February 13th, 2012

Marshall Payne

Happy Valentine's Day!

A Happy Valentine's Day to stillnotbored and all the ladies on my flist!

For the occasion, here's a VD tale I wrote a few years back that was original published at Dragons, Knights & Angels.

  Crafting Sentiment in a Magical Land  

After stabling his prized griffin Pompie in the floating palace’s skyquay, Baron Veontes went to the new skylord’s audience chamber. Since Lord Arfroe had come to power, the enchanted realm of Aquaveritie had lost something. Two things actually: its heart and its soul.

“A new holiday, Veontes?” Lord Arfroe said, dubious. Positioned on the throne he had recently manipulated himself upon by way of marriage, he glared at his senior diplomat. “I can see that since I’ve achieved ascendancy that the royal calendar should be adjusted in accordance, but I had in mind something more like an annual celebration in my honor. Say, Arfroean Day.”

His consort, Lady Frauntau, whose family he had married into to gain power, sat at his side. “Let’s hear him out, dear,” she said. “Go ahead, Veontes. What is this Valentine’s Day you’re proposing?”

Veontes, clad casually for the appointment since it was early in the day, gave a half-bow. “Certainly. First, of course, I think an Arfroean Day would be a grand thing. Wild, decadent celebrations to observe your coming to power. A splendid idea. But what I have in mind will help you gain an upper hand with the other realms and eventually make you supreme ruler of all Aquaveritie.”

Now that had the corpulent skylord’s undivided attention, but after Veontes explained how this occasion had once been popular in the old realm known as Earth, he laughed. “What a sentimental bunch of tripe,” Arfroe said. “Giving flowers and heart-shaped boxes of candy. It’s a good thing the gates to the old realm were sealed tight long ago. Romantic simpletons they were.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Lady Frauntau said. She was almost as beautiful as her raven-haired sister Julsa, who was Veontes’ fiancée. “I rather like the notion. Please explain, Veontes. How would this exercise in sentiment help our realm dominate?”

“Yes,” said Arfroe, after giving his consort a cold glare. “Explain yourself. To me, it would make us look weak.”

“Precisely,” said Veontes. “Which is what I will propose to the two other sovereignties aloft. This will fit in well with my so-called defection where both the other skylords believe I am switching my fealty to them. In that nearly forgotten realm known as Earth, February fourteenth was Valentine’s Day on the old calendar. But why not proclaiming a Valentine’s Day in our realm? This ruse will take awhile to plot, but a year from now we can plan the massacre of the other skylords on the anniversary of the first one. Their minds will be so preoccupied with amorous celebration they won’t see it coming. A day of love that will be anything but.”

“I see,” said Lord Arfroe.

“But to make all this work,” Veontes continued, “we shall need to go all out with this year’s celebration. A week-long festivity culminating in the grandest of galas, say, this Saturday night. All the lords and ladies bedecked in their most expensive finery. We’ll put our chocolate makers to work turning out their tastiest sweetmeats, force our florists to rise to the occasion to construct their most superlative bouquets, their finest nosegays. And the adversarial skylords must be invited, of course, along with the principal nobles of the opposing realms. That way next year they’ll feel they must top us with similar celebrations of their own.”

“Excellent!” cried Lady Frauntau. She turned to her husband. “Don’t you think so, dear?”

Grudgingly, Lord Arfroe nodded. “Um... yes, your idea has merit.” Usually one to make a snap decision, another reason why the realm was in such disarray, the skylord quickly agreed. “Fine, I then proclaim this coming Saturday to be Valentine’s Day in my monarchy aloft. But you better make this work. All this mawkishness sickens me.” He made a sour face.

At his side, Lady Frauntau could barely hide her smile. “I know it does, dear. But any clever ruse must start at the top.” She favored him with her craftiest smile. “And if I may ask, what are you getting me for Valentine’s Day?”

Lord Arfroe sighed, and gave Baron Veontes a look that said See what you’ve started?

Moments later, as the good baron was atop his beloved griffin, her wings propelling them both across the sky, Pompie asked, And what are you getting me for Valentine’s Day, master?

“It’s a good thing I only allow you in my mind,” he muttered, though the rush of wind around them made his words inaudible. Didn’t matter, his lifelong companion knew his innermost thoughts without him having to voice them.

So true, she told him. I do have to admit this is one of your better schemes. Too bad the Valentine’s Day massacre won’t happen as Lord Arfroe thinks you have it planned.

Veontes chuckled. Of course, he would eventually go to the two other skylords and convince them that they should adopt the holiday as well. Yes, this should work fine. The subtle approach was usually best.

As the skilled diplomat and griffin worked their way across the sky, Veontes looked down upon his cherished realm of Aquaveritie. Lord Arfroe wasn’t the only skylord leading their world down a cold path of heartless malignancy. The others were guilty as well. And the bedroom was the better battleground, he’d always known. The way Lady Frauntau manipulated her fat excuse for a husband clearly demonstrated that. Maybe Veontes was a sentimental fool, but every revolution has a humble beginning. Even love. But first he had to order his gift for the other woman in his life. His lovely Julsa, Lady Frauntau’s sister.

Pompie’s jealously rang clearly in his mind. Yes, my dear, he told her, I’ll have something for you as well.

If griffins could smile, Lady Frauntau wasn’t the only one trying to hide hers.