The Magic Forrest

A Fairy Tale

Copyright © 2007
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Alberich

Elfrida and her friends are on an excursion in the Magic Forest.

Strange things are going to happen there.
The weather changes and when they hide in a old mine they get into trouble with a Dragon and a witch...

 


Chapter 1

A Daft Outing

 

"Ouch!" Rosie stopped und looked down. "I’ve bumped my foot again. When are we back home? I can’t go on!"

Bertha rolled her eyes and replied: "How often am I to tell you, I don’t know. You should have put on sturdy shoes, but nobody listens to me!"

Rosie closed her lips tightly and pondered. Then she suddenly remembered that she still had a rest of the chocolate her mother had given her. Happily she thrust her hand into her trouser pocket and felt something warm, mushy. The chocolate had melted.

"No, that can’t be true. We all will starve!" she lamented.

"What is it now?" Bertha asked and looked at Rosie. When she saw Rosie’s brown fingers with the rest of the chocolate paper she snapped: "Well, I do not really want to know, and if so it will not hurt you to lose some weight. But you don’t listen, whatever I tell you."

"Now stop quarrelling, you two", Elfrida said. "Spare your breath for the rest of the way. We’ll soon have made it."

“What does the map say, Jenny?” Elfrida interrupted Rosie’s thoughts.

“Let’s see”, Jenny replied and looked the map up and down. “We must be close to the old mine. It’s two kilometres from there.”

“Two kilometres! Gosh, that’s a long way”, Mary said. “Daisy, didn’t you take along your parents’ mobile? You could ring up Elfrida’s daddy.”

“No, I haven’t, but what I have is a blister at my left heel. Let’s have a break.”

“Yes, let’s sit in the grass over there”, Elfrida nodded. “That looks nice.”

With a loud sigh and an even louder thud Rosie sat down in the grass and so did her friends. None of them wanted to walk further.

Their feet hurt, they were hungry and grew more and more tired. The air was mild, and the choppy wind which had fronted them finally died down. Some birds were twittering and all around them it was very peaceful. Susie got out some biscuits and handed them around. They soon were finished. The hunger after all was a little better and the friends settled down cosily.

It did not take long and one after the other fell asleep. Except Rosie. Her feet were still aching badly and moreover she was busy turning her trouser pocket and sucking up the rests of the chocolate. It was not very delicious because poor Rose always got fluffs in her mouth. When the sticky chocolate was sucked up as far as possible, she lay down exhaustedly beside Bertha.

Bertha and Rosie

 

Rosie would have liked very much to sleep but she still felt the fluffs of the trouser pocket in her mouth. If only she were back home with her Mummy. Rosie thought of all those wonderful meals her mother cooked. O, if there were ham-potatoes with vanilla dressing! Perhaps she even would give some of it to her little brother. She thought of her little brother Alphonse.

Alphonse could not walk or talk – he was good for nothing. He slobbered all the day long and was noisy. Rosie never understood why all the aunts, grannies and the friends of her mother made such a fuss about that little napkin-stinker: Alphonse, look at – Alphonse, say Mummy – Say Aunt Agatha – Say Granny Elsie – Alphonse, do burp - O, how twee!

One day Rosie’s time of revenge had come. They had finally all left and Rosie’s mother had laid down on the sofa to brace up for her favourite business: cleaning the house. Softly Rosie crept to her brother. He lay innocently in his small bed and babbled gibberish. Now and then he lost his dummy but every time he got it back.

Rosie shut the door of the room she shared with him. She took a long rubber band and fastened it to the bookshelf over Alphonse’s bed. The other end she knotted to the dummy so that the rubber band was taut. Then Rosie sat down on her bed and watched how Alphonse again started with his babbling, opening his mouth a little. The dummy shot out! Alphonse immediately began to wail, but Rosie leafed through one of her books while her little brother clawed for his dummy. After some minutes he caught it. Unused to such effort, Alphonse closed his eyes to sleep but the dummy shot out of his mouth and the game began at the beginning.

Fascinated, Rosie watched how her little brother fell asleep again and again. The dummy shot out again and again and was reconquered again and again. In the meantime, Rosie could hear her mother hoovering at the floor below. Fine, for when Mrs. Pigjaw started hoovering it would take a while. Cleanliness was the most important thing for mother pig after all. Pigs are much better than their reputation. Rosie got herself a chocolate bar and watched the proceedings of little Alphonse joyfully.

“What are the odds that you will be quiet tonight, my little darling?” Jeeringly Rosie watched Alphonse fishing for his dummy. “What are the odds that you’ll never again sleep as well as tonight? Quite stressing, fishing for a dummy, isn’t it? I will listen to some tapes this evening. Don’t worry, you may listen, too, I’ll turn it a bit louder for you.”

Thus she went on for a while, until suddenly her mother called: “Rosie!”

Just at that moment the dummy shot out of the mouth again and Alphonse wailed. “Rosie, what are you doing to poor Alphonse?”

Quickly Rosie jumped from her bed, ran to the door and opened it.

“Nothing, Mummy, I just showed him a few pictures in my Barbie-book. Your shouting frightened him! Pity, Mummy, he had almost fallen asleep, poor boy!”

Mrs. Pigjaw had been halfway up the stairs but stopped now and whispered:

“O, I’m so sorry, Rosie-dear. I have to go shopping once more. Probably I’ll look in at Mrs. Poobird. Shall I buy something nice for you? Such a good babysitter earns a reward.”

Rosie thought that over. “Well, a box of chocolates wouldn’t be bad, a small one.”

Mrs. Pigjaw laughed softly.

“Well, I think I’ll find a small one. See you!” And finally she walked down the stairs.

In a flash Rosie was back on her bed and looked out of the window. He mother left. Umph, that had been a near thing. If Mummy was going to the silly Poobird-woman, that gossipy old hen, it would take lots of time until she was back home. She looked at her brother who had finally fallen asleep without his dummy.

Eh, that won’t work, my little darling, now it’s lessons! Every pupil not paying attention gets a wet washrag into his face. Nobody likes that, would you? Do think I love to do it?”

After Rosie came back from the bathroom with a wet washrag, it was also Alphonse’s time to wake up, and small children do not hold much with cold water.

“Why are you crying, my little one? Listen now, we’ll learn how to talk, so attend to me: Gran Elsie is stupid. Gran Elsie is stupid. Agatha stinks. Agatha stinks. – That’s easy, so let’s begin once more…”

And so Rosie spent her time, revenging every single nightly disturbance. She, after all, thought it to be mean that the little Pampers-stinker was allowed to be noisy at night and sleep during the day. O, if he could talk a little – at the best those words Rosie had taught him. Only when the whole family was together of course and they all could see what a mean lad sweet little Alphonse was. Would Gran Elsie and Aunt Agatha come again at all? Hopefully not, for both had given Rosie nothing but useless stuff. Copybooks and crayons, who needed that? Nice things like a bar of chocolate they never had given to her, quite aside and… Eh, why was her face suddenly wet? Had Alphonse the washrag…?

Rosie wiped her face and slowly it dawned to her that she had fallen asleep. Beside her Bertha sulked, collecting her things: “Darn it, they said the weather would be fine, but no! I think if I worked with the weather forecast…”

“Don’t talk that much, do help Rosie. She will not get awake!” Elfrida hurried them for the rain poured down. In that turmoil everybody tried to get his own things to quickly find protection under a nearby tree. When finally they were there, Jenny suddenly cried: “O dam', we’re under a tree!”

“So what? It doesn’t matter if it’s a tree or a grocer’s if only my pretty dress doesn’t get wet!” Bertha snapped.

Elfrida glared at her.

“Okay, your business if you want to get roasted, but have you seen the lightning over there?”

Bertha squinted and looked ahead.

“And you think that can harm us? This is a beech tree. Flee the oak tree, seek the beech is the saying. And that’s because beeches have very flat roots.”

Jenny rolled her eyes and explained: “Everybody knows or should know that high trees attract lightning. It doesn’t matter whether oak tree or beech. It’s a matter of water content, that attracts lightning! By the way, beeches have tap roots and they are not flat.”

 

Bertha looked embarrassed and mumbled that she knew, of course, but just had forgotten.

“Shall we talk that over all the day”, Bernie asked, “or shall we run to the old mine? For sure we can take shelter there.”

 

For a moment Elfrida and Daisy looked at each other. Then they nodded and started to run. The wind lashed and the rain poured down while the thunder grew louder and louder. They raced over the stony path, taking care anyhow not to fall down on the slippery ground. Bernie heard a bump and saw Bertha tumble down.

“My pretty dress, o my, how do I look! I can’t walk on that way!” Bernie stopped.

“Does your Ladyship wish for a general check-up? Please follow me to my repair workshop in the old mine!”

He stretched out his hand but Bertha did not want any help. Angrily she scrambled to her short pig legs but the next moment she was down again. This time she accepted Bernie’s help. By now the old mine came into sight. Dark and sinister it looked, while the thunder grew louder and the lightning more violent.

 


 

 

Chapter 2

The Sinister Old Mine

The last part of their way took the friends over a small hill to the foot of a mountain, they passed a few fir trees down to the entrance of the former mine. Bobble, Elfrida’s father, had often told them that as a small ottifant he had been inside, because his father had worked there. Bobble had also said that in those days a lift had gone down and nobody had really known how deep the pit was.

Some people said it reached to the centre of the Earth, some even said the pit ended in Australia. But of course that only were stories by which the adults wanted to boast. Bobble also said that his friend Fred, who had seen much of the world, said the pit lead to something sinister and had therefore been closed down. But none of the friends thought much about such fustian which only grown-ups made up.

The entrance was nailed with a lot of planks but wind and weather had left their traces. Many of the nails were rusty and some of the planks hang down loosely.

Daisy and Bernie tore away the planks and soon there was an opening big enough even for Rosie. Finally they were inside. It was dark and cold. They assembled in the front part of the mine. Here they were in safety. The lightning sometimes brightened the place so much that Bernie and his friends had to close their eyes. The thunder had grown loud enough to make the ground tremble.

What about going a little farther in, perhaps it’s more comfortable there”, Jenny suggested. “I’ve got my torch with me.” She switched it on and lit the back part of the entrance. A broad passage seemed to lead deeper into the mountain and when nobody objected they walked on. Outside the thunder was roaring. Rosie and Mary, who collected their things, once more looked out through the opening. About 30 metres away stood a mighty old oak tree. Suddenly everything was bathed in such glaring light that for a moment the cave became light as the day. The following thunder sounded like a crashing airplane. The mighty oak tree had vanished! Shrieking, the two girls ran after their friends.

What was that?” Mary breathlessly asked.

The lightning struck the large tree”, Jenny replied and added in a low voice: “Flee the high tree – I said so…”

Silent and cautiously the friends walked on into the old mine. Of course no one knew what to expect there, but it was clear to them that it was the only way to go. Nobody wanted to go back to the entrance, at least not while the thunderstorm lasted.

What happens if lightning strikes?” Rosie asked with her typical coarse voice.

Well”, Daisy replied, “lightning is electricity of high voltage. If such a power strikes on wood it’s so strong that the tree bursts and as electricity also is heat, it starts burning as well.”

Rosie cleared her throat: “The electricity?”

Nonsense, the wooden tree of course!” was Bertha’s annoyed answer. “You never listen. Remember when teacher told you to wet the sponge and to fetch new chalk? What did you do? Wetted the chalk and took the sponge to the caretaker. Teacher broke her fingernail when she wanted to write with that. Moreover you didn’t do your homework and the next day…”

Shsh… Be quiet, there is something!” Jenny paused. She switched on her torch. A few steps away there was a large wooden box and at its sides something like wire netting was fastened. Slowly, very slowly she walked on. The others followed hesitatingly.

It looks like an old elevator”, Bernie said. “For sure in former times it has been used to take down the miners to their work.”

Rosie tore at something like a rusty clamp. With a screech a door opened and when they all had overcome the moment of shock, Bertha grunted:

That’s like you, fumbling everything with your thick fingers. Because of you we will go to the devil one day.”

Rosie looked frightened.

You think the pit goes down as deep as that? Right to hell?”

Bertha rolled her eyes, started to say something but she kept quiet. Elfrida and Bernie meanwhile studied the old elevator. Inside was a crank and various push buttons, it looked very interesting. It did not take long until also the others had overcome their fright. Everybody wanted to take a look, so that they were tightly packed in the lift. Elfrida looked about her and somehow had the feeling that something was going to happen.

Elfrida was quite right. When as the last one Rosie had squeezed into the elevator, she leant against the door and the door shut with a bang. Elfrida felt the sweat in her neck. She jumped to the door and wanted to turn the handle, but nothing was there, no handle, no knob, nothing. Bertha said: “Probably the elevator only could be opened from the outside, for safety reasons. Not that stupid! Accidents could be avoided. If in those days there were such muppets as this pig, God knows what may have happened.”

But I only wanted… What I mean… My feet are hurting so much and I…”

You did what you did”, Daisy remarked. “Better let’s have a look how we get out of here. I’m certain the thunderstorm is over and we can go home.”

The hope to get back to Aubachtal lent them wings. Bernie and Susie searched the corners, Daisy and Elfrida the door, Jenny and Mary the floor, Rosie and Bertha quarrelled. About two hours later they all sat down exhaustedly on the floor.

This thing is built most solid, it surely should prevent a crash. But for us it means that we don’t get out of this prison!” Jenny shook her head in desperation and Elfrida whispered: “Not at the moment however.”

Elfrida sat down on the uncomfortable floor and thought things over. They were imprisoned here and did not know how to go on. But that did not mean anything, did it? They often had been in a situation which had looked hopeless. But this time it could be a long time before they were found because they had left their scheduled path.

How were their parents to find them? And if their parents or the police found them they perhaps would be starved for they had no supplies. The magic ring! A warm shiver crept over Elfrida’s back, but she immediately gave up the idea. How should the magic ring help them in here? Maybe the magic bottle, but the ring?

Elfrida played with the ring, until Daisy shouted: “Please, Elfrida, stop that. If you get invisible, I’ll be more frightened still.”

Sorry, I was in the clouds!” Elfrida left the ring alone. Her thoughts went back to the time when she got the magic ring.

 


 

 

Chapter 3

The Fairy of the Pond

 

It was quite a daft morning. Elfrida kicked her doll Dolly.

You get up first, I don’t feel like it.”

Oops, what ailed Elfrida? O yes, Aunt Odilia was to visit them and that meant stress.


 

Clean your room and put the things from the bathroom into the closet. This looks horrible! And clear away the stuff from the kitchen table!”

 

Elfrida knew her mother was going to say that. Cleaning up and shutting up – was that what kids were there for? Kids were made for playing, were they not? If only she had a little sister or brother, then everything would be easier. A little sister or better a little brother could get the blame for everything. Moreover as an older sister she would be the one to say who had to clean up.

 

Elfrida sighed and trotted to the bathroom sulkily. Rudy, her toy dachshund, got a kick which sent him to the doll’s house.

 

That’s for your silly grin!” she called after him. When she came into the bathroom her mother stood in front of the mirror and combed her hair.

 

Gertrude Bobble at her heart was glad that her little daughter had left her alone up to now because she easily felt disturbed when doing her hair.

 

Good morning," she said. "By the way, I’ve put the things from the kitchen table to the staircase. You can…”

 

The telephone rang. Elfrida sighed in relief, but for certain it was only a short delay.

 

Paul Bobble! Are you sitting on your ears? The phone’s ringing!” her mother shouted.

 

Downstairs bumping and swearing was to be heard. Obviously an accident had happened to Daddy Bobble. Elfrida listened, but could hear nothing. Then Daddy Bobble raced up the stairs.

 

That was Aunt Odilia”, he said. “She can’t come as she wrenched her neck. I’m sure she eavesdropped somewhere, ha ha!”

 

Bobble appeared quite happy and with good reason. It was no secret that Aunt Odilia just gave him hell. Bobble himself simply could not stand Odilia. After he had called her a nagging old owl at Aunt Agatha's wedding, Odilia took every opportunity to slander him.

 

Elfrida was satisfied, too. She went back to her room, fetched Dolly and Rudy and danced around. Unfortunately she did not see a small wooden cube and if you ever trod barefoot on a hard object, you know how it hurts. Elfrida shrieked and the ever-grinning Rudy was hurtled to the doll’s house a second time. He knocked off the front door. “Daddyyy!” Elfrida was horrified – her lovely doll’s house was damaged.

 

Bobble came running. “What’s the matter, Elfrida-dear. Why are you shrieking?”

 

Daddy, the door is damaged, will you please repair it?”

 

Bobble craned his neck and smiled.

 

Certainly, that is nothing for daddy, I will have done that in a flash…. Ahhhh, dammit, ouch!”

 

The wooden cube. As daddy Bobble wore no slippers and was a tiny bit heavy weighted, it hurt indeed. Groaning, Bobble hopped through the room, stumbled over Rudy and fell over the small wooden chair which collapsed at once.

 

O Daddy, if you are at it, could you please also mend the chair? But first please ring up Mrs. Petersen to ask whether Daisy has time today!”

 

Now Elfrida felt much better and went to dress.

 

A short time later she was on her way to Daisy. They all had been waiting for her and Rosie said:

 

We’re going to the Magic Forest, hurry up!”

 

Sorry”, Elfrida replied, “but I had to have a roll at least so that I won’t faint.” They all laughed, only Rosie shook her head.

 

One roll? That’s nothing. If I don’t have at least two…”

 

Shall we go now or discuss your eating habits?” Bertha asked pertly. Rosie wanted to answer, but Jenny just gripped her sleeve and dragged her along. They passed the bus stop and went down the path into the Magic Forest. At first nothing exciting happened until the children reached a pond. That is, a pond should be at that spot. That is, Jenny said that her map showed a pond there.

 

Well, a dry pond is nothing special”, Daisy said, “even if there are a few puddles. Come, let’s go on.”

 

She walked on with the two pigs. Susie, Mary, Bernie, and Norbert were not with them at that time for they even weren’t old enough for the kindergarten.

 

But Elfrida stayed behind and took a good look. She pressed Dolly to her breast and stepped to the almost dried out pond. She thought she heard a whispering voice calling. Without hesitation she put off her shoes, stuck Dolly into one of them and covered her with her stockings. Then she cautiously walked through the mud which once had been the ground of the pond.

 

Indeed, something moved there between the reed. Elfrida plucked herself up and went a few steps closer.

 

Help, I need help!” Elfrida was scared, but the next moment she ran over to the reed. The mud under her feet sounded as if she stepped on frogs, such sort of nois her steps made. There, now she could see it, somebody was lying right in the reed.

 

 

May I help?” Elfrida asked with a trembling voice. Now she could see who was lying there: A girl with long blond hair, a little older than herself.

 

Please help me, I need water”, the blond girl stammered.

 

I think, first of all you need a towel and something warm to dress”, Elfrida retorted.

 

No, no, water”, the girl groaned. “I’m living here, I’m the fairy of the pond, and the evil witch has conjured away all my water. Now I will die of thirst, for I need water to breath, as you need the air!”

 

Elfrida was shaken and when she looked around she saw Daisy and Jenny who came back to look for their friend.

 

We’ve got to get water immediately, otherwise the fairy of the pond will die!”

 

But how, there is nowhere water around here”, Jenny cried. “Only at the creek, but that is far off.”

 

Elfrida considered: “The witch house is not far off, she certainly has water. We must go there. No other possibility to save the fairy of the pond.”

 

Daisy and Jenny stood hesitantly, they did not dare to go. Elfrida thought her heart was going to burst, so excited was she.

 

We’ve got to do something or she’ll die. I’ll try it on my own!”

 

Wait!” the fairy of the pond said. “Take this ring and put it to your left hand. If you turn it to the right twice, you’ll get invisible and the nasty witch cannot see you.”

 

Elfrida took the ring, put it to her left hand and just wanted to go, when the fairy of the pond stopped her once more: “Wait, what is your name?”

 

I’m Elfrida, and these are Daisy, Jenny, Rosie, and Bertha.”

 

Thank you, Elfrida, even if you should not succeed. Remember that Irina, the fairy of the pond, always will be grateful to you.”

 

Elfrida ran as fast as she could manage barefoot. Again and again she cried out in pain when she treaded on spiky stones or twigs. Soon she reached the witch house, which stood on a clearance in the centre of the forest. It looked sinister. Close by the morbid croak of a crow could be heard, when Elfrida turned the ring to the right twice. Now she could only pray that she really was invisible. She approached the door of the witch house. She was directly in front of it, when suddenly the door was opened and the witch came out with a basket in her hand. Elfrida froze when the nasty old witch was facing her.

 

I’m getting old”, the witch said. “I really forgot the toadstools for the toad soup. Well, well, I hope I have not far to go to find some.”

 

The witch passed her so closely that Elfrida smelled the stink of mould and dirt. She waited a few minutes before she entered the witch house. When he was inside, she hurried to the water tap and turned it wide on. It did not take long and the water splashed over the sink to the floor and to the door. From there it ran into the forest.

 

Elfrida snatched a bucket which stood in a corner. She filled it with water and raced back to the pond. She handed the bucket to Jenny and fell down exhaustedly. While Jenny gave the water to Irina the fairy of the pond, Daisy looked after Elfrida.

 

Quick”, Elfrida gasped, “take a thick stick and make a sluice from the pond to the direction of the witch house. If I’m right, the water will be here soon.”

 

Daisy did not ask, but just did what her friend told her. And really, a few minutes later, the water from the tap of the witch house reached the pond. Slowly the pond filled with water again. Now the girls only had to wait until it was filled. They all knew that the witch would return soon and see what had happened. She certainly would close the tap. Yes, by and by less and less water came. Elfrida bucked herself up. She took a thick stick, turned the ring twice to the right and waited. Daisy, Jenny and Irina were hidden, while the invisible Elfrida was waiting. Nothing was to be seen of Rosie and Bertha, they had hidden in the forest. It did not take long before the loud scolding of the old witch was to be heard. The rabbits, squirrels and all animals of the forest ran as fast as they could because there is nothing worse than an infuriated witch. When she reached the pond, she shrieked in rage:

 

Don’t you believe you'll get away with this. I will punish you once and for all!”

 

She took her magic wand and pointed it at the fairy of the pond. But then something most unexpected happened: The wand hurtled out of her hand and the witch shrieked. The next moment she got such a kick in her bum that she tumbled into the mud. She hardly had got up, when the next hits came. The witch howled and ran for her life.

 

She won’t be back for some time”, Elfrida said. “Perhaps she doesn’t dare to come here any longer, what do you think, Irina?”

 

For the time being I will have no trouble with her. You must know that I am a white fairy and the witch of course does not like that. But from this day on you can count on me. Elfrida, please do keep the magic ring as a reward.”

 

For a long time the four of them sat together, and when it got dark, Elfrida and her girlfriends left the Magic Forest.

 

Elfrida sighed and stood up. All this happened some years back, but she never would be separated from the ring. However, now the ring seemed to be no help. She and her friends had not idea how to get out of the locked elevator in the mine.

 

 


 

 

Chapter 4

 

Down to a Strange World

 


I’m hungry”, Rosie lamented, but by now nobody wanted to answer her. Desperately the hungry pig searched her pockets, but without success. Like always when she felt bored, Rosie started to fumble some object. She looked at the cable winch which was at the outside of the elevator. A little beneath it was a crank which she could not reach. What might the wedge beside it be good for?

 

Rosie pulled at it and the wedge moved a little. She pulled on and when Bernie and Susie shouted “Stop that, Rosie, or we’ll crash down!” it was already too late. The wedge bumped to the floor, slipped through the wire netting and fell down deep into the darkness. Now the lift began to move. First only a few centimetres, then there was no stopping. The lift raced downwards. The friends shrieked so loud that their voices drowned the squealing of the elevator. It fell and fell, bumped left and right against the walls. On and on the wild race went and none of them believed ever to see his home again. Then suddenly the lift lost speed. A loud gritting was to be heard.

 

The pit seems to narrow”, Bernie shouted. “Perhaps we are lucky.”

 

And if we have good luck”, Bertha shouted back, “it will be bad luck for Rosie. I’ll drag at her pig’s ears and make a knot around her fumble fingers with them so that she never will do mischief again.”

 

The elevator really slowed down, but now a new danger came up. Because of the enormous friction of the lift at the rock, the outer walls of the lift took fire. So our friends now would not be smashed to the ground, but if they could not get out of their prison soon, they would wretchedly burn.

 

They still slowed down, but there was much smoke and it became hotter and hotter in the lift. Each of them held some cloth or handkerchief to his mouth. The smoke was so thick that they hardly could breath. Mary was the first one to faint, then Susie, then Bernie and the two pigs. Suddenly the elevator stopped with a jar. Daisy, Elfrida and Jenny threw themselves against the lift door. When they tried for the third time they succeeded. With a loud clatter the door cashed down and they hurried out. When they could breath again, they ran back to the lift and dragged their unconscious friends.

 

When they had put out the fire with sand, they looked about them. It was cold and wet. A greenish light seemed to be all around them. “I’m frightened. It’s spooky here, I want to go home”, Rosie wailed, and as an exception Bertha agreed with her.

 

We are all lost, nobody will find us.”

 

Nonsense”, Elfrida replied, “there will be some way out. There certainly is an underground cave system.”

 

You mean there is something like the police down here?”

 

Lord, Rosie, of course not. Cave system means that there must be passages.”

 

But without traffic signs?”

 

You bet.”

 

Well, I might not be too clever, but how are we to get out here without traffic signs?”

 

You might use your brain for a change”, Jenny remarked. “For instance the draught down here may help us.”

 

Rosie did not give in. “Draught is no traffic sign, so what are you up to?”

 

If there is a draught, the air somehow moves, eh?”

 

That’s true, Jenny.”

 

Fine, so the air found a way out?”

 

That’s true, too.”

 

Jenny breathed a sigh of relief. “So we follow the draught and then we’ll get out here. Got that?”

 

If we’re not starved until then.”

 

If we stand here blabbing any longer, that may happen indeed”, Daisy said. “We should get gone.”

 

The children decided to take the way to the right. It seemed to lead a little upwards. It was hard going because they were tired and exhausted, and first of all very hungry. Moreover the passage was wet and slippery but Jenny took this for a good sign as it was an indication for water.

 

The greenish light seemed to fade a little, but nobody commented that. On the one hand because no one had any idea where it came from, on the other hand because they all were afraid it might be something sinister. Sometimes you pretend that something does not exist if you are afraid of it. However, more often than not this is the wrong thing to do. Daisy was the first one to notice the danger.

 

Whoops, look at, there’s an animal or something!”

 

Spellbound, their eyes followed the beam of Jenny’s torch. Some distance ahead, where the passage made a bend, something sinister was sitting. An animal like a giant lizard looked at them with glistening eyes.

 

Perhaps it’s harmless”, Mary whispered, but Rosie gasped: “For being harmless he’s got damned long, pointed teeth. Better let’s run away!”

 

They all paused undecidedly and watched helplessly how this dragon-like beast approached them step by thudding step.

 

If we run away he knows that we’re afraid of him, but he doesn’t seem to feel too confident”, Jenny whispered and held to her torch. Her hand was trembling and she was afraid to drop the torch. That would finish them.

 

Hand me the torch”, Elfrida suddenly said. “Bernie, stay as you are!”

 

Elfrida took the torch and positioned herself behind Bernie. She held the lamp to Bernie's back so that his shadow fell on the path of the beast. Now it paused and threateningly moved his head to and fro. In the middle of his forehead several spikes were clearly to be seen. Then it turned and disappeared. Bernie was the first one to speak.

 

Now I understand. To the dragon my shadow appeared really large and he thought I’m much bigger than him. So he was frightened.”

 

I hope he won’t be back too soon. Let’s walk into the other direction quickly.”

 

The others agreed with Daisy and they took the opposite direction. Now the passage led downwards, but they were not as fast as they hoped, for if someone slipped here, it was going to be a glissade. They after all did not know whether another dragon was sitting there.

 

The descent was dangerous. Everyone walked very cautiously but after a time they managed the unfamiliar ground better.

 

I would not have believed any living being to exist down here”, Susie began.

 

And why not?” Jenny said who knew much about animals and was the only one to understand bird-language. “There are animals living so deep in the oceans that they never see daylight. The water pressure of course is enormous and it’s pitch dark. No human being could live there, but these fishes do.”

 

You mean that they never see their parents? But that’s terrible!”

 

O Rosie, of course they can see. They have their own electric field by which they are radiating and so they make their own light.”

 

Silently they walked on and wondered what kinds of danger might wait for them. If there were animals in the ocean which did not mind eternal darkness, what could be possible deep down underground?

 

 

 

 

 

 


Chapter 5

 

An Unexpected Meeting

 

 

 

They had been walking for hours when slowly the passage became wider. There feet grew heavier and heavier and it seemed to get hotter and hotter. A strange smell was in the air. From somewhere they heard odd noises. It sounded like the whirring of a pylon. The cave in front of them was as large as the market place of Aubachtal.

 

Oops!” Rosie uttered. “Whereabouts are we?”

 

Certainly not at some cosy holiday place”, Jenny replied. “Look, that big rock spur over there looks right like a giant skull!”

 

They all stared at the rock spur with a mixture of fright and curiosity. In its centre seemed to be an entrance.

 

Shan’t we better go back?” Rose asked in a trembling voice.

 

Back to the dragon? Pray you, I don’t want to have anything to do with that monster. For sure his breath smells nasty”, Bertha mocked. Slowly Elfrida walked on. Daisy and Jenny followed her.

 

A bluish light shone through the entrance in the rock spur and this had aroused Elfrida’s curiosity. When she stepped into the opening, she bounced back.

 

Ouch!” she groaned and Jenny was with her immediately.

 

What happened?”

 

I bumped against something, but I can’t see anything!”

 

It seems to be an invisible power field or suchlike. For sure the funny noise is the voltage”, Bernie said and cautiously approached the invisible border. Now he could look into a second cave which was behind the entrance. First he jerked back, but then curiosity won. There were two odd little creatures in the cave who tinkered at some device.

 

Let's go and talk this over before they discover us”, Daisy proposed. The friends walked back a short distance and set down on the cold rocky ground.

 

We should ask them if they’ve got something to eat. They will be happy to invite us for dinner”, Rosie hopefully said.

 

What if they are hungry, too, and we are to their taste?” Bertha snapped. “Your greediness once will be your doomsday Look at me. I am very frugal, but you…”

 

Shut up!” Elfrida said. “This way we cannot think things over. Well, it’s like this: We can’t go back, not without a weapon, however. The dragon bars our way. We can’t get ahead, there’s this invisible power field. Anybody any idea?”

 


 

We are indeed”, Mona agreed. “But together we’ll make it, won’t we?”

 

Do we have to pass the dragon, Mona?”

 

So it seems, because the lift is upstairs.”

 

It isn’t any longer”, Rosie said in a low voice and Mona excitedly asked:

 

So why don’t we go back with it?”

 

Rosie reddened: “Eh, Mona, that’s not possible, the lift is – eh – burnt out.”

 

Burnt out? Odd. Then we’ll have to climb up.”

 

Now they discussed for a long time how this should be done. Nobody had an idea how to pass the dragon. Jenny knew a lot about animals, but not very much about dragons.

 

On what does the dragon feed down here in the cave?”

 

Well”, Mona said, “as far as we know, he eats the moss from the walls.”

 

O, that’s the explanation why the walls close to the elevator are not as green as here.”

 

I’ve got it”, Elfrida suddenly shouted. “We have to lure him away. We’ll collect masses of moss and put it into the cave of Mona and Moyo. Of course we switch off the power field. Then we’ll hide in the crevices. When he comes for a meal, we’ll switch on the power field and he’s captured. Then the lift has to be repaired. We’ve got the duplicator and can produce spare parts.”

 

Everyone was enthusiastic and they immediately started to scratch the moss off the walls. It was a laborious work, but the hope to get out of the cave lent them strength. It took the whole day. Although down here there was no sun, they felt their inner clock which every being has. So it did not take long until they all retreated into the side cave and slept.

 

Daisy was the first one to notice that something was wrong. Half the cave was filled with chocolate bars.

 

I can’t switch off this silly machine, I don’t know how it works!” wailed Rosie who stood beside the duplicator.

 

That can’t be true! Mona, Moyo, we need your help, wake up!” Daisy shouted.

 

Moyo was the first to understand, ran to the machine, pressed some buttons and looked at the mess. “And who is to eat all that?” he asked.

 

Perhaps the dragon”, Rosie murmured and Elfrida cried:

 

That’s it! I’m sure he has his fill of moss! All right, stop scratching off the moss. I’m not keen on it anyhow, my fingernails are quite gone already. And why didn’t we take the duplicator for the moss?”

 

Because it doesn’t work with living beings”, Mona explained. “Plants are life after all.”

 

Yesterday’s moss was now piled up together with the chocolate bars. Then Elfrida, Jenny and Bernie took as much moss as they could carry and walked in the direction of the lift. There they threw the moss into the dark passage to lure in the dragon. The others had already hidden between the rocks. Now they had to wait. Elfrida, Jenny and Bernie put some of the chocolate bars from the passage up to the small cave behind the power field. Then they hid, too. Here they were safe, for the thick head of the dragon could not reach them. The time of waiting was hardly bearable and their nerves were strung to breaking point. One hour after the other passed, nobody dared to say a word. Sometimes they thought the dragon was coming round the corner, but each time their nerves had played a trick on them. But then it happened: Slowly the dragon moved round the corner. He sniffed the ground and ate one chocolate bar after the other. Step by step he approached the switched off power field. Then it happened. Rosie who had suppressed a sneeze for quite a while, could not longer hold it back.

 

Achoo! Ouch!” heard her because she bumped her head at the rock when sneezing. Hissing dangerously, the monster slowly approached the hiding place of the poor pig. With his big claws he tried to widen the fissure to get at Rosie. More and more rock crumbled off and the claws came closer and closer to their prey. Her friends had to watch the progress of the monster helplessly. When Bernie just searched his pockets for some firecrackers, something unexpected happened: the gigantic dragon suddenly howled, turned and ran into the trap. The next moment Mona and Moyo had activated the power field and the monster was imprisoned. Then they all ran over to Rosie, who was the only one still sitting in her hiding place and trembled. Bertha helped her out and asked in a relieved voice: “What was the matter with that dragon?”

 

 Rosie did not answer but looked ashamed to her feet. Then Bertha understood. “I think I know it. Poor dragon”, she said, wrinkled her nose and took a few steps back. With a very red head Rosie scrambled out and went over to her rucksack to put on clean clothes.

 

Did she…”, Bernie began.

 

Yes”, Bertha replied, “she poohed her pants. As I said – poor dragon. That stink’s too much for any pig!”

 

In the meantime the dragon had settled down comfortably and enjoyed a big meal. Our friends collected their belongings and walked back to the lift. Now Mona and Moyo showed how well they knew technical matters. After a few hours the elevator was repaired. But how were they to get up? First they tore at the rope, but the lift only moved a tiny bit upwards. Then Bernie had an idea: “How about using the power field as drive?”

 

The others did not understand Bernie, so he explained: “If we mount the power field generator in the lift and switch it on, the lift is pressed upward, you see?”

 

Daisy shook her head.

 

A few metres perhaps, but not more. That’s useless.”

 

Bernie persisted.

 

Now it’s Mona’s and Moyo’s turn. Somehow they have to amplify the power field.”

 

That might work”, Mona said happily. “We amplify the power field, the lift with the generator will be pressed upwards. I hope the batteries have enough power. Let’s start immediately!”

 

Mona began to adjust something at the generator. Moyo assisted her and then carried the generator to the lift. Now he drilled a hole into the floor of the lift and placed the power field generator so that the ray canon aimed through the hole. When all had boarded the lift, Mona cautiously switched on the unit.

 

We’ll start slowly, otherwise we’d dart through the pit too fast”, she explained. Cautiously she turned several knobs and the elevator started to move upwards. “It works, hold on!” Mona shouted and pressed several buttons. When the lift glided upwards, they all cheered loudly. Only a few metres were to go, when the lift slowed down.

 

What’s the matter, are we too heavy?” Elfrida asked.

 

No, the weight is not important, but the power is. I’m afraid the batteries are empty, we’ll go back down. What a pity, we almost made it.”

 

Mona was close to tears and the others looked at her terrified. By now the elevator had come to a standstill and very slowly sank down again. Crestfallen, they all looked up. Such a short distance to their goal! Freedom had be in sight and now they had to go back into the dark cave with the dangerous dragon. Desperately Elfrida thought of a way out, while Rosie in her fright nibbled at her fingernails.

 

You know that I detest nibbling”, Bertha scolded. “So stop it.”

 

But I’m so frightened in the darkness!” Rosie yammered.

 

Then lend the torch from Jenny, but stop this silly nibbling!”

 

Why, of course, the torch! Elfrida snatched it from Jenny and was not interested in her piqued glance. She took out the battery and asked Mona: “How about this?”

 

Mona immediately understood, took the battery and sat down beside the generator. One, two adjustments and the lift changed direction. Now it went upwards again. Nobody cheered for they only could hope that the battery had enough power to take them to the exit.

 

Do all help here”, Daisy said and gripped the rope. “We’ll tear ourselves up!” Suddenly the lift jerked and stood still.

 

We made it!” Mona cried. “Quick, fasten the rope somewhere, so that the lift doesn’t crash down!”

Hastily Jenny and Bernie fastened the rope, while Elfrida and Daisy opened the door. They were in safety!

 


 

 

Chapter 6

 

Professor Hasty

 

 

 

Many hours later they sat together in Elfrida’s room. When they all had phoned their parents and told them about the terrible thunderstorm, they felt better. Of course nobody told about the ecxiting adventure they had had. It was just that Mr. Bobble noticed two children which up to now he never had seen.

 

Daddy, you won’t understand that”, Elfrida said. “You don’t believe in witches and the like.”

 

Well”, Bobble replied, “if I think of Aunt Odilia, I’m not that sure. But I will get angry if you don’t tell me where your new friends are from.”

 

So Elfrida told the whole story how they met Mona and Moyo. She told him how they had travelled with a space ship to the planet Zeta after Jenny had picked up emergency signals from Mona and Moyo with her new telescope. The planet had been attacked by monsters, but thanks to Bernie’s firecrackers they had finally driven off the monsters.

 

Fustian”, Bobble muttered and went over to his TV-chair. “Such things do not exist. I am an man standing with both legs firm on the ground and looking straight forward. I do not believe in such stupid… Aaaaah!”

 

There was a tremendous thud because Bobble had stumbled over the TV-chair. He crashed onto the table and banged his trunk into the ashtray. When he got up, his trunk was decorated with fags.

 

Ftop fat filly laughing”, Bobble said and spit out some of the fags. “Better tell me the truth. I want to know who your new friends really are!”

 

Okay”, Elfrida sighed. “They’re from South America and spend their holiday here.”

 

You see”, Bobble grumbled and brushed ash from his trunk. “Why can’t you say so in the first place?”

 

Daddy”, Elfrida asked, “may my new friends stay overnight?”

 

Bobble thought that over. “But only until Monday, then they have to leave.”

 

Thanks, Daddy, longer will not be necessary.”

 

Elfrida ran from the sitting room back to her chamber. Sometimes grown-ups really have no imagination, she thought. Everything always has to be right and common sense - how boring. When Elfrida and the others had discussed what to do next, it was time to sleep. Tomorrow morning they would visit Professor Hasty. While the others went home, Mona and Moyo prepared their place for the night. Tired to death they fell into their beds and slept at once.

 


 

 Next morning they all met at the Magic Forest bus stop as agreed. The bus driver was surprised because he did not know the two new children. At the third station they got off and walked towards the beach. From the distance they could already see smoke coming out of the upper window of the lighthouse.

 

Hurry up!” Jenny shouted. “Something happened there!”

 

The friends ran as fast as they could manage in the deep sand. Jenny was the first one at the door of the high tower and saw with relief that it was not locked. Closely followed by Elfrida, Daisy, and Bernie she reached the rooms of the professor. They were full of smoke and Bernie opened the windows. When the air became clearer they saw the professor sitting in his working chair. He was wearing a funny black mask.

 

Professor Hasty, what’s the matter? You okay?”

 

Daisy tore the mask from his face and the professor gasped for breath.

 

Th-th-thank you, th-th-that w-w-was quite a near thing.”

 

What shall be the outcome of that?” Bertha panted, who now entered the sitting room together with Susie and Mary. “As far as I can see, something terrible.”

 

A t-test, only a t-test, I w-wanted to t-test a new breathing mask for the f-fire brigade”, the professor stammered. “B-b-but somehow it d-does not really w-work.”

 

Slowly he seemed to calm down, but then he saw Mona and Moyo. Before he could get excited again, Elfrida told him the whole story. For a long time now he sat on this chair and turned this over in his mind.

 

You w-want to go home, w-won’t you?” he asked.

 

O yes, Mr. Hasty”, said Mona, who could not pronounce the word ‘professor’. “Can you help us?”

 

Eh, w-well, we n-need a space ship, but that’s no p-problem. If I begin at once, w-we can start s-soon. The old space ship has to be t-tested and refuelled.”

 

I’ll help you with it”, Bernie said, and the professor nodded.

 

So do I”, Rosie cried. The professor shook his head and they all shouted: “Not you!”

 

We’d better go home and pack some important things. Later on we’ll meet here again.”

 

Everybody agreed with Daisy, and so they went home to pack the necessary things for their journey.

 

While Mona and Moyo were packing, Elfrida said to Dolly the doll: “You stay here, you are much too small!” Then she took the magic ring and the magic bottle, and they walked to the bus stop again. They were the last ones at the lighthouse. Even Rosie was already there chewing chocolate.

 

And wipe your fingers before entering the space ship”, Bertha grumped. “I have no mind to fly through space in a dirty dustbin.”

 

You may stay here, then I need not listen to your nagging!”

 

Rosie, Rosie, you have to learn to keep your things in order, because…”

 

Now do stop quarrelling, or you’ll both stay here”, Elfrida butt in. “We must stick together, because we don’t know what kinds of danger are expecting us. Only think of the planet Trion monsters!”

 

Nobody said a word, but everybody thought of the horrible monsters. Would they be able to help Mona and Moyo? The professor checked his instruments, then they started. Slowly the heavy space ship took off into the sky. Minute by minute it became faster. Due to the heightening speed the friends were pressed back into their seats and hardly could breath. The engines roared so that talking was impossible anyway.

 

It will be better in a moment”, the professor shouted over the noise. “If we left the gravitation of Earth, it will be all right.”

 

When this happened, it was suddenly very silent and they all felt light as feathers.

 

May I eat something now?” Rosie asked and opened her safety belt. “I’m starving.”

 

No p-problem”, the professor replied. “But you must hold to something if you g-get up.”

 

Like so often, the hungry pig only could think of her munchies and did not listen to the last words of the professor. Briskly Rosie got out of her seat, took off and hung under the ceiling of the space ship.

 

Professor, help, I want to get down!”

 

They all laughed when Rosie hung in the air, pedalling.

 

Shall I hand up your chocolate?” Bertha jeered. “But take care. If you want to mess about here, everything gets flying.”

 

Rosie had totally forgotten that everything is weightless in space. Of course, there was no more gravitation. The weightless Rosie rowed with her arms, but by that she only bumped against a wall with her head.

 


 I can’t stand that wailing any longer”, Bernie said, took a belt und shouted: “Hold at the end of the belt, Rosie.” When she did so, Bernie slowly dragged her back to the floor.

 

We are approaching S-Saturn”, Prof. Hasty remarked. “Do you see the ring around the planet? It consists of ice and dust. The whole planet is covered by ice.”

 

It must be piggish cold there”, Bernie whispered, and Bertha looked at him reproachfully.

 

Will you please tell me what you mean by that?” she haughtily asked.

 

Well, just that’s it dam’ cold.”

 

Dam’ piggish cold, yes?” Bertha eyes glazed at Bernie.

 

Whatsoever”, Elfrida tried to calm her down. “Let’s better fly on.”

 

Y-yes, that’s exactly what w-we do”, the professor said. “In a few minutes we’ll approach the planet Zeta. P-please fasten your seat belts and sit down.”

 

You mean, sit down and fasten your seat belts?” Bertha asked.

 

He said so, didn’t he?” Rosie snapped.

 

No, he first said fasten belts and then sit down.”

 

So what’s the problem, Bertha?”

 

Well, dear Rosie, if I first fasten my seat belt, I can’t sit down because my seat belt is fastened, while if I first sit down…”

 

Shut up!” This was too silly for Jenny. “No do sit down, you buckles!”

 

And then buckle the belts?”

 

Shut up, Rosie!”

 

Finally all the friends had fastened their seat belts and the space ship entered the orbit.

 

Now we are in the orbit”, the professor announced and studied the monitor.

 

Are we in a roundabout now?”

 

Not exactly, Rosie, that just m-means, we are c-circling the p-planet within its g-gravitation. P-perhaps you notice that you f-feel heavier again.”

 

Yes, my arms do and I in all feel heavier.”

 

Small wonder, Rosie, after all the things you’ve stuffed yourself with”, Susie grinned.

 

The professor still watched the monitor. He looked for a suitable landing spot. It was clear that they had to avoid the monsters. After a long time the space ship suddenly turned and the professor approached to land.

 

Why do we fly backwards?” Mary wondered, and Bernie replied:

 

Because we want to touch down. If we approach the planet in a forward position, we are so fast that we would crash to the ground. To slow down we turn the ship and fly with the drive jets forward with very little push. If you fly with a rocket and accelerate less and less, then you’ll slowly return back to the ground.”

 

By now the ship approached the ground, and suddenly the professor shouted: “Hold fast!”

 

There was a hefty thud and they had touched down. After recovering for a moment, they all got up and ran to the windows. Nothing was to be seen, it was dark.

 

It’s in the middle of the night”, Elfrida shouted. “That’s much too dangerous. Professor, we have to take off again at once.”

 

No, no”, the professor laughed, “that’s only the d-dust dispersed by the engines. In a few m-minutes you can see again.”

 

Professor Hasty was right. Soon the friends had the well known view over Zeta: desert and sand as far as they could see.

 

Nothing much has changed here”, Elfrida stated. “What is so special at this giant sandbox?”

 

Water is rare on the planets. On our planet we’ve got plenty, but it is a few meters underground and that’s what the monsters are here for”, Mona explained.

 

But if the monsters discover us?”

 

Don’t worry”, Professor Hasty replied. “I developed a monster-alarm. I will switch it on in a moment, and if there’s a monster closer to us than two kilometres, the unit will give alarm.”

 

How far are two kilometres?” Bernie wanted to know.

 

Well, those lame monsters need about half an hour for two k-kilometres, time enough for t-take-off. But I’ll now switch on the monster-alarm.”

 

The professor took out a unit with an antenna, pulled the antenna out and pressed a button. Immediately a shrill alarm sounded and the professor paled.

 

My goodness, monsters are close. I try to locate them.”

 

He turned some knobs, shook his head and tried again. He moved the antenna a little, pressed a few other buttons, then he asked Rosie and Bertha to go into the next room. When the two pigs were gone, he again pressed some buttons and said: “Aha! Rosie and Bertha, you m-may came back!”

 

They came in and the professor again pressed a button. For a second time the unit gave a shrill noise.

 

Okay, I th-think I’ve found it.”

 

Bertha went straight to Professor Hasty and looked at him angrily: “Professor Hasty, will you please tell me what I am to think about this?”

 

N-nothing, I m-must r-readjust the unit, because… eh…”

 

Because what?” Bertha stood right in front of the timid professor.

 

Eh, well, because the monster-alarm also reacts… How shall I put it?”

 

To pigs?!”

 

Yes, I’m sorry.”

 

The answer of the professor was drowned in the laughter of the others. Elfrida, Daisy, Jenny, Susie, Mary, and Bernie rolled on the floor and cackled. Mona and Moyo grinned.

 

For the rest of the day Bertha and Rosie did no longer speak with the professor. However, when it was time to sleep everyone looked for a cosy corner in the space ship. It goes without saying that the two pigs had their bedding as far as possible from the professor. They talked a lot about this and that and of how the monsters could be driven out, but one after the other fell asleep. Only Elfrida still was awake. Just for safety she once more searched her luggage. Yes, everything was there: the magic ring and the magic bottle. She wondered whether the magic bottle would function on a far away planet. Elfrida’s thoughts drifted back to a time when she could neither read nor write. How had it happened that she came by the magic bottle?

 


 

 

Chapter 7

How Elfrida found the Magic Bottle

 

 

Suddenly Elfrida remembered everything clearly. It was one of those days when you wake up and think the world is yours. The sun was shining brightly from the blue sky and the whole day just waited for new adventures. It was the first day of summer vacations and today she was going to meet with her new girlfriends. Daisy Peterson, whom she had already known in the preschool, had said something about a “Magic Forest” and Elfrida and her best friend Jenny Rymers did not want to miss that. Of late Jenny had been quite annoying. Only yesterday she had told Elfrida how daft it was to have a little sister.

 

You know”, she said, “a little sister really is a pest! All the time she tails after you. Okay, my mother says, little Julia only does that because she thinks her big sister super-duper. But she apes me in everything! She even tries to put on my dresses and shoes. And I always get the blame, because she is so small and such a dear – and she is good for nothing!”

 

Elfrida was glad to have a little brother. Bruno did not trail after her at all. He also did not put on her gear. He actually did nothing. He only slobbered, but he could do that for hours.

 

Well, he had to be thoroughly trained. Last week he had already shown a fine trend when during a boring family meeting he had crawled under the tabled and knotted the shoelaces of all visitors together. He was really good at that. Elfrida grinned when she remembered the moment everybody wanted to get up to go home. She never had seen such a lot of crashed dishes in one place. Aunt Odilia of course had blamed Daddy Bobble, but he had really been unlucky to get into the hot coffee with his trunk. Odilia’s dress with the pink frills and the embroidered roses had been completely ruined and when she blamed Bobble he took a slice of custard pie and wanted to throw it at Aunt Odilia. Bad luck that he slipped on some apple tart and hit Granny Elsie. It had taken quite some time to find Granny’s false teeth. As mentioned before, Bruno had talents.

 

Well, there you are at last”, Daisy grumbled when Elfrida and Jenny reached the bus stop near Crow Forest. “I’ve already got a cramp in my feet.”

 

Oh, we just slugged about our little brothers and sisters”, Jenny laughed. “Sometimes they’re really daft, you know.”

 

You tell me! Little brothers and sisters are no problem, but sod a big brother!” Daisy nodded and they slowly walked into the forest.

 

Why that? It must be great to have an older brother. He keeps you out of trouble.” Elfrida had her own ideas about that, but Daisy by no means agreed.

 

Great? Don’t you believe that. He for ever will be the big boss and in the right. For ever he tells me horror stories and if I’m frightened, he laughs at me.”

 

By now they had walked deeper into the forest and were on paths they had never walked before. The trees were like giants and every now and then something cracked in the shrubs. The sun had hidden behind some clouds so that all around them it was rather dark. “Quite spooky”, Jenny said. “Some people also call this the Magic Forest.”

 

Silently they walked on, but when they passed some fir trees Jenny was the first one to notice something.

 

Do you hear that? I mean, do you hear it not? The birds are no longer singing!”

 

Let’s better go back”, Daisy proposed.

 

The others agreed, but which was the way back? It was the first time that they had walked so deep into the forest. Even Daisy did not longer know where they were.

 

Shsh, just stay where you are and be quiet”, Jenny suddenly said, “I can hear some birds.”

 

They craned their necks and listened to the birds.

 

They say that they are afraid and want to leave the forest. Now they’ve flown away.”

 

Daisy’s eyes became bigger and bigger.

 

You understand the bird-language?”

 

Yes, when I was a baby I often was in the pram in my parent’s garden. First I only understood a little, but later I could talk with the birds. Only crows are difficult. They’re talking so fast and they mumble.”

 

But what shall we do now?” Elfrida was back at their problem. “We don’t know the way. Over there seems to be a much walked path. Shall we try it?”

 

The others did not object and so they followed the path because even a narrow path has to lead somewhere. So they struggled through thorny bushes and rough terrain until they reached a clearance. On this clearance a small house with a garden stood. The garden was quite a wilderness and on the roof some tiles were missing. The windows had not been cleaned for a long time, but somebody must be living there because smoke came out of the chimney.

 

That’s it!” Daisy cheered. “We are rescued!”

 

Or we aren’t”, Elfrida objected. “Somehow I don’t like this.”

 

A crow was croaking nearby. Daisy and Elfrida looked at Jenny.

 

Jenny shrugged. “As I said, crows talk fast and mumble, but I think she only laughed.”

 

 While the three friends were still standing undecidedly on the clearance, the front door of the house opened. An old woman came out. She wore a long, dark dress, her grey hairs looked unkempt and some of her teeth were missing. The girls were paralysed with shock, but the old woman welcomed them in a friendly voice: “Ah, visitors, that is nice. Come in for a cup of cocoa! Do come in, I do not bite, he he!”

 

Daisy went first, then Jenny, and Elfrida was the last one. They really did not feel all the thing, but the old woman appeared to be harmless. Moreover hot cocoa was exactly what they needed for it was rather cold by now. So the girls had not to be further invited but as far as possible made themselves comfortable in the small kitchen. The chairs certainly had seen better days. When drinking the cocoa Elfrida felt that the chair would collapse any moment. She was not very surprised when it really did. That is, when she collapsed from the chair. She did not see that Daisy and Jenny collapsed as well.

 

When they woke up, it was dark. Elfrida tried to remember what had happened. The cocoa! The old woman must needs have mixed something into it. But why? Elfrida rubbed her aching head and tried to think. Why should that kind old woman want to poison them, except she was a… Elfrida swallowed and was wide awake. Yes, a witch, but that was impossible. Witches only existed in fairy tales.

 

A witch”, she whispered.

 

What did you say? A fridge? Where is it?”

 

Jenny was also awake now and Daisy moved.

 

Witch, I said, and moreover we are trapped.”

 

Suddenly also her two friends were wide awake and looked about them. They were lying on a wooden floor where obviously woodworms were living. It was full of small holes and in several places rotten. Behind them was a timber wall. High above them was a small window which let in only very little light. The other three sides of their prison consisted of thick iron rods. They were imprisoned in a cage.

 

What were they to do now? Elfrida discovered that she did not bring along her doll Dolly. Terrible, to whom should she hold now?

 

We somehow have to get out here.” Elfrida suddenly was very determined. “Let’s take a close look at this cage.”

 

After a while they gave up and sat down on the floor side by side. Jenny was the first to break the silence.

 

The iron bars don’t give way and the wall is too thick. And forget the window. It’s too small and we don’t reach it.”

 

What about the floor, can’t we prise the wood?”

 

That’s a possibility, Elfrida. Come on, let’s try it before the old witch comes back.”

 

Jenny tried to loosen the floor planks, but even when they all worked at it, they did not succeed.

 

No way, we need a lever or something.”

 

Daisy looked around. Beside the stove were a few long knives.

 

Pity we can’t get at the knives.”

 

Elfrida thought a moment, then she got up and took the leather belt from her trousers.

 

Let’s see”, she said, “if I can do it with my lasso trick.”

 

She took the belt and made a sling. Then she walked to the bars, held her belt at one end and whirled the sling towards the knives. The first time some cutlery rattled to the floor. Frightened, they all fled to a corner of their cage. But no witch came into the room.

 

Elfrida tried again and after a few throws she succeeded in drawing a long knife towards her. Exhaustedly, she handed the knife to Jenny. It took a few minutes and Jenny had loosened the first plank. Two more planks followed, then the opening in the floor was big enough to slip through. Now they had to dig a tunnel under the wall. Each of them digged as long as she could and then passed the knife to the next one. So they finally got out and thought they were safe. But when they reached the other side of the wall, their blood froze: A big wolf with two heads stood there. Both heads bared their teeth and gnarled horribly. The witch stood beside him and laughed. Quickly Daisy, Elfrida, and Jenny crawled back into the safe cage. The trembled of fright when the witch came into the room.

 

I haven’t had such fun for a long time. Forget that exit, I closed it with a rock.” She laughed and laughed and could not stop.

 

Your daft laughter will soon be over”, Elfrida shouted.

 

What was that?” The witch came closer and Elfrida could smell the stinking breath. “Who are you?”

 

My name is Elfrida.”

 

I don’t need to remember that name because you soon will boil in my pot.”

 

The witch wanted to laugh again, but Elfrida replied: “I don’t believe that, you seedy old witch.”

 

How dare you…”, the witch began, but then something came to her mind. “You’re lucky, there’s somebody else on my menu. Wait till I return!”

 

And she disappeared through the door. Daisy and Jenny looked at their friend in admiration.

 

You’ve got the guts”, Daisy said.

 

If that old hag wants to eat me, she shall not think that I’m afraid. Perhaps I can unsettle her and she makes a mistake. You know people make mistakes when they are furious.”

 

Now they lay down on the floor and tried to sleep. Perhaps it would be important to be fit.

 

They did now know how long they had slept, when the door of their prison opened and a little old men was thrown in. Again the witch laughed loudly when she shut the door of the cage. “It’s my lucky day, isn’t it, Alberich? Who would have thought that you’re out in the wood and feeding animals without your magic hat? Anyhow, I thank you, for I will eat all them fat animals.”

 

Her loud, ugly laughter again. Then she went to the kitchen corner and cleaned away the fallen dishes. After she had fetched a few big pots she began to peel potatoes.

 

You’re peeling them much too thick, you have no idea how to work properly.”

 

O Elfrida, they will be all right for you.”

 

With your rotten teeth you’d better eat vegetable broth without meat.”

 

Take care or I turn you into a frog.”

 

Silly witch, then I’ll hop through the iron bars. You are really daft.”

 

You mean little…” The witch searched for words, stood up and the freshly peeled potatoes fell to the ground.

 

Well, you can throw away those potatoes, only pigs eat from a dirty floor.” Elfrida began to have fun with the matter.

 

I will cast a spell on you, I will…”

 

Spell - you?” The little old man stood up and looked at the witch tauntingly. “You nicked all your charms, already in the magician’s school you cribbed.”

 

The witch snarled dangerously, but did not say anything. She began to pick up the potatoes and put them into the pot. Again and again she glanced at Elfrida and the little old man wispily. Finally she sat down on one of the four kitchen chairs and said: “I take a little rest, but then I’ll do you in.” Only a few minutes later loud snoring was to be heard from the witch.

 

The old man looked kindly at the girls. “Sorry, ladies, I did not tell you who I am. My name is Alberich, my job is being King of the Dwarfs. My empire is on the other side of the river. Old Carla and I have known each other since old. As matter of fact, she already annoyed everyone in the magicians’ school and later on she only did wicked things. Well, well, I did not think that she would dupe me.”

 

Now the three girls told him who they were and how they had come into the power of the witch. They also told him about their attempt to escape and the wolf with two heads.

 

 

 

 

An old trick”, Alberich said. “It’s easy to conjure up monsters.”

 

But they are dangerous”, Elfrida said.

 

Fiddlesticks”, Alberich smiled. “Monsters are only dangerous if you believe in them. Most of them vanish if you laugh at them. There are some with whom that does not work, but ghosts and monsters do only exist in your imagination, if you know what I mean.”

 

Elfrida thought that over. “So ghosts and monsters are not really real?”

 

Exactly.”

 

So when I’m afraid I only think that there are monsters and ghosts?”

 

So it is.”

 

If I had not regarded the wolf, we would have been free now?”

 

Exactly so.”

 

Elfrida sat in a corner for a long time and turned this over in her mind. Just now she had learned something which would be important for the rest of her life. Finally she stood up, pointed at the witch and said: “Time to go home, who’s joining me?”

 

They all looked at her in astonishment. She took the knife, which the careless witch had not taken from them, and started to cut a long slat from one of the floor planks. Elfrida had seen that the witch had put her keys beside her on a chair. Now Elfrida took the long slat and tried to get at the keys with it. It was not easy to get the slat into the big key ring but Elfrida did not give up. Finally she succeeded. She carefully lifted the slat so the keys would slide towards her. The keys jangled and for a moment the witch awoke. They all kept their breath, but after a short time the witch snored again. Quickly Elfrida unlocked the cage door and walked out. When they stood in front of the witch house they sighed in relief and Alberich the King of Dwarfs said:

 

This way, we’ll take the road to my kingdom. We have to make ourselves safe from her magic.”

 

But that old hag is much too slow, she’ll never get us”, Daisy objected.

 

Don’t forget that she is a witch, hurry up.”

 

They ran as fast as they could. Alberich of course was not as fast as the three girls and so he was a few steps behind them. If you’ve ever run through a forest, you will know how dangerous the roots of trees can be. The King of Dwarfs had to learn that. He cried out in pain and fell down. Terrified, Elfrida, Daisy and Jenny saw that the witch was just behind him, laughing. She lifted a hand and out of nothing two black monsters appeared. They looked like giant potato beetles. Shrieking, Daisy and Jenny ran on, only Elfrida stayed were she was. The two monsters approached slowly and from their ugly muzzles green slime was dripping.

 

Munch her!” The witch laughed her horrible laugh when the black monsters approached Elfrida. But she did not run away. The witch swore, and suddenly a dragon came down the path with a loud roar. Elfrida took a deep breath, ran between the monsters, gripped the arm of Alberich the King of Dwarfs and dragged him along. The evil old witch was absolutely flabbergasted and watched Elfrida and Alberich disappearing in the forest. Her furious howling was to be heard for a long time.

 

Later on Alberich the King of Dwarfs, Elfrida, Daisy, and Jenny sat together and were glad that their adventure found such a happy ending. In future, Alberich would never walk through the wood without his magic hat. However, he told the girls many interesting things about witches, monsters and suchlike. Before they all went home, Alberich grabbed into the air and suddenly held something in his hand.

 

Little magic trick”, he grinned. “But I think you can make use of this. As you don’t know all the paths in the Magic Forest, I’ll give you this map. It shows the most important paths and I’ve drawn in the most important spots. Be cautious if you leave these paths.”

 

 

Map of the Magic Forest

 

Meaning:

 

  1. Territory of the Fairy of the Pond

  2. Witch house

  3. Empire of the King of Dwarfs

 

 

 

 

 

For you, Elfrida, I have something very special.” He handed a small bottle to her. “It is empty, but you certainly will find out what it is good for. It came from a far away country.”

 

The girls now said good-bye and promised the King of Dwarfs to visit him again soon. Then they went home.

 

Elfrida rubbed her eyes and slowly her thoughts returned to the presence. She saw the steel walls of the space ship and heard the even breathing of her friends. Bertha, Rosie, and the professor were snoring. Elfrida envied them their sleep because she was wide awake and her thoughts were in the Magic Forest. What might the witch be doing now? Did she miss the girls?

 

She thought about all this and to distract herself she stood up and looked through the window into the dark night. The monster alarm was activated and normally nothing should be out there. Anyhow, she looked into the darkness for a long time. Silently she crept to Bernie and woke him up.

 

“Come to the window. There is something there.”

 

“I want to sleep.”

 

“Bernie, there is something, really. We’ve got to take a look.”

 

“Okay, I’m coming.”

 

Yawning, Bernie got up and trotted to the window. It took some time before his eyes became used to the darkness. Then he nodded and walked to the control room. Elfrida followed him. Bernie switched on the radar and now they could see that the radio waves from the radar were reflected by something. Five or six points seemed to be out there which approached slowly.

 

“Why doesn’t the pig… ehm, the monster alarm go off?”

 

Bernie was wide awake now. It was time to alert the others. They woke up their sleepy friends and dragged the professor in his nightshirt to the radar screen.

 

“You see that?” Elfrida asked.

 

The professor shook his head. “I d-don’t see anything, the monitor is completely blurred.”

 

“How about putting on your glasses?”

 

“O y-yes, thank you.” Now Prof. Hasty could see the danger. He immediately checked all the switches, turned to Bernie and the others and explained: “Without doubt there is something inorganic. It is approaching us s-slowly.”

 

“Why is there something in a panic?” Bertha asked and they all stared at her in surprise.

 

“W-why in a p-panic?”

 

“Well, you talked about something in a panic approaching us.”

 

“I-inorganic, Bertha, the w-word is inorganic. Plants are organic, metal for instance is inorganic, not herbal.”

 

Bertha reddened and Rosie grinned.

 

“But then it cannot be the monsters, for they are living beings.” Mona was the first one to understand.

 

“Exactly. That’s w-why the alarm did not go off, only the radar.”

 

In the meantime Jenny had taken a telescope and watched the curious beings.

 

“Looks like big robots”, she remarked.

 

“We should be off quickly, Professor, I want to go home. Start the motor!”

 

“We cannot do that, Rosie, the engines have to warm up first.”

 

By now Jenny and Bernie had gone into the control room and activated the big telescope.

 

Six big robots could clearly be made out. Now and then one of them stopped, stooped and took something up from the ground.

 

“They are collecting something, Mona, what can that be?” Bernie looked excitedly at Mona and Moyo.

 

“In the desert there is only Lambos, a kind of grass. And some small lizards are living here.”

 

“What do the monsters eat?”

 

“Exactly that, there is nothing else”, Moyo said.

 

Elfrida stepped forward. “Than the matter is clear. The robots are collecting food for the monsters, and if they get us, they’ll collect us, too.”

 

The professor scratched his head nervously. He did not come up with any idea, but Elfrida already had a plan.

 

“Professor, if we switch off all lights and stay in the space ship – will the robots notice us at all?”

 

“P-perhaps we are screened by the walls of the space ship. They c-certainly have sensors by which they can track organic m-material. If we gather in the c-centre of the ship, we perhaps cannot be located by their sensors.”

 

“What can’t we do? Will we go mad?”

 

“Why should we go mad, R-rosie?”

 

“Well, if we lose all our senses?”

 

Professor Hasty swallowed nervously and answered: “Located by sensors, I s-said. Sensors are small electronic units which notice if something approaches. That is called locating. The farther off something is from the sensor, the harder it can be noticed.”

 

While Bertha said that everybody certainly knew that, they all assembled in the centre of the space ship and waited. By now the noises which the robots made could be clearly heard. It sounded like dragging a heavy sack of metal rods over the ground. When the metal-monsters reached the space ship, they paused. Within the ship it was dark and the friends were very quiet.

 

The robots seemed to consider. To the friends it seemed to be ages. Slowly the robots moved away from the space ship. Now there was a real problem. They discussed how to proceed because now not only the black monsters were their enemies but also the metallic giants who supplied the monsters with nourishment. They could not win against both of them at the same time, that much was evident. But think as they might, they did find not solution.

 

“We should travel home. Mona and Moyo may come with us”, Bertha proposed.

 

“Would you like it if we were not willing to help you?” Rosie protested.

 

“I for my part would not want to live in a dusty desert.”

 

“And if that desert were home to you?”

 

“I would not stand such a lot of dust, dearest Rosie, as you well know.”

 

“Certainly, Miss Bertha would clean the desert bit by bit and moreover…”

 

“That’s enough”, Elfrida scolded. “You shut up!”

 

She thought a moment und then looked at Rosie.

 

“Did you say bit by bit?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“That’s the solution! We can’t win against them if we fight them at the same time, so we fight them bit by bit – one after the other!”

 

Elfrida explained her plan. First they had to get rid of the robots. This seemed to be the easiest way because robots are quite stupid. Without the robots the black monsters had nothing to eat. They split in three groups. Jenny, Bernie, Susie, Mary formed one group, Elfrida, Daisy, Rosie, and Bertha the other one. The third group consisted of Mona and Moyo. Professor Hasty would stay in the space ship’s control room in case anything went wrong. Both groups wrapped up in aluminium foil so that the robots would not know them as living beings. The professor explained to them that the sensor rays would be reflected from the aluminium.

 

“S-so the metal-monsters will be sensor-blind and cannot s-see you”, he said.

 

Then each of them was handed a big water bottle in which a handful of salt was poured.

 

“You have to f-fill the salt water into the robots. Salt water is poison to metal and they will start to rust.”


Chapter 8

The Decision

 

Now all groups were ready. They left the space ship and hurried after the metallic giants. Of course Mona and Moyo were the fastest and reached one of the robots first. As he walked behind his comrades they luckily could not see what happened. Moyo jumped onto the knee of the monster and poured half a bottle of salt water over it. Slowly the liquid trickled down into the metal hinge. By now the two other groups had done the same to the two robots in front of this one. After a few minutes the salt water had its effect – the knees of the robots began to rust. Now it was the turn of the next three robots. After a while all robots had one rusty knee and they could only run in circles. Jauntily, Rosie ran between the lame giants, calling: “Catch the pig, you rusty big!”

Bertha shook her head, the others laughed. But Rosie became too wanton and one of the long metal legs kicked her bum. The poor pig howled and was hurtled away and after quite a flight she landed in the dunes. While Bertha looked after the wailing Rosie and blew the sand out of her trunk, their friends poured more salt water into the robots. Finally all those machines lay buzzing and clattering in the sand.

C-congratulations, you were g-great.” Professor Hasty was at their side. Out of fright for his little friends he could not longer have waited in the control room. When he saw the machines lying on the ground, he searched his pocket. He got out a screwdriver and started to examine one of the robots. canadian-pharmacy24-7.com

Well, anything left of them?” Bernie stood beside him and smirked.

Oh, we only have to grease their hinges, then they can move again.”

Don’t, if you do not ask for trouble”, Bernie retorted.

How about”, Elfrida butt in, “reprogramming these silly robots so that they work for us?”

Excellent idea”, the professor cried, “that can be done. Just get me my kit from the space ship, will you?”

Merrily the friends set off. Only Rosie limped and had to be supported by Bertha. The two pigs had not walked half the distance when the others already came back with the tools. Then the professor started his work. Hour after hour he screwed and soldered, while the children made themselves comfortable in the space ship. By now it had grown dark again and after an ample meal they went to bed. Bertha bandaged Rosie and then it became quiet in the ship. When slowly the morning dawned, Rosie could no longer sleep. The bandage itched. She got up and went over to the window to look out. The sight shocked her so much that she let out one of her terrifying yells.

What is it now?” Bertha squinted and went over to Rosie.

Help! The monsters are coming!”

In a flash everyone was at the window. But whom did they see marching at the head of the robots? Prof. Hasty, waving to them merrily. He had succeeded in taming the metallic giants. Now only one enemy was left: the black monsters.

During a long breakfast they discussed what to do next. Bernie proposed to program the robots once more. They were to attack the black monsters. But Elfrida and Jenny objected. They wanted to use their brains to beat the monsters. Mona and Moyo wanted to be at peace with them because otherwise there always would be trouble. The others agreed. Then Elfrida developed a daredevil plan.

And if I hide in one of the robots? Together with the five others I’ll go back to the black monsters and bring them nourishment. They will come and search for the robots if they don’t return soon.”

And then?” Daisy asked excitedly.

I will eavesdrop. Perhaps I learn something helpful.

I’ll go, too!” Rosie cried and they turned round to her.

You?!” Bertha jeered. “We’d better fly home then because that would be a disaster.”

You’re mean! If I may not go, I’ll never talk to you again.” Rosie was close to tears and Elfrida rose to speak.

After all it will be better perhaps if one of us sits in each robot. 12 ears hear more than two.”

Bertha defiantly lifted her head. “Well, I will not scramble into these dirty machines. I’m claustrophobic.”

And Bernie has to stay here, I need him in the control room”, Prof. Hasty reminded them. “Moreover I need two of you to dig for water. There’s hardly any coolant left for the flight back.”

Susie and Mary looked at each other.

That’s our job”, Susie said. “We just love to dig in the sand.”

So they decided that Mona, Moyo, Elfrida, Jenny, Daisy, and Rosie scrambled into the robots to go back to the black monsters with them. All the day long they gathered grass as they could not use the duplicator for plants. They caught none of the quick lizards, but anyhow they would not have brought themselves to take along the animals as fodder. Late in the afternoon they stuffed the grass into the robots’ bags. Now it was good-bye to those who stayed at the space ship. The professor and Bernie controlled every step after the professor had mounted a camera into each of the robots. Everything could be watched on the monitor.

Slowly dusk fell, but our friends had chosen this time of the day with good reason. Certainly the monsters would not search for water any longer. If they were together – that was Elfrida’s idea – they would talk and something could be learned then. So on and on they proceeded in the planet’s desert. The metallic giants threw long shadows onto the sand and everything was quite spooky.

That rocking make me sick”, Rosie cried, “I think I’m going to vomit!”

Think of chocolate cake”, Elfrida cried, “or look out and concentrate on some distant point. Always look at the point, then you no longer notice the swaying.”

After that Rosie did not say any more and they all were relieved. They really did not need a vomiting pig on this dangerous mission.

I see a light ahead, that’s the monsters’ camp.”

Moyo had been the first to see it.

Well, let’s proceed like this”, Elfrida said. “We’ll go to the camp, let the robots empty the bags with the grass and keep out of the way with the robots. We’ll do nothing except listening. If there’s anything else we can do, we’ll see that when we’re there. I’ll tell you when to attack. Remember to be quiet. Did you listen, Rosie?”

Yes, yes, you’ll tell us if its our turn.”

Something like that”, Elfrida sighed.

The robots trudged over a dune, and there was the camp. Now our friends could see their dangerous enemy clearly. The monsters seemed to have no neck. An ugly head with an enormous mouth was sitting on a bulky body. The mouth had a row of teeth, lots of them missing, and the lips were large and bulging. There were much more monsters than they had expected. They numbered 22. Six children against 22 big black monsters, Elfrida thought, I wonder whether the others are as frightened as I am.

The monsters grunted loudly, when they saw the robots. One of them was bigger than the others. He seemed to be the leader because he walked toward the robots at once. Furiously, the monster looked at the robot in which Elfrida was hidden. He looked it up and down for some time. Elfrida could smell him. He smelled as if he never in his life had washed. His eyes glittered, when he shouted in a loud, guttural voice, which seemed to come deep out of the earth: “Where have you been that long, we are hungry!”

The friends winced. Could the robots speak? The professor had mentioned nothing about that. It seemed to be a long while until the leader spoke again.

Well, no matter, you stupid tin buckets are not able to answer!”


This took a load of Elfrida’s and her friends’ minds.

Now also the other monsters came running and quickly the bags were empty of grass. Loud smacking was to be heard everywhere and the leader bawled again: “None of the tasty sandrunners? Why only grass, you lazy lot?”

Obviously the monsters called the small lizards sandrunners, but it was a fitting name. Infuriated, the giant kicked the robot. It crashed to the ground. Luckily Elfrida had held fast, so that nothing happened to her but a small bruise at her shoulder.

Groff!”

Yes, Master”, a small monster answered. “What are the orders of the Big Moog?” I see, Elfrida thought, Moog is their boss.

Take these tin buckets apart und look why they brought no sandrunners, and repair them.”

The six friends were sick of fright. Was this their last hour? The professor and their friends were too far off and could not help them. Groff walked to the fallen robot, took something lengthy and applied it to the robot’s head. Elfrida already heard the scratching of the tool and closed her eyes. Now everything seemed to be lost.

 

Big Moog, may I propose something?” Groff asked.

What is it?”

It is too dark, it will be better to work in daylight.”

All right, we have to discuss something anyhow.”

If their hearing had been better, the relieved sighs of our friends would not have been lost to the monsters. Moog sat down in the middle of the camp, so that everybody could see and hear him.

As you all know, we did not succeed up to now. We still have to take a lot of water supplies to our home planet Trion. As you also know, the survival of our families depends on it.”

Surprised, the children in their hiding places heard that these black monsters had families, wives and children for whom they cared. Even Mona and Moyo heard this for the first time.

Everybody who thwarts us will be done in. We have chased away the two inhabitants of this planet, and if they fetch their friends, we are prepared. I hope you remember how last time they chased us away with fire and thunder!”

Bernie at his monitor smiled. He indeed remembered clearly how he had driven out the monsters with his firecrackers.

This time we have our battle drones”, Moog continued. “They are hidden behind the high dune and only wait to be launched! Tomorrow morning we’ll start them and all space ships approaching this planet or not belonging here will be destroyed by them. But we must start off only one at a time, otherwise they shoot down each other. Lork, you’ll keep watch, the others go to sleep.”

Lork, a stupid looking black beef-cake, nodded. Then his pals retreated to a corner of the camp and he stayed alone in its centre. Lork found a bit of grass and chewed it. By and by the others fell asleep and began to snore loudly. Lork again and again glimpsed at his pals. When he was certain that they all were asleep, he softly stood up and walked to the dune beside the camp. Elfrida was the first to scramble out of the robot. Contented, she saw Lork in the distance, picking grass. She crept to her friends cautiously and one after the other came out of his hiding place.

Good luck that the lad is so hoggish, too”, Moyo grinned.

What do you mean – too?” Rosie asked. “Are you looking for trouble?”

Be quiet!” Elfrida whispered. “We’ve got to find the battle drones Moog talked about and have to dispose of them.”

Lork was at the left side of the camp, so they took the way to the right. One behind the other they moved through the terrain. Again and again they looked at the sleeping monster gang, but they reached the area with the battle drones without accident. 6 rockets were there, obviously all equipped with sensors and bombs. Elfrida and Jenny examined the dangerous units.

I’ve no idea how to destroy them”, Elfrida said under her breath.

Me neither, but perhaps we can put sand into them so that somehow they don’t work any longer.” Jenny was not very convinced of her own idea.

Rosie had come closer now.

I’m sure this is the On-button”, she said with her coarse voice. “If you press it…”

Then they go off, he he!” Moog was standing behind them.

Terrified, the friends saw that they were surrounded.

We did not really count on you, but as you are here, we do welcome you. And where might your space ship be?”

The children were silent.

Well, well, no matter, I don’t need to know it, I’ll just shoot it.”

He laughed heartily and the other monsters joined in his ugly laughter. It sound like mockery to Elfrida’s ears, but she knew what to do.

Each of you to one rocket, on my sign we start them”, she whispered to the others.

Like a flash Elfrida, Jenny, Daisy, Mona, Moyo, and Rosie ran each to one of the battle drones and when they reached them, Elfrida shouted: “Fire the damned things off!”

Hell broke loose. With a loud hiss which even drowned the terrified cries of the monsters, the first rocket went off. It drew a mighty fire tail behind. Right over the camp it went and high up into the air. When it reached the highest point it started to circle in the air. Now the sensors took over and tried to locate the space ship of our friends. Then the second rocket went off. It raced over the camp likewise and followed the first one. A short time later the third followed, then the fourth, the fifth and finally the sixth. When the first drone had finished its sensor scan, it took up target and moved toward the second rocket, which still moved in circles.

The following explosion made the ground of the planet Zeta rock. A mighty fireball in the sky, so glaring that everybody had to close his eyes, showed that the first two rockets had exploded. But it was not over. The third battle drone found its would-be target and changed course. Like a gleaming line it was to be seen in the sky and then came the next explosion. Again a mighty fireball over the heads of the terrified onlookers. Then something unexpected happened and a catastrophe followed. The sixth battle drone did not go up into the sky but got out of control. Something seemed to be wrong with the drive for it circled low over the ground. Everybody shrieked in panic and dropped to the ground.

Then an explosion happened, louder and more glaring as the two previous ones: the steerless rocket crashed right into the two space ships of the monsters. A heat wave shot over the camp, and debris whirled through the air. A few minutes later it was deadly silent. Elfrida lifted her head, a tremendous headache was all she felt. The camp was laid waste, everywhere parts of the battle drone were scattered about and the monsters were lying on the ground dizzily. Some were a little singed at the back, but they seemed to have survived the catastrophe, same as Jenny and the others who now groaned at stood up.

He’s dying!” Lork stood beside Moog and terrified looked at the leader. Moog had been hit by one of the debris pieces. Green blood ran from his shoulder. Rosie shrieked and turned round.

We have to bandage him”, Elfrida said, “or he’ll bleed to death.”

Lork looked at her in bewilderment. “Bandage? What is that? We cannot help him any more.”

By now Jenny had come with her small medical kit. Together with Mona Elfrida tried to lift the shoulder of the black giant.

Do help us”, Mona called to the monsters. “We alone cannot lift him!”

Four of the monsters came und lifted the leader a little so that the girls could bandage them. When they were ready the bandage roll was almost finished.

That’s that”, Elfrida said to Lork. “Now he needs some rest and much to drink.”

You heard her?” Lork said to the onlooking monsters – it seemed he had the saying now. “Do what she said!”

The girls sat down, only Elfrida stayed where she was and looked up in the sky.

Now we have lost everything”, she said and wiped a tear from her face.

But why do you say so?” Rosie calmed her down. “I don’t understand. The monsters don’t have anything left.”

So haven’t we.”

Now the friends stood up and looked at Elfrida inquiringly. In a low voice she said:

The fifth rocket is still active…”

In the meantime there was much excitement in the space ship. Prof. Hasty and Bernie had watched everything via the cameras they had hidden in the robots. Only when the sixth rocket had gone out of control, the contact had been cut because also the robots had been damaged by the explosion.

Professor, we’ve got to rescue them!”

Bernie was very excited, like all the others.

Can’t we fly there with the ship and help them?”

No, Bernie”, the professor said and stood up. “C-can you count?”

Sure.”

Then you must realize that one battle drone is on its way to this spot.”


Bernie paled and the professor shouted that they all had to leave the space ship quickly and to take shelter in the desert. As fast as possible they packed the most necessary things and stormed to the exit – then Bernie had an idea.

Professor”, he said, “what about the power field generator?”

It’s in the s-space ship, why do you ask?”

What about erecting a power field around the space ship?”

The professor paused, thought a moment and ran back to the control room. He fetched the generator and hauled it out. Immediately he started to screw and to adjust, then pressed a few buttons and called out to the others to stay close to the space ship.

It starts in a few moments!” he cried.

Hearts beating, the professor, Mary, Susie, Bertha, and Bernie pressed to the cold, hard outer shell of the space ship. First only a shrill whistling was to be heard like a steam train passing in the distance. Then the shrill sound became louder and seemed to come from all directions. Panicly the kids saw a fireball approaching with unbelievable speed. An explosion followed like nobody ever heard before. They thought the whole planet would be torn apart. Then all was silent and there only was a smell of melting steel.

Are we dead?” Bertha whispered. “And who will clear away all this mess?”

We’ve made it!” Bernie cheered. “It worked, the power field held!”

But how about the others?” Daisy asked. “We have to go and help them as fast as possible. They are helplessly at the mercy of the black monsters!”

Take the duplicator and the power field generator, we will rescue them!” the professor said and immediately they sat out to pluck their friends from the jaws of the black monsters.

But how fared their friends in the camp of the black monsters? There everybody was quite at a loss.

We have to look after our friends in the space ship. Surely they need our help!”

Lork rose. “No, you’ll stay!”

But if the rocket…”, Elfrida wanted to explain but was interrupted.

Then your space ship is destroyed. You must not go. If you go, our leader will die.”

Nonsense, he needs quiet now. Moreover, one of us may stay here.”

You’ll all stay”, Lork said. “You can’t do anything for your friends.”

Elfrida looked at him sharply. Did she not see something like pity in his hard monster face? She wanted to know.

And how shall we fare now? Your ship is destroyed, probably our ship is also destroyed. We have lost everything.”

Lork looked at his feet. He did not seem to know what to do, it really did not look well. Even the robots are destroyed, he thought, how are we to find anything to eat?

At this moment Moog regained consciousness.

Water!”

Groff came at once and brought him some water. Moog drank thirstily, then he sat up, looked about him and understood that he and his monsters would not win any war today. He felt his shoulder, made a face and asked:

Who repaired my shoulder?”

Lork pointed at Mona, Jenny, and Elfrida.

Why did you help me?” he asked in surprise. “We wanted to kill you.”

Elfrida winked at Mona and Moyo and both got the hint.

You were badly injured and we abandon nobody who needs our help”, Mona said in a soft voice.

Moog looked to the ground, then at his monsters inquiringly.

Without our robots we will starve. Only they could find grass and sandrunners.”

But we can show you how to plant grass, then there is nourishment enough. It grows fast if it is regularly watered”, Moyo proposed.

And if we build houses and streets, your strength will be much needed”, Elfrida added.

Moog got up, Mona and Moyo helped him. With shaky legs he walked to the middle of the camp and shouted:

The war is over. The first time we lost, but at last we’ve found friends.”

Elfrida noticed that some of the monsters had tears in their eyes, and while she herself had to fight down some tears, she heard a familiar voice.

If so, we can start cleaning up! Really, the way it looks here…”

Bertha, followed by Bernie, Susie, Mary, and the professor entered the camp. Cheerfully the friends hugged each other. When they had told everything, Mona pointed at the duplicator and said: “Now we’ll make something to eat for our new friends! Lork, have you anything left but grass?”

Sorry, we’ve eaten up everything.”

Pity”, Mona said. “Has anybody anything to eat?”

They all looked at Rosie. Rosie whistled and looked up to the sky.

I think we should turn her head over”, Bertha said.

Why always me?” Rosie asked.

Because you’re the greediest pig of the galaxy”, Bertha hissed. “Moreover your trouser pockets are bulged. That’s no sand, is it?”

The black monsters had never heard anything the like. They began to laugh and one after the other rolled on the ground, unable to calm down.

With a sigh Rosie emptied her pockets, a few sandwiches, two bars of chocolate and some lollies.

Lork was standing beside her and sniffed: “Smells gooood! Tasty! Lork hungry!”

Mona took the chocolate bars and carried them to the duplicator. Bewildered, the monsters watched how two bars became four, then eight, then sixteen and so on. When Moog took a bite from the first chocolate bar, Bertha cried angrily: “You first have to rip off the paper, Chief, it’s unbelievable!”

Moog spit out the paper and chewed on. He nodded merrily and the others tried as well.

You don’t throw the paper to the ground”, Bertha scolded. “That’s what garbage bins are for.”

Haven’t got any”, Lork replied, collected the paper about him and stuffed it into his big mouth. “Better?”

Bertha could not think of any answer. Her friends laughed and Rosie saw to it that she could save some chocolate bars for herself.

Now was the time for a party. All the night long our friends sat together with the monsters, talking and laughing. For a long time the professor sat with Moog and told him how the monsters could solve their problems.

They decided to take the monsters one after the other home with the last intact space ship. Also water should be taken along for the planet Trion, and the professor wanted to show them how to build water reservoirs and storages , while Mona and Moyo were going to teach them how to plant and harvest nourishment. Moog said that he would visit Mona and Moyo with his monsters as soon as they had new space ships. Then they could help to build houses and streets on the planet Zeta.

In the end Mona, Moyo, and the monsters had such a liking for each other that the farewell was really hard for them. Even some of the monsters wept. When everything was settled, also Rosie and Bertha were crying when they got on board of their space ship.

O, it’s so nice”, Rosie wailed.

Yes”, Bertha sobbed, “as nice as a clean room!”

Or like custard pie with sugar!”

Or a scrubbed loo!”

Or like two pigs shutting up!” Elfrida shouted and they all laughed.

Slowly the space ship mounted into the clear sky of the planet Zeta and they left the desert and their friends behind. On board they felt quite happy when passing the rings of Saturn. Then they flew on through the solar system, passing Jupiter. When they approached Mars with its red surface a homecoming feeling came up, for now the Earth was near. Soon the space ship dived into the atmosphere and they all were once again shaken through when the professor turned the ship and slowly touched down. For a long time they sat with the professor in his lighthouse and talked about their adventures before it was time to go home.

When Elfrida went to bed, quite worn out, Bobble came into her room.

Well, you took your friends back to South America?” he grinned.

South America? O yes, sure”, Elfrida replied. “No problem.”

Then it’s all right”, Bobble said. “Good night!”

Good night, Daddy.”

Elfrida took Dolly into her arms, placed Rudy at her feet and said to the toy dog: “Take good care, you’re on night watch. Should big black monsters enter, don’t be afraid. Let them come in and welcome them politely.”

Then she turned to the side and fell asleep at once.

 

 

End