Thursday, 4 May 2017

The Munchkin Legacy: Miskin Prologue - The Wanderings of Titus

Many, many years ago, Lord Maximillan Miskin and his wife Elizabeth were blessed with two sons: Mostyn and Myron. As the heir to his father's title and estate, Mostyn was groomed from birth to be the quintessential gentleman: wise, witty, charismatic and successful in all things. Myron, for the most part, was left in the shadows.

Upon his twentieth birthday, a match was made between Mostyn and the eighteen year- old daughter of a fellow noble family: Lady Amelia Blackwood. The young couple were swiftly wed, and spent several years together in loving bliss. Their union resulted in three children: Ronan, Fleur and Titus.

However, riches and honour cannot save a man from the cruelties of fate. Just as his eldest son was on the cusp of manhood, Mostyn's life was brought to an abrupt end by a cardiac arrest – a consequence of an underlying heart condition.

Immediately, the family were thrown from domestic joy into grievous mourning. Terrible as it was, his brother's passing was the wake-up call Myron needed to realise that life is short, and that he needed to go out into the world, live his own life, and establish his own legacy.

The tales of himself and his descendants have gone down in Willow Creek history. 

But what of the family Mostyn left behind?

__________________

Miskin Manor on a cool August evening.

Ten years had passed since the death of Lord Mostyn. His widow, Lady Amelia, strove to do all she could to forget the past, and instead, kept herself busy by focusing on her children's future. In an attempt to arrange a marriage for her eldest son, she had hosted a ball earlier that evening, inviting the daughters of several noble households to attend.

The young Lord Ronan, who had grown into a dashing and charismatic figure, had enjoyed himself immensely – waltzing the night away with various partners, and wildly flirting with almost every unattached woman in the ballroom. However, as the night drew to a close, he was no nearer to choosing a bride: he just wanted to have fun.













In his quarters, Ronan relaxed following his eventual evening, admiring his handsome reflection in the mirror. As he closely examined the reflected scene before him, he spotted his younger brother, Titus, curled up in an armchair at the back of the room, his head well buried in his long-cherished solace: a book.













Tutting, Ronan shook his head.

“Honestly, Titus, do put that book down,” he muttered. “Must you be so bland and distant all of the time?”

Titus didn't even look up from the page.

“Well, some of us prefer to keep ourselves to ourselves,” he answered, “rather than convey our most intimate details to any débutante within a fifty feet radius.”

“You're just jealous.”

That made Titus raise his head. 

“What do you mean by that?”

“Well, if you were left alone in a room with a lady,” Ronan replied, “you'd have nothing to talk about but mathematical equations and literary heroes. I mean, face it, Titus – you're a boring person.”

“Boring?”

“Yes! Almost nineteen, and yet you've never lived a day in your life! You've never been anywhere, done anything – learned how to talk the right way with the right people!”

Titus sighed.

“Perhaps I could have done,” he grumbled, “if I had had the opportunity. Those always seemed to be handed directly to you.”

“Well, we both know why that is.”

Titus slammed his book shut, annoyed. “No. Why is that, pray tell?”

Ronan turned to him.

“Titus,” he said sharply, “I am the Lord of Miskin Manor. The latest in a long line of noble gentlemen – the rightful heir to everything they established. You, on the other hand, are merely... a backup. A reserve player. A spare part. You weren't given the same training and chances in life that I received because, frankly, they would just be wasted on you. I mean, after all...”

He chuckled to himself.

“...at the end of the day, you don't really matter.”

Titus had heard enough. Outraged, he hurled the book at his brother's head – missing him by inches, and instead, smashing the mirror behind him. As Ronan came to terms with what had just happened, Titus stormed out of the room, slamming the door shut behind him.
__________________











Now safe in the privacy of his own chambers, Titus sat dejected upon his bed – the moon outside providing the only light. As he took heavy breaths in a desperate effort to calm himself down, his brother's harsh words rang continuously in his head.

“You don't really matter.”

Not only was Titus the second-born son in the Miskin clan, but the third and youngest child overall. Growing up, he'd constantly had to fight for attention with his siblings... although he'd always felt a pang of sympathy for Fleur. Titus may not have been expected to make much of his life, but any hopes for Fleur were lower still. As a girl, her duty was to find a wealthy man, marry him and make babies. Hardly a great goal for one as clever and driven as her.

In days gone by, Titus had always felt a strong affinity to his uncle Myron. He, too, had been a second-born son – one how understood what it was like to forever be the afterthought.

Only Myron had decided to write his own story. To create his own fate. And by all accounts, he was doing well: recently, Titus had met Myron's new wife and family for himself. He'd spent most of their visit to Miskin Manor in the company of his little cousin Montague... a quick-witted young fellow. Titus had laughed a lot that day.










Despite the dictates of tradition, and a total lack of expectations, Myron had gone out there and built up a noteworthy legacy of his own.

In an instant, Titus knew what he needed to do.
__________________

The following morning, a chambermaid came to Titus' room to rouse him and bring him his breakfast. When she knocked on the door, she received no response.











After a few more frantic knocks and calls, the young servant, worried, decided to fetch Lady Amelia, in the hope that she would understand what was going on. 

Alas, the Miskin matriarch was just as confused as she was. After racing to Titus' chamber, and her own cries likewise not being answered, Lady Amelia summoned the groundskeeper to knock down the door. After he had done so, the anguished mother rushed into her son's room... only to be heartbroken by what she found there.

Titus was gone. The only trace of him was a handwritten note upon his pillow, which read:

If my life does not matter here, I will make it matter elsewhere. Farewell.










As Lady Amelia read these words, the note clasped in her trembling hands, tears sprang to her eyes, and she fell to her knees with a blood-curdling wail.
__________________

After withdrawing his inheritance from his bank account, Titus spent the next few years travelling – exploring the vast, wide world. He celebrated his twenty-first birthday in a champagne bar in Champs-Les-Sims. He studied martial arts in the mountains of Shang Simla, and read the hieroglyphs on the walls of the ancient tombs in Al Simhara.

When he was twenty-five, his ongoing journey led him to a small lakeside forest in the town of Granite Falls. His Great-Uncle Alaric had brought him and his siblings on a camping trip there as a boy, and he had enjoyed it thoroughly. After falling in love with the peaceful, beautiful surroundings yet again, Titus set up camp there, and spent his days hiking in the woodland, swimming in the crystal clear lake waters, and grilling hot dogs.






 



One evening, after he had completed his evening’s barbecuing, Titus turned away from his repast momentarily in order to light a campfire. When he turned back, he spotted a young boy creeping up to the picnic table, ready and waiting to steal the sumptuous fare.













Quick as a flash, Titus raced over and grabbed hold of the boy’s arm – firmly, but not too tightly. The child wriggled and lashed out desperately in an attempt to escape, but Titus held on.
 
“Just what do you think you are doing?” Titus asked the boy.

The young lad, afraid, stopped his struggling, and began sobbing.

“Please, mister – let me go!” he wailed. “I didn’t want to steal! It’s just… I’m so hungry – I haven’t had food in days! “

This statement unnerved Titus greatly.

“What do you mean?” he asked. “Surely your mother and father feed you?”

“They went away, mister!” the child replied. “A long time ago. They left me behind. They… they didn’t want me, mister. They told me so.”

Titus, shocked, stifled a gasp. Looking up and down the child’s skinny frame, he noticed things he hadn’t before. The youngster, who was probably six or seven, was wearing a stained grey vest and tattered jeans, which seemed far too small for him. As for shoes, they weren’t there at all – he was barefoot. His face and hands were dirty, and his hair bushy and untamed. When the boy looked up at him, he would squint his eyes... as if he was struggling to focus. Like Titus himself, he probably needed glasses to see correctly, but there wasn’t a pair in his possession. Clearly, this wasn’t a little boy who was being cared for.

“Listen,” he told the child softly. “In a minute, I’m going to let go of your arm. When I do, I want you to sit down at that table and talk to me. I’ll give you some food.”

“You’re lying, mister!” the boy wailed. “You want me to get in trouble!”

“No, little one. You won’t get in trouble. I promise. I want to help you, OK? But I need you to trust me. When I let your arm go, you must not run away. All right?”

The boy nodded. And indeed, when Titus released him, he sat down at the table obediently.

Titus took a seat opposite the child, and passed him the plate of hot dogs. The boy moved through them like a thing possessed – wolfing them down before he’d probably even had the chance to taste them.

“What’s your name?” Titus asked the youngster.

“I don’t know, mister,” the child replied, spraying crumbs everywhere in the process. 

“Well, what did your mother and father call you?”

The child’s answer involved language that wasn’t used in polite society. Titus was an open- minded fellow, but even he had to shudder. Who in their right mind would call a child that? Not a loving parent – that was certain.

“I’ll just call you “Boy” for now,” he said.

His appetite sated, Boy pushed the plate away from himself – smiling. 

“Thanks for the hotdogs, mister,” he said gratefully.

“You’re welcome,” Titus told him. “Come back tomorrow, and I’ll give you some more food. There’s only me here. I’ve plenty to spare.”

In the weeks that followed, Boy became a daily visitor to Titus’ camp. As he began to get to know his new acquaintance better, Boy started to stay for longer and longer, enthralled by Titus’ tales of his travels, and forever thankful – not just for the hot meals, but for the care and attention that Titus gave him. It wasn’t something he’d experienced before in his short life.









One evening, as Titus was recounting the tale of his childhood camping trip, Boy interrupted him to ask him something.

“What was that funny word you just used?” 

“Which one? ‘Great-Uncle’?”

“No – the one after that.”

“Oh – you mean ‘Alaric’.” 

“Yeah. What does it mean?”

“Well, I think it means ‘noble ruler’… but it’s not a thing, like an apple or a flower. It’s the name of a person.”

Boy looked up at him.

“So… it could be my name?” he said, hopefully. 

Titus chuckled.

“If you want it to be,” he answered.

The boy nodded enthusiastically – christening himself as he did so.








__________________

A few days later, in the mid-morning, Alaric made his way to Titus’ camp, as usual. However, when he arrived there, he was shocked to find the young man packing away his things.

“Titus? Where are you going?” he asked nervously.

“To be honest with you, Alaric,” Titus replied, “I'm getting a bit tired of travelling. It's fun, and all... but it would be nice to have a place to call home again. So, I'm getting my things together, and I'm going to start looking for a house somewhere.”

Alaric was heartbroken... but he did his best not to let it show. 

“That... that sounds nice,” he replied.

Slamming a suitcase shut, Titus straightened himself up, and turned to the young boy.

“I just need to pop into town for a while,” he told him. “Can you look after my things while I'm gone?”

“Sure.”

“Wonderful. I'll be back soon. Don't go away!”

As Titus headed off down the footpath, Alaric sat amongst the bits and bobs – sobbing quietly. His only friend was leaving him. Soon, he would be all alone in the big, bad world once again, left to fend for himself. He wasn't sure how he would survive without Titus' help and kindness.

After a hour or so, Alaric heard the sound of footsteps heading towards the campsite. When he looked up, he was thrilled to see that it was Titus making his way back – momentarily forgetting that they were soon to part ways. However, he wasn't alone. Walking alongside him was a stern-looking woman in a business suit. Titus had never mentioned her before. Who was she? What did she want?

As he neared the camp grounds, Titus motioned for Alaric to approach him. The young lad rose and walked towards him as instructed - leading him to stand before his friend and this mysterious stranger. The woman looked at him closely, as if to examine him... before turning her attention back towards Titus.










“So,” she said, “this is the boy you wish to adopt?”

Alaric's eyes widened. He looked up at Titus for some sort of confirmation. When the young nobleman smiled and nodded a “Yes,” Alaric thought he might die on the spot from sheer happiness. Overjoyed, he rushed towards his new father – who threw his arms around him in a loving embrace.











__________________


Going back to Willow Creek and Miskin Manor was not an option for Titus. His travels had given him a taste for freedom, and he was determined to prove that he could succeed in life on his own terms. Instead, he purchased a small house for himself and Alaric (now spectacled and elegantly suited and booted) in a nearby town called Windenberg – allowing them both to become part of a new community, and make a fresh start.










The humble home was nothing like the grand estate that Titus had grown up in... but he was extremely proud of it nevertheless. As for Alaric, even the smallest shack would have seemed like a palace.

On the day they arrived, following a wander around their new residence, the pair both confessed to feeling hungry, and headed straight to their little kitchen. Titus, who was only just beginning to learn the art of cookery, whipped up some grilled cheese sandwiches for them to eat – barely being able to stifle a giggle as he did so. Back in his old home, him eating such greasy, cheap food would not have been tolerated by his mother, who was eager for her children to have a more refined palette. As such, meals like this felt like a guilty pleasure to him... and he loved them.












With their tummies now full, Titus had a bright idea.

“I think we should introduce ourselves to the neighbours,” he told Alaric cheerfully. “We're both in a new place, after all. We should do our best to get to know people.”

This simple decision would lead to Titus meeting the woman who would change his life forever... 
_________________
AUTHOR'S NOTE:
This is going to be a collaborative project between myself and the fabulous cynicalbadger (a.k.a Fionerd). We'll most likely be writing updates in turn - I'll leave it up to her to reveal Titus' new lady friend! 
In the meantime, please check out her other stuff! 
And, if you want to find out more about Titus' uncle Myron and his descendants, have a look at my ongoing Miskin Legacy!

1 comment:

  1. This is incredible! Eeeps! I don't have many words for how excited I am but... Titus and Alaric are so CUTE! I love this! The Munchkins... hehe I'm dying! I need to go catch up on the Munches I guess and see what that's all about to be fully in this circle of amazing collaboration!

    ReplyDelete