(Roman Numerals instead of spelling out the chapter numbers? Or is that too tacky?)
As it turned out, Jack was rubbish a judging distances. The place where the road forked would be at least 20 miles from where jack had said it would be, and it took them the rest of their first day together and the morning of the next to even reach the first sign that indicated that they were even getting close to it. But no-one complained; they were each of them grateful for the others company. Even the Knight had seemed to be back on friendly terms with the Writer.
As pleasant as it was, conversation was limited – namely because the Knight and the Writer were secretly tiring of Jack singing every word he spoke. Of course they were far too polite to say anything – well at the moment, anyway.
‘How far do you think we have travelled today?’ The Writer said to the Knight. Before he could answer, however, Jack interrupted:
♫ ‘My friend we’ve travelled many leagues
And talked for many miles.
But I must now get off this cart,
Or I’ll end up with piles!’ ♫
With that, Jack pulled the reigns tight, and stopped the horses. Then he jumped down off the cart and started to walk about a bit to stretch his legs. The Knight and the Writer – both in no position to argue, jumped down also and decided to take some exercise. As it turned out, quite a bit of exercise because the Writer – pre-occupied with the peril that lay ahead – inadvertently backed into a tree and knocked a wasps nest down, resulting in Jack and the Writer doing that frantic running-about-whilst-flapping-your-arms-around-your-head thing in an attempt to escape the tiny fury of the wasps.
The Knight, on the other hand, simply put on his gauntlets, closed his visor, and let the wasps sting his suit of armour. After about 5 minutes of saying ‘nothing’, and ‘is that all you got?’ every time an angry wasp tried to sting him, the Knight simply picked up the nest and moved it deep into the undergrowth, thus removing the threat.
The remaining wasps automatically moved to where their nest had been moved, away from the three travellers (two of whom were threatened; the other one was just slightly bothered). Unfortunately, Jack and the Writer did not have the protection of a suit of armour like the Knight, and were covered with several stings which were causing them obvious discomfort.
‘I hope I don’t go into Anaphylactic shock’ said the Writer, his mouth horribly swollen by a couple of stings. Actually, what he said was ‘my mope my mon’t bo bimpoo ammafliptic chock’ (the swelling affecting his pronunciation – do you see?). Jack – who had luckily not been stung too much around the face – was just as worried:
♫ ‘I too am worried – but not of going into shock
I think a wasp’s flown down my pants and stung me on my…’♫
‘Never mind about that’, the Knight interrupted just at the right time again, ‘We’ve got to get going - adventure and glory awaits! So stop your whinging, and gather your things and let’s go.’
They set off again, and the cart trundled on, slowly drawing them towards their unknown fate. Conversation was limited; perhaps each of them was thinking about what may lay ahead, or was thinking about their homes and their loved ones. Or maybe, just maybe two of them were still in considerable pain from numerous wasp stings, and the other one didn’t care.
Soon they reached a fork in the road. The Knight jumped down and picked it up. ‘Strange place to leave a fork?’ he said, and got back on the cart. A little further on, they saw a knife and spoon in the road, and further on some plates and cushions left lying about.
Scatter cushions obviously.
All of these items were collected as the cart made its way. Suddenly the say a sign by the road sign which read:
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Traveller’s supplies and stores
Essential equipment for today’s modern adventurer
Plus! New eye-catching gifts section
100 yards on your right
(Unless you’ve gone past us from the other direction, in which case we’re 100 yards behind you on your left)
Sure enough, 100 yards further down the road they found the establishment. It was actually just a rather battered, moth eaten old tent that smelt of lots of things. Various items lay strewn outside, and a handwritten sign hung from the entrance which read ‘Montague Fripp – purveyor of essential items to the world.’ Outside the tent a similarly tatty looking donkey (with an altogether different but very distinctive smell) stood tethered to an old cart which had lots of pots and pans, rugs and lanterns and the like piled on to it. The back of the cart had a single piece of rotten wood across it, and didn’t look very sturdy.
‘I bet those things we found, came off the back of that cart’ said the Writer, ‘let’s give them back to the owner – he might reward us for doing so.’ With that, he ran to their cart and retrieved all the items they had found. He re-joined his companions just as Montague Fripp himself emerged from the tent.
He was tall, thin, and extremely well groomed. Slick backed hair sat atop a pale face with vibrant blue eyes, and the most perfect set of white teeth that had ever been seen. He wore a scarlet tunic lined with gold trim, and trousers to match.
A beautifully hand woven turquoise scarf was draped around his shoulders, and both hands glittered with gem encrusted rings on many fingers. On his feet was a pair of dusty boots that had obviously been all over the world. He was rugged, debonair, and intelligent.
‘Truly a man of the world’, the Writer thought.
♫’ I need a hero!!!’ ♫, Jack thought.
‘Flash Git.’ The Knight thought.
Montague Fripp flashed a dazzling smile as he greeted his visitors.
‘Gentlemen, gentlemen! Welcome, one and all! Please – come inside for some refreshment. Perhaps you will find something of use to you on your travels. Come in, come in!’
Montague held back the entrance to the tent, and ushered his guests inside. The interior of the tent couldn’t have been more different from the outside if it had tried – which it couldn’t because it was a tent. The furnishings were lavish to say the least. Huge velvet cushions were positioned around the edge of the area they stood in. Beneath their feet were the softest floor coverings made from both exotic animal skins, and not-so exotic animal skins (leopard skin rugs, and wool carpet). Luxurious fabrics hung delicately from the canopy above, and the smell of incense and other mysterious aromas wafted through the air. On the far side of the enclosure was another opening. The sign hung on it simply said ‘showroom’.
Jack, the Knight, and the Writer all sat together on three enormous cushions – and instinctively liked the place. You never know how tired you really are until you sink into something devastatingly comfortable. The three companions were instantly at ease, and any thoughts of danger of peril ahead were, for the moment, forgotten. The only thing on their minds now was how thirsty they were. Their host – his timing impeccable – sensed they were at ease and asked if they wanted refreshment. When they nodded, he spun like a top through 180 degrees, clapped his hands twice together and shouted ‘Maurizio! Refreshments for our guests!’ No sooner had these words been uttered, when a side curtain opened, and a small hunchbacked figure limped into the enclosure carrying a tray of goblets and a sliver jug.
‘Ahh, Maurizio – my faithful man-servant and friend. Serve the drinks to our guests please’
‘Of course Mr Fripp.’ said Maurizio, and poured each of the three companions a drink. The drinks were cold, sweet and very refreshing, and each of the three drank deeply.
‘How did you know we wanted refreshment?’ asked the Writer.
‘Just a little hunch’, Montague replied, nodding towards Maurizio.
Montague put an arm round Maurizio’s deformed shoulder and said ‘Maurizio has been with me for many years – I rescued him from a travelling circus when he was a small child. He was being forced to perform night after night, and was treated horribly.’ He looked down at Maurizio and continued, ‘But we got you out didn’t we my friend? And now we work together – Maurizio runs my Travellers store and I look after visitors to our establishment before they shop and afterwards. That way, we ensure everyone leaves here with something – which is always good for business.
‘You are successful then?’ The Knight asked.
‘We get by’ Montague answered with a smile, ‘some years we do better than others, but we have enough to live on.
‘You do better than that, by the looks of this place’, the Writer said, ‘This place is luxury at its best.
‘Aah, remnants of a previous life’ said Montague. ‘In my youth, I was lucky enough to travel the world, and managed to collect many things on my travels. But there comes a time, when a man has start repaying the kindness that life has given to him. So I started to trade items as I travelled from town to town or village to village. One man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure as they say, and soon enough I had acquired enough items that I was able to open this establishment. I’m not expensive, which suits my customers perfectly.’
Jack, his curiosity enflamed, needed to know more:
♫’ But what is it that you do sell?
What’s in your store – pray, do tell!
Are there wonders and treasures for us to behold?
Or rubbish and trinkets all covered in mould?’ ♫
Montague Fripp flashed his brilliant smile again and walked over to the entrance to his store. He pulled back the curtain, and turned to his guests and said ‘There’s only one way to find out my friends – please take a look inside.’