Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Sorceress

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Sorceress tops 40,000 DownloadsChapter Eleven: Wherein we discuss evil, the secret to good pie crust, and a writer of little importance.

 

As the sorceress said, disconsolateberries grow all over the southern coast of Lyrria. As you may know, disconsolate is a word meaning sad. It is a medium powerful word for sad, which is to say that it is more sad than crestfallen, but not so sad as woebegone. A disconsolate person is somewhat worse off than a person who is merely downcast, but not in nearly so bad a shape as a person who is inconsolable. You might suppose that the name of the berry comes from the feeling that one may feel after eating a few disconsolateberries, but you would be mightily mistaken. If anything, disconsolateberries lighten the mood of anyone who eats a few handfuls of them. It is my understanding that their name comes from a young man who lost his love. Wandering the hills along the coast, he was determined to die of starvation, but was unable to because he tasted one of the berries and thereafter kept eating them, despite his sadness and desire to die.

“You just made that up,” said the sorceress.

“Made what up?”

“That bit about the young man who lost his love.”

“Were you reading my thoughts?”

“No, you said that aloud.”

“I did?”

“I heard that the disconsolateberry got its name because being so tasty that one cannot stop eating them when out picking them, one can never gather enough to make a whole pie, leaving the maiden who is trying to do so, disconsolate.”

“I like my story better,” said I. “Although your story does have the benefit of having a pie in it.”

“I see you’ve finished your piece,” said Myolaena. “Would you like more poison pie?”

“Yes please.”

“I was being sarcastic.”

“So I can’t have any more?”

“Why would you keep eating the pie, once I told you it was poisoned?”

“For one thing, being evil, you are probably lying about the poison…”

“I’m not evil.”

“Evil people never think they are.”

“What about Shakespeare’s Richard III? He is determined to play the villain.”

“I’ve never heard of him.”

“Who? Richard III or Shakespeare?”

“Neither one of them.”

“One was a king in a faraway country. The other is the greatest writer of all time.”

“Which is which?” I wondered. “Never mind. I don’t care about a king in a faraway country, and clearly I am the greatest writer of all time.”

“That is a matter for some debate,” said she.

“Anyway, for another thing, once I’ve been poisoned and I’m going to die anyway, it seems a shame to deprive myself of one last piece of delicious pie.”

“You really think it’s delicious?”

“Yes. Did you use magic to create it or did you kill some poor cook and take her pie?”

“Neither. I made it myself.”

“You did? Really? How about the crust?”

“Of course I made the crust. You can’t have good pie without good crust. It’s one of the simplest recipes and yet it is so important.”

“That is so true,” I agreed.

“The trick is that the butter must be chilled.”

“Really?”

“Absolutely. And you must work it in enough to incorporate it, but not so much as to warm it up all the way.”

“It is so nice that you took the time to make it right,” said I. “So many people just go through the motions now-a-days.”

“That is true.”

“So tell me the truth. You didn’t really go to all that trouble of making such a fine pie, just to poison it.”

“No,” she said. “I went to all that trouble of making such a fine pie to poison you.”

Suddenly the room began to spin. I slid from my seat and flopped back, smacking my head on the dirt floor and stared up at the wooden ceiling. Myolaena moved around the table to peer down into my face.

“Goodbye moron,” she said.

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Sorceress

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Sorceress tops 40,000 DownloadsChapter Ten: Wherein I taste a disconsolateberry pie and other things happen too, but the pie is the part that I remember best.

 

I waved goodbye to my friend, but did not dally, for though a man may well wait for a pie, it is a verifiable truth that a pie seldom waits for a man. So, leaving Hysteria where she was, I hopped over to the where the chubby little red-head with a checkered apron and a brown bonnet held her pie.

“Good day, lovely piesmith,” said I, bowing at the waist.

“Good day, Sir.”

“Might I inquire whether that pie is bound for an inn or perhaps the market?”

“Indeed it is neither, Sir.”

“Then might I purchase it?” I asked.

“Might I ask first your name, Sir? You seem to be a man of heroic bearing and noble manner.”

“You are very perceptive, my pretty piesmith, for indeed I am Eaglethorpe Buxton, famous storyteller and adventurer. Really of late I have been more of an adventurer than a story-teller, for though my tales of the great heroes and their adventures have been repeated far and wide across the land, I find myself having even more wondrous adventures than any of the characters in my stories. Still, the appellation, which is to say the name of Buxton and of Eaglethorpe, is best known for stories so I still introduce myself as first a storyteller and then an adventurer.”

“It is so very nice to…”

“Now that I think about it, I should introduce myself as Eaglethorpe Buxton, playwright, adventurer, and storyteller, as my play ‘The Ideal Magic’ is such a success that I am sure I will be doing much more of that.”

“I’m very pleased to…”

“On the other hand, it might seem strange to say playwright, adventurer, and storyteller, seeing as how storytelling and play writing are so closely related. Perhaps one ought not to separate them from one another by placing them on either side of adventuring. And it is worth noting that I have been doing quite a bit of adventuring since writing the play.”

“Do you want pie or not?” she asked, one hand on her hip and the other holding up the delectable object in question.

“Oh yes. Pie please.”

“Come inside,” she said, leading me into a simple but clean little cottage, where I sat down at the only chair at the old but serviceable table.

She very fetchingly began to cut a generous piece of the pie. Though it smelled wonderful, I couldn’t quite place the combination of spices.

“What kind of pie is it?” I wondered.

“Disconsolateberry pie,” said she.

Disconsolateberries seem to be common in this area. I just tasted some disconsolateberry syrup and the other night I had my first bowl of disconsolateberry wine. Though I have yet to taste disconsolateberry chutney, I hear it is very good indeed.”

“They are indeed common all over southern Lyrria,” she said, setting the slice in front of me. “I had considered making it toad pie.”

I took a large bite. “What?” I asked with my mouth full.

“I baked that pie especially for you, Eagletwirp Buckethead.” Though she still had the appearance of the chubby little red-head with a checkered apron and a brown bonnet, now her eyes were flashing green.

“You are the sorceress,” I said, taking another bite.

She picked up a wooden spoon and waving it before her, she changed into her normal slender, blond, attractive self. The wooden spoon took on the appearance of her flashing wand. I was surprised, though not so surprised as to stop eating.

“Are you familiar with alliteration, Eagletwit Bumpkin?” she asked.

“It’s Eagletwirp… I mean Eaglethorpe… Of course I’m familiar with alliteration. I’m a talented writer.”

“How’s this then? Poisoned pie punishes poetic pinhead.”

“I don’t follow,” I said, taking another bite.

“When I said that I made that pie especially for you,” said she, “I meant to imply that I had poisoned the pie. And then when I added the bit about alliteration, you see, I actually told you that I poisoned the pie.”

“Did you in fact poison it?” I asked, taking another bite.

“Yes.”

“What a waste of a perfectly fine pie.”

“And you’re still eating it!”

“I can’t help it. It’s yummy.”

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Sorceress

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Sorceress tops 40,000 DownloadsChapter Nine: Wherein we stop at the well at Potter Town.

 

Taking into account that a group of sword-wielding would-be assassins, fifteen strong, had found and the gone after Ellwood Cyrene, attempting to kill him, notwithstanding my valiant efforts on his behalf, we decided that it was probably a good idea if we found some other location for ourselves. To wit, which is to say therefore, we left. Ellwood had brought my horse Hysteria and had her stabled nearby along with his own, so we quickly packed and set off for Potter Town, which was an area of simple houses and low class eating establishments just outside the northern city gate. Ellwood offered that it was a good idea to get out of Antriador entirely, but I was loath to leave as I was still expecting to make a sizable fortune from my play. Ten percent of gross receipts are nothing to sneeze at. We stopped at the local well to discuss the matter.

A word about the well in Potter Town. This particular well was a relic of some earlier civilization who had inhabited the promontory where now sits Antriador. It was made of stone, which is to say the well was made of stone and not the previous civilization, though a good many of the monuments from that civilization are indeed made of stone. This well had carved all around the outside, fanciful images of people now long forgotten. Its center was formed of a round silo some eight or nine feet tall, and above this was constructed a wind-mill to take advantage of the plentiful breezes that made their way up the slope from the sea. The windmill turned a long shaft with a screw which pumped up the water from some unseen underground aquifer. The water poured out of about twenty spouts cut into the stone silo and flowed into a pool thirty feet around. This three foot deep pool was enclosed by close-cut stone walls, which too were carved into the images of people, and it was this pool which the local people dipped their buckets into for their daily water. This alone would have made it an interesting landmark, but there was more. Shooting off from the pool in three directions, like three spokes of a wheel, were stone horse troughs. Water flowed into these troughs when there was an excess in the pool and they were six inches lower than the pool itself, so there was no backflow. From each of these horse troughs, a series of gutters spread out like the branches of a tree, carrying the small amount of overflow away. What need of the builders of this system was fulfilled by these gutters, one may only guess, but the locals today use them to bring water to their gardens.

As Hysteria and Ellwood’s horse drank from the troughs, he and I talked over our options.

“I know you don’t want to leave for any length of time,” said Ellwood, “but you should at least leave for a few days.”

“I don’t see how leaving for a few days will help pie.”

“What?”

“Pie. I smell pie.”

“Oh no,” said he.

“Oh yes,” I replied.

I scanned the little square until I could see that which I could smell, which is to say a pie. A chubby little red-head with a checkered apron and a brown bonnet stood in an open doorway holding a pie.

“Eaglethorpe.”

“Hmm?”

“Eaglethorpe!”

“What?”

“As I have no desire to interfere with the love of your life…”

“I’ve never even seen her before,” said I.

“I meant the pie,” Ellwood continued. “As I have no desire to interfere, I’ll be leaving you now.”

“Where are you going?”

“I have business in Auksavl, but I’ll be back to Antriador in five days.”

“That will be the twelfth night.”

“Twelfth night of what?”

“It will be the twelfth night of this business with the sorceress.”

“Is that significant?”

“Not really.”

“You are so odd, Eaglethorpe.”

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess – Chapter 8

I put away my knife and then climbed back into the saddle. The orphan had regained his feet and I reached down, took his hand, and lifted him back into his spot behind me. He reached around my waist and held on tight.

“Thank you,” he said.

“All is well,” said I. “A few goblins are no match for a trained warrior.”

“Then how did they manage to prevent Prince Jared from becoming the King of Aerithraine? Did they catch him asleep and murder him?”

“One might have supposed that, under ordinary circumstances.” I continued my story. “These times were not ordinary. Goblins are not only small and stupid and smelly; they are disorganized. But every once and so often, there comes along a goblin who is big enough and just smart enough to unite the goblin tribes and lead them on the warpath against the civilized lands of humans.”

“I had always heard that none of the human lands were truly civilized,” said he.

“What an odd and unorphanish thing to say.”

“Um… oh. I’m just discombobulated from the incident with the goblins.”

“Even so,” I agreed. “Well, at the time my story takes place, there was one such goblin king, who came to power by killing and eating his many rivals. And as happens when the goblins become unified in such a way, they experienced a population explosion. The mountains of the Goblineld were teaming with the little blighters. When the mountains could no longer contain them, they swept out across the southern third of the Kingdom of Aerithraine, destroying everything in their path.”

“Frightening,” said the orphan.

“Quite frightening.”

“Still…”

“Still what?”

“Humans are so large and goblins are so small. You vanquished three pairs of goblins, and did it quite handily too.”

“Thank you.”

“And you don’t seem particularly skilled or particularly bright.”

“What?”

“I just wonder that an entire human kingdom could not put together an army to destroy even a large horde of goblins,” said the orphan. “I would imagine that even a well-trained militia could do the job. I once heard the story of the Calille Lowain who held off five thousand goblins at Greer Drift.”

“I don’t know that story,” said I.

“Perhaps I will tell it to you sometime,” said he. “But what about it? Couldn’t the humans defeat the goblins?”

“There were tens of thousands of them. Hundreds of thousands. Thousands of thousands. But you are right. In other times, such hordes were sent packing, back to their mines and tunnels in the Goblineld. This time though, the goblins had a hidden ally. Far to the east, the Witch King of Thulla-Zor, who is always looking for ways to cause destruction and chaos, saw this as an opportunity. He supplied the goblin king with magic and weapons, and sent trolls and ogres to strengthen his ranks. None of these facts were known to King Justin when he rode forth with the Dragon Knights to meet them.

“King Justin, his three younger sons, and all of the Dragon Knights were slaughtered—to a man. Prince Jared, who had been in the north fighting sea raiders, hurried his forces south, only to meet a similar fate. The goblins were waiting for him. The entire southern third of the kingdom fell— and remained in the goblins’ filthy little hands for almost twenty years. And the Goblin King feasted on the spoils of war, sitting on his throne far below the surface of the mountains, drinking his disgusting goblin wine from a cup made from the skull of King Justin.”

“How horrible,” murmured the orphan.

“Yes indeed,” I continued. “And I think the worse part of the story is what happened to Queen Beatrix.”

“What happened to her?”

“She died. She died of a broken heart. And her unborn child almost died with her.

“Unborn child? It didn’t die?”

“No, the court physician cut the child from the Queen’s belly. It was a tiny baby girl.”

“Queen Elleena!” snapped the orphan.

“She should have been,” said I.

“What do you mean?”

“She should have been Queen the moment she was birthed, but that wasn’t to be. There were too many competing interests at court. Too many nobles wanted the throne for themselves. And in the chaos that followed the fall of the south lands, they might have done it, had it not been for the church. Little Princess Elleena Postuma was whisked off to the temple in Fall City, where she stayed for the next fourteen years, and Pope Bartholomew became the regent of the kingdom.”

“Did they keep Elleena prisoner in the temple?” wondered the orphan.

“Of course they didn’t,” said I. “Though I will wager she sometimes felt that she was in a prison. She could go anywhere she wanted to as long as she stayed in Fall City and under constant protective guard. In the meantime she was given all the training and education that was necessary for one who would one day rule.”

“It is like prison,” said the orphan.

“Neither you nor I will ever really know the truth of that.”

At that moment, I spied a light in the distance. The story, or at least this chapter of the story over, conversation ceased. I urged Hysteria forward, which is to say I encouraged her onward toward the distant light, which turned out to be a small cabin on the side of the road. Yellow light spilled from its tiny windows onto the snow.

Not having had the best of luck so far that night with regard to welcomes, which is to say that I had been attacked three times already that night, two times of which I have already described for you here, I dismounted and crept around to the side of the cabin to the window and peered inside. Lying on the floor in a pool of blood was a man in common work clothes. The single room of the little cabin had been ransacked. And dancing around, or sitting and singing, or drinking were more of the little, round-headed blighters, which is to say goblins.

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess – Chapter 7

Goblins are nasty little blighters. They remind me of my cousin Gervil’s friend called Rupert. His name was Sally, which explains why he was called Rupert. But like goblins, he was short and had a big, round head. I don’t know why goblins have such large heads for their little bodies. Of course I don’t know why Rupert did either. There doesn’t seem to be much advantage in it. On the other hand, goblins have excellent night vision, making it very easy to sneak up on people in the dark. And they have abnormally large mouths with an abnormally large number of teeth in them. This was very unlike Rupert, which is to say Sally, who as I recall had only five or six teeth, though he made up for that by having an extra toe. In addition to which I don’t believe his night vision was all that it might have been, for once he kicked me in the head when he was on his way to the outhouse. Of course that could have been on purpose. Rupert was a bit of a nasty blighter too.

“What are you doing?” asked the orphan, as Hysteria took a step back.

“Thinking about a fellow called Rupert,” said I.

“Well stop it, and get us away.”

I said that Hysteria took a step back, but I should have said that she took two steps back, one on each side. I could tell she didn’t want the foul little creatures around her feet. She’s very particular about her feet, as most horses are wont to be. As they approached still nearer, she reared up a bit—not enough to bother me, but just enough for the orphan to slip off her haunches and land with a poof on his seat in the snow. The goblins cackled grotesquely and I’m sure that they thought they had secured for themselves a snack. They stopped laughing though when I kicked my leg over Hysteria’s shoulder and dropped lightly to the ground.

With a quick motion, I pulled my knife, still stained red from crabapple pie, from my boot. It was a small enough weapon to face off six attackers and I would have much rather had a sword, but I had been forced to sell my sword in order to get a fellow out of prison. I didn’t really know him, but he was the beloved of a poor but beautiful farm girl. In retrospect it would have been better if he had not turned out to be a werewolf, but that is another story. If I ever write this down, maybe I’ll say that I sold it to get the poor but beautiful farm girl out of prison and that I slew the werewolf. Yes, that’s a much better story.

“What are you doing?” asked the orphan.

“Recalling the time I slew a werewolf,” said I.

“Finally something useful!” he exclaimed.

The two foremost goblins looked at one another. While six or seven goblins might sneak up on a man when he was asleep, or might chase down a maiden who was alone and defenseless, they would have to be extraordinary members of their species to take on a seasoned warrior with a weapon.

“That’s right potato head!” shouted the orphan, jumping to his feet. “Werewolves, vampires, giants; he’s killed them all.

“Gree yard?” said the first goblin.

“Grock tor,” said the second goblin.

“I don’t think they understand us,” said I.

The first began to skirt around me to the right and the second began to skirt around me to the left. The others were following along. I don’t know whether their intention was to surround me so that they could attack from all sides at once, or to get by me and at the boy, but I wasn’t going to let either of those things happen. I took a quick step to the right and kicked the big round head of the first goblin, which flew almost as far as the kickball I kicked as a child, and of course the rest of the goblin went right along with his head.

As a child, kickball was one of my favorite pastimes. We had our own little team and I was almost always the bowler. Sally and Gervil and several other boys made up the outfield. Tuki played first, second, and third base.

“Look out for the other one!” the orphan cried, interrupting my fond memories.

I twisted around to my left and kicked the head of the second goblin, sending it in a lovely arc off into the forest. If my first kick had scored a double, which is to say a trip to second base, then this kick must surely have been a triple. And I would dare Tuki to say that either of those goblin’s heads went out of bounds.

“Look out!” the orphan shouted again.

I turned to give him a dirty look and saw a third goblin who was attempting to use the distraction of his fellows, which is to say their current use as substitute kickballs, to slice my Achilles tendon with a rusty old razor. With a quick jab, I thrust the point of my knife into his head and he dropped to the ground—dead. When I looked back around, the other goblins had wisely run away.

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess – Chapter 6

Hysteria clomped along slowly down the snow-covered road for some time. The orphan was so quiet that for a while I thought he must have fallen asleep. But at last he stirred and shifted a bit in his seat, which is to say upon Hysteria’s flank. I myself had been quiet as I remembered the events of that horrible night.

“What are you thinking about?” asked the orphan.

“I’m thinking about that horrible night,” I replied.

“Did you never find your family?”

“No, though I searched for weeks. My mother was to make me a blueberry pie that night, and I not only have never seen my mother since, I did not get to eat that pie either.”

“I’m sorry I brought up such a painful memory,” he said, and then paused. “Do you suppose that the purple drops on the floor could have been from your blueberry pie?”

“Fiends!” said I. “To rob a man of his mother and his pie in the same night!”

“Perhaps it were best that we think on something else,” said he.

“Perhaps,” I agreed.

“If you are really such a great storyteller…”

“The greatest in the world.”

“And if the story of the Queen of Aerithraine is a great story…”

“Wonderful. Exciting. True. Profound.”

“Well, maybe you could tell me the story.”

“I get half a crown for that story in Illustria,” said I.

“I have a shiny penny,” said he.

“The story begins in Aerithraine, far to the west, along the coast of the great ocean sea. From storied Illustria, its capital, to Cor Cottage just outside Dewberry Hills in River County, Aerithraine has been a great and powerful country for some seven hundred years more or less. By more or less, I mean that it has been more or less seven hundred years that Aerithraine has been a country and that it has been more or less great and more or less powerful during those seven hundred years. But about fifty years ago, it was less. That was when the old king died, and as is the way of kings, a new one was crowned. He was King Julian the Rectifier.

“He was called Julian the Rectifier because he was chiefly interested in rectifying. He spent most of his time rectifying. He rectified all over the place. And he was good at it. He rectified like nobody else.”

“It means setting things to right,” said the orphan.

“Of course it does and that is just what he did. Under his reign, the kingdom was prosperous and wealthy. And, as he wasn’t so interested in warring as in rectifying, there was peace throughout the land. King Julian had only one son, and he passed to that son the strongest and wealthiest kingdom in all of Duaron, and if it had only remained so, Elleena would have become nothing more than a minor princess perhaps.”

“Which would not have made a half-crown story,” pointed out the orphan.

“That is so.”

“Carry on then.”

“King Justin was the son of Julian. I hear tell that he was once called Justin the Good and Justin the Wise, though now when storytellers refer to him, they usually call him Justin the Weak or Justin the Unready.”

“What do you call him?”

“I just call him King Justin,” said I. “Though I truly believe he may deserve the title Justin the Brave, it is not what the listeners want to hear.”

“Go on.”

“King Justin married a princess from the faraway land of Goth. The Arch-Dukes of Goth, which is to say the rulers of that land, have for generations, maintained power through a tightly woven web of treaties with its mighty neighbors. Their chief barter in this endeavor is the marriage of the many female members of the family. I hear the current Arch-Duke has but four daughters at least as of yet, but his father who was Arch-Duke before him had seventeen, and his father, which is to say the grandfather of the current Arch-Duke had nineteen.”

“That hurts just thinking about it.”

“What?”

“Nothing. Go on.”

“It must have been quite a coup of diplomacy for the Arch-Duke of Goth to make a match with the King of Aerithraine, but he did, marrying to the King his daughter Beatrix. And though I hear that the women of that country wear too much make-up, she was never the less accounted a great beauty. She had pale white skin, raven hair, smoldering eyes, and a gold ring in her nose, as is the fashion in the east.

“King Justin and Queen Beatrix had four strong sons, the eldest of whom was Prince Jared. He was particularly beloved of the people. I saw him once when I was a child of four or five, sitting on my poor old father’s shoulders as the Dragon Knights passed on their tall white steeds. That is to say, I was seated on my father’s shoulders and the Prince was not. Neither were the Dragon Knights nor their steeds. I don’t remember why the Prince and the knights were in River County. It was too long ago. He would have grown to be King upon his father’s death if it was not for…”

“Goblins!”

“Yes, that’s right. You didn’t say you had heard the story before, though I’ll warrant it wasn’t told as well…”

“No!” screamed the orphan. “Goblins! Right there!”

He pointed straight ahead, and sure enough, stepping out of the shadows and into the moonlight were a half dozen creepy little man-things. They were no more than three feet tall, their over-sized round heads, glowing eyes, and gaping maws giving away their identity. As they came closer those mouths widened into grins filled with jagged little teeth, looking far too much like the teeth on the blade of a cross-cut saw for my taste. They brandished what weapons they had, mostly things they had picked up from the ground—a stick, a length of cord with a knot in it. But a couple of them carried old, discarded straight razors.

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess – Chapter 5

“You said that you do not live far from here,” I mentioned, once we had finished the pies. One might say the purloined pies, but I would not. I would instead insist that they rightly belonged to us in recompense for our unjust confinement.

“That is correct,” said he.

“The pies rightfully belong to us?”

“No. I live not far from here. Are you carrying on some other conversation in your head about the pies?”

“Of course not,” I replied. “You are an orphan.”

“I am well aware of that fact. There is no need to keep rubbing it in my face.”

“What I mean is you don’t have a proper home anymore now that you are an orphan.”

“Even an orphan may have extended family,” he explained. “Perhaps I live with them.”

“Do you?”

“One might suppose that I do.”

“One might suppose a great many things,” said I. “But would it not be better to base our future activities less on supposition than on actual remembrances?”

“One might suppose we should,” said he.

“You have an odd way of talking,” I commented. “You don’t quite sound orphanish at all.”

“Really? How many orphans have you known?”

“Quite a few actually,” I revealed. “The Queen of Aerithraine…”

“With whom you once had the pleasure of spending a fortnight.”

“Indeed it is so. The Queen of Aerithraine, with whom I once had… well, she has a soft spot for orphans. Some years back she opened an orphanage called Elleena’s House.”

“Is that because her name is Elleena?”

“Why would her name cause her to have a soft spot for orphans?” I wondered. “No, I believe it is because she was an orphan herself.”

“No. Is it called Elleena’s House because her name is Elleena? And how could a queen be an orphan? Doesn’t she have to be a princess? Or did the King find her in an orphanage and come to sweep her off her feet? That would be a lovely story.”

“Well, there is no king,” said I.

“Gah!” he exclaimed. “You are the worst storyteller in the world. You are messing everything up and making me confused.”

“Forsooth! I am the best storyteller in the world. I do not expect you to know so, as you are an unfortunate orphan without any knowledge of the world.” I looked over my shoulder at his pinched little face. “In truth I was not trying to tell you the story of the Queen of Aerithraine. If I had, you would be filled with wonder and excitement. I have made half my fortune from that story, and a better story, a truer story, a more profound story; you are not likely to hear in all the days of your life. But I was not trying to tell that story. I was trying to explain that the Queen of Aerithraine has a soft spot for orphans. In fact, I suppose that I do so myself, as I am almost an orphan.”

“You are almost an orphan?”

“Indeed.”

“How can you be almost an orphan?”

“Why couldn’t I be?” I demanded. “If anyone can be, I could be.”

“What I mean is…” He took a deep breath. “How can one be almost an orphan?”

“Oh. Well, it’s only that my parents aren’t dead.”

“I see,” said he.

“But they were kidnapped,” I confided.

“Are you sure they didn’t just run away?” he asked.

“It was a stormy night and I had been away from my parents’ home, which is to say my former home, which is to say Cor Cottage just outside Dewberry Hills, and I was returning for a visit. As I approached I heard a disturbance, though at first I attributed it to the sounds of the storm. Then I looked up at the cottage window to see figures silhouetted on the shade, locked in a grim struggle.”

“What did you do?”

“Why, I rushed forward to aid my poor old mother, who as I recall smells of warm pie, and my poor old father, and my sister Celia, and my aunt Oregana, and my cousin Gervil, and my other cousin Tuki, who is a girl cousin, which is to say a cousin who is a girl, which makes sense, because whoever heard of a boy named Tuki.”

“They were all struggling by the window?”

“They may all have been struggling by the window, or some of them may have been, or perhaps only one of them was struggling by the window. I don’t know, because when I burst in through the front door, they were all gone. The back door was open wide and the rain was splashing in.”

“What happened to them?”

“I know not.”

“Were there any clues?”

“Indeed there were.”

“What were they?”

“The table had been set for nine, which was two places too many.”

“Three places!” said the orphan triumphantly. “You thought I wasn’t paying attention. There was your father, mother, sister, aunt, and two cousins. That makes six.”

“They would also have set a place for Geneva.”

“Of course they would have. Who is she?”

“She’s my other cousin, which is to say Gervil’s sister, only she’s imaginary, but she wasn’t always imaginary, which is to say she died, but Gervil still sees her, so Aunt Oregana always sets a place for her.”

“What other clues?”

I listed them off. “There was a knife stuck in Gervil’s bed. Floorboards had been loosened in several rooms. There were drops of purple liquid leading out the back door. And someone had hung bunches of onions from the rafters of the dining room. Most mysterious of all was the fact that the tracks led away from the house only fifty feet and then disappeared entirely.”

The orphan gripped me around the waist and squeezed. “How terrible,” he said, in a tiny voice.

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess – Chapter 4

When we were not two hundred yards down the road, I let Hysteria drop to a trot, for in truth I did not expect anyone to follow us into the night, daring wild animals, bandits, or hobgoblins regardless of how fine a piesmith Mistress Gaston was reported to be. A few hundred yards beyond that, my horse dropped of her own accord to a walk and I expect she was beginning to feel a bit mopey because of the slap the orphan had dealt her. At that moment I was less interested in her mental condition than my own physical one though, because I was holding a cast pie pan in each hand and they were both heavy and still quite warm.

“Here.” I turned in the saddle and handed one pie to the orphan. “We can eat while we ride. If we wait until we find a campsite, the pies will be cold.”

“Do you have a fork?” the boy asked.

I mused that this seemed an unlikely request from any boy, most of whom I have found uninterested in tableware on the best occasion, and especially from an orphan whom one might have supposed to have been forced by necessity to dig into all manner of food scraps with his hands. However it was not a question to which I needed reply in the negative, for I always carry my fork in the inner left breast pocket of my coat, which I call my fork pocket. I gave the orphan my fork and pulled my knife from my boot to use on the remaining pie.

“This is a very nice fork,” said the orphan.

“Of course it is,” said I. “That fork came from the table of the Queen of Aerithraine herself.”

“You stole this fork from a Queen?”

“Impudent whelp!” cried I. “That fine fork was a gift from the queen, with whom I once had the pleasure of spending a fortnight.”

“What kind of queen gives a man a fork?”

“A kind and gracious one.”

That apparently satisfied the boy’s curiosity for the moment and for the next few minutes we concentrated upon the pies. I am not one to mourn a lost pie and that is well, for the pie that was lost to me on that night, as I have previously mentioned, was a pie for the ages. A fine pie. A beautiful pie. A wonderful pie. This new pie was almost as good though. It was a crabapple pie, which was a common pie to come upon in winter in those parts, which is to say Brest, as cooks used the crabapples they had put up the previous fall. This pie was an uncommonly good pie, with nutmeg and cinnamon and cloves and butter. I had more than a few bites by the time the boy spoke again.

“What kind of pie is that?”

“Crabapple,” I replied. “What pie do you have?”

“It is a meat pie.”

“A meat pie,” I mused, as I thought back upon how long it had been since I had eaten any other meat than venison. I had eaten a sausage a week before, but it had been a fortnight and half again since I had eaten mutton stew with potatoes and black bread in Hammlintown. That had been a fine stew and the serving wench who brought it to me had been nice and plump with the top two buttons of her blouse undone and she had smiled quite fetchingly when she had set down the tray. Stew is a wonderful food and even when it is not served by a nice, plump serving wench with the top two buttons of her blouse undone. It always seems to give me the same feeling when I eat it that a nice, plump serving wench with the top two buttons of her blouse undone gives me when I see her.

“What are you doing now?” asked the orphan.

“Pondering stew,” said I.

“Well stop it. Rather ponder this instead. You eat half of your crabapple pie and I will eat half of my meat pie. Then we can trade and eat the other halves of each others pies.”

“All right,” I agreed. “But this will mean that I have to eat my dessert first and my supper after.”

“Just pretend that the meat pie is your dessert and the crabapple pie is your supper.”

“A crabapple pie could be a fine supper. In fact I have been to countries where the most common part of a supper is crabapple pie.”

“Fine then.”

“But a meat pie is in no country a dessert.”

“Then trade me now.”

“How much have you eaten?” I asked.

“About a fourth. How much have you eaten?”

“About a fifth.”

“Then eat another twentieth,” said he. “Then we will trade pies and each eat two thirds of what remains and then trade them back. At that point, we will each eat what remains of the pie we originally started with. That way you can think of the first portion of the crabapple pie as an appetizer, the portion you eat of the meat pie as your supper, and the final portion of the crabapple pie as your dessert.”

“You are a fine mathematician for an orphan,” said I. “But it suits me. Will it not bother you that your appetizer and your dessert are of meat pie and your supper is of crabapple pie?”

“I have decided that I will make this sacrifice,” said he. “Since it was you that provided the meal.”

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Sorceress

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Sorceress tops 40,000 DownloadsChapter Three: Wherein I hear from my harshest critic.

We stepped outside of the Singing Siren and headed up the winding stone street, the breaking waves of the ocean far below down the hill to our left. I was at something of a loss as to where to search for the famous story-teller and adventurer Eaglethorpe Buxton, not the least of which was because he was me, though I didn’t say as much. I did know where I didn’t want to go.

“Why don’t we go back to that sorry excuse for a theater and look for him there,” said Myolaena Maetar.

“No, I don’t want to go there,” said I. “What I mean is that I don’t think we would find him there.”

“Why not?”

“There are a lot of people who know me at the theater… and they know that no good Buxton, and they might see that we are after him and give him a warning. He might skip town and we would have to search the entire country of Lyrria for him.”

“That’s a good point,” she agreed. “Where shall we look for him?”

“I have a few spots in mind,” I lied. “Why don’t you tell me what he has done to anger you so?”

“Have you not seen the travesty he calls a play?”

“I thought it quite a fine play,” I said, truthfully.

“He maligned my character.”

“Perhaps the author was misguided by some incorrect information,” I suggested. “It is no doubt misinformation that you once tried to usurp the throne of the King of Aerithraine.”

“No,” she admitted. “That part was true.”

“Well, surely you did not attempt to ensorcel the King.”

“That part was true as well,” she said.

“Mayhaps you did not really consort with a dragon?”

“No. That is not the part that was wrong.”

“Then perhaps you could enlighten me as to exactly what element of the play brought forth your ire, which is to say, made you unhappy.”

“You might note that the playwright’s deus ex machina involves me accidentally falling victim to my own magic.”

“God in the machine?”

“The machination of the gods—it is how poor story tellers fix holes in their plotlines.”

“I thought that bit where you ensorcelled yourself was rather funny.”

“Funny at my expense. That would never happen.”

“And I would hardly call it a deus ex machinegun…”

“Deus ex machina.”

“I don’t think it qualifies at all,” said I. “It’s not as though that couldn’t happen…”

“It couldn’t happen.”

“It’s within the realm of possibility…”

“It is impossible.”

“I don’t think we have the same definition of ‘impossible’.”

“Not possible; unable to exist, happen, or be,” she said. “Unable to be done, performed, effected, etc.”

“Yes,” I confirmed. “That is the definition I usually use.”

“Not to be done or endured with any degree of reason or propriety.”

“Well, not quite to the point, but…”

“Utterly impracticable, totally unsuitable, difficult, or objectionable.”

“I suppose that last part fits your point of view better than mine,” said I. “I still would not go so far as to refer to the plot’s resolution as a deus ex machina…”

She glared at me.

“If that is not what happened, then what was it that alerted the King to your plan to usurp him?”

“I had my spies, but the church had its spies as well, and they preferred Justin’s imperfect rule to mine.”

“I suppose there is just no pleasing some people,” said I.

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Sorceress

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Sorceress tops 40,000 DownloadsChapter Two: Wherein I follow through with my deception, saving my life and causing quite a bit of additional complication.

“So why are you so intent on killing me… my friend, which is to say Eaglethorpe Buxton?” I asked.

“I did not say I was going to kill him,” she replied. “I said I was going to skin him alive.”

“Wouldn’t that kill him?”

“Not right away.”

“But you said you were going to kill me, that is to say Ellwood Cyrene, which is me.”

“No. I implied that I might kill you.”

“Well thank you for straitening that out,” said I. “A hearty goodnight to you.”

I stepped past her and headed for the door, leaving I might add an almost full tankard of ale sitting on the table, and that is something I almost never do.

“Hold,” she said, and I felt an invisible set of hands grasp me roughly by the shoulders and drag me back to my seat. As I plopped down into sitting position, I could see the glowing wand sweeping down to her side. “I’m not quite finished with you.”

“No?”

“No.”

“Um, why not?”

“I need you to lead me to Eaglethorpe Buxton.” She poured herself into my lap and placed her arms around my shoulders. “I may have use for you as well, Ellwood Cyrene.”

“What could Ellwood Cyrene, which is to say me, do for you?”

“You mean besides leading me to Eaglethorpe Buxton?”

“Yes, besides that.”

“As I mentioned before, you are known to me.”

“Not surprising,” said I. “Just as it is not surprising that you have heard to my very good friend, which is to say my former friend Eaglethorpe Buxton, who is probably way more famous than Ellwood Cyrene… which is to say me.”

“Ellwood Cyrene,” she said, putting her ripe mouth very close to my ear. “Warrior.”

“It is true,” said I. “I am a warrior.”

“Adventurer.”

“Yes.”

“Hero.”

“Indubitably.”

“Man’s man.”

“Of course… what?”

“Always in the company of great men, but eschewing the company of women.”

“Chewing a company of women?”

“Eschewing. It means to abstain or to keep away from– to shun or avoid.”

“Yes of course it does.”

“Not one single queen, noblewoman, courtesan, tavern wench, or milkmaid has been heard to boast of having quenched the fires of Ellwood Cyrene.”

“Campfires?”

“Fires of passion.”

“Well that can’t be right,” said I. “I have seen countless women throwing flirtations toward Ellwood Cyrene… which is to say me.”

“Flirtations have been thrown, no doubt,” she whispered. “After all, you are handsome, though not so much as I had been led to expect. Flirtations have been thrown but none have been caught.”

“That’s pretty hard to believe,” said I, truly puzzled.

“Indeed,” she purred into my ear. “It presents something of a challenge to me.”

“I’m afraid I don’t follow,” said I.

“I’m going to be the one to quench that fire.”

“The campfire?”

“The fire of passion.”

“Okay,” said I. “Yes, that would be fine. Sounds good.”

“You’re surprisingly acquiescent,” said she.

“If you have your mind made up on something,” I replied, “who am I to stand in your way?”

“First though, you are going to lead me to Eaglethorpe Buxton.”

“Couldn’t you quench my fire first and then I could lead you to Eaglehorn Humpton? I would be ever so much more relaxed that way.”

“Eaglethorpe Buxton,” she corrected. “And no. I don’t want you relaxed. I want you focused. We find him first. Only then will you receive your reward.”