It’s been an awfully long time since my last Charlie Fuller post. It’s been a while because a lot of other stuff happened… Rebels took much longer than I thought it would to edit and get out and as such Dark Legend 2 got delayed… Then I had my autobiography to get sorted and built up and all sorts of other projects came up as well… And in the confusion Charlie got a bit neglected. I have been writing him but progress has been painfully slow… I’m not as far along as I would like to be. And most of what has been written since I last wrote an update has been to do with integrating the story into the already existing parts of the Morfaverse, adding new bits of continuity, and pushing Charlie into a position to (finally) send him off to Spain and towards his destiny…
So… Charlie goes off to North Wales in order to be trained in the art of espionage, this much you may or may not recall. The temptation here would be to just have a few short scenes of Charlie jumping through a load of hoops and have the whole section as some sort of training montage but that would be a bit dull. As such what we end up with is a fairly chunky section of the book. Some of it is dedicated to the training activities (shooting, mountain climbing, assault courses, infiltration,) but it’s also the perfect opportunity to explore the Morfasson family heartland, particularly as it was in the late nineteen twenties and also in far more depth than we’ve seen before.
We’ve seen quite a lot of the Morfasson heartland in my work already, Rebels briefly introduced the town of Bethesda and Cythry and the surrounding landscape but all that took place in the late seventies, fifty years after the events depicted here and fourteen after those hitherto unchronicled (and ground shaking) events of Late December 1963, so things are bound to be somewhat different. The castle at Cythry, for a start, is much grander and more aristocratic. It still has that elaborate Rococo dining room, the walk in wardrobe is still present and it still has the library piled high with ancient books… But here it has an extra drawing room, an entrance hall that is a bit more open plan than it was in Rebels, a servants staircase, a second exterior door and a collection of old masters (including Rembrandt’s Night Watch.) I’ll tell you that the old masters don’t last much beyond the 20’s owing to a little thing called the great depression but what happened to the extra drawing room is anybody’s guess. I’ll leave it for the reader to decide what happened to it. The second outer door could be there in Rebels though. It could just be one of those things that doesn’t get mentioned. On the absences side, the underground bat-cave style garage with its multitude of vehicles isn’t there and instead the garage is housed in a small outbuilding located somewhere behind the keep.
And quite obviously the staff and castle residents aren’t the same either… Let’s start with the staff. Carver? Not born… His granddad is still only eleven years old (and yes, he does appear in Charlie and if you read both this book and Rebels it will become obvious who he is!) Kathy, depending on how old you take her for (she’s middle aged and died in 2008, but that’s all Rebels says on the matter) may be alive somewhere in the world and Baines is still only a teenager at the most. In contrast the 1929 staff are a little more Downton than that trio and on much less familial terms with family. There are six of them in total, although their roles are minimal- Instead of Baines the Butler is an old man by the name of Branwell (I wanted to keep the B theme going.) There is no mechanic as such but the chauffeur, who is mentioned as also doing the mechanical stuff, is Crustworth (who later becomes the ‘Old Crusty’ refered to in Rebels). There’s a cook, Mrs Klink, and a housemaid called Miss Fry as well as a sinister nursery maid by the name of Frau Bosenhexe. Later on Bosenhexe runs away and is replaced by Nanny Albright. In terms of actual castle residents the only one from the seventies who is even born is Edward, although he’s only a few months old at this stage. I should also point out That Seamus isn’t far off either, being born at some point in 1930. In 1929 Monty was still alive (he’s dead by the seventies, though he does make a sort of cameo in Rebels) and Alice was still alive (She has six more children to give birth to but she’s also long dead by the seventies.) There are also more hangers on during this period than during the seventies… Most prominently Alice’s younger sister Jezzebelle.
Those of you who have been following my progress from the start may recognize the name… For those who don’t (or can’t remember) Jezzebelle appeared in Under The Fuhrers Control (which would go on to be reformed as Charlie) Only it wasn’t her, it was actually Alice (who at this point was her identical twin sister.) Then Alice died (read: repeatedly stabbed herself for no reason whatsoever) and the real Jezzebelle turned out to be hiding in a cellar and whilst pretending to be Alice… And then her ex boyfriend (whom she cruelly left at the altar in favour of someone else) found out about her and gauged her eyes out. She also turned up in the follow up book, Dead Danube, living in a remote mansion somewhere in Yorkshire where she went mad and stuck a red hot poker through what was left of her face before dancing around the moors with a bust of Wagner singing The Ride of the Valkyries and at last being set upon and murdered by the mutilated remains of her now supposedly dead ex boyfriend (And you wonder why these early books are never going to be made public?) Bringing her into Charlie is a chance to rebuild her character from the ground up. In the first version she was a sultry, sexy bitch who seduced and manipulated any man she came across. She’s retained a little of that sex appeal. She’s a proper glamorous 1920’s flapper, though she’s no longer a slapper owing to the fact that the position she previously occupied in the morfaverse has been taken up by Eliza Carramier (And this is despite the fact that SPOILER ALERT Eliza has now changed her wicked ways and is busy caring for her new born daughter. I don’t want to reuse the same sort of basic idea for a character as I feel I would just be repeating myself and it wouldn’t work so well.) Instead she’s become glamorous, gullible and a little bit flighty, though with a stern veneer. When we first meet her she’s just got off a train, smoking a cigarette, and none of the boys going to the training camp have any idea who she is… Then in the camp they’re introduced properly and Jezzebelle has them all work through an assault course, specifically instructing them to work through it in their pairs only after Charlie and Baker have raced each other to the end.
Her role in this story isn’t major but she is going to play a role in later books so her inclusion is necessary. Plus she’s Alice’s sister and this is the only real chance to get them together and interacting before Alice explodes from having too many children. And it’s never too early to start morphing her into that malevolent bitch dancing around on the Yorkshire moors with a bust of Wagner (I am keeping that in…) And Charlie is, of course, going to have a hand in it, which happens as a part of his espionage training. Monty takes him and Baker out of the training camp for a little night time surveillance, having intercepted a love letter between Jezzebelle and one Cecil Barrington-Sholto, the fictional ward of the real life Baron Penrhyn. As they quickly discover, Jezzebelle thinks she and Barrington-Sholto are going to elope to Ireland but really he’s just playing her in order to extort money from the Morfasson. An altercation and a threat to expose his dirty tricks to his Uncle unless he confesses his sins to Jezzebelle appears to be an end to the matter but, of course, it isn’t. He actually doesn’t confess his sins to Jezzebelle but merely continues the pretence of the romance… It’s only a bit of sub plot here but in later books this seemingly minor incident (which here serves to contribute towards Charlie’s training) has consequences. Eventually, a part that is only alluded to later on when Charlie has a game of snooker with the Baron Penrhyn, the whole thing blows up in everybody’s face. Barrington-Sholto tries the same trick again and nearly bankrupts the earl of Beddgelert, which has disastrous consequences for Jezzebelle. But for now, here, she’s a minor player only appearing in a few scenes and acting every inch the spoilt little rich kid that she is.
Other Morfasson family hangers on include Major Vale, who runs the training camp (and has a hatred for the Baron Penrhyn and anything to do with him,) his silent wife Claudine, a young American visitor by the name of Franklin Millers (remember him… He’ll have a VERY important role to play in later books) and a lunatic by the name of Colonel Asyn Gwaelod. The most interesting of these people, i think, is the Colonel, but like so many of the most interesting characters he is minor. His main purpose in the book is taking a group of boys into the mountains for a hike and, along the way, introducing the reader to some of the more folkloric and cultural aspects of Morfasson country. The main thing he introduces is Bethesda, and Bethesda at its height too. We briefly saw and heard a bit about Bethesda in Rebels but by then it was very much on the decline. It also appears in its post decline phase in the forthcoming Iolo Fflint. But I’ve never shown it in all of its true magnificent full flower before.
Bethesda, being the nearest town to Cythry, holds an important place in the canon. If it weren’t for Bethesda then Otto would never have met Claire at that rave (and Harry wouldn’t have sent her to New York where, through a series of gruesome events, she ended up being unable to have children and so wouldn’t have taken a gamble on experimental IVF and wouldn’t have then died during the fastest childbirth on record…) Basically without Bethesda nothing can happen… Not Rebels, not Dark Legend, Not anything that happens afterwards… Nothing! It also happens (in the books, but not in real life) to have a bit of a reputation for debauchery and low life. It is full of prosititutes, drug lords, and any other sort of vice you can name. As the boys pass through they get their first glimpse of a topless prostitute, to which someone rudely shouts ‘Cor… Look at her… She’s walking around with her jubblies hanging out!’ As such the concept of prostitution has to be explained. They also notice that some of the houses in Bethesda have red banners hanging out of the windows which indicate that there is someone in the house is up for selling themselves. Later on we learn that, thanks to an influx of money and a safeguarding conglomeration headed by the unholy duo of Monty and the Baron Penrhyn, Bethesda is flourishing during the depression. It becomes a place as Monty informs Charlie, that people come to in order to escape the horrors of the depression. It becomes famous It’s not a lot when you look at it but all the information fills out the Morfaverse just a bit more than before.
The Colonel also introduces to two other, more fanciful, aspects of the Morfaverse, both connected with the mountains. The first definitely doesn’t exist… Dyn Bewlog- Or to put that in English, Yeti! It’s confirmed in the text that they don’t exist but the colonel, being a little eccentric, believes that they do and he has spent his life searching for them. The second also doesn’t exist… Well not really other than the fact that there are/have been people who lived in quite isolated mountain settlements. They are the Frodorion, a group of ancient mountain dwellers and farmers with unique traditions and customs… They even have their own dialect- Something which I only threw in to explain away Google’s very poor Welsh Translations, like Will’s drug fuelled charge at the beggining of Dark Legend 2. Jezzebelle rudely refers to them as being ‘ deluded, funny little men’ and Monty shoots her down, opining that the Frodorion should be let alone to do as they wish, to have their unique culture and traditions respected. It’s a short mention but it brings Charlie into conjunction with Stop The Cavalry which features a half Frodorion in what turns out to be a pivotal character moment- What isn’t mentioned here (but is mentioned in STC) is that because the Frodorion kept almost exclusively to themselves until the early twentieth century they developed very distinctive genetic traits; They were exceptionally tall with amber coloured eyes most predominantly- By the time Stop the Cavalry takes place the Frodorion, as a specific group, are more or less extinct, with only a select few of an older generation maintaining the traditions and customs. The explanation given is that they were subsumed by twentieth century society, heavilly integrating with others from outside their communities and getting washed away by the advance of civilization.
Whereas alone the idea of the Frodorion merely adds detail to the setting and the world, when combined with Cavalry it provides a nice commentary on how our society and cultures and traditions and even civilization are far from fixed. In less than century all that is considered ‘traditional’ and cultural can be forgotten and changed… Look at Britain today- Back in Charlie’s time, heck, even twenty years ago, dressing up in scary costumes and going out trick or treating for Halloween was virtually unheard of. Halloween was a thing, it existed as a religious festival, but everybody was more interested in Harvest Festivals and Bonfire Night. There was none of the tacky, over-comercialization and hype there is today. And the harvest festival, once a staple of the calendar, has almost died out whilst Bonfire Night has been effectively sidelined in favour of the Halloween. Basically, Everything changes… It also bonds the Morfaverse together and I like that.
Really, what this whole welsh section of the book does is firmly ground Charlie in the Morfaverse. There is, looking through, a lot of it and I could spend all day going into every minute detail that contributes to it… I could mention Charlie’s exploration of the Bangor University building and what he sees there (which is another Dark Legend connection) or the bit where he fires a gun for the first time but i’ll save those surprises for the actual book. The section doesn’t do much to advance the plot but it does a bit to progress the story in terms of character- By the end Charlie has begun to turn into the man who goes off to Spain. He’s growing up. The section adds flesh to things which we already know about from other books, things like the Frodorion and Cythry and Bethesda, and it brings in new aspects too. I believe they call it world building and that, in a complicated shared universe like mine, is essential. And once done we are left in a good place to start pushing on towards Santiago and the main thrust of the plot. It’s time for Charlie to meet the fascists and for his friendship with Jeremy to finally break apart…