Shadon Ramscrake is, as I’ve mentioned before, a mediocre poet. Still, to be fair to him, he does try. He would sit in his garret, scrawling his mediocre poems in the dim (perhaps even mediocre) light produced by a low quality candle. In fact it wasn’t even a proper candle. He made his own candles by melting down stubs of old candle, tallow and cooking oil and allowing them to set in a shallow pot, around a coil of string which acted as the wick. Honesty compels me to report that whilst they gave little light, the stinking smoke could generally be relied upon to drive away most vermin.
Eventually even Shadon admitted he was getting nowhere in his poetic endeavours. But rather than lay the blame firmly at the door of his lack of ability, he blamed the lack of illumination. I remember him saying, “If only I could afford decent candles, then I could see to write something truly worthy of my muse.”
This must have weighed on his mind. Indeed I suspect it became something of an obsession. When sober he merely continued his quest for bits of old candles such as he might find lying about, but in his cups he became more inventive. Finally, after drinking a number of glasses of rather poor wine he came up with a plan. (Poor wine, who am I trying to deceive? It was grossly inferior wine. So inferior that the vendor first added ground mustard to try and improve it. When it remained sour then they stirred in some sugar. Finally and in desperation they added pure spirit mixed with a little milk. But it was sold cheaply in tankards and you could get quite a lot for very little money.)
His plan was not particularly subtle. As you may or may not know, the Hierophant of Aea will, on high days and holidays, lead an evening procession dancing between all the major temples. He will play the harp and will be accompanied by men bearing other musical instruments. There are dancers, acrobats, mimes and even children singing in their sweet piping voices. But even more importantly from Shadon’s perspective, there were the men carrying great candles which would illuminate the scene. He would steal a candle.
Now you must remember he came up with this plan after drinking several tankards of ‘wine.’ So initially his plan was merely to run in, grab a candle, and flee. So as the procession poured out of the doors of the Temple of Aea in her Aspect as the Personification of Chastity, Shadon Ramscrake was ready. Swaying slightly under the influence of the ‘wine’ he ran to the back of the procession and grasped one of the candlesticks.
The bearer of the candlestick clouted him round the side of the head and then pushed him to the back of the procession with the words, “Get your own, idiot.”
Dazed as well as drunk, Shadon staggered to the back. Here an elderly acolyte unfastened Shadon’s shirt and pulled it down so he had one arm bare. Then he unceremoniously stuck a wreath on his head and gave him a lighted candle wedged securely in the candlestick.
Our intrepid, if intoxicated, hero was then thrust back into the procession. Surrounded by capering celebrants he clutched his candlestick firmly to his bosom lest it be torn from him. They made their way through the city and at regular intervals somebody would pass amongst the procession giving the candlestick carriers a drink of good wine to keep their strength up.
Gradually for Shadon, everything seemed to become a blur. At one moment he was carrying one candlestick, and then suddenly he had two because one of the other carriers had stepped behind a pillar to relieve himself. Then he had three because another had spotted a girl in the audience and had made his way through the throng to speak to her. Finally, navigating purely on instinct, Shadon Ramscrake turned left when the procession turned right and disappeared into the night.
In the middle of the night he awoke on his simple bed, (a sawdust stuffed mattress laid on the floor) to discover he was the proud owner of four candles and their associated candlesticks.
What woke him was the crash as two burly members of the city watch smashed his door down. The watch had been able to follow Shadon by the trail of candle wax he’d left behind on the street. Should the trail have run cold, the watchmen could still have found him by the brilliance of the light pouring out of his window. The successful candle thief almost certainly dowses the candles the moment he steals them.
The magistrate had no difficulty finding Shadon guilty, but gave some thought to the sentence. Finally he indentured our commonplace poet to the city watch. His task for the next thirteen months was to sit in their offices and copy out the various court records in a clear hand. This Shadon could do, his penmanship was excellent. Not only that but as he worked he had access to plenty of light, and good quality candles should he need them. In his quiet moments he even wrote a little poetry.
But in all candour, the improved illumination merely served to prove that he was as hopeless at poetry as he was at theft.
Should anybody wish to learn a little more about Shadon Ramscrake, he does grace (somewhat truculently) the pages of