A retraction

Now I implore all that viewed this little project, if there is anything that you enjoyed, then thank you to the muses who bring wit and goodness. If there is anything that you didn’t like, please blame my lack of wit, not my will. I would have liked to do better if I had the talent. It’s written somewhere that all that is written is for our teaching; that is my intent. I hope that you think kindly of me, have mercy, and forgive my mistakes—especially my poor compositions and vanity: my fanfics, doodles, videos, and recordings, and any of my other little stories, if I could remember them. But I hope that the good stories, the ones that provide you goodness and delight, I hope they will immortalize me in the halls of literature.

Please enjoy.

~Geoff Chaucer

St. Cecelia, by Sister Liz Pearson

St. Cecelia

She was dressed in a heavy linin shift overlaid with white lace, but underneath her skin was rendered raw by her holy dress of hair. When her new husband undressed her he peeled back layer upon layer until he exposed her scabs and shining patches of rubbed flesh speckled with drops of blood.

            “An angel loves me,” she said, and sent him into the centre of the city to be baptised by a hermit hidden in the crowd. When he returned the angel placed on his head a crown of lavender and rosemary. He asked her if they might save his brother, too, and she sent him as well into the city. When he returned there were flowers waiting for his crown.

            The brothers walked the labyrinth of alleyways while the sun was hidden, burying the martyrs. They collected the bodies, bathing and burying them in unmarked graves lined in thoughtful rows. Cecelia spent the time alone, surrounded by angels and expectation.

            On the day the brothers were arrested and killed, Cecelia waited in the doorway to be collected by the emperor’s men. The emperor threw slander and mockery at her, but she caught everything in a net woven by rhetoric. Eventually, the emperor grew bored and sentenced her to be boiled to death.

            She boiled until the fire sank into coals. The guards’ heads pounded with madness made by her joyful singing. They tried to cut off her head. After three chops they fled from the sound of her preaching and gurgling. For three days she spoke out to the city, while growing masses of followers collected the blood that flowed over the rim of her bath. When they finally buried her she was warm. When they peeked beneath the lid of her tomb years later she was as lovely as a rose. The devoted angel curled at her side.

Mike Priest's Rootin' Tootin' Tale

Mike Priest’s festive emotional breakdown saw him hunkered in his box room with a pop filter, egg cartons and a rhyming dictionary. Seven days later, Mike emerged, saved by a beast fable and buoyed by the wits of a champion rooster-sheriff named Chanticleer. This is the very first airing of his radio play ‘Gunfight at the O.K. Cockerel’ destined for prime time billing on Grassington Longwave - North Yorkshire's second favourite local radio station.

‘The Prudence Hour’ Podcast

Their home was broken into and their daughter assaulted, and now, Mr and Mrs Melibee have chosen to forgive. Following the Melibee’s exclusive live interview, Domonic Solomon takes your calls on the story that’s been dividing opinion. 

 

The Prudence Hour is kindly sponsored by; Pitweiler Security, Mug Gamble & Prosper, Larry Wallop: Personal Injury Barrister, Clementine Nunn: Mediation & Conflict Resolution, Vince Lions Five Claw Keng Fu & Crusty Ale Breweries.


Missy Tyne, Praise the LORD in Houston Town

And now, the smooth sounds of Missy Eglantine Prior.

Houston Town (Billy Boy’s Ballad)

 

Daddy died in Houston town, 

Mamma pushed, put to the text. 

Billy boy so meek and mild, 

Mother Mary he loved best.

 

Singing Hallelujah, 

Sing through the Brokeback part of town.

Billy sang for degenerates, 

Those men tried to put him down.

 

Those men like boys not Jesus,

How it tears my soul apart.

Billy was the sweetest child, 

Those men blackened in the heart.

Men love men not Jesus, 

They make their moves real slow,

Watching Billy from the door, 

Planning how to take the floor.

 

Billy praising every day,

Four men take him from behind.

Come with us, boy, come go away, 

You can do more on your knees than pray.

 

Took turns upon that sweet little child, 

They tore him limb from limb.

Stuffed the boy in a suitcase black 

But still they heard him sing.

 

Mamma searched, cried, 

She wept all through the night.

Billy, where is that child?

I need him by my side. 

 

A suitcase by the river

Makes a song to heaven on high.

What they found was a bloody mess, 

Somehow Billy’s voice survived. 

 

Those men love men not Jesus, 

To Old Sparky one by one.

Hateful skin and bones were fried, 

Justice good and sure was done.

Billy sings forever on high, 

He sings with the angels now, Singing Hallelujah, 

 

It was a story of Houston town. 

Expectedly rude but surprisingly coherent: ‘The Shipman’s Tale’ by Denzil Gurnard.

Yachtsman, Denzil Gurnard, was told this fabliau by a slurring Biarritzian on the tail end of a brandy binge. He (Denzil) wrote it down on a beer mat in drunken shorthand and passed it on to a couple of scholarly deckhands, who then performed it on pain of shark hook! To keep Denzil harmonious, they combined the tale with his two great loves; football and dirty jokes.

Follow the secret link to the ‘The Shipman’s Tale’  

And now for something completely different...

Gael’s Introduction…

Friends *cough cough*, Pilgrims, Bloggers and Lurkers,
I’ve a tale old as a hill but fresh as toothpaste.
Lend me your figurative ears and I’ll guarantee
to chill your spinal column and scare you into Goosebumps.
Sensitive creatures amongst you, read no further!
This is a tale about the deadliest sin of them all,
a blood-sucking leech of a sin,
a sin that never sleeps,
so buckle up your nerves and repeat after me:
Radix malorum est cupiditas.
Just as I expected, your pronunciation - bloomin’ awful!
Let me enlighten you with a translation:
The root of evil is greed, words from the ‘Good Book’…
That’s the Bible you ignoramus! If you had brains
you’d be dangerous. Allow me to introduce myself,
Smifferton’s the name, relics are my game;
master of antiquities in London town:
Be careful madam, in your very hands
is King Tut’s funny bone. It is rather small, sir,
but so was Napoleon Bonaparte! 

Looking for spiritual salvation my repentant fellow?
I’ve just the thing. This handkerchief caught the sneeze
of Mother Teresa, and for a pretty penny
you can catch the holy germs of our dearly departed
-
that last little ‘cha-ching’ paid for my holiday to the Algarve!
Yes, it is true that I am a pillar of the community;
humble pawnbroker, there for you in your hour of need.
You’d be amazed at the amount of cash I can find
in a grieving widow’s attic: There, there, madam,
it’s what he would have wanted.
It’s no good you tutting at me,
sitting there, sweet and innocent; I’ll have you know
that I’m very nearly entirely legal and above board, *save
a few minor misdemeanours. Joie de vivre is what I’m about,
let the fools and horses work, that’s all right with me Jack!
Okay, you got me. I am an incorrigible Svengali. Now prove it!
*talk to the hand because the face ain’t listening

Gael’s Tale…

A scruffy pub on a run-down estate,
you know the kind; smashed windows,
blood-stained pool table and a landlord
with tattooed forearms and a sawn-off shotgun.
Outside, a trio of skunk blazing scallies sit
in the concrete excuse for a beer garden,
soaking up the sun with bare chests
and bragging about their wasted heads.
Now anyone of these droogs
would pawn his own grandmother for a hit,
and when they’re not dropping it,
they’re dealing it; cutting their dust
and pushing their pills all over the estate.
There’s Bungle, he’s the muscle,
you could make a bed with his rap sheet.
Porno; the wannabe pimp who likes
to film himself, and the youngest ‘blud’,
that’s Tealeaf - can make things disappear.
They all drink, snort, gamble and grope
down the Black Dog - a right den of thieves,
many of whom are unwittingly related -
and that, my ‘andsomes, is where our tale begins…

It’s never a clever idea to walk past
three rotten, greedy, ‘orrible toerags;
head down and texting on your gleaming
new, fresh out the box Blackberry Classic -
but that’s exactly what young Lenny Daniels did.
Oh dear. A split lip later and Bungle’s scrolling
through poor Lenny’s text messages with a smug grin
on his boat race: “Ere, Porno, check this aaat.
Sum picture of a geezer lookin’ propa brown bread.

Now standing over Bungle’s shoulder is ‘one tooth Bob’,
landlord of the Black Dog, and he recognises the stiff:
That’s ‘Mothball Micky’. Kids found him OD’d
and blue in the face dan the allotments, yesterdee.
The Grim Reaper strikes again
,” says Bob,
and carries on collecting empties.
Wots he mean, Grim Reaper? I ain’t never erd of ‘im,” says Porno:
Us ‘ad better find this goon and learn ‘im sum respect.”
Yeah,” says Bungle: “Who does he fink he is whacking people on our manor?
Yeah,” says Tealeaf, who always agrees with everything:
Let’s teach this Grim Reaper a lesson he won’t forget.”
And so our three unlovable rogues wage turf war
against the Grim Reaper, embarking on one almighty,
intoxicated binge, including several trips
to a well-known fast food outlet, branded by a scary looking clown
whose allegory will soon become pertinent to their misadventure.
Bungle, having taken the advice of Porno,
sells the stolen Blackberry to ‘Harry the handset’
for half a dozen ponies shy of a monkey,
and this is spent in earnest at Oggles pole dancing club.   
Tealeaf gambles their last twenty on a crooked dog race;
enough for a tray of Jagerbombs and a bag of blue boys,
and on returning to the Black Dog for last orders,
our merry band of scoundrels, mashed off their mangled swedes,
are finally feeling feisty enough to take on
the murderously mysterious Grim Reaper…
    

The gang decide to get tooled up;
Bungle finds a loose brick, Porno smashes
a bottle and Tealeaf slips a cue ball down a sock.
Armed to their rotten teeth, they roam the estate
like a cackle of hyenas; shouting and hollering,
laughing and pissing - textbook anti-social behaviour.  
“He’s gawn ‘n’ scarpered. Must ‘av urd we woz after ‘im,” says Bungle.
“He’s ‘ere somewhere. We’ll flush ‘im aaat like a sewer rat,” says Porno.
“Yeah,” says Tealeaf, ready to pick a fight with his own shadow.
Despite the bravado, it’s clear our braggarts’ attention
is in deficit; the odds on them hotwiring a motor instead
and donutting it around Asda carpark,
are shortening by the second. But that wouldn’t be
much of an ending. I vote for something far more creepy…

The lift in the tower block had been out-of-service for months;
rumour had it condemned along with the flats.
Despite the cables being removed and the motor defunct,
the arrow flashed green, and very slowly, the dented steel doors
begin to slide open, leaking an eerie, pulsing fog.

Dem mugs from the council ‘av fixed the elevator.
Let’s smash it up again,” says Bungle.
‘Old up,” says Tealeaf: “I fink there’s someone inside.

Don’t be a dimlow,” says Porno: It’s just gawn ‘aywire that’s all.”
But Tealeaf is right. Standing behind the opening doors,
in a bed of clearing wisp, is a geriatric figure;
withered hand on stick, head bowed under cloak.
Wot the ‘ell is that? says Bungle.
It’s the Grim Reaper!” says Tealeaf.
Don’t talk daft,” says Porno: “It’s just sum old granddad.”
The decrepit figure shuffles out from the lift on buckled legs,
bones click as he straightens his turtled neck revealing
his sunken face: “Is that you mother?” he says on toothless gums.
Urrrrrrrrr! Look at the state of ‘im,” says Bungle.
Gorrrrrrr! Doesn’t ‘arf stink,” says Porno.
Let’s nick his wallet,” says Tealeaf.
The old man continues to shuffle forward,
each slow step looking like his last.
Been stuck in that lift for three, long years,” he says:
Begged the Grim Reaper to take my life, but he never answered.
How much longer must my tired bones ache?

His Adam’s apple bobs like a cork behind the wrinkly skin of his neck. 
How do you know the Grim Reaper?” says Porno:
You ain’t going nowhere ‘til you tell us where he is.

The old man limps forward, taking an age
to raise his hand and point a bony finger upwards:
He’s been waiting for you. You’ll find him on the top floor.
He continues on his way, tapping his stick and muttering:
Mother. Is that you mother? and soon he’s lost to the night.
Wot if he’s lyin’ to us? says Bungle.
Then we’ll catch up with ‘im later,” says Porno.
Not trusting the lift, our angry trio climb the stinky stairwell,
stopping only to powder their hungry noses.

The top floor of the block was beyond scuzzy;
front doors smashed in, dead flies frazzled
in heaps on window sills, carpets alive
with wriggling maggots below mouldy, black ceilings.

All, that is, apart from one.  One flat, last in the row,
had its door intact and a light on in the kitchen.
Porno places his finger to his lips: “Sssshhhh.
Bungle and Tealeaf follow him down the walkway,
tiptoeing like cat burglars. They arrive at the door.
Porno gives Bungle the nod. Crassshhh!  
A size fourteen forces the lock
and our mob of three burst into a pokey hallway.
Where are ya? says Porno, broken bottle in hand.
We’re ‘ere for yer! says Bungle, brick aloft.
No good hidin’,” says Tealeaf, swinging his sock.
The gang scatter through the flat but it’s soon
apparent that there’s no one home.
Wot’s that?” says Bungle.
Wot’s wot?” says Tealeaf.
That!” says Bungle, pointing towards the coffee table.
It’s one of dem Bonzo trees,” says Tealeaf.
No, not the plant you mug. That thing wot looks like a bag!
Porno wades in, grabbing the black holdall from the floor
and landing it on the table.
Wait!” says Bungle: “Wot if it’s a bomb?
Porno sighs and shakes his head.
He slowly unzips the bulging duffel…

Cash! Bundles and bundles of cash;
wads and wads of fifties,
there on the table, the mother lode.
Limited imaginations run wild:
Porno’s driving around the estate
in a pimped up five series with tinted windows;
Bungle’s sipping champagne
and eating a bottomless bargain bucket;
Tealeaf is in the bookies smoking a fat cigar
and hogging the fruit machine.
After exhausting excited expletives
and an outbreak of body popping,
our three chancers guesstimate the value
of the Grim Reaper’s unlaundered stash
to the tune of a very big number with plenty of noughts.
All this money countin’ ‘as made me ‘ungry,” says Porno.
Me too,” says Bungle, having already emptied the fridge.
Porno looks over at Tealeaf: “‘Ere, Tealeaf.
Go un get us somein’ to eat will yer. And grab some tins while yer at it.

Tealeaf is instantly suspicious:
Why do I ‘av to go? Why not Bungle?
Porno pulls rank: “Because you’re the youngest ain’t yer.
Me ‘an Bungle will stay an’ guard the stash.

Tealeaf half-heartedly agrees.
Porno waits by the kitchen window
until he sees Tealeaf dragging his heels under the streetlight below. 
Wots yer maffs like Bungle? says Porno.
Dunno,” says Bungle, already puzzled by the question.
Wots better than a big bag a notes divided by three? says Porno.
Dunno,” says Bungle, counting up to three on his thumb and fingers.
A big bag a notes divided by two,” says Porno,
picking up Bungle’s brick and smiling.

Where’s Bungle?” says Tealeaf,
throwing Porno his extra double cheese burger.
‘Ere!” says Bungle, stepping out from behind the door.
Tealeaf doesn’t have time to turn his head.
Crack! - the sound of brick on skull.
Slap! - the sound of Tealeaf’s face on vinyl floor.
And the dastardly deed is done.
Porno and Bungle wrap Tealeaf’s dead body in bin liners
and stuff him in the airing cupboard.
Can I eat my chicken deluxe now? says Bungle.
We’ll scoff these, neck those cans,
then grab the money and do one
,” says Porno.
But wait. All is not what it seems, isn’t that right, Tealeaf…
Who’s there?” says Tealeaf.
It’s the narrator,” says the narrator: “You’re speaking to us
from the other side
.”
It’s blummin’ dark in ‘ere,” says Tealeaf.
Hardly surprising seeing as you’re wrapped up in bin liners,” says the narrator.
Am I really dead?” says Tealeaf.
Afraid so,” says the narrator.
I knew them sneaky bastards woz up to somefing,” says Tealeaf:
Are they eatin’ them burgers yet?
Yes. They’re in the kitchen where I left them,” says the narrator.
Ha! Good,” says Tealeaf.
Why’s that good?” says the narrator.
You know,” says Tealeaf.
Do I? says the narrator.
Course ya do ya mug. It’s your story ain’t it?” says Tealeaf.
Actually, no, it’s not. I’m retelling a tale by Geoffrey Chaucer,” says the narrator.
Geoffrey who? says Tealeaf.

Chaucer. You must have heard of ‘The Canterbury Tales’,
‘when in April the sweet showers fall’ and all that? says the narrator.
Wot you on about? says Tealeaf: Listen. I’ve gotta bounce.
Some geezer with a big, white beard is staring at me and he looks proper vexed.
Why don’t you tell ‘em what I gone and slipped in those burgers
,” says Tealeaf #RIP
Oh thaat! Of course. Silly old me for forgetting your twist,” says the narrator.
Can you ‘ere a funny noise coming from the airing cupboard?” says Bungle.
Shu’ up and eat your burger you mug,” says Porno.

Now, what Porno and Bungle don’t know,
is that the burgers they’ve been scoffing are laced with more
than just ketchup, lettuce, gherkin and growth hormones.
Before his bonce was bashed in by Bungle’s brick,
Tealeaf had masterminded a devilish plot of his own.
He remembered the super, dodgy batch of pills the gang
had been pushing last month - fresh out the lab.
They’d picked up the street name ‘dodos’.
Once dropped, the poppers believed they could take flight
and felt avian enough to jump out of tall buildings. Ouch!
After a few near death experiences, Porno, Bungle
and Tealeaf decided that their punters were more useful
alive than splattered all over the pavement, and the venture
was shelved….that is, until Tealeaf’s stroke of evil genius:
because what’s better than a big bag of cash divided by three?
A big bag of cash divided by one. Tealeaf ground
down the pills into dodo dust, powdered up Porno and Bungle’s burgers
and climbed back up the stinky stairwell, all the way up, back
to the top floor of that very tall tower block -
I think you can see where this might be going…
Don’t them stars look pretty,” says Bungle, wide-eyed at the window.
Hurry up and grab the money,” says Porno.
I want to touch one,” says Bungle, opening the front door.
Where the ‘ell are you off?” says Porno, but Bungle isn’t listening;
he’s perched on the wall outside, flapping his flightless arms.
Stop dicking about will yer,” says Porno.
I can flyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy-” are the last words ever spoken by Bungle

whose aeronautics are rudely interrupted by the spiked railings below;
his body impaled like a giant, fatty, human kebab. #RIP

Porno stares down at Bungle’s punctured torso
and the puddle of intestinal fluid on the pavement.
He tightens his grip on the big bag of money;
clumsily refilled and too stuffed for zipping.
The scent of crisp, night air makes his head turn funny
and he begins to feel as light as a goose feather, free
as a bird. “Looks like it’s just me then,” he says:
Bout time I ‘ad an holiday. Fink I’ll go somewhere flash.
Vegas. I’ll takes me a trip to Vegas.
Porno climbs up on the wall, hypnotised by the bright lights of Asda:
 “What’s that Vegas, you want me to fly to yer?
I love you too, Vegas. Me and you is made for each other.

And that was the end of Porno: face down in the crumpled
roof of a Vauxhall Corsa, a few thousand miles shy of his destination. #RIP
Fifty pound notes gently tumble like a scene from a ticker tape parade,
each wearing a queen’s forged smile and a crooked tiara:
Tap, tap, sounds the old man’s stick, a sly rise
on his grim, cracked lips, a deathly glint in his reaper’s eye.

The End

Gaels’ Epilogue

Ha! And there you have it, a triple homicide (of sorts),
the Grim Reaper strikes again.
Rest in peace my arse!
Three greedy blaggards off to push
back-breaking dead weights in the fourth circle of hell…..Greeeeed!
How much is that prize fund, Bailey?

An Unusual and Troublesome Tale

Cas Husseini, MD, left this in my inbox this morning. I presume he is using Pilgrim's Prize as a platform for spreading the word. Do with this what you will.

~Chaucer

LETTER TO

UK Police force

Petition for a FULL INVESTIGATION into the disappearance of Ginny Lindsay

Recently, many ex-church members of a small, underground group based in the South-East (which, as of yet, cannot be named for fear of current members safety) have provided reason to believe that Ginny Lindsay, who was fourteen at the time and is known to have familial ties with the sect, did not run away from home as has been reported to the authorities, but was, in fact, the victim of an honour-killing. 

It is known that Lindsay is (was?) the only child of one of the most respected members of the church.  One individual, who does not wish to be named, told us; “She was always a quiet, pensive girl.  She would always leave early from church gatherings and didn’t seem to like being the centre of attention.  Don’t get me wrong, she was easy enough to talk to but she really seemed to prefer her own company.”  Other sources commented on Ginny’s kindness and her eagerness to help those in need, but there are few who we talked to who did not comment on her quietness. 

It is understood that upset was caused in the church when an elder filed a complaint against Ginny’s father to the church council, stating that he was allowing Ginny to grow up “in corruption.” 

“It was completely out of the blue,” one of our sources stated.  “Everyone knew what kind of family they were and anyone who had ever met that girl could tell you she was the last person who’d be up to anything untoward.” 

Defectors, who have since come forward, now believe that there was a darker motive involved in the complaint: 

 “At first we thought it was just strange, especially since the Reverend upheld the complaint without question.  We reckoned he must have had good evidence so we didn’t do anything at that point.  It was when he ruled that Ginny was to move to his house, under his “divine” care, that we finally saw what was going on.”

The “Reverend,” sixty-three-year-old Mr. Graham Apsley, our own investigations have found, has a history of convictions relating to harassment and intimidating behaviour.   It is thought that the complaint filed against Mr. Lindsay was a ploy for Apsley to gain access to Ginny. 

Ginny Lindsay was last seen on August 18th last year, the night before she was to move her belongings into Apsley’s abode.  The disappearance was recorded by the local constabulary who have concluded after their investigations that Ginny ran away from home to be away from the church. Members, however, tell a different story:

“When I heard that she had gone missing, I decided to talk to the father to see if there was anything I could do to help.  He just stared at me; it was devastating to see the expression on his face.  All he said was “Leviticus. Twenty-one nine,” and walked away.” 

Leviticus 21:9, “And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire,” is, of course, a reference to the Old Testament law.  Many members of the church have defected since the incident and fear that Ginny may have been murdered to save her family’s honour.  Reverend Apsley has been unavailable for comment in this investigation. 

It is for the above reasons that we, the undersigned, demand a full, extensive investigation into the case as soon as possible;  Ginny Lindsay’s sixteenth birthday is approaching and the case will no longer concern a missing child.  For the sake of the safety of those left behind, either too afraid to leave or captivated by Apsley’s bizarre brand of religion, it is imperative that Ginny Lindsay’s case is solved once and for all.

To sign the petition, visit Change.org

Once upon a time...

Frank McDonald, MSP has given us a good old fashioned fairy tale, filled with knights and honour, oaths and, of course, true love. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I have something in my eye.

~Chaucer

In the little town of Brenton on the coast of Cornwall, there lived an accomplished and honorable knight, Arviragus, and his lovely wife, Dorigen. They had grown up together and had been childhood sweethearts, giving each other their first kiss under an apple tree on the edge of town. That early sweetness and innocence had never faded from the relationship, leading to a happy marriage full of mutual understanding and simple love.

When they had been married for about a year, their easy relationship was given its first trial. There was a war going on in France, and a battle had crossed into an English territory, forcing them to get involved. A week into the war, a messenger brought a letter to Arviragus, summoning him to France. Dorigen cried and begged for him to stay, but he had no choice. The penalty of desertion was death by hanging.

On the appointed day, Dorigen accompanied Arviragus down to the docks beneath the white cliffs. Knights and their sweethearts lined the shore, kissing or murmuring to each other or just holding each other close. Dorigen and Arviragus joined this line, facing each other with matching grave expressions. The day was grey and windy, and the waves broke against the black rocks that lined the seashore.

“I’ll write you as often as I can,” Arviragus said, taking Dorigen’s small hands in his.

“I’ll do nothing but wait by the doorway for your letters,” Dorigen replied.

The horn on the ship blew, and the knights dutifully trudged towards it. Arviragus cupped Dorigen’s face in his hand and kissed her gently.

“I love you,” he whispered, his voice almost disappearing on the wind whipping from the sea.

“I love you too,” Dorigen replied.

And then he was gone, following his fellow knights towards their ship. Dorigen watched Arviragus’s back until it had disappeared into the crowd. Then, she ran up the small cliff-side path. At the top, the ship was small as a toy and the men merely ants. She watched as the ship maneuvered its way out to sea. Her breath caught in her throat as the ship got too close to one of the large, sharp black rocks. Brenton was famous for its shipwrecks, as even the most experienced captain had trouble navigating the swirling sea around the black rocks. After an agonizing few minutes, the military ship navigated its way out of the port and was on the open sea. Dorigen watched it until it disappeared into the horizon. Then, tears dripping down her nose, she turned and went home.

As the months went by, Dorigen’s mood never lifted, and she knew that she would not be happy again until Arviragus was at her side. Dorigen spent much of her time sitting on the muddy grass on the top of the cliff, watching the sea, hoping that maybe, somehow, Arviragus’s ship would appear. Every time a ship did navigate its way to the port, she held her breath as it made its way through the black rocks, and once it landed she ran down to the dock, always hoping, always wishing. But it was always just a lone fisherman or a relative coming to visit someone in Brenton. Once, as Dorigen sat on the cliff on a particularly rainy day, she witnessed a shipwreck. It was a small ship, holding about ten men, and the captain couldn’t manage to fight off the rain, the wild sea, and the rocks. His ship smashed into the rocks nearest to town, the boat splintering into a thousand pieces and the men falling into the sea.

The men were strong swimmers and they all managed to get to the shore, but the incident sent Dorigen into a panic. What if Arviragus’s ship came in on the day of a storm? What if he wasn’t as lucky as these men and was caught in a riptide? Or, what if he was killed by the rocks before he even got a chance to attempt to escape? Growing up, Dorigen had always liked the rocks. She liked how they guarded Brenton like sentries, keeping them safe from intruders, and she liked the sound of the waves breaking against them, the sharp clap that had always been the background noise in her life. But now, she regarded them as enemies, the one obstacle between herself and true happiness.

Dorigen was still thinking about the rocks at the town’s annual May Day party. As usual, the party was a big affair, with musicians playing and food piled high on a table in the town square. Children ran around the May Pole, giggling as their ribbons got tangled up in each other. The adults danced gracefully with their spouses or suitors, looking elegant in their colorful dresses and tailored suits. Dorigen had let herself be dragged to the party by her friends, but she couldn’t bring herself to dance. It made her think too much of all the times she and Arviragus had been here together, twirling on the dance floor late into the night, until the candles had melted down to nothing and the stars were their only light. Dancing with anyone else would be a betrayal to him.

Unbeknownst to Dorigen, she wasn’t the only one who wasn’t dancing. At a nearby table, Aurelius, a friend of Arviragus’s, was also sitting lost in thought. And his thoughts were focused on Dorigen. Wonderful, lovely Dorigen, who he had had feelings for since…well, for as long as he could remember. But unlike Arviragus, he had been too shy to act on them, too awkward. Arviragus had always been easily charming, never having a problem speaking to anyone, even beautiful girls like Dorigen. Then there was Aurelius, whose tongue tangled into a stuttering mess when he tried to talk to Dorigen. To Arviragus, flirting with her was as easy as cutting into butter. Aurelius hadn’t even bothered to tell Arviragus how he felt; he knew there was no point, it wasn’t like Dorigen would choose someone like him over someone like Arviragus.

As the years went on, he had watched as Arviragus and Dorigen’s flirtations turned into something more, something unbreakable, and cursed himself for not letting his feelings for Dorigen be known. Maybe then, things would have been different.

Now, it was the first time since childhood that Dorigen was alone. In the months that Arviragus had been gone, Aurelius had been looking for an opportunity to talk to Dorigen, and this party was his chance. His last chance, maybe. So he took a deep breath, pushed his chair back, and walked over to her.

“Hello, Dorigen,” he said, attempting to keep his voice from shaking.

She looked up and gave him half a smile. “Oh, hello, Aurelius.”

“May I sit with you?”

She nodded, and Aurelius clamored into the seat next to her, moving so quickly he almost missed the chair. His face reddened, but Dorigen didn’t even notice.

“Are you having fun?” Aurelius asked.

“Honestly? No, I’m not.”

“Oh, would you maybe want to leave? With me, I mean. We could have a pint at the pub.”

Dorigen chuckled. “Why, Aurelius, are you asking me out?”

“I—I might be,” Aurelius mumbled. Then, he quickly added, “Or maybe not.”

Dorigen laughed again and put a hand on Aurelius’s arm. “Aurelius, I’ll go out with you when...” She paused, trying to imagine the most outrageous thing she could. She thought of it, and smiled. “I’ll go out with you when all of the rocks are removed from the coast.”

“Tr...truly?” Aurelius stuttered.

But Dorigen didn’t hear him—her friend had called for her from a few tables over.

“Farewell, Aurelius,” Dorigen said.

Aurelius rushed home, the task that Dorigen had given him repeating in his head over and over again.

At home, Aurelius’s older brother Cornelius was tending to the fire. He glanced at Aurelius when he rushed inside. “Dorigen has given me a task,” Aurelius announced. “If I remove all of the rocks from the coast, she will be mine.”

“How are you going to do that?” Cornelius asked.

Aurelius shook his head. “I don’t know.” He groaned and sank onto his bed. “This is impossible, isn’t it?”

Cornelius put a hand on his brother’s shoulder. “We’ll think of something.”

But they couldn’t think of anything. As the weeks went by, they brainstormed every day, but they came up with nothing. Aurelius became more and more despondent as it became clear that there was no feasible way to accomplish this task. Cornelius, who hated seeing the brother he loved in such dire straits, tried his hardest to think of something, any loophole or any solution. But there was nothing.

One day, Aurelius went out to the market to buy bread. As he was paying, someone behind him said his name. He turned to see Arviragus and Dorigen. Arviragus had a brown bandage around his head and a bandage on his arm.

Arviragus limped up to Aurelius and clapped him on his back. “Hello, old friend.”

“Arviragus got a minor injury in battle, and he was honorably discharged. Isn’t that wonderful?” Dorigen said, beaming up at her husband. Arviragus put his arm around Dorigen and kissed her forehead.

Aurelius grasped his bread so hard it crumbled. “Yes, it’s a miracle,” Aurelius said, his voice small.

“You must come over for supper soon,” Arviragus said to Aurelius.

“Certainly. Farewell, Arviragus.”

Aurelius went straight home and laid down on his bed. He didn’t move again for the next two weeks. He may have stayed there forever if his brother didn’t finally come up with a solution to his impossible problem. Cornelius told Aurelius his idea as Aurelius sat on his bed.

While away on business, Cornelius had come upon a traveling magician. This magician practiced in a small house that was filled with brightly-colored potions, ancient books that were covered in dust, and cauldrons that bubbled and gave off the most peculiar smells. When Cornelius first walked in, he had thought this magician was one of the many frauds who believed if he filled his home with enough strange things, people would believe he was truly magical. So, to test him, Cornelius had bought a potion that supposedly made anyone who drank it two times larger. He fed it to a field mouse, and sure enough, the mouse doubled in size. Cornelius, now convinced of the magician’s talent, told the magician of Arviragus’s troubles.

“...And he said, for a thousand pounds, he will remove the rocks!” Cornelius finished. “He will come down to Brenton in a fortnight.”

“But I don’t have a thousand pounds,” Aurelius said. “I don’t even have a hundred pounds.”

Cornelius sat down on the foot of his brother’s bed. “I have a thousand pounds.”

“I can’t ask you to do that for me.”

“I want to. I’m sure you’ll pay me back when you can.”

For the first time in a month, Aurelius smiled. “Thank you, Cornelius.”

“It’s my honor. It’s not every day you get to help your brother win his true love’s heart.”

As promised, in a fortnight, the magician rolled into town in a large caravan with the words ‘The Great Horace’s Magical Remedies’ written across its side. Aurelius and Cornelius met the magician at the cliff-side spot where Dorigen had spent so much time sitting and waiting for Arviragus’s ship. When they got there, Aurelius was surprised to see that the Great Horace was rather ordinary looking. He had long silver hair that was tied back, and he wore a plain brown tunic. He held a large, leather-bound book.

“This must be our lovelorn chap,” Horace said as Aurelius and Cornelius walked up to him. “Do you have the thousand pounds?”

Cornelius handed over the money, and Horace quickly counted it.

“How long will it take you to remove the rocks?” Aurelius asked.

“This is an easy task, my boy. I just have to read a little spell out of his book of runes, and it will be done.”

Aurelius nodded, his heart hammering away. Horace opened his book, releasing a cloud of dust. Then, he began chanting in a strange, ancient language. As he chanted, the air around Aurelius seemed to still, and the sound of waves clapping against the shore and seagulls crying became muted. After a few minutes, Horace closed the book, and the world returned to normal. Except the waves sounded quieter, like they were gently rolling to shore. Holding his breath, Aurelius glanced over the cliff.

The rocks were gone.

“Thank you,” Aurelius said to Horace, who was counting his money again.

“Of course, my boy,” Horace muttered distractedly.

“I’ll be right back,” Aurelius told Cornelius. He turned and ran back into town, not stopping, not slowing down at all, until he reached Arviragus and Dorigen’s door. He knocked on it so loudly it shook. Dorigen opened it, revealing Aurelius’s flushed face.

“Aurelius, what’s wrong?” Dorigen asked.

“Nothing is wrong, nothing at all! Come with me. And bring Arviragus too.”

Dorigen, frowning slightly, went back inside. She reemerged a minute later with Arviragus, and the two followed Aurelius to the cliff-side, where Cornelius and Horace still stood.

“Look,” Aurelius told Dorigen and Arviragus.

Dorigen and Arviragus both looked over the cliff. Dorigen clapped a hand over her mouth, and Arviragus’s eyes widened.

“The rocks...they’re gone,” Dorigen said faintly.

“You told me that if I got rid of the rocks, you would go out with me. Well, Dorigen, my love, I have removed the rocks.”

Arviragus looked at Dorigen. “You told him that?”

“I...I said it in jest. I never thought he really would...” Dorigen’s face went pale. She glanced back and forth between the two men who loved her. Arviragus stared at her with betrayal etched into all of his features. Aurelius grinned triumphantly.

Arviragus ran a hand through his hair, staring out at the sea. When he looked back at Aurelius, a new expression had crossed his face: resignation. He took Dorigen’s hands. “Dorigen, you must go with him.”

“No, I can’t! I don’t love him.”

“That doesn’t matter. You made a promise, you swore an oath. And when you swear an oath, you have to obey it, even when you don’t want to.”

Tears filled Dorigen’s eyes, but she nodded. She kissed Arviragus, so sweet and tender Aurelius had to look away. He couldn’t bear to see it, to see how much love was in that one simple kiss.

“I love you,” Dorigen said.

“I love you too,” Arviragus said.

He let go of Dorigen’s hands and walked away, not looking back. Dorigen silently wept. Aurelius put an arm around her, and Dorigen stiffened.

“Please don’t touch me,” Dorigen said.

Aurelius let go. He turned away from Dorigen and looked out towards the sea, the sea that was calmer than he had ever seen it before. It looked so strange without the rocks. So empty. He wasn’t sure that he liked it.

As Dorigen sobbed next to him, Aurelius knew what he had to do. This wasn’t the life he wanted—he didn’t want Dorigen if she wasn’t really his. And it was clear to him now, she never would be. She would always belong to Arviragus, and he to her. So Aurelius shouted, “Arviragus!”

Arviragus  had been walking slowly, shoulders slumped and limp even more pronounced than before. When he heard his name, he turned. Aurelius jogged over to him. “I’m sorry. What I did was wrong. Dorigen is yours.”

Arviragus clapped a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “You’re a good man, Aurelius.”

Arviragus limped back to Dorigen as quickly as he could. He shouted her name, and when she saw him coming, she grinned and ran up to meet him. They embraced, and Aurelius looked away again.

“I’m sorry, Aurelius,” Cornelius said. Aurelius had forgotten that Cornelius and the magician were still there, witnessing his humiliation.

“It’s for the best,” Aurelius said, looking over at Dorigen and Arviragus. They were walking back towards their home, hand in hand.

Horace glanced at the brothers, and then, with a painful sigh, he handed the thousand pounds back to Cornelius. “You’re having a bad enough day,” Horace said to Aurelius.

“Thank you,” Aurelius said.

Horace walked away, leaving the two brothers alone.

“I’ll meet you at home,” Aurelius said to Cornelius.

Cornelius nodded and left. Aurelius stood on the cliff’s edge, looking down at the green-blue water.

“Goodbye, Dorigen,” Aurelius whispered.

And he too walked away, leaving the empty sea behind.