July 02, 2010

Larry Lefty and the Mauve Iguana

Prompt: In the magnificent palace…there was a mauve…iguana…who wrote poetry…and didn’t have very many friends. The palace was extremely magnificent. There were eight octagonal towers, one at each corner of the compass, and each tower was eight floors high, or would have been if they had had more floors than stairs. The stairs in the towers turned clockwise if you were going up, and counter clockwise if you were going down, and they did this for a very good reason. Most of the guards were right-handed, and this allowed them to hold their swords in their right hands and stab around the corner at attackers, while making it hard for right-handed attackers to stab their own swords around the corner as they fought their way up the stairs. All of the guards loved this arrangement except for left-handed Larry, whose friends all called him Larry Lefty. Larry Lefty spent his on duty hours in the guard room at the top of the tower, or walking along the battlements, scurrying up and down the stairs to the different parts of the wall where he was assigned to patrol. After his guard hours, he had to attend the mandatory training classes, where the guards learned to fight with their swords, which Larry hated, because he would get bruises when one of the other guards would hit him with their split cane practice sword. He didn’t mind archery practice, because they shot at hay bales with targets on them, and no one got hurt except the hay bales. The running and other physical conditioning was easy for Larry, and he really enjoyed seeing the countryside around the castle as he ran. He preferred to run by himself, varying his route so he didn’t get bored, while many of his fellow guards ran together in a large pack along the same path by the river, so they could attract the eye of the fair maidens of the village who were out doing their laundry. One day while he was out running, Larry stopped to rest under his favorite shade tree. He liked the days when this particular tree was his rest stop before he went back to the castle; because it was a marvelously old tree that seemed to offer its shade in a friendly manner, and when a breeze blew, Larry imagined he heard it whispering to him of all the things it had seen over its long lifetime, for the tree had been there long before men came to this part of the world. As he sat, drowsing in the afternoon sun, a small mauve lizard scampered down from the branches of the tree, over his shoulder, and up onto his bent knee. Larry stared at the lizard. He’d never seen anything like it. He wasn’t even sure what the name of the color was, being a man, but he knew he’d never seen any lizard that was such a strange color. It was kind of a grayish pinky purple, sort of, but not exactly. The lizard heaved itself up onto its hind legs and stood upright like a small purplish human being with a long tail neatly wrapped around its feet. “Hello,” said the lizard. Larry started violently, clamping his lips shut before his instinct to scream like a small child got the better of him. His fellow guards would never let him hear the end of it if any of them ever found out he’d screamed in fright just because a lizard stood upright and spoke to him. The lizard went flying off into the grass with a shriek, though whether it was from surprise or fear, Larry couldn’t tell. Instantly regretting his sudden movement, and with a thought to how much gold he could obtain by showing people his standing, talking lizard, Larry crawled carefully through the long grass in the direction he’d seen the lizard moving. In a matter of moments, Larry located the lizard and gently picked it up, then returned to his place under the tree. “Sorry about that,” Larry apologized, though he thought it a little strange to be apologizing to a lizard who was now more gray than pink, probably from fright, he guessed. “No problem,” the lizard said, “at least you didn’t crush me, or try to kill me instantly, which is a common reaction to my species.” “I can understand that,” Larry said, “After all, it is a little unsettling to have a common woodland creature suddenly start speaking to you, when all the world knows that language is the gift of God to all mankind, and that creatures haven’t got big enough brains to understand speech.” “I see you are a man of intelligence, and also faith,” said the lizard, “although your education has been limited. There are many species on your planet who have their own unique abilities to communicate with speech among their own kind, and many more who have even more esoteric communication systems and need no speech, using body language, pheromones, and other fluidic secretions or similar signposts which leave specific messages to other members of their species.” “Faro-whats?” Larry was experiencing grave doubts as to which of the two creatures conversing in the meadow was possessed of the greater intelligence. “Pheromones. It means smells.” “Oh. Thanks.” “At any rate, I’m not here to discuss non-human communication on your planet. I have a different mission entirely.” Larry blinked at the lizard. He had such a solemn demeanor, and Larry began to wonder where, exactly, this lizard had come from. “What is your mission, if you don’t mind my asking. And do you have a name?” The lizard shook his head. “My species is telepathic among ourselves. We never developed the habit of naming ourselves to keep us apart from one another. My mission, now that is another question.” He smiled mysteriously. “Well, are you going to answer the question?” The lizard pondered for a while, then shook his head. “I don’t think you’re ready to hear the answer. Let me pose a question to you, instead.” “All right,” Larry said. “How would you like to make enough money to quit being a guard?” “I’d love it. All I’d have to do is charge people for the chance to look at you and hear you speak…” “No, no no! They’d just kill me, because most of your race are still ignorant savages who will kill what they don’t understand, out of fear. I have a better plan. You’re going to become a great bard and poet.” “I’m going to what? I can’t sing! And I don’t know how to write!” The lizard sighed. “Singing isn’t required to be a bard. You can strum your lute and speak the words. I can teach you to play a lute, and you don’t have to worry about writing anything, though I can teach you that as well, if you’d like to learn…at any rate, I’ll be writing your poetry for you, so you don’t have to worry about that. But you do have to promise to keep my entire existence an absolute secret.” Larry Lefty thought that over for a few minutes, then entered into the agreement with the lizard. From that day forward, Larry began producing beautiful poetry, and soon was able to quit his job as a guard and became one of the greatest bards of all time. He had a snug little room in the basement of the keep near the kitchen, where he had easy access to warmth and food. In the magnificent palace there was a mauve iguana who wrote poetry and didn’t have very many friends. In fact, his only friend was Larry Lefty, but he liked it that way. The King of the Palace of the Eight Towers paid Larry well for the poetry he supposedly wrote, and the fame it brought their small kingdom, and they all lived happily after.