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Ambitious for a Motley Coat

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The crisp crumbling of orange leaves underfoot gradually overtakes the music and festivities Jaques has turned away from. Though the Duke begged him stay, and many of the young’uns looked to him with inviting twinkles in their hopeful eyes he’d declined. Nothing is so difficult to stomach as newlyweds and their doting displays. No, he would not be missed – the rustic reception was no place for him.

No more would the infectious mania of matrimonial bliss affect him. He supposes it’s good that these eight (eight…unbelievable) have found each other – though doubtful the affection will last. He came to the conclusion years ago; why he finds it so hard to get swept up in the revelry: He pities the couple that thinks a honeymoon is infinite.

But never let it be said that Jaques doesn’t care. He cares for many things it just so happens that ignorance (especially of the willful sort) is not one of them. He cares for the wisdom of fools, and the solace of melancholy and that though his thick, woollen coat is pulled tightly around him he still feels the chill of the autumn gloaming.

He cares for squirrels in their frenzied quest to prepare for winter. He cares for rain. He cares for change and how it’s ironically reliable. He cares for irony. Not the sort of irony that leads to incompetence being rewarded – the sort upon which fools may make their living.

Now he is well away from the revelers and he can think clearly. Where to? Jaques carefully lowers himself to the ground, and contemplates.

Back to the camp to pack a scant bindle and follow the north star? Off one of the many footpaths he has so often wandered and forge another way? It doesn’t particularly matter as he is not particularly attached to either idea. Particularly. There’s no point in sentimentality over something as simple as a ramshackle dwelling or a well-trod path. But there is melancholy to be had in feeling nostalgia for something so familiar.

What would a fool do? Perhaps climb a tree to gather his bearings; or at least get a better view of the stars. Could a fool live in a tree? Weave a hammock from various vines and sleep above the ground, laughing at the tops of people’s heads as they pass under, oblivious. Jaques is sure a fool could do it, but he himself is too old for motley and climbing trees.

Maybe he could follow a stream, travel along the muddy bank until it became a river, and then follow that until he finds the sea. Then he could take a ship wherever he wanted. Explore the Americas, visit the vineyards of Italy…He might get seasick, though. He’s never been on a boat before.

Polaris is visibly twinkling now, enticingly easy to follow. But for the moment, Jaques is satisfied to remain where he is, reclining against a sturdy trunk. If he stays here long enough he may simply turn into a flower like Narcissus, not such an unpleasant thought. No forest creatures would fear him.

That’s another thing he cares for: Deer. He appreciates all the life in the forest, keeping to themselves and caring for their own, but the deer specifically seem to know what they’re doing and Jaques respects that. They don’t brag about it either and for that he respects them even more.

Those damned reckless men of the Duke’s. They barely used any venison, the buck died for nothing. So many do, but this death seemed particularly senseless. Jaques, of course, refused to so much as touch any of the food that night when everyone gathered round the fire for supper. He had a stash of dried berries from a few days ago he would stubbornly munch in protest. Damned idiots.

Not the Duke though. Senior is a good man. Jaques never pretended to understand him, but he knows Senior to be a good man. Nothing like that younger brother of his. What’s become of Frederick and the court Jaques never asked. No business of his anymore. Although, Frederick’s apparent abdication likely means things will return to normal at the palace. A band of banished, rag-tag, vagrants living off the land is one thing, add four new couples to the mix and the situation is farcical – especially with winter fast approaching.

It would be nice, remaining solidly stationary. Realistically there’s no such thing, really, but the illusion of it – say, a quiet life at court – would be nice. Jaques prides himself of not living under delusions but…maybe it would be nice to rest for a while. Not have to think about whether there are enough supplies, or which deer will be killed next. The fool will probably be there too.

Jaques gets to his feet and heads back the way he came. He pulls his coat around his shoulders even tighter to compensate for the sun’s dwindling light. He knows he’ll be mocked for returning after having so recently said he’d leave but now is the time for humility. Irony, humility, (dare he say it) wit – perhaps a fool can be made of him yet. He decides the first thing he does when he returns to the court will be to sew a patch onto his coat.

Onward he treks, until the celebration is within earshot once again. To his surprise, he is greeted with open arms, not a facetious remark to be made – except, of course, from Touchstone. Jaques expects nothing less from a fool of that caliber. Despite himself, he can feel his melancholic dogma ebbing ever so slightly.

Jaques doesn’t care for smiling. But he begins to anyway.