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The Newly Titled. Chapter 2. Working Tired. By Ross Lombardi.


The Newly Titled
By Ross Lombardi.


Chapter 2

Working while tired.

Three days earlier at Bright Valley Keep!

Jackie was tired.

She was the head housekeeper of the Dukes Keep.

She had spent the last 4 days and nights with little to no sleep attending her lord and master of the keep, the Duke of Bright Valley

When he finally died she wept for the man she knew so well and managed to grab a very restless three hours of sleep before returning to duty.

The Keep was not poor, or lacking is staff, but Jackie had felt a great non-romantic connection to the duke and did deeply love and care for him platonically.

She had just laid out the body of the dead Duke.

People talk about the laying out of a body in a romanticised way.

Maybe you are thinking of the crisp white sheet being replaced on the bed.

Perhaps you are imagining the gentle metaphor of the snuffing out of candles.

Your mind might drift to the thoughts of coins on eyelids and the sad kissing of a pale forehead goodbye.

What you are probably very unlikely to be thinking (unless you are a medical nurse) is the cleaning and sanitation of all the vomit and the cascade of endless expelled crap that burst like a ripe brown teenage zit in all directions as all the sphincters and Bowles all gave way at once.

While Jackie did not want to have her final precious memories spoiled by the sight of the Duke in such a state, it mattered far more to Jackie that no one else remembered him like this!

Despite the tiredness and sorrow, she pulled herself with a strength she never suspected she had to make sure that when anyone now came to see the body it would look like a pale man sleeping at peace, in crisp white linens with all of the romanticised props of the newly dead around him!

He was not going to have the indignity of looking like a smelly horror show!

Even then when all her soul screamed to do was “cry it out” she still had to keep her composure and keep going.

Messages had to be sent all the villages and the king himself of the Duke's death.

A barony like any large business had to be kept constantly managed.

While there was genuine shock and true sadness in the land the world did not stop just because the Duke had died!

Livestock, fields, weather and bandits did not stop or care about the Duke's death.

It was vital to the welfare of all subjects that a new head of the barony was appointed as quickly as possible.

With no immediate apparent male heir, Jackie hoped for a reply from the king quickly.

Jackie also knew that due to the nature of the illness that killed him that no temporary authority had been given to anyone to do all the little vital things that needed immediate decisions right now.

That tomorrow would be too late!

She could not legally make all decisions that needed making.

But that did not mean that they still did not need making NOW!

With a deep breath, Jackie started out of sheer necessity, acting outside of her authority.

She was extremely bright but also hanging by an emotional frayed string and was severely sleep-deprived.

Which is how the tragic mistake was made.

No one would realise or recognise any of the thousand good decisions she made that stopped hundreds starving that winter, or the diseases and crimes she had prevented by misusing the Duke's royal seal when there was no one else available!

Only this one stupid mistake.

One village had the best cows.

She knew that this one village did not pay any taxes and why.

Because of this, the letter sent to this one village was not really an instruction but instead only a humble request.

The note made it clear that it was only a request and in no way to be mistaken for any form of order!

They had the nicest cattle and she felt that the dearly missed friend at least deserve the best cow possible to mark the transition to the new Barron.

It never occurred for her to offer to purchase the cow.

Partly, again from emotional and physical exhaustion but also as being part of feudal society it did not seem that big a request under such extreme circumstances.

To emphasise the respect she had for them, she had sent her two only sons with the letter and to also hopefully collect a prized cow for the feast, for when the king had selected a new leader for the region.

With blurred vision and tormented soul, she sent this letter at the same time she wrote all the other instructions to all the other neighbouring villages.

Well into the night and barely able to think straight she painstakingly wrote by candlelight over 200 different letters in total!

In her broken state, she had carelessly addressed the instructions to all the villages as to “The Head of the Village”

This was absolutely fine for all the villages to accept one!

The was one single village in the kingdom who had a Chieftain in charge instead of a Village Head.

One single village for whom “Head of the village” had a VERY different meaning!

The very same village she had sent her two sons too.

Eric and Karl had never travelled much beyond the keep before and saw it as their first exciting bit of young man adventure!

They made themselves look smart and looked forward to trying their first pint away from home for the legendary local inn, the Chopped Off Head Pub!

The brothers hotly debated as they travelled on why the pub might be called that.

Two days ago, Jackie's sons Eric and Karl looked out from the wooden stockade.

They were branded thieves for trying to steal a prized cow by using the con of presenting a forged document claiming to be from the Duke.

No one believed them.

Only one person claimed to even be able to read,

A pretty lass dressed in rags and very drunk had tried to focus her eyes on the letter, then bust out laughing and waved at the local guards to,

“Take these fools away!”

“The real Duke would never address a letter here to the ‘Head of the Village’ in a million years,”

“Nice try lads, but unfortunately for you, we see through your attempted swindle and you are not going to get to learn from your mistakes!”

“At least that is what they think she was trying to say through the tears of hysteric laughter!”

As the story spread throughout, what now seemed to be a huge party, of the stupid outsider con men! So did the joke and the laughter!

Even Karl and Eric thought it was funny because they were sure that after the one night sleeping a bit rough it would all get sorted out and be a great harmless misadventure story to repeat and dine on in future!

They even discussed who would get to chat up the pretty drunk lass in rags.

Yesterday Eric no longer thought it was funny anymore.

Karl did not think it was funny either but then again Karl did not think about anything.

This is because Karl had his head driven onto a spike above the pub doorway.

Karl’s body was no longer attached to his head any more by this point,

The worst part was not watching a rotten head being kicked around by the same pretty young lass (no longer dressed in rags) and the chieftain of the village until it simply fell apart.

The worst part was not seeing the terror in his younger brothers’ eyes as he was dragged away!

The worst part was not even his brothers quickly silenced scream!

The very worst part happened shortly after the pretty young lass hugged the chief then got out what seems to be an outdoor craft activity table.

The very worst part was when she and her uncle cheerfully, gently chatted and connected while they helped each other brutally mutilate his bothers severed head in front of him!

The ears were carefully sown pinned back on the sides.

The hair was shaved, and the mouth carefully sealed closed and into a horrific grin.

The head was then dipped in several layers of varnish-like preservative like some gross toffee apple.

Carefully in bright leather sown in cord and colourful paint on the forehead, the lass carefully and skilfully put the words ‘Chopped off Head Pub’ both on Karl’s forehead and also slightly larger but in the same style on the back of the head!

The lass no longer seemed attractive to him anymore!

She was now in his eyes, the ugliest creature he had ever seen!

Then they joked as they slapped the head onto the spike above the pub doorway!

No amount of shouting screaming of pleading had helped.

No guards even told him to be quiet.

They simply ignored him as if he were no more than a loud chicken clucking!

Now Eric knew why the inn was called the ‘Chopped Off Head Pub’

For the record, it was Karl who had the correct theory about the pub's name on the way to travelling there.

The Chief passed Eggs small bag of some home food treats.

In that same bag as a very fancy golden letter with the king's seal confirming her right to be the Duchess.

Despite this letter, she would not take official possession until the Duchy coronation.

The letter gave her all authority to rule the lands but until it was official by the coronation then the land could not yet be entitled to the kingdom's protection.

Although weirdly enough the kingdom was still entitled to the any and all of the Duchies’ land and money!

Funny that!

“I am going to miss you.” Said the baron trying not to get emotional in front to the 12 mounted guard escort.

“I tell you what, as a sign of good faith for your new household why not take 3 or 4 best cows for your coronation feast.”

“Are you sure,” she said without any real challenge in her voice.

“We have plenty of livestock if someone else had been declared Duke we still would have sent at least two anyway.”

“We are proud of the high quality of our cow flesh; we would have been deeply insulted if any new Duke had not asked for at least one anyway!”

“If you are getting to be the new Duchess yourself, then you should at least arrive with more than two!”

“Thank you Uncle” Eggs smiled.

(Within clear hearing distance, in the background, Eric screamed until his throat bled in incandescent rage for the next hour. No one noticed!)

“Oh, and do try to be charming, tell a funny story at the fist dinner to try and break the ice. Do a charm offensive!” said the Chief.

“Mmm, I think I know just the story to tell…!” Replied Eggs

They two both took a moment to look at the beautiful new pub sign that they had spent their last afternoon together making, sharing a brief warm family bonding smile.

Neither of them knew if they would get to meet ever again.

One last hug and the new Duchess of Bright Valley Keep headed off to face her destiny!

Back at Bright Valley Keep, Jackie, the head housekeeper found it hard to stick to her duties.

She had to prepare for the arrival of the new Duchess after which she would only have 3 days to prepare the coronation feast.

And she had not heard from either of her sons.

They might have had a prize cow on them for the upcoming feast, maybe even two!

What if they had been robbed by bandits or even been killed.

Cattle thieves were getting more clever, successful and less direct lately!

What if they had been tricked!

She had recently heard a tenth hand account from a local trader, that some of them had recently even tried to use forged official documents to swindle cattle in one of the villages But they had been caught out by some obvious glaring error. Although the details were not clear.

She did not normally put much stock in such silly rumours.

Barley 1 in 20 lords could read, so the chances of peasant bandits being able to forge anything at all seemed a little too farfetched.

Still, she cursed herself for not considering sending an escort.

Now there had been that extremely surprising announcement of who the new ruler was and that the new Duchess was from that same village, maybe the lot of them would be travelling and arriving together!

Jackie still had no clue of the error of her misaddressed letter and its terrible consequence.

The first thing Eggs noticed was the sky was grey.

Which seems odd for spring in the lowlands.

The second thing Eggs noticed is that even though the sky was grey it was not chilly or cold.

The third thing she noticed was that she was naked,

The fourth thing, (that made sit up straight to look around properly) was that she was lying down.

It wasn’t that the sky was merely grey, everything was.

It was like a very thick pea soup fog.

But there was something wrong with the fog.

It had no variation of visual texture.

Just a perfect disorientating constant mat neutral grey blandness

What was weirder was that the ground was perfectly flat and equally grey.

In modern time someone might think they were in some sort of “Clean Room! The sort used in some light industry.

From a mediaeval technological perspective that did not have any such cultural references to draw upon, it was really disturbing!

There was also perfect silence.

No wait, Eggs could just about make up a distant scratching sound.

She walked towards it, not bashful of her nakedness like some startled princess, but instead low and stealthily ready for potential combat!

In a potential personal survival situation, she knew what her correct priorities should be!

She need not have worried about it.

This was not a potential personal survival situation,

Personal survival was not an issue!

A she got near, walking on this featureless flat plain, she could start to make out something scrapping towards her along the ground.

It seems to be a humanoid,

She got closer.

It was a human skeleton with both legs snapped off mid-thigh and only one arm. It was trying desperately but painfully move slowly towards her.

Half the upper skull was crushed in.

Eggs knew that the undead existed and that skeletons usually attack in a large group, usually controlled by a ‘Black Robe’!

They were also usually mindless.

This skeleton was not.

It looked up at Eggs and said in a low echoing voice.

“I am Death!”
“I have come for you!”

Eggs replied,

“How did I die?”


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