The idea for this story originated from one of Sue Vincent’s photo prompts a few years ago and I wrote this story which was intended to form part of a new book for middle school children called Silly Willy goes to London. It won an Honourable Mention in one of Dan Alatorre’s Word Weaver short story competitions. It fits perfectly with Sue’s current prompt of Keep, so I thought I would share it here again as this book seems unlikely to ever be finished now. You can join in Sue’s latest prompt “Keep” here: https://scvincent.com/2020/01/16/thursday-photo-prompt-keep-writephoto/
An encounter with a suit of armour
Willy charged onto the platform, sword drawn and mouth wide open. A great roar came from his throat as he spotted the suit of armour in the stairwell, tucked behind a great lantern. Willy bounded forward and smashed his sword into the metal figure. The head fell off with a loud clang and rolled across the floor.
Willy’s roar turned into a wail of anguish as he looked at his toy light saber. The impact had shattered the plastic and the dangling blue shards hung on by a delicate thread.
The racket attracted the attention of some other tourist, who glared in Willy’s direction. Mom was a deep shade of red at all the commotion Willy was causing and quickly picked him up. Trying to sooth him with promises of a replacement sword if he stopped yelling. Dad looked angry, he doesn’t like a fuss. I was annoyed, Willy always ruined everything. His noisy howling always seems to get him a reward instead of the punishment he deserves.
Willy likes to dress up. He wears some very funny stuff and it makes people stare at us which I hate. Today, Willy is Anakin Skywalker. Star Wars is his latest craze. He is wearing white long johns and a long-sleeved white vest and over this he has on a pair of silk Spiderman boxer shorts and his Peter Pan shirt. His blonde hair is tied into a ponytail on top of his head and is sticking up like a curly pig’s tail. Does he have any idea how silly he looks?
We set off for the gift shop straight away to get Willy a new sword. The gift shop was outside the castle on the other side of the courtyard. Willy’s idea of England is gift shops. Everywhere we go he pesters to go to the gift shop so that he can look at the swords. They really do have great swords here, made of wood and really strong. Willy wanted his new sword now and Willy never waits for anything! The gift shop didn’t have any swords. They had shields and knight outfits with shiny chainmail fronts, princess dresses with long and flowing skirts, mugs, books, fridge magnets and lots of other lovely things but not a single sword. Mom asked and the man in the shop said that they had sold out of swords. Willy was sad. Mom had to promise to take him to a toy shop later in the day to find a replacement sword.
We left the gift shop and headed back to the great tower in the middle of the courtyard to continue our visit. Dad had told us earlier that this tower was called a keep. The keep was the most important building in the castle. If the castle was attacked, the defenders would retreat to the keep as a last resort. The keep at Dover Castle was square and was eighty three feet high with walls twelve feet thick. Dad said that the square shape of the keep showed how old Dover Castle was as the more modern castles had round keeps.
We passed back through the great stone arch and into the dingy, cold disarming room. Dad said that the disarming room was where visitors to the castle had to surrender their weapons. So why hadn’t someone taken Willy’s sword away when we came in earlier? We climbed up the steep stone steps and back onto the platform above the vast kitchen. The knight’s head had been replaced on his metal body.
In the kitchen, a scrumptious banquet was being prepared and there were piles of interesting foods on every wooden countertop. The room was a hive of activity with people of all shapes and sizes scurrying everywhere. There was a fireplace that was so wide and tall that I could have stood in it quite easily. There were also massive iron pots hanging from hooks over the fireplace, one was so big you could have boiled a person in it, just like in the song about cannibals I was listening to in the car. The song was all about the son of a cannibal who didn’t want to eat people. His father was very upset and the song was very funny. Willy liked it too and laughed and clapped his hands. It would be quite fun to put Willy in one of the big pots. Not to boil, of course, but just to give him a fright. I would put the lid on so it was dark.
We left the kitchen and climbed up another, much longer, flight of stairs. The stairs went up and up. There were all sorts of interesting little rooms built into the stone walls. Some of them were really creepy and they were all freezing cold. England is cold and we have to wear jackets, gloves and beanies every day.
In one tiny little side room, there was a funny toilet. It was a wooden plank with a hole cut in it set on a stone seat. It was old and cracked and I didn’t like it at all. My silly brother thought it was very funny. He wanted to sit on it and look out of the tiny window. He wasn’t so pleased when he saw there was no flusher and no basin and soap. Willy loves to flush toilets and wash his hands, splashing water everywhere and making a big mess. At least the toilet took his mind off his broken sword. I am very interested in castles and I know that there were no flushing toilets in the time when castles were built. There was just a long shaft built into the castle wall that led down to either the castle moat or a pit, just like a long drop toilet. I have never seen a long drop toilet at home but I have heard about them at school. They don’t sound at all nice!
We carried on up the stairs until we came to a huge room that had long, thick red curtains hanging all around it. In front of the curtains all along the walls were benches that people could sit on. The room was a long rectangle and two very wide chairs stood at one end. Dad said these were thrones. This room only had a few small windows at the end where the thrones were. The windows were built into the outside stone wall and I could see from the window ledge how thick the stone walls were. There were electric lights in the room to make it lighter but it was still quite dark. The lack of windows made me feel a bit weird, as if the walls were closing in around me. There were a lot of children in this room and there was a castle guide who was allowing the children to sit on the thrones and have their pictures taken. Willy was very excited about this and, when our turn came, he didn’t want to get off his throne. Willy is like a jellyfish when he is being naughty, he wriggles and squiggles and Mom had to grab him in a bear hug and carry him out of the room.
We climbed up some more steps and went into an enormous bedroom. The bed had curtains – how very strange! Mom said that all the important people had beds with curtains during the time when people lived in castles. They used to draw the curtains to help keep them warm at night. That makes sense to me, it is even colder in this castle than outside. This room was interesting and it had a bigger window so I felt much better. There were small steps right up to the window so we could climb up them and look out of the window which was great fun. Mom was hanging on to Willy as he stood there so that she could pull him back if she wanted to. Good idea, she should get a child leash for Willy.
There was a small chapel let into one of the great walls which had stained glass windows. Mom wanted to look at it but Willy was tired of looking at old things. Mom decided to stay behind and look at the chapel while Dad took Willy and me up to the roof. That was really great! We were up really high and could see all around. The countryside was so pretty and green, not like the countryside at home which is very brown and dry as we are having a drought and there has been little rain for over a year.
The roof of the castle was flat and very big with lots of space for Willy to run around. The walls around the edge of the roof were also built from stone. In places there were higher parts to the wall with slit-like gaps in between all the way around the roof top. Dad said that these were part of the castle’s fortifications. People could stand hidden on the roof top and see all around the castle through the gaps. Defenders of the castle could shoot arrows through these gaps.
Willy was running around like a hooligan and I think he was making Dad nervous. Dad isn’t nearly as nervous about him as Mom is but he was wary as Willy always finds a way to get himself into trouble. Dad decided to take us back down the stairs and out into the castle courtyard. We waited down in the courtyard for Mom for absolutely ages. Dad tried to call her on her cell phone but it went to voicemail. Oh dear, Mom was not going to be very happy when she couldn’t find us.
Dad looked around uncertainly. If we went back up to the castle roof we could miss Mom if she used the stairs on the opposite side of the castle. Willy lay down on the ground, determined not to climb any more stairs. He was tired of dark castles. Dad picked him up and then set him back down again. Willy is a cubby boy. Dad decided to wait. Eventually Mom appeared. She was out of breath and looked frazzled. She glowered at Dad, having climbed all the way up to the roof top to find us. When we weren’t there, she had looked all over the castle to find us before finally coming outside. Luckily, Mom was worn out from all those stairs so she didn’t say too much to Dad about it. Mom did decide, however, that it was time to leave.