is the first part of the chronicles of Silver Dwelling. It touches upon
the vast web of structures that comprise the world of the Silver Tree and
its outer lying lands. Herein, this book follows the exploits and
adventures of a group of young people, who are inexorably drawn through
into a world so greatly different from our own. A mysterious world full of
light and shadows, where chance and circumstance are the rule and logic
and rationality the exception. Lillian, James and the others, under the
stewardship of the Lady Greystar, are forced to join the game of the Great
Hall, whereupon they undertake a task that leads them through many rooms
and lands in search of their goal. This story is about discovery, finding
out what lies beyond the door or the many doors, lands, corridors and
realms which are found within. To open this book is to open the first
door, for it provides a glimpse or 'Window on Silver Dwelling'.
whilst out exploring with a dear friend Rose, we chanced upon the derelict
shell of an old country manor. This magnificent skeleton of a building
with its moat, gaunt masonry and high wooden tower was ripe for
exploration. inside we found a maze of rooms and passages. Thus Ailsworth
Manor was born. Many years later I returned via a dream, during which a
group of young people came across an old house, a light of many colours
(which I took to be a window), and a doorway through into another world.
In the dream one of the children disappeared and the others decided to go
in search of their friend. Now I had the beginnings of a story. A world of
great mystery unfurled, growing by the day as further ideas came. Soon I
was heavy withy the burden of a huge monstrous world that had gathered
itself from nowhere and come knocking at my door. Here then, is the first
part of a long adventure, and the many other parts which are looming in
the distance are ever increasing, hidden as they are behind another door
waiting patiently to be opened. Who amongst you would dare to open such a
Bridge of Fire
Window on Silver
A Shadow before the Sun
silence unfurled itself seductively over the valley. In one single wave it swept
in from the north and like the approach of night stole away the song of the
silent!' It seemed to whisper, as it settled like the early morning mist
over the water meadows of Wilkes land. All was listless, transfixed by a
shroud of suspicion.
A dazzling blue flash appeared from no where. It
pierced the silence in momentary distraction. A single blue bird dared to
break the tension, cast before the shadow of an eclipse. The sun winked
slowly. The vale of darkness lifted as a wall of light crossed the valley.
The day was restored.
Many voices broke the silence and the birds once again
struck up their chatter. It seemed as if half of the town of Ailsworth had
come out to witness the transient eclipse of the sun.
"That was weird," said Richard.
"Did you see that bird!" shouted Alister,
"It was a kingfisher I think."
"No it wasn't!" Stated Lillian sharply.
"There was no sign of any orange colouring at all."
She was invariably right, for she was more intelligent
that the others. She was taller for a start which always gave rise to a
more authoritative position, and even though she had a pale complexion,
she somehow shone out as being the natural leader.
She had long black hair and round glasses and by looks alone would have
ranked high in intelligence, for she had the appearance of a chief
librarian. The sharp retort against Alister's statement about the
kingfisher did not go down very well at all.
"Well it looked like a kingfisher to me," he
Alister was a more robust character given to adventure
and risk taking. The others, although they respected Lillian for her
intelligence, had a marked preference to follow Alister for he was mad and
good fun to be with.
"I thought it was quite frightening," said
"Don't be daft!" Said Richard, to his fair
haired sister. They were all getting very ratty since it was drawing
toward the end of the summer holidays.
"Do we have to argue?" Said Sarah, who wasn't
as forthright as Lillian, but could still pack a good punch, especially
where her brother was concerned.
The fifth member of the group was James. He said
nothing, but stood as ever, silent and thinking. He was smaller than the
others and had about him an air of mystery.
"Well I didn't think much to the eclipse,"
said Richard. "What shall we do now?"
"We've got to go," replied Sarah to her
brother. She tugged at his arm.
"Get off!" He said, but reluctantly he
followed. "See you lot later," he added, after Sarah had said
goodbye to Lillian, Alister and James.
"What did you think to the eclipse Lillian?"
inquired James, who suddenly perked up.
"It was alright I suppose," she replied,
"I had this strange feeling that something wasn't right, especially
about that bird."
"Do you mean my kingfisher?" Alister remarked,
as he walked off toward the river. Lillian glared at him, but he turned
his back on her.
"I had that feeling too!" Said James, pleased
that he wasn't the odd one out as he had been on so many occasions.
"As for the bird it had something to do with it, of that I am
"Well it certainly wasn't a kingfisher," said
Lillian. "I wonder where he's going?" she said, referring to
Alister. A while later they followed.
passed, the stillness had long since gone for a slight wind tussled with
the auburn hair's on Alister's head.
"Cor! Did you see that?" he exclaimed.
"What was it?" questioned James.
"Shut up you two or he'll see us," commanded
Lillian, as the three of them nestled behind an ornamental bush in the
"Why are we hiding behind this bush anyway?"
"We're spying on Smelly Rawlins," replied
"I do wish you'd be quiet. What's happened to the
others?" Lillian was becoming quite impatient.
"Crikey there it is again!" Exclaimed
"What!" asked James again.
"The kingfisher of course."
A small dazzling blue bird shot past and landed amidst
a group of sparrows and starlings.
"I told you it's not a kingfisher," said
"What is it then?" questioned Alister.
"I- I'm not sure, I've never seen the likes of one
before," replied Lillian.
"It's a special bird, a royal bluebird," said
"What are you talking about? There's no so
thing!" Said Lillian.
"There must be." said Alister. "There
"Hey you guys!" There came a voice from
behind, it was Richard and Sarah.
"Shshsh!" Lillian silenced their hasty
"What are you doing?" Whispered Sarah,
creeping up to the others behind the bush.
"Where have you been?" Asked Lillian.
"Oh, we had to help mum with the crusty old
shopping," said Richard.
"We've seen that bird again," said James.
"What the kingfisher?" inquired Richard.
"There you are," said Alister, "he
agrees with me."
"It's a Royal Bluebird," replied James.
There was no challenge this time from Lillian. She was
more preoccupied with what was going on through the bush, besides she
didn't know what the bird was, even if it wasn't a kingfisher.
"Are you sure it's not a kingfisher?"
"Shush!" Hushed Lillian. "He's getting
something out of his bag."
"Who?" asked Sarah.
"Smelly Rawlins," said Alister.
Smelly Rawlins as they called him, was an elderly
vagrant who frequented the streets and park of their home town of
Ailsworth. He was quite an amiable chap really and had been around
for some time. He had a house up on Walpole Street, that was just as
dilapidated as he was. It was only during the bad days of winter that he
was ever to be found there. As their nickname for him suggested he was
somewhat dirty and his clothes smelt decidedly stale and fusty.
"Ugh!" Said Alister, "Take a look at
They peered gingerly through the bush to see the tramp
poised on the edge of a park bench. He stuffed a revolting looking
sandwich into his mouth. Clustered about his feet was a small flock of
birds, chiefly sparrows and starlings, though there were several
chaffinches and a robin that scouted the periphery. The tramp pulled a
piece off the sandwich he was eating and threw it to the birds. There was
an immediate squabble during which several of the brave sparrows took on
the starlings, but in the end it was the robin that came out the victor.
Smelly Rawlins continued to stuff the sandwiches into
his mouth. His chin was covered in whiskers and dirt. his hands were red
with cold though for the most part they were covered with what
looked like a pair of moth eaten mittens, though they could have been
holey gloves with the fingers worn out since there were several long
stringy bits hanging off the end. One of these was taken in with the
sandwich and lodged itself in the tramp's teeth. He yanked it out and
re-stuffed his mouth.
"Yuk!" Said Richard.
"Why don't you shut up!" Said Lillian.
"Look!" Exclaimed James.
As they watched the bluebird appeared. It flew down and
settled on the tramp's lap pecking at the crumbs that had fallen from the
worn out paper bag.
"Hello littl'un! You're a bright one then,"
said the tramp.
The bird looked up for a second, then down again at the
crumbs which it devoured furiously. It was far from timid, but then again,
it did seem very hungry. It looked up again, and this time it began to
sing. For one brief moment the other birds became silent, as if, like the
tramp, they were transfixed by the song. It seemed as though the bird had
something to say, some urgent message to relay. Fast and furious came the
notes of its song.
"Eldirian!" The tramp found himself saying.
He broke off a piece of bread and gave it to the bird.
"What did he say?" Questioned Alister.
"Stop pushing!" Came Lillian's cross reply.
"I didn't hear what he said!" Insisted
Alister, moving closer to the others. By way of an accident or mischievous
purpose, they suddenly found themselves in a heap on the floor, totally
exposed and accordingly embarrassed. Smelly Rawlins shot up off of the
seat. The bluebird amidst the other birds, took to the air.
"Gawd stone the crows!" Said the tramp, at
the sudden appearance of five children.
"We're so sorry!" Lillian found herself
apologising. "We didn't mean to disturb you."
"Never mind eh!" Replied Smelly Rawlins. He
was a little shocked, but his kindly nature soon forgave them. "What
are you lot up to then?" He said.
Swiftly, James replied,
"We were fascinated by that bluebird."
"Oh yeah that's a real beauty that one, it seems
to have gorn now."
"Do you know what it was?" Asked Lillian.
"It was a royal bluebird was that, ain't seen one
of them for a long time," came the reply.
"I told you it was a Royal Bluebird," said
The others seemed quite astounded at his sudden
"How did you know what it was?" Questioned
"I don't know it just came to me this morning,
when we saw it before the eclipse." Said James.
The others found this all quite unbelievable.
"Excuse me sir!" Said James. "Have you
ever seen a Royal Bluebird before?"
"Oh yeah, but a long time since, but never again
mind, not never again. Not since I went to that 'ouse all them years ago.
Not till now that is," said the vagrant, with a touch of mystery
about his voice, just enough to render the listeners curious.
"And!--- Would you mind if we asked you what house
you refer to?" Questioned Lillian, as if she was some great
"The 'ouse, oh I shouldn't fink it's there any
more, ain't been up that way for a long time."
"Yes! But where is it?" Asked Richard, who's
curiosity had got the better of him.
"That err! Whatya call it? err manor place,
Ailswurf manor, that's it Ailswurf manor. I remember now there's somefink
funny about that place; somefink not quite right."
"What do you mean?" Said Lillian.
"There's ghosts and that up there, funny fings
that ain't quite right, know what I mean? I ain't going up there any more,
no way! Not even for that little bird, not me!" Said the tramp. There
was much fear in his voice.
"What's the bird got to do with it?" Asked
James, who seemed most concerned about the whole affair.
"That's where it comes from, up there in the old
park, but I ain't going I tell ya. I'm stayin 'ere wiv me sanwichis."
"What's he on about?" Whispered Alister to
"Search me!" Came the reply.
"Where is this old park then?" Asked Lillian.
"Up there! Beyond the river and the woods, but I
ain't going, I'm off," said Smelly Rawlins, quite upset about the
mere thought of the park and the mysterious manor.
"He's spaced out," said Alister.
"He's made it all up any fool can see that,"
"Oh he's alright," said Sarah, who up until
now had remained silent.
"Well brains! What do you think?" Said
Alister to Lillian.
"I don't know. I could all be lies I
suppose," she replied.
"No it's not! What about the bluebird?" Said
"Yes we can't deny the existence of the bluebird,
but the house is another thing altogether," said Lillian.
"It must be there," said James.
"Who says we find out?" Said Lillian, with
"I'm not going to look for some creepy old
house," said Sarah.
"Oh come on, don't be such a wimp Sarah,
don't let the side down," said Lillian.
"I'm all for it," said Alister, "It
should be good fun."
"It probably doesn't even exist," said
"Well let's find out shall we!" Lillian put
her arm around her friend.
A wave of excitement seemed to have taken them by
surprise. A moment ago they were merely spying on an old tramp, now they
thought they had stumbled onto something mysterious. Lillian led the way
down toward the river. Alister and Richard rushed after her. Sarah after
much reluctance followed suit. James for one brief moment stood silent,
searching skyward for the bluebird. Then at last he saw it and heard its
song, 'Eldirian' it seemed to sing. James was sure the bird wanted the
children to follow it. Like an electric dart it shot off toward the river,
and James, running faster than he had done before, followed on.
Chapter 2 Out of the Window
knew exactly where best to cross the river. A little further down by the
old abbey ruins the river struck a wide bend, thereafter it tumbled over a
series of shallow falls, there were plenty of stepping stones that spanned
the shallow waters.
"Where do we go now?" Asked Richard.
"Up over the heath," said Alister.
"Beyond lies the old beech wood, which takes you up to Hail lane. The
house must lie beyond the road on the oldest side of the chase."
"Yes that must be it," added Lillian, who for
once seemed to agree with the boys.
"Come on then!" She said, as she leapt off
through the birch trees.
For a while they skirted an old peat bog, that nestled
in the crook between the rocky slopes to the north and the more gentle
rise to the south. It was to the south that they effected their exit from
the hollow. Once beyond they rose to meet the beech wood. Great trees
spread like a net above them all but obscuring the daylight. Mighty and
ancient they seemed to the travellers who so carelessly brushed passed
their silver green trunks. There was nothing growing beneath the canopy;
underfoot was dry and dusty, lacerated leaves from last season lingered in
foaming blankets. They rushed on, driven by a sudden urgency. Then there
was a cry from behind.
"Argh my foot!" Whined Sarah.
She had tripped over one of the concealed roots of the
"Stop!" Commanded Lillian, coming to a halt
in order to assist her fallen friend.
The boys came to a rest. James, bringing up the rear,
came bounding past, he didn't stop.
"The bluebird!" he shrieked, pointing as he
ran at the blue dart that preceded him, streaking through the boughs of
the majestic palisade of trees.
"Come on!" His voice petered out into the
"Let's go!" Shouted Alister, rushing off
after him with Richard close on his heels.
"Wait!" Screamed Lillian, but the boys
"Get up Sarah, we must follow them or we'll get
The beech wood seemed to go on forever, but eventually
they came to a halt at the rim of a deep dyke that was full of mouldy
leaves creating a damp skin of leathery putrescence, which sat over the
mud like the crust on a cold rice pudding.
"Halt!" Ordered Alister, "gungey
"Don't think we can jump it," added Richard.
"Look! a bridge," shouted James, pointing to
an old mattress that lay across the soft carpet a little further down the
ditch. The three of them rushed off toward the mattress as the girls at
last caught them up. Once on the other side, the woods became denser and
clustered with young ash trees that grew like a thicket along the road's
edge. They had at last come to Hail lane. A single car roared passed. They
crossed the road and nervously surveyed the opposite side.
"Oh no!" Said Richard in dismay.
Before them lay a high wall, which snaked relentlessly
along the whole distance of the road.
"That's it," said Lillian. "The park
wall, but we'll never get over that."
"There's got to be a way in," said James.
Several young ash trees grew in clusters along the base
of the wall in a ditch. Alister attempted to climb them, but it wasn't
long before the feeble stems gave way.
"The bluebird!" Said James, "Look!"
A little way along the wall to the south the dazzling
bluebird had settled. A small window was set in the crusty red brickwork.
They clambered over to it.
"Blast!" Said Alister, as they realised that
the window was barred by iron.
Through the grid they could see a mass of rambling
rhododendrons amidst tall chestnut trees.
"How will we get in?" Asked Sarah.
James began to tug at the iron grid, which so
stubbornly denied them entrance. A pile of red dust fell upon his shoes as
the grid shifted toward him.
"Hey it moved," he said.
"Come on! Pull!" Commanded Alister.
They all tugged at the grid. For a while it rested,
though its framework was well worn and rusty. It stood firm as it had done
for many years, then as they pitted strength and determination
against it, it sighed a grinding sigh of relief and finally yielded. They
fell in a heap at the bottom of the ditch.
"We've done it!" Shouted Lillian.
"Let's go!" Shouted Alister, clambering up to
be first through the window.
In through the window they clambered and found
themselves in the mysterious park.
For some while they wandered eastward toward what they
hoped would be the manor.
"Are we quite sure about this?" Said Sarah.
"Remember what Smelly Rawlins said about the ghosts, if it's going to
be haunted then I'm not going in."
"We don't have to go in Sarah, we'll just have a
look, then we'll come back," said Richard.
"I'm going in," said Alister fearlessly.
"So am I," added Lillian.
"If the bluebird goes then so shall I," said
James. "Look! There it is."
The small brilliant blue bird shot before them as they
hastened toward columns of tall conifers. On the other side they bounded
through knotted fields of grass and came across an old well.
"Look at this old well," said Richard.
"And here is a rose bush," added Sarah,
"This must be part of the old garden."
"That means we must be near the building,"
"Come on!" James bounded forth once again.
They picked up speed and rushed headlong around another
row of tall conifers.
"Crikey!" Shouted Alister, as they all came
to a sudden halt.
There, towering in front of them, as stark as a pile of
old bones, was the gaunt shadow of a building, Ailsworth Manor.
Its grey green limestone walls had remained stalwart
over many years. A barrier of young trees had grown up in front of the
house, as if the manor had come thundering up through the wood only to
have been thwarted by the trees. here it had stood for centuries. It was
difficult to fathom when last it had been occupied, for it looked so
neglected. nettles and tall thistles leant against its stonework. Brambles
seethed about its base clustering in broad bushes beneath the windows.
Fungus sent searching fingers through its woodwork and sprang from the old
sills like warts and twisted ears. Wild clematis tugged at the guttering,
spiralling along beneath the eaves it hung wispy in beard-like tendrils
from the roof, yet it was the ivy that had laid greatest claim to the
sleeping giant edifice. It hugged the stonework in a smothering grip it
worked its way up and over the roof to the tops of the chimneys. From
where the children stood the manor veered off to the west, skirting round
huge bay windows toward the main doors, which sat beneath tall pillars of
stone that held an ornate canopy of skilful masonry above. The doors were
completely barred, so was every window as far as they could see, even the
upper floor windows had their shutters securely positioned. In silent
remorse, as dead as the stale air that surrounded its sinister form stood
Ailsworth Manor. It had nothing to say, nothing to comfort the onlookers
as they stood aghast at its sepulchral glory. Yet, as they witnessed this
grey shadow languishing in silent sorrow, they felt and eerie presence.
They heard nothing yet it was as if they could; as if a thousand stifled
voices were crying out from within its ominous walls.
"I don't like this place!" Said Sarah
"It certainly looks like the sort of place in
which you might find ghosts," agreed Richard.
"Who knows what lies behind this grim
facade," said Alister in a creepy voice.
"Shut up!" Insisted Sarah, as her face
screwed up at the onset of fear.
"I wonder what is so special about this
place?" Mused Lillian.
"Here is a grave place," said James, as if it
were someone else speaking, someone who knew well of these tired crumbling
"Here is the grey window where the voices stay
silent," he went on.
"Knock it off James you'll give us all the
creeps," said Richard.
"Hey look at this pond," said Alister,
kneeling on some dried grass by the edge of a lurid green pool. "Come
on let's take a look around."
Lillian sauntered off.
"I'd rather go," said Sarah.
"Where's that bird gone?" Asked Lillian from
"There it is!" Shouted James, "The
The small electric blue bird flitted along the clematis
then soared off around the corner to the north. Lillian raced off ahead of
the others. She leapt over endless fingers of brambles that sprang out to
grasp at her legs, thrashed down nettle clusters and stumbled on knotted
grass. The bird settled on a gargoyle on the parapet over a large bay
window, it was the only one that hadn't been boarded up. She moved closer
to get a better view. A waving tendril of bramble clutched her leg. She
struggled furiously to free herself, and in doing so she toppled over and
fell upon rotten boards of wood that yielded under her weight. She
screamed as the earth swallowed her up. The others by now had rounded the
bend. They couldn't see her.
"Lillian!" Shouted Sarah, having heard her
There was no reply. Lillian had fallen down a deep
hole, her weight had broken through the wooden covering. Luckily for her
it wasn't another well. She lifted her head. She felt dazed and bruised
and her leg was cut and scathed by the brambles. She had fallen onto a mat
of rotten vegetation that had broken her fall. A swirl of dust lifted into
the rays of light that now penetrated the depth of the hole. She choked in
the suffocating dust. Something crawled across her left hand, she screamed
and leapt up. A tangle of ivy tendrils tickled the back of her neck
inciting fear and causing her to twist round and trip yet again. This time
she banged her head on something hard, it was wood, hard wood, probably
oak. She could see little in the gloom of the dark corner in which she now
Hey!" Are you alright Lill?" Inquired Alister
anxiously from above. She did not answer, instead she searched with
her fingers as they slid across the grainy wood. It stretched to
either side, she tugged at the dead ivy strands, then to her amazement she
found what she was looking for, a large round handle. It was a door, she
couldn't see what it looked like but she knew it was there alright.
"She must be down there!" Came Sarah's voice.
"Lill are you there? Say something please!"
"Hey, get me out of here, it's damp and smelly and
there are creepy crawlies all over." Lillian replied at last.
After much ado the bots managed to spot some steps that
appeared to lead down into the hole. Lillian, looking somewhat
dishevelled, came rising up one side of the steps, making a tricky ascent
past the overgrown blackberry bushes. The others were relieved to see her.
"That was not a pleasant experience," she
said, wrinkling her nose in disgust.
"We've lost the bluebird!" Said James.
"It was sitting up there," replied Lillian,
pointing up at the large window.
"Wow!" Said Alister, "Now that's
The window was all but stifled by the ivy. Most of its
glass frames were masked out, leaving only the two central ones visible.
The glass was filthy, stained with green alga and soiled with bird
droppings. There was no sign of the bluebird. Then, as they strained to
peer through the glass, its tiny head appeared from out of a small hole
above the window frame.
"Look! There it is!" Said Richard.
"What on earth does it want to go in there
for?" Asked Sarah.
"That's what I'd like to know," said Lillian.
The bird disappeared again. A thin web-like curtain
wavered on the other side of the dirty window, slowly it drifted to one
"What's that!" Shouted Alister.
Sarah let out a scream. In one mad furious commotion
the five of them shot off, yelling as they went, filled with fear, sure
that they had seen something frightening yet unsure of just what. They
rushed round the corner of the building. Alister and Richard pushed passed
the others knocking James to the ground,
"Ow!" He let out a yell as he knelt on
Lillian turned and helped him up. It was then that she
noticed a large grey metal object on the floor. She swiftly picked it up
and ran off with the others. They ran and ran until fear was left behind
and they were at a safe distance from the manor. Eventually they reached a
point when they were no longer sure of what they were running away from.
They took a rest, panting, Alister spoke.
"What was it?"
"I don't know!" Replied Richard.
"It must have been a ghost," suggested Sarah.
"It was just the curtain moving," said
"But what made it move?" Asked Sarah.
"I don't know? Perhaps it was the bird."
"It was an old lady," said James, in a
disturbed, but totally convincing voice. "She was calling us, didn't
you hear her?" He added.
The others were astounded. Alister thumped James on the
back and let out a roaring laugh, the others followed suit. All that was
except James. They reached the window in the wall and scrambled through.
"What's that?" Queried Alister, noticing the
metal object Lillian was holding.
"I found it, James fell on it back there, it's a
key," she replied.
"Crikey!" Said Alister, as they all gazed at
the large black and rusted key that Lillian held out.
"And I'll tell you something else," she said,
"I bet I know where to find the door that it fits."
"Where?" Asked Richard.
"It's down that hole, I discovered a door when I
fell," she said.
Alister's eyes gleamed.
"I wonder what's behind the door?"
"I'm going back!" Said James.
"What now!" Gasped Richard, "You
"Perhaps not now, but I'm definitely coming back
tomorrow," replied James, with an unusual force in his voice.
"Well how about it gang?" Said Lillian,
"I'm all for it."
"Why not?" came Alister's excited reply.
Chapter 3 Beyond the
It wasn't until late afternoon the following day that they all managed to
come together. Lillian led the way up through the woods and on through the
window in the wall.
"I wonder if the bluebird will still be at the
manor?" Said James.
"If it is, your cat will soon frighten it
off," said Richard.
James had brought his cat Tinker along, it was a very
alert tabby cat of slender build with a long stick-like tail. She had a
sharp temperament and loathed being picked up by anyone save James, who
she followed every where. She would think nothing of taking a long walk
with her master, and had even been known to run alongside his bicycle. The
others knew the cat well.
They turned the last corner to stand in front of the
manor for the second time. It seemed far less horrific than it had done
before. The sun was well round to the west, and as they approached the
hole beneath the side window, its warm rays lightened the grey stone of
the manor walls. Tentatively, they gazed up at the forbidding panes of
glass. There was nothing, no sign of any movement, not even the thin wisps
of veil that they had seen the day before. There was no sign of the bird
"Let's go then," said Alister, pushing his
way past the persistent brambles that strangled the descending steps.
The others gingerly picked their way through the
grasping tendrils. When they had all descended the steps, they pushed
beneath the overhanging ivy and came at last to the end wall.
"Behold the door!" Said Lillian dramatically.
"I can't see anything," said Richard.
Alister wrenched a great bundle of withered ivy away
from the wall and there it was, the door. They could see more clearly now.
A small arched wooden door sat neatly beneath an overhanging hood. A
lattice of dusty cobwebs was woven about its edges, dead leaves were
cluttered up against its base. A large round handle hung to the left.
Lillian reached for the key, which she pulled from her pocket.
"Here goes!" She said.
She pushed the heavy black key into the keyhole and
twisted it in a clockwise fashion. There was a faint click, then she gave
the door a shove; it didn't budge. She turned the key anticlockwise and
tried again, still nothing happened.
"Blast!" She said, "It doesn't
"It must!" Urged James.
Lillian tried again turning the key once more
clockwise. She pushed, then the others pushed from behind her. Still
"Here! Out of the way!" said Alister.
He ushered the others back to the base of the steps.
Then like a mad bull he charged forward. Thud, he kicked the door and
instantaneously disappeared as the door gave way and he fell inside. The
others came forward and walked in through the doorway. There was Alister
collapsed on the floor. It was quite dark inside yet after a while they
could see more clearly.
The room was large with a high ceiling, there was a
heavy wooden table at its centre. Three other doors were set in the far
wall. A massive old wooden dresser was slumped against the north wall (it
sagged on one side) having sunk slightly into the rotten floorboards.
There were several stone sinks and a wooden work tables around the outside
of the room. Pots and pans and rusting trays hung above their heads on the
walls. Wires and iron poles jutted out from the rafters above. A small set
of servants bells hung above one of the far doors.
"This must have been the kitchen," said
"That's amazing!" Said Richard,
sarcastically, "I'd never have guessed."
Alister got up off the floor. They searched around the
room. James was drawn to the old dresser.
"Careful!" Warned Lillian, "Those floor
boards are rotten over there."
James was undeterred, he carefully crossed over to the
subsided dresser. The lower cupboard doors opened with ease, inside there
were a few small rusty pans and a couple of old earthenware pots. he
reached up and opened another small door that was set between two shelves.
Inside this one there was a leather bag, he lifted it out.
"Look!" He said, calling to the others, as he
pulled out a long silver chain on the end of which there hung a small
"Wow! Treasure!" gasped Alister.
The others were amazed. They examined the chain and key
carefully then scoured the rest of the dresser. James noticed a lever at
the back of the small pigeon hole. He reached in and pulled it. There was
a terrible screech as the dresser slid down the wall, followed by a crash
as it slipped further into the hole in the floor. A heavy glass ball
rolled out of a secret panel at the back of the dresser and thundered onto
"Careful!" Said Richard, "The whole
floor is rotten."
"A crystal ball!" Said Lillian, as she picked
up the glass sphere. The others followed her over to the centre table.
"This place is weird," said Sarah.
Lillian examined the sphere.
"I wonder if you can tell fortunes with
"No! It is not an ordinary crystal ball, it's a
window," said James, reverting to the same strange voice he had
adopted the day before.
"What are you talking about?" Said Richard.
"Light! Set the ball in the light," said
James, as if he knew just what to do.
He rushed over to the door and set it ajar as far as it
would go. Then he tugged furiously at a shuttered window to the left of
the door. It swung open, a ray of sunlight entered the room and struck the
crystal ball. Immediately a radiant fan of coloured lights opened up about
the ball like the tail of a peacock, shimmering and rotating about its
centre. The onlookers were struck dumb. the lights turned blue and green,
yellow, orange and red and finally purple before simmering down. The ball
became The ball became clouded as if it were full of mist. As they
watched, the bluebird appeared for a split second before they saw a
beautiful woman who had the kindest face they had ever seen, though they
could have sworn she had wings upon her back. Then the ball clouded over
again and in a flash turned blacker than darkest night, as it appeared to
absorb the light that fell upon it from the window.
"No!" Shouted James, rushing forward to grasp
the glass sphere.
"Steady!" Said Alister, as he tried to
restrain James's sudden outburst by grabbing his arm. James swung around
and fell back onto the table jolting it and causing the ball to roll off
and smash through the rotten floor. Plop, they heard, as it drowned in the
murky depths beneath the kitchen floor.
"Did you hear that! There's water down there. If
we're not careful we could go through this floor at any minute," said
James had calmed down, he clutched his forehead as if
he couldn't recall the last few minutes. Then he noticed Tinker his cat
who was climbing up the old dresser.
"Come down Tinker!" He yelled. The cat took
no notice, instead it started to paw at something at the back of the
"What's that?" Said James, realising the cat
had found something else. He carefully returned to the dresser and tugged
at a piece of folded parchment. It came out from between the wall and the
"What is it?" Questioned Sarah.
"Bring it over here!" Said Richard, "I
don't trust those floor boards."
Returning to the table James delicately unfolded the
paper. They could see hardly anything.
"It's nothing," said Richard.
"It's too dark in here," said Lillian.
"Let's go," added Sarah.
Suddenly the bluebird appeared fluttering furiously
above their heads. It swooped up and over the rafters, eventually settling
at the foot of one of the doors in the far wall. It began to peck at the
"It's showing us the door. It wants us to go that
way," said James.
Tinker had noticed the bird and had stealthily crept up
behind it. She was just about to pounce when the bird turned and made a
plaintive chirp. To everyone's astonishment, including the cat's, Tinker's
head jerked back with surprise and she sat down opposite the bird and
"I do believe they are talking to one
another," said Lillian.
Out of nowhere they heard distant gunshots.
"What was that?" Snapped Sarah nervously.
Richard's eyes nearly popped out.
"It sounded like a gun to me."
"We'd better go!" Said Lillian.
"What about the door?" Asked James, "We
must go that way, the bluebird is trying to tell us something."
They heard another gun shot.
"Look we'll have to come back again now that we
know this place isn't quite so frightening," said Lillian.
"Speak for yourself," said Sarah as she moved
toward the exit door.
Even Tinker had sensed the oncoming danger and had
reached the top of the steps before the others. James reluctantly turned
to bid farewell to the bluebird. It wasn't there, it had disappeared.
The door pulled tight behind them. Three gun shots rang
out, they were getting closer by the minute.
"Come on we'd better leg it," said Alister.
They ran with great speed until once again they stood
by the road side at the point of the window.
"We should have tried the other door," said
James, "We must go back."
"Alright!" Replied Lillian, "I think we
are all agreed on that, but we can't go now, it'll be dark within an hour
it's too risky."
A great sadness came over them, this time it affected
them all, not just James.
"It's the bluebird," he said, "She's
carrying a message, we've got to find out what it is. We're her only hope,
can't you see?"
The others were beginning to feel that there was
perhaps more to the manor than they had originally thought. They did not
mock James this time. They could sense something in his voice, just how he
knew they couldn't say, yet there was definitely something strange about
the whole affair. Even Sarah, who was least drawn to the manor, now felt
"What about the parchment?" Questioned
"Oh no! We've left it on the table!" Said
Lillian, "We don't even know what's written on it."
"I think it's a map," said James, "I
can't say for sure."
They believed him, they had no reason to doubt it, not
"And the key and the chain?" Added Lillian.
James produced them from his pocket. The key spun
around glinting in the light.
"Who knows where this fits in?" He said.
Chapter 4 The Bridge of Fire
following morning when Alister went to fetch a newspaper, he saw James out
with his cat Tinker. They were heading down toward the park. Alister had a
strange feeling, as if something was about to begin. He watched James for
a while unable to do anything but stare. He wanted to call out and ask
where he was going, but he couldn't, even though he felt that he might not
see him again. Somehow it was James who had to be the first, he knew that
now, he had to warn the others at once. Rushing home he dropped the paper
on the kitchen floor and whizzed off to Richard and Sarah's house. They
were sitting aimlessly around in the back garden.
"Come on! You two," said Alister.
"There's something weird about this morning,"
"It's that manor, it's got a fix on us," said
"You're right there, I've just seen James, he's on
his way up there already, I'm sure of it."
"We'd better go before something happens,"
"What about Lillian?" Asked Sarah.
"If I know Lill she's probably already gone after
him," said Alister.
The three of them left in haste. They rushed down to
the park and there found Lillian pensively rooted to the old bridge that
forded the brook.
"Lill!" Shouted Alister on the approach.
"He's gone!" She replied, in a dream-like
voice, "He had to go, I couldn't stop him."
"Then we must follow!" Said Alister
Once again they rushed off with fervent zest, crossing
the river blindly with scant disregard for wet feet. They trudged through
the bog. On reaching the woods they whipped up a dust storm that snaked
its way behind them, as they thundered beneath the beech trees on towards
the outer barrier on the manor realm. Once passed the window they drew a
long breath and rested that they might gather strength. At last they
encountered the gaunt facade of the manor and ventured round to the door.
There was no sign of James. The door was ajar, a faint light came from
within the room.
"Look!" Said Lillian, "My key! How did
he get it? And why does it now lay on the floor?"
"What about the light? It seems to be coming from
beneath the floor," said Sarah.
"It must be the crystal ball that fell into the
water below," said Alister.
Leaning over the edge of the hole, Alister peered down
into the glowing light. He could see its source beneath the water. Then he
thought he saw the shadow of something small cross over the light
desperately swimming for its life, perhaps it was a mouse. Another shadow
passed, this one was much larger, it could have been a rat or worse for it
pursued the first shadow with relentless speed. Alister jumped up suddenly
at the thought of rats. The others were standing rooted to the spot,
staring at the far wall. There were huge red letters daubed across the
'ELDIRIAN IS DEAD DAREST THOU TO CROSS THE BRIDGE,' read the message.
Sarah began to sob.
"Where's James?" She cried.
A faint wailing sound began to gather from beyond the
far door. It became louder and louder, they thought they heard voices
calling, the voices of the past, ghosts that had come to warn them. The
wall in front of them appeared to shudder as if their eyesight had
faltered. They wanted to run and escape but they couldn't move. Then as
quickly as it had come upon them the sound went.
"This is a grave place," said Richard.
"We should not pass that door, not if we value our lives."
"I agree!" Said Sarah, "But what about
It was then that they noticed Tinker, pawing at the
base of the door, she meowed pitifully.
"Now we know!" Said Lillian, "He's gone
ahead, though I couldn't say where, we have to follow."
"What about the warning?" Said Richard.
"We can pay no heed to that, James didn't so why
should we," said Lillian fearlessly.
"I say we go!" Insisted Alister.
"Well?" Commanded Lillian impatiently.
Richard and Sarah remained silent.
"I suppose we must follow," said Richard.
"Wait!" Cried Sarah, "If we must go then
let us take the parchment."
They had forgotten the old piece of paper which
remained on the table.
"I wonder why he didn't take it with him,"
"Who knows!" Said Alister, "what's on it
They unfolded the parchment carefully, several pieces
fell into fragments as they lifted the flimsy paper.
"It looks like a map to me," said Richard.
"Then we must take it with us," said Lillian.
The children turned away from the table and made their
way cautiously towards one of the doors in the far wall. To their surprise
the chosen door was locked. Lillian used her key, it fitted and this time
the door yielded. Nothing untoward greeted them on the other side.
"It's just an old house," said Richard, with
For a moment they all felt stupid.
"We must search every room," commanded
This they did with much speed. Lillian and Alister
scoured the upper floors whilst Richard and Sarah searched below.
"There's nothing here!" Stated Alister, as he
and Lillian descended the stairs. The other two were waiting at the
"We have searched every where except in that
room," said Richard. "The door's locked, there's probably
nothing in it anyway."
Tinker sat at the foot of another door round the corner
from the stairs.
"It must be the cellar," said Lillian.
"Come on, that must be the way."
Once again she used the key.
Inside they found no dark steps to descend, instead it
was just another dingy old room with nothing in except an old sideboard
and a large marble fireplace.
"I don't understand," Said Lillian.
"Where has James gone?"
Tinker sat staring at the huge fireplace. There was a
large space behind it with a jet black board, or was it a wall? They were
not quite sure. Suddenly there were strange calling voices from out of the
gloom. They rushed for the door. It slammed shut in front of them. Sarah
screamed, so did the boys. Lillian thrust the key into the lock and
twisted it frantically trying to open the door. A fearful crackling sound
came from behind them. The sinister neighing of a horse tore at their
backs. They turned to see a roaring fire in the hearth of the fireplace.
They backed up to the door in fear of what might come through the flames.
Tinker leapt into Lillian's arms. the chill of something dreadful gripped
their hearts which pounded with apprehension. A winged creature hesitated
in the heart of the flames. It stared at them with its large round black
eyes. The flames did not harm it. For a few seconds they saw its form,
frail and feeble were its limbs, one of the painfully thin arms held a
sparkling rod, the other arm it held up in front of them as though it were
a warning. Now the onlookers felt no fear of the beast for its face was
kind, yet fear was reflected in its eyes. For a few seconds longer it was
poised in indecision. It turned and stared back into the dark behind it,
as if the very thing that came up behind was almost upon them. It leapt
out of the flames toward them. There was a blinding flash as the creature
disappeared and in its place a small mouse scuttled across the floor and
hid behind the sideboard. A small jewel rolled up to Lillian's feet. She
stooped and picked it up. Then along with the others she was thrown up
against the door as a hideous rider appeared in the flames. A
towering black horse stifled the cowering fire as the rider, that it bore
leaned forward. A black hooded figure lifted a black spear. They saw no
eyes from out the hood yet they felt the evil that exuded with every
breath. The horse rose up.
"You cannot pass the bridge of fire!" Came
the sepulchral voice.
The flames all but died, then in one last defiant
breath they soared to the ceiling and the rider was gone. The children
sighed with relief after the sudden shock. Several minutes passed before
they were able to gather some form of rational thought. By this time the
flames were dying. Before they were able to speak the mouse scurried out
from behind the sideboard and ran to and fro across the floor.
"It's looking for the jewel," said Lillian.
The mouse gave up, realizing the flames were dying. It scurried into the
fire and once again the strange creature appeared. Anxious it looked
around the room, then it saw Lillian holding out the jewel. A series of
unrecognisable words came from the creature's mouth as it beckoned them
toward the fire. Then it disappeared into the darkness beyond.
"We must follow!" Said Lillian, to the
She ran into the flames with Tinker in her arms and
disappeared after the creature.
"Come back!" Shouted Sarah.
"What are we going to do?" Said Richard.
"We can't let her go alone," said Alister.
He rushed into the fire.
"Wait!" Shouted Richard, grabbing hold of
Sarah, he pulled her in after.
The flames did not burn, they felt cold and tickled and
within the blink of an eye, turned to wispy vines that hung down from
above. They could see little of their new surrounds. A dull red glow held
sway in the sky.
"Where are we?" Questioned Sarah, more
curious now than afraid.
"Somewhere else," said Richard.
Alister had come to a halt ahead of them.
"What place is this?" He said.
"This can't be true, it isn't possible," said
Grey shadows glided across the sky.
"Look! There's Lillian," said Sarah.
A dark silhouette stood before two pillars of stone.
The others rushed up to her.
"The bridge of fire," said Lillian.
Before them was a thin bridge that spanned a bottomless
ravine, flames leapt from the walls and ascended either side of the
"Are we to cross then?" Asked Alister.
"We can't go back now," replied Lillian,
"Our way back is barred, we must go on. Even if this Eldirian who
ever he is, is dead, we must find James."
She placed one foot on the bridge, it moaned under her
weight, yet she pressed forward undeterred. The others followed. As they
crossed they felt a strange sensation. It was as if they had parted from
their own world and were now entering a new one. With each step the
fireplace faded and the dark shapes that made up the horizon ahead of them
loomed ever large.
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