Hamish Montgomery was one of many. He came from a long, long, looooooooong line of Montgomerys. Eight-hundred and seventy-four years of them to be precise.
Rather than be at the tail-end of such a vast history, Hamish wished he had been alive in those early years, when he imagined there was more going on. Like battles and sword fights.
That stuff didn’t happen anymore, sadly, and life at the castle was boring as much as it was lonely for the 10-year-old boy.
“Castle life is the WORST,” he would say quietly and not so quietly on a daily basis.
Being a Montgomery meant Hamish’s details were recorded in the Drumtipperty Castle family archive along with the rest of his ancestors. Written in curled black ink, his name sat below his father’s, Laird Alistair Montgomery, who sat below his father and mother, who sat below his father’s grandparents and so on. A complex web of names and pictures spanned the pages, tracking every single Montgomery known to have lived.
Passed down through the ages from generation to generation, the book was bound by a faded red velvet cover with brass corners that were now weathered and dull. A gold badge on the front displayed the family crest – a bird wrapped around a sword. Or at least it once did. Scuffed beyond recognition, the image on the shield was obscure and the breed of bird unknown. Perhaps an eagle. Possibly a hawk. Something of great power and strength. That was the assumption anyway.
Inside the book, the paper had yellowed with age and made a sort of crackling sound when touched, like dry leaves underfoot. On each page, there were names, important dates, and a drawing of each of the castle’s occupants, past and present. Hamish, who had no brothers or sisters of his own, insisted his portrait should include his dog, Gorse.
“I won’t do it otherwise,” he had warned the artist, who came to draw him on his tenth birthday. After all, Gorse was a resident of Drumtipperty too, and his closest, and indeed only, companion.
It was apparent from this old family book that Hamish didn’t look much like a Montgomery.
Montgomerys were very tall with reddish-tinged brown hair and blue-grey eyes. Hamish had a mop of sandy blonde hair with dark, almond-shaped eyes, a bit like a deer. He was small for his age but with long, strong arms; he was both an excellent tree climber and ball thrower.
Gorse was also unlike a Montgomery, mostly because he was a dog. A very tall dog, but a dog nonetheless.
Together, the brown-eyed boy and deerhound (Gorse sat several inches taller) were the latest entry in this ancient family record, which meant that like many of Hamish’s ancestors on the pages before him, Drumtipperty Castle would one day be his.
Now, Drumtipperty wasn’t especially large nor was it grand, not like the castles in books or films with lots of turrets – there was only one, which was quite wobbly. It did, however, prove very expensive to run. For this reason, it caused Laird Montgomery a great deal of worry.
Being so old, the castle needed a lot of repair, most of which he could not afford. Carpets that were once red were worn through to their white threads. Curtains were faded and smelt like old socks, and the roof could only be described as being as holey as Swiss cheese. Rain puddles on the castle floors were not uncommon.
To make matters worse, many of the bills went unpaid, too. The castle no longer had electricity for this very reason. A rusty old generator, no larger than a shoebox, was used for essentials like the washing machine, and provided just enough power for half a cycle and no more. One side of their clothes remained dirty.
The lack of electricity also meant there was no lighting. And castles are very dark places to be, especially when the day’s sun retreats. An inky blackness would set in then, robbing them of their sight.
In an attempt to resolve Drumtipperty’s blackout, the corridors were lit with fire torches. Hundreds of years ago, these had been as large as a man’s arm, but the ones that were now pinned to the walls were no bigger than a candle.
With only a trail of flickering light to guide them, the castle was grey, and it was gloomy. It was also downright spooky, especially with the odd happenings that had been occurring lately. Closed doors creaked open. Things were moved or misplaced. On three occasions, Hamish was sure he had seen the shadowy outline of what looked like a child far smaller than he, running along the stone corridors. Then, of course, there were the strange banging sounds that came from deep within the old dungeon after nightfall.
Those would make anyone’s blood run cold.