A Squeaky Clean Renaissance Chapter Six: King Cecil and the Dragon
This humble transcription of the Chronicles ofPuritania is dedicated to Angela.
Incipit Liber SextusIn the previous Book of the Squeaky Clean Renaissance, that historywherein Cecil Goodytwoshoes endeavors to bring the Sim world out ofthe Dark Ages, it came to pass that the following events did occur:
His Majesty’s hired assassin, Nicola Michaletto, analyzed the substance withwhich he was being poisoned, and determined that it was cantarella.
Robert Galenus the Physician accordingly formulated a cure which did notinvolve an inducement to vomit, nor leeches, nay, nor vomiting leeches, for thewhich His Majesty was profoundly grateful.
Prince Rupert the Charming awoke from his sleep of many centuries, claiming thatPuritania was his by birthright--
And promptly lost it to King Cecil, proving once again that Puritania wastruly his by means of Fortune and his own wits.
The Jacoban Arch-Shepherdess Duessa put into motion the final elements of herplot to rule the Puritanian Empire, to wit:
First, by breaking with the Jacoban Proxy and becoming the sole religiousauthority in Puritania--
Next, by marrying the kind and loyal yet gullible Knight CommanderRedcrosse George, expecting to set him up as a puppet king in the placeof King Cecil.
Third, by making a last attempt to seduce the King, thus making the final step ofher plot unnecessary, for she did not care through whom she ruled, as long as sheruled.
But forsooth she could not have made a greater error, for the King hated lecheryand anything approaching hanky-panky in any of its forms, and indeed thecastle servants rumored that his Majesty pissed ice and had the soft and pliableromantic heart of a doorknob. And yea, once his suspicions had been aroused, ittook little time to ravel the whole matter out.
It became clear to the King that the last step in Duessa’s plot would havebeen to give him a final, fatal dose of cantarella, and in the subsequentconfusion, to place her malleable husband on the throne.
Signora Nicola confirmed that the poison had indeed been administered byDuessa.
Deeply ashamed of his stupidity, and horrified by his own role in atreasonous plot, however unwitting, Redcrosse threw himself on his Majesty’smercy. King Cecil pardoned him, but the wound still stung, as he now knewhis weakness and was reluctant that any woman should so fool him again.
Duessa, however, who had expressed her bloodthirstiness when condemning,she thought, some other person, he ordered to be cast into the Pit of Doom.
The mercy that was quick in us but lateBy your own counsel is suppress’d and killed.You must not dare (for shame) to talk of mercy,For your own reasons turn into your bosom,As dogs upon their masters, worrying you.But we our kingdom’s safety must so tender.Whose ruin you have sought, that to our lawsWe do deliver you. Henry V, II.ii.79-83, 175-77
Bubbles the Executioner was heartily glad that his Ermintrude atlast would be receiving some healthy protein.
Ermintrude seized on the Jacoban priestess, but being out of practice--
--she allowed Duessa to escape, much to her own disappointment.
Fortunately, there was as yet no law forbidding a person being tried,convicted, and condemned twice for the same crime. This was a smalloversight, but in this case, it was also very convenient.
The bard Tarleton Somerset saved theatre in Puritania, with the King’s reluctantparticipation.
“We are, on the whole, rather pleased with Puritania’s achievements. There is little left todo, other than building up trade routes and taking Our culture to the few spots to whichit has not gone. There are so few opportunities for personal renown.”“Messire, your reign is almost legendary.”“Ah, that ‘almost.’ ““I cannot see what more you could do, other than slaying a dragon.”
Thanks in part to the efforts of Tarleton and Master Robert, Culture andKnowledge were at their apex. There remained only two territories which hadnot become a part of the Puritanian Empire: Snordwich and Effenmont. Inorder to annex the former, it would be necessary to secure the assistance of avery unheroic hero.
“I do not think I am so very ugly,” mused Sister Una.
“Not so very ugly, although I cannot be as beautiful as she was.”“I am giving way to vanity. Brother Bonaventure would be sodisappointed in me. And to think of any such things so soon after—that is very wrong.”
“It is much better to keep my mind on holy things,” she told herself firmly.“Much better not to become worldly.” But even as she attempted to forgetabout the world, the world was remembering her.
She certainly did not expect King Cecil to ask her to assist with the annexation ofSnordwich.“Me, Your Majesty?”“Yes, you, Sister Una. We specifically require your services.”
“But I can do nothing!”“You have done nothing so far; nothing but preach of Peace and Love. Wehave asked nothing else of you up till now. You may now do something usefulfor Puritania, or you may preach of Peace and Love somewhere else.”Put that way, Sister Una had little choice but to agree.
The Snordwidgian ambassador explained that Snordwich was desperate to rid itself of asupernatural problem, and that only a Peteran priest could help them.“We do not have Peterans in Snordwich, you understand, so it is that we have come toPuritania for a solution to our problem, yes? And we have agreed with your King thatSnordwich shall then join your so famous empire. Only most unfortunately our problemhas brought himself with us.”“And he is. . . .?”“An elemental spirit. A poltergeist. Perhaps a demon. Call him what you will, only pleasealso to be getting rid of him, because he is now loose in Puritania as well.”
The Snordwidgian ambassador was right: the elemental spirit was already causingmischief in Puritania, and if he was not stopped, the entire kingdom would be indanger.
And so Sister Una asked the Ambassador to return with her unto the church,where it was more fit to hold such a conversation, and to tell her what manner ofthing the evil spirit might be.“It strikes through greed,” she said. “Or desire—is that the word? Whatever youmost desire. Most often it offers untold treasure to those who will make a bargainwith it, for money and power is what most want.”
“But it lies,” the Ambassador added. “All it gives is death: death to the one whomade the agreement and it spreads until all are in a sleep from which they neverwaken. We were the last who were not asleep—all in Snordwich are in the sleepof death, and if you cannot help, our kingdom is dead.”“Most to be feared is a person who thinks he is clever and shrewd; one whobelieves it can outwit the spirit in his contract.”
Even as they spoke, the merchant Lucretzia Vanotti was purchasing gems froman odd-looking stranger at a very inexpensive price.
And yet, she was trying to talk him down still further.“zzzThey’re zzzthe finzzzzest of zzzzgemstones, Madam—zzzzz.”“I’m sure they are, but I can’t tell if they’re jewelry quality or not. I might be able to sellthem to Blacksmith Fortis for setting in sword hilts, or maybe she’ll only be able to usethem to polish things—or perhaps they’re appropriate for Wizard Blue Ball ™components, but I can’t really judge just standing here.”“zzzOf course. zzzMaybe if we had a contract—”
Sister Una raced off to warn Lucretzia, realizing that the evil spiritwas most likely to try making a bargain with her first.
She arrived too late. The demon had smitten Lucretzia down, and its evilinfluence was spreading to everyone she had made bargains with. Soon it wouldinfect still others. Puritania was in the gravest danger.
She approached Robert Galenus first.“Master Robert, the good people are lying in the town square.They are grievously afflicted.”
But he refused, saying that he knew nothing of these matters.“Plagues, I can do. Poison, that too. Demons aren’t in my line. Demons areup to you or Busyrane.”
She went to meditate by the Watcher’s Pavilion, overwhelmed by herresponsibility. There was no one who could face it for her. The kingdom’s safetywas entirely in her hands.
“And I have nothing,” she lamented. “I know nothing and I have done nothing but converta few kind people and tame some dire Chinchillas, and behold, they may not be as tamedas I should like to think, because did they not chew through their enclosure and terrorizethe acolytes only last week? I have nothing at all.”
“Yes, you do,” a small voice piped up. “You have us, and we like you.”“And who are ‘we,’ young brother?” she asked curiously.“The little ones. I mean—children, of course, we’re children from beyond the village.But we like seeing how kind you are to the Dire Chinchillas. We don’t say muchusually because we’re shy, but the others sent me to tell you that you don’t havenothing. You have Peace and Love, and that will be enough.”
“Now send him home.”So Sister Una sent the disruptive spirit home. All who slept in both kingdoms awoke, butlo, Sister Una never spoke of how she had saved them, not unto her dying day.Nevertheless, all knew it was Sister Una’s work, and she was viewed with increasedrespect.
Sir Redcrosse put this admiration into words. “If no one else has said so,Lady, I will; what you have done showed great strength and courage.”
Sister Una disputed this, saying, “I have neither physical courage nor ability. Iused only what I had. I did nothing but what anyone would do.”
“Everyone would not do so, Lady,” said the knight, “though it breaks myheart to say so. Everyone has not such generosity of spirit; I would they did. Isay again: you showed great strength and courage.”
“But you slay bears! Fight challengers! Protect the Kingdom!”“Then perhaps you will acknowledge that I recognize courage when I see it. Slayingbears is easy, Una---Lady. To do that, one needs only to be strong and stupid, which Iam afraid I am. But you have brought Peace and Love to so many.”
There was an awkward pause, and then Redcrosse was gone.
Subdeacon Ambrose listened to this story, and lo, he expressed great impatienceof spirit.“I cannot believe things are going on so long. You love him. He loves you.Wherefore the delay? By the Watcher, it makes me want to throw things.”
“He loves me?”Subdeacon Ambrose repressed the urge to kick one of the ornamental pillars.“Yes. I am quite sure of it.” He did not add his suspicions that Redcrosse’s marriage had neverbeen consummated, and therefore technically it had been no marriage at all.“It is too soon after his wife died. His heart must be quite broken. The people will whispercruel things about him.”Ambrose knew full well how evil Duessa had been, more than most. He knew no onemourned for her. He said only, “I do not think so.”
“It is immodest in a lady, much less a priest, to make advances of this kind.”“Very well. Then do not make advances. Wait and do not reject his. I am sure he lovesyou,” he urged. “You were the first to welcome me when I was a stranger and a foreignerfrom Yacothia. Though I am a Jacoban and you a Peteran, you have been a sister to me.I want only your happiness. You preach Peace and Love, Sister. Now receive some ofyour own.”
To all appearances, Una did not seem to be taking Ambrose’s counsel. Instead,she gave herself to serious meditation at the Watcher’s Pavilion.
The fruits of her contemplation were passed to all who would listen to her talks andsermons in the open street.
Many listened now, if only to see the woman who had saved the kingdom bymiraculous means.
Her intention was not to perform magic tricks. She had listened to Redcrosse after all.She had something worthwhile to offer, and it was up to her to develop it.
Dear Brother Bonaventure: Peace and Love. All is well here. I have told you of thespirit who was dismissed through the Watcher’s kindness, and of the recovery of thegood people.
I am now engaged in a translation of one of the long-lost books of the Watcher,Perfugium Homicidae. It is most difficult and shows the goodness and mercy of theWatcher in a light that seems to my poor understanding to be somewhat perverse. Iam sure the earlier translations must be incorrect and that the Watcher is by naturealways benevolent.
I am working day and night on the translation, and I am afraid I am burning up agood deal of whale oil in the process, but I hope the result will have been worth it. Ihave asked the finest of illustrators to illuminate the final manuscripts.Yours in the name of the Watcher,Una
Sister Una greeted her friend, the Bard Tarleton Somerset, as he stopped in at the monasteryfor a somewhat rare visit.“Has theatre truly been saved in Puritania?” she asked.“Yes,” he said,” I think so.”“And will Fiona return to the stage?”“That, I don’t know.”“She is much missed.”“Yes, she is.”
“Would you assist me with my translation of Perfugium Homicidae? It is accurate, I am sure, butnot elegant, and I want it to be perfect.”“Usually. I’d say ‘let the Theatre be the Theatre, and let the Church be the Church,” Tarletonadmitted, “but I don’t see what harm it could do. If you provide the religious sentiment, I canmake it sound pretty. Meanwhile, I came to ask a favor, Sister Una. I have a new song I’mworking on, and at the Valiant Titmouse I’m interrupted all the time. May I work on it here?”Una agreed. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the arrival of Knight CommanderRedcrosse.
“Greetings, brother.”Redcrosse took a deep breath.“Yes,” he said. “I am your brother in the Peteran faith, although I hope not only that.Shall I be plain? I would throw my heart at your feet, but I would not bepresumptuous. I would not destroy your peace for all the world. I am a simple man,and I do not understand what you would with me.”
“I know only that I can live no longer by thinking. Give me some hope, Una, orkill it forever.”
Una stood, stunned. This was what she had wished for, probably from the verybeginning. It had been so difficult to discern between her love for him as a brother inthe faith, as her earliest and most faithful convert, and her love for him as the manwho before all others she wanted to marry. It had been so hard to give up all thoughtof him when he had married Duessa. Now he said he would throw his heart at herfeet if she wanted him. It was overwhelming and she did not know what to say.
Meanwhile, Tarleton worked on his song.“—the song of a knight and a maid, O!For he was very slow to actAnd she was even slower, O.”
The monastery began to fill with people who wanted to hear the new song. Themoment had passed, and Redcrosse silently withdrew.
Sister Una rounded on Tarleton, hands on her hips. He had never seen herangry before.
“Have you no business elsewhere, friend Tarleton? Had you not better go?”“Going, going.”
At last the artists had finished the illumination---
Una immediately went to Knight Commander Redcrosse.
“You have recovered one of the sacred books? By the Watcher, excellently done! Butwhy are you giving me the first copy?”“You were the first person I thought of. I have some others I need to give away andthen—and then I hope you will come see me at the monastery.”“Ah. For another religious quest, I suppose.”“No, because I enjoy your company, Redcrosse. Please come.”
“For you, Bubbles.”“Me an’ Ermintrude can read it of long winter nights. We like havin’ somethin’ t’do.
Naturally, Sister Una had to present King Cecil with a copy. He need not knowhe had received the third copy, not the first. And lo, his Majesty acquired freestuff, and he greatly liked free stuff.
“Sire, I am your obedient servant in all things, but I ask only one day of my own.”
The hours had seemed long to Sister Una as she waited. She was almost surethat Redcrosse had understood her.
It took Una all the courage she had to put aside her fear that she was notbeautiful. She need not spend every waking moment trying to be peaceful andloving and unselfish in order to please the Watcher. Maybe this was pleasing tothe Watcher as well. Who knew?
All of the misunderstandings and hesitations were blown aside with a singlekiss.
There was only one possible next step for them. Redcrosse lost no time inasking her to marry him, and then he began to tell her in his simple way howmuch he loved her.
Sister Una couldn’t say anything, but she did not need to.
“Sire, I ask your leave to marry.”“Do not tell Us you wish to marry another of Our priests.”“Er—”“You do? You cannot have been widowed more than a month or two.”“But my liege, we are very much in—”
The King shuddered at the very idea of listening to an embarrassing list ofromantic declarations. “Very well. We suppose We must consent.” AsRedcrosse opened his mouth, he added hastily, “You need not stop to thankUs.”
All of their friends, and the best known persons in the Kingdom,attended the wedding.
This time the celebrant was able to join in their joy.
Soon they were blessed with a little boy named Guyon.
Their son meant a great deal to both of them, but had a special meaning forRedcrosse. He had lost both his parents in babyhood, and had been brought upby a hermit, far from from any other humans. He had known great loneliness,which he now understood had been one of the reasons he had made such acolossal mistake in marrying Duessa. Now he had a family of his own.
He was happier than he could ever have dreamed possible.
“Sire, I cannot thank you enough for your consent to marry. My son is exceptionallyhandsome and strong, and I hope will grow to serve you in his turn. He is---”Knowing that Redcrosse could not stop talking about his wife, his son, their marvelousqualities, and his own great happiness once he had begun, King Cecil dismissed him.
Culture at the Puritanian court continued to flourish. There was still no Jacobanpriest at the cathedral, and soon the Yacothian High Priestess Terra brought theProxy’s hand-picked choice for the new appointment, the Shepherd Archimago, to bepresented to the King.
“As a loyal son of the church, We are most pleased to welcome Shepherd Archimago tothe kingdom and shall expect him to receive us at the cathedral in due time. ““We should like to add, in our person as King, that We trust that this time the Proxy hasnot appointed a priest with quite such expertise in poisons as the last one, and thatshould We discover there is yet another plot on Our life, We shall not be amused.”The High Priestess stammered that the Proxy was keeping a close eye on the situation.
“In case We did not make this clear enough to the Jacobans, Signora Nicola, you will ofcourse be monitoring the new Shepherd’s actions and be prepared to take Steps. We shalldouble again what We were paying you.”“But of course, Maestà. And you will not wish to be informed should Steps becomenecessary.”The King looked shocked. “Naturally not. We are a loyal son of the church and could notpossibly sanction extreme measures. We would greatly regret any dietary accidents.”
“Prince Rupert the Charming will also not represent any further annoyance to you,messire. I have secured this personally. In addition, I have something to report that I thinkwill interest you greatly.”
Signora Nicola was correct. Her report did interest the King, and he went toinvestigate the matter personally.
“You cannot expect me to believe that you were attacked by a genuine dragon.”
“But it was a dragon, your Worship! We was a-walking by the cave—you know the one,hard by the cemetery. Well, we heard a rustle and sort of a grunting sound, and thena great whoosh. Next thing we knows our clothes is all a-smokin’ and our hair allcrispy. The others have gone ahead to seek out Master Robert at the clinic, and I juststopped long enough to tell you. May I go? I’m itchin’ something terrible.”
“Yes, you may go.”A dragon seemed hard to credit. On its face, the story had a fairy tale overtone to itthat was somewhat distasteful. On the other hand, there is nothing like defeating adragon to ensure that a monarch’s name passes into legend. The King decided that hemust investigate for himself.
The King felt it would be wise to consult the wizard Busyrane on this matter.“There appears to be a large dragon inhabiting the cave near the cemetery. Underordinary circumstances, We would trust entirely to Our own skills, but as ourresident expert in the fantastic ---”“Well, let me see—I’m almost sure that I can remember something.”
“Sint mihi dei acherontis propitii . . .”“Oh, bother, I can’t remember the rest. Oswald? Do you remember the rest of it?”“Never mind. It’s only a frost-imbued blade and . . .um. Armor made of –some metalor another. I’ll test it as I go along. The spirit of inquiry, that’s the main thing.”
“These ought to work, your Majesty. I’m fairly sure. I’m fairly, reasonably . . .hardlyunsure at all.”“Adamantle? Mithril? Mithril AND adamantle? Some other substance . . .perhaps thatmaterial Mistress Fortis created with my help that enables me to cook eggs so that theeggs neither burn, nor do they stick thereto, but the pan is rendered easy to clean. . .”
The King tested the frost-imbued sword. The blade was sharp and cut cleanly; achill emanated from it as it slashed the air. It seemed to operate perfectly.
“Adamantle AND the mystery metal that will not burn my eggs? Steel? Sky-iron? Some alloy of all of them? Would it help if I coated the armor withOswald’s slime?”The wizard was mulling this over with such intensity that he forgot somethingessential.
Namely, to ascertain that King Cecil was wearing the armor before he tested it.His Majesty was not amused.
His Majesty let Busyrane know precisely what he thought of wizards who perpetually dwelt intowers, ivory or otherwise, and whose research never developed anything that had any practicaluse.To their mutual surprise, Busyrane stood his ground. You couldn’t know if something was goingto be useful before you knew it, he argued. You simply had to learn everything and eventuallyeverything did turn out to have some sort of use, or perhaps it didn’t, but then it did, becausenow you knew something new.The King did not approve of shady and dangerous experimentation, but he also knew thatoccasionally it had useful results, and that you could not argue with someone like Busyrane.
“I shall simply make use of my own methods. Lady Fortune and my own wits. Ineed neither armor nor blade for this.”
And he walked, slowly and purposefully, into the Dragon’s lair.
All Puritania was hushed and subdued, as they waited for their King to emergefrom the dreadful cave in which the fearsome Dragon lurked. No man lingered atthe mouth of the cave, for who wished to be near an angered dragon?—and whatman was so heartless as to listen for the sounds of a man being burnt or eaten alive?Still, legend will have it that there were no roars to be heard that day, only aclipped, barely elevated tenor voice indicating displeasure and disappointment, andat length sniffles of repentance.
And lo, the dragon was exceedingly sorry for its poor manners, most especiallyfor not using a handkerchief when it sneezed, and promised never tomisbehave again.
Legend also tells that the dragon returned to its home, wrote a book on how ithad defeated a human, and went on a lecture tour, but no one ever believedthose legends.
There remained as yet only one land that had not joined the Puritanianempire, and only one means to form an alliance with it. The prospect did notplease.
A grim fate lay before the King, far worse than any dragon.
Professor Butters here. That’s still The Watcher to you, buddy. There is only oneterritory left to conquer, and yea, only one more chapter.
Cecil gained a Legendary Trait when he defeated the Dragon. You only get a choice ofthree, so I selected Guild Connections. This means he can talk to other Sims aboutFashion (not very Cecilian, perhaps) and gets a large discount on everything (veryCecilian,)This also meant his Hubris disappeared. As Fatal Flaws go, it’s a very inconvenientone, but I miss it.
Renaissance Fun Facts! Una, Duessa, Redcrosse, Archimago, and Guyon are all characters in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene.! I’ve given Sister Una some of the qualities of the mendicant orders. “Pax et Bonum” (Peace and Good) is a Franciscan saying, and you’ll notice Sister Una says it all the time, but in this chapter, there’s a reference to Dominican saying too: “contemplare et completata aliis tradere” (“contemplate and give to others the fruits of contemplation.)! If “perfugium homicidae” is a horrible mistranslation of “Killers’ Asylum,” I don’t really want to know, but let me know anyway.! Mumming plays about St. George and the dragon, usually performed at Christmas, were standard issue. There’s usually also a Saracen and a Doctor involved, but we had to compromise here.! You may recognize the Dragon as the Reluctant Dragon, but any Dragon would be Reluctant to go up against Cecil, wouldn’t they?
CreditsOpening pictureWoodcut from Alexander Barclay’s The Legend of St. George.Pictures from Kennet Grahame’s The Reluctant Dragon, Ernest Shepherd.William Shakespeare: Henry V, As You Like It. “Latin sayings from both St. Francis and St.Dominic. Latin incantation from Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus. As usual, inspirationlifted from nearly every Medieval and Renaissance text that isn’t nailed down.Printer’s mark, Sacrobosco.