Having crossed Sawdust Bridge, follow Black Pudding Basin Lane until it peters out into a dirt track. Carry on past the clump of aspens and the inevitable cows, and as the land suddenly slopes down towards the sea, veer slightly to the right. If there is no mist, you may be able to see the crag. But there is usually a mist. When you get to the crag, clamber up to the top of it. This is where the king sat, either looking out to sea, or looking back at his kingdom, from its edge. It hardly mattered in which direction he looked, for the mist was usually so thick that he could hardly see beyond his nose, when he sat on the crag.
“Where is the king?” the chamberlain used to cry, sweeping from room to room through the palace, terrifying his underlings.
“The king is on his crag,” one would eventually reply.
The chamberlain cursed and kicked things and threw pebbles at furniture, and then he sent a page to cajole the king down from the crag. There were one or two pages who had dazzling persuasive skills. One, it was said, could coax a leech off a leg as easily as he might puff draff from a sill. But the king could cling to his crag with the strength of twenty kings. In the mist, it was easy enough for a page to lose his footing and to topple into the sea. Often, within the boom and seethe of waves upon the rocks might be heard the thud and splash of a fallen page.
The chamberlain employed a gang to mop blood from the rocks. The sea would have washed the gore away in time, but the chamberlain was a pernickety and efficient man. That was why he had been chosen.
Sometimes a mopman might be promoted to page. Oo-er, you can see what’s coming! And so, of course, did the mopman-turned-page. “I, who have mopped the blood of pages from the rocks, will soon enough have my own blood mopped from the rocks,” wrote one, the day before the chamberlain sent him to persuade the king to leave his crag and return to the palace and reign.
The king, though, reigned from his crag, engulfed in sea mist, as gulls shrieked.