Step. Step. Step. Step. Step. Step.
“Enough.” Said Sir Walter. “You know you shouldn’t –”
“WHAT? Sir Walter?” Asked Constance with fury, “Shouldn’t try to escape from THAT?” She waved her hand in a general Easterly direction. “Because we may have defeated Orving, but there were other 2-mile shoes in the castle, and if he found us…more like him are sure to follow!”
She could tell by the look of shock on everyone’s face that she’d been screaming and acting in a very un-princess like manner.
“I- I beg your pardon Sir Walter.”
“No worries lassie.” He told her with kind understanding. “It’s not you that’s speaking, it’s the exhaustion brought on by all that blasted leaping.”
“But we can’t stop.” She said, near tears, “they’ll catch up.”
Sir Walter pulled out a knitting needle and scratched his scalp as he pondered this. “I’ve got nothin’. “
“We could pitch camp here.” Frank Cottonwell suggested.
A little whine of dispar came from Constance.
Mary-Kate explained, “Not just any camp, and proper Knitting Knight’s camp.”
“We knit ourselves a castle.” Lady Scarlette told her.
Sir Walter gave her a wink, “A magic castle.”
“It’s a tower really, we knit it in the round.”
“What if we kept land leaping?” Jeffry asked.
The Knitworthy Knights frowned in his direction. “Look at her, boy,” grumbled Sir Walter with a nod toward the exhausted and fretting Constance, The lass can nah take much more leaping.”
“But it seems like only the person wearing the slipper gets effected by it.” Jeffry explained. so far Sweet Flower is ok– right?”
The cow lifted her head from the patch of weeds she’d been chomping and gave him a nod. “I’m alright .”
“That’s probably because we’ve only been leaping for a little while, and the princess has been at it for hours and hours.”
Constance gave a pathetic sigh.
“What if one of us wore the slipper and Constance took a ride for a while? We could get some real distance between us and whoever is following us and THEN we could stop and set up the knitted castle”
Lady Scarlette clicked her knitting needles together and the knights huddled for a conference to consider Jeffry’s proposal.
“We are wasting time!” Complained Constance.
The knights broke the huddle, clicking their needles in agreement. “O.K. We’ll try the boy’s plan.” Said Sir Walter. “Princess, may I have your slipper?”
She slipped off the pink footwear and turned it over to the him.
As he held it in his hand a flaw in the plan became obvious. He could fit his thumb in the slipper, but he’d never get it on his foot. “Oh, dear.”
Lady Scarlette’s feet were too big, so were Mary-Kate’s , and Frank Cottenwells and all six Tweed feet.
Jeffry looked down at his mud encrusted feet.
They ALL looked down at Jeffry’s mud encrusted feet. “Um… I’ll do it…Unless you think I’m not magical enough.”
“Oh, Jeffry,” Constance said with affection, “you are more than magical enough.”
He put the slipper, which was a little snug, on his foot. “What direction?”
Constance turned him to the right direction. Then she swooned with exhaustion.
Sir Walter caught her. “I’ve got you princess.”
The third Tweed brother quickly bound something off his needles “Here, Sir Walter.” He said handing it over.
“It’s a sleeping sack for the Princess, we knit it while you all were yacking.” Said the second Tweed brother.
“You sling it over your shoulder and she can sleep inside while we all leap.”
“We’ll, what are we waiting for?”
Everyone held onto the cow. Jeffry took a nervous breath, concentrated, and took a step.
He made 23 more land leaps before the group stopped again. At Lady Scarlette’s suggestion they altered direction a few degrees north for a half-dozen leaps, shifted a few degrees east for the next leap then went back to their original trajectory for a long series of leaps.
The sun was setting when Jeffry finally let go of Sweet flower’s collar. ” You O.K. girl?” He whispered quietly into her hairy ear.
“Moooooo. You O.K.? You look kind of green.” She said with concern.
“I feel kind of green.” He admitted.
“We’ll, what do you think?” Asked Lady Scarlette, “should we break for the night here, or keep going a bit more?”
It took Jeffery a second to realize she was talking to him. In general, None of the knights ASKED him anything. Commanded, yes. Asked, not so much.
He wasn’t sure. They had covered a lot of ground, but was it enough. “Where’s the Princess?” She would know.
Sir Walter indicated to the wooly knitted sack he was cradling. “Still asleep, poor lamb.”
It wasn’t like he didn’t WANT to stop. Jeffry was starting to feel the exhaustion that has plagued Constance. AND he was getting sick. But he didn’t think they’d put enough space between them and the evil men who were following them. What if Lady Scarlette’s feint to the north a few hours ago didn’t misdirect them?
“Why don’t we go on for a bit more?” Jeffry suggested. “We can stop when the moon rises. Then you can knit the castle and we can rest.” He worried that he was sounding too bossy so he added an “O.K.?”
“You’re the man with the slipper.” Said Sir Walter with a shrug. He put his beefy hand back on Sweet Flower’s collar and the other Knitworthy Knights followed suit. Jeffry aligned himself in the right direction took hold of his cow’s horn and took a step.
By midnight they knights had finished a tower complete with drawbridge. They built a fire in the courtyard and proceeded to make their dinner. Constance was awake, but still groggy. Jeffry took off her slipper and handed it back to her.
“Thanks for that.” She said sweetly. The rest had done wonders for her personality. She was back to being a kind, gracious, sweet princess now. She made room in her Princess sack — which had expanded as the night wore on — and Jeffry snuggled in next to her. Together the sleepily children tried to stay awake in the warm woolen bag so they could listen to the others tell stories around the campfire.
The trio of Tweeds told a very funny story about pirates kings and treasures and dancing. (Naturally, they acted out all the bits about fighting and dancing.)
Frank Cottenwell told of a farmer who lived near his home town.
Most farmers have trouble with crows, as you know. But this farmer had a much larger and more menacing problem. He was burdened with a homoaviario, a birdman. He/it swooped down onto the farmer’s fields every night and had a banquet of fresh vegetables. Homoaviario laughed at the farmer’s feeble attempts to scare him away. He flew over to the scarecrow and perched on the thing’s shoulder singing a loud cawing song until the farmer came into the field with a pitch fork and chased him off.
The next night Homoaviario was back, snacking on on corn and lima beans to his delight.“Ach you miserable beast!” Yelled the farmer “get ye out of my field!” And the farmer and three of his farming cohorts shot blunderbusses from the four corners of the field to scare the human/bird hybrid away. And Homoaviario did fly off… but he came back.
The next day when he flew in there was a skeleton where the scarecrow had been and as Homoaviario landed the skeleton waved its bony arms madly. It did not so much scare the bird man as it intrigued him. He approached the skeleton and it waved more frantically and a booming voice said. “No, no… let the skeleton be. There’s nothing odd about it… “ The more the skeleton spoke the less menacing it seemed, and more it sounded like the farmer. “I, er, oh, you’ll wind up like me a nasty ole bag of bones if you don’t clear on out of here!” There behind a hunting blind was the farmer pulling on wires attached to the skeleton like a marionette. Homoaviario laughed at the silly man and took his dinner and flew away.
The next night the farmer was nowhere to be seen, but a strange little man with thick glasses and a large head sat on a blanket in a clearing. He was reading a book and he didn’t look up until the bird man was standing right in front of him.
“Oh,” he said in a squeaky voice, “good day to you, Sir Birdman, good day.”
Homoaviario ducked his head. It had been a fine day, and he was ready for a fine dinner.
“My name is Maximillion Rodulfo Hemingway DeLuc, and I have been employed by the farmer who owns this acreage to attempt to evacuate you.”
The birdman shrugged and blew a rather unflattering snort out of his beak like nose at that idea. Maximillion Rodulfo Hemingway DeLuc could TRY.
“Do you happen to like insects, Sir Birdman?”
This had Homoaviario’s attention he very much liked insects. In fact he usually saved a handful of crickets for his dessert after eating his corn and lima beans.
“Crunchy, delicate winged fellows?” Maximillion Rodulfo Hemingway DeLuc tempted him. “Chewy on the inside crispy on the outside? They even sing for your entertainment, so I’m told.”
The birdman made a noise of longing. He wanted some of those insects right now.
“Well, I have it under very good authority that two counties over they are having a blight of locust. Desperate to get rid of the buggers, as it were. It sounds to me like a situation you are uniquely qualified for, sir” He held out a business card which Homoaviario took his feathery hand. “Sixteen miles in that direction. Tell them Maximillion Rodulfo Hemingway DeLuc sent you.” He smiled, “lovely doing business with you.”
With a swoop of his wings Homoaviario flew off to the locust invested fields.
Maximillion Rodulfo Hemingway DeLuc put away his book and folded up his picnic blanket. He was a happy man. He solved two problems and got paid twice that day.
Mary-Kate told a melancholy story about a beautiful girl who was forced to live by other people’s rules:
There once was a beautiful girl who had a bad reputation. It wasn’t her fault. Her beauty made her the desire of all the men in the village. It also made her the envy of all the women. Alas it also made the scorn of most of the women. They often talked behind their hands about the pretty girl and used words like “floosy” and “tart,” when really the pretty girl was the model of goodness.
One day her father arranged a marriage with the wealthiest merchant in town. It made him (the father) very rich, but she was not in love with the merchant. She liked many men who had come courting, but had fallen in love with none of them. She tried to explain to her father that she wasn’t ready to get married. But he was too busy counting the pile of money he’d gotten from the merchant to listen to his daughter.
It satisfied the merchant that he had won his pretty prize and once they were married he stopped paying the pretty girl compliments or leaving her little presents. Soon she became little more than a servant in his house. The highest ranked servant to be sure, but still, a servant to his wants and needs. It was not the life she had dreamed of, but it was what it was.
The girl put away her girlish fancies and was a dutiful wife. She made the bread, and learned to knit, and kept the house, and managed the merchants finances while he went off to faraway lands to find fine and exotic items for his shoppe.
One day he arrived home with a tall dark stranger. “This man here is a silk trader from the Italy and he’s going to teach me all there is to know about buying and selling silks. He’s a guest in our house and you’re to treat him as such.” The husband ordered gruffly — he always spoke to her in a gruff voice now. He had no need for the honeyed voice of a suitor now that they were an old married couple.
The girl did as she was told she treated the stranger as an honored guest. She made him warm home made meals when the husband ate at the tavern with friends. She listened to the stranger’s stories of Italy as they sat in front of the fire if he was lonely. She walked him around the town and showed him the sights so he wouldn’t get lost.
The neighbor women whispers behind their hands about how the girl and the stranger looked at each other. How he held the crook of her arm to guide her around pile of animal dung in the street. How she laughed at the jokes he told in his strange Italian accent.
Soon word got back to the husband that the girl and the stranger had become lovers. He was a vain man. Although he couldn’t believe that his wife would prefer anyone over him he was furious that such a rumor would exist at all. He confronted the stranger and ordered the him out of the house.
Confused — he and the girl had been most chaste in their relationship — the man packed to leave.
When the girl came in and heard the ranting merchant and saw the packing stranger she pleaded with her husband to reconsider. He took this the wrong way. Was it a sign of guilt? His hand came down across her pretty face. Before she hit the stone floor the stranger moved between husband and wife.
NO. The stranger could not allow this. He challenged the rich man to a duel to prove his honor and the honor of the pretty girl. The next morning they met at dawn in the town’s square. Most of the neighbors lined the street or hung out of windows to watch.
A terrible sword fight ensued. Occasionally the stranger would demand that the merchant take back what he said. And the merchant would counter that the stranger should take back what he did. In the end both the merchant and the stranger were badly injured. Though both men were better at trading goods than exchanging thrust with their blades, pride and honor made them fight with such venom that in the end neither man would walk away whole.
After a half hour of Coup droit d’autorité and Froissement and slicing and hacking the stranger made a move In quartata. The merchant saw his chance and thrust his blade into the man’s unguarded back. With a sickly crunch of backbone and slurp of vital organs he withdrew the sword and the merchant fell dying to the cobblestone of the courtyard. The town guards were called and the death was recorded.
The girl brought the cart from the warehouse and hired two lads to put both men inside it. She took her husband home and put him to bed. She bound his wounds and gave him mulled wine to ease his pain. He was in bad shape, and he might not make it through the night.
She found that either way it didn’t really matter to her. Anything between them had been dead for a long, long time (perhaps there had never been anything there at all). What did it matter if he died now?
And If he lived? He would never be able to walk again. Never be able to go on his buying trips. At most he would be an invalid, stuck in this house, growing ever more annoyed at his surroundings, at her.
She had nursed her mother, God rest her soul, and had watched that dear woman suffer for years until the angels took her. But it wouldn’t be like that with him. He would be a beast of a patient and she would bear the brunt of it. The bed pans, she could handle, the abuse… no. It was too much.
She brought him another goblet of wine and put an envelope of powder into it.
“What are you doing?” He demanded angrily, weakly.
“It’s a powder to help with the pain.” It was the truth. The powder would ease his pain. But too much of it would stop his heart. And she helped him sit up to drink the wine. Every last drop.
Then she took a bag of food, a change of clothing, some essentials, a knife and lamp and went back outside to the cart and the body of the stranger.
Poor man. She didn’t even know if he had family back in Italy. She paid a silver coin to to have him buried.
Then she walk into the mountains and was never seen again.
Mary Kate looked around the campfire, pointed one of her fine Italian knitting needles at them and said mysteriously. “She is still out here today. Somewhere.”
As Sir Walter started to tell his rollicking story of a Minotaur named Boris who lived in the Glen of Glee Bardon Lady Scarlette stopped knitting and held up her hand. The group fell silent.
“There’s something out there.” She whispered. “Joey” she nodded to the nearest of the Tweed brother’s check the I chords on your portcullis.
“I didn’t knit a portcullis.” He whisper back urgently. “Jamie, check the I chords on your portcullis.”
Jamie gave a little panicked look to their third brother “I didn’t knit the portcullis either, I thought Jackie was doing it?”
The realization hit them all at once that not only had no one knit the I chords to lift and lower the portcullis, but no one had knit the portcullis!
They had essentially knit a circular trap and left the front door unguarded while they built a fire and told stories!
A half a second later the fire was out. Sir Walter had grabbed Princess Constance and was rushing to Sweet Flower.
Jeffry fumbled to free himself from the Princess sack.
Glowing blue arrows were coming from the entrance of tower. The Knights got their shields up in time, but as the arrows hit the blue dissolved and melted into screams of horror.
Jeffry hesitated. He had to dodge those arrows to get to Sweet Flower, Constance and escape. “GO!” yelled Frank Cottenwell.
“What happens if one of those arrows hits me?” Jeffry asked, panicked.
“You’ll die screaming.” Another arrow hit Frank’s shield and shrieked. “Just like that.” He loosed another arrow from his bow. “But if you don’t go right NOW, you’re going to die anyway.”
Jeffry turned toward the cow and the girl and the Sir Walter. He poised himself to make a run for it.
But Lady Scarlette stood and yelled “Go!” to the little group and somehow Constance’s foot moved forward and they vanished.
Jeffry fell to the ground. “NO!”
The death arrows rained down faster and a faster.
Mary-Kate knelt next to Jeffry. She pulled out a large glowing crochet needle and set it on the ground between them. “Which way did the sun set?”
He wiped at his eyes. What did it matter which way the sun set? They were all going to die a terrible death.
She shook him. “Jeffry! Which way did the sun set?”
He pointed to the right. “Good boy.” She shot off an arrow. “Move the crochet hook so it’s facing the sunset.” She shot another arrow. “Hurry.” She shot another arrow.
He did as he was told. “Now throw the hook as high into the air as you can and catch it.”
She released another arrow.
He threw the hook into the air.
Mary-Kate reached back and grabbed his leg.
He caught the hook.
Jeffry felt himself fading away. The battle in the knitted castle dimmed. And suddenly he and Mary-Kate were huddle on the ground in the woods, far away.
[Like the rest of this story, indeed all of my blog, this post is copyrighted. Don’t even think of stealing it… or we’ll have to send Sir Walter after you.]