The boys learn more secrets of the Markree Castle than they bargained for.
“Do you want to play with us?” Lu asked in such an innocent young boy way that Killian couldn’t hold back that part of him that still liked the fiery spirit of youth.
“Ooh, no, thank you very much, but I passed my soccer prime a few decades ago,” he took a breath in, then continued. “But I’d be happy to give you a tour of the castle a little later if you’d like. Show you the secret passageways and tell you about the history of the castle. Does that sound like fun?”
It sounded like fun if it wasn’t coming from a known murderer, was the general consensus of the boys’ thoughts.
“Absolutely,” Dec said, giving it his best cheery voice while wanting only to be outside of the room they were in. He could say yes now, but then absent mindedly forget about it later. A handy skill built into the character of most young boys.
“Maybe after dinner, then?” Killian asked. Lu again reached for the ball and Killian again held it strong and away. Not a single boy wanted to commit to a time or place or to anything at all.
“Maybe 9 PM? Or is that past your bedtime?” he said and while not trying to make them sound like young little boys who had bedtimes, it did exactly that.
“OK,” Dan finally gave in. “But we’ll have to check with our parents first,” he added, trying desperately to provide some sort of buffer between a definite yes and weaseling their way out of any visit with Killian ever again. But he was so polite and friendly, it was hard to make stuff up, hard to lie to an adult. But it seemed necessary.
“They’ll probably be busy with their welcome dinner,” Killian added, knowing more about the boys’ schedule than the boys were comfortable with. “It’s too bad you’re not invited, isn’t it?” he added and if it wasn’t intended to be mean spirited, it didn’t work terribly well.
The boys hadn’t put much thought into not actually being invited to events of the weekend as it was never an option put on the table. It was just that they were there, the nanny wasn’t, and they were on their own. Who wanted to go to a boring adults-only dinner anyway? Not a boy answered as it wasn’t really a question to be answered.
“Right,” Killian broke the silence. “I’ll plan on seeing you boys later, then. We’ll make it a spooky evening,” he widened his eyes and bobbled his head in his version of making something sound fun to young boys, but he just looked like a dork who was too old trying to play along.
“OK, we’ll ask our parents,” Li added hesitantly, now reaching for the ball. This time, Killian gave it up easily.
“Till later, boys,” Killian said in a voice overly joyous. “Don’t forget to bring your … ” There was a loud crash right near them and as they looked over, Dec looked down to see that he had accidentally pushed over a glass ashtray that broke into a million pieces on the rock slabs near the fireplace. He immediately went down on his knees to clean it up, but Killian was quick to react.
“No worries, boys, I’ll have someone over to clean it up,” he said without any anger in his voice. He was a regular bundle of jolly joy. Maybe he really was just a nice old man.
“Sorry,” Dec said and looked up into the face of the large man. There was something moving in the man’s eyes, like a starry night of stars, but just barely moving around like one of those slow motion cameras focused on a starry night, but with a time lapse. It was hard to look away.
Li slapped Dec hard on the back and that broke the focus, “Dude, let’s go.”
“Bye, Mr. Killian,” Dec said in a nervous rush as he stood up, avoided glass shards and tried not to look into his eyes, all at the same time.
“But who, how … ?” Killian started with a turn of his inquisitive head, but he stopped mid question. He looked over to Dan who then was also briefly mesmerized by the brown eyes, but quickly looked away.
“See you later,” Dan said and finished with, “Probably.”
They scooted out of the grand room, through the hallway into the dining room and out the glass doors to the grounds of the castle. Down a flight of stone stairs to a terraced green, but beyond that was what they needed: open green space.
A solid two hours of two-on-two soccer complete with socks as goal posts ensued and not a word beyond Pass, Shoot, and Goooooaaaaaaallll was uttered. Fewer words, more action and less adult interaction were just what they needed to flush out all of the adventures of just their first full day at the castle. They had two more days, if they kept up this pace, they might actually look forward to some downtime alone with their parents.
As if they had grown up at the castle, they made their way back to the dining room grass stained, winded and as happy as boys without rules can be.
With barely any words spoken, the waitress brought them lemonades as they sat again in the empty dining room. There was so much to say and talk and discuss that they decided to talk about nothing and go take a nap. Of course, at that age, they didn’t call it a nap as that was what little kids did, so they said they were going to go chill for a couple hours before dinner. At dinner, they would regroup and catch up with Alastar and see what to do.
Heads hit pillows, eyes struggled to stay open and the next thing they felt was a hand of a parent waking them for dinner.
“What time is it? Did we miss dinner?” Dan asked his dad.
“No, buddy, you’re just in time, you didn’t miss anything,” he dad reassured him. “Man, you guys were crashed. Busy day at the castle?”
“You can say that again,” Dan said and immediately regretted it as he knew what was coming.
“Busy day at the castle?” his dad repeated.
Dan had no comments, just a smile and a move to get his shoes on. His dad wasn’t used to such action when getting ready to go somewhere.
“Big night planned?” Rich asked.
“You can say that again,” Dan responded but then laughed so much and so hard and so fake that his dad didn’t even try to repeat it. They gathered up Dec, Li and Lu and made their way downstairs.
The four kids, in fact, the only four kids in the entire castle, had a small room on the second floor in a corner of the castle that was set up with almost as much fanfare and splendor as the big wedding party dinner. It had all been a little last minute to have the boys there, but once it was decided, their parents wanted to still make it special for them. The parents had planned games, movies, popcorn, and group activities, but none of that was going to be necessary. The boys had other items on the agenda. Although they wouldn’t refuse popcorn if it had to be.
Dinner was baked chicken, mashed potatoes and an unidentifiable selection of steamed greens. Lu ate the greens and picked from the plates of the others. There was quite a bit of barter going on: a few slices of chicken for more mashed potatoes, I’ll eat your green beans if you give me two scoops of potatoes. They later realized that they could have as much as they wanted and they did their best to empty the kitchen of chicken and potatoes.
In a dozen hours, the boys experienced what seemed like a few months of each other and by the end of dinner, they were as comfortable with one other as life long friends.
“Are you guys ready to see Alastar?” Dec asked. The others nodded. They had all been thinking about it, on and off, most of the afternoon: Alastar, magic, the second room, Killian, the key, the moon. There was quite a bit to digest and at that moment the only thing being digested was chicken and potatoes–with a few greens.
But something was coming, something was going to happen Saturday night and they had no idea what. There was hesitation, fear, excitement, and both patience and impatience. It was enough to take up the offer of a movie and popcorn. But if they did a show of hands to count how many were ready to go downstairs, it would have been unanimous.
“Let’s go find him,” Li said, more eager than he realized.