“But it stinks, father.”
“What’d you expect it to smell like?” Father slings the strap of the box containing the flags over his son’s shoulder. “It’s the King’s shite. Even his royal ass squeezes ripe drops, don’cha know.”
“And it’s only his feces I’m to watch for?” Gaylon strains his neck muscles, the box pulls heavy, tilting his slight body to the left.
Father raps him about the head. “Stand straight son. Being the fececian is an honor. I’ll not have you taint our name with shoddy, ungainly shuffling to the royal tumbler.” The man steps back and takes in his son. The boy has his mother’s pale hair but his father’s block chin, a strong chin, the likes to get him into fights when he comes into his own. “The Queen may use the high-port at times. Best you turn your head you see white buttocks grace the hole there. The low-port be used by royal staff. Pay no mind to the shite that flows from that one.”
Gaylon adjusts the strap and ducks his head to bring the wide dark leather across his chest. “Aye, Father. I’ll to my best.”
“Do the job, son. Not your best.” Father pulls the slatted door wide. “Your best won’t be good enough for years.”
Gaylon angles sideways through the door, down the path, out the gate and along the muddy road, caution-walking toward the castle. He passes few at this hour of the morning.
Wrenk, the swineherd, stops with his fists to hips to regard him. “Off to sniff the royal ass today? I dare say it ain’t sweeter than the shite my piggies squirt for me.”
“It’s a noble occupation. Not for the likes of you.” Gaylon strolls by quickly, leaving Wrenk gaping air behind him. With a second glance, Gaylon says, “I raise a black-tan flag, the cook will beg off cooking pork for a week.” The boy knows he’s pushed the man’s limits. This is the power his father spoke of as they sat around their hearth fire discussing the use of the colored flags. He watches Wrenk squint in thought. Now he’s done it, he thinks.
The filth-splattered man, his knee-high boots drooping with age and decay from the acrid swine piss, points his short whip at a piglet. “That’s the runt from my big sow. Maybe your pa would care to find it inside your gate tonight. A gift for the King’s honored servant.”
Gaylon gasps silently. “I… I suspect he would.”
“Mind your flags, there, Master Fececian.”
“Mind your herd, kind sir.”
He can smell the stench before he sees it, a slick hill built up against the grey stones of the back side of the castle. Few wander here, not only due to the odor. It’s a treacherous trail that leads to the tumble of a hundred years of royal shite. He finds the platform easily enough. He’s been here before, his father having shown him the tricks of passage and the means to avoid splatter. He settles the box of flags, a color and pattern for the various shades and viscosity of feces that emit from the regal anus.
The legacy of the Royal Fececian is not without controversy. Inferring the temperament of the King based upon the quality of his effluent earned the first few shite-watchers a swift death. But, after King Leonard II learned that a certain villager whispered to his cook regarding the consistency of his shite, and the cook having altered his menu to suit, the position of fececian became a revered if sullied station.
Gaylon tucks his way onto the bench, his eyes glued to the dark round hole high up the granite wall. The royal toilette sits cantilevered out from the flat expanse of the castle. A similar version pokes out further down, the low-port. Gaylon rarely glances at that ocher-stained mound.
The wisp of a breeze lifts the reek of recent weeks evacuations to his nose. All around the base of the hill, lush reeds and grasses grow, a testament to the nutrient-rich waste cast from on high. The oak trees at the bottom reach a hundred feet or more, their sprawling limbs resplendent in palm-wide, dark-green leaves.
Hours tick slowly by. Gaylon sips from a cow-horn bottle. As he loops it over his shoulder, a scuffle echoes down from the private vestibule above. He narrows his vision to catch the drop. No hairy ass shows at the hollow. No white one either. Instead, a pink-colored shape appears, poised there, filling the cavity entirely and then plummets down. The foul offering splats heavy at the top of the pile spewing black and brown dollops from beneath it. Then it begins to tumble.
Gaylon covers his mouth in horror as he watches a newborn babe cartwheel down the slope, its flailing pink cord whipping like a pendant. It slaps hard onto its back and slides twenty yards disappearing into the weeds at the lower border.
He leaps to his feet and cranes his neck to spy the child. Nothing. Not even a sound from below. From above he hears the sounds of whimpering and watches as the hole is covered with a walnut-colored lid.
He rummages frantically through the set of flags. No color or pattern comes remotely close to this bizarre tragedy. He sits, he stands, he rubs his head with both hands. The forest below is silent, as if even the birds and creatures know not to breach the calm of this most heinous of incidents.
And then he hears a cough. And a second. And then the barest of cries, a kitten trapped by a fox, screaming in its tiny voice, crying to be heard.
Gaylon dashes from the wooden platform, stumbling down the hill, avoiding, as best he can, the scree of sewage. He reaches the level and wades through the high, sharp grass, gauging his steps against the layout of the castle.
“It must be here, somewhere.” He pauses, ears aching with the desire to hear the child’s breath. He swims, both hands forward, splitting the stalks until he catches a glimpse of pink. There it is, alive, squirming face up in the muck and snarled grass. Gaylon steps above it and inspects this strange bundle.
The babe, a boy, regards him with inquisitive, sapphire eyes.
“Why?” Gaylon implores the surrounding forest. “You seem so perfect. So, so innocent. Why?”
He lifts the child covered in shite, face smeared with maggot riddle ooze. He flips the stopper from his bottle and rinses the boy as clean as he can before wrapping him in the lower half of his tunic. To the cord, this purplish snake, he cuts it close to the child’s belly.
The child mews weak and exhausted, barely audible. Gaylon inspects the babe more closely.
“Ah, that’s why.” Upon close examination, each hand, each foot has one too many fingers or toes. “A devil’s child. A royal devil, at that. Won’t father be surprised.”