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.

17 January 2012

after surgery

the fuzzy edges of my life are
          formed by generous sleep

16 January 2012

Delfort: 5. As Twice You Knew Me

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

Previous canto: "The Morning After" 

Canto Five.

Prince Delfort
by Kevin F. Story
This time, when he awoke, he found his tunic and trousers to be in order. Delfort sat up, stretched, and looked out the window. Clara was gone, but there was a note beside him. He picked it up, examining her voluptuous handwriting without comprehending a single word. All he saw was Clara in every loop, every up-stroke and down.

Finally, words came to him: “My lord, I left you unattended in case someone should enter unannounced. Remember me as twice you knew me. Breathlessly yours, Clara.”

Breathlessly! thought Delfort, as he, too, was short of breath. What a creature!

“Your Highness!” bellowed Sir Reginald as he pounded the door.

The prince bade him enter whilst he gathered his jacket and the rest of his accoutrements, stuffing that wonderful note in the waist of his pants.

“Hope you're feeling better, Highness. Carriage leaves within the hour. The mayor will see us off.”

“Good.” Delfort looked straight at the knight. “Must we really go?”

Reginald chuckled, tugging on his moustache, shaking his head. Then he turned to go.

“Wait. Could you have James find that boy Pot for me?”

Reginald looked at him. “Pot?”

“Er, you know. Jehosa-what. The mayor's son. I want to speak with him.”

Reginald bowed slightly. “As you wish, sire.” Then he exited humming some war tune or drinking song.

The prince stood there and sighed. Not a moment later did Jaclynne appear and lock the door behind her.

“Jaclynne!” whispered the prince. “What are you doing?”

“My lord, I wanted to see you just once more before you departed forever and forgot your humble servant.”

“Please, Jaclynne, I must prepare for my journey.”

She moved towards him quickly and grabbed his face. He was immersed in her kiss, and it suddenly calmed him to his very core. She pulled away.

“You were not very coherent last night afterwards, so I wanted to thank you for that wonderful evening, my lord. I am honoured to have had your company.” She knelt before him and handed him a red tulip.

“Rise, Jaclynne,” the prince sighed. He stared into her eyes, thinking over everything. He decided the best thing to do was embrace her. So he did, and she complied. Then, pulling away, he grasped her shoulders. “You are a fine young woman, Jaclynne. I very much enjoyed your company as well.”

“Thank you, my lord.” She blushed and looked down at the floor.

“But please, Jaclynne, go. I need to get ready for my journey.”

“Very well, my lord. Fare well!” said Jaclynne, pecking him on the cheek, then slipping out into the hall.

“Fare well, my Jaclynne.”

Delfort was alone. He gazed around the bedchamber, taking in every last detail so as to savour these moments repeatedly on the long carriage ride to Bolle-Weaville: the headboard to which they tied him; the window out which they slipped; the plush chair on which the evening began. The tulip hung from his fingers, another prize for his cache. He placed Jaclynne's flower along with Clara's note and the two handkerchiefs in a large but unassuming pouch, which he hung from his belt. These conquests would ride alongside him.


Dust and gravel kicked up around the carriage as it set off from Porte Godfrey with its well-fed and rested passengers aboard. Prince Delfort sat silently, deep within the bench's quilted billows, still rolling over the events of his journey thus far. James hung his head out the window watching the world wend away from him. Sir Reginald snorted and rubbed his prominent belly, still engorged from fabulous feasting. Soon the town was a speck on the distant plains, dwarfed by great hills and mountains leagues away. They followed the river up and down until it split for higher climbs. The forest rose around them, drenching the day in darkness. Here the wisps lived, bouncing from tree to rock, spiriting here and floating there, waiting to ignore an unasked question or provide an unspoken riddle.

For the first time, away from the action of Porte Godfrey, Prince Delfort considered James's point of view, or what he thought was James's point of view, regarding his recent escapades. James was not jealous, thought Delfort; rather, he was virtuous. Somehow the same isolation that led Delfort to wanting forbidden fruit kept James away, satisfied with not knowing, and brooding over Delfort's apparent waywardness. Even now he sat with his arms crossed, since the gloom had destroyed his view of the outdoors, probably in search of something to say or do to change Delfort's errant ways.

After some length, the royal carriage rolled to a stop in front of the gatehouse to a great stone wall which stretched in either direction and was enveloped by the incredibly fecund foliage. Upwards gatehouse towers reached into the clouds; indeed, the clouds seemed vestiges of the towers themselves. James, finally having something new at which to stare, did with great intensity, such that he might have tumbled out the carriage window had he not held on tightly. Delfort was impatient.

“What is the trouble?” the prince snapped, leaning out of the opened carriage door. The guard talking to the carriage driver looked over to the prince.

“We require proof of your princeship prior to proceeding.” The guard smacked his lips in surprise, clearly having not thought through his word choice before speaking.

The driver shrugged. “I told him it should all have been arranged.”

The prince ordered the driver to look in his travelling chest for the seal, which he did not wear normally. (Certainly, around Pilvar-upon-Weedlewhicke, it was unnecessary for him to wear it, and he disliked wearing things on his fingers.) The driver huffed and put down his reins, walking to the rear of his vessel and searching through the royal luggage. After several minutes, there was no sign of the prince's seal, or any sort of identification.

Delfort was surprised. He checked his personal satchel, of which he had memorised the contents, but checked anyway. He inquired of James where it might be, but his guess was as good as the prince's, and Sir Reginald belched and whistled through his moustache in similar accord. The ring was no where to be found.

“Damn. Clara.”

Sir Reginald sat up. “Eh, boy?”

“Er, nothing. The seal must be in Porte Godfrey, or surely it was forgotten at Pilvar.”

The knight was frozen in apparent incomprehension. Slowly the connections were made, and Sir Reginald suddenly seemed to be completely satisfied that the seal might be in Porte Godfrey. No doubt this was due to the further excess of food in which the knight could now indulge. So, as the golden sun hung brilliantly atop the sky and birds chattered mercilessly in the trees above, the carriage turned around.


Prince Delfort's journey continues next time in "Back to Porte Godfrey"...

09 January 2012

Delfort: 4. The Morning After

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

Previous canto: "The Royal Chambers"

Canto Four.

Prince Delfort
by Kevin F. Story
When Delfort awoke, he was alone. You rogue! he thought, clutching the two handkerchiefs, one green and one blue, that remained tied around his now free hands. Quickly he got up, then fell back down as his head pounded at him. After a moment he slowly rose and threw on his royal dressing gown. On the bedside table was a note (“The cure for what ALES you -Reg.”) and a small flask. Delfort took out the stopper and inhaled. It smelt awful. Pinching his nose (he'd seen someone do that once), he downed its contents. After a coughing fit he felt a hundredfold better.

A familiar, quiet knock sounded from the door.

“Enter, James.”

The door swung open, and James entered quickly, silently closing it behind him.

“What happened, sire? You look a mess,” said James, quickly finding the prince's slippers and presenting them.

Delfort sat on the bed, accepting the slippers. “I'm not certain, James, but this is what I think.” He informed James of everything that happened, starting with his talk with Sir Reginald, breezing through his encounter with Pot, and finally relishing in his exploits with (or his being exploited by) Clara and Jaclynne, “who will die happy knowing her first time ever was with the future King of Darscinnia.”

James was both amazed and disgusted. “You mean the future King of a united Darscinnia and Inglende,” he corrected.

The prince ignored this. “I wish you had been there, James. You could have shared.”

James stood up. “Sire, we leave at noon after a private brunch with the mayor and his family. It would probably be best if we put this all behind us and continue our journey to meet your bride-to-be.”

Delfort observed the coolness James now presented. He had never seen James like this. They were always open to each other, but now James closed the metaphorical door. Delfort found his feet and slowly introduced them to the floor.

“Quite right, James. I shall never speak of it again.”


Prince Delfort descended the stairs and stood outside the door to the banquet hall. James and Sir Reginald followed closely behind, and when they, too, reached the door, the ceremonial guards opened it, banging their pikes loudly on the stone floor.

“His Majesty the Crown Prince of Darscinnia; and his entourage, Sir Reginald of Cangreene,” announced one of the guards.

The other guard looked at James. “Son, you can eat with the other servants in the storehouse.”

“He eats with me,” the prince commanded.

The guard sighed; he tried, after all. “Very well, my lord.”

The prince and his party proceeded to the banqueting table, where Mayor von Blochstorgg and others stood waiting.

“Good morrow, Your most Royal Excellency!” the mayor snivelled. He introduced a rotund, fleshy woman as his wife, Maria. She smiled wider than even her fatted face would allow. The mayor's personal advisor towered above her, an eagle-looking man with not a hair on his shiny scalp, just some wispy white ones around the edges. “The good doctor Lester Bickentawl.”

The prince noted with alarm the other guests.

“This is my only child, my son Jehosaphat.”

Pot smiled. “We've met. Your Highness.”

“And this is Dr Bickentawl's only daughter, the fair maiden Jaclynne.”

James shot the prince a look as Jaclynne curtseyed. Her hair was brushed out straight so that it flowed all around her adorable frame, a frame she had disclosed to the prince when the moon was high. It now wore a maroon gown which seemed to endlessly wrap around itself. She glowed still from her unforgettable evening.

“My dear cousin Clarabelle sends her warmest regards, my lord,” Jaclynne said, winking subtly. “She only wishes she could be here to see your handsome face.”

“Indeed,” snorted Dr Bickentawl as he adjusted his spectacles, “my niece was meant to join us, but woke up rather ill, according to my sister. Jitters about meeting a prince, if you ask me.” He chuckled and muttered something that sounded like “children” under his breath.

Prince Delfort was given the seat at the head of the somewhat short table, with the mayor seated at the other end (indeed, the arse, thought the prince). James and Reginald flanked him on the right, while (to his dismay) Jaclynne and Pot took up the left. Throughout the meal the mayor did most of the talking, boring the table with recounts of his time at a boarding school in Barnium-over-Wynn, eliciting yawns from the table with recitations of mediocre poetry he wrote at lyceum in Notlob Falls, and finally filling the table with genuine ennui by retelling of his absolutely ordinary boyhood in Porte Godfrey and environs. Sir Reginald did what he always did: he ate prolifically. James felt rather unhungry, especially sitting across from Jaclynne, who throughout the meal grinned unnervingly at him, at the prince, at everyone. The prince ate slowly in contemplative silence, seemingly stoic. Pot was in his own world, a state he probably enjoyed most of the time.

Delfort was a bit torn as he slowly ate the victuals before him. His experience last night was exciting, perhaps the best thing that had happened to him so far in his young life. Yet he could tell James disapproved. Was he jealous? or merely looking out for his old master and companion? Perhaps the prince could indulge and leave his attendant unawares. He glanced at Jaclynne. She smiled at him and blushed, turning to her plate and passing some bits of food around it. She was good, Delfort thought, but Clara was better, more lovely, more exciting. Delfort wondered if there were more young ladies like them in the kingdom, and if he could manage to sample them all.

A small slippered foot found that of Delfort. His eyes met hers and he blushed this time and moved his foot away. That magic punch, Delfort continued mentally, and that sweet smoke were the only reasons for the events of last night. Now he looked at Pot, who was staring into his silver goblet and picking bits from his teeth. Maybe Pot would grant him a small favour, something the prince could take with him on his journey. Otherwise there would be no way for Delfort to even talk to the fair maidens of this or the next land.

Delfort then looked back at Jaclynne. Maybe he could try again, he thought, without the influence of other things.

“Enjoying the food?” Delfort inquired stupidly.

Jaclynne looked up from her plate, at which she had resigned to staring. She smiled. “Yes, my lord, but not as much as I enjoyed your feast last night.”

“Indeed.” Delfort felt foolish. He stood up. Others tried to stand, but he stayed them with a hand, excusing himself, and leaving the banquet hall.

Delfort nodded to the guards and ascended the steps. He felt better now that he wasn't in that sweltering hall. (Perhaps he was the only one sweltering.) He found his chamber and slipped inside, locking shut the door. He sighed and turned into the room. Clara was standing before him. He froze.

“My lord!” she blushed, surprised at his entrance. “Is brunch already over?”

Delfort thawed slowly. “No, no. I needed some, er, air.”

Clara turned her surprise to a smile. She walked to him. She was wearing a heavy grey cloak, under which it appeared she wore only a sage slip.

“Is there anything I can do, my lord?” She was quite close. Her hand found his jacket buttons and followed them top to bottom.

“I thought you were ill.”

Clara stopped. “I was. Then I felt better. I realised I left my purse here last night, so I came back to get it, but I did not wish to disturb my handsome lord.” She touched his cheek, which blushed.

“Did you... did you find it?”

“I did, my lord.” She smiled. “But I found you, too. And you must leave today.”

“Yes, I must—”

“My lord.” Clara undid her cloak and let it fall to the floor. Her sheer slip billowed slightly with some breeze in the room. She grasped his hand, her eyes saying, “May I?” and led the prince away from the door. Delfort relaxed and let it all happen.


Prince Delfort's journey continues next time in "As Twice You Knew Me"...

03 January 2012

Happy New Year, PST

There is no day like December 31st to remind one of the man-made construct that is time and, by proxy, its brothers and sisters, the time zones. This is especially true for people who fly across them on December 31st. This is even more especially true for people on certain Pacific isles, whose 2011, as you may be aware, only had 364 days, since they only a few days before traded tomorrow for yesterday in order to be more like Australia today. Go figure.

On this particular December 31st, after a jaunt of ten days on the island of my birth, my wife and I boarded a plane headed for our latest home, in Los Angeles County. The flight from New York to Los Angeles is made sweeter by the fact that, even though it's a six hour flight, you land only three hours after you started; also, if it's December, L.A. is about thirty degrees warmer than New York. The only downside I can see is there isn't a decent pizza in L.A. to hang your hat on, which is fine, since I don't need the extra calories, and, anyway, the hat would get soggy.

The evening's activities would include fixing a quick dinner of whatever wasn't rotten or moldy at home (a success, as some tortellini and a loaf of bread was stashed in the freezer) followed by calling around to my friend Christian's place for the festivities. Not only is December 31st New Year's Eve; it's also Christian's birthday.

Christian and I went to college together on Long Island, where we shared a house in Greenlawn that our classmates termed “The Gentleman's Lodge.” A filmmaker with big aspirations (and huge talent), he moved to L.A. a year ago for what I figure are pretty obvious reasons.

That is how we found ourselves at a bar on Ventura Boulevard on New Year's Eve.

We were excited to be celebrating the New Year in a new place. I, for one, had spent New Year's in several places in the northeast. The “quiet evening at home” is usually my favorite, though sometimes (rarely) I threw parties. In Boston, they shoot off fireworks over the Charles River while the Boston Pops plays The Year 1812, Festival Overture in E-flat major, complete with 19th century cannon-fire. (The best place to stand other than right on the Esplanade is on the Massachusetts Avenue bridge.) At a friend's house in Connecticut, we brought in the New Year by grilling dogs, playing pinochle, and jamming until we couldn't see the keys anymore, and even then we kept going a bit.

Nowhere, of course, is more iconic for New Year's celebrants than Times Square, New York City, where you have to arrive in the afternoon to be allowed into the Square, checked for bombs and other nuisances, then led to a nice spot in the pen where you'll be spending the rest of the day. No bathrooms, no pretzel stands, no water. Let's just say I don't need to do that again.

So, like I said, we were excited to be in L.A. for New Year's. We figured there would be something different. We whispered to each other wondering where they would do the fireworks: over the Hollywood sign? or at Disneyland? or maybe over Santa Monica Pier?

We had to swim through bodies to get to the bar, where we could see the televisions. This place was beyond packed. A fire marshall would have had a field day. It took until the ten-minute warning just to flag down a bartender.

The televisions in the bar were tuned to the classic New Year's show, in... Times Square. The broadcast had the gall to put “LIVE” in a box in the corner, followed by, in smaller type, “ET.” Eastern time. Everything we were watching had happened three hours ago. In New York. Where we just were.

Where were the Southland fireworks? the local displays of celebration? Is New York's party so good that the West Coast has to rebroadcast it? No one can top it?

My wife leaned into me, “I guess New York is the center of the universe.”

When the appointed time came, we counted down, clinked glasses, shouted, kissed, all according to this odd tradition we humans have come up with. At a minute past midnight on January 1st, we pushed our way out of the bar and onto Ventura, where the freshest air L.A. has to offer was just waiting to be inhaled. But something wasn't right, I thought as we walked back to Christian's apartment. It didn't feel like the New Year happened. Sure we watched some television, did some shouting and kissing and so on, but it still felt like we just watched someone else's New Year happen on the television. The New Year we would have had if we were in New York. Here we were in Pacific Time, clinging to the hope of a slightly different New Year, and all we got was the same old Eastern Time change-over we'd been fed since babes. Been there, done that, as they say.

And time marches on.

02 January 2012

Delfort: 3. The Royal Chambers

Now that Christmas, Hannukah, New Year's et al. are over, it's time to get back to the continuing tale of Delfort, Prince of Darscinnia. Read from the beginning here.

Previous canto: "The Feast"

Canto Three.

Prince Delfort
by Kevin F. Story
She took a deep breath and sighed a huge sigh when it was all over, whichever one it was. The prince was sprawled out on his royal mattress absolutely astounded over what had transpired. His head felt even lighter than before, yet he could not bring himself to lift it. Never before had he felt this way, for, indeed, never before had all this happened in his life.

Clara and Jaclynne whispered to each other excitedly somewhere in the room, but Delfort neither cared nor listened. He revelled in his own world, in his head, reliving the moments where those two wonderful young things showed him what being a prince was all about. How had he gone so long without knowing, stuck in a dank palace for so many years without the gentle touch of a young lass? without so much as a glimpse of female beauty? The closest he ever came to simply seeing a girl was a single tapestry in the great hall of Pilvar-upon-Weedlewhicke, where a knight was giving some fair maiden a rose, or taking a rose from her, depending on your point of view. He remembered staring at that tapestry through many feasts in the great hall, just wishing a real maiden would make herself known to him.

Hands on his face and body brought Delfort back to reality. Opening his eyes, the lovely visages of those two wonderful sirens hovered there above him.

Clara spoke. “Enjoyable, my lord?”

Delfort tried to speak but could not.

Jaclynne glanced at Clara with a gleaming smile.

Delfort looked at both of them. He wanted to hold them both in his arms and tell them how much he appreciated everything they had done for him—to him. He tried to get just a feel of one of them, but he could not. He could not move his hands. They seemed to be stuck. Or tied.

“Mmm mmnf,” said Delfort, his mouth full of fabric.

Clara kissed Jaclynne's cheek. “You can go first, Jaclynne, since it's your first time and all. Oh, look! He's ready.”

Even though he was tied down and gagged, Delfort smiled and let it all happen. It's good to be the prince, he thought.


Prince Delfort's journey continues next time in "The Morning After"...