Thursday, 29 December 2011

A short story for New Year's Eve

For Auld Lang Syne, My Dear...               


     God, I hated parties - and this party was no exception. I really didn’t want to come to it, but one has to one’s duty sometimes.  I can still remember the exact words on the invitation:

THE PRINCIPAL CORDIALLY INVITES YOU TO A NEW YEAR’S EVE FANCY DRESS PARTY.

Theme: Fantasy & Sci Fi

Time: 8 till late

Place: The university main hall

A bar and buffet will be provided

     So here I was, dressed in an orc outfit - very Lord of the Rings, I thought. A dead ringer for one of the foul creatures, I believed, though one or two people had already asked me what I was meant to be. God, I detested parties – especially since the accident happened three years ago. Emily would have loved this. “Cheer up! It’s a real blast,” she would have said. But she was dead.

     I would have preferred to have stayed at home. I always do. If you are going to mark the occasion of the calendar advancing and getting nearer to our graves, then why not stay at home and do it quietly and without a fuss. But the job has called me – it always does - and I’ve got to be here tonight, mingling and chatting, and generally pretending to have a good time in a stupid costume. At least the drinks were quite cheap at the university. I headed over to get one.

“Ah, Tony, there you are,” said Professor Deakin - someone I didn’t want to talk to right now.  I pretended I didn’t hear him over the noise of the music. I knew it wouldn’t work.

“Tony; how are you my dear boy?” asked Deakin, placing his drink down next to me on the bar. I drank a bit of beer before turning and hitting him with my best fake grin.

“I’m just dandy Professor Deakin, thank you. How are you doing on this fine evening?”

“Oh just wonderful - thank you. I see you’ve come as some sort of dreadful creature from the dark recesses of Tolkien’s brain,” he said, giving my costume the once over.

“Thank you. You’re the first to spot it.” I replied, smiling and quaffing more ale. I looked over his outfit. He was dressed as Gandalf the Grey, which didn’t surprise me a bit. “Or should I say – thank you Gandalf, and hope you don’t smite me,” I said.

“Oh I wouldn’t do that. It’s not in Gandalf’s interest to smite just any old thing, you know.”

“Why, of course not,” I said. He was a right one, Professor Deakin. This is what being head of the English department must do to you over the course of time.

The professor twiddled his beard and I could visualise his mind searching for more things to say. Eventually, his lips opened: “You haven’t produced any papers lately, and your last book was published over three years ago. Is there anything wrong Tony?”

No, there was nothing wrong. Only my darling wife had died, and there were the constant demands of the university to deal with: The endless rounds of lectures, tutorials, meetings, petty administration, and marking to do. And now I had to suck up to colleagues and senior college bigwigs. There was nothing wrong at all.

     I glanced around the hall, looking for somewhere I could go and sit by myself. It was then that I noticed another Gandalf.  If the professor’s wizard costume was good, then this one was truly magnificent. It had a real ethereal quality to it and you just couldn’t keep your eyes off it. Talk about charisma.

“I think you’ve got a bit of competition, Professor,” I said, nodding over to the other wizard, “Gandalf the White is here.”

I made my excuses and walked over to an empty table in the corner of the room.  A quick glance at the clock told me it was 10 o’clock – thank goodness for that – only 2 hours to go.

     Perhaps it was the drink, but things were starting to get better. The dance floor was filling up and I spotted quite a few attractive lovelies dressed as elves, warrior maidens and robotic replicants. There was even a very fetching Princess Leia, who, I’m sure smiled at me.  I smiled back and immediately felt foolish. 

And then I saw him again – the person dressed as a wizard. What an amazing costume, I thought.

     Avoiding Professor Deakin, I went the bar, bought another drink and sat back down on my mercifully empty table.  I knew I was meant to be chatting to people, but I really just didn’t feel up to it.  I imagined Emily sitting next to me, and for a fleeting moment I heard her laugh once more. And then I felt sad  - so I went to the bar again.

When I got back I was surprised to find Princess Leia sitting at the table.

“Um...hello,” I said.

“Hi,” said Leia, smiling and offering me a bowl of cashews. “You’re Tony from the English department, right?”

“Yes, I am. How do you know that?” I asked, grabbing a couple of nuts and gobbling them down.

“We’ve spoken before. You don’t remember?” 

She was right – I didn’t remember. I hate to say it, but I might have been a bit tipsy that night.

“Well; let me help you out. My name’s Liz and I teach in the Politics department.” She said. Now she mentioned it – I did remember her a bit. She looked very different in the Star Wars costume though.

“Nice to meet you Liz... again,” I said, before adding: “I hope you don’t mind if I call you Leia.”

“Not at all Mr Orc,” she replied, laughing.  She seemed to like me, which was very strange indeed. I looked at the clock again, which read 11.50pm.  In a moment I was going to have to make a break from the crowd.  I couldn’t really face talking to Princess Leia anymore and there was no way I was going to sing and hug people at midnight. No way. I made a break for the gents’ toilet.

     I arrived in the loo in the nick of time. I could hear somebody announcing the build up to midnight on a microphone. All I had to do was sit it out for the next 15 minutes or so. Nobody else would come in to the washroom at this time. And then Gandalf the White came in. Drat!

“Er...hi, Mr Gandalf,” I said, slightly mirthfully, before turning. I was going to go into the cubicle to be left alone.

And then he pulled down his cowl, stopping me dead in my tracks. It was the most hideous sight I had ever seen. He...or it...had two faces. Two faces side by side on the same head. I nearly fainted, but my rubbery legs somehow kept me standing.

“Do you know who I am?” asked the creature with the mouth on one of its faces.

It couldn’t be, could it?

“Are you...um... Janus?” I replied. What on earth?

“And do you know what I do?” it said, using the other face.

“Um...you’re the god of beginnings and transitions. January is named after you.” I said, the words coming out as a whimper.

“And do you know the song Auld Land Syne?” asked Janus.

“I...I...do. We sing it at midnight to mark the coming year.” I responded.

“And what does it mean?” asked the god.

“The song asks us whether it’s right to forget the past and to remember old friendships.” I said. I had always liked Burns’ old Scots verse, despite not singing it very often.

“And do you think we should do this?”

I hesitated slightly, before replying. The answer came out:”Yes, I do.”

At the moment music started playing in the main hall – the build up to the song.

“SING IT!” said Janus, with an unfathomable depth and power. I started singing:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

and never brought to mind?

SING IT LOUDER AND WITH FEELING!” boomed Janus.  The words suddenly seared into my brain, flashing up like the HUD in a fighter plane.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

and auld lang syne?

SING IT LIKE YOU MEAN IT!” said the deity. I began singing the chorus. Suddenly, a terrific energy pulsed through me.

For auld lang syne my dear,

for auld lang syne,

It was all becoming clear: I had to let go of Emily and move on with my life. The tears started rolling down my cheeks.

We’ll tak’ a cup of kindness,

For auld lang syne.

I went on to the next verse. Janus nodded and started to smile on both faces.

And surely ye’ll be your pint stowp!

And surely I’ll be mine!

And we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,

for auld lang syne.

Memories of Emily filled my mind - happy memories. I would never forget her and my love for her would stay with me till my dying day. We had walked upon the slopes together, picking flowers, but that time was finished.

We twa hae run about the braes,

and pu’d the gowans fine;

but we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,

sin auld lang syne. 

My epiphany reached a crescendo and I passed out.

#

     Well, that was last New Year’s Eve and quite a lot has happened since then.  You may be pleased to know that Liz, or Leia as I still sometimes call her, has moved in with me and our relationship is coming along nicely. I’ve started writing again and will have a new book out early next year.  I can safely say that I have stopped being an orc  – but I am pleased to say Professor Deakin still sees himself as Gandalf.

Mike Evers 2011

Monday, 26 December 2011

Thunder Ale and Cheese

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After a wonderful day of opening presents, feasting and general merriment, I have to report that the gnomes have managed to drink up all of the supplies of Thunder Ale and create a rumpus.

Yet again the gnomes have proven themselves irresponsible when it comes to imbibing beer. This would not have been so bad if they had not launched a frenzied assault on the cheese cellar and gorged themselves on finest Stilton, Chamois d'Or and Gorgonzola, before descending into dairy fuelled debauchery in the courtyard.

Once more I am forced to punish them, and at such a joyous time.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Sergeant Valdek's baubles (update)

Okay, I confess. It was me who took the baubles. I cannot help myself sometimes. However, I have put them back now, and tied lots of presents to the tree for the villagers. It is very out of character , I know.

I will also allow the gnomes access to ale cellar in honour of the team's archery victory. The cheese cellar will remain locked though, as dairy products seem to make them act bizarrely.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Sergeant Valdek's baubles

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It would appear that Sergeant Valdek's rather impressive baubles have vanished from the big Christmas tree outside the police station. The police are currently conducting an investigation.

Very odd indeed.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

An epic victory at the Christmas fayre

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The amazing gnomes have won the archery trophy at the Legendary Creatures' Christmas Fayre in Sherwood Forest - despite some setbacks along the way.

The team walked the early rounds - seeing off the goblins and an impressive group of dwarven bowmen with relative ease. However, things became more tricky in the semi-final when the gnomes faced a team of highly skilled wood elves. Troubled gnome, Wimpl the Unwilling, caused an upset by refusing to come out of the refreshments tent and cost the team a round. Also at this stage, Bundl Fugglebum and Findl Nettlecrusher were becoming worse the wear to Thunder Ale, and Bundl accidently misfired an arrow into the Faerie Queen's giant yule log.

In the final the Robin Hood All Stars were on the cusp of certain victory when Fugglebum fired off a miraculous shot, pulling the gnomes' chestnuts out of the fire and saving the day. 

We look forward to celebrating their victory with them at the Christmas feast.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

What kind of fool am I?

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I have a confession to make. Yesterday my jealousy got the better of me and I tailed Princess Ruby into the village to witness her liaisons with 'him'. Except, she did not meet up with anyone at all - well, not in the sense I feared. Instead, I watched her go into Master Craftsman Marek's workshop, where she was offering guidance on the making of a weather centre with instruments crafted from pure gold - with my name on them! A better Christmas present I could not hope for.

I should know better than to mistrust my darling wife.
 

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Vaclav Havel

Some people are born great, with their talent and gifts lying deep with their bones.

Others have greatness thrust upon them through circumstance and situation.

Vaclav Havel was both of these, and more - it is a huge loss that he has left us.

Sneeze Detector Backfires!

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Oh dear!

The sneeze detector idea was good in theory, but the result has been something of a disappointment.  An outbreak of the cold virus has led to much more sneezing going on in the village than I anticipated. Instead of giving those bifurs a little shock, I have managed to singe Sergeant Valdek's prizewinning moustache, set fire to the village Christmas tree and given quite a few of the unfortunate villagers a bit of a surprise.

Fireman Pospisil had quite a busy day of it yesterday, dealing with burning hats and baffled victims. As an apology I shall gift a hog roast to the village carol service.  

Friday, 16 December 2011

Sneeze Detector Trap

I have set up a little trap for the luck goblins operating in the village.

Boris, my chief spy, has rigged up an ingenious 'sneeze detector' in the village. The moment anyone sneezes, I will send a lightning bolt to warm up those pesky little bifurs.

All I have to do is wait...

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Gnome archers set off for Sherwood Forest

The gnome archery team has just left the citadel for Sherwood Forest. There was a slight delay as Wimpl the Unwilling refused to get on the minibus at first and had to be persuaded by Grundl Wibblesnapper.

In addition to hosiery and archery equipment, they will be taking a giant hamper of food and two kegs of our finest Thunder Ale.
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Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Special delivery from Vlad the Impaler

I awoke this morning to find the citadel under about 20 metres of snow.  It seems Dracula is better at controlling the weather than I imagined. I thought that this particular power was my special domain, but it seems he is good at meteorological manipulation as well. Is there nothing he cannot do? I am beginning to feel a bit inadequate.

He even managed to whisk up a snowman with the words 'Have a nice day' written on it (in old Romanian, of course).  

Pah!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

An early Christmas present for Vlad Dracula

Well, I did it.

Prince Vlad's castle is now buried under snow.  I really went to town and made sure my cheeky little blizzard made it to its target this time. The long and the short of it is that about six months of snow fell upon the old buzzard in under two hours.  He did not even see it coming.

Ho Ho Ho!

That will teach him to court other men's wives.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Stanislav and Mrs Svobodova

I am pleased to formally announce that my faithful butler, Stanislav, and the vivacious widow, Mrs Svobodova, are officially a couple.

The news came out of the blue yesterday evening, and it followed the pair enjoying a few hours skating on the village pond. The butler fell through the ice at one point, but fortunately, the protracted efforts to free him from the frozen clutches of the pond did not dampen the evening.  Stanilslav's chilblains are being treated by Mrs Petrushka, who has created a foul concoction of eggs, wine and fennel root.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Gnome Archery Team

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After much deliberation we have selected the team for the Myths & Legends Christmas Fayre in Sherwood Forest this year. The team heading over to England with Grundl Wibblesnapper will be:
  • Rornl of Qamdo
  • Findl Nettlecrusher                              
  • Wimpl the Unwilling
  • Bundl Fugglebum
I am confident that the team will do us proud and bring back the cup to Thunder Mountain.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

What is Princess Ruby up to?

I suspected something last week, but now I am sure my wife is living a secret life in the village.  Once again, she told me she was working on the Christmas play, and once more she was seen heading down to the village 'incognito'.  I really would not be surprised if Prince Vlad has something to do with this because it is quite his style to lure ladies into his amorous web.

Jealousy pulses through me and I may be forced to do something.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Strange happenings in the village: update

I knew it! All the odd occurences in the village of late, including the mysteriously growing goat herd, Old Man Wencleslas' miraculous, new found vitality, and Sergeant Valdek's recent nomination for 'Moustache of the Year 2011' are all down to one thing:

There's a team of bifurs operating in the village. I'll weedle out these pesky, little luck goblins. Just you wait and see.

Friday, 2 December 2011

A trip to see Aunty Yaga

I have just got back from an impromptu trip to see Aunty Yaga in her hut in the forest.  I am not usually scared easily, but even I got spooked out at in the hours of darkness. And Aunty's half-baked plan to  kidnap some chickens in the middle of the night certainly did not help matters.

I am also doubtful about the plan to contruct a gingerbread extension on the hut. Not a good idea, surely?

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