Have you ever wondered what would happen if you lit off some fireworks with a dog that likes to play fetch? Why, this happens!
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Sorry about missing last week's post. I was dithering on if I should add an epilogue to this very short story or not. I ended up not adding it. I just didn't feel that a three chapter long story needed both a prologue and an epilogue. Today's post will wrap up this story. But not the adventure! Next post will begin a new adventure for our hero and heroine! I'm not going to promise a specific day to post, as I keep missing those. ;)
Sir Cuthbert eyed the young couple curiously as he dismounted from his battle charger. The girl was tucking in tight to her companion's chest, her blonde head resting just below his breast bone and her face hidden completely. Since he could make out no details of her, he studied the unusually large boy instead.
No, not a boy, he realized. A young man of around five and twenty, with short black hair, dark eyes that were already beginning to show crow's feet at the corners, and a full beard growing back after being scraped away, all signs of a man who care more for is hygiene than for vanity, as smooth faces had gone out of fashion with the defeat of the Norman kings. Many fighting men still chose to go shorn for comfort, though, and Sir Cuthbert could see by the man's accouterments that he was a fighting man.
"Good day, sir," the young giant said, his voice calm, showing nothing of his earlier excitement at battling the troll, his diction marking him as a commoner, though a well spoken one. Sir Cuthbert realized belatedly that he had been standing there staring at the pair for several minutes.
"Good day to you," he said, not trying to hide his bemusement. "I have been a knight for these past two score years and the sheriff of these lands for the past five years. I have never seen anyone best a troll quite that easily."
"It was in our way," the young giant rumbled self-consciously.
"The troll?" he asked, his bemusement growing. The man nodded once and the girl peaked out at him for a spit second before burying her face back into her companion's chest. Sir Cuthbert caught an impression of nervous blue eyes in a face that was vaguely familiar.
"And who are you that a troll would be in your way?"
"My apologies, sir. My name is Watt Smith and this is my wife, Lisa. We were on our way to Aimsley in search of work, as there was nothing available in Kampton City. This is the only bridge that is passable and the troll was blocking it, so we needed to deal with it to cross."
"And deal with it you did!" Sir Cuthbert agreed heartily. "I brought a full company of men to do just that, only to find you taking care of the beast with a scrap of fabric!"
"It was my wife's idea, sir. The troll was awoken by allergies. She said it would be easier to cure it's ailments than to try and kill it or lead it away. She laid a simple spell into her handkerchief and had me give it to the troll. It worked pretty well, actually," the man finished with a shrug of his massive shoulders.
"It did, indeed," Sir Cuthbert said, eying the pair more carefully. "You said you were looking for work. Where are you from?"
"From South Umptonshire, sir. My father in the village smith. I do have a reference from the local baron, if you wish to see it."
"Do you, then? Let's see it," Sir Cuthbert said, pleasantly surprised. What had started off as a troll hunt was quickly turning into something much more interesting. He didn't believe for an instant the man's claim that the girl was his wife, she reminded him too strongly of someone he thought he might know even though he had not had a chance to study her face properly. But a reference from a local baron was very good. Whoever the pair were, they were clearly good at thinking their way through sticky situations.
"Excellent," he said after reading through Baron Umpton's writ. The man was who he said he was though the paper made no reference to any wife. "As it so happens, I am in need of an under sheriff. After what I just saw, I feel very comfortable in offering the position to you."
"Un-under sheriff?" the man, Watt, stuttered uncertainly. "But that's a noble position, sir. I am merely a man-at-arms. The youngest son of a smith..."
"That's easily taken care of, lad," Sir Cuthbert said, his gaze studiously not lingering on the girl. "Take a knee."
That is easily taken care of, the knight had said. Take a knee. Watt looked down at the girl in his arms, his mind blanking out in confusion. The knight, this Sir Cuthbert de Grey, couldn't be offering what it sounded like he was offering. Could he? Lisa looked up at him, her eyes as rounded by surprise as he suspect his were. She gave him a quick, tight squeeze and slid out of his arms. She kept her face bowed deeply in apparent fear, though Watt knew it was fear of being recognized. If he accepted this offered position, they would be stuck. He had called her his wife. There wasn't any way for him to be married now and suddenly not be married later. At the same time, no rational man would turn down a knighthood and position.
So he took a knee and became Sir Watt, Under Sheriff of Aimsley Province. Or rather Sir Walter Smith because, as the newly minted Lady Lisa pointed out, Sir Watt sounded like an insane Frenchman delivering an insult. And to think he had joked just that morning about being knighted by year's end! It wasn't until the next day that he realized that Sir Cuthbert, his patron and new overlord, had made no comment about his overly bashful "wife." Considering how Lisa had recognized the sheriff so easily, the chances that the sheriff had not recognized her in return were slim...
Saturday, June 14, 2014
Happy Saturday! Sorry I missed posting the last two Wednesdays. I was on vacation last week and had family in town. This week, I was pretty much pooped and had no ambition to do anything but veg out. So anyway, here's the next chunk of the story. Enjoy!
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As an attack strategy, running out yelling and waving a hankie didn't strike Watt as particularly inspired. What it lacked in elegance, though, it more than made up for with success. The troll saw him immediately and followed, stumbling over it's own large feet and bellowing right back at him. Right, he though as he jumped to the side to avoid another sneeze-born snot ball. All he needed to do was get the smelly bugger back to the side of the bridge, slap the hankie of anti-doom over its face, and then trip it so it fell into the river. This was totally insane!
It quickly became clear that the troll was not only clumsy, it was dumb. No mater how many times Watt ran straight for the river, the troll inevitably had to stop and sneeze, and then it had to stop and look around for him again. It had apparently not dawned on the troll that he had been running toward the river and only stopping his mad dash long enough to make sure he remained in sight. That didn't mean it was easy. For one thing, the troll had taken to grabbing up random items like tree stumps and chucking them at him before bellowing. Only then would the troll start running after him again.
As he ran, yelling and waving his hankie, feeling like a damned fool and being glad there was no one about to see him, he made a point of keeping an eye on the little mage girl. There was more to her than she presented. For one thing, most people knew common names but not so many people ever thought about the formal versions of them. For another thing, she had come up with this foolish plan in the first place. Cure the Troll's hay fever so it would go back to sleep? Not the way most people thought, though he did have to admit that it was a good, workable solution to the problem. This running around like a fool was not a workable execution of that plan, though.
He stopped running. Just stood there, staring down the troll as it threw things at him. Well, he did duck a few times so that the random detritus didn’t hit him, but other than that, he didn’t flinch. And it worked. The troll stopped throwing things. It stood there bellowing at him, a look of disconcerted confusion on its big ugly face. Finally it stopped bellowing, as well. Watt grinned when he realized this was exactly the method his older brother used when it came to shoeing uncooperative horses. Will let them throw their tantrums while showing them that he was not impressed. Eventually, the horse would grow annoyed that it wasn’t succeeding in scaring him and stop the theatrics. His brother would then hobble the beast and get to work. Will wasn’t the oldest, but he hadn’t need to inherit anything. Their father’s lord had all but begged him to come be his personal farrier. Watt figured he might have to tell Will that the technique worked on trolls, as well. What an interesting conversation that would be!
Once the troll had bellowed itself out, he walked up to the creature authoritatively, the hankie clenched tight in one fist. The trolled watched him uncertainly, stumbling back a step once Watt got close. Here goes nothing, Watt thought as he dodged forward, shoving the hankie into its face.
The troll took a deep breath in preparation for another bellow. The bellow never happened, though. It plucked the small square of linen off its face and looked at it myopically. It didn’t sneeze, though. Watt grinned and looked over at the mage girl, who was cautiously stepping out of the deep brush she had been hiding in.
“Worked like a charm, just like you said it would!” he said happily. The sound of applause startled him. He spun around and found a rather large party of men-at-arms, including several knight, lined up on the far side of the river and watching the spectacle of him trying to give the troll an enchanted hankie. Of course, they had watched. It was his lot in life to make a spectacular ass of himself publicly. The Fates had probably summoned this audience specifically to ensure he had someone other than the mage girl to be an ass in front of. He looked back at Lisa and saw that she’d stopped moving, a look of terror on her pretty face. He glanced back at the troll to see what had her so terrified, but it wasn’t doing anything threatening. In fact, it was slowly ambling toward the bridge, inspecting the hankie and sniffing it from time to time.
“What is it?” he asked in a hushed tone.
Lisa stared at the group of mounted warriors, horrified. There were more than a few in that crowd that she knew on sight, including the old knight sitting on a horse closest to Troll Bridge. He was Sir Cuthbert de Grey, the right hand man of Baron Amesbury, a man she had sat at table with several times.
“Lisa?” Watt asked, looking alarmed. He glanced at the troll, who was wandering around almost aimlessly and inspecting her handkerchief as though he’d never seen such a thing before.
“Ignore me!” she hissed as she stepped back into the bracken, trying to hide her presence from the sharp-eyed knight. He was clear across the bridge still, a good several hundred yards away, so maybe he hadn’t noticed her. But then Watt, the big lunk, started walking towards her, his hansom face a mask of concern.
“Is something wrong? Do you know those people?” he asked, speaking very quietly. Lisa shot a look at him before returning her gaze to the mounted troop, who were beginning to cross the bridge now that the troll had squeezed itself back under it. “Are they not good people?” he asked, his smooth baritone voice hardening noticeably.
“No, they are not… bad people. But I am known to them. Sir Cuthbert, the lead knight is a… friend of my father’s. I’m sure to be recognized and be taken back to my father’s household.”
“And that would be bad because…”
“I ran away because my father contracted me to marry a man older than him!” Lisa whispered harshly. “And blast it, you have led Sir Cuthbert right to me!”
Watt turned his head, noted that the elderly knight was indeed right behind him and dismounting. He faced her, his face schooling itself into a look of determination. “Just go along with me, then,” he muttered before tugging her in tight to his side and turning to face he worst night mare.
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Ok, on to the story. This week's chunk is a re-posting from the last blog hop I participated in. If it looks familiar, that's why. I will say that I have done a few minor changes to it in the course of working on the story, but most of the changes involve me adding to the chapter, not rewriting the originally posted portion.
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The troll sneezed and a wave of noise echoed through the valley like a peal of thunder, made more ominous by the fact the sky was a lovely, cloudless blue. Watt quickly ducked behind a large boulder and waited for the debris to clear—he had already learned the hard way not to stand in the open when the troll sneezed, lest he find himself covered in things best left unmentioned. Once he felt it was safe, he peered cautiously out from behind his shelter. The troll hadn’t moved. It was still sitting on a tree stump next to the only bridge across the River Tam that the spring rains hadn’t flooded out. Its presence effectively barred safe travel along Trader’s Road and cut off all commerce to Kernow.
“Tell me again,” he said with quiet dread, “Why, exactly are we doing this?”
“Because we want to eat,” came the reply form Lisa, the apprentice mage who had volunteered to accompany him on this damn fool mission. “Kampton hasn’t received any supplies in a fortnight, so there’s nothing to eat if you didn’t grow it yourself.”
“Yeah,” he said with a nod. “But why are we doing it?”
“Really, Watt,” she said with a huff. “You know why. The captain of the city guard said he had no need of another untrained soldier, but you were welcome to go try your hand at killing trolls.”
“And you volunteered to accompany me because your master kicked you out of his house after saying that he didn’t want to feed an apprentice that wasn’t any good,” Watt said, picking up the thread of her statement. “But why are we doing it, and not some gallant knight in shining armor or a fully trained wizard or something?”
“I’m a very good mage,” Lisa shot back hotly, ignoring the last few words and focusing on the easily debated portion. “I’m just not flashy, is all. I prefer to use one well-thought-out small magic rather than a huge spell that makes a lot of noise. It’s more efficient,” she added with a sniff.
“And about the small magic you promised,” Watt said. “What have you come up with? Or do you need me to get you even closer than this to figure out how to defeat that smelly lump of snot?”
“This is close enough,” she muttered. He turned and looked at her, just now realizing that she had been up to something while he kept an eye on their query.
“What are you doing?” he asked when he saw her grinding what looked like twigs and dirt into a handkerchief. He carefully peaked out to make sure the troll hadn’t moved since the last Earth-shattering sneeze—it hadn’t—before slipped back far enough to look over her shoulder.
“Spelling this cloth to ease his allergies,” she mumbled as she gathered the corners together into a pouch and shook the bundle vigorously.
“You’re making… a what? A white hankie of anti-doom? And I’m supposed to just walk up and offer it to the troll?” Watt asked incredulously.
“More or less,” she agreed cheerfully. Watt stared at the small blonde haired girl, flabbergasted, as she muttered a few magical phrases of gibberish before flinging the herbs out of the handkerchief with a dramatic flick of her wrist.
“There!” she said, handing the now dirty white hankie of anti-doom to him as if offering him the sword Excalibre.
He didn’t take it.
“Watt,” she said sternly.
“What?” he asked back, belatedly realizing how silly he sounded. Really, it wasn’t his fault that his name rhymed with ‘what.’
“Go give this cloth to the troll,” she said slowly, as if talking to a backwards child.
“Say I manage to get him to take your magic hankie,” he hedged, still not accepting the scrap of linen, “then what? The troll will still be blocking off access to the only passable bridge in the county. And it’ll probably still be sneezing since it’s a troll. Trolls don’t blow their noses, Lisa! It won’t even begin to understand what it’s supposed to do with the bloody thing!”
“Well, do you have a better idea?” she asked with a sneer.
“Yeah!” he huffed back at her. “Make me a potion of something that will turn him into stone when I dump it on him or something!”
“I’m sorry,” she snapped back. “I can’t do that kind of high magic. It would take a real wizard to do something like that and you haven’t got a wizard to help you. Just me, a level two apprentice mage.”
They sat there, crouched behind a boulder, glaring at each other while the troll sneezed and then sneezed again. As one, they realized that the second sneeze had sounded much closer than the first. Watt gulped nervously and peeked around the top of the boulder. The troll must have heard them bickering, because it had gotten up from its tree stump and was shambling their way, swinging its brutish head from side to side as it looked for them.
“Right then,” Watt said, reaching blindly behind him for the white hanky of anti-doom. “I need to find some way to get the troll to blow its nose.”
“Just get it onto the troll’s face so it covers his mouth and nose,” Lisa whispered as she shoved the hanky into his groping hand. “His breathing should be enough to get the spell into his sinus cavity, where it’ll go to work and end this bout of hay fever.”
“And then what?” he hissed. She shrugged once, looking terrified.
“I assume the troll will go on about his business once he’s not feeling so poorly. He doesn’t usually sit next to the bridge, after all.”
“Right,” Watt muttered. “Right, I’ll just slap the hanky over his nose and then somehow get him to retreat back under his bridge, where he belongs.”
“You might try tripping him when his face is covered with the hanky,” Lisa pointed out. “He looks pretty clumsy.”
Watt looked at her, realizing belatedly that she had moved up and was peering at the troll over the top of the boulder. She looked back at him and shrugged again.
“It can’t be that easy,” he said in awe. “If it were that easy, someone would have tried it by now.”
“Most people think big problems need bid solutions,” Lisa replied. “The fact is, that troll’s always been here, sleeping under that bridge and bothering nobody. We don’t need to get him to go away, just go back to sleep.”
“And since he’s sneezing, it’s probably just hay fever that woke him up,” Watt said back, finally seeing the brilliance of her plan. “White hanky of anti-doom, indeed!”
They grinned at each other and then ducked behind their impromptu shelter when the troll sneezed again.
“Here goes nothing,” Watt muttered before darting out from behind the boulder. “Oy! You, there!” he yelled at the troll.
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
The Adventures of Lisa and Watt:
The Troll and the White Hanky of Anti-doom
Chapter 1, part 2
Lisa watched the large young man saunter away from the guard barracks, leaving the red-faced captain sputtering impotently. He was either very brave or very stupid, she thought. Or both. It wasn't unusual for young men to be brave in the face of their own stupidity.
Maybe not stupid after all, she reconsidered when he dropped his saucy grin as soon as he was out of sight of the barracks. She'd spent a good portion of her life in a household full of cock-sure fighting men who thought they were better than everyone else because they knew how to handle a blade. None of them would have dropped the swagger or the smirk like this young giant had. They would have worn them to their doom without ever realizing they were loosing. It also wasn't lost on her that he had almost a full battle kit, lacking only a battle horse and long sword, and it was neither new nor in ill repair. Had be been a complete fool, it would have been one or the other. Something told her that he may just be the ticket she was looking for to get out of this city before anyone realized she was there. She scrambled to catch up to him.
"Hello," she said after he ignored her walking beside him for several paces. He looked down at her—he was very tall and she wasn't, even compared to normal sized people—and nodded once, though he said nothing and didn't shorten his very long strides.
Lisa gulped when she got a good look at his face. He was older than she had assumed, twenty-five at least, and so perfectly featured that should would have called him beautiful rather than hansom. She had assumed he would be no older than her eighteen years because of his boyish features, but up close she could see the beginnings of crow's feet at the corners of his dark brown eyes.
It wasn't only his sweet features that made him look young at first glance, though. His short black hair stuck up in the very front and he had no whiskers. Up close, she could see the faint hints of his beard coming in, which meant he had shaved before presenting himself to the captain of the city guard. His face was uniformly tanned, telling her that he likely kept his chin clean shaven in the Norman fashion. The style had fallen out of favor after Longshank’s death, so she found it curious that a young Cornish man would follow the defunct fashion.
"Do you always keep your chin free of whiskers?" she asked and then cringed at the boldness of her question. She had always had a hard time not saying the first thing that popped into her head. He didn't seem to take offense, though, just glanced down at her again.
"I'm a blacksmith by training," he replied.
"I've known many smiths who wear a beard," she remarked off-handedly.
"And how many of those beards were patchy and scorched from flying slag?" he asked with a condescending frown.
"Um," she said, startled. "All of them, not that you mention it."
"I don't care to have parts of my body catching on fire, so I keep the whiskers shaved off."
"So why you are trying to soldier if you are a blacksmith?" she asked, genuinely curious now.
"Do I know you?" the young man asked, sounding annoyed.
"Not yet," she conceded. "But I hope to change that. My name's Lisa, by the way. What's yours?"
"Watt," he grunted.
"Fine, don't tell me then," she huffed. He shook his head, the smirk creeping across his full, sensual mouth. Her older sister Maud would be drooling by now if she caught sight of that mouth. Then she'd be trying to come up with ways to coax him into kissing her, Lisa mused. Maud had quite the roving eye, which had gotten her into several compromising situations in the past. Lisa was much more reserved when it came to the male persuasion, though she could definitely see the appeal of this one.
"My name is Watt," he said with wry amusement.
"Oh! Like Walter only shorter!" Lisa nodded once to herself, pleased to have remembered that interesting trait of the common folk. They almost never used the formal versions of their names. Sometimes they didn't have formal names at all. Their parents would give them the truncated version at birth. She herself wasn't formally named Lisa, but rather Lisette. Her childhood nurse had called her Lisa when she was too small to realize why it annoyed her mother, so that's what she had been calling herself since making a run for it several months ago.
"Yes, like Walter," the very tall young man said, shaking his head.
"Well, Walter, why are you trying to make a living as a soldier if you are trained as a blacksmith?"
"Like Walter, but not actually Walter," he corrected. "My name is Watt, and I'm a third son of a village blacksmith, which means there's nothing for me to inherit other than the skills me da could teach. Given the choice between marrying my way into an established smithy or working in someone else's, most likely my brother's once he inherits, I chose to soldier, instead."
"That's not all that different from my situation," Lisa said with false casualness. "I have some talent with magic but my family wanted me to marry a man three times my age and spend my days popping out babies and keeping his house. So I left home to find myself a master mage to apprentice myself to."
"That's nice," Watt observed laconically, clearly not interested in her story. It wasn't a lie, though, even if it wasn't exactly the whole truth.
"This morning, my master turned me out," she continued doggedly. "He said he wasn't making enough money off my skills to pay for my room and board. He tossed back what was left of the coin I'd paid for my apprenticeship and told me to find some other career to study."
"I take it you aren't very good, then," Watt said as he looked around the market square.
"I'm very good at somethings," she shot back huffily. "For instance, I can tell you that you won't find anyone selling provisions. There's no food to be had. That's the real reason I was turned out. And by the sounds of it, that's the real reason Captain Jarack turned you away, too."
"Part of it, anyway," Watt said, sparing her a quick frown. "That didn't exactly require skill, only a bit of observation. There are no merchants selling their wears in the market square."
"You'd be surprised how much the efficient application of magic relies on keen observation," she shot back at him.
"No, I wouldn't," he said in a wry voice. "Most things in life turn out better if you are paying attention. Is there a point to your rambling story?"
"The point I was trying to make is that we both seem to have the same problem, no readily available work. The answer to that problem is clear," Lisa said. "We need to get across the river, which is being troubled by a troll. I can't cross with just my magic and you can't vanquish the troll by yourself."
"So what are you suggesting?" he asked, though it was clear he knew what her point was.
"You get me close enough to the troll to see what the situation is and I'll give you a spell that will enable you to defeat it."