The final chapter of a fairly uneventful story – though I hope you picked up on the hints for the second St Andrews novel which I am hoping to start working on with Stef soon.
Previous chapters if you missed any:
Chapter one (talking about going to the castle)
Chapter two (exploring the castle)
Chapter three (exploring the mine and counter mine)
Chapter four (resolving an argument)
Chapter five (Anatoly does something stupid)
“Thanks for that, Tol,” Julian said when they were safely out of the woman’s sight, she had followed them as far as the gate and stared malevolently at them as they walked away.
Sally looked back and shuddered. “I’m not sure I do want to go back now, she’ll never trust us!”
“You will be fine,” Anatoly said. “She is furious with me, she will forget all about you lot in time.”
“But you two-” he jabbed David and Julian in the chest in turn. “Owe me big time. I did not have to take all the blame back there.”
“Hey.” David rubbed his chest though his coat. “It was you that did the climbing.” Julian elbowed him in warning.
“On your stupid dare,” Anatoly growled, stepping a bit too close for David’s comfort.
“Let’s not fight any more,” Darrell said, pulling on his arm. “Let me see your chin, Toly. I think it’s still bleeding!” She whipped a handkerchief out of her pocket, and to Anatoly’s ever-lasting shame, licked it and then wiped his chin.
“I am not a child, dorogoy,” he said a little testily as Julian and David risked a snigger.
“It was pretty childish to climb up a castle wall,” she reminded him. “You’ll need a bit of sticking-plaster, I think,” she added before he could argue further. “Let’s go back to St Salvator’s. I assume you have a first-aid kit?”
“Of course,” he grunted.
Despite insisting he didn’t need any further treatment Darrell harangued him into fetching his first-aid kit from his room (though he only brought down a pocket-sized tin and not the full-sized one) and made him stand by the window so she could check the scrape was clean before she put a bit of sticking-plaster over it.
“Yes, thank you, dorogoy, I think I shall live,” he grunted as she fussed over him.
“You nearly didn’t!” she reminded him. “I saw you almost fall!”
“Pff, that,” he scoffed, thought it had been a heart-pounding few moments. “My foot merely slipped a little. I had it completely under control. That woman was much more frightening,” he joked.
“Yes, I thought you’d end up in the bottle dungeon for sure,” David said with a laugh. “I’m surprised there aren’t a whole load of missing students down there given that they seem to desecrate the place on a weekly basis.”
“Well, you know us students, we’re trouble makers through and through,” Sally joked bravely. Julian put his arm around her.
“Are you all right?” he asked softly.
“I’m fine, I just had a bit of a fright with Toly nearly falling then that woman raging at us. I didn’t even get to finish looking around the castle.”
“We saw most of it, didn’t we?” David said, frowning.
“I didn’t get a chance to go up to the Archbishop’s residences, above the entrance, or into Cardinal Beaton’s tower,” she protested.
“I had a good view of them from above, you did not miss too much,” Anatoly said.
Julian rolled his eyes. “We can go back, just the two of us,” he said. “We’ll give that woman a few weeks to calm down and forget about us and then go back, and we can take our time and see everything.”
“You could go in disguise,” David said helpfully.
“There’ll be no idiots dropping pencils from great heights or climbing towers,” Julian carried on, ignoring him.”
“But there will be one idiot who dares people to climb towers,” Anatoly shot at him.
“Honestly, it’s a wonder we are ever allowed back into anywhere the way these three behave,” Darrell said to Sally.
“You’re right. Why don’t you go with Sally next time?” Julian suggested. “The two of you always behave impeccably and I know you’re just as fascinated by the history as Sally is.”
Darrell thumped him as surreptitiously as she could. “No,” she said sweetly. “I know that you like history even more than I do, and Sally would much rather go with you. And anyway, on your own none of you three boys are quite as stupid as you are together.”
“That’s almost a compliment,” David grinned.
“I will take it,” Anatoly added, giving Darrell a kiss.
Later in the evening, once the girls had headed back to their own dorms, David threw himself into an armchair and looked at Julian.
“Did you ever read my note?” he asked.
Julian sighed and got up from his comfortable seat by the fire, hoping nobody would steal it in the mean time.
He went to the coat rack and felt inside his coat pockets, finding the crumpled note where he had shoved it earlier. Returning to his seat, which was only still empty due to Anatoly scowling at anyone who dared approach it, he sat down and smoothed out the paper.
Qeb abcbkabop xob xijlpq rmlk vlr, ybtxob lc qeb pmv fk vlro jfapq.
“Is this a code, or have you just written a load of gibberish so that I’ll waste my time trying to decipher it?”
Anatoly reached out and snagged the piece of paper and glanced it over. “Caesar cipher. One of the most basic ciphers there is. And he only shifted by three letters,” he said dismissively, tossing it back to Julian.
“I only had a minute to scribble something,” David protested.
Julian looked over the paper, and sure enough, if he went back three letters for each letter David had written it began to make sense. Given time he would have worked that out himself, so he tried to be grateful that Anatoly had saved him the time.
“The defenders are almost upon you,” he read out after a moment. “Beware of the spy in your midst.”
Anatoly glared at David as Julian crumpled the note again and tossed it into the fire. “It was just a joke, Tol, relax,” David sighed.
“It was a stupid thing to write,” Anatoly said in a low voice.
“We all know David’s pretty stupid,” Julian said, though not in the unkind tone he had been using with David that afternoon.
“Oh, says the mighty intelligent Julian,” David snorted, and as always, the conversation degenerated into smart remarks, point scoring and general name-calling.