This is the sixth of ten parts of Fred’s Yuletide Escape. Chapters average 1000 words. If you missed the start, you can find it here.
King Fred of Marsh has decided to take off for a little adventure before his Yuletide duties start. After visiting his neighbours at Castle Wash, he planned to spend the night at the Inn of the Seventh Happiness. However, after a pleasant conversation with Willoughby the Narrator, he was kidnapped and driven off to a pirate encampment. The pirate captain wants amnesty, and a home of their own.
Chapter 6: A restless day
Fred spent a restless night, partly due to the wind, and partly due to the ideas raging in his head. Every time he woke, he could see the shadow of someone in the cave entrance. The moon was past full, and it appeared every now and then as the night drew on, clouds scudding across it, bare branches waving in front of them.
He’d put forward a number of ideas for where the pirates could have a home. He’d even tentatively offered them the chance of living at Castle Marsh, although he had been a worried about the effect the arrival of what seemed like a dozen hard-bitten ex-pirates would have on their harmony. It seemed a reasonable thing to say, as part of a parley.
All the Cap’n had said was “Nah, I don’t think that would work, not with Frankie there already.”
Privately Fred thought that he would have more of a problem living at the castle his previous boss had ruled. The Pirate King had turned out to be Fred’s cousin, Ludo.
A restless night turned into a restless day. The pirates had left early, to gather food, so one of them said, leaving three to guard Fred. He wondered why the Cap’n hadn’t resumed their conversation so that Fred could set things in motion, try to find them places where they would be welcome. He started counting the days. He had time to get back to Castle Marsh – Solstice was still four days away – but it could take him as much as two days’ travelling, if he had to return to Seven H. He had little idea of where he was.
Originally, he thought he had been taken north, since the wind was blowing from the north-east when he crossed the Wash. A glimpse of daylight and a sight of the moon, plus a sense that the wind was warmer and wetter than the Biter he’d been expecting, had made him adjust his sense of location. He must be south of Seven H, but he didn’t know how far, or how far west. He tried engaging his guards in conversation, asking where they were from, but he didn’t get far. One of them was far too young to have been a pirate. He was a surly youngster, more inclined to bite your ankles than give a civil reply to a general question.
The morning wore on, and Fred got bored. He tried Thinking about some interesting problem or other, but he couldn’t concentrate. Stray thoughts of his current situation kept interrupting his flow. He was glad when the rest of the gang came back, and watched as they prepared a meal. They must have been to a market, he thought, and wondered how they managed without a castle to pick up their bills.
The Cap’n came up to eat the meal with him.
“Have ye had a peaceful day, then, King Fred?”
“Well, as much as possible, yes, thank you.”
“There’s a storm brewing,” the Cap’n said, looking towards the west. “Big one. Better batten down the hatches.”
Fred was tempted to ask exactly what that expression referred to, but then he remembered the storm he’d been in, and the sailors nailing oilcloth over the hatches to keep the water out, and reckoned that must be it.
“I was thinking of more options for you to get a permanent home,” he said instead.
“Yes. I’m sure if I discuss it with Prince Lupin and some of the others, Miles at Fortune, for example, we can come up with suitable offers.”
“Buckmore and Fortune, eh? Yes, we thought they’d be the most amenable. Don’t you worry about it, King Fred, we’ll sort something out.”
“Well, if I get away in the morning to sort it out, I can still get back to Marsh in time for Solstice Day.”
“Ah, yes, Solstice Day. That’s important in the castles, isn’t it?”
“It’s the start of the Yuletide festivities, yes.”
“Ah well, I’ll have a think on it. Meanwhile, tuck yourself up good and tight. This wind’s getting up. It’s going to be rough by nightfall.”
He went back down the hill. Fred watched him go, and stop to talk to two of the big guys, nodding towards him as they spoke. Fred began to feel he’d missed something important.
The wind had got over its rest and had started making a nuisance of itself. Bits of branches kept crashing down around them, as gusts whipped through the tops of the trees. Soon it was whipping through the forest itself. Creaks and groans of wood on wood, with occasional cracks as a branch broke, and a crash as it slumped to the ground, or lodged in another tree, made Fred shrink back into the safety of the cave. All the pirates took cover too.
Some weren’t quick enough. A huge splitting noise was followed by a crash and some screams. A big tree on the edge of their clearing had come down, trapping a couple of pirates. Fred’s guard ran down to help them.
Fred had been musing on his situation, wondering what Kira would do. He watched the guard go, realised exactly what she would do, and sprang into action, nipping out of the side of the cave and away up the hill. Then he decided not to do the obvious, and took a different line, running before the wind, dodging sticks and flying branches, running with the rain now at his back, pushing him along. If he could only spread out his arms wide enough he felt he could fly like a bird.
(c) J M Pett 2013
Next episode on Monday 🙂