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.