My attempt at classic fantasy folk tale
Shadowfen is a kingdom in deep trouble. The crops are withering and dying, the mines have stopped giving their precious deposits, and the fishermen come home with empty nets. Winter is just over the horizon, and Shadowfen wouldn't survive it if things didn't change.
The king gathered his three most trusted knights. "Gentleman, I have a task for each of you. Due to budget cuts, I can only provide one squire," The king said as he looked at the assembled men in ironwork.
"Which squire is it?" Sir Marshal asked. Sir marshal was best known for his strategies and tactics.
"Rowan Umfray the bibliophile," The king replied.
"He's a terrible fighter," Sir Robert said. Sir Robert was a skilled warrior and had mastered every weapon in existence.
"We are doomed to fail with him at our side," Sir Edward said. Sir Edward had a way with spells that made seasoned wizards jealous.
The king raised his hands for silence. "Rowan knows all the legends and history of Shadowfen. If there is a solution to our problems, he may be able to find it. Leave no stone unturned and represent me well."
The knights grumbled and drew straws to see who would have the dishonor of taking Rowan Umfray out. Sir Edward punched a wall and prepared for the journey.
Rowan Umfray was a beanpole. He had big cauliflower ears, knobby knees, and always carried a book with him. He wore a simple stiletto dagger, a weapon Edward felt was feminine.
"For god's sake, wear a sword. You reflect on me now, and your look says feminine. The other knights will think I am a lavender man."
Rowan did as the knight asked. "Where are we headed?"
"To the Moordoon Forest. Albrecht, the leshy, lives there. He knows plants. If anyone can save our crops, it will be him," Edward said, while he saddled his magnificent steed. "I hope your boots are new because I didn't have the money to put you on a horse."
Three days and three nights later, they arrived at the Moordoon Forest. Edward looked down at Rowan and said, "I shall show you how to handle an inferior being. Pay attention, and watch the master at work."
Rowan was excited. It would be the first time any of the knights taught him something. "I will hang off every word, milord."
"There's a good lad," Edward replied.
They padded through the sweet-smelling forest until they came to a clearing with a wooden throne. "Do you think the leshy rules the forest from here?" Rowan asked.
Sir Edward laughed. "Such a creature is incapable of ruling. Humans are the smartest beings in the world."
A pile of leaves floated across the ground, roots creaked, and groaned. "Perhaps you would like to test your theory, knight? An ancient-sounding voice said.
Albrecht rose from the ground. The soft earth revealed the mossy hair, intelligent amber eyes, knee-length lichen beard, and brown bark skin. A pair of roots carried him to the throne. He sat upon it with his oak scepter and thorn crown. The smell of spring filled the clearing.
Edward crossed his arms and laughed, "I accept your challenge. It will be easy given your inferior intelligence. If I win, you will help bring the crops back."
The leshy smirked, his eyes alight with interest. "Very well, if you lose, you will join the elder grove as a tree. Do we have a deal?" Albrecht asked.
"On my honor as a knight, we have a deal," Edward said in an arrogant tone.
The leshy waved his hand, and three flowers appeared. Each one was different and in full bloom. "Name the rarest bloom, and I will restore your kingdoms crops," Albrecht said.
"How many guesses do I have?" Edward asked.
"One," Albrecht replied.
"I brought a book of plants that reside..." Rowan started to say.
"I don't need a book. Its the middle one, I know it in my heart," Edward said.
"Is that your final answer?" Albrecht asked.
His amused tone didn't inspire confidence in Rowan. "Sir Edward, I think..."
Sir Edward ignored him, "Yes, that is my final answer."
A pair of roots rose from the ground. Dirt flew in every direction. Edward shielded his eyes and watched in horror as the roots wrapped around his feet and arms. "What is the meaning of this?"
"The flower you chose is more common than houseflies. You lost, sir Edward. Its time to hold up your end of the bargain," Albrecht said in a bored tone.
Sir Edward cast spell after spell. Flashes of light lit the grove like fireworks. "Why aren't my spells working?" He cried.
Albrecht's voice chilled the bone when he spoke, "The magic of the forest has been around longer than you. A hundred wizards couldn't save you. Didn't your mother teach you to respect faerie creatures?"
Sir Edward screamed as his legs fused and grew bark. The screaming ended when the bark grew over his mouth. Sir Edward was nothing more than another gnarled tree in the leshy's court.
"What of you squire? Do you believe your kind to be superior to mine?" the leshy said in a menacing tone.
Rowan held up a finger, "No, sir. You have proven your superiority to me."
"Do you wish a chance to save your crops?" Albrecht asked with interest.
"Yes, I would. However, I would like to take on a different challenge. I want to make you laugh." Rowan said.
The leshy stroked his beard in thought. "I haven't laughed for a hundred years. If you can do that, I will make sure your fields never go bare. If you fail, you shall join your ignorant friend. Do you understand?"
"Yes," Rowan replied. He took a moment to read through his reference book and found the section on leshy. By luck, he discovered a passage by an unknown adventurer who had made the leshy laugh.
Rowan put his clothes, hat, and shoes on backward and strutted in front of Albrecht. "Excuse me, sir. I woke up like this, and I am a little behind."
Albrecht clapped his hands and clutched his belly with laughter. "What a thought-provoking performance. Such a gift is worth its weight in gold or magic. Tell your king his crops will flourish." He paused and handed a sturdy branch to Rowan. "This branch will never break. Perhaps it may be of some use to you."
Rowan accepted the modest gift. "I will find a use for it. Thank you, Lord Albrecht."
Rowan returned to the Castle. The king met him at the gates, "What happened to Sir Edward?"
Rowan explained what happened. "Anyway, Albrecht said our crops would flourish from now on."
The king didn't seem sad over the loss. "Edward clung to hate, and he reaped what he sowed. Thank goodness for your presence of mind, Rowan. Sir Marshal has agreed to go next. Speak to him next."
Rowan found Sir Marshal looking over a map. "Ahh Rowan, I heard about Edward. Good riddance, I say." He pointed to a mountain on the map, "Our destination is the Moonlit Rise. I heard rumors of gold veins hidden in its depths."
"I am game if you are," Rowan said.
"We leave at dawn," Marshal said.
It took a week to reach the Moonlit Rise. Marshal was a smart man, but he refused to be wrong about anything. The pair had gotten lost twice because Marshal insisted his short cut was faster than the road.
A pan flute echoed around them as they set foot on the first trail. Marshal clapped his hands together. "Hear that, Rowan?"
Rowan nodded. "I did some reading..."
"Why depend on a book when you have the smartest man in the kingdom traveling with you?" Sir Marshal asked.
Rowan wanted to bang his head against the hard stone. Sir Marshal was no better than Sir Edward. "What is it then?"
"Its the lady of the mountain. She seeks to lure us to our deaths." Marshal said. "Stay behind me and keep your eyes peeled."
They followed the beautiful tune until they came to a great Chasm. Hanging by the seat of his pants was a Karzelek, pan flute in hand. Rowan couldn't believe their luck. Karzeleks were dwarves who could smell metal through rock and soil. "Look, Sir Marshal. With his help, we could find new ore veins to mine."
Sir Marshal scoffed. "We don't have time to save a careless homeless bum. The gold vein is around here somewhere I know it," Sir Marshal said.
"If you follow the path, it shall take you to a cave filled with gold veins. There is a spirit guarding the trail, its scared of loud noise, make sure you shout as you enter," The Karzelek shouted.
Sir Marshal nodded, "Rowan, please help the homeless man. I will investigate this cave and secure victory."
"But..." Rowan started to say.
"No but's, Rowan. I shall be the toast of the kingdom by sundown," Marshal said as he stalked off with greed in his eyes. He yodeled with each step. A roaring echoed across the mountain. Two furry bodies took Sir Marshal from behind and snapped his neck.
"Trolls live on the Moonlit Rise, and loud noise attracts them," Rowan finished. He looked down at the distraught dwarf. "Did you have to do that?" He asked.
The Karzelek chuckled. "I did the world a favor. Such a man is nothing more than a loudmouth bass. I wonder how long it will take the cave trolls to eat him? Could you help me up?" the Karzelek asked.
Rowan saw an opportunity. "I will help you up if you help me out," He said.
The Karzelek looked up at Rowan and said, "Agreed. Do you have a plan?"
Rowan looked through his book and found a section on making harnesses and simple rope techniques. He found some mountain creeper vines and braided them into thick ropes. Next, he found a sturdy boulder to anchor the rope and lowered the seat down to the Karzelek. "Grab hold," He shouted.
The Karzelek hesitated at first. His pants ripped as he wiggled his way into the seat. "Ready when you are," the Karzelek said as he tugged on the rope twice.
Despite its small size, the Karzelek weighed more than he and Sir Marshal put together. Rowans Muscles strained, and buckets of sweat dripped off his body. By some miracle, he got the Karzelek back to the surface.
"Why didn't you let go. I sent your friend to his death. Most would've left me to rot." The Karzelek said.
"Sir Marshal was destined for an early grave with or without help. I see that now. His life is nothing compared to the masses looking at starvation and poverty," Rowan said.
"A wise deduction on your end. Come, I will help your miners find your precious metals." He handed Rowan a piece of metal on a sturdy wire. "The metal captivates any who look at it, including animals, and the wire can hold up to a thousand pounds. It also lengthens and shortens by need. It is my gift to you for saving my life.
Rowan and the Karzelek traveled back home in half the time because Sir Marshal wasn't around to get them lost. The king met him at the gates. "You have secured the help of a Karzelek? Most impressive, Rowan. What happened to Sir Marshal?"
Rowan sighed and explained the situation. The king shook his head, "A man that knew everything, except how to listen. Let us hope Sir Robert fares better than his friends."
Sir Robert smiled when he saw Rowan, "Looks like you are becoming quite the adventurer. Those other two were mediocre at best. With me, you will see how a real knight adventures."
Rowan was so tired of hearing knights boast. He started to think all knights were arrogant idiots. "Where are we going this time?"
Sir Robert pointed to Chamlants Reservoir. We shall seek the help of the Lake Master, Rainclove. If anyone can help bring the fish back, he can."
A day and a half later, they were standing on the sandy beach of the deep lake. "Rainclove, we seek an audience with you," Robert shouted.
Rainclove poked his head above water. His skin was bluer than the ocean, and hair greener than kelp. He didn't look happy to see Robert or Rowan. "What do you want, humans?" He demanded.
Robert explained what they were after, and Rainclove shook his head. "I would love to help. However, I have problems of my own."
"Perhaps we can help," Rowan offered.
Rainclove pondered Rowan's words. "Jaeger, the catfish, has awoken from his slumber and threatens my people. Slay him, and I will help your fishermen. I warn you..."
"I shall be back in a few moments. This Jaeger will not know what hit him." Sir Robert said as he stripped his armor off. He ran into the water and vanished into the murky depths.
Five minutes later, he surfaced with a giant catfish on his tail. The fishes maw was open and gaining on Sir Robert.
"No, have mercy," Sir Robert said.
The massive Catfish devoured Sir Robert in a single bite. No one could survive such an attack.
Rainclove Massaged his temples with his webbed hands. "Jaeger is five hundred pounds and can swallow a man whole. Your friend became fish food, as will the rest of my people." the Lake Master said.
For the first time in ages, Rowan couldn't find the answer in his book. He got so mad he threw his backpack on the ground. The stick and odd metal fell out and laid in the sand. He stared at the strange items. "A stick that doesn't break, a metal that can captivate animals with self-adjusting wire..." Rowan knew what he had to do. He called Rainclove the Lake Master.
"Yes, Rowan?" he asked.
"Do you have a large fishing hook?"
"Yes, I sense you have a plan?" Rainclove asked
"Yes, and I'll need a dozen spearmen as well," Rowan said.
Rainclove slowly smiled, "Tell me more."
At dawn, Rowan stood on the rocks of Lonely Cove, with his newly fashioned magic fishing pole. He pulled his arms back and jerked them forward. The lure flew well into the center of Chamlants Reservoir and vanished beneath the gentle waves with a ripple. The line sat between two trees, and Rowan smiled. He had a good feeling about his idea.
It didn't take long for Jaeger to find it. Rowan's arms almost got torn off on the first tug. He was grateful for the two trees as he turned the stick sideways, so it lay across both trunks. It held Jaeger fast in position. Rainclove was waiting on the surface. "Attack now," Rowan shouted.
Rainclove dove beneath the surface. All Rowan could do is watch the silvery wire go back and forth. He saw the blood bubble to the surface of the lake, and then Jaegers' massive body floated into view amid the cheers of the lake people.
Rowan pulled his lure in, put it away, and met with Rainclove near the sandy shore. "Tell your king he shall never want for fish again. Send my condolences for Sir Robert. You are welcome to visit at any time."
The king shook his head as Rowan entered the throne room. "Let me guess, Robert acted foolishly as well?" he asked.
Rowan nodded and told the tale. The king laughed, "Robert always rushed into things. His father told him he would meet his end if he didn't change." The king clapped his hands, "By my orders, we shall celebrate Rowan the wise, my newest knight, and protector of the realm."
The peasants of Shadowfen cheered loud for Rowan.
The feasting lasted for days. Albrecht showed up and gifted Rowan with a set of ironwood armor. "It is harder than any iron, and won't catch fire." He said.
The Karzelek gifted Rowan with a magic sword, "It will never rust or break. Once a day, it will produce five gold coins," He said.
Rainclove arrived along the river and with him was a beautiful young maiden. "My daughter has agreed to marry the man who saved us. She must return to Chamlants Reservoir once a year, or she will perish."
"I will make sure she does," Rowan promised. They were married that night, and Rowan couldn't remember being happier in his life. He tended the kingdom alongside the king, and Shadowfen enjoyed prosperity like no other.
And they lived happily ever after.