This is the final part of Fred’s Yuletide Escape. Chapters average 1000 words. If you missed the start, you can find it here.
King Fred of Marsh decided to take off for a little adventure before his Yuletide duties start. He planned to spend the night at the Inn of the Seventh Happiness, however, he was kidnapped and driven off to a pirate encampment, where the pirate captain told him they want amnesty and a home of their own, and sent a ransom demand to Castles Buckmore and Marsh. Fred took advantage of a storm to run off, and met his brother George, who was looking for him in his flying machine. They lifted off just as the pirates came over the hill chasing them, and went back to Castle Buckmore to work out a solution. Now read the final part…
Chapter 10: Solstice Eve
George circled the field twice as Fred pointed over his shoulder to tell him where to go. They were both well wrapped up against the cold of the open cockpit, having stowed the lightest members of the 25th Rifle Brigade in the passenger cabin. George made his final approach to his choice of landing area and touched down lightly, taxiing to the end of the field to leave space for Pippin, who was flying one of Lupin’s machines right behind him. Lupin, Haggis of the Rifle Brigade and Frankie, an ex-pirate from Castle Marsh, climbed out of the second machine and they joined the others at the field boundary.
“They said they’d meet us here,” Fred said to the others. “I hope we’ve got it right.”
Haggis was already touring the edge of the wood, looking out for danger. His men had gone in different directions, making sure they hadn’t been drawn into a trap. The 25th had been attached to Castle Marsh for some years now, and rarely got round to any soldiering, although they did get called for training exercises once a year. As Fred watched them, he was sure they were enjoying themselves. He felt sick to the stomach, hoping he wasn’t going to be captured again. It was too close to Solstice now, and he didn’t want to ruin his daughter’s birthday party the day after.
A group of pirates appeared at the edge of the forest.
“Are we going to parley here or do you want to sit by our fire?” the Cap’n asked genially.
“Let’s just do it here,” Lupin replied, waving his hand at Pippin, who brought out a large wicker basket from the freight compartment of the machine, and started unpacking a picnic.
“Oh my, well, I don’t mind if I do,” said the Cap’n. “Name’s Bones. And you are Prince Lupin, very pleased to meet you.” He shook the Prince’s hand vigorously. Fred smirked as he saw Lupin’s half-concealed reaction.
Once settled, Pippin handed round food and drink, and Prince Lupin outlined some of the ideas they had discussed for a permanent home for the pirates. “What the other kings will want to know, before they will support me in this venture,” he said, “is what you propose to do about working with the rest of us in the realms, to maintain law and order and live peaceably together.”
“Peaceably, yes, I think we’re all for that,” replied the Cap’n. “I mean, what does everyone else do to live peaceably without getting bored?”
“Well, I’m always busy,” said Lupin, sighing. “Fred has his Natural Philosophy to keep him busy. Vexstein have their brewery, Palatine have their Seat of Learning and other ventures. Dimerie has the winery of course. All sorts of different things.”
“And what about the kings council? Would we be part of that?”
“You’d have to earn your place, show you were serious about honest living, that sort of thing. We could sort out the details once we agree where you’re going to go. Have you seen a castle you want to renovate?”
“We want to be on the coast, of course. And somewhere with some good dark places in the basement.”
“Why’s that? You don’t want to keep people in dungeons, I hope.”
“No, we just like to feel safe and secure at various times,” he said, shooting a glance at Frankie. “What about funds? How much gold do we get?”
“Well, nobody really gets any gold these days,” Lupin said. “It’s all done on paper, called credit. I suggest you and your financial adviser have a couple of days at Buckmore with my steward Baden. He can talk you through the system and you can make yourself happy that your funds will be secure.”
Cap’n Bones turned to Fred. “Is this how it works for you? How much have you got in funds?”
“I-I don’t rightly know,” stammered Fred. “I’ve never thought about it. Enough, I suppose, since nobody’s ever complained.”
“So, we have to find you a suitable castle,” said Lupin, steering the conversation back to what he wanted to cover. “Have you ever been to Castle Roc?”
Bones went to shake his head, but one of the others stepped forward and whispered in his ear. He scratched his head thoughtfully. “It’s just a ruin, though, isn’t it?”
“It can be rebuilt. We’ll find people to help you, advise you. Get your followers in there and everyone can lend a hand. It’ll be no worse, even at the start, than living rough here.”
“Can you guarantee we’ll be left in peace?”
“If you want to live in peace, well, that’s all we want too. We’ll visit socially, of course. That would be a peaceable thing to do.”
Lupin wanted to give them a chance, but he didn’t want to leave them entirely unsupervised.
“Very well, then. I accept!” Bones put his hand forward to shake Lupin’s, and Lupin took it. Fred smiled again as he watched Lupin cringe at the contact. Lupin had a fastidious nature.
The rest of the parley consisted of eating and drinking. The pirates started chatting to the soldiers, and Frankie came over to Fred and George.
“He’s up to something, you know.”
“I think we all think he is,” said Fred quietly. “We just don’t know what.”
“It’ll be easier having them in one place,” added George. “You never know, they might just fit in with the realms, after all, they’re a funny enough lot – take Smallweed and Colman, for example.”
Haggis was standing behind them. “We’ll just have to keep alert,” he said.
“Thanks,” said Fred. These were good people; he was glad they were part of Castle Marsh. He suddenly realised he had all the advisers he needed at Marsh already: Frankie, Haggis, Jupiter, all with good common sense and a wide variety of experiences. If only he could find a steward, his adventure would have been completely worthwhile.
“We’re done, then, I think,” said Lupin, coming over to them.
“Great, I can’t wait to get home,” grinned Fred.
“You’ve got to do your Solstice speech tomorrow,” George reminded him.
“Ah.” Fred’s face fell. At least he was going home. Home to Kira. Home to Castle Marsh, and to the Yuletide festivities. He wondered if that narrator might turn up. He climbed into the flying machine behind George, and started whistling a happy tune. Then he started planning his speech.
He’d had enough adventure for one year.
(c) J M Pett 2013
That’s it for this year… don’t forget Dylan’s Yuletide Journey is free on Smashwords for all eReaders. Have a happy seasonal celebration and we’ll be back in the New Year with more stories, the new book Bravo Victor and new ideas! Thank you for your support and good luck in 2014.