Day 21 – 3188 words and a total of 37 291 words! Today is a little interesting…

The parchments were old and worn, each one covered with small, neatly written writing from the top to the bottom of the page.

Stikky lifted one the top paper off the desk and looked at it with interest as the others crowded around him.

Sorting the age-old parchments into proper order, Stikky bent over them, gave his friends one last, hesitant glance, and then began to read.

My name is Vyni, and I am the Castle Recorder. I unfortunately have not been doing my job very well lately, but with the recent attacks from the Ghando mixed with some other things, we have needed all stickmen on the walls to keep danger away.

Stikky stopped reading and looked around at the others, a look excitement clear on his face.

“Go on!” Leddy ordered. “Don’t stop reading, we want to hear this!”

Grinning, Stikky turned around and continued from where he had left off.

Today it has been exactly a month since those treacherous Ghando turned up, wanting nothing but our deaths. Sorl has tried to find out what they want countless times, but I believe they think peaceful negotiation is not an option.

At the moment they are camped a little way off from the castle, near the edge of the plateau—and just out of arrow range. Thankfully they have not raided our food supply, so we are not going to starve at least.

Stikky stopped for a moment, moved the page to the back of the pile and continued reading from the one behind it.

Today the Ghando traveled down to into the forest, and we thought they had finally given up and were going to leave us in peace, but they returned to the plateau several hours later, carrying several huge tree trunks between them.

Over the next few hours we watched in helplessness as they transformed those logs into something not unlike a catapult. We instantly knew they were preparing for a final attack, and with something that could launch rocks, they would soon breach the castle walls.

Today me and Sorl went over to the rocket site—deep in the desert part of Tri-formed Island—and checked out how those tireless stickmen are going. I must say, they are incredible! Within a few  minutes out in that sun, I felt like I was beginning to melt, but those guys just keep on going!

Sorry, back to the rocket. So yes, we are really building one. As one last, final escape, we have built something that will take us into outer space although half the stickmen don’t believe it will even lift off the ground.

We don’t know what space is even like, or whether the planets in our solar system will even support life, but with the equipment we have been designing, we can easily adapt to a new life style.

Unfortunately, today there was almost mutiny. One of the main culprits—I’ve forgotten his name, but it doesn’t really matter—managed to get over half the stickmen to rebel against us. They’ve left through the secret tunnel and headed off for the hills, where they hope to build a sanctuary there. They are fools; the castle is way more defendable, and even these walls will not keep them out forever!

The attack will come tomorrow, I believe. The Ghando have made two more of their catapults, and I think they’re ready for the final battle. The rocket is also finished however, so our escape is ready tomorrow. Also, thanks to the mutiny of half the stickmen, we now have twice as much space aboard the ship, meaning we will be able to take much more with us.

Stikky switched pages again, this time onto the final one.

Today is the day, the one we all knew would come. The attack has begun.

The Ghando are trying to reach the walls, but we are keeping them at bay with our bows for the moment. It won’t be long though.

They are wheeling one of their catapults forward. They have loaded an enormous boulder—who knows where they found that—and are ready to fire.

The wall is breached! That rock smashed right through it like it was nothing, leaving a gaping hole in the wall! They are through! We cannot hold them back anymore, so it is time to execute our escape plan. I can no longer record what is happening, so these are my words of farewell-

Stikky stopped short, looking up at the others as he finished. “The rest of it is smudged; unreadable.” he finished, looking down at the page with deep solemnness.

There was a great silence in the room for several minutes, as they five stickmen thought over the events that had occurred in the castle so long ago, until Leddy broke it.

“Well,” he stated, standing up and folding the parchments carefully in half before putting them back in the box McRhoddy had found them in. “At least we know what happened here.”

Steik scratched his head. “I wonder if the rocket site would still be in the desert…” he pondered, polishing his glasses as he spoke.

Stikky looked around as an idea materialised inside his head. “You know how there was a tunnel leading to the Abandoned Hills…” he explained slowly, thinking hard. “I expect there’s one leading to the rocket site too, and—in fact—I expect there’s all sorts of tunnels just for that purpose; leading you wherever you want to go on the island!”

The others looked at him in amazement. “Well, what are we waiting for?” Stif decided, leaping to his feet and looking around as if the tunnel might be right beside him. “Let’s go!”

“Wait,” Leddy added, holding up his hands. “We’ve got to find the tunnel first—if there is one—and then we’ve got to figure out whether it’s the right one or not; it quite possibly might not be!”

A quick, excited search of the tunnels ensued, while Stikky went to thank McRhoddy for finding the scrolls.

Opening the doors of the kitchen, he stepped inside, dodging back as someone walked past, carrying a bowl of steaming noodles.

Spotting the old stickman kneading a batch of dough vigorously, he hurried over to him, snagging a biscuit from a tray someone was carrying.

“Thanks for finding those parchments,” Stikky began, swallowing the rest of the cookie. “They were very… useful, if you get what I mean.”

McRhoddy patted him on the back. “No need t’thank me, m’lad!” he replied softly, noticing the sad look in Stikky’s eyes. “I know what you’ve been thinkin’; I wish there were others here too, but we’ve got each other… that’ll have to do for now, though I don’t know how long I can last with you youngsters around!”

Grinning, Stikky turned around and was about was beginning to make his way towards the door when McRhoddy remembered something and spun around.

“Hey laddy!” he shouted, causing Stikky to turn. “D’ya want to come’n sample this? I just invented it while you were out!”

Taking one of the stone-hewn beakers the old stickman held out to him, Stikky examined the yellow, fizzing liquid frothing around inside.

“I call it lemonade!” McRhoddy exclaimed, taking a sip from his own mug.

“Right…” Stikky replied, looking with interest at the bubbles collecting at the surface of the liquid, but not taking a sip. “How do you make it?”

“Well…” McRhoddy explained, thinking for a moment before answering. “Ya take some cold water—it has to be cold, otherwise it won’t work—squeeze some warm lemon juice into it, add a bit of sugar, mix it will, and when it starts fizzin’, you know it’s done!”

Stikky shrugged, and took a sip of the bubbling liquid. It was ever so slightly warm, tangy, was just sweet enough to mask the sour flavour of the lemon, and was just as fizzy as it looked.

Opening his eyes wide in surprise, he nodded in approval as McRhoddy beamed. “I know ye’d like it!” he exclaimed, watching in delight as Stikky drained the rest of his beaker.

“Thanks,” Stikky said, thanking him with a grin as he placed his empty cup on the table beside him. “It’s good—I’d drink it any day—but I really need to get going sorry. See you later!”

Without waiting for a reply, he spun around and hurried through the twin doors out into the corridor outside, almost colliding with Steik.

“There you are!” he exclaimed, putting a hand up carefully to make sure his glasses were still safely on. “Where’s you been? We’ve been looking everywhere for you! Leddy found the tunnel!”

Hurrying after Steik as he ran down the passage, Stikky grabbed a lantern off its hook and swapped it from his left hand to his right, trying not to let his friend out of sight.

Turning a corner sharply, he skidded to a stop, narrowly avoiding knocking Steik over as his friend stopped a little way up the passage.

Stepping around Steik, Stikky saw the impatient forms of Leddy, Stif, and Stib leaning against the wall, looking down at a deeply-engraven message scrawled on the wall which read ‘to Rocket Site’.

“Finally!” exclaimed Leddy, shaking his head in disapproval. “What’ve you been doing? Did you get lost?”

Stikky rolled his eyes. “I went to thank McRhoddy for finding the scrolls, and then he got me to taste a new drink he’d invented, that’s all.”

Stif and Stib looked at each other in excitement. “A new drink?” they asked in unison. “What kind? Is it nice?”

Stikky held up his hands, placing the lantern he held on the ground first. “I only tried a little bit—that’s all he gave me—and anyway, if it’s a success, he’ll soon be giving it out at meals, so you guys can try it then. Now, Leddy; I assume you guys found the right tunnel?”

Leddy nodded, grinning in satisfaction. “Stib noticed it, and he called me over. If anything is it, it’ll be this!”

Stikky peered down the dark tunnel, satisfied when he saw the lanterns lining the walls. “These guys sure had no shortage of lanterns—or oil, that’s for sure.” he muttered, then straightened up as he picked up his own lamp and looked around at the others. “Come on then, are we going, or what?”

The others nodded, and the group turned and disappeared down the tunnel, the excitement of exploration filling them once more as they set off into the darkness.

 

A few hours later, just as they were beginning to tire, the tunnel began to slope upwards, and the five stickmen began to look excitedly at each other, each forgetting their weariness.

A moment later the passage sloped almost vertically, ending in a large wooden trapdoor with a ancient, rusty bolt holding it shut at one end.

Looking at the others questioningly, Stikky waited for them to nod, then put his shoulder to the door and heaved upwards with all his might.

Snap!

The ancient square of wood lifted upwards as the broken, rusty bolt gave way and it fell back with a great crack that broke the trapdoor in two.

Climbing out into a small building made of rough bricks and mortar, Stikky stepped aside to make room for the others as they climbed out of the tunnel one by one.

Opening the door, Stikky stepped out into the sunlight, holding up a hand to stop himself being blinded by the hot rays of the sun. Then the heat hit him.

It was like stepping into an oven; it was so hot that the five stickmen began to pant like dogs, Stif and Stib sticking their tongues out in hope that would help them.

Looking around, and forgetting the heat for a moment, the group gasped—or would have, but their throats were too dry.

Before them, surrounded by ancient, half-ruined buildings, was a massive landing sight, an enormous black crater at its centre.

Stepping forward, Stikky knelt down on the hot concrete and studied the black hole. It looked like a meteor had landed there, creating the crater, but he knew better.

“This is where their rocket blasted off,” he stated simply, standing back up as the others gathered around him. “Or else, something like it.”

Looking around, he pulled his leather canteen from his pack and took a drink out of it, peering into it first to see how full it was.

“We shouldn’t spend too long in here,” Stikky decided, noticing how empty his flask was getting. “We’re going to run out of water soon, and if we don’t want to have to be travelling back without any water, I suggest we leave pretty soon.”

The others nodded, and casting one last glance out at the rocket site, set off for the castle.

 

Destick was almost at his wit’s end. The assassins he had hired had chickened out and disappeared without any warning; his Strobots had failed to eliminate the stickmen, he was completely out of ideas, and to make things worse, Dr. Destray had completely disappeared without a trace.

Walking down the corridor, he burst through the doors and emerged into his lab, fuming.

Grabbing a set of blueprints, he tried sketching out a design, but his head was completely empty. In a rage he threw his ink pen down at the floor so hard that it cracked, glaring angrily at the wall.

“Excuse me, Sir?”

Destick turned to see a small, hunched-over robot emerge through the doors hesitantly, then stand upright and salute.

Taking a deep breath to clear his temper, Destick nodded. “Yes?”

“Dr. Destray, to see you, Sir! Urgent!”

Destick turned impatiently as Dr. Destray appeared through the open doors, carrying a set of blueprints. Destick got in before he could speak.

“And where’ve you been, eh?” he demanded, folding his arms across his chest. “Why’ve you disappeared for four whole days?! I’ve been looking for you everywhere!”

Dr. Destray ignored his rant—he was used it happening a lot. “After those stickmen landed here,” he began, causing Destick to stop and listen impatiently. “I decided they needed to be gotten rid of, so I locked myself inside a room for four whole days until I had come up with an idea that would get rid of them. And here it is! The solution to all our problems!”

Flourishing the blueprints he held in his hand, he laid them out on a table for Destick to see.

“Great… but what is it?” Destick asked, his rage disappearing, replaced instead with doubt. “And more importantly, what does it do?”

Dr. Destray pointed to the name. “I’m sure you can read…” he began, continuing as Destick nodded. “Well, once we launch it up into the sky, it will circle around the earth in close orbit, and when it is in position, we will be able to use it to destroy the stickmen, no matter where they are!”

Destick grinned; he liked the sound of that. “Well, we better do some tests first,” he instructed, taking the blueprints and examining them more carefully. “Like what kind of protection we need to stop it from burning up when it enters the earth’s atmosphere, how big it must be, etc. Now come, let us get to work, and finally rid ourselves of these tiresome stickmen, for who can survive against a Laser Cannon?”

 

“Stikky? Are you awake? Stikky!”

Stikky awoke to find Leddy shaking him.

He looked around sleepily. It was still night, at least, it looked like it was—it was a bit hard to tell when you were underground.

Turning over, he saw Leddy’s face in the light of the lantern that hung in his room: urgent, and worried.

“What is it?” he asked sleepily, yawning as he sat up in bed and looked—eyelids drooping—at his friend. “Is it still night, or have I… overslept?”

Leddy shook his head. “I’ve been thinking…” he began, and Stikky was wide awake in an instant. He could see the trouble in his friend’s eyes.”

Grabbing the lantern off the wall as Leddy stepped out into the passage, Stikky joined his friend as they began to walk down the dark corridor.

“I’ve been dreaming about Destick a lot,” Leddy said in a low voice, glancing at the dimly lit bedrooms on either side as if they might be overheard. “It’s nothing really, but I’d kinda forgotten him for a while, and well, when I thought of him, I instantly wanted to talk to you. Who knows what he could be doing now? We need some way of finding out—I’m sick and tired of being on the receiving end of things, only knowing what his next plan is when it comes into action, right in our faces!”

Stikky nodded as his friend’s words sunk in. “So what do you want to do?” he asked quietly. “Have you got any ideas?”

Leddy shrugged. “It’s a bit risky, but what I really want to do is sail back to Destick’s Island—just two, preferably you and me, so as to not attract any attention. From there we could sneak into Destick’s Lair, collect some info on his latest plan, and come back here to get ready for it!”

Stikky stared at him. “You mean, we leave the island… by ourselves? And go to Destick’s Island?”

Leddy nodded. “Yep.”

Stikky pondered over the idea for a moment as they turned the corner and left the sleeping rooms behind them. “We’d need to leave secretly—though we’d definitely leave a message telling them where we’ve gone, we just don’t want them coming with us I suppose.”

Leddy grinned. “If we’re going to leave, we’d best leave before dawn—the others will think something’s up if we’re talking secretly about something for a whole day.”

“Right,” Stikky decided, turning a corner sharply. “We’re leaving before daylight, so we need to be quick. We’ll need food, water, lanterns, and a boat.”

Leddy stared at him as his excitement faded. “Where are we going to find all that?” he asked. “Who’s making food at a time like this?”

Stikky patted his friend on the back. “There’s at least one person who’ll be baking nonstop in the kitchens, and I think I know who it is!”

As they entered through the twin wooden doors that separated the kitchen from the passageway outside, they were greeted by the sight of McRhoddy lifting a loaf of warm bread from the oven, a delicious aroma filling the room.

“You lads are up early!” the old stickman exclaimed, waving a hand as he placed the bread carefully on a tray to cool down. “Can’t sleep? Or just hungry?”

Stikky and Leddy exchanged glances. “Well…” Leddy decided eventually. “We’re thinking of going on a little adventure kinda soon, and we need some supplies…”

McRhoddy caught onto the idea immediately when they explained it. “Well, I can pack you some food,” he suggested. “I’ve been bakin’ for quite a while already, and there’s some empty canteens over there; you’ll want at least two each I should think. C’mon laddies, if you want to get out of here before anyone else is up, I’d suggest you get movin’!”