Thursday, September 8, 2016

Framderick, or I Am Both Proud and Ashamed of What I Have Done

Writing prompt for 9/7/2016

One hundred years after the great war, people still sing the song of Framderick the undying, the great labradoodle who lead the people of Klof to victory over the rat armies of Kenputeris. Well, everyone wants YOU, poor traveling bard, to sing it for them. You hate this song SO MUCH, but it's your bread and butter, and you're almost ten minutes into your set. ...aaaannnd, there's the request. 

“Of course. Of course they want Framderick. What group of mud-streaked, smelly peasants does NOT want Framderick?” Patrick thought. “There is not enough wine in this inn to convince me to sing it. There is not enough wine in the KINGDOM. But, alas . . .”

Patrick strummed his lute. As the familiar chords shrivered his spine, the crowd shouted until debris and a few cats fell out of the overhanging thatch. He strummed a bit longer and watched as mothers of young children, aghast, pulled them from the crowd and out the door, while the men – oh, the familiar men, all old and wrinkled before their time so it was impossible to tell one of thirty from one of seventy – pushed to the fore, leering and elbowing each other in the ribs.

Patrick began to sing.

The floods of spring came early,
That dark and loathsome year.
The Klof bore mud and branches
Bringing yon Kenputeris near.

The rain, clouds shed, the mountains fled
The villagers soaked their hats
When on the mats of floating wood
Came Mount Kenputeris’ fearful rats!

Framderick! Framderick! To you the nation calls!

Horribly, Patrick could see the crowd getting ready. Swelling to a man, filling their lungs with air, sucking in the stinking fug of the inn, ready to belch out their contribution. He scanned the room for sympathizers – and saw them. A pack of frowning women, arms folded sternly across their breasts. They would help. By the steely looks in their eyes, they would help. Frantically, he tried to remember the order – and then sang, without missing a note:

Framderick! Framderick! While the kings’ men lick


He breathed a sigh of relief. Though the men poked each other, laughing terribly at their wit, Patrick and the women knew they’d won. Putting the heavier strings on his lute had helped, Patrick thought. They make a heavier sound.

But the battle was not over yet. Some of the men jeered at him as the sound of what had won penetrated the alcohol. Others turned to their women-folk and half-heartedly barked at them to leave.

Patrick continued:

The rats were black and ravenous,
They ate crop and home
Then they ate the fish of the River Klop,
Spreading blood among the foam.

The kings’ men came a-hunting,
With sword and pike and spear
But they all got drunk and with a hunk
The rats bit them in the rear!

The men, Patrick knew, were ready this time. Fewer had sung the refrain, sucking in what air was left in the room, swelling for the chorus:

Framderick! Framderick! To you the nation calls!
Framderick! Framderick! While the kings’ men lick


Oh, the men shrieked at their misfortune as they knew once again they had lost the battle, while the weaker ones passed out from the exertion of shouting. A few began to throw bits of fallen thatch and empty mugs at Patrick, but the innkeeper came with more beer, clinking the change the women had collected.

“Come on, bard, sing it right! Sing it right or we’ll toss you in the well!”

The shouter looked capable of performing that feat. Built like a brick outhouse, but swaying slightly out of tune with the music. If Patrick were lucky, he’d be on the floor before the next chorus. And he knew even though he and the bulwark of women fought common cause, they would not intervene, having enough to handle when their drunk husbands and fathers began to sober.

But the pups of the famed Framderick
Framderick, Whelper of a Thousand Pups!
They caught the rats and chewed them up
As Framderick birthed a dozen more!

The doodles then chased the kings’ men
Out of the village, out of the fen
Leaving a trail of reddened pats
Stained in the blood of a thousand rats!

Framderick! Framderick! To you the nation calls!
Framderick! Framderick! While the kings’ men lick


Tin plates sailed through the air as the crowd vomited displeasure and warm beer. The women in the back of the room, arms still folded, smiled smugly, and shouted at Patrick to stop. But they made no move when the men churlishly turned their backs on them and urged Patrick to continue. The rhythm of the song led him to the final verse.

When at last the food was gone,
The rats stole in to the babies’ cribs
But the pups of famed Framderick
Crushed the rats’ curved ribs.

Then the plague set in, with terrible din
The women of the Klop did pray
But the pups of famed Framderick
Remained in the terrible fray.

Framderick! Framderick! To you the nation calls!
Framderick! Framderick! While the kings’ men lick


Oh, with the howling, Patrick thought the plague had returned, as lamentations threatened to lift the thatch clear off the rafters. Men were smashing chairs into the floor and climbing on tables, rending their clothes and dancing naked, filling their mouths with beer and spraying it at the women and at Patrick. But for every one man able to climb on the table and sloppily spit half a mouthful of beer in the direction of their tormenters, there were five stumbling about, knocking those more sober off the tables, upsetting tables, smashing chairs over their compatriots’ heads until the sheriff burst into the inn with six armed deputies, all bellowing for calm.

“You! Minstrel!” the sheriff yelled. “What doggerel stirs these fine folk to such debauchery?” The sheriff, who gutted a man only last week for urinating in the street in full view of the priest, rested his hand on the pommel of his sword.


One word from a weak voice at the bottom of a pile of drunken men, and the room was in pandemonium once more.

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