Picking fruit and playing a lute,
I always keep my crossbow half-cocked
and a spare quarrel or two hidden in my socks.
Although there has been peace in the land
since Sifrost the Ice Dragon married the Ice Queen
of the North and went to live beyond the Aurora Borealis
one can never be too sure with dragons
(or other magical creatures).
He might easily tire of concubial bliss
and come back to Avalonia to burn a few towers
and roast a sheep and maiden or two.
It doesn't do to fall asleep
or become negligent in such matters.
When Roland the Navigator came to Hengist Town last week
he brought news of how the Violet Bear of Aznagath,
apparently peacefully settled down with seven gnome-ladies
and living a life of convivial domestic routine
had, after an argument about whether one should use
salt or sugar in rock doughnuts,
came and laid waste to half of King Prendergast's Winter Palace
just by way of releasing excess nervous energy.
He didn't seem particularly intent on killing or maiming anybody
but the Queen suffered with fits for weeks
and two of her handmaidens fell pregnant.
Such things cannot be allowed to happen in Avalonia!
Indeed, the ancient texts contain specific warnings
against such complacency...
does not Tarquin the Timely expicitly write in The Pale Jade Ruminex
'Beware of Ice Dragons with sore heads!'
whilst in the Capricious Codex Master Valuminobe Splendiflume exhorts:
'a quarrel in the sock is worth two in the armourey
- scan the borders with vigilance, o pickeers of fruit
and lutanists of true song, lest monsters creep in unawares
and steal the year's best crop of pumpkins.'
To this end a special watch has been kept upon the Royal Pumpkins
for over two thousand years.
Grapes, apples, pears, gooseberries, cherries and kumquats
have all been clandestinely ravaged and kidnapped
but the Royal Pumpkins remain intact!
Picking fruit and playing my lute,
I always keep my crossbow half-cocked:
today I am carrying the elegant mahogany one with mother-of-pearl inlay
and polished electrum finger stippling.
It goes well with my leather burgandy frock
and its efficaciousness is such that even Eros swoons with jealousy
when I let loose a dart.
Thus in life I make even the most tedious duty an art
for, as Prince Rupert of Ruritania once observed:
'the Superior Man takes intimate delight in even the most trivial of details,
effusing over the subtle juxtaposition of seeming incongruities
and the overall affectation of nonchalent and specialised panache.
Everything else is but a marsh-toad's fart,
as vacuous and ultimately void of substance
as a sherry trifle without sherry
or The Land of the Everlasting without Terry.