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Chapter 3. Next the Underground Grotto
Fireball Phoenix led his contingent to the Underground Grotto. He introduced himself & his crew to Arabella Scales & explained their mission. "Well, just don't stand there! Get to work!" She was very ill-tempered - all the decorations were making it difficult for her to get her potions right.
Prickles Hedgehog went to the Crocodile Bush & said hello to mama crocodile. A long while back mama crocodile had tried to eat Prickles but after a mouthful of spikes, she decided that Prickles was better as a friend than as food. Prickles went & knocked on baby crocodile's egg. When it popped it's head out, they had a chat while Prickles cleaned up the nest - finding no Christmas decorations, just a rusty chest.
Bright-Eyes Lemur climbed up to Six Paws home. She discovered a distant relative (on her mother's side of the family). They talked. "Why are you locked up?" Bright Eyes asked. Six Paws explained that he had a really nasty alter ego & could change at any time. "Definitely family!!" said Bright Eyes & told him about Liv. Six Paws was delighted with the company & gave Bright Eyes a silver chest. Together they searched Six Paws quarters & found 15 Santa hats.
Sebastian Seal's mouth fell open when he saw the mermaid at the Stone Bowl. She was the loveliest creature he had every seen. However the mermaid remembered some of the stupid things Sebastian used to do so was only semi-welcoming. Subdued Sebastian worked - finding a rusty chest & 15 Tree Trimmings. Before he left, he told her "I've changed, you know!"
Steffany Squirrel checked among the stalactites - to find Candy Canes (20 of them) hooked there. She also found a silver chest.
Arabella spotted Pup Puppy making a beeline for her Cauldron & chased him away. "Not again!" she bellowed. So Pup contented himself with digging up the grassy mound near the Rune Altar. He unearthed a rusty chest & 15 Tree Trimmings.
Fireball Phoenix, whom Arabella remembered as the one who set her clothes alight, also stepped cautiously around Arabella, peered in the Cauldron (saw nothing) so he investigated the Rune Altar. Opening it, he found a gold chest & 15 Christmas Bells.
The clean-up complete, the pets head for home.
Chapter 4. Just John Comes A-Hatching
I gather the Christmas decorations collected so far & go see the Keeper of the Castle. He reminds me the job is far from finished when he hands me some Christmas cards. I agree & look at the cards. "Well, hurry up home then! I have already notified Just John that you are ready to hatch a Christmas pet!" Not having a clue what the Keeper was talking about, I speed home. As I rush through my front door, a strange looking carriage pulls up in front of my place. The pets have their noses pressed to the window watching. A young fella gets out & pulls a smallish black box from the carriage. He puts it in the snow at the foot of the stairs. With a flick of his wrist, the box expands - whirring metal 'arms' appear & a thudding sound can be heard. Just John knocks on the door & holds his hand out for the Christmas cards. I give them to him. He looks at them & selects the pale brown/ burnished gold coloured egg with green trim. He places it in his gizmo which starts to make a funny noise. Then it stops. He hands me the egg which is starting to crack. With a wave of his hand, the gizmo folds back down to the black box which he loads into his carriage & disappears.
I carefully place the egg on the floor. More cracking & I see 2 soft brown doe-eyes looking at me. "That's it! I am a goner!" Slowly a brown head & 2 spindly legs appear; followed by a body covered in soft brown hide & lastly 2 more spindly legs. A reindeer!! The pets & I watch as It tries to stand on wobbly legs but falls over. It tries again & soon has the hang of standing up. She (it's a girl!) looks at everyone watching her & tries to hide. I call her Ryia Reindeer. Perdita Pegasus is enthralled - she has a playmate. Perdita & Gabbi Griffin offer to make space in their room for Ryia. While Perdita & Gabbi take Ryia to re-arrange their room, I look at the remaining pets. We still have a quest for the Keeper of the Castle to finish, I remind them. They nod & 2 work crews head into the Castle.
Chapter 5. Searching The Mystery Chamber
The working bees plan to start at the furthest point & work towards the Keeper of the Castle. When they reached the Dungeon of the Cursed, Mandy Manticore halted her group while Cuddles Panda & his crew continued on to the Mystery Chamber.
At the Chamber, Cuddles greeted Count Vesnik & his family. He explained what the Keeper of the Castle wanted the pets to do. The Count said "That's fine!" and moved his family out of the way.
Happy Turtle crawled into the Shining Split. Although he searched everywhere, he could not find any Christmas decorations but he did find a gold chest which he kept.
The Column of the Fallen groaned when he saw Steffany Squirrel heading for him. She always used him as a racetrack & today he just did not have the patience for it. However Steffany simply scampered up the Column looking for Christmas decorations. She found 20 Santa Hats and a rusty chest at the top.
Sebastian Seal opened up the Secret Slab. "You know, this is not really a secret anymore!" thinks Sebastian. "Everyone knows about it!!" Inside he found 20 Christmas Wreaths & a rusty chest.
Bright-Eyes Lemur (I am so glad she has not changed to Liv yet) climbed up to renew her acquaintance with the Chained Eagles. She feels sorry for them - being chained like that. But she continues with her search & find mission. A silver chest & 20 Christmas Bells later, she bids the eagles farewell.
Snazzy Snail races (well, races at snail's pace!) up the Tree of Knowledge. Candy Canes are hanging everywhere so she gathers them up (20 in all). In the Wise Owl's nest is a silver chest which she gathers up as well.
Cuddles checks the platform & the floor - spying 20 Tree Trimmings sitting in one corner. Apparently, Count Vesnik's wife did not like the balls cluttering up the Chamber so she swept them into one corner. As a reward for removing the pile, the Count gave Cuddles a rusty chest.
Their part of the quest completed - the pets head for home,
Chapter 6. Down in the Dungeon
Meanwhile in the Dungeon of the Cursed, Mandy Manticore's group broke up & started on their search & find quest.
Pup Puppy actually fell into the Castle Armoury but this did not faze him. He began checking out everything & there were lots of things to 'check out'. He found a silver chest behind the curtain. Then he finally remembered, he was supposed to be looking for decorations. Santa Hats were hanging all over the weapons so he collected them & went to wait for the others.
Hoppy Tiger approached the 3 Dragons & asked politely if any Christmas decorations had landed in their alcove. Surprised the dragons looked into their home & saw there were Tree Trimmings strewn around. (Shows how much interest some creatures take of their surroundings.) Hoppy quickly gathered up the Trimmings. The dragons gave Hoppy a rusty chest.
Petunia Pig flew up to the Stone Chaps. Hanging on the chains were lots of Candy Canes. Petunia made a 'right pig of herself' scoffing down Candy Canes. She still managed to keep 20 of them plus a rusty chest she spied in the Stone Chaps centre.
Fireball Phoenix dived into the Skulls - banging some thick heads together. He found 15 Christmas Bells & a silver chest. Satisfied, he went & waited with Pup.
Heather Hippo tackled the Carnivorous Lily - literally! The Lily thought the Christmas Wreaths were food & was busy trying to devour them. So Heather got the Lily in a chokehold & forced the Lily to relinquish it's hold on the Wreaths. In disgust, the Lily spat a silver chest at Heather but Heather didn't mind. She picked up the 20 Christmas Wreaths (& her chest) & joined Fireball & Pup.
Mandy Manticore took a look around the Dungeon. She almost fell through the opening into the Underground Grotto. She checked the walls & a weapons stand - finding a small pile of mixed Christmas decorations - some Tree Trimmings/ Wreaths/ Candy Canes. She also found a silver chest.
Just then, Cuddles's group came through the Dungeon. They were finished in the Mystery Chamber so Mandy called her group together. Laden with their "finds", all the pets trooped home.
Chapter 7. Checking Out the Throne Hall
The pets return home with armfuls of Christmas decorations. I decide that I am not going to the Keeper of the Castle until more of the clean-up is done so we stow the decorations in the study. The pets are still gung-ho to get back out there & find all the decorations. They want to see what creatures are in the other eggs. So after a rest & a feed, 2 more crews head out.
Arriving at the Throne Hall, Hoppy Tiger directs each member of his crew to investigate a different area.
Steffany Squirrel climbs the wall to check out the Flag. It is a small area but flicking a hidden catch reveals a deep cabinet. Inside Steffany sees a pile of Tree Trimmings on a rusty chest. She collects all items & goes to wait for the rest of the group.
Pauly Parrot flew up to the Armour & Banners. He did not find any Christmas decorations but he did strike up a conversation with the hunting falcon. He lifted the covers from the falcon's eyes but after being in the dark for so long, the light hurt the falcon's eyes so Pauly put the covers back. For trying to help, the falcon gave Pauly a rusty chest.
Heather Hippo opened the Chained Chest. A Winged Guard flew out & challenged Heather. Heather used her feminine wiles & talked him into letting her look in the Chained Chest. She saw Christmas Bells & asked nicely if she could have them. As the guard considered them litter, he was grateful that they would be removed. With a wink, he said to Heather "Come back soon!" & gave her a silver chest.
Cuddles Panda investigated the Mirrors. There were Candy Canes everywhere so Cuddles set about gathering them all. In the process, he discovered a gold chest. He was very pleased with his 'find'. Cuddles asked Pauly to help carry some of the canes.
Bright-Eyes Lemur clambered up onto the large bat-wing structure above the Dungeon doorway. Here she found 20 Christmas Wreaths hanging from any small projection in the structure. Collecting them, she was about to go back down when she spotted a wooden chest so she took it as well.
Hoppy examined the Door Cache. Using a Black Lily & the Links of Steel, he opened it to reveal Santa Hats. When he picked them up, he found that they were hiding a gold chest. He picked it up as well.
Satisfied they had found all the decorations, Hoppy takes his crew home.
Chapter 8. Meanwhile in the Tower
Fireball Phoenix took his work group into the Forbidden Tower. Anabel & the Iron Knight were happy to see Fireball & his group again. Fireball explained about the search & find mission. Anabel was impressed so the Iron Knight & Anabel did a temporary disappearing act to 'get out of the road'.
Turning to his crew, he finds that they have already split & are tackling different spots around the Tower.
Emerald Dragon flutters her wings & rises up to check out the Mosaic Panel. It's fiery colours act as a camouflage for the 15 Santa Hats. Then she notices a Santa Hat sitting on top of the snake's head - that makes 16. She carefully removes the hat & puts it with her stash. Keeping a wary eye on the snake, Emerald finishes her search when she finds a rusty chest.
Hooter Owl checks out under the stairs. He discovers Christmas Wreaths in dusty corners, even in the canon barrel. While collecting all the wreaths, Hooter espies a rusty chest - now, thanks to his new glasses, he know what it looks like.
Prickles Hedgehog waddles over to the Writing Corner. He remembered last time he was here, there was something under the table so he crawls underneath. Sure enough, there are 20 Christmas Bells & a silver chest under the table.
Gabbi Griffin heads to the Scroll Storage & immediately strikes up a conversation with the cherub. Balls (also called Tree Trimmings) line the shelves. The cherub says "Help yourself!" So Gabbi does along with a wooden chest she has uncovered.
Happy Turtle dives into the Book of Evil. He surfaces clutching a silver chest & 15 Candy Canes.
Fireball does a last sweep around the Forbidden Tower discovering more Candy Canes & Christmas Wreaths. He also finds a silver chest.
Everyone is tired & ready for home so they join Hoppy Tiger's crew & head out. Arms laden with decorations & chests, the pets were not impressed when the Keeper of the Castle stopped them to find out how they were going with the clean-up. In exasperation, Hoppy dumped his decorations in the Keeper's lap - the other pets followed suit. The Keeper of the Castle was most annoyed with the pets but he still gave them the cards in exchange for the decorations. With a much lighter load, the pets retreat home.
Chapter 9. Introducing Ryia Reindeer
While the pets are away on their 'search and find' quest, I haul out the Christmas tree. I place it in the lounge. Ryia comes to see what all the noise is about. She is still a little unsteady on her long thin legs, Yet she is testing her newfound skill out by kicking out with her back legs. Most times she falls over but she just gets back up again & tries -- "Noooo! Not there! Too late!"" The coffee cup I placed on the small table in the lounge goes flying - hitting the wall & smashing. My bad for leaving it there. Ryia freezes 'like a deer caught in headlights'. She has a scared look on her face so I drop to my knees beside her & cuddle her telling her "it is okay!" I clean up the mess & do a sweep of the house - putting all breakables either away in cabinets or up out of reach. Ryia follows so I will introduce her.
Sharing a room with Gabbi Griffin & Perdita Pegasus is
Ryia is the newest addition to our home - a baby (newly hatched). I savour this time as a toddler because it won't last long - just a Drop of Time. Reindeer mature quickly. Already Ryia is starting to master walking. Soon she will be galloping around. Ryia has large brown eyes & a soft brown coat. She loves soothing strokes along her flank. Ryia is sweet & trusting with a gentle, quiet nature. However when Perdita gave her a green scarf, Ryia paraded around showing off to everyone. The long ends trailed on the floor & she often tripped so I wrapped it around her slender neck & pinned it. So she went around everyone & showed it off again. She is a little darling! One with a persistent, inquisitive side. She is alert & watchful - and copies what you do. I am hoping the other pets do not teach her bad habits.
The pets return empty-handed. Hoppy explains. I say "That is okay. All of you have worked hard today." I stow the cards in the study & set about getting the pets ready for bed. Tomorrow is another day.
Chapter 10. Tackling City Square
The next day, the pets are up bright & early. They peer into the icebox with the eggs & I remind them that we have to find all the decorations before those eggs can hatch. We decide to split our forces - one group will go to Ice Rock while the other group will go to Town & start the 'search & find' there. Ryia wants to go too! When she turns those big brown eyes of hers on me, I give in & know that today I am joining the hunt.
Our group heads to the City Square in Town. While the others scatter & search, I take Ryia up to Chris the Assassin. However she is still too shy & hides. Chris chuckles & gives me a rusty chest to give her. I let Ryia go & she 'wobbles' around the Square picking up Santa Hats & bringing them back to me.
Emerald Dragon flies up to the dragons atop the Doll Showcase to renew their acquaintance. She asks if any decorations dropped on them. They give her 20 Christmas Wreaths and 20 Christmas Bells. Glad to have their place tidied, they give Emerald a rusty chest (all they can find).
Cee-For heads for the Antique Shop. The young girl is still there. So, instead of looking & finding the decorations himself, he gets the girl to do it for him. She hands him 30 Christmas Tree Trimmings & a wooden chest with coins & diamonds in it.
Snazzy Snail made her way up the wall & across the hanging bar to reach the City Clock. There are 20 Candy Canes hanging on the clock hands so she gathers them. With the weight of the canes gone, the City Clock springs open to reveal a rusty chest.
Prickles Hedgehog clambered into the Doll Showcase through the shattered window. He peers behind the rocking horse & the train engine/ up behind the curtains & under all the dolls. He discovers 20 Tree Trimmings disguised as balls. He collects them & the rusty chest he has found.
Cuddles Panda climbed up over the Doll Showcase to reach the Glass Painting. He could see decorations inside. At first, he could not work out how to open it but then he found an Iridescene Chime & a Strangled Ruby so he used them. The Glass Painting lit up. Cuddles almost fell when the dragon appeared. He cautiously reached in the opened panel & grabbed the 15 Christmas Bells & a gold chest.
Our work complete, we head for home. I hope Ryia is up to the walk back because I seem to be laden with chests & decorations.
Chapter 11. Re-inforcements
I had taken about 5 steps when I heard the sound of running paws & the furious flapping of wings. Some of the pets went to rush past us & up the stairs into the old section of Town. "Whoa!" I yell. "What is going on?"
From up above, Gabbi Griffin said "We have finished decorating the Christmas Tree & thought we could get some more of those decorations found."
"You decorated the Tree. But I wanted to help do that!!" Emerald Dragon pouted. She is very good at pouting.
"I am going to show Gabbi & Hooter Owl the 'ghost' " whispered Steffany Squirrel. At that, Cee_For Cat dumped his chest & decorations in Cuddles Panda's arms & joined the group heading up the stairs.
Ryia Reindeer totters after them. Stops & looks around at me with her big brown eyes shining with excitement. "Do you want to go too?" She makes a soft snuffling sound that I take to mean - "yes!"
I look at Cuddles & Emerald. They want to go home & see if there is any more decorating they can do. Both offer 'to take all the "stuff" that I am carrying' home.
So as Cuddles, Emerald, Snazzy Snail & Prickles Hedgehog head home, I follow the rest of the pets up the stairs & into the rundown, gloomy, lonely part of Town.
Chapter 12. The Chapel
Those going with Steffany Squirrel barrel straight across the Ancient Park to get to the Chapel. There they form a small group & slowly push the great doors open. The hinges creak & the pets look at each other - a little afraid but they want to see the 'ghost'. So 5 pairs of eyes peer cautiously around the door into the Chapel interior. Light streams through a hole in the roof & cobwebs hang from the rafters blown about by the wind that enters via the roof opening. The biggest shock, however, is the person standing in the Chapel. Valeria is no longer a 'ghost' - she has regained her human self. The pets are disappointed (for they hoped for some 'ghost' stories). Remembering what they were supposed to be doing, Steffany told Valeria that the Keeper of the Castle wanted all the Christmas decorations found & returned to him. Valeria told the pets that she was off to see Chris the Assassin - she confided that she is taking lessons on 'how to be an assassin'. With a 'cheer-io", Valeria leaves the Chapel so the pets have a clear field to work.
Gabbi Griffin flew up to chat with the Three Monks. She asked if any Christmas decorations had landed in their place. "Oh, yes!" they replied & pointed to some Santa Hats piled neatly against the wall. "We like to keep our place tidy & are really unhappy that those things got scattered all around here," they moaned. Gabbi"s offer "to take the Santa Hats off their hands" was readily accepted. They also gave her an old wooden chest (with some plain white stamps & a small pile of coin in it) to put the decorations in. Thanking them, Gabbi went to the Chapel doors to wait for the others.
Cee_For Cat felt for sure there was something worth investigating up in the balcony. There he found the Dark Ambon. Fiddling with it, he fitted a Sectary Sign, a Winged Amulet (pocketing a few for himself) & a Sign of Steadfast Faith into the spots provided. The resultant fizzle & lightning sparks startled Cee_For who jumped straight up into the air, his fur standing on end. When the Dark Ambon began spewing out Tree Trimming & Santa Hats, Cee_For thought he had broken the mechanism. So he quickly gathered the decorations - finding a wooden chest containing coins (which he pocketed), he stuffed the items into it & beat a hasty retreat to the Chapel doors.
Pauly Parrot went over to the Grand Altar. Christmas Wreaths were everywhere - hanging from the statues hands & from the candlestick & other objects as well as just laying on the Altar. He collected all the wreaths & found a rusty chest under one pile on the Altar. Putting them all together, Pauly then flew up to one of the statue's head so he could have a short rest. There he did what all birds seem to do when they are perched - he pooped. The statue was most indignant & made Pauly clean it up before he left. "BUBBLES! BUBBLES!" Pauly groused - "When you have got to go, you have to go!"
Hooter Owl opened the Confessional door & jumped back in fright. Glaring at him, from a perch in the corner, was a narrow-eyed Owl. Moving inside, Hooter introduced himself. He received a "Hmph!" in return. Just then, Hooter spotted a huge rat & quick as a flash, he grabbed it. He offered the rat to the other Owl. "Thank you" the other Owl replied. "I have been trying to catch this rascal for ages. It collects whatever it can find & has turned my nesting area into a shambles! Just look at all those Candy Canes & bell-things that are only good for Tree Trimmings scattered all over the place." he ranted. Hooter cleaned up all the Christmas decorations. In one corner, he spied a silver chest (thanks to his new glasses he can tell the colours of the chests now). The other Owl told him to keep it. Taking his leave, Hooter was very glad that the narrow-eyed Owl was not a relative (at least he hoped he wasn't).
Steffany Squirrel scampered over to the Statue of an Angel & jumped up into the bowl. She landed on a pile of Christmas Bells. Steffany removed all the Bells & was just going to leave when the Statue smiled a sweet smile. "Thank you so much" a gentle voice said. "I am sorry that I only have a rusty chest to offer you for doing such a good job of cleaning my bowl." Steffany replied " My pleasure!", then went to join the others.
Picking up all the Christmas decorations & their treasure chests, the little troop left the Chapel & headed over to where I stood in the Ancient Park.
Chapter 13. The Ancient Park
The rest of the group move into the Ancient Park scattering in all directions.
Pup Puppy went to go past the Overgrown Pond but stopped to do a little investigating instead. He pushed through the reeds on the bank & spied a silver chest sitting on a suit of armour in the water. He tried reaching over to get it but overbalanced & "SPLASH!" he landed in the water. At this time of year, the water is freezing so he grabbed the chest & quickly climbed out of the Overgrown Pond. Dropping the chest on the bank, he ran over to the Headstone, giving himself a good shake spraying water droplets all about. "HEY! STOP THAT! GET OUT!" shouted the Headstone statues. Pup got the message & moved back to the Overgrown Pond. This time he was very careful checking the reeds - finding lots of Christmas Bells. On the other side of the Pond, he spotted a Santa Hat being picked up by someone else.
Ryia Reindeer toddled along in everyone's wake. Then she saw some more of those pretty red hats. So she daintily plucked the Santa Hats from among the reeds on the Overgrown Pond edge & brought them back to where I was standing - watching to make sure she did not fall in. Pup dragged all his 'goodies' over to me & then went to help Ryia. He pulled the rusty chest that Ryia had ignored over to her pile of decorations.
Heather Hippo & Petunia Pig head for the Chapel roof because they spied some stone structures. Collecting the Candy Canes, they commiserate with the Sad Gargoyle about him being sightless. Then Heather spotted some Demon's Eyes & offered them to the Sad Gargoyle who quickly placed them in his sockets. "ARGHHHH!" he yelled as he changed into a frightful Gargoyle. Petunia got such a shock she fell ending among the Broken Statue pieces while Heather did a backflip & landed further along the roof. For returning his sight, the Gargoyle gave Heather a gold chest.
Petunia Pig landed amongst the vines & rubble of the Broken Statue. She looked up when she heard a hissing sound - to find that the bats already in residence were not happy at Petunia's intrusion. One bat, in particular, was a feisty one so Petunia figured a retreat was in order. However as she picked herself up, she saw lots of Christmas Wreaths tangled in the vines & hanging from the Statue's arms/ hands. Ignoring the bats, Petunia started collecting the Christmas Wreaths. Arms full, she was about to leave, when a rusty chest was dropped on Petunia's trotter. "Ouch!" she yelled. Looking around, she could not find where the chest had come from. "Spooky!" thought Petunia as she quickly gathered her load & the chest and flew over to tell me her tale.
Hoppy Tiger headed over to where the Stone Fairy was & pulled up in surprise. For she wasn't a weeping stone statue anymore. She had morphed into the Lost Fairy - a lovely creature whose gossamer wings shimmered in the light. Hoppy bowed & politely asked if she was feeling well. The Lost Fairy remembered Hoppy as the young fellow who stopped to talk to her. She said she was feeling much better now that she was no longer petrified though she was still a bit sad because the "magic of Midnight Castle" was still missing. Hoppy tried to cheer her up & that's when the Lost Fairy remembered her friend, "Salty" the ghost innkeeper, had said that Hoppy was a polite, well-mannered young fellow - a nice chappie. "For your kindness, I bestow on you one wish!" the Lost Fairy said. Hoppy wished that all the remaining Christmas decorations had been found & were already at home. With a wave of her wand & a whooshing sound, all the decorations we had collected plus some that were still on the ground disappeared. She informed us that the Castle Vicinity, the Castle Gates & the Castle Entry as well as the Inn were now decoration free. The group that was headed for Ice Rock had returned home as that area was decoration free as well.
"Hurrah!" the pets chorused - for now our quest for the Keeper of the Castle was completed. Thanking her, we trooped off home.
Chapter 14. Operation Complete
At home, we found a huge pile of Christmas decorations sitting on the front porch. The other pets weren't game to touch it because they did not know how it got there. I let Hoppy Tiger tell his tale & went inside. Cuddles Panda & the other pets had used some of the Christmas decorations to decorate the interior of the house - the place truly looked festive now. Mandy Manticore & some of the other pets gathered up armfuls of decorations from the study & the porch while I did a sweep of the inside of the house picking up any loose decorations. Leaving the rest of the pets in Gabbi's capable care, we headed over to the Keeper of the Castle - anxious to finish our quest & hatch those eggs!! The Keeper of the Castle was smiling when we got there. He was very happy that all the Christmas decorations had been picked up. He exchanged our load for many Christmas Cards. As an extra bonus, he also gave me an "elf" costume for all the decorations gathered & a "Santa" costume for all the cards collected. Slightly bemused, I led the pets home to wait for "Just John".
Christmas Pets Revealed (2 chapters)
Chapter 1. Hatching the Eggs
The pets check the driveway again & again but no strange looking carriage pulls up. There is no sign of Just John.
The snow is beginning to melt & our beautiful winter wonderland is turning into a mud puddle. Much to Petunia Pig & Heather Hippo's delight. Both the girls are out rolling in the mud. They roll & loll about until they are completely caked in mud. When I ask what they think they are doing, they tell me they are "getting their beauty treatments - Mud packs are good for the skin." They look at me with a "didn't you know that look"! I let the girls get on with their beauty regime & tread back into the house. Muddy paw prints trail all the way from the door going up the stairs. I follow the tracks & I am just in time to stop Pup Puppy from jumping up onto my bed (muddy feet & muddy coat). From the look of him, it appears he has been in the mud outside. "Out! Downstairs & get cleaned up," I bellow. Pup does not look happy with that but heads to the mud room where I give him a bath. I towel dry as much as possible, then make a mad dash for the door & close it just in time to avoid getting wet as Pup vigorously shakes himself. The girls troop in & head for the shower.
The rest of the pets have their noses pressed to the window looking for Just John. "He's here!" the pets yell. "He's here!" From the strange looking carriage in front of my place, a young fella gets out with his smallish black box. He trudges up the driveway, stepping carefully around mud puddles. He sets the box up on the porch and with a flick of his wrist, the box expands - whirring metal 'arms' appear & a thudding sound can be heard. Just John goes to knock on the door when he sees we have the door wide open & are watching him with excitement on our faces. He holds his hand out for the Christmas cards. I give them to him. He looks at them & selects the grey coloured egg with the snowflakes and red & green band on it. He places it in his gizmo which starts to make a funny noise. Then it stops. He hands me the egg which is starting to crack. Goes back to the old chest & takes a second egg - this one is pale blue with pink paw prints & a blue dotted band. Out to his gizmo he goes & places it in the 'incubator'.
To my surprise, it looks like I will have 2 new pets to care for. So I carefully carry the first egg back inside & place it in a safe spot on the floor rug. I return to the door just in time to be handed the second egg which I place on the floor rug beside the first one. I get up to thank Just John when I see him pick up a third egg - a grey one with white fur trim & take it out to his gizmo. I hurry to stop him - 2 new pets are enough for now but I am too late the third egg is in the 'incubator'. I return to the eggs in time to see the first egg explode sending bits of eggshell everywhere - I dodge behind the couch while the other pets quickly hunker down. Peering cautiously over the couch I see a curious black & white creature - at first glance, not bird/ not animal and talk about energetic - it hasn't stopped jumping around. On closer inspection, I see it is a penguin - a penguin with a wide grin. I smile back & it launches itself at me.
In the commotion, I failed to notice Just John place the third egg on the floor rug & bend to retrieve the last egg - a bright blue with multicolour trim & lights attached to it. Out to his gizmo he goes & places it in the 'incubator'. He hands me the fourth egg & with a wave of his hand, the gizmo folds back down to the black box. Before he loads it into his carriage & he hands me a "snowman" costume as a thank you for hatching all 5 Christmas pets. Then he disappears.
Chapter 2. There’s A Bear In There, A Yeti As Well
However I am panicking - 4 new pets. Where are they going to sleep? Wait - what are they going to be?? I carefully place the penguin on the floor & ask Gabbi Griffin to keep an eye on him as the second egg is moving. It rolls & then begins to crack. A white furry bottom appears, followed by 2 furry legs, then a body - this creature is slowly backing out of its shell. Finally 2 front legs & a head appear. It's a bear! Spotting us, the little white bear scurries over & tries to hide under the couch. Oh, sweetie, I think. "She's frightened!" I tell the other pets who have crowded closer to get a look. "Back up & let her decide when she is coming out."
Suddenly there is a loud "yowl" from the third egg as a tiny fist punches through the eggshell. "What!" I go to say but there are more thumps as the tiny fists & 2 largish feet proceed to demolish the third egg - from the inside. Sitting in the debris of the shattered egg is a strange looking creature. It has faintly purplish coloured fur & it has a bone in its hair. I look in astonishment - what can it be? Just then it gives another "yowl". Whatever it is, it has a good set of lungs. The small creature stands & goes to toddle over to me only to trip on its too-large feet. Up it gets & tries again. I can see it is a 'she' & I move closer to her. She reaches out & clamps her arms around my leg & hangs on. "What a grip!!" I go to say but she interrupts with another yowl. "Okay, I am calling you Yowla!" I pick up some mashed berries & offer them to Yowla who hastily devours them. Realising she is hungry, I send Mandy Manticore to the kitchen to get more mashed fruit which Yowla readily eats. "Gosh, she is going to eat me out of house & home at the rate she is going!" I finally figure out, Yowla is a yeti - a very rare creature normally not seen outside the Himalayas. How did the egg get here? More Midnight Castle magic! At the first opportunity I get, I am going to have to go through all my books to find out how to rear this pet.
I look over at the fourth egg - just sitting there. I tap on the egg & there is a tap in response. I see bright flashes of light coming from the egg - does the inhabitant need me to help it emerge? I tap again & there is a series of rapid taps in answer. Thoroughly puzzled, I decide to put a small hole in the eggshell's weakest spot. Once I did that the egg rapidly cracked all over revealing a Snowman. What the! A Snowman! A Tiny Snowman! He laughs & does a little dance. His laugh is infectious & soon we are all laughing. Then I have a sobering thought "How do I keep him from melting?"
I look at the new pets & think "I need a cold room". Time I went to see my uncle, Count Vesnik & get his advice.