Those who have heard the mystical tales...

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."

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Fourth Tale Of Badger: The Siege of Fort Ni Aps

Badger grew up in a house with two sisters. Mama Sinkus loved her daughters more than any mother had ever known, and raised them in a house between Bamah and the swamp of Drumm. Her older sisters, Karli and Kati, teased her, like all older siblings do, but in their rivalries showed her not only love, but also a particualr set of skills, that not many are familiar with, much less masters of: espionage, deception, and archery. Her sisters were gossipers, as women, and blackmailers, as warriors. They fought for King Carl, and were stationed at the southernmost Bamah fort of Ni Aps.
One day, Mama Sinkus asked Badger to take her sisters their birthday gifts, as she couldn't travel to Ni Aps; Badger fought Kawan during this time. Ecstatic at the chance to see her sisters, Badger immediately packed for the trip. She left the Bards, but they assumed where she was; knowing her free spirit self, they shrugged it off.
Badger arrived at fort Ni Aps, and found her sisters not long after. The gatekeeper knew her, and led her right to Kati and Karli. The sisters celebrated the long-awaited reunion in their normal style--food, drink, and tale-telling ("catching up" is the term they used). Badger, in her merriment, chose to stay for the week.
The next day, Badger wandered the grounds of the fort. She came upon a street musician; fascinated by the crowds that gathered around, she stopped to see his show. He performed simple sleight-of-hand, but it was evident by his show that he had been practicing for a long time. After his show, she approached him, asking for tips on his performance. He smiled, introduced himself as The Great Scott, and took her to the house he lived in. He revealed that he knew her family; had heard of them; well, had known them.
Kati and Karli fought under his father in several battles. He was wounded, and Karli defended as Kati carried his father back to the fort. Scott watched as the three came into the fort; he felt grateful to them. Badger spoke of returning the message, and the two laughed.
So Badger and Scott conversed, for an hour or two; they soon grew close, enjoying every moment together more than the last. Then, alarms began sounding throughout the town; an outside force threatened the fort, and the two returned to the sisters' barracks.
For many years, the Baman people lived in harmony with the Antipoans to the south. However, Antipoa was recently stricken with an army of orcs, who, when driven away, headed north along the Wolfe River.
When Badger and Scott found Kati and Karli, they had armed themselves for combat. Badger saw that she really shouldn't go into the battle, as her mother cared very much for all of them, and losing even one daughter would be devastating, so any rogue heroic act, however awesome and theatrical it would be, would be ignorant and unnecessary. Scott, who later criticized my use of a run-on sentence to describe her single thought, stayed behind with her.
The orcs broke the front gate with brute force. Several men died in that one skirmish. Kati and Karli's forces drove them back at the second wall, and Karli took out the orcs' mightiest warrior. Scott convinced Badger to follow him to the highest tower of the second wall (which wasn't a difficult task) and there they shadowed the archers, stealing glimpses of the battle. When one orc scaled the fortress wall, several archers died pushing him back, but to no avail. Scott, stealing a sword off the nearest tower guard, sent him back to the ledge. Badger stole a bow off a dead archer, and when the orc fell over the side, he pulled Scott with him. Badger sent her first arrow right through the orc's forehead. Scott freed himself in time to survive the fall with only a broken arm. Badger covered him as he made his way to the front gate. Kati noticed him, and calling Karli, defended the retreating magician. Badger continued the fight atop the wall, skillfully driving back orc after orc. Not even three of her arrows missed that day, and the battle swiftly ended when Antipoan armies flanked the orcs. What orcs didn't flee, died in combat.
That night, a feast was held to celebrate the two nations' alliance. Kati, Karli, Badger, and two other Bamans were awarded for their bravery, as were several Antipoans. Scott healed quickly, and was able to return to Bamah with Badger. They lived with Mama Sinkus, happily awaiting their next adventure together, with the Bards, or not.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Third Tale of Freddy the Llama: The Compass Frog

Long ago, before Bamah was settled by any sort of creature, three Grand Sorcerers ruled the land to the north (known as Drumm), sharing power equally, for a time. Then, one leader, the youngest, gathered most of his armies and power into one talisman, meaning to overthrow the other two. Chadde, as he was named, ruled a swamp where he made his dwelling. As it was a swamp, it was inhabited by many frogs. He kept one as a pet; it had the odd ability to always point due north, no matter how Chadde held it. "Bran" was its name, and Chadde frequently petted it, as he chanted, "good Bran, good Bran." The unassuming frog (it's a frog, it doesn't assume much anyway) was brainwashed into believing that all it did was good. Its life source became intertwined with Chadde's, so that one could not be awakened without the other.
Not all was good, however. The other two came together to discuss the matter. Realizing that their younger brother was stupid and that he should neither store all his power in one item nor attempt to take out both siblings, they decided to take out Chadde together and commit their lives to protecting the three power talismans--they chose to store their own powerful armies in similar fashions. Sarai, the middle and wisest sorcerer carried a heart-shaped necklace with her; Abram, the oldest and most powerful chose his favorite harmonica (I said strongest, not wisest) as his token. The three met in the field now home to the King Carl's castle, and the older two smote Chadde with thunder and light never known before. The two, commenting on how easy the victory was, sent the talismans to the end of the swamp, to be found only by those worthy of them. They would be called Majors of the Drumman Armies, and would take on the roles of the three Grand Drumman Sorcerers.
Freddy was a normal llama, that is, as normal as llamas get. He lived in Bamah with the Bards, and this is his tale. However, the tale starts in the days before Gizmo. As Freddy, Paddy, Badger, Dumon and Schaff were exploring the mystical remains of the swamp, Freddy tripped on a stone; the group traveled ahead, clueless of the events that were unfolding. Flipping it over, he noticed an odd glow coming from under the stone. "That's odd," he remarked, and pulled a gold box out from under it. The Box was unlocked despite a keyhole, and when he opened it, Freddy found a silver harmonica an another box with holes. The entire Box gave off a feel as if something was missing, but Freddy shrugged it off. He pocketed the harmonica and retrieved the inside box. It began croaking, "good Bran, good Bran," and Freddy found a frog inside. Picking it up, he noticed it began turning. South. No matter where he held it, the frog faced South. Then, Dumon and Paddy returned to Freddy, shouting about "finding him" and "what happened?" and "cannibalism" and "Come on, not again." Freddy showed them the frog. The entire group was awed by the frog and its unique skill. Freddy kept the frog.
The group returned to Bamah, but before they could, large beasts began to grow out of the ground. Afraid for obvious reasons, the group took off toward the town. Again, Freddie tripped. "Why am I so clumsy today?" he said, as he ran for the frog. When he picked up the frog, the frightening beasts surrounded him. Just as mortal terror set in, the beasts dropped to one knee, or root, or whatever any beast could bow on. (Most beasts are truly magnificent creatures, but weird. Take the platypus, for example. They don't do much. I digress...)
Realizing the significance of this possibility, Freddy asked of the army their leader. A resounding "HE WHO HOLDS THE FROG. So, basically you." shocked Freddy. The beasts established their ownership and the story of their slumber. Freddy asked if they were "you know, there if I need you." One beast approached Freddy and pointed to the frog, telling him to rub it and chant "good Bran."
Freddy returned the beasts to the earth, and himself to the Flat. Entering, he found the Bards ready for battle to save his life. Nothing happened, according to Freddy's account. Dumon, being always hospitable, asked him if he had need of anything. Freddy asked for a room, even though Schaff pointed out that he had a perfectly good home and belongings just outside Bamah. Freddy traded the harmonica for a closet, any closet. Dumon, a harmonica connoisseur, happily agreed. Thus, Dumon held Abram's harmonica, unbeknowst to herself, and Freddy held the frog.
Freddy sold his house and converted the closet to nice cottage, only in a closet, and there lived for the rest of his days. However, Chadde, brought back by the use of the frog, was angered. Searching for the frog he so desired, Chadde moved to his swamp. Finding the empty Box, Chadde plotted his revenge on the characters who established Bamah.