October 22, 2018


The Aser Stories 67: The Simple Life


No liquor, no elf sex, and no worries. Sometimes you don't need all the extra stuff that complicates your life and gives you stress-wrinkles.

"Well, Garf," I said to the ghost in the herb planter beside my door, "how was summer vacation? Have you decided to make up with your wife yet?"

"Gone all summer long and the first thing you ask me is if I want to go to Hell?" grumped the revenant. "Got any liquor on you?"

"Not a drop, and I'm fresh out of cash so I can't run to the inn to get you some. Any interesting visitors while I was gone?" Garfer Miller was a restless ghost, his bones dug up by his grandsons over a dispute about his inheritance. He was also downright nosy and his conversations laced with vulgarity, but he did make a great answering machine.

"There was a tall skinny elf with legs that went from here to there," he said. "I asked her to have a seat in this planter and spend some time with me but she refused. She said to tell you that she was really sorry if she'd caused you any trouble or got you killed or anything."

"Did she leave a name?"

"Yeah, something like Nesprekena-me Yllacalinyoe," he said, his voice thin and wheedly.

"That's pig-elvish for 'Don't call me, I'll call you.'"

"Well, lucky you to speak pig, Shaman," he replied. "And lucky you to have ol' Garfer Miller standing watch over your house, too."

"Why's that?" I asked while sorting through my accumulated mail.

"There were some people come by to peek in your windows checking if you were home. I waited until they were right up against the glass and then breathed on them and said, real spooky like, 'The dead seeeeeeeee you!' Scairt the bejabbers out of 'em!"

"Great. Now the village will think I'm living in a haunted house."

"Well, you are, aren't you, Tootsie?"

"No. My house isn't haunted. My herb garden is." I unlocked the front door of the house, hoping no bats had died in there since the spring. Sniffing around, I could detect no dead things (well, Garf was dead but didn't stink, so he didn't count) and all my books and dried bottled herbs were in order. I tossed the mail on the low table that served me double as a desk, and dropped my pack on the dirt floor. From the shelf that lined the room I took my straw mat and unrolled it by the wall, and shook out the blanket I'd carried atop my pack all summer. Before I'd left here last spring to go adventuring with a troll and a talking dog, I'd prepared a little pile of twigs and small branches for my fireplace to welcome me upon my return. I dug the flint and steel out of my pack and lit a little fire to take the chill off and give the place a rosy glow.

Home sweet home.

To some it would appear to be merely a cave under the roots of a huge sycamore tree, but to me, it was the best house in the world. It was big enough that I could spend whole rainy days in here poring over old books about herbs and stories of my clan, but small enough that no one coveted it. Well, some wild animals coveted it, which was why there was a door with a lock on it at the entrance, but no people wanted to evict me.

Sometimes less is more. Look at Lady Seaguard, over there in Oceanwind Castle, every western window an ocean view, twenty bedrooms, two and a half baths, every room furnished with top of the line furniture and draperies. That place is so big and elaborate that there has to be a full-time staff of maids and butlers just to keep the dust from piling up in drifts and guests from losing themselves in the maze of rooms. You think Lady Seaguard could just pack some beef jerky and water and a couple of apples and take off for the summer? Forget it, the magnificent castle at Skuleflight Harbor is so labor-intensive, there has to be a house manager who manages wing-managers, who oversee servants who bustle about at all hours of the day or night, summoned by the ringing of a bell, with no overtime pay or union representation. And only last spring, a villainous wizard decided he wanted to make the ever-so-amenable Oceanwind Castle his digs, and through his lust and arrogance, got the entire north wing burnt to the ground by his enemies. Lady Seaguard take the summer off? Hardly. If she wants to visit the bazaar she has to reschedule appointments a month ahead of time.

Or take Kaladang the Axe, whose grand pavilions and displays took up half a city. He spent zillions of the money he extorted from the populace, and what happened? When his army was immobilized and unmanned, within three days, his grand city was ransacked and carried off, leaving empty buildings and graffiti everywhere that largely said, "Kaladang is a rat's ass!" and little impressions in the dust that once were made by statuary and park benches. When he had all that booty lying around, he couldn't call his time his own. But once he'd been robbed as blind as he was used to robbing his victims, he was free to come and go as he liked, as long as he was interested in the "going" part of it.

On the other hand, there are the Fart Sisters, a set of three trolls (named Knifeheart, Thiefheart, and Wolfheart) who live in a board and thatch house on the north road. They have a huge, straw-ticked bedstead in their domicile, and a table and chairs for indoor dining, and a still on the back porch that provides them with income. No one bothers to try to steal their simple furnishings, not that many people could find a use for troll girdles, anyway.

The more possessions you have, the richer your domicile, the more extensive your portfolio, the less freedom you find, because all of it wants taken care of.

Once upon a time there were three brothers. The oldest was a man who discovered a hidden treasure in the ruins of an abandoned castle. The hoard of jewels and gold coins he used to buy a vast farmstead, with a herd of cattle for beef and a herd for milk and cheese, and four teams of draft horses for plowing. Working hard, he produced tremendous crops and sold them in far cities. "I am the most fortunate of men," he said. He found himself a wife, and just as they were about to commence starting a family, a stack of hay fell over on him and killed him.

The second brother grieved and mourned his sibling's death, and then married his brother's widow, farmed his crops, milked his cows, sold what he had to sell and harvested and planted what had to be harvested and planted, and raised seven sons to quarrel over the division of the property even before that second brother was aged.

The third brother, setting out on the road by himself again (to look for odd jobs to keep him in beer and blankets) after a brief visit with his brother and his rich farmstead and contentious sons said, "Truly, I am the most fortunate of men."

I like this simple life. Tomorrow I'll walk around the marketplace and see if anything has changed since last spring. Maybe someone will need some goldenseal for an infection, or advice on how to proceed with a marriage proposal. Maybe someone will do something wrong so that I can shout outrage at them. Maybe a charitable soul will find themselves with leftover pizza.

I am the most fortunate of shamans. And hey, I even got an apology from an elf!

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2008-09-15

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In the same series:

The Accursed
The Aser Stories: Sidelong
The Aser Stories 80: Cabin Fever
The Aser Stories 79: Just Don't Say It Before Spring
The Aser Stories 78: Judgment Call
The Aser Stories 77: "Are We There Yet?"
The Aser Stories 76: A Bone to Pick
The Aser Stories 75: Coalition Forces
The Aser Stories 74: Flying Monkeys
The Aser Stories 73: Elspeth, Ad Nauseam
The Aser Stories 072: Starve a Cold
The Aser Stories 071: House Call
The Aser Stories 70: Dinner Dates
The Aser Stories 69: Fire in the Hole
The Aser Stories 68: The Silk Fable
The Aser Stories 67: The Simple Life
The Aser Stories 66: For What You're Worth
The Aser Stories 65: Taking a Shot
The Aser Stories 64: Second Chances
The Aser Stories 63: The Second Step
The Aser Stories 63: Second Thoughts
The Aser Stories 60: Fish Story
The Aser Stories 59: Ace in the Hole
The Aser Stories 58: Knowledge is Power
The Aser Stories 57: Animal Tracks
The Aser Stories 56: Oz Can Keep Them All
The Aser Stories 55: Small Comfort
The Aser Stories 54: Letting Go
The Aser Stories 53: In a Spirit of Healing
The Aser Stories 52: Stinkin' Kids
The Aser Stories 51: No Words For It
The Aser Stories 50: The Friend in Need
The Aser Stories 49: Run for Cover
The Aser Stories 48: On the Fly
The Aser Stories 47: Just Thievery
The Aser Stories 46: Take My Shaman ... Please
The Aser Stories 45: Hot Stuff
The Aser Stories 44: Courtesy Call
The Aser Stories 43: Adding Insult to Injury
The Aser Stories 42: Natural Selection
The Aser Stories 41: Funny Business
The Aser Stories 40: Happy Endings
The Aser Stories 39: Working Dogs
The Aser Stories 38: Taking Sides
The Aser Stories 37: Dumb Animals
The Aser Stories 36: Harsh Words
The Aser Stories 35: Endangered Species
The Aser Stories 34: Common Language
The Aser Stories 33: Legal Torture
The Aser Stories 32: Whose Fault Is It?
The Aser Stories 31: Money Talks
The Aser Stories 30: The Perils of Sympathy
The Aser Stories 29: Raccoons
The Aser Stories 28: The Ghost of Garfer Miller
The Aser Stories 27: Dynamite
The Aser Stories 26: Junk Mail
The Aser Stories 25: Rose-Covered Cottages
The Aser Stories 24: Crime and Punishment
The Aser Stories 23: Image Is Everything
The Aser Stories 22: Is As Does
The Aser Stories 21: Gourmet Dining
The Aser Stories 20: Families and How They Are
The Aser Stories 19: The Difference Between Men and Women
The Aser Stories 18: On a Silver Platter
The Aser Stories 17: Point of View
The Aser Stories 16: Easy Street
The Aser Stories 15: Moguls
The Aser Stories 14: A Mile Toward Change
The Aser Stories 13: The Price of Freedom
The Aser Stories 12: A Question of Nudity
The Aser Stories 11: Rabbit From a Hat
The Aser Stories 10: Awards
The Aser Stories 09: On A Roll
The Aser Stories 08: Raising Children
The Aser Stories 07: Crosspasses Market
The Aser Stories 06: Judge, Jury, Shaman
The Aser Stories 05:Habit and Stubbornness
The Aser Stories 04: The Wrong Question
The Aser Stories 03: The Labor of Love
The Aser Stories 02: Soup du Jour
The Aser Stories 01: Popping the Big Question
The Aser Stories 40a: Customary Behavior
The Aser Stories 36a: Madly In Love
The Aser Stories 03a: Descent to the Underworld

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