Mountjoy a butler
Phyllis a housemaid
Koga a protagonist
Bernard a plumber
Clint a foreman
Lilith a chambermaid
Bruce a chef
A cast of thousands
Over the years, voyeurism had become something of a habit for him, and suited his predilections quite nicely. He was doing the Polonius dance tonight, earlier in the great hall, and loved the frisson of almost being caught.
Now they were at it again, they were, and the noise. Oh! the noises that came from the room. .. Why?! Oh, those sounds were quite saucy. Quite the trigger that caused him to need to set up camp outside of the door, glass to one slightly oversized ear. And the groans and the purrs, and the grunts and the squeaks caused flutterbies to erupt in his belly, and a certain stirring elsewhere.
He shifted his weight, slightly, and tucked his knees into his abdomen, so he was less obvious in his little hidey-hole, and held his ear to the wall.
A little exposition is often required in cases such as these, and Ill not leave you on tenterhooks for too much longer. And so, yes, you can breathe easy. Were talking about Mountjoy. And, unless youre in the clan General Engineering, Racketeering and Musical Guild or you used to be in CDAG, you possibly dont know him all that well, but to clan members, hes a living legend.
Before moving to GERM, Hed been in service to the CDAG clan for more years than anyone currently extant could possibly hope to remember. As a matter of fact, he could actually remember the last time the great hall had had a lick of paint, such was the length of his tenure. Hed only been a slip of a lad during the Great Redecoration, and had been employed to sit on a gurney, tin of Institutional Green in one hand, slapping on paint with a bristly accoutrement, held in tother.
The foreman, (a beastly man named Clint) had caught him slapping on the wonderfully thick, unctuous and not-remotely-acrid paint with the bristly appendage, and made him go see the then clan leader, (the poor lad had, he cried, misheard the command about brushes), and had begun his career in the worst possible manner, and furthermore with a burning sensation in his trews.
It would take months of bathing in petrol to unstick his under-hose - and the thrashing he received from the then clan leader firstly, and then Clint taking out his dues always served as a reminder much as a City and Guilds would nowadays, of the correct methodology for painting a wall.
However, he was a quick learner, no-one could ever accuse him of being ought but, and his mind was now focused, focused on the promotion of the clan (and of slowly poisoning the aforementioned foreman and the then clan leader with Thallium so that the two of them, beastly blighters both, suffered a long drawn out full stop to their respective careers).
Successive clan leaders promoted him within the ranks, and, as he was never a fighter, but a quick learner, they soon realised it was pointless sending him out to bash things with swords and his career path took an alternate route, one of organisation, do-it-yourself, supervision of the young and foolish and clan-servitude.
In short, he became, over a great-many-years, the clan butler. He took on, with great aplomb, the role of acting as moral compass for the clan (and, as outlined above we can truly see how straight pointing this chaps compass was). He took generation after generation of neophyte clan members under his greatcoat, and ensured they were in bed on time, and had had a hearty supper beforehand.
He ensured they tipped their caps to the ladies - and once (that benighted day!) ladies began to be admitted to the clan he ensured the lady members also tipped their caps to other ladies! He was firm, and often he was fair.
But he could be an unholy terror if any stepped out of the lines he had worn into the parquet flooring, pacing up and down, fob-watch in hand, truncheon in tother (and all of the clans Thallium locked safely away in his own cupboard), and muttering to himself about how, when he were but a lad, he wouldnt have dreamed of coming in at this time of the morning.
And he took the security of the clan hall quite seriously, the past few clan leaders had been somewhat lackadaisical in their attitudes, and he hadnt held with that, but even now, he still ensured the terminus of the clan security system was within the confines of his chamber, and the slightest little rattle of the tin-can would see him leap from his rickety cot, fully clothed, into the crepuscular dark of the halls, stout truncheon held in one hand. ..
And then she appeared.
He remembered the day she joined the clan, she wasnt a servant like him, but amongst the first women to take the step up. She was like something akin an Amazon. And she was an amazin woman. Tall. Broad-shouldered. Brusque. As deranged as a wildcat with a firecracker up its jacksie.
He hadnt had a stirring since that day, decades ago, when hed had a stirring.
But, BOY did he ever feel something that first time he clapped eyes on her. The twinset and pearls! That wiry hair! The huge handbag, weighted down by pennies and with fish hooks in the lining should anyone unwary dip in there.
The jawline! That determined set and the twitching nerve. Oh heck!
She wasnt introduced to him that day. Oh no, the fella she was with didnt see fit to consorting with lackeys, (oh, and hed get his). Theyd come back from the jungle, covered in ichor and gore. Notches in her handbag. Bruises on her shins, her make-up slightly smudged and, ah! The turn of her calves. ..
For years this went on whilst the fella was slowly being poisoned with Thallium. Inevitably, one year, he met his end. It didnt come suddenly, (well, not to Mountjoy), but she seemed a little shocked. Not that you or I could tell, but Mountjoy could, hed watched her every movement (again, not quite every movement but hed at least heard it) whilst she was within the clan halls, the soft rise and fall of her bellows as she stoked the fire in her room, the wheezing snores as she slept and the gentle thuds as she worked out her frustrations with the broomstick Mountjoy had left in her room, to try and help her through the difficult times she now surely faced without her hanger on.
It was a kind gesture on his part, but she didnt acknowledge it. Mountjoy didnt expect she would, if he was honest with himself. But it still hurt.. . Physically. .. That one time he was in her room, searching through her drawers whilst she was out, and shed come back, stealthy as a cheating husband. It had ended up wrapped round his left ear.
She left the clan soon after this episode. Mountjoy had thought she wouldnt ever be seen again. He knew, from the preponderance of newbies whod gone out in the jungle, sans the protection of a clan, who failed to return, that it was dangerous out there. So he knuckled down, acted as a moral compass for many more generations of CDAG acolytes, poisoned a couple more, slightly less up to snuff, clan leaders and generally presided over the clan halls, ensuring they ran like smoothly oiled clockwork. ..
Then, there she was again! Older now, obviously, it had been decades since hed last clapped eyes on her. Shed come back to him!
Well, shed come back attached to the latest clan leader, the one who was determined to get the plumbing sorted out (to his credit). Now this time, she hadnt joined the clan. .. Mountjoy knew as he often checked the clan roster to ensure no reprobates, bounders or second story men joined. But there she was. .. Bustling around in a wonderfully salmon housecoat. Tray of sherries in hand at some interminable clan banquet. New Officers or somesuch, if memory serves.
And the dance of the woman! The sheer athletic grace of her! Hed never seen anything like it; she could bustle like a nosy gymnast! Mountjoy almost forgot himself, and slopped some soup down the decolletage of some young floozy (read. New Clan Officer).
The party wound down infuriatingly slowly and Mountjoy was due, as per usual to oversee the paramilitary operation of shipping off inebriated clan members to their dormitory and private bedrooms, newbie and officer both. Lilith (the clan chambermaid) was hovering predatorily close to a gaggle of squiffy newbies, and Bruce (the clan chef) was mixing up a pint of slops by the bar, but Mountjoy didnt have eyes for his task, just for her.
The result of this could have been disastrous, Bruces liver (and bacon with mash and onions) couldnt cope with the rigours of such a beverage, and a group of new clan mates were emotionally scarred by a night of Liliths predilections imposed upon them. .. But for once, Mountjoy simply didnt care. The great hall looked like the aftermath of an alternate Battle of Sebastopol which had been transferred indoors due to inclement weather. But Mountjoy kept his eyes on his prize, and all the rest went to hell.
And she? Well, she went to bed. Her old room. Ah, he could smell it now.. . Quite literally, in fact. He was in her closet. Hiding under the scratchy woollen blanket every clan member had to suffer when the cold nights drew in, but which, when coupled with a chest coated in a good layer of goosefat could ward off those winter chills. He could hear her wheezing.
He could hear her clambering into the four-poster bed and tucking up the countless sheets and blankets up under her chin.
He could hear her wheeze gradually softening, and in time, hear the plates in her mouth vibrate with a basso profundo snore.
However, he couldnt move, couldnt go and kiss her cheek as she slept, or run his fingers through that hair like pre-torsioned steel. Arthritis had locked him in place and every slight twitch caused an excruciating knot to tighten in his lower back and legs. There was nothing for it, he would have to sleep in here, and hope Lilith could keep her mouth shut when she eventually came to turn down the beds in the morning.
And sleep, fitfully, he did.
Afternoon rolled around lazily, and the slight uproar at the non-appearance of Mountjoy at breakfast service this morning had died away by the time Lilith eventually came to turn down Phyllis room.
The lady herself had been up and away with the larks this morning, back to Dunbernarding, in order she could prepare the house for her employer; and so Liliths screams when she found the obviously dead body of Mountjoy in her closet was enough to wake the. .. uncomfortably fast-out, but not to disturb his true love, who by now was miles away and happily vacuuming the conservatory curtains.
But wake the uncomfortably fast-out she did. And as a result of this shock, she refused ever to set foot in that bedevilled room again (which, was something of a plus for the lazy lass, for there was now over forty rooms in the hall that she refused to enter for one reason or another and thus ensured her working day was contracted to a manageable level). Mountjoy could now, with the need for secrec. .. discretion removed, extricate himself from his predicament, and use some emollients to try and work some of the scratchy blanket fibres from his skin.
Poor Mountjoy, all he wanted was someone who stirred the deep, dark paint-pot of his soul. All he ever seemed to get was the fibre-glass of personal disaster stuck under the skin of his sadness and the broomstick of pain wrapped around the ear of loneliness for his troubles.. .
And so it was this time and so it went on. Phyllis would be a more or less irregular guest of the clan leader at clan hall functions. Well, we say guest, in actuality she was more of a hanger on, an adjunct. Mountjoy didnt really give any thought to Phyllis new station in life, as a servant; where once she was a proud warrior she was no longer, and if he had thought about it, hed possibly have respected her more for this, seeing as he had no truck with warriors or people of that stripe.
No, all he wanted was to be near her.
And every so often, for a fleeting few hours, he could be.
He could be near her, that is, until the other one turned up.
Him, with his hairy chest, mutton-chops and medallions. Him, with his workshop and money and exotic foreign language grasp of English. Him, with Phyllis on his arm snapping his fingers at that clan banquet, demanding a small glass of pilsner. ..
Thallium, of course, sprang to the forefront of Mountjoys mind. However, hed not poisoned anyone for some time, and he wasnt sure his heart was in it any more. But still, that vile man continued to strut about, mangling his syntax and gripping Mountjoys heart in his fist.
You there, I will now have a glass of small pilsner
I will be crushing with my fist, your heart you little stupid man
Every time Phyllis came to clan halls now, for this function or that, she would come, not as a servant; noble, proud, workmanlike, but as the peahen to that cocky fool! Dowdy, browbeaten, wondering if he would like a glass of small pilsner. Well, Mountjoy would not stand for this. .. He avoided her! Oh! The cunning. ..
Ha! Take that! Spurn me will you!? He would think to himself quietly, the jealousy and torment adding vitriol to the potent cocktail of his bile. That bile added, in turn, to the recipe of fevered and fervent imagination, running like a flash-mob through the recesses of Mountjoys brain.
Studiously ignored, off they would trot, back to wherever it was they disappeared when the functions ended. Just the voice of him echoing back up the hill as a sharp reminder of what Mountjoy had lost, and what he, Koga had won. Over the months, Mountjoys hatred bloomed, and became all-encompassing.
And so, to this last banquet, with him as a guest of honour (thanks to a complicated backstory involving an enormous debt owed by the hideously daft clan leader to Koga, and some severe damage caused to the workshop, somehow by one of Bernards cloned creatures), saw the swine partake too much of the thallium laced beef tea and cheap pilsner. And fall quite, quite ill.
This same was enough to have killed off a lesser man, but Mountjoy had reckoned without Kogas size and solidity - curses!
It appeared that Mountjoy had lost his touch, it had been so long! Koga was retching a little and so he was taken to a bed, in the least draughty tower of the clan halls, Phyllis there with him to mop his fevered brow. ..
Mountjoy had spied upon them both during the banquet, delighting in every sup of the beef tea that Koga took, and cursing at every shared word.
And now? They were ensconced in a room together, in a room in HIS clan hall! He fumed and resolved to go and ensure they were behaving in there!
Now, as ever, poor Mountjoy couldnt attend to this resolution by knocking and entering and being all upfront about things, but he could make use of the listening glass and (slightly enlarged) ear to ensure probity and unquestionable morals.
And that, dear reader, is where we find him now. Curled up on the floor outside of the room of his one true love, and her hairy consort. There were groans and purrs, and grunts and squeaks. Mountjoy almost couldnt contain himself. He harked back to that fateful day, high on a gurney, and the unpleasant burning he experienced, and the sound thrashing that followed.
And something inside Mountjoy snapped, and something inside Mountjoy changed and he rheumatically lifted himself from his prone position and took his band of keys from his inside pocket.
Fumbling through them all to find the key that would grant him entry, fumbling through them to pick out the one which would see this farrago ended once and for all!
Fumbling the key into the lock and fumbling to turn it.
Fumbling so much that the key shears off in the lock. A breath. A realisation.
And so Mountjoy heads back to where hes happiest, curled up outside of the door. There he imagines what foul depravity that Koga is subjecting his beloved to, and comes up with a game of German Whist.