Chapter 2 - Good friends
Chapter 2 – Good friends
At that hour of the day, humans were busy on the streets of the town, coming from here to there trying to finish their chores before dusk, because everyone there knew that the mischievous spirits and leprechauns enjoyed to play jokes on them at night, like that night some years ago when the mayor declared that the situation had a logical explanation and suddenly all the lamps were blown off at the same time and the church bells started to chime uncontrollably. The message was understood: in St. Pierre, the day is for the humans, the night is for the gnomes.
Chip managed to avoid to be run over by humans, horses and carriages as he made his way to his first stop: The inn, property of the parents of his beloved friend Tammy.
Before entering into the hostel, Chip took a look through one of the windows. There behind the bar was Tammy herself, with her long fluffy tail and red hair in single braid, cotton blouse and long skirt, serving drinks with a lovely smile. Suddenly, one of the customers, a hamster, blushed and shrugged suggesting he hadn't enough coins to pay for the drinks. Tammy's smile disappeared; she glared at the hamster with fiery eyes, muttered something and pointed at the coat of arms with the lonely sword that adorned the bar. The hamster shuddered, made a nodding gesture and quickly started to look for coins all over his clothes, while Tammy drummed her fingers impatiently. Fortunately for the hamster, he found some coins inside one of his boots, and offered them to Tammy a bit embarrassed. She accepted the coins and thanked him smiling again.
Chip laughed inwardly. Little Tammy was in her way to become a great businesswoman. "If only her parents were here..." he thought with sadness as he looked up to the coat of arms and its missing second sword.
It was a funny story how they all met. Dale and Chip had been wandering in the forest for two weeks or so, and that morning they were fighting over the biggest nut they had found for breakfast. Their quarrel made them stumble and roll down a slope, only to land right in front of Tammy and her parents who were taking a walk through the forest that same day. "It must have been a really weird sight for Tammy, Elizabeth and Gerald" Chip thought with a blush. "Watching me and Dale coming out of the bushes with our ragged clothes and fighting over a nut, although that was probably what moved them to offer us shelter here in their inn. In any case, I owe them very much."
Forcing himself to smile again, Chip entered the inn.
"Chipper!" exclaimed Tammy in a burst of happiness just by watching him open the door. The young squirrel immediately left the bar and her astonished customers and ran to receive him with a hug and big kiss on his cheek. "You are finally back! I missed you!"
The hamster at the bar couldn't believe that was the same girl that threatened him with a sword some minutes ago.
Chip hug and kissed back his friend. "Hi Tammy! How are you? Calm down! I was only out for three days!"
"really? It was only three days,?" replied the young girl a bit baffled. "It seemed more time to me and... and..." Tammy suddenly covered her nose. "What's that smell?"
Chip remembered and his face turned red. "Oh yes my cloak! It guess still has the smell of cave and..."
"Don't say more! Put your cloak in the basket. Your shirt too. I'll wash them right away. There are clean clothes in your room."
Chip and Dale were sharing a room at the upper floor of the inn. He quickly went up there to avoid more embarrassments. When he opened the door found out that Tammy was right. Clean, folded clothes were expecting him over his bed. For a moment, he felt guilty. He should be the one taking care of Tammy, not the other way around. Anyway, as he put on a white collar shirt and a fancy dark brown leather doublet (both rewards from a previous mission), a funny memory crossed his mind. He remembered the words of his former teacher: "We rangers don't need fancy perfumed clothes! Actually, we don't need clothes at all! I blame society!". Chip smiled mischievously and finished to button his clothes. A pair of dark belts around his waist and his trusty knife inside its scabbard completed his outfit. On the mirror, he looked rather good, and all was thanks to Tammy…
"Tammy?" asked Chip while coming downstairs.
"Yes, Chipper?" Tammy voice echoed from inside her room.
"I put the dirty clothes in the basket of my room. I also left my bow and arrows. And... thanks for washing my shirts, they are white clean!"
"Oh no problem! I could do it every day, Chipper!" sounded the voice with a feeling of joy.
"Hehehe right…" whispered Chip nervously.
"I'll be back at the bar on a minute, I'm giving Bink her third lunch of the day, feel free to have a snack!"
"Gee thanks, Tammy!" Chip walked to the bar and sit there, then decided to give a quick look at the customers of that day.
Over a table at the corner of the house, a shaking apple was the first thing that caught Chip's attention. For a moment, he thought he was having another 'episode' and gulped in fear. He started to look around for the ravens. Suddenly, from behind the apple a green fly appeared; occupied on cutting apple pieces with an insect sized sword. Chip let out a sigh, relieved. He was still in the real world. Discretely, Chip noticed some strange details about that fly besides his needle-like rapier… He was wearing a scout uniform: black hooded cloak and red jacket. Also, he was cutting the apple like an expert fencer. Out of a sudden, the insect turned his eyes towards Chip. The black-nosed chipmunk had to pretend he was looking at the other tables and only then he realized something even more strange… A lot of tables were occupied by soldiers! Thanks to their black uniforms, feathered hats and insignias, Chip recognized them as mice musketeers from Rouen.
"This… is not good" muttered the ranger with concern.
"What's not good?" Said Tammy coming out from her room.
"Oh Tammy, you are back"
"Yes I am! I need to keep serving this wave of customers!"
Chip arched his eyebrow, incredulous. "Are you not… worried to see so many soldiers?"
"Not at all" answered Tammy. "A pair of foreign mercenaries arrived this morning and told me that their squad will be coming today so I prepared them the best food from my mother's book."
"Foreign mercenaries!? What foreign mercenaries?"
"Yeah…" Said Tammy thoughtfully. "A pair of Englishmen, I think… They even rented rooms. Ah! One is here!" Tammy pointed to the green hooded fly. "That cute fly is one of them. The other one, was a bit strange… a big mustachoed mouse with a giant sword, but dressed with a plaid skirt. He bought all the cheese of the house and went straight to his room. He must be asleep now, if you listen carefully, you can hear him snoring."
Chip was even more intrigued. "Plaid skirt, you say? Ohh I know… he must be Scottish! that garment is called 'Kilt'."
"Really?" Asked Tammy baffled. "And what's the difference between a skirt and a kilt?"
"There are a lot of differences... For instance..."
"Ladies and gentlemen!" Yelled a known voice at the entrance of the inn. "Your wait is over! The great Dale Oakmont, master bard of Normandy, has finally arrived!"
"Hey look Chipper!" Said Tammy with a smile. "Dale is here! And he seems inspired today".
Dale Oakmont entered the inn and walked proudly to the stage at one of the corners of the house. His bard outfit was a big display of extravaganza: a half red half yellow satin shirt with a wide turned down collar; sleeves ending on cuffs with ruffles; a wide black sash to tie the shirt; long roomy red cape; a wide brimmed red hat with a yellow plume. And at last but not least, his most valued treasure… his orange lute.
Unfortunately, Only Chip, Tammy and the fly on the opposite corner were paying attention to him. The rest of the soldiers just didn't care. Offended, Dale coughed loudly. There was no response. Time for plan B. He adjusted the strings of his lute and played some chords in a weird and unnatural fast way. This time, everyone around him turned their eyes, if only to know who was making such noise. With a naughty smile, Dale continued the show.
"Thank you, thank you!" the bard greeted his audience with a quick reverence. "Now, the first song of this fine evening is an ode in english that I have named 'Rock around the clock'! I know you will like it!"
While everyone was trying to grasp the meaning of such name, Dale started to play more quick notes and to jump from one side of the stage to another. Then, the lyrics started.
"One, two, three o'clock, four o'clock rock,Five, six, seven o'clock, eight o'clock rock.Nine, ten, eleven o'clock, twelve o'clock rock,We're gonna rock! Around! the clock tonight.
Put your glad rags on, join me hon',We'll have some fun when the clock strikes one.
We're gonna rock around the clock tonight,We're gonna rock, rock, rock till broad daylight.We're gonna rock, gonna rock,Around the clock tonight.
Sitting on their stools at the bar, Chip and Tammy were listening incredulous the chords and words of the weird song.
"My goodness!" exclaimed Tammy. "Did Dale… write a song about rocks? What will he come up with, next?"
"Please, don't encourage him…" answered Chip with sarcasm.
"Also…" continued Tammy, paying close attention. "Don't you listen some more instruments besides Dale's lute? I think I hear a second lute or maybe a guitar."
Chip didn't bother to pay more attention. "More instruments? Of course not. Only the lute and Dale singing nonsense… as usual"
"I could swear I'm hearing more strings and drums…"
Chip couldn't help to tease her friend a bit. "Oh I know! Must be some ghost musicians!"
"Ghost musicians!?" Answered Tammy with a playful grin. "Ha-ha good try, Chipper, but you believe in ghosts even less than me!
"Touché" admitted Chip.
Chip and Tammy fell silent, just as the rest of the audience, trying to find the logic behind these lyrics. Meanwhile, Dale kept jumping and spinning following the rhythm of the song that was getting close to its end.
"We're gonna rock around the clock tonight,We're gonna rock, rock, rock till broad daylight.We're gonna rock, gonna rock,Around the clock toniiiiiiight. "
Some final chords followed. And for a long, long second, everyone around kept silence just to make sure the song had actually come to an end. Dale was keeping a weird stance with his eyes closed, his legs split and his right arm pointing to the ceiling. Suddenly, a rain of tomatoes, lettuces, boos and boots fell upon the bard.
"Booo! Get out of here!"
"Worst song ever!"
And so on and so on…
"Oh so that's why everyone ordered salads..." pointed out Tammy.
It looked like Dale was used to such outbursts, as he dodged successfully everything that was thrown to him. With a nonchalant expression, he stepped down the stage and walked towards the bar to meet Chip and Tammy.
The bard greeted Chip with a big hug. "Hey Chip! Welcome back! Did you have fun at the bat cave?"
"Hello Dale!" answered Chip hugging him too. "It was great… food and dances until dawn, they were very satisfied with my proposal". With a roguish grin, the ranger added in a lower tone: "And Foxglove sends you her love. She said she will come tonight to see you, lover boy!"
Dale's eyes sparkled with this news. "Oh boy, that's great! But there is not much time left… I need to write her some poems!"
Chip's expression changed to one of concern. With a sigh he put his paw on his friend's shoulder and spoke. "Dale, you know I'm very happy about you and Foxy, but I don't think her family will approve you as her fiancé… traditions are everything for them. They think that only a bat can marry another bat."
"Aww Chip don't worry… everything will end fine!" responded the ever-optimistic Dale. "Love always triumphs. We are like that english couple, Romeo and Juliet!"
"Dale, please!" interrupted Tammy, just as worried as Chip. "In first place, Romeo and Juliet were from Italy. In second place, I really hope you and Foxy end better that them, seriously!"
"Ok ok, I promise I'll be careful. But…" Dale gave them a sly look. "What about you two? If you don't hurry up, I'll be the first of us to get married!"
The intrusive question of Dale had immediate effects on Tammy and Chip. "Get married?" They both turned and looked at each other's eyes. Chip saw the most cherished wish of Tammy coming true in her blue dreamy eyes… Tammy saw great fear in the black eyes of Chip. Fear and a terrible unspoken secret. Embarrassed, they both looked away at the same time, leaving Dale perplexed.
A long and awkward second later, Chip decided to change the topic.
"Dale, what if you rather tell us… what the heck was that song about rocks and clocks?"
"Oh that. Actually, I have no idea…" was the sincere response from Dale. "This morning I was eating breakfast and I got inspired. I wrote the lyric immediately, even though I didn't understand it. But that's what is called art. Take the poem of Beowulf, for example... who is the person who actually understands it?
Tammy finally snapped. "Dale! Don't make your musical experiments on working hours! Also… it is too much to ask to sing in french!?"
Chip fell silent watching at Dale with concern. His poor friend was becoming crazy just like him, but he was showing it off. "Dale, did you know..." Chip was interrupted again when the door of the inn opened and a well known rat guard yelled his name.
"Chip Maplewood! I knew you were here!"
"Claude!" answered Chip sarcastically. "What are you doing so far from the gate? Looking for a bed?"
"Oh shut up. The mayor is looking for you, chipmunk… your presence is required immediately at his house."
"Don't worry" Chip explained to him. "I was about to go there, no need to hurry. The sun hasn't set yet."
Claude answered with a smirk. "Somehow, I think you have a bigger problem now..."
"Umm? Why is that?" asked Chip with suspicion.
"What if I told you that an inquisitor wants to talk to you?"
Chip blanched. "The inquisition? Here?"
"Well, yeah..." answered Claude. "Thats why there are so many soldiers from Rouen here. Guess what... the priest in charge is none other than Julien Montblanc! The famous witch hunter! Can you believe it?"
"Wow" said Dale joining the conversation. "I've heard about him, Chip! People say he has divine powers! Nobody can lie in front of him!"
"Oh I'm sure that's just an exaggeration" pointed out Tammy. "He must know how to read faces, that's all. Right, Chip?"
Powers or not, Chip was deeply worried. "Yeah... right... I suppose I should go meet him right now... thanks, Claude".
Even Claude was taken aback by Chip's sudden lack of self-confidence. "Umm... yeah... yeah... you are welcome, chipmunk... goodbye!"
"Goodbye, Claude!" Replied Chip, Dale and Tammy in unison. Claude gave them an amused look while coming out of the hostel.
"Oh well" Said Chip with a sigh. "I better go... Dale, please take care of Tammy. I'll come back later, I guess..."
"No problem, Chip!" answered Dale jokingly. "Remember, don't let him read your mind!"
That advise didn't help Chip to calm down. "Riiight…I'll be careful"
"Chip, wait!" begged Tammy, grabbing one of Chip's paws.
"Yeah? What is it, Tammy?"
"I... I was about to prepare you something for dinner..." Tammy told him with downcast eyes.
"Oh thank you very much Tammy, but..."
"I know, duty first... but please, at least take this canteen. I filled it with a drink from my mother's cooking book. It is called 'Coffee'.
"Coffee, huh?" Chip took a sip, and then another, and then another... "Hey, it's actually delicious! Thanks Tammy!"
The lovely smile returned to Tammy's face. "I'm glad you liked it! I'll make coffee for every day from now on! Oh but you must go, good luck with your meeting, Chipper!"
Chip was feeling now so energetic that he didn't worry about inquisitors anymore. "Yep! I'll be back later, take care you two!". Chip stepped out the inn, waving his paw at his friends.
After some seconds of silence, Dale was the first to speak. "Hey Tammy, can I ask you something?"
Tammy had already started to clean some mugs. "Sure Dale, what happened?"
"So then... when will you get married to Chip?"
"Dale!" exclaimed Tammy dropping a wooden mug.
"hahaha! I'm sorry I scared you! But you and Chip make such a good couple! I bet that when your parents come back they will arrange your wedding... everyone would be so happy!"
"Yeah..." answered Tammy absently. "My parents would be happy, I would be happy... but I'm afraid Chip would feel miserable... and I could never let that happen". Her eyes started to water up a bit.
"Oh Tammy" Dale squeezed her paw. "Don't say that... Chip would feel so happy to be married with you. He loves you, but he just doesn't know how to express any feeling. Now, I have an idea! Why don't you declare your love to him? Tell him how you feel!"
Tammy' face became as red as a tomato. "Declare my love to him!? Are you crazy?"
"You... you think love is that easy because you already got Foxglove! But for me is more complicated... or more exactly... Chip is more complicated!"
"hehe you are right about that!" responded Dale with a laughter. "Chip is a complete puzzle. As serious and grumpy as the legendary Golem of Prague! He needs to learn to relax as I do… by writing love poems!" Dale reached for some papers and immersed himself in writing.
Tammy looked at him. Dale was radiant now that he had found his Juliet. She had already found her Romeo too, but he kept running away from her. With a sigh of frustration, she decided it was time to start washing dishes.