Perfect Gentleman - JED

Word Association, with a twist: the story had to be uplifting, in a meaningful way.

    Ordan Ot had not always been Ordan Ot.

    He had not always been a pig farmer, slaving over precious pink sows in the gritty gray mud and swill of a scrub forest in the Western Fjordland of Norway. But fortunately he was here now and he was much, much happier for it.

    In his recently abandoned and unlamented previous life, Ordan Ot (who was not then known as Ordan Ot, though it was already a name of which he was quite fond) had been a prime courtier and general hanger-on of the throne King Hnole Harfoot. Ordan Ot (who had all but forgotten his previous name) had been born to privilege and prestige, and much had been expected of him since his earliest days, peeking out from ermine furs and expensive linen-cloth swaddling to see his full breasted mother being eagerly ravished by his uncle, the soon-to-be headless Thane of Greater Gormundig. He had been brought up to intrigue and excess, to the responsibilities of a preening noble, and honestly, it had given him ulcers since he could remember.

    Rich food did not agree with Ordan Ot. He did not care for lambs' tongues basted in cream sauce, or the mint jellies of the far orient, or the rich fiery liquors of the Russian envoys, or the acerbic wines served at arms length by prissy stewards with perfectly crisp hair. Neither did he like the clothing into which he was ensconced day after day. He found his trousers to be over-tight and constraining, his ruffled shirts to be excessively complicated and difficult to keep clean, and the thick wolf's hair robes to be scratchy. He didn't like the shiny buckles on his black leather shoes.

    Ordan Ot did not care for the conversations about court, or the twingy twangy and utterly endless symphonies of the German and Italian composers who dotted the court like exotic breeds of poodles. He did not like to dance, and found the recent popularity of waltzes to be stifling. Ordan Ot found the talk of politics and economics to be dull, the whispered innuendos to be both trite and bawdy, and the eternal shuffling backstabbing, maneuvering for power and position to be completely without point.

    Ordan Ot did not like riding in ornate carriages with fluffy fourteen year old seductresses. He did not enjoy hunting wild boar from the backs of gleaming white stallions. He did not care for Franco-Prussian architecture or art, or plum glazed quail. He did not like the Duke of Troms or the High Mayor of Oslo, or either of their daughters (who liked him quite a bit). He did not like the prince, who was a spoiled and choleric child, or the Queen, who, though traditionally beautiful, had a large chin, and was quite pushy (particularly in her desire for him to "seduce" her). He liked nothing, absolutely nothing about the court of King Hnole.

    But most of all Ordan Ot did not like the fact that he had no choice but to act as if he was absolutely in love with the cards his life had dealt him. He had found early on that he was quite skilled at throwing knowing smiles and sly winks, and keeping up his end of the biting gossip and clever asides, and that this made him quite popular with those whom it was widely known as good to be popular with. As he matured he found that the ladies of the court found his under-corset fondlings to be quite pleasant, and their gasps and lip-biting expressions soon had him known as quite the popular fellow from Hordaland to Rogaland, with even the Spanish Infanta pushing him into castle corners during her brief and otherwise unproductive tour of the nation. He excelled at swordplay and could play the lute to make men cry or women swoon, or vice versa. He knew his history and his letters, his art and his enunciation. He could speak French and Spanish and a passable English with an accent that he had on good authority was quite endearing and adorable. It was widely agreed that he was the perfect gentleman, the perfect lover, the perfect spy, the man for all seasons, so long as the seasons were sun-dappled and vacuous. Ordan Ot found the societal pressure extremely tiring, though he had become such an expert in hiding his feelings that he often hid even from himself that he was desperately unhappy, and utterly, impeccably miserable. He was an automaton of finesse and frippery, who spent sweat soaked nights tossing in terrible dreams of unending banal conversation and cornucopias of French cheeses.

   Then, in the full and verdant spring of his twenty-third year (when all around the court agreed that he was more desirable than even he himself had been the previous year and twice as desirable as the boy prodigy Mozart), Ordan Ot became embroiled in the lust quadrangle between Queen Halldis Vessa, the King, and the emerging usurper Thane Goodmander Goodmansen. Goodmander came from the outlying Danish province of Sjkralner, where he was known both as a brutal warrior and an insightful strategist, however neither he, nor his sire before him, was actually a good man. Goodmander was a man of large girth and large appetites, a man in the traditional Nordic mold, who took what he desired and desired all that he saw. And of course, Ordan Ot did not like him.

    However, it was of no small relevance that Queen Vessa did like him. She liked him in the hunting lodge at Nifbleheim Falls and she liked him at the summer mansion in the Rhineland. She liked him enthusiastically behind the velvet curtains in the throne room, and more than once she liked him in the stables with slack jawed (and impendingly disappeared) stable-boys looking on. And when Goodmander was not available to be liked, she liked Ordan Ot instead. Unfortunately for them all though, Queen Vessa did not much like King Hnole. And it was that failure of liking that eventually gave Ordan Ot the opportunity to become Ordan Ot.

    In Ordan Ot's mind, the queen had many failings, not least of which was the fact that she could not keep from plotting her husband's downfall, nor could she keep from talking about her plotting. She inspired and conspired with Goodmander to attempt several ham-handed assassinations, none of which had actually worked out. King Hnole was both untrusting and impressively lucky, dodging poisoned pies, exotic adders in his bedsheets, hunting "accidents" in the hills, pitfalls in the garden, and even a whore with a dagger in her hair (though several retainers and a man-at-arms did suffer sudden and surprising demises). After nearly six months of abortive regicides, the Queen finally convinced the poorly named Goodmander to attempt a direct coup of the royal personage, and he rode back to Sjkralner to gather his horde. This, of course, left the Queen in a state of boredom from which the only escape was the tender and skilled, if somewhat unenthusiastic, embrace of the soon to be Ordan Ot.

    In her post-coital reverie, as Ordan Ot sat and thought about how much he would rather live a life of quiet woodland solitude and contemplation, the Queen noted that they would soon have to be somewhat more careful in their furtive couplings, as Goodmander was a much more jealous sort than her husband, and the mere rumor of infidelity would be enough for him to have Ordan Ot strung up by his lower intestine. In hearing this dire, and luridly grisly prediction, Ordan Ot had an epiphanic glimpse of his own future. He saw in the days laid out before him an endless parade of syncophantry and malaise, a long shuffle through petticoats and pomp, ending all but inevitably in the throttling embrace of his own bowels. And it was at this point that Ordan Ot had enough.

    Of course, he knew that there could be no escape from the suffocating cling of the Nordic aristocracy. No rich man could be such a hermit that he would not be tracked down by relatively impoverished hangers-on, seeking to fleece him of his stores. No man could give away such wealth as he, Ordan Ot, had accumulated without drawing the contempt and suspicion of the crown (no matter whose brow it lay upon), and so eventual gruesome demise. Neither could he leave and sail away to distant lands, because, quite simply, that was exactly the kind of dashing adventure which he was trying so desperately to avoid. He had to be banished, stripped of land, of wealth and name, but not for so vile a crime that his disembowelment would be warranted. And the Queen's peccadillo seemed suddenly, there with her breasts steaming beside him, to provide an all too apropos outlet.

    Now, it cannot be said that Ordan Ot was a man without conscience. Indeed, it was his all too real awareness of the suffering of others that kept him in large contempt of his peers and himself. Similarly, he was a man of mercy and sympathy, who though he held the lifestyle in great contempt, really wanted nothing but to be left alone to his own wiles and ways. He did not desire revenge for the lifetime of his suffering, only escape. And so, within Ordan Ot there was no small degree of turmoil. To turn over his lover and her lover and himself? Or to spend the rest of his life in the hell of facile iniquity with a colonic noose waiting him at the end? He paced on this for days, and his other lovers thought him perhaps lost in the composition of a symphony, a great game of chess, or a love sonnet to some hidden and jealous slip of a girl. They could not know that in his heart and mind Ordan Ot balanced the weight of the world against a simple desire to be free from the chains of his life; the whole measure of the palace treasury against the worth of a small hovel on a cliff and the warm smell of piglets.

    In the end, there was only one option worth choosing, and when the Queen stood on the steps of the hanging tree waiting her turn and watching Goodmander heave and squelch and choke out his last breaths, with great gasping tears pouring down her cheeks, she turned to the disgraced and sackcloth wearing Ordan Ot, only to see him, beaten and bruised, hair shorn short, smiling broadly around the gaps of his missing teeth. She could only stare in misery and confusion at his unrepentant happiness, marveling even in her fear at how a man who had supposedly lost everything could look, for the first time in her acquaintance of him, so deeply and thoroughly content. And if anyone in the crowd of wealthy worthies gathered there that day could have guessed the secret reason for the events unfolding around them, they would have been deeply amazed and thoroughly aghast to find that it was simply one man finally achieving the embrace of his own inner self.

    And the truth is, that Ordan Ot had always been Ordan Ot.

 

 

The End.