- Not Chapter One: Wait, you want us to do what?
- So Not Chapter Two: Hot chocolate with marshmallows or bloody dagger gallows?
- No Way is this Chapter Three: Out of the frying pan and into the fire. Frying pan? Is it lunch time yet?
- This Can’t Be Chapter Four: Mysterious, Spooky and Dangerous? We’re in!
- Chapter 5: Grand, Old, and Secret
- Chapter 6: It might get worse before it gets better.
- Chapter 7: What happens under the castle stays under the castle.
- Chapter 8: Meat, Potatoes and a side of Uncertainty
- Chapter 9: Stuffed, serious, and scared
- Chapter 10: Caterpillars, decoys, and messengers
- Chapter 11: Big night planned?
- Chapter 12: This is just a test run, right?
Eat, talk, play, magic.
Em walked with them to the dining room and while they sat down at a table, she didn’t.
“I have to go talk with the photographer, but you guys can order whatever is on the menu and Rich and I will catch up with you later, OK?”
The boys gave a variety pack of nods and stares and acknowledgments and looked for the menu. But there was no menu. Em was already at the door. A young woman came over to their table.
“Good morning, boys. Are you enjoying the castle?” she asked.
“Yeah, it’s great,” Li said. “Is there a menu to look at? We’re kinda starving.”
“Your wedding party reserved the whole castle so we don’t actually have a menu for the next few days, but you can have whatever you’d like,” she chirped in sing-a-long tones that must have been Irish.
“Oh man, that’s a dream come true,” Dec started.
“What do you have?” Dan asked.
“What would you like?” she came back.
“Do you have a cheeseburger?” Li asked.
“Ooh, no, sorry lad.”
“Pizza?” Lu tried.
“No, not at the moment,” she answered.
“Pasta?” Dec hoped. “Spaghetti? Ravioli?”
“Usually we do, but we’re waiting for the delivery for tonight’s big dinner and don’t have any of that yet, either.”
The boys looked up at our heroine with puppy eyes, but puppies who didn’t want a treat, they wanted to eat.
“So,” Li gave it one last shot. “What do you have?”
“Bangers and mash,” she came back in a flash, a pride in her voice.
“What’s that?” Dan asked, worried.
“Sausages and mashed potatoes,” she answered.
“Do you have … ” Dan started, but the woman squatted down to their level so he stopped mid plea.
“My dearest boys, may I offer a suggestion?”
They stared more, she took it as a yes.
“The bangers and mash are delicious, hot, and we can put loads of butter on the potatoes,” she was about to continue, but Dan put up a hand. She raised a hand of her own and put her head down closer to them. “The sausages are plump and juicy and you’ll be crawling to the kitchen for more. If any of you says they’re the worst plate of rubbish you’ve ever had, I’ll personally drive you to the local pub to get a burger,” she meant this as a threat, but the boys perked up at the single word: burger.
“It’s also absolutely the only thing in existence in the entire kitchen as you’re just about the only ones in the castle until tonight. So, can I bring along four plates overflowing with your new favorite meal: bangers and mash?”
“Yes, please,” Lu said so quickly he wasn’t sure what he was answering to, but his brilliant stomach spoke before his slow-moving brain could process any other option.
“Right then, glad we got that sorted,” she was about to leave, but stopped. “About drinks, what would you like?”
Dan was about to ask What do you have? when she continued on quickly, “We have lemonade. Four lemonades?”
“Yes, please,” Dan said. The boys were learning to work with each other. The waitress went back into the kitchen.
For the first time in what seemed like days, the boys were alone. A special camera that could see thoughts dancing above heads might see a collection of sausages, medieval keys, machine guns, spooky ballrooms and cheeseburgers. There was a collective sigh among the boys and a silence came to them. But of course, none of that lasted long.
Dan said to no one in particular, “What did Alastar mean when he said ‘Be careful what you wish for.’?”
Li immediately jumped in, “I’ll tell you what I’d wish for: a cheeseburger.”
“Be careful!” Dan snapped, apparently taking Alastar’s warning rather seriously.
“Dude, be careful of what?” Li asked as if he knew best. “I just wish I had a cheeseburger.” Li pondered his wish a moment and came up with, “OK, you want me to be careful with my wish? Here’s my real wish,” and with this he sat up taller and leaned into the others at the table. “I wish that my magic power was to wave my magic wand, or wait, I know, my magic straw with red and white stripes and when I snapped it forward, In-N-Out Burger would appear,” and he said, “Whoosh! In-N-Out!” He whipped his hand and wrist in good magician fashion.
“Do you get to choose what you want on your burger?” Dec asked.
“No,” Li said, his imagination churning at top revolutions per minute, “You get a whole In-N-Out, like the whole restaurant, the building, right there.”
“Whoa,” Lu said, extremely impressed. “Can we order whatever we want?”
“Duh,” Li replied.
“Could I have a vanilla shake, please?” Dan asked.
“Coming right up!” Li said. “Poof!”
“I want fries,” Lu said and Li waved his invisible wand towards Lu and said, “Whoosh!”
“Can I get a lemonade?” Dec asked and as he did, a man approached him from behind and placed it in front of him.
“One lemonade for you, sir,” the man said with precision and grace.
Dan whispered, “Hey, it worked.”
Dec said, “I don’t see an In-N-Out.”
“But the lemonade came,” Dan said. “Right when Li said it would.”
“You’ve been reading too many fantasy books, Dan,” Dec said.
Dan didn’t say anything more, but looked around the room as if searching for an answer. His eyes scanned the ceiling from left to right.
“Alastar said there was magic and history in those rooms downstairs,” Dan’s imagination came back to the table.
“He just wants us to clean up those rooms,” Li said. “When is our sausage coming? I’m about to chew on this table.”
“But what about the key and the second room?” Lu asked. “Why doesn’t he just find the key himself? Why does he need us?”
Dec answered, “Maybe he just can’t find it.”
“Maybe Killian knows where the key is,” Li suggested.
“We have to stay away from him,” Dan said. There was a general mumble of agreement.
“Why did he say there was something that was going to happen in the next few days? What’s he talking about?” Dan asked.
Dec chimed in, “Maybe it has something to do with the moon and the stars. I think it’s a full moon tomorrow night.” Li and Lu were intrigued enough to stop thinking about sausages and cheeseburgers.
Dan was less impressed as he had heard it all before and shook his head, “Starcaster dude, enough with the stars.” Dec tried to slap his little brother on the side of the head, but Dan edged out of the way.
“Dude, do you remember everything Alastar said?” Li asked.
“Well,” he paused to think, “yeah,” Dan said innocently. Li smiled at the honesty of the younger boy. So wise and experienced in his long, eleven years, Li longed for the days of belief and imagination.
“So do you believe in magic?” Li asked in a testing tone, not mean, but slightly confrontational.
Dan looked at Li as if the answer was obvious. He curled his lip in Billy Idol style, not that any of them would know Billy Idol, raised an eyebrow and replied simply and matter of factly, but also surprisingly convincingly.
“Well,” he paused but didn’t need to think, “yeah.”