This Show Case features three pieces submitted in response to our nineteenth Writing Prompt: Star Maker. You can see responses to each prompt in the drop down menu for this page. Try an item. They are all delicious. We hope they stimulate your mind, spirit, and urge to write. Maybe they will motivate you to submit a piece for our next prompt, which you can find on the Show Case home page.
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Of Rakes and Snakes and Honey Cakes
by Mimi Speike
“Well now!” said Sly.
“Indeed!” said John Dee.
“What do we do next?”
“Into the palace with you,” said Dee. “Elizabeth loves novelties. She loves theatrics. She loves her dogs, her horses, her dwarves, her fools, and most of all, her monkey, a curiosity gifted to her by the Elector of Saxony.”
“I heard of it back in Haute-Navarre,” said Sly. “Anything to do with–the English Whore, they called her–was a popular topic of conversation.”
FYI: This piece is part of a series of novellas. Previously: Sly has uncovered a plot against Queen Elizabeth masterminded by a powerful and devious man. The scoundrel is her lifelong best friend. Sly is a cat. Who on earth is going to listen to him, much less believe him?
John Dee believes him. They will try to protect their Queen from one who has lusted to be Prince Consort from their earliest interaction. Both had been in real danger of losing their heads during the reign of Elizabeth’s sister Queen Mary; Elizabeth never forgot that Dudley had befriended her during that traumatic time.
Fond of her childhood companion, she became infatuated with him as she matured. She would neither marry him nor give him up, enough to unhinge anyone, especially a proud man totally beholden to his tormentor financially.
“As Her Majesty’s Royal Astrologer,” said Dee, “I have freedom of movement at court, in certain circumstances. How do we set you up so as to come and go unhindered? You must be the eyes and ears of this operation, invading privy areas from which I am barred. Here’s the stumbling block: Elizabeth does not care for cats.”
“An all-too-common attitude. You, sir, are the exception.”
“The fact that you are my close companion–the court is a-chatter over it, your behavior at my last séance guarantees that–does us no favor. I am assumed to be a supreme master of the dark arts, and your shenanigans did nothing to correct that misconception.
“In our favor: Elizabeth’s newest obsession, the monk, does as she will. The court is required to pronounce her antics adorable. I’m going to throw every farthing I can spare at you. You will be in the forefront of fashion, dressed as grandly as any Lord.
“Elizabeth loves balls, at which Aiesha is obliged to dance with a dwarf, the only partner close to her in stature. Ned, regarding her as his chief competitor for Her Majesty’s attention, does his best to make a graceful female–propelling branch to branch in trees during her infancy has furnished her with superb coordination–seem a buffoon. Do you dance, my friend? I expect not. You’ll have lessons.”
Sly frowned. “I do not yearn to jig, but if I must, I must.”
“You cannot dance barefoot. You must be fashionably shod, in a silken bootie.”
Sly groaned. “Boots are difficult for me. I love the look of them, but to get about in them in any useful way is next to impossible for me. I possessed several pairs in Haute-Navarre. I wore them on formal occasions, in my capacity as a member of the Royal Archers, King Jakome’s Household Guard. Standing for inspection, I was supported by my good friends, Igon and Eder Zendegi.”
“Perhaps a boot-spat would do you. And you’ll have a cane with which to steady yourself upright. A cane with a silver mouse-head-grip. That has to endear you–Dee emits a girlish squeal, How precious!–to a giddy group, the Maids of Honor.
“Those youngsters share Elizabeth’s suite of rooms. They’re been sent to court to catch a noble husband, not to mingle freely with randy courtiers; they are closely supervised. They attend to the Queen’s personal needs and are given instruction in the graces a well-born female must have. It is an unexciting existence. Charm them and they’ll beg to have you lodged with them; you will be a much-appreciated diversion. Dudley resides just down the hall. You’ll be well positioned to encroach there. That’s one strategy.
“Know who else is likely to fall for you? The monk! Play up to her. Shower her with flowers, sweets. She’s a demon for sweets, and particularly fond of honey-cakes. I’ll carry a slice on me at all times. Ask and you shall receive a beribboned parcel to bestow on your sweetheart. And she will be your sweetheart. I peg you for a slick with the females. You’re a lady killer, or I’ll roast He-Who1 and we’ll make a merry meal of him.”
“I was a bit of a scamp in my younger years,” admitted Sly.
“I bet you were! I bet you’re one still, on occasion! Sha-Sha has a taste for handsome rakes in addition to honey-cakes. I rely on you to act that role to perfection.
“That imp, a coquette if ever there were one, has conceived a grand passion for none other than our disgruntled suitor. She climbs into his lap at every opportunity. He encourages it, has his fun of it. ‘Here’s one who would have me to husband,’ he cracks, ‘though her charming mistress will not.’ Yourself strutting cock o’ the walk as Dudley does, she’ll go for you, a more attainable target. All grand ladies have their beau. She feels her lack of an admirer keenly.
“Attach yourself to Aiesha. Escort her about, and most especially to Dudley’s chamber; she intrudes there frequently. While the lovers frolic, search for incriminating documents. If you’re caught at it, what harm? Who in his right mind would suspect a cat? I will see to it that your part in a triumph will be well advertised. I will make you a star,2 shining bright in tale and rhyme for all eternity.”
1. Dee’s pet raven, that lends his séances considerable atmosphere. Sly despises him.
2. The use of the word “star” to indicate a singular individual dates to the Middle Ages.
A Short Lesson in Linguistics
by Boris Glikman
During the Medieval Ages there lived an illustrious scientist and inventor who, after much thought, came to the conclusion that there were far too many stars and planets crowding up the sky and that the heavens would look much better with a lot less of them.
He also realised that the lives of people on Earth were intractably complicated and unpredictable, because of the myriad stars and planets all exerting their own particular and often conflicting astrological influences upon mankind. This made forecasting the future nearly impossible and caused prophecies, divinations and horoscopes to be wildly inaccurate. With only a few celestial objects in the sky, existence would be so much more orderly and the flow of human affairs so much smoother.
And so this inventor-scientist applied all of his prodigious mechanical talents to the construction of a special weapon that could be used to shoot down heavenly bodies.
As an added bonus, when the gunned-down stars and planets landed on Earth, he dissected them and exhaustively analysed their inner structure in his laboratory, thus gaining invaluable knowledge which greatly advanced the field of astronomy. Once finished with his investigations, the scientist filed them carefully into his special astral album, like precious stamps and coins.
And that’s how the phrase “shooting stars” originated. Initially this phrase referred to the actual deed of gunning down stars, but over time its meaning shifted to refer to those falling stars that have been shot down.
Even to the present day, we continue to see stars falling from the sky, for they are the ones that have finally succumbed to the wounds inflicted by the astronomer’s gun hundreds of years ago.
Et Ego Quoque
by S.T. Ranscht
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