The Siege of Pugglemunt Pt 12 (stables)

Chapter Eight: In Which I Loathe Regional Dialects

My old auntie, Princess Aedabog, loved horses like a nutter. Some people just do: they love horses so much it becomes the cornerstone of their whole personality. I like horses, of course, very much so, but in what I like to think is quite a relaxed way. I have the same relationship with horses as I have with, I don’t know, my own legs: I’m glad they exist, I like it when they go fast, I don’t think about them much when I’m not using them, and I curse them when they don’t work properly.

Aedabog, however, was mad for mares, crazy for colts, silly for stallions and bonkers for broncos. That’s why she built Pugglement’s famous experimental stable, or as she affectionately yet quite catastrophically decided to name it, the House of Horse.

Now, Pugglemunt’s more lascivious residents (cough, Baron Spanko) will already be aware of this, but let me detail it for the rest of you: there is another establishment in our fair city with a very similar name — only a couple of letters apart, in fact, and with almost the exact same pronunciation. The names are close enough that, to this day, the Saturday night drunkards down in the Carousing Quarters often mistake one for the other and get very confused indeed.

I am talking, of course, about the House of Morse, owned by Sally and Curtis Morse (it’s a brothel).

Come now. Join me in your imagination, my gorgeous reader, and let us walk while we’re able to find my fabled stable (wow!). Heading east from the city’s Great Gate, we must first weave through the Hawker’s Bazaar and the Seven Increasingly Bewildering Souks. You’d better hold onto your hat and keep your shirt on as you pass through here, as there are strict rules on dress code. Now, if you find you’ve reached the Crooked Market you’ve gone too far (it’s an easy mistake to make, I do it all the time), and you’ll need to double back and take a right at the statue of Tunk, the God of Hindsight, before heading straight under the Squid’s Arch (be sure to pop a doubloon into his slit for luck; t’is the custom).

The Squid’s Arch opens up into a large square with a few pretty trees in it and a statue of Sarah, the ogre that thwacked my great-uncle halfway to the moon. There are establishments on three sides of this square: the Grand Butcher (the finest meat vendor in the city), the Grand Baker (truly unparalleled breads and cakes), and the Grand Candlestick Maker (another brothel). It’s best you don’t linger on the grassy bit in the middle of this square; at present it’s infested with lawn-nymphs who like to pop out from behind the daisies and stab tiny knives at your feet.*

*My designated Lawn Nymph Exterminator is off on maternity leave and nobody else is strong enough to wield her mallet.

Almost there now! Amble down the road between the Butcher and the Baker, take the third exit off the Pedestrian Roundabout, salute the Ancient Lord of Magpies (he likes to sit on the signpost), and in a couple of hundred metres’ time you’ll see it (though you’ll have smelled it long before): the House of Horse.

Seven! That’s how many floors Aedabog decided to give the towering great stable. SE-VEN. Rumour has it she based the design off her old wedding cake after she got jilted at the altar by a ‘centaur’ who turned out to be two normal men in a costume. Each layer of the House has plenty of sunlight and grass and water for the horses, of course, but Gods it’s a logistical nightmare to keep clean. Or at least, I imagine it is. I leave all of that to my Stable Girl, who, though rather pervasive in her odour, seems to have a firm handle on things. Here: let us rejoin the narrative anew, as I say hello to her.

“Hello,” I said to her. “How fairest thou, my loyal horse-tidier? Has Lady Pip been over?”

I was standing in the central courtyard of the House of Horse (it’s largely hollow inside and open to the sky; picture lots all mezzanines and terraces. It’s a marvel of architecture, honestly, though of course it’s completely wasted on horses, who have famously minimalistic taste).

“Am nobbut middlin’,” said my Stable Girl. “And av not sin’er since last week. ‘Ow come?”

I didn’t know what this meant so chose to let the conversation rest for now.

Around us, a few of the various cavalric calamities of my auntie’s selective breeding programme grazed and whinnied: a couple of zebras, a unicorn, a donkey, a donkey with yellow ears, a donkey with little wings, a donkey with arms, an invisible donkey, a mule with two new pewter shoes in blue hues, a spherical horse, a fire horse, an ice horse, a stretchy horse, a skeleton horse, a rainbow horse, and three normal horses. My own horse, a large palomino named Handsome Pat, lived in there as well. I’d initially kept him with me in my palace chambers but he kept eating all my socks and I was forced to banish him. He trotted over to me now, happy to see me.

“Well met, my lad,” I said to Handsome Pat, giving him a stroke. He neighed happily and rubbed his great big head against me. “Who’s a good steed? Who’s a good steeeeeeeed? I love you my steed! I love you my steed! Yes I do. Yes I do! Oh my pretty boy, who’s a good piglet? Who’s a good piglet?”

After several minutes of this I remembered I hadn’t come just to cuddle my horse. War was afoot! I turned to my Stable Girl to begin planning but she wasn’t looking at me and when I went to call her I realised I’d forgotten her name. It was something mildly off-putting, I knew that much. Welt? No, it was something stickier. Ween? Splunt? Glemp? Glodge? Oh! —


The girl (she’d have terrible crow’s-feet when she was older if she continued frowning like that all the time) turned around and raised a quizzical eyebrow.

“Glob, my dear Stable Girl, I’ve come to inspect the horses ahead of the enormous battle which will be taking place tomorrow.”

“Eh? Battle? Av not ‘eard nowt of no battle.”

I flinched at her accent. Did she even realise she’d used a double negative? In fact — hang on. ‘Not heard nowt of no’ — is that a triple negative? So she’s not heard, but then she’s not heard ‘nowt’, which is peasant for ‘nothing’, which means she has heard something, but then she says ‘of no battle’, so if she has heard of no battle, we can assume the opposite is also true, which is that she hasn’t heard of a battle. But wait, hang on—

“Ere, King Athelstan, ah yer soft int ‘ed? A sed: tha’s just told me w’iv to fight a battle tomorra, and it’s the first av ‘eard’ve it. ‘Owm a s’posed to saddle all these lot by t’mornin?”

I looked at my Stable Girl. She held my gaze. I knew she’d asked me a question – the intonation made that much clear — but the subject was anyone’s guess. I decided to gamble and hope for the best.

“Oh, erm. Kidney beans, mostly. Maybe the odd potato if I feel I’ve earned it.”

The girl looked at me, open-mouthed and scowling; an expression I chose to interpret as one of intense reverence.

“Eh? And here mate, put t’wood in t’oil, would yer? Tha’s come right in ‘ere and left t’doower wide open. All th’orses’ll gerrout, yer daft apeth.”

“What the hell are you saying?” I blurted out, exasperated. “TALK LIKE A HUMAN.”

My Stable Girl waved a dismissive hand at me.

“Gi’ o’er.”


The girl — she was all knees and elbows — strolled away and sat on a hay bail. She produced an apple from inside a little satchel around her waist, split it in two with her bare hands, gave half to a unicorn and bit into the other herself.

“Alrayt, ‘ere. Al sort as many as a can before tomorra. Can’t promise owt, but ’appen al ‘av a good chunk orrem ready for thee int’ mornin’. Sound?”

The girl nodded and went back to her apple, and I gingerly held two fingers to my neck to check my pulse hadn’t stopped. I reminded myself that I really must fund peasant elocution lessons once this was all over.

“Any rerd, if ah wuh in thi booits ad kip me lug’oles open ‘round that bird you asked abart. Summat maungy ‘bout’er, allus larkin’ down t’rookery.”

Right, that’s it—

– Learn to Speak Nicely

– Spare Thine King’s Ears

– Unravel the Exciting Mysteries
of ‘Spelling’ and ‘Grammar’ and ‘Actual
Words You Haven’t Just Made Up’

– You Have To Attend

Wednesdays at 8pm, Great Hall


I went to give Handsome Pat one last cuddle, then turned to leave the stable. As I did so, however, a sudden flap of wind whipped past my face. I thought this was odd, but hey – I’d just seen a frog get squashed into two-dimensions; it was an odd kind of day. Unfortunately, however, Glob cursed very loudly and tossed her apple over her shoulder.

“Sup wi’yer? I told thih tha’d left the door wide open. Now the bleedin’ invisible donkey’s gorrout. Tha’s neither use nor ornament, lad.”

You didn’t have to speak fluent peasant to understand the connotations of a door left open + visible anger + ‘invisible donkey’. Shit. Well, nobody really ever rode the Invisi-Mule anyway; it was demeaning to travel into battle hovering three feet above the ground with your legs wide open.

Still, we’d best get it back, just in case.

In fact—

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