The guard clammed up after that, and the rest of the walk through town passed by uneventfully. Most people, Edna guessed, were asleep in their homes, leaving the livestock in charge. Pigs, chickens, cows, and goats patrolled confidently along the streets and gardens and at least one roof.
There were a lot of animals, she noticed, but no apparent facilities for them. She suspected they might have come on whatever wave had changed this village - stolen it from its own time. Edna wondered if the animals had been stolen, too - from some other time and place - or if they had been created spontaneously.
Her pole-bearers wound their way down a central dirt road, passing building after building, each as dark as the night around them. All the while, their goal was clear - the castle atop the hill, where all the light had gathered. It wasn’t a proper castle, of course - of any history or present. Like everything else here, the building was more the idea of a medieval british castle, imprinted upon whatever had already been there.
From what Edna could see - while swinging from the bottom of a pole - the building was enveloped, like any proper castle, in a protective, stone wall. Platoons of guards strolled proudly along the top, keeping an eye for approaching dangers - no doubt to yell at. The image was softened, a bit, by the fact the wall was only about three feet high and, she guessed by how the guards politely scooched past each other whenever their paths crossed, maybe a foot or two thick.
As Edna and her captor and their captors approached, a few handfuls of guards yelled at them, apparently taking their group for a danger. She picked out, among other things, “Who goes there?”, “Who goes?”, and one person just yelling, “WHO?” over and over again.
“Shut it, and open the gates,” their leader yelled back while taking off her helmet with one hand, the other still holding the pole that bore Highmond. They stopped about five paces from the gate, which was more of a cute, little half-door they could have easily ambled over. She gave the pole a shake as she kept on, “We got guests for the Queen!”
“The Queen en’t meetin’ no one!” a small guard yelled from the small wall, “It’s half night already!”
“She’ll have these!” the other of Highmond’s carriers called in response, “He’s a witch!” The man jostled the pole to indicate his accused.
Highmond made a noise that Edna took for protest. She thought about trying to help him out but decided on another tactic.
“Yes!” she said from her pole. “He’s a very powerful witch!” she paused, then added, “Even floats in water!” She wasn’t sure what she was trying to do (and would therefore fail at), which was utterly new for her. She was just doing something and seeing where it led.
The throng of heavily-armored women and men gasped at this last, most damning, revelation. “We bett’a see what boss finks,” cried a heavy man from the wall. He took a deep breath to call out, then paused, deflated a bit, “Wuss’ee called now?”
“Larry!” several of his cohorts yelled in response.
“Right,” he said. Edna noticed a figure appear then, in the torch light of one of the windows, though no one else seemed to. The man on the wall shouted, no louder than his colleagues had a moment ago, “Larry!”
Several joined in the call, until it overcame and became the cricketsong on the night air - a repeated refrain of a tuneless “LARRY!”
Slowly - painfully slowly - Edna heard a polite, small voice rising from the figure in the window. When it eventually rose to a level equal to the calling “Larry”s, she heard it saying, “Please stop! You’ll disturb the queen! I’m right here. Me.” Finally, his patience snapped, and he screamed, “I’m LARRY!”
“‘Bout time,” the heavy man said, “We been callin’ for ages.”
Edna thought she heard Larry begin to say something, but he was instantly drowned out by a woman saying, “Give it a rest, Geoffrey! He’s trying his best.”
Another voice chimed in, “Yeah, he’s got a new job and a new name! That’s gotta be hard!”
“Thank you, but I don’t need--” Larry began, but the man called Geoffrey interrupted.
“Nah, they’re right, guv. My apologies. I let the stress o’the situation get the bett’a o’me. It shan’t happen again.”
“That’s kind, but it’s fine, really. Only, about the witch--”
The woman who had defended Larry earlier chimed in before he could finish, “Oh yeah! So how it went was like this…”
Larry tried to stop her, but it was no use. She and all the guards outside started in, retelling and reliving the events that had happened since Edna and Highmond had come swinging up to the castle. Larry chimed in often with, “No, I know. I heard everything,” or “Actually the windows don’t close, you know. The sound travelled fine the first time,” but it was unnoticed by the others - too deeply engrossed in their reenactment.
There was a pause when they finished, having recapped him all the way to the current moment. He stared at them, which one of the guards started to describe, but he cut it short with a loud, “I’ll go tell the queen!” and walked away through the castle.
Edna tried to use the time to give one of her captors a stern look, but she couldn’t lock eyes with any of them before Larry returned, only seconds later. He opened his mouth to speak, but the leader of Edna’s group of guards said, “What? Already?”
The heavy man from the wall added, “Yeah, how’d’joo already told’er everythin’?”
“Sorry, no. I didn’t have to. She already knew--”
“--You mean she already knew…” and they rehashed the whole thing again, up to this moment.
“Yes,” Larry said, in the smallest, shortest voice he could. “You see--”
“Ohhhhh,” one of them said in realization, “‘cause she’s such a powerful witch.”
“Ohhhhhhh,” they all agreed, “Yeah, yeah.”
Larry was flat faced for a moment before he said, “Untie the two and bring them to the guest quarters. The Queen will see them in the morning.” Then he walked away.