Authors: Becky York
Tags: #fantasy, #space travel, #knights, #medieval fantasy, #knights and castles, #travel between worlds, #travel adventure fiction, #knights and fantasy, #travels through time and space, #fantasy about hidden places
“You can’t get it! You wont get
it!” cried the short one.
“Won’t I!” cried the tall one.
The tall one got the short one in a
sort of bear hug, struggling to reach the telescope, but the short
one then succeeded in breaking loose and ran towards the tree. The
boys’ hearts raced as they were afraid of being discovered but the
two maniacs were far too intent on their battle with each other.
The short fat one climbed the branches whilst the tall one tried to
grab at his legs, but had to give that up as the short one climbed
out of his reach. Instead the tall one started shouting again:
“Come down here at once! I order you as your lord and master! Come
down here at once or I’ll pluck your eyes out!”
“Pluck my eyes out and put them in
Steal the milk and go to gaol!” the
short fat one sang.
He had clearly won the battle for
the telescope as the tall one was obviously not going to lower
himself by climbing up the tree. On seeing that his opponent had
given up the short fat one said, “You can have the blasted thing
then! See if I care!”
He threw the telescope down and let
out another mad cackle. The tall one caught the instrument and
inspected it for damage.
The two boys looked on amazed at
seeing two grown men behave in such a way.
“They’re loonies!” Oliver said
under his breath.
But Roland remembered Firebrace’s
caution about people who seemed crazy – could these be the enemies
he was talking about? There was something unnerving in their mania,
as if their chaos would spread from them to everywhere.
All the time the young girl sat
still and quiet.
The tall man strode some distance
away and put the telescope to one eye, scanning the surrounding
area. “I can’t see much in the dark.”
The short fat one leapt from the
tree and ran up beside him.
“Told you!” The short fat one
“You did not!” The tall one shouted
back, and the short one sing-songed back to him. “Did so! Told you!
Warned you! Warned you what would happen but cloth ears wouldn’t
listen and now he’s got a moddled cap, all of his own!”
You fool!” The tall one yelled,
striking the short fat one around the back of his head. The short
fat one didn’t seem to notice this. He sang in his sing-song voice
“Fool’s a fool who tells a fool
Twice a fool who knows one!”
And they started to fight again,
wrestling each other to the ground and rolling over and over, the
tall one yelling “I am your sovereign lord, you will do me
obeisance,” whilst the short fat one continued with his
Roland and Oliver decided they had
seen enough. With the bizarre pair distracted in their own battle
it seemed like a good time to sneak off before they were
discovered. They climbed down the tree but as they reached the
bottom they came to an abrupt halt. The girl who had been sitting
at the fire was now standing right by the trunk, staring at them.
The boys froze, terrified that she would give the alarm, but
instead she just stood still, staring. After a few very long
seconds she spoke, in a whisper, so that the men could not hear
her. “Be careful! They are much more dangerous than they seem!” and
nodded toward the maniacs who were still engrossed in their fight
with each other.
Roland and Oliver were stunned.
Then they both felt the healthy impulse to run. They fled into the
bushes and then ran and tumbled down the hill until they reached
the horses. Both spurred their horses into a gallop, Oliver
clinging on for dear life. They crossed the meadow at the speed of
lightning and not even the scarecrow, lost in his dreams,
registered their passing. They did not stop until they were safe
back on the edge of the village.
They dismounted and got their
breath back. Having calmed down for a minute or two they both
started laughing, fulsomely and loudly, as if the funniest thing of
their lives had just happened to them. They released all the
anxiety of the previous minutes.
Oliver spoke first, “Well, we went
for an adventure – the Scary Oak! It was scary this time!”
“Yip!” Roland agreed.
“Who were those maniacs?” Oliver
“I don’t know but I hope I never
find out. Now I have to get back to another lot. Such is life!”
“Well, if you need rescuing – I
will have to come and rescue you. Like a damsel in distress, in her
“Knock it off!” Roland said,
feigning a swipe at Oliver, then he said, seriously, “I would be
grateful if you would come, when I need you. Strange things are
about to happen, I think.”
Both went in their different
directions to their homes. Roland had to trick his way past the
twin twits again. What a trial!
The next day Roland found himself
the object of knightly practice, again. His aunt looked on proudly
as her boys took out all their nasty and beastly tendencies on
“Boys, play gently,” she said, “I
have to go off now as I’ve a hogshead of anchovies, a spit crammed
with quail and a great swan pie awaiting me…”
But Auntie did not have time to
retire to her repast; at that moment the castle’s lookouts blew
their trumpets and cried “Strangers!”
The men-at-arms doubled to their
posts and Roland and his cousins ran up to the battlements to see
who was coming along the way. From the moment he set eyes upon the
strangers Roland was horrified. It was the two madmen he and Oliver
had seen at the Scary Oak just last night – and they were heading
right for the castle! Both were on horseback and the girl was
walking behind them. She looked tired and sad.
The Herald appeared on the
battlements with his horn and blew the notes signifying that those
approaching the castle had been identified as gentlefolk.
In the courtyard Auntie Hildegrind
was frantically trying to organise everyone and everything to look
at least a bit respectable. It was not easy, with chunks of masonry
and half demolished buildings in most places, as well as assorted
torture instruments scattered about. Still, she satisfied herself
that she had done some sort of a job by the time that the two
maniacs came riding through the castle gate to the sound of more
notes from the Herald’s trumpet.
Uncle Dagarth, Auntie Hildegrind,
Dogwood and Dagwood assembled themselves as a welcoming party with
Roland tacked on the end like an afterthought. The two men
dismounted and approached. The girl stayed by the horses. Only
Roland, still grateful for not being given away the night before,
paid her any attention whatsoever.
Auntie Hildegrind was the first to
speak: “welcome to our h-h-h-h - errr castle.” she said, choking on
the word “humble”. Then she couldn’t wait for the formal
introductions before making excuses for the state of the place.
“Sorry for the mess, but we are having some work done.”
“It’s usually the plumbing with
these old places isn’t it?” the tall one said, making light of it.
Auntie seemed relieved.
“I am Lord Brill-a-Brag,” the tall
one continued, and then gestured towards the short fat one, “and
this is Gloatenglorp, my seneschal.”
“Bless you!” Gloatenglorp said, and
he saluted, clicked his heels together and did a little dance, then
“I’m the Lord Dagarth, and this is
my Lady Hildegrind and my fine sons, Dogwood and Dagwood,” said
Uncle Dagarth, ignoring Roland like a bad smell.
Bril-a-Brag approached and said,
“My most dehumblegraded ingratiationments and flattertudes to you,
my Lord,” and bowed deeply.
“And to your lumpish woman,”
“Whaaaaaaaat!” cried Auntie
Bril-a-Brag continued. “We are
pilgrims, on the way to
bury, the holy blissful
martyr for to seek. We come in peace and – ahhhhhh!” – his eye had
suddenly been caught by Dagarth’s rack – “Is that a Mk V
Superstretch I see? With all the optional extras including fine
control and the stretch-a-matic feature?”
“You know your tortureware!” said
Dagarth admiringly, his eyes brightening at the recognition of a
“Oh yes indeed!” said Bril-a-Brag.
“We’ve had simply hours of fun with our Mark IV. Before that we had
a Stretchmaster, but I think it lacks the finesse of the
Superstretch, don’t you?”
“Oh absolutely! Yes!” agreed
Dagarth, “With fine control you can stretch out a good stretch to
last much longer – and stretch them much taller all at the same
time! We’ll be turning dwarves into giants yet – slowly but
“They should make that their
slogan!” Bril-a-Brag said, and they both laughed.
Then Dagarth tested Bril-a-Brag.
“Thumbscrews: iron or wood?”
“Oh, wood! Always!” Bril-a-Brag
said. “The iron ones twist and bend and give up just when you get
to the good bit!”
“Yes!” cried Dagarth,
“Have you seen the latest range
from Horrids?” Bril-a-Brag asked, and he pulled a well thumbed
catalogue from his pocket and pointed to a page. “The blocks are
oak and beautifully polished with walnut screws for that extra
resilience. See how exquisitely the polish brings out the contrast
of the woods?”
“Wonderful!” Dagarth exclaimed. “We
really must sit down and have a good old natter about all of this!
Meanwhile, welcome to our castle! I would like to say ‘our torture
chamber is your torture chamber,’ but sadly we don’t have one just
at the moment….”
“Ah! The plumbing!”
“Precisely! Anyway, come in and
have a drink – why not a banquet! And of course, bring your
“Bless you!” Said Gloatenglorp, and
again saluted, clicked his heels and did a little dance, followed
by a bow.
Uncle Dagarth put his arm around
Bril-a-Brag as if he were an old friend and guided him into what
was left of the castle keep. Auntie, the twins and Gloatenglorp
followed on behind. Only Roland was left in the courtyard – and the
girl. They looked at each other, then Roland went up and spoke to
her. “Thank you for not giving us away last night.”
“That’s alright,” she said. “I hate
“Anyone who can get on with my
uncle so quickly must be a bit dodgy…,” Roland agreed.
“I am supposed to be Brill-a-Brag’s
ward, but he treats me like a slave.”
“I’m not exactly on top around
here,” Roland said, then thought to introduce himself. “My name is
“It is Indian, where my family came
from, originally. But they were killed in the war.”
“My mother is dead. My father gone
on some quest or other. Would you like to come in?”
“I’d rather stay outside and keep
for a bit.”
“You can come to my room. It’s in a
different building – that one by all the torture gear.”
Savitri’s upper lip curled in
disgust at the sight of Dagarth’s collection.
“Its not so grim inside – don’t
worry!” he reassured her.
Savitri followed him up the stairs
to his room where she sat in a chair. Roland tried to think of
something sensible to say but as he struggled with that she began
to cry. “I’m so miserable,” she said, “I am fed up with being
trailed around the place whilst they look for adventures and
“Well, I’m sure it can’t be all
that bad…” Roland said, trying to comfort her, knowing at once it
thing to say. He couldn’t think of anything but
stupid things to say. He wanted to be kind but could only think of
ways to make a fool of himself. Why does that always happen? He
thought. Then he had an idea. Perhaps a display of swordplay would
make her feel better? A bit of harmless excitement never hurt
anyone, surely? He asked, “Can you keep a secret?”
“Yes,” she said.
“I trust you because you didn’t
give us away last night,” Roland said. He pulled back the tapestry
and opened the door that led to the practice room. He went inside
and beckoned for her to follow. She did so.
The moment she entered she gasped,
her eyes fixed on the Companion. She was plainly terrified of it.
Things had gone from bad to worse - it was supposed to be cheering
her up. Roland wondered if he could do anything right.
Savitri recovered slightly. She
scanned the room and saw the rack of swords. She ran to it and
quickly picked one out. The sword she chose was the finest one,
Roland noted. The choice was not by accident either, even though
she had made it speedily. She brandished the sword aggressively at
“Its okay,” Roland said, briskly
walking over to the Companion to show it was friendly. “It’s only a
practice one – it isn’t a real one - whatever a real one is…”
“We call them the Spirus! They
killed my family!” Savitri said.
“Well, it isn’t one of those – not
really, just a practice companion made to look like one.”
“Are you sure?”
Savitri didn’t seem entirely
convinced – at least she didn’t lower her sword.
“It obeys my commands,” Roland
said. He told the Companion. “Raise your hand.”
The Companion did so. “Stand on one
leg!” it did so. “Hop about a bit!” it hopped about a bit, and for
a moment looked silly rather than scary.
Savitri laughed with relief. “It
isn’t one – unless you are very good at training them!”
“I have never met a real one,”
“You don’t want to,” Savitri said,
and shuddered. “Not ever. Not even one, and certainly not an
“Are there armies of them?”
Savitri nodded but said no more.
Plainly it was not a subject she enjoyed talking about.
“As I say,” Roland said, “this is
only a practice companion. You can use a sword?” he asked, having
noted already how skilfully she was holding it.