Conquering the Castle: a St Andrews Story

This isn’t the first piece of fan fiction I have authored alone but it is the first I have published. I of course consulted Pippa-Stef on matters of plot and characterisation.

Saying that, there’s not a huge amount of plot, just five friends exploring an old castle. (And perhaps just a little hint towards the second St Andrews novel which will hopefully be finished some day.)

Chapter 1

It was a cold February day – all the days so far in St Andrews had been cold that year, a side effect of the winds that almost constantly blew in from the North Sea. Not that the cold particularly bothered Anatoly Petrov, or Anthony Pilkington as he was currently known.

He was walking with Julian Kirrin, and David Morton, two new friends of his. His first real friends, which he had made at the grand age of 22. Julian’s fair head was covered in a woollen hat, as was David’s dark one, and they both had on thick coats, scarves pulled up around their chins and gloves on too. Anatoly wore a lighter coat and had forgone the woollen accessories, leaving his dark curls to catch the wind and blow around wildly.

They were on their way to collect Sally Hope, Julian’s girlfriend, and her best friend Darrell Rivers who just so happened to be Anatoly’s girlfriend. Both relationships were quite new, only a handful of dates in, but that didn’t stop David ribbing them all about leaving him out.

His sweetheart of several years, Petronella Sterling, was still at her home in Shropshire, some 350 miles away. It took a full day on several different trains for him to get to her, and so it wasn’t possible for him to visit her on the weekends.

“This isn’t going to be a double date, is it?” he had asked the other four that morning when Sally had suggested exploring the castle to give them something to do that afternoon.

“Well, you’d be a pretty awkward fifth wheel if it was,” Julian said with a laugh, though he tactfully removed his arm from around Sally’s shoulder.

“That’s what I’m worried about,” was David’s glum reply.

“It’s not a double date,” Darrell promised him, nudging Anatoly to step back from where he had been standing close to her back, his hands on her waist. “It’s just five friends having an afternoon out.”

“Just because I’m seeing Julian and Darrell’s seeing Anatoly doesn’t mean that we’re not all friends,” Sally said earnestly, taking David’s arm. “It doesn’t change anything!”

Actually, it changed quite a lot, the dynamic of the group for one thing. The girls naturally gravitated to their boys and vice versa, leaving David one on his own despite how hard they tried to include him. He would just have to get used to it, he knew. He would be just as bad if he was lucky enough to have Peter with him at St Andrews.

The girls were ready and waiting, for once, and the two younger men wasted no time in falling over in mock astonishment. “But it’s only just two o’clock,” Julian said, consulting his watch.

“And you’re both ready?” David added. “At the same time?”

“Well there isn’t usually a queue for the bathrooms in the middle of the day,” Sally said primly. That was the only reason they were sometimes tardy if they were to meet the boys first thing in the morning or for the evening. There was only one bathroom between four rooms, so that meant eight girls who wanted to bathe or wash their hair all at the same time.

“I thought you’d still find a way to keep us waiting, though,” David teased them. “Getting lost in a good book, maybe?”

“Give over!” Darrell smacked his arm. She had, on occasion, forgotten the time while reading, as had Sally. “You two are going on about the time and yet it’s now two-oh-three and we’re still standing here.”

“She has you there,” Anatoly smirked, stepping between Julian and David as they opened and closed their mouths noiselessly, knowing they had somehow just lost that battle.

He took Sally’s hand and bowed over it, just lightly kissing the back of it and making her flush red. He then bowed over Darrell’s hand and kissed it more firmly. She blushed too, but not as much as Sally had. “Ignore these two clowns,” he said. “You are both definitely worth waiting for.”

“Oh, Toly, you’re so smooth!” Darrell said with an embarrassed laugh.

“So smooth he’ll slip right over,” David grumbled, though he was stifling a laugh of his own.

“You could learn a lesson or two from him, then,” Sally shot at him teasingly. “He clearly knows how to treat a lady.”

It was Julian’s turn to flush now, wondering if he had been rude to the girls. He didn’t want Sally to think badly of him. Thankfully she didn’t seem too offended, as she put her gloves on then slipped her arm through his. “Shall we head off?” she suggested.

“History awaits,” he agreed, walking down the steps from the girls’ dorms. Darrell slipped her arm through Anatoly’s too and walked close at his side while David, rolling his eyes, brought up the rear.

“Are you going to test us on this later?” he asked, catching up with Sally and Julian as Anatoly and Darrell seemed to have forgotten they were going somewhere and were dawdling along sharing some private joke.

“I might,” Sally said with a laugh. “So you’d better pay attention.” She had already been reading up on the history of St Andrews, and after looking at the castle’s long and somewhat bloody history had been the one to persuade her friends that it was worth the sixpence entry fee each.

“We’ve seen it from the outside,” Julian had pointed out.

“But there’s a lot more inside,” she’d replied, turning her beguiling blue eyes on him. “There’s a bottle dungeon, and a secret passage,” she had added persuasively, knowing those would interest the others.

“Not so secret, really,” he said. “But if you’re desperate to go in then of course I’ll come with you.”

“We all will,” Darrell said staunchly, elbowing Anatoly before he could disagree. “It sounds really interesting.” That was perhaps stretching the truth a little. Sally was the real history buff amongst them. The others had been quite happy to simply look at the castle from the outside.

To be continued…

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