Sunday, February 27, 2011

Book Review - Conclave, by Roberto Pazzi

When we think of magical realism, it's usually Gabriel Garcia Marquez that comes to mind. Conclave, by Roberto Pazzi, is another good example of the genre.

While the narrative is (somehow) centered on the figure of the humble and somehow mysterious Cardinal Malvezzi, he is not the book's main character. The true protagonist is the conclave itself, the process with which the Pope is chosen. Months go by and the Cardinals cannot agree on a unanimous choice. While the media loses interest in the twice a day released black smoke, bizarre things happen in the Vatican. A plague of rats, the attemptive escape of full Cardinals, and an embarrassing death, color the solemn reunion.

As these and other impossible events are at work, the author reveals the day-to-day life of the Vatican in its most important assembly, the real reasons for the religious inclination of key characters and their deepest motivations and desires. The political and social background increase the urgency in the decision-making that seems more unreachable at each page.

There are many humorous scenes in this book that drew more than one laugh of me, which are intertwined with deep reflections on religion, vocation and the human condition. Although these reflections are interesting and welcomed, they slow down the reading. Also, I would like to see more details about the external interference by political figures and the media, as well the internal intrigues, which are only outlined in this novel. It feels that the author wanted to bring these processes to light, but he did not dare going too far. I'm really sorry that he didn't, but it's understandable considering that he comes from the very country where the Vatican is set. That said, I highly recommend this unique book.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Picture Credits

It happened. My worst nightmare came true, and I bet it's your worst nightmare too. My computer died.

Picture Credits
It's the doomsday of any writer! Yeah, yeah, I can write with ink and paper as well as anyone, but how can I visit my writer friends' blogs? How can I connect with people on Twitter, Facebook and other social network sites? Don't we read daily about the importance of social networking, not only to build up the famous platform, but also to avoid the isolation that threatened to kill so many creative minds back in the days? And finally, but not less importantly, how the heck am I going to connnect with my readers? O.O

After I stopped sobbing, whimpering and blowing my nose (yuk) -- besides whining to the very patient and helpful Monica Marier --I decided to do something about it.

Click to go to cause
I can't afford buying a new computer, and I can't afford being without one, so I started a cause on Facebook, and I've added a Donate Button to the sidebar.

Now, here's the deal. I don't think a thank you note is enough to show my appreciation to all the wonderful people that will donate (I hope) and spread the word. So I'll try to give something in return to these generous, warm-hearted, loving people: *wink, wink*

  •  Everyone who tweets, shares on facebook and other social networking sites, and/or links the cause on their blogs will be listed on a thank you blog post as soon as the goal is achieved.

  • To a blog post dedicated exclusively about the cause I'll offer a guest post at Randomities, or a book review, or an interview, or whatever else you come up with to showcase your work. ;)

  • To a donation of $10 or more, I'll offer all the above, plus I'll write a story with the super generous person as main chararcter in any chosen genre, or with a character of hers (if she's a writer), or any other crazy idea you come up with. :P

"Why the rewards?," you ask.

Because I want to show my appreciation for those who are willing to help someone in need. I like to help people when I can, and I've learned to ask for help in the hardest way. I know sometimes it's not easy neither helping nor being help, so I want to thank properly.

Please don't let my muse die with my crappy computer. Donate! Spread the word! And please come back to collect your reward. You'll make me as happy with your collecting as with your donation. :)

Update: With the help of no less than 46(!) wonderful people I've reached my goal and I've bought a shiny new computer! *grins manically*

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Sweetest Trolls #14: Bell Alarm -- #FridayFlash

This is the 14th installment of the Troll Serial. To read from the beginning, or to find past and future installments, click here.

Warning for violence: This episode starts with a quite gruesome scene, so be warned.

On another note, my muse has showed her teeth last week and kept me awake to put on paper the outline for this series. This means that I finally have a concrete grasp of where the story is going and how long it'll take to get there. If you're curious, it should take around 52 episodes to wrap things up. There's a long way to go!

Well, you must have noticed that the tone of the series has darkened since Kratan's change. Things will get darker, I'm afraid. Although there will still be humor in this series, it will not be a central aspect of the story anymore, so from this episode on I'm taking the tag "humor" off the posts.

Update: I think John Wiswell makes a good point (see his comment below), so I've decided to keep the humor tag and make sure the story is always balanced. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, John! 

“I am the prince of the whole High France!” said petit Maurice, puffing his chest and pounding his knuckles on it.

“Then I am the king of the whole High France,” said his brother.

“You can’t be king, stupid. You’re younger than me.”

“Yes, I can!” Mathieu stuck his tongue out, pressing his eyes in a deep frown while doing so. When he opened them he saw Kratan snatching his brother by the neck, covering his mouth with his large hand and digging his sharp nails on the back of the boy's head and shoulders. He saw Kratan's wicked smile surveying him and the slight flick of his tongue behind his brother’s head.

Petit Maurice wept on the last few seconds of his life. Kratan turned the child to face him and grinned side to side. The kid’s eyes widened with the sight of the troll’s blurred teeth. Kratan ripped the boy’s head with a single bite, humming with the salty taste of his tears and his crunchy little skull. Boy, how tasty children are! he thought.

“Is the pie ready yet?” asked the Mayor from the living room.

“It needs cooling down,” yelled Madam Daussy from the kitchen. “We don’t want to burn the prince’s mouth, do we?”

“I’m hungry,” mumbled the Mayor.

His wife appeared at the door, startling him. “Why don’t you be a darling and go fetch Aimee and the prince?” She turned her back not waiting for a reply, put the pie on the window and set to tidy up the kitchen. 

The Mayor put the thoughts of his rumbling stomach aside and left, thinking on why they were taking so long on their walk. His reverie was interrupted by petit Mathieu bumping against his leg and falling to the ground. The Mayor was about to give a few words on politeness to the boy when he saw the horrified look on his face. He kneeled down and grabbed the kid’s shoulder, shaking him gently, “What happened, son? Tell me.”

Mathieu mouthed soundlessly, his eyes trapped in father Pélerin’s hell.

“What? What is it?” asked the Mayor.

“T-t…” babbled the boy. “T-tr…”

“Troll? Did you see a troll near the village?”

The boy nodded, tears filling his eyes.


Mathieu pointed, sobbing.

The Mayor grabbed the child and mumbled a few soothing words in his ear. He put Mathieu down at his house's door. “Now, my dear boy,” he said in his gentler tone, “you must be strong for the sake of the village. I need you to go inside and tell your father what you saw. Tell him to meet me at the bell tower, okay?” The boy nodded, whipping his tears with the back of his hand. “Good boy.” The Mayor smiled his proud smile, making Mathieu’s lips twitch upward, and ran to sound the alarm himself.

Kratan twisted his nose. He couldn’t enjoy his meal with that stench coming his way. It would be better to get going anyway. Soon the brat would be able to speak and the villagers would know of his presence. He was at the first safe clearing when he heard the bell. He noticed a horse’s track, but there was no time to investigate further. Mentally crossing out the clearing as not safe he trotted merrily to his new hiding place.

Aimee and De Faumont watched the stars in silence. They had barely spoken since they left the village. Both knew that words would come out awkward, so they simply enjoyed each other’s company, straining to feel the warmth of each other's body. They sat at a small slope at the edge of the outer forest, past the farming fields, when the bell rang.

De Faumont was on his feet before she had looked down towards the village. They could see the movement at the square, the men and women gathered around the Mayor, a man and a little boy. Not having to hide himself anymore, De Faumont cracked his voice to summon a crow. They spoke briefly and the bird flew away, disappearing in the night. When he looked back, Aimee was standing at his side with her skirt tied up to her knee’s high and her jaw set in determination. Without a word, they ran.

Mid-way to the town they heard petit Maurice’s mother’s howl. The bird came back and crowed something to De Faumont, who gave it further orders. He took Aimee’s hand and sped up.

Kutril and Kreptus went straight to the back of the Mayor's house. As to Kutril's description of the village, he was certain that De Faumont would be there if he hadn't already headed back to the castle or gone somewhere else. He dreaded the last possibility. 

Kratan hid behind a large tree, just as Kreptus and Kutril passed by him. He noticed the intense look on their faces, their concentrating frown, and got curious. He put aside his food, below a rock close to the clearing for easy reference. He strained his ears to hear them conferencing.

"This is weird, uncle."

"Psst," he whispered. "I'm trying to hear what they're saying." 

"Can you hear them from this distance?" Kutril whispered back, his eyebrows shooting up. 

Kreptus dropped his ears and faced Kutril. "You haven't learned how to use your ears?" 

"Err, what do you mean?"

Kreptus's knuckles met Kutril's skull once again. He grabbed the younger troll's flattened ears, opened them wide, leaned closed and shushed loud. 

"Ouh! Ui" 

"I said shush, you idiot," he whispered fervently at regular distance. 

"Loud..." moaned Kutril, massaging the left side of his head. 

Kreptus motioned him to quiet again, and they both turned to the square, broad ears spread out in that direction.

Before they could grasp any information, Kratan slipped silently behind them, and with two swift movements of his club, knocked them out. 

<< Back to episode 13                   Go to episode 15 >>

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Uh, oh! Randomities Won a Bunch of Awards!

And I'm a slack, I know. All these came a long time ago; I mean, there's a summer blog award I haven't given away yet. C'mon!

Anyway, here where I stand the spring is starting to come out to smile at us, so I figured it was a good moment to send out flowers, warmth and writer-y thoughts. Of course, I'm putting aside all the blog rules, 'cause I'd like to go straight to the good part: spreading the love!

My dear twitter friend Monica Marier sent me the From Me to You Blog Award back in August, 2010 (uh) when the - as she describes it - Fail-tacular Odyssey of Thoki and Lor was only beginning. I'd sure check the story out if I were you. Be ready for a stomachace though, you won't be able to stop laughing!

Thanks, Mon!

I'm sending some nice early spring flowers to:

--Estrella Azul, at Life's a Stage: For her amazingly supportive friendship and all the awesome stuff she does. (see below)

--Anne Tyler Lord, at Don't Fence Me In: Because that's the only blog award that I don't see on her awards page yet! Plus, she's a dear friend who deserves the flowers.

--Vandamir, at Creating Shadows: She's an awesome writer who suffers from severe migraine and is having a hard time with her treatment. Here are my wishes for it to work out, and soon! Click here to check out the fantastic stories she has posted so far.

My friend Estrella Azul sent an award in my direction that I've always wanted here at Randomities: the Prolific Blog Award. The funny thing is that right after being awarded with it, Randomities went into a long hiatus that almost killed it again. I purposely waited to spread the prolific love because it'd make no sense to do so before things warmed up here again. ;P

Don't miss Estrella's home made stuff, her stories and some amazing writing advice she posted not long ago.

Thanks, Estrella!

I'm sending inspiring thoughts to these wonderful writers:

--John Wiswell, at The Bathroom Monologues: Man, talk about prolific! John has a monologue out almost every day, he's frequently getting short stories and flash fiction published and he's writing a novel. His stories are witty, funny and tought-provoking, and his comments on the blogs he visits often offer valuable feedback. Right Mr. Ogre? :)

--Marc Nash, at Sulci Collective: I've always admired Marc's writing, even though his style/genre is as antagonic of mine as it can be. Here's my appreciation of his litteracy and deeply engaging conversation.

--Cathy Webster, at Life on the Muskoka River: She just came out from her own writing hiatus, and her new stories are amazing! May you be even more prolific from now on, Cathy!

Yes, yes, I know seasonal blog awards are supposed to be delivered at their due season. (duh) But I have never been good with rules when it comes to blog awards, so I'm sending a wind of warmth to those who are still trapped in winter, and they can choose to follow the rules if they like, spreading summer love next summer.

Two lovely ladies sent out the Summer Blog Award my way, Anne Tyler Lord and Laura Eno. Anne is known for her wild, wild parties and for the thoughtful writing advice she gives through her @Writers_Life and Coffee Klatch. Laura is an outstanding writer whose awards actually hatch. If you didn't get curious about this incredibly creative and offten funny writer, I drop my case. Go visit them both! :)

Thanks Anne and Laura!

I'm sending summer warmth to some of the old and new friends I want to keep close by:

--Icy Sedgwick, at Icy's Blunt Pencil: I'll just quote Adam Byatt here: "A writer who balances darkness with wit and comic timing. And she's ace." Get the drill?

--Adam Byatt, at A Fullness in Brevity: It's the man himself. We have been bumping in each other on twitter for a while now, and he'd visit Randomities from time to time. I was (too) slow to realize what an incredible writer he is! His stories have a pace and quality that grab your heart from the beginning and won't let go even after the end. It's real life portrait in a sensitive, humorous and smart way.

--Rachel Blackbirdsong, at Ravenwood: Her stories as often as lyrical as her poems. They're also deep, funny and dark, and her comments are always thoughtful. I hope she won't mind the contrast this award will make with her dusky-looking blog. :P

--Catherine Russel, at Ganymeder: Cathy is one of the people who have been present and cheering for me even in my blog-y absence. She's been writing a most interesting series about a flesh-eating dwarf / human wedding. That king is up to no good, I say...

--Jodi Cleghorn, at In Black and White: As a super congratulations for the success of her latest anthology, Nothing But Flowers, Tales of Post-Apocaliptic Love! She's best known for her Chinese Whisperings and The Ying and Yang Book, which I suggest you also check out if you haven't heard of yet. These books feature several people I visit frequently (see sidebar) and other outstanding writers. Clicky, clicky! ;)

--Laurita Miller, at Brain Droppings: A last minute addition to warm-up a fantastic writer who'll be buried in snow for two more months. (uh) And she's shaving her head for the cancer cause. Why don't you drop by, read her awesome stuff, and make a donation? ;)

Now, to the awardees, if you're fond of rules, you can find them on the generous people's blogs who granted each award to Randomities. If not, enjoy the freedom of no rule awarding! ;D

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Train Day - #FridayFlash

Picture credits
I suggest you check out the artist's page;
there are some nice drawings in there!

This story is based on real facts, and it was inspired by Icy Sedgwick's story that is also set in a train.


Jonathan woke up at six thirty in the morning. He had a good reason for making such effort. Jonathan liked to sleep, to wake up with no timer set, to get off the bed only when his body demanded him to. But today was an important day.

He gets up, washes his teeth, lets the dogs out, washes the dishes... Damn, there's no time. Leaves the dishes as they are, changes, lets the dogs in, I'm forgetting something. Ah, yes, eat. I have to eat or I'll be lightheaded when I arrive and that'll be no good. Is there time? Checks the hour. Confused by sleepiness, shares an apple with the dogs, put shoes on, gets book, binder. Opens door to leave. Money! How can I leave hungry without any money? Stupid.

The train arrived punctually at the station and Jonathan got on, controlling the butterflies in his stomach. There were only two more to go, if you don't count the subway between the first stop and the next one. He managed to get a good place to sit and watched the naked trees and uncared-for buildings pass by, while listening to a blond curly hair and a squared chin with blue eyes chat to pass the time. He was interested in her and she didn't reciprocate. The train was packed up with people. Jonathan was surprised how it felt like a upper subway instead of a train line. The hair made some general mention to it too.

The train slowed down at several stations. Ok, that's expected, he thought. Blond hair was annoyed at the delay. The train usually missed the time by five minutes and they were already ten minutes past the schedule. Stop. Tick, tick, tick. The chin and the gesturing blond hand look at their watches. Twelve minutes late. Stop. Slow moving. Stop. The train drags itself through the line as if it too were feeling the crowd inside its rumbling belly.

They arrived with almost twenty minutes of delay. Jonathan squeezed himself off the train, apologizing his way out, and ran. Slowing down but not stopping, he asked for directions to the subway, bumped on a tall guy and ran. Ops! Sorry! Excuse me! Two tickets please? Thanks! He twisted his body sideways to avoid contact with shoulders, purses, skirts; skipping a pace to prevent toe injuries, he passed the ratchet, asked the round face with gentle eyes for direction and sprinted down the stairs. Checking with a black suit that he was at the right side of the platform, he paced until the train arrived. Now, there's the crowded subway. Stop. One more station. What a cute guy... Stop. There!

Upstairs he goes, puffing with the effort. The subway vomited him right at the train station entry. I have eight minutes, I'm going to make it! More stairs, rolling stairs, female voice informing that his train is about to depart at the tenth platform. He arrives right in front of it and the train is still there!

He trots to his cart, just in case, excusing himself with comfy caramel boots at the door, and finds his place. He wants to throw himself on the seat, but there's a distinctive looking man who he'll observe later to think him a writer. It's nine fifteen when the train departs. Ten minutes late. I hope It'll catch up on the way, or I'll be sweating in plain winter when I arrive. If I arrive.

Yellow sweater complains that he's sat right in front of him. Johnathan smiles awkwardly and apologizes for no reason. Facebook guy (boy?) arrives with scowling girl. High pitched voice arrives soon after and mentions that Jonathan had her place. He offers to change, but voice says it's no matter. Voice makes several phone calls, disturbing the yellow writer. Johnathan's throat is sour from the cold air, so he orders a coffee when the opportunity arises, and opens his book. Plain girl arrives and yellow writer has to move to his designated seat. He puts his writing aside. Butterflies settle down as the reading snatches his attention.

There's snow outside. Strange, he thinks, and keeps reading. An hour later the conductor comes to check the tickets. He scratches his head and murmurs something to his female colleague. The train is going to the opposite way, he says apologetically. Jonathan's face looses all its blood. He had taken the wrong train! Idiot. He arrives at the wrong station after half an hour, where he manages to get on the next train back without paying an extra ticket.

He calls, but there's not time to arrive at his destination. He gets some chips to calm his empty stomach, and a bottle of water. As he opens his book, he sighs. Ah, well... Back to being a housewife, househusband, whatever.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Book Review - Hungry For You, by A. M. Harte

 From the cover of Hungry For You, by A. M. Harte, we can see that this book is set for zombie lovers. Each of the ten stories and the opening and closing poems are related, directly or indirectly, to "zombiness". 

We are not talking only about stories featuring the traditional zombie apocalypse though. There are creative post-apocalypse settings ("Hungry For You"), surreal ones ("Seven Birds") and others very simple and familiar ("Dead Man's Rose"). 

These are no ordinary zombies either. In some stories they have feelings, they talk and fear and love as their limbs fall apart. There are zombie humans and former humans, dogs, roses and swans. The cause of their disease - no curses in this anthology - is as varied as it can be: from ordinary bites to tea bags. 

The story that gives name to the book is my favorite. It's set in a post-zombie apocalypse where the remaining zombies feed not of flash or brains, but of human sins. Their feeding method is quite surprising, and it's the same for zombie humans and animals. Although I'd warn the purists for some strong wording and sex references (which fit perfectly the context), this story created a world worth exploring further; I'm curious to see more of it. 

I had fun seeing very creative explorations of the zombie theme, but I was a little disappointed at a few editing issues I found. The first story starts with an apparent typo and an impossible to ignore grammatical error. There are some plot issues I'd like to see fixed at "Dead Man's Rose" and "The Cure", and sometimes the pace suffers from over description of the character's actions, as in "Dead Man's Rose" and "The Perfect Song". 

Despite these problems, the book is a very pleasant and even surprising reading. The opening poem, by Gabriel Gadfly, and the final one, by the author, are another highlight of the book. Overall, it's a recommend. 


A. M. Harte is a speculative fiction enthusiast and a chocolate addict. She's a writer, editor, practical joker, and the author behind the online dark fantasy publishing project Qazyfiction. She is excellent at missing deadlines, has long forgotten what "free time" means, and enjoys procrastinating over at She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Sweetest Trolls #13: Two Little Devils -- #FridayFlash

This is the 13th installment of the Troll Serial. To read from the beginning, or to find past and future installments, click here.


De Faumont’s brows knitted together and he held his chin with his hand, pensively. It was strange that his horse had been taken away and he hadn’t felt any sign of distress. He called for him in his mind and received a mixed sense of annoyance and enjoyment. De Faumont leaned back in his chair and decided that he had the perfect excuse to prolong his stay, but how could he make it less taut? He looked up to meet three reddened faces and two tearful eyes. “I’m afraid I’ll have to burden you with my presence until he is found, then. I hope you won’t mind.”

The lightness of his voice produced different reactions in each member of the family. The Mayor stood up, knocking down the chair on the way, and said while bowing repeatedly, “We are most honored, your Highnes, most honored!” at the same time that his wife cleaned her tears with her handkerchief and mumbled praises to Holy Mary, and Aimee sighed in relief. De Faumont had a bit of a hard time to hide his amusement.

“May I suggest some music then?” said De Faumont as silence fell to the table.

“Oh, it’s true!” cried Madam Daussy. “We haven’t celebrated my baby’s coming home!”

Aimee glared at her mother and her father said, scratching his head, “But the men are out there, searching for the horse…”

Madam Daussy was opening her mouth to speak when De Faumont turned to Aimee, “If Mademoiselle Daussy isn’t too tired, maybe she could sing for us?” She blushed and nodded in acceptance. 

The nights were warmer that time of year, but there was a chilling wind blowing in the forest to the direction of the village, so they gathered together by the fire. De Faumont and the Mayor sat comfortably while Aimee sang the few pieces they had been told were performed at the capital. Her mother accompanied her proudly at her old piano. What a fine lady her baby had become! De Faumont asked Aimee to play something herself, but she had to decline. Her singing was poor enough, she said, and she wouldn’t want to harm his Highness hearing any longer. He didn’t want to put her in a difficult position so he suggested that they all went to bed early. It had been an eventful day.

No one slept well that night. The house was warm enough, but there was a strange chill in the air. De Faumont recognized evil being released in the world. He sent a bird to check on his horse and another to patrol the area. After their coming back reporting that all was well he fell into a troubled sleep. The Mayor and his wife worried about the horse for most of the night, and when they finally fell asleep they dreamed of horse’s whining, shining armors and bloodied teeth.

Aimee didn’t sleep at all. She couldn’t put together De Faumont’s calmness earlier. Had he known beforehand what would happen? Had he forged his own horse’s disappearance? Why would he do that? What kind of man was he? The image of his sad eyes when speaking with her father filled her mind. What could have caused such grief? She turned in bed toward the window, from where she could see the first pale light of a gray and misty dawn. She decided to rest her eyes for a moment and woke up a few minutes later sweating, with the image of Kratan’s large teeth filling her mind. She stayed there, panting, reviewing her dream. She was circling the fire, curious to know her savior, but he begged her not to approach, he begged her to come, he lured her with a deep growling voice, there was a laugh at the back of his throat when she arrived, and his eyes…

She got up abruptly and washed herself, shaking the dream off. Kratan was a good troll, she thought, the prince himself had set him free. She arrived at the breakfast table full of doubts and fears to find grim faces all over the house, and sat quietly while Monsieur Depré whispered in her father’s ears that the horse wasn’t to be found anywhere in the village or its vicinities.

De Faumont was climbing down the stairs when Monsieur Velin broke into the house shouting, “We found it! Can you believe Monsieur Le Maire? The horse was at the stable the whole night. Those wicked Millet boys had taken it for a ride to play prince charming. They’ve confessed it all! We'd give them a good spank, but we've spared them because they’ve spent the night brushing caring for the beast. The poor things were curled up at the horse's bail when we found them.”

“Didn’t her mother miss them?”

“The little devils came home for supper and slipped off through the window by bed time. No one new they were gone until morning. Their mother was almost giving birth of Belzebu itself,  of worry when she found they were gone," he crossed himself repeatedly, "God forgive me.”

From the stairs, De Faumont said, “How nice it is to start the day with good news.” He smiled and several chins fell.

Monsieur Le Prince!” cried Velin, and fell to his knees. “Please forgive our children, they meant no harm, I swear!”

“No harm done, good man. It was only an innocent prank that provided me a most entertaining evening.”

After much thanks and hand kissing, Dépré and Velin left, talking loudly how merciful the prince was and what a wonderful king he’d become.

They sat at the table with lifted spirits, nightmares and preoccupations pushed aside. The breakfast went on smoothly, after which the prince announced his leaving once again.

“Please stay another day, your Highness,” pleaded Aimee, unconsciously brushing her hands against De Faumont's when he sat to eat. “You must try my mother’s meat pie. It’s famous all over High France!”

Locking his gaze on hers, he made a decision, “Well, I suppose one more night wouldn’t hurt. For the pie, I’ll stay.” Under the table, he clenched and unclenched his hand. His hosts blushed both in delight and nervousness. Aimee smiled broadly, her eyes shining.

By nightfall, there was still much commotion at the Mayor's kitchen. Later that night Kratan observed two children playing at the border of the forest. 


<< Back to episode 12                   Go to episode 14 >>

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Sweetest Trolls #12: The Knight Revealed -- #FridayFlash

This is the 12th installment of the Troll Serial. To read from the beginning, or to find past and future installments, click here.

In case you're feeling a little lost, this episode follows the events of the 8th installment: Back Home


And there goes my disguise... The knight sighed.

He motioned the peasants to rise and asked in a condescending tone, “Let’s not make the good father wait, shall we?”

The whole town rose as one body. Old and young, men and women, they all stood there in a sort of torpor. The children remained still, open mouthed; some men blinked as if waking from a deep sleep; the women hadn’t had the heart to gossip yet.

De Faumont was ten paces ahead when the crowd began to follow. The befouled Mayor and his family hurried to follow the prince, keeping a few paces of distance. The baby goat let out loud whine that went unnoticed to all but its master. They walked in silence. When they spotted the church bell at the curve of the road, Madam Daussy nudged her husband, who gathered his wits and trotted to reach De Faumont.

“Your Highness…” he said, gasping. De Faumont halted and looked back. The Mayor bowed, cleared this throat, bowed again, and blathered, “P-please forgive me, your Highness.” Not daring look at De Faumont’s eyes, he waited. Since De Faumont kept silent, the Mayor bowed again and continued, “Wouldn’t you agree, My Lord… I mean, your Highness!” He whizzed, grabbing his coat as if trying to grab his very heart. “Wouldn’t-you-agree-that-your-Highness-shouldhaveaproper-entry?” He took a quick breath. “I mean… perhaps… maybe… your-Highness-shouldbeannounced-before-enteringthechurch?”

As they walked, Aimee hid herself behind her lace-trimmed fan and peered at De Faumont’s back from time to time. She noticed the military line of his shoulders, his high chin and a certain air about him that hadn’t been there before. She almost stumbled on her own feet when they stopped, looking up unconsciously when De Faumont turned to the Mayor. She had never seen such profound sadness in her life. She couldn’t avert her eyes, no matter how rude it was to stare at a member of the royal family, or even a noble man.

De Faumont waited until the poor man finished babbling, worried about the deep crimson painted in his face. Feeling someone’s gaze upon him, he searched the crowd, locking eyes with Aimee, who looked down hurriedly and hid behind her fan.

“Of course,” he replied, looking back at the Mayor. “If you wish to warn the priest, I shall wait at the entry.” The Mayor bowed repeatedly, unable to produce any other words, and rushed to the church, turning and bowing from time to time. “Would you ladies care to keep me company as I wait for the arrangements?” he said to Madam Daussy and her daughter.

They both looked up wide eyed and curtsied, each accepting one offered arm with trembling hands. Aimee tried to perform the princess walk her mother had made her practice a thousand times, feeling utterly ridiculous in doing so. De Faumont glanced sideways at her and her mother glanced at him, blushing deeply of pride and glee.

They waited in silence as the church filled with gossiping villagers, until the Royal Highness, Count Jean-Louis Robert Guffroy Desbutteaux, Son of our Majesty the King Guillaume Robert Daragon Desbutteaux, Heir to the Royal Throne, Chief Commander of the Royal Army, Savior of the High Lands of France, Hunter of Trolls, Hero of the Nation, was announced. The mass was celebrated by a pale and fragile old priest to a fidgeting audience.

The bowing crowd started to disperse and De Faumont was rising from his place to leave, when all of the sudden Old Millet let out an anguished cry. Holding his lined cheek with one hand, he pointed a finger to De Faumont and wailed, stepping on foots and skirts as he stumbled back, “The eyes… those eyes…” With an impressive agility, he ran, pushing people aside and shouting, “The eyes! The eyes!”

People stared at each other, not understanding Old Millet’s fit, and proceeded to exit the church. Maurice the Father arrived panting at the door and whispered something into the Mayor’s ears. The whole village watched their faces as they became as red as enchanted apples.

The Mayor growled orders to some nearby men and went back. He turned to De Faumont and said showing his teeth, “We’re all tired. Maybe your Highness would like to retire for the day?”

His wife shot him a puzzled look, to which he shook his head slowly. They went back to the village, where Madam Daussy insisted that the prince should have her room, which De Faumont gently refused. He woke up in the middle of the afternoon to find the tea table set, where he made great efforts to maintain an amicable conversation, achieving his goal only partially. Aimee watched him while trying to behave naturally, her parents tried to hide their distress.

At the end of the meal  he announced that he would have to leave that night. The the village was safe and he had other matters to attend to. Madam Daussy and her husband insisted that he remained for the night, which he courteously declined, asking them to have his horse set. The Mayor and his wife looked wide eyed at each other.

“Is there a problem?” asked the prince. They looked at De Faumont and at each other again. “Did something happen to my horse?”

Madam Daussy nudged her husband, but this time to no avail. He was shock stricken with shame and worry. She bowed awkwardly while still sat and replied apologetically, fussing with  her skirt, "We lo-- Ahem, we seem to have misplaced your horse, your Highness. But all and each man of the village, except-for-my-husband-here, is looking for it!" She bowed again, almost hitting the table with her forehead.


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