Below is the full text of the girls’ Christmas story – the one I write for them every year. I’ve never posted these stories online before because…well, because they’re stories I write for my children, of little interest to anyone over the age of eight not called “Carter”.
This year’s is a little different, however.
For a start, it’s longer, scarier and more grown-up than previous years. But more importantly, it is, in a sense, written as much for me as it is for the girls, because my brother, Trev, is in it. Yes, the same Trev we tragically lost three years ago.
I wanted to write a story to say goodbye to Trev – a chance we never got in real life. It would be a fantasy, obviously, but I didn’t want it to be self-indulgent and purely for myself. Every now and again I’d talk to Trev in my head, and we’d discuss what happened as if he were still alive, rehearsing for a goodbye that would never happen.
So the idea languished. But it wouldn’t go away.
Until it hit me: I write a fantasy story every year! Why not use that?
So I have, and here are the results. Don’t feel obliged to read: it was written for an eight year old and a five year old and there are in-jokes a-plenty. But I’m pleased with the result and feel as though I’ve exorcised a few demons in writing it.
So, sit back and enjoy Millie And Amber (and Sparkle) And The Lobster King…
One chilly winter evening, Millie and Amber were huddled under their blankets in the little house in Bexley where they live with their Mummy and Daddy. All you could see of them were two pairs of excited eyes as they listened to Mummy read another chapter of their bedtime story.
“’..And the Fine Wizard Prince took a sip of the tea,” she read, “not knowing that the Evil Lobster King had placed a wicked magic spell upon it. No sooner had his lips touched the cup then the Prince fell into the deepest of sleeps right where he sat. Seeing his eyes close and his head droop, the Lobster King’s crab servants ran clickety-clack into the room, tied him up and whisked him away to their secret underground lair where the dreadful Lobster King himself awaited them…’
“And that,” said Mummy, closing the book, “is enough for tonight. We’ll see what happens to the Fine Wizard Prince tomorrow.”
“Ohhh!” groaned Millie and Amber, together. “Can we not have just one more chapter?”
“Come on, into bed, my beautiful girls,” said Mummy. “Love you. See you in the morning – don’t have nightmares about the Evil Lobster King.”
And she kissed them each on both cheeks (so they weren’t unbalanced), tucked them under the covers like caterpillars, turned off the bedrooms lights and went downstairs to make some dinner.
Millie’s bed was all warm and ‘nuffly, and as she laid there she could hear the sounds of Mummy banging pots and pans downstairs, making dinner.
It was very dark outside and she listened for the sound of Daddy getting home from work – he usually got home just after bedtime. But instead of the thud of the front door opening and closing there was another tiny sound, so quiet you could barely hear it.
Clickety-clack. And then again – clickety-clack. Clickety-clack.
Millie sat up and looked around. Sparkle the gerbil ran around her cage and burrowed deep into the sawdust. “Thanks for the help, Sparks!” thought Millie.
Clickety-clack clickety-clack went the strange sound again.
“Amber, is that you?” asked Millie, loudly. There was no reply.
“Yes?” came Amber’s voice from her bedroom. “What?”
“What are you doing?”
“Nothing,” replied Amber.
“Well, stop it,” said Millie, a little nervously.
Amber’s sleepy face appeared at Millie’s door and she opened her mouth to say something. Clickety-clack went the noise – louder now and obviously coming from the bathroom. Amber looked round, jumped with fright and ran into Millie’s room where she dived under the covers.
“What, Amber? What is it?”
Millie stepped out of bed, walked silently to the door and peered nervously into the bathroom. Two horribly ugly crab creatures were sat on the toilet: they had lots of legs, lots of claws and they smelt horrible – clickety-clack went their claws.
Millie felt something grab her hand – it was only her sister, thank goodness! – and was pulled back into the bedroom, where the two of them scrambled onto the bed. The two large crabs, each the size of a large cat, scrabbled into the hallway and looked at the girls, clickety-clacking their big claws – they seemed to be smiling horribly.
“Millie,” whispered Amber, “it’s the Lobster King’s crab servants – from the book!”
Millie looked at her sister as though she’d gone quite mad, then back at the giant crabs.
“Th-that’s impossible!” she whispered.
Impossible or not, the horrible crabs pushed and shoved each other roughly to get into the room. Clicking their sharp claws together, they scuttled towards the bed where the two frightened sisters sat. Brave Millie picked up a book and threw it at them, but the nearest crab snipped it clean in half with one snap of a jagged claw. Both girls wriggled backwards on the bed as far as they could and Amber started to cry…
Suddenly, a voice down on the floor squeaked “Oh no you flippin’ don’t!”
It was Sparkle the gerbil, only now she was wearing a tiny three-pointed hat with a long white feather sticking out and carrying what looked like a wickedly sharp and shiny sword. She leapt from her cage, landed on the floor in front of the smelly, threatening crabs and waved her tiny sword at them with swish-swish sound.
The crabs paused, and then there came an unpleasant kee-kee-kee sound that might have been a laugh.
“I’ll count to three,” squeaked Sparkle, “and when I finish counting the two of you better be gone, otherwise there’ll be trouble. One…”
The two crabs stared at the tiny gerbil in amazement then looked round at each other.
Looking back at Sparkle they took one menacing step forwards, then another.
Glancing over her shoulder at Millie and Amber the brave gerbil squeaked “Under the covers! Quick!” as she pounced upon the surprised crabs.
From under the covers all the two sisters could hear was a confusing swish-clickety-clack-clang-swish-swish-swish-Ow! that was followed by three heavy thuds. There was a frightening silence, then the covers were whisked off and flung to one side. Sparkle stood on the bed before them and performed a low bow with her feathered hat in one paw.
“I am Sparkle Meriones Unguiculatus, and I am at your service, my ladies,” she squeaked. “ Now, we don’t have a lot of time, there’ll be more of those…” – she pointed her sword at the two unconscious crabs, piled upside-down on top of one another behind her – “along shortly. Grab the Totterdown Scope and let’s get out of here – we’ve got a long way to go and not a lot of time to get there.”
“Sparkle…you can talk!” gasped Millie.
“And fight” said Amber.
“And fight,” repeated Millie.
“And she’s escaped from her cage,” said Amber.
“And…and…” spluttered Millie.
“And I can do a lot more besides,” squeaked Sparkle, putting her away sword and putting her hat back on, “but really – you have to come with me, right now. Quickly, where is the Totterdown Scope?”
“Where is…? Sorry, what?” asked Millie, weakly.
“We don’t know what you mean,” said Amber. “We don’t know what that is.”
Sparkle looked at them both. “Right,” she squeaked eventually, “this isn’t going quite as I’d expected. We need to get the magical instrument your Uncle gave you – the Totterdown Scope. It’s an ancient instrument of such enormous power that…” Sparkle’s little voice trailed off as she saw the confusion on both girls’ faces.
“Oh, good grief! Right, you know your Uncle Trevor is one of the world’s greatest magicians, yes? And he gave you his most powerful magical object for safekeeping in case he…well, you know – in case something happened to him. It’s called the Totterdown Scope and it looks a bit like a telescope.”
“Magician?” repeated Millie, who was beginning to think she was going mad. “Uncle Trev wasn’t a magician, and he never gave us a telescope either.”
“Your Uncle most certainly is a very great magician indeed! He – wait, did you say ‘was’? What do you mean ‘was’?”
Millie and Amber looked at each other.
“Sparkle,” said Millie gently, “Uncle Trev, he…he died.”
Sparkle froze. “He what? No, don’t be silly, that’s impossible! Your Uncle Trevor is the greatest magician in the land. He sent me here on a mission to guard you and the Totterdown Scope while he stayed in Bristol working on a way to defeat the Lobster King and rescue my family; and when he finds a way then he’s going to…he’s going to…to…”
Sparkle trailed off as she saw the sad expressions on Millie’s face. She looked at Amber, who nodded gently. The brave gerbil opened her mouth as if to say something else but then stopped. Slowly, a single tear rolled from one of her large dark eyes and fell to the floor.
“Oh, Sparkle,” said Millie, “I’m so sorry.” And she picked up the little grey gerbil and hugged her gently.
Amber was tapping her sister on the arm insistently. “Millie,” she whispered, “you know, you do have a telescope in your toy box: the one that shows all the colours.”
Millie’s eyes widened as she realized what Amber was talking about. “That’s not a telescope, you silly arse, that’s a kaleidoscope. But you’re right, it was from Uncle Trev. Sparkle, wait, listen – we do have a…a telescope from Uncle Trev, only it’s not a telescope, it’s a kaleidoscope.”
Sparkle had taken off her feathered hat and sat down in Millie’s hand. She shook her furry grey head and looked down. “It doesn’t matter anymore,” she squeaked softly.
While Millie comforted her sad gerbil Amber dived into the toy boxes to find the kaleidoscope – or, what had Sparkle called it? The Totterdown Scope?
“Sparkle,” asked Millie, “you said Uncle Trev was a powerful magician and that he sent you here?”
Sparkle nodded, but she didn’t look up.
“But…we bought you from the pet shop three years ago. I went with my Dad and Nanny and Grampy and chose you…”
Sparkle looked up and stared at Millie with her sad dark eyes. “Your Uncle Trev was the most powerful magician in the world,” she squeaked softly. “He was using his magic to keep the evil Lobster King imprisoned underground; if the Lobster King ever escaped from his prison down there he would take over the entire world and make us all his slaves.”
Amber had stopped digging about in the toy box and her little round face appeared above a pile of toys. “I’m not being the Lobster King’s slave,” she firmly.
Sparkle smiled, “That’s exactly what your Uncle Trev said to me. ‘No-one is being anyone’s slave,’ he told me. That’s why I was sent here: Uncle Trev hid the Totterdown Scope here, where the Lobster King’s crab servants would never think of looking for it.”
“What’s so important about this Totterdown Scope?” asked Millie.
Sparkle stood up in Millie’s hand and continued. “With the Totterdown Scope you can see anyone’s greatest weakness. If the Lobster King got his claws on it he would be able to see all of the invisible traps and terrible spells that keep him locked down in the underworld.”
“And he could escape…” whispered Millie.
“And make us all his slaves…” whispered Amber.
Sparkle nodded. “Your Uncle Trev made the Totterdown Scope so he could defeat the Lobster King.”
“So he could see his weaknesses?” asked Amber.
Sparkle pointed a paw at Amber; “Exactly!” she squeaked. “But Uncle Trev knew that if he could use it to defeat the Lobster King then the Lobster King could also use it to defeat him. And the King still has lots of loyal crab servants up here on the surface. If they knew where the scope was they’d grab it and scuttle off to the Lobster King before you could say ‘Jack Robinson’!”
“And how did you get to be here in Millie’s room?” asked the always inquisitive Amber.
Sparkle stared at Amber. “That’s not really important now. Can we just say ‘Magic’and leave it at that?”
Amber stared back at Sparkle. “And how did you beat those horrible crabs? You’re much smaller than they are.”
Sparkle gave Amber a wicked smile that showed all her teeth. “Because I’m the best fighter you’ve ever met. Well, that and my sword. You see this sword?”
She twirled the sword around in a circle; it swished and left a glowing trail behind it.
“Uncle Trev made this sword for me. This is the only sword like it. It’s made of an enchanted metal called Markanium which is so incredibly rare and valuable that this is all there is of it in the world.”
“It’s very shiny,” said Millie, looking at the tiny Markanium sword, not much bigger than a needle.
“That’s because it’s magical: super-magical, in fact,” said Sparkle, proudly. “Uncle Trev used all of his knowledge and magic to make this one incredible sword for me so that I could protect you two girls and the Totterdown Scope.
“Perhaps if he’d used it to protect himself he might not have been… He might have…” Sparkle paused, “How…how did…? What happened to him?” asked Sparkle, not looking at Millie or Amber.
“We don’t know,” said Millie sadly.
“Oh. OK,” nodded Sparkle in a very small voice.
“No,” continued Millie, “No one knows! Mummy said one of his friends just found him and thought he was asleep. But he wasn’t, he-”
“What?” Sparkle looked up sharply at Millie, “He wasn’t hurt or injured at all?”
Millie shook her head. “I don’t think so.”
The small grey gerbil pulled her feathered hat firmly back onto her head and stood up straight. “We have to hurry – this sounds like one of the Lobster King’s most horrible tricks. We may still be able to help Uncle Trev.”
Amber stood up from behind the toy box. “But he’s…”
“Yes,” said Sparkle, “I know. You already told me. I’ll explain everything you need to know once we’re on our way. Amber, grab the Totterdown Scope.”
Amber held up the magical telescope in her hand.
“Millie – put me down onto the floor and pull out the left-side drawer under your bed. Pull it all the way out and then show me what you find there.”
With a little help from her sister, Millie did as she was told and looked under her bed. It was very very black and there were plenty of cobwebs. But from right at the very back, almost invisible in the darkness, there came a tiny glint of shiny silver…
Five minutes later the two girls were outside in the chilly night air, both dressed in gleaming silky cloaks, one blue and one red, and carrying two short golden swords – like two small, brave knights. Sparkle was sat on Millie’s shoulder, talking.
“So,” she said, “the cloaks you’re wearing are magical – just like my sword. Uncle Trev made them for the two of you, in case something like this ever happened.”
“iveryherby,” said Amber, her cloak tangled over her head.
“Whm?” said Millie, muffled under her cloak.
“Girls, lift your cloaks up!” squeaked Sparkle.
Both girls lifted up their glittering cloaks so they could hear and be heard.
“They’re very warm,” said Amber – she was much easier to understand without a cloak on her head.
“As I was saying,” continued Sparkle, “your cloaks are magical. Uncle Trev made them, and to protect you both he filled them with magic.”
“Yes!” hissed Amber.
“Wow!” whispered Millie.
Sparkle hopped onto Amber’s shoulder. “Amber, your red cloak can turn invisible, but only for as long as you hold your breath, OK? As soon as you breathe you’ll become visible again.”
Before Sparkle had even finished talking, Amber disappeared.
“Wow!” said Millie again; and then she giggled as an invisible someone tickled her – it was Amber, who reappeared next to Millie with a gasp.
“And Millie,” said Sparkle, “your blue cloak can fly, OK? But, just like your sister’s, only for as long as you can hold your breath. Got that?”
Amber reached out a mischievous hand to tickle Millie again, but her sister had zoomed up into the tree above them, sending down a shower of leaves.
“Remember,” squeaked Sparkle loudly, “as soon as you breathe you’ll-“
There was a loud crash as Millie landed back on the ground, upside-down.
“Ow,” she said.
Sparkle shook her head sadly. “Luckily, the cloaks also protect you from most non-magical injuries and weapons. However, it won’t protect you from being a silly arse.”
Amber helped pull her sister back onto her feet. “What do we do now?” she asked the little grey gerbil on her shoulder.
“Well, one of the Lobster King’s most horrible tricks was always to steal a person right out of their body,” said Sparkle, and she shivered at the thought of it. “If this is what the Lobster King did to Uncle Trev; that would explain his… What happened to him. If so, then he might be trapped underground- a prisoner of the Lobster King!
“And we, brave ladies, are going to rescue him!”
“So, how do we get to the underworld to rescue Uncle Trev?” asked Millie.
“Well, to be honest, I was hoping you could tell me,” said Sparkle. “All I know is, the entrance is hidden somewhere in a park.”
Millie frowned: “Which park?”
“That’s what I was hoping you could tell me,” said Sparkle. “He just said ‘A park’ and then your names – ‘Millie and Amber, a park.”
“Danson Park?” suggested Amber.
Sparkle shrugged her furry shoulders.
“What exactly did he say?” asked Millie.
“Exactly?” asked Sparkle, “Well, I remember he said to me, ‘It’s where Millie and Amber live, in a park’.”
“But we don’t live in a park…” said Amber, confused, “Could he have meant the woods?”
Sparkle shook her tiny head, “No, he definitely said ‘a park’, I remember it very clearly.”
Suddenly, both girls looked at each other.
“Not ‘a park’,” said Millie.
“’A Park!’” said Amber.
“Albany Park!” they shouted together, “The station!”
The two girls and the brave little gerbil ran as fast as they could to the station. As they got closer Sparkle’s magical Markanium sword began to glow softly.
“The sword is showing us the way,” said the gerbil, “It was made by your Uncle Trev and magic always knows the way to its maker. Maybe…maybe he really is still…”
“If he is a prisoner then we have to rescue him,” said Millie in a tough voice. Amber nodded her head, “Yeah, let’s go and get that Lobster King!”
Sparkle, still on Amber’s shoulder, turned around: the sword definitely glowed brighter when she faced towards the station platform.
The three ran down the steps to the platform and the sword glowed brighter than the moon as they followed its light towards one end of the platform, where it sloped down onto the tracks.
“We can’t go down there,” said Amber, “We might be run over by a train, and then who’s going to save Uncle Trev?”
But the sword didn’t want them to go onto the dangerous train tracks, instead its bright light revealed a dark tunnel hidden behind the blackberry bushes. Even the light of Sparkle’s magical sword wasn’t bright enough to reveal where it led to.
“How are we going to get in?” asked Amber. “It’s covered with prickles.”
Sparkle and Millie both turned to look at the little girl. “Amber,” squeaked Sparkle, “you’re wearing magical cloaks: a fire-breathing dragon couldn’t hurt you!”
Amber looked cross. “But…what if we get tangled up in the prickles and can’t get out?”
Sparkle swished her glowing sword and sighed. “Right, stand back.” And the little gerbil’s tiny sharp sword sliced and diced, cutting through the prickles, until all of them were gone. Then, taking off her hat, she bowed to Amber.
“Thank you,” said Amber, and walked into the dark tunnel.
It was all rather dark and unpleasant, and the path just went down and down and down. Spider-webs blocked the way, water dripped from the ceiling, and Millie began to wish her Daddy was leading the way, like he did in the woods, so he would catch all the spider-webs.
“Are we there yet…?” she began to ask, but Sparkle quickly shushed her.
“Quiet, I can hear something,” whispered the gerbil.
Millie and Amber both froze, listening as hard as they could for whatever Sparkle’s ears had heard.
It was very very quiet. Then, from somewhere in the distance came a sound so tiny they could barely hear it at all. Clickety-clack went the sound; clickety-clack. And then it stopped.
Sparkle waved for them to start walking again, but this time as quietly as they could. And in the distance, but a little louder, they heard the sound again: clickety-clack it went; clickety-clack. And then it stopped again.
Sparkle frowned but waved for the two brave girls to carry on walking.
This time there was no mistaking it, a clickety-clickety-clack coming from somewhere ahead and getting louder.
Clickety-clack clickety-clack clickety-clack!
“Quick,” hissed Sparkle, “Amber, stand against the wall and turn invisible. Millie, fly right up to the ceiling and stay there – and both of you, don’t make a sound!”
Both girls took a deep breath and did as they were told, Amber pressing tight against the wall and Millie against the ceiling. Sparkle darted into a small hole in the wall.
For a moment nothing happened; then, suddenly, 12 of the horrible ugly crab creatures scuttled round the corner, waving their sharp claws in the air and snipping them together with a sharp clickety-clack. All of the crabs looked around in confusion: they had expected to find two foolish girls who needed a right good pinching and snipping with their sharp claws, but there was no one here!
Millie and Amber held their breath and neither of them made a sound.
One crab, a little bigger than the others, looked around, slowly clicking his claws together. Click. Clack Click. He wandered over to the wall where Amber was stood, staring at it suspiciously and sniffing the air.
Amber was terrified and couldn’t hold her breath for much longer. The horrible old crab seemed to be looking right at her – surely he couldn’t see her? She tried to slowly move her hand towards her golden sword, but as soon as did the crab seemed to stare at her even harder. What was she going to do?!
On the ceiling, where the crabs hadn’t thought to look, Millie watched the crab sniffing at the wall where her sister stood. Thinking quickly, she took a stone and threw it as hard as she could into the tunnel behind them, where the clattering echo made a deafening noise. The army of evil crabs jumped up and ran off down the tunnel, chasing the sound of a single stone.
Amber took a deep breath as she reappeared against the wall – she looked very frightened. Millie floated down from the ceiling and tried to take a breath, but a very tight hug from her little sister squeezed it out of her.
“There, there, it’s all right, Amb, you’re safe now,” whispered Millie; but it was a good few minutes before Amber would let her big sister go.
Sparkle scurried out of her hiding place in the wall and smiled at Millie; “Good thinking there, Millie,” she squeaked, “A proper diversion – Uncle Trev would have been proud. Now, there’s no time to waste, we have to find out where the Lobster King is keeping him.”
The Lobster King’s throne room wasn’t much further down the tunnel; in fact, it was only just around the next bend. Millie was in the lead and she stopped so suddenly that Amber walked into her.
“Millie!” she shouted, but Millie turned, looking very frightened, and shushed her. They were on the edge of a huge room covered with gold and encrusted with jewels – and the awful Lobster King himself was fast asleep in front of them. Amber’s shout echoed around and around the room, and everyone froze, waiting to see if the Lobster King would waken.
“Millie…Millie…Millie…” went the echo.
“Hom…hm hm…” muttered the Lobster King, shifting on his rocky throne, worn smooth as silk by time and the King’s great weight.
Millie, Amber and Sparkle didn’t dare move, but slowly the Lobster King settled back without waking up.
He was enormous – at least the size of a bus! His giant jagged pincers could chop a large tree in half; his great fan-tail could squash a cow with one flap, and his long feelers stretched halfway across the throne room.
And what a throne room! It was covered from floor to ceiling with gold, and the gold was encrusted with precious jewels of every shape and colour. Light reflected from every corner, making it glow with a rainbow light. Despite the terrifying sight of the Lobster King so nearby the girls couldn’t help but stare around the beautiful throne room, their mouths hanging open.
“Quite a sight, isn’t it?” whispered a quiet voice that seemed somehow familiar. The two brave girls and one brave gerbil shut their mouths and looked to see where the voice was coming from.
In a shadowy corner of the enormous room, away from most of the gold and the precious jewels, stood a huge glass bottle, as wide as a bed and as tall as the wardrobe in Millie’s room. In the top was a cork, stopping anyone inside from getting out – because there was someone inside!
“I hoped you’d be here sooner,” whispered the oddly familiar voice from inside the bottle, “But it’s still good to see you. Come a bit closer otherwise we’ll wake the king – he always has a nap about now and he’s really grumpy if you wake him up.”
Sparkle leapt off Amber’s shoulder and ran towards the bottle and the stranger.
“Sparkle!” said the stranger, “I knew you’d come! Good to see you again, old girl!”
Millie and Amber crept quietly towards the giant bottle where the man was still talking.
“How long have I been stuck in here?” asked the stranger. “It’s so dim and quiet, and being stuck inside this stupid bottle, I’ve lost all sense of time. Anyway, the good news is that now you’re here, I know how to get us both out. Have you brought the Scope with you? We’ll need it to escape the Lobster King.”
Sparkle didn’t say a word, she just stared at the man. With a careful glance at the Lobster King to make sure he was still asleep Millie and Amber knelt down in front of the bottle. The man inside the bottle was tall and looked terribly familiar, but his hair and beard were both long and greasy, as though he’d been trapped here a long time.
He looked at the girls and gave them both a handsome smile. “And who’s this you’ve brought with you?” he asked Sparkle. “I don’t recognize these two grown-up girls. Are they –“
Suddenly he stopped and stared at both girls in surprise; then he rubbed his eyes with his hands and stared at the two of them again.
“Uncle Trev…?” gasped Millie, because that’s exactly who it was – Uncle Trev!
Amber looked up at the man trapped inside the giant bottle. “Uncle Trev…?” she whispered. Then, putting on her most determined face, whispered loudly “Uncle Trev, we’ve come to rescue you!”
Uncle Trev blinked his eyes as though he was about to cry and for a moment looked at her with the saddest face she’d ever seen. But then he gave a brilliant smile, like the ones in the pictures, and whispered “Aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper?”
Millie pulled the magical Totterdown Scope out of her cloak and whispered to Uncle Trev through the glass bottle. “We brought the Totterdown Scope,” she said, “So you can escape. Sparkle told us what happened: how the Lobster King stole your spirit out of your body and kept you prisoner down here all this time.”
Uncle Trev looked sad again for a moment, but smiled graciously and thanked them both for coming to his rescue.
“How old are you now, Millie?” he asked, “And what about you, Amber?”
“I’m eight,” said Millie, “And Amber’s-“
“I’m five!” interrupted Amber, with an angry look at her sister.
Sparkle had pulled her Markanium sword out. “Never mind that,” she squeaked, “We’ve got to get you out of this ridiculous bottle and back to Bristol”.
“Sparkle! No!” yelled Uncle Trev, as the little gerbil swung her sword, “It’s magical glass, you’ll wake the-“
But it was too late.
There was a terrible screeching sound that made Millie and Amber cover their ears, and where Sparkle’s magic sword sliced into the magical bottle huge sparks whizzed through the air like fireworks.
Then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, the entire bottle shattered into a million pieces, all of which smashed into a million more pieces on the hard ground. As the deafening echoes of the glass faded away into the distance there came a loud rumble from behind the girls – in the direction of the Lobster King.
Slowly, without really wanting to, Millie, Amber and Sparkle turned around.
The great Lobster King – as big as a bus, with pincers that could chop a tree in half with one snip, and a great fan-tail that would squash a cow with one flap – ROARED!
“WHAT BUGGER HAS WOKEN THE KING!?”
“Sorry,” squeaked Sparkle.
“Oh, Sparkle…” sighed Uncle Trev.
The Lobster King stood from his throne; he stared at Uncle Trev, Millie, Amber and Sparkle with his horrible eyes and crashed his terrible claws together with a tremendous SNAP!
“Sparkle,” said Uncle Trev, “I’ve got a little job for you: keep the King busy while I figure out a way to stop him.”
“Me?!” gasped Sparkle, “I’m only a gerbil – look at the size of him!”
Uncle Trev knelt down and picked the little gerbil up in one hand. “You’re not just a gerbil – you’re Sparkle Meriones Unguiculatus, the bravest gerbil in the world, and the only one with a sword made of magical Markanium.”
Sparkle smiled as Trev said this and turned to face the Lobster King. She pointed her sword towards him and squeaked as loudly as she could: “My name is Sparkle Meriones Unguiculatus, the bravest gerbil in the world. You kidnapped my master. Prepare to die.”
She looked over her shoulder and winked at Trev, then leapt towards the Lobster King. The King opened both his enormous claws wide and magical fire, glowing bright green and blue, poured out of them towards Sparkle. The little gerbil gripped the handle of her magical sword with both paws and held it up in front of her. The Lobster King’s magical fire crackled and hissed with power, but it reflected back off the sword and hit him right between the eyes with an almighty ZZZZAP!
“Yes!” cheered Amber.
“I’ve got this!” yelled Sparkle to the girls and Uncle Trev, and turned back to face the Lobster King. “Right,” she squeaked, “I’m going to count to three, and when I finish counting you better be gone, otherwise there’ll be trouble. One…”
Millie handed the Totterdown Scope back to Uncle Trev; he took it and patted her gently on her head, then bent down to speak to both girls.
“Right, here’s the plan: we have to stop the King, otherwise he’s going to take the Scope and make everyone in the world his slaves…”
Amber started to say something.
“Yes,” smiled Trev,” even you, Amber.”
“But…” began Millie, looking frightened, “he’s absolutely enormous – how can we stop him?”
“There’s always a way, Millie,” said Trev, “Even the biggest and nastiest bullies can be stopped if enough people stand up to them.”
The Lobster King was back on his feet again now and trying to catch Sparkle, but the little gerbil was much too quick and clever for his huge claws. She called him all sorts of terribly rude names as he chased her around the throne room.
“You smell like all the poo in my cage!” she squeaked, “And you look like it, too!”
The Lobster King roared with anger, “SHUT UP, YOU STUPID RAT!!”
Millie and Amber couldn’t help but laugh, even though they were scared.
Uncle Trev held up the Totterdown Scope, “Our only chance is to use this against him. Before I was…kidnapped and locked up down here I filled the Scope with all my magic. All we have to do is break it open and let all of that magic out in one go. There’ll be a great big explosion that should stop the Lobster King, and it will destroy the Scope – the one thing the King needs for his plans to take over the world.”
“Perfect!” said Amber, “We’ll take that stupid Lobster King to the station in a cardboard box!”
“Um, yes,” said Uncle Trev, looking a bit confused.
“So, how can we make the Scope explode?” asked Millie, “Do we just…throw it at the King and run away?”
Uncle Trev looked at the two brave girls with a serious face: “The only person who can break the Scope open is the person who made it.”
“That’s you!” said Amber, “You made it!”
There was another whoosh! of fire from the other side of the throne room and a loud “Eek!” from Sparkle. “Hurry it up, you three,” she squeaked, “I can’t keep this ugly crab-face busy forever!”
“I’M GOING TO DIP YOU INTO MY EGGS FOR TEA!” roared the Lobster King furiously.
“Ha!” laughed Sparkle, “Your tea will be cold and mouldy by the time you catch me!”
Uncle Trev looked back at the girls again. “When I say ‘go’ I need you to run as fast as you can; I’ll distract the Lobster King so you can grab Sparkle, then you get out of here.”
Millie looked up at Uncle Trev, “But what will happen to you?”
Uncle Trev reached out with his big arms and hugged Millie and Amber tightly. The two girls hugged him back as hard as they could until eventually, Uncle Trev let them go. He sat back and looked at the two sisters.
“Millie…” whispered Uncle Trev, “I…I died, didn’t I?”
Millie looked sadly at Trev and nodded. So did Amber.
“Last time I saw you, Millie, you were smaller than Amber; and Amber, you were still tiny. As soon as I saw the two of you come in here all grown up and beautiful, I knew. Sparkle thinks all she has to do is get me out of the Lobster King’s prison, but I’ve been here for years – my body is gone; all that’s left of me is this memory.”
A tear ran down Millie’s cheek. “But…you’re the greatest magician in the world,” she cried, “Can’t you do some special magic or something…?”
Uncle Trev hugged the two girls again, even more tightly. “I’m the only person who can stop the Lobster King from taking over the whole world,” he whispered. “So, when I say ‘run’, you have to run, OK? Grab Sparkle and run. Keep on running until you get out of here.”
He kissed them both on the forehead and then stood up, holding the Totterdown Scope tightly. “Ready?” he asked. Millie nodded.
“Uncle Trev,” said Amber.
“Everybody misses you loads, Uncle Trev,” said Amber.
Uncle Trev took a deep breath and turned to look at Amber.
“Tell everybody…tell them I miss them, too,” he said with that sad smile again. “Now…run!”
Millie and Amber ran off like two little rockets, holding hands so they wouldn’t lose each other. Millie managed to grab Sparkle – just saving her from being squashed underneath one of the Lobster King’s tremendous claws! She stuffed the angry gerbil into her cloak and they raced for the door.
But another tremendous claw was blocking the door! The Lobster King looked down at the two girls and laughed horribly. HOH! HOH! HOH! HOHHH! His other claw lifted up, ready to smash and mash them into smithereens. Up, it went, up and up…
And suddenly there was a loud whistle from the other side of the huge room. The Lobster King stopped and turned to look. It was Uncle Trev, holding the Totterdown Scope.
“Hey, you ugly crustacean! Is this what you wanted?” he yelled.
The horrible Lobster King forgot the two little girls in front of him and took a step forward, away from the door.
Uncle Trev turned and looked straight at Millie and Amber, giving them both a smile and a wink. They jumped out of the door, just like Trev had told them to, both running as fast as their legs could carry them. There was a gigantic CRACK! and a WHOOOSH! and a BOOM! behind them as Trev snapped the Totterdown Scope in half, letting out all of the magic locked inside it. A jet of blue and yellow magic fire roared along the tunnels, singeing the girls’ hair and eyebrows!
The Lobster King and all his evil plans were finished!
Still holding hands, the girls tumbled out of the tunnel onto Albany Park station platform. It was a bright and sunny morning and the station was full of grown-ups waiting for the train to take them to work. They were very surprised to see two brave girls stumble out of the bushes, each wearing a beautiful shimmering cloak and carrying shining swords!
The magical cloaks still worked, so Amber wrapped them both in hers and held her breath so they couldn’t be seen, while Millie held her breath and flew them all home. They quietly climbed in through an upstairs window and crept into Millie’s bedroom.
Sparkle was fast asleep and snoring gently, so they put the brave little gerbil back into her cage, hid their magic cloaks under their beds and carefully washed all the black soot off their faces.
“What an adventure,” said Amber as she dried her clean pink face on the towel, “Do you think anyone would believe us if we tolded them what happened?”
“I’m not sure I believe what happened, and I was there!” said Millie, and then she looked sad. “I wish we could have saved Uncle Trev,” she said.
“We did save him, Millie,” said Amber. “He was the horrible Lobster King’s prisoner all that time, and we saved him, and then he saved us. He saved the whole world!”
“Yes, he did, didn’t he?” said Millie, and smiled as she remembered how Uncle Trev had winked at her before they ran.
“Yes, he did.”