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Labor of Love

Ruarin, Lady of Eyre, heard her husband’s boots on the stairs leading to her kitchen.  She placed her hand upon the bundle of food the cook had prepared for the master of the house. Her hounds, Water of Fire and Bounder, sat on the floor next to DaddyBear’s baggage.  Their noses twitched as they tried, in vain, to convince her that they should give their master’s victuals a final taste, just to be sure that it was safe.

Beyond the shuttered windows, a winter storm roared as it swept in from the mountains to the west.  Normally their home would be frosted with snow at this time of year, but unusually warm, wet weather had turned her gardens into sodden mires.  Ruarin’s heart and mood matched them. Her eyes flashed just as the sky did when great bolts of lightning arced to the hills at the edge of their valley.

DaddyBear the Minivandian strode into his kitchen and glanced about as if expecting assassins to leap from the shadows.   The dogs thumped their tails against the flagstones at his approach, earning them each a pat on the head. Their disappointment at the lack of a treat was evident in their eyes.

The Northerner turned to his wife.  Their gaze met for a long moment, then the Lady of Eyre turned away.

“Your things are ready, my lord,” she said in an even, formal tone.  “Is there anything else you need before you depart?”

“My love,” he started to reply, but was cut off when his wife lifted her head and fixed him with a glare.

“Love?” she spat.  “Is it love that sends you off to some forsaken place today?”

“Ruarin, it’s by order of the High King himself.”

“And what of it?  I seem to remember an oath to me that you would stay home for a long while.  Do you remember that?”

“Yes, but…”

“And your oath to our son that you would attend to his training this winter?  The boy needs someone to show him how to use that sword he got at mid-winter, and now his father is traipsing off on another adventure.”

“The master at arms can work with the Young Prince.”

Ruarin’s eyes flashed at that.

“He is your son.  You should be teaching him.”

“I wouldn’t go if I didn’t have to.”

“That is what you said when you missed his birthday last spring, and when you were gone during the harvest feast.  You’ve just barely finished healing from that little jaunt, and now you’re off again.”

“Ruarin, my love,….”

“And what of me?  Am I only the lady of your house now?  Am I to just stay here to keep hearth and home together while my lord is out and about?”

The Miniviandian closed his eyes and took a long, slow breath.  He opened his eyes and let it as he replied to his wife.

“Woman, I am bound by my word to our King.”

“And what of your oath to me?  Have you forgotten that after all these years?”

DaddyBear’s rocked back as if he’d been slapped.  “Of course, I haven’t. Do you think I choose these things freely?”

“I could write to the King.  We’re kin, after all. You should be….”

“No,” DaddyBear said firmly, his voice dropping to a growl.  “I forbid you to do that. I will do my duty.”

The pair glared at each other while another peal of thunder shook the foundations of their manor.  The dogs looked from one to the other, then made the wise choice to slink away.

The Northerner bent down and picked up his bag.  Hefting it over his shoulder, he turned to the door.

“I’ll be back on the full moon,” he said over his shoulder as he stepped out into the storm.  The wind grabbed the door from his grasp, slamming it back into its frame hard enough to make the shutters rattle.

Ruarin stood in her empty kitchen, listening in vain for the sound of DaddyBear’s return for a parting embrace.  After a long wait, she felt hot tears roll down her cheeks, then sobs filled the kitchen.  

In the morning, the cook would find her mistress asleep at the table, the master’s bundle of food cradled in her arms.


DaddyBear the Minivandian trudged through the mud as the storm raged around him.  He had tied the pack behind his saddle before leaving home, but chose to lead his horse through the storm rather than ride him.  The big roan walked with his head down, but otherwise did not seem to notice the pellets of ice that had replaced the rain as they walked through the manor’s gate.  

The pre-dawn gloom slowly gave way to a dim, crimson dawn as the Northerner turned to follow a forest path into the hills.  After only a few miles of walking in the rain and mist, his cloak and anything not covered by it was sodden and splattered with frozen mud.  His beard and hair were frosted with ice, but he did not seem to notice as he trudged along. His eyes were fixed forward and he mumbled to himself as he went along.  

Several forest creatures heard his footfalls and voice long before he passed their lairs.   Some, hungry from a hard winter, might have chanced attacking a lone traveller, but none dared face the wrath of the big Northman that day.  Even though his great axe was strapped to his saddle and his sword was sheathed beneath several layers of wool and leather, none wished to face death at his bare hands.

Only when DaddyBear’s belly started to rumble with hunger did his attention come back to what he was doing.  With a grunt, he guided his horse into a stand of cedars. The few rays of dawn’s light that escaped beneath the leaden sky shone through the ice encrusting them.  They gave the cedars a red hue that matched the Minivandian’s bloody mood.

When he discovered that he had forgotten his food, DaddyBear cursed himself to any gods that might have been listening.

“Fool,” he said, “do you think you can survive on pine needles and snow?”

After considering that for a moment, DaddyBear snorted.  “I mean, can you survive on pine tea and whatever else you can find, again?”  Images of a frozen forest and a pretty girl flitted across his eyes for a moment.

He stopped to think, but then shook his head.  “No, I’m not going back. I’m already late, and I’m in no mood to cross swords with her once more,” he muttered as he put his foot in the stirrup.  Once he was settled into the saddle, he poked the roan in the ribs and started down the trail again.

“I know where I can get provisions, and the company might be a bit friendlier.”


The Minivandian’s cloak hissed and steamed next to the crackling fire as Jedediah the Dwarf filled a mug with dark, rich beer and passed it to DaddyBear.  The short, barrel-chested man looked as if he had been crafted from tooled leather. His skin was deeply tanned, even in the darkest winter. It was either due to his continual work at his forge, or perhaps from decades of grinding grease and soot into it.  His bright eyes twinkled in the firelight above an unruly beard of dark curls. Now, at rest, he wore a woolen robe dyed the color of spring grass. DaddyBear was more accustomed to seeing him in a pair of leather breeches and a thick apron.

His home was small, almost cramped to the Northerner’s eyes, but was spotlessly clean and comfortably furnished.  The aroma of fresh bread, fragrant woodsmoke, and hot metal permeated the house. The walls and ceiling were intricately carved with rosettes and scenes of ancient battles.  Rugs fashioned from the skins of animals both wild and tame carpeted the floor. They, along with a roaring fire, kept Jedediah and his guest cozy. 

“So, you’re off again?” the dwarf drawled as he settled into his favorite chair.  DaddyBear nodded as he stared into the fire.

“Yes,” he took a long pull from his mug, “again.”

“Where to this time?”

“Havheim, to deliver a message to the merfolk.”

Jedediah winced at that.  “I can see why Ruarin’s about as happy as a wet cat.”

The Minivandian nodded. 

“Will she be there?”

DaddyBear replied,  “That’s who the message is for.”

Jedediah winced again.  “Ruarin knows?”

“I hide nothing from my wife.”

“And you’ve told her about your… history with the Lady Cichlidia?”

The Northman sighed and put his mug down.  “I hide nothing from my wife,” he repeated, “although sometimes….”

“You’d rather chance being turned into a toad when she finds out anyhow?”

Both men snorted.  A knot in the fire popped as they laughed at the thought.

“I would make a particularly ugly toad,” the Minivandian said with a chuckle.  “Better to be truthful.”

Jedediah nodded in agreement.  “Well, I’ve got some vittles ya can take.  Y’all’re partial to boar, right?

“Smoked or dried?”

“Brined with dragon spice, then smoked fer a week.”

DaddyBear worked his jaw as if he were already trying to chew the tough, spicy strips of meat.  It wouldn’t be as good as what he’d expected to have on the trip, but it would be better than an empty belly.

“Thank you, Jedediah.  That’ll be fine.”

“In this weather, it’ll take ya weeks to get to Havheim and back.  Ain’t there a quicker way?”

“The King asked that I do this without drawing attention.  A winged beast descending on the home of the merfolk isn’t exactly covert.”

“True, true,” the dwarf said as he got up.  “It’s a long ride in good weather. In this,” he swept his arm toward the window, now crusted in ice, “you’ll be lucky to be home by spring.”

“I’ll make up time once the weather breaks.”

Jedediah snorted.  “I’ll fetch that hawg meat fer ya.  I’ll see if I’ve got any of those dried apples from last summer left.”

“Thank you.”

“Whatcha gonna do about the missus?  This is a bad time to be away from home.”

The Northman sighed and stared at the fire.  “I don’t know. Perhaps I’ll find a gift along the way.”

“Ya know, I’ve still got some of that silver y’all brought home from Illium a couple of years ago.  Might make somethin’ nice.”

DaddyBear stroked his beard and nodded thoughtfully.  “That might help. I’ll see if I can find anything you can use along the way.”

Jedediah cracked a smile as he stood and headed toward his larder.  “Nothing too big, mind you. Just some stones I can set in the silver.”


“Dozhevir, my love, I’m afraid you’ve come all this way for nothing,” Cichlidia said in a rich, sweet voice.  She was submerged in a pool of azure water up to her neck, sparing the Minivandian from having to avert his gaze. Merfolk rarely wore much clothing while in their own realm.

“All my king asks is that you answer his question, my lady,” he replied.  He kept his gaze centered on her forehead, which was ringed by flaxen hair that flowed down either side of her exquisitely beautiful face.  Meeting her gaze for too long might have sent the wrong message to the mermaid.

“Then you may tell him that I must decline his offer,” Cichlidia replied with a beaming smile.  The corner of her eyes crinkled as she rose up a few inches in the water. She could sense DaddyBear’s unease.  She giggled when she saw that he was blushing already.

“Well, then, there are other errands I must attend to,” the Northman said, not taking his eyes off of her forehead.  He bowed. “By your leave, my lady?”

“Going so soon, Dozhevir?”  Cichlidia giggled again, and rising just a little more from the water.  “We’ve got so much to catch up on!”

“I, my lady, am a married man in the presence of someone of your beauty.  Lingering here to talk about old times would be….”

“Wonderful?”  Cichlidia stretched her arms over her head and arched her back.  “Oh, this throne is uncomfortable,” she purred.

“I was going to say ‘disastrous’,” DaddyBear replied tersely.  “I really can’t stay.”

“But, my lord, it’s cold outside.” Cichlidia settled back onto her throne.  “Just stay a few days to let the weather pass.”

“No, I promised Ruarin that I would be home before the full moon, and the High King needs to hear your reply.”

“Well, then, if you must go, then let me give you a proper goodbye.”  She surged across the pool with a hard thrust of her tail. She hovered in front of him, wrapping her shapely arms around his neck.  She leaned in for a kiss, but was disappointed when he turned his head and presented her with a bearded cheek.

“Always the honorable barbarian, aren’t you, Dozhevir?” she pouted as she sank back into her pool.  

“Always, Cichlidia.”

“Well, go with my blessing then, if you must.”

“Thank you, my lady.”  DaddyBear turned and hurried from the hall.  Once he was beyond the walls of Cichlidia’s palace, he wiped his hand across his cheek to make sure no mark from her kiss remained.

“Simon,” he whispered as he strode toward the groom holding the his horse, “I should never have let you talk me into visiting that grotto.”


A bolt of blue fire burst against the rocks at DaddyBear’s feet, throwing him to the side.  The big man tucked his axe against his chest and rolled in the pebbles of glass that carpeted the plateau.  A huge nest, fashioned from the trunks of trees and interwoven with tendrils of frost, loomed at its center.  Above it, a huge creature, as white as newly fallen snow, rose as it beat its wings against the air.  

The creature’s cry wrent the air, making the Minivandian’s ears ring as he sprang to his feet and rushed at the nest.  The small stones beneath his feet crunched as he raced across the open area before leaping up the side of the nest. The ice phoenix swooped around in a long arc, then dove at him.   Just as DaddyBear reached the edge of the nest, it stuck at him with a set of wickedly sharp talons.  

DaddyBear felt the fabric of his cloak tear as he was lifted off of the nest and thrown down into it.  He managed to keep hold of his axe by some miracle, but otherwise landed like a sack of wet mush next to a clutch of huge eggs.  His head spun as he tried to regain his feet. He felt no broken bones, but could taste blood where he had bitten through his tongue.

The phoenix cried again as it plunged down at him, then screamed as the intruder rose to his feet and pulled his axe back behind his shoulder. She stretched out her talons to strike.

“Hold!” the Minivandian shouted at the humongous bird.  “I mean you no harm!” He dodged as the bird swooped over him.

“Thief! Assassin!” the phoenix cried out, hovering over the mound of mottled eggs. “You’ve come to murder my children!”

“I come only in search of a jewel!” DaddyBear’s words were a bit muddled by his rapidly swelling tongue.

“Jewel?”  The phoenix kept a suspicious eye on the Northerner as she settled back on her nest.  At this stage, her young needed to be kept warm, and the frigid north wind whistling around her eggs worried her.

“Yes, my friend tells me that ice phoenix have beautiful blue jewels.”  

“Oh, those,” the phoenix scoffed.  “Your friend has seen our tears?”

“Tears?”  This time it was DaddyBear’s turn to be puzzled.

“Silly mortals,” the phoenix snorted.  “Of course, tears. When one of us sheds a tear, it freezes immediately.”

“Into a jewel?”

“Well, they are shiny.  I suppose someone might mistake one of them for a jewel.”

“All right then, how do I get a few tears from you?”

“If I cry for you, will you leave and never come back?”  

“Of course.  My home is far from here, and I have no wish to return to your aerie.”

The phoenix sighed and shook her downy head.  “All right, but just this once.”

She dipped her head down so that they were eye to eye.  

“Stretch out your paw.”  

DaddyBear did as instructed.  The phoenix turned her head to the side, then closed her eyes.  A few moments later, azure drops rolled down her beak and into his palm. Searing cold raced up his arm as each crystalline drop fell.

After a few moments, the phoenix raised her head.  One final tear escaped, falling to the ground and shattering in a flash of blue light.

“There, if that’s all you came for…”

“Yes, thank you.”

“Mind that you never return, morsel.  My young will be hungry for red meat in a few weeks.”

“Have no worry, my lady,” DaddyBear said as he tucked the jewels into a pouch.  “I do not wish to disturb you further.” He slowly backed to the edge of the nest, then climbed down to the ground.  The phoenix listened to his footfalls as he crunched through the pebbles and made his way down the narrow path off of her plateau.

“Foolish mammal,” she muttered as she preened her feathers.  “Tears are just pretty. He should have asked for a feather or two.”


“So,” the demon said with a sharp-toothed smirk, “your turn!”

DaddyBear scooped the iron dice up from the top of the black stone table.  For the first time in days, he was warm. In fact, he was uncomfortably hot.  Only a suspicion that he might have to race back out into the blizzard howling around the lip of the crater in which he sat kept him from stripping off a few layers of clothing.

“Last try,” the Northerner growled.  He shook the dice thrice, then watched as they clicked and sparked their way across the tabletop.

“Ah, good throw!” the demon cackled.  “But not perfect. Three fives and a four won’t be easy to beat, but we’ll see what I can do.”  

DaddyBear watched as the  imp swept the dice into its claws.  Rather than shake them, it threw them up into the air and let them fall.  Instead of bouncing, the dice landed with a thud. The demon did not look down at the dice.  It merely sneered across the table.

“Four fives!  I win again!”

DaddyBear made a sour face, but slid a gold coin across to his opponent.  It was all that remained of the stack of coins he had entered the game with. The demon laughed as it picked it up and popped the gold into its mouth.

“Oh, that’s a sweet one.”  The creature smiled at his guest.   “Care to throw again?”

“I’m out of money.”  The Minivandian gestured at the empty table in front of him.

“Well, what about that pretty sword you have under your cloak?”

“My sword?”

The demon smiled warmly.  “How about this? If you win, you get everything back and we can start over?”

“And if I lose?”

“That blade will taste really good.”

The Minivandian pursed his lips as he thought about the imp’s offer, then he reached under his cloak and drew his sword.  The polished steel gleamed in the torchlight as he lay it down on the table.

“Are those real Channani runes?  Those will add spice to the meal!”  

DaddyBear’s eye twitched as he scooped up the dice.  Never letting his eyes leave the demon, he shook them, then let them roll off of his fingers.  Just as the demon had done before, he didn’t look down at his dice before saying, “Four sixes.”

“But you only got three….” The demon stopped when the glowing edge of DaddyBear’s sword slid up against its neck.  It tried to pull away, but DaddyBear’s other hand snaked out and grabbed its scaly arm.

“It’s four sixes, you cheating hellspawn,” the Minivandian said in a quiet, calm voice.  “Pay up.”


“Give me what I want, or I’ll carve what I need out of your hide after I split you open and take back my gold.”  The demon locked eyes with the Northman, then blinked.

“All right, all right,” it said.  It’s tail slouched to the ground behind it.  “Ye gods, a guy can’t have a bit of fun?”

“Only a fool cheats a man of the North,” DaddyBear growled.  He put a little more pressure on the sword.

“Cheating?” the demon said, slowly reaching into the pouch laying in front of it on the table. “Me?”

“You think I’ve never seen enchanted dice before?”

“Oh, so you’ve played this game before?” the imp asked as it shook several iridescent stones out of the pouch.

“More times than I can count.  I just wanted to see how greedy you were.”  DaddyBear released the demon’s arm and picked up the gems.  Slowly, he pulled his sword back and lowered it.

The demon rubbed the mark the blade had left on its neck and scowled at the Minivandian.  

“I ought to kill you for that,” it spat.

“If you’re feeling froggy, then jump,” DaddyBear answered menacingly.  He stood, his sword clasped in one hand and the firejewels gripped in the palm of the other.

“Care to try again?” the demon asked slyly.  “We can even use your dice.”

“Not a chance.  You only get to cheat me once, and I know you’ve got more tricks to play.”

“Now you insult me?”

“You’re lucky I let you keep the gold. I just don’t have time to clean my blade today.”

The demon shrank back, stepping away from the table.

“Okay, okay,” it hissed.  “Just go. I’ve got other rubes to play with.”

DaddyBear turned his head and spit on the floor of the crater.  It sizzled and hissed as he walked away. “Demon blood makes for good ink.  Remember that before you try anything.”

Without looking back, the Minivandian climbed up the side of the crater and back down to where he had tied his horse.   The hem of his cloak and the soles of his boots smoked where they touched the stones.


Ruarin sat at her kitchen table.  A gentle, but constant, rain pattered against the windows behind her.  She had kept her composure until she could be alone, but now her eyes burned from the tears that had soaked into the arm of her dress. The rest of the house had gone to bed hours before, but she had stayed up to watch the moon rise.  

This was the third month she had kept this vigil, and every month had been a disappointment.

Bounder, the smaller of her family’s black hounds, leaned her head against the Lady of Eyre’s lap.  Her tail thumped against the flagstone floor as a delicate hand scratched behind her ears. The dog’s attention drew Ruarin’s eyes from the window.

“You miss him too, don’t you, girl?”  The hound looked up at her and let out a long sigh.  “I suppose he’ll be home by the next full moon.”

Suddenly, Bounder reared her head back and turned to face the door.  Her back arched as she unfurled her leathery wings. A low growl rose from her throat, raising the hair on the back of Ruarin’s neck. Her sharp bark filled the kitchen. It was quickly answered by the loud bay of her brother as he scrambled from his bed in Elsked’s room and raced toward the kitchen.

The Lady of Eyre rose from the table and drew the dagger she kept at her belt.  To her shock, she realized that the door was not latched shut. Hearing a heavy footfall on the stone courtyard beyond, she raced to the door just as it started to swing open.

Ruarin raised her blade, the first bit of a curse between her teeth, when a haggard, bedraggled figure stepped through the doorway and into her kitchen.  Bounder beat her wings as she pounced, striking the intruder in the leg with her paws. Her tail whipped back and forth as she greeted him.

Ruarin looked up into the man’s face.  His long, filthy beard dripped from the rain. His eyes were red with exhaustion.  The cloak across his shoulder was torn in several places. His shoulders were stooped and he moved like an old man.

DaddyBear the Minivandian looked down at his wife.  He could see the surprise and shock on her face at the sight of him.  

“Wife, I am home,” he rumbled in a tired voice.  “I regret that I am a bit late.”

He took another step into his home and raised his hand. Nestled in his palm was a long silver chain.  A pendant of firestones and blue phoenix stones caught the light from the candle burning on the table and glowed with a fire of its own.

“I hope that this makes up for my absence.”  He looked down at his wife, searching for some sign from her.

Ruarin examined the necklace for a moment, then knocked his hand away. Before he could react, she leapt at him, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him down for a kiss.

“My love,” she said through fresh tears, “I need no jewels.  I only need you.”

The Northman ran the back of his fingers down her cheek, then pulled her close.  They stood there for a long time, holding each other and listening to the rain fall on the courtyard.

A Yuletide Missive

Ruarin, Lady of Eyre and loving wife to DaddyBear the Minivandian, considered the broad sheet of vellum laid out before her.  She absently ran the feathered end of her quill under her chin as she carefully chose her words.  Then, with a sigh, she dipped her pen in a well of irridescent green ink and began writing.

Dearest friends and family,

I pray that this missive finds all of you in good health and better cheer. As the year draws to a close, it is time to reflect on the blessings and adventures we have all encountered over its course.

My younger son, Elsked, continues to grow like a weed.  He will most certainly surpass me in height before this time next year.  He does well in his studies, and has been granted permission by Sister Maeve to read selected tomes from the locked section of her library.

Ruarin paused for a moment to consider the consequences of allowing her son to peruse books with such titles as “Fire Salve in the Care of Drakes and Wyverns” and “Tie a Rope to the Stars:  Astronomy for the Experienced Cyprian Mage”.

Elsked is preparing to ascend from the Corps of Adventurers to the Forest Guides after the New Year.  He and his friends have enjoyed spending time learning the ways of the Adventurers, but all look forward to the true adventure that lies ahead of them.  Their leader, Master Ryoan, is an accomplished fire mage, and has taught them most of the ways to start and control a flame that do not require magical ability.  Elsked has worn me out with his inquiries on how to initiate and use fire with his magic, but for the sake of all of our sanity and shrubberies, I am waiting until he is a bit older before beginning that instruction.

The memory of her son returning from a campout with burned spots from embers on his uniform brought a smile to her face.  The memory of missing spots in his father’s beard made her chuckle even now.

Lytterin continues her studies in Tenochtitlan.  We hope that she will complete her theoretical courses and begin practical instruction in the spring time.  For those of you who have not heard, she has changed her concentration from the healing of wounds to the safeguarding of those in peril.  I understand that her advanced studies will send her to many new places, and I hope to be able to tell you about her quests by this time next year.

Dozhevir and I are both doing well.  He recently returned from a trip to the far North, where he assessed the possibility of repopulating his homeland.  His gift of a fine snowstag pelt and a necklace made from the teeth of an ice drake were wonderful surprises at Christmas.  Elsked and I are considering which enchantments to place in the necklace.  Currently, the most popular choice is a spell which will make the wearer comfortable, no matter how hot or cold the weather gets.

Ruarin ran a hand over the fur blanket across her shoulders and sighed at its warmth.

I continue my work to catalog the healing herbs that grow wild in the hills above our home.  I was shocked to find that several unique, useful examples of kossaki death olive and goldwart grow here, but have not been reported to the community of Healers at large.  The descriptions of the plants and how they are to be prepared and used for different maladies is done, although I continue to work on the illustrations.  It’s just so hard to get gold leaf to lay correctly.

To her right, a bunch of dried goldwart twinkled in the candlelight.

In the coming year, my husband and I plan to take Elsked to Eyre for his first meeting with the High King.  He is excited at this prospect, although I expect he shall be even more so once he learns that the King’s enchanter will be blessing Elsked’s sword while we are there.

Ruarin stopped to dip her quill once more.  She made a mental note to have the master-at -arms work with Elsked on his sword handling.  The blessing would come after the boy had demonstrated that he was ready to wield it, and Elsked seemed to take after his father in favoring the axe.

As the year closes and we look forward to the promise of the new year, please remember that we keep all of you in our prayers and hope to see you all soon.  Take care of one another and please write to let us know how life goes with you.

Love always,

Ruarin, Dozhevir, Lytterin, and Elsked

The Lady of Eyre read through her letter, then nodded as she found it to be acceptable.  After sprinkling a bit of pollen from the goldwart onto the ink to set it,  she raised her hand over the vellum.

Mittere,” she whispered, feeling a touch of magic flow through her fingers and into the paper.  It fluttered is if it were about to take flight, then multiplied into many sheaves of paper.  With a rush of wind, each of the copies flew from the window and out into the night.

“I never get tired of watching you do that,” a deep, gentle voice came from the doorway.  Ruarin turned to see her husband leaning against the portal.  He wore the sweater she and Elsked had made for him as a Christmas gift.  She was pleased to see that it did, indeed, go well with his green eyes.

“Everyone will get it by morning, my love,” she said quietly. “I expect to see a few replies before the next feast day.”

“Good, good,” the Minivandian said as he offered her his arm.  “Now, let us take a rest together. Your son plans to keep us both up very late tonight to welcome the New Year.  Would you honor me with the first dance after the feast?”

The Lady of Eyre smiled and winked at him, then took his arm.

“I would be honored, my lord,” she purred.  “It’s not often that we dance anymore.  We should make a habit of it.”  Her husband patted her hand as they walked down the stairway to the great hall.

“Perhaps, my love, perhaps.”

New Development

So…. Ummmm… Well…., this happened.

Ebook is available now, print book will be available shortly.

Many thanks to everyone who alpha and beta read for me.  Feel free to out yourselves in comments if you’d like.

In case you’ve already read the Minivandian stories here, they’re all in this volume, as are a few new things.  I hope you all enjoy.

The War Chant of the Minivandians

The Lady of Eire and The Thing From The Drain

Humming softly to herself, the Lady of Eire began her work to clean the raiments of her family.  Separating the rough wool and furs of her husband from the delicate silks and satins of her own wardrobe, she loaded them into the mechanism of cleaning.  Adding soap, she turned the automaton on.  As it filled, she busied herself with other activities, continuing to hum an old shanty she had heard as a young child.

Suddenly, an explosion of suds and warm water erupted from the drain and soaked her.  Tendrils, slimy and barbed, whipped out, wrapping around the automaton’s hoses.  Slowly, pulling tighter, they began drawing them into the drain.

Crying out, the Lady of Eire pulled MoraDirk, her dagger of supreme sharpness and beauty, from her sheath.  Charging at the tendrils with her cry of battle, she sliced at the thickest of them.  With a squeal, it split, loosening its grip on a hose.  Recoiling, it snapped back, then rebounded to wrap itself around the wrist of the fair lady.  Its speed surprised the Lady of Eire, and it pulled her off of her feet.  In the fall, she lost her weapon.  Kicking and screaming, she was drawn closer and closer to the drain from which the soapy water and slimy tentacles emerged.

With a bellow, DaddyBear the Minivandian rushed into the room.  Swinging Gnarlthing, his legendary blade of slashing, he cut at the bundle of tentacles at their source:  the drain.  With a squeal of steel against stone, the blade clove the tentacles in twain.  A roar echoed from the drain as the stumps withdrew back to whence they had come.  The parts that were left behind let go of the Lady of Eire and the contents of the room, flopped around in the sudsy water on the floor, then lay still.

Rushing to side of his mate, my lord DaddyBear helped to her feet.  Her gown of silk was soaked and filthy, and angry welts were forming on her wrist.  Holding her to his breast, the Minivandian kissed them, hoping to bring some relief.  With a smile, she laid her delicate hand on his cheek, saying “‘Tis but a scratch, my love.   Thanks be to you for your assistance.  I am afraid that this thing took me by surprise, and it would have been quite a fight to get loose and retrieve my blade.”

Kneeling upon the floor, she picked up MoraDirk.  She began to wipe it off on her gown, but smiled sheepishly as she realized that it was as big a mess as the steel of her knife.

“Go, my love, and tend to yourself.  I shall deal with the monster and clean up this mess.” said DaddyBear, a look of concern for his wife on his noble visage.

“Thank you, my lord.  Yes, I shall get out of these sodden things and clean up.  Will you require my return to assist you?”, she answered.

“Nay,” answered the Minivandian, “I shall attend to this myself.”

Leaving her husband to his battle preparations, the Lady of Eire returned to her chambers.  Warm water and dry woolen robes went a long way to restoring her, and a quick wipe of an oiled rag on MoraDirk returned it to its perfect gleam.  With a nod of satisfaction, the Lady of Eire thrust it into its scabbard on her belt.

Back in the cellar, DaddyBear prepared for battle.  Putting on his best gauntlets and helm, he considered what weapons and tools to use in flushing the monster from the drain and dispatching it.  GnarlThing, after being embedded in the stone of the dungeon wall, was out of commission until it could be sharpened.  The gaze of the Minivandian roamed his armory.

“A short axe would be best for this work, but what will I use to flush it from that hole?” he pondered, taking down OakCleaver and strapping it to his belt.

Then his eyes came upon the shelf upon which he kept his magical serpents.  An idea formed in his mind.

“Hmm, let’s see.  The Serpent of the Bore is for my arms of fire.  No, and not the Serpent of the Bones, either.  I shudder to think of what would happen if that monstrosity got loose in the plumbing.  Ah yes, the Serpent of the Pipes.  That will be perfect.  He shall bring the monster out into the open, then I shall hew it into pieces small enough to pass through a sieve.”

Bringing down the cask which held the Serpent of the Pipes, the Minivandian opened it, and muttered the spell to bring its occupant out of his hibernation.

“Yesssss, my lord.  What ssshall I do for you thissssss day?” asked the serpent.

“A foul beast has invaded the drain in our cellar, and has attacked my mate, the Lady of Eire.  I would have you assist me in bringing it into the light, where it may be dispatched for the good of all.” replied DaddyBear.

“Of coursssse, my lord.  I relissssh the thought of a good fight in the confinesss of a drain pipe.  It’sssss what I’m for, now issssn’t it?” said the serpent, a hint of a smile crossing its face.

“Are you ready, my servant?” asked DaddyBear, carrying its box over to the drain.

“Yessss, my lord.  I shall go down into the pipe as far asss I can, grab hold of the coward, and then together, we shall pull him out.”, replied the Serpent of the Pipes, his tongue flickering out in anticipation of the coming fight.

DaddyBear helped the serpent reach the drain, then held onto its tail as it wriggled down into the pipe.  The magical gift of the serpent became apparent as its body stretched and stretched, reaching many feet down into the pipe while its tail stayed motionless in the Minivandians hand.  After a few minutes of wriggling deep into the drain, the serpent sensed the tendrils of the monster in the pipe just in front of him.  Rearing back, it struck, sinking its fangs deep into the tentacles.

“Pull, my lord! I have it!” hissed the serpent.

DaddyBear pulled back on the serpent’s tail.  At first, he was able to make headway, but the job quickly became a tug of war.  The Serpent of the Pipes assisted by retracting its body as much as it could, but the monster fought back just as hard.  Just as the Minivandian was about to give a mighty heave, the serpent gave out a cry of pain, let go of the monster, and wriggled back out of the drain.

“My lord, forgive me, but thisss isss beyond me.  I fear that I have damaged myssself.  This fiend is too much for me to pull out, even with your assssissstance!”, it hissed, a look of shame and disappointment on its face.

“Good serpent, no need to apologize.  I felt and heard how mightily you struggled with the foul beast.  We shall try something else.  In the meantime, is there anything I can do for you to ease your suffering?” said the Minivandian, hoping to soothe his servant’s pain.

“Thank you, my lord, but all I require isss sssleep.  May I return to my box, there to sssslumber a while?” replied the serpent.

“Of course.  I wish you good sleep, and dreams of field mice and sunny rocks.” said DaddyBear.

DaddyBear gently lifted the serpent and placed him in his chest.  As he lowered the lid, the serpent’s eyes closed, and its tongue flickered out one last time before it dropped off to sleep.

As the Minivandian returned to the chamber of raiment cleaning to begin pondering what to do next, the Lady of Eire came down the stairs.

“Is it done, my lord?” she asked, surveying the room.

“Nay, my love, ’tis not done.  The wretch in the drain has bested the serpent I sent down there to fetch him, and now I must come up with a new plan.  I will need something much stronger to destroy this monster.” answered DaddyBear, a scowl of aggravation on his noble brow.

As he ruminated, the Lady of Eire picked up one of the tentacles that were still laying on the floor from the earlier attack.  Turning it over in her hand, she noticed that once it dried out, it did not resemble anything from any animal she had ever seen.  In fact, now that she looked at it, she realized that it was more wood than meat.  An idea crossed her mind, and taking her leave, she went up the stairs and out into the courtyard behind their home.  As she went through the door, she heard her husband leaving by the cellar door.

Crossing the courtyard, she placed her hands upon the trunk of the mighty maple tree that stood there.  Many summers had this tree shaded her family, and its lush canopy of green leaves was only eclipsed by the beauty of its red and gold finery in the fall.  Muttering a spell of communication, she waited for the tree to answer.  Slowly, a wizened face appeared in the bark, but its eyes were closed in sleep.

“Hear me, oh tree.  Come out of your winter nap and speak with me.” ordered the Lady of Eire.

With a yawn, the tree opened its eyes.  Sleepily, it peered at the Lady of Eire and said “Who disturbs my slumber?”

“It is I, the mistress of this house,” said the Lady of Eire, “and I would speak with you, good tree.”

“Oh, my lady, of course.” said the tree, “What do you require of me?”

“A foul beast with tentacles of wood has attacked me in my cellar, and it came from the drain which runs close to you.  Do you know anything of it?” she asked.

“Why, no.” said the tree, “I have been asleep for weeks, and I was just having a wonderful dream about dipping my toes in a warm stream.”

“Hmmm,” said the Lady of Eire.  Her suspicions that the tree might have something to do with the issue of the drain were being confirmed.

As the Lady of Eire was chatting with the tree, DaddyBear the Minivandian came up.  Wrapped over his shoulder and chest was a small dragon.  Its head and body were streamlined, and were not more than a few inches across.  Its wings were rudimentary, and its legs were short, but powerful and tipped with wicked looking claws.  Its tail was twisted as if into a hook, and its head was covered with barbs and sharp horns.  Its scales were a bright blue, and as it rode on the Minivandian’s armored vest, it left a coat of fine blue powder behind.

Seeing the Minivandian’s approach, the tree sucked in its breath. “Why hast thou brought such a fiend here,  my lord?  Many a young tree has been killed by the ministrations of such as he.”

The dragon narrowed its eyes and greeted the tree.  “Hail, pipe clogger!”

The tree returned the greeting, “Well met, root biter!”

The Lady of Eire and the Minivandian exchanged knowing looks.

“Good maple, have your roots been looking for somewhere warm and accommodating to spend the winter?” asked DaddyBear.

“What?  No! Well, maybe.  The drain, you say?  Woody tentacles, you say?  Well, it could be that in my sleep, they found their way somewhere that I would normally not allow them.” sputtered the tree.

“Did you not say that  you were dreaming of bathing your toes in warm water?  It could be that your tropical stream was the drain from my washing machine.” said the Lady of Eire.

“Well, yes, I suppose it could have been.  Honestly, when I slumber, they can get wherever they stretch.”  answered the maple.

“Can you withdraw them?” asked the Minivandian.

“I’m afraid not.  Once I grow to somewhere, I cannot easily withdraw.” said the tree.

“And that is where I come in,” said the small dragon, “For I am the Drake of the Drain.  My lord, I shall snip back these errant roots and leave behind magic to ensure that they do not recur for many months.  That will give you time to find where this wooden vandal has invaded your pipes and stop it up.

“Now see, here, my good drake, there is no need to call names.  I was just stretching out my toes, as it were.” huffed the tree.

The dragon puffed out a small cloud of blue smoke.  “Just stretching your toes, eh?  How many times have I heard that?  My lord, let us get to it.  There’s no use in reasoning with this creature.”

DaddyBear carried the drake down into the cellar, but the Lady of Eire stayed behind to comfort the tree, who had begun to weep big tears of sap down its bark.

“This shall hurt so awfully!  Is there no other way, my lady?  They are but small roots, and I promise that I shall not let them grow larger or to multiply!”, it sobbed.

“I’m sorry, good maple, but this is the only way.  We must be able to wash our clothing, and once you slumber again, who knows what your roots will do in that pipe?  I shall stay with you until it is over, and then you may return to your hibernation.” said the Lady of Eire in a firm, yet soothing manner.

In the cellar, the Drake of the Drain uncoiled himself from the Minivandian.  Hooking his tail over one of the pillars of the house, he affixed his glare on DaddyBear.  “Now, as I fight with these roots, mind that my tail does not come unhooked.  I shall use it as an anchor to twist and bend.  If I should come unhooked, hold fast to me and return my tail to its place.”

DaddyBear nodded his understanding, and stood ready to assist.  With a wink, the drake pushed its head and body down into the drain.  In moments, the sound of mighty combat could be heard, both coming from drain in the cellar and coming from under the ground in the courtyard.

“Oh, my lady, but he is killing me!” cried the tree.  The Lady of Eire laid a kind hand upon his bark, and said soothing words to the tree as gouts of steam and fire rose from the yard.  The sound of battle rose and fell, then rose again.  Might roars and the sound of wood being rent echoed through the house.  Then, as suddenly as it began, it ended.  An eery calm fell over the courtyard, broken only by the sobs of the maple.

In the cellar, the voice of the drake came up from the drain. “Pull, my lord!  I have bested the beast, but I am afraid that I cannot get myself out by my own power.”

Grabbing the tail of the drake, DaddyBear hauled back.  The body of the dragon slowly came forth from the drain, and then, with a pop, his middle came out, followed quickly by his head.  Where his scales had glimmered a bright azure before, now they were fouled, and all of the blue powder was gone.  Several of the horns on its head were gone, and deep scratches had been dug into its muzzle.  Its middle, however, had grown quite plump, and a small burp issued from its mouth as it took a deep breath of the clean air of the house.

“A fine meal!” laughed the drake, “It shall keep me well fed and plump until the soft shoots of spring tempt me to awaken.”

Taking the drake in his arms, the Minivandian returned to the courtyard to find his wife comforting the tree.

“‘Tis done, my love.  The drake has removed the roots that invaded our home and attacked you.  Hopefully this teaches you a lesson, good tree.  You and your appendages are to stay outside of my keep.  I will do what I can to help you in doing this, but further invasions will cause me to consider more…. drastic measures.  I would hate for you to become a part of our household in the shape of a table or a bookshelf.” said DaddyBear the Minivandian, drawing himself up to his full height and glowering at the woody visage of the maple.

“I will stay out, my lord.  The sting of this brute’s claws and teeth are enough to keep even the toughest hickory at bay!” whined the maple.

“My lord, I shall be returning to my nest now,” said the drake, “but if you have further need of me, you know by what means you may summon me.  Good sleep to all of you, and may your pipes ever be free and open.”

“Goodbye, my friend, and may your dreams be full of pleasure and rest.” answered DaddyBear.

“I too shall return to my slumber,” said the maple, “for I wish to sleep through the pain this has caused my roots.”

“Good sleep,” said the Lady of Eire, “and may you awaken to a warm and sunny spring.”

The Minivandian and his wife, the Lady of Eire, returned to their home.  After cleaning the cellar and sharpening Gnarlthing, the Minivandian tested the drain.  After many gallons of water had flowed freely down the hole, which now glowed with the blue of the warding magic of the drake, he was satisfied that this particular monster had been defeated, at least for the moment.

Many times did the Minivandian and his family fight battles of home repair.  Much treasure did they spend in the buying of materials and the rental of magical tools of mighty strength and heavy weight, and much sweat and blood did they both expend in the upkeep and improvement of their dwelling.  But those are stories for another time.  Now, let me tell you tales of high adventure….

The Flight of the Winged Beast

DaddyBear the Minivandian approached the Portal of the Securitat.  This day would he be journeying back to his home and hearth, and he was anxious to get started.

“Good sir, welcome to the Portal of Securitat.  Before we allow you to make your way to the resting place of the winged beasts, please remove all metal objects from your person, and place them within the box of magic seeing.  Also, we ask that you also place within it the belt by which you gird yourself, as well as the magic elf box that you carry with you.  Oh, and you must remove the shoes which you wear upon your feet so that we may see if you have any dangerous potions or spells in them.  If you have any weapons secreted upon your person, please give them to us, and we shall make sure that they await you upon your arrival at your destination.” recited a young agent of the Securitat, her hands covered with pink gloves.

Her eyes grew larger with every chink, chunk, clunk, and BANG as implements of many uses, sizes, and edges were placed in the magic box of seeing.  DaddyBear brought out Gnarlthing, his blade of disembowelment, as well as Clyfrender, a battle-axe that had served his clan for generations, and handed them to the young woman.  She could tell by the stern look he gave her that dire consequences awaited anyone who would cheat a Minivandian when it came to returning freely surrendered weapons, and she quickly endeavored to tag them and speed them to the gnomes of baggage.

After disarming himself thoroughly, removing his belt and shoes, and placing his magic elven box with them, DaddyBear stalked through the frame of detecting, giving proof to his good intentions and honorable demeanor.  With a huff of derision, he collected his belongings, redressed himself, and continued toward the gates of the winged beasts.

As my lord DaddyBear approached the gate of his appointed winged steed, he noticed that a large crowd was already gathered.  Among them he saw warriors, both young and old, merchants, and several young mothers with their children.  There was set of lucky twins, their hair as soft and shiny as spun gold, a young barbarian dressed proudly in the red and gold livery of his house, and a wee babe, as innocent as an angel, asleep in his mother’s arms.  The Minivandian smiled at the youngsters, all the while inwardly praying to whatever god would listen that they would all sleep through the journey.

Sitting himself down on a stool near the gate, DaddyBear could hear the growls and howls of the winged beast that would take him and his newfound compatriots on their way to the City of the River.  By the sounds of it, it was a young beast of the variety born in the northwest forests and fens.  It sounded strong and ready to take wing, which gave the Minivandian confidence in getting home that day.

Presently, a clerk emerged from the gate.  Clapping his hands above his head, he began his litany of preparation.

“My lords and ladies, harken to me!  Each of you has been assigned a letter and a number.  It will appear on the air before you presently.  I ask that as your designation appears, you form ranks before the gate, and as I summon you, you show to me your mark.   In this way shall we get everyone aboard the winged beast and on their way to their destination.”

Grumbling to himself about wizards and their need to be cute with their magic when a slip of parchment would have worked, my lord DaddyBear looked at the air before him.  After a moment, a mark of his letter and number began to glow faintly in front of him.  Standing, he joined his fellow travelers in ranks of 30.  Presently, the clerk motioned to the first rank, who filed through the gate after showing him their mark.  Eventually, it was the Minivandian’s turn, and he went through the gate, into a tunnel,  and approached the winged beast.

At the end of the tunnel, DaddyBear could see the blue and red scales of the winged beast.  It’s wings beat in excitement, forcing a mighty wind down and behind it.  Through a window in the tunnel, its head, crested in golden fringe, could be seen as it watched travellers enter the chamber that was strapped to its back.  The tenders and keepers of the beasts were scurrying around, over, and under it, loading the belongings of the travellers, feeding the beast, and checking every claw, tooth, and scale to be sure that it was ready for flight.

Making his way into the chamber, the Minivandian found an open seat close to the wings and sat down to read from a scroll of patience and strength.  This was his ritual of preparation, and for once, he was able to finish it uninterrupted.  The rest of the travellers found their seats, and a voice from the front of the chamber began the pre-flight prayers and invocations.

“My lords and ladies, harken unto me!  I am Gwynneth, Shieldmaiden of Hospitality, and I, along with my partners Gonnevir the Fair and Snarglefist the She-Orc, shall be serving you this morning.  If you look to the front, middle, and rear of the chamber, you will notice portals of emergency.  We ask that you not open these unless there is a risk to your survival, as any passengers who open them while the winged beast is flying will need to learn to fly themselves, and those who open them on the ground must be wary of teeth, claws, wings, and tail. ”

If you are smoking upon this winged beast, you had better be aflame, for if you are partaking of the weed of the pipe, then I am afraid that federal law allows us to defenestrate you from 35,000 feet above the ground. ”

In the event that the winged beast decides to alight in a body of water, it will usually mean that it is hungry and fancies fish.  We suggest that you find something that floats and stay away from its head.”

We shall be coming through the cabin to bring you refreshing drinks and filling victuals.  We have beer, mead, wine, and products made by the mages of fizzy beverages.  We will be coming to you to ask of your wishes soon, but until then, please sit back, strap in, and hold on, because this particular beast is not known to be gentle when leaving the bounds of land.”

My lord DaddyBear leaned back in his seat, and continued reading from his scroll.  From his left, he heard a coo as of a dove of peace.  Looking over, he noticed the wee babe, now ensconced in his own throne of safety.  With one chubby fist, he was batting at a hanging bobble, and babbled sweetly to it as he played.  His mother, a lovely young woman who obviously loved her son, was preparing a bottle of fresh milk of the jungle yak for the boy.

After a moment, the doors to the chamber was closed and locked, and the shieldmaidens of hospitality found their way to their seats.  The young she-orc sat down just behind the Minivandian and the young mother, mumbling a prayer to her gods for protection from winged beasts.

It was not long before DaddyBear understood why she prayed so vehemently.  Where normally a winged beast would sedately walk to the line of departure, this beast loped with joy to the end of the field of takeoff.  Pausing and kneeling at the line as a runner does before a race, it went from a stop to a gallop within one bound.   Before half the field had passed beneath its claws, it stretched out is leathery wings and caught the wind.  Leaping into the air, it began to immediately gain altitude and speed.

DaddyBear smiled to himself at the enthusiasm of the young beast, and made a note to be braced for the impact of landing.

As the noise and jostling of takeoff subsided, the Minivandian looked over at the young mother and her son.  From the look on her face, he could tell that something was wrong.  Looking down at the child, he understood why.

The visage of the boy went from the pale rosiness it had on the ground to a deep red, then it gained a greenish cast.  Where the skin had been smooth and soft, it was now becoming scaly, and small horns were breaking out from the forehead.  Instead of the cooing and laughter that had been heard before, now a low growl rose from the seat of safety.

“My ears!  My ears pain me!” howled the small demon, struggling against its restraints.  The voice was both low and rough, as loud as the bellow of a were-gnu on the attack, and it raised the hair on the back of the Minivandian’s neck.  With every passing moment, the visage and voice of the changeling became more horrible to behold, and the threats and assertions it made became more horrible.

“The seas shall boil if my pain is not alleved!  I shall set son against father, father against uncle, and mother against cousin unless I find some relief!  The land shall burn and the sea shall boil! A plague will fall upon all of your houses! I do not know who is doing this to me, and I do not care!  For as I suffer, so shall you!  Look up on me, listen to my voice, and know that I shall make you all pay!”

Just as the Minivandian reached for the charm of protection he kept around his neck and began to mutter a spell of warding, he heard a loud pop, as if someone had bit into a blastfruit from Grenada.  At that moment, the small demon in 15C reverted to his original form.  Green scales were replaced with cheeks of peach fuzz.  The horns retracted into the skull, and the blazing red of the eyes faded to a pale blue.  The deep, rumbling curses gave way to coos again, and chubby hands reached out to the mother and her bottle of milk.

Behind the Minivandian. the she-orc intoned a prayer of thanksgiving to the gods of tympanic membranes, and the Minivandian joined her in the refrain, as did all of the adults in the chamber.

In time, the winged beast made a bounding landing at the City of the River, and my lord Minivandian returned to his home and hearth.  As he did each time he returned home, he promised himself that never again would he leave, but in time a quest of sufficient honor and interest would tempt him again, and he would return to the place of the winged beasts.  Many of these quests did he complete, and the legends of them are told around the fires of his descendants to this day.

But those are tales for another time.  Now let me tell you stories of high adventure!

DaddyBear the Minivandian and the Horrible, No Good, Horrendous Day

DaddyBear the Minivandian looked down upon the scroll from Padrog the Snake Banisher school.  Next to him stood the Lady of Eyre, her face flushed with emotion.  Before him stood the Young Prince, streaks running down his crimson cheeks where tears had so recently run.

DaddyBear bent his knees so that his eyes were level with those of his young son.  The boy’s blonde hair was striking against the crimson hue of his skin.  This was the mark of a student that had transgressed the rules of the class in an extreme way.  Normally, the Young Prince would come home with a small, glowing, green mark upon the back of his right hand, the mark of a good day at school.  If his day was not so good, but not atrocious, his left hand would come home dyed a bright yellow.  If his behavior was very bad, he would be colored red from head to toe, with the darkness of the color magically getting deeper as the day got worse.  The Young Prince was the color of a bull red dragon during the rut, signifying a day that would be long remembered at Padrog’s.

“My son,” intoned my lord DaddyBear, “your teacher, Mistress Llewellyn, has sent this missive home with you.  It details  an accomplished list of transgressions.  Also, the master of the school has called upon your mother and me on two occasions already.  Do you have anything to tell us?”

“N-n-n-o, father.” said the Young Prince.   His chin was still quivering and fresh tears welled up in his bright blue eyes.

“It says here,” continued the Minivandian, a look of fatherly concern crossing his noble brow, “that you have come to blows with another young man in your class.  Have we not spoken about the need for you, a boy of great stature and strength, to not lay hands upon another child while not engaged in combat training?”

“Yes, father”

“She goes on to say that while in the chamber of music this morning, you were so disruptive that the sorceress of harmony wishes that you be accompanied to her class by an adult the next time you darken the threshold of her class.  Have we not talked at great length about your duty to be attentive and obedient in class, no matter the subject or the teacher?”

“Y-y-yes, my father.”

“And finally, Mistress Llewellyn writes that when she took you aside to correct you gently, you insulted her, called into question her motives and honor, and tried to remove the badge of authority from her raiment.  Is this true, my son?”

“Sniff, snarfle, yyyes!”

“My son, your skin is as red as any I have ever seen, and you seem to have well and truly earned that.  Do you wish to always be crimson from the top of your head to the soles of your feet?”  asked the Minivandian.

“No!  I wish to come home with the mark of green on my hand so that I may partake of the delights of the box of talking heads and play at games on the magic elf box!” replied the Young Prince.

“Then, princeling, you must earn that green mark, and earn it you shall.  You bring no honor to yourself or your house when you walk about the color of a cooked lobster.   Henceforth, I hope that you shall find it in you to contain your impulses at school, keep a respectful tongue in your head, and neither attempt to harm nor even touch another student.  Do you understand me, my son?”

“Yes, father.  I understand.  I shall try harder tomorrow, I swear!  But father, shall I be forever cursed with this hue?”

“Nay, my son and heir.  The mark of today shall fade as you sleep tonight, and you shall start anew tomorrow.  If you choose to obey the rules, respect your teachers and other students, and act in the manner your mother and I expect, then shall you come home with green upon your hand and the rewards for that shall be wonderful.”

“Oh, thank you, father!  I will try, I truly will!”

“Good my son.  Tomorrow, you shall also apologize to those you have wronged, and I only ask that you keep your honor and that of your ancestors in mind as you go through the day.”

The Minivandian then took his son to his breast, and hugged him tightly.  It was never easy to be angry with the Young Prince, and DaddyBear hoped that the day of red, discussing it with his parents, and the loss of his nightly entertainment would be enough to correct the issues that seemed to be plaguing the Young Prince.

“Now, my son, you shall go to your room and entertain yourself while your mother and I discuss today’s events and prepare the evening meal.  But before you go, please know that we love you, and that we want you to do well in your lessons.  Please remember that tomorrow as you try again.”

The Young Prince wiped away his tears with the back of his hand, snuffled once or twice more, then ran to embrace his mother.  After a long, tight squeeze, he scampered off to his bedchamber, there to play with his blocks of building and his new pet, a miniature talking panther.

My lord DaddyBear and his mate, the Lady of Eyre, then discussed what could be done.  A missive was dispatched to Mistress Llewellyn, and a meal of fowl and potatoes was prepared.  As DaddyBear said the prayer of thanksgiving for the meal, he silently prayed to all that is holy that his son would find his way in the temple of learning.

So did the Minivandian and his family work through the tribulations of the Young Prince.  His way was never smooth, but he did eventually find it.  Many years later, as the Young Prince took his father’s place he encountered the same challenges with his son, as had his father, and his father before him.  The Young Prince took the lesson of his own troubles and used it to help his progeny, thus continuing a long family tradition of talks with educators about the behavior of young barbarians.

But that is a tale for another day.   Now, let me tell you tales of high adventure….

Kindergarten for Barbarians

The Lady of Eyre took DaddyBear the Minivandian by the hand and led him toward the temple.  Waiting for them was the Master of Education, an elven mage whose wizened face gave the lie to his apparent youth.

“Welcome to Padrog the Serpent Banisher School.  Are you here to learn of our school or to participate in the mid-summer sacrifice?” he queried.

“Our offspring, the Young Prince, shall be starting his education here within the fortnight, and we are here to meet his teacher.” answered the Minivandian.

“Excellent.  Please go into the hall of meeting, where we shall begin the program in a few moments.”

My lord DaddyBear nodded his head in acknowledgement, and taking his lady’s hand, entered the hall of meeting.  Gathered there were the teachers of the young and the parents of the other acolytes.  Among them were warriors that the Minivandian knew, and they exchanged nods and stern looks of greeting.  The Lady of Eyre made the rounds of the other mothers, murmuring greetings and smiling.

After a few moments, the Master of Education strode to the front of the room, and in a deep voice of authority, bid the parents to take their seats.  After everyone had found their place, he fixed them with a warm gaze and greeted them once again.

“Welcome, my friends, to our school.   Before we begin our time of informing, I will ask the padre for a prayer.”

Entering from the shadows of the hall, the priest walked to the front of the assemblage.  His black robes were impeccable, and the dueling scar on his cheek told the Minivandian that there was more to him than a humble cleric.

“Lord of hosts,” intoned the holy man, “please be with us as we begin the education of our children and their preparation to be willing leaders of your faithful.  Help us to shoulder this awesome responsibility, and always help us to remember the prayer of our Lord and Savior:  ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do'”.

The prayer ended, the Master of Education again took the stage, and introduced the teachers of the young children.  Among the women there appeared to be masters of both magic and combat, with one proudly wearing a glittering red robe of dragon skin and another bearing a headdress of phoenix feathers.

After the introductions and some notes about how to utilize the magic elf boxes to gather still more information, the Master of Education bid the parents to adjourn to the chambers of the classes so as to learn about the teachers of the very young.

The Lady of Eyre placed her delicate but firm hand on the arm of the Minivandian, and they followed the teacher in red dragon robes down into the dungeon of the school, there to find the chamber of the Garden of Children.  Behind them filed the rest of the parents, 10 in all.

As they all entered the chamber, they were greeted with colorful pictures of runes and numbers.  A large slab of slate was bolted to the wall for marking, and small shelves for the students’ belongings were along the opposite wall.  Small tables with even smaller stools were situated around a throne carved from what looked like the thigh bone of a great red dragon.

The teacher stepped up to the throne, and placing her hand upon it, addressed the parents.

“I am Mistress Llewellyn, the teacher of the very young here at Padrog the Serpent Banisher.  I am very excited to be starting anew with your children.   I have been instructing here for many years, and I hope to do as well with your offspring as I have with other students.”

Surveying the gathered parents, she smiled the smile of a predator on the hunt.

“As you can see, the children are given their own space to keep their things.  The shelves should be large enough for their beginner’s scrolls and quills, pots of glue, and melee weapons.  We do ask that children of such a young age not bring missile weapons to school, except on Fridays of course.  That is the day of the school-wide tournament, and if a child wishes to compete in either the general scrum or the contests of skill, then they may bring their bows, spears, or slings.  You will find the permission slips for these activities in the folders on the tables in front of you.  In addition, even through I know that many of you may have begun training with them at home, we do ask that no bladed weapons be brought to school until the third year.   This is done to prevent any…. unfortunate incidents before we are sure that all of the children are ready for such things.

“In the folders you will also find the forms for deciding on whether your child shall bring their mid-day meal with them from home, or shall purchase it from our Master of Culinary Magic, Master Dispertiebat.  Please remember that he tends to prepare rather exotic fare when allowed to, so unless you have served your offspring firedrake sausage or sea serpent steak in the past, you might consider having them bring lunch for the most part.

“Pick up and drop off for the first week will be done quite slowly and methodically as the children learn their combat roles and how to leap into the back of a moving vehicle.  Of course, after that, we expect them to roll out of their car seats and pull themselves back into the vehicle as you roll past as fast as you can safely do so.

“Finally, I just want to ask if any of your children have learned any spells, and whether or not they have actually been able to curse anyone?”

My lord Minivandian raised his hand, remembering the condition of the boy who had broken his daughter’s heart.  It had taken weeks for the curse of the black warts to wear off, no matter the dire punishments with which he had threatened the Young Prince.  Mistress Llewellyn made a note of the Minivandian’s affirmative response, and that of a handful of other fathers.

“Well, now that we are through that, does anyone have any questions?” she asked.

The Lady of Eyre raised her hand, and the teacher acknowledged her with a friendly smile and a nod.

“We have found that our son transforms into a hairy, ill-tempered beast if he is given the milk of the field-beast that has not been magically gathered by Hungarian cattle masters, and filtered through the used stocking of a Filipino fairy princess, or if he is fed food colored blood-red, or flavored by the mages of artificial sweeteners .  Does the school stock commodities that would prevent that, or should we send along his midday meal from home?”  inquired the Minivandian’s mate.

“In that case, I would suggest that he bring his lunch from home, my lady.  Of course, on Wotan’s Day, we provide the meat and tomato pie of the Italians, and he might enjoy that as a treat.”

The teacher answered several more questions about how the students were to dress, the time of beginning and ending of classes, and whether or not the children would learn advanced combat techniques, both armed and unarmed.

Eventually, all questions had been answered, and the parents were shown the circuitous route back to the place of parking.  On the way out of the temple of learning, the priest took the Minivandian’s hand and wished him well, one old warrior to another.  Returning the firm grip of the wizened old cleric, the Minivandian returned the sentiment and made a mental note to enjoy a few ales with this priest.  No one tells better war tales than a cleric who has had a few brews of the wheat and barley.

Returning to his freehold with the Lady of Eyre, my lord DaddyBear felt confident that the Young Prince would do well at Padrog the Serpent Banisher.  Packed in a box downstairs was the miniature war club that he himself had practiced with in the Garden of Children, and his father, and his father before him.  He looked forward to presenting it to his young son on the first day of learning.

Many adventures did the Young Prince have at his school.  Many new lessons did he learn from his teachers, and I dare say that he taught them a few tricks of his own.  But those are stories for another time.

Now, let me tell you tales of high adventure…..

The Trial of the Golden Egg

DaddyBear the Minivandian stood at the edge of a field of competition.  His heir, the Young Prince, stood before him, kitted out in his finest sweater and running shoes.  His mate, The Lady of Eyre, along with his daughter, Listens to Stories, stood to his side.  The Lady of Eyre was making preparations to use her magical box of images, while Listens to Stories was rapidly telling harrowing tales of rushing mobs and hand to hand combat to her brother.

As the family of Minivandians waited, the highest of the local holy men walked to the front of the crowd.  The cleric raised his hands, asking for silence from the multitude gathered around him.

“Silence!  Silence, please!” he said in his quiet, but authoritative, voice.

The crowd slowly gave their attention to the wizened holy man.  The mass of townsfolk was made up primarily of children and their parents, with a healthy leavening of gray-headed grandparents.

“My friends, we come together during the Festival of the Risen God.  I am delighted to see so many young children here today.  We mark this holiday with sacred green plastic grass and chocolate.  We revere the symbol of this season: the white rabbit wearing a colorful vest and top-hat.  And finally, we mark this most holy time of year with a quintessentially holy rite:  The Trial of the Golden Egg!”

At his words, the assembled children whooped in glee.  The shook their brightly colored baskets and hooted their excitement.

“Across this mighty field of sport are scattered thousands of colored eggs.” the priest continued, gesturing at the expanse of green grass behind him.  “All the children will be released to gather as many as they can, and the one who finds the Golden Egg shall be remembered as the champion of this holy competition for an entire year.  But beware, young adventurers, this competition is difficult.  There is only one Golden Egg in this field of thousands of eggs, and every child here is going to be fighting and clawing to find it.  This trial is only for the pure of heart and thick of skin.”

“Now, if everyone is ready” he said, as the noise from the assembled children rose to a war cry that made the Minivandian wistfully remember barbarian hordes set to sack a monastery and other wonderful parts of his youth, “We shall begin!”

At his words, the crowd of children broke into a dead run.  As the line of children spread across the field, they snarfled up the colorful eggs like a plague of locusts.  The young and timid were happy to pick up the normal eggs in order to savor the sweet treats they contained, but the truly adventurous and ambitious eschewed such easy pickings in search of The Golden Egg.

The Young Prince broke from the pack, along with several larger boys, as they scanned the grass for a glint of gold.  Clasping his father’s bag of holding, he ran past clutches of red, blue, green, and yellow eggs in search of the elusive prize that would bring him fame.

A larger boy, hoping to cut down on the competition, attempted to knock the Young Prince down and out of the running.  Seeing him coming, the Young Prince dipped his shoulder, caught the knave in the breadbasket, and flipped him over onto the grass.

Continuing his quest, the Young Prince noticed a metallic glint coming from the corner of the field.  Picking up speed, he ran toward it.  Other children noticed his change of direction, and the three closest moved to intercept him.

The first attempted to trip the Young Prince, but the young warrior anticipated his attack and dodged it.  As his opponent overextended his feet, the Young Prince landed a well-placed kick to the knee, knocking the bigger child to the ground with a howl of pain.

Within feet of the Golden Egg, the Young Prince was knocked sprawling by a tackle from the largest child on the field.  Scrambling forward on his elbows and knees, the Young Prince mumbled a curse and flung a handful of grass and dirt into the boy’s face.  Bellowing in pain and rage, the young orc tried to lash out, but the young Minivandian was able to scramble to his feet and dive for the prize.

As his hand closed around the most prized of all eggs, he felt another hand closing around his.  Muttering the beginnings of one of his most heinous combat spells, the Young Prince looked up into a pair of beautiful blue eyes.  The young girl who gazed back at him was barely two years of age, but had been able to both keep up with the Young Prince and fend off the hordes of older, larger children who tried to impede her quest.  Her clothing showed the grass stains she had gained in her struggles, and her golden curls of hair were coated in dirt.

As she realized that the Young Prince had bested her, though by the smallest of margins, the glee on her face melted to sorrow.  A single small tear crossed her cherubic cheek, and her smile turned quickly to a quivering chin.  As only a two-year-old girl can, she began to cry.

The Young Prince considered the young girl and looked at the Golden Egg. It’s cool metal suddenly felt very heavy, as did his heart.  Where was the glory in being the hero of the hour if he must harm one so small and beautiful to do it?  Could he face his ancestors in the Hall of Heroes when his first conquest had been a girl not yet old enough to walk across the street without holding onto her mother’s hand?

Muttering under his breath, the Young Prince released his grip on the egg, dropping it into the still outstretched hands of the little girl.  Her quivering chin returned to a wide grin as a look of surprise and happiness crossed her face.  Wiping the tear from her cheek, she grasped the egg and wrapped her arms around the Young Prince in a hug of thanksgiving.

Hurrying up to the Young Prince, My Lord DaddyBear saw this tableau and knew that his son was truly a noble young man.  Taking him by the hand, the Minivandian helped him select several of the other eggs that were strewn on the ground as the Lady of Eyre captured images of the adventure for later reflection.

Thus did the adventures of the Young Prince begin with a noble twist.  As he matured, he had many other moments of glory, but this was the one his father would look back on most fondly.

Now, pass me those jelly beans so that I may tell you tales of high adventure….

A Bedtime Story for The Young Prince

DaddyBear the Minivandian kissed his son, the Young Prince, good night.  It had been a long day of caring for his steeds and making repairs to his castle.  The recent attacks by trolls had caused many of the plates that lined the outer walls to slip, and he had gone out in the wind and the damp to make what repairs he could.

“Good night, my son.” he rumbled as he pulled the covers up for the boy.

“Father, would you read to me tonight?  I wish to hear tales of high adventure.” asked the Young Prince.

“But of course, my cub.  What would you like to hear?”

“I want to hear the tale of Herbert the Horrendous and the Big Red Dragon!” said the Young Prince.

The Minivandian went to the cupboard of scrolls and selected the correct one.  Sitting on the edge of the bed, he unrolled it and began to read.

Herbert the Horrendous and the Big Red Dragon

Twas brillig, as Herbert the Horrendous left his castle in search of treasure.


He searched high and low.


He searched the cathedral, but all of its treasure was already gone.

He searched the village, but all of the villagers ran away.

He searched the fields, but all of the farmers just watched as he tried to talk to the cow.


Suddenly, Herbert the Horrendous had a brilliant idea!

He would search the mountains, looking for the lair of a dragon.

“Dragons always have treasure!” he thought to himself.


He searched the tall mountains, and the deep valleys.

He searched the dank caves and the dry slopes.

But no dragons were to be found.


Herbert the Horrendous was tired and sad that he could not find treasure!

He began the long walk back to his castle.


Suddenly, he heard the flapping of big, leathery wings!

A dragon, a big red dragon, was swooping down to its lair at the base of the biggest mountain in the land!

Herbert the Horrendous hurried to the mountain.


As he got closer, he could smell the dragon’s stink,

He could feel the dragon’s hot breath,

And he could hear the dragon’s snoring.


Herbert the Horrendous crept up as quietly as a mouse to see the dragon and his treasure.

That old dragon was asleep on his bed of gold and jewels.

Puffs of steam and smoke came out of his nose as he snored away.


Herbert the Horrendous raised up his mighty sword and shouted

“Awake, foul beast!  I, Herbert the Horrendous, am here to take your treasure as my own!”


The dragon awoke with a start, and flew up in the air.


It used its smell to try to stun Herbert the Horrendous.

It used its hot breath to try to cook Herbert the Horrendous.

It even used its mighty roar to try to scare Herbert the Horrendous.


But none of these things worked.


Herbert the Horrendous jumped up onto a tall rock.

As the dragon flew past him, he jumped out upon its back, grabbed the dragon’s wings, and pulled with all his might!

The big red dragon fell from the sky, landing back on its pile of treasure.


“You win!” roared the big red dragon, “Take the treasure, but leave me with enough to make another nest!”

Herbert the Horrendous let go of the dragon’s wings.

He let the dragon go, and let it take along 20 gold pieces, 20 silver pieces, and 20 pretty jewels to start its new nest.


Herbert the Horrendous put the rest of the treasure in his bag of holding, and journeyed back to his castle.

He was celebrated as a great warrior for defeating the big red dragon and for bringing home so much treasure.

He spent the rest of his days telling tales of adventure and glory, and he never had to go out looking for treasure again.


My lord DaddyBear looked up from the scroll at his son, who had fallen asleep with a smile on his impish countenance.  Leaning forward, the Minivandian kissed the young barbarian good night, rolled up the scroll, replaced it in the cupboard, and left the chamber.  Many good dreams of battle and fire breathing dragons did the Young Prince have that night.

Many years later, when the Young Prince was a warrior of great fame and power, the Minivandian would look back fondly on the evenings when he was still small enough to listen to bedtime stories.  Many books of adventure, many sagas of poetry and heroics, many magical tales of the little people and their games did the Young Prince listen to as he drifted off.  And then, when he himself was a father, did he read these very same scrolls to his children, sometimes with the help of the Minivandian, his hair grown white and his eyes grown tired.  So did the cycle of noble parenting continue, and so did the next generation of warriors learn their place as defenders and adventurers.

Now, let me tell you tales of high adventure…..

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