Chapter One: Return to Grassholme
Button Mushroom scanned the horizon one more time. She thought she caught movement against the skyline. It could be them. She saw it yet again. It must be them.
“Hello!” she called, even though they were too far away to hear.
The rest of the flock, though, responded to Button’s voice by heading towards her in a scramble of excitement.
“Is it really them?” cried Christopher and Pavlova, eager to see their daughters returning.
“I can see five figures,” said Garibaldi, screwing up his eyes against the sun.
“Yes, there are Rowan and Juniper, most certainly,” cried Beanstalk.
“And there are Ashley and Herbert darting in and out of the rocks,” giggled Aunty Marmalade.
There was a hush as they tried to make out the fifth figure. Cornelius shook his head, baffled. He had never seen this fellow before; he would have remembered those warrior-like shoulders.
Juniper and Rowan were deep in conversation with Asparagus. He was well travelled and had interesting tales to tell, plus stories of life up at Hadrian’s Wall. They were not in the least put off by his soldierly stature; he was honourable, honest and fascinating to their adventurous souls. Ashley and Herbert were running races between themselves, around boulders. The weather was brilliant and they were taking a leisurely route and pace back to Grassholme. Button Mushroom was running towards them by the time they reached the reservoir mainflow. It was good to see her again. There was much excitement as they were welcomed back by the rest of the flock.
“My father sends best wishes to you all, from Housestead,” announced Asparagus.
The sedate figure of Aunt Marshmallow nodded her head in solemn acknowledgement.
Contentedly they chewed on succulent grasses sought out for them by Aunty Marmalade, and soaked up the evening sun. Yawns suggested an early night. They were just thinking about turning in when the sound of running reached them. Button Mushroom sat bolt upright as she saw her mother screech to a halt before them.
“They’ve taken him!” she wailed. “Kidnap! We might never see him again. What shall we do?”
They all tried to keep calm. Whatever was the matter?
“It’s your brother, Button. They’ve taken him. Poor little Hickory. They’ve taken him away over the hills.”
Aunt Marshmallow stared thoughtfully. Surely the days of sheep rustlers and reiving were long gone.
“Who has taken him?” she asked.
“Cinnamon and his gang. There were six of them. We couldn’t stop them. What shall we do? What shall we do?”
Asparagus narrowed his eyes and shook his head. This sounded serious.