Chapter Eighteen: No plan is without some risks
Copyright © 2017 by Brian Bixby
Ursula was not all that quick-witted, save when she was seducing someone. So when caught between trying to deal with the wyrms and Kate and Willie, she resorted to one of her oldest tricks: disrobing. “Will, it’s just that I’m feeling an itch for a swim. Will you and Kate take my clothes?” And she began stripping down to the rather skimpy bikini she was wearing underneath.
This did grab the attention of the Royal couple. Will was not averse to seeing what Ursula would look like in a bikini, and Kate was hoping Ursula would jump over the side as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, Ursula tried to divide her attention between smiling at Kate and Will, removing her clothes, and sensing just what the wyrms were up to. It must be said that she did better at the former two than the latter.
Geoff shoved Gwen/”June” aside. “I’ll steer. You get ready, June.”
Gwen stood up in the boat. She had been so many times on a boat that keeping herself upright as Geoff steered a course toward the turbulent waters was hardly an effort. But she began to get worried. “How close are we getting to the wyrms, Geoff?”
Geoff kept his eyes on the water. He didn’t want to see Gwen’s reaction when he replied, “Just about on top of them.”
“You really shouldn’t be here,” was all Calpurnia could think of to say to her daughter Bathsheba. The two were in a kayak, paddling slowly toward the turbulence that marked where the wyrms were.
“Relax, mum, you and your fellow magicians have it covered. What could go wrong?” Bathsheba was enjoying this chance to see the wyrms up close.
“They could flame-broil us both and eat us,” was Calpurnia’s terse reply.
“Wouldn’t that be great? We’d be incorporated into the wyrms’ bodies. We’d be part of something much greater than ourselves. Isn’t that what a lot of people want?” Bathsheba didn’t expect to be eaten, but she enjoyed envisioning what it would be like to be part of a sixty-foot long supernatural creature.
Her cheerful tones left Calpurnia baffled. Calpurnia admitted to herself that was not an uncommon reaction of hers to Bathsheba. Or to her other daughters. Then again, it’s not as if their fathers had been all that normal. At least Guinevere’s and Ursula’s; Calpurnia herself wasn’t quite sure who was Bathsheba’s father. It had been an odd time in her life. Shaking her head, she dismissed the subject and switched to her other worry. “I hope I have the right song.”
Bathsheba gave her mother another smile. “Hey, how many other people would know the words and tune to an Anglo-Saxon lullaby? You’ll ace it, mum.”
Calpurnia took heart from her daughter’s support. “Geoff said wyrms are linguistically conservative. And yet I’m sure the locals in 1397 did not know Irish or Scottish Gaelic, so it had to be in Anglo-Saxon.”
Bathsheba helpfully added, “Well, I know it used to put us kids to sleep, mum. Let’s hope the wyrms have good taste.”
As opposed to the wyrms thinking we taste good, Calpurnia thought to herself.
The wyrms breached the surface. They were confused, and not a little alarmed, at the large number of boats on Breydon Water. A few boats they simply would have destroyed. But there were so many! And yet only two seemed to be in their immediate vicinity. They decided to confront the nearest boat first.
Geoff had done a number of dangerous things in his life, some of which he regarded in retrospect as having shown poor judgment. He wondered if he was engaged in some such thing now. The wyrms had emerged less than thirty feet off his boat’s bow. Geoff immediately gunned the motor, and headed directly toward the wyrms, aiming to get between them if at all possible, and preferably before they turned his boat into a crematorium. He could not help but wonder at the wisdom of Gwen’s plan as he could start counting individual scales and whiskers on the creatures.
And then the moment came. “Now, June, now!”
On shore, Jacintha held the rifle at ready, prepared to shoot whichever wyrm moved on the boats. Marcus had a spell ready to attack the wyrms as well. As the motorboat closed in on the wyrms, they heard Geoff’s voice yelling to “June,” who was really Marcus’s and Calpurnia’s daughter Guinevere. And, as planned, Jacintha and Marcus looked away.
For both of them, it was the hardest thing they had to do. For they were charged with being the last resort. If the plan failed, they were supposed to try to rescue the survivors and deal with the wyrms as best they could, killing them if need be. But for the next ten seconds, they could do nothing, not even observe.
And then they heard the wyrms roar.
Ursula was mostly out of her clothes by this point. But she’d lost track of what the wyrms were up to as she disrobed. So the twin roars caught her by surprise. With her skirt still tangled in her high heels, Ursula stopped undressing and concentrated on the wyrms.
The wyrms were terrified. The feeling almost knocked Ursula off her feet. She struggled to come to grips with their terror, to distinguish which wyrm was which.
And then she had it! The female was concerned for her young, while the male was torn between ensuring its own survival and the survival of its mate. Ursula grabbed the attention of the female. She broadcast the feeling that there was a way to safety for the mother and her unborn young. All the wyrm had to do was to follow Ursula.
Ursula kicked off her skirt and shoes, in that order, and looked up. To her dismay, Will and Kate were staring out across the Water. And Ursula had no doubt about just what they were staring at. “Oops,” was all she could say. They were not supposed to see the wyrms. That was one of Ursula’s jobs. She’d blown it.
And then for once she thought quickly, deciding that people seeing the wyrms was a lot less dreadful that people (or wyrms) getting killed. With that in mind, she stood up, gave Kate a hug, Will a smile and a pat on the cheek, and said, “Sorry, guys, but I really have to take a swim now.” And she jumped up onto the rail and then dove into the water.
The summer sun had heated the water to a tepid temperature. Ursula concentrated on broadcasting feelings of maternal love and safety at the female wyrm, and was rewarded by it nuzzling her as it approached. Ursula grabbed onto its neck and sat herself on its back. Now, she thought at the wyrm, I need some air. And then Ursula had a mischievous thought, and told the wyrm there was one other thing they should do.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were flummoxed by what they’d just seen. Some sort of sea monsters were in Breydon Water! And their odd friend Ursula had chosen just that moment to jump overboard for a swim.
Kate recovered first. She dashed to the rail, to see whether Ursula would come up. Will was a bit slower, because while he admired Ursula physically, he was in the direct line to inherit the throne and had to worry about his wife and children. And the last thing he’d seen was one of those monsters heading in the direction of this yacht. So he stepped forward to drag Kate back from the railing, intending to tell her that they had to get out of the way of whatever that thing was for the sake of their children.
He never got the chance.
Just as he reached his wife’s side, the wyrm rose up right beside the yacht, directly in front of the two of them. Its snake-like head loomed over them, paralyzing them with fear.
“Yoo-hoo, Kate, Will, I’m going for a ride.” Their attention snapped down to eye level, where they saw Ursula seated astride the creature. “I don’t think I’ll be back until late, so if you get a chance, drop my clothes off with my mother. Toodles!” And with that, Ursula and the wyrm dropped back into the water and disappeared.
“What the . . . ?” Will didn’t complete the thought; the Queen frowned on such language.
Kate turned to him. “Is this one of those Royal secrets the tabloids always keep saying your family hides?”
Will shook his head.
“Oh.” The enormity of what she’d seen, and the danger she had been in, registered on Kate. She fainted out of fear for the first time in her life. Will managed to catch her on the way down.
Wyrms are magical creatures, and just like any human with magical powers, they were terrified when they saw Guinevere’s face after she removed her veil. Gwen had driven them apart. The female was running away with Ursula. But now the male, seeing his mate disappearing, was enraged. Unable to face Gwen, the creature’s tail lashed out at the boat carrying her and Geoff, and it was only Geoff’s turning and twisting the boat this way and that which kept it from being crushed or sunk.
Geoff was sweating. He had to keep the wyrm at bay until it stopped wanting to chase the female wyrm, but every moment that creature’s tail cracked like a whip as it split the water near their fragile little boat. He could hear gunshots, and hoped that was Jackie trying to drive back the creature toward the fort. Gwen/June was now lying down in the boat, holding on for dear life. Geoff dodged another flick of the tail, and gave her a smile.
Then the bottom of the boat shattered as it was overturned. Geoff and Gwen were flung into the water with scarcely a moment to catch their breath.
Can Geoff and Gwen dodge the tail? Can the team put down the male wyrm? What’s Ursula doing with the female wyrm? It’ll all become clear in the next-to-last chapter!