There once was a land of rolling hills and valleys. At the top of the highest hill lived the King in a grand palace. Nearby, in a castle, lived a Count. His job was to count the King’s money which he kept locked in the castle cellars.
The Count was friends with a Wizard. The Wizard had two sons, Dude and Dave, otherwise known as the Wiz Kids. One summer the Wizard sent the Wiz Kids to the Count to learn all about making money. They watched the Count melt gold bars into coins for the King. Each bar was turned into an exact number of coins of an exact size. Dude asked the Count if he could experiment with the gold as he had an idea. Dude believed he could make far more coins out of each gold bar without anyone noticing. The Count was thrilled at the idea and promised to reward the Wiz Kids very handsomely if they managed to do this very clever thing. Dave grinned.
The next morning Dude and Dave started work on their wizardry. Just a few days later they called the Count to the cellar.
‘Can you tell the difference between these two piles of coins?’ Dude asked. The Count inspected the coins carefully, weighed them in his hands and even tried biting them, but he could not tell them apart.
‘Well,’ said Dude pointing to the pile nearest him, ‘These coins have only half as much gold in them as those over there, yet they are exactly the same size.’ Dave grinned again.
‘However did you do that?’ The Count was amazed.
‘It’s a secret ingredient we mix with the gold. We can’t tell you exactly what it is as we don’t want to attract too much interest. Let’s just say it’s a process that leads to gold content easing.’
The Count asked no more questions nor did he tell the King how his wealth had suddenly grown. The King was so busy enjoying his new found fortune he forgot to ask. The palaces and castles all around were soon full of people and parties. Athletic archers and handsome charioteers came from miles around for special tournaments to entertain the guests. These sportsmen won more gold coins than they had ever dreamed of and they all married beautiful wives.
But while everyone at the top of the hill was happy, the people in the valley were not so fortunate. As the Wiz Kids melted and mixed their gold concoction, nasty fumes drifted into the valley and made many people cough. More rain than usual fell, causing the river to rise; the fields were flooded and the harvest was lost. Soon the valley people had little to eat and even less to sell. Times were hard but the palace people did nothing to help; they just thought the valley people were being lazy. They even planted a very high hedge to keep them out of sight.
One evening down in the valley Mr and Mrs Crumb were together at home. Mr Crumb sat coughing as Mrs Crumb put a small log on the fire. Puss lay listening in the heat. He was alarmed to learn that the logs were running low, and that he might even have to catch his own food in future. Enough was enough. When everyone was in bed Puss stood, stretched, and stepped outside to find Mr Fox. Mr Fox hated humans, especially the palace people, as they had a habit of tearing foxes apart for fun. Mr Fox was wily and wise and Puss knew he would come up with an answer.
Puss and Mr Fox sat in the barn and talked. They agreed it was time to put the palace people in their place. Mr Fox told Puss that he’d been planning something for a while. He had a gang of pigeons, rats, and grey squirrels all ready for action.
‘So, watch out for the Vermin Revolt!’ he proudly announced.
‘Why vermin?’ Puss asked.
‘That is what the people up there call us. There are quite a lot of us and that seems to upset them. And, to make matters worse, grey squirrels are apparently the wrong colour. So they call us vermin, vagrants, villains. Recently those Wiz Kids said we are all revolting. So we’ve decided to live up to our name!’ Mr Fox would say no more. Puss decided all was in hand and he could go home for a much needed sleep.
As everyone now knows, the Vermin Revolt was indeed a triumph. It perhaps went even better than Mr Fox had planned. The pigeons collected twigs and dropped them by the castle wall, while the rats busily burrowed tunnels under the cellar doors. The squirrels pulled the twigs through the tunnels and stacked them next to the piles of coins. Using a flame provided by Mr Fox, the squirrels set fire to the twigs. Then something quite extraordinary happened. As soon as the flames reached the gold, a fireball erupted. The gold was so hot, instead of just melting, it sank deep into the earth. It seems the secret ingredient was highly inflammable. All the gold was gone for good.
With the riches up in smoke the party was over. The King, now friendless, lives as a pauper in his empty palace. He has banished the Wiz Kids and the Count to a far off place. The castle lies in ruins. Meanwhile, down in the valley all are happy and healthy. The noise and fumes are gone, the floods have receded and the crops grow well again. The people work hard and have plenty to eat. Sales of logs from the once high hedge fund their frugal needs. Puss spends most of his time asleep by the Crumbs’ roaring fire, while Mr Fox and his friends are treated with the utmost respect wherever they go.
© Allison Hill, 2016 (including photos)