Quite cute. I didn't find the high language too difficult, but it could be
distracting to readers. You might thin it more.
Herod Antipas <antippas@...
> wrote:I've been working on something
too. I guess you'd call it a novella
in length. It's a humorous fantasy more or less in the style of L.
Sprague de Camp. It gets a bit racy at times, but it is not
pornographic. I have adopted de Camps conventions in archaic
language, but there are also a few deliberate anachronisms. I'd be
most grateful if you could tell me what you think.
Chapter 1: The Comission
"By Crom's frozen beard, my name is Gwig!"
The barbarian banged his tankard on the table for
emphasis. "Not Mister Gwig, Master Gwig, Colonel Gwig, Gwig Jones,
Gwig The Magnificent, or any other double, triple, or quadruple
moniker! I have only one name and that name is Gwig, plain and
"But hearken to this" said the richly attired minister
reasonably. He motioned to the wench for another tankard for his
companion and a fresh goblet for himself. "Mr
" he put his hand to
his mouth, "er.. Gwig. In this modern age everyone needs must have
a second name. What about Gwig, son of.."
"Gwig. My father's name was Gwig."
"Well then what village are you from? You might be Gwig of
"It doesn't have a name. The locals call it "the other
"Mayhaps an occupational title: "Gwig the Mercenary""
"And have every bravo and rutterkin in every hamlet from
here to the sea trying to slit my weasand? I think not."
"Well then there's always
"I feel certain you were not about to suggest "Gwig the
Barbarian." He said causing the minister to gulp. "One name has
always sufficed me and shall continue so to do. Primus, other than
mine own father I have never met another Gwig in all the land, so
that were a friend or foe to shout in a crowd "Avast Gwig!" there be
little danger of a dozen swains turning around. Secundus, My dear
mother, by virtue of my having but one initial saved a fortune in
the monogramming of all my fancy suits, and tertius, when I retires
as an old and rich man and devote myself to managing my properties
and investments, a short signature will save my right hand from the
arthritis." The little man gave a sigh and spread his hands apart
"Have it your own way, but if you are to perform this
service for my master, the king, you will need a knighthood and will
be perforce yclept "Sir Gwig" whether you will it or no."
"I shall worry about that an I decide to perform the service
in the first place." He took a long pull from his mug. "Back to
business. Tell me more about this "important mission.""
"Why tis none other than to escort the king's youngest daughter, The
Princess Jucunda, in comfort and safety to her nuptials. She is
affianced to the Sultan of Ghaspar. For this the king will pay you
three hundred golden sovereigns: One upon your departure and two
hundred more payable by the Sultan when you deliver the princess
into his safekeeping, plus, of course, an allowance for reasonable
expenses." Here his voice fell to a whisper. "The king will also
entrust to you a number of valuable, yet easy to conceal gemstones
which comprise the princess's dowry. Ghaspar, as you know, lies on
the other side of the Furiant Mountains, beyond the lands of Pasmea
and Aspidouros. On horseback the journey should not take much in
excess of three weeks, and you will have a map showing the best
mountain pass and the finest inns along the way."
"I would think that the king would want to send a larger and
grander retinue." The minister took a sip of his wine and then put
a hand on Gwig's shoulder, for which he had to reach up.
"I can see you are a man of the world, Sir Gwig. Know ye
that the queen gave birth to thirteen daughters afore the change of
life was upon her. The King's younger cousin is the heir apparent.
With no brothers to look after them when the king is gone, it were
paramount to marry them off to good husbands. Augland is not a
large kingdom and after the dowries for her twelve older sisters,
in sooth the king is looking to leave a little something in the
royal treasury for his old age. Rather than subject his beloved
daughter to an entourage that is in any way less than regal, the
king prefers to keep "a low profile,"" At this he held his hand
with palm parallel to the floor at the level of his knees. "You are
to travel incognito. You've a reputation for honesty and competence
and in light of the delicacy of the situation his majesty is willing
to pay 300 sovereigns. True, it's a bargain for a retinue but a
handsome sum for a lone wayfarer." Gwig looked at him over the rim
of his tankard. "I could go as high as 325," he said at last.
"Done!" said the barbarian, making up his mind. The minister beamed
"I'm delighted sir!" He handed over a small clinking pouch. "Here
are some monies for provisioning. The princess will have her own
horse and you shall have your choice from the stables. Would three
days be enough time to prepare?"
"I reckon it so. I will come to the palace two mornings after the
morrow." The minister moved to depart but a massive hand detained
"A final question sir. Why does she marry thus far away? Did they
fall in love at a blue-blood convention of some sort?"
"Nay. Though the sultan has gazed upon a portrait of Jucunda's
radiant visage, in the flesh they have yet to meet."
By Herod Antipas 2005
"Sir Gwig, have another sweet roll to fortify you for
today's journey. The princess is seeing to the packing of her
trousseau and will be with us anon." Gwig winced at the honorific,
but accepted the pastry, putting the whole thing into his mouth with
a push of his forefinger in what he hoped was a delicate manner.
The king was a hearty, red-faced man, going a little bit thick
around the middle, tall and with a full head of hair. The queen was
quite attractive, with an aquiline nose and a slender and regal
bearing. Her reddish locks mostly concealed the gray hairs. She
sat with ankles crossed, tapping the tip of a brocaded slipper.
Both seemed friendly but slightly ill at ease, as if trying to avoid
an unpleasant subject.
Gwig's mind returned to the puzzles of the past few days.
Why was the princess marrying someone who lived so far away?
Perhaps after twelve princesses, the nearby pool of royalty had been
somewhat depleted, but perhaps on the other hand there was something
wrong with the princess which made marriage to a stranger easier to
bring off. And was there not some family retainer who would have
made a better choice than to escort her? Why had they chose
a "barbarian" outlander, albeit one with a good reputation? It was
almost as if the king were trying to keep his daughter's marriage a
secret until the last possible moment.
The king's question snapped him out of his exercise in brain
"I said do you have any children, Sir Gwig?"
"None that I know of, Sire." He thought back to sassy, broad-
hipped Wenda from his home village. He'd heard she had gone away to
become a lady's maid in Artabaria. She was probably long-since wed
by now to some ostler or wainwright. "Betimes it has not been easy
with our little Jucunda."
The princess was coming into view and everything became
clear. She was, if not the largest girl, certainly the heaviest
princess Gwig had ever seen. On the tallish side, maybe 16 or 17
hands and must have easily weighed 25 stone. She had her mother's
red hair, done up in ringlets with a coronet of flowers. She had
fine features, with broad cheekbones, ruby lips, and an upturned
nose with a sprinkling of freckles which enhanced the girlishness of
her appearance. It was harder to guess the age of fat girls, but he
thought her to be about 20 years old.
"She was a beautiful baby. Probably the fairest of all our
daughters, and certainly the liveliest. She has kept me constantly
on my toes." Here the queen interrupted.
"At first we used to try to control her girth. How she used
to cry when her sisters got sweetmeats and she was served carrots at
table. In the end we just let her eat whatever she would and she
seemed happier, and I suppose no fatter, for it. But I have worried
so about finding her a husband. She is virginal of course, and not
very knowledgeable in the ways of men." The princess was fussing
with a large basket now. She wore a fine cream colored gown. The
bodice was laced tight, forcing her ample bosom up into two snowy
orbs, likewise sprinkled with freckles. Gwig wondered if she were
freckled all over. The dress had been cleverly tailored to
be "concealing" but he could see that her prominant belly doubled
over into an apron that reached to mid thigh so that everything
jiggled when she walked. He could make out the outline of her navel
through the stretched fabric. As she approached her parents he was
struck by the purity and intensity of her large blue-green eyes.
"Where I come from," Gwig said, treading lightly, "the men
appreciate a goodly woman. True she is more generously proportioned
than most, but the fat girls do not lack for suitors." The queen's
brow furrowed at the mention of that simple word and Gwig almost bit
his tongue. "I'm sorry if I have offended, your majesty. In sooth
I think the Princess Jucunda is a beautiful girl."
"Let us hope the sultan does likewise. I had the royal portraitist
take ten stone off her and the painting be only from the shoulders
When the princess reached the table Gwig stood and bowed low, from
the waist, so that his long hair almost swept the table.
"Is this the barbarian then?" Jucunda said in an amused tone, "'Tis
plain he possesses mighty thews, but he looks not over bright. Art
sure he can read a map?" Gwig bit back a retort, forced himself to
smile, and adopted a pedagogical tone.
"Please allow me to allay your highnesses concerns. Though I am
called "barbarian" in these parts (and `tis true most of the men of
my land see no need for books) I was learned my letters by a
traveling priest of Plar, the Southern god of learning. He came to
our village to study nearby rock formations or some such. I can
also write a fair hand and I speak Lomish, Artabarian, and a
sprinkling of the tongue of the Gnolls. If any of these should fail
" he gestured to the six foot two-handed sword which he
wore in a scabbard slung over his back "my weapon shall safeguard
both your person and honor."
She regarded him skeptically while her parents made
encouraging gestures. Meanwhile a huge white mare, the size of a
draft horse, was led in by a couple of stable hands. She was
bedecked with flowers and loaded with baggage. The king spoke up
"Now see, here is Buttercup, all ready for your journey. She shall
be part of your dowry when you arrive." Behind Buttercup was the
smaller roan gelding Gwig had chosen for his own mount. Gwig
worried that he was supposed to help the princess mount and that he
might be unequal to the task, when a couple of footmen arrived with
a sort of staircase on wheels. With the aid of this groaning
contraption she assumed a ladylike sidesaddle position. The king
seemed eager to get things moving again.
"Now daughter, you mind Sir Gwig here and follow his instructions
regarding your safety"
"Yes father" she said in a bored monotone.
"And keep your expense money and dowry separate and hidden from
"Yes father." Her mother broke in
"And remember to bathe every sennight whether needed or not."
"Yes mother." Jucunda was beginning to blush, ebing treated like
child in front of Gwig.
"Neglect not to brush your teeth with a stripped twig after every
meal, oh and put the special paper I gave you over the privy seat
ere you use it."
"Mother, please!" the princess said, outraged and blushing ever more
"Well it's for your own good Jucunda, and keep to the diet Dr.
Murgroth has written out for you and maybe you could reduce by a
whole stone before the wedding. You know how that gown chafes you
" The princess was blushing furiously and now seemed close
to tears, so Gwig thought it best to cut short the queen's final
advice. He gave buttercup a slap on the hindquarters, sending her
trotting off through the palace gate. With a wave of his arm, he
followed on the roan beyond the castle walls.
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