The Tale of Declan, Disruptor of Doors
A Sword and Sorcery Parody
by Cora Buhlert
In an age undreamt of, after the Supreme Lord of Darkness descended from his mountain to lead the Hounds of Sadness in their assault against the sinful cities on the coast, but before the scarlet plague swept the land, there lived in a barbaric country a young bard named Declan.
Declan was a rising star among the bards of his land. His name was spoken with admiration in the taverns and around the camp fires. Last year, he had even been runner-up in the bardic contest of the Great Dragon Atalanta, losing only to Bryan, the Grand Hunter of Witches. Declan was still sore about that.
Even though Declan resided in Nu-Yore, the most sinful of the sinful cities on the coast, he was a pious man who had seen the light of the One True God and followed the One True Faith. And so Declan decided to make a pilgrimage across the great sea to visit the great temple of the high priest of the One True God.
It was at this time that the ships anchoring in the harbour of Nu-Yore brought troubling news. For an unknown plague was sweeping through the lands across the great sea, felling the beggars in the streets and the lords and ladies in their palaces. Dark clouds were gathering and bodies, their skin turned a bright scarlet, were lying unclaimed and unburied in the streets of the cities across the sea.
The plague had also come to the land of Ital across the sea. It descended from the snow-capped mountains in the North to the fertile plains of Ital, where it struck old and young, rich and poor, sinner and saint alike.
In the heart of Ital, there lay the city of Va-Tica, home of the great temple of the One True God. And this was where Declan was headed on his pilgrimage. Like everybody in Nu-Yore, Declan had heard the news about the scarlet plague sweeping the lands across the sea. But he was undeterred. After all, his was a holy pilgrimage. And besides, he was a pious man and humble servant of the One True God. So surely, he would be spared from the scarlet plague.
“Art thou sure, son?” asked the captain of the galleon upon which Declan had booked passage to Va-Tica, “Hast thou not heard of the scarlet plague that devastates the land of Ital?”
“I am sure, good captain,” replied Declan, “After all, I am a man of faith and the One True God shall protect me.”
Days and weeks passed, as the galleon made its way across the great ocean that divides the world. It was an uneventful voyage. The waves were calm and the galleon passed few other ships. Even the pirates that plagued the seas had retreated to their fortified islands.
“Art thou truly sure that thou wantest to disembark, son?” asked the captain, when the galleon moored in the harbour of Va-Tica, “For the scarlet plague has reached Va-Tica and the sacred virgins are dropping dead in the streets of the temple district. It is not too late, son. I can take thee back to Nu-Yore free of charge.”
But Declan’s faith in the One True God was strong. “No, good captain, I am sure. All I want is to pray at the great temple of the One True God and ask his favour for my bardic ventures. And surely He Who Rules All Creation will hold His hand over His humble servant.”
The captain just sighed. “Thy word in thine God’s ear.” Then he ordered the mooring lines cut and the anchors lifted, for no captain worth his salt wanted to stay in a plague-ridden port longer than absolutely necessary.
Declan, meanwhile, wandered through the streets of Va-Tica, marvelling at the marble palaces, grand statues and obelisks that reached for the heavens, and blissfully ignored the bodies that lay rotting in the gutters, their faces and hands turned a bright scarlet.
“Surely…” thought Declan, “…they were sinners who would not worship the One True God.”
Onwards he wandered, through deserted streets and past shuttered houses with the sign of the plague painted on the doors in bright scarlet. As he reached the temple district, he spotted the body of a sacred virgin lying in the gutter, her soft skin stark scarlet underneath her gossamer veils.
“Another sinner, to be sure,” thought Declan, “Most likely, she wasn’t even a real virgin. And everybody knows that the One True God smites sinners with extreme prejudice.”
And then he quickly turned away, for even in her scarlet state, the fallen virgin was still most comely, her curves sound and soft and enticing.
“Temptation…” thought Declan, “…lurks everywhere.”
For many years, Declan had saved his coins for this journey, the journey of a lifetime. But the pilgrimage turned out to be most disappointing. For in the temple district of Va-Tica, all the shrines and seminaries, the sacred library and even the great temple itself were shuttered. The sacred virgins hid their faces behind their gossamer veils, hoping to be spared the breath of the scarlet death that stalked the streets, And the high priest himself had fled to his estate in the country and barricaded himself among orange groves and apple orchards.
It was the pilgrimage of a lifetime, but there was nowhere to pray, nowhere to worship, no sacred blessings to receive. There were only deserted streets and dead bodies, their skin grotesquely scarlet.
Not even the taverns and inns and the street market stalls were open and Declan could get nothing to eat nor drink. So in desperation, he visited the envoy of his homeland, standing outside the shuttered villa and banging onto the gate, until he was granted entry.
“What art thou even doing here, boy?” thundered the envoy, “Hast though not heard of the scarlet plague that sweeps the land?”
“I… I am on a sacred pilgrimage to see the great temple of the One True God,” stammered Declan, for the envoy was a very imposing man.
“Screw thine pilgrimage!” thundered the envoy, “The great temple is shuttered, has been shuttered for weeks. Half the priests and sacred virgins are dead, the other half has fled. Go home, boy!”
“Get thy arse home!” thundered the envoy, “The harbour of Va-Tica is closed, but the port of Flo-Rina, a town to the North, is still open. Get thyself to Flo-Rina in three days and take passage home or thou wilt be trapped here, with the dying and the dead!”
So Declan took a horse and headed for Flo-Rina, riding day and night, stopping only to water and feed the horse. He rode past barricaded towns guarded by soldiers in tarnished armour and past deserted country villas, every single person therein dead. The mills lay idle, the grapes rotted in the vineyards and scarlet corpses and bleached bones littered the roadside. At last, Declan reached the town of Flo-Rina.
In the days before the plague, Flo-Rina had been famed far and wide for its wealth and the beauty of its palaces, villas and temples. But as in Va-Tica, the temples, palaces and villas of Flo-Rina were shuttered. The scarlet plague mark burned on many doors and the pyres of the dead burned day and night.
Declan had not slept in three days and neither had his horse. Somehow, he made it to the harbour and there, moored at the dock, lay the last galleon bound for Nu-Yore, that most sinful of cities that was Declan’s home and that he missed more than anything in the world now.
But the harbour was barricaded. Stockades blocked off the docks, manned by soldiers with pikes and halberds.
“Halt!” cried a soldier, “State thy business, traveller!”
“I am but a humbled pilgrim…” said Declan, “…come to return home to Nu-Yore on yonder galleon. Please, good sir, let me pass!”
“Thou canst not pass,” said soldier, “Though must quarantine for forty days in the barracks yonder, lest thou carry the scarlet plague to Nu-Yore.”
“But I am a man of faith, a servant of the One True God,” cried Declan, “He holds His hand over me. Thou must let me pass.”
“I do not care what god thou worships,” replied the soldier, “Thou canst not pass. And now begone!”
Declan was a pious man, not given to swearing and profanity. But even the most pious man can be tested to his limit and Declan’s patience had just exceeded that limit.
“Thou son of a mongrel dog and a disease ridden whore,” yelled Declan, “Is it my fault that thy shithole of a country cannot manage even a simple plague? And now let me pass and let me go home to Nu-Yore, where our overlord Donald the Great Orange protects us from plagues and imbeciles.”
“Insults won’t get thee past this barricade,” said the soldier and poked Declan with his pike.
Declan was furious. This imbecilic son of a mongrel dog and a disease ridden whore would not let him pass, would not let him board the galleon and return to Nu-Yore, the city where everything was sane and normal and where there was no plague and no dead people lying in gutters, at least not plague dead.
He peered above the stockade and saw that the galleon, his last, best and only chance of getting home, was cutting the mooring lines. If it sailed, he would be stuck here in this benighted land forever.
Beside the large gate guarded by the soldiers, there was a small door in the stockade. A door that led to salvation.
Beyond the stockade, the galleon was lifting the anchor and setting the sails. It was now or never.
The soldiers were busy examining the papers of a merchant and paid no attention to Declan. So he took a step towards the door and then another. He gave the door an experimental push and as if by the will of the One True God, it opened.
So Declan dashed through the door and onto the dock, dashed towards the departing galleon, crying, “Wait! Wait for me!”
He was still screaming when the soldiers wrestled him to the ground.
“Foreign imbecile,” muttered the judge under his breath, as Declan, who had now acquired the moniker “Disruptor of Doors”, was brought before him. And then he slammed his gavel down and sentenced Declan to pay a fine of one thousand gold doubloons for disturbing the peace and disrupting doors.
But Declan had no one thousand gold doubloons. He did not even have two copper pennies. And since an appeal to the great temple of the One True God to aid a true believer in his hour of dire need was ignored, he was thrown into the deepest, dampest dungeon in Flo-Rina.
There he languished in chains and fervently prayed for deliverance, when one day a fellow prisoner, a giant with steel-blue eyes and a shaggy mane of midnight black hair approached him.
“Art thou the one they call Declan, Disruptor of Doors?” asked the giant.
Declan nodded. “They call me that,” he said warily, for he had received more than one beating while in gaol.
“And is it true that thou broke through the barricade by the harbour, even though thou hast the statue of a skinny rabbit?” probed the giant.
“That what I’m in here for,” replied Declan.
“Excellent,” exclaimed the giant and slapped Declan on the shoulder, so hard that Declan went to his knees.
“They call me Conkull the Skullsplitter,” said the giant, “Declan, Disruptor of Doors, thou and I shall be partners. Thou shalt use thy door-disrupting magic on the doors of this dungeon and then on the doors of the villas and palaces of the rich. Together, thou and I shall tread the jewelled thrones of the world under our sandalled feet. So what sayest thou?”
Declan swallowed hard and uttered a quick prayer to the One True God who he feared had deserted him. Then he looked down at his bare feet, for he wasn’t even wearing sandals.
“I guess I have no other choice.”