Harold’s Other Battle

Here’s another historical piece from my old blog. Nobody asked for this one, but you’re getting it anyway.

Harold’s Other Battle

Everybody knows the Battle of Hastings was in 1066, and that Harold lost and William won; and whether that “matters” or not, it remains the single most famous event in English history. It is less well-known, perhaps, that Harold fought another battle against an invader in 1066, and won it. This is the story of that battle, and its dramatic aftermath; it deserves rescuing from the shadow of Hastings, and the scene is perhaps the most intensely theatrical in English history.

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The Pathless Wood

I’d like you all to have a read of this and tell me what you think. Is it properly creepy, or does it need a bit more chill?

Let me explain. This is an inset story in Aiella, and replaces the original version, which was a) not very good b) somewhat derivative and c) irrelevant to the setting.

To set the scene, Aiella and Dartea have been commissioned to escort young Lady Talia D’Inverno on a secret trip across the mountains, and they take the first part of the journey by boat up the river. Our heroines soon discover that Talia is what Dartea describes as a ‘flouncy little whatsit’, spoiled and arrogant, and a sore trial of their patience. One night they camp in a forest glade by the river. As a form of mild revenge for all the trouble Talia has caused them Dartea decides to wind her up by telling a creepy story.

It is an evening in late summer, it’s getting toward dark, the trees stand tall around them, seeming to move slightly in the haze from their campfire, and this is the story Dartea tells:

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Hamlet

The Soliloquy (as ad-libbed by Bertie Wooster):

Well, I am dashed if I know whether I can go on like this or not.
I mean, is it better, do you think, to put up with being plagued by Aunts, and what not,
Or to put up a bit of a fight, and stop the whole bally lot?
A chap could do with a nice long lie-in,
At least if by that you mean put a stop to all the nonsense and bother you seem to get nowadays.
It’d be jolly nice, I think!
Well, so long as you don’t get nightmares, I suppose.
I daresay it’s the thought of dreaming about Aunt Agatha forever
That makes chaps like me carry on the way we do.
I mean, who would stand for this tosh –
You know, being oppressed by elderly females,
Having butlers look down their nose at you,
Getting the brush-off from Madeline Basset
(Even if she does think the stars are God’s daisy-chain),
Getting thirty days without the option
Just for relieving a policeman of his helmet on Boat Race night,
And getting a pi-jaw from the magistrate,
Not to mention the underhanded behaviour of Bingo Little at the Drones last week –
If you could get out of it as easily as that?
I mean, I don’t actually have to work for a living,
But it beats me why chaps do,
Bearing fardels and what have you
(What is a fardel? Jeeves would know)
If it wasn’t for the dashed inconvenient fact that if you get off the bus, so to speak,
You don’t know what stop you’ll be at.
It’s not as if anyone ever gets on again.
Tricky things, consciences, and liable to turn you bright yellow
When faced with the choice of carrying on or jumping off into goodness knows what.
I mean, I’m as resolute as the next man, and not given to thinking much,
But even I wobble a bit when up against that kind of thing,
And tend to dither and bug my eyes out (they tell me) and achieve very little, really.
– Stop a minute, Ophelia’s coming! What-ho!!

In Xanadu …

Dear Mr. Khan:

Further to your application for planning consent (ref X/COL/1797), Xanadu City Council cannot at this time approve the plans for your proposed development. Full documentation detailing our reasons for turning down the application are attached, but in summary our objections are as follows:

  • Twice five miles of fertile ground is far too large an area to hand over to private ownership. Further, all fertile ground within the city limits is designated green belt land, and protected from development.
  • Our officers were greatly concerned with the description of your development as a ‘pleasure-dome’. It was felt that such a description might attract undesirable elements, seeking some of the more illicit forms of said pleasure. (See item on trees, below).
  • Concern was also expressed at the proposed height of the dome. Calculating from a base of ten square miles, as per the application, gave an estimated height at the apex of the dome of some three and a half miles. This is significantly higher than the building limits imposed by city ordinances.
  • It is entirely unacceptable that the river Alph, a public amenity much enjoyed by walkers and fishermen, could be culverted and covered over by a privately owned development.
  • The proposed system of caverns through which the said river would run do not have accurate dimensions provided, as laid down in the Rules for Planning Applications. The definition ‘measureless to man’ is not a metric the Urban Regeneration Department is prepared to accept.
  • Incense bearing trees are, as I am sure you are aware, not permitted to be imported into this country due to the health risks posed by the unlicensed use of incense. The suggestion that such trees might be incorporated into the development only strengthened our fear that this pleasure dome would be of an undesirable nature.
  • The refrigeration system proposed to be installed, to generate the projected caves of ice, does not meet with the current guidelines on renewable energy, and would need to be considerably modified. It may be that the mighty fountain issuing from the chasm (see next item) could be adapted to some type of hydro-electric scheme.
  • The proposed depth of the chasm also gave grounds for concern, and led some officers to suspect the proposal as being nothing more than a cover for fracking operations, which, given the nearby issuance of the river Alph into the sea, may lead to serious depletion of local fish stocks. (We note your false description of the ocean as ‘lifeless’).
  • The site of the dome so close to the shoreline, recently designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is problematic. Having the shadow of the dome of pleasure floating midway on the waves would constitute a serious loss of amenity.
  • The mention in your application of Ethiopian immigrants playing dulcimers leads us to note that no licence for musical performances has been applied for.
  • Nor, be it noted, has any application been received for the serving of food and drink upon the premises, despite items in the application mentioning both honey-dew and milk of paradise. Should such an application be made, we note with concern your intention to source the milk from outwith the locality.

On all these grounds, and more detailed in the attached documents, we feel constrained to deny the application as it stands. We might add that we found your claim that your ancestors prophesied war to be both bizarre and irrelevant, and your performance at the presentation was also very disturbing to some of our officers. Miss Abora has still not quite recovered from the sight of your flashing eyes and floating hair, and has suggested that if you should return to our offices adequate security measures must be taken. To that end we must inform you that on your future visits, if any, we will have Security cry Beware! Beware! at your approach, and weave a circle round you thrice.

Should you wish to submit a much reduced and revised application, that addresses the concerns we have raised herein, the Urban Regeneration Department may be disposed to look more favourably on your scheme.

Yours faithfully

Watchet Porlock, Chief Planning Officer