An Halloween Offering...
It was a blustery November morning when the Hansome that had carried me from King's Cross drew into the leaf-strewn courtyard overlooked by the state rooms and deposited me at my new home. Have only recently completed my time at Sandhurst, I viewed the Palace with no little trepidation. Just turned nineteen, I was not a little daunted by the prospect of discharging my solemn duty as commander of Her Majesty's personal guard. Of greater and more pressing concern, I must admit, was the prospect of meeting the men I was to command for the next three years; and as the cabbie passed down my trunk, I confess, a certain coldness seemed to settle over my heart.
The afternoon was waning, London settling under the weight of a night that promised frost. As the cab clattered out through the gaping arch that lead back onto Horseguards Parade, I hefted my trunk and turned looking for an orderly or, indeed, any other sign of life. As I did, a curious sensation stole over me and I glanced at the high clock tower that overlooked the courtyard. There high upon the roof of the old part of the Palace, stood a solitary figure, swathed in a traveling cloak and a shapeless hat of indeterminate material. Seeing him, I cupped a hand and called out a greeting.
"I say! Do you know where I might find the Orderly Room? I'm the new Cornet. With the Blues?"
My greeting, however, had a most extraordinary effect upon the peculiar figure. Upon hearing my cry, he arched his back and turning suddenly, scuttled away across the roof and out of sight on all fours, for all the world like a giant spider. Baffled, and not a little unsettled, I strode towards a small door from beneath which issued forth a comforting glow. As I reached forward to knock, the door was wrenched open by an enormous barrel-chested, red-faced man. Who fixed upon me a gaze of such malevolence, that I positively rocked on my heels.
"Who the devil are you sir?" cried the terrifying vision. Stammering, I managed to blurt out my name and thrust my orders toward him with a trembling hand. At once his aspect changed, and a queer timbre tinged his voice. "Ker, eh? Yes, we were told to expect you, come in", so saying the vast man ushered me in to what it soon became apparent was the Orderly Room. In front of a crackling fire sat a small man, the right sleeve of his uniform hanging loose, bent over some ledger entering a series of figures. The colossus grunted, and the small man looked up, running his cold dark eyes over me, like some oriental potentate assessing a wayward slave in an Arab souk. Evidently I passed some manner of test, for eventually he stood and extended his left hand which I rather awkwardly shook.
"Giles Carstairs, I'm adjutant".
"David Ker, though everyone calls me Richard", I smiled.
"Ker will suffice I suspect, this is Mcmanus, the officer of the watch." he snapped. Cowed, I swallowed and swiftly cast around for a safer topic, "Who was that extraordinary fellow I saw, by the old clock tower, in the cloak and shapeless hat?", I said with what I hoped was an ingratiating smile. There was a pause that seemed to last for a lifetime, as the two men stared at me, then Carstairs spoke, his voice like ice, "I'm sure I have no idea what you're talking about Ker, now get your kit and Mcmanus here'll show you to your billet." In the instance that the words were spoken, a flash passed over the face of the huge Mcmanus, and was gone.
Having been conducted to my billet, a dank room, lit by a single guttering candle, a knock at the door heralded the arrival of my batman, a bucolic Scotsman called Buchanan. Seeing an opportunity to explore my suspicions, I soon broached the subject of the spider-like man with my dour manservant.
"Look here Buchanan, when I arrived, I saw a peculiar man, on the roof...", but I had no chance to finish my question, for the wiry Scotsman had whirled round his eyes wild and staring, his hand flying to a small silver cross at his neck.
"God have mercy on you sir, God have mercy."
A little flustered, I asked in no uncertain terms what the deuce he meant by that. It seemed as if the room grew a little closer, and a little darker as a curious light came into Buchanan's eye. "I'll tell you a tale sir," said he. "A Tale as would turn your coal-black hair as white as fresh-fallen snow!"
Anyway, turned out I'd only gone and seen a fucking ghost!
More tales of the Ker's coming soon! Stay tuned!