|Of Heroism and Other Really Cool Stuff
Author: Tomboy-Toby PM
Gary is a common farmer. He is not a ninja. Or a knight. In fact, he is not very special at all. But he can still be a hero. Adventure, Magic Spoons, Ale, and 'Ye Olde Bosoms'. The fantasy genre just had it comin'.Rated: Fiction T - English - Humor/Fantasy - Chapters: 4 - Words: 14,220 - Reviews: 11 - Favs: 5 - Updated: 12-16-05 - Published: 12-05-05 - id: 2063195
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Although it is widely known by the citizens of Isteria the name and origin of their own proud country, most prefer to refer to it in more allusive terms, such as "Our nation", "Our kingdom", "That place where I live", etcetera. Although the insinuating name has also been the butt of several xenophobic jokes in neighboring kingdoms, most other nations kept their silence about the hilarity of it all out of an odd respect for the patriotic endurance of the Isterians.
The legend has been a bit stretched and beaten over time, but the core of the origin is kept that it was the product of an early king who was not quite so perfectly sane. You see, back in the days before they had modern conveniences such as the horse drawn plow and the hay cart, Isteria was a small nameless province ruled by various residential lords, and headed by a self-proclaimed king who was near to the end of his days and far past his wits end. So when the time came that his trusty council proposed that their modest ammassment of land be dubbed as an official country, and ruled by a true king, he took up the offer, not realizing they meant his son should take throne. Angrily, he resigned to his fate, but not before mandating that the country be called "'isteria, or what ever that thing those quack doctors are always tellin' me about." So it came to pass that the loony name was kept, out of conscience from a dutiful son and guilt from ensuing generations who harbored pity for the nutty old monarch who was gipped of his chance to be the king of a real kingdom. The whole situation was somewhat akin to the nutty old uncle in the family who would make hideous sculptures out of garbage and all the relatives displayed them out of sense of familial duty while the neighbors would shake their heads in knowing pity. Every family has one of those, right?
Well, perhaps not, but surely the honorable readers will understand the point being made here.
So it came to pass that the name was kept and Isteria saw no hinderance in economic and political prosperity due to it's name, and was a respected nation among the bordering peasant countries.
That still didn't make it any less akward for Gary and Billy as they approached the Nishellian border. Their next destination would likely be full of Nishellians who would snicker at them from behind their market stands and dupe them like foreign tourists. But considering it was close enough to home, perhaps it would be easier.
They rode into Villageton in the evening, bored from travel and positively starving. They found a stall right beside Gren's tavern which conjoined to Essie's Inn, and checked in their horses for the night. They entered the tavern, nearly drooling at the fabulous scent of meat roasting. Granted, the place was unsanitary and the meat, to be fair, was mediocre, but when one has a long journey ahead of him and an irritating partner to bicker with, that individual will invariably develop a monstrous appetite.
Gary fished out several coins from the pouch that was given to him by the court treasurer and slapped them on the bar counter.
"Two of your largest prime rib plates, please," He declared to the portly barkeep. The man behind the counter laughed heartily.
"Worked up an apettite, eh, m'lad?" He said, wiping off a tarnished stein, "And what'll ye be having to drink with that?"
"Spring water!" Said Gary with his fists upon his hips in a very masculine manner. Every chattering construction worker, knight and otherwise tough bloke in the vicinity hushed and turned a cynical eye at Gary. Billy frowned and lightly punched his arm.
"Er- I mean," Gary winced, favoring his arm, "Ale for the both of us!"
The crowd shrugged and went back to their business.
"Essie! Get a couple of house special dinner platters out here, please." The barkeep called into the swinging door to the kitchen.
"Comin' right out, dearie!"
He returned to the bar and set down two large mugs before the travellers.
"Well, you two don't seem to be from around these parts. My name's Gren, and I own this tavern, which you could probably tell, unless of course you're a total dunce, but then again that seems to be the kind we attract at this establishment. So, where do you young blokes hail from?"
Gary choked on his ale, remembering that Billy was supposed to be a boy.
"Well, I'm Gary... Noddafarmir, and this is... my little brother, Billy- erm..."
"Same last name," Billy interjected, rolling her eyes.
"Coming through here for some sight seein'?"
"Actually we're-" Gary paused. He was rather shrewd at formulating lies, but not at the drop of a hat, and most certainly not while drinking.
"We're heading through the countryside in order to document and write about the wildlife that lives there. We've been commissioned by the royal court, you see." Billy had seamlessly interjected again, very old experience in creating obscure identities and motives at the drop of a hat.
"That's sweet. It's always nice to see some nature lovers around here. You know, we had a bard come in just the other day, sang a ballad about a sweet little bluebird who journeyed for it's beloved swallow. I tell ye, there was not a dry eye in the house."
"That's... nice," Gary commented, wondering if he should have really felt so threatened away from his spring water. He took another sip of ale, hoping the lukewarm drink would soothe his empty stomach.
"Two hot rib plates, ready to go!" A busty woman sang as she burst through the kitchen door. She was large, spirited, with the remnants of the past week's cooking on her apron and her long gray hair in messy braids and a white cap. She spotted the hungry looking travelers at the counter and slid the two plates before them, her deep blue eyes twinkling with the hospitable smile she offered them.
"Just tell me if ye'll be needing anything else," She said, winking, "Me name is Essie, and I'll take care of whatever it is ye young lads are in lack of. I'm the one who owns the adjoining Inn, so if you two need a place to stay for the night, you know where to ask."
"Fank you vary mush," Gary responded in between a mouthful of meat and potatoes. Billy had already taken several too-large swallows and was drowning her meal with ale to prevent it from sticking to her esophagus. The farmer blushed and swallowed, embarrassed at his lack of manners and took up his knife to carefully cut off a proper piece of meat.
The two elder entrepreneurs smiled approvingly at the ravenous customers in their seats and gazed back at each other lovingly.
"Well, I guess I'll have to be returning to the kitchen. Those dinners aren't going to cook themselves," Said Essie, wiping her hands off on her apron. Gren lifted a beefy wrinkled hand to her shoulder and smiled.
"Thank you, dearie." He said as he stared into those twinkling eyes.
Gary paused for a moment at the display and found himself smiling at it himself. Old people still in love were just so darn cute.
"So, how long have you two been married?" He asked, trying to make conversation. The scene felt as though it had come to a sudden lurching halt.
"Wh- what do ye mean, married?" Essie asked, clutching the fabric of her dress, "We're just friends, is all."
Gren frowned and Essie traded back her pout for a default friendly smile and sprinted back to the kitchen as though nothing had happened.
The older traveler coughed a bit in renewed embarassment and watched the old bartender return to cleaning glasses. He made a stuttering attempt to break the silence.
"So... um, another ale, please!"
Several hours later saw the two heroes loud, enthusiastic, and above all, rip-roaringly drunk. Billy had already gone tomato red in the face with so many giggle fits that Gren was certain the boy could not be quite well. Gary, had he been more coherent, might have regretted and reconsidered ordering ale for her as well, considering she was quite a bit younger, but at the moment, that didn't concern him in the least, as he was boistrously telling the story of the time he had farmed a two foot radish.
"It was this big, I tell you!" he boasted, with his arms spread ridiculously wide.
Billy found this hilarious beyond all words, for some reason, and fell into another fit of maniacal laughter, spreading her arms across the countertop as she shook with each giggle.
Gary raised his finger and slurred out the words, "Nother n- nothr nail preze"
Billy found this so hilarious that she kicked him straight off his seat.
Essie, her maternal instincts blazing off sirens and trumpets, swooped in to aid with two cups of hot tea and some biscuits.
"Maybe you dearies ought to drink something else, eh?"
The crossdressing girl wiped a tear from her eye, as her shoulder ceased shaking and she took a teacup with her wobbly hand and sipped it.
"Th- Thank you..." she said, taking several gulps and reaching for a biscuit, but missed the biscuit altogether and knocked the plate off the counter top, just as Gary had gotten the wits to pull himself back up off the ground. The plate hit him, and he fell again.
"Oh my my my my..." said Essie as she clicked her tongue. She retreated back into the kitchen and returned with a basket of bread rolls.
"Here, these should do," She said, setting them out, "They shouldn't be too old." Billy grabbed one and bit into it, only to be met with the sensation that she had just broken or severely loosened a tooth. She cringed, and tried again to chomp down into the hard substance, finally making a dent and hurting her jaw muscles as she chewed.
"... good," She managed, nibbling at some crumbs surrounding the dent, getting the sensation that she was nibbling at steel.
"Excellent," Said Essie, pushing some more towards her "You should keep some then. I'm sure you'll be needing them on your travels. I'll go get the teapot and a cold rag for master Gary." As soon as she had dissappeared around the door and Gren still had his back to them, occupied with a sink full of dishes, she dunked the whole darn thing into her cup of tea. She twisted her lip frustratedly, her head hurting a bit.
As Essie returned to help Gary off the floor, she retreated the roll from her teacup and bit into it again, still stiff, but at least less jawbreaking than before. She shut her eyes and tried to remember just how many mugs she had drunk and failed miserably.
As Gary was aided back into his seat, he mumbled, "S-so, d-did I tell ya about that time I dug up a huuuge radish?"
Billy sporfled briefly at the humorous memory, but straghtened up in an attempt to be difficult.
"Yes, yes you did. And it was dumb."
Gary stared at her looking a bit wounded. He squeezed his eyes shut several time and turned to Gren, as he noted the emptyness of the tavern, only a few other customers left.
"I think we're gon' need to stay at the inn," He said, adding superfluously, "In a room."
"Alright, dearie, that's fine," Essie said, sensing her business growing, "That'll be five Nishellian silver coins."
"Nishellian coins. Didn't we tell you?"
"This establishment is directly on the border of Isteria and Nishella. The tavern is Isterian and takes Isterian coins, but my Inn is in Nishella. All customers must pay in the corresponding currency."
"Wait..." Gary tried to piece this together in his inebriated mind, "But I'm sure you get Isterian customers all the time. Why can't you just-"
"The law's the law," She replied, shrugging, "You can exchange your currency, but the exchange fee is the same price as the room."
Gary frowned, peering into his pouch. He had spent so much on dinner and ale, he wasn't sure if he would have enough for the rest of the week. Billy snored, blissfully unaware, lying on a headrest made from her folded arms and drooling contentedly.
"Isn't there any way? Couldn't we- stay somewhere else?" He scanned the room once again, and desperately searched out surfaces.
"Could we just... sleep on a table or something?" He paused sheepishly, realizing the stupidity of his intoxicated proposition. Essie simply shrugged, and turned,
"Is that alright with ye, Gren?" Gren shrugged and waved his hand, approvingly.
"Alright then, I'll go get some blankets, and you can pay one silver coin to Gren for your stay." She hurried across the dining area and through the hall that connected the tavern to the inn. She returned with a heap of tattered quilts and set them on an ignored table in the far corner, spreading a few on the neighboring surface.
"Your brother can sleep here," She said, spreading the sheet, "And you can sleep on this one."
The fuzzy headed farmer attempted to lift Billy, succeeding in one step, and wound up needing assitance from the matronly innkeeper, who decided to take Billy's life into her own hands, rather than risking it to the tipsy traveler. She tucked the younger one in on the table top and bid Gary good night.
"Sleep well, Master Billy," She said, patting Billy's shoulder. Gary raised his head in sudden interest.
"That reminds me..." He wondered aloud quite out of the blue, whispering as Essie had left from hearing distance, "Billy, what's your real name?"
"Hmm?" Billy responded, rubbing her eye irritably, not feeling very happy about her sleep being interrupted.
"Your name. I just thought of how it can't be your real name. So what is it? Your girl's name?"
"This is a stupid time to be asking that," She mumbled irritably, "It's just a nickname."
"What is it, then? What is Billy short for."
"Victoria, obviously. Now shut up and sleep."
The answer didn't make much sense, but it was an answer nonetheless, and Gary decided to rest contently with it. He set down his head and found sleep as soon as he closed his eyes.
"I was worried that they wouldn't buy it. But I didn't want to kick them out when we didn't have any vacancy."
"No, that would be cruel. But they're gullible when they're drunk."
"Indeed. Typical Isterians."