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is an episodic collection of mediæval tales set in the last remaining independent Saxon kingdom in twelfth century Plantagenet England - its independence & very existence due to a nifty loophole in the law, and an ancient Norman Conquest Charter. The tales concern the misadventures of Prang, the mediæval court wizard, and his sidekick Dragon, as reported - or shall we say misrepresented - in Prang’s Journal. Fortunately for the sake of posterity & truth, the real events behind each diary entry are revealed in contemporary manuscript evidence recently uncovered and published in The Prang Codex. This document is by way of being an introduction into the world of Wizard Prang, being the Prologue & two selected extracts to give a flavour of the whole, which is full of anachronisms, references to future events & a cast of ne’er-do-wells, picaresque characters, shysters & buffoons.

The Prang Codex Š Jay Holloway 2008 The right of Jay Holloway to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

ISBN: 978 1 4092 2308 5

T he Misadventures of Wizard Prang Or: A Futilist’s Journal Being fragments culled from the daily jottings of a mediæval Wizard, together with the true catastrophic events behind each entry

By JAY HOLLOWAY The following preview consi¥s of the Prologue of the book and divers extra¢s from sele¢ed chapters for your consideration & entertainment, the which, if it delights you, may be had bound together in paperback form for a mere bagatelle in Briti¬ ¥erling through the delightful Me±ers Amazon, or the publi¬ers Me±ers on their website, or may be ordered through any reputable book merchant’s or ¥ationer's e¥abli¬ment.

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PROLOGUE “T his is an episodic roller-coaster tale of thwarted ambition and over-weaning greed. Success tempered with failure. Double, nay yet triple, -dealing, with a double pike, forward back-somersault and twice round the block with time off for good behaviour. “Our tale is one of epic proportions; a Sweeping Saga of Magic Spells, Mystic Potions and Fabulous Beasts … … ” Okay … we’ll start again.

et us, Dear Reader, travel back to a Past Time of Romance and Legend. To Merrie Olde Englande and a time of Courtly Love, Knightly Valour and Daily Disappointment. The time is roughly the mid twelfth century; around eleven fifty-five - (almost lunch-time, or maybe time for a late working brunch in a nice trendy brasserie). ’tis an age perceived vaguely through the swirling mists of murky time as The Dark Ages, and with good reason, whether because of the dark and secret nefarious deeds common thereabouts, or more likely the totally ineffectual rushtorch type lighting system they were lumbered with, the in-

vention of the fluorescent tube being a mere speck on the distant horizon of the map of human invention. In quite possibly the most mediĂŚval part of England is buried the sombre castle of the self-styled King Egbert The Bold, the last remaining independent Saxon Monarch in England, due to a very nifty loophole in the law which will come to our attention later in the tale, and a man who could teach Hereward the Wake a thing or two about survival in twelfth century Norman England. King Egbert, known behind his back as King Egbert the Basically-Bloody-Terrifying, due to his hair-trigger temper and huge bristling Saxon handle-bar moustache; his unsettling habit of shouting into peoples faces from uncomfortably-close range at incredible volume; and his ingenious schemes for extracting monies from serfs and lords alike with scant regard for status, wealth or means. For no-one, it seems, is safe from his grasping claws or his unerringly accurate on-board cashlocation radar system.1 The tales are legion of the innocent land-owner quietly going about the daily round, patiently dealing with the misery that is MediĂŚval life in the mistaken belief that this happy 1 But

be it known that the one thing he fears above all are the legal sharks with their writs and injunctions and arcane incantations of sub judice and habeas corpus and the terrible power of the small print nestling at the foot of a binding clause.

state of affairs will go on for ever, who suddenly discovers he owes twenty-five years back knight-service without the option. A nasty shock indeed for one who wouldn’t know a vambrace if it leapt up at him and assaulted him violently about the face with a limp sturgeon. The castle with which we are unfortunate enough to be concerned is poised on a low rocky crag, or mayhap a low craggy rock, hanging on by its fingernails above a small valley containing sprawling untidy scrubby farmland of mind-numbing poverty, beyond which is a poor and shabby excuse for a town sitting astride a narrow and now long-lost tributary of the Thames, a league or two down river of the City of London, on the Kentish side. The whole of the King’s small realm is surrounded by a moth-eaten primæval forest, and is effectively sealed off from the rest of so-called civilisation, such as it is in mediæval England, and yet bizarrely a constant thin stream of divers wandering troubadours, mediæval merchants, palliards, hucksters and hawkers, jongleurs, vagabonds, migrant workers, minstrels, mummers, malefactors, inventors, entrepreneurs, con-men, travellers and time-travellers2 of all shapes and sizes, trickle through King Egbert’s small domain, and 2 Anachronistic

characters are not unknown here for King Egbert’s realm has scant regard for the conventions of historical fact or the protocols of linear time.

somehow inevitably find their way to his door. The King’s small empire is so cut off from the general run of life, that critics have commented that it has been stuck in eleven-oh-one for the last half-century, causing even the reactionary Guylde of Gothycke Artysannes to denounce it as old-fashioned, or as they would have it, fasshyonned in a mannere moste archaic, and compelling them to look around for more up-to-date premises, with all modde-connes, for their meetings. There is, of course, cunning method in the King’s apparent madness, for if the living standards lag behind at pre-Big Billy Conqueror levels, then so do the wages, allowing the King to stash away an obscene amount of cash while paying his serfs and villeins the equivalent of a handful of poor grade road aggregate for each lunar month they toil. Against this backdrop of dark-age consciousness and mediæval catering are played the tales of the misadventures of Wizard Prang, graduate of the Thaddeus Q Susquehannah Postal University3 by a scant one percent above the minimum pass mark, and unwilling patsy in the King’s various schemes to increase his personal wealth and general standing 3 Academy

Susquehannah; Specialities are pastoral study courses in Wizarding, Tap-dance, Mime, Gallows Construction & Quantity Surveying: "if you’ve got the price of the postage, we’ve got your diploma"

in the greater world beyond his boundaries - for, secretly, ‘tis the King’s fondest wish to become a Mediæval Mogul, a force to be reckoned with, and an important player in the game of life upon the greater span of the World’s stage, if only he could secure an influential honorary appointment at the Plantagenet Court alongside the new King Henry II, a monarch, ’tis rumoured, with a temper to match his own. Wizard Prang, that walking testimonial to the woeful level of competence required to achieve a Susquehannah Diploma, and living embodiment of the difficult technique of snatching defeat from the very jaws of success. Yes dear Trembling Reader, this is a tale of dark deeds, underhand dealings, dodgy traffickings, and horrible tuneless wassailing to the accompaniment of hideous wailing crumhorns. Of coercion, confidence tricks, lack-of-confidence tricks, self-confidence tricks, ring-of-confidence-tricks, magicke, fire and brimstone, and the turning of a quick profit at a dodgy second-hand cart auction. Our window into this murky medieval world is through the medium of Prang’s Journal, a scruffy assemblage of parchment sheets loosely bound in a ratty piece of second-hand vellum, that has survived the ravages of the centuries against all odds. Prang’s daily entries however are somewhat economical with the truth to put it mildly, tending to gloss over

his faux pas in his dealings with the King and even omitting some of the worst episodes altogether. Fortunately for the sake of history we are able to assemble the true events behind these woefully sketchy diary entries, from various recentlydiscovered contemporary writings which, unfortunately from Prang’s viewpoint, put the record straight. There now follows a brace of selected extracts for your amusement and entertainment, and to convey a flavour of the murky mediæval world of Wizard Prang at the Saxon court of King Egbert the Bold. A world in which the King suffers visits from Short and Curly, the two mincing actors from the travelling show Theatre of the Absurd: Lorenz Lawne-Bowlyngge, the flamboyant interior designer: Dr Misaubin, the travelling apothecary and snake-oil man: the misguided owner of a henge-building franchise: mercenary notaries from the law firm of Minge Crap-Hound Spiv Minge: Tull, the inventor of the “Gardeners Claw”: a money-grabbing Water-diviner: an itinerant Tiler: a bunch of homicidal German mercenaries: Joey Pantolooni, the leader of the worst circus on the planet, and many more. Meet Griswolde Pauncefoote, the worst musician in the world: his brother, The Black Knight: Rijk van Dyjke, the Flemish ice sculptor: Max Hispano-Suiza, carriage-builder &

second-hand cart dealer: Archer, the castle Longbow-man prepared to commit perjury on the King’s behalf: Dr. Placebo-Ganglion, the castle physician: Blacques Jacques à t’Acques, “French” captain of the pirate sloop l’Esperance Perdu: Robin Hood: the Assassin Astreau-Turphe, & Henry II (real King).

A sample chapter from Episode X In this extract a stranger has appeared on the meadow to the rear of the castle. T he King, surveying his empire from the battlements, has spotted the stranger digging up the sward and planting huge boulders in his personal turf, and is rightly miffed, and so hails the Chamberlain, Harbinger, & calls him into the regal presence to explain. he King strolled over to the battlements overlooking the castle meadow. “Now Harbinger. To the matter in hand.” “Y-yes Sire?” “Explain to me if you would, just exactly what those bally things are, and what the cack they’re doing on me bally castle property!” Harbinger approached the parapet nervously, and reeled with horror as his appalled vision took in the unwelcome sight of a number of huge craggy rocks and boulders scattered untidily about the previously pristine sward of the castle meadow. Feeling the King’s gimlet eye on the back of his neck, he was about to frame a suitable explanation which would exonerate himself from any possible involvement in whatever was going on down below, when a stranger hove into view on said turf, tottering under the weight of a huge boulder that had clearly not been tailored to fit him, while the huge unwieldy bulging sack that swung from his shoulder exerted a random force that threatened to pull him over in the opposite direction, with the boulder on top of him. “Who the blazes is that cretin Harbinger?!”


“I-I’ve no idea Sire. S-sorry.” “Well you’re supposed to know, dammit!! You’re supposed to keep abreast of what’s going on in me bally castle and keep me informed, so we can keep out undesirables and charge the arse off the ones we let in. How the hell am I going to keep up with the rate of inflation of almond tartage otherwise, tell me that eh what, what?!!” The Chamberlain, as usual, had no useful input to contribute to the discussion, so the King kicked the stone wall in frustration and dismissed him with a wave. “Get down there and find out what the bozo’s up to, then we can work out a suitable scale of punitive fees.” Harbinger scuttled down the long stone staircase to interview the new arrival. However on his wheezing return to the battlements above, it seemed they were no further forward in their quest for knowledge of the stranger’s business. “So what is he up to Harbinger? What does the swine want and why is he infesting me turf?” “Er … it seems he makes hinges Sire.” “What?!!” “Er … hinges … Sire.” repeated Harbinger uncertainly, making a flapping swinging door motion with his hands. “Hinges?! What, for bally doors and gates and things?” “I suppose so Sire.” “Then what the cack is he doing sodding up the velvet sward of me bally meadow with foreign boulders, if I might enquire?” Harbinger shrugged and spread his hands in defeat. “I suppose I’m going to have to poodle all the way down there myself and sort this out. Remind me to dock your

wages for that Harbinger.” The King crossed to the staircase leading down from the battlements, and paused at the doorway. “Oh, and if this incident should turn out to be in the slightest degree connected to you, you can pencil in a sun-bed appointment for yourself with the Headsman and his brazier.” With this ominous promise the King disappeared down the staircase, a further injunction floating back up to the Chamberlain as his voice receded downwards. “You’d better come too Harbinger. You never know, I might have to exact emergency retribution on the spot.” With great reluctance Harbinger dragged his weary bones over to the stairs once more.


eanwhile on the meadow to the rear of the castle, the new arrival to said castle environs had deposited the enormous boulder with risk of imminent hernia, and was fighting the large bulky sack in an attempt to wrestle it to the ground. Finally overcoming it, he began to take out an assortment of hammers and chisels as the King arrived on the scene. “Ho there Sirrah interloper!! Now see here, all me doors and gates are in perfect working order, but there may be a little carpentry about the place you could turn your hand to. How about that?” “Carpentry? But I’m total crap at carpentry Sire. I can’t tell a chisel from a trepanning saw.” “What? So how the flamin’ hell do you install the bally things then, tell me that.” “I just dig a pit and shove them in Sire.” “What??!! You bury the flamin’ things? And then what?” “Well … nothing Sire. I just ask for the money and leave.” “And people actually pay you for this service do they?” queried the King, feeling his grip on reality slipping away. “Well not so far Sire.” “I’m not bally surprised Sirrah! So in a nutshell, if I wanted to order some, you’d turn up, carve up the surface of me bally land, bury the sodding things for no apparent reason, and then try and charge me for the privilege?” “Er, yes Sire. But it’s all in the æsthetics you see Sire. The way the things are cut, and the way they sit in the land Sire. That’s what you’re really paying for Sire.” “Oh is it really? Well stap me!! And in the meantime, while we’re all standing around admiring the lovely æsthetic way the poxy things are rammed into the naffing ground, the gate

of me bally castle’s falling off!!” “Is it Sire? You want to get in a carpenter Sire. Get some hinges made.” “WHATT!!! And have him bury the cacking things in the castle meadow I suppose?” The Stranger is now as confused as the King. “Er … why would he do that Sire?” “I DON’T BALLY KNOW!!! It was your sodding idea!!” “But …” The Stranger ground to a confused halt, and he and the King stood staring at each other in extreme bafflement. The King began again, trying a different tack this time. “Right. So tell me why you’ve strewn sodding boulders all over me previously pristine meadow then Sirrah. And make it a bally good reason!” The Stranger answered slowly, picking his words with care. “I’ve just been telling you Sire. How I make a pit to put them in … Sire.” “Don’t start that again!! We’re just going round in flamin’ circles here Sirrah, and I’m getting somewhat hacked off, which could result in a certain amount of pain for you. Now … tell me about those boulders, and forget the bally hinges.” The Stranger knows he’s onto a loser, but the die is cast. “But … they … are … Sire.” “What are what Sirrah?!” yelled the King, now certain he’s sliding down the slippery slope to madness. “The boulders are the henges Sire.” “HENGES??!*!*!” The Stranger patted the flank of the nearest boulder. “This is a henge Sire. Or it will be when I’ve aligned it and

set it in the ground.” The King whirled on his Chamberlain, who had been trying vainly to manoeuvre so that one of the largest boulders came between himself and the King. “Harbinger you witless bozo!! I’ve been driven to the brink of madness by this imbecile due to your inability to deliver a simple message correctly! I won’t forget this in a hurry!” The King paused to let this ominous warning sink in, then turned to deal with the new arrival. “Now then Sirrah. Let’s forget all about carpentry and pesky hinges shall we? Now what the blazes is a henge?” The Stranger indicated the strewn boulders with a sweep of his arm. “These are Sire, collectively.” The King has gone too far down this road to quit now. “And … what … are … they … for?” “Ah … that’s a difficult one Sire …” “Well I think you’ll find a short sojourn in my pillory being pelted with runny fruit by a bunch of rancid peasants loosens up the memory wonderfully Sirrah.” “It’s not exactly a memory problem Sire. It’s more a sort of never knew in the first place type of situation.” “So in other words, you travel around the countryside passing yourself off as a bally henge expert, when really you’re just a clueless bozo who sods up the pesky landscape!” “Er … it’s a franchise Sire.” “Oh My God!! So in other words you forked over a huge sum of money for a sure-fire business scheme which some clever twat assured you would make you an over-night expert in henge building?” “Er yes Sire.”

The Stranger chewed at a ragged nail while the King digested this latest information, then appeared to think of something that might help. “I did a training course Sire.” “Oh really. And, tell me, what exactly did that involve?” “Well … the bloke took me to see one he’d recently built for a special client Sire. A really big one out in Wessex somewhere. A stone one.” The King clapped a hand to his brow. “Oh boy!! I’ve seen that one Sirrah, and apart from being completely pointless and a bally waste of good land, it’s several thousand years old!” “Oh shit!!” “Shit indeed Sirrah! And you’re in it right up to the bally armpits. Now tell me pray, have you actually built one of these henge thingys?” “Er … well I started with a Hay Henge Sire … cunningly wrought from plaited grass Sire.” “Hmm. Well worth several groats of some poor slob’s hard earned cash I should think. So, that one’s still standing is it Sirrah? Still a monument to futility?” “N-no Sire. It got eaten by goats Sire, and the customers took me to court.” “Quite right! Any others?” “Well then there was Twig Henge. The customers had a lovely plot by the river put aside for it.” “So what happened Sirrah?” “There was a flood and the whole thing fell over and floated away, and I got sued.” “Sheesh!! Carry on Sirrah.” “Then I tried Thatch Henge.”

“And …” “It burst into flames and burned to the ground Sire.” “Bloody Hell!! So you got sued again.” “Just about to go through the courts Sire, so I desperately need to earn some cash, and I thought I’d try my hand at building a Stone Henge Sire.” “Well no one could accuse you of not persisting in the face of all reason Sirrah. However you’ll find I’m not in the market for a Henge, the bally things look like the last word in pointless futility to me, and if you don’t get the surface of me sward returned to its original velvety texture, you’ll be coming up against Minge Craphound Shagbag Minge on my behalf in open court.” “Y-yes Sire.” The King turned to his Chamberlain once more. “And don’t go thinking I’ve forgotten your part in all this Harbinger. In the meantime you can help this bozo restore the meadow, then I’ll see you in my solar at sundown and we can get down to discussing … what in Hades is going on over there?!” The King’s eye had been caught by a thick greeny-purplish cloud that was seeping oozily from the narrow slot of window that ventilated Prang and Dragon’s abode, and hanging ominously just above the surface of the moat. As he stared in horror, flashes of localised lightning flickered around the narrow embrasure. “Gad! I’d better go and see what that witless fool Prang is up to this time. You two idiots stay here and get on with your tasks.” The King broke into a fast regal stride and disappeared into the castle. Harbinger watched him go, then let out a pent-up

breath of relief. “Thank God he’s out of the way for a while. Now we can get on with repairing the meadow in peace.” But when Harbinger turned around the Henge Builder had made good his escape and left the hapless Chamberlain to repair the damage by himself.

T he following is a sample chapter from episode XIX. In this extract Harbinger auditions T he Plangent Strains - Griswolde Pauncefoote’s shambolic band of Waits - as emergency stand-ins for the musicians he forgot to hire for the King’s pageant - musicians who will play “triumphal” music for the arrival of the Plantagenet King Henry II.

CHAPTER 65 You’re sure you can do this are you Paunchfruit?” “Yeah, course we can Man. And it’s Poncefart … er Pauncefoote.” “Well I hope you’re sure, because there’ll be hell to pay if it all goes wrong.” The itinerant Musician stood in the Chamberlain’s room looking like a heap of discarded laundry, a rough hemp sack of ill-assembled wind instruments slung over his shoulder. The Chamberlain paced nervously up and down before the Musician, twisting his twiglike fingers in indecision. He was charged with organising an event of great pageantry

for King Henry II along with nobles of great note from the English Court, with processions and regal music heralding the appearance of King Egbert and his important guests, before the ritual annual ratification of his Charter of Independent Sovereignty, and was about to make the fatal mistake of hiring Griswolde Pauncefoote and his merry band of misfits, the Plangent Strains Waits Band. Griswolde ventured some helpful information designed to aid the Chamberlain in coming to a decision. “There’s this, like, new-minted stately galliard Man, of great majesty just arrived from Burgundy. If you like we could knock up a version for the King’s procession.” Harbinger winced at the casual use of the phrase “knock up”, followed by a secondary wince at the cavalier term “version”, and was about to assay a tertiary wince, when he figured that if he didn’t hire the Plangent Strains Band of strolling minstrels, music was likely to be conspicuously absent from the programme of events, and his privates subsequently jammed in a mangle and rolled out like flaky pastry as a result. Also the happy thought of a brand new dance introduced for the first time before important guests, which would be a feather in his cap and visibly raise his status in the eyes of the visiting Royal Emissary from the great world outside their boundaries, prompted him to throw caution to the winds. “What is this new dance of which you speak Sirrah?” “It’s called La Gamba, Man. We’ll play it on a consort of, like, shawms, and a bass rackett.” “Er yes. Sounds divine.” Griswolde Pauncefoote turned to indicate the other Waits leaning shambolically against the wall by the window. “My Man Tarquin Spandrel here will play the tune on the

alto shawm on the first refrain …” “Yes but I should be playing the main part. On the soprano.” Griswolde turned to Tarquin Spandrel and addressed him huffily under his breath. “Look Tarquin, we’ve been through this already Man, and we decided that, as the leader, I’d take the soprano part.” “Oh we decided did we? I’ve already told you that playing that alto shawm is like trying to blow down a badger’s bum.” “Look. It’s all sorted now. I’m playing the main part so you can shut your face.” “Yeah well you make the soprano sound like a weasel with a strangulated hernia if you ask me.” “Yes well no one’s asking you are they er … ahem!” Pauncefoote caught Harbinger’s eye and turned to address him once more. “Er … yeah … to continue. The counterpoint is courtesy of Geezer Guillem Scrotts here on the tenor shawm, while underneath is Master Adam Pyke-Pilaster supplying the ground bass on the bass, like, rackett. Then in the second refrain I come in with the melody, Man, soaring above the rest on the soprano shawm, and it all comes together in one magnificent majestic wave of, like, magisterial sound as the procession crosses the causeway and enters the castle through the, like, triumphal archway of the gate-house. Far out … Man.” Harbinger shrugged. “Well I’ve no idea what you’re on about, but as long as the King likes it, that’s all that matters. Perhaps you could assay a short verse of this La Gamba thing now. Just to check.” The Musicians looked at each other uncertainly. “Oh. You’d like to hear some now would you?” “Well I think I should you know. The royal coffers are pay-

ing you very handsomely for the gig.” “Shit! Er … right.” The Musicians got into a huddle and much whispering ensued. Try as he might Harbinger couldn’t hear what they were discussing, but eventually they turned back to him and began to reluctantly pull a sad assortment of battered shawms, and a slightly squashed bass rackett from their hemp sacks. Griswolde Pauncefoote addressed Harbinger once more, eager to get in a disclaimer before they started. “Er, you understand we’ve, like, not had a chance to rehearse the piece, Man. It’s but newly arrived at these shores and not really ready for public performance.” Harbinger waved a self-important hand. “That’s alright. It’s just to give me the gist, so I can tell the King it’s all in hand.” “Okay, it’s your funeral, Man. Ready Geezers?” The Waits put their instruments to their lips and the piece began, with many a stumble and unintentional cross-rhythm in a sort of pre-renaissance free-form jazz, accompanied by squeaks of ill-adjusted reeds, with Harbinger unaccountably nodding his head in appreciation. Finally the piece ground to a ragged halt after a verse and a half of unresolved cadences, and the Waits all looked at each other out of the corner of their eyes as an uneasy silence fell. Tarquin now seemed fairly relieved that Griswolde was elected leader, and therefore spokesman, of the band. Griswolde, feeling the eyes of the other Waits on him, cleared his throat and shuffled his feet nervously. “Ahem. Yeah … well, you see the manuscript’s just arrived, so we were like, sight-reading really, and the ink’s a bit blurred, and I reckon the like, scribe was a bit pissed, eh Gee-

zers …” The rest of the Waits looked away as Griswolde trailed off into an embarrassed silence, but Harbinger rubbed his skeletal hands together with satisfaction and smiled. “Yes well that all sounds fine, so consider yourselves hired. I’ll get back to you with the programme of events, so stick around the castle and I’ll get one of the Stewards to send for you later. That’s all for now, so buzz off, I’ve got lots and lots of important work to see to.” The Waits looked at each other, slightly perplexed, then turned and shambled for the door, stowing their instruments away as they went, and mentally calculating the value of the gig in flagons of Ramsknacker Ale per capita. Outside in the courtyard they came across Dragon lounging on a bench below Harbinger’s partially open window, with an expression of pain and intense suffering plastered across his scaly features. “Bloody hell Griswolde, what in the name of Guillaume de Machaut was that shagging awful noise?” “I know Man, it was absolute shite wasn’t it!” Tarquin Spandrel felt he had to put his oar in. “Well it wouldn’t have been quite so sodding awful if you’d let me play the soprano.” “Shut up Tarquin, you girl.” “You know Grizzy, I’ve never heard anything so catastrophic. It sounded like a knight in full armour falling down a four hundred foot well with a bushel of loose gravel shovelled down his cuirass. Only not so musical.” Griswolde waved a casual hand in airy dismissal. “Well I know it was shite, and you know it was shite, but Harbinger seemed to think it was okay, so that’s fine by me

Mate, we’ve got the gig and the money’s practically in the bank.” “Yes well one thing you should know about Harbinger, is that he can’t tell the difference between T he Earl of Salisbury’s Pavane and Galliard played by His Majestie’s Cornetts and Sackbuts at triple their usual fee plus an unlimited mead rider, and a rendition of Knees Up Mother Brown by the Bedlam Massed Washboard and Kazoo Gamelan Ensemble. He’s completely tone deaf.” “Oh crap!” “Exactly.” Pauncefoote plucked nervously at Dragon’s arm. “This is heavy Man. Er … any chance of a, like, cunning plan Dragon?” “The best thing you can do Mate, is get out of the gig altogether …” “Ah Paunchfruit. The King gave me this to pass on to whoever I hired for the regal fanfares.” Pauncefoote jumped into the air with a nervous bleat as the window above their heads flew wide open with a crash, and Harbinger’s head and shoulders appeared in the opening. He thrust an ominous looking parchment, with a very serious looking seal attached, through the gap and waved it at Pauncefoote. “It’s a contract drawn up by Stuff Shaft Stitchupp & Stuff. I’ve added all your names, so I think you can confidently assume it’s all legal and binding.” Harbinger thrust the parchment into Pauncefoote’s unwilling hand and vanished, slamming the window shut behind him. “… in that case” continued Dragon “you’d better find some-

where to practice in the furthest corner of the castle, make sure the wind is blowing away from the King’s solar, and rehearse your bollocks off!” “Oh great!” The Plangent Strains shambled off with their moth-eaten instruments to look for a safe haven in which to try to hammer their extremely stylised version of La Gamba into shape for the King’s procession, which unfortunately took place on the very next day.

To find out what happened at the pageant, as well as a bunch of other hideous misadventures, go to: or order through your local bookshop to buy your own copy of The Prang Codex ISBN: 978 1 4092 2308 5

© Jay Holloway 2008


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