Those who have heard the mystical tales...

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.