Poetry Corner – The Skull in the Clouds

 The Black Prince scowled above his lance, and wrath in his hot eyes lay,
 "I would rather you rode with the spears of France and not at my side today.
 "A man may parry an open blow, but I know not where to fend;
 "I would that you were an open foe, instead of a sworn friend.

"You came to me in an hour of need, and your heart I thought I saw;
 "But you are one of a rebel breed that knows not king or law.
 "You -- with your ever smiling face and a black heart under your mail -
 "With the haughty strain of the Norman race and the wild, black blood of the Gael.
"Thrice in a night fight's close-locked gloom my shield by merest chance
 "Has turned a sword that thrust like doom -- I wot 'twas not of France!
 "And in a dust-cloud, blind and red, as we charged the Provence line
 "An unseen axe struck Fitzjames dead, who gave his life for mine.
"Had I proofs, your head should fall this day or ever I rode to strife.
 "Are you but a wolf to rend and slay, with naught to guide your life?
 "No gleam of love in a lady's eyes, no honor or faith or fame?"
 I raised my faces to the brooding skies and laughed like a roaring flame.

"I followed the sign of the Geraldine from Meath to the western sea
 "Till a careless word that I scarcely heard bred hate in the heart of me.
 "Then I lent my sword to the Irish chiefs, for half of my blood is Gael,
 "And we cut like a sickle through the sheafs as we harried the lines of the Pale.

"But Dermod O'Connor, wild with wine, called me a dog at heel,
 "And I cleft his bosom to the spine and fled to the black O'Neil.
 "We harried the chieftains of the south; we shattered the Norman bows.
 "We wasted the land from Cork to Louth; we trampled our fallen foes.

"But Conn O'Neill put on me a slight before the Gaelic lords,
 "And I betrayed him in the night to the red O'Donnell swords.
 "I am no thrall to any man, no vassal to any king.
 "I owe no vow to any clan, nor faith to any thing.

"Traitor -- but not for fear or gold, but the fire in my own dark brain;
 "For the coins I loot from the broken hold I throw to the winds again.
 "And I am true to myself alone, through pride and the traitor's part.
 "I would give my life to shield your throne, or rip from your breast, the heart.

"For a look or a word, scarce thought or heard, I follow a fading fire.
 "Past bead and bell and the hangman's cell, like a harp-call of desire.
 "I may not see the road I ride for the witch-fire lamps that gleam;
 "But phantoms glide at my bridle-side, and I follow a nameless Dream."

The Black Prince shuddered and shook his head, then crossed himself amain:
 "Go, in God's name, and never," he said, "ride in my sight again."

The starlight silvered my bridle-rein; the moonlight burned my lance
 As I rode back from the wars again through the pleasant hills of France,
 As I rode to tell Lord Amory of the dark Fitzgerald line
 If the Black Prince dies, it needs must be by another hand than mine. 

- Robert E. Howard (according to wiki, this is alternatively titled "Reuben's Birthright")

The Rebel Princess – Episode 4 Recap

So Prince #3, being a good guy, directly goes over to thank XQ for saving his life. They drink a toast. (XQ’s cup is filled with water, as he doesn’t drink alcohol. How heroically random.) Meanwhile, not at all suspiciously, the Crown Prince edges off. It might need to be pointed out at this point that A’Wu was previously decoyed out to ostensibly meet with the Empress secretly and in person, but the Empress is sitting in the banquet hall, looking edgy. Also, there’s some suspicious-looking incense burning. The Crown Prince also has everybody shooed out of the hall where he is waiting.

XQ quietly slips out as well for some fresh air. A be-funky-hatted guy attempts to herd him back inside, but you need a lot more than a hat to impress a guy who kills barbarians and sends their fur hats plus the heads inside them home to the Emperor.

A’Wu, for her part, walks obediently into the trap, uh, we mean meeting with the Empress. Aaaaaand manages to walk in on the Crown Prince making time with a random concubine. Sheesh, boy, weren’t you trying to impress this girl? What’s more, A’Wu has been locked in. OKAY, I do not get this. I get luring A’Wu into a deserted courtyard where her lovesick suitor is. I get the lovesick suitor lying in wait. I get the drugs. I don’t get him boinking a random other girl while he’s waiting. Whose plan was this??

Oh, oops, he thought it was her and he was drugged, huh. But drugs is drugs and while he’s stumbling around asking her to come back, A’Wu is screaming for help and hitting him with a stick. And then she trips and falls. (WHAT IS IT WITH CDRAMA HEROINES, IS IT AN INNER EAR DEFECT?)

(Meanwhile, the poor other girl is inside, breaking down in tears. Huh. OH SHIT IT WAS WAN’RU?!?)

A’Wu makes a break for it up a tree and along the roof. AAAAAaaaaaaand guess what happens.




Yeah, that’s right, SHE FALLS OFF.

AND XIAO QI CATCHES HER. A’Wu recognizes him and then passes out.

Report, meanwhile, of this debacle has reached the Empress. A flashback shows that Wan’ru was also lured into the hall and locked in, only for the Crown Prince, drugged out of his mind, to mistake her for A’Wu. Okay, but…why was she brought there in the first place??

Cut to: the shaken, sobbing Wan’ru being comforted by (Concubine Xie) whilst the Empress stands by, the Emperor paces, and the Crown Prince is cutting out the middleman by hitting himself upside the head. I’ll give the boy this: I don’t think he’s evil in the slightest and this mostly wasn’t even his fault.

Nevertheless, he mans up and admits his wrong-doing. Unfortunately, he manages to majorly piss off his father whilst doing so. But the Emperor calms down enough to administer justice. Well, what he actually orders is that all the servants present be poisoned to death, but that’s actually fairly close for China.

The Crown Prince is, later that night, still getting grilled by his mother (can we discuss for a moment the fact that she planned this whole affair? Because the bitch planned this whole effing affair.) This gets interrupted by Grand Vizier Dad storming in to slap him some more. But the family that plots to retain control of the imperium together sticks together, so when the fact that their Crown Prince might stop being the Crown Prince if he’s pissed off the Emperor that badly, Dad calms down enough to lay down the law.

The Crown Prince is to marry Wan’ru immediately, and if he screws up again, or even looks crosswise at A’Wu, or otherwise causes trouble for The Plan, he’s going to be double dead and then he’s going to regret it.

And things haven’t even finished getting bad for the Crown Prince, because Prince #3 is waiting outside for him. And then starts beating him up: half for Wan’ru, and half for A’Wu.

(Y’know, at this point I’m feeling sorry for the Crown Prince more than anything else. The poor guy is just kind of pitiable. He’s been alternately bullied and indulged his entire life and doesn’t really know how to be accountable or responsible for anything. He’s not worthy of respect, but he’s never been given the opportunity to earn it. And the girl he likes doesn’t like him back. And he’s a total mama’s boy. But he’s never been malicious or sadistic; he hasn’t been cruel or vengeful. It would be cool if he had some sort of redemption arc and became, if not a heroic character, at least a trustworthy one aligned on the side of good. I highly doubt this is going to happen.)

A’Wu is still unconscious, and, lol, her brother is itching to get on the Crown-Prince-beating bandwagon. He even snaps at his wife when she comes in to check on things. Heh, his mother finds the time to ask him why she hasn’t had grandchildren yet.

Dad slips in to the sickroom to check on things. Aw. See, Grand Viziers have feelings, too!

Meanwhile, the Crown Prince is just willing to take his licks, as he well knows they’re richly deserved. (See what I said above: he’s a character with potential) It’s his mother who is causing trouble, again. She’s poisoning the well against Wan’ru and the Xie Family. (also, SHUT UP ABOUT A’WU ALREADY).

Meanwhile, XQ is sitting alone by himself, brooding. As one does when one is a brooding, dark-clad hero whose arms girls fall out of the sky into. His remaining sidekick comes up to fret about, well, home decor. And no, this is one of the male sidekicks, not the Swordsgirl.

Hah, XQ says: fill the courtyard with our weapons, fill the house with military books and maps. This place should look like our camp.

Sidekick says: Hey boss, were you thinking about that giiiiiirl?

XQ says: You know, people who don’t have anything else to do should run laps and do pushups and other military excercises.


Meanwhile elsewhere, the Emperor is talking to his only genuine confidant, a mute priest. He, personally, has no uses for the Crown Prince, who is an idiot. (I mean….but still….)

Meanwhile: Grand Vizier Dad and Uncle Guy have discovered the drugged incense. Next question: why was Wan’ru there? (That’s what I am also wondering.) The maidservant who brought her there has vanished. And this whole affair has thrown quite the twist into everybody’s plans–the plan to tie the Xie Family to Xiao Qi and the plan to force a tie between the Crown Prince and A’Wu. Plus, there was that whole assassination attempt on Prince #3 and the murder of Lord Gu. And absolutely nobody is benefitting right now: not the Xie Family, not the Wang Family, and not the Emperor. Weird.

(If it’s XQ behind this and his innocent act is an act, I’m going to be flabbergasted.)

And, uh oh, looks like the Crown Prince is going to be replaced. This has implications for the Wang family, and the Wang Family does not take such implications lying down.

This discussion is overheard by A’Wu’s mother…you know–the Emperor’s sister. She has a good story, but fishy looks are exchanged by all parties.

Prince #3 has shown up as well and is waiting in the courtyard. A’Wu’s maidservant comes out to check on him. Aw, that was sweet.

The Emperor is, meanwhile, discussing the issue with Wan’ru’s father. Weirdly, he’s not okay with the idea of his daughter becoming Crown Princess. He likes the idea of simply deposing the Crown Prince in favor of Prince #3. (Buuut…wouldn’t that put A’Wu and the Wang Family back on track again??) But both of them do agree that things are fishy and the investigation should continue.

The Emperor isn’t going to do that just yet. He’s going to marry the Crown Prince to Wan’ru and this is the last chance. The Crown Prince takes it, but the Empress pushes her luck and says that this isn’t fair. Golly, this is one bitch who just doesn’t know when to shut up. Grand Vizier Dad overhears the end of this.

He goes off to check on A’Wu and gives her a hug, aw. They discuss things, and A’Wu’s maidservant eavesdrops.

Meanwhile, Prince #3 shows up to do his bit of pot-stirring….END EPISODE. GRH.