"The Last Castle": On a lazy afternoon in the Woodlands business office, Boy Blue plays a melancholy tune on his horn. At first, Snow White thought he was practicing for another club gig. He reminds her that today is the Ides of May, a special day when he and a few other Fables meet at the loc
Appearing in "The Last Castle"
- Boy Blue (Flashback and main story)
- Snow White
- Red Riding Hood (imposter) (Single appearance) (Dies in flashback)
- Colonel Bearskin (Dies in flashback)
- Vulco (Flashback and main story)
- Robin Hood (Dies in flashback)
- Lady Britomart (Dies in flashback)
- Bluebeard (Flashback only)
- Prince Charming (Flashback only)
- Cinderella (Flashback only)
- Dr. Swineheart (First appearance) (Flashback only)
- Friar Tuck (Dies in flashback)
- Little John (Dies in flashback)
- King of Madagao (Dies in flashback)
- King of Bornegascar (Dies in flashback)
- Old Pellinore (Dies in flashback)
- Red Cross Knight (Dies in flashback)
- Sir Herman von Starkenfaust (Dies in flashback)
- Tam Lin (Dies in flashback)
- New York City
- Keep at World's End (First appearance)
Synopsis for "The Last Castle"
On a lazy afternoon in the Woodlands business office, Boy Blue plays a melancholy tune on his horn. At first, Snow White thought he was practicing for another club gig. He reminds her that today is the Ides of May, a special day when he and a few other Fables meet at the local pub and remember their final escape from the Homelands. Only those who were at the final battle were invited. Snow White apologizes for forgetting, knowing this day always put Boy Blue in a somber mood. Since it was unlikely any work would get done tonight, she asks Blue to tell her his tale...Back in the Homelands, during what would be Earth's 19th century, the Adversary had conquered every kingdom there was to conquer. Most of the Fables who were going to escape already had. Only one portal to the Mundy world remained,behind the Keep at World's End. The fort was discovered by an army of the Adversary's goblin forces, and several skirmishes had already taken place. A young red-haired woman riding on horseback was trying to stay ahead of her pursuers, a small group of goblins detached from a larger army. They fired their arrows at her, some just barely missing the mark. Overhead, a small flock of crows watch the action unfold. They send one of their members to fly ahead to alert the Keep of the incoming refugee.
Robin Hood and the fair Lady Britomart, goddess of the hunt, stood atop the ramparts of the old fort, watching the riders get closer. Robin proposes a challenge to the Lady, and she accepts, with the scoring being one point for each headshot, two for a direct hit through the eye. Meanwhile below, one of the crows yells for the guards to open the gate for the fleeing woman. She is already pierced by several arrows when she arrives, yelling for help before losing consciousness. The portcullis opened just enough for two hands to reach out and drag her inside. The goblins chasing her were killed by Robin and Britomart's arrows. Colonel Bearskin tells his orderly, Boy Blue, to get down to the infirmary and wait for the girl to wake up. The crow flies up to meet the Colonel, transforming into a man as he does so. Squire Vulco, as he is called, informs Bearskin that the main enemy army is a day away at most, and they were being led by General de Beaucaire, an old rival of Colonel Bearskin's.
The castle had gathered quite an interesting group within it's walls; the kings of rivaling kingdoms Madagao and Bornegascar reluctantly served together to protect the Keep, the Red Cross Knight, old man Pellinore, and others vowed their services as well. And behind the Keep, where a wild river swept through a deep chasm, Bluebeard oversaw the sailing of his ship, shuttling passengers to the portal and returning for a new load.
That night in the infirmary, Boy Blue watched as the young woman, her wounds treated by Dr. Swineheart, finally awoke. After Blue filled her in on what happened, he asked her name. She replies most people refer to her as Red Riding Hood, a nickname from her childhood she could never lose. The rest of the Keep were wasting the night away in the dining hall. Bluebeard wished to speak to Colonel Bearskin, to demand that his ship be loaded back up for the next batch as soon as possible, but is told that the colonel had already retired for the night. And at a far table, Prince Charming and his then-wife Cinderella sat, arguing over their accommodations. She wants better quarters, while Charming reminds her that they aren't here on a holiday weekend. Cinderella asks him if his first two wives are already in the Mundy world, which he hopes isn't true.
The next day, the goblin army finally arrived. A massive legion whose numbers filled out the entire valley. Boy Blue sent Red Riding Hood inside to safety as the goblins launched their first attack. Colonel Bearskin's troops succeeded, barely, in fighting them off, suffering only a single casualty while the goblins lost three hundred of their own. Their victory brings a feeling of celebration. Boy Blue expresses his excitement to his Colonel, but Bearskin brings him back to reality, telling him the goblins didn't even use a fraction of their forces. Grimly, he continues by saying that when the real battle starts, the only survivors will be the lucky few on Bluebeard's ship. Boy Blue gazes out upon the battlefield to see a stranger sight. The enemy had brought out a white flag, allowing a chance to parley. Colonel Bearskin, being the highest rank, decides to head over and meet with the enemy General. Being his orderly, Boy Blue was obliged to come along, though he was afraid that it may be a trick.
Colonel Bearskin was face to face with the enemy General, who turned out to be Count de Beaucaire, whom he's faced in battle several times in the past. The Count offers Colonel Bearskin a chance to surrender, with promises that the women and children in the Keep would get to live, albeit as slaves. At first he wants an answer immediately, but Bearskin replies that he'd need to go over it with his men first. Count de Beaucaire will give him as much time as it takes before he starts getting bored of waiting...
Night falls as Colonel Bearskin rallies everyone at the Keep. He told them all that the final battle would start soon, therefore the next ride on the boat will be the last one. Grounding everyone in reality, he adds that all who stay behind will surely be killed, their sacrifice serving only to distract the enemy long enough for the boat to get away. As for passengers, women and children are given first priority, followed by the non-human Fables, and last will be the husbands of women either already in the Mundy realm or who's wives were on the boat, which brings a great relief to Prince Charming. Colonel Bearskin continues by saying any others who seek passage should speak to him in private. Lady Britomart speaks out first, announcing that she intends to stay and fight. She's followed by Robin Hood, and then the remainder of the castle raise their voices, prepared to give their lives so the passengers may live.
Later that night, while preparations are being made elsewhere, in one of the towers Cinderella coos mockingly to Prince Charming as they carry chests of gold and jewels down the stairs. She wonders aloud what the others would think if they knew their "honorable" prince planned to divorce her once they got to the Homelands. Charming shushes her, afraid someone would hear, just as they turn a corner and come face-to-face with Boy Blue and Red Riding Hood. Panicked, Charming asks if Boy Blue heard them talking just now. His fears were placated when Boy Blue responds that no, he hadn't, and so he smiles his charming smile, and takes his leave of the two, with Cinderella following behind. Boy Blue shyly takes hold of Red Riding Hood's hand and leads her up to the top. Vulco is already there smoking a pipe as Blue and Red approach. Boy Blue introduces Vulco to Red as one of the twelve Crow Brothers, who were flying overhead in their crow form while she was escaping the Adversary's army on horseback. Vulco corrects him, mentioning that three of his brothers lost their lives while seeing her to safety that day. He then heads back down, to give Boy Blue some alone time with his date.
Boy Blue sat with Red Riding Hood, listening to her story about her childhood spent with her grandmother, and the time she was once stalked by a wolf. She told him about her capture by the Adversary, who kept her around as a scrub woman, forced to clean the district governor's palace. She had been there for so long, the guards started to relax around her. That was how she made her escape, as soon as she was thought of as just another part of the palace furniture, she managed to slip away. Red begs Boy Blue to join her on the boat tomorrow, but he replies his duty is to stand by his Colonel. Since she can't persuade him, Red grabs him by the hand and takes him to his quarters, since neither of them will be getting much sleep tonight, she figures they may as well use his bed for other activities...The sound of battle woke Boy Blue up with a start. It was morning and he had overslept! He woke up Red Riding Hood, told her to get her clothes on, that she needed to catch the boat before it left. They rush together to the underground harbor, where Bluebeard was preparing to leave. Again, Red Riding Hood begged, pleaded, for Boy Blue to join her, or to let her stay with him. But Boy Blue explained that he needed her safe on that boat, so he would have something to fight for, to protect. He kissed her farewell, and left to join Colonel Bearskin. Red Riding Hood was left in tears. Colonel Bearskin was giving out final orders when Boy Blue arrived. Bearskin told him to climb up to the top of the far tower, where he'd have a view of everything. Boy Blue didn't understand what the Colonel was asking, so he clarified. Boy Blue's job was to watch, to remember. Bearskin handed Blue a Witching Cloak that would allow him to teleport onto the boat. When the last man fell, he was to use the cloak to escape, and live to tell their tale.
Almost immediately after Boy Blue got to the tower, the battle commenced in full. He watched as his comrades were killed. Robin Hood and Lady Britomart were back to back against the onslaught of goblins. They both knew their number was up, but before that happened, Britomart asked Robin to hold them off her for a moment. She picked up her spear and hurled it into the sky. It was an enchanted weapon, one that would seek out any target she chose. Beyond the walls, out in the field, General de Beaucaire was shocked only for a moment when the weapon impaled him, then he died, never knowing victory. Her last act fulfilled, Lady Britomart and Robin were swallowed up in the unending horde's attack. The merry men followed, then the kings of Madagao and Bornegascar, who in the end died as allies. Boy Blue watched in amazement as the Red Cross Knight, bearing the symbol of holiness, stood up against every attack thrown his way. He cut down goblins, ogres, and trolls, lasting for what seemed like an hour. Boy Blue began to think that the Red Cross Knight may actually win... until the dragon came. Unfortunately, it's flame roasted the knight in his own suit. The last man standing was Colonel Bearskin, though he had little luck defending the Hold on his own. A goblin warrior gutted him, then left him to die a slow, agonizing death. It was time for Boy Blue to go. Donning the witching cloak, he wished himself away, reappearing on the deck of the boat as it heaved through the rough waters. The passengers were surprised to see him. One asked where he came from, which Boy Blue replied "Hell". He asked around for Red Riding Hood before grabbing hold of something as the boat approached the waterfall. It's wings deployed just as it reached the edge, and from there it glided through the sky towards the clouds. The dragon forces found them, though, forcing the remaining Crow Brothers to defend the boat. With nothing but their skill, and a lot of luck, the brothers slayed all the great beasts, though they lost all but three of their own. The ship passed through the clouds, and her captain ordered the portal to be shut behind them, there would not be a return trip.
Boy Blue finished the story with him and the others becoming a part of Fabletown. Snow White speaks up. He hadn't finished, she said, what about Red Riding Hood? Why wasn't she here with him? Boy Blue puts on a gloomy smile. In the irony of all irony's, he explained, Red Riding Hood never got on the boat. She chose to stay and fight, not knowing Boy Blue had an escape plan set up. She died in the battle with the other Fables. Snow White apologized for forcing Boy Blue to dredge up his sad past., but he told her he didn't mind. Since today marked the anniversary of his escape, it meant he'd have to spend it remembering anyway. Boy Blue took his trumpet and left the office.
In a local pub, the passengers of that final boat trip all raised their glasses as Boy Blue led the toast to fallen comrades, and to debts that could never be repaid.
- This book was first published on September 24, 2003.
- It is later revealed that the Red Riding Hood in this story is an imposter. Her real identity remains unknown, though it is established that she was not Baba Yaga, who poses as Red Riding Hood later on.
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