|The Happenings I|
|Series||The Happenings by Azaelia Silmarwen|
|Next||Ten Years Later|
|← None||Chapter Chronology||Ten Years Later →|
CHAPTER ONE: THE BEGINNINGEdit
Coldness…that was all that I was feeling. Winter had once again arrived in Albion and once again it was going to be a long three months. Rose and I were currently standing in front of a small fire, trying to warm ourselves. This winter was the worst winter I had ever experienced. The family of travellers, who normally allowed us to stay in their caravan, had not arrived this year, which meant that Rose and I must survive on our own. Freezing every night and day, hoping for a miracle…for our wish to come true…
My thoughts were abruptly interrupted when I felt something hit me on the head. Cautiously, with a small frown, I reached up and felt the top of my head. I soon found what had hit me. It was wet, and when I looked at my hand, I saw that the wet thing was white and brown. I quickly looked up and saw a little sparrow sitting on top of a chimney. I then put two and two together and hurriedly wiped it off my head. As if I wasn’t dirty enough!
‘Eww, yuck,’ said my sister, half-laughing. ‘Well, I hear that’s luckily, like finding a four-leaf-clover. All though I think I’d prefer the clover!’
I had to agree with her, though I couldn’t see how a bird pooping on you was lucky. In my opinion, it was unlucky. I mean, out of all the places around me, it had to do it where I was standing!
‘Oh look, Little Sparrow.’ Rose continued. ‘Castle Fairfax looks so nice in the snow. Imagine the grand dining hall. I bet Lord Lucien’s having roast duck this time of year. But he must be lonely since his wife and his little girl died. In that big castle, all by himself…if only we could live there!’ she sighed, gazing longingly at the castle. ‘What is going on over there?’ Rose wondered aloud, when the chattering of an exited crowd reached our ears. ‘Come with me, Sis,’ she added as she ran off to see what was happening.
After a quick, longing glance at the fire, which was beginning to die down, I quickly ran after Rose. I caught up with her down a street talking to the creep, Arfur.
‘Hello there young Rose,’ he began. ‘You look hungry. Have you recognised my offer?’
I knew what he meant by “offer”. Even though the guards could never find them, criminals, prostitutes and perverts were everywhere in Old Town, and Arfur was one of them. I don’t know how many times now he has asked Rose to become his, with food and shelter for the both of us in return, but Rose always gave him the same answer…thankfully.
‘We’ll never be that hungry!’ she replied stubbornly, with a hint of anger. ‘The answer is “no”!’
‘You’ll be back, and I’ll be waiting for you!’ he snarled confidently, before walking away.
I knew that he would never give up, and why would he want to? Rose was one of the most beautiful girls in town. My only wish was that one-day I would be just like her: smart, wise, beautiful, caring and courageous…just to name a few traits.
‘That creep! I hate him!’ Rose muttered angrily, motioning for me to follow her. Moments later we discovered what all the commotion was about. ‘Oh, it’s just a trader.’ She sounded disappointed. ‘I can’t see anything past this lot!’ she added in annoyance, jumping up and down trying to see what was happening, while I just stood there listening to what the trader was saying.
‘A-ladies and a-gentlemen,’ began the trader Murgo. ‘I have travelled the land accumulating wondrous and mysterious objects which I now offer to you for the modest price of five gold. Consider this…this is truly a magical mirror, for as long as you look at it, it will make you beautiful’
‘I’ll take it!’ called a man from the crowd.
‘Very wise! Now just remember, the magic only works if you look at it in complete darkness. Now this is truly a marvel,’ he continued. I assumed that he was showing the crowd something. ‘This small, unassuming box is actually a device created by the ancients as used by the Old Kingdom rulers themselves. Turn the handle three times and you will be granted a single wish.’
Whatever Murgo said next, I did not know, for Rose had begun talking again.
‘There’s no such thing as magic!’ she declared stubbornly.
The woman next to us turned and began to speak to us. She worn a red and white dress with a matching hood, but what stood out the most was her eyes. They were white!
‘We live in grim times indeed with the young are to world-weary to believe in magic.’ said the strange woman. ‘Most children your age believe eagerly.’
‘Look, I can see that your eyes are bad, but I’m telling you, that music box is rubbish!’ said Rose.
‘That’s what the seller thinks. He has no idea what he has stumbled upon, but you have an inkling, don’t you? Some part of you wants to believe that it’s magic,’ the strange lady said, before walking away.
‘Wh-what? Y-You really think it could be?’ Rose asked, now uncertain.
The strange lady paused before saying over her shoulder, ‘For five gold coins you could have your answer.’
‘For five gold coins, we could eat for a week!’ exclaimed Rose.
‘Listen to me, Rose. At the end of that week you and your Little Sparrow would be no closer to your dream. No closer to the inside of that beautiful castle.’ The strange lady said as she walked away.
I watched her go curiously. How did she know our names and about our dreams? Shrugging, I brushed it out of my mind and looked up at Rose, who had a thoughtful look on her face.
‘What if it is real?’ she said finally, looking down at me. ‘I bet we could get five gold pieces and maybe this could be a way out of here after all. What is there to lose, Little Sparrow?’ Little did I know that there was a lot we would loose from going on this little quest. ‘Come on, there must be someone around here to pay us gold to do…something.’ Rose said, looking around as if she was looking for a sign saying where we should start.
We stood there for a minute thinking, when we heard Derrick the Guard call out to us, ‘Oi kids! C’ere a minute!’
We quickly ran over to him.
‘Hello Derrick,’ greeted Rose. ‘Lose something?’
‘My arrest warrant blew right out of my hands. They could be in all corners of Bowerstone by now, and I can’t leave my post. Hey, why don’t you find them for me? You could be like, ah, little constables! Sounds fun, right?’
He must need them badly, I thought.
‘How much does little constables get paid?’ asked Rose, getting down to business. Normally we would have done it for free, but seeing as we needed the money…
‘Paid? Listen kid, these are the five most wanted criminals in Bowerstone!’ cried Derrick.
‘Yeah? Well how badly do you want ‘em?’ pushed Rose.
‘Fine, one gold for all five warrants,’ Derrick said in defeat.
‘Deal!’ said Rose smiling.
Yep, I was right. He was desperate.
‘The warrants blew off in that direction, through that alley, by that bloke with the picture box.’ Derrick added helpfully.
‘So, we’ll look out for those warrants, but for now let’s find some more money.’ said Rose as we headed towards the guy with the picture box, whatever that was.
‘Hello children,’ said Barnum, the guy with the picture box, when we stood in front of him.
‘Hello,’ said Rose. ‘What’s that?’ she added, nodding towards the strange contraption he was standing next to.
‘This? Why it’s only the most amazing device conceived. It grabs your very likeness and transfiddles it onto a magic piece of paper. It’s gonna make me rich! If only I could find someone to modellify for it.’ he added, looking around.
‘We’ll do it!’ Rose said quickly. Barnum looked at her happily, until she said, ‘For a gold piece.’
‘Hmm…I only have one gold left.’ He stood there thinking. I was about to tell Rose that we should do it for free and find another way to get the money, but Barnum beat me to it, well beat me to talking to her. ‘You’re right! I should investalise in my new venture. Deal!’ He told us then to go and stand in front of a screen that had one of Bowerstone’s streets painted upon it.
‘A gold piece just to stand there…sounds alright doesn’t it?’ Rose whispered to me as we took our positions. I still thought that we should be doing this for free, but I trusted Rose’s judgement.
‘Now all you have to do is strike a pose for my little device. You’d be positively betwazzled by the result!’ Barnum said enthusiastically.
‘B-what?’ Rose said, voicing my thoughts. I had never heard of such a word, but that wasn't saying much.
‘Ah yes. I’ve been improving my vocubularium with a wonderful book, bought from Mungo the Trader: a Thesaurus!’ Barnum said cheerfully as he was fiddling with his picture box.
Rose looked over at me.
‘He's a bit silly,’ she whispered, voicing my thoughts again, ‘but this could be fun!’
She then turned back to the picture box and posed. After a slight hesitation, due to deciding on how to pose, I followed her example and gave the picture box the thumbs up. Not much of a pose, compared to Rose’s especially, but it worked and Barnum must have been happy with the outcome for a flash from the box went off and he cried “Wondrous” out loud.
‘This things going to be more popular than the pox!’ Barnum said, handing me a gold piece. ‘Now I just have to wait three months for the picture to develify and I can start showing it around! Oh, I can almost smell the gold!’
‘Ha ha, three months he says!’ laughed Ross, one of the citizens of Old Town, who was standing near by with a group of other men. ‘Told you it was a swindle!’ he added to his friends.
Barnum ignored them and started to do something to his picture box.
‘Easy money for us!’ Rose said brightly, before lowering her voice so Barnum wouldn’t hear. ‘He's a bit scatty though…hope he's alright.’
After saying a quick goodbye to Barnum, we headed towards an alley.
‘This must be the alley the warrants blew down. We should take a look.’ muttered Rose.
We headed down the alley in silence when we heard someone yell, ‘Stupid dog!’
‘That sounded like, Rex!’ I said, looking up at Rose.
‘You’re right, it did sound…’ She broke off when a new voice yell, ‘Look! Rex caught a dog and he's gonna kick the crap out of it!’
The moment Rose heard that, she ran out of the alley towards the commotion.
‘Aww, what’s the matter poochie, does it hurt?’ Rex said nastily.
Rex was one of the biggest bullies in Old Town. He thought that he was tough and he could do no wrong. He bashed children, animals and anything that stood still longer than a second. He was practically a younger version of Arfur.
‘Hey! What the hell you doing?’ yelled Rose, storming over to him.
‘Having a bit of fun, what’s it to you?’ Rex said before he head butted Rose, knocking her to the ground.
I slowly reached for my wooden, toy sword. Nobody hurt my sister and got away with it!
‘He hit a girl!’ exclaimed one of the on looking kids.
‘Yeah, and now I’m gonna hit another one!’ said Rex, turning to face me. He must have seen me get my toy sword out of the corner of his eye.
He walked over to me with an air of confidence, believing that an eight-year-old girl, like myself, would be easily taken care of…how wrong he was. As though it was in slow motion, I watched as his toy sword came towards me, and I blocked it easily. I then did a mixture of combos, none of which he could block. In the end he ran away from me crying, ‘Ahh! Stop it! Lemme alone, you nutter!’
The children that had been watching began to talk about the fight they had just witnessed. Some even congratulated me telling me that I fought like the Heroes you hear about in legends. I ignored then and quickly went to help Rose.
‘Ow, did you see that? That lunatic socked me right in the head! Thanks for your help. I could have taken him, though.’ Rose said. She hated it when I protected her. In her eyes, she should always be the one protecting me. After all, she is the big sister.
Rose turned her attention to the dog that Rex had been tormenting, and slowly walked over to him. ‘Poor thing. You’ve had a horrible time. Don’t be scared! I won’t hurt you!’ Rose added when the dog whimpered pathetically. ‘What you need is someone nice to look after you.’
The dog gave a bark and whin as if to say, ‘What about you?’
‘Oh, we can’t keep you. We don’t have enough food for ourselves!’ Rose said sadly.
‘Well I’m sorry, but we can’t.’ Rose said firmly. ‘Now you just rest. Come on Little Sparrow, let’s go,’ she added, looking over at me. I hadn’t approached the dog for I though we would scare it even more if we both approached.
We left the dog and headed down the street, fully aware that he was watching us, at least I was anyway. As we headed down the street, we saw a piece of paper lying on the ground.
‘Looks like a warrant, don’t it?’ Rose said excitedly, hurrying over to pick it up. It turned out that it was a warrant. A warrant for arson. ‘Well, we have our first warrant.’ Rose said happily, before she cried out, ‘That’s one there!’
Before I could say or do anything, she was already running over to a bunch of huge containers…at least that’s what I think they are.
‘Yes, another warrant!’ Rose said when I arrived at the containers. She was busy reading what the warrant was for. ‘Hmm, I don’t think they’ll miss this Leroy if they see him!’
I was about to ask her why when the voice of Balthazar, the owner of the big warehouse in Old Town, reached our ears.
‘Disgusting beetles! I hate them!’ he yelled.
Rose and I exchanged a look before we went over to see what was wrong.
‘Need help with something?’ asked Rose.
‘Er…sort of, yes. You kids aren’t afraid of…beetles, are you?’ questioned Balthazar.
‘No, that would be silly!’ said Rose, looking at Balthazar in confusion. I mirrored her confusion. Why are beetles scary? They’re not even that big.
‘Yes, silly…ha! No ones afraid of bothersome, evil, conniving beetles,’ he said. I was beginning to wonder if we were talking about the same type of bug. ‘Well since you’re not afraid, how would you like to ruthlessly exterminate a few that are in my warehouse?’
‘We’ll do it for a gold piece!’ Rose said quickly.
‘Done!’ Balthazar said immediately. ‘I hope you can make them suffer, if those hideous vermin can suffer. Shot the beetles, shot to kill and while you’re breaking their hateful little heads open…try not to break any of my stuff.’
Okay, now I was really confused. Why would you shot beetles? You step on them to kill them because they’re so small. I shrugged to myself.
Maybe he was overreacting? I thought as I went inside.
After closing the door behind me, I looked around. I couldn’t see any beetles, but it was a big warehouse and beetles were quite small. Just as I was beginning to look through the lower level of the warehouse, a voice called out.
I jumped and turned to face the window. Arthur was standing there.
‘Balthazar owes some protection money to Nicky “The Nickname”,’ he continued, now that he had my attention. ‘So how about you leave the beetles and break all of his stock instead? I’ll give you a gold on Mr “The Nickname”’s behalf.’
I stared at him for a moment, before I went back to what I was doing, ignoring him completely. Rose taught me long ago that he was trouble…plus I didn’t feel like having the guards on me once Balthazar saw what I did to his stock.
I looked around the bottom level and I couldn’t see any beetles, so I went upstairs and I still couldn’t see any.
Maybe they were scared away with Balthazar’s yelling? I thought.
I was about to head back downstairs when I heard a buzzing noise above me. I slowly looked up and saw a giant beetle, thankfully not a red one, but a giant beetle all the same. I now understood Balthazar’s ramblings. I quickly took out my toy gun and shot all of the beetles. I use to shot them in one of our fields when my parents were alive. I hadn’t realised that there were any giant beetles in Bowerstone.
‘Ah crap!’ Arfur said furiously as I walked down the stairs. ‘Do you know what I had to go through to get those beetles? I’ll remember this kid!’
I didn’t like the sound of that threat, but I was determined not to let it bother me. So I went outside as though nothing had happened. Balthazar quickly had a look around his warehouse, while I told Rose that the beetles had been giant beetles.
‘That was a massacre!’ Balthazar exclaimed as he came back outside. ‘No mercy for the filthy buggers, that’s what I like to see! And all my stock is still intact! Genius!’ he said, handing me a gold piece, before his smile slowly slid from his face and was replaced with a thoughtful look. ‘Now that I think about it, I wonder how those beetles got there.’
Before I could answer him, Balthazar headed back inside. I looked at Rose, debating whether or not to tell her about what Arfur that said to me, but I decided to keep it to myself. I was probably overreacting and there was no point worrying Rose about it. She was very protective of me.
Any who, as we headed back down the street we saw the dog again and he had something with him. Something that looked a lot like a…
‘Hey, he found one for us! said Rose, walking over to the dog and picking up the warrant for burglary. ‘Good boy! Oh, I know, your sweet, but I told you before that we can’t keep you. Come on Little Sparrow, I think I see another warrant over there.’ she said sadly, walking away from the dog and picking up the fourth warrant.
‘What do we do now?’ I asked Rose, looking around for the final warrant or a job that we could do.
I soon got my answer.
‘I’m worthless!’ said a near by tramp to a lady.
‘That’s the bottle talking!’ The lady said sternly.
‘Well get it back so I can tell it to shut up!’ replied the tramp.
I didn’t know whether or not that I should laugh. His comment was classic, but I wasn’t sure if he was in his right mind. Rose, however, seemed to have gotten an idea from them, for she was walking over to them confidently. I quickly followed her.
‘Hey, look at that Betty…two sets of twins!’ said the tramp, catching sight of Rose and me. ‘Oh, you’ll get my booze back, won’t you?’
‘You can barely stand as it is!’ reprimanded the lady named Betty.
‘But they can!’ argued the tramp. ‘I bet they can even walk straight! Get my booze back from that git Magpie and I’ll give ya a gold piece for it. His not even a proper beggar.’ he continued conversationally. ‘He had piles of stuff and it’s all stolen from bona fide tramps, like myself.’
‘Let it go, Pete.’ Betty said desperately. ‘Save your money for important things.’
‘It is his money. Can’t he decide how to spend it?’ questioned Rose.
‘She’s making all kinds of sense,’ said Pete.
Betty ignored him and spoke to Rose. ‘Well let’s talk about my money. You find that bottle and I’ll pay you to keep it out of his hands!’
‘Come on, help an old man out!’ Pete begged, apparently oblivious to the conversation that had just taken place.
‘Sure,’ I said, but I was thinking about giving it to Betty.
‘So you’ll bring me back my bottle?’ said Pete, and when I nodded, he cheered, ‘Yes!’
Betty rolled her eyes. ‘You’ll find it and give it to me, won’t you children?’
I didn’t get a chance to answer her, for Pete spoke before me.
‘What a drink!’ he sounded like a toddler to me.
‘I’ll not discuss it!’ Betty said firmly.
‘Come on, let’s find this Magpie guy.’ said Rose, leading me away from the arguing Pete and Betty.
‘But I need a drink!’ whined Pete.
‘No, you don’t!’ argued Betty.
‘You’re right, Betty…I need two drinks!’ Was the last thing we heard Pete say, as we headed off to find Magpie, and we didn’t have to look long. We found him in a little alcove between Balthazar’s warehouse and some houses.
‘That must be Magpie,’ Rose whispered, looking at the sleeping figure on the ground. ‘There’s the bottle.’ she added, pointing to the bottle next to the sleeping figure. ‘Get it Little Sparrow, but don’t wake him up!’
I didn’t know why I had to do it, but I didn’t argue. I silently crept up to Magpie and just as I was about to grab the bottle…Magpie spoke, making me freeze with fear.
‘Ah, stupid Pete! You snooze, I take the booze!’ he snored.
My heart started to slow down once more, when I realised he was sleep talking. The moment I had the bottle in my hand, I hurried back to Rose.
‘Good job,’ she began. ‘Let’s go and collect our gold form the lady and the tramp.’
We quickly hurried back over to the lady and the tramp, and the first thing we noticed as we arrived was that Pete was still trying to persuade Betty.
‘You should give a poor man his drink back, out of friendship.’ Pete said, trying to guilt her into it, but it didn’t work. Just as he was about to try another technique, he noticed that Rose and I were back. ‘Hey, the quadruplets are back!’ he said, before positively beaming when he saw that we had his booze. ‘You’ve got booze – I can smell it!’
‘Are you sure it’s not your breath?’ demanded Betty.
‘I’ll give you a gold piece for it!’ said Pete, not hearing Betty’s comment.
‘No. Don’t fall off the wagon!’ Betty said urgently.
‘Wagon? Where? Kids, look out for the wagon!’ he cried, looking around for a wagon. The sight was quite comical.
Betty just stared at him before turning to Rose and I. ‘Does he sound like he needs that? Here, I’ll give you a gold piece for it!’
Knowing that it would be for the best, I handed the bottle to Betty.
‘Thanks, dear,’ she said, handing me a gold piece.
Just as Rose and I were about to walk away, she stopped us. ‘Hold it, there’s some paper in the bottle. I think this is yours.’ Betty said, handing Rose the paper, which turned out to be a warrant!
We thanked her and started to walk away again, with Betty and Pete’s voices floating after us.
‘I used to be an accountant. Don’t drink, it will ruin your life.’ said Pete.
‘Hmm, you admit it.’ Betty said smugly.
‘Um, I guess I do. From this day forth, I shall stay sober and return to my career as a tax and pensions consultant!’ declared Pete.
‘Oh, you poor man. Are you sure you don’t want the bottle?’ Betty asked seriously.
I couldn’t help it…I just started laughing and Rose soon joined me.
‘Well done, you probably saved his life,’ laughed Rose. ‘And that’s all the warrants! We should go back to that guard.’
To do this, we ended up going past Magpie, who had just woken up.
‘Hey, where’d the bottle go? Oh, don’t say I put it in the pile! Damn! I really should tidy up sometime!’ I heard him say.
Yes Magpie, I thought. You snooze, I take the booze.
As we were walking back up the alley, we found our path blocked by Arfur.
‘Stop right there, you little brats!’ he said in a deadly voice.
Oh no. He was going to go through with his threat! I thought fearfully.
‘Listen creep! I told you no this morning!’ Rose said coldly.
‘Shut it, girl! This isn’t about that!’ he said, eyes narrowing.
Here it comes. His going to kill us, or worse!
‘Those warrants you're collecting – I want ‘em!’ he said.
What? My mind screamed. I thought that we were done for, for sure! However, I knew that we weren’t out of trouble yet.
‘So does our friend the guard.’ Rose said calmly, but her voice was still cold as ice.
‘Yeah, but you’re going to give ‘em to me, see! Otherwise, there’ll be trouble!’ Arfur said, taking a few steps closer to us.
‘There’ll be trouble, all right. You take these and I’ll tell our friend the guard what you really want!’ Rose said dangerously.
‘All right you little hard case. What’s he paying ya? A gold piece? I’ll give you a gold right here, save ya to walk back.’ he proposed.
‘Well, seeing as you put it that way…’ I said slowly, before whipping out my toy gun and shooting him in the face.
Rose and I quickly ran passed the paint covered Arfur - seeing as my gun shot paint balls - and ran all the way back to Derrick the guard, with Arfur yelling and cursing loudly behind us.
‘H-here you – go – Der-rick!’ Rose panted, handing him the warrants.
‘Thanks. You’re a lifesaver!’ he said, smiling down at us.
He mustn’t have found it abnormal for us to be out of breath. I thought. He must think that we were in a hurry to give them back to him.
‘Now, normally justice is its own reward, but seeing as these aren’t normal circumstances…here’s a gold piece.’ he said, handing me a gold piece.
‘That should sort out this town,’ said Rose, leading us away from Derrick, who was practicing what to say to Lord Lucien. We had only gone several paces when our attention was drawn to a near by house’s balcony where two women stood with the eldest yelling at the man below.
‘You again!’ yelled the oldest woman. ‘I don’t want you sniffing around my daughter! Now push off, before I call the guards, you animal! Get in the house, Belinda!’ she added, turning to the other woman. ‘And clean those floors. They’re as filthy as that no good as that no good delinquent Monty!’
Rose and I watched the man called Monty walk away sadly, before he stopped a few meters away, gazing longingly at the balcony where Belinda had been standing.
We went over to him.
‘What’s the matter with you?’ Rose asked, coming to a halt.
‘Oh little ones, my situation is unbearable. Words can’t even begin to describe it.’ Monty said dramatically.
‘Looks to me that you fancy the girl that lives there, but her mum thinks you’re rubbish, so she’s locked her away.’ Rose said casually. I guess there were words to describe it.
‘Um…I suppose that’s the gist of it. Why’d you ask then?’
‘Maybe we could help you?’ Rose suggested. I saw what she was doing immediately.
‘Ah…yes!’ exclaimed Monty. ‘You could take my proposal to the fair maiden! Oh, there is hope! My heart soars in my chest like…like…’
‘We’ll do it for a gold piece.’ Rose said, interrupting his theatrics.
‘Ah – oh – I’m, er – a bit strapped at the moment – but Belinda’s good for it. I’m sure she’ll pay you when she receives my letter.’ he said, handing Rose the letter. It wasn’t even in an envelope. ‘Get that letter straight to Belinda – don’t let her mum get it!’
As Rose and I headed to Belinda’s house, I heard Rose snigger.
‘What’s so funny?’ I asked, falling into step beside her.
‘This letter is awful. Listen to this; Darling, run away with me,’ Rose began. She was having trouble reading it due to her uncontrollable laughter. ‘Like two doves, we shall rise on love’s gentle breeze to soar above the world in our bliss, forever embracing in he clouds.'
'Eww!’ We both said in unison. Unfortunately, we said it a bit too loud and Monty heard us.
‘We said “aww”.’ Rose said quickly. ‘It’s a bit over the top, innit?’ she added quietly to me. I nodded in agreement. When I’m older I'm sure I’d understand it all.
Upon arriving at the house, Rose knocked on the front door, which was sadly answered by Belinda’s mother.
‘Want do you want?’ she asked us.
‘Oh, um…we have a letter. We need one gold for the postage.’ answered Rose.
‘Oh, why didn’t you say so? Come on in.’ she said. We followed her into the middle of the room before she turned to us and said firmly, ‘Wait there while I get the money, and don’t you touch anything!’
The moment she turned her back on us and started rummaging the cupboard for money, Rose and I quietly snuck upstairs to find Belinda. We found her down on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor. Belinda looked up from her work when we came up to her and a slight frown of curiosity crossed her features. Rose wordlessly handed her the letter, which she accepted and quickly read. As she read, her face light up with joy.
‘This is wonderful!’ she said, almost crying with joy. ‘Here’s a little something for your trouble.’ she added, handing me a gold piece. ‘Oh Monty…my little dove!’
I couldn’t see how he was a “little dove”.
‘I guess some people’s wishes do come true,’ muttered Rose as we headed back downstairs. The mother was nowhere to be seen, which was very odd. ‘Come on, let’s go and buy that music box. I can’t wait to see what it does!’ Rose continued excitedly. She didn’t seem to find it odd that the mother was now nowhere to be seen.
As we left the house, we saw that Monty was still standing in the same place just where we left him, but Belinda’s mother was with him looking livid.
‘Get in the house, Belinda!’ We heard the mother yell.
‘I’m leaving Mother! And I’m going to marry the man I love!’ Belinda yelled back from the balcony.
‘WHAT?’ Ssreamed the mother.
‘Oh Monty…I love you!’
‘No you don’t! He's poor!’ yelled the mother as though it was the only reason you should marry someone is if they have money.
‘Oh Mother, you’re such a shrew! That’s why Father left you and you can’t get another man!’ Belinda said angrily.
Ouch! Those were fighting words. I thought as Rose and I were walking over to Murgo.
‘Belinda, you shouldn’t talk to your mum like that.’ said Monty.
‘Oh, now you’re taking her side?’ demanded Belinda.
‘What, no!’ Monty said quickly.
‘Well maybe you should marry her instead!’
We had arrived at Murgo’s and we could still hear them yelling at each other.
‘Hello children,’ Murgo said, with a fake cheerful voice. He was constantly shooting dark glances over at Belinda and Monty.
Probably wishing for them to be quiet. I thought.
‘Hello, we’ve come to buy the music box.’ said Rose.
‘Very wise, little ones!’ Murgo said, handing Rose the music box while I handed him the five gold pieces. ‘Go ahead and turn the handle – but mind you go somewhere quiet like.’ he added as he threw another annoyed glance at Belinda and Monty.
‘Let’s go make our wish, Little Sparrow!’ Rose said, and together we ran off to make our wish.
We stopped running when we got to a quiet area, near our shelter, and Rose turned the handle three times. I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to see what would happen. To go to a place that was warm and where we wouldn’t starve…
‘I wish…I wish…’ said Rose, closing her eyes.
The box opened and submitted a bright yellow light whilst it slowly turned around playing a lovely tune, but that didn’t last long. A few seconds later it started to spin faster and faster and the faster it got, the faster the music went. As Rose re-opened her eyes, the yellow light became blood red before it vanished in mists of yellow light.
What happened? Why weren’t we somewhere warm? Was there a delay in reaction? And was the box meant to disappear? All these thoughts spun around in my head. I was barely aware of Rose’s angry remarks as she walked towards our shelter, nor was I aware of my feet following her.
‘But…where did it go? Why are we still here?’ Rose said furiously to on one in particular. ‘Five gold pieces…let’s just go to bed! I was so sure this was it! I had this feeling like…like we weren’t going to be in Old Town anymore! Why didn’t the box take us with it?’ she said, stopping at the foot of our shelter and looking down at me.
I shrugged. I knew as much about the music box and she did.
Just as Rose was about to say something else to me, we heard a bark and we both looked in at our shelter.
‘What are you doing here? I’m sure I didn’t wish for you!’ Rose said to the dog we rescued from Rex, who was currently standing inside our shelter. ‘All right, fine. Welcome to our little paradise.’ Rose sighed. ‘Come on Sparrow, go to bed.’
I patted the dog’s head and followed her advice by going to bed. I fell asleep almost immediately - regardless of how cold it was - with the music from the music box filling my dreams.
* * *
What felt like seconds later, I awoke to the dog’s barking and growling. Sighing, I rolled over and tried to ignore him. Even when a new voice spoke I didn’t bother getting up. All I wanted to do was sleep.
‘Ooh, all right settle down. There’s a nice stray, angry dog.’ said the voice.
‘Quiet boy!’ said Rose. ‘What do you want?’
‘I work for Lord Lucien, Miss, and he would very much like to see you in his castle. I’ve been sent to collect you!’ said the voice, then I heard footsteps walking away.
Good. Now I might be able to get to sleep. I thought, but I wasn’t that lucky.
‘It did work! Our wish came true! Come on Little Sparrow, wake up!’ Rose said, shaking my shoulders gently.
Groaning, I sat up and rubbed sleep out of my eyes, while Rose tried to calm the dog down.
‘It’s all right Doggy, we’re going to Lord Lucien’s castle! I’ll come back for you, I promise!’ Rose said, before she hurried off after…whoever she had been talking to.
Still groaning, I slowly got to my feet and noticed that the dog was whining and gazing, almost sadly, after Rose as though he didn’t think that it was a good idea for her to be going, before he started whining at me. I just stared at him and gave him a pat on the head, thinking that I was jus imagining the sad note in his voice and the sad gaze, after all my was brain was still asleep.
I gave the dog one last glance before I hurried after Rose, not realising that my life was about to change forever.
* * *
‘Evening Jeeves,’ said the guard that had brought us to the castle. ‘Here are the children Lord Lucien asked for.’
‘Excellent!’ said the butler named Jeeves. He was creepy. ‘Hello, young ladies.’
‘Hello, sir.’ Rose said, while I hid shyly behind her. I didn’t like it here.
‘If you’d follow me, please.’
‘We look up at this castle everyday and think how nice it is, we both do. But inside, it’s even more beautiful than I imagined!’ Rose said conversationally, while I gazed around at all the different artefacts that lines the hall we were walking down.
‘It is quite wonderful, isn’t it? Ah, hello Master Garth.’ Jeeves added to a man, about to walk past us.
He had dark skin and weird blue lines over every inch of his skin. He ignored Jeeves and Rose, but for some reason he paused and looked at me, before continuing on his merry way, only thing time he had a small, but thoughtful, frown on his face.
How strange, I thought, watching him leave.
‘Huh, man of few words.’ Jeeves mumbled, clearly he was not impressed about being ignored.
‘Where is the grand dining hall?’ Rose asked.
‘Oh, in the North Wing. Lord Lucien hasn’t been in there since…since the tragic deaths of Lady Fairfax and little Amelia.’ answered Jeeves.
‘Oh, I heard. That was so awful.’ Rose said quietly.
It was awful. Rose didn’t even tell me how they died, because she said that I was too young to know about it and it would give me nightmares. I doubted it though.
‘Yes, he misses them terribly.’
‘So, where does he eat?’ asked Rose. I would never understand Rose’s fascination about where Lord Lucien eats.
‘Actually, he takes most of his meals in his study. He’s in there at all hours doing research…’
‘What does he research?’ Rose interrupted keenly.
Jeeves didn’t seem bothered by the interruption, for when he answered, there was no annoyance present in his voice, or he was just a very good actor.
‘History, mostly. Lord Lucien is quite keen on antiquities of all sorts; but he is chiefly interested in things related to the Old Kingdom.’
‘There was a trader in Old Town who said his stuff was from the Old Kingdom.’ said Rose.
‘Yes…yes, I believe Lord Lucien…heard about that,’ replied Jeeves. I couldn’t place his tone, but I didn’t like the way he answered Rose’s question, but Rose didn’t seem worried, so I dismissed it.
‘We bought a piece of it and we made a wish and now we’re here!’ Rose told Jeeves happily.
‘That’s wonderful! Now, when you meet Lord Lucien, you must show respect at all times.’ said Jeeves, as we arrived at the end of the hall in front of a pair of huge doors. ‘Address him as “my Lord”, speak only when spoken too…’
‘Yes, sir,’ we said.
‘And do not mention Lady Fairfax or Amelia.’ he added sternly, before opening the door. ‘Here we are. Lord Lucien, the children are here.’
Rose and I walked cautiously into the room. The walls were covered with hundreds of books and the desks were covered with lots of papers and other artefacts. Lord Lucien stood bent over one of the desks at the far end of the room. Once Jeeves had closed the door, he turned and addressed us.
‘Children, it had come to my attention that you have some sort of magic box. May I see it?’ he asked us. He had the same tone of voice that our father had.
‘It vanished m’Lord. We were winding it up, and we made a wish, and it started to glow, and it disappeared,’ replied Rose nervously. I had never seen her so nervous.
‘After you used it?’ Lucien asked.
‘Yes m’lord. The man that sold it to us said it was magic.’
' The box is of no interest to me. What’s remarkable is that you were able to use it. What was your wish?’ Lucien added. His question caught us off guard. Why would a Lord want to know what a couple of poor kids wished for?
In answer to his question, Rose mumbled something incomprehensible.
‘Speak up. What did you wish for?’ he encouraged gently.
‘To live in a castle, like this one.’ Rose said quietly, turning red.
‘Well, perhaps that can be arranged.’ Lucien chuckled good-naturedly. ‘I’m working to rebuild…well, I’m working on something wonderful, for which I need individuals with particular talents. Let us find out if you possess them. Would you kindly stand in the circle, please?’
‘Erm…’ Rose eyed the circle wearily, as did I.
‘I promise, it won’t hurt you.’ Lucien said gently.
Rose slowly walked over and stood in the circle. I remained where I was, not knowing if he wanted me to join her.
‘Go on, stand in the circle.’ Lucien repeated, smiling down at me in a very fatherly way.
When I hesitated Rose told me to join her.
‘It’s alright Little Sparrow, don’t be afraid. It doesn’t hurt.’ she encouraged.
I slowly went and stood in the circle behind Rose, clinging to her arm. Something didn’t feel right. The image of the dog’s behaviour flashed into my mind, but it quickly disappeared as the circle lit up with blue light, making me cling to Rose even tighter and Lucien’s eyes to widen.
‘It’s true…your blood…you are Heroes!’ whispered Lucien.
‘Heroes? You mean, like in the old stories?’ Rose asked excitedly. Normally, I would have been excited too, if I didn’t have a feeling of dread.
Lucien didn’t answer, instead he went to put his hand through the barrier of blue light, but the moment he touched it, he quickly with drew his hand in pain and the barrier turned red…blood red…
‘What are you?’ Lucien asked, looking us up and down, before hurrying over to one of his desks. ‘Wait, there was something here…’
‘My Lord, what happened? What’s that light?’ cried Rose, fear evident in her voice. I clung to her even tighter again. How I wished I had stayed in bed.
‘Quiet!’ snapped Lucien. Gone was the gentle, fatherly tone. ‘You’re Heroes but you’re not any of the three. One of you is the forth.’ he muttered to himself before he pulled a pistol out of nowhere - it seemed - and pointed it at us. ‘This isn’t what I wanted, but nothing must stand in my way!’
‘No wait!’ cried Roe, trying to shield me behind her. ‘Don’t! Noooooooooo!’
Rose was then silenced forever as the bullet left the pistol and hit her straight in the heart.
I stood there. It had felt as though time had stopped. My heart…it felt as though it was ripping in half. I felt as though part of me had been destroyed. I couldn’t accept that Rose, my sister and only friend, was gone…I couldn’t. Never again would I hear her laugh, have her tell my stories or see her caring and loving smile. Never again would I have her comfort me and hold me. Everything I had and loved…was now gone, forever.
I couldn’t stop the tears that started to pour down my face and I didn’t make any effort to stop them. Never in my wildest and scariest of nightmares did I believe that I would see my beloved sister and best friend murdered cold-heartedly in front of me.
Eventually, I slowly looked up at Lucien and saw that the pistol was aimed at me with a shaking hand. I was no longer afraid. In fact, I welcomed the pain and death. That way I would be with Rose and would be able to see Mummy and Daddy again.
‘I can’t allow you to live either…I’m sorry,’ Lucien said, before he pulled the trigger.
Written: 25 May 2011