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Esben’s Tales part 2

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The next morning young Esben found his throat aching from all the talking he’d done the day before. He ate and drank in silence for the day until the Meddyg’s promised visit came. She brought with her this time another ofyddian dressed in armor and armed with a sword. He stood a foot higher than the Meddyg, but his horns were smaller and his eyes more sunken. Esben realized he was staring and turned his eyes to the more visually pleasing Meddyg (who, Esben considered, should she actually have hair, would make a wonderful wife).

Esben started to speak, and it came out first as a squeak. He cleared his throat and asked, “What have I done? To those crackpot cultists, that is.”

Meddyg Ibis sat herself next to Esben on the bed of his borrowed room. Her bulky ofyddian companion shifted to block the door. A sudden wave of dread washed over Esben as the supposition that the Meddyg and her mate were a couple of the crackpots. Seeing the discomfort in his face, Ibis (as usual) laughed. Esben smiled nervously and wondered if he would survive the jump from the second story window at this time.

The Meddyg spoke. “We sank that ship a thousand years ago in the deepest part of the ocean in hopes that history would be preserved until such time when the old gods and demons were no longer … desirable. It’s a terrible thing to destroy a story, so even I can’t forgive you for burning their books.”

Esben cowered slightly more than he’d already been cowering. “You—” he squeaked again, “You don’t look that old.”  Ibis gave him a pat on the back and laughed loudly. Esben flinched.

“Don’t get me wrong,” she continued, “I like you. You’ve done much. You’ve done what the Meddygon could never do. You’ve destroyed history, and prevented a future. A future no one would like, I’m certain of it, but that’s no matter now. Those were the only books and that order of idiots was never much concerned with sharing rituals verbally.” She gave him a motherly kiss on the forehead. “For that, I thank you.”

Esben, still quite nervous, blubbered. “I meant to p–properly dry those books,” he admitted.

“It’s no matter now, young man, there is only a story of it, and if you don’t tell anyone that your deed was all a mistake, no one will know. Now as for your dream of never lifting a finger for yourself again—” she turned to the door guard, “Dafyd, take Esben to the college, then protect him.”

The man spoke for the first time, his voice gruff like a man who’s smoked cigars since he was a teenager, “How long?”

“Until I need you again,” Ibis replied. The two men promptly vanished from the room, leaving the woman alone. She frowned.

Old Man Esben to this day tells of his heroic deeds for the order of the Meddygon and how he destroyed the order of Thedalavey (which he didn’t learn the name of until much later, but he’ll never admit that), ending a long and arduous battle of the cults.

Esben’s Tales Part 1

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Esben regarded his past as a series of trials to achieve his ultimate goal of never having to lift a finger for himself again. Having finally succeeded at this goal, he found he had far too little to do and spent most of his time regarding his past adventures. He found it much more fun now that he was old and grey to talk of these adventures rather than go on the adventures, and so Old Man Esben became his name around town and if you gave him a meal, he gave you a story.

The young ones of the village oft thought his stories false, because who on Earth could have done as much as he did?

Who could have possibly slain a dragon three-thousand times their own size, when there are so few dragon in the world? Old Man Esben did when he visited the Isla de los Dragones and defeated their great God-King Godofredo. Ask him, and he’d tell you how he went there looking for a piece of their wealth and found the dragons to be dirt-poor serfs  to a tyrannical despot. He relieved the King of his post (and his head) and left the island after a full year of celebration. With nothing to show for it, of course, but the memories as Godofredo’s body was completely destroyed in retribution and it turns out that the dragons didn’t hoard anything but sea-shells.

Who would possibly want to swim to the bottom of the ocean so search for riches? Old Man Esben did when he heard throwing coal into the deepest part of the ocean made pure diamonds appear. He swam after his coal after an hour and figured it was taking far too long for his liking, but came up a richer man anyway after raiding a sunken ship. It was too bad that the goods taken from the ship were nothing more than soggy old books, but he was sure someone would want them. And someone did, which is all the better for Esben because wet books are heavy and boring to him.

And who could possibly defeat an ancient and dark order of eldritch demon worshippers, or even get involved in that? Why Old Man Esben of course, after he offered his services to dry their water logged books and promptly burnt them to a crisp when they refused to pay him for his troubles of rescuing them.

Ask Old Man Esben what he did after that and he’ll tell you the next few years were terrible for his nerves. He did a lot of hiding, fleeing, and panicking, up until he made his way to an unspoilt village of happy people. These blissful people, seeing him in his weakened, disheveled state gave him food and a bed. They even had their Meddyg give him a visit and patch him up. Esben asked what could he give them in return for this much needed respite, and the Meddyg asked for a story.

Esben told her everything, just as he would tell anyone who asked in his current home town, because from that moment on he felt perfectly safe. He even admitted to her that his goal was to never have to lift a finger again for himself (she laughed) and it looked like he’d gotten to that point finally (she laughed again). Esben always though the ofyddians had a strange sense of humor, but he found himself laughing with her now.

She left him then, and promised to let him rest until tomorrow evening. “Then,” she said, “I shall ask more of your recent encounters. This dark order is larger than you may have realized, and you have done them a far greater injury than you can possibly imagine.” Esben swallowed air and half-choked upon it. She laughed again, more of a pleased grunt than anything, and left.

Ibis’s Flight, part 2

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We’d walked for some time in silence through the cave below my home. The only light was from the two small gems Magistrate Cefin and I wore around our necks. They were each smaller that a little finger nail, but they emit enough light to show us a ten foot radius of our surroundings.

Cefin had packed a bag of his personal belongings before he came to my home, and I now carried it for him along with my own. He’d brought objects of sentimental value to himself, and it confused him when he’d watched me pack. “Do you really expect to need a jar of pickled spiders on this trip?” he had asked, “Or a half-dozen ivory spice shakers?” He stopped asking questions about my odd choices when I placed a box of fishing hooks into my bag and pulled out the light gems.

The silence of our walk was broken by Cefin first as he requested that we sit for a bit. As he drank from his canteen I removed a jar from my bag. It contained a balm for rejuvenating tired, aching muscles. I grabbed one of his legs and began to rub the balm on it without his consent. He didn’t object, but did ask where I got it. “From my satchel,” was my answer.

He’d learned long ago that I perform tricks beyond his understanding and had decided to stop asking about them. I often frustrated him by truthfully answering the questions he asked, but reminding him that he’s not asking the right questions to get the answers he wants. All the years of this annoyance must have finally sunk in. He leaned forward and asked a better question: “How did you get it from your satchel when you did not put it there in the first place?”

“I traded a collection of dried butterflies for it,” I replied. His eyes narrowed; I laughed. I moved to applying balm to his other leg and continued, “There was a Meddyg, rather a Shaman, in a far away land in need of butterflies for his potions. I asked for a muscle-soothing salve in exchange and he agreed.”

“I’ll never understand it, I suppose,” Cefin said. I gave a short chuckle and continued masaging his legs. No matter how close he desired to be to me in his youth, I always pushed him away by confusing him. It was easy to do, as it seemed no human was capable of understanding instantaneous trade, or communication, over long distances.

“Oh, you just don’t want to,” I said and stood. I wiped the excess balm off my hands on the bottom of my cloak. It would collect more dirt from the cave, but cleanliness didn’t much interest me at this time. “It’s like an ethereal market in the back of every Meddyg’s mind; one offers up a number of items for trade and asks for a specific need in return for whatever they take.”

“I get that much,” Cefin said, “State’s tried to replicate it and force the villages into joining their setup. I don’t get, and I’m sure they don’t get, how you move physical objects such great distances in no time at all. They instead use objects made to specific standards and place them in every city, town, and village, so that anyone who wanted a tool for a task has what they need available.”

“It’s a horrible substitute,” I said, “You can’t make a standard wolf to trade for a standard wife.” The look on his face amused me, as did any expression of realization from a human.

“So you, with the she-wolf,” he stuttered. “How did you get a wolf’s brain into a woman’s body?”

“Magic,” I replied. An overly simplified answer, one which he was again not pleased with. Magic was just a word to describe things unexplained or not understood and he knew this; he also knew that everything occurred for a reason and that if something seemed magic, it was because they just hadn’t figured it out yet.

“I can’t tell you how to do it without you taking years of training as a Meddyg, Cefin.” This was the first time I’d used his name since he was in his twenties, long before he was the Magistrate of the village. Hearing his name spoken resonated with him and brought him back to the reality of the situation. He was no longer a Magister, and as such I did not call him by that title.

“I’m not happy with that answer, but I suppose I’ll have to accept it. You have rules to follow just like anyone else.” He stood and stretched his legs. We continued on in silence again.

Ibis’s Flight part 1

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Consider this a rough draft. Feel free to let me know if I did anything stupid.

The woman tapped her forehead with two fingers on her right hand. The man furled his brow as he thought about what that might mean. Meanwhile, I watched.

“Why do you keep asking me these questions?” the woman asked, “Why is there a hearing? How can you not look at her and know she is sinister? She stole my mind,my body, my life! She turned me into this!” Now she rose to show the audience of one herself in full: a thoroughly average woman of medium stature and weight. His brow remained furled.

She then banged on the desk before him, “YOU! ANSWER! She has you now, doesn’t she? She’s warping you! She-”

“He’s not my type,” I interrupted. Her face twisted into an impudent snarl; her nose curled as if something rotten were thrust below it. She aimed a perfectly normal, human finger at my face.

“She has no respect! See how she interferes with the proceedings!”

“Which you were just arguing again-”

“It’s not your turn!”

I put my hands up in resignation and remained seated as she breathed heavily through her average-sized nasal passage. By now the judge in this case had attempted to unfurl his brow by applying great pressure from his fingertips.

“Now as I was saying,” the woman continued, feigning calm but still maintaining a tone of indignation in her voice, “She has stolen everything from me and turned me into something I cannot stand to be. She did not give me what I asked for, and she has ruined my life. I cannot go back home! I cannot move on!”

“Madam,” the man finally spoke. “This is something I see quite often. Ibis is someone I see quite often.” The woman’s face piqued. She looked almost thrilled to hear that I see this magistrate regularly. “People come to her for miracles and she gives them reality. What did you come to her as? A she-wolf. What are you now? A human. You wanted to be a wife to your master, and now you are. I don’t at all see how the Meddyg failed in your fantasy.”

The woman’s excitement quickly waned. “But he does not want me, and it is because she did not make me beautiful!” I laughed, but the judge put up a finger to silence me.

“Your master does not want you because he wanted a dog, not a wife,” he said, “I suppose Ibis intended you to realize that sooner.” He looked to me and I nodded. “She’d have turned you back in an instant if you’d just have asked. It’s a shame she had to waste my time like this.”

The woman bore a look of confusion now, her eyes twitching slightly at the thought of betrayal. “I don’t … understand.”

“No, I don’t think you would. Meddyg Ibis, if you please.” He gestured to me, then to the woman. “I would like you to undo whatever it is you have done to this beast.”

“Oh come now, Magister, I didn’t make her that hideous,” I said, though he frowned disapprovingly at me. I laughed and pulled a collar and leash from my satchel. “From bitch, to bitch, to bitch,” I said as I latched the collar around her throat. The words were unnecessary, but it gave me some mild amusement as she tried to feign reluctance at receiving the leather strap.

In an instant a large black half-wolf sat upon the magistrate’s chair. Whatever other half her dog self was, I never bothered to ask. Perhaps I did inquire when I returned her to her master a short time later, but as it is unimportant to me, I retained no thought of it. I’m sure the mystery will allow any number of story-tellers to fill in the blanks as they see fit based upon their audience. The man thanked me for return of his dog, and made no mention of the woman who followed him home from hunting the day he lost her.

The magistrate called upon me at my home later that week. It was no small feat as I lived an hour’s walk from the village and he was far past his prime. “I do make housecalls,” I said as he opened my door. He never knocked, in all the years he’s visited me he has never knocked. I remained facing the pot of tea I had prepared as the leaves steeped. I heard him seat himself at my small table.

“One of these days,” he said as he stretched his legs under the table, “It will not be me and you will be forced to admit that you can’t see into the future and that you’ve been making tea for two every night for twenty-odd years, whether I show up or not.” I brought a cup of tea to him bearing the same mirthful smile I always do when he says that.

“What brings you here this time?” I asked. “Is it the puppies?” He gave me a quizzical look that quickly turned to realization. He chuckled, not because he was amused by the comment, but because he was nervous.

“City affairs,” He said and sipped, eying me over the edge of his cup. He was trying to gauge my response, but it was always hard for him. Familiar facial tics and twitches were not something I had. My eyes did not shine when I was filled with glee, nor did my nostrils flare when I was angered. To his, and many others’, irritation and discontent, I was eternally bemused by the daily lives of humans.

He continued to sip, and to stare. This had to be big news. I retrieved a bottle of liquor from my cupboard before returning to the table and filled my teacup with it. I held it out to the magistrate and he set his own cup down in favor of the alcohol. This is really big news. I stared into his eyes as he sipped his new drink.

“Well, your wish is coming true,” I said to him after he finished the shot of liquor. He started, unprepared for my statement. “If you’re wondering how much I know about what you’re going to say, you can be delighted or dissatisfied in knowing I have no idea what you’re here for.”

“State has taken the village,” he said, “They will come for you in the morning. They will not find me in my office tomorrow, and they will come for me, too.”

For the first time in three decades, I frowned.