1. In the Chamber of The Duchesse.
The Duchesse Frantouse mooned over her fate. Rapunzel had her Rumpelstiltskin, Juliet had Romeo, Don Quixote had his Rocinante, but whom had the Duchesse? Duke Snoutfare was whom, and he was wont to starve her or lock her in her chamber. She was so young and so beautiful. It was too, too bitter. Snortafeu, her nose-ferret, too betrayed her with the typical little black eyes and buttery nose of a female nose-ferret. The Duchesse could rely on only one person; her dear young nursemaid and confidante Nam Nam Chattering. Sad to say, Nam Nam had problems of her own. Nam Nam Chattering always spoke in a voice barely audible, her tiny cup-shaped hand held frozen in front of her mouth, eyes darting about. --Milady I desperately need 600 cluckats because it's ever so important that I get them right now so as to pay my debt to Lacruda the Lowly Liegelord of Chelm or all is lost. --Chelm? You mean Fleghm of course. Never fear Nam Nam, I shall will it to you. Now let me tell you my problems. --But Madame I need it now I cannot wait until you die it is a matter of utmost oh-my-goodness. --Oh Chatters, I don't have to die to will something to you. The cluckats are yours. Get them from Shinglevan. Now, I'm having this fret about... --Pardon Mum if I schreck you say that Shinglevan will stake me? --Here, you shall give this bit of garlic toast to him, he will obey. --I will if you say to but I don't think he shall do it. -- Shush, if you're not going to listen to my woes, get tea. --Hmm tea dumb tea if you ask me. --Off with your headstrong ways. Get! Warmunuf Potheen the Tea Officer silently slithered in and served. The Duchesse sipped in sad solemnity. Countess Buttery-nose Snortafeu the ferret snuffled around under the dust ruffles and settled in on a warm slipper and halfway closed her beady eyes.
2. At the Treasury.
Nam Nam Chattering adjusted her lace cap, whimpered up to face Shinglevan with the bit of garlic toast in her cupped hand, left shoulder hunched, and broke the news about the money to him. --Oh Cushinglee Saints Peter and Christopher, Chattering, how did you manage to build up such an obligation? And, by the way, if you can spare a few moments, I have a number of complaints I would like to tell you about. Perhaps you can speak with the Duchesse. --No time now Sir I couldn't help it Sir it's me brother's nubbins you see. --Oh Pitiful Martyrs, what's nubbins to do with it? --Well you see Sir them nubbins keeps comin' back and he has to go to the witches to get 'em taken off and them nubbins they won't hardly leave and I has to pay them witches for every time we go and we couldn't pay the last six times and so I had to borrow from Lacruda the Lowly Liegelord of Fleghm that's what it is you see Sir. --Oh Rusty Forks and Spoons, whatever it is I suppose that it is none of my business. You must be thinking of Chelm my dear. Since you have brought the Sacred Garlic Toast, I am compelled to concede to you the shekels. Just a few minutes of your time, I have only twelve worries to impart. --I'll be needing it in cluckats if it's all the same to you Sir. Shinglevan curled a lip and handed over the cash. Nam Nam adjusted her lace cap and tiptoed off to pay up.
3. At the Brewery.
Nam Nam Chattering picked a piece of mistletoe as she wended through the Witchforest. Soon enough she found the keeper of the cauldron and got permission to see Witch One. --Oh Witch One I have the cluckats which I owe to Lacruda the Lowly Liegelord of Chelm but I am afraid of him do you suppose you could pass them on to him if it doesn't inconvenience your witching if it please your witchness? --Ah, the little nubbins girl! Thanks, I'll take these coins and return them to Lacruda the Lowly where they belong. He lives in Fleghm, by the way. How's brother Skinrah today? --Oh just fine Witch One thank you I'll be off now. --I was hoping you would stay for a bit of tea. Witch Two is stewing a brew right now, and there are some matters that have been upsetting me lately regarding the treatment of witches in this Dukery and I would like to have you speak to your mistress about them. --Best I be gettin' back as the Duchesse you know is a fusspot you knew that about her didn't you know it? --Yes Nam Nam, away you go then. Witch One waved goodbye first.
4. Behind a Bush.
--Well, well, well, I do believe I have the pleasure of espying Nam Nam Chattering walking alone in this forbidding forest. --Yep, that's who it is. Why should that interest varlots like us? She will have neither shekels nor cluckats. --Ah, Friendel, you forget that she has the ear of the Duchesse! --I remember that it is not a very big ear, Keerah, and almost all gristle. --That is indubitable. Perhaps we should kidnap the whole chicken, dear Friendel. --Chicken?
5. Along a Wooded Path.
--Well looky here, I do believe I have the pleasure of crossing paths with the ever lovely Nam Nam Chattering, handmaiden to the Duchesse Frantouse. How fares the great, if small, Lady kept in her keep? --Uh oh varlots mind your caution you two remember that I have a quite large brother from Fleghm who can knock you all to pieces. --Ah, yes, the very large brother. Surely you are thinking of Chelm. I heard through eavesdropping on the witches that he is full of nubbins. --Not today not today I'm late I'm late out of my way. With little further conversation the vandals swamped Nam Nam with a gunny sack and trundled her off to their kidnapping cottage in the French foreign region where she would be free to scream, though that would have surprised even her.
6. In the Chamber of The Duchesse Again.
--Mung, Shung and Shinny! Where is that nattering Nam Nam. Out jabbering somewhere, no doubt. Hark! What knight on yonder donkey looms. Ho, he knocks upon my portcullis. He enters, he sees steps, he goes up, he approaches mine own cold cold hearth. Tap. --Milady, forsooth methinks I come a-bearing ill woe betides. --News? --Nam Nam Chattering is carried away. --Yes, she can be enthusiastic, can't she? --What I mean is that abductors have snatched her. --Oh my, can't have that. What shall I do, what shall I do? --I fear they have vulgar intentions Milady. They have illustrated their demands by sending along a book of kills they might employ if they don't get their way. --Frogs in the crabgrass! What do they want? --You. --Me? --Actually, they want the dukedom. They think that to rescue Nam Nam, you will give yourself up to them, then they will be able to hold up Duke Snoutfare who will give them the fief. --Ha! --Precisely. The no bull duke would not part with a comb much less the clippings from his fingernails or a castle and grounds. They have overstepped. --You go tell them to let Nam Nam loose and I will try to persuade the duke to overlook their stepoverage. --I fanfare forth.
7. In the Duke's Offices.
Duke Snoutfare put one foot upon the leathern ottoman, then the other foot up and first foot down. He did this over and over as was his way when pondering serious affairs. --So, Frantouse, my unnecessary but nearby love, it appears that you have lost what sense you once had. I do not fathom the depth of your argument. I say knots to them. Nam Nam is not even numnum, what do I care? --It is true that you have never been a kind person, nor a generous one, nor a nice one. Best I stop there. I appeal then to your greed, avarice, venality and torpor. These bold varlots could, after all, be squashed into service as tax collectors and we could snatch back Nam Nam. What say? --The customary term is 'pressed into service,' but I rather like 'squashed' now that you put it that way. Send for the pressers.
8. At the Kidnappery.
--I do believe I have the pleasure of espying a messenger, Friendel. No, it's a gang of pressers. --Ill is boding again, Keerah, let us evacuate the premises. --Wait, they are sporting the green raiment of friendliness. --Oh yeah, friendliness, green raiment, I depart hencewith. --Too late now, they're here. --We bring you greetings from Duke Snoutfare and an offer. You can accept being pressed into service as tax collectors, or we will squash you. Do you have a preference? What say you? --Pressed! Pressed! --You are so impressed.
9. In the Chamber of The Duchesse Once More.
--So Nam Nam, pretty neat rescue eh? Nam Nam Chattering adjusted her lace cap, placed her tiny cup-shaped hand in front of her mouth, and spoke in a barely audible voice. --Well all I can say is that you could have at least had them untie me before carrying me back wholesale by them smelly pressers and I don't never want to see that forest no more and if nubbins comes back I don't care I won't do it and that goes for your old nose-ferret too. Snortafeu nuzzled the slipper further underneath the dust-ruffles, munched on a fly, tilted her head slightly toward the Northwest and sighed into a light snore.
Jack Wilson is a writer and artist practicing in Los Angeles and Phoenix.
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