Chapter 9 —Rob And Francis Plan Their Escape From The Duke And Things Go Awry
The Duke, Rob and Francis stood in the Great Room making small talk. The Duke wasn't used to that and neither was Rob. The Duke only did it to impress the elf. Rob only did it for fear of his life. Francis stood mute trying to figure out what was going on and how he could use it to his and Rob's advantage. At least, to his advantage. Francis didn't feel comfortable around the Duke, him being royalty and royalty being not always sane.
The Duke was having trouble breathing through his nose due to Rob being very ripe. He made a decision, “I say, let us go outside and enjoy the fresh air.”
Rob and Francis thought that was a great idea; Francis because Rob stunk; Rob because something in there stunk to high heavens. The Duke went out of the Great Room to the door. Rob leaned over and whispered to Francis, “You’re an elf now? Being an elf won’t get us anywhere.”
Francis whispered back, “Ye being in the dungeon wasn’t ‘elping either. At least we’re closer to the gate.”
The Duke was standing at the door. He looked at Rob and at Francis. Rob looked at the Duke and Francis. Francis looked at the Duke and Rob.
“I say, this door won’t very well open itself, now will it?”, the Duke said.
Now Rob was looking at Francis and Francis was looking at Rob. Francis was making odd faces and twisting and turning his head. Rob thought he was having some sort of fit. Finally, he opened the outer door. The Duke went through and Francis scooted through ahead of Rob.
When they got into the courtyard they could tell that while the Duke was rich he wasn’t overly rich, or else he was cheap. The castle was all in one area, not divided into parts as was usual. There were all the parts but nothing seemed all that large. There were the kitchens, bakery, guard quarters and stables. Nothing looked fancy.
The entire staff lived where the kitchens and bakery was located. It was a cellar which protected it from the winter winds. The heat from the coking fires and the bakery ovens kept the downstairs very warm; warmer than the upper floors the royals lived on. The royalty would never come into the basement and didn’t know how the staff lived. They didn’t know how much food was bought or for how much. The staff lived as well as the Duke and Duchess did. They had to look presentable for serving the upper floors. What no one else knew was they dressed well all the time.
As they stood there wondering what the Duke wanted from them or planned for them the stable steward ran up to the Duke. He bowed his head and said,“Your Lordship, ye favorite mount is now down and I fear for the worse.”
“As well ye should. That ’orse is more valuable than ye.”
“Ye Lordship. Perhaps ye will allow Rob ’ere to look at the ’orse.’;e is a country boy and ye know ’;ow they are about animals”, Francis said.
As Rob gave Francis an incredulous look the Duke said,“Yes, they do seem to ’;ave a way with animals. I never understood it but, well, let us go and take a look. Remember, two paces back and to the left, if ye please.”
Rob whispered to Francis,“I don’t know anything about ’;orses or any animals. My father was, well is, a blacksmith. All I know about ’;orses is ’;ow to shoe them.”
“Yes, I know. The thing is, we need some sort of edge. Perhaps ye can ’;elp the ’;orse and perhaps ye can’t. If ye does, we ’;ave something. Nothing to lose.”
“Ye ’;ave nothing to lose. I might end up back in the dungeon. Think on that.”
“Oh, I think the steward is the one in trouble.”
They all walked down to the stable. The steward was walking reluctantly. Rob couldn’t resist leaning over and whispering,“Glad I’m not in ye shoes.” The steward seemed to whimper. Rob felt bad and wished he hadn’t said anything.
They went into the stable and the steward took them to a stall. The gate was open and the horse was lying on it’s side. It was large horse and didn’t look right to Rob. His stomach looked too large for a horse used on a regular basis. Something else seemed wrong-
“What?”, the steward said.
“What do you mean by that?”, the Duke said.
“Huh? Oh. Where’s the shit? Seems awfully clean in this stall. Ye must clean up often. Is that right?”, Rob said to the steward.
The steward mostly cleaned up when the Duke was going to go riding.
“I mean, did ye clean up today? If so,’;ow? This ’;orse didn’t get out of ye way, now did ’;e?”
“Well, no. I don’t see-”
“Yea, but I do. This ’;orse needs to ’;ave a good shit. ’;e’;s all stopped up.”
“Well, steward, what say ye?”, the Duke asked with a certain amount of anger.
“Yes, that could be right. I don’t know what I supposed to do about it.’;e’;ll shit when ’;e wants too just as we do”, the steward said and then regretted. He was sure the Duke took shits but ye weren’t to say so.
“Well, young Rob or whatever ye are called, what does ’;e need to do?”
“He needs to get as much lard and grease ’;ere as ’;e can, He also needs some rags.”
“What an I supposed to do with all that?”
“Well, ye get naked and smear ye right arm up with lots of lard and grease and then stick it up the ’orse’s ass. Ye keep doing it until ’;e shits. The rags are to clean ye self up afterward. It isn’t a pleasant job.”
“Neither is being ‘anged”, the Duke added.
It didn’t matter because the steward had fainted dead away.
“Now see ‘ere, ye cannot just lay there. This ‘orse needs to shit”, The Duke said.
They all stood there a moment watching as the steward didn’t move.
“Mayhaps he died. Well, be that as it may, someone ‘as to do it and it certainly won’t be me”, the Duke then said.
“Well, I can’t reach very far up ‘is ass so that leaves me out”, Francis piped in.
Rob didn’t get it at first. He stood there looking at the Duke, Francis and the horse. It finally dawned on him.
“Oh, no, I don’t want to do it.”
“Well, goodness gracious, I would hope ye wouldn’t want to do it. Ye shall do it since there is no one else. The elf and I will wait outside.‘e can lay there and take ‘is chances”, the Duke said pointing to the unconscious steward.
“Shit!”, thought Rob.
“Okay, Francis, take my clothes with ye.”
Rob stood there naked and feeling disgusted. He thought there was too much shit in the world now. Yet, here he was about to add to it. You can’t go ten feet without smelling it or stepping in it. The world would be so much better without the smell and constant getting it on you. Well, it has always been that way and always would be.
He put as much grease and oil on his arm as he could. He put a gob of it in his hand. He squatted down behind the horse. After taking a deep breath he rammed his arm up the horse‘s ass. The horse didn’t like it and kicked his legs out, missing Rob but catching the steward in the ribs. The steward didn’t make a sound so he was really out. Rob jumped up and back to see what would happen. He was about to repeat the procedure when he got a feeling the horse was about to go. Rob didn’t want to be there for that so he ran out of the stall and down the aisle. He heard a loud fart and turned to see shit flying out of the stall. There was a lot of in the air. Rob imagined there was a lot more in the stall. He wondered if the steward was going to drown. Then the smell hit him and he didn’t care. He pushed the door opened and ran outside.
“I say, my good man, ye are naked. I won’t ‘ave that. I-”. That was as far as the Duke got before the smell hit him. He immediately threw up. Francis got a whiff and joined the Duke. Rob saw that and made it a threesome. After a minute they were all three on their hands and knees, vomiting to the point of dry heaves.
The Duchess looked out the upstairs window at the scene. There was her husband rolling on the ground covered in something. There was a naked man doing the same. How interesting. Then she saw Francis. Oh my God, it’s an elf! It’s real, honest to goodness elf! She had never had an elf. How interesting!
The Duchess was adventurous, to say the least. She liked to live close to danger and didn’t mind if someone else was in danger with her. She was a nice enough lady as far ad it goes but it didn’t go to bed partners. The Duke bored her and she wasn’t gong to settle for that.
Meanwhile, the Duke, Rob and Francis were finished gagging. Then the steward stumbled out covered in shit. The gagging started back up. They were all lying there, worn out, when the Duke decided he’d had enough.
“That’s it, lads. I’m all done in. I’m going to go in and take a bath. I’ll have one of the servants draw a bath for ye, elf. Rob, I can’t very well ‘ave ye inside as a guest until I find out who, and what, ye are. I will ‘ave soap and some towels brought to ye. Ye can bathe by the moat. It’s reasonably clean. Then ye can get a meal in the kitchen. Chin up and all that.”
The Duke was soaking in his bath, all relaxed and trying to think about what to do with Rob and the elf. He wanted to keep the elf for display but he didn’t want Rob for anything. Yet, he knew the elf was friends with Rob and would be unhappy if Rob left. Wonder how much it would upset the elf if Rob died in an accident?
Rob was sitting beside the moat. As far as he was concerned, the moat smelled as bad as he did. Still, he washed up and dried himself off. As he finished he realized he had no clothes to put on. He wrapped himself in the towel and walked up to the gate. He was challenged.
“Who goes there?”
“What! It’s me. I look different because I don’t ‘ave shit all over me. I need clothes.”
“Does this look like a charity ‘ouse. Get thee away.”
“I’m a guest of the Duke and-”
“And nothing. The Duke’s guests don’t arrive naked. They sometimes get naked after they get ‘ere but not when they get’ ere. Be off!”
“Look, let me talk to the captain of the guard. Ye are making a mistake.”
“Alright, I will. If ye are the one making a mistake I shall kill ye.”
Turned out that the guard didn’t kill him. The Duke told Rob he was going to be the stable steward. Rob was going to object but thought better of it when Francis had another of his fits.
“Don’t be grinning at me, ye little bastard.”
“I’m nor grinning about ye. Take the job and I’ll think of a way out of the Duke’s clutches.”
“Ye? Ye think of a way? Mayhaps I’ll think of a way out.”
“Rob, ye could not think of a way to keep from being thrown into a dungeon. I’ll do the thinking on this.”
The old steward was given to Rob as a helper. He, too, didn’t want the job of stable boy but the Duke convinced him to take it. “It’s ’elper or ’anged.”
As Rob got to be ten years old his father decided it was time for him to learn how to be a blacksmith. It was time to do instead of just fetching and carrying. Rob didn’t see ti that way. He thought the fetching and carrying was too much as it was. Still, his father was going to teach him and he was going to learn.
“Rob, we can do this the easy way or with a stick. Ye choice.”
I know he’s my son but he’s a real pain in the ass. That boy needs some whipping to get him straightened out. He can’t get through life living as a lazy bum.
“Rob, bring the horse in. I’ll show ye ’ow to shoe it although ye ’ave seen it enough times that ye should already know. I know ye paid no attention so a word to the wise. Pay attention or ye are going to be ’urt by the ’orse. Got it?”
“Yea, sure, whatever ye say, yes, okay-”
“Shut the ’ell up or I‘m going to start on ye.”
His father went in back of the horse and pulled his leg up between his legs. He pulled the nails out. He placed it in the fire until it was white hot. He pounded on it until he thought it was the correct size. After cooling it off he again pulled the leg up between his and tried the fit. Not satisfied, he reheated it and pounded it some more. He cooled it off and repeated the steps until the shoe fit. He nailed it on the hoof and told Rob, “That’s all there is to it. Now, ye try it.”
What? Put a ’orse’s leg between mine. Is the old man crazy?
“Uh, umm, what if he suddenly kicks out. I would lose my, uh-”
“Don’t worry about it.”
Don’t worry about it? Okay, that makes sense. I don’t worry when he does it.
Rob slowly went around the horse. He kept a close eye on the rear leg. He-
“’ave confidence, lad. Don’t let ’im think ye are afraid.”
“I am afraid.”
“I know but don’t let ’im know it.”
“Sure.” Rob acted with all the confidence he could muster. It did no good. The horse knew he was afraid and kicked straight out. Rob went flying. he went screaming out of the shed. His father knew Rob wouldn’t ask him to take a look at him. There wasn’t anything you could do anyway. He thought Rob would go to his mother for solace.
Rob went outside, crying and trying not to scream too loud. He thought about going to mama but for what? ”Mama. Would ye look to see if my balls are still there?” No, better to gout out into the woods and look for himself.
It was a long time before he learned to shoe a horse.
Francis was becoming more and more worried about the Duchess. She was a stunning woman and very open to Francis. He knew if he did her and got caught he’d hang. Being short he’d hang very high. No, he’d have to rake a pass on her. She didn’t feel that way at all.
As the Duke went to the bar to pour more wine she leaned forward and said, “ If I were to tell His Lordship that ye invited me to ye room, herlsquo;d ‘ang ye.”
“Yes, I know., my Lady. I shall not.”
“If I tell‘im ye did that, ‘e would ‘ang ye.”
Oh, no! Irlsquo;m screwed any way ye look at this. I have to get away from her. After the Duchess went up to her rooms Francis told the Duke, “As an elf Irlsquo;m required to do an incantation at the full moon. If I do not, a curse will fall upon those around me. I need ‘elp with it and I want Rob to ‘elp me.”
The Duke was big on curses. He thought either he was cursed or everyone else was. He told Francis to do as he needed but to come back and not make him hunt him down. Francis went to the stable and told Rob they were leaving.
“Full moon? Ye don’t become a werewolf do ye?”
“What? No. There are no such things as werewolves. We will go into the forest, light a fire, make some noise and run away as fast and as far as we can before the Duke realizes we arenrlsquo;t returning. After that itrlsquo;s a straight shot to the Land of Enchantment.”
There are people living on the edge in what is called Appalachia. They’re called ridgerunners, rednecks, hillbillies and backwoods mountaineers. No one thinks of them very often. They don’t earn much to society’s standards.They stay where they are because they love the area. They are hard workers when they have work and self-sufficient to an extent not known to “outsiders.” They are also very funny; they have a great sense of humor about themselves.
They are the salt of the earth and the backbone of America. Their stories are America's stories. These are the stories Of Appalachia.
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More stories of the people of Appalachia.
More of Joe Bob, Bubba and Earl, Mosh Henry and all of the rest of the good folks in Wabash County.
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