Hello

I haven’t visited my blog for a considerable time. But that doesn’t mean I have been idle. After all, I did the whole of NaMoPoMo, but I published the poems on a private writing site on the dreaded FaceBook. I also write the occasional piece on that same site, so, you see, I have spread my wings a little further than normal.

However, my BIG news is … I’ve begun a novel ! YES … a real, proper, murder mystery novel.

So, if you wonder where the heck I’ve gone ( I’m flattering myself, I know ) well I can be found on my private WordPress page … (well you can’t find me ‘cos its private, but you know what I mean )

When I have anything decent to show you, you will be the first to know.

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Tuesday’s Two Minute Tale …. Blood

BLOOD

I stood on the sidewalk, behind the strips of yellow police tape, with the other onlookers. It was a freezing cold night; tiny flakes of snow tried their best to fight against the bitter, New York wind. But we were all too curious to go home to warm rooms and cosy firesides.

Police ‘black and whites’ were everywhere along the street and cops stood in little groups of three or four, talking quietly among themselves. Plain clothes detectives in heavy overcoats, walked up and down the steps of the totally ordinary brown-stone building. Many had ashen faces and one young cop, obviously a rookie, was throwing up in the gutter and steadying himself against one of the police cruisers.

Three ambulances stood forlornly, up against the kerb, their flashing lights illuminating the street and adding a garish touch to the nightmare scene.

Emergency response teams were wheeling gurneys into the building, while first-responders were coming out of the doorway with blood-stained hands and shocked expressions. It was obvious that some heinous crime had been committed. Either that or there had been a dreadful accident.

The spectators, wrapped in winter coats and scarves, chatted in a subdued manner. One guy blew on his hands and said,

“Someone’s been murdered in there !”

Another muttered,

“More than one from the look of it”

Then another,

‘”Betcha it’s that serial killer !”

“Looks bad”, whispered a woman, “It’s the sixth this month. We ain’t safe in our beds”

“The ******* cops ain’t got a ****** goddamn clue” said another, his Brooklyn accent punctuated with obscenities.

Speculation continued as we jostled for position. Bodies, covered in black bags, were now being wheeled out; no clue to age or sex. Two adult size at first, then a smaller one. This was carried reverently by a uniformed cop, who handed his precious cargo to a medic then took out his night-stick and smashed it against the nearest hydrant, in anger and frustration.

“Whatcha think ?” asked a guy in a checked lumber jacket and fur lined cap, as he stamped his feet to keep warm. I just shrugged. Why ask me ? Just another New York murder, I guessed.

The ambulances left, one by one. No need to rush of course, but their lights flashed all the same, illuminating the sad journey to the morgue. Gradually the police cars dispersed too, the cops were still on shift and had other streets to patrol; other crimes to investigate in this city that never sleeps.

The detectives huddled on the steps for a while, some smoking and others just shooting the breeze. Then they too departed, leaving a solitary uniformed cop on duty, to guard the premises. When the last grey saloon had gone, the crowd wandered off to their various destinations, no doubt to regale their family and friends with yet another grisly murder. The street was quiet once more.

Three or four hours later it was snowing heavily. The cop had decided to sit in his cruiser to keep warm. He could still see the entrance, festooned with yellow tape. Surely no-one would be out nosing around in this weather.

I had returned to the street and went, stealthily, down the steps that led to a basement apartment. I knew it was empty, so I let myself in as I had done earlier. There was a door into the main building from the basement and it was worth the risk.

Oh yes, definitely worth the risk ! I always liked to re-visit the scenes of my crimes …. I hoped the blood would still be there …..

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Tuesday’s Two Minute Tale

The object of this challenge is to post a piece that has taken two minutes to write and two minutes to read.

Dora had to finally admit that she was lost. She had wandered too far from home, this time and now she was in an unfamiliar part of town. In fact she didn’t even know this market place existed.

The market was in full swing. Brightly coloured stalls were everywhere and busy people were rushing hither and thither, with no time to talk to her. Dora pushed her way through the crowd, aware that she now looked a little dirty and scruffy. Her coat was damp, and a few muddy patches were gradually drying in the sunshine. No doubt her appearance was the result of being soaked by a passing car, that had swooshed recklessly through a huge puddle. Dora had been standing on the edge of the pavement, waiting for the lights to change and bore the brunt of the muddy wave which almost engulfed her. Her Mum would be cross, Dora had been neat and clean when she left home.

And now she was hungry, too. She’d only had a light breakfast and no lunch and the late afternoon sun was beginning to slip behind the Town Hall. It was definitely tea-time.

Her Mum would be worried. Even though Dora was 9 years old, her Mum always worried.

The market stall-holders either ignored her or shouted at her to,

“Go away !!”

When all she was doing was looking longingly at the cakes and biscuits. It was all so frightening and confusing and she wanted her Mum. Dora stood beside a phone box and wished she knew how to make a call; she started to cry.

Some people stopped and looked at her and asked if she was lost, but by now, Dora was too afraid to answer. She backed up against the phone box and cried even more.

A man towered over her,

“Hello sweetie, what are you doing here ? Are you lost ? You can come home with me …”

He was very tall and his breath smelled funny; his gnarled hand reached out to touch her. Terrified, Dora ran.

And ran.

And ran.

She ran so far and so fast that she almost collided with someone.

Someone who bent over and said,

“Oh Dora, here you are ! I was so worried ! Iv’e been looking everywhere for you !”

Dora was scooped up into the loving arms of her Mum.

“You silly cat” her Mum murmured as she snuggled against Dora’s soft fur.

“Don’t go wandering so far, next time. Come on, let’s go home for tea.”

Dora purred in satisfaction.

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Tuesday’s Two Minute Tale

Little Joey had been hiding under his bed for what seemed like hours. He’d counted as far as he could, thirteen was a big number, and now he lay there among the fluff, dust ‘bunnies’, stray pieces of Lego and half eaten toffees. The sweets were covered in duvet feathers and didn’t taste nice, he’d spit them out and drool dribbled down his Ninja Turtle T shirt. How long was his Mum going to be ? Surely she should have found him by now !

He remembered there had been a noise at the back door,

“Go, go and hide, Quickly now !” she had whispered to him. He wondered why she had suddenly decided to play. He had been asking her all afternoon for a game of Hide and Seek, but she had always been too busy, But now, when he expected her to say it was ‘BEDTIME’ she wanted to play. Grownups were so confusing.

He lay his little three year old head on his arm and peeked out from his hiding place. Mum was really putting effort into the game ! He could hear lots of noise downstairs and a couple of loud crashes too. Well, whatever was broken couldn’t be blamed on him this time.

The sound of traffic drifted through his open window. Cars, sirens, buses, the roar of a motorbike; all the early evening sounds as the town-folk came from work.

Then he saw big shoes. Not his Mum’s flip-flops. Oh it must be Dad, he’d joined in the game ! Joey stifled a giggle.

A face appeared. A serious face. Not his Dad.

“Don’t be afraid ,son. It’s OK” ….a voice …..not his Dad though.

“You found me !” said Joey, and warily crawled out.

The man lifted him up, then reached onto the bed and handed Joey a teddy bear.

“I’ve found a live one. A child.” the policeman spoke into his radio.

Joey liked policemen, his Mum had told him that policemen were his friend.

Wrapped in a blanket, Joey was carried downstairs.

Fascinated by this strange turn of events, Joey wondered why the policeman had joined in the game, too. Whisked out the front door and into the safety of a police car, the little boy didn’t see his Mother, lying on the kitchen floor, in a pool of blood.

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The Door ….Chapter 23, the Final Chapter.

IMAG2371

For the moment, the light from Erebus was holding the Trolls at bay, but I knew this wouldn’t last forever. Erebus only glowed during a lilac moon.

“Gather your weapons ! We must leave this place immediately !” I screamed.

Everyone jumped to it, wiping blood from swords and daggers and stepping swiftly over dead Trolls. I looked around for Betty. I had left her tethered to a metal ring at the top of the stone steps. But now, all that remained was her lead. There was no sign of the little dog. I called her name, but there was no response; I could only hope that she had run off in fright and was further down the exit tunnel.

The rest of the group raced up the stone steps as I held Erebus aloft. Peri, reunited with his brother, Grey Rabbit, thanked us profusely as he, too, ran up the stairway.

“Just think yourself lucky” muttered the Grey Rabbit, “Try not to get into anymore trouble, we won’t always be here to save you!” he added. But i swear I saw him surreptitiously wipe a tear from his eyes.

Down the tunnel we flew, retracing our steps. We could hear the angry roar of furious Trolls, still held captive by the rays of light. But these rays were slowly fading, the further we went, until they eventually went out with an eerie sigh. The short period of time when Erebus could be opened had ended, until the next time there was a lilac moon. The world was safe; at least for a while.

On and on we ran. with the sound of following Trolls in our ears. They meant to kill us and , perhaps, recapture the magic box and even their sworn enemy, the Knave. We must escape.

The hole that we had fallen into on the way to the chamber was, somehow, easy to negotiate. The high, smooth sides were now stoney steps. Perhaps Erebus was helping us ? Or was it my magic, I was so used to it that I barely knew when I was casting a spell. Fearing I may drop the precious box in our frantic retreat, I placed it carefully into my sackcloth bag, where I knew it would be safe. I took the key from Peri and popped that in the bag too.

Along endless tunnels we ran, until we came to the sack of deadly buzzflies, they were obviously incandescent with rage. I knew that the Knave had intended to return those evil insects to the Pharoah’s tomb, from which they had been freed. But it appeared that he had other ideas now.

“All of you, go ahead, Hurry ! Hurry !” he shouted. We all obeyed.

Then the Knave slipped the twine from the sack and threw the whole, buzzing bag down the tunnel, in the direction of the marauding Trolls.

“That should keep them busy for a while” grinned the Knave, as we all sprinted round the curved path and exited through the small opening, out into the pink and grey clouds of an early Californian dawn. The sun was just beginning to rise on another day.

“Now what ?” I gasped. “We can’t possibly go back to the ship looking like this !”

We glanced at each other. What a raggle taggle of warriors we were. Bloodstained and weary, clothes tattered, cloaks torn. I would have to conjure up some cleaner garb. We were on a tiny spit of land, beneath the Golden Gate bridge and the tide has risen to a great height and was still rising.

“We’re doomed ” cried the Dormouse dramatically, taking a slug of rum and flinging his arms wildly , “And the rum has all gone ” he added, sobbing slightly.

“Ahoy, landlubbers !”

We spun to look in the direction of the familiar voice; it was Romo in the ship. Alongside him stood a bemused Paul, the fisherman we had kidnapped.

They were both smiling and waving and, jumping up and down on the forecastle was a little white dog.

“Betty told us to come and pick you up ” Romo said, as he helped us aboard.

So that’s where she had gone.

The tiny dog greeted us gleefully as we fussed and patted her. We hugged our companions, glad to be reunited at last. Colin and Trevor set to, trimming the sails , while regaling Romo and Paul with tales of derring do.

“Erebus and the key are safe ” I confided to the Knave, while the others skillfully turned the ship under the bridge and out into the deep blue waters of the Pacific.

“Look !”, I said, as I opened my bag. But my bag was empty, the box and key had disappeared.

Don’t worry” laughed the Knave, when he saw the look of consternation on my face. ” The fate of Erebus has already been decided. Someone else holds the key and Erebus is already hidden away. Don’t fret, the Trolls are defeated once more.” And he smiled his dazzling smile and winked in that beguiling way of his.

And what, you may ask, happened next ? After such an exciting adventure, could I possibly return to normal life ? Well yes and no !

We sailed the ship to Los Angeles Marina, my magic making the trip so quick that we barely had time to catch our breath. It was an ideal city to choose, because anyone who saw us would assume we were making a film of some sort. I changed into modern clothes, wistfully discarding my cloak and sackcloth bag.

It was time to say goodbye. Paul and I planned to fly home, it was all over. We were no longer needed, my duty was done. But it was so achingly difficult to say farewell to my dear companions, who had become so close, like family. The Grey Rabbit shook my hand, solemnly, with a sniffle that he swore was “just a cold“. The Dormouse offered me a tot of rum; great gesture and Peri thanked me, hugging me and repeating his thanks over and over. Bomo and Romo hugged me too, each one kissing me on the back of my hand as though I were royalty. As for Colin and Trevor, well they sobbed and sniffled and hugged and kissed my cheeks until I was wet with their tears.

Then tne Knave, who bowed and took my hand, announcing,

” This is only au revoir. You are one of the Keepers of Magic now, like your Gtreat Aunt Maud before you. You will be called on occasionally, when you are needed. You will see us all again. Never fear, we will meet again. It could be a month or many years from now, but we will all be reunited, My Lady, “ and he bowed again and walked slowly backwards, almost tripping over Betty. I giggled a little, it was quite comical. Soon we were all laughing, tears forgotten.

Poor Paul was still rather puzzled by it all as we entered the Jumbo jet at LAX. But a spell had been cast so that he would only remember that he had met some new buddies and had a great time sailing around the Pacific. He would have lots to tell his pals back in Devon.

The flight was uneventful, surely everything would seem dull in comparison to the last few weeks ? I dozed for a while then watched the in-flight film. I had not bothered to obtain earphones, but it was easy enough to follow as Bruce Willis stood, barefoot, in yet another lift, wearing a filthy vest and torn trousers. I thought of the ship, which would, by now, be nearing Hawaii. The Dormouse said they all needed a holiday and who could argue with that ?

Back home in Aunt Maud’s house, which, of course, now belonged to me, it all felt like a dream, with only snippets still lingering in my brain. Would I wake up in the shower …a Dallas moment ? I smiled at the thought, made a cup of tea and lit the fire in the sitting room. The house felt damp and neglected.

Sitting in a huge, comfy armchair, I turned events over in my mind and vaguely wondered about Erebus. Where would the magical box be now ? At least all the evil contents were still trapped inside. I shivered as I wondered what would have happened to the world if they had escaped. I remembered the small sliver of green slime that had drifted out of Erebus; probably some sort of seal, I thought.

I shivered again, I was cold and tired and jet-lagged. Bed was the place to be. Pulling the quilt on the huge wooden bed, I snuggled down. But sleep wouldn’t come. Music ! Ah yes, that may help. I switched on the bedside radio

“The deadly virus appeared suddenly in China,” a serious- voiced news reader said’ ” Scientists are calling it Coronavirus

The door of the wardrobe swung open and in raced a little dog, followed by two rabbits. One white and one grey ………

THE END

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The Door ……. Chapter 22

A couple of tentative steps, then, heads held high, weapons drawn, we strode into the Chamber.

At first nothing happened, we looked at each other, puzzled by the emptiness. I could hear the susurrus of movement, but could see nothing moving. All was still. A vast cavern lay below us; stone steps leading down in a curve, to a straw covered floor below. Many smaller holes pitted the stone walls; tunnels, I presumed. Rope ladders hung from each orifice.

The golden light that was Erebus, glowed far below; lighting the Chamber and casting undulating shadows on the dull, dark stonework of the walls. I could just make out the figure of the White Rabbit, chained to a plinth next to the magical box. Peri ! Peri was safe and it appeared, to our grateful eyes, that the box had not yet been opened. The lilac moon was obviously not at it’s highest, but there must be so little time.

We hastened down the steps, anxious to retrieve the precious Erebus and the wayward Peri. Could it really be this easy ?

Of course not !

An eerie screech reverberated throughout the Great Hall and from every tunnel surged a swarm of Trolls. Sliding down ladders, screaming in there native tongue, even leaping into the air in an attempt to stop us reaching the foot of the steps.

At once, we sprung into action, Trevor and Colin taking the last dozen steps in one gigantic leap and immediately being attacked by hundreds of Trolls. The Dormouse clung to my shoulder, shouting orders and drunken obscenities, his dreadlocks in disarray as I wielded my sword and lunged at the 3 feet high enemies.

Down the stairway came Bomo and the Knave, followed closely by Grey Rabbit and all joined the fight. Yes, even Grey Rabbit, who was running between the legs of the Trolls and stabbing their backsides with his small, silver sword.The Knave threw his diadem into the air and it flew around the room, beheading Trolls where ever it went. Bomo was doing great damage to a particularly ugly group and beside him was the Knave, magnificent in battle, his mighty sword slicing through the melee, making his way towards Erebus and Peri. Many dead Trolls lay in his wake and more were dying or running away from his deadly sword.

Oh, how the Trolls hated him, this immortal Prince who had sealed their fate hundreds of years ago and cast them underground, for all eternity. So they fought fiercely, swarming two or three deep, in an effort to overcome their sworn enemy.

We fought on, each one of us doing our best to make ground, then …

A thunderflash, blue light filled the Cavern and WHHOOOMP … there stood the King of the Trolls, guarded by four vicious Beardogs, who bared their double rows of teeth and snarled at our small band of fighters. The ferocious animals pulled at their leashes in an attempt to rip apart anyone who dared approach.

The King surveyed the scene, the battle still raged, blood and gore flying into the air and plastering the walls. He had magic, but knew it was no match for ours. The only way to defeat us was to destroy us and he thought he had a good chance of that !

I had lost sight of Bomo and Grey Rabbit. I feared the worse. But Colin and Trevor were waist deep in screeching Trolls, slashing and stabbing away. I think they were winning, judging by the pile of small, dead bodies around them.

“How many ya killed ?” shouted Colin.

“More’n you” retorted Trevor, sliding a dead Troll off his sword with his foot.

Peri was straining at his chains, trying to escape the clutches of King Troll, who was intent on snatching the key to Erebus, from around the White Rabbit’s neck.

“Oh NO !” I called out, to anyone who could hear me,

“The lilac moon must be at full height !! The King is going to open Erebus !!”

But none of my companions were near enough to the dias, where Peri and the magical Erebus. The Knave charged quickly through the mass, Trolls clinging to his shoulders, trying to smother him; but he was still a few yards away from the King.

Slowly and deliberately, the gnarled claws reached out and ripped the key from Peri’s neck. The hooded, red eyes of the Troll gave him an air of ‘foure’ and menace. For a second the fighting ceased, all eyes on the King, as he moved towards Erebus and slotted the key into the lock.

Time seemed to stand still; weapons that had been throw hovered in mid-air and no-one could move, they were frozen in time. I held my breath and managed to clutch my locket, it appeared that I was the only one who could move. I concentrated on one thing; the mighty Erebus. The box that contained all the evil and destruction thought too bad to be consigned to Pandora’s Box.

The heavy lid lifted a couple of millimetres and a green slime slid out, floated up into the air and disappeared….. the lid was still opening ………

“NO !” I commanded, holding my locket firmly.

“I forbid you to open”

The lid closed, with a sigh and, as I willed my magic to work, Erebus floated up high above us all, then drifted towards me, the key still in the lock. I reached out and the box fell into my hands. Swiftly locking it, before anything could escape, I held it high and the hoards of Trolls shrunk away in terror, growling furiously. At that moment I could feel the power of thousands of years of magic flowing through my veins. This was why I had been brought here, this was my destiny. Slowly, wearily, my battered and bloodied band of comrades emerged from the now subdued Trolls.

My heart lifted when I saw that Bomo and Grey Rabbit were safe. They staggered towards me, grinning triumphantly. Grey Rabbit’s fur was red with the blood of Trolls, but he straighted his waistcoat and with his best, imperial stance stated,

“Well, of course, that was no ‘Helm’s Deep‘….. but it was somewhat exciting !”

Colin and Trevor grinned and high-fived each other and the Knave, wiping blood from his sword, just winked.

………………………………………………………

Now we had to get away …… Chapter 23 will be posted very soon !

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The Door ….. Chapter 21

Well aware that time was running out, we hurried as swiftly as we dared, along the eerie passage-way. The path was now sloping downwards at an alarming rate and I had to pop the Dormouse on my shoulder, to stop him rolling away in a little furry bundle of dreadlocks and rum.

It was darker here, only a couple of torches burned sullenly in their niches, shedding a thin, meagre light. Dark ! Dark, dank and dreadful; danger waited around every twist and turn of the path. Even Colin and Trevor, those brave, staunch pals, advanced very warily and the Grey Rabbit and Bomo, who were stationed at the rear of our party, persistently turned to check if anything was stalking us.

Then the torches flickered and the faint light they had provided was gone. The Knave was struggling to light our own, rather inadequate torch when ……..

CRAAAAK ….. WHHOOMMP …..

We felt ourselves dropping through the air and landing, unceremoniously in a tangled heap. The path must have had a large hole, sparsely covered with twigs and gravel and, in the sudden darkness, we had all stepped on it.

We lay for a second, confused and disorientated, rubbing the various parts of our anatomy that had suffered in our fall. We were in a deep hole, but not deep enough to cause severe injuries. However, certainly deep enough to distract us from the next attack. .

As I lay there, rubbing my head and still in a daze, I noticed another passageway. In fact it was the ONLY passageway and a dark mass was heading towards us.

” Ahhhhh ” I screamed “Rats !” … the one thing I was really terrified of.

The others looked at the tunnel,

“No …Its snakes ” cried Grey Rabbit, flapping his paws in terror.

“Yikes ” screamed Colin, ” Tarantulas ! Oh blimey, I hate ’em” and he stared at the tunnel, frozen in fear.

” Lawks,” yelled Trevor, ” Are you flipping blind ? Its scarab beetles ! Oh I’ve got a phobia about them ever since that incident with the belly dancer. I can’t go down that tunnel.”

Bomo and the Knave, clearly afraid of none of the creatures, stood resolutely by us, bemused by the way we were all scrambling up the sides of the hole, trying to retreat from the horrors. But we could find no way up, the walls were as smooth as glass. Fear rising in my throat, made me nauseous as the rats came nearer, baring their yellow teeth. I had no idea what the others were yelling about, all I knew was that I had been afraid of rats all my life. Ever since I had been cornered by one in a garden shed, when I was 5 years old. My trusty terrier, Patch, had swiftly come to my aid and dispatched the rodent with one snap of his jaws , but I was still terrified.

” The Trolls are reading your fears ” shouted the Knave, who, along with Bono, was not afraid of anything the Trolls could conjure up. ” These creatures you see are not there. They are illusions. Its not real !” But we all kept staring at the tunnel’s entrance, not prepared to believe him. We cowered in fear and refused to advance.

The Knave grabbed Bomo,

“Sing something, sing anything. And the rest of you damn well better join in,” he ordered

So Bomo stepped forward, his fat little body so reassuring and solid and broke into song …..

“Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda …… ” he began. And in faltering voices, we all sung along, still keeping an eye on whatever dangers emerged from the tunnel.

“Louder, louder, !” shouted the Knave and soon we were all busy concentrating on singing and remembering the words and even smiling at the sheer ridiculousness of the whole situation. Slowly the rats faded away and I guess the rest of the group experienced the same fading visions, because Colin and Trevor were dancing in a circle, singing and, naturally, arguing about whether it was a ‘billabong’ or a ‘jolly jumbuck’.

” Erm, ahh , of course I wasn’t really afraid ” blustered Grey Rabbit, as he brushed soil from his waistcoat, “Deary, deary me. If the Grand Council ….” but we all laughed before he could finish his sentence and Trevor and Colin each slapped him, playfully, on the back.

“Nar, we know you weren’t ” guffawed Trevor while Colin nodded vigorously.

“Right !” the Knave began,

“we are nearing the Great Chamber, I can feel it. That was an attempt to frighten us with our greatest fears and make us turn back. We must go on, we must finish our mission. We have so little time. Peri and Erebus are depending on us …. and so is the rest of the World.”

We gathered our scattered weapons and I tightened the ties on my cloak. My bag hung by my side, the thick strap safely on my shoulder and my sword in my hand. The Dormouse in my pocket. Soon we were ready !

We entered the tunnel; brave resolve in our hearts. Far ahead, in the distance, a golden light glowed. It was the glow that emanated from Erebus. The Great Chamber was just ahead.

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The Door ……….. Chapter 19

Well, folks, here I am at last. I apologise for the huge gap between the last chapter and

this, but I had so many items to knit for Christmas, that I really had no time to even

think about writing . I only hope I can get back into the swing of this silly tale and keep

you entertained.

The Door…… Chapter 19

Cautiously, we all entered the dark opening. At first, it was pitch black, but gradually my eyes adjusted to the darkness and I noticed that a very dim light was coming from somewhere ahead. We took a few tentative steps and found we were on a walkway, cut into the rock.

This path stretched for 500 yards into the hillside and then opened out into a huge, cavernous area, with paths and rope bridges leading off three different ways, into separate caves. Every couple of yards , there was a burning torch, set into a niche. the flickering light from these torches, made the whole atmosphere even more eerie than I had imagined.

We must have been quite high, because, as I looked down, I could see . lower storeys and more rope bridges and tunnel entrances. It was a labyrinth of pathways, caves and dark, dangerous tunnels; any of which could hide ambush parties or other perils. But everywhere was silent and still. Not the sound of a single Troll. Nothing. They knew we were here ! And as I surveyed the subterranean world, I wondered were the heck we would find Peri and Erebus. Ah yes, the Trolls knew we were here and there was no way they were going to make it easy for us.

A long chain was suspended from a metal ring that was secured high in the roof of the cavern. Every few feet, a sparkling glass orb, full of fireflies, was tied with golden thread, to this chain, which descended down into the depths below. This made a shaft of shimmering light all the way to the bottom of the deep hole. Gosh, it was even deeper than i thought, but on we went.

Every passage looked dark and forbidding and, of course, we had no idea which one to choose. Time was running out and we could not possibly try every one. But what to do ? I was about to suggest drawing lots and each of us taking a different path when the Grey Rabbit stepped forward.

He stood at the entrance to each tunnel in turn, with his front paws raised above his head, while the Dormouse hummed a monotonous rendition of ” Molly Malone”. The rest of us stood quietly, wondering what the heck was going on, totally bemused. Finally, after what seemed like hours, but was in fact only a few minutes, the humming ceased and Grey Rabbit pointed triumphantly to the tunnel on the left.

“The other two are dummies”, he whispered, ” Dead ends ! But this one is correct, this is the way to the Great Chamber !”

He paused, no doubt expecting enthusiastic accolades, but we all gathered our weapons and swiftly and silently proceeded to the left-hand tunnel. The grey Rabbit and the Dormouse looked peeved, but this was no time for celebration. We still had an arduous task ahead.

The Door ……….. Chapter 20.

The tunnel was very dark, only the faintest light came from a dozen paintings that were positioned at intervals along the first 50 yards of the narrow pathway. A small glow illuminated the portraits, presumably of prominent Trolls. Each one was more ugly than the one before. Colin and Trevor examined them all,

“Cor, blimey,” said Colin, “This one looks like the landlady of that second-rate boarding house in Daventry !”

“Hah!” chuckled Trevor, “This one looks like your last girl-friend !”

A friendly jostle began. Colin pushed Trevor and Trevor pulled Colin’s hat down over his eyes.

I giggled at their antics, but the Knave held up a warning hand. We all stood still and listened. A faint buzzing sound, travelling at speed towards us !

The buzzing grew louder and a mass of huge black flies appeared and hung, menacingly in the air.

“Buzzflies !” shouted the Knave. We all drew our swords.

“These are flies from an ancient Pharoah’s tomb,” gasped the Knave, his voice betraying his calm exterior ” They were captured by Achilles and imprisoned in a tomb of an Egyptian Pharoah, many many years ago. their sting means certain death ! “

Then they attacked !

We all swung our swords, trying desperately to strike the deadly insects, but they were too quick and avoided every blow. I pulled my cloak around my body and stabbed ineffectually. We would be annihilated.

“I read they hate light!” screamed Bomo,

At once, the Knave pulled off his jewelled diadem and held it high. What little light there was, caught the sparkling diamonds and rubies and reflected their light on our swords and armour and anything reflective. Prisms of light and a million rainbows filled the tunnel and as the Knave waved the head-dress higher, the jewels glowed brightly and soon it was almost daylight in that confined space. The buzzflies shrieked with pain and blundered into each other in a vain attempt to escape the bright lights. Dazed and confused, the buzzflies crashed into walls and roof and finally fell to the ground. The Dormouse swiftly produced a little sweeping brush and I reached in my bag for a sack. Soon the flies were all collected and put into the sack. I tied the top, tightly and we left them, buzzing furiously and continued down the tunnel.

“The Trolls must have released the flies and learned how to control them” murmured the Knave. We all nodded and kept walking.

Outside, the full moon was now high in the sky, above the bay. It was gradually turning a lovely shade of lilac.

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The Door……. Chapter Eighteen

Thankfully, the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge is at the entrance to San Francisco Bay, so we didn’t have to sail into that busy body of water. And the Troll’s headquarters, where Peri and the magical Erebos were being held, was beneath the North-side of the gigantic bridge; so, luckily, we avoided the city, too. But, I feared, that would be the extent of our luck.

We intended to approach the bridge by trekking through the Golden Gate Visitor’s Park area, in as much of a disguise as we could manage. I knew that craft entering the bay would be watched, so we needed a safe and fairly unobtrusive place to drop anchor.

We chose a spot well past Kirby Cove, in a secluded inlet as near to the bridge as we dared. I decided to leave Romo and Paul on board, to guard the ship against inquisitive strangers. We planned to enter the Troll’s hideout under the cloak of darkness, but first we had to get to the bridge ……. and that wouldn’t be easy in such a touristy place.

But, I had an idea !

So, gathering weapons and all the things we thought we would need, we rowed the little boat to shore. After hiding the boat under some scrub and branches, I rummaged in my bag and produced a baby’s pram. I also pulled out some toddler’s clothes and told Grey Rabbit and Bomo to put them on. We placed all the weapons in the pram and then Grey Rabbit was persuaded to get into the pram and act the part of a baby.

“This is most undignified ! If the General Council of Earth Protectors should see me ….”

He held up his paws, in despair, as I slipped mittens on them and secured a beanie on his head. One ear kept popping out from the woolly hat and we all laughed. That would probably be the only laugh of the day. The Dormouse would travel in my pocket, while Bomo was dressed as a toddler, with a baseball cap on his head and a lollipop in one hand. With Betty on a lead and Colin, Trevor and the Knave in touristy clothes, we looked like any other family group, on a day out, sightseeing. Well, almost … enough to get by.

So, off we set, across the stoney beach and, eventually, into the Golden Gate Park.

The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge, as you all know. The roadway is suspended between two tall towers and held fast by numerous cables. These cables are, in turn, suspended from the towers and, at each end of the bridge, the cables are secured in huge concrete blocks. The Northern tower – the side we were heading towards – stands in water. But, luckily, that did not concern us. The Dormouse had told us that the Trolls entrance was in this concrete slab, beneath the road and huge steel cables, and we had no reason to doubt him.

We strolled across the park, as nonchalantly as we could manage, with Grey Rabbit complaining that the Knave’s sword was sticking in his back. Oh, and apparently, all Colin and Trevor’s weapons were uncomfortable, too ! But I just shoved a lollipop in his mouth and told him to grin and bear it – and, for once, he did !

It was getting darker now and all the tourists had departed. We had avoided being caught up in conversation with strangers, as they “Ohhhed” and “Ahhhed” over the view and we had taken numerous photos,and done all the normal tourist things. Now we hid in bushes until the Park Ranger had checked the area for stragglers. Then we scrambled over fences, negotiated rocks and scree, that bordered the park, followed the shoreline round towards the Bridge itself and sighed with relief.

Suddenly, a whiney noise, like plaintive whale-song, filled the air, making an eerie sound in the evening fog. The others were startled, expecting it to be a fore-runner to an attack. But I was able to reassure them by telling them it was only the wind, blowing through the slats of a new fence on the walkway that crossed the bridge. They all breathed easier and we walked on.

Finally, directly underneath the bridge, we stared at the structure. The cables were encased in concrete and we could see no entrance. It was just concrete and metal supporting the bridge. Impenetrable concrete; a vast, plain grey exterior with strong, steel, reebars inside. Surely this was no place for the entrance to the Trolls Kingdom ?

“Maybe we are on the wrong bank ?” I suggested, “Perhaps the entrance is across the Bay ?”

But the Dormouse would have none of this. he had always said he knew how to find the entrance and had brought us, after many trials, to this very spot. Tutting loudly and muttering dark words under his breath, he asked the Knave to lift him up to a metal plate which was screwed into the concrete, approximately six feet off the ground. It was only some sort of information plate, of no interest to anyone except the bridge maintenance crew, but the Knave obliged.

The Dormouse looked down at us, to make sure we were all watching him. Then, with a theatrical flourish, he felt in his hip pocket and produced a silver screw driver. To our astonishment, he began to unscrew the four screws that were holding the plaque to the wall.

Traffic thundered overhead and I allowed myself a wry smile as I thought of all the people, criss-crossing the bridge and never, for one moment, knowing that such a rag-bag of travellers was beneath them. The light of the city and the beams of car head-lights, reflected in the water, adding a surreal touch to the scene. And the whine of the wind in the handrails and wires, gave the final, scary touch. The Southern tower, across the bay, stood ominously, but almost disappearing in the gathering gloom. We held our breath.

The Dormouse removed the last screw and placed them in his pocket. Then he tugged at the metal plate, which he then passed to the Knave. I expected to see more grey concrete beneath the sign, but no ! There was a rectangular hole, about six inches by eight inches and, without a word, the Dormouse popped into the hole and disappeared.

Shocked, we all waited for him to reappear, but there was no sign of him. We waited, And waited. All eyes staring up at the dark hole. Where was he ?

“What are you all looking at ?” a small voice said. And there was the Dormouse, at our feet.

A part of the concrete had opened up; like some sort of reinforced sliding door, three feet high and three feet wide. Certainly big enough for us all to enter, although the poor Knave would have to bend double !

Grey Rabbit had discarded the baby clothes and dropped them, with utter disgust, into the pram, so we were all ready. Colin and Trevor gathered their weapons and the Knave retrieved his sword and diadem. I slung my sackcloth bag over my shoulders and Bomo held up two thumbs. It was time to enter the Kingdom of the Trolls.

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The Door …Chapter Seventeen

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

The remainder of the journey up the Californian coast, accompanied by our three protectors, was thankfully uneventful. Well, uneventful as far as meeting more enemies was concerned. But we still had the ‘Paul’ problem. Sending him down to a bunk until the valerian wore off, was only a temporary measure. I talked it over with the rest of our group, but we could come to no satisfactory decision.

” Clap him in irons” suggested the Dormouse, sipping his rum, thoughtfully, ” We could keep him below until our mission is over !”

” I could take care of ‘im !” whispered Trevor, sliding a hand across his throat in a menacing manner.

” I’d help ” nodded Colin.

” No, no ” I interrupted, ” There will be none of that — and we certainly can’t keep him prisoner all that time, can we ?”

I held out my hands and appealed to the Knave and Grey Rabbit, who both shook their heads slowly and thoughtfully.

” You will know what to do, when the time comes,” said Rabbit

“We trust your judgement and your magic. Your Great Aunt always knew what to do ” added the Knave.

I tried to splutter an objection, but they would hear nothing more. Then came a banging from below. I knew it must be Paul, I only hoped everyone’s trust in my judgement was not misguided.

A red-faced Paul came stomping up on deck,

” I’m dreadfully sorry, folks, I must have dropped off. I do hope I haven’t inconvenienced you dear people. ”

He looked around, taking the glass of lemonade Romo offered, then blinked and sat on a barrel. I must admit, I was impressed with his attempt to appear nonchalant.

“I say”, he began, “We are underway, and–and –and those whales are following us ! What the devil is going on ?”

I carried my stool across the deck and sat beside him. Holding my locket in one hand and patting his shoulder with the other, I leaned closer to him and said,

“Oh Paul, you must still be drowsy from your nap. We picked you up on Catalina, don’t you remember ? We are on a top secret mission for MI6 and you are here to help us. Don’t worry about a thing. Your boat is safely tied up at the stern. We’re so glad you agreed to come along “

” Did I ? Oh of course. Silly me. A secret mission for MI6 ? By jove, the guys at the Golf Club will never believe it, eh, what ?” Now what do you want me to do ?”

” No, they wouldn’t. But you must never tell them, it would be treason ! Just go along with everything I ask you to do and you will be fine. You’ve done this before, I’m told; you will be such an asset” and, once more, I rubbed my locket and patted his shoulder.

Paul drank his lemonade and chatted animatedly with the rest of the group, looking as though the most natural thing in the world was a talking Rabbit and an alcoholic Dormouse with dreadlocks.

I breathed a sigh of relief and the Knave winked and ‘high-fived’. This magic was a strange thing, but I wa gaining more confidence in my abilities and beginning to realise exactly what I could do. I hoped it would stand us in good stead when we challenged the Trolls.

The ship had fairly flown across the waves and now we were approaching the body of water, known throughout the world as San Francisco Bay. Dusk was falling and I knew that, when it appeared in the night sky, the moon would be almost completely lilac. Now was the time we had to face not only our fate, but the fate of the whole world.

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