Vilori Reagan is a character from my 2nd book "Runs In Good Condition." He was such a crusty, rude unlovable character that he quickly became one of my favorites. Oddly enough, I started wondering what his youth had been like (before it all went wrong) and this ZANY story popped into my head.
“What is it?” asked Vilori Reagan in confusion. He scratched one of his pointy ears and smoothed his white-blond hair.
“It’s a chicken ,” said Harcourt in mild disbelief.
“YES, Vilori! What did you think it was?”
Reagan examined the beady-eyed feather duster in curiosity and (he noted the sharp talons and spurs) some apprehension. “I’ve never seen one before,” he admitted.
“You’ve never seen a CHICKEN?” demanded Harcourt.
“Well not a live one anyways,” mumbled Vilori. “I’ve seen them in the poulterer’s windows and such. As a child I recall having a picture book about a little red hen but…” Vilori trailed off. The picture-book had had such jolly woodcuts in it of a fat flouncy chicken in a bonnet. The mad, twitchy, beasts going “BWARRRK” around him were not of the bonnet-wearing variety.
“I grew up in a mansion, you pillock,” he finished.
“What! Didn’t your family keep chickens on the grounds?”
“Might have done,” said Vilori looking around. He didn’t want to admit that he hadn’t been let out much in his youth. Having only just reached the tender age of 30, the immortal Elf hadn’t much been exposed to common things like boot-blacking, burlap, and scary flappy feathery things that went “BWARRK.”
“You’re such a nancy,” sighed Harcourt, fingering the hilt on his short-sword.
“So why are we looking at chickens?” asked Vilori in disgust. “What did your uncle want done?”
Harcourt eyed his friend nervously. “He… er… wanted us to find out why the chickens were disappearing at night.”
Vilori made a noise of utter annoyance. “But we’re bloody RANGERS, Harcourt! We’re not farmhands!”
“He’s family!” moaned Harcourt. “I told you we were doing it as a personal favor!”
“Yes, but CHICKENS?” moaned Vilori. “If his farm was being overrun by wild bears, I might concede his point, but disappearing chickens! What he wants is a good fox trap.”
“We know it weren’t a fox. There’s no paw prints, no blood, no feathers, just a lack of chickens!”
“So, poachers?” asked Reagan sounding mollified. This was more like it.
“Dunno,” said Harcourt. “Haven’t been any strange boot prints.”
“Maybe it was Elves,” said Reagan darkly. “I’ve known a fair few that could walk without leaving a trail. And speaking of boots, I wish you’d told me to wear proper footwear. My slippers are all covered in mud.”
Harcourt looked down at the silk slippers on Reagan’s feet and shook his head. He decided that now was not the ideal time to mention that it was not entirely mud. “Eeeeyah. So anyways, come nightfall, Uncle Red wants us to keep watch.”
“So are these all new chickens?” asked Vilori.
“Seems your Uncle has quite a lot of chickens despite the burglaries.”
“Well, that’s the strange part, you ken…” began Harcourt scratching his sandy head. “…they all come back.”
“What do?” asked Vilori in confusion.
“Most of these chickens were gone for three days… but just this Tuesday… they all come back.”
“Really? What do the farmhands have to say?”
“They don’t want to talk about it.”
Harcourt scratched his arm absently, his surplus of muscles bulging under his linen shirt as he did so. Vilori wished for a moment that he’d been blessed with a powerful farmer’s physique rather than the build of a female ballet dancer. It certainly didn’t earn him any respect in the Northern farmlands of Buncham.
“What do you think it means?” asked Vilori.
“I dunno. Something has the farmers around here worried”
“Then why aren’t they out in a bloody chicken pen at night?”
“They did that last Monday-week. The next day, young Alistair went missin’. Now they want Rangers.”
“Rangers? I’m beginning to think that what they want is a wizard.”
“Well you know how farmers feel about magic.”
Reagan nodded. Farmers were down to earth people that knew better than anyone the trick to patience, determination and blind optimism. The idea of waving a wand to fix your problem was an insult to the farmer’s own special brand of country magic.
“Best get comfortable then” said Harcourt, shooing some chickens off a pile of sacking and sitting down. Vilori made a face at the none-too-clean seat and gingerly sat on it so that as little of his expensive clothes touched it as possible.
Night fell and a few stars winked in the overcast night. A thin sliver of moon garnished the navy-blue cocktail of night which made Vilori look wistfully down the road to the pub.
“Do we get a dinner break?” he asked mildly still looking at the far away windows glowing yellow.
“I suppose we could in an hour,” said Harcourt who had begun staring with him. After all, it’s not like we’re expected to go without for 12 hours.
“Right,” agreed Vilori.
“And this way we won’t wake any of the house,” said Harcourt, pointing to the black windows of his uncle’s farmhouse.
The two men sat in silence a while.
“I mean it’s not like were even getting paid by my uncle,” added Harcourt.
A few soft “bwucks” were the only sound as they two men anxiously watched Harcourt’s pocket watch.
“Nice night,” observed Vilori looking about at the monochrome landscape.
“Very mild, yes,” said Harcourt.
“If memory serves, the pub does ploughman’s pie on Thursday nights,” said Harcourt.
“With those little round onions?” asked Vilori
Both men silently contemplated the virtues of tiny crunchy onions.
“Right! Best take our break now so we can concentrate on chicken-watching later, eh?” said Harcourt rising to his feet.
“Good plan,” agreed Vilori.
The two men, being very quiet so as not to disturb the household or the chickens padded softly off the farmlands and (when they were out of earshot) legged it down the road to the sign of the Fiddler’s Riddle.
A one hour break turned into a two hour long rest which turned into a “lemme buy yus jus’ wummore round,” and finally became a “we shu’ definly (hic) definly be getting’ back, we should. When the landlord shoved the two men out the door so he could finally get to bed, Harcourt and Vilori stumbled back to Uncle Red’s chickens.
“Shhhhh!” hissed Harcourt in a voice that would have woken stone.
“Whazzut?” shouted Vilori.
“SHHHHHHHH!” hissed Harcourt in a louder hiss, spraying his friend liberally in the process.
“I fink you’re deflating,” slurred Vilori. “I hear an air leak somewhere.”
“So we should ge’ back to the chickens,” mumbled Harcourt.
“Your uncles gon’ go spare,” mumbled Vilori.
“Nahhh nahh…. Nah… nah nah nah… nah…” said Harcourt shaking his head in intervals. “I mean, YES, but he’s not going to find out!!”
“Oh,” said Vilori flopping onto the sackcloth where he sat for a while, letting his organs sift through the hefty amount of toxins he’d just dumped in ‘em.
After an hour of silent processing a thought occurred to a slightly more sober Vilori.
“Have you noticed something?”
“That suddenly there’s a distinct lack of chickens on this chicken farm?”
Jumping to his feet (and managing to find them on the second attempt) Harcourt blearily stumbled around the yard looking into the coops. They were, to the last bird, EMPTY. Blood and alcohol drained from Harcourt’s face.
“Oh bugger,” he gasped.
“Harcourt?” called Vilori.
“How organized are chickens?”
Harcourt pondered this for a moment, “The HELL do you mean, how organized’re chickens?”
“Well some birds travel in “V” formations, right”
“Yeah, well that’s PROPER birds, innit? Not bleedin’chickens.”
“So most chickens don’t walk in single file, do they?”
“No!” shouted Harcourt until Vilori’s question probed at him. “WHY?”
“Because these chickens did,” said Vilori pointing to a thin chain of chicken tracks leading out of the yard in a PERFECTLY straight line.
READ THE CONCLUSION HERE!