Authors: Sue Bentley
Sue Bentley’s books for children often include animals or fairies. She lives in Northampton and enjoys reading, going to the cinema, and sitting watching the frogs and newts in her garden pond. If she hadn’t been a writer, she would probably have been a sky diver or a brain surgeon. The main reason she writes is that she can drink pots and pots of tea while she’s typing. She has met and owned many cats and each one has brought a special sort of magic to her life.
Illustrated by Angela Swan
To Lucky, the neighbourly black and white boy
Published by the Penguin Group
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Text copyright © Susan Bentley, 2006
Illustrations copyright © Angela Swan, 2006
All rights reserved
The moral right of the author and illustrator has been asserted
Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
The young white lion’s heart beat fast as he looked at the plains and distant mountains shimmering in the heat. All was quiet. He felt a surge of hope. Perhaps he need hide no longer.
Suddenly a deep roar split the air and an enormous black adult lion appeared, bounding towards him from the far shore.
‘Ebony!’ the young white lion gasped in fear.
Before he knew what was happening, there was a bright flash and a shower of silver sparkles. In the young white lion’s place now crouched a tiny fluffy coal-black kitten.
The kitten backed up slowly trembling with fear as it scrambled into a clearing in nearby reeds, out of the black lion’s sight.
There was a stealthy movement to one side and the reeds parted. An old grey lion emerged into the clearing and bowed its head before the kitten.
‘Greetings, Prince Flame. I am glad to see you safe and well. But you have returned at a dangerous time,’ he rumbled.
‘Cirrus.’ Flame greeted his old friend quietly. ‘It seems that my uncle still rules my kingdom.’
‘He does,’ Cirrus replied gravely. ‘And he has many spies looking for you. If Ebony kills you, there will be no one to stop his evil.’
Flame lifted his tiny chin and his big emerald eyes smouldered with anger. ‘One day I will challenge him and take my rightful place on the Lion Throne!’ he mewed bravely.
Cirrus nodded, his old muzzle wrinkling in a proud smile. ‘But for now, you must leave. Use your disguise to hide far away and grow strong and wise.’
Another terrifying roar rang out. Flame peered through the reeds. He
glimpsed a big dark shape as it bounded towards them.
‘Go! Save yourself!’ Cirrus urged.
There was another flash. And Flame felt himself falling. Falling…
* ONE *
Sadie Allen tensed as she ran forward and jumped high in the air. Tucking her head under, she flipped over and landed with a soft thud of her bare feet.
Sadie’s classmates clapped and whooped.
‘Thank you, fans!’ Sadie joked as she performed a mock bow.
She really loved gymnastics and the circus skills workshop at her school was turning out to be something she was really good at. First there had been the warm-up games and now they had moved on to floor acrobatics – it had been the best fun ever!
‘That was great, Sadie! Well done!’ called Lena.
Sadie tossed her long fair plait over her shoulder and grinned at the older girl.
Lena Tomani was a circus performer who was appearing with her parents in their trapeze act at the nearby circus school. She had come to Sadie’s school to demonstrate and share some of her skills.
Lena was tall for her twelve years and pretty, with short dark hair and a confident manner. Presto, her shaggy little dog, followed close at heel as Lena moved round the gym.
Lena turned to another girl. ‘Off you go, Jenny. Don’t try anything too complicated at first.’
Jenny Coleman was Sadie’s best friend. They lived a few houses away from each other. ‘Go for it!’ Sadie called out to Jenny encouragingly.
Jenny screwed up her face in
concentration as she threw herself on to the mat. She curled into a forward roll, but her arms and legs shot out at angles and she collapsed into an untidy sprawl.
There was a ripple of laughter.
‘Shut up, you lot!’ Sadie defended her friend. She helped Jenny scramble to her feet. ‘Are you all right?’
Jenny’s round face was bright red and sweaty. ‘Course I am! Leave me alone. You’re just making it worse.’
‘Sorry.’ Sadie blushed and stood aside, as Jenny pushed past her off the exercise mat. She tried not to feel too hurt by Jenny’s words. She just wished that her friend could enjoy the workshop as much as she did.
Lena and her little dog were going over to another group who were learning balancing skills. Some of the kids in the year above Sadie were walking on stilts and trying the unicycle. There was a lot of giggling going on.
‘Sadie! Why don’t you come and have a try at this?’ Lena called. ‘It’s a bit more advanced, but you should be fine.’
‘OΚ,’ Sadie answered. She tugged at Jenny’s arm. ‘Why don’t you come too?’
Jenny shook her head. ‘You go. I don’t suppose Lena wants any clumsy fairy elephants over there.’
‘But you could just watch if you want. Lena won’t mind.’
‘I think I’ll get a drink instead. I’ll
see you later,’ Jenny said. She wandered off towards the drinks machine.
Sadie hesitated. Should she go after Jenny? Her friend really didn’t seem to be having fun at all.