The Door Chapter Eleven

 

CHAPTER ELEVEN

 

The astonishingly, inexplicable survival and subsequent rescue of Colin and Trevor, gave us all the boost we had been needing. We raced northwards, thus managing to avoid being caught in another tropical storm.  However, the ship was badly damaged and  would certainly benefit from a little  restoration in a safe harbour.  But, already the edges of the full moon were tinged with lilac and so I knew we had no time to spare for such luxuries.  Any repairs would have to be done ‘on the run’.

I clutched at my locket and thought, hard, about which parts of the ship needed the most repair.  Romo and Bomo were busy, tarring the planks of the hull.  They could only manage to reach a few, as they were balanced, precariously, on a plank secured with ropes.  The waves were threatening to sweep them both away at any minute so  I rubbed the locket between my fingers and concentrated.  Up came a shout and I leaned over the side; all the tarring had, magically, been finished.  The twins applauded my magical achievement and drew my attention to the prow, which had always looked particularly battered and ill-kept, even before the storm.  The whole ship was now fresh with tar and paint and the figurehead of a Grecian woman was restored to it’s original, pristine condition.  But the biggest surprise of all was the name of the ship.  I had not really thought about it, but now it was painted in bright, black and gold letters … HOPE … yes, it made perfect sense.

” I never knew the name of this ship”  I whispered; mainly to myself. But Grey Rabbit heard my words,

” Yes… it’s HOPE,  the ideal name for this vessel.  Throughout the years, hope has carried us through all the trials and tribulations of the World.  Wars, plagues, famine and pain.  Through all the tears, hope is constant.  If we lose hope, we have nothing.  And so, this ship must endure. “

I nodded, silently.  Yes, this ship must endure.  So, I set to work conjuring up more repairs to our vessel.   You may remember that our main-mast had been destroyed and now we had a bare, palm tree trunk in it’s place ?  Well, try as I might, I could not replace the palm with another, more conventional mast.  I gave myself a headache just attempting it.  Ah well, maybe it was a testament to the twins good judgement in choosing such a mast —–  or so I thought.

So, we made sure the cross-trees were securely attached to the palm-mast and everything was strong enough to hold our full complement of sails. It was imperative that we head North with all the speed the wind and my magic could muster.

As everyone rushed around, finishing up their chores and clearing the decks of any remaining debris, Grey Rabbit took me to one side.  He had a very grave expression and I wondered what new bombshell was about to hit us.

“Well, Rosie,” he said. “ You are doing very well, managing your magic to our advantage.  But soon you will be tested to the utmost.”

I began to splutter a reply, but up came the restraining paw.  He still had his superior gestures.

” By now the Trolls will know we are gaining ground and fast approaching their stronghold. They have evil agents everywhere and, no doubt, will presently be dispatching their allies.  They know we must be stopped.  We are dangerous to them and they are afraid of your magic and hate the Knave, so we will be faced with powerful and  evil resistance that could strike at any time.”

I wondered why they hated the Knave, but it was obvious Grey Rabbit had no more to say at this moment because he wandered off, muttering to himself.  I thought about his words.  He was correct, of course, there was no way the Trolls would allow us safe passage to San Francisco.  In my head I knew Grey Rabbit was spot-on.  We were only just beginning.

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The Door Chapter Ten

 

CHAPTER TEN

 

In no time at all, or so it seemed, it was dawn.

” I’m late, I’m late “ the Birds-of-Paradise appeared to say, to the harmonious accompaniment of the burring wings of Humming Birds.

The morning sun kissed our faces and Tomo and Romo made nettle tea.  So we sat on the sand, by the lagoon, sipping the aromatic beverage and, as the playing cards floated in and out on the tide, we thought of our lost companions. 

The tea was restorative and, as it always imbues our band of travellers with a feeling of positivity, I was pleased that the twins had the foresight to prepare a large pitcher of the delicious drink.  I sipped slowly and considered our plight.

The day had dawned clear, thus far; but ominous dark clouds in the west were fast approaching and the island had little in the way of shelter.  Palm trees, bent double by previous storms, were of little use should the tempest return.  We needed to leave this place, search for our friends and find a safe harbour.  But how  ?  Our ship was practically wrecked.   I concentrated hard, could I call on my magic  ?

Our situation was desperate, but even the most miserable of us could not fail to be amused when the Crab King ventured across the beach and, in a squeaky but eminently polite voice, offered to help us refloat the ship.  This would normally have been a hopeless task, but I had become accustomed  to accomplishing seemingly impossible things and called for the others to assist.

The vessel lay on it’s side in the surf. Waves foamed over the barnacled hull, washing mussels and cockles, sending them scurrying for cover under a large, brightly striped umbrella.  Young dolphins had appeared, with their chalk and slates and were now sketching the whole sorry spectacle, under the watchful eye of a walrus, who sat precariously on a rocky dais.  Any other time I would have thought all this was some drug-induced dream, but today it appeared perfectly normal.

The crabs marched, purposefully, down the shore-line, their claws  ‘click-clicking’  on the silver sand.  Tumbling into the turquoise waters, they scrambled under the immersed port-side and clambered, one on top of the other, to form a wedge shape.  Together they pushed as the Knave, Grey Rabbit, the twins and I, all pulled and pulled, but we needed more strength.

I shouted out to the playing cards, who were still drifting listlessly, back and forth on the tide.  One by one they floated to the shore and shook themselves.  Some of the soggier ones ran about until they were a little drier and stronger.  Then, working as a pack, they heaved and heaved and, just as we were almost collapsing with the effort, there was a huge ‘SLUUURRRPPP’ and the ship was righted !

Romo and Bomo ran off into the trees and triumphantly carried the only straight palm tree, proudly across the sand-bank.  We had our main  mast !

Working swiftly, eyeing the ever approaching clouds, we secured the mast, while Dormouse tightened the bolts with the handy torque-wrench he always carried in his hip-pocket. Fat rain-spots  began to fall and splatter onto the deck as we loaded Betty and our meagre rations.  Then we  hoisted the spinnaker; we must outrun this storm !

The Knave set to work, checking that the barrels were lashed and the sheets were secure in their cleats.  In my new capacity as Captain, I took the wheel and, with a final salute to the crabs, I turned the ship into the wind.  The sails filled and the ship sprung to life, scudding swiftly away from the island, as storm petrels flew high across the watery sun.

Now I was determined to search for our friends. If they, by some serendipitous chance, were still alive, they would never survive another storm.

We tacked back and forth,  across our former route, all eyes on the waves, praying that Trevor and Colin had, miraculously survived.  A school of dolphins appeared and Tomo held Grey Rabbit’s legs as he leaned over the handrail as far as he dared and asked if they had seen a rowboat and two men.  But the dolphins shook their heads and glided gracefully by.  Soon we had retraced our steps,  peered through binoculars,  prayed and done everything we could.  I was losing heart and trying to summon up some magic spell.  What was the use of being a bona-fide magician, if I couldn’t caste a spell to save our lost friends ?  My head hurt with the effort.

More clouds were gathering and I was concentrating so hard on a spell, that I didn’t see the Albatross, high in the sky.  Nor did I see the rope in his beak.  But I did see the rowboat, carrying two figures, being pulled across the water, towards us.  Unbelievably, it was Colin and Trevor !  The Albatross dropped the rope onto our deck and, with a couple of flicks of his giant wings, flew out across the swell of the ocean.

We all rushed to grab the rope; even little Dormouse and Betty helped.  Then we all tugged and pulled as hard as we could and our two dear friends were saved.  As they climbed wearily aboard, I wondered if my magic had helped.  I still didn’t have a clue how to use this, newly discovered, gift, but I like to think that, somehow, I had helped.

We all hugged our bedraggled companions and Romo took them below, to revive them with hot vegetable soup and steaming mugs of tea. Our company was complete again, now we must avoid the storm.  I expertly turned the ships wheel and held my breath as, at first, the sails flapped ominously at the sudden change in tack. And then —-WHOOOSH — the wind filled them and we flew across the ocean.  This time, north, towards our goal.

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The Door Chapter Nine

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CHAPTER NINE

 

And so began the trip down to Panama.  Although it was around 1000 miles by sailing ship, I knew this magic vessel would make short work of that.  I was worried about hurricanes, as I remembered watching weather reports on TV about how this part of the Caribbean was prone to bad weather.   Magic would cut no ice there.  But the weather set fair and the stiff, warm breeze had us swiftly skimming over the waves.  As we sailed, the crew regaled me with stories of earlier adventures and exciting trips; but they are for another time.

The Knave and I took turns at the wheel and between us, we read the winds sufficiently well to tack across the blue waters and we soon reached the stunningly beautiful coral island of San Andres.  Here we anchored in a bay.  The water was so clear, I could plainly see the pink coral and exotic fish on the sea bed.  Colin and Trevor took the rowboat to shore, to purchase boxes of coconuts,  mangoes and other  foodstuff.  We seemed to have an endless supply of fresh water on board which, I suspected, was due to Grey Rabbit’s magic.

How easily I was now accepting all these things.  Although I had doubts, it was amazing how every magic trick appeared to be normal.  In a few short days, I had become used to the motley crew of travellers and also an expert sailor.  It was as though I was born to it.

Once again, I would have loved to go ashore and see the sights.  The island was so captivating.  Scents of flowers and spices wafted out to the ship.  But time was tight and soon we were off again, fast approaching the Canal.

The plan was that Dormouse,  Grey Rabbit and the twins would stay below as we entered the Canal. The Knave had all the relevant documents and cash to pay for our passage.  I had changed into the coolest dress I could find.  A loose, cotton sundress, with a long, flowing skirt that kept my legs cool.  The Knave had long since dispensed with his jersey and now had a white T shirt with his heart logo printed on the front, denim shorts had replaced his long trousers.  Colin and Trevor were still sporting their lurid shirts and so we all resembled ordinary tourists.  Though  ‘ordinary’  was so far from the truth.

The heat in the Canal was overwhelming, but the views were magnificent.  I had no idea how beautiful this area was.  I had always imagined a rather boring seaway, with tall hills on either side. But there were lakes and mountains and stunning tropical plants and trees everywhere I looked.  The only thing  ‘boring’  was the oppressive heat, which sapped my energy completely.  One of the Officials warned us of storms in the South Pacific.  Trevor muttered, ominously, about wrecks and drowning, but I was fading fast.  The heat made me feel sick, the breeze was too warm to cool me.

I wandered below and went to my cabin.  I thought I would look in my bag to see if I had packed any face-wipes.  I didn’t remember doing so, but you never know.  I put the bag on a chair and delved into it.  To my amazement, there was an electric fan !  Just the thing —- but how the heck did it get there ?  Then I remembered Grey Rabbit telling me that everything I needed would be inside this capacious holdall.  So, not only did my locket grant wishes, but, so it seemed, did the bag.  Then a thought ” STUPID WOMAN ” It’s an ELECTRIC fan and there was no electricity on board.  Huh !  Some magic !

I hauled the fan out and placed it on the nightstand, beside my bunk.  It sat there, looking accusingly at me.  I fiddled about with the blades, but nothing happened.  I pressed the ON button and it came on.  I jumped in surprise.  I switched it off and it stopped.  I tried it again and a cold  breeze blew the ends of my hair and cooled my face.  It was magic !Real magic !  Not ‘Dynamo’ with his ‘almost magic’ illusions; but real, live, no explanation magic.  An electric fan that worked with no electricity.  I BELIEVED NOW  !  Everything else could have been explained by some professor of some ‘ology’ ….But this ?  This was real. Now I believed.  I shrieked out in excitement and Grey Rabbit came running into my cabin.  He was flustered and, for once, did not wear his haughty expression. I babbled something incoherent and he gestured for me to sit down.

” It’s all magic”  I said, trembling, ” My bag and locket are both magical and you and all the others too.  All the things that have happened, did you do it ?  Was it all really real ?” 

He looked serious now,and he glanced sideways at me and replied

“It’s YOU Rosie.  You are the magic, the magic is in you.  It always has been.  You are making everything happen, we are just helping you.

“But how.. I mean… my locket, my bag of whatever I need.  How can that be me ?

I was bursting with curiosity and confusion.  I wasn’t a magician, how silly.

” The bag is there to hold whatever you conjure up and the locket is just to help focus your mind.  You have much to learn, as I’ve said before.  You still need to learn how to control your gift.  You were born with this but you have yet to realise your true power.  We are here to guide you and help you to take the key from the Trolls and save the world from a terrible destruction”

The Grey Rabbit’s words had left me bemused and bewildered.  I needed some air.  I returned to the deck, a million questions filling my head.  Once on deck I found that we were leaving the last lock and sailing the final few metres of the Canal.

For a second time, the Officials told us of hurricanes and wild weather.  This time I listened as they suggested we hug the coast and not venture too far.  But we were getting short of time and I knew we could go faster in deeper water.  The Knave had said we would be going uphill; now I knew that he meant my magic would have to work harder; things had taken on new meanings, I was no longer quite so clueless, I felt powerful.

And so, we sailed, a clear blue sunlit sky above us,  into the South Pacific.  I had a long-held wish to see this ocean and had planned to visit someday.  Now I was actually here and I held my breath at it’s turquoise magnificence.  The waters were fairly calm, but an offshore breeze was brisk and so we sailed swiftly on.  As we progressed, I listened to Trevor and Colin as they told more stories of adventures past.  It appears they were both quite the heroes and of that, I had no doubt. But dark clouds were gathering on the horizon, we must make haste, we still had far to go.

We were barely a day out when the storm hit us. The brisk wind, that had moaned in the rigging and sent the spinnaker soaring; pulling us over waves as though we were flying; turned into a raging hurricane that whipped the sea into a frenzy.  Gigantic waves crashed over the deck and threatened to swamp us at any moment.  The tempest tore at the rigging; sails and spars creaked ominously as we battled with the ropes in a vain attempt to lower the sails.  Barrels that had been lashed to the handrails, broke free and, as the vessel plummeted into a trough, they rolled ever closer to me and I feared I would be flattened beneath them.  Trevor and Colin, who were attempting to secure the rowboat, saw the impending danger. As one they leapt across the deck and stopped the barrels in their tracks.  Then an enormous wave swept them both over the side, still clinging to the rowboat’s rope.  The Knave struggled to the side, but they were nowhere to be seen and we could do nothing but pray they would be, somehow, saved from drowning.   A great sorrow filled my heart.  And now, the rest of us were in mortal danger.    The ship listed to port and I closed my eyes and tried to summon some magic, but nothing worked.

The twins saw the island first; silhouetted in the luminous lightening flashes and hope caught my throat.  Miraculously, the storm was blowing us towards the beach and sanctuary.  Fearing that a reef may lie between us and safety, the Knave watched the waves while  I clung to the wheel and listened to the creaks and rattles of the craft and we both  stared into the darkness at the fast approaching shore.

The vessel came to ground on a sandbank, a few yards from the shore, listing precariously in the shallow water.  I scooped up the Dormouse and shoved him into the pocket of my, now drenched, sundress.  Then, a pause as I checked that the twins had tucked Betty safely into her basket and that Grey Rabbit was  ok.  We swiftly gathered all we could carry and slid into the water.

As we waded through the foaming waves and onto the beach, our battered ship fell onto it’s side and the mainmast was wrenched in two.  Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the storm abated and we fell, exhausted onto the silver sands.  The pale moon rose in the sky and stars twinkled like diamonds studded in midnight blue velvet.  The Fisher King cast his net of dreams and we slept where we lay.

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The Door …….. Chapter Eight

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CHAPTER EIGHT

 

The Knave turned the ships wheel and I expertly trimmed the spinnaker.  The wind caught the mainsail and, as I kept watch on the crosstrees ( the horizontal beams that spread the rigging ) we veered westward, towards the town of Negril.

By day this area would be full of divers and holiday-makers, enjoying the clear waters off the coast.  But now, at midnight, although lights shone merrily in the town, the coast was free of anyone who may wonder at an ancient sailing ship.  In fact, it crossed my mind that, if anyone should spy our vessel, they would probably think we were filming another  ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean’  feature.  Even our motley crew could be mistaken for some expert special effects  !

We passed the Negril Lighthouse, taking care to avoid the reefs in Long Bay.  Then sailed parallel with Seven Mile Beach, where surf-side clubs were still pumping out music and tinkling laughter.  I wished we could linger here, in the shallow bays.  Walk, barefooted on the miles of sand.   Maybe trek into the rain-forests and mountains of the interior of this lovely island.  But we kept on sailing until, with a raised paw, Grey Rabbit called a halt.

I deftly lowered the sails and Romo and Bomo dropped anchor in a quiet, deserted bay.  There was hardly a ripple on the water as the Knave and the twins lowered the little rowboat and clambered down the rope ladder.  Grey Rabbit and I stayed on board, as the trio rowed to the beach.  But we both kept watch, through binoculars.  I had asked if I could go in the rowboat,  but the Knave said that the Dormouse was easily startled by strangers.

The full moon filled the bay with an eerie light and I wasn’t sure what I was expecting to see, as I peered through the binoculars.  I could make out the beach, quite clearly and also the thick forest of trees that fringed the sand and rocks.  The Knave and his companions had reached the beach and were in the process of dragging the boat further up the shingle, out of the reach of the surf.  Then, nothing.  Minutes passed.  The three on land were leaning against the rowboat; waiting.  They waited….. Grey Rabbit and I waited …. We all waited.

Fifteen minutes passed; then twenty.  Grey Rabbit was checking his watch and tapping his foot, impatiently.  Betty began to whine softly and pace about on the deck.  Back and forth, back and forth.  I stared through the binoculars; something was happening.

The Jamaican dogwood and palmetto palms, parted slightly and, from behind a guango tree came two figures.  They were both male and looked as though Central Casting had fitted them out as typical tourists.  Even through binoculars, i could see that they were wearing Bermuda shorts and those bright, Hawaiian shirts. They each carried a large, duffle bag,  but I could see no sign of a Dormouse.  The two guys shook hands with the Knave, Bomo and Romo.  They obviously all knew each other, as they greeted one another warmly.

A few minutes later, they were all in the skiff and rowing energetically back  to the ship.  In no time at all they were scrambling up the rope ladder and hauling themselves onto the deck.  Betty barked, happily, she also knew the newcomers; but I was treated to formal introductions.

The two men, who were indeed clad in shirts of startlingly vivid colours, palm trees and exotic fruit, were introduced as Colin and Trevor.  Both were around six feet tall, swarthy and well-built. They looked as though they would be handy should trouble break out.  They both dropped their duffle bags, wiped their hands on their shorts and shook my hand vigorously; smiling to reveal that each one sported a gold tooth.  They had bright bandanas round their heads and numerous tattoos.  I mentally erased the  ‘tourist’  notion and decided that they both, more closely, resembled the Disney idea of Pirates !  Colin even had a gold, hooped earring, all they needed was a parrot, to complete the picture.

As if they had read my mind, Trevor unbuttoned the top pocket of his lurid shirt and out popped the Dormouse !  I can’t say that I have ever seen a Dormouse, but I was sure that they didn’t normally resemble the one that was now standing on Trevor’s shoulder. He  was a bright-eyed little fellow, about four inches high.  That was normal enough.  But I was sure that beaded dreadlocks was not the normal Dormouse look. He slammed a high five at the Knave and said, in a squeaky voice,

“Well, I see the gang’s all here; with the charming addition of this young lady” Then he leaned over to me, conspiratorially, and added, “ Your Great Aunt was a good friend of mine.  I’m so sorry for your loss.  She was a wonderful woman.”

“She was”  I answered and shook his tiny paw.

Strange things were beginning to be common-place and I now took talking to animals  in my stride.  I briefly wondered what other strangeness lay ahead.  But I didn’t have much time to ponder on such things.  We weighed anchor and set a new heading. Colin and Trevor stashed their duffle bags below; Dormouse sat his fat little body on the ships wheel; Tomo made a brew of nettle tea; and I deftly steered the vessel onto our new course.

 

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The Door ……… Chapter Seven

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

 

Well, after all that, I was totally confused.  My head couldn’t cope with the craziness of the whole situation.  I wanted to laugh, but four faces looked at me so seriously, that I didn’t dare.  I wanted to cry, but I wouldn’t let these bizarre characters see me upset.  And yet, as I clutched the locket, an inner calmness engulfed me.  Suddenly I was my usual, strong, confident self again.  I had to finally accept that I wasn’t dreaming.  Oh, no, this was all too real.  However, in the back of my mind, I still thought it was ridiculous; real or not.

Bomo offered to make some nettle tea and tomato sandwiches and we all nodded.  The sun was at high noon, blazing down from a clear blue sky and the heat was getting to me.  I wished, not for the first time, that I had brought suitable clothes.  My thick Arran sweater was ideal for chilly days in Devon; but the warmth of a Caribbean summer made such items redundant.

I indicated that I would go below, to splash some water on my face and compose my thoughts.  As I turned to go below, I noticed  that the Knave was playing cards.  At least, that’s what it looked like.  He had spread a pack out on top of a barrel and appeared to be conversing with them.  I shaded my eyes from the bright, blinding sunlight and looked again.  Oh my, not something else ?  But yes, it was another thing to add to the ever increasing ‘ Weird List ‘  Each playing card was actually standing up —- on little legs !  Were my eyes playing tricks with me ?  Had I read too much  Lewis Carroll ?  I shook my head and descended swiftly below.  Was I hallucinating  ?  I didn’t know what to believe anymore.  I decided to say nothing, just go with the flow and treat everything as normal. Though I knew it was all far from that !

I pushed my cabin door open and entered semi-darkness.  It was hot and stuffy and difficult to breathe.  Then my breath was completely taken away as there, on my bunk, lay a pile of cool, cotton clothes.  What the …… ? I called out to Bomo, who was still in the galley preparing lunch.  He came running in on his plump little legs; all fuss and worried concern.  I pointed to the clothes and gasped,

“Where did they come from ?”  Bomo looked at the garments, quizzically.  Then a light bulb moment ….

” You wished you’d brought something cooler to wear, didn’t you ?” 

I nodded, weakly,

” Well, if you were touching your locket at the time, it granted your wish !”

” My locket grants wishes ?” I asked, in amazement.

“Well, not all the time, of course. You won’t be able to win the Lottery or anything like that.  The locket only grants a wish if it thinks it’s absolutely necessary “

Then he shrugged and plodded back to the galley.

 

I reached out and gingerly touched the clothes.  I don’t know what I expected, but they were real.  They didn’t suddenly disappear in a dramatic flash, or float around the room, so I swiftly slipped out of my jeans and sweater.  I chose a white cotton Tshirt and a cool, lilac, broderie anglaise, gypsy-style skirt.  I smiled a little as I noticed that all the items were very demure.  Rather quirky and old-fashioned.  No bikini tops and tiny shorts, just lovely, cool garments. Everything fitted perfectly; even the espadrilles, that I popped on before leaving the cabin.

 

The others were all seated  around the table, munching on thick tomato sandwiches and wedges of a delicious yellow cheese.  Nettle tea was beginning to be my favourite beverage, so I took my seat and gratefully drank half a cup, before acknowledging my friends.  Friends  ?  Yes indeed.  That was how I was starting to feel about my companions.  Friends; all on a mission !

Everyone said something charming about my appearance. Apparently, my change of apparel met with their approval.  I smiled and felt stupidly pleased about their complimentary comments.  They were, and had always been, so kind.  Even the Grey Rabbit’s haughtiness was simply, part of his charm. I knew it was just his way and he meant no harm.

I helped Tomo clear the table after our tasty repast.  He gave the impression of being both surprised and grateful for my assistance, so I took a deep breath and asked,

” What was the Knave doing up on deck  ?  He appeared to be talking to a pack of cards.  What’s the story there ?”

I hadn’t noticed that the Knave had silently  slipped down the steps and was standing behind me, so his gentle voice startled me.

“They are my friends.  My pack.”  he answered. “They are usually hanging around in Las Vegas, but whenever I need them, hey always answer my call. “

His expression indicated that there was no more to be said and so I left it there.  Oh why did every question answered just lead me to even more questions ?   I had decided  I should go along with the flow.  Let things unfold on their own.  But my curiosity rankled inside me.  I didn’t  believe in magic, but every minute that passed was proving me wrong.

I followed the Knave up the steps and was greeted by a soft, warm breeze.  As I leaned over the side of the ship, I could see the dark outline of some land on the horizon.

“That’s Cuba  !” said the Knave, before I had chance to ask.  “We are making good time and should make landfall in Jamaica, late tonight “

“But then we have to get to California “, I answered.  “ So we will have to go through the Panama Canal  ?”  I asked; recalling the geography I had learnt  at school and also all the maps that Aunt Maud had framed, on the walls of the dining room.  Some of the maps had little pins in them, and various routes marked out in red.   Once again, things began to slot into place.

The Knave smiled and said,  ” Yes.  We go through the Canal, but it won’t take us long.  The journey really begins in the Pacific.  We can’t travel as fast there.”

“Why not ?” I questioned.  After all, we were approaching Jamaica at warp speed, or so it seemed.

“Because it’s uphill, of course ” answered the Knave, flatly.  “Now come with me, I want to teach you how to handle the sails and steer the ship.  You never know when you might need to sail it on your own. “

So, for the rest of the afternoon, I learnt about sheets and spinnakers; cleats and knots and all manner of nautical paraphernalia.  Soon I was sailing merrily along, dodging booms and hoisting mainsails and generally acting like a proper Jack Tar !  I took to it like well …. a duck to water , I suppose would be an apt analogy.  The Knave praised me profusely,

“You can handle a ship as well as your Great Aunt” he smiled.  I was thrilled !

Night falls swiftly in the hotter climes and scorching sun gave way to velvety dark.  The night sky was studded with a million stars, I’d never seen so many.  In the distance was a faint glow, which, Grey Rabbit told me, was Montego Bay.

We hadn’t long finished supper. A vegetable quiche, salad and herb bread.  I was rapidly realising that my comrades were vegetarians; which made sense, I suppose.  I had assisted with the clearing of dishes and, now all the chores were done, I  made my way up on deck.   Delighting in the cooler, offshore breeze, I was excited to see Jamaica.  I had never visited the Caribbean, so it was all new and thrilling.

Land loomed nearer, until I could see the beach and hotels.  They were lit by street lights and neon signs of dozens of beach-side bars.  I could even hear sounds, drifting across the bay.  Reggae music and steel drums and faint laughter.  But, if I had been dreaming of joining the throngs of holiday-makers and locals partying on into the night —- Or thought of sunbathing on the pure white sands for a day or two ….. I was to be deeply disappointed.  Oh no, not for us the tourist hot spots and rum cocktails !

 

(Continued)

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Wednesday Wordle ( Yes I know it’s Thursday)

Yesterday’s Wednesday Wordle for the WRITE-ON group was an interesting set of words;

COAST; MEETING; VEST; CALM; ENCHANTING; LOVELY; OBSEQUIOUS; RINGS; MINIATURE; YELLOW; GREET; CLEAR;

And here is the poem I wrote, including all the words.

INTERNET DATING 

 

I thought I’d try the internet,

To find a lovely mate.

So I signed up on a website,

That promised to be great.

 

I soon had a dozen offers;

Though some were rather odd.

But I set up a meeting,

With a dark-haired chap, called Rod.

 

I tried to keep cool and calm,

As I drove down to the coast.

The evening was clear and balmy,

The weather I like most.

 

A guy walked up to greet me,

As I parked my yellow car.

He said I was enchanting

And took me to a bar.

 

He plied me with rum cocktails,

My heart beat under my vest.

Then he whipped out a couple of cheap rings

And asked “Which do you like best ?”

 

But he didn’t like my answer,

I said, ” I’m not here for that !”

So, in a manner most obsequious,

He answered, ” Let’s go to my flat”

 

” Please accept my offer,

To see my little train !”

But I left him and his train-set,

And drove home in the rain.

 

So, ladies, please be careful,

When dating  ‘On The Net ‘

Cos a glimpse of someone’s  “miniature train “

Might be all you get.

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The Door……. Chapter Six

 

 

Chapter Six

 

So, we all sat on boxes or barrels, with the morning sun on our faces.  Betty lay at my feet, she had become my constant companion.  A balmy breeze filled the billowing sails and the old ship creaked a little as it skipped over the gentle waves.

The Grey Rabbit pulled up an apple box, sat primly on the edge, his hind legs dangling, comically. He coughed, arranged his scarlet waistcoat and began,

You will have heard of  PANDORA’S BOX   ? The one that held all the evils of the world ? When it was opened , as I’m sure you know, evil spirits escaped and only HOPE remained.  But there was another box; a box that is never spoken of.  And this box is at the heart of our mission. The box is known to only a few , but one of the evils that escaped was the race of TROLLS;  malevolent  monsters that spend their lives trying to capture the second box and open it.

We call this box EREBOS and it’s contents are  far worse than anyone can imagine.  Not only does it contain many of the maleficent horrors that were recaptured, but also curses and depravity, plagues and terrors. To open this box would mean the absolute annihilation of humankind and everything that is good with the world. Darkness and pestilence would flourish and the very gates of hell would be torn asunder. Evil would engulf the Earth.

Over the years Erebos has been hidden in various places across the world. It has resided in temples; deserts and caverns; even the bottom of the sea. But the Trolls are  wily and have many agents; cruel, self-serving people who wish to assist in the destruction of society for their own nefarious reasons.  Each time the secret  hiding place has been found.  Whenever that occurs, the holder of the Magic Locket has been summoned.  The locket is the only thing that can save Erebos; that and the KEY  !

Now the key has also occupied many disguises.  Some you may have heard about, I expect, though never realising exactly what it was.  It was once concealed in a Golden Fleece, entrusted to Jason.   It was also fashioned into the shape of a golden ring and was in a Hobbit’s care. This time it was Peri’s duty to protect the key.  Peri is the brother of the Cheshire Cat and extremely elusive.  He wears the key in the form of a diamond star on his collar. “

He paused , for dramatic effect, and also, I suspect, to catch his breath and take a sip of nettle tea. I was about to speak, but he held up a restraining hand and continued,

Last week Erebos disappeared from the latest hiding place, in Machu Pichu. The Trolls had, once again located the hiding place and now, goodness only knows how, they have captured Peri.  So, not only do they have the box, but they also have the key !”

The Grey Rabbit stood up and leaned against the huge wheel, which was tied to the bulwark with a sturdy rope, to ensure we kept on course.

” Well, surely it’s too late. The Trolls will have opened the box by now ?” I uttered, feeling a little nauseous at the thought.

No, no. That’s just it !” answered the Knave, excitedly. ” Erebos can only be opened during a Lilac Moon and that isn’t due for two weeks “

So we still have time” said the Grey Rabbit, giving the Knave a hard stare for stealing his thunder.

“Oh, I see”, I muttered, feeling even more sick. —-I was wearing this magic locket thing ! And the whole idea sounded dangerous.

So, are the Trolls in Jamaica ?” I asked, swallowing hard and feeling a little afraid.

“No, of course not” replied the Grey Rabbit; rolling his eyes; rather rudely, I thought.

” We are going to Jamaica to pick up the Dormouse. He knows how to find the exact entrance to the Trolls kingdom. We only know the vague area.”

“And where’s that ?” I ventured.  I hardly dare ask.

Well, Trolls always live under bridges” answered the Knave, kindly and shooting a look at Grey Rabbit.

“I know that ” I smiled.

“Well, they have dens under various bridges throughout the world. But the headquarters—-the main kingdom — is under one of the most famous bridges on Earth “

“YES !” interrupted the Grey Rabbit , ” When we’ve collected Dormouse, we must make haste to San Francisco !”

 

 

 

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The Door (Part Five)

Part Five

 

I awoke two hours later, the herby aroma of vegetable stew filling my nostrils.  The rough wooden table had been set with rather basic cutlery and huge stoneware bowls, full of stew, sat at each place-setting.  The little band of travellers was arranged around the table, on benches and stools. Bomo gestured for me to take my place and we all proceeded to tuck into the most delicious food  I’d  eaten in a long time. The Knave had excelled himself, concocting a veritable feast from a few humble vegetables.  A delicious, homemade garlic bread accompanied the stew and so we all supped, heartily.

“We have far to go and much to do” , said the Knave, in a serious tone. ” So I suggest we all eat and then get some sleep.  The Grey Rabbit will take first watch”

We all nodded in agreement.  I still had so many questions, but the good food and a large glass of red wine, combined to make me so sleepy that I could barely keep my eyes open, so decided to wait until tomorrow.  The Knave scurried around, washing the dishes and tidying the galley and so I bid my companions goodnight and retired to my cabin.

Folded neatly on my bunk was a beautifully made, Victorian styled, long nightgown.  It was pure white, with long sleeves, made from the softest, finest cotton I had ever touched. The bodice was covered in smocking, with three pearl buttons at the neck.  Delicate, handmade lace adorned the collar and cuffs.  But, best of all, was the waft of perfume that emanated from the folds of fabric. ‘Joy’ by Jean Patou  !

I donned the nightgown, as my Aunt Maud must have done, many times before me and, climbing into my bunk, I fell into a deep sleep.

I woke to the sounds of water, splashing and for a moment I couldn’t remember where I was. What was this strange room ? How did I get here ?  Why did I seem to be afloat ?  And then the memories came flooding back and I thought to myself,

“Wow, what a weird dream”.

But, as I clutched at the patchwork quilt and stared around, I realised I was in a ship’s cabin and my strange dream was, in fact, reality.  The aroma of toast wafted through my door and I sat up quickly, banging my head on the shelf just above the bunk. There’s not much room on a ship  !  I knelt up to inspect the shelf and, to my amazement, there were, silver-framed photos placed among the conch  and sea urchin shells. Photos of Aunt Maud, with a collection of different characters. Some I recognised, but many were complete strangers.  Well, she had definitely been here.  How strange. I was beginning to believe the stories, told to me by Romo, Bomo and the Grey  Rabbit.  But surely ……

” Rosie, are you dressed ?” called a voice, that was either Bomo or Romo.  I was still a little confused by the twins, but then it suddenly dawned on me !  Bomo was dressed in the blue and white striped T shirt and Romo was the one in red and white  !  How stupid was I  ?

“Come in “ I called, and in walked Bomo, carrying a tray.

“Some nettle tea and toast” he grinned, “Don’t be too long, there’s much to tell you”

He placed the tray on my bunk and exited, closing the door behind him.  Nettle tea  ?  Hmmm, I wasn’t too sure about that, but I desperately  needed a hot drink. I sipped it, warily. It was delicious and I immediately felt both energised and calmer. The toast had large blobs of butter, still floating in a sea of even more, melted butter, soaking into the golden brown crispness of the bread.  It ran down my chin and I caught it with buttery fingers. I giggled with delight. I could hear my Aunt admonishing me,

“Too much butter, Rosie  !  Oh you do remind me of someone  !”

I wondered if that ‘someone’ was whoever had buttered this toast.  When pressed, she would never say.  Things were clicking into place, like cogs in a wheel.  After I had breakfasted, I hurriedly washed and dressed in jeans and a sweater. “ Jamaica !”  I thought and wished I had brought some summer clothes.

The whole gang was above deck, and greeted me merrily, when I finally climbed the wooden steps from the galley.  The sea was azure blue and the sky mirrored it, perfectly, with the addition of a few fluffy, fair-weather clouds. It felt warmer than I had expected, too.

“Where are we, approximately ?” I asked, to no one in particular.

“About fifty nautical miles from The Azores” answered the Knave, ” We should make Jamaica late tomorrow.”

No …That couldn’t be right, could it  ?  I was no sailor, but Devon to Jamaica in a beat up old sailing ship, with no engine  ?  Nah, it would take longer than that  !

The Knave noticed my furrowed brow and said,

” You may notice that time passes in a different way, on board this ship.  You will soon get used to it”

I touched the locket at my throat,  Maybe things were magic.  Or was I dreaming again ?

” Be careful how you use your locket” said the Grey Rabbit, standing up and surveying the others, ” You do not, yet, know it’s powers “  I took my hand swiftly away and was about to ask why, when he continued,

“I think it’s time to tell Rosie what’s going on

Everyone nodded, so I sat on an upturned barrel and leaned forward.  I was eager to hear the whole story, at last.

 

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The Door Part 4

THE DOOR    PART 4

 

Feeling more than a little confused, I took the bag proffered by Romo and said,

” But what will I need ? 

My voice sounded wobbly and I coughed, to clear my throat and play for time. The Grey Rabbit walked towards me,

” Your bag already contains everything you will need, except for personal things. Hairbrush”  he glanced at my tangled locks, “ Toothbrush;  and toothpaste; sensible shoes; and, of course,  your magic locket !”  the Grey Rabbit uttered.  Rather tetchily, I thought.

Magic locket ?  Magic locket ?  what the he…….  And then I remembered, paused and held my throat.  Yes !  I was wearing the locket my Aunt had given to me two days before she died.  But, MAGIC ?   No, surely not  ?

” Keep this by you at all times, Rosie. You may be needing it someday.  I love you dearly …..”  And then she had lapsed into a coma and never recovered.

I had wondered, at the time, what on earth she meant. But now I was beginning to understand. I only wish she had told me everything.

As I obediently gathered the suggested items, I thought about my Aunt’s wonderful stories. I had always been puzzled about where she got her inspiration.  Now I was starting to see, I think !

The Grey rabbit had said that everything else I would need, was already in the sackcloth bag. But when I opened it to pop my bits and bobs inside, it was empty.  I thought better of asking anymore questions. The Grey Rabbit was tapping his fingers, impatiently.  Bomo handed me the cloak and proceeded  to usher me towards the wardrobe.  I knew the house was securely locked up, so, with a wistful backwards glance, I stepped into the wardrobe and down the stone steps.

 

As we entered the tunnel, Romo switched on a bright flashlight that illuminated the whole passage. It was then that I almost paused and turned back.  I was sure I must be dreaming.  I mean, look at me.  I  was about to set forth on a journey with a talking rabbit,   for god’s sake  !  The whole thing was completely ridiculous.  Evil trolls and cats being captured ?  But not just any cat, for heaven’s sake ….. Oh no, a cat who could save the world !!  People popping through wardrobes  ?  It’s all ridiculous.  Absolutely farcical !

I pinched myself —- Nothing.—- I shook my head, vigorously, but that only made me dizzy.  No, this was really happening, no matter how weird it seemed. I truly was in a tunnel with two midgets and a talking, flipping rabbit; a bag that had nowt in it and a folded, old-fashioned cloak over my arm.

We were quite a way down the tunnel now. I could see daylight in the distance and hear the sea. The waves were louder than before.   The tide was coming in.  I had a brief, panicky thought that maybe this tunnel flooded, but when we reached the entrance, the water was still only halfway up the beach.  A tiny mop of a dog came running up to us, barking joyfully. It was a cute little thing, mostly white, with grey ears and a black, button nose. It ran round in circles, barking and then jumping up on it’s hind legs, as though it was dancing.

” Hello cutie.  What is your name ?

” It’s Betty,” snorted the Grey Rabbit, and three pairs of eyes swiveled and looked at me as though I must be crazy; expecting a dog to talk.  Pah !  The whole thing was really, most confusing.

We proceeded down the beach, Betty in the lead, barking excitedly; Bomo; me; Romo and the Grey Rabbit, all in single file.  We must have looked like a weird version of the cover of ” Abbey Road”, I thought.  Flipping heck, I was going crazy  !

The little rowing boat was still there, bobbing at the water’s edge.  It looked somewhat dilapidated and I hoped it was water-tight. We scrambled in, Romo and Bomo taking the oars, with Grey Rabbit sitting, regally at the tiller and Betty snuggled next to me,  The next wave caught us and lifted the boat up and, voila, we were afloat. I shaded my eyes with my right hand and looked out to the large ship, that was approximately half a mile out in the bay.  It must have been a trick of the light, because it appeared to be hovering above the waves.  But the sun was sinking into the gold of the west and everything seemed to shimmer and float in the last few rays of the sun.

We soon reached the ship, which  resembled a pirate ship even more, the closer we got.  Even though they were rowing against the tide,  Romo and Bomo made short work of the trip and soon we were tying up, alongside the vessel.  A rather tattered rope ladder hung over the side.  Why did everything about this experience seem so slip-shod and old  ?  Like a cut-price, rescue from some pound shop.  Before attempting to climb the rope, I scooped up Betty and popped the squirming little body into my bag. She was only the size of a very hairy, chihuahua and so she soon settled down in the capacious carrier.

Grey Rabbit went up the rope ladder first and I marvelled at how he managed to maintain an air of superiority while performing such an ungainly action.  I could hear him talking to someone, but the wind whisked the words away. However, a few seconds later, a figure leaned over the side of the ship and offered his help.

“Oh, it’s the Knave !” chortled Bomo, ” He’s always around to help a pretty damsel in distress “

Blushing, I began the climb, my bag firmly over my shoulder. The Knave’s handsome face looked down at me and, catching my trembling hands in his strong ones, he pulled me up and swung me around before placing me safely on deck.

There we are, m’lady” he smiled and gave me a polite bow.

I felt my cheeks burning, as I straightened my clothes and opened the drawstring fastener of my bag, to release the yapping Betty.  Romo and Bomo clambered on board and looked around, eagerly.

” Are the cards here ?” Bomo asked the Knave

“Oh yes, they’ve just flown in and I have them here, in my pocket “ he replied.

The Knave was tall, well over six feet, with an unruly mop of dark hair.  He wore a white, cable-knit sweater with a big, red heart motif on the front. Long, knee-high leather boots over black trousers and, ridiculously, I thought, a jewelled diadem on top of his dark curls.

Knave  ?  cards  ?  Seriously  ?  This was becoming stranger by the minute . In fact, I only just stopped myself from uttering  “ Curiouser and curiouser!”

“Well, when we are all ready, I suggest we make a start,”  began the Grey Rabbit. “ Romo and Bomo, unfurl the mainsail and set a course for Jamaica. We must pick up the Dormouse and, of course, he just had to be on holiday at a time like this !”

The two little guys jumped into action, clambering and scrambling here and there, industriously.

” I’ll make supper”  suggested the Knave, “ Rosie, you’d better go below and get sorted outThen come to the galley, there’s bound to be something you can do “

Romo rushed over and picked up my belongings and I followed him; still confused and certain I was dreaming.  Or was that just wishful thinking  ?

My bunk was in a tiny cabin and I  almost climbed into the comfy looking bed,  I was so tired.  But, instead, I wandered in the the direction of, what I guessed, was the galley. Delicious aromas were filling the air and I suddenly realised I was hungry.

“Can I do anything ?” I mumbled, trying unsuccessfully to stifle a huge yawn.

“You look dead on your feet. Why don’t you sit down ?  You’ve  had a tiring day “replied the Knave, who was peeling a large red apple.

I sat in a rocking chair and watched him. He peeled the apple with the thinnest knife I’ve ever seen. The peel came off in a long, slim,  unbroken strip. Round and round went the knife. Longer and longer , the red  peel spiralled down  and down, hypnotically. Round and round went the peel; back and forth rocked the chair; round and round. Apple peel dreams curled into my mind and I slept ………

 

(To be continued)

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The Door (Part 3)

PART  THREE

 

I sat back on the bed and stared at the three figures, in front of me. My mouth was still dry from my nap and my tongue stuck to my lips, making speech rather difficult.  I was afraid and yet, intrigued.  I felt that the three didn’t wish me any harm.  They did not appear at all menacing; infact, the two small guys looked at me with something akin to sympathy in their eyes.  But, who the hell were they and what the heck did they want ?  And — most of all — why the hell had they just emerged from the back of the old, mahogany wardrobe ?

I was still staring in disbelief when the Rabbit adjusted his red waistcoat, stood up to his full height of 2 feet 6 inches and said, in the most pompous voice,

“Dear lady !  I realise that you have no knowledge of us and, though I find that most disappointing, I can understand the reason. However, time is of the utmost importance and we should dally no longer. Pray, gather whatever belongings you may require and let us all depart, with haste.

Well, I’d certainly never heard a rabbit speak with such authority —–  In fact, I’d never heard a rabbit speak  at all  !  To say I was taken aback would be something of an understatement.

“Who are you  ?  What are you doing here  ?  Why do you want me to go with you  ? Where are we going ?” 

The questions came out in a rush and the Grey Rabbit tapped his foot, impatiently.  One of the little guys stepped forward. He wore a red and white, striped T shirt, that barely covered his round little body, And his little, plump legs looked so funny, emerging from rather tight, corduroy shorts. Afraid as I was, I had to stifle a giggle. He was about 3 feet 6 inches tall and his companion lookd exactly the same, except his T shirt was blue and white.  They were obviously twins.

” I am Romo and my brother is Bomo ”  the little chap said, gently.

” The Grey Rabbit is known as the Grey Rabbit and we have travelled many miles to ask for your help  “

I was about to open my mouth. More questions filled my head. But Romo anticipated my interruption and swiftly continued,

” Your Great Aunt Maud, was one of a group of adventurers, who had vowed to protect the world from the evil Trolls. And now you are her designated successor. Throughout the years, many writers have joined the group, each one nominated by a predecessor. Some of them have written about their adventures and have become famous and their stories are known, worldwide.  A few, in a modest way, like your Aunt and others have become very famous indeed.  I can name no names, but you will realise who they are as time passes.  Many of the characters in their books are still part of the group and many of our group are relations of more famous characters.  The Grey Rabbit, here, is cousin to the White Rabbit and we , Bomo and I, have two more brothers who are much more well-known  “

He paused for breath and I leaned forward, eager to hear more,

“Now, there is no time to tell you everything. You will be told more, as we travel. We must hurry and pick up more of our helpers.  Peri is the Cheshire cat’s brother and twice as elusive.  But, somehow, he has been captured by the Trolls.  It is imperative that we rescue him before the Violet Moon.  Please hurry, Rosie. And do not be afraid now.  Later there will be time for fear ……

 

(To be continued )

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