The Mountebank's Tale

A thousand years ago a fat and rancid Monk, Constidius, was contemplating his impending demise. Reclining fat and sweaty in a mouldy armchair in a dank and scabrous room within a cheap and nasty brothel, Constidius folded his upper lip over his lower lip and blubbered like a baby.

The Barbarians were coming!

Constidius’ tunic felt wet and warm around the nether regions. Fear of the Barbarians had caused him to loose his bowels. And so too had it caused Garethessama, a Merovingian Parrot, perched upon Constidius’s shoulder, to let forth a stream of yellow gooey faeces that streaked the front of Constidius’ tunic like the remains of a particularly vile orgy.

The Barbarians were coming!

Clothilde, the beautiful mad maiden of the village, unmarried since the day she was born, clasped her alabaster thighs together and shivered with delicious expectation. She wondered whether she would be ravished.

The Barbarians were coming!

In a nearby and none too salubrious watering Hole, the Grandmother’s Armpit, a slippery looking weasel in a grimy coat and a velvet bow-tie speckled with snot, a smarmy Mountebank, was regaling an audience of assorted losers with tales of the Barbarians, thusly:

“‘Tis said their leader, Ulrig Hausmarten, gnaws upon the forelegs of live children for breakfast. Or is it before breakfast? I don’t know, because the poor soul who related these events to me did so without a tongue, that is to say, it had been cut out!

“‘Tis whispered their balls are so big and heavy that their inner thighs are always mottled with bruises and abrasions!”

No reaction from the sodden barflies. The Mountebank lifted a long and dirty finger and pointed it in the air as if admonishing a recalcitrant schoolboy, and declaimed:

“‘Tis rumoured they drink so much ale their kidneys are the size of watermelons and their livers the size of giant watermelons and their watermelons the size of giant kidneys.

“‘Tis murmured that their moustaches are so greasy and lousy that their womenfolk weave little white linen aprons for the men to wear under their noses in polite company, and that the menfolk wear these aprons tied around their ears with draw-strings for quick and convenient attachment and removal.

“‘Tis muttered their Chieftain, the despicable cannibal Hausmarten, is tall and has wobbly pectorals, and is a barbarian, a wild one, from the interior.

In her lonely wattle hut, Clothilde listened to the little birdies tweeting. She had been born with the Gift of the Tongue, an uncanny instinctive ability to understand all the languages of barbarian-kind, as well as all the languages of creatures, even of stones and bones and other inanimate objects, and of spirits, birds, auctioneers, town criers and gypsies.

At that very moment, the Barbarians attacked, Hausmarten leading the charge, his pectorals wobbling, his shaggy war-skirts flapping in the breeze as he jumped over a burning baby. Behind him came his motley crew of cruel janissaries, wailing in that peculiar way they have, designed they say to strike fear in the heart of ones enemies (more like give ones enemies a splitting headache, truth be told) …

But when their fearsome ululating had subsided, all save one of the enemy was festooned. The Mountebank was momentarily if not pre-emptorily nonplussed, despite having precognised these eventualities since the Flandrian Transgression, even.

Copyright © S R Schwarz 2007. All rights reserved.

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