- Ch. 1: Waking up is hard to do. Unless, of course, there are fries.
- Ch. 2: It might be a game to you, but it’s not to us.
- Ch. 3: Does anything actually happen or do we just talk about it?
- Ch. 4: What could possibly be better than jewels, gold and glittery treasure?
- Ch. 5: The first thing we do, let’s uninvite all of the parents.
- Ch. 6: The long walk to freedom
- Ch. 7: Pieces of the puzzle are coming together. But what’s the puzzle?
- Ch. 8: The unknown versus the known.
- Ch. 9: It doesn’t always make logical sense. Sometimes, you just have to go with it.
- Ch. 10: This is the worst day of my life (again).
- Ch. 11: We are family.
- Ch. 12: Castle Burgers with a side of Bog
- Ch. 13: Upside-down ladders and distant brothers
- Ch. 14: Sibling rivalry isn’t only among 9- and 11-year olds
- Ch. 15: No time for patience
Parents just ask questions and don’t really want answers anyway.
“Oh my gosh,” Lu started as Darcy walked away, “we get fries for breakfast, Dec!”
“Have you even ever had fries for breakfast?” Dec asked.
“Oh yeah, all the time. Where there’s a buffet or when we had them the night before and, well, someone else didn’t finish them, because I always finish mine,” Lu spoke up with pride.
“That’s cool,” Dec said and now that the fries-for-breakfast challenge was won, it was time to settle in and enjoy. He stared out the window at some stragglers coming back in.
Breakfast arrived and it was everything Darcy had promised and more. Eggs, bacon, beans, some tomatoes and even these odd blackened round objects that both boys were weary of. Dec had a bite and let Lu know that it was safe to eat, but Lu was pretty happy with the fries that were indeed some of the freshest he’d ever had. There was endless ketchup and a bottomless vat of oil that cooked them just right. They were in a castle and had new friends. Life couldn’t have gotten much better.
“Hey boys,” a very familiar voice came up behind them, “I finally found you!”
Both boys turned around towards the interior of the kitchen and Dec’s dad was standing next to them.
“Dad!” Dec shrieked.
He kneeled down to their level. “How’s it going, guys? I’m sorry we haven’t been able to hang out, but we’ve been so busy with all of the wedding stuff. It feels like we haven’t seen you in days. Are you guys having fun?” He asked questions like Darcy: he didn’t leave room for answers before he asked the next one. He eyed Lu’s fries and snatched one, “Oh man, how did you guys score fries for breakfast? You guys are living like kings in the castle!”
“Darcy got them for us,” Dec said. “She said we could have whatever we wanted because we’re the only kids in the whole castle.”
“Who’s Darcy?” Rich asked.
Dec looked around the kitchen but didn’t see her. “She works in the kitchen, or, well, at least she knows how to get us fries, I don’t know if she actually works in the kitchen.”
“Awesome, guys. Have you guys been having fun? Have you been checking out the castle a little?”
Dec looked at Lu to see how much they should tell and how much to hold back. Lu raised his eyebrows briefly as if to ask, ‘What do we say?’ Dec shook his head quickly but slightly, but his dad saw it. Rich looked to Lu to see what they were hiding. Lu spoke up quickly to avoid any investigations.
“Not really, we’ve just been kinda roaming the halls and stuff,” he said, but not extremely convincingly.
“Uh huh,” Rich debated how much to dig into their stories and how much freedom he wanted to give them.
Dec jumped in to try to steer the conversation, “Alastar showed us the storage room.”
“Yeah, it says ‘Staff Only,'” Lu added quickly.
“Cool. What’s in there?” Rich asked.
“Stuff,” Lu said. “Whoa, it’s for Staff Only and it has stuff. Isn’t that cool?”
“Crazy cool, Lu,” Rich said.
“Just storage stuff,” Dec added.
Rich’s brain churned through scenarios where he asked too many questions and tarnished their fun. How much trouble could they get into if they just stayed in the castle anyway?
“What are you guys doing today?” he asked, knowing they’d be proud to have their own plans and their own agenda.
“We’re going to play some soccer on the grass,” Lu said. “But there’s also a World Cup game, but I don’t know what time.”
“I think it’s in the afternoon,” Rich guessed.
“There’s a TV in the bar,” Lu let slip.
“Oh, you’ve been in the bar?” Rich asked. “What were you guys drinking?”
“I just had a pint of Guinness,” Dec said and tried not to smile.
“I had a Glen Fliddick,” Lu said, trying his best to remember what the name on the triangular green bottle was.
“Go easy on that one, Lu, it’ll make your morning smell like Dec’s armpit,” Rich said.
“Hey!” Dec shouted.
“No, Alastar gave us all lemonades, but he was really cool about it. He let us stand at the bar as he was working,” Lu said.
“Who’s Alastar?” Rich asked.
“Dad, don’t you know anybody around here?” Dec asked. “What have you been doing the whole time, anyway?” Dec joked.
“He’s the barman, he lives just down the road,” Lu started. “His family history goes way back with the castle,” he started. “His great, great, great, great, great … ”
“OK, OK, already,” Dec said and slapped Lu’s arm on the table. “His grandfather was the old king.”
“Well, like owner or baron or what did he tell us downstairs?” Lu asked.
“Wait, you guys were also downstairs?” Rich asked.
“Oh,” was all that Lu let out with nowhere else to go.
“Just for a little bit,” Dec said.
Rich looked over his son and again debated which way to go. Again, he wanted to let them have fun, but the downstairs with the barman story might need a little more explanation later.
“Hey guys, I’d like to invite you to the actual wedding ceremony later today,” Rich said quietly.
“Dad, you said we couldn’t come to any of the adult events,” Dec said.
“I know, but I’d like you guys to come. Would you like to?”
“Well, what time is it?” Lu asked in sincerity.
Rich couldn’t help but laugh and through his light laughter asked, “You got other plans? You got somewhere you need to be? Got a hot date?” He punched Lu lightly in the shoulder and waited for his response. But the look on Lu’s face slowed down Rich’s smile as he could tell that Lu was basically saying, by not saying anything at all, that he did have other plans.
“No, we don’t have other plans,” Dec said and frowned and furrowed his brow at Lu and again his dad turned his head and caught his son again trying to coach the conversation.
“Hey, just let us know if it works out with your schedule,” Rich said in all light-hearted tone. “If it doesn’t work out for you boys tonight, we could probably move the whole ceremony to tomorrow night. Not a problem, fellas.” Rich smiled and they caught on quickly that moving the ceremony probably wasn’t going to happen.
“That’d be really cool if we could come, Rich,” Lu said. “I know we weren’t supposed to come to anything, my parents already told me.”
“But dad, we don’t have any nice clothes to wear? Just what we brought,” Dec worried aloud.
“Don’t worry about it, Dec, we’ll hide you in a secret side panel in the chapel and you can watch the ceremony from there,” Rich joked.
“Oh, there are secret panels in the chapel, too?” Lu accidentally let slip and as he said it, he knew he had said too much. Dec rolled his eyes and even put his his hand to his forehead. If Lu had been his own brother, at least a few slaps on the head or terrible insults would have flown across the table.
“Cool!” Rich seemed genuinely excited about other secret panels and the adventures the boys were having. Both Lu and Dec eased a little. “You guys want to show me later the secret panels you found?”
“Sure,” Dec said and when his dad looked away, he let his head roll back as if to say, ‘Oh man, it’s all ruined now for sure.’
“Well, I don’t know if you’d fit down that hallway,” Lu said, trying to uninvite Rich to the panel party.
“Which hallway?” Rich asked. Lu looked at Dec and Rich looked at Lu and Dec was now shaking his head furiously, then he even slit his throat with his finger and it gave Lu pause as he didn’t know if that meant to stop what he was saying or that Dec was going to kill him. The action did the job as Lu didn’t know what to do next as he envisioned Dec on top of him going for his neck with a knife and that scene kept his brain so busy that he said nothing.
“Did you guys get fries, too?” Dec asked, trying desperately to save the situation. The worst possible scenario was that his dad would want to accompany the boys on any of their adventures tonight.
Rich was a little confused at the question as narrow hallways and secret panels under the castle were flying through his imagination. But he composed himself enough to answer.
“Uh, no, we didn’t have fries,” he started. “We did have these black hockey pucks, though.” He looked at the plates of the boys and the pucks were still there, although Dec had taken a few bites. “Yeah, those. Do you guys know what they are?”
“No,” Lu said. “I’m scared to eat it.”
“I had a few bites,” Dec said. “It tastes like sausage.”
“Hey Rich,” came a new voice from behind Rich. “Hey there, boys. How’s it going?” But he also didn’t really seem to want a real answer as he also just launched into his next sentence. “Hey man, they want you out there, I finally found you.”
The man paused a minute, then looked at the boys, “Wait a minute, I know you guys,” he said. “Well, of course, I know who you are because you’re the only kids in the whole castle, but didn’t I see you guys last night? Weren’t you guys coming out of your door into the hallway? Wait, I’m trying to remember what time it was? Let me see, I was coming back to the room and then … ”
“Do you know what these black hockey pucks are?” Lu asked the man, trying to yet again change the subject. He was going to play at the same game where you don’t allow time for an answer. “I think they’re actually burned horse poo, but Dec said they were rolled up dirt taken from the graveyard here.”
“I didn’t say that,” Dec jumped in.
“You even ate one,” Lu yelled at him. “You ate human bones and horse poo mixed together!” While the two adults looked to Dec for an answer, Lu rolled his hand towards himself and nodded at the same time, trying to convey to Dec that he should just go along with the game to avoid the conversation about the hallway and the man and them being out so late and just more and more questions from adults.
“I did not,” Dec said, but then thought about it, “Well, I had a few bites.”
“Did it taste like poo or bones?” Lu asked.
“It tasted more like poo,” Dec said.
“Eeeew!” Lu squealed, “You ate poo! You totally ate horse poo,” Lu said but suddenly stopped. “But wait a minute,” he looked at Dec, “How do you know what bones taste like? Yuck. Dude, Dec, you’re disgusting. I’m not sharing any more fries with you,” Lu said and realized he had the adults right where he wanted them: distracted and confused. So he kept going and he pointed his next question to the visitor.
“Excuse me,” Lu asked the friend and got him to turn around, “Did you have fries for breakfast, too?”