Procrastinating again! I meant to put up at least one other piece of writing this month, but other things got in the way. Anyway, this is another flash fiction story, the theme this time being “fool”. It helps if you know Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”.
The Duke’s Head was the gloomiest and most forlorn of Illyria’s alehouses, free of gaiety and song on the finest of nights. Yet on storm-lashed nights such as this one, it was an especially morose establishment, and none were in higher dudgeon than a man and woman huddled over a wine carafe on a central table.
The drowsy patrons started, however, when a handsome young page boy burst in, shook the rain off his cloak and made straight for the couple.
“Master Feste, Mistress Mariah!” he squeaked. “I bring you news of the most grave and extreme import.”
“Sweet young Pierre,” Mariah sighed, smiling wanly as she noticed him, “Doth the Countess Olivia know thou seek us?”
“The bonds of friendship sunder all titles,” Pierre said defiantly, “And it is in friendship’s name I come. My unfortunate fellows, Sir Toby Belch is dead.”
A wave of dismay rolled through The Duke’s Head at this. A gasp came from a curious patron in the corner, whose hat was so loose it covered half his face.
“Rue the day!” Feste wailed. “How came this to be, good Pierre? ”
“As is his wont,” Pierre told them, “He had been feasting this night, imbibing in a most Dionysian fashion. As the evening closed, he made visit to the garderobe, where a fire of utmost agony struck his bosom. The servants called for a surgeon, but alas it was too late for him.”
“Oh woe on us loathsome conspirators!” Mariah howled. “You and I, Feste, are discharged for our deceit, but Sir Toby has suffered the zenith of retribution from the Fates!”
“Suffer ye not, gentles,” Pierre said brightly. “A fellow of yours seeks thee, with news as would thrill Persephone in her dire incarceration. See, here he comes!”
In came Sir Andrew Aguecheek, capering over to Feste and Mariah’s table, arms spread wide.
“Feste and Mariah, poor unfortunates!” he called happily. “I am set to depart Illyria with next light in the east, but first I sought you to offer my assistance. Would you care to escape these lands and your ignominious dismissal, to serve in my household as you once did with Countess Olivia?”
“’Tis curious you would offer such, Sir Andrew,” Feste shrugged, “When Sir Toby made mockery of your friendship and sated himself thanks to your gold.”
“S’blood, honest Feste,” chuckled Sir Andrew, “But his passing is his penance and these past weeks of falsehood and unrequited passion have schooled me in wisdom, as I believe you have too.”
“Thank you, sweet Pierre, for bringing Sir Andrew hither,” Mariah said to the eager young page. “Sir Andrew, once I thought you free of sense, but your generosity humbles this poor wretch. Truly a merry trio of fools we make and such shall bind us. What say you, Feste? Shall we away with him?”
“Most certainly,” Feste beamed, “Away from all retribution and regret we shall journey, to a sweeter life!”
Sir Andrew bought them both a fresh jug of wine and they dispelled the miasma of gloom in The Duke’s Head with a merry song. Pierre bid them farewell, then scurried back to Countess Olivia’s estate before he was missed.
As the trio celebrated, the stranger in the corner with the outsize hat sighed and walked out of the tavern unmarked. Hidden behind his crude disguise, Malvolio had heard all that transpired. Fate had made a fool of him too, for Sir Toby’s death had cheated him of the retribution he had sworn. He would simply have to assuage his hatred some other way…