Thursday, August 8, 2013

Ch. 9: The Young Duke Monstroke

Ch. 9

The Young Duke Monstroke

There are so many stories to be told of these happy and sometimes not so happy characters that I struggle to keep on a straight course.  I am going to diverge for a moment, or possibly more, if my mind wanders, and introduce to you one of my least favorite fellows in these tales.  His name is Monstroke. Why do I not like young Duke Monstroke, you ask?  Well, mostly because he is selfish and really never thinks of anyone but himself.  It is so very hard to like a selfish person. He is what the fantasy world calls an "evil villain" and the psychology world calls a "narcissist."  In short, he thinks the universe revolves around him and is impossibly blind to the hurts or cares of anyone around him--including, and most especially, animals.  His selfishness drives him to cruelty without hesitation.  He only thinks of his own self-preservation.  In his mind everyone is against him.  I am sorry to say there might only be one little faint speck of good in him, and even that is dim and doubtful.

How was that for an introduction to my newest character?  Not so promising, is it?  But I am afraid that without Monstroke our story would be a bit less exciting, for he is part of the reason we have a story at all.  With Monstroke, I must start a few years back.  At present he is 16 years of age.  In this fine land it is customary for a boy to be sent off on his 16th birthday on a Quest for one whole year and when he returned he would be considered a man.  So Monstroke is currently in this Year of Quest.  But four years ago he was merely 12, and at 12 he was still a boy.  This is where I must begin.

Monstroke was a lad who showed promise.  He came from a wealthy family of royal blood.  He was handsome at 12 and growing handsomer each year.  He was athletic and sharp and could be somewhat witty and charming for a boy of that age.  He was the middle brother of five boys, which unfortunately haunted him daily.  He felt he was always unjustly left out or included and it never seemed to be the one he wanted at the time or for the reason he wanted it.  His two older brothers were given big important tasks like carrying letters for their father to the King in the Royal City, but he was not old enough yet to join them.  They went to buy wild horses at auction and then were allowed to break them all by themselves, but Monstroke, at 12, wasn’t even allowed to go near them. 

Yet, when it came to things like skipping lessons to romp in the forest like his younger two brothers he was suddenly too old!  Every day he was forced to eat a whole tablespoon full of Cod Liver Oil when his younger brothers only had to have a wee little teaspoon and his older brothers didn’t have to take it at all if they didn’t want to (but usually they did).  At Christmas his older brothers got beautiful new leather sheaths in their stockings.  His younger brothers got sweet peppermint candies and a felted kick ball.  What did Monstroke get?  A silver drinking cup!  Who cares if it once belonged to his dead grandfather Monstroke (not to mention worth quite a bit of money).  Blah, blah!  How dull and disappointing.

Over and over Monstroke felt left out and forgotten.  To give him credit, his feelings weren’t entirely unfounded.  The only time his father ever paid attention to him was to bash him about or to criticize his every flaw.  He never had a kind word or gentle touch for Monstroke--nor any of his boys, for that matter.  In Monstroke’s case this caused a great erosion in his heart.  He became bitter, and bitterness chips away at the heart very slowly but steadily 'til one day, without intervention, there is simply no heart at all.  Monstroke began to think higher of himself than anyone else and by his 13th birthday he was sure he was ready to go on his Quest a few years early.

Monstroke went to his mother; he was too sheepish to approach his father about this subject. 

“Mother, my 13th birthday is coming up.  Don’t you think I have grown very much this year?” he asked.

“You have, my boy.  You are at least 2 inches taller these last 6 months alone,” she answered. She happened to be lengthening his breeches at that moment.

“I thought so, too.  I am definitely ready to do new things this year. Don’t you think?” he continued to probe.

“Certainly my dear.  You have new lessons to learn.” Monstroke winced upon hearing this but pushed on. 

“Don’t you think, though, that some adventure is in store for me this year?”

“I think adventure is just the thing a boy your age needs.” His mother, who was truly kind, despite being married to a difficult man, smiled teasingly.

This was all Monstroke needed.  He felt his mother’s answer was just the permission he was looking for to start off on his Quest.  That is exactly what he did.  The next day he gathered all the things he could think he might need, including his silver cup, packed them on one of the family donkeys and headed out on what he thought would be a great adventure.

It would be helpful here for me to mention that it is customary for the Quester of wealthy families to be sent off with a big celebration put on for him by his family.  All of his friends and relatives would come for the sendoff and bring gifts that would help him on this journey.  Sometimes they would give money or jewels, other times it would be a dagger, a compass, or a fine felt hat.  The father of the Quester was to provide a fine horse and the mother would usually spend a year making a special woolen cape embroidered with detailed embellishments.  But Monstroke was so eager to do his own thing he decided to provide his own supplies.  Unfortunately, he didn’t really know what he would need, so he began his Quest sorely unprepared both physically and mentally.  For along with gifts the men at the celebration will also bring stories of their own Quests as well as advice and wisdom passed down from generations of Questers, all of which would have been helpful to Monstroke.  But he was young and proud and did not see a need for any of that.

I will not go into great detail about Montstroke’s first attempt at his Quest.  I will say this; he was only gone three days before his older brothers finally found him beaten and bruised and robbed clean of all his possessions including his donkey and silver cup.  He had stolen some laundry off a line at a nearby cottage to cover himself because even his clothes, which were clearly the clothes of a rich man’s son, had been stolen.  The only problem was the only clothes he had found were women’s breeches.  He had been hiding in a tree along the road, waiting for a cart or something to pass by, hoping he could sneak a ride back in the direction he had come, when along came his brothers.  He was truly excited to see them and, without thinking, jumped from his perch and flagged them down, forgetting his delicate attire.  The older brothers found Monstroke’s predicament utterly amusing and fattened the story to make it even more delicious to tell.  It was such a well-loved story that it outlived Monstroke himself.  It became one of those stories to tell young boys about the perils of trying to be a man before you are one.

In fact, he became somewhat of a legend in his own right, for unfortunately Monstroke added a great many stories to this genre before he became a man.  And some will argue that he never actually did become a man despite his growing older.   A great many males truncate their psychological development by choosing to engage in activities of a mature nature before their mind is ready to process them.  Even more sadly, some are forced to participate in these activities, which leads to more of a paralyzed development.  Either way it is never good, and very hard to reverse the damage. 

Before Monstroke had reached his 16th birthday he had attempted going on his Quest without sanction three times.  By the time his real Quest came around Monstroke had seen things of such debauchery, scandal, pain, suffering, pride, and malice that his mind was disfigured to the point of numbness.  In fact, on the day of his 16th birthday when all of his friends and relations gathered for his great send-off, the Duke Monstroke did not care to go on his Quest.  Can you imagine!  For him it was a matter of, "been there, done that," even though he hadn’t really.  He was bored with the idea and altogether lazy in general.  What could a quest possibly do for him? 

There is much to tell on his account so you can be sure to hear more of this dark fellow.  For now I will end my introduction of the young Duke Monstroke and leave you with these words from the Witch Hazel: “The tempering of a good blade will not be shortened.”

One... Now my story is done.
Two...I love you!
Three...Please kiss me.

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