Charlie Mace and the
Wendy C Jackson
Charlie Mace and the
Wendy C Jackson
Charlie Mace and the
Published by Memoirs
Memoirs Books 25 Market Place, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, GL7 2NX firstname.lastname@example.org www.memoirspublishing.com
Copyright ÂŠWendy C Jackson, January 2012 First published in England, January 2012 Book jacket design Ray Lipscombe
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of Memoirs.
Although the author and publisher have made every effort to ensure that the information in this book was correct when going to press, we do not assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause. The views expressed in this book are purely the authorâ€˜s.
Printed in England ISBN 9781908223708
Contents Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17
Miss Potts The Discovery Itch Panic sets in Never trust a Yawling The Great Lady Pesky Draglets Charlie in trouble Trapped! The rescue A narrow escape Nutley turns up How to be Big Reunited The car wash Back to reality New rules in school
Page 1 Page 9 Page 17 Page 26 Page 35 Page 43 Page 53 Page 63 Page 72 Page 80 Page 89 Page 101 Page 111 Page 122 Page 129 Page 137 Page 149
Chapter One Miss Potts Sniff Street had to be one of the scruffiest streets in the whole of Bogsley. Row upon row of small box-shaped houses filled the long narrow street. The paint on the doors and window frames was peeled and cracked to reveal rotten wood underneath. The front gardens, no more than the size of a postage stamp, had been neglected over the years. Neat shrubs had turned into grotesque, oversized monsters which sent out fat, thorny tubers in all directions. They wrapped themselves around neighboursâ€™ plants and choked them to death. Broken down, rusty cars sat on the side of the road, next to bags of rubbish which were riddled with maggots. The worst of all the houses was number 287. It was much larger than all the other houses, so it stood out above them. In fact, wherever you lived in Sniff Street, you couldnâ€™t help seeing this house in all its revolting glory. This was the house where Miss Potts lived. Newspapers dating back years were stacked up outside her front door. They reached almost to the top of the porch. Untidy piles sat in various parts of the garden. Left out summer and winter, the piles had turned into a slimy mulch and had become home for all types of creepy crawlies. There were empty milk bottles everywhere, and sixty or more unopened ones sat outside the front porch. The milk had of course long since gone off. The summer heat had made it curdle and the
pressure had pushed the silver tops off, leaving a thick smelly tower of brown cream on each of them. Flies swarmed around them in their dozens. The old wooden front door and window frames had at some point been painted bright red, but large flakes of the paint had stripped off and been trampled underfoot, leaving red flakes everywhere. Most of the windows were broken or cracked and had torn nets that gave little privacy. There were only ever two signs of life from Miss Pottsâ€™ house. One was the solitary light bulb she switched on every night in the front bedroom. The other was a very large white Ford Transit van which she kept in the driveway. Charlie Mace lived at number 279. He had only ever met Miss Potts three times, which was three times too many. Once was when the postman had inadvertently delivered a package to Charlie's house which had been meant for her. His mum had sent him over to the house with a note of apology. He shuddered at the memory. It was more the smell when she opened the door he remembered than anything else. The second time had been a little more recent. It had been about seven-thirty on a Tuesday evening. One of his jobs was to put the rubbish out, and he was doing this when he spotted her open up the back of her van and pull something out of it. It looked very heavy, and Charlie was sure he saw it wriggling. She looked cautiously this way and that. When she had spotted Charlie looking her way, she had quickly shoved her load back into the van, slammed the door shut and shuffled into her house. The third time he had seen her had been at precisely eight-thirty that morning. As he had shut the front door behind him, she had appeared out of her house. She stood barely five feet tall. Her shoulders were bent over,
though her back was straight as a ruler. Her belly protruded hugely under her tatty clothes. Her hair was short and uncombed. She walked with a slow clumsy step; one leg appeared to be a good inch or two shorter than the other. Charlie watched as she threw a large sack into the back of the van, shut the door and started it up. As she drove past his house, she purposely slowed down to stare at him and snigger. Charlie shuddered. Her stare was strange. One eye was normal, but the right one was much larger. It bulged out of its socket like a golf ball. The van coughed and spluttered and belched out thick smoke. It made him cough as it hung in the still, foggy air. It was a cold Monday morning. Charlie shivered. He zipped his new coat up to the chin and shoved his hands in pockets. Charlie was a shy eleven-year-old. His skin was pale and unblemished and his striking blue eyes were the colour of a clear sky. His hair was blonde and perfectly straight; he kept it combed with a neat side parting. "'Eh up, Beaver!" three lads called out to him from behind. Charlie sighed. Almost every day since he'd moved into the street, Jack, Pete and Tom had made a point of picking on him. Jack was fat and ugly and his hair was greasy. His face was pudding shaped, and covered in spots. The remains of yesterdayâ€™s dinner clung to the tie that hung crooked round his large neck. His shoes were always covered in mud. Pete and Tom hung on Jackâ€™s every word and were happy to do whatever he asked of them. "Gorranew jacket have yer, Beaver boy?" They called Charlie Beaver because of his front teeth. They didn't protrude, but they were rather large. He walked briskly on, pretending he hadn't heard them. "Hey Beaver, did yer know yer wearing a girlie coat? Jack mocked him. Pete and Tom giggled like five-year-olds. They quickly caught
up with Charlie and blocked his path. There was nowhere to go. Jack put on a posh voice. "Don't go all shy on us, old chap. Has mummy made you some cookies for your lunchies then?" Charlie cringed. The boys loved to mimic the way he spoke. He had been brought up to speak politely and correctly, but it had made him a laughing stock among some of the local bullies. Charlie was finding it hard to settle into Sprog Hall Comprehensive School. His father’s business had gone bust and they had lost almost everything. Cutting back expenses meant he could no longer attend Blackberry Mead private school. The family had moved to Sniff Street because it was the only street in Bogsley where houses were reasonably cheap to buy. They were only four houses away from where Miss Potts lived. "So come on Charlie, old chap. Wotcha gorrin yer lunch box for us?" Jack persisted. He yanked the bag off Charlie's shoulder and tipped the contents on the path. "Cor, gerra load of this boys!" Jack squealed as he opened up the lunch box. "Cheese 'n cucumber sandwiches all cut into squares." "Give us it 'ere then" Pete snapped. Charlie looked at them in disgust as the three of them stuffed their mouths full of food. "Can I have my lunch back please?" he asked. "Ah, come on boys, 'e ain’t got much food left now. We don’t wanna be greedy do we? Best give it back eh?" Jack beckoned for Pete and Tom to give the box to him. Reluctantly they agreed. "'Ere yer go mate" Jack grinned. "Thank you." But as Charlie went to take it, Jack deliberately tipped the box up. The bits of food that were left scattered and fell on to the wet mud. "Aw, look what yer done now, Beaver!" Jack laughed. His fat belly bobbed up and down as he chuckled, "Yer ain’t got NO lunch now 'ave yer!" Tom and Pete stamped their feet over the food and squashed it firmly into the mud.
Charlie took this moment of distraction as a means to escape. He slowly backed away and turned to walk on. "OI! where d'yer fink YOUâ€™RE going?" Jack's tone was sharp and aggressive. Charlie felt his heart beat a little faster as they grabbed hold of him. "Please, will you just leave me alone. I don't want to be late for school" he begged. "Cor, lardy dah! Charlie don't wanna be late for school, boys. What d'yer fink 'bout that then?" Pete looked at Tom, struggling to think of something to say. "Well I fink.." he paused hesitantly. "I fink we don't wanna be late neither, do we Jack?" he said with an apologetic smirk on his face. "What?" Jack snapped back. "I don't care if I'm late! But if yer wanna be a goody two shoes like our mate Charlie 'ere," He leaned heavily on Charlie's shoulder. "Then yer ainâ€™t no mate o' mine!" "I didn' mean nuffing by it Jack. We're wiv ya, aren't we Tom?" "Yep" was all Tom could think of to say. "What we gonna do wiv 'im then, Jack?" "I reckon we should be good mates wiv 'im t'day, an' 'elp 'im ter school" Jack said as he shoved Charlie from behind. "But I fought ya said..." "Shut yer cake 'ole, and 'elp!" Jack hollered. The three of them pushed and shoved Charlie all the way up to the top of the road. When a group of girls from the same school appeared from around the corner, the boys spun Charlie around twice and let go of him. He spiralled clumsily across the pavement, and fell right in front of them. They giggled and whispered to each other as they walked on by. Bright red, Charlie quickly got up. The embarrassment was worse than the pain he felt in his left knee. But even that was not as bad as the anger he felt inside. "If he was a football, I'd kick him
so hard, he'd reach the moon and never, EVER come back" he muttered under his breath, as he brushed down his coat, and ran his small spindly fingers over his hair to check it was back in place. Jack, Pete and Tom caught up with him. They stood around him and laughed like a pack of hyenas. Scared as Charlie felt, he couldn't run away. His feet felt like lumps of lead that had been superglued to the spot. So when Jack poked him he never budged. Again and again, Jack prodded him, and with each prod, Charlie's face grew redder and redder. "When yer gonna fight me, chicken?" Jack goaded. He drew up close to Charlie's face, and sniffed. "'Eâ€™s a pansy, boys, 'cause 'e sure smells like one!" The gormless twosome fell about laughing. Jack stood over Charlie, being slightly taller. He folded his arms and delivered a smug look to a passer-by. But then Charlie felt his lips move, and what came out of his mouth he'd never have thought possible. "Well at least my mother isn't a tart who... ' Before he could finish, Jack had him by the scruff of his neck. He hauled him up level to his face. "What d'yer say? What d'yer call me mum?" In sheer panic, Charlie punched Jack as hard as he could. SMACK! His fist caught Jack's right cheek. Jack let go of him and squealed like a mouse. Charlie made a run for it. Pete and Tom made a grab for him, but he was too fast for them. "You're dead meat, Beaver! D'yer 'ear me?" Jack yelled. Charlie ran and ran. He dodged cars and people, dogs, cats and pushchairs. On and on he ran. Soon he was completely lost. It was suddenly strangely quiet. The busy town was far behind him now. He stopped at the edge of a pathway. There were no more roads, no houses, and oddly, no people. All that lay in front of him were fields, and just beyond that, some very tall trees.
"YOUR MOTHER IS A TART!" he shouted at the top of his voice. He chuckled to himself. "I can't believe I actually said that. My dad will kill me if he finds out." The thought of going back right now dampened Charlie's spirit. "I can't go back there” he thought. “Not now. They'll beat me up good and proper, that's a fact." He was suddenly distracted by the sound of footsteps behind him. The boys must have followed him, he thought. His heart banged hard against his chest. His palms were sweaty. The footsteps stopped directly behind him. Then there was silence. No voices. He couldn't even hear anyone breathing. He stood very still and waited, but there was nothing. He dared to turn his head ever so slowly. The sight made him limp. "Oh, Miss Potts!" He laughed nervously. "It's you. I um... I thought it was… well I wasn't sure..." he fumbled to find the right words. Then, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed the white Transit parked a little further back. He wondered why he hadn't heard it. It always coughed and spluttered whenever she drove it, but he had heard nothing this time. Miss Potts stood completely still, staring at Charlie. She stared so hard, it made him feel horribly uncomfortable. "So... how are you Miss Potts?" he politely asked. Not that he was hugely interested in her wellbeing. He just wanted to fill in the painfully silent gaps. She didn’t reply. There was a slight movement in the right corner of her mouth. If he'd blinked, he would have missed it. He began to turn away, but then he stopped. He was drawn to her right eye. Something very weird was happening. What looked like a shutter slowly lifted up the front of the eyeball. It glowed a deep green. There were tiny somethings moving inside the eye. Charlie blinked hard to try and clear his vision.
"That couldn't be... could it?" he wondered. He rubbed his eyes and looked again. Suddenly, something shot out of Miss Pottsâ€™ eye. It headed towards him at such a speed that there was no time to run. He felt himself blasted high into the clouds. He was so high that it was hard to recognise anything below. He floated for what seemed an age, then, like a popped balloon, he dropped from the sky. Down and down and down he went, until... "WHOAA!â€? he screamed as he crashed through the trees and fell with a thud on to the leafy ground. He was out cold.
Chapter Two The Discovery "Is it? Is it the Stink?” a voice asked. Its owner was looking down on Charlie. "Oh, don’t touch it - you mustn't touch it" someone warned in a highly excitable tone. "Is it dead or alive?" another asked. "I dunno, do I, and I ain’t gonna go near it!" a gruff voice replied. "Well, I think it's dead, I do” the excitable one said, moving closer to investigate. Charlie lay on the mossy ground, completely still. He dared not move. His whole body ached. He cautiously twiddled his fingers and toes, then his legs and arms. He could hear voices, but he could make little sense of what was said. He opened his eyes. Four pairs of eyes peered down at him. "Wh… where am I?" The four characters jumped back in fright. He tried to move, but his head was very sore. "I don't feel all that well" he groaned, rubbing his head. Charlie mentally checked every bone in his body. Nothing badly damaged, just a few bruises here and there, along with a tear down the front of his new coat. He stared up at the sky. The trees seemed incredibly tall. They looked more like giant umbrellas than trees, Charlie thought. In fact, the greenery was so thick and dense that he could barely see
any sky at all. The air felt warm and damp, like a greenhouse. He felt a warm trickle down his left cheekbone. It was blood from a gash to his eyebrow. As he slowly raised his hand to wipe it away, one of the strange characters shot forwards and thrust a long stick at his face. "Don't ya dare move!" he threatened. “You ain’t scaring me with ya staring, ‘cos I can stare back just as good!" "Oh no, I'm terribly sorry. I wasn't actually looking at you at all" Charlie apologised as he sat up. "I was looking at the trees...” his voice trailed off as he took a good look at the strange being. The creature was wearing what looked like the two halves of a spikey conker shell on the front and back of his short, chubby body, along with a hat made from another conker shell, that didn't fit at all well. He had a large, squashed nose and his lips were plump and moved like floppy rubber as he spoke. "Who are you?" Charlie asked, trying to move the stick away from his face. "We ain’t saying nuffink, we ain’t!" The voice was deep and gruff. He swayed the stick at Charlie as he spoke. Then another being came forward. He was almost a twin to the first. The only thing Charlie noticed different was the large wart on the end of his nose. "Grobbit, you be very rude" the second creature said to his twin in a stern but soft tone. He turned back to Charlie and said "My name be Fnobble ..." But before he could finish his sentence the other two characters, who'd kept their distance from Charlie, fell to the floor and laughed. They introduced themselves as Itch and Nutley. Nutley was large and stout and his skin was wizened like a Brazil nut. His hair was black and matted. His mouth hung upside down, as if he was miserable all the time. His body was almost completely covered in acorn shell.
Itch was somewhat different in appearance, although his body was also covered in part by acorn shell. He was as skinny as a twig and bones protruded through the almost-transparent skin on his arms and legs. He had small hands and feet, with large toes and fingers. that flopped about like strings of sausages. Charlie cleared his throat loudly to attract their attention. "Excuse me… but what is so funny?" "FUNNY!" Itch squealed with laughter. He half choked with laughter as he rolled about the floor, repeating it over and over. Nutley sat on the ground, amused by Itch's hysterics. "I'm sorry, but I don't get the joke" Charlie said. "There ain’t no joke!" snapped Grobbit, pushing the stick into Charlie's cheek. Grobbit looked across at Itch and Nutley and hollered "Yer both a couple of idiots! Yer’d berra keep ya distance from me, or I'll 'ave ya. No one is gonna make fun of Snobble and get away wiv it!" "Oooh, I'm so scared," Itch mocked him, and laughed some more. Charlie watched Snobble's face getting redder and redder. Then, without a word, Snobble marched over to Itch and kicked him as hard as he could. Itch spiralled across the leafy floor. "Hey, that's my mate yer just kicked!" Nutley droned. "I'm gonna get yer back now!" He slowly got up and headed towards Snobble, but was stopped in his tracks by the sound of a deep moan that echoed around them. "Who was that then, eh?" Itch asked as he giggled. As Charlie stood up, Grobbit attacked him with the stick. He pushed him so hard, he fell back to the ground again. "Don't ya dare come near us! It were you, weren't it? You made that noise to scare us! Well I ain’t scared. Not me!" He obviously was indeed scared. He waved the stick furiously at Charlie. "But I didn't make a..."
"LIAR! You’re a LIAR!" Grobbit yelled. "You're 'ere to destroy us and our 'omes!" “But I… " "Yes yes, I agree" Itch joined in, brushing himself down and walking over to Charlie. He pointed his floppy finger as close as he dared to Charlie's nose. "We think YOU are the Big Stink, we do." "Do you?" Charlie answered, somewhat bewildered. He'd never been called a Stink before. "What exactly do you mean when you say a Stink?" All faces looked at Snobble. Snobble crouched on his knees next to Charlie. “We think you are the Fink" he said. "Oh right. I thought you said you were looking for a Stink" Charlie replied, confused. "He means STINK!" Grobbit snapped. "He can't say S. He can’t 'elp it. He were born like it. Right?" "We need to know who you are" Snobble continued. "Well, my name is Charlie, and… I'm afraid I haven't the foggiest idea how I got here." Grobbit threw his arms in the air. "He's lying I tell ya!" "Maybe we should kill 'im" Nutley added. Before anybody could reply, a terrible howling startled them. "Shall I kill 'im then?" Nutley repeated nervously. He raised what looked like a club above his head and was about to strike Charlie. "NO! Wait!" Snobble shouted, putting his arm protectively across Charlie's face. "I really don't think he be the Fink. He don't fmell bad at all." They all had a good sniff at Charlie. Suddenly, the ground trembled. Snobble and Grobbit huddled together. Itch and Nutley dived to the ground and put their hands over their heads. The noise stopped as quickly as it had started. "What was THAT?" Charlie asked.
"It was you, yes it was" Itch said, cowering on the ground next to Nutley. "I don't think it be him. I think it be coming from the Boggle Bog" Snobble suggested. "What on earth is the Boggle Bog?" Charlie asked. "It's where we take our rubbish" Nutley explained in a flat tone, distracted by a stick he had found. He took aim and threw it at Snobble. "It likes what we give it" he finished. The stick caught Snobble on the back of the leg. He winced with the pain, but chose to ignore Nutley. "Maybe the Boggle Bog be fick" Snobble wondered. "Fick?' "Sick" Grobbit corrected, almost parrot fashion. Then he added, "What we gonna do wiv THIS then?" and prodded Charlie hard on the back. At Snobble's suggestion, it was decided that they should go and check on the Boggle Bog. Then they would report their findings to the Old Sage, back at the village. Charlie was to go with them. "Yes yes," Itch said excitedly. "The Old Sage will know exactly what to do with you, yes he will." He stopped for a moment to scratch his arm, then his leg. â€œAnd you will be our prisoner, yes you will" he went on. Charlie didn't much like the sound of that, but there was very little he could do about it. He was frog-marched along in front of Grobbit. With every step, he was prodded and poked by Grobbit, Itch and Nutley. Charlie walked a short distance, then stopped. The others jumped back, startled. Charlie grabbed hold of Itch's stick. "Is this really necessary?" he said. He snapped the stick in two. "We ainâ€™t gonna let ya get away. We still don't know for sure if you're the Stink!" Grobbit snapped.
Charlie folded his arms and smiled. "Do you honestly think I look like a Stink?" The four characters looked at each other. No one was quite sure how to answer. Nobody had ever actually seen the Stink. "Depends what a Stink looks like, yes it does" Itch replied in a cocky tone. "Yeah" Nutley nodded. "Well, IT DOESN'T LOOK LIKE ME!'' Charlie yelled. All four of them stood completely still with shock. Grobbit broke the silence. "Well that's THAT then, isn't it!" he said, and threw his stick to the ground. The others copied him. "Yes, but what are we going to do without a prisoner? I liked that bit, yes I did. We must have a prisoner to take back to the Old Sage, yes we must" Itch said, scratching. A look of deep disappointment was etched on his face. "Yeah" Nutley agreed. "Well, I'm happy to come with you" Charlie obliged. Itch clapped his hands with excitement. "But I will NOT be your prisoner!" "Well that's that then" said Grobbit. "But I ain’t gonna take my eye off ya. I still don't trust ya!” "Fair enough" Charlie agreed. "My name's Charlie, by the way.” They all walked on in silence. The forest was dense with foliage of every description, things Charlie had never seen before. Greenery surrounded him, but there must have been dozens of different shades of it. Moss covered much of the ground, so it felt soft underfoot. Ferns and fungi of every shape and size littered the forest floor. Some of the mushrooms seemed very tall, Charlie thought as he gazed about. Some of them were even taller than him. That didn't seem right. "Why…" He was about to ask when suddenly a rhythmic BOOM BOOM BOOM shook the ground beneath them.
"HIDE! Quick, over here!" Snobble shouted to Charlie. They disappeared so fast, he couldn't see where they'd hidden themselves. "Hurry Charlie, before the Hu-Bee comes!â€? Charlie saw Snobble's hand beckon him, from under some seedling ferns. BOOM BOOM BOOM. The Hu-bee was clearly getting closer. "Can someone please tell me what a..." "SSHH!" Grobbit retorted. "You'll 'ave us all killed." Charlie watched in silence as the thing approached. He wasn't even sure if he was supposed to feel frightened. One thing was for sure though. Grobbit and Snobble, Itch and Nutley, all seemed to be terrified. What was it about a Hu-bee that could make them so frightened? The Hu-bee approached at great speed. Charlie couldn't see clearly what it looked like, but it was clearly very large. Its body towered above them like the trees. At last it stopped, directly in front of where they were hiding. It wore shoes that looked about the size of boats, Charlie thought. It dropped a sack it had carried on its shoulder and the sack hit the ground with a thud. There was movement inside it. The Hu-bee bent down on one knee. Its tatty, smelly clothes spread out until they partly covered the place where Charlie and the others were hiding. In the darkness, Itch suddenly panicked. "Gotta get out, gotta get out, yes I have!" he moaned. Nutley held on to him tightly and tried to reassure him. Snobble had his hand over Itch's mouth to stifle his whimpering noises. Charlie could hear the Hu-bee rummaging in the undergrowth. It was pushing ferns aside and knocking down some of the fungi. He could hear it mumble something, but he wasn't sure what. Then the Hu-bee moved slightly to the right, to check a different area. As it did so, the clothes moved away and Charlie and the beings were suddenly completely exposed. The Hu-bee hadnâ€™t spotted them - yet. Charlie knew their only
chance was to sneak quickly and quietly into the deep undergrowth. Charlie's heart beat a little faster, and his throat felt dry. He took a step backwards, without taking his eye off the Hubee. But as he did so he backed into Snobble, who was frozen to the spot with fright. Nutley had rolled into a tight ball next to Itch, and Grobbit was standing with his stick aimed, ready to fight. Without any warning, the Hu-bee's hand shot round very close to where they were all stood. Its face turned slowly round, its eyes checking every inch of ground. Charlie's mouth gaped open in disbelief. "That looks just like..." he whispered, but Grobbit slapped his hand over Charlie's mouth before he could finish. Together they stumbled back a couple of paces, under some cover. Snobble followed, but Itch and Nutley lay huddled together. It was then that the Hu-bee discovered them. It was easy to spot them; their bodies shook so much and their teeth were chattering. Itch still whimpered like an injured animal. "All wight, you misewable beings, you are mine now!'' said the Hu-bee, leaning over to grab hold of Itch and Nutley. Charlie screamed, but the sound was stifled. Grobbit's hand pushed hard against his mouth. Now he really was frightened. The Hu-bee wasâ€Ś Miss Potts!
Chapter Three Itch Miss Potts’ right eye was glowing green, as it had before. But now it was protruding from its socket like a telescope. There were tiny creatures inside the eye. They looked a lot like tiny goblins, with big ears, long noses, and a grin from ear to ear. They each had three eyes. Miss Potts grabbed Nutley and Itch and held them up to her face. She cackled like a witch. "Ooh, you are vewy fwightened of me, aren't you. How exciting!” she cackled. “I like this game. Now you will tell me where Charlie boy is." While Itch and Nutley squiggled and squirmed in the Hu-bee's hand, Charlie was drawn to the sack. It was the same sack he'd seen her throw in the van that morning. He was curious at what was moving about inside. He watched as the tie slowly came lose. Something flew out of the sack so fast that Charlie couldn't make out what it was. It was followed by another, and another. "Which one of you is going to tell me where Charlie is? You must tell me quick, or I might have to eat you!" the Hu-bee sniggered. She put Nutley in her other hand and held him up close to her mouth. 'Let me twy you first. You have more meat on you." She opened her mouth wide. Charlie gasped in horror. "NO..." he hollered, running out into the open space where she could see him. "Let him go!"
The Hu-bee roared with laughter. It sent a chill down Charlie's spine. "I knew it, I knew it! I knew you were hiding somewhere nearby. I could sniff you out fwom miles away, my boy." "Well now you have me, so you just put Nutley down!" "I still might twy eating him. I've not eaten a nut like this in a very long time." She held Nutley to her mouth, and licked him over and over. Nutley whimpered and snivelled. Charlie grabbed a stick, and lunged it at the Hu-bee's knee. "OUCH!" she yelled. She dropped Nutley and Itch and made a grab for Charlie. He made a dash for the safety of the undergrowth, but he wasn't quick enough. Then, just as the Hu-beeâ€™s huge fat, filthy fingers touched him, she was attacked. Whatever it was that had escaped from the sack now flew at the Hu-bee. One after another, they hit her with their wings and stung her with their tails. There seemed to be five of them. The Hu-bee swiped at them, this way and that. The tiny creatures blew raspberries, for every time she missed. "I'll get you, you misewable bunch of decaying flesh!" she yelled. While she was distracted, Charlie grabbed hold of Nutley and ran. Snobble and Itch quickly followed. Grobbit had already moved some distance away. "You can't hide fowever, Charlie" the Hu-bee screamed. "I shall find you and destwoy you, along with evwyone else in this howibble fowest, all wight!" Charlie had to half carry Nutley. His body hung limp with fear. When they'd caught up with Grobbit, they found a safe place to hide for a while. Charlie leaned Nutley against the roots of a tree and took a moment to catch his breath. Snobble, Grobbit and Itch collapsed in a heap on the floor. "That was very bad, yes it was. That was very, very badâ€? Itch muttered quietly.
"Shurrup will ya!" Grobbit snapped. "It was very bad, yes it was," Itch continued. He scratched his arms, then he scratched his legs, then his face. “Yes it was, yes it was." "You're safe now Itch" Charlie reassured him. But Itch never heard him. He continued to chant the same words as if it was a ritual he had to go through. "This is all your fault!" Grobbit suddenly snarled at Charlie. But Charlie ignored him. He bent his legs up tight against his chest, and rested his head on his knees. "She shrunk me" he mumbled. "I can't believe it. She actually shrunk me!" "What d'ya say? Speak up will ya!" "He faid" Snobble replied for Charlie, "He be frunk by the Hu-bee." "Frunk? What's frunk supposed to mean?" Grobbit's reply brought a smile back to Itch's face. "Charlie was shrunk by the Hu-bee, yes he was" said Itch. "She ain’t shrunk nor frunk no one!” Grobbit snorted. "You ain’t got no proof. " Nutley roused himself. "Yeah, you ain’t got no proof. I still think yer might be the Stink" he nodded. "Oh, don't be fo filly, Nutley!" Snobble retorted. "The thing is" Charlie tried to explain. "I live in the same street as the Hu-bee -well, actually she's called Miss Potts. I'm only about one and a half inches shorter than her, well normally, that is." The others stared blankly at Charlie. No one believed him. "You are wrong Charlie. That not be Miff Pottf. It be a Hu-bee!" Snobble answered. "Well I'm sorry Snobble, but where I come from, that Hu-bee is most definitely Miss Potts" Charlie said adamantly. Grobbit frowned. "There ain’t no proof where ya come from!" “No, but we need help to find the Fink, Grobbit" Snobble reasoned. "Maybe he will help." Grobbit folded his arms in a huff, and turned his back on Charlie.
"Yes" Itch piped up. "Yes yes, I think he'll help us, yes I do." He gave the back of his neck a good scratch. "Will you? Will you help us find the Fink, I mean the Stink?" He sat up close to Charlie. His eyes searched Charlie's face for signs of a 'yes'. "Well... maybe I...” “YES!" Itch interrupted. "Did you hear that Grobbit? Charlie said YES! He will help us find the Stink, yes he will." Grobbit huffed loudly, and stuck his nose in the air. "I ain’t bovvered what he does! We don't need his 'elp." "The thing is," Charlie tried again. "I do want to help you, really I do. But... I want to get back to my normal size again. I don't belong here, in the forest. I want to go home to where I live." "I said 'e were the Stink" Nutley droned. Nobody took any notice. "But the old Sage has magic, yes he does. He could make you big again. It depends how big you want to be, yes it does. We could ask him" Itch suggested. "I want to be big enough to punch the lights out of Miss Potts, or the Hu-bee, whatever she is." “He won't do THAT big" Nutley said matter-of-factly. Snobble shook his head in agreement. "He be right. Old Fage magic good. VERY good. But not good enough to fight magic of the Hu-bee. It be HER magic you need." Charlie sat quietly for a moment. He looked around him at this strange environment he was now in. He was talking to some conker people, for goodness sake. How weird was that! Itch and Nutley were ever so slightly smaller than Snobble and Grobbit. They appeared to be acorn beings. He thought of all the conkers he'd collected over the years. Were they beings too? Had he kidnapped them unknowingly? Worse still, what about all the conkers he'd skewered to put string through so he could play with them. Had he killed them? He shuddered at the thought. It stirred him enough to get up and move about.
"Right, I WILL help you find the Stink, but then I shall need you to help me get back to my normal size” he said. “If that means we have to fight the Hu-bee for her magic, then so be it. Are we agreed?" "NO!" Itch shouted. "We're very scared of the Hu-bee, yes we are. Aren't we scared of the Hu-bee, Grobbit?" “I ain’t scared of nuffing. NUFFING, d'ya hear?" shouted Grobbit. "Oh thank goodness for that Grobbit" Charlie replied casually. "Only I'm terrified of the Hu-bee, but if we have you with us, none of us need be frightened any more. Wow, you are so brave!" Charlie turned his face away slightly, so Grobbit couldn't see the smirk on his face. "Yes, oh yes, you are so brave Grobbit" Itch added. "Are we going now then?" Grobbit had been cornered by his own big mouth. Without looking at them, he strode off. "This way" he grunted. The air was tense with Grobbit's bad mood. The air was also smelly. And the more they walked, the smellier it got. Snobble strode out with Grobbit. They chattered and twaddled, but Charlie never heard a word they said. Nutley dragged his feet behind Charlie. Itch walked with him, but every so often he would catch up with Charlie. “Charlie… can I call you Charlie?” he asked. “I think I like that name very much, yes I do." "Yes of course you can" said Charlie. Itch was a fidget-bum. He rubbed and scratched, yawned and burped and flumped. He'd do funny walks to make Nutley laugh, and pull faces that would make the most miserable person roll about on the floor in stitches. But somehow, Nutley was the exception to the rule. Not once did he split his sides with laughter. Just the occasional 'huh!' was all the thanks Itch ever got for his hard work.
After a time, Charlie was relieved when Snobble called to him, "Come here Charlie. Come and fee the Boggle Bog." Charlie pushed through the leaves and scrambled over twigs and branches. He tried his best to ignore the foul smell, but it grew stronger by the second. Within minutes, he was standing in front of the Boggle Bog. It was like a very large lake of bubbling soup. He pinched his nose with his fingers to keep the smell out. It belched and spluttered, popped and burped and slurped. It sent spurts of thick dirty brown water into the air. Some of the spurts reached up to about ten feet into the air! "That is the worst smell I've ever come across in my whole life" Charlie exclaimed. "Looks like this is your Big Stink." He felt relieved. He hadn't expected it to be so easy to find the cause of the smell. Thoughts of being his normal size again, and the possibility of a huge plate of egg and chips at home, suddenly flooded his mind. But the sensation was short lived. "That ain’t it" said Grobbit. "What do you mean, that ain’t it? Can't you smell that awful whiff? Is your nose blocked or something?” "Nope. That ain’t it" Grobbit repeated. "Our Boggle Bog 'as always smelt whiffy. That's an 'ealthy whiff!" "Really?" Charlie replied, not sure whether to believe him or not. "Look." Snobble pointed up at the trees all around Boggle Bog. There were groups of trees covered in a thick, black goo. The branches hung limp and had shed most of their foliage. They were dying. All the plant life close to the ground was already dead. "What on earth has happened?" said Charlie. "SSHH!" Grobbit hushed the others. "There's somefink else around 'ere." They all stood perfectly still. "Where?" Nutley asked in a low whisper. "I dunno, do I! But I can 'ear summink that don’t sound right." They all strained their ears.
"Well I can't hear anything at all" Itch said in a bright tone. He was bored. He ran round the trees and kicked up the leaves. Then he threw a stick at Nutley. "Ouch!" Nutley yelled as it hit his leg. "Iâ€™m gonna get yer back for that!" "Yes yes, you try and get me" Itch cackled in a high-pitched voice. "But your sticks never catch me, no they don't." He bent down to scratch his ankle. As he did so, Nutley took aim. "Yeah, got yer that time!" he grunted, well pleased with his shot. Then, quite out of character, he jumped up and down twice on the spot. His oversized boots thudded on the ground. Unknown to them, they were being watched. "Sshh! I can't 'ear nuffink with yer noise" Grobbit shouted at them. "You muft be quiet!" Snobble joined in. "Can't you hear the grumble?" "What, is yer belly grumbling, Snobble?" Nutley joked. That sent Itch off into squeals of laughter. "I think..." Itch spluttered as he tried to contain his laughter. "I think it's Snobble having trouble with his 'Ss', eh Snobble? Or should I say, Fnobble? Yes yes, I think so!" He fell to the ground in a frenzy of high-pitched squawks. For the second time that day, Snobble marched over to Itch and kicked him hard. Charlie winced when he heard the thud of Snobble's boot on Itch's backside. Itch cartwheeled across the ground into a small glade. Nutley ran after him to make sure be wasnâ€™t hurt. "Silly old Snobs and Grobs" Itch shouted. "There's no monster around here that makes a grumbly, moany sound. Or, yes, maybe it's me, and I shall eat you all up, one by one, yes I shall!" With that, Itch waggled his ears and poked his tongue at them. Nutley copied him, making his own monster sounds.
The noise echoed around the Boggle Bog. Charlie found it hard not to laugh at them, but Grobbit and Snobble were not amused. "Don't you dare laugh at them" Grobbit cautioned. "They're a couple of idiots, the pair of 'em. If I 'ad my way, I'd..." "No you wouldn't!" Snobble interrupted. "The old Fage told Itch and Nutley to come and help.” "You don't like them much, do you, Grobbit?" asked Charlie. "None of your business!" Grobbit snapped back. Suddenly, a darkness fell over the area where they stood. The forest fell completely silent. The grumbles and moans had stopped. Charlie looked anxiously at Snobble and Grobbit. Their faces were blank. Then, unexpectedly, a large black blob dropped on to Grobbit’s head. It made him jump. It was as if a large blob of jelly had just dropped out of the sky. He carefully took his hat off and inspected it. "Don't touch it, Grobbit" Charlie cautioned. Grobbit shook the hat briskly to get rid of the bulk of the goo, and placed it back on his head. There came the faint sound of a moan, only this time, it sounded very close. The three of them looked up. Weaving silently through the trees directly above them was a huge, black mass. It was covering everything it touched in a horrible goo. "Wh… what IS it?" Charlie stuttered. "Got to hide!" Snobble was panicking. Grobbit stared up at the mass as it circled above them, his stick ready for a fight. Itch and Nutley were oblivious to the mass. Itch still cackled and chuckled to himself. Charlie tried to attract their attention, but they had wandered too far away. He quickly scanned the area, and noticed a hollow in a tree trunk. Charlie nudged Snobble. "Over there – look - we can hide in there" he said. Then, all of a sudden, the mass made a dive straight at them. They grabbed hold of Grobbit, and made a run for cover. Charlie's heart pounded inside his chest. They pushed Grobbit into
the hollow, then dived in after him. They huddled together in the tiny space, the mass swirling round and round the tree. Closer and closer it came... and then, quite suddenly, it disappeared. Itch and Nutley had decided to play hide and seek. Nutley had found somewhere to hide. Itch had to count to twenty. "One... two... three... five..." Itch was not too clever with numbers, and found himself bored very quickly. For every number he managed to shout, he'd burst into squeals of laughter. Attracted by all the noise, the mass hovered over Itch. Drip, drip, drip, three large blobs of goo dropped on to his head. Itch stopped counting and wiped his head. "You're not allowed to throw things at me, Nutley! That's against the rules, yes it is" he giggled. His sausage like fingers were covered in the goo. He put his fingers to his nose, and sniffed. "PHOAR!" He screwed his face in disgust at the revolting smell. "That's disgusting, Nutley! That's most definitely not allowed, no it's not!" The air was still, silent and incredibly smelly. "Nutley, where are you?" Nobody answered. "Hello... Nutley?" he called again. He laughed nervously. "Anybody? Where are you all hiding? It was only a game for me and Nutley. No one else is allowed to play, no you're not, so you can come out now, yes you can." But still no one answered. The mass waited... and waited... and waited. By now, Itch was really fed up, and felt cross. "Nutley, I'm coming for you, and when I find you, I'm going to tip something really nasty on YOUR head! Yes I am. See how you like that!" The thought immediately dissolved Itch into fits of giggles again. He fell to floor on his knees. He laughed... and then he stopped. He was suddenly aware of a huge, black shadow hovering directly over him. The shadow grew bigger, as it got closer and closer. Itch's skinny body shook. Slowly, ever so slowly, he looked up. He turned white as a sheet.
Chapter Four Panic sets in Itch was frozen to the spot with fright. He opened his mouth to scream, but nothing came out. The Big Stink spun above his head. It lowered itself until it was only two inches above his head. Then, suddenly, it dropped level with his body. "Where is Itch? Where's he gone?" Charlie whispered to the others. "I can't fee him" Snobble replied. The Big Stink whirled around Itch like a hula hoop. Tighter and tighter it came in on him. Leaves and branches were whipped up in the speed of the current. Faster and faster it spun, until it had a firm grip on Itch. All at once, a gigantic mouth opened up. Itch let out the worst, most horriblest, blood curdling scream... and then he was gone. The Big Stink moved swiftly on to the Boggle Bog. It sucked up large mouthfuls of the bubbling, dirty water. It ducked and dived, in and out, until the bog was almost empty. With each scoop, the Big Stink grew larger. Roaring as it moved, it was dripping its disgusting goo over trees and undergrowth as it went. Charlie carefully squeezed his body back out of the hollow. Snobble and Grobbit followed. They stood very still, too afraid to move, or to make any sound that might bring the Big Stink back. "I can't believe it. I've never seen or heard anything like it before!" Charlie exclaimed. "Poor Itch."
"’E 'ad it coming! There weren't nuffink we could've done for im anyway" said Grobbit in a loud whisper. Snobble and Charlie glared at Grobbit, shocked by his heartless attitude. "Well 'e did," Grobbit retorted rather loudly. "'E always attracted trouble. 'E were a real pest, 'im and 'is mate Nutley." He looked away to avoid Snobble and Charlie's look of disgust. "The fmell be horrible!" Snobble whispered, as he scooped up a blob with his finger tip and sniffed it. Grobbit turned towards Snobble and stuck his nose a little too close to the goo. "Aargh! That's a real pong!" Grobbit agreed, as he wiped his nose on his sleeve. "But where on earth has it come from?" Charlie asked. "It's the work of the 'u-bee, I reckon. We need t' warn the old Sage." "But what about Nutley? We need to find him first. We can't just leave him here, can we?" "We've done our bit" Grobbit snarled. "We've found the Stink. I ain’t 'anging around 'ere for that 'orrible thing to come back and eat us up, too!" "But, but"... "No we ain’t!" Grobbit pointed a stick at Charlie. "Probably get eaten by the Stink anyway." He marched off. Snobble ignored Grobbit. He had wandered off, close to where Boggle Bog had been. All that was left was a large puddle. Snobble just stood there and stared at it. Charlie ran after him. "It all be my fault" Snobble mumbled. "What do you mean, it's all your fault?" "If I hadn't kicked Itch fo hard, he'd not have been eaten by the Fink." "Snobble, you're not to talk like that. It was most definitely NOT your fault. "He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time." Snobble looked at him and sighed. Charlie put his hand on
Snobble's shoulder and gently squeezed it. "It's time to go now, Snobble." He gave Snobble a gentle nudge and they both moved on in silence, Grobbit already a few paces in front of them. As they walked, Charlie and Snobble kept a lookout for signs of Nutley. Grobbit showed no hint of concern. The only thing that interrupted his march was the occasional deep growling in the distance. The trek back to Snobble and Grobbit's village seemed to go on and on. So many strange sounds surrounded them. But Charlie was the only one who looked over his shoulder, or gulped or gasped. It was as if he'd been transported to another planet. Giant mushrooms swayed and talked together in groups. He could catch whisperings high up in the trees. Living things were all around him. Charlie was apprehensive about meeting the Old Sage. Who exactly was he, and, what if he didn't like Charlie? What would happen to him then? The questions ran through his mind at such a pace that the final part of their trek back passed quickly. At last they reached the village. As soon as Snobble and Grobbit were spotted beings appeared out of every nook and cranny, all making their way to a strange-looking house that stood right in the middle of a clearing. It was called The Jolly Croft. The house was quite small, and jutted out at strange angles. Most of it was yellow, but the front door was blue. It creaked loudly as it slowly opened. Charlie was glad to be hidden by the crowd, but he was curious too. He stretched up on tiptoes to catch a glimpse of this Being. The Old Sage appeared. He stood on his doorstep, straightened his clothing and picked up a long nobbly stick that hung next to the door on the left. Then, he closed the door behind him and hobbled over to a tall fungus. The Old Sage prodded it with his stick. "Come on, Truffle. This is no time for a nap. Get your brain into action and let me up" he twittered impatiently.
Charlie stared in amazement as the mushroom opened its sleepy eyes and yawned long and hard. Then he leaned his head forward to allow the Old Sage to climb up. It was a rather ungainly affair and there were two failed attempts before a kindly Conker Being rushed forward to give the Old Sage a much needed push. Giggles rippled through the crowd as he shuffled his bottom this way and that until he was comfortable. He coughed and sniffed, then he raised his arm to call the crowd to order. "Well now, Snobble and Grobbit, where are you? Come forward, come forward" he gestured to them. They shuffled forwards, Charlie squashed between them. They both gave Charlie strict orders not to say a word. Their heavy conker shells pricked at Charlie's coat over and over as they fidgeted. He stuck his hand in his pockets to save them from being scratched to pieces. A thin shaft of sunlight shone on the Old Sage's face, allowing Charlie a clear view of him. He'd never seen skin so wrinkled before. It was like badly-crumpled crĂŞpe paper. Its colour was white as snow and his eyes were sunk deep into their sockets. His lips were small and thin, with a bluish tinge. He wore a bright orange cloak wrapped tightly round his frail body. It reached all the way from his neck to his toes. Charlie could just about see a pair of long, pointed purple slippers. He also wore a hat which looked a lot like a witchâ€™s hat, Charlie thought, except that it flopped about his shoulders. The hat was purple too. "Well now, what news do you bring us?" the Old Sage asked anxiously. "There be a big Fink, and it gobbled up Itch, and..." Snobble gabbled so fast, the crowd laughed at him. Charlie peered over his shoulder. It seemed there were hundreds of Conker Beings, whole families of them - and Acorn Beings too, just like Itch and Nutley. They all huddled together tightly, their faces firmly fixed on the Old Sage.
"QUIET!" the Old Sage squealed. Charlie jumped. The voice was shrill and piercing. "There's a Fink, you say?'' he inquired. He leaned forward and held his left ear with the palm of his hand, so he could hear a little better. Snobble opened his mouth to speak, but Grobbit interrupted him. "'E means a Stink, Sire. A great big 'orrible Stink. It weren't 'arf pongy! It 'ad Itch. There weren't nuffink we could do to 'elp 'im. ‘E were gone real quick. We dunno what 'appened to Nutley. We ain’t seen 'im since." The Old Sage looked puzzled. He ran his fingers through his long white beard. "Well now, has anyone seen Nutley? Anyone at all?" Excited chatter spread through the crowd, but they knew nothing. Nutley had not been seen. They were restless and noisy. "Will you be QUIET!" the Old Sage ordered. "What exactly does it look like?" But before Grobbit and Snobble could answer, the Old Sage motioned with his hand for them to remain silent. He had spotted Charlie. The Old Sage snarled quietly. His fingers twiddled and twisted at his beard. Charlie was not completely sure that it was he the Sage was staring at. Snobble and Grobbit were oblivious to what was about to happen. “I think it looks more like a Fink" the Old Sage said. "Oh no, sire" Grobbit jumped in quick. "No, it's most definitely, absolutely, hundred percent, the most 'orriblest Stink ever." But then, the penny dropped. The Old Sage lifted his long stick and pointed it directly at Charlie. "This is the Big Stink, eh?" The crowd gasped and took two steps back. Before Snobble or Grobbit could answer, the Old Sage became hysterical. "You’re the culprit!" he shouted. "You have killed Itch!"
Charlie didn't know whether to run or stay and try to defend himself. The crowd was noisy with screams and shouts of, "Kill it!". Charlie frantically waved his hands to the Sage, shaking his head. "Youâ€™ve got it all wrong! He shouted. But his voice was lost in the commotion that followed. "Lock it up!" the Old Sage screamed. Instantly, the crowd was upon Charlie. Snobble and Grobbit tried as best they could to pull the Beings off, but there were too many of them. Charlie tried to scream, but the weight of all the Beings almost suffocated him. "Snobble, Grobbit, help me!" he yelled. No-one noticed what was happening in the background. Drawn by the loud commotion, the real Big Stink suddenly roared out of the shadows of the forest. The ground shook with such force that the Old Sage fell off Truffle. The Beings let go of Charlie and ran. The Big Stink circled over them in mid-air. Snobble and Grobbit grabbed Charlie and pulled him to cover just as it dived in to attack. Terrified Beings ran this way and that in sheer panic. Cooking pots were sent flying. Clean washing was ripped off the lines as the Stink whipped up everything. Like a tornado it ripped apart homes, taking the occupants with it. Entire families were wiped out in seconds. Charlie, Snobble and Grobbit watched from a safe distance, feeling totally helpless. Truffle and his whole family fell victim to the Big Stink. The Old Sage, dazed by his fall, could only manage to crawl to the safety of his house. Grobbit, go to the Cuddle Trees! Hurry!â€? the old sage shouted. Charlie gasped. He watched as the Big Stink sped towards the Old Sage. "Oh no" he sighed as he put his hands over his eyes. "I can't watch this. Is he safe? Has he made it?" "He made it" Snobble reassured him.
Finally the Big Stink, having done its worst, left as quickly as it had come. The three of them sat quietly for a few moments. Snobble and Grobbit had both just lost friends and family and Charlie had escaped by the skin of his teeth from the angry Beings. Snobble broke the silence first. "I'm forry the Fage fought you were the Fink" he said. "It's not your fault. Easy mistake I guess" Charlie replied. Then almost as an afterthought, he added: "I don't look or smell anything like a Stink, do I?" Neither of them answered. Charlie discreetly sniffed his armpits and checked his shoes for signs of poo. Nothing. "Well… do I?" "Sshh! You'll have that Stink back looking for us wi' yer racket!" Grobbit snarled. “What are we supposed to do now, then?" Grobbit scowled at Charlie. Snobble answered his question. "The Fage called, 'go to the Cuddle Tree', so…" "You’re making that up.'' "I don't think he is, Grobbit" Charlie said. "I definitely heard him say something about trees." Grobbit was furious. Of course he had heard, but he wished he hadn't. "Why the 'eck we gorra go and see them bunch 'o wimpy idiots?" "Don't you like them, Grobbit?" Charlie smiled. "We muft go, Grobbit. There be no one elf." "If I 'ave t' go there, I'll chop the lorra them down! Can't stand all that rotten mushy stuff!” No more was said on the subject. Deep down, Grobbit knew the silly Old Sage was right. The Cuddle Trees knew all things, and right now, there was no other way out. The three of them had to go, and quickly. Snobble, Grobbit and Charlie were the terrified residents’ only hope.
The journey to the Cuddle Trees was not an easy one. Charlie's imagination ran wild with visions of monsters jumping out of the thick undergrowth and attacking them. Huge shadows of trees and ferns spread across their path. Each one seemed to create a picture of a grotesque beast. Howls, screeches and wails echoed all around. His body trembled, and his skin was cold and clammy with fear of the unknown. This was worse than any of the bullying at school, he thought. "Exactly how long has Miss Potts been coming to this forest?" he asked, trying to distract himself. "There ain’t no Potts in this place, only the 'u-bee, an' it be mean and nasty!" "Why? What has it done?" Charlie felt awkward calling Miss Potts an 'it'. "It's ruined our 'ome wiv magic. It steals us an' keeps us as slaves an' feeds us to the Dragon." "Dragon? Did you just say Dragon?" "Yep. Yer dunno much, do ya Charlie. 'E lives in deepest bit o' jungle, 'an 'e eats Beings like us." "That's horrible!” Charlie replied. “What that be?" Snobble suddenly panicked, as he heard a sound behind him. But it was just a stick that had fallen to the ground. "It ain’t nuffink! Yer makin' me all of a divver, wi' yer twitterin' . Shurrup will ya?" Grobbit pretended not to be bothered, but his legs wobbled like jelly, and his heart pounded much louder than usual. He just hoped the other two couldn't hear it. They walked on, almost tip-toeing as they tried not to make a sound. They hadn't gone far when Grobbit stopped in his tracks. Charlie and Snobble bumped into him. Grobbit yelled out, thinking he'd been caught by some dark and gruesome monster.
"Don’t walk so close!" he growled. "Forry." "Can ya smell summink?" Grobbit asked seriously as he twitched his nose. "What?" Charlie asked in a hushed tone. He copied Grobbit, sniffing the air hard. At first, he couldn't smell anything, but then… "Actually.. .yes, I think I can smell something a bit odd.” "It fmell like the Fink" said Snobble, his voice trembling. They moved on slowly. As they did, the smell became much stronger. Then they heard it - the same grumbles they'd first heard when they were at the Boggle Bog. The sounds grew louder and more fierce as they walked on. Then, all of a sudden, there was a loud BANG. Instinctively, Snobble and Grobbit ran. They ran as fast as their short legs would carry them. But unknown to them, Charlie hadn't followed them. In sheer panic he'd fallen to the ground. He curled up in a tiny ball and folded his arms around his head. The bangs continued for a minute or so, then there was silence. Charlie ever so slowly peered out and looked around. Snobble and Grobbit were nowhere in sight. "Snobble....Grobbit?" he called in a pitiful whimper. He called again, this time louder. His voice echoed in the empty space. There was no reply.
Chapter Five Never trust a Yawling "Come to gobby up my hot-potty have you?" said a loud, raspy voice. Charlie looked around him, but saw no one. He checked the area in front of him, behind him, and over his right shoulder. He was careful not to move too fast or too soon. When he looked over his left shoulder, he noticed that smoke was billowing from a pile of tightly packed leaves. He crawled on his hands and knees to get a closer look. "Sorry 'bout the bangy. Put heaps too much the old peppery in the potty. Always do. Always will" the voice said. "Hello?" Charlie called quietly. "Where are you?" He stood up, cautiously taking a closer look at the pile of leaves. He still couldn't see anyone. A slight breeze sent a puff of smoke across Charlie's face. He swiftly pinched his nose. "Urghh! That's disgusting!" he mumbled under his breath. Then, without any warning, an over-sized hand shot out of the pile of leaves. Charlie jumped back in fright. "Oh, scared your wits did I?" said the voice. Its strange laugh sounded forced. It sent a chill down Charlie's spine. "Now then, I be most badly mannered not introducing meself. My name be Fligwiggy." The hand thrust forward, level with Charlie's hand. Charlie touched it with just one finger. It was as cold as ice.
"Oh!" he said, shoving his hand back into his pocket. The fingers were long and spindly and the nails were filed to a sharp point. "Come closer. Let me feel you." The hand waved about frantically as it tried to find him. Charlie took a step back out of reach, but he wasn't fast enough. One of the nails caught on his coat. He tugged the coat, but the nail was firmly stuck. A very large head suddenly appeared. The eyes were such tiny slits that they were barely visible. His nose was fat and long, shaped like a crow’s beak. It twitched constantly. He yawned, and Charlie gawped in amazement at the huge opening. The teeth were very big, and they all had pointed tips. "So, I be questioning now. Who might YOU be, pooching on my dirt?" "Well I… I’m Charlie. But I don't think I am poaching on your land." Fligwiggy yanked his fingernail off the coat, and scratched all the way down with his five fingers. He was intrigued by the whooshing sound it made on the nylon, shower-proof material. "I be telling you, you be pooching on my dirt!" His tone was sharp. The fingers scratched up and down, up and down, irritating Charlie. "Actually, I'm lost" said Charlie. “What you be telling me?" “I said, I'm lost, and I've lost my friends as well." Charlie was somewhat surprised with himself. He hadn't thought of Snobble and Grobbit as friends up to this point. But right now, he desperately wished they were there with him. A lump formed in his throat, but he quickly cleared it, and took a deep breath. "Your friends vanished have they? Does that be an explanation to me, that right now, you be friend ...less?" Fligwiggy yawned again. "Well, when you put it like that, then I guess I am.”
"Oh my oh my, my gobby goopy. HAH! You be having an enormous problematicky there." His long fingers scratched his head as he pondered a moment. "I be bubbling me brain, and deciding... that if you be lost, then l found you." He yawned again, and chuckled as he finished, "In actuation, I bubbled that you be very rudey!" "Why?" â€œBecause you be unsalting my hospitality." "Oh, well I'm very sorry Fligwiggle." "We'll be chattling 'bout it no more, but I be appreciating all manners, if you be calling me by my properly name. It be FligWIGGY, not FligWIGGLE!" Charlieâ€™s new friend emerged from the pile of leaves. He was incredibly short. His body was very round, and looked as if he had squashed it downwards, so the fat splayed out in all directions. His head, hands and feet were almost twice the size of Charlie's. Fligwiggy eyed Charlie up and down. His long fingers prodded and poked at Charlie's coat. Then he turned his attention to the tear on the front. It was a lightly padded coat, and a small piece of it was exposed. Fligwiggy was fascinated by it. He fiddled and pulled at it. Then he put it in his mouth. He screwed his face up and quickly spat it out. Charlie laughed at his contorted expression, and suddenly felt quite relaxed. "Yucky yuk! You be toasting horrid!" "Oh no" Charlie giggled. "You can't eat this stuff. This is just the stuffing in my coat. I'm afraid I tore it when I fell through..." His voice trailed off as he realised Fligwiggy obviously wasn't interested. "Nuff said. Howzy 'bout gobbing a twitchy cupful of this 'ere me hot-potty?" "Oh... thank you." Charlie took his coat off, folded it neatly and
placed it on the ground. Fligwiggy's eyes opened wide as Charlie's white school shirt flashed in the light. As Fligwiggy lifted the top of the pot, a thick black cloud of smoke escaped. It filled the air with a pungent smell of cheesy feet, rotten eggs and mouldy cheese. Charlie discreetly held his nose again. It smelt foul, but he was starving. It seemed like forever since he'd had his breakfast. Fligwiggy stirred the contents vigorously with a long stick. It seemed a little odd, Charlie thought, that the contents were bubbling, because he couldn't see a fire underneath to heat it. Fligwiggy stuck his finger in the pot. His nail caught hold of something lumpy and wriggling and pulled it out. He opened his mouth and plopped it in. His feet shuffled in tiny movements as he turned his lardy body round and round on the spot. He giggled and cooed and muttered under his breath. He dipped an acorn cup deep into the steaming pot and scooped out a large amount, then rammed it under Charlie’s nose. Charlie heaved at the smell, but felt obliged to try it. He tentatively opened his mouth and allowed Fligwiggy to pour in the contents. His body went rigid as the heat of the pepper shot through him. His colour turned crimson. "What are the lumpy bits?" "This be the besty hot-potty you'll ever get around here” Fligwiggy said proudly. "There be a goody amount of maggots and beetles, ants’ eggs and daddy-long-legs, earwigs and pimples. Wriggling worms and ticks, toenails, dragon saliva and anteaters blisters. Fleas and peas and the slime of snails. Rat droppings and bats’ brains, earwax of spiders and draglets’ veins" he reeled off. "There be secret bips and pips I be additioning, but that be especial to a Yawling. I be tittling it Scumpy Hot-Potty. You be gobbing some more?" "Oh no thanks" Charlie replied quickly as Fligwiggy dipped the
cup in the pot again. He tried his best to swallow the chewy, fatty gunk, but it was agony. His tummy turned two somersaults each time he tried. He held off, and waited for a good moment to spit it out without being noticed. But Fligwiggy never once took his beady eyes off Charlie. Eventually the food went down Charlie’s very sore throat. "Fligwiggy, I need to get going now. I really must try to find my friends" Charlie said politely. Fligwiggy flinched. "I found you! You be property of mine now! You be friendless now!" His tone was angry. He rocked back and forth on his feet. Charlie made a grab for his coat and went to stand up, but Fligwiggy firmly pushed him back down. Meanwhile, Snobble and Grobbit had realised that Charlie was not with them. "We ain’t goin' back, Snobs" Grobbit said. "'E be gone now, and that's that!" "We muft go back! He might be loft. He won't know where to go. We have to help him." "’E be an 'ole bundle of trouble! If 'e 'adn't come nosing in our forest, we’d have the Big Stink sorted by now!" Snobble ignored Grobbit's crabby mood and set off in the direction they'd just come from. "'E were probably eaten by the Stink by now." "I don't fink fo." "Maybe it were the 'u-bee. It were after 'im." "I don't fink fo." "'Ow we gonna know where 'e is, if 'e IS still alive, which I don't fink 'e is?" "We'll find him, Grobbit. Keep walking." Snobble took charge of the situation. He was determined that Charlie was still alive, however much this irritated Grobbit.
"Waste 'o valuable time this is! 'Ole forest be dead before we get t' Cuddle Trees, an' it be all 'is fault." "Quit your mumbling, Grob..." Snobble stopped suddenly. He strained his ear for a moment, then said, "I can hear Charlie." "Can yer? I can't." . "He be talking to fumone." "Who 'e be talking to?” "Don't know. Not clear." "That rotten smell be 'ere again. 'E ain’t talking to the Stink, is 'e?" They followed the sound of Charlie's voice until they came to a small clearing. They had a clear view of Charlie now, and who he was talking to. "I don't believe it!" Grobbit huffed a bit too loud. "Be quiet!" Snobble prodded him. “'E’s talking to a Yawling! 'E IS an idiot!" "He not be from around here, Grobbit. He wouldn't know, would he." "Well 'e will now, won't 'e? 'E's 'ad it now, 'cause i ain’t risking my neck for that idiot!" Snobble didn't reply to that, but gave Grobbit one of his disapproving looks. Fligwiggy had tight hold of Charlie's shirt collar. "You gobby up me hot-potty, so now you be MINE!" He poked Charlie's face as he spoke. Then he noticed Charlie's ears. His sharp nails scratched around the outside of one of them. Then he scraped round the inside and collected a small blob of earwax. He licked it and sucked it. He wiggled the earlobe. "Ouch!" Charlie yelled. "What are you doing?" Blood dripped on to his shirt collar. He felt his ear. He could feel blood on it. Fligwiggy had sliced a tiny bit of the lobe off and popped it in his mouth. He sucked and chewed on it while Charlie tried desperately
to think of a quick getaway. "I have to go, Fligwiggy! I have to go NOW!" he protested, but Fligwiggy ignored him. "I have to find my friends, and besides, the forest will be destroyed by the Big Stink if you don't let me go." Charlie relaxed a little as Fligwiggy loosened his grip on Charlie's shirt collar to stir the pot. He stood up, ready to run. But then there was a chorus of yawns, that sounded from all directions. Charlie couldn't see anyone, but the yawns were loud. Fligwiggy shifted from side to side, chuckling and breathing much more heavily now, his eyes wide with excitement. "It's too late for 'im, Snobs. 'E's 'ad it now" Grobbit was saying, with a slight tone of sadness in his voice. "There muft be fumfing we can do. Think, Grobbit, THINK!" But now the yawns became so loud that they couldnâ€™t hear each other speak. They were infectious too. Now they both started yawning, over and over again. Charlie was scared and bewildered by the constant drone of yawns. He tried hard not to join in, but he couldn't help himself. He yawned over and over, until his jaw ached and his eyes watered. It was an effort to keep them open. His body swayed to and fro, and the ground spun beneath him. He shook his head and rubbed his eyes hard to keep himself alert. "A Big Stinky, eh?â€? Fligwiggy chuckled. "What I be questioning you is, what be the problematicky of a Big Stinky?" "What?" Charlie shouted. He could barely hear what Fligwiggy was saying. Fligwiggy scratched Charlie's hand in a disagreeable manner. "A sizeable Stinky you said. What be the problematicky with it?" "Oh well... it's eating up the forest." Charlie's speech was sluggish. "It will eat us too ... if we don't stop it soon." "I be pondering me bubbly brain." Fligwiggy yawned three times. "If there be a Big Stinky, I should like to be pickling this
Stinky for me hot - " he yawned again - "me hot-potty." He stretched and yawned over and over, then shuffled excitedly at the thought of having pickled Big Stink. It was almost impossible for Charlie to concentrate. The yawns were even louder now, and he could no longer stop himself from copying them. "I... I must go" he stuttered, but then he suddenly gave in to tiredness and fell to the floor. Snobble and Grobbit were doing their best to keep awake. Their heads were fuzzy and their bodies ached. They were in no fit state to help Charlie now. Fligwiggy burst into screeches of laughter that echoed through the forest. Yawlings, hundreds of them, now appeared from all directions, and slowly shuffled their short, hefty bodies towards Charlie, lying motionless an the ground. Their mouths were open wide. The cooking pot became boisterous. It bubbled and boiled furiously, until it lifted off the ground, revealing a pair of large feet. It was the mother of the Yawlings. She was ready for her feast.
Chapter Six The Great Lady The Yawlings scurried around Charlie like a horde of ants. They stripped off his shirt and tie, then his shoes and socks. Fligwiggy lifted the mouth of the mother Yawling until, double-jointed, it clicked into place. Her contents bubbled and plopped about furiously, hungry for flesh. "Hurry, hurry!" he ordered, pointing anxiously at Charlie. They dragged him by his feet to where Fligwiggy stood. Charlie was still out cold. The mother Yawling shook violently. It was time. "Uprise hasty!" Fligwiggy gestured with his hands. "Into the scrumpy bumpy hot-potty." They heaved Charlie up by his shoulders, and were about to plonk him into the pot. But, in a split second, the air turned cold and dark shadows fell upon the woodland. There was a loud whoosh from above. The mother Yawling snapped her mouth shut in a flash, and disappeared beneath the pile of leaves. "No, no, no! Not again!" Fligwiggy yelled, as he hid beneath the leaves too. He watched as birds swooped down by the dozen and fed freely on the fatty Yawlings that were completely exposed in the open space. "Wretched flying lumpy bits of meat" he cursed under his breath. He banged his fists on the ground in frustration. This was not the first time the birds had interrupted his feast.
In the commotion Snobble and Grobbit had come out of their trance-like state. "Grobbit, quick! We can get Charlie out now!" Grobbit shook his head hard to make himself get with it. They staggered clumsily to where Charlie lay. "Charlie!" Snobble shouted. There was no movement. Grobbit slapped his face twice, a little too hard, Snobble thought. "Wake up idiot!" Grobbit yelled. Charlie stirred. "What? Where am I?" "We gorra get out of 'ere NOW!" Grobbit snapped. Charlie fumbled about for his clothes, but he was too slow for Grobbit, who grabbed them and hooked his arm under Charlie's. Snobble took the other arm and they dragged him to safety. The birds dived on the Yawlings time and again until they'd had their fill and left. "I'll be having you one goody day, I will! You belong to me now!" Fligwiggy hollered from beneath the leaves. Charlie shuddered at the thought. "We gorra run! It's not safe 'ere!" Grobbit said. The three of them ran as fast as they could away from the hungry Yawlings. Charlie made sure he kept up the pace with Snobble and Grobbit. He was surprised at how fast they could run. After running some distance, he begged them to stop. "I wanna throw up." He fell to his knees and was violently sick. His whole body shook with fear as the realisation of what had happened to him sunk in. "I've eaten something horrible" he said, and was sick again. "Really?" Grobbit mocked. "Summink like, Beings, were it?" "I'm sorry, really I am." Charlie gagged. "I didn't know what it was, did I?" He stooped to put his socks and shoes back on. "I didn't know what it was, did I" Grobbit mimicked in a silly
whiney voice. Charlie was cross. "They were going to eat me, you know!" "Wish they ‘ad!" was Grobbit's reply. Charlie stormed over to Grobbit, and grabbed him by the throat. He pushed his face against Grobbit's. "I'm tired, I'm hungry, and I'm fed up with YOU treating me like an idiot!” he snarled. “I didn't ask to come to this crummy place, and I would never, ever choose to have such a rude, callous, insulting oaf like you for a friend!" Grobbit listened to every word in disbelief. "'Ow dare yer talk t' me like that! We just saved yer, yer spineless coward! you act like an idiot, so yer get treated like an idiot!" He stayed nose to nose with Charlie. "You ain’t no friend o' mine, not ever! Right?" "Good!" Charlie snapped back. He still had Grobbit by the throat. Grobbit glared full on in Charlie's face, but said nothing. There was silence between them for a few seconds, until Charlie crumbled inside and let go. He ran over to a large stone, and sat down by himself. Then he buried his head in his hands and sobbed quietly. He really was tired and hungry, but he didn't mean what he had said about not wanting Grobbit as a friend. Grobbit was right, they had saved him from the clutches of the Yawlings. He'd most likely be dead now if they hadn't rescued him. He shuddered. Snobble left Charlie for a short time, then came and crouched at his feet. He put his sausage-like fingers on Charlie's arm. "We need to go now, Charlie." He said. Charlie lifted his head and smiled back at Snobble's kindly face. "Ok," then added, "I'm sorry Snobble, I shouldn’t…" "It not do any harm, Charlie," Snobble reassured him. "Come on Grobbit, time to go."
Grobbit responded with a grunt and picked up a stick to walk with, while Charlie finished dressing. The three of them walked on in silence. Charlie nursed his very sore ear, but kept his eyes to the ground to avoid Grobbit's scowl. Grobbit vented his annoyance by kicking up the leaves and hitting anything in his way with his stick. Snobble set the pace. He was eager to see the Cuddle Trees again. Occasionally he would stoop and pick a mushroom, and soon he had a large handful. Presently they came to a wide open space in the forest. The sun shone freely here. Right in the middle was a cluster of tall trees. The branches twisted this way and that and curled round and round each other. Snobble stopped a short distance from them and approached Charlie. He held out his hand and offered Charlie the mushrooms. "Eat, Charlie. You need fum food in you." "I thought they were alive, like Truffle was" said Charlie. "Not all of them are alive. We eat them a lot." "Well, thanks Snobble, I will eat them. I'm starving!" Charlie sat down on one of the tree roots that butted out of the ground in every direction. He had never enjoyed mushrooms so much. Grobbit sat down too, but at quite a distance from Charlie and the trees. The Cuddle Trees were quick to spot their visitors. "Come, please come closeâ€? they called. Snobble ran over to them with no hesitation at all. Charlie looked on wide-eyed as he stroked and tickled each of the trees in turn. "Grobbit, Charlie! Come on!" Snobble beckoned. "I ainâ€™t budgin' from 'ere!" Grobbit huffed. He remained seated, his arms firmly folded together. Charlie relaxed a little. He no longer felt hungry and the trees seemed to lap up all the attention Snobble gave them. He walked over to one of the trees and put his arms round it. He heard the tree sigh with delight. "We won't bite you, you know" said one of the trees, introducing
himself as Knarl. “And we won’t eat you either, because you're not sweet, not sweet at all!" another teased. The air rippled with laughter. "We ain’t come 'ere t' be sweet! We got important stuff ter sort out" Grobbit shouted back. "Ooh, important stuff" Knarl mocked. The trees ignored Grobbit. They lapped up the cuddles and stroking that Snobble and Charlie were giving them, which irritated Grobbit immensely. "You namby-pamby bunch o' rotten firewood! We're all gonna die if you don't 'elp us!" he roared. There was instant silence. Snobble and Charlie glared at Grobbit. The Cuddle Trees were exceptionally sensitive. "Die?” said a tree called Woodabastin. "Did someone say die?" He was the oldest of all the Cuddle Trees. "There be a Big Fink, and it be gobbling up everything" Snobble told them, gently. "A Big Fink, did you say? Not seen it round here have we?" Woodabastin asked the other trees. No one had. "A Big Stink!" Grobbit corrected. "You're gonna have to help us to kill it." "Are we? How are we supposed to kill a Stink?" Knarl asked. Grobbit threw his arms in the air in frustration. "I knew you’d be rubbish. Yer ain’t gorra brain between the 'ole lot of yer!' The trees gasped in shock. "Did he call us rubbish? He's very rude, isn't he?” said Knarl, on the verge of tears. Charlie intervened. 'No, it's OK, really it is. Grobbit didn't mean YOU are rubbish. He was talking about the Fink - I mean, the Stink. The Stink is rubbish, and we need your help to catch it and kill it. Can you help us?" "We need to talk” said Woodabastin. All the trees bent themselves inwards and made a large dome-like shape. The dome became a hubbub of noise as each took their turn to speak. Charlie stayed
close to the Cuddle Trees, curious to know what was being said. Minutes later, the trees resumed their normal positions. "We agree to help you catch the Fink, but we won’t help you kill it. We don’t like killing” said Woodabastin. "There is one who can help you to catch the Stink. Within our branches lives the Great Lady, Queen of the Forest. You must ask her to make you a giant web to catch the Stink in." "Excuse me" piped up Charlie. "Can you tell me how far up she lives? Only I'm afraid of heights." "We cannot tell you. You must follow the path we put you on. You will meet her soon enough." Woodabastin gently put Snobble and Charlie, on the right path. Grobbit was plonked on it in a more ungainly manner. "Stupid trees" he grumbled under his breath. "I 'ate all that mushy stuff. Yuk! It gives me the jitters." The path was difficult to follow. It was narrow and badly overgrown with greenery. Grobbit enjoyed slashing through it with his stick. It was impossible to tell how high they had climbed. Charlie was uneasy, and didn't dare go near the edge. All of a sudden, boom, boom BOOM - the Hu-bee was back. With each thundering step, the branches shook. The three of them grabbed hold of a heavy branch, and clung to it like glue. "Where are you, you misewable little thieving rats? I'll find you, I will!" roared the Hu-bee. Her bright red face was almost level with Charlie, but he was well hidden. The eye bulged out as the Wiglets scanned the area for signs of life. They found nothing. She stormed off into the darkness of the forest as if there was no time to waste. Charlie's heart was beating ten to the dozen. "What was that all about?" "Wretched 'u-bee! Reckons it owns the 'ole forest." “Yes, but she can't have been talking about us, because we haven't stolen anything of hers, have we?"
Neither Snobble nor Grobbit answered. They just continued to climb. "Don't see why we've gorra come up 'ere anyway” moaned Grobbit. “Why don't the Great Lady, as she calls 'erself, climb down to us?" His wish was granted sooner than he had expected. A few more steps and a huge black shape appeared out of the greenery, shiny and black as the ace of spades. Her legs waved in all directions. "Wow!" Charlie stared. He had never seen a spider a hundredth as big. Snobble and Grobbit screamed and turned to run. Grobbit tripped and started to cartwheel towards the edge. "Help me!" he yelled. Snobble gasped, but he was frozen to the spot with fright. Charlie rushed over and caught hold of Grobbit's wrist just as he was about to go over the edge. "I've got you, hold on!" Charlie shouted. But now he was in trouble himself. Grobbit was much heavier than Charlie expected, and his weight was pulling Charlie over too. He suddenly had a clear view of how far they'd climbed. It was terrifying. He sweated profusely. His damp skin made it hard to keep a firm grip on Grobbit. He looked around, frantically trying to find something to hold on to. But it was all just out of his reach. "You’re slipping, Grobbit! I can't hold you much longer!” he shouted. But just as Grobbit's fingers slipped through Charlie's hand, Knarl swung his branches upwards to lift Grobbit away from danger. Woodabastin reached out and curled his twiggy fingers around Grobbit, placing him safely next to Snobble. Charlie lay flat on his back for a moment to catch his breath. The Great Lady heaved her body towards Snobble and Grobbit. Charlie picked himself up and went straight over to her. “I'm so sorry, your Ladyship" he said. "She shouldn't go creeping up on beings" Grobbit muttered.
"Are you afraid of me?" asked the monster in a slow, quivering voice. "I ain’t scared of nuffink!" said Grobbit defiantly. "Beware, foolish one" hissed the Great Lady. "Tell me quickly, why are you here?" "At last!" Grobbit blundered. "You've gorra make us...” "SILENCE!" she ordered. "This one shall speak." She pointed directly at Snobble, who still remained frozen to the spot. He looked at Charlie, then Grobbit, absolutely petrified. It was as if he'd been struck dumb. "Go on Snobs, ger' on wiv it!" Grobbit was impatient. He nudged Snobble forwards. Snobble stood like a soldier on duty, his arms firmly by his side. He cleared his throat two, maybe three times “Well… um... your Ladyfip... the um... Big Fink..." "Get on with it!" “Forry, forry. Um… the Big Fink be gobbling up everything. We need to catch it in a web, um… like you make every day, your Ladyfip." But the Great Lady turned her back impatiently on the three of them and started to walk away. "Snobble, say summink, quick!" Grobbit pleaded. “Um… pardon me your Ladyfip, I have more to fay." Said Snobble. His racing heart missed a beat as she spun round to face him. Her breath was hot on his face. "You dare to speak to ME in such a manner! You are nothing to me... nothing!" she hissed at Snobble. Her pincers clicked closer and closer to his head. "Excuse me, most noble and wise one" Charlie piped up. "Might I be permitted to speak with you?" He spoke with a firm and confident voice. She slowly lowered her pincers and turned towards him. “Speak." "Most honourable one, upon you we look with complete
adoration. Your beauty is like no other’s. News of your beauty and greatness has spread to many parts of the world." The Great Lady seemed to relax a little. "Where am I spoken of?" “Upon my honour, oh great one, in cities far away from this place. Mere beings like myself know you to be the most distinguished one. Your fine threads are found in the most extravagant castles and palaces, as well as the humble abode such as my own." Charlie paused. Role-play in drama at school was proving to be very useful right now. He was pleased with himself for being bold. He wasn't the slightest bit afraid of this heaving monster of a spider. "Go on! Tell me more!" the Great Lady begged. Grobbit and Snobble stared blankly at Charlie. They hadn’t the foggiest idea what he was on about, but it seemed to be working. "Your exquisite wares are admired the world over, ma'am. As a mere Earthling, my lady, dwarfed by your majesty, I must make a request." "Ask. But be careful!" "Would not the largest web the world has ever seen show that not only does your beauty surpass all other living things, but that you are a most loving and generous Queen?" The Great Lady, remained silent for what seemed an age before speaking. "My braids are indeed the finest anywhere. You spoke well, Earthling. I should indeed like to be better appreciated for my superior work. In three days, you shall have your web. Now go!" With that, she turned to leave. They were all stunned, but this was no good. Three days would be too long. "What we supposed to do NOW Charlie?" said Grobbit. He was exasperated that all the grovelling had not worked.
"I don't know, Grobbit. I dare not say any more.” They both looked at Snobble, but he was of no use to them. He was as white as a sheet. Suddenly Grobbit shouted at the Great Lady’s back. "Lady! Three days ain’t good enough! We'll all be dead before then!” The huge creature stopped in its tracks. She remained perfectly still, her back to them. Then she turned. "Did I hear someone raise their VOICE to me?" "Yeah, Lady. And you ain’t as great as you think you are, because I know a spider, not too far from 'ere, who’d spin a web in two days!" Charlie and Snobble cringed at his words. The Great Lady twisted herself around and reared up on to her hind legs in a rage. She towered over the three of them. Her long black, spindly legs stuck out in all directions. She screeched so loudly that it almost pierced Charlie's eardrums. Her maids, appeared out of the darkness and surrounded them. They clicked their pincers, and slowly moved in on them. Charlie had never been afraid of spiders. In fact, he was his mother’s hero where anything with eight legs was concerned. But this was different. These spiders were not tiny weeny things – they were ginormous. What was he going to do now?
Charlie Mace and the
Sniff Street was the dirtiest, scruffiest street in Bogsley, and Miss Potts’ house was the most disgusting and revolting of all the disgusting and revolting houses in it. She seemed to take delight in surrounding the place with rubbish, bottles of rancid milk and maggot-infested garbage. And why did one of her eyes stick out like a glassy golf ball? No wonder elevenyear-old Charlie Mace did his best to keep away from the place. But one day Charlie finds himself cornered by Miss Potts, and is roughly transported into a strange
woodland world, a world in which he encounters a very odd collection of beings. They all seem to live in dread of The Stink, a dark, smelly and noisome creature which haunts the forest. Charlie does his best to help his new friends fight back – and then he discovers the shocking link between the Stink and Miss Potts… Charlie Mace and the Big Stink is a vivid, colourful and compelling story for youngsters aged 10-14.
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