Tricks and treats for Flashback Friday! When Rebecca Douglass reminded me, with her excellent flashback today, I realised that I have been rather irregular over the past few months. As usual, for Halloween I wanted to post what I call the ‘real’ Dylan and Dougall & Co’s adventure in a very strange mansion, but I’ve already reposted that twice! I must do a new one for the gang soon.
To explain that: my Princelings of the East series has characters based on my guinea pigs, in their own feudal world. A couple of stories feature Dylan and Dougall as the Princelings of the North set in the same world. Then there are the real guinea pigs, usually my current companions, who get up to their own tricks travelling around in our world, possibly meeting supernatural or at least weird beings. Like this one.
Today it’s time for tricks and treats. I’m going back to the Princelings series, to book four, the Traveler in Black and White, which stars Hugo, the intrepid cola salesman (or is he?). Chapter Seven is ideal Halloween fare. But it is rather long for Flashback Friday, so I’m going to start you off, and if you want to read on, the link will take you to the time (in 2012) when I posted it on the Princelings website. So it’s a kind of inter-blog flashback!
Tricks or Treats (The Traveler in Black and White ch 7)
The clock struck six in the evening and the stallholders around Sowerby Castle’s inner courtyard started to put up shutters against the night. Most of the bars were doing so too, which surprised me and I asked one of the lads why they were closing.
“Oh, no sir, not closing, sir, just boarding up. No chances taken, sir. You’ll be quite safe here sir,” he said in between pushing and fixing the shutters into place with a stout wooden beam across them for good measure. I went inside and continued my market research.
Montgomery and I had climbed up the road to the castle in the morning, and parted company at the gate, as he went into the inner castle ‘on business’. My business was to check out the hostelries and chat to the locals about their preferences, as well as getting the gossip on the local situation.
After a pleasant lunch I went into the castle itself and joined a tour, but it seemed more profitable to slip off and do a little exploring on my own when it got to the third level. It was a pretty standard gothic style castle with vaulted corridors, wood panels and plenty of opportunity for gargoyles and secret passages. I found myself in the library and it didn’t look to be particularly private as there were a few other people that looked pretty ordinary to me. I was browsing round a section on the history of the local area, and was into local customs and folklore when I was joined by Montgomery.
“Do you fancy some fresh air?” he asked, and while I could have done with more time in the library to get a hold of the extent of the area and its opportunities in my mind, it was kinda fusty in there, and a walk would be relaxing.
We took some passages and stairs upwards but emerged at the back of the castle and went up a little-used track towards the moorland. The view was spectacular, if you like that kind of thing. I had a feeling Montgomery had something on his mind and wanted to tell me, maybe as insurance. We carried on a bit further up the track and climbed over a ridge so the castle was out of sight, then headed over to a small outcrop of rocks. We settled down and he pulled out some drinks and oatcakes.
The tale he had to tell, out in the open air like that, sounded fanciful, but remembering the night before, I could take it seriously. Basically, it seemed that ‘someone’ used Halloween each year to get rid of the king, or at least to scare him silly. The ‘someone’ was generally considered to be a ghost, ghoul, vampire or werewolf. And since the summer, when the king had married a very pretty young lady (I said I’d seen the pictures) there had been a considerable increase in the amount of ‘sightings’ and ‘strange happenings’, which had indeed scared the king.
I asked what he was planning to do about it.
“Take care,” he replied. “The last thing anyone wants is to get bitten by a vampire or werewolf. Take this seriously, Hugo. Don’t risk it.”
He had obviously seen the doubt and slight smile on my face. I changed expression and listened on. He had to catch ‘someone’ doing ‘something’ so that he could act, so he had to patrol the corridors that night. I offered my help. He stopped and thought about it, looking out over the lakes below. In the end we decided that as he needed someone to escape to tell the authorities what was going on, I should accompany him but run for it at the first sign of trouble. He gave me some details of where to go and what to say to prove my credentials, but said he hoped it wouldn’t come to that. So did I, for both our sakes.
We’d taken separate ways back into the castle, him pointing me towards a back entrance lower down while he’d gone back the way we’d come in. I wandered along corridors I’d seen earlier on the tour and found myself back in the front courtyard. The afternoon was wearing on and some parts of the castle were already in deep shadow. Despite the ominous nature of his warnings I kept seeing signs of parties and feasts being prepared; for all the talk of vampires and werewolves, Hallowe’en seemed to be a holiday.
I’d found a little place that advertised rooms for the night, clean and comfortable, ‘with a real Lakeland breakfast included’ and asked about the partying. “Why yes, sir,” I’d been told by a curvy dame who might have been a real glamorpuss when she’d been younger, “Hallowe’en’s always been a night for parties. The littl’uns dress up and go round and visit their friends and we have apple-bobbing and all sorts of fun.” Then she’d spoiled the fun aspect by warning me to be in by ten as she locked the door then. I’d asked about a key, and she’d said no, if I wanted to be out later “and I’d advise against it, sir” she suggested booking in at one of the inns.
So I’d gone back to the square, had a little something at a café and discussed beverages, then mooched around the stalls before finding my way into the inn that was being barricaded against…what?
Or treat yourself with The Traveler in Black and White and read the whole book. It has spoilers for the first in the series, but otherwise it’s a great way into the Princelings of the East, since it’s a prequel.
Why not join in Flashback Friday on the last Friday of the month, by reposting one of your blog posts that could do with a little more exposure – or one you just like! See this page for a full explanation.