Read The Extremely Epic Viking Tale of Yondersaay Online

Authors: Aoife Lennon-Ritchie

Tags: #Vikings, #fantasy, #Denmark, #siblings, #action-adventure, #holidays, #Christmas, #grandparents, #fairy tale, #winter

The Extremely Epic Viking Tale of Yondersaay (7 page)

BOOK: The Extremely Epic Viking Tale of Yondersaay
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“There’s definitely something there,” the big man said. “I’m going to take a look.” He started toward the bridge.

That was all Dani and Ruairi needed to hear. They bolted out from behind the boulder and ran as fast as they could toward the village and home, never once looking back.

Almost out of breath, they ran down the hill, right in the middle of the High Street, not caring if they made noise now, and onto Gargle View Avenue. The wind was picking up, and the snow was really starting to come down. Taking care not to slip on the fresh snow, they jumped over the garden wall and climbed up the rose trellis on the side of the garage. They tumbled through the open window, undressed, and got into bed as quickly as they possibly could.

“No way did they see who we were,” Ruairi said.

“No. Absolutely no way. It was way too dark, and we were quick as lightning. Ruairi, you’re becoming super fast. I could hardly keep up with you.”

“Thanks, Dans.” Ruairi grinned from ear to ear. “I think it’s all the broccoli I’ve been eating.”

“You do eat a lot of broccoli.”

They both drifted into a fast and sound sleep. Ruairi’s last thought just before his dreams began—more an image than a thought; it flashed across his mind and was gone forever—was of two sets of tracks in the snow.

The Butcher, The Baker

 

 

Ruairi sprawled out beside Dani on the rug in front of the fire where they were both eating toast and pretending to read their books.

“What do you think they were looking for?” Dani asked Ruairi.

“Maybe it was a dead body.” Ruairi went pale.

“Why would they be looking for a dead body with a metal detector? A dead body wouldn’t beep. Only something metal would.”

“Maybe it had lots of fillings.”

“What are you two talking about?” Granny asked from her armchair.

“Nothing, Granny,” Dani and Ruairi said quickly.

Dani looked intently at her book and whispered to Ruairi out the side of her mouth. “Let’s get dressed and go for a walk by the river, just to have another little look around.”

Ruairi was not sure he wanted to do that. “What if they’re still there?” he asked.

“No chance, not in broad daylight,” Dani said. “Anyway, didn’t the one say they were going to go to the Crimson Forest in the morning?”

“Oh yeah.”

“I want the pair of you to hurry up with your breakfast. We have a full day ahead of us,” Mum said, coming down the stairs with her arms full of coats and gloves and hats. “There’s so much to do to get everything ready for Christmas Day. We’ll need some milk from the dairy where we’ll also get some cheeses and some lovely thick cream for the pudding, which we’ll get at the baker’s. Ooh, and some crusty brown bread for the smoked salmon from the smokehouse, which we’ll eat before the turkey and ham from the butcher’s, which wouldn’t be Christmassy at all without some Brussels sprouts—” Mum handed out all their coats as she spoke. Granny stuffed two buttered pancakes into her mouth and four slices of toast into her handbag. “—which we’ll get at the greengrocer’s. We’ll find everything else we need there, except the brandy for the brandy butter, which we’ll have to take a turn out to the distiller’s to get. And if we go the long way through the Crimson Forest, we’ll hunt for some holly and mistletoe to decorate the table.” Ruairi froze at this. Trying not to look as scared as he felt, he glanced at Dani who was nodding and smiling.

“Let’s do all that today,” Mum went on, “and tomorrow we can spend the entire day dressing the Christmas tree, building snowmen, eating chocolates, which we’ll get at the greengrocer’s, and watching Christmas films on telly.

“Wrap up warm, my darlings. There’s a nip in the air, and though the snow looks soft as velvet, it comes down quite sharp. It will take an icy bite out of your noses and cheeks if you let it … Why are your coats inside-out?”

“Um …” Ruairi said.

“Ah …” Dani said.

“To keep them clean!” Ruairi said and shot a worried glance at Dani.

“Obviously!” Dani grabbed her hat and pulling it right down so Mum couldn’t see her face. Mum shrugged and put on layers and layers of coats and scarves and four pairs of gloves. Ruairi knew Mum loved the snow but didn’t think it was safe to get too cold.

 

 

 

 

The crisp light of the new day ran up the High Street and along the side avenues, across the hill at the top of the village, and fell downward into the Crimson Forest and the River Gargle before bouncing back off the mountain in a cold yellow glow. The Millers headed toward the High Street. It was bright and sunny, clear and dry. And cold. Very cold. There was no sign that it would snow again soon but the ground was thickly covered in a fresh layer of white. The houses all looked as if their roofs were thatched with white straw; there was at least a foot of snow on top of every building. Cars that hadn’t been driven for a day or two looked like massive snowballs. All the Millers wore their winter boots and heavy winter coats, not just Mum. They were wrapped up like presents; the only parts that showed were their cheeks. Their bright red cheeks. Which were almost as red as their hair.

They weren’t dawdling, but it still took them nearly an hour to get the two blocks from Gargle View Cottage to the bottom of the High Street. Everyone they met along the way knew Granny Miller and wanted to stop and ask her how she was and say how they hardly recognized Dani and Ruairi anymore, they’d grown so much, and to chat about what a lovely sunny day, if a bit cold, it was turning out to be. The woman from the pharmacist’s, the postman, and a short little fat hairy man who was arguing with his very tall, very thin wife stopped them and had a quick chat. A big, balding man, the draper, drove up to them in a tiny blue car the size of a bumper car at the dodgems, and had a conversation out his window.
Everybody
knew them and wanted to say hello.

Granny Miller and Mum didn’t seem to mind all of this. Granny Miller grew up here, and Mum grew up in an even smaller place. They were both well used to it. Ruairi was baffled, but it appeared that they actually enjoyed it even. To him, however, and to Dani, it was
torture
.

“Hurry
up,
Mum,” Dani whispered.

Ruairi said, “I am getting dangerously cold and
dangerously
bored
.”

“Wear the crown of patience, Ruairi,” Mum said.

“This is why we never come shopping with you at home!” Dani said. “Remind us never to fall for your trickery again!”

“Isn’t it
unsafe
to be this cold? And this bored? You’re being irresponsible. You’re not thinking of our well-being.” Ruairi stood behind the tall, thin woman Mum was talking to and mouthed, “
Please
, let’s
go
!” He made a face at her behind the woman’s back, so Mum finally said good-bye. From then on, when they met people, they waved to them and said things like, “Hi, how are you? Lovely to see you. Yes, it’s a lovely day,” but they didn’t stop walking.

Their first stop, when they finally got there, on this wintry morning on the day before Christmas Eve, was the butcher’s shop.

When Ruairi made it through the door, some incomer was asking the butcher, out of politeness, while she was waiting for her ham to be sliced and wrapped, why he’d decided to become a butcher. He let out a sigh, crossed his arms, and rolled his eyes at her. The colored bits went so far up in his head that Ruairi thought they would get stuck up there and then what would he do.

“I’m Hamish Sinclair, and the Sinclairs are the butchers like the Andersons are the teachers and the MacFadyens are the whiskey-makers,” he boomed at her. “Because if I wasn’t a butcher, then there would be no such thing as a Sunday roast or a midsummer barbecue or a chicken sandwich. On Sundays, there’d be carrots and potatoes and parsnips and a big gap in the middle of the table. It would be confusing. People would still be hungry after Sunday lunch, and they wouldn’t know why.

“And what would be done with all the extra animals, I ask you? The island would be positively chock-a-block with over-woolly sheep and geriatric cows. Not to mention the ferocious smell of poo. People wouldn’t be able to walk for poo. There’d be poo everywhere. And you’re mad if you think I’m going to spend my days going around cleaning up cow poo and herding pigs and chickens off the High Street so people can walk down it.”

When his eyes did flicker over Ruairi and Dani, they gasped. Hamish seemed utterly indifferent to them, and despite themselves, Dani and Ruairi found themselves inching forward so they could look more closely at him.

“That’s the man from the River Gargle whirlpool,” Dani whispered to Ruairi without moving her lips.

“Definitely. He’s even bigger in real life.”

“He was in real life last night,” Dani said.

“I mean up close. He’s even more massive up close. What is he? Half-giant, half-gorilla?”

“Or one quarter mountain, three quarters abominable snowman?”

Eventually they stopped whispering and just stood there, trying very hard not to stare at Hamish Sinclair.

Hamish Sinclair was poured into white wellies and a white butcher’s coat that looked like a sausage skin on him. If you pronged him with a fork, he might explode. He wore a white hairnet under a baseball cap. There was a chance he wasn’t pleased about the hairnet, it wasn’t the most manly-looking accessory; Ruairi imagined a great deal of effort had gone into disguising it and tucking the edges under the cap.

The butcher’s shoulders were wider than the entire meat counter. His head skimmed the shop ceiling. And to say he was hairy was an understatement; his forearms needed hairnets.

The thing that made Hamish not just big but scarily big was not his height or his width or his hugely muscular arms and thighs. What made the difference was his voice—so deep, so booming, and so loud that even if he were tiny it would give the impression of a giant speaking. He wasn’t smiling, and he wasn’t talking cheerfully about the weather, like everyone else they’d met on the island.

Mum and Granny ordered a turkey and a ham for Christmas dinner and sausages and bacon and black and white pudding for tea. They ordered venison for venison stew and sliced meats for sandwiches. They talked about getting a turducken—a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey—for Christmas dinner instead of a turkey and a ham but decided against it in the end.

“Raising chickens inside ducks inside turkeys could be cruel if not carried out in a closely monitored and regulated environment,” Mum ventured. “A chicken couldn’t possibly have much quality of life if it grew up inside the bum of a duck. And the poor turkey with both a chicken and a duck in its bum. What if the chicken and the duck didn’t get on and started pecking? It doesn’t bear thinking about.”

“Is it organic?” Granny wanted to know.

“Free-range,” Hamish grunted.

“All the same, best not,” Granny said. “Maybe next year.”

“I’ll have your order run over to Gargle View Cottage later this afternoon, Granny Miller,” Hamish said. He did not ask for Granny’s name because he already knew it. He did not ask for Granny’s address because he already knew that too. Ruairi was not thrilled that this particular person knew where they lived, but everybody knew everybody on Yondersaay, so of course he knew Granny’s address. Mum thanked Hamish Sinclair and wished him a Merry Christmas, and they all left the shop.

“Watch out for the mad one on your way out—she’s back from her break, out there yelling ‘No meat!’” Hamish Sinclair called out to them as they were leaving. “
Real
men eat nothing
but
meat … and the occasional Cadbury’s creme egg.”

Ruairi had a quick glance back into the shop on his way out the door. He caught Hamish Sinclair looking straight at him. Ruairi couldn’t move—he was held in the stare. He felt Dani tug at his arm and let himself be led out of the shop. The last thing Ruairi saw as they exited was the giant butcher picking up a tiny phone, and dialling a number.

A very angry woman about Mum’s age was pacing outside the butcher’s shop. She was shouting, “Meat is murder! Meat is an atrocity!” in such a furious way that Ruairi was more than a little frightened of her. She was wearing old trousers made of patches and a coat that may well have been made out of her own hair and bits of things swept off the floor.

BOOK: The Extremely Epic Viking Tale of Yondersaay
9.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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