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
â€œFoxglove Thistledown, you come out here right now,â€ Buttercup demanded, a quiver in her voice betraying the nerves she hid behind her bravado. â€œI know this is one of your tricks so you can just stop it.â€
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 heâ€™d spoken to the girls in the village earlier in the day.
â€œThis is ridiculous,â€ said Bella dismissively. â€œI donâ€™t know what weâ€™re doing out here. Weâ€™re not going to see anything except Foxglove jumping out covered in roots going â€˜boo-ga boo-gaâ€™.â€
A tiny snort escaped before he could stop it. That one had been funny. Heâ€™d called that one â€˜lost swamp monster in the meadowâ€™. It was one of his favourites.
â€œThis is different,â€ 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. â€œThis is about – well, you know.â€ The young girl lowered her voice to a whisper before saying â€œOutsideâ€. 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.
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ said Buttercup, her own searching glances much more skeptical. â€œHe did make it sound serious, but something couldnâ€™t really get into the meadow, could it? We do have protection.â€
â€œMaybe it got past it,â€ Daisy, the fourth girl suggested. â€œJust because nothing has in the past doesnâ€™t mean that it canâ€™t. Besides, if he was telling the truth and we didnâ€™t believe him it could put all of us in danger.â€ 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 didnâ€™t feel silly or embarrassed because she â€˜went with the facts that were available at the time so had nothing to feel silly aboutâ€™. This sort of quiet smugness resulted in Fox never quite feeling like he â€˜gotâ€™ 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.
â€œYou think it might be dangerous?â€ asked Rosie, her eyes suddenly wide with fright.
â€œItâ€™s not going to be anything,â€ Buttercup promised. â€œItâ€™s just…â€
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 hadnâ€™t made that sound, and number two, Bella wasnâ€™t with them. The panic didnâ€™t even get a chance to settle in properly before heâ€™d spun around and found himself face to face with the mahogany-haired pixie with the stern expression and the crossed arms.
â€œWell well well,â€ she said accusingly. â€œLook what we have here, ladies. If it isnâ€™t Mr Thistledown lurking here in the dark.â€
â€œOh, hi, Bella,â€ he replied, nonchalantly. â€œIâ€™m so glad you girls came, you see…â€
â€œSave it, Fox,â€ said Buttercup.
â€œOh, come out to the dandelion patch,â€ said Bella in a parody of his early performance. â€œCome and see the creature from outside. Do you think weâ€™re stupid?â€
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.
â€œOf course I donâ€™t think that, ladies,â€ he protested. â€œThis really isnâ€™t what it looks like. If youâ€™d just let me explain.â€
Suddenly a low growl pierced the relative quiet of dusk.
â€œWhat was that?â€ Rosie squeaked.
Bella and Buttercup glared at Foxglove accusingly, but before they could say anything Daisy interjected on his behalf. â€œIt couldnâ€™t have been him. I was watching him.â€
â€œShh, I just heard it again,â€ 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 couldnâ€™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 itâ€™s shiny black eyes to Fox.
â€œItâ€™s a demon!â€ he shouted. â€œFly for it.â€ He flapped his wings but he found his ascendance hindered by tiny claws around his ankle.
â€œFoxglove!â€ he heard Rosie squeak.
â€œBack to the village!â€ Buttercup cried. â€œWe must get help from the elders.â€
â€œBut what about Fox?â€
â€œItâ€™s got me,â€ he said as it pulled him down. â€œNo! Please! Stop it!â€
â€œWhatâ€™s it doing to him?â€ Rosie asked, her eyes covered.
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ said Bella, â€œbut we donâ€™t have time to wait for the elders.â€ 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 itâ€™s whiskers tickled his face.
â€œNom nom nom nom,â€ the â€˜monsterâ€™ said in a playful voice.
Bella groaned. â€œOh, you two just think youâ€™re so funny,â€ she said, quickly regaining her composure. If not for the flush in her cheeks and the fire in her eyes you wouldnâ€™t have been able to tell sheâ€™d been worked up.
â€œWhatâ€™s going on?â€ asked Rosie, still hiding behind her hands.
â€œItâ€™s just Hazel,â€ Bella explained.
â€œAh yes, the accomplice. I suppose we should have anticipated that,â€ Daisy concluded.
â€œCome on,â€ said Buttercup, putting an arm around Rosie while she shot a glare at Fox. â€œLets get home. Itâ€™s nearly your bed time.â€
The girls left Fox and Hazel rolling on the floor in fits off laughter. â€œThat was brilliant,â€ said Fox. â€œDid you see their faces.â€
â€œI thought they were going to leave you for a minute there,â€ his best friend said. â€œDo I really look that scary?â€
â€œI think I did a pretty good job.â€ 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.
â€œWell, I hope it was worth it,â€ she said, â€œbecause I think thatâ€™s going to be your last shot at that gag. Theyâ€™re not going to fall for it again.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know, I think Rosie and Daisy might.â€
Hazel tilted her head to one side and twitched her nose. â€œPerhaps, but whereâ€™s the challenge in that?â€ she said, deliberately provoking him.
â€œYouâ€™re right,â€ said Fox. â€œDonâ€™t worry, Iâ€™m sure Iâ€™ll think of something. The next big thing is right around the corner.â€
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.
â€œOh dear,â€ said Hazel, echoing his thoughts. â€œThis doesnâ€™t bode well.â€
â€œYou can say that again,â€ Fox agreed. The only thing that ruined a good prank was getting grilled by the elders about it when he got him.
â€œGood evening, Fox,â€ said Buttercup cooly when they approached. Her companion, a white rabbit named Nix, wrinkled his nose at them.
â€œI notice you didnâ€™t come,â€ Hazel commented.
â€œNo,â€ said Nix. â€œIâ€™m afraid we werenâ€™t taken in by Foxâ€™s claims. I know that Buttercup has certain whimsical fancies that allow her to believe there could be something outside, but personally Iâ€™m convinced that nothing can penetrate the perimeter of the meadow.â€
â€œI know, Nix, I should have listened to you,â€ Buttercup sighed. â€œNext time I will.â€
â€œOh well, allâ€™s well that endâ€™s well, thatâ€™s what I always say,â€ said Fox in a breezy tone. â€œSo, I guess weâ€™ll just say goodnight and Hazel and I will be-â€
â€œFoxglove Thistledown,â€ a stern voice said from behind him. Fox felt his shoulders instantly stiffen, but he turned to face the music. The Elder pixieâ€™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 hadnâ€™t been able to get off Hazelâ€™s fur. He had to be at least 15. Maybe even as old as 20! â€œIâ€™ve had some troubling complaints from some of theÂ young ladies of the village.â€
â€œSorry, what?â€ said Fox, realising heâ€™d been too fascinated by the pair of huge bushy white eyebrows dancing on the manâ€™s face to completely pay attention to what he was saying.
â€œPardon,â€ the elder corrected.
â€œI said â€˜sorry, what?â€™,â€ Fox repeated, causing the elder to sigh heavily and shake his head.
â€œYou must cease these tall tales of yours, Foxglove,â€ he said sagely. â€œHave you not heard the tale of the boy who cried wolf?â€
â€œCanâ€™t say I have,â€ said Fox. â€œWhatâ€™s a wolf?â€
â€œA monster that lives outside the boundary,â€ the elder explained patiently.
â€œOh, right. No, um, what happened to the boy then?â€
â€œHe kept telling people there was a wolf as a joke and then when one really appeared no one believed him.â€
â€œI can see that being a problem,â€ said Fox, â€œbut he didnâ€™t have Daisy, so I think weâ€™re safe.â€
â€œThat is not the point, Foxglove, but I can see youâ€™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.â€
â€œBut what about the wolves?â€ he asked.
â€œForget about the wolves!â€
â€œIâ€™d forget about the wolves if I were you,â€ Hazel whispered to him.
â€œJust try to limit yourself to wholesome, productive activities,â€ the elder advised him. â€œYouâ€™re nearly 4 years old now, you need to channel your energy into healthy venues.â€
â€œYou think I need more exercise?â€
He was answered with a weary sigh. â€œJust stop annoying the girls, alright Foxglove?â€
â€œOh, I see,â€ he said, being careful not to agree to anything he might regret.
â€œGood night, Foxglove. Hazel.â€
â€œWait,â€ said Fox, â€œjust one question.â€
â€œGo one then.â€
â€œIf there arenâ€™t any wolves, what is on the other side of the boundary.â€
The Elder seemed to get a slight twinkle in his eye as he looked dreamily into the distance. â€œAh, 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…â€
â€œYes?â€ asked Fox eagerly, learning in closer to learn the secret.
â€œThere might be…another meadow.â€ The elder looked rather proud of this revelation, but Fox was less than impressed.
â€œAnother meadow,â€ he repeated with disinterest. â€œWell thatâ€™s thrilling. I can see why theyâ€™d want to block that off.
â€œWell, it could be dangerous. They could have foreign pixies.â€
â€œOr grey squirrels,â€ Hazel chimed in with a visible shudder. â€œYou certainly wouldnâ€™t catch me going out there.â€
â€œHmm, I donâ€™t know about that,â€ said Fox. â€œMaybe we should. Thereâ€™s got to be something out there, and it has to be more interesting than another boring old meadow.â€