“Ello Beryl,” the lad greeted his friend with enthusiasm, “yer ready ter go off on the adventure?”
“It’s not an adventure, Tepic, we are just going to… visit old friends…” the cat replied.
“Reckon it depends on the friends if it’s an adventure or no!”
The lad had a sack slung beside him and Beryl carried a large carpet bag, both ready for the journey ahead. Loki Gearhead had helped with their preparations, bringing provisions for the journey. The method of travel was usually unique to those of fox descent, but they had journeyed together this way before, with varying degrees of success. Since the Queen’s Head had closed, it had taken the boy some time to find a suitable starting point but now they were standing by the ally beside the Old Brewery, ready to begin.
A quick look round showed no one in sight and with a last glance round the pair walked down to the far end and turned to the right. They did not appear at the far end, Turtle Beach remaining empty…
They emerged from the bushes next to a wide, gently flowing river, golden fields of wheat or some such crop waving in the slight breeze, the sun warm on their backs. It was a far cry from the city streets and the friends wandered along the banks in companionable silence. Around the next bend was a cottage next to a ford, and a farmer was unhitching a team of horses from his wagon which had seemingly bogged down in the crossing.
The friends glanced at each other, nodded, and hurried forward to offer assistance. It never harmed to do a good deed while on your travels, after all, what goes around, comes around. The farmer was glad of their help, and rehitched the team. With their combined effort, the cart began to move, slowly at first, then quicker until it was standing on the far bank, ready to continue it’s work. The farmer thanked them profusely and handed out fresh bread and hard cheese for their trouble. It was then that they notices a gentleman in a smock standing by an easel on the other side of the river, for some reason tearing at his beard and yelling furiously in their direction. Realising discretion was the better part of valour, the two headed down the road away from the angry man.
It was only a few hundred yards further on that Tepic’s coat gave a muffled quack.
“Tepic…” the cat gently enquired, “you know those ducks that were swimming in the river..?”
“Yes Beryl, good looking ducks they was.”
“The farmer’s ducks, the farmer we helped?”
“Yep, they probably were, right tame they was, came right up ter yer..”
“Well, it probably isn’t part of helping to … accidentally acquire one and hide it under your jacket.”
“Yer think so..?” the boy asked, in a wistful voice, thinking of how well roast duck would go with a bit of bread and cheese.
“Yes, I do.” Beryl replied, firmly.
With a sigh the boy loosened his jacket and let the duck drop out onto the road. It gave them a dirty duck look, quacked meaningfully and waddled back towards the river.
As they rounded the corner, the light grew dim, the road rougher and the clear sky clouded over with dark, forbidding clouds. The path lead them into a walled courtyard surrounding a large building very similar to the Asylum in the City. They approached the entrance, pushed the doors open and crept in. The place was in almost pitch darkness but they could sense the presence of many people, the multitude of small noises, sounds of pain and despair. As they became used to the darkness they could just make out cot beds all around them, filled with bandaged men. From the side footsteps neared and a small figure in what looked like a long gown appeared and a cultured ladies voice asked “Are you the help I requested?”
It was several hours later and they were rolling bandages in the kitchen by the light of the hearth fire.
“I dunno why i had ter give her me lamp, even if the place is lit like the back side of a..”
Beryl interrupted the lad quickly “She kept tripping over the patients, Tepic, poor lady couldn’t see a thing in their, she doesn’t have our… advantages. Anyhow, the wounded like to see her, it lifts their spirits. They are calling her the ‘Lady with the Lamp’ now.”
“Yep, the lady with me lamp!” the lad grumbled. “Reckon we’s done our bit now, let’s scarper before we’s emptying them chamber pots … again!”
Feeling a little peckish after their travails, Tepic rooted around his sack and brought forth two of the brownies Loki had given them. He handed one to Beryl and they munched on them as they walked. In the distance was a village nestled in the valley, lit by a brightly shining moon. The clouds had drawn back and the stars swirled and sparkled in the sky. They sat down and watched the display for a while, giggling to themselves occasionally. Finally Beryl asked “Tepic, who gave you those brownies?”
“Were Loki, makes some great cakes, don’t he?”
“Ah…” said the cat, carefully putting aside the remains of the confection, “that explains it….”
They sat for a while longer, allowing the sky to settle down into more usual activity, the stars clear points of light in the velvet night.
“Isn’t it a beautiful night.” Beryl commented.
“Yep, hey…… what’s this ‘ear?”
“This ‘ear ear, on the ground over ‘ear…”
They had stepped out into blazing sunlight, in the middle of a city with people fighting all over the place, rather like a Friday night in New Babbage, but considerably hotter. Quickly they climbed up onto the rooftops and made their way towards a large building in the middle of the place. As they got near, Tepic saw a figure on the raised veranda of the building, a tall man in a fancy uniform wearing what looked like a fez, revolver in one hand, sword in the other, fending off attackers. The boy though he recognised the man and said excitedly “It’s Chinese Gordon!” to Beryl before calling out to the object of his interest.
“Oy, Mr Gordon! Ello!” he yelled as loudly as he could.
The man looked up, startled by the shout and failed to see the spear that lanced into him. In seconds he was swarmed by his assailants, falling beneath their blows.
“Oh…” said Tepic in a small voice, “errrr Beryl, i reckons we better go, ‘fore someone blames us fer that…..”
Things were looking more promising, they had come out from the alley onto a paved street, with solid looking brick houses on either side. To their right was a building that looked like a bar or pub, so determined to find out if they were finally in the right place, they opened the door and walked in.
It was a bar, with patrons seated enjoying their drinks and company, but directly in front of them was a table at which sat four large dogs, engaged in playing a card game. A quiet fell over the assembled crowd, as the canine customers became aware a large cat and a fox had entered their territory.
“Tepic, I don’t think this is the right place, I don’t think this is working.”
“Reckon yer right, but fer now, i reckons we should…. RUN!”
“Get em boys!” one of the larger dogs cried, in an unmistakably American accent.
They took to their heels and ran for their lives pursued by a baying pack of hounds, but Tepic led them down a small alley, and as they turned the corner the sound died away. They ran a little further and stepped out onto Perditto Street, where they gasped and panted, regaining their breath in the familiar air of their home city.
“You know,” Beryl commented, “air travel seems a lot more appealing just now..”