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 ………