That duel now fully recounted, it remains for me to explain what became of those men and poets whirled out of fashion and out of court by the Platonic year.
It is only right to start with the defeated. Bouvard was shamed by his defeat and, once recovered from his wound, left the palace late one night with a small and inconspicuous entourage. From here he headed west, stopping here and there for lodgings but never staying longer than the few hours he needed to sleep, hoping to evade the prying eyes of a world he felt shamed by. Being the nosey and frivolous creature that I am, I promptly asked His Majesty for leave for a holiday, which was spent following Bouvard at a distance. It was not until I reached the Barbarian settlement the other side of the Lum that I found him, sticking out like a sore thumb in his dandy clothing, picking at a chicken breast in the longhall and composing an ode for the chieftain.
From here I stalked Bouvard all the way to the court of Lathas, King of Kandarin, in the grandiose merchant city of East Ardougne, after a journey through towering mountains, quaint fishing villages and past a rather eerie tower. But reach this bipolar capital, where gold circulates in the one half as rapidly as plague spreads in the other, we eventually did. For a fortnight I lounged in a tavern adjacent to the royal castle, waiting for news of Bouvard and tracking his actions as best I could. On that fourteenth day a scullery maid, taking her evening brew at the tavern bar, let slip that the “fine young poet”, as she called him, had been turned away and left. Cursing myself for having missed his departure, I gave up the chase and returned home. To this I do not known what became of Bouvard, much to my frustration and chagrin; the palace, usually so full of chatter (much of it false), never sees even the slightest mention of the man’s name.
My aforementioned frustration was deepened when I returned to the palace after my lengthy stalking trip to find Bouvard replaced in court by a cockier, dandier and more elegant young poet by the name of Eliot, who, claiming to have travelled to the eastern lands, developed a new style of poetry based on these traditions: his poems were simple and direct in language that seldom rhymed, yet at the same time riddled with symbolism. I thought him (and indeed still do) merely a second Bouvard; both used simple language, and this ‘symbolism’ Eliot used is not so different from Bouvard’s lewd innuendo.
Over time Eliot gained favour with the winds of change, and it was not long before time’s passing took with it the popularity Ali once enjoyed. I once asked him why he did not make any attempt to change in accordance with fashion, as even Bouvard eventually had, he responded that he had no interest in poetry for financial gains.
In the end, Ali decided that he had nothing whatsoever to gain from staying in Varrock, and asked the King that he be allowed to leave court; the King, gracious as ever, accepted, and assigned me to accompany Ali to the Shantay Pass. In our journey, Ali and I would talk for the last ever time. The two of us spoke as equals, though we were not, about things I will not recount for privacy’s sake. The long journey was the consummation of a friendship that palace etiquette had for so long blocked; it was also to be its end.
At the Shantay Pass, Ali, as emotionless as ever, handed to me one of his scraps of paper. To this day I have treasured it.
To your King’s palace you must now return,
And I to these here labyrinthine sands.
Forget not this face, nor these scribbling hands —
Though under the sun I will surely burn.
I watched Ali for as long as I could, mesmerised by his walking in a slow and rhythmic manner further and further into the endless expanse of sand. At the furthest point of my vision he seemed to look back at me; I waved. Then he turned, and was gone.