Excerpt for The Dream Guardian by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


Ben Bennetts


Grandpa is a storyteller. He's also The Dream Guardian, charged with looking after hundreds of bottles of dreams, both happiness dreams and nightmares. His grandchildren, Tommy and Nikki, often visit him to listen to a story and, in Tommy's case, learn how to become the new Dream Guardian when the time comes. Listen to stories about hidden temples, a runaway dog, four-winged fairies, stag beetles, witches, Arthur (the original Dream Guardian), adventurous train journeys, and much more. Plus learn about a secret room, a secret book and map, and how to redream a bottled dream.

Foreword to parents, grandparents and other readers

This book is designed to be read to listeners aged 8-years-old and upwards. The intention is not only to captivate the child but also to educate in various ways. There is a lookup section at the back for words that might be unfamiliar to younger listeners or readers. If you are reading the book on your own, enjoy!

Copyright © 2017, Ben Bennetts
Published by Atheos Books at Smashwords

This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment. The e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please buy an extra copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not buy it, or it was not bought for your use only, then please return to the retailer and buy your own copy. Thank you for respecting my hard work.

Every effort has been made to trace all copyright holders of material, textual and graphic, quoted or otherwise used in this book. Any omissions will be acknowledged and included in future editions if application is made in writing or by e-mail to the author at ben@ben-bennetts.com

ISBN 9781370292714

Minor corrections September 2017




Chapter 1

Bert the Stag Beetle

Chapter 2

The Secret Room in the Vicarage

Chapter 3

Anina and Dokki

Chapter 4

Arthur, the original Dream Guardian

Chapter 5

Stumpy the Heroic Pit Pony

Chapter 6

Arthur and the Hidden Temple

Chapter 7

Picketty Witch and the Dead Fish

Chapter 8

An Adventure on a Train

Chapter 9

Gilbert and the Leg-Growing Pills

Chapter 10

Terror in the Woods

Chapter 11

Susan and Skipper go to the Moon

Chapter 12

Arthur and the Dream Makers, Part 1

Chapter 13

Arthur and the Dream Makers, Part 2

Chapter 14

Susan, Donald, and Skipper return from the Moon (Nikki)

Susan and Skipper return from the Moon (Tommy)

Chapter 15

Arthur and the Dream Makers, Part 3

Chapter 16

Dokki meets Kresh

Chapter 17

Arthur and the Dream Makers, Part 4

Chapter 18

Alf's story: a bricklayer's nightmare

Layla and her Dream

Chapter 19

Petra the Puffin meets the Penguins

Chapter 20

What goes around, comes around

Puzzle Solutions (Ch. 16)

Unfamiliar Words


About the Author

Atheos Books


This book, and the stories herein, is dedicated to my older granddaughters Ella and Georgia who, as young children, allowed me to hone my skills as an impromptu storyteller in the days when they stayed overnight; and to my younger granddaughters, Emilie and Lottie who, I hope, will enjoy both listening to and reading the stories.


Der Grossvater erzählt eine Geschichte (The Grandfather Tells A Story),

Albert Anker (1831-1910)

Chapter 1

In which we meet Tommy, his sister Nikki, his mum Maggie, his story-telling Grandpa, and learn some interesting things about stag beetles.

"Tommy! Tommy! Are you up? Are you dressed? The school bus will be here shortly. Come on. Your breakfast is ready."

Tommy listened to his mother shouting from downstairs. He was awake and half dressed. He reached down and found the other sock where he had dropped it last night.

"Coming, Mum," he shouted. "I'm just putting my socks on."

Another day at school, he thought. Still, we get to go to the gym this morning, and that nice Miss Faversham has arranged a nature ramble this afternoon looking for birds, identifying trees, and lifting up dead branches to see what creepy-crawlies lived underneath. Maybe he would find a beetle or a spider he can capture to frighten the girls in his class. I must remember to take my empty matchbox, he thought.

Tommy finished dressing, waved the flannel at his face, combed his hair with his fingers, and went downstairs.

"Morning son," said his mum. "Sleep well?"

"Yeah, fine," Tommy replied. "I had a dream but I can't remember it. What's for breakfast?"

"Bread and spit on it!" shrieked Nikki, his younger sister.

"Nikki, I've told you not to say that. It's scrambled eggs, Tommy. Here. Sit down."

Tommy's mum pulled a chair away from the table and placed a plate of scrambled eggs in front of him as he sat down.

"And what's happening at school today, young man?" she enquired.

"Gym this morning and a nature ramble this afternoon," replied Tommy. "Is my gym kit in my bag?"

"Yes. I had a job to clean it after you'd sat on the dirty floor in the gym. You need to tell Mr Jenkins the caretaker to wash that floor more often."

"Mum, I can't do that. Mr Jenkins will just laugh at me and then chase me with his mop."

"You'll get a better wash than the one you had this morning then," laughed Nikki.

Tommy glared at his sister. Even from a very young age she'd taken care of her appearance and this morning was neatly dressed in her school uniform, her auburn hair plaited and tied up in a bundle and her face well-scrubbed.

"Watch it," he said with a growl, but Nikki just laughed again. Secretly, Tommy was very fond of his sister but he tried to maintain an air of authority when he could. It never worked however. Nikki would just laugh when he tried to tell her off.

"Now Tommy, here's your bag. Make sure you see your sister into her playground before you go into yours. I've packed your lunch, checked your gym kit, made sure your homework is in the bag, and closed the zip."

"Don't fuss, Mum. I'm ready. Come on Squirt," he said, turning to Nikki and taking her hand. "It's time to go." Tommy had nicknamed his sister Squirt when she was born because she was so tiny. He still called her that even though she was no longer tiny. She didn't mind.

Tommy's mum went with them to the door. "I'll be there at 3 o'clock to pick you up, Nikki. I need to go shopping. You can come with me. What will you do, Tommy?"

"I'll go round to see Grandpa after the bus has dropped me off," replied Tommy. "I'll walk back before it gets dark."

Grandpa's house was just five minutes away in the road off to the right at the end of Tommy's road. His mum could see him down the road until he turned into Grandpa's road, and Grandpa could see him as he approached the house. He was allowed to walk on his own as long as he told his mum and grandad he was going.

"All right, but don't let Grandpa get you into trouble," Tommy's mum said. "He can be a bit of a rascal when he wants to be."

"I won't, Mum," said Tommy, and with Nikki in tow he ran out of the door and down the path to catch the school bus which was just turning into their road.

"Bye," shouted Maggie.

"Bye Mum," shouted the two children.

And they were gone.

Later that day, after he had successfully caused mayhem with two small spiders and one very large fearsome-looking stag beetle, Tommy walked the short distance to Grandpa's house. The house was tucked away slightly from the main road and was quite old with many funny roof shapes and odd-shaped windows. Grandpa was not keen on gardening and the front garden was overgrown with trees, shrubs, bushes, and weeds; so much so that it was quite difficult to see the path that led up to the front door. But Tommy knew the way, and he walked boldly up the path and knocked loudly on the door.

"Grandpa, it's me, Tommy," he shouted.

Grandpa always kept the door locked when he was in the house. He said Tommy wasn't old enough to have a key yet. You might lose it, he told Tommy. When you're a bit older…

"Grandpa!" Tommy shouted impatiently. "Where are you?"

"I'm coming. I'm coming," came a muffled reply from inside the house. "Hold your horses. We haven't got a train to catch!"

Grandpa opened the door and stood there looking down at the small lad on his doorstep.

"Well, well, well," he said. "What have we here? Why, it's young Tommy, fresh from school, brimming with new knowledge and just bursting to have a piece of cake and a glass of milk, I bet."

"Hi, Grandpa," said Tommy pushing past his grandad and walking into the kitchen where, sure enough, he spied a glass of milk beside a piece of cake on a plate.

"Thanks, Grandpa," he said, throwing his school bag down in a corner and picking up the cake.

"So, what have you been up to today?" asked Grandpa.

"Oh, nothing much. We had gym practice and then I found some spiders and a beetle on a nature ramble. I tried to put the beetle down the neck of Lizzie Turner's dress but she got all scared and ran away and reported me to Miss Faversham. I have to do extra homework now about the life of a stag beetle."

"Hmm. That's hard luck but I can help you with the extra homework. If you do it here your mum doesn't need to know about it."

"Thanks, Grandpa," said Tommy looking at his grandad. Grandpa was dressed in an old sweater and baggy trousers. He'd put on a bit of weight and he bought what he called "easies" from a big supermarket that sold cheap clothes. He looked a bit scruffy, but as he said to his daughter, Tommy's mum, when she complained, "It's the inner man what counts Maggie; not the outer appearance."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Tommy's mum would reply. "It would help if you shaved more often and for goodness sake stop walking around in your bare feet! And buy a comb," she added.

Tommy's grandad would just laugh and go off and make a cup of tea.

Tommy thought the world of his grandad. Ever since he'd been born, Grandpa had made a fuss of him. He was the firstborn grandchild and Grandpa had doted on him, taking him out in his pram when he was a baby, pushing him on the swings down in the park, buying him ice cream and other forbidden goodies, helping him with his homework when he started school, and telling him made-up stories. And oh, what stories! They just seemed to pour out of him. Grandpa would sit down with Tommy, inside by the glowing fire in winter, outside in the warm sun in the back garden in the summer, and just start telling him stories. Sometimes they were about young children the same sort of age as Tommy and Nikki. Sometimes they were adventure stories of daring explorers and adventurous daredevils. Sometimes they were about mythical beasts and magical beings. And sometimes, the stories went on and on over many days. But they were always interesting, and Tommy would sit listening for hours, even begging his grandad not to stop when the time came for him to go home.

"Can I have a story today, Grandpa?" Tommy asked.

"Maybe," replied Grandpa. "But first finish your cake and let's sort out your extra homework on stag beetles. I'm sure Lizzie what's-her-name would love to know more about stag beetles when she gets older. When we've done the homework, maybe there'll be time for one short story before you run off home."

"Okay," replied Tommy, picking up his glass of milk and polishing off what was left of the cake.

"Where do the stories come from, Grandpa?" asked Tommy, his mouth full of cake.

"Oh, out of my head I guess. But I also know of a secret place where I can find more stories if I ever run out."

"Can I visit this place, Grandpa? Where is it? Can anybody go in? How many stories are there? How did the stories end up there?"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hold on young Tommy. That's way too many questions all at once. One day I'll tell you about the secret place, I promise. Now, tell me about your day at school. What did you learn? Can you do a somersault over the big wooden box in the gym yet? Did you do any reading, writing or arithmetic?"

Dutifully, Tommy recounted his day's experience at school and then they set to discovering what stag beetles do and how they do it. Tommy found out they can live for up to seven years, but mostly they live underground as larvae: that only female stag beetles bite people, and they feed on decaying wood.

"Tell me a story about a stag beetle, Grandpa," requested Tommy when they had finished the extra homework.

"Okay, but just a short one as it's nearly time for you to go home," replied Grandpa. "And promise me you will retell it to Nikki when you get home."

"I will, Grandpa," replied Tommy. "Now tell me the story, please."

Bert the Stag Beetle

In which Bert learns not to eat root ginger.

Bert was a stag beetle. He'd been a stag beetle all his life and had no desire to be anything else. He especially did not want to be a ladybird, which is another type of beetle. He didn't like ladybirds. He thought they were nasty little beetles, always going on about their bright red wings covered in black spots.

Bert lived at the bottom of a big garden with his mum and dad and brothers and sisters. He was a happy stag beetle and wandered around the garden during the day, looking for old bits of wood to chew on and a sunny patch of earth where he could sit down and rest for a while.

One day, he came across a piece of root ginger; the sort you use in cooking. Someone in the house must have put it out for the birds. Now, there are two things you need to know about root ginger and stag beetles. The first is that stag beetles find root ginger irresistible. It looks like old wood, and they are attracted by the smell and cannot resist having a chew on the fibrous root. The second thing is that if a stag beetle eats root ginger it instantly turns into a ladybird!

Bert (being an adventurous stag beetle) decided to have a chew at the root ginger and - pouf, just like that - turned into a ladybird.

"Oh no!" exclaimed Bert in dismay, looking down at his new red wings with small black spots. "What happened? I'll never be able to go home now. What will Mum and Dad say?"

"Got a problem there, lad?" asked a gruff voice.

Bert turned around to see a rather large spider looking at him with a big smile spread all over its face.

"I watched you eat the ginger and I knew what would happen," said the spider. "I've seen it happen before."

"What'll I do?" wailed Bert. "My mum and dad won't be at all happy, and my brothers and sisters will all laugh at me."

"Well, you could go and find a ladybird family to live with, or you could…" the spider's voice trailed off.

"Could what?" said Bert the new ladybird, or should that be manbird? "What could I do?"

"There is a cure but it's rather dangerous," said the spider. "You need to find a crow's nest and walk around the edge in a clockwise direction three times saying:

Ladybird, ladybird, please wave your flag.

Turn me back to a nice black stag.

but be careful; crows eat ladybirds," concluded the spider.

"Will that work?" asked Bert.

"Oh yes. It's magic. I've seen it work before, once when a worm ate a green acorn and turned into a weevil, but his rhyme was different:

Weevil, weevil, don't make me squirm.

Turn me back to a wriggly worm.

Bert thought about this for a while. He knew where there was a crow's nest in the big old oak tree at the edge of the garden, but the crow who lived there was bad-tempered and Bert had no intention of providing him with a late lunch or early dinner.

"There's a crow's nest…" started the spider.

"I know, I know," interrupted Bert. "Let me think a while. All right, I'll do it. Do you know when the crow will not be there?"

"Yes, he goes for a fly-around at 4 o'clock every afternoon. Talks to his friends. Gets back at 4:15."

"What's the time now? I've left my watch back in the nest."

The spider looked at his watch. "Just gone 3 o'clock," he replied. "You've plenty of time to get down to the tree and hide in the roots until the crow flies off at 4 o'clock. But wait a minute."

And so saying, the spider jumped onto Bert the ladybird and, in one gulp, swallowed him up. For spiders also eat ladybirds, you see.

The moral of this story is never trust a spider, especially if you're a ladybird; and never eat ginger, especially if you're a stag beetle.

"Grandpa!" protested Tommy. "That's not a happy ending."

"Well, not all stories have a happy ending, Tommy. Tomorrow, I'll see if I can find a happy-ending story, but for now it's time for you to go home before your mum starts to worry and shout at me for keeping you up late."

"Okay Grandpa," said Tommy, gathering up his school bag. "Will you show me the secret place tomorrow?"

"I might," replied Grandpa, putting on his socks and shoes. "Let's go. I'll walk you to the end of the road."

When he reached home, Tommy decided to tell his mum about the stag beetle in case she found out about it from Lizzie Turner's mum. Then he offered to tell Nikki the story about the stag beetle as a bedtime story. But he changed the ending. He said that Bert the ladybird did indeed wait until 4 o'clock and when the crow flew off to see his friends, Bert flew up to the nest and duly walked around it three times in a clockwise direction reciting the little poem the spider had told him. At the end of the third lap, Bert turned back into a stag beetle and he was able to fly back to his home where he lived happily ever after, vowing never to eat root ginger again, even if it was served up on toast with a little bit of his favourite brown sauce on the side.

Nikki was happy with the story and went sound asleep dreaming of friendly stag beetles and ladybirds: and Tommy's mum forgave him for scaring Lizzie Turner and said she would cook him his favourite chicken and broccoli pie tomorrow night for when he returned from school. Tommy was pleased about that.



1. What did Tommy do to Lizzie Turner? Was she happy about it? If not, why not?

2. Where does Grandpa get his stories from? Can you tell a story?

3. What happens if a stag beetle eats root ginger?

Chapter 2

In which Tommy learns about Grandpa's past and hears the first of many secrets.

Tommy didn't get to see his grandad again for six days. Sometimes, he had too much homework. Sometimes, he went out to play with his friends. Sometimes, he had to go shopping with Mum. And sometimes, he had to do stuff around the house. Tommy's dad was a bigwig in a large international company—something to do with a 'farm' and something called 'suiticals'; Tommy didn't know quite how to say it and certainly couldn't spell the word—but whatever it was meant that Tommy's dad had to travel to foreign countries and was often away for a week or more. As a result, Tommy's mum insisted that Tommy helped her keep the house clean, look after Nikki, do the washing up, and even sweep the floor now and again. When she wanted Tommy to do these things, she would call him and tell him it was time to do stuff, and these days and evenings became known as do stuff days and evenings.

Tommy didn't mind too much. He was happy to help his mum. She worked hard during the day helping out at a local charity shop and sometimes she just wanted to come home, put her feet up on a footstool, and watch television while Tommy made her a cup of tea and kept Nikki occupied.

Consequently, it was six days before Tommy next visited his grandad.

"Hello, Grandpa," he shouted through the letterbox. "It's me, Tommy. Open the door please."

"Where have you been?" asked Grandpa, somewhat grumpily. "It's been quiet here on my own."

Tommy's grandmother had passed away seven years ago, gone to that big rest home in the sky, Grandpa said. Tommy had some vague memories of her, but he knew Grandpa still missed her and the house was full of framed photographs of when they were young—the wedding, pictures of his mum when she was a young girl, pictures of people who Tommy didn't recognise and whom even Grandpa had difficulty naming these days, and pictures of him and Nikki when they were babies.

"Sorry, Grandpa. I had a couple of do stuff days and Mum's been busy repairing a dress for old Mrs Watson next door, so I had to look after Nikki."

"How is that little poppet, Nikki? I haven't seen her for over a week now."

"Mum said she'll pop in tomorrow morning and bring Nikki," replied Tommy. "It's Saturday and Mum wants to go shopping, so she asked if it's all right if she drops us both off tomorrow morning for a couple of hours."

"Yes, that's okay. You're better off here than being dragged around a supermarket full of crazy people buying food they'll never eat and spending money they haven't got," said Grandpa. Grandpa was not fond of shopping at the best of times and certainly didn't like supermarkets except when he needed some new easies. He still bought most of his food at the corner shop run by Ranjit Singh, an Indian gentleman who had settled there a few years back and who kept the shop open from dawn to dusk. You should open the shop from dusk to dawn Ranjit, his grandad used to say. Yes sir, very good sir, Ranjit would reply very seriously wobbling his head side to side, and then burst out laughing at Grandpa's little joke.

Tommy walked through to the kitchen.

"Is your dad home, Tommy?" asked Grandpa.

"No. He's away on one of his trips. I think he's back next Friday. Did you used to travel, Grandpa?"

"Oh yes. I travelled all over the world when I was working for a living. I went to America, to India, to Japan, and all over Europe. I even went to South Africa once—nice place, full of wild animals and fantastic scenery. I took your grandmother. She wanted to stay there forever."

"What did you do when you were working, Grandpa? Were you an aircraft pilot?"

"Oh no, Tommy lad. I was an architect. I…"

"What's an architect, Grandpa?" Tommy interrupted.

"An architect is someone who designs buildings—houses, office blocks, factories— all sorts of things. I worked for a famous company of architects and I designed houses mostly. In fact, I designed this house many years ago when I first got started."

"Wow," exclaimed Tommy. "Is that why it has funny bits of roof and windows in strange places?"

"Now, hang on lad. This house has secrets."

"What do you mean?" asked Tommy. "What sort of secrets?"

"A secret room," replied Grandpa, dropping his voice almost to a whisper. "A room so well hidden that no-one would ever find it unless they pulled the house down."

Tommy stared at his grandad, his eyes and mouth wide open.

"Where is it, Grandpa?" he whispered back. Tommy had explored the house many times, but he had never found a secret room and he could not imagine where it was. Upstairs on the floor with the bedrooms? Downstairs on the floor where the kitchen and lounge were located? Down in the basement where the lighting was low and it sometimes smelled damp? It had to be there, he thought.

"Show me, Grandpa, show me. It must be down in the basement. What's inside the secret room?" he asked breathlessly.

"That's for me to know and you to find out," replied Grandpa. "In any case, it wouldn't be a secret if I told you, now would it?"

"Aw Grandpa, please please tell me. I won't sleep tonight unless you do."

"Oh yes you will," said Grandpa. "I'll tell you a short story about a secret room, and you will sleep like a log. Okay?"

"I guess so… but will you show me your secret room sometime? What's in it? Can you at least tell me that?"

"No," replied Grandpa. "I will show you the secret room one day and tell you what's in it; but for now you'll have to make do with my story. Make yourself comfortable. I'll go and put my socks on and then I'll begin."

Tommy settled back into the cushions in his chair and waited for Grandpa to begin the story; but his mind was racing all over the house wondering where the secret room was, and speculating on what was inside.

The Secret Room in the Vicarage

In which Edith and Jean go to school, uncover a secret, and rescue a cat.

Way back before motor cars were invented and when people travelled around on horseback or in a horse-drawn carriage, there lived a young girl called Edith. Edith's dad was a watchmaker, and her mum worked as a maid in a big grand house down by the river. Edith was still at school, or at least at what passed for a school in her village. It was a big old corner room in the local vicarage, and the vicar's wife taught all the village children to read and to write and, in some cases, how to add up and subtract numbers.

One day, while Edith and the other children were waiting for the vicar's wife to arrive and start teaching, Edith and her friend Jean heard a sound behind the wall at the back of the room.

"That sounds like a cat," Edith said to Jean.

"Verily," replied her friend, "but where's it coming from?"

"Behind the wall," said Edith approaching the wall, her head to one side listening for the meowing sound.

"There it is again," said Jean as they both reached the wall. "Listen."

The sound seemed to be coming from low down and was definitely behind the wall.

"But this is an outside wall," said Edith, "so how did the cat get behind it?"

"I don't know," said Jean. "Let's go out into the garden and take a look."

The two girls went through the door leading to the garden and stared at the outside wall with the windows and where it joined the wall at the end of the house.

"That's odd," said Edith. "Inside the classroom, that window there is right at the end of the room. But outside, the window finishes well before it reaches the end wall. There must be a small room between the back wall in the classroom and the end wall of the house. Let's take a look."

With that, the two girls ran back into the classroom and began tapping on the end wall. Sure enough, the taps sounded hollow.

"Yes, there is a space behind here," cried Edith.

Just then the vicar's wife came in and the two girls told her all about their discovery. The vicar's wife listened patiently and then said:

"You are correct. There is a small room there, but it was boarded up a long time ago. In the days of Good Queen Bess, Queen Elizabeth the First, many women were hunted down and accused of being witches. Terrible things happened to them. This place has always been a vicarage and at the time of the witch hunts the vicar who lived here was not convinced that witches really existed. He built this secret room to hide village women who were accused of being witches. There is a small door outside, well hidden behind a large bush, where the women could enter and hide in the room, and he would pass them food and water until the witchfinders had moved away to another village. Then he would let them out and normal life would return to the village."

"Did anybody ever find the women?" asked Edith.

"No. No woman in this village was ever hurt because she was suspected of being a witch," replied the vicar's wife. "If you go inside the room, you will find the original straw mattresses the women slept on and a small table and some chairs where they ate their bread and drank their water. There's even a bucket up one end behind a curtain where they… well, you know what I mean."

"That's amazing," said Jean. "Fancy that. A secret room and all this time we didn't know about it. Are there any ghosts in the room?"

"Well now, that would be telling, wouldn't it?" replied the vicar's wife with a smile. "But, we'd best rescue the cat. There is a gap underneath the small door to the room, and my guess is that's how the cat found its way into the room. I'll go fetch the key and let it out."

Edith, Jean, and the rest of the class who, by now, had been listening to the vicar's wife tell her story, all trooped out and around the back to watch the vicar's wife stoop down behind a large bushy shrub and open the door, whereupon the cat ran out meowing loudly.

"That's odd," remarked the vicar's wife, looking at the name written on the cat's collar. "That cat belongs next door and used to be a tabby cat—brown, orange and white in colour. Look at it now. It's jet black!"

Edith felt a cold shiver run up and down her spine as she looked at the cat. It was looking directly at her, eyes unblinking and very green. Edith screamed as she looked down and saw that she was slowly but very surely changing into a witch!

"Grandpa, I thought that was going to be a happy-ending story! I'm feeling all shivery now."

Grandpa laughed. "Don't worry, Tommy. There are no witches these days but just be careful if you see a black cat. Cross over the road if necessary and don't, whatever you do, let a black cat walk across your path."

"Grandpa! Stop it."

Grandpa laughed again and gestured toward the cake and milk on the table.

"Eat up. It's time to go home," he said, still smiling.



1. Where do you think Grandpa's secret room is inside his house? What's inside the room?

2. A few hundred years ago, some old women were suspected of being a witch. Do you think witches still exist?

3. Some people think it's good luck, not bad luck, when a black cat walks across in front of them. What do you think?

Chapter 3

In which Tommy and Nikki feed the ducks and play on the swings, and Nikki discovers a strange fact about dragonflies.

Early next morning, Tommy's mum Maggie dropped the two children off at Grandpa's. She had her own key and, unlocking the door, walked straight in and entered the kitchen. Grandpa was sitting at the table finishing off a piece of toast and marmalade and doing a crossword in the newspaper. Nikki ran to him, threw her small arms around him, and almost knocked his cup of tea over.

"Grandpa, Grandpa, how are you?" she cried.

"Fine luvvie, fine. Let me look at you," he said, disconnecting her arms and holding her in front of him. "My, you have grown this much since last I saw you," he said, opening her arms out as wide as he could.

"Grandpa, you saw me last week. I haven't hardly not grown at all," replied the little girl in a serious tone.

"I'm only kidding, Nikki," said Grandpa with a grin. "And it's 'I have hardly grown', not 'I haven't hardly not grown'. Don't they teach you anything at that school of yours?"

Maggie had been standing in the doorway watching the exchange between her dad and her daughter with a slight smile on her face.

"Morning Dad," she said. "Is everything okay?"

"Hi, Mags; yeah, everything's tickety-boo. Young Tommy here pops around occasionally to check up on me and keep me company," he said, ruffling Tommy's hair.

"Good. Well, I'll away to the supermarket. Is there anything you want?" asked Maggie.

"A packet of dark-chocolate digestive biscuits would be good. Ranjit Singh only keeps the milk-chocolate ones in his shop, silly old man. He says if he gets them in, I'll be the only person who'll buy them."

"Well, I'll think about that," his daughter replied. "You eat too many of those biscuits, and you could do with losing a bit of weight. You're still wearing those old easies, I see. I suspect you go to bed in those, don't you?"

"Maggie, of course not!" he protested. "Now, away with you. The children and I have lots to do. It's a lovely morning. I think we'll wander down to the park, feed the ducks, go on the swings and see-saw, and maybe have an ice cream. What do you say, you two?"

"Yes!" shouted Nikki.

"Sounds good to me, Grandpa," replied Tommy.

"Fine. I'll be back around eleven," Maggie said. "Be good," she added as she went back out to her car.

"They'll be fine," Grandpa shouted back to her and then turning to the children, "Do you want some toast or a drink before we go?"

"No. We've had breakfast, Grandpa. Let's go, let's go!"

The park was only five minutes' walk away and as they walked they chatted about school, news of their dad, and a cartoon film they had recently seen at the cinema. Grandpa carried a bag of old bread he'd saved for the ducks, and Nikki insisted they make straight for the small pond and feed them. The ducks saw them coming and swam rapidly towards the edge, ready for their feast. Grandpa sat down on a nearby bench and watched the children throw the bread to the squawking birds. He knew that bread was not the best food for ducks, but there was plenty of underwater weed in the pond, and the ducks were forever upending themselves to feed off the good stuff at the bottom when there was no bread on offer. Their diet is not too bad, he thought.

When all the bread had gone, the children came back and sat down with Grandpa on the bench.

"Let's go to the playground," said Tommy.

"Yes. I'll show you how high I can go on the swings," added Nikki, and off they rushed to the playground where, for fifteen minutes or so, they swung, see-sawed, climbed, slid, and hung upside down while Grandpa kept a watchful eye on them.

After a while, Grandpa took them over to the ice cream van. Armed with Mr Whippy 99 cones, they wandered back to the bench by the pond.

"Oh look, there's a dragonfly," said Nikki, pointing to a large dragonfly with beautiful sky-blue wings hovering over the water.

"Do you know that some dragonflies used to be fairies?" said Grandpa.

Nikki turned her head towards Grandpa. "Really?" she said. "How did that happen?"

"Have I never told you the story about how fairies become dragonflies?" asked Grandpa.

"No," said Tommy and Nikki in unison. Now Tommy, being older than Nikki, wasn't sure he believed in fairies anymore, but Nikki was convinced they existed and was curious to hear more.

"Tell us the story, Grandpa," she said.

"Let me see; what's the time? It's quite a long story," he said, glancing at his watch. "We don't have to go back yet, so let me tell you how and when fairies became dragonflies.

Anina and Dokki

In which Anina the fairy has an unfortunate encounter with Dokki the Go-Badly goblin and learns about dragonflies.

Anina came into existence on the ninth day of the ninth week of the ninth month of the ninth year in the ninth century of Fairy Time. Fairies aren't born like human babies. They suddenly exist. They suddenly… well… just become fairies. Nobody knows how this happens, except maybe the Chief Fairy, but that's how Anina was born, if "born" is the right word. When the other fairies asked her name, she instantly said "Anina". Anina is the fairy word for nine and it has a very unusual and remarkable property. It spells the same word forwards and backwards, just like Anna, Elle and Otto.

Anina was also remarkable for another reason. She had four wings, not two. She had two wings on each shoulder. Again, nobody knew how this happened and for these reasons the other fairies looked upon Anina with awe and respect, and Anina knew then that she was a very special fairy and she set about doing extra good things everywhere she went. Her four wings could carry her much further and faster than ordinary two-winged fairies, and whenever someone was in trouble and needed a bit of magic to help them out Anina was there, waving her wand and fluttering her wings.

Now, you may not know this, but fairies are indestructible. They are immortal. Nothing can hurt them: fire, big rocks, water, even centipedes and scorpions. If a cow accidentally steps on a fairy while it's resting under a mushroom, the fairy just picks itself up, shakes the dust from its wings, and goes off to find another mushroom. If a bird accidentally picks up a fairy in its beak thinking it's a tasty bit of food to feed to the young birds back in the nest, the fairy sprinkles a special form of stardust that tastes nasty and makes the bird cough, whereby the fairy drops free and flies away laughing. If a fairy goes to sleep at night on a branch in a very high tree and falls off while asleep, it immediately wakes up, opens its wings and flies off safely to another branch.

Fairies last forever, or so Anina was told, but one day a terrible thing happened. Anina had just finished doing her good deeds for the day and was looking for a place to rest her wings when she came across a Go-Badly goblin called Dokki. Go-Badly goblins are bad news to a fairy. A Go-Badly goblin is resistant to the nasty-tasting stardust and will eat a fairy to increase its magic powers. Everyone in the fairy kingdom thought that Go-Badly goblins were safely locked away. In the great Fairies versus Goblins war in the second century of Fairy Time, all the goblins were finally trapped in a big cave high up in the mountains and the entrance was sealed with as many big rocks as the fairies could find. Not even a small mouse or a humble bumblebee could find its way through the rocks, and the fairies were finally free of their enemy.

Not so with Dokki however. On the day all the goblins were trapped, Dokki was away in a foreign land, terrorising the people who lived in the villages and generally having a good time. He was incredibly ugly, with big warts all over his head and a very hairy body. His eyes were bloodshot and his big pointy ears were always in need of a jolly good clean. But Dokki didn't worry about these things. He was a Go-Badly goblin, he would say to himself, and Go-Badly goblins can do what they want when they want and to whomever they want. That's what Go-Badly goblins do.

At the end of the great Fairies versus Goblins war, Dokki returned home not knowing what had happened and, to his surprise, discovered he was the only Go-Badly goblin still left out in the open. All the other Go-Badly goblins and the Snarkles, the Goblots and even the fearsome Pukwudgies, were all locked up in a big cave high up in the mountains and Dokki could neither get in nor let them out. He appointed himself the Eternal Keeper of the Goblins. He would guard the cave, he thought, and see if one day he could gain enough strength to move the rocks away from the entrance. Every day, he used to sit on the biggest rock in the entrance and try to talk through the cracks to his friends inside the cave. But they never heard him, and it was a lonely life for Dokki. He vowed to take revenge on the fairies who had done this.

And so it was that he came across Anina when she flew onto one of the rocks after her hard day's work.

Anina did not know that this rock in front of this cave high up on this mountain was the place where all the goblins were trapped. Seven centuries of Fairy Time had passed, and very few fairies could remember the terrible battles they had fought with the goblins. But the cave was high up, and fairies usually didn't like to fly this high. Dokki's presence had not been discovered until that fateful day when Anina settled on the rock.

"Ho, ho, what have we here?" said Dokki, placing one dirty-finger-nailed hand on Anina's head, pinning her down on the rock. "A tasty morsel, I think, to increase my strength so that I can move these rocks and let all my brethren out."

Anina struggled, but the goblin was too powerful. She let out a cry, a very special cry that could travel far and wide and which would be heard by other fairies who would come to help.

"That won't help you," said Dokki. "After I've eaten you, I will eat the others and my magic powers will become so great that I will be able to move all these rocks."

As Anina struggled to get free, Dokki adjusted his grip on her, pinching her four wings tightly together so that she could not use them to fly away. Just as he was about to pop her into his mouth, he heard a noise, a loud shushing noise accompanied by what seemed to be a light breeze. He looked up. Above him, fluttering their wings furiously and making the air move, was a great group of fairies led by the Fairy King.

"Ha! You can't hurt me," shouted Dokki.

"Oh yes we can!" shouted the fairies and, one at a time, they dived down on Dokki, pricking their tiny wands into the great big warts all over his head.

"Ouch! Ouch! Get off!" shouted Dokki, raising both his hands to ward off the attack and thereby letting go of Anina. She scampered off and hid beneath a rock in a space too small for Dokki to follow. She lay there, panting and hurting. Her wings didn't feel right. Dokki had pinched them very hard when he held her prisoner.

In the meantime, Dokki became fed up with the constant pricking of his warts and decided he'd had enough. He picked up his knapsack and a spare pair of boots and ran away further up the mountain where he felt sure the fairies wouldn't follow.

Once he had gone, the fairies turned their attention to Anina.

"Anina, you can come out now. The goblin has gone."

Anina crawled out from beneath the rock. "Thank you my brothers. Thank you my sisters. Thank you Fairy King. But I fear I am seriously wounded. My wings do not seem to work anymore."

A fairy with broken wings is not a happy fairy. A fairy must have good working wings to go about its business, and Anina sensed that she was seriously wounded.

"Let me see," said the Fairy King, bending down and examining Anina's wings. "Oh gosh," he said. "This one is badly torn, and that one is broken. I'm afraid I cannot mend your wings, Anina."

"What am I to do?" cried Anina. "If I cannot fly, I cannot do good deeds. I will just have to sit here forever and forever."

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