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Summer has arrived in the Castle - the Winter Garden is now the Summer Garden. Flowers are in bloom. Birds have nested, hatched their young & are now feeding the hatchlings. A squirrel now keeps the Lady Reader company. "A SQUIRREL!" shouts Steffany Squirrel. She is off to meet the new arrival. Following (at a somewhat slower pace) is Gabbi Griffin & Prickles Hedgehog. Cee_For Cat trails behind - he is going to check his stores in the Frozen Treasure???
Steffany quickly make the acquaintance of the new resident - called SG (short for Summer Garden) Squirrel. They happily chatter away.
Prickles sees another hedgehog & tries to make friends with it. However it is a 'here today/ gone in a click' type animal & so Prickles dips out on a new friend. He is filled with a sense of Bitter Loss. Gabbi gives Prickles a Pendant of Sympathy & together they explore the Summer Garden. Gabbi finds a wooden chest while Prickles finds a rusty one.
Cee_For did not go to the Frozen Treasure, instead he is stalking the mama bird feeding her hatchlings. Steffany spots him & raises the alarm. The Lady Reader gets very angry with Cee_For & threatens to put Cee_For in the rusty chest she thrusts at him. "GO!" she says "And don't come back until you can behave!" Cee_For flicks his tail in disdain & stalks off.
For her part in avoiding a minor crisis in the Summer Garden, the Lady Reader gives Steffany a gold chest. Steffany is pleased to have both a gold chest & a new friend.
The trio hurry home to tell everyone all about the lovely new garden.
The RedBird Moves In
Noting the empty cage hanging on the Castle wall, Fireball Phoenix went in search of the Count. He told the Count that a relative on his mother's side - a Red Firebird (called RedBird) - was currently homeless & searching for some place to live. Fireball politely asked if RedBird could make his home in the empty cage. The Count was agreeable. On the day that RedBird moved in, Fireball went to visit at the Castle Gates. Perdita Pegasus also went along as did Pup Puppy.
Perdita was looking for her ribbons to hold back her flowing mane. The last time she could remember having them was at the Broken Well when one snagged on the well edge. So Perdita was going to see if she could find them. While Pup was going just because he did not want to be left behind.
Perdita was searching the ground around the Broken Well while Pup ran around the Well rim peering inside to see if they had fallen into the well. Overbalancing, as he usually does, Pup fell into the Well. Luckily, the Well was dry & full of "stuff". Pup dug through the "stuff" & found Perdita's ribbons. He also found a silver chest & a rusty chest which he was not leaving behind. The trick was getting out of the Well with his 'finds'. After several attempts, he had to ask Perdita to help. Perdita had to take the chests before she could rescue Pup. Pup gave her the silver chest & kept the rusty one for himself.
Meanwhile Fireball introduced himself to RedBird - a rather large bird with a 'frosty' manner. Off-put by the 'frosty' manner & stern look, Fireball made his visit short & sweet. For finding somewhere for him to live, RedBird gave Fireball a gold chest as a thank you gift.
Pleased with their haul, the three pets headed home.
‘Bon Voyage’ Wise Dragon
I have some sad news to impart. The Wise Dragon in the Tower is going on an extended business trip & he is not sure when or even if he will return. While he is gone, Anabel & her knight will be in charge of keeping the Mystery Chamber safe. They will move into the Tower. It will be very odd without him here.
As a thank you for all he has done for the Castle & to wish him a safe trip, we are having a 'Bon Voyage' party in the Tower. It is just some nibbles & a few drinks - nothing grand but that is the way the Dragon wanted it. All the pets were invited. The Dragon told them "At times, you have infuriated me & at other times, you have entertained me so I have planned a surprise for you pets. It's a treasure hunt in my Tower. I have given the bulk of my fortune to the Count to help restore the Castle & have left enough resources to aid Anabel in her duties. But I kept 19 chests just for you pets." Have fun looking!
Cee_For Cat, Snazzy Snail & Gabbi Griffin headed for the Scroll Storage. Cee_For sweet-talked the cherub into parting with a wooden chest while Gabbi & Snazzy found a wooden chest each on the shelves. They returned to the dragon to show off their 'finds'.
Heather Hippo investigated the top of the staircase while Petunia Pig looked under the stairs. Heather found a rusty chest & Petunia found a gold chest. They went back to the Dragon. The Dragon was vastly amused watching the pets hunt his domain. Fireball Phoenix slipped in behind the Dragon & found a cannon. In its barrel was a gold chest. "Mine!" said Fireball.
Pauly Parrot & Hoppy Tiger went to check out the Mosaic Panel. Hoppy tried to make the acquaintance of the tiger face in the corner but was ignored. While Pauly was disappointed to find the parrot was only a stained glass picture. They did, however, find a rusty chest each. Happy Turtle & Hooter Owl joined them - more to check out the big snake but they, too, found a rusty chest each.
Steffany Squirrel & Bright-Eyes Lemur scooted up onto the portcullis. They looked all over it & each found a silver chest. Excitedly they returned to everyone else.
Cuddles Panda, Emerald Dragon & Sebastian Seal went up the stairs to see if the Book of Evil had anything hidden. While Cuddles & Emerald hunted all around the gargoyle Bookstand, Sebastian dived into the Book of Evil. He found a silver chest. Meanwhile, the gargoyle gave Cuddles & Emerald a silver chest each.
Only 4 pets to go. They went to the Writing Corner. Pup Puppy, in his usual 'klutzy' fashion, knocked over a chair & a pile of books. Mandy Manticore picked everything up. While doing so, she found a silver chest. Prickles Hedgehog crawled under the table & found a silver chest. Perdita Pegasus found a silver chest inside the table opening. All 3 trooped back to the party.
Pup was most dejected when he went back to the Dragon. The Dragon laughed & moved his foot to reveal a silver chest for Pup.
All pets had their treasure & had had fun hunting for it. The pets were all in high spirits as we went home.
Moving Into The Mystery Chamber
The Keeper of Wishes summoned me to the Mystery Chamber. She was so fearful for her existence that she had decided to go into hiding. Before she left, she had one last wish to grant - my wish. The Keeper asked if I would give my wish to the Count and as I knew how lonely my uncle was for his family, I agreed to give my wish to Count Vesnik. He promptly wished for the safe return of his wife & daughter. The Keeper slipped away. When his family arrived, he wanted to move out of the Throne Room as it was not secure enough for his wife & daughter. Now that the Keeper was gone, he decided to move into the Mystery Chamber. Some of the pets were roped in to clean the Mystery Chamber prior to the move.
Cuddle Panda found a Secret Slab which he cleaned. He found a gold chest hidden in its depths. Meanwhile Hooter Owl revisited the Wise Owl in the Tree of Knowledge. Together they cleaned their area. The Wise Owl gave Hooter a rusty chest as a thank you. (Note to self: I really must get Hooter to see that eye doctor.)
Steffany Squirrel & Bright Eyes Lemur washed down the Column of the Fallen after having a game of tag up & down it. The Column was grateful for the clean-up job but not at all impressed with being a raceway for spirited youngsters. He ended up giving both Steffany & Bright Eyes a rusty chest each.
Prickles Hedgehog cleaned, tidied & polished the Shining Split until it was - well - shining! For his efforts he received a gold chest.
Gabbi Griffin flew up to the Chained Eagles & had a great time chatting as she helped the eagles tidy their area. A rusty chest was her reward.
Rusty chests were also given to Mandy Manticore, Pup Puppy, Sebastian Seal & Happy Turtle who all bustled around cleaning & tidying the Chamber itself. However they all left the Heart of the Chamber alone. It was too hot to touch.
The Count was very pleased with the clean-up & he thanked the pets for a job well done! He then moved his family into the Mystery Chamber. We left them alone to settle in.
A Visit To City Square
I took Hooter Owl to the eye specialist who prescribed tinted (one yellow lens & one pale red lens) glasses for his colour blindness. While the optician was making Hooter's Ocular Protection, some of the pets visited the City Square. Christian the Bard was no longer there. In his place was a cloaked figure named Chris Arwin. He claimed he was an assassin.
Mandy Manticore, ever the Peacemaker, went over & talked to Chris. Appreciating the gesture, Chris gave Mandy a silver chest.
Hooter flew up & sat on the City Clock. This triggered a mechanism which opened the clock face to reveal a rusty chest.
Pauly Parrot, disappointed he couldn't have another 'jam' session with Christian the Bard, landed on the Flower of Sufferings which heaved a sigh & opened up. "Bloody Heck!" squarked Pauly in surprise. In the opening sat a rusty chest.
Emerald Dragon made the acquaintance of the dragons on the roof above the Doll Showcase. She found out that they were "foreigners" (from Russia) & had lost their way. She gave them directions & wished them well if they decided to leave. Liking the friendliness shown to them, they gave Emerald a silver chest.
Pup Puppy happily ran around the City Square chasing all the leaves drifting down. When he had a little pile, he plopped down in the middle sending all the leaves flying. So Pup started chasing them again. Chris Arwin found Pup's antics funny & gave Pup a silver chest.
Cee_For Cat checked out the Antique Shop. He liked the Antique Crown Wearer and the Aristocrat's Sign but found he could not afford them. The young girl in the shop took pity on Cee_For & gave him a wooden chest containing coins.
At last Hooter's glasses were ready. However we found we had a problem getting them to stay on Hooter's head. We finally resorted to super-glue but that means Hooter can not take his glasses off or he will have a baldy patch where we glued. Oh, well!
Carrying their 'spoils', the pets headed home.
Oh, dear! A very demanding creature has appeared at the Castle Gates. He says he is Oberon - King of the Elves. He is arguing with Oeland Silver Mane - leader of the Werewolf Clan - about an Artifact. Oberon has bought his bodyguard & his Secret Service with him. The Secret Service elves have spread throughout the Castle & the Town. You can see where they have been by all the vines, etc they leave plus in places, you can see them watching. It really is not safe for the pets to be out & about. However several of the pets are getting "cabin- fever" so I decided to take them to the Inn to visit Salty.
When we get there, we can hear growling & roaring. It was the Armoured Bear & he was frightening all the patrons - even Salty was not game to go near him. Taking a deep breath, Fireball Phoenix barrels over to the Armoured Bear & asks "What's the matter?" It turns out a sharp piece of bone is caught between the bear's teeth causing not only a toothache but cutting the inside of the bear's mouth each time he tries to close it. Fireball worked the piece of bone loose much to the bear's relief. Salty was so grateful that he gave Fireball a gold chest.
Happy Turtle met up with his friend, the Drunken Skeleton & together they reminisced about old times. As a thank you for visiting, the Drunken Skeleton gave Happy a silver chest.
Hoppy Tiger was most indignant when the unruly Monkey dropped a rusty chest on Hoppy's head.
uddenly there is a loud squarking & we saw a brightly coloured parrot flapping his wings furiously trying to dislodge a crab that has grabbed hold of Pauly Parrot's tail. Apparently Pauly had been wandering round on the dice table when he went too close to the crab's waving pincers. Salty had a good laugh at the spectacle. He gave Pauly a silver chest as compensation after we rescued him.
Singing a jaunty tune, we passed the Secret Service elves on our way home.
Thank goodness!! The King of the Elves has finished whatever he came to do & has taken his bodyguard & Secret Service Elves & gone home. All those vines, etc have disappeared also. A person can move around the Castle now.
Cuddles Panda with Hooter Owl on his shoulder & Hoppy Tiger alongside go for their morning jog. They notice that the Fairy Sculpture in the Castle Entry has changed to the Elfish Bas-Relief but are not game to investigate further because Oeland Silver Mane is in the Castle Entry & he is muttering about WAR with the elves. OH, dear!
So they head for Cuddles' old stomping ground - the Castle Vicinity or simply the Road to the Castle. The members of the Broken Carriage Bamboo Eating Contest welcome Cuddles back & SURPRISE! He is still the reigning Champ. With the disruption caused by the elves, there is no contest organised but Cuddles is happy to talk to his old friends. Outside the Carriage, they find a rusty chest & give it to Cuddles as a reminder to come back soon.
Hooter flew up onto the Road Sign. This, too, had changed because the elves damaged the original sign. The gnomes had to replace it with a new one - now known as the Gnome Road Sign - fancy, it is too! Opening the barrel, Hooter found a rusty chest. Trust the gnomes to keep the best.
Hoppy Tiger took 2 Murderer's Eyes from the Crypt & went over & opened the Iron Chest - to find a gold chest. "Scored! My hunch paid off," thought Hoppy!
Feeling energised & happy, the pets continue their jog but not around the Castle - instead they jog home.
Playing Hide and Seek
They were supposed to be jogging. Even though the doctor had declared Cuddles better - the pets kept up the jogging routine. They knew I would not be happy if they weren't. But it was all so much fun! Playing Hide and Seek ... in the Dungeon of the Cursed. Cuddles Panda stayed in the Throne Room counting to 100 while the pets scrambled for a hiding place in the Dungeon.
Emerald decided on hiding in plain sight. Since the removal of the 3 Prisoners (skeletons), 3 Dragons had moved in. They were green so Emerald joined them to make 4 dragons in the alcove.
Gabbi Griffin flew up on to the Stone Chaps & tried to blend in with the shadows around the Stone Chaps.
Hooter Owl went to the Skulls & sat next to the owl already in residence. He was a surly type who disappeared at a click so Hooter said nothing - just sat there.
Cee-For Cat climbed down into the Battle Pit BUT it wasn't the Battle Pit anymore, it had become the Castle Armoury. So many changes have taken place. Investigating further, Cee-For found the ideal hiding spot behind the curtains & the glass showcase with the sword in it.
Coming! Ready or not! shouted Cuddles. When he got to the Dungeon, he saw no-one, so he started hunting. He went left first & opened up the Carnivorous Lily - being too big to swallow the Lily spat him out but not before Cuddles got his hands on a silver chest.
No-one there so Cuddles turned his attention to the Castle Armoury. He found Cee_For's hiding spot & tagged him. Cee-For picked up the rusty chest beside him & went & waited for the others. Peering into the Skulls, Cuddles did not find Hooter at first. Then there was a click & the resident owl disappeared leaving Hooter exposed. Hooter grabbed a rusty chest & joined Cee_For.
Cuddles passed Emerald's hiding spot 3 times before one of the dragons sneezed & drew Cuddles' attention. He smiled when he saw Emerald. Emerald thanked the dragons for allowing her to hide among them. They gave her a silver chest because they had enjoyed the game too.
Cuddles couldn't find Gabbi anywhere. In the end, he said "I give up! Where are you hiding?" Gabbi chortled. The Stone Chaps opened to reveal a rusty chest which Gabbi picked up before she flew down to join the others.
Excited & happy, the pets decided they would go home to show off their 'finds'.
Fun in the Snow
The pets & I had been away. When we returned home, it was to find that winter had come to the Castle. Snow lay like a thick white blanket across the landscape while icicles hung from the roof guttering - all glistened in the weak winter sun. The pets 'oohed & ahhed' & couldn't wait to pile out of the car. "Everything inside first!" I shout. "And put away!" I add as an afterthought as Fireball Phoenix dumped his stuff just inside the door & made a dash for the snow-filled yard. I got lots of glares but we unloaded the car & put away all the things. I had no sooner said "All done!" then there was a mad scramble for the door out into the snow to play.
There were sounds of delight from all over the yard as the pets danced, pranced, bounced & rolled in the snow. Happy Turtle even created his own version of a 'snow angel'. Pup Puppy dug into the snow & unearthed an old bone covered in snow - his very own Snow Bone. Sebastian Seal & Prickles Hedgehog rolled snow into a ball & began to make a snowman. The other pets soon joined in & a crooked, 'wobbly-looking' snowman was made. Mandy Manticore dashed inside & grabbed her scarf to decorate the snowman & a carrot for it's nose. Meanwhile Hooter Owl had found 2 stones for the snowman's eyes.
Then the pets decided on a snowball fight. Teams were decided on & what area each team would defend. They quickly built their forts & walls of snow - then turned their attention to moulding snowballs. Cee_For blew the Battle Horn & the snowballs began to fly. Using the snowball like a Cannonball, the pets tried to knock down each other's defences. Every so often, a Call of Triumph could be heard when a snowball found its target. Then I spotted him, Hoppy Tiger trying a sneak attack on his opponent's fort. Crouching low, he used his white colouring to hide his approach & then, like an Attacking Snow Leopard, he pounced on the fort's snow wall - knocking it down. As far as the other side was concerned that was the Sign of War. Soon snowballs & when they ran out, handfuls of snow were flying - aimed at each other.
Much later, the exhausted pets came back inside thoroughly exhilarated by their 'fun in the snow'.
Operation – Christmas Decorations (14 chapters)
Chapter 1. Egg delivery
I hear a noise, like tinkling bells, on the roof. I shake my head - 'Nah! I am hearing things!" Then a soft thud. "That's it. I am going to check it out!" I open the front door and there is a largish box (sealed) with a sign "FRAGILE: Handle with Care" plastered on it. I drag it inside & carefully open it. The pets gather around to see what is going on.
There are 5 coloured eggs inside. All have decorations on them. What!! Then I spy a delivery docket and taped to the back of the docket is a set of destructions - SORRY instructions. It reads:
* Keep in a Cool Place.
* Hatch As Soon As Possible.
At the bottom in very tiny print - Clue: See the Keeper of the Castle.
Mandy Manticore asks "Where's a cool place?" I decide to turn the old icebox on its side. Cuddles Panda, Gabbi Griffin & Hoppy Tiger troop outside & gather snow to fill the ice chest. We place the eggs inside. Satisfied they are in a cool place, I set off to see the Keeper of the Castle. The pets keep an eye on the eggs.
The Keeper of the Castle is not in a very good mood. "Hmph! Those blasted elves!!" Apparently some of the elves (still on learner's plates) took the sleigh out for a test run. They overturned it, spilling Christmas decorations all over the place. A massive clean-up is needed to get the Castle & the Town back into shape.
When I ask about the eggs, the Keeper tells me, they are Christmas pets. "But the instructions say to see you on how to hatch them." I answer. "Of course, I have the cards!" he replies. Then he looks at me & says "I will make you a deal - get your pets to clean up the Christmas decorations spillage & I will give you the cards!"
I agree & head back home. I tell the pets tomorrow we have a job so we best get a good night's sleep. They have had a full day so they go quietly to bed.
Chapter 2. First Stop Mirror Lake
I awake to find the pets peering into the icebox at the eggs. I send Cuddles Panda out to get more snow to pack around the eggs. After breakfast, I tell the pets "We have a quest for the Keeper of the Castle to do today!" They perk up & listen. I explain that "all the Christmas decorations have disappeared". They look dismayed. "So we need to find them." Heads nod. It was decided that Happy Turtle would take a crew & check out his friend, Skull Pete's haunt - Mirror Lake. While Fireball Phoenix would take his group to the Underground Grotto. The rest of the pets would stay & guard the eggs.
Happy & his crew arrived at Mirror Lake. Skull Pete greeted them, smiled at Perdita Pegasus & looked relieved that Emerald Dragon, Petunia Pig & Heather Hippo were not among the group. Those 3 cause havoc - he claims. When Happy explained their mission, Skull Pete waved his hand & said "By all means, go to it!"
Snazzy Snail crawled into the Bag - pulled out 15 Christmas Wreaths & a Silver chest.
Hoppy Tiger went over to the Bow Figure & politely asked if he had seen any Christmas decorations. "Décor-ations!" groused the Bow Figure & showed Hoppy a pile of 20 Santa Hats. Hoppy picked them up along with a silver chest.
Mandy Manticore checked out the Pirate Ship. She did not find any decorations, only a rusty chest. However she did find a Wizard's Ball. While she was holding it up to the sun, it exploded - showering her in Christmas Tree Trimmings (20 of them).
Perdita Pegasus looked over the rigging for the Pirate Ship. There she found 20 Candy Canes - just hanging on the sails & rigging. She collected them & then flew to the crow's nest for a rest. Here she spied a silver chest.
Cuddles Panda investigated the Tent. Here he found 20 Christmas Bells & a gold chest (under Skull Pete's hammock).
Happy Turtle opened the Pirate Standard - to find 20 Christmas Wreaths & a silver chest.
Happy & his crew thanked Skull Pete & headed home with the decorations & their other 'finds'.
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.