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The height of the golden hall that does not belong in any capacity to Robin K. Vandermeer is impossible to measure from the inside, for none in the kingdom are willing to climb a stepladder tall enough to measure the space. Everyone says it is one hundred feet tall, and leaves it at that.

The width of the hall that does not belong in any capacity to Robin K. Vandermeer is approximately the width of forty horses if you squeeze them in close. This has only been attempted once. Robin lost a good guitar in the resulting stampede.

The length of the hall that does not belong in any way to Robin K. Vandermeer is the amount of distance a prize racing horse can cover in one hundred seconds, plus one hundred feet.

Robin stands in a long, trailing red gown at one end of the hall, in the summer sunlight, and hears the strains of a familiar electric guitar from the other end.

And so Robin glides down the hallway, quite unable to see the mysterious figure at the other end. Robin could turn away at any point, for none have made a command to meet the hall’s new owner, and indeed none would bother, and indeed none would even think of it, for now that the guitar is lost, the gown is the only thing that Robin has left, and these were the only two things that Robin ever really had besides a mother. In this land there are very few people able to buy land, and Robin was never one of them.

Robin reaches the source of the music at last.

It is a woman, clad in a drab green coat and black trousers, holding the very electric guitar that Robin had lost so long ago.

“Here, now,” says the woman, “it seems you are going to your wedding.”

“I am afraid not,” says Robin. “It is only that I thought I ought to hold onto the one thing left to my name.”

“Where did the rest go?”

You’re holding it. Where did you get it? Who are you?”

“I should ask you the same question. Indeed, I ought to have the guards take you away for daring to approach me without bowing three times.”

“Please,” says Robin, “Just let me play my guitar one last time.”

The woman tilts her head. “Why should I let a peasant do anything at all?”

“Because, if nothing else, I can please you with my song.”

“Very well then.” She takes the guitar off from around her neck, and drapes the strap around Robin. “Play me a little tune, court jester.”

And Robin plays a slow, haunting melody.


“Play me a tune, court jester,” says the woman who employs Robin K Vandermeer, sitting in the weak winter sunlight amidst the hall. They’ve added central heating since Robin knew the place better. It is enough for the innumerable guests come for the January festivities. Well, not enough. They cannot go a month without hearing Robin K Vandermeer play.

The woman commands Robin to play a jaunty little tune. Nothing with too much reverb, that would put the guests off their dinner. Robin would prefer to put the guests off their dinner, because that means more scraps for the kitchen staff and the court jester to eat. But there is something else in mind that will put everyone off everything, for a while. Not yet, mind. The guests deserve a little fun at first.

Although sometimes this involves throwing food at Robin when they don’t like the music, which is not too much trouble, as it stains the hideous jester costume, while the gown is stored safely away.

"I want that lovely red gown," says the woman.

"You shall not have it."

"I have your guitar, don't I?"

"It is in my hands."

"I have your hall."

"It was never mine nor anyone's. We just lived here."

"Pity you all had to run away. But I want the lovely red gown."

"It is stored away for now."

“You say you got the gown from your mother,” says the woman who employs Robin K Vandermeer. “Tell me about her.”

“The one thing to know about my mother,” says Robin, “is that she knew how to sing in a way that could shatter glass. She tried to teach me the trick, and oh, how I tried to sing like her, but I could never do it. More’s the pity. There are none in the kingdom I know of who can sing like her.”

"if you play like her," says the woman who employs Robin K Vandermeer, "I shall let you keep the gown. Can you play like her?

“Can I just,” says Robin, and this request will be ever known as the one that brought down the house.

Robin turns up the reverb slightly, and plays. Plays the high notes like a bird, at first, and then the lowest notes possible, like a growling dog, just like mother used to sing.

The winter scene outside the windows wobbles a bit as the windows begin to vibrate.

Robin eases off the growling notes and launches into a rather long cadenza, one that swoops up and down the scale. Gradually the music gets louder, and louder, and louder, until the guests are all holding their ears.

The first thing that shatters is the windows, their glass falling with a deafening crash. Cold winter air whips into the room and knocks over candles, which set the tablecloths on fire and quickly fan the flames. The guests pour out of the hall through the broken windows and into the snow.

The next thing that shatters is the roof, and great pieces of stone begin to fall.

Robin unplugs the guitar, steps outside, and continues playing. The sound from the guitar does not abate.

The third thing that shatters is the wall supports, and at last the last part of the hall comes tumbling down.

“What on earth was that about?” says the chief cook.

How are you going to stop me from executing you?” says the woman who formerly employed Robin K Vandermeer.

In that moment the jester outfit disappears, to reveal the red gown, clad upon the person of Robin K Vandermeer. “There would be no point,” says Robin. “The difference is whether I wander the country with my head attached, or carrying it.”

The guests watch in stunned silence as Robin walks off into the snow, long train of a red gown trailing behind, electric guitar resting over a shoulder.

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