“This story takes place long, long ago in…”
“It wasn’t that long ago.”
“It was long enough ago that I can say it was long ago.”
“But you said long, long, which would make it very long ago, and we both know it wasn’t that long ago.”
“I am telling this story, and I can…”
“I mean, really, if you say two longs together then it would make people think…TILLY!”
“Stop that! Why are you banging your head on the table like that?”
“Seriously, your nose will never be the same.”
“Want some freshly cracked walnut?”
“Tolly, you are the most insufferable so and so I know.” Tilly rubbed his forehead, brushing off walnut shell and gently touching his throbbing nose.
“Are you going to get along with this story or what?” Tolly munched on a bit of walnut as he looked upon his brother with a bemused expression.
“As I was saying, this story takes place a long, long time ago.” Tilly stared pointedly at Tolly, almost daring him to say something. Tolly held up both hands, palms facing Tilly, as if to say, “It’s all yours.”
“And,” Tilly continued, “is called the ‘Imp in the Patchwork Quilt’.”
“Oh, that was a long, long time ago. I thought you were going to tell a different story.” Tolly smiled broadly at the exasperated look on his brother’s face.
“If you are finished I shall now continue.”
The castle was placed some distance from the village, on a slight rise that could not really be called a hill, but those of the village of course always referred to it as such. With a storm cloud covered sky the castle was nearly invisible. Flashes of lightening revealed stark images of white stone walls and towers. The road leading from the majestic doors of the castle, down through the gate past the gatekeeper’s house, and on into the village was now a muddy mass. Any attempts to make passage this very late evening would be difficult.
The same lightening that lit up the walls of Dolain Castle also lit up the home of one not so much accustomed to the opulent surroundings of those residing in the castle. No, Bill Ogawaner, the local weaver, and his family had lived in their small cottage for many generations now. In fact, his family had lived in the village for so long the family of the castle had only asked that they provide one item per year to pay their taxes. The castle was filled with the best rugs and garments woven and sewn by the family. Their quality was known far and wide.
“Bill, it’s too dangerous. The walls, the tops are to sharp. They could pierce your flesh. Please, there must be another way.” The woman was neither old nor young, but the strain of the moment was etched into her face as though a sculptor had formed a masterpiece of misery.
“This is the only way, Mary. If we don’t get it back, the Ogawaner family will lose its place and cease to exist here. We must get it back.”
Mary knew there was no point in further discussion. Once an Ogawaner made a decision there was no changing his mind. She moved to the window and stared out into the dark night, twisting the kerchief in her hands with worry.
For generations on end the Ogawaner family had been the weavers of the village, and that was now in danger if their mission failed this dark and dreary night. With each flash that blazed across the sky, she could see Dolain Castle in the distance. If you had been standing next to her that night, at that window, you might have heard the words she whispered; “Please, Amanda, hurry back with good news.”
“Not much longer and all of the power that is rightfully mine will once again be within my grasp, and I owe it all to this colorful piece of cloth, and its decorative little figure.” The voice was youthful but filled with a maniacal menace.
“Oooo…’maniacal menace’…good one.”
“Any time, Tilly, please continue.”
“Yes, sire. It has been too long of an existence in this current state of… living.” The tall, dignified man stood in the background, not imposing himself into his master’s cherished space.
“Horace, have you ever seen something so intriguing and so powerful all encompassed in one item?” The Duke barely touched the quilt hanging above the fireplace. His eyes focused on the broad-faced, pointy eared figure in the center. Its eyes were dark, matching the shaggy hair covering its head.
“Sire, I have witnessed many things in the employ of your father and grandfather. Intriguing and powerful tend to fall into the laps of your lineage.” Horace spoke with authority. After having worked for three generations of Dukes of Borog, he had earned the right to speak in a forthright manner.
“I know how you served them, Horace, but in all that time you could never have come across an Imp trapped inside of a patchwork quilt. With the next ray of sun to fall upon these delicate threads, my life will be become what it should be.” The glint in the young Duke Borog’s eyes was not contributed to the flames of the fire burning intensely within the room. No, this spark was one of greed.
“Yes sire, most assuredly so.” Horace had become bored with the repeated tirades of the young Duke in regards to the imp, the quilt, and his masters current state of affairs.
Detecting a hint of the exasperation in his servant’s voice, the Duke turned toward Horace. “Horace, it is best that you rememb—”
At that moment a loud blast from a bugle could be heard coming from outside. The Duke jumped, startled at the sound. “Blasted! Insufferable poof, and at this time of the night.” The Duke stormed out of the door.
The carriage was magnificent, even in the rainy, muddy night. From the doorway of the gatehouse the Duke of Borog stared out at the sight of his cousin safe and dry inside the carriage.
“Hello, cousin! Be so kind as to open the gate for us to make our way through. There is an engagement in the village we are to attend and we really cannot bother with soiling our clothing in all of this mud, and neither can our driver.” The Earl of Dolain called out to his cousin.
“I am not your gate boy… cousin.” The Duke stood firm in his resolve to not do the bidding of his lesser titled cousin, no matter the precariousness of his situation.
“Oh, come now, cousin. Do this one favor for your favorite, and most hospitable relation.” The Earl knew the Duke was in no position to make much of a resistance. Without the Earl, the younger noble would be without a home. Oh how far and hard the arrogant do fall.
The Duke felt a slight nudge as Horace moved past him in the doorway. Without rushing his steps or bending his head, the dignified servant made his way to the gate and opened it wide for the carriage to pass through.
When Horace turned back, after securing the gate, the door to the gatehouse was closed and the Duke was back inside, most likely before his newly acquired prize. A strange something came to the eye of Horace, a spark perhaps? If the young Duke had been there, he would not have noticed. He only observed what he wanted to see. Even if he had glimpsed the form he would not have known what to make of it. The Duke’s father and grandfather would have. They had seen Horace when he had felt his worth had been questioned. But it was not lost on everyone. The almost imperceptible black form eased away from the gatehouse and toward the village.
The Earl’s carriage rolled through the village, mud splattering in plumes from behind. “The carriage just passed, Bill.”
“She should not be long.” The weaver was preparing a bag with items he thought he would need. “Mary, have you seen my rope?”
“It’s holding up your pants, dear.”
“Hmm, okay then, explain where the digging spoon is.” Bill had a smirk on his face as he looked at his wife.
The hint of twinkle in his eyes did not escape her detection. “And why will you be needing the spoon? It’s doubtful he has buried it, or do you plan to dig under the wall?”
“You never know what you need until you need it. I aim to be prepared.”
Suddenly they heard a flapping noise and looked down at the floor. There stood a black cat shaking its head, ridding itself of the rain covering its body. The flapping noise was its ears batting about from the shaking.
“Amanda! Dear me, you gave us a fright. Such a night and you all sneaky like.” Mary held her hand to her chest.
“Never mind her, what did you find out?” Bill was of a single minded nature this evening.
“Only the Duke and Horace are there. The quilt is hanging over the fire in the gatehouse.” The cat moved its small head back and forth as it spoke.
“Horace is really the only threat at all. The Duke is all puff,” Bill said.
“The Duke is more than that, father. He is unbalanced in the mind. I worry about your safety,” Amanda said to Bill.
“Father? Now how could a cat be the daughter of a weaver? I mean the thought boggles the mind.”
“Tolly, you have heard the story before. You know how it happened.”
“How what happened?” Tolly was busy cracking walnuts and focusing on removing the bits of shell from the edible goody part. “Ever noticed how they look like brains? And they call it meat?”
“Focus! You know how the cat could be Bill’s daughter.”
“Come now Tilly, you know it’s all because of the Duke having—”
“Tolly, hush or you will spoil it for them.”
“The ones reading this.”
“Of course. Waiting on you to get on with it.”
Tilly looked at his brother, exasperated.
“We have no other choice,” began Bill, “if we want things back to normal… if you want to be a little girl again… we must get in there before dawn.”
Amanda gazed at her father, looking him up and down. “Father, I am concerned about you and the wall. I have no problem, in my present form, but you will face difficulties.”
“I may no longer be a young boy, leaping and bounding across the countryside, but I can still get around, young lady.” Amanda and Mary looked at each other. Bill was a large man. The rope was much needed in the assistance of keeping his pants up.
Amanda knew how stubborn the Ogawaner bloodline could be. She was one of them. “In that case, there is no use wasting time. Let us go now.” Amanda was ready to be a little girl again.
“Oh, yes—yes—yes—this is going to be the best, don’t you think so Horace?” Duke Borog rubbed his hands gleefully. The storm had passed, and stars could be seen in the night sky.
Horace had changed into dry clothes, and was preparing a hot drink to warm himself with. He looked upon the young Duke with a changed eye. He had respected the young man’s father and grandfather. They had been men of character and compassion. This one. He had dishonored the title and was close to ruining the family name beyond repair. “Sire, I believe this is the best thing to happen to you.” But it was his family’s duty to serve and guide the house of Borog.
“Look at that sky. It is destiny, I tell you. As soon as the sun breaks the horizon, I will be powerful once again.” Duke Borog’s attire would not have given anyone the image of power. He had changed for bed and he wore footed pajamas.
“Wait a minute, Tilly. You are telling me that this grown up Duke wore footed pajamas to bed?”
“Yes. Yes he did. As you already knew.”
“Your cookies and milk sire.”
“Yay. I love the dinosaur shaped ones. There are dinosaur shaped ones, aren’t’ there?”
“Watch your step, woman.” Bill’s grouchy voice could be heard through the dripping branches as he, Mary, and Amanda made their way through the small woods that lay between the main road to the village and the gatehouse wall.
“Oh you are one to talk, you big footed clod.” Even though Mary knew her husband was only worried and a bit fearful, Mary was not in the mood to tolerate any of his complaining. She was soaked to the skin and mud was all in her shoes. “Dear me,” she thought, “What will the ladies say when they see these at tomorrow’s tea?”
Amanda didn’t like the rain either, but she was having an easier go of it than her parents. As a cat, she was a smaller and lighter, so didn’t sink into the mud. In fact, she was able to avoid the mud all together. There were some good things about being a cat; climbing through trees, seeing in the dark, and having no chores to do. Being a cat wasn’t all bad.
“Amanda, what do you see?” Her father had slowed, and become quiet as they had moved deeper into the woods.
“The Duke wears footed pajamas.”
“Did you say footed pajamas?” Bill’s eyes widened.
“I am wondering if I should be surprised or not.”
“He isn’t exactly normal.”
“Yes, he is nothing like his father. The Duke was an honorable man. No one could ride a horse like him.”
“I doubt this one has ever even been on a horse.” Amanda stared into the side window from her tree branch. “He doesn’t like animals. Of any kind.”
“Hush you two.” Mary was nervous enough as it was without the thought of her noisy family alerting those in the gatehouse of their presence.
“Why worry about the Duke? He will likely be in bed soon and never listens to anything other than himself.” Amanda turned to look at her parents.
“It’s Horace I am concerned about. He is the smart one. He served the previous Dukes well.”
“We can wait until he turns in, Mary. Hopefully that will be soon.”
“First we must tackle the wall.” Mary focused on one task at a time.
Amanda looked at the gleaming white structure before her. It was no problem for a cat, but for her immense father it would pose a problem.
“Those spikes will be the largest obstacle.” Bill stared at the pointy topped wall.
“You can do it, Dad.” Amanda was always one for encouragement.
“Can we dig under the wall?” Mary knew her husband’s limitations.
“We do have the digging spoon.” Bill pulled out the black spoon.
“I don’t think we have the time it would take to dig with that.” Amanda looked at the tiny spoon with a lack of enthusiasm.
“Oh really?” Bill smiled and placed the spoon at the bottom of the wall. “Dig.”
“Whoa.” Amanda could not believe it. The spoon came to life and earth flew as if a whirlwind had blown in. It was not long before a large hole formed below the wall and Bill crawled through.
“Digging spoon? Tilly is this the same digging spoon fr—”
“Tolly, hush. You spoil everything.”
“Well?” Bill rose to his feet on the other side of the wall and looked at Amanda. “They seem to only whitewash that side of the wall. The boards on this side are dried and almost brittle looking. Our pickets at home look far better.”
“This is no time to critique the Dukes whitewashing abilities. We need to hurry.” Mary called through the hole from the other side of the wall.
“Be careful, you could get a nasty splinter. Imagine the pain and agony that would be.”
Mary made her way under the wall. Her husband helped her to stand. “Now that the hard part is done, let’s get what we came for so we can once again look forward to a promising future. Together. As a family.”
“This way.” Amanda moved slowly toward a window with a faint light drifting from it. “I don’t see anyone.”
“Now to get inside.”
Amanda looked at her father and then the window, and then back at her father. The digging spoon couldn’t wedge her Bill through that entrance. “The front door is probably best, as the Duke and Horace sleep in the rooms at the rear of the gatehouse.”
Amanda leaped through the window and made her way quietly to the front door. It took some doing, what with having paws instead of hands, but she opened the door for her parents.
“I sure wish the Earl had left earlier. It will be sunrise soon.” Bill’s voice was a laughable attempt at a whisper. Anyone awake would have heard him. Even from outside.
“Dad, be quiet, you will wake them up.”
“OOOO, look, some nice pastry, and Horace even has the pot on for some coffee. Most considerate, it was a long journey.” Bill picked up one of the fruit filled pastries and took a bite. “mmmmm”
“Bill.” Mary punched her husband on the shoulder. “You are too loud.”
“I believe the rather robust fellow was just loud enough.” Amanda and Mary jumped and Bill froze with a bite of pastry at his lips. Horace had walked in.
“I suppose you are here for that?” Horace pointed to the Imp quilt above the fireplace.
Amanda jumped on a table and stared at Horace. “Yes we are. It belongs to us.”
“I imagine that depends on how you look at it. The Duke had it made, although I dare say the subject matter belongs to you.” Amanda being able to speak didn’t seem to faze Horace at all.
“You know what awful things the Duke will do with it.”
“Oh, wonderful, it awakens.” Horace mumbled and rolled his eyes at the sound of the Duke’s voice.
“You know I want to be fresh for the sunrise. What is the meaning of this noise?”
“We have visitors, sire.”
That is when things really began to pick up. Everyone’s ears perked up, so to speak, well actually Amanda’s did perk up, as they heard the sound of morning, a rooster crowed.
“Horace, pull open the curtains.” The Duke grabbed the quilt from above the fireplace.
Somehow Horace bumped into Bill’s roped bound figure and fell. However, he still grabbed the curtain on the way down, and it fell with him.
“No!” Bill took the coffee and threw the hot liquid at the window. As the sunlight hit the panes of glass, the brown liquid distorted the light so it was blocked from entering the room and falling on the quilt.
The Duke grabbed the quilt and started to run toward the door, but Amanda ran through his legs and tripped him. Mary jumped on him in the only offensive action she knew, utilizing her abundantly padded backside. The Duke let go of the quilt as Mary landed her weapon squarely in the middle of the Duke’s back. A great oomph of air was expelled from his body.
Bill was still trying to keep the sunlight from entering the room, while Mary attempted to climb to her feet. Amanda grabbed the quilt in her teeth and ran for the front door that still stood open. The Duke made to grab for her, but a boot slammed down on his hand.
“Pardon me, sire. I was trying to capture the little beast.” Amanda looked over her shoulder as she ran out the door. She would swear for years to come that Horace winked at her that day.
“Noooo!” The Duke’s voice was filled with agony. He could see the sunlight hit the quilt through the doorway.
The quilt glowed, and began to float in the air as Amanda released it. It began to spin, faster and faster. There was a flash of light so bright it hurt to look at it.
The quilt was gone and in its place floated a small Imp boy.
The Imp boy looked at Amanda. He turned his head one way, then the other. He floated down until he was nose to nose with the cat. “Amanda?”
“You do look funny like that.”
“Have you seen yourself?”
“Nope,” Adam, the Imp, began, “but I have been stuck on that wall the whole time. So how do we get out of this?”
“You have the power. You simply have to grant my wish. That was the spell on the quilt. Whoever was holding the quilt when the light of the sun hit it the first time on the The Day of the Saints would have their wish granted.”
“I still can’t understand why the Duke chose our family for that witch curse to make his plans work.”
“Adam!” Mary came running from the gatehouse, followed closely by Bill.
“Mother, Dad, nice to see you here as well.”
“Son we did our best to get you back.” Bill was almost teary eyed but fought it.
“Well, let’s be done with the wishing.” Adam was a practical young fellow. He had seen what had happened inside and was in no mood to be overly dramatic. He wanted things set right and was ready to be done with it.
“First, let the two of us talk a moment.” Amanda walked toward the fence away from their parents.
Bill and Mary could not hear what Amanda and her brother talked about, but they could see the smile spread across Adam’s broad face.
As Amanda and Adam walked back to their parents, both changed back into what they really were, Amanda, with her long raven hair and dark eyes, and Adam, her twin but with shorter hair and obviously a boy. Bill grabbed Amanda and hugged her, while Mary grabbed Adam and did the same. Over their parent’s shoulders Amanda and Adam smiled at one another. A cat eye winked at the broad Imp eye.
You may wonder what happened to the Duke and Horace. Well, Amanda had not forgotten what Horace had done. Horace found himself living comfortably in a large hunting lodge amidst a beautiful forest, overlooking a lovely lake. His servant didn’t seem to remember much before waking up one morning and preparing his master’s breakfast, but he did know he was not fond of cats or quilts for some reason.
“Thank you, Tolly.”
“You’re welcome, so how does it end?”
“That was the ending.”
“No wicked stepmother?”
“Bill and Mary were happily married.”
“Wait a minute, you mean to tell me that nothing else happens to them.”
“Of course more happens as we all have stuff happen…”
“Then tell it.”
“It’s not part of the story.”
“Come now, it must be.”
Tilly and Tolly went on and on as they always do; you may be able to hear the thuds on the table if you listen closely. As all of these stories seem to end with a common phrase, I will now end this one with… And they lived happily ever after.
© 2011- Ronovan Hester Copyright reserved. The author asserts his moral and legal rights over this work.