Things could be worse, sirs and madams—they could always be worse. Welcome back to the blog-about.

My travels since yesterday have been (comparatively) uneventful, and for this I am grateful. Aside from Fuser and Roland's occasional conversation and Sir Quincy Jones snoring quietly beside me in the backseat, the limousine was quiet as we drove north along I-95, and I myself slipped into a deep, restful sleep. When I awoke some six hours later, feeling more thoroughly refreshed than I have in a very long while, Roland informed me that we had passed through North Carolina and most of Virginia, and that we were now approaching Washington, D.C.

At the mention of the American capital, Sir Quincy, who had also awoken by this point, stiffened in his seat, a look of pure terror creeping over his face as he exclaimed:

“Ah! Washington! Have we really come so close to that den of villainous thieves? Are you certain of this, Roland? Yes, of course you are, of course...and yet the ground beneath us does not quake ominously? The trees yet thrive, they are not withered by the aura of malice and greed emanating from that place? The skies overhead are not blackened by corruption? These signs and more I should have expected upon approaching such a firmly entrenched haven of evil, but no, they draw us in without warning, those wretched fiends!

By the gods, man, go around! Plot an alternate course, I beseech you, for if we are to dive headlong into the darkness before us, I cannot guarantee your safety! Greater knights than I have battled the evils of Washington and have been found wanting! Even the valiant Sir Sanders, that righteous champion of the people, I fear that even he may not succeed! I would not walk the streets of that city without the company of a hundred holy paladins, would not brave its treacherous halls of power without a hundred thousand! If there is good in your heart and sense in your head, friend Roland, then please go around, lest our noble quest be brought to an end!”

So persistent were my associate's pleas (and so atrocious was the traffic going into the city) that Roland could only acquiesce. We took I-495 east around the city, and as we went, Sir Quincy leaned out the window and bellowed a stream of obscenities in the direction of Washington, D.C. (which, of course, we could not see from the road), swearing that he would one day return to deliver justice upon it and avenge the countless lives suffering under its selfish rule. I am confident that many of the other drivers on the road were shocked or otherwise entertained by this, but in all honesty, I was actively trying not to pay attention.

Another worrisome episode occurred shortly thereafter when we stopped for lunch. Sir Quincy had somehow gotten it into his head that it was a fine day for a picnic (it was about 40°F outside), and knowing that I would be unable to convince him otherwise, I asked Roland to exit the highway and find us a suitable park or rest stop. This my faithful butler did with the help of Fuser and his smart phone, and fifteen minutes later we stopped off at a scenic overlook.

Fuser and Roland began to unload our supplies from the car, and as I donned my winter coat and allowed myself a long stretch, I noticed that Sir Quincy was being unusually quiet, and that he was staring off into the distance, transfixed by something he saw there. Puzzled, I followed his gaze, but all that could be seen from the overlook were the rotating blades of the windmills and the rolling hills beneath them. Thinking that he was perhaps savoring the simple, pastoral beauty of that vista, I smiled and approached, intending to engage him in conversation.

All of a sudden, Sir Quincy let out a loud war-cry, retrieved his billiards cue from the car, straightened his breastplate, shouted some nonsense at me about “giants,” insisted that I should “think of the glory, man!” and rushed off. He tripped before he had taken two steps, the weight of his armor throwing him off balance, and he tumbled all the way down the rocky hillside, landing in a heap on the grass below. Fuser shouted after him that what he was attacking were certainly not giants but windmills, and that he did not believe much glory would be won through the destruction of public property. Unsurprisingly, the mild fellow's words had no effect on his master, who picked himself up, recovered his trusty sword, and lumbered gracelessly out into the fields to do battle with the windmills.

As he neared the first enemy, however, Sir Quincy seemingly had a change of heart, for he lowered his weapon and began walking back towards the overlook. Having never before seen him spontaneously snap out of one of his hallucinations, the three of us were amazed by his behavior, and we wondered if his rough descent down the hillside had not miraculously knocked his aberrant brain back into place.

We had hoped for too much, unfortunately, as Sir Quincy soon made clear. Clambering back up the hill, plopping himself down on a bench, and shaking the dirt from his hair, he told us breathlessly that he had nearly made a terrible mistake. The giants, he said, were “green giants” who, quite unlike their evil, man-eating cousins, were reputedly “the jolliest and cleanest of giants, perfectly harmless, wanting nothing more than to help sustain the country and its people.”

Mischievous as ever, Roland agreed that it was a very good thing that Sir Quincy had realized the mistake before it was made; now, he said, it would be possible to ask the giants if they knew anything of the town of Arkham. I shot him an irritated look and received an impish smile in return. Sir Quincy praised Roland's dedication to the quest but corrected him, saying that giants are not scholars by any means, are generally illiterate, in fact, and so the likelihood that even these benevolent green giants would have heard of such an obscure and secretive place as Arkham was very small indeed. Additionally, he pointed out, none of us spoke the giants' tongue (a highly contextual language, I imagine, characterized by a variety of mechanical creaks and spring breezes), so they would be unable to communicate with us regardless. Roland lamented this, expressing his belief that the giants probably had much great wisdom to impart, but inevitably he agreed with Sir Quincy that the quest must continue. I fumed.

There is, thankfully, not much more to tell of our journey thus far. We remained at the overlook for the better part of the afternoon, eating our sandwiches in the January cold and listening to Sir Quincy ramble on about assorted nonsense. In the evening, we crossed the border into Maryland, and we are spending the night in a quaint hotel just outside of Baltimore. I am finding our lodgings rather comfortable, if only because we have not yet been harassed by Klansmen in the parking lot (I am still finding it difficult to believe that such things can happen in our modern day and age).

I have been reviewing the tale of King Orofyld XVIII, and I am prepared to resume my critique, as I promised I would. First, however, the tenth chapter; as always, I advise that you read the text itself prior to reading my opinions of it:

Read Chapter Ten

Shall we get to it, then, my friends? There is much to discuss; forgive in advance my lengthy summary.

Bida, Aziel, Hakak, and Mike the Lame return to the Frelicton estate to find that it is now haunted. While vanquishing the restless spirits of Lord Frelicton and his family, they discover that the nobleman was once a member of The Guild, and that his membership in this shadowy organization was ultimately the cause of his tragic fate. Mike the Lame is slain, rises as a zombie, and is slain a second time.

In the wake of this adventure, the remaining three men meet a dwarven bounty hunter named Rogar who agrees to return to the generic village with them. When they arrive, however, they find that the village is being attacked by The Guild, and they fight their way into the center of town to rescue the citizens. During the battle in the town square, a mysterious sorcerer appears, deals a crippling blow to The Guild's forces, and leaves without explanation.

The generic village is saved, and the mayor asks Bida, Aziel, Hakak, and Rogar to travel to the capital city and petition the king for aid on the village's behalf. While they are on the road, they encounter and defeat a gang of bandits led by a man named Jingle. These bandits have recently robbed a nearby trading post owned by an old man named Eril; upon returning his stolen goods, Eril invites the four heroes to join him and his granddaughter for lunch.

In conversation, it becomes apparent that Eril may know something of The Guild, but before he can reveal this information, a number of Guild soldiers arrive and take his granddaughter hostage. Through strength of arms and the use of some clever magic, our heroes rescue the child and defeat the Kane Wests. Eril reveals that he was a friend of the late Lord Alexander Frelicton, that the two of them had been fleeing The Guild for several years along with another of their associates, a powerful enchanter whose identity is kept from us. He knows little more about The Guild than the heroes do, unfortunately, and so they continue on their way.

Braving the dangers of the Peryton Pass, they arrive in the capital city of Orofyld. On their way to find a tavern in which to spend the night, they encounter the mysterious sorcerer from the generic village. They enter into a chase in which Aziel is (accidentally?) struck by one of the sorcerer's lightning bolts and put out of commission; his life is saved by a magical healing elixir, but the mysterious sorcerer escapes.

While waiting in line to see the king the next morning, our heroes encounter the mad Saint Justice, and a fierce battle takes place in the city. The three of them struggle against the wicked enchanter, but without Aziel's support, the odds turn against them. Hakak is slain by the villain, and Rogar is incapacitated. Bida and Saint Justice square off, and the fight comes to an unexpected close when the Saint deals himself the final blow.

Saint Justice is taken to prison, and a priest of Abadar named Drewry is called to treat the heroes' wounds. Bida is taken to see the king by James Frelicton, brother of the late Lord Alexander Frelicton and steward to King Orofyld XVII. The king agrees to send aid to the generic village and assures Bida that the kingdom of Orofyld will take the necessary steps to protect its citizens from The Guild.

A banquet is held, and many distinguished persons—including Princess Jessica, the infamous Balek Bida, and the mysterious sorcerer, whose name is Rane and who serves the king as advisor—come to celebrate the courageous deeds of our heroes. Hilarity ensues. The festivities are interrupted when a dwarven messenger barges into the banquet hall, delivers a vague warning about orcs, and then promptly explodes. Once the panic subsides and order is restored, King Orofyld XVII asks Bida, Aziel, Rogar, and Drew to travel to the dwarven domain of Ambrosia and investigate the orc threat.

Arriving at Ambrosia, our heroes fend off an orc raid on the dwarven city. They are surprised to learn that the dwarves did not send a messenger to Orofyld, and that the orcs had only just begun to attack the city. Suspicious that they are walking into a trap, the heroes travel east and discover an orcish war-camp in the shadow of a ruined mountain-fortress. When night falls, Aziel wields his illusory magic to sow confusion and hysteria amongst the orcs, and they are able to sneak through the camp with minimal difficulty.

The fortress is occupied by The Guild, and our heroes fight their way through a series of unspeakable horrors to reach the heart of the temple. Here, they are confronted by a small army of Kane Wests, and their doom seems certain until Rane, the mysterious sorcerer, arrives to help them. Together, the five men make a valiant stand against the two hundred enemy soldiers. The evil preacher leading the dark congregation is slain and consumed in a terrible gout of hellfire. As the battle rages on, our heroes are unintentionally struck by Rane's lightning bolts and lose consciousness.

I must admit, sirs and madams, I had originally intended to take a much more meticulous approach to my critique of these seven chapters, but having reread them for the purpose of composing the above summary, I would prefer to further discuss the general trends of Jonathon's style. Namely, I wish to highlight the sense of purposeless absurdity that is communicated by the ambivalence of his writing.

The more I ponder the author's intent, the more uncertain I become of it. In my years as a scholar of literature, I have come to understand that those who become writers are always possessed of a drive, a powerful desire to write; human beings do not simply fill hundreds of pages without some sort of reason or motivation to do so. It seems logical, then, to assume that Jonathon is no different, that intent of some kind must have guided his pen.

But what is the nature of that intent? We can dismiss outright the notion that he was fulfilling his duty as an “historian” by recording the tale for posterity; the supernatural events plainly classify it as a work of fiction, desite the fact that Jonathon insists otherwise at every turn.

Is the answer to be found in his humor, then? Certainly, the more time I spend with the text, the more tempted I am to conclude that the whole thing is a farce, a long, rambling joke written by the author for an intimate circle of friends; Jonathon's frequent invocations to non-existent gods, diatribes against conniving enchanters, borderline sardonic treatment of character deaths, and generally sarcastic tone all contribute to this impression. Admittedly, there are portions of the text that are, by all accounts, very expertly crafted—prose that flows with the musicality of poetry, passages that speak of profound truths or touch the emotions with a poignancy too genuine to be ironic. Yet our author is such a shrewd cynic that I wonder whether or not these portions are included merely to lend the rest of the text a sense of legitimacy, to convince us to become invested and then immediately laugh at our gullibility; the “Nymph's Blason” at the beginning of chapter VII, followed immediately by Balek Bida's couplet about braiding hair, comes to mind, as does the excerpt from Lord Hammond's Just Us and its subsequent punning anecdote included in chapter VIII.

Rather than trying to determine what Jonathon's intent is, however, it may be more important to determine why he has gone to such trouble to conceal it from his audience. I think it is fair to say that most authors want their readers to be able to identify a (not necessarily the) purpose in their writing; the process by which these purposes are identified and evaluated being, of course, literary interpretation and debate. What perplexes me about the tale of King Orofyld XVIII is that the author seems not to want this at all; rather, by creating such a stylistically convoluted text, he is doing his best to thwart his readers, defying them to satisfactorily explain the indefinite bipolarity of his work. Why does he conceal his motives in this way, burying them beneath so many layers of vagueness and noncommittal sarcasm? Is he challenging his audience to interpret his work, or is he sadistically subjecting them to a sort of philosophical punishment? What does his authorial ambiguity say about him as an individual?

I daresay, sirs and madams, I am beginning to change my opinion of this silly story. At first, I did not believe that I would derive much intellectual pleasure from it, but now...well, there does appear to be meaning here. What exactly that meaning might be, I cannot yet say, but hopefully we shall discover it with a little more time and effort.

For now, though, I must retire; it is extraordinarily late, and though I slept soundly in the limousine, I am quite weary. A natural consequence of spending time with Sir Quincy, no doubt, and perhaps of laboring a sight too long over Jonathon's story.

Good night to you, my friends; we shall speak again soon.

Ever yours, and ever classy,

Good Sir Darcy