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A Desperate and Despicable Dwarf: Section Fourteen

       Last updated: Wednesday, May 12, 2004 05:38 EDT





Chapter (need number). In Which...

    'Tis said, and said well, but properly said solely upon the occasion of its immortalization in that permanent gallery of the world's assembled wisdom called, by the general run of men, in their feeble-minded, lack-witted manner, books; by the few savants amongst them, tomes; by the officious, documents; and by those rare men possessed of broad view, libraries; but called, and called properly, solely by those lice—and then only by the keenest intellects even amidst that superior race—by the true name of chronicles, recognizing, in that august term, the metaphysical truth that all that is, is past, and only is by virtue of that it has passed—but then! the immortal quandary!—for if it is done and thus done with, how are we to know the thing in itself (as you might say) now that it has vanished into the mists called, by man and louse alike, memory, the which, as is known by man and louse alike, is both notorious in its outline and unsteady in its course? Aye, that's the question! To be is to have been—and thus, how is existence to be known at all? 'Tis from this penetrative penetration to the void which lies at the center of all Being (better say, Been and Becoming!) that the transcendent truth inexorably arises that all that is, is what's been recorded. Nothing more—certainly nothing less!

    The wizard Zulkeh, in his crude manner, oft expressed the matter so: "The truth is found in books." And so said, 'tis true enough; but—enough?—o baseborn word!—seek us rather to go beyond the mere enough! Seek us—yes!—to reach beyond the pale, practic sufficient, to stretch forth our forelimb in a mighty effort to grasp (dare I say it? say better—write it) the comprehensive?

    This brief, philosophic prologue serves the purpose, gentle reader, of introducing myself and my guiding method. My name, by which I mean that name with which I entered the world and scurried my way to every moment but that of my recent elevation, we may ignore. 'Tis meaningless, of itself. Suffice it to say that my life was spent in the diligent, even fanatic, pursuit of scribal excellence, a pursuit which, in the elapse of that substratum of Truth called, by man and louse alike, Time, brought my qualities to the attention of the elders of the Alfredae. And these latter, being so apprised of my qualities, took the inevitable and praise-worthy step of elevating me to the apprenticeship, from which, in short time, I soon became recognized as the most excellent of that class, from which position it was only just and reasonable that, upon the occasion where the complex unfoldings of those deeds which lay at the heart of our clan's Chronicle required, for the first time in our history, the formal division of the scribal forces of the Alfredae, 'twas I and none other who received the charge of accompanying the wizard Zulkeh on his separate voyage, whilst the Pen Himself and the bulk of the clan remained behind upon Shelyid.

    Upon my departure, the Alfred of record, Alfred [whatever], officially named me "Chief Apprentice, Detached." 'Twas, I thought, a grotesque title, the sort one might expect from such a pedestrian, even plebeian, mentality as that which, alas, inhabited the brain of our current Alfred. I say this, as the gentle reader will instantly recognize, eschewing both diplomacy and tact—indeed, all foul coloration of the truth—for I had long since become aware that the Inkwell had fallen into a sorry state under the guidance of its most recent assumptees. A sorry lot, the lot of them, fallen greatly from the scruples of Alfreds past of renown.

    And so 'twas that I seized the opportunity to restore the chronicler's art to its former glory, the which salubrious project, of course, I would in any event have carried out upon my eventual—certain—elevation to the Inkwell following the (unfortunately long-delayed) demise of Alfred [whatever the current one is]. My "detached duty" (o gross phrase) simply advanced the project smartly.

    Shortly after establishing ourselves upon the wizard Zulkeh (whose hair, alas, was rather sparse; but whose flowing beard, as is common in wizards, provided ample room for our pursuits, practic and philosophic), I summoned the entire band of junior apprentices, sub-scribes, quill-cutters, ink-mixers, menials and drudges, and so forth, the which had been assigned to accompany me, and acquainted them, in no uncertain terms, with my views and intentions.

    Many of these stalwarts—filled, as I was, with the vigor of youth, if lacking my rare insight—hailed both me and my project. Others, sad to write, seemed dubious, one churlish junior apprentice even going so far as to parse the phrase "chief apprentice, detached" in such a manner as to lay great emphasis on the connotations and implications of the conjunction of those words "apprentice" and—here he grew positively shrill—detached.

    Having foreseen this impediment, I at once explained that the junior apprentice being, as he so obviously was, ignorant of the profound dialectic which underlies all true chroniclery, was confused between the object and the subject. Upon Shelyid, prior to departure, I was the object of the clan's purpose, and, as such, properly bore the sober cognomen of "chief apprentice, detached." The detachment having now occurred, however—that is to say, the imminent truth having realized itself in its becoming and then its passing—I was no longer the object of the clan's purpose but the subject of that purpose itself, being, as should be evident even to the most dullard louse, the sole personage through which, and by whose efforts, that selfsame purpose could itself become a thing of the recorded past, and thus truly true.

    All this being the case, it followed as night from day that the title "chief apprentice, detached" was neither correct nor seemly, and thus, having given the matter long thought aforelimb, I had chosen that title which appropriately captured the newly formed, sublime essence of the matter.

    "The Prince of Quills," I thought, would do nicely.

    Immediately acclaimed by most, the title was questioned by a few and actually opposed by that same sorry junior apprentice. The questioners I immediately banished to Zulkeh's private parts, to find in those austere and ascetic conditions the necessary discipline to accept and then embrace the new reality; the opposer, being, as he so obviously was, incapable of ever advancing in his understanding, I exiled entirely—ordering him cast upon a nearby mongrel cur. (A sad decision, this, in light of subsequent events; better I had begun at the beginning with the stern regimen which I was, soon enough, to establish amongst my sub-ordinates. But—so it was, and having been, been true.)



    And now, gentle reader, to the project at hand. Soon enough shall you witness for yourself the salubrious results of my efforts. For know, gentle reader, that the disquiet and discomfort which has heretofore been the companion to your study of this chronicle—those inevitable doubts and dubieties with which you have, time and again, met certain statements proclaimed as so in this chronicle; that caustic scourge of skepticism which is the necessary by-product of a narrative lacking not only annotation and substantation, but lacking as well all subtle development of the manifold complexities of historic truth, lacking, indeed, all those qualities recognized—by man and louse alike—as scholarship—is at an end.

    For, as the gentle reader has no doubt already discerned, the wizard Zulkeh was incorrect in his view. The truth, properly speaking, is not found in books. Nay, the truth is found in footnotes.

    Onward! Close the seal on introduction! To the narrative itself!

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