January 30th, 2006, 08:00 PM
Remember Baron Munchausen?
Here's how this works. Each person writes a tale the main plot element of which is given to them by the previous author.
To add to its sincerity each person is also given their name and title by the previous author.
For example: "I would be most delighted Duke Calaban of Ergonia if you would tell us again the wonderful memoir of your quest for the silk handkerchief of the Sultan of Bula, and the lost city you found along the way...."
The next person (at random) will write this tall tale in character and in the first person....
January 30th, 2006, 08:37 PM
"I'm sure I have told this tale before, but a tale as modest as this will surely falter before such and erstwhile audience. I pray your indulgence and I will pass over the less important details of the adventure to prevent your slumbering into your twelth course of this feast.
It was some years ago that I found myself in the mystical kingdom of Bula, ruled since time immemorial by a herditery Sultanate. The silk hankerchief was the mark of this rulership and was revered as an icon of religious virtue by all who knew of it.
When I arrived in the court of the Sultan, covering the 7,000 miles to the court in less than a day, by means of a fantastic invention that I myself created, a great winged gryphon made entirely of beaten brass and some rather complex clockwork. Of course that is another tale, for another time. I arrived at the Sultan's court to find it in an uproar. Indeed there had been so many tears shed that the entire city was flooded. The people went to and fro in small boats and still they wept for the hankerchief was gone from its sacred cushion.
I was unable to meet with the Sultan, as he was in such a state that he was unable to take visitors. Instead I conferred with his vizier, an albino with a third eye that blinked from the center of his forehead and was said to grant him the power to read minds.
It was the vizier who begged me to seek out the location of the silk hankerchief. I learned that night that a terrible sandstorm had blown through the city the day that the hankerchief was found to be missing.
With a promise that I would retrieve the item, I wound up my brass griffon and with a great clanking we rose up into the sky. Clouds closed in and I soon found myself hoplessly lost. At one point there was a loud crash and I opened a window in my magnificent flying beast to discover we had crashed into a solid cloud. I climbed out of a hatch and clambered down onto this strange solidness that floated many miles above the earth.
The cloud was populated by sheep, each one was thickly clad in a soft wool that resembled the stuff all around us. I walked on, only slightly hampered by the softness underfoot. At the centre of this large cloud I discovered a tall tower of white stone. From it's apex the occassional cloud sheep would fall, completely divested of its soft covering. Each plummeting bovine would land safely in the soft cloud and then scamper away to join its similarly shorn fellows.
I traversed the tower and discovered it was without a door, and its dimenions where deceiving... to circumnavigate the base took me nearly a year.
Realising that it was hopeless, I climbed the tower and finally found a slight opening through which I could squeeze. Fortunately my years travel around the base of the tower without sustenance had slimmed me down to the point where I could slide easily under a closed door.
This proved useful as I was indeed faced with a closed door and once this obstacle was passed, I found a great red Djinn shearing sheep with a gusto.
I was incensed when I realised that he was mopping his vast brow with the Sultan's hankerchief. I boldly stepped up and demanded he surrender the item at once.
The Djinn cast aside the most recently shorn sheep and it plummetted out of the window to join it's fellows far below.
The terrible Djinn took a great inhalation and had I not clung to the flagstones of the floor with my toes I should have been sucked into the fiends fanged mouth and devoured.
The sheep waiting to be shorn were not so lucky. With a loud WHUMPH! they flew through the air and the beast was quickly gagged with his own livestock.
Seizing this opportunity I snatched up the hankerchief and followed the shorn sheep out the window.
Falling I landed safely due to my incredible lightness, I floated like a leaf on the breeze, caught by a stray gust I slipped away over the edge of the cloud land and wafted for many miles.
I finally landed in a strange land, where the people walked backwards and speaking in rhyme was a hanging offence. Goose Eggs were lauded as kings, and their counsel was sought on matters both weighty and mundane.
After several years of walking backwards and discussing all manner of matters of state with Goose Eggs I made my way back to the court of the Sultan. Here I discovered that the entire city had been changed by the flood of the people's tears and that the entire economy was now dependent on this outpouring of grief to survive. Happiness had been outlawed and the public or privat display or ownership of a hankerchief would have you sentenced to a terrible squeezing that would force all fluid from your body and send it gushing into the waterways that had become the byways and avenues of the city.
I made the silk hankerchief into a sail, and fashioned a boat from a hat and soon found myself on the open sea, from here it was a simple matter to noose a flock of migrating starlings who drew me toward my home shore at a rate that left the fleetest winds swirling behind us.
And that is the simple tale, without word of a lie of how the quest for the Sultan of Bula's silk hankerchief came to pass.
Now I shall take some wine and enquire as to whether Grand Admiral Maudlin would care to regale us with the tale of his journeys in the undersea realm in the heart of darkest Africa
June 14th, 2006, 05:36 PM
"Well now, that was a wonderful tale, Calaban. Absolutely smashing. I especially liked the part about the Djinni choking on his own sheep. Such a great beast probably needed a good flossing anyway. I don't think any other story I've ever heard quite measures up to it, certainly not mine, but I'll humor you and do my best to tell my humble tale.
It all happened about a decade ago, when I was still just a captain. You know Her Majesty's navy has come quite far since the day's of old Nelson, and at that point had recently begun switching over to the newer steamships. We still had some ships of the wall running around on the waters of course, but then as now the steamship offered a much more reliable means of making it to ones destination, and what with the recent improvements... but I digress.
So, at the point where Her Majesty's navy was switching to steamers, I was still the captain of a rather dashing sailing frigate named the Inexhaustible... good old Inny. Of course this had nothing to do with a lack of captaining ability on my part, my skill being, even if I do say so myself, quite exceptional. It had much more to do with a rather unfortunate affair between myself and the Queen's daughter. Charming lass. It seems someone circulated the rumor that she and I had come to know each other on a far more intimate basis than would ever be proper. To spare the princess embarrassment I took the first assignment I could get, on the aforementioned frigate.
We were assigned to patrol the waters around India looking for pirates and other such scum who might disrupt shipping. We had seen a great deal of action, those waters being positively infested with robbers, and one day I found that amidst the constant action a cannonball had demolished the cabinet holding the last of my good Scotch Whiskey. Now, being just a man like any other, I knew I wouldn't last long without my evening glass of scotch, so I ordered that we pull into the nearest port for resupply. I talked a local merchant and dealer in goods from the motherland and found, much to my horror, that not only did he not have any good Scotch whiskey, but that a group of Americans had come through the day before asking for the same and informed him that they had bought and drank all of the aforementioned beverage to be found along the whole coast! What a positively terrible waste, I thought, and thanked the man after arranging for a few barrels of rum and some tobacco to be sent up to the ship for my men.
Once I got back I decided that we had to head to the source in Scotland. Of course the only way to get to scotland required going around the horn of Africa, a most dangerous part of the ocean, constantly plagued by storms. Well, after getting permission for the voyage as it was about time for us to be reporting in for another assignment anyway, we set sail, making the voyage from Mundra to the tip of Africa in the shortest time ever, a mere seven days. Everything had gone wonderfully up to that point, with the weather beautiful and sunny every day and the wind a constant pressure at our backs, when off to the east I spotted a few clouds rising on the horizon. I ordered the men to put on full sail, as we were just about to round the horn and I hoped that the storm might drive us up the coast rather than back the way we came.
Soon though, the wind began to die down and a dreadful calm surrounded us as the whole sky turned first black, then an unnerving shade of green. Soon great bolts of lightning were splitting the heavens and all around us the ocean had begun to thrash and toss. The Inny rolled from side to side at a frightful rate and men I'd known for years to have iron stomachs and never be seasick were tying themselves to the railings and hanging their heads over the water. The only thing for me to do was to order the sails taken in and the sea anchor thrown out as the winds had risen again to a dreadful strength and were now coming from all around. It was about the time I saw a water spout making way toward the ship that I started to pray that we would survive the night intact. With that barely even said a great wave washed over the ship and dragged me overboard.
I found myself in the wild ocean, looking for something to hold too. Fortunately for me the wave had snapped off one of the masts and I grabbed hold of that and pulled myself up on it, thankful for the gift and hoping that my men could do without. I don't know how long I clung to that great floating tree, but when I woke up the sun was out again and I was adrift at see. I saw no sign of my ship or any other, though there were signs of land somewhere over the horizon. For weeks I stayed on the mast, drifting on the currents. I used my saber to cut up the sails to make a cover for myself from the sun, and buckets for rainwater when it came (they are coated with wax, you know) which it did often enough to preserve my life. I even killed a shark with that same saber when one of those dreadful whitefins came sniffing around my erstwhile lifeboat. I cut off a chunk of it and ate it raw, finding it quite the best tasting shark I'd ever had. More came at the blood in the water of course, but they weren't too eager for my blade and contented themselves with the carcass of their slain companion.
Eventually I did wash up on shore and dehydrated and delirious I gave the heavens the first praises I think I'd ever given them a then lay down under the shade of a tree. However much later, I woke up and went looking for water in the jungle. By the local wildlife I determined myself to be in Africa, but the weeks at sea had befuddled my mind and sense of direction enough that I wandered further into the jungle looking for water instead of following the shoreline. Eventually there was another rain, and that satisfied some if not all of my thirst. I surprised a kind of lemur and managed to kill it, figuring that would take care of my hunger, though I was too tired to eat it quickly. I started building a fire, but once again the smell of blood worked against me and attracted unwanted attention.
I had just begun to cook the lemur when a young tiger showed up. Once it saw me and the fire it backed off a little, and I was much reassured by the fact that it kept looking at the dead lemur and not me, but the bloody thing wouldn't leave! At last I saw that it was being very ginger with one of its paws and it occured to me that the great predator was lame. He was hungrier than I was but knew he couldn't take me in his weak and injured condition, however the food over the fire smelled so tantalizing that the poor beast couldn't make himself leave the area. Feeling compassion for the poor creature I took the lemur off the fire and tossed the carcass to the tiger, knowing that nothing less than the whole things would give the great hunter the strength he needed. He accepted the gift with no small amount of surprise and suspicion, but at last he began eating it and I was able to approach. So famished was he, in fact, that I was able to come all the way up to him and run my fingers through the soft fur on his back.
Ater a while he even let me touch his wounded paw and I saw he had, not a thorn as I'd expected, but the sharp curved tooth of some great beast stuck in it. I pulled the tooth out and figured that was that, he'd go his way I hoped and I'd try to find mine. But that wasn't the end of it, and I found him following right behind me the next day. It was only after he brought me half of a young gazelle that I realized he wasn't stalking me but repaying me for his life. Well, I found that very touching, and we helped each other as I tried to find some form of civilization. For a fortnight we wandered, the tiger and I, without the slightest sign of anything human. At last, however, I came across a burned out village in a clearing. As I poked around I found it was the sight of a terrible massacre. The signs were everywhere and they appeared fresh enough to have happened that week. I left quickly, and the tiger followed me closely. It seemed the site of so much death caused by humans made him nervous too. We went back on our way, warier for the wisdom.
Late that evening we happened upon a group of natives carrying, of all things, stolen muskets! I tried to talk to them in the snippets of swahili I'd picked up, but it seemed they didn't like englishmen, even though I was so heavily tanned by then I probably looked like an Indian. The tiger didn't know what the muskets were, but he knew what it meant when I started running, and he soon outpaced me, though never going so far ahead I couldn't see him. We ran until I could no longer hear the natives chasing after me. I slowed to a walk as it was growing dark. Just as I was about to stop entirely, the ground fell out from under me and I plunged into a strong river. I cried out and tried to swim to the side, but the current was too strong and I was swept away.
I don't know how much later it was that I woke up on another sandy shore. I looked around and saw the tiger lying asleep nearby. I deduced that he had jumped in after me and dragged me to safety. I got up and found my trusty saber was still attached, which was good news as only moments later I spotted another group of natives eyeing my companion from the bushes. They ran off when I drew my sword, but I did notice an odd thing before they did: They were all wearing very exotic but well fashioned clothing. I also noticed that the air was much cooler than when I had fallen in the river, though there was plenty of light. When I looked up I was greatly shocked, for instead of the sky I saw a great ceiling of what looked like natural crystal, of the type one can by on a chain in little curio shops, only much bigger and in the shape of a dome. Of course the closest I had ever seen to the like was a hothouse, but that didn't even come close to the way this crystal sparkled! Imagine my even greater surprise when I saw something dark move in between me and the light coming from the sky far above the ceiling and recognized the outline of a great shark! Not only was I in a cave with a crystal ceiling, but the crystal ceiling was under water.
Upon further inspection I also found that the majority of the good light in that immense cavern came from a distant hillpeak, where another crystal gave off a great light. Soon the tiger woke and joined me, but he seemed not at all interested by the surroundings while I was wishing I had a notebook or something to record what I was seeing upon. Not knowing where else to go, I headed toward the mountain, the tiger at my side. Hours later it seemed we had drawn no closer to the distant peak, but we had been surrounded. A large group of natives wearing red tunics and carrying steelpointed spears stepped out of the surrounded forest. I put my hand on the tiger and he seemed to understand, as he sat down. Then another native rode out in front of me. He was wearing a red and black tunic, black leggings, a purple cape and a furry hat capped with ostrich feathers. He wore a long curved sword on one side and had a straight dagger strapped to the other and was riding on a saddled zebra. For all that, he carried himself quite seriously and he demanded something in a language I couldn't understand, but when he pointed to his own sword and pointed at mine and then at the ground, I figured he meant for me to lay down my weapon. Rather than disgrace the blade of a Royal Navy saber by laying it in the dirt I unbuckled the scabbard and set the whole thing down carefully. I saw understanding in his eyes and he smiled.
When he nodded to his men I expected them to grab me, but instead they formed up around me and began to march toward a place a little to the right of the great peak. I saw one of the men behind me pick up my saber as he passed. Not one of them bothered the tiger in the least, which I found a blessing and at the same time most odd. The man on the zebra led the procession to a great city with walls made from stones as high as the mast of the Inexhaustible. The gates were made of finely carved stones of the same size, only somehow they were hinged so well that when we reached them two of the natives were able to push them open without any apparent effort. Within the walls I encountered a city where every building was wrought from the finest basalt and stood not less than two stories high, with some reaching five. It was not that there was a shortage of wood I quickly determined, for there were carts and barrels made of finely cut and finished ebony and mahogany, as well as other exotic woods, and most of the doors were wood rather than stone like the gates. There were people everywhere walking and riding zebras and I saw someone moving along in a tiny cart like a Chinese rickshaw, only instead of a man pulling, it was an ostrich! I soon saw why the men about me had paid no mind to the tiger when a woman wearing elegant gold and black robes walked past me with a cheetah at her side. There were stores with fine crystal windows to display their goods behind and men cooking food to sell in booths on the street corners. And the streets! They were paved with the most wonderfully fitted flagstones I had ever seen.
The greatest of sights, however, awaited me at the grand palace at the center of the city. First there were the guards, all dressed like the man riding ahead of me on the zebra and carrying more of the curved swords and great pikes that appeared to have very sharp edges. Within the palace I was led to their king, a man of great and noble countenance, who greeted me in english as soon as he heard me speak a few words conveying greetings from Her Majesty. I asked him about his kingdom and he told me of how his ancestor had fallen in a cave and found this wondrous cavern where all the resources that had gone into the making of his mighty city were found in abundance. Then he invited me to stay in his palace and ordered that I be given a bath, fresh clothing and food for myself and my companion. However, that was still not the greatest of sights I am speaking of, for at dinner that night I met a woman of such surpassing beauty and grace that I had never before or have ever since met one even half so lovely as her. Her name was Elizabeth Pennyworth and she was the daughter of a rich nobleman in England! She had been on a safari in the jungle with her father when the same musket bearing native who had chased me had attacked them. In the confusion she had become separated from the group and had followed the same route to the cavern that I had. That had been eight months ago, eight months which she had spent as the guest of the king, and eight months for which he had asked her to marry him.
I soon found out that not all was well in the kingdom however. The king had an advisor who was also the most powerful shaman in the land, the shaman serving the snake god who lived on the mountain of light. This shaman, who was second only to the king in power and influence in the land, had taken a disliking to Elizabeth. This had come about because, when the king had asked Elizabeth to marry him, she had refused on the basis of her being a Christian. The king had insisted on a better explanation, and Elizabeth had explained to him the tenets of the faith. The king, though he had not believed her, had been intrigued by the stories she had related and had invited others in his retinue to listen to her as well. Some of them HAD believed and thus a second religion had entered the kingdom and thus the Shaman had gained serious reason for disliking Elizabeth. One of the tenets of the shaman's religion involved regularly sacrificing virgin maidens to the snake god on the mountain of light. As Elizabeth was both of these things as well as a foreigner and a heretic, the Shaman had moved to make her the next sacrifice. The king, hoping Elizabeth would change her mind, had stalled for some time, but the influence of the shaman was great and eventually the king had to relent. With much sorrow he had informed Elizabeth of the decision and she had accepted it with surprising equanimity. At the time that I arrived the caravan that was to take her to the mountain was set to leave in two days.
Now, being a proper English gentleman as I was, and moreover a captain in Her Majesty's Royal Navy, I knew it was my duty to rescue Elizabeth from this fate through any means at my disposal. To that effect I spoke with the king and upon finding out that there was, in fact, a great snake "god" that lived on the mountain of light and that it was to this snake god that virgins were sacrificed, I told that king that with his permission I would slay the snake, thus removing the foul beast from the picture. The king, being a wise and canny man, saw that the death of the snake would also remove the influence of the shaman among the people. He told me that it was most likely that the snake would kill and eat me, but that if it did not, and I instead slew it before the shaman and he arrived to sacrifice Elizabeth, that he would break the proclamation of sacrifice and publicly oppose the shaman as false. He offered me any of the fine weapons in his own collection, but I knew that all I needed was my saber and my tiger companion. He ordered my sword be returned to me and so with that, my tiger companion, and a good pair of sturdy boots I set out for the peak of the mountain of light. I took no supplies with me, except for a small skin of water to slake my thirst, as I knew that anything more would only slow me down.
I traveled for four days, the tiger at my side, before reaching the base of the mountain of light. What from the distance had looked like a mere hill, I now knew to be a true mountain. I climbed the rocky slope for three days before reaching the cave where the snake god was said to sleep. By the time I reached my destination I had reduced the monster in size to a mere anaconda such as the portuguese of Brazil speak of, worshiped by fearful peasants who knew no better. All I had to do was wait for it to come out so I could lop its head off and that would be that. For hours I stood there waiting for it to emerge, sometimes gazing out at the beauty of the cavern land below, sometimes glancing up at the blinding light of the crystals even further up the mountain at the peak or out at the clouds that miraculously formed just beneath the crystal ceiling and poured down rain.
June 15th, 2006, 12:32 AM
(above story cont.)
I had sat down upon a rock and had begun to drift off, convinced that there was no snake, when the creature struck. It was only the growl of my companion that saved me in time, alerting me to a shift in the shadows within the cavern a mere instant before a great slithering form shot like lightning from the mouth of the cavern and demolished the rock upon which I had been sitting with its great jaws. I danced back, saber at the ready, and saw a great black cobra spreading its hood above me, greater than any snake I had ever imagined could have been, so great that it could have swallowed whole cows with a snap of its jaws and a gulp. At first I stared at the snake, looking into its great slitted gold eyes, eyes that seemed filled with an evil intelligence, but when my companion roared at me I realized that such snakes were said to hypnotize their prey with their gaze. I instead looked at the throat of the snake, just below the jaw, for that was where I thought I would strike. Because of that I was able to avoid the snake in time when it again lunged for me. For hours the snake and I danced about while my companion tried to circle around behind and distract the creature.
Eventually I knew I was slowing, growing tired, while the snake only seemed to be moving faster. It was at this point that I thought of Elizabeth, and how she must be nearing where we were by that time, and I asked the heavens to give the snake into my hands for her sake, even if it cost me my life, just that she might live. Then I heard a roar from my companion and another strike from the snake, so close I could smell the scent of death coming from its jaws as they passed me, but this time my companion was waiting and it leapt at the head of the snake, catching it by edge of the hood as it came near the ground. The snake hissed with the sound of a steamwhistle and threw its head back and whipped it about, attempting to shake the tiger loose, but my brave companion refused to be thrown free and held on, catching his claws into the thick scales of the snake one pawsworth at a time until he was securely fastened to the monster. At last the snake tired, if only for a moment, and collapsed to the ground. Before I was even halfway there the snake was already beginning to pull itself up, but in the moment before it fully regained its strength I ran my sabre into one of its eyes and from there to the brain. The snake pulled free and thrashed about wildly while the tiger finally let go and landed on his paws a short ways off. Soon the thrashing subsided and the snake was still. We two had done it.
As I approached the carcass I happened to glance down the mountain and saw a grand procession of people dressed in every color imaginable making their way up. At the front was the Shaman and the king and dear Elizabeth dressed in finery but also wearing chains. I looked to my companion and then began hacking off the head of the snake with my sabre. When I was done we both put our shoulders to the head of the beast until it rolled down the hill, where it came to rest at the feet of the shaman. The tiger and I followed close behind. When the king saw us he was most pleased that we had lived, and he ordered the chains taken off of Elizabeth. The Shaman was shocked and enraged, but when the king ordered that he leave and never return to the city, there was little he could do. He left screaming what I was later told were divine curses. The king took Elizabeth, the tiger, and I back to the city where he held a great feast to celebrate the slaying of the false god. He informed us after the feast that we could stay as long as we liked. He had long resented the influence of the shaman and was glad to be free of him.
However, we soon found out about a plot brewing among the remaining followers of the Shaman to kill Elizabeth and I, so instead of remaining and causing more trouble to the kind, we took our leave amidst many tears of farewell and left on zebras bearing fine gifts of gold and silver and exotic woods and gems. The king himself had forged for me a sword as fine as any ever seen within his kingdom and gave it to me to place upon the mantle of my own palace whenever I should reach home. He knew that no sword could ever replace my Saber. After leaving the kingdom it was two years before Elizabeth and I could return to England, but as you can see, we both made it and she is now the very woman you see sitting next to me as my wife. The tiger, too, remains with us to this very day, though he preferred to stay in the guest quarters with our children. As to the content of those two years, that is another story for another time.
And now, Countess Walewska, I believe it was you who promised my wife just this very afternoon that you would tell the tale of how you bested the Ferocious Manslaying Dragon of Corsica and restored peace to the land.
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