February - March 2006

 

The more recent drabbles are at the top

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This two were written for the "British legends" challenge, and are inspired by tales of faery, such as Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer. The second one is a sequel to the first.

 

 

The bargain

 

"I will give you gold," she said, and he said no. She offered him kingdoms, but he shook his head. She clad herself only in golden hair, but he just turned his face aside. "I know who you are," Bran murmured. "He warned me."

 

Her silver eyes darkened. She touched his cheek, and pictures radiated from her touch. He saw Will, always far ahead of him; Will, so magical, when Bran trailed behind. Compared to Will, Bran knew nothing. He was nothing.

 

"I will make you worthy of him," she whispered, "if you tarry for a while."

 

Bran succumbed. "Yes," he breathed. "Yes."

 

 

The gift

 

When Bran emerged, Will barely even blinked.

 

Bran glanced at the fading sun. "Only a few hours, then." He grabbed Will's arm. "It was amazing. I was in Fairyland. Really! Now we can walk side by side."

 

Will said nothing.

 

Bran's smiled faltered. "You're pleased to see me?"

 

Over two hundred years, a desperate vigil became just habit. In two hundred years, he had grown used to being alone. "Yes," he said.

 

A mask of silver fell over Bran's face. "I can see truth and lies now, written in a man's breath."

 

Changed forever, he walked away. Will felt nothing.

 

 

Explanatory note

 

Note on the folklore: One thing all the ballads agree on is that accepting an invitation from the Queen of Fairy is a Bad Idea. She offers you wonders, but, if you go with her, you tend to find yourself chained in an everlasting contract with your soul committed to hell, or other similarly inconvenient things.

Sometimes, you spend a happy time with dancing and drink, and emerge laughing to find that years or centuries have passed, when you thought it but a few days. If you're very lucky, you emerge changed - gifted with soothsaying, or the bardic gift, or some such (though this doesn't really compensate for the fact that everyone you ever knew is now dead). If you're unlucky, you find that you emerge in the body of the 150 year old man you really ought to be, and crumble to dust, which is somewhat depressing.

Really, the lesson here is: Don't talk with Strange Fairies.

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This was written for a challenge entitled "The coming of spring." It is an AU, set far in the future.

 

 

The gift

 

"The beginning of spring," the stranger said. "A special day."

Gareth frowned. "Not really." The hour of curfew changed, but that was all. Blue sky and flowers were confined to whispered tales. No-one alive had seen them.

"A snowdrop, for spring." The stranger gestured in summons. Gareth gasped. "A raven, for your forefather." He opened his hand, revealing a tawny stone, gleaming in sudden, impossible sunlight. "A gift, for your birthday."

"Who...?" Gareth croaked.

"Youngest of the old; oldest of the new. I bring spring, but you are summer. Will you come?"

Gareth hesitated only for a moment, and accepted the gift.

 

 

Note: The stranger is Will. Gareth is a descendant of Bran's.

 

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This was written for a challenge about the Riders before the start of the sequence. It is somewhat silly. I do seem to enjoy poking fun at the poor Rider. The setting is the 1870s. The Black Rider has a very impressive moustache, but his costume is a bit eclectic. He gets confused about new-fangled fashions, though he tries.

 

 

Move with the times

 

The Rider could not see the device the salesman spoke of, but it sounded marvellous.

 

It tempted him. After two millennia on horseback, his legs had become mortifyingly bowed, and no Lord of Dark should ever squirm with saddle-sores. His immortal steed, too, was displaying worrying signs of cockiness. He was sure it snickered sometimes, after his particularly portentous utterances.

 

One had to move with the times, after all.

 

He pushed forward, eager to see this wondrous “penny-farthing.” He tried to imagine himself unleashing doom and despair, while teetering on such a machine.

 

He sighed. Apparently he was stuck with the horse. 

 

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This one was written for the "Useful magic" challenge, and it shows Will using magic in a way that is not, perhaps, entirely right and proper, but who can blame him?

 

 

The test

 

"Could you park there?"

 

Will swallowed. He had saved the world twice in the past three months, but such things left little time to practice parallel parking. He was going to fail, unless…

 

He made up his mind. Cars slid out of the way, and Will's car glided into the gap, elegant as a dancer. The examiner looked only slightly befuddled as he handed Will his pass certificate.

 

It isn't really cheating, Will reassured himself, remembering the time Woking had almost sunk into the void, because he had missed the bus by a whisker. Merriman never had to save the world using public transport.

 

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This one was written for the Anachronism challenge. It is not entirely serious, but I enjoyed writing it!

 

 

 

His Master's death

 

Unearthly music issued from his master's chamber. Hawkin trembled. Was his lord conversing with the heavenly host?

 

"Noooo!" Merriman wailed. Were the angels hurting him? Punishing him?

 

"Stop!" Hawkin rushed in. "My master isn't... "

 

Merriman was alone, clutching a strange casket, plainly wrought by evil fairies. Tiny men were imprisoned inside its lid, and...

 

"The mouse died," Merriman lamented. Hawkin glanced around, then checked the soles of his shoes. "Now I'm dead. And I'd just memorised magic missile, too."

 

Hawkin gaped. Dead? Master? Dead?

 

Merriman sighed. "I think this is yet another thing you need to forget, isn't it?"

 

Hawkin nodded eagerly.

 

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This one was written on St Valentine's Day. The night before, I was heard to say, "I will never, ever in all my life write a Valentine's Day story. Well, not unless it's a humorous one in which someone sends a card to an amusingly inappropriate person. By the time this idea got turned into words, the "humorous" part had somehow vanished.

 

 

The only one for me

"Strange. I didn't see anyone coming to the door." Mrs Stanton picked up the red envelope. "For you, Will. Oh, surely you're too young..."

"I'm fifteen, Mum."

James ran upstairs, laughing. "Will's got a girlfriend! Will's got a girlfriend!"

Will walked to the windowseat, where no-one could see him. His hand was trembling a little as he pulled the card out. "You are the only one," it said in curling letters, above a picture of solitary tree.

He opened it up. In Old Speech, a dark hand had written, "The only one... But we are legion."

Dead petals cascaded to the floor.

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This challenge was about drink…

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Woah, Im so dreunk! Ugh. Teypin'gs hard. I wroet this story just nwo. Its my frost ever pots. I cant believe noone esel has had thid geniuos idewa beforr. Sorry, migth bee some typols in this notew. Word did Autocrorect in the stroy so that shuold be OJ. Iloev you guys! Your all my best freinsd!
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"Why do we fight all the time?" Merman whinnied. "Why can't we all be friends?"

Will snuggled against a black-clad shoulder. "You have such beautiful eyries."

The Rider blushed. "Wait until you're older."

"I'm older than I look." Wilt drained another tank-top of Gwion's summer wine.

Barn was flailing with the crystal word, scattering giggling Old Ones and Dark mignons alike. "Which tree am I supposed to be cutting? There's two."

"You're all my best fiends." Merman started to sting. "Ebony and ivory..."

At the next Rising, thought the Lady, remembering the conga-line of Badon Hill, I think we'll stick to water.
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EDIT: I'm so embarrassed. How do I delete a post after I've made it? Ugh. Head hurts. Feel sick...

 

 

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The above drabble also inspired the following two efforts:

 

This is the drabble of the Bard Taleisin

 

Men went to Badon, swords girt for fighting,

Came they for war, but drink was their ending.

Arthur the Mighty gave them a buffet,

Cheese, wine and nibbles, and cutely-named cocktails.

Briton and Saxon joined in a conga,

Then lay down together, and…

[The following 350 lines are not suitable for decent readers, and have been omitted. Ed.]

Merlin the Old One spoke words of prophecy:

"Minds shall be fuzzier, hearts will be flirtier,

Heads will be sorer, as the mead lessens."

The day will be sung of as long as men remember…

So all will be forgotten by next sun rising.

 

 

And here is Thomas Malory's drabble:

 

Aftir the flagons were emptye,  Kynge Arthur and sir Bedwere staggered syngyng to the water, and there the Kynge felle unto the grownde. "Takesht thou my swerde and throw it… I forget where. Bleugh."

 

Then, as the booke seyth, they beheld a barge with many fayre ladyes in hit, and the chief among the ladyes was full wroth, and quoth, "Six howres have we tarried for thee, while thou wast drynkynge with thy mates, and if thou thinkest we are lettynge thee on this barge now, thou hast another thynk cominge." And so they departed to Avalon, but Arthur went not with them, but Arthur swened and knew it not.