Those who have heard the mystical tales...

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Bard Christmas, Part 2

Holden and Odin rambled along the frosty plains, northbound to the Elven King's fortress.
"What is this odd contraption in the middle of your steel sleigh?" asked the bearded king.
"It's a radio. It's supposed to play music, but there aren't any towers to send it to us," Holden replied.
"So, it gathers music from magical towers? Are there creatures who play music in these towers? I assume you can choose which tower to listen to, but, how does it get the music?"
"That... that's basically it."
"Fascinating. What happened to these magical towers?"
"Well, they're not exactly magical, and they don't really even exist yet."
The bearded king looked shocked, then smiled impishly (which is actually an insult to elves; I have a scar on my arm to prove it) as he laughed and said, "Sorcery? I like you."
"Thanks?" laughed Holden, suspiciously.

Meanwhile, the other Bards gathered their weapons and gear.
"What's the quickest way to the castle?" Scott asked Schaff.
"The way we came. We'll have to cross a river, but after that, it's just a small forest."
"All right, then. Does everyone have a ride?" asked Gizmo. He turned to Paddy and Freddy. "Yes? Good. Best of luck, you three. To Bamah!" With that, Scott, Schaff, and Gizmo took off, with their respective passengers in tow.
Paddy and Freddy mounted their horses in the windy squall. Le'ash approached them and said, "Your horses aren't gonna catch that truck." Her eyes faded white, like the snow falling around her.
"Then, what do you suggest?" asked Paddy. Suddenly, a strong breeze blew from the opposite direction. The three and their horses were caught in a tornado-like whirlwind that took them high into the sky. Le'ash guided herself onto Freddy's horse, and as they righted themselves, the wind sent them flying towards the Northern Elven Kingdom.
"That sounds like a good idea to me," yelled Paddy to his counterparts, "I never would have thought of this."

Odin leaned back in his seat, dozing off to the hum of the truck's engine. He was this close to slumber, when Holden slammed on the brakes, forcing the truck to a sudden stop (which is not easy, if you've ever driven a large truck.)
"Whoa! What's this?" cried King Krampus. "Why have we stopped?"
"That," said Holden, pointing to a large black line on the horizon. It was an army of
"TROLLS!" interrupted the king. (I was getting to that. Rude.)
The long black train was speckled with sparks of orange flame, as they marched on the distant city.
"Trolls!? In Hiemalia Ventorum? This hasn't happened in ages!" he stammered. "Why are we sitting here? Get to my palace, NOW!!!"
Holden floored it. As they approached the outer walls, the armies noticed the dark orange spot on the horizon, moving faster than them.
"Wha' is tha'?" cried a troll sergeant.
"Iss a... a... ah dunno. A flaming... wha'ever ih tis, geh tit!" yelled the field general.
Holden noticed that the trolls were both headed for him and not protected from their rear. He sped around the large army, slid into a turn, and bowled half of the troop over.
"What are you do--woah! Hahaha!" laughed Odin, as he realized what was happening as Holden slaughtered the trolls.
Just then, Le'ash, Freddy, and Paddy flew in. Paddy drew his bow and took out the trolls that Holden missed (which were not many.) They landed next to the truck.
"This is going to happen in Bamah, also. We need your help to defend the town; Schaff's armies aren't ready," pleaded Freddy to the Elven King.
"Fine. I see what what must be done. For your sakes, I will bring my armies, but I simply MUST return this child to safety!" Replied Odin, as he snatched up the young animal from the bed of Holden's truck.
"I was totally gonna ask him that! Word-snatcher!" snapped Paddy. "Aww, just kidding."
Not too long after, the King rode out to the Bards on his gleaming white stallion.
"Are we ready?" he asked.
"We won't make it there in time!" said Holden.
"Nonsense! General? To Bamah!" Then, a large squadron of elves on horseback marched out of the city in rows. As each row came out of the city, it took to the skies, flying in grids toward the kingdom of men. Odin looked at the Bards and held his palm out to them. He raised his hand, and they lifted off the ground. Together, they all flew to Bamah.

Before Scott could bring his steed to a halt, Badger leapt into the air, drew an arrow, and placed it between a troll's eyes. Tumbling to the ground, she stood and took out several trolls before they knew she was there. Then, Schaff and Gizmo rode in on either side, wielding swords, and taking out trolls like 15-year-old rednecks take out mailboxes whenever they're bored. The six Bards met in the center of the troll band, climbed down from their horses, and drew their weapons. Schaff, Gizmo, and Scott took off, forming a front line, as Dumon and Badger tossed arrows over their heads. The Lady, realizing that she had not yet truly taken part in combat, stepped back and looked around. She thought to herself, "What exactly can the Princess of Water Nymphs do on land?" She smiled as she spotted icicles hanging from a tree.
As Gizmo took out troll after troll, he felt himself surrounded by the enemy and losing hope fast. Then, as he turned to take out a troll behind him, he attacking foe was impaled by a frozen sword. The troll fell, revealing The Lady, armed with the aforementioned sword. The two shared a smile and a glance, before she yelled, "duck!" Gizmo obeyed, and the Lady swung, even though she was a couple of yards away. The blade lengthened until the frost itself detached from the blade; and icicle flew through the air like a dart, splitting the troll's skull.
Schaff finished off his last foe and looked to Scott, who did likewise.
"We're still too far from the castle. I like this flanking idea, but we need to move, even if the elves don't make it there first," Schaff told Gizmo.
"I know. Let's ride!" he replied, as the six mounted their horses.
"Allons-y!" laughed Badger.

The six approached the southern gate of the wall surrounding the city. It was wide open, and obvious signs of battle littered the streets. They looked ahead, at the open square in front of the castle, and saw a fierce battle between, man, elf, and troll. The elves had arrived on time! Laughing victoriously, the Bards rode into the back of the battle.
The battle was fierce, unlike anything this side of Middle-Earth. Not a troll was spared who did not flee for his life, and the cause was victorious. Several, but not many, men and elves died that day, but they were honored as all heroes are. The Bards, bloodied but vigilant, celebrated. Odin Krampus and King Schaff exchanged thanks and renewed the alliance between the two kingdoms--neither would be bothered by trolls again, but as no one can see the future, they prepared for it.
Later that day, the Bards gathered for dinner, and shared laughs about the day's events.
"This is one of those stories you should write down, Gizmo!" said Dumon.
"Yeah! I know you've gathered the others, but you should make this one special!" replied Freddy.
"Wait... what stories?" asked Le'ash.
Gizmo smiled. "They haven't told you, have they?"

The old man's eyes were closed, but his smile was the same as it was that day. As he was flooded with beautiful memories, his daughter kept him from falling asleep.
"Dad?" she whispered. "Dad? The kids are asleep."
"Oh! Yes, well. You know me. Stories always come to an end, and I must see them through," he replied as he got up from his chair.
"That you always have. Are you coming downstairs?"
"Why, yes. I want another mug of cider!" The old man took his time leaving. He smiled as he watched his grandchildren dreaming, and he slowly closed the door behind him.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Bard Christmas, Part 1

The old man sat by the fire, snoring comfortably as he dreamed of an endless fountain of hot cider. He was wrapped in a red and green knit blanket and lay sideways on the sofa, mouth agape with his own unconsciousness.
Suddenly, the door behind him flew open, and in ran three loud young children, followed by their mother and a strong gust of icy wind.
"Shhh! Quiet! Grandpa's sleeping!" she whispered. (The mother, not the wind, although if the wind should whisper to you, you should listen.)
"No, too late. I'm long past any point of returning to sleep," called the grandfather. "Is it bedtime yet?" He somewhat waddled into the kitchen where the mother stood, pouring a mug of cider.
"Yes, dad. Would you mind? They love your stories."
"Seems to me you aren't the only one to do that anymore," he replied. He turned to the stairs and began to climb them. He paused for a moment, deep in thought, but continued up the carpeted slope.

"Where did we leave off? Hmm?" the old man asked his grandchildren.
"The weasel! The weasel!" cried the youngest, whose farthest memory was the tales from the summer before.
"Yeah! The weasel guy showed up, and Gizmo wrote all those stories down!" yelled his grandson, dramatically portraying each event as he mentioned it.
"Ahh yes!" remembered the old man. "Well, you see, the Bards themselves moved on. I'm not entirely sure how, but I do remember one specific instance when they came together again."

It was a snowy night, much like the one that the old man slept through. In fact, it was EXACTLY like that night; it makes for a more dramatic transition, an easier visualization, and a more sinister intro. If this were a movie, I would take the camera out their window, fade in the logo, and fade in the dark shadow on the right.
This dark shadow was a walking figure. Huddled in a dark green cloak, he (or she, for all you know) struggled through the ankle-deep snow. He (or she) was blinded by the swirling winds around him, and bitter cold lined his bearded face (so yes, it is a "he." Or, a very ugly "she." But it's my story, so it's a "he.") In front of him, a cabin in the woods (true story) became a beacon of hope, a lighthouse to guide him to shelter. As he approached the door, he began to black out. Before he knew it, he made it to the hut. The door opened, and several pairs of hands helped him get to the fire. Removing his cloak and boots, they sat him down in a highback chair with a tub of warm water at his feet. A soft cry came from his cloak, and the hosts found a small fawn there. Only, this wasn't so much a deer as it was a caribou. Everyone, save the bearded hero, was surprised and crowded around; in fact, the bearded man smiled. Paddy, whose home the two intruded upon, burst out, "So why ya got a caribou?"
The others in the cottage stood and looked at the highback chair. Gizmo, Freddy, Holden, and The Lady of the River (as well as the Lady's right-hand maiden, a river nymph who left the palace as soon as she found that her long-lost friend was alive... such a huge back story.) who had all four gathered at Paddy for the solstice, pondered who this strange man must be. The man met their puzzled faces.
"I am Odin Krampus, King of the Northern Elves," he said. "This is the last of the magic caribou who roamed our  domain. Her parents are dead, and I must return her to Hiemalia Ventorum, the capital of my kingdom. If you will, I wish to stay the night."
"Of course," said Paddy. "There's plenty of room, and food too. We're all here for the solstice."
"My thanks," replied Odin.
The night went on as the Bards had planned. Gizmo sang a few high-spirited tunes, and there was, as Paddy had said, plenty of food. None left hungry, even the fawn. The group exchanged handmade gifts, and all had a jolly time.

The next day, Odin packed to leave. Paddy and Holden approached him.
"Are you headed north?" asked Holden.
"Yes, I must leave now to make it by sundown."
"Oh, I wish you could have stayed a day longer," replied Paddy. "We're lighting candles and filling socks with candy."
"That sounds dreadful," said Odin.
"It is," replied Paddy.
"Could I come with you?" asked Holden.
"Can you leave now?"
"Well, no. Wait, yes. We can take my car. I traded it in for a giant 4x4 truck."
"That's actually a great idea. I planned on taking this long journey which, in and of itself, would have taken 10, 12 hours. And that's not even the director's cut."
"I see what you did there," joked Holden.
The two climbed into Holden's large truck. They took off to the north.

Later in the day, Schaff and Dumon arrived at Paddy's home, to continue the fun of sock-filling and candle-lighting (Gizmo used up half the box of flints just lighting them) but Schaff was enthralled by the story of Odin. "So he just had, this, gazelle, I mean fawn, I mean, caribou-thing?"
"Yeah," replied Paddy. "It was definitely a thing."
"I used to hear about these things when I was little. My dad loved the elves. Both kingdoms were invaded by trolls, at two different times, so they helped each other defeat them. It was those magic caribou that really helped. They can fly AND talk. They're like, people, birds, and deer. All in one."

The last two to join the party, Badger and Scott, did not arrive to have fun.
"Schaff! Trolls have been spotted heading toward the castle!" cried Badger, throwing the door open.
"The armies are far from ready; our only hope is for us to get there and defend it ourselves!"
"No, it's not," replied Gizmo. "Someone could head north, and get those elves. Paddy, why not take Freddy? Seeing as you gave Odin shelter, and since there is good will between both kingdoms, call it a favor?"
"Right," said Badger. "The rest of us could head south."
The Lady's maiden, Le'ash, offered to go with Freddy, and it was decided then.
"Just like old times," commented Gizmo, as he pulled his brilliant, gleaming sword from his hilt.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

But Wait, There's More...

When Kawan had seemingly won, and Gizmo and the Lady ran off to bring back Badger, the story took an odd turn of events. Scott, Badger's beau, and Dumon, left Bamah to tell Mama Sinkus, Karli, and Kati the bad news. Badger was, at this point, dead.

Scott figured that telling the sisters first would be less of a challenge than breaking a mother's heart, so upon arriving at Fort Ni Aps, The two sought out Kati and Karli. They did find Karli, but evidently Kati was with Mama Sinkus.
"Oh. Ok then, we'll all go there," said Scott.
"We have bad news for... all three of you," said Dumon. She held back a cry that Scott could not.
"What... happened?" asked Karli, but by the time she said that, it was clear.

The three wept for what seemed an eternity, but they grew stronger for it. The next day, they set off for Mama Sinkus' home. Before they left Fort Ni Aps, a hooded stranger stopped them.
"It is not smart for you to return to Bamah," he said.
"It is not smart for you to stand in our way," retorted Scott. "You DO know who we are...?"
"Yes, and I still advise against your return."
"Then let come what dangers that may." With that, the three rode past him.

Before the three got to Mama Sinkus' house, the three were again stopped by a hooded stranger. However, this one was slightly different than the first.
"You shouldn't be here..."
"Why not?" barked Karli.
"Kawan wants your heads."
"He can come get them from us," retorted Dumon.

Not long after, Scott, Dumon, and Karli were advancing up the steps of Mama Sinkus's house. Kati, smiling brighter than the sun, ran out to meet them.
"You're just in time!"
"For what?" was all Scott could stammer, before being yanked inside by the beyond jubilous sister.
Inside, his heart leapt at what could only be described as a miracle. The three travelers were face-to-face with the remaining Bards, Holden, Paddy, Schaff, Gizmo, and Badger. Scott and Badger embraced like the estranged lovers they were, and immediately Badger went from him to Dumon, and then to Karli.
"What... how?" said Scott, dumbfounded. Badger then recounted the entire tale, with sound effects added in by Paddy and Schaff. The reunion was more joyful than anyone could imagine.

Just then, the two hooded strangers walked in. Removing their hoods, their faces showed wonder and confusion.
"But... Kawan... and--"
"--and you were dead--"
"--but how?"
"Hold on. First of all, who are you?" inquired Gizmo.
"I'm Clarence," said Clarence.
"And I'm Wesel," said Wesel.
"We've been following the three of you, trying to warn you about Kawan..."
"He... You were all in prison," said Wesel.
"I refuse to tell this entire tale AGAIN," said Badger angrily.
"Why don't I just write down everything that happened, just for you two?" asked Gizmo. "Like, everything, from that time we fought the dragon, till now?"
The group thought.
"That way, we can actually tell EVERYONE!" said Paddy.
"everyone...?" echoed Dumon.
"Yeah, that's not a bad idea," said Scott.

"Thus, the Tales of the Bards were born," said the elderly man. "Gizmo made sure everyone knew every detail of ALL the stories, and the Bards lived on, forever after."
"But, Grand-daddy, you didn't say 'happily forever after'," remarked one of his starry-eyed children.
"I know. But, you're not ALWAYS happy, are you?"
"Well, no..."
"They weren't always happy, either. But, they had each other, and when they were together, that was when they were happiest. Now, I believe it's time for all of you to go to sleep. Dreams, my boys and girls, are the stories we make when we cannot live our own."

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Wrath of Kawan

Badger was dead. The Bards were broken.

Kawan was King of Bamah. He imposed law that made the Bards fugitives, and had them locked up in the dungeons that Schaff had never seen. Paddy, Holden, Schaff, Scheaun, and Freddy were in a single cell: they were alone but together. Gizmo had not been seen or heard from since That Day. Badger was dead. The Bards were broken.

Gizmo and the Lady sought refuge with Jacob Corona, as they had heard of the Bards' plight. The Day After That Day, the two had found the Queen of the Trees.
"Mother! We need your help!" cried the Lady.
"You were looking for it, my dear. How can I be of service?"
"A friend of mine is dead, and the other friends of mine are being torn apart because of it," said Gizmo.
The Queen smiled. "Your friend is dead, but I can bring her back. Because of your friend's heroism, I doubt Abram and Sarai will have a problem with it."
A river flowed from nowhere, just beside them. Two dolphins swam up to the three, and stood. As they stood, they took their true form. They became Abram and Sarai.
"My son," boomed Abram, "Your selflessness and bravery will be rewarded--as will your friends'. As you have requested, Badger will be returned to you at the time you need it most--soon."
Sarai nodded. "She will find you, so keep on the lookout. Do not go searching for her. She will be a spirit-clone, but she will be Badger." The two disappeared.
"Good luck, sweetie," said the Queen, as she returned to the trees. "Defeat the Dark One."
Gizmo and the Lady then saw Jacob Corona, not far from them. Normally odd, he was resolute.
"You guys need somewhere to stay? Besides the dungeon, of course. Your friends are there, but it's kinda cold."

Gizmo sat by the fire in Jacob's fireplace. He strummed on an old lyre, and the Lady listened intently. He sang a mournful song, but transitioned into an uplifting one at the bridge. It was the most beautiful piece Gizmo ever sang. Just then, two dark figures approached. Jacob Corona, stepping into the light, said, "We have company." It was Badger. Gizmo smiled.
"Let us destroy the Dark One... tomorrow."

The three--Gizmo, the Lady, and Badger--wandered into town. The Lady and Badger, cloaked, led Gizmo to the castle in chains. Badger stopped at the gate.
"I have the one called Gizmo! Where is my reward?" screamed the Lady.
"Lead him this way," called Qarsinn, as he opened the gates. The four traveled to the dungeon, where Badger disrobed the cloak and ran Qarsinn through with her sword.
"Did you miss me? I didn't miss you."
"Okay, enough," said Gizmo as he was unchained. "I'll go find Kawan. You two free the others."
Gizmo made his way to King Carl's old room. He threw open the door to find Kawan already dressed for combat.
"You have returned," he growled. "Gizmo the Bard. I've heard of you. You're not that great. Brave, for sure, strong, courageous, the whole nine yards. But you are not very smart. You shouldn't have come back."
"Well, so goes for Badger, but I hate that for you too. Wait... no, I don't."
"She's... alive...? HOW???" Kawan screamed.
"My girlfriend's a goddess. Literally."

The Lady grabbed Qarsinn's keys. Badger, running in front of the Lady, killed the evil guards Kawan installed. They vanished as she struck them, turning into a red mist. The two finally found the Bards, whose cell was the only one inhabited in the entire complex. Badger slung the jail door wide.
"Lift up your faces, you broken heroes. Today comes vengeance. Now is the time for your bravery! I'm back!" The Bards looked up in astonishment. Badger's speech and presence lifted their hopes.
Releasing her friends from their chains, Badger led the six to the castle armory. There, she found her old sword, stolen by Qarsinn on That Day. She handed it to Schaff.
"You're gonna need this."

Gizmo and Kawan stood in the middle of the room. Kawan was still stunned, but his anger presided over his surprise.
"No! You lie! I killed her. This cannot be happening! The prophecy!" he fumed.
"How did the end of that prophecy read, exactly?" remarked Gizmo.
"I will kill you!"
The two fought. Gizmo grabbed a shield from the wall, and dodged every blow confidently. Gizmo, who had collected his wits, easily beat the desperate villain. Gizmo had Kawan by the throat, but refused to kill him.
"This is not my fight," he said.

Schaff flew up the stairs faster than anyone before him. He reached the top and saw Gizmo with Kawan in his hand.
"Finish him!" cried Schaff.
"I was about to say the same thing."
Schaff smiled. "I appreciate that. But, revenge isn't always the answer."
Gizmo dropped Kawan and began to leave the room. Kawan immediately jumped, grabbed his sword, and leaped at Gizmo. Gizmo turned, and at the same moment, both Gizmo and Schaff lunged at Kawan, running him through together. Kawan was dead.

Badger was not.

However, the Bards were still broken. Little changed from That Day, despite their enormous victory. They were unified once more, knowing that they would never be alone, but they knew that they would not always be together, either. Abram and Sarai came to the group after they all met at King Carl's room.
"Such is life, my children," said Abram. "You must take peace in that you won't always be together. That is the other side of things."
"Yes. Abram is right," concurred Sarai. "You will never be alone. However, you must learn to stand strong apart from the group."
The Bards saw the truth in this, even though they resisted it. They grew together, and as Abram and Sarai told them, they eventually separated. However, the Bards together lived on as legends. They never forgot each other, stayed in touch, and remembered everything, but fate was fate. The Bards were never broken again.

What the Bards Found at Koma

The day after King Carl's death, the Bards met at Holden's house to discuss everything. It was clear that  Schaff wanted revenge for his father's death; each Bard agreed to support him in that effort. Badger, reminded of the bounty on Kawan's head and her actions toward that end, hid her past. She felt it better to not say anything; it would neither help nor hurt. Holden brought up an important fact.
"We have absolutely no idea how to find him, though."
Everyone in the room shared looks with each other and with the table. Then, Gizmo spoke up.
"I may know someone. He and I go back a long time, but he's an excellent warrior. He taught me to track, and might just be the best there is."
"Ok. You do that, and we'll go find out more about Kawan's people," replied Schaff. "That may help us when we finally meet."
Gizmo left Holden's to find Scheaun (That is another story.)
The other Bards gathered their gear and traveled to Koma. It was not on any map that Schaff had seen, but was located in an old book--an atlas--the oldest book in the kingdom's library.

The Bards--Badger, Schaff, Holden, Dumon, Paddy, and Scott--arrived in Koma, the home of Kawan's people. It was an old set of ruins, rugged green landscapes littered with large grey stones. The shadows hid the locals from the strange outsiders. No one made themselves seen, much less any help. The large boulders were carved so that they were hospitable inside. Despite the random placement of the stones, a large structure stood proudly at the center of the ruins. The Bards approached it.
The building itself was a marvel. Like a temple, it stood thin and very tall. Several steps led up to an open doorway, which was wide, but narrowed to a point at the top. An overhang above the door was large enough for someone to stand.
The Bards climbed the steps. The ghostly silence penetrated the hearts of the heroes, and they were quiet themselves. Entering the stone temple, they found a long, dark room with a giant altar at the far end. A hooded figure rose from his kneeling position by the altar.
"You've arrived," uttered a familiar voice. "He said you'd come."
The figure turned. The man looked exactly like Qabel, but with a moustache and long goatee. The Bards, stunned, stopped.
"Are you...?" stammered Schaff.
"Qabel is my brother," the evil man smirked. "He is helping your new king move in."
Schaff started. "You don't mean..."
"Yes. Your father took his kingdom; now he is taking your fathers'. He is brilliant, isn't he? Kawan knew you'd come, so he swept behind you to take Bamah. Kawan is the ruler of Bamah."
Paddy turned, and saw Kawan atop the steps. "Guys..."
"Now then. Badger, we have unfinished business. Draw your sword and fight me. But first, Qarsinn, take them outside," he said.
A red light glowed from the little light that was in the room, and from Qarsinn, the evil priest, himself. His eyes caught fire and he floated toward the Bards. The group exited the room, but Schaff stopped.
"I won't let you fight alone," he said.
"Schaff, this is my fight. I was hired to kill him a long time ago. I didn't tell you because this is bigger than any one of us. If I die, it is your fight."
Qarsinn shoved Schaff out of the room. As soon as everyone was outside, the doors slammed shut.

Badger drew her sword and Kawan followed suit.
"Who hired you?" asked Kawan, in an eerily calm tone.
"I don't know," she replied.
"I do."
"The man that just separated you from your friends. Qabel is actually dead. Qarsinn is a spirit-clone. Of the many things that the mighty Komaan, the god we worship... you know him as Chadde... taught me, the science of cloning is the best." He put down his sword, for Badger was piqued by his words.
"It's actually pretty simple. If you're faithful, he will do anything for you."
Kawan pulled a cord beside the altar. A ceiling-high curtain fell to reveal a tapestry of the same height. On it was the visage of Chadde.
"We killed him."
"That you did, which is why I've come. Vengeance is everything! Don't you see?" Kawan picked up his sword again.
Badger, angry, lunged at Kawan. He defended that first shot, turned, and struck her leg. She lunged again, and the two exchanged several shots. Then, Badger forced his sword down. Stepping on the flat blade, she jumped, turned, and cut his face. Kawan sliced at her, and cut her across her stomach. Another series of parries led the two up a set of stairs, and onto the platform above the door; they were in view of the whole group. Kawan spun Badger's hand so that she lost her sword, and stabbed her through her middle. She fell to her knees, and over. The doors flew open, and the Bards, led by Schaff, immediately ran to her side. Kawan left for the castle in Bamah. When the Bards reached the spot where Badger died, they only found Kawan's sword. Confused but emotionally drained, Schaff and Scott dropped to their knees and sobbed. The other Bards began to cry also.

The Bards silently returned to Dumon's Flat. Gizmo, with the Lady and Scheaun, arrived, only to see a teary Scott and Schaff being comforted by the other Bards. Fox, Kat, and Haley were there, but upon hearing the news, Fox and Kat left, never to be heard from again. They "did not want any part of this violence," and no one denied their logic. Unfortunately, Haley felt the same way, despite her love for Holden. She eventually left, as well.
Dumon was afraid. She had begun to feel for Schaff the way she felt for Paddy. They separated themselves from each other, but not from the group itself. The Bards were falling apart.

Gizmo took the Lady outside and told her, "I'm sorry I got you into this. This is dangerous work, and our world will never be the same."
"As far as I'm concerned," she replied, "I was involved from the beginning. Have you heard of spirit-clones?" She, a deity in herself, knew about the Triad of Abram, Sarah, and Chadde, the story, and the victory of the Bards. She also knew everything else there was to know about the Triad. "I will talk to my mom and dad. We'll see what they can do." Gizmo smiled and embraced her. The two snuck off to see the Queen of the Trees.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Lady of the River

Growing up in Bamah, one of Gizmo's favorite comrades was another boy named Scheaun. Together, they fought monsters, dragons, and creatures beyond that of other children's imaginations. One time, Gizmo was running through the forest. Scheaun bet Gizmo that he could find him, no matter where he went, so Gizmo traveled to the only place he knew he could hide. He found a clearing in a deep forest, on the Bamah River. A small pool formed where the river turned; a large, hollow tree root formed a bay  so that anyone who was small enough could climb in, hide, and not be seen. Gizmo waited there, watching the path he came by. Then, Scheaun climbed up behind him.
"Whatcha lookin for?"
A stunned Gizmo made Scheaun smile. The two backed out, and Scheaun began to explain how he found Gizmo. They practiced their tracking and combat every day, until once, it began raining. The two were at Gizmo's father, now known as the Knight of Bamah's, house, when Scheaun's parents entered. The two boys were "trained" in reading people's emotions, and it was obvious that the parents came with bad news. The nomadic village elders were banishing them for some reason, unknown to the two at the time; nevertheless, the family was moving to theother side of the River Bamah. It was for this reason that Gizmo's father, later Head Elder, removed the council from power.
The news was heartbreaking to the boys, but they knew somehow that they would meet again.

The day after King Carl's death, the Bards met at Holden's house to discuss everything. It was clear that  Schaff wanted revenge for his father's death; each Bard agreed to support him in that effort. Badger, reminded of the bounty on Kawan's head and her actions toward that end, hid her past. She felt it better to not say anything; it would neither help nor hurt. Holden brought up an important fact.
"We have absolutely no idea how to find him, though."
Everyone in the room shared looks with each other and with the table. Then, Gizmo spoke up.
"I may know someone. He and I go back a long time, but he's an excellent warrior. He taught me to track, and might just be the best there is."
"Ok. You do that, and we'll go find out more about Kawan's people," replied Schaff. "That may help us when we finally meet."
Gizmo left to find Scheaun. He only knew that Scheaun lived on the Bamah River, but he had no idea if Scheaun was even alive, much less where he lived. So, Gizmo traveled to the pool where Scheaun taught him the proper art of tracking. There, he found it just as serene as the first time he had seen it.
Looking around, he saw a flash of light from deeper in the forest. Gizmo followed it, and as he traveled deeper, it began to wobble. Suddenly, Gizmo found himself in a clearing. A stump sat in the middle of the clearing, and tied to it was a lightly-dressed maiden. Her face was covered by a skin pouch, and a single vine tied her hands and feet. Gizmo removed the bag from her head, and found the most dazzling creature he had ever seen. She was a fair-skinned being, with blonde hair that shone like the sun. Gizmo was taken back for a moment, but he cut her loose.
"Thank you," she said, and hugged Gizmo till he could not breathe.
"No problem. Now, uh, could you tell me what exactly happened?"
"I am the Princess of the River, the Lady Bamah. Well, I am basically the river. My dad is the Great Sea up North, and my mother is the Queen of the Trees. They're not together anymore, but it's an odd combination. As for the whole being tied down thing, there's an evil priest who headed this way. He's from the Koma region, and I tried to stop him, but he was really strong."
"What, uh, kinda curse?" Gizmo began to slowly look up.

"Oh. Yeah, that." A giant spider approached from behind the Lady. Gizmo thrust her behind him with one arm and drew his sword with the other. The spider reared up on its hind legs, and slammed at the Bard with its front legs. Gizmo dodged one and sliced through the other. The spider fell over, and without wasting a moment, Gizmo cut through the other front leg, and stabbed the beast through its head.
The Lady again hugged Gizmo, only this time, of fright.
"Thank you, uh..."
"Gizmo," replied Gizmo. The two kissed for a moment, but after that moment, Gizmo was no longer alone. The couple returned to the pool, hand in hand, when The Lady stopped.
"How do you know this place?" she asked.
"My friend and I would explore this place when I was younger. It was my favorite place in the world."
"This is where I was born. I remember a specific little boy running around this place when I was little, too. A second boy came looking for him, but couldn't find him. I pointed the first boy out to him." Gizmo was in shock.
"I think that was me! Err, the first boy!"
"Who was the second?"
Just then, a giant hydra sprang from the river. It swept at Gizmo, who removed one of the two heads. As two replaced the first one, a dark figure flew through the air and removed all three heads at once. The creature fell over, dead. The figure landed in the river not far from the couple, who approached it. The figure turned and smiled.
"Him." said Gizmo.
"Gizmo!" cried Scheaun. The two embraced as only separated friends could.
"I've literally been looking for you!" said Gizmo.
"Really? Well, ya literally found me!"
"Shut up."
"Who is this?"
"The Lady of the River. Basically, the personification of the Bamah River."
The Lady smiled as Gizmo introduced her to his long-lost friend.
"I want to stay with you, but I can't," said the Lady as she hugged Gizmo one last time. "Lady of the River things, you know."
"Oh, yeah. No, I understand," he replied.
"Will you come visit me?"
"Of course." As she walked to the river, it began to reced so that she could not touch it physically. Each step she took was on dry land. She broke down and began to sob. Gizmo rushed to her side and held her tight. Her tears streamed down his shoulder and mixed with the river she could not have.
"It was the priest," was all she could mutter.
Scheaun looked on, and realized one reason why Gizmo needed him.

However, Gizmo soon explained the second reason.
"So you need me to find the man who killed King Carl."
"Yes. And to catch up, of course. It's not meant to be so one-sided."
"I see."
The three began to return to Bamah, when a warm wind began to stir the tree leaves into a whirl. They took the form of a woman, and the Lady ran to her. The two embraced.
"Daughter, you know who removed you from the river, but you know not how. You are no longer one with the River; while still immortal and powerful, you cannot come into contact with the Bamah River ever again," she said. "He is an evil priest, and you two are on the search for him." This was to Gizmo and Scheaun. "He is with the Dark One, and even more darkness is to be feared. You must stop him."
Gizmo and Scheaun exchanged glances, nodded and bowed.
"With all due respect, your highness, the Bards will destroy him." The Queen nodded and the leaves flew away. The three adventurers pressed forward to Bamah.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

King Carl's Last Stand

When King Carl was a boy, he had an older brother, William. Their father, William the Elder, was the first king of Bamah. He conquered the tribal people that lived on the land, and by invading established the country itself. Kawan was the oldest son of the tribal chief, who lived with his older sister. The tribal chief killed himself when he heard of the coming invaders, leaving Kawan and his sister. She died in battle, but the young Kawan, who himself saw William the Elder murder his sister, was left alive. William took in Kawan as his own; he was the oldest surviving male out of the tribe. The three grew up together, and Carl and Kawan bonded because of their close ages; however, after both the Williams died, Carl and Kawan fell out of each other's graces.

A shadowy figure crossed a wide, green field. The light breeze made the tall grass ripple like a breaking wave; in fact, the sunlight on the grass was enough to create such an illusion. The dark figure, its hood like a sail on open seas, stood out among the grass. It made its way into a village, a large bag over its shoulder and an empty bow in its hand. It moved through the busy crowd and made its way to the castle where King Carl lived. Removing his hood, Schaff entered the gate; the keeper waved cheerfully at the young prince. Retiring to his room, a single, silent tear rolled down his cheek. Claire was nowhere to be found, but it had been two years since she disappeared; Schaff moved on.
King Carl entered the room unnoticed, and he addressed Schaff in the way only fathers can.
"You all right, son?"
"Yeah. It's over. I'll find someone else; I just hate to have seen it end this way."
"That's how it is a lot of times. Sometimes, the ones you care about most are the one you've got to let go of. Come on, we're holding that banquet thing tonight, and, to be honest, that... are you really gonna wear that raggedy-lookin' outfit?"
Schaff smiled. "No." King Carl began to leave the room, but Schaff caught him with a quick phrase. "Love you, dad, mean it."
"All right, Madame Harrison," replied King Carl, referring to the governess who kept Schaff when he was younger. (She always expressed her affection in this way.)

That night, the Bards met together, for the first time in a year. Each came in couples, Holden with Haley, Badger and Scott, Fox with Kat, and Paddy and Dumon. Gizmo arrived and began a new song; few had heard it. After a single chorus, the entire group joined in, and the other villagers with any musical ability contributed as well. The entire piece was a beautiful melody, and everyone applauded the Bards. Gizmo, the scheduled entertainment, then began a song more popular; this one was met with almost as much applause as the first. Then, King Carl formally began the feast. This feast was a simple harvest ball; the annual Baman tradition was a night of "food, family, and fun." Gizmo told stories that amazed the younger children, and many older children joined them.
Scott and Badger approached Schaff. Badger, in high spirits, embraced Schaff, and the three exchanged salutations. Then, Scott introduced Schaff to a friend from the Fort, Emily. She and Schaff began talking, and the two spent their entire evening together. Paddy and Dumon joined Gizmo in his story telling, and Fox and Kat watched from a seat together. The event was proceeding in a marvelous fashion.
King Carl watched the banquet with satisfied eyes, and turned to reenter the castle. He did, but as he passed his dining hall, a sight caught his eye; a chill ran down his spine. It was the maid for that room, dusting old armor on the shelf. He smiled and continued.
When Carl entered his room, he found Kawan sitting by the window sill, watching the events of the evening progress.
"Well done. Your fathers would be proud."
"Thank you," King Carl could hide the disgust in his voice, but not his face.
"I trust you know why I'm here, right?"
"Actually, no. Not this time."
"I have a bone to pick, well, another bone to pick with you. Remember when you tried to have me killed?"
"That was ages ago. I have to apologize for my actions, and I will, if you're willing to recant yours."
"Hmmph. As if. I accept your apology, though. I personally told you I didn't have him."
"I cannot allow you to stay here alive, Kawan. Your actions are far worse in the eyes of the law, than kidnapping my son."
"Yours are even worse than that, and you know it."
King Carl sighed. "My brother was a traitor; THE traitor. He threatened father; he deserved to die. That was his punishment, and I don't have to hear it from you!"
"He was innocent."
"He was guilty! I heard him myself!"
"I threatened your father! He killed my sister in front of me, with no reason. Then, he has the GALL to adopt me? He takes the one person I have, I take him. Your brother was a casualty, and for that I will apologize."
"You!? You murderer!" King Carl was taken aback. "Oh, you will definitely not leave here alive."
"One of us won't," growled Kawan.
"I DIDN'T GIVE YOU THE RIGHT TO SPEAK!" King Carl grabbed a sword off his wall, and lunged at Kawan. The two fought as they had in their childhood, but the stakes were more than imaginary kingdoms and treasures of candy. Swords clashed, metal parried, and Kawan held his ground. However, King Carl had not kept up his sword training as much as he had liked, and his age was beginning to show. The two swords met in an upward cross, and Carl drove Kawan's blade to the ground. Carl turned and lunged, but Kawan drove his weapon through Carl's side. The king started, but fell to his knees. A tear rolled down Kawan's cheek, but he turned and left.
"It didn't have to come to this, brother," gasped King Carl. Kawan stopped at the door.
"Yes, it did."

Kawan entered the village streets, approaching Badger. Schaff stopped him with a sword and a fierce word.
"Boy, you might want to visit your father at this moment. It may be his last." Kawan's face was ravaged by anger and sorrow.
Schaff, stunned, took off to his father's quarters. No one ran as fast as he did that night, not since. Scott, Badger, and Emily turned to Kawan.
"We're not finished, girl. This had nothing to do with you," said Kawan as he vanished into the night.
"It has everything to do with me!" cried Badger into the darkness. The three took off into the castle. The other Bards witnessed the scene, and ran to be with Schaff.
They missed their chance. King Carl was gone, and his oldest son, was grieving over him. All the Bards sympathized with him, and they vowed to help him in his revenge.
"We're all here for you, dude," said Holden.
"Yeah, like, we'll help you tear him apart," replied Fox.
"Yes, we will." Carson's tears burned in fury. He turned to leave.
"Well, what about your dad? We can't just leave him here," called Emily. Dumon and Badger agreed.
"Well, we won't. It's just... sometimes, the ones you care about the most are the ones you've got to let go of. It was his time, and now, it's ours." The Bards left the room, and as Gizmo shut the door behind them, he heard a shudder. He saw the open window and curtains ruffling. Little did he know that King Carl's look of shock turned into a tearful smile. He died at and in peace.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Battle of Kawan

In the days before the Bards came together, Badger was a free-spirited girl with the heart and power of a warrior. She learned many skills from her sisters, who had since left to defend the country of Bamah from southern invaders. These sisters, Karli and Kati, were known each for their fighting skill, and together for their many victories in battle. It was for this reason that a visitor came to Badger and her Mama Sinkus's home.
"Is this the home of Kati and Karli, the fearless warriors?"
"Yeah, why?" replied Badger.
"I have a job that I need help with, and I've been told they're the best."
"For one, they're kinda, you know, defending our lives. For two, I can do anything they can."
The stranger thought for a moment, smiled, and relented.
"I need someone... destroyed."

It was local legend that a dangerous being, Kawan, the Dark One, roamed the southeast region of Bamah. He was a deadly fighter, whose only reason for leaving King Carl and the Baman army was a feud between the two. By fear alone, Kawan held control of the people in the area. No one crossed him, and those that did were displayed for all to see.

The mysterious visitor made it obvious that Kawan was the target and that the best price would be paid to the best challenger. Mama Sinkus was asleep, but Badger thought up a good plan to keep her from worry. She agreed to the terms of the deal, and the visitor left.
When Mama Sinkus did rise, Badger told her that she would be traveling to Fort Ni Aps, to visit her sisters. It would be a week's stay, but the war could affect the amount of time she stayed. Badger left the next day.
She journeyed to a small village on the lower end of the Bamah River. It was bustling; the market town was small, but well populated. A man named Robert met her at the gate.
"Could you help me?" Badger asked
"I hope so. This whole dale, this valley, is mine."
"Where is the one they call Kawan?"
The man stopped. He spoke something about the rain and night, and hurried Badger inside.
"The Dark One is in this town. He is feared and fears none. He knows everything and has spies, everywhere. Look for him in the dark grey hut at the far end of the dale. For tonight, though, stay here. My wife and I'll do all we can for you."
Badger stayed the night at Robert's home. His son and daughter accompanied him in beautiful music that evening, and Badger learned to sing many songs that night.

The next morning, Badger woke up. She heard no noises from throughout the house. She ventured from room to room, but found no one. Packing her things, she prepared to leave. When she opened the door, she entered the deserted street. She started to the dale, when a voice froze her in her steps.
"So you're just going to leave like that? Fine? Don't say goodbye."
She turned around. Facing her was a dark-skinned war hero in full armor, which was as dark as he. He looked up from his polished gauntlets to her, and smiled.
"Oh, ok. I see how it is. Hi Badger, I'm Kawan. Or, the Dark One. Or, Robert. I do own the valley, though. The family is mine, too."
Badger looked on in fear and silent confusion.
"I told you I know about everything. I know about the hit on me, I know about your sisters, and I know how you think. I won't kill you; no, I'll let you go. If you can outrun the dragon. See, I don't hold the people in fear. Well, I do, but more so because of that thing." As he pointed, a dark shadow darted across the sky. A dragon made its way towards the two warriors.
"No, I actually need your help. No one stayed around here, except you."
"I sleep late."
"Oh, she talks? I see. Now, if you'll kindly draw your sword and draw that beast's attention, I'll see that it hurts no one, except maybe you."
Badger had no choice but to oblige. She drew her bow, though, and prepared to plaster the beast with arrows.

Her first fight. Nerves screamed, and she shook like a windswept tree. She took a deep breath, rethought her entire life, closed her eyes, and let go of the arrow. When she opened her eyes, she saw the dragon reeling in pain. A wooden shaft stuck out of its left eye. Kawan marched up to the dragon with the swagger of an undefeated champion, and removed the head of the beast in a heroic sweep.
Badger approached the dark warrior and his slain prey.
"Hmmph. That works."
"Did it? I--"
Kawan suddenly snapped.
"Listen. You get outta here. Go back to where you came from. We will end this, another day. I will find you, and we will settle our score. You want me dead?"
"Someone does."
"Tell them that you're delayed. I'm out of the country, and you're waiting to strike. I have more important fish to cook right now. Go. Go!"
Badger backed away, watching the crazed adversary look over the fallen beast. She turned to run, but stopped. Looking back, she saw the carcass of the beast, but no sign of the dark warrior.

Before she actually returned to her home, Badger visited Kati and Karli at Fort Ni Aps. While not completely out of the way, it would provide truth to her story. Karli saw her and ran up to her.
"Are you ok? I heard you fought... Kawan."
"What? How did you hear that?" Badger replied.
"Because someone sent a messenger to me asking us to fight Kawan. I sent him to you."
"Wait... who was it?"
"I, uh, don't know."
"Well gee thanks." Badger replied; she began to leave. Karli thought for a moment.
"Badger!" She called.
"The messenger was... Qabel, the king's new deputy. He runs errands for King Carl, does things for him."
Badger never forgot those words, but she never understood them, either. She made it home safely, but she never heard from Kawan again.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

An Interlude

The old man's eyes twinkled as he spoke. From his high-seeming post upon his recliner, the elderly man held his children's attention. Finishing his stories, his young audience gaped in admiration of the fantastic tales their grandfather told them.
"Gizmo's story became that of legend. His work as a bard, a singer of song and teller of tales, was told by other bards everywhere. He became a hero for them. That is the end of Book One."
"Now, you three should scurry off to bed," their mother called from the next room.
"Aw, grandpa! One more story!"
"Nope, that's it!"
"But it's only Book One! There HAVE to be more adventures, aren't there?"
"Oh, well of course, there are more adventures. For now, though, you children need your sleep!" He smiled at the children's feeble attempts to avoid their mother's command. His grandson and oldest granddaughter lazily waddled into the next room, while his youngest stayed behind, smiling.
"Yes, my dear?" She crawled into his lap.
"You're Gizmo, aren't you?"
"How did you know?"
"I just guessed." Gizmo stood, carrying his youngest granddaughter into her bedroom.
"You're so smart."

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Eighth Tale of the Bards: A Sea of Plains

The Bards' adventure led them to the outskirts of Bamah. After a day's ride, a quaint village met them. A handful of small, dusty but well-built cottages dotted the landscape. The entire colony was surrounded by a sea of plains.

Many of the cottages were abandoned; in fact, only about three held signs of life. The first shack was guarded by a terribly-clothed, scrawny old man. He woke for a moment, to watch the Bards enter the remnants of a town through his down-turned hat. The moment after, he fell asleep. A main, dirt-paved lane separated most of the cottages. Two houses, toward the middle of the lane, stood next to each other, but separated from the rest of the town by a roundabout. A woman sat outside one, watching a large pot boil, and next door, a man sawed away at long planks of wood. Another woman came out of the second house; she walked to the first woman. Before she sat down, she noticed the Bards approaching and gave a cry. All attention was on the approaching party; the man stopped sawing and two children appeared in the doorway.
"Is this the home of the family called Beghart?"
"Yes," replied the man as the Bards stopped. "My name is Chase."
Freddy climbed down from his horse and shook the man's hand.
"We are travelers from Bamah. We are searching for something that is in your family's possession."
"And what do you plan to do with it?"
"Destroy evil that threatens us all." The man was obviously confused. Freddy offered to explain, and Chase offered the group lodging.

Gizmo shook himself awake. He found himself in a dark room, and feeling at the walls learned that it was his closet. Kicking the door down, he searched his house for any trace of the Bards. Packing his emergency reserves, Gizmo climbed upon his fastest horse and took off to Jacob Corona's house.
"Go back home!" called Jacob from his porch.
"But I'm looking for the others!"
"No, I meant go back home and look around for footprints or hoof-prints." So he did. Gizmo found a plethora of signs that the horses left in a southern direction. He took off after them.

The Bards found lodging in the surrounding cottages. Freddy, Badger, and Scott discussed the matter with the Begharts, but the others set themselves up in the houses. Paddy and Dumon roomed together, as did Badger and Scott. Holden and Fox took a house, and Schaff and Chadde (still disguised as Gizmo) shared the last hut. Chadde began unpacking Gizmo's things and laying them in an orderly fashion. Schaff, watching Chadde, spoke up.
"That horse is new, isn't it?" asked Schaff.
"Yes, I found her not long after your birthday."
"Oh, where? She's not like any I've seen."
"Well, I had seen many of them wild in Mille. I went back there to purchase one."
"Oh, I didn't know you had gone back since."
"Yes, It was my grandfather's birthday."
Schaff immediately realized that something was wrong. It was not like Gizmo to unpack his things, at all. Schaff said, "So why are you unpacking?"
"Oh, it helps me relax. I like knowing where my things are."
"But we'll probably leave tomorrow."
"I know."

Freddy attempted to explain the situation to Chase. Badger helped, but it seemed to be of little use.
"You need my daughter-in-law, well, to be,... Her necklace?" asked Chase.
"If you can find them, I'm sure they'll let you trade for it. I say that because they [Chase's younger brother Zak and his new bride, Madeline] are away in the meadow right now."
"Thank you," Freddy sighed.
The three of them wandered over to their night's lodgings, and explained to the others what was to happen.
"We're going to find them and I will trade them... something... for the Heart. Then we will return to Bamah."
"Then we wait for Chadde?" asked Paddy.
"What do we have of value, worth trading? Like, at all?" Holden pointed out.
"That will present itself. In the mean time, Badger, Gizmo, Scott, and I will search for the couple. Dumon, come find us, should Chadde appear."

Gizmo rode south, kicking himself over letting Chadde escape. The horse ran furiously, and its speed was like none had ever seen. The hoof-beats were heard in the village long before Gizmo arrived. Paddy, Dumon, Holden, Fox, and Schaff watched the cloud of dirt advance towards them.
"It... it must be Chadde," said Holden.
"Dumon and I will go find Freddy," replied Paddy, as the two took toward their horses. Holden, Fox, and Schaff readied their weapons as Gizmo rode in.
"WHERE ARE FREDDY AND BADGER?" he roared. The three, stunned at the vision of their fellow Bard, pointed him in the right direction. Gizmo flew by them. They looked at each other, and took off on their own horses.

Freddy and Chadde split from Badger and Scott. They covered several miles quickly, but it was not long before Badger saw them.
"Hey! They're over here!" called Scott.
Freddy and Chadde joined the couple, and the four approached the happy party.
Zak asked, "What is the meaning of this?"
Freddy said, "If you value your lives you will give me that necklace," and pointed to the Heart.
Madeline replied, "What ever for?"
"An evil power threatens to destroy all life with it."
The two were still obviously confused, but they gave the charm to Freddy. He began looking it over, and when he finished, he looked up and smiled. He placed the beautiful jewelry on his belt. Tossing a bag of gold coins to the newlyweds, he said, "Please accept this gift as compensation."
The group began walking back over to their horses when they saw Dumon and Paddy arrive.
"Chadde is on his way!" cried Dumon.
"Then we have no time to lose," replied Freddy.
The group climbed onto their horses as a dark spot on the horizon flew toward them.
Gizmo drew his sword; when he was close enough to see Gizmo, Chadde rode alongside Freddy and drew his own sword.
"Is that... Gizmo?" exclaimed Badger.
"It's a disguise, to throw us off!" yelled Chadde.
"Ok, but why would he run at us in his disguise? The very act defeats the purpose."
Chadde lunged for the Heart, but he fell off his horse. The Heart fell into his hands, but at the same time, Gizmo leaped from his horse and plung ed his sword through Chadde's chest. The force was enough to penetrate armor, body, and armor again. Gizmo redrew his sword and cleaned it as Freddy retrieved the Heart. The group began to ride away, but Chadde stood up.

Just then, Fox, Holden, and Schaff joined the group. Looking past the others, Schaff and Fox saw Chadde charging at them.
"Guys!" he shouted.
Gizmo and Freddy immediately turned around, as Badger and Scott slid off their horses. The four were joined on the ground by the rest of the Bards. Freddy held up the Heart, as it began to glow. Dumon fished the Harmonica out of her pocket and walked over to him.
"I only have two hands," he said. "It's your Harmonica."
Dumon began to blow a jaunty tune on the instrument, and Freddy held out both hands, as the Heart glowed in one and the Compass Frog materialized in the other. Chadde leapt one last time, at the Bards. The three talismans glowed brighter than the sun; the Bards had to shield their eyes. Time stood still.

Chadde swung his sword overhead; he caught fire across the length of his body. Chadde's black figure was a fearsome sight against the blaze. In an instant, however, his sword began to disintegrate. It was as if he were a zipper, opened by the fire that had just consumed him. The disintegration peeled him apart before exploding, piece by piece, every part of him. The process took Chadde's entire body. When it was complete, there was no evidence of any struggle whatsoever. The Heart was gone. The Frog was gone. The Harmonica was gone. The Bards stood together as they had done many times before, but it was this battle that would never be forgotten. The Bards returned to Bamah, in near silence. Save for the occasional, mutual decision to hold camp for the night, no one said anything. The shock of the battle was enormous, and no Bard was ever to be the same. No one ever knew of the fight that happened; it was recorded in no annal of Baman history whatsoever. They knew that the times they had together were worth more in terms of sentiment than any sort of recognition; they treated all their adventures that way.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Seventh Tale of Freddy the Llama: The Heart of Sarai

Chadde soon discovered that he only had half of the Compass Frog, and so only had half the power he thought. He was truly afraid, for he knew that the llama had both the frog and the harmonica. His only hope for any sort of advantage rested in the last talisman: the Heart of Sarai. The Heart was a pendant on a chain, a beautiful pink crystal attached to a chain of metal no tool could break. It, with the Frog and Abram's Harmonica, were locked away in a Box and hidden deep in the Swamp of Drumm.

Our heroes, the Bards, were not the first to come across this Box. Not long before Freddy tripped on it, a young man went hunting in the swamp. He saw the gleam of the golden fringe through the thick mud stains, and, reaching down to remove the Box from its dingy prison, pulled it from the mire. The young man opened the Box, and inside were a harmonica, a silk bag, and another box. Taking the silk bag, he put the Box back. He found a brilliant pink necklace inside, and it glowed despite the dark canopy of the swamp. The young man looked around, put the necklace back in the bag, and left the Box half-buried in the mud.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Paddy and Dumon had run the flat despite having very few customers. Holden moved out, supporting himself on his new-found riches, leaving Freddy the only "permanent" resident. Truthfully, however, the llama had been little seen for the few weeks after the incident with Chadde. Dumon's Flat only remained open for two reasons: tourism and "something to do." The Bards found little work after the Battle at Mille, and had almost begun to separate. Gizmo was planning a long adventure to Troy (not the Troy of legend, but another, named for the heroic battle), and Badger was readying to venture to the Hill of Springs, a land across the Sea of Ocixem. Schaff and Claire would soon ascend to the throne, as King Carl was in a sickly condition. Fox and Holden spent several days working at the Sassy Bass pub, and adventure presented itself only as dirty dishes.
Freddy reappeared one day, revealing to Paddy and Dumon that he had located the Heart of Sarai. The two looked at each other in awe, then back to Freddy.
Freddy smiled. "I'll show you."

Holden and Fox were busily cleaning tables in the middle of a shift, when the doors of the pub flew open. Holden noticed. Freddy stood in their midst, and immediately Holden took off his apron and followed him. Looking up, Fox and Freddy exchanged a glace that told Fox everything, and Fox followed Holden's lead.

Badger and the Great Scott strolled into the flat, and saw Paddy and Dumon packing. Badger asked, "Where are you going?"
"Uhh... on an adventure?" said Dumon.
"She said on an adventure," replied Paddy.
"That's not a place."
"It's in... New Mexico."
Badger stared at him.
"No, actually, Freddy's back. We're going to find the third talisman-thingy."
Badger smiled. Naturally, Scott asked what on earth they were talking about. So, Badger told him the tales of the Compass Frog and the Harmonica.
"Oh, cool. Let's go."
Badger smiled, again.

Freddy knew that luring Schaff from his ailing father would be no small task. However, Freddy knew he needed all the help he could get. Fortunately, King Carl was up and walking around when Freddy arrived. Explaining the situation, Freddy asked him outright. Schaff agreed, but on the condition that he could leave should he hear word of his father's condition.
"Well, yeah. I mean, that's not a problem at all."

Gizmo was the last Bard for Freddy to visit. Gizmo heard that he was back, and prepared for the journey. When the llama did arrive, something seemed off. His eyes, normally clear and vibrant, were bloodshot and cloudy.
"Are you ok, Freddy?"
"Yeah, just a little tired. You know, from the journey back."
"Well, yeah. Where all did you go?"
"Everywhere, man."
"So you've located the Heart?"
"That I have."
"Shall we ride?"
"And... everyone else is outside?"
"Yeah, they're waiting for us."
"Let me get my horse."
"No need." With that, Freddy exploded, revealing the dark figure of Chadde. Gizmo lunged at the villain, but he caught Gizmo's sword. The room swirled and darkened, and Gizmo fainted. Chadde hid Gizmo in his closet and changed his appearance.
The real Freddy, as well as the rest of the Bards, entered immediately after this confrontation.
"Hey Gizmo, where are ya?" called Freddy.
"In here. Come on in."
"I assume you've heard?"
"Everything. Shall we ride?"
"Well, yeah."
"Are you feeling ok? You look tired," pointed out Badger.
"A little. But I wouldn't miss this for the world."
Chadde, disguised as Gizmo, rode off with the Bards.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Sixth Tale of the Bards: The Rhyming Squid

It was Schaff's first birthday since he was reunited with his father, King Carl. A gala was held in this occasion, and Schaff invited the Bards without question. The private affair was grand, but it was what happened afterwards that made the day paramount.
Badger and the Great Scott, Holden, and Fox traveled together to King Carl's estate on the Sea of Ocixem. On the way, Fox tried to convince Badger that King Carl hated Holden and himself. While Holden agreed, Badger shook her head and laughed. They arrived and were greeted by King Carl. Badger and Scott entered first, and Carl was delighted to see them. Upon seeing Holden and Fox, however, his delight disappeared. Carl remained cordial, but it was evident that Fox told the truth.
Gizmo traveled with Paddy and Dumon, and they arrived shortly thereafter. The party itself was full of revelry, delectable treats, and good times all around. A certain bearded warrior (another hero from another adventure) joined in as Gizmo and Badger sang, and Holden and Fox played. The warrior, however, had another appointment with a dragon. Therefore he left.
Holden, tired of the festivities, retreated to another room. He noticed a map on the wall. Most maps were of lands, such as Bamah or Drumm, but this one was of the Sea outside the window. It showed islands and currents, beasts and ships, and a large "X" on one island that was draped with a picture of a squid and marked by a cove. Gizmo and Paddy followed him and his glance as they walked over to the map. Schaff then began telling the story of a treasure that was supposedly held in the island, guarded by that squid, and available to anyone who could answer the squid's riddle. None who had ever made the journey returned alive.
When asked if he knew the riddle, Schaff said, "No. I don't really know if that story's even true."
By then, all the Bards were interested in the story. Fox came up with the idea for searching for it, and, without any real hesitation at all, the Bards headed toward the dock. As the other Bards prepared a small cutter for launch, Schaff noticed that a line was missing, the halyard. (This specific ship was a gift for Carl from a neighboring monarch, and it hadn't been piloted in a while. Carl took down all the rigging while it was moored at the pier; he had many other ships, also.) The girls looked in the ship's cabin, and the guys looked over the outside. Gizmo walked back up the dock to King Carl's shed to look for it. Schaff then found the line, and Claire (Schaff's girlfriend... did you really think she would miss his birthday party?) went to tell Gizmo. As it was, a light breeze blew on the sails. Dumon and Paddy untied the ropes from the mooring, and the Bards (save for Claire and Gizmo) were off. All but Schaff, Paddy, and Dumon went into the ship's cabin area. They followed the map to the letter, and as they arrived at the shore of the island, Badger returned to the outside and asked about Claire and Gizmo. The other three above deck looked at each other. They decided to wait for the two when they dropped anchor.
Meanwhile, Claire and Gizmo returned to the dock to find the rest of the party gone. Thinking quickly, the two leaped aboard a smaller vessel, already rigged, and followed a map stored in the sloop's sleeping quarters. While sailing, the two noticed a pair of dolphins splashing next to the boat. As Gizmo sailed toward them, a gust of wind blew the map away. The dolphins saw what happened, and began splashing around the bow of the sloop. As they swam away, they made obvious splashes. Claire realized that the dolphins wanted to be followed. So, they did follow the dolphins.
Gizmo brought the boat alongside Schaff's vessel. Claire leaped aboard, asking if anyone had seen the dolphins. No one beside Gizmo and herself had. Looking around, the two saw no sign of the guardians that led them to the Squid's Island.
The Bards swam to shore, and found a sea cave not far from where they docked. They ventured inside and found a long patch of shore inside. Following this, the Bards were led deeper and farther down, where they found a large room with a giant underground lake in the shape of a "C". The other side of the lake was adorned with gold and jewels in amounts none had seen before or since. The lack of a sentient squid was a notion Fox brought forward, and he found that he was not alone in his thoughts. The Bards approached the gold cautiously, but when they reached it, the squid broke the surface of the lake; it blocked them off from escape by sea or land.
"Well, this explains the lack of dead bodies," said Gizmo.
"Yeah, and I'm so hungry, too," said Paddy.
"Come on! Really?" said Dumon.
The squid sighed and said this:
"Ok, so here's the deal. You answer the riddle correctly and you may come and go as you please. You can't leave until you do answer, blah blah blah. Ahem.

'Its sister lays claim, though it does not compare,
an extraordinary fish and exceedingly rare,
its attitude no one should count,
 which of the fish has the largest mouth?'"

"That doesn't rhyme," said Paddy.
"Are you kidding?" said Fox. "That's the riddle?"
"I think it's a cool choice," said Holden.
"Well, yeah, but, come on!"
"Do you know the answer?"
"Yeah. You?"
"Yeah. The Sassy Bass. It's the pub where we work."
"I was about to say..."
The squid shrugged her shoulders, and as she swam away, said, "Tell King Carl I said hi."
The Bards agreed to evenly divide the gold among themselves, and carried as much back as they could.  Scott noted how good it was that they happened to take two boats.
When they returned, King Carl helped them unload the gold and store it in a vault. When he heard that Fox and Holden had solved the riddle, he gained respect for them. No longer did he disapprove of them, but he saw them as adventurers in their own rights. None will ever know what grudge he'd held against them, but it was gone like the dolphins--never to resurface.

The only two other facts of note in this story were that, first of all, Fox and Holden learned to not care what Carl thought, or anyone for that matter. When they heard of the change in Carl's demeanor, they shrugged it off.
Finally, from time to time, Gizmo and Claire still see those dolphins when on the water--any water. The two accept it as a sign of protection, but still hope to discover the source of the guardians.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Fifth Tale of Freddy the Llama: Abram's Harmonica

Before Abram and Sarai banished the symbols of their power, they realized that the Compass Frog had developed a personality. It was prone to fits of rage and sorrow, when its eyes would glow red, and it would sulk without motion for days on end. Abram and Sarai took note, and so placed it in a charmed box, that whoever opened it would see the wrath of the schizophrenic frog. The box itself caused the frog to lose its alignment, also. Buried within the soil of the swamp for such a long time, the frog grew both tired of the silence and slowly insane. Abram remarked at the curiosity of such a disease, and Sarai reminded him that it was a spoiled, but it was just a frog.

Since retiring to the closet, Freddy remained a silent, quiet figure. Many days, he was nowhere to be seen, but no one ever doubted his whereabouts. One day, he purchased a white suit, with black trim. He never took it off. Bran, the compass frog, had worn off on him. Its existence was a mystery to the Bards, but its effects were evident.
The Bards were together one day when they began quietly discussing the strange manner in which Freddy had been acting. Badger thought him to be sick, Schaff considered him dying, and Paddy said, "Guys, he's dead. Freddy is dead." Freddy walked in the room and said, "Paddy. I'm not dead. You're so loud." He wandered back into the closet.
The Bards thought about how to find out more about Freddy when Holden mentioned that he hadn't cleaned his closet in a while. Gizmo said that it could be used as a clever excuse, and Fox and Badger agreed.
Dumon and Paddy led the group into the closet. Paddy shouted something about housekeeping several times, and Holden and Fox told him to shut up. Entering the room, the group found him missing. They searched everywhere, as it was a large addition to the flat (mind you, Dumon and Paddy knew nothing of the closet's size) when Dumon opened a closet door.
Here, a strange young man named Jacob Corona walked out and said, "It's a closet within a closet! Closet-ception! Oh my goodness!" He then ran away. Gizmo muttered something about it not being cannibalism and Dumon shot him a disgusted look. She walked in and saw a glowing box with holes in it. She opened the box and found a frog inside, the source of the glow. When she opened the box, voices whispered "good Bran, good Bran..." Freddy, sleeping in the corner, chanted in his sleep. Dumon, giggling, said, "bad Bran, bad Bran." The frog turned red and the two disappeared. The other Bards had entered the dark room by then, as well; they witnessed the odd occurence. They all agreed with Paddy that she must be found.
Meanwhile, Dumon found herself in the swamp of Drumm. The frog sat on a stump in front of her, its eyes glowing red. She stood, and watched as orcs dressed in short, hooded coats assembled around her. some were adorned with golden jewelry, and they all swayed as they walked. She walked to the frog, watching the advancing army, and leaned to pick it up. It threw her backward some forty feet, but well within the ring of orcs. The orcs continued to advance until the frog hovered into Dumon's lap. By this time, she had crawled over to the frog's stump throne. Each of the orcs dropped to mimic the way Dumon sat. She began to get up, and so did the orcs. Frightened, she dropped back to the ground. She heard a whispery voice of some unknown language, but she understood. It was as if some out-of-focus lens turned; the system of verbs and nouns gained clarity.
The frog explained in a deep, booming voice that the orcs were under its command, but under the call of whoever held Bran. Afraid for her life, and rightly so, Dumon asked about Freddy. The frog's eyes faded as it fell asleep, and the orcs vanished. Dumon, confused and alone in the swampy forest, gathered herself and sought a river. She kept the frog in hand, in sight the entire time, and when she found a river, she began to head downstream. Suddenly, she heard voices and footsteps; she ran. She came upon a house that seemed vaguely familiar, but her head began to ache and pound. She stumbled inside, dropped the frog, and fell asleep.
Schaff remembered that Freddy (who was asleep and therefore of no use) found the frog in the Drumm swamp. Paddy said that he had a friend with a river house and boat (he specifically said "bo-at") who could be of some help. They traveled to the house, and lo and behold, it was Jacob Corona's house. "Oh yeah, Dumon? She's right inside. Watch out for my chickens," he clucked.
The house was an old and dirty shack, but when the Bards went inside, they found it lavishly styled. As they traveled from room to room, each decor style was a different, expensive set. Dumon was fast asleep on Jacob's sofa, but the frog was nowhere to be found. Freddy walked out of Jacob's closet, alert, panting, and somewhat disturbed. "Chadde has the frog, but I've stolen his power." He then told the following story.

"I can travel from closet to closet. The teleportation that Dumon went through was the frog's doing, in sheer terror. Chadde had attacked me earlier today, knocking me cold, and freezing the frog in sleep. He fled when he heard Dumon enter. The frog evidently came back to his senses still in terror and blind madness. He's prone to odd fits. I came to, and you all were gone. I found the harmonica I gave Dumon, as it was in the box with the frog, and used its might to find the frog. There was Chadde, standing over Dumon and the frog. I played a jaunty tune on the harp, and it paralyzed him. I took the frog, chanting 'good Bran, good Bran..." when Chadde grabbed the frog from me. I played another tune on the harmonica. The frog began to split. Chadde did too, but I mean that he ran. I held a green frog while Chadde carried a red one away. The green one began to glow, but I began to glow, too. The frog vanished into my hand. I dropped the harmonica in pain, but I also began to hear voices. They explained everything about the frog and the harmonica, but they're not the only talismans. One more remains, a heart pendant necklace-thingy, and Chadde knows enough about it to use it. However, he thinks we only have one source of power. We don't have much time, but while we can, we need to stop him from using the Heart of Sarai."