Pip and the Twilight Seekers (Spindlewood Tales Series #2)

Pip and the Twilight Seekers (Spindlewood Tales Series #2)

by Chris Mould

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780340970706
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
Publication date: 05/28/2011
Series: Spindlewood Tales Series , #2
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author


Award-winning author Chris Mould has written and illustrated many books for children, including the Something Wickedly Weird series. He is married with two children and lives in Yorkshire, England.

Award-winning author Chris Mould has written and illustrated many books for children, including the Something Wickedly Weird series. He is married with two children and lives in Yorkshire, England.

Read an Excerpt

Pip and the Twilight Seekers

A Spindlewood Tale


By Chris Mould

ALBERT WHITMAN & Company

Copyright © 2011 Chris Mould
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4804-2840-9



CHAPTER 1

Which Explains That When the Blizzard Stopped, The Bedlam Would Begin


The winters are long, here in the hollow. Cold and thick and deep. Snowstorms sweep across the valley and through the city, tearing through the streets between the houses and piling drifts up against the doorways, whistling between the trees and lacing thick frost around the trunks and branches.

The clawed hands and spindly claws of the forest creatures had retreated into the barky holes of the Spindlewood trees. The thick white of the forest floor was free of their cloven hoof marks and lumbering footprints. Even Jarvis, the city warden, sat cooped up in his hovel, unable to venture out in search of strays. He hated children and he would stop at nothing to be rid of them. But right now, his carriage lay broken upon the ground, its axle crushed, the loose wheel discarded and covered in snow.

No one had moved for some time. Not since those three children had escaped the evils of the forest by the skin of their teeth and had Jarvis and the rest of the woodsfolk screaming after them.

But now the wind stopped. The hurling of snow and chilled air came to an abrupt halt. Beneath the deep drifts were shattered roof tiles and broken chimney pots. Fractured branches from nearby trees poked out like spring buds. But this was no growing season. The freezing winter was still waging war against the world.

"Crank up the fire, Esther," urged Jarvis as he sat lazily huddled up to the fireplace with one hand and one hook tucked into his armpits. He watched, amused, as the crow pulled meager twigs from the basket and nosed them into place, dancing around the spits of crackling orange.

Eventually he rose from his chair and hooked back the drab, rotted curtain that framed his frosty window. He breathed on the glass and circled his hand on the pane. "The blizzard has stopped, Esther. It's time to seek out our revenge and lay our hands on those pesky little city rats. We know they're here. I always get my prize in the end," he said proudly, one eye shut and the other squinting out through the glass, his bulbous nose squishing against the pane.

Jarvis had been tracking his mind back through the recent turmoil in the hollow. He'd almost had those three children in his grasp. He'd come so close to putting them in the forest keep. But they'd escaped and now he boiled with anger.

All through the blizzards that had followed after the children's escape, he had sat inside and turned things over in his mind. He could still see them. The smallest was a young boy whom he knew to go by the name of Pip. The next, a young girl, memorable by her rats' tails of hair and ragged clothes. But the biggest, a large boy, was somehow more familiar. That tubby-cheeked face kept coming to him. He'd seen it somewhere before and he knew it would come back to him if he thought long and hard enough.

"Time to venture out, I think," said Jarvis, announcing his next move to Esther.

"But what of the carriage?" begged Esther. "And the broken wheel?"

"I'm going to walk to the tavern, Esther. Something is preying on my mind." Jarvis seemed to be lost in thought.

He was about to step out through the door when he turned back. He wandered over to the hearth and, lifting his left arm, he sharpened the tip of his hook against the stone lintel. He took a long proud look at its pointed end, gave it a shine with the corner of his black cloak, and then wrapped the cloak around himself and disappeared into the night, leaving deep footprints in the thick of the snow.

CHAPTER 2

Which Turns Our Attentions to Pip and His Companions


Pip had not heard the expression "lying low" until now. Apparently it meant staying quiet and keeping your head down after having caused a ruckus. And so that's just what was happening at the Deadman's Hand. Frankie, Pip, and Toad had been hiding at the tavern while the blizzard blew over the city and all the marks of their escape from the forest were covered over by the snow.

But for how long were they safe at the inn? They didn't know. Sam was on edge. His own son, Toad, was the first of the three children. Sam had harbored him since his birth in the hollow. The death of Toad's mother had meant that he had done this alone. The second child was the boy Pip. He had arrived, quite by accident in the back of a carriage, in an attempt to escape his own grim circumstances, and not realizing that his escape led him to something far more dangerous. The third was the young girl, Frankie Duprie, whom they had rescued from the clock tower after her family had tried to escape the authorities. The rest of the Dupries were now thought to be imprisoned in the city jail.

They must tread carefully. Sam had already sent word through the city to the Duprie family that their daughter was safe at the inn. But who knew what might happen to the information along the way if it got into the wrong hands? The authorities would be all over him. And what about the forest people? They had already been riled by the escaping children. He did not want them knocking at his door.

They had been spending their days watching the blizzard while wrapped up cozy and warm by the fire. They'd baked cakes and pies and played games and ran around the building. Toad had shown Pip and Frankie all the secret parts of the old tavern and Sam had read them dark stories through the night when only the embers of the fire were left to light the way. "Just one more story," Toad would plead as they sat on the edges of their seats into the early hours. And they would all cheer excitedly when Sam opened the pages again and began to read.

At night they were packed tightly together, their makeshift beds forming a neat line across the hidden annex. "I quite like this arrangement," announced Pip. "I know it's a tight squeeze but it makes me feel safe." Then he would tell them his tales of his dreadful days at the orphanage and how he had longed to escape its clutches.

If the truth be known, Pip had not known companionship until now. Despite the grim circumstances of the hollow, he felt a sense of belonging growing upon him. Sam and Toad were as near to family as he had ever had and he was quickly getting to know Frankie since she had joined the group. There was a hollow space inside him where the fulfillment of family life should be but somehow his new surroundings were helping to heal the wound.

Late one night he awoke to Frankie sobbing. "What is it?" he whispered.

"I'm frightened, Pip," she confessed.

"Of what?" he asked. "The forest and its creatures? And that we may be caught?"

"No, not that, although the forest fills me with dread," Frankie said. "I fear for my family. That I might never see them again and that they may come to harm and I might never know."

Pip didn't know what to say. He knew that those dangers were real. He swallowed a lump in his throat. "It will be OK," he whispered and he held out his hand to her. Frankie smiled unseen in the darkness, closing her fingers around his palm, and they fell asleep to the sound of Toad snoring.

Outside there was a change in the air. A stirring in the water. It was unlikely that the peace would last for long. The dying of the blizzard would cause a livening in the forest, and those who sought to upset the quiet of the streets were already awake.


The Bit Before Chapter Three

There was a small matter which may at some point prove to be a problem. Somewhere in the hollow sat Captain Dooley. A harmless-looking figure of an old soldier from the civil war, fashioned from Spindlewood. Of course he looked harmless. How could he not? He's just a plaything, put together by the toymaker, long since gone from the hollow after the children were outcast. But there was something in his makeup that spelled danger. He was a blabbermouth. He spoke of the secrets of the hollow, and when I say secrets I mean those hidden children. He told anyone who asked exactly where they were.

And how does a rickety old wooden toy spill secrets? I hear you ask. It would have to be cursed with some kind of evil sorcery. Some wicked spell that only worked because it was crafted from those Spindlewood trees and evil ran through its woody veins. Well, I'm afraid that whole crazy idea of curses and sorcery was quite possible down in Hangman's hollow. That dark forest was home to all kinds of sinister goings-on.

For long enough he had stayed hidden in the darkness of an old cloth sack in the corner of a disused attic. That was until the sack dropped through the chimney stack and landed in a dusty fireplace. A prying hand had lifted him from the darkness and placed him upon the mantelpiece of the disused river cottage, dusting him down and leaving him there and not knowing that he would only cause trouble.

He was stirring now, thinking hard. The faces of all the children in the hollow were coming to him. He could see where they hid, a perfect picture forming in his mind. A ripple of excitement made his little wooden body creak and with it, his rounded moon eyes warmed up the dank light, like candles glowing. He felt that quite soon, someone was going to find him. He was ready to say so much. He knew where they all were. It seems quite unimaginable, but if you had been right there you would have sworn that his little wooden mouth opened and that he had managed a few desperate words. It sounded just like: "Bring out your children. Here comes the captain."

CHAPTER 3

At Which Point Jarvis Becomes Suspicious at the Deadman's Hand


The fading of the howling gales had now ensured the Deadman's Hand was brimming with city folk. The fire crackled and local life poured back into the old place. Voices laughed and sang and music filled the air. Tobacco smoke billowed upward and candles flickered at the tables.

Up above, the children were settled in their hiding places, keeping themselves amused and out of harm's way. Toad was emptying his bed of crumbs and bits of pastry. Pip lay in his pit, watching, chuckling to himself, and shaking his head. Frankie sat quietly with her nose in some old book that she'd found.

Down below, the low rumble of chatter and laughter continued, but silence fell when the hook-handed man stepped inside. He shook his tattered cloak at the door and kicked his boots on the step. With his familiar movement—head down, cloak pulled over the hook— he took his table in the corner.

Sam knew the man's drink and delivered a tankard to the table. Voices returned and the noise level picked up again and things went on as normal.

But this was no ordinary visit to the inn. Something was eating away at Jarvis. Sam was used to his visits and it was not unusual to find him sat at his table in the corner. But the recent turmoil had set the whole place on edge and Sam knew Jarvis would be seeking revenge.

Jarvis was here for a reason. Sure, he liked a drink, but that pesky kid's face had stuck in his mind and he was somehow sure at the back of his mind that the Deadman's Hand held the answer. He didn't know why or how, but his nose had taken him in the direction of the inn. And Jarvis's nose was never wrong!

Frankie was distracted from her reading by the sound of footsteps. She looked up, her eyes fixed expectantly on the door to the annex. Feet came carefully up the staircase, moving almost silently along the corridor. The doorway was forced open. It was unusual for Sam to appear in business hours, but he was on double alert.

"He's here. Just make sure you're extra quiet. No movement." And then he was gone, as quickly as he had entered.

Frankie felt her heart sink. It seemed that they had spent so long protected by the storms and without the threat of Jarvis that to know of his return filled her with fear. The room fell silent for a moment.

The three children stared at each other. "He'll never find us here," said Toad. "We're safe as houses." And he picked up another cake from his collection and swallowed it whole as he remade his bed.

"That's disgusting!" said Frankie, "Didn't your father ever teach you to chew your food?"

"No time for chewing," insisted Toad. "If we need to escape quickly, we'll have to pile some food down and get out. Swallowing food is a skill!"

Pip just stared at Toad and then looked at Frankie, and again he shook his head in disbelief.


It had only taken a few sips from his ale before Jarvis's mind had clicked into place. He was staring across the room. There it was, looking right at him. He knew he'd seen that kid's face here before. He stood up and crossed the floor. The place went quiet again.

People watched him.

There was an oil sketch of Toad on the wall. It had always been there, amongst the other portraits of the city folk. Mister Sweeney from the foundry, Mrs. DeGale and her two youngsters and a large drawing of the Malvern girls, drawn before they'd gone missing. They were reminders to the city folk of their young ones.

"Who is this boy?" questioned Jarvis with the tip of his hooked hand held against the nose of the drawing.

The place went quieter still. There were those who had no idea and those that knew Sam and Toad well. But no man nor woman from the city would open their mouth and betray the boy.

"Landlord. Who is this boy that sits on your wall? You must know him?"

Sam stared. "Perhaps you should sit down and enjoy your drink, Mister Jarvis," he answered, reluctant to betray his own kin. "You're upsetting my customers."

"You folks listen good," Jarvis continued. "I know you have all got your offspring hiding. My patience has run thin and my bones are tired of searching these frozen streets. I'll flush them out, all of them. You mark my words."

He took another close look at the boy and then his gaze fell on Sam. Sam panicked that for a moment the resemblance may have caught his eye. Maybe it had. Jarvis drew his shiny hook across the canvas and slit Toad's face from the corner of his eye to the point of his chin. He stormed across the room, sending his tankard flying across the floor, and disappeared into the night.


"It seems to have gone quiet down there all of a sudden," said Pip, his voice lowering itself into a whisper. Toad stopped in his tracks, cupping a hand over his ear to listen.

"You're right," said Frankie, closing her book and pricking up her ears. "Do you think everything is OK?" There was anxiety in her voice.

"It's fine," said Toad. "Everything is fine." And he climbed the ladder to spy through the scope that was positioned at the drawn curtain, allowing a good view of the city.

"You OK?" said Pip, turning to Frankie.

"Yes," she answered. "I'm OK." But when she lay down in the dark that night she knew that things would not stay the same forever.

Toad never seemed bothered by anything. He could talk for hours on end, he ate like a horse, and he made every move at a blistering pace until the moment his head hit the pillow. And then, he snored like a bear and kept everyone else awake.

But Frankie knew when Pip wasn't sleeping. He tossed and turned in his bed and she knew his troubled past was what tied his sheets in knots.

Sometimes she would whisper to him in the dark, "Are you there, Pip?"

And he would answer "yes," because he knew that she was asking him if he was awake. And then they'd chat while Toad snored.

"I guess we're your family now, eh, Pip?" Frankie would say.

And he would smile and say that yes, they really were.

"But there's something missing," he added one night, as he felt himself dozing off into sleep.

"You mean your parents?" quizzed Frankie.

"I don't know," said Pip. "I don't know. I just know there's a space inside me where something else should fit." But the more he thought about it, the more he wasn't sure.

"One day the hollow will be safe again. Then we'll all feel better," assured Frankie.

Pip heard her voice but he was too tired now to force a reply. He tried to mutter something, but he felt himself drifting helplessly into slumber.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Pip and the Twilight Seekers by Chris Mould. Copyright © 2011 Chris Mould. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

1. Which Explains That When the Blizzard Stopped, the Bedlam Would Begin,
2. Which Turns Our Attentions to Pip and His Companions,
The Bit Before Chapter Three,
3. At Which Point Jarvis Becomes Suspicious at the Deadman's Hand,
4. In Which a Small Incident Will Soon Prove to Be Disastrous,
5. At Which Point We Suffer a Small Interruption,
6. Where We Return to Edgar and Find Out What the Disaster Is,
7. In Which the Captain Has Much to Say and All Hell Breaks Loose,
8. When the Captain Is Asked, "Are There Children at the Inn?",
9. When the Safety of the Tavern Is Replaced by the Danger of the Streets,
10. When It Appears that Sam Is Furious,
11. Explaining Whether the Name "Floyd" Spells Friend of Foe,
12. At Which Point the Reader Thinks "Jarvis Must Be Stopped",
13. In Which the Children Go in Search of Mister Jarvis,
14. Where Floyd Enters the Inn,
15. At Which Point Someone Is Taken by Surprise,
16. In Which Jarvis Is Asked "Where Are Your Prisoners?",
17. When We Switch to the Activity in the Forest Keep,
18. When We Take a Peek at Jarvis,
19. At Which Point an Idea Is Suggested,
20. In Which Sam Is Taken by Surprise,
21. Relating a Venture into the Woods in the Black Pumpkin,
22. At Which Point the Lost Children Are Found,
23. When It Seems That Bodkin Is Confused,
24. Where We Discover What Is Troubling Bodkin,
25. At Which Point an Opportunity Presents Itself,
26. When Someone Unexpected Returns to the Woods,
27. When at Last, the Surprise Ending Is Delivered,
About the Author,

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