The Siege of Pugglemunt Pt 10 (junior)

Chapter Six: In Which I Announce My House Party


It’d certainly been a rough morning, but you can’t fanny about when you’re a King. After a quick bath to get rid of all the slime and blood, off to the battlements I went. Against all odds, I found myself in a good mood as I strolled through the city with Captain Plug at my side (I decided to keep her around in case I needed to be punted anywhere else).

Something about that mystery emissary woman had gotten right into my socks. Yes, she clearly chose ruffian company and yes, she quite blatantly thought I was a stupid vat of hog-mess, but there was something in her stare which had held me transfixed.

Romance is strange when you’re the King. Peasants wilt and swoon as you pass by, of course, but you can never be sure whether they’re just doing it out of politeness. And even if they weren’t, a peasant’s bar isn’t exactly high. If you’ve still got a few teeth and you’re not actively battling the plague, that puts you straight in at a solid 7/10.


I’m sorry for slagging you off, peasants. I know you’ll be reading this with quivering vengeful hands, but look: don’t hate me because I’m handsome! That’s not the way to get ahead in life, is it? Hate *yourselves* because you’re hideous – and then work on it! You’ve got this, guys! I believe in you. 🙂

I could court aristocrats if I wished, but they’re yawnsome and gouty and judgemental and they all secretly hate each other. Oh! And the money talk. It makes me want to leap in the air and scream. I know you’re meant to be really into gold and trinkets when you’re the King, but to be honest I find talk of money so searingly dull it makes me want to gouge out my own eyes.*

*Indeed, I owe a great debt to Lady Blanket for wrestling the spoon from my desperate hands at the last Barons Banquet.


Aristocrats: don’t get angry! Don’t plot against me just because I said you were all foul and hateful; shooteth not the messenger. You can fix it! Stop marrying your cousins, lay off the red meat (GOUT), and in but a few generations you’ll be normal humans again! ;D

And then of course there are the princes and princesses — O! Endless lines of them, shouldering their way to the front of the Throne Room, batting their eyelashes while their scheming old parents massage my shoulders and speak lustily about how pretty our Kingdoms would look next to one another.

I never wanted to marry another one of Me. I always wanted somebody who is firmly not Me. Somebody who could say things like ‘maybe don’t go into the sewer Athelstan’, or ‘you’re singing rather loudly, sweetheart’, or ‘stop trying to shoot that bird, my love, and come back to bed’. Somebody who didn’t tumble over themselves to moisten my signet ring with obsequious lips.

I wanted somebody with whom I could sit and giggle at banquets, playing ‘spot the hairpiece’ as we gaze down from the High Table at the assembly of flop-headed barons. Somebody with whom I could ride horses through the countryside in fancy dress, doing silly voices to baffle all the wagon-men we passed, pretending we were from out of town. Somebody with whom I could lie on a hilltop at night eating strawberries, and when I drink too much wine and start pointing out phallic star constellations they tell me I’m a devil with a smile in their voice.

But no!

No. To think in such a way only led to disappointment.

I did not need a partner. I did not want a partner! I was not a lonely King. I had lots of friends – thousands! I needed not the touch of a lover at the last kiss of night, nor the smile of a best friend at dawn’s first light.

No! My monthly palace orgies had always been quite enough to satiate me. I got all oiled up and ran around and enjoyed my shenanigans like a Proper Monarch. I ate chicken thighs and I belched and I loved it. I drank wine until I went purple and sprawled on the stone floor and told everybody to get out, and then I had my Water Boy carry me to my bed and tuck me in. I had everything I needed. I was— I am — a happy King. The Happiest King in the Land!

“And that’s how I got the nickname ‘Plug’,” said Captain Plug, as we arrived at the battlements.

The battlements of Pugglemunt are tall and thick: this is deliberate. My ancestors fooled around with a few variations, but they settled on tall and thick as the best way to build city walls. If you make them short and thick, you see, people can just climb right over them. If you make them tall and thin, they wobble about and the soldiers get dizzy and complain. And short and thin is no good to anybody at all, of course, as Ethelstar discovered way back when. They just blow away.

“Hmm,” I said, as Sir Pip and Sir Pip Junior led me around for the pre-siege inspection. “Hmm. Very good. Excellent. Tremendous.”

But I wasn’t thinking about the walls of the city. I was thinking about a different, more beautiful wall: the wall of skin (face) attached to the head of the mysterious woman I’d met on the beach. What nice freckles she’d had. I wondered how many there were. I would have liked to count them. I wondered if she would let me count them?

Shut up! Shut up, I scolded my headbrain. This wouldn’t do. I had a siege to think about. I had to snap myself out of it; I needed to cool off. Handily there was a barrel of water standing beside us atop the city wall. I dunked my head in it while Sir Pip was busy pointing out potential choke points along the battlements.

“And if we position twelve men at each watchtower, we should be able to repel the brunt of their— why is your head wet, Sire?”

I furrowed my brow at him. I thought it was quite obvious why my head was wet — I wet it — and thus decided not to answer. Instead I held a finger to his lips to indicate that I wished for him to be silent. Then I turned to his son, who was singing a song and following a ladybird along the flagstones.

“Sir Pip Junior. I would have a word with you, my lad.”

Sir Pip Junior, who is the youngest knight in the realm at seven years old, hurried over to me in his clanking, oversized suit of armour (no sense in making him a miniature one when he’ll only grow out of it in two months).

“Sir Pip Junior, I have for thee a special task. Since it has been some t—”

“Hello Father,” said Sir Pip Junior, happily.

I blinked at him.

“What? Don’t call me that. I’m not your father, I’m— what?” I pointed at Sir Pip. “That’s your dad.”

“I love you,” shrugged Sir Pip Junior, scratching his nose.

“You do not.”

“What does your beard feel like?” asked my knight, reaching up with a small armoured hand which I batted away.

As the rosy-cheeked, plump-faced child gazed up at me, I found myself once regretting the competition I’d held to elect a new Tenth Knight after Sir Tranquil was carried off by eagles. I’d just thought a hula-hooping contest would be quite refreshing as a spectacle, because otherwise it’s only ever duels, you know?

I looked at Sir Pip for aid. He gave me a look that said ‘children, hey!’ I gave him a look which said ‘yes — EDUCATE THEM’ but he missed it because he’d started chatting to Captain Plug. I turned back to my smallest knight.

“Sir Pip Junior, I need you to do me a favour, okay? I need a record of all the soldiers who will be manning the battlements this evening and tomorrow morning so I can keep track of who dies and whatnot. We used to just count the bodies afterwards, but of course there’s always a few who get eaten whole or dragged over the battlements and what-have-you.”

“Realistically, Sir Pip Junior, between you and me, most of these men are going to get absolutely mangled. There’s going to be innards all over, bits of finger lying around; it’s going to be a dirty wet mess, alright? So I need you to take this parchment and go and make a list of who everyone is, where they’re standing, and any other key facts that will help us figure out who they used to be before they got pulped into dust, alright?”

When I finished speaking, I handed Sir Pip Junior the parchment and quill and looked around me. It had all gone very quiet and everybody was looking at me with big eyes and slack mouths. 

A flag flapped and cracked in the breeze. A lone bird flew overhead and squawked. A church bell rang distantly. The whip-crack of a cart-driver drifted up from the city below.

“What the hell,” said an archer.

I looked at Captain Plug, who was gazing at me in bewilderment.

You’re shouting,” she mouthed.

Shit. It seems my ears were still a bit clogged after the sewer debacle. I needed a saving grace — fast.

I clapped my hands together.

“Right!” I said, patting the somewhat-paler-than-two-minutes-ago Sir Pip Junior on the shoulder. “Hop to it my lad, and have that list ready by the banquet this evening. Yes! That’s right everyone. Banquet at my place tonight!”

A tentative ripple of excitement passed through the soldiers.

“Bring your own mead, we’re throwing a rager!” I called out. “I’m going to get a few dozen hogs and a couple of ox in so we can gorge ourselves silly. Expect singing, gyrating, belly-chuckling, and plenty of last-minute humanising-backstory sharing. Sunset – don’t be late!”

“Huzzah!” cried my knights as one. “Huzzah!”

Fish in a barrel, honestly.

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