Sunday, March 23, 2014

Prompt story #1: The Awkward Vow

Well, finally found time to sit down for a couple hours and hammer out the first story inspired by a prompt from The Amazing Story Generator. Not surprisingly, it turned out to be something a bit silly, yet it still made sense, and I suppose I had some room for hilarity. Did hilarity ensue? Well, read on! The prompt was:

“After vowing to not bathe for a year
A Nobel-prize winning physicist
decides to get married on a whim.”

“How long is this going to go on for?” Davion asked. “Most of the team refuses to even come in to work at this point, you smell so awful.” He waved his hand in front of his nose to make his point. Across the table from Davion, Augustus leaned back on his bench, casually taking another gulp of ale from his tankard, a few drops dribbling out the side. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and then his hand on his pants leg.
“I told you. A full year. 280 days exactly. I know you find my strange for my habits, Davion, but this is the challenge I place upon myself after winning the Vox Scientia last Fall. Consider it my way of saying thank you to the universe.”
Davion glanced around them. There was no one sitting within a one table radius of the pair, and those present in the Blackstone Maiden tavern eyed them warily, no doubt hoping the two scientists would leave soon. “Thank the universe all you like, but we would thank you to actually take a bath! You started this silly tradition only three months ago, and you already smell worse than a sahagin’s droppings. And it’s only Febras! Winter hasn’t even ended yet! Can you imagine how bad it’ll be once Summer arrives?”
“Well, if it’s really so offensive, then I’ll take my genius elsewhere. Perhaps Doramor. Or back home to Korneth. I’m sure the Royal Academy of Magic can make do without my meager talents.” Augustus’ nose lifted in the air. He obviously had long since grown immune to any particular odor he may have been emitting, but Davion couldn’t claim the same. At least he still changed his clothes regularly.
“It’s not that we don’t doubt your genius, Augustus. Your winning the Vox for revolutionizing our understanding of gravity should be testament to its authenticity. But surely there are better ways to make offerings or show your gratitude or whatever. A prayer vigil, burning some incense, a pilgrimage, or something.”
Augustus scoffed. “Those are Ascensionist rituals. We Universalists have no need of such silliness. The universe accepts devotion in whatever way works best for the individual.”
Davion waved his hand again, but this time dismissively. “Yes, yes, that. My point is, surely there can be some other way of doing this that doesn’t make half our compatriots want to flee in terror?”
“Nonsense. I’ve set my mind to this. You can’t change it.” Augustus took another drink.
Davion realized he’d have to try another tack. He sat in silence for a moment, trying to think of what else he could do. Then it struck him. “What about the women? Surely you can’t expect to find a good wench while you smell so badly.” Augustus was notorious across the entire Academy for his wiles with women from one end of Kunskaborg to the other. It wasn’t hard to see why, his sandy blonde hair and piercing green eyes complimented his surprisingly toned physique. He was not only a genius and leading scientist in his field, but incredibly handsome by most standards. Davion was significantly more plain; his brown hair and eyes matched, and his frame was slightly plump.
That seemed to get Augustus’ attention. His ears perked up and one eyebrow arched. “Well, perhaps you have a point…” Relief flooded Davion, and Augustus continued. “It has been over a month since I wooed that lovely Kornethi lass...oh, what was her name… the daughter of that visiting baron… Well, anyway, I admit I did smell a bit better then, but I only stopped because I haven’t had the time lately with our work. Maybe you’re on to something…”
Davion nodded enthusiastically, relieved he finally had something.
“On the other hand… you know how I love a challenge.” Davion felt his heart sink. “In fact, now that I have some time to myself again, I think it’s time to try again.”
“You can’t be serious.” Davion gripped his mug tightly, unbelieving of Augustus’ obstinacy.
“Oh, I’m quite serious, my good Davion,” Augustus gave his glittering smile. Davion smiled. “In fact… Because you doubt me so much… I’m getting old…” Davion found that hard to believe, as they were both in their early 30’s. Given the average lifespan in Saernis was around 90, they weren’t exactly facing their twilight years. “...Not only will I find a new wench to bed, but I’ll find one to marry me.”
“...While you smell worse than the fish market in the Lower District?”
Augustus grinned again. “Exactly. If you don’t want to be supportive of my endeavor, that’s on you. Now, if you’ll excuse me…” He scanned the room, his eyes falling on a young woman sitting alone at a small table by a window. She seemed pretty enough, with dirty blonde hair and pale blue eyes, modest proportions, and a clean white and green dress. She idly rotated a thin-stemmed wine glass in one hand, the other resting near a small plate of crackers and sweetmeats. Her attention was focused on the window, watching something outside.
Before Davion could say anything, Augustus took one last swig of his drink, stood, and began to saunter over to the woman. Several other patrons suddenly found themselves having to leave, not even bothering to count the coins they left on their tables before making a hasty exit. Davion sighed, resting his face in his palm for a moment before shaking his head and finishing his own mug. Wiping the excess from his mouth, he counted out his own tab, left it on the table, and left. As he made his way out, he paused to take a look in Augustus’ direction, shocked to find the woman was actually engaging him in conversation, and even smiling. Certain she’d be fleeing any minute, he rolled his eyes and stepped outside, making his way back to his house.

Davion was already so buried in his work, collating the results of several different studies regarding the latest observations of the stars in the sky, that he didn’t even notice Augustus was missing until he finally showed up an hour late, looking only mildly embarassed. Even greater a surprise than his tardiness was the fact that he was still wearing the same clothes as yesterday, though they were considerably more crumpled than when Davion had seen him last. Of course, his presence was also amplified by the noticeable smell that began to permeate. Before either of them said anything, Davion got up and opened the window, savoring the fresh breeze, but not the cold pumping in.
“So… it went well?” Davion said, suspecting the answer.
Augustus cleared his throat and began to move towards his desk. The rest of the desks in the room were empty, the other scholars conveniently being absent yet again. “Yes...yes it did.” He took a sip of his tea and set it on the desk before sitting down and beginning to shuffle through his papers.
Davion stared at him for a moment in silence. When Augustus didn’t even look up from his papers, he spoke up. “Well? That’s it?”
Augustus still didn’t look up. “A gentleman does not kiss and tell on the affairs of a lady.”
Davion stood up forcefully, his chair skidding backwards. “How?! How did you manage to still bed a woman smelling like the arse end of a falaim?!”
Augustus still didn’t look up. “Her name is Kaya,” he simply said.
“Whatever her name is, how did you manage it? You paid her, didn’t you?”
That got him to finally look up. “I most certainly did not! If you must know… she was not born with a sense of smell.”
The revelation seemed to hit Davion like a physical blow. He stumbled back and fell into his chair. After a moment he began to laugh. “Of course… of course she wasn’t. Your handicap doesn’t even apply!”
Somehow that seemed to offend Augustus. “Hey! Do you have any idea how much I spend on my cologne? That’s one of my best features! I’m still absolutely operating under a handicap.”
“Whatever. Congratulations, I suppose. You found the one woman for whom your repulsive odor won’t make a difference. When’s the wedding?”
Now Augustus chuckled. “I don’t know. There’s certainly potential, but I think I need more than a single night to decide something so monumental.”
“Remember, the challenge was marriage without bathing. If you really want to go through with this, then I don’t see how you’ll have a better chance.”
Augustus sighed and stared out the window. “I suppose you’re right. Do I really want to get married, though? Or am I just being absurd? I’d be stuck with one woman for the rest of my life.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.” He paused for a second, trying to think of what he wanted to say. “I know you enjoy your lifestyle, but perhaps it’s time for something different. A new experience.” He knew that would probably appeal to Augustus’ sense of Universalism.  
Augustus nodded. “You may have something there. Fine. I’ll try it, see where this goes.”
“Good. One thing, though.” Augustus looked at him, curious. “Even if you do marry her, with her lack of smell, you better start bathing again.”
Now Augustus laughed.

Davion glanced out the window at the trees turning vibrant shades of yellow and red. A few drifted to the ground as a breeze rolled by. After a moment, he returned his gaze to the front of the temple, and quietly cleared his throat. The officiary for the wedding, Davion had no idea what his actual title was, was still droning on about the universe and the joining of souls and such. An inordinate amount of incense burned throughout the temple. Augustus and Kaya were facing the officiary, motionless. Finally, the last blessing was given, the newly wed couple kissed, embraced, and the guests rushed forward to carry them outside, their reluctance to get anywhere near Augustus barely visible. Music blared, and Davion slowly shuffled out of Shizuka Temple with the rest of the guests.
Outside, the dancing had already begun, and more incense smoke wreathed the area. Davion was pretty sure the amount being burned was above average. Nine months into Augustus’ challenge, and, true to his word, he had yet to wash himself, but also had now succeeded in getting married. Kaya seemed perfectly happy around Augustus, of course, but the rest of the guests were politely keeping their distance.
Davion took in a lungful of incense, and stepped forward. Augustus turned and they embraced for a second.
“Well, you did it.” Davion said, trying to smile. Already his eyes were starting to sting. Augustus seemed oblivious.
“I did! And all thanks to you, my friend!”
“Me? What did I do?”
“Don’t you remember? You encouraged me to give it my all and actually stick with it. And I couldn’t be happier for doing so.” Augustus stepped away from Kaya, putting an arm around Davion. Davion felt certain blood vessels in his nose were about to rupture from the smell as Augustus continued in a low voice. “I was going to leave her after that first night, but it was your idea to stick with it, and help me realize there can be more to life than what I was doing. So, thank you, my friend.”
Davion had no words. This outpouring of gratitude from Augustus was something he wasn’t used to. He smiled appreciatively for a moment, before he thought of exactly what to say.
“You’re welcome. If you really want to show your gratitude, though, I ask only one thing from you.”
“Name it.”
“Take a damn bath.”
Augustus laughed. “Done.” He walked back to his new wife, and Davion collapsed onto a nearby bench with relief.

No comments:

Post a Comment