Chapter 5

Written by: Ant Gavin Smits
They’d been lucky. The thinning cloud cover had enabled moonlight to shine into their clearing. But it also reflected off Snark’s eyes. They pierced the night, alert and hungry. Ramus’s urge was to howl but he dared not show fear. He hoped the wolf thought they were all ready to react. The donkeys - and Roger - would have to be warned about fruit that just appeared conveniently in the grass.  
Ramus couldn’t decide if he wanted the clouds to sweep back in and hide them. They wouldn’t be so easily seen in a dark night. But they’d need the light to fight him, if it came to that, if Snark wanted an early breakfast.
He was sure he saw the wolf inch forward.
Ramus didn’t want to carry this. He wanted to talk with Acacia and Alexzander. He wanted to wake them. Share the load. Donkey hooves were their best defence. But he wouldn’t move until Snark got aggressive. Everyone needed to be rested in the morning. He waited, as a breeze swirled across his fur, his gaze fixed on their nemesis.  
Snark’s head suddenly lolled sideways. The frightful yellow light in his eyes disappeared as they fell shut. And the apple, released by a relaxing tongue, dropped from Snark’s mouth and rolled down the gentle slope towards him.
Had Snark held the enchanted fruit in his mouth too long? Ramus could hear a low rhythmic rumble that could have been a wolf-snore. He let out the breath he’d been holding and stared at the apple as it trickled closer before stopping when it hit a daisy stalk.
He could wait for mornrise. It was too dark to travel, except perhaps for Cecil. They couldn’t leave yet. But the wolf seemed to be growing in size. He couldn’t wait.
He woke Alexzander, whispering the news. Then the next. Everyone soon had their eyes open, staring at the sleeping wolf. Roger smiled when he saw the object which had rolled almost close enough to touch.
“Leave it!” someone whispered urgently.
Ramus led them from the clearing. Not silently, because one of the rabbits, not properly awake, fell off Acacia, and squealed as she was nearly stepped on. They froze, but Snark didn’t move.
“He isn’t dead,” warned Ramus. “We better get as far as we can before the enchantment wears off.”
Progress was very slow, initially. Then, all at once, the light improved as the trees thinned out and they reached a broken stone wall, with a lane beyond. They’d made it through the enchanted garden.
On the other side of the lane lay an open meadow. At the far end, a ruin was silhouetted against the lightening eastern sky They stopped and gathered around a break in the wall where it was low enough to scramble over.
Ramus looked around. Everyone’s eyes were watching his reaction. They needed him to lead, to tell them it was safe to cross that open space... And they couldn’t go back.
Ramus made his decision.


This chapter is evocative and full of suspense. I even found myself holding my breath as they left the forest. Beautiful.
A wonderful chapter, Antics. Just enough suspense but not too much to frighten young children. There's magic in the storytelling and a cleverness in the way the animals are depicted in human terms - thoughts and language - and we continue to love believing in cuddly fantasy tales that we know will end happily ever after. Great work.