(Where is this story going? I honestly don’t know)
The Knight, the Writer, and Jack stepped through the entrance and into the shop. They were inside another tent, slightly smaller than the main reception tent they had just walked from, but still a good size. It was square in size and around its edges ran wooden shelves which reached from floor to ceiling. These shelves were filled with all manner of objects – some familiar to the eye, some strange and intriguing. And not only were the shelves filled – the roof of the tent was packed with items hanging from it. There were fabrics, lanterns, swords, axes, bows, long poles for making tent framework, all sorts of things – again many of them unfamiliar to any of the three companions. Running through the centre of the tent was a long bench. This too was cluttered with objects – mainly pots and containers it appeared. At the far end of bench, Maurizio was sat on a stool, and had an abacus and a bag of money in front of him. He appeared to be finalising a transaction with a mysterious figure wearing a long black robe with a hood that covered its face. The figure appeared to be carrying some sort of ear trumpet. For a long time the cloaked figure and Maurizio were engaged in conversation... Eventually the transaction was completed, and the hooded figure picked up his purchase and walked out of the tent past the three companions and Montague. Montague bowed politely to the figure as he passed, and the figure nodded slightly in reply. The three companions were transfixed on this mysterious figure, but as he passed them, they each had the sensation that their hearing was being blocked – almost as if someone was stuffing cotton wool into their ears. Luckily this sensation was temporary, and started to fade the moment the mysterious figure had passed them by and left the tent.
‘Who was that?’ asked the Writer.
‘That, my friends was the Dim Reaper’, Montague replied solemnly.
‘That was Death himself!?’ The Knight cried, in terror.
Montague Fripp laughed loudly. ‘Ho ho – no my friend, I did not say the Grim Reaper, I said the Dim Reaper. You did not hear me?’
‘Erm, apparently not’ said the Knight, rubbing his ears.
‘The Dim Reaper? Who the hell is that?’ The Writer asked.
‘He is a cousin of the Grim Reaper, and works along side him often. The Grim Reaper is also known as Death, yes? Well the Dim Reaper is also known as Deaf. He does not appear at the end of your life, like his cousin, but he does appear when your hearing leaves you. And in quite a few cases, losing your hearing can quicken the onset of death – well, if you can’t hear a horse drawn cart thundering down the road behind you, you can’t jump out of the way, can you?’
‘Well I suppose not, when you put it like that.’ The Knight said, thoughtfully.
Montague Fripp went on; ‘as you see, we sell many wondrous and mysterious things; and therefore we attract wondrous and mysterious people’
‘And us.’ said the Writer, pessimistically.
Montague Fripp looked hard at the Writer. ‘And are you not mysterious also? I am not a mind reader, and experience has taught me to not pry into the lives of those who visit my shop. So all who come here are mysterious, at least to me and Maurizio – is that not true? Do not be so hard on yourself!’
‘I suppose not.’ the Writer said, smiling.
‘We can do that for him’, said the Knight to himself.
‘Come now!’ cried Montague, ‘look around – pick things up, examine them. Who knows what you might find - or what might find you.’ The Knight, the Writer, and Jack all went off to separate parts of the store to see what they could find.
For then next hour or so, the three companions went from shelf to shelf, picking up objects, feeling them, examining them, and then putting them down. Often they found an item which appeared to have no obvious use, and each time Montague Fripp would come over and explain what it was for. At one point, Jack picked up a small cloth bag which appeared to have blue coloured powder in it.
♫’ Oh my, whatever can this be?
It has no obvious use to me!’ ♫
Montague came over and had a look – and instantly knew what it was.
‘Ah my friend – it appears that fortune has drawn you to this item. This bag contains the essence of the singing voices of the Fables Sirens. If you mix this powder with water and drink it, you will have the most amazing singing voice ever heard.’
Jack was amazed:
♫’ Although this curse was not my choice
I may as well improve my voice!
Instead of a mangled ball of noise
I’ll have a voice loved by adults, girls, and boys!’ ♫
‘Then take it, my friend, and use it to improve your voice.’ Montague said, with a smile.
Jack took the small cloth bag from Montague and started towards the end of the long bench, where Maurizio waited to complete the transaction. Suddenly Jack stopped. Turning to Montague, he said:
♫’ A gift like this I’m sure must cost more than a pretty penny
And the number of coins upon my person – well they don’t add up to many.
How can I pay for such a thing when I am so short of cash?
(It crossed my mind to steal this find and make off in a dash!)’ ♫
Montague smiled gently at Jack – whilst giving Maurizio a look which Maurizio returned knowingly – and said to Jack ‘Objects such a this do not have a value that can be counted in gold – they are more valuable than that. I only ask that you give something of your own as way of payment for the item. Besides, the object you give may help another traveller in the future.’
Jack thought for a moment, and then ran out to his cart. He came back carrying his lute, and tears were in his eyes.
♫’ I’ve looked and looked to find something as payment for this prize.
The only thing of any worth is this lute before your eyes.
It’s helped me now for many years to carry off a tune
So it’s only fit, that you have it –
May it find a new owner soon.’ ♫
As he handed the Lute over to Montague, Jack turned away to wipe his eyes. Montague said ‘You have paid more than the worth of the item you take my friend – a gift from the heart is a treasure indeed.’ Jack did not reply, but sniffed gently, and left the tent with the small bag of powder in his hand.
Montague turned to the Knight and the Writer and said ‘and you my friends – have you found anything of interest to you?’
‘I have! The Writer cried, ‘I have found this!’ He rushed over to Montague holding a small, flat, round, wooden object with strange markings on it. It had cord coming out of it, as if it could be worn.
‘Now don’t tell me!’ The Writer said excitedly, ‘It’s a pendant – no, it’s an amulet. Yeah, that’s it; it’s an amulet with magical properties. I bet the wearer of this amulet can command armies, be lord of the birds and the beasts, and be invincible in battle.’
Montague opened his mouth to speak, but the writer went on: ‘I can see it now – Behold! The mighty Writer!! True, the pen is mightier than the sword – but he carries a great big sword too – so look out! He commands all that he sees; and all who are commanded obey him.’ The Writer was holding the strange object round on his chest in the position it might hold when worn, and was parading proudly round the tent with his chest puffed out, as proud as a peacock. ‘Go on, tell me I’m right. I’m right, aren’t I? I know I am – I can feel its power surging through me.’
‘It’s a Yo-Yo’, Montague said, flatly.
The Writer stopped in his tracks. ‘A what?’
‘A Yo-yo’ repeated Montague, who then took the Yo-Yo from around the Writer’s neck and proceeded to do all manner of tricks with it – the One Handed Star Trick, the Shoot The Moon Trick, even the Buddha’s Revenge Trick. The Writer spluttered, ‘b-but what about those strange markings?’
‘You mean the words ‘International Yo-Yo Corp.’?’ asked Montague.
The Writer, his aspirations crushed like the girlfriend of a champion sumo wrestler, seemed to crumple as he stood. ‘Are you sure it’s not a magical amulet?’ he said weakly.
‘I’m sure my friend’, Montague said with a gentle smile, ‘but I think I know of something which will empower you just as much.’
With that he strode over to one corner of the tent and reach to the back of the very top shelf. The Writer, his curiosity aroused, was trying to see what it was that Montague had gotten hold of, but Montague had his back to him, and was obscuring his vision. The only thing the Writer saw was a flash of a vibrant Blue something, but then it disappeared.
Montague turned, and walked towards the Writer, cradling the item folded in cloth in his arms.
Without saying a word, Montague handed the piece of folded cloth with the object inside to the Writer. Jack tentatively peeled back the cloth to reveal the object inside. When he saw what is was he gasped and said ‘It’s beautiful! It’s wonderful! It’s…what exactly?’
Montague smiled (he does that a lot) again, and took the object from the Writer. Holding it up he said ‘you of all people should recognise this object my friend – it is a quill, for writing with.’
The Writer was not impressed. ‘A quill. Is that all? Why would I need that when I have many pencils and other writing implements?’
‘But this is no ordinary quill’, answered Montague, ‘This quill was fashioned from the feather of one of the legendary talking macaws of
. These beautifully coloured birds were so intelligent that they developed an extraordinary vocabulary, and were so eloquent that people would come from miles around to hear them converse. It is said that just one of these quills will expand and improve the writing and language abilities of whoever uses it’ Babylon
The Writer was eager to try the quill out, but for the moment his pride got the better of him as he said ‘Are you suggesting that my writing and language skills need improvement? Because if you are…’
Montague raised his hand to interrupt the writer, and said ‘No-one here is saying that, but every Writer has those moments when he cannot find the right phrase or sentence to use. This quill will help you in moments like that.’
The Writer, still defending his pride said, ‘Well, I can’t see how this can help me, but if you think it is right for me then I will take it’.
In honesty, what he wanted to say was ‘oh thank goodness for that! Every time I write it’s like watching paint dry – I look at a blank space and nothing happens!! I thought I’d never be able to stop writing complete rubbish, but now this – this has saved me!’
But he didn’t say that – to be honest, he would have struggled to find those words.
But not any more, eh?
Montague handed the Writer the quill, and said ‘but you must give something of yours in way of payment, it is the way of things.’
‘Righty-ho!’ said the Writer, and with that proceeded to pull out several battered and chewed pencils – some of which were worn right down. He rushed over and almost threw the pencils down in front of Maurizio, spilling them across the table.
‘That should cover it!’ he said cheerfully.
‘Possibly, sir’ Maurizio said doubtfully, scooping the pencils into a bag.
‘The transaction is complete!’ Montague said, ‘and now, what about you sir Knight? Erm...hello? Sir Knight?’
The Knight woke with a start. ‘Wha…what? Did someone call?’
‘What are you doing down there?’ asked the writer.
‘Well,’ said the Knight, standing up, ‘I was waiting so long for someone to speak to me during those last two and a bit pages, that I fell asleep. What’s going on? Are we leaving?’
Montague Smiled and said ‘No my friend, it is not time to go – for you are yet to find your special item. Have you not chosen?’
The Knight replied, ‘I’ve looked – but have not been drawn to anything. And there is so much here to choose from…..’
‘You are mistaken, my friend’ Said Montague, smiling broadly at the Knight, ‘for I see that you already hold something in you hand – look for yourself!’ Montague pointed to the Knight’s left hand which was in a fist. The Knight opened up his hand, and there lying in the middle of his palm was a tiny golden whistle. It was perfectly crafted, but much smaller than a normal sized whistle. It would just about cover an average sized thumbnail.
The knight was understandably rather taken aback by this discovery.
‘How did that get there? I don’t remember picking it up?’ he said, ‘and what use can this small thing be to me?’
‘The use or power of the objects here are not always as they seem – although, I’m fairly sure you can only blow on this whistle. However, what will happen – if anything – when you do use it is hidden from me. You will just have to trust your instincts.’ This mysterious answer from Montague (his standard response it would seem) did not ease the Knight’s mind.
‘Well, I can’t think of any use for this whistle, which would be of any help to me – but as I appear to have chosen it, I will keep it.’ The Knight reluctantly placed the golden Whistle in on a leather cord and hung it around his neck. He turned to walk out of the tent, took a few paces, and then stopped. He took off the cord with the whistle from around his neck, and stuffed inside the sleeve of his armour.
The writer looked at the Knight and said, ‘Aah…putting it out of sight eh? A golden Whistle would attract the eye of thieves – good thinking.’
‘Erm...no actually’ said the Knight in response, ‘I was getting fed up with the noise the whistle made as it hit my armour every time I moved.’ He turned and started walking towards the exit, when Montague called him back.
‘Sir Knight, what will you give as payment?’ The Knight stopped in his tracks. He patted himself down, even though he had no pockets, and then looked back at Montague. ‘I have nothing that I can give – as you see me now, you see my worldly possessions. The only thing I carry is my sword……now wait just a minute!’
At the mention of the Knight’s sword Montague smiled and nodded gently. He reached out a hand and said, ‘payment must be made. That is the rule.’
The Knight placed a protective hand over his sword, and took an involuntary step backwards. ‘But you can’t take my sword – it’s my only weapon! If I don’t have that, how am I going to be able to defend myself and my companions - let alone defeat the evil ones!?’
‘You’re road is laid before you good Sir Knight – and you cannot change what will be, now even if you tried. Payment must be made, that is how things were, are, and ever will be. You are destined to go on from this place without your sword – why otherwise would fate have brought you here with nothing else to trade with?’
‘Because he’s a git?’ The Knight said, becoming angrier by the minute. ‘Whoever heard of a Knight being without his sword? It’s ridiculous! I won’t do it – you can take the stupid Whistle back!’ he reached into his sleeve and pulled out the golden whistle on it length of cord. He went to throw it back to Montague – but found that it wouldn’t leave his hand.
Time and again he made the throwing motion, but the whistle stayed firmly where it was. It was like when you peel the strip off a peel-n-seal envelope and the strip sticks to your fingers with static. Only this wasn’t static. The knight frantically waved his whole arm about trying to dislodge the whistle, but it was useless. Eventually, the Knight gave up. His arms hung dejectedly at his side, and his head was bowed.
‘Why can’t I get rid of it?!’ he cried.
‘The Whistle chose you, my friend’ Montague replied ‘therefore it will only leave you when it wants to. Now I must ask that you pay for it.’ Once again, Montague held out his hand.
The Knight, his spirit broken, unclasped the sword and its sheath from around his waist, and reluctantly handed it to Montague. As it left his hand the Knight remembered his battle with the guardian of the crossroads, and the terrible night on the hill top when he slew the Wolf general. ‘It served me well’ said the Knight, with a heavy heart.
‘And it will go on to serve others just as well’ said Montague, who then said in a loud voice, ‘the transaction is complete! All three have come and all three have found new items to help them on their way. Today has been a good day!!’