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Tale: Bard to the Bone

As an experiment, I'm serializing one of my short stories (one of those "trunk" stories that you enjoy writing but it would be the very dickens to find a market for.)

It's about a bard who's a pig.

"But you're a PIG!"

I arched an eyebrow at the velvet-clad human who stood before me looking outraged and possibly confused. They're a funny lot, those humans -- they accept talking wolves, cats, ducks, and unicorns but if you give them something different like a talking elephant or a musical pig, their brains seem to shut down and they start yammering in outrage.

"I'm a bard," I said firmly.

"But the old saying... 'you can't teach a...'"

"...Pig to sing," I finished for him. "Yes. I know -- I know."

"It's just not done!" His companion, a knee-high Cat, peered around his legs.

I stared at the human. He seemed to think that during my childhood and youth, I somehow had missed the fact that I had trotters and floppy ears and a large snout. "Look," I said calmly, "You're obviously new to the Beletseri Lands, Prince... ahh..."

"Vorlofsky," the Cat put in and bowed, sweeping the ground with the plume of his hat. The prince straightened and tried to look important. Of course he'd be a prince disguised as a doorman -- here in the Otherlands we had a constant flow of human questers from all the ages and all the multiverses. Even the old witch of the Amber Forests had a steady stream of royalty fetching her water and chopping her wood.

"Vorlofsky," I said. "However, prince, this is not the land of your birth. This is the Otherlands; the land of faerie and myth. You've seen things here that you would never see at home and you have a talking Cat as your servant. I take it that he wasn't your servant in the land of your birth?"

"Uh... no."

"Well, there you go. Just because some old saying holds true in YOUR land doesn't mean it's an unchangeable law everywhere else."

He looked indignant at that, as though the very idea of the universe not assembling itself to please humans was somehow blasphemous.

"So," I continued, "I'm a musician and professional storyteller. You need musicians and storytellers for your feast tonight. That would be me."

"So you say." The prince probably hadn't won any prizes for wit and intelligence in his homeland.

I slipped my small harp out of the case. "Here... let me show you," I said and quickly plucked a chord. He looked down at the broad thick nails of my hands, and while he was staring at them, I rolled a few arpeggios and began softly singing Aengus' Lament.

The Cat looked up, mouth agape. The prince stared at me, mouth agape. It didn't do much for either of their appearances. I gave them just a taste -- it never works to give away the whole thing -- stopping just at his question to the sorcerer. They stood like stones through the whole short performance, open-mouthed.

I broke the spell with a question. "So, can I perform for the court tonight?"

"Uhm... sure." The prince tried to look unimpressed, but he wasn't fooling anyone. What's your name?" he asked as he fumbled in his belt pouch and carefully extracted a well-chewed pencil and a sheet of parchment.

"Josefina Javelina," I answered.

"Look more like a Berkshire than a javelina," The Cat snorted.

I eyed his shabby tabby fur. "We all can't be born Siamese with royal names and lineage," I said sweetly, "When I became a Bard, I took a new name. It's tradition. Like the great King Panochon, our host."

"That isn't his name?" the prince blinked.

"Oh no. He was Jack Sleepyshins, the son of the Lake Widderley widow. After he killed the thunder giant and the fire giant and took this castle from the stone giant here, he changed his name to something a bit more appropriate. It's a tradition here in Otherland when we rise above humble beginnings. Your Cat friend here did the same thing." That last was a guess, but from the rather guilty start that the Cat gave, my guess was right on the mark.

The prince eyed his companion suspiciously "You never said." He gave the Cat a hard stare.

"Oh. Well. But look, it's almost time for the feast to start," the Cat said, changing the subject quickly. "So... Josefina Javelina. Very nice. Very bardic. Good act for the dessert course, don't you think?"

The Prince chewed on the end of his pencil and stared at the paper. "And, of course, it has an unusual spelling," I said, coming to the Prince's rescue. "It's Ho-sa-feen-ah Hav-uh-leee-nah," I said, spelling it phonetically. I started wondering how Vorlofsky spelled his own name and just how badly he mangled it when he wrote it.

He finished with a flourish, adding an "i" with a loopy circle as a dot to my name. "You will sing at the eighth hour," Vorlofsky said, in the manner of someone granting a great boon.

I glanced at the list of mostly misspelled names -- Morgan the Gray, Bonnan Adal, and Wrosche the Watcher -- who was referred to as "Wrosche the Wretched" behind his back. They all specialized in mournfully dire ballads full of dark predictions. This was going to be an easy gig -- the crowd would be more than ready for something light and perky after four hours of doom and gloom. I set my harp back in her case and smiled.

"Brunton will show you to your room," the prince said, peering down his nose at me.

"This way," said the Cat, and trotted down the hall. I picked up my harp and my rucksack and followed.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 21st, 2011 01:48 am (UTC)
Yay! ^_^ I could see that being tough to find a market for, yes. Could make a great web serial though.
May. 21st, 2011 02:35 am (UTC)
that little illo you have for it is freak'n adorable!
May. 21st, 2011 02:59 am (UTC)
I like this! Bards don't have to be what people expect. And crowdfunding is the place for cool stories that don't have an obvious market.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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