Pa's Story

“Father, tell me the story again!”
“That old thing? Corwin, you should be tired after all the work we did today.”
Mother smiled kindly and turned to Pa, “Now now, Pa, he worked hard for ye, he’s just a boy and the story don’t hurt none.”

Pa grunted, taking off his muck-coated boots. “All right, boy, but why don’t you help me? Many thousand years ago, the younger folk – and who were they?”
The boy’s face brightened. “Humans, Kobolds, Dwaerlings, and -” his face wrinkled comically in concentration for a moment, “- and the Shardik!”
His father smiled. “Right. And what were they?”
“Kobolds was little puny red men that were smart and shifty, Dwaerlings were like small men but muscly and hairy and live underground, humans is us, and nobody knows about the Shardik now but they was big and hairier than Dwaerlings.”
“Right, good, son. So the younger folk rose up against the older folk that had been working them to death for as long as they remembered – and who were the older folk?”
“Elves – tall, slender, smarts but not nice, pointy ears. Thought they were top of the hill. Orcs – big, green, angry folks. Dragons, big lizards that talked, and all sorts’a smaller lizard guys and big bugs and stuff and-” The boy bounced up and down, his eyes wide with imagination.
“Yes, there were many and strange older things, and to prosper, humans had to rise against them and reduce their number with his fellow young races.”

“And then was the Age of Wonders!”
“Ha ha, not quite so quick as that, but yes, it all gave way eventually to the Age of Wonders, when the young races build great kingdoms and empires in the ruins of what had come before. Humans and the others learned to wield the magic of the old ones, and other strange new magics. The old races fought back, and the young races repelled them, and there was much ingenuity and fierceness on both sides. Some of them came to respect each other, even.” Pa thought awhile, and the cottage was quiet.

“Eventually, the human king Altair realized that there would never be lasting peace with so many different folk trying to win the same few kingdoms. He went to the Fay – mysterious, powerful beings said to have created the Elves in the early days – and gained the power to enact his plan. He found other places – places not of this world – where the creatures that would not make peace with humans could be sent to make war on each other, leaving humans and the other peaceful races to thrive in the old land. He sent them there with help from all the peaceful folk, and sealed the door with the ruby our king still wears on his crown today.”

“But Pa! Pa! When I went with you to market, a traveller said the ruby was cracked and there been strange critters seen at the edges of settled lands and -”
Pa grimaced. “When did you speak with a traveller?”
“When you went to make water and I was lookin’ at them knives with the carvings.”
“What did I tell you about talking to travelers? I’ll have to speak to old Mamont about that, he was supposed to be watching you while in his tent.” Pa’s voice was raised.
The boy looked at his Ma and back. “I’m going to make water and go to bed. Thanks for the story, Pa.” He scrambled off.
His Pa calmed as he ate dinner and resolved to speak to the knife-maker the next day. It would mean an extra trip to town, but Harvest was not yet upon them and they could use more flour anyway. All went to bed peaceful, their heads full of tales of the way the world had been.

In the morning, the boy, Corwin, was nowhere to be found; the only clue was a live baby bird that flew out from his covers. Ma and Pa searched the house and surroundings, the barn, the stable, and under the great plow. After that Pa said he needed to sit, and there he sat, staring at the wood of the table hollowly, barely responding to Ma, unable to comprehend.
Ma tied back her fiery red hair and put on the old leather suit over her dress. She strapped on an old, rusty sword, rushing about with a look of- almost -
“You just sit there, Pa. He may come home right off, you’ll see. I’m going to search the edges of the farm, and you know there’s been evidence of some critters out near the forest, so I’m a’taking the old sword. I’ll bring back some berries for us from the far bushes, and you see if I don’t bring our young one back safe and sound.” She kissed Pa’s cheek and went to the stables.
Who knows how many years she’s waited to strap that sword back on, Pa thought, as he stared hollowly at the table.

Pa's Story

Twilight of the Ruby Kingdom joewalt