I glanced wistfully at the crumb-strewn dish where a dozen hot blueberry muffins had rested not long before. I made a mental note to ask Dennis for the recipe before I took my leave. That streusel topping had been absolutely delightful. Belly overfull and feeling a nice, sleepy wave of relaxation wash over me, I turned my full attention once more to my host. “Thanks so much for the food. The hike up really got my appetite going.” Then, thinking that there was no time like the present, “Maybe I could get the recipe before I leave? Those were fantastic muffins!”
Stroking his grey-streaked beard malevolently, the cruel Duke of Thundersummit Keep turned to the captive young man and chuckled treacherously. “Oh, stop it, they’re nothing special. If you insist, though, I’ll jot it down once I’ve finished cleaning.” The perfidious profligate plunged the rusted old muffin pan into the dank and dirty dishwater as though trying to drown the life out of some innocent woodland creature. “I’d hate to bore you while I’m washing up. There’s some reading material on the table in the parlor. Why don’t you go read off those baked goods and I’ll join you shortly?”
I agreed wholeheartedly with the idea, and retired to the parlor. The armchairs there were built to a standard of comfort I hadn’t realized was possible, even if they looked a little dated. Between the plush seating, the distended stomach, and the Study of Botany I had chosen to read, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that I soon dozed off. My slumber was too light and too brief to dream, but pleasantly restful. I was roused by Dennis.
A gnarled, warty old hand took the young man’s shoulder in a vice-like grip, and violently shook him back and forth. “Here,” rasped the dastardly Duke. With his other clawed extremity, he proffered a goblet containing a vile-looking potion, as dark and putrid as the soulless man’s own black heart. “Pinot Noire, from the vineyard two fiefdoms over. Excellent vintage. Do you smoke?” Setting the goblet on the grotesquely carved table next to his grandiose throne, Wicked Duke Dennis slunk to the nearest bookshelf and retrieved a suspicious wooden box, one covered with strange and ominous runes and smelling strongly of mysterious and unfamiliar herbs.
“Not really,” I said. “No offense.”
Outraged, the volatile tyrant slammed the box back down on the shelf and shouted at his prisoner, “Eh, to each their own. And I didn’t slam it.”
I nodded. “It’s true, he was quite civil about it.” I couldn’t begin to imagine how difficult it was to live with an antagonistic narrator.
The contemptible cur rounded on the innocent young man threateningly, fist raised to strike his unsuspecting detainee. Lightning split the sky outside, harshly backlighting the deceitful Duke. In a low growl that would curdle blood, he intoned, “Never mind him, it only eggs him on. I shouldn’t have said anything. So, you were looking to expand your farmland and need an investor, correct?” It was clear that the bloodthirsty despot was on the verge of a homicidal rage.
I considered for a moment. “Actually, I think we should address this narration issue first. It can’t be easy to run a duchy with this misleading account. Why is he like that?”
The prideful and vain old villain twirled his waxed mustaches maliciously before replying. “I wish I knew. He wasn’t always like this.” He laughed nefariously, fully aware of his wrongdoing and reveling in the narrator’s anguish like the heinous malefactor he was.
I glanced at Dennis with a knowing look. “If I may wager a guess, it would seem to me that your narrator is holding something against you.”
The despicable Duke, less evil mastermind and more oblivious dolt, had clearly forgotten how, in a moment of callous and causal cruelty so long ago, he had remarked to an acquaintance on his devoted narrator’s “forced British accent.” Upon being confronted for his wrongdoing, he stammered like a blithering idiot, “Wait, that? That was years ago! You’ve been holding a grudge this whole time?”
Before the inept and heartless Duke Dennis could restate the obvious yet again, the poor young man interjected heroically. “It may not seem like much of an offense to you, Duke Dennis, but clearly your narrator was hurt by it. Also my own narrator can handle my dialogue, thank you very much. Nothing against yours, I just prefer his first-person perspective,” I said, trying not to be too forward in a precarious situation.
The hateful and villainous blackguard snarled and spat, “…you’re right. I didn’t realize I’d been hurtful, but ignorance is no excuse. I’m sorry, narrator. You shouldn’t have had to suffer all these years, and I hope you can forgive me.” The depraved lowlife… the loathsome… the… unpleasant… Dennis. Dennis concluded his heartfelt apology, and felt warmth well up from within. It felt good to do right by those close to him, and to earn forgiveness in return.
I smiled, watching a man I had grown to like very much over the last few hours mend his relationship with his estranged narrator. They’d both been suffering unnecessarily for so long. How strange that a chance visit from a lowly farmer such as myself could have been the catalyst to repairing their rapport. It was a touching scene, and it truly made me appreciate how well my own life had been going. I resolved never to take my own narrator for granted, even if sometimes I’d prefer wrapping up a tale like this one without a long-winded summary of events at the end preventing me from concentrating or getting a word in. Of course, I’m just an uncultured bumpkin who couldn’t recognize talent if it was following me around narrating my life every day. If I were any more boorish, people would throw rocks at me when I passed by. I’m little more than an inbred yokel who likes nothing so much as inviting my cousin over to– “Wait a minute…”