Camp Monkee Mallard Presents the Nutcracker

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I've done the classic "Christmas Carol" story, so now I'm taking another Christmas classic and putting my own Camp Monkee Mallard twist into it. I have seen several versions of this story on TV and I've read one version of the book, and I can honestly say I'm basing my version heavily on the Care Bears Nutcracker. There are also parts of this that were inspired by the animated movie, "The Nutcracker Prince."

It was Christmas Eve. A small town was bustling with activity. A fourteen-year-old girl named Dana Ellis was walking down the street towards her house. Well, walking wasn't really the word. She was dancing. More than anything else in the world, Dana wanted to be a ballerina. As she was twirling about, her twelve-year-old brother Dennis and ten-year-old sister, Donna, ran past her.

"Hurry up, slowpoke!" Dennis shouted as he and Donna dashed past their twirling sister.

"Come on, Dana!" Donna shouted. "We're going to be late for the party!"

"I'm coming!" Dana shouted, running to catch up to her siblings.

The Ellises always had a gigantic Christmas party every Christmas Eve, and practically invited the whole town. The kids always made it a point to be on time for the party. Their father was big on punctuality. As they were running home, they stopped by Westerman's Toy Shoppe to look in the window. It was owned by Wilhelm Westerman, and he worked there with his nephew, Michael Nesmith (Mike for short). Will had known everyone in town for a long time and enjoyed making toys for the children. Every year, he built a large, elaborate gift for the Ellis children, since the Ellises were one of the most influential families in the town. When Dana, Dennis, and Donna passed the store, they saw that Mike was inside, but his uncle wasn't.

"Hi, Mike!" Donna called. "Where's your uncle?"

"Out of town," Mike answered. "He won't be back until after Christmas."

"Awwwww!" Donna groaned.

"Does that mean he's not gonna make us anything for Christmas this year?" Dennis asked.

"Well, it just so happens that I'm workin' on that," Mike said. "Uncle Will started it before he left and he gave me the plans to finish it."

"Will it be ready by tonight?" Dana asked.

"Of course it will," Mike said. "I'll run it over later tonight."

"We'd better get going," Dana said. "You guys know Mom and Dad are big on punctuality."

The kids left the toy shop and dashed to their home. When they arrived, they threw their coats, hats, and gloves on the living room floor and dashed into the den to look at the Christmas tree.

"Oh, Mother, Father!" Dana sighed. "This has got to be the most beautiful tree we ever had!"

"You say that every year!" Donna shouted.

"Can we open our presents, now, Dad?" Dennis asked.

"Yeah, pretty, pretty please?" Donna begged.

"I don't see why not," Mr. Ellis said.

Dennis and Donna shrieked with delight and they ran for the tree. Dana sighed, and shook her head. But she went over to the tree to open her presents as well, though she was a lot more careful about unwrapping her presents than her brother and sister, who were ripping the paper off their presents and tossing them on the floor.

"Wow, soldiers!" Dennis shouted, as he opened one of his boxes. "And they've got swords and cannons, and even cannon balls!"

Dennis loaded one of the black marbles into the cannon, pulled the string, and it shot across the room, hitting the family dog, Lottie (a large great dane). Lottie let out a yelp, and ran from the room. Donna opened up a gigantic present under the tree for her. Inside was a huge dollhouse. Her father built it himself, especially for her. The house included furniture, plastic food, and two dolls.

"This is the best dollhouse ever!" she shouted. "Thank you, Daddy, thank you!"

"I still think we should have gotten her the Princess Barbie doll," Mrs. Ellis teased.

"I think she'll survive," Mr. Ellis said.

By this time, Dana had opened one of her presents, and practically squealed.

"Ballet slippers!" she shouted. "Real ballet slippers! Mom, Dad, thank you so much! Thank you, thank you!"

Dana then took off her shoes, and put on the ballet slippers. Then she started twirling around the room, humming the "Waltz of the Flowers" from "The Nutcracker." As she was twirling, the doorbell rang.

"I'll get it!" she called out, twirling for the door. Donna and Dennis were still ripping open packages.

Dana opened the door, and twirled off. At the door was one of the family's friends, Bob Rafelsen. He watched Dana twirling, laughed, and then shook his head.

"Hey, Don," he called out to Mr. Ellis. "Is that your daughter, or the famed Turkish whirling dervish?"

"Very funny!" Dana shouted, as she twirled around.

One by one, the rest of the neighbors and family friends started to arrive for the party. Immediately, Mr. and Mrs. Ellis began talking to their friends, Link and Marcia Lizard. Their ten-year-old son, Leland, was friends with Donna. Most of the kids in the neighborhood had dropped by, and they were all crowding around the tree, looking at Dennis and Donna's presents, while all their parents talked. Mike arrived shortly afterwards, wheeling in a table of some kind. It was covered by a cloth.

"Big one this year, Mike," Mr. Ellis said, as Mike walked in. "Where's your uncle?"

"Out of town," Mike said. "I'm just glad this is a small town. I couldn't even fit this sucker in the trunk of my car!"

"Mike's here, Mike's here!" Donna shouted, and all the kids gathered to see what it was. Dana twirled over to the table and stopped to see what Mike brought over. Mike stood up straight, and imitated a fanfare.

"Da-da, da-da-dah daaaahhhh!" he shouted, extremely off key (on purpose, of course, just to get a laugh out of the kids). Then he whipped off the cover off the table, revealing a giant palace, complete with soldiers, princes and princesses, swans, dancers, and they were all moving around.

"Ta daaaaahhhh!" Mike shouted.

"Oooooohhhhhh," the kids said.

"Boy, this is pretty good," Bob said. "Did your uncle make this before he went out of town?"

"Well, he started it, but I finished it," Mike said.

"Hey, Mike, can you make the soldiers come out and fire their guns?" Dennis asked.

"No, they can't do that," Mike said.

"Can the swans fly?" Donna asked.

"No," Mike said. "See, it was designed to work like the way you see it."

"I like my soldiers better," Dennis said, and he walked away.

Donna walked back to her own dollhouse. Mike wanted to smack his head against the wall.

"Kids," he groaned. "They don't understand the mechanics of these things."

"Don't listen to them, Mike," Dana said. "I think this is perfect just the way it is."

"Well, I'm glad someone around here appreciates talent!"

Dana laughed, and began twirling around again. Mike watched her and shook his head. As she twirled around the room, she twirled right into the next door neighbor, Peter Tork, literally. He and his wife, Valerie Cartwright, were talking to Mr. and Mrs. Ellis when Dana "waltzed" in.

"Hi," Dana said, a little sheepishly. "Sorry about that."

"No problem," Peter said.

"Actually, Dana, we were just talking about you," Mrs. Ellis said. "Peter's nephew is arriving in town tomorrow, to spend Christmas with him and Valerie."

"Okay," Dana said, not really understanding why her parents and the neighbors had been talking about her.

"You really should meet him, Dana," Valerie said. "We'll drop by sometime tomorrow. He's coming in from Connecticut later tonight."

"Yeah, some time after the party," Peter said. "I think you'd like him, Dana."

"Well, what's his name, and how old is he?" Dana asked.

"Fluey, and he's sixteen," Peter said. "It's short for Fluid."

Dana nodded, and smiled, though she wasn't looking forward to this. She was beginning to think he was some kind of a geek with a name like "Fluey." And what it was short for was even worse. She couldn't think of a parent actually naming a child "Fluid." Then again, her family had some pretty crazy names in it as well. Her father's name was Donald, her mother's name was Danielle, and then there was her name, and her brother, and her sister. So she wasn't one to talk about goofy family names. But she still figured Peter's nephew was going to be a drag. But she didn't say so. She just continued twirling around the room, enjoying her ballet slippers. She started to dance around the tree, trying to avoid tripping on the marbles Dennis was firing out of the toy cannon, and tripping over the dog, who was Dennis's prime target, next to Donna and her dollhouse. As Dana was twirling, a present under the tree caught her eye. It was an old fashioned nutcracker doll. She picked up and looked at it.

"Now, where did you come from?" she asked.

"That's easy to answer," Mike said. "Uncle Will made that before he left."

"Well, he's really great," Dana said. "How does it work?"

"Here, I'll show ya."

Mike grabbed a bowl of nuts, and put one in the nutcracker's mouth. Then he pulled the lever in the back, and closed the mouth on the nut. The shell crunched completely.

"Let me try that!" Dana shouted, as she put her own nut in and repeated Mike's actions. She laughed, and loaded another nut inside. She and Mike continued doing that. As she was doing that, Dennis ran over and grabbed it.

"Let me try it!" he shouted.

"No, you'll just break it!" Dana shouted, trying to grab it back, but Dennis wouldn't let her. "Mike, tell him to give it back!"

"Come on, Dana, let him have a turn," Mike said. "Uncle Will made it for all of you."

"But he'll break it!"

"Dana . . . ."

Dana let out a frustrated groan and stamped her foot. Then she folded her arms across her chest, turned around, and sulked. Dennis gave his sister a smug look, and grabbed for a nut in the bowl, but found it empty. He began looking for more, but couldn't find any. He spotted one of his cannon balls on the floor, and stuck that into the mouth of the nutcracker, thinking it was a nut. But when he pulled the lever, the top part of the nutcracker's mouth hit the marble, and some of the teeth broke off and hit the floor.

"Oops," he said.

"Oh Dennis!" Dana shouted, frustratedly.

"Dennis, now what did you do?" Mike said.

"I didn't mean it," Dennis said. "I thought it was a nut."

"I knew it!" Dana yelled. "I knew you'd break it!"

"Relax, Dana, I can fix it," Dennis said. "I just need some glue."

"No, you'll just break it again!"

"I will not!"

Dana grabbed the nutcracker and began pulling on it to get it away from Dennis, but he wouldn't let go.

"Hey, come on, you guys," Mike said, trying to get between them. "Stop it before someone gets hurt!"

Dana and Dennis wouldn't listen and continued pulling on the nutcracker. The tug of war finally ended when Dennis gave one final yank, and the lever in the back of the nutcracker broke off. Both he and Dana stumbled backwards and hit the floor. Dana bumped into the wheeled table, and the toy palace fell to the floor and smashed. The nutcracker sailed into the air, and landed in the fireplace. Mike, Bob, Peter, and Mr. Ellis ran over to try to dig it out, but it was too late. The nutcracker was reduced to ashes in a matter of seconds.

"Ooohhhh, Dennis!" Dana yelled. "I knew you never should have tried it! I knew you'd break it! You always ruin everything!"

And with that, Dana stormed upstairs to her room and slammed the door.

"Sheesh, what's the matter with her?" Dennis asked. Mike shook his head, started upstairs to Dana's room. Dana was sitting at her window, watching the snow fall. Mike knocked on the door and opened it.

"Hey," he said. "Can I come in?"

"Sure, I guess," Dana said.

"Listen, if you're worried about the broken toys, I can fix them."

"Thanks. Mike, why do little brothers always have to be such pains in the neck?"

"Beats me. I'm an only child. But Dennis is a boy, and, well, you know boys. They tend to be a little rambunctious."

"A little? Mike, Dennis is extremely rambunctious! It's really hard to be the oldest, though. And I'm the oldest kid in this neighborhood. The only ones around here to hang around with are Dennis, Donna, and her friend, Leland. I just wish there were some more teenagers around here."

"Well, you know Peter's nephew . . . . ."

The two of them were interrupted by a clap of thunder and a flash of lightning, which was odd for December. Suddenly, a large mouse hole appeared in the room, and a life sized nutcracker doll came out, crashing into Mike and Dana, and all of them hit the floor.

CRASH!

"Uhh, sorry about the intrusion," the Nutcracker said, standing up.

"What the heck?" Mike asked.

"It's a nutcracker," Dana said, as she and Mike got up. "Where did you come from?"

"Actually, I don't remember," the Nutcracker said. "I don't even remember my name!"

"Oh, that's terrible!" Dana shouted.

Thunder crashed again, and this time, an army of rats raced out of the mouse hole. They were led by a very short rat wearing a crown on his head.

"Ha, ha, ha!" he shouted. "I've got you now, Nutcracker!"

"Rats!" Mike shouted.

"Ew!" Dana yelled.

"CHAAARRRRGE!" the rats shouted, and ran for the trio.

"Let's split!" Mike yelled.

Mike, Dana, and the Nutcracker began racing out of Dana's room as fast as they could. Donna and Leland were walking up the stairs to see if Dana was going to come back down when they saw Dana, Mike, and the Nutcracker running down the hallway.

"Dana, what's going on?" Donna asked.

"No time to explain!" Dana shouted. "We need to borrow your room!"

"What for?" Donna asked.

"We're bein' chased by an army of rats!" Mike shouted.

"Rats?" Donna asked. Then she and Leland turned around and saw the army of rats coming.

"Rats!" both shouted, and raced into Donna's bedroom, slamming the door shut. Then they leaned against it to barricade it.

"Where did those rats come from?" Leland asked.

"And where did this giant nutcracker come from?" Donna asked.

"I don't know," Dana said. "All I know is that a mouse hole opened in my room, and a nutcracker came out, and then all those rats came out."

"What are we gonna do?!" Mike shouted. "I don't know how to deal with rats!"

"Maybe we should get your brother," Leland said to Donna. "He might know how to deal with them."

"Leland's got a point," Dana said. "It takes a rat to deal with rats!"

There was suddenly a bang on the door. The rats began banging against it, trying to break the door down.

"Now what?" the Nutcracker said.

"I say we let 'em in," Mike said. "Somethin's tellin' me if they make a mad dash for the door, they're gonna go right through it, and smack right into the wall. That'll give us a chance to go get Dennis."

The group stood away from the door, and Mike opened it. Sure enough, his hunch was right. The rats, ready to slam against the door again, ran right into the room, and crashed into the wall. The Rat King was flattened by his large army. The others raced out of the room and down the stairs as fast as they could, before the rats could regain their senses. Dana ran into the party while the others staid by the stairway to watch for the rats.

"Dennis! Dennis!" she shouted. "We need help!"

"What is it?" Dennis asked.

"There are a bunch of rats in the house and they're chasing us. We figured you'd be able to help since it takes one rat to know one rat."

"Very funny. And who's we?"

"Just me, Mike, Donna, Leland, and a nutcracker."

"What?!"

"Come on, I'll show you!"

Dana grabbed her brother's hand, and pulled him out of the den and to the stairway. Dennis's jaw nearly hit the floor when he saw the Nutcracker standing there.

"Where in the world did that come from?" he asked.

"A mouse hole in Dana's room," Donna said. "At least that's what she said."

"There they are!" the Rat King shouted. "Get them!"

"What are those?!" Dennis shouted.

"Those are the rats I told you about!" Dana shouted. "What do we do?"

"What else? Run!" Dennis shouted, and he started for the door.

The others followed, racing outside into the snow. The rats followed. Dennis then got down and began scooping snow into his hands and packing it into balls.

"What are you doing?" the Nutcracker asked.

"Making some ammo to throw at the rats," Dennis said. "Come on, everybody! Start scooping!"

Everyone bent down and began scooping. By that time, the rats raced out of the house, and were looking for the group.

"Now where did they go?" the Rat King asked.

"Ready . . . . aim . . . ." Mike said. "FIRE!"

The group began firing snowballs at the rats as fast and as hard as they could. The rats didn't know what hit them. They all started to retreat and ducked down the hill (the Ellises backyard was on somewhat of a slope).

"I think they're out of ammo," the Rat King said. "I'll go take a look."

The Rat King climbed up the hill to take a look, and was clobbered with snowballs.

"Nope," he said, coming back to his troops. "Lotta ammo left."

The rats staid down the hill for the time being. Mike was keeping an eye out for them.

"Now what do we do?" Leland asked.

"Find a way to get back inside without the rats noticin' us," Mike said.

"Leave that to me," the Nutcracker said, and he ran out into the open, where the rats could see him.

"Hey rats!" he called out. "If you want me, come and get me!"

"Get him!" the Rat King shouted, and his army charged.

The Nutcracker dodged the oncoming rats, and they practically sailed right into a nearby tree, causing the snow from the branches to avalanche down on them. The Nutcracker ended up getting hit in the head with some of the snow, however. Dana ran over to the scene.

"Are you all right?" she asked.

"I'm more than all right," the Nutcracker said, shaking off the snow. "I just remembered everything! Come on! We've got to get back into the house before the rats come to!"

The gang started to run back into the house, just as the rats dug themselves out of the snow. The rats ran after them. Once everyone was inside, the Nutcracker slammed the door and braced himself against it, just as the rats crashed right into it.

"That takes care of them," the Nutcracker said. "At least for the time being. Anyway, those rats are from Toyland, and so am I. They work for the evil Lord Faizahl, who's trying to take over Toyland. Come on, we've got to go back upstairs!"

The minute the Nutcracker stepped away from the door, the rats charged against it and broke it down. Then they started to race up the stairs after our heroes.

"You can run, Nutcracker!" the Rat King shouted. "But you can't hide!"

The Rats then raced up the stairs after the Nutcracker and the others. They cornered them in Dennis's room.

"We've gotcha now, Nutcracker!" the Rat King shouted. "Give up!"

"Don't you know it's never over until the fat rat sings?" Dennis shouted, grabbing a bag of marbles from his desk. Then he promptly spilled them all over the floor.

"Hey!" the Rat King shouted. "Who're you callin' fat?!"

It was at that moment when the Rat King and his army slipped on the marbles, and slid back into Dana's room, and through the mouse hole, back into Toyland.

"That takes care of them," Mike said.

"That was fun!" Donna shouted. "Can we do it again?"

"Oh Donna!" Dana groaned.

"I'm glad someone's having fun," the Nutcracker said. "Because it's not that much fun in Toyland anymore. Once Lord Faizahl takes total control over Toyland, he'll destroy everything, and that includes Christmas!"

"That's terrible!" Dana shouted. "What can we do?"

"I've got to get back to Toyland," the Nutcracker said.

"You can't go back alone," Dana said. "I'll go with you and help."

"Count me in," Mike said.

"Can we go, too?" Donna asked.

"Yeah, can we?" Leland asked.

"Sorry, guys," Mike said. "This might be too dangerous for you two."

"Mike's right," Dana said. "You'd better stay here with Dennis."

"What?!" Dennis shouted. "Oh no, I'm not gonna sit around here baby-sitting while you go and have the time of your life in Toyland, Dana! What about that Lord Faizahl guy? I can take him!"

"No, Dennis!" Dana shouted. "It's just too dangerous. You should stay here with Donna and Leland. We'll be back as soon as possible."

"Come on, you guys," the Nutcracker said. "There isn't a moment to lose!"

The mouse hole opened again, and the Nutcracker, Dana, and Mike jumped through it, on their way to Toyland. Dennis flopped down in Dana's chair and sulked.

"This isn't fair," he grumbled. "I'm stuck here baby-sitting my stupid little sister, and her drippy friend, while she goes off to Toyland!"

"Yeah," Donna said. "It isn't fair. I want to see Toyland, too. But, I don't know if we should go in after them. After all, they did tell us to stay here."

"Come on, Donna!" Dennis shouted. "We can be back ups for them, in case they get into trouble."

"I don't know," Donna said.

"Yeah, I don't know, either," Leland said.

"Listen, you guys," Dennis said. "All rescue teams need back ups. Something extra in case of an emergency. And I promise, we'll stay out of Dana's way. She'll never even know we're there."

Donna and Leland looked at each other, and thought about it. Then they turned to Dennis.

"Okay," Donna said. "But only if we stay out of Dana's way."

"Right," Leland agreed.

"Okay," Dennis said. "Toyland, here we come!"

The three of them jumped into the mouse hole after Dana, Mike, and the Nutcracker.

Deep in Toyland, the evil Lord Faizahl was trying to obtain information from the Sugar Plum Fairy, whom he was keeping prisoner. He wanted a magic ring that would enable him to take over all of Toyland and destroy Christmas, and only the Sugar Plum Fairy knew where it was.

"Well, my pretty," he said. "Are you going to tell me where the ring is?"

"Never!" the Sugar Plum Fairy shouted.

"Then I'll just have to convince you to show me."

Lord Faizahl then narrowed his eyes, and looked into the eyes of the Sugar Plum Fairy, trying to hypnotize her. Lord Faizahl could hypnotize almost anyone into telling him everything he wanted to know. The Sugar Plum Fairy did her best not to look at Lord Faizahl, but it wasn't easy.

"I want that ring," he said. "You will show me where the ring is."

The Sugar Plum Fairy looked as if she was going to fall under Lord Faizahl's spell. Then, she shook her head, and folded her arms across her chest.

"No way, Jose!" she shouted, and then started laughing. "You should know that your magic won't work on me, Faizahl!"

"That won't matter!" Lord Faizahl shouted. "Once the Rat King brings me the Nutcracker, then you'll tell me where the ring is! Because if you don't, the Nutcracker will make excellent firewood!"

With that, Lord Faizahl started laughing maniacally, and he threw a piece of wood into the fire place. By that time, the Rat King was just returning to Lord Faizahl's castle, and he was extremely nervous. He didn't know how Lord Faizahl was going to react when he found out the Rat King didn't return with the Nutcracker.

"Oh boy," he said. "Lord Faizahl is probably going to have my tail tied in knots when he finds out I lost the Nutcracker!"

The Rat King gulped, and opened the door to Lord Faizahl's thrown room.

"Umm, hi, Master," he said. "I'm back."

"Well," Lord Faizahl said. "Where's the Nutcracker?"

"Well, see, boss, it's like this. We found him, and we woulda had him, if it hadn't been for this tall guy with a Texas accent, and this teenage blonde girl and her brother and sister and this other kid, and they threw snowballs at us and . . . ."

"WHAT?! You let him escape?! Must I do everything myself?!"

Lord Faizahl waved his hands around, and a light appeared from out of nowhere, and an image of another part of Toyland appeared, where Mike, Dana, and the Nutcracker were just climbing out of the mouse hole. Mike looked around and whistled.

"Wow," he said. "Check out the size of those presents. We must be the size of toys here."

"Toyland is just so beautiful," Dana said.

"You shoulda seen it before Lord Faizahl took over," the Nutcracker said. "It was even more beautiful back then. At least that's what I think."

"I hope you start rememberin' soon, Nutcracker," Mike said. "Anythin' you can give us may help us."

"So where do we go from here?" Dana asked.

"I'd say we head that way," Mike said, pointing in the distance. Dana and the Nutcracker looked and saw a castle there, underneath dark clouds. Thunder was crashing and lightning was flashing.

"Good guess," the Nutcracker said. "But how do we get there? I don't think we can walk."

"Well," Mike said, looking at some train tracks on the ground. "Here are some railroad tracks, and if my hunch is right, inside this box should be a train."

Mike pulled the ribbon off a nearby box and revealed a toy train. Mike climbed into the engineer's car and looked at Dana and the Nutcracker.

"All aboard!" he shouted.

Dana and the Nutcracker climbed aboard the train. They didn't even notice Dennis, Donna, and Leland had just climbed through the mouse hole. They looked around for a moment or so, until Donna spotted the train.

"Look!" she shouted. "There they are!"

Mike pulled the whistle on the train just then.

"Okay, gang," he said. "Time to head 'em up and move 'em out!"

"Quick!" Dennis shouted. "Before it pulls out!"

Dennis, Donna, and Leland ran for the caboose of the train, and jumped aboard, just as Mike started the engine, and the train began moving down the tracks. They would make it to the castle in no time now. And Lord Faizahl knew it. He made his crystal ball disappear and turned to the Rat King.

"Stop that train and bring me the Nutcracker!" he shouted. "And make sure of it this time!"

"Yes sir! Right away sir!" the Rat King shouted, as he beat a hasty retreat out of the castle. Lord Faizahl growled, and turned to the Sugar Plum Fairy.

"Don't worry, my pretty," he said. "He'll be back with your little wooden friend soon enough, and then, he, like Toyland and Christmas, will be doomed!"

In the meantime, Mike was driving the train along Toyland. Dana was looking at all the scenery as they went.

"Oh Nutcracker, this is beautiful!" she shouted. "Just beautiful."

"Yeah," the Nutcracker said. "But it'll only stay like this if we stop Lord Faizahl in time."

"Oh don't worry, we will. I'm sure we will."

"I hope you're right, Dana."

Suddenly, the train stopped. The Nutcracker looked out the window, and nearly choked. Everything in Toyland was broken down. Buildings were crumbling, signs were broken, and it was practically deserted.

"Oh no!" he shouted. "We're too late!"

"Well, I'm sure there's a way we can save Toyland," Dana said.

"Yeah," Mike said. "Like my uncle always says, where there's a will, there's a way. All we gotta do is fuel up the train and get movin' again."

Mike, Dana, and the Nutcracker jumped out of the train and went to put the fuel in. Mike saw a gigantic glass filled with strawberry soda.

"There's our fuel," he said.

"Strawberry soda?" the Nutcracker asked.

"Mike, that's crazy!" Dana shouted. "Whoever heard of a train that ran on strawberry soda?"

"Uncle Will," Mike said. "You know he's been around a long time, and he's seen all kinds of stuff."

Dana and the Nutcracker looked at each other and shrugged. Mike stuck the straw of the soda glass into the fuel tank of the train, and Dana pulled a lever at the bottom of the glass. Strawberry soda began to fill the train. Back in the caboose, Dennis climbed out of the train, followed by Donna and Leland. They were trying to figure out what was going on. They saw Mike standing on the train, filling it up, when they saw a shadowy figure behind him.

"Mike! Look out!" Dennis shouted.

"Huh?" Mike asked.

"Dennis, what are you doing here?" Dana shouted. "And what are Donna and Leland doing here?"

"Never mind about us!" Donna shouted. "Look up there!"

Mike looked, and the shadowy figure jumped out of the shadows, and onto Mike, knocking him off the train.

"Gotcha!" he shouted.

"I don't think so," Mike said. He jumped up and tackled the stranger to the ground, pressing his knees against his stomach, and grabbed his shirt collar, ready to punch him out.

"Hold it, hold it!" the stranger shouted, adjusting his glasses. "You wouldn't hit a guy with glasses, would you?"

"I don't know," Mike said. "I might. Now who are you, and what do ya think you're doin' attackin' us like that?!"

"If you'll get your knee off my lungs, I'll tell you!"

Mike stood up, and pulled the stranger to his feet. He adjusted his glasses, and straightened himself out.

"My name's Robert, and I'm the mayor of Toyland," he said. "Or at least I was. And I only attacked your train because I thought you were working for Lord Faizahl."

"Boy, are you mixed up," the Nutcracker said. "We're here to save Toyland."

"That's impossible," Mayor Robert said. "I tried to save Toyland myself, and I couldn't do it. I tell ya, things just haven't been the same since Faizahl took over."

"Well, what happened?" Dana asked.

"Get comfortable, it's a long story," Mayor Robert sighed.

Everyone shrugged, and sat down while Mayor Robert began the story.

"The day when Lord Faizahl and his army of rats took over was the worst day in the history of Toyland," he said. "One day, they just came and took control of Toyland castle, and overthrew the prince."

"What happened to the prince?" Dana asked.

"Nobody knows for sure. Some people say he was killed in a battle with Lord Faizahl, and others say that Lord Faizahl imprisoned him somewhere far, far away from Toyland. One thing's for sure, though. Lord Faizahl never did get the prince's ring. Whoever has the ring controls all of Toyland. The prince gave it to the Sugar Plum Fairy to hide. Oh boy, was Faizahl ever mad at that! He told the Rat King and his army to enslave everyone in Toyland, and they made us look for the ring. They burned our houses down and destroyed the land. We'd all still be looking for the ring if we hadn't escaped, and everyone else left town. I saw your train pull in, and . . . . well, as they say, and now you know the rest of the story."

"I think I remember the Sugar Plum Fairy," the Nutcracker said. "What happened to her?"

"Lord Faizahl captured her," Mayor Robert said. "He's holding her prisoner in Toyland castle until she tells him where the ring is."

"Well then," the Nutcracker said. "Let's go and rescue her, find the ring, and save Toyland!"

"What are you, nuts?!" Mayor Robert shouted. "The castle surrounded by an army of rats! You'll never get in!"

"Where there's a will, there's a way," the Nutcracker said. "Right, Mike?"

"Darn right, Nutcracker," Mike said.

"Right," the Nutcracker said. "Come on, guys. Forward march!"

The Nutcracker took one step forward, and ended up tripping over his own feet, crashing to the ground. Mayor Robert began laughing then.

"Walk much, Nutcracker?" he asked. The Nutcracker stood up just then, and tripped a second time, causing Mayor Robert to laugh even harder.

"Boy, some leader!" he shouted. "He can't even walk on his own two feet! Ha, ha, ha!"

The Nutcracker glared at the mayor, and then walked off. Dana got up and ran after him. Mike glared at Mayor Robert.

"Some friend you turned out to be, fella!" he shouted. "The Nutcracker's tryin' to save your home, and all you can do is laugh at him!"

Mayor Robert pushed his glasses up on his nose, and clicked his tongue against his teeth. In the meantime, Dana ran to the Nutcracker, who was sitting on the back of the train.

"Wait a minute, Nutcracker," Dana said. "Mayor Robert didn't really mean it."

"Oh, come on, Dana," the Nutcracker said. "The mayor's right. Maybe this is a dumb idea."

"Of course it isn't, Nutcracker! With your help, we'll be able to save Toyland!"

"With my help? Hah! What good is a clumsy piece of wood that can't even remember his own name against an all powerful evil overlord?"

"Well, maybe not much on his own. But with me, and Mike, and Dennis, and Donna, and Leland, and Mayor Robert, we'll save Toyland. Nothing's ever impossible, Nutcracker!"

"You really think so?"

"I know so."

"So do I," Mayor Robert said, walking over. "Listen, Nutcracker, I'm sorry for laughing at you. Really, I didn't mean it."

"That's okay," the Nutcracker said. "Come on, everybody, let's go!"

The group climbed aboard the train, and started off. Mike was steering, and Mayor Robert was shoveling coal into the furnace. They would make the castle in no time at this rate. Unfortunately, they were being watched by the Rat King and his army.

"There's the Nutcracker and his train," the Rat King said. "Any minute now, they'll be coming to the Licorice Bridge. I want half of you rats to go down there and chew off the supports. I don't want this train to get over the bridge!"

"Yes sir, yes sir!" the rats shouted, and ran to the bridge supports.

"The other half, follow me!" the Rat King ordered. "CHARGE!"

The Rat King jumped onto a pogo stick and hopped towards the train. The rest of his army followed him. As the rats were charging, Dennis was imagining the upcoming fight with Lord Faizahl.

"I can't wait to get to the castle!" he shouted, and he began shadow boxing. "I'll show him he can't take over Toyland!"

The train stopped suddenly, and Dennis nearly fell flat on his face. Donna and Leland started laughing.

"Now what's going on?" he asked.

"I'll go check," Dana said. "You three stay here."

Dana went to go check things out. Dennis groaned.

"What's going on?" Dana asked.

"Road block," Mike said. "Check out all those candy canes on the track."

"How'd they get there?" Mayor Robert asked.

The answer to that question was simple. The Rat King and his army set up the road block, in an attempt to stop the train. They began jumping on their pogo sticks towards the train.

"CHAAAARRRRRGE!" the Rat King shouted.

"Now what do we do?" Dana shouted.

"Well, you heard the rat," Mike said, putting the train in reverse. "Let's charge!"

"If this is charging, how come you're going backwards?!" Mayor Robert shouted.

"I'm gonna need plenty of room to reach rammin' speed!" Mike shouted. "The rest of you hold off the rats!"

"Hold off the rats he says," Mayor Robert groaned. "Oh man."

That was going to be easier said than done. Rats were climbing all over the train. Dana and the Nutcracker were doing their best to fight them off. Mayor Robert joined them after awhile, and they managed to knock quite a few off the train, but there were too many. Finally, Mike jerked the train to a stop, and the rats were flung off.

"That's one way to do it," Mike said. "Hang on, everybody!"

Mike pushed the gears forward, and the train began moving at a break neck speed. The rats could barely keep up with it. Some of them managed to climb on the caboose, but Dennis, Donna, and Leland managed to fight them off by slamming the caboose windows on their fingers, and slamming the doors in their faces. The Rat King saw the train coming right at him, and began hopping the other way.

"Yeeeaaahhhh-ha-ha-ha-ha!" he shouted.

Mike smiled sneakily, and drove down the tracks. He rammed right into the candy cane road block, and the Rat King, and he went flying. Back at the caboose, Dennis, Donna, and Leland couldn't hold off the rats much longer. And what was worse, the rats were banging against it, causing the whole caboose to shake, and it was starting to come loose to the rest of the train.

"Uh oh," Mayor Robert said. "Hey you kids! Get out of that caboose! NOW!"

Dennis, Donna, and Leland were about to do just that when the rats jumped inside the car. The Rat King also crashed through the roof of the caboose, and blocked the three kids off. In a split second, the caboose came loose from the rest of the train. The train was coming at the Licorice Bridge. The other half of the Rat King's army was chewing the supports. The train went over it, but once it was across the gorge, the bridge collapsed. The Rat King let out a scream and yanked the emergency brake in the caboose. It screeched to a stop just in time. The Rat King breathed of relief, though his relief was going to be short lived. Lord Faizahl was watching the whole thing through his crystal ball, and he was ready to strangle the Rat King.

"That stupid overgrown mouse!" he yelled. "He let that Nutcracker escape!"

"You'll never be able to catch him," the Sugar Plum Fairy said, smugly.

"It doesn't matter, my pretty," Lord Faizahl said. "I have something in mind that will get me that ring. And I'm sure your little wooden friend will find it most frightening!"

Lord Faizahl began laughing like a maniac then. The Sugar Plum Fairy just glared at him. It was about all she could do.

In the meantime, the Nutcracker and the others had to abandon the train, and had to continue the journey in a boat. Mayor Robert wasn't too sure if this was a good idea or not.

"Are you sure this is the only way in?" he asked.

"Sorry, Mayor, but it's the only safe way I can remember," the Nutcracker said with a shrug.

"I just hope we find Dennis, Donna, and Leland," Dana said. "If I don't, my parents, and Leland's parents are gonna kill me!"

"Don't worry, Dana," Mike said. "We'll find them. And we'll also find the Sugar Plum Fairy. Without her, we'll never find the prince's ring, and then we'll kick the evil overlord's butt!"

"Only if any of us gets out of that castle alive," Mayor Robert said, gulping. The others agreed with that, but there was no turning back now.

Meanwhile, at Toyland castle, Dennis, Donna, and Leland were locked in a dark dungeon.

"I wonder what they're gonna do with us," Donna said.

"I wish they had some more lights in here," Leland said. "It's dark and spooky."

"I know," Donna said, then she started to cry. "I'm scared, Dennis!"

"Yeah, me too," Dennis said, nodding. "Let me tell you guys one thing. If we ever get out of this, I am never going to wish for an adventure again!"

Meanwhile, Dana, Mike, Mayor Robert, and the Nutcracker had arrived in the dungeon of the castle, after going through a cave underneath the castle.

"Okay," Mike said. "We have to find Dennis, Donna, Leland, and the Sugar Plum Fairy. I think the best thing to do is split up. Mayor, you come with me this way. Dana, you and the Nutcracker go that way."

"Right," the others said in unison, and split up.

Both teams walked around the dungeons, looking for Dennis, Donna, Leland, and the Sugar Plum Fairy. They had to duck out of sight a couple times to avoid the rats. They came to Lord Faizahl's throne room. Dana and the Nutcracker were backing in one direction, and Mike and Mayor Robert were backing into the room in the other direction. All four of them crashed into each other and falling to the ground.

CRASH!

"Okay, time to rethink our plan here," Mike said.

"Yeah, I don't think we'll find anyone this way," the Nutcracker replied.

"I'm not so sure about that," Dana said, as she stood up. "Look over there!"

The boys looked in the direction where Dana was pointing. They saw a table next to the throne, and on that table was a bell-shaped glass cover. Underneath the cover was the Sugar Plum Fairy.

"Hey, it's the Sugar Plum Fairy!" the Nutcracker shouted.

"Come on," Mayor Robert said. "Let's get her out of there."

As the group was rescuing the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Rat King was going down to the dungeon to check on the prisoners.

"And how are we doing this evening?" he asked, laughing.

"Let us out of here, Cheese Breath!" Dennis shouted.

"Maybe I will. In about a hundred years or so."

"Come on! Can't you see my little sister is afraid of the dark? How can you be so cruel to have her stay in here?"

"Just comes naturally I guess. Heh, heh, heh."

"Weren't you ever afraid of the dark? You know everyone's afraid of the dark at sometime in their lives!"

"Heh, are you kidding? I love the dark! I'll show you. Get outta my way!"

With that, the Rat King ran into the dungeon, leaving the door wide open. This gave Dennis, Donna, and Leland a chance to sneak out. Once the three of them were out, Dennis slammed the door shut, and locked it.

"Since you like the dark so much, then you should do better in there than us!" he shouted. "Let's go find Dana and the others, you guys!"

"Hey!" the Rat King shouted. "Hey, let me outta here! Hoo boy. Lord Faizahl isn't gonna be happy about this."

Back in the throne room, the Nutcracker lifted the glass cover on the table beside the throne. The Sugar Plum Fairy laughed, and flew about the room happily. The others watched her for a moment or so.

"Okay, Sugar Plum Fairy," the Nutcracker said. "Can you tell us where you hid the prince's ring?"

"I'll do better than tell you," the Sugar Plum Fairy said. She flew to the Christmas tree on the other side of the room. She flew to the very top branch, and hovered next to a walnut resting there on the tree.

"It's right here in the walnut," she said.

"What a great idea!" Dana shouted. "Lord Faizahl would never think to look in his own throne room!"

"Precisely," the Sugar Plum Fairy said.

"Well, what are we waitin' for?" Mike asked. "Come on, Mayor. Let's get that nut!"

Mayor Robert nodded. Since the tree was so tall, there was no way in the world, neither he nor Mike could reach it from the ground, so Mike stood on Mayor Robert's shoulders to make a grab for it, but it wasn't easy. Mayor Robert couldn't hold his balance very well. Mike tried to reach out to grab the walnut.

"Hey, Mayor, can't you hold still?" Mike asked. "I can't get the ring with you wobblin' around down there!"

"Well, you're heavier than you look!" Mayor Robert shouted.

"Well, try to hold still a little longer! I've almost . . . . got it!"

Mike had just grabbed the walnut when Mayor Robert lost his balance entirely. He and Mike crashed against the ground, and the walnut flew through the air. The Sugar Plum Fairy gasped, and flew after it, but it was too late. It landed in Lord Faizahl's hand the minute he entered the throne room. The Sugar Plum Fairy tried to retreat, but Lord Faizahl grabbed her before she could.

"Uh oh," she said.

"Thank you so much for finding the ring for me," Lord Faizahl replied. "I never would have thought to look in my own throne room."

"Okay, Faizahl, you've got the ring," the Nutcracker said. "So let us go!"

"I don't have the ring quite yet, my little wooden friend," Lord Faizahl said, putting the Sugar Plum Fairy back under the glass cover on his table. Then he took a knife from a drawer and sat down on the throne.

"Once I have the ring," he said. "I will have complete power all over Toyland!"

Lord Faizahl stuck his knife into the walnut, but it was magically sealed, and the knife bounced against it, shooting across the room. The Sugar Plum Fairy began giggling smugly at him.

"Why you pesky little firefly!" Lord Faizahl yelled. "You magically sealed the walnut! Well, it won't do any good for that. Your magic is no match for mine! I have my own nutcracker now! Open this nut and give me the ring!"

"Never!" the Nutcracker shouted.

"Well then," Lord Faizahl said. "Perhaps your friends can get you to change your mind."

"Don't let him talk ya into it, Nutcracker!" Mike shouted. "That ring is the only thing that can save Toyland!"

Lord Faizahl glared at Mike, and pointed his finger at him, sending a piece of magic at him. When the light cleared, Mike was turned into wood.

"Mike!" Dana gasped.

"He's wood!" Mayor Robert shouted. "Lord Faizahl turned him to wood!"

"Open the nut for me, Nutcracker," Lord Faizahl said. "Or see the same thing done to your other friends."

"No! Never!" the Nutcracker shouted. "I'll never let you get your hands on that ring!"

"Take them all to the tower, then!" Lord Faizahl shouted at his rat army. "But leave that sorry excuse for a government official here. We'll see if we can't get the Nutcracker to change his mind!"

While the Nutcracker and the others were being taken to the tower, and Lord Faizahl was cackling madly, Dennis, Donna, and Leland were just rounding the corner to the throne room. They heard Lord Faizahl cackling, and glanced at each other.

"What's that?" Leland asked.

"Must be that Lord Faizahl creep," Dennis said.

"What do we do now?" Donna asked.

"Let's check it out," Dennis said. "Stay close, you guys."

Donna and Leland nodded, and followed Dennis down the corridor. Meanwhile, Dana and the Nutcracker were sitting in the tower, wondering what in the world they were going to do. Mike had been propped up in the corner of the cell.

"Poor Mike," the Nutcracker said. "And the same thing's probably being done to Mayor Robert, too."

"Don't worry, Nutcracker," Dana said. "It's not your fault."

"Yes it is, Dana. If I don't do what Lord Faizahl says, he'll turn you all into firewood. And that might include Dennis, Donna, and Leland!"

"Well . . . . maybe he's just bluffing."

The door to the cell opened just then, and one of the rats threw Mayor Robert inside, and he had been turned to wood, just like Mike had.

"Then again," Dana said, nervously. "Maybe he isn't bluffing!"

Dana and the Nutcracker looked at each other nervously. They had no idea what was going to happen now.

Back in the dungeon, two of the Rat King's men were looking for him.

"Hey, Boss, where are ya?" one asked.

"I'm in here," the Rat King said. "Get me outta here, you Cheese Heads!"

"How?" one of the rats said. "The door's locked."

"Then break it down, Noodle Neck!" the Rat King shouted, starting to lose his patients.

The two rats shrugged, and backed up a little. Then they dashed for the cell door, and slammed right into it, knocking it off it's hinges. And it landed flat on the Rat King.

WHAM!

"I gotta see about getting a new army," the Rat King groaned.

Meanwhile, Dana and the Nutcracker were still waiting nervously for the rats to come back.

"I don't think I can take this much longer," the Nutcracker said. "Maybe if I do what Lord Faizahl wants, he'll change Mike and Mayor Robert back."

"No, Nutcracker!" Dana shouted. "You can't give in! And you especially can't trust Lord Faizahl!"

The Nutcracker was about to say something when the door was flung open by the rats. Both Dana and the Nutcracker jumped to their feet, and grabbed on to each other. The rats ran over to them, and pulled them away from each other. Two of the rats held the Nutcracker back while the other two took Dana to the throne room.

"Dana!" the Nutcracker shouted, struggling against the rats. "Let her go, you rats! Let her go!"

The rats threw the Nutcracker against the wall, and left, snickering all the way. The Nutcracker regained composure and ran to the door of the cell.

"Stop! Wait!" he yelled. "I'll do it! I'll crack the nut and give Lord Faizahl the ring! Just let her go!"

"Don't give up, Nutcracker!" Dana shouted. "You can't give in! You just can't! What about Toyland and Christmas?"

"I can't do it, Dana. I just can't! I couldn't stand it if you were turned to wood like Mike and Mayor Robert. It would break my heart."

The rats laughed, and one ran to the throne room to tell Lord Faizahl the news. Lord Faizahl laughed sinisterly and stood up, leaving the walnut on the armrest of the throne.

"At last!" he shouted, turning towards the Sugar Plum Fairy. "I've won! Once the Nutcracker opens the nut, and I have the ring on my finger, I'll have complete control over Toyland and then Christmas will be destroyed! And there's nothing you can do about it!"

Lord Faizahl began cackling madly again, not even noticing the visitors in the throne room. Dennis, Donna, and Leland were hiding behind the Christmas tree, so Lord Faizahl wouldn't find them. As they were watching, the Rat King and his two hench rats ran into the throne room.

"I've got bad news, Lord Faizahl," he said. "These two Noodle Noggins let those three kids escape!"

"WHAT?!" Lord Faizahl shouted, at the top of his voice. "Find them! And bring them to me!"

"But, boss, they could be anywhere! Even a million miles away!"

"I don't care! Just find them and bring them to me! No one escapes from me and gets away with it!"

Dennis, Donna, and Leland backed farther behind the tree before they could be spotted.

"Oh boy, we're really in trouble now," Dennis said.

"What are we gonna do?" Leland asked. "How are we going to find Dana, Mike, the Nutcracker, and Mayor Robert?"

"I don't know about Dana and the Nutcracker and the others," Donna said. "But look over there! It's the Sugar Plum Fairy!"

The Sugar Plum Fairy heard Donna shouting, and looked over.

"Huh?" she asked, thinking she was hearing things.

"Hey!" Dennis hissed as he clamped his hand over his sister's mouth. "What are you trying to do, Donna? Get us caught?!"

Luckily, Lord Faizahl didn't hear them. He was still chewing out the Rat King.

"What are you miserable rodents waiting for?!" he yelled. "GO FIND THEM!"

"Yes sir!" the Rat King shouted nervously. "Yes sir! Right away sir! Whatever you say sir!"

The rats raced for the door, but ended up crashing into the table next to the throne, knocking it, and the glass cover, to the floor. Lord Faizahl was about ready to burst a temple.

"You idiots!" he yelled. "The Sugar Plum Fairy is going to escape! Stop her!"

"Eep!" the Sugar Plum Fairy shouted, as she flew into the air away from one of the rats, who was about to grab her.

The Sugar Plum Fairy then flew to the throne, and tried to pick up the walnut, but it was too heavy for her, and Lord Faizahl was coming at her. She pushed the walnut onto the floor, and it bounced toward the tree. Leland reached over and grabbed it.

"The ring!" Lord Faizahl shouted. "They have my ring! Get them!"

"Uh oh," Leland said.

"RUN!" Dennis shouted, as he, Leland, and Donna ran out of the throne room, and down the hall.

"Be careful!" the Sugar Plum Fairy shouted from the top of the Christmas tree. "Make sure they don't get that walnut!"

The rats chased the kids out of the throne room and down the hallway. The kids had a pretty good head start, and didn't even see the rats behind them.

"Boy, we must be farther ahead than I thought!" Leland shouted. "They'll never catch us now!"

"Wanna bet?" the Rat King asked, as he swung down from the chandelier and grabbed the nut right out of Leland's hand.

"Hey!" Leland shouted.

"You give us back that nut, you dirty rat!" Donna shouted, stomping her foot.

"I don't think . . . ." the Rat King shouted, still sailing on the chandelier. Unfortunately, he wasn't paying attention to where he was going, and ended up smashing right into the wall.

WHAM!

"So," the Rat King groaned, finishing up his sentence. When the Rat King hit the wall, the walnut sailed into the air. Dennis ran under it and caught it.

"I got it! I got it!" he yelled.

"Oh yeah?" one of the rats asked, running by, and grabbing it away from Dennis. "Now I've got it!"

"No you don't!" Donna yelled, as she tackled the rat. She grabbed the nut and started running. "I've got it now!"

"That's what you think, squirt!" the second rat yelled, as he grabbed the nut away from her. "I got it now!"

"Correction," Dennis said, whacking the rat over the head with a tray, and grabbing the nut. "You had it! Now I've got it!"

Dennis started to run, but the Rat King and the other two rats quickly regained their senses, and began coming at him from both directions. He was trapped.

"Uh oh," he said. "I'm in trouble now!"

"Hang on, Dennis!" Donna shouted, as she and Leland swung down on the chandelier.

"We'll take care of the rats!" Leland shouted, and he and Donna let out a Tarzan-like yell, and swung right at the rats. They knocked right into the Rat King, and he sailed upwards, and landed on the other two. All three of them were too dazed to move.

"I never thought I'd say this," Dennis said. "But am I glad you were hanging around, sis! Come on! I've got the nut! Let's go!"

"Those rats'll never get the nut now!" Leland shouted.

"That's what you think!" the Rat King shouted, as his hench rats were loading him into a crossbow.

"Now I've seen everything!" Dennis shouted.

"Ready . . . . aim . . . ." the Rat King shouted.

"Run for it!" Dennis shouted, as he, Donna, and Leland beat a hasty retreat in the opposite direction.

"FIRE!" the Rat King ordered as his hench rats let go of the crossbow.

The Rat King flew through the air, and sailed over the three kids. He reached down and grabbed the nut right out of Dennis's hand.

"Oh no!" Leland shouted.

"I got it!" the Rat King shouted. "I got it! I got it!"

The Rat King was so busy reveling in the fact that he got the nut, he wasn't paying attention to where he was flying, and he crashed right into the mall.

CRASH!

"Yep," Leland said. "He got it."

The Rat King ended up through the wall, and the throne room happened to be on the other side of the wall. Lord Faizahl was there with Dana and the Nutcracker. All of them were looking at him like he was crazy.

"Here's your nut, sire," the Rat King said, dropping the walnut into Lord Faizahl's hand.

"Good help is so hard to find these days," Lord Faizahl groaned.

"Hey boss!" the other two rats shouted, as they were leading in the three kids. "Looky what we've got!"

"Dennis! Donna!" Dana shouted. "You're all right!"

"They won't be for long," Lord Faizahl said, throwing the walnut at the Nutcracker's feet. "Open it, Nutcracker! Do it! Or else see the last of your friends end up like the other two."

The Nutcracker glanced over at Mike and Mayor Robert. Then he gulped, and picked up the walnut.

"Don't do it, Nutcracker!" Dana shouted. "Please don't do it!"

The minute the Nutcracker held the nutcracker in his hand, it opened, and the ring appeared. The Sugar Plum Fairy immediately flapped her wings as hard as she possibly could.

"At last!" Lord Faizahl said, walking towards the Nutcracker. "At long last! It's mine!"

"Oh no you don't!" the Sugar Plum Fairy shouted as she zoomed downward. She grabbed the ring out of the nut right before Lord Faizahl could get his hands on it. He ended up grabbing the nutshell instead.

"What?!" he yelled. "No! No!"

The Sugar Plum Fairy zoomed around, and slipped the ring onto the Nutcracker's finger. The minute she did, the gem on the ring began to glow, and a light surrounded Mike and Mayor Robert. When it subsided, they turned back to themselves.

"Hey," Mike said. "What happened?"

"The spell's been broken!" Dana shouted.

"Hey, look at the Nutcracker!" Mayor Robert shouted. "He's . . . . he's . . . ."

A glow was surrounding the Nutcracker as well, and when it subsided, he was no longer a nutcracker doll. He was transformed into a human.

"He's the prince!" Dana shouted.

"Yeah," the Nutcracker said. "And I remember everything now! Lord Faizahl turned me into a nutcracker so that he could take over Toyland! But my friend, the Sugar Plum Fairy, made sure to hide the ring where you would never find it. She not only saved Toyland, but she also saved my life."

"You little . . . ." Lord Faizahl said. "It doesn't matter! Toyland is mine, and I'll never give it up! Never! Do you hear me?!"

Lord Faizahl raised his hands, and a blast of magic came out of them. The Nutcracker held up his ring, and the gem started glowing. Lord Faizahl's magic bounced off it, and zapped it's sender instead. Lord Faizahl screamed, and was blasted back to the throne. The magic also started to bounce off the walls, and hit the army of rats. They were blasted into the wall, where they all crashed into a heap, all on top of the Rat King.

"Well, I guess that takes care of them!" Mike shouted.

"It sure does," the Nutcracker said. Then he turned to Lord Faizahl, aiming his ring at him. "Your reign of terror is over, Lord Faizahl! And as Prince of Toyland, I command Lord Faizahl's spell over the land to be gone, forever!"

The Nutcracker pointed his ring towards the sky, and a beam of light shot off it, and out the window, breaking away the dark clouds. The sun shone through them. Mayor Robert ran to the balcony and looked around.

"Toyland's back to the way it used to be!" he shouted. "Everybody, come look!"

Everyone ran over to the balcony to take a look. Dana smiled, and looked over at the Nutcracker.

"It's so beautiful," she sighed.

Everything was back to normal. Now it was time for Dana, Mike, Dennis, Donna, and Leland to head home. They went back to the train to say their goodbyes.

"I guess this is goodbye, everybody," the Nutcracker said. "I don't know how I can ever thank all of you. Without your help, there wouldn't be any Christmas!"

"Hey, it wasn't any big deal, Nutcrack . . . . er, I mean, your highness," Mike said, with a salute. And everyone started to laugh.

"Thanks for all your help, Dennis," the Nutcracker said. "And you and Leland, too, Donna."

"You're welcome," Donna said. "You were really brave, Dennis! You're the best big brother ever!"

"You did pretty good, too, Donna," Dennis said. "You're not so bad. For a little sister. And Dana's not so bad for a big sister, either."

Everyone laughed over that one, except Dana. She was crying. She ran over to the Nutcracker, and threw her arms around him.

"Oh Nutcracker!" she shouted. "I mean, Prince. I wish you could come with us! I'll miss you so much!"

"I know, Dana," the Nutcracker said, putting his arms around Dana. "I'll miss you, too. I wish I could go back with you, also, but I can't. My place is here in Toyland, and yours is back with your family."

"I know. But it's just so hard to say goodbye."

The mouse hole opened up just then. Everyone knew they had to get through it before it closed up again. Dana sniffled a little, and hugged the Nutcracker. Then she pulled away, and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

"Goodbye, Nutcracker!" she called as she and the others went through the mouse hole.

"Goodbye, Dana," the Nutcracker said. "I'll never forget you!"

The mouse hole closed up just as Dana, Mike, Dennis, Donna, and Leland made it through the porthole and back to Dana's bedroom. Dana sighed, sat down on her bed, and sighed.

"Mom and Dad are never gonna believe what happened!" Dennis shouted.

Dana just nodded absently. Her bedroom door opened just then. Mr. and Mrs. Ellis were standing there, looking in.

"I hope we're not interrupting," Mrs. Ellis said. "But it's time for you to go home, Leland. It's getting late."

"And it's past your bedtime, Donna," Mr. Ellis said.

"But I'm not tired, Daddy!" Donna protested with a yawn. Mr. and Mrs. Ellis laughed.

"Come on, sugar plum," Mr. Ellis said, as he picked up Donna and started to carry her to her bedroom. "Time for bed. It's been a long day."

"Yeah, I'd better get goin' myself," Mike said. "I've got a busy mornin' ahead of me if I'm gonna fix those broken toys and run 'em by tomorrow."

"Bye, Mike," Leland said, as he started down the stairs to meet his parents. "Bye, Donna, bye, Dennis, bye, Dana!"

"Bye," Dennis said. Then he yawned and stretched. "Boy, will I be glad to see my room! 'Night, sis."

"Night," Dana said, absently. Once everyone left her room, she sighed. She took off her ballet slippers and her party dress and changed into her nightgown. Then she crawled under the covers, turned off the light, and went to sleep.

Morning rolled around. Usually, on Christmas morning, Dana and her siblings were up before dawn, even though they usually opened their presents at the family's Christmas Eve party. This time, she had slept late, and woke up to snow falling outside. Dennis and Donna ran into her room and jumped on her bed. Donna began bouncing up and down.

"Dana, Dana, Dana! Wake up, it's Christmas!" she shouted. "Wake up already, Dana! You've been sleeping for a long, long time!"

"Come on, get up, Dana!" Dennis shouted.

"Huh?" Dana asked, waking up. "What's going on?"

"Come on, sleepy," Donna said. "You almost missed breakfast! Mike's here and he fixed the toy palace and brought it over!"

"And the nutcracker?" Dana asked.

"He didn't bring a nutcracker," Dennis said. "Come on downstairs. Peter and Valerie are here and they brought their nephew."

"Yeah, hurry up!" Donna shouted.

Dana sighed, and climbed out of bed. She put on her fuzzy pink slippers, and grabbed her bathrobe. She threw it on over her nightgown, and started down the stairs after her brother and sister.

"I guess it was just a dream," she said. "But it seemed so real."

"Hi, Dana," Valerie said, as Dana came into the den. "This is Fluey."

Valerie motioned towards a sixteen-year-old boy with jet black hair and brown eyes. Dana couldn't believe it. Fluey looked exactly like the nutcracker from her dream. She sure wasn't expecting that!

"Hi, Dana," Fluey said.

"Hi," Dana replied. There was an awkward silence just then. Peter and Valerie looked at Mike and Mr. and Mrs. Ellis, and laughed a little.

"I think we'll just leave you two alone," Mrs. Ellis said. "Dennis, Donna, come along."

Dennis and Donna giggled, and followed the adults out of the room. Fluey waited until they were gone and cleared his throat.

"I, uhh, got you a present," he said, handing a box to Dana. "I hope you like it."

"Oh, thank you," Dana said, unwrapping the box. When she opened the lid, she found a nutcracker doll inside. "Oh, Fluey, a nutcracker! I love it!"

"I'm glad you like it."

Dana laughed, and took Fluey's hand. Then the two of them walked over to the window, and watched the snow falling, looking at the winter wonderland outside.

"Merry Christmas, Dana," Fluey said, smiling.

"Merry Christmas . . . ." Dana said, smiling back at Fluey. "Nutcracker."


The End