"I thought that I had detected a round of storytelling
going on. Most excellent: there is nothing better to
take one's mind from a cold evening than a warm
tavern, excellent beer and good sophonts ready to spin
their tales of their peoples. I have arrived early
enough to not miss too many tales, either.
"But I have not properly introduced myself. Geoffrey, knight-errant of her Most Petite Majesty Elizabeth XXIII, Queen by the Grace of God of all Ellyllon, at your service. So, what are the covenants of this fine game you weave?"
"Tales of our people's origins? A most cheerful and pleasant diversion: and one that I may honorably partake in. Pray allow me to have your cups filled as I begin ... but I forget myself. The good scion of Stone there looked ready to craft his tale, first. My most humble apologies: please forgive my presumption."
(Laughs) "Yes, indeed, open hands do help smooth out rumpled honor. Let my paying for this most fine drink accomplish the same. Is everyone settled and comfortable? Very well, then I shall begin. In time-honored tradition, I will relate this tale with the old words: Once upon a time..."
Once upon a time there was a vassal of the Lord Himself. He was a brave vassal, loyal, honorable and pious: and a grim and relentless foe of Evil. His battles were epic, and many were the foes that fell to his ever-shining blade. Yet this good knight was also gentle and just to those under his protection, ever striving to make their lives better through his freely-given sacrifices. And he never stopped thanking God for the happiness of his simple life.
Then came one day where his King and Lord spoke unto him, and called him to greater duties. And the knight willingly gave up his humble tasks to become God's own General and Commander of the Host. Not even in his own Heart would Sir Laurence - for, while his name was of no matter to himself while a simple knight, matters were different in his new station. After all, you cannot lead a campaign when your vassals are forced to shout 'Hey, you!' when they wish to get your attention! - again, not even in his own Heart would Sir Laurence grumble or bemoan the loss of his simpler, more personally satisfying days.
Would that his vassals had felt the same - although I am not doing them justice. They were - are - a varied lot: stark warriors and gentle healers, crafty co u n s elors and laughing bards, clever artisans and wild rovers, but all equally loved their Creator and wished to serve Him. However, Sir Laurence was at the time the youngest of them all, and there were those who were sure that the oldest vassal of all should have been persuaded to take up again the mantle of leadership, instead. Heaven obeyed Sir Laurence, nonetheless ... but there was always that hint of hesitation.
Thus things continued, until one day those warriors among God's immediate vassals came to Sir Laurence and inquired of him whether he had any plans to create an Unbroken Race of his own. Those among the others had long since brought forth peoples as friends and allies to Man and Elf, and it was thought that Sir Laurence would wish to do the same. I of course will not make the suggestion that a baser motivation - a subtle reminder of the Commander's youth - was involved in any way.
At any rate, Sir Laurence smiled - I have been told that his face flushed, but I do not believe it - and responded.
"Yes, I have made such plans: indeed, I have completed them." And as he rose the assembled vassals could see that the Commander had been putting the finishing touches on two winged figures. At his breathing of the Words of Life into their ears, the two rose up on gossamer wings and flew about their creator.
Sir Laurence's vassals were silent for a moment: finally, one spoke. "A wondrous design, Lar - Commander Sir Laurence. When were you planning to make a full sized version?"
Sir Laurence raised an eyebrow. "These are 'full-sized', Sir Janus: indeed, a greater girth would be pointless and wasteful. They will do quite well for themselves." He looked at his 'children'. "You will be named Rupert ... and you will be named Elizabeth." He smiled. "Yes, you can switch names, if you like."
The silence from Sir Laurence's vassals was even more profound. A second vassal eventually broke the still air: "Yes, but what on Earth and Heaven are they good for?"
Sir Laurence's eyes were bright, yet full of challenge - and, forgive me for saying it, a bit of mischief as well. Our penultimate father is very young, as such things go - but his voice was innocent. "Why, Sir David, they are good for helping us win the War. Why would you think otherwise?"
A grumble like rocks, which eventually coalesced into words: "For one thing, they're small."
The Commander of the Host's mouth curled into a smile. "I assure you, size is immaterial in this case. They will make fine warriors." No doubt the looks of polite disbelief caused him to continue, "I fancy that they could defeat your own champions, not five minutes after their birth. In fact... send for them."
The three vassals blinked at the sudden steel in Sir Laurence's voice, but they obeyed. The Commander nodded at their subordination and continued, "The rules are simple: this is an affair of honor, not blood, so there shall be no fighting to the death. The contest will continue until one side surrenders to the other. Is that understood? Excellent."
The first Champion to arrive was Sir David's: in many ways, the Lord of Stone was the most critical of the Commander, and it was no surprise that his Champion was a stark fighter, dressed and bodied as one of Sir David's beloved Dwarves. The two Ellyllon had in the meantime begun to debate who should have the right to face their first foe: the issue was only resolved when Stone's Champion growled that he would face them both at once. Both sides bowed to each other, and began.
This "battle" was perhaps not the most epic in the annals of the Ellyllon race: the Lord of Stone had forgotten his own edicts when he chose his Champion. Courteously, the Ellyllon struck the first blow, allowing their opponent to fight ... once they realized what was keeping him immobile. This unfortunately took a minute or so. After that, well, it is difficult to pick a flying target out of the air when all that one has is a hand weapon.
After a few minutes, the Champion could hear the chuckling going on behind him. He called for a pause - which, of course, his opponents honored - to see his liege lord scowling and Sir Laurence faintly smiling. At his puzzled look, the third vassal (who had remained silent until now, his quiet eyes taking in everything) took pity on the angel to tell him,
"Your opponents have been playing naughts-and-crosses on your shield."
The Champion looked, and yea, indeed, they had. Quite neatly, if legend was true. He scowled, imitating his liege lord. "If you would come down and fight hand-to-hand..."
Rupert nodded. "Your pardon, good knight. If you feel at a disadvantage, we will of course handicap ourselves by doing so. May it never be said that the Ellyllon took undue advantage in an affair of honor."
Strangely enough, this did not appease the Champion. Still scowling, he fiddled with his shield for a moment, then angrily slung his axe back over his shoulder. "Enough!" He turned to his liege lord. "My honor forbids me to fight on their terms, but their honor requires them to fight on mine, despite the consequences. I will not answer honor with dishonor." He turned back to his opponents. "I will yield."
The two Ellyllon bowed and curtsied in mid-air, respectively: Sir David's scowl as he watched them suddenly faded, as an errant thought about the utility in war of flying scouts with excellent aim occurred to him. There was a bit more genuine respect than before in his own bow to Sir Laurence.
During the battle, the second Champion (Sir Janus') had appeared, and had been given a certain amount of hastily-whispered instructions by her liege lord. Grinning slightly, the Champion politely requested to face only one opponent at a time, with no weapons on either side: great wings sprouted from her back as she removed her armor. After a slight altercation on the Ellyllon's side (which ended with Elizabeth's outright ordering Rupert to retire from the battle - we've been obeying our ladies ever since, by the way), the two flew to the middle of the clearing to do battle.
Our people have long since enshrined a variant of this struggle into our own customs: it became clear that the two fighters had silently agreed that that no blows would be struck on either side. Instead, the goal would be to use their wings to disturb the air, for the purpose of blowing the other off course ... and possibly into a tree or the ground. It had also been silently agreed that the contest would continue until one refused to go back into the air.
This was, of course, a battle where one of our people would be at a severe disadvantage: while our ultimate corporeal ancestors were stronger than any one of our people today, they were not noticeably heavier. Elizabeth's wing buffets stung ... but her opponent's replies would send our First Queen tumbling out of control. It was only a matter of minutes before the inevitable happened and she was forced to the ground. She gamely picked herself up and flew back into the fray - and was knocked down again. And again, and again, and again, and again: but every time she felt to the ground or was dashed against a tree, Good Queen Bess would shake her head, flick her wings and hair, and return to the fray.
Finally, disgusted with herself, Janus' Champion shouted, "Have done!" and descended to the ground. Her opponent lowered herself - painfully - to eye level. The Champion turned to her liege lord. "The Champion of the Lord of Stone was quite right. Honor should not be met with dishonor: I could kill her, but I cannot force her to cry off." She bowed to Queen Bess. "I will yield." Luckily, the Lord of Wind does not hold grudges - at least, not for long: or perhaps he simply respects perseverance. His own bow to his Commander was likewise full of a bit more respect now.
Then, as if by a lodestone all eyes turned to the third vassal, who had by now found himself a comfortable place to sit. His eyes were merry as he quietly murmured, "What? My Champion's turn?"
Sir Laurence, of course, is not subject to nervousness, but it is said that he came as close to that state as he ever does when he replied, "Yes, Sir Michael. Please bring him forth to face my Champion Rupert." In Laurence's arms, Queen Bess struggled to rise and object. "Hush, my daughter. Let thy future King earn his spurs."
The Lord of War nodded, and casually pointed at a patch of grass. "Appear." And with that - Michael's Champion appeared. Everyone blinked at his choice, for the fellow that appeared was corporeal. He was, in point of fact, a Halfling.
I can see that our Halfling friends here are grinning in anticipation. What, is this part of the story part of your legends, too? It is? An actual saga - tell me, what verse form? Ah. Well, I am not too familiar with this style that you call 'epic limerick', but I look forward to hearing it later.
At any rate, the Halfling looked around, bemusedly ... then fixed his eyes on his liege lord.
"So this was what you wanted me for, boss?"
"Indeed, Sir Toby." The Halfling looked dubious at the title, but kept his mouth shut.
"Right. So, who am I fighting?"
"That flying nobleman over there. Could you take him?" The Halfling squinted.
"What can I use?"
"Anything you like."
"Even a sling? I mean, your average nobleman isn't too keen on facing a peasant weapon..."
Rupert spoke up. "Good Sir Toby, when defending the Right a true nobleman takes up whatever weapon is at hand. If it is your favored weapon, then I will face it gladly, and not scorn you for it."
The Halfling nodded at this and looked for his pipe. Sir Michael idly smiled and lit it for him. "He's polite, I'll say that for him."
"Indeed. You realize that you aren't supposed to kill him?"
The Halfling looked pained. "Boss, give me a sling and enough room to swing it I can knock a fly off the wall without hurting either the fly or the wall. That's why I'm here, right?" Sir Michael chuckled in response. "So, that's not a worry ... but, why am I doing this?
Sir Michael leaned back against a tree and lit his own pipe. "Well, Sir Toby, my own liege lord has just created them, and he's trying to show that they'll be an asset to the War by having them face our Champions."
"How are they doing?"
"Two for two."
The Halfling looked at the Lords of Stone and Wind. "Impressive - but, if their creations of your liege lord, then they would be." He scratched his chin idly. "Can I just save trouble all around and concede right now?"
"You think that you'll lose?"
"Probably not - but I do think that it'll be discourteous for me to try. I'm in an army, not a mob. I don't argue when the generals decide things."
Sir Michael's expression was carefully neutral. "Something to that, Sir Toby, something to that. Still, you should at least go through the motions..."
The Halfling nodded ... then stood, twisted and let fly with a sling in one motion. The Ellyllon's expression flickered as he tensed, then noted that the stone was deliberately shot six inches wide.
Sir Toby nodded. "Good nerves, better reflexes. He would have dodged it if it was on target. Good enough." The Halfling raised his voice. "I yield." He turned back to his own liege lord. "Now, Boss, if I could get back to the supply depot before they lose all the beans again?"
Sir Michael rose as his Soldier faded out. The Lord of War bowed low to his liege lord, saying, "I apologize for any inadvertent insult to the valor or worth of your creations. They will aid us well." He turned to his comrades.
"Isn't that right?"
"...and that's how the First King and Queen of the Ellyllon Earned their Honor. What's that? There was one unanswered question?"
"'Why did Sir Laurence make his creations the size that he did?' Ah, an oft-asked question. Well, the usual answer is some variant of the thought that he wished to teach his vassals to not look at the surface when determining worth, or something similarly pious. However, you all seem honorable sorts, so I'll tell you what my people really say - but you must swear to not reveal it, or scorn us for it. It's a bargain, then: here, we shall seal it with another round. Now gather around and hear the secret:
"He made us small so that the rest of the Unbroken Races would not be under too much of a disadvantage."
Back to the INC Mainpage.
Back to the Fiction page.
Send mail to the Curator