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The Devil and The Debutant

Chapter 1: The Burning Barn

By E. J. StrangePublished 3 years ago 5 min read

William John Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, 5th Duke of Portland, or as his “friends” liked to call him Lord John, was in the midst of one of his fits. A flash, a crash, and a glint of fire had sent him far from where he stood. It was not real and yet he was stuck; lost in a remembered world he must fight his way out of.

Lord John could smell the odious fear permeating from the green lads. He could hear the horses warning cries and the shouts of men. He could feel danger boxing him in as hands snaked their way over him and clamped him into captivity.

Fire at his side licked him; making him sweat profusely as he thrashed against his captors’ hold, “Damn you all. You wont take me!” Lord John shouted at the past and present.

“Your grace, it is only me and the stable lads. There, there no-,” the man’s cooing was cut off by a right hook from his master. The man staggered back a moment shocked by the blow and the blood trickling from his split lip.

The stable lads had regained their charge; reigning in someone they felt very uncomfortable handling. They tired to maintain light grips as they glanced terrified at each other. They held stead fast none the less trying to keep their charge away from the spreading fire. The stable master, fed up with the danger this fit was causing, grabbed a bucket from the wall and dipped it into one of the horses trough’s.

The stable master splashed the contents into his employer’s face, “Your Grace,” the Stable master lilted genteelly when he saw understanding returning to the lord’s face.

Reality crashed down on Lord John as the cold water slapped him back into reality. He blinked realizing he was not in the west indies, but at home. “Let go of me you insulate hands, or I will have flogged for this,” he boomed in his best Captain’s voice. The boys immediately let go, afraid of punishment.

The stable master used to unruly beasts got strait to business roaring over the noise, “Your Grace, I beggin your pardon but you must leave so that we might put out this fire.”

Lord John turned to survey the fire now spreading dangerously close to the hay. The horses squealing nays cut through his lucidity and for a second, he had a flash of a nightmare again. He pursed his lips and gritted his teeth. Through clenched teeth he said, “Get the horses out and let it burn.”

“Your Grace this is madness!” the Stable Master protested.

“This barn is in dire need of rebuilding, might as well save us the trouble of tearing it down later,” Lord John was already turning to leave.

“Your Grace! What will we do with horses?” the stable master asked as the boys tried to tamp the fire out with damped blankets.

Lord John was already unpinning the large barn doors, filling the room with oxygen. The fire surged with the wind coming from the cool night air. The dukes shadowed form was haloed by the full moon as he bellowed out, “We will put them in the house of course.” The Duke went to the first door before the stable master could ask more questions and flung the door wide allowing the creature within to escape. He continued down the row releasing his equine collection to the small fenced in paddock at the entrance of the barn.

The Stable Master, realizing there was no hope now of saving the barn, began to assist his new employer on releasing the horses. When the training yard began to fill up he called out to one of the stable hands, “Lad, open the prairie gate before they trample one another.”

The boys eyes widened. The gate was on the other side of the rioting beasts. Lord John rolled his eyes as if the boys hesitation were not warranted. In truth he understood the boys fear. He himself didn’t want to do it, but knew it was wrong to put the poor youth through that especially since this mess was his. Especially since these prime horses were his only source of income till he could fix the mess of affairs his brother had left him. He rolled his eyes because he knew he would have to do it himself.

“Head to the house and open up the front doors,” He commanded the smallest of the youths and then turned to his stable master, “bring a bale of hay from the fields and place it in the ball room. We will keep them quartered there for now.”

They didn’t fallow his command right off. Instead, they stood dumbfounded as they watched the lunacy of their new employer unfold. He made a haphazard dash around trampling horses to the nearest fence of the paddock. He climbed the fence and to the amazement of his employees managed to mount one of the stallions.

The horse rose up trying to throw off its charge, but lord John held fast. He managed to goad the horse to the front of the pack where the horses were pushing at the gate. He reached down and yanked the pin holding the gate open. It swung free, releasing a stampede lead by lord John.

The horse after several yards of galloping had shirked its fear and was able to fallow commands again. Lord John, familiar with horses was able to direct the beast without reigns. He guided the creature to round up the others and guide them to his declining manor.

Lord John smiled as the horses' hooves clopped over the manor’s stairs. He knew his father would be turning in his grave and that brought Lord John a gleeful bit of joy. His wicked grin glinted in the full moods light. The boy holding the door open saw only a mad man as the smiling Lord John passed and cowered in fear.

Lord john did his best to corral and calm the beasts while he waited for the Stable Master to come back with hay. He used the ballrooms tattered curtains to wipe the sweat from the horses' coats. He used the ropes that once held the curtains apart to tether some of the more unruly charges to the wall, so that they did not hurt the rest of the stock. By the time the Stable Master had come in with the hay he was astonished to find the scene so well in hand.

There was very little light in the ballroom. Most of the illumination came from the moon and fire light filtering in from the filthy windows and reflecting off the fripperies about the room. The Stable Master knew that these objects would not stay nice for long and wondered at the depth of his new employer’s madness. He was also still in awe that someone would orchestrate stuck a feat on a whim. Not to mention it looked as if the man had done it without harming a single beast. The man gave a smile to his new employer's accomplishments and a laugh in disbelief at what they pulled off.

Lord John responded by throwing his head back and giving a maniacal cackle in return. Lord John's head was hallowed by the full moons glow while his features were shadowed and illuminated by the fires light. He was a formetable, menacing site. The stable Master felt a pang of fear and worried that he was working for the devil himself.


About the Creator

E. J. Strange

I am new to the writing community but hope to publish a novel one day. I am simple minded and sucker for romance.

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