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...?