Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Part the XIVth - The Memory Palace

Excerpts from the Diary of Leviathan Cherrychoate:

October the 11th, A.D. 1683

Up and to be readied for the road to Zenda as early as possible. Fair Penruddick hath taken leave of all her senses for she doth spend all her time gazing moon-eyed at the dew-berried Prince. Jules and Jacques do play many games of confidence by card and dice with our new manure-clad allies. Nonetheless, all is soon in readiness for the march ere seven of the clock ante meridian. All save Colonel van den Clatch who is found full asleep, snoring and belching neath one of the gun carriages. However, at the insistence of Countess Georgina, the Walloons fling the Colonel unto one of the Ziglova's steam wagons and we thus proceed.

Although I now possess a horse from the Prince's stable, I spend the first hours of the journey upon one of these marvelous wagons and find it quite a fair manner of travel. One needs only sit at ease and allow the wagon to move itself. Only the soldiers hurling wooden logs into one great metal barrel in which lies fire pit were needed to labor. Ziglova of course made a great play of fiddling with the vehicle's rudders and the mechanissimas which abounded o'er the great barrel of the steam engine. In this he was assisted by the Master Gunsmith from the Turk's Foundry, one Sulimich by name, a loud brawny fat fellow in a small Turkish hat who belikes could have been Ziglova's long lost brother.

I do play the wounded Lothario somewhat towards Laylah who seems not to notice mine pains. I therefore give off since tis really a trifling matter. I am well rid of such a one as she who to me wouldst prefer the danger of being buried alive neath all that too too solid flesh.

Now, my Master Sandorius hath gone away again to stir up trouble for the Turks, who march from our old camp unto Zenda in pursuit of us. He told me that he intended to conjure some rain by alighting with Philospher's Mercury the gases of the swamp through which the Turks must march. This has an unhappy sequel for, by midday, the whole country, including our road, are deluged in great torrents of rain, strangely smelling as foul as the farts of Ziglova and Colonel vander Cluck combined.

Now the tale is told that fat men are most jolly and sanguine. This tis hardly the case with the cocker-clouted lump Ziglova. He doth rail and shout ever time some mischance occurs with his engines. To which, Laylah respondth like a whey-faced country girl, "Such fury! Such passion!" and threatens to go aswoon over the rump-fed boar-pig.

The carts do fill up with rain water as foul smelling as the Thames at high tide. Thus do I retreat unto my mount and am quite miserable. I find no surcease in my companions, finding myself riding near the puzzle-headed Prince and fair harpy Wendyleen who is mounted upon a white camel-bitch. Thus am I harangued by her and compared unfavorable to the slack witted prince and am spat upon by her camel.

Finally I do retreat to the baggage and feel much better in the company of the boy Eduard who has acquired many a curios idea from the lascivious French book I had lent to him. Thus I perceive he knows not a coney from a cunny and I am not inclined to instruct him. Thus do I suffer silently.

Tis a hard but quick march and I reckoned that we made twelve leagues and more this day and night. Finally do we arrive in the town of Zenda. But much to my vexation, we do not stop but continue unto the mountains surrounding. Just ere dawn, at the foot of yon high wooded mountain, we come to a halt. Camp is set near a small rivulet and I do snatch a small rest, lulled to sleep by the plaintive cawing of the numerous herd of mink about us. And so to bed.

October the 12th, A.D. 1683

Up and about after but an hour's sleep, Sandorius shaking me awake and saying we must be off to Father Segius' cave.

When or if my Master sleeps I know not. For I have never seen him in Morbius' embrace and he has quite an addiction for ensuring I never enjoy long either. Strange to say, in this hard-drinking company, have I never seen him in his cups. Nor show amorous interest in any woman or girl. Nor any man, boy nor even sheep or mink, come to think on it. Nor hath I ere seen him engage in any natural act belikes farting nor pissing. Mayhaps tis due to his care of the matters of his body, which might be used sorcerously gainst him. But if, perchance, this tis the price one must pay for mastery of our Arts, then needs I must think again pon my choice of career.

Sandorius is mudstained from travel but otherwise, no worse for it. He doth say that the Turk is delayed for at least one day more and we must find Dee's books this day or else all may be lost. He also advises me that the path to this cave is most treacherous and now, no doubt filled with strange apparitions which would frighten the soldiery. Thus must only a small party go to search the cave, that being, aside from ourselves, Ziglova who, despite being a bugbeared hamheart, is quite sagacious. Also must go the idle-headed bumbailey Prince, who despite being fool-born and fly-witted, tis most puissant in arms, of which shall we no doubt have some need. And whither goest the feckle-head, so goest Penruddick for she doth cling to the Prince like a barber's leech pon an ass-boil.

Thus, at dawn, we six with Father Sergius and Jules and Jacques for outriders, leave the rolling green mink pastures and enter upon a dark and misty wood. We go less than a league within when we are confronted by a large ruin, Greek by the look of it, hardby the foot of the large mountain. Sergius says the cave is just beyond and begins to advance towards it.

Then do we hear a great humming and rattling and out of the woods come four great automata. They ten foot high and half as broad, all metal like unto a suit of armour, and bearing great spiked clubs in fists as large as one of Ziglova's turds.

For great heavy iron things, they moved with surprising speed and were soon pon us. First they strike down Father Sergius who fell from his horse sorely wounded. On the moment, I fire one of mine Fire Bullets but the thing doth miscast and I perceive a great blue flame carry up mine arm. I snuff it out quickly but have a smallish burn and am quite distracted when the thing that flattened the cleric doth strike me hard full upon the leg. I am flung from horse and do feel like as though I am slain. By great good fortune am I spared with but a minor wound though I do feel much pain and mine ambition to engage in this imbroglio is much diminished.

I hear the great rattling discharge of Ziglova' many barreled musketoon and do perceive with great joy that one of the creatures hath been put down. Jules and Jacques also shoot but do in fact misfire They are quite confounded for fear of their mother, which tis not an unreasonable thing, and do call to me to assist, calling me their "Da" to mine horror.

Of a sudden, Wendyleen dost cry out, "Shoot the jewels!" meaning thereby the ruby coloured gems in the forehead of each of the constructs. But Jules the Walloon is most a feared and cries out, "Have a care, what have I ever done to you?"

Then do we all have at the gems with much effect, per examplum Ziglova takes up the nasty pick-axe which the Polacks use as walking sticks and brings the crow unto the creature's forehead. Likewise, I do hear a loud high scream and leaping o'er us all is little Eduard who brings down the great two-handed blade pon another creature's pate, rending it in twain.

Now in the midst of this melee, one of these things doth strike out at Wendyleen who is thrown from her mount. At the same moment, seeing another of yon metal assailants approach, I seek to shield myself with the first item which comes to hand. This proves to be the prostrate Wendyleen whom I do fling up afore me, claiming to be assisting her in rising from the ground. She doth prove most efficacious cover. And I do manage even to obtain a surreptitious feel of yon shapely boobies ere she breaks from my grasp and clots me pon the noodle with her pistol butt.

Betimes, all four of the creatures are slain. And we do gaze into the armor and find nothing within. Neither clockwork or animal and I do realize that a magic had prepared these golemi and I am much afeared for only someone great in our Art could create such perfect minions.

But we go on, Father Sergius, though severely hurted showing the way. Thus we come to the mouth of the cave and there sits a great clockwork device of obscure purpose. It hath many gears that tumble and a great mist arises from beneath.

As we approached, the Prince runs toward the cave entrance and tis as if he hath run himself unto an invisible wall. Ziglova advances and begins to handle the clockwork. I noticed that there are powerful magic runics upon the device and, although I am weak in the old language do recognize a death curse well upon it. But Ziglova is harmed not and I do perceive that 'tmight be, Lord save us sinners, the presence of the Prince that grants this reprieve. For it has been passing strange that the Prince is absolutely unaffected by any magics cast upon him or e'en near him. For I didst try many a time in our journey hither to vengefully play such games pon him but could scarce raise a fart upon him, let alone a boil or goiter.

Twas thus in no great time, Ziglova brought a halt to device's gyrations and a great stillness comes upon the place. Suddenly, the cave is not to be seen but within the mist is a great runicked archway, lit by torches which burned but were not consumed. At this moment, the invisible wall fell away, for the earth-vexing Radivill, who was pushing gainst it with his great strength, did of a sudden tumble quite full upon his pate. Not that damage to that wooden portion of his anatomie wouldst do any harm.

But then the Prince is up and through the portal and we must all needs follow him. The mist does increase and soon we find ourselves 'pon a vast blankness, with neither sun nor woods nor earth beneath our feet but only a great greyness all about.

Then do we find far beyond us the boil-brained Prince in close engagement with a creature most horrifying and yet absurd. For the thing is like unto a great cockatrice, a huge scaly winged thing but its head was none other than that of a great fighting cock. As he battled, the prince shouted "Atvawa, atvawa!" the whole while, meaning as I later came to learn, a dangerous chicken-dragon most feared in Lithuanie.

We do fall upon the beast since it hath brought the Prince low and twas pecking him well nigh unto death. But soon the great beast tis driven off into the mists. Ziglova twas most forward in this, no doubt in hopes of o'ersized drumstick.

Then do we perceive in the greyness light coming forth from a doorway and we do advance to see what 'tis.

Lo do we find a smallish room but one well stuffed with all manner of books and drawings and instruments. Pon the tables within were vessels of every size and shape, the contents of which couldst only guessed at. And in the center of this was a tall, thin old man dressed shabbily in robe of office and a tiny skullcap upon his whitened brow.

Sandorius bowed low and spake greeting, calling him "Dr. Dee." I whispered to him that truly this could not be the famed Doctor John Dee for he twas the court magician to Good Queen Bess and did die well upon a century afore.

Sandorius doth tell me that none can have the death of such a great Master as Dee, not e'en the devil himself. For Dee hath traveled unto all the Four Realms and most like beyond. Belikes this was not Dee himself but some small part of his essence.

Then does the apparition speak, calling Sandorius by name and asking if he could truly be Kelly's boy by which he meant the apprentice of Dee's associate Edward Kelly. Finally Dee inquires whether he is the Sandorius from, quoth "Mine own world." He then doth bid us welcome unto his Memory Palace wherein is stored all the knowledge of the soul of John Dee.

But I do perceive that this simulacrum of Dee is as mad as a Venetian castrati. For he does speak for a great time with the logger-headed clotpole Prince, calling him quoth "such a bright young man!"

After much effort, Sandorius is able to wring from the tickle-brained gaffer that Dee had once wrought the Tabula Primera but found it to be too vexing and so had riddance of it. Sandorius with much vigor inquired how it was got rid of. To which Dee replied that he merely cast it pon a rubbish heap. "Oft times", says he "leaving something of value in plain sight tis the best way to hide it." He then does say he thought he had cast it out whilst living in London, now some eighty years afore. Now I had ne'er seen Sandorius so vexed for he was much concerned, with good reason, that any child might have got the Tabula. To which Dee responded that such wouldst explain why the worlds seemed so oft mad. But he assured that the Tabula was quite lost and wouldst not be regained. Then the aged magician did return to play with several furry balls and was quite lost to this amusement for several minutes.

Sandorius then implores him whether he might view the notes which Dee had writ on the making of the Tabula. After much searching and juggling of tableware, Dee does give unto Sandorius a codex, some nine inches high and six inches deep with o'er two hundred leaves within. The pages were made of finest vellum. The Manuscript containth many variegated illustrations of plants, star maps, body parts, zodiacs, mortars and pestles. One part of the book which attracted mine attention sported myriads of naked women such as Mynheer Reubens doth portray in baths and tubs connected and plumbed by most complex pipe works. But the most arresting thing bout the book twas that the text, writ firm and with confidence, twas in no known alphabet and no known language.

Then this shadow of Dee doth begin to cluck like a chicken and inquires if we had seen his pet. To which the pea-brained potentate Radivill doth, with much guilt point yonder and say the creature went thither. Then Dee turns and goes off and the room swirls away with him and we do find ourselves once more in the mist. But soon we perceive the lighted archway and are soon back again amongst the green wood of Ruritania. Praise be to God.

But lo, we hear then a trumpet call from our camp and do perceive away in the distance two great vessels, shrouded in sails and flying high upon the clouds…

From the Collected Ruritanian Folktales, ed. A. Esterhazy (Nish-Strelstova 1932), excerpts from the story of King Vlad and the Dragon:

Thus did King Vlad bring great happiness to all the good Ruritanian people and there was much rejoicing when the Turks had been driven away. For everyone had all the brefnish and shevapchichi he could eat and no one went hungry or was impaled or got sick with the English Pox anymore.

But then word came of the terrible dragon of Zenda that was terrorizing all the good people. The dragon demanded that all virgins, which is to say, all the good girls who eat their vegetables and get married in a church with a priest and not in the filthy nasty shocking kind of marriage that brigands and czirykoots have, were to be given to him to eat.

Now good King Vlad, who knew well the value of a good virgin, said this is not a good thing and asked what sort of king he would be if he did not go right out and slay this bad dragon.

And so he set off for Zenda with only his wizard Szandor and his fool Zagloba. And good King Vlad found the cave of the dragon and looked in and was very surprised and he said, "Why this is not an owdinawy dwagon but a chicken-headed dwagon such as we had back home in Withuania, which we called an Atvawa. They awe the wowst dwagon in the wowld because they awe such big peckews. But feaw not fow I shall sway him, big peckew or no!"

And so good King Vlad fought the Atvara for three whole days. And the Atvara attacked the King mercilessly with his pecker the whole time. Finally, King Vlad grew weary for he had never battled such a great cock before and he did not think he could handle it.

Then good King Vlad's fool, Zagloba, began to complain that he was getting hungry. So the fool took out his bird gun and shot the big pecker. Then he cooked him and ate the cock saying that it was very good for a light snack but was there another to eat. He said this even though the big pecker was larger than a sow…

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