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 Of What the Bards Sing (Term Project) 
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Post Of What the Bards Sing (Term Project) • Posted: Mon Nov 22, 2010 9:56 pm
I was debating whether or not to release this paper the day it was due to you fine Woodsmen. However, I can address rather quickly in case my professor does do a Google Search, that I, 'Zeldaeinstein' am the one in the same student (tlockhart) in your Classics 1641 class. (We'll get through this formality right away so you all can enjoy this 'story'.)

Anyway! This was a term project we were issued that you will be reading soon enough. We were given many options but I vouched for an individual project, a creative piece of writing. Within it we were asked to interpret/reinterpret a myth or mythical motifs. I did so rather freely, taking liberties as I went.

Background: This story follows a very similar structure to the Epic of Gilgamesh. If you don't know what that is, go read it :p. It also borrows some things from the legends of Perseus, Theseus, and even some story elements from Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. Wrapping all these things together I more than surpassed the desired word count (1000) and turned it into this ~4500 word monstrosity. I wrote the majority of this story in a tired mood, from 1 AM November 18th to 6 the next morning; I didn't sleep at all (well, one hour, but who cares!) So if there are any tiny strangely placed commas and the like, you'll understand :p.

Remember though that you may get lost if you don't have a general idea of these myths. I also wrote it rather condensely (as I was way beyond the required word limit) so I would not peeve my instructor off with way too many words and 'sidequests'. Due to this, for those familiar with Gilgamesh, I had to leave out a few side stories (such as the Bull of Heaven and as to why the old man has learned the secret of Immortality) as well as paraphrase from the Gods' eyes.

For any FF readers/writers, you will notice a few vague references here and there after the next few installments are posted! Also, Deku Lord, I give thanks to your last name for providing an incredibly useful title and pun. :P

I won't keep you waiting though, have a looksie at my clustercuddle (new word? I think so) of several myths into my very own.

"Of What the Bards Sing"

By: Travis Lockhart

For: Dr. I. Cohen, Classics 1641 "Hero's Quest"


To listen to the words of this Bard is to hear a curdled cry of days long dead
The tale of the crippling of Young King Herald in his aging Kingdom is one to dread
A great challenge among Men brought Herald to the edges of his sanity and might
Through the gauntlet of this dangerous world, a King and a Bard find means to unite
Friends and Fiends clash under the watchful eyes of Gods, the Other Kings thirsty for this bloodshed
To grab from beneath a dead Herald, his rightful land, I tell you of a singing fool’s misjudgement,
And his King’s journey to becoming the rotten corpse of one.


The Other Kings that humbled themselves on the outer borders of the great City of Fahfs were a jealous and submissive lot. For good reasons they had long marked their territory far from this City, fearful of the Young King Herald’s unforgiving gauntlet. Many years of conquest and toil settled what the Others now grazed over; kingdoms of impoverished shepherds, defunct aristocrats, and blighted crops were seen as blessings in contrast of the fate of Herald’s stubborn adversaries.

Either through guided providence or divine prank, Herald walked the soils of Fahfs as a man of godlike strength and valour. Passed down his supremacy through the union of the God of the Seas, Sharhapsei, and his mortal mother, Delife, the Young King proclaimed his seat as chosen by the council of the very Heavens above. It came as no surprise that Other Kings would challenge his inheritance and ownership of Fahfs, but every attempt to take the great City from Herald’s might appeared doomed from the start. This reputation of having Gods lay the bounties of this country at the feet of Herald earned him an army, a city, and a graven image upon any outsider’s mind.

To the people within the high walls of Fahfs, Young King Herald was their idol. With political and military cunning he swept the borders of his great City to the distant sea coast, joining his land with that of his Father’s. If knowledge of a world beyond the endless ocean existed, that too would be deemed the reach of Sharhapsei’s son. Through his power, both awed and feared by citizens and neighbours, there seemed very little that would stand in the way of their renowned King.

Yet, as the Young King became no longer such in passing years, so too did his approval falter. As an aging King he seemed to fall victim to senility long before any could have assumed. Gone were the days of parading Herald who walked through the streets with a smile on his face for all those returned to him. Gone were the days of Herald’s justice and compassion. Instead, the toils of ruling such a vast Kingdom embittered his taste for civilians and their pleas. Soon within the peaceful City were words thrown like daggers. Supporters of the King dwindled, as did supporters for his divine father. To offend even further the lost appeal for Fahfs’ old King, the cults of other Gods began to walk freely in defiance of their begrudged ruler.

One man, Merkilaus, a bastard Bard, achieved fame among the most unfortunate of these cults. The God least affiliated with Sharhapsei, his own brother, the God of the Mountain, Schreifels, was considered a demon to be found practicing ideology under. Merkilaus quickly went from a poor Bard to one of the richest cult leaders inside the great walls of Fahfs. The fateful day that his fellow poets still sing to this day about, arrived in midsummer.

Each year since the coronation of Herald, the only child of the widowed queen, a festival was held to commemorate the event. This was developed and run by the elders, not at the request of the King. Of the summer made infamous by Merkilaus and his ignorance, the elders still held this honorary celebration, a rare demonstration of piety for irked citizens. It was in the elaborate decorated square that the Bard approached King Herald upon the fountain edge and spoke as if a higher man.

“Good King Herald,” he quipped, bowing his head ever so slightly. “I speak for your people that we are still joyful to witness you upon the throne. A great ruler extends his hand for many years, as they say.”

The crowd was silent, some hiding bemused looks under their hats, others stagnant with shock at such remarks. Of the elders, only a few smiled at the positive address, fully crazed upon the idea that Herald was just the same as fifteen years before. The forced words of Merkilaus were not the end of his address, his addition a grave mistake.

“But the love for the great King Herald and his greater father has waned in the passing years,” Merkilaus chose his words wisely, gaining some enjoyment from the creeping anger on Herald’s face. “Rumours fly that King Herald heralds no more, his body lost on the pleasures of old age, food, and women. I speak for a collective that wishes for the Young King, lest the Others prey on us under your false sense of superiority.”

One of the elders stepped forward to interject, a look of forlorn anxiety for the safety of this young man before him. However, a raised hand from the great King beckoned for Merkilaus to continue.

“What do you, the ‘wise’ Bard, suggest this crippling King do?” Herald slurred his words, the contempt in his voice thick as mud. “I see no one stand behind you.”

“The citizens wish to issue the lost spirit of war we long for in our King a challenge of courage, wisdom, and strength,” the Bard shrugged his shoulders like his idea was a mere walk to market. “You are a just man, gifted by Sharhapsei to know throwing words at a godly ruler is like throwing pebbles at a mountain. Hear the plea of those who miss the Young King,” whether this deception, or attempt to fool the King, would work, Merkilaus could not be certain.

Standing up from his perched position on the lavish Fahfs Fountain, the King surveyed the crowd amassing behind the brave Bard. “Then speak what will keep your faith in your divine King.”

“We wish the King great luck in his travels to come. The Other Kings have long feared a beast living to the South, near the coasts of your father. A being able to turn to stone those who oppose it with both its gaze and its very breath,” Merkilaus spread his arms wide to address those with an attentive ear. “If the great King Herald can slay such a fearsome creature, the faith of your City will be at your back for ages to come. Yet, if great King Herald is the one who lay slain...”

“If it is in the minds of the Other Kings, or even in your own, a sly trickster,” the King spoke with a booming voice, hand on the hilt of his decorative sword. “Have it in your eyes to steal my throne, then I challenge your own might and courage in the face of this Gorgon. Unless you too lack the bravery to sit among the elders as King of Fahfs?”

An uproar of support for Merkilaus from his fellow Schreifels cult sealed his decision, something the poor Bard was the furthest from stomaching. It was an agreement then, an unexpected one, but to turn his back this quickly would result in his very humiliation. Through continued discussion, Merkilaus the fool, and the King, wise to his intentions, would leave for the Southern Shore that next morning.

Returning to his small home on the outskirts of the city walls, he remarked to his reflection, “the King will not live to see the bounty of his father.”

***

While the realm of men bickered about the proper hierarchy of their Kingdoms, the many ploys of the Gods continued unabated. Sharhapsei and his brother, both well aware of the intentions of their devoted mortals, decreed as both have equal say in the Heavens, that all other Gods and Goddesses leave the men to their mission. Rather than instil the rage of the mighty Ocean or of the quaking Continent, the Gods vowed to clear their deals with the Gorgon, leaving its fate in its own hands.

As foretold, Sharhapsei watched with little surprise at the few attempts made on his son’s life by the bastard Bard after they left the city gates. First the trickster tried to feed him poison, only to watch in chagrin as Herald turned his nose at the foul wine. After this sly failure, Merkilaus faked an injury at the edge of a rocky slope. The King unwisely approached to see the cause of the curdling howls, only to be ‘accidentally’ sent tumbling down the slope. Luckily, Herald’s sword hilt sank into a patch of mud half way to his death, stopping him short.

Merkilaus cursed Sharhapsei, a small offense coming from a small man. However, it was dutiful of the Gods to service punishment, as the council of Heaven agreed. The Bard would receive in due time, no matter the agreement made with Schreifels. Finicky hearts led to finicky covenants.

The most amusing attempt at Herald’s life came on the third day of their travels. They had stopped short at the first sight of the tumbling waves and camped in a small cavern. While Herald slept, the trickster approached him with the hilt that saved the King’s life at the rocky slope. As quick as a weasel he attempted to suffocate the older man, struggling to keep the hilt pressed against his throat. This failed miserably as great King Herald was still gifted the strength of a demigod. With ease he flung the murderous partner into the cavern wall, holding his sword at his throat.

Merkilaus tried another trick, begging for his life. He revealed adept sword play skills and agility as he freed himself from the cutting punishment of the King. For nearly an hour they duelled, swords and fists being shared to another equally. Despite Herald’s strength he was still slow and not as clever in swordplay, something the Bard bested him in. After what seemed a synchronized blow, both men fell from their injuries, tired and beaten; Herald unleashed a punishment worth the treason Merkilaus deserved, and the Bard exhumed the city’s anger upon the failing King.

The two befriended, their feud settled as they realized together they could rid the countryside of the terrible beast and be renowned equally for it. Just as in the immortal realm, the mortals were easily swayed from hatred to love. But what many failed to learn was that the reverse was just as true.

***

A terrible rank carried upon the wind that swept by the Gorgon’s cavern. Herald and Merkilaus had chosen the early morning to infiltrate the dwelling. Yet as they approached their hellish reality they found themselves yearning to return to Fahfs at the mere sight of the hundreds of crumbled remains of failed warriors. Such was the folly of pride and power over intelligent decisions. Drawing the fleeting courage in their hearts, they devised a plan to slay the terrible beast.

When they entered the brine covered grotto, Merkilaus and Herald paid due attention not to step upon any of the shattered stone lining the sandy floor. The slumbering creature lay as a large silhouette in the faint dawn light. Unlike its more prominent relatives and ancestors, this Gorgon was horribly aged and rabid, as senile as Merkilaus once attributed to the King. Despite the dwindled capacity it would still be a threat; one met glance or laden breath would spell disaster.

Their plan was to lure the Gorgon out of its cave so that their mobility would be much increased. Although terribly quick in youth, a mortal Gorgon of such antiquity could only lumber after the two men after blinding it with yellow flames. Into the salty air the King and Bard kept their eyes on the horizon, listening to the sweeping sands and the broken waves as the great beast emerged from its abode. Decrepit wings kept the Gorgon from the skies, a blessing if either man were to have ever been witness to one.

Goading their adversary to risk the rolling waves of Sharhapsei’s dominion, Merkilaus had diverted a section of the coast to provide a calm pool. With the reflection of the tumbling creature in soft waters, the mighty arms of King Herald propelled him upon its battered wings. Unable to shake the godly King from its shoulders, the Gorgon’s cry rang out across the rumbling Sea. After many gashes with his gifted blade and many terrifying pitches escaping their prey’s mouth, the Gorgon fell into the bloodied water by the great King’s hands. Its head lay maimed beyond recognition, thrown upon the beach.

With their success in hand, Merkilaus and Herald lay the last insult to the Gorgon and camped inside its cave the following night. Much merriment was shared at their cunning victory, at the very least until the weavings of Sharhapsei’s plot came to fruition. For the cowardice portrayed by Merkilaus by attempting to murder his son and for the devotion to his brother Schreifels, the poor Bard would awaken to catastrophe.

***

The festivities the heroes returned to were grand. Eating, drinking, and dancing went on for days as the streets of Fahfs celebrated Herald and Merkilaus’ slaying of the Gorgon. At the altar within the King’s quarters the head of the beast was offered both in honour of the warring Gods the two heroes worshipped. As friends, King Herald allowed the open worship of Merkilaus’ deity, and the Bard sung of their great adventure to his and his ally’s children.

But one night, three years since the defeat of the Gorgon, Merkilaus awoke in terrible pain. Covered in the most grievous wounds, it became apparent that he had been laid low by the curse of the beast. Parts of his body had been afflicted into stone welts and immobile appendages. Sharhapsei had made certain that his vengeance would be felt, no matter how kin like King Herald and Merkilaus had become.

At his dying friend’s bedside, King Herald remarked their amusing past, how reluctant everyone at the City had first reacted to their jovial demeanour. They left as enemies and returned as friends, better for the experience. The Other Kings ended their quarrels in Fahfs because of their teamwork, and now one of them had been defeated by ill luck. Whether the Gorgon’s curse had been slowly tearing apart Merkilaus, no one could be certain. Yet when the Bard died in sole company of the King, the lands knew of the sorrow to be had. Schreifels knew of his brother’s deceit.

King Herald’s soul remained crushed long after the commemoration held for the Bard was over. To no effect his own wife and children could not break him from his grief. Even the mourning children of Merkilaus could do nothing to satisfy Herald’s need for solace without his friend. Try as any elders might, even their wise counselling meant nothing to their King’s ears. Finally in his dwindling health, King Herald’s aging mother approached his throne.

Of considerable age, she still portrayed many of Herald’s traits thought to come from Sharhapsei. With a booming voice she addressed that Merkilaus would be ashamed that his friend would commit his life to end due just to his passing from petrifaction. The Bard had stared Death in the eyes for the short time he was in its grasp, and never once did he stop to feel sorry for himself. After her departure, the great King Herald stood in front of his court and looked as dishevelled as ever. The fire in his eyes remained despite his greying hair.

It was long spoken that the Gods had gifted a man living in an enchanted forest with the gift of wisdom and dominion of life. Long thought to be a fairytale, King Herald would risk his life to learn such a power. To deceive death had long haunted the hearts of mortals. However, this forest was ominous, planted by Schreifels himself to ensure no one unworthy of the secret to eternal life could learn from the gifted man. Having defeated the Gorgon terrorizing the countries for many years, living through his friend’s horrid death, King Herald would show that mortals were no less capable than immortals.

King Herald felt that in order to truly honour the trickster poet he had called ‘friend’, he would have to live on as testament of disapproval with fated death.

***

After yet another celebrated early morning expedition, the olden King Herald set off into the wild lands beyond the walls of Fahfs. Trekking much of the same path as he and Merkilaus had done years earlier; he was instead to follow the shoreline of his father into the east. The forest had been cast to be nearly impossible to traverse, filled with foul abominations of nature and illusionary paths. It lay on an island just off of a small independent coastal town.

Offering his entire satchel of gold to an oarsman for his vessel, the King became an amusing sight to witness paddling his way toward his destination in the poor built craft. He was advised not to go to these ‘Demonic Underwoods’ by the many clerics who worshipped Sharhapsei, telling him it was a journey into death. Ignoring the long lists of forsaken travellers who never returned to shore, Herald made quick his seaward journey.

Camping along the shore of the island, he steeled himself for the trials to come. Shrill and terrifying noises bore down on him from the dark forest, tempting him to leave no matter how close to his goal he had been. Upon the rising of the Sun the next day, wild-eyed Herald placed his Kingly state behind him, bearing just his sword and his tiring mind to the task of overcoming his final trial toward immortality.

Yet despite the winding corridors of trees he had traversed through for hours, slaying terrible beasts grown by Schreifels, poor Herald had nearly lost his will to continue. The trial was simply too much to bear in his ailing physique. Trying to use the long lost words of Merkilaus to guide him back to his courage, the old King heard a most pleasant sound equal to his friend’s encouragement; a woman’s voice singing beautifully in the distance.

For what felt hours, Herald followed the stunning song through the dark forest, forgetting to leave reminders of where he had travelled to get here. All that seemed important to him was to find the source of this voice; whether to aid him in finding the old hermit who knew the secret to immortality, or not, was not on the warrior’s mind. At last the voice grew louder and stronger as he sprinted through his trial, to the point that it felt deafening but still pleasurable to hear.

The dark canopy of trees suddenly ended above him as Herald tumbled out into a clearing. There were no more angry brambles grabbing for his legs, only the soft flowers of sprawling meadow. As suddenly as the woman’s singing had materialized out in the maze, it had disappeared here. His chest ached with anticipation, his heart racing at the idea of finally succeeding where poor Merkilaus had fallen. In the center of the meadow was a small lake, too small for fish, but large enough to have a small island of its own.

Upon the piece of land floating amidst the waters was a tiny shack. If it had been any other place in the world, King Herald would assume a beggar lived here and not a very powerful man. He knew better than to judge the appearances of the people, for even the most unsavoury could become a loyal companion. Wading through the waters, Herald was surprised to hear the alluring woman’s voice start up her singing.

Seated upon the rocky outcropping of the ‘shore’ of this forest’s ocean, sat a most beautiful woman. She was worthy of being compared to a Goddess, completely enrobed in rich clothing.

“Come here, great King Herald,” she beckoned as he, with some difficulty, stood upon the small islet. “You have journeyed far for such a bounty as this,” somehow her voice continued to sing as she spoke. But poor King Herald, old as he was and weakened as he was from life’s sour bounty, paid no heed to the seductress.

“Yes, I have earned many things for what the Gods have bestowed me,” he stretched out his hand to be taken by the girl upon the rock. “I may rule as King, but my heart aches long for something more. I live on in heroism, but I do not live for all to partake in.”

“Why don’t you rest a while,” she took his hand and tried to pull him closer to the shallow waters. “Herald can wait for a taste of eternal life if he has spent so much of his mortal one toiling.”

The desire to come into the embrace of the girl was nearly too much. Somewhere within the confines of his mind King Herald knew something was peculiar, but the damnable singing kept him entranced. Unlucky as Merkilaus was with facing the Gorgon’s curse, Herald stood among a most deadly adversary himself, a Siren placed ever so delicately at the doorstep of immorality.

As Herald slowly began to fall to temptation, his thoughts began to fade away. Not to his knowledge the great King was being drowned in the shallow lake, unable to remove himself from the false dream the Siren had lulled him into. One by one the memories of his life disappeared, the hands of Death wrapping around the fallen King the longer he watched his life to the singing of the Siren above him. Yet as the most important of Herald’s thoughts disappeared, the image of Merkilaus dead on his bed, petrified, and the desires for the secret to overcoming such a fate, broke through the illusion.

King Herald struggled against the hands holding him under and emerged with great ease out of the lake. Drawing his sword against the temptress, he was surprised to see she had disappeared. In her place sat an older man looking tired and a bit frightened at the sight of a weapon at his throat. He introduced himself as the owner of this villa and the island, the man Herald had been searching after for so long.

The owner of the secret of dominion over mortal fate explained his reasoning for the Siren. He spoke of meeting Schreifels, the terrifying God of the Mountains, telling him to deceive Herald when he inevitably arrived into the hands of Death. Broad Schreifels spoke of Sharhapsei’s deceit; that it was by the hands of the God of the Seas that Herald’s friend had died of a Gorgon’s curse.

“I was instructed to use the power of the Siren to test your might. Schreifels told me that if the son of the Seas could overcome the greatest temptation of his father’s design, a beautiful seductress, that he would be free to take himself into immortality,” plucking what Herald considered a weed from the shallow water’s edge, the old man offered it to him.

“This is a plant like no other.
With it you will live forever.
Journey back the way you came, for it will not work for someone else in these Underwoods.”
Old King Herald did as he was told, leaving the old man to test his wits
For years the King tried to leave the forest, unable.


When the winding corridors seemed too much to bear, poor King Herald fell to his knees in defeat. Alone he wept, holding that which he worked so hard to obtain. Resigning himself to many weeks within the forest, the great hero settled down in a camp. Under the firelight he still could not make out more than a few handbreadths in front of him. Despite the unnerving atmosphere, he persevered for nearly a year thereafter, the plant remaining fresh.

He was certain that Fahfs treated him as dead, the same fate the villagers off the coast would expect, too. Yet slowly being driven mad by the perpetual night the ‘Demonic Underwoods’ subjected to him, Herald remained strong, determined to win out over fate. The drive to return to Fahfs an immortal was enough to push him through every night and every day, whichever it happened to be at the time.

Growing weak with old age and with mind feeble and broken, Herald, after gaining possession of the secret of immortality, was ready for life to end after two years of survival. But the Gods smiled down upon him one day as he finally found his old trail. Following it, the great King Herald was met with sunlight and the salty smell of the Sea. His mirth was so great that he collapsed on the sandy beach, welcoming the old experience with tears.

The return of Herald to Fahfs was met with misfortune
So happy to see Sharhapsei’s bounty, he failed to see his seafaring vessel stolen
By whom he would never know
Swimming to shore was arduous for such an old soul
He clenched the evergreen plant in his teeth, the last solace to his mortal life
To stand upon the opposite beach would mean he could live forever


Herald’s strength ebbed as he came closer to the seacoast, despite his urge to continue. The cold waters of the sea had numbed his legs, and in the last few feet, he could feel them fail completely. Floundering for his life, King Herald desperately flung himself through the rolling waters. As if sent by his father, a great wave came up from behind, carrying the hero the rest of the way. But in his near loss of mortal life, Sharhapsei had mistakenly taken away his son’s chance at an immortal one by his side. In the sudden rush of water, King Herald had released his gift from the island he had sacrificed his very being to possess.

Both of them realizing this, father and son lamented for their misfortune
One brittle and nearly destroyed on the shore
The other comfortably from the heavens
Even the quarrelling Continent God felt some pity for the son of the Sea
Together the two Gods instilled within Herald the strength to return to Fahfs
The King kept to the Bard’s desires, to write of their journeys to be told forever after
Even I, the son of Merkilaus, have sung these tales
To you, I exclaim, speak of the King and the Bard
For they are Of What the Bards Sing




Fin.

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Post Re: Of What the Bards Sing (Term Project) • Posted: Tue Nov 23, 2010 9:53 am
Pfft. I don't make a reference at ALL to this in that one thing that you happen to about it...:shifty: (There is something vague in that thing with FF-iness, about bards and it doesn't not at all rephrase the title of this into a question. -hint, hint, hint-but only for ZE.)

Anyways, you already know my opinion of this, I think it's marvelous even if I would like a more content-filled version. Maybe when you have time. Then, you can be like! PUBLISH TIME IZ HERE. And whatnot. ;P

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Post Re: Of What the Bards Sing (Term Project) • Posted: Wed Dec 01, 2010 3:23 pm
I do plan to flush it out, maybe during the downtime between Forever Forgotten: To Dust and the third installment :p. I imagine I could take this up and into the 30 000 word threshold, as I had to compress a lot since it was already getting out of hand.

Planned changes:

1. More EDN friendly, ie: I will be making this a complete dedication to EDN in general as I have before with stories like 'I Forget' and 'Quitting Quitters'.
2. Expansion of the journey Merkilaus and Herald take to the Gorgon's cave
3. Description of tricking the Gorgon into the still pool, as well as more focus on the battle itself
4. Expansion and inclusion of discussions between Sharhapsei, Schreifels and the other Gods
5. Details pertaining to the return of Merkilaus and Herald
6. Introducing one main plotpoint from Gilgamesh removed for word limit - second being attacking Fahfs
7. More detail on Merkilaus's illness and death
8. Detailing more the journey of Herald to the Demonic Underwoods Island
9. Detailing more the journey through the Underwoods and out of the Underwoods
10. Detailing why the old hermit was deemed worthy of becoming Immortal


That should just about cover it :P

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