In Search of an Oracle (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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With the Wise Woman of the Woods locked up in jail–er, gaol–and refusing to come out, and Johnno the Merry Minstrel having unexpectedly failed as a source of supernatural advice (swallowing your harmonica will do that to you), Violet Crepuscular has her work cut out for her in Chapter CCCXXIII of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney.

She has tried to tackle it head-on.

“Dear readers,” she writes, “I have decided to tackle this problem head-on, although the last time I tried that was in a football game in our neighbor’s back yard, and I missed the tackle and rammed head-first into her oil tank behind the house.”

Be that as it may, something must be done to break the hold of Black Rodney, the medieval sorcerer, on poor afflicted Scurveyshire. Only then can Lady Margo Cargo, the richest widow in the shire, marry Lord Jeremy Coldsore and his friend, the American adventurer Willis Twombley, whom she thinks are the same person.

“I’ll give you one more chance to come through with an answer to our problem,” says Lord Jeremy, “and if you fail us this time, I’ll have you hanged for practicing witchcraft without a license.”

“Fair enough,” agrees the Wise Woman of the Gaol. It bothers me to write “gaol” instead of “jail,” but it seems Ms. Crepuscular is used to it. “The first thing you have to do is find the tomb of a tomboy and make a counter-clockwise circuit of it, turning cartwheels while reciting I’ve Got Rhythm in classical Greek.” Jeremy thinks this is apt to be difficult, but he needs the marriage so he can save Coldsore Hall from its multitude of creditors.

“Then what?” he asks.

“Report back to me for further instructions.”

First he has to learn classical Greek. Twombley is unable to help him there. “When I was king of Akkad,” he said, “nobody spoke classical Greek. But I think Constable Chumley does.”

The constable replies with enthusiasm: “Aye, fairthy yon scopper, m’lord!”

“When can you start teaching me?”

“I’ the reekle o’ the gorn, m’lord!” He takes a bow and walks off to the pub, leaving Jeremy not much wiser than he was at the start of the chapter.

Ms. Crepuscular concludes with a poem, not to be repeated here, that casts some doubt on her sanity.

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