Vol. 1, Branded Souls, Chapter 1: The Dragon (Pt. 4)

(Continued from part 3, read it here.)
(Read the chapter from the beginning, here.)

Marcus addressed Hart directly. He stood a few feet from him, He opened his mouth, “Look here mutha’fu….”

His words were cut short as a slice of apple whipped into his mouth and lodged itself. He began to gag then fell to his knees.

“Anyone know the Heimlich?” Hart asked the group in a cold sincerity. The group looked at each other incredulously and in disbelief.

Holy shit!” One shouted.

The other called out, “He’s choking, holmes!”

“You know, a great man died once from accepting food which he knew to be tainted. The idea was that it is more important to always accept what is given to you.” Hart was standing and pacing like a professor, giving some lecture to his students. Marcus was spluttering and turning purple on his knees- the other 3 were in a wide-eyed panic, flapping their arms and shouting at each other.

He’s gonna’ die, dude!” At that, the ones who expressed their concern at the beginning, fled in terror.

With his hands behind his back, Hart repeated the words of Buddha,

…Who gives, his virtues shall increase;

Who is self-curbed, no hatred bears;

Whoso is skilled in virtues, evil shuns…”

He paced between the stupefied teenagers who were trying to help their choking friend.

Hart said, “Ok, class dismissed,” he lifted Marcus to his feet. “Behold the miracle of science!” He shouted and raised his arms up.

He braced the kid then administered one deft back blow, as if he knew exactly where to exert pressure; it was somewhere between the shoulder blades but it was accurate and spot on. The apple slice dislodged itself and sailed through the air landing, thick with saliva, at the feet of the others.

A loud squelching noise could be heard coming from the pants of Marcus; fear and his extrication from death made him defecate. His body shook and tears welled up in his eyes. The others began gagging and cursing.

They reluctantly grabbed their humiliated, dazed and soiled friend who was slumped once more to the ground. Hoisting him up and throwing his arms over their shoulder, they hurried out of the park.

He knew beyond assumption that some combination of boredom, inexperience and unhappiness drove this hooliganism. “Truly and ultimately,” he thought, “…Why stoke these fires? Wouldn’t they just the same, find themselves unsatisfied at the end of it all?

He thought about the original motivation of that noisy troop and guessed it quite easily and surmised three things: the intrinsically fragile composition of popularity, how material gain makes foolish people want excessively and that vanity, public image or ego are grievous burdens. Hart removed himself from these vices as best as humanly possible. His was meditation and the peace of balance.

He had succeeded to make his life whole and fluid with his surroundings; those who passed tripped, stuttered and went fumbling as awkward mortals Prophetically, he scribbled on a notepad he removed from a pocket, “The flowers that bud with a surge of sugar and such vehemence in spring soon wither and give way to the mild browns and yellows of summer.

His hands went rummaging through his rucksack searching for something edible to satisfy his stomach while he idled on human truths provoked by the encounters of the day. “When all is said and done, after a volley of malicious remarks and after perhaps a physical altercation, no party is the better, right? Isn’t it true that violence only begets violence, Gandhi?”

He wasn’t quite convinced. His hand found what it was after. He had tossed the remainder of the apple into the bag after launching a piece of it as a projectile into the teenagers’ throat. “This chaffing tension,” he continued, “…Surely only serves to bolster an ego at the expense of the target but all things considered, what good does an overinflated ego do and what vampirism has occurred to swell such a thing?”

He heartily bit into the remainder of the apple, its juice dripped down his wrist and the acidity of the pulp made his mouth grin and tongue salivate the more.

Nothing, it’s all for naught.”

The previously mentioned Indian cultural icons inspired a natural progression in thinking. Hart considered the cheapness and baseness of all violence. Crunching and chewing away on this green fruit and moving his jaws stimulated his brain in some manual, mechanical way. He was still in the throes of pontification, “…That they give so much of themselves away in compromise… those who flare wildly also expose a soft underbelly.

He furrowed his brow in a sudden start of pity for all the shortcomings and ineptitude of his brothers and sisters. He had found himself among the wild fields, rolling hills, sweeping plains, forests, streams, rivers and the vast ocean. His questions were always answered and troubles always quelled when he looked to these marvels of the natural world. “The same nirvana could not be said to have reached most, Siddhartha” He was talking to ghosts that rose up from pages of philosophy he had memorized.

He thought about his true power, his unexposed side that was reserved for himself- his immortality and the profoundness of what he had learned form practice and discipline. He walked now to a roped-off section of the garden, hidden by tall, live oak trees. The grass was uncut and spotted with wild field flowers; it grew up to his knees.

At that moment, he decided to close his eyes. The sun was shining directly above him. He was asking favor of the air in a deep meditation to lift his body; he wished to use the petals of a flower as a pedestal.

He put one toe on a slender stalk then another till he balanced atop its colorful summit. (It was only two minute steps but in their exactness, almost infinite.) Hart defied gravity. His body for all purposes became not weightless like a floating feather or the seeds of dandelions in the breeze but supported by the elements around him.

Not a single drop of dew was disturbed. He balanced his entirety on a nary blade of grass and felt a breeze reserved for the heads of barley and wild long stems on his toes.

This skill came from countless lifetimes of experience; time and all that fill its precepts taught him a secret language that wasn’t available in any university: he pioneered the vastness of his mind and its emotion. These contemplations and reflections awarded him a mastery to manipulate the fabric of the natural world around him…

(To be continued)

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Middle East FS

Vol. 1, Branded Souls, Chapter 1: The Dragon (Pt. 4)

(Continued from part 3, read it here.)
(Read the chapter from the beginning, here.)

Marcus addressed Hart directly. He stood a few feet from him, He opened his mouth, “Look here mutha’fu….”

His words were cut short as a slice of apple whipped into his mouth and lodged itself. He began to gag then fell to his knees.

“Anyone know the Heimlich?” Hart asked the group in a cold sincerity. The group looked at each other incredulously and in disbelief.

Holy shit!” One shouted.

The other called out, “He’s choking, holmes!”

“You know, a great man died once from accepting food which he knew to be tainted. The idea was that it is more important to always accept what is given to you.” Hart was standing and pacing like a professor, giving some lecture to his students. Marcus was spluttering and turning purple on his knees- the other 3 were in a wide-eyed panic, flapping their arms and shouting at each other.

He’s gonna’ die, dude!” At that, the ones who expressed their concern at the beginning, fled in terror.

With his hands behind his back, Hart repeated the words of Buddha,

…Who gives, his virtues shall increase;

Who is self-curbed, no hatred bears;

Whoso is skilled in virtues, evil shuns…”

He paced between the stupefied teenagers who were trying to help their choking friend.

Hart said, “Ok, class dismissed,” he lifted Marcus to his feet. “Behold the miracle of science!” He shouted and raised his arms up.

He braced the kid then administered one deft back blow, as if he knew exactly where to exert pressure; it was somewhere between the shoulder blades but it was accurate and spot on. The apple slice dislodged itself and sailed through the air landing, thick with saliva, at the feet of the others.

A loud squelching noise could be heard coming from the pants of Marcus; fear and his extrication from death made him defecate. His body shook and tears welled up in his eyes. The others began gagging and cursing.

They reluctantly grabbed their humiliated, dazed and soiled friend who was slumped once more to the ground. Hoisting him up and throwing his arms over their shoulder, they hurried out of the park.

He knew beyond assumption that some combination of boredom, inexperience and unhappiness drove this hooliganism. “Truly and ultimately,” he thought, “…Why stoke these fires? Wouldn’t they just the same, find themselves unsatisfied at the end of it all?

He thought about the original motivation of that noisy troop and guessed it quite easily and surmised three things: the intrinsically fragile composition of popularity, how material gain makes foolish people want excessively and that vanity, public image or ego are grievous burdens. Hart removed himself from these vices as best as humanly possible. His was meditation and the peace of balance.

He had succeeded to make his life whole and fluid with his surroundings; those who passed tripped, stuttered and went fumbling as awkward mortals Prophetically, he scribbled on a notepad he removed from a pocket, “The flowers that bud with a surge of sugar and such vehemence in spring soon wither and give way to the mild browns and yellows of summer.

His hands went rummaging through his rucksack searching for something edible to satisfy his stomach while he idled on human truths provoked by the encounters of the day. “When all is said and done, after a volley of malicious remarks and after perhaps a physical altercation, no party is the better, right? Isn’t it true that violence only begets violence, Gandhi?”

He wasn’t quite convinced. His hand found what it was after. He had tossed the remainder of the apple into the bag after launching a piece of it as a projectile into the teenagers’ throat. “This chaffing tension,” he continued, “…Surely only serves to bolster an ego at the expense of the target but all things considered, what good does an overinflated ego do and what vampirism has occurred to swell such a thing?”

He heartily bit into the remainder of the apple, its juice dripped down his wrist and the acidity of the pulp made his mouth grin and tongue salivate the more.

Nothing, it’s all for naught.”

The previously mentioned Indian cultural icons inspired a natural progression in thinking. Hart considered the cheapness and baseness of all violence. Crunching and chewing away on this green fruit and moving his jaws stimulated his brain in some manual, mechanical way. He was still in the throes of pontification, “…That they give so much of themselves away in compromise… those who flare wildly also expose a soft underbelly.

He furrowed his brow in a sudden start of pity for all the shortcomings and ineptitude of his brothers and sisters. He had found himself among the wild fields, rolling hills, sweeping plains, forests, streams, rivers and the vast ocean. His questions were always answered and troubles always quelled when he looked to these marvels of the natural world. “The same nirvana could not be said to have reached most, Siddhartha” He was talking to ghosts that rose up from pages of philosophy he had memorized.

He thought about his true power, his unexposed side that was reserved for himself- his immortality and the profoundness of what he had learned form practice and discipline. He walked now to a roped-off section of the garden, hidden by tall, live oak trees. The grass was uncut and spotted with wild field flowers; it grew up to his knees.

At that moment, he decided to close his eyes. The sun was shining directly above him. He was asking favor of the air in a deep meditation to lift his body; he wished to use the petals of a flower as a pedestal.

He put one toe on a slender stalk then another till he balanced atop its colorful summit. (It was only two minute steps but in their exactness, almost infinite.) Hart defied gravity. His body for all purposes became not weightless like a floating feather or the seeds of dandelions in the breeze but supported by the elements around him.

Not a single drop of dew was disturbed. He balanced his entirety on a nary blade of grass and felt a breeze reserved for the heads of barley and wild long stems on his toes.

This skill came from countless lifetimes of experience; time and all that fill its precepts taught him a secret language that wasn’t available in any university: he pioneered the vastness of his mind and its emotion. These contemplations and reflections awarded him a mastery to manipulate the fabric of the natural world around him…

(To be continued)

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Middle East FS

Branded Souls Vol. 1: Face Lift- New Version Coming Soon!

Here’s a sneak peak of what’s new with, Branded Souls, the Awakening

  • Brand New Design
  • Content Edit

Branded Souls Cover PolishedTell me what you think!

Look forward to getting the final version out into the hands of the public!

Sincerely,

Joe Foley, proprietor of Foreign Sojourn

Joe Foley's Foreign Sojourn

Vol. 1, Branded Souls, Chapter 1: The Dragon (Pt. 1)

A pause in the atmosphere hung suspended like a shroud that pointed an intangibly heavy question. It was incomprehensible to most except for those intimate with the proceedings of death. It was quietness, weight, the absence of movement- animals knew these tidings, all survival was dependent on this.

The birds in their roosts stilled and the creatures of Terra, skittered into their warrens except for a black squirrel. It chattered on the far end of a wooden bench; it was busy stuffing a large piece of stale bread in its mouth. A gnawing malaise dawned on the squirrel as it was eating; its ears quivered and pricked up with a cautious fear. The creature dropped its crumbling snack and surveyed with large, dark eyes. It ceased moving and froze in utter terror. The judge was thundering his gavel with a verdict.
A golden eagle sped downwards, screaming like a banshee leaping from hell’s fissure in broad daylight. It saw its query and it knew that it belonged to an order classified as prey. It grabbed the hapless creature in a single, lightening-swoop of its razor-sharp and crushing talons. The raptor moved upwards with it’s squealing prize. The squirrel had paid a dear price for its infraction.

A roaring thunder came from an opening in the graying cumulus above. At first it was a glinting shadow against a sun full of rays. Then the vision grew into reality as it descended; it blotted out the sun with vast crimson leather wings that stretched the length of a stadium. Screams of terror and bells issuing deep, resonating alarms rang out through the valley, electrifying the once peaceful afternoon air.

The legendary wyvern of old radiated with dazzling color like fine glass and jewels and its eyes were as brilliant as carbuncle gems that were imbued and veined with topaz. From its maw came a rumbling so profound it was as if the gods were holding a debacle in the sky. Magma glowed in its ruby scaled throat now and it volleyed liquid fire in short bursts in all direction. The dragon was dominant in all feats of strength and agility and it displayed its prowess recklessly. The eagle and its entire splendor could not out-maneuver this thing of wanton destruction- it was caught in the wake of death.

Black smoke fell from the sky; the eagle and the rodent were both reduced to a mass of char and were sent as a smoking package, tumbling back down to the Earth. A roar of triumph shook the rafters of heaven. The houses of man below shook; great vibrations and the percussion of wind gusts ripped the roofs of thatched houses. It flew towards a giant castle with a furious roar and perched on a staggering tower, flinging the archers up into the air and catching them in snaps of its enormous jaws.

The clouds huddled together, turned an ashen gray and wept. Angry lightning bolts arced across the sky; the ferocity and violence between nature and the parties of man came to a head. There became no perceptible weather except a picture of hell above and hell below. A winding mass of black armored men snaked down the path from the mouth of the castle; artillery, soldiers and cannons poured out from the open drawbridge like hornets protecting the nest.

The sky crackled with a horrible mischief; this new player of devastation were the incendiaries; man had grown wroth at this cruel tyrant and retaliated with explosions of violent color: Ochre and crimson, blacks and blinding whites, yellows of sulfur and billowing smoke. Bombs, mortars and blasting ripped the sky asunder as the flock sought blood for blood. The indignant cries of human warriors, like tiny voices were unified in chorus that reached to the creature as a goading insult to its pride. Each shelling was greeted and returned by a frenzy of tearing, flinging and burning; bodies were strewn across a scorched and broad field underneath a ruinous castle looming among steep, jagged mountains.

(Continued: part 2) 

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Devil’s Bridge

The street was humid and perspiring with dew from a morning shower.  The summers heat beat back the coolness that was the rain.  The losing battle of morning gave way to the stale swelter of the afternoon.  The air seemed choked with moisture and made the comfort of loose clothes pointless. It ceased its circulation entirely at about midday causing life to limp like a punctured tire.  The trees stood mute without a whistle for the birds refused to sing and the branches did not sway.  There was not even a reprieve from the sun, for it hid behind matted clouds

He sat there looking out onto the street amidst the haze of summer and the fog of his own mind.  His porch was peeling white and creaking at every stride of the rocking chair.  The lines on his face seemed to map the experiences that chalked up his furrow.  His stillness spoke as loud as any shouting could ever.  With mist in his eyes, the weathered man spit noisily into a brown stained bucket at his feet.  Without movement his dull gray eyes appeared to creep over the derelict housing and down broken streets, then suddenly, taking to the stars and through time itself.  I visually traced the spot where they seemed to be but got lost on the rooftops.  He seemed to have found the emotion he was after and the memory followed.  Breathing deeply, he spit once more.  Moving his face slowly, he drew his lips into a slanted oval and with slurred speech and scraggly chin he spoke.
“They move tro’ the air…and pass locks and the ‘ardest of barred doors.”  “These wee crayturs are that of make believe, aye, but tis as real to me as this here can o’ spit at me feet.”  He continued and cocked his head while focusing a gleaming eye at me.  With one hand upon his knee and hunched back, he leaned forward.  “Do ya hear that?”  “Course not.”  “They’re right here workin’, pushin’ tro’ the trees and up the floor boards.”  “Tripping you and swaying on ta’ strides o’ willow wisps”  “And if ye deny em, they sit on yer shoulder and course bad things come to ye.”  He spit into the tin and wiped his chin.  “Superstition be damned.”  He tapped his nose knowingly then returned to the chair looking suddenly tired.  His eyes seemed to the find that spot again, that was neither here nor there and the spark returned.

“When I was a young man, I carried me pack and traveled many a road all across the old country.”  “So as ye’ can imagine, I would be the one ta know a thing or two about this an’ that boyo.”  “One day I was idling at the bridge north of Killarney.”  “Twas an ‘ardinary one, made of many a gray small stone and it crossed a small straym wit’ all sort of verdure about it.”  He looked reminiscent but continued with intensity.  “I sat there with me naggin of whiskey, castin’ stones below its steps enjoyin’ a late spring breeze and watchin’ the sun set.”  “It was a long and dry day so I was well in me cups come the setting darkness of dusk.”  “The night air settled over the hills and the air grew quite chilly.”  “I sits there wrapped in the warmth of me pladie, when along come a shadow that stretched well over me.”  “Bedad, twas not mine!”

  He moved forward in his seat and his rocking ceased.  “This shadow stretched over me and I felt as the ice in the great north sea.”  “I knew by its shape twas not another man for there were harns protrudin’ from its head and by the silhouette of claws.”  “Its horrible serpent tail flickered like a whip!”  “I dared not to move and I clutched the whiskey dearly.”  “If it were all over fer’ me, at least I’d have one las’ drop o’ tha’ pure.”  “So as I sit there shakin’, I gather enough courage to look behind me and fair nuf’ it comes leapin’ at me just as a flash of dark horrible shade!”  His eyes were wide and his eyebrows were high upon his brow and the tufts of his white hair lay disheveled in dramatic intensity.  “Wit me eyes closed shut, I quickly turned around preparin’ for death.”  “After a second I summons up the last o’ me wit’ and kinda haf’ open em’.”

  “Devil be damned!” He whooped loudly with raised hands.  “I sure nuf’ seen alls’ the life I’ve had and sure nuff’ was gonna sees the end of it!”  “Ara, the shadow did not strike me that instant, instead, decidin’ ta’ lay a pace before me.”  “He was as terrifyin’ as ever and his face appeared ta’ be wholly made up of a  barbs and filth encrusted teeth!”  He shuddered and a genuine fright settled over the old man. With a cliffhanger effect he paused and sucked in all the air that he expelled over the last few moments.

He regained the luster and the fire was in him once more.  “Twas not a shadow at all but a giant daemon crayture!”  “Its figure was covered in mud and obscured by the plaster that gathers at the bottom of the strayms and lakes.”  “Heat was risin’ off im’ and its jeweled eyes glowed like hot coals!” “Me jaw lay suspended in disbelief and surely, I would draw not another breath…”  “…but then suddenly, from behind the beast, white light came from the thick of the forest!”  “The light formed to that shape of a…”  He stuttered a moment scrambling for the word “…a giants cudgel!” As bright as a thousand candles…” His voiced trailed off for a moment then hastily started. “…Nay! Twas as bright as the biggest star on the darkest eve and as blessed as the pope himself!”  “And be it quicker than ye’ can say musha, the monster was sliced in haf’ by an almighty blow.” “Thundering Jesus!” He hollered. “A horrible wail, like tha’ croon of a banshee mixed up with the agony of an ald’ lady burnt by scaldin’ tallow came from its unholy maw!”  “It burned from the light sending dark, dark soot all about the place.”  “I blinked, rubbing my eyes in awe and twas gone!
He rested his hands back on his lap and turned his head and reset his gaze.  His expression had action about it but his speech slowed.  Mystery and wonder welled up on his lips.  “The light lost its form and intensity and as quickly as it struck down the devil, it retreated back inta’ the wood followed closely by the laughter of boisterous children…”

His mouth was half open and held a crooked smile.  His knuckles where white but soon reddened as he removed his grip from the rocking chair.  He took an old rag from his pocket and wiped his forehead. His face relaxed his face as he sat more calmly. “Well boy, I’ll tell you, it still comes around feedin’ on the wayward, ramblin’ lot.”  “When ye see that frothin’, drippin’ shade, ye’ best rely on them legs for without faith of the good people you’ll be doomed to be a feast for hell.”  He sighed wistfully, “Lord bless those tiny crayturs and all their tricks and all their foolery…”  Like a clergyman finishing his sermon he spoke with finality  “…and most of all for the soft spot they hold in their hearts for us ungrateful folk.”ireland

The Devil’s Bridge

It felt as hot and thick as drops of blood- like sweat itself coming from the sky. The heat seemed to always win against the refreshing coolness that was the rain; it twisted its refreshing nature and turned it against those seeking a balm.

Morning slowly crept away, giving up coolness to the stale swelter of those typical afternoons. The air was choked with moisture; it made the comfort of loose clothes pointless. The trees stood mute; the sting of the sun cut the whistle from the bird’s song in their roost. The branches did not sway and acted paralyzed in some lethargy. Sometimes the sun hid behind matted clouds but it didn’t seem to matter, in her memory it was always stifling.

It was true, that during those sweltering days that sapped you, all you could do was laze on the porch or a stoop. For what it was worth, she felt happiest in her youth and naivety. She conjured another memory in an instant when she was a few years older during one such summer:

Her grandfather sat there, looking out onto the street from their porch; it was peeling white and creaking at every stride of the rocking chair. The lines on his face seemed to map the experiences that chalked up his furrow. He spit noisily into a brown stained bucket at his feet. His eyes grew a sudden mist. His face hadn’t moved and his stillness spoke as loud as any shouting could ever. A very far distance was where he set his dull gray eyes. He gazed over derelict housing and broken streets, taking to the stars and through time itself. He seemed to have found the emotion he was after and the memory followed. He breathed deeply and spit again. Moving his face slowly, he drew his lips into a slanted oval and with slurred speech and scraggly chin he spoke.

They move tro’ the air…and pass locks and the ‘ardest of barred doors.” “These wee crayturs are that of make believe, aye, but tis as real to me as this here can o’ spit at me feet.” He continued and cocked his head while focusing an eye at me. With one hand upon his knee and hunched back, he leaned forward and entreated, “Do ya hear that?” Shaking his head, “Course not.” “But! They’re right here workin’, pushin’ tro’ the trees and up the floor boards; Tripping you and swaying on ta’ strides o’ willow wisps.” “And if ye deny em’ they sit on yer shoulder and course bad things come to ye’.” He spit into the tin and wiped his chin. “Superstition be damned.” He tapped his nose knowingly then returned to the chair looking suddenly tired.

His eyes seemed to the find that spot again, that was neither here nor there and began, “When I was a young man, I carried me pack and traveled many a high road all across this auld country. One day as the sun began ta’ set. I was at the old bridge north of Connemara.” He recalled the bridge, “T’was an ardinary one, made of many a grey small stone and it crossed a small straym, wit all sort of verdure.” He gestured with his hands as much as emotion danced on his brow. “I sat there with me naggin’ of whiskey, castin’ stones below its steps, when long came a shadow that stretched well over me.”

“Bedad, t’was not mine!” He hollered.

Moving forward in his seat, he turned his head toward me. “This shadow stretched over me and I felt as the ice in the great North Sea. I knew by its shape t’was not another man for there were harns protrudin’ from its head and the silhouette of claws and a horrible snake for a tail!” “I dared not to move and I clutched the whiskey dearly for if t’were all over fer’ me, at least I’d have one las’ drop o’ tha’ pure!” He placed his palms on his thighs and straightened his crooked spine as best possible, still looking with piercing points of steel. “So as I sit there shakin’, I gather enough courage to look behind me. Fair nuf’ it comes leapin’ at me just as a flash of dark horrible shade!” His eyes were wide and his eyebrows were high upon his brow and the tufts of his white hair lay disheveled. In dramatic intensity he rushed onwards, “I quickly turned back around wit me eyes closed shut preparin’ for death but after a second I summons up the last o’ me wit’ and kinda’ haf’ open me eyes…”

Now, the shadow lay a pace before me and as terrifyin’ as ever. T’wasn’t a shadow at all but giant daemon crayture!” “Its figure was covered in mud and obscured by the plaster that gathers at the bottom of the strayms and lakes; heat was risin’ off it and its eyes glowed like hot coals!” “Me jaw lay suspended in disbelief and then from behind im’, suddenly, white light came from the thick of the forest.” “The light took da’ shape of a claymore…a giants cudgel!” “As bright as a thousand candles…” His voice trailed off for a moment then hastily started. “…Nay!” He shouted.

“T’was as bright as the biggest star on the darkest eve and as blessed as the pope himself! And be it quicker than ye can say musha, the monster was sliced in haf’ by an almighty blow.”

“A horrible hissing-wail like the croon of a banshee came from its mouth as it burned from the light.” “I blinked in awe and for certes, t’was gone!” He adjusted himself more comfortably and took his eyes away from me and across the lawn. “The light lost its form and intensity then quickly retreated back into the wood followed by the laughter of boisterous children!” His mouth was half open and his expression had action about it. His knuckles where white but soon reddened as he removed his grip from the chair. He took an old rag from his pocket and wiped his forehead. He relaxed his face and sat more calmly in the rocking chair.

“Well mavorneen, I tell you, it still comes around. You best guard yourself with the faith of these wee ones! When ye see that devil shade, don’t hesitate tay’ run as fast as ye can for without their tiny blessings, you’d surely be doomed as a feast in hell.” He looked sharply at her as if trying to say something more. He stopped, looked away and sighed wistfully, “Lord bless the good people of te’ forest who saved me that awful night!”

Middle East FS

Dumas, The Vicomte De Bragelonne (Conclusion)

Well, it begun quite sharp and lulled-off near the end- That is to say, that this first book in the cluster of installments in the Vicomte De Bragelonne. It is the longest segment in the Dumas’ D’Artagnan series and it encompasses 3 to 4 books. (Depending on the publisher.) The Oxford World’s Classics editions are split into 3; The Vicomte De Bragelonne, which is the one I have finished is then followed by Louise De Vallière and lastly, dramatically, the official D’Artagnan romances closes with the most recognizable, The Man in the Iron Mask. Let me count them all out for you in case my words have tempted you to follow along in this literary quest: Three Musketeers, Twenty-Years After, The Vicomte de Bragelonne, Louise De Vallière, and The Man in the Iron Mask. (The adventure does not have to stop there; you may also wish to pick up Paul Mahalin’s, D’Artagnan King Maker, and The Son of Porthos; no promises on how they match up with the actual writtings of Dumas.)

Let me continue my thoughts previously about the sharpness and equally the lull of, The Vicomte de Bragelonne. Surprisingly, the main actor which the title attributes is seldom seen in the first half; if our dear Raoul does appear it is usually in tears flying about Athos in some sensitive angst or in level-headed noble debate with his peers.  But what makes the first half remarkable is that the action presents itself to you immediately. D’Artagnan is fed-up with the empty promises of royalty. (His Captaincy, “the flower of chivalry”, has been his aim since the very first pages of, The Three Musketeers and has been unjustly denied or ignored outright.) At the ripe age of 50 or so, D’Artagnan asserts his resignation from the ranks of the Musketeers to Louis XIV and thus begins plotting as a soldier of fortune in his usual Gascony manner. Athos on the other hand is to begin a quest for another; the exiled king of England, Charles II and his fortune. Athos is honor bound to restore this fledgling monarch at the behest of his father, the executed Charles I. “Remember!” It is a dashing race against General Monk and Lambert- the figure heads of England whom are vying for the vacant throne of the king. Between the two adventures running in parallel with each other, the pages simply melt away. But then almost too suddenly, their two adventures are complete.

We are then introduced, more intimately to a new host of characters, (Surely to play apart in the next chapters and books) Manicamp, Malicorne, Montalais, Louise De Vallière and the affluent son of M. De Buckingham. Between these characters the second half of the book picks up. They are the courtiers of Phillip, Duc de Orléans (With the exception of Buckingham) and are all wrapped up and equally entangled in Monsieur’s marriage to Charles I sister, the jewel, Princess Henrietta.* Here we find the youths caught up in the intrigue of a royal court and its politics; the main focus here being the love interests of M. De Buckingham and Raoul, The Vicomte. And this is where the book ends.

It’s not mixed feelings about this book that I began with the words sharp and lull but simply to explain the contrasting plots found therein. I enjoyed this book, certainly, for its written well and follows well with the others. What it is missing, that I have found in each D’Artagnan book previous is that distinctive flavor that each contributes to the whole. For me, Twenty-Years After had the same flavor of the first half of, The Vicomte De Bragelonne, that is the romp and intrigue that follows a good mission. However, As I moved along in the pages, I felt some sort of reluctance to meet these new rather foppish, unseasoned characters and a slight dismay at the drop in excitment and the second half of the book’s journey into drama. I have faith, however, that Dumas will affect some grand purpose for these youngsters in the upcoming adventure:

Louise De Valliere

*The Charm of Princess Henrietta, a royal Stuart: “…and from her well-stored arsenal issued glances, kindly recognitions, and a thousand other little charming attentions which were intended to strike at long range the gentlemen who formed the escort, the townspeople, the officers…it was wholesale slaughter…By the time she had reached Paris, she had reduced to slavery about a hundred thousand lovers…”