Excerpt for Wychetts and the Dungeon of Dreams by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



WYCHETTS

and the

Dungeon of Dreams



The sixth book in the Wychetts series by

William Holley



Text and images copyright © 2015 William Holley

All Rights Reserved

Please note that Wychetts is a work of fiction and any similarity between characters in this story and any persons living or undead is purely coincidental.



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Table of Contents

Previously

Prologue

1 Hurry Up, Dad!

2 I’d Sooner Talk to a Brick Wall

3 Always Trouble

4 In a Roundabout Way

5 Don’t You Trust Me?

6 Meet the Maddergrubs

7 Just Scream

8 Two Heads Are Better Than One

9 Think What Their Children Will Look Like

10 Just a Bit of Slunge

11 Magical Defences

12 Lucky Us

13 Minding the Toddlers

14 Pickle or Chutney

15 You Can’t Make Me Dance

16 Honoured Guest

17 Mummy Sing Me a Bedtime Song

18 Into the Dream Well

19 We Eat Magic

20 Surpri-ise!

21 What Are You Doing Here?

22 The Guvnor

23 Just a Dream?

Epilogue





Previously…



Wychetts (pronounced “Witch-etts”) is an old timber framed cottage that contains an amazing magic power…

Centuries ago the Wise Ones governed the Realm of Magic, and built Wychetts as a repository for their wisdom. But the forces of darkness plotted against them, and seized the cottage in a bid to use its magic for evil. Five hundred years passed since the last of the Wise Ones were vanquished by the Shadow Clan, then Bryony and her new stepbrother Edwin arrived to unwittingly awaken the ancient power and become the new Guardians of Wychetts.

At first the children wanted to use the magic of the Wise Ones to rid themselves of each other and go back to their old lives; but when the Shadow Clan returned to claim Wychetts’ power, Bryony and Edwin had to work together to save the cottage and the whole world from destruction (not to mention a worldwide shortage of ice-cream).

Since that fateful day the young Guardians have experienced a series of incredible adventures, guided by Inglenook, Keeper of the Ancient Wisdom. A wooden face carved into the living room fireplace, Inglenook controls the flow of Wychetts’ power and can communicate with the children through a magic key when they are away from the cottage.

Bryony and Edwin also rely on the quick-witted mouse Stubby to make it through their magical adventures.

And as they discover more about their powers, the children face their own different challenges…

Eager to use Wychetts’ magic for good, Edwin learns that brandishing the power of the Wise Ones carries huge responsibilities. At times he has doubted his own strength, but during his quest to retrieve the stolen Thunderstone Edwin discovered he could form a psychic link with Inglenook, something that few Guardians have ever been capable of.

Meanwhile, after an initial period of doubt, Bryony has become more self-assured in the use of magic. But she is haunted by foreboding about her absent mother: a scribbled note discovered in her old stuffed toy; an overheard whisper from plotting enemies; a vision of her own darkest fears conjured by an ancient field demon; the same mysterious words that even Inglenook cannot explain…

Despite her secret worries, Bryony has grown closer to Edwin in the weeks after their adventure with the Thunderstone. For his part, Edwin has found he enjoys having a stepsister after all.

But it doesn’t take much to shatter their fragile friendship…





Prologue



“There are many forms of magic, of varying degrees of power: white magic, black magic, magic of the air, of ice and of fire, of music and song, of love and hatred, joy and anger. But the most potent by far is the magic of dreams.”

The class remained silent as their tutor spoke; an imposingly tall man clad in a long white gown, with a shock of wiry grey hair, with a large nose like a hawk’s beak projecting from his gaunt, angular face.

“Dreams have been a subject of study throughout recorded history.” The tutor stood at the front of the classroom, his silver eyes holding each student’s gaze for a flickering heartbeat. “Early civilisations believed that dreams were messages from divine beings, or that they predicted future events. Witchdoctors used sleep inducing herbs to enter the realm of dreams to learn more of their mystic properties; but often with the gravest of consequences, for they did not understand what dreams are made of. So here’s a question: what are dreams?”

A forest of arms shot into the air, the pupils vying eagerly for the honour of answering the tutor’s question. All except one, a girl who sat alone at the back of the classroom.

“Dreams are nothing.” A boy answered keenly in response to a nod from the tutor. “Just a series of random thoughts and memories.”

“Wrong,” said the tutor, striding down the aisle between the rows of wooden desks. “Dreams are much more than that. Dreams are formed from our hopes and desires, and also by our darkest fears, our regrets and our guilt. This unstable mix of positive and negative power makes them a volatile source of magic.”

The tutor reached the back of the classroom, stopping next to the girl who had not raised her hand. She sat hunched over her desk, unaware of the tutor’s attention.

Leaning forwards, the tutor saw the girl was drawing a picture in her exercise book: a detailed study of some fantastical, fearsome creature.

“And the most dangerous dreams are daydreams.” The tutor took the girl’s pencil and eased it from her hand. The girl froze, keeping her head down to avoid his harsh silver gaze. “They can distract us from our studies, lead us from the path of learning. The tutor turned and retraced his steps to the front of the classroom. “Dreams can make prisoners of us. Magic from the dream realm can seep into our world, drawn by our hopes, our desires and expectations.”

The girl lifted her head and stared at his back, her right hand clenching into a fist.

“So be careful with your dreams.” The tutor wheeled round to face his class, raising the girl’s confiscated pencil as though to underline his point. “Dreams can be pleasant, yes. But they are made of dark things too. Things we can’t control. Things we might want to forget, that we locked away in a box a long time ago. And the magic power of dreams can turn them into reality. And not always the reality you may have hoped for. When practising magic it is therefore important…”

The tutor’s voice trailed off when he saw a floating dark blob materialising at the end of the classroom. He instinctively looked at the girl whose pencil he had taken, and saw her lips twisting into a smile. The pupils all looked round, their eyes widening when they glimpsed a shape forming in the heart of the growing dark blob.

And then there were screams, shrill cries of panic as something black and monstrous came flying from the darkness, its red eyes glowing, fanged jaw gnashing as it lunged at the tutor…





All around him is gloom, cold and impenetrable. He cannot remember the light, or how the warmth of the sun felt on his skin.

He has been in the darkness so long, there are many things he cannot remember: what it is to laugh, to cry, to taste fresh air and hear joyous birdsong on a summer’s morning.

And yet a sound reaches him, a voice calling from far away, an echoing cry in the emptiness.

It could be from another world, yet he can hear it. He feels it too, resonating inside him like the tolling of a bell.

He hears, he feels, but he cannot respond. He has no voice, no means by which to answer the caller.

So all he can do is wait. Wait in the gloom as the cry grows louder.

Until one day the door opens.

The day of his release…





1 Hurry Up, Dad!



“Daaaaaad!” Bryony threw her head back and shouted. “The taxi’s here!”

“Coming,” came her father’s muffled voice from upstairs.

“I wish he’d get a move on.” Bryony rolled her eyes at Edwin, who stood next to her in the hallway by the opened front door. “We’ll miss the flight.”

“You’ve got loads of time.” Edwin tried his best, but his calming words had little effect on his stepsister. Bryony checked her wristwatch, puffed her cheeks, and then yelled again.

“Daaaaaad! Hurry uuuuuuup!”

Edwin winced as her shrill cry seared his eardrums. He had never known Bryony in such a state, but he could understand why.

It was a big day for her. A day she’d been dreaming about for years.

“Daaaaaaaaaaaaad!” Bryony stamped her right foot on the floor. “Get a move on!”

At last Bill Platt came galloping down the stairs, looking even more flustered than his daughter.

“You’ve got the flight tickets?” Bryony stared questioningly at her father.

Bill looked offended. “Of course I’ve got the flight tickets.”

Bryony’s dark eyebrows arched doubtfully. “Show me.”

“Um…” Bill checked his pockets. “They’re here somewhere.”

“You forgot these.” Bryony’s stepmother Jane approached waving two slips of printed card. “Your flight tickets.”

“See.” Bill took the tickets from Jane, smiling at Bryony. “Told you I had them.”

Bryony didn’t smile back. “Passports?”

“I’ve got our passports.” Bill searched his pockets again. “What sort of absent minded idiot do you think…”

Jane held up two crimson booklets. “You forgot these as well.”

“There they are.” Bill took the passports from Jane. “Knew I’d have them to hand.”

Bryony folded her arms and glared at Bill. “Brain?”

“Ooh, um…” Bill rummaged through his pockets again.

“Don’t look at me,” sighed Jane. “I didn’t know he had one.”

“Oi!” Finally Bill realised the joke. “That isn’t funny.”

“Sorry.” Jane gave her husband an apologetic smile. “Now you’d better get going.”

“OK,” agreed Bill. “If Bryony’s ready.”

“Ready?” Bryony spoke through gritted teeth. “I’ve been ready for the past two hours!”

Edwin suspected it was even longer than that. Bryony had started packing long before breakfast, within minutes of the letter turning up.

Bryony turned to go, but Jane took her arm.

“We’d like to give you something before you go.” Jane nodded at Edwin, who produced the little wrapped package from behind his back.

“It’s from all of us,” Jane explained to Bryony. “But Edwin chose it. Happy birthday, darling.”

“Happy birthday,” said Bill, patting Bryony’s shoulder.

Edwin smiled at his stepsister. “Happy b…”

From outside came the sound of a tooting car horn.

“We’ve got to go.” Bryony snatched the present from Edwin and stuffed it hurriedly into her holdall. “Come on, Dad. The taxi’s waiting.”

“Have a great time.” Jane leaned down and kissed Bryony’s cheek. “And give my regards to…”

There was another toot of the car horn.

Edwin went to say his farewell, but Bryony was already through the door and half way down the garden.

Jane gave Bill a hug. “Bye darling. Hope it goes OK. And try not to get too stressed.”

Bill hugged Jane back. “It’s not me I’m worried about. She’s waited so long for this.”

“Too long.” Jane bit her lip. “I hope she’s not disappointed.”

“Me too,” whispered Bill. “It just seems odd, that after all this time…”

“Daaaaaad!” Bryony’s anxious cry filtered into the cottage. “Hurry up, or we’ll miss the flight!”

Bill drew away from Jane, then gave Edwin a serious look. “Lad, you’re going to have to be man of the house while I’m away. Think you can handle my responsibilities?”

Edwin frowned as he tried to think of any. “You mean hogging the sofa, never cleaning the bath after use, and leaving dirty socks in random places?”

Bill slapped a hand on Edwin’s shoulder. “I know I can count on you.”

There was another impatient scream from Bryony. Bill nodded goodbye before answering his daughter’s strained summons.

“Coming!”

Edwin watched Bill sprint through the garden gate and join Bryony in the back of the taxi waiting in the lane.

“Bye!” Jane waved from the cottage door. “We’ll miss you!”

Edwin waved too. For a moment he thought Bryony was waving back at him, but then realised her furtive gestures were intended for the taxi driver. He couldn’t see anyone through the tinted front windows of the big black car, but there must have been someone at the wheel because seconds later the taxi moved off.

“Bye.” Edwin lowered his hand as the taxi sped off down the lane. “And happy birthday, Bryony.”





2 I’d Sooner Talk to a Brick Wall



The dining table was laid ready, plates stacked with a choice selection of morsels. There were sandwiches, sausage rolls, cold meats and salad, not to mention an array of accompanying dips and sauces. There were sweets, too: jam tarts, chocolate muffins, and pastries filled with cream. And of course there was the cake, a circular slab of succulent sponge decorated with intricate swirls of pink and white icing, an edible work of art that would have graced any birthday party. Edwin had made everything himself, with a little help from Mum here and there, and hadn’t used any magic at all (except to remove some dollops of raw pastry from the kitchen ceiling, and clean up the washing machine after he’d mistaken it for the oven).

Edwin stood at the dining room door, his despondent gaze following the string of gaudy homemade bunting hanging from the ceiling. Bill had helped him put that up, along with the painted sign on the wall that read ‘Happy Birthday Bryony’. The sign was a bit wonky, but the overall effect was quite pleasing.

It had taken all week to prepare, the food, bunting and banner, and was meant to have been a birthday surprise for Bryony. But the biggest surprise had been waiting for her on the doormat that morning. And now, just a few hours later, she had gone.

There was a time, not so long ago, when Edwin would have been glad to see the back of her. He’d never wanted a stepsister, and had made no bones about letting the rest of the world know it. But now she’d gone, he didn’t feel glad at all. It felt like something was missing: a part of his life, maybe. A part of him.

Edwin shook his head, trying to dislodge such dappy thoughts. He still found Bryony annoying. She was sulky, aloof, and quick to put him down at every opportunity. But in the last few weeks he’d seen another side to her...

It had all started that night after their adventure with the Thunderstone, when Bryony had finally opened up to him about how she’d felt when her mother walked out on her. It seemed like a corner had been turned, and ever since then things had been much better between them. For the first time in his life Edwin had found that he didn’t mind having a sister. In fact, he’d quite enjoyed it. And things wouldn’t be the same without her.

It was only supposed to be for five days, but Edwin had a feeling he might never see his stepsister again.

Still, it was what she wanted. What she’d always wanted, from the moment they’d moved into the cottage together. She’d made no secret of the fact, and even after all their magical adventures Edwin knew she didn’t really care about Wychetts. Or care about him, for that matter. The only thing she cared about was her precious mum, and that had never been more obvious than this morning. She hadn’t even glanced at her present (on which Edwin had spent every last penny of his measly savings), and he suspected she’d forgotten about it already.

The more he thought about it, Edwin wondered why he’d bothered going to so much effort preparing for her stupid birthday party. And on the bright side, with no Bryony around it meant he had the whole weekend free to do whatever he liked.

Perhaps he could go out with Mum. It had been ages since they’d done anything together. In the old days, before Bryony and Bill had shown up, Edwin and his mother would always go out on a Saturday. Whether it had been for a walk in the park or a visit to the local museum, they’d always done stuff. Now they could do stuff again, just the two of them.

Edwin left the dining room and closed the door behind him. He found his mother in the kitchen at the table.

“So what are we going to do?” he asked, smiling expectantly.

Jane didn’t seem to hear the question. She was sitting as still as a statue, head cradled in her hands, face shrouded by locks of wavy auburn hair.

“Mum?” Edwin clicked his fingers close to Jane’s right ear. “Did you hear me?”

“What?” Jane’s head snapped up, her pale blue eyes blinking at Edwin. “Sorry dear, I didn’t see you there. I was just having a little nap.”

Edwin was confused. “At the kitchen table?”

“I don’t know what came over me.” Jane yawned again, wiping a hand across her face. “I suddenly came over all sleepy. Maybe it’s the weather.”

It was a muggy sort of day, and the air inside the cottage did seem a bit stifling. Edwin thought he’d better open a window, but was stopped in his tracks by a weird smell.

It was intoxicating, a sickly sweet scent that clogged his nose and throat. He looked round and saw the culprit, a large bunch of flowers in the sink.

“Where did those come from?” Edwin pointed at the flowers, pinching his nose as he spoke.

“Huh?” Jane had almost dozed off again. “Oh, they arrived this morning with the letter.”

Edwin frowned. “I didn’t see any flowers.”

“They were just seeds at the time.” Jane gestured to an empty sachet on the table. “I added them to water like the instructions said, and they’ve grown that big in less than an hour. Aren’t they beautiful?”

Still pinching his nose to keep out the smell, Edwin walked to the sink and examined the flowers. He wasn’t an expert botanist, but reckoned he could identify most native plant species. And these were definitely not native; with their thick hairy stems, large pink petals and bulbous seedpods, they looked more like something from another planet.

“Flowers don’t normally grow that quick,” he pondered. “Do you know what species they are?”

“I’ve never seen their like before.” Jane remained seated, gazing fondly at the flowers. “They certainly have a distinctive scent.”

“They stink.” Edwin leaned past the flowers to open the window, but the latch was jammed.

“I should get round to putting them in a vase,” said Jane.

“The dustbin would be better,” grumbled Edwin, abandoning his attempt to open the window.

“Only I’m too tired right now.” Jane yawned again, and her head lolled forwards.

“Mum!” Edwin hurried back to the table and clapped his hands. “Wake up. It’s Saturday.”

“Wha?” Jane’s curly auburn head jerked up again. “Saturday?”

“I thought we could do something. Maybe go for a hike. I’ve spotted a footpath on a local map that I’d like to check out.”

“I’m too tired for walking,” groaned Jane.

“Or we could take a trip into town to the local museum. They’ve got a special exhibition of iron age pottery.”

“That’s lovely.” Jane closed her eyes. “Just the thing to keep me awake.”

“Or maybe... Mum?” Edwin waved a hand in front of Jane’s face. “Are you even listening? Mum!”

Jane slumped forwards, her head resting on the kitchen table.

Edwin tapped her shoulder, but the only response from Jane was the sound of gentle breathing.

“Fine.” Edwin scowled at his mother. “But if you’re too tired, I’ll go play with my friends instead.”

Edwin turned on his heel and marched from the kitchen. He was halfway down the hallway when he realised there was a slight problem.

He didn’t have any friends.

Apart from one.

Edwin delved into his shirt pocket to retrieve a small bundle of fur and whiskers. Stubby was a mouse, and went everywhere Edwin went, although he did complain about it from time to time.

“Now what?” demanded Stubby, his voice sharp with irritation. “Can’t you see I’m busy?”

“Busy?” Edwin couldn’t help but laugh. “How can a mouse be busy?”

“Mice are always busy. Unlike humans, who seem to spend most of their time doing precious little of any importance.”

“You don’t look busy. What are you actually doing?”

“Mousey stuff,” said Stubby, who looked a little bleary eyed. “You wouldn’t understand.”

But Edwin realised the truth. “You were sleeping.”

“It’s called ‘power napping’. And only clever mice can do it.”

“So now you’ve had a rest, I was wondering if you’d like to do something fun with me.”

Stubby peered at Edwin through his long twitching whiskers. “I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Something fun. You know. Enjoyable.”

“I’m familiar with the concept of entertaining recreational activities,” sniffed Stubby. “It’s the bit about you being involved that I’m struggling to get my head round. In my experience the two things seldom go together.”

Edwin should have been used to Stubby’s insults by now, but that one hurt.

“I won’t take up much of your time,” he promised. “We could just talk, if you like.”

Stubby yawned. “I’d sooner talk to a brick wall. After it had collapsed on me under an advancing steamroller. Now please return me to my office, I have some very urgent mouse matters to attend to.”

Edwin doubted that. “You mean you’re going back to sleep.”

“My office.” Stubby pointed to Edwin’s shirt pocket. “And no callers, please.”

Edwin slipped Stubby back into his pocket. Seconds later, a tiny “DO NOT DISTURB” sign poked out of the top.

Edwin sighed. So Stubby didn’t want anything to do with him either.

But that didn’t mean he was all out of options. Being a Guardian of Wychetts meant he could do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, as long as he obeyed the magic rules.

So if Mum and Stubby didn’t want to have fun with him, he’d have fun all by himself. All it needed was for him to make a wish, and he could have the most fun filled day of his entire life.

So Edwin wished.

Oddly, nothing happened.

He tried wishing again, but still nothing happened.

He modified his wish slightly, just in case there was a limit on the amount of fun you could wish for in one go.

But still nothing happened.

There was no magic!

Edwin wondered if he’d end up talking to a brick wall after all. In any case, he’d need to start with the fireplace.

He ran into the lounge, looking expectantly at the bestial face carved in the wooden beam above the fireplace. Inglenook’s eyes were closed, and Edwin assumed the Keeper of the Ancient Wisdom was deep in thought on some important magical matter.

“Ahem.” Edwin coughed. Even now, after so much time as a Guardian, he still wasn’t sure how to request Inglenook’s attention.

A cough didn’t seem to work, so Edwin tried a different tack.

“Excuse me.”

Still no response.

“It’s me.” Edwin shuffled closer to the fireplace. “Edwin.”

Those wooden features remained stubbornly wooden.

“Hello.” Edwin reached up and tapped Inglenook’s nose. “Is anybody there?”

At last Inglenook’s features came to life. Except it wasn’t the jolly smile Edwin had been expecting, more an irritated frown. And when he spoke, the normally cheery voice was oddly slurred…

“Oh. It is you, Young Master.”

“Yes, it’s me.” Now Edwin was the one frowning. “Are you all right?”

“Apologies. I was just having a little nap.”

“You too?” Edwin couldn’t believe it. “It must be the weather.”

“Weather. Probably.” Inglenook was struggling to keep his eyes open. “Now what is it you wish of me?”

“I need some magic,” said Edwin. “Right away, please.”

Inglenook sighed. “Not more pastry on the kitchen ceiling? Or have you tried to bake more currant buns in the dishwasher?”

“It was the washing machine,” Edwin corrected his mentor. “And they were supposed to be cheese scones.”

“Then what were the currants?”

“Bits of fluff,” admitted Edwin. “From my stepdad’s socks. Anyway it doesn’t matter now. I need magic for other stuff. Fun stuff.”

“Fun stuff?”

“Yeah, you know…” Edwin couldn’t understand why he had to explain himself so much that morning. “Entertaining recreational activities.”

“Hmm…” Inglenook made a disapproving sort of noise. “I’m afraid I don’t have enough energy to grant any magic wishes. I am feeling rather tired at the moment. The past few weeks have been most strenuous.”

“Tell me about it,” said Edwin. “But I’m not asking for much. Just a little bit of magic so I can have some fun.”

“I would be most happy to oblige…” Inglenook paused to yawn. The whole cottage trembled, and Edwin feared the ceiling might collapse. “But perhaps you would be kind enough to ask me later, after I have rested a little more.”

“OK,” agreed Edwin. “How much later?”

Inglenook had closed his eyes, so Edwin resorted to tapping him on the nose again.

“I said how much later?”

Inglenook’s eyes snapped open. “Oh, just a couple of days.”

“A couple of days?”

“Three or four.”

“Four?”

“Perhaps five.”

“Five days?” Edwin was horrified. “But Bryony will be back by then. Surely you can do some magic now?”

“Too tired.” Inglenook yawned again. “Haven’t felt this sleepy for a long time.”

“It’s definitely the weather. I’ll let some air in.”

He tried the lounge window, but found the latch was stuck. Just like in the kitchen.

“Inglenook.” Edwin returned to the fireplace. “Why are all the windows jammed?”

“Wychetts is an old timber framed building, and the woodwork is prone to warping.” Inglenook struggled to keep his eyes open. “Now if you will excuse me, I just… need… a little… nap.”

Inglenook’s face turned back to wood, and the cottage fell silent.

Edwin’s shoulders slumped with despair. Even the fireplace didn’t want to talk to him. All options exhausted, he was tempted to strike up a conversation with the floor, but wasn’t sure if he could handle any further rejection.

Suddenly it felt like he was the only person in the entire world. Whilst Edwin contemplated life as the sole survivor of the human race, and in particular how long his stockpile of homemade party food might last, he heard strange noises from somewhere above him…

A thud followed by frantic scraping.

Edwin lifted his head to inspect the wonky-beamed ceiling. The scraping seemed to be moving in the direction of the chimneybreast. Intrigued, he bent down and peered up the chimney.

He recoiled when something landed on his face. To his relief, it was nothing more than a clump of sooty cobwebs.

Edwin laughed, wiping the debris from his cheek. It was probably just some birds trying to build a nest. Nothing to worry about.

He was about to turn away from the fireplace when a loud booming noise echoed through the house. A pile of rubble crashed down the chimney, sending an eruption of soot and goodness knows what else spewing from the hearth. Edwin staggered back, coughing and gasping as the room filled with billowing clouds of dust.

Then there was silence again.

Edwin stood there, glimpsing movement in the swirling dust clouds.

At first he thought it was a trick of the light. But then a voice pierced the sooty haze...

“Hello Edwin.”

It was a voice he knew from somewhere, but the air was still too dusty for him to identify the figure that came clambering out of the fireplace.

“Don’t you remember me?” asked the voice. “Oh Edwin, I am disappointed. I thought we were friends.”

Suddenly the dust cleared, and Edwin saw a girl standing in front of him.

She was about his own age, and of similar height. She wore old-fashioned thick-rimmed glasses, and a bright purple dress. And her hair was a lurid shade of green.

“Maddy?” Edwin’s mouth hung open. “Malady Maddergrub!”

“So you do remember.” The green haired girl grinned. “Hope you don’t mind me dropping in?”





3 Always Trouble



“You dropped in all right,” said Edwin, staring at the rubble-strewn hearth.

“Sorry about the mess.” Maddy wiped stringy trails of cobweb from her sleeve. “But knocking on a front door is not how I roll.”

“What are you doing here?” Edwin finally got round to closing his mouth, and coughed as he swallowed a helping of dust.

“I heard there was a party.” Maddy gestured at her purple dress. “And I’m such the party girl.”

“There’s no party.” Edwin spread his arms. “Does it look like there’s a party?”

Maddy’s green eyebrows knotted. “But it’s Bryony’s birthday?”

“She’s gone away. And… hey, how did you know it’s Bryony’s birthday?”

Maddy answered Edwin’s question with one of her own. “What do you mean she’s ‘gone away’?”

“It’s a long story.” Edwin was in no mood to start explaining everything to Maddy. “But the party’s cancelled.”

“We can still have a party.” Maddy started dancing. “Just the two of us.”

“I don’t do dancing.” Edwin shrank away from Maddy when she tried to take his hand. “I think you’d better leave.”

“But I’ve come all this way to see you. And we’re friends.”

“That’s not what you said the last time we met.” Edwin remembered Maddy’s parting words. “You said we could never be friends.”

“Did I?” Maddy looked genuinely mystified. “I thought we parted on good terms.”

“Not exactly. You trapped me down a hole and left me to rot.”

“That was just my little way of breaking the ice.” Maddy shrugged. “I’ve always been clumsy expressing positive emotions towards acquaintances.”

“You tricked me,” countered Edwin. “You only wanted to know me so you could get hold of the Tome Terriblis.”

“I would never have left you to rot. And I only wanted the Tome to get my family back.” Maddy lifted a satchel she’d been holding behind her back. “They’re in here, thanks for asking.”

Edwin bit his lip. He’d forgotten about the Maddergrub family, who had all been turned into paintings many hundreds of years ago. It was Maddy herself, using the power of the Tome Terriblis, who had committed this awful deed; but she had never meant it to be permanent, and when a renegade warlock attacked Maddergrub Manor to claim the magic Tome, Maddy had been forced to abandon her family and flee to the future.

“Sorry.” Edwin muttered an apology. “But it would be better if you left right now.”

“Oh come on,” said Maddy. “Don’t pretend you’re not pleased to see me.”

Edwin was caught off guard. As much as he didn’t like to admit it, there was part of him that was pleased to see Maddy again. Even after everything that happened on their previous encounter.

“And let’s face it,” continued Maddy, “it’s not like you’ve got loads of friends to hang out with.”

“I’ve got Stubby,” countered Edwin.

Maddy pointed to the little sign protruding from Edwin’s shirt pocket. “Doesn’t look like he’s got much time for you right now.”

“Please go.” Edwin pointed to the door. “I need to clear this mess up before my mum finds out.”

Maddy stepped to one side. Behind her the hearth was spotless; not a cobweb, misplaced brick, or speck of soot in sight.

Edwin blinked, then gave Maddy a suspicious look. “How did you…?”

“How do you think?” giggled Maddy. “Magic, of course.”

Edwin’s lips formed a perfect circle. “You can do magic like that?”

“It wasn’t just me. I had some help from wooden chops over there.” Maddy nodded at Inglenook.

“Wychetts’ magic?” Edwin frowned. “But you’re not a Guardian.”

“I’m a Maddergrub. A descendant of the Wise Ones. And I trained to be a Guardian of Wychetts.”

“But you flunked your tests and stole the Tome Terriblis.” Edwin waved an admonishing finger at Maddy. “So you don’t deserve to be a Guardian.”

Maddy’s lips tightened. “I only borrowed it. I was going to give it back. I didn’t know that…”

“Inglenook!” Edwin shouted at the fireplace. “Inglenook!”

“What are you doing?” said Maddy.

“If I can’t make you leave, maybe someone else can.” Edwin walked up to the hearth and yelled at the carved wooden face. “Inglenook, wake up!”

“Don’t disturb him,” hissed Maddy. “He can be terribly crotchety if you disrupt his naps.”

“Hey there!” Edwin rapped his knuckles on Inglenook’s wooden cheek. “Wake up, please.”

Those wooden eyes opened a fraction, and a deep slurred voice filled the room. “What is it, Young Master?”

“It’s Maddy,” blurted Edwin. “Malady Maddergrub. She’s gate-crashed Bryony’s party.”

“But I didn’t use the gate,” pointed out Maddy. “I came down the chimney.”

“Tell her to leave,” Edwin ordered Inglenook. “She’ll only cause trouble.”

“Trouble, yes.” Inglenook’s voice faded, and his eyes closed again. “Always… trouble…”

“Inglenook!” Edwin yelled at the carved wooden face. “Please wake up!”

But Inglenook was already asleep again.

“See?” Maddy smirked at Edwin. “He’s fine with me being here.”

“But I’m not.” Edwin pointed at the door again. “Please go.”

“But what if there’s an emergency? Wychetts will be safer with two Guardians at home.”

“The only emergency around here is you. You’re a walking emergency. Now…”

Then Edwin caught a smell, a syrupy sweet sickly scent.

“Go,” he urged, trying not to inhale too deeply. “There’s no emergency.”

“Then what’s that?” Maddy was also pointing at the door.

Edwin looked, and saw a bright pink mist seeping into the room from under the door.

“Inglenook?” He looked questioningly at the fireplace, but the Keeper of the Ancient Wisdom still had his eyes shut.

The pink mist spread out in curling tendrils, reminding Edwin of a plant. And as that sickly sweet smell grew ever stronger, he realised there might be a connection.

“The flowers!” Hand clasped over his nose and mouth, Edwin hurried out of the lounge and down the hallway. The pink mist thickened, and he had to feel his way along the walls until he reached the kitchen.

“Mum? Are you there?” He couldn’t see through the dense pink veil, and there was a clatter as he knocked over a kitchen chair. “Mum! Where are you?”

“Blimey,” coughed Maddy, stumbling into the room behind him. “What’s your mum cooking for dinner?”

“It’s not dinner,” gasped Edwin, now finding it hard to breathe. “It’s…”

“Dark magic.” Maddy grabbed Edwin’s arm. “We need to get out of the cottage.”

“No,” barked Edwin. “My mum’s in here somewhere.”

“It’s too late for her.” Maddy pulled Edwin back to the door. “She’s already been affected by the spell. The only way you can save her is to save yourself. Come on, we need air!”

Edwin tried to protest, but the pink mist seeped into his mouth, burning the back of his throat. Maddy hauled him out of the kitchen, the children clinging together as they lurched back down the foggy hallway.

Edwin tripped, and there was a scream from Maddy when his arm slipped from her grasp. He tried reaching out to her, but his flailing fingers felt something wooden in front of him.

The front door!

Eyes streaming, Edwin fumbled until he located the metal latch, but he couldn’t prise the door open.

Just like the windows, it was jammed.

He looked round for Maddy, but the pink mist closed around him like a suffocating blanket…





4 In a Roundabout Way



“Excuse me.” Bryony leaned forwards and rapped her knuckles on the perspex screen between the driver and passengers. “Can’t this thing go any faster?”

The taxi driver didn’t reply. From where she was seated Bryony couldn’t see his face, or even his reflection in the rear view mirror. She knocked again on the screen, but Bill took her hand and eased her back into her seat.

“Calm down, love. We’re nearly there.”

“We’re miles from the airport,” argued Bryony. From by the passing rural scenery it looked as though they were miles away from anywhere. “We should be on the motorway by now.” She reached up again, but this time Bill grabbed her hand before her knuckles made contact with perspex.

“Please sit still, love.”

“But we’ll miss the flight.”

“We’ve got plenty of time. Now try and relax. I know, how about a game of ‘I Spy’.”

“All right.” Bryony glared at her father. “I spy with my little eye, something beginning with ‘idiot’.”

“Er…’ Bill looked flummoxed. “Could you give me a clue?”

“It’s you.” Bryony pointed at her father. “Idiot.”

“That’s a word, not a letter. I’ve explained the rules of ‘I Spy’ to you before, and…” Bill scowled at Bryony. “Hey, did you just call me an idiot?”

“I’m not playing silly games.” Bryony slumped back in her seat. “I just want to see Mum.”

“You will.” Bill insisted. “Very soon.”

But ‘very soon’ wasn’t anywhere near quick enough for Bryony. They’d been travelling for a good half hour, surely they should have reached the main road by now?

She mentioned this again to Bill, but he dismissed her concerns with his usual patronising smile. So she sat in silence, trying to think of positive things: of flying to America, of being in a different country, of seeing her real mum again.

Bryony felt her stomach knot, but wasn’t sure if it was from excitement. She would never admit it to anyone, not even Dad, but her anticipation was chilled by a haunting sense of dread.

It had been a long time, nearly four years since Bryony had seen her mother. What if Mum had changed since then? What if she wasn’t the person Bryony remembered? Now Mum had another daughter, Bryony realised things could never be like they were before.

But there was an even greater fear, a fear that had festered inside her for months, growing larger and darker until its menacing shadow swamped all her thoughts…

Bryony rummaged in her holdall and drew out the small parcel that Edwin had given her before she’d left home. It wasn’t what she’d been looking for, so she dropped it back into the holdall and rummaged around a bit more until she found the letter.

It was just a piece of paper, but its arrival that morning had turned Bryony’s whole world upside down.

Bryony drew the crumpled piece of paper out of the holdall. She read the letter so many times that she already knew its contents off by heart. But she read it again anyhow.

“My dearest Bryony,

Great news. I have some time off work and am free to meet up with you. Only problem is you’ll have to come to America. I enclose two flight tickets, one for you and Dad. I’ll meet you at the airport as soon as you arrive. I can’t wait, it’s been so long!

Love you,

Your ever loving Mother. XXX”

Bryony’s eyebrows knotted. After the blur of excitement that morning, she felt a sudden pang of doubt. There was something about the letter. Something that didn’t feel right…

Maybe it was because the letter was typed, rather than handwritten? Maybe because it wasn’t signed? Or maybe…

Or maybe she was just being dumb. What had got into her, trying to pick holes in a letter from Mum after all this time? Did it matter if it was typed? Did it matter if there was no signature? Did it even matter that there had been no stamp or postmark on the envelope?

But the letter itself didn’t really matter. Bryony had a long list of questions to ask Mum about more important things.

Like the Moon of Magister.

Those words had kept cropping up ever since Bryony had discovered the power of Wychetts. She had heard them that first night in the garden, whispered by Katya Pauncefoot as the Shadow Clan hatched their scheme to seize the cottage. And again at Barrenbrake Farm, and then on the Darkwing airship in the midst of their fight to retrieve the Thunderstone. And of course, there had been the message stowed inside Mr Cuddles…

Those five words now haunted Bryony, whispering at the back of her mind over and over. What could they mean? Was this Magister a person? And why wouldn’t Inglenook, the Keeper of the Ancient Wisdom, even attempt to help her unravel the mystery?

Beware the Moon of Magister.

Bryony shuddered, her skin puckering as an icy chill ran down her spine. She told herself they were just words. In any case she’d soon be with Mum, who’d explain everything and make her feel safe again. Safe again, just like the old days in Mossy Glade Close.

She inserted the letter back into her holdall, then looked out of the window again. They were still in the countryside, miles away from anywhere. She glanced at her watch, noting that nearly ten minutes had passed since her last time check. Surely they should be on the motorway by now?

Dad had his eyes closed, deep in thought. Bryony sat up, and was about to request the driver’s attention when she saw a roundabout up ahead. At last! Hopefully there would be a sign showing how far they were from the airport.

The taxi headed around the roundabout. Bryony pressed her face eagerly against the window, but couldn’t see any signs for the airport. In fact, she couldn’t see any signs at all.

The taxi went right around the roundabout. Bryony wondered if the driver was going to head back where they’d just come from, but then she saw the road they had just come from wasn’t there anymore.

In fact, she couldn’t see any roads coming off the roundabout.

Bryony blinked, wondering if her eyes were playing tricks on her. Then she pinched herself in case she had fallen asleep and was dreaming. The she pinched her father, because she realised that she wasn’t seeing things and she wasn’t dreaming.

“Ow!” Bill’s eyes snapped open. “What is it? Are we there?”

“Look.” Bryony tapped on the window. “The roundabout.”

“It’s a roundabout.” Bill nodded. “Well done. But I still don’t think you’ve quite got the hang of ‘I Spy’.”

“Look closer,” urged Bryony. “Where have all the roads gone? There’s no way out of it.”

Bill peered out of the window. “But that can’t be. How did we get on the roundabout in the first place?”

The taxi continued round the roundabout, gathering speed as it went. Bryony raised her hand to knock on the screen, but she was thrown sideways onto her father when the taxi tilted sharply.

She looked up, hoping to catch the driver’s eye in the rear view mirror; but the reflection she saw was just an empty seat.

And that’s when she realised: there was no driver!

And yet somehow the taxi continued circling the roundabout. The engine roared as it hit top speed, and the view through the windows became a blur of streaky colours.

Bryony closed her eyes as her head swam. She heard her father calling out to her, but his cries faded before she drowned in a whirlpool of giddiness…





5 Don’t You Trust Me?



“Wake up, sleepy head.”

Edwin felt something nudging his shoulder. He opened his eyes and saw a foot. The foot was connected to a leg, and the leg was connected to a girl with green hair wearing a pair of old-fashioned thick-rimmed glasses.

Edwin tried to speak, but could only manage a strangled yawn.

“What beautiful tonsils you have.” Maddy knelt on the grass next to Edwin. “You’ll be a little dozy for a minute or two. Then you’ll be very dozy for an awful lot longer, but that’s just how you were before.”

Edwin sat up, realising he was lying in the garden outside the cottage.

“What…” He yawned again, but remembered to cover his mouth with a hand this time. “What happened?”

“You fell asleep.” Maddy tutted. “And just when it was getting interesting. Typical man.”

“But why? How?” Edwin stifled yet another yawn. Then he remembered. “It was because of that pink mist.”

“It wasn’t mist,” said Maddy. “It was pollen. Hypnoflax pollen.”

“Hypno…” Edwin couldn’t prevent another yawn. “What’s Hypnoflax?”

“A species of magical flower. The Wise Ones cultivated it widely, harvesting its spores as a powerful sedative.” Maddy smirked. “Even more powerful than their Magic School lessons.”

“Those flowers.” Edwin remembered the seeds his mother had planted in the sink. Then he realised his mother wasn’t anywhere in sight. “Where’s Mum?”

“Still inside the cottage.” Maddy’s lips straightened. “I’m afraid I couldn’t get her out in time.”

“You mean…” Edwin clambered to his feet and ran screaming towards the cottage. “Mum!”

“Edwin, be careful!” Maddy followed, but couldn’t catch up before he was through the front door.

“Muuuum!” Edwin hared through the hallway, staggering to a halt when he entered the kitchen. “Mum?”

For a moment Edwin wondered if it actually was the kitchen. The whole room, walls, ceiling, furniture, everything, was covered in a mesh of strands that looked like cobwebs. Thick pink cobwebs.

“Don’t touch.” Maddy seized Edwin’s wrist before his fingers brushed the dense pink fibres.

“But the flowers are dead.” Edwin noticed the flowers in the sink had wilted, the once pink petals now shrivelled and blackened.

“Maybe.” Maddy let go of Edwin’s arm. “But their spores remain toxic for up to three weeks.”

“Where’s my mum? I can’t see…” Then Edwin noticed a shape slumped on the table. A vaguely human shape, smothered in pink cobwebs. He couldn’t see a face, but there were a few coils of auburn hair visible through the blanket of cobwebs.

“Mum!” A distraught Edwin hurried to the table. “Are you OK? Can you hear me?”

“She’s alive,” advised Maddy. “But in a very deep sleep.”

Edwin leaned forwards, catching a soft murmuring noise from his mother’s lips.

“She’s waking up.” Edwin sighed with relief, but Maddy shook her green head.

“She’s dreaming. That’s another side effect of Hypnoflax poisoning. Vivid dreams that seem almost real.”

“Then we need to wake her up,” said Edwin.

“We can’t.” Maddy grabbed Edwin’s arm again when he moved to touch Jane’s shoulder. “Nothing can counter the effect of Hypnoflaxflax spores.”

Edwin frowned at Maddy. “Not even Wychetts’ magic?”

Maddy bit her bottom lip. “Your mother isn’t the only one affected.”

Edwin twisted his arm from Maddy’s grip and ran from the kitchen. As he galloped back down the hallway he now noticed that the walls and floor were smothered in the same pink cobwebs. The lounge was in an even worse state…

The cobwebs were thickest around the fireplace, clinging to Inglenook’s carved wooden features, smothering his mouth and nostrils, drawing a pink veil across his eyes.

“Inglenook!” Edwin ran up to the hearth, yelling at the top of his voice. “INGLENOOK!”

“He can’t hear you.” Maddy stood behind Edwin. “He’s in the same comatose state as your mother.”

“I can contact him by psychic link.” Edwin closed his eyes and concentrated. “Inglenook, can you hear me?”

“Nothing can wake him up,” said Maddy. “Not even you.”

Edwin concentrated for a few more seconds, his freckled face contorted with effort.

Then he heard a sound. A sound that came from nowhere and everywhere at once, that made the floor and the walls tremble. A deep, rhythmic rasping noise that reminded him of…

Snoring. It was Inglenook snoring.

And then he realised Maddy was right. He couldn’t wake Inglenook.

Edwin opened his eyes, blinking back a tear as he lowered his gaze to floor. Then he saw the little ‘DO NOT DISTURB’ sign. His spirits lifting, Edwin put a hand to his shirt pocket.

Stubby will know what to do, he thought. But Edwin’s eyes started watering again when he found his shirt pocket was empty.

“I don’t know what happened to your mouse,” confessed Maddy. “Guess he must have been affected by the Hypnoflax like everyone else. Probably fell out of your pocket when I was dragging you out of the cottage.”

“He was sleepy all morning.” Edwin recalled how everyone in the cottage had been drowsy. “Mum, Inglenook too. And the windows were jammed so I couldn’t let any air in.”

“All part of the Hypnoflax spell.” Maddy’s green freckled forehead puckered thoughtfully. “But how did the flowers get here in the first place?”

“The seeds arrived in the post this morning.” Edwin’s gaze followed Maddy as she started pacing around the lounge. “With the letter from Bryony’s mother in America. She said they were a present.”

Maddy halted, then wheeled round to face Edwin.

“That letter didn’t come from Bryony’s mother.”

“Huh?” Edwin wondered how Maddy could be so sure about that. “Then who sent it?”

“Who indeed.” Maddy tapped her little cleft chin. “An enemy of Wychetts, I’d say. An enemy who wanted to knock down your defences, leaving you vulnerable to attack…”

Edwin gawped. “The Shadow Clan?”

Maddy waved away the suggestion. “The Shadow Clan don’t do flowers, not even poisonous ones. No, this seems more like…”

Edwin wondered why Maddy had stopped mid sentence. She stared into space, her lips apart, eyebrows arched in apparent anguish. For a moment he feared she had fallen asleep like his mother, but then Maddy spoke again. Although what she said didn’t make much sense.

“The Vampiropteryx.”

“Vampi…” Edwin gave up trying to repeat the word. “What are they?”

“You don’t know?” Maddy fixed Edwin with an incredulous look. “Only the most evil creatures ever, from another dimension. Sometimes they leave their domain of darkness and come into ours to feed. Except the Vampiropteryx don’t feed on blood, but magic. The magic of our world draws them like bees to nectar. Except they’re more bat-like. And spit deadly green fire.”

“Wow.” Edwin gulped. “These Vampi… bat monster things sound as bad as the Shadow Clan.”

“Worse, I’m afraid. They’re everyone’s most terrible nightmare come true, all at once, with wings on. It was the Vampiropteryx who sent you the Hypnoflax seeds, along with the letter luring Bryony and her father away from Wychetts.”

“Bryony.” Edwin gasped. “Then we’ve got to warn her, send her a message in America.” Then he gasped again. “But if the letter was a fake… she probably isn’t on her way to America?”

“Your stepsister is already a prisoner of the Vampiropteryx. Her father too.” Maddy nodded slowly. “It was the perfect plan. The easiest way of splitting up the Guardians and leaving Wychetts open to their attack. Except for one thing.”

“Which is?” Edwin wondered why Maddy was smiling.

“Me!” Maddy patted her chest. “I’m a descendant of the Wise Ones like you. I’m a Guardian.”

“We’ve been through this before,” Edwin reminded her. “You never finished your magical training.”

“Neither have you,” argued Maddy. “But you can still use Wychetts’ magic.”

“But Inglenook is asleep. So even two Guardians won’t be enough to stop the Vampi…” Again Edwin gave up trying to say it. “… those magic eating monsters.”

Maddy tutted like an impatient schoolteacher. “We can still use Wychetts’ power without old wooden chops. Even more of it, seeing as he can’t ration our use of magic like he normally does.”

Edwin didn’t like the idea of that. “But Inglenook is the Keeper of the Ancient Wisdom. It wouldn’t be right to use Wychetts’ power without his say so.”

“But if we don’t do something to help, Inglenook might not be able to say anything ever again. Or your mother, for that matter.”

Edwin let Maddy’s words sink in. If what she said was true, Wychetts was in terrible danger. And if these Vampi… bat monsters stole Wychetts’ magic, there was no way of waking up Mum, let alone finding Bill and Bryony.

“Let’s do it.” Edwin decided he had no choice. “We’ll use Wychetts’ power to wake up Inglenook and my mum.”

“It’s not as simple as that,” warned Maddy. “There’s no antidote to Hypnoflax poisoning. At least not any more.”

“But if there’s no antidote, then how can we…”

Maddy skipped between Edwin and the fireplace. “Do you trust me, Edwin?”

“I…” Edwin was taken aback by the question. “Well…”

“Because you’re going to have to.” Maddy’s blue, magnified eyes seemed to grow larger whilst she gazed at Edwin. “If my plan is going to work.”

“You’ve got a plan?”

“As plans go it isn’t much of a plan. More a plan of a plan. But it’s the only plan we’ve got.”

That was good enough for Edwin. “So what do we do?”

“We go on a little trip.” Maddy bit her bottom lip as though to rein in a smile. “To meet my family.”

“But we can’t,” said Edwin. “They’re trapped in paintings. In your satchel.”

“Right now, yes. But we’re going to meet them before…” A pained expression crossed Maddy’s face. “Before it happened.”

“How?” It took a few seconds of frowning before the answer dawned on Edwin. “You mean… we’re going to travel back in time?”

“Clever boy, I knew we’d get there in the end.”

“But is that even possible?”

“I wouldn’t have suggested it otherwise. Although it needs a lot of magic power, more than Inglenook would let you use in a fortnight. So it’s just as well he’s snoozing.”

“But can your family help?”

“Of course.” Maddy scowled indignantly. “The Maddergrub family are renowned for our knowledge of magic. My parents are expert magic herb growers, and they’re bound to know a cure for Hypnoflax poisoning.”

Edwin mulled it over. “But if we can travel back in time, can’t we ask the Wise Ones themselves? Or even Inglenook?”

“I’d rather not,” admitted Maddy. “The Wise Ones took a rather dim view of magic time travel, and I wouldn’t want to get into more trouble with them.”

“But…” Edwin was still debating what to do when Maddy grabbed hold of his hand.

“You have to trust me, Edwin.” Maddy’s words sounded more like an order than a request. “This won’t work if you don’t trust me.”

“I trusted you before,” Edwin reminded her. “And you left me stuck down a pit.”

“It’s different now.” Maddy squeezed Edwin’s hand. “We’re friends, right?”

“Well…” Edwin hesitated. “Are you sure this is a good idea?”

“Of course it isn’t.” Maddy grinned. “There’s a million things that could go wrong. We could materialise at the bottom of a swamp, or get flattened by a dinosaur, or get captured by a tribe of primitive cannibalistic cave people. I really hate it when that happens.”

Edwin’s doubts were growing by the second. “And shouldn’t we have travel insurance?”

“Oh sure. Plus injections against cholera, bubonic plague and chilblains. And sunscreen, sensible shoes, and a small flashlight to convince those primitive cannibalistic cave people we’re gods and shouldn’t be a side dish in their Sunday mammoth roast. Plus a book of word puzzles for the duller moments. But we don’t have time for all that. Now close your eyes. Magic time travel can be a bit scary first time.”

Edwin stared at Maddy, seeing his reflection in the lenses of her thick-rimmed glasses.

“Close your eyes,” she whispered. “And trust me.”

Edwin didn’t totally trust Maddy, but reckoned he had no choice but to go along with her plan. Even if it was only a plan of a plan.

So he closed his eyes.

And trusted her.





6 Meet the Maddergrubs



Maddy tightened her grip on Edwin’s hand. He felt he could never let go, as though fused to her. Seconds passed, but nothing seemed to happen. Then he heard a whoosh of air, and it felt like his feet had left the ground.

He opened his eyes, and saw they were tumbling through a tunnel of swirling bright colours. He quickly closed his eyes again, fighting the urge to throw up. It was a fight he came desperately close to losing, but just as the bile rose threateningly in his throat, Edwin felt solid ground beneath his feet again.

The whooshing noise faded, replaced by the calming chirp of birdsong. He felt a gentle warm breeze on his face, and the bitter taste of sick receded.

“Are we there?” he asked, eyes still screwed shut.

“We’re there,” confirmed Maddy.

“That wasn’t too bad.” Edwin tried to sound as though he had enjoyed the journey.

“Quite a smooth ride,” agreed Maddy. “Luckily there were no jams on the North Circular. Plus we by-passed the nineteen seventies, which is always a bonus.”

“Huh?” Edwin wondered whether Maddy was kidding him. “Are you sure we’re there?”

“Open your eyes and find out.”

Edwin opened his eyes, and blinked in the strong sunlight. They were standing in a garden, a huge, wondrous garden. A patchwork of beautifully coloured flowerbeds stretched in all directions. Large, plump bees droned contentedly between the blooms, whilst butterflies flitted all around in dabs of shimmering colour.

“The Maddergrub Garden is the envy of the magical world.” Maddy beamed with pride. “All of these plants have magical uses, for potions, spells and such like.”

“Wow.” Edwin was duly impressed. “So there could be a cure for Hypnoflax poisoning right here?”

“Like I said, my family are experts with magic herbs. Now let’s go find them.”

Maddy set off down a gravel pathway. Edwin went to follow, but stopped when he heard a strange noise.

It seemed to come from all round him, yet echoed in his mind as though somehow part of him: a rhythmic, deep rasping noise that reminded him of snoring.

“Edwin?” Maddy was tapping his shoulder. “Are you all right?”

“Can’t you hear it?” Edwin stared expectantly at her. “That loud snoring noise.”

Maddy’s green eyebrows arched doubtfully. Edwin listened again, but the snoring had stopped.

“It’s probably just a side effect of magic time travel,” said Maddy. “Nothing to worry about. Now come along, there’s plenty more to show you.”

Maddy dragged Edwin along the pathway and through an arched opening in a thick box hedge.

“And this,” she announced with a wave of her right hand, “is our home.”

Edwin gaped, the muscles that held his jaw in place seeming to turn to jelly.

He’d seen Maddergrub Manor before. It had been old and derelict then, a crumbling empty shell. Now Edwin couldn’t believe he was looking at the same building.

“So what d’you think?”

Edwin couldn’t answer Maddy’s question. All he could do was stare, absorbing the grandeur of the gleaming white walls, the slender high towers topped with shiny golden spires, the beautiful windows made of shimmering, multi-coloured glass…

And the flying gargoyles, of course.

“Look out!” Edwin ducked when he saw a hideous, winged statue swooping down from the roof of Maddergrub Manor.

“It’s alright,” chuckled Maddy, holding out a hand to the gargoyle as it landed beside her. “These ones are quite tame. We’ve raised Girty and Gorty since they were pebbles.”


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