And now several things happened at almost the same time, so nobody watching could possibly keep up, but luckily, I can tell you about all of them.
Lord Flapoon’s bullet went flying towards the Ickabog’s opening belly. Both Bert and Roderick, who’d sworn to protect the Ickabog no matter what, flung themselves into the path of that bullet, which hit Bert squarely in the chest, and as he fell to the ground, his wooden sign, bearing the message THE ICKABOG IS HARMLESS, shattered into splinters.
Then a baby Ickabog, which was already taller than a horse, came struggling out of its Icker’s belly. Its Bornding had been a dreadful one, because it had come into the world full of its parent’s fear of the gun, and the first thing it had ever seen was an attempt to kill it, so it sprinted straight at Flapoon, who was trying to reload.
The soldiers who might have helped Flapoon were so terrified of the new monster bearing down upon them that they galloped out of its path without even trying to fire. Spittleworth was one of those who rode away fastest, and he was soon lost to sight. The baby Ickabog let out a terrible roar that still haunts the nightmares of those who witnessed the scene, before launching itself at Flapoon. Within seconds, Flapoon lay dead upon the ground.
All of this had happened very fast; people were screaming and crying, and Daisy was still holding onto the dying Ickabog, which lay in the road beside Bert. Roderick and Martha were bending over Bert, who, to their amazement, had opened his eyes.
‘I – I think I’m all right,’ he whispered, and feeling beneath his shirt, he pulled out his father’s huge silver medal. Flapoon’s bullet was buried in it. The medal had saved Bert’s life.
Seeing that Bert was alive, Daisy now buried her hands in the hair on either side of the Ickabog’s face again.
‘I didn’t see my Ickaboggle,’ whispered the dying Ickabog, in whose eyes there were again tears like glass apples.
‘It’s beautiful,’ said Daisy, who was also starting to cry. ‘Look… here…’
A second Ickaboggle was wriggling out of the Ickabog’s tummy. This one had a friendly face and wore a timid smile, because its Bornding had happened as its parent was looking into Daisy’s face, and had seen her tears, and understood that a human could love an Ickabog as though it was one of their own family. Ignoring the noise and clamour all around it, the second Ickaboggle knelt beside Daisy in the road and stroked the big Ickabog’s face. Icker and Ickaboggle looked at each other and smiled, and then the big Ickabog’s eyes gently closed, and Daisy knew that it was dead. She buried her face in its shaggy hair and sobbed.
‘You mustn’t be sad,’ said a familiar booming voice, as something stroked her hair. ‘Don’t cry, Daisy. This is the Bornding. It is a glorious thing.’
Blinking, Daisy looked up at the baby, which was speaking with exactly the voice of its Icker.
‘You know my name,’ she said.
‘Well, of course I do,’ said the Ickaboggle kindly. ‘I was Bornded knowing all about you. And now we must find my Ickabob,’ which, Daisy understood, was what Ickabogs call their siblings.
Daisy stood up and saw Flapoon lying dead in the road, and the first-born Ickaboggle surrounded by people holding pitchforks and guns.
‘Climb up here with me,’ said Daisy urgently to the second baby, and hand-in-hand the two of them mounted the wagon. Daisy shouted at the crowd to listen. As she was the girl who’d ridden through the country on the shoulder of the Ickabog, the nearest people guessed that she might know things worth hearing, so they shushed everyone else, and at last Daisy was able to speak.
‘You mustn’t hurt the Ickabogs!’ were the first words out of her mouth, when at last the crowd was silent. ‘If you’re cruel to them, they’ll have babies who are born even crueller!’
‘Bornded cruel,’ corrected the Ickaboggle beside her.
‘Bornded cruel, yes,’ said Daisy. ‘But if they’re Bornded in kindness, they will be kind! They eat only mushrooms and they want to be our friends!’
The crowd muttered, uncertain, until Daisy explained about Major Beamish’s death on the marsh, how he’d been shot by Lord Flapoon, not killed by an Ickabog, and that Spittleworth had used the death to invent a story of a murderous monster on the marsh.
Then the crowd decided that they wanted to go and talk to King Fred, so the bodies of the dead Ickabog and Lord Flapoon were loaded onto the wagon, and twenty strong men pulled it along. Then the whole procession set off for the palace, with Daisy, Martha, and the kind Ickaboggle arm-in-arm at the front, and thirty citizens with guns surrounding the fierce, first-born Ickaboggle, which otherwise would have killed more humans, because it had been Bornded fearing and hating them.
But after a quick discussion, Bert and Roderick vanished, and where they went, you’ll find out soon.
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