Now the witch turned to the ghost and spoke in a strong voice. “I’m not blaming you, Mr. Fuddlebee, but I think you lost their trail.”
“My dear, Miss Broomble,” replied Mr. Fuddlebee the ghost in a much softer, quite raspier voice, “it was necessary to make a quick stop.”
“Necessary?” asked Miss Broomble the witch, a hint of doubt in her voice. “After months of dead ends, we finally caught up with Margrave, but you halted our chase in London to buy a new umbrella.”
“Well, my dear Miss Broomble,” the elderly ghost responded, “my old umbrella had a hole in it.”
“But you’re a ghost, Mr. Fuddlebee. The rain passes through you
through your umbrella.”
“Miss Broomble, old men like me might die easily, but old habits die much, much harder.”
Unsatisfied with this answer, yet accepting it the way friends accept one another’s quirks, Miss Broomble now removed a handheld brass canister from a leather pocket on her belt. Along the canister’s side were etched stylish letters:
The witch held the brass canister in the air, pressed a button on its top, and out sprayed a fine, dark blue mist in the half-moon light.
The mist formed into a dark blue cloud, which swayed like the sea for a moment, and then shaped itself into a miniature model of the surrounding countryside – with miniature hills and miniature trees and miniature fields of sheep and wheat.
Miss Broomble pointed to one hill on the Mist Map that had two golden dots twinkling on top like stars.
“We’re here,” she said.
She ran her finger through the mist, which parted like water and then quickly reshaped back into the model.
Miss Broomble frowned. “We last saw Margrave and his henchmen here, at the Old Oak.”
Mr. Fuddlebee stroked his goatee thoughtfully. Then he held the tip of his ghostly umbrella up to the Mist Map and he pointed along a small trail that led from the Old Oak to a small house. “I believe, Miss Broomble,” the elderly ghost said, “that Margrave and his henchmen fled in this direction.”
Miss Broomble looked closer at the small house. Blue cloudy wisps from the Mist Map coiled around her face. “Who lives there, Mr. Fuddlebee?”
The elderly ghost sighed. “I cannot say for certain, but whoever they are, if they have invited Margrave Snick and his two zombie henchmen into their home, their lives will never be the same again. Quickly now! We must dash if we’re to save them.”
Without another word, hoping that they weren’t too late, the ghost and the witch hurried through the Mist Map’s dark blue cloud, down the hill into the valley, to the small house – the house where Key lived with her mom and dad, the house where Margrave Snick had just trespassed with his two zombie henchmen.
— CHAPTER THREE —
Margrave Snick & Zombie Henchmen
Key’s mom and dad did not often worry. When they did, they became kinder than usual.
As they were welcoming in Margrave Snick and his henchmen, Key saw them being extra-kind, even though the vampire was rude and his two henchmen had rotting skin and a bad smell, so Key could tell that her parents were quite worried indeed.
Yet because they taught her by example, she tried to be kind the way they were kind. She cut her birthday cake into three slices, even though it was so small that it only cut into that amount exactly. And she did not mind that there was no cake left anymore for her and her parents. For her, having a slice of birthday cake was not as important as making a small sacrifice for the sake of someone else’s needs.
, she assured herself,
everyone needs a slice of birthday cake
She put one slice on a plate and handed it to Margrave Snick first because, from her point of view, he looked so out of sorts, so angry, that he appeared to be the most in need.
So that she might be ready with a response, she imagined the vampire taking the cake and thanking her for her kindness. However, when Margrave glared at Key’s gift, as if it were completely disgusting to him, she blinked in confusion, wondering why he wasn’t taking it, and wondering if he’d even heard of the deliciousness of birthday cakes before. So you can imagine that she was even more confused when the vampire suddenly backhanded the plate, sending the slice sailing across the room and against the wall where the plate shattered into several shards.
Key was so shocked that she let her mouth hang open, not quite knowing what to say or do. She’d never seen anyone be so rude and ungrateful. And she started to wonder if she herself had done something wrong to offend him.
One zombie henchman laughed at Key. It sounded like coughing and sickness.
The other zombie tried to laugh too, but his laughter did not last long as his rotting jaw dropped off his face. With a very embarrassed look, the zombie then scrambled to pick it up and attach it back to his head. He tried to smile but he had attached his jaw so crookedly that now his head looked lopsided with a cockeyed grin.
Margrave Snick sneered at Key as he loomed over her. His long fangs glistened with saliva. He raised his hands over his head like claws. Then he hissed like a crocodile in her face. “You have only one thing that can satisfy my appetite.”
And before Key could even think about what that meant, complete chaos suddenly broke out inside her once peaceful home.
One zombie henchman started chasing Key’s dad while the other chased her mom. Her dad was strong because of the farming he did and her mom was fast because she was always chasing after lost sheep. But Margrave Snick had increased the strength and speed of these two zombie henchmen, using a recipe of malice with a dash of magic mud, so that now they were much stronger and faster than most mortals. Now not even Key’s mom and dad could overpower the dead.
In a rush Margrave Snick grasped Key in his powerful embrace, pulled her close, and sank his long, sharp vampire fangs into her neck.
Key winced and tensed, tightly shutting her eyes. The pain of the vampire’s bite was like no pain she’d ever felt before. One moment his fangs felt as cold as ice in her skin; the next they felt as hot as fiery thorns. Key started shivering and sweating at the same time. Her body was tingly all over, from the top of her head to the bottom of her feet and everywhere in between. She felt sick to her stomach as she became weaker and weaker. She felt more tired than she’d ever been before; so tired in fact, that she felt like falling into a long, deep sleep.
Yet when things seemed to be as bad as they could possibly get, something happened that brought a little light into Key’s suddenly hopeless home – for right at that moment, Mr. Fuddlebee the elderly ghost came gliding in through the front door with ghostly trails of light swirling around him.
He then unlocked the front door and it burst open.
Now in the doorway stood Miss Broomble the witch, with the gadgets strapped to her arms and legs whirring, prepared for battle.
Mr. Fuddlebee took something out from inside his jacket pocket. It appeared to be no bigger than a grain of sand, for the elderly ghost had to pinch it between his ghostly fingers.
And as he held the grain high overhead, bright white light instantly shone out, which seemed at first as tiny as a pinpoint of starlight, but then grew into a radiance brighter than the sun.
The light filled the whole house. And to Key it seemed as though her house shone with the light of heaven.
Then in a startlingly powerful voice, Mr. Fuddlebee bellowed, “Margrave Snick, you are no longer a vampire! You are no longer immortal! Your power is taken back by the Hand of DIOS!”
The bright white light completely surrounded Key. It did not hurt her eyes, but it blinded her briefly.
She could not see her mom and dad. She could not see the vampire holding her. She could only feel his vampire fangs come out from her neck.
In her ears she could hear Margrave Snick’s voice sounding completely horrified as he gasped in shock, “No, it can’t be true. I can’t be mortal. I can’t be human again. I can’t—”
The vampire started to utter more, but at that very instant he vanished into thin air.
Key fell to the ground. Her head struck the floor hard.
— CHAPTER FOUR —
Mr. Fuddlebee & Miss Broomble
The grain of light pinched between Mr. Fuddlebee’s fingers dimmed slowly, before snuffing out altogether like a candle.
He tucked the grain back inside his jacket pocket as Miss Broomble knelt beside Key. The witch gently touched the bite wounds on her neck, but Key was so dazed that she did not quite understand what the witch was doing, caring little about vampire bites, caring only for her mom and dad who did not seem to be responding when Key, in a weak, hoarse voice called out for them, “Mom? Dad? Where are you?”
Were they safe?
Mr. Fuddlebee glided over, with green ghostly trails of light swirling behind him, and he studied Key’s condition, his expression a mask of concern.
She heard the ghost and the witch talking, but she felt so strangely tired that she could barely understand them. The more she tried, the more her mind felt groggy and her eyes felt heavy with sleep. She struggled to keep them open and stay awake, but it was no good; she felt she might fall into a deep sleep at any moment.
“Mr. Fuddlebee,” the witch said desperately, “the child’s been bitten.”
“Yes, Miss Broomble,” the elderly ghost said more calmly, “she is no longer mortal.”
“Of course I’m mortal,” Key tried to argue, but she had become so tired she could barely open her mouth. Then she wondered, What does
Miss Broomble tensed her brow. “Margrave Snick has never made another vampire, Mr. Fuddlebee.”
“Quite true, Miss Broomble,” the elderly ghost said in agreement. “This child is his first.”
“There’s no telling who she’ll become, Mr. Fuddlebee.”
“True again, Miss Broomble. This girl might become quite powerful indeed.”
She was not sure if she was awake or asleep. Is this real or a dream? She did not want to be powerful. She just wanted to live a quiet life in her simple home with her mom and dad.
She opened her mouth to try once again speaking with the ghost and the witch. But she stopped, her mouth still open, when she noticed a giant wolf with black and brown fur standing upright on two hind legs.
The giant wolf had suddenly stepped out of the shadows, seemingly out of nowhere, and was now standing behind the ghost and the witch. Yet they kept on talking as though they didn’t notice how the wolf’s eyes glowed like fiery torches, or how his breathing seemed as deep and rumbly as thunder.
Where did that wolf come from?
Key wondered in alarm, starting to feel very afraid of him.
But the giant wolf seemed to be looking at her with an expression of deep love and devotion. He seemed to know Key the way one dear friend knows another. No, it did not seem that the wolf would hurt her at all, although perhaps he might lick her face with buckets of slobber.
Now, apparently noticing his presence for the first time, Mr. Fuddlebee turned and floated before the giant wolf. “Look here, Tudwal old boy,” he said in a reproving tone. “Miss Key will be all right in the end. Just leave her to us and we’ll take good care of her.”
The giant wolf growled at the elderly ghost. The whole house seemed to shake by the power in his voice.
“Goodness me,” the elderly ghost said in reply, not bothering to hide the shock in his voice. “Well, yes, I certainly understand you enjoy playing fetch with her, but I had no idea she lets you crawl on the ceiling. It’s not the most civilized behavior for an immortal puppy wolf. I shall have to speak with Miss Key about teaching you better manners.”
Key did not know what the elderly ghost was referring to. Was he talking about her? She had never before played fetch with a giant wolf who stood on his two hind legs. She had certainly never let one crawl on the ceiling.
I must be having a dream
, she considered.
It’s all very strange
Miss Broomble stood beside the elderly ghost. “Mr. Fuddlebee,” she said, “because Margrave Snick made this child a vampire, other vampires are going to look at her but see him. Many did not like him, so they will not like her, either.”
Mr. Fuddlebee nodded. “Yes, Miss Broomble, I believe you’re quite correct. In the same way Margrave Snick was hated and feared, she too will be hated and feared, although the hatred and fear directed toward her will be entirely unjustifiable. That’s for certain. For the rest of her life, she must bear the burden of someone else’s bad reputation. Now her life is in for a lot of inexcusable pain and punishment. And she’s not even ten years old, it seems.”
“What are we going to do with her, Mr. Fuddlebee?”
“We are not going to do anything with her, Miss Broomble.”
“We can’t just abandon her, Mr. Fuddlebee.”
“Indeed no, Miss Broomble. We are going to do something for her.”
“What do you have in mind, Mr. Fuddlebee?”
“My dear Miss Broomble, we are going to escort this child to the one place we all end up.”
Miss Broomble thought about this before responding. “The pub?”
The elderly ghost sighed. “No, Miss Broomble. I was referring, of course, to the Necropolis.”
The witch shuddered and her eyes widened with alarm. “The Necropolis?” she asked in an affrighted whisper, putting her hand to her mouth. “You want to take this girl to the
City of the Dead?”
“No, Miss Broomble,” said the elderly ghost. “I do not want to. Yet it must be done.”
“Certainly we have other options, Mr. Fuddlebee.”
The giant wolf growled again at the elderly ghost.
But he addressed the witch first. “Miss Broomble, take a good look around you. All you’ll see is a lack of options. Our hands are tied.”
The elderly ghost then turned to the giant wolf. “And as for you, Tudwal old fellow, I ask you to trust my judgment. Your suggestion is good, but we must think more seriously of Miss Key’s future
yours. So, no, although it sounds quite fun, we simply cannot take her to live in the passenger seat of a moving vehicle with its windows down.”