King Stephen, the Silver man and Greta the Witch

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Chapter 28 – The Big Tasty

Since her revelation from the Coca-Cola can that they were living in the year 2012 and not 1136, Greta had made no attempt to explain this to the King. She just didn’t know how to begin to explain it. She kept silent, absorbed in her thoughts, as they walked the horses across the Common.

As they neared the Sunday Market and the adjacent airfield, the sound of the light aircraft taking off and landing became louder and louder. She kept quiet as the King and the two thugs had discussed these flying objects. They all ducked involuntarily as they flew over, they thought it was must be some further trickery of the Silver man.

Keith was still trussed by his wrists. Although he had had no more significant conversations with his four captors he was able to observe them in a new light. He watched as Greta looked closely at every man-made objects they encountered on their ride. She dismounted when they came to chain-link fence, and examined the metal work in detail, pulling on the fence to test its strength. The King, Eustace and Henry rode on disinterested. She rode over to every litter bin they passed, and from the elevated position on her horse examined the contents with great interest.

When they reached the perimeter fence of the Sunday Market, Eustace dragged Keith from his horse and he was commanded to give an explanation of ‘the fair’. Keith realised that if he said it was a car-boot-sale and Sunday Market he would just get another punch in the torso from Eustace. He could see that both men were hungry, and impatient to get something to eat. So he thought the best thing to do was to agree with them.

So he said, ‘it’s the Sunday fair, let me go and get you something to eat?’

Greta and Henry had tethered the horses so they could graze on some long grass by the side of the fence, now they joined the other three. The King looked at Eustace and said, ‘You go with him’.

Greta untied Keith’s hands, and he pointed at the closest burger van that had a large sign saying Big Tasty. Smoke and steam was billowing from a short metal chimney, obviously from the cooking. Even from a distance of a few hundred meters, the smell of the frying onions was so inviting. Eustace kept a dagger pressed against Keith’s ribs and held the back of his trouser belt as they walked the short distance across to the burger van. Although Keith was taller that Eustace, Eustace was much stronger than Keith.

There was a blackboard to the side of the van, with a menu written in large characters. The first item on the menu was

‘Jumbo hotdog with onions £3.90’.

Keith knew he had a £20 note in his trouser pocket. Keith ordered 5 jumbo hot-dogs from the girl who looked down at him from the van. She had spiky green hair, a ring through her nose and tattoos. Keith wasn’t sure who looked more strange, her or Eustace. The bizarre thing was that in the environment of the Sunday market and car-boot-sale where English eccentricity reigned supreme, nobody gave Eustace a second glance. Yes he was dressed a bit weird, but then who wasn’t. In the short walk over to the burger van, they had passed two guys in motorbike leathers, two Goths dressed in black with a chain linking them, and an overweight middle aged man who was clearly making the most of the warm weather by wearing his shorts and a vest. Even Eustace stared at his pudgy white flesh and faded tattoos. There was also a Ren faire troupe dressed in multi-coloured circus clothes who were roving the Sunday Market doing ad-hoc performances.

Keith handed over the crumpled £20 note, which he dug out of his corduroy trouser pocket and paid the green-haired girl. Eustace looked on suspiciously, but said nothing as the girl handed Keith back his 50p change. She said, ‘sauce over there.’ She pointed to a table where he could see ketchup and mustard. This was a concept too difficult to explain to Eustace. He was about to ask Eustace if he wanted something to drink, but looking back at the black-board menu realised that his 50p wasn’t enough to even buy a cup of tea or a can of coke.

He carried the 5 piping hot, giant hot-dogs with onions back towards where the King, Henry and Greta waited by the horses. Each was wrapped in a paper napkin.

He handed one first to the King. Then to Henry and Eustace, and finally to Greta. Each snatched their food, without thanking him. He noticed that Greta first examined the paper napkin with interest. She held onto the paper as if it were a precious thing, while the three men had carelessly abandoned their napkins on the ground.

Greta remarked, ‘this bread looks fresh and is surprisingly light in colour.’

Eustace said, ’he didn’t know what part of the animal the meat was from, but it smelt good. Keith was about to interject, when both Greta and Henry let out a howl of pain. Clearly in the middle-ages they did not serve piping hot food. In their hunger they had both taken large bites of sausage which was still sizzling in hot fat, and burnt their mouths. Cursing and swearing, yet desperate for the fabulous smelling food, neither was prepared to spit out the hot sausage.

While Henry and Eustace continued to keep a wary eye on Keith, the King and Greta sat a little apart from the other three. While they ate, Greta decided to try and explain to the King what she had learnt from the tall stranger. Greta started hesitantly; using her words carefully in a way that she thought the King may understand.

‘Sire I have learnt something important from talking to the tall stranger. The tall stranger and these people are from a different time. In the way that your father and his father lived in very different times many years ago, these people come from a time in the future.’

The King looked at Greta incredulously. He wondered at first if this was one of her clever ploys, but he could see no malice or cunning in her expression.

‘Swear on Queen Matilda’s life that what you say is true.’

The King knew that Greta was totally loyal to his wife, and would not take such an oath lightly.

Without hesitation and holding the Kings eyes with her own yellow eyes, she said unblinkingly, ‘I swear this is true on Queen Matilda’s life.’

The King was open mouthed trying to take-in what Greta had just told him. Half chewed hotdog clearly visible in his open mouth. ’Why do you know such things, Witch?’

‘Do you remember that red metal object we found earlier? Have you ever seen anything so well made from metal? Did you see the craftsmanship in that vessel, did you ever see anything like that?’

The King had no answers. He stared at Greta. Sitting still for a period of time that made her feel uncomfortable. She realised he could order Eustace to cut her throat at any time and he would obey without question.

Suddenly he stood, and beckoned to Eustace to follow him. He meandered over to the stalls and began looking at the items for sale with undisguised curiosity. ‘50p for that Gov’ said a store holder as the King examined a polished red soda syphon. Henry went for his dagger, as if to protect the King from the insult, but the King restrained him. The metallic red spherical metal work shone brightly in the early morning sun, the Witch was right he had never seen anything of this quality.

‘Tell me, what is this object for?’

’Well you haven’t lived much ‘ave you Guv, you put a soda capsule in here and water and you get your soda for ya whisky and drinks.’ The stall holder lifted the metal flap at the back of the syphon, ‘this is where you put the fizz in, you insert ya cylinder of gas to produce ya bubbles’.

The King only understood the word drinks, and said to Eustace, ‘I’ll take it’. Eustace snatched the soda syphon from the stall-holder.

‘Hold up, what about my money?’

Keith gave the store-holder the change from the hot-dogs, the 50p coin from his pocket.

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