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Windy and the Lost Key

CHAPTER ONE

The adventure begins the early hours of one Christmas morning.

The Freeman family live at number Seventy Three Juniper Avenue in Old Ashton. There are two sisters, Marie is the eldest with Debbie being three years younger, a mom, dad and a white rabbit called Topsy. They live in a three bedroom cottage.

The village itself is small. The cottages have ash wood rooftops, ceramic tile walls and plenty of enchanting wildlife. There are the usual shops and pubs in the village plus two doctors, one for the people and another for their animals/pets’

In the centre of Old Ashton, next to the Royal Library, is the Joe and Go Coffee Shop run by Joe Clay and his long suffering girlfriend of fifteen plus years, Margie Hayes. The café is the hub of the village and Kat often works there to help out during busy times.

Dad, Donald Freeman stands at five feet ten inches tall, fair skinned with a secretive, magical feel about him. He has a full, kind face, a snub nose and thin lips. His brown eyes are small and he has well-groomed eyebrows. He has short wavy greying hair which is worn short at the back and slightly longer on top. He has long arms and powerful hands, a broad body, and strong legs. He usually wears traditional clothes that are comfortable and easy to wear. The only jewellery he wears is his wedding ring. He works at the local newspaper in town, The Insider Daily, as a part time roving reporter. There aren’t many issues to report on so he often enters fictional short stories he writes in his study which readers seem to enjoy. I think he’d quite like his own column.

It’s hard to describe a person like Donald but two things you’ll never forget are that he’s courteous and cheerful. Of course he’s also playful, kind and fun-loving. His courtesy though, this is what he’s often adored for. Friends and family usually count on this and his fun-loving nature when they’re in need of support. These qualities help when you’re a roving reporter.

Mom, Kat Freeman, short for Kathleen, is five feet one inch tall; she has tanned skin from growing up in the countryside, spending a lot of time outdoors. She has a warm-hearted feel about her. She has a round face, a large nose and narrow lips. Her brown eyes are almond in shape and she has thin eyebrows. She has short, curly, black hair which features a side parting. She has strong arms and strong hands, a thick torso and short strong legs. The only jewellery she wears is her wedding ring. Apart from working in the café when she’s needed, she devotes all her time to her house and daughters. She is very easy to get on with. Her understanding nature is what she is adored for.

Debbie Freeman is an adventurous five-year old who is allergic to hazelnuts and obsessed with tank tops. She is funny but can be very loud and a bit messy. She is small for her age with fair skin, brown hair and eyes. She goes to Erinsborough School where her favourite subjects are maths and science. She loves her teacher Mr Davies but hates Mr Stuart whose interests include putting children in detention for no reason. Debbie’s best friend is a child called Rebecca Pacey. They have a fiery friendship but enjoy spending time together.

Marie Freeman is an eight-year old bookworm who enjoys jigsaw puzzles. She is a fantasist but can also be very bossy and a bit impatient. She is average build with long black hair and green eyes. She eats a lot of meat and loves chocolate cake. She also goes to Erinsborough School where her favourite subjects are English and Physical Education. She loves her teacher Mr McIntyre but hates Mr Campbell whose interests include handing out extra homework. Marie’s best friend is Poppy Love. They have been inseparable since nursery.

It was two o’clock in the morning when the two sisters woke up. Marie, who was a light sleeper, was feeling giddy with excitement at the thought of Father Christmas visiting with all their presents; so excited that she had not been able to eat all her dinner the previous night.

Unfortunately, they had to share a bedroom, mainly because Debbie didn’t like sleeping on her own. She snored and talked in her sleep too. Often, they kept each other awake laughing and giggling until mom or dad came in to tell them off. When they went to bed last night, they had really tried to stay awake, but after having a very busy Christmas Eve going to see Father Christmas at the local department store in town, they had both fallen asleep as soon as their heads touched their pillows.

Wondering if he had been to their house yet and excited to see what he had brought them, the sisters got out of bed, put on their slippers and crept down the stairs, remembering to step over the creaky floorboard, as they didn’t want to disturb their parents who were sleeping soundly in the bedroom next door. They could hear their dad snoring so were quietly confident they were safe from being caught.

As they reached the bottom of the stairs, they crept along the hallway and stood inside the doorway to the playroom.

“I don’t think he’s been yet, it might be too early” whispered Marie as she walked into the playroom, closely followed by her sister who was holding onto the back of Marie’s nightdress.

“What’s that noise?” cried Marie in surprise looking all around her.

“It sounds like someone is crying” replied Debbie, as she looked around the playroom nervously trying to see where the noise was coming from.

The playroom is a large rectangular room with mismatched wooden furniture. The floor is laminated and the walls are painted in an eggshell blue. The room is lit by two wall lamps. Overall it has a fairy-tale-like look to it.

In one corner of the playroom next to the rocking chair, near the doll’ house, sat a rag doll facing the wall. She had long blonde hair which she wore in pigtails tied with a shiny pink ribbon, a red dress with white spots, and the reddest, shiniest shoes with a shiny black buckle right at the centre. She was crying and the closer the girls got to her the louder her crying became. Big fat tears were rolling down her red cheeks, splashing onto her spotted dress. At first, they didn’t notice what was lying in her lap. As they tip toed closer, they saw it was a little white sausage dog with pointy ears, it looked very dirty and frightened. The dog was shaking nervously as it watched them watching him.

“Who are you and why are you crying?” asked Marie shyly. The doll slowly turned around to face them and, still holding the dog in her arms, jumped up with a start and looked round at the two sisters.

“My name is Katie and I have fallen off Father Christmas’s sleigh,” said the little doll, still crying big, fat tears.

‘Please stop crying,” said Debbie, giving Katie her favourite handkerchief out of her pyjama pocket. She reached out and began stroking the little dog gently as he was still shaking.

“How on earth did you manage to fall off Father Christmas’s sleigh?” asked Marie.

“This little dog was blown off the sleigh by a very strong wind, I tried to hold onto him but I fell off myself,” said Katie through her tears, as she cuddled her new found friend and tried to wipe her tears away with Debbies’ handkerchief at the same time. “When I saw your friendly-looking house I managed to squeeze us both in through your playroom window, I hope you don’t mind.”

“What is the little dogs’ name?” asked Debbie.

“I don’t know” said Katie, “I’ve tried to ask him but he hasn’t made a sound since he fell off the sleigh and I picked him up.”

”Then we shall give him a name” said Marie bossily. “Because he was blown off the sleigh by a strong wind let’s call him Windy.” “Do you like your new name, Windy?” asked Marie, gently stroking the still frightened dog.

“Windy can’t answer you”, said Katie in a sad voice.

‘Why, not?” said Marie.

“Because he has lost his bark,” replied Katie.

“Lost his bark?” cried Debbie, in surprise, starting to laugh. “Whoever heard of a dog losing his bark?”

“Well, you see Debbie, Windy is a clockwork dog and when he fell off the sleigh, he lost the key that winds him up. It was carried away with the wind and I couldn’t catch it, so, until his key is found he will not be able to bark or make any noise at all,” explained Katie through gentle sobs.

Windy nodded his head in sorrowful agreement; his hearing was working fine and he had thankfully stopped shaking.

“But how do we get him another key?” asked Marie. “Can we go and buy one?”

“There is only one way I’m afraid,” said Katie. “Windy must be taken back to Toyland so that we can ask the toymaker for another key from his workshop.”

“How do we get to Toyland?” asked Debbie, in a disbelieving voice, secretly not sure she believed in Toyland even though she was talking to a doll and a clockwork dog.

“By magic,” replied Katie wistfully.

“That’s silly. I don’t believe in magic!!” scoffed Debbie, rather rudely, realising how silly that sounded.

“If you don’t believe me, I can show you right now,” Katie told her. She began rubbing one of her red shoes with her left hand and using her right hand pointed a finger in Debbie’s direction. In an instant, Debbie started to rise slowly into the air and floated all around the playroom, her slippers barely missing the books and toys on the bookshelves. The little white dog was so afraid that he quickly scampered into the doll’s house and peeped through a window watching the flying little girl. “Now do you believe in magic?” asked Katie laughing, looking up at Debbie.

“You look like a flying canary in your yellow pyjamas!” laughed Marie, clutching at her sides.

“Please let me down. I do believe in magic now, I really do,” yelled Debbie, still flying round the playroom, having to cover her eyes with her hands.

Katie clicked her fingers which broke the magic spell. Debbie gently and slowly came sailing to the floor, landing rather more heavily than she would have liked on some floor cushions in the corner of the playroom. She sat there for a second feeling quite bewildered.

“Alright, now that you have shown us that you can do magic, please tell us how we can get to Toyland so we can help Windy?” said Marie, as Debbie, having recovered from flying went to the doll’s house, picked up Windy and gave him a kiss on his nose.

“A Trip in a Golden Coach is what will get us to Toyland,” said Katie looking round the playroom for what she needed, then she saw the sisters’ very tall Christmas tree sat in the corner, all lit up and sparkling with baubles and tinsel.

“You see those fairy lights hanging on your Christmas tree?” asked Katie pointing towards the tree.

”Yes, I see them,” answered Marie. “They are shaped like golden coaches; my dad bought them for my mom last Christmas as a present.”

“Well watch them very carefully,” said Katie, as once again she rubbed her red shoe with her left hand and pointed with her right hand towards one of the golden coaches hanging on the tree. There was a flash of light, like a sparkler on bonfire night being lit, and suddenly there appeared out of nowhere a full-sized golden coach in the middle of the playroom!

“Oh, my goodness,” shouted Debbie and Marie at the same time, covering their mouths with their hands, suddenly realising they were being loud. The golden coach filled the room, it looked old, disused and dilapidated.

“I really hope you can change that back again,” Debbie said looking unsure all of a sudden.

“Of course I can, but for now we shall use it to get us to the city of Arboron where Toyland is,” said Katie, inviting Marie and Debbie to climb inside quickly.

“How can we go anywhere in that?” grumbled Debbie. “It looks like it will collapse any minute and it has no horses to pull it and everyone knows that horses pull coaches.” “Also, we haven’t had our breakfast yet,” she moaned, rubbing her tummy.

“Anything is possible on Christmas Day with a little bit of magic,” said Katie, as she magically rubbed her shoes and a mug of hot chocolate and biscuits suddenly appeared in both of the girls’ hands. They greedily ate the biscuits and drank the hot chocolate.

Just as they had finished their drinks, the coach began to lift very slowly off the floor, wobbling a little as it got its balance. Suddenly, with a whoosh, it went flying through the open playroom window. Either the window had gotten bigger or the coach had gotten smaller, neither sister was sure.

                                                       CHAPTER TWO

Marie and Katie were sitting on the floor of the coach holding hands and Debbie was looking through one of the windows, holding Windy tightly in her arms so that he could see the view. They flew off into the morning sky flying swiftly over the roof tops.

“Look Windy! There’s my school,” shouted Debbie excitedly. “And there’s my teacher, Mrs Tadpole, taking her dog for a walk.” “Hello Mrs Tadpole, Merry Christmas,” cried Debbie out of the coach window.

“She can’t hear you silly,” Marie was laughing uncontrollably at her little sister.” “And don’t lean too far out.”

They flew across the snow-covered rooftops, valleys, mountains and seas anxiously looking out of the windows at the views whizzing beneath them.

As the coach began to slow down, it appeared to be looking for somewhere to land. Far more gracefully than it looked, it landed in a clearing in a wood. The city of Arboron was built in the shadows of an enormous mountain called Rainbow Mountain. Its appearance is matched by the backdrop of ever clear skies which have helped shape the city to what it is today.

“We are in the Mysterious Wood and we need to get a move on.” Katie was trying to put Windy in her pocket as she spoke.

“I think I would like to go home now,” Debbie muttered climbing out of the coach quickly followed by Marie.

“It isn’t a bad place to be. Most of the creatures are sleepy or asleep, they won’t bother us too much. As long as we stay away from Jagged Wood, we will be fine,” Katie told them.

The wood was tremendous, clear and young. Its canopy was marked by willow, sycamore and oak, their crowns allowed cascading lights to shimmer through. Swooping branches swayed from the willow trees and a variety of flowers, which desperately tried to avoid the shadows, looked almost out of place in the otherwise monotonous scenery.

A disharmony of beastly noises echoed in the air, and were out of sync with the swaying of tree tops in the wind.

“Where is Jagged Wood?” asked Debbie and Marie. “Beyond Rainbow Mountain,” said Katie.

“Where is Rainbow Mountain?” chorused the sisters.

Changing the subject and realizing the girls were still wearing their nightwear Katie turned to them both. “Now before we go you must both have some decent clothes so stand still a minute.”

First she pointed to Marie. PING her nightdress vanished and in its place appeared a stylish emerald green jacket which flowed from top to bottom with a cowl neckline, which gracefully revealed an ornate dress worn underneath it. The fine corset of her dress covered her stomach where the continuous flow is broken up by a large ribbon worn fairly high around her waist. On her feet were the most beautiful soft velvet green ballet pumps.

“WOW,” was all Marie could say spinning round.

Debbie crossed her fingers behind her back and prayed she didn’t have to wear anything so fancy and old fashioned.

Turning to Debbie, Katie performed her magic. PING. Debbie could barely dare to open her eyes. In place of her favourite pair of yellow pyjamas she wore an ornate top which flowed from top to bottom, with an ornate neckline. Over the top was a long sleeved purple silk jacket which fell to her knees. On her legs were a pair of trousers which were simple and quite wide and reached down to furred boots. They felt very comfortable and were quite simple in design.

“Can I have a different outfit please?” asked Debbie, not altogether pleased with looking like she did, preferring to wear jeans, hoodie and trainers maybe even a cool cap.

“No, there isn’t time,” Katie whispered, starting to walk quickly down one of the paths signposted ‘To Toyland’.

As they made their way down the winding uneven path, they saw silhouettes of creatures similar to those you would see at home in your garden or when out for a walk. While they show you little interest, the cautious path would be the best one. They saw thin creatures, crawling creatures, and what they thought might be hairy creatures of some sort. Debbie kept brushing tiny creatures off her coat until Marie told her to stop it. They could feel their excitement rising as a whole new world unfolded before them.

                                                      CHAPTER THREE

Eventually they came across a weeping willow tree with attractive trailing branches with leaves so long and green they seemed to reach for miles; they looked like long fingers crawling over the floor.

The gang stopped and stood in front of the tree and looked up and up and up, it was so tall they could barely see the sky beyond.

“Wow,” Marie and Debbie cried in unison.

“That’s the Crawling Willow Tree,” said Katie.

“It’s so big,” whispered Debbie, trying to catch Windy as he began running and jumping around the tree trunk, biting at the leaves as they wrapped themselves around his long body trying to scoop him up.

“As long as this Willow tree is alive and green it will protect all who live in Arboron Kingdom, especially Rainbow Mountain. Those who have tried to kill it have never been seen again. Stories are told that they get picked up by the long crawling branches, which wind themselves around the bodies of their enemies and lift them high up into the top of the tree.”

“Why would anybody want to kill such a magnificent tree and why does Rainbow Mountain need protecting?” asked Marie.

“Inside Rainbow Mountain, inside a chest, lie many precious stones called Obsidians. Many years ago this volcanic glass was mined and used by armies to make powerful daggers and swords to defeat their enemies and win many battles. Its imposing, mysterious black hue, has perhaps also made it an amulet of protection,” said Katie. “It’s been said to contain potent properties which make for a great defensive spell.”

They hurried on past the Crawling Willow tree and came to a clearing in the wood; there, down a small hill, was Toyland.

As they entered the rather large wooden gates (which were guarded by two very serious looking toy soldiers) into Toyland, the first building they saw was the Town Hall. It was truly an eerie sight. So many toys forgotten. No matter how many toys made their home in this land now you couldn’t help but be overcome with loneliness. Life had not just come to a stop, it had completely disappeared. Yet there was something in the air, a sense of magic and new life just around the corner.

From the outside, the town hall looks uncomfortable, uninviting and unfriendly. Large stones and stone beams make up most of the buildings’ outer structure. It’s impossible to see through the closed window but the sombre mood from within can be felt outside.

The group hurried past the town hall “First we must find Mr Woodworm, the toymaker,” said Katie. “He makes all the toys in Toyland, so he will definitely have a key that will help make Windy bark again.”

“There is Mr Woodworm’s shop,” Marie pointed out, seeing the sign for the Toy Shop before the others did.

As they headed up the path towards the shop, it was easy to see its similarity to the structure of a dwelling with its low, square-shaped roof covered in red tiles.

One small chimney poked out the centre of the roof. Many smaller windows let in plenty of light to the rooms below. On either side of the path was a modest garden, covered mostly in grass, a few flower patches and with a small pond.

The sign above the front door said ‘The Nodding Toad Shop” with an actual green toad sat bobbing about on the spot.

As they entered through the old wooden door they were welcomed by the crackling and heat of a roaring fire at the far end of the room. Mr Woodworm stood behind a large counter coughing into a dirty handkerchief and made no effort to acknowledge their presence. The shop itself was packed. Several long tables ran the length of the room and were occupied by what seemed to be dwarves working away quietly on a variety of broken toys. The gang had to weave their way through the tables to get to the counter, having to step over broken toys that littered the cobblestone floor.

“Good morning, Mr Woodworm,” greeted Katie politely, as she gently took Windy from Debbie and put him on the counter.

“Hello children!” beamed Mr Woodworm looking up, putting his handkerchief in his pocket and wiping his hands on his apron. He was a tall round man with golden, wavy hair slightly covering a craggy, happy face. Beady silver eyes set deep within their sockets watched protectively over his mob of dwarves that he has kept safe for so long.

“What can I do for you on this fine Christmas morning?” he asked.

“lt’s Windy, the clockwork dog!” replied Katie. “He was blown off Father Christmas’s sleigh this morning. I tried to save him but the wind was much too strong and I got blown off too; and when we landed, I couldn’t find the key to wind him up anywhere.” “Now poor Windy has lost his bark.”

Debbie pleaded. “Please can you give us another key, Mr Woodworm, so we can wind Windy up so that he may bark again?”

Mr Woodworm walked over to the Toyshop window and rubbing his pointy chin looked towards the sky. Turning back to the small group with a strange look on his face he said, “Can you describe the wind for me please Katie?”

“It was very strong, dark and powerful; it was so cold, as though it could freeze us in minutes,” she said sounding suddenly very worried and stroking Windys’ head as though to calm herself as he nuzzled her hand. “It stopped as soon as I climbed through Marie and Debbie’s playroom window,” she finished, looking at Mr Woodworm.

“That, my dear, was no ordinary wind. Those were the Dark Elves. They now live in Jagged Wood, at the far side of Mysterious Wood, and are not to be trusted,” Mr Woodworm told them as he walked back around the counter.”

“D-d-dark…E-elves…!” said Debbie as she tried to comfort Marie, who was now hiding behind her little sister. “Who or what are they?”

Mr Woodworm rubbed the back of his thin neck and said, “Dark Elves are known for their aggression, deceit, and stealth. They are very brutal and cruel by nature, having little mercy when it comes to cheating, battling, or anything dealing with the life of another being. They have little respect for even their own kind, at times waging war against each other.”

Katie, who had been concentrating on Windy, suddenly spoke up.

“I thought it might be, but I wasn’t sure. I have never seen one before.”

“How did they come to be Dark Elves?” asked Marie.

                                                      CHAPTER FOUR

“I will try to explain,” said Mr Woodworm. “Hidden in the Mysterious Wood, just beneath the Creeping Willow Tree, is the Elven city of Litalos. The elf king, Alred, and his queen, Amera had two children: a son, Dalamus, and a daughter, Anarina. They were loved so much but were very different. Dalamus stood at over 6 feet tall with long sleek white blonde hair hanging over a thin radiant face. Sparkling pink eyes set well within their sockets watched energetically over the woodlands he had worshipped for so long. He was cheeky and always fun to be around, playing tricks on his friends and family.

“Anarina also stands at almost six feet tall, with white long wavy hair and clear aquamarine eyes, a true angel amongst elves. She was quiet, studious, hardly left her parents and her home in the willow tree; she was the more spoilt of the two but Dalamus didn’t seem to mind his sister getting all the attention. That is until one day the city of Litalos was raided by a malignity of Goblins. Many elves were killed in the raid, among them the king and queen. One goblin in particular named Sluzz, is the one who fired the arrows into Alred and Ameria. Sluzz is the object of Dalamus hunt; Dalamus has sworn to avenge their deaths and kill all the Goblins in the Kingdom by making a sword out of Obsidian.

Over time, he got together an army of elves. They were promised great fortunes if they brought him the key that unlocks the chest where the Obsidian stones have layed buried for years. They failed in their quest so he put a curse on them and turned them into wind creatures that now haunt the Jagged Wood. They are under a spell and must keep trying to find the key, only then will the curse be lifted. Along with Dalamus the Dark Elves will never stop hunting for it”.

“Anarina wears a locket made out of Obsidian around her neck, given to her by her father; she never takes it off,” said Mr Woodworm. “Inside the locket is the key to unlock a chest in Rainbow Mountain where the precious stones were placed many years ago after being mined by an army of dwarves. She made a promise to never lose the key and to keep the precious stones safe, as in the wrong hands they can cause great evil”.

“Where does Anarina live now?” asked Marie finally creeping out from behind Debbie.

“At the top of Rainbow Mountain in a castle that is heavily protected by a group of trolls whom she managed to rescue from Dalamus. She fled there after her parents were killed. She has tried many times to save her brother from the dark side.” said Katie. “The Dark Elves must have thought Windy’s key was the key to unlock the chest. It is thought that Anarina sent it into the mortal world disguised as an ordinary key to keep it safe but nobody knows where”

“Dalamus will not rest until he has that key,” said Mr Woodworm. “There are only three things in the world that elves fear: the sea in a storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man,” he told them.

“We should bring our dad out here then,” said Marie in a quiet whisper so only her sister could hear. She heard Debbie giggle and smiled to herself, imagining her Dad out here. He would love an adventure.

Looking at the faces of his expectant visitors the toyshop owner walked out from behind the shop counter and stood in front of them. He took his glasses off his nose and spoke to them.

“I am very sorry children, but I cannot help you because I have no keys,” grimaced Mr Woodworm, shaking his head and rubbing his chin. “That horrible cat Walla Walla Whiska has stolen all my keys; he broke into my Toy Shop last night and took them all.”

“Do you know where he has taken them?” asked Katie.

“To his cave in Rainbow Mountain!” Explained Mr Woodworm, wiping his eyes with his handkerchief.”

“And where is Rainbow Mountain?” the sisters chorused as they remembered Katie hadn’t answered the question earlier.

“Out of Toyland, through the Mysterious Wood, past the Crawling Willow Tree and it’s on the edge of Jagged Wood,” said Mr Woodworm.

Is Jagged Wood as scary as it sounds?” said Marie.

“Jagged Wood is endless and dark. Coiling vines dangle from every tree. Flowers no longer grow in the rich soil; there is no colour in Jagged Wood. There are few creatures that live there; the ones that do are nocturnal and rely on their hearing and taste buds to get around. They have big eyes but their sight is lacking. They have short beaks and no visible ears and their heads are fairly large in comparison to their bodies.” “Let me get a map and I will show you how to get to Rainbow Mountain safely.” said Mr Woodworm.

As he disappeared into the back of his shop through a curtain made of what looked like thousands of spiders webs knitted together, a cat that was sitting next to the fire hissed loudly at Windy who still sat on the counter minding his own business. Windy, who was not used to cats of any description, shot up off the counter, jumped down onto the floor and scuttled out of the front door.

Debbie and Katie were looking at the map Mr Woodworm was showing them so didn’t notice Windy’s escape. Luckily Marie did, so leaving the shop she ran out after the clockwork dog.

To her left and right she thought she could hear faint singing coming from a wooded area to the right of the toyshop. Looking up above the shop door she saw the toad, he was nodding and pointing to the right grinning. Taking this as a helpful sign she ran into the wood. She was still running when she realised she could no longer hear singing. Stopping to catch her breath she shouted, “Windy where are you?” Looking around she could see the wood was large, misty and thick with trees, curving, creeping with swooping vines hanging from the trees. She could hear a mishmash of animal noises filling the air and the smells transported her back in time but she could not remember from where, suddenly she felt very afraid.

                                                     CHAPTER FIVE

Still calling Windys’ name, she began to tread very carefully over the creeping thick vines, aware they could wind around her ankles and trap her at any moment. Feeling a chill around her, she put up the hood on her coat, grateful for its thick material. As she put her hands in the deep pockets she felt her left hand touch something; lifting it out carefully she saw that it looked very much like a magic wand. No, it couldn’t be. Could it? Deciding anything is possible she began looking around her but seeing nothing in the thick mist she held the wand in front of her face. Not sure what she was hoping it would do, and somehow thinking she should come up with a magic spell like the ones she had read about in Debbie’s spell book last year. It wasn’t really a book; more a pamphlet of instructions that came in the box but Debbie insisted it was a book and the magic made it look like a pamphlet. Her sister was a member of the magic circle and often performed tricks with dice, rope and beakers to amuse her friends. She remembered one spell she read about from the book called Stuulsis Persoigeo, this was supposed to create a magical trail marking where somebody has walked.

Hoping she was pronouncing it correctly she held the wand out in front of her and cried “Stuulsis Persoigeo” as she flicked her wrist as firmly as she could. Not expecting anything magical to happen she was thrown slightly off balance as the appearance of the wand began to change into an intricate, azure glowing shaft. As she landed on her bottom on a bed of dirty leaves and dead vines, the wand dropped to the ground.

At the same time the whole of the wooded area lit up and she was able to see clear paw prints in the soil. Only they weren’t the only set of prints to be seen.

Getting to her feet, she picked up the wand. Making her way through the wood, following the footprint trail, she held the wand in front of her as she went. This time she didn’t call Windy’s name, she kept quiet.

As she walked forward she thought she could make out a silhouette of something or someone in the distance. Feeling very brave now she had a magic wand in her hand, she made her way towards the shape. Then she heard a familiar noise.

“Windy,” she cried with relief as the clockwork dog jumped into her arms almost but not quite knocking the wand out of her hand. “Let’s get out of here” she whispered, but the little dog jumped out of her arms and ran back towards the silhouette.

As she squinted through the mist she saw it was some sort of caveman; she recognized his appearance from her history class at school.

He stood tall and very straight, dressed in ragged clothing. What looked like what was once a shirt was now a dirty stained piece of fabric hanging from one of his shoulders like a discarded old towel. Insects or rodents have chewed hundreds of small holes in it. He’s wearing a rugged vest over his shirt which looked far too big for him. The right leg of his trousers were torn at the knee and the left leg full of holes. But at least he had shoes to protect his feet. Although they were missing laces, way too big for him and the left toe had come loose from the sole. He wore a multi-coloured scarf around his neck and had it wrapped around his face in a way that covered his chin. It’s old and ragged but looked clean. His hair was sticking up in every direction. His face was kind yet sorrowful, his eyes were brown, small with long lashes. He had a scar above his right eye that he kept rubbing every few minutes as though it reminded him of something or someone.

He looked familiar but Marie couldn’t place where she knew him from.

The caveman bent down and picked Windy up gently and walked towards Marie. Being in two minds whether to turn and run, she stayed put as she wasn’t leaving Windy with this person in a dark misty wood.

He came to stand in front of Marie, handed Windy over and said in a deep but friendly voice, “My name is Gullon.”

Marie took Windy from him and responded, “My name is Marie.”

“What brings you into Jagged Wood? It’s far too dangerous, you should leave now,” said Gullon, constantly looking around him.

Marie went on to tell him the story of how they got here and why she is now standing in a dark, misty wood talking to a caveman holding a clockwork dog.

“Why are you here, are you lost?” said Marie.

“I used to live on a farm on the opposite side of Mysterious Wood with my family,” he said pointing in the opposite direction. “There were lush, green fields spread between the patches of woodland. All around horses and sheep grazed. It was peaceful and we kept ourselves to ourselves until it got destroyed by Dark Elves,” said Gullon.

“Dalamus?” said Marie.

“Yes,” he said looking down at the ground as he spoke. “I was out tending the sheep early one morning when I saw flames rising from my farmhouse, the sky was glowing red and the air quickly became thick with smoke, ash and embers, enough to destroy anything or anyone in its path. As I ran towards home, I knew all was lost. We had come under attack by the Dark Elves. You can’t see them coming, only feel them on the wind. I managed to hide in the sheep barn and when I returned to my home it was no more than a pile of ash and timbers. My family all gone. I guessed they were looking for something, There was nothing of value on the farm so cannot think what they were after. I have no possessions left and am living in relative peace and safety biding my time until I can get my revenge on Dalamus,” said Gullon tears sliding down his dirt stained cheeks.

“I am so sorry” said Marie

“It’s not your fault, don’t be sorry. I will get my revenge, I will get justice and he will suffer for my loss,” said Gullon, his eyes full of hatred.

“How will you get your revenge? Do you want my magic wand?” said Marie holding out the still brightly lit wand.

Gullon stared at the wand

“May I?” he asked holding out his hand.

Placing the wand in his hand Marie told him how she had found the wand in her pocket and wasn’t sure who it belonged to.

He held the wand as though it were a precious baby, turning it over and over in his large hands.

“This wand is made out of Pine Wood, which tends to favour those with a kind heart. The handle is made out of Hazel Wood, which in turn tends to seek out those with a talent for defensive spells. However, the combination of this strand of Pine Wood and Hazel Wood means the wand will seek out somebody with a loyal heart,” said Gullon handing the wand back to Marie.

“What shall I do with it?” said Marie

“Let the wand decide,” said Gullon, turning to walk away.

“I want to help you,” said Marie

“You will do when the time is right,” said Gullon and vanished into the misty wood.

Holding onto Windy very tightly so he couldn’t escape her grip and using the light from the wand, she made her way back through the wood to Mr Woodworm’s toyshop, hoping the others were not panicking about her disappearing. It didn’t take her long; it was almost as though she had only just stepped out of the door of the toy shop. For in an instant she was back in front of the counter in time to hear Debbie say:

“Then we shall go and get the keys back,” answered Debbie after studying the map that was laid out on the counter in front of them all, obviously without thinking and as though she hadn’t hear a word Mr Woodworm said about those woodland creatures and as though her sister had not just vanished from the shop and appeared again out of nowhere. She took Windy off the counter and stepped into the street with Katie and Marie following.

“Be very careful!” shouted Mr Woodworm through the shop door, as they left the Toy Shop” “There are many creatures protecting Rainbow Mountain and its magical powers. They are not always fond of strangers and Walla Walla Whiska is a very naughty, evil cat who doesn’t like having visitors”.

“We will be careful!” yelled Marie, as they all climbed into the golden coach. “We shall get all of your keys back, Mr Woodworm. Wait for us at the bottom of the mountain,” sounding more confident than she felt.

                                                     CHAPTER SIX

They made their way back to the golden coach and waved goodbye until Mr Woodworm, the Toyshop, and Toyland were specks in the distance, while Windy raised a paw as once again they rose into the air and made their way to Rainbow Mountain.

The heaven-touching apex of Rainbow Mountain was drenched in a brilliant light. Spikes of thin light impaled the snow in a bristling, moving line. It seemed to radiate with magical energies thanks to the precious stones buried deep inside its core.

A new Elveden kingdom castle had been built at the tip of the mountain which protected the stones and the land in which it lies. This is where Anarina lives. Attempts to replicate this source of magic or anything like it have all failed, and this doesn’t stop the dark forces from trying.

“Look, there’s Walla Walla Whiska, sitting in front of his cave,” cried Marie, as the golden coach flew down towards Rainbow Mountain.

The big fat cat was the size of a rhino, he had two arms and two legs and a long thin tail. Long spiky whiskers sat either side of his fat nose which twitched when he moved. He had thick, rough skin covered in thick coarse reddish brown hair. A large, wide mouth and long tongue kept flicking and licking the ground catching creatures to eat.

The coach landed a few feet away from the cave and as Marie and Debbie climbed out, Katie rubbed her red shoe, pointed to the coach which promptly shrank back to the size of the Christmas light that was hanging on the Christmas tree just a few hours ago.

“We don’t want to draw attention to ourselves do we”? Katie stated putting the small golden coach in the opposite pocket to where Windy sat.

Slowly they all walked across to where Walla Walla Whiska was sitting on a rather large tree stump.

“Good morning, Walla Walla Whiska,” hailed Katie trying the friendly and polite approach first. “Would you please give us Mr Woodworm’s keys so that we can find the key that will wind up Windy, our clockwork dog? Then he will be able to bark again.”

“No, you cannot have the keys, ” murmured Walla Walla Whiska angrily, not really paying any attention to his unwanted visitors as he was too busy eating some kind of black, furry creature that was wriggling around and trying to jump back onto the ground. “But you will stay here with me as my prisoners and polish all my keys,”. Walla Walla Whiska sneered.

Just as he was about to make a grab for them with his big paws, there was a flash of light so bright they had to cover their eyes. Then just as quickly the light disappeared.

Before they had a chance to realise what was happening, with one swipe of his large paws, he grabbed Marie, Debbie, and Katie, took their shoes off, and marched them into his dark cave, down some steep stone steps and pushed them all into a smaller cave. He grabbed poor old Windy by the tail, tossed him in, and slammed the door on the four chums then locked it tight.

“Ha! Ha! Ha!” laughed Walla Walla Whiska, “I will bring the keys later. If you don’t polish them all as bright as a new pin you will get nothing to eat.” Said the cat through the bars of the door.

He walked up the stone steps, sat outside the cave, growled and went back to eating his furry meal.

                                                        CHAPTER SEVEN

As their eyes adjusted to the darkness of the cave, the temperature dropped in the massive underground chamber, sending a chill down their spines. Inky black water splashed against a narrow strip of land that disappeared into the darkness before them and jagged teeth of stone came from the shadows above. They began seeing shadows of figures around them, huddled in every corner staring at the newcomers. The figures turned out to be other toys; some looked like they had been there for a long time. Suddenly the sisters were very afraid.

“Oh dear,” cried Debbie, “we are locked in here for ever and Windy will never get his bark back and I will never get to see my friends again.”

“Yes, you will, and yes, he will!” whispered Marie, kindly giving her little sister a hug. ‘‘Katie can do some magic, can’t you Katie?”

“No, I can’t”, replied Katie sadly. “Remember I can only do magic by first rubbing my red shoes, and that nasty cat Walla Walla Whiska has taken my shoes away. He must have heard about the magic shoes and not knowing which ones they were, he took them all.”

“I think I have an idea,” whispered Debbie, as she cuddled Windy. “When Walla Walla Whiska comes back with the keys for us to polish, we can find the one that will wind up Windy by trying them all and seeing which one will fit.” she exclaimed more confident than she felt.

“And how will that get us out of here?” puzzled Marie. “We are locked in don’t forget”.

Pointing to gaps between the bars of the door, Debbie explained.

“After he brings us the keys to polish, Walla Walla Whiska will probably fall back to sleep, then we can wind up Windy and send him through those bars. He can then creep up and grab Katie’s shoes, then she will be able to use her magic to get us out of here”.

“That’s actually a good idea,” cried Marie, impressed but a little annoyed that she hadn’t thought of that. “Now let us wait until Walla Walla Whiska comes back with the keys.”

Sometime later the children heard Walla Walla Whiska’s heavy footsteps as he walked down the stone steps. They heard the jingling of keys as he unlocked the door.

“Hello my pretties,” scowled Walla Walla Whiska. He filled the whole doorframe of the cave he was so big. “Here are my beautiful keys. Make sure you have cleaned all of them by the time I come back.”

He threw them onto the floor, turned around and ambled back out, slamming the door loudly behind him. He walked back up the stone steps, and they soon heard him snoring loudly as Debbie said he would.

“Quickly,” whispered Katie, excitedly, “let’s see which key will fit Windy.”

They tried all the keys as fast as they could, with the little bit of light they had from one of the toys torches. Very soon the children found a key that fitted Windy. Marie wound him up and stood him on the stone floor.

“Bow Wow,” barked Windy, as he ran and jumped round the room excitedly. “Thank you, Katie, for bringing me to Toyland and thank you, Marie and Debbie, for being so kind. I listened to Debbie’s idea for getting us out of the claws of Walla Walla Whiska and I am now ready to go through the bars to find Katie’s magic red shoes.”

“Quickly then, Windy” cried Debbie. “And mind Walla Walla Whiska doesn’t get his paws on you.”

Windy ran towards the door and disappeared from sight. The cave was eerily quiet and everyone thought when Windy hadn’t returned that he had been captured by Walla Walla Whiska and they would be kept prisoners for ever. After another very long five minutes, Windy popped his head through the bars of the iron door. In his mouth he carried Katie’s magic red shoes.

“Oh, good dog!” praised Katie throwing her arms round him. “Now let’s get out of here”.

Katie quickly put on her shoes and started to rub as she pointed towards the locked door.

“They aren’t working,” yelled Katie in a panic.

“It’s open,” yelled Marie as she flung open the big, heavy door. “Walla Walla Whiska must have forgotten to lock it after he threw the keys inside”.

Gleefully she picked up the bag of keys and they all tiptoed up the stone steps, closely followed by Windy and all the other toys that had been kept imprisoned.

“Look, thank goodness Walla Walla Whiska is still sleeping,” whispered Debbie.

“Let’s slowly crawl past him back to the coach” spoke Katie nervously. As they were crawling past Walla Walla Whiska, Windy started barking. He didn’t mean to, but he had been without his bark for such a long time that really he couldn’t help himself.

Walla Walla Whiska awoke with a start and looked round.

                                                       CHAPTER EIGHT

“Thieves. Robbers!” shrieked Walla Walla Whiska angrily. “Come back with my keys, you horrible children!”

Suddenly there was a gust of wind which gathered all the leaves up off the woodland floor into the air in a cone shape. The leaves circled up and down with such force Debbie found it hard to stand her ground. She shielded her face as the light coming from the cone was intense. As the wind stopped and the leaves fell back down to the ground, a tall thin man stood in front of her. He had dark purple skin, white hair almost pearlescent hanging loose past his shoulders and black eyes that bore into hers. ‘Dalamus,’ she thought.

“The key, give it to me,” said Dalamus.

“I don’t have a key,” said Debbie. Standing up really tall so as not to seem so small against the elf’s six feet tall frame.

“I know you have it, I have been following you all since you landed in that silly coach,” said Dalamus.

“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” Debbie shrugged trying to look cocky and brave yet trying really hard not to wet herself.

Dalamus rose a few inches off the ground heading towards Debbie. As he did, she put her hand up in front of his face, more to shield her eyes from the bright light he was emitting than anything else. When he stopped in mid-air, he was moving his head from side to side, up and down, his mouth was opening and closing but no sound was coming out. His long, thin wiry limbs were flailing about in anger but Dalamus was going nowhere.

Debbie was aghast, astonished, yet confident and fearless all of a sudden. Not quite believing what was happening, she turned around to the others and shouted.

“Run, run. Katie, take Windy to the golden coach as fast as you can and Marie slide the bag of keys down the rainbow to Mr Woodworm. I will handle Dalamus and join you in the coach,” she shouted, feeling very brave and quite the little warrior.

Marie was frozen on the spot, holding the bag of keys and staring at Dalamus. All she could think about was poor Gullon and his family being killed. She wanted to get the wand out of her pocket and put a horrible spell on him but she couldn’t get into her pocket, neither of them. They seemed to be sewn together.

“Come back, come back!” yelled Walla Walla Whiska as he chased after Marie.

He wanted to chase after his prisoners with the keys. Instead he found himself staring up at the evil Dalamus, the most feared elf of Arboron being suspended in the air by a small child. He forgot all about the keys and made a dash back to the safety of his cave, swearing to never come out again. The toys disappeared very quickly and Marie was much too fast for him anyway.

She ran to the bottom of Rainbow Mountain but couldn’t see a rainbow anywhere. Instinctively she reached into her pocket, now not sewn together, got out the wand, pointed it at the mountain, closed her eyes and imagined a rainbow with its red, pink, yellow and green colours vivid against the mountain. When she opened her eyes, there it sat. Without thinking she quickly put the bag of keys on the top of the rainbow, gave it a firm push and watched it slide down to the bottom where Mr Woodworm was waiting to catch it. He gave her a wave and a wink then disappeared.

Then she ran as fast as her little legs would carry her back towards where they had agreed to meet, just in time to see Katie take the coach ornament out of her pocket, place it on the ground and conjure her magic shoe-pointing trick at the coach ornament. It sprang into full size and was hovering ready for take-off. All the while Windy was hanging out of her coat pocket barking madly at the funny dark angry elf hovering in the air.

Debbie quickly followed, having broken her unexpected magic spell by putting her hand back into her pocket where she felt something moving. It was small, soft and very wriggly but she had no time to look and ran to catch up with the coach. Katie rubbed her shoes and thankfully the golden coach flew into the air back towards Toyland.

As they went, they looked down and watched as Dalamus slowly got up from being thrown onto the floor by Debbie, obviously as shocked as they were at what had just happened to him. His eyes bore into the eyes of Debbie as the coach flew off into the night sky, the message was clear, ‘this isn’t over!’

“Goodbye, Dalamus” mocked Debbie as the coach flew higher and higher into the sky.

As the golden coach flew over Toyland, they saw Mr Woodworm counting and polishing his keys.

“Farewell children and thank you for returning my keys. Goodbye Windy, have a safe journey home. See you very soon, Katie,” waved Mr Woodworm. As the golden coach flew over he was unaware at what had just taken place in the Mysterious Wood.

Marie turned to look at Debbie

“What just happened there?” “How did you do that?” “Were you scared?”

Debbie shrugged her shoulders as though it was nothing unusual while Katie simply looked a Debbie and winked. Marie didn’t notice.

The coach landed safely back in the children’s playroom. They all jumped out, with Marie having to try and keep Windy from not barking too much. Katie rubbed her red shoes, pointed to the coach and it quickly became small again so Marie could return it to the Christmas tree.

“Katie and Windy can sleep in our doll’s house” yawned Debbie as she placed the rag doll and clockwork dog inside the house and closed the door. The sisters knelt down together in front of the tiny window and whispered, “Promise you won’t do any more magic, Katie?”

“I promise” replied Katie, with a twinkle in her eye. I rather think she will though, don’t you?

The girls said goodbye and walked out of the playroom closing the door softly behind them, they sleepily climbed back up the stairs, carefully remembering to step over the creaky floorboard on the way up. They got back into their beds and fell asleep as fast as they had woken up.

                                                         CHAPTER NINE

“Good morning, you two” said dad, standing in the doorway of the girls’ bedroom. “It’s time to get up and see if Father Christmas has been”.

“Where is mom?” Marie asked stretching, yawning and looking at her dad.

“Making breakfast,” said dad

“What did you do to your head?” Marie said as she noticed a cut above his right eye that she hadn’t noticed before.

“Oh this? A box fell on me in the garage yesterday,” he said touching the cut as he turned around and walked out of the room going down the stairs. “And hurry up and come down. We will wait in the playroom for you,” he called from halfway.

Marie sat up in bed and looked across the room at her sister in the opposite bed, who had just woken up.

“I had the strangest dream last night,” said Marie, rubbing her eyes.

“What was it about?” asked Debbie sounding curious as she had also had a very peculiar dream, but didn’t want to share it just yet with her big sister.

Marie went on to describe the dream in detail. She remembered all of it even the fat cat that sat on Mr Woodworm’s shoulders. As she was telling Debbie how they had fought off a dark elf with magic, she noticed that her little sister wasn’t paying attention to her. This wasn’t unusual as Debbie was prone to getting distracted, and she was only five after all.

“Are you listening to me?” Marie asked annoyed. “And why are you holding your hand up to my face like that?”

“My pyjamas are covered in biscuit crumbs and I don’t know why,” said Debbie brushing her hands across her yellow night clothes. For a split-second Marie looked shocked then shook her head as if to shake a thought from her mind. “You had some last night before bed don’t forget Debbie”.

“Oh yes, I did, I forgot,” Debbie laughed not entirely convinced.

The girls got out of bed, put on their slippers and dressing gowns. Debbie thought she saw something moving in the pocket but shook her head and told herself not to be silly and walked downstairs. Mom was coming out of the kitchen with a tray of hot chocolate and toast as the girls reached the bottom step.

“Did either of you girls leave the playroom window open last night?” mom asked. “As when I went in there earlier it was wide open, and I’m sure that I closed it before I went to bed like I always do.”

The two sisters looked at each other open mouthed but said nothing.

“I’m not mad at you,” laughed mom, seeing their shocked little faces. “Come on let’s see what Santa has brought you, and drink your hot chocolates before they get cold,” she told them before opening the playroom door.

Debbie spoke before thinking saying, “I don’t think I can drink another hot chocolate, the last one was too much for me,” then clamped her hand over her mouth before she said anything else.

“Don’t be silly Debbie, you didn’t have hot chocolate last night, you had hot milk,” Dad said as they entered the room.

Inside the playroom Dad was standing next to the tree staring at it. Just staring.

“What are you looking at love?” asked Mom. “Come and sort out the presents or it will be lunchtime soon, and I need to get the potatoes in the oven or they won’t be as crispy just as you like them.”

“It’s this coach light,” said Dad, still looking at the tree looking confused.

“Has the fuse gone?” replied Mom “We have plenty of spare ones in the drawer in the kitchen if it has,” she said, half concentrating on putting the tray of drinks and toast down on the desk without spilling any on the new carpet.

“No, no the light is working fine,” Dad said, still staring.

“Then why on earth are you staring at a bright light on the Christmas tree? I asked you to come and sort out the presents from under the tree.”

Marie and Debbie began to giggle as they helped themselves to the toast. They always found it funny when their mom told their dad off; dad would pretend not to hear and mom pretended to get madder.

“Well, this little coach for some very strange reason, has got mud on the wheels, and I’m obviously wondering where it has come from,” Dad finally said turning around holding the little golden coach in his hand.

“Oh no!” said Mom, standing next to dad by the tree, to take a closer look at the golden coach. “Maybe one of the girls took it out into the garden to play with,” she said turning to the girls with a questioning look on her face.

“It was Debbie,” Marie said quickly pointing at her sister, who very nearly covered her sister in toast crumbs as she spat the words out. “I saw her do it, she did try to clean it after though before hanging it back onto the tree,” Marie said trying to get her little sister out of the trouble she had just got her into.

“Ok sweetie, but next time can you ask me first, as they aren’t really toys, they are ornaments, meant for everyone to enjoy. Now let’s start opening the presents.” Mom smiled at them both.

Marie started ripping into the presents in her pile, tearing at the paper. She had gotten everything she had asked for.

Debbie walked over to a very large gift that was standing by the window. She slowly began to rip away the paper and shrieked when she saw what is was, a rocking horse, what she had always wanted.

“I’m going to call him Windy,” said Debbie, climbing onto the saddle of the horse with a little help from Dad.

“What a great name that is,” said Dad. “Where did that name come from?” he asked, as he helped Marie to climb onto Windy so she was sitting behind Debbie. He gave the horse a gentle push to start it rocking.

For a change both little girls were lost for words, as they sat on the new rocking horse named Windy.

Their parents both went into the kitchen to prepare their Christmas lunch while the girls stayed in the playroom with their new toys.

“So you had the same dream as me then?” Marie whispered quietly to her sister who was still sat in front of her on Windy’s back. “That’s really funny isn’t it having the same dream?”

Marie jumped off Windy and went off to play with one of her other new toys. Debbie stayed where she was rocking gently back and forth, holding onto the black shiny reins. Her eyes fell upon the dressing up chest in the corner and she was sure she could see the edge of the coat she had worn in her dream, thinking she had imagined it.

Her eye then caught the doll’s house in the corner of the room. There through the window she saw Katie the ragdoll and Windy the clockwork dog beside her. As she looked at them remembering her dream, she could have sworn she saw them both smile and wink at her.

“Yes, it is really funny,” Debbie replied grinning. Now she really did believe in magic.

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