“Bramble bellowed at sheeple,
Who bore the brunt of his tongue,
Wherefore his words were in majuscule,
And capitals poured from his lung,”
and with that irreverent thought. Roxy decided that the only way to exert some control over this Bull of a man was to beard him and give back to him what he gave to others – so she leapt at him, seized hold of his beard with both hands and pulled sharply down; he roared, oh how he roared, but she soon had him on his knees and putting her face close to his massive left ear she yelled into it with all the volume she could muster: “STOP, S.T.O.P. STOP!” and he suddenly went limp, she felt the animal force drain from his body and she held him down until he was quiet and meek and calm and then, still gripping his beard hard in her comparatively tiny fists, she whispered into that same ear: “I am going to let go, but if you raise your voice any more, I will do the same again and my friends will post the photographs of you on the internet and you will be the laughing stock of not only the entire scientific community, but the whole world, and I don't think you want that – it's all very well to play a buffoon on your own terms, but not at the hands of a five foot woman, half your size and age, am I right?” and she felt him nod and when he spoke his words were soft and mild: “I'm sorry Roxy, truly I am, I won't do it again, ever, anywhere,” and she let go of his beard, stepped over to where Lizzie stood, still shaking after experiencing the aggressive force-10-gale that had issued from the Professor's mouth, and wrapped her arms protectively around the former Cave Woman and told her that all would now be well, and Lizzy nodded appreciatively and covered one of Roxy's hands with her own, whispering a simple “thankyou, dear Roxy,” and the assembled scientists, religious and family, all gave a sigh of relief and applauded Roxy for her bravery in bearding the Lion in his Den!
She was only a wee raconteuse,
Wi' tales that could fairly amuse,
The sheeple wha'd mar
The country wi' tar,
And batten on fowk they'd abuse!
And in his Chambers in Edinburgh, hard by the Court of Session and St Giles, with their black-robed officiates, the first, no less than the banksters, serving Mammon in the name of The Law, and the second, God; Martin Elginbrod was becoming drunk and depressed – he still hadn't traced Doubleday, his Police Scotland informants were unable to earn their money on that; George Gill had also vanished from the face of the Earth, and so had Pherson Dalwhinnie, after speaking with the celebrated auteur, Allan Massie, in Melrose – gone into thin air, the only trace of him being an inexplicable shadow on the step of a shop; “who's next?” Elginbrod muttered to himself and slurping some of his 25-year-old malt down the front of his cravat and waistcoat, “what the fuck's going on?” and he felt a chill beginning at his toes and slowly spreading up his legs: this wasn't really a misper, he knew that! this was something sinister, which had begun with the disappearance of his two pets from their pads, that had been the start of it, and something in his brain made a connection: “the O'Hooligan Twins are involved all right,” the one who'd left Town in a dudgeon a few years ago had returned and she and her sister had been seen in a pub, looking very cosy and chatty and re-united; Elginbrod didn't know what had caused the rift between them, a rift which had fractured that damned Dumbiedykes/Lyttleton Clan with all it's tentacles spreading throughout the City into every branch of the Capital's life and society – Thank God we've none of their blood, that was the only thing that had cheered him recently, having his office to a thorough investigation into his Family Tree, one of those 'Who Do You Think You Are?' jobs at which he was so efficiently effective; he'd had them do another for all the descendants of Griselda of Longformacus and the other Edinburgh Wives impregnated by his illustrious ancestor, Sir Parlane MacFarlane and was satisfied having checked and cross-checked, that there had been no mingling of the genes, producing like cabbeling, a kind of ersatz race that would sink to the bottom – oh no, the line of descent was pure and true, pursued by each successive generation of The Ring over something like 800 years, Hah! the stupid Nazis with their dream of a Thousand Year Reich; no way, Jose! This is the Real Deal, filtered drop by drop, distilled and guaranteed 100% Proof; he raised his glass again, yet again, just one more and it would be time to sleep – No! not tonight, he had another little pet those fucking O'Hooligans didn't know about; he unzipped his trousers and took out his cock, held it in his hands, tried to estimate it's weight when fully aroused and inflamed, couldn't get his whisky-befuddled brain to deal with ounces and grams, started to rub it, imagining a young mouth open before him, then stopped; the clock had stopped ticking, it had never stopped before, it was from the 15th Century and he knew it was the oldest spring-driven clock in the world, wound every morning by his Chief Clerk, but today it stood silent at ten to three, and he wondered, is there honey still for tea?
And just like his LOUD lookalike, when the affluential Professor Bramble reached the two intrepid explorers, who tried to explain the importance of Lizzie's identification of the old quarry as the location of the entrance to The Cavern, he continued to ROAR and BELLOW with no amelioration arising from his very closeness to them: “HAVE YOU TOUCHED ANYTHING?” and, aimed at Lizzie but heard by everyone within three miles: “DESCRIBE WHAT YOU REMEMBER, DO YOU REMEMBER ANYTHING?” and she covered her ears, which was when Auntie Crist slipped two sets of ear-plugs into one of Roxy's hands, with an apology for not giving them to her sooner and explaining that everyone else in the party was already protected, almost like a having a mithridate for a poisoning; once they had inserted the ear-plugs, Professor Bramble's voice sounded almost conversational, although his face and his flailing arms indicated that he was still declaiming to the world at large, and they both relaxed sufficiently as to be able to answer him without feeling steamrollered, and Lizzie described what she knew of the place which had been her only home and which she had left just a few days ago; she spoke of the mouth of The Cavern: “it is about so big,” she said, plotting out the perimeter, “and there are steps leading down into the huge chamber, where everyone eats, the women grind corn, and cook and do everything, the men sit around and talk big, or go out for food,” and she suddenly grinned, mischievously, “from the store under the stones, which they think is their secret, only for men to know – they aren't really hunters, it's like Roxy has told me of the places you go for things, shopping; it isn't really used for anything else, we don't sleep there or do private things,” and then she blushed, and Roxy put a protective arm around her, in an effort to avoid any kind of contretemps from distressing her and said: “they go outside for the toilet, and they have private sleeping spaces further back in a network of tunnels;” and Professor Brambled beamed, and suddenly looking like an avuncular uncle, shouted, rather facetiously, Roxy thought: “SO THE CAVERN ISN'T USED FOR PISSING, SHITTING, SLEEPING OR SHAGGING, EH?” and the Bishop's Chaplain fainted!
Which is exactly how it came to pass that, while Roxy and Lizzie were sitting quietly on the shoulder near the small quarry that Lizzie had identified as the entrance to The Cavern, they saw a motley crew of walkers making their way up the track from Dingleton Road: Auntie Crist led the way, with a grizzled bear of a man lacking any signs of tonsorial scissors in the past six years, who Roxy thought must be Professor Bramble, and a lithe girl who seemed to be carrying all his gear, and they were followed by the other two Wise Men who Roxy knew from her stay at her aunt's house in High Cross Avenue, and then a trio whom she recognised as Crist's cousin, the Suffragan Bishop of Goole, his fancy woman, Kitty O'Toole and the rather soppy Chaplain, who was using Alpine Walking Poles and even then kept falling over and having to be helped up by Mrs O'Toole – who Roxy suddenly realised was wearing stilettos on a hill climb; and on they came, and once within roaring distance, the Professor began BELLOWING questions and waving his arms about, almost knocking Auntie Crist and his Girl Friday over in the process: “oh my god,” thought Roxy, “it's Brian Blessed!” although in fact Professor Bramble was only the famous LOUD actor's double – or perhaps he had deliberately chosen Blessed as the role model for his own personality, assuming that his hearers were all either deaf or suffering from a complete absence of clairaudience and abandoning all concern for either tonology or declension in favour of maximum VOLUME!
Auntie Crist had been enjoying a pleasant afternoon with her cousin Peterkin Peterson, to whom she referred in public more formally as Bishop Peter, who had just arrived from his Palace in Goole, accompanied by his Chaplain, Lemuel Gallivant and his Reader, Mrs Kitty O'Toole, and they had all been happily sipping a palliative sherry fortified with an island malt, and taking turns to compose impromptu Limericks, when the phone rang and she took the call from Roxy – who sounded to be at a fever pitch of excitement – and admitted that she was confused: “I thought the Cave Woman, Umm, was discovered to be Patience Scott,” and Roxy explained: “there are two Umms – the one found with Thomas Learmonth has indeed revealed herself to be Miss Scott, but the other, discovered on the far side of the Eildons, wandering in a dazed state of shock and confusion, and belatedly taken to the BGH after spending a day and night in Huntlyburn Psychiatric Unit, is the one I have been working with; so far as she is aware, she has always been one of the Cave people, her earliest memories are of the Cavern, and she was one of three Umms until just a few days ago” and Auntie Crist nodded to herself, understanding that in the world of the Cave People, names were probably in rather short supply and not necessarily considered to be of the first importance: “so what can I do for you, Roxy, dearest?” and her niece explained and her Aunt understood: “of course, darling; you are in luck, for Professor Wilfred Bramble has just arrived and has been telling me about a new piece of equipment he is testing which is a portable Geo/Phys magnetometer and perfect for what you are talking about, it's the real deal, not one of those fake things rigged up from a metal detector and a transistor radio, and he says it can take hours off the work of divining what's beneath the surface, days even; what say you and Miss – Bennett, you said? - you and Miss Bennett sit tight and I'll be there before you can say Hickory Dick; the Professor is just having a cup of tea with the other Wise Men, the ones who are searching for those Ley Lines, but from my knowledge of him when he was one of my pupils, I think I can safely say that for all he may look a bit of a lunkhead he will not delay when there is such a promising possibility as you have described, my darling,” and Roxy almost jumped with joy, but instead gave Lizzie a hug and a mash of a kiss and fair danced her around the new flowering broom!
The Suffragan Bishop of Goole, was
Famed for his brevity once, because
He sipped at his wine, declared “that's odd,
This Mother's so dry, it can shrivel a bod,
The sun's at it's Zenith, and we are below,
My entoptic visions are all that I know,
The abrasive Bishop of Goole,
Has only one Golden Rule:
If the asterism glimpsed in the dead of night,
Is the entoptic alligator of mythical might,
Who will hunt him down and bind him tight,
'Tis time for a bowl of Gruel, me bhoys,
'Tis time for a bowl of Gruel,
The Bishop of Goole is a Hoot,
With entoptic visions to Boot,
A gamergate Queen,
Whose vagaries mean,
That his Chaplain's a ninnyhammer Fruit,
The valetudinarian Primate of Goole,
To his devoted sewer Mrs Kitty OToole:
"You may be one of the Seven Sidereal Sisters,
Who wed the Seven Punalua Misters,
But don't you go reading my tea leaves and treating me like a doddery ould fool,
The avuncular Primate of Goole,
To the tessellated Father O'Toole:
"There may not be a quorum,
But I won't Cockallorum,
Apricity shall not be a Fool!"
Meanwhile, today, in Melrose, while Patience Scott and Thomas Learmonth had been exploring their pasts in the present, Elizabeth Bennett and Roxy Davidova (free of responsibility after the Scottish Parliament retired for the duration of the upcoming elections, and taking a day's respite before being plunged headlong into her party's campaign) were taking the opportunity to walk over the Eildon Hills to try to identify the entrance to The Cavern where Lizzy (formerly known as Umm by her People, but who had chosen her new name during a three-hour session with Roxy, and had said that she also liked the cognomen Lizzy) had lived for as long as she could remember; and as they walked, they talked, for Lizzy had shown a grand facility with English, and although her vocabulary – after only a few days of exposure – while still extremely restricted, was growing with every passing day and hour, and even minute as she quickly absorbed the new words which Roxy (formerly a Primary School Teacher before she went into Politics) used – always wanting to know the meaning and how to use it and differentiate it from other, similar sounding, words: she asked about the various tribes who had inhabited the area in her time, but Roxy admitted to some ignorance on the topic, and Lizzy wanted to know of the clarigation the Elders had sought from the Red Faces “over there,” she pointed in the direction of Hawick to the South, and wanted to know if there had been a Battle (which she said would be between Ogg of the Cavern People and Pigg of the Faraways, and who had won, but Roxy sighed and admitted ignorance; then, at the top of The North Hill, overlooking the Tweed Valley and Melrose, with views in all directions, Roxy pointed out the different features and asked Lizzy to describe the differences from the countryside she was familiar with: “no houses,” said Lizzy, “different trees, nothing there,” she said, pointing towards the whiteness of Langlee, a housing estate on the outskirts of Galashiels; she slowly turned, clockwise, saying “no, no, no, no. no, yes and no – she was pointing towards the Trig point and direction pointer on the mid Hill; “this,” she indicated the cairn they were standing by, “not here, there,” and Roxy understood – there had been no cairn on the North Hill, but there had been one on the Mid Hill, instead of the two pillars which stood there now, and she asked: “was that the Food Cairn?” and Lizzy nodded; so they descended to the shoulder between the hills and climbed the steeper and taller Mid Hill to its summit; Lizzy ran around, staring at the ground and the view until she pointed at a spot where she confidently claimed that the Food Cairn had been; and she indicated a place down on the slope between where they stood and the smaller South Hill and said “the Cavern was there;” after Roxy had taken photographs of the cairn site, the two walked down and came to the small quarry which was dug our of the ground between the hills; “this was the entrance, but it's filled in,” said Lizzy confidently and triumphantly,” suddenly she sat down and began weeping: “my friends, my family, all my beers,” she wailed, “gone, all gone, buried there,” indicating the rubble; and Roxy, sensing something auspicious was happening here and now, took out her mobile and made a quick call to Aunty Crist!
And while Tavish, Tammy and Bernie were making their way to the stables with the intention of murdering Sir Parlane MacFarlane, in another time and place, albeit separated by some 750 years, and the thinnest of paries, through which one might slip almost unnoticed should one take a false step or an inadvertent turn, Martin Elginbrod QC was making telephone calls to as many of The Golden Ring he could contact and counting them off on his paternoster, the golden ring on which twelve golden beads could be slid around: Lord Umpherston was taking leave of his family Paschal celebrations in order that he could meet Elginbrod, and so were The Lord Provost, Samuel MacTavish; Gilbert Filbert, of BBC Television Fame; Lord Peter Armstrong, Chief of the Armstrong Clan and Chairman of The Royal Bank; The Right Reverend Willie Wastle DD, Minister of St Giles and incumbent Moderator of the Church of Scotland; and Sir Daniel Defoe, Captain of The Queen's Company of Archers; the other two were either away from the town on business, on holiday, or simply engaged upon matters entirely of their own and none could be reached immediately – Elginbrod sat with his face hidden in his hands, he knew that Duncan Doubleday, Pherson Dalwhinnie, and Councillor George Gill, Leader of COSLA, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, were all incommunicado and he was troubled by their disappearances, so soon one after the other, as though the Golden Ring's members were being winnowed away; in an attempt to distract himself, Elginbrod decided to name off and count each of his ancestors, beginning with the child of Sir Parlane MacFarlane, who had groomed and seduced the young wife of the then Martin Elginbrod, at around the time that the troublesome Thomas Learmonth of Ercildoune returned from his several years in Fairyland and sought to dispute his father's Will leaving the lands of Ercildoune to Melrose Abbey, and administered on behalf of the Abbey by Sir Parlane and Elginbrod jointly: that was the beginning of the Great Fortune which the partners and their successors were to make in the Borderlands – together with Sir Parlane's establishment of a great Ironworks and Foundry, which supplied both the Scottish and English armies with the weapons which they used on each other in the years of War and Pillage which followed; oh yes, Elginbrod smiled and raised a glass to his most prodigious ancestor: “Sir Parlane MacFarlane – Lang May Ye'r Lum Reek and my namesake, your Lawyer, Elginbrod, Praise Be, Ye'd nae Lead in Ye'r Pencil,” and he laughed at the thought of the poor sap Learmonth taking them on, “no way, Sucker!”
But when Tavish entered the office, where he had seen Tammy tickling MacFarlane, it was empty, he ran to the other, in which Bernie had been caning the Abbot, Father Pandelion Gillyfeather and was surprised to find both his daughter, Tammy, and Bernie sitting together on the bed, giggling; “where is he?” he asked, and Bernie answered: “gone, them both and another man,” and then Tammy spoke: “Sir Parlane MacFarlane came in with a man whose face was covered in blood and spoke with the Abbot, and they all left together, someone – I presume it was you, Dad – had attacked the one they called Dominic, and they intend to ride to Edinburgh to have a Will registered somewhere;” and Tavish sat down heavily: “it's my fault, they are trying to swindle Thomas out of his inheritance and I have provoked their departure,” and he told them of his encounter with Doubleday and his fury when he had seen him abusing the little girl; “don't blame yourself Uncle Tavish,” said Bernie, “you can't always be sophrosyne when you encounter such things, you did the right thing,” Tavish rubbed his head with his hands, “that's as may be, but the birds have flown the coop and vanished like a mirage; I apologise for mixing my metaphors but I'm pretty agitated – did they say which way they would be going?” and Bernie grinned: “oh yes, and they won't have got far; they went to the Stables for their horses, but my one, The Abbot, has a bum red-raw from caning, and Tammy says she squeezed MacFarlane's balls so hard they swelled up and he complained they were on fire,” and Tammy added: “maybe I was a little over-enthusiastic and used a bit more pressure than necessary, so might have ruptured the paries, but I'm not particularly practised in handling a man's apparatus; and with Dominic's broken nose, they're none of them fit to ride, in fact if they aren't still at the Stables, they're probably in the Infirmary, getting some kind of salve for their battle wounds,” and Tavish jumped to his feet: “come on then, lassies, no time for chit-chat, I swear on a stack of Bibles I have Murder to commit this day!”
“You are an interesting man, Brother Bede,” said Tavish, sipping at his wine, and watching its undulant ripples break up the reflections of brands set in sconces on the walls, “and I believe an educated one, what brought you to Melrose?” and Bede smiled, “the ways of Our Lord can seem mysterious to us poor mortals, but I trust in his wisdom and love and am assured that He knows best; but I have not always been a monk, Master Tavish, I was indeed a Scholar – educated first in Oxford and then Bologna – my interest was perhaps esoteric, certainly not very useful, as my wife was oft heard saying, being in the strange things which can be found in the rocks and surfaces of this place we walk on, things which seem at first to have been sculpted by a John Morow of an earlier age, but which I believe were once living things, creatures which were here before us, perhaps they were the beasts which God created before the first Man, I do not claim to know the answers but I like to ask the questions; but to continue with my reply to yours, we were happy, I had my students, my wife had our children, two girls and a boy, and then they were gone! died of a pox, a pestilence which lay low more than three quarters of the population in a few short weeks; I had to bury them myself, and then I left Bologna, I did not want to remain behind, I travelled and walked most of the way, trying to get as far as I could; on the way I met a Disciple of St Bernard and I became a Bernardine, a Carthusian, and asked to be sent here, as far as I could go, and here I stopped walking and set about working: doing useful things, like digging trenches and planting vegetables, or cutting blocks of stone for the masons, and as I grew older and less able, I came in here, where I have kept the records and taught the novices and worked hard but in a way which The Lord has decided in his goodness to use me; and for the last five years I have been Almoner and I have enjoyed meeting the many and varied folk who come seeking shelter, or food, or clothing and who can do a day's work for a night's bed, giving of themselves in return for what we can offer them; to me it seems a simple way of life, not unlike that of Adam and Eve, or the family of Mary and Joseph in which Our Lord Jesus grew up – from each according to his ability and to each according to his need – is that not a simple statement of what He expects of us; though not all men see it like that – there is cruelty and greed and lust everywhere men congregate, even in the House of God; our Abbot - if I am any judge of men I know you to be good and true - is weak and is manipulated by his Sponsor, Sir Parlane MacFarlane – a man steeped in all manner of vice, though never has any charge been brought against him, perhaps because of his wealth or his knowledge of the secrets of others – who arrived just before you, with his man, Doubleday, both dusty and stained from hard riding, and no sooner than our Abbot, more like a procurer than a man of God, came himself and fetched away your daughters for the duties which it is my responsibility to issue, but I believe their duties will not be what I would have given them, I trust that He will not let them come to any harm,” and Tavish told them what had transpired, and Brother Bede laughed heartily at the descriptions of the Abbot and MacFarlane being controlled by the two girls, but then Tavish asked him if the prevention of an evil act before it is committed would be viewed as a Sin: “Thou Shalt Not Kill is a Commandment which is unqualified, but then so are others, concerning Adultery and Envy, and we also permit Soldiers to kill in times of war; and I suppose if your conscience is clear and you do not commit the sin for pleasure or gain, but out of necessity for the protection of others, I am sure that He in his Wisdom would take that into account, there is no paries enclosing a man's actions and separating them from his thoughts or words, The Lord knows them all” and Tavish then asked, “what if an action today alters what would have been in a hundred or a thousand years time? would He judge that?” and Bede replied solemnly: “nothing that you do can affect what the Lord wills, if you slay another before he can kill an innocent, you will have done what is right, and how the Future plays out is neither in your power nor in your responsibility, only The Lord knows what his Plan is, but His Plan will unfold for generations still to come – did He not give His only Son as a sacrifice for Man? and mark this: no single man can alter The Lord's Plan, for He has put Man on Earth to walk in His footsteps and do what He has intended for Man to do,” Tavish nodded sagely, his mind made up; and he rose from his seat, thanked Brother Bede for his wisdom and, remarking that “it is all Sir Garnet, as we used to say in The Service, the time for planning is over and it is now the moment to Act! wouldn't like to miss the vernissage,” and taking up a heavy cudgel, he left the Monk's Office!
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