Here is the first bit of chapter 1 for all to read fresh from the NaNo madness, so please expect it to be a little rough. And by a little rough I mean it was up all night drinking and has now had to crawl out of bed for an early meeting rough. If you want to read the rest of it you can email or message me on whatever board you know me from and I’ll give you the password. If you don’t know my email or any other way to message me, then I probably don’t know you, so sorry, I’m not letting total strangers read my unedited crap :P. Well, no more than the first couple of pages of unedited crap anyway.
The Other Side
“Foxglove Thistledown, you come out here right now,” Buttercup demanded, a quiver in her voice betraying the nerves she hid behind her bravado. “I know this is one of your tricks so you can just stop it.”
Fox peered out at the young blond pixie and her friends from behind a large toadstool and stifled a chuckle with his hands. Four of them had come in the end. He was impressed. He must have made a rather convincing case when he’d spoken to the girls in the village earlier in the day.
“This is ridiculous,” said Bella dismissively. “I don’t know what we’re doing out here. We’re not going to see anything except Foxglove jumping out covered in roots going ‘boo-ga boo-ga’.”
A tiny snort escaped before he could stop it. That one had been funny. He’d called that one ‘lost swamp monster in the meadow’. It was one of his favourites.
“This is different,” Rosie pleaded. The youngest and smallest of the girls hovered delicately over dandelion gently showering the seeds with pixie dust as she looked earnestly around the dimming field. “This is about – well, you know.” The young girl lowered her voice to a whisper before saying “Outside”. Though the light was beginning to fade Fox could still clearly see her face. As her eyes searched the field she clearly expected to see something.
“I don’t know,” said Buttercup, her own searching glances much more skeptical. “He did make it sound serious, but something couldn’t really get into the meadow, could it? We do have protection.”
“Maybe it got past it,” Daisy, the fourth girl suggested. “Just because nothing has in the past doesn’t mean that it can’t. Besides, if he was telling the truth and we didn’t believe him it could put all of us in danger.” Fox both liked and disliked Daisy. She was the best of victims and the worst in one. More than any of the others she always looked at his claims logically. If she concluded that it was within the realms of possibility she would give him the benefit of the doubt and go along with it, but then when she was proved wrong she didn’t feel silly or embarrassed because she ‘went with the facts that were available at the time so had nothing to feel silly about’. This sort of quiet smugness resulted in Fox never quite feeling like he ‘got’ her. Still, if she was as logical as she thought she was she would have worked something out by now – it was always a game for Fox.
“You think it might be dangerous?” asked Rosie, her eyes suddenly wide with fright.
“It’s not going to be anything,” Buttercup promised. “It’s just…”
The girls that were in the air rose slightly higher away from the flowers, apparently fearful that whatever had made that noise might appear and grab their feet, and huddled together. That was when two important things occurred to Fox. Number one, he had jumped too, because he hadn’t made that sound, and number two, Bella wasn’t with them. The panic didn’t even get a chance to settle in properly before he’d spun around and found himself face to face with the mahogany-haired pixie with the stern expression and the crossed arms.
“Well well well,” she said accusingly. “Look what we have here, ladies. If it isn’t Mr Thistledown lurking here in the dark.”
“Oh, hi, Bella,” he replied, nonchalantly. “I’m so glad you girls came, you see…”
“Save it, Fox,” said Buttercup.
“Oh, come out to the dandelion patch,” said Bella in a parody of his early performance. “Come and see the creature from outside. Do you think we’re stupid?”
Rosie blushed and quickly hid her face, obvious embarrassed at being taken in by his rouse. The others just looked annoyed. Perhaps a little psychotic in the case of Bella.
“Of course I don’t think that, ladies,” he protested. “This really isn’t what it looks like. If you’d just let me explain.”
Suddenly a low growl pierced the relative quiet of dusk.
“What was that?” Rosie squeaked.
Bella and Buttercup glared at Foxglove accusingly, but before they could say anything Daisy interjected on his behalf. “It couldn’t have been him. I was watching him.”
“Shh, I just heard it again,” said Fox. He slowly raised his own wings, ready to take to the skies if necessary. The girls were already cautiously aflutter.
That was when the undergrowth seemed to explode as something leapt through the flowers scattering dandelion seeds in its wake. Fox heard at least two screams, though he couldn’t tell who they were from. He even jumped himself and instinctively left the ground. The dark, ragged looking form with snarling teeth and a huge spiked tail seemed to make a grab for the closest foot, which happened to belong to Daisy. She kicked off her shoe and spiraled up out of reach, covering the creature in a fine layer of glittering dust as she did so. The creature sneezed and turned it’s shiny black eyes to Fox.
“It’s a demon!” he shouted. “Fly for it.” He flapped his wings but he found his ascendance hindered by tiny claws around his ankle.
“Foxglove!” he heard Rosie squeak.
“Back to the village!” Buttercup cried. “We must get help from the elders.”
“But what about Fox?”
“It’s got me,” he said as it pulled him down. “No! Please! Stop it!”
“What’s it doing to him?” Rosie asked, her eyes covered.
“I don’t know,” said Bella, “but we don’t have time to wait for the elders.” She dove down towards him and reached for his hands to try and pull him away, while at the same time his assailant delivered his devastating attack. He burst out laughing as it’s whiskers tickled his face.
“Nom nom nom nom,” the ‘monster’ said in a playful voice.
Bella groaned. “Oh, you two just think you’re so funny,” she said, quickly regaining her composure. If not for the flush in her cheeks and the fire in her eyes you wouldn’t have been able to tell she’d been worked up.
“What’s going on?” asked Rosie, still hiding behind her hands.
“It’s just Hazel,” Bella explained.
“Ah yes, the accomplice. I suppose we should have anticipated that,” Daisy concluded.
“Come on,” said Buttercup, putting an arm around Rosie while she shot a glare at Fox. “Lets get home. It’s nearly your bed time.”
The girls left Fox and Hazel rolling on the floor in fits off laughter. “That was brilliant,” said Fox. “Did you see their faces.”
“I thought they were going to leave you for a minute there,” his best friend said. “Do I really look that scary?”
“I think I did a pretty good job.” Fox took another moment to admire his handy work. In full daylight Hazel would have looked like exactly what she was: a squirrel covered in mud with sticks all over her tail. But in the eerie half-light of the dusk the disguise had been rather effective.
“Well, I hope it was worth it,” she said, “because I think that’s going to be your last shot at that gag. They’re not going to fall for it again.”
“I don’t know, I think Rosie and Daisy might.”
Hazel tilted her head to one side and twitched her nose. “Perhaps, but where’s the challenge in that?” she said, deliberately provoking him.
“You’re right,” said Fox. “Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll think of something. The next big thing is right around the corner.”
It was dark when Fox and Hazel made it back to the village, but warm glow from the fireflies nestled into the bluebells that were scattered around the pixie dwellings gave the dell a cozy, friendly feel. Most of the little ones were tucked up in their beds, but there were still plenty of people fluttering about leaving trails of dust that glowed and sparkled in the moonlight. A perfect little ring of toadstool houses made up the boundary of the village. At the moment many of the villages still had their animal companions with them enjoying an evening chat or a meal before their furry friends went off to their own nooks and crannies for the night. Fox quickly spotted Buttercup with her own companion hanging around outside an old hollow log in the centre of the dell that served as the village hall.
“Oh dear,” said Hazel, echoing his thoughts. “This doesn’t bode well.”
“You can say that again,” Fox agreed. The only thing that ruined a good prank was getting grilled by the elders about it when he got him.
“Good evening, Fox,” said Buttercup cooly when they approached. Her companion, a white rabbit named Nix, wrinkled his nose at them.
“I notice you didn’t come,” Hazel commented.
“No,” said Nix. “I’m afraid we weren’t taken in by Fox’s claims. I know that Buttercup has certain whimsical fancies that allow her to believe there could be something outside, but personally I’m convinced that nothing can penetrate the perimeter of the meadow.”
“I know, Nix, I should have listened to you,” Buttercup sighed. “Next time I will.”
“Oh well, all’s well that end’s well, that’s what I always say,” said Fox in a breezy tone. “So, I guess we’ll just say goodnight and Hazel and I will be-”
“Foxglove Thistledown,” a stern voice said from behind him. Fox felt his shoulders instantly stiffen, but he turned to face the music. The Elder pixie’s face was etched deeply with wrinkles and his hair was as white and fluffy as the dandelion seeds still stuck to a bit of the mud Fox hadn’t been able to get off Hazel’s fur. He had to be at least 15. Maybe even as old as 20! “I’ve had some troubling complaints from some of the young ladies of the village.”
“Sorry, what?” said Fox, realising he’d been too fascinated by the pair of huge bushy white eyebrows dancing on the man’s face to completely pay attention to what he was saying.
“Pardon,” the elder corrected.
“I said ‘sorry, what?’,” Fox repeated, causing the elder to sigh heavily and shake his head.
“You must cease these tall tales of yours, Foxglove,” he said sagely. “Have you not heard the tale of the boy who cried wolf?”
“Can’t say I have,” said Fox. “What’s a wolf?”
“A monster that lives outside the boundary,” the elder explained patiently.
“Oh, right. No, um, what happened to the boy then?”
“He kept telling people there was a wolf as a joke and then when one really appeared no one believed him.”
“I can see that being a problem,” said Fox, “but he didn’t have Daisy, so I think we’re safe.”
“That is not the point, Foxglove, but I can see you’re not going to take this seriously so I am simply going to explain this to you slowly. Nothing can get into the meadow from over the boundary. We are perfectly safe and I have told this to the girls. There will be no more talk of monsters from over the boundary because there simply are none.”
“But what about the wolves?” he asked.
“Forget about the wolves!”
“I’d forget about the wolves if I were you,” Hazel whispered to him.
“Just try to limit yourself to wholesome, productive activities,” the elder advised him. “You’re nearly 4 years old now, you need to channel your energy into healthy venues.”
“You think I need more exercise?”
He was answered with a weary sigh. “Just stop annoying the girls, alright Foxglove?”
“Oh, I see,” he said, being careful not to agree to anything he might regret.
“Good night, Foxglove. Hazel.”
“Wait,” said Fox, “just one question.”
“Go one then.”
“If there aren’t any wolves, what is on the other side of the boundary.”
The Elder seemed to get a slight twinkle in his eye as he looked dreamily into the distance. “Ah, that is a topic that many of our greatest thinkers have enjoyed pondering for generations. It has been so long since our ancestors built the barrier no one can even remember why they did. Personally I believe that maybe, just maybe…”
“Yes?” asked Fox eagerly, learning in closer to learn the secret.
“There might be…another meadow.” The elder looked rather proud of this revelation, but Fox was less than impressed.
“Another meadow,” he repeated with disinterest. “Well that’s thrilling. I can see why they’d want to block that off.
“Well, it could be dangerous. They could have foreign pixies.”
“Or grey squirrels,” Hazel chimed in with a visible shudder. “You certainly wouldn’t catch me going out there.”
“Hmm, I don’t know about that,” said Fox. “Maybe we should. There’s got to be something out there, and it has to be more interesting than another boring old meadow.”