The Shapeshifters Suite

Prelude

Shhh – I am about to tell you a story that has been kept a secret for many years. A story that has its roots in Great Snoring: a quaint village of Norfolk county, in the east of England. Most people believe the village was named for the ungodly sounds of mass snoring that could be heard from as far as a mile away from this village. But that’s only part of the story. In the year 1380 a brilliant young farmer had developed a rather unique variety of almond which, when consumed, was found to be a curative for snoring. The church, hearing of this almond, became greatly interested – as snoring had become a rampant problem in some of the parishes. Wisely, they sent an emissary to investigate: John de Freton, prebendary of the prebend of Ealdland, for his snoring could not be stopped, not even by waking up. And so it was, that John de Freton, known simply as Snorkles among the clergy, headed to the village of Great Snoring to enquire about this magnificent almond. The tale of his adventures as the Rector of Great Snoring, and how it came to be that five years later he was presented to the King as a heretic, is a story wrapped in mystery and intrigue. To this day, historians have not been able to find this orchard, or confirm that it actually existed. However, the knowledge has been passed down from generation to generation by the descendants of Great Snorers. Luckily, I am such a descendant.

Allemonde

In the back of the rectory, atop a bookshelf that swayed like a tall tree, behind a desk where his previous day’s studies were haphazardly strewn, lay John de Frenton purring loudly in a patch of sunlight. He took a deep breath, lazily shifting his large paws so that they stretched out in front of him. This was how he liked to do his thinking. He’d been doing a lot of that lately. He was a scholar, a curator for the church. That he had been made Rector of this town and sent here to find a cure for snoring would be absolutely laughable, were it not for some major complications. First, there was Kufuoka. Over the last several years he worked diligently with the local orchard farmer, tracking her progress and dispensing the almonds. But her unconventional ideas made her see all sorts of possibilities – he smiled thinking of them now – but it made things dangerous. He couldn’t doubt she wondered at him, confidant in what she had developed. The almonds she cultivated had already awakened the entire town of Great Snoring from a terrible curse. Person after person came to the rectory anxious to try Kufuoka’s almonds, and in turn, person after person came back full of wonder at the amazing cure. But not him. The parish joyfully celebrated at how the entire village seemed to have grown peacefully still – but to him it only seemed as if everyone was listening, waiting. He could feel their eyes fall fearfully on him every time they thought they heard his snore, as if waiting for the curse to return to them all. That was a problem. You see, Snorkles wasn’t actually snoring.

For some reason he couldn’t explain, he purred all the time. For him, his deep tiger-like rumble was just a consequence of breathing. Was that because he was content all the time? Maybe. He genuinely enjoyed life. Yet he was purring now, while he worried over how complicated this almond was making things. He couldn’t explain it – especially not to the other werecats. The fact that he couldn’t suppress such an obvious tell didn’t endear him to his pride. They only saw his content purr as a threat to the secrecy that had kept his race unknown to humankind for millennia. If this wasn’t enough of a problem, things were about to get worse. The King himself had demanded an inquiry, having heard stories of the miraculous almond. Many were anxious to hear the successful tales of John de Frenton, but he knew the kind of looks he would get from the clergy when all the pauses of his speech would be filled with what they would perceive as a snore.

He had to see Kufuoka. Standing up, he stretched his back in a tall arch. The light that passed through a stained glass window momentarily glowed orange on his white fur and broke into shadowy stripes from the wood around the window panes. Light slid across his form as he moved, hopping off of the bookshelf gracefully. De Frenton turned his piercing blue eyes toward the sound of someone’s approach. In a mildly painful instant, he took up his human form. There was a knock at the door just as he finished putting on his robes.

Corrente

“Rector Snorkles?” It was the Vicar.

“Yes, what is it?” He hated being called Snorkles. The sound of his purring grew louder, and he could swear he saw the Vicar twist his mouth to hide a smirk as he replied, “A woman is here to see you.”

“You know where the almonds are kept Vicar. I’m on my way to the orchard.”

“She hasn’t come for the almonds, sir.”

“Well? What then?”

“She wouldn’t say. But she’s definitely not from the village,” he reported as his eyes flickered with a rising excitement. “Mrs. Pots said a strange woman in a dark traveling cloak passed her house heading in the direction of town.”

“Alright,” he sighed. No doubt Mrs. Pots would be waiting also, ready with her complaints and warnings about outsiders.

Sarabande

He followed the vicar outside where the crisp November air shifted the falling leaves in a sound that was both peaceful and restless. A long walk on a day like this would untangle his mind. Yellow and orange leaves fluttered from the almond trees in a gust of wind, drifting through the air like snowflakes of fire before settling on the ground. His feet stirred the carpet of leaves as he walked to the church.

The woman waiting inside turned at the sound of the opening door. Flames from the alter candles flared high as air rushed inside. As she turned, her cloak moved in a graceful sweep, its black fabric shimmering in hues of gold. But it was her eyes that made him know this was no ordinary woman. Despite their dark hue they shined as if lit from the inside, in a way he couldn’t quite be sure if he was imagining. One thing was certain – her eyes were heavy with the stories they held. And full of questions.

“My name is Raven,” she said. “I bring you a message.”

Intermezzi

A multi-media Minuet…

The Theme of Great Snoring: Ra Ra Riot – The Orchard (music link)

Giga

History might imply that John De Frenton did not survive the King’s inquiry, for the records show he was charged as a heretic and sentenced to die on September 15, 1385. Even the story’s theme song seems to suggest a tragedy. But to believe the official records of Kings, Bishops, and poets in such matters is to misunderstand the point of such documents and poetry. For how could the King allow that his decree had not been carried out? How could the Bishop explain the mysterious shimmering bird that flew over the jail where John De Frenton was held? How could the poets, commisioned by the King, risk their necks to tell the story of the door they found in Kufuoka’s orchard? But the village of Great Snoring knew the truth. For on the morning of September 15, 1385, when the guards came for John De Frenton, his cell was empty.

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  1. Jenn
    November 8, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    This is great! I love how it’s left open to interpretation/imagination – especially the ending…will you take us through the door?

    • November 8, 2010 at 3:33 pm

      Thanks Jenn!! I’m glad you like how the ending could mean different things. I put a few that I was thinking of in my reply to Tony. And also, my idea for going through that door. It’s kind of related to a whole new concept I had this weekend on Scout’s story, so you’ll see this go somewhere – but a bit differently and as part of that story. 🙂

  2. Antonio
    November 8, 2010 at 10:31 am

    (sound of Tony smooching Tiffany)I LOVED this story, Tiffany! An almond curative for snoring–My father and sister need it, they can both rattle pictures off the wall.

    “…for his snoring could not be stopped, not even by waking up.”

    “…for some reason he couldn’t explain, he purred all the time.”

    John de Frenton has a secret. Loved the “Sarabande” section…good writing!

    A music link! Ra Ra Riot! A multi-media story!

    Ooo! Ooo! Did the mysterious Raven save him?

    Thanks, MissTiff! Great story! 😎

    • November 8, 2010 at 3:23 pm

      Thanks Tony!! *muah* 🙂 My mom’s snoring is like that! Loud, like it hurts my throat to try and replicate it loud. -lol- So it sounds like were both descendants of great snorers. 😀 I think I tripped over my words a bit in the first part. (I’ll go back through it in a bit). But the Serebande section is definitely my favorite, too. (Thanks!) I’ve been trying to work up another character in my other story, and Raven might be the bones of her.
      Yes, my thought was that Raven and Kufuoka help John de Frenton escape. That he doesn’t die, and that their ending isn’t tragic at all. Since the orchard can’t be found today, I’m thinking maybe they went though the door that Raven created in the orchard, and eventually the orchard itself was pulled through. What’s on the other side of that I couldn’t decide. Maybe they went to another time – when Kufuoka is Fukuoka? Maybe Raven’s message is that they are welcome to travel to or through the realm of her people? Yeah – travel through. I like that. But when I wrote it, it sounded open ended, partially because Raven can mean so many things. I like the Native American and Celtic ones, which is what I was thinking of. But I almost changed her name when I realized it might imply death after all (not exactly a happy birthday story, and not what I’d intended). But I thought that the possible interpretation of death and rebirth was another kind of shapeshifting, and doesn’t even necessarily mean a literal death and rebirth, which totally goes with the almonds, so I left it. Plus, I thought she was pretty bad ass as Raven. 😉
      I’m glad you like it! Happy B-day!

    • November 8, 2010 at 5:25 pm

      It’s also possible that Raven IS Kufuoka…

  3. Ryan
    November 7, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    Wow, Tiff! This is an amazing tale. Of course, I learned all about this in my medieval lit class. Kidding. I really like all the names you’ve used for titles and places, and the story is totally imaginative.

    • November 8, 2010 at 3:23 am

      -lol- Yes, I’m sure you covered all this ground in Medeval Lit. 😉 I’m glad you liked the people names and places – they inspired me too – actually, that’s the only part I didn’t make up. Great Snoring is a real town in the place I described, and John de Frenton was really a Rector. And Prebend! Kufuoka is a twist on the name of a brilliant farmer, but one that didn’t live in that time. Thanks Ryan! I’m glad you liked the tale. 🙂

  1. April 28, 2016 at 3:35 pm

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