09 October 2012


unlock your mind
     kindness prevails in times of crisis
this much may well be true or not but honesty is highly prized
eyes unseeing
     freeing the brain to wander where it may or may not whichever is cooler
     ruler of the daytime or night but only one gets the

04 September 2012

This Blonde

So, there I was, minding my own business, when all of a sudden this blonde popped out of a shop on 23rd in such a rush she upended me on 31st. I was taken aback, to say the least, when my eyes met not the eyes of some bulky chap in yesterday's overcoat, but this vixen of legendary beauty and impeccable dental hygiene. I couldn't speak right away, so I took the gag out of my mouth. (Doctor's orders.) I stammered some lines of Shakespeare and Byron, but they came out all Dickinson and Poe. She smiled nonetheless and offered me her hand—I was still sprawled out on the sidewalk. She pulled me upward with the force of a professional bodybuilder. “Whoa!” I exclaimed.

We spent the afternoon ambling around Central Park, discussing Voltaire and politics. I said I was against the death penalty; she said she would vote only for the cutest candidates. She tried to hold my hand, but I played coy with her, having left my hand at home, next to my car keys and my Sear's card.

Dinner that evening was strange, as I had a date scheduled with Helga, my cleaning lady, and this blonde insisted on coming along. So, the three of us awkwardly sat around the table, shuffling our feet, reading the menu fifty times and not even ordering what we wanted in the first place. At this point I wasn't even hungry anymore, but the boot leather in red wine sauce ended up being rather palatable, and the bottle or two of late-vintage merlot washed things down splendidly.

That night, I felt I had a real good chance with my date, if you know what I mean, but this blonde insisted on coming up for coffee, too. So what else could I do? I killed her.

What? What did you expect?

26 June 2012

Baby, Please

I awoke to a young cutie in my apartment.

It certainly was not the sort of thing I expected. It had been a late night, and I didn't remember going to sleep. Now sunlight was barely dripping in from behind the blinds. She smiled at me.

"Hi," I said.

She hardly spoke at all as I stumbled sleepily around the room, picking up clothes and garbage. She looked at me expectantly, her eyelids heavy. Then she cried. I must have disappointed her somehow.

"Shh," I said. "There there."

I wiped her tears with a white cloth. She spit on me.

"Now, there's no need for that," I said gently, wiping myself.

She was a mess. For whatever reason, she crawled around and babbled incoherently.

"Get a hold of yourself," I suggested, but I knew she wouldn't understand.

I sat on the floor watching. Then she started crawling all over me.

"Baby, please," I protested, but it was no use. She would do what pleased her.

That's what babies do.

28 May 2012

Love Song (part 2)

(Read part 1)

The great singer's throat was dry, so we headed out to explore the local wildlife. I recommended a nice saloon not far from where we were staying (according to the plan), and he nodded as he chewed a piece of Wrigley's. We found the place and glanced around. I saw the brunette sitting at a table for two next to the bar. We got there at the same time as a whisky rocks, and the great man sat down. The brunette looked wonderful sitting there, her hair waving in every direction, her cute gingham get-up unbuttoned in all the right places. She introduced herself with glistening lips, the big fan of him she was. He just nodded and coughed “hi” in reply. She sipped her daiquiri through her straw while looking up at him, and I needed to excuse myself. As I stood, the singer shot me a look with wide eyes, but I assured them they didn't need me to bog down their evening. I left.

Boy, was he mad. He fumed at me before the next show as he tuned his guitar and sucked on a mint leaf. His rage was never pointed or direct; it sort of rolled over you like a fog or a bad smell. It just got worse the longer you were in it. This time, this one time, he looked me in the eye and ordered me never to leave him “hanging” like that. “Ever.” The seriousness of his tone hit me like a dart, leaving its mark on my mind for time to come. Yet the great musician kept turning that peg up a few bits, down a few, grinding that mint leaf until it was mush and he had to swallow it. A tall glass of water waited for him to wash it down, gargling a bit, before he took all his gack to the stage for the show. I stayed behind.

There was no helping him after that. The same routine guided us each and every show, wherever he was playing: play the show, find a bar, sleep. I followed; I enjoyed his company, as much as I suppose he enjoyed mine, and every now and again I could reap the benefits of his friendship. I was with “the band,” and the girls loved it. What made me so successful and him not? I don't know. It stopped bothering me, since I told myself to forget it, and his every look reminded me to keep it forgotten.

Then we were at the end of the tour, just a few more cities then done. The great singer was working on new material to take to the studio. Where did it come from? Each song was better, more heart-breaking or uplifting than the last. He could weave the story of two young lovers in a dusty town with ease and finesse. He had complete control over the heartstrings of every apple-pie-eating, flag-waving, son-of-a-gun American out there. He told their stories, their true, honest-to-Gospel stories, and they loved it. They couldn't get enough. He wasn't doing it for the money. He liked it and he was good at it. He was damn good at it. That's all.

Then we entered our last hotel bar. He had a few more shows in this town, but it would be over, we'd have our celebration then go home to our usual lives. His whisky rocks, my gin and tonic. We clinked glasses and wished each other the best. Feeling strong, I also added that I wished my friend would find someone who really touches him, who really gets him, and he can be happy with. The singer stared at me unsmiling, but he didn't frown either. Then he grabbed my shoulder heartily, the first time I think we ever made physical contact, and thanked me before swigging at his drink. I smiled. We had a great time reminiscing about the tour, drinking with controlled abandon as we laughed—and even laughed over the failed date set-up, back in Peoria or Pecos or wherever it was. The bar was full and lively that night, but not many folks took interest in the great singer, which was fine by him. The lady next to him only took notice after he got a bit wild with his swigging and swung his drink onto the bar in front of her. He laughed and apologized, for the first time talking freely to a girl without bashfulness or self-distraction. She was a bit younger than the singer, pretty but plain, with blonde hair and blue eyes, a living cliché. She didn't know who he was, I could tell right away. And when he realized, when the singer realized, he started having a mighty fine conversation with her. The singer, the musician seemed taken with her, though, and I know when to keep my mouth shut. I drank alone watching the game on TV.

At the show the next day, it was “situation normal.” The crowd loved it, the girls cheered and swooned, and the singer gave his usual performance. A bit under-spirited, maybe, but still a good show. Backstage, afterwards, while everything was being packed, he sat on the sofa picking his teeth. I sat across from him. I had to ask about the woman last night, but he just sighed and kept on picking, mumbled something about knowing “when to show 'em and when to fold 'em,” which made me scoff and roll my eyes. He didn't seem to care.

We drank again, as usual, and the lady from yesterday was there. I wished them both well and found some young loveliness of my own to cotton up to, which met with great success.

That was the moment when things changed. His manager complained about it while rolling coins in the coach van. “That son-of-a's losing his touch,” he oozed. The great singer stopped writing good songs, love songs, any songs, and his performances were dragging, lacking energy, even though the crowd was his, ready to hang on every vibration in his voice. His heart wasn't in it any more. After the last show, he approached me and shook my hand. I asked him where he was going, what he would be doing. He said he'd be “around.” I asked him if he'd be finishing the new album, flying to wherever they produce those things, laying the tracks down. He looked around then leaned into me. “I can't do that anymore.”

Here he was, the greatest writer, the greatest singer of love songs on the planet in this age, and he lost his power. “I found my love, my soulmate,” he declared as he took her hand. She blushed and begged him to stop, it made her feel so good to hear.

It wasn't a matter of choice. The great musician had tried to keep his music writing going, but there was nothing to be done for it. As some said, the muse left him because he gave his heart to another. Others thought the devil left him because he agreed not to fall in love himself in exchange for the gift. Whatever the cause, for the first time in his life, the singer was happy. Truly, truly happy. The rest of the world, myself included, could never get over the break-up, and we still play his love songs to remind us and make us cry.

27 May 2012

Spilt Wine

It was the time I spilt wine all over my grandpa's Bible. I was alone (I'm always alone), eating pizza with a glass of wine, and I carelessly knocked into it, sending a recent vintage meritage all over the dining room table. And there was my grandpa's Bible, sitting there because I had cracked it open the other day out of curiosity.

He had given me the Bible as a passing thought. I was in his basement looking at old photos, and he asked if I wanted it. I said sure, because it was his, not because it was a Bible. He had written his name and address in it in case it ever went missing. It hadn't.

But now it was stained. “How will I explain this to my grandchildren?” I said out loud. It was a stupid thought. What grandchildren? From what children?

My next thought was, “Well, at least it's cheap wine,” as I mopped up the mess and poured myself the last of it. Good thing it was cheap; it only lasted a day.

And I was only just reading about that wedding at Cana. I didn't know much about it before, except that Jesus had apparently turned water into wine. They ran out of wine at this wedding, Jesus's mother complained (she must've been some drinker), and Jesus said he'd take care of it. But rather than run to the nearest liquor store, he just zapped some jars of water. It was an instant hit. I poured a glass of water, but no matter how long I stared at it, it just kept on being water. It was warm.

So I guess I could tell my theoretical grandkids about that if they asked. But there aren't going to be grandkids. Not at this rate.

25 May 2012

Love Song (part 1)

by Kevin Story

He was a singer of great renown, and when he sang the women sank into their sighs and longing. Long into the night, he'd sing for them his songs of love and loss, but mostly love. Of all the singers of love songs in the world, he was most assuredly the best as I watched him there, and the girls all around, sighing and longing and waiting for him to look their way, which he never did, since his eyes were usually closed or looking at the neck of his guitar or staring far off into another world. Even when he thanked them he closed his eyes and said it with a small bow of his head, then walked off to rest in whatever room was provided for his resting.

It was there I found him, sprawled on some chaise or sofa that seemed to be unfit for his western look, with a wet towel on his face. When I asked him if I could join him, he didn't seem to hear at first. Then he slowly lifted the towel so as to get a glimpse of me, and when he did he gestured to another chair in the room and went back to his towel and lounge. I sat down.

And there we sat for some time in silence, until the great singer began to hum something soft, which in his rich baritone was like rich chocolate flowing around my head. I relaxed. It was an old tune he chose, one of the old hymns. Something like “Wondrous Love” or “Holy Manna,” I couldn't tell; maybe a mix of the two. It rolled from his muffled lips wonderfully soft and connected to some deeper emotion that withstood identification. The warm chocolate enveloped my head, smothering me with its sweet, sweet sound. At last, when the song was over, he pulled the towel off and slowly sat up, wiping his face a final time before putting it (the towel, not his face) on the coffee table in front of him. He looked at me, and I wasn't sure what to say, so I smiled slightly.

He asked how the show went. The question surprised me. I answered that it went great, that the crowd loved it—especially the girls in front, whose show of love to him still rang brightly in my ears. He said something that sounded like “naww” and leaned back into the sofa, but not before scooping a handful of almonds. He flicked one into his mouth and chewed like molasses as his mind chewed and ticked and thought and processed. After another long while he sighed staring at the ceiling and said, “Missed a few changes here and there.”

I was profuse in my defense of him, but he raised his unoccupied hand to counter. This wasn't his “first rodeo, kid,” and he didn't expect people to “sugar-coat” their opinions of his performance, especially some “youngster” like myself. Another almond popped into his mouth.

Here was the man who toured all fifty states in the same year; who wrote love songs that got women old and young to swoon with delight; whose ingenious chord progressions and innovative melodies got musical academics nearly as excited as the women. Here was a true music man, a true folk artist, a true hero to so many boys who would grow up pretending to emit his soothing baritone and woo some lady fair.

Only, this last bit was not the case. Not that he was a loner by choice or on principle. This great singer, great musician, great man, simply would not, could not pick up a woman to save his life.

Three or four almonds flew into his mouth, and this time he chewed them quickly, forcefully. Somehow he needed to make a connection between the romantic musical genius inside and the speech center in his brain. I wanted to help.

At the bar, he drank his bourbon rocks and ordered my gin and tonic. In his head he was working out some new song, perhaps, or mulling over a new way to play an old tune. I squeezed my lime and stirred slowly, looking around the bar. The young bartender was nice enough; she poured fast and heavy, and winked as she walked away. She wore a tight white top tied on with shoestrings, and a large cowboy hat with upturned sides on her straight, dirty blonde hair. I stared at her when I could, but the great singer kept to his liquor and his thoughts.

She'd come over when we first sat down and recognized him right away (who wouldn't?), offering him a free drink while leaning her bosom over the counter. They were mounted perfectly in their proper places. He said he preferred to pay for his own drinks, but thanks just the same. It was me she winked at as she walked away, but I didn't hold her attention without the fame of my friend.

He swirled and stared at his whisky. I leaned into him and asked in a low voice what he thought of the bartender. He glanced at her then quickly back. “She's a fine lookin' woman,” he said softly, then drank and went back to his staring and swirling.

At that moment, a mother and her twenty-something daughter came up to the bar. The daughter sat right next to me. She wore tight blue jean shorts and a pink tee-shirt with a neckline that pointed handily to the middle of her perky chest. They chattered about the concert. The bartender came 'round and took their drink orders: a glass of white wine for Mom and a Long Island iced tea for Miss Cute 'n' Perky. Her glass was so full, when she slid it closer some spilt on my arm. She apologized, looking into my eyes. She had these great big bright brown eyes full of life and fun. She took her napkin and wiped the liquor from my arm. Then she smiled at me and said “There, all better,” before turning back to her mother, who leaned over and apologized for her daughter's “rude behavior.”

The mother wasn't all that bad looking, either, if you're into that sort of thing. She'd sashayed in with her fake blonde curls and familiar brown eyes, in many respects the older version of the young beauty sitting next to me. The same life was in the older woman's eyes, but the wisdom of her age clung to her face like spikemoss to a rock.

The great singer just sat there sipping, disregarding the beauty around him, shelled in his world of music. That's the way it was with him. As for me, I met up with the girl later on that night. She snuck out of her hotel room after her mother passed out drunk from one too many glasses of white. This isn't about me, though. It's about him.

It was like him to sit and stare off, despite the distractions around him. Maybe it's what made him the musical genius he was. “Beauty is everywhere,” his manager would say, counting fistfuls of twenties in the coach van as it slid along the highway into the desert. Still the songwriter absorbed himself in his musical fantasies. When the thought of having even just one drink with a lady was brought up, he'd fidget and flick his fingernails under each other, mumble something like “yeah, we'll see,” and go back to his inner sanctum.

Another show, another crowd of adoring women, another bar, another night wondering what was really going on in that head of his. Sometimes it seemed like a spirit wanted to jump out of him and grab the first gal it could, wrapping her with its spirit arms and wooing her with its spirit words, but a great force kept it back, made it abide. The great wall stood, seemingly impenetrable. Female fans flocked to him, and he nodded and signed in silence, making those girls want him so much more. He finished with a flick of his hat and stomped off with his hands wringing in front of him. I shook my head.

Across the desert in another town, I decided to give a little more of a push. This was a time for action; there seemed to be no other way. During the show, I scanned the crowd for a young lady who the great singer might take a liking to. There were plenty to choose from, but after chatting some of them up, I decided on one pretty-looking girl in particular. She was brunette, leggy, and sported a great pair of glasses, the true sign of an intelligent woman. I thought maybe the great musician might be attracted to a little more than just perfection of form. She and I talked for a bit after the final set, and I explained my plan to her. She was thrilled, to say the least, and she offered a time and place, a nice saloon not far from where we were staying. I said we'd see her there.

to be continued

09 April 2012

Delfort: 15. Getting the Seal

This is the next installment of the adventures of young Delfort, Prince of Darscinnia. To start from the beginning, read canto one.

Previous canto: "Escape! (Part Two!)"

Canto Fourteen  

Prince Delfort
by Kevin F. Story
Time stood still for the young lovers as they relaxed between white silk sheets. There was no war, no bloodshed; no commerce, no thievery; no hate, no cruelty, no meanness, no sorrow; only love in that moment, in that place, that seemingly placeless place. At least, that's how Prince Delfort felt, sighing there beside his recent conquest, feeling the warmth of the rosy patterned walls, staring at the creamy ceiling into infinity. Life was here, now; nothing else mattered nor existed. This is the way it should always be, thought the prince.

Clara coughed politely and sat up. Delfort smiled at her. The dark hair he so adored was curled in every direction. Even this she wore well.

“I must be going,” she said. Her smile was enigmatic; it said so much more than Delfort could ever understand.

Delfort sighed again and nodded. Clara slid her pale feet delicately onto the floor. She still wore her slip, which she smoothed out into some semblance of order before finding the rest of her garments. Delfort got up and tied the plush robe he had been wearing.

They had not spoken much. Delfort had been full of questions that were quickly forgotten. Why was Clara here, for example. And something else important. It would come to him.

Clara began the ordeal of reordering her hair. “What a coincidence that we should find each other here, no, my lord?”

“Mmm,” said Delfort. His eyes fed graciously on the image of darling Clara before them. He was in no rush to be rid of her.

“I thought we might never see each other again.”

“No,” said Delfort. He wished he had something more intelligent to say.

Clara turned to him. She set down her brush and walked to him. “I guess it's destiny,” she said before she reached up to kiss him.

“Hmm!” said a muffled voice at their feet. They both looked down at the figure of James, over whose body they had laid a blanket, as it was somewhat distracting to have an unclothed unconscious young man on the floor. Prince Delfort bent down to fold back the blanket. James squinted and blinked a few times.

“Why am I naked, sire?”

“James!” exclaimed Delfort. “This is wonderful. How do you feel?”

James rubbed his head. “Awful. What happened?”

Delfort explained about the enchanted knickers and collar. “And my sincerest apologies for having to quarrel with you so soundly. It would appear to be all for the best.”

Slowly James sat up, one hand clutching his head and the other clutching the blanket. “This is a most queer place, sire. When I left you to fetch our bags, I went back the way we were led, to the entrance. The carriage was gone.”

Delfort pressed his eyebrows together. “Gone?”

“Absolutely gone. No carriage, no valises, no clothes. When I returned to the drawing room, you were gone, but that strange woman, the Madam, was there. She said you had been taken to your room. I told her of our plight, and she said not to worry, that she had some things we could use during our stay. Then she got weird.”

“What do you mean, she got weird?”

James dropped his eyes. “I would rather not say, sire.”

“All right.” Delfort turned to look at Clara, who was back at the vanity with her hairbrush. “James, this is Clara.”

“Clara?” James turned very carefully. On seeing Clara, his cheeks turned a deep crimson and he clutched the blanket very tightly to his body. They had never met, and she really was rather lovely. “Does she have the seal?”

The seal! Of course! Delfort had forgotten all about it. “That is why I was looking for you!” he said crossing to Clara's side. “It was no coincidence for me to find you here. You took my royal seal because you wanted me to find you. Is that right?”

Clara maintained her coy smile. “My lord, you give me too much credit.”

“Please, dear Clara. I am touched by your affection, but I do need my seal.”

Clara laughed. “It is not here, my lord.”

“Not here?” said James, standing unsteadily.

“It must remain in Porte Godfrey, for that is where I last saw it.”

Delfort and James shared a weary look. All of this sneaking away to Vaslegas for nothing, they thought. Well, mused Delfort, at least I got to see Clara again.

Clara set down her brush and approached James. “We have not formally met. I am called Clara,” she said, curtseying.

“James,” squeaked James, clutching the blanket even tighter, if that at all was possible.

“Come,” said Clara, “I have something in my changing room you can wear.”

“Man's clothing?”

Clara laughed. “Yes. Man's clothing.” She pointed to a door. “This way.”

James made his way to the door with care, ever conscious that the blanket covered all the important places. Beyond the door was another room of similar size with many clothes, a mirror, and a divan.

“We will be but a moment, my lord,” Clara said, blowing a kiss at the prince before shutting the door.

Prince Delfort sighed and sat upon the bed. It was shaping up to be quite the adventure. Now they would have to somehow escape this odd place and the Madam, and also outfit themselves for a journey back to Porte Godfrey. Perhaps some horses or a carriage would be about, something for them to commandeer.

A muted yelp came from the other room.

“Is everything all right?” asked the prince.

“Fine, my lord,” called Clara.

Yes, they would have to plan their escape and return to Porte Godfrey, obtain the seal, and finally be on their way to the neighbouring kingdom. The original task seemed so distant to the prince, but he would have to go. With luck, his father would never know about this little side trip to Vaslegas.


Prince Delfort's journey continues next time in "Finding the Way"....

02 April 2012

Delfort: 14. Escape! (Part Two!)

This is the next installment of the adventures of young Delfort, Prince of Darscinnia. To start from the beginning, read canto one.

Previous canto: "Escape! (Maybe!)"

Canto Fourteen

Prince Delfort
by Kevin F. Story
The room into which James and Prince Delfort struggled was a bedroom not unlike the one in which the prince had awoken earlier. However, the time for looking around was not now, as Delfort was attempting to divest his enslaved friend of his knickers.

“Hold still,” said the prince.

James said nothing as he gripped the waistband and pushed at Delfort. They tossed about on the floor, bumping into furniture and knocking into walls. At one point, Delfort lost his grip and James scampered towards the door, but the prince grabbed the leg of his pants pants, sending James' head into the floor with great speed.

“Whoops. James?”

James did nothing.

Prince Delfort sighed and stripped his friend of his pants and collar. He rolled James over and checked to make sure he was alive. He was.

Delfort leaned back on the bedpost, catching his breath.

“What—oh, my!”

Delfort stood at once. Standing before him was a very surprised, shockingly beautiful—


Clara glowed in Delfort's mind. Her face was pale, powdered, gorgeous. Her hair was curled and captivating. Delfort felt himself under a different spell, perhaps in a dream. Clara turned her surprise into a smile.

“My lord.”

She curtsied low, gripping the skirts of a majestic gown that seemed to sparkle with its own luminescence. Then she glanced at the unclothed, unconscious young man on the floor.

“Is he all right?”

Delfort nodded, dropping the black knickers to the floor.

“Has my lord, er, decided to seek the company of men?” Clara asked.

“What? Oh, no! Not at all.”

“Good.” Clara moved to a vanity and began removing her jewellery. “Did you know this was my room?”

Delfort joined her, mostly to get away from James' naked body. “No. You are staying here?”

Clara gave Delfort a mysterious smile. “Yes. For now.” She removed her shoes and set them aside.

“Look, Clara. I have been looking for you.”

“Have you?” She began untying her gown.

“Yes. I believe you have something of mine, and I desperately need it.”

“Do you?” She looked at James. “How long do you think he will be out?”

“Maybe an hour?”

“Good,” said Clara. Then she kissed him in such a way that the blood rushed out of his feet and hands. Then she let her gown fall to the floor. Then the prince remembered why he liked Clara so much.


Prince Delfort's adventures will continue next time in "Getting the Seal"....

19 March 2012

Delfort: 13. Escape! (Maybe!)

This is the next installment of the adventures of young Delfort, Prince of Darscinnia. To start from the beginning, read canto one.

Previous canto: "Beautiful Distraction"  

Canto Thirteen

Prince Delfort
by Kevin F. Story
Prince Delfort tried everything he could think of to break James' silence. He remembered that sometimes a conjurer would come to Pilvar and entertain by entrancing the servants and, when the trick was worn, snapping his fingers to restore normalcy. Delfort snapped his fingers to no effect. He also tried shouting at James, putting a foot out to trip him, flicking his cheeks, and twisting his hair. Still James maintained his smooth silence as they walked downstairs and through the warm halls. It became clear to Delfort that James was under some sort of enchantment.

It also became clear to Delfort that this house was much larger than it had appeared on the outside. The hallways and doors seemed infinite, twisting, confusingly everyplace. While it felt like the rooms were full of people, and occasionally Delfort would swear he heard a giggle or whispers from around the bend, they crossed no one on their way to wherever James was headed. Delfort did not feel much like going wherever that was. He decided to stop.

James also stopped and looked back at Delfort. He gestured down the hall. Delfort shook his head. James gestured again. Delfort shook his head again. James dropped his arm and waited.

It occurred to Delfort that, perhaps, the collar James wore was responsible for his condition. It was smooth and black. Yes, Delfort thought, it has to be magical. Swiftly, his hand grabbed the collar and pulled it away with ease, long before James could stop it. He saw an unquantifiable change in James' expression.

“Please, give it back,” James said, stretching his hand out.

“What?” Delfort was confused.

“Please, sir.” Apparently the collar only kept the voice at bay.

“James. It's me. Come now, we need to get out of here.”


Something else kept James under its control. Delfort looked to the only thing he still wore—those puffy black knickers. Delfort sighed and handed the collar back, which James reaffixed to himself. For a moment, nothing happened.

It was all about to get interesting.

“Sorry for this, friend,” said the prince. He flew at and wrestled a mute James through the nearest door in order to relieve him of his pants.

It was all about to get very interesting, indeed.


Prince Delfort's journey continues next time in "Escape! (Part Two!)"....

12 March 2012

Delfort: 12. Beautiful Distraction

This is the next installment of the adventures of young Delfort, Prince of Darscinnia. To start from the beginning, read canto one.

Previous canto: "Where?"  

Canto Twelve

Prince Delfort
by Kevin F. Story
Sunlight beamed through the window glass, softly at first, but mounting, until the full force of that great orb thrust itself onto the bed where Prince Delfort slept heavily. Rudely, the sunlight sat upon his face and warmed. Delfort tried to brush it away, but it was no use. Slowly, he opened his eyes.

Then, quickly, he sat up. It was the realisation that this place was not his home in Pilvar as his dreams had led him to believe. In the veil of sleep, he saw himself once more walking the halls of his far-off home, where he and James would wander the courtyard in search of daily activity. Some days they would walk atop the walls, staring off as far as they could see, wondering what the world that stretched out before them was like.

Here they were. The world.

Delfort glanced around the room. He was alone. His night visitors had gone after their warm welcome, and one (was it Miranda or Colette?) had been gracious enough to untie his hands. Miranda had dark brown skin and long black hair that billowed and flowed like a cloud in wind. Colette had reddish skin and blonde hair that curled in every which direction down to her shoulder. Delfort would remember them fondly, but they were no replacement for Clara, or even Jacklynne, in his opinion.

Clara, of course, was the reason he was here. He still needed to find her, but he felt that need more distantly than before.

He pulled himself out of bed and to the window. Where he expected to see the dense forest they came from was instead a great, glittering city with towering shiny buildings. People streamed in and out of these buildings, each with a sack, some with two, or three, or five. Men stood on the street drinking and singing. Women danced seductively and laughed with the men.

“Vaslegas,” Delfort whispered, his face pressed against the window, his eyes squinting against the sun and the reflections.

Beggars of various ages lined the streets, their outstretched hands dry and dusty. Someone who had entered a building with a full sack exited now with an empty one and proceeded to join the other beggars, holding the bag open as if hoping to catch rainwater. Most of these beggars went ignored and were left to fight amongst themselves for tavern scraps.

The only piece of clothing the prince found in the room was a plush maroon robe. He sniffed it before throwing it around himself, deciding it was a fresh garment, and, anyway, what else was he going to put on? He looked through a mirror at his princely self, whose hair was a bit disheveled and whose robe was too large for the young prince's frame. He tried his best to smooth his hair before gingerly peeking into the hallway.

The hallway glowed warmly with patterned amber wallpaper and plush red fabrics. Many doors lined it, and at the far end was a staircase leading down. It was quiet; perhaps everyone was downstairs enjoying breakfast or some such thing. As Delfort walked towards the stairs, a figure rose from them, a ghostly young man dressed as the fellow who let them into this house yesterday: nothing but loose black knickers and a black collar. Delfort gawked at the odd sight as it approached.

“James! What are you doing?”

James said nothing. He stopped just in front of where Delfort stood. Delfort grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him, but James threw his arms away.

“What's got into you?”

James shook his head and gestured towards the stairs. Then he began walking towards them. Before he got there, he stopped and turned to stare at Delfort. He was waiting.

“Fine,” the prince mumbled, “but this is peculiar, and I don't like it.” He stomped to the stairs, his maroon robe billowing in front as he stepped. “You hear me, James?”

James stared. He gestured down the stairs. Delfort sighed. This, he thought, was becoming very difficult, indeed.


Prince Delfort's adventures will continue next time in "Escape! (Maybe!)"....

08 March 2012

Child of the Sixties

Liam always spent his hard-earned cents
On penny comics and candy mints
But he dreamed of bigger things
Needing greater change.


(Thanks to @MyWordWizard for the prompt "Liam always spent...")

27 February 2012

Delfort: 11. Where?

This is the next installment of the adventures of young Delfort, Prince of Darscinnia. To start from the beginning, read canto one.

Previous canto: "Gold, Glory, and Goddesses" 

Canto Eleven

Prince Delfort
by Kevin F. Story
When Prince Delfort awoke, he was bound. He felt strangely that it was not to be as fun as it had been with Clara and Jacklynne. What had happened? he wondered. The room was dark, but light glowed steadily from under a door somewhere, and Delfort came to realise he was in a small bedchamber. He remembered the Madam, her fragrant form shifting this and asserting there. She came close to him, her big blue eyes shouting at him. Then, nothing. Fantastic dreams.

Giggling voices passed the door. Normally, this would have charmed the prince into other fantastic dreams, but he was preoccupied. Where was James? he puzzled. And what was this odd place in which they found themselves?

The door opened, and light poured into the room. The Madam stood before him in her stunning blue dress, lighting several candles and fussing with the curtains.

“Ah, awake now? Good,” she said, coming bedside. “I am sorry about your sudden illness. We thought it best to put you up here until you were better.”


“Yes, my boy,” said the Madam, her eyes leaning over her glasses. “One moment we were having a nice chat, the next you were in a heap on my parlour chaise.”

Her soft hand caressed his face.

“Why,” asked Delfort, “are my hands tied?”

“A precaution. In case you awoke violently.”

“Ah. And James?”

The Madam pressed her lips together. “I have given your friend another chamber. I thought that would be more comfortable, yes?”

“Yes, fine.”

The Madam smiled. “Good.” She turned to the door.

“Wait! Will you untie my hands?”

“Not yet! We have not been able to welcome you properly.”

Now she opened the door and snapped twice into the hall. Almost immediately, two young beauties entered the room. They were dressed head to toe in pink dresses that were not so much dresses as they were just layers of veil-like material. Delfort raised his eyebrows.

“This is Miranda and this is Colette. I hope you enjoy your stay!” Once again, the Madam tried to leave.

“Wait! Where am I?”

“Where do you want to be, young man?”

Delfort tried hard to fight distraction. “Vaslegas. I'm going to Vaslegas.”

“Don't you know? You're already here. Vaslegas! Now, enjoy your stay.” Then she left.

Miranda and Colette quietly approached the prince from either side. Suddenly, Delfort felt like he would not mind being tied after all.


Prince Delfort's adventure will continue next time in "Beautiful Distraction"...

20 February 2012

Delfort: 10. Gold, Glory, and Goddesses

This is the next installment of the adventures of young Delfort, Prince of Darscinnia. To start from the beginning, read canto one.

Previous canto: "Silence of the Woods"  

Canto Ten

Prince Delfort
by Kevin F. Story

The door was answered by a tall, thin man who appeared before them in nothing but loose black knickers and a black collar. He said nothing, ushering Prince Delfort and James into the house with a mere gesture. He led them into a parlour covered in red velour and velvet. An elegant stove in one corner made the room sweat, and some fragrance sweetly hung in the air.

“Thank you, sir, for letting us in,” said James, trying to elicit some response. “We are travellers searching for a place to stay the night. Is this an inn?”

The oddly dressed man did not respond, but instead drifted away to another part of the house as if trapped in an unseen current of water. James and the prince looked at each other. Delfort shrugged. James began his usual inspection of the wonders in the room, which was filled with various curiosities, exotic trinkets and baubles. Nearing the stove, he leapt back and gasped in fright at a large black-and-white striped panther curled up before him.

“Do you suppose it's dangerous?” asked James as Delfort gaped at it himself.

“Hardly,” creaked a woman's voice behind them. Turning slowly to face the crone, they instead met eyes with an alluring figure of femininity their own age. Indeed, her long hair was almost pure white, but the rest of her was slight, smooth, and pale as ivory. She wore a sky-blue dress trimmed in black and white and bustled in the back. Pinned to her hair was a matching hat, dainty and lacy. Her immodesty bordered on indecency in regards to her bosom, which seemed ready to rend the dress's thin ties. Her big blue eyes beckoned over her tiny square spectacles, peered at the two boys before them.

“Don't worry,” she said. “It's stuffed—not in the sense of having had too much to eat, but in the sense of having died and then having had a barrel of sawdust put inside of it. Go on. Touch it.”

Tentatively, James turned and bent to put a hand on the creature. “Roar!” James jumped back. The woman laughed and cackled. “Sorry. I love doing that.”

James, embarrassed, scratched his chest and looked at the ground.

“How may I help you fine young men?”

Delfort finally found his voice and worked hard to maintain control. “Is this an inn? We would like to spend the night.”

The woman drew her lips into a smile. “I am sure we can find a room for you.”

“Excellent. James, would you get our things while I sort things out?”

James was all too happy to escape for the moment. He left with his head bent, nodding slightly as he passed the woman. He had to come close to her to get through the doorway, as she did not yield to let him pass easily, and he was forced to smell her perfume, of lilacs and rosewater.

Now that Delfort was alone with the woman, he became uneasy. She fixed her gaze on him. Delfort's eyes darted elsewhere, around the room.

“How far are we from Vaslegas?” asked Delfort.

“Is that what you seek? You are not far.” She slowly approached the prince. “The question is, does he seek the money, does he seek the fame, or does he seek—Well, that's not important. He can have them all, if he wants.” She struck something of a pose, with one hand smoothing the front of her dress, the other perched behind her head, which she turned slightly, and her chest pushed up even more. “What do you think?”

Delfort avoided looking. “Nice room,” he blurted.

The woman giggled in her cackling way. “And what do you think,” she asked, “of me?”

“You?” Now he had to look. Delfort found himself caught between the woman and the stuffed panther. “You are... Well... You are the most beautiful... I mean... I've never seen....” The prince faltered at words.

She blushed. “You are too kind, young man.”

“What is your name?”

Now she turned away from Delfort. She turned to a shelf of trinkets and shifted them here and there. “I am known simply as ‘The Madam,’” she said. “It keeps things simple. Professional. Yes?”

“Madam? Surely you are too young—”

She whipped around to him. “Tut! My age is of no consequence. A man who asks a woman's age is asking for trouble. Why should it matter? We are simply beautiful,” she said with her eyes twinkling, “or we are not.”

Delfort now could smell the Madam's perfume, and it made his legs feel shaky. She put a hand to his cheek. “You, young man, are quite handsome. Princely.”

Did she know? thought Delfort.

“Yes. Very handsome.”

Without warning, she kissed his lips. Delfort's eyes went wide.

She pulled away. “Oh! I should not have done that.”

Delfort now saw a snowy mountain, where there was an icy cave, where he saw the Madam sitting among soft white blankets. It was warm despite the snow. She waved to him; he floated in midair, off at a distance. The snow fell around him, below him. He wanted to go to her, but he could not move. He told his arms to flap like a bird's wing, but they hung limply at his sides. He told his legs to kick, but they were missing. The Madam wanted him to come to her, but he was powerless to do anything about it. He was stuck.


Prince Delfort's adventure continues next week in "Where?"...

17 February 2012

17 February (2012)

Twenty-seven times came this day,
Which is to say, that time frame we made up to bring order to
Nebulous life caused us
To create structure, to build a framework around our world, to seek deeper meanings while using superficial definitions;

Structures do not serve the spirit, whose
Energy cannot be so contained; it
Ventures into the world despite our
Earthly constructs. The only time of concern?
Now. Now. Now.

13 February 2012

Delfort: 9. Silence of the Woods

This is the next installment of the adventures of young Delfort, Prince of Darscinnia. To start from the beginning, read canto one.

Previous canto: "To Catch a Thief" 

Canto Nine

Prince Delfort
by Kevin F. Story
The sun dipped low behind the trees by the time they reached another building, any building. The woods through which they traversed were unnaturally silent, though the occasional hawk would make itself known, screeching loudly for miles. Many times along the journey had Delfort wondered if they could be close, if Vaslegas lay just beyond the next bend, and why the driver seemed to be taking the path so slowly. Finally, a half-day's journey had at least brought them to a place where they could conceivably spend the night, and where someone might be able to tell them how far they were from Vaslegas.

The driver seemed to have something else in mind, and the carriage slowly passed the house. Delfort poked his head out.

“Excuse me, driver? Could we stop here the night?”

The driver was silent. The carriage continued.



James leaned his head out the other window. “Whoa!” he bellowed.

The carriage stopped. Delfort thanked James with a nod, after which they got out to have a talk with the driver, who was fast asleep. James found a long stick and poked the driver to rouse him, which took three attempts.

“Eh?” yawned the driver.

“We shall be stopping here the night,” said the prince.

“Eh,” nodded the driver.

“Right.” With that, Delfort and James approached the building, a small house of timber and pitch. They knocked and were easily admitted.

“Have fun,” said the driver.

He looked around the silent woods. Getting dark, he thought. His mind felt like sheep's wool: soft and fluffy, but with specks of this and that in it, and smelling faintly of animal.

The horse interjected something by way of blowing air through her nostrils.

“Eh, old girl?” asked the driver.

The horse slowly stepped forward.

“Ah, fine.” The driver's eyelids were heavy. He yawned. “I wonder what's over there, too.”

Thus, they rode off together into the fading light.


Prince Delfort's adventure continues next time in "Gold, Glory, and Goddesses"...

06 February 2012

Delfort: 8. To Catch a Thief

This is the next installment of the adventures of young Delfort, Prince of Darscinnia. To start from the beginning, read canto one.

Previous canto: "Seal with a Kiss"

Canto Eight

Prince Delfort
by Kevin F. Story
In the morning, Prince Delfort found himself alone in bed: no handkerchiefs, no gags, no notes. A light touch of sweet smoke still hung in the room, mixing with the smell of the sea breeze coming in from the window. It, coupled with the rays of golden sun cascading onto the bed, spoke to Delfort of freshness, of morning, of the glory of life and the carefree way it was meant to be lived.

Only, Delfort had a large problem: his missing seal, the proof of his royal blood, presumably pilfered by the alluring Clara, whose letter he still treasured in his satchel along with other spoils. Clara, according to Pot, was in Vaslegas. Vaslegas! thought the prince. A good night's sleep had not produced an answer to his most immediate vexation, which was how to convince Sir Reginald and James to accompany him there. He could not find any way around it. Clara would not be returning to Porte Godfrey, even if the prince sent word to her. People who run away, thought Delfort, do not generally want to go back to whence they came. He would have to go to her, to Vaslegas.

Locked away in Pilvar-sur-Weedlewhicke as Delfort had been, the happenings in Vaslegas were a matter of rumour and hearsay. His father, King Alabaster, only discussed the place in terms of its yearly revenue, which always bolstered the royal coffers with taxes, fines, and concessions, more so than any other hamlet in his kingdom. The guards would snicker boyishly about taking leave so as to revel “in sin” in Vaslegas. The chaplain would cross himself at its mere mention, muttering “God have mercy” with a wide expression. There were words Delfort had heard in connection with Vaslegas for which he was never told the definitions; for example, “brothel” and “courtesan.” There were, of course, the gambling dens which had made Vaslegas famous for creating men of wealth (and of poverty) overnight.

James knocked on the door; Delfort knew it was him because they had a well-established code: a knock in the rhythm short-long-short-long meant it was James alone. If he knocked in any other fashion, it meant others were with him, and he did not wish to disclose the code to others.

“Enter, James,” said the prince.

James was wide-eyed. He glanced around in the hall before shutting the door behind him. “Good morning, sire. Eager to make an early start?”

“Quite right. I have learned the whereabouts of Clara.”

“With Jacklynne, at the doctor's house?”

Delfort shook his head. “I fear you will not like to know. I also fear that Sir Reginald will not let us go there.”

James pressed his eyebrows together. “Not Vaslegas?”

“Afraid so.”

James walked to the window in silence. Delfort could not read his thoughts, but he was sure that James was trying to think of some other way to get the seal back. To Delfort's surprise, James turned around and said, “We shall have to leave Sir Reginald again at his luncheon. I suggest you put on some of my clothes; they will attract less attention than your usual ensemble. Is that all right, sire?”

Delfort smiled. “Quite all right, James. Inform the driver of our plan.”

“Yes, sire.” James walked to the door. “The important thing is to get the seal back and resume our journey.”

As James shut the door behind him, Delfort felt dizzy. Vaslegas! And there, his Clara! Of course, James was right; the important thing was to get the seal back. There would, however, be a few other important things to do in the glittering, gilded city of Vaslegas.

A dainty knock broke the prince's thoughts.

“Who is it?” he called.

A familiar female voice whispered back, “Jacklynne, my lord.”

Ah, Jacklynne! thought Delfort as his heart picked up its pace. There would be more time for thinking about Vaslegas later.

“Enter,” called the prince, smiling. This was going to be fun.


At midday, James and Prince Delfort excused themselves from the luncheon and slipped outside to where a less-than-royal carriage was waiting. The driver sat on its doorstep reading a pamphlet and smoking a pipe a “nice young man” had given him. When he saw James and Delfort, he stood and opened the door, ready for their arrival.

“Where is Sir Reginald?” asked the driver as they entered the carriage.

“He won't be joining us,” said Delfort flatly. He found the clothing James gave him to be uncomfortable; his recent encounter with Jacklynne was good, but not good enough to put this little discomfort out of the prince's mind.

The driver shrugged, shut the door, and climbed up onto his perch. “Hya,” he said calmly to the horse, who seemed happy enough to clop away from the mansion, through Porte Godfrey, and down the forest road to Vaslegas.


Prince Delfort's journey continues next time in "Silence of the Woods"...

02 February 2012

Jacob and the Jar

(A fable.)

There once was a man named Jacob, a sculptor, who was decent enough at his craft to make a living. One day, while up a ladder working on the head of a tall figure, he fell and broke his leg. Luckily, the doctors mended him up fine, and in a few weeks, he went back to work. But he found his leg would give him pain from time to time, sometimes so great that he couldn't work. He went back to the doctors, who were only puzzled and shrugged and said it would go away. But it didn't. The pain grew, worsened in its severity and frequency. The doctors were still puzzled, but they were less interested in his pain than the other patients coming to see them. Jacob gave up.

On his way back home, he passed a sign he had passed often in his time. It simply said "Wizard" with an arrow pointing up a winding mountain path. He never saw a wizard, or anyone, walking the path, and so he always assumed there was no wizard; but his pain had gotten so bad, he thought it was worth a short trip out of the way. The path was easy and short; before long, he stood before a door cut into the rock of the mountain. There is a wizard after all, he thought. He knocked on the door and a wizened old man opened it and let him in.

Jacob described his pain to the wizard, who took one look at the leg and claimed there were evil spirits living in it, and that the pain was caused by the goodness of the soul fighting them. Jacob didn't believe this, but he was willing to try anything to relieve the pain. The wizard handed Jacob a jar filled with gumdrops which would do just that. "Chew one a day," said the wizard, "until the pain goes away for good. Then, destroy the rest of the pills. You won't need them anymore."

Jacob nodded and took his first dose. The pain went away almost instantly. Jacob was relieved, and thanked the wizard profusely. "Don't forget to destroy them when your pain goes away!" said the wizard as Jacob hurried down the mountain back to his house.

It was a good thing Jacob found his cure when he did, for a whole slew of orders came in for statues and carvings. Indeed, Jacob was busier now than he'd ever been in his life. Messengers were arriving from distant cities asking for his work and paying commissions up front. He could hardly contain his joy as he tirelessly worked from morning until twilight, finishing order after order. In a week's time, not only was Jacob feeling his good fortune, but his pain went away. On the morning of the eighth day, for the first time in a while, he woke up without the excruciation in his leg. He held up the jar the wizard had given him, but felt it was too soon to destroy it yet. He thought he should wait at least a day, just in case the evil spirits come back.

So Jacob went to work, but as he was working on one of his many orders, messengers started arriving to cancel some of them. Jacob asked why, but the messengers didn't know. He had to pay back some of the advances he'd received, and, regrettably, destroy some of the work he'd already done. It was a huge blow to his self-esteem, and he took the rest of the day off.

The next day, there were no new orders. Jacob had finished the last of the remaining statues and sent them off. He also got a strange idea. He thought, the orders had only come in when he was taking the wizard's gumdrops. Perhaps the success he was having was a side effect. He looked at the jar. Would it hurt to try for another day, even though the wizard had told him to destroy them after the pain went away? It couldn't hurt, he thought, and he popped a gumdrop into his mouth. Not five minutes later, there was a knock at his door: a messenger, there to place an order for a cathedral being built in a distant city. Jacob looked at the jar. He felt no ill effects, and yet the gumdrop seemed to bring him work almost instantly. He went back to work.

After another day, he was back to a full work load. The orders were pouring in, as was the money and prestige. His sculptures started winning awards. Scholars and scribes came to ask questions and learn more about his craft. Six days passed where he took a gumdrop daily, and still he felt no ill effects; far from it! The people who came to place orders or ask questions all looked at him in wonder and awe. On the seventh day, Jacob took his last gumdrop. As he chewed it, silently, he wondered if the wizard would give him more. He could pretend to still have the pain. Besides, with the way everything else was going, how could he not get what he wanted?

It was, again, a short walk to the wizard's mountaintop home. Jacob practiced his limp all the way there. Villagers avoided him on the way and whispered to each other. Jacob smiled at the power of his fame. The wizard once again let him in, looking surprised to see him, and asked if the gumdrops had worked. Jacob told him what he had rehearsed: that they were working fine, he just took his last one today, and he would probably need more. The wizard eyed Jacob for a long, silent time. Finally the wizard said, "The pain went away ten days ago, did it not?" Jacob was astounded and asked what made the wizard say such a thing. After another pause, the wizard slowly reached for a looking glass and put it up to Jacob's face. A hideous creature stared back at him, with horns and red eyes and flared nostrils and melting green flesh. Jacob contorted his face in horror, making the creature look even more fearsome. "Why do you show me this illusion?" asked Jacob. The wizard replied, "This is no illusion, young man. I told you to destroy the gumdrops when the pain went away, did I not? Their magic is powerful enough to take pain away, but also powerful enough to seduce a man and turn them into this." The wizard held the looking glass closer to Jacob's face. Jacob screeched and shattered the glass with his horns, then, though the wizard tried to stop him, he ran out of the house and threw himself off the cliff.

"Poor young man," said the wizard to himself sadly as he swept up the broken glass.


And the moral of the story is...?

30 January 2012

Delfort: 7. Seal with a Kiss

This is the next installment of the adventures of young Delfort, Prince of Darscinnia. To start from the beginning, read canto one.

Previous canto: "Back to Porte Godfrey"

Canto Seven.

Prince Delfort
by Kevin F. Story
Prince Delfort and James walked lightly through the torchlit halls of the mayor's mansion. James astutely mentioned that, since the mayor's advisor, the angular Dr Bickentawl, was both father to Jacklynne and uncle to Clara, perhaps he would be about somewhere that they could discreetly ask of their whereabouts; then, in finding them, find and retrieve the prince's pilfered seal. There would be a room for after-dinner drinks; they simply needed to find it.

The manor's stone walls were well-decorated; even this corridor displayed many fine tapestries created over the ages by Porte Godfrey's esteemed artists. They depicted fine moments in the history of the town: its incorporation as chartered by an ancient king; the building of its first boat; the subsequent salvage of the first boat after it sank in the harbour on its maiden voyage; and the use of the salvaged materials to build a longer dock to deeper water, which proved to be the beginning of successful times for Porte Godfrey's citizens. An empty space on the wall was instead marked with a short note: “Current Commission: Princely Visit.” Delfort puffed his chest with pride.

At the hallway's end were a number of doors. James felt it was a duty for him, and not his master, to peek through the keyholes to see where each door led. One was a stairway to the basement. One was a hallway where he could see some of the servants laughing and gossipping. One was a garderobe where a grizzly man was desparately trying to hold a candle, read a leaflet, and do his business; James was quick to avert his eyes. Embarrassed, James crouched before the next door.

This door led into a drawing room where the mayor and Dr Bickentawl were taking brandy and chatting idly. The doctor stood by the fireplace smoking a long, thin cigar whose blue smoke spiralled and billowed into a beautiful plume off of which the firelight merrily danced and played. Johannes von Blochstorgg was sunken into an easy chair large enough to seat Sir Reginald comfortably, such that the slight mayor seemed like a child against it. His powdered wig sat on a stand next to him, as if the third member of this party. The mayor was completely bald without it; the firelight bounced off his scalp like colourful acrobats at a circus. When the young prince and James entered, Johannes struggled to free himself from the chair without success; Delfort waved for him to stay put, which is all he could do anyway.

The doctor bowed slightly. “Your highness.”

Delfort put on his courtly demeanour. “Lord Mayor,” he said. “Doctor.”

“Is there something I—I—I—can do for you, your Extreme Graciousness?” snivelled the mayor.

“No, no. Nothing. Just out for a walk,” said the prince. Then, remembering that Sir Reginald still feasted in the great hall, he added, “Be sure to thank your cook extensively for us; the supper he prepared was above and beyond our expectations.”

Johannes bristled at this praise. “Oh! How delightful!” he squealed.

Delfort glanced at James, who was fiddling with his tunic and staring at the floor. Delfort would be calm for the both of them; indeed, there was no reason to be nervous. They just had to ask the question the right way, without seeming too desperate or out of place.

“Doctor,” began the prince. Dr Bickentawl paused mid-drink to look up. “Your niece... the one who was ill...”

“Yes. Clarabelle.”

Clarabelle! thought Delfort as his heart leapt majestically to an area near his eyes. “Yes,” Delfort said, coughing. “How is she feeling?”

Dr Bickentawl seemed a bit charmed by this, in that he smiled slightly. “Why, thank you for asking, your highness. I must confess, my duties to my patients and my good friend the mayor have kept me away from home.” Here the doctor's eyes glistened and smile widened. “She's always been one of great spirit, though, so I am sure she is coming along just fine.”

“Good, good,” said the prince, glancing again at James but getting no response. “And your daughter...?”

“Jacklynne, my lord,” the doctor said, losing his smile. He puffed his cigar, twice, three times. “She was sorry you had to leave so hastily this morning, but she did say she would try to find you before you left.”

“I believe she wanted to 'kiss your royal seal,' she said,” snorted Johannes.

“Indeed!” chuckled the doctor. “I trust she did find you?”

The prince's eyes widened. “Yes. A fine daughter you have there.”

“Thank you, my lord.”

Delfort turned to James, who remained in his state of apparent discomfort. “Gentlemen, if you'll excuse us.”

“Of course!” squawked the mayor, glowing from the mere presence of a prince in his drawing room. “And please do let me know if there is anything I can do for you, your Beaming Brightness.”

What a ponce, thought Prince Delfort as he pulled James by the arm out of the room and into the corridor.

“What is wrong with you? Are you ill?” asked Delfort

James, now back to reality, blushed. “He's just too tall for a man, that doctor. He frightens me.”

Delfort sighed. “Come along, James, to your quarters. It is late. We shall continue the search in the morning.”

James nodded. “Yes, sire.”


Once again, when Prince Delfort returned to his room, someone was waiting for him. This time, it was neither Clara nor Jacklynne. It was the mayor's son Pot. The prince found him draped over an easy chair enjoying his favourite pastime, which filled the air with such hazy sweetness as to completely take the alarm out of Delfort. He eased the door shut.

“Highness,” said Pot with a nod.

“Likewise,” said the prince.

“You are no doubt wondering,” said Pot, swinging his legs so he sat normally, “why I am here.”

Delfort nodded.

Pot gestured to the other chair. Delfort felt numbish, tingly, but he did not mind. He sat.

“Then again, why should I not pay a visit to a good friend staying once again in my father's house?”

“Why not indeed?” Delfort managed to say.

Pot smiled. It was a relaxed smile; indeed, Pot always smiled that way. “Good, then. Care to join me?” He held forth an unlit pipe. Delfort accepted without hurry. Pot took a small wooden stick and held it to a candle to catch its light, then transferred it to where the prince was holding the pipe.

“Now, just puff in, rhythmically, until you see the fire catch. One... two... three. There. Enjoyable, my lord?”

Delfort cast him a look on hearing a somewhat familiar phrase that, in this moment, he couldn't quite place. The smoke was fragrant, soft, lovely. Delfort could sleep on this smoke and dream the most wondrous things, the most vibrant colours, the most vivid fantasies. It was there, in that fantasy world, that Clara sprang to mind. Clara and Jacklynne. They tickled him with exotic feathers and bathed him in fine perfumes. Oh, sweet Jacklynne! thought Delfort. Oh, Clara, you temptress! Then Clara laughed and held before his eyes the missing royal seal.

“Clara!” said Delfort, grasping at nothing. Pot and the easy chair and the room materialized around him. “Friend Pot, you know the maidens Clara and Jacklynne?”

Pot looked into the prince's eyes, through them. “Not as well as you, highness,” he said flatly.

Delfort smirked. “Perhaps you could tell me where Dr Bickentawl keeps them.”

Pot raised an eyebrow. “I could tell you that, highness, and would be glad to even show you by morning's light,” offered Pot. He leaned back, looking off to nowhere in particular. “Yes, there you will find your Jacklynne.”

“And Clara?”

Pot blew rings of smoke into the room. They swirled and deformed as they rose to the ceiling. “I fear your highness will not find what he seeks there.”

The smoke's effect was wearing thin on the prince, who stood and confronted Pot. “I demand you tell me where Clara is!”

“Relax, highness. Are we not friends? Please, sit.”

Delfort felt compelled to do so.

After a pause, Pot decided with nonchalance to say, “Your Clara has run away. To Vaslegas.”

Delfort blinked. “Vaslegas?”

“I fear so, highness. If she is what you seek,” said Pot, “then that is where you must go.”

Delfort sunk back in the chair. He could never convince his knightly entourage to go to Vaslegas, with its reputation for scandal and sin. James would sicken at the mere thought of going. “Damn,” he muttered. He would have to find some way. He needed to find Clara. He needed to get what was rightfully his back. He needed to find that seal.


Prince Delfort's journey continues next time in "To Catch a Thief"...

26 January 2012

Wait, I Changed My Mind

No, this is not the thing I meant to write;
Perhaps I found the subject slightly trite.
Instead, I choose to wax the poet's way
By writing this, some cute excuse to play
With words and meter, diction, verse, and rhyme,
Which some call "poem;" others, "waste of time."
So sorry if I led you all astray;
Please, do forgive, and have a lovely day.

24 January 2012

O Captain

"A look like that could shatter glass, it could," said Ernie, the old sailor.

A clang of tumblers came from the bar, seeming to punctuate his statement. The seaside pub was fairly empty this afternoon; it was a slow day for fish, too.

Mick threw back his beer and hummed noncommittally. The old sailor always went on poetically about looks and legs and other parts of the female outfit. Sure, the ladies interested Mick; he just wasn't a fan of Ernie's poetry. It rocked like the sea with enjambment and free meter. Mick was a purist. Give him a sonnet any day, he said, and he could live a happy life. But Ernie was a fine old sailor, and one to be respected, so Mick just mmmed and ah-hahed and nodded whenever Ernie waxed.

Tom was young, though, and had no ear for the stuff; yet, he was eager to learn. "Say, Ernie," he said, "what do you mean by that?"

"What, Tom? What did I mean by what?"

"You know, the look shattering glass. I've never seen someone shatter glass just by looking at it."

Ernie rolled the toothpick around in his mouth as he looked out onto the pier. "It's a metaphor, Tom. Just a metaphor."

23 January 2012

Delfort: 6. Back to Porte Godfrey

This is the next installment of the adventures of young Delfort, Prince of Darscinnia. To start from the beginning, read canto one.

Previous canto: "As Twice You Knew Me"

Canto Six

Prince Delfort
by Kevin F. Story
As they pulled into Porte Godfrey, the great orb of the Sun descended behind the edge of the sea. Sir Reginald already smacked his lips with anticipation as the carriage passed the main gate, breezed by the shops and public houses, and rolled unhindered through the arch before the mayor's mansion. The topiaries scattered about the grounds glowed in the final golden rays of the day, lending something ethereal to this otherwise bland acreage. Here among these leaves of grass the prince's feast had revelled; now, there were no signs of even the slightest of struggles, and certainly none of the young prince's.

Their re-arrival took the guards by surprise, and so there was no one really to greet them except one particular guard who had drawn the short straw that evening. He sighed heavily under his heavy helmet, bored out of his heavy mind, while his comrades got heavier eating and drinking in the guards' mess hall. At first, he thought the approaching carriage was simply a mirage, wishful thinking for something to make this evening's watch worth the while, but when the cart stopped before him, nearly knocking him on end, he came to his senses.

Qui vive?!” he called almost directly into the driver's ear after catching the pike that he had nearly boggled out of his hands.

The driver, annoyed by the guard but mostly by having to come all the way back to Porte Godfrey after they were so close to where they were going, had a few things to say to the guard, mostly about the guard's breeding, figure, and particular odour, which made the guard make an awful face as though he had swallowed something hideous. The guard would have retorted with steel had the words “prince” and “returned” not finally hit home in his head. Hastily, the guard opened the carriage door and yelled nasally towards the front entrance.

“His Majesty the Crown Prince of Darscinnia!”


Johannes von Blochstorgg snivelled as he always did as they ascended the steps to where the royal chambers lay. “Your Eminence, we are only too pleased that you should choose to be back in our humble Porte Godfrey, even on such short notice.”

Sir Reginald twitched slightly. “Are there vittles to be had? I—er—his Majesty did not yet have a chance to sup.”

“Oh, but of course! You must be most famished, your Loftiness! Alas, we have dined already this evening, but I'm sure the cook will be most pleased to provide the Prince with an exquisite supper.”

James whispered, “And the seal?”

“Yes,” said Delfort. “And the seal? Has no one come forward with it?”

“No, your Grace. But we shall see if it remains in your quarters.”

They stopped outside the door. The mayor inserted a large key and turned the lock. Delfort felt the back of his neck tingle as the room opened up before him, and for a moment he was still, peaceful, warm.

Sir Reginald's hand clasped Delfort's shoulder. In a low voice, the knight said, “You look daft. Get that foolish grin off your face.” The prince straightened up.

The mayor coughed. “I shall go tell the cook to keep the oven going. There will be more revelry tonight!”

Sir Reginald licked his moustache. Johannes gleefully showed off another of his absurd bows, a sort of half-curtsey with a generous bend at the waist, then frolicked in the direction of the kitchen, no doubt to ruin the chef's evening.

Delfort entered the room. It was the same room they had entered only a day before, but to Delfort it felt so much like an old friend.

“Here, James. Give me a hand.”

Together, Delfort and James opened chests, drawers, cabinets, and drapes. They pulled up the bed dressing, crawled under the bed, checked every floorboard and every corner. Sir Reginald, in all this, merely salivated lasciviously at the door, his mind farther from the task at hand than fish from living in desert sand. Resigned, the boys sighed and sat on the bed.

“It's not here,” said the prince. He knew already it would not be there. He knew there was only one person who could have it. One of two people.

“Your highness,” James said.

Delfort looked at him. From the way James looked back at him, he figured that James knew, too. The prince sighed again.


The cook himself came out to serve them in the great hall, where the fire roared at one end and the smell of delicious food wafted from the other. While he apologized that the meal was something he “just threw together,” the table quickly became filled with all manner of gastronomy, including roast goose au jus, sliced yams in a honey sauce, poached eggs with ham and hollandaise, braised wild asparagus dripping with garlic butter, a pair of mutton pies, wilted arugula in vinaigrette with fennel fronds and pungent cheese, three whole pan-seared swordfish covered in buttery lemon juice, and, taking up most of the table space, what appeared to be an entire side of beef. Delfort and James could not possibly eat all this food; Sir Reginald wondered if there would be enough.

“I hope it is all to your satisfaction,” said the cook to the prince.

“It is more than enough, surely. You did not have to go through so much trouble.”

“Nonsense!” cried Sir Reginald, who already had a sticky sauce in the webs of his fingers. “Er, that is to say, your highness,” he continued while chewing, “that clearly the chef has—mmm!—spared nothing to provide a princely—heavens!—a kingly feast! Hear, hear!”

With a bow, the cook left, one imagines, in order to survey the damage he recently inflicted on his kitchen. Prince Delfort wanted to dig in with all the fervour of his guardian, but his appetite was small. The matter of the seal's whereabouts lay weightily on his mind, blocking the particular centre in charge of feasting. He looked over to James, who sullenly scraped a few morsels onto his own plate. Delfort could tell that James was likewise occupied. A glance at Sir Reginald confirmed his suspicion that the portly knight would be far too busy to notice a small side conversation.

“James,” began the prince.

James did not look up. “I don't want to hear it. I know what you're about to say; maybe not exactly, but I have a feeling it's not going to be good.”

Delfort nodded. “I'm going to say it anyway. We need to find those young ladies.”

James pounded the table. Delfort's eyes widened at the sudden outburst. Sir Reginald even looked up from his activity.

“Quit that!” said the knight, gesticulating with a half-naked goose bone. Then he was back to his business.

It took a lot to get James to act out like that. He was really keeping it in all this time, thought Delfort. James stared right at him now, his eyes filled with a rarely seen passion. The prince had to come at him directly, but calmly.

“James, I know you are upset by my behaviour yesterday and today. It pains me to see how it affects you. But we have to move on if we are going to finish our task, get to Inglende, and, finally, get back home. Do you understand? We have to find my seal.”

“You lost it on purpose.”

Delfort looked perplexed. “Why would I do that?”

“To see your... mistresses again.”

Mistresses? Is that what they were? Anyway, it didn't matter to Delfort right now. He just needed James to understand, to help.

“I promise you I did not lose my seal on purpose.”

“Swear it?”

“I do. I swear it.”

“Good. I believe you.”

Delfort smiled. “Good, because it's true. Now, let's see if we can find it.”

“Wait. Promise me one more thing.” James struggled a bit with how to say what he wanted to say.


“We are going to have to see... them... again.”

“Most likely, yes.”

James sighed. “No matter what happened in the past, from now on, you have to be true to your intended.”

The girl he had not met yet, Delfort thought, sitting in some castle in the neighbouring kingdom. He had not thought much about her, but it seemed that James had. He needed to respect James' wishes; they came from some deeper nobility that Delfort could not grasp himself. It was admirable, perhaps. Delfort couldn't be sure. Delfort also couldn't be sure he could resist the wiles of lusty Clara or sweet Jacklynne.

“I will try my very best to remain true to my intended.”

“Good. And I will do my best to help.”

Great, thought Delfort.

They stood up. Sir Reginald stopped eating with a leg of something in his mouth and a spoonful of something else in his other hand. He eyed the boys with raised brows, seeming to ask the question, “Where are you going?”

“It's all right, Sir Reginald. We are just going for a walk.”

Sir Reginald looked around and almost whimpered.

“You can stay here.”

With that, the gregarious knight grunted and went back to his feasting, while the prince and his dutiful servant went to look for the missing seal. The hall was nearly empty, but the awful sounds produced by the knight's great jaws echoed and filled the room. He was in his ultimate happy place, his paradise found. God, he wished as he passed himself another helping of everything, if you would permit me in death to feast forever, I would be eternally glad for it.

“Amen!” he belched, making the rafters sing and his heart rattle with great joy. “Amen!


Prince Delfort's journey continues next time in "Seal with a Kiss"...

19 January 2012

M'lady's Books

She sees the world a-color
In contrasting, vibrant hues;
She hears the words, the whispers,
Some conversation, clues;
In common time, she loves to rhyme,
To wordsmith, and to muse;
The characters breathe life,
But the plot she must refuse.

She cares not what the people did,
But why things came to be;
Be damned the timeline or the news,
For motive is the key;
And dialogue is for the dogs;
Just tell her what they see.
So, give her not a novel;
Instead, a character study.

18 January 2012

Edward's Lab Partner

With science, she blinded me. Or maybe it was her hips swaying gently as they moved silently through the lab. Either way, my throat was dry and my upper lip twitched as if some voltage was trying to find its way around my moustache. Instinctively, I switched off the miniature generator I had been working with and found my way to where she was now standing, peering over the railing and down onto the floor of the warehouse. Moonlight radiated through the gaping skylights above, softly outlining the curve of her ivory cheek, atop which a bold pair of corrective lenses perched in dark rectangular frames. Her face proved conclusively that phi existed; her ratios were more perfect than phi could even predict. There must, therefore, be some mathematical reason why reddish-brown hair, when bobbed, is especially striking against such unblemished ivory skin. In that moment, I could feel my heart rate increase. Was that a hint of adrenaline in my bloodstream? A drop of perspiration pushed itself from a pore somewhere near my frontal lobe. I casually brushed it away with a flick of my finger.
She wanted something from me, but I couldn't tell what. She was very quiet, just staring down over the railing. I was very close to her; I could feel her thermodynamics through my lab coat. In these late spring months, she was in the habit of wearing blouses that kept her cooler in the lab, but, for some inexplicable reason, kept me warmer. There must have been some biological reason for it. I made a note to call an anthropologist friend of mine to ask.

Finally she sighed, an expulsion of air that sounded as if it should be so very sweet, delicate, as if spun from the finest silicon. My heart jumped slightly, a feat I didn't think was biologically possible. Blood was draining from my head to other, more primal organs; I thought I might swoon, but a strong voice in my mind said that would be a dreadful thing for a man to do and told me to "buck up." I would have to look up the phrase later when I got to my study.

Then she turned to me and I noticed something cold and dark in her sinistral hand, a device that, when loaded with a projectile whose back section was packed with a combination of sulfur, carbon, and potassium nitrate, could pose bodily harm to those standing in front of its barrel. In a word, a gun.

"What?" I asked.

But before I asked that simple, incredibly open-ended question, I smiled. It is a strange, silly thing to do, really, when one has a dangerous weapon pointed at one, but it was a thing I did, nonetheless. I smiled because, for the first time since we began working together, I noticed she was left-handed. It is hard to say why this would pose as something amusing or, at least, smile-inducing. Again, something to ask my anthropologist friend.

She was incredibly calm for one holding such a powerful weapon. This fact did nothing to relieve my attraction to her. Her hair in the moonlight was, indeed, radiant, and the way her lab coat accentuated her true-to-phi figure was captivating. She wore high black boots with a good heel on them, adding approximately ten centimeters to her diminutive stature. On days I was particularly bored with my research, or just to clear my mind for a bit, I would estimate certain data: her natural height (150 cm), the circumference of her waist (53.34 cm), the volume and mass of her... well, that's not important. What was important was, in that moment, a very lovely woman, a co-worker, was pointing a very dangerous gun at me.

"What?" I asked again.

"You know what," she finally said. The frequency range of her voice was, for some reason, always pleasing to listen to. Even when she was holding a gun at me at a distance of, say, twenty centimeters.

"I'm afraid I don't know what," I said. "Specifically."

She walked around me ninety degrees, so now my back was to the railing. The moonlight once again highlighted her face down to her sternum. She came closer and gently pushed the tip of the gun into my abdomen. She looked up at me over her glasses, and more perspiration formed on the skin of my squama frontalis and more blood drained from behind it. This feeling of being so close to mortality and yet so close to what I can only describe as fantasy was perplexing.

"I'm pregnant," she said calmly.

Blood rushed back to my head. "What?" I said.

"You heard me," she said. The gun metal pushed against my stomach. I feared it might cause some sub-epidermal rupture, but a bruise was the least of my concerns right now.

"Yes," I said. "But what does this have to do with me?"

She never stared at me more intently. Her green eyes bored deep within my own mundanely brown ones. She was so still, so sure and calm. It was breathtaking, but perhaps not as breathtaking as having a firearm pointed at some vital organs.

"I'm pregnant," she said, pressing her reddish-brown eyebrows together, "and you are the father."

Then my life flashed before my eyes. There was a sudden burst of sparks and a loud bang, accompanied by the smell of sulfur and a warmish feeling where the gun had been pressing. I clung onto the railing as I watched my parents age in fast-motion, my teachers change and become stricter, more precise, and diplomata and degrees thrust into my hands. It was a quick vision, after which there was pain where there was warmth. I sank to the floor; she still stood there with the pistol aimed at me, but her calmness was cracking. Saline streams dripped down those smooth cheeks, now blushing. The ringing in my ears receded at just the moment she started speaking again.

"When I got the news I was pregnant, I didn't believe it. There was no way. I hadn't... But the doctors were absolutely certain. I ordered a paternity test as soon as I could have one, which is pretty fast these days, especially when you know people."

I coughed up warm red liquid, a mix of hemoglobin, bile, and stomach acid.

"Anyway," she continued, "I found out it was you. It was you. But how? It wasn't possible. We never... So I discreetly asked around the lab. That's when I found out..."

Now her calmness waned greatly. As for me, the pain was being replaced by a sort of fuzziness.

"What?" I whispered. I wanted her to keep talking. It was keeping me alive, thought the less logical parts of my brain, of which there were few. I estimated that my life would be limited to another one to three minutes.

She grimaced. "You... I always wondered why I woke up in the lab after the holiday party. I was too drunk to drive home, you said."

She was shaking. Or I was, I couldn't tell.

"You fucking knocked me out," she said. "And you... Ugh!" She expelled the contents of her stomach on the floor next to me. I coughed up more blood in solidarity.

"Sara," I whispered. I really needed to get this out before it was all over. "I...." It would take all my remaining strength. "I...." There was no mathematical formula, no scientific knowledge to help me here. Yes, I knew what she was going to accuse me of as soon as she said I was the father. Yes, she wasn't fabricating anything. I did everything she said I did, and more she didn't. It was a moment of extreme weakness for me. Desperately lapsed logic. I really, desperately needed to tell her, "I'm sorry."

There. The words came out. I did it. And I really meant it, too. I had been full of remorse the following day, but I couldn't apologize then and tell her what happened, what I did. Now was the only chance I would get.

"I'm sorry," I said again, as clearly as I could.

She stared at me, those green eyes now bloodshot and glassy. Then she sobbed loudly and held me tightly. Just before my heart stopped and I officially expired, I smiled. I had to smile. She whispered directly into my ear words I never thought I would hear, especially after sustaining the fatal bullet wound caused by her.

"I always loved you, Edward" she said, and she rocked me gently in her perfect arms as I peacefully died on the lab floor.

Our relationship, even to death, was complicated.