The Travelers and the Oyster

This is modified from Aesop’s Fables, Barners & Noble Signature Edition. 

Two travelers were walking along the shore at low tide when they saw an oyster lying there. They both reached for it at the same time, the first pushed away the other, and the two raised their staves and began to fight. An old man came along and asked why they were fighting, and when they told him, all three decided that he would listen to their arguments and act as judge.

While each traveler was arguing their case, the old man slowly picked up the oyster and opened it with his knife. When the travelers were finished, the old man solemnly took out and ate the oyster meat. He then handed each traveler a shell. “This judge,” he began, “Awards you each a shell. The oyster will cover the court fee.

FB_IMG_1427768810116

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

Award of Arms

Something very unexpected and wonderful happened to me on Saturday. I was at an SCA event called Yule, in the Barony of Bhakail (the Philadelphia area). During court (the period near the end of the event where the current royals give out awards that have been voted on secretly by members of society) I heard my SCA name called…Actually, I didn’t. Like many names, they’re uncommon, from historical times and places rarely spoken. For example, mine is Drustan, the Old Irish version of Tristan (meaning “calamity or tumult,” perfect for this walking disaster.) The herald put the emphasis on the wrong syllable (not unusual because it was the first time he probably saw my name), so I didn’t realize that it was me until Katie took my hand to walk me up and the rest of my friends were all smiles and hugs.

Once I was led up to the Queen (who is an absolutely wonderful person in mundane life as well as in the game) I knelt, and after telling the audience all about the wonderful things that people have noticed me doing, she awarded me what’s called the Award of Arms, or AoA. Basically, the AoA is the first award you receive in the SCA, for contributing in some way to the society, participating, and just making it more enjoyable for everyone. It entitles you to a noble rank, as in “Lord, Lady, or Noble,” (the SCA is very inclusive and recently added a gender-neutral title). I was given a scroll (or a promissory note for one, since the scroll wasn’t done yet) received cheers from the crowd, and walked trembling off the stage into the waiting arms of all of my friends…all of whom knew that this was coming.

I did not. I’ve only been in the SCA for a year and a half. I wasn’t expecting this so soon. Luckily, I like surprises.

It feels good to be recognized, that people have noticed me and said “we like what he’s doing, he makes the society better.” Based on the timing, I’m sure that I got it by impressing everyone with my music and storytelling at Winter Nights (I am interested in the Bardic Arts, big surprise, right?), and not for any fencing skill (since I suck). But I guess people have also noticed me just being kind, and helping out when I can.

I feel seen, and in a modern world where most of us are a shade above invisible, it feels good to be seen.

I love the SCA.

It should be noted, I had a bit to drink (we do a lot of eating and drinking. I think I’ve put on 15 pounds since joining), and I was wearing Christmas lights around my neck, over my tunic (I’ll post a pic).

Merry Yule.

FB_IMG_1576381832219

FB_IMG_1576381841960

FB_IMG_1576381861803

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

Upon a Distant Tide

Here’s yet another tale, told from the POV of my SCA persona and meant for oral presentation. I’m sure that another version will find it’s way into the book of short stories in the Watchmage world. They always do.

When I was away on a voyage, my betrothed, my loving sea, died of a fever. I 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 I swore that I would travel to the Otherworld, plead to the Gods, and bring her back to the living.

Six months later, my captain, Cornelius van Corlear, agreed to my request, and he sailed 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 gave me one week to return, or he would leave without me.

I left and found the famed cave to the Otherworld, and there I drank the rye-blight tea. I entered the cave and soon lost my senses.

crystal ship

When I awoke, I 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, Drustan of Nordenfjord,” he said. “We sail for the Otherworld.”

“I must be,” I said. “My betrothed, my loving sea, has been taken before her time.” And I spun him my tale, and of my love, a woman of rapier wit and steel in her soul, a woman that never needed saving until the day I 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.” I pleaded, but the god was unmoved. I panicked, trying to find some way to convince him. I 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 my oath. “I will not take your oath or grant your request. You cannot sail backward, for that is the gift of we gods alone.”

I stood puzzled at his words and broken at his denial.

“Your offer pleased me, Drustan of Nordenfjord, 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.

I wept, for Manannan Mac Lir never lies. My loving sea was upon another tide and sailing backward would only leave me alone and adrift.

Finally, I said “If you live backward in time, allow me this humble request. Six 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 I lost my senses once more, awaking in the cave alone with my memories.

I returned to my captain and we sailed off to a new adventure. And once more I searched for a loving sea upon every distant tide. And I found 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