Tuesday, February 27, 2018

What Tomas An Buile Said In a Pub

What Tomas An Buile Said In a Pub

I saw God. Do you doubt it?
Do you dare to doubt it?
I saw the Almighty Man. His hand
Was resting on a mountain, and
He looked upon the World and all about it:
I saw him plainer than you see me now,
You mustn't doubt it.

He was not satisfied;
His look was all dissatisfied.
His beard swung on a wind far out of sight
Behind the world's curve, and there was light
Most fearful from His forehead, and He sighed,
"That star went always wrong, and from the start
I was dissatisfied."

He lifted up His hand—
I say He heaved a dreadful hand
Over the spinning Earth. Then I said, "Stay,
You must not strike it, God; I'm in the way;
And I will never move from where I stand."
He said, "Dear child, I feared that you were dead,"
And stayed His hand.

by James Stephens

Monday, February 26, 2018

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Korm's Master (Part Nine and Conclusion)

Afterwards they walked together to the refectory, the young Morg as if he had just awoken from a dream, the old man talking cheerfully about what he felt like for breakfast. They made it to the long hall crowded with tables and benches, and Korm automatically arranged for their meal. When it arrived, he sat silently while his white-bearded guest shoveled down eggs and toast and roasted apples, chased by several strong cups of hot sweet mocha. Every now and then the young Morg opened his mouth as if to say something, then shut it, baffled, shaking his head.

They walked back to the Grand Master's chambers through the returning stream of students, who were beginning to wind their way again through the channels of the school. Korm lifted the latch and led the way into the office. To his surprise, Belmok raised his pursed lips and squinnied eye up from his desk as he entered.

"There you are, boy," he barked. "I thought you'd at least be on hand when I ... Dunwolf, old man!" His eyes sprang wide, dropping his ocular to his chest where it bounced on its ribbon. He heaved himself up from his chair and stamped ponderously over in delight, and took the wizard's hand. "What a surprise to see you here!"

"Greetings, Grand Master," the old man grinned, vigorously returning Belmok's grip. "I have a few questions I thought you might be able to answer for me, my friend. Your new famulus here was just helping me grab some refreshment while we waited for your arrival. Wandering's a hungry business, you know, and I have to take meals where I can get them."

"Of course, of course. Korm's a good lad," Belmok said. He lay his knobby claw heavily on the boy's shoulder. The young Morg seemed to sink beneath it. Wedged between the two towering elders he felt like he was standing down in a ditch. "Inspired me, in fact, to start trying to complete work on my old 'Notes on the Morg Migrations.' Might actually finish it before I die, now. Sit down, let me pour us some Lorelied."

Belmok lumbered over to the barrel in the back of the room, and Dunwolf sat in the chair between the fireplace and the desk. Korm, unsure what to do, hovered between them.

"If he has one drawback, it's that he's a bit of a skeptic about the Unseen," the old Master continued as he got some cups from the sideboard. "Maybe now that we've got a wizard around, we can cure him of that weakness."

"I think he's fairly reformed in that matter," Dunwolf answered dryly, glancing at Korm, whose cheeks colored as he looked down at his shoes.

"He's in a bit of a pickle at the moment," the old Morg said as he twisted the tap. "Been here for five months already, doesn't have a subject for his master. Shame, too, because I think he has good potential." He handed Korm a cup with a wink. "Don't let it go to your head, lad."

"Really," Dunwolf said, accepting his own cup thoughtfully. He looked at Belmok. "Talented?"

"He put my papers in order." Belmok bent to pour his own drink.

Dunwolf whistled. He twirled the wine and took a sip.

"You know," he said slowly. "I may have the solution to both our dilemmas. I was going to ask you to delve into this, Belmok, but if you're working on something else again ..." He paused and looked up at Korm. "Tell me, lad, have you ever heard of the Goldfire?"

Korm looked puzzled. Belmok went still, then slowly raised himself up straight, watching. Korm bent his head, staring into his drink, thinking deeply.

"The Goldfire? The Goldfire... yes, a talisman of some kind, I believe. Lost during the reign of Tarth. What about it?"

"I need someone, a hell of a good scholar, to look into its history, and trace down where it could be now. I think we may need it again pretty damn soon."

"Well, I suppose I could...," Korm started.

Belmok barked in jubilation, making the others jump. The fat old Morg sat down his cup, crossed his arms over his chest and bowed his head. Then he looked up and, elbows at his sides, spread his hands palms upward in triumph.

"I call Morlakor Shyreen to witness," he crowed, "And you, too, wizard, that neither I nor any Morg has given him this idea, neither by deed or word or prompting aforethought. Come, come here, boy." The old Morg turned and took a box from the shelf behind him.

Korm walked over in a daze. Dunwolf looked bemused. Belmok unlatched the box, put back the lid, and pulled out the long unreeling length of a red sash of History. He folded it so that it lay cradled between his hands, and presented it to the stunned young student.

"Well, take it, take it, tie it on," he commanded. Korm accepted it with trembling fingers, and looped it gingerly around his waist. For a moment he felt the strong fabric girding his middle. Then suddenly, decisively, he cinched it in a tight knot, and looked up, grinning fiercely, as if challenging the world to try to to take it from him.

"Excellent, excellent," Belmok chortled. "I've had a room held for you, a real scholar's chamber. You can begin your proper studies tomorrow! Ah, you'll need this book...and this one...and this..."

As the fat old Morg went shambling around the rooms, disarranging his newly immaculate shelves and gathering volumes, Dunwolf rose quietly and walked over to where Korm stood beaming happily, looking a little stunned, and quaffing his Lorelied in triumph. He put his hand on the young Morg's shoulder and patted it.

"Congratulations, Master Korm," he said in a low voice. "But don't forget the Goldfire in your celebration. Start on it quickly, now rather than later. I have the feeling that in the close future we in the South will have need of it, quite badly, quite soon."

The old wizard turned to the Grand Master and started following him around the room.

"Now I have a couple more questions, Belmok...," he began.

Late that night saw Korm moved from his little closet to a properly appointed chamber, with a real bed, shelves for his books, and a bottomless supply of ink and paper from the school stock. Already, as he moved to and from Belmok's office, his red sash was catching eyes and getting whispers about the new protege of the Grand Master. He still wore his hairy cone of a cap, quite out of fashion and beginning to shed, more for a penance than for pride. Besides, it had a lot of wear in it yet.

He sat down at his new desk, a heavy tome before him, pen and paper on the side, ready for notes. As a finishing touch, he lit the little brass lamp and put the old stuffed owl on the ledge above him. He cocked an eye up to where it stared solemnly down. He tangled his beard with his black claws.

"Well, Lord Fluffy," he said, "Let's get started."

Scare Crew

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Korm's Master (Part Eight)

Instead of the low, dim, dripping rooms that he had been expecting, Korm found himself taking dazed, hesitant steps over a white marble floor into a vast, bewildering space. The room, if it was a room, was colossal; the walls, if they were walls, seemed to bow inward, reaching dimly to an unseen point in the hazy purple-blue heights. A kind of bright twilight with no definable source hung about everything. Korm could sense the curve of the wall where the door was set falling away behind, but he paid no thought to it. He was drawn to the mesmerizing spectacle before him.

In the middle of the chamber or courtyard was a vast pool, almost a lake, set round with a massively carved curb of stone. In the center of the pool, rising in a thick, turbulent column, taller even than the Sun Tower in Morg City, was a pillar of water, that rose and fell heavily without spray or splash, just a low rumble like distant thunder as it raised itself up and poured itself back down into the pellucid water below, which received it again with hardly a ripple. Playing on top of that pillar, slowly but continually spinning in the roll of water, danced a huge translucent green globe.

Korm approached the cascade reverently, entranced, eyes wide, stopping only when he finally placed his arms outspread on the stony coping surrounding the water's edge. He gazed up, up, up at the orb, turning ponderously but ceaselessly, looking heavier than a mountain, then had to let his eyes fall, dizzy at the fearful weight held poised so delicately above him. But when his gaze had focused downward, his stomach tied itself into an instant knot.

There was no bottom to the pool, no slow incline, no rippling play of light on a floor, however deep. Just the depths, down, down, ever deeper, until it seemed more profound than the sky above, if sky it was. Korm thought he saw, past the lowest darkness of its abysses, the distant glimmer of stars, as if the world had been turned upside-down and he was suspended, somehow, over a chasm of sky that could suck him into its profundity as inexorably as any vast and heaving sea. To his horror he found himself helplessly leaning over, unable in his vertigo to stop himself from plunging forward headfirst into the waters.

A rough brown hand clamped on his shoulder and pulled him back.

"The Fountain of Forever," the old man said quietly.

Korm turned back, panting, eyes rolling, and gaped at the man.

"Where--?" he stammered. "Where--? How did we--?"

The other swept his arm, pointing back behind them, in a gesture of introduction.

"The Domain of Doors," he said matter-of-factly.

Korm squinted back at the way he had come. Had he really walked that far? Back behind them was the wall or fence he had walked from after he'd stumbled through the door. It curved around until it was lost at either end behind the falling waters. Could that be right? The dimensions of this place seemed to be playing tricks on his eyes. He rubbed his hands over his face, then pulled them down, tugging his beard to try to center himself. He looked up with a clearer gaze, and got another jolt of realization.

The wall behind him, the wall that stretched out of sight to either side, was entirely made up of doors, linked only by short brambly trees growing between them. There were wooden doors, and iron doors, and doors of stone, bound in brass or steel or simply hanging on a leather hinge, some so tall and wide an Ogre might walk through with ease, and some so low a hound might have to stoop to pass in. A dizzying array. And Korm had no idea, looking panicked at the multitude, where the one he had entered by was.

"The thing about the Domain of Doors," the scruffy man said, scratching his beard thoughtfully, "is you really have to pay attention when you come in. These doors go to places all over everywhere in Ortha, and some of them beyond, they say. Walk through the wrong one, and you might end up in a dungeon somewhere, with some real nasty folks wanting to ask you some real nasty questions."

"You seem to know a lot about it," Korm said, turning on him. "What do you think we should do?"

"Eh." The old man shrugged, as if he had no idea and was leaving it up to him.

It should be simple, Korm thought, turning away. Just walk back the way I came. Go back through the door to Tronduhon Library School, back into a place where things make sense. Simple. He sighted a path to take, and strode decisively forward, the brown-robed figure flapping carelessly after him in his wake.

To his dismay, they came to a halt in front of a battered wooden door with brass bolts. Some crude runes chipped into it declared it to be of Ghamen make.

"It's a funny thing about setting out from the inner rim of a wheel to the outer wheel. The smallest deviation from the path increases exponentially the further you travel."

Korm looked over at the man with one eye.

"That's a brilliant observation," the Morg said sarcastically. "What should I do, go back and start again?"

"That would be a recipe for disaster, I think."

"Then I'll just walk along the wall till I find the door."

"Ah, but which way?"

Korm looked again at the wall. He looked left. He looked right. Either way seemed to curve off into a haze. He looked at the old man in frustration.

"Well, what do you want to do?" he asked angrily. "How do you know all about it, anyway? Who the hell are you?"

"I want to go to the right here, because I've been keeping my eye on the door since we first came in," the old man said calmly. "I know all about it because I brought us here by a spell. As for who I am, I happen to be a wizard, and my name," he bowed slightly "is Dunwolf, Dunwolf of Rhavenglast." He paused. "You may have heard of me."

"Dunwolf?" Korm boggled.


"The wizard?"


"That's impossible!" the Morg burst out. "He lived five hundred years ago!"

"One of the side-effects of using magic - or having magic use you - is long life. It's not always the kindest of powers." The old man hitched himself up and began moving to the right. "After the journey I've been on, I feel every day of those years. Right now I want a good breakfast. But first, I do need that bog-stool. To go in this place ... it just wouldn't be right."

"Yes, about this place," Korm said, floundering after him indignantly. "All right you're a wizard, all right maybe you're even Dunwolf himself, but what do you mean by bringing me to this ... this terrible place?" he finished in consternation.

"Shake you up a bit, teach you a lesson. You seemed a little on the smug side to me." The old man chuckled as he strode along. "Thought you could get me booted out, just like that. Let me tell you, lad, the world and the people in it are not only more than you know, they're more than anyone can know, even an old wizard. Don't be so quick to judge."

"Now you're being the quick one to judge." Korm's muzzle kinked in a wry grin. "I've been about as far from smug as I could be for a whole season."

"Hold that thought," the other said. They had stopped in front of a door. Korm recognized the dark green paint and bronze fixtures of the school bog. The old man tapped the wood three times in a triangular pattern, and pulled it open. As it swung wide, the young Morg felt great relief to see the familiar hallways of the school on the other side again. He stepped through eagerly.

The old man pulled it to, and almost immediately threw it open again, to reveal the unmistakable sounds and odors of the gurgling washroom. He sprinted in and slammed the door behind him, leaving Korm to blink alone in the plain light of day.

(To Be Continued...)

The Donkey in Fairy Tale and Fable

Friday, February 23, 2018

Korm's Master (Part Seven)

"Where's Belmok?" he asked casually, scratching his head and stretching his ropy neck. "I need to ask him a couple favors right quick."

"Grand Master Belmok is visiting his family for the holiday. He'll be returning shortly," Korm answered, frost in his voice. He'd recovered a bit from his surprise, and now was feeling on his dignity. This tall, wolfish old beggar in tattered dun robes was treating Master Belmok, his chambers, and by extension all of Tronduhon Library School in far too familiar a manner. "Perhaps you'd like to go wait somewhere until he comes back?"

"No, I'd like to catch him pretty quick when he arrives. But you go on then, whatever you're doing here. Don't mind me." He settled back down in the chair.

Korm edged his way over to the desk, eyeing the tattered figure as he went. He pulled a book, almost at random, from a passing shelf. He sat down and lit the ornate reading lamp. He started to read, glancing up every now and then at his unwanted visitor, who waved cheerily back.

The random text proved to be in old bardic Morgish, and he soon found his mind more engaged with puzzling out the sense of it than on the old man sitting quietly across the room. Korm began muttering the lines aloud, trying to untangle the meaning and murmuring with pleasure when he hit on a solution. But finally he came on a word that completely stumped him.

"Abirmokon," he grumbled. "What is 'abirmokon'?"

"It means 'he awakens the flame.'"

Korm looked up in astonishment, then annoyance. He had forgotten the grimy beggar slouched across from him while he was lost in the wonders of the elder tongue. He slammed the book shut. To think that this impertinent wanderer should listen in and think to offer his rigamarole suggestions to a real scholar! To make it worse, his answer seemed to make a sort of sense in the context of the writing. The old man smiled at him.

"Are you sure you would rather not come back later, when the Grand Master will more likely be returned?" the young Morg asked through clenched teeth.

"No, this is fine," the old man said. "Though I wouldn't mind a bit of breakfast while I wait."

"Well you can't eat in here," Korm snapped. "School rules. You'll have to go to the refectory and ask them to give you something there." He smiled, suddenly crafty, struck by a thought. He rose, and walked over to the chair. "In fact, I'll take you myself. It's a big place, you might get lost."

The old man looked at him and grinned.

"Well, that's very kind of you, young fellow," he drawled. "Very kind." He stood up and drew in close, taking Korm's hand and squeezing it tightly. The odor wafting from his robes was musty and rank, as if he had been trudging for weeks and miles through the wilderness, and sleeping hard. The Morg's flat nostrils flared snuffling at the smell.

"Perhaps you would like to visit the water rooms before eating," he suggested, trying not to breathe too deeply.

"Well, that's a good idea," the other laughed, wheezing, and slapped the young Morg's shoulder. "Now that you mention it, I've got to pee like a racehorse."

The old man followed the young scholar into the quiet hallways, the arched corridors echoing with the shuffle of his robes and the slapping of his loose sandals. Though Korm darted his eyes around desperately as they passed room after room, his plan to relieve himself of his unwanted visitor by handing him over to a passing lector was constantly foiled. Every spare staff member seemed to have disappeared for the holiday. At last they reached a green-painted iron-bound door in the bowels of the school.

"Here you go," the young Morg said, standing in front of it and pointing dejectedly at the sign. "Baths and bogs."

The old man laughed.

"Maybe you better come in and show me which is which."

Korm turned on him in outrage.

"Oh, now see here! You can't be that stupid..."

The old man grinned like a wolf and uttered a few flat words. For a snip of time, Korm thought he was being mocked in some foreign tongue. But a flash of light coming from the door at his back distracted him, and he turned in alarm.

"What...? Is the place on fire?" Instinctively he reached out to the door handle and barged stumbling through, skidded to a stop, and stood frozen, his muzzle dropped in wonder. The old vagabond stepped in behind him, quietly shutting the door.

(To Be Continued...)

Weather Or Not

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Korm's Master (Part Six)

It was no wonder that he was feeling fractious as the fall started. Five months had passed in this betwixt and between state, and he seemed no closer to his goal. It was during the days of the Autumn Festival, when the School was mostly deserted and even Master Belmok had traveled into the suburbs to visit his ancient mother, still somehow miraculously alive, that something finally happened.

In the few days of the old Morg's absence, Korm had been acting out a little fantasy. In the morning, having kindled the fire in the front office, he sat down behind the Master's desk with a selected volume, ink and paper for notes by his side, and then worked for the day as if he did indeed belong there. Looking up every now and then at the spotless shelves and gleaming accouterments, their restored condition, at least, the product of his labor, he felt a propriatary thrill, as if they were a hopeful prophecy of his future. A small sign outside the door gave notice of the Master's absence and kept anyone from peering in on his meager indulgence.

On the final morning of the holiday, Korm crept from his cold cramped cabinet, through the silent space of the early morning hall, and eased his way through the entrance of the office. With the school mostly abandoned, there was really no need to be so stealthy, but something about the hour seemed to forbid noise. He closed the door, and made his way through the dim chamber to where the banked fire glowed dimly on the hearth.

He grabbed some sticks of kindling, and thrust them down through the ashes into the live embers beneath. He crouched watching for a few moments until he was sure the wood had caught fire, then creaked back to his feet, satisfied. When Master Belmok came back this afternoon, the chambers would be nice and toasty. In the meantime, the young Morg would be quite comfortable in the last hours of his imaginary way of life.

He looked around the room in the growing light of the fire, thinking about which book to shuffle through in the early hours of the day before he could expect the old Morg's return. His eyes snagged on a bundle of old brown rags piled on one of the visitors' chairs. That hadn't been there when he'd left last night.

Then he remembered that he'd requested some of the groundskeepers be sent to touch up the pocked and crumbling plaster along the walls. They had obviously dumped these tarps off last night in preparation of a day's work. He frowned at the thought about the infringement on his last moments of free time, and stumped over in irritation to throw the pile to the floor. It certainly shouldn't have been left on the furniture, anyway.

He put his hands on the pile of rags, and to his shock it burst into startling, struggling life. He jumped back in consternation, gaping, and watched as the growling bundle thrust out arms and legs and finally tossed back a folded hood to reveal a round white head with a short scruffy beard. Two blazing blue eyes glared at him in angry confusion.

"You're a Man!" Korm barked.

"Last time I checked, son," the other said crossly. The old man stretched out his scrawny brown limbs and rubbed the sleep from his eyes, looking around. He focused on the young Morg and seemed to suddenly realize where he was. He smiled wanly and leapt out of the chair.

(To Be Continued...)

One Big Problem