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Authors: Judy Stubley

The Story Traveller

BOOK: The Story Traveller
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The Story Traveller

Judy Stubley

Copyright © 2011 Judy Stubley

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study,

or criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents

Act 1988, this publication may only be reproduced, stored or transmitted, in

any form or by any means, with the prior permission in writing of the

publishers, or in the case of reprographic reproduction in accordance with

the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency. Enquiries

concerning reproduction outside those terms should be sent to the publishers.

Matador®

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Web: www.troubador.co.uk/matador

ISBN 978 1783066 933

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data.

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Matador®
is an imprint of Troubador Publishing Ltd

Converted to eBook by
EasyEPUB

For Thomas, Eleanor and Leni with love.

Acknowledgement

With many thanks to Val Dawson and Carol Gibbins for all their encouragement and help.

CHAPTER ONE –
Storyland

‘Bullying must have been around since the beginning of story telling – if not before,' Lucy thought sadly, distracted for a moment from reading to her little sister. She glanced over at six year old Sophie and saw she was almost asleep. Her brown eyes, the same colour as Lucy's, closed for a few seconds and then slightly opened, only to close again.

Despite her worries, Lucy had to smile as she began to read the last two sentences. Her voice, soft and quiet, gently finished the story – a story she had read to her sister many times before.

‘Cinderella, being of a kind and loving nature, gladly forgave her stepsisters for their unkind treatment of her. And, of course, she and her prince lived happily ever after.'

Lucy closed the book, shook her brown hair out of her eyes and kissed Sophie on her forehead, pushing her sister's blonde curls away from her nose before she pulled the pink Barbie duvet up round Sophie's shoulders.

She walked into her bedroom, ready to start her homework, and for a moment was unaware that she was still holding
The Fairy Tale Treasury
.

‘It's funny,' she thought as she put the book down. ‘I've read fairy tales to Sophie ever since she was old enough to listen and yet I never gave a thought to the fact that in many of the stories the heroine or hero are bullied. Thanks to Anna and co. I certainly notice that now.'

Lucy stood by the window and stared out, deep in thought. Her fingers caught hold of strands of her hair, which she twisted round and round, as if she were trying to make them curl like Sophie's. Then she sat down at her desk, took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes.

‘I'm not going to cry. They aren't worth it,' she told herself. ‘But what have I ever done to them? I don't even know them. I can't understand why this is happening to me!'

She crossed her arms on her desk and buried her face in her hands.

‘Come on Lucy Chase! Pull yourself together,' she told herself sternly. ‘They're only three in a school of four hundred. I'll not be frightened by them. I'll not!'

‘Lucy,' a voice called from downstairs. ‘Have you started your homework yet?'

Lucy stood up and walked to the top of the stairs.

‘Just about to do it Mum,' she called.

‘Good, and when you've finished, do try and tidy your room. It's worse than a pigsty, you untidy monkey. You were meant to do it last night.' ‘Sorry Mum, I forgot.'

Busy with her homework, Lucy was able to push her problems away for a while, but as she began a half-hearted attempt to tidy her room, her thoughts went back to her troubles.

‘I wish life were like a fairy tale,' Lucy thought. ‘Then I'd know it would end happily ever after. But it's not, and I've got to try to cope.'

Brave though her words were, Lucy was very close to tears. She so wanted to tell her parents, to share her unhappiness with them, but knew they too had their own problems to deal with. Her dad had just started a new job, which kept him away from home a lot, and mum, who had also started a new job, was missing him heaps: they all were.

That night, as Lucy got into bed, she wondered how long it would take her to get to sleep. Since Anna had begun to make her life miserable she'd often lain awake for a long time, as her mind went through all the horrible and hurtful things that Anna and her two pals, Diane and Martha, had said and done.

But this time, exhausted from so many bad nights, Lucy fell asleep fairly quickly. At the end of her bed lay the book she had been reading to Sophie and, as Lucy turned over, it fell off. The pages appeared to flutter for a few seconds, and then as the book hit the carpet, they settled open at the story of
Cinderella.

‘Halloo…halloo'…Lucy stirred a little and tried to pull up her duvet. Her hands searched in sleepy circles, but found nothing. Determined not to wake, she burrowed down deeper into her covers, then settled back to sleep, but the halloo of a hunting horn eventually roused her. She went to get out of bed, but to her surprise found she'd been asleep under a blanket of leaves. Any remaining traces of sleep disappeared as the horn grew louder and louder. To her amazement, a group of horses and riders came into view, as they chased a deer across open ground into a dense forest. They tore past in a flash of bright colours; though Lucy noticed there wasn't one red coat among them. Confused, she rubbed her eyes hard, and then pinched herself.

‘Ouch!' she felt that. ‘So I'm not dreaming, but I can't be awake either. This is very odd!' she said to herself, as she took in an unfamiliar landscape of blue sky, green-rolling hills and sweet-scented meadow lands, edged by a dark forest. Lucy looked intently around her, surprised at how well she could see without her glasses. The hills were grass green and almost identical; the meadows were full of strange flowers that threw out unfamiliar smells, sweet and relaxing, in stark contrast to the forest, which looked bleak and scary.

‘None of this looks real,' Lucy thought, as she brushed the leaves off her nightdress. ‘The green's too green and the blue's too blue and why am I standing in the middle of a meadow in my nightdress? Something odd is going on here.'

Another loud halloo sounded and the huntsmen rode rapidly out of the forest. Lucy was glad to see they were minus their quarry. The lead rider suddenly spotted Lucy and galloped towards her, followed closely by another horseman. Both were dressed in the most elaborate outfits, with white lace cuffs and gold buttons that shone in the sunshine and glinted on their beautifully cut coats. The first gentleman, richly dressed in royal purple, sprang from his horse and made an elaborate bow. He was extremely handsome.

‘Fair maiden, good day.' He spoke in French and to her amazement, not only did Lucy understand him, but she replied in French too.

‘Good day to you, Sir.' ‘Sire,' the other young man joined them. ‘You do not know who this girl is; you must be careful.'

Lucy was most indignant.

‘My name is Lucy Chase. And you are?'

‘On your knees, peasant. The Prince is addressing you.'

‘Stop worrying, Lucien. This young girl cannot harm us. I only want to know if she has seen which way the deer went, and Mademoiselle Chase, you have the right name for such information.' His smile was quite beautiful, but Lucy knew how it felt to be hounded and couldn't smile back.

‘I don't agree with hunting,' she said with as much dignity as she could, barefoot and in a yellow flowered nightdress. She blinked rapidly as her brown eyes filled with unshed tears.

The Prince smiled again.

‘You have a right to your views, Mademoiselle Chase, but I do wonder how you and yours live without meat to sustain you.' He bowed politely and got back on his horse.

Both young men then lifted their plumed hats to her and rode off to join the rest of their party.

Lucy didn't know what to do, what to think or where to go. She was sure she was in some weird dream, but had never felt so awake. She was still cross at the way she'd been treated by the young man called Lucien, but she was also thrilled by the memory of the handsome prince. She looked around her. Should she go towards those oh so green-rolling hills? They didn't seem to start or finish anywhere. Should she follow after the Prince and his riders? Lucy looked down at her yellow flowery nightdress. She hated flowery nightdresses and to be seen in one by a prince was mortifying. No, she couldn't turn up at the Palace dressed, or rather undressed, in such an embarrassing way. Her cheeks flushed. Whatever must the Prince have thought of her? No, she couldn't go after him.

?? She took another quick look. Perhaps there was a path through the forest. She set off in that direction, though with no great enthusiasm. When Lucy reached the edge of the forest she peered in nervously, but was delighted to find juicy plump blackberries within her reach. So she picked and ate her way from bramble to bramble, until she realised she was surrounded everywhere by dark and gloom, because the trees, so huge and close, blocked out most of the light. Then through the murky dusk Lucy saw what she was certain were hobgoblins, with pointed noses and long thin fingers, swaying and swirling as they reached out to grab her. Adding to her misery, the forest became alive with mysterious rustles, strange animal calls and the sighing of what could only be described as unhappy souls. All this created heart-stopping panic in Lucy.

She turned and ran and her bare feet added to all the other noises, as she cracked through small sticks and twigs and ploughed through slushy leaves. Her mouth was dry, her ears pounded, but she didn't stop. She ran as fast as she could, until she was out of the forest and back in the meadow.

Lucy sank to her knees and took in great gulps of air, to stop the panic. Her heartbeat was so loud she was sure it must echo round the hills. But out in the bright sunshine she began to calm down.

‘Don't be silly, Lucy Chase,' she said out loud. ‘Hobgoblins are only in fairy stories. It was just the wind and the branches playing tricks with your imagination.' But she still looked back over her shoulder with some anxiety.

It was then she saw, a little way off, a small circle of silver birch trees that shimmered in the light breeze. Why hadn't she noticed them before? She could also hear the faint burble of a brook, and feeling thirsty after her dash for safety, decided to make her way there.

As Lucy entered the ring of birch trees she saw the little brook dancing and leaping over a bed of cloudy white stones. She knelt down and cupped the water in her hands. It tasted of raspberries and strawberries and sparkled so much the little bubbles popped on her tongue and tickled her teeth. One large bubble managed to lodge in the gap between her two front teeth and then burst, flooding her mouth with flavour.

?? Suddenly, Lucy became aware she wasn't alone. Too frightened to turn round she continued to kneel at the water's edge.

‘Ah! There you are Lucy,' a slightly impatient voice said. ‘I've been waiting for you.'

Reflected in the water, Lucy saw a kindly face of a lady, neither young nor old, with pure white hair and eyes the colour of bright sapphires. She got to her feet quickly and turned to face the stranger. ‘Don't look so surprised, my dear. You did answer my advert after all.'

‘I did?'

‘Yes – don't you remember? “Wanted: bright young person to apply for the job of story traveller. Must love books and reading, enjoy travel and meeting people, and be able to work on own initiative.”'

‘But that was the title for an English essay!'

‘Oh yes! So it seemed. But my union asked me to put out that advert, and you were the chosen candidate.'

‘Union – what union?' Lucy knew this conversation wasn't making sense.

‘The FGMU.'

‘FGMU?'

‘Fairy Godmothers' Union. Really, Lucy, you should pay more attention. Now come and sit next to me, sweetie.'

The fairy godmother, for that was indeed who she was, sat down on a fallen tree trunk and patted the grass beside her. Lucy liked what she saw. The lady was certainly pretty, though she looked a little flustered. She wore a dove grey cloak and in one hand she carried a gnarled walking stick and in the other a wicker basket full of (Lucy leaned closer to make sure her eyes and ears weren't paying tricks) full of tiny singing fairies that glistened and glinted as they tumbled and jostled together. She couldn't make out what they were singing, their voices were so soft, but it was a magical sound, soothing and yet exciting at the same time.

‘Oh, how wonderful! A fantasia of fairies.'

‘Fantasia of fairies! Um, I like that. They're my little helpers, my dear, too many to have names, but I couldn't do without them. Oh dear no!'

‘You know my name, but what should I call you?' Lucy asked politely. ‘I can't keep calling you Fairy Godmother.' ‘I don't know why not! Most people do. However, I'm also known as Twinkle: you can call me that if you like.'

‘Twinkle – that's nice,' said Lucy. ‘It suits you. Yes, it really suits you.'

‘Now, my dear, let's get down to business: you want to be a story traveller.'

‘I do?'

‘Lucy, please don't start that again! I told you, you applied. We take on very few story travellers and though it can be great fun it can also be a difficult and lonely job. Now I'm a very busy person, so do you want to know more or shall I just send you home?'

‘Please tell me more, Twinkle. It sounds wonderful.'

‘Well, my dear, you'll be able to travel to Storyland – though you must always travel alone and only with permission from the local FGMU or whatever else the union may be called; it depends which country you visit. But, you see, basically, all the unions are run by those who magically look after the heroes and heroines of Storyland.'

‘How often can I visit Storyland?' asked Lucy, beginning to relax and enjoy the strangeness of everything.

‘There are no set times. You'll go when you need to or when you're needed.'

‘And how do I get there?' Lucy asked.

‘Well, there'll be various ways. Local visits are a quick leap into the story. Visits further away may mean you travel overland, in or under the sea or possibly fly. The journeys are often the most exciting part of story travelling.'

‘Fantastic. So where have I travelled to this time?' Lucy said as she looked around her. ‘You've not travelled too far. Think about it – who have you met?'

‘A prince, his servant and a fairy godmother.'

‘So?'

‘I suppose I could be in Cinderella land, but then why are we speaking in French?'

‘The story you've been reading to your sister was written in French originally and then translated into English. But you're right, you
are
in Cinderella land, and welcome you are too, my dear. Now, I'm about to send you off to meet Cinders, but there are some rules all story travellers have to abide by. Break any one of them and you'll be sent home straight away.'

BOOK: The Story Traveller
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