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A Squeaky Clean Renaissance Chapter Four: Do Not Meddle in The Affairs of Wizards
Incipit Liber QuartusIn the previous Book of the Squeaky Clean Renaissance, thathistory wherein Cecil Goodytwoshoes endeavors to bring theSim World out of the Dark Ages, it came to pass that theseevents did occur:
“Worrl—she’s broody, sir, an’ no mistake. It be egg-layin’ season soon, an’ we ain’t got noboy Pit Beasts. Only wizards got ‘em, see. They’s bitty little things, no bigger’n a lady’slapdog. It do be sweet to watch ‘em a-courtin’ sir-- ‘ceptin’ when the girl eats the boy.”
“Remember. West through the forest. Follow the sun as she sets. TellTrevisant you were sent by Redcrosse George.”“Thank you.”
“And may I show you,” she murmured, “how very grateful I am?”
Cecil Goodytwoshoes, now known as King Cecil the Great of Puritania,had good reason to believe he had the wit to survive both the Middle Agesand deep intrigue. After all, had he not done so once before? On thatoccasion, he had been a mere peasant, and yet he had outwitted an entirenoble family and deprived them of their inheritance—for the best ofmotives, of course. If he could do so then, surely he could do so now.(See A Squeaky Clean Opera.)
Still, the wise always take council of the wise, and King Cecil ordered his RoyalAdvisor to engage a wizard without delay. He did not approve of superstitiousnonsense, but if one needed a wizard, and rival monarchs always did have awizard, then one simply had to employ a wizard and that was that.Wizards are supposed to be subtle. The Royal Advisor was perhaps a bit tooliteral.
And thus it was that the wizard Busyrane Subtle was duly engaged andinstalled in the requisite tower.
For his part, Wizard Subtle was fond of books, and willing to try. Hecertainly looked the part, right down to the big staff with a knob on theend. He was also quite happy that his new tower allowed pets.
Busyrane lost no time, gathering herbs and simples, as opposed tocomplexes.“Oh, mickle is the . . . Something that lies in something or another.”
“I’m fairly certain that I will need well water for something at some point.Something that sobers you up? Gets you really smashed? Oh, well, I canalways look it up, and if all else fails, I can give it to Oswald.”
The bard Tarleton Somerset looked at the wizard, and swallowed hard.Then he said hesitantly, “Please don’t blast me, Dr. Subtle. I’ve always beenrather frightened of what wizards can do. Calling up demons, makingpeople look and act like somebody else—it’s always worried me.He paused for a moment, and then burst out with: “CAN you really do allthose things?”
Busyrane stared blankly at Tarleton for a moment. ”What? Excuse me, Ican’t quite remember what we were talking about. What was your nameagain?”
Tarleton looked at the wizard more carefully. He said thoughtfully, “Come tothink of it, making people look and act like someone else is what I do, too. Stopby the tavern any time you feel like it—the Valiant Titmouse, over by the towngates. You can’t miss it. The ale is on me. I’m putting together a new play and I’dlike to pick your brains a bit. I thought maybe demons coming up through thefloor—”Busyrane had no idea what the bard was talking about, but nodded agreeably allthe same. He had definitely gathered that free ale was involved.
However, his Majesty had charged Busyrane with an urgent task. There wasa plague of squirrels in Burdley, and the Master Builder there had definitelysaid that if the problem could be taken care of, Burdly would join the newPuritanian empire. Only a wizard could do it, Master Builder Teagan hadsaid, and Busyrane was the only available wizard.
Free ale would have to wait for now, especially as Busyrane did not feel upto brewing it himself.
“It’s sparkly and intriguing, so I might as well try it and see what happens.”
But lo, what happened was very nasty and also very ineffective.
Busyrane had scarcely recovered from his burn injuries when the Royal Advisorsent for him, and she was wonderly wroth.“You idiot! I said to get rid of the squirrels, not to get rid of the forest! TheBurdly ambassadors are very unhappy, and I would not be surprised if thisalliance fell through completely. And his Majesty would be greatly annoyed.You do not want to make King Cecil greatly annoyed.”“What do you want me to do?”“I want you to put back the forest and put back the squirrels, but not too manysquirrels, and I want a solution to the squirrel plague, and I want it now.”
“Grow back a forest and put all the wild animals in it in a single day. Eventhe witches in the Scottish play couldn’t do that.”
“But I am no witch! And what’s the worst that could happen, really?”
“I call on the Eye of Agamotto! On the hoary hosts of Haggoth! Upon thedread Dormammu! Upon eight years of tertiary education!”________Yea, verily, he that knoweth this reference without peeking at the end of thechapter shall win a prize.
“And that annexes Burdley. Rather neatly, We thought. However, We mustnot rest on our laurels if We are to bring about the Renaissance.”
“And of course, still keep what We have.” Anyone in a country which differs from his own . . .should make himself the leader and protector of the smaller neighboring powers, and he should endeavor to weaken those which are strong. He should also take precautions to check an invasion of the province by a foreigner as powerful as himself. --Machiavelli
King Cecil therefore maintained constant vigilance, continuing his trainingin arms and keeping his skills sharp.
Occasionally, he had to check a foreign invasion personally.
Because there was a definite risk in meeting such challenges--
--the Royal Advisor generally arrived as soon as she was aware of one.
In most cases, these duels attracted a small crowd.
Sister Una worried about the implications of this.“I am sure it is not right to bet money on the outcome of a fight or a war,and it is possibly treasonous as well. His Majesty seems otherwise occupiedat the moment, and I shall not tell him later, but I wish the good peoplewould stop.”
The populace thought it was usually a good show: better than a play, andmaybe even better than throwing eggs at someone in the stocks. It made upfor the rarity of seeing the Pit Beast in action, although many hoped for it.
Since these contests could only end one way, there wasn’t much harm inKing Cecil’s subjects looking on, Sister Una decided. If she had thoughtabout it, this had the effect of ending the betting, too, as no one wanted tobet on the challenger, however long the odds.
The King took good care to record these events for posterity. It was alwayspossible for a manuscript to survive, and one did want the historical recordto be accurate. Historians like his younger brother Lytton always looked forsuch things. Why should he not provide them?
However well guarded, and however vigilant a monarch is--
--a monarch is still a man: subject to death as any mortal, and perhaps even more so. For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground And tell sad stories of the death of kings; How some have been deposed, some slain in war, Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed, Some poisoned by their wives, some sleeping killed-. All murdered—for within the hollow crown That rounds the mortal temples of a king Keeps Death his court. Richard II
Fortune or vigilance, or perhaps both, saved him when a foreigner surprisedhim by leaping out from behind a rock. He evaded the blade just in time asit slashed by him.
After that, everything depended on skill, or perhaps the patronage of LadyFortune.
“Who are you? Why are you here?”“My name is Nicola Michaletto, and I was sent here to kill you.”“You should not expect mercy.”“I do not. You will spare me because you are a dying man.”
“Go on.”“It is la cantarella, messire. I cannot be mistaken. I have used it myself. Youare being poisoned as slowly but as surely as the tide comes in. I do notunderstand how it is that you are still alive.”“We will continue this conversation at the castle.”“Where you can have the guards cut me down, should there be need.”“Yes.”
“We would prefer not to kill you, lady assassin. We would prefer for you tomake yourself useful. Whatever you are paid, We will triple it.”The assassin looked at the King as though she were assessing him, thennodded.“Wisely done, messire. Were I you, I would do the same.”“Precisely. We would prefer an enemy of your caliber to be on Our side.”
“I gladly accept, for the sake of the money, and because you will prevail.Fortune favors you: you are of the kind who can stop her wheel as it turns.This I can read in your face.”“You are quite right.”Nicola waited for the King to boast that he was the master of Fortune, buthe did not. A true master of Fortune does not need to say so: he simply is.She had been correct in her assessment.
“If you will take my advice, Maestà, do not eat anything or drink anythingthat is not prepared by your own hands.”“Obviously.”“This will not necessarily save you. Cantarella is a time poison. Thepoisoner may not have intended for you to die yet. When we know howthis was made, we may know who made it.”“Do that.”
Aubrey, the Castle servant, was very hurt that the King would not eat thefood he prepared any more.
“Have I done something wrong? Is the food not to your liking, yourMajesty? I could borrow some spices from Master Robert the Physician, ifyou so desire. Please, my lord. I have served you faithfully since the day youarrived here.”It would have been unwise to explain. If Nicola Michaletto was right, andhe was being poisoned, it would be essential that the poisoner not knowthat he knew.
Instead, he went about his business, trusting to Fortune and his own wit. APrince must have both.However, one must not trust to Chance in games of chance.
“You are attempting to cheat the Pirate King? That is very stupid, Cecil.”
“You are a tributary king. In the future, you will kindly address Us as ‘YourMajesty’ or ‘Sire’ or at most ‘Sir my brother’ in the first person and as ‘KingCecil the Great’ in the third person, and you will not dare imply that amonarch of the House of Goodytwoshoes would cheat.”“Sorry sorry sorry.”
It is also foolish to leave the security of one’s kingdom to chance.
It was much better to leave the security of the Kingdom to his majesty’smost faithful knight, Redcrosse George.
Redcrosse had been raised by a hermit: naturally pious, gentle, butsuspicious of magic in general. Dr. Subtle did not notice this, but he wasbeing watched.
On the highest possible order.“We understand that wizards are capable of Seeing dangers to the kingdom.This might include threats to the King’s Own Person. It is nonsense, ofcourse, but it does fall within the purview of your duties.”
“Now would be an excellent time to foresee. Don’t let Us detain you.”
“Seeing on demand—I just don’t know. Wasn’t there a student down thehall who outsourced all his Seeing? Fortescue? Fastolfe? No good, can’tremember.I also can’t remember what I was supposed to be looking for.”
“The tps* on this thing is terrible. I shall have to speak to the company.The crystal ball is becoming cloudy.”---Thaums per second
“The BBOD! I knew it wouldn’t be able to handle the upgrade. Surelythere must be someone in the kingdom who sells crystal ball parts andperipherals.”---Blue Ball of Death
Owing to King Cecil’s interest in the marketplace of the market, merchantshad begun to flock to Puritania, including one Lucretia Vanozzi. Therewere whispers that she had far too many connections to the pirates ofAarbyville, but Dr. Subtle was becoming desperate.“Crystal ball parts and peripherals? I sell everything. Stop by my market, YeOlde Shoppe Shop. It’s just by the Valiant Titmouse. You can’t miss it.”
“Except we don’t have that particular model in stock. You could leave yourballs—sorry, the ball—with us, and I could roll it around and hit it withsticks, and maybe send it to Aarbyville, and you could wait a few monthsand—”
Dr. Subtle was beyond desperation by now.“I’ll just have to read the manual.”
“Your Majesty, my crystal ball has crashed. I don’t think I can complete theSeeing without it.”His Majesty said nothing.
The Royal Advisor explained.“Usually when his Majesty goes all quiet and arches his eyebrow, he isdisappointed in you. I think you’d better try something else.”
Direct Seeing. It was risky, but so was disappointing the monarch. Theeyestrain was incredible.
“A benign if unusual meteorological phenomenon.”
“That’s all I’ve got, Royal Advisor. Sorry.”“I see. I will tell His Majesty that you have done all that was possible.”
Busyrane felt extremely fortunate, and went to test this theory immediately.Having proved it to be correct, he decided to engage in a study that mightsolve a problem closer to home.
“Hmm. This might explain why Oswald has been so irritable lately.”
“As I thought! His Majesty’s official Pit Beast is a girl! My, this isfascinating.”
Tarleton Somerset happened to be strolling by the Pit, and was appalled tosee that someone had been thrown in; something that almost neveroccurred in Puritania.
He was even more appalled, and confused, to see Busyrane Subtle climbingout.
To his astonishment, Busyrane was not only alive, but completely unhurt.
“Good Watcher, Dr. Subtle. What did you do to offend his Majesty somuch that he had you thrown in the Pit?“Nothing. I wasn’t thrown in. I threw myself in.”“Why would you do something like that?”“To see what would happen, of course. It was a learning experience.”
Tarleton took his leave of Busyrane, convinced that wizards were utterlymad and that he would never understand them.
Busyrane did not consider that his appearance crawling out of the Pit ofJudgement might have been unnerving. He did not have the leisure, asKing Cecil was to call on him again.
“Ah, Busyrane. We must again make use of your services.”“In anything, Your Majesty.”
“There is yet another land to which We would like to spread PuritanianCulture. The Time Lady of Ticktop has indicated that they are having aslight golem problem.”“Golems?”“Yes. We cannot make this up, but We also cannot argue with them.Imaginary golems ought to be relatively easy to dismiss, but should theyturn out to be actual, this would again fall in your area of expertise.”
Master Robert the Physician dropped by Mistress Fortis the Blacksmith’sforge, where the cards and the dice rattled all day and well into the night.“How goes your luck, Mistress Fortis?”“Badly,” she admitted.
“Yesterday, His Majesty requested my presence at the Castle for a pleasantchat.”“Uh-oh. That’s usually not very pleasant.”
“It wasn’t. He wanted me to assist Dr. Subtle in dismissing some golems. Ican’t say no, and I can’t really say yes, because there’s no such thing asgolems!”“Golems? Verily, you can’t make this stuff up. How does he look, by theby?”
“Are people supposed to have a grayish undertone?”“No.”“Then not too good.”
Despite her misgivings, Mistress Fortis crafted Doctor Subtle a mightierstaff with a larger knob on the end, and he cast a powerful spell to enchantthe golems, just in case.“O Macula Tetragrammaton Locomotor Ataxia, vamoose!”:
And lo, it turned out that there were golems after all, but they were quitenice, really. Also, they all moved to Puritania, where the rigidity andstrictness of everyday life appealed to them, but his Majesty had not saidanything about keeping golems out, so that was all right.
“Naturally. One does not wish to have easily irritated mechanical menwhere One cannot see them, does One? Much better to have them here.”
“Girrrrrrls!”“All RIGHT, Oswald! I’ll see what I can do.”
Nicola Michaletto continued her stealthy inquiry into the nature of thepoison affecting King Cecil.“Your Pit Beast is so very fine, Messer Bubbles! What long teeth! And suchpoisonous suckers!”“We’m proud of our Ermintrude, miss.”“I am certain you must have many showing interest in her. Have any beenso bold as to approach her without being thrown?”“Worrrl, now you come to mention it—”
“Ah, Signora Michaletto. How goes your—”“Pit Beast.”
“Pardon Us?”“There is a Pit Beast. Its venom is one of the ingredients in cantarella.”“One cannot simply get rid of Our Pit Beast. She is quite popular withtourists.”“It is one of the ingredients in cantarella, not the only one. It begins withsaturating the belly of a pig with—”“We do not wish to know about the details.”“I will analyze them, Maestà. There is something quite clever about it.”
“Clever. Hmm. Where would One find a clever person in this Kingdom?”
“Sister Una, would you consider yourself to be a clever person?”“Oh, no, Your Majesty. Cleverness is not required to be a Peteran. We preach Peaceand Love. Brother Bonaventure says that cleverness only gets in the way.”“Hmm. She states that she is not clever, but naturally a clever person would claim not to beclever. Therefore a very clever person might foresee this and claim to be clever, in order to allay—”“Would you like to come and see our petting zoo of Dire Chinchillas? I almost havethem trained.”“No, thank you. We believe you have answered Our question.”
Unfortunately for him, at this precise moment, Tarleton Somerset arrivedat the castle. He had forced himself to speak to King Cecil, a task he alwaysdreaded. He usually needed an entire day and a lot of ale to recover.
“I—I came to speak to you about my latest play, Your Majesty. I wanted tomake sure there is no offense in it.”“You may speak to the Royal Advisor.”“Yes. But I thought I would make sure.”
“And so I thought for the finale, the wizard would make the demon fly inwith a bunch of GRAPES. Wouldn’t that be impressive, Sire? Grapes fromthe furthest reaches of—”“And therefore, a very, very, very, VERY clever person would—”When he awoke, the King decided that the Bard was not smart enough tohave fabricated cantarella.
The king gave not a second thought to Sir Redcrosse, who was very loyaland none too bright.
“We require your services as Our champion in a tournament. You are touphold the honor of Puritania.”“It is my pleasure to obey, Sire.”And it was, for lo, Sir Redcrosse was fond of beating the custard out ofknightly opponents. But as a good Peteran, his heart misgave him that thiswas not right. And so he sought spiritual counsel.
“Sister Una? I thought you might wish to give me your blessing for thecombat ahead.”
“Of course I will, Brother Redcrosse! As I would to any of my Peteran flock,or indeed to anyone. For hath it not been said, “Thou shalt not playfavorites?”
Sir Redcrosse sighed. “Yes, it hath.”And he swore not to approach her in this matter again.
All was soon in preparation for the great day.
Redcrosse practiced diligently with his squire Christopher. He sometimeswondered if Christopher bore him any ill will. After all, it was he who hadcommanded the military action in which his squire’s first love,Friotheswede, had been killed. And sometimes he wondered if Christopherknew that he had sent his second love, Bethany, away. She had beenaccused of heresy, and Redcrosse had helped her to escape, but sometimeshis conscience still smote him.
He was not surprised, therefore, to find a strange knight offeringChristopher a bribe. He almost felt he had deserved it.
“Christopher, I heartily ask your pardon if I have offended you in someway. If you have revealed my secret weaknesses to my opponent, I forgiveyou.”
Christopher pulled him into a friendly embrace and hurriedly whispered, “Ihaven’t. I know his secrets instead. He hates to get his clothes soiled.”“Thank you.”
“Take that, recreant, and receive a blow from the which no soap can availyou!”
“Nicely done.”“You’re welcome, Your Majesty.”
Redcrosse fought and defeated all challengers male and female.
At last, there came a Black Knight to challenge the champion of Puritania,and this was no game.
Redcrosse showed no fear, as indeed he felt none.“Come fight me, Black Knight! To the death, if you so wish it!”
Sir Redcrosse challenged the Black Knight to fight before anyone who caredto see. Even at midnight, there was a substantial gathering of the commonfolk, who could always find the time to behold potential bloodshed.
Redcrosse donned the gilded armor upon which he had caused hismotto,“Fortis sed Stultus,”to be emblazoned.-- “Strong but stupid.” Almost certainly ungrammatical.
He met the Black Knight in a bold show of bravery. There was a mightyclash of blades--
And lo, Redcrosse was absolutely clobbered.I must have offended the Watcher in some way, he thought. I must speak with aperson of the cloth immediately. But he felt that he could not bear to speakwith Una so soon.
There remained only Archshepherdess Duessa, who offered him muchmore consolation than he had sought.
Some loyal part of him clung to his stubborn love for Una.
Wherein ye shall read of most marvelous things:Of feasts;Of an unexpected wedding;Of grief unforeseen;Of justice;Of dangerous entertainments;--and many another such wonderful events, if ye will but please to read.
Quests completed:Squirrel InfestationRoyal HolidayAncient SecretsGolems Gone WildInvasionWar Games
Territories Annexed:AarbyvilleYacothiaAdvortonBurdleyTicktopThe Watcher apologizes for the older picture. But the last two reallywere annexed. Sorry.
Puritania has Maxed Knowledge. It has lost One Culture, but that isbecause some quests raise one Aspect but lower another.
You will notice that Cecil is a Level Ten Monarch. Of course.
-I have never seen my Knight beat the Black Knight. Never. Not eventhough Redcrosse is at Level 10. I still got this not-whether-you-win-or-lose-it’s-how-you-play-the-game popup. This strikes me as unlikely. One is eitherthe winner, or one is canned minced meat.
Renaissance Fun Facts Supposedly, the actor who originally played Dr. Faustus, Edward Alleyn, conjured up a real demon by mistake during a performance, and this is why he endowed the College of God’s Gift (now Dulwich College.) Almost everyone knew somebody who knew somebody who had been there, so it must have been true. It was in books and everything.! Also from the Renaissance rumor mill: cantarella was supposed to be the Borgias’ poison of choice. It could be wound up to go off at exactly the right time. If you wanted the victim to drop dead at precisely three pm next Tuesday, when everyone could see that you couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with it, you could make some simple adjustments. The formula was a dark secret and amateur toxicologists still speculate about it, but it was probably some variety of arsenic, affectionately known during the Renaissance as “inheritance powder.”! Jousts and tournaments were still popular well into the Renaissance. Queen Elizabeth sponsored one every year to celebrate the day she succeeded to the throne. Henry VIII loved jousting, and no one ever let him win on purpose. Even if the jouster was a King, he could still be killed. That almost happened to Henry, and it did happen to Henri II of France, who got a splinter through a crack of his visor, right through his eye and into the brain pan.
CreditsOpening picture: Cover illustration of Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.Passages quoted and sometimes murdered from William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet,Richard II, Antony and Cleopatra, and Nicolo Machiavelli’s The Prince. Multiple references toTerry Pratchett and the works of Christopher Marlowe, especially Tamburlaine and Dr.Faustus. Poor Latin grammar absolutely not the fault of my Latin teacher. Inspiration liftedfrom nearly every Medieval and Renaissance text that isn’t nailed down, and also Stan Lee.That was Dr. Strange, by the way. You mean he isn’t your favorite Marvel superhero?Canterella from Borgia Pharmaceuticals.Cool pyrotechnics by Roger Bacon.Printer’s mark, Sacrobosco