Stately, tall King Robrian descended upon me in all his regal wrath. "Damn your effrontery," he said, "and your presumption. How dare you park your steed in the royal gardens?"
Nimbly I dismounted from my mini-van, made my apologies. He climbed down from his high dudgeon and greeted me condescendingly. (If members of the House of Windsor could do regal condescension as well as this man, Britain would still have an empire to rule.)
Anyway, Robrian is a kindlier king than most, especially during his great time of the year _ the week of the fifth annual Pinellas Park Medieval Faire.
This was Sunday morning dress rehearsal for the centerpiece of this coming weekend's Faire, the human chess game in the meadow behind Girls Incorporated of Mid-Pinellas.
Almost 100 people were there, wearing cowls and wimples and tights and other determinedly medieval garb. Many were juggling or practicing witches' curses or playing funny-looking musical instruments or hitting one another with wooden poles.
I watched two pole-fighters, "comely young wenches," in the words of a passing prince of the realm. They fought with some of the art and all of the sincerity of two professional wrestlers hoping for a television contract.
They knocked each other down, flipped, did backward somersaults, banged one another's poles. Once one of the poles slipped, and a performer called Sable Blacklock got a small cut on her lip. And Kathryn Chandler got a stiff neck. As I moved away, Sable was massaging the back of Kathryn's neck.
"Why were they fighting?" I asked a stunningly dressed member of the Queen's court, Lady Victoria Bloodmere. She said that they were rehearsing for the human chess game, that there would be fighting with medieval arms every time a piece was won or lost.
And what are the sides in the chess game?
"There is the good side, where the people are terribly dull," answered Lady Victoria. "And the side that is not so good but the people are terribly well-dressed."
Naturally, the King heads the Good. Leader of the Bad is Lord Treve Morningstar, who is tall and satisfyingly black-bearded and villainous-looking. He carries a whip, which he cracks impressively, when he remembers.
Another fearsome apparition walked by, a hooded figure with bare arms like a weight lifter's and a huge, two-bladed ax resting on his shoulder.
"I don't have to ask what you do," I said.
"Yes, you do. I'm Marion Bigax, and I have two professions. Executioner-librarian."
The team of Bump and Tussle was more relaxing, though Bump, too, has two skills: He juggles and falls off a ladder. Tussle plays 38 instruments, including the hammer dulcimer and the box-ended lyre. "Love the dulcimer, hate the lyre," I confided.
For the human chess board game,white 4-foot squares were painted on the grass. People in medieval costume stood on the appropriate squares. There were some familiar faces: The King was, of course, the king. Fighting Sable, holding a piece of ice to her cut lip, was a bishop. The executioner-librarian was a knight.
To my surprise, Lady Victoria Bloodmere turned up on the "not so good" side. How could she ally herself with an obvious blackguard like Lord Treve Morningstar?
"We've done a lot of pillaging together," she explained.
The Medieval Faire goes on from 10 a.m. to dusk Saturday and Sunday at Girls Incorporated, 7700 61st St. N, Pinellas Park. At $2 for adults and $1 for children, it is the best entertainment bargain in town.