Woe Betidings [a Medieval story]

If you like cryptic writing this may be to your taste. For a competition I had to write “Purple Prose” which also had to include as many “purple” words as possible. I’ve italicised the “purple” words which sometimes require the spelling to be a little (shall we say) ‘mangled’. Since it’s set in Medieval times, I’ve tried to replicate their style, yet made the King major in Spoonerisms which probably wasn’t fashionable then!

King Gridelin ran amethyst-beringed fingers down his kingly purple. His angry visage became madder, finally livid. Spluttering, he was thrown into apurplexy as the Imperial messenger whispered his revelations.

The hapless harbinger shivered from scrawny neck to lower digits, casting plea-ful glances at the female personage bedecked with lace occupying the second throne.

Queen Hortense spoke with the metaphorical plum in her mouth (a real plum would have upset her digestion not inconsiderably, and no decent reading-matter was in the garde-robe).

“Sooch goings-on!” she declared. “Quate purplexing!”

She inclained her head towards Monsignor, the Pontiff. “Disgraiceful man! How can he lilac that?” But His Gracefulness, not having heard what was for Their Majesties’ ears only, stood stupefied.

“Ma’am — Your Majesticness — Your Royal Perfectness — begging your pardon, but it is no lie!” The poor messenger’s hands twisted his beret, its peacock plume flailing.

The King recovered his senses. “We… shall see. We are not one for meating about the bulberry bush. Stap him in the slocks! No, the dungeon for him!” he intoned, reaching for his burgundy.

The miscreant, if indeed he were (and fie! in truth he was, having failed to afford their Majesties pleasure) was removed, wailing horrendously. The noise fetched Princess  Heliotrope from dalliance with the visiting Duke of Magenta among orchid and fuschia in the royal hothouse. Nobody knew if ‘hothouse’ it were called because of its propensity for harnessing the sun’s warmth, or if it were, so to speak (though none did, so I shan’t) due to the amplitude of passion frequently expended within.

She bustled in, haste lending her maidenly cheeks a healthy hue. “Cor! Oozee?” she exclaimed. “Ee weren’t ‘arf raisin a ruckus!”

“Oh, my goodness!” The Queen’s voice dwindled to a wine. “Whatevair did we do, prithee, to desairve a daughter who speaks thusly?”

“That scarce matters now,” muttered His Majesty, standing — at which point the royal vintner, wig-straightener, handkerchief-bearer and all else must perforce stand as well. The King paced about, soliloquising furiously.

“Husband, shall I ordair the Royal Advisors to be fairched?” hissed the Queen as he passed.

“Net noccessary! We have despided to seak to that fellow again — You!” The royal forefinger indicated the handkerchief-bearer, who recoiled in fright. The starched and monogrammed handkerchiefs in his grasp connected with the topped-up wine in the hands of the vintner. The wig-straightener gasped as a purple puddle befouled his impeccable jabot.

“You!” repeated His Majesty, “fetch that man back! We fish to weak spurther!”

— What, handkerchief-bearer treated as go-fer? Having fallen prey to the dampness of the castle, he now suffered some ague so was not inclined to fast motion.

The vintner, being the least incommoded by the mishap, with florid gesture volunteered his services. Hampered by the high heels on which he was wont to totter, he negotiated the dungeon steps, finding the turnkey had just turned the key.

“His… Highness wants… the man back again,” he gasped, feeling his age (which wasn’t much, and certainly not as much as that of the handkerchief-bearer, who was really only fit for holding the linen, not the arduous task of washing and ironing the same).

The turnkey glared loftily. “But he has only just arrived. He must needs suffer the not inconsequential indignities offered by my establishment until his resolve is weakened! The Royal Inquisitor should be sent for!” Truth to tell, those were one-and-the-same personage, and indeed opportunities were scant for him to revel in ominous black garb.

“Besides which,” offered the prisoner, thin hands grasping the iron bars, “I refuse to go back. None of this is my fault. I’ll not mauve until the King exonerates me. Indeed, I’ll soon lavender face of any accuser.”

The King was taken aback and extremely affronted by the man’s intransigence. “We are no pansy. We will deign to descend.” He duly found himself in the subterranean extremeties of the castle.

“We would be most grapeful if you would bill the speans and tell me all,” he urged. The poor knave obliged: the monarch listening grimly, his toe beating an urgent tattoo on the flagstones. The royal cheeks modulated through shades of violet, but as an explosion was imminent the messenger withdrew from inside his livery jacket a folded item.

“My proof! See, the stain of dirt from his fall!”

The King miserably shook out a baldric carrying the King’s gold and purple, considerably besmirched. “Aaahgghhh! I shall have his head!” he anguished.

The prisoner’s eyes gleamed. Should the King sever the head of the person in question, the messenger’s own scrawny neck would mayhap be safer. He anticipated the usual victuals (a repast after the long journey) and recalled the meaningful glances of one serving wench. His wizened frame trembled at both prospects.

His Highness dragged the sash up the stairs without thought for the bearer of such bad tidings. A curmudgeonous grin overtook the face of the turnkey. There are precious few bookings in the castle’s bowels.

Princess Heliotrope, tired of waiting, had repaired to the gardens, the amorous Duke in playful pursuit. Sounds of inappropriate gaiety drifted upward into the casement. Queen Hortense, not apprised of any of the facts, nervously teased out the silken tassels trimming her gown.

With a collective gasp the Court froze. King Gridelin, shoulders slumped, stumbled to the podium. Unspoken questions passed between the gaping jaws of all present. The monarch reached his throne in deep despair. Several courtiers, suspecting intrigue, vile epidemic, scandal or depravity, pressed close.

“Your Majesty! Shall I order out the Militia?” — “I’ll summon the leech!” — “Sire! There is a minstrel of note just arrived, with skills sufficient to cure the dismals and lighten the feet.”

“Have done!” roared the King, abruptly leaping to his feet. He flung down the item of cloth. “Hear this! Woe betide that scoundrel Argyle, wearing my colours on the royal charger Aubergine, on whom I hazarded my quarterly dues…” (here his voice broke lamentably), “… he tumbled, and forfeited the Grand National!”

We find the King in anguish deep. His Court knows not the need.                                                          Yet still the secret he doth keep, of rider and his steed.





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