The True and Scandalous history of the Lords of Aether, Part the tenth – a consideration of scoundrels and traitors
Now, when I say scoundrels and traitors, we all immediately think of Leach, that vile lump of horse droppings, ones not fit to manure my roses. But he’s not the only wen to have sprung up, pus-bearing, on the face of the Lords of Aether club. Back in the days of Good Queen Bess (and I don’t mean by that Lord Anthony’s predecessor as head of the organisation, who had a worrying predilection for whalebone corsets and lavender organdie), we were infected by a gentleman (Pfft!) who’d have made Christopher Marlowe look like a choirboy.
Imagine the scene. Old Willie Shakespeare is standing at the club bar, weeping into his pint of sack, bewailing the fact that his lovely boy’s being less than forthcoming with the old legover (plus ca change round here), when there’s the sound of a tucket, and Her Majesty appears, shaking her wig and all of a tizzy because some swine’s selling all her secrets to Jonny Spaniard.
Stopping only to wipe the froth off his beard with a convenient pair of hose (nothing changes here in terms of stray items of clothing, either), Will leaps up and says, “Bess, I’m your man.”
“Shakeshaft, you silly sod,” quoth she (sounding remarkably like my Poll when she’s acting posh), “what can a pen wielder do when my fine soldiers have failed to apprehend the scallywag? I was hoping one of the Lords of Spume,” (as they were called back in those benighted times), “would be here to oblige.”
“Sorry, old gal, they’ve all gone to the bareknuckle event. Like to see a bit of flesh get pounded. There’s just me here, being Jacques-all-alone with my pint, and…” at which point he makes a flourish with his cloak and sends sack flying everywhere, “I may be a poor thing but I am thine own to command.”
Bess sighs and shakes her pearls. “All right, old cock. Sort the blighter out and I’ll hire your company for a play. Fat knights getting into scrapes or some such rot.”
Well, our Will’s delighted. It’s only when he’s finished his drink he realises he’s in a bit of a hole. He’s told Her Majesty he’ll ferret the traitor into the light and if he don’t he’ll be losing his head. Literally. At which point fate takes a hand, deus ex machina like, as my Poll would say. Marlowe himself appears, large as life, and twice as lewd. Right at home with the Lords of Spume, given his penchant for shift lifting and rapier thrusting.
“I heard you promise the old gal you’d do the business,” he said, twirling his codpiece. “Want a hand?”
Now, old Will had a soft spot for Kit, so he says, “Abso-blooming-lutely old cock. Got a trail for us to follow?”
“Oh yes,” says himself with a sly grin. (I know it was a sly grin because old Will wrote all this up and left it in the vaults.) “Come with me to the Mermaid Tavern. And bring your sword. This is one occasion when your quill won’t be mightier than your steel.”
To be continued…