tisdag 10 september 2013

Ch 6. Hatchlings

A name worthy of a prince has to be extraordinary, exciting, preferrably original, melodious, noble and respectable. But on the other hand it had to be easy to pronounce, not too long, preferrably without silly numbers or other things that ruin the feeling of the name. And it better not be anything like Pollux, since someone at court might actually have a slightly higher resistance against memory-warping spells, and a similar name might be a trigger for the spell to lose it's power over that particular subject.

Just when they had arrived at the basic requirements for a royal name, two small ruby-sparkling dragons came fluttering in through the curiously opening and closing stained-glass window in front of them. The open-close spell was a necessity as the baby dragons were utterly fascinated with the bright openings that were the windows in the otherwise so solid, dark stone walls. Glass shards don't bother dragons, but they bother humans and so she made the whole household happy with that simple swing-window spell.

The dragons were far from fully grown, only a few months old, but they grew quicly and soon they wouldn't be able to sit on her shoulders any longer. The witch had been a good friend of the dragons' mother, who had sadly been murdered by a knight (because he thought the dragon had stolen "his" maiden who had actually run away to live happily with one of his servants) just a few days before the eggs would hatch, and had decided to take care of the little dragons in their mother's place. The story of Thilyn tracking down the knight and avenging her friend is not for this tale. We now return to the story of the prince temporarily named Horse.

The youngest dragon, the female called Dethrambraxiolath (abbreviated to Brax most of the time), fluttered over to Horse's head, curled around the top of his head and stayed there, curiously sniffing at the hot-pink streaks in his hair. Then she sneezed. A small spark of dragon magick touched the hair and turned the streaks a shining silver colour.

That gave Thilyn an idea. Prince Argente* wasn't a bad name, and Horse, who had started to get tired of being called Horse now that he was human, welcomed the change of name with open arms. Literally as he happily made a large gesture and almost punched the other little dragon, Raxendrethan, who was fluttering beside him. When his hand got too close, Rax hissed and flew over to perch on Thilyn's shoulder. Thilyn petted the little dragon on his head and told the hatchlings who the stranger in the library was. Rax cautiously sniffed him as well but felt no need to sneeze, so Argente stayed the way he was.

The cousin came walzing into the library looking for an amusing book to read, so Thilyn rose to help him search the charmingly chaotic structure in there until he found something he was interested in. Ordinarily he'd spend his days wandering the vast forest, but even such a serene activity can become tedious, so he sometimes read instead. Satisfied with the new find he walzed back out of the library.

The witch quickly started with the preparations for the next step of the project and Argente started training every skill a prince had to know. Thilyn was only visible at dinnertime to weave the food onto the table (not out of thin air, it was stored in a large storage area in the old dungeons), but otherwise stayed in her study or the library, The little dragons were too mischievous to be allowed into the study so when she was in there they pestered prince Argente instead.

He in turn had actually found an area where Thilyn's cousin wasn't just a waste of space, because he was really a very skilled fencing-instructor. So with the help of the cousin and observations from his years as a horse he got better and better at fencing, decorum, dancing and, well all the other stuff that Pollux had been pretty good at. After a little more than a week of preparation, and one day of rest to recover from the intense studying, Thilyn announced that she was ready to weave the spell. All she needed was an arms length to the throne, crown and sceptre, and all the members of the royal family present. Early the next day the witch, the donkey and the prince set off towards the King's Castle.

(*Argentum is silver in Latin)

måndag 2 september 2013

Ch 5, Of Horses and Princes

When the plate was filled with fragrant foods she poured them both some lemonade, thinking wine was probably a bad choice for Horse's first meal as a human. That would have to be introduced later. Thilyn started telling a little bit about herself and after a while she came to the explanation for the haunting first impression of the tower she had inherited from a reclusive old relative. Since she had not yet graduated and was still studying at magiversity she sometimes needed calm and concentration for her studies in the arcane, the results of which regularly had to be presented to the Archmages, something that required a fair amount of preparation and focus.

At times like that it was very profitable to be left alone, and so she'd made it a habit of conjuring a bunch of storm clouds and thunder around the tower to make it seem as uninviting and foreboding as possible. The crows and ravens lived there permanently so there was nothing to do about that really. And she preferred them to the doves that would instantly inhabit the ivy vines if the competition from the crows disappeared. There were also magical alarms that warned her if anyone came unnecessarily close to the stronghold, like the Prince and Horse had done. On the other hand the eerie atmosphere sometimes attracted people like Pollux, and it had no deterring effect what so ever on those who knew the reason for the thunder and darkness, like her cousin.

During the last few weeks she'd had the storm constantly rumbling above the stronghold, since she was trying to figure out a good idea for her final project and did not want to be disturbed. She had always known it would have to involve transformation, since that was her strongest subject. Unfortunately it had been really difficult to find an original idea.

But as it happened, when she looked into her crystal ball and saw the two travelers she had a brilliant idea. The crystal didn't only show an image of the object in focus, but showed properties and personality as well. She was very pleased with her idea which would have to include a multitude of arcane diciplines, something the Archmages were sure to be pleased about. And besides, it would be good for the entire future of the kingdom. The Prince was a nice guy but he was rather useless except for the simpler, less demanding tasks of ruling a kingdom, like heroically departing in the direction of the setting sun or eating the right course with the right cutlery. Simply said, if he became king it wouldn't take long before things went south.

Horse on the other hoof had always though about things that didn't really concern a horse, always listened to what was going on in order to keep updated and always tried to minimize problems where he could affect the situation. He basically acted like a good ruler should. And the fact that he happened to be quite intelligent was a bonus.

Thilyn's idea was simply to transform Horse into a prince and the Prince into a horse (but he apparently didn't have the potential to become a real horse, no matter how much energy the witch had put into that part of the spell) and then make the court and all the land believe that Horse had always been their prince. And since the first part was already done and irreversible, the best thing to do was to keep the ball rolling and hope it all turned out for the best.

The results of the project had to be presented just a few weeks into the future, so she was in a bit of a hurry to find another project idea if Horse didn't want to be a prince. Could he imagine ruling a gigantic kingdom for a large part of his life, the witch wondered. Horse answered nervously that it was quite a lot to take in on such a short notice, but it might be fun to try it out. 

Thilyn cheered loudly and sprung out of her chair to continue the preparations needed for the rest of the project to be successful but was interrupted by Pollux who had been listening but only understood a fraction of what had just been said. He looked at her nervously and backed into the corner, throwing his head. She calmly went over to him and patted him on the head, gave him a cube of sugar and asked if he was happy with his new form. An affirmatory nudge towards the sugar cubes answered the question and then he went back to munching on apples.

That far things were going smoothly but a prince needs a name, not just a noun that some strange person has put a capital letter at the beginning of. After dinner the new prince and the young witch sat down in front of a stained glass window in the crammed, ambient library and considered different alternatives.

torsdag 22 augusti 2013

Ch 4. Castles and cousins

Horse warily rose from the ground and dropped the mirror in order to have both och the highly unfamiliar hands in front of him in case he needed to defend himself from another unexpected burst of magick. But when the figure had removed its hood, time seemed to slow down considerably, and the face being revealed was unlike any he had ever seen. Imagine the features of the mos beautiful creature in the world, with skin as black as ebony, hair white as snow with streaks the colour of fresh blood. Her eyes radiated power and self esteem and had the colour of dark emeralds with a setting of gold. Simply put, Horse was completely spellbound by the young witch, and she hadn't done anything to cause it. She saw his stunned gaze and her smile turned into one of amused curiosity which in no way made her less appealing.

The poor Horse didn't know what to do, because while what she hade done to the prince and himself was scary she didn't seem thretening at all right now, rather the opposite actually. And come to think of it, they were the ones that had begun the attack, not her. A head popped out of the highest window of the high tower and a male voice, still a quite a bit high-pitched called out that the rat-trap was now taken care of and the danger had passed. The witch rolled her eyes and called back in a beautiful, very melodious voice, that it was very well done. When the head had disappeared back through the window again the witch said it beloged to her cousin who was visiting for a while. Usually she lived by herself, which sometimes made her relatives worry about her, and if there by some freak chance would arise a problem that she couldn't handle, she had a high-speed internet connection at her disposal, because as everybody knows, the answer to life, the universe, everything (42, by the way) and other little useful tidbits of information can be found in the intrwebz.

The witch, whose name was Thilyn, introduced herself properly and asked if they would like to stay for dinner, now that they had calmed down and were acting like normal people. Pollux nudged her insistently on the elbow and after a few tries with his new vocal cords, Horse managed to express his gratitude at the offer.

When they walked towards the stronghold the thick, gray clouds dispersed to let the sun shine thorugh onto the ivy clinging to the masonry. The moat glistened and the water lillies opened. At once the view looked a lot more inviting. Thily tried to get Horse talking so that he would grow used to his voice and his new visage. It succeeded and turned out that Horse really liked to talk. His voice grew steadier with each sentence and after a while de no longer sounded as if he was imitating a sheep each time he spoke.

When they entered the stronghold and Thilyn pulled off her cloak he quieted for a while, because under it she wore a stunning gown made of shiny green silk with seams and embroided vines of silver thread. In some places small faceted gemstones of various colours glittered from the surprisingly strong light in the entrance hall. And the curves suggested by the dress were absolutely gorgeous.

A minute or two passed before Horse could breathe normally again and during that time, Pollux tried to get at the sugar cubes hidden in Thilyns cloak. When measures had been taken against it, Thilyn lead the way to the dining hall, where both Horse and Pollux shied back when they saw the witch weave a spell. It turned out to be nothing to worry about when a bunch of apples appeared on a small table by the wall where Pollux could eat. She asked Horse to sit down and carefully started to move her fingers in strange patterns again, and one after another a nice variety of dishes popped into existence on the table in front of them. She sat down next to Horse and started to heap food onto her plate.

To be continued...

lördag 18 juni 2011

And now for something completely different

A new take on chess.

Have you ever imagined what would happen if you exchanged the Knighs on the chess board with dragons? (I mean, the horses heads do look a little bit like dragon heads.) I was considering what the effect would be and what the piece might do. Additional equipment needed for these rules: one 6-sided dice. Possibly a pen and paper to write down notes for the game.

First off all: Dragons can fly, most horses can't, thus a Dragon could reach the other end of the chess board in one move or move to any square. To make the game a little bit more exciting than the King being eaten in the fist turn, that specific move is forbidden unless the opponent King has been been "checked" at least 5 times.

Second: Possibility to seize and use opponent Rooks as his own. He then gets a defence-bonus against other pieces. The Dragon/Rook must be flanked by three opponent pieces before the Dragon loses its defence bonus, but he can leave the Rook at any turn. To defeat a Dragon, see rule five.

Third: Pawn elimination. One of the opponents Pawns must be left alive, because he is Farmer Giles and cannot be killed by any Dragon. But the others are just as tasty as the Knights turned out to be. If the Dragon is positioned correctly, he can take out all the Pawns (except for Giles) in a row  (moving like the Queen, but not stopping at each defeated piece). Any one of the Pawns can be Farmer Giles at any turn, until only one remains. Keep in mind that this last piece can still be killed by other pieces than Dragons.

Fourth: At the start of the game, the players choose which Bishop is intimidated by the Dragon (thinking it a demon) and which is extra agressive towards it. To keep track of this, note which colour each Bishop moves upon. The Intimidated Bishop cannot attack a Dragon without at least one other piece flanking the target. The Agressive Bishop has a slightly better chance of beating a Dragon.

Fifth: To see if any piece except the Queen (who always hits the hardest), Farmer Giles or Bishop succeeds in defeating the Dragon, roll a 6-sided dice: 5 and 6 means success. For Farmer Giles this is instead 3 to 6, for the Bishop 4 to 6 and no dice needed for the Queen. If the King ever gets close enough to attack a Dragon, he defeats it by default.

Sixth: In lack of a princess, Dragons can try to abduct the Queen if the opponent player has eight pieces or less (They cannot attack her before that). Again, roll a 6-sided dice: if its an even number the abduction succeeds, uneven number fails. While the Dragon carries the Queen it can only make the Queen's ordinary moves with an addidtion of moving like the Knight, and has to stop if blocked by other pieces. It can abandon the Queen at any turn. If The Dragon successfully carries the Abducted Queen to its side of the board, the Queen becomes an ally and can be used as usual by the Dragon's player.

Seventh: If a Rook occupied by a Dragon is attacked and the Dragon defeated, the Rook is destroyed. If a Dragon abducting a Queen is defeated, the Queen is released.

Eighth: Any piece that fails an attack on a Dragon is eaten.

Yeah, I think that's all the pieces and how they interact with the Dragons. Could be interesting, eh?

onsdag 4 maj 2011

Ch 3, Changes

The dark ominous clouds seemed to be centered above the high tower. Ravens and crows circled around it, some landing in their nests built in the lush ivy to prepare for the gathering storm. When Horse looked around and it was painfully clear that the sky behind them was comfortingly clear blue with white, fluffy clouds in cute shapes and a swallow drifted past in the direction they'd come, he tried to back around the bend again to get away from the suspicious-looking figure on the drawbridge. To get away from the entire, quite terrifying stronghold, really. He thought that the best thing they could do was to ride back to the last crossroads and pick another direction from there, but the Prince had other Plans! His hero instincts had been touched by the cry of alarm from the tower and he had not the sense, nor the capacity to resist.

When he noticed that Horse started backing away, Pollux ordered him to stop and then slapped him unceremoniously on the rump so that they started galloping straight towards the drawbridge. Another bolt of lightning hit a tall pine tree beside them, causing the terrified Horse to gallop even faster.

The figure only made careful, subtle moves with its fingers but the closer they got, the more the air around the figure started to shimmer with lively shapes and colours. Just when the Prince had  drawn his sword and they were 25 yards away, a beam of magick with all the colours of the rainbow shot out of the index fingers of  the figure, which were pointed directly at the quickly approaching yahoos.

There was a sound like *poff* and a big puff of amaranth-colored smoke, which when it dispersed revealed that Horse was still moving fast forward. The Prince on the other hand was laying upside-down on the ground with his four legs in different directions, shaking his head in confusion. It took a few seconds for the Horse to notice that he was running on two legs instead of four, he had feet instead of hooves (not to mention hands with the ability to grip things!) and that he was not moving forward as fast as he was used to. He then stopped and looked back at the Prince, who was still shaking his head, and completely forgot the cause of the transformation.

The Prince had a thick brown coat, a black, spiky mane and very, very long ears. He stopped shaking his head and rose unsteadily onto his scrawny legs and looked around. His ears twitched nervously when they registered the sound  his new hooves were making against the road. Horse felt sorry for the Prince in his unaccustomed shape and decided to give him a carrot to calm him down. The pack was on the ground close to them so it was easy to find. The issue was using these damned thumbs and the rest of the fingers to open the clasps. Horse solved the problem by opening the pack with his teeth, like he used to. The Prince was already used to acting like an ass, so it came quite naturally to him to happily munch the carrot offered to him and then think nothing at all about what had just happened.

When Horse was digging around in the pack to find the carrots, the Prince's  mirror, which accompanied him everywhere, fell out. He picked it up to put it back inside but hesitated when he saw his reflection. He'd seen it before in still water, but now it looked completely different of course.  His colors were the same, so he had very light blonde hair with shockingly pink stripes, very fair skin and calm brown eyes. The nose was a bit wide but his teeth were excellent. He was, quite simply, as beautiful as a human as he had been as a horse; easy on the eyes. When Horse finally tore his gaze away from the mirror he realized that the figure from the bridge was standing next to Pollux, feeding him sugar cubes. Then it turned towards him and with a smooth, flowing motion pulled back its hood.

tisdag 3 maj 2011

The Horse. Ch. 2

 The morning after the Prince's theatrical departure, directed towards the setting sun and Adventure with a capital A, Horse was casually strolling around in the glade where they'd made camp picking up the most important pieces of equipment and dropping them into the open pack. The Prince himself was snoring loudly from a shrubbery he had hoped would protect him in case of rain. Luckily for the Prince the weather had been nice, and hence taking cover under the sparse foliage had been completely unnecessary. When the packing was done, Horse walked over to the shrubbery and started to neigh. Loudly.

To another horse this would have been quite beautiful, because he was singing an old nursery rhyme that most mares sing to their foals, and he had a pretty good singing voice. For a horse. To the newly awakened and extremely sleepy-headed Prince however, it was bordering on torture. When he'd figured out what was making the traumatizing noise he tried to shut the Horse up by mumbling irritably at it. When that failed he tried to bribe Horse with carrots, but to his dismay that didn't work either, since the horse had already eaten his morning ration of carrots and was religiously keeping track of them. When the song ended, Horse quieted on his own accord and Pollux sighed with relief, swung his pack onto his shoulder and swung himself onto the Horse's back. How the Prince had managed to make the glade look like some awesomely popular heavy metal band rocked through it on their world tour in just one night is a mystery that to this day stands unsolved.

Horse managed to steer away from the sunrise, which was the obvious direction according to the Prince, and their travels continued at a comfortable but respectable pace. The weather was nice and the world itself seemed to be in a good mood. Unfortunately this scenario didn't last very long, and dark, heavy clouds were gathering further along the road. Both the Prince and Horse realized that this was a serious matter. Horse slowed their pace and the Prince was smart enough to be more watchful of what could be along the road, which up to that point had been almost suspiciously easy to travel.

They carefully followed a turn of the road and while a bolt of lightning shot past, turning the Horse's mane and tail into pink-striped pom-poms of static electricity, a house appeared some distance away. They warily got closer and closer to the big house, which had a huge tower, a moat, a solid foundation, parapets and a whole bunch of ivy clinging to it, and thus was more of a stronghold than a house, a difference which the Prince knew nothing about and Horse honestly didn't care. The thing is that there was this high-pitched yell for assistance from the highest window of the tower and simultaneously a hooded figure in a dark green, silver embroided cloak appeared out of nowhere on the lowered drawbridge.

To be continued...

måndag 2 maj 2011

The Horse. Ch. 1

He looked a little bit like a zebra, but he was a lot larger and with a mane and tail that billowed  wonderfully in the warm summer wind. His color was not quite that of an ordinary zebra, though. As you all know, zebras usually have black stripes, not pink like his were. And it wasn't a soft pastel pink either, but a fierce hot pink that would frighten away any lion looking at it. And that even though lions don't actually perceive colors very well.

He was happily trotting around in a summery green meadow, stopping every now and then to munch a delishious dandelion or two. A half-hearted attempt at a fence circled the meadow, and since he was a very well behaved horse he stayed inside this warped creation even though he could have easily stepped over it and then gained complete freedom. But, can you imagine, the Horse was also very intelligent. He knew that sometimes there's this cold, white, fluffy rain that covers and freezes all the good stuff on the ground and makes it not taste good any more. Not to mention what it would be like to sleep outside when the weather got bad. And that's when he needed his, slightly stupid, "owner".

Think of the devil and he might just show up, though this guy didn't actually have one malicious bone in his body. Come to think of it, "guy" is the wrong word, because he was a Prince with a capital P. His name was Pollux, but the servants in the castle referred to him as "Polly" (when no one of noble blood was around) since he wasn't much smarter than a parrot and he really liked polygons. While we're on the subject of names; the Prince had never thought of calling his Horse anyhing but Horse, and Horse didn't care as long as he got hay to eat and a stables to live in during winter.

The thing is that the warped imitation of a fence around the meadow was meant to be a pentagon, even though no corners could be detected. The Prince had built it by himself and was exceedingly proud of the achievement since it was the only thing he had ever done on his own. But finally the day had come for the next big adventure in the Prince's life. He was to ride out into the World and find a princess, countess any other form of young, unmarried, woman of noble birth in dire need of being rescued (for the mood to be just right).

Horse rolled his eyes. Where would they find a woman, a princess even, willing to spend the rest of her life togheter with Prince Pollux? Sure he would one day be the ruler of a kingdom so enormous, it covered the majority of two continents, and allowed the neighbouring countries to exist only as pin points on the map to accentuate how excessively enormous the kingdom really was.
Oh, right... It might not be that difficult to find a power hungry young lady after all.

While the Prince handled the saddle, Horse was going through the Prince's pack to make sure that they didn't lack something that was absolutely vital. He found a wide variety of stuff, some of which he would get off his back as soon as he had the opportunity. When everything was prepared the Prince theatrically swung himself into the saddle and rode towards the sunset. Horse rolled his eyes again. If they were lucky they'd make it a mile or two before they had to make camp.

To be continued...