by Martin Bolton
A rasping fart rattled the privy seat and echoed around the chamber. Grandpriest Morbic grimaced. White knuckles gripped his bunched robe as he hunched forward, groaning. Sweat and drool slid down his beard. He breathed in deep and gave another push, teeth clenched, eyes bulging with the strain. Finally there was a heavy “thunk” – a sound somewhere between a splash and a thud.
Exultant, Morbic gathered up his robes and wiped his slickened beard on the back of one trembling hand. He took another breath and let out a long sigh, specs of spital flew like little fireworks from his lips, a celebratory display in honour of his achievement. He stood slowly, feeling a wave of pins and needles wash over his legs. As he turned and gazed down into the privy to inspect the fruits of his labour, his face dropped.
“Curse my bowels!” he growled. “The one morning the gods see fit to grant me a solid stool they take it away before I can lay eyes upon it.”
Morbic turned away in disgust. Curse my life, he thought, curse the misfortunate that has befallen me. Curse the demon offspring that common whore of a maid whelped upon me.
He had not been well since his maid, Parmina had died. She left him Pelig, a sullen boy of twelve, and Grenda, a tearful girl of eight. He would never have allowed them to stay if he hadn’t felt partially responsible for their existence, but he’d decided to be generous. Now he wished he had drowned the pair of them at birth as he had with all the other shrieking pups spawned of the wanton wenches he’d employed over his long and illustrious career.
Parmina had died in childbirth, or so he told everyone. He’d actually smashed her head in with a coal shovel the moment the girl Grenda had come oozing into the world in a welter of blood and shit. He had no choice, he’d seen her smiling at one of the knights at his church congregation. He could tell by the way the witless buffoon smiled back they were in love. And when people fall in love they tell each other everything. He couldn’t have this knight, with all his foolish notions of chivalry and justice, hearing how he had raped his maid for years and fathered two dirty sprogs. That wouldn’t do at all. It would harm his career, he was the Grandpriest. He was a role model.
He was sure the boy, Pelig, had some inkling of the truth about his mother. He’d seen the look on the boy’s face every time he barked an order or thrashed his sister – there was a spark of defiance there, it was faint and buried deep, but it would blossom before too long. I will have to do away with him too. Morbic was getting old and the boy was getting bigger, soon the tables would turn. Perhaps a dose of the purple shakes was in order, or a poison with similar effects.
All this Morbic brooded on as he shambled from the privy. “Girl!” he bellowed, “hot water for my bath, now, or do I have to come down there and thrash you?”
He shuffled into his bed chamber to find a bath of steaming hot water waiting. The girl came in with another bucket and topped it up a little more. He glared at her as he removed his robes and tested it with one hand. Her eyes and cheeks were red, what was she crying for this time? Had he not been kind to her? He could have dashed her head on the hearth at birth, but he’d shown mercy, despite the fact she was bastard born and her mother was a shameless harlot. He could have thrown her out, and where would she be now? Dead or enslaved no doubt. Her ingratitude sickened him.
She stood nervously as he lowered himself into the tub.
“What are you waiting for, girl? Scrub the shit off me.”
She visibly shuddered as she picked up his washcloth.
After his bath he commanded his breakfast be brought to his solar and made his way there to have tea in the sun.
Presently, the boy Pelig entered carrying a silver tray with fried bacon, eggs, bread, cheese and a flagon of the sweet mead the Grandpriest enjoyed so much. The smell of the bacon made his mouth water and his stomach tingle. He leaned, almost imperceptibly, to one side to allow a searing fart to escape, stopping just short of a mishap. He glanced suspiciously at Pelig. The boy had a knowing look that he didn’t like. Can he smell that?
Grandpriest Morbic broke his fast as Pelig and Grenda watched. The girl seemed particularly nervous today. He wondered why. Pelig stood there watching, perhaps a little more intently than usual. He was about to ask the boy what in the hells he was staring at when he suddenly had a queer feeling. Curse my bowels, he thought, but before he could make a dash to the privy he began to shake violently, gasping for breath. He reached one bony hand towards Pelig, but the boy brushed it aside easily and gazed at him with that knowing look.
Then Morbic knew.
“Curse you. You ffffff-ffff-fff-ucking…” but Grandprist Morbic would have to finish that sentence in hell.