Yeah, I told you it was Epic…
This is a long cooperative story written by myself and my daughter, Maggie.
A man so tall he had to duck to get under the doorway bounded towards them with a smile the size of a plate. He scooped the princess up in a hug so large she only managed to squeak “Walter!” He released her slightly, accidentally setting her back on the table instead of her chair, where she narrowly avoided landing in her puree. “Walter, what are you doing here?”
“We were on vacation, me and the knights, and the mayor asked us to stay on in case there was trouble at the fair. What are you doing here? You look mighty well! I haven’t seen you since you were up to my knee!” Jeffry was willing to bet that had been fairly recently, but he kept his mouth shut, “How are your sisters? Where are your sisters?”
“I’m traveling a bit with these fine folks, myself,” said the princess, then she leaned into his ear and gave him a quick whispered account of the past week. The huge knight’s face flashed from perplexity to anger to worry as she whispered.
“You must join us, at least while you’re resting! And you know what your father said about using the shoes too much at once.”
“What did he say about using the shoes too much?” Jeffry demanded, worried for his cow.
“Never you mind!” snapped Constance, then she paled. What was wrong with her! “I’m sorry. I’m sorry I yelled.” She straightened, and trying to remember her manners, made the introductions, “Jeffry, this is Walter Whooley. Walter, this is Jeffry and Sweet Flower.” The later gave the knight a bovine nod, “Walter used to be my father’s squire.”
“Before I got too big for the castle,” Walter interjected with a chuckle.
“Now he is one of the great Knitworthy Knights.”
“And there’s about five others back in the party, probably drinking my share of the ale, if you want to meet them.” Sweet Flower slurped up the rest of her puree and they followed him.
The other five knights sat with their pewter shields, emblazoned with a ball of yarn empailed on two knitting needles, slung over the backs of their chairs. They all had and goblets in their hands and several more empty goblets in front of them. Walter pointed to an older woman with silver streaks in her spiky pink hair who perched with her feet on the table. “This is our commander, Lady Scarlette Bamboozle.” The lass with gold curls was Mary-Kate Alpacaloni, and the man with the long red pigtail and beard was Frank Cottonwell. A trio of lads with skin even browner than Constance’s and bulging muscles were the Tweed brothers. One of them was playing with the company kitten.
After the situation was explained and a battalion of small Glossys moved the cow couch into the knight’s dining room, the now ten person company settled down to construct a plan. “From my calculations, Riverside castle is about two day’s leaps or one week’s foot journey from here. We can get you as far as the melted mountains as a group. Mary-Kate’s grandmothers live there and they can travel with you to your parents.” Lady Scarlette pointed to each place on the unfurled map.
“Are your grandmothers alright with leaping? It does a working on the stomach, Jeffry can tell you.” Constance asked Mary-Kate.
“Oh, they don’t need to leap. They can fly.” she responded.
“Could they teach me?” asked Sweet Flower. “I have an odd compunction to jump over the moon, but that requires one to ascend to an appropriate distance and accelerate to just the right–” BOOM!!! BOOM!!!!!
A noise like a cannon sounded outside and everything in the Agitated Poodle went deathly still. At the third BOOM Constance leapt to her feet and jammed her hands over Jeffry’s ears. He had no idea why, but from the window he could see that everyone in the street outside was now walking dream-like towards the river. When they reached the water they just kept walking in until it was over their heads and he could see no more. He felt a pair of earmuffs being pushed onto his own head and saw Constance and the knights running out the door.
Constance was yelling to the others, “Close the doors! Close whatever doors you can find!” the knights and even Glossy ran up and down the street, shutting doors, closing tent flaps, doing whatever they could to impede the gate of the enchanted fair goers. As Constance pushed a malleable crowd sideways into a tent, Jeffry noticed that all the non-dreamy walking folks had on earmuffs like his, or at least something stuffed in their ears to block the cannon-like noise. He wondered why and removed his own. BOOM.
The beautiful music called him to the river. Oh the river, the beautiful river, it was everything to him. He had to be one with the river. If he could but sink into its lovely dark waters all his problems would be solved. There would be no more talking cow, no more stomach aches, no more odd girl with odder friends. No more big brothers who laughed at him and pushed him around and stole his food. The golden sheep and Grandma Fuzzle were waiting for him in the river, and calling him. All he had to do was get to the river. …If only he could get his feet loose from the thing that was holding him. It was like a bramble catching him up. It had hold of his legs and was pleading with him. ‘Jeffry,’ pleaded the little rose on the bramble, ‘Jeffry. Don’t go.’
Sir Whooley took a more direct approach to Contance’s predicament, he tackled the cowherd and forced the muffs back on his ears. Jeffry was brought abruptly back to his senses. Constance, who had been holding on to his legs as he tried to wade into the shallows got up. She spit out a mouthful of river water. Then Jeffry, the girl, and the knight ran back along the shore, trying to push anyone they could move into the houses and closing the doors.
Due to his size, Walter had somewhat more success with this.
Jeffry had just finished pushing the last of the dreamers he could catch into a house when a scream cut through both cannon and earmuffs. Far up on the hill, Glossy was screaming. It only took him a moment to locate the reason.
The small Glossy with the crayons in her bun had climbed onto the cow couch and out the window of the Tavern. The knights and big Glossy were too far away to grab her, But Jeffry ran from one direction and Constance from the other. They managed to get to the little girl before the water was neck-deep, but more dream walkers were crowding in behind them, blocking their escape to shore. Constance heaved the girl onto her shoulders and walked as far as she could then started swimming. Their destination was a small island in the middle of the river with a big tree. Jeffry joined her, and between the two of them they managed to get the little girl onto the shore and up to the lower branches.
From their new perch — they had climbed up a few more branches and settled the little Glossy in the “U” of the tree– they could see the full carnage. The river was filling with people, and not filling with people in a “personal space” way. The dreamers began to walk on one another, forming layers of dreamers in the deep sections, all fighting to get deeper in the water, to drown. Even at the greatest depths they began to fill so high that they formed perversely squabbling additions to the bridge and continued as far as they could see down the river. So many filled the river that the water overflowed it’s banks and ran over the docks and into the streets. BOOM. BOOM.
BOOM. Then a sudden silence. The crayon-bunned Glossy stopped trying to get out of the tree. A man in white robes and a blood-red collar walked towards them. The river’s new human inhabitants froze unmoving under his feet, or so Jeffry assumed. He couldn’t actually see the man’s feet, but one thing was clear: the man carried a brass trumpet in his right hand. Jeffry would bet his left nostril that, when blown, that trumpet would make the noise of a cannon.
“Well, well princess. It seems you’ve worn a hole in those lovely shoes of yours.”
“Not as big as the one in your head.” She replied.
He looked puzzled for a moment, “Am I suppose to have a pair of shoes in my head or a hole?”
“ A hole, you idiot, a hole.”
“Oh, now, don’t be calling me names, princess. They’ll make me your special keeper for this! Just you and me until your father meets our demands. It sounds like so much fun… After I blow this little tent show to bits, that is. So don’t call me idiot.”
“And what would you like me to call you? I can think of quite a few words actually. How about murder? necromancer? TRAITOR?!”
“ I’M NO TRAITOR!” he bellowed, “I serve the true magic! The one dedication! I work that we may rise from the dead!”
“Pity you need to kill to do it.”
He had lifted his trumpet to his lips again when an arrow stuck threw his throat. He fell forward and as his corpse and the trumpet hit the water their spell broke. The river dreamers, those who had not managed to submerge themselves, struggled, screamed, and stampeded towards the shore. Another arrow, this one attached to a rope, thudded into the tree trunk. Glossy stood on the roof of a riverside building, bow in hand, as the knights tried to pull and carry as many people out of the water as they could. People in the deep water grabbed hold of it and pulled themselves hand over hand to shore, but it was still a sad percentage of those whom the enchantment had carried in. The island dwellers had to wait quite awhile until the rope was free enough for them to use.
Glossy met them on the shore and seized her daughter immediately. After she had stopped frantically kissing the little girl on whatever part of her forehead she could get to, and spitting out a crayon, she turned to Constance, “How far do you think the others are behind him?”
Constance shook her head, “Maybe a day or two at most. I’d find his body and bury it on shore if you think you have time, then hide all the villagers in the woods, make it look like he wiped out the town and moved on.”
“Go back to the house and the cow and go with the knights as soon as you can. I need to stay here and organize this… mess.”
A village man with a bushy grey mustache ran towards them panting and notified Glossy, “The town council needs you, Ira and Mai are already in the boathouse, and Tufton’s coming. They haven’t found the others yet.”
Glossy nodded, then turned to the travelers, “Get going as fast as you can. This could turn nasty. Good luck!” they split in opposite directions, the Glossies to the boathouse and the girl and boy to the pub.
As they trudged soddenly up the street Jeffry asked Constance, “What did she mean ‘this could turn nasty’?”
“She meant if someone knew I was the reason Orving came to town they might want retribution or payment of some kind. They would stop us from leaving, and then more trouble would catch up.”
“Some evil has a name. This one was called Orving the resurrector for a while. Now he’s Orving the dead-killer.”
“How do you kill…?”
“Somethings that’s already dead? I don’t think I ever want to know.” They had reached the Agitated Poodle and the knights were waiting outside with their packs. Someone had put a cow-sized sweater on Sweet Flower — it was a cow neck sweater (get it?) but she seemed not to mind.
“Ready?” asked Lady Scarlette. They all grabbed a hold of the edge of Sweet Flower’s sweater.