|Heart of the Hound|
|1.||Heart of the Hound|
|The Tavern of Lost Souls|
|2.||The Tavern of Lost Souls|
|Escape from Guk|
|The Flight of the Mudskipper|
|The Worst Cook in Grobb|
|A Storm of Sorrow|
|Of New Friends and Troublesome Enemies|
|On the Plains of Karana|
|By the Wings of Dragons|
By the pen of Eylee Zephyrswell -- Though the tight lipped Professor A.M. Fiddlewiz was sometimes difficult to coax a tale from, Twiddy enlightened me many a time with the tales of their shared past. Like many halflings, he has an innate storytelling ability that would shame many a trained bard, or at least he carries on as if he does. It is clear that the more I get to know my companions, the more I have come to believe they were all in some way fated for this journey. Of them, only I seem out of place, as if I somehow forced the hand of fate to include me.
The sun dropped low in the sky, and as it cast a final spray of light on the tree tops of the Misty Thicket, a chorus of voices rose up from the village of Rivervale. The home of the halflings was dressed in all the colors of Myrthday, and the sunset marked a shift in the festivities. Over the squeals and squeaks of many a successful prank were the songs and cheers of a birthday celebration, and not just any birthday, this day marked the 50th year that Twiddy Bobick had walked, skipped, and jumped his way across Norrath, and the whole of the village came out to celebrate him as he entered his prime. Merrymakers flooded into the party in a parade of costumes and dancing; debutants wore masks and mocked the lads close at their heels, old folk dressed as characters from tales to delight of the infants, and young ones hobbled in atop stilts in their fake beards and oversized tunics, scolding elders in mock ups of their own voices.
Twiddy stood at the helm of his boat and raised a drink high. Below him, the crowd let out another cheer and lifted their own drinks before taking a long swallow of whatever spirit they had filled it with. The scaffolding that held the R.N.S. Mudskipper up high in the center of the vale was surrounded by a mess of tables spilling over with juicy roasts stuffed with cabbage and apple, and salads of wild spring lettuce topped with shavings of roasted nuts, and crispy jum-jum pies with their sugared purple insides. Though the boat might one day hold a mess of passengers, it was in the middle of construction and its deck had just enough room for Twiddy and his most honored guests. Twiddy himself sat on poop deck presiding over everything like a king at his court, and the town elders, as well as Twill and Liddy Bobick, his well aged parents, sat below him on a long table of fresh oak that his father had just put the finishing touches on that day. Everyone beamed with pride and good drink, Twiddy's father more than any other. He spent the whole of the night boasting of his son's fine skills; Twiddy had already proven to be an accomplished carpenter and was bringing them the first of many vessels in their very own halfling navy, so there was much to celebrate.
Our young shipwright drank as much as any, swallowing cup after cup of honeyed dandelion mead, and as the night wore on, and he listened to his praises sung again and again, Twiddy grew bold. Finally, as the ship was praised for what must have been the many dozenth of times, this particular time by the venerable Rothbur Tagglefoot, Twiddy interjected: "Aye, a good ship she is, she'll certainly give the birds something to talk about!" The party atop the ship all laughed. Rothbur Tagglefoot tipped his head to Twiddy, exhaled two long strings of smoke from either side of his mouth, and said, "Yes, the birds, and the fish too, I'm sure." Twiddy shook his head and said, "I doubt the fish will see much of her when she is so high in the sky."
There was a pause before the laughter this time, as everyone stopped to consider his meaning. Tagglefoot took a long drag off of his pipe before pointing its end at Twiggy and saying, "You mean she will go so fast they won't have a chance to see her?" By this time, the revelers below had begun to listen to the conversation above them, watching as Twiddy staggered about the poop deck making gr'and, sweeping gestures as he spoke. Twiddy shook his head yet again, emboldened by alcohol and a desire to share his secret that had been building for months, before saying, "I mean exactly what I say. This ship is bound for the sky, not the waves."
This time the awkward pause was even longer, but finally everyone laughed. Below, a group of chorus boys and girls began to spin a song about Twiddy and his flying ship. The ditty quickly caught on, with all the revelers chanting it. "A very fine prank, young Bobick," said Tagglefoot, leaning back in his chair.
"But it's no prank," said Twiddy with an edge of frustration to his voice. "This ship is meant to fly."
This time the silence went unbroken until another elder, the portly Brombbo Stoutloam, said, "If I take your meaning to be the product of the vale's honest truth and not the drink in your hand, Twiddy Bobick, then you mean to tell me that you have been lying and using what we gave you to be so foolish as to try to build a ship that would fly?"
"I wouldn't say I lied, Brombbo," said Twiddy, shrugging. "I said I would be building us a navy, used to travel to distant lands and keep our borders safe. It was you who assumed it would be sea bound."
There was another moment of quiet before the deck exploded with angry voices. Only Twiddy's parents remained silent and still, staring at the clamor around them. Twiddy scrambled away from the surge of angry elders as Rothbur Tagglefoot tried to grab him by the ear and Brombo Stoutloam tried to kick him in the pants and all the other elders went at him in their own way.
Below, the partygoers assumed that all that was going on above them was intended and laughed to stitches over it, continuing to sing Twiddy's song.
Finally, Twiddy stopped scrambling, stood up straight, and pointed off into the distance. All the elders stopped their pursuit and stood, glaring, waiting for what he had to say. "This is my ship!" said Twiddy. "And I say, walk the plank if you won't believe me!"
Rothbur Tagglefoot stepped forward and said, "Twiddy Bobick, your birth might have been spectacular, but that is all that has ever been spectacular about you. You can no more make this ship fly than I can teach a fish to talk. You have shamed us all, as surely as you have shamed Bristlebane by declaring this foolishness on his day of all days. I will make my Myrthday elsewhere."
Tagglefoot began the slow descent down the ladder resting against the side of the boot. After him followed each of the elders, pausing to cast a good glare at Twiddy before they went. Finally, only his parents remained. His father stopped before him, looking deep in his eyes, and then dropped his head and shook it, following the elders out of the boat. His mother, Liddy, stopped and put her hand on his shoulder. "Perhaps it can still sail the seas, Twiddy," she said with a weak smile. "I am sure this business can be turned around for the best."
Twiddy took one look at her and then out at the crowd, which still sung their ditty in high voices. In the morning, when intoxication had worn off, and the elders spread the truth of what had happened, the village would no longer find it quite so funny. Twiddy let out a long sigh and pulled away from his mother. "It can't be anything but what it was meant to be, mum," he said, "and neither can I." Liddy clasped her hands together and watched him retreat to the captain's cabin of the ship that was meant to fly.
Twiddy Bobick was nearly never born. Well, born he may have been but it would have been a very short stay in the wide world of Norrath. You see, Liddy and Twill Bobick had been enjoying a picnic on a fine Myrthday on the banks of Scratchbottom Pond when the young Liddy went into labor before her time. Young Twiddy came out as if in a burst and tumbled straight into the pond. Twill ran after him in panic, but in the briefest of moments he had disappeared beneath the surface of the water. Though the poor father plunged into the water and searched through the silt of the pond for his errant boy, it was to no avail.
The couple had nearly given up, and their tears flowed freely, when the sound of a baby giggling on the opposite bank caught their attention. Not nearly daring to hope, they ran to the sound, and there among the reeds they found their baby gurgling happily and chewing on a piece of green plant. Though Liddy knelt to scoop up her boy, Twill spun to search for any sign of who might have rescued his child. For a few moments, there was no sign of any presence save his own small family, but then he glimpsed a froth of curly black hair and a flash of gold and green scales slapping the surface of the water before disappearing into the depths below.
So it seemed a mermaid had touched young Twiddy's life, and from then on forward, neither a birthday nor Myrthday could pass without the tale being spun around firesides. And as this taleteller has told, many had taken the birth to mean he was fated for great things, but as more time passed, and his dreams grew more and more outrageous, the power of the tale wore thin and similarly so did the faith of the elders in his dreams. From here on out, it would be on the shoulders of Twiddy, and Twiddy alone, to prove his dreams were more than just fancies, but realities waiting to prove themselves.