An excerpt from a short story I’m working on. Finished, but still in need of some tightening up.
As with so many of these stories, it all began on an early autumnal morn, all frost and fog quite unlike the usual September weather. A handsome young rider on a glossy steed sped across the moor to reach a black stoned castle high up on the hill lands of the Scottish border.
Perhaps, an introduction is warranted.
Young Lord George Grevindale was as fine and hearty a young lord as any other, the local tenants liked to say. You could go up and down the country and you would be hard beaten to find a lustier heir as full of vim, they said. They felt somewhat assured that, unlike some of the other baronets and dukes who got themselves new airs from the Continent, Young Lord George would never think to go increasing rents to fund a spot of ‘touring’, bumbling along from crumbling ruin to crumbling ruin. Nor need they fear any interference in the form of ‘improvements’ which usually included razing a village or two for a more picturesque view from the Great House. No, they said, their Young Lord George was a kind rarely found in England these days and they were glad of it.
Of course, this could have been due to the fact that Young Lord George was in fact a young Lady, a Lady Cartimandua Grevindale no less. However, she had been called Young Lord George for so long that nobody commented on it as especially strange, or at least no stranger than the way Miller’s wife made butter that tasted of blue cheese or Old Man Trought was known to occasionally roam the streets at night in nothing but his underclothes.
Rather, it was all considered perfectly natural for one of Lord George’s class to have a few eccentricities. To be sure, there were far worst things than a Lady of the Great House with a penchant for breeches and mastiffs.
Her second christening had come as a result of some fancy she’d taken as a child, when overhearing news of Prince George, the much beloved son of good Queen Charlotte. He had been described by one of her father’s guests as a prince of a hearty stomach and good sense, a prince much needed by the realm if the agitations elsewhere were to be paid any heed, to which the young Lady Cartimandua, already known as a girl fonder of her fencing lessons than her needlework had declared, “Well! I shall have him for a namesake as he seems just the right sort for me!”
Thus the new Lord George was born. For days she would insist on calling herself George, and the entire household acquiesced, the servants out of fondness for the girl with her rough and ready ways, her father out of a gruff sort of instinct and her mother, out of an over familiarity with her daughters’ fits and piques. The only person who would insist on calling her by the name Cartimandua was her mother’s sister, Aunt Hyacinthe, but even she would slip out a George in her unguarded moments of softness.
George did not seem to especially mind, for she answered to both names if she so wished, although neither more often than not. The name bequeathed by her father was hardly one to be sneered at, for, a student of Celtic history, he had named her after one of their famous flame headed warrior queens. Still, in every other respect, it was often said that George suited her just as well. She puffed a pipe like a George, swilled brandy like a George, cleared her plate (occasionally the whole table) like a George, fenced for her honour like a George and scoffed at dry books and learning like any George bitterly contemplating their assumed destiny for the dusty halls of Oxford. “Rather go on tour!”, she was regularly to mutter. Not that she had much taste for the exotic, but she would be dashed if she had to spend a moment longer being tutored in Plutarch and Homer than was strictly necessary. Her taste for plain, solid food was shared by Cook who as a result was inordinately fond of her young mistress who so unceasingly demanded large portions of roast beef and Yorkshire puddings.
The only folk who it might be said were less charmed by these innumerable qualities were those of the main town who were more likely to be heard making rather fussy comments about what a strange set of habits for a Young Lady not to have grown out of. It was widely believed that their pique was nothing more than disappointment for it had been expected that they might find a worthy patron in Young Lady Cartimandua as they had in the previous Lady Grevindale, her mother, who had been a regular customer at the silk and lace merchants with a rare eye and exquisite taste, or so everyone said. This was before she departed this realm performing her duty of birthing an heir to the Estate (a duty the babe had clearly not been so taken with as he had quickly retired from this mortal plane to follow the steps of his beautiful mother), a fate that no amount of taste could hope to repeal.
Still, there was not much else for them to complain about. Even if they could no longer expect to be enlisted amongst the great tradesmen of the land, visited by any number of Lady Cartimandua’s charming friends, hunting season always brought a great deal of business, as when the gentlemen attended Lord Grevindale’s hunts, so too did their wives and daughters.
But that is not where our story is concerned (in case you are curious, Lord George was eventually able to win over her skeptical tenants. Always a one for discovering technical wonders, she bestowed upon the town an honour not easily dismissed: that of being the site of the first successful interplanetary mercantile ship, an honour they remember to this day).
No, as I began, our story is concerned with the happenings that led to our young heroine riding furiously on an unseasonably cold September’s morning to a forbidding gothic monstrosity barely 5 miles from the Scottish border. She rode with a passion, determined to beat a dare and collect the winnings owed. For you see, if there was one thing Lord George hated more than anything, it was a boaster, and even worse, a boaster who boasted about accomplishments that were not even their own.