HH Com Rd 2 - #19 (290/291)

Hook here

"Don't do it, Alberton!" begged Mrs. Twiddle, the housekeeper and assistant chef.

"Let me go, woman!" Alberton the cook screamed, brandishing a meat cleaver. "I told you what would happen if that little pest-pot tried to take over my kitchen again!"

Alberton tore himself loose and leaped onto the windowsill, his spiky moustache quivering with rage. "I will chop every disgusting, filthy vegetable in that stinking magical garden of his to SHREDS! CHOP! SLICE! MINCE! DICE!”

"But Alberton!" It was no good. With a crazed gleam in his eyes, Alberton hurled himself out the window of the tallest tower...and fell.



Don't get TOO upset. That SPLAT was not the sound of loony old Alberton hitting the courtyard and turning into an ill-tempered pancake. It was the sound of Alberton landing in the moat. Thanks to an engineering error, the moat at Castle Crabapple was not filled with clear, fresh water and healthy moat monsters. Instead, it was clogged with soft, slimy, stinky, stagnant sewage, which smelled like a rotting tooth and stuck to the ribs like good old oatmeal.

Mrs. Twiddle sighed with relief and exasperation as she looked down to see Alberton pry himself out of the muck and stagger, brown and blobbish, back toward the castle.

“He isn’t going to cook dinner like that, is he?” asked a disapproving voice. “It ain’t hygienic.”

Mrs. Twiddle turned to the two members of the Castle Ward on tower guard duty. “No need to worry,” she said. “The wizard is cooking.”

She had the satisfaction of seeing the guardsmen turn green, as a small, balding man stepped in at the window. He carried an armload of stalks, bulges, bends and other vaguely vegetable protuberances. “Was that Alberton?” he asked, jumping down from the windowsill. “What the blazes is he doing?”

“He thought as how he’d go for a walk, Your Wizardship,” said Mrs. Twiddle stiffly.

“More like a swim,” said the wizard, peering down at the malodorous moat. “No…more like a wallow. No, more like—oh, I don’t want to think about it. Here, you—carry these to the kitchen.” He thrust the odd plants into the arms of the larger Ward.

“What’s all this then?” Ward Fick asked, it being a question he was comfortable with.

“Well, that one’s Pungent Pickleweed,” said the wizard happily. “There’s a bit of Bogslump, some Snailgrass, a couple of Squish Squashes, Wartmallow, and a poke of Deadly Doomberries. Did you know some fools believe they are too poisonous to be eaten? It’s all in the preparation, though.” He snapped his fingers and Ward Fick (greener by far than any of the vegetables he carried) followed him down the stairs of the Wizard Tower.

“I’m complaining to the King and Queen about this,” whined remaining guard.

“You most certainly are not!” barked Mrs. Twiddle. “Occasional cooking is in his contract--he insisted on it. If he’s stopped, he’ll leave, and Crabapple Valley will be back to being the ONLY kingdom in EXISTANCE without a proper witch or wizard.”

“If it meant we didn’t get our noses turned blue, and our beer cursed, and have to eat Wizard Gourmet every other month, I could live with it,” Stedley muttered.

“Some people have NO national pride,” Mrs. Twiddle answered coldly as she swept out to dust the more elderly courtiers.

Hume Bruumfetz enjoyed his position as the Wizard of Castle Crabapple. When he was in a bad mood (almost all of the time) the castle offered him plenty of opportunities to share it. He would gleefully turn peoples' shoes into slimy eels, magick the sheep to float above the battlements, and cast a thousand small hexes designed to annoy, irritate, anger and inconvenience.

Most people didn't mind this.

It may sound odd, but they were actually proud of it. When they visited their friends and family in other kingdoms, they would tell stories of the horrid things Hume had done, and people would be really impressed. "That there's a REAL wizard you got there," Mrs. Twiddle's nephew would say, openmouthed with awe. "Our old Gorfalf, all 'E ever does is set off a few fireworks and cure the cows of splinkins..."

The trouble was that doing all sorts of little, horrible things to people eventually put Hume in a good mood. And when Hume was in a good mood, he liked to cook.

Hume grew his strange vegetables in his own magical garden, which was the one great love of his life. He kept it tethered, floating, just outside the highest tower window.

This is all set up, but it's kind of cute and amusing. I'd probably read the pages with a query letter but I'd be looking for it to pick up speed very soon. And yes, I'll over look spelling mistakes and errors, but I do notice them, and it annoys the hex out of me.


Katie Alender said...

"healthy moat monsters" - Love it!

Anonymous said...

And yes, I'll over look spelling mistakes and errors,


Anonymous said...

Spelling mistakes? Errors? Granted I wasn't reading too terribly carefully, but I'm generally a stickler for these things, and I didn't spot any flagrant errors. Then I ran it through my spellchecker, which also found nothing.

I feel blind and stupid. Can some educated Snarkling show me what I'm missing?

Anonymous said...

oops, I just spotted existance. Guess my spellcheck didn't pick it up because of the caps.

Virginia Miss said...

Very readable style. I love the paragraph about how the people don't mind the wizard's hexes.

This would be even better if you pared the first four paragraphs. All you need is Alberton uttering one sentence before hurling himself out of the castle window.

You could introduce the housekeeper after the moat description, which I found hilarious.

Good luck, author

I love that Miss Snark is enjoying reading some fantasy this go-round, especially since we all know she doesn't do SFF.

Anonymous said...

I noticed a missing word ("whined remaining guard"); it didn't ruin the story for me, but if the ms contained a number of such small errors it could become annoying. Not that I think that would queer the deal if the writing is good! But it's great to cultivate friends who are stickly proofreaders....

Anonymous said...

You've used up your lifetime supply of exclamation marks in this one section. I suggest looking to see how many can be trimmed.

Anonymous said...

Another one I love. Mind you I do like humerous fantasy.

A Paperback Writer said...

Actually, I really liked the first chunk where he hurls himself out the window. I thought it slowed down after that. I'm hoping you can keep the spice of the first bit throughout the whole tale.

Anonymous said...

I like the opening, but my attention drifted with all the discussion about what had just happened to Alberton, about the cooking, listing off ingredients and vegetables, etc. After the funny bit with Alberton jumping out the window, nothing really happens.

From the hook, the story sounds like it's centered around the two princesses competing for the crown. I'm wondering if it might be more interesting to bring them in right away.

Anonymous said...

Loved the "ill-tempered pancake."

Zany Mom said...

I though the Aiieeee! Splat! was Miss Snark's comments at first, LOL.

My kids would like something like this.

Leah said...

I like this voice a lot.

I'm a grammar stickler, and it takes a lot for me to not notice errors while I'm reading. I was too caught up in the story to notice this time.

Kudos, Author! If you have a mailing list for updates, please let us know.

Anonymous said...

I mentioned the exclamation marks earlier, but I wanted to point out a couple of others.

First, I'll say that I thought this was interesting, vivid, and easy to read.

But, I noticed you have quite a few adverbs that could probably be cut. (I'm not anti-adverb, just so you know; I rather like them.)

Also, your characters rarely "say" anything. They "beg," "scream," "bark," and "whine." For example in the first paragraph, the dialog already tells us Mrs. Twiddle is begging. You don't have tell us she's begging.

McKoala said...

I loved the first part, but then the sage narrator appeared and I'm a bit anti-sage narrator. I much prefer the bits where your characters are interacting.

Anonymous said...

I found this amusing, once I figured out what was going on. I think it would help if you clarified why the cook leaped off the battlements--say, "I told you what I'd do if he cooks dinner again," or similar. Then the leaping would be in context.

Overall, this is amusing. I would expect a light and amusing read along the lines of Robert Aspirin, Terry Pratchett or Piers Anthony.

Xopher said...

In the real Middle Ages, moats were generally sewers. This helped discourage people from swimming them. Castles had places for people to excrete into them.

A friend of mine went to a castle where the king's wardrobe was vented onto the moat. The ammonia fumes from the fermenting effluvia killed the fleas and lice in his clothing, so he could hold court with dignity, not scratching all the time like everyone else.

He stank, of course, but that was universal.

Just so you know.

Inkwolf said...

Thanks, Miss Snark, and thanks everyone for the comments! I'm afraid the errors were added in a last-minute rewrite (sorry!) Must be more careful.

I really half expected a WTF?!? or a "I stopped reading at the SPLAT," so I'm glad so many readers enjoyed Alberton's tantrum. It's hard to keep up that pace if anything's going to make sense, though...people screaming and jumping out of windows all over the place...

I will try to reduce set-up and backstory...as it stands, there's another page or so before the wizard finds out his niece is coming to visit, a bit more before the King and Queen find out she's an orphan and begin making plans for the successorship, and a fair ways yet before Orphan #2 even turns up.

Anonymous the Fourth, thanks for the advice. I started out as a writer for comic strips, so I tend to throw around exclamation marks by the basketload. I will try to watch that, and to cut down on the adverbs and Tom Swifties.

Naughty Miss, I've tried to think of a way to just start with the orphans, but haven't come up with a good idea yet. So far, it feels best to prepare the scene before dropping in the kids.

McKoala, I'm not all that fond of Sage Narrators myself, but there are a few points in this tale that just scream for the storyteller's voice. Alberton's not being a pancake is an important one, but a few other moments also require narrative intervention, such as explaining exactly who it is hiding inside the Queen's underwear drawer THIS time.

Xopher, I do know, but fairy tales and fantasy stories generally gloss over it. Sometimes they even have people BATHING in the moat! The Hogwarts toilets flush directly into the lake, for example, yet there's no fuss at all about swimming, or about the native mermen, or about water pollution. I suppose that one assumes some sort of magical sewage treatment exists. Thanks for the story about the king's clothes! It was excellent.

Twill said...

Don't get TOO upset.

That line threw me out of the piece. To me, it was an unnecessary distraction from the immediacy of the scene. Instead, Mrs Twiddle could have peeked, slightly nervously, to see if Alberton had gone slightly to the left or slightly to the right...

Anything that throws me out of a narrative gives me a chance to reconsider whether I want to read on...