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The Guardian Of Orth: Book One Of The Elder War

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For my little buddy.  Daddy will always love you.

For more information on Orth, visit the official website http://www.AdventuresInOrth.co.uk

2016 © Dean Griffiths

The Guardian Of Orth

Book One

By Dean Griffiths

This is a work of fiction,  All characters, events, places, names, businesses, and organisations were created from the author’s imagination.  Any resemblance to actual people, events or places are purely coincidental.

Text copyright 2017 Dean Griffiths.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the written consent of the author.

Other books in this series.

The Rise Of The Guardian

The Last Guardian

Prologue

Deep in the heart of the secret planet, somewhere in the ruby galaxy, tensions were high.

People were rushing around.  Sirens were blasting in every direction while flashing lights illuminated every corner.

Despite the chaos surrounding him, Kulag The Destroyer stood firm.  He was standing before six large holographic projections of the council of Elders.  

He kept his eyes steady as he awaited an answer from the floating heads projected in front of him.

“If your information is correct, then we don’t have much time.” boomed one of the faces.

Kulag stiffened.  He knew his information was correct, he’d double-double checked it.  “There is no doubt.”

“Do we know which planet will be targeted next?”

“The pattern suggests that the next planet will be Orth,” Kulag replied.

The huge face nodded gravely and then sizzled away through a blanket of static, taking the other five faces with it.

Kulag was alone in the room.  “No goodbyes?  Great.”  He mumbled to himself.

Chapter One

The Black Paint Incident

It was raining outside, one of the few occasions when Charlie Lane was glad she was in school.  At this moment in time, she was drawing a picture.  Mrs Masters, Charlie’s teacher had instructed the class to each draw a Queen.

As Charlie loved unicorns she had decided to draw a Queen unicorn.  

She was happy with her drawing.  She had drawn a Queen in a dress that had a pink unicorn with a bright sparkling white horn and a yellow crown.

She was about to colour in the robes with red crayon when Kirsty sneaked up behind her and tipped a small jar of black paint over her picture.

It took a moment for Charlie to realise what had happened but as soon as she did, she let out a great big sob.

Everyone in the class turned to face Charlie.  Amidst her tears she looked down at her once beautiful picture which was now covered in black paint.  

Slyly, Kirsty had returned to her own desk with a big mean grin on her face.

Mrs Masters, looked up from where she was sitting behind her desk.

“Charlie?  What’s wrong dear?” she asked, her eyes narrowing with concern.

She looked over at Kirsty who motioned for Charlie not to say anything.

“Um, nothing Miss.” she replied.

“Charlie dear, can you lift up your picture for me please?”  Mrs Masters asked.

Charlie shook her head no.  

The paint that Kirsty had tipped had created a small puddle and Charlie knew that lifting it up for teacher to see would cause it to spill on the desk.

Mrs Masters seemed annoyed.  “I asked you to show me your picture please Charlie.  Now.” she urged.

“No.  I can’t.” Charlie replied.

With an annoyed sigh, Mrs Masters got up off her chair and begun to walk towards Charlie.  Charlie tried to cover her picture with more paper but that just caused the paint to drip over the sides and spill onto her desk.  

By the time Mrs Masters had made her way to Charlie’s desk, the whole desk was covered in black paint.

Mrs Masters was frowning.  “What is this?” She said, pointing at Charlie’s desk.  “How did you get paint on your picture?  You’re supposed to be drawing with crayons.  You are not allowed to have paint.”

Charlie looked over at Kirsty who was chuckling to herself.  Charlie wanted to tell her teacher that it was Kirsty who had tipped the paint but she daren’t.   Kirsty would only call her names if she did.

“Answer me please.  I asked you a question.  What are you doing with paint?”

Charlie looked up at her teacher who was beginning to look really, really annoyed.  “I got it myself” she lied, “And I tipped it all over my drawing.”

After a moment of silence, Mrs Masters responded.  “To the head mistress’s office then Charlie Lane.  You can explain to Mrs Blackman why you took the paint without permission.  Come on, up you get.”

As Charlie got up, she used her hands to push herself up from her desk, getting them covered in paint too.

“Oh, Charlie, now you have got paint all over your hands.  You are going to need to wash them clean before you see Head teacher.  Go to the toilets and make sure you wash your hands.”

Chapter Two

The Call For Help

Once inside the toilets Charlie made her way to the sink and turned the tap on.  She added some soap to her hands and began washing them to get the paint off.

She stopped washing her hands.  She noticed that a small tear was beginning to form in the corner of her eye.

Kirsty filled her thoughts, why was she always so mean to her?  Why couldn’t she be nice like all the other kids in her class?  Kirsty was always up to no good, and it wasn’t just Charlie she was horrible to, she was horrible to everyone.

Charlie thought that maybe, Kirsty was just a mean old rotten apple.

Charlie was thinking about Kirsty when she noticed a flashing light coming from inside one of the toilet cubicles.  

It was flashing really brightly.

Curious, Charlie stopped washing her hands and turned towards the flashing light.

The door to the toilet cubicle was half closed.  Without opening it Charlie couldn’t quite see what was causing the flashing light.  

Charlie dried her hands in her jumper and edged towards the toilet door.  

She pushed the door open and noticed that the flashing light was coming from a pink shiny box sitting on the floor.  

For a moment, Charlie looked at the pink shiny box as it flashed out its bright lights.  She kneeled down to pick it up.  

As soon as her hand touched the box a big projection of a face appeared right in front of her.

The face of an old man with grey hair and a big thick grey beard appeared before her..

“Is there anyone there?  Can anyone hear us?”  It said, squinting through the static.

The sudden sound of the face talking made Charlie jump and step backwards.

“Hello?” it said.

Charlie leaned in towards the face, took a big gulp of air and replied.

“Hello?”

“You there.  You can hear me?” the face asked, looking worried.

Charlie wasn’t sure what was happening.  “Yes, I can hear you.  What do you want?”

For a moment, the face looked to one side, as if it was talking to someone that Charlie couldn’t see.  “It’s a girl.  She looks just like the pictures.  I think it’s her.  We found her”

The face turned its attention back toward Charlie and continued speaking.  “Listen very carefully.  You need to go to Bubble Gum mountain and see the Witch.  Only she can help us.”

Charlie shrugged her shoulders; “I don’t understand.  Bubble Gum what?”

The face grew impatient.  “Listen to me very carefully.  We don’t have much time.  You need to go to Bubble Gum mountain and see the Witch.  Only she can save us.”

The face fizzled into nothing and as soon as it all started, it was over.  Charlie stood silently, trying hard to figure out what had just happened.

KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK!

Charlie jumped.

“Charlie.  Have you washed your hands?”  It was Mrs Masters.  She was knocking on the door.

“One second” Charlie shouted.   She went back to washing the paint from her hands.  After washing up she picked the pink box up off the floor and stuffed into her backpack.  

As soon as her hands were clean from the paint she left the toilets and headed out to Mrs Masters.

“Come now.  We have called your parents, they will be here shortly.” She said, looking more disappointed than angry.

Chapter Three

Kulag’s Bad Feeling

Kulag returned to his ship.  It was a small ship by most standards but what it lacked in size it more than made up with agility.

Kulag the destroyer had been the captain of the Spaceship Molewarp since he was a young pup.  He had inherited it from his father after the great war.

He had never met his father, or his mother.  Kulag had grown up an orphan.  The Spaceship Molewarp was his only connection to a family he never met.

He quickly punched in a course for his home.  With the course plumbed in, he took a moment to reflect on his meeting with the Elders.

It had been a strange meeting, Kulag thought to himself.  He had been expecting the Elders to give him an order to further investigate the threat to Orth but they did not.

Instead they cut off the connection and left him without any instruction.

Kulag knew that the galaxy was under attack and that if he did not do anything then it would soon be too late.

No.  There was something wrong.  Something that the Elders were not telling him.  

He punched some more buttons and felt the rumble of the engines firing up and made a promise to himself.

“I will find out who is behind these attacks if it is the last thing I do.”

Chapter Four

The Headmistresses Office

Charlie was sitting outside the head mistress’s office waiting for her parents to arrive.  

Inside, her teacher was explaining to the headmistress what Charlie had done.  Or more accurately Kirsty had done.  

Charlie couldn’t hear much of what Mrs Masters was saying but she did pick out a few key sentences.

“I don’t understand, this is not like her” she heard Mrs Masters mutter…

“She’s normally such a good girl” was another she barely picked out…

“We will have to see what her parents have to say about it all.” Charlie shuddered when she heard that last one.

Before Charlie could give it any more thought, her parents arrived.  They didn’t look happy.  Mrs Masters saw them arrive and came out to greet them.

“I am so sorry to have called you in” she said to them.  “The head mistress is waiting for us.”  She motioned for them to follow her into the office.  “Charlie dear, you wait outside while I talk to your parents.”

Charlie looked up at her mom and dad as they brushed past her.  She let out a big gulp.  Without acknowledging her they entered  the head mistress’s office, closing the door behind them.

Her parents seemed to be in the office for ages before the door opened again and Mrs Masters called Charlie in.

Charlie slid herself off her chair and went into the office.

Her mom and dad were sitting down, across from Mrs Blackman the head mistress.  Mrs Blackman was quite an old lady with the kind of face that appeared used to frowning.

She always looked very serious.  And right now, she looked especially serious.

Charlie edged into the office.  “Take a seat please Charlie” instructed Mrs Blackman.

Charlie sat down.  Mrs Masters, her class teacher, stayed standing and fixed Charlie’s parents with an odd glare.

Both Charlie’s mom and dad looked across at her and Charlie offered them a weak smile.  

“Right,” begun Mrs Blackman in a tone that Charlie knew meant she was in trouble.  “Mrs Masters has informed me that you tipped paint all over your desk.  What do you have to say about that?” she asked.

Charlie shrugged her shoulders.  

She didn’t know what to say, she knew what she wanted to say; she wanted to tell the truth.  She wanted to tell them that Kirsty did it and that it should be her in this office having the row.  But she said nothing.

Mrs Master sighed, disappointed.  “I see.  Your teacher tells me that you are not usually a naughty girl.  Yet what you did today was very wrong.  I’ve spoken to your parents and they have assured me that they will deal with this.”  

Mrs Blackman took a look at her watch before continuing.  “As it’s nearing the end of the day, your parents will take you home now and we will see you again tomorrow.  But, I want you to know that this sort of behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated here.  Do you understand?”

Charlie wanted to cry but she managed to hold her tears in,

“I understand.”

Mrs Blackman shuffled some papers on her desk, “Okay then, that is all.  You may leave.” she motioned for Mrs Masters to open the door.  Charlies parents both stood up and motioned for Charlie to do likewise.

Charlie couldn’t believe this was happening to her.  That Kirsty had really done it this time she thought.  I’ll get her back for this one day she promised herself.

Chapter Five

Terror The Evil

Kulag made good use of his time on his way back to his home planet.

Instead of getting himself some rest like he would normally do on such a long journey, Kulag did some investigating.

First, he pulled up a map of the universe, which projected itself in holographic form.  He took a note of how many planets that he had lost contact with.

He zoomed in on the map with a gesture of his hands.  As the map expanded in front of him he could see quite clearly where the attacks had originated from.

“There you are.” he said, focusing on one particularly dark planet at the far end of the galaxy.

“Computer, identify planet number 2×4B.” he said.

A fuzzy electronic voice replied.  “Planet 2×4B is a coreless planet.  Notable for the being the last known whereabouts of the fugitive Terror the Evil.”

Kulag stiffened straight.

Terror the Evil.  He hadn’t heard that name for over twenty years.

He shuddered.  

Chapter Six

Not In Her Bedroom Anymore

In the car on the way back home both her parents sat in silence.  They hadn’t spoken a word to her since they left the head mistress’s office.  Charlie was beginning to get worried.

“You will not be going to dance class tonight” her dad said, breaking the silence.

Charlie knew better than to object so instead she sat in silence until they got home.

As soon as they got home, Charlie’s dad told her to go to her bedroom until dinner.  She took her off her coat and placed her shoes in the shoe rack.  Then, clutching her backpack she made her way upstairs to her bedroom.

When she got inside her bedroom she threw herself on her bed and let out a series of heartfelt sobs into her pillow.

When she had finished feeling sorry for herself, she sat up and wiped away her tears.  She looked outside her window as the horrible rain continued to make her day even worse.

“What a horrible, horrible day this has been” she said out loud to no one in particular.  She began to think about the dance class that she was missing out on.  

It was then that she noticed a flashing light had begun to emanate from her bag.

She had forgotten about the pink box and the weird flashing lights in the toilet.  With curiosity getting the better of her she grabbed her bag up off the floor and reached for the pink box inside.

As soon as her hand made contact with the pink box her bedroom filled with a bright light.

A bright light that temporarily blinded her.  

It took a few seconds but eventually her eyes adjusted to the brightness.  As soon as they did however, the room and everything in it began to spin around her.

At the point where her dizziness was about to make her sick, the spinning stopped.

When her eyes refocused and the light began to fade away she realized, to her astonishment that she was no longer in her bedroom.

Somehow, Charlie was somewhere else.

Chapter Seven
The Secret Planet Is Under Attack

The Spaceship Molewarp pulled into orbit around the planet Talpidae.  

Kulag was about to begin the re-entry process when an incoming message alert on his control panel caught his attention.

He reached for the voice communicator.

“This is Captain Kulag of the Spaceship Molewarp.”

The voice on the other end struggled against a soundtrack of noises.    The noises suggested a mighty battle was taking place.

“Captain Kulag.  We are under attack.”

Kulag squeezed the mouthpiece.  “Who is this?”

“This is security officer Kaylark.  You need to return to the council of Elders.  We are under attack.”

“I’m on my way.” replied Kulag.

Chapter Eight

The Jailhouse And The Bear

C harlie looked around at her new surroundings.  She definitely wasn’t in her bedroom anymore.  The room she now found herself in, to Charlie at least, looked exactly what she imagined a jail cell to look like.

The walls of her cell were the most boring shade of grey she had ever seen.  Rusty bars ran from floor to ceiling at the front.  A wall-hanging wooden bed and messy toilet completed stereotypical jailhouse vibe.

To further hit home the fact she was in a cell, there wasn’t any blankets or comforts of any kind.  There wasn’t even any toilet paper next to the toilet.

Panic was starting to creep in.  Where was she?  How did she get here?

She figured it had something to do with the pink box with the flashing lights…

At the far end of the corridor, out of sight, Charlie heard a door creak open.  Her curiosity pricked, Charlie pressed her face against the rusty steel bars.   She squeezed hard against the bars as she tried to see who had opened the door.

The sound of keys jingling keys was the next sound she heard followed by heavy footsteps.

Someone was coming.

Fear got the better of her.  She pulled herself away from the rusty steel bars and hid under the wooden bed that was hanging off the wall.

The footsteps began to get louder the closer they came.

Charlie closed her eyes in an attempt to make herself as small as she.  The footsteps got louder and louder.

And then they stopped.

Charlie held her breath.

“What are you doing here?” came a croaky voice that had more than a twinge of old about it.

Charlie said nothing and kept her eyes closed.

“I can see you, you know?” the voice added.  “How did you get in here?  In my experience, people try to escape from jails not break into them.  This is most peculiar.”

Charlie squeezed open one eye to look at the owner of the voice and as soon as she did, she wished she hadn’t.

On the other side of the steel bars stood a huge bear, a very strange looking bear.  Charlie shut her eye again and squeezed both of them tight.

“Oh blast.  I don’t have time for this.  Fine.  If you want to stay in here then that’s your decision.  I’ve got things that need my attention.  This invasion has left me very little time to indulge you so, I’ll have to bid you good day whoever you are.”  

Charlie kept her eyes closed and listened as the bear started to walk back up the corridor.  Was he leaving?

Charlie crawled from under the bed and made her way to the steel bars.  She pressed her head against them and watched as the bear limped his way back to the door at the end of the corridor.  

She didn’t want him to leave.

“Excuse me?” Charlie offered.

The bear stopped walking and turned around to face her with a look of puzzlement.

Charlie couldn’t help but notice how odd the bear looked.  As far as she could make out, the bear was half robot.  He had two robot legs, one robot arm and one side of his face was covered in a dull grey metal with a red robot eye..

The bear fixed her with a stare from its robot eye.  “Ah, it talks.  At last.”

“Where am I?” Charlie muttered.

The bear hid a slight flash of bewilderment before replying.  “You are in prison.”

Charlie gulped.  “Prison?  Why am I in prison?”

The bear shook its head.  “I don’t know.  And it’s my job to know.  You weren’t here this morning.  But here you are.  It’s most confusing”

“You mean, I’m not a prisoner here?” Charlie asked, studying the bear’s strange robotic face.

“No.  Why?  What are you guilty of?” he asked.

“Nothing.  Nothing at all.  I was in my bedroom and now I am here.” Charlie began to blurt.  “There was a pink box and a face and something about a mountain made of bubble gum.”

The bear interrupted her.  “You mean Bubblegum mountain?”

“Yes, that’s right.  Bubblegum mountain.  I need to see a Witch.”

The bear seemed intrigued.  He stepped toward her and fixed her with a steady stare.  After a few moments of awkward silence, he added “My goodness.  The likeness is incredible.  We’ve been expecting you.”

“You’ve been expecting me?  How?”

Quickly the bear shuffled his pockets for his keys.  “We don’t have much time.  This invasion has been most annoying.”

“What invasion?” Charlie asked but the bear ignored her as he fumbled for his keys.

He was muttering to himself.  “Yes, yes, yes, most annoying.  Did you know I was to pick up my new stuffing today, no of course you didn’t.  And you probably don’t care.  Blasted robots, pesky nuisances they are, freezing everything with their dangerous guns. Ah, got them.”  He pulled a set of rusty keys from his pocket and unlocked the cell door.  “Come on.  I need to take you to see the Queen, she’ll know what to do.”

Charlie was reluctant to step out of the cell and the bear noticed.  He let out a small chuckle.

“It’s not me you need to be afraid of little one.  I’m the Queen’s Royal Guard.”

Charlie parents had always told her not to trust strangers.  

The bear was growing impatient.  “We don’t have time for this I’m afraid.  We are under attack and I really should be protecting the Queen.”

“But I don’t know you.” Charlie replied, refusing to leave the cell.

The bear groaned.  “We really don’t have time for introductions.  The kingdom is being invaded and I’ve left the oven on.”

Charlie stood firm.  “I’m not going anywhere.”

The bear, despite being in a rush, understood the stance Charlie was taking.

“Okay.  Okay.  Wise, very wise.  Let me introduce myself.  I am Clarence.  Royal Guard of the Unicorn Queen.  It is my duty to protect the Queen and uphold the safety of the kingdom.”  He once again began shuffling in his pocket.  “Here” he said, taking something from his pocket and offering it to her.  

Charlie looked at the object in the bear’s hand.  It looked like a gun of some kind.

“Is that a gun?” She asked.

“Yes.  Yes.  It’s a gun.  It fires lasers.  You should find it more than useful should the need arise for you to shoot me.”

Charlie furrowed her brow.  “Why would I need to shoot you?”

“Well, hopefully you won’t.  But it is clear that you do not trust me yet.  So, in absence of the required time for me to gain your trust, this gun should at least help you feel a little safer.”  He handed her the gun.

Quickly Charlie took the gun from his outstretched hand.  Once she had it, she eyed it closely.  “How do I know it works?” She asked.

“Simple” Clarence replied.  “Try shooting something.”

Charlie looked at the gun and then pointed it at the wall behind her.

“Careful though” Clarence interjected, “It packs quite the punch for a small blaster.”

In any other circumstances Charlie wouldn’t go near a gun, let alone fire one.

But these were exceptional circumstances.  

Carefully, Charlie squeezed on the trigger…

The force of the explosion that burst from the gun threw Charlie backwards and smoke filled the cell.

Clarence cleared his throat.  “Um.  You just blew a hole in the wall.”

As the smoke cleared Charlie saw a big pile of rubble on the floor and a massive hole where the wall used to be.

“Satisfied?” Clarence asked.

Charlie thought for a second.  “Ah, yeah, I do feel safer now”

“Good.  Now let’s go and see the Queen.” Clarence replied before turning around and making his way up the corridor.

Charlie followed him as he led her out of the cell block.  She was mindful to stay a good distance behind him and keep the blaster trained on him as he led her out of the cell block.

Chapter Nine

The Elders

A long time ago, before there was any other life in the universe, there lived an ancient race of beings who travelled the galaxies for millions of years looking desperately for signs of life.

When they did not find life of any kind they gave up looking and settled on an unnamed planet at the very centre of the universe.

They continued their search via space probes, little devices that they sent out to the far reaches of the universe to scan for intelligent life.

As the centuries passed the ancient beings became fewer and fewer until there were only twelve left.
They made the decision to go into extreme hibernation, programming their computers to wake them only when signs of intelligent life had been identified.

Millions of years passed before their space probes woke them from their slumber.

With the universe springing to life all around them, the twelve remaining ancient beings made a vow to protect and offer guidance to all the new life forms.

They became known as the Elders.

Chapter Ten

The Unicorn Queen

Once they were out of the cell block, Charlie found herself in a massive courtyard.  

The courtyard was magnificent.  Black and white tiles filled the floor as far as the eye could see.  The most beautiful flowers flanked the sides of the courtyard while surrounding them were towers higher than any wall she had ever seen.

“What is this place?” Charlie asked, looking around the courtyard in amazement.

Clarence replied without looking back at her, “This is the royal courtyard.  Thank goodness the robots haven’t been here yet.  I tend to the flowers myself you know?  Planted every single one of them.  They are very tasty”

It took a few moments for Charlie to process what Clarence had said.  “Tasty?  You eat the flowers?”

Clarence stopped walking and turned around to face her.  “Yes.  Of course I eat them.  What else would I do with flowers?  Sniff them?”  He let out a small chuckle.  “You are quite strange I must say,”  he added before turning around and getting back to his stride.

I’m strange?  Charlie thought to herself, I’m not the one eating flowers.  

Clarence continued to march at a brisk pace through the courtyard and led them to the big building at the far end.  When he got to the building, he once again fumbled for the keys in his pocket and opened the huge wooden door.

“Quickly, come on” He called back.

Charlie quickened her pace and followed him, all the while keeping the blaster gun trained on him.

Once inside, Charlie took a quick moment to take in her surroundings.  

There were suits of armour and various weapons while at the very end of the room was a throne.

Sitting on the throne was a woman.  She was wearing long regal red robes, a golden crown and was holding a tall sceptre with a large pink diamond on its top.  

Charlie still had the blaster aimed at Clarence.  She stopped walking.  “Who is that up there sitting on the throne?” she asked.

Clarence stopped in his tracks.  “That there is the Unicorn Queen.  Ruler of the land of magic.”

“Is that a picture of a unicorn on her robes?” Charlie asked.

“Yes.  Yes.  All of our ruling elite are named after noble creatures.  There, on the throne is the Unicorn Queen.”  Clarence replied.  “Come now.  She is expecting you.”

Charlie approached the Queen.  The Queen looked up and stared straight at her.

Charlie had never met a Queen before.

“Is that necessary?” the Queen asked.

Charlie realized she was pointing the blaster gun at the Queen.  She lowered it letting it hang in her hand.

“That’s better.” said the Queen who then turned her focus to Clarence who was standing to attention.  “Is this the guardian?” She asked him.

“I believe so your majesty.”  He replied before adding.  “I found her in the cells.”

The Queen nodded and then addressed Charlie, “I expect you have some questions?”

Charlie thought long and hard before answering.  “Yes your majesty.  Where am I?”

“You are in the magic kingdom dear.”

Charlie nodded.  “How did I get here?” she asked.

The Queen took a moment to think before replying.  “ The Elders summoned you.”

Charlie didn’t understand.  “Summoned?  Why?  And who are the elders?”

The Queen smiled.  “For now, I can only answer the why.  The magic kingdom is under attack.  And we need your help.”

“How am I supposed to be able to help?  I’m just a kid” Charlie asked.

The Queen shook her head and smiled.  “No.  You are not just a kid.  You are a guardian.”

“A guardian?”  Charlie asked.

“Yes.  A guardian.  You are part of an ancient tradition.  Whenever our world is in danger the Elders call upon the guardians to save us.”

Charlie shrugged her shoulders.  “There must have been a big mistake.  I’m not guardian.”

“You are a guardian.  You just don’t know it yet.”

Clarence interrupted.  “Your majesty, the Elders told her to go to Bubblegum mountain.”

The Queen perked up.  “Bubblegum mountain?  They must want her to visit my sister?”

Clarence nodded.  “Yes. Yes.  The Butterfly Witch.”

She turned her attention back towards Charlie “Then that is what you must do.  I fear we don’t have much time.  The robots have already destroyed the kingdom.  It won’t be long until they have breached our defences.  Clarence, I want you to make sure that the guardian gets to Bubblegum mountain.”

Charlie interjected, “But I still have questions?”

The Queen nodded in agreement; “I know but we don’t have the time.  Get to Bubblegum mountain and I promise my sister will be able to answer any questions you have.”

A big explosion erupted at the bottom of the room and the big wooden door crashed to the floor.  

The Queen sat upright, startled.  “Right.  Clarence, take the escape tunnels and make sure she gets to my sister.  I’ll hold the robots off.”  

The Queen stood up and made her way to the front of the building where the smoke from the blast was beginning to clear.

Charlie had to squint to make out the silhouettes of the approaching robot army.  Red laser beams pierced through the smoke, one blast barely missing Charlie’s head.

Clarence shouted above all the noise, “Come now.  We must leave”

“But what about the Queen?”  Charlie didn’t want to leave the Queen, who was marching towards the carnage, behind.

“We have our orders.  We must get to Bubblegum mountain.” Clarence replied.

Charlie watched as the Queen began to fire magic bolts from her royal sceptre at the robots.  The magic bolts seemed to get their power from the big diamond at its top.

Mid-battle, the Queen turned back to face Charlie; “Go!” she yelled, “Find my sister and make this right.  You can do this, you are a guardian.”

Before Charlie could protest, a red laser beam hit the Queen in her back.

“No!” screamed Charlie.

The Queen looked at Charlie and a warm smile filled her face as her entire body began to freeze.  “Go.  save the kingdom.” she said before the effects of the freeze ray completely took over her body.

“I believe in you.”  

Charlie watched as the Queen froze before her eyes.

“Come now.  Let’s not allow the Queen’s sacrifice to be for naught.” Clarence grabbed Charlie’s arm and led her towards a hatch in the floor behind the Queen’s throne.  

“We need to get to Bubblegum mountain before they do.  We can still save the Queen.”

In no time Clarence made his way to the hatch, fumbled for his keys and proceeded to lift the hatch open.

Chapter Eleven

Monsters And Giants

Charlie and Clarence found themselves in a series of damp dark tunnels.  Clarence once again shuffled inside his pockets and pulled out a torch and turned it on.

There was an inch of dirty water blanketing the floor and thick green moss filled the sides of the tunnels.

“Come.  We need to be quick” urged Clarence.

Charlie squinted her eyes.

Even though Clarence was shining his torch ahead of them, it was still pretty dark.  

“Do you know the way out of here?” Charlie asked with a twinge of hope.

“Of course I do.  I am the Royal Guard, I know every inch of the kingdom like the back of my hand.” Clarence replied, puffing his chest out with pride.  

He began marching forward before tripping over and landing face first on the floor.  Getting himself soaked.

“This is awkward” said Charlie, smiling for the first time in ages.

Clarence picked himself up.  “Ah.  Yes.  It seems I don’t know every inch.  I didn’t know that rock was there.”  He started to laugh too.  “Okay.  Let’s try this again.”

The tunnels were a maze of gloomy dampness.  As Charlie could tell, Clarence did indeed know his way around them.  

Left turn, right turn, left turn, Charlie was getting herself dizzy.  She didn’t have the foggiest idea of where they were.  

She made sure to keep close to Clarence as he zig zagged his way through the tunnels at blistering speed.

Clarence came to an abrupt stop.

“Wait.” He commanded, motioning her to stand behind him.

“What is it?” Charlie asked.

“Stay very still.  We’ve got company.”  He nodded his head toward the distance and turned his torch off.

Now they were in almost complete darkness.

Up ahead, Charlie could make out a shadow of something quite, quite huge.

“What is that?” She whispered.

Clarence’s tone had a graveness about it which Charlie did not like at all; “A Ratigator”

“What is a Ratigator?” Charlie quizzed, not quite sure if she wanted to know the answer.

“Well.  Do you have rats where you’re from?”

“Yes.” Charlie gulped.

“And do you also have alligators?”

“Oh no.” exclaimed Charlie.

“Yep.” replied Clarence, confirming Charlie’s worst fears.  “A ratigator is rat / alligator hybrid.  Nasty little blighters.”

“What do we do now?” She asked.

“We sneak past it.  It’s in our way.  Behind it is the exit.” For the first time since she met him, Clarence almost seemed concerned.

Charlie took a big gulp.  She hated rats and although she had never seen an alligator in real life, she was pretty sure she didn’t want to.  

“Come on.  We have to keep moving.  Stay close to me and keep very quiet.  Let’s go.”  He held out his hand for her take and then inched his way towards the giant shadow of the Ratigator.

As they got nearer, Charlie could hear it breathing and a shiver run down her spine.  “Stay calm” urged Clarence with a whisper.

They got nearer and nearer to the Ratigator when…

SPLASH!

Clarence had fallen over again.  

“Blasted rocks” exclaimed Clarence.  This time, Clarence falling over didn’t seem so funny.

The sound of Clarence crashing to the floor drew the attention of the Ratigator.  It let out a big growl and started to rush toward them.

Clarence shouted an instruction to Charlie, “Use your blaster gun!”

Charlie pulled the blaster gun out and aimed it in the direction of the Ratigator.  

As the Ratigator’s approach got louder and louder Charlie hesitated.  “I can’t shoot it.” She shouted.

Clarence was still lying on the floor, “You have to.  Quick!”

But Charlie couldn’t.  “No.  It’s scared.  I won’t shoot it.”

“Then give me the blaster and I will blast it to smithereens” replied Clarence, getting back to his feet.

But Charlie had a better idea.  Instead of aiming it at the Ratigator, which was so close that Charlie could smell it, she aimed above where she assumed its head was.

She squeezed the trigger as hard as she could.

A loud crash followed the blast from the gun and the Ratigator stopped moving.

For a few moments a deafening silence partnered the darkness.

Clarence broke the darkness with his torch and trained it ahead of them where the Ratigator was.  The illumination from the torch settled on a pile of rubble.

Underneath the rubble was the prone ratigator.

After a few moments, Clarence broke the silence.

“Well, well, well” He said, impressed.  “You’ve knocked it out cold.”

Charlie had shot the roof of the tunnel.  Which had caused rocks to fall on the Ratigator’s head and render it unconscious.  

Clarence brushed himself off, “Well done.  Now, lets climb over it and get out of these horrid tunnels.”

Charlie and Clarence climbed over the rubble covering the Ratigator.  It was snoring loudly.   Carefully they made their way to the end of the tunnel.

…..

Clarence climbed out of the tunnel first and then offered his hand down to Charlie and pulled her out.

They were in a big thick dense forest with trees surrounding them as far as their eyes could see.

“Come.  We’ve got a fair bit of walking to do yet before we reach Bubblegum mountain.”  He pointed towards the distance where a huge mountain stood.

Charlie looked toward the mountain which was a rather pleasant shade of purple.  “Is that Bubblegum mountain?”

Clarence nodded yes.

“Why do they call it Bubblegum mountain?” she asked.

“Give it a second.” He motioned for her to pause, and then, “there, look!”

As she focused on the mountain she noticed that it was actually more of a volcano than a mountain.  At the very top,  a huge purple bubble squeezed itself out through the opening and floated off into the sky.

“Bubblegums.  It erupts bubblegums” added Clarence.  “Unnecessary if you ask me.  But then the Butterfly Witch makes a lot of things that puzzle me.” He added.

“Wow.” was all that Charlie could muster for a response.

ZZAPP!!!

Before she could give it any more thought, a red laser blast flew past her head.

Clarence sprung into action.  He grabbed Charlie by the arm and began running toward the distant mountain.

“They’ve found us!” he exclaimed.  Charlie looked back at where the laser blast had come from.  Sure enough, in the distance, behind the trees, she spotted hundreds of robots.

Clarence led her through the forest at breakneck speed.  Though it seemed that regardless of how fast they were running, the robot army was gaining on them.

“They are catching up to us!” yelled Charlie.

“Then run faster!” shouted Clarence.

But it was no use.  As fast as they were running, the robot army was faster.  Charlie glanced over her shoulder to gauge the distance. She shuddered as she realised that they were right behind them.  Any second now and they would be upon them.  

The clunking and clanking sounds the robots made was deafening.  The sound of their blasters firing at them was even louder.

Oh no, this is it, thought Charlie, we are not getting out of this one, she worried.

Without warning, a giant hand swooped out of nowhere.  Charlie panicked.  The giant hand scooped them up and before she knew it, she was face to face with giant.

“What’s happening now?” Charlie squealed.

Clarence looked more confused than Charlie felt and offered a shrug of his shoulders as a reply.

Without saying a word, the Giant ignored Charlie and Clarence.  Instead he gave a quick glance to the robot army.

The robot army was quite a distance below.

The Giant proceeded to stomp and stamp all over them until they were all crushed into scrap metal.

After a few moments of silence, the Giant spoke, “Robots.  Never liked robots and lately, I’ve seen too many of them.” he said, almost to himself.  

He lifted his hand so that Clarence and Charlie were equal to his face and studied them both with a quizzical eye.

“Please don’t eat us Mr. Giant.”  Charlie couldn’t stop herself from blurting.

A large grin began to form across the Giants aged face.  He was quite old.  He had wispy grey eyebrows and a long wrinkly face.

“Why would I want to eat you?” He asked.  “You don’t look very tasty”

“Giants eat people”  Charlie responded.

The Giant let out a roar of laughter.  “No we don’t.  We are not savages.  And besides, one of you is a robot bear.” he said, looking somewhat crossly at Clarence.

Clarence cleared his throat.  “I’m not a robot I’ll have you know.”

“You look like a robot to me” replied the Giant with a look of distrust, eying Clarence’s robot legs and arm.

Clarence stood firm.  “For your information, I lost my arm and legs during the great war.  I am the Royal Guard to the Unicorn Queen.”

The Giant didn’t seem interested.  “Good for you.” he replied before placing them both back down on the ground.

When she was back on the ground, Charlie looked up at the Giant who turned around and had begun to walk away.

“Thank you Mr. Giant.” She offered.

The giant stopped and turned back to face them.

“It’s Steven.” he said.

“Pardon?” replied Charlie.

“My name.  It’s not Mr. Giant.  It’s Steven.”

Charlie nodded.  “Well, thank you Steven.  You saved our lives.”

For a moment, Steven the giant looked like he was having a good think about something.  “I did, didn’t I?”

Charlie was quick to respond.  “You did.  Without you the robots would definitely have captured us, or worse, shot us.”

“So, I guess that means that you owe me a favor?” He suggested.

Clarence interrupted.  “We are very grateful for your help but alas, we are on a mission.  I have to get the guardian to Bubblegum mountain and we don’t have much time.”

The giant furrowed his brow.  “But I saved your lives.  That means that you should do something for me?”

Clarence stood firm.  “We do not have the time.  We must get to Bubblegum mountain.”

It was Charlie’s turn to interrupt.  “What can we do for you Steven?” she asked, ignoring Clarence’s objections.

“I’ve lost my little piggy.  You can help me find her.”

Clarence let out an impatient sigh.  “We don’t have time to find your pig.” he stated.

Charlie gave Clarence a dismissive glare.  Then turned her focus back to the giant, who looked quite upset.

“Of course we will help you find your little piggy.” She turned back to address Clarence.  “He saved our lives, it’s the least we can do.”

Clarence shrugged his shoulders like a spoilt child.  “Fine.  We will go and find the pig.”

Chapter Twelve

Finding The Pig

Charlie looked over at Clarence who was nursing a grumpy face.  It was quite clear he didn’t want to waste their time looking for Steven the giants pig.

“Right, where did you last see her?” asked Charlie.

“Down by the watering hole.” replied Steven.

Clarence perked up; “There are no watering holes round these parts.  You must be mistaken.”  He sneered.

Steven pulled a face that suggested that he didn’t much care for Clarence.  “Let me clarify Mr. Bear, that’s what little old Piggy calls it.  It’s less of a watering hole and more of a puddle that hasn’t evaporated.  She sure does love her puddles does my little piggy.”

Clarence sighed.  “So, we are looking for a puddle?” he asked, deadpan.

“Indeed.” came the happy response.  “Follow me” Steven added before walking away.

They made their way through the dense forest. Charlie took the time to take in how strange and exotic everything was..

For starters, the sky, instead of being blue, was a hazy shade of pink.  A nice pink, but still, not blue.  And the clouds, well, Charlie thought they looked like candy floss.  She knew they weren’t but still, that’s what they looked like.

Steven cleared his throat and aimed his attention at Clarence.

“So.  She is a guardian?” He asked.

Charlie was busy taking in all the oddities of the world around her.

Clarence stiffened up, Charlie noticed that he seemed uncomfortable.  “Pardon me?”

“Earlier.  You said you had to get the guardian to Bubblegum mountain.”

“Did I?”  Clarence was being evasive.

“Yes you did.  Now, correct me if I am wrong but we haven’t had a guardian here on Orth for many, many moons.  In fact, I thought they were all done for in the Great War.”

Charlie’s curiosity got the better of her.  “Orth?  I thought we were in the Magical Kingdom?”

Clarence responded.  “Orth is the name of our planet.  The Magical Kingdom is what we Orthenians call it.”

“I see” said Charlie.

Steven interrupted.  “So?”

“So, what?” Clarence snapped back.

“Is she a guardian?”

Clarence seemed very reluctant to answer.  Charlie replied instead of him.

“Well.  I don’t think I am.  I think there’s been a great big mistake but the Unicorn Queen said I am so perhaps I am?  To be honest with you Steven, I have no idea what a guardian is.”

Steven stopped walking.  He scratched his chin and thought for a few moments.  Then he leaned over and picked Charlie up from the floor and brought her close to his eyes to study her.  

After a couple of moments of careful inspection, “Well, I’ll be a hippos uncle.  I must say, the resemblance is remarkable.” he said before placing her back down on the floor.

Steven turned his attention back to Clarence.  He noticed he was making shushing motions for him to stop talking.  

He ignored them.  

“And there’s little old me thinking that the old guardians were no more.  Done for I figured.  The Great War was devastating, haven’t seen or heard from them since.  I thought they were all dead,”

Charlie couldn’t contain her frustration.  “What resemblance?  Why is everyone saying that?”

Clarence shook his head a began to speak in a very soft tone.  “I’m afraid that your curiosity is going to have to remain curious for the time being.  There are some questions that cannot be answered right now.  In time, I promise you young one, you will have your answers but this very moment is not that time.”

“What can you tell me?” she pleaded.

Clarence sighed.  “Too much information at this stage can be harmful.  But, I can offer some answers, not the ones you need right now answers nonetheless.”

Charlie gave him her full attention.

“You are a guardian.” he started, emphasising the word guardian and looking up towards Steven as he said it.  “You are part of a tradition that goes back centuries.  Whenever our planet is in peril, we call upon the guardians to help us.  It is an arrangement that works both ways with your world.”

“I don’t understand?” offered Charlie.

“You see.  Orth and your planet Earth occupy the same space in the universe.  Like you, we are the third planet from the Sun yet although we occupy the same space, we do not share the same dimension.”

Charlie had learned about dimensions in science class.  Something about them being theoretical.  She had a basic understanding of it.

She remembered her science teacher Mr Maxwell.  He was quite odd.  He said about the possibility of there being millions of worlds like Earth in the universe.  Something to do with vibrations.  She wished she had paid more attention.

Clarence smiled .  “Do you understand why I cannot give you the answers you seek right now?  There is too much new information that requires processing.  We need to keep our focus trained on the mission to get to Bubblegum mountain.”

“Will the Witch be able to tell me more?” Charlie asked.  Though she was loathe to admit it, it was too much information to take in right now.

“I’m sure she will.  But we have to get to her before the robot army does.”

Charlie did not like not having answers.  But she knew enough to realize that now was neither the time nor the place to press Clarence.

After a couple more minutes of trekking through the forest, Steven came to a stop.  They were at the edge of a rather large muddy puddle.

“This is where I last saw my little piggy.” He said, anxiousness creeping into his tone.

Clarence scanned the area with his robot eye.  He focused on a tree not a hundred yards away, he zoomed in to get a better look.

“Quick question?  Well, a couple actually.”  He said, keeping his gaze fixed on the tree.

“Yes?  What is it, have you found her?” Steven asked.

“I have located the individual you referred to as piggy yes, but first I have to clarify one thing.  Piggy is not a pig is she?”

Steven shook his head no.  “Of course not.  She’s a hippopotamus.  Her name is Piggy.”

Clarence nodded.  “And secondly,  when you say you lost her, you didn’t actually lose her did you?  You simply couldn’t find her.  Am I correct?”

“Same thing in my book” Steven offered.

Clarence was quick to correct him, “It’s not though is it?  In this instance, I’m guessing that you and your hippo are actually partaking in the classic game of hide and go seek.”

Steven nodded.

“How did you know that?” Charlie asked Clarence, impressed.

“Simple deduction my dear.  You see, over there in the distance, if you look, you will see a thin tree with what looks like a rather large hippopotamus in…” he zoomed in a little closer with his robot eye “… what appears to be a pink tutu, desperately trying to hide.  And, if you lend your ears to that location, you will clearly her giggling.”

“Giggling?” Charlie asked.

“Yes, giggling.”  He confirmed.  “All evidence which leads me to conclude that our new friend Steven here, hasn’t in fact lost his friend but has in fact been bested in a game of hide and go seek.”

“Ah.” Charlie understood.

“That’s cheating!” exclaimed a voice from the direction of the tree with the hippo hiding behind it.  The hippopotamus stepped out from behind the cover of the tree and started to walk towards them.

Clarence had been right, she was wearing a pink tutu and quite an ill-fitting one at that.

Steven focused his attention toward to the approaching hippo.

“I was not cheating Piggy.” He offered.  “There is nothing in the rules to say that I couldn’t get help in finding you.”

Clarence was getting annoyed.  He glared upwards at Steven.  “I cannot believe you wasted our time with a game of hide and go seek.” he said.

Before Steven could reply, Piggy the Hippo squealed a squeal of delight in the distance.

She began racing towards Clarence.

“Oh Uncle Steven!” Piggy exclaimed.  “You’ve got me a teddy!” she shouted as she pounded towards Clarence.

Clarence shot a glance toward Charlie, “Shoot it!” he shouted but Charlie ignored him and offered him an excited smile instead.

As soon as Piggy was within distance, she leapt off the ground, flung herself through the air and crashed down hard on Clarence.

They both crashed to the floor with a loud clump.

“I love it, I love it, I love it!” squealed Piggy in euphoric delight.  

Clarence didn’t know what to do.  He had a huge hippo sitting on him and giving him snuggles.

“My very own teddy, thank you Uncle Steven.  It’s what I have always wanted.  I’m going to name him, Big Ted, no, no, no, um, Teddy Eddie, no, no, no, no, no, I got it, Mr Cuddles.  That’s his name, Mr. Cuddles.”

Clarence pushed Piggy off him, picked himself off the floor and dusted himself off.  He looked furious.

“My name is Clarence and I am the Royal Guard for the…”

Piggy interrupted him.  “No, you’re name is Mr Cuddles and you are my teddy bear.”

Steven and Charlie shared an amused grin.

Clarence was getting even more angry.  “I am no one’s teddy bear.  I am Clarence.  Royal Guard to the…”

Again, Piggy cut him short, throwing herself on him and pinning him to the floor to give him snuggles.  “Ooh, you are such a cute little teddy bear.  I love you so much Mr. Cuddles.” She smooched, oblivious to his protestations.

After a couple of moments, Steven decided to save Clarence from Piggy.

“Um, Piggy.  He is not a teddy bear.  Well, he is but he’s not yours.  He’s the Queen’s teddy bear.”

Piggy stopped snuggling him and helped him get back to his feet.  “Aw, no fair.  Why does the Queen get to have a teddy but I can’t?”

Clarence was so furious he looked like his head was about to explode with anger.  “I AM NOBODY’S TEDDY BEAR!” he shouted.

“Okay, calm down Teddy.” suggested Piggy.

“Look here.  My name is Clarence and I am the Royal Guard to the Unicorn Queen.  I am not her teddy bear, nor am I anybody else’s teddy bear.” He retorted, almost spitting out each word.

Piggy looked up at Steven and tears burst from her eyes.  “I want a teddy Uncle Steven!”

Steven scooped her up in his giant hand and replied; “Oh sweetheart.  I will get you a teddy of your own one day.”

“I want one now!” she snapped.  Charlie could tell that Piggy was spoilt rotten by her giant uncle.

Before Steven could give her any more reassuring comfort, red laser beams blasted out from the trees behind them.

“Drat!”  Shouted Clarence.  “They’ve found us.  We must head for Bubblegum mountain”

Steven held Piggy as firm as he could within his hand, bent over and scooped up Charlie and Clarence.

“Unhand me you big oaf” demanded Clarence.

“It is quicker if I carry you.” Steven replied with haste before heading off toward Bubblegum mountain at breakneck speed.

As she was being carried in the giant’s hand, Charlie glanced back at the robot army which was in hot pursuit.  

“Run faster!” She found herself shouting as the horde of robots grew nearer.

Chapter Thirteen

The Frozen Giant

Steven was running as fast as he could.

Charlie looked back at the robot army and saw that as well as robots chasing them, there were vehicles too.

The vehicles looked like buses, but with one major difference.

They had bombs attached to them.  On top of the buses where catapult-like devices.

And they were hurling bombs in their direction.

One such bomb exploded above the giant’s head causing Charlie’s ears to ring.  It missed them, but only by inches.

“That was close!  Nearly blew me ears off.  Any closer and I wouldn’t be able to wear my sunglasses anymore.” squealed Steven.

As the mountain got closer and closer the bombs got nearer and nearer until one hit Steven in the back.  “I’m getting shot.  This is most annoying!”

Charlie noticed that the bomb buses had started to focus their efforts on Steven’s legs.

Due to the sheer size of him, Charlie concluded that it would take a lot more than one bomb to stop him.

Despite being in an awful amount of pain, Steven raced towards Bubblegum mountain.  

They finally made it to the foot of the mountain when Steven let out a great big sob.  “I can’t take any more!  The pain is too much.” he wailed.

Charlie looked down at Stevens legs.  They had had begun to freeze.  He had taken too many bombs to them and they were finally freezing over.

“I’m going to have to put you down” Steven shouted through the pain.  

“But that will put us right in harm’s way.” Clarence shouted over the noise of explosions.  He looked back at the robot army and pursuing bomb buses which were less than fifty yards away.

Steven was beginning to pass out through the pain, his legs were unsteady.  “I’m so sorry.” he said as he placed Clarence, Charlie and Piggy on the ground.  “I can’t take any more.  You can make it to the mountain if you run as fast as you can.  Go.”  His face filled with pain.

Clarence, Charlie and Piggy shared a doomed glance.  The robot army and bomb buses were almost upon them.

Luckily, the advancing army paid them no attention.

Steven wasn’t so lucky.  They continued to focus their attack on his legs.  

Finally when Steven had taken as many laser blasts as he could, he began to freeze over.

“I love you my little piggy” he said as his body gave up on him and froze completely.

Then the blaster fire stopped.  It was almost as if the robot army were taking a moment to appreciate their good work.

Clarence, Charlie and Piggy watched as the frozen Steven wobbled.  His ability to maintain his balance had gone. His body stiffened.

An eerie silence filled air as they watched the frozen giant fall backwards.

Clarence dragged Charlie and Piggy to a small rock formation and took cover behind it.

He knew what was about to happen.

The admiring robot army had no time to react as Steven’s frozen body cast a large shadow over them.

CRASH!!!

The loudest noise Charlie had ever heard filled the sky as Steven’s rigid body fell and crashed to the floor.

BOOM!!!  BOOM!!!  BOOM!!!

Stevens crash caused three massive explosions. Each one louder than the last.

He had landed on three separate bomb buses.

The resulting explosion completely wiped out the entire robot army.

After a few moments, Clarence, Charlie and Piggy stepped out from behind the rocks.

A long and depressing silence replaced the sounds of the devastation.

It took a while for the dust to settle.  When it did, Clarence, Charlie and Piggy found themselves standing amongst the rubble.

A field of scrap metal was all that was left of the robot army.

“Uncle Steven!” screamed Piggy with enormous heartache.  

Steven’s frozen body was lying amongst the rubble.

She pushed past Clarence and Charlie and scrambled up onto the chest of her dear Uncle Steven.

Tears of despair flew from her eyes as she sobbed her heart out, “Uncle Steven, wake up, wake up Uncle Steven.  Please don’t leave me.”

But Steven didn’t move.  His eyes remained closed, his body completely frozen.

Clarence climbed up onto Steven’s chest.  He approached Piggy, placing his hand on her shoulder.  “Come now Piggy.  There is nothing more you can do for him here.  We need to see the Witch.  She will be able to help us.”

Piggy shook her head.  “I’m not leaving him.” She replied through a stream of tears.

Charlie stepped forward.  “You can’t stay here Piggy.  There will be more robots coming.”

Piggy looked down towards Charlie.  “The Teddy said the Witch will be able to help?”  

Charlie nodded , trying to convey hope.

“Then I will wait with him until you return.” Piggy added.

Charlie could see that Piggy would not leave her beloved Uncle but she tried anyway, “But the robots?” She offered.

“I am not leaving him here all on his own.” came the determined reply.

Clarence interrupted with a clearing of his throat.  “Then we must go Guardian.” he said to Charlie, climbing down from the stricken giant’s chest.  “We need to get to the top of the mountain to see the Witch.”

Charlie turned to face the mountain.  It was really, really tall.  She wondered to herself how they would be able to climb it but she swallowed her doubts.  

No matter how hard it would be, she promised herself she would climb the mountain.

After all.

She was a guardian.

Chapter Fourteen

No Answer

Kulag had spent his life in the service of the Elders.  

He had never seen one in person.  They only ever appeared to him via holographic images.  He did not even know where the images projected from.  

The secret planet was home to many secrets.

But still, even though he knew very little about them, the Elders were the only family Kulag had ever known.

Kulag’s home planet had been destroyed in the great war.  During the battle between the Elders and the Dark Elders.

The war had been brutal.  Millions of lives were lost throughout the galaxy.

Kulag had fought alongside the guardians.  The guardians were the elite fighting unit formed by the Elders.  Summoned from different dimensions by the Elders, each planet had its own set of guardians that were to serve them only.

The guardians were trained at the academy.  Kulag was an instructor there.  He’d trained many guardians in his time but since the Great War, the need for the academy had waned.  The universe, his universe, had seen a level of peace not seen before so the guardian program had been discontinued.

The Elders had been firm in their decision.  No more guardians.  The universe was to protect itself.

Kulag had always stressed the need to keep the academy open.  He fought to recruit new guardians in the event that war ever returned but the Elders had refused.

It was not his place to question the wisdom of the Elders.  Deep down he suspected that there was more to the Great War’s origins than he was aware of.  That somehow the Guardian program was responsible?

Still.  He wondered about this new threat.  Would things have gotten so out of hand if there were guardians trained and ready to protect them?

In the viewscreen, the secret planet began to come into focus.  Kulag pulled the communicator from its holder.

“This is Captain Kulag of the Spaceship Molewarp requesting landing.”

Other than fuzzy static, there was no reply.  

Kulag tried again.  “This is Captain Kulag of the Spaceship Molewarp. Requesting landing.”

Again, no reply.

Kulag closed his eyes.  This was bad.  He tapped a few buttons on his control console.

“Manual override activated.”  Spoke the metallic voice of the onboard computer.  

Kulag braced himself.  He was going to have to land his ship manually.  

Chapter Fifteen

Not Quite A Witch

Charlie had a more determined sense of focus as she gazed up at Bubblegum mountain.  Fear no longer had a hold on her.  

Behind them; Steven’s frozen body was being tended to by his faithful niece.  Her sobs ringing echoes all around them.

“Let’s do this.” commanded Charlie as she took her first steps toward the mountain.

As soon as she laid a foot on the mountain Charlie could see why it was called Bubblegum mountain.  It was actually made of bubblegum.  It was gooey, sticky and not without a certain sponginess.

“It is actually made of Bubblegum”  Charlie remarked, prodding the surface with her hand.

Clarence grunted.  “Yes.  A most useless waste of time and resources if you ask me.”

Charlie narrowed her eyes.  “What do you mean?” she asked.

Clarence was having difficulty in traversing the gummy terrain.  His robot legs offering him little in the way of flexibility.  “The Butterfly Witch occupies her talents in ways that continue to confound me.  A mountain made of bubblegum?  I mean, why would anyone bother?”

Charlie shrugged her shoulders.

….

It was an exhausting climb.  The sponginess of the mountain face sapped their energy with every step.  

“It’s so sticky” Charlie called back to Clarence, who was quite the distance behind her.  

“I’ve always hated bubblegum.” muttered Clarence in response, struggling to catch his breath.

Charlie found the mountain made of bubblegum fascinating.  It seemed, to her at least, that they reached the plateau in no time.

She climbed up onto the plateau and looked up at the summit.

“There.  We’re here.” Charlie said with a degree of satisfaction.

At the far end of the plateau, no more than a couple of hundred feet away, Charlie spotted a rather large dome.

The dome covered quite a large area.

Heavy breathing and clanky clunking signaled that Clarence had finally dragged himself up on the plateau.  “Ah thank goodness.  We’re here.  I must admit, that’s taken it out me.  I’m going to need a few moments to catch my breath.” Clarence coughed, struggling to stand up straight after the difficult climb.

“Let’s see if she is home?” She added, barely waiting for Clarence to get control of his heavy breathing.  She raced to the front of the dome while Clarence gave his best efforts to catch up with her and his breath.

They finally got to the dome.  The dome appeared to be built out of solid chrome steel.  It had no edges, no windows and no doors.

“Where are the doors?” Charlie asked, feeling the smooth surface of the dome.

Clarence shook his head.  “I don’t know.”

“Then how do we get inside?”

Again, all Clarence could offer up a was a shake of his head.

Charlie was about to suggest that they check the back of the dome for a door when an entryway slid open in front of them.  It was a space wide enough for both of them to fit through.

“Come.  Enter” a soothing voice emanated from within the opening.

Charlie shot Clarence a tentative glance before entering the dome.

Once inside the dome, Charlie looked around.  She took a quick moment to take in her strange new surroundings.  

It didn’t look like the home of a Witch.  In fact, it kind of reminded her of her own home.  

It had a very homely vibe.  At the far end was a living space, decorated much like her own living room back home.  There was a comfy looking blue sofa, a dining table and various other creature comforts.  Happy pictures curved along the walls while a circle of pink fluffy carpet formed the base.

It was not what Charlie was expecting.  

In the very middle of the dome Charlie spotted something a little more expected.  A large black cauldron stood bubbling away with froth spitting out its sides.  A few yards to the side of the cauldron, a huge rack of weapons offered a stark contradiction to the homely vibe.

“Impressed?”

Charlie jumped.  She hadn’t noticed the Butterfly Witch.  

The Butterfly Witch laughed.  “Sorry.  I didn’t mean to startle you.”

Charlie focused on the Butterfly Witch.  Like the interior of the dome, the Butterfly Witch did not look like what Charlie was expecting.

Charlie had a very specific idea of what a Witch should look like.  They should be old, sport a long pointed nose and wear a tall black hat.  They should have thick black hair, which should at least be shoulder length and green skin.

Well, something along those lines.

The Witch which Charlie was looking at had none of those features.  She wasn’t old.  Her nose was of normal proportions.  She wore a rather fashionable cream beanie hat and her skin was not green.

Although she had shoulder length hair, it was not black, it was blonde.

And she was young.  About the same age as her mom.

She was beautiful.

Not at all Witch-like.  

The Witch could see the look of confusion in Charlie’s face.

“I see I am not what you were expecting Charlie Lane?” she said in the most soothing voice Charlie had ever heard.

Charlie was taken aback.  “You know my name?”

The Witch smiled.  “Yes.  I know quite a lot about you.  I know this is your first time on Orth and I also know that you have many questions.”  

Clarence interrupted, “Then you will know we have been sent by the Unicorn Queen.”

“I do indeed.” She replied.  She shot Clarence a stare that suggested she did not appreciate at his interruption.  “Do you have the box?” She asked.

“How do you know about the box?” Charlie asked.  

Again, the Witch offered a warm smile; “You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t have the box.”

Charlie pulled the box from out of her backpack and offered it to her.  “What is it?” she asked.

The Witch took it from her and studied it; “This?  This is what the Elders use to summon guardians to Orth.  It is very powerful and with it, we can put a stop to this invasion”

A million questions raced through Charlie’s brain.  “Who are the Elders?” she led with.

“The Elders?  That’s a question no one has a definitive answer to.” replied the Witch, “If I had to put a label on them, I’d say they were, how do I put this?  Overseers.  They oversee the galaxy…”

Once again, Clarence offered an interruption.  “With all due respect, we don’t have the time for history lessons…”

The Witch shot him a narrow stare.  “Royal Guard, we have pulled the guardian from her world.  The very fact that she has completed her mission has afforded her the luxury of some answers don’t you think?”

Clarence nodded in agreement.

“So, if you do not mind, I will do my best to ensure that the guardian satisfies as much of her curiosity as is possible.”

She turned her attention back to Charlie.  “Go ahead child, ask your questions.”

Charlie took a moment to think of what answers she should give priority to.  She finally settled on, “Who is causing this invasion?  Who are those horrible robots working for?”

Clarence stiffened.  He too did not know who was behind this invasion.

“Our intelligence suggests an individual known as Terror the Evil.”

Charlie gulped.  “Terror the Evil?  What does he want?”  She did not like the sound of him.

The Witch sighed, “We do not know.  His reasons are unclear to me.  His methods however, are very effective.” The Witch was more than a little concerned.

“It has all been very sudden.  One by one he has been invading our surrounding planets. It was only a matter of time before he came to Orth.  But, luckily for us, the Elders foresaw this invasion and brought you here in the nick of time.  This box…” she held the pink box up.

“This is very important.  It has enough power within it to construct a forcefield.  We will be able to cover the entire planet and protect ourselves against his forces.  It will stop anyone or anything trying to enter our atmosphere.”

“But why did the Elders need me, couldn’t they have given the box to Clarence to deliver?”  Charlie asked.

“It is not as simple as that.  You see, the box only works when in the presence of a guardian.  Without you close to it, the box is nothing more than a useless box.”

“I don’t understand?  Why me?  I am not a guardian despite what the Unicorn Queen says.  I’m a kid.”  Charlie could not contain the fear in her voice.

“There is so much for you to learn young guardian and so little time right now to explain everything.  The Elders do not make mistakes, that you have the summoning device is proof enough that you are a guardian.  I know this must be scary for you.  But I need you to believe me when I say that you are a guardian.  I only wish that the circumstances of your summoning were more traditional.”

Charlie shrugged.  She didn’t know how to respond.

“But right now we have to activate the forcefield and get you home.  Once the forcefield is up, you will not be able to return to your planet.  Time is against us.”  The Butterfly Witch took the summoning device from Charlie.

BOOM!  BOOM!! BOOM!!!

Outside the dome, the sounds of explosion interrupted them.

“It seems we have much less time that I thought.” The Butterfly Witch added with an amused smile.  

Clarence stood to attention.  “What can we do?”

The Witch smiled, “I’m glad you asked.  Here…”

She moved towards the rack of weapons and lifted two identical devices and passed one each to Charlie and Clarence.

“Take these and get to the summit of the mountain.” She instructed.

Clarence eyed the weapon in his hands. “What are these?”

“Bubble blowers.  Very powerful.” came the response.

“Bubble blowers?” Clarence grunted.

“Don’t be fooled by their name.  They are actually very powerful air displacers.”  The Witch replied.

Clarence tutted.  “Bubble blowers…” he mumbled to himself.  “I will never get used to your quirks…”

“You need to go to the summit and…”

Clarence interrupted her with a wave of her hand.  “I understand.”

“Then go, you can use the exit at the back. The robots seem to be concentrating all their efforts on the front.  You should be able to get to the top of the mountain without much trouble.”

Clarence shot a glance at Charlie.  “Let’s go guardian.  Let’s buy the Witch the time she needs to construct the forcefield.”

The Witch focused her concentration on the cauldron as Clarence made his way to the back of the dome.

An opening appeared.  

Charlie matched his stride and followed him through the exit.

Chapter Sixteen
The Home Stretch

It didn’t take long for Charlie and Clarence to reach the summit of the volcano.  The Witch had been right.  The attacking robot army directed their efforts on trying to demolish the dome.  The paid no attention to anything going on behind it.

They had managed to summit the volcano without any bother.

At the top of of the volcano, Clarence made sure Charlie didn’t get too close to the edge.

The vent of the volcano was huge, Charlie estimated that it must be the size of at least two football pitches.

“Right then, guardian.” Clarence interrupted her gazing and had begun to pull both guns from over his shoulder.  “We have to wait for a bubble to squeeze through.”

“What then?” Charlie asked, holding the gun-shaped bubble blower in both her hands.

Clarence kept his gaze fixed on the vent, “Once the bubble releases, we blow it, right above where the robots are.  Then, I will need you to shoot the bubble with your blaster gun.  You best ready it.”

Charlie nodded.  She pulled the blaster from her backpack and strapped it over her shoulder.  Then she placed her backpack on the floor by her feet.

As Clarence was keeping his focus on the vent, Charlie took a moment to spy on the carnage below.  Charlie spotted hundreds of robots attacking the dome.  

“Here we go.”  Interrupted Clarence as the vent to the volcano filled with a gooey substance.

Charlie watched as the volcano proceeded to blow out an enormous bubble.  She stood in awe as the bubble got bigger and bigger as the force from the volcano began to push it skyward.

“Get ready guardian” commanded Clarence.

He readied his bubble blower and aimed it at the growing bubble.  “We will only have one chance at this.”

Charlie clutched her bubble blower.  Likewise, she readied hers at the bubble, which looked like it was almost ready.

The bubble erupted from the vent and began to float towards the sky.

“Now!” shouted Clarence, turning his bubble blower onto full blast.

Charlie did the same and soon, a mighty whooshing bellowed from their bubble guns.

“It’s working, it’s working!” Charlie exclaimed, watching as the bubbles trajectory had changed from vertical to horizontal.

“Stay focused guardian.  It’s not over yet.” replied Clarence over the deafening whoosh.

Charlie nodded.  This was not the time for celebration.

“When I give the word, drop your bubble gun and shoot the bubble with your blaster.  Do you understand?”

“I understand!” Charlie shouted back, not sure if Clarence could hear her.

“Okay, on three.” Clarence commanded, forcibly directing the giant bubble on his own.  “One, Two…Three!”

She dropped the bubble gun to the floor, pulled the blaster from her shoulder and aimed it at the bubble.

On three Charlie aimed at the bubble and pulled down hard on the trigger.

POP!

Success!  

Charlie fired the perfect shot. The once mighty bubble flattened out and began its floppy descent to the ground below.

Clarence turned his bubble blower off and watched as the flat body of the ex-bubble cast an ever-growing shadow over the robots below.

After a couple of seconds the floaty mass of goo landed on the robot army, covering them all in a gooey blanket.

Clarence flipped the bubble blower over his shoulder, “Good work guardian.  That should keep them blasted robots occupied.  Now, let’s get back to the Witch.  With any luck we will have bought her the time she needed.”

Charlie picked up her backpack and placed the blaster inside.   Then, she grabbed the bubble blower off the floor and slung it over her shoulder.  She raced to catch up to Clarence who had already begun making his way back to the Witch.

Chapter Seventeen

Goodbye For Now

When they got back down to the plateau, the back door to the dome slid open.

Inside, the Witch was waiting for them, standing over the cauldron.  A large smile filling her face.

“I knew you had it in you both.” She said, not even trying to hide her pride.

Clarence spoke first, “The credit lies with the guardian.” His chest puffed out triumphantly.

He turned his attention to Charlie, “She exceeded all my expectations.”

“Did you manage to get the forcefield ready?” Charlie asked, ignoring the praise.

“I did young guardian.” The Witch replied.

A twinge of sadness overcame Charlie, “So that means, I’m going home?”

The Witch nodded .  “Yes.”

Charlie chewed on her lip, “Will I ever see you again?” she asked, directing the question at both of them.

“I’m sure our paths will cross again Charlie Lane.”  offered the Witch.

“When?”

“When the Elders call to you.  It seems dark times are upon us.  I’m sure the Elders will have great need for a guardian.” Came the soft reassuring reply.

Charlie thought long and hard before posing her next question.  “But how will I get back here?  You have the pink box?”

The Witch smiled.  “I have a pink box.  This is not the only summoning device the Elders have at their disposal.  You are a guardian now Charlie Lane.  The Elders have more than one summoning device.”

Charlie wasn’t satisfied with the Witch’s answers but she realised that for now, they would have to do.

Clarence stepped forward.  “Guardian.  I would like to say what an honour it has been to serve with you.”

Charlie eyed him.  If she didn’t know better, she could have sworn that his good eye was beginning to well up with tears.  She racked her brain to think of something to reply with but decided against using words.

Instead, she gave him the biggest hug she could.

Clarence smiled as a tear ran down his cheek and with his good hand, patted her on her back.

“An absolute honour…” he muttered, more to himself than anyone else.

Charlie sunk into him and squeezed him as tight as she could, not wanting to let go.

Uncomfortable with the show of emotion, Clarence broke himself free from the hug.

The Witch smiled.

“So what now?”  Charlie asked.

“Now, we have to send you home.  I cannot activate the forcefield until I have sent you home guardian.” The Witch replied, stepping away from the cauldron and heading towards the rack of guns.

She picked up a small silver square one and walked back to where Charlie was standing.  “This rather snazzy device…” she said, holding the square gun up for Charlie to see “…is a bubble transporter.”

“That’s how I am getting home?” asked Charlie.

“Exactly.  This device blows bubbles around any object I want to send somewhere.  I have already programmed it for Earth.”

“So this is it?”  Charlie asked, knowing the answer would be yes.

The Witch nodded.  “All you have to do is stand still and let the bubble surround you.  Don’t worry, it is safe.”

The Witch flicked a sWitch and a purple bubble begun sprouting from its nozzle.  

Soon enough, Charlie was completely encapsulated within the bubble.  She could hear no sounds outside.

She watched both Clarence and the Witch mouth goodbyes,

And then she watched as the room around her faded into black.

THE END.

Prologue

Kulag was concerned.  He had arrived on the secret planet hours ago.  Actually, he had long since passed concerned, concerned seem like a lifetime ago, now he was in full on panic mode.

The Elders had gone.

Kulag was standing at the altar of the Elders.  Usually, there would be six large holographic images of their aged faces filling the room.

But there was nothing.

“This is not good.  Not good at all” he muttered to himself.  He approached a control panel at the foot of the altar and pushed down hard on some buttons.

It wasn’t that the Elders had gone that had Kulag worried.  Although their disappearance was giving him a major headache.

What was giving him goosebumps was the fact that the entire planet was devoid of any life whatsoever.

EVERYONE HAD GONE.


The Guardian Of Orth: Book One Of The Elder War

An ancient evil has returned and is wreaking havoc throughout the Ruby Galaxy. The Elders have gone missing. A guardian has been summoned. Since the dawn of mankind, Earth has sent its mightiest heroes; the Guardians, to save the Ruby Galaxy whenever it faces danger. 7-year-old Charlie Lane has been summoned. She is not ready. The adventure will take her all across the Ruby Galaxy where she will meet giants, mechanical bears, unicorn queens, butterfly witches, dancing hippos and deadly robots while a sinister universe-spanning plot unravels around her.

  • ISBN: 9781370339631
  • Author: Dean Griffiths
  • Published: 2017-07-25 10:20:08
  • Words: 13682
The Guardian Of Orth: Book One Of The Elder War The Guardian Of Orth: Book One Of The Elder War