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A big thank you from J.K. Rowling

Index ID: ICKTK — Publication date: April 28th, 2021

Note: Published on The Ickabog official website.

When I decided to put out chapters of The Ickabog for free during last year’s first lockdown, the response was phenomenal and reminded me just how much I love writing for children. From reader engagement to the avalanche of the children’s pictures submitted to the illustration competition, sharing The Ickabog was a wonderful experience during a very dark time.

I had no idea what to expect in terms of sales of the book, because so many people had already read the story for free. I certainly hoped we’d be able to shift a few copies, because all my royalties would be donated to my charitable trust, Volant, which would then distribute them to charities supporting groups particularly hard-hit by the pandemic, but in truth, sales figures were the last thing on my mind. The Ickabog had been such a special project, I considered that it had done its job even if the printed book didn’t sell very well.

To my absolute astonishment, you bought the book in such numbers that Volant has so far been able to donate millions of pounds to charities helping mitigate the wide-ranging effects of coronavirus, supporting some very vulnerable people who’ve been severely impacted by the pandemic. (you can find out more here)

I was already happy that I’d brought The Ickabog down from the attic, but your extraordinary generosity has made this one of the most meaningful experiences of my writing career. I could never have dreamed what would come of letting Daisy, Bert, Martha and Roderick finish their adventure and I want to thank every single person who bought a copy of their story: yours is the credit for helping change lives and your kindness and generosity will never be forgotten by this author.

J.K. Rowling

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The Ickabog

Index ID: ICKB — Publication date: November 10th, 2020

Note: The Ickabog was published in hardcover, ebook and audiobook format on November 10th, 2020.
Only the beginning of this text can be displayed here for research purposes. I apologize!

Once upon a time, there was a tiny country called Cornucopia, which had been ruled for centuries by a long line of fair-haired kings. The king at the time of which I write was called King Fred the Fearless. He’d announced the ‘Fearless’ bit himself, on the morning of his coronation, partly because it sounded nice with ‘Fred’, but also because he’d once managed to catch and kill a wasp all by himself, if you didn’t count five footmen and the boot boy.

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The Ickabog – Chapter 64: Cornucopia Again

Index ID: ICKB64 — Publication date: July 10th, 2020

Once upon a time, there was a tiny country called Cornucopia, which was ruled by a team of newly appointed advisors and a Prime Minister, who at the time of which I write was called Gordon Goodfellow. Prime Minister Goodfellow had been elected by the people of Cornucopia because he was a very honest man, and Cornucopia was a country that had learned the value of truth. There was a country-wide celebration when Prime Minister Goodfellow announced that he was going to marry Lady Eslanda, the kind and brave woman who’d given important evidence against Lord Spittleworth.

The king who’d allowed his happy little kingdom to be driven to ruin and despair stood trial, along with the Chief Advisor and a number of other people who’d benefited from Spittleworth’s lies, including Ma Grunter, Basher John, Cankerby the footman, and Otto Scrumble.

The king simply wept all through his questioning, but Lord Spittleworth answered in a cold, proud voice, and told so many lies, and tried to blame so many other people for his own wickedness, that he made matters far worse for himself than if he’d simply sobbed, like Fred. Both men were imprisoned in the dungeons beneath the palace, with all the other criminals.

I quite understand, by the way, if you wish Bert and Roderick had shot Spittleworth. After all, he’d caused hundreds of other people’s deaths. However, it should comfort you to know that Spittleworth really would have preferred to be dead than to sit in the dungeon all day and night, where he ate plain food and slept between rough sheets, and had to listen for hours on end to Fred crying.

The gold that Spittleworth and Flapoon had stolen was recovered, so that all those people who’d lost their cheese shops and their bakeries, their dairies and their pig farms, their butcher’s shops and their vineyards, could start them back up again, and begin producing the famous Cornucopian food and wine once more.

However, during the long period of Cornucopia’s poverty, many had lost the opportunity to learn how to make cheese, sausages, wine, and pastries. Some of them became librarians, because Lady Eslanda had the excellent idea of turning all the now useless orphanages into libraries, which she helped stock. However, that still left a lot of people without jobs.

And that is how the fifth great city of Cornucopia came into being. Its name was Ickaby, and it lay between Kurdsburg and Jeroboam, on the banks of the River Fluma.

When the second-born Ickaboggle heard of the problem of people who’d never learned a trade, it suggested timidly that it might teach them how to farm mushrooms, which was something it understood very well. So successful did the mushroom growers become that a prosperous town sprang up around them.

You might think you don’t like mushrooms, but I promise, if you tasted the creamy mushroom soups of Ickaby, you’d love them for the rest of your life. Kurdsburg and Baronstown developed new recipes that included Ickaby mushrooms. In fact, shortly before Prime Minister Goodfellow married Lady Eslanda, the King of Pluritania offered Goodfellow the choice of any of his daughters’ hands for a year’s supply of Cornucopian pork and mushroom sausages. Prime Minister Goodfellow sent the sausages as a gift, along with an invitation to the Goodfellows’ wedding, and Lady Eslanda added a note suggesting that King Porfirio might want to stop offering people his daughters in exchange for food, and let them choose their own husbands.

Ickaby was an unusual city, though, because unlike Chouxville, Kurdsburg, Baronstown, and Jeroboam, it was famous for three products instead of one.

Firstly, there were the mushrooms, every single one of them as beautiful as a pearl.

Secondly, there were the glorious silver salmon and trout which fishermen caught in the River Fluma – and you might like to know that a statue of the old lady who studied the fish of the Fluma stood proudly in one of Ickaby’s squares.

Thirdly, Ickaby produced wool.

You see, it was decided by Prime Minister Goodfellow that the few Marshlanders who’d survived the long period of hunger deserved better pastures for their sheep than could be found in the north. Well, when the Marshlanders were given a few lush fields on the bank of the Fluma, they showed what they could really do. The wool of Cornucopia was the softest, silkiest wool in the world, and the sweaters and socks and scarves it produced were more beautiful and comfortable than could be found anywhere else. The sheep farm of Hetty Hopkins and her family produced excellent wool, but I’d have to say that the finest garments of all were spun from the wool of Roderick and Martha Roach, who had a thriving farm just outside Ickaby. Yes, Roderick and Martha got married, and I’m pleased to say they were very happy, had five children, and that Roderick began to speak with a slight Marshlander accent.

Two other people got married, as well. I’m delighted to tell you that on leaving the dungeon, and though no longer forced to live next to each other, those old friends Mrs Beamish and Mr Dovetail found that they couldn’t do without each other. So with Bert as best man, and Daisy as chief bridesmaid, the carpenter and the pastry chef were married, and Bert and Daisy, who’d felt like brother and sister for so long, now truly were. Mrs Beamish opened her own splendid pastry shop in the heart of Chouxville where, in addition to Fairies’ Cradles, Maidens’ Dreams, Dukes’ Delights, Folderol Fancies, and Hopes-of-Heaven, she produced Ickapuffs, which were the lightest, fluffiest pastries you could possibly imagine, all covered with a delicate dusting of peppermint chocolate shavings, which gave them the appearance of being covered in marsh weed.

Bert followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Cornucopian army. A just and brave man, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he ends up at the head of it.

Daisy became the world’s foremost authority on Ickabogs. She wrote many books about their fascinating behaviour, and it is due to Daisy that Ickabogs became protected and beloved by the people of Cornucopia. In her free time, she ran a successful carpentry business with her father, and one of their most popular products were toy Ickabogs. The second-born Ickaboggle lived in what was once the king’s deer park, close to Daisy’s workshop, and the two remained very good friends.

There was a museum built, in the heart of Chouxville, which attracted many visitors each year. This museum was set up by Prime Minister Goodfellow and his advisors, with help from Daisy, Bert, Martha, and Roderick, because nobody wanted the people of Cornucopia to forget the years when the country believed all Spittleworth’s lies. Visitors to the museum could view Major Beamish’s silver medal, with Flapoon’s bullet still buried in it, and the statue of Nobby Buttons, which had been replaced, in Chouxville’s biggest square, with a statue of that brave Ickabog who walked out of the Marshlands carrying a bunch of snowdrops, and in doing so saved both its species and the country. Visitors could also see the model Ickabog that Spittleworth had made out of a bull’s skeleton and some nails, and the huge portrait of King Fred fighting a dragonish Ickabog that never existed outside the artist’s imagination.

But there’s one creature I haven’t yet mentioned: the first-born Ickaboggle, the savage creature who killed Lord Flapoon, and who was last seen being dragged away by many strong men.

Well, in truth, this creature was something of a problem. Daisy had explained to everyone that the savage Ickaboggle must not be attacked or mistreated, or it would hate people more than it already did. This would mean that at its Bornding, it would bring forth Ickaboggles even more savage than itself, and Cornucopia could end up with the problem Spittleworth had pretended it had. At first, this Ickaboggle needed to be kept in a reinforced cage to stop it killing people, and volunteers to take it mushrooms were hard to find, because it was so dangerous. The only people this Ickaboggle even slightly liked were Bert and Roderick, because at the moment of its Bornding they’d been trying to protect its Icker. The trouble was, of course, that Bert was away in the army and Roderick was running a sheep farm, and neither of them had time to sit all day with a savage Ickaboggle to keep it calm.

A solution to the problem arrived at last, from a very unexpected place.

All this time, Fred had been crying his eyes out down in the dungeons. Selfish, vain, and cowardly though he’d definitely been, Fred hadn’t meant to hurt anyone – though of course he had, and very badly too. For a whole year after he lost the throne, Fred was sunk into darkest despair, and while part of the reason was undoubtedly that he now lived in a dungeon rather than in a palace, he was also deeply ashamed.

He could see what a terrible king he’d been, and how badly he’d behaved, and he wished more than anything to be a better man. So one day, to the astonishment of Spittleworth, who was sitting brooding in the cell opposite, Fred told the prison guard that he’d like to volunteer to be the one to look after the savage Ickabog.

And that’s what he did. Though deathly white and trembly-kneed on the first morning, and for many mornings afterwards, the ex-king went into the savage Ickabog’s cage and talked to it about Cornucopia, and about the terrible mistakes he’d made, and how you could learn to be a better, kinder person, if you really wanted to become one. Even though Fred had to return to his own cell every evening, he requested that the Ickabog be put into a nice field instead of a cage and, to everyone’s surprise, this worked well, and the Ickabog even thanked Fred in a gruff voice the following morning.

Slowly, over the months and years that followed, Fred became braver and the Ickabog gentler, and at last, when Fred was quite an old man, the Ickabog’s Bornding came, and the Ickaboggles that stepped out of it were kind and gentle. Fred, who’d mourned their Icker as though it had been his brother, died very shortly afterwards. While there were no statues raised to their last king in any Cornucopian city, occasionally people laid flowers on his grave, and he would have been glad to know it.

Whether people were really Bornded from Ickabogs, I cannot tell you. Perhaps we go through a kind of Bornding when we change, for better or for worse. All I know is that countries, like Ickabogs, can be made gentle by kindness, which is why the kingdom of Cornucopia lived happily ever after.

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The Ickabog – Chapter 63: Lord Spittleworth’s Last Plan

Index ID: ICKB63 — Publication date: July 9th, 2020

When Daisy entered the palace courtyard, at the head of the people’s procession, she was amazed to see how little it had altered. Fountains still played and peacocks still strutted, and the only change to the front of the palace was a single broken window, up on the second floor.

Then the great golden doors were flung open, and the crowd saw two ragged people walking out to meet them: a white-haired man holding an axe and a woman clutching an enormous saucepan.

And Daisy, staring at the white-haired man, felt her knees buckle, and the kind Ickaboggle caught her and held her up. Mr Dovetail tottered forward, and I don’t think he even noticed that an actual live Ickabog was standing beside his long-lost daughter. As the two of them hugged and sobbed, Daisy spotted Mrs Beamish over her father’s shoulder.

‘Bert’s alive!’ she called to the pastry chef, who was looking frantically for her son, ‘but he had something to do… He’ll be back soon!’

More prisoners now came hurrying out of the palace, and there were screams of joy as loved ones found loved ones, and many of the orphanage children found the parents they’d thought were dead.

Then a lot of other things happened, like the thirty strong men who surrounded the fierce Ickaboggle, dragging it away before it could kill anyone else, and Daisy asking Mr Dovetail if Martha could come and live with them, and Captain Goodfellow appearing on a balcony with a weeping King Fred, who was still wearing his pyjamas, and the crowd cheering when Captain Goodfellow said he thought it was time to try life without a king.

However, we must now leave this happy scene, and track down the man who was most to blame for the terrible things that had happened to Cornucopia.

Lord Spittleworth was miles away, galloping down a deserted country road, when his horse suddenly went lame. When Spittleworth tried to force it onwards, the poor horse, which had had quite enough of being mistreated, reared and deposited Spittleworth onto the ground. When Spittleworth tried to whip it, the horse kicked him, then trotted away into a forest where, I am pleased to tell you, it was later found by a kind farmer, who nursed it back to health.

Lord Spittleworth was therefore left to jog alone down the country lanes towards his country estate, holding up his Chief Advisor’s robes lest he trip over them, and looking over his shoulder every few yards for fear that he was being followed. He knew perfectly well that his life in Cornucopia was over, but he still had that mountain of gold hidden in his wine cellar, and he intended to load up his carriage with as many ducats as would fit, then sneak over the border into Pluritania.

Night had fallen by the time Spittleworth reached his mansion, and his feet were terribly sore. Hobbling inside, he bellowed for his butler, Scrumble, who so long ago had pretended to be Nobby Buttons’s mother and Professor Fraudysham.

‘Down here, my lord!’ called a voice from the cellar.

‘Why haven’t you lit the lamps, Scrumble?’ bellowed Spittleworth, feeling his way downstairs.

‘Thought it best not to look like anyone was home, sir!’ called Scrumble.

‘Ah,’ said Spittleworth, wincing as he limped downstairs. ‘So you’ve heard, have you?’

‘Yes, sir,’ said the echoing voice. ‘I imagined you’d be wanting to clear out, my lord?’

‘Yes, Scrumble,’ said Lord Spittleworth, limping towards the distant light of a single candle, ‘I most certainly do.’

He pushed open the door to the cellar where he’d been storing his gold all these years. The butler, whom Spittleworth could only make out dimly in the candlelight, was once again wearing Professor Fraudysham’s costume: the white wig and the thick glasses that shrank his eyes to almost nothing.

‘Thought it might be best if we travel in disguise, sir,’ said Scrumble, holding up old Widow Buttons’s black dress and ginger wig.

‘Good idea,’ said Spittleworth, hastily pulling off his robes and pulling on the costume. ‘Do you have a cold, Scrumble? Your voice sounds strange.’

‘It’s just the dust down here, sir,’ said the butler, moving further from the candlelight. ‘And what will Your Lordship be wanting to do with Lady Eslanda? She’s still locked in the library.’

‘Leave her,’ said Spittleworth, after a moment’s consideration. ‘And serve her right for not marrying me when she had the chance.’

‘Very good, my lord. I’ve loaded up the carriage and a couple of horses with most of the gold. Perhaps Your Lordship could help carry this last trunk?’

‘I hope you weren’t thinking of leaving without me, Scrumble,’ said Spittleworth suspiciously, wondering whether, if he’d arrived ten minutes later, he might have found Scrumble gone.

‘Oh no, my lord,’ Scrumble assured him. ‘I wouldn’t dream of leaving without Your Lordship. Withers the groom will be driving us, sir. He’s ready and waiting in the courtyard.’

‘Excellent,’ said Spittleworth, and together they heaved the last trunk of gold upstairs, through the deserted house and out into the courtyard behind, where Spittleworth’s carriage stood waiting in the darkness. Even the horses had sacks of gold slung over their backs. More gold had been strapped onto the top of the carriage, in cases.

As he and Scrumble heaved the last trunk onto the roof, Spittleworth said:

‘What is that peculiar noise?’

‘I hear nothing, my lord,’ said Scrumble.

‘It is an odd sort of grunting,’ said Spittleworth.

A memory came back to Spittleworth as he stood here in the dark: that of standing in the icy-white fog on the marsh all those years before, and the whimpers of the dog struggling against the brambles in which it was tangled. This was a similar noise, as though some creature were trapped and unable to free itself, and it made Lord Spittleworth quite as nervous as it had last time when, of course, it had been followed by Flapoon firing his blunderbuss and starting both of them onto the path to riches, and the country down the road to ruin.

‘Scrumble, I don’t like that noise.’

‘I don’t expect you do, my lord.’

The moon slid out from behind a cloud and Lord Spittleworth, turning quickly towards his butler, whose voice sounded very different all of a sudden, found himself staring down the barrel of one of his own guns. Scrumble had removed Professor Fraudysham’s wig and glasses, to reveal that he wasn’t the butler at all, but Bert Beamish. And for just a moment, seen by moonlight, the boy looked so like his father that Spittleworth had the crazy notion that Major Beamish had risen from the dead to punish him.

Then he looked wildly around him and saw, through the open door of the carriage, the real Scrumble, gagged and tied up on the floor, which was where the odd whimpering was coming from – and Lady Eslanda sitting there, smiling and holding a second gun. Opening his mouth to ask Withers the groom why he didn’t do something, Spittleworth realised that this wasn’t Withers, but Roderick Roach. (When he’d spotted the two boys galloping up the drive, the real groom had quite rightly sensed trouble, and stealing his favourite of Lord Spittleworth’s horses, had ridden off into the night.)

‘How did you get here so fast?’ was all Spittleworth could think to say.

‘We borrowed some horses from a farmer,’ said Bert.

In fact, Bert and Roderick were much better riders than Spittleworth, so their horses hadn’t gone lame. They’d managed to overtake him and had arrived in plenty of time to free Lady Eslanda, find out where the gold was, tie up Scrumble the butler, and force him to tell them the full story of how Spittleworth had fooled the country, including his own impersonation of Professor Fraudysham and Widow Buttons.

‘Boys, let’s not be hasty,’ said Spittleworth faintly. ‘There’s a lot of gold here. I’ll share it with you!’

‘It isn’t yours to share,’ said Bert. ‘You’re coming back to Chouxville and we’re going to have a proper trial.’

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The Ickabog – Chapter 62: The Bornding

Index ID: ICKB62 — Publication date: July 9th, 2020

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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The Ickabog – Chapter 61: Flapoon Fires Again

Index ID: ICKB61 — Publication date: July 8th, 2020

The two lords dashed out into the palace courtyard to find the Ickabog Defence Brigade already mounted and armed, as Spittleworth had ordered. However, Major Prodd (the man who’d kidnapped Daisy years before, who’d been promoted after Spittleworth shot Major Roach) was looking nervous.

‘My lord,’ he said to Spittleworth, who was hastily mounting his horse, ‘there’s something happening inside the palace – we heard an uproar—’

‘Never mind that now!’ snapped Spittleworth.

A sound of shattering glass made all the soldiers look up.

‘There are people in the king’s bedroom!’ cried Prodd. ‘Shouldn’t we help him?’

‘Forget the king!’ shouted Spittleworth.

Captain Goodfellow now appeared at the king’s bedroom window. Looking down, he bellowed:

‘You won’t escape, Spittleworth!’

‘Oh, won’t I?’ snarled the lord, and kicking his thin yellow horse, he forced it into a gallop and disappeared out of the palace gates. Major Prodd was too scared of Spittleworth not to follow, so he and the rest of the Ickabog Defence Brigade charged after His Lordship, along with Flapoon, who’d barely managed to get onto his horse before Spittleworth set off, bouncing along at the rear, holding onto his horse’s mane for dear life and trying to find his stirrups.

Some men might have considered themselves beaten, what with escaped prisoners taking over the palace and a fake Ickabog marching through the country and attracting crowds, but not Lord Spittleworth. He still had a squad of well-trained, well-armed soldiers riding behind him, heaps of gold hidden at his mansion in the country, and his crafty brain was already devising a plan. Firstly, he’d shoot the men who’d faked this Ickabog, and terrify the people back into obedience. Then he’d send Major Prodd and his soldiers back to the palace to kill all the escaped prisoners. Of course, the prisoners might have killed the king by that time, but in truth, it might be easier to govern the country without Fred. As he galloped along, Spittleworth thought bitterly that if only he hadn’t had to put so much effort into lying to the king, he might not have made certain mistakes, like letting that wretched pastry chef have knives and saucepans. He also regretted not hiring more spies, because then he might have found out that someone was making a fake Ickabog – a fake, by the sound of it, that was far more convincing than the one he’d seen that morning in the stables.

So the Ickabog Defence Brigade charged through the surprisingly empty cobbled streets of Chouxville and out onto the open road that led to Kurdsburg. To Spittleworth’s fury, he now saw why the Chouxville streets had been empty. Having heard the rumour that an actual Ickabog was walking towards the capital with a large crowd, the citizens of Chouxville had hurried out to catch a glimpse of it with their own eyes.

‘Out of our way! OUT OF OUR WAY!’ screamed Spittleworth, scattering the common people before him, furious to see them looking excited rather than scared. He spurred his horse onwards until its sides were bleeding, and Lord Flapoon followed, now green in the face, because he hadn’t had time to digest his breakfast.

At last, Spittleworth and the soldiers spotted the huge crowd advancing in the distance, and Spittleworth hauled at his poor horse’s reins, so that it skidded to a halt in the road. There, in the midst of the thousands of laughing and singing Cornucopians, was a giant creature as tall as two horses, with eyes glowing like lamps, covered in long greenish-brown hair like marsh weed. On its shoulder rode a young woman, and in front of it marched two young men holding up wooden signs. Every now and then, the monster stooped down and – yes – it seemed to be handing out flowers.

‘It’s a trick,’ muttered Spittleworth, so shocked and scared he hardly knew what he was saying. ‘It must be a trick!’ he said more loudly, craning his scrawny neck to try and see how it was done. ‘There are obviously people standing on each other’s shoulders inside a suit of marsh weed – guns at the ready, men!’

But the soldiers were slow to obey. In all the time they’d been supposedly protecting the country from the Ickabog, the soldiers had never seen one, nor had they really expected to, yet they weren’t at all convinced they were watching a trick. On the contrary, the creature looked very real to them. It was patting dogs on the head, and handing out flowers to children, and letting that girl sit on its shoulder: it didn’t seem fierce at all. The soldiers were also scared of the crowd of thousands marching along with the Ickabog, who all seemed to like it. What would they do if the Ickabog was attacked?

Then one of the youngest soldiers lost his head completely.

‘That’s not a trick. I’m off.’

Before anybody could stop him, he’d galloped away.

Flapoon, who had at last found his stirrups, now rode up front to take his place beside Spittleworth.

‘What do we do?’ asked Flapoon, watching the Ickabog and the joyful, singing crowd drawing nearer and nearer.

‘I’m thinking,’ snarled Spittleworth, ‘I’m thinking!’

But the cogs of Spittleworth’s busy brain seemed to have jammed at last. It was the joyful faces that upset him most. He’d come to think of laughter as a luxury, like Chouxville pastries and silk sheets, and seeing these ragged people having fun frightened him more than if they’d all been carrying guns.

‘I’ll shoot it,’ said Flapoon, raising his gun and taking aim at the Ickabog.

‘No,’ said Spittleworth, ‘look, man, can’t you see we’re outnumbered?’

But at that precise moment, the Ickabog let out a deafening, blood-curdling scream. The crowd that had pressed around it backed away, their faces suddenly scared. Many dropped their flowers. Some broke into a run.

With another terrible screech the Ickabog fell to its knees, almost shaking Daisy loose, though she clung on tightly.

And then a huge dark split appeared down the Ickabog’s enormous, swollen belly.

‘You were right, Spittleworth!’ bellowed Flapoon, raising his blunderbuss. ‘There are men hiding inside it!’

And as people in the crowd began to scream and flee, Lord Flapoon took aim at the Ickabog’s belly, and fired.

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The Ickabog – Chapter 60: Rebellion

Index ID: ICKB60 — Publication date: July 7th, 2020

Sometimes – I don’t know how – people who live many miles apart seem to realise the time has come to act. Perhaps ideas can spread like pollen on the breeze. In any case, down in the palace dungeon, the prisoners who’d hidden knives and chisels, heavy saucepans and rolling pins beneath their mattresses and stones in their cell walls, were ready at last. At dawn on the day the Ickabog approached Kurdsburg, Captain Goodfellow and Mr Dovetail, whose cells were opposite each other, were awake, pale, tense, and sitting on the edges of their beds, because today was the day they’d vowed to escape, or die.

Several floors above the prisoners, Lord Spittleworth, too, woke early. Completely unaware that a prison break-out was brewing beneath his feet, or that a real live Ickabog was at that very moment advancing on Chouxville, surrounded by an ever-growing crowd of Cornucopians, Spittleworth washed, dressed in his Chief Advisor’s robes, then headed out to a locked wing of the stables, which had been under guard for a week.

‘Stand aside,’ Spittleworth told the soldiers on guard, and he unbolted the doors.

A team of exhausted seamstresses and tailors were waiting beside the model of a monster inside the stable. It was the size of a bull, with leathery skin, and was covered in spikes. Its carved feet bore fearsome claws, its mouth was full of fangs and its angry eyes glowed amber in its face.

The seamstresses and tailors watched fearfully as Spittleworth walked slowly around their creation. Close up, you could see the stitching, tell that the eyes were made of glass, that the spikes were really nails pushed through the leather, and that the claws and fangs were nothing but painted wood. If you prodded the beast, a trickle of sawdust ran from the seams. Nevertheless, by the dim light of the stables, it was a convincing piece of work and the seamstresses and tailors were thankful to see Spittleworth smile.

‘It will do, by candlelight, at least,’ he said. ‘I’ll simply have to make the dear king stand well back as he looks at it. We can say the spikes and fangs are still poisonous.’

The workers exchanged relieved looks. They’d been working all day and all night for a week. Now at last they’d be able to go home to their families.

‘Soldiers,’ said Spittleworth, turning to the guards waiting in the courtyard, ‘take these people away. If you scream,’ he added lazily, as the youngest seamstress opened her mouth to do so, ‘you’ll be shot.’

While the team that had made the stuffed Ickabog was dragged away by the soldiers, Spittleworth went upstairs, whistling, to the king’s apartments, where he found Fred wearing silk pyjamas and a hairnet over his moustaches, and Flapoon tucking a napkin beneath his many chins.

‘Good morning, Your Majesty!’ said Spittleworth with a bow. ‘I trust you slept well? I have a surprise for Your Majesty today. We have succeeded in having one of the Ickabogs stuffed. I know Your Majesty was eager to see it.’

‘Wonderful, Spittleworth!’ said the king. ‘And after that, we might send it around the kingdom, what? To show the people what we’re up against?’

‘I would advise against that, sire,’ said Spittleworth, who feared that if anybody saw the stuffed Ickabog by daylight, they’d be sure to spot it as a fake. ‘We wouldn’t want the common folk to panic. Your Majesty is so brave that you can cope with the sight—’

But before Spittleworth could finish, the doors to the king’s private apartments flew open and in ran a wild-eyed, sweaty Basher John, who’d been delayed on the road by not one, but two sets of highwaymen. After getting lost in some woods and falling off his horse while jumping a ditch, then being unable to catch it again, Basher John hadn’t managed to reach the palace much ahead of the Ickabog. Panicking, he’d forced entry to the palace through a scullery window, and two guards had pursued him through the palace, both of them prepared to run him through with their swords.

Fred let out a scream and hid behind Flapoon. Spittleworth pulled out his dagger and jumped to his feet.

‘There’s – an – Ickabog,’ panted Basher John, falling to his knees. ‘A real – live –Ickabog. It’s coming here – with thousands of people – the Ickabog – is real.’

Naturally, Spittleworth didn’t believe this story for a second.

‘Take him to the dungeons!’ he snarled at the guards, who dragged the struggling Basher John from the room and closed the doors again. ‘I do apologise, sire,’ said Spittleworth, who was still holding his dagger. ‘The man will be horsewhipped, and so will the guards who let him break into the pal—’

But before Spittleworth could finish his sentence, two more men came bursting into the king’s private apartments. These were Spittleworth’s Chouxville spies who’d had word from the north about the Ickabog’s approach, but as the king had never laid eyes on them before, he let out another terrified squeal.

‘My – lord,’ panted the first spy, bowing to Spittleworth, ‘there’s – an – Ickabog, coming – this – way!’

‘And it’s got – a crowd – with it,’ panted the second. ‘It’s real!

‘Well, of course the Ickabog’s real!’ said Spittleworth, who could hardly say anything else with the king present. ‘Notify the Ickabog Defence Brigade – I shall join them shortly in the courtyard, and we’ll kill the beast!’

Spittleworth ushered the spies to the door and thrust them back into the passageway, trying to drown out their whispers of, ‘My lord, it’s real, and the people like it!’, and, ‘I saw it, my lord, with my own two eyes!’

‘We shall kill this monster as we’ve killed all the others!’ said Spittleworth loudly, for the king’s benefit, and then under his breath he added, ‘Go away!’

Spittleworth closed the door firmly on the spies and returned to the table, disturbed, but trying not to show it. Flapoon was still tucking into some Baronstown ham. He had a vague idea that Spittleworth must be behind all these people rushing in and talking about live Ickabogs, so he wasn’t frightened in the slightest. Fred, on the other hand, was quivering from head to foot.

‘Imagine the monster showing itself in daylight, Spittleworth!’ he whimpered. ‘I thought it only ever came out at night!’

‘Yes, it’s getting far too bold, isn’t it, Your Majesty?’ said Spittleworth. He had no idea what this so-called real Ickabog could be. The only thing he could imagine was that some common folk had rigged up some kind of fake monster, possibly to steal food, or force gold out of their neighbours – but it would still have to be stopped, of course. There was only one true Ickabog, and that was the one Spittleworth had invented. ‘Come, Flapoon – we must prevent this beast from entering Chouxville!’

‘You’re so brave, Spittleworth,’ said King Fred in a broken voice.

‘Tish, pish, Your Majesty,’ said Spittleworth. ‘I would lay down my life for Cornucopia. You should know that by now!’

Spittleworth’s hand was on the door handle when yet more running footsteps, this time accompanied by shouting and clanging, shattered the peace. Startled, Spittleworth opened the door to see what was going on.

A group of ragged prisoners was running towards him. At the head of them was the white-haired Mr Dovetail, who held an axe, and burly Captain Goodfellow, who carried a gun clearly wrestled from the hands of a palace guard. Right behind them came Mrs Beamish, her hair flying behind her as she brandished an enormous saucepan, and hot on her heels came Millicent, Lady Eslanda’s maid, who held a rolling pin.

Just in time, Spittleworth slammed and bolted the door. Within seconds, Mr Dovetail’s axe had smashed through the wood.

‘Flapoon, come!’ shouted Spittleworth, and the two lords ran across the room to another door, which led to a staircase down to the courtyard.

Fred, who had no idea what was going on, who’d never even realised that there were fifty people trapped in the dungeon of his palace, was slow to react. Seeing the faces of the furious prisoners appear at the hole Mr Dovetail had hacked in the door, he jumped up to follow the two lords, but they, interested only in their own skins, had bolted it from the other side. King Fred was left standing in his pyjamas with his back to the wall, watching the escaped prisoners hack their way into his room.

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The Ickabog – Chapter 59: Back to Jeroboam

Index ID: ICKB59 — Publication date: July 6th, 2020

Dusk was falling as the dark grey outline of Jeroboam came into view. The Ickabog’s party made a brief stop on a hill overlooking the city. Martha handed the Ickabog the big bunch of snowdrops. Then everyone made sure they were holding their signs the right way up and the four friends shook hands, because they’d sworn to each other, and to the Ickabog, that they would protect it, and never stand aside, even if people threatened them with guns.

So down the hill towards the winemaking city the Ickabog marched, and the guards at the city gates saw it coming. They raised their guns to fire, but Daisy stood up on the Ickabog’s shoulder, waving her arms, and Bert and Roderick held their signs aloft. Rifles shaking, the guards watched fearfully as the monster walked closer and closer.

‘The Ickabog has never killed anyone!’ shouted Daisy.

‘You’ve been told lies!’ shouted Bert.

The guards didn’t know what to do, because they didn’t want to shoot the four young people. The Ickabog shuffled ever closer, and its size and strangeness were both terrifying. But it had a kindly look in its enormous eyes, and was holding snowdrops in its paw. At last, reaching the guards, the Ickabog came to a halt, bent down, and offered each of them a snowdrop.

The guards took the flowers, because they were afraid not to. Then the Ickabog patted each of them gently on the head, as it had done to the sheep, and walked on into Jeroboam.

There were screams on every side: people fled before the Ickabog, or dived to find weapons, but Bert and Roderick marched resolutely in front of it, holding up their signs, and the Ickabog continued offering snowdrops to passers-by, until at last a young woman bravely took one. The Ickabog was so delighted it thanked her in its booming voice, which made more people scream, but others edged closer to the Ickabog, and soon a little crowd of people was clustered around the monster, taking snowdrops from its paw and laughing. And the Ickabog was starting to smile too. It had never expected to be cheered or thanked by people.

‘I told you they’d love you if they knew you!’ Daisy whispered in the Ickabog’s ear.

‘Come with us!’ shouted Bert at the crowd. ‘We’re marching south, to see the king!’

And now the Jeroboamers, who’d suffered so much under Spittleworth’s rule, ran back to their houses to fetch torches, pitchforks, and guns, not to harm the Ickabog, but to protect it. Furious at the lies they’d been told, they clustered around the monster, and off they marched through the gathering darkness, with only one short detour.

Daisy insisted on stopping at the orphanage. Though the door was of course firmly locked and bolted, a kick from the Ickabog soon put that right. The Ickabog helped Daisy gently down, and she ran inside to fetch all the children. The little ones scrambled up into the wagon, the Hopkins twins fell into the arms of their parents, and the larger children joined the crowd, while Ma Grunter screamed and stormed and tried to call them back. Then she saw the Ickabog’s huge hairy face squinting at her through a window and, I’m happy to tell you, she passed out cold on the floor.

Then the delighted Ickabog continued down the main street of Jeroboam, collecting more and more people as it went, and nobody noticed Basher John watching from a corner as the crowd passed. Basher John, who’d been drinking in a local tavern, hadn’t forgotten the bloody nose he’d received from Roderick Roach on the night the two boys stole his keys. He realised at once that if these troublemakers, with their overgrown marsh monster, reached the capital, anybody who’d made pots of gold from the myth of the dangerous Ickabog would be in trouble. So instead of returning to the orphanage, Basher John stole another drinker’s horse from outside the tavern.

Unlike the Ickabog, which was moving slowly, Basher John was soon galloping south, to warn Lord Spittleworth of the danger marching on Chouxville.

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The Ickabog – Chapter 58: Hetty Hopkins

Index ID: ICKB58 — Publication date: July 6th, 2020

When Daisy first told the others her plan, Bert refused to be part of it.

‘Protect that monster? I won’t,’ he said fiercely. ‘I took a vow to kill it, Daisy. The Ickabog murdered my father!’

‘Bert, it didn’t,’ Daisy said. ‘It’s never killed anyone. Please listen to what it’s got to say!’

So that night in the cave, Bert, Martha, and Roderick drew close to the Ickabog for the first time, always having been too scared before, and it told the four humans the story of the night, years before, when it had come face-to-face with a man in the fog.

‘… with yellow face hair,’ said the Ickabog, pointing at its own upper lip.

‘Moustaches?’ suggested Daisy.

‘And a twinkly sword.’

‘Jewelled,’ said Daisy. ‘It must have been the king.’

‘And who else did you meet?’ asked Bert.

‘Nobody,’ said the Ickabog. ‘I ran away and hid behind a boulder. Men killed all my ancestors. I was afraid.’

‘Well, then, how did my father die?’ demanded Bert.

‘Was your Icker the one who was shot by the big gun?’ asked the Ickabog.

‘Shot?’ repeated Bert, turning pale. ‘How do you know this, if you’d run away?’

‘I was looking out from behind the boulder,’ said the Ickabog. ‘Ickabogs can see well in fog. I was frightened. I wanted to see what the men were doing on the marsh. One man was shot by another man.’

‘Flapoon!’ burst out Roderick, at last. He’d been afraid to tell Bert before now, but he couldn’t hold it in any longer. ‘Bert, I once heard my father tell my mother he owed his promotion to Lord Flapoon and his blunderbuss. I was really young… I didn’t realise what he meant, at the time… I’m sorry I never told you, I… I was afraid of what you’d say.’

Bert said nothing at all for several minutes. He was remembering that terrible night in the Blue Parlour, when he’d found his father’s cold, dead hand and pulled it from beneath the Cornucopian flag for his mother to kiss. He remembered Spittleworth saying that they couldn’t see his father’s body, and he remembered Lord Flapoon spraying him and his mother with pie crumbs, as he said how much he’d always liked Major Beamish. Bert put a hand to his chest, where his father’s medal lay close against his skin, turned to Daisy, and said in a low voice:

‘All right. I’m with you.’

So the four humans and the Ickabog began to put Daisy’s plan into operation, acting quickly, because the snow was melting fast, and they feared the return of the soldiers to the Marshlands.

First, they took the enormous, empty wooden platters that had borne the cheese, pies, and pastries they’d already eaten, and Daisy carved words into them. Next, the Ickabog helped the two boys pull the wagon out of the mud, while Martha collected as many mushrooms as she could find, to keep the Ickabog well fed on the journey south.

At dawn on the third day, they set out. They’d planned things very carefully. The Ickabog pulled the wagon, which was loaded up with the last of the frozen food, and with baskets of mushrooms. In front of the Ickabog walked Bert and Roderick, who were each carrying a sign. Bert’s read: THE ICKABOG IS HARMLESS. Roderick’s said: SPITTLEWORTH HAS LIED TO YOU. Daisy was riding on the Ickabog’s shoulders. Her sign read: THE ICKABOG EATS ONLY MUSHROOMS. Martha rode in the wagon along with the food and a large bunch of snowdrops, which were part of Daisy’s plan. Martha’s sign read: UP WITH THE ICKABOG! DOWN WITH LORD SPITTLEWORTH!

For many miles, they met nobody, but as midday approached, they came across two ragged people leading a single, very thin sheep. This tired and hungry pair were none other than Hetty Hopkins, the maid who’d had to give her children to Ma Grunter, and her husband. They’d been walking the country trying to find work, but nobody had any to give them. Finding the starving sheep in the road, they’d brought it along with them, but its wool was so thin and stringy that it wasn’t worth any money.

When Mr Hopkins saw the Ickabog, he fell to his knees in shock, while Hetty simply stood there with her mouth hanging open. When the strange party came close enough, and the husband and wife were able to read all the signs, they thought they must have gone mad.

Daisy, who’d expected people to react like this, called down to them:

‘You aren’t dreaming! This is the Ickabog, and it’s kind and peaceful! It’s never killed anyone! In fact, it saved our lives!’

The Ickabog bent down carefully, so that it wouldn’t dislodge Daisy, and patted the thin sheep on the head. Instead of running away, it baaa-ed, quite unafraid, then returned to eating the thin, dry grass.

‘You see?’ said Daisy. ‘Your sheep knows it’s harmless! Come with us – you can ride on our wagon!’

The Hopkinses were so tired and hungry that, even though they were still very scared of the Ickabog, they heaved themselves up beside Martha, bringing their sheep too. Then off trundled the Ickabog, the six humans, and the sheep, heading for Jeroboam.

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The Ickabog – Chapter 57: Daisy’s Plan

Index ID: ICKB57 — Publication date: July 3rd, 2020

Up in the Marshlands, where the snow still lay thick upon the ground, the Ickabog was no longer pushing the boulder in front of the cave mouth when it went out with its baskets. Instead, Daisy, Bert, Martha, and Roderick were helping it collect the little marsh mushrooms it liked to eat, and during these outings they also prised more frozen food from the abandoned wagon, which they took back to the cave for themselves.

All four humans were growing stronger and healthier by the day. The Ickabog, too, was growing fatter and fatter, but this was because its Bornding time was drawing ever closer. As the Bornding was when the Ickabog said it intended on eating the four humans, Bert, Martha, and Roderick weren’t very happy about the Ickabog’s growing belly. Bert, in particular, was certain the Ickabog meant to kill them. He now believed he’d been wrong about his father having an accident. The Ickabog was real so, clearly, the Ickabog had killed Major Beamish.

Often, on their mushrooming trips, the Ickabog and Daisy would draw a little ahead of the others, having their own private conversation.

‘What d’you think they’re talking about?’ Martha whispered to the two boys, as they searched the bog for the small white mushrooms the Ickabog particularly liked.

‘I think she’s trying to make friends with it,’ said Bert.

‘What, so it’ll eat us instead of her?’ said Roderick.

‘That’s a horrible thing to say,’ said Martha sharply. ‘Daisy looked after everyone at the orphanage. Sometimes she took punishments for other people, too.’

Roderick was taken aback. He’d been taught by his father to expect the worst of everybody he met and that the one way to get on in life was to be the biggest, the strongest, and the meanest in every group. It was hard to lose the habits he’d been taught, but with his father dead, and his mother and brothers doubtless in prison, Roderick didn’t want these three new friends to dislike him.

‘Sorry,’ he muttered, and Martha smiled at him.

Now, as it happened, Bert was quite right. Daisy was making friends with the Ickabog, but her plan wasn’t only to save herself, or even her three friends. It was to save the whole of Cornucopia.

As she and the monster walked through the bog on this particular morning, drawing ahead of the others, she noticed that a few snowdrops had managed to force their way up through a patch of melting ice. Spring was coming, which meant soldiers would soon be returning to the edge of the marsh. With a funny seasick feeling in her stomach, because she knew how important it was that she got this right, Daisy said:

‘Ickabog, you know the song you sing every night?’

The Ickabog, who was lifting a log to see whether there were any mushrooms hiding beneath it, said:

‘If I didn’t know it, I couldn’t sing it, could I?’

It gave a wheezy little chuckle.

‘Well, you know how you sing that you want your children to be kind, and wise, and brave?’

‘Yes,’ agreed the Ickabog, and it picked up a small silvery-grey mushroom and showed it to Daisy. ‘That’s a good one. You don’t get many silver ones on the marsh.’

‘Lovely,’ said Daisy, as the Ickabog popped the mushroom into its basket. ‘And then, in the last chorus of your song, you say you hope that your babies will kill people,’ said Daisy.

‘Yes,’ said the Ickabog again, reaching up to pull a small bit of yellowish fungus off a dead tree, and showing it to Daisy. ‘This is poisonous. Never eat this kind.’

‘I won’t,’ said Daisy, and drawing a deep breath she said, ‘but d’you really think a kind, wise, brave Ickabog would eat people?’

The Ickabog stopped in the act of bending to pick up another silvery mushroom and peered down at Daisy.

‘I don’t want to eat you,’ it said, ‘but I have to, or my children will die.’

‘You said they need hope,’ said Daisy. ‘What if, when the Bornding time comes, they saw their mother – or their father – I’m sorry, I don’t quite know—’

‘I will be their Icker,’ said the Ickabog. ‘And they’ll be my Ickaboggles.’

‘Well, then, wouldn’t it be wonderful if your – your Ickaboggles saw their Icker surrounded by people who love it, and want it to be happy, and to live with them as friends? Wouldn’t that fill them with more hope than anything else could do?’

The Ickabog sat down on a fallen tree trunk, and for a long time it said nothing at all. Bert, Martha, and Roderick stood watching from a distance. They could tell something very important was happening between Daisy and the Ickabog, and although they were extremely curious, they didn’t dare approach.

At last the Ickabog said:

‘Perhaps… perhaps it would be better if I didn’t eat you, Daisy.’

This was the first time the Ickabog had called her by her name. Daisy reached out and placed her hand in the Ickabog’s paw, and for a moment the two smiled at each other. Then the Ickabog said:

‘When my Bornding comes, you and your friends must surround me, and my Ickaboggles will be Bornded knowing you’re their friends, too. And after that, you must stay with my Ickaboggles here on the marsh, forever.’

‘Well… the problem with that is,’ said Daisy cautiously, still holding the Ickabog’s paw, ‘that the food on the wagon will run out soon. I don’t think there are enough mushrooms here to support the four of us and your Ickaboggles, too.’

Daisy found it strange to be talking like this about a time when the Ickabog wouldn’t be alive, but the Ickabog didn’t seem to mind.

‘Then what can we do?’ it asked her, its big eyes anxious.

‘Ickabog,’ said Daisy cautiously, ‘people are dying all over Cornucopia. They’re starving to death, and even being murdered, all because some evil men made everyone believe you wanted to kill people.’

‘I did want to kill people, until I met you four,’ said the Ickabog.

‘But now you’ve changed,’ said Daisy. She got to her feet and faced the Ickabog, holding both of its paws. ‘Now you understand that people – most people, anyway – aren’t cruel or wicked. They’re mostly sad, and tired, Ickabog. And if they knew you – how kind you are, how gentle, how all you eat is mushrooms, they’d understand how stupid it is to fear you. I’m sure they’d want you and your Ickaboggles to leave the marsh, and go back to the meadows where your ancestors lived, where there are bigger, better mushrooms, and for your descendants to live with us as our friends.’

‘You want me to leave the marsh?’ said the Ickabog. ‘To go among men, with their guns and their spears?’

‘Ickabog, please listen,’ begged Daisy. ‘If your Ickaboggles are Bornded surrounded by hundreds of people, all wanting to love and protect them, wouldn’t that feed them more hope than any Ickaboggle ever had, in history? Whereas, if the four of us stay here on the marsh and starve to death, what hope will remain for your Ickaboggles?’

The monster stared at Daisy, and Bert, Martha, and Roderick watched, wondering what on earth was happening. At last, a huge tear welled in the Ickabog’s eye, like a glass apple.

‘I’m afraid to go among the men. I’m afraid they’ll kill me and my Ickaboggles.’

‘They won’t,’ said Daisy, letting go of the Ickabog’s paw and placing her hands instead on either side of the Ickabog’s huge, hairy face, so her fingers were buried in its long marshweedy hair. ‘I swear to you, Ickabog, we’ll protect you. Your Bornding will be the most important in history. We’re going to bring Ickabogs back… and Cornucopia, too.’

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