Previously: In chapter one the gang discussed visiting the castle, and in chapter two they started exploring. In chapter three they went underground into the mine, and in chapter four a little bit of a row blew up between Julian and David.
And now Anatoly is about to do something rather stupid.
“Proklyat’ye*,” Anatoly muttered. He couldn’t back out now, not without losing face. At least the bad weather meant that he was wearing stout shoes.
“Toly, no!” Darrell groaned.
“Which side?” he asked, though they were actually much alike.
“Up one side and down the other,” David said promptly. “You’re so skilled I’m sure you can make the leap across.”
“You are being ridiculous,” Anatoly scowled. There was at least ten feet between the two side walls of the tower. He shook his head, planning to asses it when he got up there, perhaps he could cross via the top of the front wall which still held its triangular shape, and moved towards the left wall.
“Oh, look he’s going for the easier option!” Julian laughed, the left wall being wider, and with more stones to grab hold of.
Anatoly let out some more Russian words that could only be curses, and moved to the right-hand wall. The first few feet were easy and he simply walked up the uneven rocky portion as if it were steps. With the girls watching anxiously and the boys laughing, he found a good handhold and started to climb. He went up around twenty feet, carefully finding crevices for his hands and feet amongst the ancient stones, and just as he was thinking this was a cinch, his foot slipped.
Darrell let out a little scream and turned away, feeling Julian put an arm around her, feeling suddenly idiotic for making the dare. She pushed him away. “If he falls it’s your fault!” she snarled.
“Darrell, he’s fine,” Sally said hurriedly though she could hardly bear to look herself. After a few seconds where he had dangled awkwardly Anatoly had found a fresh toehold and was making progress again.
Coming to the top of the section he was on, Anatoly paused to wipe the blood off his chin – he had managed to bang it on a protruding stone when his foot had slipped on a wet, mossy one, and then heaved himself up. The top of the wall ran flat for a few feet and then went straight up again, but only four or five feet so it was easy to pull himself up.
The wall there was very wide and reasonably even so he felt safe to stand tall, turning to wave at the others. He had a marvellous view, in fact, well worth the climb and his stinging chin. He cautiously walked the short distance to the front wall and eyed it, the edges it looked like small steps rising to the peak. He thought it would be possible, if he leaned forward and held on with his hands too, to walk up, turn around and walk down to then make his descent down the other side as instructed by David and Julian.
Just as he was about to test that theory he heard an enraged yell from below.
He looked down. The woman who had sold them their tickets was shaking a meaty fist in his direction. She had a cigarette in her other hand and had clearly left her little shed to smoke it, thus putting her in a position to see him clambering over her precious castle.
“WHIT DAE YI THINK YIR DAEN?” she shrieked. “GET DOON FROM THERE THIS INSTANT!”**
She had spoken to them with a distinct accent before, but in her rage she had become almost incomprehensible. However, he got the gist. Grimacing he abandoned the idea of making it to the other side, decided to just come down the way he had come. He was just lowering himself down the first part when the woman stormed into the courtyard.
“You students!” she was ranting. “Ye’ve got nae respect for this auld castle! Eh’m sick o’ the vandalism, carving yir names intae the stones, leavin’ your rubbish a’ ower the place! Some eejit burned yon bench jist last week! And now this – this – this dunderheid decides to climb the walls! He could brak his neck, not that he would’ne deserve it!”***
It was hard to concentrate on climbing with the woman’s tirade ringing in his ears, and in all honestly he would have been happy to stay up on the walls away from her, but Anatoly was no coward. He made it safely down and put his arms out as Darrell barrelled into him.
“You idiot,” she cried. “I can’t believe you did that.”
He eased her to the side as the woman approached him angrily. “If I ever catch you…” she began, then changed tack. “You’re barred,” she said. “The lot o’ you.” She cast an evil eye over the group. “You’re never tae set foot in this castle again, or I’ll hae the polis on you!”****
“Excuse me,” Anatoly said politely, standing his ground as her angry face swung in his direction again. “It was I who climbed the wall, not any of my friends.” He looked at Julian and David briefly. “It was entirely my own idea and my friends tried to talk me out of it. I apologise for any upset I have caused you.” He gave his funny little bow, the one he gave when he was trying to control a situation.
“Please do not punish my friends for my stupidity,” he pleaded. “I can assure you that none of them would ever do anything so foolish, nor would they leave litter or cause any damage whatsoever.”
“Hmmph.” The woman made one of those Scottish noises of contempt which always seemed to come from deep within the throat.
“All right then. Your friends can come back. But if I catch them sae much as dropping a scrap o’ paper, they’ll be banned as well. Do I mak mysel’ clear?”
“Absolutely,” Anatoly said, nodding his head. “They will be exemplary visitors, I promise.”
The woman harrumphed again. “Aye, weel. I think it’s time yi were all leavin’ fir the day. We’re closing in half an oor.” She swept aside and waved an imperious arm at the exit. “Mind, if I catch you,” she jabbed a finger at Anatoly, “even an inch inside that gate… I’ll be reporting you tae the polis for damaging an ancient monument.”
They all shuffled past her, the boys particularly shame-faced, and then fled along the Scores.
Some translations for those not versed in Russian and/or angry Scots
**What do you think you are doing? Get down, etc
***You’ve got no respect for this old castle! I’m sick of the vandalism, carving your names into the stones, leaving your rubbish all over the place! Some idiot burned that bench just last week! And now this – this – this idiot decides to climb the walls! He could break his neck, not that he wouldn’t deserve it!
**** Or I’ll set the police on you
If I missed anything,
jist just ask.