Chapter 10: In Which the Night Brings Rest

“Where are we?” she asked, unsure if the Knight would know, or if he would burst into tears in despair.

“I have no earthly idea,” he answered, still staring up at the stars. “But we aren’t in a castle under attack, and we haven’t been turned into something unnatural. Not yet, anyway.” Westley Cummerbund seemed content to lay on the bank and not be in peril—at least for the moment.

“Shouldn’t we, you know, do something?” Madison asked.

“Why are you asking me?”

“Because you are the hero,” Madison answered, exasperated.

“Oh, right. Of course. How silly of me. Let me look in the manual.”

He pulled a small book from a pocket somewhere within his large cloak and began to leaf through it. Madison wondered what kind of hero needed to consult a manual, but was hoping that it at least would be able to help. He read for about a minute, and then, when he discovered he was reading it upside down, turned it around the right way and continued to read in silence, flipping through pages seriously.

Just when Madison felt she would burst in anticipation, the Sort-of Knight finally spoke:

“Okay. We must stand up cautiously, and look around to see what we can see.”

He set the book down and slowly rose to his feet.

“Ah,” he said.

“What?” Madison asked, hopefully.

“It’s nighttime. I can see absolutely nothing. I better consult the manual.”

Madison rolled her eyes as Westley looked studiously at the book by the light of his torch. Finally, he spoke:

“Do we happen to have an empty canoe?”

“No,” Madison answered.

“What about a rubber duck?”

“Of course not!” Madison responded, frustrated.

“Well, what about thirteen horseshoes?”

“No!”

“Okay, no need to shout. The book says that if we have neither a canoe nor a rubber duck nor thirteen horseshoes, we should camp overnight in a safe place.”

“That’s it?”Madison asked. She felt like she could have figured that out herself, without hero training or the use of a manual.

“No, it also says, ‘Things will look better in daylight.’”

“Oh, okay,” Madison answered, a little unsure what to say. Apart from the ducks and horseshoes, the advice actually made sense. And she did hope she would feel better in the morning. She had begun to discover that darkness made her feel frightened—much more frightened than when her bedroom was dark at nighttime—and being frightened made it difficult to make good decisions.

“I guess this place looks as safe as any,” Sir Cummerbund said, pointing to a little shack. They walked across the grass to see a long-abandoned hut, boarded up and completely empty.

“What if there’s something inside?” the Knight asked, fearfully. He seemed like two people to Madison sometimes: one minute he was a bumbling, frightened mess, and the next he was full of bravado and ill-guided courage. Madison could see that the shack looked safe, and she was quite cold in her wet clothes, so she decided to be the brave one.

“I’m freezing, Wesley….”

“Westley, with a “t”,” he corrected, and then made a series of “t” sounds, looking very much like an angry, black-masked racoon.

“Sorry, Westley. Let’s check inside.” Then she patted his arm. “It will be okay.”

He nodded, then took a deep breath to collect his courage, and pulled first one board off the door, then another. He held his breath as he peeked inside the door, and breathed out deeply when it seemed to be entirely empty.

The duo walked inside the hut, and the Knight lit an old lamp with his own torch, and then set it in a wall torch holder. The dingy cabin lit up cheerily with the firelight, and they were able to see their home for the night. There were two crude beds made of straw, an old table with tree stumps for chairs, and a small black stove with dry wood piled next to it.

“This is pretty good,” Madison said approvingly. While she really was glad to have a place to stay that was dry and safe, the straw cots were pathetic when compared with her beautiful four-poster bed, and there was no food anywhere to be seen. A thin layer of dust settled over the entire room, and there didn’t seem to be anywhere to go to the bathroom.

“Well, I best make a fire,” Sir Cummerbund offered. Madison nodded, and then to her astonishment, he took out his manual.

“You don’t know how to make a fire?” Madison asked, accusingly.

“Well, of course I do,” he answered, indignantly. “I am just double checking. For safety.”

Madison rolled her eyes again and began to clean the cottage up a little. She found a rag on the floor and dipped it in a pool of water outside the shack. She wiped down the table, then shook the dust out of the bed sheets. Each sheet filled the evening air with dust and made her sneeze. Princess Madison had allergies to dust, and she knew that she would be sneezing all night long.

Adventures like these did not go well with allergies.

After some concentrated effort on the part of Sir Westley Cummerbund, a fire was lit, and the cottage was soon warm and bright. The Princess and her valiant Knight sat down at the clean but empty table and looked around the cabin quietly.

Madison’s stomach began to rumble. It was a long time since lunch, and she was starting to get quite hungry. She began to dream of premium ice cream with chocolate and strawberries, and the Knight began to yearn for hundreds and thousands of jelly beans. The two of them the stood quietly in the shack, dreaming of food they did not have as the fire in the stove struggled to find life. Finally, Madison broke the hungry silence.

“I wish we had brought something to eat,” she said. “All I have is this book.”

“And there isn’t even any words in it!” Westley added, smiling at Madison. Madison then laughed with him, feeling relaxed and comfortable for the first time in a long time.

“Would this work?” Westley asked, pulling a loaf of bread out of a pocket in the top part of his cloak, somewhere near where he kept the giant quill pen. “It’s gluten-free,” he added.

“Really?” Madison said gleefully, wondering how someone who had to consult a manual to start a fire know enough to bring her just the right kind of food.

“Sure,” the Knight said. “You can’t rescue the Princess without rations. I also have some goat cheese.”

The two companions supped on bread and cheese to the sound of the crackling fire and the crickets outside. Far away from the castle and all the worries of the night, Madison Jayne soon found herself quite warm and quite sleepy. She tucked herself into the straw tick, while Sir Cummerbund tried made himself as comfortable as possible on his.

They lay in silence for a moment, as Madison marveled at the night sounds. She heard the hoot of an owl, and the call of a loon. She heard the scurrying of little forest animals, and sound of a creek entering the lake. Madison decided the trickling water sounded like a harp.

“Westley?” Madison broke the silence.

“Yes?” he answered, yawning.

“Thank you for saving me.”

“It is my distinct pleasure, Little One.”

There was something familiar about the way the Knight called her “Little One.”

“What did you call me?” she asked.

“Zebra slippers,” he responded, clearly falling asleep. Within seconds her brave Knight was snoring, while hard straw sticks poked into Madison’s back no matter which direction she turned. But despite the strange night sounds outside, and a near-stranger snoring on the other side of the room, and the smell of the old blankets, and the uncomfortable mattress, the Princess soon forgot about her circumstances and drifted off into a land of dreams and make believe.

What do you think she dreamed about, lying in that dark, abandoned cabin? I would like you to write a big story about one of Princess Madison Jayne’s dreams and email it to princessmadisonjayne@gmail.com so you can get the next chapter in the story.

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Published in: on July 8, 2010 at 8:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

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