THE DRAGON UNDER THE STAIRS: Custard Castle is freezing! Why won't the dragon light the fires?
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by Emma Laybourn

A Custard Castle story

Custard Castle

A cruel winter was attacking Custard Castle.

The cold wind whipped all the leaves off the trees, and flung them at the windows. It blew down the chimneys and under the doors. It howled in the corridors and wailed around Wizard Watchit's tower.

Wizard Watchit had no fire. After shivering in his tower for a while, he came downstairs to complain to the King.

"I'm freezing!" he moaned. "Can't Bella come and light the fire in my tower?"

"Certainly not!" snapped the King. "No fires until next month. That's the rule. Firewood costs far too much."

"But I'm freezing too!" cried Princess Fifi.

"So am I!" said the Queen.

"I'm colder than an iceberg!" wailed Jack the servant-boy.

"This castle's like a fridge!" said Bella the maid.

"Rubbish," said the King, who was wearing extra-thick royal underwear underneath his furry robes. "It's not cold at all. You don't need fires. Have a hot drink to warm you up."

"Sorry," said Cook. "There are no hot drinks. All the ovens in the kitchen have gone out. There's no hot anything until we can light them again."

"Oh!" said the King. His face fell. "No hot food at all?"

"There's plenty of strawberry ice-cream," offered the Cook.

"Oh!" said the King again, looking very put out. "Well, in that case, you may light the fires in the kitchen as a special royal favour. Then make me some hot soup. And light the fire in my throne room too!"

"And my bedroom!" added Fifi.

"And my tower!" said the Wizard.

"And the rest of the castle," ordered the Queen.

"Oh, all right then," said the King crossly. "Jack! Go and chop the firewood. Bella! Go and fetch the dragon."

Jack chopped up lots of wood, and put it in the fireplaces ready to be lit.

Bella went to the cupboard under the stairs to fetch the dragon. It was a small, sleepy dragon that they kept for lighting fires.

The dragon was fast asleep. When Bella picked it up, it felt limp and floppy. She tickled the dragon's tummy to wake it up, but it just snored.

She waggled its tail. Nothing happened.

She shouted "Boo!" in its ear. It didn't even stir.

Bella carried the snoring dragon to the King and put it down on the floor.

Bella carrying the sleepy dragon under her arm

"I can't wake it up!" she said.

"It's been like that for days," said Jack. "I can't even wake it up to feed it."

The King poked the dragon in the ribs. It just snored louder.

"What's wrong with it?" he grumbled.

"It's hibernating," said Wizard Watchit.

"It's never done that before!"

"It's never been so cold before," the Wizard groaned.

"Well, how do we wake it?" asked the King.

"You need to warm it up," said Wizard Watchit.

"But we can't warm it up until it's woken up, and lit the fires!" spluttered the King. "Do a spell to wake it! Quickly!"

"It might not like it," said the Wizard, looking worried.

"I don't care! Do it anyway!"

The Wizard shrugged. "If you insist." He muttered a spell, waving his hands over the dragon's head.

Suddenly, the dragon's eyes opened wide. It glared around. It did not look happy.

"I told you it wouldn't like it," said the Wizard.

The dragon opened its mouth wide. But it did not breathe out fire. Instead, it showed all its long, sharp teeth, and snapped them at Wizard Watchit. It had never done that before. The Wizard jumped backwards.

"Er, I'm just off to see to some charms," he said, and he hurried away to his tower.

"Well, what are you waiting for? Pick up the dragon and light the fires!" said the King to Bella.

Bella gazed nervously at the dragon. It had always been a lazy, dozy dragon. She had never seen it so wide awake. She didn't feel much like picking it up.

She reached towards it, but it snapped its long, sharp teeth at her. Angrily, it snapped its teeth at Jack, and the Queen, and Princess Fifi. Then it snapped them at the King.

"Stop that!" said the King.

"I bet it's hungry," said Jack. "It hasn't eaten anything for days."

"Well, take it away and feed it!" said the King. "What does it eat?"

"Meat pie," said Jack. "It likes steak and kidney best. Come on, dragon! Pie time!"

At that, the dragon pricked up its ears. It followed Jack down to the kitchen. Its sharp claws clattered on the flagstones. It ran around the kitchen, sticking its head in the cold ovens.

"It's looking for a steak and kidney pie," explained Jack.

"But I haven't got any pies!" said Cook. "Not until the ovens are working. Do you think it'll like strawberry ice-cream?"

The dragon did not like strawberry ice-cream. It spat it out, sneezed, and galloped out of the kitchen in a rage. Bella and Jack ran after it; but whenever they tried to catch it, it turned and snapped its teeth at them.

Then the dragon began to rampage round the castle, hunting for steak and kidney pie.

It hunted in the Queen's toolbox, and chewed her spanners. It hunted in Princess Fifi's wardrobe, and chewed her dresses. It hunted under the King's throne, and chewed his slippers.

It got more and more hungry, and more and more angry. Although Jack and Bella kept following it, they couldn't stop it.

"What if it decides to eat maid instead of pie?" whispered Bella.

"Or servant-boy?" said Jack. "What can we do? It won't light the fires, or go back to sleep, until it's had something to eat!"

"And there isn't a steak and kidney pie anywhere in the castle!"

Suddenly the dragon raised its head. Its nose twitched. It began to waddle swiftly down the corridor.

"Now where's it going?" asked Bella.

The dragon runs through the castle

The dragon broke into a run. It ran all the way to the tallest tower - the Wizard's tower. It clambered eagerly up the stairs and stopped outside the Wizard's door, panting.

Bella banged on the door. Wizard Watchit opened it, wrapped in a blanket. At once the dragon charged in.

"Help!" cried Wizard Watchit. "What does it want?"

"Steak and kidney pie," said Jack. "You haven't got any, have you?"

"As a matter of fact, I have," declared the Wizard. "I keep one in case of emergencies. It's on a shelf somewhere..."

He began to look along his shelves, muttering, "Let me see. Toadspawn... ginger biscuits... black beetles... Here we are! Steak and kidney pie. It's a bit cold."

He tossed the pie to the dragon. The dragon tried to bite it, but its teeth went crunk on the pastry. The pie was frozen solid.

"It can't eat that!" said Bella in despair. "Now what?"

The dragon took a long, deep breath.

"Whoooh!" it said. A yellow flame spurted from its mouth, and nearly set fire to the Wizard's blanket.

"It's trying to melt the pie!" cried Jack.

Quickly, Bella put the pie in the fireplace.

"Whoooh!" went the dragon, again and again. Flames snaked around the pie.

The wood in the fireplace began to crackle and smoke. The pie began to steam and sizzle. The dragon grabbed the pie in its teeth, and gobbled it all up.

Once the dragon had eaten the pie, it looked much happier. It yawned a huge, slow yawn. Its eyelids drooped. It staggered, lay down and fell fast asleep.

Bella picked it up, and carried it downstairs. She put it carefully back inside its cupboard.

"Stay sleepy!" she told the snoring dragon. "I like you better that way!"

Meanwhile, Jack lit a torch at the wizard's fire. He carried it around Custard Castle, lighting all the other fires. Soon the castle was as warm as toast.

"We mustn't let the fires go out!" Jack told the King. "Or the dragon might start to hibernate again. We'll have to keep the castle warm!"

The King grumbled, but he dared not argue.

So all the fires stayed lit, the dragon stayed happy - and Custard Castle stayed snug and warm all through the cruel winter.


Copyright © 2012 Emma Laybourn

Download the ebook of THE DRAGON UNDER THE STAIRS:
    Click here for Kindle (mobi) or click here for other ereaders (epub).

Read another Custard Castle story:
    The Thing in the Dungeon
    The Messy Princess
    The Marvellous Moat
    The Surprising Storm
    Princess Fifi's Frog
    Spring Clean
    Dragon Dilemma
    The New Witch
    The Other Ghost

You can read six more Custard Castle stories in the ebook:
    The Ghost of Custard Castle
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The cover of the ebook: The Ghost of Custard Castle

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