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Authors: Colin Thompson

Floods 10 (10 page)

BOOK: Floods 10
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‘Yes,
Maldegard agreed.

A stream wandered across the cave floor with waterlilies the same pale blue as the glow-worms and on either side, soft folds of delicate grass sat between the golden rocks. It really was a magical place. Yet for all the natural beauty there was something else that caught the two women's attention.

At the far end of the cave stood a cottage with a thin trail of smoke rising from its chimney.

‘Is this magic?' said Spudly. ‘Did you do all this?'

‘It looks like magic, doesn't it?' said Maldegard. ‘But it was nothing to do with us. Neither of us are witches, we're just ordinary humans.'

‘But you must admit,' said Edna, ‘it looks too fantastic to just be natural.'

They walked towards the cottage, keeping out of sight behind the rocks where they could. As they got closer, they could see a couple of figures sitting by the stream, fishing.

‘Goblins,' Spudly whispered. ‘They're goblins.'

And indeed they were, and indeed Spudly knew
who
they were.

‘Uncle Trimble,' he shouted and ran towards the two goblins.

‘Oh look, Mother,' said Uncle Trimble to the lady who wasn't his mother, but his wife, Auntie Tremble. ‘It's little Spudly.'

‘Aye, Dad, so it is,' said Auntie Tremble to the man who wasn't her dad, but her husband, and she gave the young goblin a great big hug.

  • a type of government where all the members are elected by the rest of the population.
  • a country that is governed in such a way.
  • the practice or principles of social equality.
  • please note – bacon is exempt.

‘I still think we should do something about this Parliament thing,' said Mordonna.

‘Why?' said Nerlin. ‘Everyone seems to be perfectly happy with the way things are.'

‘True, but I'm thinking about the outside world.'

‘What on earth for?' said Nerlin. ‘You know
how useless most humans are. Let's just keep ourselves to ourselves.'

‘I just think that if Transylvania Waters becomes a democracy, humans will be more inclined to leave us alone. I know there's nothing humans can do that we can't handle, but it would be more peaceful if they thought we were one of those places where everyone is equal and no one was locked up for their beliefs or enslaved and all that sort of thing.'

‘Enslaved?' said Nerlin. ‘Have we got slaves? Why haven't I got one?'

‘No, we haven't got slaves and no one is locked up for their beliefs,' said Mordonna. ‘When we threw my father off the throne, we released all the political prisoners.'

‘Apart from your sister Howler and her seven green, scaly children.'

‘That doesn't count,' said Mordonna. ‘She's not so much political as seriously dangerous, and it's three.'

‘Three, three what?'

‘Three green, scaly children. She ate four of them.'

‘Yeuhh,' said Nerlin. ‘And which beliefs is she locked up for? I can't imagine she'd even know what a belief is, never mind having any.'

‘The belief that eating small children is a good thing.'

‘Well, I can't imagine anyone would think it was wrong locking her up.'

At that exact moment a messenger ran into the room.

‘It's one child,' said the King, reading the note. ‘She's eaten two more.'

‘No, of course not,' continued Mordonna, ‘apart from a remote tribe of cannibals in a faraway jungle who actually think of her as a sort of folk hero. Fortunately they are very primitive and haven't even invented footpaths or passports yet so there's no chance of them coming to try and rescue her. Not like her husband.'

‘Husband, she has a husband?' said Nerlin.

‘Well, of course she has,' said Mordonna. ‘She
might eat babies, but she would never dream of having one without being married. She is a royal princess, you know.'

‘But who or what would marry her? She's terrifying,' said Nerlin. ‘Obviously
all
the beautifulness in your family was given to you and there was none left for Howler.'

‘They got married after we fled all those years ago, so I've never seen him, but from what I've heard he's like a cross between a one-eyed dead goat and a sewage works. Whether he's human or wizard or reptile no one has ever been brave enough to try and find out.'

‘So where is he now, locked up with your sister?'

‘No. No one knows,' said Mordonna. ‘When Howler was finally caught and caged, he ran off into the hills vowing terrible vengeance.'

‘And you sent Maldegard and my beloved Edna off out into the countryside without anyone to protect them?' said Mr Hulbert. ‘I must go After them immediately. They could be in terrible danger.'

‘Ah well, yes, umm,' said Nerlin. ‘I didn't want to worry anyone, but they seem to have, umm, sort of disappeared. We've tried calling their mobiles, but just get a message saying there is no signal.'

‘WHAT?' cried Mr Hulbert. ‘Well, get some soldiers and guns and stuff. We have to find them!'

‘Ah well, yes, umm,' said Nerlin. ‘That's another thing. We don't actually have any soldiers.'

‘We're witches and wizards. We don't need soldiers or armies,' said Mordonna.

‘Or guns,' Nerlin added.

‘So what
have
you got?' Mr Hulbert cried.

‘Magic wands.'

‘WHAT? Are you telling me that the only
things you've got to defend yourselves are some little sticks?' said Mr Hulbert.

‘They are magic sticks,' said Mordonna.

‘And a book of spells,' Nerlin added.

Mr Hulbert fell to his knees and buried his head in his hands.

‘It will end in tears,' he cried. ‘I will never see my beloved Edna again. The terrible um, err. What's this creature's name?'

‘The Grime Reaper,' said Mordonna, ‘though he tries to disguise himself by calling himself Graham Rapport.

‘Think about it,' she continued. ‘Who would ever be scared of someone called Graham? He is also supposed to be a shapeshifter.'

‘What?'

‘A being which can change itself into another form,' Mordonna explained. ‘There are dozens of stories of strange events that are believed to be him in another form, such as the little old lady who appears in remote villages and knits all the kittens into blankets.'

‘And the huge brown hen that lays enormous eggs and when you eat them you turn into a small frog,' said Nerlin.

‘No, that actually was a huge brown hen that laid enormous eggs.'

‘Are you sure?' said Nerlin.

‘Oh yes. She was shapeshifted into a wonderful roast dinner.'

‘Oh no, not Graham!' cried Mr Hulbert. ‘Edna's father was called Graham and she thought he was wonderful – extremely wet and timid, but wonderful.'

‘We will send out a search party at once,' said Mordonna, ‘and call Winchflat back from New York again to build a Graham Detector.'

‘Yes,' said Nerlin and, summoning a footman, added, ‘Go to the armoury and sign out five wands with very sharp pointy ends.'

‘This is the most beautiful cave I have ever seen,' said Maldegard as the two women and three goblins sat down outside the cottage to the best fish and chips they had ever tasted.
32
‘And I've seen more than seven in my time.'

‘Cave? What cave?' said Uncle Trimble.

‘This one.'

‘We're in a cave?' said Auntie Tremble.

‘Well, yes,' said Edna. ‘Where did you think you were?'

‘In the legendary Very Lovely Enchanted Valley,' said Auntie Tremble. ‘We came out of the tunnel and there were the stars twinkling away and …'

‘I wondered why it was night all the time,' said Uncle Trimble. ‘I thought it was just some sort of enchantment.'

‘No, this is
,' Maldegard explained. ‘You are still underground.'

‘But it's still enchanted though, isn't it?' said Auntie Tremble.

‘Well, it certainly looks like it, doesn't it?' said Edna.

‘Oh well, we might as well stay here then,' said Uncle Trimble.

‘Aye, might as well,' said Auntie Tremble. ‘I mean, blue sky's not all it's cracked up to be and I can't remember the last time it rained.'

Maldegard was about to explain that it didn't actually rain in caves, but she thought better of it.

‘How long have you been here?' she said.
‘I mean, did you build this lovely cottage?'

‘Oh no, it was here when we arrived,' said Uncle Trimble, ‘and we thought it was so perfect, we decided to stay here.'

As he spoke the cottage moved in a very subtle yet menacing way, except no one noticed it, so it wasn't menacing at all. It sort of shivered as if it were alive. Then it slowly opened its front door and kept very still, looking as inviting as it possibly could.

‘Let's go inside and have a nice cup of tea,' said Auntie Tremble. ‘You know, when we came here, this place had everything we could ever want, including fifteen types of the finest tea we've ever tasted.'

‘Aye,' said Uncle Trimble. ‘We was a bit worried at first in case it was someone's house – you know, like Goldilocks and the Three Ferrets – but we've been here for ages and no one's turned up.'

‘Except you,' said Auntie Tremble. ‘It's not your cottage, is it?'

Maldegard said it wasn't and the four adults went inside, leaving young Spudly paddling in the river. Something in the cottage sent out inviting
vibrations towards the young goblin, trying to fill his head with images of big bars of chocolate and marzipan piglets in the kitchen, but Spudly was not the sort of boy to have been blessed with a complicated brain and all the hypnotic vibes flew right over him. They landed in the ear of a small rabbit on the opposite bank, but rabbits don't like chocolate or marzipan, so nothing happened apart from the rabbit losing its balance and falling on a thistle, but as this was an enchanted cave the thistle was soft and tickly, which would have made the rabbit laugh except rabbits don't do that sort of thing.

After the other four had gone inside and the chocolate marzipan sensation had failed to attract Spudly, the front door slid quietly shut and locked itself. Everyone was too busy in the kitchen admiring the forty-three wonderful teapots and the eighteen types of digestive biscuits, and trying to decide which one of the fifteen types of tea they'd have, to notice it. Nor did they notice the steel grilles sliding down over all the windows, though Maldegard did think it rather strange that all the walls felt warm, about the
same temperature as human flesh. If she had put her ear to the wall, which she didn't because she didn't do that sort of thing, except on her birthday which it wasn't, she would have heard a heartbeat.

In spite of its appearance, the cottage was not a cottage.

It was a shapeshifter.

Not just any run-of-the-mill shapeshifter, but Graham the Grime Reaper.

And it had just shifted its previous shape a tiny bit, turning the enchanting cottage into a cage with two goblins and two humans locked inside it. The roses round the door were now barbed wire and the eighteen types of digestive biscuits were now eighteen types of dog biscuit.
33

Graham couldn't believe his luck.

The two goblins had been a bit of a test
drive. Graham had never transformed himself into something quite so big before and he wanted to try it out before he went After the Floods. And now he had a Floods daughter-in-law and the wife of Transylvania Waters's Chancellor, the man who was in charge of all the money. Not only would he be able to get his
beloved Howler set free, they would probably be able to get a huge bag of money too.

Everyone thinks that because I grew up in a pit of slime, I'm thick, he said to himself. This'll show them.

At first none of the prisoners realised they
were
prisoners.

These biscuits taste exactly how I always thought dog biscuits would taste,
thought Edna, who was far too polite to say so and had never eaten a dog biscuit.

‘These biscuits taste exactly like dog biscuits,' said Maldegard, who was not too polite and who had eaten dog biscuits on quite a few occasions.

‘They do, don't they?' said Uncle Trimble, who adored dog biscuits and couldn't remember the last time he'd actually had one. ‘Aren't they delicious.'

‘They look like dog biscuits, too,' said Auntie Tremble. ‘Which is very strange, considering I baked digestive biscuits.'

The table they were sitting round gave a little chuckle.

‘Oo-er,' said Auntie Tremble. ‘What was that?'

‘Earthquake?' said Uncle Trimble.

‘Something's wrong,' said Maldegard. ‘I mean, why's it so hot and stuffy in here?'

‘And why are there bars over all the windows?' said Edna.

‘Let me in!' Spudly shouted though the letter box. ‘I can't open the door.'

Uncle Trimble went to investigate and came back a few minutes later to tell everyone that the door was not so much locked as made of iron and welded shut, and there were bars over all of the windows and the fireplace so they couldn't climb out of the chimney.

Outside, young Spudly sat on the doorstep and started to cry.

‘I want my mummy,' he wailed and no amount of words from inside would comfort him.

‘My granny said it would end in tears,' Spudly cried.

‘All grannies say that,' said Maldegard. ‘It doesn't mean anything.'

‘SHUT UP,' said a loud voice that appeared to come from nowhere and everywhere at the same
time, though not necessarily in that order.

‘What, who, where, what?' said everyone apart from the owner of the voice that had said
shut up
.

‘SORRY,' said the voice. ‘Didn't mean to shout. Never actually spoken while I was in this shape before, must be something to do with the chimney acting like a megaphone.'

There was a pause, a shout, an apology, a whisper which no one could hear and finally –

‘Is this better?' the voice whispered.

‘Yes,' said Maldegard. ‘Who are you and where are you?'

‘Oh, I'm just Graham,' said the Grime Reaper. ‘And I am like love. I am all around. Except I'm not like love at all, really, because I could kill you if I wanted to and I am going to hold you hostage and maybe even cut bits of you off and post them to your relatives.'

‘Hostage? Hostage? What for?' said Maldegard.

The Grime Reaper explained. First he had to tell them about Howler because neither woman had ever heard of her. This wasn't surprising. Mordonna
didn't advertise the fact she had a sister who barely qualified as a member of the human race.
34
Part of her thought that if people realised she had a sister who was so ugly even warthogs fled in fear, it would sort of take away from her own beauty. Those who did know about Howler thought it was rather selfish of Mordonna to have all the beauty when her poor sister had none.

‘Even if she gave poor Howler a quarter of her wonderfulness, she would still have enough left to be staggeringly beautiful,' people said, not realising that even if Howler did look more presentable, her breath alone would still make stainless steel rusty flowers wither to dust and beautiful skylarks fall dead out of the sky.

‘She is the love of my life,' the Grime Reaper explained, ‘and the mother of our seven children,
though I believe she has eaten most of them, or maybe even all of them by now. She is unjustly imprisoned and until she is freed you will remain my prisoners.'

When Maldegard asked him why Howler was locked up, he said she was being persecuted for her religious beliefs. Maldegard and Edna found that hard to believe and said so.

‘I wouldn't have thought that Nerlin or Mordonna would imprison someone for their faith,' they said.

‘Well, it just goes to show you can never believe anyone,' said the Grime Reaper, overlooking the fact that his wife's ‘beliefs' involved eating small children. ‘Oh, and by the way, I can hear you even when you whisper really quietly.'

‘No one knows where we are,' said Maldegard. ‘Our mobiles don't work down here so no one can contact us.'

‘That's all right,' said the Grime Reaper. ‘I'll send the snivelling little goblin up with a ransom note.'

Invisible hands picked Spudly up and pushed
him through the letterbox into the cottage where he ran into the arms of his auntie.

‘I was terrible frighted,' he cried.

‘It's all right,' said Auntie Tremble. ‘We all am.'

‘Never mind all that, snotweed,' the Grime Reaper said as a letter appeared out of thin air and landed on the kitchen table. ‘You just take this and give it to King Nerlin.'

‘I aren't never been up there,' said Spudly. ‘I doesn't know where to go.'

‘Don't you worry about that, you little weasel. I've got a special delivery service that will take you there in no time at all,' said the Grime Reaper. ‘Just pick up the letter, you horrid little baby. And stop snivelling! You'll make the envelope all wet.'

BOOK: Floods 10
12.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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