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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
Periwinkle Longtoes – Story 2: Things That Go Bump In the Night

There's a saying that goes, 'An Englishman's Summer has three fine days and a thunderstorm'. When those summer months pass and the cold spells of autumn weather blast across the English countryside, drenching rain showers plague the land, bringing a misery to the soul. Such was the evening when Nigel Cuttlefish left for work.

“It's miserable out there, Nigel. Do you want to take an umbrella with you?” Ella, his wife, stood by the door. “I've packed you some bread and cheese as usual and tonight I added a few pieces of gingerbread. It's still warm and spicy.”

Nigel slipped his raincoat on. “Thank you, Ella. I don't like nights like this. Strange things happen in the cathedral.”

“You've worked there most of your adult life, Nigel. Surely you aren't afraid of ghosts. Now, bundle up and I'll see you in the morning.” Ella kissed her husband's cheek and shut the door behind him.

“Angelsbury Cathedral.” Nigel opened his umbrella and looked up at the ancient building. “To think of the thousands of times I've stood in this same spot and looked up at you. I never did like rainy autumn nights.” Without saying another word, he rushed across the grass, down the path and stopped at the door. “You'd think I'd have had the sense to have my keys ready.” Digging through his pocket, he grasped the ring of keys and opened the creaking door. Once inside, he closed the umbrella and stood it in the corner to dry. His nose twitched. “There's a foul stench in here tonight. I hope we don't have a leak in the roof.”

With a sigh, Nigel headed down the lengthy hallway toward his cubby. He opened the door and dropped the bag of food on the table. His nose twitched again. “What is that horrid smell? It smells as though something died in here.” A surging tide of fear rushed through his body and he gulped. “I don't like this at all.” He turned and looked out in the hallway. “I suppose I'd better go and find out what's going on.”

As he walked down the hall, the solid walls of stone seemed to move in closer, cocooning him in darkness. “The last time I felt this way I found a hobgoblin. Heaven help me what it'll be this time.”

The sound of splintering wood, shattering with explosions of noise, echoed down the halls. “What's Periwinkle Longtoes up to tonight? It sounds as though he's destroying the place.” Nigel rushed into the nave, glancing from side to side. “The place is clean. Periwinkle's been busy. “What in heaven's name...”

A wooden pew stood on its end, split open. The broken pieces hung to the side like overloaded branches of a fruit tree.

Nigel dashed up to it and stood, gaping. “How did this happen? Surely Periwinkle wouldn't do such a thing. There's that smell again.”

Above his head, the sound of cracking glass attracted his gaze. Nigel watched in horror as one of the huge stained glass windows fell apart. Bits and pieces of colored glass, held for centuries by lead frames, crashed to the cathedral floor followed by a blast of frigid air. The night wind, finding a way inside, swooped and soared throughout the nave, roaring like a lion as its icy fingers searched for a target.

A form appeared, a floating vaporous specter; its demonic shrieks filling the air with heinous howls.

Nigel heard a whimper. His eyes searched the colonnaded room. There, in a corner, wedged behind one of the Norwegian oak stalls near the organ, the cowering hobgoblin hid. Nigel saw Periwinkle's body shivering with fear. “The ghost must have caught him at the organ and has been tormenting him.” He looked up. “It is a ghost, isn't it? If not, what sort of ethereal being is it?” With his back against the wall, Nigel inched his way up the nave towards the choir area. “Now I know what the stench was.”

When he reached Periwinkle, he squatted next to him, whispering. “I know you are Periwinkle Longtoes. I won't hurt you. I'm the one who...”

“I know,” mumbled the hobgoblin.

“What is that?” Nigel nodded in the direction of the shrieking creature.

“It's a wraith, a shadowy ghost of a dead person. It belongs to one of the deceased people in a tomb inside this cathedral,” Periwinkle said.

“You're sure? If that's the case there's only one person it could be, Sir Ranulf Biggington of Marshdale. I always had a feeling his ghost would some day wreak havoc. The man was pure evil when he was alive and a curse to all those he came in contact with. Do you know about Sir Ranulf?” Nigel nodded at Periwinkle.

“No. I know there were many a bad knight in the medieval days. I'd like to know more about him, but what about that wraith? It'll find us sooner or later. I was playing the organ when I felt the bench rise and I was flung through the air. I landed here and haven't left, hoping it wouldn't find me.” The hobgoblin glanced toward the ghost.

“We can't have it destroying the cathedral. How am I going to explain that broken window to the priests? And that pew? Some of those pews have been here since the cathedral was built. We must stop this wraith, or whatever you call it, from doing any more damage.” Nigel stood. The wraith chose that moment to give one more spine-tingling howl, vaporized and filtered its way back into the stone tomb. “Ah hah! It was Sir Ranulf.” The lid to the tomb rattled as it fell into place.

Periwinkle stood and brushed the dust off his clothes. “We'd better clean this mess up and then I have something to show you. It's a ghost trap.”

Nigel raised his eyebrows. “Interesting.”

“I'll see what I can do about the window. You may have to tell the priests that the wind did it. You take care of the pew.” The hobgoblin headed for the pile of broken glass.

Nigel watched the small creature waddling away. With a sigh of frustration, he lowered the pew onto its legs and gathered the broken pieces, forcing them against the larger intact piece.

When the tasks were completed, Nigel joined Periwinkle under the partially fixed stained glass window. “Good job, Mr. Longtoes. Now, how will we rid this fine cathedral of Sir Ranulf's ghost. Obviously there is a reason he's decided to pay us a visit. Do you happen to know what that reason is?” He glanced down at Periwinkle.

“I would suggest that we both spend some time researching the history of this man. I've got a delightful book in my room.” Periwinkle stopped. “You'd know that already, considering that you are the one who gave it to me.”

“What book might that be?” Nigel had taken so many that he no longer could remember.

Knights and Ladies of 13th Century England. I found it delightful and I'm sure it mentions Sir Ranulf in it. I recall his name.” The hobgoblin sat on a square stone.

“Since it is almost sunrise and neither of us has had any sleep, why don't we part ways for the time being. I shall go home and see what I can find out and you study your books. I shall join you at 9 P.M tonight. I'll simply tell my wife, Ella that I need to do some extra work. I'll bring some supper for us both and we'll discuss our wraith.” Nigel nodded and turned to leave.

Periwinkle looked around and once satisfied the mess had been superficially cleaned, he went to his room.

“Ella, I'm home.” Nigel called to his wife as he stepped in the back door.

“There you are, luv. Nigel, you look exhausted. Rough night?” Ella kissed him on the cheek.

“I was up all night cleaning. We had a bit of a problem with the wind. One of the larger stained glass windows blew out and crashed into one of the pews. What a mess. In fact, I shall be going into work early tonight to finish the job. At least we got all the glass cleaned up.”

“We, Nigel? Who else was there?” Ella picked up Mr. Banbury and handed the cat to her husband.

He stroked the cat. “How's Mr. Banbury this morning? You've not been bothering Brambles and Lily have you?” Nigel glanced at the budgies. “You leave the girls alone.” He turned his attention back to his wife. “I meant I cleaned up the glass. I'm tired, Ella, that's all.” A few drops of sweat ran down Nigel's neck, dripping into his collar.

“Well, you go and wash up while I fix you something to eat. What would you like this morning? I've got kippers, bacon, sausages, eggs, tomato, toast, oat meal with sweet cream, grilled kidneys, fried mushrooms, fresh strawberries, and an assortment of marmalade and jam.” Ella caught her breath.

“Ella, are you trying to make me fat? I couldn't possibly eat all of that.” Nigel took off his boots and put them by the back door.

“I didn't ask you if you wanted all of them. Good heavens, Nigel, I haven't got time for that. Which of those would you like?” Ella grabbed a frying pan.

“I think I'd enjoy some oatmeal and an egg and fried mushrooms.” Nigel went upstairs to shower while his wife fixed breakfast. When he came down he found a plate sitting on the table holding everything he had requested.

“I'll be off shortly, Nigel. Once again I'm running into town. There's a sale on mattresses down at the SuperCenter. It's about time we had a new one. I'll stop by the grocers and pick up some milk. Is there anything in particular you'd enjoy this evening while you work?” Ella put her arms through the coat sleeves, pulling it over her shoulders.

“Some extra cheese and a few pastries. Pick up some pickled onions. I've been craving some for days.” Nigel carried his dishes over to the sink. “I'll go and have a sleep then and see you when you get home this evening.” He lay down and slept for a few hours. When he got up he dressed and went into town, stopping at the library. He picked up several books on the history of Angelsbury and its cathedral and carried them home, surprised that he didn't run into Ella.

She stood waiting for him at the door. “Nigel, you should have left me a note. I was worried sick about you. You've been to the library then?”

“I should have left a note. I'm sorry, luv. I wanted to study up on the history of this area.” He put the books on the table. “Have you ever heard much about a Sir Ranulf Biggington? He was a knight and quite a nasty man, of what I hear. Lived around these parts and frequented the cathedral with his sword in hand. I wanted to learn more about him.”

“Isn't his tomb in the cathedral? You see it every night, don't you?” Ella chopped some carrots as she spoke. “I think most of those noblemen were ruthless. Why don't you go and read while I fix supper. We'll eat early tonight seeing as you have to go into work in an hour or two. Oh, by the way, I bought a new mattress for us. It'll be delivered next week. We can give the old one to a homeless shelter.”

Nigel heard what his wife said, but wasn't really listening. He carried the books into the living room. He put them down on the settee. The first book he reached for was, Legends of Angelsbury Cathedral. “This should be interesting.” He skimmed through the first chapters, paying particular attention to the pictures. “Ah ha! Here you are, Sir Ranulf.” His gaze wandered up and down the page. “Well, I've got a bit of information about our ghost for Periwinkle. Very interesting.”

After Ella fed him, she packed a bag of cheese, pickled onions, fresh hot bread, a flaky pastry and some chocolate-covered biscuits. She handed him the bag. “This should do you. Don't work too hard tonight and take your umbrella. We're supposed to have more of that miserable rain tonight.”

“You're too good to me, Ella. Thank you for all you do.” A squeeze and a peck on the cheek came her way and then Nigel left.

After he'd unlocked the door, he headed straight for his cubby. He dropped his coat and umbrella on the cot and then carried the bag to Periwinkle's room. Three claps and the stone slab creaked open. “Periwinkle, it's me, Nigel Cuttlefish. I've brought us some supper.”

The hobgoblin stood at the end of the hallway. “Come in.”

Nigel glanced around the room. He'd not been back since the time he'd left the blankets and pillow. The room was quite tidy. A few rats scampered under the bed, but other than that, everything looked tip top. The stained glass window shone with polish. “Nice window, Mr. Longtoes.”

“Yes, I'm partial to it. Please sit down.” Periwinkle pointed to the bed. He sat on the floor. “What did you find out about Sir Ranulf? I came across a few interesting things. I also remembered I had this.” The hobgoblin held out his hand. In it sat a shiny gold octagonal box.

“That's very curious,” Nigel said, staring at it. “May I?” He reached for it and Periwinkle placed it in the man's hand. “Most remarkable. Intricate carvings. What is it?”

“It's called an auroral box. It's used to catch demons and ghosts. I've had it for many years, but never put it to use. This is my first experience with wraiths.” Periwinkle moved closer to Nigel.

“Extraordinary. What do these designs mean? Are they written in hobgoblin?”

Periwinkle looked up at Nigel. “Hobgoblin's don't have their own language. This is written in Latin.”

“Pardon me, Mr. Longtoes. The writing is so small, it's difficult to see. Yes, well, I see that now. Perhaps you could interpret for me.” Nigel handed the auroral box back to the hobgoblin.

“It says 'Spirits of the past beware. Power comes to those who hold this box to imprison those who are dead', and then it has a spell.

“I'm sure you know how to use it. I did some reading up on our ghost. It seems our Sir Ranulf was quite a scoundrel. In 1294 he and a few of his followers were confronted by a group of Scotsmen. Sir Ranulf laughed at the Scots, insulted them to the highest degree and then massacred them with his sword. He cut off their heads and impaled them on a spear. That night he and his men feasted on the rest of the men's bodies. He's responsible for many a castle raid and slaughter. It is said that he was friends with the priests of Angelsbury Cathedral and offered them large amounts of money if they let him store his wealth in the dungeons.” Nigel took a deep breath.

“Dungeons? I had no idea there were dungeons in this cathedral,” Periwinkle said.

“I didn't either. Perhaps we should do a bit exploring tonight. Let me finish the story first.” Nigel continued, “It seems the priests had other ideas. They allowed Sir Ranulf to hide his gold and jewels here in the cathedral, but when they felt there was sufficient to keep them in comfort for the rest of their lives, they sent a messenger to the king and had Sir Ranulf arrested for all his heinous crimes. As he was being dragged away, he swore that on the anniversary of his death, he would come in search of his treasure and seek revenge.”

“And it is the anniversary this week?” Periwinkle sat on the floor. His shoes lay to the side.

“Precisely. His spirit has come for the gold. I'm guessing that he's forgotten where he put it so he's on a rampage to destroy the cathedral. Our job is to find the treasure and then capture Sir Ranulf in your auroral box. By the way,” Nigel sighed, “what do you do with that box once you've captured him in it?”

A sly grin spread across the hobgoblin's face. “We have to wait for the aurora borealis to appear. You see, the magnetic field of the lights will absorb the ghost. The aurora borealis is made up of ghostly spirits; that's why it glows.”

“That's poppycock. It has to do with the sun and yes, a magnetic field, but made of spirits? Hah!” Nigel waved his hands up and down. “Nonsense.”

“It's not nonsense. It's true. I've got a book back in my room. In fact you brought it for me one day. Spiritual Beings and the Heavens is the title. The entire book is about ghosts and the stars and goings on in the universe. Have you ever heard of the Elysian Fields? It's supposed to be a beautiful meadow where the favored of Zeus enjoy perfect happiness. It's actually the name of a star system in another galaxy.” Periwinkle gasped with frustration. “I see you don't believe me on that either. You'll just have to take my word for it. The aurora borealis is made up of spirits. There's a place for Sir Ranulf Biggington up there. Are you going to help me, or not?”

“Very well. Grab a torch. We're going into the dungeon.” Nigel turned on his torch and showed Periwinkle how to turn his on. “May I suggest you put on your shoes.”

The hobgoblin turned red with embarrassment and slipped the shoes on his feet. He followed Nigel down the hall. “I remember seeing a few steps that led to nowhere. Maybe there's a secret trapdoor or something. It's not far.” Nigel led the way. “Ah, here we are. These six steps must have gone somewhere at sometime.”

Periwinkle patted the wall at the bottom. He put his ear to the stone.

“What are you doing?” Nigel whispered, looking behind him in fear.

“I'm listening to the echo of the taps. There is an open room or cave behind this wall. That must mean that if I push this brick,” the hobgoblin said, “the wall will open.”

The stones under their feet vibrated as a wall of stone opened in front of them. Nigel shined his torch inside. “More steps and they lead down. I think we've found our dungeon, Mr. Longtoes.” He stepped down. “I have one more small question.”

Periwinkle coughed. “Yes?”

“How do we get him in the box? After all, he's a rather large ghost and that box is, well, rather small.” Nigel took another step down.

“May I suggest we find the treasure first and then we'll worry about that.”

Two dozen steps later, the two found themselves standing in a dark hallway. Nigel's torch shone on the bricks. “Looks like a lot of doors. I wonder which one holds the treasure.”

“I wonder what is behind the doors that don't.” Periwinkle clapped his hands and tossed some sort of dust into the air. Flames burst forth from old wooden torches set in holders down the walls of the hall. “That's better. At least we can see what we're doing.”

“How did you...Oh, never mind.” Nigel stood in front of the first door. He turned the knob and pushed it open. The smell of dank mustiness floated out into the hall. Oh dear. I think we've found some sort of torture chamber.” He aimed his torch at the walls. “The skeletons of the men still hang there.” Chain-held skulls and ribs dangled against the moldy stones. “Obviously there's no treasure in here.” Leaving the door ajar, he moved to the next.

Periwinkle stopped. “This is going to take all night. I doubt if our ghost is going to wait that long between his haunting attacks. I expect his rampage of destruction will begin shortly. We must hurry. The sun's been down for hours.”

“All right. You open the doors on the left side and I'll do the right side.” Nigel watched as the hobgoblin ran to the door opposite from where he stood.

Periwinkle opened the door and peeked inside. “Just another torture chamber.”

Nigel nodded and the two of them moved on, slamming doors shut when they saw the remains of poor unfortunate souls stretched out or hanging in what must have been horrible extremes of pain.

They met up at the last door. “This must be it,” Nigel said. “It's the last chance we have. Would you like to do the honors?” He stood back and allowed Periwinkle to open the door.

“This is it. We've found the treasure.” Periwinkle dashed inside the room.

A hesitant Nigel followed, flashing his torch across the room. “So this is what Sir Ranulf killed, tortured and plundered for.”

“Look at these books. Alone they are a treasure.” The hobgoblin picked one up and blew a thick layer of dust off. “13th Century Magicians. How interesting. I think I'll take this one back to my room.”

The door slammed behind them. “You will put that book down, hobgoblin. This treasure belongs to me.”

Periwinkle and Nigel turned to see the ghost of Sir Ranulf Biggington hovering a few feet off the ground.

“I knew if I left the two of you alone, you'd lead me right to it. What fools you are. Did you really think I'd gone back into my tomb for good? This is the only night I have the chance to find my gold and I am not giving it up for the likes of you two.” The apparition glared at them, its ethereal form suspended in the air, blocking their escape route.

Nigel had to think quickly. He winked at Periwinkle, who slipped the auroral box out of his pocket. Nigel rushed over to a pile of gold, distracting Sir Ranulf long enough for Periwinkle to set the box on the ground.

“Leave that gold alone. If you so much as touch a piece of it, I will slash your soul, along with your cadaverous body.” Sir Ranulf moved closer to Nigel.

“Excuse me, Sir Ranulf,” the hobgoblin interrupted.

The wraith immediately turned to face Periwinkle.

“I would like your permission to keep this book. It's only one book. I'll return it to you...”

“Quiet.” Sir Ranulf charged at the hobgoblin.

“Now!” Nigel shouted.

The confused spirit looked from side to side.

Periwinkle used this moment of confusion to open the box. A shaft of light shot to the ceiling, wrapping its luminous fingers around Sir Ranulf. Periwinkle mumbled the Latin words and the light pulled the trapped ghost towards the box.

Screams of anger, wails of terror and howls of loss echoed through the small room. Nigel covered his ears with his hands, trying to block out the maelstrom of noise.

Suddenly the room went quiet. A small puff of smoke filtered out the sides of the box. “It's done. That is the end of Sir Ranulf!” Periwinkle grinned and picked it up.

“That's it? Marvelous! I suppose the job is only half done though. We must release it to the aurora borealis, as you suggest.” Nigel, no longer disbelieving, shrugged his shoulders in embarrassed acceptance. “What about all this gold?”

Periwinkle looked around him. “I will be happy with the books. I don't need gold and jewels for happiness. I would suggest that this treasure be given to the cathedral. Perhaps a room could be turned into a museum. They could have showcases of glass to display these pieces of antiquity. Of course, that would mean more dusting for me, but....”

Nigel Cuttlefish laughed out loud. “That is a great suggestion, Mr. Longtoes. That is what we shall do. Help yourself to the books. I will carry them to your room for you.”

They shut the door behind them and with arms bulging with heavy, gold and leather bound books, they left the dungeon area. Nigel set the texts down on Periwinkle's bed. “That should keep you busy for a while.” He exhaled a loud sigh. “You need a new mattress. I'll bring one over in a week or so and you can toss this old one out.”

“Thank you, Nigel Cuttlefish. I'm glad I know your name now.” The hobgoblin started putting the books on the bookshelf.

“Well, it is time that I go.” Nigel moved to the stained glass window. “Wait! I can't believe this. The northern lights are ablaze tonight. We can rid ourselves of that cursed ghost once are for all. Come, Periwinkle. Bring the auroral box.”

The two of them hurried outside. The sky shimmered with greens and aqua blues. Nigel glanced over at the hobgoblin. “Are you sure about this?”

Periwinkle smiled as he took the box out of his coat. He gazed up at the heavenly dancers, swaying across the midnight sky in a cadence of color. The lid turned in his hand.

Nigel's mouth, agape with surprise, watched as the lights from above devoured Sir Ranulf Biggington's ghost, swirling in a whirlpool of radiant phosphorescence back into the cosmic space. He stood in silence for a few moments. “There's something I've never seen before and I hope never to witness again.”

Periwinkle stretched forth this hand.

Nigel took it in his, noting the cold clamminess of the grip. “I suppose we should finish cleaning up.”

“For all you have done for me, I will clean tonight. You go home to your wife and enjoy her company.” Periwinkle beamed with amusement and went inside the cathedral.

Nigel watched the hobgoblin as it disappeared through the wooden door. He gazed up at the northern lights once again and then headed home.

Ella heard him come in and slipped on her bathrobe and slippers. She went downstairs and found her husband gazing out at the sky through the window. “Nigel? What are you doing home? It's not even 1 A.M.”

“Ella, I came home early because I finished my work and there's something I want you to see.” He took her hand and opened the back door. “Look up at the sky.”

“It's the northern lights, Nigel. I've seen them a hundred times. Is there something special about them tonight?” Ella squeezed his hand.

“Yes. Did you know the lights are alive? There is a spectral supernaturalness about them.” Nigel couldn't take his eyes off the heavens.

“A what? What is all this gibberish about spectral things and lights being alive. Come on inside, Nigel and go to bed. You've been working too hard lately and are losing your mind.” Ella pulled him inside and closed the door.

Nigel followed quietly. A tender smile parted his lips. “You're right, Ella. Let's get to bed.”

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