Saturday morning was bright and sunny.
“I know,” Mum said to Dad as they were all having breakfast, “ why don’t you take the kids up to the old castle for an hour whilst I start getting ready for the barbecue?”
Dad was quite keen, as he knew that Mum would only shout him at when she was busy. Jeremy was keen too.
“Have they got a dungeon?” Jeremy asked.
“What’s a dungeon?” asked Wobbles.
“That’s where they used to take prisoners, lock them up without any food, and torture them!” Jeremy told her. Wobbles shivered.
“Yes they have, but we don’t need to go into it,” Dad told her. “You’ll like it when we get there, and it’s only a few minutes drive.”
Jeremy ran off upstairs excited, and Wobbles put on her strong shoes, just in case.
“Come on!” called Dad, and Jeremy and Wobbles ran to the car and jumped in.
“Dad drives much quicker than Mum,” Jeremy said to Wobbles, as they sat next to each other on the back seat. In the mirror they could see Dad smile.
“Mum tells him off all the time for it,” Wobbles said back. In the mirror, Dad stopped smiling, and slowed down a bit. Before long, they pulled into the car park at the castle.
The castle was fallen down now, and no one lived there any longer. But it still had high walls, and a moat with a drawbridge and a big gate that the guard could lock up at night.
Jeremy jumped out of the car. “Let’s explore!” he shouted, and ran off into the castle.
“Wait!” shouted Dad after him, but Jeremy had gone.
“Don’t worry,” said the guard, as Dad hurried past him. “ There’s no where in there he can go to get hurt.”
“What about the dungeon?” asked Wobbles, stopping by the guard. The guard bent down with a friendly smile. “It’s just a big cellar really, with a stone floor. Only one way in or out, and nothing scary there anymore.”
Wobbles smiled gratefully, and trotted across the drawbridge after Dad. She stopped at the big, imposing gatehouse, and leant on the wall whilst she looked around at the inside.
“Having a nice time?” asked a deep, gruff voice. Wobbles nearly jumped out of her skin! She looked all around, but there was nobody near her.
“Well? Cat got your tongue, dear?” asked the voice.
“Who are you?” whispered Wobbles.
“I’m the gate guard. The Barbican they used to call me, rude things. Sounds like a cheap oven.”
“Where are you?” Wobbles wanted to know.
“You’re leaning on me.”
“Oh, I thought you were that guard. The one who spoke to me on the bridge.”
“Is that his name?” asked Wobbles.
“No, it’s a nickname. I never bother learning their real names, as they can’t talk to me. But you can. What’s your name?”
“I’m Wobbles,” said Wobbles. She did remember that Rose Bush had once told her never to tell anything magical her real name, just in case, though Rose Bush had never said why.
“Pleased to meet you.”
“I’ve never talked to a castle before,” said Wobbles.
“There’s a first time for everything,” replied The Barbican.
“Are you the only bit of the castle I can talk to?” Wobbles wanted to know.
“I’m the only bit that matters. Oh, a couple of other bits argue amongst themselves, but I’m the only one with any sense.”
“Lisa! Lisa!” Dad was calling Wobbles from inside the Castle walls.
“Coming!” she called back. “Bye-bye, Barbican.”
“See you later, Wobbles. Mind how you go.”
Wobbles scampered into the middle of the castle, and ran up to her Dad.
“It’s not a very big castle, is it?” she asked Dad.
“No, but it’s big enough for your brother to have got lost in. Why is he always getting lost!” Dad was getting worried and angry.
“The walls are too high for him to jump over them,” Wobbles said, looking all around her.
“We’ll have to look in the towers!” decided Dad, and marched off to the nearest of the four towers, that stood one at each corner of the castle.
Dad ran up the stairs, whilst Wobbles waited at the bottom. She put one hand on the wall.
“Hello?” she muttered, feeling a bit silly.
“Still me, dear” replied The Barbican.
“Oh! But I’m not at the gate, now!”
“Perhaps I’m shouting, then,” said The Barbican, amused. “No, I’ve got this tower, and the one on the other side over there. Brick Wall has the other two towers, and the bits in-between, but between you and me, she’s a bit thick.”
“So, it’s just the two of you then?” asked Wobbles.
“Us two, and, well, Him,” replied The Barbican.
“The Dungeon. Really, he’s only a cellar, but he likes the Drama.”
“Jeremy said it was a Torture Chamber,” worried Wobbles.
“Well, it might have been hundreds of years ago, but the only torture now is listening to what he calls jokes,”
Wobbles could hear Dad’s feet on the stairs above her.
“So, could you ask them if they’ve seen my big brother Jeremy? I don’t like him all that much, but I don’t want anything bad to happen to him,” she asked.
The Barbican went quiet, as Dad’s feet came nearer.
“Well,” said The Barbican, “Jeremy’s not on the other walls, but He keeps sniggering in a horrid way.”
“Jeremy does that sometimes, too,” agreed Wobbles.
“I’d have a look there, dear, because he’s not come out through me – I’d have noticed.”
Dad came down the last of the stairs, panting heavily.
“He’s not up there,” he said between gasps. “Where can he have got to?”
“Maybe he went to look at the dungeon,” suggested Wobbles.
“I’d forgotten about that!” Dad cheered up on the spot, and grabbed Wobbles by the hand. “Come on,” he puffed, and they hurried over to the small sign on the wall that read: ‘This way to the Torture Chamber’.
Wobbles hung back as Dad ran down the narrow stone steps. She leant against the wall, but jumped upright when she heard a very nasty snigger.
“I’ve got your brother, and I’d love a full set!” said the voice, in a very unpleasant tone.
“My brother’s down there is he?” asked Wobbles, trying very hard to sound fierce.
“Oooh yes. Maybe he’ll stay here until it gets dark. Heh! Heh! Heh!”
“Well, I don’t think Dad will allow that,” said Wobbles, and marched down the steps after all, taking care not to touch the wall.
When Jeremy jumped out of the car in the car park, he was very excited. He loved visiting castles, and had been very happy when he found out that there was a ruin near there new home. He ran over the drawbridge, and past the guard, who just laughed at him.
Inside the walls he looked around.
“Where shall I go now?” he wondered. Then he saw the sign on the wall: ‘This way to The Torture Chamber’.
“Wow, got to have a look at that!” he said to himself, with a big grin.
Jeremy trotted across the grassy lawn in the middle of the old castle, and looked at the sign. It pointed to a set of stone steps winding down under the ground.
“Cool!” he said to himself, and went carefully down the steps. At the bottom was a tall door, made of wood. He pushed it as hard as he could, and the door opened with a scary creak, just like in the movies Jeremy loved to watch when Mum and Dad thought he was doing his homework.
“Huh”. Jeremy was disappointed, when he got inside. The torture chamber was just a big cellar, with not a lot of light, just two small windows high in one wall. A huge but empty fireplace filled one wall.
“There’s no blood, and nothing nasty happening here at all,” he complained.
“That can be arranged for you,” a strange, thin voice told him, and the door closed behind him, with a very scary creak. Jeremy stood very still, and then slowly turned round. Between him and the door stood three goblins!
The goblins were all dressed in black, with long noses, and dark eyes. They were grinning, but Jeremy didn’t want to share their joke. He didn’t think he’d like it.
One of the goblins leant against the door; the two others started walking around the torture chamber, staring at Jeremy all the time. He had to keep turning his head in case one of them crept up on him.
“What are we going to do with him?” asked one of the goblins.
“I’m feeling a bit hungry,” replied a second, licking his lips.
“We’ll need a fire to cook him though,” said the third.
The first goblin nodded, and clicked his fingers. The fireplace was suddenly full of a bright fire, and Jeremy backed away.
“My Dad will be here in a moment,” he told them, trying to sound big and brave.
“Good!” said the second goblin, “you don’t look big enough to feed all three of us.”
“Oh look,” said the third goblin from the doorway, “he didn’t find your joke very funny.”
“Oh. Hah. Ha. HaHaHaHaHa,” said Jeremy, nervously.
“That’s better,” said the first goblin. “Now, would you like to know what we want with you?”
“Besides ketchup?” added the second goblin.
“That was still your joke, right?” asked Jeremy.
The goblins just gave him a toothy grin.
“OK, what do you want?” Jeremy asked.
“We hear how you are friendly with Mr Tremble,” said the third goblin.
“We hear Mr Tremble lets you into his shed,” said the second goblin.
Jeremy nodded again.
“Well, we want to get in. So the next time you are going there, you are going to help us.”
Jeremy stood very still. “What do you want?” he asked.
“Mr Tremble is having a delivery tonight, of some very special eggs. We want them.”
“I don’t know anything about them!” objected Jeremy.
“Oh, we know that. No one is supposed to know about them, are they?” smirked the first goblin. “He’s not meant to be keeping these lizards. But we goblins love making pets of these dangerous lizards, so we want the eggs.”
“He’ll never give them to me. Or to you!”
“When you go round to Mr Tremble’s house next, take this whistle. And when he opens the shed, you blow it hard,” the second goblin said to Jeremy, holding out a small silver whistle.
Jeremy took it nervously, as if it was hot.
“What else?” Jeremy asked.
“Nothing,” said the first goblin. “That’s all. And if you do that, we won’t eat you.”
“This time,” added the second goblin.
“Because we’ve no ketchup with us,” added the third, and they all laughed, very nastily.
“But if you don’t do what we tell you, then you’d better watch out,” threatened the first goblin.
The goblin standing beside the door suddenly tipped his head to one side. “Time to go,” he muttered.
The first goblin walked up until he was very close to Jeremy, and staring right into his frightened eyes.
“We’ll see you again,” he smirked, then clicked his fingers again. The fire vanished, and the three goblins scurried to the fireplace, and vanished into the chimney, just as Dad ran down the last of the steps, and into the cellar.
“Not if I see you first,” muttered Jeremy – but very quietly in case they heard him.
“So there you are!” yelled Dad, very relieved.
Jeremy felt very relieved too, and ran and gave his dad a hug.
“Come on,” Dad told him, “back up these steps!”
Jeremy was only too pleased to follow his Dad back up to the castle lawn, and the daylight.
“So that’s where you got to, you silly!” Wobbles said to him, as they met on the stairs. She turned and walked back up, but bumped against the wall as she turned. She could hear the Dungeon’s nasty laughter in her head when she touched the wall, and she shuddered and ran back out into the sunlight.
The Dungeon did not sound very nice, and she didn’t want to talk to him again. Jeremy and Dad were on the steps behind her, so she hurried onto the grass.
Jeremy came up next, holding the silver whistle out of sight in his pocket. What was he going to do with it!