New Look

Ha! If I had just listened and submitted to wearing the damned mask, then I wouldn’t have found myself in immeasurable pain. Still…it was the kind of pain that reminds you that living without pain, is a fantasy that you took for granted. I took for granted. These bastards knew they couldn’t kill me, and it’s my guess that they knew I wouldn’t wear it, not by choice anyway. And now I had no choice at all! The fucking thing had been branded onto my face. My skin smoked and hissed as it was seared away by the white-hot, inside cover of the mask. The feeling was truly unique. They kept me tied down for what must have been months. Dripping water and soup through the straight slit  that protected my teeth from the mask. I couldn’t even speak. To try and move my lips, before they healed caused a furious phenomena that crippled me from even thinking. Laying there, alone, I absorbed myself in fear. That was when he came in. And he showed me kindness again. It started with him just talking to me. Telling me about the weather outdoors and then of events that were occuring around the globe. I even started to take interest. He wore the mask of wrath. He was known simply as Sin.
They eventually released my restraints.  The mask was one with my face, it was at one with me. And I with it.
I attended meetings and was given free roam of the palace. Stories of Grim Catspaw echoed like gossip in the halls of that, that, world of isolation.
The name Henry Game had been burned away with my face. They called me the Bastard of Bolton, my trade name. My mask, looking at it in the mirror, bore the face dedication.  At the meetings I was given an honorary position by the side of Sin, one down from the Iron Mask herself.
Grim returned from Europe.
Our time had come.
They released me to wreak havoc. My outlook on existence had changed, for the moment. Germany was war mongering.  And we were sent to make sure it happened. Money was to be made from war. And kingdoms needed money to rise up.
It did not take long for tales of ‘The Bastard’ to begin circulating and spreading fear into the hearts of enemies of the Iron Mask.


The mask.

‘It is probably more likely that I will be chosen as the next Pope! Than actually decide to wear one of them ridiculous-fucking-masks.’ They left it anyway. Gleaming on top of a pile of ceremonial robes. Purple, non the less. Two of them brought in the garments saying as little as possible. Happy and Crappy, I named them, on account of their masked expressions.
‘Look, just do as your surname suggests and fucking play along!’ Grim unfolded himself from the tiny, monk-like chair I had nestled in the corner of my living quarters. He wasn’t wearing his.
‘I ain’t fucking doing it. And I would like to see them make me!’
‘No you wouldn’t…trust me. Oh look! Your mask is…how would you put it? Disdainful, untrusting.’ I glanced at it from where I stood.
‘I would say it is more like sceptical or reserved.’
‘The many faces of Lord Game!’ And with that his humongous frame made to leave the room. ‘Oh and Game,’ he said turning in the doorway. I looked up at him from the edge of my bare mattress. ‘Wear the fucking mask for heavens sake. If you don’t you will live to regret it. Just ask about the blade of Northwood. That will tell you everything you need to know.’
‘I am not wearing it. They will have to try and make me.’ He laughed and I laughed. I wasn’t sure what he was laughing about.  Come to think of it, I’m not sure what I was laughing about. Some situations are best avoided, good advice in hindsight. 


Queens and pawns

I just automatically assumed that…well I was mistaken,  I thought the only palace in London these days was that Buckingham one. Seems as though I had come full circle.
Again, I found myself in a fucking throne room. And not just any throne room, no! The very same one that good old fat Henry often frequented. The same one in which he elegantly deflected my rage onto the Vatican. Fat bastard. Hampton Court palace.
She/he/it sat on the throne with its mask of sorrow looking down on me. Grim had fallen in line with the other metal heads. Each mask held a different emotion. Grim’s wore defiance, but then again, that was Grim all over, except for now of course. Now he was this phycopaths chess piece. They lined the walls, standing shoulder to shoulder like barriers between the huge marble pillars on each side of the throne. I didn’t see any weapons but I knew that these kittens weren’t bothered about getting a little bloodied. Good. If it comes to it, neither am I.
I looked up at…it. it was leaning forwards, perched on the edge of the throne. To be honest it kind of unsettled me.
‘Well? Now you have me!’
‘Now I have you?’ She repeated. I flinched when I heard her voice. I did not expect that. She was big and a little menacing, especially for a woman!
‘Look, ahhhh…’ I ran out of words, I just shrugged. She laughed, the rest of the room stayed silent, unnaturally silent. That was the moment I realised that I wouldn’t be able to leave of my own free will. She had me. Check.


Play fight.

It felt like it had been years since I had last had an actual fight with someone who didn’t die within the first ten seconds. We had met up with Grim on the road and stopped in a grand old house not too far from Nottingham. Me and Grim had been sparring for a little over two minutes now, and, to give him his due, Grim could damn-well hold his own. He swung his hairy chunk of an arm toward my head in a fient, whilst full-force front kicking with all of his weight to catch me flat. That would have felled a fucking tree! If I had let him hit me, that is. I ducked from his blatantly obvious decoy punch before, in one quick footed side-step, I rendered his kick redundant.  And to make it worse it had left him extremely vulnerable and surprised. I even had time to wink at him before I sent my fist crashing down on to his clavicle. His shoulder dropped and he crumpled onto his side. This is when I would end him, under normal circumstances, but seeing as though we were merely pretending, I decided that a broken collar bone was harsh enough punishment. But still, he got off lightly! The room drew silent as Grim crashed to the mat. They were stunned, probably because he was defeated by such a small man, or rather I should say small compared to him. Grim is a fucking giant! I faced the room in a challenge to those who looked on, silent, but was brought back to the mat when a strange, high pitched moan caught my attention. It was coming from the balled up from of Grim. I bent over to check him out but then realised that he was laughing. He rolled out onto his back and smiled through his pain face at me. He held out his good arm, I pulled him back to his feet. Now he respected me, I don’t know what he thought before, but if I’m being honest, I couldn’t give a fuck what he thought of me, or what any of these other fuckers thought. I turned and headed for the doors.
‘Game…almost had you there!’ I stopped by the door to look at him. His arm folded across his chest.
‘No you didn’t.’ I responded before leaving him to his pain.


Automobile

‘Thats ok, I’m driving.’ I looked at him skeptical.  Cars were rare, but people who were willing to drive nearly 250 miles, rarer still. I kept my mouth shut and waited by the curb with my bag packed, dawdling on the pavement in front of the fine establishment which I had existed in for somewhere close to six month.  The boy scurried away carrying one of my bags under his well dressed arm. When Grim said he would send for me, I didn’t imagine this.
The man behind the iron mask was most interested in my stuborness when it came to dying. “You seem to be most reluctant” were Grim’s exact words. This had preceeded the events to unfold when I would see myself swathed in fine linen and fed like a king. Oil. It had begun to grip the planet in its greasy grip. And I was one of the benefactors, for a time. 
Purring like a kitten a vehicle approached and came to an unusually smooth stop by the curb where I stood.
‘Mr Game, if you please’ he gestured to me from his driving position.  I was no automible fanatic but I recognised a Silver Ghost when I saw one. The pride of the North, people daydreamed about this exquisite machine, while I usually daydreamed about overcast skies, so long ago.
I placed my bag on the rear seat and climbed in along side my chauffeur.  Ha! I had a chauffeur. They would love this at the Order…no they wouldn’t.
‘So where exactly in London is Mr Iron mask?’ The lackey ignored the childish jibe as he forced the gear stick down.
‘Why, she’s at the Palace, of course!’
‘Pardon?’ I was shocked. But he didn’t reply to my question, instead he smiled at me through the side of his face while he kept his eyes on the cobbled road ahead.


Head hunted

‘How many?’ He asked out of the darkest corner of the pub. His face was completely shrouded in darkness,  the only light came from the occasional flare from the angry red bulb of his pipe.
He was a big one, and wore a large rimmed hat of sort, like I said, he was sitting in the dark.
‘How many what?’ I knew exactly what he meant but his sudden question and spooky appearance in the corner behind me had pirked my temper slightly. I don’t like surprises.
‘How old are you?’ Again the bulb glowed. I had to think. I mustn’t have looked any older than late twenties, what a bizarre question to ask me. Unless, of course, he knew exactly who he was talking with which disturbed me even further. If I disliked surprises then I hated uncertainty.  I slammed my glass down on the bench and approached the big man in the corner who stayed exactly where he was, still puffing on his pipe. He seemed relaxed but I couldn’t tell either way.
‘Are you going to answer any of my questions, Mr Game?’ Now he leaned forwards, his eyes hidden beneath the rim of his fedora hat.
‘Not until you have answered mine first. And think carefully because the answer to this question could determine the rest of your life, or to be more precise, how much of your life you have left to live.’ His response was raucous laughter which must have cleared the bats out of the loft it was so loud. And, despite myself, I found myself laughing along with him after a moment or so.
‘He said you were a wild one, but shit boy. Go on, ask away’ he clapped his big hand down on the table. I was impressed with the size of this man but I was far from intimidated.
‘How do you know who I am, and who said I was wild, am wild?’
‘Now, now! That’s two questions Mr Game.’ He laughed again. I found myself relaxing,
‘Just fucking talk.’ I sat down.
‘Ok punchy. You ever heard of the Iron mask?’


The Bastard of Bolton

Ok, so out on my own.  I hadn’t realised how much I had come to think of them as my family, again. Not a mistake I ever intend to repeat.
The year is 1913, and the world is charged with evil. Me chief amongst them, apparently.  The Order has packed up and gone to the United States of America. Apparently to re-connect with another, similar, sister-like Order that shipped out over there back when the land barrens were located over there to help colonise the ‘new world’.
Maybe that seed had come to fruition, because this fucking place…it was sick and rotting from the core.
Its fucking raining, to top it off. Out on my luck and deserted by the only people who ever, really knew me or at least where I came from, I left them behind me and crossed over the pennines to the red rose counties. I had found shelter in a disreputable drinking establishment, which of course, also offered whores and a great number of nefarious services to the bearer of the correct sum. I was not a punter. I had settled as a rogue trader. My speciality was bounty hunting, or rather making sure these people never got found again. That was until my fortunes changed and I got given a name that would eventually set me back on the correct path, I think. Well if not correct then at least one that pays better!
What? Don’t judge me, you don’t know what I’ve been through…or maybe you do. I’m bad and I fucking love it.
Thats me, Henry Game the bastard of Bolton.


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