Authors: Alan Skinner
Tags: #novel, #Childrens, #12+, #Muddlemarsh, #Fantasy, #Muddles
Sibling Press (Australia) Ptyt Ltd
19 Gresford Road
Wantirna, Victoria, 3152
First Edition 2009
This e-book edition published 2011
Copyright © Alan Skinner
The moral rights of the author and illustrator have been asserted
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Cover illustration by Steve Crisp
All illustrations © Steve Crisp
Cover design by Ian Hughes
E-book production by
Edited by Katherine Fry
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may br reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers.
Cast of Characters
|Whist||Manager of Home's coffee house|
|Calamity||Fire station puppy|
|Sparkle||Fire station horse|
|Brian||Factotum of Beadleburg|
|Bligh||High Councillor of Beadleburg|
|Isidora||Proprietor of Beadleburg Bank|
|Tek||Computer and Appliance Technician|
|Achillia||Lord Mayor of Forge|
|Beatrice||Assistant to Lord Mayor|
|Jakob||Waiter at Bellows Tavern|
From The Place
n the clear blue sky appeared a single cloud. It was shaped like a bird and so light that when it passed across the face of the sun, only the faintest shadow followed on the ground below. Down the craggy mountains the pale shadow flew, above the wooded slopes and valleys and across the tumbling rivers and streams of the Land. In Muddlemarsh, the very heart of the Land, Muddles worked and played, both human and animal. And as the cloud passed overhead every Muddle, whether on two legs or four, on the wing or on foot, felt a familiar tingle and each was bathed in a shimmering glow, each appearing for an instant like a desert mirage. The Mix, they called it. The cloud dissolved, the shimmering vanished and the Muddles went on with their work and play.
Yet not exactly as they had been. For the Mix does something very strange to the Muddles.
‘I hate Muddles!’ Brian yelled. He was sprawled in the middle of a large, leafy bush, one shoe on and one shoe held firmly in his hand. He tried to stand and a branch stabbed his bare foot and he yelped in pain.
‘I really hate Muddles!’ he shouted again as another branch jabbed into the seat of his trousers, nearly making him drop the shoe in his hand.
‘I really, REALLY do not like Muddles!’ Brian roared. He pushed the branches apart and tumbled from the bush.
One hand rubbing his bottom and the other holding his shoe, Brian hopped around the bush. Scowling, he stopped hopping and stood, swaying on the one foot that still had possession of its shoe. He reached down to put on his shoe, swaying as he bent. He paused, then tried again. He reached and his body swayed even more, forward and back, and forward again. The earth came alarmingly close to his nose. He threw back his arms to balance himself. The shoe flew from his hand. A magpie in a nearby tree watched it sail high over the bush.
Brian fell hard on his bottom. ‘Ooomph!’ he said.
‘Caw!’ said the magpie.
‘Ooooh!’ moaned Brian.
‘Caw!’ said the magpie. The bird swooped from the branch, plucked the shoe from the grass and flew home with the treasure.
‘I SO hate Muddles!’ yelled Brian, watching his shoe disappear in the blue sky.
It had started as quite a good day. Brian felt warm and content in the sunshine, and the narrow, smooth road along which he walked was free of traffic. Life was calm and peaceful and he strolled down the middle of the road, humming and whistling. He watched the birds fly from tree to tree and soar in the air, swooping in a graceful line like long coloured ribbons. Across the blue sky drifted small puffs of clouds. Butterflies and bees flickered from flower to flower, bidding each hello. ‘Yes,’ thought Brian as walked in the sunshine, ‘it is a lovely day.’
More than the birds, the sunshine or the blue sky, what made Brian feel good was that he felt important. After all, he was on a very important mission. Even Bligh, the High Councillor, had told him three times before he left just how important Brian’s mission was.
‘As the town’s Factotum,’ he had said solemnly to Brian, using his deepest voice in case Brian had trouble understanding the words, ‘it is up to you to convince the Muddles that they have to help us. We are all counting on you, Brian.’
Now, normally, Brian wouldn’t have been too thrilled to visit the Muddles. He avoided Muddles whenever he could. Brian thought Muddles made life difficult. It wasn’t just the Mix when, for no reason he could fathom, all Muddles swapped bodies and legs – though that definitely was odd. It was also that they had no common sense and could be very unpredictable. He tried to be understanding. After all, it must be very difficult to have common sense when some days you wake up and don’t even know whose shoes you have to tie. Brian remembered when he was learning to tie his own shoes. For a moment he felt sorry for the Muddles, but then he remembered how something unexpected always seemed to happen when Muddles were around and he quickly lost his sympathy. Because when something unexpected happened, it made Brian’s life more difficult. After all, it was a Factotum’s job to make sure that life is predictable.