Warlords of Chaos
by Robin Gordon
Copyright Robin Gordon, 1993/2004
A few seconds later Frobisher opened the window. The girls closed in with hockey sticks at the ready.
"I SAY!" called Frobisher in his most capital-letter voice. "I REALLY AM TILLY FROBISHER'S COUSIN. COULDN'T YOU GET HER PLEASE?"
"Don't worry," replied one of the girls with a grin. "She'll be coming soon - with her camera."
"I NEED TO SPEAK TO HER PRIVATELY," insisted Frobisher. "IT'S VERY IMPORTANT."
"WELL, I THINK YOU'RE JOLLY MEAN," wailed Frobisher. "MY FATHER SAYS YOU OUGHT TO LOVE YOUR ENEMIES AND DO GOOD TO THEM THAT HATE YOU AND WE'RE NOT EVEN YOUR ENEMIES SO YOU OUGHT TO DO GOOD TO US MORE THAN EVER!"
"He sounds just like Tilly," said one girl.
"He must be her cousin," said another.
"OF COURSE I'M HER COUSIN," said Frobisher. "I'VE GOT SOMETHING REALLY IMPORTANT TO TELL HER. IT'S ABOUT WHY WE'RE HERE."
"Spying," said the first girl.
"OH WELL, IF YOU BELIEVE THAT," said Frobisher loftily, "YOU'LL NEVER FIND OUT THE REAL REASON."
"Perhaps," said one of the girls, "perhaps we ought to get Tilly."
"All right," said the first girl, "You go and get her, but ..." here she turned to Frobisher, "... this had better be good."
"Come on, Sylvia," said the messenger, and two of the six set off for the school buildings.
"That evens it up a bit," said Jellybean. "Let them get clear, then out we go, but just remember, Gollin, we frighten 'em but we don't hurt 'em."
"I twig," replied Gollin. "Lead on, you ruin."
Jellybean flung open the door, and the three boys emerged with hockey sticks and wild yells. The girls gave piercing shrieks, dropped their weapons, and fled, still squealing.
"They'll be back with reinforcements," said Jellybean. "Come on, chaps, let's go. Which way, Frobi?"
"How should I know?"
"You bogus weed! Surely you've visited your cousin?"
"Only once, and we never came near the hockey pitches. We came straight in from the road to the front door."
"Well then, these hockey pitches must be behind the school, and the road must be over there on the other side of the school buildings. Elementary, my dear Frobi."
"Yes, but ..." said Frobisher doubtfully, "that means we have to go right through the school - and it'll be swarming with girls, all eager to beat the living daylights out of us with hockey sticks."
"Then that's the last place they'll think we'd go. Come on, quickly!"
The three boys hurried after the girls and soon came to the school buildings. Jellybean led them to the left, through a maze of classroom blocks, music rooms, kitchens, and all the other appurtenances of a well-furnished school for girls.
A high-pitched buzzing came to their ears. Jellybean dived for a nearby shed. The others followed. They crouched there, scarcely daring to breathe, as a horde of angry girls swept past, hockey sticks at the ready.
They heard the voice of Jennifer: "They'll make a bolt for it over the fields. Tally-ho! We'll give 'em socks and no mistake!"
A moment later the tide had passed, the sound of thundering feet and clashing sticks had died away, and they heard angry yells and threats as the furious girls spread out across the hockey pitches and set off on their wild goose chase.
The three boys lifted their heads, looked at each other, and grinned.
"Gosh!" said Gollin. "Life on your world may not be as bloodthirsty as on Iltuvion, but it has its exciting moments."
"Hey, look!" whispered Jellybean. "Bikes!"
The shed was a cycle shed. It was full of bikes of various sizes - and they were not locked. Jellybean and Frobisher grabbed one each.
"What are they?" Gollin asked.
"You ride 'em," said Jellybean. "Like horses. Look, there's the gate. Come on!"
He and Frobisher mounted and shot off down the drive. Gollin mounted, shot off after them, and capsized with a crash. Jellybean and Frobisher halted and looked back as Gollin got to his feet. Then a loud, schoolmistressy voice rang out from an upstairs window.
"Intruders! Close the gates! Catch them!"
A janitor appeared from nowhere and ran to the gates. Jellybean and Frobisher leapt onto their bicycles and hurtled down the drive. One gate was closed, the other closing. They shot through with scarcely an inch to spare, and the gate clanged shut. Gollin was still inside.
The schoolmistressy tone rang out once more: "Seize him, Jeffs! Bring him here!"
The janitor advanced on Gollin. Jellybean and Frobisher peered through the locked gate.
"Don't kill him, Gollin!" yelled Jellybean.
"That's a good one, that is," growled the janitor. "Are you coming quietly, sonny, or do I have to use violence - I 'ope."
"Look out, Gollin!" yelled Jellybean. "There's another one behind you."
The second janitor sprang at Gollin. The boy dropped onto one knee. The man's clutching arm missed and went over his shoulder. Gollin seized it, and the second janitor somersaulted into the air and flattened the first. Then Gollin bounded forward, put one foot on the tumbled janitors, and leapt straight over the gate.
Again the voice rang out: "Oh well jumped! I mean, stop him! He's getting away!"
The janitors struggled to their feet and ran to open the gates, but Jellybean and Frobisher were already mounted and skimming along the road, while Gollin ran beside them.
The janitors broke into a clumsy trot, and the voice from the window rang out once more: "Get into the van, you fools! You'll never catch them on foot! Oafs! Idiots!"
Jellybean and Frobisher rode on. Gollin loped along beside them. It was beginning to get dark. That made them feel a little happier. Behind they heard a vehicle, coming fast. They hurled their bikes over a hedge, crashed through it themselves and lay flat as the St Ursula's van roared past with full-beam headlights.
"What now?" said Gollin.
"We'd better stay off the road. Let's head across the field," answered Jellybean.
They hurried off diagonally across the field and scrambled through the next hedge. They heard the van coming back more slowly. It stopped at the broken roadside hedge, there was a pause, then a man's voice called, "Here's the bikes."
Looking back they saw two figures with torches casting round for the trail. Without waiting to see more they fled. Scarcely had they reached the next hedge when they heard shouts. The janitors were pounding across the field behind them. The boys clambered over a gate, and Gollin gave a whoop of joy. In the next field were three horses.
He ran towards them, calling softly, and the horses came to him, slowly at first, then trotting. Gollin talked to them for a moment then swung himself onto the biggest. It started, but he calmed it. Jellybean and Frobisher scrambled onto the others. As the men came through the gate they saw three mounted figures ride away into the gloom. The janitors' language was picturesque but impolite, and they gave up the chase.
Although the distance between St Ursula's and Bunbury Court was only ten miles the boys probably travelled twenty. They had started off on the right road, more by chance than anything else, but their flight across the fields took them out of their way, and they really had very little idea of the direction until they came to a signpost at a crossroads. After that they stuck to the roads and made quite good time, though Frobisher felt rather nervous every time they came to a village, dreading to hear a voice calling out, "Ere, look! They buoys on the 'orses bain't got no treousers on!"
It was quite dark when they reached Bunbury Court, and they expected everything to be quiet. It was a surprise to see boys and masters swarming about the grounds and the nearby fields with torches.
"They're searching for someone," said Jellybean as they paused under the shadow of a tree.
"Us," said Frobisher.
"Don't be a weed, Frobi," said Jellybean. "We've been away for about a year. They can't be looking for us."
Then they heard the cries. "Jellybean! Frobi! Frobisher! Jellybean!"
"They are searching for us," said Frobisher.
"Perhaps it's a school tradition," suggested Jellybean. "Every year, on the day we disappeared, they come out and call for us, and then they go back and have buns and cocoa."
Frobisher sighed. "I wish I could have some buns and cocoa," he wailed. "I'm starving."
"Shush, you goon,!" hissed Jellybean as a small figure came near, peering through the gloom and flashing his torch about. It was little Hartletop.
"Jellybean!" he squeaked in delighted surprise.
"I'm a ghost!" shouted Jellybean, and urged his horse forward. Hartletop jumped aside and watched as the three horses and their riders disappeared into the darkness.
"Help! Help!" he squealed.
Boys and masters ran to his aid.
"I've seen them!" he cried. "I've seen their ghosts. They're both dead. They were riding to Hell on skeleton horses, with Death himself behind them."
Little Hartletop had a vivid imagination, and he had been reading a ghost-book the night before.
* * * * *
It was about this time that the Headmaster, who had stayed in his study to co-ordinate the search, received a phone-call from Miss Wyndham of St Ursula's.
"Tell me," she said, "are any of your boys missing?"
"Well, as a matter of fact," he replied, "not exactly missing, but we are searching for a couple of boys, um ... yes."
"Mmmph! Well, perhaps I can help you. Three boys, who claimed to be from Bunbury Court, were apprehended lurking in the bushes on our games field. It is, of course, difficult to tell from the account given by the girls what transpired, as I am sure you will appreciate."
"Oh, um, yes," answered the Headmaster, who was well aware of the difficulties involved in making sense of even quite commonplace events.
"It appears," continued Miss Wyndham, "that the girls locked the intruders in the pavilion, without their trousers."
"Ah, I see. Without their ... ahem ... trousers?"
"While it may not be entirely unknown for our girls to take the law into their own hands on discovering village boys trespassing in our grounds," said Miss Wyndham, "they assure me that in this case the intruders were in a state of semi-nudity when they were discovered. One can only surmise that they were indulging in some sort of dare."
"Oh, a dare? Dear me, yes," murmured the Headmaster vaguely, "but, my dear Miss ... er ... Wyndham, what reason have you to suppose that they are our boys?"
"They told us so. Did I not mention it?"
"Oh, yes, I believe you did ... but, naturally, um, local boys wishing to conceal their identity might ... ah ... assume a fictitious alias."
"I had thought of that. One of them claimed to be a cousin of one of our girls. I have questioned her, and she does have a cousin at Bunbury Court. His name is Frobisher, Jeremy Frobisher."
"Frobisher!" cried the Headmaster. "Oh my goodness! That is the name of one of the missing boys, but he is not at all the kind of boy to get into such a scrape. His father is a clergyman. His best friend, however, has a very inventive turn of mind, though he is, of course, completely without malice."
"That may well be. In making their escape the two smaller boys purloined two bicycles, though they were forced to abandon them when our janitors pursued them in a van, and take to the fields."
"To the fields? In a van? A four-wheel drive presumably."
"No. The boys took to the fields, abandoning the bicycles. The largest boy, by the way, performed an excellent judo throw on one of our janitors and a most magnificent leap over the school gates. His athletic prowess must be a source of considerable pride to you."
"Undoubtedly," said the puzzled Headmaster.
"His name is Colin Bollinson."
"Who? Robinson? No I don't think he could jump a gate, and besides his name isn't Colin it's ... um ... well ..."
"Bollinson. A foreigner I believe, though there seems to be some doubt whether he is French, Australian or Norwegian. Anyway that's neither here nor there. The boys were last seen galloping into the darkness on horseback - if I can believe anything that fool Jeffs says."
"Erm .. Jeffs?"
"Our Janitor. The man's a brainless oaf. Well, let me know if you can make any sense of what the boys tell you, won't you? Goodbye."
"Er ... um ... yes, goodbye."
Someone knocked at the Headmaster's door as he put the phone down. It was a boy sent by Mr Waggoner to say that there had been a possible sighting of the missing pupils. Little Hartletop claimed to have seen their ghosts on horseback.
"On horseback?" cried the Headmaster. "Follow them! Follow them at once!"
"They're already following them, Sir."
"Good! Good! Let me know what happens. On horseback, eh? Most extraordinary."
* * * * *
Jellybean, Frobisher and Gollin had cantered past the astonished Hartletop, entered the next field and hurried on down towards the scrubland that bordered the Bunn. They leapt down, turned their mounts loose and plunged into the undergrowth to find the gully. Shouts came from the field above. Someone called, "They're in the wood!" and then they heard Parmenter urging his followers to pursue them. They scrambled down the gully and began to climb down the "Cliff" as the steep bank was called.
"There they are!" yelled Parmenter. "Come on you ruins. Don't let the bogus weeds get away!"
"It must be somewhere around here," Jellybean called desperately. "Spread out."
"Not a chance," wailed Frobisher, who did not know which was the worst of the two evils: to plunge back into the wars of Iltuvion or to be hauled trouserless before the Archbeako and have to explain their exploits at St Ursula's.
They scrambled back up the slope.
"Got them!" yelled Parmenter as he hurled himself over the top. Jellybean dodged at the last moment and Parmenter skidded down the bank.
Again the adventurers turned.
"We'd better give ourselves up," moaned Frobisher as other boys appeared at the clifftop. "My father says it is ..."
What it was the Reverend Mr Frobisher said was never known. Frobisher vanished.
"There!" yelled Jellybean.
He grabbed Gollin's hand and pulled him towards Frobisher's vanishing-point. Parmenter, climbing the slope, and Eliot and MacNeil, coming down from above, stopped in astonishment as Jellybean and his companion vanished before their eyes.
"G-g-ghosts!" screeched MacNeil, and they fled to find Mr Waggoner.
* * * * *
"Gosh, that was a near thing," said Jellybean.
"We must have got back to our own world as soon as we left it," said Frobisher, "but it took us so long to get back from St Ursula's that everyone thought we were lost."
"You mean," said Jellybean, "that time out of any world doesn't count in that world?"
"I suppose so," replied Frobisher.
"You know what this means, chaps?"
"No," said Frobisher.
"Well, it could mean we're back on Iltuvion as soon as we left it."
"So," put in Gollin, "although we think we've been away for hours the Warlords have only just dropped us on your planet and they haven't had time to import any more aliens or to start a war between the Dwarves and the Elves. In fact if we buck up and get our skates on we could be ready to scrag them while they're still rubbing their hands and smirking about how clever they've been. Come on, you hairy weeds!"
It took a couple of minutes to scramble to the foot of the cliff, then it was only a twenty-minute run, even at Frobisher's pace, to the cleft. The horses were still waiting patiently, and they whinnied a greeting. Gollin patted them and murmured soothingly as they passed, then the boys set off up the cleft.
Amphibolas and Oggi were waiting at the force-field. They drew their swords as they heard feet approaching, then almost cried out in surprise to see Gollin, Jellybean and Frobisher.
"The Warlords sent us to another world," Gollin explained, "but it was Jellybean's world and we have returned - sooner than they expect. This time they shall not take us by surprise. Lend me your sword, Amphibolas."
Without another word the three boys passed through the force-field and continued up the stairs. When they came to the chamber they saw the Warlords standing at their gaming-table as before.
"So" said the first, "I will take the Elves and you take the Dwarves."
"The kings are about to meet."
"I shall arrange for a stray arrow to kill the Dwarfking. The Elves will be blamed."
"Then let battle commence, hee-hee-hee, shee-hee-hee-hee."
"Not so!" cried Gollin as he darted in with drawn sword.
"Impossible!" cried the first Warlord. "How did you ...?"
"I am Gollin, King of Elves and Dwarves, High King of Iltuvion," cried Gollin proudly. "I do not explain my powers to inferior beings. On your knees!"
One of the Warlords stretched out his hand towards the wall, but Gollin's sword flashed. The Warlord gave a cry and pulled his hand to his mouth to suck his bleeding fingers.
"On your knees!" cried Gollin again.
The two grey-robed figures sank before him. Neither of them had noticed Jellybean and Frobisher. They stared fixedly at Gollin who stood before them, terrible and majestic with the Elven sword in his right hand. While the Warlords stared spellbound Jellybean and Frobisher darted to the table. They each seized a chunk of the malleable substance that lay in the channel at its edge. Each held his chunk in the light beam to activate it, then, as the Warlords sank to their knees the two boys touched them lightly with the substance and watched as it twisted and turned in their hands and modelled itself into tiny images of the Warlords. The Warlords themselves gave piteous wails and began to shrink and lose their material existence.
Then the boys stretched over the table and placed the Warlords on the ground in the open circle of Elves and Dwarves, near to the Kings.
"Now me!" commanded Gollin.
Jellybean seized a chunk of the malleable substance, activated it in the light, touched Gollin, and placed him on the table. Then the boys watched. They saw the surprise of the Kings at the sudden appearance of the Warlords, then of Gollin. They saw Gollin menace the Warlords with his sword and give orders for their arrest. They saw the Warlords bound and led away.
Swiftly Jellybean and Frobisher ran from the chamber. Down the steps they sped, found Oggi and Amphibolas, and explained as quickly as they could what had happened. Then all four climbed out of the crack and down the cleft, found the horses, and rode to the meeting place of the Kings, bringing Gollin's horse Duril with them.
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