The Feathered Princess

Here’s another fractured fairy tale. I think that this one with transfer over to bardic circles well…because it’s short 🙂

The Feathered Princess

Once there was a fisherman. He was small, and greedy, lecherous and generally unpleasant. His nets were torn and frayed, and he was too lazy to repair them. He was not a very good fisherman.

One day he was leaving his boat after a meager day’s catch, when he saw a fair maiden bathing. Being lecherous and generally unpleasant, he hid in the bushes to watch. And he noticed that on the lake’s shore was cloak made of feathers.

The fisherman knew the legends, and he knew that this fair maiden was actually a swan princess. If he could steal the cloak, she would have to marry him and he’d have all the riches he could ever want, and being greedy, that was a lot. He crept forward, very sneakily, for he was lecherous and used to creeping sneakily, and grabbed the feathered cloak.

“Ha ha!” He cried. “I have your feathered cloak, Swan Princess! Now you must marry me, and all of your riches will be mine!”

The maiden slowly left the lake and walked toward the fisherman. Her steps were small, but she walked with purpose, her flaxen hair falling behind her. She raised her arms in the air, as if to embrace the fisherman, and ran to him.

Here comes my wealthy, beautiful…and also wealthy princess, the fisherman thought as he rubbed his greedy palms together. Look at how eager she is for me to hold her.

The maiden stopped in front of him. She let her arms fall to her side.

“What do you have to say to your husband and lord?”

The maiden looked him in the eye…and hissed

“What?”

She leaned in until her face was inches from his. “HONK!”

“What?”

“HONK!” She snapped her head forward, breaking the fisherman’s nose. “HONK!” She headbutted him again, flapping her arms as she attacked.

The fisherman had made a terrible mistake, for it was not a Swan Princess, but a Goose…a horrible, horrible goose. “No! This isn’t how it’s supposed to happen. You’re supposed to be my bri–”

The goose maiden honked again, and her call brought a flock of geese to her aid. It was a flurry of honking and pecking as they savaged the fisherman, who was now crying for mercy and for his mother.

When the fisherman was finally a bleeding, crumpled mess, the geese lined up one by one. Each of them took a possession of his: the first took his net and threw it in a tree. The second took an oar from his boat and waddled away. The third took a boot that had come off of him and swam off. And they continued until everything he had was gone. Then the Goose Maiden took back her cloak, kicked him once, and pushed his boat out to the center of the lake.

For she was a Goose. A horrible, horrible, goose.

guinea pig card

Time and Tide (new version of Upon a Distant Tide)

I decided to rewrite a previous story, because that’s kinda what I do. I took out what I didn’t think fit. If people like this, I will write one more appropriate for Bardic spoken word (maybe even a song or poem).

Time and Tide

On the day of a mighty storm, a stranger in a deep blue cloak kissed a lovely, freckle-faced maiden three times as she lay dying. Her betrothed, a sailor, had gone away to buy the poultice that would save her, but the storm delayed him. He was a day late. His true love was dead, and he raged that fate had kept him from saving her. It was a cruel trick of the Old Gods, and he swore that he would travel to the Otherworld, plead to the Gods and bring her back to the living.

After three months of searching, the brave and heartbroken sailor traveled to Ynys Mon, the Sacred Isle, where the Romans once crushed the heart of the Druids. He found the famed Lake of Little Stones, the entrance to the Otherworld, and there he drank the henbane tea. He waded into the water and all went dark.

When he awoke, he was on a crystal ship sailing down a wide river. The sail was silver, the oarsmen mere shadows. At the prow was Mannanan Mac Lir, God of the Sea, patron of sailors, and ferryman to the Otherworld. “I know why you are here,” The god said, “But this is not your time.”

crystal ship

“Please,” the sailor answered. “My true love has been taken too soon.” And he spun the god the tale of his love, a woman of fiery hair and fiery soul, with kisses sweeter than sin, a woman that never needed saving until the day he was too late to save her.

“You wish her returned from Death. A bold request, young sailor.”

“I don’t ask for her return, only to let me try again. Give me the chance to save her.”

The God shook his head. “You cannot sail backward, and that love you dream of is upon a distant tide.”

PLEASE…please…” He gnashed his teeth. “It was your storm that stopped me.”

“Dare not accuse. I send many storms, and they crush the sick and sailors alike.”

The sailor pleaded, but the god was unmoved. He looked about, trying to find some way to convince him. His eyes fell on the shadowy oarsmen. The brave sailor threw an oarsman aside, grabbed the oar, and started rowing.

I will pull an oar for 100 years and a day if you return her. I swear it upon my soul!”

Mannanan Mac Lir smiled at the sailor’s boldness, but said No. “I will not take your oath. You cannot sail backward. Life and death, time and tide, belongs to the gods alone.”

The sailor sat puzzled at the God’s words and seethed at his denial.

Your offer pleases me,” the sea god said, “and I am rarely pleased. So I will grant you one boon. But be wary and wise, and remember what I have said. I will refuse what is not yours to have, and what you ask, you may not want.

The sailor thought hard, cutting through the choppy waves of rage and despair as they tossed him back and forth. And he heard the god’s words in his mind, “Sailing backwards. Time and tide.”

Finally, the sailor said “Time and tide rolls in and rolls out again, and this ship sails forward and backward. My request: Three months before now, please visit my love and give her kisses three: one for our love, one for our loss, and one for when we sail together in the Otherworld.”

The great god gave a knowing smile at the sailor’s request. “Agreed,” he said as he pulled back the hood of his deep blue cloak. The sky darkened into a mighty storm, the sailors rowed, and the ship turned about the way they came. The sailor lost his senses once more, awaking on the lake’s shore with faint memories and sickness from the henbane tea.

The sailor returned to his ship and never let the tide take him home. And though he saw great wonders and gained many stories to tell, he never forgot his boon from Mannanan, his lost love, and the mighty storm that took her.

doge in space card redux

The Ostrich and the Pelican

Here is yet another of Aesop’s Fables, modified slightly. This one is lesser-known, but important in the SCA. The highest award for service one can get is called The Pelican, named for the early belief that pelicans bled themselves to feed their young.

Hey, what’s a Bard without shameless flattery? 😉

The Ostrich and the Pelican

The Ostrich one day met the Pelican, and observed her breast all bloody,

“What has befallen you?” said the Ostrich. “You have certainly been attacked by some savage beast and barely escaped from his merciless claws.”

“No such attack has happened to me friend,” replied the Pelican. “I have only been tending my nest, feeding my dear little ones, and nourishing them with the blood from my bosom.”

“Your answer,” returned the Ostrich, “horrifies me more than your wounds. How terrible, to tear your own flesh, to spill your own blood, and to sacrifice yourself to the cravings of your young ones? I don’t know which to pity most, your misery or your folly.

“Take my advice: stop mangling your own body; as for your children, commit them to the Fates like I do. I lay my eggs upon the ground and cover them over lightly with sand, and never see them again. I leave them to be nursed by nature and fostered by the elements. I give myself no cares what becomes of them.”

“Unhappy wretch,” says the Pelican, “who knows not the sweets of a parent’s anxiety, the tender delight of a mother’s pain. Your lovelessness may exempt you from a temporary inconvenience; but also makes you incapable of relishing the pleasure that comes from it–a pleasure, the most exquisite of all with which Nature has indulged us; For the greatest joy is in service to those we love.”

cosmic-cat tripping balls redux

The Frog Fable Trilogy

I am still doing my thing with Fables and Fairy Tales for the SCA. Eventually, I will compile and alter them in a Watchmage book of stories.  I’m picturing a Decameron style book (I wonder why?) These three are from Aesop, but I combined them into one narrative. Enjoy.

A wise one can learn so much from one of Aesop’s fables. But I, your humble bard, have done better. Here are three of his fables, all connected. Presenting, The Epic Frog Trilogy of Epicness!

The Frog and the Mouse

A young Mouse in search of adventure was running along the bank of a pond next to a marsh, where lived a Frog. When the Frog saw the Mouse, he swam to the bank and croaked:

“Won’t you come with me to my home in the marsh? I can promise you adventure if you do.”

The Mouse did not need much coaxing, for he was excited to see the world and everything in it. But he did not dare risk going into the pond without some help.

The Frog had an idea. He tied the Mouse’s leg to his own with a tough reed. Then into the pond he jumped, dragging his young companion with him.

The Mouse soon grew afraid and wanted to return to shore; but the treacherous Frog had other plans. He pulled the Mouse down under the water and drowned him. But before he could untie the reed that bound him to the dead Mouse, a Hawk came sailing over the pond. Seeing the body of the Mouse floating on the water, the Hawk swooped down, seized the Mouse and carried it off. But the Frog was dangling from its leg! Thus at one swoop he had caught both for his dinner. For those that seek to harm others often come to harm themselves

Perhaps this frog earned his gruesome fate, but things would get much worse for our amphibious friends in the marsh.

The Fighting Oxen and the Frog

Two Oxen were fighting furiously in a field, at one side of which was the frog’s marsh. An old Frog living there marsh trembled as he watched the fierce battle.

“What are you afraid of?” asked a young Frog.

“Do you not see,” replied the old Frog, “that the Ox who is beaten, will be driven away from the field and will live in our marsh. We shall all be trampled into the mud?”

The young frog didn’t believe him, but it turned out as the old one had said. The beaten Ox was driven to the marsh, where his great hoofs crushed many frogs to death. For When the great battle, the weak suffer for it.

And so war came to the marsh, but the frogs persevered, as one does in the face of such ribbiting tragedy. So much, that one frog earned a far different fate.

The Frog and the Ox

The beaten Ox came down to a reedy pool to drink. As he splashed heavily into the water, he crushed a young Frog, the very frog that didn’t believe the old one, into the mud.

His brothers and sisters quickly told their mother, a huge and vain frog, what had happened and who had done this.

“It was great big monster,” said one of them, “he stepped on little brother with one of his huge feet!”

“Big, was he!” said the mother Frog, puffing herself up. “Was he as big as this?”

“Oh, much bigger!” they cried.

The Frog puffed up still more.

“He could not have been bigger than this,” she said. But the little Frogs all declared that the monster was much, much bigger and the old Frog kept puffing herself out more and more until, all at once, she burst. It was a horrible mess, frog guts everywhere.

Now the medieval moralists that preserved Aesop’s fables present the moral of this story as one should not attempt the impossible. But I humbly disagree. Attempt the impossible! Be larger than what you are. For though you may burst in the attempt, spilling frog guts everywhere, just before that moment, you will be larger, greater, more impossible, than you ever imagined you could be.

doge in space card redux

The Alabaster Grapes (Yet Another Fractured Fable)

Thanks to the advice of a friend, I revised my Fox and the Grapes satire, removing it completely from the fable to give me more room to play with it. Here is the first draft:

The Alabaster Grapes

Not so long ago, there was a great vineyard surrounded by steep hills and cliffs. The grapes were sweet and tasty, each grape slightly different. It wasn’t a perfect vineyard, for perfection is a myth, but most of the animals were content, except for a fox and an owl

The fox and owl had heard that somewhere in the vineyard were the legendary Alabaster Grapes, a grape with the perfect flavor. For them, only this would do.

The fox and owl searched the vineyard for the Alabaster Grapes. They sampled from every vine, some grapes plump and purple, others a green or gold approaching the alabaster they were searching for. Though they were all delicious, they did not satisfy them.

When the owl settled on the bunch of grapes that he liked best, the fox became filled with anger.

How can you settle!?” Demanded the fox. “Only the Alabaster Grapes are worthy.”

The Alabaster Grapes are just a legend, my friend,” said the owl. “We must enjoy the best we have.”

No! I will never back down, and these inferior grapes are in my way. They are now my enemy.”

“How can grapes be an enemy?”

“They are my enemy!”

But they’re delicious,” said the owl as he ate a tasty grape.

The fox was so enraged by his friend’s wisdom and pragmatism that he chose to teach him a harsh lesson. The fox grabbed a branch from Mankind’s Fiery Flower, the one that brought heat and destruction.

The fox set the owl’s favorite grapevine aflame with the Flower. “You dare settle? Now you get nothing! Good day, sir!” And his friend’s weeping enraged the fox even more. He set every plant in the vineyard on fire, watching with satisfaction as they burned.

But the Fiery Flower burns all in its path. The flames spread red across the land. All the animals except those living high in the verdant hills were burned to death or fled far from the vineyard. Even the owl died in the flames, but the fox felt no guilt for his friend’s gruesome death. He watched from his borrow on a high cliff, where the fire would not touch him.

And when the fires went out, all the vineyard was destroyed except for one grapevine, which was covered with white ash. “At last!” Cried the fox. “The Alabaster Grapes!” The fox came down from the verdant hills and took a bite of one of the ashy grapes. It was dry and bitter, the flavor of desolation.

“This is fine,” said the fox between choking bites. “This is just fine.”

****

If you have any feedback, please comment below. Like with all of my stories, I strive for perfection.

doge in space card redux

Upon a Distant Tide (Revised to 3rd Person)

I decided to write a 3rd person POV version of Upon a Distant Tide. I think that it will be more accessible.

While a sailor was away on a voyage, his betrothed, his loving sea, died of a fever. He returned home to the news, and raged that the fire in her soul consumed her body. It was a cruel trick of the Old Gods, and he swore that he would travel to the Otherworld, plead to the Gods, and bring her back to the living.

Three months later, the heartbroken sailor traveled to Ynys Mon, the Sacred Isle, where the Romans once crushed the heart of the Druid religion, and where stood an entrance to the Otherworld.

He left and found the Lake of Little Stones, the entrance to the Otherworld, and there he drank the rye-blight tea. He waded into the water and soon all went dark.

crystal ship

When he awoke, he was on a crystal ship sailing down a wide river. The sail was silver, and the oarsmen mere shadows. At the prow was the God of the Sea and patron of sailors, Manannan Mac Lir. “You should not be here,” he said. “We sail for the Otherworld.”

“I must be,” the sailor answered. “My betrothed, my loving sea, has been taken before her time.” And he spun the god his tale, and of his love, a woman of rapier wit and steel in her soul, a woman that never needed saving until the day he was not there to save her.

He shook his head. “You cannot sail backward, for that loving sea you dream of has flowed to a distant tide.”

“Please…PLEASE…bring her back to me.” He pleaded, but the god was unmoved. The sailor panicked, trying to find some way to convince him. He looked at the shadowy oarsmen.

“I will pull an oar for 100 years and a day if you return her to life. I swear it upon the sea!”

The Sea God smiled for he believed the oath. “I will not take your oath or grant your request. You cannot sail backward, for that is the gift of we gods alone.”

The sailor stood puzzled at his words and broken at the god’s denial.

“Your offer pleased me,” the sea god said,  “and in these times, I am rarely pleased. So I will explain and share a secret of the gods. We live backward in time. We were born weak as kittens at the Sun’s final death. We grow stronger every day before, and at the height of our might, we will die setting the foundations of the Earth. Your past is our future.

The sailor wept, for all know that Manannan Mac Lir never lies. His loving sea was upon a distant tide and sailing backward would only leave him alone and adrift.

Finally, he said “If you live backward in time, allow me this humble request. Three months before now, please visit my love and give her three kisses: one for our love, one for our loss, and one for when we sail together again in the Otherworld.”

The great god agreed, and the sailor lost my senses once more, awaking on the lake’s shore, alone with his memories.

The sailor returned to his ship and sailed off to a new adventure. And once more he searched for a loving sea upon every distant tide. And perhaps one day he will find her.

Like this story? Then you’ll love my series, The Watchmage Chronicles. The first book, The Watchmage of Old New York, is only 99 cents! Come visit a 19th century New York, where a world of magic and supernatural beings exists beyond the riches of the Upper Ten Thousand and the grim deaths of the poor.

Watchmage black

doge in space card redux

The Day I Took A Piece of the Rainbow

Here’s yet another story fairy tale, this one in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve been telling a version of this at SCA events, but I finally wrote it down. Some form of it will likely end up in the Watchmage anthology. Enjoy.

(BTW, The first book in the Watchmage Chronicles is still only 99 cents. If you like these shorts, support your humble writer friend and pick the book up.

Watchmage black

One day, I fell in love with a fair maiden, but she would only marry me if I brought her a present of great worth, one that no one else could ever possess. Being the man that I am, I swore that I would bring her a piece of the rainbow, the most powerful of charms, or never return.

I sailed to find the end of the rainbow, where I could chip off a piece. Who would miss a tiny piece? I thought.  So, we sailed to the North, the West, the South, and the East. We sailed in the circle…we were all pretty drunk.

But I followed that rainbow. I went by sea and by sail, rode over hill and dale…even over Chip. Finally, I came to the end of the rainbow. It ended at the roof of a stone guard house, and in front of the guardhouse was a fierce leprechaun, armed with a mighty hammer that he held with two hands. Around his neck was a tiny piece of the rainbow.

Leprechaun

The leprechaun growled as he waved his hammer at me. “Ye canno’ have me gold, b’hoy. Leave, afore I squash ye flat.”

“I don’t want your gold, only a piece of the rainbow.”

“Wha’?” He stepped forward to squash me flat, or at least my kneecaps.

“I brought gifts” and I retrieved four bottles of whiskey from my cart.

“Leave da whiskey,” he said. “Now move yer feet backward.” He slapped his hammer against one hand.”

But I knew a secret about leprechauns. They can’t resist a challenge. I looked at the stone wall of the guard house. “I’ll wager with you that I can knock down this wall with four strokes. If I win, you give me a piece of the rainbow. If I lose, I’ll give you this whiskey, and you can squash me flat.”

The leprechaun laughed. “Wager accepted! These walls have lasted a thousand years. That whiskey and yer squashed head are mine!”

So I went to the wall and stretched as if I was ready to perform some great feat of strength. I raised my hand over my head. “Here goes…”

*knock* upon the wall. *knock* in front of my eyes. *knock* at my waist. *knock* at my knees.

I turned around and grinned.

The leprechaun looked at me dumbfounded, his hammer fell to his side, for he knew I had won. I knocked down the wall.

curing in Gaelic, he snatched the piece of the rainbow hanging from his neck and threw it at me. I left him the whiskey, for I knew that he’d need to drink his sorrows away.

And I returned to my love and presented her the piece of the rainbow, the most powerful of charms. But she refused me. She instead chose a man with a…bigger charm.

And that is why I wear this chunk of rainbow around my neck. It’s not the size of the charm that matters. It’s how you win it.

cosmic-cat tripping balls redux