The landlord’s son of the Fox and Grapes welcomes everyone with a cheerful smile and good service, but when William meets Professor Ethan Wanstead, his service becomes far more intimate.
Unfortunately, William doesn’t know that Ethan has a hidden agenda. Ethan knows that the Earth is in danger, for this is the start of the Moon War. Ethan may be the planet’s only hope, so it is unfortunate that he is suddenly experiencing a whole new world of physical and emotional pleasure with William…
“Okay, I’ve heard enough,” sighed William Lombard as he looked at his friend. “You’ve gone and renamed yourself Ozymandias van Horne. Did you get bored of Timothy Duckworth?”
“Timothy is dead and gone,” replied Ozymandias, cheerfully. “Good riddance. He will blacken Lord Doverdale’s boots no more. I believe there is a story going round to the effect that Timothy fell under a carriage on the London Road.”
“He wasn’t going to blacken any boots at all given that he’d been dismissed a few days ago,” pointed out William. “Hardly surprising. Most boot boys move up through the house as they get older. You’re twenty and were still looking at heels and toes each day.”
“Lord Doverdale failed to see my potential,” replied Ozymandias with an airy wave of the hand.
“More likely, he didn’t like your back chat or you pinching his cutlery,” said William, moving to the kettle as it began to blow steam over the open fire. The two young men were in a small, private parlour of the Fox and Grapes, one of the larger inns of outer London. William was on his break. He could hear his father at the front of the inn welcoming guests, taking orders and serving drinks.
“A misunderstanding, now removed from all earthly law courts by the sad death of the errant Timothy, who now lies beyond justice.”
“Oh, so that’s why you’ve taken that silly name, is it?”
His friend bridled. “It is not silly. Ozymandias was the King of Kings!”
“No relation to you, then, Oz,” said William, emphasising the shortened name with a touch of sarcasm. “And the van Horne?”
“Anyone who is anyone needs a continental flavour in their character,” mused Oz as he waited impatiently for the tea to be poured. “It hints at a man not concerned with earthly desire, unencumbered by trivial minutiae, one who focusses on higher truths and abstract conjecture. Are there any biscuits to go with the tea?”
“No,” said William, firmly. “Not unless you’re paying for them.”
“I am temporarily fiscally embarrassed,” coughed Oz. “Surely, between two such old pals as us who took their first faltering steps together into adulthood, and the love that dare not speak its name, mere biscuits are but a trifle?”
“Trifle, biscuits, or a three-course meal, if you can’t pay, you don’t get any,” said William in a tone that took no argument. He sighed as Oz turned his big, pretty blue eyes on him, a hurt and innocent look overlaying–badly–the avarice and calculation. “You can have a slice of bread,” he muttered, cursing his lack of strength. He was just a mug, when all was said and done.
“I knew I could rely on you,” grinned Oz. “Whenever anyone needs a good pal, a friend who is true, I say unto them—gather ye round and listen as I extol the virtues of the kindest, the most charitable man I ever did know. A man who cannot bear to see a tear on a child’s cheek, a kitten with a poorly paw, an old lady without her rent—”
“Oh, shove that in your mouth and choke on it,” muttered William, pushing a thick slice of bread at Oz before he got too carried away with his soliloquy. William covered his embarrassment by sighing at his friend’s new name again.
“Ozymandias. Honestly. You were born a Duckworth and you’ll die a Duckworth.”
“William! You hurt me. Just because you’re born with a downtrodden name doesn’t mean you can’t rise ever upward in our amazing and majestic empire and recreate yourself as a pioneer, a sage for the age! One day, historians will look at the name Ozymandias Van Horne and say, What a man! Visionary, historian, social reformer—”