Child and parent alike will be able to relate to the difficulties these characters have to overcome in order to accomplish their objectives and yet remain true of heart.
This is an adventurous mystery for parents as well as for children who wish to retreat into a world inhabited by mystical characters…
Topaz Has a New Mystery to SolveAnxious to find out what evil sickness has befallen his old friend, Otis. Topaz, Dooley, and Daisy, take the great owl to the Healing Gnomes at North Fortress.
As for Topaz and his raccoon friend, Dooley, the journey doesn't end here. Grim circumstances compel them to leave the fortress to look for a rare, precious stone known as the Plum-Gista.
The large Yellow Conjure Cat awoke with a start. There stood young Daisy, a white fawn with hazel eyes.
“Finally,” Daisy breathed. “I’ve been trying to wake you up forever.”
“What’s the matter, Daisy?” the cat asked.
“The sun is almost up. Aren’t you going to get up?”
The cat gazed up at her with strange luminous eyes.
They were the color of yellow topaz, the gem for which he was named. “But, why do I have to get up?”
“Do you want to sleep all day, Topaz? There’s still a lot to do before the parade starts.”
Topaz stood up to stretch. A long yawn exposed his curled pink tongue and every feline tooth in his broad head. Giving Daisy another glassy stare, the big conjure cat collapsed back into his warm downy mattress.
Those eerie luminous eyes of his, Daisy thought, feeling a pang of discomfort. It was unsettling the way he seemed to stare right through her. In moments like these Daisy wondered if Topaz might be able to see inside her soul.
Maybe he can hear everything I’m thinking. She wasn’t quite sure what kind of mystical feats a Yellow Conjure Cat might be capable of.
Daisy had been quite young when Otis, the Great-Horned Owl, had rescued her from a flash flood in the mountains of the Knownotten Forest. He’d brought her to the castle when he discovered her parents had perished in the storm.
The Elf king, King Kittle, had been ruler over the Land of Knownotten, then. It was not unusual for the king to give care and shelter to those who had been injured or orphaned. However, this young fawn had been special to King Kittle from the start. Not only did the king offer Daisy a place to live, he gave her the run of the castle.
The young fawn was loved by everyone, and it was no surprise to anyone when Knownotten Castle became her permanent home. Topaz called her Daisy because it was her favorite flower. He’d seen her snacking on them whenever she thought she was alone in the castle garden. King Kittle didn’t seem to mind that Daisy ate the flowers. In the old Elf king’s eyes, Daisy could do no wrong.
She had been only hours old when she’d lost her parents; she barely remembered them. Topaz and Otis were her family now, and since King Kittle’s passing, Daisy followed them everywhere she could.
Unable to contain her impatience a moment longer, Daisy heaved a loud sigh and stamped her front hoof on the plank wood floor.
“You must get up, Topaz. You are the king. Everyone expects you to be first in the parade.”
“Oh, yes,” he replied drowsily, opening his eyes only half way. “It’s the first day of the fall festival.”
Then standing up for another stretch, Topaz arched his back. All four legs stiffened, and a slight tremor shimmied through his lean, muscular body and legs. With an inward groan, he pounced to the floor.
* * *
Topaz had been king in the Land of Knownotten for just a short time, but to him, it seemed an eternity. Giving up the carefree life he’d once known to rule a kingdom was not a future Topaz would have chosen. Nevertheless, the late king, having no heirs, had made Topaz promise he would take the oath to succeed him upon his death.
Topaz had done his best to convince the king that he should not be expected to rule Knownotten Kingdom. He argued that he was not capable of following in King Kittle’s footsteps. However, King Kittle had disagreed. There had been no time to quarrel about this; the king was on his deathbed. Besides, the king had made up his mind about this long before he had made mention of it to Topaz.
King Kittle had chosen Topaz as his successor because he trusted him to protect the kingdom and to treat its inhabitants justly. So, Topaz gave his word to accept the responsibility of the kingdom when the time came. There was nothing else he could have done. It was up to him to put the king’s mind at ease, and Topaz wanted his king to go to the Good Spirit in peace.
Topaz had been the king’s companion for many years. Over time, they had become close friends. He missed the long talks they used to have on their walks together in the forest. He and the former king had spent much of that time sharing thoughts and opinions about the things that mattered most to them.
Learning to be more open with the friends he was closest to now hadn’t been so easy for Topaz. He missed having the Elf king to confide in, and he missed the Sunday teas they used to have in the rose garden. On those occasions Topaz would tell the king stories about his adventures with Otis, the great owl. He had traveled a great deal in those days. He had seen many strange lands, and he had met many unusual beings. King Kittle took such pleasure in listening to Topaz talk about the mysterious lands he had visited during his missions for the kingdom. Remembering those times now, Topaz couldn’t help feeling a little lonely.
Not only had he lost his king and his best friend, Topaz felt as if he’d lost his family, too. King Kittle had been all of these things to him, and like King Kittle, Topaz, himself, had no other family, unless he counted Otis and Daisy. For as far as he knew, he was the last living cat of his kind.
As a descendant of the Yellow Conjure Cat, Topaz was quite large. He actually weighed more than King Kittle had and his shoulders had come well past the king’s waist. His short thick fur, a buttery yellow color, was striped with pale orange. Most conjure cats had looked similar.
Conjure cats were a unique breed of cat. They lived for hundreds of years, and they were endowed with mystical powers. There was a great deal more about the use of this power in battle that Topaz wanted to know. Nevertheless, there was no one left alive to teach him. Most of what he had already discovered about his magical abilities had been learned through trial and error during his battle with the evil wizard, Dominance.
This had been his first harsh lesson. Topaz needed to know more about the limits of this power before he was faced with another crisis. His life could depend on it. The lives of the members of his kingdom could depend on it as well.
* * *
In the castle dining room, Daisy talked about the upcoming festival as she gulped bites of her morning meal. Lost in thought, Topaz barely heard a word she said as he nibbled at his own food in silence. Quite suddenly, Topaz and Daisy were startled by a loud verbal exchange in the hall just outside the dining room’s double doors.
“I have urgent business with the king, and I must see him right away,” an irritable voice shouted as the doors burst open.
Topaz was not surprised to see it was Dooley, a ringtail raccoon, entering the room. The raccoon’s bushy, striped tail swished from side to side in agitation as he made his way to the king’s table. The whitish circles around his black eyes stood out in what would otherwise have been a plain grayish face.
The raccoon was not noted for his manners or his tactfulness. He was followed by two of the king’s Elf guards. Topaz waved a dismissive paw at them. The guards left the room closing the double doors behind them.
“Dooley, what’s this all about?” Topaz asked.
Dooley nodded to Daisy before addressing Topaz. “Sorry to be so abrupt,” he said, his tone now somewhat subdued. “But something awful has happened to Otis. The great owl is stuck in a tree, and he can’t come down.”
Topaz stared at Dooley in disbelief. It didn’t make any sense. How was it possible for the great owl, as Otis was often called, to be stuck in a tree?
* * *
By the time the trio reached the forest the sun was up.
“We’ll never make it back in time for the parade,” Daisy complained. “What will everyone think if there is no king to lead the parade?”
“We’ll find a way to make it up to them, Daisy. You should not worry so much about such things. Before we left I sent word by one of the Elf guards that there was a good chance we wouldn’t be able to return in time for the beginning of the parade.” Topaz paused to scratch his chin with a hind paw. “I doubt if anyone will mind too much once things get started. But you shouldn’t miss out, Daisy. Why don’t you go back before it’s too late?”
“Then I wouldn’t get to see the great owl stuck in a tree,” Daisy said. “I want to come, too.”
Topaz arched his tail. He was always amazed by how quick Daisy was at changing her mind, but he said nothing.
“Then come on,” Dooley said. “We’ve got some climbing to do.”
The raccoon led them up the mountain to where the tall alligator pine trees grew. He stopped at the tree where he’d last seen Otis.
“Hello up there, Otis. I’ve brought Topaz and Daisy with me,” Dooley shouted.
“Well,” Otis said. “As you can see, I’m still here.”
They all stared up into the top of the tall alligator pine tree. There sat the great owl, blinking.
“Wow,” Daisy said. “That must be the tallest tree in the whole forest.”
“Why don’t you come down, Otis?” Topaz shouted.
“Because . . .” Otis said, “I’m afraid to fly.”
“Afraid to fly?” questioned Topaz. “You’re an owl. Since when are owls afraid to fly?”
“Since I woke up blind,” the great owl answered.
* * *
Coaxing Otis down from the alligator pine tree was no easy feat. The great owl had been stranded there for a long time before Dooley had happened by, at least a couple of days. This was not a part of the forest Dooley normally prowled. He seldom climbed up this high. Last night had been the exception. While the raccoon had been up to his usual nighttime activities he’d heard an owl hoot. Wondering if it might be Otis, he’d called out to him.
Dooley had made a bit of progress in getting Otis to step down a few branches, but then Otis had slipped. After that, he’d refused to budge. He just sat there as if he’d been frozen to the tree. That’s when Dooley decided more help would be needed to get Otis down.
It took a lot of encouragement from Topaz, Dooley, and Daisy before Otis was able to summon the courage to open his wings and let go of the branch he’d become so attached to. With careful direction from Topaz, the great owl managed to glide somewhat gracefully to the ground without incident.
Daisy ran to him as soon as his talons touched the earth. “You did good, Otis. Was it fun? I wish I could fly.”
Topaz went to find Otis something to eat while Dooley steered him to a thin, trickling stream where he could get a drink of water.
Once the owl’s basic needs had been attended to, Topaz turned his attention to what might have caused Otis to lose his eyesight. On their last adventure together, he recalled how Otis had flown in the face of the giant Troll, plucking out the Troll’s only good eye in one swift swoop of his beak. Could this have something to do with that? He wondered. Or could it have been the wizard’s scepter?
Dooley sauntered up to him. “I think I’m thinking what you’re thinking,” he said.
“Yes,” answered Topaz. “This could very well be a curse. Maybe it’s retaliation for the Troll’s lost eye.”
The raccoon cocked his head to one side and gave Topaz a scornful look. “The eye was not lost, Topaz. Otis ripped the eye from the Troll’s head with his beak and left a bloody socket.”
Topaz ignored the raccoon’s rough remark. He was getting used to the animal’s brassy personality.
“If it is a curse, what do we do?” Dooley went on while scratching behind his right ear with a hind leg. “Thought I’d gotten rid of these fleas,” he mumbled half to himself.
Topaz took a few steps back from the scratching raccoon. “We must take him to North Fortress and find out for sure if it really is a curse,” he said, a distant look in his luminous eyes. “The Gnomes will know.”
Topaz called Daisy aside and explained where they had to take Otis and why it was necessary. Then he added, “You must return to the castle, Daisy, and inform the guards that Dooley and I have to leave the kingdom on an important mission, but that we expect to return within a few days.”
Daisy’s eyes welled up with tears. “A few days! Oh, please, Topaz,” Daisy cried. “I want to come with you.”
Topaz opened his mouth to speak; he could think of several reasons why Daisy shouldn’t come. Nevertheless, Daisy was not about to listen to any of them.
“I can be of help—really,” she said. “I know an Elf boy named Dun, and I know his grandfather, Grandfather Mitty. They live in a cabin just a little way from here.”
Topaz was patient while Daisy explained how the old Grandfather, a carpenter, could be of help, and why Topaz should consider Daisy’s proposal to come along. Daisy said that although she would be disappointed to miss the first few days of the festival, helping Otis was more important. She said the festival wouldn’t be much fun without them, anyway.
After his conversation with Daisy, Topaz spoke to Otis. He explained what he thought they should do. The great owl agreed to go to North Fortress. He was willing to do almost anything to regain his eyesight.
* * *
The Elf boy and his grandfather were honored to receive the king and his companions. The group gathered around the table in the small cabin and told their story. Grandfather Mitty listened to their request while he made them cinnamon tea. Afterward, the Elf boy, Dun, went outside to gather the wood his grandfather would need. The old Elf would make a cart for Otis to travel in on the journey to North Fortress.
The cart was assembled by that afternoon. Dun went to work attaching a pair of old but well-oiled wooden wheels to the rear of the cart. All that remained to be done was to fashion a harness for Daisy so that she would be able to pull the cart. Grandfather Mitty made all of the necessary adjustments to an old harness of rope that had been hanging in his shed. Once Daisy was hitched up to the cart, Otis was secured in the back on a cushion of soft grasses for the long bumpy ride.
Dun was more than happy to go to the castle and deliver the king’s message to the Captain of the King’s Guards. The boy was asked to tell the captain that the king had to leave on a mission to help a friend and that he would be taking Daisy with him. The responsibility for the safety of the kingdom would rest in the hands of the captain until the king returned. Topaz expected to be back long before the festival was over, and the boy was to tell the captain as much. Then he thanked the boy and the old Grandfather for all of their help. Shortly after, the party of four set out for North Fortress.