Monday, April 1, 2013

The King's Blood

My book, all 700 pages of it, has gone into that silent unbreakable stasis that is beta reading, which means I'm probably not supposed to be reading it myself. But I never listen to myself, I see no reason to start now.

This is during a rather rousing party where our heroes find themselves having to perform in front of the enemy.

“I am Casamir! Casamir is my name. And you can call me Casamir.” Ciara nudged Bartrone in the ribs, hoping it’d restart his brain.
The man swallowed hard and glanced to his hand, upon which he’d written an acronym for every one of this lines. He was really afraid of the TBPHINRITMTKMTYVM speech.
“And I am traveling to the land of the elves with my trusty companion!”
Pajamas stood to his full height, rubbed his glistening stomach and belched.
The room erupted into applause. Even the soldiers seemed aware of the fabled Humphrey and his predilections, slapping their knees in encouragement.
Pajamas waved his arms around as if he’d just scored the winning stab during a war. “Casamir” coughed and “Humphrey” fell back in line.
“Boy, it sure is nice to be off that rickety boat and here in the land of the elves!” Bartrone wasn’t so much projecting his lines as yelling them to an invisible giant towering over the top of the Baron’s head. This kept his line of sight always above everyone’s faces and his words ringing through the hallways.
Pajamas smiled wide, “Tha’s true thur, but why are we e’en here?”
“I am glad you asked that Humphrey…my trusty companion.” Repetition was a tool of the bards to keep the audience from forgetting midway through a poem why someone named Grendal had an affinity for eating Danes. They’re not even candy coated. But it gave Ciara a headache, as she stood skittishly in the back shadows, grateful that all eyes were upon the man trying to shout down the castle walls.
“For you see,” Casamir continued, “we were caught on what we thought was a terrible storm but was in reality a whirlpool caused by the sea serpents mighty tail. While you stood upon deck and proceeded to refer to its mother as a very promiscuous rope, I was jumping down its throat and slicing its head off from inside.”
“Right,” Humphrey said, and ad libbed, “wonder how I forgot about that.”
Casamir glared at his friend for the interruption and continued, “Now we are trapped here, amongst the land of the elves. The pointy eared devils who work magic to steal men’s essence and weave rugs.”
“But how do you know it’s the Elves?” Humphrey asked, poking at his belly button.
“Because there’s one right now,” Casamir said, stepping out of the main circle and trying to cue Aldrin.
But the boy refused to let go of Ciara’s hand. He shook his head, shifting his false ears around on his face.
“Yep,” Casamir put a hand up over his eyes, “I can see one, far in the distance. I’m sure it’ll come to us any minute now.”
Humphrey stood beside him and made the same move, “Are you sure it’s not just a rock? Seem to be a lot of those on this island.”
Bashta nahroot! Ciara cursed in her father’s tongue and ran into the spotlight dragging Aldrin with her, “Help! Help! I have been kidnapped by this terrible elven lord!”
Casamir blinked back at her as the script turned in on itself. Humphrey reached out and swiped a handful of stuffing off someones plate and jammed it in his maw.
Ciara placed her head next to Aldrin’s frozen jaw, “He says he’s going to kill me and use my blood to summon a terrible demon to destroy all of mankind. Also that he has a terrible cold and can’t talk very loudly.”
The boy’s eyes looked around at the multitude of enemies staring inquisitively upon him and, instead of a flush of embarrassment at being caught giving the worst performance of his life, or fear from the knowledge a single one of them could drain his blood with a swipe of the blade, he felt a rage creep across his brow hotter than any he’d ever known before.
“AARGH! I am Lord Galdwin, high keeper of the Elves and I have come to destroy all of humanity!” he shouted to the parapets and the pigeons roosting within. The Baron slid forward in his seat, enraptured with this story. Even the man in black beside him seemed to perk up from stirring around the untouched food on his plate.
“He seems much better now,” Humphrey mumbled through a mouth of breadcrumbs.
The Lord elf waved his finger upon the assembled audience, daring each of them to try and attack, “And not a single one of you can stop me!” Aldrin cackled, and, still grabbing Ciara’s hand, pulled her back into the shadows that stood in for the “Mighty Elven Castle.”
“Oh help, help, won’t someone save me,” she called out, a small tremble in her voice from the emotion pouring from the boy’s iron grip upon her.
Casamir stood tall and tried to remove his wooden sword from his scabbard, but it was stuck. Instead he wrenched the entire thing off his belt and pointed towards the “mighty elven castle.” “Come, Humphrey. We must rescue the girl and save the world.”
“And stop for lunch along the way?” It didn’t much matter what Humphrey ad libbed, as long as he remembered one simple rule.
As Casamir turned to glare at his companion, the scabbard fell with a clunk onto the stone floor just as Humphrey let loose a torrential cadence of flatulence.
The audience went wild.

While inebriated soldiers, blitzed lords, and tipsy ladies (who’d gone drink for drink with their husbands) hooted and hollered, the traveling players took them on a wild ride as Casamir the Dragon Slayer fought off giant man eating cats, a pair of knights who’d turned into trees, and a horde of lawyers (blood sucking insects didn’t translate well). Occasionally the elven princess would cry out from her tower (a stack of chairs). The evil Lord Galdwin would cackle and steeple his fingers while talking about all the people he’d be sure to kill, pointing at a few soldiers who’d laugh at the small boy threatening them.
And all the while Humphrey would provide the light hearted comic relief every harrowing tale of heroism needed as he tried to hop up on the tables, run across plates, slipped, and slid clear across the floor into the wall a bearded man had previously occupied. But Casamir was on a role, and turned that into some terrible invisible giant that was tossing them about like rag dolls. He then proceeded to punch and stab at thin air with his sword while Humphrey slowly rose to his feet and tried to determine if he’d severed his spine.
“Pst. Hey, mighty hero, you maybe want to think about saving me?” Ciara interrupted as Bartrone wove about his stage, soaking in the attention like flour whisked into water. He paused, and decided it was time to unleash the gravy of the third act upon his fans.
“Humphrey, arise! We have bested the invisible giants!”
“Uhh,” the old man groaned, carefully walking back into the performers circle, “How can you bloody tell? Ya can’t see them?”
“Now we have come to the mighty Dark Lord’s castle!” Casamir thumped his chest, rattling some of his armor so that poorly adhered metal chunks fell to the floor.
“So we can rescue the Dark Princess,” Humphrey muttered. Ciara glared at him, not wanting more attention drawn to her.
“And sell her back to her Sultans for an exorbitant reward,” Casamir continued, so far off script she didn’t know why they even bothered.
“Maybe one o’ them harlem girls too.”
“I still need rescuing, by a big,” Ciara’s voice gargled at that, “strong,” she choked back a laugh as she gazed upon Humphrey, and sputtered out “man,” before shoving a fist into her mouth to stifle the giggles.
Aldrin jumped out in front of Bartrone, and waved his walking stick as if it were a mighty wizard’s stave. “You may have bested my, uh invisible giant but you shall not best me!”
Casamir unsheathed his sword out of his belt and waved it high, “For Analia!”
The audience murmured in confusion, no one had mentioned this Analia before. Was it some land of the great hero? One of his wives? Maybe one he didn’t slaughter when Bards needed him to be single again. A favorite horse?
Bartrone realized his mistake in going so far off script no one thought to name the woman they were supposed to rescuing. “Which is what I now name the woman we’re rescuing!”
Ciara slapped her forehead with her palm, but the audience seemed to buy it. Of course a man like that would go around randomly changing a woman’s name because he couldn’t be bothered to ask her what it really was. Why not?
Aldrin was so far in character he barely noticed the delay and waved his staff high in the air, “I call upon fire to obey me. Burn this fool until there is nothing but ash left,” and he cast his hands forward as if fire would actually leap from it.
Casamir shouted, “I call upon my sword to stick in your guts,” and poked Aldrin hard in the side right where he’d been stabbed by the assassin. The kid crumpled into a ball, the staff slipping from his fingers and clattering to the ground.
They’d spent hours practicing a long, complicated fight sequence where Casamir was supposed to steal Galdwin’s staff, break it, and destroy his magic. Medwin suspected that would play best with the Argur crowd. Instead the boy prince curled up on the floor in blinding pain while Casamir lapped around the stage, slapping the hands of every soldier sitting near.
Ciara leaned down and checked on Aldrin. He was breathing heavily and there were tears streaming down his face. “Are you all right?” she whispered.
He nodded, his teeth clenched as he fought off a wave of nausea. Ciara stepped forward and said flatly, “Oh, my hero.”
Casamir stopped his revelry and came forward, his hand swooping around her hip and pulling her body close to him. Cursing Chase’s inability to remember lines, she shut her eyes tight and brushed her lips against Bartrone’s whiskery blonde cheek.
As the crowd cheered, he dropped his hold upon her, and while the rage faded from her eyesight she saw a smear of black paint on Casamir’s cheek. Humphrey was gently nudging Aldrin with his boot while working hard on a chicken leg he got from gods knew where. Ciara turned to check on the boy, when Casamir grabbed her hand and shouted so loud half the kingdom could hear, “And that is the tale of Casamir and the Elves!”
Then, still holding the girl hostage, he took a deep bow forcing her to join in. Humphrey turned to look at the clapping crowd and curtsied. The lords and ladies scrambled out of their chairs, giving the man who’d spent most of the play pointing out the plot holes a standing ovation.
Aldrin managed to stagger to his feet and leaned upon his wizard staff wheezing.
“Encore!” someone started near the head table.
“Yes, Encore!”
“Encore! Encore!” it was picked up by everyone gathered around the tables.
Ciara finally broke free of Bartone’s hold and turned to Aldrin who looked her in the eye and pleaded, “Sweet pantheon, no.”

No comments: