Those who have heard the mystical tales...

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.