Arcane Inkdustries

Magical writings in a Mundane World (Tuesdays and Fridays)

A Foppish Coup, Part 1

            To say that there are differences between men and women is about as wit-filled as to remark on how different a dog is from a rose in bloom. And yet it happens so often that both receive the same treatment. A rose is yelled at for not growing fast enough, is denied water due to laziness of its supposed master. And throttled for the crime of pricking when it is strangled.

            Women are the rose of life. Too often we are admired for our beauty, put on a pedestal, and forgotten. When we assert ourselves, we are broken apart and given as pretty gifts to children and other roses that dared not rise above their stations. And if we are wise enough to remain silent, and to remain beautiful, and kind, and pacifist, we are rewarded with a loving cut that shears us from life in winter, so that other, better roses, have room to grow in spring.

            But now a rose holds the crown. One that isn’t afraid to prick, one that may even have a poisoned thorn. Dear friend, what will happen when the foolish dogs realize that they cannot merely pluck this rose from their boughs? What happens when they realize that their bite cannot match my sting?

“What we have here is a tyrannical woman, trying to impose her silly fantasies on an entire nation!”

How did this man get in the building? He stood on top of the bar, clumsy feet knocking over drinks and sending the patrons to their feet. A poor man, dirty, his clothes torn and weathered. But his eyes were alight, and his voice was clear and forceful.

“Queen Viola, for that is how she believes herself to be, has started a bloody reign that is both as dominating as it is feckless! In one hand she destroys our nobility, while at the other she caters to beasts, to fairies…to laying with the very trees!”

There were shouts for him to shut up. Others for him to be thrown out into the bright of day. It was barely after noon, not the time for politics.

“If the gentleman from the lower part of a ditch would wish to continue,” a man in a much finer cloak said. “Perhaps he would permit us to dunk him in the river? Far be it for him to assault our noses as well as our ears!”

“Lord Canterwight!” The man fell to his knees. However, this was impossible given the length of the bar, and he tumbled off the bar, hitting a stool on his way down into the floor. He remained sprawled, managing to turn it into a measure of obeisance.

“My apologies, my lord,” the man said. “I am so, so grateful that you have given your house to this establishment, and to have us speak is the essence of freedom.”

“An essence,” Lord Canterwright mused. “That can be revoked. Especially if our dear Countess’ best friend and her wards are supposed to be enjoying a luncheon at my request.”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

Making Friends, Part 17

Bergsten knocked on his mother’s door.

“Mother?”

The woman stood at the other side, cautious. Her son had not been there in weeks, more used to what her ex-husband called “strong manners.” Bergsten had in fact left when she pleaded he stick around, and help his poor mother around the house.

“Mother?” Bergsten tried again. “I’m home.”

His mother opened the door, just enough to peek out. “This is home, now, is it?” She asked. “I thought you declared this the worst place on earth.”

Bergsten nodded, bowing his head in shame. “And I’m really sorry about that. And a lot of other things too.”

“Oh?” She opened the door further, and crossed her arms. “And what would those be?”

Bergsten stuck into the ground with his toe, trying to look away. “When I was five years old…I was starting to learn fire spells. And I lit the doily set on fire that stupid Aunt Begonia sent you that you never used, and lied and said that dad had done it. I’m sorry about that.”

His mother’s eyes bugged out, but he continued. “And, and two months after that? I said that my pet lizard had finished my vegetables, and that’s why I didn’t eat them, but I threw them in the garbage instead. I don’t think we even had a lizard. I’m sorry about that too.”

He kept continuing a list to his open-mouthed mother, in chronological order, of all the things he had to feel sorry for. Just down the street, Rowinda and Gallopy were with their own parents, telling of the pranks they had played on the town, on the family, on the familiars, even on each other. Erovin was bawling to his father, unable to hold it all in. Bob apologized once for hanging out with those friends, before setting back out to the Meadows to more thoroughly apologize to Thelonius Brickleboook.

All the onlookers were too stunned to notice the new rings on their left pinkies. Green stones, with a solid black band, wedged tightly on. The friends knew they were never going to come off, and that it would be a long while before they were done apologizing. They all agreed they had the better end of the deal, and fell into the enchantment with enthusiasm.

Arlyle and Bethany watched it all. They had already promised the evening to the Witch and badger, filled with cakes and dancing, and Arlyle even promised to play a game or two which caused no end of delight to the other three. But she watched Bethany, amazed at the smile on her friend’s face.

“Saying sorry isn’t enough,” she muttered.

“It’s a start.” Bethany hugged the goddess. “And I get to be with you.

Arlyle pushed her away, the first time she had ever done so. “I can’t just ignore this, Bethany. I deal in vengeance, this will happen again. Especially if we keep doing adventures.”

“And I’ll keep doing this again,” Bethany promised. “Happy vengeance. We’ll have adventures, and dole out justice with kindness, and be back in time for supper.”

Arlyle smiled this time. Wistfully, hopefully, or painfully, who could tell?

“What’s next?”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

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