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Untitled as yet

by HannahF 

Posted: 23 January 2004
Word Count: 3769
Summary: I've started working on this idea for a children's story. Its about a girl and boy who come to stay in an old medieval house in Cornwall and find themselves involved in an ancient conflict between two warring brothers. It will involve themes of time travel, family, community, love, sacrifice and I hope magic - not of the wizardry kind, but an appreciation of the natural wonder a landscape and culture like Cornwall's can offer. I hope!!

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Getting there

The country lane narrowed and wound, darkly, in front of them. Steep moss-covered banks lined the route. Above, leafless winter trees blocked out the afternoon light, reaching their gnarled and knotted shadows across the roof of the car and onto the road ahead.
Winding down her passenger window, Fee saw brown bracken and smelled the mustiness of black earth, before shivering in the rush of cold air.
"It doesn't seem like this road gets used much," she said, noticing the line of mud and grass along its centre, and potholes in the tarmac that needed repairing.
Her father put their car's sidelights on and slowed down, tutting quietly under his breath.
"It's alright to drive on. I'm more concerned about us meeting something coming the other way. There doesn't seem to be anywhere to pull over," he craned his neck to see around the approaching corner.
They turned sharply right, then left, right again and suddenly pitched forward as the lane dropped without warning down a steep bank.
"Ohhhhh, hold on!" Fee closed her eyes and held the dashboard as the car rattled and jolted down the hill.
Braking hard, her father brought them to a halt in front of a small stone bridge that crossed a narrow stream.
"Are we all okay?" he asked, his hands gripping the steering wheel.
Fee turned round to the back seat where her younger brother Tom sat sandwiched between bedding and a box of food supplies. He clutched Woppit, his teddy bear, and nodded bravely at her. She smiled at him before settling back into her seat.
"They need to put up a few more road signs around here, I had no idea that was going to happen. Sorry kids."
"Road signs and signposts in general, I still can't make out where we are," said Fee.
"Anything about a bridge or a stream?" asked her father.
Fee studied again the directions she had been told by a woman from the office of Gribble and Snell, Agents for Prestigious Properties. Madeleine, as had she announced herself on the telephone in the dry cracked voice of a serial smoker, wanted to talk to Fee's father. He was busy packing the car for the journey so Fee took down the details herself. Now she began to worry that she'd missed something as they still had not passed any of the landmarks Madeleine instructed her to look out for.
Fee rubbed her forehead in confusion.
"Boddrigan House is five miles off the main road, on the left hand side after the village of Trebarrow, but we went through that ages ago and we still haven't seen a driveway with a sign, or come to a red post box, or a White Lion pub yet."
Her father looked up at the late afternoon sky, grey and white above the mass of darkening woodland around them. "We're going to have to get there soon - I said to the office we'd arrive by 4 o'clock as I want to get unpacked and sorted out before dark. I might not be able to get that generator going and if that's the case we won't have any electricity for the night."'
Fee groaned. This was just getting better. When Dad first suggested they stay in the old Cornish house for "a country Christmas" she thought it sounded fun. She couldn't argue anyway as he'd been told by his employers, a London firm of property managers, to go and open up the old place prior to the arrival of its new, American, owner.

Being nearly thirteen she was also shrewd enough to guess he was hoping the break away from home would help them all survive the first Christmas on their own, without Mum.
Fee agreed because she had to and also to help make things better for their little family. Then she realised they would be leaving for Cornwall on the day of the end-of-term party. She had saved up to buy some hair glitter especially and had spent hours gossiping with Mel about what to wear.
Mel had sent her a text message earlier that afternoon: "Getting ready - don't want 2 B L8 - Miss U!" Fee tried to text back but somewhere in the maze of country lanes her mobile phone lost its signal and did not find it again.
She sighed, then sat up determinedly. Hair glitter was fun but it didn't help you find your way out of a wood, or start the generator that would power your mysterious home for the next three weeks.
"Let's keep going along this road until we find a signpost and then I’ll have another look at the ordnance survey map," she said.
"Okay then crew, you'd better assume positions for take off as we've got quite a climb in front of us. Warp factor two engaged", and their father put the car into gear, revving it for effect before crossing the bridge and accelerating hard up the opposite bank. Tom shrieked with delight as the car strained its way loudly upwards. "Hang on, we're almost into orbit." They swung round a steep left-hand bend and straight into the bright lights of something coming fast downhill towards them. As they skidded out of its way and into the mossy bracken of the nearside bank a motorbike roared past them. Fee saw the dark figure of its rider wave his fist as she fell forwards against her seat belt.
"Idiot!", her father's face was red with anger. He jumped out of the car, running a few steps down the lane after the motorbike. They heard it climb the bank opposite, heading back the way they had travelled, and then the sound disappeared.
Their father walked round the car checking for damage. Fee turned to her brother, "Alright?"
Tom was silent, his eight-year-old face was white with shock. He seemed near to tears.
Fee put her hand on his arm and squeezed it encouragingly. "How's Bessie?", she asked of the car.
"Not a scratch as far as I can see, which is bloody lucky. Oh, forget I said that, it's just because I'm rattled."
Fee rolled her eyes , "Just this once, hey Tom?". Her brother managed a small smile.
Their father drove Bessie back onto the road. They travelled up the rest of the hill in silence.
At the top, the lane widened and brightened as the trees thinned out. Fee scanned the tall hedgerows for a lone red post box. She looked at her father who was frowning at the road ahead. He turned and caught her eye, giving her a grim smile before looking in the rear view mirror at Tom. "Come on then, how about another song from your Christmas concert to cheer us all up?" he asked, encouragingly. Tom shifted in his seat. "We've sung them all twice now Dad, and anyway what's the point as the concert's tomorrow and we won't be in it."
"Well, maybe we can have our own do - just the three of us around a lovely fireplace and in front of a real Christmas tree. What do you think?"
Tom looked doubtful, but Fee caught her father's mood: "Yes, a proper tree with proper pines that smell of the forest - and a great big roaring fire that we can roast chestnuts on. And no Miss Worrall to go all puffy in the face and shout at us if we hit a wrong note," she giggled.
"Aha!" said their father, pointing at the road ahead which became a crossroads. On a small island of grass stood a white painted signpost.
"There it is, on that sign, Boddrigan, this way..." his words trailed off as the arrow directed them two miles back along the route they had come.
"No way, " said Fee. "We didn't pass the house back there. This is weird."
"Well that's what the sign says, so let's give it a shot," and her father turned Bessie round in the road. Fee pored over the ordnance survey map in the fading light.
The sun began to sink in the sky behind them and the horizon glowed softly pink. Tom leant up on his elbows to watch the clouds turn vivid red as the day disappeared through the back window.
On the left bank, Fee spotted a wooden signpost. It wasn't painted white like the other one so could easily be missed.
The signpost bore two village names on its left arm but its right arm, pointing in the direction they were travelling, had been broken off. Neither of the names were on the map or on Fee's piece of paper.
She crumpled it up and slung it to the back of the car in exasperation. "We're lost," she declared, sitting back and folding her arms.
"Oh don't say that, its getting dark and I'm hungry," complained Tom.
"Well, we've got two choices. We can either carry on back down this road or head to one of those other two villages. What do you think Tom?" asked their father.
Tom frowned and began chewing his bottom lip. "Um, I don't know, I don't want to get it wrong," he said.
"Okay then, lets toss a coin." Their father fished in his pocket. "Heads we go on, tails we turn back." He flipped the coin and it landed on the back of his hand. "Heads it is, " he said, holding it up for them both to see. Neither of the children spoke as the car moved forward again.
It got darker and their father put the headlights on. The bright eyes of a rabbit caught in them and then disappeared as their owner jumped out of the way. Fee saw the gleaming eyes of other, hidden, creatures peering at them from within the tall hedgerows. She shuddered.
They came to the top of the hill where earlier, the motorbike had forced them off the road.
"Look!" said Fee, excitedly. "There's a turning on the right, we must have missed it the first time."
They swung across the lane and onto a dirt track, bouncing along on the broken stones. The track followed woodland on the left and was bordered on the right by a low stone wall. For the first time since leaving the main road, they could see the open countryside they were travelling through.
Behind the wall, a large field of scrub was dotted with the pale shapes of sheep moving slowly through the gathering dusk. The land sloped down towards a black ribbon of river some miles away, and then rose the other side towards high moorland hills ridged with the fading light of sunset. In the far distance a line of small red lights dotted up towards the sky and Fee guessed they marked a beacon or a tall mast of some kind. In the folds of the moorland slopes small clusters of yellow lights could be made out, showing where a village had reached the end of its daylight and was now preparing for the long dark hours of the winter night ahead. Occasionally a moving light could be seen making its lonely way across the wide expanse of the moor, seemingly aimlessly, but Fee knew, following the twists and turns of another endless lane.
She turned from the scene as they pulled up in front of a wooden gate which barred their way into a walled farmyard. The noise of a dog barking sounded seconds before something threw itself at the bars of the gate gnashing and gnawing in a display of sharply bared teeth and fierce yellow eyes. Tom ducked down in the back of the car, and Fee started back in her seat and clutched at it with both hands.
"Samson - back 'ere now boy," hollered an angry voice from within the farmyard.
Fee's father, who had been about to open the car door and get out, instead wound down his window and shouted "Hello there, can you help us? We're lost!"
They heard muttering and the dull thud of heavy boots on hard earth before seeing an elderly man in a dark overcoat, tied with a length of orange twine, shamble up towards them, holding his hand in front of his face against the glare from the headlights.
"Tourists is it? Always the same, never know how to read a map, never show no sense, just ride into anyone you likes home and demand to be told where you are," he lifted the latch on the big gate and patted Samson, who now quiet, showed himself to be a small black and white sheep dog.
"Not tourists no, but heading to Boddrigan House. We're expected there. I'm David Williams and these are my children, Sophie and Thomas," said their father, holding out his hand to the old man.
The stranger did not shake it but peered instead inside the car. Fee, who was still holding onto her seat, smiled uncertainly, but Tom clambered off the floor to hide behind the pile of pillows instead.
"You're late," said the old man, knowingly.
"Excuse me?" said David.
"The Watcher has been waiting for you since noon. I've had to see to everything meself today as you've not turned up when expected. I don't know who's had it worse, me or the Watcher..." he trailed off.
"What are you talking about?" asked David.
"Today he's bin watching for you. Only he didn't see you as you've not turned up, like I said. You've come the wrong way," grumbled the old man.
"Look I don't know what you are going on about. Can you tell us the way to Boddrigan House or not?"
Fee heard the note of tension in her father's raised voice.
"I will cos I don't want the Watcher angry wi' me. But you should know you caused mighty trouble here today." The old man continued to speak over the protests of Fee's father. "Go back down the track and turn right down the hill, cross the stream and up the other side for a mile until you get to a red post box. On the right is a large driveway with a white painted sign. You can't miss it," he said, turning his back and returning through the gate.
"Well we obviously did you old fool," muttered their father as closed the window and reversed their car noisily down the bumpy track. Fee looked at the old man who was leaning on the gate and glaring back at them. His eyes, which caught in the headlights, reminded her of those that gleamed out of the banks along the roadside. She shivered again.
A few minutes later they crossed the stream where they had stopped earlier, and retraced their journey back up the steep bank. At the top, the lane straightened out and a red post box stood out of the left hedge. On the right a wide driveway led off the road and a white painted sign with thick black lettering bore the name, Boddrigan House. Before turning into the drive Fee's father studied it with a puzzled look on his face.
"What is it?" asked Fee.
"Oh nothing," he shrugged, swinging Bessie off the road.
But Fee knew what was bothering him, as she too remembered that only an hour or so ago they had twisted and turned along this road before plummeting down to the small stone bridge. They hadn't seen the sign or the post box. She said nothing.

The driveway began promisingly enough, a wide gravelled path of small grey chippings. It reminded Fee of the entrances to some of the larger houses on the outskirts of their hometown. Their own house did not have a drive but rather her father parked their car in the street outside, if he could get a space. Sometimes he came in from work cursing that he’d had to walk half mile to his own front door.
She wondered what type of door awaited them at the end of this particular drive. She wasn’t surprised that they couldn’t see the house yet, it seemed determined to keep hidden from them. Fee realised that already she was giving the house a personality and a life of its own - something she had never done for her own home, No 27, a three bedroomed semi built in the 1930s on a road called New Street. It didn’t have any of the mystery that Boddrigan House promised.
During their stop at a motorway service station for a lunch of soggy chips and tepid tea, her father shared with them what he knew.
“The house has been managed by the company for years now, since the Second World War in fact,” he said. “The family which owned it left it then in the trust of Wilbur Gribble, the company’s founder. No-one has lived in it since 1943 although a commune of hippies did set up home temporarily during the Sixties. Apparently its them we have to thank for the artwork on the walls, which I have to paint clean, amongst other things.
“There’s no mains electricity but there is a generator in one of the outbuildings, and water is supplied from the house’s own spring. I’m not sure what the heating is like but we’ll probably find fireplaces in most of the rooms. It’s very old. It’s even mentioned in the Doomsday book, although its recorded as Boddun Keep and I doubt any of the existing house dates back to then. It was probably built sometime in the 1500s on the site of the keep’s foundations. It’s supposed to have some extraordinary original features still - like a huge vaulted hallway and a stone staircase. There’s even some stained glass windows but I think they must date from later on, if they’ve survived of course.”
Fee had smiled at her father who seemed excited by the prospect of opening up the house. It was a big step up for him in the company which usually sent out senior managers to oversee their portfolio properties. Probably they couldn’t be bothered with making the long journey from London to this far flung corner of Cornwall just before Christmas. Or maybe they had wanted to give her father a break from the office. She had noticed how pale and tired he’d become since her mother died, perhaps his bosses realised this too and wanted to help out somehow.
“Does it have a ghost?” she had asked, poking Tom in the ribs to make him jump.
“Well, not that it says so in the file, but its bound to have a few quirks of its own. Don’t be surprised if you hear the floorboards and doors creaking. They always do in the old places. Right then, if you’re finished up we’ll get back on the road. We should be there in a couple of hours.”
Fee looked at her watch. It was now gone five o’clock. They had left the service station at just after half past one. Where had the time gone?
The drive wound its way through woodland which was held back by dilapidated wire fencing. Inevitably, this had collapsed in places and shrubs had grown, encroaching onto the gravel path. Eventually the chippings thinned and finally petered out so that in their place a trail of mud and stone offered a less confident passage through the increasingly dense undergrowth. Heavy thicket scraped agonisingly along the sides of the car causing Fee’s teeth to set on edge.
“I don’t like it here,” said Tom, quietly. Fee turned around to him and held out her hand. “Don’t worry, things always look worse in the dark. Tomorrow we’ll come out here for a walk and think its really pretty,” she tried to sound convincing but felt uncomfortable herself.
The trail bore left and they began a slow climb. On their right the ground gradually opened out until a wide area of grass could be seen leading up to a high stone wall. The wall had crumbled in places but appeared to run on into the darkness beyond their headlights. A massive arched door was set thickly within it. Their father stopped the car.
“What do we think? Could this be the house or should we carry on up the track?”
They were all silent, looking at the wall. As they studied it a light appeared in the middle of the huge door. It got brighter and seemed to come closer to them. Straining forward Fee could see a small figure, hooded in black and carrying a lantern, cross the grass towards them. The door however remained closed.
“What the devil?” said their father, as the figure drew closer and began swinging the lantern from side to side.
Tom squealed and scrambled under the pillow cases once more. Fee shook her father’s arm and gasped at him to drive away. The devil was almost upon them.
“Williams?” it shouted fiercely behind the candlelight which was blocking its face.
“Williams for Bodriggan House?” it repeated, lowering the lantern so that the shocked family could see a small man wearing a dark coat, with the hood drawn up over his head against the cold.
David slumped forward with relief and wound down his window. “ Yes I’m Mr Williams, is this the house?”
“You’re late,” replied the man in answer, gruffly.
“Yes I’m sorry about that. We couldn’t find the way, our directions weren’t very good”. It sounded a lame apology.
“Well you’re here now. Bring the car up to the gate. I’ll open it and let you into the courtyard dreckly.” The small man didn’t wait but turned and walked back towards the big door. They watched him disappear again through its middle.
“Do you think its safe?” whispered Fee as her father seemed undecided whether to follow him.
“Only one way to find out,” he replied, and drove very slowly across the grass towards the wall. Suddenly the huge wooden door swung open in front of them. Fee saw that it was made from thick black timbers and covered with large studs the size of her fists. It made her think of the entrances to old castles. She had seen pictures of them at school in history books.
Then she realised that carved into it was a smaller door, large enough to walk through. This must have been how the strange hooded man had appeared. They drove on through the huge opening and arrived in a cobblestone courtyard. It was silent and no-one was about, except for the little man who stood waiting, and watching them.

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Comments by other Members

bluesky3d at 21:34 on 23 January 2004  Report this post
Hannah, this is really well written and absorbing. It should appeal to children (of all ages).

It's great that thirteen-year-old Fee has taken responsibilty for navigation. It certainly is very descriptive and I can easily imagine a child of a similar age would really enjoy this and identify with her.

Great stuff! Welcome to Writewords.

Andrew :o)

Ellenna at 11:56 on 24 January 2004  Report this post
Hi Hannah.. Welcome to Writewords.. I rather enjoyed this.. the idea looks very promising and I have taken to Fee and can feel she is between being a child and grown up.... that comes over well. I was drawn in so am sure it will be appealing to other far younger children:)..I could "see" the windy roads and the feeling of being lost.. especially as I now live in Cornwall and have experienced missing turnings myself!

Nice idea and very well written.


SamMorris at 16:32 on 24 January 2004  Report this post
Hi Hannah,

This piece really drew me in. Apart from a certain series of books featuring a young wizard I have not read much children’s fiction for ages, but I really did enjoy this. It has that alluring mix of a child based story with some adult elements and perspectives woven in. Seems very well done to me and I’m sure it will appeal to children from fairly small to larger varieties (sorry - kids come in sizes too me, never to sure of their ages!) Looking forward to finding out what’s behind that massive wooden gate.

All the best with this one!


HannahF at 13:03 on 28 January 2004  Report this post
Dear Andrew, Ellie and Sam,
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this and then to be so encouraging with your comments. It meant a lot to receive them, and is the first feedback I've had. I hope to start using the website regularly now and have a look also at what you and other writers are creating. Thanks again! HannahF

salli13 at 04:48 on 17 February 2013  Report this post
I'm new to Writewords and writing. I'm the mum of two daighters now 17 & 21 so have resd of a lot of childrens/teenage fiction. This was a very atmospheric read, lovely descriptions, have been to Cornwall though I now live in Australia, so could picture the roads in my mind. Well done.

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