• The Harlequin Tales

    By Alfonse_Maldrant

    Author’s Foreword: In these short stories I shall use the following code.

    Text with no indentation indicates third person portions

    Indented text indicates the Harlequin’s narrative portions(first person)

    I hope you enjoy this.

    Tale One: The Knight and The Griffin

    Were one inclined to do so, one might, upon a stormy evening, walk down Har Lane and come to it’s corner with Quin Street. On this corner of Har lane and Quin there sits an inn called The Masquerade. In the common room most stormy evenings a figure in a mask and motley sits and drinks ale. Should you be willing to buy him a glass this man will tell you that he is known simply as the Harlequin, though he is no fool. If you would be so good as to buy him a pitcher of ale he would tell you a tale. This is a tale he told me one evening.

    “Ah the Knight and the Griffin. There’s a tale of sorts that you’d not think of should it come to you in a dream,” The Harlequin paused to pour a cup of ale, “I’ll tell you, shall I? The tale of the Knight and the Griffin?”

    The Knight was a daring sort of fellow, he stood taller than most men and kept his armor brightly shined. His shield, though bore scars enough. A wizard had fashioned it for him that it would always protect him but could never be cleaned of it’s battle scars. Ah but the wizard is another tale. The Knight carried a sword of marvelous strength and quality. Not a smith in the whole of any country could so much as pretend to name the metal.

    The Knight called his sword Oak for by his words it, ‘grew from nothing larger than an acorn. Tis true that Oak is an odd name for a sword but the knight had his rights to name his weapon and none would cross a man who so often saved their lives. He came hence one night, here to the corner of Har Lane and Quin, he bought me a pitcher of ale and bid me to tell him where he may find a beautiful young lady to whom he may introduce himself as a friend.

    Of course I the Harlequin knew what he would want in the end. I told him flat that I could not tell him where to find a bride. I’m a performer and a teller of tales, not a gypsy. So he bid me then to tell him the tale of some fair maiden that at least his mind would have somewhat to revel on as he searched this world.

    I told him a tale and weaved it so well that he bought for me another pitcher before leaving the inn. I told the innkeeper to split the pitcher amongst the fellows in the common room and I followed the Knight. I could sense a tale of great finery in the works and was not about to miss a chance to add to my collection.

    The Knight rode his steed o’er hill and dale, through forest and mountains, and at last he came to the Grand City. I had long since made my presence known to him and as he rode through the streets of the Grand City I danced about at his side. Many a person tossed me a coin as I danced and I would pluck them from the air and put them in my purse as I danced down the road.

    “Perhaps by the time we return to the Masquerade I’ll be the one to buy you and fair lady a pitcher of ale,” I said looking up to my temporary companion.

    “If I find a fair lady perhaps,” the Knight said in good humor but sad inflection. I continued my merry dance.

    After some great time walking, the Knight and I came to the King’s Palace of Grand City. We were bidden enter so we did. I suddenly devised a plan and told it to the Knight. A smile spread across his face and he looked at my masked visage for a moment before saying.

    “I’ll see what I can do.”

    The Harlequin stops a moment to refill his cup before he continues

    That night there was a grand dinner in honor of the esteemed Knight. Old King I of Grand City and Vast Country bid all the guests be seated and when the eating was well under way I slipped past the guards to carry out my plan. I leapt onto a tapestry and swung down from balcony above landing in the center of the circle of tables before Old King I.

    “For a pitcher of Ale I’ll tell you a tale!” I cried with wondrous enthusiasm.

    The assembled nobles laughed and cried such things as, “Some one bring him his pitcher,” and, “Let us hear a tale,” Others knew me and exclaimed, “Well if it isn’t the Harlequin of Masquerade at the corner of Har Lane and Quin.”

    The old King I bid the servants bring me a pitcher and I told them a tale that lasted all the evening. Once I was through I bowed and drained my last cup. I seated myself midair, but how I did so is another tale altogether, and motioned to the King.

    “What say you, King I?” I asked with a dervish’s smile.

    “I say, sir Harlequin, that you have told us an excellent tale for an unfair price. Is there something that I in all my Incumbency might grant you in return for such a marvelous tale?”

    I looked at the Knight sitting beside a young woman and talking with her animatedly. I looked back to the King and smiled, “Sir I require only drink to keep my magic strong and my tongue wet. Though my friend seeks a bride and may have found a fair lady he fancies and who fancies him.” The Knight and the young woman looked up at me and both smiled. It had worked.

    “Ah,” the King said, “alas however this woman is the only thing in this kingdom who can keep at bay the great Griffin and sir Knight no doubt must travel and protect.

    “I have a solution good King,” The young woman said, “My magic holds the Griffin from this city true, but it also weakens it. If sir Knight could slay it you could be rid of the Griffin and I would be free to leave you.”

    The Knight leapt from the table at once and proclaimed, “I will slay this Griffin wherever it may be. Pray tell me good King I. Where might if find the creature who now troubles your kingdom.”

    “He lies on the cliffs that look over the palace,” the king said, “I pray that you return to us safely.”

    The Harlequin stops and pours another cup and then begins the ending of his tale.

    The Knight and I rode to the top of the cliffs and there we met the Griffin. No sooner had we stepped toward the beast than it began to attack the Knight. The two fought for some hours as I watched from a tree branch. The two had worn each other out when I hopped from the branch and lighted on the ground.

    “Not that I doubt your ability, friend Knight,” I said, “But perhaps we can settle this with wits rather than guts eh?”

    The Griffin turned it’s beaked head toward me and scowled.

    “Now, Now Madame Griffin,” I said, “Don’t give me that look. What keeps you here?”

    The Griffin cocked her head and then spoke, “My child is here and cannot fly. I do not want to eat the people in town but my child will die if I leave. It will probably die anyway, but while I’m here it will live.”

    The Knight put down his sword and shield and spoke, “I am sorry I did not know you were a mother. I thought only of my love for the enchantress whose magic keeps you from the city.”

    “Do not apologize for fighting for love,” I said, “Griffin, I have a suggestion. You say that one day, without you, your child will die. Perhaps I could take the young cub into my care whence it can travel with me and see and hear many tales and live as a cub forever?”

    The Griffin thought a moment, “And if I ask this of you what would you have me do?” she asked.

    “I would have you fly away proclaiming your defeat that my friend the Knight shall be able to wed his love and they may ride off into the sunset.” I said.

    “I will do this if you will take my son into your care good Harlequin,” the Griffin said.

    So I went to the Griffin cub and gave it my blessing that it should travel with me and stay in the world at my side forever. Once I had done this I bade it into my bag. The she-Griffin flew from the cliff and away proclaiming its defeat and my companions and I left the cliff.

    The Knight and the Enchantress were married the next morning and rode out into the world to do what good they could. I stayed behind with my new pet and told tales to the royal court, but eventually the time came that I had to return to my post here at the Masquerade and my telling of tales to those kind enough to give me a pitcher of drink.

    The Harlequin finished his last cup and as he did a small, beaked, furry head lifted from his lap above the table. He scratched it behind where a dog’s ears would be and it let out a quiet cry.

    “Now I’m afraid it is time that I left for the night,” the Harlequin said, “Perhaps sometime I may drink another pitcher of Ale on your penny my good man,” with this the Harlequin seemed to raise into the air a bit and vanish. On the table before his seat was a small furry feather with ink on the tip of the solid barb. Beneath it was a note that read…..

    The End.

    Author’s After-word: I hope you have enjoyed the first of The Harlequin Tales. I plan to write and post more, but please loose the criticism from your tongues and allow me to see what I can do to make the next tale better.