THE THING IN THE DUNGEON: in Custard castle live a wizard, a king, a queen, a ghost - and a terrible Thing...
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THE THING IN THE DUNGEON

by Emma Laybourn

A Custard Castle story

Custard Castle

Custard Castle had three hundred dusty rooms, and seven people.

There was the King, the Queen, and Princess Fifi. There was a maid, a wizard, and a cook. There was a ghost, who didn't really count.

And there was Jack.

Jack was the servant-boy. He had lots of different jobs to do.

When Princess Fifi went riding, Jack was the Stable-boy. He liked that job, because he got to groom the horse.

When the Queen mended the bathroom pipes, Jack was the Plumber's Mate. He liked that job, because he got to hold the spanners.

When Wizard Watchit was cooking up a spell, Jack was the Wizard's Helper. He liked that job best of all, because he got to stir the cauldron.

But all too often, Jack was the Guard. He had to be the Guard whenever the King was in his treasure room, counting out his money.

Jack hated being the Guard. The Guard had to stand as straight and stiff as a broom-handle. The treasure room was cold and dark, and the King spent far too long in there. He stayed there for hours.

"I wish Father would come riding with me," grumbled Princess Fifi.

"I wish he would help me put up some shelves," sighed the Queen.

"I wish he would come and play tiddlywinks with me," said the Wizard. "The ghost's no good at tiddlywinks."

But the King was too busy counting his treasure, while Jack stood on guard.

Jack yawning as he stands on guard

"Fifty-six, fifty-seven," counted the King one day, piling up his golden guineas. "Fifty-eight, fifty - what was that?"

Jack and the King stared at each other. A terrible sound echoed through the castle.

"YEEOWULL!!"

It was a horrible howl: a sinister screech: a ghastly groan. And it came from the dungeon.

Down ran Jack and the King from the treasure room.

Down ran Wizard Watchit from his tower.

Down ran the Queen, and Fifi, and Bella the maid. They all stood at the dungeon door, and listened.

"EYEOWLL!!" went the dungeon.

"Is it a prisoner down there?" asked Wizard Watchit, shivering.

The King shook his head. "I haven't had a prisoner for years."

"EEERGH!" went the dungeon.

"Rats?" asked the Queen.

"I doubt it," said the King.

""YAROOOWLL!!" went the dungeon.

"Spiders?" wondered Fifi.

"Somehow I don't think so," said the King.

"ROARGH!!" went the dungeon.

"Ghosts?" said Bella with a gulp.

"Ooh! Could be!" said the King. "Someone must go in and find out. Wizard? You've got a ghost. You know all about them."

"My ghost doesn't make horrible noises!" protested Wizard Watchit.

"Doesn't matter," said the King. "This is a job for a wizard. In you go."

"Sorry, just remembered," gabbled Wizard Watchit. "I left the cauldron on. I'll have to go and see to it." He hurried away to his tower and hid under the bed.

"Maybe this isn't a job for a Wizard," said the King. "But it certainly isn't a job for a King. This is a job for..."

He looked around. The Queen, Fifi, Bella and Jack all looked away.

"...for a Guard," finished the King.

"Bother!" muttered Jack.

"Guard! Go and search the dungeon," the King ordered.

"Wait a minute," said Jack. "I need to get something first."

Jack ran to the hall and opened the cupboard under the stairs. They kept a small dragon there for lighting fires. Tucking the sleepy dragon under his arm, he returned to the King.

"I'm ready," he said. "Open the dungeon door!"

Slowly the door creaked open.

The inside of the dungeon was as black as a beetle. It smelt old and cold and damp. Jack tiptoed inside.

"Fire, please, dragon," he whispered.

The dragon yawned. A small flame slipped from its mouth, and lit up some of the dungeon; but not the shadowy corners. Jack couldn't see anything that might have made the horrible noise.

"More fire, please, dragon!" he whispered.

The dragon yawned a little wider. The flame lit up most of the dungeon; but not the furthest, darkest corner.

"Loads of fire please, dragon!"

The dragon yawned still wider. This time, the flame lit up nearly all the dungeon. It almost reached into the furthest corner....

"YEARRGGH!!" went the corner. The dragon yelped, jumped out of Jack's arms, and ran for the door.

Jack was left alone in the dark. Just him and the Thing.

It sounded like a Thing with sharp, sharp claws.

It sounded like a Thing with lots of teeth.

It sounded like a Thing that was about to pounce and chomp right through his neck with just one bite...

Jack gulped. He took a step forward.

"GEROWWLL!!"

With a horrible howl, the Thing pounced.

It pounced onto Jack's shoe, and chomped right through his sock with just one bite.

Jack reached down. He felt a fluffy ball sitting on his foot, and picked it up.

The Thing had sharp, sharp claws all right - as sharp as tiny pins. It had lots of teeth - as thin as little needles. But it was no bigger than his fist.

The not so terrible Thing in the dungeon, in the free children's ebook about Custard Castle by Emma Laybourn

Jack carried the Thing to the door. It looked like a ball of blue fluff, blinking and screwing up its eyes at the light.

He held it out to the King.

"Here you are," he said.

"That?" said the King. "Is that it?"

"RROARRHH!!" snarled the Thing. It gnashed its tiny teeth. The King fell over backwards and sat down on the floor.

"Well, don't just stand there!" he told Jack. "Take it away!"

"Where to?"

"I don't care," said the King. "You're the Guard. You get rid of that terrible Thing."

"Do you want it?" Jack asked the Queen.

"Certainly not," she said. "I can't do my plumbing with that noise going on."

"How about you, Princess?"

"Certainly not," said Fifi. "It doesn't match any of my frilly frocks."

"Bella?"

Bella the maid shook her head. "Not me. I've got nowhere to keep it."

"Bother," said Jack. He frowned at the Thing, wondering what to do with it. "You look like a Thing for a wizard," he decided.

So off he went to Wizard Watchit's tower, carrying the Thing. Every time he passed a sunny window, the Thing screwed up its eyes.

Jack knocked on the Wizard's door. When no-one answered, he went right in. The Thing tried to hide from the light.

"Wizard Watchit?" said Jack. "I've got a Thing for you. What are you doing under the bed?"

"Just dusting," said the wizard's voice. The Thing dived out of Jack's hand, and scuttled into the shadows under the bed.

"Yikes!" yelped the Wizard, leaping up. "It's after me!"

"It just likes the dark," said Jack, scooping up the Thing. Its eyes were tightly shut.

"It can't stay here!" protested Wizard Watchit. "I've already got a ghost in my tower. I don't need a Thing as well!"

"Then what shall I do with it?"

"I don't know," said Wizard Watchit. "You're the Guard. You decide!"

"Bother," muttered Jack.

He carried the Thing back down the stairs, and plodded through the castle.

He passed the treasure room. The door was open. He'd left it open when he ran down to the dungeon in a hurry.

"Oops," said Jack. "I hope nobody's stolen the treasure!" He peered into the cold, dark room.

"WEEEGH!!" cried the Thing. It scurried into the treasure room, ran to the darkest corner and sat down on a heap of coins.

"Do you like it here?" said Jack.

"EEEBOOG!"

"Try it with the door closed," suggested Jack. "It's even darker then." He shut the door and stood outside, listening.

The Thing was humming happily. "POOBLE DOOBLE COOBLE CLUNG."

Just then, the King came puffing up.

"I never finished counting out my money," he said. "Stand guard for me, Jack!"

"You've got a new guard now," said Jack.

"Have I? Where?" The King looked round.

"In there."

The King opened the door.

"RROARRGH!!" went the treasure room.

The King closed the door again quickly.

"Jolly good," he said. "What an excellent guard. I, um, I don't think I'll do any more counting just now. I'll go for a ride with Fifi instead."

When the King returned from his ride, he went to the treasure room and opened the door a crack...

"YEROWLL!!"

"Maybe later," said the King, and he went to help the Queen put up her shelves.

When the shelves were up, he tiptoed to the treasure room. He opened the door as quietly as he could.

"OOURRARGH!!"

"Time for a game of tiddlywinks," the King decided. "The counting can wait till next week. Or next year."

The Thing stayed in the treasure room, where it was perfectly happy in the cold and dark. It only howled when people opened the door. So it was very good at keeping thieves away.

It was also very good at keeping the King away. And that made everybody happy...

Especially Jack.

THE END

Copyright © 2012 Emma Laybourn

Download the ebook of THE THING IN THE DUNGEON:
   Click here for Kindle (mobi) or click here for other ereaders (epub).

Read another Custard Castle story:
    The Dragon under the Stairs
    The Messy Princess
    The Marvellous Moat
    The Surprising Storm
    Princess Fifi's Frog
    Spring Clean
    Dragon Dilemma     The New Witch

There are six more Custard Castle stories in the ebook:
    The Ghost of Custard Castle. Find out more here!

The cover of the ebook: The Ghost of Custard Castle, 6 illustrated stories for young children

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