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[personal profile] sandtree
There will probably be two or three more chapters after this. The whole story is going to end nicely around 50,000 words. :D

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
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen


Chapter Sixteen – Trying to Come Up With a Title for This Chapter is Causing Me to Not Write it, So This is the Best You’re Getting for Now



Meanwhile, still in the Isle of Man, Jane Haley, Mr. Blackstone, and Napoleon Bonaparte were scouring the beaches for any trace of Pierre Noir. Thus far, they had had absolutely no luck. There was no sign of the French spy anywhere. Clearly he had not come ashore anywhere on the Isle of Man; they would have to expand their search.

“How do you think the others are doing?” Mr. Blackstone wondered, as they stopped to take a rest. “I hope that Finnegan O’Fear has not killed them all.”

“That would be unfortunate,” said Jane.

“Miss Haley,” said Bonaparte, looking at her contemplatively.

“Er, yes?” she asked.

“I never noticed before, but you have very nice eyebrows,” he said.

“Um... thank you,” said Jane, and she began to slowly back away.


~


Martha, Adam, and Calpurnia were speeding back to Valmell in the hot air balloon, with Finnegan O’Fear sprawled at the bottom of the basket. They had tied him up, just in case, but so far he had remained completely unconscious.

“Where are we, do you think?” Adam asked at last.

“Somewhere over Spain, I suppose,” Martha replied. “It looks very dry and brown, and there are British people everywhere.”

“I thought all the British people were dead,” said Calpurnia, looking confused.

Martha shrugged.

“I hope my sister is all right,” said Adam, sounding fretful. “I am beginning to think that it was a mistake to leave her unchaperoned with two men. Mr. Blackstone, I know, is a fine, upstanding gentleman, but I wouldn’t trust Bonaparte farther than I could throw him.”

“Is that very far?” asked Calpurnia.

“I am sure that Jane is fine,” Martha assured him. “She was the one who chose the stay behind with them, after all. And anyway, I would be worrying more about Pierre Noir. It is only a matter of time before they walk straight into one of his traps.”

Adam looked very uneasy at this. “After we have locked Finnegan O’Fear up in the tree, we will have to go searching for Jane right away,” he said. “I cannot simply leave her in danger.”

“Of course, of course,” Martha agreed. She was feeling exceedingly confident. After all, if they could best Finnegan O’Fear, Pierre Noir ought to be nothing.

The balloon left the dusty hills of Spain, and began to float out over the Atlantic ocean. Adam and Calpurnia were making small talk. Martha was irked by this. She thought that Adam could do much better than Calpurnia, and would not be impressed with him if he threw himself away at the first girl who became obsessed with him.

Turning away from this unpleasant spectacle, she glanced over the side of the basket and sighed. Far down below, black against the cool blue of the ocean, a tiny figure was swimming northwards with all its might.

Martha gasped.

“What is it?” asked Adam, somehow managing to break away from the fascinating hold of Calpurnia’s conversation, which currently consisted of how terrible the taste of butter tarts was.

“Down there!” Martha pointed. “It’s a figure, swimming!”

“Who could it be?” Calpurnia cried, running to the edge of the basket and staring down.

“I don’t know,” Martha replied, “but he is swimming in the direction of the Isle of Man...” She began to rummage around the basket, and finally produced a telescope. She put it to her eye, and fixed it on the position of the swimming person.

“What do you see?” Adam asked eagerly.

“My God!” Martha exclaimed. “It’s Pierre Noir!”

THIS CHAPTER SHALL HENCEFORTH BE KNOWN AS: ‘THE RACE AGAINST TIME: PIERRE NOIR VERSUS A HOT AIR BALLOON’

As the three occupants of the balloon looked down in shock, Pierre Noir flipped onto his back and began to do that thing where you swim backwards on your back, I can’t remember what it’s called, even though I took swimming lessons for like five years – the backstroke. Pierre Noir began to do the backstroke, and as he was backstroking, he caught sight of the balloon flying directly above him. This seemed to shock him, and then put him into a panic, and he dove underwater immediately.

“He is gone!” Calpurnia said, disheartened.

“He will have to come up for breath soon,” Adam insisted.

“No, he won’t,” said Martha, frustrated. “He can breathe underwater! It is one of his many tricks. And now we have lost him. Who knows where he is headed?”

“I would hazard a guess that he is headed to wherever Mr. Blackstone is,” Adam replied.

“Well, then he must be headed to the Isle of Man,” said Calpurnia.

“Not necessarily,” Martha said, shaking her head. “They may have searched the island, and found that he was not there... they could have expanded their search elsewhere. They could be anywhere in the world right now, anywhere at all!” She swore under her breath.

“Martha, really,” Calpurnia chastised her, sounding scandalised. “Is that really appropriate?”

“What really is not appropriate is that Pierre Noir is headed straight toward Mr. Blackstone, the Emperor of France, and my beloved cousin, and we can do nothing to stop him!” Martha shot back, and refused to talk to Calpurnia for the next hour. This did not have much of an effect, as Calpurnia had turned her attentions back to Adam.

They floated for another two hours, but Pierre Noir did not break through the surface of the water again. For all Martha knew, he had completely changed direction in order to throw them off his trail. But regardless, Pierre Noir was not what mattered most at the moment. What mattered most at the moment was Finnegan O’Fear, and getting him safely inside the tree, where he could do no more harm.

Finally, after hours of torture, the shores of Valmell were in sight. As they began to descend, they all peered anxiously through the telescope. There were certainly people moving around on the ground, but whether they were alive or undead, from such a height, it was impossible to tell.

“We should stop when we are about ten feet off the ground, in that town,” Adam suggested, pointing out a likely spot. “Then we can shout at someone, and ask them whether it is safe to come down.”

“But if they are zombies, they will say yes, just to trick us!” Calpurnia exclaimed nervously.

“I doubt the zombies have the capacity for such a phonetic exertion,” Martha replied, hoping that this would soothe her nerves; but as they descended closer and closer toward the ground, Calpurnia seemed to grow more and more jittery.

“Um,” said Martha, when they had finally descended to their required height, “I just thought of something.”

“What is that?” Calpurnia inquired.

“See for yourself,” she said, waving her hand. All of the men in the town were lying unconscious on the ground.

“Oh!” said Calpurnia. “How could I not have remembered that? Should I put my blindfold on again? Or maybe if I just closed my eyes...”

“Don’t do either of those things!” Adam said quickly. “If you lose the power of sight, the men in the town will all wake up, but so will Finnegan O’Fear!”

“Oh, yes,” said Calpurnia, trembling slightly, and wringing her hands.

Just then, a woman came sauntering out of a house, and stopped before their balloon, looking up at them quizzically. “Well,” said the woman, “tell me which person it was that managed to knock out all of the men; I want to thank them.”

“Um, that would be me,” said Calpurnia.

“Well done, young lady,” said the woman, nodding approvingly. Calpurnia went pink.

Martha knew that they did not have time for trivial compliments. “Madam,” she said, “could you please tell us whether or not Valmell is safe? I mean to say, has the outbreak of the undead been contained to Bogbury?”

“Oh, yes, quite contained,” said the woman, seeming to care little for the subject. “Somebody burnt the city to the ground, with all the zombies in it. The whole country is safe, but of course, now we have no capital city, and we have no idea who our rulers are.”

“Um,” said Martha and Calpurnia, glancing at each other.

“We aren’t terribly sure either,” Calpurnia admitted. “But you have rulers; I can tell you that, be assured that you have rulers! It just hasn’t really been decided who there are yet.”

“Right,” said the woman, raising her eyebrows. “Well, if that’s all...”

They let the woman go off to whatever it was that she had to do, and then pulled the string, since nobody had yet come up with decent hot air balloon terminology, and they ascended from the ground once more, speeding over the forests and fields of Valmell, toward the north.

Martha had her mind set on one goal: to get to the tree, and to imprison Finnegan O’Fear inside of it. But, in the dark recesses of her subconscious, lurked the lingering worry that they had lost sight of Pierre Noir, and that, at that very moment, he was likely headed straight toward her unsuspecting cousin.


~


“This is useless,” said Mr. Blackstone, kicking at a broken piece of pottery in frustration. They were back at the ruined Roman amphitheatre, but having searched the place thoroughly, and the woods surrounding it, they had still uncovered no sign of Pierre Noir.

“Patience,” said Napoleon Bonaparte.

Mr. Blackstone raised his eyebrows at him.

Bonaparte winced. “You know, that really was not necessary.”

“Er, Mr. Blackstone – your majesty – perhaps we should take our search elsewhere,” Jane interrupted them politely. “Pierre Noir is obviously not here, and we can really not afford to lose any more time.”

“Of course,” said Napoleon Bonaparte, taking out his pocket watch and checking it. He frowned, put it back in his pocket, and then checked the position of the sun in the sky. “It is growing late. Where do you suggest we go?”

“Back to the secret location?” Jane offered. “Pierre Noir knows that we go there, so he might try to spring a trap on us.”

“But then we would be walking right into his devious trap,” Mr. Blackstone pointed out.

“Yes,” said Jane patiently, “but because we knew that we would be walking into it, we would be perfectly safe, do you see? It will be he who will not expect us to be expecting him.”

While Mr. Blackstone was adding this up in his head, Napoleon Bonaparte was quick to voice his approval. “Excellent strategy, Miss Haley!” he said. “Onward, to the secret location!”

Napoleon Bonaparte, Mr. Blackstone, and Jane jogged back down to the beach, got on board the steamboat that had been left there earlier, and began to make their way southwards down the coast. With the aid of the steamboat, they would reach their destination within about half an hour; then it was a mere fifteen minute walk to the secret tree. With any luck, Pierre Noir would be waiting for them there, ready to spring some sort of underhanded attack; but they would spring theirs first.


~


It was dusk when the hot air balloon came to a smooth landing near the base of the tree that was the secret location. Martha, Adam, and Calpurnia climbed out of the basket, heaving the still unconscious Finnegan O’Fear along with them. They dragged him to the tree, the trunk of which was still damaged from when some impatient person had knocked it in.

“So, how are we going to lock him inside of it?” Adam asked.

“We probably should have been considering this in the hours it took us to get here,” Martha said, with a sigh. She glanced down at Finnegan O’Fear, lying on the ground. “Does anyone have any planks of wood, nails, a hammer?”

“Martha, you can do magic,” Calpurnia reminded her. “Just shut him in there by magic!”

“But I’ve never tried anything like that before,” Martha said uncertainly. There was no way that they could afford to make one wrong move.

“Martha, this is no time to second guess yourself,” Adam said. “We need to do this fast, before it gets completely dark. I am not going to lie, this place makes me nervous.”

Right after he said this, there was a shuffling sound, and the cracking of a twig. Martha could have sworn she heard someone swear quietly, but perhaps her ears were playing tricks on her. They all spun around, but could not locate the source of the noise.

“Did you hear that?” Calpurnia whispered, her voice wavering.

Her companions nodded, not speaking. All was quiet again, Finnegan O’Fear lay inert on the forest floor, but Martha was completely on the alert. She could feel the blood pounding in her veins. Someone, or something was close by, and if they were sneaking around, she doubted very much that they wished them well.

“Arm yourselves,” Martha advised, glancing back at them both. “And don’t let Finnegan O’Fear out of your sight. His wife came here once before; perhaps she has come back again, to try to save her husband.”

Adam had his pistol at the ready. Martha and Calpurnia armed themselves with large sticks. There was a shuffling sound again, like people tramping through the undergrowth, and then a pause.

“Who’s there?” Adam called.

“Adam? Is that you?” came a voice.

“It’s Jane!” Martha exclaimed.

“Put that pistol down, you scared me half to death,” Jane reprimanded him, coming into the clearing along with Napoleon Bonaparte and Mr. Blackstone. “We thought you were Pierre Noir.”

“Good God!” Mr. Blackstone exclaimed. “Is that Finnegan O’Fear?”

“It is,” Martha replied.

“Is he dead?”

“No, he is only unconscious – but wait, why have you and the Emperor not passed out?” Martha looked around frantically, and then felt all the blood drain from her face. “Calpurnia, where are you?” she called. “Calpurnia is gone!”

Calpurnia was, indeed, gone. Where she had gone to, there was no sign, but she had evidently not taken her stick with her; it was lying on the forest floor.

Finnegan O’Fear stirred and began to wake.

“Oh no!” Jane exclaimed, stumbling backwards.

“Martha, quickly, do something!” Adam exclaimed. He looked terrified. So did everyone else for that matter.

Martha moved decisively. There was no more time for pondering. They had not gotten Finnegan O’Fear this far, only to have him wake up again and kill them all. Hurriedly, she shoved him with all her strength into the open tree, before he could fully awake, and he tumbled down the winding staircase.

Without wasting a second, she put his hands on what was left of the trunk of the tree, and willed it with all her might to fix itself. She squeezed her eyes shut in concentration. After a few seconds, she opened her eyes, and blinked. Nothing had happened, and there was a rumbling from deep within the tree.

“It didn’t work!” she said, despair washing over her. She sat down hard on the ground and put her head in her hands. “I couldn’t do it. I failed. I’m so sorry, everyone – Finnegan O’Fear is going to escape, and it is all my fault!”

“Try harder!” Adam insisted.

“Adam, I can’t do it, all right?!” she exclaimed, turning on him. “Just because I can send a French spy flying into rivers, and over buildings, and create giant holes for zombies to fall into, doesn’t mean that I can fix a tree! There are some things that I just cannot do! I never had a chance to perfect my magic – the Clandestine Council would not allow it – I can destroy things, but I can’t fix them!” She sniffed pathetically.

While she had been making this speech, Finnegan O’Fear managed to ascend the stairs that he had fallen down moments before, and climb out into the forest clearing. He stepped over Martha, and glanced around at them all.

“Where in the name of all that is holy am I?” he demanded. When he caught sight of Martha, he smiled brightly. “Oh, Miss Bright, were you trying to lock me inside of that tree? How absurd. I did not think that you would be so easily duped. When I said that the only way to defeat me was to lock me inside of a tree, naturally I was lying. But I see you all swallowed that nonsense about the prophesy of the Lollards. How droll! I shall take especial pleasure in killing you all now.”

Adam was outraged. “You mean to say that we brought you all this way in a hot air balloon for nothing?!”

“So it would seem,” said Finnegan O’Fear, giving him a look of mock pity. “But I must say, this has all worked out rather well for me, because now I am free from the idiotic schemings of my only living son. He can be very bothersome.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure of that,” Martha said, laughing in his face. She was bluffing, of course, and she doubted that he would fall for it, but she had to buy time somehow.

“Oh, is that so?” Finnegan O’Fear smirked. “I call your bluff, Miss Bright; you left Joseph and the others lying unconscious back in Egypt. It would have taken them days, weeks, perhaps even months to get here, and then to find out our exact location, it is impossi – ARGH!”

Mr. Sevenson, Frederick, Sir Rupert, Mr. Stratford, and Bamber came crashing through the surrounding foliage, and Mr. Sevenson had tackled his father to the ground.

“Bamber, there you are!” said Martha, as Mr. Sevenson fought with his father behind her. “We had wondered what was wrong with you. Why did you pass out when Calpurnia took her blindfold off?”

“I had fainted in fear,” Bamber admitted, looking extremely embarrassed. “And then you lot took off and left me in Egypt. Where is Calpurnia, anyway?”

“Er,” said Martha.

Bamber stared hard at her. “What have you done with my sister?” he demanded.

“I haven’t done anything with her, you dolt!” Martha exclaimed, offended. “Why would I? She disappeared a few minutes ago. We have no idea where she went. Right now, our main concern is, I will admit, Finnegan O’Fear, and not your sister. How did you all get here so fast, anyway?”

Bamber did not get the chance to explain. Finnegan O’Fear had shot a lightning bolt out of his hand. It had hit Mr. Sevenson, and propelled him backwards into a tree; he slumped to the ground, unconscious.

Martha ran over to him, knelt down, and checked his pulse. He was clearly still alive, but he was out cold. She glanced fearfully back toward the evil Irish magician, who was brushing his hands off and looking accomplished.

“Who’s next?” he said jovially.

Frederick stepped into the centre of the clearing, meaning to challenge Finnegan O’Fear.

“Frederick, no!” Martha shouted, running toward him, but Mr. Blackstone grabbed her and held her back. “Let me go, I have to help my brother!” She kicked him hard in the shin. He swore, but held fast.

Finnegan O’Fear looked vaguely disappointed. “You?” he said, eyeing Frederick up and down. “You will not be much of a challenge, boy.”

“I’m not a boy,” Frederick insisted. “And I can’t keep allowing you to attack my family members and my friends!”

Finnegan O’Fear sighed deeply. “Oh, all right then, if you insist,” he said, and prepared to attack.


Chapter Seventeen – IT’S THE FINAL COUNTDOWN



Martha closed her eyes and waited for the inevitable. Her brother obviously stood no chance against Finnegan O’Fear – none of them did. He would kill Frederick, and then kill the rest of them as well, and it was all her fault.

Actually, it was all Calpurnia’s fault, for running off somewhere. Martha cheered slightly at this thought. Their imminent deaths were much easier to deal with when she could blame them on Calpurnia.

But they had come so close! So close to defeating Finnegan O’Fear, so close to regaining the throne of Valmell! To have it all end now would simply be absurd. No, Martha sensed that their story could not end here – they needed nine thousand more words, at least.

With every last ounce of her strength, she broke free of Mr. Blackstone’s hold, and lunged at Finnegan O’Fear. Somehow, she managed to kick him straight in the teeth. He recoiled, and tripped over an exposed tree root, landing hard on the ground. The gathered company cheered.

“Martha, where did you learn to kick like that?” Bamber asked, impressed.

“I don’t even have time to begin to wonder!” Martha told him. Finnegan O’Fear was getting to his feet, and she was beginning to panic.

“We have to do something, and fast.”

Martha jumped, startled. It was Mr. Sevenson who had spoken from directly behind her. Evidently he had come out of his stupor, but he did not look as though he was going to be much help. His forehead was creased, and his complexion was pale.

“But how?” Martha asked desperately, as Finnegan O’Fear got to his feet, and dusted off the knees of his breeches. “He can’t die. How do you kill someone who can’t die?”

“You remove the brain!” announced a loud, clear voice, and the footman stepped into the clearing. Everyone was taken aback with shock.

Calmly, the footman walked over to Finnegan O’Fear, and kneed him in the groin.

“UGH!” shouted Finnegan O’Fear, his eyes watering. “That was extremely underhanded!”

“You ruined my life,” said the footman, hatred evident in his expression. “You besmerched the noble occupation of Cooper, and so I was forced to take on the lowly job of a footman at the royal palace. And for that, I will now destroy you.”

He revealed the large axe that he had been hiding behind his back, and in one swift movement, chopped the top of Finnegan O’Fear’s head of. Finnegan O’Fear yelled in rage, but before he could attack, the footman tore out his brain, and held it aloft.

They all stared at him in horrified fascination.

“Quick,” said the footman, “somebody light a fire.”

Hastily, Adam pulled a book of matches out of his pocket, and lit one. He threw it into the open trunk of the tree, and instantly the whole thing went up in flames.

“Perfect,” said the footman, and threw the brain into the burning tree.

There was a horrible, ear-splitting screech, like some kind of bird of prey was being torn apart, and then the tree exploded with such force, that they were all blown backwards, and knocked unconscious.


Martha woke up about five minutes later, but she had no idea how much time had actually passed. Her head was pounding, and the rest of her body didn’t feel amazing either. She blinked several times, and stared around at the destruction.

Every tree within a mile radius was completely flattened. It was a miracle that they had not all been killed. Slowly, she got to her feet, and looked around for her companions.

Mr. Sevenson, Frederick, and Jane were already standing. Napoleon Bonaparte and Adam were getting to their feet. Martha picked her way toward them, weaving through blackened stumps and tree branches.

“Are we all accounted for?” she asked, pushing the hair out of her face. She was relieved to see her brother and cousins, and Mr. Sevenson alive, but she did worry about the others.

“The footman is dead,” Frederick said, shaking his head, “and so are Sir Rupert and Mr. Stratford. They caught the brunt of the explosion.”

“That is a shame,” said Martha, taking out her handerkerchief, and trying to clean some of the soot off her face. “Where are Bamber and Mr. Blackstone?”

“We aren’t sure,” Jane replied. “They saw something, and shouted ‘It’s -- !’ and ran off in that direction. We have no idea who ‘it’ was. They were evidently too excited to finish their sentence.”

Now everyone who was still alive was conscious and standing. Martha, Frederick, Jane, Mr. Sevenson, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Adam stood in a loose circle, trying to get their bearings.

“Still, it is not all bad news,” said Frederick. He unshouldered the pack that he was carrying it, opened it, and took out a shiny, bejewelled, three-foot high, solid diamond crown.

“The Crown of Righteousness!” Martha exclaimed. Everybody stared at it in awe.

“Yes, jolly good, isn’t it?” said Frederick, looking at it admiringly. “We didn’t leave Egypt till we had found it. Poor Agnus Levesque had hidden it in his pantry. But now we have it, and the Brights can rule Valmell again!”

“This is excellent news,” said Jane, smiling. “All of our hard work has paid off, then. Finnegan O’Fear is defeated, and the Crown of Righteouness is back with its rightful owners. We have only to mourn the loss of Sir Rupert and Mr. Stratford, and that horrible footman, who saved us all in the end.”

They all bowed their heads for a moment of silence.

“Er,” said Martha, “aren’t we forgetting something important...?”

Suddenly, from far away, there was a scream.

“That sounds like Calpurnia!” said Adam.

“I don’t know,” Martha countered, “I thought it sounded rather more like Bamber.”

“We have to save her!” Adam said, not listening, and began to dash off in the direction of the scream. There was nothing for it but to follow him. Frederick stashed the Crown of Righteousness back in his carrying pack, slung it over his shoulder, and they all jogged off after Adam.

“Oh, no,” said Martha, as they rounded a large clump of smouldering trees, “I’ve just remembered what it was that we all forgot.”

“PIERRE NOIR!” shouted Mr. Sevenson.

Indeed, it was Pierre Noir. He was standing next to a burnt and blackened tree. Blindfolded and tied to the tree was Calpurnia, and lying at her feet, quite dead, were Bamber and Mr. Blackstone.

“NOOOOO!” Frederick shouted in rage.

Napoleon Bonaparte, catching sight of his stolen eyebrows resting on a chain around Pierre Noir’s neck, made to lunge at the French spy; in response, Pierre Noir pulled out his pistol and pointed it directly at Calpurnia’s head; Calpurnia whimpered pathetically.

“Oh, what do I care if the girl dies?” Bonaparte growled. “I want my eyebrows back!”

“Your majesty, you can’t!” Jane exclaimed. “Think of how terrible you would feel!”

Bonaparte made a face.

“You cad,” said Frederick, glaring daggers at Noir. “You have killed Bamber and Mr. Blackstone!”

“But what I do not understand,” said Mr. Sevenson, eyeing the Frenchman with suspicion, “is how he was able to get close to Calpurnia, to steal her away. She wasn’t wearing a blindfold when he sneaked up on her, so logically her presence should have knocked him unconscious. What can be the meaning of it?”

“The meaning of it is that it was not Pierre Noir who kidnapped poor little Princess Calpurnia,” came a female, Irish voice, and to the shock of everyone, Mrs. O’Fear stepped out from behind of the burnt tree. “Hello, Joseph.”

“Mother!” Mr. Sevenson exclaimed incredulously.

“Joseph,” said his mother, “you allowed your father to be killed? I am most severely disappointed in you, young man.”

“He was trying to kill me and everyone I care about, and even several people I don’t,” Mr. Sevenson countered, bristling. “What are you doing here, Mother? Why the hell have you thrown your lot in with Pierre Noir?”

“So that I could issue you this ultimatum, Joseph,” he mother said. “Come back to Ireland and take up your Father’s evil and glorious work, or, if you foolishly choose to refuse, stay here and watch all of your friends die one by one.”

“NEVER!” Mr. Sevenson shouted.

“Never to which of the options, dear?” his mother said patiently.

Mr. Sevenson chose not to respond. Instead, he seemed to be concentrating. Suddenly, a giant sea scorpion appeared about twenty metres behind them. It was a horrible looking monster, with large spikes, and pointy fangs. And a stinger.

Mrs. O’Fear looked suitably impressed, but smirked nonetheless. “So you are more like your father than you think, Joseph,” she said, arching a brow. “However, you conjured up your monster twenty metres too early. What a shame. Perhaps if you practised more, you would get better. But you always were a lazy child.”

Martha had heard enough of this, and so she did what she did best. She concentrated hard, and sent Mrs. O’Fear flying backward, twenty metres, into the wide open mouth of the giant sea scorpion. The giant sea scorpion chomped down on its delicious treat, and swallowed Mrs. O’Fear whole.

Everyone (except for Pierre Noir, who was swearing en francais) broke out into cheers and applause. Martha was rather embarrassed by this.

“Mr. Sevenson is the one who did all the hard work,” she insisted. “I never could have summoned a giant sea scorpion. That was a feat of true magical ability.”

“But I summoned it twenty yards too far away,” Mr. Sevenson said, shaking his head. “That was a very amature mistake. Miss Bright, if it had not been for your quick thinking, we all might have been dead!”

Martha blushed. “Really, it wasn’t – “

“All right, please, enough of this,” Napoleon Bonaparte interrupted, “it is sickening. Mrs. O’Fear has been eaten by a giant sea scorpion, we have all had our chance to rejoice, but now we really must concentrate on Pierre Noir.”

“Yes, of course,” said Mr. Sevenson, turning toward Pierre Noir, but the French was already off running, with Calpurnia tucked under his arm. He was making for the ocean. They instantly gave chase, the gentlemen firing at him with their pistols, but always missing the mark.

“Stop shooting!” Adam shouted. “You might hit her accidentally!”

Pierre Noir had reached the beach, and ten seconds later he was wading into the water. Soon he was completely submerged.

“He is going to drown Calpurnia!” Frederick shouted.

They all dove in after him. Swimming underwater, Martha had to squint to see ahead. Pierre Noir and Calpurnia where black forms ahead of them, swimming further and further. They were nearly at the point of the drop off.

“Don’t worry!” shouted Mr. Sevenson, but it was so gurgled that they could scarcely comprehend it. “I can do a spell that will allow everyone to breath underwater!” He closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them, Martha found that the lack of air was no longer a problem.

“How convenient,” said Napoleon.

“Hurry!” said Adam.

Pierre Noir and Calpurnia disappeared over the drop off. They swam on, soon coming to the drop off themselves, and diving down, down, down, into the murky depths of the ocean. Really, it wasn’t that murky. But it was dark.

“Do you see them anywhere?” Adam asked, turning this way and that, trying to make out the shapes of Calpurnia and Pierre Noir. They seemed to have disappeared.

“No, I don’t,” Martha replied. “But where could they have gone?”

Suddenly, a giant whale came into view, swimming straight for them. No one had even the time to scream; they all threw themselves out of the way just in time. Sitting on top of the whale, and directing it, was Pierre Noir, with a terrified and still blindfolded Calpurnia beside him.

“What do we do now?!” Adam shouted, as the whale turned to charge at them again.

“We need to find our own whale!” Frederick shouted back.

“I can do that!” said Mr. Sevenson. He whistled, and within seconds, a dark, whale shaped form was looming out of the darkness, coming fast toward them.

“Quick, everyone, get on!” Mr. Sevenson said, when the whale had reached them. They all climbed on with varying degrees of grace, and held on for dear life.

“We will get up beside Noir’s whale,” Mr. Sevenson shouted, “and rescue Calpurnia; then we can attack!”

This was agreed to by a two thirds majority, so Mr. Sevenson directed the whale to swim straight for Pierre Noir’s. At the last possible second, they pulled to the right, and sped alongside the other whale. Adam reached out and grabbed Calpurnia, pulling her to safety. Mr. Sevenson directed the whale to race away from Pierre Noir, who was screaming furiously, but they could not make out the words.

“We have to go back at him!” Napoleon shouted. “My eyebrows!”

Reluctantly, Mr. Sevenson turned the whale around, and again they sped at Pierre Noir’s aquatic chariot, which was a whale. As they pulled up alongside it again, Napoleon Bonaparte leapt onto the back of the whale, pulled out his rapier, and began to duel Pierre Noir.

They all watched, fixated on the epic confrontation playing out before them. Perhaps where Mr. Blackstone had tragically failed, the Emperor of France would be victorious. The hatred that Napoleon Bonaparte felt for M. Noir certainly drove him on, and made him fight with zeal.

The fight stretched on. Neither side seemed to be making any headway. It was very evenly matched. Each man was determined to win. The whales were growing restless. But Martha could tell that Napoleon Bonaparte was growing weary, and she dreaded to think what would happen if he made even one mistake.

“Some help here, please?” Bonaparte called desperately, as he blocked hit after hit from his opponent.

Martha thought fast. “Mr. Sevenson, make a distraction!” she shouted.

Mr. Sevenson did not ask questions. He thought for a moment, and then send the illusion of a large hammerhead shark speeding toward Pierre Noir. The frenchman was suitably distracted. Without waiting another moment, Martha dove off the whale, and swam around behind Pierre Noir. By the time he looked back, she was safely out of sight, and he was forced to concentrate on his duel with Napoleon Bonaparte.

Martha crept slowly up behind him. It was difficult to keep her balance on the back of the huge, slippery sea creature. Finally, she was directly behind him. Slowly, carefully, she reached out, and plucked the chain carrying Bonaparte’s eyebrows off of his neck, and over his head.

Instantly, Pierre Noir spun around and regarded her in fury. Before she could react, he thrust his rapier straight into her stomach. She let out a gurgle of surprise, and then fell to her knees.

“Miss Bright!” said Bonaparte, horrified.

“Your majesty – your eyebrows – “ she managed, holding out the chain to him, and then everything went black.

Tomorrow: check back for the end of our amazing tale!
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Alison

July 2015

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