The Legend of Childer's Forest

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Logline or Premise
Poppy the golden retriever returns with her younger sister, Devon, in another crazy cream adventure.
When a family of rabbits are driven from their home, Poppy and Devon make it their mission to help.
Their quest takes them to Childer’s Forest, the site of ancient and mysterious events. When the safety of their human brother, Jack, is also threatened, Poppy and Devon call on the famous Legend of Childer’s Forest for help.

First 10 Pages


Captain Childer


Captain Francis Childer made his way through the forest. He had no idea how long he’d been there. He’d lost all track of time.

He had thought he knew the forest well. He’d spent most of his childhood there, but now, nothing looked familiar.

Sinking slowly to the ground, he thought back to the horrors of the battle at Waychester. Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army had overpowered them. They were unstoppable. But somehow, he and his comrades as well as their rightful king, Charles Stuart, had managed to flee the enemy.

They had found refuge at an inn. He remembered sitting around the table. Five war-beaten men, tucking into their supper of ale, bread and cheese. Yet their reprieve was short-lived. Soon, Cromwell’s army was beating on the inn’s door.

Childer jumped to his feet. ‘I’ll lead them off into the forest. It’ll give you a chance to escape.’

‘That’s risky.’ He heard the caution in Colonel Chesterford’s voice. ‘That forest is so big you’ll spend days going round in circles. I’ve known of men enter the forest and never get out.’

But Childer was in no mood for doubt. There was no time. ‘You forget, I practically grew up in these woods.’

Charles Stuart rose from his seat. Towering over Childer, he clasped his captain’s shoulder and said, ‘God be with you.’

Childer’s plan had worked. Seeing him racing past, the flames of his torch flickering above his head, the soldiers gave chase.

Now, Childer leaned his head against a tree and gazed up at the branches and leaves, some turning gold and russet with the changing of season.

This part of the forest was strange to him. It was deep, dark and endless. Every time Childer tried to find his way out, he ended up at the same tree. Its broad, V-shaped branches formed the perfect seat for him to settle and survey the land. From up there, he watched the forest come to life. Squirrels. Deer. Rabbits. Foxes. Birds.

A rustling from a nearby bush disturbed the captain from his thoughts. His initial alarm turned to joy as he saw his forest friend. Since rescuing the rabbit from the clutches of a fox, it had visited him regularly. A scar ran down the rabbit’s face, a cruel reminder of that day.

‘Good morrow, little one,’ Childer said softly.

The rabbit watched him, its nose twitching and eyes open wide. Its ears turned to a sound coming from the trees. Childer heard it, too. The rabbit disappeared through the undergrowth while Childer leapt up into the tree.

Bushes swayed violently. Footsteps. Was it Cromwell’s men?

A shadow fell. A shape. The captain shivered. There was evil in this place.

Just then, a brilliant white light shone from the depths of another part of the forest.

Whilst sensing evil from the shadow, Childer felt something celestial and powerful emanating from the light.

He clasped his hands together. ‘Heaven be praised, it’s an angel.’

Chapter 1

Present Day

‘Devon! Hurry up!’ Poppy, the crazy cream retriever, barked as she raced into the dining room.

Mom settled down with her breakfast. Poppy sat, drooling, then lifted herself up and rested her front paws on Mom’s lap. She eyed the succulent pieces of strawberry and blueberry perched tantalisingly on top of the cool mound of yoghurt. Poppy wagged her tail, seeing Mom lift a piece of strawberry from her dish and hand it to her. In one gulp, the fruit was gone.

‘Good grief, Poppy. Gentle!’ Mom said.

Poppy couldn’t help herself whenever food was concerned; besides, Devon wasn’t there to share. Come to think of it, where is Devon? Poppy glanced over her shoulder.

‘Devon! You’re missing Mom’s breakfast!’ she barked.

‘Wait a minute,’ Mom said, misinterpreting Poppy’s barks. ‘Let me eat some of my breakfast too.’

Poppy licked the drool from her jowls as she watched Mom eat. She grunted, leaned closer and licked Mom’s arm. Mom smiled and picked two blueberries from her bowl. She paused just as she was about to give Poppy the delicious berries.

‘Now,’ she said, ‘gently.’

Poppy stared at the fruit; she slowly reached up and carefully took the treat from Mom’s hand. When Mom stood up to take her empty dish into the kitchen, Poppy realised Devon still wasn’t there.

‘Devon!’ she barked, then decided to find her.

A quick look around revealed Devon wasn’t in the kitchen or living room. Poppy peered out of the patio window. No, she isn’t in the garden either.

That just left the bedrooms. Spinning around, she bounded upstairs.

As she reached the top step, Poppy heard her hooman brother, Jack, talking.

‘You’d love to chase them, wouldn’t you?’

She followed the sound of his voice into his bedroom. For a moment, she stood in the doorway watching Jack and Devon, both sitting on the edge of the bed, looking out of the window. She knew what they were looking at and was eager to join them. In one giant leap, she landed on the bed, sending Jack and Devon swaying with the movement of the mattress.

Devon glanced over her shoulder, then turned her attention back to the field across the road. Jack wrapped his arm around Poppy’s shoulders and hugged her gently.

‘Hey, Pops,’ he said. ‘You’ve come to watch the rabbits too?’

No wonder Devon is sitting so still, Poppy thought.

Her young canine sister sat with her back straight, ears pulled back, chest pushed out, and chin raised. Devon was focusing on one thing only, and that was the family of rabbits living in the field opposite their home.

Poppy would have liked to chase the rabbits too, but, like those that wandered into their garden, they’d probably just run away. She glanced at her canine sibling and noticed the glint in the young one’s eyes. It was the same look she’d had when she cornered the grey squirrel the other day. If Poppy hadn’t intervened, goodness knows what would have happened.

The three of them watched the family of rabbits chase each other, leaping, spinning in mid-air, their white bobtails like cottonwool balls bouncing across the field.

‘I’m sure there’s more than the other day,’ Jack said. Poppy heard him counting under his breath. ‘Eight. There’s eight, and look…’ Jack pointed at the window. ‘There are babies too! Mom!’ Jack stood up and walked to the door.

‘Mom! Come look at this. The rabbits have had babies.’

While Jack stood waiting for Mom, Devon turned to Poppy.

‘Couldn’t we go there, just once?’ she growled.

‘And do what?’ Poppy snorted. ‘Chase them or eat them?’

Devon rolled her eyes. ‘Are you still going on about that squirrel?’

‘You could have killed it.’

‘I only wanted to play.’

‘But you’re ten times bigger,’ Poppy growl-howled.

Devon looked back at the window and yawned, making her whole body quiver.

Jack joined them on the edge of the bed, settling in between Poppy and Devon.

‘You see those two big rabbits over there?’ he said, pointing to the field.

Poppy swished the tip of her tail, sensing another lesson coming on. She loved Jack’s lessons.

‘I reckon those two are the parents,’ he said, while Devon and Poppy stared intently at the rabbits. ‘The male’s called a buck, and the female’s a doe. Those little ones over there,’ Jack pointed to three tiny rabbits on the edge of the field looking cautiously at the others, ‘they’re called kits, and a family of wild rabbits is called a colony. The whole family lives in a warren. I read that a rabbit warren is a group of tunnels underground. I reckon they’ve got bedrooms and living rooms, just like us.’

Poppy was fascinated. Imagine a home underground.

‘It’ll be a bit dark,’ Devon whined, making Jack smile.

‘Did you know?’ Jack continued, ‘When rabbits jump, like that…’ Poppy and Devon watched two rabbits perform another mid-air twist and leap. ‘…that kick is called a binky.’

Poppy grunted. ‘I could do that.’

‘Did you call?’ came a familiar voice from behind them.

They turned to see Mom standing in the doorway.

‘Mom, the rabbits have had babies.’

‘It must be rabbit season,’ Mom said. ‘Evie’s just shown me more in the field at the back, take a look.’

Devon and Poppy jumped off the bed and followed Jack into their hooman sister’s bedroom. Poppy noticed Buttercup lying on Evie’s bed. She recalled the previous year’s confusion when she’d mistaken the holiday fairy’s gift for a living, breathing puppy. Yet, the Robinson family did welcome a puppy that holiday and her name was Devon.

Evie loved rabbits, and Poppy knew this because sitting beside Buttercup, was her hooman-sister’s favourite toy, a much-loved and well-worn bunny rabbit called Bunny. Her grandparents had bought Bunny for Evie on the day she was born, making Bunny nearly seven years old, almost as old as Poppy.

Devon stood with her paws on the windowsill while Evie stroked her big floppy ears. Poppy noticed Devon’s tail wagging. This made her curious. Just how many rabbits are out there? She jumped up beside her and stared past the tree in the middle of the lawn, beyond the hedge and fence dividing the garden from the field.

Today, the field was empty apart from a group of rabbits. Some large, some not so large and others tiny.

Poppy barked, her tail wagging. She glanced at Evie before staring back at the rabbits.

Evie giggled. ‘Sssh, Poppy, you’ll scare them.’

Mom and Jack stepped closer.

‘No worries about that,’ Jack said. ‘Look, there’s Boxer and Teddy. They’ll scare the rabbits away.’

Poppy spotted Boxer strolling across the field.

‘Typical,’ she growled, ‘he thinks he owns the place.’

Hearing Poppy’s growl, Evie wrapped her arm around Poppy’s shoulders.

‘Calm down, Pops. I don’t know why you don’t like Boxer. I think he’s cute.’

Devon barked loudly, frightening everyone. She may have been only a little over a year old, but Devon had the bark of a fully grown German shepherd instead of a young golden retriever.

‘Look!’ she barked again. ‘Over there!’

Poppy glared at the inn’s youngest cat, Teddy. He sat on the top of the fence, peering into their garden. He watched two pigeons land on the lawn, then pounced, landing so close to them that he frightened the pigeons away.

‘Quick!’ Devon barked, then raced downstairs.

‘Devon! Don’t do anything silly!’ Poppy barked, running after her.

Chapter 2

Boxer and Teddy

Teddy, the young cat from The White Stag Inn, must have sensed Poppy and Devon were coming because he was already strutting backwards and forwards in front of the big tree. He held his ginger and white striped tail high and had a smirk across his face. Teddy didn’t care that this wasn’t his garden. The cheeky cat rolled on his back, revealing the prominent white stripe that ran down his belly.

‘What is it with cats?’ Poppy howled. ‘They think they own the place.’

Meanwhile, Devon had already leapt up the steps and was racing across the lawn. She didn’t bark, but that was Devon’s way. Unlike Poppy, who liked to announce her presence to everyone, Devon preferred to pounce. For a moment, Poppy’s stomach turned.

Is Teddy going to move?

The cat continued rolling in the grass, clearly enjoying the feel of the shaded sun on his belly.

Devon was getting nearer.

‘Devon, stop!’ Poppy barked.

Devon didn’t listen, but Teddy did. He rolled onto his paws and stared at the young golden retriever. The tip of his tail swished gently.

Is that shock or amusement on his face? Poppy couldn’t tell. The cat’s green eyes glinted in the sunshine.

‘Devon,’ Teddy meowed. Poppy could tell by his voice that he was pleased to see them. He stepped forward, his tail swishing from side to side. ‘Still trying to catch me?’

Poppy ran up the steps, but before she could catch up, there was movement from within the tree. They looked up to see Boxer standing on a low branch. He jumped, landing silently beside Teddy.

Poppy stared at her nemesis. Boxer. The old grey and white cat from the White Stag Inn. Boxer. The old cat who always trespassed into her garden. Boxer. The old cat who hissed and spat and, on occasion, lashed out with his claws.

Poppy glanced at Devon, hoping she had also caught the bad-tempered gleam in the old cat’s eyes. Devon lowered her head and glared.

Poppy didn’t know what to do.

Should I stand between Devon and the cats? If I bark, it might set Devon off. I’ve heard what damage cats can do to a dog’s face. Poppy shuddered at the thought.

Boxer glared at the girls while Teddy looked on.

Poppy was getting more annoyed. Who does he think he is, coming into our garden and glaring at us? Anyone would think we’re the intruders.

Boxer hissed while Teddy stayed behind him, still swishing his tail.

He yowled and arched his back. ‘I’m warning you.’

Poppy noticed Boxer’s tail flick violently.

‘Warning us?’ Devon growled. ‘You’re in our garden.’

Boxer took a slow and menacing step forward. ‘I was here first.’ The old cat hissed and arched his back. Suddenly, he lifted a large paw and swiped at Devon’s face. Devon scrunched her eyes but refused to back away.

That’s it. Enough is enough!

Poppy jumped in front of Devon. With her shoulders hunched and head down, she barked in Boxer’s face. ‘Get out, Boxer! Get!’

Teddy settled beside the tree and licked his paws, while Devon watched Poppy defend her.

Boxer yowled louder, ‘This garden was mine long before you came along. This land will always belong to us. You’d best remember that.’ He took one more threatening step towards Poppy. His pale green eyes stared into hers. Those eyes had no warmth or friendliness, only defiance and anger.

Meanwhile, Teddy continued cleaning his paws, relaxed and - was that entertained?

Before Poppy had a chance to respond to Boxer’s threat, Devon jumped forward and barked, ‘You can’t tell us what to do. You’re old and slow. And I have sharper teeth.’ To prove this, she curled her lip back.

Boxer swiped at Devon’s face, but luckily Poppy pushed her aside in the nick of time.

‘That’s enou…’ Poppy growled, then her voice trailed away.

She lifted her chin and twitched her nose, catching a delicious scent in the air. It was yummy, and she instantly knew what it was, roasting meat, and it was coming from the inn.

The delicious aroma calmed Poppy’s temper. Never one to stay cross for long, the thought of a bowl of juicy, tender meat instantly cheered her up.

Dad stepped outside. ‘Poppy. Devon. Come on, girls. We’re off to the White Stag.’

Poppy turned to follow Dad but not before looking back at the cats and growling, ‘Come on, Devon, let’s go to the White Stag. Rose always makes us welcome.’

Hearing Poppy mention the name of their hooman-mom, Boxer hissed and then jumped into the field behind, followed by Teddy.

Chapter 3

The White Stag Inn

After a delicious dinner at the White Stag Inn, Poppy and Devon sat outside with their family in the decking area.

While Dad fetched the drinks, Poppy lay beside Devon in the shade under the crisscrossed beams. She looked up at the golden-coloured fairy lights wrapped around the wood. At night, they looked like stars.

Large hanging baskets hung from wooden supports. Poppy and Devon lay beside one. Devon looked up, her eyes darting about. Poppy guessed she was watching the bees and wasps that buzzed amongst the colourful blooms.

Meanwhile, Poppy flopped onto her side and groaned with contentment. After a good dinner, she always felt sleepy, so she left the hoomans to talk and Devon to keep an eye on the flying insects.

A few moments later, she woke to the sound of clinking glasses and voices. Dad had returned with a tray of drinks and a bowl of water for Poppy and Devon. Poppy slapped her chops. Sleeping always made her mouth dry. She slowly pulled herself up, but before she had a chance to taste the cool water, Devon was already there, her golden head bent over the water, lapping loudly.


Poppy sat down and grunted. She looked around at the other families enjoying the late summer sunshine and then noticed, with a jolt, Boxer glaring at her from on the windowsill. The tip of his grey and white tail whipped from side to side, and she was sure his eyes narrowed further when she looked at him. She tried holding his stare.

Two can play that game.

She took a deep breath, pushed her chest out and grunted.

‘What’s up, Pop?’ Devon whined, licking the drops of water from her jowls.

‘Look over there.’ Poppy lifted her chin and returned Boxer’s glare.

Devon stared back at the old, grumpy cat. She was so still that not even her whiskers moved.

‘Come on, Devon,’ Poppy whined, ‘Let’s make ourselves at home, like Boxer does in our garden.’ They stretched out, beating their tails against the floor.

Evie noticed and settled down beside them. Their behaviour didn’t just capture Evie’s attention, though. Another family at a neighbouring table began laughing. Finally, the mom spoke to Poppy and Devon’s pawrents.

There was a young girl sitting at the table. She looked a little older than Evie. Poppy guessed a little older than her brother Jack too. She looked as though she wanted to speak but was unsure and kept looking from Poppy and Devon to her parents. Eventually, the girl caught her mom’s eye.

‘Can my daughter go over and say hello? She loves dogs.’

‘Of course!’ Mom replied.

The young girl smiled shyly and settled on the floor beside Evie. While the girls fussed over Poppy and Devon, Poppy peered under her bent paw at Boxer. Yes, he was still looking; and yes, he still looked grumpy.


With a sigh, Poppy rested her head on the mat and enjoyed her belly rubs. Meanwhile, she eavesdropped on the hoomans’ conversation.

‘Do you live around here?’ The man asked her pawrents.

‘Yes, this is our local,’ Dad said. ‘Are you from around here?’

‘No, no,’ Poppy heard the girl’s mom say. ‘We’re on holiday. We’re staying at the White Stag, only for a few nights, though. Sadly, we’re going back in the morning.’

‘And no sighting of the Legend,’ the girl’s dad said. ‘I hoped to prove to everyone at work that Legend does exist and get a photo of the famous giant stag.’

Poppy opened her eyes, now keenly interested in the conversation.

She rolled onto her stomach and listened to the grown-ups talk while Jack settled beside her and gently stroked her chin. She wanted to learn more about the Legend, and since this was one of her dad’s favourite topics of conversation, she knew there was more to come.

‘You’re speaking to the right person,’ Mom said. ‘Jon knows all there is to know about the Legend of Childer’s Forest.’


Falguni Jain Thu, 06/06/2024 - 14:47

I believe middle-grade or children's fiction would be a better category for this book. Animal-centric stories do better in that category.