Luco sniffed the petrol-thick air disapprovingly and rushed to a low window of the Hummingbird to glance at the approaching airship, releasing a shiver. He saw the hull loom forwards like a nightmare, keen for battle. The ear-shattering thuds of cannons and gunfire was impossible to escape as Luco charged along a narrow corridor like a fresh bullet. The smoky smell of burning fur wafted up to Luco’s dry nose, as unpleasant as squeaking clockwork. Turning the corner to the engine room, Luco barked over the roar, ‘By all these ticks, Will, they’re almost upon us! We need to go NOW. Grab the parachute and I’ll open the hatch.’
Returning, Will murmured, ‘You first, my brave mechanimal.’
Hauling her tatty rucksack over her shoulder, Hala Lightful scanned the corridor for any other curfew-breakers. Assuring herself, she sneaked along the dim passage, aware of her trainers scraping along the surgery-clean floorboards. Having attempted this daring mission several times, she knew her plan like the back of her hand. Patricia Sternson’s School for Explorer’s Children had got its hands on some pretty alert mechanical guards over the years, attempting to put a stop to Hala’s ‘intolerable’ behavior. Like that was going to stop her. Reaching the servant’s quarters, she glimpsed moonlight streaming through the back door, and pushed through it into the courtyard. Taking a deep breath, she bolted towards the towering gates. Having not been fed properly at the horrible school, Hala managed to squeeze through the gap between the gatepost and the fence, and, sliding her rucksack underneath, she was out. Finally.
Safely hidden in the canopy of a colossal horse chestnut, she reached into the front pocket of her bag, revealing a yellowed piece of paper. She knew the letter off by heart already, but reading through it comforted her, and Hala was determined to find out what Will Lightful’s letter had meant. Her dad just had to make his last words to her puzzling. Calming the adrenaline that was pulsing through her like a rapid waterfall, she read it aloud, ‘Treasure your every dream,’ Racking her brains for what it could possibly mean, Hala gave in, stowing it away in her rucksack and climbing down the knobbly branches.
Even before she reached solid ground, a delighted yapping rang in her ears. Happily licking her ankles, Luco smothered Hala’s leg in a watery oil. The mechanical Jack Russel Terrier barked with a final lick, ‘My gracious, Hala, you escaped at last! I’m so proud, even though it was diabolical,’
‘Get off!’ she laughed, ‘at least you made it this far.’ Her smile was swiped away like a flick of Luco’s ears, and she began winding his clockwork with a small key from a pouch hung around his neck.
‘That’s much better,’ he tried to change the subject, ‘come on, let’s get as far away from that prison as we can.’
Exhausted, Hala and Luco rounded the corner of Trinder Lane in the early hours of the morning, and knocked on the door of Angleman Antiques. Yawning, Freddie Angleman opened the door. His eyes opened wide at the sight of the two bleary-eyed travelers. ‘You escaped!’ he exclaimed, grinning.
‘I don’t know why everyone’s so surprised,’ Hala pretended to be offended, but was delighted to see her old friend with whom she had shared many thrilling adventures. Once comfortably positioned round the fireplace with slightly charred chocolate biscuits, Hala told Freddie all about the mysterious words. ‘Well? Isn’t it obvious?’ he smiled at Hala’s blank expression, ‘It’s your locket, silly. The one with the tiny dream catcher that is painted on the front.’ A flashback played in Hala’s mind of her mother placing the delicate locket over her neck. How she would let the cold, thin chain run through her fingers like grains of sand. How Hala had left it under her pillow before she left for school 2 months ago. A mischievous grin widened over both of their faces and they knew they were thinking the same thing.
Luco woofed cheerfully, ‘Then it’s decided. At sunset, we will set off to Woodforest House to reclaim the Dream Locket!’