Those of you who follow me on Facebook (or possibly Twitter) will know that I lost my guinea pig Dylan last Friday. It was relatively unexpected (well, before Wednesday, anyway) and it’s left me not really wanting to write this week, although I did get some more Pete & the Swede done, taking the story forward, although it needs a good edit to up the excitement level.
I had a half-baked story for today, but decided instead to post the links to the two Flash Fiction pieces that feature Dylan in all his glory, with his friends that are or were here, up to mischief as usual…
… and also to give you a 1,000 word extract from his ebook, which is a short story (7,000 words) included in BookElves Anthology Volume 1, and also available free from Smashwords. Dylan and his brother Dougall are princelings in a very small castle called Haunn, way out on the northwest tip of a small island (called Mull) off the west coast of Scotland. I always thought Dylan and Dougall would enjoy it there, since it is my favourite holiday place in the whole world.
Dylan takes a message
In which Dylan’s new route leads him astray
Dylan sped along the grassy trail at the side of the glen, climbing ever higher. He watched carefully for hawks, ravens and eagles. They might think he made a better snack than a rabbit. He was the fastest and cleverest runner at Haunn, and it was his job to carry messages to the other castles. This time, it was a message that needed to go all the way across the sea to Kerrera. The post office there would send it onwards to the legendary Castle Buckmore. He repeated the message to himself from time to time. He had to make sure he remembered it all when the time came to write it down and send it by vacuum tube. He also repeated the second message that Dougall had given him.
Dougall had been let out of the dungeon in time to see him off. He made Dylan tell him the official message, then made him remember another one, full of technical detail, that he had to address to a very particular person. Dougall had shown Dylan an old newspaper in the library to help him remember. Dylan liked the picture in it: a clever princeling who had invented strawberry juice power. Dougall wanted to be like him, but had failed.
As Dylan reached the end of one glen and dropped down into the next, he thought of Dougall’s ambitions. He didn’t think Dougall was wrong to try to fix their problem with raspberry juice. He’d managed to keep the light going for months by diluting strawberry juice with it. Raspberry juice must be some help. Just not enough.
The sun was dipping behind the mountains as he reached the Bridge of Aros and turned along the shore towards Castle Sarlen. With luck, he would pick up a cart going to Castle Craig, or even a boat going directly to Kerrera. Otherwise, he’d have to run through the night.
His luck held. A fishing boat was just leaving Sarlen for Kerrera and he didn’t even have to see anyone in the castle. There was no time to be lost, Dylan thought to himself. The messages must get through!
Dylan sat on the deck watching the water speed past. Less than 20 hours from leaving Haunn to get a message into the vacuum tube system! It must be a new record! He was on the last ferry from Kerrera to Castle Craig before the Yuletide festival began. It was packed with people returning to their home castles, well, Sarlen, Craig and Tober Hold anyway. He thought he might try a different route home, one that he’d eyed for some time. It might turn out to be a short cut.
He got a lift on the top of a cart taking stores and people from the ferry to Castle Sarlen, and dropped off it just before it entered the small town. No reason to take chances, he thought. He climbed up over a wooded hill, then up onto some moorland, keeping a crag on his right and heading west. He calculated the time left before it got dark and hoped he would be across the island before then. He would be able to pick his way along the west coast after nightfall all right, but he was unsure about the moorland or the woods in the dark. It was wetter than he had anticipated, and even his famous ability to find dry routes through the worst bogs let him down. He had wet feet and a wet coat before he reached the cover of the trees. He froze as he entered them, to let a huge stag roam across his track, accompanied by four very graceful lady deer. He shook his coat and trotted on, listening to the silence of the forest.
While the moon was up, he made good time along the coast. He thought he had just enough moonlight to go over the last headland rather than round. Just over the top, as he climbed down through some crags, he heard voices.
“There’s no point in going back there, then.”
“No, and Sarlen is too well guarded.”
“Och, well, we might as well finish up for a while and make sure it’s not found then.”
Dylan crept closer. Two people were sitting round a very small fire, sheltered from the wind by crags and rocks. A third stood up as he watched, and walked out of sight, into the hillside. “Bring another bottle back, Mac!” one of the seated persons called after him.
Dylan inched round a small outcrop of rocks and crept up the side of the hill. Could he see where the third person had gone? Was it a cave? He only knew of sea caves, he had never seen one up in the hills. He heard the other two moving but ignored them. He was sure he could not be seen.
He poked his nose over the crag to look into their hiding place. He looked straight into the eyes of a large, black-haired, black-eyed person with a scar across his face. Someone pounced on him from behind. Before he knew it, he was being bundled down the steep rocks into the cave, one person pulling his legs, the other grabbing his hair. It hurt. And what’s more, it hurt his pride.
They threw him into a corner where some pointed rocks jabbed him in very uncomfortable places.
“A spy!” said the black-haired one.
“A nosy parker,” said the second one, brushing handfuls of Dylan’s hair off him where he had pulled it out during Dylan’s struggles.
“A meddling nephew!” said Uncle Heath, coming forward. At the back of the cave, the contents of some sort of machine were bubbling and hissing and dripping, all surrounded by a weird glow. “Somehow I don’t think you’ll be seeing in the new year, my lad.”
And they tied him, gagged him, and left him in the cave as they tidied up and walked away into the night.
(c) J M Pett 2014