Archive for March, 2010

Do not try this at home
There are over 82,000 residents in Trenton, as of a 2008 census.

According to latest CBS news report a 15 year old girl took her sister of 7 and she sold them for sex to as many as seven.  Trenton is the capital of New Jersey.

Police say the teenager, who stayed behind, also took money to have sex with others at a party in a Trenton apartment Sunday.

The older girl is charged with aggravated sexual assault, promoting prostitution and other crimes. Her name was not released because of her age.

Police are trying to track down the men and boys who were at the party.

The girl must have followed the spirit of free trade as dished out by politicians and capitalists alike in her own small way. Think what she set out to achieve at a tender age of 15 ! Only the manner in which she set out went wrong. She made moneyin the best tradition of capitalism on whoever she could get hold of: it happened to be her sister of seven.

The older sister apparently believed in the bromide we have heard so often,’ Catch’em young,’ and do not believe in anymore. We have become cynical as she has, and know the best trick to turn up a dollar or two is to have one fall guy on hand. Of course she had set up her sister and knew if she played her cards well she could have had the custom of  the entire Trenton. Well almost.


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According to Cassian(c.400 AD)St. John an Apostle of Jesus was seen sporting with a tame partridge by an archer, who thought the holyman should not waste his time in frivolities. St. John replied that if the archer didn’t at times relax his bow, it would lose its spring.


Marcion,the son of a bishop made his fortune at sea. While in Rome he became a Christian about 140 AD. He gave a gift of 1600 pounds to the Church which was returned to him when he turned to gnosticism. The canon of Marcion recognized only the gospels of St.Paul and St. Luke. This prompted the Church to lay down her canon of the New Testament( 180 AD) and it was confirmed in Antioch,Ephesus and Rome.

Marcion’s teachings caused a sharp division in the Church which later caused him much distress and he sought a reconciliation.

When Polycarp(c.AD 69-156)the Bishop of Smyrna came to Rome Marcion sought him out and asked,’Do you recognize me?’

‘Yes,’ replied Polycarp,I recognize the firstborn of Satan.’


Athanasius,Bishop of Alexandria(AD.256)

was caught in the Arian controversy where his life was often only one step away from disaster since there were great many enemies who wanted to destroy him. None came more implacable as Bishop George, formerly a pork contractor from Cappadocia. He supported the Arian doctrine. He was merciless,hard and mercenary in hunting down who didn’t subscribe to it. He was appointed a Bishop at a gathering of 30 bishops at Antioch.

He terrorized churches that smacked of Orthodoxy and Athanasius became the symbol of everything that he hated.

The contest between them became mixed up with the same Bishop who was martyred during the reign of Emperor Julian the Apostate. This confusion of two events have given us an iconic image of George contending for the Empress Alexandra against the magician Athanasius. The same George is the patron saint of England!


Athanasius was an ascetic and steadfast in his belief and he was targeted by both Meletians and Arians. Once charge was brought before Emperor Constantine that the Bishop had killed a Miletian bishop named Arsenius. In fact he was hidden away by his faction in a monastery. They produced a dismembered hand in a box stating that Athansius had cut it off for purposes of magic.

Luckily for Athanasius, he could spirit away Arsenius from his place of hiding. His enemies didn’t know this.

Athanasius produced a muffled body in front of the emperor. He first showed his face asking,’Is this Arsenius, whom I murdered?’

Then he revealed one hand and then the other to say:’ Let no man ask for a third; for two hands,and two only was everyman from the Creator of all things.’

In the manner in which he could wriggle out of all the traps set for him naturally his enemies believed that he was a magician.

Origen(c.AD185-254) considered as the father of textual criticism came from a devout Christian family. From young age it fell on his shoulders to support the big family which he did by taking on pupils,copying manuscripts in his elegant handwriting. He was the pupil of Clement who headed the first Christian university set up in Alexandria.

At 17, he became the he head of the Catechetical School, a perilous post at that time. As there was no stipend attached to his post he sold off his library for an annuity of money equivalent of six pence a day, and for the rest of his life lived on this small amount. He wore but one garment ,went barefoot,slept on the ground and ate and slept sparingly. His holiness and deep erudition brought flocks of pupils to his lectures.

Having female pupils he,in order to avoid any scandal that may arise made himself an eunuch literally following an injunction of Jesus. The father of textual criticism and allegorical method in explaining the Scriptures took it literally!(Ack:Lights and shades of Christendom-Bishop Pakenham-Walsh,The Christian Literature Society-1935)


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‘ ‘Evil pays back in kind;and good is its own reward.’so said my father in my youth but now older and wiser with life experience I think evil and good are two parallel lines as made out by moralists of old. Mankind has them overstepped so often that there is a blur between the lines. He who condemns evil may look well he hasn’t got his foot on the wrong side’.


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The New Jerusalem

Rev 21:10-14 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. vs.14The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

In previous posts regarding the Church,whose builder is Jesus Christ, I had stated the churches of the world were built on Peter the Man. These carried the inherent flaws of man,-his pride, ambition, superficiality and guile. The story of Adam clearly shows how he was beguiled by Satan. He could not walk with God since he was afraid. Satan had deflected his mind first and thereafter his body also followed. It is the case with his churches. Adamic nature of man produced only divisions. His church and his city are not man made or on a rock that was half and half. Jesus expressed his will. (St.Matt 16:18-19,23)

Only that the Rock he had in mind had to be transformed as clear as crystal.

The vision of John the divine is after the similitude of man. So we need to see it as a narrative from the standpoint of Man.

The rock is like jaspar and as clear as crystal. Peter the man who minded the things of man has become jewel and do mind the things of God.

The Scriptures is like a play where God Holy Spirit and Man hold the stage of eternity at any time or age. There are exits and entrances for angels prophets, kings of the world. Parts are written for women,wicked and good alike. Notwithstanding such a cast plays subordinate role to the Triune God.

Good theater is when the personages that make up the cast carry the story forward. This way each of us is part and parcel of it.

We see God in the Old Testament as the Judge beginning with the calling of Abraham out of Canaan:Jerusalem was the visible center of His people where law and its obedience instilled in people to make a distinction of godly and gentile peoples. Law in itself didn’t make any one perfect but gave the people of God a context and a standing in reference to Him.

Second Act begins with the Advent of Christ. In sending the Son God made man to live and walk under grace. There was a kind of freedom that made people fall on Him than on dead works of Law. Both are for Adamic man and the only difference implied is in the way he viewed Law: law written on stone tablets were inward and on his will to fulfill the requirements of Law. On the other hand man under grace relied on His mercy and His Will. With the outpouring of Holy Spirit (revelation) focus on Man becomes clearer. He is of the House of God and the people would see God among them.

Raison d’etre of churches of the world holds such a fellowship as the bedrock but in practice churches have proved to be the biggest recruiting centers for Satan. A simple example of Catholic Church would suffice. With such rampant child abuse does Vatican do the one thing that is needed? Disband all her hierarchical pomp and circumstance to make bishops truly shepherds of the flock and oversee their parishes accountable to their wards? Vatican is an amalgam of State and Church that has got her arithmetic wrong. In matters of Church they have applied cold logic of a state protecting its instruments of power. In matters of State they acquiesced and diluted or misplaced the very principles of Christ, in securing advantage for her See. Thus the Church survived in the Nazi Germany and during the time of Franco.

Can State and Church co-exist? The New Jerusalem shall be a proof that nothing is impossible for God. The New Jerusalem will have Children of Israel, nations and those who are washed by His blood.God and Church of Christ make State and Church as one. The Millennium vision of the Prophet (Isa.11:6-9) speak of Lamb and the wolf coexisting. God the Judge and the Church of Christ shall be one House.

The New Jerusalem is unlike the old where so much blood has been shed. In 70AD the Imperial Rome defiled the city of Peace. Many wars fought there since that time make it unfit for the work of Christ who is also called the Prince of Peace. I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

Here we have revelation and work where the Church minds the things of God.


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Here is one who had a figure to play dandy. He taught the Regent( the future King William IV) how to keep the boots shiny. He insisted on champagne  for his boots while the regent loved to lard his gizzard with it. No wonder their friendship was doomed.

Brummel  took his appearance very seriously. It took 4 hours to adjust his cravat and another five to adjust his morals to keep up with the Regent. Poor Brummel by the time he was fitted out  it was time to change his morning coat for the evening frock. Cravat of course went unnoticed among the Regency bucks whose phizz were floating in bumperful champagne.

Only those whom he impressed were the tradesmen,butcher and coachmen who thought a dandy who had so much accoutrements but no will to pay their bill has to be dunned.

O poor Beau Brummel. His cravat was a style that in our time has even changed name for the shame of it. Cravat  or a choker? What is it. Both come to a tie.

Beau Brummel leads the list in my Misguided Lives of Men of Fashion


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When I became aware of fashion trends Elvis was the reigning king. My  eldest brother Babs was the trendsetter for my brother and me. Being the first born he had the privilege of clothes by yard and stiched to measure by one tailor whom we knew by name. What’s more my father made it a matter of family honor to accompany him to shop. Afterall Babs was going to study medicine.  He could parade the thoroughbred for the punters to bet on.  A doctor made every Marwari, Bihari or arami sit up and notice. It was thus my brother set out to be fashion plate.

At home my brother and I waited to see the outcome. That evening my eldest brother came home very agitated. he had seen himself as a buck in the swim of things among young bucks as he. He swore a father who didn’t know Elvis or what he stood for was a disgrace. Babs confided later in the evening, all he had mentioned drain pipes when the tailor took the measure. It seems my father put his foot down emphatically and said, ‘No way!’  The tailor said helpfully it was the trend.  My Father seemed to have said, ‘devil take the trend’ Of course it was he who paid, so tailor was sure drainpipe style was a flash in the pan. From my brother’s angst I became aware of fashion as one’s visiting card to the world.

The world took measure of you in the way you presented yourself. Period.

When my turn came I was sure I would say no as emphatically as my father had expressed, to drainpipes. Unfortunately it didn’tcome to that. My brothers were already in far corners of the earth and their discards were in the shelf. My father examined them and they were more mothballs than fabric in them.  For once he and I were in accord. He said in my earshot to my mother,’I hate to see Benny in them.’ I felt proud that he placed me rightly as the youngest in the family. ‘No drainpipes, No discards for one as privileged as I’, saidI.

In 1964 when I first went to Chennai (Madras then) I found among list of  my wardrobe written in my mothers rounded handwriting most of fathers woollen pants neatly packed. Only then I appreciated Joseph’s coat of many colors. Every color that graced on the backs of Ruben Levi, Naphthali and Simon must have found in the patchwork. Wily old Jacob! wily old father who knew how far the hand-me-down should stretch!

Even now I shudder as I write these ,’what madness came over me to wear my fathers clothes?’.

Under the sweltering Madras summer 40 degree heat my woollen pants took a terible beating. While my friends and I were chilling out at Buharis on the Mount Road, I was feeling the heat that stuck to my calves.

The pants of my father was designed to hang sportingly on a gargantuan midriff but I always had that lean and hungry look in those days. Of course I hungred after a slice of fashion but to tell the truth the belt tightened around the middle belied that  lean and hungry look.

At an age of drainpipes I was sporting bellbottoms! Now I have a sneaking suspicion I set the trend of bell bottom that came only a decade later.  Did some Mexican tourists copy my style or what?

Once or twice my friends noticed my woollen pants and asked in a friendly concern,’Wouldn’t you find it terribly hot, ben?”

“Oh no In  fact I love them!” How humiliating to think of it!

Having brazenly weathered under discards, hand-me- downs I don’t care too hoots for fashion.

Only two prayers I have in my old age:

O God let me have fresh clean toilet roll for my bottom and a clean handkerchief to blow my nose in. For the rest I don’t care.’


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How Knight Gareth made a detour

Berthold the Court Jester had been in King’s service from the time he discovered he had a gift of the gab. His loquaciousness however hit a hiatus whenever the talk got personal. His jabs were not as bad as his jokes. He had his license to poke fun at anything and spare nobody. He became more circumspect with such power that made the king think he was only playing the fool and his heart was not in his job.

The king was right as usual. Only that king being busy marauding neighboring kingdoms let him dither. Much less he thought of his fool when he had to provide his knight at arms with a squire to hold his shield.

The king agreed to let Bertie, as he was known in the intimate circle, to find the right candidate. There were three peasants who had thrown their caps into the ring.

By sundown they came.

The king and the nobles were at supper. The king motioned the fool to start.

The jester roughly caught the nearest by his collar,” Hey Willie, please keep your finger from your nose at least when you are spoken to.’

But nobody spoke to me” mumbled Wilfred wiping his offending finger on his trouser.

Bertie the fool grimaced and said, “oh heavens, and deaf too.” He gave a kick on his shins and told the king,’ He will not do master.” Bertie didn’t mind the merriment he caused and he stood a little far from the second.

“ Fall out!” he barked.

The second promptly did as he was told. The Court jester looked at him and winced. “I said fall out. Not your dingle!” he turned to his master to say, “Any fellow who forgets to fix his codpiece is not fit for the job.”

The third peasant stood ramrod and said ‘At your service, master’ Berthold the Jester farted and barked, ”Catch it!”


The Fool threw up his hands in despair and asked the tittering court, “I fart and he can only say ‘what?’. What kind of service can you expect from him?”

With a straight face he said,These three will not do.”

The king said, “Now you tell us who can do the job.”

Approaching the kings table he said,” Put your cup down. I don’t want you to spill your wine.” The king seriously obeyed. The courtiers who were chomping their viands swallowed hard to hear the fool.

I Berthold of Pipsquak Corner will be the squire.” The king paused seriously and said it was impossible since he didn’t want a fool to distract the serious business of bloodletting. The fool stood on his hands and walked to wards the king. Knight Gareth said “Please sire, I will vouch for him. Let him be my squire.” The king thought over and asked the fool,’Do you have a horse?’

The jester said, ‘ I will show it to you.” He quickly ran inside and brought a wooden rocking horse. “Whatever was good for the king is good for me.”

By the time the army set out Squire Berthold was on a nag that kept her pace with his knight.

Berthold knew he was on the right side and the knight knew he found a friend for life.


The King’s army camped for the night on the plains. There were three more days journey beyond which was fraught with danger. King Eric had kept the army march in secrecy. Every village and town were hotspots where the spies could have known and slipped into cover and warn the Palatinates. Knights were put in ranks each one supervising mobs who carried pitchforks, lances, bows and arrows. Some had shields made from most bizarre utensils patched up to do the job. Knight Gareth kept pace with the mules that had drovers bearing scythes and flails tipped with iron balls. In between they spoke of their farm life and hopes, and Knight Gareth had difficulty in holding back his home-sickness. The party crossed the postern gate that barred fields that led them to the town of Fidelis. By late in the evening they broke up their ranks and made their beds under a clear cloudless summer sky. Tomorrow they were to strike towards east along the grove of cypresses to the hills that girt around Palatine. The Prince-Elector of Ghoulish Palatine lorded over his kingdom lulled into a belief that the hills of Malvern was beyond the pale of mortals. Knight Gareth heard the name Malvern witch a couple of times and he asked his squire for news.

A sorceress who cannot be approached,” Bertie the fool explained,’for praise or for money.”

‘No it is a wizard’, the miller was certain.

The knight mulled over it. The witch’s lair was close to the Palatinate. He could understand why Queen Mother sent her agent to Fidelis than to Malvern. The sorceress or wizard, what matter is it of gender, the one who lorded over Malvern didn’t bend house rules even a trifle to accommodate a queen.

The knight went over to the king to report this piece of news. The king flatly refused to take his army through the domain of a sorceress. ‘I have sent my spies already to find a weak spot from which we may attack the Palatinate from the rear’.

The kingdom of Prince-Elector of Ghoulish Palatine was situated around the bend of the river Ghoul with Malvern Spits on the rear. Knight Gareth said he was not afraid of witches, man or woman. He offered his services to reconnaitre. King Eric smiled at his loyalty and slapping on his back he asked the knight to get a good night’s rest.

On his return he found the squire had already seen to his comfort. Eating his meal he confided in Berthold of his plans.

He also said he missed his wife and his baby terribly. The squire assured him he was ready for an escapade and would help in whatever way he could.

By the time they reached the door of his cottage the entire town was asleep. No soul was in sight. Only a stream that didn’t distinguish between day or night. It went on gurgling and wheezing around the pebbles on shallow bed. Leaving his squire to care for the horses he quietly slipped in. Greta was fast asleep and the baby lay in his cot blissfully unaware of his father. He could not help trembling. He felt strange as though he were intruding on Greta’s dreams. Her gentle breathing went on its steady pace. He lit a candle that stood on a table by her head.

He quietly sat on the side and leaned across, enfolding her in his arms. She stirred and slowly adjusted her eyes. She gasped. Edgar was back! She sat up and they hugged each other. They spoke no words but laughed and looked at each other in wonder. She touseled his hair and took out a straw. Casting it silently away she caressed his face and kissed. They made love silently all their senses engaged into it as though it made the months of absence go away. Only after they satiated themselves in each others warmth she followed him as he scooped Rudy in his hands. “Now he can turn himself over and is busy trying to sit up.” She pointed to the bump on his forehead that was nothing serious. He kissed him and also kissed her with feeling. She stared at him for a trifle long sensing that he was not going to stay. She looked into his eyes searching while he said,’I am the king’s knight at arms.’

She didn’t understand what he meant. She reached out and took his finger and drew him closer, “Edgar, I could want you more but.” She smiled at her silliness to say,’I wait for the day you are free.’ She would have thrown herself into her arms but for hurried steps. Their neighbor Agathe huffed and puffed into the parlor. Seeing the man she quickly caught the shoulder of Greta and blubbered,’I see spirits blue and white hairs like tendrils. The ghostdreamer is here!”

Hold it woman,” Edgar said with authority while pouring a generous shot of barley wine. He explained that he had just dropped in to visit his wife. He didn’t explain further. Greta knew he wanted his new position to be kept a secret.

As he stepped into the darkness he heard Agathe anxiously asking, “I hope you came alone?” He chose not to answer.

He walked a little further and he saw his squire stepping out from the shadow of an old yew tree. He still held on to horse. Knight Gareth knew the squire didn’t want to be seen by Agathe.

He said casually,’Fine time to leave me in the lurch.’ he also added that he would appreciate it greatly if he were open about it. ‘I wont hold your secret against you.’ Court jester Berthold said, “ I just met my mother. She is a witch.”

Knight Gareth thought he would fall off from his horse. So it was she who helped the Queen Mother. He was in a fix.

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Knight Gareth witnesses something Horrible

King Erik was happy with the outcome. The war had added to his prestige. On his return he entrusted his knight at arms to his cronies all valiant men who had fought by  his  side for long. He paid his courtesy call to his aunt Lady Gisella of Griswold. Then he had his horses and four wolfhounds to look after. Having done these he could walk towards his apartment.

As soon as he entered the palace he hung his battle axe on its rack along with his breastplate and chain mail.  Sooner had he settled his weapons and irons he entered into his private chambers. He drank himself to oblivion. He had earned his drink by Saint Maloy!.

On waking up the king called his court jester Berthold and asked him to fill in his day-book as before with the days events.

Berthold had a fine hand with which entered somewhat as follows.

Tuesday: Reception of the Council of Minisiters. Knight Gareth introduced  to the pards. Dinner: Knight Gareth is seated next to Lady Gisella. The knight  strong with his sword as reports go; definitely shy with women.   Lady Gisella spoke with her eyes and her ladies in waiting all in titter.

Wednesday: nothing.

Thursday a bear hunt. So it was to the forest Malfardeen. Black bears aplenty.

Saturday: Thirty pelts assured. Meat to the wolfhounds. Beaters get farthings and free drinks. Bonfire by the plains. King and party sets out for wenching. Knight Gareth sits apart stone sober. He doesn’t drink like a knight. He doesn’t wench unlike the king. He says he misses his hearth.

Sunday: Lady Gisella drops in on the king’s party. King orders Knight Gareth to escort her back. May be Lady Gisella and Maid Sylvia will need to watch out the knight doesn’t cry on their shoulders.

The scribe wasn’t far from wrong. Knight Gareth was the miserable but he dreaded displeasing the king. He kept company to the ladies  and he  spoke only when spoken to. He was a reluctant gallant who knew his place. Often as he trotted his horse by them he thought how he could drop them all and make a visit to his Greta.

He had no idea how his absence was viewd in his home town.
The battle of the Marshes was celebrated throughout Gothburg with enthusiasm. Only that news from the court began circulating among the elite; and soon  the habitues of the taverns and coffee houses began narrating the valor of a knight. Gareth was a name much bandied about. No one could place hearing of such a wight.
The town of Fidelis by the river Ghoul could take pride in one broad road and it was paved with shale. Every Friday market brought the burghers who made something useful or needed, together. Knight Gareth was a name that the folks could not place let alone remember of having seen. As squire Cut n’Thrust they had hobnobbed and made merry at the end of the day for a pint or two.   Had they known him as the husband of  Greta they could have chattered about their love that stemmed from ther cradle; they knew the ups and downs of their family fortunes; and they knew their tastes in fashion. Their hearts could weave poetry of uneventful life on the refrain of fidelty alone and if some minstrels needed material they would have pointed them to the couple. The squire was a  nobody who made their rude tongues wax eloquent; as the name Gareth awed them to silence.

Greta went on with her life and she was not happy since her lover was absent. Her babe made her life full but something had gone out of her life. Where was he?

One morning Greta got up hurriedly to meet the bailiff from Roget le Duc the lord of the domain  and he was rather abrupt to call on her door early. “If you paid the dues in time I would have been resting in my bed” He abused the manner in which he was harried by folks for no mistake of his. Greta wrung her hands and  sighed. It was three months since her husband had disappeared. She knew he was alive and would not leave her unless he had a good reason. It was her sorrow and it was not going let her off the hook.  So she let sat with him to count how much of her livestock would please the Duke’s collector. They haggled over flock of geese and a cow as surety. She promised to pay as early as possible.  After sending him away grumbling she called her neighbor Agathe and asked,’Will you be going to the market? She had things to do around her house. Knowing the drift she agreed to look after Rudy and told her about the latest gossip. Knight Gareth and his exploits were of  least interest to her.

She had a cart  load of baskets woven by her to sell.  These were beautifully crafted and she also took pride in them. If she could sell them all she could have redeemed her pledge. She was wistful. She didn’t blame her man. Edgar was his name who looked after his family. She still looked winsome her plainness made delicious by her warm heart. After finishing her chores she carried her baby to the neighbor with instructions. Agathe listened to her indulgently.’ I brought in my time eight angels’ she thought to herself.

Meanwhile Knight Gareth was in a manner of speaking held in prisoner by his king. King Erik was besotted with pride of his new champion. He had begun to think grand and he knew Gareth would make his ambition to fruition. The week after he had rested in one of the houses where his knights were housed he asked permission to go and see his wife. “I am sick with love,”he said bluntly and the king assured he would get to see his family sooner than he thought. The king told him that  he was indebted  to him because he shed blood for his honor.”It has cleaned you from your low ignoble birth.” He was certain it was premature: his idea was that he ought to go home only to give his family a new name. A new pomp and circumstance for the House of  Gosling he had almost won by his might.

The king had set a whole regimen to make his knight earn his place at the court. Towards this he had to excel in fencing, courtly dance  and diplomacy.  “You have to think like a prince if you  were to serve me.”  Edgar or Knight Gareth could not find fault with his reasoning. King Erik also confided how he was harried by people who lived across the river. Palatinate of Ghoul was one itching for war. ‘I am a man of peace till odds of victory is in my favor.’ Surprisings there was a diplomat from the Palatinate.  In annoyance he threw his hands and said, “Enough headaches and must you add to mine?” That shut up the knight.

A  fortnight later the king received a few diplomats from the Elector of Palatine. The knight was by the side of the king. Of the many gifts brought the diplomat picked a recorder from a wickerwork . Knight Gareth  was struck by it. It was a  present for Lady Gisella. The visitors conveyed compliments from Queen Mother and presents for Lady Gisella.

The king sent the knight to fetch his aunt.  Knight Gareth promptly went to her apartments and informed his master’s wishes. Maid Sylvia went in and out came the Lady Gisella to receive the message in person. She gave him a smile and he for once was tongue-tied. As always she was radiant and self possessed and her playful eyes were her ornaments. He curtseyed and he could not escape her eyes as she peered into his face. Her breath was fresh and her hands rested casually on his. ‘I am real and wait what else you have to say.’ He again repeated what he was there for. “I didn’t mean that. Haven’t you something to tell me -for yourself?” He fumbled that sent her into peals of titter. Maid Sylvia also was enjoying his discomfiture.  They had fun at his awkward silence.  Oh I adore silences!’ Lady Gisella gurgled throatily and it was comical. The knight knew she was too smart and elegant so he kept his mouth shut.

She made him wait till she went into her boudoir and dressed herself for the occasion.  All in white with her collar trimmed with ermine and train trailing behind her she was beyond compare. Hardly he dared to breathe or look at her. She put her gloved hand  out and he  could not escape.  Her touch was as strange as he took a cold corpse for a walk. One moment she was all warm flesh and looks; in her mere presence  her feminine wiles like an aura enveloped her. Now there was something awful a mystery that hit him hard.  Bravely he escorted her and left her before the diplomats who were true to their form. They made deep courtesy and paid compliments.  The elder presented a message from the Queen Mother which she glanced. He face showed no expression. A page meanwhile took a present and handed it to Sir Roeolf the younger of the two. Knight Gareth saw him tremble and he unfolded the silk sash and Lady Gisella as courtly as ever took it and adjusted folds so the silver patterns fell all on the right side. The knight was certain the entire frame of Lady Gisella was strange and her touch  was as cold and distant.

Obviously the Queen Mother and her present disgusted her. It was the strangest sensation he could not get over. She jerked her chin haughtily as though the gift was her due.

There was an audible hiss. Like the sash unfolding. No it was burning to cinder! The flames hissed and spiraled about her. Lady Gisella went up in flames and not a speck of ash remained. A cold wind seemed to ride along the frame and nothing remained.

King Eric the Broadsword was aghast. So were his court. The embassy from the Prince-Elector of Ghoulish Palatinate was equally astounded. They wanted to express their horror and sorrow. “It was a mistake, an egregious blunder of nature, sire” Baron Thybault The senior diplomat said. The King waved him and his party. ” We shall let you know our answer.” He said and strode off. knight Gareth also made an about turn. He remembered he was entrusted with the presents. The box with recorder.

He carried them and he gasped, ” This wickerwork is familiar.” He sidled to the side of Berthold and whispered. The court Jester bounded down the wide stone steps to inquire.

Knight Gareth left the presents  with the palace Chamberlain who was somewhat nervous. He had already about the terrible event. The news of Lady Gisella going up in smoke was as extraordinary as was provocative. The Queen Mother had insulted the court of Gothburg. Knight Gareth for once felt afraid. Having done his duty he quietly retraced his steps. He saw at the end of the corridor Maid Sylvia who peeked her head out and quickly motioned him to come.

He was puzzled. She almost pushed him into the chamber and shrilled,” Quickly,come sir!” She led him into a ladies boudoir rich with tapestries and polished silver mirror between candelabra. There were deep drawn out sighs and he looked around. Lady Gisella was alive. She groaned and panted. Even in her wretchedness she was stately. From the anteroom he saw her lying in a bed under a purple  canopy stamped with golden bees.

Lady Gisella raised herself up. She looked pale and her eyes were strange. Eyes were kind of mysterious. And inhuman. She called him to approach and he did feeling tremor run through his body. She caught hold of his hand and drew to her bosom and said,” Tell me sire, you will ever protect me”.

Her heart beat furious and yet he felt nothing. What he experience had seared his thinking and he felt numb.

He fell silent. “See to what extent my enemies plan my destruction?”

He knew she spoke truth after her fashion. He dreaded her.

He knew he had come across the first witch that he had only heard in whispers. Now he was within her striking distance.


Late that night Master Berthold brought news that the diplomats had made a stopover by the town by River Ghoul. Knight Gareth felt his heart beat faster. He asked which and the Jester was clear. Fidelis. Blood rushed into his head he knew the wickerwork was the handiwork of his beloved. Her artistry was unmistakeable. He knew in the manner she wound the cane around the corners to create little ornamental flourishes; the way she could glide her knife to round the split canes she had left her signature. The type of cane she used itself told its story. He felt homesick. But the king had expressly sent word to him to await his further orders. He knew the king was preparing for a war with the Palatinate. The Queen Mother had played her card. It was the king’s move now.

Berthold had found ways to befriend the page in the service of Baron Thybault and he also let known a few tidbits. Probing further Knight Gareth found the Queen Mother like Lady Gisella dabbled in witchcraft. She must also know a witch of unsurpassed skills in the town of Fidelis. The Queen would not have sent her diplomats to his home town for nothing! It also made sense. Who was a witch of such power? He was stunned. The diplomats would have contacted their person in the town and found use for canework. It made his wife vulnerable. Probably the witch was very close to Greta and used her wicker basket. But he knew Lady Gisella’s attention would also be drawn similar to his line of reasoning. He was troubled at the thought.

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When the king from Camelot announced a New Age, in Gothburg the folks were busy planning a war. King Erik the Battle- Axe found a war always sharpened his axe and his faculties. His wrist was indefatigable in mowing down armies by dozen and his trusty shield kept him from all harm. You see his aunt lovely Gisella was a witch who  had made him mighty. His magic shield and axe of course enhanced his daring. Lady Gisella spent her days weaving spells as ladies in Camelot went on their embroidery that decked the kings halls and palace chambers with beauty and grace.

One morning King Erik felt miserable. His hands as strong as oak didn’t have anything to do. So he sent word to Lady Gisella. She remembered the dream she had just before the dawn broke. Now her nephew was asking for war.”It  is war then!’ She knew her dream never lied. She dressed herself in haste and went to the map room. At random she unrolled the map of the kingdom lying beneath the kingdom Gothburg. She jabbed her finger as if moved by her own vision and it  was on the marsh people of  Krepits. Instantly King Erik got up and sent his wolfhounds to their handler and made preparations for the war.  Thus on a fine morning he set out from his palace set high on a crag.

The army set off in highly elated state. Every varlet got a weeks ration and enough to drink and gamble in the inns they passed  through. After that it was up to them to fend for themselves looting peaceful burghers or begging. The lowborn of course made fine cut-purses and tricksters even when they were demobbed. King Erik and nobles went on a single file through a village where the Squire Cut n’ Thrust was up and about. He had stepped from his cottage before his wife Greta was up. His babe lay in her arms.

The squire wanted to bring water  from across a stream and fill the huge casks he had for the family and cattle. The king and his retinue didn’t like him to hold up their onward progress. The squire tried to break a few skulls of the nobles who were furious with him. They had provoked him by kicking his wooden pail around beating with the flat side of their broadswords. He defended hmiself as best as he could. In the end he was handcuffed and taken along. The young king was hardy in his physical endurance. He called the squire who impressed him with his pluck. He asked him to lift his battle axe in one sweep.

“Squire Cut’n Thrust didn’t think it was much of a challenge. So he laid his hand on the axe and swung it as though it were a feather and brought it on the noble Baron Mastiff Ears. He  had lately insulted his low birth and spat on him. Now he was in his sight. The axe seemed to have  a life of its own. It was almost grazed the chainmail of another before the king caught hold of his wrist. “Stop!”said the king,”You have proved you are my knight at arms.”The squire wasn’t interested. He only wanted to please his king and go home to his  Greta.

“Who is Greta?”asked the king in amazement. He could not think  any one could be more interested in anything other than the honor and wealth he could grant. Squire Cut ‘n Thrust explained and the king could understand it was love that he honored most. “Well you never had the chance to enjoy being my comrade in arms.” In the end he asked why he was called Cut’n Thrust.

The squire gave a weak smile and said,”The way I feed my cattle. I cut the straw and thrust it for them. I get my exercise and the cattle get a stomachful to eat. Of course for the king such Arcadian pleasures sounded so boring. King Erik for the first time made a right choice. He discovered one  whose skill in a fight and personal courage was unmatched.

At last the army came to a  forest overlooking  the  marshes. Krepits were unaware of  battle coming so soon .

As he stood besides King Erik the Battle Axe he murmured, ‘O  Greta, I do this for you.”He sighed and felt  the sword presented to him by his king.

Meanwhile the k ing was outlining the strategy. He heard and said it was doomed  to fail.  The general who drew  up the plan was aghast.  Only the king pacified the old soldier from exploding. He asked the squire to explain and he said the terrain did not help the horses. “Marshes are treacherous sire!”He suggested him to draw the enemy into the mound on the south. “Only we keep our reserves hiding behind” . He was sure the enemy  will  be too surprised to resist. King Erik  got the idea.  The War Council came up with a new plan.

Then the Krepits were quickly routed. At the end of the slaughter the  king knighted the squire and asked, “Are you a wizard?”

No, sire “said Knight Gareth of Goslings who was a squire an hour ago. He said he thought as a Krepit and the rest was easy.

King Erik stood there stunned. All he could murmur was ” Not a wizard . Wait till Lady Gisella hears this.”

(To Be Cont’d)

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The jester wore his cap and bell. During the banquet the king laughed so hard at his jests; so did  the entire court. Only that his son remained glum and silent.  At the end the king called his jester  to thank for the  entertainment. Jester frankly admitted he didn’t utter a word.

“I know your cap and bell took over.” The king took the cap and slapped it on his son’s head. “Son let your cap and bell be your company.”Hardly had the young man worn it he went into a giggle that made the entire court roll on the ground with laughter. King and the queen were also rolling in mirth. Throughout this the bell was struck dumb . ‘Before a giggle becomes a  joke I had better leave.”murmured the jester So he did unnoticed.


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