The interior was lit by the yellowy glow of an oil lamp, which cast ghostly flickering shadows on the sides of the tent. Glancing around, he saw it was exactly as he remembered and then he spotted the king. Aelle lay asleep on his platform bed, wrapped in cosy fur blankets. Soft rumbling snores echoed around the tent as the man’s chest rose and fell. Ducking his head back out again, Max turned to Midnight.
‘He’s asleep and there’s no one else in there. Shall we?’
The sleek black cat nodded, her emerald green eyes glittering with excitement. Wriggling on her belly, she forced herself under the side of the tent, following Max’s example.
‘He keeps his sword in that wooden box,’ whispered Max. ‘But we’ve got no way of getting it out of there or away from the camp.’
‘Pity! It would have been amazing to take that back with us.’ She cast a wistful glance in the direction of the chest.
Max shook his head. ‘No, don’t even think about it. Let’s just turn Aelle’s sweet dreams into his worst nightmare instead.’ Heading straight for the bed, he hopped up on to the platform and positioned himself inches from the king’s face. A creaking noise from the corner of the tent made him turn round and he was horrified to see his companion on her hind legs, trying to squeeze a paw under the lid of the box which contained the sword. He quickly leapt off the bed and ran over to where Midnight was attempting to force her way into the chest.
‘No,’ he hissed. ‘What on earth do you think you’re doing?’
‘I just want to see it. Help me push the lid up.’
‘For heaven’s sake! You’re going to get us both into trouble, if you’re not careful.’
‘Well, give me a hand then – go on, just a paw!’ She gave him a coy smile, her emerald eyes twinkling persuasively. ‘Please? Pretty please?’
He gave a deep sigh. ‘Oh all right. Just a quick peek then. Okay?’
The black cat nodded. Max was a very large, powerfully-built animal, so their combined strength easily pushed the lid upwards and, standing on their back legs, they succeeded in raising it into an almost vertical position. The jewelled sword lay on top of a pile of clothing, its precious rubies and sapphires gleaming richly in the lamplight. Midnight gasped in wonder.
‘Oh my! It’s beautiful.’
‘Well, now you’ve seen it. Satisfied?’
She didn’t answer, continuing to stare at the marvellous weapon. Then she slowly shook her head from side to side.
‘No. We can’t leave it here. We’ve got to find a way of getting it out of this box, so we can take it back with us.’
‘What? Are you mad?’ Max was seriously regretting bringing her with him by now. She was turning out to be a flipping liability! His heart pounded against his ribcage as he wondered what she might try and do next. ‘We’ve got to close this lid – I can’t hold it up any longer. And we need to do it gently, because last time I was here it crashed shut with an enormous …’
As he spoke, Midnight suddenly let go and Max felt the lid start to slide downwards. With every muscle in his body trembling, he struggled to keep it upright, but it was no good. As strong as he was, he just couldn’t manage it by himself. Oh why hadn’t he left her at home? Just as he thought the lid was going to slip from his grasp and smash down on top of him, Max felt something take the strain from his quivering front legs. Looking down, he saw that Midnight had wedged a cushion inside the chest, preventing the lid from closing any further. He let go.
‘Don’t ever do that again,’ he said through gritted teeth, feeling absolutely furious with her.
Midnight’s response was to leap inside and, nudging the elaborately-decorated scabbard, she began to push the sword towards the edge of the chest.
‘Oh crikey, I don’t believe this,’ he muttered, his breath coming in ragged gasps after his efforts with the lid. ‘What on earth are you up to now?’
‘Help me get it out. Let’s pull it on to the floor.’
‘You’re insane. Get out of there.’
Midnight took no notice, intent on securing her prize. Using her muzzle and her front paws, she succeeded in edging the sword up over the rim of the chest, where it balanced precariously, rocking up and down like a see-saw. Max’s heart was in his mouth.
‘Get ready to catch it,’ she hissed, beginning to tip it down over the side.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish