Alvar opened his eyes. “Sorry, what?”
“I said, it’s a bit weird. You know, walking towards me with your eyes closed.”
“Yeah, I guess it is. Sorry! I’m Alvar, by the way, Alvar Donnigan-Hue.”
“Oh right,” replied the guardsman. “I’m Captain Gustav.”
“Well, Captain, I’ve been on some journey to get here. Could you tell me if this is the door to the castle?”
“Absolutely, I can tell you if this is or isn’t the door to the castle.”
A big sigh escaped Alvar and danced its way onto the breeze. He couldn’t work out if the guard was being difficult with his answer on purpose or if he was just a little bit odd.
“Is this the door to the castle?” asked Alvar.
“Yes!” replied Gustav. “This here is the door which leads to the castle. Castle Krogan. The King’s Keep. The 2nd highest point in all of Ne’er! It's rather impressive, isn't it?”
Alvar Donnigan-Hue was relieved. After all that relentless climbing, and navigating those tricky roads, he had got to the famous gold-trimmed door. This was it. Finally he would get into the castle.
“Can I go inside?” Alvar said.
“No mate, the door’s stuck,” replied Gustav.
“But this is the way into the castle?” asked Alvar.
“Oh yes. The main entrance actually.”
“And it’s stuck?” queried Alvar.
“Yup. The door’s stuck. Stuck like a curious pigeon.”
Frustration overcame Alvar. His brow sunk as he gritted his teeth. You could hear the grinding all the way down on the beach. Despite this, Alvar pushed his feelings down, swallowed deeply, and tried to continue the conversation.
“So, how long has it been stuck?”
Gustav looked at the door and removed his cap briefly, rubbing the sweat away and taking time to think. He placed his cap back on and turned back to Alvar.
“About ten years.”
“TEN?” shouted Alvar dramatically, “TEN YEARS! But, how do people get in and out then?”
“Oh, well... we built another one,” said Gustav.
“Oh yes.” said Gustav.
“Well,” began Alvar Donnigan-Hue, “can I use that one?”
“Don’t see why not!” replied Gustav.
“Great! Where is it?”
The guard turned again and pointed towards the remainder of the mountain. A large, looming shadow fell onto Alvar's face and drowned him in anxiety.
“How do I get up there?” questioned Alvar, exasperated at the whole situation.
“You have to go around the island. Back around. All the way.”
It was in this moment that Alvar stared into the vast rock face before him and felt the overwhelming need to wail. He held back his tears and the many screams that wanted to leap out of his body. With a few deep breaths, he calmed himself down enough to ask the guard why he was guarding a stuck door. He was met with a burst of laughter that shook the guards belly and beardy chin.
“Ha! I’m not guarding a stuck door! That’s absurd! What a ridiculous notion!” said Gustav.
“So what are you guarding?” enquired Alvar.
“Oh, I’m guarding what stuck it.”
“What stuck it?” demanded Alvar.
“What stuck it?” asked Gustav rhetorically, “It’s the king!”
“Yeah, he’s made of marshmallow. It was back during that really hot summer we had about ten years ago. The king was about to open the door when the heat made him suddenly melt and he sort of oozed into the handle, and around the slim gaps, and then kind of set solid again. We haven’t seen temperatures like it since... one day though! One day it’ll be that hot and the king will melt again and I’ll be here to help him out. Oh! Then you could use the door!”
“Yeah, thanks,” said Alvar Donnigan-Hue before turning around and heading back towards the infamous narrow path.
Written by Thom Boulton and illustrated by Anthony Rollinson.