Peter Fox was a small, brown, furry fox who lived on the edge of the forest of Winterburgh. There were lots of animals in Winterburgh but Peter's special friends were Alan the Hare and Billy the Stoat.
It all happened on July the 23rd 1996. It seemed a strange sort of day. Peter, Alan and Billy were all walking together in the wood, when a funny thing happened.
"I don't like this!" said Billy. "Neither do I," said Alan. Both Alan and Billy sensed danger in the air.
"What is it?" asked Peter. "Look up in that tree," gasped Alan.
A large grey creature with bright yellow eyes, long pointed ears and a curled down nose was sitting high up in the old oak tree.
"I don't like this at all!" exclaimed Billy.
Suddenly, all was quiet. The long green grass was still and the leaves had stopped dancing in the wind.
"Don't move," said Billy. They didn't.
The curious creature jumped down from the tree and looked at them, as though he was ready to pounce on them.
"What is it going to do?" asked Billy. "Don't you mean, what are they going to do?" Peter said.
Billy turned around slowly to see where Peter was looking. To his amazement, there was another of the creatures in the tree beside them. One of these strange animals was enough to scare Peter and Alan but two made them very, very scared.
Then the creature spoke.
"I will not harm you," he said meekly, "My brother is slightly frightened by you, I am too. We only fight if we are really scared, so if you will just go away, please, we will not harm you."
Peter, Alan and Billy were so glad to hear this that they shouted, "Thank you very much," and ran off as fast as their little paws could carry them.
After his first encounter with the creatures in the forest, Peter the Fox developed a will for adventure.
His friends did not want to go back into the middle of the forest, but he soon encouraged them with thoughts of friends and fun instead of fright and fear.
Peter, Alan and William (that was what his mum and dad called him) were by no means the only animals in Winterburgh. There were squirrels, rabbits, hedgehogs, deer and badgers, and many others but Peter, Alan and Billy decided to add two more friends to their list. Even though they had been scared of them at first.
They trotted on until they came to the spot where they had last seen the creatures.
Finally, they spotted one of them. He seemed to have lost his fear of the forest animals and appeared pleased to see the fox, the hare and the stoat.
"Please do not run away," the creature said. Peter, Alan and Billy did not run away.
"What is your name?" asked Billy.
"My name is Zolan," the creature said.
"Where is your brother?" asked Alan.
"My brother has gone home," Zolan said.
"Where do you come from?" asked Peter.
"I come from the Centre of the Earth," said Zolan. The three friends gasped with wonder.
"What is the centre of the Earth like?" they all asked.
"To you," told Zolan, "It would seem dark and horrible because your flowers are so beautiful, your grass is so green and your sky is so blue. My mum and dad sent me and my brother here to see what your country is like."
"Do you want to leave your own country?"
"My country is too dangerous to live in now," said Zolan, sadly.
"Why?" asked Peter.
"We get very thirsty because it is so hot and something is making the water dirty so we can not drink it. We do not eat anything, only drink, so we will starve if we do not find a new home."
Peter, Alan and Billy were shocked. They were all thinking how they would feel if they had to find a new home.
The next day, all three animals rose bright and early, washed their faces, combed their fur and ate all their breakfast.
It was agreed that they would meet at the big oak tree. First there was Billy, then Alan and Peter came along together. When they reached Zolan's tree there was a note pinned to it.
- Moved. To the 5th oak on the right -
"I wonder why he has moved there?" they all said.
When they reached the 5th oak tree they noticed a big hole in it.
"So that's why he moved," said Alan, "Zolan has moved to a big tree so that his family can move in with him when they arrive."
"What shall we do?" said Peter and then they all laughed because the answer came from inside the tree. It was Zolan.
"Just being here is fun!" he giggled.
Zolan had told Peter, Alan and Billy so much about his family that they could hardly wait to meet them.
Winterburgh had never been so exciting. There was much to do to prepare for Zolan's family arriving. He told them that he was going back to the Centre of the Earth tomorrow to help his parents pack their belongings. Peter, Alan and Billy begged him to take them with him to help.
"Very well," said Zolan, "but only if you get permission from your mum and dad."
Peter, Alan and Billy ran off right away and, of course, their parents agreed that they could providing they didn't talk to any strangers . . . The next morning they all set off for the Centre of the Earth.
"How long will it take?" Billy asked.
"About half an hour, your time," said Zolan.
"Will we be able to stand the heat?" said Alan.
"Yes," said Zolan.
On the way they passed deep, dark caverns, stone icicles and swirling murky water.
They felt like they had been travelling for hours. "Not far now," Zolan said.
Where Zolan lived, it was not very hot because it was not too far from the Earth's crust, but Peter, Alan and Billy could understand why he wanted to leave. The water there was very dirty indeed. The animals in Winterburgh would never drink water that dirty.
"We're here!" Zolan said excitedly.
His family were kind and friendly and asked many questions about the forest. Peter, Alan and Billy told them all about Winterburgh and its tall trees, beautiful flowers and most of all, its fresh running streams.
Soon it was time to leave. By the time they got back home it was dark, and past everyone's bedtime.
"See you all tomorrow," said Zolan. "Thank you for a lovely day," they all said.
It was a bright, sunny morning. Peter, Alan and Billy were already out of their beds and ready to go.
Zolan was getting ready too. He had a lot of work to do chopping pieces of wood out of the old oak tree to make two houses, one for his parents and the other for him, his sister Cotra and his brother Zapp.
While Zolan was working hard fixing up the houses, Peter, Billy and Alan were making their way through the wood to help prepare for his parents arrival.
What Zolan did not know was that the animals had arranged a surprise party for that night.
They spent the morning tidying up and when they came back from lunch, Zolan's family had arrived. They were amazed at the beautiful countryside and how there was so many things to do.
Later in the evening, Zolan and his family were sitting quietly, gazing up at the twinkling stars when all sorts of animals started to come from miles around.
Peter, Alan and Billy came with their families.
Squirrels, Rabbits, Frogs and Hedgehogs came. They brought their parents, friends and relatives. Glow worms were invited to sit on the branches of the oak tree to light up the party.
Everyone danced, laughed and sang until almost dawn.
The old wise owl, sitting on top of the tree, blinked in amazement. He had never seen such a party in Winterburgh and he had lived there for a long, long time.
When it came time for each of the animals to leave for home, tired but happy, Zolan's family thanked them all, then went off to bed, so happy they had chosen the best place in the world in which to make their new home.
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© Dougie Campbell 1997