CHAPTER 8 - Save Wildside

Rowan, Dominic and David came out onto Wildside. They set a table and chair in one of the prettiest bits, near the silver birches. David was going to sit here with the petition, and offer free cold drinks to anyone who came to sign it. Sally came out with cool boxes with the drinks in, and helped Dominic pin a banner to the old fence, where it could be read from the road. It said simply, ‘Save our Field’. Dominic and Rowan were going to stand on the grass verge between the fence and the pavement, stopping passers-by and inviting them to walk down the footpath to where David was sitting.

High up in the horse chestnut, Ace and Will were watching them.
“Looks good, doesn’t it?” said Will. “They’re doing really well. Hope lots of people stop for them.”
“It’ll all help. So long as there’s not too much chaos. Is everyone in position?”
“Nearly. Madge and Clover are hiding ready to harass the architect. Rose is waiting by the brook. Laura and Gemma are still putting the stones in the prams.”
“And Dan and Phil are watching the goblins,” said Ace.
“Those two will never stop the goblins on their own, if they try anything.”
“I know, but what else can I do? They wanted to do it, and I can’t insult them by saying I don’t think they can handle it.”
“Maybe they won’t have to.”
“Let’s hope not.”
“We’re taking an awful chance,” Will worried. “If it doesn’t work, the surveyors will have got what they want.”
“Taking chances is what it’s all about.”
“I suppose. Well, I’d better get in position too. You staying here?”
“For now. Until anything goes wrong.”
“See you.”

Alone in the horse chestnut, Ace was looking round carefully so he didn’t miss anything, when he heard car doors slamming. Sure enough, the surveyors and the architect had arrived. Mr. Grisedale and Alice had brought another student along to help, a very serious-looking young man called Tariq. They were determined not to be beaten today by this haunted field.
Ace looked closely at the architect, to whom he took an instant dislike. He had rather admired Mr. Grisedale’s doggedness, but this man, with his disdainful looks at Wildside, and at the children, annoyed him.
Poser, thought Ace, and then laughed at himself, because he could just hear Will saying, ‘Takes one to know one’.
Even so, thought Ace, suits and pony-tails really don’t work.

Studiously ignoring the children, the architect, whose name was Peter Paterson, started prowling around with his hands behind his back, and occasionally stopping and taking long, considered glances as if he was having deep, creative thoughts.
“Come on, Clover,” muttered Ace. “Get his shoelaces or something.”
Clover had spotted the chance of that, but she was waiting until he stepped into longer grass. As soon as he did, and couldn’t see his shoes, she pounced. As he moved off, thinking smugly of terracotta roof tiles, he fell flat on his face. David roared with laughter, as Mr. Paterson struggled to his feet. As he bent down to untangle his laces, Madge flew behind him and threw a handful of cleavers seed pods, that children call sticky-buds, at the seat of his trousers.
“Round One to the fairies!” shouted Ace, alarming a passing squirrel, which stopped to bare its teeth at him.
“Oh, buzz off, you,” glared Ace, and it did. It had met Ace before, and could still feel the bruises on a cold day.

Alice was under the tree now, guarding the ranging pole with her life. Tariq was placing the arrows every twenty metres when Rowan proudly escorted her first customer to David’s table. Then a crowd of lads on bikes came over, lured by the free drinks. Ace could see that all this activity was cramping Clover’s style, but it didn’t matter too much. The main thing was to time it right with the surveyors. As he watched, Laura and Gemma came running over to the brook, pushing doll’s prams. He gave them a thumbs-up as they passed him.

The surveyors were quietly getting on with their job, as more people came over to David’s table. First, a woman with two children in a double buggy, came and signed. She was very sympathetic, and so was an elderly man who wasn’t really that interested, but couldn’t refuse Dominic, who was so earnest and so polite. They both stopped to talk, and they were followed by a woman with a bike, who belonged to Friends of the Earth. She was very impressed by their initiative, and said so. Rowan saw a friend from school, going shopping with her mum, and they both came to sign. Mrs. Connolly came out, to make sure they weren’t being a nuisance, and so did Mrs. Kowalska, who wanted to know what was going on.

“Building?” said Mrs. Kowalska. “First I’ve heard of it. I think you might have told me, when I’m your next door neighbour!” she said to Mrs. Connolly.
“No-one’s heard anything officially,” explained Mrs. Connolly, apologetically. “It’s just that my husband happens to know the man who owns the land.”
“Well, I think it’s disgraceful,” said the woman with the bike. “Do they have to build on every scrap of land?”
“I know, it’s awful,” said Rowan’s friend’s mum. “There was a playing field behind us last year. Now it’s a new housing estate.”
“People have to live somewhere,” the elderly man pointed out. “Better here, perhaps, than building on farmland?”
“Here’s a reporter!” said the woman with the buggy.
It wasn’t a reporter. It was Mr. Paterson, the architect, who’d been to his car for his camera.
“Excuse me!” she called. “Can I be in the picture?”
“I hardly think so,” said Mr. Paterson. “I need clear images of the land I’m designing for. I don’t think pictures of a silly protest will help, do you?”
“Silly protest, indeed!” said the woman with the bike. “These children have got the right idea! If more people were prepared to defend things, to actually do something, we might see a few changes!”
“Aren’t you taking pictures for the paper, then?” asked the woman with the buggy.
“No, Madam, I am not. I am the architect appointed by the owner of this site. And now, if you’ll excuse me…”
“Oh no you don’t,” said Mrs. Kowalska. “I don’t know what’s going on, but just you listen to me, young man. We don’t want any hideous great building looming over our homes, so just you clear off!”

Voices were being raised. Mr. Grisedale came over to see what was happening.
”What’s going on?” he muttered to Mr. Paterson.
“People getting hysterical about a scruffy bit of wasteland,” sneered Mr. Paterson, and he started to walk away. David just happened to stick his foot out, and Mr. Paterson fell over again.
The woman with the bike turned on Mr. Grisedale.
“You ought to be ashamed of yourselves!”
Another old man who’d been passing came over to see what all the fuss was about, and so did Sally, who’d heard the shouting and was concerned for the children.
“Morning, Sarah,” said the old man who’d just come to Mrs. Kowalska. “What’s going to be built, anyroad? Another flipping office block?”
“Oh, hello, Cyril,” said Mrs. Kowalska. “Probably.”
“Not at all,” said Mr. Paterson, trying, too late, to be placatory. “The development will be twenty-four luxury retirement flats.”
“Oh,” said Mrs. Kowalska, with a thoughtful look on her face.
“Hmph, fine for them as can afford it,” sniffed Cyril. “Cost a fortune, they do. Someone’s going to make a lot of money out of this.”

The petition lay forgotten as the grown-ups’ argument got more heated.
“Look, it’s not his fault,” Mr. Grisedale was saying. “He’s only the architect. Chap who owns the land, he can do what he wants with his own, can’t he? It’s a free country.”
“Well, you tell him he’s a greedy idiot!” stormed the woman with the bike.
“Tell him yourself,” said Mr. Grisedale. “That’s him, coming now.”
When Mr. Pearce stepped onto Wildside, he couldn’t believe his eyes. Banners, children everywhere, people shouting, and his architect being prodded in the chest by an irate woman. He’d soon put a stop to this.
“I don’t know what’s going on and I don’t care,” he shouted. “This footpath is not a right of way, and I’m telling you all to leave my property. If you have anything to say, tell the Council, I’m not interested. If this field isn’t clear in five minutes, I’m calling the police.”
He took out his mobile phone, and stood there with his arms folded.

The architect and the surveyors went back to work, and the grown-ups started to drift away, making rude remarks about developers as they went. Sally just spoke to the children.
“Rowan, stay on the grass verge with Dominic. David, let me help you carry the table out there too.”
She knew the grass verge didn’t belong to Mr. Pearce, and he couldn’t say a thing if they stayed there. As she carried one end of the table, she caught a glimpse of Laura’s dress behind a bush, and smiled.

As soon as he’d heard Mr. Pearce’s threats, Ace had nipped down to the brook to warn Laura and Gemma to hide, so he would think they’d gone. Then he asked Rose to fly up and make sure Tony was in his garden and not on Wildside, and she said he was.
“Good. He can keep look-out for Will just as well from there, and no-one can throw him out of his own garden.”
Ace went back up the tree so he could see. Everyone had gone except Mr. Pearce, Mr. Paterson, and the surveyors. Surely they’d nearly finished? He’d have to watch really carefully now. His eyes were on Mr. Grisedale, far down Wildside, and so were Tony’s. Only Phil and Dan saw the goblins coming, and they didn’t stop to ask if the goblins just happened to be going for a stroll. There was too much at stake for that. They bravely piled into the attack, one very small elf and one very tough fairy, against two huge goblins and the nastiest renegade elf in the north of England.

Dan’s head was ringing with the blows it had taken. She’d never known such pain. Dimly, she felt Hogweed wasn’t even trying very hard. She couldn’t believe he was doing this; he’d seemed quite friendly lately. She fought her hardest, but it was no use. She heard Phil scream as Ragwort broke his arm. Furious, she tried to head-butt Hogweed but he wasn’t falling for that again. He just gripped her throat and throttled her until she passed out, then left her lying there.
“About time,” hissed Nightshade. “What took you so long? Now follow me, and we shall have the pleasure of spoiling their ridiculous plan.”
“Why are we helping humans, though?” asked Hogweed.
“We are stopping the elves from hindering them, that’s all. If the humans succeed today, then soon we shall have this place to ourselves. Their kind will be gone from here, forever.”
“Good riddance!” shouted Ragwort, with a horrible laugh.
“Just so,” smiled Nightshade. “Now remember what you have to do. I’ll see to the boy. You grab the elf and search him for these false figures. Then make sure he’s in no fit state to remember them.”
“Kill him, you mean?” said Ragwort.
“No need to start a war. Just pour this down his throat,” he whispered menacingly.
He turned abruptly to Hogweed and stared into his eyes.
“You! You will do this. Prove yourself!”
Hogweed took the bottle Nightshade was holding out to him.

Will didn’t know how he could have waited so long without Tony telling him what was happening.
“I think they’re nearly ready,” he said. “Mr. Grisedale and the students have got their heads together. I think they’re writing everything down.”
“Where are they standing?” said Will.
“Way back. Opposite Gemma’s.”
“Ace won’t spring the diversion till they’re nearer than that.”
Mr. Grisedale seemed in no hurry to leave. Clutching his notebook, he wandered over to talk to Mr. Pearce and Mr. Paterson. As soon as the men’s backs were turned, the goblins broke cover, not caring that Tony could see them. When Will saw them coming, his heart sank.
Someone’s been careless! he thought. The plan’s got out. Or why would they all go for me, and just at the worst moment?
“Mr. Grisedale’s coming!” hissed Tony.

Just then they heard a great splash, and a piercing scream from Gemma. Will hesitated, not sure what to do for the best. If the goblins were here, Phil and Dan were out of action. Rose and Ace would be at the brook. He made his mind up. He jumped onto Nightshade, knocking the wind out of him, and shouted to Tony at the same time.
“Has he dropped his book, or has he run with it?”
“He’s dropped it! Everyone’s running to the brook!”
“Get the book, and bring it here! Leave these oafs to me,” he called in a muffled voice, as Ragwort and Hogweed piled in. “Shout for Clover as you run, but don’t stop!”

Over at the brook, Gemma was having the time of her life. When she’d got Ace’s signal, she’d pushed her pram into the brook, then jumped in after it, screaming as if she’d fallen. Laura had run about, shouting,
“Help! Help! Gemma’s going to drown!”
As they’d calculated, no-one was going to ignore screams for help from a child in danger. All the grown-ups on the field rushed to help, and so did David, Dominic and Rowan. Mr. Grisedale himself had clambered down into the brook, and was trying to pull Gemma out of the water. But to make the delay as long as possible, she was clinging to the pram handle, shouting,
“No, no, I won’t leave my dolly! My dolly will drown!”
She did it very realistically. Gemma was a very good actress. She struggled with Mr. Grisedale as he tried to detach her from the pram, until he slipped, and got wet to his waist. Alice and Tariq slithered down into the brook too, Tariq trying to soothe what he thought was a hysterical girl, and Alice trying to lug the pram out of the water. She didn’t succeed, but as the pram was full of stones under its apron, this was hardly surprising.

Rose and Ace were on the far bank, watching closely. Their part now was to make sure Gemma was safe. They were standing by to shrink the stones into dust if there was any chance that the weight might pull her into real danger. On the near bank, Madge and Clover had come closer to watch.
“Is it working?” whispered Madge. “Have the others finished yet?”
Clover cautiously fluttered up a bit to look. She couldn’t see Tony or Will. What she did see was Dan, helping Phil across Wildside. They both looked badly injured. Then Tony came running into sight, and she heard him wildly calling her name. Clover pulled Madge’s arm, and pointed to where Dan was.
“Help Dan!” she whispered fast. “I’m going to help Will.”
And she was gone, flying fast and low. Madge hurried towards Dan and Phil, and ushered them gently under cover.
“Goblins,” panted Dan. “They knew. They’ve gone for Will.”
“Don’t worry,” Madge told them. “Clover’s gone to help. Rest here, there are people everywhere.”
Madge frowned with worry as she tried to make them comfortable. It looked as if everything was going wrong.

When Tony got back with the precious notebook, Will was still fighting, but only just. Nightshade was standing there watching, a smile of enjoyment on his face. Tony was furious. He grabbed Nightshade and picked him up, clutching him tightly round the middle.
“Tell them to stop!” he shouted.
“Don’t be ridiculous! I can transform you into any foul thing I like. Put me down, or you’ll be sorry!”
“Cover his…ach!” struggled Will, as Ragwort jerked his head back, and Hogweed poured the contents of the bottle down Will’s throat. Tony saw Will sway, stagger and crash to the ground.
Cover his what? thought Tony wildly. Then he remembered what Will had said about Ace and the cups. ‘He’s only got to look’ - it’s his eyes!

Tony clamped his hand around Nightshade’s head, so he couldn’t see. Nightshade struggled wildly and started biting, but Tony didn’t care.
“You’ve lost now, anyway,” said Ragwort in a smug voice. “And you can clear off, fairy,” he added, as Clover arrived.
She flew straight to Will’s side.
“You sick bullies!” shouted Tony, and grabbed the other two as well, pulling their clothes over their heads so they couldn’t see, either. “What have they done to Will?”
“Drugged him,” said Clover. “Poppy juice. He’ll be all right when he wakes up. But there’s no time left! We need the surveyors to take their book away with them, with the wrong figures in! What shall we do? Make some up, do you think?”
“Oh no, they’ve got to be realistic, but wrong. Just enough wrong. We worked it out very carefully. But can you do this thing with the ink?” he asked excitedly.
“Oh yes, that’s easy,” said Clover.
“Then we’re OK!” said Tony. “I helped Will work out the figures. You don’t think I’ve forgotten them, do you?”
He felt the goblins writhing and struggling furiously as he said this, but Clover already had the book open.
“I’ll read the words, you tell me the number - survey station A to first ranging pole, 64 metres,” read Clover.
“Change it to 78 metres,” smiled Tony.

Back at the brook, Mr. Grisedale had finally got Gemma out of the water.
“Thank you!” panted Gemma dramatically. “You saved my life! Thank you very much!”
“Yes, thank you, you were so kind, I’ll take her home,” said Laura, and the two girls started pushing their prams away. They had no intention of really going home, though, and as soon as Rowan and Dominic had gone back to the grass verge with David, they hid, to see if it had all worked.

Satisfied they were safe, Mr. Grisedale started thinking about dry clothes. Madge was listening carefully as he talked to Mr. Pearce and the architect.
“I’ve got all the figures for the linear survey. I’ll draw it up back at the office and e-mail it straight to you.”
“Thanks. We can do the soil survey tomorrow. I’ve got an engineer coming with an auger, and I’ve booked a tree surgeon to shift this tree, first thing.”
“Which one?” asked Mr. Paterson. “I was rather hoping to keep that one. Trees add such an ambience to a project, you know.”
“What? Oh, not that big one. No, this one. It’s blocking vehicle access. With this out of the way, we can get the machines for the soil survey onto the site. It’ll have to go sometime. Might as well do it now as later.”
Madge went cold. They were talking about Ace’s sycamore.

Just in time, Tony pelted back to leave the book where he’d found it, then dived for cover, still clutching the goblins.
“Yes! Oh, yes!” he whispered to himself, as he saw Tariq pick it up and hand it to Mr. Grisedale. Mr. Pearce and Mr. Paterson got into their cars, and drove away. The surveyors packed up their equipment and quickly followed them. Not until then did Tony release the goblins, who stalked off without a backward glance, still proud in defeat. Then Tony ran back to Will and Clover. Laura and Gemma joined him, after a quick look to make sure Rowan wasn’t watching. She might fuss about dry clothes.

Tony cradled Will in his arms as they all walked across to join the others. Ace came jumping over to meet them.
“Did it work?” he asked. “We couldn’t see from over there.” Then he saw Will. “Come on,” he said. “Under the tree. Dan and Phil are hurt, too.”
By the time they’d mended Phil’s broken arm, Will was beginning to come round.
“Wake up, Will!” said Clover. “It’s all right! It worked!”
“Huh? How?” demanded Will, groggily.
“Tony remembered all the figures! He was brilliant!”
Will smiled. “Knew you were a scientist,” he said to Tony, and dozed off again.
“Gemma and Laura were great too,” said Ace. “Great timing, really convincing. What a team!”
“And what happened to you two?” Rose asked Dan and Phil. “Did you really tackle the goblins all by yourselves?”
“Well, yes,” said Dan, “but we didn’t hold them off for long. They knew exactly what they were doing. How did they know our plan?"
Ace shook his head. "Sneaking round listening, maybe. We’ll have to be more careful. But you two did really well. Very brave. And you brought the warning just in time, to get Clover to Tony so she could help him. Fast thinking, Clover. Didn’t know you had it in you!” he grinned.
“Watch it, cheeky,” said Clover, but she was pleased.
“And Rose had a boring job, but she stuck to it and didn’t make a bit of fuss. I’d give you all some beer if I had any, I’m that proud of you.”

Will groaned, and Ace sat down beside him. He knew now what Will had done - had to make a decision in a hurry, and got it wrong - but there was no way he was going to mention that. Will would be blaming himself, and anyway, he was the one who’d suffered from it. He just smiled at him, tenderly.
“Look at the state of you. Both of them at once?”
Will nodded, carefully.
“Messed it up. Should have let Tony tackle them.”
“Never mind,” said Ace. “What’s hurting most?”
Will just pointed to his eye.
“Madge,” said Ace, “how d’you fix a black eye?”
“Get the blood back into the veins, and close them,” she told him.
Everyone was watching Ace as he healed Will’s eye, then sat back, gasping with the effort. But they all turned at the sudden sound of movement behind them. Watching them, mouths wide open with surprise, were Rowan, Dominic and David.

“Laura,” said Rowan, “is that really you? I’m not dreaming, am I?”
“No, silly. I told you there were sprites, didn’t I? D’you believe me now?”
“Yes, Laura.” Rowan crept a little further in, and gazed around her in awe.
“Hi, Dominic,” said Tony.
“Good gracious, Tony, let me see your hand,” said Madge. “I didn’t realise you were bitten. Keep still while I heal it for you.”
“Tony,” said Dominic weakly, “who’s that?”
“This is Major Arley,” said Tony. “But she lets us call her Madge. Madge, this is my oldest brother, Dominic.”
“How do you do?” said Madge. “I hope you’re as brave as Tony. We’re going to need a lot of courage round here.”
“David!” said Ace. “Cheer up! We’re really pleased to meet you. We love your music.”
Madge could see that the older ones were all in a state of shock. It was much harder for them to believe their eyes.
I’d better not say too much, she thought. It’ll only bewilder them. Let them go away and talk it over, then we can work together. Cory will just have to lump it. This was meant to be. And before anything else, I’ll have to talk to Ace. In private.
Aloud, she said, “Take Gemma home to get dry, will you? And let everyone who cares about Wildside come back here this evening. We need to talk.”
David and the children left quietly, with serious faces.

Madge turned to Rose and Clover. “Help the casualties to their beds to sleep it off, will you? Then you’d better go and tell Cory what’s been happening. I want to talk to Ace.”
She waited until they’d all gone, then turned to Ace, biting her lip.
“What is it? What’ve you heard? Tell me!”
“I can’t. Oh, my dear, you’re going to have to be very brave. You see, they want to bring vehicles onto Wildside.”
“So? That’s not too bad…hey, wait a minute! How? Where?”
She just looked at him.
“Oh, no. You mean from the main road, don’t you? No, not that!”
He gripped her arm in a wild panic. “When? How long have we got?”
“They’re coming tomorrow. A tree surgeon, they call it. Murderer would be a better word.”
“Over my dead body,” said Ace.
“That’s what worries me most,” said Madge.

Rowan knew she would never, ever forget this as long as she lived. Laura had been talking non-stop for hours, telling her about flying and flutes, and lights and healing, and elves with guitars, until her head was reeling. And now she was sitting on a stone under a horse chestnut tree, watching her own sister chatting away to these amazing creatures as if she’d known them all her life.
Rowan shook her head for the hundredth time and tried to concentrate. It was so beautiful here, the sprites were so astonishing, they had to save it, they just had to. She must think hard, she told herself, and try to help think of a way to stop them cutting down this tree tomorrow. The trouble was, they’d all been thinking for ages, without getting very far.

Ace was getting panicky. He’d never been in a situation before where he couldn’t think what to do, and time was running out.
“Look, I’ve got to stop it!” he shouted. “What good is it to me saving Wildside if my tree’s been killed in the fight? This is my tree we’re talking about, and this Pearce wants to cut it down just so he can get his wretched machines onto Wildside. I might not be able to stop them, but I’ll die trying!”
“Ace, believe me,” said Madge, “I do understand. But what can we do? Every idea we’ve heard would only stop them for an hour or two.”
“You need an eco-warrior,” said Dominic. “I saw some on the news. They were trying to stop a road being built, and they lived in the trees, so the men couldn’t cut them down.”
“What do they look like?” asked Clover.
“They’re only people,” Rowan explained. “Young grown-ups, very scruffy-looking, who spend all their time trying to stop things being built.”
“So what you’re saying is, if one of these scruffy young grown-ups was living in the tree, they wouldn’t cut it down?”
“That’s right,” said Dominic. “They’d try to get the person down, but they’d never cut the tree down while he was in it.”
“I’ll do it!” said Ace. “I’ll stay in it forever if it saves its life. Madge, please, this is an emergency if ever there was one - transform me, make me as big as a human.”
The children kept very quiet, realising that something important was going on here.
“I agree,” said Madge. “This is an emergency, there is real need. But you don’t understand what you’re asking. To do that, I’d need to know everything about you, d’you understand - everything. I don’t know you well enough, even now.”

Ace was silent, thinking. Then he said quietly, “Will does.”
Madge frowned with worry. No-one spoke. Ace looked at Will.
“I know it’s asking a lot, but you’ll do it, won’t you?”
“If you’re sure that’s what you want, yes, of course.”
“Just a minute,” said Madge. “Neither of you knows what he’s letting himself in for. But no-one’s got the right to stop you. You just want to be human-sized, Ace? You don’t want to be actually transformed into a human?”
Ace thought about that, then said firmly, “No, just as big as a human will do.”
“Right,” said Madge. “It’s not beyond you, but it’s still dangerous. Will, if you can’t handle it, you’ll lose your mind. Ace, if it goes wrong you could be permanently deformed, or have your character altered. Are you absolutely sure?”
“Yes,” they both answered.
“Fair enough. Now, go somewhere else. You need total privacy. You’ll understand, later. And well done, both of you. Great courage.”

They strolled away as if nothing was wrong, but they were both very tense.
“Where shall we go?” asked Will.
“Oh, er, hawthorn cave.”
They stood facing each other on the cave’s dusty floor, not too keen to get started.
“Tell me when you’re ready,” said Will.
“I’m ready.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure, I’m ready, go for it.”
Will shuddered and closed his eyes, concentrating on Ace, seeing him, mind, body, spirit, past, hopes, dreams, personality, character, all at once. Then he opened his eyes and began to imagine all that growing to the size of a grown-up human. The weight of the effort shook his own body, and the concentration shone out of his eyes, penetrating Ace to his soul.
Then Ace felt a terrible fear, and he knew he had to tell Will all his secret worries, all the faults he tried to hide, or they’d be lost forever, and they were part of who he was.
“Will, do it all,” he gasped. “I’m vain…remember that…and I’m not as brave as I make out…and, oh, this is awful…you…you make me sad, sometimes. I’m not sure, Will. Not sure you really like being a twin. You’re always holding out on me.”
Will winced with the pain of that, but he knew he had to bear it, had to keep concentrating. If he spoke, or stopped to think of his own feelings, it would all go wrong. Fiercely, he focused his mind even more, and it began to work. He stopped when Ace was nine times his own height, six feet tall. Will fell to his knees, gasping for breath, and closed his eyes. Suddenly he felt terrified.
“Don’t speak,” he said. “Please don’t speak. I can’t look at you yet. Give me time. Please, just go.”

Will sensed a huge rustling, and heard the bushes part, and knew he was alone. He let himself slump to the ground, utterly miserable. Make Ace sad? That was the last thing he wanted. True, there’d been a time when he’d resented it… but Ace had too, just as bitterly, it was part of growing up, for twins. They’d got over that, years ago…surely Ace couldn’t think he still felt that way? He didn’t know what he could do about it, though. He hated talking about things like that. His eyes were welling up with hot tears, and he didn’t bother trying to stop them.

Ace had forgotten the pain in the excitement of being six feet tall.
“Oh, this is brilliant,” he laughed, as his head knocked branches that normally meant a jump to reach. “How tiny everything looks! I wish the hodgepig would come out, I’d like to see it scarper.”
He made his way back to the chestnut, not realising how much noise he was making, or that everyone could hear him coming. When he stooped beneath the branches, Rose and Clover screamed. David and the children were less astonished, but they were very impressed.
“Wow,” said Rowan softly, deep admiration in her voice.
Ace caught it, and smirked a bit.
Still vain, then, thought Madge. Well done, Will.
“Let’s have a look at you,” she said. “Excellent, well done. Now Dominic can fill you in on how eco-warriors behave. I just want to warn you of one or two things. Stop day-dreaming, this is important.”
“Sorry. Go ahead. Hey, my voice has gone all loud! Oh, weird!”
“Just get this into your head, right - you are still a sprite. Think about that, before you do anything. You can’t eat food. If you do an ordinary jump, you’ll disappear into the air. So tiny jumps, OK?”
“OK,” grinned Ace. “Oh, this is going to be fun!”
“Right,” smiled Madge. “I’ll leave you with Dominic. Where’s Will?”
Ace stopped grinning, and tipped his head to one side, thoughtfully.
“Still in the hawthorn cave. He asked me to go. Didn’t want to look.”
“A very mild reaction,” Madge told him. “Don’t worry about it.”

Madge landed softly at Will’s side. He looked up at her, and she saw the misery on his face, and the dried tears.
“Shake it off,” she said kindly. “Try not to brood.”
“Is he all right?”
“He’s fine. You did a brilliant job.”
“It was awful,” said Will, shuddering. “I see now why you told us to come away in private.” He coughed a bit, and sat up. “I couldn’t have done what he had to do.”
“Maybe not,” said Madge. “But you were hurt, yet you kept your concentration. I’m not sure Ace could have done that.”
“Good job it was that way round, then,” said Will, with a ghost of a smile.
“That’s better. Remember, he trusted you with everything he is - trusted you not to damage it. And he also trusted you not to let it damage your friendship. Does that help?”
“Yes…yes, it does. Thanks, Madge.”
“Let me help you up, you must be worn out. D’you want to go straight to bed? You don’t have to see anyone if you don’t want to.”
“No, I’m all right now. I have to go and help my twin save his tree.”