Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 98

Chapter 98
The Puzzle

"Steady on, Fred."  George said quietly to the man, offering him a hand.  "Come over here with us."

"I don't understand what's happenin'."  Fred gulped, looking around the cavern as frantically as his tired, bleary eyes could.  "What is this place?"

"It's some kind of underground chamber."  Georgie answered.

"My head..."  Fred moaned, stumbling slightly.  "Feel as though I drunk two skins o' wine, only all I had was some barley water.  Least that's what I thought it was.  It was from me own beaker, it was, too.  Right where I left it by me kit.  I'd come down and there was Gregory.  He just grinned at me and offered me one o' them smokes o' his.  Asked me if I'd like to come out in in the courtyard with 'im and, so, I didn't wanna be rude.  I took me beaker an'..."

"He put somethin' in your barley water, mate."  George said.  "The same stuff they'd given me and Miss Morgana and Poor William."

"William?"  Freddy asked groggily.  

George glanced to the covered remains on the floor.  Blood had begun to soak through the blanket.

"Lord!"  William exclaimed.  "It isn't?"  He looked to Ivy.   "What happened to 'im?"

"He talked too loudly."  Ivy cackled.

"You killed 'im?"  Freddy shuddered.

"I did."  Ivy smiled.

"She did, Fred."  George said, pulling Fred closer to him, "and, she'll do the same to you and the rest of us, too, if we're not quiet."

"You'll be killed whether or not you're quiet."  Ivy laughed.  "It is only a matter of how quickly.  Perkins is here only because William proved difficult and had to be dispatched sooner than we expected."

Fred began to gag.  "I don't understand."

George patted the man on the back.  

"It's like lookin' through a thick fog.  I can hardly see and me head feels so heavy."

"Try to stay awake, mate."  George said.  "Come over here by Miss Morgana."

"Y...yes..."  Morgana spoke up.

"Cor!'  Freddy gasped upon seeing her for the first time.  "Your hands, Miss.  Do they hurt ya?"

"No."  Morgana answered.


George was about to scold Fred for being rude to the lady, but Morgana shook her head.  It wasn't the time to pretend that she didn't have pincers.

Freddy, drugged and frightened though he was, realized that he shouldn't have said that.  "I'm sorry, Miss.  I don't mean to be rude."

" weren't rude."  Morgana smiled.  "You asked an honest question.  You're frightened and everything right now is qui...quite shocking."

"Thank you, Miss...Miss...  What should I call you?"

"Just Miss Morgana.  I have no surname."

"Monsters don't have surnames."  Ivy laughed.

"She don't need a surname!  Nobility don't use their surnames!  His Grace has got one, but he don't use it regular.  Even the Queen don't use a surname!"  George argued.  

"You're making my knife itch again, young man."  Ivy growled.

"Tha...than...thank you, Georgie,"  Morgana began.  "Let's not upset Ivy.  She's already proven that she's not too...steady, as you say...herself right now."

Fred sat down on the cold floor and began to rock back and forth.  "Why are we down here?  George, why don't you have your clothes?  What's to become of us?  Who is this old woman?  What does she want of us?"  He clutched his head between his hands and moaned.

"I wouldn't know how to begin to explain it to ya,"  George sighed, helping Morgana to sit down next to Fred.

He sat, too, making sure to keep himself covered.

Freddy coughed.  "She's gonna kill us?"

"She will."  Morgana nodded.

"But, she's so old and...small..."  Fred whispered.  "There's three of us."

"It ain't just her.  There's a few o' 'em."  George explained.  "Them blokes that brought ya down here.  Gregory's helpin' 'em.  Seems that even those...errrr...women we saw last night are in on this.  They're just on the other end o' that tunnel."  he pointed.  "There's no way out."

Fred's head fell backward.  "I'm dizzy."

"Try an' keep awake."  George said.

"Fred..."  Morgana began.  "I...I...suspect that soon, the men will be down to take your clothes and..."  She sighed.  "Prepare you."

"For what?"  Fred gagged again.  He looked at George, reaching over to move part of George's blanket.  He felt George's bare shoulder.  "Here, your skin is all...greasy--like it's been oiled."  He moaned again.  "They ain't gonna cook us?"  Sweat began to pour out of him. "Don't they know that this woman ain't really a lobster?  And, even so, we're just young men--we ain't nothin' at all!"

"No, no..."  George hushed him.  "They're not going to cook us."  He shook his head.  "Though that'd make as much sense."

"G...George, I'll help you..."  Morgana began.

Together, they explained, as best they could--in hushed voices--what they believed Quick, Jackson, Hargrave and Ivy had planned for them.

"Cor..."  Fred panted.  "It don't figure."

"No."  George muttered.

"Man has been trying to re...reanimate the dead for centuries..."  Morgana replied.  "Our Mr. Quick seems to think h...he...he has found the answer."

"By makin' a big puzzle out of us."  Fred coughed.  "It's like breakin' apart a bunch o' crockery and tryin' to make a china doll out o' it, with us the body and poor Miss Morgana bein' the doll's head."

Morgana raised an eyebrow.  "The doll's head?"

Fred nodded.  "Sure,"  He clutched his stomach.  "Once, I had an auntie who worked in a  factory, paintin' the faces on dolls' heads--all o' them stacked up in boxes.  Kind o' frightenin', it was.  All them heads."

She began to chuckle.

"Miss?"  Georgie looked at her.

Inhaling quickly, Morgana leaned in.  "B...boys, l...listen to me, I have an idea.  I'll need your help. know that you can trust me?"

"Certainly, Miss Morgana."  George replied sincerely.

Fred paused.  "Well, Miss, I know that my master puts much stock in your family, and, so I do, too."

"Thank you."  Morgana smiled. think I have a way in which at least one of us might escape long enough to go back to the Hall for help, but, you'll have to be quick, must be very brave.  George, I think it should be you, since, you're more sober at the moment."

"I agree."  George nodded.

"Rem...rem...remember.  No matter wh...what I do or so, know that I am...I am doing it because I am thinking of our safety.  You must trust me and know that I am doing this for us. you understand?"

"What's all that whispering?"  Ivy shouted from her corner.

"Nothin', you old sow!"  George snapped.

"Well, stop it!"  Ivy replied.

"Quickly, then,"  Morgana continued softly.  "When they come down to butter Freddy, George, this is what I want you to do..."

Did you miss Chapters 1-97 of A Recipe for Punch?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back tomorrow for Chapter 99.

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