This is the eighth 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,  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, but has not revealed that he has sent a ransom demand to Castles Buckmore and Marsh. Fred has taken advantage of a storm to run off.

Chapter 8: Riders of the Storm

Fred skidded to a halt at the edge of the wood and held onto a tree, his sides heaving.  He’d run far too far and he was out of condition.  It was time to rest.  Surely the pirates wouldn’t follow him all this way, in this wind and rain?  He could just about make out the land ahead in the gloom – a wide expanse of close-cropped meadow, a strip of wood to one side, and more wood on the other side.  He couldn’t make out what the object in the strip of wood was.  It didn’t look like a tree, but it was made of wood.  It had branches coming out parallel to the ground, and a third sticking into the woods.  Eventually his tired brain made sense of it.  He limped over, and confirmed his suspicions.

“Hello brother!  You look tired and wet!”  George opened the little passenger cabin at the front of his flying machine and manhandled Fred into it.

Fred stretched out over two seats, as he was too tired to arrange his limbs properly in one, and smiled lazily. “And here you are all cosy and warm.  Got anything to eat?”

George reached over him to a locker at the back of the cabin.  He pulled out a couple of sticks of something, wrapped in paper, and handed one to Fred.  The pair of them munched contentedly for a few minutes.

“How long have you been here, then?” asked Fred.

“I saw the storm coming and turned around to try to get home before it.  It was faster than me, though, so I saw this field and the woods, and decided that would give me as much shelter as anywhere.  I got down and managed to lash the wings and tail to the trees before the wind really got bad.”

“Couldn’t you have left it in the open?”

“I didn’t know how gusty the wind was going to be.  It could lift it up and dash it into the trees.  The tail’s lifted a couple of times even so.”

“I’d have worried about a tree coming down on it.”

“Yes, it’s risk,” agreed George.  “But being blown over in open ground without being fully pegged down was a certainty.”

“When can we leave?”

George squinted at the sky.  “Not too long now, I should think.  The wind’s lower and the clouds are clearing.  Better get up while there’s still light.  Good thing you’re here, really.  It was going to be difficult to get it out again single handed.”

“How did you get it in?”

“A good push and lifting up stuff to help it through.  Pulling it out would have been harder.  Did you come far to join me?”

“Maybe half an hour at a run.”

“That’s impressive!  No wonder you were limping.”

“I now see the wisdom of Lupin’s early morning running regime.  Maybe I shall take it up.”

“I suppose you’ll want me to join you?”  George looked gloomy.

“It’s always more fun with two,” Fred grinned.  George switched from gloom to grin.  He’d been teasing as much as anything.

“The pirates let you go then?” he asked.

“How did you know about the pirates?”

“Kira, Lupin, Baden and I have been discussing the ransom demand for you all day.  I was checking out what happened at Seven H and came this way on an inkling.”

“I’m glad you did.  Is Kira ok?  What was the ransom?”

“Kira’s fine.  Worried, of course.  Have they asked you about anything?”

“No, I had a chat with their leader, the Cap’n, about them wanting to settle down.  I thought it was strange when he didn’t pick up on any of my suggestions.  I didn’t even realise I was a hostage till earlier today.  What does he really want?”

“He says they want a castle of their own, fully funded.”

“Oh, I see.  I didn’t really cotton on to that bit.  I was trying to find places they could go and live and fit in.  Like the others, Frankie and so on.  They don’t want to be with Frankie for some reason.”

“Hmm,” said George, looking at the sky again.  He opened the cabin door and poked his nose out.  “I think we could risk it.  We don’t know how far they might be behind you.”

“True,” said Fred, struggling to his feet and getting out of the warm cabin.  “What do you want me to do?”

George unlashed the tail from the tree, and then they each untied a wing and pulled the little flying machine forward.  Every now and then George yelled at Fred to stop, and he nipped around the machine and cleared away some brambles or branches that were impeding the wheels or the floats that hung about them.  George’s plane landed on ground or water equally well.  Once it was on the grass, George told Fred how to wheel it round into position for take-off.  Fred held the machine steady while George did some overall checks, then climbed into his cockpit and prepared to leave.

“Hold on tight!” he called down to Fred, “and as soon as I wave, let go.  It’ll start moving, so jump in quick!”

Fred held on to the wing as George started up the propellers.  He could feel the machine trying to jump forward, like some excitable animal.  George waved at him, he let go, and leapt into the passenger cabin, sprawling full length and twisting round to close the cabin door.  His eyes looked straight at a line of people coming over the hill towards them.

“Go, George!” he cried, quite unnecessarily, since George had been ahead of him, and had been timing the engine speeds so he could get away with minimum warm-up.

The flying machine leapt forward, heedless of the pirates streaming down the hill.  They scattered as the flying machine lifted off the ground just as it reached them, skimming a few bandanna-clad heads.

“I hope they haven’t got guns,” George spoke down the communication tube.

Whether they did or not, the little machine was out of range before they thought of using them.

“I know you’d rather go home,” said George, a few minutes into the flight, “but I think we’d better go and sort this out with Lupin, don’t you think?”

There was no answer.  George peered through the hatch into the passenger cabin and smiled.  Fred was fast asleep.

(c) J M Pett 2013


Next episode is on FRIDAY, not Saturday, so don’t miss it!

Fred’s Yuletide Escape 8 – Riders of the Storm
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One thought on “Fred’s Yuletide Escape 8 – Riders of the Storm

  • 18 December, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    I have to say, if anyone hasn’t been following this, they should go back and catch up!

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