The Siege of Pugglemunt Pt 14 (party)

Chapter Ten: In Which We DANCE!

“HoiST ME Up LADs!”

The feast had gotten out of hand in a big way. And well – who gave a shit! In fear that we might all be killed the next morning, nobody was worried about their waistline; not one of us, not one Pugglemuntian gave a thought to their hangover. We’d gorged and sung and kissed and fought, and the mead had flowed like summer wind, and I’d drunk a vat of wine and tied my hair up in a ponytail and told Glob I wanted to marry her. Everybody was laughing and mad, everything was woozy and whirring. Drums! Bagpipes! A roaring big fire and mandolins! Mando-fucking-lins!


A topless Sir Sleeves and a robeless Quincy the Wizard heaved on the rope they’d lobbed up and looped around the chandelier, and gradually my semi-nude, wine-soaked form was winched above the broiling, sweating, cheering masses.


The crowd roared in delight, peasants and knights alike, and I laughed and span about like a spider on a web-strand. I took a huge swig from the wine jug in my hand and poured the rest into the open mouths of everybody below.

“ANoTHER TOaST TO MY kNIGhTS!” I howled, as I clapped into a stone pillar and rebounded away across the hall. “Ow.”

Down below a fistfight had broken out between two bands of peasants, and through blurry eyes I saw somebody sling an entire wheel of cheese the full length of the room. It splodged into Captain Plug, who was arm wrestling Fletcher Brightly while Madame Shadow refereed. Fletcher Brightly tried to use the distraction to slam her down, but Madame Shadow slapped him and everybody cackled and cheered.

“TO SiR BAShFul!L,” I cried, pinballing around the rafters. “ANd mR WIGGLe! MY bROTHERS! WE LOVED THEE!”

A cheer rose up from the crowd and drinks were hoisted high, just as the rope suspending me creaked, frayed, and snapped all at once. I plunged twenty feet and landed atop a sow somebody had dragged into the hall. It squealed and squirmed out from under me and made a bolt for the door, knocking off Roy’s left arm as it bucked past.

“Oh dear!” chuckled Roy, who’d been entertaining a gaggle of peasants by dancing around in formation with his mice. He’d really come out of his shell once we used his sack to mop up a couple of the heftier wine spillages.

“Guh,” I groaned, staggering upright.

I felt a stinging sensation and squinted down at my torso, and was surprised to find there was a knife in it. It seemed I’d rolled off the piggy and straight onto the cutlery tray.


I pulled it out and blood spurted everywhere and I went ‘oh’ and stumbled over to Quincy the Wizard.

“Wincy the Quizard, can you — hic — been stabbed. Mend me?”

My Wizard, who had been doing magic tricks to impress a chiselled young man, paused his game of ‘guess which cup the ball’s under’ to zap my little stab-line closed.

I gave him a swaying thumbs up and patted the chiselled young man on the shoulder, just as Captain Plug was booted across a table and skidded to a halt in front of me.

“Hello Sire,” said Captain Plug, gazing up from the flagstones with unfocussed eyes.

I offered her my hand and helped her up.

“C’mon, Captain. Le’s sing!”

With my Sewer Captain in tow, I staggered up the throne-steps and leapt up onto my throne.

“Get on— get on my shodlers,” I hiccupped.

Captain Plug, whose steaming eyes were shrunk almost to oblivion, nodded solemnly and clambered up and over me. Steadying herself on the throne, she took a seat on my shoulders while I held onto her calves.

“Everone. EVERONE SHUT uP!”

Nobody shut up but this was sort of to be expected.


That got them listening. Everybody loves the Golden Gallop: t’is an age-old song and dance invented by my ancestors; the crescendo of any party. The crowd cheered gaily at the announcement and tossed their flagons high in the air in elation (then covered their heads quickly before they fell back down).

I stepped down from my throne with Captain Plug on my shoulders, wobbling all over, (I’d have gone clattering down the stairs completely if an eye-rolling Lady Blanket hadn’t used her spear-butt to shunt me back upright) and teetered to the centre of the room. As the crowd arranged themselves into three lines (which of course then formed into circles), I gave a nod to the band, and they leapt into life with the song’s first jangling, bouncy bars. Spreading my arms wide, I began to sing!

Now, in the Golden Gallop there’s a bit for the leader (me) and a bit for everyone else (you). I’ll put your bit in brackets so you can practise at home. And when we all sing together I’ll make it a different colour. Lovely!

In South Munt-Puggle I was born
(Thieve away, brawl away)
In South Munt-Puggle, in a storm!
(We’re bound for South Munt-Puggle)

Now, the first verse (the one I just did) is calm, but then it all boots off. YES! Remember those three circles? The first circle rotates clockwise (we have rudimentary clocks, this is not an anachronism), while the other two rotate counter-clockwise and everybody holds hands.

Now the tricky bit! Each circle divides into couples, and the circles begin to grow and shrink as the pairs skip around and twirl one another. And I spun around in the centre of it all! So caught up in the dance was I that I quite forgot I had Captain Plug on my shoulders and clanged her head not once, but eight times into the chandelier.

As I was sloshed one morning fair
(Sleaze away, maul away
I met with a great dirty bear!
(We’re bound for South Munt-Puggle

Just one thing was on my mind
(Cleave away, crawl away
Leaving that bear far behind
(We’re bound for South Munt-Puggle)

The pipers were blue in the face, the drummers were slick with sweat, veins were throbbing on the bagpiper’s forehead, and the mandolinorian’s fingers were a-bleedin’ and a-blurrin’. I was soaked to the bone and stripped to the waist, leaping between the rotating circles, which had now begun to merge in and out of one another while hopping on one foot. I grabbed Captain Plug’s ankles and lifted her off my shoulders, then began to swing her around the hall by her legs, both of us laughing so hard we couldn’t see anything. Then, with a sudden ‘whup’ sound, she slid out of her boots and flew across the room and hit a gigantic gong somebody had brought in when I wasn’t looking.

There was silence for a long moment while the gong rang out — then Captain Plug hopped back up with a smile that showed a missing tooth, and we all leapt back into the dance with wild and hollering enthusiasm. Legs kicked, skirts whirled, faces blurred, fists flew, wine sloshed, lips met, everything at once; a great tussle beneath a laughing moon – a moon that, for all anyone knew,  may prove our last.


In the wee hours of the morn, all but I had limped home to bed. I’d watched them go in dribs and drabs, drifting off in pairs to (eventually) sleep. Quincy the Wizard had gone off with the chiselled young man. Captain Plug had left hand in hand with Fletcher Brightly. Sir Sleeves had tried it on with Lady Blanket, been immediately whacked, and found solace in the arms of Madame Shadow. It was very quiet now that everyone had left.

I sat alone on the steps beneath my throne, swaying gently above the trashed hall, and looked at the golden cup in my hand. It was almost empty.  I know I really ought not to have had another, but then self restraint is one Kingly quality I’ve always lacked. Come to think of it, it’s a quality that most Kings lack, because whenever you want to do something from the age of roughly — I don’t know, eleven? — everybody around you falls over themselves to make it happen. That’s a lot of — what’s the opposite of pressure? Lightness? Freedom? That’s a lot of lightness, which in the end can send you just as loopy as heaviness.

“WINE BOY,” I yelled, which is what I called my Water Boy after 8pm.

Footsteps behind me. Someone scraped a chair to one side, and a foot kicked an empty bottle and sent it tinkling across the stone floor.

“There you are, lad. Be a dear and fill up thine King’s chalice, would you? Then carry me up to bed.”

The footsteps stopped at my side, but nobody bent to refill my chalice. Annoyed, I glanced up, my eyebrows swivelling into their ‘scolding’ position.

“Oh,” I said. “It’s you.”

And then everything went black.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *