Wednesday, 4 September 2013

PART 3: Sad Sam and Sly Strange - A Serial by Grant Harbison and Manuela Cardiga

A crowd gathered round; to their queen they did bow; wailing and panting, spitting and snarling. Severina beamed as she relished the scene.

“Be quiet, be hushed and curtail your lusts. I have come home, but I’m not alone. I present you young Sam and my wonderful man. His name is Sly, some call him Strange; the most beautiful beast in the pouring rain. Kowtow and grovel, give praise and sing; show your respect to your future king.”

The contingent all chanted and did as commanded. They jostled and grappled with a huge ballyhoo, desperately striving for the front of the queue. Bats left their bell towers, flapping their wings, while hordes kissed the ring of their future king.

Sam stared at Severina and to her beseeched, “Please, my dear queen, I’m in dire need of sleep.”
“How dare you speak to me, when I have not spoken. I could cut off your head to use as a token, slice off your skin and have you bones broken!”

“Forgive me, you highness, your majesty. I humbly apologise, please take pity.”

“This ritual will end when I ring the bell; then on my say, we shall go to the hotel.”

“Thank you, dear queen,” said Sam with brightness. “I bow down to you for your wonderful kindness.”
When the ritual was over, Sly was relieved; to be rid of the masses, fetid and diseased. The made their way slowly to the eerie hotel, and when they arrived at the door, Severina rang the bell.

Sly grinned wide and Sam stared in awe, at the unusual creature that opened the door. He looked at sweet Sam and Sly with inkling, before he howled and guffawed and held out his paw.

He said, “Pleased to meet ye, I’m Barbon O’ Brody; butler to the queen, her trusted picote.

While the other two entered, Sam could only stare, at the figure before him, so large and so fair. He had long thick claws, the face of a dog, a protruding jaw and the legs of a hog. Most strange of all, we must admit, was not the feathered ears or the silver spit; but his eyes that did appear as gentle and candid as the Troll’s in contrast - were fervid and rabid. In fact in that strange countenance some God had laid eyes more suited to the tender face of some porcelain daughter of a fairy prince; not a denizen of this foul place. With a jump and a wiggle the picote did lead the staring Sam past the hallway and up the stairs, all the while chattering of the affairs of state and state of mind of the odd inhabitants of that great house.

“Come in” he cried, with a lilting cry, “the bed is hard, the linens most foul, and if you’re lucky you still might find a fat purple louse from our last guest, or (what would be really best!) A leprous mouse he didn’t digest, but regurgitated into that chest of drawers under the window.” Sam shuddered as the wycote pranced and opened the drawer to look for that rodent.

“That’s most kind,” poor Sam cried, “But really, if you don’t mind, what I’d really like is to get to bed. The day’s been long and in my head are buzzing wasps; and my feet are lead, heavy and weary is my heart; so I beg you dear picote, spare me the part about the louse or even that cadaverous mouse!” The picote nodded and smiled, but oddly enough his gentle eyes cried; so while his huge jaws grinned and grinned, above them the crystal orbs distilled jeweled tears of kind concern.

While exhausted Sam slept, the picote wept. Weeping and mourning as young Sam was snoring.

“Oh young master, ye shall be saved, from this repugnant town, the corrupt and depraved. For yer heart is pure, of this I am sure; yer aura of white sparkles so bright. But yer guide worries me, for in him do I see, an aura of green that’s rare to be seen. But Barbon is babbling, I do beg your pardon. It’s time to sleep and pray benign gods my souls do keep.”

Sam woke alone the following day. He looked out of the window and stared in dismay; for the day was still night, bereft of the solar ray. Outside the door came a raucous din and Sam gaped in terror when a giant feline walked in. She stroked on her whiskers and spoke in hoarse whispers.

“Who might you be and what are you doing here?”

Sam shook with fear at her penetrating leer. "Sam is who I am, please do me no harm. I’m here with Sly Strange, my mentor, my teacher and the generosity of Queen Severina.”

“If you be bluffing, I’ll rip you for stuffing. My name is Katrina, some call me Katie. Cantankerous Katie, I’ll tell you, matey. No mouse or louse survives in this house; for I be a cleaner, the hotel’s housekeeper. Away with you, young scoundrel, time to leave the room, for those who’ve disobeyed, have felt the weight of my broom. And when that has failed, I’ve worsened their ails, with a cat o’ nine tails.”

Sam took the hint and with haste he did sprint, out of the room in search of Sly Strange or Barbon O’Brody, the sad eyed picote. Down he trundled, or rather - stumbled - down you might say, he tumbled…down the steep stairs, leading to the hall of the dread house (where even a mouse’s death could arouse unseemly lust) head-over-heels to fall with no grace at the feet or the toes - of a pair of high boots. He fell dazed and found himself gazing up at a face which he later admitted (it was no disgrace) astounded him, confounded him and breathlessly left him speechless and gaping in admiration. A Lady she looked, and of the highest station, and yet the hand she extended to Sam was odd: thin and strange, with thick black fangs instead of claws, while in her jaws, pearly teeth did glimmer in a gentle smile.

“Sweet friend, do take my hand…Up thou must rise, for any who lies overlong on this floor, is soon victim of tooth or claw.”

So Sam took the hand of this lovely Lady and with great strength she set her new friend on his tremulous feet. Tremulous indeed, for her smile unlocked his knees, palpitated his heart and set every manly part of Sweet Sam quite a-tingle…Why if Sam was a bell, he’d most likely jingle! The dark walls receded from his besotted gaze, only his Lady’s smile floating through the haze did he see.

“But who, sweet Lady, can you be? Why help you me? In this dread lair there is none to care if I live or die…” Here did Sam pause and sigh, “Nay, not even Sly… The Lady sighed too, and bent her long neck to gaze down on Sam. 

“Cannot you see? I am the daughter of the King of Slaughter, sent to this place to wed the Troll, the King of this knoll; and thus unite, one nation one might under the rule of the son I shall bear. This is what’s destined to one almost fair.” 

Here she raised up her hands with her fanged claws. “Think you some other would care or dare to bed me? My father an Ogre, my mother the loot he carried home from battle. He dragged by rape, from her womb a daughter. Most lovely my mother, child of a mere and a silky fair. But hard was her heart toward me, she pushed me away from her breast; there I never did rest, not even as a new born child. Aye, she rejected the get of her captor, and lay there dejected. Odd my new friend that even a fiend can love: that vicious ogre had clover and daisies, and in a cage a dove sent for to cheer her. He leaned over her bed of woe, and crooned such words as seemed gentle to one of his metal. She died. I did not, I was all he’d got from the only love he’d ever had.”

Severina appeared with Sly, brazen and loud; while partisans in the house cowered and bowed. Some fell to the floor, some fell to their knees, sobbing and begging for her wrath to appease. She regarded them with indifference, then teased and taunted; until she eyed Sam’s lady friend, who was seemingly undaunted.

“Bow you not to the queen?” she berated, while she stared with cold eyes at the woman she hated...

By Grant Harbison and Manuela Cardiga

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