Nutlidge Chapter Eight
The Hall of Records
Deep into the roots of the tree, down into the blackness and tangled mass of livelihood, a dark creature was stirring. Amidst the dark tunnels and caves in the undergrowth of mulch and worms, moved a finger sticking out of the cave wall. It was long and dirty and its nail was extremely long and bowed, hosting chunks of clay and sand. Little by little, with slow movements, the finger wiggled about, determined to get out of its muddy jail.
It moved some rock and a most grotesque bony hand with three fingers and a thumb broke free. The ground shook around it, working its way up to the tree’s massive boughs where nutleys and tree folk were busy going about their daily lives. Items began to fall over, people began calling out and screaming for their lives and little nuttles were crying loudly from the fright.
Food on tables went everywhere, making a terrible mess. Nutley horses reared up on back legs and even the Nirds coming in to land had trouble navigating their way. One of them crashed into the main tree trunk wall, bringing down with it the Nutlidge sign and just missing a family of four nutleys. Ducks flapped and waddled everywhere, and birds took off in startled flight as things fell around them.
The tree stopped shaking and everything came to a standstill. There was a big pause before people began to talk amongst themselves. Moving around, picking themselves and others up off the floor, the Nutlidge folk tried to work out what had caused the tree to shake as viciously as it did.
Malley Gum and Coral were doing much the same thing, making sure their customers were all okay. Once Malley knew that everything and everyone was fine, including Curley, he left Coral and Curley to tidy up with a friend and headed up the tree after Florrel and Sky. He knew they would be at Yellow Flowers place.
Back at the garden of Yellow Flower, Blacko, Yellow Flower, Sky and Florrel and now Yellow Flower’s pet galah Dusty, were all composing themselves after the frightful scare.
“Is anyone hurt?” said the fairy, looking around at her guests and lifted Dusty off the ground stroking him affectionately.
“Oh you poor thing, are you alright?” she asked the galah. He was fairly ruffled with his crest sticking up and his eyes were wide open in fright.
“What on earth was that?” Florrel said, dusting herself off. “I’ve never experienced anything quite like it before.”
“I’m not sure,” said Yellow Flower helping Sky off the floor, “but, I think it’s time we found out!”
Before they could say another word they heard a voice coming from somewhere above them. It got louder and louder, calling out,
“Yellow Flower, Yellow Flower! I’m having trouble! Please focus on me if you would!” And as Yellow Flower focused on the person behind the voice she said. “It’s Elm! He’s having trouble getting here!”
There was a whirling noise that also got louder and louder and then suddenly a space in the garden filled itself with bright glittering blue and gold mist that was filled with tiny lightning bolts and spirals. A group of bats actually appeared first, flapping around the mist, which was growing brighter by the second.
Suddenly it exploded into what looked like a fireworks display and there left standing in the mist of it all was a very tall and bedraggled wizard. He was still spinning, and so much so, that he keeled over from the strenuous journey.
As he tried to get up, he waved the bats away, but they weren’t going anywhere. The bats were a spell gone wrong and he hadn’t been able to get rid of them for at least a day now. It was frightfully annoying!
Florrel and Sky helped the wizard to his feet as he fumbled about, trying to get his balance.
Elm was a kind and popular wizard whom everyone loved. He was very powerful, but he was also very clumsy. He stood as tall as Blacko, with a floor length mane of silver hair and a beard that frequently got in the way. His hat was high and covered with real diamonds cut into stars and he had a kind old face.
“Oh my goodness me!” he huffed and puffed, “That was a journey and a half! I could have sworn I said it the right way, or maybe it is to do with the tree shaking… However!” he said, pointing his finger upwards to make a point, “I have just been to see Lord Nutwood and he gave me the key to the Hall of Records.” He fumbled around looking for the key in one of his many pockets. He pulled out a very long scarf and a frog, and from another he pulled out a wand and a bag of herbs. Another pocket contained a dozen beetles and in there he found the key.
“Here it is!” he laughed. “Let us not waste any time at all dear Yellow Flower! We must find out what is causing the very foundations of the tree to shake like it did!”
Blacko came around the corner carrying the pod, a little shaken.
“Are you alright Blacko?” said Yellow Flower.
He nodded. “Yup, no worries! Just a bit amazed that’s all.”
“What do you mean?” said Sky; curious as to what could be more amazing than what had just happened.
“Well I reckon, that for something to be able to shake a tree of this size it must be either an earthquake, or a pretty mighty force of a negative kind…” They all looked at him blankly. “Well, it’s not exactly a build up of positive energy is it?” he added, and continuing into the tree house, put the bath down in the bathing room as the others all looked at each other. He came back out dusting off his hands. “As far as I know, the meeting with the Federation of Nature Spirits is to be held just outside of Cairns, in North Queensland. If you need a lift, I can take you there. I’m on my way back now.”
“Thank you so much Blacko, I do appreciate your offer,” said Yellow Flower, “but we need to get to the ancient library first. But listen, we just might see you at the gathering. Will you look out for us?”
“Yup sure thing! I’ll even save you a seat. Hey do you need a hand cleaning up here?”
“Thanks Blacko but we’ll manage. You had better get your deliveries finished. I’ll probably see you at the gathering in Queensland.”
“Well, folks, I’ll be seeing ya. Take care of yourselves now.” And he waved as he walked up the pathway to the gate.
“He was a nice nut man.” said Sky, watching him disappear around the bush.
“Yes, the Blackbean people are genuine and kind people,” said Florrel. “They live their lives similar to us, but in warmer, more tropical surroundings. We often see them delivering things to the tree. They are always polite.”
Yellow Flower suddenly realised that she had not introduced her guest to her old friend.
“By the way, Elm, this is our new friend, Sky. Sky, the amazing Elm…” she smiled cheekily.
“Ah, I’m delighted my child! Welcome to Nutlidge! And what an introduction! It’s not always shaking like this you know, so not to worry!”
“Pleased to meet you Elm,” said Sky also smiling. She took an instant liking to him and his eccentric personality. The bats were still flying around him!
Elm began to look through his pockets again for his wand and a bag of magical powder. “I do believe we need to get to this meeting and be there on time. Therefore we must away to the Hall of Records!”
Malley came running down the path and slowed down when he saw them all standing there. They were obviously all right. Florrel went to greet him and gave him a warm hug.
“Well! That was a bit of a shake up! I trust you are all unhurt?” he said, rather calmly.
“I think we are more confused than hurt,” said Sky, racking her brain to work out what was going on.
“Is Curley alright?” asked Florrel.
“Yes, he’s with Coral at the tea garden,” he replied.
“Bit of a mess down there. I’ll have to go back and give them a hand to clean up.”
“Malley, we are heading for the Hall of Records, perhaps you would like to come with us?” enquired Elm, knowing that Malley Gum wouldn’t miss an opportunity for adventure. Malley thought about it for a moment.
“Yes, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt.” he replied. “It’s not likely to take all day is it?”
“Well then, let’s go shall we?” said Elm, and before anyone could say another word he threw a handful of magic dust over them all and called out, “To the Hall of Records!” And they all disappeared in a purple cloud of lightning enforced energy.
They re-appeared in a garden similar to the fairy glen, but it was much darker and there were no fairies flying around. It seemed to be near the top of the tree, yet the vines and thick masses of gum leaves and gumnuts of all kinds, kept out a lot of the sunlight.
They stood looking at the huge door before them. It hadn’t been opened for some time and there was ivy growing just about all over it. There were tall windows that towered them were made of dragonfly wings. Mushrooms of all kinds flourished and frogs of all colours hopped about their feet. Elm went looking for the key in his pockets again, which took him a moment or two.
“This is creepy,” said Sky, moving closer to Yellow Flower, who was opening a nut jar of fireflies to help with the darkness. They flew around and gave them enough light to see with. “I’ll just have a look through the windows upstairs,” said Yellow Flower, and she rose from the moss-covered floor, flying up to the windows, which were quite high. They held the second floor of the ancient library.
They were all concentrating on Yellow Flower and Elm so much that they failed to notice several tall, strange creatures creeping up from out of the bushes behind them. Yellow Flower came down and landed softly.
“There is no-one there,” she said, “which is unusual, because it is supposed to be guarded.”
Sky watched the Elm try to get the key into the keyhole when the hairs on the back of her neck stood up and a shiver went down her spine.
“This place really gives me the creeps!” she whispered and as she did, she looked casually over her shoulder and out of the corner of her eye saw tall dark figures swaying behind her.
She screamed loudly, pushing herself backwards a little from the shock, and they all jumped around to see where the source of the fear was coming from.
They all froze with eyes wide. At least six of these creatures stood swaying slowly in the darkness. They were much taller than the group, and seemed to tower over them.
Suddenly a green light began to light up, throwing more light all around them. The creatures suddenly became clear to them. They were a type of bird. They had large bodies; long necks and their heads were long and lumpy looking. Their hair was like feathers going all the way down their long necks a little like a horse’s mane. They had a large feather down their front, and feet that looked more like three fingered hands.
They were all staring at the group before them. If they hadn’t been so innocent looking, the friends would have all been paralyzed with fright. However, the swaying creatures stood proud, and the wizard was the first to speak.
“It’s the Freds!” he said, almost with relief in his voice. “Yes! Of course, now I remember. They’re the Freds. There are twelve of them, and they’re quite harmless. They guard the Hall of Records and have done so for centuries.”
One of the Freds spoke.
“Sginteerg” he said in a funny voice.
They all looked at each other, wondering what it had said.
“Uoy gnitcepxe neeb evah ew.” said the Fred, waiting for an answer.
“I didn’t realise they spoke a different language.” said Elm, scratching his head.
“I think I might know what kind of language it is.” said Malley Gum, “I do believe he is speaking backwards!”
The Freds continued to watch the group closely, swaying as they sat.
“Ereh egrahc ni si ohw?” he spoke again. His big eyes blinked gently at them.
“Does anyone have a writing stick?” asked Yellow Flower.
“Yes, I do,” said Florrel, groping in her cocoon. She came out with a piece of paper and a quill that had hardly any feather left on it. Yellow Flower scribbled down what he said and studied it for a moment. “This could be tricky; I think we might need a little help.” She looked inside her cocoon for something and came out with a gumnut pot. It had tiny containers of all kinds of tea in it. She opened one and placed the contents in her palm and closed her eyes for a moment. Then she slowly placed the tea before the Fred’s and pointed to it with her finger:
“Voice and words that tease our ears,
Break the code and take our fears,
Make it clear so we can see,
Thank you, Adaptabilitea!”
The dry tea floated up and became a glittering mass of yellow and gold light that swirled around them and the Freds.
It soon died down and disappeared leaving them all standing looking at each other.
The Fred, who had spoken before, gave his head a shake. It was like watching a horse shake his mane. Then he said, in his distinguished voice, “Greetings.” and then looked at Yellow Flower, adding, “Thank you.”
The group all sighed with relief, and relaxed their somewhat tense muscles.
“Well done Yellow Flower!” said Elm happily, “I might have known you’d have a solution.”
“We have been expecting you,” said the Fred, “Lord Nutwood sent a message to say that you were coming. If we can be of any assistance, we are at your service.”
He looked at Elm and the bats that flew consistently around his head. “Perhaps I can be of assistance to you sir!” he said kindly, and with his eyes and a fine electrical impulse he seemed to remove the spell and sent the bats off packing.
“Oh how wonderful!” cried the wizard, “Do you know I was beginning to get extremely dizzy! How can I ever thank you?”
“That is unnecessary. But please use the key to open the door to the Hall of Records. We shall find out what is lurking beneath the tree…” And he waited for Elm to turn the key and open the door.
The doorway was high enough for even the Freds to walk under with out lowering their heads. The ceiling was very high, painted in water colour, the images of the first Nutlidge settlement, twenty thousand years ago and the walls were crammed with books from floor to ceiling. Several ladders were scattered around the massive hall for retrieving books from the highest bookshelves.
Elm led the way into the great Hall of Records with the Freds, now having grown to twelve, following them.
The hall dwarfed them all as they gazed about themselves.
“Where do you suppose we start?” said Elm, half laughing, half struck with confusion.
“What about earthquakes?” said Sky, feeling more confident.
“Or what about the tree’s records?” said Malley, “Surely there must be masses of information about the tree’s history.”
“May I suggest,” said a Fred in a grave voice, as he stepped from the crowd of strange flightless birds, “that you look for the original manuscript labelled ‘Nutlidge’. Look for the chapter on Negative Elements. There you will find your answer.” He stepped back into the crowd of ancient birds, allowing their group of visitors to go and look for the book.
It didn’t take them long as it was on a huge pedestal towards the back of the hall in between shelving. A space had been designed around the pedestal and its host, and on it was a huge bark covered manuscript the size of a kitchen table, bulging with content.
Elm, Yellow Flower, Malley Gum, Florrel and Sky all clambered up the four steps to the main platform. They gathered around the huge book with the words beautifully carved into the book’s thick cover and so highly decorated it was, that they all took the time to study its design. Elm, who was in front of the large book at that moment, and feeling empowered by its presence, carefully opened the heavy bark cover.