by Flaulus

Chapter 1

As he stood, leaning against the rail, watching the water slide past the boat he was on, Rick was feeling extraordinarily pleased with himself. At fifteen, a journey involving three changes of train and now the last leg, a boat trip was a daunting adventure. His excitement almost drowned out his worry about his mother and her impending operation, and the fact he was meeting relatives who he had never even heard of until plans to look after him evolved, did not help.

"Hi." a young voice said beside him, "Are you here for the activity centre?"

Rick turned to see another boy about his age, dressed in a school uniform complete with backpack and small suitcase.

"No. I'm spending the holiday with relatives. I've never met them except for Aunt Sybil. She arranged it all, but she's as nutty as a fruitcake. I like her, she's a sweet old thing but if you asked her about the weather, she'd talk about her trip across the Sahara in the blazing heat. She's got some amazing stories but all I've got is the name of some pub or hotel. I've no idea where it is."

"Dad owns the only pub, and he's not mentioned you coming. There's a few B and B's but not a hotel. What's the name?"

"The Castle, Bovaline."

"The Castle. What's your surname?"

"Blatcherfield. I'm Rick."

"I'm Paul. You're Richard Blatcherfield, and you think the Castle is a pub."

"Yeah. Is there a problem?"

"It could be. We're getting near the island so do you see the castle?"

"Yeah I was kind of guessing the pub was named after it." Rick said.

Paul was grinning, almost trying to suppress his laughter.

"Blatcherfield is the family name of the Earl of Westmark. The castle is their family seat. Your Aunt Sybil didn't say anything?"

"She said a lot. The trick was trying to understand it all."

"But you are expected?" Paul asked.

"Tomorrow. Mum's operation was brought forward, so I'm a day early."

"We'll be docking soon. How about you come home with me, so I can see my parents and change. Then I'll take you up to the castle."

"OK! What's your story?"

"I have to go to school on the mainland, so I board during the week and come home at weekends."

"Are you the only one?"

"No. It's only a twenty-minute crossing but sometimes it can be too rough, so we tend to miss a lot of school. I'm going on to take 'A' levels and maybe go on to university to read physics, so I can't afford to miss too much."

"So you're a nerd." Rick laughed, "And there's me trying to bunk off as much as possible."

"I'm a gay nerd." Paul replied watching Rick cautiously.

"Oh! Where I come from, that's two things to make you a target. I'm not sure I could admit to being gay so easily."

"As long as I'm not scaring you off, don't worry about it."

The boat docked and before long Rick found himself seated at a table in the pub bar. Paul's parents sat with him as Paul rushed upstairs. Paul's dad seemed relaxed, but he hurried to the bar whenever a customer needed serving. Paul did not take long and Rick relaxed, content with a cup of tea and sandwiches as they chatted.

"So how are you related to the old earl." Paul's father asked.

"The old earl?" Rick queried.

"The present one's grandfather. He was the ninth, but his son was a bit wild, and the gossip is, he ended up in prison. He was a Richard as well. It's not surprising because the earl's oldest son was always called Richard. Anyway the second oldest brother became the tenth earl and by all accounts he was a randy sod, but he could only marry one of the mothers of his children. His legitimate son became the eleventh earl, and he's your host."

"So you think my grandfather was the illegitimate son of the tenth earl?" Rick asked.

"It's the most likely. Maybe it's not my place to tell you but I reckon you'll be welcome. Bovaline is just large enough to be self-sustaining, we get income from tourism, and his lordship does well with his investments. We're a bit feudal here, but we all get something out of it. Legally, you may not be entitled to anything from the family but Sebastian will see it as his duty to look after you."

"Sebastian?" Rick queried.

Paul's father grinned, "Sebastian Blatcherfield, eleventh Earl of Westmark, when he first comes into the bar. After a quick bob of the head and a 'Good evening, Your Lordship' and his first beer, it's Sebastian."

Rick grinned, "It's all a bit snobby though."

"His lordship is paying for Paul's school fees. Joe will be in shortly. He had the idea boat trips to see the island from the sea would be popular. His lordship paid for a boat, and the setup fees, he only took a cut of the profit for five years, and he's not asking for his investment to be paid back. He sees it as his duty to put his money back into the island."

Rick nodded thoughtfully, "I just didn't know. I don't think Mum did, either."

"Paul, go and find Eric. See if you can drive Rick up to the castle." Paul's father said.

"Drive? I didn't think you were seventeen." Rick asked.

"I'm not. I'm fifteen. You'll see."

Paul hurried off returning a little later to help Rick with his bags. Rick stopped and stared at the strange vehicle Paul was loading. It could have started life as an old-fashioned milk float, but it now had four seats, still leaving space for luggage.

"No-one's sure how they fit into the regulations, they're not quite roadworthy or an electric car, I'm not quite sixteen when I might be able to drive it." Paul chuckled, "It's not that bad but throw in questions about who owns the roads on the island and not even the police will interfere."

"I'm beginning to like this place." Rick chuckled.

"It's a tourist thing. They come to a place where the Lord of the Manor bans cars, and they set out to prove how downtrodden we are. There's a car-park on the mainland where we keep our cars, and we pick up one of these or take the train when we need it. Most pubs on the mainland are failing. Dad reckons we're picking up because no-one has to worry about driving home."

Rick was impressed as Paul weaved through holidaymakers trekking towards the castle. A uniformed guide approached them as they stopped in the courtyard, while Rick was still thinking about the drawbridge they had crossed, and the impressive gatehouse they had passed through.

"Hello Paul," the guide said, "You should know better than to drive up to the main entrance like that."

"Hi Jeff. This is Richard Blatcherfield. He's his Lordship's guest."

"I see. I nearly guided you to the queue for the next tour. Leave his bags, I'll arrange for someone to fetch them. Ask reception to phone through."

Rick was beginning to feel very uncomfortable. Tourists and even staff were looking at him as he made his way up the staircase. He turned to see Paul waiting by the car and beckoned him over.

"Don't leave me now." Rick whispered, "You know everyone."

Paul grinned and led the way.

"This is Richard Blatcherfield to see Lord Westmark." he said to the receptionist who blinked but picked up the telephone. Shortly a small man in badly fitting trousers and stained shirt arrived.

"I'm pleased to meet you Richard." he said, "Forget the formalities, I'm not dressed for them. Hallo Paul. Are you eyeing up a prospective boyfriend?"

To Rick's surprise, Paul grinned, not in the least embarrassed, "He thought The Castle was a pub you owned, sir. I thought he was already confused enough."

"In that case Richard, it's more sporting to chase males who can fight you off. You've probably heard stories about my father, but he was nowhere near the worst. The family tried to give girls some protection with such notions."

"Weird." Rick replied, "Did it work?"

"Not at all, but Paul is more welcome if he's eyeing you up instead of some secretary. For all her faults, Aunt Sybil has tried to play peacemaker. So did her mother, but she succeeded mainly by terrifying everyone. With Sybil, by the time everyone has worked out what she was talking about, they've forgotten the quarrel. However, she is insistent we work out your position in the family pecking order. It took her all afternoon to explain and when I summed it up in one sentence she said, 'Well! If you already knew, why did you ask me?"

"I think I am gay." Rick said, "I haven't told anyone else but this place is just getting weirder. I want to be sure where I stand. Can Paul stay though?"

"With that admission, we'll have to fire him out of a cannon to get rid of him, but we don't do that sort of thing. At least, not any more. Do you have any idea where you stand in the family?"

"Granddad was some sort of illegitimate son." Rick replied.

"Of Cuthbert the tenth earl, but father would never have named him Richard. Was there any pressure to name your father Richard?"

"I've no idea. There may be something in the papers though."

"What papers?"

"Dad had a big file. When he knew his heart was giving out, he had me set up a cloud account and copy everything. He put the originals into a bank or something."

"Can we get hold of them?"

"It'll take time to get the originals, but I can call up the copies online. Have you got a laptop or something? They'll be easier to read than on my phone." Rick replied.

"My secretary insists on showing me stuff, and I'm damned if I'm going to sit huddled around a tiny desk. Come with me."

Sebastian led the way to an office, larger than the flat where Richard lived with his mother. There was an oak desk which seemed to be larger than Rick's bed, piled high with papers. There was another desk behind which sat a stern looking woman. The desk was tidy apart from a keyboard, mouse and screen together with a few neatly arranged documents. On the opposite wall was the largest screen, Rick had ever seen.

"Please allow Richard access to your infernal machine, Mrs Wilson and will you take notes as you think necessary, please?"

Sebastian settled into a comfortable chair waiting as the screen came to life as the computer monitor. Rick sat at the desk and called up the account. There were a number of files but one was entitled, Read-Me-First.txt.

Rick obliged and soon they were all engrossed in the contents.

"Have you read this before?" Sebastian asked.

"No. I've checked the folder to make sure it's all there but Dad didn't want me to get involved."

"Do you understand what this is saying?"

"No. I'm reading it as if Richard Blatcherf ield is my great-grandfather."

"There are too many damned Richards in our family. I'm reading it as if the ninth earl's son didn't die in prison but enlisted as a private and did very well for himself. He ended up as a captain without any family influence. Good for him. His son didn't do so well but worked as a garage mechanic until he died. You're his son."

"So we aren't illegitimate. That's good to know. Er. Mum's very ill and is going to need a lot of care. I don't suppose there's any sort of inheritance, is there?"

"Only an island, a castle and a title." Sebastian replied, "Will that help?"

"Eh! What? Where? How …" Richard stuttered, thoroughly confused.

"According to this, you are the rightful Earl of Westmark. It'll have to be thoroughly checked and verified, but it seems Sybil was right. I am only the caretaker holding it for the rightful heir."

"I still don't understand." Rick said, "I grew up on a council estate how can I be anything?"

"The army captain had cut himself from the family over some argument but stayed in contact with Sybil's branch. He refused to have anything more to do with the family but Sybil knew he was the real earl and insisted the way be kept open for him to return. I'm not sure how the poor man ever understood his instructions, but she hired a private investigator to monitor the captain and his family. Once he died, your father should have become E arl, but Sybil did not have a very high opinion of him. I think you met her once or twice, and she was impressed. You must understand, I knew nothing about any of it until a week ago when your mother tried to find someone to look after you. Sybil's plan was to wait until you are twenty-one but her health, my health and your mother's health conspired to bring things forward. No-one wanted to tell you until it was certain, but these documents convince me.

"I'm still confused." Rick said, "Why are you so willing to give up your title? What about your children?"

"Do you know how your father died?"

"It was a genetic illness. He had a weak heart and there were complications. I had to be tested, and I'm fine."

"Yes. We know a lot more about these things nowadays. My wife died in childbirth as did my son. I never had the heart to marry again. The doctors insisted it wasn't my fault, but I could never be sure and now the illness is catching up with me."

Rick nodded, "OK, but what happens now?"

"It'll take time to verify your credentials well enough to satisfy a court. You can walk away from it all but if you do, cousin Robin becomes Earl, and he thinks of himself as a hard-nosed businessman. He'll evict all the tenants to go in for some quick profit intensive farming, sell the castle to a hotel chain and bully the freeholders into moving out."

"I really do need to think about it all." Rick said, "How long have I got?"

"That depends on my heart. Paul, were you going to work at the activity centre this summer?"

"Were? I still am. Why?"

"Richard needs a friendly face to show him around. Will you help, please? I'll cover any loss of payment."

"No." Rick snapped, "You're not paying someone to be my friend. I'm not t hat desperate."

"Yes, that was crass of me." Sebastian said, "Of all the youngsters on the island, Paul could not be a better assistant. Whether you two become friends or lovers is entirely between you and none of my business. If Paul does become your assistant then I shall pay … you can pay him accordingly."

"OK Paul. I want to be alone. It's all too much to take in. I don't even know who I am any more."

"So far as I'm concerned, you are, Richard Blatcherfield, Earl of Westmark. You are the best hope for the estate and if I recognise you, then it'll be extremely difficult for others to argue." Sebastian said.

"It doesn't help. I still want to be alone, and can we keep this between ourselves for now."

Rick allowed himself to be shown to his room, crashed down on the bed and hooked up with friends on social media. He showed video of his enormous bedroom and the view from his window but contented himself with mentioning Cousin Sebastian until he felt hungry. The phone beside his bed rang.

"I assume you don't want a formal dinner tonight. Cook's preparing something now the visitors have gone. Shall I send Paul to fetch you?"

"Paul's still here?" Rick asked, surprised.

" T he castle has the best internet reception on the island. He's in my office."

Rick grinned, and he soon found himself in the tourist café seated at a table with Paul and Sebastian. He saw Mrs Wilson sitting with others at another table. Rick and Paul compared their lives with Sebastian content to listen but Rick was getting very tired.

"I've not got much homework so near the end of term, so I'm going home to do it now." Paul said and Rick was too tired to answer, glad to go straight to bed. The following morning he was back in the café to have breakfast.

"Good morning, My Lord." Sebastian chuckled.

"Humph." Rick growled, "You OK?"

"I slept better than in a long time. The people on this island have a chance. I can even deal with Cousin Robin when he visits today. What are your plans?"

"I thought I'd have a look around. I take it you want me out of the way while you deal with family business."

"I'd prefer you to chair the meeting as Earl. Robin has got wind of my last medical, and he wants to attack while I'm down."

"Can you stall him until late afternoon, please? Give me time to think, OK? Am I really the Earl?"

"Yes, I hope we're not making a mistake assuming the documents aren't forged, but I'm drafting a formal letter recognising you."

After breakfast, Rick took a stroll down to the village where he passed a store-keeper opening up.

"Good morning, Your Lordship. It's a lovely day."

"Yes it is." Rick replied, "Why did you call me that?"

"It's too soon, is it? Earl Sebastian is trying to block that other cousin. You are Richard Blatcherfield, are you not?"

Rick nodded, so the shop-keeper continued, "Aunt Sybil has been looking for the rightful heir, and you turn up."

"Does everyone call her Aunt Sybil?" Rick asked.

"It should be Lady Sybil, but she talks the same to everyone the same, and she seems to like it."

"Isn't it all a bit snobby? I mean, doesn't anyone mind having a lord in charge?"

"You should speak to Jeb Morgan about that. He's a trade unionist and everything, and he tries to show how we're all so badly off. Albert Tolbart lost his job on the mainland, he and the Earl worked a fiddle. Albert claimed Housing Benefit, and the Earl only claimed half as rent. Jeb's got to fight against that to stir up trouble and it's not the only story."

"So everyone likes the setup." Rick said.

"Except Jeb." the shop-keeper chuckled turning back to his shop.

After being greeted as My Lord a couple more times, Rick stopped to talk to the next person, a postman.

"Unless it's official business, I'd prefer to be called Rick." he said, "Could you pass the word."

"It's not really our way, sir."

"OK! There's a beach down there, and I might do a bit of swimming or sunbathing. Could I have the tourists on the beach cleared? Do I get annoyed if they don't know who I am or how to speak to me? Can I just go down there and have my swim without everyone staring? I'd much rather just be myself."

"I understand. I'll explain it all to everyone. Just for the record: welcome, My Lord."

Rick smiled his thanks, but the postman added, "Are you on your way to see Paul?"

"Does everyone know all my business?" Rick asked irritably.

"Probably," the postman replied, "You're landlord, employer and in a lot of cases; money lender. I t gives you a lot of privileges, but the downside is, you're the most interesting guy on the island. Some of us lived on the mainl and, and we like our landlord being a person and not a voice hiding behind a call centre. No-one's going to rock the boat just because you've got a boyfriend."

"I don't know if I have." Rick replied, "Paul knew about me being gay before I did. All this Earl stuff came up, and I'm still trying to understand it all. He'll be back at school by Monday, so maybe he'll forget me. I didn't think small villages liked gays and stuff."

"There's a good few older residents who have never been off the island. They'll tell you stories of castle owners who were little more than butchers, thieves; you name it, there's been one. Paul got beaten up once or twice because he came onto the wrong guy, but there w ere others who were more willing. It was all something they sorted between themselves and Paul isn't some sort of predator. We don't think you are either, so if Paul is using his charms to persuade you to stay, then good on him."

"Wow! It's all so different here."

"If you're just Rick, then there are folk waiting for their mail. I'd better get on."

Rick strolled on down to the harbour. He was getting used to being greeted as 'My Lord', and it was easier than trying to explain. The harbour was in a little cove, protected by a couple of breakwaters to seaward. It was low tide when Rick arrived and walked down the pontoon that served as a jetty. The shore end rested on mud, but the sea end floated. As the tide came in, so more of the pontoon would float. The pontoon was 'T' shaped, and the crossbar provided a wide area for docking.

He was just in time to see a smart, flashy motor cruiser pass the breakwaters and head for the pontoon. The pilot knew what he was doing and neatly came alongside in the centre of the 'T'.

"You there," the pilot shouted to a youth of about twenty wearing a hi-vis jacket, "My son's waiting to throw you a line. Move it."

"The ferry's arriving soon. Can you move up a bit to make space for it?"

"No, I fucking can't. Just do as you're told if you don't want me to fire you."

The youth glanced at Rick who stepped forwards to catch the line. The boy on the cruiser threw the line making an easy catch for Rick. At a loss as to what to do next, Rick let the youth take the line and secured it to bollards on the pontoon. As Rick watched the youth, the yachtsman strode off almost pushing Rick out of the way.

"Get on with some work instead of blocking everyone's way. You're the first one I'm going to fire."

He was followed by a strikingly beautiful woman, a girl of about sixteen who eyed up the youth, Rick and another youngster almost in one look before sashaying after her parents. A boy of about thirteen, almost as arrogant as his father followed and finally the boy who threw the rope. He was about twelve and managed a friendly smile and a 'Hi'.

"Can we just untie it and let it drift away?" Rick asked.

The youth grinned, "It would be a hazard to shipping, My Lord."

"Who's the harbourmaster? Is that my cousin, Robin?"

"Me. I started last year as a hand, but Mr. Forbe s calls in sick most days . He's there if I need him though, My Lord. Yes, that's your cousin."

"Call me Rick because an Earl doesn't try to wind up his cousin."

"We could tow it out and moor it on one of the buoys, but we'd still need a reason." Jimmy suggested.

"Back home, car-parking was banned to allow emergency vehicles to get through. Do the police or ambulance ever use it?"

"Sometimes, especially if the helicopter isn't available, but people generally cooperate. I don't think there's a bye-law to cover it."

"Who makes the bye-laws?"

"The Harbour Committee." Jimmy replied. He thought for a moment then added, "I suppose you're the chairman now, if it helps."

"We need to keep this place clear in case of emergencies. Harbour staff should have the right to move boats blocking it. When's the ferry due?"

"In about hal f an hour."

"OK! Get someone to move the boat, then phone Mr. Forbes and explain to him what we need. That should leave you to deal with the ferry."

"I'll get onto it, My Lord." Jimmy paused, "You're dealing with it like an Earl should."

"It's a pity you said that because I wanted you to tell everyone with a boat to charge the highest and most extortionate fee to take them out to theirs."

"I like it, Rick." Jimmy laughed. "I'll see to it."

As Rick strolled back up the pontoon, Robin's older boy hared down the lane, crashing into a queue waiting for an ice-cream then pushing to the front.

"I want a cornet with chocolate topping and a flake." he yelled, "Hurry up. Dad's waiting."

The ice-cream seller glanced at Rick, but as he shrugged and turned to his machine, Rick shook his head and hurried over. Before the boy realised what was happening, Rick grabbed his collar and yanked him backwards.

Once clear of the queue Rick said, "We don't talk to people like that. We don't push in like that. Apologise or I throw you in the mud."

"You can't do that. I'll call the police. I'll have you fired. Dad's taking this place over then you'll be sorry because he's going clear you all out."

Rick smiled as he frogmarched the boy to the edge of the pontoon and pushed. The boy only fell a metre or so, but he hit with a satisfying 'splat'. He struggled to his feet but sank up to his knees.

Rick turned to a couple of startled fishermen, "Get him out, please, but only when he asks nicely."

Before the men could answer, he turned to the sound of the queue clapp ing him. Rick grinned, waved and headed for the pub. At fifteen, he was not sure if he was allowed in. As Earl of Westmark, he was sure he would be. The pub opened when the first ferry arrived to cater for tourists and when Paul's dad saw him, he opened the bar flap and beckoned Rick through directing him to Paul's room.

Rick knocked and as Paul called out, he went in only to stop and stare. Paul was lying on his bed, completely naked. Paul grinned and patted the bed as Rick stuttered a 'Hi'. He hurried across the room.

"You look nervous." Paul chuckled.

"I'm just enjoying the view. Your parents won't come in, will they?"

"What, disturb the Earl of West mark ? No way!"

Rick's mind was full of possibilities and thoughts he would not have believed possible before. He did not even notice that his hand was now resting on Paul's stomach until new thrills swept into his consciousness like an electric current. Then Paul held his wrist and guided his hand down his body. He jumped as his hand touched Paul's manhood. With the worst of all possible timings, Rick's phone rang.

"We have a problem." Sebastian said when Rick answered, "Someone attacked your cousin."

"It was me." Rick replied, describing what had happened.

"They didn't recognise you then." Sebastian said.

"No. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done it."

"Yes, you should have. I hear their boat has been moved."

Once again Rick explained, surprised to hear Sebastian chuckling away.

"We've had a bye-law on the table for years. I've put off signing on it because it seemed insulting to force folk to do what they have done willingly. Nowadays, we do get all sorts sailing in, so we should be ready for the yobs. Well done! You've used your position to help our tourist trade. Get back to your love making."

Rick's hand was still on Paul's cock which was growing in response. He was reluctant to move his hand, but the mood was gone. Instead, he told Paul about his morning.

"If His Lordship … His Other Lordship isn't complaining, why worry?"

"What about that love making crack? Supposing your parents get to hear it?"

"Do you suppose they haven't heard the other gossip? I'll get a talk on safe sex, that's all."

"Sorry. This time yesterday I was a school kid with permission to bunk for once. I was on my way to stay with my cousin in a hotel or something. Being gay got you beaten up. I can't deal with it all."

"After next week, we've got all summer. Be completely honest. What do you want to do now?"

"Find a decent suit. I've got this meeting, and I want to look the part. That was part of the problem this morning, I didn't look like an Earl. This is going to sound really lame. I want to take one of those guided tours of the castle. I ought to know something about it. Sorry, it's not what you wanted is it?"

"At least I can get you to strip off while you try on my wedding suit. Mum insists I have a suit I can wear to a wedding then moans because I grow out of them. I usually get them too big but by the time I need it, it's too small."

Still naked, Paul leapt up to rummage through his wardrobe. Rick obligingly stripped down to his underwear. As Paul pulled out his suit, so there was a knock on his door but before he could answer, his mother came in, carrying a tray. Paul remained unconcerned while Rick blushed deeply, his hands dropping to cover his groin.

"Hi Mum. Rick needs a suit for a meeting. I wish you'd waited after you knocked though. He's not used to us yet."

"Yes of course. I'm sorry Rick. Paul had his first encounter when he was thirteen. Someone saw them, and I was hearing about it before he brushed the hay out of his hair. I also heard about your adventure at the dock. Well done. Is this meeting anything to do with your cousin taking over?"

Rick nodded.

"In that case, Paul, get dressed and ask Mr. Silversteen to meet us in the bar. Rick don't bother getting dressed. It's OK, we tolerate swimwear unless the kitchen is open. Let's see, we need Mr. Wright and Mrs Smith as well.

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead