December 11, 2017

 

The Aser Stories 60: Fish Story

 
 
 

Recent history gets tweaked as Dan Ur-Jennan relates how she single-handedly defeated the army of Kaladang the Axe. Well, of COURSE there's lots of beer involved!

"So I waded into the river above the Shelasian Falls of the Icetrout River and prepared to meet my doom rather than ally with the evil Fellmount of Verdansward," Danner said, waving a mug above her head and then downward to simulate the fall of the Falls. "But then this giant catfish -- had to be at least five foot long -- surfaced right next to me."

"'Hey, Toots,' the fish said to me, 'howabout sharing some of that trail food you're carrying? Mebbe a little bit of that beef jerky, or a piece of bread? I can smell them from here!" "'If I had a two-by-four, you'd be sharing your fat-fish filets,' I said to the fish.'

"'If you had a two-by-four to hang onto, you'd get swept over the falls and be food for my cousins,' said the giant catfish, its spiny whiskers accentuating its tiny buggly eyes.

"'You take me upriver to the Ford of Amalhassan and I'll give you all the jerky and bread I carry,' I told him.

"'Grab ahold,' said the fish, and I grabbed the dorsal fin (being careful of the spines), and the fish thrashed his way past the rocks. With his huge size besting the strong current, the giant catfish -- whose name was Muammar, I think -- carried me all the way to the ripples of the Ford of Amalhassan.

"In the thigh-deep water I began emptying my pack of dried fish and jerky and bread a bit at a time so that the catfish could eat them all as they hit the surface. That was when I caught sight of the tyrant, Kaladang the Axe, on his bay horse, with his army ranged out behind him, and knew that I had to do whatever I had to do to take them down."

Our companion Margot the Troll began to choke on the pitcher of beer she was drinking, and used her napkin and mine to stifle her coughs. The reporter for the news herald stopped writing on his paper and looked at Margot suspiciously.

"So sorry," I said to the reporter, reaching up to pat Margot on the shoulder. "My friend has a seafood allergy, and even the mention can set her off."

Margot left the inn, ducking to avoid hitting her head on the top of the door jamb, still coughing.

I excused myself, picking up both my mug and the remainders of Margot's pitcher, and followed her. She was sitting on the edge of the porch, the two napkins still crammed against her mouth. "You okay?" I asked.

"No," she replied. "You and your cousin are going to kill me with your tales, I know it."

"Danner isn't my cousin," I said honestly. "And I don't think we're going to cause your demise just because you can't put down the pitcher until a sentence is done."

"When are either of you done with a sentence?" the troll wheezed. "I can't figure out how you guys manage to breathe when you're telling a story."

"No, no, how could I continue the story without the company of my company?" Dan Ur-Jennan said as she stomped out onto the porch with the reporter following her closely.

"You're a sadist," said Margot the Troll.

"No, I'm a wizard," said Danner.

There is nothing but truth in the rumor that Danner is full of shit from the get-go. Brash and impulsive, she tends to let her mouth run ahead of her feet, so to speak. But to hear her suggest that she is a wizard simply stunned me. Danner is a shaman of the Ur-Jennans, and accidentally got transformed into some sort of wizard, but only in a minor way, by getting mixed up with some wizards and an unfortunate curse. It could happen to anyone.

Well, no, that's a lie, too. It could only happen to someone who was so headlong that she falls into any outlandish circumstance as a matter of everyday living -- and lying.

Now there are lies that get told that are evasions of responsibility. "No," the burgher says, "I didn't know that there was anything wrong with dumping me slops on me neighbor's roses. Thought maybe they'd be the better for the fertilizer. How was I to know they'd turn black from it?"

He's a liar. He emptied the chamber pot on his neighbor's garden because he didn't want the stench of the slops on his own.

Then there are the blunt evasions of consequence, as when the lizardman is caught wiping scales off his face when the King's goldfish pond turns up empty. "Did you eat the King's fish?" asks the guardsman.

"Nope," says Liz, a lily pad drooping off the back of his head. "Must of been someone else."

Of course there is no one else near the pond, and the lizardman's weskit is soaked ... did he lie, or did a passing fish-stealer toss a bucket of water on him and run away, leaving Liz to take the blame? Well, yes he lied, but is a batch of goldfish worth calling in a bloodsucking leech lawyer to defend a lizardman in court?

Misleading answers are a form of lie, also, as when Margot asked me if I had eaten the last of her take-out box of crab rangoon, and I answered, with my brow furrowed convincingly, "Where did you leave it? I know there were raccoons scuffling about the camp last night." Well, there were, and they woke me up and I was hungry ...

And leave us not forget the lies that become an art form: plain old flat-out, bald-faced lies that are told just because they can be, otherwise known as bullshit. That would be Danner's crime.

"Seeing Kaladang there on his fat horse, with his greasy moustaches down to the second button on his vest, I knew I had to act."

The reporter scribbled madly, and then asked, "What did you do?"

"I cast a spell," she said, passing a hand, palm out through the air. "I made every insect in the lands of Kaladang into a soldier to defend the weak and downtrodden. No sooner had I spoken the magic words, when a giant June-beetle came whizzing out of nowhere and smacked Kaladang right in the forehead!" She drained the last of her mug of beer. "At that moment, fifty horse-flies bit his horse, and off Kaladang went into the dust!"

"And his men?" asked the herald's news-gatherer.

"Completely immobilized," Danner said, looking into his eyes. "Every single one of them was unhorsed by the biting flies and mosquitoes and ants that just boiled up out of the earth. Kaladang is an ex-tyrant by next fall."

"What is your name?"

Margot looked at me in alarm and whispered, "Now you're going to have Kaladang looking for you for revenge? You two haven't had enough?"

"I'm Hailcatcher the Weatherwise," said Danner, with a beery air of hauteur.

"Oh, crap," muttered Margot, counting on her fingers. "That makes Fellmount, Kaladang, and Hailcatcher who will be on the lookout for you."

"There's also the dwarf-gang, and a band of lizardmen," I added amicably.

"But you have a shaman's tattoo," observed the reporter most observantly, pointing at Danner's jaw.

"Oh, the tattoo -- that's just a disguise so I could travel with old Ase Ur-Jennan there. Can't be too careful, you know. In real life, I'm tall and blonde and have legs that go from here to there, but if Kaladang comes looking for me -- well, you know, I wouldn't want anyone to identify me by sight."

I drummed my fingers once at the "old" adjective, and Margot tipped her pitcher and finished it.

The reporter scowled, full of skepticism, as any good reporter is. "You could be anyone, and just lying to me."

"Sweetheart, why would I lie to you?" Danner pointed to a bluebottle fly that was monotonously buzzing in circles in the shade of the inn's porch. "Look at that fly. What would you like me to make it do to prove to you who I am?"

"If you can make that fly circle around your head three times, and then fly up my boss the herald's nose -- he's inside -- I'll believe you."

"Which one is he?" asked Danner, standing and peering back in the door.

"There, the one in the burgundy vest."

"Oh, yeah, he looks like he needs a fly up the nose," she said. "However, a wizard does nothing for free -- that's guild rules," she said. "Damn guilds, they turn everything into a bottleneck -- so let's make a deal. If I fail, you owe nothing; if I make the fly circle my head three times and then fly up your boss's nose, you buy my company a round of beer."

"Deal," said the reporter.

Danner made a frame of her index fingers and thumbs and focused on the fly. Then she pointed at it with one index finger and the other seemed to grip an imaginary joystick. The fly zoomed at her, whipped around her head thrice and then made a bee-line (so to speak) for the interior of the inn.

We all jumped to our feet and watched as the large fly tried to force himself up the herald's nose, buzzing madly. Danner dropped her hands and the fly exited the nose, and landed, exhausted, on the herald's right ear. The herald, annoyed beyond reason, slapped the ear as hard as he could. The fly avoided his hand easily and flew wearily away, leaving a reddening hand-print behind.

The reported bowed deeply to Danner. "Not just the next round, but the rest of your thirst for this night."

"Why, all my gratitude, dah-ling," Danner drawled to him, imitating Hailcatcher quite well.

We tried to be as ethical as we could, and only held the reporter to two more rounds. He left the inn thrilled to have met the wizard Hailcatcher who had put a burr in the saddle of Kaladang the Axe.

Danner couldn't stop laughing to herself so we made her sleep in the barn. It's one thing to pull off a great show, but you have to know when to stop applauding yourself.

My clan has a saying: If you tell a man a lie, he will count his losses all the day. If you teach a man to lie, you give him a lifelong career as a politician.

I have this bad feeling that Danner's next step will be to run for public office.

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2008-07-28


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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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