Monday, July 02, 2007

Chapter One

Master Thistlewhacker, Lord of the Eastern Gardens and Scourge of the Western Weeds, awoke well after dawn. Rising from his bedchamber, he stepped into the cabinét to use the ingenious and magical self-cleansing chamberpot, and then shuffled into the kitchen, yawning and rubbing his eyes.

"Woman!" he barked, between yawns. "What does a man have to do to get something to eat around here?"

The cook, old Mrs. Og, did not lift her eyes off the basket of freshly gathered hen's eggs through which she was sorting. "He can go find himself a seat at the table and be patient," she said. "But," she added, "if my son calls me woman, wench, or scullion again, he can jolly well make his own breakfast." She set the basket of eggs aside and turned her attention to the skillet of bacon that was sizzling on the top of the cookstove, and Master Thistlewhacker, realizing he was overmatched and that discretion truly was the better part of valor, discretely left the kitchen and shuffled into the servants' dining room.

There he found Old Og, the master huntsman, sipping a cup of coffee and reading the Sunday papers. "Good morning, old man!" Thistlewhacker said by way of cheerful salute. "How fares it with thee this fine morning, grandfather?"

"Og your father," the grizzled old relic of a bygone age reminded him. "No use your pretending Og not." Thistlewhacker quickly changed the subject.

"How goes the hunt, old — Father? Do you plan to stalk another fine mastodon today?"

Og shook his shaggy head. "Mastodon season closed," he grunted. "Today, Og hunt skins and furs." The ancient huntsman let out a sort of a snorting sound, shook his head again, and then folded the newspaper and set it aside.

"Og not understand," he said to Thistlewhacker. "Much more fur there is on buffalo or deer. But Mrs. Og want Og go catch stupid little mink. Not much meat there is on mink, and it taste bad."

Og sighed. "But when Mrs. Og not happy, Og no get lucky. So Og spend all day hunting stupid little ermine and mink, and looking for shiny rocks, too. Og very much not understand."

Thistlewhacker smiled, and gave the huntsman a not unkindly pat on his massive shoulder. "That's all right," he said gently. "I've a feeling that there are some things that haven't changed since the dawn of time, and that man was simply never meant to understand."