Sophie skidded to a stop before she ran into the large grey rabbit. She almost succeeded.
“Blast and bebother it!” Came a muffled cry beneath her.
“I’m so sorry,” she apologized. She pushed at Shagfry who lay on top of her and tried to get to her feet.
“You’re stepping on my ears!” bellowed the rabbit.
“Forgive me.” Hurriedly she moved away from the offended appendage. “May I give you a hand?”
“Get away. Get away from me, little girl!” He brushed her proffered hand away and hopped to his feet. He straightened his vest and tie and searched the ground minutely. Finally he came up with a monacle in his paw.
“Now then.” He screwed the monacle into his left eye and looked her up and down. “What have we here?”
“If you please, Sentry,” Shagfry interrupted in a soft voice. “This is Sophie and we–”
“Shush, Kangapen!” snapped the Rabbit. “I’m speaking to the owner of the Unlawful Vehicle parked now in the entrance to the Rainbow Sonar. Now little girl, what is the meaning of this?”
“I didn’t do anything,” she said. “What’s a Kangapen?”
“Me,” said Shagfry. “You’re a human. He’s a rabbit. I’m a kangapen.”
“Attend to me!” said the Rabbit sternly. “Now why have you come here?”
“Sentry,” said Shagfry. “Can’t we speak to someone in charge?”
“That would be Ears,” said the rabbit. “Duly elected Mayor of Silvenshire Isle. But he’s in the Valley of Lost Toys at present. Visiting his cousin.”
“But that’s where I want to go!” said Sophie. “I’m searching for a very beloved lost toy.”
“And it’s not her fault about the bed,” said Shagfry. “I was lost in her world–in her bedroom, and the Sonar picked me up.”
“I see.” said the Sentry. “Very well then. We’ll find Ears. But I’m afraid we have to do this official like. So march!”
He held up a very large lollipop and pointed it at them fiercely.
Sophie started to protest. After all, a lollipop as a weapon? But Shagfry nudged her and shook his head. She shrugged and started down Meadow Lark Lane, beside him. Behind her hopped the Rabbit, lollipop weapon held at the ready.
After all, she said to herself. What does it matter as long as I get where I’m going? And I do hope we find Aster.
“By the way,” she said, determined to make conversation. “What is your name?”
“C.W. Rabbit,” he said stiffly. “But too prisoners I’m Mr. Rabbit. To my friends I’m C.W.”
“What does C.W. stand for?”
“Nevermind!” he snapped. His grey whiskers seemed to blush a faint pink. “Prisoners aren’t allowed to carry on conversations with their guard. Besides we’re almost there!”
Up ahead a bridge lay across a tiny creek. Beyond it trees fringed a valley.
A delightful valley. Toys walked and talked in it.
“There he is,” muttered C.W.–err Mr. Rabbit. “This way.”
Down below the bridge, at the edge of the creekbank, two twin dolls stood arguing with a flop-eared stuffed dog.
“But mayor!” said the one with Brown Eyes.
“Enough Cindie!” was the gruff reply. “You know Rule 34A-651-” Sophie noticed he actually pronounced the dash. “–Prohibites the bailing of soats–err hmm! That is, the sailing of boats, on the creek before the noon meal has commenced.”
“It’s a dumb law,” muttered the twin with Blue Eyes.
“Ehh? What’s that?”
She cleared her throat and spoke louder. “I said, yes, the fish need room to crawl.”
“But Katie,” whispered Cindie. Katie smacked her.
“It won’t happen again, Sir,” said Katie.
“Oh Mayor!” The sentry rabbit herded them down the embankment. “We have visitors. Arrived on a Vehicular Bed, unlawfully parked in the landing zone of the Rainbow Sonar.”
Quickly he explained the situation.
“Mmm.” harrumped the dog. “Very well. Seeing as it was an accident we’ll overlook it. But get the Behicular Ved out of the Sainrow Bonar.”
“The what out of the what?” exclaimed Sophie.
“Shh!” The Rabbit nudged her with the lollipop before lowering it. “Yes sir. Come along you two. We better get that bed moved.”
“The Mayor has a little trouble with his words at times,” C.W. explained as they walked away. “But we just ignore as much as possible. After all, a mayor is a mayor.”
She turned at the voice behind her. Running pell-mell up through the middle of the valley came a little bear.
A stuffed bear.
A blue stuffed bear.
“Aster!” She ran to meet her.