By Anna Blackwell (December 2018 to February 2019, age 11)
It had been a year since my first adventure with the Season Folk. I seemed to forget slowly about it, 'til one day our neighbours' pesky cat Garfield killed Shoot, a mouse, that I had made friends with. I felt so upset that when everyone went to bed I had planned to trap Garfield. I was so upset I couldn't sleep.
I suddenly heard something. I got up and looked out the window which overlooked the backyard and I saw something very strange indeed. Just near our ditch was Garfield; he seemed to be attacking something as he growled and batted at the ground. I opened the window to hear soft shouts and crashing. Then something began to pull me by the neck: it was my medallion*. I tried to take it off, but as soon as I grabbed it, a great light blasted in my face. I didn't know what happened next, for I was knocked right out.
I woke up to find myself lying on a pile of weeds. As I looked around I was shocked at what I saw; I was outside but it wasn't the same. The trees were gigantic and the grass was taller than me!
"Not again!" I said to myself.
I was shrunk down to the size of a mouse. I wondered how it came to happen. Suddenly I remembered about the night before and everything pieced together. The medallion was probably trying to tell me that the Season Folk village was ...
I took off at lightening speed toward the village. Thankfully my trip was not as unfortunate as last time, but as I drew near I met with an unpleasant surprise. Instead of seeing a lively town I was met with burning wreckage. I got into an empty rowboat.
Hello! Hello! Hello!
I moved planks and shouted if anyone was there. Soon I realized I had been there for four hours. I felt awfully hungry so I helped myself to whatever I found.
When I finished I began to think it was over and I was too late. But as I walked to the ditch I thought I heard something crack. I turned around; something was moving in the weeds. I stepped forward to get a closer look. Then a squirrel jumped out, knocking me off balance. It began to snap and squeak at me. I had learned some animal language on my last adventure so I carefully translated.
"Back, back, intruder!" the squirrel yelled at me.
"I am Rose, and I mean you no harm," I said.
Before he could say anything else I showed him my medallion, thinking that if anything would get me out of this it was the medallion. The squirrel leapt back.
"Forgive me for not knowing I --"
"Don't let it worry you, friend," I said, "but tell me why were you trying to repel me?"
"I shall speak later, first we must go to Pine Haven."
I leapt onto the squirrel's back. We soon came to a tall tree with branches spreading out like massive arms. We entered through a hole in the centre of the tree; it led into a large, hollowed-out room. As I dismounted I couldn't help but stare at the beautiful architecture and paintings in the room. As I looked around I noticed a large group of rodents surrounding a large throne with engravings of battle scenes and victories on it. Seated on it was a large, red-furred squirrel. He had a large scar over his left eye and part of his ear was bitten off. On his head was a wreath of clover with a large gold jewel that twinkled in the fire.
His gaze turned to us. "Dark Shadow, who is this? Do you have the right to invite trespassers?"
The squirrel who had brought remained calm, answering, "Your Honour, I believe I have done nothing wrong for this is Rose of the Season Folk."
Strangely, the large red-furred squirrel did not seem to react. Instead his stare grew colder and he said in a dark tone, "Dark Shadow, you had no right to let in trespassers. But I see this may be something consequential. Take her to the guest chambres."
Dark Shadow turned gloomily away and signalled for me to follow. I thought the red fur was rather rude, which was surprising to me. I expected a warmer welcome. All the same, I followed Dark Shadow until we came to a room. I thanked him and closed the door behind me. By the time I had dressed into new clothes and eaten some roasted nuts and salad, I felt rather tired and drifted into a long sleep.
I woke up to the sound of tapping at the window.
I hope they don't have giant moths in this place, I thought. Ugh!
When I looked, it was Dark Shadow. I opened the window.
"What are you doing? It's past midnight!"
"Come quickly," he said softly.
I quickly grabbed a cloak and crawled out the window. Soon the exciting idea of a midnight escapade made my sleepiness vanish.
"You'd better lead the way," I said. "I don't know these passages."
"We're not going through the tree, you shall ride me. Let's scurry."
Before I knew it, he had jumped from the window ledge. It was a rather bumpy ride. The night air, rather cool and damp, flew around my face. Soon we were no longer hopping from branch to branch, but were galloping along the ground. After running through tall grasses, passing empty fox dens, and onto frost-touched fields we came to a tall, old willow tree.
Dark Shadow, who was going much slower now, climbed up the tree. We squeezed through an ivy and cobweb covered opening. Inside was much bigger than I expected. There was a thin opening which led to a large room. There were about twelve squirrels in the room. Two were red-furred, the rest were either grey or black. I had no idea of what was going on; all the chattering and squeaking made my head spin.
"Excuse me, squirrels!" I said. "But I don't have the faintest idea of all of this. Why did you bring me here in the middle of the night?"
One of the red-furred squirrels who I had heard everyone calling Fire Tail broke up the chattering place and headed towards us. He was much older than I thought when I first saw him. His narrow face had an elderly look and his walking was rather unsteady. His tone of voice was much lighter than the other squirrels when he spoke.
"So this is Rose, isn't it?" he said to Dark Shadow, how only nodded. Then he turned his face to me. "I see you don't understand the purpose of this meeting."
"Well I jolly well don't," I said grumpily. "And at this time!"
"You see," Firetail explained, "if we met in the bright of the sun many will see and know what we are about. But at night everyone is asleep."
"But why?" I asked.
Fire Tail began his story: "on one splendid brisk evening, when all of the squirrels went to the Season Folk town to deliver food, is what it all happened. When they had finished their task, they saw the cat -- known as Garfield -- coming towards the town. But there was something strange about him; he was slowly crawling as if ready to pounce. The squirrels stood still. Suddenly, without warning, he let out a loud meow which shook the earth and attacked. Two Season Folk men fell dead at his paws. Soon blood and sword flew in the air. Only a few squirrels escaped. No one in the town survived."
I knew it, I thought. I always despised that cat since he killed my mouse friend.
"Why didn't your leader explain this?" I asked.
"Because when Clovis came from another town to fight Garfield, the battle seemed long and pointless. Our leader, Crimson Feather, gave up too quickly and left the war all to the Season Folk. If he knew we were meeting he accuse us of treason."
I felt frozen in my seat. What a great time to come, I thought. Right in the middle of a war!
Then one of the black squirrels spoke up: "You must go and help Clovis win."
"What? But I just got here, and I don't even know how to fight. I'm a girl."
The squirrels seemed to be frustrated at my response. Fire Tail hastily replied: "I have a mind to think that there shall be no fighting for you, but Garfield's weakness must be found."
"Well, okay," I said. "But you don't think that I can just walk there?"
Fire Tail seemed to look more grumpy. "I'm afraid you shall have to go by foot. If you ride on one us there is sure to be an ambush. If you go alone that will more stealthy and unexpected."
I wanted to protest but knew nothing was to be done. I was taken back to Pine Haven to collect things for my journey. It must have been around sunrise, so I was very tired, but I knew it was more important to reach Clovis than sleep. Once I had finished packing, Dark Shadow took me to the edge of the line of pine trees.
"I'm afraid you must do the rest of the journey yourself," he said, letting me down.
"Yes, well, thanks for the ride," I said. "Take care of Fire Tail."
Dark Shadow made a small smile, then disappeared into the trees. I walked for the rest of the morning and half of the afternoon. By about four o'clock I had arrived, but at a really bad time. I saw before me a huge battle! Sparrow Riders were filling the sky, while below, Battle-Minks, chipmunks, and squirrels fought against evil-looking rats, ferrets, and beetles. In the midst of the chaos I saw Clovis himself. I had met him in my first adventure -- a kind village leader. Now he was a fierce warrior, in fact we was really good at fighting. As I watched my eye caught someone else I knew very well indeed: Garfield.
But not the same Garfield as I remembered; something seemed to give him an ugly expression, and his golden fur was scarred with scratches and blood. By now I had grabbed my bow and arrows and began to shoot at the evil cat. As I did so I did a foolish thing I will never forget. Seeing that my shot was pretty good, I got closer -- BIG MISTAKE. As I did so, Garfield saw where I was shooting from. He got closer. Knowing that his henchmen would start firing at me, I hid behind a rock and resumed shooting.
I'm getting pretty good at this, I thought.
I spoke too soon! A paw rose over my head and I was out like a light.
TO BE CONTINUED IN TWO WEEK'S TIME ...
* The medallion that Clovis gave me on my first adventure -- See "Small of All", my first adventure with the Season Folk.