hairylarry's blog



Elphonium by INDRIKoff from Deviantart
used with permission

This painting was the inspiration for this story. I saw it on Tumblr and followed the link path to Deviantart. Thanks to INDRIKoff for painting this remarkable image.


Elphonium
by Larry Heyl

The King was bored. The King was restless. Peaceful times were great for his Kingdom. His subjects were happy and hearty. Trade flourished. But the King … was bored.

He thought of calling his musicians with their lyres and flutes but lately all their tunes sounded the same. Even his fool’s raunchy jokes failed to amuse. He would rather saddle his horse and ride.

That’s it. He would ride. A real ride. Just the King, his fool, and his groom. Not a ride to somewhere. Just a ride. He had purpose. A purposeless ride.

The King moved. “Come Fool.”, he bawled, “We ride.”

Somehow the groom already knew. Gossip in the castle travels faster than thought. When the King and his fool arrived at the stables the groom was ready. Three good horses saddled and prancing. They were a sight for sore eyes. The King, his fool, and his groom mounted and rode.

They stepped lightly across the drawbridge and quickly broke into a canter, the King in the lead. He hadn’t gone a quarter mile before he veered off onto a lightly used path into the woods. They slowed and the King let his horse pick the trail. Sometimes the path disappeared but his horse had a sense of direction beyond human abilities. When the trail forked his horse knew which way to go. The fool and the groom followed behind without effort. Their horses followed the King’s horse. The King gave his horse his head.

The forest changed. It was now more open. Lighter. Brighter. The leaves on the trees shimmered. The grass waved in the breeze as if begging to be trod on. The horses slowed to a walk, a slow walk, somehow barely moving. And then they heard the music.

It was like nothing they had ever heard before. A sweet plaintive sound, sometimes like an oboe and sometimes like a flute but always changing. Music without thought, apparently without direction. But somehow it always seemed to get there. The phrases morphing into each other, one after the other, drawing them in.

They came to a clearing and under a pear tree standing alone they saw an elfin princess blowing a horn beyond description. Not a horn with one bell. Not a horn with one sound. Many bells. Each with it’s own sound. And the horn was not separate from the elfin princess. Somehow it grew right out of her. And the music flowed right out of her too. Tumbling through their minds like a river tumbles through the valley.

They dismounted and the groom tended the horses. He didn’t have to tie them. They weren’t going anywhere.

The groom brought a sack of wine from his saddlebags and they all three drank and listened to the music. But they didn’t get drunk. They drank so slowly, sip by sip, the wine enhancing their senses, carrying them deeper and deeper into the music.

Other elves appeared, charming fellows but none as beautiful as the elphin princess. The King noticed other mouthpieces on the horn. Soon the other elves were playing too, each on their own mouthpiece. Each creating countermelodies out of one of the bells.

The music became denser with bass patterns underlying harmonies underlying the ever changing melodies played by the elphin princess. The King, his fool, and his groom stood their entranced. Slowly sipping wine. Captured by the music.

And then the faeries came. A dozen, then a hundred, dancing out of the woods. Soon the King, his fool, and his groom were surrounded by hundreds of faeries dancing naked in the meadow. The fool wanted to make a raunchy joke but his mouth wouldn’t make the sounds. His lips wouldn’t speak.

The sun set. The moon rose. The King joined the dance. The moon, high in the sky, looked down on the three of them dancing with the faeries, thoroughly ensorceled.

And what a night it was dancing naked in the clearing with the faeries. It was better than the hunt. Better than battle. Better than life itself. Just the music, the dancing, the faeries, the elves, the elphin princess, and the horn.

As the moon set the faeries danced off. The wine was finally gone. The music wound down. Softer, slower. And they slept.

They awoke after dawn, under the pear tree, still naked, not another soul in sight. Their horses nickered standing at the edge of the clearing. They dressed. They mounted. They rode.

It seemed like only minutes and they were back at the castle. The King’s subjects shouted “Hurrah! the King is back! Hurrah!”

They were lucky.

Only a year had passed.


The story “Elphonium” by Larry Heyl is CC-BY.

There it was, spread out in front of me. The dragon’s horde. So beautiful, all the gold and jewels. It would be perfect if it wasn’t for the giant red sprawled across the treasure snoring.

Focus, I told myself. Where’s the cup? The dwarves were paying me for one thing and one thing only, Gimcrack’s Cup, their holy chalice, and of course it was made of gold so of course the dragon stole it.

I knew from experience that I could spend through any treasure I could steal and I made my share of enemies learning this. The dwarves were offering an annuity and safe harbor. I had to get that cup.

I crept slowly, keeping in the shadows around the edge of the cave. How can I see one cup piled amongst all that gold? Sharp eyes, I thought. Stay focused. Move slowly.

When I got to the far side of the cave I was looking right up the sleeping dragons nostrils. One puff and I’d be toast. But there it was. About half way up the mound. Shining with its own light and cracked right down one side. If you poured ale into Gimcrack’s Cup it should leak right out but instead it stayed everful as long as you were drinking from it. No wonder the dwarves worshipped it.

But how do I get it from the dragon? I’ll draw my magic sword and cut his head off. But I’m no warrior and I have no magic sword. I’ll cast an illusion and distract him. But I’m no illusionist and I know no spells. I know! I’m a thief. I’ll creep up there and steal it from under his nose. But that might lead to a fiery death. I stood paralyzed looking right at the dragon, scared shitless.

He opened one eye. “Human, how good to see you. Just in time for breakfast. Not much of a bite but so tasty, roasted”.

“Wait!” I cried. “Don’t kill me. The dwarves sent me.”

“Dwarves” shouted the dragon. “Even less of a morsel and kind of tough. I’d rather eat you.”

Impending death and the thought of dwarves gave me an inspiration. “I tell you what. Before breakfast how about a little drinking competition? Since dwarves sent me we’ll have a quaffing contest. We can each quaff a cup of ale and then another. I’m sure I can outdrink you.”

“Ho, ho, ho.” laughed the dragon. “Puny human you will never outdrink a giant red. All that alcohol will only tenderize you. So I say yes! A quaffing contest.”

I reached down at me feet and grabbed a bejeweled chalice. “I’ll drink from this.” Walking boldly through the treasure toward the dragon I scooped up Gimcrack’s Cup. “And you’ll drink from this.” I handed him the cup.

“Ho ho ho.” laughed the dragon. “You’re going to get me drunk with a cracked cup?” He dragged up a barrel of lager and topped of my chalice the ale running down the sides and soaking my sleeve. “You first human.”

I looked him in the eye and said, “This is how you quaff. Turn it up and don’t turn it down until it’s empty.” I turned up the chalice and went glug, glug, glug swallowing most of it but letting some run down my beard for good form.

The dragon was ready. He topped off Gimcrack’s Cup not even noticing that the ale didn’t even leak. He turned it up and started pouring it down his throat. It kept pouring and pouring the fine strong ale. Some of it started running down his muzzle but he wouldn’t give up. He drank and he drank until he fell over sideways. When he stopped drinking Gimcrack’s Cup emptied onto his face.

The giant red was so out of it that he wasn’t even snoring. I carefully pried the cup from his talons. I threw it and the chalice into my pack. On the way out I added a few choice items.

Even with an annuity I’m going to need a little bit of spending money.


---


Feel free to use this in your quests.


"Gimcrack's Cup" was originally published at SFF Short Stories.


sffshortstories.com/?x=entry:entry160826-165426


It is also available as a Mini Zine here.


minizines.cc/flat/?x=entry:entry190614-172236

Milyagon is a locale for OSR or Wizards and Heroes.

Milyagon is a small village upriver from the southern seaport Canyanban. It used to be a military fortress and it still maintains substantial wooden walls with a large gate and several smaller entrances. Outside the gate on what used to be the parade grounds is a trading fair where area farmers and craftsmen peddle their wares.


Guard towers set at each corner of the fortress. There is also a lookout tower on the High Bluffs and an even larger tower on Telescope Hill, remnants of military history.


On fair day people come from miles around. Trade is brisk and business is good. Gold greases the wheels and the wheels keep turning.


Citizens:


- Mayor Bannych is former military and a good man in a pinch.

- Sherrif Slykver is slick in fact and not too crooked.

- Tyad Miggles the innkeep is amiable and well off.

- Yon Rogar the smith is big and he looks dumb, but he's not.

- Thom Kellych the shopkeeper is wiry with a sharp eye for profit.

- Marantha is the apothecarist. She has a strong nose and a nimble mind.

- Jon Rogar runs the docks. He's as big as his brother, Yon.

- The priest, Durward, leans toward greed and gluttony.

- The witch lives north of town. Many say her potions work fine.

- The keeper lives on a pension below the tower on Telescope Hill.


Legends:


The woodcutter in Wilken Woods cuts statues and totems as well as firewood. His statues are very lifelike especially in the moonlight. Sometimes a young whippersnapper will tell tale about how one of them came to life at full moon and he killed it. The older folks pay no heed because the legend is no one has ever bested one of the woodcutters animated statues.


No one doubts the witches potions. Her herb garden is small but immaculate and she knows exactly what poisons she's growing as well as what tea eases cramps or kills pain. She has been known to help girls after a rape and the legend is that after she took care of the girl she would take care of the rapist too.


This quest by Larry and Vivian Heyl is licensed Creative Commons Attribution. Images public domain.


https://www.minizines.cc/flat/?x=entry:entry190604-070157


 

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