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I am slightly less behind! So I'm posting Chapter Thirteen. Now I really have to go and write this essay for Canadian History. :-\

Chapters One and Two
Chapters Three and Four
Chapters Five and Six
Chapters Seven and Eight
Chapters Nine and Ten
Chapters Eleven and Twelve

Chapter Thirteen – And the Dead will Outnumber the Living!

The gentlemen rode into Bogbury on stolen horses late that night. All the streets were quiet. Too quiet. Something had to have been wrong. Where was the drunken revelry? A door slammed ominously in the wind.

“Where is everyone?” Frederick whispered. The others did not answer. Something made them feel as though perhaps it would be safer to remain silent.

They rode on through the winding streets, up through the gates of the royal palace, which stood ajar. They dismounted in the courtyard. No one appeared to lead the horses away to the stables. This was worrying.

“What are we supposed to do with all these horses?” Mr. Blackstone grumbled.

“Let them go, I suppose,” said Frederick.

No one could think of anything better to do, so they let the horses wander off out the gates of the palace, and off into the city.

Mr. Sevenson strode purposefully up to the palace doors and pounded on them with his fist. “Open up!” he called. “Is there anyone there at all? Open the doors!”

Two eyes appeared on the other side of the iron grate set into the door. “What do you want?” a voice hissed. The eyes darted left and right, taking in the group of men. “Go away.”

“We can’t go away,” said Mr. Sevenson, “we have come to plan the demise of Finnegan O’Fear. Prince Bamber and Princess Calpurnia are to meet us here shortly. Let us in, I say!”

“Well, I don’t know,” whispered the voice. “Are you... I mean to say... are you quite alive?”

“Alive?” Mr. Sevenson was taken aback at this. “Of course we are alive, what kind of nonsense is this? We are not in the mood for games, sir, now open the door and let us inside, if you please!”

“I don’t please,” the voice said, and then the eyes disappeared, and they could hear footsteps receding until they were left alone in the darkened courtyard again.

“Quite alive!” Frederick exclaimed, running his hands through his hair in frustration. “What do you suppose he meant by that? And now how are we supposed to get inside?”

“Oh, look!” said Mr. Blackstone. “There is a hot air balloon coming!”

Indeed, a hot air balloon was descending into the courtyard, but they could only make out three figures standing in it. As it drew closer, they realised that it was Martha, Adam, and Bamber.

“Where is Calpurnia?” Frederick called up at them.

“We sent her in the back way, because we knew you would all faint if you saw her!” Martha called back.

The balloon took about five more minutes to descend completely into the courtyard, but when it had made contact with the ground, Martha, Adam, and Bamber immediately leapt over the side and jogged up to join the other gentlemen.

“Did you notice anything slightly strange about the city tonight?” Adam asked, as soon as they had reached them.

“Yes, now that you mention it,” said Mr. Sevenson. “We noticed as much as we were riding through the streets to get here; and just now, when Frederick pounded on the door to be let in, the footman asked us if we were all quite alive, and then refused to grant us access to the palace.”

“That is very odd,” said Bamber, furrowing his brow. “I never liked that footman. I suspect he is drunk again. Don’t worry, I will take care of him.”

Bamber marched up to the doors and pounded on them. When there was no answer, he pounded again. “Open the doors!” he shouted. “I demand that you open the doors! It is Prince Bamber – no, I suppose it is King Bamber now that my nephew is dead -- !”

Bamber was so shocked by this recollection, that he could not continue, and Martha had to take his place. “Open the doors!” she shouted. “Open the doors or we will burn this entire palace to the ground, with you in it!”

This had its desired effect. The doors swung open, and a very disgruntled looking footman finally admitted them all, closing and bolting the doors hastily behind them when they were all inside.

Martha turned to insult the footman, and only then realised how extremely ill he looked. He was very pale, shaking, and clutching a bottle of brandy to his chest. His hair was sticking up on end.

“What on earth is the matter with you?” Bamber asked him pointedly.

The footman did not have the chance to answer, because just then, someone came running through the doorway from an ajoining room – it was Jane Haley.

“Oh, Martha! Frederick!” Jane exclaimed, looking almost as disturbed at the footman. “I am so glad to see you here, alive! You are all alive, aren’t you?”

“I assure you, miss, I would not have let them in had they not been,” the footman said haughtily.

“What is all this nonsense about being alive?” Napoleon Bonaparte demanded. “We do not have time for these little games. We have come to plot the destruction of Pierre Noir!”

“And Finnegan O’Fear,” Mr. Sevenson reminded him.

“Yes, yes,” said Bonaparte, annoyed.

“You mean to say that you did not notice anything, anything at all amiss as you came up through Bogbury?” Jane asked in wonder, staring at them all in turn with wide eyes.

“No, not at all,” said Frederick. “Well, that is not entirely true. We did notice that everything was very quiet, and there were no people about, and there was an ominous sort of feeling in the air. But I suppose everyone just went to bed early.”

“To bed!” the footman laughed, a loud, barking laugh that startled everyone. He had a demented look about him. “To bed! Indeed! Would that the dead slept! No, sir, the dead do not sleep in Bogbury.”

“What is this rubbish?” Mr. Blackstone said.

“Finnegan O’Fear,” Jane whispered, as if saying his name any louder would bring him out of the woodwork.

“Finnegan O’Fear?” Mr. Sevenson repeated, disbelieving. “What about him?”

“He came here,” said Jane, swallowing nervously, eyes darting around, as if checking the shadows for something, “this evening. He – he – it’s too awful!”

“What is it, Jane?” Martha coaxed her. “You can tell us. We’re all safe now.”

“Oh, but we aren’t!” Jane cried, burying her face in her hands. “Finnegan O’Fear, he came here this evening, and... reanimated every corpse in the city!”

“GOOD GOD!” shouted Frederick. “ZOMBIES, IF YOU PLEASE!”

“Yes, well,” said the footman, pacing around anxiously, “I believe we are the only people left alive in Bogbury. The rest were, er – modified – by the undead.”

Everyone paused to consider this. They were all listening for any abnormal sounds from outside, but there were none – only the steady dripping of a leaky faucet in the distance.

“When you say everyone...” said Martha at last, trailing off and glancing at Jane.

Jane nodded, her bottom lip quivering. “Everyone. All of them. My mother and father – quite undead. And I had to shoot Oliver Great. He tried to crack my head open and, well...”

“Oh, Jane, how dreadful!” Martha exclaimed.

Jane tried to put on a brave face. “It is not so bad,” she said, trying to collect herself. “I could never have married a lawyer, anyway.”

“Let alone an undead one,” Mr. Blackstone mused.

“But how did this all begin?” Martha wanted to know.

“Finnegan O’Fear swept over the city only a few short hours ago,” Jane explained. “He did not even bother to land, but the effect of whatever evil spell he had cast was instantaneous. The dead rose from their graves – quite clawed their way up out of the ground – some of them merely skeletons. And then, as though that weren’t bad enough, they began to attack the living. Now, I remembered from my school days – “

“Your school days?” Mr. Blackstone interrupted. “Forgive me, Miss Haley, but you are what? Seventeen? Your school days can by no means be over.”

“I would say that seventeen is the usual age that girls put aside their books and go out into society,” Adam put in.

“Is that so?” said Mr. Blackstone.

Napoleon Bonaparte coughed. “If I had a daughter,” he said, “I should keep her at her studies till she was twenty at least, before I let her out into society.”

“Now, that seems rather severe,” Frederick put in. “Twenty?”

“Yes, twenty,” said Bonaparte, “by that age, girls have mostly got over their silliness, if they are going to get over it.”

“But they have missed out on what might have been very enjoyable years,” argued Frederick. “I would say that seventeen or eighteen is certainly old enough to be out in society. Consider my younger sister – she was only sixteen when she made her debut, and she did very well.”

“Did she?” countered Bonaparte, and he would have arched a brow if he had one to arch. “I would not be so certain of that, Mr. Bright. After all, since coming out into society, she has frequently been subject to attacks by a French spy, has been hunted by the Clandestine Council, has been attacked by Finnegan O’Fear, and finds herself now in a city choked with the bloodthirsty undead. Need I say more?”

“You have a point,” Frederick mused.

“Yes, well, back to the zombies,” Martha reminded them. “Jane, you were saying?”

“Oh, yes,” said Jane, shaking her head and trying to recall her place. “Yes, so the dead rose out of their graves and began to feast upon the living, and then the living became like them. It was all very horrible. But as I was saying, I had learned from one of my tutors, that if such a thing as this were ever to happen, I should run straight for the royal palace and barricade myself in there. And that is what I have done, and so far I am still alive. Likely the only person in Bogbury still alive, now that I think of it, aside for everyone else in this room.”

“And Calpurnia,” said Bamber.

There was a lengthy silence.

“Calpurnia...?” said Frederick tentatively.

It took about three seconds for all of the colour to drain out of Bamber’s face. “We sent her in by the back door,” said Bamber. “I can’t believe it! She could be dead, and it’s all our fault!”

“You were the one who suggested it!” Martha exclaimed.

“I was not!” said Bamber.

“Well, did you see her get inside?” said Mr. Sevenson reasonably.

“No,” said Bamber.

“Oh,” said Mr. Sevenson.

Bamber looked as though he was going to be sick. Everyone else was standing about uselessly, unsure of what to do. The footman was singing some sort of vulgar sea shanty.

“All right,” said Martha, “I think the only thing to do is to make our way to the back of the palace, and see if we can locate Calpurnia.”

“I would have to advise against that,” said Bonaparte, drawing himself up and taking on an authoritative air. “For all we know, Princess Calpurnia has been attacked, and has become a flesh-hungry monster just like the rest of them.”

Bamber let out a choked sob.

“But she may still be alive,” Martha insisted, “and if that is the case, we cannot just leave her alone, completely vulnerable to attack! Well?”

After some muttering and shuffling, the rest of the party agreed that it would simply not do to leave Calpurnia to the mercy of the undead. They were just about to depart into the inner palace, when the footman spoke.

“No,” said the footman, getting to his feet and swaying slightly. “No, no, no. This is madness. I am not going wandering through the corridors in the night, when there are thousands of animated corpses on the loose. I won’t do it, I tell you!”

“That’s fine,” said Mr. Sevenson, “we will just leave you here, then.”

“Now, wait just a minute!” the footman exclaimed, becoming angry. “Argh, a pox upon all of you! Fine, I’ll come, but we can’t just march in there defenceless.”

“What do you propose we do?” asked Frederick impatiently.

“We have to arm ourselves,” said the footman.

“Sir, we have got two people who can do magic, and the rest of us have all got pistols. Now stop stalling for time. We are becoming very wordy. Let’s go!” Mr. Sevenson motioned for them all to begin the march down the wide hallway that led to the inner part of the royal palace.

Just as they were beginning to move, there was a loud crash, and shadows flickered at the dim end of the hallway, as though something was moving around in the darkness. Everyone froze, and glanced nervously and each other.

“What do you suppose that is?” Bonaparte asked nervously.

“Oh, likely only the living dead, come to maim us and turn us into rotting, evil, walking carcasses!” the footman grumbled.

“Be quiet!” Martha hissed.

There was another loud crash, followed by a bang, a clatter, and a smash. Somebody swore. Then, they saw it – a dark shape, making its way slowly, unevenly along the hallway toward them, arms outstretched.

Martha, Bamber, Jane, and the footman screamed. Frederick and Mr. Sevenson took out their pistols and aimed them at the approaching shape.

“That won’t help, you idiots, do you think the rest of Bogbury didn’t try that already?” the footman shouted at them.

“What is it, what’s going on?” Adam demanded, and the dark shape came closer.

“It’s one of them,” gasped Bamber, “it must be Calpurnia – she has become one of them!”

“Oh, that is a shame,” said Adam, frowning. “I rather liked her.”

Martha stared at him incredulously.

“Stop, foul being!” Mr. Blackstone shouted in warning to the approaching form.

The shape stopped, and waved its hands around, as though it had lost its bearings. “What is it?” it said, sounding worried. “Is everything all right?”

“Um,” said Mr. Blackstone, squinting into the darkness. “Who’s there?”

“What do you mean who’s there?” said the shape, sounding confused. “What on earth are you talking about? Who else could it be?” The shape stepped into the light, and everyone let out a collective sigh of relief. “It’s just me, Calpurnia. What’s going on here?”

“Calpurnia, thank God!” cried Bamber. “We all thought you have been turned into one of them!”

“One of who?” asked Calpurnia, turning her head left and right. “Is everyone here? I can’t see a thing. Has everyone fainted?”

“No,” said Mr. Sevenson, surprised, “we are all still quite conscious. How is this possible?”

“And Calpurnia, er, why have you tied a cloth over your eyes?” Martha asked.

“Oh,” said Calpurnia, “I wanted to see what it was like to be blind. You know, to empathise with Mr. Haley.”

Martha cast a pointed look at Adam, who went bright red.

“It is not very fun,” Calpurnia complained.

“As to why no one has passed out this time, I think that is our answer,” said Mr. Blackstone. “If she cannot see us, her power does not work.”

“How odd,” said Jane.

“Yes,” said Martha, “it makes absolutely no sense at all.”

“Well, regardless – “ But Frederick was cut off, unable to finish his sentence. There was a strange swishing sound, and a brown liquid began to flow into the hall from the corridor that Calpurnia had just come down.

“Oh, disgusting!” Martha exclaimed, lifting one foot, and then the other. “My stockings are ruined! What is this?”

The liquid was now ankle deep. Adam pulled a spoon out of his coat pocket, and dipped it into the stream. He brought it to his lips, and took a taste.

“Adam, you imbecile!” Frederick exclaimed.

“It’s gravy,” said Adam.

“GRAVY?” they all cried incredulously.

“Taste it for yourselves,” said Adam, with a shrug, tucking the spoon back into his coat. “I couldn’t tell you why we are suddenly inundated with gravy, but gravy it is.”

Talking ceased as everyone sloshed around in the deepening gravy, contemplating the situation. The flow did not seem to be letting up. It was knee deep by the time someone spoke again.

“Er,” said Napoleon Bonaparte, “I think it might be a good idea to, you know, get out of here. If this keeps up, we will be drowned.”

“Yes,” said Adam, the tone of his voice dark. “I think that is the idea.”

They all glanced at him inquiringly.

“Well, we are the only people left alive in Bogbury, are we not?” reasoned Adam. “The undead are out there, and clearly they would like to eat us. And since anything tastes better with gravy...”

“Oh my God!” said Frederick, recoiling in disgust.

“We have to get out of here!” Jane cried.

“Yes, thank you,” said Bonaparte sarcastically, “I said that five minutes ago, but none of you bothered to listen. And now we are waist deep in gravy, and about to be devoured by the undead.”

“Not if I can help it!” Frederick shouted, wading toward the main doors of the palace. “Come on, everyone! Follow me! We make for the hot air balloon!”

“But Frederick,” Jane called, wading after him, “the zombies have probably surrounded the palace by now. We will be wading straight into a trap!”

“Better than drowning in one,” Mr. Sevenson said, and began to swim toward Frederick.

No one could think of anything better to do, so they all began to wade or swim toward the front doors. Martha was feeling very apprehensive. She did not fancy staying in the hall and being drowned in gravy, only to be feasted upon by the undead; but then again, she did not fancy being feasted upon by the undead without being drowned in gravy first either, and it seemed that this would be her fate.

She thought that this was all very unfair. She had survived so many trials and tribulations, had worked so hard, and this was to be her reward? And if the Brights and the Macalbys were all eaten, who would be left to rule Valmell? Perhaps Finnegan O’Fear planned on killing off the entire population of Valmell, as he had done with Britain, or creating an army of the undead. Either way, she did not like it.

They arrived at the doors. After some pushing and shoving, they managed to open them. The gravy rushed out of the hall, into the open courtyard. They were all left soaked from the neck down, but were no longer at any risk of drowning.

Unfortunately, they were now surrounded by zombies.

“I told you this would happen,” said Jane, huffing.

“Well sorry,” said Frederick. “Did you have a better idea? Because I didn’t hear you suggesting anything back there.”

“Would you two shut up for a minute?” Mr. Sevenson said. “The zombies are advancing. We have to do something!”

“Do you see the hot air balloon in the middle of the courtyard?” Mr. Blackstone asked.

“No,” said Calpurnia.

“No,” said Adam.

“Yes,” said everyone else.

“I see two hot air balloons!” said the footman, staggering slightly.

“UGGGGHHHHHHH,” said the approaching zombies.

“They’re getting closer,” Bamber pointed out, unnecessarily.

“All right,” said Mr. Sevenson, taking action, “this is what we are going to do: Martha and I are going to create a distraction, and while the zombies are confused, the rest of you are going to rush for the hot air balloon.”

“What about you and Martha?” Frederick asked, raising his eyebrows.

“We will sacrifice ourselves so that the rest of you may live,” said Mr. Sevenson, bowing his head.

“Um,” said Martha, “speak for yourself, but I don’t particularly fancy being mutilated by walking corpses, Mr. Sevenson!”

“Fine,” Mr. Sevenson snapped. “I was only trying to be noble. So, change of plans. This is what we are going to do: Martha and I are going to create a distraction, and while the zombies are confused, the rest of you are going to rush for the hot air balloon. When you are about ten feet in the air, throw a rope ladder down for us, and we will climb up to safety.”

“Is there a rope ladder in the hot air balloon?” Adam inquired, unconvinced.

“Of course there is, what kind of balloon do you think we’re operating?!” Mr. Sevenson snarled, clearly at the end of his wits. “Now do as I say, all of you, unless you want to have your entrails eaten by those things!” He gestured wildly at the zombies, which were now about two feet away from them; they looked hungry.

“Ready, Miss Bright?” Mr. Sevenson said, turning to her.

“I suppose,” said Martha, eyeing the zombies nervously. “But what sort of distraction do you want me to make, I mean – “

“I don’t know,” said Mr. Sevenson, “think fast, they’re two inches away from us!”

The zombies were so close that Martha could see herself reflected in their teeth. There was no time to hesitate. Without thinking, she summoned up all the magic she could manage, and caused a giant, gaping hole to open up in the middle of the courtyard. The zombies stumbled into it, and when the dust settled, they were unable to extricate themselves from their predicament.

“Oh, excellent!” said Mr. Sevenson, clapping his hands. “I didn’t have to do anything at all. Good work, Miss Bright!”

“Yes, thank you ever so much,” Martha muttered. “Now where are the others with that balloon?”

Mr. Sevenson pointed up. The hot air balloon was hovering about twenty feet in the air.

“Hello there!” Frederick called down at them, waving cheerily. “Well done, Martha!”

“Throw us the rope ladder, for God’s sake!” Mr. Sevenson shouted back. “We don’t have all day, those zombies could find their way out of that pit at any moment!”

Frederick did not waste another minute. He threw down the rope ladder, and Mr. Sevenson and Martha scaled it to safety. They climbed over into the basket, the ladder was pulled up again, and the balloon set off away from Bogbury.

“Are we all accounted for?” Mr. Sevenson asked, when he had caught his breath.

“I think so,” said Frederick. “We’ve got me, you, Martha, Jane, Mr. Blackstone, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, Adam, Princess Calpurnia, Prince – no, sorry, King – Bamber, and the footman.”

Suddenly, there was a jolt, and the balloon began descending, back toward the pit of zombies.

“What’s going on?!” Calpurnia cried. “Why are we getting lower?! BAMBER, DO SOMETHING!”

“What do you want me to do?” Bamber asked desperately. “I don’t know the first thing about hot air balloons.”

“We are too heavy!” Napoleon shouted. “Clearly this balloon was only meant for nine people, and we have ten. We will have to throw someone over the side!”

Everyone turned to look at the footman.

“I vote for him,” he said, pointing at Bonaparte.

“Sorry,” said Bamber, as he, Mr. Blackstone, and Mr. Sevenson grabbed the footman by the shoulders and heaved him over the side of the basket. “You were the most useless of us all. Good luck!”

“CURSE YOU!” the footman exclaimed, and then spoke no more, as he was consumed in the writhing, groaning mass of the undead.

Tomorrow: Chapter Fourteen, in which Sir Rupert and Mr. Stratford search for the Crown of Righteousness, and pay a visit to the only Canadian in Egypt.

Date: 2007-11-25 11:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gundamkiwi.livejournal.com
I love the hot air balloon. It's so wonderfully dramatic and silly and it is amazing. XD

And zombies for the win! :D Though I feel a little bad for the footman.

There really are no words to describe the depths of my love for this story. <3


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