“Onward, chaps! Down the hill and across the bridge to the inn! Felines first!” Arthur cried, as he ran clumsily towards the hill’s edge.
In the next moment, he was off down the hill, faster and faster he ran, almost rolling like a ball, until he stopped at the bottom.
Aeridel and Bridget laughed and joined Arthur on his downward race. Tim however, stood there a while, gazing at the sun setting into the hills. He sighed,
“What a loon. Next thing he’ll be demanding tea and caviar sandwiches”.
Then he too sped off down the hill.
As soon as he got down, Bridget, Arthur and Aeridel were already waiting for him.
“You took your time,” muttered Aeridel.
Tim replied, “Just admiring the view”.
“Well it’s getting a bit dark now, so we need to hurry if we want a good night’s rest,” Bridget said, pointing to the village.
“Not a problem,” said Arthur, circling Bridget’s legs.
He had grown to like this fair-haired girl; she was so sweet and sympathetic.
“The inn’s not far”.
Bridget picked Arthur up. He squirmed slightly, but found a good spot between Bridget’s arms.
“Let’s go,” she said, walking to the bridge.
Aeridel paused for a while in the middle as the group walked over it.
The stream was flowing gently, reflecting what sunlight was left off the surface, glittering like diamonds underneath her.
Suddenly, she found herself thinking of the nymph they had met a few days ago, and how lonely it must be in that lake by herself.
Aeridel vowed that she would visit the nymph twice, no, three times a week once this charade was over. She then caught up with the others.
“Hey, where have you been? Thought you’d disappeared,” asked Bridget, still holding Arthur who was beginning to fall into a catnap.
“Sorry, I was just thinking about the nymph.”
“Oh, I feel a bit bad about leaving her so suddenly.”
“Well, I was being tortured!” said Arthur loudly, just snapping from his short nap.
“You’re lucky I heard you screaming like a girl, otherwise your fur would have been plucked out,” Tim smirked.
“I wasn’t screaming, I was… yelling in my cat tone,” murmured Arthur.
“Yeah, Artie, whatever!”
“IT’S NOT ARTIE!”
“Hey, would you guys shut up for a moment?” shouted Aeridel. “I think we’ve found the inn.”
They looked to where she was pointing.
Ahead was a reasonable sized building, that looked a little like a thatched cottage, except bigger. It had a thatched roof and smoke billowing from its slim pot chimney.
A signpost with a clenched fist wearing a red glove and a fox’s face looked worn from many rainy days and windy nights. The four of them walked underneath the sign and through the door.
The scene inside the pub was alive with sounds of singing, shouting and glasses clinking in the air.
Everybody was merry; except for a tall hooded man who kept his face hidden from everybody else. The four of them sat down at a spare table next to a grimy looking window, where it was fairly quiet and secluded.
Arthur jumped onto Aeridel’s knee, and turned to face Bridget, who sat opposite with Tim. He was staring intently at the hooded man. Bridget was turning around anxiously, aware of the energy around them.
“Whoa, that guy seems really dodgy, doesn’t he? And what’s with the hood up indoors?” Tim said aloud to himself.
“That, my dim-witted friend, is a Slayer. They kill monsters that people request in exchange for money,” said Arthur.
“A bit like bounty-hunters then? And I’m not a dimwit, I got a B in my last maths test I have you know,” replied Tim.
“Hmm... I would not put it like that, seeing as they enjoy killing, but whatever floats your boat.”
This made Tim and Bridget flinch.
“So, do they kill humans too? For cash?” asked Bridget.
“No,” said Aeridel, “Only magical creatures that threaten mankind. They are somewhat good guys, even though they appear dark and mysterious. It comes with the territory.”
“I see. Well, I will go and get some drinks shall I? We can eat some of our food now,” said Tim, grabbing some coins out of his bag and stepping towards the bar.
“Likes to be the leader doesn’t he?” said Arthur insultingly.
“I guess it’s in his territory of being male!” said Bridget laughing. Aeridel half-heartedly joined in. The grey cat turned to her inquisitively;
“Why do you even like that rude young gentleman, Bridget? He is quite peculiar…”
“Well,” replied Bridget, still watching Tim, “I guess we just fit, you know? We just became friends one day and it’s been like that ever since.”
She suddenly remembered the time they first met…
It was back when she was thirteen years old. Her aunt had said to her on her first day of high school,
“You’ll make loads of friends. Just be yourself and you’ll be fine.”
Year Nine and still no friends. Bridget’s view of herself was to keep quiet and try to do the schoolwork, even if it was different to how she learnt in primary school.
After finishing primary school, her aunt tried to get her into home tutoring. It went well in the first year, but eventually Bridget had begun to fall back into her depression when her departed parents’ anniversary was getting nearer.
Her aunt tried other home tutors, but Bridget couldn’t cope. Eventually, her aunt finally gave up hope of home tutoring three months after her birthday and applied her into a local high school, in the hopes of distracting her from the fact that she had no parents.
The house held too many memories for Bridget, so the more she was away the better.
The school greeted her with open arms, saying she was a pleasant student even though she didn’t talk to anyone. Then, a week after she had stayed in Wilbury High, a humanities trip was arranged for all Year Nine pupils.
Her aunt signed the reply slip and within a few days she was sat on a coach full of excited thirteen year olds going to The Museum of British History.
Obviously she sat on her own. She absentmindedly stared out of the window, looking into the clouds. She was thinking about what she could see at the exhibits. To be honest, she was excited herself, but she had nobody to share it with.
Suddenly, her view of the sky was blocked by a small hand in front of her face.
She jumped and saw a boy with messy black hair standing next to her seat. The boy asked her,
“Is anybody sitting here? The rest of the seats are full and Miss asked me to sit with you.”
“Sure, whatever.” She mumbled, placing her bag on the floor to make room.
“So, you’re new to Wilbury aren’t you?” the boy asked, looking at her.
“Yeah, I only came last week.”
“So, have you been to any other schools? Did you get expelled from your other ones?”
“No, I was taught at home.”
“Wow, really? That’s so cool!” he exclaimed.
“Really? You think so?”
“Yeah, I bet you got to play video games when you had a break, and got to eat whatever you wanted, except for the mush they call food here. Luckily my mum packs me a lunch before I leave.”
She felt a pang of sadness when he mentioned his mum.
“I don’t have video games, and my aunt is a vegetarian so there isn’t anything good at home.”
“Oh, you live with your aunt? Why not your parents?”
“My parents are dead.”
The bus set off from the car park of Wilbury High and headed towards the motorway. It would take at least an hour before they arrived at the museum.
The boy couldn’t think of anything to say as she saw her staring out of the window, her eyes beginning to swell with tears.
It was worth a shot.
“So, what’s your name?” he asked.
“I’m Tim Pendle.” He paused for a moment.
“I’ve got a joke for you if you want to hear it.”
She remained quiet, so he carried on,
“What do you call two robbers?”
“I don’t know what?” she murmured.
“A pair of knickers.”
She smiled. Asked for another joke.
“What is white, black, and red all over?”
She thought about it, and shrugged her shoulders.
“A penguin with sunburn.”
She giggled. “I like penguins! They’re cute.”
“I’ve got a calendar of penguins if you want it. I got it when I went to the zoo, but seeing as you like them so much you can have it.”
“Really? Thank you, Tim!” she said with glee. They sat talking about their favorite things for a while, and then Tim said he wanted to take pictures when they got to the museum.
“I want to be a photographer when I’m older.”
“Wow, that’s cool! I want to be a journalist when I’m older,” she said.
“We could start our own magazine together,” Tim suggested.
“Yeah! That’s a great idea!”
“I’ll ask my English teacher tomorrow.”
Bridget stared into the clouds, smiling for the first time in months.
“I guess he brings laughter into my life,” Bridget said to Arthur.
“I think you’re stupid to be accompanying that boy. It’s preposterous! And he’s supposed to be saving this world…” the cat replied bemused.
“How did you know about that?” Aeridel asked.
“Eh, news spreads fast around here,” he replied.
Aeridel gave him a pinch near his furry neck. He yelped,
“Okay, okay! The fairies told me. The ones that didn’t attack me for my fur. They overheard your little conversation at the old lady’s cottage in Telbrek. I was going to spread the word around Delroth but you found me and saved me before I could get here.”
“Make way for beverages on a frisbee!” shouted Tim.
He held the tray that was laden with drinks, walking carefully as he grabbed their attention. The tray was placed on the round table with a loud clash, not attracting any looks with the noise and amazingly without spilling the contents of the drinks.
“Bowl of milk for Mr. Tiddles,” he said as he passed the milk to the cat.
Arthur grumbled something about his name, but was too absorbed in the creaminess of the milk as he slurped with relish. His eyes grew wider as though his happiness was sinking into the milk he was lapping up.
“Hmmm… It’s called a ‘Pond Reed Delight’ but it smells of lemons so we should be okay,” passing a glass of transparent green liquid with a lemon wedge on the end to Bridget.
“Thanks” said Bridget with a smile.
“I shall go and get some rooms for us,” said Aeridel gruntly. She got up and walked to the counter.
Tim laid his drink and Aeridels’ on the table and returned the tray before sitting down next to his friend. After sipping their drinks, they saw Aeridel returning with a smile, aimed a Bridget.
“Job done, I got us two rooms.”
Bridget raised her glass in the air, “Well, cheers to destiny!”
“Mmmm!” said Arthur through his milk.
“So, you’re telling me this stone has enough power to destroy whole villages? It seems we’ve found evidence that the legend truly exists, Ozzarath!”
The two men were sat in a private room at an inn just north of the Spiro Shores, were they had just retrieved the stone. It had been a few days since the miraculous event had taken place.
“My Lord, our researchers have been studying this particular stone for a while now,” Ozzarath said, scratching his balding head. “Its’ power is incredible! I’ve never seen anything like it!”
“Yes, and if it happens to fall into the wrong hands,” said the Lord, pointing to his chest and laughing, “Well, it’s obvious those hands will be mine, then I shall rule all of Bragverla with its power!”
Eighteen and already striving to become an evil genius. Where did it all go so right?
“It would seem that way, yes, my Lordship,” said Ozzarath.
The lord got up from his red velvet chair, and paced towards his trusted servant. His majestic robes that were slightly too big for him trailed behind as he walked. The lord began messing with his curly brown hair and said,
“Hmmm… perhaps we should see its power first hand, to be sure. Ready the engines on our airship, we fly at dawn.”
“Yes, my Lord,” Ozzarath replied, bowing before leaving the room.
The lord slowly rested into his chair and paused for a moment, gazing at the door. He poured himself a glass of his favorite Willow Flame whisky and sat staring into its blood red contents, his chin resting on his young hands.
He smiled, knowing that his clockwork plan of domination would soon be ticking in motion. By tomorrow, he would have Bragverla in the palm of his hands. He laughed loudly, and glugged down his drink.
He turned in his swivel chair to face the window.
The sun was setting low, casting a mixture of deep oranges, pinks and reds against the sky. The ocean shone in a deep red, it was so beautiful, so entrancing, that the Lord lost himself in the moment.
Before he realized, he was fast asleep in his chair, contented by the sunset and the whisky.