? Or a hare? Why, of course the rabbit-hare can’t say anything in reply to my inquiry. Not that they can speak. What a dingdong I am.” “Yes you are a complete dingdong, you halfwit,” said the rabbit-hare, “For saying that I cannot say anything! In reply to your inquiry, I am not a rabbit, Miss Halfwit. I am hare and not the hair that grows on your head, but the ‘hare’ that is a mammal and looks like a rabbit, and from the same family as a rabbit, the family of Leporidae.” “A talking hare!” said Gilbert. “What is the world coming to?” “A time where I will hereby say we are getting out of this place,” said the hare. “But I, a hare who will not go anywhere without saying who one is, must introduce myself first. I am Flynn Hare, as so is my name. I prefer to be called Flynn, if that does not bother you or anyone else. Well that wasted more time than I thought it would, but what my name is may not matter now. What does matter is how to get out of here. Supposedly you met a badger called Brandon in your earlier days of life? Are you Gilbert and Lucy?” “Indeed,” said Lucy. “Indeed I am she and my brother here is he, and indeed we met an amateur at staying warm. His name was Brandon Badger and is, obviously, a badger, for his surname, which, as I said, is ‘Badger’.” “Well, Mr Badger he escaped by tossing salmon he ‘borrowed’ from the fishmonger at King Smear’s face. A boy called Cyril, I suppose you’ll know his ghastly schemes as well, he fell right into the mantelpiece, and fortunately for him, there fire had long gone out, but he did end up with a sneezing face with dusty coal and wood splinters,” replied the hare, “Or at least that what I’ve been told. Mr Badger’s safe at this rat’s burrow now. Now, I have been requested by the rat (I live with him) that you two are in bit of a problem.” “The rat you speak of is not lying,” replied Gilbert.

“Very well,” said Flynn. “I burrowed my way in and got out of the way of every single guard who was in my path. Little did they notice me. Although, the one called Elvis… he became a bit suspicious. Only a bit. But little knew a hare was right in his prison! Now, I want to hear your counterplans of escape. If you have any.” “How about disguises?” suggested Lucy. “I don’t suppose we have any. I say one of us will go out and distract the guards while the others escape. Who’s going out?” and none raised their hands. “I agree,” said the girl, although little had Gilbert and Flynn said such to agree to. “It may be a bit hazardous. Well, I’m out of thoughts.” “How about we bribe the guards?” suggested Gilbert. “We could bribe them, but also to pretend to be someone other than yourself. Bribe them with money! Lucy. Is there a few gold coins in your satchel?” Lucy felt her waist where there was nothing but the heavy leather of her beggar clothes. “I must have left it on Bishop when the guard told us to leave our horse outside. Oh no! What if the guard is a thief? He’ll thieve all the gold coins in my satchel!” said she. “How about we don’t use real coins? We could give some of these little stones lying all around the cell and tell them they are silver coins. While they try snatch the ‘silver coins’ we could hurry. Look, they’re plenty tiny pebbles lying around. Find those which are a same size of silver coins, so that we’ll have a higher chance of successful escape.” “Fine,” said Flynn. “I suppose,” and gathered a few so-called ‘silver coins’ which were lying around and were nearly as if were saying, “Pick us up! Pick us up!” since they did not want to stay trapped in Growlers Camp. “But how do we get out of this cell?” said Gilbert and indeed he had a point. Little was the cell door open. Abruptly, out of nowhere, came a faint voice saying, “Can I go with you? I can get out of here and open the cell door,” and this scared the hare right out of his wits, for he had a pair of now twitching whiskers, and when a hare’s whiskers twitch, they are afraid. “It must be the willing offer of someone who wants to help us flee from Growlers Camp. I cannot see a thing though. Who and where are you?” said Lucy excitedly. “I am right on your bed,” said whoever it may be. Lucy drew his hand across one end of the bed to another. She stopped when her hand seemed to have found some sort of furry, small creature, (it was certainly not a human, a human is not furry or small), like a rat. It had silvery whiskers and a long tail, which was what a rat had. Indeed soon Lucy found out it was a rat, for it said, “I’m a rat.” “No wonder,” said Gilbert. “I suppose you wander amidst these cells a few times every day for you must be what they call ‘jail rats’. Honestly, Mr Rat, but you better get away from this place, sooner the better. Can’t you do that? You’re not a prisoner. You’re a rat and you can go wandering anywhere you want in here. After all, you’re a rat.” “Indeed, I can go wandering anywhere I want in here, but the limit indeed is in here. In Growlers Camp. If I go further I’ll be roasted for prison food after being battered by the crazy guards. What a fine example of an act of cruelty! A crazy guard doesn’t only mind about the prisoners, but the rats as well. Fortunately they have not found me yet.” “Well my name is Lucy,” said Lucy. “I and my brother Gilbert have been locked up. A bit creepy, I suppose. We’re in here for nothing, you see, that horrible King Smear made us come here for nothing. Our loyal companion, a badger namely Brandon, was caught devilishly by our devilish brother, Cyril, who is handing the poor creature over to… that nasty King Smear. I suppose King Smear is going to do away with the thing. If Brandon is fortunate enough, perhaps he’ll only be punished and beaten up.” “Ah! Brandon Badger, I suppose?” said the rat. “Well, well, well! It is they! I’ve finally… finally… found you at last! Are you Sir Gilbert and Madame Lucy? Well, I am very glad to tell you that your companion, a badger who was caught by King Smear is safely at my burrow. Precisely! Yes, my very good lord and lady, it is the news I wanted to tell you.” “Well, I better tell you what we are doing,” said Lucy. “We are to flee out of here. I say, we really must be going now. It will be morning soon, when the guards are most active. But, you see, we’re having trouble getting out of our cell. We cannot flee within our cell for it is purely ridiculous. Mr Rat or whatever-your-name-may-be, would you please do the favour of getting out the cell and opening the cell door?” “Why I would,” said the rat. “Anything to oblige,” and with that, he hurried out of the cell, climbed up an iron bar and with a CREEAAAK the cell was open. “Freedom!” said Gilbert. “At last we’re out of there. Come on, everybody. Grab your ‘silver coins’. I said grab them, yes. Well, technically, we’ll fool the guards into thinking they’re silver coins, although they’re only little pebbles. Excellent! Off we go.” “My name is Fiddle,” said the rat pleasantly, for he thought it really should be the time to introduce himself as they hurried away. “I am the only son of Mr Randolph Rat and Mrs Aurelia Rat, who own an investment company which is called Purple Tie Investors. But I’m not sure what purple ties have anything to do with investors.” “Maybe investors wear purple ties,” suggested Lucy. “Well, Mr Fiddle, I see we are free at last,” said Gilbert. “Out of our cell! Finally we can relax in the sunshine again. We can smell the lilacs again and get stung by bees. It will be spring soon and we don’t want to spend spring in that wet, damp thing. I will be able to ride my gallant horse which is in the palace stables again… if I ever arrive home.” “Cheer up, Gil,” said Lucy. “I’m sure we’ll arrive home. Unless some guard bothers us. But that’s not going to happen, I suppose,” and that moment, they saw a guard coming their way. By then they had arrived in the dining hall and something was brewing in the pots. Nobody was there to brew it, but whatever it was, it certainly wasn’t very pleasant. Slowly oozing out of the pot was something green. But they were soon too worried with the guard they forgot about the disgusting pot. “Hide!” hissed Flynn. Gilbert, he, Fiddle had disappeared within moments, busily scampering around, bumping into each other. All was deserted apart from Lucy, who was looking around at the hullabaloo. Before the guard saw then, Gilbert, Flynn and Fiddle had hidden under tables. Lucy was too tardy. A shadow loomed over her. It was the guard, who had a moustache (neatly brushed), a stout body and large ears. The guard seemed very little interested in what Lucy had to say, for he said, “Oi! Goodness me, what’re yeh doing in ‘ere?” “Me! Don’t bother me,” replied Lucy. “Well what’re yeh doing in de dinin’ ‘all, eh? Spit it out, miss!” said the guard, who, a person whose moustache seemed to always twitch as if there were a fly around, thought had sensed something fishy about the girl. “We ain’t gonna serve yeh an’thin’ now, miss. If that what yeh want. Well, come on, explain now, miss. I wanna hear it.” “PPPPRRRRIIIIVVVVYYYY!” shouted the girl who was completely out of her mind by now. She said it again, “PPPPRRRRIIIIVVVVYYYY!” and flung her body onto the floor, screaming it again and again until she completely deafened the guard. “My name is Sergeant Sinclair, and I beg you to stop at once, in the name of the law!” thundered the guard, plugging his ears, in case introducing himself could calm the hysteric girl down a bit. “Do you need the privy? It’s next to the office.” Eventually Lucy found herself again and blushed embarrassedly. “Well, Mr Sinclair, I seem to find myself a bit… um… hectic when I’m in panic. Which I’m not now. Would you prefer these silver coins? Made from the finest silver ever mined in these lands, you know. Very precious!” and grabbed a few ‘silver coins’ (which were pebbles, as you can be assured they were), and gave them to Sergeant Sinclair. “Hmm… there is no unfair act of bribery here, I hope?” said Sergeant Sinclair. “Why, of course not! Otherwise you would be thrown into those cells with those irritating men, I hope you aren’t, which, right now at least, you are not. But I must beg for forgiveness. I don’t understand why I let my mouth blubber loudly in front of people these days.” “Well jolly good show,” said Lucy. “You must be on your way now, I suppose, Mr Sergeant. Sinclair, I should say. Goodbye, then,” and it was a fortunate escape. Once Sinclair went on his way, the girl gestured her companions out from under the tables, and Gilbert was congratulating her on not being scared out of her wits and scream ‘privy’ as she was very expected to do (which only proved Gilbert did not pay attention to such). “I did my best,” was all Lucy could say afterwards.

VI Finally Heading Back (and Stopping at the Rat’s)

After the pair managed to get Bishop into their hands again from the guard who stood at the entry of King Smear’s palace (who was handed over the horse, as some of you may remember), they headed in the direction of the land their father held a reign over, which was the land of Wreazidole. “Six miles up and six miles down,” muttered Lucy, once they had finally arrived at the top of the mountain with the sinuous road. “It’s very chilly up here,” said Fiddle, who had been put in the satchel, for he was small enough to fit in there. “What do you suppose it is, ay, partner?” (this referred to Flynn. I must say that the two furry creatures acquainted each other while going up the road). “Well I am not very used to frost, partner,” replied Flynn, which was perched on top of Bishop’s head, for his fleece made him light enough to sit there. “We hares rush home in time for tea and cuppa hot cocoa before the frost gets in. Poor us if we stood there in all that horrible blizzard of snow! Oh dear, oh dear, we would be wiped out if that were.” Sixteen minutes passed on and they were halfway down the sinuous road and the pair had not held their tongues once. But when Fiddle had started on something which had a bit to do with ‘doctoring in the olden days’, the horse came to an abrupt halt, for they heard a rather harsh voice tell them to do so. Bishop neighed uncomfortably and Gilbert patted him across the mane to comfort him. “Well now, Bishop, calm down,” said he. That moment an arrow whizzed past their heads, merely missing them. “ARGH!” they began to yell, floundering their arms around, for there were many arrows heading their way, past their heads. “We’re being pelted with arrows!” screamed Fiddle. “We plead all of you to stop! Please! We surrender! We surrender! We come in peace!” Everyone on the horse braced themselves for another wave, but then they heard, “Well I demand you lot to stop right there! Sergeant Sinclair, at your service. I could smell that suspicion in you, madame, when I met you in the dining hall. Now I have finally caught you, along with those friends of yours. You are going right where you belong!” “No we are definitely not,” replied Flynn boldly. “We’re not going anywhere, and you can’t force us to. We’re going to Wreazidole, where it is much more peaceful!” Sinclair grabbed his own bow and pulled back the string with an arrow about to fire. It was fairly accurate and he said threateningly, “What are your last words?” which a smirk followed. “People these days!” he continued. “Never listen to you. Not even to I!” “You’re only a sergeant,” baulked an important-looking man from inside the crowd of Sinclair and his men. “I’m the general. You have no right, sergeant, to boss your general. General Hans-Faber, at your service. I say if you, sonny, try telling me what to do, and a piece of dead meat you are the next moment. Hans-Faber is the general, I, and shall not be told what to do, or you’re sacked on the spot and I’ll take your salary off.” “Oh, do zip your piehole, Hans-Faber,” hissed Sergeant Sinclair. “You rotten loaf. Can you see I am busily trying to get these absconders of Growlers Camp back into their cell where they belong? Don’t be such a nincompoop, you halfwit of a man.” “You’re the nincompoop. I’m the general,” boasted Hans-Faber, baulking once more. I should say that Sinclair and Hans-Faber were never quite working for one company. An ambitious decade of years ago for the pair, when they were no more than fifteen, in their backyards, they used to prank each other, declare war now and then and fling their poor parent’s clothes off the washing line at each other until their mothers had to call them in for dinner. Never would they have peace between one another. “Well I’m the one trying to catch these felons,” replied Sinclair. “Well I’m the one who employed this completely dunce of a man trying to catch these felons,” replied Hans-Faber, “Who I am about to take his salary off him,” and within a few moments, they found themselves in quite an argument about who was in charge of the other. In fact, they were so diverted in their argument they did not see Gilbert about to throw a small sack of flour onto their faces. Fortunately for Hans-Faber, he saw it and didn’t get pelted with flour, but unluckily for Sinclair, he had been covered head to toe in white, powdery flour. “WHAT A DISGRACE!” he screamed, as General Hans-Faber went over and chuckled, wiping off a tiny bit of flour off the sergeant. “Serves you right, Sinclair,” laughed Gilbert. “As for you, Hans-Faber…” and the man, the once-proud general, stopped chuckling, as he saw the boy reaching for another hand of flour, before he being covered head to toe in white exactly as neatly as Sinclair. “It’s only a bit of flour,” said Constable Virgil, who sat on his horse next to Hans-Faber and Sinclair. “It’s what you put in cake. It’s not like it’s gunpowder or something…” and this irritated the general, and so General Hans-Faber wiped off some flour and hurled it right at the constable. Virgil was saved by the wind, which took the flour in the opposite direction, back onto Hans-Faber’s face. All of the men (except for Hans-Faber) all broke into helpless gales of laughter, on seeing their general so awkwardly being pelted by the flour. “I see now, Sinclair,” murmured Hans-Faber under his breath, “That being pelted with flour is not as facetious as it seems to be, ay, Sinclair? Sinclair? Sinclair! Stop that! I don’t want to see another chuckle out of you! Stop laughing, sergeant! You are officially, in the name of the law, fired. Do you hear me, sergeant? You perfectly witless man!” “Well you’ll be needing to fill out the paperwork before you can fire me,” ridiculed the sergeant. “If you don’t, you can’t fire me. You can’t simply fire me by saying it, general. I am not officially, in the name of the law, fired. Who agrees with me?” Nobody apart from Sinclair himself raised their hand. Murmurs of disapproval came out of the mouths of the men in the crowd, for the sergeant was never liked that much. “You’re fired!” was all Hans-Faber could say. “Officially.” “Paperwork,” reminded Sinclair. “I’ll do it once we get back,” said Hans-Faber, but as they were talking, they did not see the felons they were trying to catch fleeing out of their sight, for Bishop trotted away an honoured horse. Winter had finally passed and the snow melted on the way. Spring had gradually arrived and the deer began to prance about in the woods again, and the leaves sprouted once more on the willows and oaks and spruces and firs, as the leaves on those which were poplars lost their orange-red colour. “Perhaps we should be heading to that burrow of mine,” said Fiddle, “for that badger you want is there, as I said before. Rather the wood, you know, where my burrow is. Follow the freshwater stream and you can’t a bit miss it. Mother will serve you some tea, if that pleasures you,” and did. “So tell me about who’s on the road today,” said Gilbert, as he rode along the stream. It was a very beautiful stream which the sun gleamed down upon on and the water seemed sparkly as diamonds and rubies and emeralds. “I’ll tell you about who’s on the road today,” replied Fiddle. “I’ve lived here my entire unambitious life, you know, so I’m quite an expert. First of all there’s Miss Blossom the cottontail rabbit. She’s a very fussy one. Once Miss Blossom the cottontail rabbit lost an enthralling handbag (sure, it was exquisite and glamourous), and told the guv’nor about it and the guv’nor had to send the whole army out to find it and to threaten anyone that may seem to have stolen the handbag. The search executed for months and…” “Everyone off,” said Gilbert. “We’ve arrived at Fiddle’s burrow,” and everyone got off. By the burrow were two doors. One the size of a child and one the size of a rat (in which Fiddle went through). It was a very fine burrow with many little rats scuttling around. If a rat sat on the armchair, it would seem very cute, for the armchairs were not sized for rats particularly, and the rat would look like a tiny little person sitting on a gigantic chair by a perfectly lit hearth (for the hearth was indeed lit by the time they had arrived at the rat’s burrow). Gilbert and Lucy had to be wary of where they stepped, for a rat, maybe a bit more, would be squished like dead pie if they weren’t. Oh how beautiful the little burrow was! Scurrying around busily were rats. A family of course, along with a few friends and relations. In a nursery room, the walls were painted auburn and provided with the best beds in the burrow for the littler ones. Lucy saw one of the smallest rats in the nursery limping around. Must have a bad paw, thought she. A rat with a beard, or as Fiddle may say, is one of the elderly ones and the eldest was Seamy Rat who had brought fame to himself in his days, and you could tell for his beard was a few inches longer than a whole wire, and he limped with a cane. “Well Fiddle, you’re back! I daresay that badger who ran away from Mr Smear, yes he, I daresay he ate a whole cooky in three seconds! A cooky that would usually take one rat a couple of weeks…” cried a rat with an apron, who was Fiddle’s mother. “Mother, he’s only hungry…” “HUNGRY I SAY! THAT BLACK-AND-WHITE CREATURE ATE THE MAID! I SAY, HE REALLY IS HUNGRY! HE ATE THE MAID!” squealed Mother Rat. “Well me I’m overwhelmed. But he didn’t technically eat the maid. Nearly did, though. This is not a lie, but that big thing thought the maid was a SAUSAGE!” With that, she began to sob. “Mother, don’t be theatrical,” said Fiddle, giving Lucy and Gilbert and Flynn (who were pleasantly have a cup of tea finely made by a tiny pair of rat-chefs) a weak smile. “I’m going to prepare lunch,” said she, still sobbing as Fiddle gave her a look. She did not see the look, for she was too busy thinking about lunch and simply thinking about whether a chowder or bouillabaisse, although both are similar, is enough for you to not see what a rat has for you to see. Within moments, Mother Rat had called, “CHEFS! Give us a bit of bouillabaisse. Yes, now, that’s the spirit!” and Father Rat, who preferred peace and quiet said sternly, “Oh, Aurelia, be quiet. Sit still. I’m up to something very important, you know, and I cannot possibly focus with that racket,” and he pulled out a thick book and flipped to the first page before he sat down on an armchair by the warm hearth. “Chapter one, Paddington. On a cold day in Peru, a she-bear, Lucy, met Paddington, who was a baby bear…” “You see now, Randolph is into a particular category of books right now which I can’t stand. Oh, dear old Randolph. Must take a break these days, shouldn’t he? He might get an eye out anytime soon, and look at him already, he won’t want an eye out, especially, a short-sighted one, after he got these fancy pince-nez glasses. He may want to retire from his business he began seventeen years ago as an entrepreneur. Sure, I began it with him, I of course helped him, you’ll meet me. I’m cherished, famous, wonderful…” “Theatrical,” murmured Fiddle, rolling his eyes. “…amazing, cherished… I said cherished twice, haven’t I? Well that shows how much I am cherished by rats of all around the globe then, for assisting Randolph on beginning a perfectly fine heirloom of rats (Purple Tie Investors, of course)…” “Theatrically,” murmured Fiddle once more. “…and think about it! The whole family works for it! A totally magnificent, rich, noble and great, cherished, esteemed… oh! I’ve been so busy talking I haven’t realised we have a few guests. Hullo! Well… two big people and one hare. Splendid! Well do come in and have a rest!” and they obeyed politely. But little did Gilbert see where he was sitting, for he had, by accident, sat on Father Rat! “Argh! Do not sit here!” protested Father Rat. In a few moments he had been sat on by a person much bigger than him. “Let me guess!” a now-squished rat said (but Gilbert, who was sitting on him, couldn’t hear him). “May I say you are an overgrown rat who had tiny ears and have cut off their tail?” “Randolph!” screamed Mother Rat in horror. She scurried over to Gilbert. “Get off, I command you to get off the armchair at once, you!” and as the boy did, a weak but very peeved rat. “Beast,” grumbled Father Rat. “You face is ruined!” cried Mother Rat dramatically. “Are you alright? Is your ear fine and can it hear me? Randolph! A rat’s ear is a rat’s greatest pride! No rat-ear shall, not a single bit be chipped! Randolph? Your face is ruined. Maybe your ear as well!” “Start for the doctor,” ordered Father Rat. “A big person’s bottom is not very ideal to be squished by. Aurelia, I honestly feel uncomfortable. Start for Dr Hart at once. I feel a bit ill, you know,” and at once Mother Rat hurried for Dr Hart (who sat in the office as a very intelligent rat with her assistant Wilhelmina). “Dr Hart! Come quickly!” Mother Rat told the doctor as she bustled into the office. “I tell you Randolph was sat on by and he’s feeling unwell. Come quickly!” “Aurelia! Before I do, Sign these ninety-seven pages of paperwork, please,” replied she.

VII Down with the Doctor and the Happy Ending

“Aurelia,” repeated Dr Hart, “Are you going to sign the papers or I am going to lose my salary, my pay and most of all my client. I may even lose my occupation if I treat a client who hasn’t signed the papers. Every client has to sign the papers, Aurelia!” “You’re unhired,” said Mother Rat. “Don’t stare at me. I said ‘you’re unhired’, and I can do that because you’re my doctor and I hired you because I had enough money to hire you, and if I hired you, I have the right to get rid of you, Dr Hart. Yes, Wilhelmina. You too. Find another rich, cherished, wonderful, amazing rat to hire you, doctor. But for now, I seem to have ridded you, and if I ridded you, why are you still here?” That was the end of Dr Hart and Wilhelmina. Mother Rat hurried back to where Father Rat was lying, his ‘face ruined’ (or at least it would be what she would say), pince-nez glasses cracked and book torn. Lucy was busily trying to restore the squished rat by fanning him and one of the servants was shouting at Gilbert for sitting somewhere which was already taken. “Randolph! How are you?” inquired Mother Rat. “I ridded Dr Hart and Wilhelmina I did. They were unhired right on the spot, you know! Too much papers to sign. I guess a doctor’s assistant deserves what the doctor gets, and Dr Hart gets unhired, Wilhelmina I say is a goner as well. Goodbye, those two!” “Are you crazy, Aurelia? I needed them!” screamed Father Rat loudly. “Now I’m going to be squished like this forever!” and Mother Rat suddenly saw the error she had made. With that, she bolted out of the door and hurried over to Dr Hart and Wilhelmina, who had, by now, disappeared into a hole under the ground where no person walking by will trample over them. As the rat chasing the doctor cried, “YOU’RE HIRED!” repeatedly, back in the burrow, Father Rat stood up and straightened his glasses. He declared, with a good strong voice, “I am as fine as pie, thank you very much.” “I sat on you, Mr Rat,” said Gilbert. “You may have a few fractures or something. Is it a good truth you’re fine as pie? After what I did, and – and, you had Mrs Rat start for Dr Hart and Wilhelmina, you seem very unlikely to be as fine as pie.” “Oh, that! I forgive you for that,” said Father Rat, slightly snapping. “But the point is, boy, that I’m fine as pie, don’t you worry about me! My hip seems to have been unbent, now you’ve sat on me. I must thank you for unbending my poor hip.” The rest of the day continued on, without Mother Rat (who was still tirelessly chasing Dr Hart and Wilhelmina out in the open streets). A few minutes after noon, Fiddle said, “Perhaps we should go see the ravenous black-and-white creature,” and that was exactly what Gilbert and Lucy came for, so that they did. Father Rat did not seem very content about it, though said nothing. Fiddle climbed up a wooden door up to the knob and he gently twisted it. “Go on in,” he insisted, as he hopped off the door to go on in with the visitors. Inside there was a badger. At the moment they had arrived in the room (with an azure pair of curtains, sunlight shone into the room like fire), a pair of rats were tirelessly carrying a cup of tea over for Brandon. One of the rats fainted, and the tea spilt, and the other rat screamed, for the tea had been spilt over him. “You may take a break,” ordered Father Rat, as the rat who did not faint drag the other fainted one out of the room. “Well then. Brandon Badger, here he is. It’s who you came for, isn’t it, young’uns? Here he is, sipping his tea (although spilt)… oh dear! I think I’m a bit losing my temper now! Someone get me a fan before I faint like a fly.” “Gilbert! Lucy!” cried the badger. He leapt off his chair, throwing his tea up (so that a bit of tea spilt all over Father Rat’s brand new and slightly squished suit) and gave them both a tight bear hug. Brandon had certainly gained weight while staying at Fiddle’s, for he had eaten a cooky whenever he had the chance and Father Rat wasn’t looking. “Get… off…” wheezed Lucy not unkindly, and the badger obeyed. “Bless my soul, haven’t you I say eaten a got abundant amount of cookies!” “Frequently, yes, madame,” said Brandon. “I say, I say, when can we head back to your palace? Oh! No more of that Cyril boy, do we’ve? Of course not. I must be held captive someday. Animal cruelty! Unfair acts, tut, tut, tut. Well we better be heading back, now shan’t we? Palace we go, then! If you won’t mind. If we stay, I will prefer another cup of tea, thank you very much. Unless you’ve run out… but I’m sure you have plenty.” “Oh, don’t worry, Brandon. We’ll be going now,” said Lucy. “Our horse is at the door of the burrow. Probably grazing. Maybe. I don’t know, but Bishop’s a very fine boy you know. No chance of any horses-tossing-riders-into-the-air situations, either.” “Grazing!” screamed Father Rat. “Not my beautiful tulips and daffodils and roses! An old year ago I planted them. Now they’re being uprooted by this Bishop you talk of! Oh how melancholy life’s been. Cookies have been eaten… now my flower garden! Not my daffodils, my tulips, my roses!” “Do calm down, Mr Randolph,” said Brandon. “You could grow more. Although I’ve never tried growing any plants, for I am no phytologist, but, as well as I know if I were a phytologist (which is a botanist, a definition for the young’uns), daffodils, tulips, roses, all that and so forth are all very easy to grow.” “They are most certainly not when you put all your effort in them,” grumbled Father Rat, “Which I have. I put all my effort, my time in those daffodils and tulips and roses. Now that horse of yours is uprooting them! I have never been so insulted in my life! It’s like a dagger in my heart, you know.” “Sorry then,” said Gilbert ruefully, “But it isn’t the horses fault you made your flowers so delicious. If you want visitors with horses, say goodbye to beautiful flower gardens. It will be what I say.” With that, they led Brandon off to the front door, where Bishop was indeed eating the flower garden of Father Rat’s, which made the poor gardener rat storm back in, grab his slightly squished book and did nothing else. Fiddle, Flynn, Father Rat (who was content at last, for they were going), stayed at the front door to wave along with the dairymaid, a cook, the servants, and the housekeeper. “Goodbye!” cried Brandon, once Bishop began and they were heading off into the distance, while the flower garden was still safe. It was not a few hours until they arrived back at the palace. The king and queen said, in great pleasure, a few words to welcome their two children home and were as all seemed a bliss. “Gilbert! Lucy!” cried King Baron, hurrying over to give them a hug. “We cannot a bit find you anywhere. We sent Ezekiel our servant to try look for you…” “Precisely,” said Queen Belinda, who was slightly sterner than her timid husband. “It is such a phenomenal miracle. You have arrived home, and with Brandon Badger too. Oh, I am very gratified, I certainly am. But where is Cyril?” “He has his ways,” said Lucy. King Baron laughed. “I suppose you’re right. Cyril does, doesn’t he? Well, I am sure he is very happy wherever he may be, and planning more mischief too. We won’t mind the boy so much then. Now let’s get you some food, shall we? I say, you’ve become skinny I say! Well, well, well. Skinny as prunes. Better get you some first-class porridge…” “Any biscuits?” asked Brandon. “…and biscuits!” continued Queen Belinda. “You wee badger! I do want to know why you were lost and where you were… but those questions can wait.” “Can wait indeed,” said King Baron. “The most important thing is that you’re fine. In the name of the law, section 52 paragraph 16, in the Brady Patterson book Laws, it says, “The law we all care about is whether a loved one is fine or not. Hopefully so,” which I say is exquisitely true. Although Cyril may not be here to have some dinner with us, we’ll get used to living without the boy.” With that, the feast begun. The cooks had made wonderful meals for everyone, enough to feed them up until they were full. The feast ended at eight o’clock, in four hours. At the moment the feast ended, there was a knock on the door. King Baron answered it. Outside was a boy, with a crown like a prince. Everyone fell quiet. It was the king’s youngest son. “BBBBRRRRAAAANNNNDDDDOOOONNNN!” the visitor yelled.


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