Read Damsel Disaster! Online

Authors: Peter Bently

Damsel Disaster!

For Lucy, Theo and Tara – PB

 

For Grace and Rose – FB

Toot! Toot-TOOT!

Toot! Toot-TOOOOT!

“Ah, there’s the post!” said Sir Percy. “Splendid! Run along and fetch it, Cedric.”

“Yes, Sir Percy.”

I quickly finished strapping the last bit of armour to my master’s leg and hurried out of the stables to the castle gate.

“Mornin’, Master Cedric,” said the messenger, tucking his posthorn back into his belt. “Sir Percy’s popular today.”

He handed over a pile of parchment scrolls. A few looked suspiciously like fan mail from Sir Percy’s female admirers. One was tied up with pink ribbons. Another had little red love hearts drawn all over it (bleh). But most were bills with things like PAY NOW! and FINAL DEMAND – THIS TIME I REALLY MEAN IT! on them in big red letters.

“Thanks,” I said, turning to go.

“Wait, Master Cedric!” the messenger said. “There’s this box an’ all.” He untied a long, polished wooden box from his saddle.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Search me,” said the messenger. “Posh box, though, innit?”

I piled the scrolls on top of the box and staggered back to the stables, where my master and I had been preparing to ride off on a tour of his lands. Sir Percy said it was important for a knight to show his face to the locals every now and then. But I reckon
he just liked the excuse to show off his best armour. Especially after I’d spent most of the morning polishing it.

“Letters for you, Sir Percy!” I said. “Plus this box.”

“Excellent!” said Sir Percy. He carefully picked out the fan mail and then brushed all the bills on to the ground with a majestic sweep of his arm. “I shall – er –
deal
with those later,” he said airily.

I watched as Sir Percy eagerly undid the catch on the box. Was it a new sword? Unlikely. The last thing Sir Percy ever spent money on – when he had any – was weapons.

He opened the lid to reveal something long, white and fluffy.

“Look, Cedric!” beamed Sir Percy, taking it out. “It’s my new plume! Magnificent, is it not?”

“A
plume
, Sir Percy?” I said. “You mean those are –
feathers
?”

“Indeed!” said Sir Percy. “They are from a giant bird called an
ostrich
. Terribly rare beast, you know. A sort of cross between a chicken and a giraffe.”

While Sir Percy was admiring his plume I spotted a sheet of parchment in the bottom of the box. At the top of the sheet it said
Pierre de Pompom’s Prime Plumes
. Underneath were the words FOR IMMEDIATE PAYMENT next to a
very
large number.

“How fortunate that this should arrive just before our little tour, eh, Cedric?” Sir Percy plucked the plume out of his helmet and fitted the new one. “There.” He handed me the old plume. “Kindly return this to my collection.”

“Yes, Sir Percy.”

As I headed back across the courtyard I bumped into Patchcoat the jester coming out of the castle.

“Morning, Ced!” he chirped. “Where’s Sir Percy off to then? And why is he wearing an extra-large feather duster on his head?”

I explained about the new plume.


Ostrich
?” said Patchcoat. “Blimey. I bet that cost a bit.”

When I told him about the bill, Patchcoat whistled in amazement.

“Phew!” he gasped. “For that price I reckon they should’ve chucked in the whole ostrich! Well, I dunno how Sir Percy’s going to pay for it. Margaret’s already moaning about how little he gives her for all the food.”

Mouldybun Margaret is the castle cook. And possibly the worst cook in the kingdom, too, though no one would dare to tell her that.

“Anyway,” said Patchcoat, “I’d better be off. I’m going for a tinkle.”

“Thanks for sharing,” I said.

“Not
that
kind of tinkle,” chuckled Patchcoat. “I’ve lost a bell off my cap. I’m nipping to the village for a new one. See ya later, Ced. Have a good tour!”

We set off along the road to the village, Sir Percy looking rather splendid in his freshly polished armour on the back of Prancelot, his haughty horse. I trotted behind him on Gristle the mule.

“Cedric, this tour will be excellent training for when you yourself are a
knight,” Sir Percy said.

Sir Percy is always promising to teach me real knight stuff but somehow never gets round to it. Riding past a few peasants didn’t sound much like knight training. But at least it got me out of chores for a few hours.

A bunch of peasant women on their way to market turned to stare at us as we passed.

“Ooh, look!” cried one. “There goes Sir Percy the Proud!”

“’E’s well famous, yer know,” said another.

It’s true, my master is very famous. Mainly because of his best-selling book,
The Song of Percy
, which is full of all his amazingly brave and dangerous deeds. Like when he single-handedly banished all the dragons in the kingdom to a deep cave in the Mountains of Myrk, wherever that is.

Now, a squire should never be rude about his master. So let’s just say that a lot of
The Song of Percy
might be a bit, well,
unreliable
. You see, if Sir Percy has to do anything brave or dangerous he usually gets
me to do it for him. Especially if it involves his arch-enemy, Sir Roland the Rotten.

Still, as Sir Percy nodded and smiled at the peasant women he certainly looked the part of the bold and daring knight.

“Ha, Cedric!” he chortled. “If you ever get to be a famous knight such as myself you’ll be fending off whole
legions
of ladies!”

“Um, yes, Sir Percy,” I said, feeling my face go red.

Sir Percy grinned. “Blushing at the thought of all those lady admirers,” he said. “Oh, to be so young and innocent! But let me give you a word of advice, Cedric. Ladies are wonderful creatures, of course, but they’re highly
mysterious
, too. Their brains
work in
peculiar
ways, you see.”

“Really, Sir Percy?” I said.

“Indeed,” Sir Percy went on. “I suppose that’s why damsels get themselves into distress. But fortunately, there are gallant knights such as myself to rescue them!”

“Yes, Sir Percy.”

As we rode on I wondered how long Sir Percy’s “tour” was going to last. He was bound to get bored sooner or later. Probably when there was no one else around to show off his new plume to.

I was just thinking that we hadn’t met anyone for a while, when a tall young woman in expensive-looking clothes suddenly stepped out of the bushes ahead
of us. Or rather, she
tried
to. Something held her back. She began to struggle. Then she cried out. I think it was something about her dress, but I couldn’t quite catch what she said over the sound of hooves.

“Aha, Cedric, a damsel!” said Sir Percy. “And did you hear that? She just said she’s
in distress
!”

“Are you sure, Sir Percy?” I said. “It sounded more like—”

But Sir Percy cut me off. “Cedric, now you’ll see some
real
knighting skills in action. Watch and learn!”

Sir Percy galloped on ahead. The young woman was still struggling to get out of the bushes as he reached her.

“Fear not, sweet damsel!” cried Sir Percy. “Assistance is at hand!”

“Oh good,” said the young woman. “You can help me to— Hey! What the—?”

Before she could say another word, Sir Percy leaned out of the saddle and grabbed her round the waist. I think he was trying to hoist her up on to Prancelot in one swift, elegant move. But it didn’t quite work out that way. For a start, the young woman still seemed to be caught on something. Then she began kicking and wriggling. And saying some VERY rude words.

“Fear not, sweet damsel!” said Sir Percy again. “I shall save you!”

He tugged and tugged until—
RRRIP!

With a shriek the woman shot skywards. She landed in Sir Percy’s arms, her feet pointing up in the air and her head dangling near one of his stirrups.

“Eeek!” she screeched from somewhere inside a tangled mass of petticoats. “What
do
you think you’re doing?”

“Saving you, sweet damsel!” said
Sir Percy. “You are in distress!”

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