“My friends are going to know that I’ve gone missing!” said Portillo defiantly. “And then they’ll just send someone else!”
“That wouldn’t be your little friends at the A&W Ranch, would it?” replied the large man with a sneer.
“What?” Portillo’s face fell. The large man laughed at the reaction.
“Do ya think we’re stupid? We know about your pals, and we rounded them up, so…problem solved.”
While the large man spoke, Crab Cakes produced a rope and leaned forward to tie Portillo’s unresisting hands together.
“Thass right, mate,” said the pirate, “you come along nice and easy with us an’ no one gets hurt.”
This last statement was apparently unsatisfactory to Sonic. In a flash, he leapt off Portillo’s horse and to the ground, where he found the closest leg of Crab Cakes’ mount. The pirate’s horse shrieked and bucked violently. Crab Cakes, who was still leaning forward, was head-butted by his horse, then thrown back over the horse’s rump to land in an unconscious heap on the ground. Meanwhile, Sonic had moved on to the large man’s horse. Although his horse went into a panic, the large man was ready for the attack and managed to stay on while his mount bucked. By the time that he finally got his horse under control though, Sonic had leapt back onto the old gray mare, and Portillo galloped off. However, it wasn’t long before the large man spurred his horse onward and was soon hot on Portillo’s trail.
The pursuer and the pursued flew along the road. Although he managed to keep his distance at first, Portillo knew that there was no way that he was going to outrace this man all the way to the White Castle. Still, without any other option available to him, Portillo continued to frantically urge his horse to go faster. However, she was beginning to quickly run out of steam. The large man was gaining with every stride, until:
He was knocked clean off his horse. The man fell limply to the earth, unconscious. Portillo heard the smack and looked around to see happened. He saw a man with a large tree branch standing at the side of the road. Portillo slowed and turned his horse back. The man with the tree branch looked decidedly peeved. He seemed to be talking to the large man.
“I risk my neck spying for Jersey Mike, and do you know what he gives me as payment?” He thrust his hand into a pocket and pulled a wad of papers. “Coupons! Coupons for his restaurant! That was not what we agreed on!” Angrily, he flung them in the air, the little pieces of paper landing gently like fall leaves over the prone villain. The man then turned to face Portillo, smiled, and bowed slightly.
“In-and-Out, at your service.”
It was nearly dark by the time Wendy finally exited the woods and located the main road. She rode south until she located the trail which would lead her eastward. As night fell, Wendy grew more and more nervous. All the fields and woods she passed were gradually being swallowed by shadows. To add to the gloom, the sky was also growing cloudy, hiding the stars and making Wendy feel very alone.
“I wish you could talk, Horsey Sauce,” Wendy sighed. The horse nickered in reply. Leaning over, Wendy wrapped her arms around Horsey Sauce’s warm, broad neck. She remained that way, mile after mile. The sound of the horse’s breathing and the rhythm of his movement proved to be soothing to the red-head. By the time the first twinkling lights of the village appeared in the distance, Wendy was sound asleep. At the village’s outskirts, Horsey Sauce gave his head a gentle shake, rousing Wendy from her doze.
“Are we there?” Wendy mumbled sleepily. She rubbed her eyes and noticed the cluster of lighted buildings approaching. At a small building beside the road, a man with a helmet and spear emerged.
“Whoa there, young lady,” said the portly night watchman, stepping forward with a kindly smile. “And where might you be off to this time of night?”
“I need to see Prince Carl, sir!”
“Do you now? Awful late to be going for a visit.”
“It’s urgent! Please take me to him right away!”
“And who may I ask is requesting his majesty’s presence?”
“I’m Wendy, and…”
“Wendy?” The watchman looked shocked. “Not little Wendy from the White Castle?”
“We expected your arrival, but not like this.”
“Please! We have to hurry. I’ll explain on the way.” Without another word, the watchman mounted his own horse, and together they made their way to Hardee Castle.
“This is outrageous!” Prince Carl, Jr. stormed as he paced his throne room. He was the spitting image of his father with the exception that the Burger King sported a full beard while the Prince remained clean-shaven. But Wendy had seen that similar glowering look that was currently on Prince Carl’s face. It was the same look the King had given to Wendy after the “sliders” incident. Had that been only a few days ago? Wendy felt that a lifetime had gone by since then
“And with it all happening virtually under my nose! I should be ashamed!”
“Oh, no!” Replied Wendy. “It’s not your fault! No one knew this was coming. My friends and I happened to be at the right place at the right time. The King doesn’t even know about what’s going on.”
“My father doesn’t know?” Prince Carl asked astonished. “Then he must be warned immediately! He must call out his army.”
“We did send someone to warn the King, but I’m not sure if he made to the White Castle. He might have been captured.”
“Just to be sure, we’ll send a message to the White Castle.”
“But how? Little Caesar has all the roads guarded. There’s no way we can get word to the King.”
The Prince smiled.
“Not all roads, my dear Wendy.”
The Prince led Wendy through a doorway and down a long flight of stairs. After opening another door, the two stepped out onto a dimly-lit platform. Alongside the platform was a road with two thin ruts cut down its length. Both ends of the road disappeared into dark stone tunnels.
“What is this place?” Wendy whispered in amazement.
“It’s a little invention that Father and I developed for secret messenger service between castles. We call it the Subway!”
“Yes. It’s how Father and I keep each other informed on the goings-on of Dryvthru. We also use it to send belated birthday gifts, but that’s another story.”
Soon, Wendy heard rumbling coming from the tunnel on their right.
“Ah, just in time,” said Prince Carl as the noise continued to increase. Wendy couldn’t imagine what could be approaching. She didn’t have long to wonder. Out from the tunnel burst a strange-looking wagon. In the place of wheels, the wagon had two long pieces of metal which fit in the road’s ruts. Being pulled by the wagon was a large panda.
“What is with this kingdom and pandas?” Wendy said exasperatedly as the wagon came to a noisy, screeching halt.
“What was that?” The Prince yelled, cupping his ear.
From the wagon leapt a trim, bespectacled man.
“Jerrod!” said Prince Carl, “excellent timing. I need you to travel to the White Castle at once.” He produced a scroll with the information that Wendy had given him. With a smile and a bow, Jerrod took the scroll and returned to the wagon.
“Now,” said the Prince as the Subway wagon slid away into the opposite tunnel. “We must look to our own defense.”
“Do you have an army?” Wendy asked as the two climbed the stairs back to the throne room.
“We have a small standing army. However, it is most likely that we may need to call on volunteers to fill our ranks. From what you have described, Little Caesar will probably have a sizable force on hand.”
When they had returned to the throne room, Prince Carl called on one of his servants and told him to summon “the Colonel.”
“Who’s the Colonel?” Asked Wendy.
“He’s my military advisor, and a very wise man. If anyone knows what needs to be done, he does.”
After a few minutes of waiting, the throne room door opened and in stepped a bespectacled, white-haired gentleman wearing a dapper white suit.
“Ah, Colonel,” said the Prince with a wave. “We are in need of your services.”
“Well sir,” the Colonel drawled as he approached, “I am always happy to be of service.” He turned a grandfatherly gaze upon Wendy. “Now who do we have here?”
“Colonel, this is Wendy. Wendy, I’d like you to meet Colonel Sanders.”
“Well now,” Colonel Sanders beamed as he took Wendy’s offered hand. “With that lovely head of hair, I should have known. A pleasure to meet you, darling.”
“You know who I am?” Wendy asked, surprised.
“Oh my, the whole kingdom knows who you are!”
Wendy grinned. She liked Colonel Sanders.