17 April, 2018 by katelaity
‘Where are the horses?’
Chambers looked up from his great book. ‘Perhaps they have wandered away to graze.’
‘Perhaps they have died of old age,’ I said morosely, wondering just what our foolish adventures in elf lands had cost us. I do tend to get a bit irritable when hungry and I was ravenous just then.
‘If they died of old age the saddles and bridles and whatnot would still be here on their bones,’ Tansy said with a chuckle though the image he offered was a rather grim one. ‘You’ve got leaves on your jacket.’
‘So have you.’ We both brushed at each other’s lapels, just like back in school. Tansy was always button-fresh but I had a tendency to carry mementos of my lunch along with me.
‘Oh, I say,’ Chambers said, regarding his own lapels. ‘Those were our ribbons of valour.’ He looked sad to know that his award was gone, but dutifully plucked the leaves and placed them carefully within the pages of his book.
‘Nothing fay can remain here,’ Tansy said with a faraway look.
That reminded me: I had put a cheese tart in my pocket. I reached into the depths of my pocket and brought out a handful of ashes. No golden tart! My stomach rumbled in protest.
‘Cheese tart, was it?’
‘Don’t laugh at me, Tansy. I was experimenting. What was that you said about fortune favouring the bold?’
He laughed. ‘I’m not sure your bottomless hunger counts as boldness.’
Chambers made a slight gasp, not so much in surprise as in sudden remembrance. His hand sought out an object in his pocket. To our surprise the letter from the lady Judith had remained a letter.
But it looked an ancient thing now: browned and worn as if it had lain in a great collection for years on end instead of in Chamber’s pocket for minutes—surely it had only taken minutes for us to journey back through the fairy mound? Then again time was tricky in that realm.
‘To whom is it addressed?’ I could not help being curious.
‘Abbess Hilda, Hartlepool Abbey,’ Chambers read from the spidery script in which the lady had written.
‘We shall have to deliver it,’ Tansy said with implacable decision. His way was usually implacable and decisive, to tell the truth. It was rather wearing at times. ‘We cannot trust such a delicate object to the penny post.’
‘Most definitely!’ Chambers appeared to be quite eager to follow up our strange adventure with further and stranger adventures, though I could not help but think delivering a letter might be a little more quiet than our adventures heretofore.
Of course I was bound to be wrong about that. Any adventure involving Tansy quickly got out of hand.
We wandered eastward in hopes of finding our bearings again, but the countryside refused to look the least bit familiar. On the whole it was more windswept than I had recalled, roughter and more moor-like. This did not bode well. Perhaps Scotland had been visited by rough winds in our absence. Or something more menacing.
At last we found ourselves on a lane. Then we met a man who was extricating a recalcitrant donkey from a hedge. We lent our hands to the business and soon had the naughty critter back on the lane though obstinately chewing bits of the hedge, which it evidently thought a great prize.
After his effusive thanks for our assistance, he gave us some startling news: not only had we passed a month in the other lands, but we had arrived in England. Pointing to the direction where the sun was beginning to poke its head up, he continued, ‘Half a day’s walk and you’ll be in Hartlepool.’
We shared looks of amazement. ‘That’s exactly where we were headed,’ Chambers said, wringing the man’s hand. He regarded us with some surprise but cheerily went on his way, yanking the donkey’s lead and whistling.
‘Well, it makes sense, I suppose,’ Tansy said with an air of amusement.
‘That lady Judith sent us here?’ I asked.
‘It’s the most likely solution. Anyway I knew we’d have to go back to England for true absurdity,’ Tansy said with a wink.