Emily from the Knight’s Tale Gets Her True Prayer Answered After All

Preamble to the Epilogue:

In Theseus, cousin knights Arcite

And Palamon saw lovely Emily;

So stricken each was under true love’s rule

That they would fight for her hand in a duel.

All three sent prayers to the gods above:

To Aphrodite, Palamon, for love

To Ares, Arcite asked victory, 

And Emily, glad of virginity,

Begged Diana that she would so remain.

The answer of the goddess gave her pain:

The other gods would not allow such things,

But she could have the pleasure true love brings.

Young Emily, who saw she could not win,

Resigned herself to watch the games begin.

At end, the winner was good Arcite,

But he was slain ‘fore claiming victory.

 

The Epilogue

As soon as Arcite was lain to rest,

His cousin cried, “Begin the wedding fest!”

“Have you no shame?” called out his bride-to-be

He took her hands and said, “My Emily,

“There is no sense in waiting, for now all

“Are gathered. Put out food and glasses tall

“So that we may partake of wine and ale

“And join as one tonight hearty and hale!”

His bride knew well she had no choice; her life

Was to be bound in duties of a wife.

As she prepared, she whispered a last prayer,

“My Goddess, Diana, if you are there,

“I know the time before when I beseeched

“You, you said my desire was out of reach

“But that you would permit a compromise.

“Tonight, I beg again. I now despise

“The thought of any man. O Gods above!

“Must he love me when him I cannot love?”

Diana entered. “Hush, child, I am here.

“How could I make myself neglect to appear

“To one who is so desp’rately in need?

“Though I warn you first: if I do this deed

“It will be irreversible; for mighty

“Is revenge from spurned Aprhodite.”

“Those punishments are such that I may take,”

Said Emily. “Better that than to fake

A passion that I know I will ne’er feel.”

Diana smirked. “In that case, my dear, steel

“Yourself,” the goddess said, dropping a hand

To grab the sword upon her belt. “Now, stand

“Before me,” she ordered the fainting girl,

And when Emily did as told, a twirl

Of great Diana’s weapon was the start

Of a strong thrust, stopped before the girl’s heart.

“If ’tis your plan to kill me,” came the cry,

“Then do it quick – let me not slowly die.”

Diana’s grin was wider now. She said,

“You may now touch the blade,” and when, with dread,

Emily did, she gasped as it went limp.

The goddess laughed. “Now, off you go to primp

“To pretty yourself for your husband’s eyes

“Tonight, in bed, he will receive his prize.”

Emily could not fathom what she meant.

Before she could ask, off the goddess went,

And thus was the young woman left alone

‘Twas how she felt when she came before the throne

With Palamon to be pronounced his wife

That night, in bed, he did exclaim, “Our life

“As one, may now begin officially.”

Though his embrace was strong initially,

He soon fell off. “O gods above, what can

I do? For clearly, I am not a man!”

He wept all night into Emily’s arms,

His virgin bride would e’er remain unharmed.

 

The Princess with the Pea Leaves Her Pea-Brained Husband

It was yet another sleepless night for the princess, made worse by the fact that every toss and turn she made was answered by a lusty snore from her husband, the prince. She was half convinced he was faking his deep sleep so that he could laugh privately about her inability to check beneath the multitude of mattresses for the source of her distress until morning.

Once he’d rolled out of bed and ambled off to the washroom that particular morning, she stuck her arm as far as it would go under her side of the bed. A few seconds’ groping in the general region where she’d felt the sharpest pain found the out of place object, and she pouted as she extracted the pebble from the mountains of bedding.

“I found this under my side of the bed,” she told her husband over breakfast, holding it up to the light.

She thought her sensitive ears picked up the beginnings of a snicker from the other end of the massive marble table echoing through their impressively sculpted dining hall. But it ended as quickly as it had begun, and with an expression of the utmost seriousness, he gazed into her eyes from across the table and said, “How distressing. Really, we must speak to the servants about their cleaning habits.”

“I don’t think the servants are to blame.”

He’d started to take a sip of his coffee, but when he heard the pointedness of her tone, he raised his eyes to meet hers again. “Oh?” was all he said.

Her eyes narrowed. “It’s funny that all these objects – the beads, the pebbles, the grains of salt and sand – only ever end up on my side of the bed, don’t you think?”

Her sensitive eyes thought they detected a twitching at the corner of his lips. “Funny. Yes. That is a good word for it.”

She stood up, flung her napkin aside, swept her plates and silverware off the table, and stormed to his side of the table, where she dropped her pebble in his coffee.

“I can’t live like this anymore,” she informed the prince. “I’m leaving.”

“And just where do you think you’re going?” he shouted after her in protest. “Your father already passed his kingdom to your brother, and he’ll have no place for his divorced sister in his palace.”

The princess didn’t bother to turn around. “I don’t know,” she declared as she marched toward the bedroom to pack her valuables, “but I’ll find something.”

* * *

When the queen, his mother, chastised him for having chased off the mother of his would-be heir, he scoffed, “She’ll be back. Someone with her sensitivities won’t be able to handle anything less than the full royal treatment.”

But it had been a year since she left, and he hadn’t heard a word or read a letter. In all honesty, he might have thought much about her except that he’d been scheduled to perform the ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new store opening in the town square – a mattress store.

He smiled and shook hands without much attention paid as his advisors introduced him to the store’s owners, a husband and wife team who were lavish in dispensing their gratitude and praise for his visit.

“Please, help yourself to a nap on any one of our products,” the owners offered as they finished giving him a tour. “They have all been tested to the most exacting of standards by a quality-control specialist of royal bearing.”

“Is that so,” said the prince, stifling a chuckle. “Is your, uh, quality-control specialist here today? I’ve never met a royal mattress tester before.”

“It is her day off,” said the wife, “but I shall send word to ask if she would be willing to make a special appearance.”

“In the meantime,” the husband said with a bow, “it would truly be my honor to have Your Highness rest his weary body on one of our mattresses.” The prince, tired already from his princely duties, accepted.

The option his host led him toward was a thin single lying directly on the floor, and the prince eyed the owner skeptically. “I am used to lying on a bed of twenty mattresses, each stuffed to the brim with down,” he informed the man.

“I promise you,” the owner insisted, “that our quality-control specialist is an expert in comfort and would not allow me to put this product out on the sales floor until she got an uninterrupted night of sleep in it.”

And so the prince, after exchanging dubious looks with his most trusted advisor, allowed himself to be helped onto the mattress…on which he promptly fell asleep.

When he awoke, he felt renewed and invigorated, as young as a child but with the sharpness of a man at the peak of his wisdom.

“Such soft cushioning, yet such strong support!” he gushed as the husband smiled upon him. “Day off or not, it is my royal command that I meet the tester whose standards are so exacting as to result in a mattress as fine as this.”

“She is already here,” the wife announced, coming from the storeroom and waving to someone behind her. “Meet the woman who puts the quality in our quality control who only lets us refer to her as Sweet Pea.”

And from out of the storeroom, looking just as youthful and exuberant as the prince felt (right up until the familiar frown lines settled around her eyes as they landed on him), was his very own sweet pea – his princess.

The Crow Eats the Fox’s Grapes

The Fox had just abandoned the quest for his grapes as the Crow flew in to the tree where his friend had just been sitting.

“Fox!” cawed the Crow as he landed on a branch and eyed the plump grapes dangling from a vine a mere beak’s-length away. “Would you care to share some of this luscious fruit with me?”

“Luscious indeed,” sniffed the Fox as he continued on his way. The Crow arched his wings in an approximation of a shrug and reached forward to grasp a grape.

Luscious was, indeed, the wrong word to describe it. Succulent, extravagant, even heavenly would, perhaps, be more fitting, though even they could hardly contain the juiciness and sweetness of the fruit.

“It is a shame the Fox didn’t care to partake in this treasure with me,” thought the Crow, perhaps a little dishonestly, for while the thought of saving some of his bounty for his friend did cross his mind, he did not ponder it long. He joyfully ate every grape on the vine.

The next day, however, he was too sick to fly or even to remain perched on his branch. And when the Fox came and found him splayed out on the ground in pain with all the grapes gone, the sharp-toothed canine pounced on his former friend in anger and thus, after a satisfying dinner, got to taste the non-sourness of his grapes for dessert.

Casey’s Last Time at Bat

The game had not yet started, but Mudville had a reason

To be gloomy already, though it was just mid-season;

If they couldn’t hit more balls and get more strikeouts thrown,

They would have to watch the playoffs from La-Z-Boys at home.

 

The Manager suppressed a sigh, glancing at the roster

For what he saw there could hardly give him cause to foster

New hope for Mudville’s chances to win this crucial game

For if they faced one more defeat, he sure would be to blame.

 

This pitcher injured, that hitter hitting less than promised

This catcher’s latest piss test showed him to be dishonest.

Then one name near the bottom caused his face to tighten

Maybe from a darkness, maybe because it brightened.

 

The manager from before had forced the old star to retire

But once the new regime came in, he’d begged to be rehired

Perhaps because he missed the fame, perhaps he needed dough

He swore on his favorite bat, this chance he wouldn’t blow.

 

“You won’t be starting,” the player was warned, to which he agreed

Even from the bench, he felt, he could help his team succeed.

Though the Manager felt that surely he would rue the day

He saw that he had no choice but to ask Casey to play.

 

When Casey stepped out of the dugout to take his place at bat,

The whispers buzzed around his ears: “He’s too old and fat!”

He tried to ignore them as at the first pitch he swung,

But they hissed even louder as the umpire called, “Stee-rike One!”

 

He was no stranger to pressure, he knew he could collect

Himself, despite the noisy crowd, and make the bat connect

With the pitcher’s speedy fastball – his bat he aimed true

But the ball flew high and back; the umpire’s call, “Stee-rike two!”

 

The Manager grabbed a kerchief to wipe at his forehead

The top of the first inning, and the game already put to bed!

For if this gambit failed, the GM had made quite clear,

The Manager’s contract would not be renewed next year.

 

Casey, in the hot spot, paused to give himself a breath.

He’d heard rumors before of his career’s impending death.

Yet here he was, at bat again, his flame not yet burned out,

He’d revive Mudville too, restore the team’s former clout.

 

There was a fire in his eyes as he returned to the plate,

A renewed smoothness to his swing, a spring in his gait,

When the pitcher loosed the ball, it was locked in Casey’s sight,

His bat hit it dead-on, and it screamed into the night.

 

The crowd erupted as one voice; they either stood or swooned

“Hey-la, our Casey’s back!” they cried, but alas, all too soon

They silently retook their seats. Every noise had stopped

As they stared upon the plate on which their star had dropped.

 

The Manager stepped over. “He’s breathing,” he announced.

“But the way his teeth are clenched in pain, his night has been trounced.”

The crowd stood up again as the hitter was hauled away,

And after a short silence, the umpire called, “Resume play!”

 

* * *

 

So Mudville lost, down ten to zip, and without a chance

For playoffs, the Manager began the interview dance.

There was no joy in Mudville that season or one after.

In fact, the next ten years would inspire opponent laughter.

 

Now Casey did not quite regret his return to the field

A job like his, he’d always known, was sure enough to yield

The permanent limp he now had. He only wished dearly

He’d had that last home run before the collapse of his knee.

 

For those who are wondering, this post was inspired not at all by the recent World Series and totally by the damn Denver Donkeys’ – er, Broncos’ – bumbling efforts against the majority of teams they have played (and will play) this season. Alas, there are no classic poems about pathetic football teams, so Mudville’s misery will have to stand in for my own.

 

 

Orpheus and Eurydice still can’t look at each other in death

One could say that Orpheus had gotten ahead in death over the past few millennia – only the parts of him which existed below the neck had gotten relegated to the Underworld, after all.

But eventually even the Muses, those dithering dilettantes in constant source of new entertainment, grew tired of their once-favorite disembodied singer and had the head cast into Hades, claiming that Orpheus wasn’t modern enough.

“Too bad you can’t scream like those death metal guys,” they sighed as they lobbed his noggin into the dark realms.

His vocal cords were all he had left to him, he’d started to protest, but the rushing wind from the lands of the dead and his own vertigo as his head plunged drowned his last words out.

He’d barely had time to readjust to being reattached to a vessel for his own movement, much less moving any of his limbs – the mere thought of sitting up strained his breath badly enough.

The voice that whispered in his ear, however, was enough to convince him to relearn the workings of his spinal column.

“Orpheus,” whispered a young woman’s voice. “I thought I’d never see your face again.”

His upper body wasn’t the only part of him that launched bolt upright. “Eurydice!” he breathed. “All these years…you chose to wait for me?”

“Of course I did,” she purred. “It seemed the least I could do for the man who walked into Hell to retrieve me.”

“But after I couldn’t…after I couldn’t help but look at you, when we were so close to Earth…”

“That’s all water under the Styx now,” she tittered. “Finally having you – all of you – in my sights once again was worth the wait.”

It was only then that Orpheus remembered that not only was he physically capable of turning around on his own now, but there would be no negative consequences if he did so in order to behold his wife again for the first time in literal ages. He ignored the cracks and pops as he repositioned his torso so that he could look behind him to meet Eurydice’s eyes.

But there was no one behind him. He blinked in confusion, wondering if his eyes hadn’t yet adjusted to the sunless phosphorescence of the Underworld, when he felt a breath tickle his chest.

“Mmm, such well-toned muscles for ones that haven’t been used in far too long!” giggled his wife’s voice.

Slightly more accustomed to making his own movements now, he was able to turn forward much more quickly, quickly enough that he should have been able to gaze straight into the eyes of his one true love.

But once again, the uninterrupted vastness of Hades spread before him.

“Is this some kind of joke?” he snarled. “Did the Muses reject me, only to make me the plaything of the long-dead?”

The now-infuriating laugh rippled from behind his head once again. “That wouldn’t be a completely inaccurate statement,” the once sylph-like voice playfully intoned as Orpheus, his muscles reflexively tensed in pure rage, sprang him to his feet and whipped him around.

The voice, now drenched in the strident overtones of an aged crone, laughed and laughed as laughed as he whirled in place, his eyes frantic to land on anything besides the stretching swaths of nothingness radiating in all directions.

“You were so impatient to see me before, you couldn’t hold yourself back for another half a breath,” Eurydice said between fits of laughter. “You’ll have an eternity to learn patience now.”

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’s Creature’s Thawing

Justin Saville-Tambora shivered just as much in annoyance as from cold and squinted across the endless sea of ice. Well, not endless – the anticipated melting of the Arctic ice caps was why his bosses had hired him to supervise the survey team, after all.

Still, camping out in the bone-snapping cold under a sun that never set hadn’t exactly what he’d set out to do with his life. Hell, becoming a petroleum engineer was about as far as he could’ve gotten from where he’d anticipated landing as a real-life, honest-to-God adult.

He’d wanted to study medicine, but on learning of his aspirations, his father had sniffed, “The NHS is constantly over budget.” Justin started to protest that there were private-sector opportunities for medical researchers (academic positions, as well, though he knew how well that would go over), but his father cut him off. “If I’m to be paying rent for you at London rates while you’re studying, I need a guarantee that you’ll be self-sufficient afterward.”

So here he was, gooseflesh pricking constantly against a virtual spacesuit that restricted his movement yet couldn’t seem to keep him quite warm enough, supposedly leading men with more life experience but fewer diplomas on a mission to stake out potential oil reserves instead of cracking down on the mysteries of aging and disease, perhaps finding the correct chemical sequence that would stop them in their tracks.

His father had grunted out what might have been a “congratulations” when he’d heard that Justin had been hired right out of university, turning back to his stocks before Justin could elaborate on what he’d been hired to do.

His mother had pursed her lips thoughtfully on hearing the news. “I have something that might be of interest to you,” she’d enthused, bustling off to her bedroom and returning minutes later, cradling a wooden box in her arms.

Inside the box was a series of yellowed, crumbling papers. He squinted at the scribbles that passed for handwriting on the envelope atop the bundle. “To Mrs. Margaret Saville, from Captain Robert Walton,” he read aloud.

His mother smiled softly. “Your many-times great-grandmother and just-as-many-times great-uncle, respectively,” she explained. “I thought you might like to read the personal account of one of the earliest Arctic explorers before you make your own journey.”

Justin made appreciative noises about her thoughtfulness, but when he’d tried to read the letters, he’d found his irritation at his predicament growing anew. The bulk of the writings had precious little to do with his many-times-great-uncle’s explorations and more to do with some madman fleeing his former life whom the captain had discovered on the ice.

“We all make decisions we regret,” he snapped aloud at the subject of Capt. Walton’s pages at one point.

He’d not had much time to read the rest of the missives before his departure, but while he had done a courtesy skim for his mother’s sake, he couldn’t force himself to maintain much of an interest in the self-sabotage of some German scholar. At least the man had gotten to pursue studies of his own choosing, and those that Justin would have chosen to boot!

He somewhat wished he’d brought the letters with him, however, as he was tiring of staring at ice all day, looking for concealed resources he wasn’t sure his conscience would allow him to tell his bosses about and permit him to sleep peacefully afterward.

But he didn’t have time to talk down his own morals once again. One of his technicians was running across the ice, his pupils dilated in spite of the white-hotness of the surroundings.

“Think you’d better have a look at this, boss,” panted the technician, barely waiting to see if Justin was following before taking off across the ice once again.

When the tech slid to a stop in front of a sizable crevasse far more gracefully than his supervisor, Justin was prepared to give him an earful about priorities, something he’d previously dreaded doing thanks to his relative youth.

“This is driftwood, Carter,” he began, but the technician had grabbed his shoulder and hauled him to the edge of the crevasse, gesticulating downward frantically with his free hand.

Justin squinted into the depth, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the sudden absence of brilliance. At length he saw the figure lying amidst the splintered fragments of driftwood, distinguished an arm ending in a heavy sphere of a fist that was draped across a formidable trunk of a torso.

“Get me a flashlight, would you?” he barked, reaching for it without looking as Carter whipped one out of a pocket.

He clicked it on, not entirely sure it was his imagination alone that saw the figure’s eyelids flutter when Jeremy had gotten the beam focused on the leaden density that was the head. He was no fashion expert, but if the period dramas his mother fancied were anything to go by, the clothes the figure was wearing (which did not fit its mass well) looked as though they dated from Jane Austen’s time, if not before.

He let the flashlight drift back to the figure’s face, if it could be called such. Even for a corpse that may have been stuck in the ice for a good century or two, something about the features seemed off-kilter…the skin stretched and sallow beyond that which he would expect, the limbs and musculature lacking even beyond the combined powers of decades in a naturally cryogenic environment.

It was only after he’d been staring at the figure for the better part of a half-hour, maybe an hour, who could tell, with the rest of his team gathered around him, shifting uncomfortably as they awaited his orders, that a sentence or two here and there from the letters he’d skimmed drifted into his head. Frankenstein, of course, had been returned to his homeland, but his life’s work had been thought lost to the wasteland.

Carter was at his elbow to help Jeremy to his numbed feet when he was ready to stand at last. As soon as the rest of the men saw the grin on his face, they shrank back instinctively.

For his part, Jeremy barely remembered to toss the flashlight back to its owner and command his men to carry on with their assignment before rushing back to camp to collect his tools. He would have to handle this himself, he knew, for he saw his dreams of being the biochemist who defied death itself were about to come to life at last.

 

 

The Tortoise accepts the Hare’s challenge of a rematch

“Aw, come on,” whined the Hare. “It wasn’t fair, and you know it.”

The Tortoise shook his head slowly. “The terms of the race were well established, and we each followed them to the letter.”

“Well, I’ve been doing some research,” huffed the Hare, “and I found out that nobody takes a break in the Olympics! The race should have been scrapped based on the fact that one participant automatically disqualified himself!”

The Tortoise raised an eyebrow, or would have, if he possessed such mammalian features. “Is that, in fact, a current rule set in place by the Olympic Committee? And anyway,” the Tortoise continued, weighing each word so carefully that the Hare found himself twitching his little bunny nose in agitation, “one runner’s disqualification does not invalidate the race. The victory simply goes to the fastest of the remaining participants, which, in the case being discussed, would have been me.”

“What if we make a bet on the winner of the rematch?” tried the Hare, his pupils dancing excitedly.

“Why would I bet money I know I would lose? Surely even you aren’t foolish enough to repeat your previous mistake.”

The Hare generously elected to overlook the insult, instead leaning forward so that he was practically whispering in the Tortoise’s ear, or what he believed to be his old friend’s ear. “I know how we can even the playing field. We’ll make it a triathlon, with the run as the final event.”

The Tortoise, who already appeared to be frowning, now appeared to be frowning even harder. “Neither one of us has a bicycle or knows how to ride one. As for the swimming–”

“The second event doesn’t have to be cycling,” insisted the Hare. “I’ve done research. It can be anything! Jumping, dancing, hang-gliding, skiing–”

“Carrying heavy objects a certain distance?” interjected the Tortoise, his eyes appearing to glitter.

“Um. Yeah. Sure,” faltered the Hare, eyeing the Tortoise’s broad, sturdy back, his tail now twitching at the base of his own delicate muscles.

The Tortoise’s grin was more like a leer. “Then I accept your challenge, my friend.”

* * *

The day of the race came. When their friend the Frog croaked, “Gentlemen, on your marks…get set…go!” the Hare dove into the river elegantly, his powerful front and hind legs propelling him across the current and out to the trail on the other side effortlessly.

Carrying the sack of stones that waited on the bank over the hill was a struggle, but despite his desire to set down his burden and rest a while, the memory of his previous shame spurred the Hare along each time he stopped to gulp down air.

He shook off the stones with relief as he reached the beginning of the track that served as the setting for the triathlon’s final event. So eager was he to bound past its start line that he didn’t even give himself the few seconds it would have taken him to pause and reflect on how odd it was that the Tortoise, his clear superior in terms of weightlifting abilities, hadn’t so much as brushed the edges of his peripheral vision as he’d staggered up the hill during the second part of the race.

The memory of his last race stayed fixed in his mind as he sprinted down the track. The end was in sight, the ribbon stretching across it unbroken, at least until he barreled through, his leaping after crossing the finish line just as much an expression of his joy in victory as a cool-down exercise.

It wasn’t until he’d bounded back to where his friends were gathered that he noticed their funereal expressions in the brief moments when they were able to meet his eyes.

“Oh, come on,” he sighed. “I know our hard-shelled friend was the underdog this time, too, but I did what I could to make it a more even competition. I won fair and square.”

The Owl blinked morosely. “Did you not do your research on the types of events to which you both agreed?”

The Hare frowned. “Of course. A typical triathlon has cycling as the second event, which was not an option for us–”

“Neither was the first event,” the Owl intoned.

The Hare’s eyes widened, his heart racing nervously. “Swimming? But I thought that would start us out on equal footing! He’s a tortoise, for goodness’ sake.”

“He is,” hooted the Owl softly. “But a tortoise is not a turtle, and turtles are the ones who can swim.”