Tuesday, November 21, 2006

On the effects of the weather for good and ill

It is curious, sir, that you should choose this moment to speculate about the relationship of your friend and his humble servant. It is on this occasion, in fact, that the honorable Don Quixote De La Mancha has asked me, Sancho Panza to take up his epistolary obligations in his stead for a term as to whose duration we can only guess.
My liege is engaged presently in a pressing matter (which I will describe later at some length), and while he is unable to continue your shared exchange, he was anxious that it should not die or lose its vitality solely on account of his indisposition. Thus, it has fallen to me to bring to life the adventures of which we have taken hold, and the grievous wrongs it has been our good fortune to right. I will, as well, communicate to him the contents of your letter on the subject of false theatre, the vigour of folly, the inclement weather of your home country, and the latest ocular prosthetics, but I feel it is not my place to comment on them myself. I should, rather, remain contingent to this discourse, and endeavor, like all good storytellers, to allow myself to fade and be eclipsed by the words I speak, rather than to contribute to my own grandeur by them. I leave that to other scriveners, if it be their nature. I essay merely to transcribe.
As for the tale I will tell: be warned, however, that here in the balmy climate of La Mancha things are born, live, and expire which would test the theories of your more northerly alchemists. It is a much different land than your own, so you must bear with my description. While it may seem fantastic, the natural laws of our realm allow such things to take place, even if they are suspended when one crosses the Rhine.
And so, I begin the tale Don Quixote has entrusted to me for this letter:
On a pale morning when the peals of the lark's song were clarion clear because of the thinness of the air, Don Quixote awoke earlier than normal. He emerged from his tent and surveyed the valley in which he and his manservant, Sancho Panza, had spent the night. Their fire had continued to simmer through the cool night, and beneath a crust of white ash, red embers sparkled. Eager to be on his way, in spite of the small hour, Don Quixote roused Sancho Panza and instructed him to prepare the horses.
Presently, they embarked towards the north, from which a rich wind was blowing, and with it the smell of smoke and a sense of foreboding. They were, at this time, on the way towards a small roadside hut of a mystic whom Don Quixote had been instructed to visit in furtherance of his quest to slay a marauding Ogre that he had been tracking, but which had eluded the knight. Hoping to approach the mystic's hut in the light of day, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza camped early the night before. Perhaps if they had not, and instead pressed on, they would have reached the man's dwelling in time to save both him and their hopes after the talisman they were promised at his hand. As it turned out, though, they were too late. Only the dirt walls of the hut remained, and the thatch roof and wooden furniture had been consumed by the blaze whose smoke they had smelled from afar and which seemed at first to have been spawned in a low hearth along the wall. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza shuddered to think that it was some philter or reagent for their benefit which was the catalyst of his misfortune. And yet, such a thought is hard to expel from the mind.
While standing in front of the smoking rubble holding back tears of guilt and sadness, Don Quixote pricked up at the sound of a faint cry from a nearby grove of elm trees, and it was there that the shaman had crawled to breathe his last breaths among the fallen leaves. Leaning over him, Don Quixote appealed to god for his life, to no avail, and the man died there on the ground amongst the smell of detritus and moss, but not before slipping into the knight's hand a leaden pendant on a thong and beseeching him to wear it, that it should help him avenge the arson and murder of which the mystic had been victim. By a stroke of ambiguous fortune it had been the very ogre the adventurer hunted who had committed these misdeeds. And with renewed enthusiasm, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza embarked, knowing they were near to their goal.
The two continued on the trail, and soon heard the savage sounds of the great beast feasting on ill-gotten game a short ways into the woods. They withdrew to prepare for what was sure to be an epic conflict.

Don Quixote, in fear for my safety has abandoned me here in our camp, while he engages that brute at this very moment. I hope soon to have news of victory and glory, and that the dying shaman's talisman has vouchsafed my lord's passage. Still, it is difficult to maintain an air of strength when I can hear the terrible din so near at hand.

Be well. I hope Don Quixote De La Mancha can resume his correspondence soon.
Sancho Panza


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