Seven-year-old Win Partridge jingled a pair of one-pound coins in his hand. With the other hand he pushed his thick red hair out of his eyes. Then he turned a page in his well-read copy of Animals are Amazing. Win loved learning about the world outside his bedroom. However, though it was a lovely September afternoon, Win had no plans to go outside.
That’s because every day when Win comes home from school, he’s completely alone for ninety minutes. His dad doesn’t return from work until 5:30. Each morning at breakfast, Dad says the exact same thing: “The two pounds are only for an emergency. Until I get home, stay in one place, read your book, don’t climb on anything, don't touch anything sharp and don’t touch the stove. Alright, Winner? Good lad.”
So instead of going outside, Win sat in his new bedroom in his new home. He liked the old, cracked wooden floorboards and he liked his view of the small back garden. That’s where an enormous oak tree spread its branches. The light coming through the window in the afternoon was perfect for reading.
Win flipped his two emergency coins as he read his book and accidentally dropped one on the floor.
The coin rolled on its edge until it fell down a knothole in an old floorboard.
Win could see the coin in the hole but couldn’t quite reach it with his finger. Then he noticed the floorboard was loose. He pulled it up to grab the coin and found a small box! It was very old and made of dented silver.
He put the coin back in his pocket and opened the old box. Inside it was a metal locket the size and shape of an acorn. He opened the locket to see if anything was inside.
The locket was empty, but it seemed...special. So Win threaded a shoelace through the loop at the top of the locket.
He modelled his new necklace in front of the mirror. “Not bad!” said Win.
“It suits you,” said a voice that was not Win’s.
Win Partridge froze.
“Wh-who said that?!”
“I did,” said the voice. “And I’ve waited a long time for the next child to find me. Are you ready?”
“Ready for what?” Win asked. He wasn’t sure if he was ready for anything.
The kind-but-stern voice sounded like it belonged to an old woman. But there was no old woman in Win’s bedroom as far as he could tell. The voice sounded like it was right next to his ear. But it also sounded like it was coming from the back garden. Win went to the window to look.
“So are you coming out or not?” demanded the voice. Win couldn’t see anyone in the garden. So, he cautiously stepped outside to get a closer look.
“Come, come. We don’t have a lot of time,” said the voice.
Win could hardly believe it. The oak tree was talking to him!
“Don’t act so surprised,” said the tree. “I talk to anyone wearing the locket, as I’ve been doing for three hundred years.”
“Three hundred?” wondered Win in amazement.
“Yes. I was happy to see that you and your dad moved in to this place. It’s been quite some time since we've had a new agent in the Order of the Oak.”
“Me? An agent? In the Order of the Oak?” Win had a lot of questions. But before he could ask any more...
An acorn fell off a high twig and bounced on Win’s head.
“That acorn contains your power for the day,” said the tree.
“Power?” asked Win, picking up the acorn.
“You’re smart enough to figure out what to do next,” said the tree.
The acorn sparkled with a pale-green light. Win opened his locket and placed the sparkling acorn inside it. Then he closed the locket and it gently vibrated against his chest.
“Very good,” said the tree. “Remember: once the power starts, its time is limited. So don’t dilly-dally on your mission.”
“What’s my mission?”
“You’ll see. Now step inside, and move quickly!” commanded the tree. Win went around the trunk until he found a gap just large enough for him to squeeze through. He now found himself in a small, hollow chamber inside the tree. The tree’s voice echoed around him.
“Trees know the weather. And there’s going to be a williwaw in ten minutes.”
“Don’t let anyone see you,” continued the tree. “Trust your instincts. And if you ever need directions...ask a squirrel.”
Before Win could wonder how to ask a squirrel anything, the chamber went dark. He lost his balance and fell through the gap in the trunk. But he came out from a different tree...in a different place. He was now on the grounds of the Queen’s home!
“Buckingham Palace!” Win said in awe.
Looking through a hedge, Win could see the Queen seated nearby at a small table on her patio. A large safe was wheeled out to her. A man in a suit pulled a briefcase out of it. From the briefcase, he pulled out a folder.
“These are the top-secret documents, your majesty,” Win could hear the gentleman explain to the Queen. “These FIVE pages are the only copy that exists!”
Suddenly, an enormous gust of wind as strong as a hurricane nearly swept Win off his feet. He held onto the hedge for dear life. The wind died down as quickly as it had arrived.
“That’s a williwaw. Now I remember from my book about weather. It’s a sudden gust of wind that appears out of nowhere!”
But during the gust, neither the gentleman nor the Queen had time to grab the pages of the top-secret document. They all got swept away by the wind.
Win had only a moment to watch the Queen and the gentleman pace back and forth in distress, because he felt something pop through the back of his shirt.
He turned his head and saw four huge, blue wings sprouting out of his back. In the sunlight, they looked as beautiful as stained-glass windows. Win had read enough books about insects to know what they were.
“The magic acorn must have given me these for my mission. My power is... dragonfly wings! They are the best sort of wings for what I now know I have to do!”
Win’s glasses fell to the ground as his eyes instantly turned into two massive multi-coloured orbs. He now had bug eyes!
“My mission,” Win thought as he pocketed his glasses, “is to rescue those papers for the Queen!” Win zipped into the air.
“Dragonflies can fly backwards. They can zigzag.They can hover in mid-air. They can even do loop-de-loops,” thought Win as he buzzed over a church and grabbed one of the pages in mid-air.
“This is amazing!” Win marvelled. Directly behind him, Win saw a page flapping in the air. He reversed direction, and nabbed it with ease.
“With these new eyes, I can see all the way behind me! No wonder dragonflies can catch mosquitoes so easily.”
Win dove towards the Thames River to grab a page fluttering toward the water. A duck was also headed right for it!
“Oh, no! I can’t let the duck get the paper first!”
Win snagged the page right out of the duck’s beak.
He looped back up and flew through the open window of a high-rise flat, grabbed another page from a spinning ceiling fan and flew out the other side. Only one to go!
He saw the last page stuck to a glass pod on the London Eye! His wings buzzed as he flew over to the large wheel on the riverbank. Careful not to be seen by the passengers inside the glass pod, he swooped quickly.
But instead of flying, Win felt himself growing heavier...then falling! The locket had stopped vibrating and the acorn’s power was running out.
“My wings...they’re disappearing!”
Win landed on top of the glass pod and grabbed the sheet of paper. The people inside the pod looked up, gasped and pointed at him. Win had to think fast.
“Uh, don’t mind me,” Win said.He began wiping the glass with the paper. “I’m just the cleaning guy.”
Win pretended to clean the glass until the big wheel lowered enough for him to safely jump to the ground - with all five sheets of paper in his grip.
“Phew! But with my wings getting smaller, how am I supposed to get these pages back to the Queen?”
Win ran for a few blocks, hoping to gain enough speed to take flight again. But by now, his wings were gone. He bent over to catch his breath. When he looked up again, he saw that he was in front of a post office.
With the two coins in his pocket, he purchased an envelope and a stamp. Then he posted the pages to Buckingham Palace.
“But now I have no money. How do I get home before my dad does?” Win said out loud to himself. “It’s too far to walk.”
At that moment, a squirrel tugged at his trouser leg. It was pointing toward a nearby park where another squirrel was pointing deeper into the park. Win followed the squirrels’ directions until he found a tree with a gap in its trunk large enough for him to squeeze through.
He was back inside the oak tree in his own garden again, with just a minute to spare before his dad came home.
“I hear you were successful in rescuing the Queen’s documents,” said the tree. “Well done. So...what did you think of your first mission?”
Win only needed a moment to come up with his answer.
“That was nuts!”