In Chapter CCLXXVIII of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, the shooting of Black Rodney the sorcerer, by the American adventurer Willis Twombley, has all of Scurveyshire in what she has decided to call “a tizzy.” You may recall that when Tombley shot the black-robed sorcerer, the robes proved to be empty; and Black Rodney has laid a curse on Scurveyshire: no more happiness there, forever. So everyone is sad.
“There is a feeling among the community that Mr. Twombley is very much to blame for this,” writes Ms. Crepuscular. Constable Chumley, she adds, has said it best: “We’uns do gravin noo bleskit afore!” He couldn’t have said it more clearly.
Meanwhile Tom Squim, the Great Conquering Khan of the nearby hamlet of Plaguesby, is rather annoyed by Lady Margo Cargo’s escape from the Plaguesby jail and her refusal to marry him. He has ordered hand-written placards to be affixed to certain trees, declaring war on the rest of Scurveyshire.
“He can’t do that!” objects Lord Jeremy Coldsore, in his capacity as the whole shire’s justice of the peace. “I have half a mind to have him arrested!”
“A whole mind would be better, dear,” says Lady Margo, still confined to her bed after her exertions in the dreaded Scurveyshire fens.
It is well known that the Great Conquering Khan’s army consists of three rather foolish young men notorious for their inability to concentrate on whatever they are supposed to be doing. When Mr. Squim declared war on the hamlet of Pig’s Delight, the three soldiers wandered off and were found a week later, aimlessly turning over logs in Pocking Forest. No one expects them even to show up in Scurveyshire, much less conquer it.
“But I don’t see how we can stage a wedding with the whole shire feeling hopelessly sad and refusing to set foot outdoors,” says Jeremy. “Confound it! A whole community terrified of an empty suit of clothes! We’ll be the laughing stock of England.”
“We’d better find a way to cheer ’em up,” says Tombley. “If I could just lay my hands on some o’ that Philistine joy-juice we used to serve at my palace, I’d have ’em dancin’ in the streets.”
“And so,” concludes Ms. Crepuscular, “was launched the quest for Philistine Joy-Juice–surely Homeric in scope!” She’s getting that “be like Homer” itch again.