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    Mike Arram
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Henry in Finkle Road - 29. Chapter 29

It was Sunday, and the bells of Strelzen were ringing out for mass in its many churches. Henry was sitting in his room in the private wing of the royal palace. After Helge had shared the news of what had happened at Terlenehem with a few selected friends, the king had insisted on Henry's staying with him.

‘Henry, you really have done it this time. You have exercised your courage on a cosmic stage. Do you think I can let that pass, even though it cannot be acknowledged publicly?’

The court gazette lay open on a side table. Saturday. At a private investiture. The Grand Cordon of the Rose to Mr Henry Atwood OHL. Henry Atwood GCR commissioned kapitan-leutnant in the Regiment of Foot Guards and appointed adjutant to HM the King.’

‘There,’ Rudi said as he kissed Henry. ‘My little gay Lancelot is now truly a knight and a warrior, and some justice has been done to him. Pity you’re so short for a guardsman, Henry.’

‘I’d rather have been a sailor.’

‘We’re a landlocked country.’

‘Do I get paid?’

‘No. The commission’s honorary. Your student debt’s your problem, Henry.’

‘Still, I’m one rank higher than Ed Cornish. And mine’s the premier infantry regiment in the army. He’ll have to call me sir!’

The king smiled. ‘That’s only right and proper.’

Henry was awaiting the call to summon him to the Chapel Royal. Mass was at ten o’clock and he was in attendance with Fritz. Bizarrely – or perhaps not, considering this was Rothenia – Rudi and Fritz were better friends than ever, despite the king's having almost killed the prince by running him through the body with a cavalry sabre.

Henry looked at himself in the mirror. Gavin would have been blazing with delight to see Henry in military dress. Short though he was, he looked magnificent in a dark blue, gold-buttoned coat with red and gold facings. A gold stripe ran down the seam of his red trousers, and golden aiguillettes hung from the captain’s epaulette on his left shoulder. The star of his order was pinned to his chest and the order of Henry the Lion was around his upright collar.

The bearskin cap was a problem. Fortunately, he didn’t have to wear it, just keep it tucked under his arm. The sword was another difficulty. It seemed too long for him. A pity his face was so boyish. He simply could not look stern.

The phone buzzed, a secretary asking him to join the king in the Grande Salle. So Henry trotted down the great staircase, unconsciously adopting a military pace on reaching the public rooms. He was unnerved when the guards in the palace presented arms as he passed, only barely remembering to return the salute.

Rudi was in a blue suit, and Henry remembered to salute him too, before shaking his hand. Harriet Peacher was standing beside him, ravishing in a beautiful summer frock from Paris. It was pretty clear to the whole world now that there was a love affair in full bloom at the palace. Harriet and Eddie’s father was expected within days for some serious discussions with the king.

Harriet smiled brightly. ‘My heavens, Henry. You look gorgeous, quite the gay blade.’

‘Oh very funny, Harry!’

Strangely, he could not grieve for Gavin. He somehow knew the boy was out there somewhere and loved him still, even though Henry could not see him.

The king said, ‘Henry, I had a word with the archbishop. He is more than happy for you to take communion. He even offered to issue an indult to that effect.’

‘Then I will communicate. Thanks, Rudi, that means a lot, especially at the moment.’

Mass was gorgeous, with a newly reconstituted chapel choir made up of choral scholars whom Rudi was sponsoring from among the members of the university music department. The bishop of Luchau was celebrating. The palace staff were all in attendance, as well as the king’s guests. It soothed Henry very much, and, despite the difficulties of the sword, he sank to his knees at the elevation with deep reverence.

While he contemplated the mystery of the mass, Henry tried to make sense of what he had witnessed over the past few days. He had seen the inauguration of a new phase in the relations between the divine and Creation, he was quite sure. Something had come into the world as a result. Maybe God was responding to the development of human history, the development that had brought forward so many people like Piotr Bermann.

Henry wondered if he would see more of how it developed. And always his mind returned to his vision in the abbey of Medeln. To whom had he been talking? It had looked like his friend Jed, but the presence had denied that. Could it have been Someone he dared not name, even in his head? Only that Someone could have done for him what had been done in the tombs of the Tarlenheim family.

After Mass, Henry and Fritz wandered out into the palace grounds. ‘I would have thought you’d be a bit wary of coming out here, Fritzy, what with all that garden equipment lying around.’

‘Ha bloody ha, as you might say, Henry. No, it’s hanging round Harry that causes the pain. I feel so abandoned and so regretful. Though I know she never loved me, still I think I really did love her. It was like no other feeling I ever had. And how about you, Henry? You too have lost your love, and he was a wonderful person. I can understand how you feel.’

Henry took Fritz’s arm and held it tight. The prince leaned down and kissed his hair. ‘Come on, Henry, let’s go in and have lunch. Then we can go over to the Tarlenheim palace and you can help me build King’s Cross station. How about that for consolation?’

‘I couldn’t ask for better.’

Fritz gave him an odd look.

 

***

 

Henry smiled across the table at Fritz, who was working on the station clock tower. Henry was painting figurines, the sort of task he could be trusted with. Fritz smiled back. It was late in the evening and Fritz had got them glasses of fruit wine. They were very companionable. He felt closer to his friend than ever before. It was a bond forged both in mutual sadness and in mutual escape from death.

‘Your scar’s mending, baby,’ he said, then caught himself and blushed. ‘Sorry Fritz, for a moment I forgot whom I was talking to.’

‘Don’t mind me, Henry. Call me baby. It’s quite nice. Is that what you called Gavin?’

‘Yes, though it was a bit patronising. He was not at all babyish. In fact, he was – is – a more courageous and stronger man than I. But somehow we liked it, it expressed something about us.’

‘You usually topped with him, is that right?’

‘Your prurient curiosity again, Fritz?’

‘Oh yeah. But the fact that you topped made him the dependent part of the couple, at least sexually.’

‘I suppose. It must be hard for a straight man like you to understand how guys interact sexually in a relationship.’

‘Oh, I don’t know about that. The Internet is a great help. I read the story sites, there’s a lot to be learned from them about all sorts of sexualities, especially the way-out ones. And when it comes down to it, straight and gay are just opposite ends of a continuum. Gay guys sometimes father kids, and otherwise straight guys have sex with men for a lot of reasons.’

‘Loneliness?’ suggested Henry.

‘Amongst other things.’ Fritz put down his model and looked into Henry’s eyes. Then he leaned over and cupped his friend’s cheeks in his warm hands. ‘Henry, I don’t want to sleep alone tonight. I want to sleep with you. Will you do this for me? We’re lonely, we’re unattached. I think we love each other, just a little. I have to confess I have wanted to try gay sex for many years. Now I think the perfect time and the perfect partner have come my way. Will you?’

Henry was astonished and so was his penis, which sprang erect. Fritz released him, and sat back looking hopeful. Not trusting his voice, Henry nodded.

Fritz beamed. ‘This is fantastic!’ Then he looked puzzled. ‘Er … what do we do?’

Henry could not help chuckling. ‘Well, first we find a bedroom, and then we take it from there. Have you got lube? I want you up my bum, Fritzy … but are you willing to take it?’

Fritz nodded decidedly. ‘I want the full experience.’

Henry stood up and offered his hand to Fritz. Fritz took it, and came close to Henry. For a moment they looked into each other’s eyes, and then Henry snuggled into Fritz’s bigger body. When their lips met, Henry knew it was for real. They galloped down to Fritz’s room, and even before the door was closed, clothes were being shed in every direction. Henry threw his briefs across the room and turned to find Fritz fully nude, holding out his arms to his friend. Henry had not seen Fritz naked, and his revealed and beautiful member was on the lines of Ed’s, thick and proud. He was fully erect. All of a sudden Henry was nervous. It had been a while since he had encountered the demands of something like that.

Later, Fritz pushed himself up, kissed Henry and smiled. ‘How was I, baby?’

‘A totally fantastic fuck, Fritzy. You should think of taking it up full time. What did you think?’

Fritz smiled back at him. ‘It answered a lot of questions I had, Henry. Now I know what Oskar feels like when he gets mounted by Peter. I think Pete usually tops him. I heard them once. I couldn’t believe queer sex was anything but fun after that.’

Henry reached up and traced the scar across the bridge of Fritz’s nose and cheek. ‘So … er, you wouldn’t mind doing me again?’

‘What, now?’

‘You’re seventeen. Seventeen-year-olds are legendary, Fritz.’ Fritz laughed. Henry saw that his cock was indeed ready for action again, and Fritz did not disappoint him, either then or when he took Henry for the third time two hours later.

They woke late the next morning, cuddling together a while in bed before going off to enjoy a shower and then dress. Over a late breakfast, they waxed a bit clinical about their love-making.

‘So what have we learned, Fritzy?’

‘I like sex, I like it a lot. And most of all, I like it with those I love – you for one, my Henry. I don’t think I’m lost to heterosexuality, though. Girls are great too. But I know a lot more about myself now, and what pleasures me. Maybe you and I will never fuck again, but if a man attracts me in future, I won’t resist if I find I have feelings for him.’

‘You’re so beautiful, Fritzy. I can’t imagine anyone not falling under your spell. Is there anyone else at the moment?’

Fritz looked confidential. He leaned forward. ‘You may think less of me, my Henry, and suppose it’s a rebound thing, but … have you seen the Princess Royal?’

Henry gave Fritz a disbelieving look. Fritz appeared a little sheepish, but came back defensively. ‘She is my age, and she’s so very pretty, so cool and clever. We danced the night of the ball, and if I hadn’t been all hung up on Harry, I would have said something to her then. She came to visit me in hospital, you know … twice. Although I don’t want to get ahead of myself, I do have her MSN address. I’m going to chat her up on line.’

Henry laughed, reached over and pulled Fritz toward him for a long kiss. Breaking off he murmured, ‘In all the centuries since St Fenice, only one Tarlenheim woman has ever made an Elphberg marriage. So do you suppose perhaps the time has come for an Elphberg woman to marry a Tarlenheim?’

 

***

 

The filming of the Bannow documentary broke up in some confusion. Rumour had it that Professor Wardrinski was suffering from stress, perhaps even a complete breakdown. He returned abruptly to England. A month later, the Independent was the first paper to break the news that the great atheist had become a Christian Scientist. Soon he was appearing on talk shows defending the existence of God and the reality of religious experience. Henry shrugged and smiled.

Strangely, the conversion surprised very few people. It was unkindly suggested by some commentators that he did it because it was more challenging to defend the religious side of the argument.

Matthew White too shrugged, though he did not smile. But he had enough in the can to edit together the documentary he wanted to make. Henry fed him some surprising further evidence to add to the production. Wardrinski would not resent it now. In fact, he was quoted as saying that Matt White was unnecessarily hostile to the possibility that there was something behind the case for the True Face.

Henry stayed on all summer in Rothenia at the royal palace and at the Tarlenheims’. He and Fritz made love a few more times, each time with increasing delight in each other, even though they knew it was only for mutual comfort. But it did comfort Henry very much, and he was grateful for the loving arms that held him at night. He was quite active in the king’s household, often performing the duties of adjutant and equerry.

One night ten days after the events that had changed Henry’s life, the king called together a small group of friends for a conference about what had happened in the Tarlenheim mausoleum. It had been portrayed in the media as an attempt by gangsters to loot works of art from a famous monument. Bermann’s disappearance had been explained as a guilty bolt to seek refuge abroad.

The meeting was held in the secure council chamber of the palace. Queen Flavia looked down on the participants from above the mantelpiece, painted in her robes of state. Henry suddenly noticed, as he had failed to do so before, the skull badge of the Levite depicted together with the insignias of the Garter, the Rose and the Golden Fleece. The guide book said it was a ‘memento mori’. Henry now knew better.

Rudi took the head of the table with Oskar opposite him. Henry sat on his right and Helge on his left. Matt, Terry, David and Ed Cornish were also present, as was Eddie Peacher. Henry had specially requested that Eddie be invited, saying he had a right to know why Gavin would no longer be seen in Cranwell.

‘So where is the little dude?’ Eddie asked, after the whole thing had been explained to him.

Henry shrugged. ‘In those final moments, I got the impression from his words that he’s still in this world. But what state is he in? Gavin touched the relic and yet lived. He can’t be purely human any more.’

‘You mean, he’s like an angel?’ Eddie was gripped.

‘No. I suppose the closest idea for me is how writers imagined King Arthur was after the last battle, when he was taken off to Avalon. He was still human, but in closer touch with the divine than the rest of humanity. Although he was still involved in the world, his perceptions were wider than ours. Gavin’s that way too, sort of like a prophet or judge was in ancient Israel. My beautiful waif, what has he grown into?’

Ed Cornish looked very moved at Henry’s words. ‘What about the Chamber of the Ark and its treasures? Where are they now?’

Henry shrugged again. ‘They’ve moved out of mortal sight for the time being, I would suppose, but not out of the world. In fact, I’m pretty sure they’ve not even left Rothenia.’

All eyes snapped to Henry. The king stirred. ‘Why do you say that, dear friend?’

‘There’s a thing in the air which the sensitive always feel about this country, Rudi, even if they don’t know the things we know. It’s as if the place has a hidden centre of gravity around which everything revolves. Then there is Will’s idea that passions run deeper here than elsewhere. He also thinks people are enhanced just by being within the boundaries of this land. I can’t sense any lessening of that feeling. How about you, Helge?’

The countess nodded emphatically. ‘I believe you’re right, Henry. Your Majesty, your kingdom still contains the greatest treasure in the world, though it’s now hidden from us.’

Terry grinned. ‘There’s a treasure hunt still to be had, then. Old Man Bannow can write a sequel to Staring in the Face of Christ.’

Oskar smiled down the table at Henry. ‘There’s something that puzzles me, dear little Henry. It’s the prophecy. It really does imply that Mendamero was a person, and not a password.’

‘What, the business about being as wise as Deborah and bold as Samson? It’s a bit obscure.’

‘Is it?’ Matt’s lips curled with a secret smile. ‘Not to your friends, dearest Henry.’

Henry blushed. ‘Try as you like, Matt, you can’t make MENDAMERO into anything Henry-related. Let’s let the dead bury the dead, eh? The prophecy is time-expired.’

 

***

 

Henry Atwood’s became a familiar face in the Rothenian media. He was interviewed on an Eastnet chat show. He learned to his delight that he now had a gay fan-site hosted from a Strelzen server. He knew his friends were reluctant to see him leave, especially Fritz. It was even suggested he should transfer his credits to the Rodolfer Universität and pursue his studies in Rothenia, where fees were low and living was cheap. Indeed, Helge was quite clear that he could live at the palace rent-free. But that would not do. Henry liked Cranwell far too much, and he knew Eddie Peacher needed him.

Eddie and he hit the Wejg one evening. They found their way through the hustlers and prostitutes to the Irish bar, which Justin had recommended. Sitting over a chilled Guinness, Henry asked how Harriet was managing with the media frenzy.

‘We’ve always had to deal with the interest, Henry dude. We did a joint shoot for Teen Vogue when we were only fourteen, just after Dad married Momma Sylvia. The curiosity has been continuous ever since, though recently they’ve been a lot more interested in her than me, for obvious reasons.’

‘But this is a different order of interest. They’re doing the Princess Di thing all over again.’

‘Bad comparison, dude. Harry’s a cool customer, and Rudi’s got no former lovers in the closet. It’s the real thing between them. There’s no doubt of it. I reckon they’ll marry after he graduates. She’ll have another year to run at Vassar, but I expect her college will be delighted to have a queen in the senior class.’

‘I hope I’ll be on the wedding list.’

‘Henry, I have a feeling either you or Ed Cornish will be the best man.’

That observation stopped Henry in his tracks. While gathering his wits together, he applied himself to his half-litre of Guinness. He found he rather liked the drink, though he had never tried it at the King’s Cross. It was stout and not beer, however, so perhaps there was a difference.

Eddie shot him a look. ‘How’s the grieving for Gavin going?’

‘He’s not dead, Eddie, and it’s not as if we broke up or anything. It was like what happened in days of old – the knight leaving on a quest and his love having to wave him off, knowing he would be gone maybe for years. That’s my Gavin – a brave knight whose mission is greater than any human ties he had, even to me. It doesn’t mean I can’t still love him, and I know he loves me, wherever he is.’

‘Well, I’m glad. But what about 25 Finkle Road? We’ve lost a tenant, dude … not that he was paying rent, but it will be bad without the guy. We need someone new, and I think I know who.’

‘Oh … you do?’

‘Sure. I bumped into this guy who dropped out of his university place, but wants to start up again in a different school. He’s thinking of Cranwell. He’s heard good things about it.’

‘Well sure. But how do we know we’ll be compatible?’

‘You’re about to find out. Hey, Ed! Over here!’

‘What!’ screamed Henry, as Ed Cornish appeared in the bar and headed over to their table. He sat down and smiled into Henry’s face.

‘You dropped out of Cambridge! Are you nuts, Ed?’ Henry was genuinely annoyed. Ed sensed it and wilted a little.

‘Easy, Henry. Let me live. I’ve already put in my request for a place in History at Cranwell. Admittedly Prof Faber was astounded, but he’s happy to accept my transfer.’

‘What happened to all that business of wanting to excel in the best available school, all that subdued contempt for the redbrick end of the higher education market?’

Ed looked uncomfortable. ‘I’ve grown up a bit, Henry. Honest. It was just my competitiveness talking. I know now there’s more to being a student.’

‘Now hang on a minute here … I trust you don’t have any, y’know, ideas.’

Ed looked offended. ‘Certainly not. It would be pretty damned insensitive of me in the circumstances. No, I’ll be occupying my own room … I’ve got no hopes about sharing.’

Henry gave his ex-lover a narrow look. He was not deceived. He could see the hopes lurking just below the surface. Why else would Ed transfer? It couldn’t be because of disappointment over Guy Worsman. But he let it pass and swallowed the story. ‘Then I suppose it’s alright. What have Matt and Andy said?’

‘I haven’t told them. I expect they’ll be okay with it, though.’

So do I, thought Henry. He knew what a pair of romantics Ed’s former guardians were.

Copyright © 2019 Mike Arram; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Is Henry and Ed getting back together again? 😘

is this the end of the story? 

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56 minutes ago, damejintymcginty said:

Brilliant story but just one thing.... How did Henry explain Gavin's disappearance to his family? 

I had the distinct impression Gavin's family had virtually no interest in him, so might not even notice he was 'missing'

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50 minutes ago, Ivor Slipper said:

I had the distinct impression Gavin's family had virtually no interest in him, so might not even notice he was 'missing'

I think he got on well enough with his parents. It was his siblings that he didn't get on with. 

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Great story, love every minute of it.  You have very complex and well cited material.  i hope you continue the line wherever it takes us.  keep up the great work. many thanks :) 

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As I remember reading. Gavin did get along with his family except his brothers. So how did or what did Henry tell Gavin's parents or for that fact his own parents. Although I'm sure Henry could just tell his parents they broke up.

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