The old frame
Dearest friends, brave souls all, please lend…umm…an ear. For I sing to you the song of Sir Aliyah, Knight-Errant.
First Among Equals in the Order of the Frilly Garter.
Most Cherished Champion of Her Royal Highness, the fairest and most kindly Queen Gwennifer.
And who am I who presumes to be worthy enough to tell the tale of such a celebrated knight?
I am none other than Lester Louche, Squire to Sir Aliyah. Who happens to be my older cousin.
I sing of how Sir Aliyah completed the perilous quest for the Magnificent, the Mysterious, the Many-faced MacGuffin where none before had succeeded. And of how Sir Aliyah, by wits and valor, saved the Magical Kingdom of Fief from certain doom.
I never sang a song like this before. Or any song, really, except for maybe “Twinkle, twinkle” when I was little. I hope I don’t mess it up.
Our tale begins not in Fief, but In Real Life — in the town of Merrymount. That’s where my cousin’s family lives.
The new frame
“So let me get this straight. You’re a spy from the CIA on a top secret mission. You need to borrow all the guns in my shop so you can travel back through a magic portal and use them to defeat an army of knights and save a kingdom. But not just any kingdom. The Kingdom of Fief — like the theme park.”
“That’s quite a story, little guy.”
“I assure you, sir. It’s all completely true. And you’ll be doing your country a great service.”
“You know you’re not fooling anyone with that getup.”
“What do you mean?”
“The trench coat. The sunglasses. I hope you didn’t shoplift them from the thrift store. Those folks work hard. And what’s that thing under your nose? It’s definitely not a mustache. It looks like a mouse that got squashed by a truck.”
“Sir. It’s a matter of national security. ”
“The deep voice is cute too. Did you practice that in front of the mirror?”
“There’s no time to lose.”
“I’ve been running this pawn shop for over twenty years. Let me tell you, I’ve had some pretty interesting characters pass through here. But never in all my years have I seen this. This might just top them all.”
“Sir, I must insist.”
“You do know guns are dangerous, don’t you? Definitely off limits for kids.”
“I assure you—”
“Can I see some ID?”
“Yeah, your badge or whatever you agents carry around with you.”
“I don’t have ID. That would compromise my cover.”
“Becca! Are you still back there? Becca!”
“Excuse me for a second, buddy. Stay put. I’ll be right back.”
“Just keep him talking. He’s a kid. He’s obviously, you know, ill. I need to see if I can track down his folks. Get him home. Get him some help. Fine. I’ll give you another 30 minutes of phone time. No, not right now. After. Fine. An hour. Just keep him talking while I make some calls.”
“Hello, young lady.”
“I’m thirteen. And definitely not a lady. How old are you?”
“Why, I’m thirty—”
“I’m guessing ten. Is that right?”
“You’re mistaken, miss.”
“What’s your name?”
“My name? My name is…um…Page…I mean Squire. Lester Squire.”
“I’m Becca. Nice to meet you. Where you from?”
“You’re not very good at thinking on your feat, are you? Or lying.”
“I’m very good at lying. I’m a spy. That’s my job.”
“Really? Tell me about this place you have to save.”
“You heard all that?”
“I hear everything in the back room. You said it was based on the Kingdom of Fief.”
“It’s Fief like thief. Not knife.”
“Sure, whatever. The Kingdom of Fief.”
“And not based on. It is the Kingdom of Fief.”
“Isn’t that the theme park where nerds dress up in silly outfits and pretend they’re living in the Dark Ages.”
“The Kingdom of Fief is a magical place, [ALIYAH used to believe this] ruled by the wise and just King Courtois and the most fair and gracious Queen Gwennifer.”
“Sounds like you’ve drunk the Kool-Aid. You said it was in trouble. Did the king screw up?”
“A bunch of dudes covered in metal shells trying to stab each other to death with long pointy sticks. Sounds messy. I can see why you’d want guns. But why go back? You’re better off sticking around here — in, you know, the real world.”
“Because my cousin is there, and she needs my help. They put her in charge of the peasant army. If I don’t get back soon, she’s going to do something really brave — and stupid — and get herself killed. I need to save her.”
“So you’re not a spy.”
“Okay. I’m not a spy. I admit it. But I do have a cousin. Who’s a knight.”
“Your cousin is a knight.”
“I know it sounds crazy. When it all happened, I thought it was crazy too. But the Kingdom of Fief is real.”
“To be honest, I’m a bit confused. Tell you what. Park yourself on this stool. Take off that coat. What is that? Are you one of those—”
“It’s a squire’s uniform. I’m a squire.”
“Esquire? So now you’re a lawyer.”
“Squires serve knights.”
“So you’re your cousin’s squire?”
“Okay, super. You’re a squire. Great. It looks uncomfortable, that costume, but okay, sit down and make yourself nice and cozy. Go ahead and make your case.”
“I’m in a hurry.”
“I’ll cut you a deal. If you can convince me what you’re saying is true, I’ll help you. Help you, a squire, save your cousin, a knight, who’s trapped in la-la land. How does that sound?”
“I really need to get going.”
“No explanation, no deal.”
“Can’t you just let me have the guns? I’ll bring them back. I promise. Preferably, the big ones.”
“Begin at the beginning.”