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The people of Castle Eden Dene were shocked. As shocked as finding a kitten in a carrier bag! That's how shocked they were. And it was all down to a rabbit.
It had begun as something that they thought of as quite funny. At first, anyway. Some little black rabbit had started to watch the villagers as they went about their daily business. It sat and eyed them curiously.
'There he is again!' they would laugh when the furry bundle would sit and watch.
'It's so cute!' laughed a small girl.
'I want it as my pet!' declared her friend.
But then the rabbit began not just to watch but to interfere with the daily business in the village.
When the maids would go to milk the cows, they found that the rabbit had beaten them to it! The milk was already taken. Drunk dry by the little furry fiend.
When the blacksmith was looking for his hammer, the rabbit had hidden it. Actually, taken it and buried it out in the fields!
When the fisherman had gone down to the river, he found his fishing lines had been chewed right through.
'That's it!' bellowed the farmer.
'What's it?' asked his wife.
'What about it?'
'It has to go!'
The farmer jumped to his feet. 'Right into the jaws of my hunting dog, that's where!'
Soon a bit of a crowd was following the farmer as he huffed and puffed to the edge of the village. He was dragging along a rather dishevelled-looking greyhound named Bolt.
'Right, Bolt.' The farmer grinned. 'You see that rabbit, there?'
Bolt looked into the distance. He didn't reply. He didn't nod. But the farmer knew he understood every word.
Bolt scratched his ear with his back leg and then sat down.
'Bolt!' the farmer said, stamping his foot. 'Get that rabbit!' The farmer gave Bolt a nudge and he was off chasing after the rabbit. Now you might think that a greyhound racing over the land toward its prey might make a rabbit move. But this rabbit did not. It just sat there with an almost mischievous grin upon its face.
Bolt drew nearer.
The rabbit just sat there.
Bolt was almost on top of the furry creature.
It didn't even blink.
Bolt leapt into the air.
The rabbit stepped to one side and Bolt landed in a gigantic heap of cow poo. Splat!
The rabbit turned and looked at the villagers. It stuck out its tongue and did a long and loud raspberry sound.
With that, it was off.
The farmer was furious! Bolt wasn't too happy either.
'Don't worry!' called the blacksmith. 'We'll ALL get our dogs and be ready for him tomorrow!'
The very next day, the villagers were ready. No fewer than twelve fine hunting dogs were gathered at the edge of the field where the rabbit always showed up first. There were three greyhounds, two beagles and seven dogs whose breed could have been anything. They were up early and they were ready!
'Here he comes!' snarled the farmer.
Bolt sat upright. He did not like baths yet had to take one yesterday. He growled when he saw the rabbit appear from the hedgerow.
The rabbit stopped when it saw the crowd ready and waiting. Then it turned its tail to them and started waving it at them.
'Is it teasing us?' a boy asked.
'Well it's twerking its tail,' a girl sighed. 'What else do you think its doing?'
Then the rabbit turned to the villagers and gave out another enormous
That was it. Bolt was off. The other dogs ran close behind. The rabbit continued to do its weird dance, all the while making trump sound after trump sound.
It was only when the dogs were impossibly close that the rabbit turned and zoomed in and out of the hedgerow. The dogs bounded after it and each one got stuck! They whined and whimpered from the thorny hedges. They cried and called for their owners. All the while the rabbit seemed to be laughing! It was enjoying itself. It gave each dog a little kick before disappearing into the hedgerow for one last time.
'What are we going to do?' asked the farmer, once Bolt had been freed from the hedge. 'That rabbit is making us look like fools!'
'We'll go see the only one who knows about these things!' announced the blacksmith. 'We'll go see the wise woman ... Tia Maria!'
Everyone nodded and carried their wounded dogs through the village and over to Tia's house. They knocked. They waited.
Eventually the door was flung open and there was Tia Maria in all her glory. She was around 90 years old but didn't look a day over 172. She had one eye that was looking at you and one eye that was looking for you. Her nasal hair was plaited in three parts. She was quite a sight.
'Hiya!' she croaked.
Everyone mumbled a miserable greeting in return.
'What's up?' she enquired.
'It's that rabbit,' the farmer said. 'You must have seen it. Been up to all kinds of mischief!'
'I still haven't found my hammer!' complained the blacksmith.
Tia Maria nodded. 'It is no ordinary rabbit!' she rasped. 'You'll never catch it but you might be able to follow it.'
'How?' asked the farmer. 'It leaves no tracks or trace!'
'It does, but you can't sense it.' She let her words hang there for a few moments. 'You need help from a creature that can follow scents!' she explained.
'What, like a bloodhound?' asked the blacksmith.
She nodded and snapped her fingers. 'You've got it!'
With that, she slammed her door shut and began singing inside her house.
'I've got a mate in Hesleden who has a bloodhound.' The blacksmith grinned. 'I'll go get it and we can wait for the rabbit to come along in the morning!'
A great cheer went up. The people were happy. They knew they could always rely on the wisdom of Tia Maria.
The next morning, the villagers were gathered at the edge of the field once more. The atmosphere was as heavy as dragon dung. And dragons poop stone.
It seemed like seconds were passing as hours but at last the rabbit appeared. It stuck its head out of the hedgerow and revealed its pink tongue again.
The villagers were off towards the rabbit. It seemed to laugh and jumped into the hedgerow. It zipped and darted in and out. It leapt this way and that.
The blacksmith led the bloodhound angrily on. When the rabbit saw that, it stopped. It seemed to hold an expression of surprise upon its furry face. Then it turned and ran off.
The blacksmith gave a triumphant laugh.
'Ha!' he guffawed. 'That's done it! We'll follow it to its home!'
The rabbit raced into the dene. It ran from tree to tree, and the villagers and the dogs followed its every move, the bloodhound in front as it pulled at the lead, straining to follow the scent of the crazy creature. They spent all day going around and around. Now the rabbit was tiring. It was slower than before.
It was then that the blacksmith let the bloodhound off the lead. It jumped and snapped and caught the rabbit's leg. The rabbit squealed and kicked at the dog's face. The dog let go and the rabbit zoomed off.
'He's lost it!' shouted the farmer.
'He's lost nothing,' grinned the blacksmith. 'We've got it now!'
The lead was now back on the bloodhound. The blacksmith and the villagers were led through the dene and out to the other side. They came to the village of Easington. All the while the bloodhound led them along, pulling and panting as it went.
They walked right to the other side of the village. There they came to a house. The bloodhound barked and scratched at the door.
'In there?' asked the farmer.
'I guess so!' replied the blacksmith.
He opened the door and sitting there by the fire was a woman older than Tia Maria. She was rubbing her leg, which had tooth marks on it. The tooth marks from a bloodhound.
'You're the rabbit?!' asked a shocked blacksmith.
'She's a witch!' screeched the farmer.
'That's right,' the old woman squawked back at them, 'and if you don't get out of here, I'm going to turn you into sausages or bananas or something much worse!'
The villagers screamed and ran off. They never dared to go back to Easington for fear of being turned into something worse than a sausage.CHAPTER 2
THE WIZARD'S CAVE
You might have visited Tynemouth for the sea air, or to walk your dog on the beach. You might have gone up to the headland and seen the ruins of the great castle and priory there, and maybe walked around the gloomy gravestones while looking out on the wild North Sea, if you enjoy that kind of thing.
But you probably won't have heard tell of the Wizard's Cave. Few people know about it these days, though once upon a time this story was as familiar to everyone who lived near the mouth of the Tyne as the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff, or Red Riding Hood. That's because the Wizard's Cave is long gone, eroded by the sea and collapsed into ruin and rubble, so if this story gives you any ideas to go hunting for any treasure that the hero might have missed, you'll have to think again. Besides, you wouldn't have wanted to go in there anyway – the cave was sometimes known as Jingling Geordie's Hole, and was haunted by the ghost of a long dead smuggler who didn't like company.
But on with our story of Walter the Knight and the Wizard's Cave. Now Walter was the son of Sir Richard, a brave knight who fought with Earl Percy in the old days of border battles, where the sword and the lance were often seen doing their grisly work in the hands of brave warriors from England and Scotland. It should come as no surprise, then, that Walter was taught from a young age to swing a sword and ride a horse and to fear nothing. His mother used to sit the young boy on her knee and tell him tales of brave deeds, deadly battles and mysterious treasures hidden away beneath the earth by demons and wizards.
'The greatest of all these treasures,' she said, 'lies in a cave beneath the great grey towers of Tynemouth. Where the waves lash the cliffs and hooded monks chant, night and day. Many people have tried to seek out this treasure – brave warriors with sharp swords and stout shields; holy men and women with crosses and prayers; even the saintly prior of the Abbey himself once went in search of the treasure. But no one ever comes back from the dark mouth of that cave once they enter. They say demons and spirits guard the treasure, and only the bravest of souls can defeat them. Anyone who enters that black cave and fails to defeat the monsters within is doomed to live forever beneath the green waves of the sea.'
As a boy Walter was enchanted by his mother's stories of hidden caves, lost treasures and mysterious spells. As he grew up he thought of the cave constantly, even as he began to take on his responsibilities as a knight, fighting on the borders against Scottish raiders for the great Lord Percy. By the time he was sixteen years old he was a great knight – he could ride faster and fight harder than any young man on the borders, and soon the Scottish raiders learned to fear the black raven feather plume of his helm and the sharp sword in his hand.
But however famous he became for his bravery, he always remembered his mother's story about the caves beneath the abbey and the monsters and treasure inside. 'Only the bravest of souls can defeat them,' she had said. Walter longed to prove that he was the bravest knight in the north, and he knew how he could do it.
One day, he packed his armour and weapons onto his horse, and without even his squire for company, he set off for Tynemouth. When he arrived, the weather was wild – it usually is round there, but this day was particularly bad. A sea fret, a thick icy mist, had blown in off the sea, and shrouded the stones of the Priory in a thick grey blanket that soaked Walter to the skin. He could hear the chanting of the monks very faintly from inside the Church, but the sound was almost drowned out by the wild howling of the east wind blowing from the North Sea. He was cold, wet and shivering, but he was not afraid. Walter put on his armour and buckled his sword to his side, then tied a long rope to a large rock at the top of the cliff face. Then he began his downward climb.
His mother had told him that the entrance to the cave was halfway down the cliff face. He didn't rush, making his way foot by foot, inch by inch down the rope, dangling between the Priory at the top and the rocks on the beach at the bottom. One wrong move and he would have tumbled to the bottom and gone 'splat!' The climb seemed to Walter to take all day – his arms were burning with pain by the time he climbed off the rope and into the dark mouth of the cave in the side of the cliff. When he looked to the sky, it was impossible to tell if it was night or day, because the fog was so thick he could see neither the sun nor the moon.
Walter took a wooden torch from a bag over his shoulder, lit it and drew his sword. With his weapon in one hand and the burning torch in the other, he slowly made his way into the tunnel that led from the cave mouth deep into the earth. The path was slippery with sea water and slime, and the tunnel was as cold as the wind outside, and when the wind blew through the cave it made an eerie wailing noise – or was that the wind?
Walter saw, in the dark distance of the tunnel, lights like bright burning eyes of blue flame, and he began to think that the wailing was the voice of the demons that dwelt in the cave. Perhaps he shivered a little, but he showed no fear, gripped his sword tightly and went on. The cave began to grow wider and wider until Walter found himself standing in a great pillared hall far underneath the earth. Tunnels wound off in every direction – this was not going to be an easy task!
He explored every tunnel beneath the earth and found all kinds of terrifying creatures lurking in every corner of the cavern – he defeated dragons with scales of brass and breath of flame; he smashed skeletons with chattering jaws and sharp swords in their bony fists; he slew slithering serpents; squashed giant spiders; and bonked brutal bogles over the bonce – a bogle, if you don't know, is a type of nasty little goblin that lives in the North East and loves to cause all types of trouble. Best to bonk them on the bonce if you see any.
By the time the sun was beginning to creep over the horizon his sword arm was aching with the effort of all the battles he had fought. But he hadn't let fear get the better of him – however terrifying the creatures that had come against him, brave Walter the Knight had held fast and fought them off. Now at last he passed through a great door and into a vast cavern, bigger than anything he could have imagined being beneath the earth.
Inside, the whole place shone as he cast his torch around, showing piles of gold, silver, emeralds, rubies and diamonds. Jewels as big as his fist lay on big piles of coins. Gold-hilted swords hung from the walls, crossed over shining shields with inlaid pictures of silver. He gasped and stuffed as much as he could into his pockets before he heard the demons, dragons and evil creatures beginning to charge into the chamber after him.
It was a hard fight, he had to hack his way back out of the cave – his sword was blunt and his armour dented. But he'd done it! No doubt Sir Walter became a rich knight from the gold and silver that he carried out of the cave. No doubt he entertained many people with the tales of his adventures beneath Tynemouth crags. No doubt he became famed as the bravest among all the knights who followed the great Lord Percy. But what of the rest of the gold?
The people of Tynemouth searched for it for many a long year – people used to climb the cliff in search of Walter's Cave. Some say eventually a pirate found it, and lived in there until he died. Then his ghost haunted it – the ghost became known as Jingling Geordie, and the cave as Jingling Geordie's Hole. But no one ever found the gold (or at least, if they did, they didn't tell anyone). Eventually, in the 1800s the cave collapsed, and so I suppose now the gold is buried far beneath the earth, just waiting for another brave, or lucky, soul to find it. Perhaps it could be you?CHAPTER 3
THE PIG OF DOOM
Pollard was bored. Bored, bored, bored. He thought he was going to yawn his head off. He wasn't allowed outside. No one was. All because of a stupid pig.
Some huge pig had attacked people in the street and now the Prince Bishop, who ruled this land, had decided it would be safer for everyone if they stayed inside.
Weeks had gone by. Stupid pig.
Pollard looked out of his window. He couldn't believe his eyes. There, standing right outside of house, was the biggest pig he had ever seen in his life. Its round, barrel belly was covered in thick hair like the bristles on a broom. It had tusks like swords that hung from its dripping, drooling mouth. The snout was like an elephant's trunk. The pig's eyes scanned the street. Then it strolled off toward the forest beyond.
Who did that pig think he was? Swaggering and staggering down the street like he owned it. Where was he off to anyway? Pollard looked up at the darkening sky that matched his own mood. The boy was peering through his window when an idea hit him like a flying cream pie. Boom! The pig was off to his bed! The pig was going to sleep in some pit in the forest. That was it! Pollard rubbed his chin and made a 'hmmm' sound. He was thinking. A plan began to form inside his mind.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Tyne & Wear"
Copyright © 2018 Adam Bushnell & Dave Silk.
Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
The Wizard's Cave,
The Pig of Doom,
Johnny Reed's Cat,
The Wallsend Witches,
The Newcastle Witches,
Super Hero Saint,
Saint Cuthbert's Journey,
The Flying Donkey,
The Cauld Lad of Hylton,
The Evil Fairies of Stanhope,
The Hedley Kow,
The Lambton Worm,