If there are two things I love (and there are; actually, there are far more than two, but in the interests of keeping this blog post to a reasonable length, we’ll force a narrow focus), those two things are:
1) A mystery. Preferably, a murder mystery. I had my fun with the likes of Encyclopedia Brown, as a kid, but they were a bit of a letdown in that nobody ever died. I preferred the cases presented to Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. The goofy little stories based off of the “Clue” board game were a merry time, too. Make mine a murder. Cast suspicion on the butler. Knives, poison, shots in the dark! So long as it’s fiction, bring on the sinister death!
2) A Renaissance Faire. Specifically, the Bristol Renaissance Faire (although I’d not cry boo to hanging out with the Merry Men in my “Ballad” world’s Avalon Faire). The costumes, the accents, the sense of magic you’ll have a rough time finding anywhere besides there and Disney World… it’s unbeatable! Getting a role in Bristol’s cast this past summer was one of the best things I ever did!
Y’know a third thing I love? Combining things I love. So guess what this writer’s done? That’s right: Authored a serial “story dealing with a crime and its solution; a detective story” starring my character at Bristol, Emeraude a’Right! Enjoy Part 1 below. (:
“THERE HE IS!”
The people milling about the crossroads turned to locate the source of the shout. At the meeting of streets stood a dark lass in a be-flowered bonnet, a black braid tossed over the shoulder which bore an official-looking sash. She stood on her toes, green eyes wide, finger pointing frantically down the road.
“Here he comes!” she called. “Here’s Dan the Bard, on his way to perform on the Three Sheets Stage!” Her finger followed the man with the lute as he continued toward the Sheets, her other arm gesturing at passersby. “Dan the Bard to perform in a few minutes’ time! Marvelous music! Songs and storytelling! You’ll laugh! You’ll cry! Better yet, you just stick to laughin’,” she said, with a wink at a boy who’d met her gaze. “Leave the Town Cryin’ to me.”
A few people chuckled, but most continued on their way in directions other than that which led to the little stage tucked between tavern and tall ship. Emeraude a’Right didn’t mind. It wasn’t her job to make people’s minds up for them – although if it were, she often thought, it could only improve the overall quality of decision-making.
“This way, good people!” Harold Angel’s voice resounded from nearer the stage. Emeraude would have had difficulty spotting the young man at this distance, were it not for two things: The first being that Harold wore a yellow shirt competing with the sun for brightness, and the second being that he was waving the sleeves of that sunny shirt while standing on one foot atop a five-foot post. Her fellow-Crying cousin knew how to gain attention, Emeraude had to give him that.
Speaking of fellow-Crying cousins… Emeraude looked around, hand on hip and mouth twisted in dissatisfaction. “Now, where’s Dorcas got off to?”
It sometimes seemed to Emeraude that she worked two jobs – hawking entertainment as a Town Crier, and trying to keep her family in line. Dorcas had been standing right across the road, hadn’t she?
“You lost, Emmas?” Harold teased, down from the post now that the promised bard had begun to the play.
“Nay,” said she, “but Dorcas might be. Or else she’s gone the way of Hannah.”
Harold’s face contorted behind his negligible beard. “If that’s the case, we’ll never see her again. …Or see her the first time, for that matter.”
Hannah’s disappearances: A family joke that was less funny than true. Though as much a Town Crier as any who bore a bell and the Bristol-crested sash, she was only rarely to be found at the scheduled hawks, and even less frequently seen in between.
“They’re both bound to appear by half past the hour of noon, at least,” said Emeraude. “Surely they wouldn’t miss the arrival of the Queen!” She grew breathless at the very mention of the title. “‘Tis not as if Her Majesty visits our fair city every day!”
“(Only twice every weekend through Labor Day,)” Harold muttered.
“What was that?”
“I said, ‘oh, look’,” said Harold, nodding toward the bridge stretched over Lake Elizabeth. “Here she comes now.”
Emeraude nearly tripped over her skirts. “The Queen?!”
“Nay. Hoi, Dorky! Whither have you been?”
Dorcas Oddpick wandered over to her cousins in her usual dreamy daze. She smiled beneath her wide straw hat, bedecked in yarn blossoms hand knitted by her own self. What she may have lacked in speed of wit, she made a start of making up for in handicrafts, and in Town Crying experience. By some strange fortune, Dorcas had been in the city’s employ longer than all of them, and so claimed veteran rights. By some trick of genetics, Harold had been the only one of them born male, and so claimed gender rights. Emeraude claimed no rights except the one in her last name, but she had the biggest bell and brightest smile, and that had to count for something.
“I found your nose,” Dorcas told Emeraude, poking it.
“We asked not where my nose is, sweetie,” said the longsuffering Emeraude. “We asked where you’ve been.”
“I was saying ‘good morrow’ to Ralph on the bridge,” Dorcas announced. “And to Ralph, and to Ralph, and to Ralph.”
Harold’s blue eyes rolled. “Once again, Dorcas, all the turtles in the lake cannot be named Ralph.”
“They’re not.” Dorcas looked affronted. “The big one’s name is Bubba.”
In an effort to head off yet another Harold/Dorcas bicker match before it could get its footing, Emeraude asked with exaggerated interest, “And did the Ralphs say ‘good morrow’ back?”
“Nay,” said Dorcas. “I think they were too frightened of Jasper Trustworthy.”
“Oh, was the old trickster lurking on the bridge?”
“Nay. He was in the lake.”
Emeraude and Harold exchanged baffled looks. He asked for the both of them, “What was he doing in the lake?”
Dorcas closed her eyes and rested her head against Emeraude’s shoulder. “Sleeping.”
With another look exchanged, Emeraude and Harold turned to walk briskly to the bridge, Emeraude dragging Dorcas behind like a drowsy lamb. The three reached the bridge’s center and looked below. Sure enough, among the murk and the lily pads, there floated the unmistakable, dingy black overcoat and tattered top hat of Jasper Trustworthy; and yea, his body was still in them.
“That’s not just sleeping, he’s doing,” Harold spoke quietly to Emeraude. “That’s sleeping with the fishes.”
Emeraude nodded gravely. “And with the Ralphs.”
Who hath done it and wherefore? Read on next time, when we begin to amass suspects among the Street Cast of Bristol!