RE: Gabriel Firefoot, the Dancing Flame (and his Buddy)

(Disclaimer, this is a re-post from Tuesday. Again, busy-ass week.)

Did you know that Lego used to bury its used molds in the concrete foundations of buildings to keep them from being reused? Think about that the next time you get paranoid uploading to the Cloud – Lego already one-up’d you.

Happy (Thursday), everybody!

I’m out of cheeky one-liners, so I’m just going to hop right to it.

May I present:

Gabriel Firefoot, the Dancing Flame

Gabriel Firefoot, having been abandoned by his friends in a tavern on the northern edge of the Rift, sat on a wooden bench with a sullen heart in his chest and an ale in his hand. He continued to let the ale quell the headache that pounded away at his temples as a sympathetic bubbling noise came from the ceramic vase at his side.

“I know, Flynnt,” he began, speaking seemingly to the air. “We allow ourselves a single night of gallivanting to properly explore the town, and they up and fucking leave us. Bastards’ll probably get eaten by giants.”

More bubbly syllables arose in response from the container.

“No I don’t actually mean it. Of course I hope they make it back in one piece. They could have said something before taking off is all. The way I figure it, we have plenty of gold left over from our way up here to live pretty comfortable for about a month. They should be back before then, right?”

The cork lid on the vase gave a small, happy jump in reply.

As the weeks progressed, Gabriel frittered away his small adventuring fortune on drink and social displays in the taverns, trinkets and oddities in the shops, and warm baths and women for his luxuries. Though, as his coin purse began to feel light, with his previous adventuring party still not returned to town and no other suitable traveling types coming through, he felt the looming threat of poverty at his heels. Not wishing to return to the days of stealing scraps of bread as a guttersnipe, he turned to the talent that had served him in that time: he performed.

He and his molten familiar Flynnt took to dazzling passersby with the arts of dance, acrobatics, and wonderful displays of fire. Through these talents, his reputation, and social antics, Gabriel managed to make a way for himself and Flynnt. While the two didn’t enjoy quite the same levels of luxury as before, they managed a comfortable residence at the Rift Keep. After some time, his content attitude began to fade and the fire-dancer longed again for the feel of the road beneath his feet.

Perhaps a fortnight after these feelings took root, a fantastic spectacle came to town: Dr. Grumbar’s Terrific Traveling Troop. The nomadic carnival made its stake in the town’s caravan park, and Gabriel would have been perturbed at the subtracted business if Dr. Grumbar himself, a finely dressed, portly dwarf with a magnanimous red beard, hadn’t discovered him while the showman was about town during the carnival’s setup.

“Well look at you!” bellowed the dwarf. “Yer all flames n’ heels n’ wonder ain’t ye? You lookin’ fer work, laddie?”

Gabriel gladly accepted the dwarf’s handsome offer and began his life anew as a dancing acrobat and fire-breather extraordinaire for the traveling circus. After the company had finished its time in the Rift Keep, they set their course south back into Fenris proper. And so Gabriel and Flynnt traveled, performing in such places ranging from Song to Stettin, Freehaven to the Iron Citadel itself. The company found themselves in Neven as the dry season had come around to its peak.

“Hot as a forge’s arsehole up here it is!” Grumbar jested as he addressed the circus. “That, combined with all those horrid critters these poor folk got’a deal with, they need entertainment! Let’s give ’em a show!”

Gabriel and Flynnt had just finished with their routine, making their way to the performers’ tented section of the grounds. Gabriel congratulated himself and his familiar, and Flynnt would bubble back jovial responses to the praise. He had just lied down and was about to uncork Flynnt’s carrier when the bell at their tent door sounded a ring to let them know a visitor had come. He welcomed the fan in, yet withdrew some at the sight that drew back the canvas flap.

A hunched, hooded figure took several hobbling steps into the tent before speaking, though Gabriel already felt an empathetic tension emanate from the vase to his side.

“You and your…creature…were spectacular tonight,” spoke the hood, with a raspy voice and in an accent that Gabriel could not quite place.

“Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the show,” Gabriel offered tenuously. He tried to see the man’s face but the darkness of the hood made it difficult. With a thought, he made the lanterns in the tent burn more brightly.

The hooded man shrank slightly at the added light and turned away some. “Might I, perhaps, meet your creature?” he ventured.

“I’d need to know your name first, sir.” The hooded figure only withdrew further and offered no answer. Gabriel pressed. “Did Grumbar let you back here? It’s normally for performers only.”

“The creature…” repeated the hood. Gabriel felt fear emanate more and more strongly from Flynnt the longer this man remained in the room.

“I think you should go…” Gabriel began, the last words more slipping from his lips than properly spoken. His eyes drifted over the hooded man’s shoulder to the tent flap, gently parted by a nighttime gust, and Gabriel saw the prone, motionless bodies of two guardsmen.

The figure must have read Gabriel’s reaction, for it then wasted no time in making a lunge for the vase that housed Flynnt. Gabriel matched the man’s move, parried him aside, and, with a grapple, threw him over a wooden dresser. As he lifted himself from the ground, the cloak and its hood caught on the dresser’s handle and were pulled away, revealing not a man but a twisted creature. Its limbs were gnarled and covered with violet mange and it wore a mask of black iron through which haunting yellow eyes peered ravenously at Gabriel and Flynnt. Its hands were clawed and it raked the wooden dresser in anger as it prepared for another lunge.

The fire-dancer was quick, scooping up Flynnt in his vase and made to roll under a back tent flap to escape, though too late as the masked creature was upon him, grappling him by the sling that held Flnnt. Gabriel delivered a powerful kick to its midsection, sending the creature toppling over a wardrobe chest. The rope strained and soon tore under the stress of the struggle, sending the hardened ceramic container and its cork stopper tumbling across the room in different directions. Flynnt, desperate to make an escape from the monster, hurriedly spilled out of his vase and sped for his protector, Gabriel.

The masked horror steadied itself and made a grab for Flynnt once more. Gabriel, in a defensive rage, summoned a blaze of fire in both palms and gripped the iron mask tight, pouring all of his essence into the act, screaming with the strain, intent on cooking the beast’s head to ashes inside the cauldron that was its mask. It loosed a gut-wrenching scream at the pain and as it did so Gabriel’s mind was assaulted with all manner of strange symbols and visions. He saw the very earth cracking apart with an orange glow, forests repeatedly burned to ash and regrew in a manner of seconds, and runic notes in a language he recognized but couldn’t understand felt to brand themselves in his mind before all went dark.

Gabriel came to consciousness a short time later to the sound of panic and chaos. He roused his senses, collected the vase with its stopper, and mentally called out to Flynnt. The familiar responded to him with a frightened bubbling sound from under the bed. Gabriel sighed a quick breath of thanks to the powers that be and ushered him into the vase. While the creature that attacked them was nowhere to be seen, Gabriel saw clear drag marks in the dirt leaving the tent in a hurry as well as the creature’s mask, some seared flesh lining the interior. The fire-dancer collected the mask, Flynnt with his carrier, and a small manner of essentials in a satchel and left the tent to investigate the flurry of chaotic sounds that surrounded their tent.

Stepping outside, Gabriel was met with a disastrous sight: the carnival gone up in flames. Circus folk and patrons all bustled about, either in a fleeing panic or efforts to combat the blaze. His head surged with pulses of pain, briefly revisited by the visions brought by the wicked creature’s screams, though in them he saw a building that housed a great tree, split in twain. He recognized it as the great tree in the main tavern by the town’s central plaza, though only this time, he saw the tree’s veins and the life that flowed through them. He felt beckoned and, though desperately weakened by his encounter, mustered what he could to traverse the chaotic crowds between himself and the tree.

He was jostled, shoved, and thrown by the fleeing crowds. As best he could, Gabriel made use of the alleyways so as to avoid the thickest of the flooding mobs. His magic exhausted, Flynnt would shield him from the flames when they would otherwise prove dangerous. Eventually, the two made it to the building which housed the broken tree. Patrons of the establishment and workers all ran about with buckets, drawing from the well to battle the ensuing blaze. Pushing past them all to the front door, he shoved it open and took the final shuffling steps to the base of its trunk.

As he and Flynnt approached the tree amid the chaotic flames, Gabriel felt his focus becoming clearer – the tree before him the center of this focus, gaining an aura that grew stronger the closer he came. The strange runes and glyphs from his encounter with the creature again surged to mind, and as he lay his hand on the trunk’s face, he felt them become an explosion. Symbols and patterns flew about his own mind and that of Flynnt’s: Fire, Earth, Mind, Nature – these ideas and their deeper meanings that transcended language and seared themselves into the fabric of his being. Soon he had both hands on its trunk and the feeling that followed was one singular to that moment in Gabriel’s life.

He felt as a part of the relic on which he laid his hands. The energy that flowed through the tree was like blood through his veins and he felt entrenched in the earth as if its roots were his own. He could see through his touch that the object before him stood not alone, but part of the forest that surrounded Neven and beyond. Though not in voice, this connection begged him use his talents to put down the blaze that threatened it and he soon felt flushed with new energy – a mana force more fluid and pure than he’d experience in his lifetime. With it, his breath came easier, filled his chest more fully, blood flowed with vigor, and the world about him grew ever more vibrant. He gasped and wondered how he would ever dream to describe this moment in the future. He then collected himself and focused.

Outside, as peasants and performers all ran and hurried about, the blazes began to subside. All stopped and began to stare as the fires that once raged and threatened the town now slowly diminished until they were no more.

Gabriel opened his eyes and looked about the inn to see for himself that the flames were extinguished. As his lips broke a smile, dizziness took him. He fell to his knees and soon slumped to the floor entirely. The last sight before the black was the visage of an elderly elven woman coming to stand over him.

Gabriel slowly awoke to find himself on a soft bed of heather under a brilliant starry sky. Looking about him, he soon noticed the bed he lied upon was in an attic of some kind and that the starlight which lit the space came through a hole in the roof. The charring around the edges and the strangely powerful smell informed him that it was a building no doubt involved in the fire, perhaps only now a few hours later. His eyes continued to graze about the room and soon came to land on a mirror resting in the corner.

In the reflection, he observed many things: the edges of his performer’s outfit were singed in areas, he had been bandaged to presumably cover burns he had no memory of getting, but most curious of all, his eyes, normally a rich brown, burned brightly green – though they were noticeably fading as he watched. As they dimmed, so too did the light of the stars, the burnt smell that hung in the air, and other sensations, all to their regular, mortal strength.

Mentally, Gabriel called out to Flynnt and, for the first time in his life with the molten familiar, a voice came in response instead of the empathetic vibration to which he’d become accustomed. It was childlike and spoke to the very center of his mind.

“Hey! I’m in the kitchen with the lady.”

“You…you..” Gabriel mentally stammered, “you can talk now?”

“Always have been,” Flynnt responded with a happy thought. “I think now you can just hear me. At least, that’s what the lady says.”

“What lady?”

“The elf that runs the place. Here, just come downstairs when you’re ready. I think she has some stuff she wants to talk to us about.”

“Wait, first, why do you sound so much like a kid?”

“Do I?”

“Yeah, like you’re five or six.”

“That’s funny. I guess that’s just how you imagined I’d sound. You sound like, well, you. I’ve heard you talk, so I guess that’s not so crazy.”

“Guess not.” Gabriel paused for a minute while he considered the situation.

“Don’t worry too much about it, I say. We saved the town! Come downstairs and talk to the lady.”

“Yeah, be right there.”

Gabriel came down the flight of stairs very slowly, each hobbling step made the aches in his body pulse to such a degree it made him wish he’d never left his heather bed. His hand on the rail to guide him, he made his way down the spiral wooden stair set and found Flynnt, taking a vageuly humanoid form, lounging in a large ceramic bowl the way one does in a bath too small for their size. Next to him was the elderly elven tavern keeper, sprinkling him with salt out of a smaller bowl a few pinches at a time, which sizzled and sparked to nothing on contact. Gabriel could hear Flynnt’s voice in his mind softly giggling.

“If you’re gonna cook him,” Gabriel announced, addressing the woman, “I’d use some turmeric root and black Scythian salt.”

“Mmhm,” returned the elf. “I’d prefer black Castellean peppercorn. He’s a spicy little fucker, this one.” And at once, Gabriel knew he and the elf would get along famously.

“It tickles!” laughed Flynnt.

Gabriel slowly walked over to the table where the two sat. The room was well lit. Sconces on pillars about the main room gave the space an inviting glow and the fire in the hearth offered it warmth. As his eyes lingered on the flame dancing over the logs, he was reminded of the incident. It came to him in painful flashes: the cackling flames, the screams, the creature…the creature. He pushed the heel of his hand into his eye as if fighting off a migraine.

“Take a seat, hero.”

“Yeah, Flynnt mentioned the town was alright. How much is left?”

“A fair bit, actually,” said the elf, producing a pipe from the folds of her apron with a bit of pipe tobacco. She fitted her pipe, packed down the tobacco and leaned over to the lounging elemental. “Be a dear and give us a light, would you?” Flynnt produced an appendage roughly resembling an arm with a digit roughly resembling a thumb which soon turned to flame. “Ah, you’re a doll. It all went down,” she said now turning back to Gabriel, “about as quickly as it started. There are few like to lose their house and a great many burned, but none that I know of who’ve died.”

“Thank you, before I forget. Thank you for bandaging me and taking care of Flynnt here.”

“Ah, keep it,” she said with a dismissive wave of the hand. “Wasn’t gonna let you die here on my floor and leave your critter here to wither away. You’re the hero of the town and all, even if you’re also the one that started it.” She gazed at him through the haze of the pipe.

“I…” he tried. “I what?”

“Please. This town sees it’s share of nightmares – ghouls, alghouls, ghasts, other undead horrors – but blazes that start out of nowhere? Why, that might take a circus with a magical firedancer in the middle of the dry season to start…oh, wait.”

“Well, when you put it like that it seems rather hard to deny.”

“I thought so. And don’t worry or start up with excuses, your critter here’s already told me the details of what happened.”

Flynnt bobbed up and down affirmatively.

“In any case,” the elderly tavern keeper continued, “you do owe some responsibility for the act of destruction, however unintentional.”

“I would love to, and I mean that wholeheartedly, I don’t exactly make a fortune working as a dancer though, dear.”

“You can piss on your money,” said the old woman with a scoff. “What we need to do is throw some reins on that new found power of yours.”

Gabriel prepared a witty retort by instinct, but holstered it in recognition of his experience with the split tree. “Well then, where do we start?”

“Where else?” She smiled a wry smile at the young firedancer and took deeply of her pipe before parting her lips to vent a great stream of smoke. Through the thick haze, her voice spoke: “At the beginning, ya dippy shit.”

The next several months consisted of long hours in waist-deep snows, lessons in concentration and connection to the surrounding earth, as well as many thousands of hits with Elsa’s favorite switch. Tempered by this crucible, Gabriel’s complaints sharply quit and he was introduced to a principle which had never found its way into his natural habit before: discipline. When she felt he was ready, she bade him take a knee before her one eve.

“If I’m going to be honest with you, I wasn’t entirely certain you’d make it through the winter.”

“I certainly aim to please.”

“It was the bet, wasn’t it?”

“I will have to eat once I leave.”

The old elf softly laughed. She anointed his head with oil from a smoke-eye olive and coated him with the fragrance of frost mirriam. “Rise, Gahliel.”

The former firedancer and circus performer rose, now Gahliel. He wore close-fitting robes of a light sunset orange, tailored for him by his elven mentor, though without sleeves as per the student’s request. With Flynnt’s jar strapped about his back and his meager satchel on his side, he stood ready for a word from his teacher.

“I suppose this calls for some form of ceremony,” groaned Elsa. “Firstly, I had this made in case you happened to make it this far.” She slowly turned and reached behind the rows of bottles that made up the bar and pulled out an elegantly carved walking staff of an smooth gray ironwood, which he accepted. “Secondly, a question. Do you have everything with you?”

“Everything what?”
“Everything you need.”

Gahliel gave a skeptical squint. “I suppose I do.”

“Mmm, then if I can just say it’s been an experience. You and that spicy little fucker do some good out there.” She retrieved from her robes a small cloth bundle and undid the folds to reveal an angled blue stone the size of an egg. The young man gave a tired sigh at the sight of the little cobalt nugget. “Getting rid of me, eh?” he thought.

“Well, it’s been real, Els.” With that, he reached out and touched the stone. In a blinding blue flash, the last sight Gahliel carried with him into the abyss that followed was the affectionate smile of the elderly elven tavern keeper of Neven.

FIN

The Take: Gahliel was always fun because of the penchant for cracking wise (like we saw with Revan), but what really made his endearing was his connection with Flynnt. I know he’s just a bubbling cork most of the time, but Gabriel’s protective attachment to him as well as having him finally emerge as a childish entity that giggles at being salted always felt like a real nice ribbon on top.

Also, little known fact, Gabriel eventually went on to get impregnated by a dragon. D&D gets weird.

Anyway, ta-ta until Thursday!

Interested in more? Like knee-slappers and chin-scratchers? Check out my first published work in the Third Flatiron’s “Hidden Histories” anthology here (and tell ’em Evan sent ya!): 
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PRN5ZQ1

Today’s FableFact source: https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2009/02/building-on-a-dynasty/

Gabriel Firefoot, the Dancing Flame (and his Buddy)

Did you know that Lego used to bury its used molds in the concrete foundations of buildings to keep them from being reused? Think about that the next time you get paranoid uploading to the Cloud – Lego already one-up’d you.

Happy Thursday, everybody!

I’m out of cheeky one-liners, so I’m just going to hop right to it.

May I present:

Gabriel Firefoot, the Dancing Flame

Gabriel Firefoot, having been abandoned by his friends in a tavern on the northern edge of the Rift, sat on a wooden bench with a sullen heart in his chest and an ale in his hand. He continued to let the ale quell the headache that pounded away at his temples as a sympathetic bubbling noise came from the ceramic vase at his side.

“I know, Flynnt,” he began, speaking seemingly to the air. “We allow ourselves a single night of gallivanting to properly explore the town, and they up and fucking leave us. Bastards’ll probably get eaten by giants.”

More bubbly syllables arose in response from the container.

“No I don’t actually mean it. Of course I hope they make it back in one piece. They could have said something before taking off is all. The way I figure it, we have plenty of gold left over from our way up here to live pretty comfortable for about a month. They should be back before then, right?”

The cork lid on the vase gave a small, happy jump in reply.

As the weeks progressed, Gabriel frittered away his small adventuring fortune on drink and social displays in the taverns, trinkets and oddities in the shops, and warm baths and women for his luxuries. Though, as his coin purse began to feel light, with his previous adventuring party still not returned to town and no other suitable traveling types coming through, he felt the looming threat of poverty at his heels. Not wishing to return to the days of stealing scraps of bread as a guttersnipe, he turned to the talent that had served him in that time: he performed.

He and his molten familiar Flynnt took to dazzling passersby with the arts of dance, acrobatics, and wonderful displays of fire. Through these talents, his reputation, and social antics, Gabriel managed to make a way for himself and Flynnt. While the two didn’t enjoy quite the same levels of luxury as before, they managed a comfortable residence at the Rift Keep. After some time, his content attitude began to fade and the fire-dancer longed again for the feel of the road beneath his feet.

Perhaps a fortnight after these feelings took root, a fantastic spectacle came to town: Dr. Grumbar’s Terrific Traveling Troop. The nomadic carnival made its stake in the town’s caravan park, and Gabriel would have been perturbed at the subtracted business if Dr. Grumbar himself, a finely dressed, portly dwarf with a magnanimous red beard, hadn’t discovered him while the showman was about town during the carnival’s setup.

“Well look at you!” bellowed the dwarf. “Yer all flames n’ heels n’ wonder ain’t ye? You lookin’ fer work, laddie?”

Gabriel gladly accepted the dwarf’s handsome offer and began his life anew as a dancing acrobat and fire-breather extraordinaire for the traveling circus. After the company had finished its time in the Rift Keep, they set their course south back into Fenris proper. And so Gabriel and Flynnt traveled, performing in such places ranging from Song to Stettin, Freehaven to the Iron Citadel itself. The company found themselves in Neven as the dry season had come around to its peak.

“Hot as a forge’s arsehole up here it is!” Grumbar jested as he addressed the circus. “That, combined with all those horrid critters these poor folk got’a deal with, they need entertainment! Let’s give ’em a show!”

Gabriel and Flynnt had just finished with their routine, making their way to the performers’ tented section of the grounds. Gabriel congratulated himself and his familiar, and Flynnt would bubble back jovial responses to the praise. He had just lied down and was about to uncork Flynnt’s carrier when the bell at their tent door sounded a ring to let them know a visitor had come. He welcomed the fan in, yet withdrew some at the sight that drew back the canvas flap.

A hunched, hooded figure took several hobbling steps into the tent before speaking, though Gabriel already felt an empathetic tension emanate from the vase to his side.

“You and your…creature…were spectacular tonight,” spoke the hood, with a raspy voice and in an accent that Gabriel could not quite place.

“Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the show,” Gabriel offered tenuously. He tried to see the man’s face but the darkness of the hood made it difficult. With a thought, he made the lanterns in the tent burn more brightly.

The hooded man shrank slightly at the added light and turned away some. “Might I, perhaps, meet your creature?” he ventured.

“I’d need to know your name first, sir.” The hooded figure only withdrew further and offered no answer. Gabriel pressed. “Did Grumbar let you back here? It’s normally for performers only.”

“The creature…” repeated the hood. Gabriel felt fear emanate more and more strongly from Flynnt the longer this man remained in the room.

“I think you should go…” Gabriel began, the last words more slipping from his lips than properly spoken. His eyes drifted over the hooded man’s shoulder to the tent flap, gently parted by a nighttime gust, and Gabriel saw the prone, motionless bodies of two guardsmen.

The figure must have read Gabriel’s reaction, for it then wasted no time in making a lunge for the vase that housed Flynnt. Gabriel matched the man’s move, parried him aside, and, with a grapple, threw him over a wooden dresser. As he lifted himself from the ground, the cloak and its hood caught on the dresser’s handle and were pulled away, revealing not a man but a twisted creature. Its limbs were gnarled and covered with violet mange and it wore a mask of black iron through which haunting yellow eyes peered ravenously at Gabriel and Flynnt. Its hands were clawed and it raked the wooden dresser in anger as it prepared for another lunge.

The fire-dancer was quick, scooping up Flynnt in his vase and made to roll under a back tent flap to escape, though too late as the masked creature was upon him, grappling him by the sling that held Flnnt. Gabriel delivered a powerful kick to its midsection, sending the creature toppling over a wardrobe chest. The rope strained and soon tore under the stress of the struggle, sending the hardened ceramic container and its cork stopper tumbling across the room in different directions. Flynnt, desperate to make an escape from the monster, hurriedly spilled out of his vase and sped for his protector, Gabriel.

The masked horror steadied itself and made a grab for Flynnt once more. Gabriel, in a defensive rage, summoned a blaze of fire in both palms and gripped the iron mask tight, pouring all of his essence into the act, screaming with the strain, intent on cooking the beast’s head to ashes inside the cauldron that was its mask. It loosed a gut-wrenching scream at the pain and as it did so Gabriel’s mind was assaulted with all manner of strange symbols and visions. He saw the very earth cracking apart with an orange glow, forests repeatedly burned to ash and regrew in a manner of seconds, and runic notes in a language he recognized but couldn’t understand felt to brand themselves in his mind before all went dark.

Gabriel came to consciousness a short time later to the sound of panic and chaos. He roused his senses, collected the vase with its stopper, and mentally called out to Flynnt. The familiar responded to him with a frightened bubbling sound from under the bed. Gabriel sighed a quick breath of thanks to the powers that be and ushered him into the vase. While the creature that attacked them was nowhere to be seen, Gabriel saw clear drag marks in the dirt leaving the tent in a hurry as well as the creature’s mask, some seared flesh lining the interior. The fire-dancer collected the mask, Flynnt with his carrier, and a small manner of essentials in a satchel and left the tent to investigate the flurry of chaotic sounds that surrounded their tent.

Stepping outside, Gabriel was met with a disastrous sight: the carnival gone up in flames. Circus folk and patrons all bustled about, either in a fleeing panic or efforts to combat the blaze. His head surged with pulses of pain, briefly revisited by the visions brought by the wicked creature’s screams, though in them he saw a building that housed a great tree, split in twain. He recognized it as the great tree in the main tavern by the town’s central plaza, though only this time, he saw the tree’s veins and the life that flowed through them. He felt beckoned and, though desperately weakened by his encounter, mustered what he could to traverse the chaotic crowds between himself and the tree.

He was jostled, shoved, and thrown by the fleeing crowds. As best he could, Gabriel made use of the alleyways so as to avoid the thickest of the flooding mobs. His magic exhausted, Flynnt would shield him from the flames when they would otherwise prove dangerous. Eventually, the two made it to the building which housed the broken tree. Patrons of the establishment and workers all ran about with buckets, drawing from the well to battle the ensuing blaze. Pushing past them all to the front door, he shoved it open and took the final shuffling steps to the base of its trunk.

As he and Flynnt approached the tree amid the chaotic flames, Gabriel felt his focus becoming clearer – the tree before him the center of this focus, gaining an aura that grew stronger the closer he came. The strange runes and glyphs from his encounter with the creature again surged to mind, and as he lay his hand on the trunk’s face, he felt them become an explosion. Symbols and patterns flew about his own mind and that of Flynnt’s: Fire, Earth, Mind, Nature – these ideas and their deeper meanings that transcended language and seared themselves into the fabric of his being. Soon he had both hands on its trunk and the feeling that followed was one singular to that moment in Gabriel’s life.

He felt as a part of the relic on which he laid his hands. The energy that flowed through the tree was like blood through his veins and he felt entrenched in the earth as if its roots were his own. He could see through his touch that the object before him stood not alone, but part of the forest that surrounded Neven and beyond. Though not in voice, this connection begged him use his talents to put down the blaze that threatened it and he soon felt flushed with new energy – a mana force more fluid and pure than he’d experience in his lifetime. With it, his breath came easier, filled his chest more fully, blood flowed with vigor, and the world about him grew ever more vibrant. He gasped and wondered how he would ever dream to describe this moment in the future. He then collected himself and focused.

Outside, as peasants and performers all ran and hurried about, the blazes began to subside. All stopped and began to stare as the fires that once raged and threatened the town now slowly diminished until they were no more.

Gabriel opened his eyes and looked about the inn to see for himself that the flames were extinguished. As his lips broke a smile, dizziness took him. He fell to his knees and soon slumped to the floor entirely. The last sight before the black was the visage of an elderly elven woman coming to stand over him.

Gabriel slowly awoke to find himself on a soft bed of heather under a brilliant starry sky. Looking about him, he soon noticed the bed he lied upon was in an attic of some kind and that the starlight which lit the space came through a hole in the roof. The charring around the edges and the strangely powerful smell informed him that it was a building no doubt involved in the fire, perhaps only now a few hours later. His eyes continued to graze about the room and soon came to land on a mirror resting in the corner.

In the reflection, he observed many things: the edges of his performer’s outfit were singed in areas, he had been bandaged to presumably cover burns he had no memory of getting, but most curious of all, his eyes, normally a rich brown, burned brightly green – though they were noticeably fading as he watched. As they dimmed, so too did the light of the stars, the burnt smell that hung in the air, and other sensations, all to their regular, mortal strength.

Mentally, Gabriel called out to Flynnt and, for the first time in his life with the molten familiar, a voice came in response instead of the empathetic vibration to which he’d become accustomed. It was childlike and spoke to the very center of his mind.

“Hey! I’m in the kitchen with the lady.”

“You…you..” Gabriel mentally stammered, “you can talk now?”

“Always have been,” Flynnt responded with a happy thought. “I think now you can just hear me. At least, that’s what the lady says.”

“What lady?”

“The elf that runs the place. Here, just come downstairs when you’re ready. I think she has some stuff she wants to talk to us about.”

“Wait, first, why do you sound so much like a kid?”

“Do I?”

“Yeah, like you’re five or six.”

“That’s funny. I guess that’s just how you imagined I’d sound. You sound like, well, you. I’ve heard you talk, so I guess that’s not so crazy.”

“Guess not.” Gabriel paused for a minute while he considered the situation.

“Don’t worry too much about it, I say. We saved the town! Come downstairs and talk to the lady.”

“Yeah, be right there.”

Gabriel came down the flight of stairs very slowly, each hobbling step made the aches in his body pulse to such a degree it made him wish he’d never left his heather bed. His hand on the rail to guide him, he made his way down the spiral wooden stair set and found Flynnt, taking a vageuly humanoid form, lounging in a large ceramic bowl the way one does in a bath too small for their size. Next to him was the elderly elven tavern keeper, sprinkling him with salt out of a smaller bowl a few pinches at a time, which sizzled and sparked to nothing on contact. Gabriel could hear Flynnt’s voice in his mind softly giggling.

“If you’re gonna cook him,” Gabriel announced, addressing the woman, “I’d use some turmeric root and black Scythian salt.”

“Mmhm,” returned the elf. “I’d prefer black Castellean peppercorn. He’s a spicy little fucker, this one.” And at once, Gabriel knew he and the elf would get along famously.

“It tickles!” laughed Flynnt.

Gabriel slowly walked over to the table where the two sat. The room was well lit. Sconces on pillars about the main room gave the space an inviting glow and the fire in the hearth offered it warmth. As his eyes lingered on the flame dancing over the logs, he was reminded of the incident. It came to him in painful flashes: the cackling flames, the screams, the creature…the creature. He pushed the heel of his hand into his eye as if fighting off a migraine.

“Take a seat, hero.”

“Yeah, Flynnt mentioned the town was alright. How much is left?”

“A fair bit, actually,” said the elf, producing a pipe from the folds of her apron with a bit of pipe tobacco. She fitted her pipe, packed down the tobacco and leaned over to the lounging elemental. “Be a dear and give us a light, would you?” Flynnt produced an appendage roughly resembling an arm with a digit roughly resembling a thumb which soon turned to flame. “Ah, you’re a doll. It all went down,” she said now turning back to Gabriel, “about as quickly as it started. There are few like to lose their house and a great many burned, but none that I know of who’ve died.”

“Thank you, before I forget. Thank you for bandaging me and taking care of Flynnt here.”

“Ah, keep it,” she said with a dismissive wave of the hand. “Wasn’t gonna let you die here on my floor and leave your critter here to wither away. You’re the hero of the town and all, even if you’re also the one that started it.” She gazed at him through the haze of the pipe.

“I…” he tried. “I what?”

“Please. This town sees it’s share of nightmares – ghouls, alghouls, ghasts, other undead horrors – but blazes that start out of nowhere? Why, that might take a circus with a magical firedancer in the middle of the dry season to start…oh, wait.”

“Well, when you put it like that it seems rather hard to deny.”

“I thought so. And don’t worry or start up with excuses, your critter here’s already told me the details of what happened.”

Flynnt bobbed up and down affirmatively.

“In any case,” the elderly tavern keeper continued, “you do owe some responsibility for the act of destruction, however unintentional.”

“I would love to, and I mean that wholeheartedly, I don’t exactly make a fortune working as a dancer though, dear.”

“You can piss on your money,” said the old woman with a scoff. “What we need to do is throw some reins on that new found power of yours.”

Gabriel prepared a witty retort by instinct, but holstered it in recognition of his experience with the split tree. “Well then, where do we start?”

“Where else?” She smiled a wry smile at the young firedancer and took deeply of her pipe before parting her lips to vent a great stream of smoke. Through the thick haze, her voice spoke: “At the beginning, ya dippy shit.”

The next several months consisted of long hours in waist-deep snows, lessons in concentration and connection to the surrounding earth, as well as many thousands of hits with Elsa’s favorite switch. Tempered by this crucible, Gabriel’s complaints sharply quit and he was introduced to a principle which had never found its way into his natural habit before: discipline. When she felt he was ready, she bade him take a knee before her one eve.

“If I’m going to be honest with you, I wasn’t entirely certain you’d make it through the winter.”

“I certainly aim to please.”

“It was the bet, wasn’t it?”

“I will have to eat once I leave.”

The old elf softly laughed. She anointed his head with oil from a smoke-eye olive and coated him with the fragrance of frost mirriam. “Rise, Gahliel.”

The former firedancer and circus performer rose, now Gahliel. He wore close-fitting robes of a light sunset orange, tailored for him by his elven mentor, though without sleeves as per the student’s request. With Flynnt’s jar strapped about his back and his meager satchel on his side, he stood ready for a word from his teacher.

“I suppose this calls for some form of ceremony,” groaned Elsa. “Firstly, I had this made in case you happened to make it this far.” She slowly turned and reached behind the rows of bottles that made up the bar and pulled out an elegantly carved walking staff of an smooth gray ironwood, which he accepted. “Secondly, a question. Do you have everything with you?”

“Everything what?”
“Everything you need.”

Gahliel gave a skeptical squint. “I suppose I do.”

“Mmm, then if I can just say it’s been an experience. You and that spicy little fucker do some good out there.” She retrieved from her robes a small cloth bundle and undid the folds to reveal an angled blue stone the size of an egg. The young man gave a tired sigh at the sight of the little cobalt nugget. “Getting rid of me, eh?” he thought.

“Well, it’s been real, Els.” With that, he reached out and touched the stone. In a blinding blue flash, the last sight Gahliel carried with him into the abyss that followed was the affectionate smile of the elderly elven tavern keeper of Neven.

FIN

The Take: Gahliel was always fun because of the penchant for cracking wise (like we saw with Revan), but what really made his endearing was his connection with Flynnt. I know he’s just a bubbling cork most of the time, but Gabriel’s protective attachment to him as well as having him finally emerge as a childish entity that giggles at being salted always felt like a real nice ribbon on top.

Also, little known fact, Gabriel eventually went on to get impregnated by a dragon. D&D gets weird.

Anyway, ta-ta until Thursday!

Interested in more? Like knee-slappers and chin-scratchers? Check out my first published work in the Third Flatiron’s “Hidden Histories” anthology here (and tell ’em Evan sent ya!): 
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PRN5ZQ1

Today’s FableFact source: https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2009/02/building-on-a-dynasty/

‘Hitchcock and Grayson’

Happy Thursday evening, all!

Did you know that a female turkey can, in the absence of any males, reproduce all on her own?

-snaps fingers “Don’t need no man” style-

That’s weirdly topical because of today’s story. It’s an excerpt from from a longer work that I wound up scrapping, but thought was really fun on its own. It might make a revival some day in one form or another, but the basic gist was about a kid sorcerer named Samson that ran a magical detective agency/law firm inside his own head called “Hitchcock and Grayson’s”.

The name came from a trip to Oakland my girlfriend I went on some years back. We went to the Morcom Rose Garden where we met a house cat with a little name tag that informed us his name was Grayson (the name tag, not the cat – though that would have been pretty cool too). As well as a (presumably wild) turkey that we named Hitchcock for the shape of its neck and jowls. Thus, ‘Hitchcock and Grayson’s’ was born! (In name, anyway.)

Without further adieu, may I present:

Virgin Mental – Hitchcock and Grayson’s

Phelp Harris stood outside a door in an alleyway as a clock somewhere struck midnight. He breathed out of his nose as he shivered and watched the cold turn his breath into wisps that danced in the air. Should be in and out in twenty, they’d said. Forty minutes ago, he’d believed the guy. Personal Protective Services usually meant a lot of standing around looking tough, but not in the freezing goddamn cold. This job was supposedly easy money, though. They didn’t expect any trouble, so They said, and just wanted some muscle with a background in brawling if the situation called for it. Maybe a shady pitch by a shady character, but for what They were paying him, Phelp felt it was easily worth it.

The soft clapping of footsteps sounded at the edge of the sidewalk by the alleyway. Phelp straightened his back and puffed out his chest as the sound came closer. Showtime, he thought. Standing in the bubble of bleak lighting offered by a single exposed light bulb, the approaching figure was smaller than he’d expected, silhouetted against the distant streetlight. “Hey, can I help you, kid? Doesn’t seem like the kinda place you ought’a be.”

Stepping into the pale light was a boy, no older than maybe twelve or thirteen with light, woody brown hair, hazel eyes that blinked more often than they should, and a space between his front teeth big enough to fit the right Lego piece if you tried. He was dressed in a Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt under a puffy red vest, jeans with holes at the knees, shoes just a size or two too large for his feet, and a backpack. “Is Danny home?” he asked.

Phelp blinked his eyes in confusion. “Kid, I don’t think you heard me. You don’t belong here, understand? Now run along and find your parents, or something.”

“If they were around, you think I’d be in a back alley with some perv at midnight on a weekday?”

“What the? I ain’t no perv, kid,” said Phelp defensively.

“Just sayin’. You’re the grown up here with an unsupervised eleven year old. It’s the dead of night, no one knows where we are. Kind of fits the formula wouldn’t ya say, PedoBear?” The kid pulled out his phone and made a show of pretending to tweet about it.

Oh, a wise ass, huh? Time to turn this up a bit. “Listen kid,” Phelp said pulling back the flap of his jacket to reveal the handle of a 9mm Glock. “Like I said, you need to go. Ain’t the place for you.” Phelp gave a half guilty smirk at the kid’s startled reaction. It soon faded as the boy’s sobs became hiccups and then a full fit of the chuckles.
“Listen, Harris- can I call you Harris?” began the boy. “Whatever they’re paying you, I’ll double it.”

“Hang on a second, kid. How’d you know my name?”

“You’re wearing a name tag.”

“No I’m not.”
“Yeah, ya are.”

Phelp looked down and saw a ‘Hello, my name is’ sticker on his chest that he knew sure-as-shit wasn’t there a minute ago. “What the…?”

“You want some gum?” offered the kid, already chewing.

“What? No,” he said, inspecting the sticker with his name written on it. Looking at it more closely, he could smell it had been written with scented marker.

“Suit yourself.” The boy chewed for a moment and, after a look of eye-crossing focus, blew a gum bubble through the gap in his teeth. “So, what d’you say? Wanna make some money?”

“Look, kid,” Phelp said, discarding the sticker. “You really gotta get outta here. Not safe for you. You don’t go, I’m gonna have to make you.”

“Ooo-hoo-hoo!” sang the boy. He did a little dance in place pretending as if he was scared.

Strike two, you little prick, thought Phelp.

“You seriously don’t want to take the bribe? I thought bribes were like, like hotcakes to bouncers n’ hired goons. Seriously, I can pay.” The boy reached into a pocket in his vest and produced a roll of bills which he undid and counted out eight hundred dollars.

Phelp stood in place with eyes wide as the youngster handed him the money.

“Who the hell are you, kid?”

The boy smiled coyly and said, “Your worst nightmare.”

Before Phelp could react, there was a bright, silent explosion of color. A massive rainbow of light spouted forth from the kid’s open palm like a snow making machine, enveloping the surprised bodyguard. When the effect ended and the lonely bulb resumed its monopoly on light supply in the alley, Phelp was left dazed and stupid on the ground beside the door, froth dripping from the corner of his mouth. The kid blew another bubble through his teeth and wore a proud smile.

He stepped over the crumpled body that was Phelp and tried the knob on the, frankly, shack door to the building. It was locked. The boy gave a short huff before laughing to himself with an inspired tap to his noggin. He bent over and closely scrutinized the door’s surface. He reached out and gave it a light flick of his finger. The face of the solid door rippled like the disturbed surface of a still pond. The boy looked down at Phelp before stepping through.

“Oh, or just Samson for short.” And with a wink, a name tag appeared on the front of his vest before he disappeared through the once solid door.

FIN

The Take: This one was really fun. I think it was one of the first little doo-dad’s I wrote where I got to use magic. It was a bit of a hump getting over those jitters and realizing it was sort of okay to say something happened “because magic”. Anyway, edited a little bit because the sentences were, upon review, pretty damn run-on-y, but I left in the dumb PedoBear joke that I still think is pretty cringey. Overall, it was a fun little scene to put together with magic, character, n’ goofs.

Anyway, happy Thursday and I’ll see ya next week. Ciao, for now.

Interested in more? Like knee-slappers and chin-scratchers? Check out my first published work in the Third Flatiron’s “Hidden Histories” anthology here: 
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PRN5ZQ1

Today’s FableFact source:
https://www.cs.mcgill.ca/~rwest/wikispeedia/wpcd/wp/t/Turkey_%2528bird%2529.htm

Amwren Origins I : “Revan, of the Crossroads”

Happy Tuesday, everybody!

Did you know that some Chinese police stations deploy guard geese instead of guard dogs? I guess remember that next time you spy a gaggle at the park.

In my heart, I’m a fantasy nerd first and foremost – that means I’ll take enchanted swords over lightsabers, fireballs over laser beams, and spellbinding elixirs over chemical compounds. Which is why I find it kinda funny that, to date, the stories I’ve successfully sold have been, in order, an historical fiction and a speculative horror (coming soon, NIGHTLIGHT podcast, get ready!).

So, stemming from that love as it should, naturally I ran a D&D campaign (questionably) for a couple of years. Today’s tale is the origin story of one of the players’ character concepts: an orphaned street rat with a curious mentor that helped him nurture his adventurer skills. Bravo!

May I present:

“Revan, of the Crossroads”

“Catch him, dammit! Catch him!”

Revan smiled as he darted down the alleyway. Diving over piles of refuse and sliding under a fallen beam, he looked back to see the angry merchant stumbling to the ground in failed pursuit. He loosed a proud snicker but stopped short to see a patrol of town guard entering the other end of the narrow path with clubs in hand. Wasting neither momentum nor thought, the young elf deftly leapt to his right, planting a step on the wall by the closest guard’s shoulder and vaulting to a low roof on his left. Three quick, bounding paces and he was lowering himself to the street once more on the building’s other side. Revan closed his eyes and took a quick breath as voices approached the alley fence on his right. He locked eyes with the guard between the fence boards.

“Hold right there, you thievin’ rat!” the guard commanded.

Looking shaken, Revan held his hands up and slowly reached into his tunic to retrieve what he had stolen. From it, he produced not the illegally procured item in question, but his own middle finger, which he showed the guardsman with jovial fervor.

“I’ll have your hide you dirty…”, was as much of the guards’ howling that reached Revan’s ears during his fair escape. Being Market Day as it was, he was easily lost in the crowds that pervaded the bazaar stalls of Faraday. At the far end, he stood atop a barrel between the tents of a seller of trinkets and a local apple farmer scanning the fringes of the crowd. A few moments later, he saw the band of guards appear from around the lane corner, breathless and red-faced, throwing their clubs to the ground in frustration. Good thing those plebs can’t run for shit, Revan thought as he dismounted the barrel and was lost amid the alley shadows.

“Oh yes,” said the seller of trinkets to a young woman that had approached his tent. “I have a fine array of bracelets that would fit a lovely maid wonderfully, but for you I’ve just the one. Ah, well now. Um, damn. I beg your pardon, I seem to have misplaced it.”

Revan half-danced as he jauntily strode along to the sounds of the Market Day minstrels. He took one final crunch of his apple and tossed it to the ground beside a small ant hill. Eat up, fellas, he thought as he held his wrist up and admired his new bracelet. It was a twisted rope and leather band set with small non-precious stones. Still though, it was nice. The sounds of music faded more and more into the distance as he made his way to the outer edge of town and the caravan park. He skipped between the wagons and carts, dodging the odd pile of horse shit here and there, until he found the one he was looking for (wagon, not horse poo).

A young woman in her early twenties with fair hair and rich brown eyes sat on the bench of her wagon with its reigns in her lap. She sat with her back to the green painted wood of the covered wagon looking with tired eyes over the rest of the caravan park. Many of those in the area were guards keeping watchful eyes on their claimed spaces or merchants who, like she had, arrived too late to set up a proper stand in the full market. She was just convincing herself to get to work when her wagon shifted with an added weight. “Hello, Revan,” she said without looking.

“How did you know it was me?” he asked from the wagon’s roof.

“You’re not as sneaky as you think you are.”

“Oh, I think I am. How was the road, Nora?”

“Hot, dusty, full of shit. Nobody woke me. I only arrived a short while ago.”

“Ah, that’s crap. Almaran with you, or he snooze too much too?”

“Haven’t seen him just yet. But he should be here soon.”

“Mind if I wait with you?” His lied down and let his head hang over the side, his long hair hanging like a horse’s tail.

“You can wait, I need to go set up. Just keep an eye on the wagon for me.”

“Oh! Here, take this with you, so the day’s not a total bust.”

“Hmm, this is pretty Revan, thank you. Where’d you get it? Are these rubies?”

“The market and probably not. Now go on, get! People need potions and things and, well, whatever else it is you do.”

“I’m an enchantress, dear,” she said with a sarcastic flutter of her eyelashes.

“And I am a prince,” replied Revan regally.

“Oh fuck off.”

So in the meantime, Revan lay on top of the covered green wagon, twiddling his thumbs and playing games in his mind with the clouds that passed overhead.

The wolf, the maiden, the toad, he called them out as they shifted with the wind. The toad became a…snake…or a duck and…went up the maiden’s dress. And the wolf, oh the wolf got fat…and ate the maiden…no, humped the maid. No, yeah, ate the maid. And they became…one, big…cloud. Where the hell is Almaran, the old tit!

*

Having been born poor and orphaned at a young age, he’d had no family business to assume or apprentice under nor the albeit rare opportunity for education of any kind; and so, Revan had learned to make his living as a light-fingered street urchin. Almaran, as Revan had come to know him, was a traveling arcanist and storyteller whom the young elf had met as a child.

One evening making his rounds about the market stalls and purses of through-wandering travelers, he noticed a new face with a crowd of other children about him, enlightening and emboldening them with strange tales and gestures. Sparks flew from his fingers as he spoke of the ancient, mystic fey wilds; glyphs and sigils danced in the air in colorful patterns as he told the ways of the wizard; and fierce, kaleidoscopic flames sprang high into the air with the tales of elder dragons. As Revan approached the mob of children, he was invited by the kindly old man onto his humble, carpeted stage to help reenact the Tale of Two Dragons.

The bond between the two quickly formed and throughout the years as Revan grew, Almaran would visit on his passage through the caravan town. Through his stories, Revan heard tales of famous swashbucklers, legendary archers, cunning rogues, and dashing explorers. In the time between visits from the old man, Revan put these tales to practice and began to emulate them to the best of his ability, impressing his mentor always upon his return.

*

While he mused, the sun had parched the skin on Revan’s forehead, accustomed to the shadows of the night or the shade of wavy bangs as it were. Sunburns peel something awful, he thought. I bet Nora has something for that sort of thing, being an “enchantress” and all.

With the impulse, he rolled off the side of the wagon, landed with the grace of a cat, and opened the back latch on Nora’s wagon. Inside he found crates and cupboards of all sizes and odd shapes containing a myriad of strangely colored jars, vials, flasks, jugs, bottles, and pouches. The colorful array of elixirs was matched in its visual impression only by the powerful odor that emanated from so many alchemical mixtures so closely packaged – smelling much like a spice shop that was home to a giant wet fish. Truly unsure which vessel contained the ointment which would sooth him, Revan started on his left and reached for a short cylindrical jar. He struggled with the tight lid for a frustrating moment before he felt the lid pop and the seal crack. Inside was a paste of deep blue, the thick fumes of which swiftly and somehow gently placed Revan face first in the dirt, quite unconscious.

The young elf awoke several hours later, his forehead no longer of primary concern as he groaned his way to consciousness and nursed his bloodied nose.

“Quite a fine tumble you took,” called a gentle voice. “Looks to me to be Athelas extract, well spoiled now so long exposed to air. In doses, it heals aches and its leaves can be smoked to sooth anxiety. Ho-ho! Though, that batch appears quite concentrated!”

Revan looked over his shoulder to locate the source and saw a man, his face hidden by the wide brim of the hat he wore, dressed in long lavender robes and driving two donkeys pulling a covered wagon painted a happy mustard yellow. “Almaran!” called the young elf with a smile. “About damn time you made it. What was the hold up?”

“Ah well,” came the mature, gentle voice of Almaran, “I was held up along the road by a poor fool who’d driven his cart into a tree. Service to one’s fellow man and so forth.”

“That took you all day?”

“Ah, um, well no. But turned out the man was suitably versed in Robes and, well, you know how much I do enjoy a game or two.”

“Or several, apparently. In any case, how did the road fare for you?”

After a deep breath, the robed one lifted his head and said, “Uneventful, besides,” and it was now that Revan saw not the soft, rounded features of the face of the man known as Almaran, but the sharp jaw, high cheek bones, slight nose, and bright eyes of a young man in his middle years. “Yes? You look surprised, my boy.”

“Well that’s because I am, a bit,” Revan admitted. The magician had, many times before, demonstrated illusory antics for the sake of his storytelling. “This a new character you’re trying on?”

“In a manner of speaking, but I’ve not brought riddles and tales for you this time.”

“Ah, what’s it, then?”

“Direction.”

Revan stared gormlessly at the man known as Almaran, the light of the wagon’s lantern reflecting in his sharp, elven eyes, his brow ever slightly furrowed in contemplation.

“What?”

“Oh gods,” sighed the wizard. “To speak simply, you’ve outgrown this town, Revan. You’re ready for bigger things and brighter horizons. And moreover, you’re ready for the greatness those travels will bring you. Ready yourself as you may, but by Market’s end, make your way for Tallin. There, you will meet-”

“Why’s your face different?”

“What?”

“Why’s your face all…different?”

“Really?”

Revan shrugged. “Yeah.”

“Magic.”

“Oh.”

“May I go on?”

“Sure.”

“Well, yes. Um, right. Go to Tallin, seek the Temple of Bokonon and begin your way.” The wizard smiled.

“My way where?”

The wizard’s smile dropped. “Have you listened to any-”

“Yes, yes, yes,” Revan dismissed with a wave of his hand. “Go to Tallin find the Temple of Bollocks for some such. Sure.”

“Bokonon.”

“Right.”

“Well,” began the wizard, straightening his robes and composure. “That was about a difficult as I’d thought it might be, though for different reasons.”

The young rogue gave a cheeky smile. “You know me. Oh! I got you something.” Revan’s hand disappeared into his tunic and returned holding a small parcel wrapped in brown cloth and twine. “Do you know what this is?”

“Looks to me to be a phallic effigy of some sort.”

“Close!” Revan cheered, not fully grasping Almaran’s vocabulary.

“Ah,” the wizard worried aloud as he unwrapped the parcel with caution. “Oh, this is a lovely pipe, Revan. How did you come by this, if I might ask?”

“Dishonest means.”

“I’m proud of you.”

And so, the two shared a night together beneath the stars as the Market wound to an albeit boisterous close. The man known as Almaran dutifully instructed Revan in how to find the Temple of Bokonon within Tallin and Revan quite passionately ignored him as he made up his own constellations in the nighttime sky. When the old sage was content that Revan would correctly find his way there, the two delved into sharing stories of the time each had passed since their last meeting. Eventually, Revan gave voice to a thought that had been irritating the back of his mind.

“Are you really Almaran?”

“Not exactly.”

“Hmm,” nodded the young elf. “Are you a friend of his?”

“Yes.”

A silence hung between them above the crackling of the campfire.

“Do you trust me?” asked the stranger known as Almaran.

“Yeah.”

“Good. Why?”

“You laughed at my fat princess joke.”

“It was a good joke.”

“Thanks.”

In the morning, Revan was equipped with suitable gear provided by Not Almaran and he set boot to path on his journey to the city of Tallin, the City of Temples.

FIN

The Take: Of all the backstories I’ve written, I think I’m putting out one of my favorites here first. Revan’s cheeky, kind of dumb, impulsive, street-wise, and naive. All together, he makes for a good scoundrel and that came together well in the campaign. While it didn’t quite get to play out, he also unknowingly harbored quite the unique secret (more on that later).

And that’s all for now! I think I’m going to make this the first installment of a series that covers the whole gang, just ’cause they were fun. See ya Thursday!

Interested in more? Like knee-slappers and chin-scratchers? Check out my first published work in the Third Flatiron’s “Hidden Histories” anthology here (and tell ’em Evan sent ya!):
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PRN5ZQ1

Today’s FableFact source:
https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/07/130725-geese-guard-police-china/