Thursday, August 1, 2013

Fan Fiction Contest 2013: Sir Miles's Quest


            Sir Miles Leitflauer decided that such a thing as “general bustle” did not exist; rather, bustle was comprised of a devious series of strategic maneuvers plotted and choreographed by a large number of people (under the vise of busyness, of course) in order to prevent one very desperate tutor from reaching the palace gardens.

          Wonderful! He ought to write that one down; it certainly belonged in his dictionary of exceptional definitions.

          “Watch where you’re going, you clumsy ox!” A gentleman with a waxed and curled moustache, and clad in green garments—which were trimmed with entirely too much lace—turned back to glare at Miles and promptly walked into a marble pillar. Iubdan’s beard, what was all this hurry? People in the palace were so easily distracted today.

All I have to do is make my way out of this crowd to the gardens and find that beautiful red rose, he thought with a wistful sigh.

And what then? Sit there and stare at it until you get “inspired?”

Sir Miles was not in the mood to argue with his logical side today. Romance leaves no room for logic or other such nonsense.

Yes, he replied, sniffing in defiance. Sit there and stare at it until I get inspired.

The hard walls and elegantly tiled floors refused to stifle sound, instead throwing each word and crash at each other and bouncing them around carelessly. It seemed impossible to think in the midst of such a cacophony. Sir Miles remembered just in time to turn down a side hallway that would lead to the gardens before the evil bustle pushed him further away from his destination. At least, amongst all these dragon-eaten bumbling bustlers, there was one tutor of intelligence and coordination. This most recent and pleasant thought was rudely interrupted with a muffled fwump that momentarily disrupted his vision.

“You clumsy ox! Watch where you’re going!” Clumsy ox…again. Really, what was it about Miles that brought cattle to mind? This man was dressed in blue and dark brown, and while his clothes had significantly less lace, the shortage was more than made up for by the countless jewels that made him sparkle like a dragon-kissed pixie.

“I’ve no time to be jostled like a jar of cheese curds,” continued the man impatiently. The jewels on his sleeve flash as he motioned his hand toward the direction of the palace gates. “The Twelve-Year Market has arrived, and if I can’t get there soon, there will be nothing left but goblin’s footprints.  Good day, sir.” Really, the audacity of ending such a lecture with a wish for his well-being! Sir Miles stomped on, pushing through the bustle like a man walking upstream in a river.

          “Meow!”

A strange coincidence had occurred: that ugly, senseless cat had managed to make an appearance without tripping Miles flat on his face. Good thing, too, or these scurrying crowds would have soon turned him into a floor mat without so much as a “Pardon me.” The fat, orange fluff was not about to let Sir Miles by, though. He trotted in circles around Miles’ legs, forcing him to perform the most ridiculous dance in an effort to avoid tripping until he had been pushed against the palace wall.


*****

Cat: The embodiment of pure evil. Wears fur coat to veil identity.

Perfect. That belonged in his dictionary as well. If the cat—rightly named Monster—had not alerted him earlier to the presence of that singularly stunning rose, Sir Miles Leitflauer would have helped himself to the fur coat. Miles’ face was singed with the mocking stares and snickers that came from those members of the crowd who had witness his embarrassing pirouettes.
Worst of all, any inspiration that could have turned into poetry at the moment Miles’ fingers brushed against the velvety rose was gone—utterly gone.

          “Go take a bath, tabby,” growled Miles, glancing back at the bustle and searching for a place to reenter. “I’m trying to think about poetry, and you are singularly the most unpoetic, unromantic—”

          “Meow!” The cat, who had trotted ahead and now stood at the edge of the rushing crowd like one about to cross a river, turned back and looked at Miles. How did he manage to stare so intently without eyes? But stare he did, and the “Meow” that ensued could not have been stated more clearly by a “Follow me.” Miles saw that the cat’s presence caused people to step around him, creating an opening through which he might be able to break. Sunshine came through an open door at the end of the hallway—some dragon-eaten fool must have forgotten to close it—and light warmed the shining, jewel-gilded floor beneath like flowing gold. The brightness of the reflecting daylight caused Sir Miles to squint his watering eyes, but through the blurry haze he recognized the door to the palace gardens.

          Only a crowd and a cat stood between Miles and his rose. He took a deep, confident breath and began striding toward Monster—unlike a cat-lover in every way because, of course, he wasn’t truly following him. He merely happened to be going his way.

          The cat made an approving flick of his tail and thrust himself into the bustle. Strange, how a blind creature could have such an uncanny sense of direction and movement, but nevertheless he flawlessly navigated the crowded hallway. As Miles followed him, he could not discern if the masses parted for the cat or if they somehow opened behind him, for although a visible difference was not present, he could breathe easily and not worry about bumping into others as long as he remained in Monster’s footsteps. It seemed as though the crowd was a river churning against Miles, and that the cat could see invisible stepping stones that no one else found. Sir Miles Leitflauer refused to let any feelings of gratitude toward the cat enter his mind, but instead focused on the relief of having shaken the title of “clumsy ox.”

          By the time that Miles had arrived at the door (the cat was there too, but that was a coincidence), the crowds were beginning to thin. At least they took the distracting chaos and noise with them, but why would one go through the trouble of attending a Twelve-Year Market when one could learn everything there was to know about such an event in history books? Some mysteries could not be solved, but Miles took comfort in the fact that this mystery added romance to the world.

Romance! The rose! It was out here somewhere, in these gardens.

          Come find it, whispered a gentle wind as it crept through the shady bushes and ornamental trees. It’s here. Keep looking. Miles’ eyes skipped across the large garden, dotted with bushes and flowers. The white marble statue of some king or other gleamed brightly on a pedestal some distance away. Being a history tutor, Miles felt that he should know the king’s name, but he could not reach the shelf of history books in his mind at such a critical moment in romantic poetry. He simply had to find that rose.

          What dragon-eaten fellow made these gardens so large? Really, there seemed no logical place to begin, as his mind had captured the image of the rose in all its beauty but not a bit of surrounding foliage that would have given him a hint as to where he should search.

          “Meow!”

Miles found that, to his surprise, he had begun to associate the cat’s voice less with foreboding evil and more with…well, more with general fluffiness, he supposed.

          And?

His logical side again. But it was right this time.

          “Alright, and with a general sense of romantic adventure.”

Many cats are too daft to know how to look smug, and most do not grin. But Monster looked at Miles and smugly grinned. This unnerved the tutor. Not even a fortune-teller could have read his mind so well, and the cat clearly had taken a compliment that Sir Miles had never intended to give.

          The cat sauntered forward and began picking his way through the prickly shrubbery. Miles, remembering what had happened in the hallway, decided to follow him.

          I don’t know what that creature knows that I don’t, but I swear he’s got the strangest—

Miles gasped and suddenly sat down in a patch of grass and blossoms. His heart pounded fiercely, startled by the explosion of soft yet blinding splendor that burst upon him. What did the blossoms upon which he sat matter, anyway? In the midst of the garden, the rose was like a blazing ruby glinting atop a pile of ashes. He stared at the silky crimson rose for a full two minutes, his eyes feasting on the pure, glistening redness of its petals like a starving man tasting bread for his first time.

My book. Where is it?

Keeping his eyes fastened on the bloom, Sir Miles fumbled in his coat pocket until his fingers touched the smooth bumpiness of leather. The cold, thin feeling beside it was surely his pen. He quickly removed them and opened the notebook. Miles did not wish to remove his gaze from the rose; it was so breathtakingly exquisite, and an eerie worry pressed at the back of his mind that the rose would disappear if he did not watch it. Indeed, even as he glanced down at the paper to find a starting place for his pen, a gray and shadowy veil seemed to pass over the rose, partly hiding it and attempting to pull it away. He quickly looked back up, and the shadow vaporized, leaving the rose’s magnificence bright and bare. Did a wind steal by that he did not feel, or did the rose turn its head away? His heart thumped nervously against his ribs, but Miles pushed out his uneasiness with a forced breath. No time for speculation now.

As smooth droplets of dew glittered on the rose, Sir Miles could not get over what a vibrant shade of ruby draped over the smooth green stem like royal robes.

If I can think of nothing but the color, than it must be a good place to begin, decided Miles. He pressed his hovering pen to the paper, the words Rose Red floating through his mind. The smooth, inky point dragged across the paper.

Sir Miles Leitflauer stopped writing.

Which never happened.

 Dragon’s teeth, he never stopped writing! But his mind wandered back over the day, recalling three things.

          First, the cat meowing, alerting his presence to the rose. Second, the cat leading him over an unseen pathway through the evil bustle. Third, the cat escorting him directly to the rose. All leading to the unparalleled sonnet about to unfold upon the very parchment in his lap.

Sir Earnin the Great could hardly have done more to assist the development of a romantic poem, thought Miles. Although most cats seemed interested only in dishes of milk and the procedure of leg-rubbing, Miles somehow knew that this cat deserved a thank-you. His logical side, strangely enough, did not argue this idea. Sir Miles turned around.

          Although the tutor had not heard so much as a rustle, the wind-stirred, murmuring gardens were empty. The soft and peaceful sunshine quietly slept amongst the leaves, which concealed no orange fur or tail. A wood thrush sang three soft notes before flitting away toward the fields like a leaf blown in the wind. When Miles looked to the door from which he had entered the gardens, he saw only a tall, golden-haired man clad in shimmering red silk as bright as the rose itself slipping silently into the palace.

 THE END

If you would like to vote on this or any other Goldstone Wood Fan Fiction, email me at aestengl@gmail.com with the titles of your top three picks. Winners will be announced September 1st.
         

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

This might be my favorite. :)

JillStengl said...

I enjoyed reading about Miles again. :-) Hope we get to read his sonnet someday!

Rebeka B. said...

Victoria, I loved this story about Miles--his inner dialogue is hilarious, and loved his interaction with Monster. Your writing is so poetic and yet you captured Miles' no-nonsense, practical side so well. Loved it!

S.F. Gorske said...

Sir Miles was such an amusing character to read, yet also so lifelike. He truly represents the writer in all of us. I especially love his relationship with Monster/Eanrin. :)

Meredith said...

This was a wonderful continuation of the adventures of Sir Miles. Loved how you flipped Mrs. Stengl's lines about "happening to be going in the same direction" and applied them to a non-cat lover. Terrific work. God bless you.