Fool Chapter 10




The sky threatened a dismal dawn as we reached Castle Albany. The drawbridge was up.

"Who goes there?" shouted the sentry.

"'Tis Lear's fool, Pocket, and his man at arms, Caius." Caius is the name the witches gave Kent to use to bind his disguise. They'd cast a glamour on him: his beard and hair were now jet black, as if by nature, not soot, his face lean and weathered, only his eyes, as brown and gentle as a moo cow's, showed the real Kent. I advised him to pull down the wide brim of his hat should we encounter old acquaintances.

"Where in bloody hell have you been?" asked the sentry. He signaled and the bridge ground down. "The old king's nearly torn the county apart looking for you. Accused our lady of tying a rock to you and casting you in the North Sea, he did."

"Seems a spot o' bother. I must have grown in her esteem. Just last night she was only going to hang me."

"Last night? You drunken sot, we've been looking for you for a month."

I looked at Kent and he at me, then we at the sentry. "A month?"

"Bloody witches," said Kent under his breath.

"If you turn up we're to take you to our lady immediately," said the sentry.

"Oh, please do, gentle guard, your lady does so love seeing me at first light."

The sentry scratched his beard and seemed to be thinking. "Well spoken, fool. Perhaps you lot could do with some breakfast and a wash-up before I take you to my lady."

The drawbridge thumped into place. I led Kent across, and the sentry met us by the inner gate.

"Beggin' your pardon, sir," the sentry said, directing his speech to Kent. "You wouldn't mind waiting until eight bells to reveal the fool's return, would you?"

"That when you're off watch, lad?"

"Aye, sir. I'm not sure I want to be the bearer of the joyous news of the wayward fool's arrival. The king's knights have been raising rabble round the castle for a fortnight and I've heard our lady cursing the Black Fool as part of the cause."

"Blamed even in my absence?" said I. "I told you, Caius, she adores me."

Kent patted the sentry on the shoulder. "We'll escort ourselves, lad, and tell your lady we came through the gate with the merchants in the morning. Now, back to your post."

"Thank you, good sir. But for your rough clothes, I'd take you for a gentleman."

"But for my clothes, I'd be one," said Kent, his grin a dazzle amid his newly-black beard.

"Oh, for fuck's sake, would you two just have a gobble on each other's knob and be done with it," said I.

The two soldiers leapt back as if each was on fire.

"Sorry, just having you on," said I, as I breezed by them and into the castle. "You poofters are such a sensitive lot."

"I'm not a poofter," said Kent as we approached Goneril's chambers.

Midmorning. The time in between allowed us to eat, wash, do some writing, and ascertain that we had, indeed, been gone for over a month, despite it seeming only overnight to us. Perhaps that was the hags' payment? To extract a month from our lives in exchange for the spells, potions, and prognostication - it seemed a fair price, but bloody complicated to explain.

Oswald sat at a scribe's desk outside the duchess's chambers. I laughed and wagged Jones under his nose.

"Still guarding the door like a common footman, then, Oswald? Oh, the years have been good to you."

Oswald wore only a dagger at his belt, no sword, but his hand fell to it as he stood.

Kent dropped his hand to his sword and shook his head gravely. Oswald sat back down on his stool.

"I'll have you know that I'm both steward and chamberlain, as well as trusted adviser to the duchess."

"A veritable quiver of titles she's given you to sling. Tell me, do you still answer to toady and catch-fart, or are those titles only honorary now?"

"All better than common fool," Oswald spat.

"True, I am a fool, and also true, I am common, but I am no common fool, catch-fart. I am the Black Fool, I have been sent for, and I shall be given entry to your lady's chambers, while you, fool, sit by the door. Announce me."

I believe Oswald growled then. A new trick he'd learned since the old days. He'd always tried to cast my title as an insult, and boiled that I took it as a tribute. Would he ever understand that he found favor with Goneril not because of his groveling or devotion, but because he was so easily humiliated? Good, I suppose, that he'd learned to growl, beaten down dog that he was.

He stormed through the heavy door, then returned a minute later. He would not look me in the eye. "My lady will see you now," he said. "But only you. This ruffian can wait in the kitchen."

"Wait here, ruffian," said I to Kent. "And make some effort not to bugger poor Oswald here, no matter how he should beg for it."

"I'm not a poofter," said Kent.

"Not with this villain, you're not," said I. "His bum is property of the princess."

"I'll see you hanged, fool," said Oswald.

"Aroused by the thought, are you, Oswald? No matter, you'll not have my ruffian. Adieu."

Then I was through the doors, and into Goneril's chambers. Goneril sat to the back of a great, round room. Her quarters were housed in a full tower of the castle. Three floors: this hall for meeting and business, another floor above it would have rooms for her ladies, her wardrobe, bathing and dressing, the top would be where she slept and played, if she still played.

"Do you still play, pumpkin?" I asked. I danced a tight-stepped jig and bowed.

Goneril waved her ladies away.

"Pocket, I'll have you - "

"Oh, I know, hanged at dawn, head on a pike, guts for garters, drawn and quartered, impaled, disemboweled, beaten, and made into bangers and mash - all your dread pleasures visited on me with glorious cruelty - all stipulated, lady - duly noted and taken as truth. Now, how may a humble fool serve before his hour of doom descends?"

She twisted up her lip as if to snarl, then burst out laughing and quickly looked around to make sure that no one saw her. "I will, you know - you horrible, wicked little man."

"Wicked? Moi?" said I in perfect fucking French.

"Tell no one," she said.

It had always been that way with Goneril. Her "tell no one," however, applied only to me, not to her, I had found out.

"Pocket," she once said, brushing her red-gold hair near a window, where it caught the sun and seemed to shine as if from within. She was perhaps seventeen then, and had gotten in the habit of calling me to her chambers several times a week and questioning me mercilessly.

"Pocket, I am to be married soon, and I am mystified by man bits. I've heard them described, but that's not helping."

"Ask your nurse. Isn't she supposed to teach you about such things?"

"Auntie's a nun, and married to Jesus. A virgin."

"You don't say? She went to the wrong bloody convent, then."

"I need to talk to a man, but not a proper man. You are like one of those fellows that Saracens have look over their harems."

"A eunuch?"

"See, you are worldly and know of things. I need to see your willie."

"Pardon? What? Why?"

"Because I've never seen one, and I don't want to seem naïve on my wedding night when the depraved brute ravages me."

"How do you know he's a depraved brute?"

"Auntie told me. All men are. Now, out with your willie, fool."

"Why my willie? There's willies aplenty you can look at. What about Oswald? He may even have one, or knows where you can get hold of one, I'll wager." (Oswald was her footman then.)

"I know, but this is my first, and yours will be small and not so frightening. It's like when I was learning to ride, and first father gave me a pony, but then, as I got older..."

"All right, then, shut up. Here."

"Oh, would you look at that."


"That's it, then?"

"Yes. What?"

"Nothing really to be afraid of then, was there? I don't know what all the fuss is about. It's rather pitiful if you ask me."

"It is not."

"Are they all this small?"

"Most are smaller, in fact."

"May I touch it?"

"If you feel you must."

"Well, would you look at that."

"See, now you've angered it."

"Where in God's name have you been?" she said. "Father's been a madman looking for you. He and his captain have gone out on patrol every day and well into the evening, leaving the rest of his knights to wreak havoc on the castle. My lord has sent soldiers as far as Edinburgh asking after you. I should have you drowned for all the worry you've caused."

"You did miss me, didn't you?" I cradled the silk purse at my belt, wondering when best to spring the spell. And once she was bewitched, how exactly would I use the power?

"He was supposed to be in Regan's care, but by the time he moves his bloody hundred knights all the way to Cornwall it will be my turn again. I can't abide the rabble in my palace."

"What does Lord Albany say?"

"He says what I tell him to say. It's all intolerable."

"Gloucester," said I, offering the very model of a non sequitur wrapped in an enigma.

"Gloucester?" asked the duchess.

"The king's good friend is there. It's mid-way between here and Cornwall, and the Earl of Gloucester daren't deny the request of the dukes of both Albany and Cornwall. You wouldn't be leaving the king without care, yet you wouldn't have him underfoot, either." With the witches' warning about Drool in danger there, I was determined for all the drama to descend on Gloucester. I sat down on the floor near her feet, held Jones across my knees, and waited, both I and the puppet wearing jolly grins.

"Gloucester..." said Goneril, letting a bit of a smile seep out. She really could be lovely when she forgot she was cruel.

"Gloucester," said Jones, "the dog's bollocks of western bloody Blighty."

"Do you think he'll agree to it? It's not how he laid out his legacy."

"He won't agree to Gloucester, but he'll agree to go to Regan's by way of Gloucester. The rest will be up to your sister." Should I have felt myself a traitor? No, the old man brought this on himself.

"But if he doesn't agree, and he has all these men?" She looked me in the eye now. "It's too much power in the hands of the feeble."

"And yet, he had all the power of the kingdom not two months ago."

"You've not seen him, Pocket. The legacy and banishment of Cordelia and Kent was just the beginning. Since you went away he's gotten worse. He searches for you, he hunts, he rails about his days as a soldier of Christ one minute, then calls to the gods of Nature the next. With a fighting force of that size - if he should feel that we've betrayed him - "

"Take them," said I.

"What? I couldn't."

"You have seen my apprentice, Drool? He eats with his hands or with a spoon, we dare not let him have a knife or fork, lest the points imperil all."

"Don't be obtuse, Pocket. What of Father's knights?"

"You pay them? Take them. For his own good. Lear with his train of knights is like a child running with a sword. Are you cruel to relieve him of deadly force, when he is neither strong enough, nor wise enough to wield it? Tell Lear he must dismiss fifty of his knights and their attendants and keep them here. Tell him they will be at his beck and call when he is in residence."

"Fifty? Just fifty?"

"You must leave some for your sister. Send Oswald to Cornwall with your plan. Have Regan and Cornwall make haste to Gloucester so they are there upon Lear's arrival. Perhaps they can bring Gloucester into the fold. With Lear's knights dismissed, the two whitebeards can reminisce about their glory days and crawl together to the grave in peaceful nostalgia."

"Yes!" Goneril was becoming breathless now, excited. I'd seen it before. It wasn't always a good sign.

"Quickly," said I, "send Oswald to Regan while the sun is high."

"No!" Goneril sat forward quickly, her bosom nearly spilling out of her gown, which captured my attention more than her fingernails digging into my arm.

"What?" said I, the bells of my coxcomb but a finger's breath from jingling her d��colletage.[30]

"There is no peace for Lear in Gloucester. Haven't you heard? The earl's son Edgar is a traitor."

Had I heard? Had I heard? Of course, the bastard's plan was afoot. "Of course, lady, where do you think I've been?"

"You've been all the way to Gloucester?" She was panting now.

"Aye. And back. I've brought you something."

"A present?" She showed the delighted, wide grey-green eyes she'd had when she was a girl. "Perhaps I won't hang you, but punishment is due you, Pocket."

Then the lady grabbed me and pulled me across her lap, face-down. Jones rolled to the floor beside me. "Lady, perhaps - "

Smack! "There, fool, I've hit it. Hit it. Hit it. Hit it. So give it. Give it. Give it." A smack with every iamb.[31]

"Bloody hell, you insane tart!" I squirmed. My ass burned with her handprint.

Smack! "Oh good God!" said Goneril. "Yes!" She wiggled under me now.


"Ouch! It's a letter! A letter," said I.

"I'll see your little bum as red as a rose!"


I squirmed in her lap, turned, grabbed her bosoms and pulled myself upright until I was sitting in her lap. "Here." I pulled the sealed parchment out of my jerkin and held it out.

"Not yet!" said she, trying to roll me over and get back to smacking my bum.

She honked my codpiece.

"You honked my codpiece."

"Aye, give it up, fool." She tried to get a hand under my codpiece.

I reached into the silk purse and retrieved one of the puffballs as I tried to keep my manhood out of her grasp. I heard a door open.

"Surrender the willie!" said the duchess.

She had it then, there was nothing I could do. I squoze the puffball under her nose.

"It's from Edmund of Gloucester," said I.

"Milady?" said Oswald, who was standing in the doorway.

"Let us down, pumpkin," said I. "The catch-fart needs his task set."

It all smacked of history.

The game had progressed further that first day, when Oswald first interrupted us, all those years ago, but it had begun, as always, with one of Goneril's query sessions.

"Pocket," said she, "since you were raised in an abbey, I should think you know much about punishment."

"Aye, lady. I had my share, and it didn't end there. I still endure an inquisition almost daily in these very chambers."

"Gentle Pocket, surely you jest?"

"That is part of the job, mum."

She stood then, and dismissed the ladies from her solar with a minor tantrum. When they were gone she said, "I've never been punished."

"Aye, lady, well, you're Christian, there's always time." I'd left the Church with a curse after they walled up my anchoress and I was leaning heavily pagan at the time.

"No one is allowed to strike me, so there's always been a girl to take my punishment for me. My spankings."

"Aye, mum, as it should be. Spare the royal withers and all."

"And I feel funny about it. Just last week I mentioned during mass that Regan might be a bit of a cunt, and my whipping girl was soundly spanked for it."

"Might as well have whipped her for your calling the sky blue, eh? A beating for talking truth, of course you felt funny about it."

"Not that kind of funny, Pocket. Funny like when you taught me about the little man in the boat."

It had been a verbal lesson only, shortly after she'd insisted I teach her about manly bits. But it had kept her amused, on and off, for a fortnight. "Oh, of course," said I. "Funny."

"I need to be spanked," said Goneril.

"A constant, I'd agree, lady, but again we're declaring the sky blue, aren't we?"

"I want to be spanked."

"Oh," said I, eloquent and quick-witted rascal that I am. "That's different."

"By you," said the Princess.

"Fuckstockings," I thus declared my doom.

Well, by the time Oswald came into the room that first time, both the princess and I were as red-bottomed as Barbary monkeys, quite naked (except for my hat, which Goneril had donned) and administering rhythmically to each other's front sides. Oswald was somewhat less than discreet about it all.

"Alarm! Alarm! My lady is ravaged by a fool! Alarm!" said Oswald, fleeing from the room, to raise the alarm through the castle.

I caught up to Oswald as he entered the great hall, where Lear was sitting on his throne, Regan sitting at his feet to one side, doing needlepoint, Cordelia at the other, playing with a doll.

"The fool has violated the princess!" Oswald announced.

"Pocket!" said Cordelia, dropping her doll and running to my side, sporting a great, goofy grin. She was perhaps eight then.

Oswald stepped in front of me. "I found the fool rutting the princess Goneril like a rapacious goat, sire."

"'Tis not true, nuncle," said I. "I was called to the lady's solar this morning only to jest her out of a morning funk, which can be smelt upon her breath if you have doubts."

At that point Goneril came running into the room, trying to arrange her skirts as she moved. She stopped beside me and curtsied before her father. She was breathless, barefoot, and one breast peeked Cyclopean out the bodice of her gown. I snatched my coxcomb off her head with a jingle and concealed it behind my back.

"There, fresh as a flower," said I.

"Hello, sister," said Cordelia.

"Morning, lamb," said Goneril, blindfolding the pink-eyed Cyclops with a quick tuck.

Lear scratched his beard and glared at his eldest daughter.

"What ho, daughter," said he. "Hast thou shagged a fool?"

"Methinks any wench who shags a man hath shagged a fool, Father."

"That was a distinct no," said I.

"What is shagged?" asked Cordelia.

"I saw it," said Oswald.

"Shag a man and shag a fool, one is the same as another," said Goneril. "But this morning I have your Fool shagged, righteous and rowdy. I bonked him until he cried out for gods and horses to pull me off."

What was this? Was she hoping for more punishment?

"That is so," said Oswald. "I heard the call."

"Shagged, shagged, shagged!" said Goneril. "Oh, what is this I feel? Tiny bastard fools stirring in my womb. I can hear their tiny bells."

"You lying tart," said I. "A fool is no more born with bells than a princess with fangs, both must be earned."

Lear said, "If that were true, Pocket, I'd have a halberd run up your bum."

"You can't kill Pocket," said Cordelia. "I'll need him to cheer me when I'm visited by the red curse, and a horrible melancholy comes over me," said Cordelia.

"What are you on about, child?" said I.

"All women get it," said Cordelia. "They must be punished for Eve's treachery in the garden of evil. Nurse says it makes you ever so miserable."

I patted the child's head. "For fuck's sake, sire, you've got to get the girls some teachers who aren't nuns."

"I should be punished!" said Goneril.

"I've had my curse for simply months," said Regan, not even bothering to look up from her needlepoint. "I find that if I go to the dungeon and have some prisoners tortured I feel better."

"No, I want my Pocket," said Cordelia, starting to whine now.

"You can't have him," said Goneril. "He's to be punished, too. After what he's done."

Oswald bowed for no particular reason. "May I suggest his head on a pike on the London Bridge, sire, to discourage any more debauchery?"

"Silence!" said Lear, standing. He came down the steps, walked past Oswald, who fell to his knees, and stood before me. He put his hand on Cordelia's head.

The old king locked his hawk's gaze upon me. "She didn't speak for three years before you came," he said.

"Aye, sire," said I, looking down.

He turned to Goneril. "Go to your quarters. Have your nurse tend to your illusions. She will see that there is no issue from it."

"But, Father, the fool and I - "

"Nonsense, you're a maid," said Lear. "We have agreed to deliver you thus to the Duke of Albany and so it is true."

"Sire, the lady has been violated," said Oswald, desperate now.

"Guards! Take Oswald to the bailey and flog him twenty lashes for lying."

"But, sire!" Oswald squirmed as two guards seized his arms.

"Twenty lashes to show my mercy! Another word of this, ever, and your head will decorate London Bridge."

We watched, stunned, as the guards dragged Oswald away, the unctuous footman weeping and red-faced from trying to hold his tongue.

"May I go watch?" Goneril asked.

"Go," Lear said. "Then to your nurse."

Regan was on her feet now and had skipped to her father's side. She looked at him hopefully, up on her toes, clapping her hands lightly in anticipation.

"Yes, go," said the king. "But you may only watch."

Regan streamed out of the hall after her older sister, her raven hair flying behind her like a dark comet.

"You're my fool, Pocket," said Cordelia, taking my hand. "Come, help me. I'm teaching Dolly to speak French." The little princess led me away. The old king watched us go without another word, one white eyebrow raised and his hawk eye burning under it like a distant frozen star.

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies