This picture represents the SidevieW theme for the weekend. It put me in mind of a passage – (ha ha!) – from my Baa Baa Black Belt fantasy, but after reading the extract I found it didn’t quite fit. A bit of cropping of the image fixed that, though.
‘Look at that middle one,’ Baa whispered. ‘It’s beautiful, but in that position I doubt if it even sees the sun at midday in midsummer! Shady Tower would be a good name for it.’
Baa wanted to go forward alone, but Mary stuck to his side like glue. They crept to the open doorway, and peeped cautiously round the edges. All they could see was a wide passageway with another open door at the end of it, and single doors to either side. Carefully, they moved into the passage, and peered into the side doorways. These both led into long, narrow and empty rooms. They stole to the doorway at the end of the passage, put their heads round, one on either side, and then shot back out into the night as if they had suddenly grown wings on their feet.
They stopped again only when they had gone right round to the side where the roses were. Then they crouched in a shrubbery, and Mary asked fearfully, ‘Wot-were those orfle chilly things?’
In spite of the way his heart was thudding, Baa couldn’t help giving a silent chuckle. ‘Those are the most awful part of a Dreffle. “Orfles” is a good name for them, and I don’t know any other,’ he said. ‘If you un-glue a Dreffle with lightning, that’s one of the things you’re left with. I counted ten of them there, sitting along the walls five on each side.’
Mary shuddered. ‘Yes, I think there were ten, but I wasn’t counting. They made me go cold with those skull heads and orfle eyes! And those funny thin bodies! Actually, they make one go cold anyway!’ She suddenly remembered what the carp had said. ‘Even the fish didn’t like the bodies, and how they could approve of those heads and eyes I don’t know.’
‘There was a stairway up the tower at the back of that room,’ Baa said, ‘starting along the side just past where some of the Orfles were sitting, and then running upwards along the back wall of the room. But how do we get past those creatures?’
Neither had any ideas, so they reluctantly decided to take another look at the main entrance. It turned out to be as deserted as it looked, and they were able to steal into the inner courtyard without any disturbance. Then Baa heard a faint snorting and stamping sound, and quickly motioned to Mary. They went silently to the far side. There, leading off the courtyard, was a line of stables with open doors, and the shapes of sleeping horses dimly visible inside. Two end stables had closed doors, with large bars of wood resting in slots across them. Without a word, Baa took one end of the first, and Mary the other end. Baa’s bar unbarred, and Mary’s merrily left its slot. They carefully laid the wood down, and silently opened the door…
‘It’s Baa and Mary!’ Baa whispered urgently, just in time to stop a pair of wicked Knight-Mare hooves from taking their heads off.
‘Don’t clip, and don’t clop!’ said Baa to the astonished Daydream, as he and Mary started lifting the second bar to release Lightning. ‘Walk in slow motion.’
Soon the delighted Lightning and dazed Daydream were moving at a snail’s pace towards the main doorway. Baa made the horse and pony walk as if wading through treacle, one foot at a time, and they made hardly any sound. It was nerve-wracking, though, and a terrible strain on the muscles of the animals, but after what seemed like an age they finally reached the lawn at the side of the lake, trembling with fatigue. Then both Baa and Mary rode bareback (in more ways than one) while the horses cantered gently past follies and temples to reach the shelter of the woods.
Lightning told Baa that they had been surrounded and taken completely by surprise not far from the river, on their way back from sending the f-mail to Prang. When they had refused to answer Bang’s furious questions, they had been locked up almost immediately, and had been planning the best time to kick the stable doors to bits when Baa and Mary had arrived.
The girl and (now) boy related their own adventures, and then Baa returned to the problem of how to get into the tower. Lightning sighed and said, ‘Well, if you and Mary are still determined to try something with all these odds against you, I suppose there is a way Daydream and I could help.’
‘How?’ asked Daydream, Baa and Mary, all perfectly at the same time.
‘By creating a diversion,’ Lightning chose to answer Daydream. ‘If we can lure those Orfles away in pursuit of us, while Baa and Mary are hiding in the side rooms, it’ll leave the coast clear for them to dash up the steps.’
‘But what if you get caught again, or if they … do something … to you?’ Mary asked fearfully.
‘That’s a chance we’ll have to take,’ said Daydream grimly. ‘And I may say, I prefer that to the one you’re taking.’
So it came about, not long afterwards, that there was a commotion of horses’ hooves in the half-moon courtyard. Almost instantly the Orfles emerged to investigate, letting out horrible discordant sounds very like those of the Dreffles. ‘Yah, spookfaces!’ Daydream greeted them politely, before joining Lightning in headlong flight.
Baa and Mary, hidden in the rooms to either side, to give some chance of escape to one should the other be discovered, counted as the creatures passed. Then the two appeared facing one another across the passage, each holding up ten fingers. As one, they sprinted through the inner doorway. It was like stepping into an ice-room. They gritted chattering teeth and ran to the stairway in the large chamber. Baa caught a glimpse of a returning Orfle from midway up the flight of steps, and if anything could have made him go faster, that was it.
© Colonialist March 2013 (WordPress)