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Author, Devorah Fox
Robin, the lost King of the Chalklands, invents the “three martini lunch”
“Ah, what is this?”
“A newly discovered wine for which he has a special appreciation, much as the one he holds for a respected friend such as yourself.”
Stanley gave a short laugh. “Good man, that Oliver John. Well, let me sample the lord’s latest discovery.” Stanley strode to the sideboard, selected a goblet, uncorked the wine, and poured himself some. He took a sip and paused, savoring the flavors. He nodded his head and took another sip. “Yes, I can see why he likes this. It’s quite bracing.”
Based on the sample Robin had had in the alehouse, “bracing” would not have been the word he would have chosen. “Dizzying” was more like it.
As Stanley continued to drink, he returned to the table where Robin’s samples were still displayed, picked up a pommel, and hefted it.
“So, this serves as a counterweight, you said,” Stanley said.
“Yes, sir,” Robin replied, and measured out a little more information about the pommel’s function.
Stanley tipped up his goblet and then frowned.
“Empty, sir?” Robin asked. “May I get you more?” Without waiting for an answer, Robin seized the bottle from the sideboard. Stanley held out his goblet.
Robin eased back into his presentation and displayed his own sword into which he had put the best craftsmanship of which he was capable. By the time he had finished, he had dispensed enough persuasive blandishments to propose a very fine sword indeed, and Stanley had had enough fortified wine to agree to commission it.
“My knights would benefit from finer armaments as well, would they not?” Lord Stanley asked.
“Oh, indeed,” Robin replied, trying not to stammer at the prospect of outfitting all of Lord Stanley’s troops. “If you would just sign here, milord,” Robin said. He produced from his portfolio a parchment with language that authorized the Ironworks to fashion the sword “as presented.”
“I can change the quantity?”
“Of course. Just mark through the quantity on the agreement, indicate the quantity that you require and initial the change.”
“That’s simple enough,” said Stanley. “I will go fetch a writing instrument.”
“Oh, I have one here,” said Robin. From his bag he produced a quill pen and a small bottle of ink corked and sealed with wax.
“Well, you did come prepared, didn’t you?” said Stanley.
“I did not wish to waste your valuable time, milord,” Robin replied, trying not to pant although he could barely catch his breath from excitement. He threw in a quick bow for good measure.
“Certainly not,” said Stanley. “Well, the sooner we complete these formalities, the sooner we can get back to the wine, isn’t that right?” He laughed and clapped Robin on the back. “Join me in a toast to our friend, would you?” He hoisted his glass.
“I would be most honored,” Robin said, wondering why Stanley did not offer him a glass and how he could join in a toast without one.
“To Oliver John,” Stanley said and took another sip.
“To Lord Oliver John,” said Robin. As Stanley inked the agreement and affixed his seal, Robin gazed wistfully at the wine bottle.
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"The King's Ransom", by Devorah Fox
Robin, the lost King of the Chalklands, faces certain death
Robin studied the heavy iron padlock that kept the shackle fastened on his wrist. Now that, that had possibilities. Robin smiled. He knew a little something about locks. As a young prince curious about the working of things, he had spent a rainy afternoon with the castle’s locksmith. It had seemed to young Robin that locks were long on intimidating looks but not all that daunting as security devices. He was confident that he could pick the one that held his shackle fast, if he had the right tool.
Or any tool. Would that he had his purse. Maybe he could employ his steel as a tool. Even his belt would have been helpful. He might have been able to use the prong, but the guard had taken his belt as well. There was nothing in the room or on his person that would be of any use. His clothes were all made of soft fabric; nothing stiff or sturdy enough from which to fashion a pick. The instrument had to be rigid but it didn’t have to be very big. Something the size of his little finger would do.
His little finger. In the twilight he regarded his hands. If he could get down to the bone, the bone of his little finger might work. The prospect of pain and dismemberment did not discourage him. Animals escaped traps
He poked his little finger into the lock’s keyhole. Indeed, absent of flesh the finger bone would be the right size.
Robin slipped his finger into his mouth, tasted salt and dirt. He pressed his teeth against the finger and felt pressure but not pain. He clenched his jaw tighter. His finger throbbed and stung. He bit down harder but before he could break the skin, his finger’s weight on the back of his tongue made him gag. He took his finger out and rubbed it, thinking this was proving more difficult than he had expected. He didn’t want to bite off the finger, he wanted to skin it. Were his teeth sharp enough?
His desperate ruminations were interrupted by the sound of a voice.
The hair on the back of Robin’s neck rose. He lifted his head and looked around. The gray light cast shadows on the walls and floor but he saw no one and nothing else in the room. Yet he distinctly heard someone speak.
“Me. You,” came the voice again. An unusual voice, not quite human yet the words were clear, unmistakable.
Robin shook his head. He must be hallucinating. The hunger, thirst, shock of his arrest, and fear of imminent and painful death must have loosened his mind. All this talk of sorcerers and familiars had planted ideas in his head. Still, he was certain he had heard someone speak.
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