Maxwell Grantly

Magical stories from an independent author

Archive for the tag “Kris”

Skippy’s Lost Shadow

Kris, Skippy and Maxwell meet a kind stranger at Shamrock Market, who generously passes the three of them a pogo stick. Unfortunately, Skippy bounces so vigorously, his shadow falls off and the three elves have to begin a search for it.

After searching high and low, they find the shadow trapped beneath a doughnut in the Shamrock auction houses.

In their excitement of finding the doughnut, they retrieve it too quickly and the hole falls out of the doughnut and into the centre of Skippy’s shadow.

Skippy recovers his shadow but sadly the hole has ruined the shadow. Even the offer of a bite from the doughnut does little to console his disappointment. As Skippy collapses into a flood of tears, Kris suggests that the three of them travel to the Land of Shadows and search for a new shadow.

The three elves trek to the depths of the deepest seas in the Land of Shadows and discover the remains of a sunken soap cargo aeroplane shrouded in the darkest shadows of the ocean’s floor. Perhaps they can find the perfect shadow there.

Searching the rusting remains of the cockpit, Skippy finds a small shadow that fits perfectly.

Kris drags an old box of soap from the cargo hold so that they can open it and use a cake of soap to stick the shadow back in place.

The shadow is stuck firmly back in place so that the three brothers can safely return home with their shadows safely intact.

Moral: Should you see a shadow trapped beneath a doughnut, please remove the doughnut carefully before retrieving the shadow.

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The Journey Home

Kira the Wolf

(Note: This story was written for a Second Life script reader story-teller that is designed to read separate lines at 10 second intervals. So, please excuse the fact that each sentence is on a unique line and no one line exceeds 256 characters in length.)

The elven trio set off from the Southern Oracle on their long trek home and soon they had left the Valley of the Wolves behind them.

“It’s late afternoon and we must hurry,” announced Maxwell anxiously, “We have a long journey ahead.”

As he spoke, a double clap of thunder rang out across the darkening skies and the first of a multitude of tiny raindrops began to fall.

“Did you hear a cry of help?” asked Kris with an air of alarm, pricking his ears up to catch the very faintest unspoken sounds.

The two other elves both shook their heads in disbelief and continued with their long journey home.

“I think we’re heading into a storm,” Skippy announced with apprehension and, as he spoke, tiny raindrops fell upon his face and trickled into his mouth.

“The rain tastes salty!” he exclaimed with an astonished cry to his brothers, “Something’s wrong!”

“I’m sure I heard an unspoken cry of help,” Kris repeated and he held out his hand to catch the falling raindrops.

Maxwell did the same and the two of them raised their hands simultaneously to their mouths to taste the fallen rain.

“You’re right!” they both exclaimed together, “This rain is salty. Something’s very wrong indeed!”

The three elves turned back towards the Valley of the Wolves and quickly followed their steps, from back where they had once came.

With a heightening sense of alarm, they traced their path into a shaded wooded area to discover four large sinister-looking men standing over two grey limp masses.

As they stepped closer, they made out that the two grey shapes were the dead corpses of two adult wolves; one male and one female.

The four men looked up together at the approaching elves and one of them gave a warning shout.

“Beware! Stand Back!” he called out, “There are dangerous wolves in these woods. This pair nearly killed us all!”

The three elves surveyed the wooded area to see the four men hovering suspiciously over two dead wolves, their guns propped up on a nearby tree.

“You cowardly thugs!” Kris yelled out in anger, ”You liars! Those wolves didn’t attack you!”

It was obvious to Kris, who could hear the unspoken word, that the men were deceitful and could not be trusted.

One of the men turned and reached for one of the guns that was propped vertically against the tree while a second rushed forward and grabbed Kris firmly by his shoulders.

In anger, remembering his elven oath, Maxwell screamed an ancient elven spell and waved his hands in the air.

As he did so, a vine sprung from the tree and wrapped itself around the four guns, securing them firmly against the tree.

Skippy followed suit and called another olden spell. A nettle sprung from the ground and whipped its serrated leaves across the face of Kris’s adversary.

With a painful shout the man released his grip on Kris and dropped him to the ground with a thud.

The remaining three men closed in, formed ranks and ran towards Maxwell and Skippy, clenching their fists threateningly and menacingly.

Kris stood up, raised his hands in the air with an air of authority and called upon the trees using an enchanted magical charm.

The ancient trees creaked and groaned and bent their branches down to the ground, shedding their leaves and exposing their bare harsh brushwood surfaces.

With a defiant slash, the trees whipped their branches firmly across the buttocks of the hunters, causing them to scream in pain.

The four men looked around with disbelief at the swaying branches of the trees and again, the branches slashed through the air, to flog them again and again.

With a scream of wild panic the four men turned on their heels and ran in disorganized retreat away from the scene leaving the three elves safe in the security of the woods.

Kris, Maxwell and Kris looked reassuringly at one another and then down to the ground at the dead bodies of the two wolves.

“We can’t leave such noble beasts here in the woods,” sighed Kris with great sadness, “It would be such a disrespectful way to treat such a magnificent animal.”

The other two elves nodded in unison and the three of them searched the woods together, searching for falling logs and branches with which to build a funeral pyre.

Within hours they had gathered sufficient timber and they built one large pyre on which to place the two dead bodies.

The afternoon was turning into night and the sun gracefully bowed its head below the distant horizon; the first shafts of darkness crept into the wooded glade.

Then, with great respect and reverence, the three elves dragged the first body (the male) onto the timber mound and carefully arranged his limbs spread-eagled across the wood.

As the three elves returned for the second corpse, the body of the female, Skippy gave an astonished yelp and pointed down at the dead grey mass of fur.

“I’m sure I saw something move!” he cried out in excitement and pointed down to the underside of the carcass.

There, hiding in the folds of the fur was a tiny wolf cub, barely a few days old.

Kris removed his cloak, bent over and carefully scooped the tiny creature lovingly into his arms.

He stroked its head with great affection and a tear welded up in the eyes of each of the trio – there was no way that they could leave this vulnerable creature alone in the woods to fend for itself.

Delicately and with great care, Kris wrapped the wolf cub in the soft warm folds of his cloak and then the three of them continued with the respectful cremation of its two parents.

Finally, the three elves sat at the edge of the pyre as Kris held the bundled wolf treasure securely and tenderly in his arms.

As the flames of the pyre sprang and danced into the darkened woodland air, tiny orange sparks flew up and danced in the swirling smoke.

The twirling eddies of smoke carried the glowing orange cinders into the night sky and they vanished within the thousands of twinkling stars.

As the rites determined them to do so, Skippy played a haunting dirge upon his flute, Maxwell sung the words of a sorrowful lament and Kris spoke the words of a deeply moving eulogy.

They had shown the proper respect to the passing of two great noble beasts and had performed the due rites with correct reverence and honour.

The Thousand twinkled in the blackened nighttime sky, looked down at the three elves with the sleeping wolf cub and bestowed a silent nighttime blessing on them all.

Tomorrow the three elves would finish their journey home but they also now had the responsibility to care and nurture the tiny wolf cub too.

Kris’s special gift has proven its worth twice that day and the three elves knew that the power to hear the unspoken word should never be underestimated.

The Search for Kris’s Gift (Part 5)

The sun begun to set and it was becoming darker as the three elves stepped forward into the temple Southern Oracle with a sense of joyous relief. It had been a long and treacherous journey but, after many trials and tribulations, they had finally arrived at their destination. At the far end of the temple, nobly and alone, sat a single lone she-wolf, wearing a splendid and colourful Japanese mask, a pure ceramic white mask etched with bold red and black markings. This was The Southern Oracle. On her right, lay a single crystal of translation upon the bare surface of the floor.

Kris, Maxwell and Skippy stepped forward with trepidation. Despite being very attractive, the Japanese mask made them apprehensive and doubtful as to her true identity and they hesitated in their final steps towards the Southern Oracle.

The Southern Oracle greeted the three elves with a welcoming blink of her eye through a hole in the mask and then carefully and precisely she softly growled a wolfish salutation.

“And how might I help you?” she asked with a soft and friendly canine growl.

As she spoke, the crystal glimmered and sparkled, throwing it’s light onto the darkened interior walls of the temple, causing a multitude of dancing shadows to etch themselves into its nighttime walls.

“We’ve tr-travelled from the Northern Forests to ask you a qu-question,”  stammered Maxwell, afeared from the solemnity of the occasion.

The Southern Oracle smiled softly and her eyes sparkled in the light of the glowing crystal. She bowed her masked head respectfully and nudged it gently into the chest of Maxwell.

“Have you anything to fear from me?” she asked warmly and comfortingly.

She tenderly raised her masked head, looked into the elf’s eyes and brushed her tail affectionately across his face. It was evidently clear that the Southern Oracle was a warm and gentle creature and that she was as placid as the soft breeze that tenderly stroked the rustling leaves upon the trees outside.

“Of course not, we can trust you totally and utterly” said Kris; for he had, up to then, been reading the unspoken cues that the Southern Oracle had given them all, “Please excuse our hesitancy for it is the first time we have travelled to these parts.”

Skippy interjected with his youthful energy, “We’ve come to find Kris’s gift. We have travelled many miles, across snows and plains, through winds and swamps to find you. Can you tell us what Kris’s gift is?”

The Southern Oracle turned towards the smallest of the three elves and spoke with soft dulcet tones.

“How did you know where I live? she asked the small elf.

Skippy thought back to the start of the journey and answered, “We asked one of Santa’s reindeer.”

“But how did you know which reindeer to ask?” questioned the Southern Oracle.

“It was me,” interjected Kris, “I spotted the unspoken word that told me which one we should trust.”

“… and then we arrived at the Plains of Loneliness …” added Maxwell, “… and we had to survive the three winds in order to pass through the gate.”

“But how did you know how to survive the three winds?” questioned the Southern Oracle.

“It was me,” replied Kris, “I spotted the unspoken word that told me we should rally ourselves with stories, music and chants.”

“ … and finally we crossed the swamps and solved the riddle of the Guardians of the Gate.” concluded Skippy.

“But how did you know the answer to the riddle?” quizzed the Southern Oracle.

“It was me,” replied Kris, “I spotted the unspoken word that told me the two wolves had swapped positions.”

“And so, my precious one,” concluded the Southern Oracle, looking directly into the face of Kris, “what do you think is your gift?”

Kris thought for a few seconds and pondered upon his words.

“Do you think it is that I can hear the unspoken word?” he wondered aloud.

“Is that what you think?” asked the Southern Oracle, gazing through her mask into the eyes of Kris and touching his very soul with her glance, “Is that what you think?”

The three elves looked at the Southern Oracle and then to each other. Their eyes widened and their jaws dropped.

“You can hear the unspoken word,” said both Maxwell and Skippy with astonishment. “That is your gift.”

The three elves smiled contentedly and their eyes began to sparkle with the realization of what they had discovered. Kris was a Listener. He had the gift to hear the unspoken word; the unspoken word that could not falsified or untrue but one which was exact and just. Kris was indeed a Listener.

The Southern Oracle raised a paw to her face and with a very slight twist; she removed the coloured Japanese mask from her face. The three elves looked respectfully and carefully at the exposed face of the she-wolf before them – she was indeed a very attractive creature, despite being of advancing years. The Southern Oracle took the mask and passed it to the hand of Kris with a knowing wink of her eye.

“I am Lupus the Wolf, the Southern Oracle,” she announced proudly and stately to the three elves, “Please accept this mask as a gift from me to remember your visit to my temple. Kris the Listener – you have a wise, a special and a wondrous gift. Use it carefully and respectfully with those whom you meet. May this mask remind you that, despite the best efforts from some people to hide their words, their thoughts their deeds, if you look carefully and use your gift wisely you are able to hear the unspoken word and you can look deep into the very souls of those around you.”

With that, Lupus the Wolf, the Southern Oracle flicked her tail and she evaporated into the air with a cascade of simmering sparkling lights that hovered in the space where once she had occupied. The lights gently twinkled and one-by-one they extinguished themselves gently to be replaced by a corresponding set of twinkling lights in the night sky above. The three elves looked up at the southern skies and made out the faint twinkling stars in the constellation of Lupus the Wolf.

“You’re Kris the Listener” said Maxwell and Skippy together. “It’s late and we ought be making our way home.”

With that one small star in Lupus the Wolf winked its eye and a faint chuckling sound could be heard reverberating across the nighttime sky. Kris the Listener held the mask tightly in his hand and looked up to the darkened southern skies.

“Good night Lupus and thank you,” he whispered and, with that, he turned to join his brothers on their long trek home, away from the Southern Oracle in the Valley of the Wolves.

The Search for Kris’s Gift (Part 4)

The elven trio turned their backs to the Swamps of Sadness and continued their way with heavy weary footsteps along a dusty path that led to an arch in the distance. The sun drenched their backs and caused the powered surface of the baked path to throw up small swirls of dust with every footstep. Still onwards they trekked, step-by-step, until the arch of the gates came into clear focus and the silhouettes of two large wolves were made out, standing on either side of the entrance, like a pair of military sentries. One of the wolves was standing upon a stone on the left and the other was standing on the opposite side, on the right.

The three elves knew, from ancient elven folklore that the Gates to the Southern Oracle were guarded by two beings, the Guardians of the Gate, and they then realized that these guardians were the wolves that stood before them now. The one upon the stone, raised its head nobely  towards the three visitors and greeted them with a growl, by means of a translation crystal that laid resting upon the ground.

“Stop and identify yourselves, visitors to the Southern Oracle,” he snared between his clenched teeth, “I am Dyrth, The First Guardian of the Gate.”

“I am Sylumn, The Second Guardian of the Gate,” growled the second wolf, “And who may you three be?”

Kris, the eldest of the three approached first. He raised a flat empty palm as a gesture of peaceful welcome and hesitantly replied to the two wolves.

“I am Kris, an elf from the Northern Forests, and these are my two brothers, Maxwell the Whisperer and Skippy the Weaver. We have trekked through icy lands, The Plains of Loneliness and the Swamps of Sadness to get to the Southern Oracle. We need to ask a question, if you would be so good as to let us pass,” he replied with a hesitant tone.

“No one passes these gates without our consent,” growled Dyrth, standing erect and proud upon his stone “for we are the eternal guardians and it is our duty to protect her with our lives.”

“The Southern Oracle is a woman?” interrupted Skippy with a confused tone.

Sylumn turned his head slowly and powerfully, like a grinding millstone, towards the youngest elf and a faint grin spread across his wolfish face. He raised his head, chuckled to himself and howled upwards towards the skies. As he did so, the translation crystals glowed and shimmered with a cascade of a thousand dancing rainbows.

“She is no human woman,” Dyrth laughed, “You elves have so much to learn about this world and the legends of the Southern Mountains. The Southern Oracle is a she-wolf and has lived in these parts since the First Rift in the Great Peaks, that formed both North and South.”

The three elves nodded as one accord and understood his words. The ancient tales that they had heard in their youth resonated in their unconsciousness and they began to make sense of what lay before them.

Maxwell interjected impatiently, “So how do we gain your consent and pass the gates to see her?”

Both Dyrth and Sylumn turn to the middle elf and each of them pushed a single pebble through the dry earth with their paws. The pebble left a slight grove in the dry powdery earth and rested snuggly in the dust at the end at the end of the trail. As they did so, the two wolves spoke in unison as one.

“The arrival at the right destination only proves that the journey was a valid and just one,” they both growled together. “To pass the gates you must first answer our riddle.”

The youngest elf, Skippy, looked at Dryth, the first guardian upon the stone.

“And what is the riddle?” he asked with an inquisitive tone.

Dryth turned to the smallest elf and snarled between his clenched teeth, like a chained beast, “That is for you to find, my little fellow?”

“But …” asked Maxwell, “… how can we solve a riddle if we don’t know what the riddle is?”

Sylumn pushed his paw into the dry earth and kicked it up, creating a small cloud of dry dust that evaporated into the air.

“We did not say that the entry to the Southern Oracle would be an easy one,” he answered. “Many have gotten this far and have failed to pass these gates.”

Skippy looked down with confusion at the two pebbles that laid in the dust.

“Are these part of the riddle?” he asked aloud, desperately searching for clues and hints in any answer that the wolves may provide.

“The arrival at the right destination only proves that the journey was a valid and just one,” they both repeated together. “To pass the gates you must first answer our riddle.”

Maxwell studied the two pebbles and wondered upon the words of the guardian wolves.

“Does the shape of the pebble help us answer the riddle?” he asked, for he was completely baffled by the riddle and how to solve it.

“The arrival at the right destination only proves that the …” repeated the two wolves again.

But before they had a chance to continue, Kris stepped forward and yelped with excitement.

“I have it!” he cried with elated tones, “I have it! May you two wolves please swap places? Dyrth please step off your tone and take your rightful place as the Second Guardian. Sylumn, please take your position upon the stone, as the First Guardian to the Southern Oracle.”

The two remaining elves looked at their elder brother with complete bewilderment and confusion.

“What do you mean, Kris?” stammered Maxwell with bafflement and disorientation. “What is this all about?”

Kris turned to his two brothers and gave them a knowing smile, full of compassion and understanding.

“It is a trick and that is their puzzle.” he began to explain, “The two guardians have simply swapped places before we had arrived and the solution to their puzzle was to understand this.”

“But how do you know?” interjected Skippy with a disorientated tone to his question, “What makes you think this?”

Kris pointed to the two wolves, one-by-one, and began his reply.

“I spotted the flickered of the whisker, the tremble if the paw, the turn of the tip of the tail and the quiver of the lip. All these subtle clues are the unspoken words that told me that Sylumn is the dominant and more powerful wolf and Dryth is his underling.” he explained in triumphantly. “Always listen to the unspoken sounds for the words that are spoken can often be false and untrue but the unspoken word is always correct and the one to be believed.”

The two wolves bowed their heads in respect towards Kris and Sylumn took his position upon the stone whilst Dryth stepped down and crossed the path to the opposite side. When each wolf had taken their rightful position, they bowed their heads and nodded again and ushered the three elves through the gate with due reverence.

“Remember,” they both said in parting, “The arrival at the right destination only proves that the journey was a valid and just one.”

The three elves paced through the gates with lengthening stride, for they were eager to complete their quest.

“Thank you Sylumn and Dryth” they called back and then they turned to complete their final steps. Their words echoed and danced back along the winding path towards the two wolves. They had arrived at the Southern Oracle and in a few moments they would discover the true identity of Kris’s gift.

The Search for Kris’s Gift (Part 3)

The Crossing of the Swamp of Sadness

The three elves hunt around the inside and outside of a deserted house, for clues on how to pass through the Swamp of Sadness. Skippy finds a spider web in the corner of the house and it inspires him to tell his brothers that they ought to head out into the swamps. However, as they start, the three elves soon start to sink and move very slowly, feeling great sadness.

Kris looks up and reads the land and the sky. He sees some eagles flying overhead. Maxwell tells his two brothers that they need to head towards the eagles so that he can speak with them to find a way across the swamp.

Ultimately, the three elves reach the eagles and are told that, in order to get out of the swamp, they must stop walking through the sadness; the more they walk and stay in the swamps the sadder they will become. The eagles tell the elves to write what whatever makes them feel sad and let the sadness go.

Kris, Skippy and Maxwell hold their papers up high in the air. The eagles take the papers and the sadness high into the sun to burn them up.

The three elves can now cross the swamp safely and soon reach the far side.

Unicorn Bonding

One August day Kris, Maxwell and Skippy explore a magical Enchanted Forest.

They meet two friendly deer who explain that there is a herd of unicorns nearby.

Kris tells Maxwell and Skippy an old elf legend that, if you whisper your name into the right unicorn’s ear, it will bond with you for life. Can this be true?

The three elves decide to go and find the unicorns and test the elven legend for themselves.

They whisper their names into all the unicorns but with no success. Perhaps it is time to go home?

By chance, the three elves discover three baby new-born unicorn stallions hidden in the undergrowth. It was easy to overlook three unicorns that were so small!

They whisper their names into the three unicorns’ ears and the unicorns bond instantly.

The first flight seals the bond.

The three elves return home with their new found unicorn friends, Erendyl, Sparkle and Scout.

The old elven tales of unicorn bonding were true and the three elves gain three trusted friends who will help them on future quests.

The Search for Kris’s Gift (Part 2)

Kris, Maxwell and Skippy arrived at the Lonely Plains and search in vain for the gate to the Swamp of Sadness.

The crows explain that the gate is etched into the ground in the form of a path and, to cross it, they must spend one night sleeping within it by the Pit of Loneliness. “But, beware of the three winds!” the crows explain.

The elves pitch their tents at the Lonely Plains and wait for night to fall.

The first wind, The Wind of Loneliness Past, starts to blow and Kris tells a story of ancient Elven folklore to strengthen their souls.

The second wind, The Wind of Loneliness Present, starts to blow and Skippy plays a tune of Elven culture to raise their spirits.

The third wind, The Wind of Loneliness Yet To Come, starts to blow and Maxwell sings a chant of Elven dreams to aspire the three brothers.

Morning breaks and the three winds abate. The elves have survived the night and the gate has opened.

Kris, Maxwell and Skippy step out of their tents and find themselves at the shores of the Swamps of Sadness. This is going to be their greatest challenge.

The Search For Kris’s Gift (Part 1)

One barmy July day Kris, Maxwell and Skippy say around the story table of the Enchanted table, simply to relax and enjoy the value of each other’s company.

“Everyone has a gift, yes?” declared Skippy in that particular tone of voice that declared he was thinking aloud. “After all,” Skippy continued, “Maxwell is a Whisperer; he can listen and talk with all the animals of the land, sea and air. And I am a Weaver, I can weave all manner of wondrous things from the finest spiders’ silk.”

Kris and Maxwell both nodded sleepily, half listening and half in the world of their dreams.

“So,” concluded Skippy, “so what is Kris’s special gift? What is it that Kris can do, that no one else can?”

Maxwell and Kris exchanged glances. Skippy had raised an important question and neither of them knew the answer.

“Gifts, gifts gifts,” Maxwell murmured, “Three elves should have three gifts; Kris is one special brother but I don’t know what his gift is.”

There was a pause while all three of them exchanged further glances. None of them knew the answer and none of them was sure  how to find out.

“Gifts, gifts, gifts,” repeated Skippy, as he pondered and thought aloud.

“Gifts!” exclaimed Kris with a astonished cry, “Perhaps Santa Claus will know. After all, he is world famous for presents of all sorts. He’s bound to know!”

A flicker of a smile traced its finger across the face of each elf in turn and one-by-one each of them began to beam.

“We ought to travel to the North Pole and find Santa,” added Kris, in a stroke of genius, “That would make an amazing journey!”

And so the three little elves began to pack excitedily for their long trek to the snowy wastelands of the North Pole. They dressed up warmly in the thickness of parka coats and packed their bags with an array of useful items, such as … … catapults, lengths of flaxen string, balls of amber bees’ wax, slithers of garnet stone and a manner of all sorts of useful items that only a child would collect. Very soon they were on the march to the North Pole, walking with purpose, grit and determination like a row of three soldier ants. Their journey took them past mountains and vales, over oceans and deserts through meadows and forests but ultimately they arrived at a single post standing defiantly in the snow. It was a white and red pole, standing on guard in the desolate blizzards of blinding snow, holding a small wooden placard announcing its location, The North Pole.

The Three Elves Reach the North Pole

The three elves spotted a faint hazy lights shining through the misty windows of a tumbled down warehouse and then ran to its doors. With a respectful knock and a mighty heave, they opened its mighty portals and stepped inside to the safety of the building’s interior. There at the far end of the array of toy-ladened shelves stood a small jolly fellow, dressed in red capes, hemmed with white fur-lined edges. Santa turned and faced the three visitors and after a greeting, the smallest of the elves plucked up the courage to ask the important question.

“We’ve come to ask a favour of you Mister Santa,” began Skippy with a slight air of hesitancy. “It’s about gifts.”

“Ah, many children do,” interrupted Santa with a smile, “What is it to be this year? A train set? A tin solider? A sail boat?”

“Oh, no Santa!” interrupted Maxwell, “It’s not that sort of gift. Not that sort of gift at all.”

“We would love to know what my gift is,” concluded Kris.

The words of the three elves mixed and overlapped like the eddies of seashore waves ebbing and flowing around the maze of boulders and rocks at the ocean’s edge.

“Whoa! Hold on little fellows!” interrupted Santa, “I leave gifts of stripped candy canes, Satsuma globes and wooden spinning tops…” “… I’m not able to tell you what it is you need to know. You need to visit the Southern Oracle. She is the only one who can answer your question.”

“And where may we find the home of the Southern Oracle?” asked the three elves in union, for they were desperate to achieve the answer to their quest.

Santa pointed in the direction of the reindeer stables, for it was only them who knew the twist and turn of every pathway around the globe.

“But I warn you,” he finished, “I have eight reindeer and they are most fickle with questions. Only one of them will answer your question truthfully. The others will not.”

“Which reindeer should we ask, Santa?” began Skippy, as he started to name the reindeer one-by-one, “Dancer? Prancer? Dasher? Vixen? Comet? Cupid?  …”

“Goodness me!” chuckled Santa Claus, “Not even I know which one to trust, That’s something you’ll have to work out for yourselves!”

With that he bade the three young elves goodbye, as they made they way onto the reindeer stables, and he stood at the door and waved them off. Soon, within a few seconds, they had reached the straw-lined warmth of the reindeer house and they saw a sight that confused their minds. There in the stables stood eight tiny reindeer, each one identical to the others and each one chewing on tuffs of straw from a stocked manager. Maxwell stood by one of the reindeer and tenderly stroked its velvet nose with a gentle caress.

“Can you tell us the way to the Southern Oracle please? We need to find the answer to an important question,” he whispered gently in its ear.

At once all eight reindeer lifted their heads turned and spoke together in a cacophony of chatter. “The Sea of Dreams, The Forests of Furia, The Enchanted Isles, The Swamps of Sadness, The Northern Mountains, The Deserts of Despair, The Western Isles, The Crystal Caves.”

Which one was telling the truth and which seven were not? It was impossible to tell and it seemed as if their question was going to be futile.

Kris pointed to one of the reindeer with a strong and definite finger announcing, “That’s the one! That’s the one you should ask!”

“But how do you know?” enquired both Skippy and Maxwell with a confused look of astonishment etched upon their faces.

“It’s not what they say,” replied Kris with an air of authority, “It’s what they don’t! Look at the quiver of his whisker, the faint trace of his hoof upon the ground, the gleam in his eye and the twitch of the hairs within his ear.” Kris pointed again to the same reindeer and repeated his request; “That’s the one you should ask.”

Maxwell turned to the reindeer and asked again, “Can you tell us the way to the Southern Oracle please?”

The reindeer lifted his snout towards the elves and repeated the phrase, “The Swamps of Sadness. But to get there, you need to travel to the Lonely Plains and pass through its gate.It’s a long and dangerous journey and it is fraught with difficulties at every step. Very few ever manage to reach their destination. You need to be strong and courageous.” The reindeer pointed towards the door of the stables and gave a small sigh. “Be united and resolute,” he said, “Be determined and fearless. For, if not, you will never reach the Southern Oracle.”

The reindeer bowed his head with respect and nudged the elves affectionately. He knew it was going to be a tremendous quest and one that would test their friendship. But, he also knew that it was a journey that they needed to take and no reindeer warning would ever deter them from their chosen journey.

Skippy’s Gift (Part One)

Everyone has a gift, something that identifies them as a person and makes them unique from others. Some people are lucky and have more than one special skill but, even for these people, one of their skills is the more dominant and it is that which defines who they are as a person.

Elves are no different – Elves have gifts too. The only difference between the gifts of an elf and the gift of a human is that elfin gifts tend to be somewhat more magical and mystical in nature. The elf Maxwell, for example, can talk to animals. He found that he had this gift right from his earliest days as an elfin child. He realised that the hushed whispers he overheard, when attending to his pets, where not the remnants of some far away echo from distant crowds but the incessant subdued chatter and gossip of the pets themselves. On his subsequent journeys, Maxwell met elves who could carve delicate runes into the clouds and record the histories of the earth within the very borders of the clouds themselves. He met river elves who could orchestrate the multitude of water drops that cascade from the heights of a waterfall to produce a magnificent symphony of sound and movement. He even met one elf who was a seeker, one who could explore and find any lost item, be it a forgotten word or a lost thought. There is such an array of special magical gifts to be found in the world of the sprites and one paragraph here hardly does justice to the width and depth of gifts that are to be seen there. However, that is another story and one that deserves an entry of its own.

Little Teddy knew what Maxwell’s gift was, for he had heard him chatting to the squirrels and butterflies in the woodland meadows as they played together. However, it did pass his mind many a time as to the nature of Skippy’s special gift and what it was that made Skippy so special in his life.

“Perhaps we ought to take butterfly nets,” suggested Teddy, “and we could hunt amongst the plants and flowers in the meadow. Perhaps we could find your gift there.”

Skippy and Teddy go butterfly catching

Skippy looked down lovingly at his little bear and nodded approvingly. It sounded like a good idea to him for, if they were to catch the gift, it would sparkle and shine within the net and cause it to glow with an iridescent light. So, the two of them set off to the tall grasses and flowers of the meadow and swept their butterfly nets too and fro in delicate arcs though the undergrowth. Despite spending several hour hunting in the flowers, neither Little Teddy nor Skippy were successful in finding anything other than a multitude of butterflies, moths and fireflies in their hoard.

“It’s time for bed,” sighed Skippy as he led his teddy back home, hand-in-hand, “We can always try again tomorrow. It’s bound to be hidden here somewhere and we have many long summer’s days filled with adventures with which to find it.”

The two of them trekked their way back home and Skippy gently tucked Teddy safely away for the evening as their elder brother, Kris, arrived and saw them saying their night time goodbyes. It wasn’t long before Teddy fell into the world of dreams and soon images of chasing mermaid in crystal seas with his brothers entered his sleepy night time world of nocturnal dreams. Kris bent over the sleeping teddy and gently brushed his cheek with a finger.

“Look inside the mussel shells!” he whispered into the dreamtime of Little Teddy, as the small bear lay there sleeping in a contented world of blissful slumber.

Even in the midnight world of dreams, hunting in the mussel shells, Little Teddy was unable to find Skippy’s gift. That one essential goal still eluded him and all he was able to find was an array of candyfloss pearls within each shell. The search for Skippy’s gift was going to be a long and difficult one and there were a million and one more places yet to be searched before the gift could be found.

The following day, Little Teddy lay on his back in the fairy ring and watched the passing clouds traverse the morning sky. The brothers were elsewhere playing games and doing things that only small boys can do and Teddy laid there waiting for their return so that he could once again play and help in the search for Skippy’s gift.

One-by-one magnificent massive monster clouds rolled across the open sky. One appeared to take the form of a two-headed dragon breathing a great billowing mass of fire and smoke. Little Teddy relaxed as he recalled his boy, Johan, and how he would enjoy playing monsters amongst upturned chairs in the kitchen. Another appeared to be a long and rolling steam train excluding a swirl of misty steam from its funnel. Little Teddy smiled as he recalled his recent train adventure with his boys, Kris and Skippy. Another took the form of a three-legged bear climbing into an overgrown bush. Little Teddy’s tummy rumbled as he thought of a hidden honey pot shrouded by the overgrown branches. Finally, one passing cloud took the shape of an up-side-down crocodile with a huge yawning gape in his jaws. The small teddy trembled with apprehension and thought to himself how, looking in a crocodile’s mouth would be the very last place he would ever want to search for Skippy’s gift.

Then, a stroke of genius struck the small bear’s conscience; they would, of course, search for Skippy’s gift until they found it and then they would stop looking. Therefore, the place that it would be found in would be the last place they would search. This he knew was correct. Therefore, all they had to do was to search in the last place first and then Skippy’s gift would be found. Little Teddy thought back to the passing clouds; the last place he would ever want to search for Skippy’s gift would be between the back teeth of a sleeping crocodile’s jaw and so, it made sense that that would be the very place where the gift was to be found. Little Teddy marvelled in his own sense of genius.

“That’s it!” he shrieked out aloud in his eureka moment, “Skippy’s gift is stuck between the back teeth of a sleeping crocodile!”

He yelped in delight in being able to determine the location of the hidden goal and could barely managed to contain himself as he waited for the return of the brothers later that day. When, finally, they did arrive and Little Teddy managed to exclaim his plan with excited squeals of delight, they decided that Skippy and Teddy should venture out and Kris should remain at home close to the telephone. It would be reassuring to have an emergency backup close the phone should anything go wrong, for this was indeed a very dangerous plan and one that could easily become fatal should it fail or go wrong. Kris explained that he would feel happier sitting by the phone in case the plan went wrong and Skippy and Teddy immediately began to plan for their incredible journey.

They would, of course, both require pith helmets and (since they were set to explore the deepest darkest jungles) a stout hand torch would be essential too. It was no problem finding torches, these were stashed away at home and every boy can tell you that it is no mean feat to lay ones hands upon a torch in a matter of seconds. There can be scarcely a boy alive who is not able to locate a torch, catapult and magnifying glass within three steps of his bed – however; a pith helmet was another matter. Where could they find a pith helmet with which to wear for protection on their dangerous journey? Little Teddy flicked though a shopping catalogue and found one that was suitable and it was very soon that he and Skippy had phoned for an urgent delivery. They both ran to the window and waited for their first glimpse of the postman who was sure to deliver their urgently required package. They knelt at the window with their noses pressed against the glass and waited …  and waited …  and waited. This was sure to be a difficult expedition if even the delivery of a pith helmet was fraught with problems!

Kris looked across to the two impatient characters at the window. He knew that the postman was going to take longer than a few minutes and he didn’t want his brother and his teddy to have to wait any longer than was possible before they could begin their journey of pretence and locate a sleeping crocodile in some distant jungle. In an act of selfless generosity, Kris hunted around in his store of playthings and found exactly what Skippy and Teddy needed for their journey.

“That is what a being a brother is all about,” thought Kris, “It’s only right to support Skippy to find his gift in whatever way I can – be it sitting by the phone for emergencies or by giving away the most treasured of toys and props so that Skippy and Teddy could play.”

Kris passed two special playthings across to his younger brother and his teddy and the three of them exchanged hugs before Skippy took teddy in his arms and ventured outside into the mammoth unknown jungle to continue their quest. This was turning into a quest that was fraught with adventure.

Skippy and Teddy wear their pith helmets

After many steps, too many to count, Skippy and Teddy found themselves deep in the darkest depths of the African jungle. They switched on their torches and looked around. Jungle vines draped from the canopy of trees, with shrubs and ferns making a blanket of green across the ground. Skippy turned his torch to the near distance and the beam gleaned upon the metallic surface of a red jungle buggy.

“Let’s be real explorers,” exclaimed Teddy, “and travel in a jungle buggy!”

And, with these words, he jumped into the driver’s position and pulled Skippy along side of him, into the adjacent seat.

Skippy and Teddy take the buggy

“Can you drive, Teddy?” enquired Skippy nervously; “This does look somewhat large for you.”

“Can I drive?” repeated Teddy, “Of course I can!”

And, with that, he pushed his foot hard down on the accelerator pedal and reversed into a large tree truck. Teddy swung the steering wheel to the left and the nose of the buggy clipped a second tree, showering the two companions with a gentle cascade of leaves from above. The engine clunked and whirred as Teddy pushed his foot hard down again and it nudged another tree and then into a large boulder, veering it from left to right, and sending a plume of mud flying from the two spinning rear wheels.

“Of course I can drive,” repeated Teddy, “I drive incredibly badly – what do you expect from a teddy?”

The buggy zigzagged left and right, up and down, in and out, round and about until they eventually arrived at a swamp where three crocodiles lay sunning themselves in the heat of the blazing sun. Skippy tactfully suggested that they dismount from the buggy as soon as possible and go to the crocodiles, where it might be somewhat safer. As he did so, one of the monsters gave a lazy sleepy yawn and a flash of ruby light shone from the back of its mouth. As the crocodile maintained its sleep-ridden yawn, Skippy and Teddy peered into the crocodile’s jaw and saw the glimmer of a ruby-coloured orb shine from between two of the back teeth.

Teddy spots Skippy’s gift

“Your gift!” exclaimed Teddy, “It’s your gift – We found your gift!”

Teddy took his torch and turned it to its side, wedging it between the upper and lower jaw of the crocodile and, as quick as a flash as the crocodile awoke, Skippy reached in and grabbed the shining orb from out of the crocodile’s jaws.

“Run for it!” shrieked Teddy, as the crocodile began to make sense of its surroundings and began to awaken from its slumber.

The two friends left the buggy where it stood and ran backwards into the jungle, back to the safety of the tall grass (where there hid a prowling lion.)

“Run for it!” shrieked Skippy, as the lion roared a mighty roar and bared its gleaming teeth.

A brush with a lion

The two friends scarpered from the tall grass and into a small clearing, next to the shade of a darken shape (the side of a mighty rhino.)

“Run for it!” shrieked Teddy, as the rhino reared up its head and looked threateningly at the two of them.

A brush with a rhino

Skippy and Teddy escaped through a gap between two trees and into a mass of overgrown shrubs (where there hid a slithering snake.)

“Run for it!” shrieked Skippy, as the snake coiled its body and spurted a spray of venom into the air.

The two of them dashed from the shrubs and into an enclosure, surrounded by thorns and thickets (where there lay a sleeping tiger.)

“Run for it!” they both shrieked, “It’s time to get home” and they made a hasty exit from the jungle surrounds and ran (without turning) to the distance. They had found the gift but what was it? They couldn’t wait to get home to look inside and discover what Skippy’s gift really was.

(To be continued.)

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