50,000 leagues into the Deep, Deep, Double Deep hole in the Loch.
(Just for all of us who aren’t familiar with that scale, it is a long way down. It’s cold and dark and there isn’t much down there except strange looking fish with bug eyes and big teeth and of course the Merrow people who swim about with good vision and live quite happily there, except just recently there has been a shift in attention from what’s down on the bottom of the Dx4H to what was up on the surface. Seems all the ghost and spirit activity around the old jail had certain rulers of the underwater world puzzled at the response of the land people. They could not understand why the land people had not packed their bags and headed for the hills and away from the jail at the first signs of terror from apparitions from the other side. It was in the great hall that the Queen took council with the cities Mermen and Merwomen about the quandary they found themselves in. Nuff said let’s begin................ )
Cleodora turned and bowed to her Queen and then swam back to her position amongst the faithful after expressing her angst and sorrow at the death of the King. The Queen’s life partner and first love died by a terrible misadventure. A strange metal bed landed on his head and took his life. The bed came from the surface water area. Over the years several pieces of rubbish fell into the Dx4H and were used as furniture or tools to dig into the sea bottom for the luminous sand worms that were a delicacy down there. These worms also made it possible to see around the bottom because they were put into lanterns and carried by the Merfolk as they swam around. It was very unfortunate that the King was where he was when the bed hit him because he was picking a bunch of red sea weed flowers for his wife. Subsequently, the anger felt by his loyal subjects boiled over into a heated discussion about how to even up the score with the rubbish dropping land people.
The widowed Queen, Zillath, was deeply saddened by the accident and before she retaliated went to the surface to observe the land people and their habits. This confused her even more because they all seemed so nice and friendly, not like the men who lived in there years before who were intent on causing as much sorrow to the inhabitants of the jail as was possible, even death. Queen Zillath had seen one land man in a boat catching fish and taking to a ghost dog and he seemed fine. He was good to the dog and respected the water and fish he collected. How could these people be responsible for the death of her much loved husband? It was very confusing to poor Zillath who took some time out by sitting on a smooth rock step at the foot of the old jail. She was debating in her head whether to start a war of retribution or to postpone the endeavour for more negotiations between the land people. It was too much to sort out with one visit from the Queen so she returned to her home and loyal subjects with more news and a deeply troubled heart.
‘Lamb Shanks where are you!!!!!’ yelled Aubrey balancing Zara on her hip and resting her right foot on the ankle bone. Her toes were coated in dog poop and Ben was guessing Lamb Shanks was in for a hiding because of it. It was only a small island and Lamb Shanks was yet to develop a deeper sense of going to the toilet in the great outdoors. Inside was warm and there were so many places he could go and go he did. Aubrey was now the unlucky recipient of one of these dog poop surprises between her freshly painted toes and the language was starting to become far too colourful.
Ben responded by finding Lamb Shanks and chastising him about his placement and timing then he reminded Hambone to look out for him a bit better. Both dogs just looked at Ben like condemned men waiting for the firing squad to shoot them dead. After Ben had talked to them both in a gentle warming friendly tone, he heard Aubrey’s footsteps on the stairway so he increased his volume output and severity about 90db. Just for effect. It was not lost on the dogs they both dropped their heads even lower and Hambone moaned a little......just for effect.
‘There, both culprits have been threatened and the poop cleaned up so what’s for dinner my darling?’
‘How about shish kabobed Irish WolfHound,’ stated Aubrey in less than glowing terms giving both dogs the 1000 yard stare that Ben knew all too well. Both dogs dropped their heads even lower to the ground so much so that Hambone stuck his head into the floorboards to hide. Lamb Shanks tried to do the same and hurt his nose when the carpeted floor wasn’t as transparent and giving as it was for Hambone. After he shook his head and got rid of the fright he followed Hambone back down to the rug in front of the fireplace and humphed his way into little tight circles then put his chin on the edge of the rug and watched the front door for any movement. Hambone looked at his distant cousin and curled up next to him and stared at Lamb Shanks tennis ball that was drying out near the fire. Hambone so wanted to be able to pick it up in his teeth and give a serious chewing but it was not to be.
‘How are you both doing mon petite chiens?’ asked Raphael in gentle French tones to both dogs that turned at the same time to stare at the chair as it spoke to them. There had been times when Raphael wished he could get Lamb Shanks back for peeing on his leg but alas he was in the same kind of boat that Hambone was. A ghost, with a very long life span and a range of mortal friends who would someday meet their own end in hopefully better ways than he did. The dogs he spoke to just put their heads down and relaxed in front of the fire.
Raphael was bored.
He wanted some company.
Ben was nowhere to be seen.
And Aubrey didn’t like sitting in the chair as he made her feel...vulnerable.
Agnes just swore under her breath every time Raphael readjusted her seat and she leapt into the office the colour of beetroot.
Ben was pretty much the only person he longed to have a conversation with because he was funny and understood him. He also helped Ben win at chess by whispering moves to him when he played houseguests who challenged him to a game.
The weather was improving so it would be time for Ben to be doing some household chores, like cutting wood, preparing rooms and cleaning his fishing gear till it shone. This would also mean that Ben wouldn’t be seen until it got dark outside and then he would usually have a cup of tea and nod off in front of the fire, only to be woken by Aubrey or Agnes and sharply told to get to bed. Ben’s feelings were hurt and off he went mumbling up the stairs all the way to the bedroom, as was his tendency to do, and once again Raphael was without a chair buddy.
The Dunmours were a bit ‘stand offish’ toward poor old Raphael but ghost Zara did try to learn French from him and her father promptly forbid her talking to him at all. It seems even on the other side of life there were rules. (Pardon me...SORRY...what was that??????? Rules in heaven...you are kidding right? Please tell me I don’t have to wear a tie in heaven. Pleeeeeeeeeease!)
Raphael loved it when Ben left a game on the chess board because when Ben went to bed and the small coffee table was close to his own chair leg he was able to finish the game. Built into his chair was an ornate wooden grape vine that meandered its way around the chair arms and Raphael could extend the vine to move the chess pieces on the table. The Dunmour’s watched him do this trick the first time and ghost Zara went straight up to Ben’s room and woke him up. Ben didn’t mind that Raphael was playing with his chess set because he was more of a backgammon player and Ben tried to settle ghost Zara’s concerns about the solo chess playing. It seemed freaky to her...a ghost!
In future weeks Ben made three wooden tables that were the right height for Raphael to finish when everyone was in bed. He would set them up and sure enough ...the next morning the pieces would be on opposite sides of the boards depending on how many games Raphael decided to play by himself in front of the fire.
Zillath’s minders and close personal body guard were waiting for her to return to the underwater world that was her home and they all cast suspicious eyes around at every movement with their glowing lanterns in front of them. Suddenly a voice from behind them said in gentle tones.........‘Rest easy my friends and lower your guard, I am home now and just as confused as I was when I left to seek the truth about the land people. They need more investigation and for now....I will rest and explore in two days’ time,’ said Zillath who appeared stressed and tired from such a long journey to the surface. Her escorts and guards followed her back to her private cave set into the Dx4H in the wall. She rested on her bed and slept while Cleodora and Lanthe, her personal guards, kept watch out the front of her cave.
Zillath dreamed of her husband in happier times and awoke feeling very sad that he was gone.