By way of introduction readers of this blog will know that I have written a young adult fantasy entitled “The Madian”. Perhaps not surprisingly (going by agent feedback) that work is getting very little traction on this blog, WattPad, or FictionPress. So just for fun I thought I’d share an earlier work that is probably best described as a middle grade medieval adventure. I’m not sure this has any more selling potential than my first effort but I did have fun writing it. It’s pretty ridiculous. Hope you enjoy.
Beyond the Gates
Sylvie was never aware that she had been labeled a peasant by the townspeople of Fairbanks almost immediately upon her arrival. If she had ever discovered this fact it was doubtful she would have given it much care. Sylvie hailed from good defiant stock. She came to the outskirts of Fairbanks at the request of her ailing Grandfather, Grampy Moon. Moon wasn’t his real surname. It was a nickname given in his early youth about his favorite gesture, reserved only for those he deemed worthy. The name, as well as the gesture, had carried into adulthood.
Sylvie’s peasant status was undoubtedly due to her dwelling outside the gates of Fairbanks. Her lot was a seemingly lonely stop on the road into town well before the steeples of Fairbanks came into view. Grampy Moon had been able to scrounge the site from a sheep herder who had long grown weary of his stock. When Grampy Moon first came upon the herder, ironically named Shep, he had but three sheep remaining and a house and yard is great need of repair. Their meeting was quite opportune, Grampy Moon had explained. For he was a self proclaimed jack of all trades and clearly Shep needed much help, in exchange for room and board of course.
Though Shep would later be unable to recall this exact conversation – he had been dipping a bit too much into his home grown dandelion wine – Grampy Moon’s arrival brought some much-needed assistance to his chaotic life. While Moon worked on general repairs, establishing a garden, and clearing out the cottage, Shep focused on his efforts on producing more of his dandelion wine. A venture he was certain would bring about wealth and prosperity that had so eluded him to this point.
After several months of comfortable collaboration Shep had produced enough wine to begin sales. Here Shep was faced with a problem. Long ago, Shep had been banned from all pubs in Fairbanks. His unfortunate tendency to drink too much ale and behave badly had branded him a trouble maker. The people of Fairbanks were a steadfast bunch. What use had they for a shepherd with no interest in his sheep and an unfortunate tendency to sing – or holler drunkenly at the top of his lungs – from tabletops? The serenades not withstanding, Shep’s less than stellar reputation in town was sealed by one remarkable incident.
Every year the people of Fairbanks celebrated the passing of summer with an autumn fest. This festival was held in a meadow outside the gates of town, accessible only by a narrow rocky path through the thick brush of Montgomery forest. The delights of the new season were meant to be put on display and celebrated. A longing for the sleepy days of summer was simply not allowed. One of the most anticipated events of each year was the ceremonial cracking of the first barrel of pumpkin ale from Brady’s Public House. This ceremony happened just at nightfall, long after children were put to rest in their tents for the evening freeing the adults for some much needed entertainment.
As part of the ceremony, three male volunteers would hoist the barrel over head and walk it around the bon fire before setting it down before old Mr. Brady to apply the tap. One particular year, however, Shep – who had incidentally been dipping into his dandelion wine all day – decided to take on the Herculean task alone. While Mr. Brady was selecting volunteers from the eager crowd, Shep stumbled forward and grabbed a hold of the barrel. No one noticed his efforts until he lifted the barrel overhead. A startled gasp could be heard from the crowd as Shep began to move unsteadily around the fire. His arms shook below the weight of the barrel and his legs stumbled back and forth as if unsure of which direction to head. There was nothing to be done, really. Once the barrel was overhead there was no one who could have stopped it from falling. As Shep inevitably toppled backward the crowd surged forward. But they were too late. The barrel cracked open as soon as it hit the ground and the precious pumpkin ale emptied completely dousing the fire and rendering the shocked crowd into a silent, pitch darkness. Flat on his back Shep was blissfully out cold.
Shep awoke after several hours to a dark, cold and now empty meadow. Pinned to his chest was a signed petition from the King himself banning Shep from any event or establishment serving wine, ale, or other spirits within the gates of Fairbanks or sponsored by the people of Fairbanks in the lands beyond. Needless to say, Shep interacted very little with town folk from that point forward. It was then he essentially let go of his flock and drowned his sorrows in perfecting his unique brand of wine.
“Moonie, we need to talk.”
Grampy Moon had been resting peacefully in a rocking chair on the front porch.
“Shep I told you a million times I’m not peddling that foolish wine. They all know the dandelion stuff’s yours. It’s a fools’ errand!”
“I think you might be right Moonie, that’s why I decided to leave.”
“You’re leaving? Where to?”
“I’ve decided to start off in Rosemont. I know a few folk out there but not so many that my reputation will precede me. I think that might be a good place to venture into the wine business.”
“Those hoity toity Rosemont folk aren’t going to want anything to do you’re your Dandelion Wine. You’d almost be better trying to work yourself back into King Victor’s good graces.”
“That ship has sailed I’m afraid. King Victor is a good and tolerant man but even he cannot go against the will of his subjects. And I’m afraid I am one subject upon which they can all agree.”
Moonie paused for a moment and saw the obvious truth of Shep’s declaration.
“When will you leave?”
“At dawn tomorrow. All I’ll be taking is Rusty and the carriage, some clothes, and the wine. I don’t know when I’ll be back but you’re welcome to the cottage for as long as you need it.”
The next morning Grampy Moon helped Shep load the carriage with his dreadful dandelion wine. As he watched the carriage pull out of the drive, Moonie felt an unexpected stab of sadness. Sure, Shep was unreliable, often incomprehensible and prone to daydreams of glory; but he was also fun, good for a laugh, kind hearted and never boring. It was with some surprise that Moonie realized he would miss the silly man who had become his friend.
For a few isolated weeks Grampy Moon was in his glory. Never in his life was he so blissfully alone. No one to please, no expectations to meet, his daily agenda was his and his alone. During those first few wonderful weeks Grampy Moon had taken to sleeping in late, strolling the extensive grounds around the cottage, and popping into Fairbanks every now and again. He even built himself a pole to fish with in the stream that passed northeast of the cottage. He took to fishing like a shepherd to sheep, Shep not withstanding. In just a few weeks Moonie became quite an accomplished fisherman.
But as the weeks passed Grampy Moon found himself becoming bored with his daily routine. There was very little variety and being constantly alone suddenly wasn’t so blissful anymore.
“Well fellas, it’s just us. What shall we do with ourselves?”
It was late one afternoon that a bored Grampy Moon began conversing with the three lone sheep remaining on his property. Of course, Al, Bud, and Corey had nothing to say but they were good listeners and hence better company than a good many folk.
“I daresay I’m lonely. There are things I could do – that garden is looking particularly limp – but I just can’t bring myself to do it. What bother? Who is there besides me to appreciate it?”
As soon as the words were out of his mouth Moonie heard the approaching clip clop of horse hoofs. Around the bend in the road east came a horse drawn wagon, driven by a portly fellow chomping on a long blade of grass.
“Hello!” Grampy Moon bellowed from his seat on the cottage’s front porch.
The stranger slowed to a stop and nodded in the direction of Grampy Moon.
“Good afternoon sir. Kindly, could you tell me how much further is Fairbanks?”
“Oh, it’s a two days’ walk from here. But I reckon with that horse of yours you should arrive before sundown.”
“Ahh,” The gentleman said as he eased his way off the front seat. “I had hoped it would be closer. We have been driving all day and poor Fergus here is tired.” He paused and glanced about him. “I must admit my back is sore, I would greatly appreciate a seat on your lovely porch for a moment’s rest.”
“Certainly, certainly.” Grampy Moon jumped up and with the palm of his hand brushed of the second rocking chair beside him. Shep’s chair had grown dusty in his absence. Grampy Moon hadn’t been able to sit in it himself. It would be too much like admitting his friend was gone, perhaps for good.
“Much obliged, kind sir.” The stranger held out his hand. “Horace Davies.”
Grampy Moon wiped off his dirty hands on his trousers before grasping Horace’s outstretched hand. The dust from Shep’s chair left an unsightly stain on the front of Moonie’s trousers. He hardly cared, however, being so happy to finally have a visitor.
“Call me Moonie.”
“Moonie it is.”
The two gentlemen settled back into their chairs and shared a pleasant and rather lengthy conversation about their respective towns, Fairbanks and Rosemont.
“Perhaps you have news of the owner of this cottage? His name is Shep. He left for Rosemont about a month ago to launch a business venture.”
“Shep,” Horace frowned, “Shep, Shep. No I’m afraid that doesn’t sound familiar. But I daresay I’m not in Rosemont for long stretches. I divide my time between Rosemont, Fairbanks, Bainbridge, and Portland.”
“Bainbridge, eh? Perhaps you know my daughter Abigail.”
“There are many Abigail’s in Bainbridge and I know a few.”
“Abigail Turrey! I can’t say I know her personally but I know of her. Everyone does. She is your daughter you say?” Horace looked doubtfully over Moonie’s disheveled appearance. “Perhaps there are a few Turrey families in Bainbridge?”
“The one I’m referring to lives near the center of town.”
“Yes that would be the one. Hmm.”
An awkward silence fell between the two men as late afternoon gave way to early evening. Poor Fergus had taken a rest on the front lawn just off the side of the road. Al, Bud and Corey found the sleeping horse fascinating. The bleated excitedly around him as if they had never witnessed such a spectacle. Fergus did not stir.
“Well Moonie I do hate to impose on you but would you happen to have a spare bed for a weary traveler? I would certainly pay for your inconvenience.”
“As a matter of fact I do.”
“Would there also be any food available?”
“Well there are vegetables in the garden and a few apple trees out back. I suppose I could try and catch us a fish or two from that stream over yonder.”
“Anything you could prepare would be much obliged. It has been an extremely long day.”
An idea was beginning to hatch in Grampy Moon’s wry mind, a business venture of his own. But he would need help. It was time to call in reinforcements and Horace would be the one to help do it.