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 N.A. Scalise:  Magical Journey to the Source of Love

 

 

 

 

 

Magical Journey to the Source of Love
(the first thirteen chapters)

Written by: Natalia Scalise

Translated from Russian by: Daniel Modin

Edited by: Cliff Carle. (www.CliffCarle.com)

Kathleen Marusak (Kathleen_Editor@yahoo.com)

Artists Illustrators: Viktoria Tseluyko, Sergey Tseluyko

Artist Decorator: Anna Sokolova

 

 

 

 

All rights on this book are reserved by N. A. Scalise. No part of this publication, including the illustrations, may be transmitted or reproduced by any means, electronic or mechanical, without the written permission of the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations with citing the source.

Copyright © 2006, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0-9840814-0-0

Source Publishing, 2009

 

AUTHOR’S PREFACE

My dear readers, my motive for writing this fairytale was my clinical death, which I went through during a surgery. While traveling "beyond this world," I received startling knowledge, which I have passed on in my fairy tale.

I chose the genre of a "fairy tale" for two reasons: first, the knowledge that I have received would seem to be just way too strange if I were to describe it as an actual event. Second, both children and adults enjoy reading fairy tales, especially if those fairy tales are captivating. And how captivating my fairy tale may be is for you to judge. Your heart will tell you where there is fiction and where there is truth. The fiction will hopefully bring joy to you while reading, but the truth will remain in your heart forever, since it is absolute!

 

Contents:

1.   The Scary Prophecy. The Fiery Bird.

2.   The Lizard Queen. The Unborn Brother.

3.   The Intuition Fairy. The Great Mission.

4.   The Kingdom of Evil. The Wrong Rules.

5.   The Spy Mouse. The Wax Museum.

6.   Pete the Dragon. The Antagonist Bridge across the Biting River.

7.   The Town of Injustice. The Royal Cemetery.

8.   The Council of the Cleverest Wise Men.

9.   Patrick the Mutant. Meeting the Queen of Evil.

10. The Tree of Evil and the Lake of Hatred. Prince Thomas.

11. The Ball at the Queen’s Palace. Adrian the Priceless.

12. The Sleeping Gas of Forgetfulness. The Secret Underground Tunnel.

13.  The Swamp of Doubts. The Neutral Territory.

14. Socrates, the Neutral Philosopher. The Philosophical Stone of Wisdom.

15. The Queen of Evil Visits the Neutral Philosopher. Meeting the Chieftain of Robbers.

16. The Kingdom of Kindness and Love.

17. Meeting the SOURCE OF LOVE.

18. The Kindnesses.

19. The Absolute Verity.

20. The Town of Dreams That Come True.

21. The Architect Nicholas. Zero-Transporting.

22. Competing in the Mini-Planes. The Sea of Love.

23. Underwater Bathyscaph Journey to the Canyon of the Glowing Crabs. The Dangerous Nephews.

24. Underwater Glass House. The Coral Greenery of the Little Intuition Fairies.

25. Returning to the Kingdom of Evil. Meeting the Robbers.

26.  The King’s Biggest True Love.

27. The Queen of Evil Meets the Chieftain of Robbers. The Spread of Love.

28.  The Trial and the Verdict.

29.  The Second Meeting with the SOURCE of LOVE.

30.  The Frozen Prisoners.

31.  The Intercepted Meeting of the Collectors of Evil.

32.  The Second Meeting with the Robbers.

33.  Traveling by Submarine. Saving Adrian’s Immortality.

34. Aqualantica: The Underwater World of the Stolen Talents.

35.  The Ghost Island.

36.  Riding the Electric Rays. The Cemetery of the Sunken Ships.

37.  The Wedding.

38.  Returning Home.

39.  The Laws of Love (The Chapter for Moms and Dads).

40.  The Friends Meet Again.


Epilogue.

Two chapters from the next book:

1.  The Newborn Baby with All His Teeth: The Genius of Absolute Evil.

2.  Counterweight: The Genius of Kindness and the Genius of Love.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

THE SCARY PROPHECY

THE FIERY BIRD

It was New Year’s Eve. It was a beautiful, magic night, during which miracles occur and the most cherished of wishes can come true. The sky was spangled with a great multitude of bright stars. A large full moon was shining brightly. Suddenly, two of the stars appeared to fly down toward the earth. But they were not stars. They were two tiny fairy-girls with glowing wings. At first they flew together holding hands, then they split off in different directions, dancing, twirling and tumbling in the air and laughing happily. The fairy-girls flew down to a little house and landed on its roof.

"Wow, Intuition Fairy! This was such an exciting flight! We haven’t had that much fun in a while! Don’t you agree?"

"Yes, Fairy of Good Dreams! Too bad that we don’t meet very often, since I work during the daytime and you work at night."

"Oh! I forgot that it is time for me to go to work! All children are sleeping already, but I haven’t started delivering good dreams to them!" exclaimed the Fairy of Good Dreams.

"And for me it would be nice to get some sleep right now, while my Natasha is sleeping," said the Intuition Fairy.

"Bye!" said the Fairy of Good Dreams and swiftly flew away.

The Intuition Fairy flew into and down the chimney and through the fireplace. She came out in a spacious living room. In this living room there was standing a beautiful Christmas tree decorated with myriad colorful ornaments and garlands. The fairy-girl landed on the tree, comfortably placed herself on one of the garlands like on a hammock and fell into a deep sleep.

At this time in a little backyard behind the house, under a lemon tree, shadows flashed. Under the bright full moon from behind the tree appeared two small black mice and one giant gray Rat, the size of a man.

The Rat asked the mice in a quiet but angry whisper, "Are you sure that this is the same house you visited last month?"

The Rat’s big, sharp teeth showed in a wicked grin.

"Yes, Your Evilness! This is the exact same house!" one of the mice peeped in the response, shivering in fear.

"And you inserted two needles into each heart? The man’s heart, the woman’s heart, and the little girl’s heart? Two each? Are you positive?" the Rat continued questioning.

"Yes, Your Evilness, Chief of the Warrior Rats!" the second Mouse replied, while nervously wiggling his tail. "Two needles into each one of their hearts!"

"What were the results?"

"It worked great on the man and the woman. Now they almost always get angry and argue. It looks like they are going to divorce soon. But it did not seem to work on the girl at all. She remained just as kind as she was before," the first Mouse replied in a fearful, unsteady voice.

"This is terrible! This is just terrible!" the Rat spat out. "This means that all of it is true! This means that the Neutral Philosopher was right!"

"May I ask, Your Evilness, what was the Neutral Philosopher right about?" the second Mouse, who was much braver than the first Mouse, asked.

"He predicted to our King that here in California, in Los Angeles lives a girl who can destroy our Kingdom of Evil! That is what his Philosophical Stone of Wisdom told him. His stone also told him the address, and this is the house, and this is the girl," the Rat explained.

"This girl can destroy our Kingdom of Evil?" the second Mouse exclaimed in amazement. "But how can she? She is only ten years old! She is still a child and she is so fragile!"

"I don’t know how. And the stone didn’t say anything about it. That Philosophical Stone is always so unclear…." the Rat replied, falling deep into thought. "But, no matter what, it always tells the truth! And everything that it predicts eventually comes true!"

"No! I will never believe in that!" the second Mouse objected confidently. "How could a ten-year-old girl destroy the Kingdom of Evil? And how would she even get there? Our kingdom exists in another realm! We can get to them by going through the Magic Corridor, but there is no way for them to get to us!"

"That is correct, but the stone also said that the SOURCE of LOVE Himself will be helping the girl! And you know that nothing is impossible for Him, He is omnipotent!" the Rat nervously objected. "And, besides that, the biggest secret of our Kingdom is that…." and the Rat suddenly became silent.

"What is it? What is the biggest secret of our Kingdom?" the second Mouse questioned, shivering in impatience.

"You are questioning me too much! This is none of your business!" the Rat barked at the Mouse, realizing that she had almost given away the biggest secret of their Kingdom, the punishment for which was execution. "Your job is to obey me and to follow my orders! And my next order is as follows: tonight put four needles into this girl’s heart! These four!"

The Rat handed the four needles on her black, rough palm to the second Mouse. The needles reflected a cold glimmer under the bright moonlight.

"Yes, Your Evilness! It will be done!" the second Mouse promptly replied.

Above them, in the dark sky, a fiery burning spot appeared. It was quickly growing, while getting closer to the house. Soon it was clear that the fiery spot was a big fiery bird. It was huge and beautiful. The bird seemed to be completely consumed in fire. Its eyes were glowing with a bright red light and its feathers were sparkling with red, yellow, and orange flames. On the bird’s head was a magnificent tuft, burning red and yellow, similar to the embers of a campfire. Its tail had red-yellow sparkling feathers arranged in a fan shape. When the bird flapped its wings and shook its tail, red-yellow sparks scattered, as if they were fireworks exploding.

The fiery bird flew down to the house and landed on its roof. The bird was glowing brightly, well illuminating the entire garden, as well as the big gray Rat with her mice helpers. Now it was the Rat who was shivering from fear and crouching closer to the ground. The two mice completely collapsed into the grass. Their paws were nervously trembling.

"Wh…what is it th…that brought you here, oh great, mighty Fiery Bird? And wh…what do you want us to do for you?" the Rat stuttered, shivering.

The Fiery Bird slowly turned its head to look at the Rat and mice, scornfully smirked at them and replied, "Calm down. I do not need anything from you." Surprisingly, the bird’s voice was pleasant and soothing, "I just came here from the 66th realm because the Purples asked me to measure the power of Love of the girl who lives in this house. And you, leave me alone and please, do not bother me. You do your job and I will do mine."

The bird raised its left wing. From under the wing a great multitude of sparks shot out and a bright flash followed the sparks. In front of the bird, in midair, appeared an image of the sleeping girl surrounded by a large sphere, which was glowing with a pleasant golden color.

"Oh, wow!" the Fiery bird exclaimed, "I have never seen anyone who had such a powerful charge of Love energy before! Or, actually I have! Your Prince Thomas! The heir of the Kingdom of Evil! Ha-ha!"

The bird began laughing mockingly.

"Too bad for your King! How is he going to pass on the kingdom to such a kind heir?"

The Fiery Bird shook its head, throwing clusters of sparks in the air, and then added, "However, why should I care?"

The bird raised its wing one more time, throwing clusters of sparks, and a bright flash followed again. In the air appeared an image of the girl’s sleeping parents. Around their hearts there were glowing two small, barely noticeable golden spheres. The bird raised its right wing and pulled the images under its feathers.

"Oh mighty and powerful Fiery Bird!" exclaimed the Rat, still nervously shivering. "We are here because of that girl too! We must put the needles in her heart, so we can make her evil!"

"Ha-ha!" the bird laughed again. "This girl has such a powerful charge of Love energy and you want to make her evil with needles? And who ordered you to do that? Your stupid King? Ha-ha-ha!" the bird continued laughing. "But then again, why should I care? Your business is none of mine. I am just doing a favor for the Purples. I am the only one who can do this job and the Purples promised me a great reward for this. But now my job is done, so goodbye!"

The Fiery Bird flapped its large wings, throwing fireworks of sparks, and quickly flew away.

The big gray Rat recovered from her fear and roared at the mice, "Do not tell anyone! You hear that? Nobody! Do not tell what you saw here! And especially do not tell what you heard here! I am talking about the bird’s words, when she called our King stupid! Is my order clear?"

"Yes…Your Evilness!" replied the first Mouse, who was still lying on its back and with its paws shaking.

"Well, then get to work! Put all those needles into the girl’s heart! And tell me about the results in the morning!" the Rat barked at the two mice.

The huge Rat nervously twitched her head and grinned. Then she turned toward the fence, jumped over it in one leap and disappeared. The two little black mice silently crawled toward the house.

In this cozy little home all of the inhabitants were sleeping. Mom and Dad were sleeping, the cat Theodore was sleeping, and the girl Natasha was sleeping.

Natasha was enjoying a beautiful dream. She dreamed of being in a pine forest, at the shore of a small lake. On the surface of the lake were floating pink lotus flowers and white swans were swimming, raising their heads on long, graceful necks. Birds were singing their tender songs to her while swinging on pine branches.

But suddenly the dream changed. The lotus flowers changed into giant frogs, which were loudly hissing, showing their wide-open jaws with sharp teeth. The four swans soared out from the lake and turned into four giant wasps. The wasps flew up to Natasha and all four of them at the same time stung her in her heart. Natasha tried to scream, but couldn’t.

Suddenly, from the depth of the lake appeared the head of a giant snake. The snake attacked Natasha, grabbed her leg, and started pulling her down toward the bottom of the lake. Natasha saw that the snake was dragging her deeper and deeper, and there she was, at the muddy bottom of the lake. She was trying to break free, but all of her attempts were in vain.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, appeared two fiery spheres. The spheres flew up to the snake’s head and began squeezing it from both sides. The snake angrily tossed its head, showing its sharp teeth, and let Natasha’s leg go.

Natasha opened her big, blue eyes and realized that she was finally awake. Her forehead was covered in a cold sweat from such a scary dream. She sat up in bed and slightly shook her head with her light, long, curly hair, as if trying to shake off the dream now that she was finally awake.

"Oh! How wonderful that it was just a dream! And why would I even have such a dream!" Natasha whispered quietly.

Her mood became much better. But she still felt that something was terribly wrong. She just didn’t know what it was exactly.

She no longer felt like sleeping, so Natasha, in her pink pajamas with red butterflies, went into the living room to look at the Christmas tree. It was a beautiful Christmas tree. It had shiny golden ornaments and colorful lights, which were glowing so brightly that Natasha did not even need to turn on the lights. Natasha’s mood, however, was still not right. Suddenly, she remembered why – last night her parents had been arguing once again and talking about a divorce.

What if they really do get a divorce and Dad lives separately from us? Thought Natasha. Just like my friend Marta’s dad; he visits her only on Saturdays, and not even every Saturday. Natasha became even sadder.

 

 

 

Chapter 2

THE LIZARD QUEEN

THE UNBORN BROTHER

 

Suddenly the cat Theodore caught Natasha’s attention. He had been busy in front of the fireplace. Theodore was white and fluffy. On his neck was a medallion with the words "Best Cat" engraved on it. On the back side was Natasha’s address and phone number, in case the cat ever got lost. Natasha saw that he had caught a lizard and was playing with it. At first he let it go, but when the lizard tried to run away, he caught it again with his paw.

Oh, he is going to eat the poor lizard! Natasha thought in horror. Just like he ate my parrot, Goga, last year, when Mom forgot to close the cage.

Natasha ran to her cat and took the lizard away. She held the lizard in her hands and she could feel how fast the lizard’s little heart was beating from fear.

"You see, Lizard, you should be very careful when Theodore is around," said Natasha.

She walked to the door to let the lizard go, but at that moment she heard the lizard talk to her in a human-like voice, "Thank you, dear girl! You saved my life! You are very kind!"

Natasha stopped to look closer at the lizard. The lizard was looking at Natasha with intelligent, alert eyes that were moist with tears. Natasha suddenly noticed that on the lizard’s head there was a little golden crown with tiny diamond stones.

"Wow! You can talk!" Natasha exclaimed in amazement. "And why do you have a crown on your head?"

"I am not just an ordinary lizard. I am the Queen of the Magic Kingdom of Lizards, and that is why I am wearing the crown," the lizard replied.

"But what were you doing here near our fireplace?" asked Natasha.

"I came here to meet the Intuition Fairy. The primary magician of my kingdom told me that tonight at midnight the Intuition Fairy will visit your home," answered the lizard.

"The Intuition Fairy will visit my home tonight?" Natasha amazed. "But why?"

"I don’t know exactly why. It has something to do with your birthday," the Lizard Queen replied.

"Yes, tomorrow really is my birthday," Natasha confirmed.

"Maybe that is why the fairy is coming, so she can wish you a happy birthday. But I desperately need to see her," The Lizard Queen commented sadly. "I want to ask her a big favor. My sons, Alex and Max, always argue and sometimes even fight. I don’t know what causes it, but they both are my children and it hurts me to see them like this. I really want them to love each other! I love both of them, but I don’t know what to do about it. So I wanted to ask the Intuition Fairy if she could help me."

"Oh, poor Lizard Queen, I understand!" exclaimed Natasha. "I have the same problem with my mom and dad. They also argue a lot. And yesterday, they even talked about a divorce. But I love them both and I want both of them to stay with me."

Natasha dropped her head and two tears rolled off her rosy cheeks.

"Don’t cry, Natasha," the Lizard Queen tried to comfort her, "your birthday is almost here, and the Intuition Fairy will come soon. Maybe she can help us both."

"Of course she will help us! I want it so very much and I really do believe!" said Natasha. "It would be wonderful if my parents could live in peace and love, and your sons too! It is so good when people never fight and always love each other! But why can’t my father and mother understand that it is much better to love each other than to fight each other? They do not understand that when they are arguing, I feel sad and scared… And even though tonight is New Year’s Eve and my birthday is almost here, my mood is worse than it’s ever been! They bought me all those presents that are laying right there under the Christmas tree! But why do I need all of that? If my parents divorce, then I will be so sad that none of these presents could make me happy! I wish that I could exchange all of these gifts for just one thing! I wish that my parents would live in peace and would love each other! And I could easily live without all these other gifts!"

"Well," said the Lizard Queen, "now I know that you are indeed a very kind girl! And I also want to give you a gift. Because you have saved me out of loving kindness, I give you the ability to hear and understand the voices of all animals, birds, insects, plants and every other living thing."

The Lizard Queen touched Natasha with her tail. From this touch Natasha felt a pleasant warmth spread all through her body.

"Now, not only will you be able to understand the language of all living things, they will also understand you," said the Lizard Queen.

"Wow! What if I ask Theodore why he wanted to eat you?" Natasha turned to her cat to test her new power. "Hey, Theodore! Why did you want to eat the Lizard Queen?"

"Well, first of all, I did not know that she is a queen," Theodore answered in a velvety voice, "and, second, it is not my fault that I am a predator. The foods that you feed me are pretty good, but sometimes I want a delicacy. I still have my predatory instincts. When I am hunting live prey, I feel such excitement! Do you think that those toy mice that you give me will replace the real thing? Of course not! I understand that those are fakes. And even though I do play with them sometimes when you turn them on, it is simply to be polite. I don’t feel any excitement, only boredom. And third, I probably would not eat the Lizard Queen, or maybe I would. It is such a temptation – live prey."

"Wow! Theodore! You are talking and I understand you!" Natasha exclaimed, amazed. "Yes, it is not your fault that you are a predator. But what do you mean by a ‘temptation’?"

"Well, it is simple," replied Theodore. "For example, your mom comes home from shopping and brings a delicious chocolate bar and puts it on the table. But she tells you that you cannot eat it until after dinner. Then she leaves the room, but the chocolate bar stays on the table. You are looking at it and you can imagine how great it will taste. It is so close, all you need to do is to reach out and grab it. That would be an example of temptation."

"Oh, I understand," said Natasha. "Temptation is something that you should not do, but you really want to, and you know that it is very easy to do because there is nobody to stop you. Am I right?"

"Exactly!" shouted Theodore. "But I believe that it would be much better if your mom would not even show you the chocolate bar until after dinner, when you are allowed eat it."

"I see! Then there would be no temptation!" exclaimed Natasha. "But what if the chocolate bar was there and I still did not eat it, then I would defeat temptation?"

"Yes," said Theodore. "I believe you would defeat it! But for many people it is very difficult. And I cannot always overcome it… This is exactly what happened with the parrot, Goga; I could not overcome the temptation. The cage door was open and it was so easy to grab him! Please forgive me, Natasha!"

"Okay, Theodore, I forgive you, but promise me, please, that you are not going to eat the Lizard Queen, nor any other animals," said Natasha.

"Well, I promise that I will not eat the Lizard Queen, that’s for sure," replied Theodore, "but it would be hard for me to promise not to eat other animals. I do promise that I will try not to eat anyone, though. It is all because of those predator instincts – they are often stronger than I am. But I will fight them! Even though the thrill of hunting live prey is such a temptation!"

"Oh, you really like to talk, Theodore! You are such a philosopher! But, now it would be better to be quiet. Only ten minutes left till midnight, and at midnight the Intuition Fairy will come. Oh, I am so excited and nervous! I need to do something to help me calm down!" said Natasha.

"I think the best thing for you to do right now would be to go kiss your sleeping parents," advised the Lizard Queen. "It will both calm you down and give you strength. When I kiss my sleeping children, it always gives me peace!"

"Then that is exactly what I will do!" Natasha cheered up.

She placed the Lizard Queen on the fireplace mantel, where the Lizard would be safe from the cat Theodore, and went upstairs to her parents’ bedroom.

When Natasha entered her parents’ bedroom, in the big mirror she saw her reflection and thought, Oh, I should not meet the Intuition Fairy wearing pajamas! That would not be polite! I must put on the best dress I have!

She went into her room and quickly changed into her favorite dress, turquoise with big butterfly-shaped pockets. She also put on a turquoise necklace, which her dad had given her as a previous birthday gift. This necklace perfectly matched the color of her dress, and it also matched Natasha’s eyes, which seemed to be even bluer now.

Natasha went back to her parents’ bedroom, silently opened the door and quietly approached the bed. Her dad and mom were sleeping, and their faces appeared peaceful, tranquil and happy, as if they had not argued at all last evening. Natasha kissed her mom first, then came up from the other side of the bed and kissed her dad.

Then she quietly and wishfully said, "Oh, how I wish that you two would get along well, never fight and always love each other!"

She turned around and was about to leave when suddenly she heard somebody’s faint voice, "Natasha! Natasha, do you hear me?"

Natasha looked back. It seemed to her that the voice was coming from her mom’s side. But Mom was still asleep.

"Who is calling me?" she asked.

"It is me, your little brother!" she heard the reply.

"What little brother? I don’t have any brothers!"

"Yes you do. But nobody knows about me yet. I am still very little. I am inside your mother. I came here just recently, less than a month ago. I liked your parents and decided to be born to them," the faint voice replied back.

"Wow, what news!" exclaimed Natasha. "I am happy that you liked my parents, even though they have been arguing over unimportant things."

"But I did not know that they fight over unimportant things," the voice continued speaking. "Yesterday I heard them talking about a divorce, after they had an argument. Natasha! Don’t let them divorce! How could that be, I am not even born yet, and already I will be without a dad? This is so sad!"

"Don’t be sad, my little brother! I think that everything will be fine! The Intuition Fairy will come soon and I will ask her for our mom and dad to stop arguing and to love each other. I hope that she will help us! Hey, how come I can hear you? You are not born yet, and you have not learned how to speak!"

"You hear my thoughts with your heart. The Lizard Queen gave you this ability because of your kindness. It will be sometime before I learn how to speak. First I need to be born, then grow a little. After that, I will learn how to walk, and only then I will start to learn how to talk. But with you I will always be able to speak through my thoughts."

"You know, my little brother, I am so happy that we will have you soon! And I promise you that you will not grow up without a dad! I will do everything I can to bring our parents back together, to love each other."

Natasha heard the bedroom door squeak slightly and saw Theodore coming in.

"Natasha, hurry up!" said Theodore. "Or you will miss the Intuition Fairy! It’s almost midnight."

Chapter 3

THE INTUITION FAIRY

THE GREAT MISSION

 

Natasha quickly descended the stairs and stopped near the fireplace, where the Lizard Queen was perched on the mantel. The chimes on the clock rang twelve times. It was midnight, but the fairy did not appear. Natasha became very sad. She began to fear that there would be no fairy coming at all….

Two tears rolled off of her pretty pink cheeks and she quietly said, "I really don’t want my parents to divorce!"

Suddenly, she heard a quiet, gentle voice saying, "Don’t be sad, Natasha! Your parents will not divorce, if you will help them!"

This voice did not sound at all like the Lizard Queen. Natasha looked around with amazement, but she did not see anyone besides the Lizard Queen.

"Who said that?" Natasha asked.

"I am your Intuition Fairy," the same gentle voice answered.

"And where are you?" asked Natasha.

"Ha-ha!" the voice giggled with delicate melodic laughter, as if it were the sound of a tiny bell. Natasha suddenly saw one of the ornaments detach from the Christmas tree, fly over to her and hover in the air. However, it was not a tree ornament; it was a live girl, the size of a hummingbird. She had tiny wings on her back, which were brightly glowing in the dimly lit room, and she was fluttering them while hovering in front of Natasha. Natasha suddenly thought that it was probably very difficult for the fairy-girl to move her wings so fast and that she was probably tired. Natasha extended her hand and the fairy landed on her palm.

"So you are my Intuition Fairy?" Natasha asked. "But what is ‘intuition’?"

"Intuition is the ability to sense future events in your life, and it is also the ability to make the right choices and to do the right deeds. In other words, intuition warns a person about any dangers and tells how to avoid them. It also tells where happiness is and how to achieve it. Every person has his or her own intuition fairy, and I am yours. I came here to tell you that today is the day when you can help your parents, change your future along with theirs, and make your life full of happiness, adventure, and love!"

"Does this mean that I can change my parents so they will not divorce and will not fight or argue anymore?" Natasha asked.

"Yes you can!" replied the Fairy. "Trust me! I know the future!"

"But what do I need to do?" Natasha asked.

"First of all, you need to desire it very much, then listen to my advice, which I will be sending to you through your thoughts, and, of course, you need to trust me!"

"Thank you, Intuition Fairy! I trust you! But why didn’t I know you before if you are my intuition fairy?" Natasha asked.

"You have always known me," said the fairy. "I just never appeared to you. I was invisible. Once when you were still a baby and had just learned to walk, your mother was talking to the neighbor while you walked out into the street and were almost run over by a car. I was the one who stopped you at the last moment and turned you back. Another time, one month later, when you found your mother’s bottle of aspirin and wanted to eat them like candy, I again was the one who stopped you, and you put those pills back. I have often told you what is the right thing to do; I’ve sent you the right thoughts, and given you the right advice."

"Thank you!" said Natasha. "But why is it that I can see you today?"

"Today is a special day; today you turn ten years old! And I came to tell you that you are a very special girl because you were born at a very special time! And that is why you must complete the Great Mission!"

"I am sorry, fairy, but I don’t understand what you are saying." Natasha became confused. "Why do you think that I am so special?"

"You are so special because you were born during a special time!" the fairy explained. "You were born at zero hours, zero minutes and zero seconds, between December 31st and January 1st. You were born between two years, between two months, between two days, between two hours, between two minutes, and even between two seconds. That is why you were born between the two worlds in space and time, between the two realms: the Realm of Kindness and the Realm of Evil. That is why a beam of LOVE fell on you. It filled your heart with enormous, powerful Love and Kindness. That is why you are the CHOSEN ONE! You have permission from above to travel through different worlds and realms, and to become happy! But then you also have a responsibility or, to be more correct, a mission. You are to give others the chance also to be happy!"

"But how can I do that?" Natasha asked.

"In order to complete your great mission you must go to the Source of Love and bring back ‘The Laws of Love’ for all people!" the Intuition Fairy replied.

"And what are these laws?" Natasha wondered.

"‘The Laws of Love’ are the laws that all people need on this Earth!" the Intuition Fairy explained. "They are the laws that will reveal the secret to all people about where to get Love, how to not lose it, and how to become truly happy!"

"This sounds like a fairytale," Natasha commented.

"This is reality, it is true!" the Intuition Fairy reassured her. "And those laws that you will bring to the people are real laws! But all of this really is very unusual indeed, and if you wish to consider it a fairytale, then call it a fairytale!

"So, today a great fairytale will begin, in which you will participate. This fairytale will be about where to find love and how to become happy!"

"I definitely do need love; I mean, my parents need it very much. They would stop fighting if they had love," Natasha said dreamily.

"So then you will have the opportunity to help them," continued the Intuition Fairy. "And not only them, but also many other people on Earth! That is what your Great Mission is! The SOURCE of LOVE Himself chose you for it!"

"And who is the SOURCE of LOVE?" the Lizard Queen, who was quietly sitting on the fireplace mantel all this time, wondered. "And can He stop my sons from fighting?"

"The SOURCE of LOVE is Love itself – pure, magnificent and almighty!" the Intuition Fairy answered. "The SOURCE of LOVE is omnipotent, which means that He can do anything!"

"May I go to the SOURCE of LOVE with Natasha too?" the Lizard Queen asked with hope in her voice.

"Of course you may!"

"And may I go too?" Theodore wondered.

"And you may also go," the Intuition Fairy replied. "But let me tell you that it is not easy to get to the SOURCE of LOVE!"

"So how do we get there?" asked Natasha.

"I can help you with that," the fairy continued. "I will give you a magic red ball. Once you are ready to go there, tell the ball:

‘Magic Ball, please be my friend!

Show the way to the happy land!’

And the ball will start rolling, to take you where you need to go, to the Kingdom of Kindness and Love. That is where the SOURCE of LOVE is."

"Thank you, Intuition Fairy!" exclaimed Natasha. "Can we go there right now?"

"Of course you can," replied the Intuition Fairy. "But I must warn you that the road that leads to the Kingdom of Kindness and Love also goes through the Kingdom of Evil. You will have to go through the Kingdom of Evil. You will meet those who live there: the evil Black Mice, the giant Warrior Rats, and maybe you will even meet the Queen of Evil herself. It is they who try to make people evil. They take the needles from the Tree of Evil and put the needles into the happy people’s hearts when people are sleeping. All of them will try to stop you from going to the Kingdom of Kindness and Love. They will perform tricks and create traps for you. But don’t be afraid! Your main goal is to defeat the fear and doubt inside of you, to believe in yourselves and to believe that the Forces of Kindness and Love are stronger than any of the Dark Forces! If you do that, then none of the Dark Forces can cause you harm."

"But can we somehow go around this Kingdom of Evil?" asked Theodore.

"No, it is impossible!" said the fairy. "This is the way this world is made: In order to find love and kindness, first you must defeat evil and hate. Even though it is not an easy task, you should be able to do it. So, are you ready for the journey? It is long and hard, but at the end of this journey a great reward awaits you!"

"I am ready!" said Natasha.

"I am ready also!" said the Lizard Queen.

"But I am not sure if I am ready!" said Theodore. "Since the journey is long, then we probably need to take some food with us."

"You are right. We should take food with us," Natasha said, looking around. She noticed a small dish on top of the coffee table that was full of hazelnuts, and she put all of the nuts in her butterfly-shaped pocket.

"You don’t have to worry about food!" the Intuition Fairy announced. "You will find everything you need on your journey. But now I must leave. Oh, no, I believe I forgot something!"

"What did you forget?" Natasha wondered.

"He-he, I forgot to wish you a happy birthday!" the Fairy replied in confusion. "Happy Birthday to you, Natasha!"

She clapped her tiny hands and on the table appeared a beautiful bouquet of incredibly big red roses in a sparkling crystal vase.

"Oh, wow! Thank you!" Natasha smiled.

"Well, and now, goodbye!" said the fairy. "I wish you luck on your journey!"

"Goodbye, Intuition Fairy!" replied Natasha. "Thank you for everything!"

"Goodbye!" shouted Theodore and the Lizard Queen together.

And the fairy suddenly disappeared. Near the fireplace appeared a little red ball with golden lettering on it. Natasha picked up the ball and read the words out loud: "If you strongly believe that your wish will come true, then it will definitely come true!"

Natasha thought about these words and then said in a confident tone: "I strongly believe that my wish will come true and my parents will love each other again!"

"I also believe that my wish will come true and my sons will stop fighting!" declared the Lizard Queen.

"It is great that you believe," said Theodore, "but, as far as I know, in order for a wish to come true, you must make it come true! Let’s not waste any time; let’s start our journey right now!"

"Let’s go!" agreed the Lizard Queen.

"The Fairy said that the magic ball will lead the way," said Natasha. She extended her hand, in which she was holding the ball, and then said the magic words:

"Magic Ball, please be my friend!

Show the way to the happy land!"

Right after Natasha said these words, the ball suddenly came to life. It started spinning on her hand, then it jumped down on the floor and rolled toward the fireplace. Once the ball touched the fireplace, the fireplace quickly started growing. It grew all the way to the ceiling. Inside the fireplace there appeared a door. The ball rolled up to the door, touched it, and the door opened. The ball did not roll any further, as if waiting for the rest of the company.

Natasha and her friends came up closer to the fireplace and hesitated. Behind this door they saw a garden illuminated with bright light. Even though it was midnight, it was not dark. The moon was incredibly large and it was shining so brightly that it was as bright as day. But there was something wrong about the light. It was unclear if it was day or night. Finally Natasha realized what was wrong – it was missing color! Everything was black and white, and shades of gray. There was no green, nor red, nor blue, nor purple. The ground was black, the trees and leaves were gray, and the sky was white with gray clouds. On the gray grass there were jumping gray grasshoppers and a little gray bird was feeding her nestlings with gray worms. In the distance there was a river, which was also gray.

"How weird…" said Theodore. "I do not understand, is it sun or moon? Is it day or night?"

"It is more likely day than night, since everything is so bright," Natasha suggested.

"I think it is more likely night than day, since everything is black and white but without color," voiced the Lizard Queen.

"No, I still believe that it is day, not night, because all birds sleep at night," Theodore objected.

"Then why is everything so colorless, as if in a black and white movie?" Natasha asked, amazed.

"Because it is the Kingdom of Evil. It cannot have love or happiness, and that is probably why everything is colorless," the Lizard Queen suggested. "And besides that, this is a different realm than ours, and therefore everything here is also different."

Suddenly right behind the fireplace the tall gray grass rustled and moved. From within the grass the huge head of either a snake or a fish rose up, then quickly disappeared back into the grass.

"Oh, what was that?" Natasha exclaimed in fear. "I think I just saw a snake!"

"If I didn’t know that fish live in water, then I would say that it looked more like a fish!" Theodore objected. "Hmm, what a mysterious place! It even gives me the chills."

"Don’t be afraid! Remember, the Intuition Fairy said that we must defeat our fear!" Natasha said.

"Well, it is easy for the fairy to say that, she is not the one who has to go there! Just the name itself is already scary enough: ‘The Kingdom of Evil’!" Theodore’s fur stood up in fear. "And the Queen over there is evil; all she does is think up bad things she can do to people….Who knows what she has in store for us!"

Natasha stared at Theodore with bewilderment. She always considered him to be a brave cat; in fact, she believed that all predators in general were brave.

"Theodore, are you really afraid?" she asked.

"Afraid or not, I have doubts. I doubt that I need to go somewhere else and look for some unknown love and some unknown happiness. My life is already great the way it is now. I have everything I need for happiness: a warm house, a soft bed and plenty of food. And I don’t need to do anything; I can relax and be lazy for a whole day whenever I want to! No, you two can do whatever you want, but I am not going with you. I think I am happy enough already. Even though I am living without Love, you feed me very well here! Besides, it is not known if you will find love, but I am absolutely sure that you will have plenty of problems there." Theodore curled up on his soft bed. "Sorry, but I would rather stay here."

 

Chapter 4
THE KINGDOM OF EVIL
THE WRONG RULES



“Ha-ha-ha-ha!” went the laughter. It was coming from somewhere behind them. Natasha turned back and saw an owl sitting on top of the open window.
“Ha-ha-ha-ha!” the owl was laughing so loud that all of his body was shaking. Natasha worried that he would not be able to hold onto the window and might fall off.
“Ha-ha-ha-ha! Only a cat would say something like that! That is such catlike philosophy and catlike happiness – to get plenty of sleep and food while being lazy!”
“Hello, Owl!” said Natasha. “What are you doing here?”
“I have been watching all of you. I am a nocturnal bird; I cannot sleep at night. I was just flying by and saw a light in your window, so I decided to stop. I have heard everything, and I want to go with you too. I also have a problem – my daughter is still unmarried, she cannot find a match for herself. All of the young single owl males have asked her to marry them, but she has refused. She said she did not feel love for any of them. And I am getting old. I want to raise little owl grandchildren. But what I want most of all is for her to be happy. So I need to go with you too. Can you take me?”
“Of course, you can come with us!” replied Natasha.
“So, let’s not waste any more time, let’s go!” said the Lizard Queen.
They went up to the doorway in the fireplace, when they heard Theodore’s voice: “Alright! I guess I should go with you too. You’ll probably get into all kinds of trouble there without me.”
“Oh, Theodore! I am so glad!” exclaimed Natasha. “Of course, please come with us!”
“Let’s go together, my friend!” Owl suggested to Theodore. “The opportunity for such a journey does not come along every day. And you can trust me, some day love might bless you too.”
And so the friends started their journey. They passed through the fireplace and entered the gray country. Without fear, they followed the ball down a narrow pathway. Soon they saw a post with a big sign, proclaiming: “THE KINGDOM OF EVIL.”
“So we are going in the right direction,” noted Theodore.
“Well, there is no other way to go, there is only one pathway,” commented Owl.
They continued on and very soon they saw a little house. Above the entrance door there was a sign:
“THE CUSTOMS CHECKPOINT OF THE KINGDOM OF EVIL.”
“Oh, wow! They even have customs here!” exclaimed the Lizard Queen in a disappointed voice.
“Don’t worry, somehow we will make it through customs!” Natasha tried to cheer everybody up as she knocked on the door.
“Come in!” said a frightful, creaky voice that sounded like an old rusty gate. The four friends entered the house.
There was a bright light inside the house. Behind a big wooden desk, in a black leather chair, was sitting a giant Rat, the size of a full-grown human. The Rat was savoring coffee with donuts.
“Who are you? Where from? Where to? What for?” demanded the Rat, while continuing to drink her coffee.
The Rat’s tone confused everyone. She said it with such hatred and contempt, it gave chills to them all. The friends got confused, except for Owl, who was very wise. He knew what to say:
“We are tourists. We are coming from our own plain country to your extraordinary, magical country to see all the enchanting sights.”
“And do you have a visa?” asked the Rat.
“What is a visa?” Natasha asked, perplexed.
“It is a permit to enter our country. It should have the signature of a government official and a stamp on it,” explained the Rat.
“No, we don’t have a visa. We did not know that we would need one….” Natasha’s voice dropped.
“I see,” replied the Rat. “I can give you a visa. How can you pay? Do you have the local currency, or maybe golden coins?”
“No, we don’t have either,” Natasha said sadly.
Then, wise Owl said to the Rat, “But maybe you have an idea? You seem like a very intelligent lady.”
Once again the Rat glanced at the friends with her little greedy eyes. Her eyes took in Natasha’s necklace and Theodore’s medallion. But what really caught her attention was the Lizard Queen’s golden crown with diamonds in it.
Her eyes lit up and she said in an indulgent tone, “I think we could come up with something. We have two kinds of visas. The first one is a preferential visa for wealthy people, but I don’t think you can afford it. The second one is ordinary, for everyone else.”
“Interesting,” said Theodore. “And what is the difference?”
“The difference is that if you have the first type of visa and you break our laws, then nothing terrible will happen to you. You will only have to pay a large fine and you will be sent out of our country. But if you have a regular visa and break our laws, then you will either be put in jail or frozen. Well, enough talk, just give me the necklace, the medallion and that little crown and I will give you one visa for the three of you. The fourth one will not be able to go. It looks like he has nothing to pay with.”
“We owls don’t need any money. We can live just fine without it!” stated the offended Owl.
“Exactly! That is why I will not let you go,” replied the Rat.
“Then we are not going either!” Natasha stood firm. “Either we all go, or nobody goes.”
The Rat thought for a moment. She did not want to lose all those treasures. “Okay,” she said, “I will give you our regular visa of the lowest category. One visa for the entire group – a group visa. But you must stay together as a group and you cannot separate. This will make it easier to control you because you will need only one spy…er, I mean guide, for all of you. That is why this visa is so cheap.
“Okay, first you need to learn the laws of our country!”
The Rat handed Natasha an old dirty piece of paper that had something written on it. Natasha took the paper and started reading out loud:

“THE LAWS OF THE KINGDOM OF EVIL
“Law 1: It is forbidden to do good deeds because those who do good deeds are soon forgotten.

“Law 2: You are required to do bad deeds because those who do bad deeds are remembered forever.

“Law 3: It is forbidden to be kind because kindness is weakness; those who are kind are always being used and are never respected.

“Law 4: You are required to be angry, since anger shows strength of character. Angry people rule over others. It is especially important because those who are angry are respected, and those who are very angry are respected even more, or at least they are never shown disrespect.

“Law 5: It is forbidden to be happy, because happiness interferes with obedience.

“Law 6: You are required to be sad and depressed because it makes it easier to control you.

“Law 7: It is forbidden to build or create. Creativity develops your mind. Those who are too smart in our country end up in jail.

“Law 8: You are required to break and to destroy, since such actions generate the most valued quality in our country: anger. But we warn you, we will show you exactly what to break and to destroy.

“Law 9: It is forbidden to be generous, compassionate or trustful, since it makes you kinder.

“Law 10: You are required to be greedy, envious and cruel, since all this makes you angrier; and you should trust nobody.

“Law 11: It is forbidden to have your own opinion if it is different from the authorities’ opinion.

“Law 12: It is forbidden to truly smile (we suggest a mean grin instead), laugh, sing or dance.

“Law 13: You are forbidden to reason. You should obey all orders without any reasoning, thinking, or asking questions.”

The friends stood confused after listening to these rules. Finally, Theodore said, “As far as I know, laws are meant to be correct. Are you sure that your laws are correct?”
“You are reasoning too much!” said the Rat. “As far as I know, if these are laws, then you have to obey them, and it is not important if they are correct or not!”
“But I don’t want to follow such laws!” exclaimed the Lizard Queen.
“You are just the lowest category of tourist!” snapped the Rat. “And I am the authority! Your business is to obey! I am the one in charge here!”
“Okay, okay!” wise Owl stepped into the conversation. “My friends were just joking! We all agree with your laws and we will obey them!”
“This is much better!” said the Rat. “Don’t make me angrier! I am already angry enough! Here is the visa of the lowest category for you. It says ‘four persons’ and the names are not important, as long as there are four of you.”
Natasha took the visa. It was a little piece of an old, torn, dirty paper with ragged edges. It appeared to have been clumsily torn away from a big sheet of paper and that is why it was crooked. But it was still the visa! The document! And this document would enable them to stay in this country. On this document, in the Rat’s uneven handwriting, was written:
“THE REGULAR VISA OF THE LOWEST CATEGORY
FOR THE GROUP OF FOUR PERSONS”
Below that were the Rat’s signature and the stamp in the shape of her paw.
Natasha took off her necklace and the medallion off Theodore. The Lizard Queen handed over her crown. The Rat took all those things without being shy and right away she put the necklace and the medallion on herself. She put the crown on her palm and gazed at it while thinking how she could use it. Then she put it on the finger of her right hand and it fit perfectly. The Rat was very happy that she now had a gold diamond ring. Then she glanced at the friends again and saw the little ball. She picked it up and read: “If you strongly believe that your wish will come true, then it will definitely come true!”
“That is correct!” the Rat commented rudely. “I wish this pretty ball was mine and I strongly believe that my wish will come true because I will just confiscate it!” and she placed the ball on her desk.
Then the Rat picked up two little papers from her desk and handed them to Natasha. “These are two tickets for you to see our most popular sites: the Wax Museum and the Royal Cemetery.”
“Thank you!” Natasha replied, as she put the papers into her pocket.
Then the Rat looked at the friends, who seemed lost. She asked, “Well, why are you still standing here? Get out before I change my mind! Do you see that door with the ‘exit’ sign above it?”
The friends went to the exit and Natasha swung the door open. A light breeze came into the room and lifted Natasha’s hair, showing Natasha’s golden earrings with small diamonds in them.
“Hey, you! Stop!” the Rat commanded. “You, girl, you forgot to give me your earrings also!”
“Oh, no! No way!” Theodore objected. “We have already paid you and you agreed with the price. That was an agreement. But now you want to charge more? That will not work. An agreement is an agreement, even in your Kingdom of Evil.”
The Rat frowned. She did not know how she could object to that. The cat was right, but then she always wanted to have golden earrings!
She showed her teeth in a grin as she replied, “Okay, fine! Then I am going to trade the necklace for them.” And then she added in a rude, commanding tone, “This is not a request! This is an order! Girl, give me your earrings, fast! And take your necklace, before I change my mind! Or otherwise I could even not let you go at all!”
Natasha took off her earrings and handed them over to the Rat. The satisfied Rat took them and handed the necklace over to Natasha. The bargaining was over and the company continued their journey.
They stepped out into a big open field at the end of which they saw a forest.
 



Chapter 5
THE SPY MOUSE
THE WAX MUSEUM


 


From the door leading into the forest was a pathway; the friends decided to take it. They were walking quietly. Suddenly, Theodore’s ears went up; he became watchful. Slowly he turned around and then pounced. Everyone saw that Theodore had caught something gray, and that something gray was squirming. They came closer and saw that he was holding a little mouse.
“Theodore, please be more careful! Don’t put so much weight on him because you might hurt him!” cried out Natasha.
Theodore lifted up one paw and the mouse screeched, “Easy, you idiot! And don’t even think about eating me! I am the royal spy and I was sent to keep an eye on you! And besides that, I am also your guide! If you harm me, you will be in big trouble!”
“Let him go,” said Natasha, and Theodore released the mouse.
Spy Mouse got up, shook the dust off and said in a prideful, disdainful voice, “You should always remember who you are and where you are!”
Then he added in a milder tone, “Since you now know that I am watching you, I no longer need to hide. Although, I was supposed to show up before you a little later, right by the Swamp of Doubts. But I hope you don’t mind my early company?”
“Oh, I guess it’s okay, since those are the laws here,” said Natasha and without thinking, she put her hands in her pockets.
Natasha had a habit; when she was nervous she would often put her hands in her pockets. In the pocket she felt something small, hard and round; she pulled it out to discover one of the hazelnuts. She had forgotten she put a bunch into her pocket just before they left home. She was about to put it back when she heard the pleading voice of Spy Mouse:
“Girl, you have a hazelnut and you don’t want to eat it? Please, give it to me! I love hazelnuts! But our Queen gives those out only two times a year, one hazelnut for each spy on her birthday and one hazelnut for each spy on the King’s birthday.”
“Well, of course you can have it!”
Natasha was about to hand the hazelnut over to Spy Mouse, but Owl interrupted her:
“Oh no, you cannot have the hazelnut so easily. But you can earn it. Tell us something about your Queen and her family.”
Of course, Spy Mouse was not supposed to do that, but he wanted that hazelnut, so he agreed, “Okay, I will tell you about the Queen! But come closer, I need to talk very quietly so nobody will hear us. The Snitch-Crow could be somewhere nearby.”
The friends came up close to Spy Mouse, who started his story.
“When our Queen, whose name is Caroline, was younger, she was not as wise as she is now. She was disobedient and stubborn. She fell in love with a handsome guy, named Michael, who was from the Kingdom of Kindness and Love. She ran away to that kingdom with Michael. They got married there and they had a son whom they named Thomas. But the father of our Queen could not accept that. She was his only child and successor. There was no one else who could inherit his Kingdom. For almost five years he kept sending threatening letters to her, repeatedly saying that she would not inherit anything from him if she did not return home. He accused her of betraying him and said how much he hated her. But none of that helped. People become different when they are in the Kingdom of Kindness and Love. So to our Queen, Love had become more important than riches and power. But then our King came up with a scheme: he wrote a letter in which he said that he had become very old and ill and that he most likely would die soon. But before he died he just wanted to see his daughter, her husband and their son. He also said that he forgave her and would allow her to live in the Kingdom of Kindness and Love if she wanted to. After Caroline received this letter, she, her husband, and their young son came to visit her father. The King pretended that he was happy, but at night, when everyone was asleep, he told his servants to put the needles of envy and greed into the heart of his daughter.
“On the next day the King told his daughter that he wanted to talk to her privately. He showed her his record book, which revealed how wealthy he was, how great his kingdom was, and how many servants were under his command. Then he took her to his treasure chamber and showed her all of his gold and precious stones. And when he saw a certain spark in his daughter’s eyes, he knew that the needles of envy and greed were doing their job.
“He told her, ‘Daughter, you are the only person to whom I could give all this. But my kingdom is the Kingdom of Evil and there is no place for kindness and love here! This is why you must make a choice – either own all this and get rid of your husband, or go back to the Kingdom of Kindness and Love, live in a little house without any gold or precious stones and own nothing but the love of your husband.’
“By that time the needles in Caroline’s heart had completed their work, she no longer felt any love for her husband, so she said, ‘Of course I agree, Father! Your kingdom and your wealth are much more important to me than the love of my husband. And, besides, what is ‘Love’ anyway? It is just a word, just a fantasy. Father, forgive me for running away. I was so young and naive….Michael brainwashed me with all his talk about Love. In the Kingdom of Kindness and Love I could create anything that I wished for. I could even create a big mansion to live in, but it would look out of place. Over there, people prefer to live in small houses and possess very little. And most important, I now realize that I didn’t have any royal power there. Power is strength! I do want to be the queen, and the sooner – the better! I want to own all this wealth! I want to be the richest and most powerful person in the kingdom!’
“‘I knew that you were a smart girl, just like all of our family!’ her father told her. ‘But what should we do with your husband? He is a bad influence on you. We’ll have to think of something.’
“‘There is nothing to think about,’ Caroline smiled wickedly. ‘We will just freeze him in the Cave of Ever-Frost, and the problem will be solved! We will invite him there pretending to show him the natural beauty of our kingdom.’
“The King agreed that was a great idea, ‘Finally, you have realized that he is not a match for you! No Queen of Evil can be married to a man from the Kingdom of Kindness and Love! But we will easily correct that! I will write a divorce order and you will be free. You will find somebody more appropriate for you, somebody from our country. That is, if you so desire, of course.’
“The next day they invited Michael to see the Cave of Ever-Frost. Once they entered the cave, Caroline took out the Freezing Wand from her pocket and touched Michael with it. He instantly froze and turned into ice. He is still standing frozen there, in the Cave of Ever-Frost. Caroline convinced Thomas, their son, that his father suddenly had left and was now living in a faraway country, and did not care about either of them.
“So everything worked out well for the Queen and the King, exactly as they planned, except one problem: Caroline’s son – Prince Thomas. He was born in the Kingdom of Kindness and Love. His father is also from that Kingdom. This has affected him significantly – he is very kind by nature! For our country, this is a considerable disadvantage! There are so many ideas that the King and Queen have come up with in order to change Thomas, but nothing has helped. They tried putting the needles of anger and hatred into his heart while he was asleep, but that did not help. The needles would simply melt from Thomas’s great kindness even before he would wake up! The King and Caroline have been trying unsuccessfully for years to solve this problem. They still continue to try to solve it. Tomorrow, in the King’s castle, there will be a council of the cleverest wise men. Caroline has promised a huge reward, her ruby pendant, to the person who comes up with the solution to make Prince Thomas normal, which around here means evil.
“That is the entire story, all that I know,” said Spy Mouse. “Now give me the hazelnut!”
Natasha gave him the hazelnut and he immediately started devouring it.
“That’s such a sad story!” exclaimed Natasha. “And did Thomas’s father, Michael, die in that Cave of Ever-Frost?”
“No, he is just standing there frozen,” mumbled Spy Mouse with his mouth full. “He can be brought back to life any time, it only takes a bit of energy from the Source Of Love.”
“So then why doesn’t anyone do that?” Natasha wondered.
“Because that is a great crime, punishable by death!” Spy Mouse replied.
“Well,” said the Lizard Queen, “time is short and we are wasting it! Let’s get going!”
“Let’s go!” Spy Mouse agreed. “The first site that you must visit is the Wax Museum!” Spy Mouse announced pridefully. “There is no such other wax museum anywhere in the world!”
“What makes you think that? Near the city where I live there is a wax museum! And I have been there!” Natasha objected.
“No, those are not the same wax sculptures! Our sculptures are special!” Spy Mouse insisted. “In the entire world there are no sculptures like ours! You will see for yourself!”
“Okay, let’s see. Take us there!” said Theodore.
“It is very close! Right after that meadow!” the mouse peeped and swiftly ran down the pathway toward the meadow.
The friends followed him. Once they got to a small meadow, they heard a weird noise, as if someone was unsuccessfully trying to start a moped.
“Can you hear those sounds? What is that growling?” the Lizard Queen questioned in amazement.
“I don’t have a clue,” Spy Mouse replied in confusion.
The friends passed the meadow and saw a great cliff in front of them. On the cliff was an entrance to a cave. Above the entrance there was a sign with large lettering:

THE WAX MUSEUM

At the entrance to the museum on a big, rough stool was sitting a giant-sized Rat. The Rat was sleeping, leaning against the cliff, and was snoring so loudly that the leaves were falling off of the nearby trees.
“Now I see what those sounds are!” exclaimed Spy Mouse and yelled at the Rat, “Here you are sleeping again! You shouldn’t be sleeping at work!”
The Rat jumped up and opened her eyes. “I was not sleeping! I just shut my eyes for a second!” the Rat replied impudently, once she saw that in front of her was just a little mouse and not the Chief Rat, and especially not the Queen herself.
“Are you going to the museum? And do you have a ticket?” the Rat quickly blurted out to change the subject.
“Yes, to the museum, of course!” answered Spy Mouse and then addressed Natasha, “Give her your ticket.”
Natasha reached into her pocket and pulled out the small ticket. She handed the ticket to the Rat.
The Rat took the ticket and spitefully hissed, “Welcome to our Wax Museum! I hope that you will remember it for a very long time!”
Spy Mouse led the way into the depth of the cave, swiftly moving his tiny feet. The friends followed him. The cave turned into a narrow tunnel, which was dimly lit by the burning torches on the walls. After passing the tunnel, the group came out to a spacious cave and froze. The cave was well lit by a great multitude of torches attached to the walls. The cave was filled up with a vast number of standing statues, which looked as if they were live people. All of the statues were looking at the company with frozen eyes, which were filled with terror. These statues seemed as if they were real people who couldn’t move, but with their eyes they were pleading, Help us! Please! Save us!
Defeating her fear, Natasha approached one of the statues and in horror she saw that it was not a wax figure. It was the body of a real, live man covered with a thin ice crust.
“Mouse, now tell us the truth!” Natasha whispered, overcoming her fear again. “These are not wax statues! These are real, live people, just frozen! Right?”
“Yes, you are right!” the mouse whispered back, while fearfully looking around to make sure that nobody was watching them. “But you shouldn’t let anyone know that you figured it out! It is a secret! If the Queen finds out that you know it, then she will freeze you also! And maybe even me! And here we will be, standing like statues forever.”
“Oh no! No way! We are not telling anything to anyone!” Theodore answered for all of his friends. “Thank you for warning us!”
“But why were all of these people frozen?” wondered Owl.
“For different reasons,” Spy Mouse continued whispering. “But all of them have done something that our King didn’t like….”
“So then the ex-husband of the Queen, Michael, is also among these prisoners?” Natasha asked.
“Yes, he is at the other end of the cave,” Spy Mouse answered. “Let’s go! I will show you.”
“Let’s not go there! This is already too creepy!” Natasha replied sadly. “And right now we cannot help him anyway.”
“Well, whatever you say,” Spy Mouse didn’t insist. “But one more time, I implore you, don’t tell anyone about this!”
“Don’t worry! We are not too talkative!” Owl assured the mouse.
“That’s right! Especially if it would put our lives in danger!” Theodore agreed.
“It is just too cruel to freeze live people!” the Lizard Queen sighed.
“I think that we will be able to help them when we return from the Source of Love. I am sure we will come back to this place again!” Natasha tried to cheer everybody up.
“What??? You are going to the Source of Love?” Spy Mouse exclaimed in amazement.
“Yes, we are,” Natasha assured him.
“But that is forbidden territory! You cannot go there! For our people, it is punishable by death!”
“But we are not people of your country!” Theodore objected. “Therefore we can go there!”
“By the way, girl, what is your name? And how old are you?” Spy Mouse suddenly changed the subject.
“My name is Natasha and I am ten years old,” Natasha replied.
“Oh! Wow! That’s exactly what I thought!” Spy Mouse worriedly whispered to himself. “I suspected right away that there was something wrong here! This is that girl! So the prophecy was real! Soon will come the end to all of us! This is terrible! This is so terrible! I should notify the Queen about it! Or maybe I should not….”
“What are you whispering there, mouse?” Owl questioned.
“Oh, nothing. I just remembered something,” Spy Mouse replied in confusion, and then quickly added, trying to change the topic, “Well, the museum trip is over, so let’s go back!”
The mouse led the way back to the exit and everyone followed him. Outside by the entrance the guard Rat was waiting for them.
She saw the friends leaving the museum and asked them, “How was it? Did you like our museum? Those statues look so real, as if they are live! In the entire world there are no other statues like these!”
“That is true,” Owl agreed. “Nowhere in the entire world….”
 



Chapter 6
PETE THE DRAGON
THE ANTAGONIST BRIDGE ACROSS THE BITING RIVER


 


The friends continued down the forest path and soon they came to the shore of a large swamp.
“This is the Swamp of Doubts,” said Spy Mouse. “There is only one way of getting across – to walk on the back of Pete the Dragon. He lives in this swamp and during the day he usually sleeps. If we walk on his back very gently and cautiously, then, most likely, he will not wake up.”
“Is this dragon dangerous?” the Lizard Queen asked.
“Of course he is dangerous!” exclaimed Spy Mouse. “He is gigantic and brainless! And what could be more frightening than a huge and stupid monster? The only thing good about him is that he is very lazy and he sleeps twenty hours a day; because of this there is less chance that he will wake up. But, if he does wake up, then we can give him branches from the Sleepy Tree. He will eat those with pleasure and go back to sleep again. Let’s go, I will show you where the tree grows.”
Spy Mouse came to one of the trees that looked like a maple tree and said, “This is the Sleepy Tree. Take as many branches as you can hold.”
The tree was not very tall. Natasha was able to easily reach the branches, so she started picking them. Theodore and the Lizard Queen climbed up on the tree and started picking the smallest limbs and Owl was breaking off the limbs with his beak while hovering in the air.
“Okay, I think that these branches should be enough,” said Spy Mouse. “Quick, let’s go!”
The friends hurried back to the swamp. When they came near the shore, they saw little bumps sticking out above the surface of the water.
“Those bumps are the dragon’s back, or actually the top of his spine,” said Spy Mouse, “and the rest of him is down in the swamp below the surface. Walk on these bumps like steps, but again, be very careful.”
Spy Mouse went first. He was jumping from one bump to another swiftly and skillfully, as if he had been doing this his entire life. Theodore and the Lizard Queen followed him. They did fairly well also.
“I can just fly across! Why should I bother with walking?” said Owl, and he did just that.
Natasha was the last one to go. She was slowly and carefully stepping from one bump to another. She reached the middle of the swamp. The dragon was still sleeping. But when she had almost come to the end of the swamp, the dragon woke up and the bumps started swaying. From the swamp the dragon’s huge head, which was attached to an elongated neck, slowly rose.
“Who is it that dares to bother my sleep?” roared the dragon in a thunderous, deafening voice. Flames shot out of his mouth and singed some of Theodore’s fur. The dragon’s body shivered with fury and it shook the friends viciously. Natasha, Theodore and Spy Mouse miraculously were able to hold on and not fall into the swamp, but the Lizard Queen was not so fortunate, and she fell. Owl, who was watching, swooped down quickly, snatched her with his claws and carried her to dry land.
The dragon’s head came right next to the friends and all of them were frightened when they saw his huge eyes, which were glowing with a blazing light. Locked in fear, Natasha wasn’t able to move at all.
“I will tear everyone into little pieces!” the dragon roared. “Or even better, I will swallow all of you without even chewing!”
He picked up the cat with his sharp teeth, threw him up in the air, opened his dreadful mouth, and swallowed poor Theodore. Then his head started slowly moving toward Natasha.
Natasha realized that it was time for her to act. She overcame her fear and in a confident voice she said, “Dear Dragon Pete! Please, don’t get angry at us! We have brought food for you. These are the branches from the Sleepy Tree. I know that you like these! And please, forgive us for walking across your back as if it was a bridge. We were doing so only because there is no other way for us to get across.”
The dragon suddenly choked, started coughing, and spit out Theodore right before Natasha’s feet. The poor cat with wet, singed fur looked pitiful. However, he was alive and sound, even though he was very afraid.
“Hmm. ‘Dear’!” the dragon said thoughtfully. “Nobody has ever called me that before! Even though everyone is constantly loitering here, walking back and forth, back and forth across my back. Sometimes they might feed me a few branches, but nobody has ever said a kind word to me before this!”
The dragon sighed and added, “Well, thank you for the kind words, folks, and thank you for the breakfast. However, I cannot chew. Something sharp is stuck between my teeth; every time I try to chew, I roar from pain. I haven’t eaten anything for three days.”
Pete the Dragon put his head down and started crying. Giant tears, the size of chicken eggs, rolled out of his eyes.
“Calm down, don’t cry! I can help you there,” Owl reassured the dragon. “Just don’t breathe fire on me, or I will not be able to fly anymore!”
“I am not going to breathe at all!” replied the dragon and opened his giant mouth.
Owl flew up to the dragon, into his mouth, and disappeared in it. After a few seconds he flew back out, holding a large spike in his beak.
Owl dropped the spike into the swamp and asked Pete the Dragon, “Now, do you recall what it was that you ate? The spike was so big, I was barely able to pull it out.”
“Three days ago I was eating the leaves of the spiky palm tree,” replied the dragon. “It has spikes on the stems, but not on the leaves. I always eat these leaves very carefully, trying not to bite any stems. But I guess I did bite off a little more than I planned that day. Thank you very much! You have really helped me!”
Then the dragon turned to the cat and said in a guilty voice, “And you, please forgive me for almost eating you, and for burning your fur! But don’t worry, you will grow new fur soon.”
The dragon then turned to Natasha, “I believe that you were saying something about food?”
Natasha quickly handed the branches to the dragon and he chewed them with pleasure. Spy Mouse also gave him his branches. When the dragon had finished his breakfast, he yawned and said, “Thank you again! Well, okay. You can keep going and I will go back to sleep.”
His head slowly disappeared under the water and his body froze still. As Pete the dragon slumbered, the friends safely reached the other side.
The group went a bit farther and in the distance they saw a little river with a beautiful wrought iron bridge across it.
“What a pretty bridge!” Natasha exclaimed.
“Yes, it is very pretty, but it is also very mean,” Spy Mouse murmured. “It is the Antagonist Bridge.”
“What does antagonist mean?” wondered Theodore.
“Antagonist means opposite,” Spy Mouse explained. “As black is opposite to white, night is opposite to day, and in the same way evil is opposite to kindness. This bridge is very evil and only those who are very evil can cross it. It does not let kind people go across because kindness and evil are antagonistic. It will not let you cross, since you are kind. I don’t know what we should do!”
“Maybe we could try to get very angry somehow before crossing the bridge?” the Lizard Queen suggested.
“You could try that, but you need to become extremely angry!” Spy Mouse replied.
“I will go first,” Natasha said. “I will recall some unhappy memory from my life, become very angry, and go across. Here, I think I remember one!”
Natasha stepped on the bridge. It looked like it was made of solid metal. But after she took a couple of steps, the bridge started tossing her up in the air, coming at her from underneath, as if the bridge was made of rubber. The thrusts were similar to an earthquake, except that they were far more intense. The last push was so strong that Natasha flew up high in the air, flipped over and fell down onto the sand.
“Oh no! Are you hurt?” the Lizard Queen asked with concern.
“No, luckily the sand is very soft,” Natasha answered.
“You are very lucky that you fell on the sand and not into the river!” Spy Mouse exclaimed. “There are little piranha living in this river. And if you fall in they will eat you completely in less than five minutes! Even though these fish are small, there are many of them and they have very sharp teeth. That is why this river is called the Biting River.”
“So what can we do? How can we cross to the other side?” Natasha frowned.
“Yes, that really is a problem!” Spy Mouse said. “The bridge will let me go across, but what about you?”
“I know!” the wise Owl exclaimed. “We can do this: I will carry Theodore and the Lizard Queen to the other side. Spy Mouse will cross over the bridge. On the other side we will make a raft out of the tree branches that grow there by tying them with vines. Then we will come back for Natasha with the raft and bring her over to the other side.”
“That is such a great idea! Good job!” Theodore agreed with Owl. Then he told the mouse, “Well, Spy, you go across this bridge and we will see what will happen.”
Spy Mouse came up to the bridge and swiftly ran across it. The bridge did not move at all.
“Yes, it does recognize its own kind,” Theodore said maliciously, “but I don’t want to take any chances.” So he told Owl, “Go ahead, my friend, carry me over as you have promised!”
Owl carefully picked up Theodore with his talons and began slowly carrying him over the river. Theodore was a well-fed cat and it was difficult for Owl to hold him. Owl was flying very low, right above the water on the right side of the bridge. When they had reached the middle of the river the bridge suddenly broke its front pillars loose from the ground and stood up like a stubborn horse. The bridge bent to the right toward Owl and started kicking with its pillars like a stubborn wild stallion kicking the air with its hoofs. The bridge hit Owl with an iron pillar. This powerful strike made Owl lose his balance, and he dropped the cat. Theodore was suddenly falling down toward the water. He was frightened when he saw a great multitude of piranha in the river. The largest of them was opening up its jaws wide, with white teeth gleaming, in anticipation of a meal. Theodore noticed that one of the teeth was broken. The frightened cat closed his eyes. But Owl quickly recovered, swooped down and grabbed the cat at the moment when Theodore’s tail just barely touched the water. Owl started rising up in the air together with the cat. At the tip of Theodore’s tail was a piranha hanging and flapping in the air. The cat was shaking his tail feverishly, trying to get rid of the fish, but the piranha was biting down even harder. Finally, the fish was no longer able to hold on and fell back into the water.
The bridge turned toward Owl again, trying to hit him with the pillars, but Owl was able to dodge it by quickly turning right. The exhausted Owl reached the opposite shore and collapsed on the sand together with Theodore. The bridge set its pillars back in place and froze as if none of this had happened.
“Your bridge is way too vicious!” Theodore informed Spy Mouse.
“That was completely your fault, I warned you that you need to become extremely angry before crossing,” Spy Mouse said, shaking his little paw at him. He turned to Owl and said, “When you go back for the Lizard Queen stay far away from the bridge. Don’t be fooled just because it is calm now.”
“Yes, I have already learned that,” Owl replied and flew back for the Lizard Queen, keeping quite a wide distance from the bridge. The bridge did not move at all and Owl successfully carried the Lizard Queen to the other side.
“Now we need to make a raft,” Owl said. “I know how to do that. It is just like making a nest. We need many thick branches and some vines.”
Spy Mouse started chewing off the large tree branches with his sharp teeth, and the cat, the lizard and Owl were tying them together with vines. Soon the raft was ready and they crossed the river for Natasha, using branches as oars, as they steered clear of the bridge.
Natasha carefully stepped onto the raft and sat on the edge. The travelers headed to the other side of the river. When they had almost reached the shore, a small wave slightly rocked the raft. As it tilted, Natasha tried to grab the edge with her right hand in order to keep her balance. Her fingers slipped into the water. She screamed and pulled her hand back. On her middle finger there was a piranha hanging, champing onto her finger with its sharp teeth. It was the fish with a broken tooth again. Natasha shook her arm, trying to get rid of it. But the hungry fish was only shaking its tail, it was not letting go of her finger. In an instant, Theodore jumped up, bit off the piranha’s body all the way up to its head and swallowed it. The fish’s dead head continued hanging on Natasha’s finger for a few seconds more. Then the jaws released and the head fell into the river.
“Thank you, Theodore!” Natasha said with relief.
“There is no need for gratitude,” Theodore answered, “But this fish tasted terrible! It was very bitter. I am afraid that it might give me indigestion! By the way, it was the same piranha that tried to eat me, but instead it got eaten by me!”
“That is called irony,” Owl noted.
“Maybe for you it is called irony, but for me it is called lunch!” Theodore winked.
The raft made it to the shore and the friends jumped out on the sand.
 



Chapter 7
THE TOWN OF INJUSTICE
THE ROYAL CEMETERY

 

 


After resting for a short while, the small group continued their journey. They passed through a gray forest and came to a town. On the side of the road there was a sign that read: “The Town of Injustice.”
“That’s a friendly name,” quipped Theodore.
The company entered the town and they were amazed to find that on the right side of the road there were beautiful mansions, constructed mostly of marble and crystal. But on the left side of the road there were little old shacks with hay roofs. It also seemed very unusual that many of the mansions had their windows and doors boarded up as if there was nobody living there.
“Why are these houses closed up?” Natasha questioned Spy Mouse.
“Because the owners have died. And the rest of the wealthy people will soon die off too. Most of them don’t have any heirs. These people are afraid to fall in love because they don’t want to get married. They don’t want to share their wealth in case of divorce. They are in the ‘Trap of Property.’ All wealthy people in our country are very greedy. Our Queen has turned them that way with the needles from the Tree of Evil in order to keep them away from LOVE. So, when they get old, they die lonely and their property becomes the Queen’s. Even though some may get married, they do not want to have children. Children are very expensive. They need to be fed, dressed and sent to school. About five years ago some people did have children and the Queen was not pleased. The children are the successors, and after their parents’ death they inherit the property and the Queen gets nothing. Our Queen is very shrewd, so she came up with new decree: ‘A wealthy family that does not have any children, gets the reward of one big ruby every year, but a wealthy family that does have children, must pay every year the penalty of a big ruby for every child they have.’
“Of course this law caused a big difference in people’s behavior. Now, wealthy people don’t have any children. And, sooner or later, the Queen will get all of their wealth, including the rubies that she gave out as rewards for their childlessness. Yes, our Queen is very shrewd!”
Near one of the beautiful houses, which appeared to be much more expensive and bigger than the rest, was a lovely carved marble bench. Sitting on it was a sorrowful old man, staring off into the distance with a grim, indifferent look on his face.
“Whose house is this?” asked Natasha. “It is much bigger than any of the other houses! And who is that sad old man on the bench?”
“He is the wealthiest man in the Kingdom of Evil,” reported Spy Mouse. “He owns a diamond mine! He is very old. There was a time when he was married, but the Queen would not accept that. She was very afraid that they might have children, who would inherit the diamond mine. So she came up with a ruse – she invited them both to her ball. At the ball, the Queen brought a glass of wine to his wife, and when she took the wine, the Queen, ‘accidentally-on-purpose,’ pushed her slightly and made her spill the entire glass on the Queen’s dress. This drew everybody’s attention and the Queen acted like she was very offended. The man’s wife was arrested for insulting the Queen, and she was imprisoned for life in the Tower of Loneliness. So this man, the owner of the largest diamond mine, is alone now and the Queen is impatiently waiting for him to die. Yes, it is not always a good thing to be wealthy in our land; wealthy people have their own problems.”
“And what do the poor people do?” asked Natasha.
“The majority of the poor people are working in the mines – they are excavating diamonds, gold, rubies and other precious stones for our Queen. And they get very low wages because the Queen is a miser.”
“Can the poor people fall in love?” wondered Owl. “Since they are not in the ‘trap of property’?”
“What are you saying!” retorted the Spy Mouse. “Nobody can feel love in our country! Everything is designed to prevent love. The poor are in a different kind of trap – the trap of envy and anger! They envy the rich and are angry at them because of their own poverty. That is how they are kept under control! The principle of control is simple: the three negative feelings – greed, envy and anger – will never let LOVE get close to people with those traits. Yes, our Queen is very crafty!”
“But why are there no people on the streets? The only person we have seen is that old man,” the Lizard Queen noted.
“The poor neighborhood people are all at work and their children are either in school or in daycare centers,” Spy Mouse explained. “And the wealthy prefer to stay inside their homes. They don’t like to associate with their neighbors. All neighbors hate each other and this is why they believe that it is better for them not to meet their neighbors at all. It is common in our land for all people to hate each other. The wealthy despise the poor because of their poverty. The poor despise the wealthy because they envy their riches. All of the wealthy hate each other and all of the poor hate each other simply because they are mean and because hatred is our usual way of feeling.”
The friends quickly passed through the Town of Injustice and entered a deep forest. Natasha noticed that the trees had color; they were green again, as was the grass. And in the grass were yellow and red flowers. She looked up and saw that the sky was blue.
“The trees are green! The colorless land is over!” Natasha exclaimed. “Have we arrived in a different kingdom?”
“No, we are still in the Kingdom of Evil,” the mouse replied. “But the colors are here because the Neutral Territory is nearby. It has a very bad influence on our kingdom, and our Queen doesn’t like it, but there is nothing we can do about it….Even though that would not be any of your business. I brought you here to show you another unique site of our kingdom, the Royal Cemetery! We are almost there. Do you see that brick building in the distance?”
Everybody turned in the direction where Spy Mouse pointed and saw a small building made of red brick. There was something odd about the building.
“That is weird! Why doesn’t that building have any windows?” Theodore wondered.
“Because that building is a cemetery. Dead people don’t need windows!” an annoyed Mouse replied.
“But that building is so small! It is very hard to believe that the building is actually a cemetery,” Theodore continued reasoning.
“Oh, don’t worry! Once we get there you will believe it!” the mouse commented mysteriously.
The company finally reached the building and above the entrance they saw a sign:


THE ROYAL CEMETERY


Spy mouse pressed a hidden button, which was down in the ground, and the entrance door opened. Behind the door, absolute darkness sprawled. Suddenly, out of the darkness walked a giant Rat, even bigger than all of the previous Rats.
The Rat glanced at the company with her sleepy eyes and angrily asked, “What do you want?”
“As if you don’t know what we want!” Spy Mouse angrily replied. “The tourists came to see the Royal Cemetery. And you are sleeping again! As always! Someday I am going to tell the Queen that you’re always sleeping at your job, maybe then you will learn how to talk more politely to me, as well as to the tourists!”
The Rat tried to correct the situation. With a big grin on her face she announced, “Dear tourists! Welcome to the Royal Cemetery! I hope this site will stun you so much that you will remember it for the rest of your lives!”
Then she turned away and quietly, so nobody could hear her, added, “That is, of course, if you survive.”
The Rat pressed a hidden button on the wall and the building became illuminated by dim light. Everyone noticed that there wasn’t much inside the building. It was just a small room with a desk in the middle and a big comfortable chair behind it. On top of the chair were a pillow and a blanket.
Suddenly a loud rattle sounded. A rollup door opened behind the Rat’s back.
“Please, take this elevator! It will bring you to the underground, where the cemetery is located. Your guide will give you a tour. Enjoy!” The Rat spitefully grinned.
Spy Mouse stepped inside the small elevator and the rest of the company followed him. The Rat closed the elevator doors and the elevator started descending slowly, shaking and rattling. Soon the elevator stopped and the travelers came out to a great underground cave. The cave was lit with a dull fluorescent green light. The walls of the cave, the ceiling and the floor seemed to glow. Along the walls were tall rectangular boxes, which also seemed to glow with green light.
“These are the former kings and queens of the Kingdom of Evil!” Spy Mouse announced with pride.
Natasha looked at the boxes more carefully. Her eyes finally adjusted to the dim light and she noticed that these were not just plain glowing boxes, these were crystal coffins, filled with a greenish liquid. Inside the coffins were the royal ancestors. It seemed strange that the coffins were about twice the width of what usual coffins should be. Also it seemed strange that the coffins were standing up instead of resting on the floor.
“This cave is the resting place to eleven royal generations,” Spy Mouse continued speaking. “The right side of the cave is where the kings are placed, and on the left side are the queens. The first king here on the right is Zorber the Vicious. Back when he ruled the kingdom, his name alone would put all of the kingdom’s people in fear, rich and poor. Let’s have a closer look!”
The friends came up right next to the coffin with hesitation. Inside the coffin there was standing a tall man, dressed in royal clothes with a mantle on his shoulders. The greenish liquid, with which the coffin was filled, was slightly glowing and it was giving green color to the man’s face. His hair was slightly moving with the currents. In his hands he was holding a squirming snake, which was opening and shutting its mouth, showing sharp fangs.
Suddenly Zorber the Vicious opened his eyes, which glowed with red light. He angrily grinned and a ghost flew out of him. The ghost looked exactly like Zorber. It flew in circles above the travelers, who were rooted in fear and couldn’t move.
“You are too kind! You should not be kind at all! You will be executed for your kindness!” the ghost spitefully hissed. “Your heads will be chopped off! Become evil now! Being evil will save your lives!”
The ghost was holding the snake in his hand. He took the snake, made a loop out of it, and threw the loop over Natasha’s neck, trying to choke her. Natasha tried to wave the ghost away, and it flew up higher, away from Natasha. After making a few circles, the ghost returned back to the body of Zorber the Vicious and everything became silent again.
“What was it? A real ghost?” Natasha asked, shaking from fear.
“That is a secret that I cannot tell you.” Spy Mouse dodged the question.
“Your secrets are pretty obvious! Those had to be special effects! All of you enjoy scaring people here!” Theodore said.
“That is correct. Scaring people is very common to our Kingdom. It is easier to control those who are in fear!” Spy Mouse agreed. “And that’s why they are trying to scare you here! Are you afraid yet? Should we continue the excursion or not?” Spy Mouse challenged.
“Let’s continue,” Natasha replied, accepting the challenge.
Natasha was indeed frightened, but she didn’t want to give into her fear and surrender before the powers of evil. She remembered what the Intuition Fairy told her, Defeat your fear!
“Okay, let’s continue with the excursion then,” Spy Mouse agreed. “The first queen on the left is Liesa the Hateful, the wife of Zorber the Vicious. She was well known for her hatred. She hated everyone, even her children. Liesa the Hateful and Zorber the Vicious are the grandparents of our Queen. Let’s get closer for a better look!”
The friends came up and through the greenish liquid they saw a short lady dressed in beautiful royal clothes. In her hands she was holding a crystal ball. The crystal ball had something inside, and that something was moving. Natasha took a closer look at the crystal ball and noticed that it was filled with big moving spiders. Liesa the Hateful suddenly opened her eyes, which were red and glowing. Then a ghost flew out of Liesa also. Liesa the ghost hovered above the travelers and opened her crystal ball. Out of the ball the spiders fell out on Natasha and her friends. The friends tried to brush and shake the spiders off, but all of their attempts were in vain, since the spiders were also ghosts.
“I hate the kind! I will have all of you executed! Death to all the kind!” Liesa hissed, while flying above the company.
Then she flew back inside her body. The spiders also disappeared. Everything became quiet again.
“Let’s continue our excursion,” Spy Mouse said.
“No, let’s not!” the Lizard Queen disagreed. “This excursion isn’t too enjoyable.”
“I agree, we better go back,” Theodore nodded along with the Lizard Queen. “This is not an excursion that we would choose.”
“He-he! I’m sorry, but we cannot go back,” Spy Mouse sneered. “The elevator can go up only when it is empty. It doesn’t have any power to pull passengers back. This is the way this cemetery is made. We have to go through the entire cemetery and take another elevator at the end.”
“Okay, then let’s run!” Natasha suggested and started racing down the pathway between the two rows of the standing coffins, heading toward the other end of the cave.
The rest of the company followed her. Out of the corpses, when the travelers were passing them, ghosts were flying and chasing the travelers.
The ghosts kept on screaming, “Destroy them! Cut their heads off! Cut them in pieces! Hang them!”
But the friends continued forward. Soon they reached the other end of the cave and stopped in front of the elevator doors. The ghosts also stopped, hanging above the travelers.
“This is terrible! They really are very kind! How unspeakable!” Liesa the Hateful complained to her husband.
“I hate the kind!” replied Zorber the Vicious. “They ruined even our great grandson Thomas! Soon there will be nobody suitable to rule our kingdom!”
“Wait! This is that girl from the prophecy! I can sense her awful kindness!” exclaimed Liesa the Hateful and screamed at Natasha, “Get out of our kingdom!”
In Liesa’s right hand appeared a sword and in her left appeared a spear. She attacked Natasha, trying to stab her with the spear and slash her with the sword, but the ghost weapons went right through Natasha without causing her harm. However, it was still very frightening. The rest of the ghosts also attacked Natasha and her friends.
“Leave her alone!” Owl stood up for Natasha. “You get out of here!”
He began flying through them, trying to peck at them with his beak. Theodore and the Lizard Queen were swinging their paws in the air, trying to fight back the ghosts.
“Don’t worry about them, leave them alone, they are not real. They cannot harm us,” Natasha calmly replied. “Besides that, I am not afraid of them at all!”
All of this time Natasha was standing still without moving. Then she suddenly smiled.
“How impudent! She even smiles!” Liesa the Hateful screamed. “Get out of here now, you filthy girl! You are not welcome in our kingdom!”
“Oh no!” Zorber the Vicious objected. “Let her stay here! Hopefully our granddaughter, Caroline, will do something about this girl. And it is time for us to return to the 66th realm. We are late by almost one hour! The Purples will be angry.”
“Oh! That’s right! You are correct!” his wife agreed.
The two ghosts disappeared. The rest returned to their bodies, and shut their glowing red eyes. Silence reigned once again.
“Our excursion through the Royal Cemetery is over! Congratulations!” Spy Mouse announced.
Then he pressed the elevator button, which was hidden down on the floor. The elevator doors opened.
“Why do you congratulate us?” wondered Theodore, as the company stepped inside.
“None of you died of fear! Congratulations!” Spy Mouse clarified.
“Why? Has that ever happened? Has someone died here before?” the Lizard Queen asked in horror.
“All kinds of things have happened here before.” Spy Mouse dodged the question.
“What is the 66th realm, and who are the Purples?” Natasha asked.
“You are asking something you shouldn’t know!” Spy Mouse angrily replied.
The elevator arrived at the top. The doors opened and the company came out into the forest, not too far from the pathway. The elevator doors closed. Everyone looked back and saw that the elevator was hidden in a hollow of a huge tree and it was camouflaged so well that it was impossible to notice it from the outside.
Spy Mouse suddenly stopped and said, “If you give me another hazelnut, I will tell you some very important information!”
Natasha checked her pockets, took out another hazelnut and gave it to Spy Mouse. He ate it very quickly.
Feeling satisfied, he sprawled out on the grass. The friends sat down around him, and Spy Mouse continued. “Today, in about twenty minutes at the King’s palace, they will assemble the council of the cleverest wise men. Two issues will be discussed there. The first issue is, ‘How to help Prince Thomas to become normal,’ which means evil. Second issue is, ‘Solving the problem of the robbers.’”
“Robbers? What robbers are you talking about?” Theodore rolled his eyes.
“Some of the poor people, who are tired of working for low pay and without weekends off, run away to the forest and become robbers. The numbers are growing rapidly. They do not work and they do not pay taxes, but the worst thing about them is that they rob the rich.”
“And they pass the money out to the poor?” Natasha guessed.
“No! Why would they pass their money out?” Spy Mouse asked with amazement. “They pass the money to their chieftain, and he decides what to do with it. He keeps most of the money for himself, and from the rest he generously gives a salary to his robbers, while he is building up the town in their forest, making their life more comfortable.”
“So, he really keeps most of the money for himself?” Owl frowned.
“Yes, of course! He is the chieftain, which means the boss!” Spy Mouse explained. “But the robbers’ salary from their chieftain is four times greater than the salary they used to get at the diamond mines. They are satisfied with their lives. But the wealthy are very much afraid of the robbers. Now, even the Queen is afraid of them, she has even stopped going through the forest. They are becoming a big problem.”
“And how do you know all these details?” queried Theodore. “It would seem that this information should be kept as an important secret.”
“But, you forget I am a spy! This is my profession and my talent!” Spy Mouse said proudly. “My father and my grandfather were spies also, so I am a third-generation spy! And I know many things because I am a good spy. But if the Queen would reward me for being a good spy, or at least feed me well, then I would never give out such information for just two hazelnuts.”
“I see…” mused Owl. “It does not sound like a good idea to keep the spy so hungry.”
“By the way, you can find out exactly what they decide at the meeting,” continued the Spy Mouse. “Owl can fly there and listen. It will not be hard to do. The King’s palace is located very close by, on the right side of this pathway. On the top floor there is a large round window that is always left ajar. But you will need to hurry – the council will be convening soon!”
“Okay, I will fly there right now!” said Owl as he flapped his wings and took off.
 


Chapter 8
THE COUNCIL OF THE CLEVEREST WISE MEN

 


Owl did not have to fly very long before he spotted the palace. It was built of crystal and marble. The marble columns were encrusted with huge diamonds. He found the big round window right away, and just like the Spy Mouse said, the window really was left ajar. He landed on the window opening and peered inside. It was a bright large hall. In the center of the room was a large table with many chairs around it. The Queen and King were already sitting there and talking quietly. Owl started listening carefully.
“You see, daughter,” said the King, “you gave birth to a son who only gives us problems! We have been trying to make him normal, evil, for many years, but to no avail! And the boy is growing; tomorrow he will be eleven years old! What if he stays as kind as he is now? Then what would we do? We cannot pass the Kingdom of Evil onto the hands of a kind successor!”
“We still have time, Father! We will come up with something!” exclaimed Caroline. “Let’s hear what our cleverest advisors have to say. I have not fed them for three days, so they should be ready to think.”
The main door of the chamber opened, and the advisors shuffled in, bowed to the King and to his daughter, and seated themselves at the table.
“Let’s not waste any time! Let’s start the meeting now!” commanded the King. “These questions are serious and they need to be resolved as quickly as possible! Let’s start with the first problem: How to make Prince Thomas evil.”
The King gazed at the man on his left and said, “So, First Advisor, what do you suggest?”
The First Advisor, an old, tall, skinny man with a long nose, stood up and said, “I think we should try shock therapy!”
“What is that?” the King asked in a surprised voice. “Explain it.”
“It is very simple!” continued the First Advisor. “The Prince should be hit on the head with a wooden bat, but not too hard. If the strike is too hard, it could make the Prince stupid. The strike should be of medium strength with a bat of an average weight, so that the Prince will become only slightly stupid, so it will be much easier to manipulate him.”
“What are you saying? You’re an idiot!” roared the King in anger. “What if you get hit with an average-size bat on your stupid, bald head? I would really enjoy seeing that!”
“And another thing,” the Queen broke in, “how do you expect a stupid prince to rule the Kingdom of Evil after he grows up and becomes a stupid king?”
“Very easy!” blurted out the First Advisor. “Ruling the Kingdom does not require brains!”
“For an average kingdom, probably not,” the Queen commented. “But in order to rule our kingdom, the Kingdom of Evil, it does require a very smart and shrewd king, otherwise we would not survive! It looks like you forgot the biggest secret of our Kingdom: KINDNESS IS STRONGER THAN EVIL! Did you also forget that our mission is to spread evil and hatred everywhere? And in order to do that we need to be very inventive, always coming up with new methods and ideas on how to do it! Our highest goal is to defeat kindness. And a stupid king could never do that! So, your suggestion is unacceptable!”
The First Advisor sank back into his chair, his shoulders slumped.
“What can the Second Advisor suggest about this problem?” asked the King.
The Second Advisor was a tall, husky old man with fiery red hair and beard. His whole face was covered in freckles.
“I have an excellent suggestion!” he said. “We should show all of the Kingdom’s riches to the Prince. We should take him on an excursion to the diamond mines, then take him to the vault and show him all the diamonds, the gold and all of the King’s wealth. I am sure that seeing all these riches will create greed in him. And after greed, the feelings of hatred and anger always follow.”
“You are sure but I am not!” the Queen argued. “Don’t you know that kind people cannot be greedy? You have the statement mixed up! Hatred and anger come first, always followed by greed! Greedy people are not necessarily hateful or angry. If we could make him angry first, then he would become greedy very fast! But how can we make him angry? That is the question! Your suggestion is not accepted!”
The Second Advisor fell back into his chair, his head down.
“What would be the Third Advisor’s suggestion?” asked the King.
The Third Advisor was also an old man. He was short, bald and obese. His entire face was covered with warts.
He stood up and said, “I would suggest the propaganda of violence! We should show him scary movies, full of blood and gore! Gore and more gore! Read him stories about violence and murder.”
“What is wrong with you? Why are you so absent-minded?” asked the amazed Queen. “Don’t you remember that we did all those things back when he was five years old? It did not make him evil; it did not even cause any fear; it only made the Prince bored. He would often yawn while watching those scary movies. We even tried putting cockroaches in his room, hoping he would smash them. Instead, he would put each cockroach on his palm and play with it. Then he would open the window and put the insect outside without causing it any harm! Your suggestion is not accepted!”
“What can the Fourth Advisor suggest?” asked the King, who was running short of patience.
The Fourth Advisor was a very old, thin, short man. He was considered the wisest and for the King and his daughter, the Fourth Advisor was their last hope.
He rose slowly and spoke. “Loneliness and imprisonment, those are the two things that can help our Prince. It has been known for a long time that loneliness hardens even the kindest hearts! If a person is lonely for a long time, then kindness slowly dies out of their heart. My suggestion is to imprison the Prince in the Tower of Loneliness where we keep our privileged prisoners. We could imprison him alone on the uppermost turret. We would supply all of the amenities, and even feed him well. He could have walks on the roof whenever he wants, since the roof is flat. But he shall not be allowed to see anyone! I believe that this is the only thing that will help him.”
“Hmm, that could possibly help,” commented the Queen. “I think we should try that. Your suggestion is accepted! Especially since there aren’t any better suggestions.”
“Good! Now let’s discuss the problem of the robbers,” commanded the King. “You know that many poor people join the robbers because they are not satisfied with their lives. There is a large group of them already. They rob the wealthy. But the worst thing is that it is very hard to get to them. They live in the Neutral Territory. This territory is located near the Kingdom of Kindness and Love and it makes everyone kinder. This is why I am afraid to send my warrior Rats over there. If my warrior Rats become kind then we will be without any troops. More and more poor people are running away to that place. If this continues then we will have nobody to work in our mines. This is a serious problem and it should be resolved as quickly as possible. What can the First Advisor suggest to us?”
The First Advisor stood up and with a serious expression he said, “I have three words: fines, fines and again, fines! Those whose relatives join the robbers, should pay very big fines.”
“This will not help! It does not even make sense!” interrupted the Queen. “Their relatives don’t have any money. They have not even paid off all of the previous fines yet. The amount of our fines is much greater than the amount of their pay. This suggestion is not accepted. What can the Second Advisor now offer?”
The Second Advisor stood up, and with an angry expression he said, “I believe that a new law should be created. This law should state: ‘The death penalty will be imposed on all those who run away!’”
“Well, before executing them we need to catch them first,” objected the Queen, “and besides that, usually only the bravest men run away. They are not afraid of anything. This suggestion is not accepted. What can the Third Advisor tell us?”
The Third Advisor was dozing off when he heard his name. He jumped up and rapidly answered, “We should send all of the warrior Rats to battle the robbers! Our troops are the best in the world and cannot be defeated! Our King and Queen are the wisest! Long live our King and Queen!”
The King and the Queen looked at him then at each other and then at him again. Finally the Queen said, “You should sleep at home, not at the meeting. Didn’t you hear what the King just said? While you were snoozing, he said that it is very dangerous to send our Rat warriors to the Neutral Territory. Even the meanest of the Rats can become kind and might end up joining the robbers. Your suggestion is not accepted, if it could even be considered a suggestion.”
“What can the Fourth Advisor offer us?” asked the King.
The Fourth Advisor got up and said in a confident voice, “Raise the birthrate in the poor families and give out one ruby for the birth of each child. And also slightly raise the wages of the mine workers.”
“What is wrong with you?” huffed the Queen. “That is too much spending! I don’t want to give up so much!”
“Sometimes we need to sacrifice a little so we do not lose everything,” the Fourth Advisor said patiently, “but this does not apply to you because you will lose very little and only temporarily. It will pay off in the long run. Let me explain. The poor need to have at least a little money. This will keep them in the ‘Trap of Property.’ This trap is very hard to get out of. And most important of all, it will keep them from running away because they will have something that they do not want to lose. Nobody ever runs away from money. Money and other material things are the biggest trap! Your workers run away because they have nothing to lose. And in order to make them more compliant and to keep them under control, you need to allow them some material things. But you, Your Highness, will only gain from this. When they have children they will need to pay for food, schools, medical and clothing. And since all of the schools, stores and hospitals belong to you, you will get all of that money back. So it will work in this way: The right hand will be giving and the left hand will be taking back. And also you need to declare that you will forgive all those robbers who will return to work in the mines again.”
“Yes, you are right!” said the Queen. “Why didn’t I think of this idea before?”
“Also,” continued the Fourth Advisor, “more children from the poor families will mean more workers for the mines in the future and more diamonds will be brought into the treasury.”
“I am very proud of you!” the Queen exclaimed.
She took off her ruby pendant, approached the Fourth Advisor and placed it around his neck.
“You have earned this! I always knew that we could count on you, that you are the wisest in our Kingdom!”
“Enough! The meeting is over!” commanded the King and then he instructed his daughter, “So tomorrow we will put the Prince in the Tower of Loneliness.”
“I believe we should do this the day after tomorrow!” countered the Queen of Evil. “Some tourists have arrived and are visiting us. There are four of them. We need to find out what they are up to, find out who they are, what their true goals are and we need to decide what to do with them. Besides, Prince Thomas has his birthday tomorrow. We will have the ball in order to celebrate the event. We will also invite the tourists. This way we can learn everything about them.”
“I agree,” said the King. “One day either way will not make much difference. And now everyone must leave! The meeting is over! It is late and it is time to go to sleep.”
The advisors got up from their chairs, bowed to the King and Queen and left the room.
The Father King and Caroline were left alone. They stood up and went over to the fireplace. The fireplace was very great and beautiful, with a roaring fire giving warmth. On top of the mantel were two giant antique candelabrums with three candles in each. The candelabrums were made of pure gold. Above the fireplace there was a large painting hanging on the wall, showing a lake with some creature sticking its fish-snake head out of the water.
Suddenly all of the six candles lit up. The Father King pushed one of the candelabrums and the painting flipped to the left, revealing a dark opening to a tunnel. From out of the tunnel two ghosts flew out, whom Owl recognized right away. They were Zorber the Vicious and Liesa the Hateful. The ghosts floated to the table and took the royal seats. Caroline and her father sat themselves on the other side of the table, where the advisors were sitting before.
“I welcome you, Father! And I welcome you too, Mother!” the King greeted the ghosts. “There weren’t many changes in our kingdom during this past month. We don’t really have any news…”
“I welcome you too, Frederick!” Zorber the Vicious replied. “But you are wrong! There is big news, terrible news!”
“Hah! You’re saying you don’t have any news!” Liesa the hateful screamed, breaking into the conversation. “You are on the verge of complete destruction! The prophecy is starting to come true! She is here already, and she is not afraid of anything!”
“What? She is here already?” the King screamed. “But why didn’t anyone inform me of this?”
“Simply because everything in your kingdom is so disorganized! You cannot keep anything under your control! Everything here is out of order!” Liesa the Hateful hissed. “Your servants are not afraid of you at all! I always hated you because of your weak character! It has been almost a whole day since the girl from the prophecy came here and you don’t even know about it! The Purples are already worried. They sent the fiery bird to measure the power of Love of that girl, and the results are horrifying. One thousand units! Her power of Love is one thousand units!”
“Oh, wow! Is that even possible?” the King exclaimed.
“You are such an idiot! I have always hated how dumb you are!” Liesa continued screaming. “An idiot like you must be a rare find, because I have never met anyone as dumb before as you are! Don’t you even know that your grandson Thomas has the same power of Love, one thousand units?”
“But Mom, none of that is my fault…” the King stuttered.
“Liesa, we don’t have much time!” Zorber the Vicious interrupted the conversation. “We need to go back to the Purples. The passage to the 66th realm will close in minutes. And if we are late, we might get into much trouble!”
“Yes, you are right, Zorber!” Liesa agreed. “Well, Frederick, we will continue our discussion later. And now come forward, I will suggest to you what to do with that girl.”
The King came to Liesa the Hateful and she whispered something in his ear. Owl was trying to distinguish what Liesa was saying, but he couldn’t hear anything.
“Goodbye, Frederick! Goodbye, Caroline! We will see you next month!” said Zorber the Vicious.
“I hope that in one month you will have good news for us!” Liesa hissed angrily and flew into the hidden tunnel first.
Zorber followed Liesa. The King went over to the fireplace and pushed the candelabrum again. The painting returned to its place, hiding the entrance to the tunnel.
“Father! What did she tell you?” Caroline asked curiously.
The Father King whispered in her ear.
“Well, I think she is right. That is a great idea!” Caroline replied, pleased. “I think that it is the best thing we can do.”
“I think so too. But now let’s go to sleep. We will have a difficult day tomorrow,” said the King and headed to the door.
Owl hurried back to tell his friends everything that he had seen and heard. They all listened to his story about the meeting with interest.
“I think that is so cruel to imprison the Prince in the tower,” said Natasha. “And I am wondering, who is that girl from the prophecy that Liesa the Hateful was talking about?”
“I think that she was talking about you!” Owl replied. “During our trip to the Royal Cemetery she referred to you as ‘that girl from the prophecy.’”
“And I think that it is time for you, Spy, to tell us about what is going on here,” Theodore questioned the mouse.
“I don’t know anything about it,” Spy Mouse peeped, shivering in fear.
“I don’t think you are telling the truth,” objected Theodore. “You better tell us the truth right now, or I will eat you!”
“Oh, no! Please, don’t!” Spy mouse shivered even more. “I will tell you everything!”
“Well, then, go ahead! Tell us!” Theodore demanded.
“The Neutral Philosopher predicted to our King that a girl from Los Angeles could destroy our entire kingdom. And it looks like his prophecy is already starting to come true. You are that girl,” the mouse quietly whispered, pointing at Natasha.
“What? Are you saying that I could destroy your kingdom?” Natasha asked in amazement.
“No, not I. The Neutral Philosopher said it,” Spy Mouse squeaked, still quaking in fear. “And he is never wrong. He has been predicting for us for over 200 years. And everything that he predicted, all of it came true.”
“That is stupid!” Theodore exclaimed. “Some old man has gone crazy and is telling you nonsense. And you believe in that nonsense! I have known Natasha my entire life. She would never harm a fly! And you are talking about destroying an entire kingdom!”
“Natasha! Please, don’t kill me!” begged Spy Mouse. Two tiny tears rolled out of his eyes. “I will serve you! I will be very useful! I know so much!”
“What is wrong with you, Mouse? There must be some mistake! I don’t want to harm anyone! Don’t be afraid!” Natasha handed him two more hazelnuts. “Here, eat these, maybe it will calm you down.”
Spy Mouse ate the hazelnuts and regained his senses.
“I think I need to talk to your Queen. I will explain to her that I am not going to harm anyone,” Natasha said, “I will tell her that I am just passing through your kingdom to get to the SOURCE of LOVE because there is no other way to get there, but through your kingdom.”
“Oh, no! Don’t even think about telling that to our Queen!” exclaimed the Spy Mouse. “Then she will know that someone has spied on her! And those who spy on her end up in prison! And, by the way, don’t talk much with her about anything!”
“You are right! At the ball we should keep quiet!” Owl agreed.
“Spy Mouse, there is still one more mystery that you haven’t told us about yet! Who are the Purples and what is the 66th realm?” the Lizard Queen questioned.
“That is something I don’t know myself,” Spy Mouse mumbled in confusion. “I just know that the 66th realm is where the ghosts of all of our royalty go after their death….And that it is somewhere down very deep underground….Some of the ghosts come back once in a while, asking the king for a report about all of the work that has been done to spread evil on Earth. But none of them ever talk about how it is down there in the 66th realm. Even though once I heard that Zorber the Vicious said, ‘Over here we are still serving the powers of Evil. Even though it is better to live in the Kingdom of Evil. So don’t hurry to get down here yet. Enjoy your time!’”
“Okay, I believe you,” said Theodore. “But it is getting late now and everyone is tired. We should get some sleep…”
“We could sleep right on the grass, it is so soft and tall!” Natasha suggested as she curled up under a tree. The Lizard Queen and Theodore lay down next to her. Owl perched on one of the branches of the tree. Ordinarily Owl was a nocturnal bird and he always slept during the daytime. But now, when he had no time to sleep during the day, he had to change his habits. The Spy Mouse also lay down nearby. He was very satisfied because he had eaten four hazelnuts in one day. It would normally take him two years to earn that many hazelnuts.
 


Chapter 9
PATRICK THE MUTANT
MEETING THE QUEEN OF EVIL

 


The night was warm and tranquil. In the sky was a large bright moon shining and the grass was downy soft. It seemed like nothing could disturb the deep sleep of the tired travelers. But what was that!? From the depth of the forest there came the sound of a rustle in the grass. This rustle was swiftly moving closer. Then the leaves of the tree above the sleeping company also made a sound and a shadow fell across Natasha’s sleeping face. Something very long and thin started slithering slowly down the tree, coming closer to Natasha. As if she sensed the danger, Natasha became restless. She suddenly woke up and opened her eyes. In fear she saw that right above her, inches from her face, there was a huge snake hanging down from the tree. The head of this snake had large round eyes. It was covered in scales and its head resembled a fish. The fish-snake opened its jaws, showing its sharp dreadful teeth, and started making a noise: “His-s-s-s!”
“A-h-h-h!” Natasha screamed. She could not move and now her eyes were shut. The leaves on the tree moved, then the grass under the tree parted and the sound faded quickly into the distance.
“What happened? I heard you screaming,” asked Owl.
“I heard your scream also,” said Theodore, “Did you have a bad dream?”
Natasha, still filled with fear, was unable to move. She was quietly whispering something over and over.
“What is she whispering?” Owl asked the Lizard Queen, who was the closest to Natasha.
“She is repeating the same phrase over and over: ‘I wish it would crawl away, I wish it would crawl away,’” the Lizard Queen answered.
“Ah, I see! She saw Patrick the Mutant!” said Spy Mouse. He ran around Natasha and carefully examined her. “She is lucky; Patrick the Mutant did not touch her. She probably scared him away with her scream.”
Natasha finally got over her fear, opened her eyes and sat up.
“I saw a giant snake with the face of a fish!” she said. “It had such dreadful teeth and it was all covered in scales! Mouse, do you know who that was?”
“It is Patrick the Mutant, our Queen’s favorite pet,” answered Spy Mouse, “and you are very lucky that he didn’t touch you. Once he touched our Queen when she was feeding him late one evening. He caressed her on the right cheek with his tongue and the skin in that spot became dark brown and sprouted thick black hair. Our Queen became despondent. It was a good thing that her son, our Prince Thomas, was able to help her. Since he was born in the Kingdom of Kindness and Love, his hands possess healing power. Thomas touched the Queen’s cheek with his hand and the cheek became normal again. Now our Queen feeds Patrick the Mutant in the daytime and only with a fishing pole. During the daytime, Patrick the Mutant is not dangerous; he does not come out of the lake because he is afraid of the daylight. He comes out only at night, and only for a short period of time. Our Queen is very proud of him.”
“What is there about him that she could be proud of?” Theodore wondered.
“Patrick the Mutant is a unique creature! He mutated from an ordinary goldfish!” Spy Mouse said pridefully. “A year ago, our Father-King gave ten goldfish as a birthday present to our Prince Thomas. The Queen suggested putting them in the Lake of Hatred to see what would happen. They put the fish in the lake and soon nine of them became very weak and sluggish. But the tenth fish, the biggest of them, started growing very fast and soon he ate all of his siblings and mutated into a huge monster – something between a fish and a snake. This mutant can live in the water and breathe with gills, and he can also crawl out of the water on land and breathe with lungs as well. Our Queen calls him the Perfect Creation of Evil. She pridefully shows him off to all of her guests. I think that she will show him to you too. And don’t even think about showing her that you don’t like him, or you’ll anger her!”
“What should we do? What should we show?” inquired Natasha.
“Delight, of course, what else!” Spy Mouse answered.
“Thank you for warning us,” said Owl. “And now I would not mind going back to sleep, but I am afraid that your Queen’s favorite pet might disturb us again.”
“I don’t think so,” replied Spy Mouse. “He was most likely very scared by Natasha’s scream and will not come out of the lake until tomorrow night.”
“So then let’s sleep. Tomorrow will probably be another hard day,” said the Lizard Queen, and everyone agreed with her. The entire company lay back down under the tree. Soon all were sleeping, except Natasha, who was still afraid. It took some time, but eventually fatigue crept over her, and she fell into a deep sleep.
In the morning the company was awakened by a squeaky voice, “Hey you, tourists, wake up!”
Everyone blinked the sleep from their eyes and saw a giant gray Rat in front of them. She was the head chief of the warrior Rats. On her shoulder was sitting a big black crow and she was staring at the company with her little evil eyes. It was the Snitch Crow.
“Our Queen is having a ball today in honor of her son Thomas’s birthday!” Chief Rat announced. “He is now eleven years old! You are invited to the ball! Come with me, I will take you to the palace.”
“This is a great honor to you, tourists!” rasped the Snitch Crow. “Especially considering that you have a visa of the lowest category! Ha-ha! Be proud!”
“Be quiet! That is none of your business!” angrily ordered Chief Rat to the crow. She spun around and started marching off to the palace.
The company followed after her. All of them had been walking silently for sometime when they heard an earsplitting, dreadful scream. It was so painful that our friends stopped dead in their tracks, filled with terror.
Chief Rat noticed it and said, “That is our Queen’s favorite pet, Patrick, screaming. Don’t be afraid, he is dangerous only at night. Well, actually he could also be dangerous in daytime, but only when he is very hungry. But since the Queen keeps him well fed it is rare that he is hungry. The Queen herself feeds him fresh fish twice a day. So why are you standing here like you are frozen? Let’s go! The clock is ticking! Be quick, we are wasting time!”
Chief Rat wheeled around and continued leading the way as the company followed her. Soon they all saw the pretentious, richly adorned palace, made of marble and crystal. The window frames were adorned with enormous diamonds. Both the stairway leading to the entrance and the entry porch were covered in gold.
“This is such a beautiful palace!” exclaimed Natasha.
“Everything that belongs to our Queen is beautiful!” replied Chief Rat. “Our Queen is beautiful also!”
On both sides of the steps were many flowerbeds with incredibly lovely, large, white flowers. Natasha stepped closer to the flowerbed and saw that the flowers were smiling at her. She wanted to smell them; she leaned close to the flowers with her tiny nose.
When Spy Mouse saw that he cried out in alarm, “Stop! Don’t get too close to the flowers! They will bite your little nose off! The flowers are not smiling because they like you. In reality they are very evil. They are watered from the Lake of Hatred and every day they become more and more evil. Their smiles are deceitful. They are only smiling to attract more prey.”
Natasha jumped back in alarm.
“You filthy girl!” exclaimed one of the flowers angrily as they all stopped smiling.
“You there, stop messing around!” Chief Rat angrily ordered Natasha. “The Queen herself is waiting for you, make haste!”
They entered the palace and met the Queen right away. She really could be considered beautiful, but there also was something repulsive in her face. Natasha realized that it was her mean eyes and the scornful frown that made the Queen’s otherwise beautiful face ugly.
“Hello, dear tourists! I am very glad to meet you!” the Queen greeted them formally.
“We are also glad to meet you!” Natasha answered for everyone, even though none of them felt any excitement at meeting the Queen. She answered in this way only by way of courtesy.
“I would like to invite you to the conversation room,” said the Queen. “We could talk there, learn more about each other. Follow me.”
She began walking up the stairs and the friends followed her.
The Queen brought them to a spacious room, which had a magnificent fireplace with a cheerful fire in it. Near the fireplace there were several soft, elegant sofas and on the walls there were many beautiful oil paintings.
“Make yourselves comfortable!” said the Queen as she sat down on one sofa. The friends sat on the other across from the Queen.
“And now, tell me, why did you come to our kingdom?” asked the Queen.
“Actually, we are going to the Kingdom of Kindness and Love,” answered Natasha, “and the Kingdom of Evil is on the way to it.”
“What!?? You are going to the Kingdom of Kindness and Love!??” The Queen’s face contorted with hatred. “And why are you going there?”
Owl stepped on Natasha’s hand, trying to give her a sign that she was saying too much, but naive Natasha did not understand, so she continued her story.
“My mom and dad want to divorce, but I want them to be together; the Lizard Queen has two sons who are often arguing; Owl has one daughter who does not love anyone; and Theodore is going with us just in case any of us might need help.”
“I see,” said the Queen charmingly. “Since it is very close to us, you could go there anytime. I would suggest that first you visit our points of interest. Two of them you have already seen. Those are the Royal Cemetery and the Wax Museum. By the way, how did you like them?”
“Those are two places that we will remember for the rest of our lives! Especially the Wax Museum!” the Lizard Queen replied and cautiously looked at the Queen. “Those statues seemed almost as if they were real!”
“They seem real because the sculptor who made them is very talented!” the Queen replied with pride.
“Yes, that sculptor sure is talented…” Owl hinted with irony. “And who is that sculptor, may I ask?”
“That sculptor is I! Who else could have such talent?” the Queen bragged. “But you need to see our other points of interest also, the Tree of Evil, the Lake of Hatred, and the Cave of Ever-Frost. And then you can go to the Kingdom of Kindness and Love.”
The Queen fell into thinking and then asked Natasha, “Tell me, little girl, do you really believe that the powers of Kindness and Love will win over the powers of Evil?”
“Of course they will win!” answered Natasha. “It cannot be any other way!”
“And I think that it is very unwise to believe that!” replied the Queen. “My servants and I do a tremendous job of spreading evil. We take the needles from the Tree of Evil and then at night, when all the people are sleeping, my mice servants insert these needles into people’s hearts. In the morning when people wake up they become completely different. They become more angry, nervous, envious, greedy, and violent. They argue, they divorce, they hit each other and their children. Some of them even commit murder. All that gives us great satisfaction.”
“I do not understand one thing,” interrupted the Lizard Queen, “How do you benefit from all of this?”
“This is a great benefit to us!” answered the Queen of Evil. “When people are evil, they emit an evil energy, which flies to our Lake of Hatred and fills it up. We drink the water from it and become even more evil. And being evil is our strength!”
“That is not true!” Owl interrupted. “Strength is in Kindness! And Kindness will win in the end!”
“Don’t be silly!” the Queen objected. “The entire world is already changing toward the Evil side! Take for example my friend Adrian the Priceless. Just one hundred years ago he could not get married. All of the beauties turned him away because he was very old and ugly. And do you know what is going on now? Everything has radically changed! He used to be Adrian the Immortal, now he is Adrian the Priceless! He put an advertisement in newspapers around the world, which stated: ‘The wealthiest man in the world, multi-billionaire Adrian the Priceless, 1000 years old, wants to marry and has created a beauty contest for ladies 18-25 years of age.’
“The advertisement got so many responses! Thousands of beautiful ladies were waiting in lines in order to sign up for the contest! Travel agents would organize trips to Adrian’s private island! The ladies would come to him, they would sing and dance for him, and they would compete in cooking! However Adrian is still single, but now the reason is different: he cannot decide because he has too many choices!
“So tell me, why do young beautiful ladies want to marry old Adrian the Priceless who is over 1000 years old? Even though he is immortal, he is very old and terribly thin! Do you know the answer? I do. Because of his wealth! Because he is a multi-billionaire!
“And my servants did a great job. They have visited all of those ladies and have inserted the needles of envy and greed in their hearts, too! And these are just a few examples; everyday more and more people become like that!”
“So do all of the people turn out to be like that after you pierce their hearts with the needles of Evil?” asked the Lizard Queen.
“Alas, not all,” sighed the Queen. “If the person is really very kind at heart or if that person truly loves someone, then our efforts are useless. The needles will just melt. But many people do give in to the Evil. And to you, I advise you to think about my proposal: I ask you to stay in my Kingdom and work in my palace. You will be fed very well and you will be paid very well also, three small rubies a year for each one of you. That is a very good salary! You should agree! But if you don’t want to, then, well, go on to the Kingdom of Kindness and Love.”
The Queen’s face became repulsively scornful again.
“We thank you for the offer,” Natasha spoke up, “but we need to go to the Kingdom of Kindness and Love so we can help our close relatives.”
“Fine! You will go there tomorrow,” conceded the Queen of Evil. “But today, we are celebrating the birthday of my son, Thomas, who is the heir to my throne. I invite you to the ball. But before we attend the ball I want to show you the Tree of Evil and the Lake of Hatred. Tomorrow morning I will take you to the Cave of Ever-Frost and after that you can go wherever you want. Now let’s go to the garden to look at two of our favorite sights – the Tree of Evil and the Lake of Hatred.”
Suddenly behind the window there sounded a loud fearful scream, which was already familiar to our friends.
“Oh! My poor baby! Patrick is hungry! It is time to feed him and I completely forgot!” exclaimed the Queen. She then added, “Patrick is my pet. I have raised him all by myself! He is so beautiful! He is an example of what the energy of Evil can do: it turned a tiny goldfish into a huge monster, whom I named Patrick! He still continues to grow! And he has such great teeth! Sometimes even I get scared. But most important, he can live in the water and on the land. He is just a Perfect Creation of Evil! He turned out like that because he lives in the Lake of Hatred and absorbs more and more hatred every day. I am so proud of him! Let’s go, I will show him to you!”
 


Chapter 10
THE TREE OF EVIL AND THE LAKE OF HATRED
PRINCE THOMAS



They all went into the garden where there were many gray trees that all looked the same. Aside from all those trees there was one huge tree that looked like a pine. When they came closer they saw that this pine tree had metal needles, which were gray in color.
Curious by nature, Natasha extended her hand so she could touch them, but Owl hurriedly whispered in her ear, “Don’t touch them! Those are the needles of Evil!”
Natasha quickly drew her hand back.
“This is our most important sight!” the Queen beamed with pride. “With its help we are changing the world. This is the Tree of Evil. It grows needles from all four directions. The needles from the north side emit the poison of anger, hatred and annoyance. The needles from the south side emit the poison of vanity, superiority and selfishness. The needles from the east side emit the poison of envy and greed. And the needles from the west side emit the poison of fear, desperation and depression. This tree is our great hope; not many people can withstand the poison of its needles!”
The Queen then pointed to a nearby body of water. “And over there is the Lake of Hatred!”
The friends approached the lake and were amazed at how small it was.
“She must not be doing as well as she tells us!” Natasha whispered to Owl. “Since the Lake of Hatred is so small, there must not be many people who are evil.”
The water in the lake was very muddy and dark, almost black. And it was difficult to imagine how someone would want to drink this water.
Suddenly they heard a voice from behind them, “Hello!”
They turned around and saw a boy about eleven years old. He had light, curly hair, big, blue eyes and a very sweet face. He was dressed in a plain blue sweatshirt and blue sweatpants, which made his eyes appear even more blue.
“This is my son, Prince Thomas!” said the Queen. “Why are you still in the garden?” she questioned him. “And why are you not yet dressed for the ball?”
“I was drawing the lilac shrubs and I got so carried away that I did not even notice how much time had passed by,” answered the prince.
“I see,” said the Queen. “These are our guests. They are tourists on their way to the Kingdom of Kindness and Love.”
Thomas looked at Natasha and smiled. It seemed that he liked her. The Queen noticed that and her face briefly distorted into an evil frown. She did not like it when people smiled. But she did her best to hide her dislike. She continued talking in a polite manner, addressing Thomas, “Well, since you are here, maybe you would also enjoy watching me feed Patrick.”
The Queen clapped her hands twice and a servant came out from behind the lilacs. He carried a fishing pole and a bucket full of fish. He took one fish, hung it on the pole and gave it to the Queen. She took the pole and held it up so the fish was dangling high above the lake. Suddenly the water in the lake was covered in little ripples and the giant snake-fish jumped out of the lake. It flew up, twisting in the air, grabbed the fish and disappeared into the lake again.
“That was such a beautiful jump! He moves so perfectly, so gracefully!” the Queen exclaimed with excitement. “Now, do you see how great my creation of evil is? Do you see that evil is a very powerful force?”
The surface of the lake again became covered with little ripples; the monster came up again, but did not show himself above the surface. He was watching from under the water with his huge eyes, waiting for another fish. The monster’s first jump was fast; he was above the surface for less than a second, so that is why Natasha was not able to see him clearly. But she was curious to see if it was the same monster that had hung down from the tree. And so she forgot to be cautious. She ventured all the way to the edge of the lake, so she could see the monster better. Natasha looked over the edge of the lake and became frozen in fear. From under the water there was the head of a giant monster looking back at her. His jaws were wide open so Natasha could see two rows of long sharp teeth. His eyes were glowing with a bright red light and they were drawing Natasha like a magnet, hypnotizing her and directing her without words, “Come closer to me, closer, closer….”
Natasha was obeying these eyes. She had lost the power of her own will. She was tilting down closer and closer to the lake and then suddenly she slipped down into the lake. The monster grabbed her leg and pulled her down. Natasha was drowning and about to become Patrick’s next meal. The Queen’s son, Prince Thomas, jumped into the lake after Natasha. He swam to the monster and tried to pry his jaws open to free Natasha’s leg. But the monstrous creature was very strong, so he was pulling both Natasha and Thomas deeper into the depths of the lake. Suddenly, on the left and on the right sides of the monster’s head two glowing fiery spheres appeared. They slowly moved closer to the monster’s head and started pressing it together. The monster gave up. It let go off Natasha’s leg and disappeared into the farthest depths of the lake. The glowing spheres then also disappeared, as suddenly as they had appeared.
Interesting, what were those two spheres and why did they decide to save us? Natasha thought to herself.
Thomas has created them by using his thoughts, so he could save you! He was born in the Kingdom of Kindness and Love, so he possesses many great powers, Natasha heard the reply in her head.
Natasha guessed that this thought was from the Intuition Fairy and at the same instant she lost consciousness. Natasha’s body slowly started sinking toward the bottom of the lake. But Thomas quickly grabbed her and swam to the surface. When they have already reached the surface, Thomas took a deep breath and headed for the shore. But at that moment Patrick suddenly came back. With a speed of lightning he wrapped the girl’s legs with his tail and started pulling Natasha and Thomas back into the depths of the lake. He even opened his jaws wide, thinking about how great of a dinner he is about to have, when suddenly above their heads appeared a bright white light. This was the Light of Love, which was coming from the invisible Intuition Fairy. The light was descending lower and lower and was getting brighter and brighter. Patrick the Mutant was a creation of Evil and he could not bear this powerful Light of Love. He stuck his huge fish head out of the water and angrily growled. Then he let go off Natasha’s legs and quickly disappeared in the depths of the lake.
Prince Thomas swam out to the shore, where he carried Natasha out in his arms and gently laid her down on the grass. Everyone came close to them. Natasha’s eyes were closed and on her right leg there was a deep gash from the monster’s teeth. Thomas moved his hands over the wound and it quickly disappeared, like it was never there. Then he put his right palm on Natasha’s forehead and she opened her eyes. The friends were standing numb with amazement and could not speak. Thomas started speaking first:
“Now you are safe,” Thomas said. “But remember, you must stay away from Patrick when he is hungry!”
“Thank you!” sobbed Natasha and her eyes filled with tears of gratitude.
The Queen was standing nearby. Her fearful face was white as chalk. She told Thomas in an angry unsteady voice, “You should not have done that, Thomas! You know better than that. Patrick does not like to joke and he can be very dangerous! You took a deadly risk!”
“I had to do that, Mom. Otherwise Patrick would have killed her,” Thomas answered in a calm and confident voice. He gave his hand to Natasha and helped her to her feet.
After Thomas had touched Natasha and healed her wound she felt such a great rush of energy! She was elated and she wanted to sing and dance with happiness! But she realized that she could not do that since it was forbidden in the Kingdom of Evil. She knew that she had to hide her emotions. Miraculously, her dress and her hair dried immediately.
Thomas is such a courageous boy! Natasha thought. And he is so brave and decisive! He was not afraid of the monster! And he could have died along with me.
Natasha smiled at Thomas and he smiled back at her. The Queen noticed that and, once again, her face distorted into an evil frown, which she tried to hide.
“So everything has turned out well; that is good,” the Queen said in a soothing tone. “And now we need to hurry, the ball is about to begin.”
The Queen squeezed Thomas on the shoulder and said, “Son, quickly go get dressed and then come to the dining hall.” To the friends she said, “And I invite you as well, my dear guests, to the dining hall.”
 


Chapter 11
THE BALL AT THE QUEEN’S PALACE
ADRIAN THE PRICELESS

 



The Queen turned around and went into the palace. The friends hastened to follow her. Inside the palace they entered a spacious room, in the middle of which there was a very long marble table with a large selection of delicious foods on it. Around the table were beautiful carved wooden chairs.
“Why is the table so large and with so much food, if there are only a few of us?” asked Natasha.
“Adrian the Priceless should be here soon,” answered the Queen, “and he never goes anywhere alone now. All of his bride-contestants are always with him, and there are so many of them, no less than a hundred. I am afraid that even all this food might not be enough.”
Suddenly the front door opened, and a servant in beautiful red attire entered and announced in a resonant voice, “Our most prized guest has arrived! The richest man in the world! Adrian the Priceless!”
Immediately there entered one very thin, bald, old man, tottering in cheerfully. He was so thin that his cheeks and eyes were sunken in, but his cheekbones protruded out and his prominent, hawk nose was awkwardly big. He had a huge smile on his face and Natasha noticed that all of his teeth were gold and set with diamonds in each tooth. The way in which he was dressed definitely did not suit the ball. He was casually dressed in running shoes, shorts and a tee shirt.
Natasha could not hide her curiosity and asked the Queen, “Why does he have diamonds in his teeth and why are they so big?”
“Well, since he is so old and does not have his natural good looks,” answered the Queen spitefully, “and to be perfectly honest, he did not have those even when he was young, he has to compensate for it by artificial means. The more expensive, the more beautiful it is considered.”
“But why is he dressed so casually instead of dressing for a ball?” Natasha asked in amazement.
“He believes that this sporty style of clothing makes him look younger,” answered the Queen. “He also wants to have platinum hair attached to his scalp, but he is afraid that he will not be able to comb it and it will make him look like a hedgehog. Nobody has ever had platinum hair attached because it is too costly. So nobody really knows what it will look like when it is done.”
At this point Adrian strolled up to the Queen, still beaming his priceless smile. “Hello, Caroline, haven’t seen you in a while. By the way, where is Thomas?”
“Hello, Adrian!” answered the Queen. “Thomas is dressing, he should be here soon.”
“Oh my, how quickly time flies!” exclaimed Adrian. “He is already eleven years old! I have brought him a gift, but it is outside in the yard, it would not fit through the doors. It is a helicopter, the latest model!”
“Wow, Adrian! That must be expensive!” speculated the Queen with delight.
“Nah! The helicopter itself was not that expensive, but the license to fly it under Thomas’s name was pricey. The sellers were stubborn. They told me that the owner needs to pass a test flight in order to fly it. They would not even quote me a price on it, trying to get the highest price possible, but in the end I bought it anyway. There is nothing that I would not buy for Thomas.”
“Well, thank you, Adrian! I believe that he will be very satisfied with such a gift,” responded the Queen. “And where are all of your brides-to-be?”
“They are still downstairs, gathered in front of the big mirror, trying to pretty themselves up,” replied Adrian.
At this moment the door reopened. The servant in the beautiful uniform entered again and declared, “The bride-contestants!”
Soon a noisy mob of bride-contestants rushed in, all trying to get the seats closest to Adrian.
“Dear guests! I request that everyone take their seats at the table!” ordered the Queen. The guests hurriedly settled in. The only two persons missing were Thomas and the Father King.
The door popped open again and the beautifully attired servant announced, “His Majesty! The Father King! Frederick the Third!”
The King entered the hall in a prideful pace and headed toward the table. He sat on the right of Caroline. The entire hall fell silent. Everyone was expecting a speech from the King. He looked at the guests pridefully and spoke, “I greet all of you, dear guests! And I thank you for coming here to celebrate the eleventh birthday of my grandson, Thomas. And now I suggest a toast to his health with our special Drink of Hatred!”
The servants, who were standing behind the guests’ chairs, started filling up the mugs with the dark muddy liquid. All of the guests, except Natasha and her friends, swallowed their potions and began to eat with a healthy appetite.
The Queen noticed that the Lizard Queen and Owl could not reach the table. She told them, “Fine, I will let you sit right on the table since you are so small.”
The Lizard Queen and Owl hopped up onto the table. The banquet looked and smelled appetizing and everyone was eating with abandon.
Suddenly Natasha felt someone scratching lightly at her ankle. She looked down and saw Spy Mouse. She understood that he was asking for something to eat, so she secretly dropped a piece of pie stuffed with walnuts, and then a couple of grapes and a couple of dates.
The Queen announced, “Now I suggest that everyone try our special Cocktail of Evil! We take water from the Lake of Hatred and add different berries to give it a better flavor. The cocktail tastes superb!”
Again, everyone drank, except the friends. When the Queen finally noticed that the tourists had not touched their glasses, she asked, “Why aren’t you drinking?”
The friends glanced at each other. The Owl, who was the wisest, answered, “Thank you, but we do not want anything more. Everything was so delicious and we ate so much that we don’t have room in our stomachs!”
“Well, whatever you want!” said the Queen, her face distorted once again by a hateful frown.
Suddenly, after finishing her cocktail, one of the contestants, with the number “24” pinned to her blouse, started singing loudly,
“My fiancé is bold,
And like a frog he’s cold,
And also my fiancé
Is one thousand years old!”

Adrian frowned. He did not like to hear such an insulting song about him.
“I remove you from the contest!” he said in an offended voice. “If you can sing a song like that then it means that you don’t love me!”
“But it was only a joke! Just a joke!” replied the bride-contestant in a frightened voice.
“Every joke is only partially a joke. Most of it is usually the truth,” Adrian angrily exclaimed. “Therefore I disqualify you as a contestant to be my wife!”
“Whatever! It’s not like I even really wanted to win anyway!” said bride-contestant #24 in an annoyed voice and stalked out of the hall with a disdainful expression, grabbing the biggest cherry pie on the way out.
“Honored guests! Let’s have another of our special refreshments!” suggested the King. “It is called the Impudence Cocktail! It makes people more evil and boldly offensive. It will even make people speak their most hidden negative thoughts.”
Once again, all of the guests, except the friends, drank.
The Father King leaned close to Caroline and whispered in her ear, “Now listen carefully to the conversations of our guests, but be especially careful to listen to the hidden thoughts that they are going to give away.”
It did not take long for the drink to start working. It even worked on the Queen, since she had drunk the cocktail also. She said maliciously, “Dear brides! Which one of you wants to prove that she really loves Adrian?”
“I do! I do!” volunteered many of the bride-contestants.
“Well, you will need to pass a little truth test,” suggested the Queen. “Who wants to go first?”
One of the contestants, a pretty, tall blonde with the number “55” tagged on her blouse, raised her hand and said, “I am ready!”
“Good!” smiled the Queen. “Come up here by me.”
The girl glided over to the Queen.
“Our Impudence Cocktail is considered very valuable because it makes people tell the truth without hiding anything. It works much better than any lie detector. Now tell me, do you love Adrian?”
“Yes! I love him more than anyone else on Earth!” answered the girl.
“Hmmm, I think the cocktail has not started working yet,” the Queen said disappointedly. “Let’s wait another minute!”
The minute passed and the Queen repeated her question, “Do you really love Adrian?”
“Him? You mean the one who is one thousand years old?” laughed the girl. “Nobody lives that long! Why would I love him? It could not be because of his looks. He has enormous elephant ears and a big long nose and he is always grinning, showing off his diamond false teeth. He dresses up all sporty, as if he were an athlete. But judging by his muscles, he probably goes to the gym only once every hundred years. And he wants a young wife! He is looking only for girls between the ages of 18-25!”
“But I am immortal!” raged the offended Adrian. “I will live longer than any of you!”
“I am sure that you will live longer,” continued bride #55, “but you will not get any younger.”
“That’s it! I disqualify you from the contest! I don’t want anyone like you!” snapped Adrian.
The ex-bride-contestant, without any embarrassment or regret, went back to her seat and continued dining on the delicacies.
“Does anyone else want to prove their love for Adrian?” questioned the Queen. “Or maybe one of you just wants to say something?”
“I want to say something!” replied bride #38.
“Fine, dear! Come here, stand by me!” the Queen called to her.
The girl came up.
“Go ahead now, we all are listening,” the Queen gestured left and right.
The girl gazed at everyone with a haughty expression on her face and said with scorn, “I am young and pretty and I need someone young and handsome that I can fall in love with. But this one is way too old for me – there’s a nine-hundred-eighty-year difference in our age! It was my mother who pushed me to participate in this stupid contest. She said, ‘Go for it, daughter! He is a billionaire, it is worth a try!’ And I told her, ‘But he is so old!’ And she answered, ‘That is okay, the older – the better! He will die sooner!’ So I told her, ‘But he is immortal!’ So she told me, ‘You see now what money can do! If you become his wife, then he will buy immortality for you also! And maybe for me too, since I will be his mother-in-law, which is almost like a mother!’ So I told her, ‘But Mom, look at the photo! He is so ugly!’ She told me, ‘That’s okay, daughter, for that much money even a chimpanzee would be considered handsome!’ So that is how she talked me into it.”
“Well,” taunted the Queen, “does anyone else want to add something?”
“I do! I do!” many of the bride-contestants answered.
The drink was clearly doing its job.
“Enough! I think that they drank too much!” interrupted Adrian. “Yes, I believe that you gave them too much to drink!”
“I just want you to see the truth, my dear!” the Queen said maliciously, for the cocktail was doing its job very well on her too. “Do you really believe that any of these young beauties love you? They love your money, not you! You are a scrawny and shriveled old man. Do you really enjoy listening to such hypocritical lies from a young lady, who is telling you that she loves you? And then you pretend that you believe these lies! But you are not that stupid; you can always tell when someone is feeding you a lie! Oh, how many times have I told you, dear Adrian, that real and true love does not exist! It cannot exist! Love exists only in fairytales, which are nothing but lies! You are one thousand years old but you still believe!”
“But I do know that it exists!” Adrian argued stubbornly. “A long time ago back in my youth, I felt something; it was with one girl named Veronica, but then she left me for another.”
“So you see now!” the Queen said triumphantly, “So much for love! She probably chose the wealthiest of you two! She did not need love! She was looking only for material benefits!”
“I think you are wrong…” Adrian shot back. “Even back then I was the wealthiest. I still wish that she had not left me,” Adrian added regretfully.
“And now you still are the wealthiest!” the Queen continued arguing. “And so what? Which one of them loves you? Nobody! They only pretend to love you so they can get to your wealth! Love does not exist and it never did! Nobody loves you and nobody will ever love you!”
Adrian started crying bitterly as huge heavy tears ran down his ancient sunken cheeks.
Suddenly everyone heard a voice say, “That is not true! I love you!”
Everybody turned in the direction of the voice and saw Prince Thomas. He had been in his seat for quite a while, but no one had noticed him because he had entered through a back door, so the servant at the entrance had not announced him.
“Yes,” said Thomas, “I do love you, Adrian. I love you just because, not for your wealth or any other reason. I have always loved you.”
The Queen turned purple with rage.
Adrian stopped crying and beamed at the boy, “Thank you, Thomas! I always knew that you were a nice boy; you don’t seem to have any of your mother’s traits. Thank you! But I also want a lady to love me. That is something that I really miss in my life! I already have everything else. Oh, how I wish I could find such a lady!”
“But maybe you don’t need to search? Maybe it could be the same lady you once loved?” asked Thomas. “Veronica has been divorced for 800 years. She once told me that she often thinks of you and regrets that she left you. She says it was her biggest mistake. She has wanted to come to your island, but she is afraid that you would not forgive her.”
“I have already forgiven her!” Adrian said, joy rising in his voice. “I have always believed that she did not love her husband, but loved only me! I will go to her right now!”
“She loved you, she didn’t love you,” the Queen said maliciously. “Quit making things up, there is no such thing as love! Yes, maybe you two will get back together again. But once she finds someone wealthier than you, she will leave you again!”
“No, she will not!” Adrian objected. “There is nobody wealthier than me! I am the wealthiest! But what good is living 1000 years without love or joy. No wealth can compensate for love!”
“What are you talking about! That is completely wrong!” the Queen objected. She realized that she was losing the argument, but she still would not give up. “Wealth can compensate for anything! Look, you have so many brides-contestants! And all of them are so young and pretty! Every single one of them is way better than your Veronica! But now you say you want to go back to an old woman. She is already over 900 years old! And she does not have beauty now!”
“I don’t care about physical beauty,” argued Adrian, “and I don’t care about age. She loves me, and I love her too! To me, the best woman is the one who really loves me! And that is why we could be happy together! I could never be truly happy with any of these young ladies who pretend to love me because of my wealth. I guess you cannot understand that? I want to be happy! And only love can give real happiness! Wealth can’t. Do you remember that you used to love Thomas’s father? And how happy you were? Do you really think that now you are much happier than you were back then?”
The Queen fell into thinking about what he’d said and her face became sad. The Father King noticed that and began to worry. The one thing that the King was afraid of most was that his daughter might remember her old love and want him back, leaving her father alone.
He quickly broke into the conversation to change the subject. “Adrian, I think you have a fine to pay to us. Of course, I understand that we are friends, but the law is the law, and you just broke it. And as you know, dear Adrian, the punishment for saying those words is a fine. So excuse me, my friend, but according to my calculations you owe us 211,000 gold coins.”
“Wow! What was it that I said?” asked Adrian in amazement.
“You have said the forbidden word ‘love’ eleven times. And each time it costs you 10,000 gold coins. The word ‘happiness’ was said six times…8,000 coins for each one. The word ‘joy’ was said once, which is 3,000 gold coins. Besides that you did not agree with the Queen’s opinion and you were arguing with her, saying that love exists. And for having an opinion opposite of the Queen’s, as you already know, that is a fine of 50,000 gold coins.”
“I see,” said Adrian, “then I will declare it once again: LOVE DOES EXIST! You can add 50,000 more, I will pay it off. It is well worth the price.”
“Whatever you wish, dear Adrian, whatever you wish!” said the King, smiling to himself as he wrote down the amount. “Great! 261,000 gold coins! You always please me, my friend! You always please me with your stubbornness and your rebellious attitude. It especially pleases me because you have the ability to pay for all of that. Sign right here on the bill and we will not hold you up.”
Adrian signed the bill and said, “I thank all of you very much! But I am especially grateful to you, Thomas! It is possible that what you have told me might radically change my life! And now excuse me! It is time for me to leave!”
“It sure is!” the King agreed. “Run along!”
“Goodbye everybody!” replied Adrian and he quickly left. All of the bride-contestants instantly followed after him.
The Queen seemed to be in a very foul mood. “Alright,” she said, “the celebration is over! The hour is late. It is time for everyone to go to sleep now. We will talk more tomorrow.” And then she told the friends, “I will show you to your bedroom. And for you, Thomas, it is time to go to sleep also! You already have stayed up past your bedtime.”
The Queen escorted the friends to a small bedroom, which had four beds. She wished them a good night and left. Natasha, Theodore and the Lizard Queen got into their beds and Owl sat on the bedpost. But none of them wanted to sleep, for they all were feeling fearful.
Owl started talking first. “I have a bad feeling about tomorrow’s trip to the Cave of Ever-Frost. It all sounds kind of suspicious.”
“Why don’t you fly out there and listen to what the Queen and her father are talking about?” suggested the Lizard Queen.
“I will do that right now!” answered Owl. “Open the window.”
Natasha quickly opened the window and Owl flew away.
 


Chapter 12
THE SLEEPING GAS OF FORGETFULNESS
THE SECRET UNDERGROUND TUNNEL

 


Owl right away found a round window that had been left opened, so he sat on the windowsill and waited. Soon the light turned on and the King entered the hall. Then a few seconds later Caroline came and they sat behind a table.
Caroline spoke first. “Well, Father, everything is clear about the tourists! This is certainly the girl from the prophecy! She came here uninvited and she also brought her friends! And they are going to the Kingdom of Kindness and Love so they can help their relatives. They really think that we will let them get there! They want to make their relatives kinder; they want them to love each other! Their goal is to spread Kindness and Love, which is completely opposite of our goal, which is to spread hatred and evil. Therefore they are our worst enemies!”
“I agree,” said the King. “They are dangerous. Well, we have one successful method of defeating this kind of enemy. They must be destroyed! We will do it the way your grandmother, Liesa the Hateful, suggested. Tomorrow we will invite them on an excursion to see the Cave of Ever-Frost. We will take them inside the cave and freeze them forever!”
“That is exactly what we should do!” declared the Queen. “And now let’s count how much money we made from our mines today.”
The frightened Owl did not stay to listen to the rest. When he flew back to the bedroom everyone was impatiently waiting for him.
“So what did you hear?” blurted the Lizard Queen.
“Quiet!” whispered Owl. Then he turned to Natasha and said in a very low voice, “Look and see if Spy Mouse is sleeping.”
Natasha looked under the bed and saw that Spy Mouse was gently snoring through his tiny nose. On this one day he had eaten more than he had ever before. Usually he would go to sleep half-hungry, and the growling in his stomach would keep him awake. Now he was sleeping deeply and peacefully.
“He is sleeping!” Natasha whispered. “Go ahead, tell us quickly!”
“We are in big trouble!” said Owl. “They consider us their biggest enemies and so tomorrow they want to freeze us in the Cave of Ever-Frost. We need to escape and we better escape right now during the night, while everyone else is sleeping!”
“I agree. We do need to escape. And the sooner the better,” said Natasha. “It is good that our bedroom is on the first floor.”
“But at the entrance to the palace they have guards posted, who might see us!” noted Theodore.
“Don’t be afraid. I saw them,” Owl shook his head. “They are not on patrol; they are asleep, leaning against the wall. We could pass by them very quietly.”
All of a sudden, a quiet whisper emanated from a vent in the wall. Everyone turned to see a barely noticeable fog coming through the vent, covering the floor, and slowly filling up the room. The friends sniffed a sweet smell. Suddenly, all of them started feeling very sleepy.
“Hurry up and open the window, Natasha!” Owl quickly said. “There is something I don’t like about this gas!”
Natasha threw open the window and said, “We should ask Spy Mouse! He probably knows what this fog is.”
Natasha ducked down near Spy Mouse, who was sleeping on a rug under the bed and was already completely covered with fog. She started shaking him, trying to wake him up, but she wasn’t able to rouse him.
Finally Spy Mouse opened his eyes and asked in a perturbed voice, “What is going on?”
“What is this gas that is coming from the vents? Is it dangerous?” Natasha asked anxiously.
“No, there is nothing dangerous.” Spy Mouse yawned. “This is just the Sleeping Gas of Forgetfulness. It is actually very nice: you forget about everything in the world and sleep peacefully till morning.”
And with that, Spy Mouse fell back to sleep.
“We should not lose any time! If we fall asleep, then it will be the end of us! We need to get away quickly!” Owl exclaimed as he flew out through the window.
But he came back right away and landed on the windowsill. Nervously blinking with his big round eyes, Owl whispered, “It’s too late! The two guards are already heading here. I think the Queen sent them to make sure we wouldn’t escape. Quickly, into your beds! Put out the lights and don’t make any noises! Let them think that we’re asleep!”
Natasha shut off the light and everyone climbed into their beds. Owl landed on the bedpost near the window. Very soon, heavy steps sounded. The guards marched to the window and stopped right under it.
One of the guards said, “It looks like the tourists are sleeping. I am not hearing any sounds. But we still should check. Help me up; I will look into the window.”
A rustling came from outside the window and soon the guard’s head appeared. He carefully examined the room. The friends were lying motionless, for they were afraid to even breathe.
“Good! They are sleeping!” said the guard as he jumped down.
“It wouldn’t hurt for us to get some sleep also!” the second guard replied. “We could stay right here under the window.”
The rustling sounded again and then silence followed. A few minutes later a loud snoring filled the air. The guards were fast asleep.
But the Sleeping Gas of Forgetfulness was still filling the room. It had already risen above the beds’ level. Everyone, except for Owl, was asleep after breathing the gas. Owl was sitting on the bedpost and he was up above everyone else, so the gas did not affect him. Owl realized that his friends were in great danger, but he didn’t know how to help them. He started pushing Natasha, trying to wake her up.
Natasha finally opened her eyes, sat up on the bed and asked, “What happened? I had such a good sleep!”
“We need to run, but I don’t know how we can do that!” Owl replied. “Under the window there are two guards, and the gas is filling the room up. Get up quickly! When you stand up, you will be higher than the level of gas, and you will not fall asleep. We need to think of something fast!”
Natasha got up and staggered toward the wall. Being affected by the sleeping gas, it was hard for her to keep her balance. At the wall she began teetering to the left. In order to keep from falling, she grabbed onto the great mirror on the wall in a carved wooden frame. The mirror suddenly slid to the left and a metal door behind it became visible, which silently opened by itself.
Natasha and Owl saw that behind the door there was a tunnel leading underground. The walls of the passage were made of large bricks. From the door there were steps leading down. The underground was illuminated by the burning torches mounted on the walls.
“We need to get going,” Owl whispered, indicating the tunnel with his big, round eyes.
“But it is so scary down there! And we don’t even know where it leads!” Natasha protested.
“Falling asleep here is even scarier! If we stay, we will be frozen tomorrow!” Owl insisted. “The underground is our only chance. You grab the cat and the lizard, I will take the mouse, and then we run!”
“Why would we need to take Spy Mouse?” Natasha objected.
“Just in case,” Owl replied. “We could get lost in the underground, and he probably knows all of the entrances and exits.”
Natasha picked up the cat and the lizard, who were already sleeping so deeply that she couldn’t wake them if she wanted to. She headed underground. Owl, holding the sleeping Spy Mouse in his claws, flew after Natasha. Once they entered the tunnel, the metal door quietly closed. Natasha stopped and sat on the steps.
“Oh, this is so scary!” she whispered, “I feel that we are trapped!”
“Don’t be afraid! Fear will only hinder you! There is only one direction for us to go, and that is straight ahead!” Owl insisted.
Natasha began descending the stairs, holding the lizard and the cat, both still in a deep sleep.
Soon the stairs brought them to a cave, which was becoming a narrow tunnel farther down.
“I don’t know where this tunnel leads us, but there is no other way. Keep moving ahead!” Owl commanded as he flew down the tunnel.
Natasha followed him. The tunnel kept going farther and farther down. The brick walls were moist, and in some places, drops were streaming down.
Soon, the tunnel opened to a large, wide cave, dimly lit with torches. Natasha saw at the other end of the cave an underground lake.
“Now we are definitely in a trap!” Natasha exclaimed. “There aren’t any exits out of here, and all there is ahead is water!”
“There must be an exit! We just cannot see it!” Owl declared with confidence. “We need to wake up Spy Mouse. He knows everything!”
“We need to wake all of them up! But how?”
“Let’s try to spray some water from the lake on them,” Owl suggested.
“Good idea!” Natasha agreed. She scooped up water with her hands and splashed it on Theodore. The cat jumped up and started shaking his head. Natasha then splashed the Lizard Queen. She also woke up, blinking the sleep out of her eyes. But everything was much more difficult with Spy Mouse. No matter how much water Natasha threw on him, it had no effect. The mouse was sleeping so deeply that he didn’t even move at all.
“Nothing works! I am afraid that he will sleep until the morning now,” Owl said disappointedly.
“I think I know what to do!” Natasha exclaimed. She took a hazelnut out of her pocket, brought it right up to Spy Mouse’s nose and said, “Hey, mouse! Do you want this hazelnut? It smells great! It is so delicious too!”
The mouse twitched his little nose, sensing the scent of the hazelnut. Then he opened his eyes a slit and asked in a sleepy voice, “Is that hazelnut for me?”
“Yes, it is for you! Who else could it be for?” Natasha replied.
On this news, the Spy Mouse completely woke up. He grabbed the hazelnut and ate it quickly. Then he looked around and asked in amazement, “Wow, how did we get to the secret underground tunnel?”
“That is exactly what I wanted to ask too,” Theodore added, slowly blinking his sleepy eyes.
Owl told them the entire story of their running away through the hidden door.
“I think I remember something,” said Theodore. “I believe the Queen was planning on freezing us.”
“If we do not find a way out of here by the morning, then that is exactly what she will do!” Owl shivered. “But I don’t see any way out. Maybe you, Spy Mouse, know where the exit is, and you could show it to us, if it even exists at all.”
“There is a way out, but I cannot show it to you because it is deep under the water,” Spy Mouse answered. “There is a wall right in the middle of the lake, all the way down to the bottom of the lake, but in the wall there is a large opening that looks like a dragon’s head. This opening will take you to another cave, which leads up to the tunnel that will bring you straight to the forest.”
“And that is what you call the ‘way out?’ How do you expect us to go through it?” Owl said aghast. “I cannot swim at all, and neither can the cat, nor can the lizard. What should we do?”
“Even though I can swim, I have never swum so far, or gone so deep underwater, and especially in the darkness. This is so scary!” Natasha shuddered.
“Don’t worry,” Spy Mouse tried to calm them. “There will be no need for swimming. I know a secret switch here. If I press it, half of the lake water will run out into another cave below. Then you will be able to get to the opening by jumping on the rocks, which will be sticking out of the water. But there will be another problem, which is more difficult to overcome.”
“What other problem are you talking about?” Lizard Queen worried.
“At the bottom of the lake there lives a huge octopus. It can grab and eat anyone of you,” Spy Mouse warned.
“So there is an exit, but it is impossible to exit through it,” Natasha sighed.
“It is possible, but it is very dangerous,” Spy Mouse explained. “When the water drains out, it makes a lot of noise. The octopus is afraid of the noise, so it goes down to the bottom of the lake. Now listen carefully, this is what you need to do: When the water gets low enough to where you can see the rocks, then you need to start running across very fast. You will have about five minutes. It should be enough time for you to get to the wall and through the opening into another cave. You should be safe there. The octopus is a lot bigger than the opening in the wall, so it will not be able to get to the other side. Then you walk across the rocks on the other side to the shore. At the lake shore you will see the tunnel, which will lead you out to the forest. When you get to the forest, you will see two pathways. Take the one that goes to the right. It will lead you straight to the Neutral Territory. But make sure that you don’t take the one on the left! Otherwise you will end up in the Swamp of Doubts!”
“Aren’t you going with us?” Natasha asked.
“No, I cannot go with you,” Spy Mouse replied. “If the Queen were to find out that I was helping you, then she would kill me! I have to go back. After you go through the wall and to the tunnel at the shore, I will press another switch, so the water will fill the lake again. Then I will go back to the bedroom and fall back asleep. In the morning, when the Queen comes, she will think that you somehow escaped through the window, and I have had nothing to do with that. But now you need to hurry! Get ready, I am pressing the switch!”
Spy Mouse pressed the switch, which was hidden in the wall, and with a roar the water started draining out of the lake. Soon rocks became visible from under the water.
“Run! You don’t have much time!” Spy Mouse yelled out.
Theodore went first, jumping from one rock to another. The Lizard Queen tried jumping also, but she fell into the water. Owl grabbed her with his claws and flew toward the opening, which just appeared: the dragon’s head with its jaws wide open. A row of stalactites hanging down, like dragon’s teeth, and two green emeralds sparking like eyes completed the image.
Owl was the first to go through the opening and to the other side. He set the Lizard Queen on one of the rocks near the entrance to the tunnel. After a couple of minutes Theodore was already near Owl and the lizard. Natasha was only halfway to the opening. At this time the water fell silent as it had stopped draining. From under the water arose a giant octopus head with mammoth eyes.
“Natasha! Run faster and don’t look back!” Spy Mouse yelled out.
Natasha started running faster. Owl sensed trouble and flew back to Natasha. She was already near the opening, but the octopus was right next to her too. The octopus was huge. Its eyes looked mean and angry. It reached out with one of its long tentacles, wrapped it around Natasha’s left leg, and began pulling her underwater. But Natasha was able to grab onto the edge of the opening in the wall and she was trying her best to hold on. Owl fluttered around Natasha in panic, but could not help her in any way. The huge octopus was very strong. It lashed its tentacles around her leg and tightened the grip. Natasha realized that her exhausted hands will soon let go and she will fall right into the octopus’s jaws. Suddenly an incredibly bright white light emanated from the opening and made the emerald eyes sparkle even brighter. The white glow slowly illuminated the cave and blinded the huge octopus. The monstrous octopus had never seen such bright light ever before. It got scared, let go off Natasha’s leg, and swam away to the depths of the lake.
Natasha realized that this was the Light of Love, coming from her invisible Intuition Fairy. The Fairy saved the girl once again. Natasha thanked the Fairy through her thoughts and quickly climbed through the opening. Owl flew in after her. Jumping from rock to rock, Natasha quickly reached the shore.
“Are you by the tunnel already? Can I turn the water on?” Spy Mouse yelled out from the other side.
“Yes, we are at the tunnel!” Natasha yelled back to him.
“Don’t waste any time! Run quickly! And I am pressing the switch!” Spy Mouse shouted.
Roaring water sounded again. The water started filling the underground lake. The friends took off, running down the tunnel, which was well-lit with torches. Soon the tunnel ended and they ran out into the forest. The friends stopped. Even though the moon was shining brightly, the friends did not see a pathway.
“So where are these pathways? The left one and the right one?” Theodore questioned. “I don’t see either one. I can see very well at night, but there are no paths here!”
“I see one!” Owl exclaimed. “But I don’t know if that is the one we need. It seems like one of them has grown thick with weeds.”
“So what should we do now?” The Lizard Queen worried.
“We will go down the only pathway we have,” Owl suggested. “It looks like it leads to the right.”
The friends swiftly ran down the pathway, afraid of being pursued.
 

To be continued.
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