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Susan and the Long Grey Beard of History

by on August 6, 2011

Last time, in the Caitlin Chronicles, our-


“Is this thing on? Right. Okay.” *ahem*. “Ladies and gentlemen, minions and henchpersons alike, my name is Susan. Mistress of all Character Hell. Also I’ve recently opened a frozen-drink and dessert business, Susan’s Slushies. You might not be able to throw snowballs in hell, but starting today, you can get a nice blueberry Slushie for only 1.99 (plus tax). Order now! …but, I digress. As I said, I’m Susan. Some have called me evil Susan, but I dispute that; I’m not evil, I’m…well, no, actually, never mind. I am evil. Why deny it? I don’t wash my hands, I never recycle, I’ve ripped off a thousand mattress tags and made them into an origami sculpture of a mutant swan, and you know those custom-made baby seal leather boots Megamind was talking about in his movie? I gave them to him as a Christmas present. And I’ll do him one better; this fur jacket I’m wearing right now? Kitten fur. Cruella de Ville was in my cabin at Supervillain Summer Camp. Best vacation EVER! I say all that to announce that as I’ve currently possessed Princess Caitlin, this series will no longer be called the Caitlin Chronicles, but the much more descriptive Susan Chronicles. Because I am Susan; hear me rawr. Oh, and don’t forget, next Monday Susan’s Slushies will have a special deal; two Lemon Snowcones for the price of one! A bargain!”


Perry, of course, had no idea what Susan was doing, or what anyone was doing, given that he was slowly being Force-choked to death. But then Susan finished her monologue, glanced his way, and gave an imperious wave. Perry collapsed on the ground, gasping for breath. Susan smiled fiercely from Caitlin’s face.”You know, it’s been ages since I’ve possessed anyone. Trippy. And…is that…my voice? Is that MY voice? I sound totally Caitlin-y! How very interesting! If I sound like Caitlin, and I look like Caitlin….then everyone’s going to think I really am Caitlin. Oh, this is going to be fun.” She flexed her arm, tossing the lightsaber back and forth from one hand to the other. Igniting it, she grimaced as the blue blade stabbed into the air. “Blue. Ick. Blue’s not really a villainous color, is it, not like red or black. Oh well; I suppose I’ll have to make do. Now then, as for you, lowly sidekick, here’s the deal. We can do this the hard way, or the really hard way. The hard way is you help me find the rest of the clues, all the way to Ermingard’s hiding place, whereupon I’ll kill you. But I’ll do it quickly. You’ll hardly feel a thing.”

“I’ll never help you,” Perry said, intending to growl but instead barely managing a perturbed huff. He still couldn’t fully grasp what was happening. He had no idea who Susan was, and the contrast between Caitlin’s face, and the words coming out of her mouth, was almost impossible for Perry to process. It only got worse.

Susan smiled again. “Sure you will. Because otherwise, we do this the really hard way. You’ve met my friend John, right? Well, his real name’s actually Myron, but that’s beside the point.”

“You said you wouldn’t tell anybody that!” Myron whined.

“I lied. Evil. Duh. Anyway, Myron, among his other talents, has a certain unique power. He’s a Saltbender.”

Even with his horror and fear, Perry couldn’t suppress a giggle. “Saltbender? Really. That’s his power. What’s he going to do, overseason my lunch?”

“You sad, pathetic little person,” Susan said, with utmost condescension. “You don’t get it. Let me explain. Salt’s made up of sodium chloride, and sodium’s an essential nutrient that your body needs. Myron here can strip the sodium from your body, giving you a sodium deficiency, or he can put too much sodium in your body, which does lots of bad things too. Basically, either way, that gets you all kinds of medical problems like muscle cramps, nausea, high blood pressure, and so forth, and guess what, genius, we’re still in a medieval time period and most of the doctors around here would just slap a couple leeches on you and call it a day! So, unless you want to die of heart failure here and now, I suggest you tell me where the next clue is.”

“Actually,” Myron broke in, “I wasn’t lying about that part. The next clue’s just what I told her it was.”

“Right. In a pair of statues in a church in a town by the sea. You could maybe be a little more helpful and tell me which town?”


“Didn’t think so. Perry?”

Perry didn’t think he had much of a choice. Besides, other than Myron, he was the only one who knew that Caitlin wasn’t really herself. If there was the slightest chance that he could get her back, he had to be on hand to take it. So, reluctantly, he told Susan what he knew. “There’s only one town in this kingdom that fits the clue completely. Kumquat City.”

Susan burst out laughing. “Kumquat City? Really? What, was Asparagusville already taken? Oy. I’m sorely tempted to conquer the whole thing and give it a proper name, like-”


“Shut up.”

Five days later, Susan, Perry, and Myron the Saltbender stood in the church of St. Bob, in the center of the bustling Kumquat City. The Kumquaters were more than happy to help their beloved Princess Caitlin, to the point of throwing her a parade down Main Street. Of course, the people of Kumquat City would throw a parade at the drop of a hat; in fact, they had a yearly festival called the Feast of the Dropping Hats, wherein the mayor would drop a special flower-festooned hat from the steeple of St. Bob’s, and there was much rejoicing. Susan smiled, basked in the adulation, and did the “Thank you for being here today” wave to perfection. Perry said nothing, and remained glumly in the background. When the parade was finally over, Susan marched straight to St. Bob’s.

It didn’t take long to find the two statues. Twin stone sharks, with little gleaming jewels for eyes, glared ferociously from a prominent place high in the vaulted church ceiling. A helpful monk went and found a stepladder, and Susan clambered up to examine the sharks. “Oh, hey, there’s a little lever in one of their mouths….if I can just pull….”




*bark bark bark growl yip yip snarl*


“I’m not even going to ask why they even had a trapdoor that dropped you into a pit full of wild chihuahuas. Right, let’s try the proper lever this time.”

The proper lever, hidden behind the other shark’s fin, opened a door that led down a very long tunnel, which ended in another door, which led to another tunnel, and so on, and so forth, for hours and hours. Myron, who was a bit claustrophobic, asked rather pathetically if he couldn’t just go back and see about having lunch ready for them when they returned. “Oh, come on, you whiner,” Susan snapped. At that moment she rounded a corner, and found herself in a vast chamber, an imposing cavalcade of carved stone pillars side by side with heaps of rubble. At the farthest end was a huge door made out of a coppery-looking metal which Susan was pretty sure wasn’t really copper, but she had no idea what it actually was. Still, it was a huge metal door, not another cryptic clue, and that could only mean one thing. They’d arrived.

Then there was a rush of cold air, and suddenly something swooshed into existence before them. Perry gaped. He had seen men with beards, men without beards, and on one memorable childhood trip to a circus, a woman with a beard, but he had never before seen a beard without a person attached to it. Yet there it was, floating in the air, immensely long and grey, and wildly bushy besides. Before anyone could offer a comment on this strange sight, the beard itself spoke, in a voice slow, cold, and ponderous as a glacier.

“I…” it began, “am the Long Grey Beard of History. I guard the Sacred Door that opens upon the Realm of the Dwarves of Twilyt’s Dum. If you would pass through the Door and enter the Realm, you must first-”

“Yeah, yeah, I get it, answer you these questions three ere the other side I see, blah blah blah. Let’s just get this over with. My name’s Princess Caitlin, my quest is to seek the hiding place of the sleeping Princess Ermingard, my favorite color is red, Assyria had four capitals (Assur, Calah, Dur Sharrukin, and Nineveh) and the airspeed velocity of an unladen European swallow is 11 meters per second. Can I pass now?”

The beard actually laughed. If you’ve never seen a floating magical beard laughing, you should. It’s a unique experience. “Nay. You mistake yourself. I am not so cliched that I would ask those questions. Besides, you spoke not the truth. Your form is that of Princess Caitlin, but your spirit is not. You have another quest. Is it not so?”

Susan let out a frustrated sigh. “Yeah, okay, you got me. My name’s really Susan, I’m the Mistress of Character Hell, and I’m trying to find Ermingard for three reasons. One, so I can slice her head off. If Caitlin ever gets back, her quest will be ruined and she’ll be super-upset, and I owe her that as she tried to squish me with a Jumbotron. Two, because Ermingard’s been hidden by dwarves, and dwarves mean treasure, and in the words of VeggieTales, who doesn’t like a pile of loot, some gold and jewels and a shiny suit, and a giant screen TV to boot, the Viking life for me (yo ho). Three, because among that treasure lies one of the Five Swords of Literary Power. I’m not sure which one; I’m thinking Continuityslicer, but it could also be the Themesword. Now can I pass?”

“No. Before you pass, you must answer two challenges. First: recite the line of verse that describes which of the two Swords you most wish to wield.”

Susan pondered. She honestly didn’t think she had a preference; truth be told, any of the Five Swords would do, except possibly Sidekicker. She was well versed on all their magical properties. Continuityslicer could be useful, but it was so unpredictable. Now, the Themesword on the other hand…and she made her choice.

The Themesword’s lilt, so lightly flies,

And lovers kiss with shining eyes.

The Themesword’s march is swift and sure,

And soldiers brace themselves for war.

The Themesword’s dirge falls low and deep,

And the hardest soul may wail and weep.

“That,” said the Long Grey Beard of History, “is…adequate. Now, for your final challenge, answer this. Who is the first person to portray Batman in a theatrical movie?”

“Oh you have got to be kidding me. Fine. It’s Michael Kea…no. No, it’s Lewis Wilson, 1943! Ha! I win!”

“So you do. You may pass.”

The door creaked slowly open…

To be continued. This story was written using Prompt Number Thirty-one of the Chrysalis Experiment. For more episodes in the Susan Chronicles, go here. Thanks for reading!


  1. Intersting interlude. Well done!

  2. I have a lot of Caitlin catching up to do!

    • She does lead an eventful life. The other day I tried to explain the overall plot of the series to a friend in RL, and it took at least five minutes. maybe ten. “and then she escaped from character hell but then she had to go on a quest and now Susan’s back and there’s weasels and hang-gliders and….” πŸ˜›

      • It’s really kind of hard to explain…you should just tell your friend, “Maybe it’s easier if you read it?” hehe

  3. Ohhhkay, so I’ve read this one and now I have to continue immediately! πŸ˜›

    The long grey beard of history? genius!

    • I was having a conversation with a friend, and they had used that line for something (I forget now), and I was like, bam. That’s so going in a story. πŸ˜›

      • Some of my entire novels were based on stupid chats I had with a colleague – but maaaan I’m grateful to those chats! hehe

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