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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Hard and Soft (04/23/09)

TITLE: Fergus Gets the Girl
By Jan Ackerson
04/28/09


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Prince Tremayne of Robovia rode hard through the night, his faithful squire, Fergus, at his side. Their journey had lasted a fortnight. At dawn’s light the prince would finally meet the fair Princess Madeleine of Calinor, perhaps soon to be his bride, uniting both their kingdoms. Blast all kings and their blasted tests of worthiness, thought Tremayne, as his steed galloped toward the castle.

As the men neared Calinor, they found the road festooned with bright banners of welcome, and Tremayne noted with a stab of joy that his name had been spelled correctly on each one.

Inside the castle gates, there was a flurry of activity—weary horses were stabled, menservants appeared to help Tremayne into his purple silk tights, and curious cats were whisked aside by busy workers carrying jugs and trays. When Tremayne had waxed his mustache into a perfect spiral, a yellow-jacketed servant led him to the Great Hall. Fergus followed several paces behind.

The Great Hall held a long, oaken dining table, at the end of which sat King Horace and the slender and beautiful Princess Madeleine. Tremayne strode forward and bowed deeply. “King Horace, it is a fortunate day, for at the end of it, I shall claim your daughter as my prize.” There was no response, so Tremayne cleared his throat and started again. “KING HORACE, IT IS A FORTUNATE…”

The king snorted. “Don’t shout, boy, I’m not deaf, I was sleeping. I’ve heard this all before—blah blah, beautiful Madeleine, blah blah, half my kingdom. Have some bread and wine before your test starts, and let’s get this over with.”

Stewards brought refreshment. Tremayne drank deeply from his goblet before biting into a heel of bread. “Faugh!” he said, “this bread is too hard!” He snapped his fingers, and Fergus appeared. Silently, Fergus pinched off all the pieces of crust, tucking them into his tunic.

Princess Madeleine looked up, surprised.

With the light repast finished, a small riding party was formed for an excursion into the countryside. As they saddled their mounts, Fergus tossed the bread crusts to a bony hound that danced around the horses’ hooves.

The princess hid a smile behind her slender fingers.

Before the group reached the castle gates, Tremayne called out “Halt!” and hopped from his steed. “Fergus, you’ve saddled her too softly—I wobble. Fix it!” Fergus dismounted, removed a blanket from under Tremayne’s saddle, then tightened all the straps. As the party set off again, Fergus tossed the blanket to an old woman, begging at the gates.

Madeleine appeared to stifle a giggle.

After a few leisurely hours, the riders reached a lovely, verdant clearing. Princess Madeleine’s lady-in-waiting, a solemn girl of fifteen named Becca, worked with Fergus to spread a richly-embroidered cloth on the grass. Fruit, cheese, and chocolates were produced from Becca’s pony’s saddlebags.

The maidservant settled Madeleine onto a quilted pillow while Tremayne removed his sword and lowered himself to the cloth. “Zounds!” he cried. “Fergus, this ground is too hard! What a fool you were to give away that saddle blanket!” Wordlessly, Fergus removed his tunic and rolled it up, positioning it under Tremayne’s purple-clad buttocks. For the rest of the meal, he stood shivering in his undergarment.

Madeleine stared at him between nibbles of cheese.

Birds twittered, breezes wafted—and some time during the fruit course, Tremayne made an un-princely sound. “Blecch! There’s a soft spot in this apple! Fergus, take this from my sight!” Fergus quickly grabbed a more satisfactory apple from the bowl and rescued the horrified prince. As Madeleine watched in wonder, he took a small silver knife from his belt, sliced off the bruised spot—and with a wink, offered the apple to Becca.

Madeleine had held her emotions inside all day, but this last act couldn’t be ignored. She leaned toward Tremayne and said, with her mouth full of grapes, “What kind of idiot is this?”

***

Tremayne and Madeleine were wed the next day—the princess looking beautiful but skinny, all pointy angles and a certain hardness of spirit which was shared by her heartless groom. As they said their vows, each was scheming…How can I get both kingdoms?

Becca rode back to Robovia with Fergus—who practically leaped off his horse and into the arms of his wife, the charming Theresa, soft everywhere the princess was hard. As Theresa cradled Fergus in her ample bosom, she looked over his shoulder and laughed. Becca was riding into view.

“Mama!” sang Becca, “I’m home!”


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This article has been read 914 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sonya Leigh05/01/09
Oh you clever, clever writer! I love the king's "been there, done that" deportment. Nice twist at the end, and so well written. What a princely piece:)
Chely Roach05/01/09
Yep. You got me. Great twist; did not see that one coming! This was sweet, funny, and so very clever. Amazing writing!
Gregory Kane05/02/09
You really were teasing with that title, weren't you, making us believe that the princess would fall for the squire! Clever unfolding and some lovely illustrations of good and bad manners. Just one little quibble- I couldn't quite work out what the test was meant to be.
Emily Gibson05/04/09
Jan,

you aren't capable of a "worst story ever!" This one is a delight with the contrast between hard hearts, hard bony angles and the soft welcoming bosom of the wife at home.

Lovely fun to read.

Mona Purvis05/04/09
I love the king's attitude...blah,blah,blah. This must have been such fun to write.
Mona
Kimberly Russell05/04/09
Are you kidding me? Worst story ever? I think not! I really like the line "soft everywhere the princess was not". And yup, didn't see that ending coming. I love stories from thie era and you did a great job- really enjoyed it.
Karlene Jacobsen 05/04/09
I think the funniest thing is how we dislike our own creation, yet others seem to love it the most.

Case in point: this is NOT your worst piece yet. I loved the twist. You had me with the thinking the Princess would choose Fergus. HA! Great story! Great twist!
Shelley Ledfors 05/04/09
Humph! If this is your worst story ever, then I aspire to consistently write at the level of your "worst"! :-) I love unexpected endings, and you do them so well.
Eliza Evans 05/04/09
Sigh. If only I could write as poorly as this. ;)
Clever and FUN and wonderful little details.
I'm with Mona- blah blah blah... made me smile.
Great stuff, Jan.
Myrna Noyes05/04/09
Hee-hee! I enjoyed this fun piece with its unexpected twist!

This line was a favorite: 'As the men neared Calinor, they found the road festooned with bright banners of welcome, and Tremayne noted with a stab of joy that his name had been spelled correctly on each one.' :D

I do wonder, though, why the princess let Becca go back home with her father Fergus. I wish you'd had more words left to expand it a bit, as I love stories set in medieval times!

Great job! :)

Betty Castleberry05/04/09
This is highly entertaining. I'm not sure why exactly, but the story of Esther popped into my head while I was reading this. Maybe it was the banquet and the "half of the kingdom" remark. Whatever it was, this was fun!
Kristen Hester05/04/09
I had to read what you considered your worst story ever. Shame on you for putting down this charming story!!

First of all, I should have known that there would be a twist since you taught us not to reveal the ending in the title. It did make me very curious and I was assuming (as I sure you wanted me to) that the princess was falling for Fergus. I loved the ending and the extra, extra twist of him bringing back their daughter. Perfect! I loved it, I loved it!
Seema Bagai 05/04/09
Great descriptions here and an enjoyable story. I thought it was just a touch weak on topic until the end. (My opinion). I'd like to read more of your "worst" story ever. :-)
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/04/09
I knew I was in for a treat from the beginning and hung on every word, then giggled when you caught me at the end. Just fun!
Connie Dixon05/04/09
Very ingenious. You must lay awake at night coming up with new ideas and creative angles. Inspiring.
Patricia Turner05/04/09
I was a more than a little bit surprised at the end. I got a different impression of the princess right up until the time she asked Tremayne about the idiot. Nevertheless this was a very entertaing entry and an interesting POV on the topic.
Beckie Stewart05/06/09
This was a delightful story and great use of the topic. Loved it.
Bryan Ridenour05/06/09
Your creativity and writing ability astound...well done!
Loren T. Lowery05/06/09
Of course, we should have known from the very beginning what a fool this prince Tremayne was when he thought "Blast all kings and their blasted tests of worthiness, thought Tremayne, as his steed galloped toward the castle." Did he honestly think he'd remain a prince for ever? I liked, too, the way the fable wove back into itself to reveal a very clever moral.
Lollie Hofer 05/06/09
Ah, now I know why the princess's reactions to Fergus' kind actions bothered me. I was hoping he didn't get the princess. Yeah! But he did bring Becca home to her mother. Loved every word of this wonderful tale.