“Scurveyshire,” writes Violet Crepuscular, introducing Chapter CCCXCVI (Chapter CCCXCV was nixed by the censors) of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, “is one of the few places in England where serfdom survives to the present day. What with all the excitement of the plague, Wars of the Roses, Civil War, Spanish Armada, Napoleon, etc., etc., no one ever got around to abolishing serfdom in Scurveyshire.”
Things in Scurveyshire are trying to get back to normal, now that the reddle craze has passed and Olaf Skraeling has been sucked under the vicar’s backyard wading pool.
But it seems the serfs are getting restless.
Back in Lord Jeremy Coldsore’s father’s time–this lord’s name has escaped posterity, and was last seen slumming in Perth Amboy, NJ–the shire addressed the grievances of the serfs by setting up a Serf Board. It even has its own theme song: “Let’s Go Serfing Now!” Today tourists come from California to experience Scurveyshire’s inland serfing. But in Chapter CCCXCVI’s time, the Serf Board has bigger fish to fry.
For the serfs have organized under the charismatic leadership of Bennett Serf; and according to Johnno the Merry Minstrel, they are plotting a full-scale insurrection.
“Do you know that for a fact?” demands Lord Jeremy. “Must we muster the Mustards to put down the rebellion?” The Mustards are Scurveyshire’s aging and somnolent mounted militia, currently out of mounts but still a force to be reckoned with, if reckoning is your thing.
“They’re always plotting,” explains Johnno. “Ever since the Serf Board ruled you have to give them one holiday a year whether they need it or not, they’ve been plotting to take over the shire.”
“Couldn’t we just promote them to peons?” cries Lord Jeremy. “Or even peasants? They’d like being peasants.”
Johnno checks to make sure no one is near enough to overhear them, or read lips, lowers his voice, and declares, “My Lord, I think we are about to confront another scheme by that pernicious medieval sorcerer, Black Rodney!”
Here the chapter breaks off without a word of explanation. It is almost as if Ms. Crepuscular has heard the Good Humor man’s bells come jangling down her street and burst outside to buy a creamsicle.