Thursday, December 1, 2016

Sir Pureheart at Castle F'Merd: A Fantasy

Sir Pureheart at Castle F’Merd

By David Hartley Mark

            A miasmal darkness had settled over the District of Washton. It was rumored that Good King Bara had ended his term, and cast about that a new, mysterious monarch, broad of beam and carrot of top, one Lord Delanod, had taken his place—and to everyone’s surprise, for barons and baronesses, court officials, village gossips, and town criers both near and far, had predicted that Supreme Lady Illarion, though suspected of vile chatter and—horrors!—ill-use of State Secrets (though what Secrets these were, no one ever stated) via lowly means, as well as needless sacrifice of the Kingdom’s men-at-arms in far-off Foreignlandazzi, would surely inherit the Throne of Vespucci, the Peaceable Kingdom.

            Word of this upset reached the ears of the Knights of the Table Perpendicular in the distant Duchy of Omelotte, and Sir Pureheart, a newly-fledged recruit of no particular political, ideological, religio-ethnic, racial, or materialistic leaning, was chosen to embark on a Quest. He was colorless to the point of transparency; indeed, as his best friend and comrade-in-arms, Sir Wetinears, would describe him, “He is the Purest in Heart that I know. He is best-suited for this Quest. Let his test be this Quest.”

            “Hear, hear!” clamored the Knights Perpendicular, and so was it decided. They bore Sir Pureheart shoulder-high to the Royal Armourie, passed the helmet to outfit him in armour of the finest Sheffield Steel, a two-handed sword of prodigious heft and haft, a shield bearing the portrait of a gryphon golden rampant on a field azure, with the motto, “I must” (I dien), and magical, impenetrable gauntlets that had belonged to King Arthur prior to his being sailed away by the Lady of the Lake and her mystical maidens.

            They next proceeded to the Royal Stables, where they, assisted by the Royal Riding-Master, chose a Clydesdale named Sparkhoof, a massive quadruped with enormous blue eyes, curly, fully-feeling eyelashes, a golden mane, a body the size of Ben Bulben, and hooves bigger than cast-iron anvils. Sparkhoof was measured, and the Imperial Tailors Ltd. worked all night to prepare a matching blanket, while Ambassador Leatherworkers Inc. fitted a strongly-built, glove-soft, rock-solid saddle to Sparkhoof’s broad back.

            The next day—it was a Sunday, following a non-denominational, Secular Humanistic Service, featuring a Guided Meditation with Temple Bells and non-sectarian Gregorian Chant—the joyful knights saddled up and, with their squires accompanying them, escorted Sir Pureheart and his squire, Tom Strayhorn, down to the quay, where the two adventurers boarded a small trading galley, bound for Kingdom Vespucci, off beyond the Atlantica Oceanus. All waved; minstrels played “The Twa Corbies” and “Whar are Ye Gaen, My Faethless Yong Man,” and “I Know a Faire Mayden,” while Sir Pureheart and Tom waved from the stern of the vessel until their comrades were but specks in the distance. They then settled down for a lovely brunch of some cold potted meat, quail eggs au gratin, and potato soufflé.

            The voyage was long, but enjoyable; knight and squire played dominoes, chess (which Tom was expert at), and slap-the-jack. After the soufflé was finished and done, the sailor’s food was tolerable—hardtack infused with worms, oily barreled water, a teaspoon of  mead daily, and a lemon to suck—though the bold knight could be seen after every meal, dangling over the side, “feeding the dolphins,” as the sailors called it.

            Only one sailor died of scurvy en route—no one had liked him, anyway; he had had smelly breath and armpits—and was dispatched to the sharks, after being wrapped up in his hammock. A few rats were caught in the hardtack, fried by the ship’s cook, and eaten by the cabin boy to great “Huzzahs!” by the crew, with bets being taken by the purser. Sir Pureheart lost four pounds, which he felt made his armour fit better, overall.

            At last, the galley docked in Mannahatta Bay, at the foot of Wall Street. The crew stretched and yawned in the morning sun. They then disembarked, bearing their barrels of medicinal marijuana, sweet honey mead, Cardamom from Persia, and Men’s Old Spackle After-Shave. Sir Pureheart had Squire Tom saddle up Sparkhoof, and rode him off the ship, to cheers from the crew. They proceeded to seek the City Gate, but were consternated to discover that Wall Street featured a Wall, with no seeming entrance.

            Finally, they came to what appeared to be a Gate. Sir Pureheart stood up in his stirrups, and knocked, three times.

            No answer. He knocked again.

            Finally, a tiny Door opened in the Gate, and a green-mustachioed man stuck out his head.

            “Ye-es?” he asked, in an annoyed tone of voice.

            “If it please you, Sir,” said Tom, in his best Heraldic Voice, “I am Squire Thomas Strayhorn, late of Fair Washton-land, and this is my master, the noble Knight of the Table Perpendicular, Sir Pureheart. We seek the ruler of this fair countree—we assume that it is fair, though we cannot see it—

            “Why can you not see it?” asked the Green Guard.

            “Why, this Wall, which you have, apparently, built ‘round it,” said Tom.

            “There is no Wall,” said the Guard, “unless Aliens you be, and Dangerous. Were you Honest Folk, you would not be prevented from entering. This Wall keeps out only Dangerous Strangers. Now, be off! Or I will summon the Border Ruffians, who assist me.”

            “Now, listen, Sir Guard,” said Sir Pureheart, not annoyed, but frustrated a trifle, “there is a certain, visible, palpable wall.” And he knocked against it, with his mailed fist, so that it made a strong, cracking noise, being made of wood and stone. “Hear you not this sound?”

            “I hear nothing,” said the Guard.

            “Will it please you open?” asked Sir Pureheart.

            “There is nothing to open—there is no Gate, and no Wall,” said the Guard.

            “Shall I charge your wall with my lance, whose tip has a Peerlessly Strong Diamond?” asked Sir Pureheart.

            “There is nothing to charge,” said the Guard, “for there is no wall.”

            “But you said that there is a wall,” said Squire Tom, “for to keep out malefactors.”

            “I said no such thing,” said the Guard, “you’re a liar.”

            “Enough!” said Sir Pureheart, closed his helmet vizor, and waved away his squire. He pulled back on Sparkhoof’s bridle, backed up forty paces, reared his horse, and he charged. As he ran at the wall at top speed, something amazing, passing strange occurred—the wall vanished.

            The Guard, too, was gone.

            “What sorcery is this?” asked the knight, reining in his steed.

            “I don’t know, Master,” said the squire, “but this is enchantment, surely.”

            “No enchantment can touch us,” said Pureheart, “for we are on a Holy Mission—to free this land. Let us march on!”

And they saw neither the Guard, nor the Wall, ever again.


(To Be Continued….)