Elizabeth and Mister Putterwig walked toward the light. They had been walking through an old growth forest of oak, maple, elm and birch for some time. The forest floor had some bushes,. brambles, thorn and briars, and plenty of fallen lumber, from twigs to whole trees, but mostly it was covered in generations of fallen leaves. It was impossible to walk without crunching every step.
Elizabeth did not mind the crunch. She snapped a few twigs on purpose. She also liked the fact that they were headed toward the light. She was not afraid in the dark when she was with Mister Putterwig. He was a grown-up, and she trusted him to protect her. But light was better. The woods were kind of spooky.
Greely Putterwig was much more cautious. If it was a fairy circle filled with all sorts of people and creatures celebrating Halloween, they were in trouble. He did not think it was the dance because he did not hear the music, the enchanted kind that would make poor humans dance until they dropped. But if it wasn’t a Halloween celebration, well, the alternative was probably worse. “Confounded curiosity,” Mister Putterwig swore, and he hushed Elizabeth as much as he could when they reached a point where he could look out through the branches
A bonfire in a big clearing lit the night, and there were dancers of a sort. They were goblins, and a couple of trolls, and Mister Putterwig found his hand automatically drawn to cover Elizabeth’s mouth. The dancers were frightening, with horns and tails and snake-like eyes over tusks and very wide mouths with very sharp teeth. There were noses and ears of all shapes and sizes, and they had claws instead of hands and sometimes instead of feet. They wore rags and had skulls and human looking fingers and toes for necklaces and bracelets that sounded click and clack in a kind of rhythm under the moonlight. Worst of all were the grunt, howls and shrieks that filled the air and obscured whatever ghastly music was being made on such odd instruments and drums. Indeed, the music was mostly drums, and someone older than Elizabeth might have wondered where they got the skins for drumheads.
Elizabeth didn’t think that. When she wriggled her mouth free, she said, “They look like they are having fun.”
Mister Putterwig looked down at the little girl, astounded by her innocence. “All the same, it would be best if we moved on quietly so we don’t disturb them.”
Elizabeth nodded. She trusted. And together they took three whole steps before they found themselves surrounded by three goblins and a troll.
“Greely Putterwig,” the goblin with the red eyes spoke with a haunting voice guaranteed to send chills down the nearest spine.
“Marrow, Worms, Maggot.” Mister Putterwig named the goblins like they were old friends. “And Big Tooth. Haven’t seen you in a while.” He named the troll.
“What have you got here?” Marrow leaned down in Elizabeth’s face, but she was holding tight to Mister Putterwig’s hand and had her eyes closed. “A little human girl. Bet she’s tasty.”
“She isn’t yours. I got her fair and square. She is my friend, mine alone, and belongs to me, so back off.” Mister Putterwig growled.
Elizabeth ventured a look to see if Mister Putterwig was indeed her friend, but she saw the goblins and the troll and shrieked. She threw her arms around Putterwig’s middle and buried her face in his belly. He put his arms around her and did finally smile, and cooed that she shouldn’t be afraid and everything would be alright.
“What do you mean she is yours?” Worms asked.
“Where can we get one of those?” Maggot complained.
“Fairy food?” Big Tooth suggested, and Marrow’s eyes got big.
“Do you know the penalty for stealing human children?” Marrow shouted.
“I don’t care.” Mister Putterwig responded with a sharp look and a haughty stare. “You touch one hair on her head and Lady Alice will know, and it won’t be from me telling her, either.”
“Boys,” Marrow took a step back. “I think we best leave this one alone.” They all began to step back. Marrow saluted. “See ya around,” he said, and the goblins and troll went back to the dance.
Marrow took them all the way to the back of the bonfire and whispered so Putterwig would not hear with his good hobgoblin ears. What Marrow did not know was Jake, Jessica and Cinnamon were right at the edge of the trees, listening.
“We can blackmail old Putterwig and get him to let us use his portal to the human world. There are lots of children out on Halloween night. We can scare them to death, and then we can feast.
“I want to eat so much I have to throw up to make room for more,” Worms said out loud as he began to drool.
“I claim the throw up,” Maggot yelled, and the other three gave him a disgusted look.
“Quiet.” Marrow slapped Worms in the forehead for talking too loud.
“As for you,” Marrow grabbed Maggot’s earlobe and pulled so his head had to follow.
“Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow!”
Marrow let go and Maggot’s head clunked into Worm’s head. There was a definite hollow sounding “Pop!” when they hit.
Jake and Jessica, who were terrified by the sight of the goblins, now had to keep themselves from giggling. Cinnamon floated up from Jessica’s shoulder and sprinkled the two with some dust. Jake and Jessica found their feet lifted off the ground.
“Walkies,” Cinnamon whispered, and Jake and Jessica found they could walk perfectly well in mid-air. Of course, they made no crunching sounds in the air.
“Wait a minute,” They heard Big Tooth rumble. “I smell fairy.”
Cinnamon simply said, “Runnies!”
“Come along,” Mister Putterwig said with his haughty nose still up in the air. He took Elizabeth’s hand this time without her reaching for his, and they walked for a time is silence. They reached the edge of the woods where a path skirted the trees. Across the path was a big stone wall and that seemed a curiosity to Elizabeth. She had to ask when they came to a gate.
“What is on the other side of the wall?”
Mister Putterwig took her to the gate where they could peak in. “It is a place you don’t want to go. It’s the infinite graveyard, and this being Halloween, it is the one night of the year when the dead rise from their graves.”
“Oh,” Elizabeth saw the grave stones and moved to Mister Putterwig’s other side so she had him between her and the wall.
“Now don’t worry. They can’t go beyond the wall. We are perfectly safe on this side.” And he smiled again as he took her down the walk to the fens.