Fred’s Yuletide Escape is a short story suitable for 10 years and up, serialised in 10 parts of approx 1000 words each.  It is set in the present time, so Princeling Fred is now King of Marsh, with Kira as his queen, they have a family already, and things are moving on in their world.

The serial will run till December 21st (Solstice day) on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, with an extra part on Friday 20th.  I hope you enjoy it.

Chapter 1: December 14th

Although he’d been down at the landing stage, seeing his brother off as he climbed into his flying machine, Fred still ran up to the window in the north-west tower to watch him fly into the distance.  He stayed gazing out well after the speck had disappeared from the keenest sight.

A noise behind him drew his attention back to the present.

“Oh, hi,” he said, and settled himself beside Kira, his wife and queen.

“You look a bit glum, dear heart.  He’ll be back in a couple of days.”

“I know,” Fred sighed, “I just wish I could go with him on these trips.  We never go off together like we used to.”

Kira smiled at him and picked up some embroidery she was working on.  She wanted to finish it in time for the Arts & Crafts event during the Yule Fest.

“Do you like being Queen, Kira?”

She paused, needle halfway through the material. “I like being with you, and I enjoy organising everything we do.  And I love looking after the children, and playing with them and teaching them.”

“You would do that even if I wasn’t king, though.  What about being Queen?”

“It’s who we are, Fred.  Maybe I wouldn’t organise these things if I wasn’t a queen.  Maybe someone else would organise them.”

“Who?”

“Jupiter, perhaps, she’s a good organiser.  Or whoever was queen.  Or maybe I’d join the Guild of Organisers and do it anyway.”

Fred nodded and leant against her.  She was right.  And he did lots of things he would do anyway, even if he wasn’t king.

“I think Lupin has the right idea, though,” he said.

“Hanging on to the illusion of being a prince, you mean?”

Fred nodded.  “Maybe I should take off and just go visiting people without worrying about what people want me to do.”

“Well, you do sometimes go with George when he goes on short trips.”

“Yes.”  He paused and looked towards the window again.  “Do you think anyone would miss me if I went away for a few days?”

“I’d miss you.”  Kira looked sideways at him.  “Are you getting stressed about the Yule festivities?”

“Maybe.  I hate all the fuss at Yule.”

“It’s only a couple of speeches, Fred.”

“It’s the Solstice Speech, and being the person who does all the easy bits of the birthday party, and being nice to people the whole time, and opening the Narrathon and the Arts Fest and the Games Day and doing the speeches at the feasts and the Green Willow Day….  Did I miss anything?”

Kira laughed.  “No, I don’t think so.  But the birthday party is designed to let everyone share in Jasmine’s celebration, you know.”

“I know.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I’m pleased she’s stopped that silly little cough.”

“Yes, she seems fine now.”

“Two already.  She’s getting to be a right scamp!”

“No more than she should be for her age.”  Kira smiled broadly as she thought of their daughter’s escapades.  Fred joined her in a proud smile, then sighed again.

“I think I should take a few days off and have an adventure all of my own.”

“Without me even?”

“Would you mind?”

“Of course not,” Kira said, hiding the excitement that had been rising inside her at the thought of a carefree holiday alone with him.

“Maybe I will then.  Just a couple of days.”

“You’ve got a week till Solstice.”

“If anyone needs anything, you’ll sort it out, won’t you?”

“Of course, although you said you’d find a new adviser and a new steward before the end of the year.”

“Maybe I need to get away and meet some new people and get inspired.”

Kira just nodded.  Maybe he needed to get away.  He probably did need an adventure.  It was a long time since he’d rescued her from the captivity of the Pirate King, even if she had been perfectly comfortable here at Castle Marsh at the time.  Life here was rather predictable, even his work with the mapping and Thinking had settled into a routine.   He and his brother George used to live on their wits.  These days they lived a comfortable life.  Lots of activity but not much action.

“Why not surprise Hunston with a visit tomorrow, and then take the next stage from Wash?” she said.

Fred’s smile broadened, then widened further as he imagined Crown Prince Hunston’s surprise if he turned up unexpectedly.  Hunston tended to have things fitting into neat boxes, schedules and plans.  He would allocate a few hours for ‘surprises’ if he thought they were worthwhile. Castle Wash was the obvious first step in his journey, unless he were to set off across country into the Forest. Now that would be an adventure, he thought.

“I’ll see what I think in the morning,” he said, and stretched.  “Is it time for dinner?”

He was answered by the sound of a gong echoing through the castle. They did communal dinners at Castle Marsh these days. Everybody welcome, don’t stand on ceremony.  They got up and went in search of food.

(c) J M Pett 2013

Fred’s Yuletide Escape: 1 – One week till Solstice
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