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.