Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Squire's Tale: Redux

I wrote this for a class about the Canterbury Tales. It is a continuation of the Squire's unfinished Tale.

The Squire’s Tale: Redux

What the squire said to the Host

“What a tremendous tale,” our host loudly proclaimed. “Surely that will be the winner, for sooth. But what say you, good tradesmen? Perhaps the lot of you can apply your respective skills to construct a tale worthy of our ears.” “I beg your pardon, good Host,” the squire interjected. “Since my own tale was cut short by the esteemed franklin, perhaps I could use this time to continue, dare I say, even finish my tale? After all, we did each give our word to tell the tales, and I will not have my good name besmirched.” Our Host let out a heavy sigh, knowing full well the long winded experience we pilgrims were about to endure. “Very well, good squire. You were indeed unjustly interrupted when last you told your tale. Spin your yarn.” He then muttered under his breath, “Pray, just don’t bore us to death like last time.”

The Squire’s Other Prologue

“My fellow pilgrims, before I dazzle you with my tale, I would like to have a discourse on the topic of interruptions,” the squire began. “It is common courtesy when listening to one’s contemporaries, to allow them to tell their tale to completion. To speak out of turn is a base behavior. And yet, while we have been traveling, I have heard countless interruptions from many of us. I ask, fellow pilgrims, where is our respect? Have we really been reduced to such common doggerel as this? I fear for our society, and its inevitable downfall, if this is our current standard. Now, if the teller is of a lower class, then interruption is only natural. After all, it is our divine province to be born into a higher station. The lower classes are here to serve us. Therefore, we can interrupt them with no fear of being chastised for ill manners. And since they are baseborn themselves, their own interruptions of each other are only to be expected. But on this I have talked enough. Now I shall continue my tale.”

The Squire’s Tale


“Since it has been some time since last your ears were graced by my melodious voice,” the squire started, “I shall provide a brief recap of where things were left.”

King Cambuscan had been instructed on the ways of the magical brass horse. He knew how to utilize its powers of transportation and how to conceal it from view. He was also equipped with the enchanted sword, able to slice through anything. Any wound inflicted by said blade would never heal, unless treated with the flat of the sword. Cambuscan’s final gift was the mystical mirror, which revealed any harm to him or his country.

Canace, Cambuscan’s only daughter, was using her ensorcelled ring to take care of a wounded falcon. Its powers enabled her to not only communicate with the injured raptor, but also provided Canace with the herbal knowledge to tend her wounds. Of Cambuscan’s wife, Elpheta, and their two sons, Algarsyf and Cambalo, not much is known. These characters had not yet seen much action, but this situation will soon be remedied.

Part I – Cambuscan’s Conquests

I shall first tell of King Cambuscan and his exploits. Cambuscan had long been at war with the hated Russians. Blasted communists. With his newfound gifts, he saw a chance to overtake his enemy once and for all. Using the mystical mirror to warn him of attacks, and the enchanted sword to be an unstoppable force on the battlefield, Cambuscan knew that his success was all but guaranteed.

So Cambuscan gathered his armies to march toward Russia. With him was his most trusted friend and advisor, Traytorus. The renown of the two warriors was known far and wide throughout the land. Word of Cambuscan’s new advantages was also spreading like wildfire, sparking a conflagration of civil unrest. The general populace was of the consensus that Russia would soon fall. After all, what did Czar Comrade have to defend against such powerful weapons? Battle after battle was fought, with Cambuscan’s forces cutting a bloody swath through the Motherland. Unable to be ambushed thanks to the mystical mirror, the king’s army seemed an invincible juggernaut. Within a month, they were outside the gates of Russia City, laying siege to Czar Comrade and his remaining troops.

Plotting the assault on Russia City, Cambuscan and Traytorus conspired together within the command tent. “I say, Traytorus, I am right glad that we have sworn a troth of brotherhood,” Cambuscan confided. “Even with my magical aides, these victories would not have been possible without you. I am lucky that you are not on the side of those pinko Russkies.” The flickering light of the oil lamp cast a series of sinister shadows on Traytorus’s face. He rubbed his hands together maniacally. “Yes indeed, you are most lucky, friend Cambuscan. I am certainly not working as a double agent for the Russians, hoping to take you out “accidentally” in the battlefield and rule over Tartary, only to be constantly foiled in my attempts by your accursed mirror. Certainly not.” “Ho ho ho,” chuckled Cambuscan. “You’ve got an odd sense of merriment Traytorus. But now it is time to sleep, for the final battle takes place tomorrow. Since I clearly have no reason to distrust you, I will leave my sword and mirror here in the command tent with you.” Cambuscan walked off to the sleeping tend, leaving Traytorus to his own devices.

Unable to believe his good fortune, Traytorus collapsed in a fit of giggles. “Hee hee hee, the fool! I shall have my victory yet!” Composing himself, Traytorus gathered the two powerful items and snuck off to kill Cambuscan. Reaching the sleeping tent, Traytorus slinked inside, stealthily creeping toward Cambuscan’s bed. He saw the king lying under the covers, already sound asleep, the blankets rising and falling with the gentle rhythm of his slumber. Seizing his moment, Traytorus checked the mirror for any ill portents, and seeing nothing but his own reflection, he ran Cambuscan through with the mighty blade.

Suddenly there was a bright flash , and then Traytorus saw nothing but blackness. King Cambuscan stood over Traytorus’s headless corpse, sighing sadly, the real sword glimmering in his hand. He used the tip of the blade to remove the blankets from the bed, revealing the blacksmith bellows below, which had simulated the king’s slumber. “Poor Traytorus. I had hoped you would not truly be this daft. I’ve got a mirror t hat shows me my enemies. Did you really think I was not aware of your murderous intent? I suppose your name was a bit of a giveaway, but I thought you would be able to rise above your unfortunate identification. I can only imagine what the mirror showed you. Doubtless, it was naught but your own reflection, seeing as how you were your own worst enemy. Clearly our troth meant nothing to you, and this saddens me. But I shall honor our friendship and give you a proper burial as soon as my business here is at an end.”

The sun rose on Russia City the next morning, signaling Cambuscan’s assault. The city was taken quickly and violently, and Czar Comrade was defeated by Cambuscan himself. Russia was now under his control, the generations old feud finally put to rest. Cambuscan and his wife Elpheta enjoyed a long and prosperous rule over both Tartary and their new acquisition. Life remained relatively unchanged for the Russian peasantry. The only new edict Cambuscan had decreed and enforced with brutal tenacity was the elimination of the color red. His only reasoning on the new law was the odd muttering of “Let’s see those Commie rats find each other now.”

Part II – Algarsyf’s Adventures

Tiring of living it up as a pampered prince, Cambuscan’s eldest son Algarsyf decided to go questing in search of a bride. He talked long with his parents about his decision. “Dearest Mother and Father, I have come of a mind that I must find a bride. I have realized that this life in the lap of luxury is not for me. I require excitement and adventure. And what better way to bring excitement and adventure into my life than by seeking a wife? Not only will the journey be worth it for the rich experiences I shall have, but the prize at the end also is of unimaginable value. A good man needs a good woman by his side, to provide sound counsel when his temper is of a choleric nature. Similarly to how an efficient physician can balance the body’s humours, a wife can balance her husband’s moods. And since my mood is currently at the lower end of the spectrum, a wife for me is the perfect solution. What say you, Mother and Father, of my plan?”

Cambuscan glared lovingly at Elpheta. “Indeed son, a wife is a most wondrous creature. Your mother has saved me from many an ill encounter. Why, just last week I was dealt a most vicious injustice. My first inclination was to have the head of that foul knave. But my dear Elpheta cautioned that such might not be the wisest course of action. Ho ho, for contradicting me I nearly took off her own head!” Elpheta scowled longingly at Cambuscan. “Yes dear Algarsyf, your father’s temper was indeed in rare form that day. But he eventually saw that my suggestion was clearly the best. He did not kill the merchant that had mistakenly given him the wrong change. He instead invited him over for dinner, and now the two are the best of friends!” Cambuscan beckoned his son close to him and whispered into his ear. “Actually, I had the bloke clapped in irons and thrown in the dungeon to rot! Men shouldn’t listen to what nonsense women spout off, right right?”

Realizing that his parents were stark raving mad, Algarsyf bid them farewell and began his quest. He knew not where his wife might be, so he readied the magical brass horse, instructing it to take him to the adventures that would lead to his eventual finding of a bride. With a turn of the key and a mechanical whinny, Algarsyf and Brassy were off. Who knew where they would end up? Surely only Fortune, or perhaps Fate, held the answer.

Clouds and sky whooshed path Algarsyf’s head as Brassy traveled at speeds unfathomable to his mortal mind. After what seemed like days, Brassy alighted in an open field. Algarsyf looked around, slightly dazed from his journey. “Where have you taken me, Brassy?” he wondered aloud. “What here could lead me to my future bride?” His gaze stole across the horizon, where he beheld a distant speck bobbing up and down. As the object drew closer, he recognized it as a lone rider on a horse. He gradually was able to discern that the rider was female, and each one of the horse’s strides brought her beauty into more and more definition. She looked as if she were cast from the same mold as Artemis herself. Raven locks cascaded down her back, creating a stark contrast to the porcelain tone of her skin. Slowly, Algarsyf’s eyes drifted away from her heavenly visage to see that she was being pursued by a loathsome beast. A monstrous, three-headed behemoth lumbered along at a clip equal to, if not slightly greater than the maiden’s horse. Algarsyf knew that this was his chance. If he could but slay this creature and save the fair damsel, surely she would acquiesce to be his bride. He quickly devised a plan, and cast Brassy into hiding.

“What ho!” he cried as the two approached him. “I say hold, foul beast! Thou shall not harm this woman!” The woman slowed her horse up and the giant reduced his gait as well. When the woman had ridden past, Algarsyf drew the enchanted sword he had pilfered from his father. The blade went SNACKER-SNICK, and one-two-three! The giant’s heads were neatly severed. Algarsyf turned to face the damsel, expecting to see her showering him with countless praise and adoration. Instead, he was met with a stinging slap across his face. Stunned, he could do naught but stand and submit to her verbal, and sometimes physical, thrashing. “Why the nerve of you! You, you, you unchivalric toad! That beast was my rightful kill! I was luring him into that pit right there. I could have ridden safely across, but the monster’s weight would have caused him to plummet to his doom. My arrows would have finished the deed.”

Algarsyf glanced over to where she had gestured, and saw that she had indeed prepared a crafty trap for the giant. Dumbfounded, he could only stammer stupidly. “Bust, I saw, and you were, I didn’t… does this mean you don’t want to be my wife?” She responded with derision. “Your wife? Bah! To even think of such an idea!” She paused for a moment, to actually think of such an idea. A smile slowly crept across her face. “Well, you clearly are a worthy warrior, and this is something I desire in a man. However, you have stolen my kill. If you wish my hand in marriage, you must find a suitable creature to serve as a replacement.”
Algarsyf had a smile of his own spread across his countenance. “Well, I think that is a fair deal, my lady. Come Brassy! We have our adventure!” With the words of summoning, Brassy materialized, causing the woman a start. “Oh my!” she exclaimed. “What a magnificent steed! Shall we race?” Algarsyf shook his head, declining her offer. “Nay, this horse cannot ride like a normal one. But he will take us to your challenge. Algarsyf hopped up astride Brassy, and reached down to help the maiden up. When she had gotten comfortable sitting behind Algarsyf, Brassy was off.

The same exhilarating feeling encompassed Algarsyf as Brassy flew through the air, but this time it was due to the damsel’s tight grip around his waist. When Brassy returned to normal speed, they were high in the mountains, rocky chasms opening up on all sides. Ahead was an ominous cave. The two adventurers stepped down from Brassy and cautiously advanced on the cave mouth. They were met by a horrendous roar, as out of the cave rushed an enormous chimera. The beast bowled over Algarsyf and the warrior woman, swiping at them with its leonine claws, before taking to the air with a beating of its leathery wings. Knowing that this was his bride-to-be’s battle, Algarsyf ducked behind a nearby boulder to watch the woman work her wonders. And work her wonders she did.

Dodging and rolling out of the way of the fiery blasts coming from the chimera’s goat head, the woman unloosed her bow and nocked two arrows to the string. She let them fly, and the barbed shafts pierced the goat head’s eyes. Unable to aim, one of its fireballs caught the lion head’s mane, causing it to burst asunder. Realizing it was wounded, the chimera decided to finish the battle quickly. It swooped toward the woman, its serpent head extended, deadly venom dripping from its fangs. “Sword!” the woman cried. Without hesitation, Algarsyf tossed her the enchanted blade. With one fluid motion, she caught the sword, spun to face the chimera, leaped into the air, and lopped all three of its heads off, as if slicing a hot knife through butter. The decapitated carcass fell to the ground with a sickening thump, the woman gracefully landing beside it. Breathing heavily, she addressed Algarsyf. “That monster was even more deadly than my original foe! Well met! And this blade is truly the work of a master craftsman. It hewed through the chimera’s flesh and bone with no resistance at all. You have upheld your end of the deal. I gladly consent to be your wife.” Overjoyed, Algarsyf commanded Brassy to take them back to Tartary. As he helped her up onto the horse, Algarsyf said, “By the way, I’m Algarsyf.” Extending her hand down to likewise help him up onto the horse, the woman smiled. “Teodora. Charmed.”

Part III – Cambalo’s Capers

Algarsyf’s younger brother Cambalo had grown tired of Algarsyf parading about the castle with his new wife. He decided that they seemed all too perfect, and it would do them both a bit of good to be knocked down a peg or three. Or maybe even ten. It would take a great deal of cunning and trickery, but Cambalo was certain that he could outfox the newlyweds. And perhaps he would even be able to get some action out of all this as well. After all, Teodora was quite the attractive woman. And Cambalo saw how she looked at him. He began to develop his plan.

Cambalo commenced his scheme while Algarsyf was out of the country. He approached Teodora. “You know, dear sister-in-law, the only reason Algarsyf married you was because he was bored of his life here at the castly. To him you are nothing more than a diversion.” “Oh do be quiet, Cambalo,” Teodora countered. “Everyone in the castle knows you are just jealous. We all see how you pine after me. I imagine that you even think I fancy you. Well I don’t. And I shan’t stand here and listen to your lies.” But despite her protests, Cambalo knew he had planted the seeds of doubt within her mind. Now he had to work his guile on Algarsyf.

What the Host said to the Squire

“Enough! Cease your incessant prattlings at once! You can’t even tell a proper fabliau. I’m sure I speak for all of us pilgrims when I award you no points for your tale. In fact, you are banned from the competition! Now, tradesmen, if you would. We should like to hear what tale you can tell. Surely you can beat this squire’s claptrap ramblings. We await your story with bated breath.”


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