by Kevin F. Story
The prince sat back somewhat uneasily in his seat, not knowing what to expect from this foreign world. It had been the command of his father that he go to the neighbouring castle of Bolle-Weaville, in the kingdom of Inglende, in order to settle a matter of courtship. You see, King Alabaster, as the prince's father was known, made a similar trip four and ten years ago, two years after the young prince was begotten, in order to betroth him to King Alcatrasse’s then-newborn daughter, Emilia. They agreed upon this over a considerably potent port wine, so long as the prince came by in his sixteenth year to officially propose.
Thus, Delfort’s regal cart rode along the long, dusty dirt road, through the town of Binglederry and across the meadows of Lea. Accompanying the prince were his servant, James, and King Alabaster’s most trusted gen d’arme, Sir Reginald of Cangreene. Sandy-haired James was about the same age as Delfort, having been raised for the sole purpose of servanthood. Thus brought up together, they were actually very good friends and very often talked about the things about which young men typically talked. Like Delfort, James was enjoying his own first look at the outside world, taking particular note of the broad range of colour on this glorious spring day: the deep emerald of the land, the vast blueness of the sky, the piercing hot yellow of the sun. In the remaining seats lounged Sir Reginald, who fought by the king’s side during wars with the Gregorians, a barbaric tribe from the north, and the Leonidians, an equally barbaric tribe from the south. The ruddy visage of the knight wore an extensive, bushy handlebar moustache to complement his eyebrows. Not only was the knight an excellent swordsman, but he could hold down a hogshead of whisky for a fortnight and retain sobriety, if necessary. At the present moment, he remained in contemplative silence.
They began their journey just after breakfast in order to make their first stop well before supper, in the bay-side village of Porte Godfrey, which appeared to be coming up in the distance. They could smell the salt in the air as they neared the waters of the Jambonne Bay, and they could almost taste the fresh lobster they would sup upon in town as guests of the mayor.
“Hail, Prince Delfort!” exclaimed a nasal voice belonging to the mayor of Porte Godfrey as attendants helped the prince out of his carriage. The mayor, a very distinguished gentleman topped by an over-powdered wig, adjusted the monocle before his left eye, bowed deeply, then introduced himself in a rather all-too-proud tone as Johannes von Blochstorgg. The prince bade him rise and take them inside.
“Certainly, your highness. Come right this way.”
Two claps sent the attendants away. The mayor led the group by a trail of floating powder through his manor and up a set of stone stairs to the guest chambers. Various tapestries and coats-of-arms decorated the grey walls of the ensuing corridor, along with sconces for torches by and by.
“I have secured the largest chamber for his Royal Mightiness, and the next room over should befit your entourage. I hope your loftiness does not mind the humble quarters upon which—whom—I have bestowed upon hem—him—you,” prattled Johannes von Blochstorgg absurdly. With a showman's gesture, he threw open the door to the room in question, exposing a comfortable bed of goose feathers and walls littered with paintings and the like.
The prince, eyeing the room unpleasantly, responded coldly, “This will do.”
The mayor took time from his eye-squinting and finger-crossing to realize the prince seemed to have found some favour with his lodgings; thus he bleated: “Oh, thank you, your gracious Excellency! You shan’t be displeased not never one bit!” With a hasty bow, Johannes excitedly scampered off, taking care to stumble in the correct direction down the corridor, to make sure that their evening feast was being prepared imminently and eminently.
The knight, silent until now, spoke first, and so he did whilst smoothing his thick moustache: “What a queer fellow!”
Delfort nodded in acknowledgement as he glanced about the room, putting the place into perspective. James thoroughly busied himself with inspecting, in fine detail, everything from the hand-crafted furniture to the exquisite view of the bay from their lofty balcony. His jaw fell open and could not conceive of closing, seeming to be on the verge of falling off as he became more and more amazed with his new surroundings. Delfort, however, was slightly less impressed.
“Honestly!” complained Delfort, resting his royal bottom on a large, oaken chest. “Couldn’t we have stopped in the village of Vaslegas, where the torches always stay lit? It’s at least ten fold as exciting as this hole.”
The armed escort retorted snappily (or snapped retortingly, depending on your point of view), “You’ve never even seen Vaslegas! All you've heard is they have some of the greenest tables in all of Darscinnia. And you know your father would have no part in you squandering away all his wealth!” His moustache recoiled as Reginald gave it a rather nasty tug.
As Delfort’s mouth opened, no doubt to offer some foul comment or other, Reginald raised his gauntleted hand. “There’s no use in arguing. Your father has commanded this, and so it must be. Don’t you want to see who you will rule beside? Don’t you want to inherit a kingdom twice the size of your father’s? Now, I don’t want to hear another complaint from you for the duration of the trip, do you understand?”
Delfort opened his mouth once again, and Reginald coolly put his hand to his hilt. The mouth closed.
And they went about the business of relaxing and preparing for the feast ahead of them.
Prince Delfort's journey continues next time in "The Feast"...