Eaglethorpe Buxton and… Something about Frost Giants

Chapter Twenty: Wherein a family is united, and a plagiarism is averted.

“Good luck to you,” said Thalia Góðurrisisdöttir, as we bid farewell.

She had snuck us out of the giants’ icy fortress, and given us our weapons, as well as a supply of bread and cheese and some warm blankets.

“Good luck to you,” I said.  “You and Thurid take care of one another.”

“We shall try,” the giantess said unhappily.  “I don’t know what’s to become of us.  Our love is forbidden among giant-kind.”

“Well, if you ever manage to leave together, come to Dewberry in Aerithraine and you will always be welcome.”

With a wave goodbye, Elleena and I started south.  Despite the rough terrain, we made good time.  Even though it was cold and windy and freezing and unpleasant, it was at least downhill.

That night, we took shelter in a small ice cave.  Not wanting to give away our location by lighting a fire, and not having any wood to burn even if we did, we huddled together for warmth.  Suddenly Elleena opened her mouth and slapped herself on the forehead.

“What?” I wondered.

“All this time, I have struggled to keep the throne.  I have never married because a man would have usurped my crown.  All this time, I could have just married a woman.”

“Well, you are still young, and Ellwood Cyrene is quite a handsome man.”

“I thought you said I was a fat, ugly cow.”

“I was angry at the time,” I confessed.  “I think that as Ellwood Cyrene, despite my having no interest in men or their bodies, you are very handsome.  As Elleena, despite your noticeably small breasts and somewhat mannish affectations, which is to say some of the things you do are not generally considered ladylike, you are still the most beautiful woman in the world.”

“Thank you,” said Elleena sincerely, which is to say, full of sincere.  “In these past seven years, have you ever found someone to love?”

“In my entire life, I have had only one great, true love,” said I.  “The Queen of Aerithriane, with whom I once had the pleasure of spending four or five years.  What about you?  Are you going to find a woman now to marry?  You could marry Miriam, your royal body double.  That would be… um, interesting.”

“I am in love with a great idiot,” she said.

“Who is he?” I demanded.  “She?  He?  Them?”

“It is you, you great moron,” she said, and then she jumped on me like a Virian leopard leaps upon a hippoleptimus, which is to say like a Virian leopard leaps upon anything, because leaping is chiefly what the Virian leopard is known for.  That and spots.

The next day, we left the great glacier known as The Skagarack.  I had a spring in my step and Elleena had sort of a limp in hers, but we were both happy.  About noon, we came over a small rise to find my noble warhorse, Hysteria, attempting to nibble on some frozen twigs.

“I am so happy to see you, Eaglethorpe!” her eyes seemed to say, notwithstanding the fact that normally it is the mouth and not the eyes which does all the talking.

After feeding her some oats from her own saddlebag, we continued on south, and Hysteria was not at all unhappy to bear both of us upon her back, which is to say, let us ride her.  We reached Fencemar late into the night, and after seeing that Hysteria was well taken care of, which is to say checking her feet and brushing her down and seeing her fed and watered, we went to the tavern.  There, in a crowded room, we found a fellow dressed as an adventurer, speaking before a crowd consisting of a few townsfolk, some travelers, and half a dozen fat dwarves.

“And now, I shall tell you how I, Eaglethorpe Buxton, saved Celestria and defeated the zombie horde with only this fork!”

“Lying welp!” I shouted rushing forward.  “This time, Ethylthorpe, you have gone too far!  I did warn you about your billing!”

“I am not Ethylthorpe,” said the brat in question.  “I am your own dear Ednathorpe.”

“No, you are not.”

“Are you sure?” said someone next to me, and up jumped an identical copy of the false Eaglethorpe Buxton, which is to say, one or the other of my offspring.

“You cut your beautiful hair too?”

“I think it looks fine,” said Elleena.

“You stay out of this!  One could very well say that this is all your fault.”

“One could very well say that, if one wanted to spend the rest of his life acting out the last few nights by himself.”

“What?” said the two Ethyls, which is to say the two Ednas.

“Never mind,” said I.

“We have decided that we don’t want to be split up anymore,” said one of the two rapscallions.  “We will go with one or the other of you, and we will spend half our time adventuring and half our time in a castle having tea parties.”

“They are trying to trap us,” said Elleena, “in some kind of parent trap.”

“It is more like a parent obfuscation,” said I, “which is to say, a parent smokescreen.”

“I like parent trap,” said one twin.

“It has more of a ring to it,” said the other.

“Shut up, you two,” I demanded.  “Are you trying to get us sued?”

I looked at Elleena and she looked at me.  Her eyes were filled with love, but also fear.  Some of either love or fear was leaking out and running down her cheeks.

“Elleena,” I said.  “I love your more than life itself, maybe my life, but certainly other lives.  If you will marry me and make our family whole, I will renounce all claim on the throne.”

“Oh, Eaglethorpe,” she said.  “I was just about to say that I would let you be king if you would only say that we could stay together as a family.  But thank you for renouncing the throne.”

“But if you don’t mind…”

“No, too late.”

“But I…”

“You have renounced it,” said she.  “That is irrevocable, immutable, irretrievable, and not-take-back-able.”

“Okay,” I sighed. “But how will this work?”

“Easily enough,” she said.  “Up until now, I have split my time between being Queen Elleena of Aerithraine and manly adventurer Ellwood Cyrene.  Now, I will simply add a third persona—Lady Dewberry, your devoted wife.”

“This is wonderful,” said one of the girls, the one who had been speaking when we arrived.  “I will divide my time between being Lady Ednathorpe of Dewberry and Princess Ednathorpe of Aerithraine.”

“And I,” said the other twin.  “Will divide my time between being Lady Ethylthorpe of Dewberry and roguish young adventurer Ellwood Cyrene Jr.”

“You will not!” I shouted.  “You will be roguish young adventurer Eaglethorpe Buxton Jr., and we will call you J.R. for short.”

The four of us came together in a great hug.  The room broke out in applause.

“This is the finest play I’ve seen in two hundred years!” shouted one of the dwarves.  “What is it called?”

“Love Conquers All,” said Elleena.

“Frosty family in a frosty land,” said Edna.

“Eaglethorpe Buxton Jr. and the family that ought not to be divided but somehow was,” suggested Ethyl.

“No,” said I.  “None of those are the name.  It’s Eaglethorpe Buxton and… Something about frost giants.

 

The End

Eaglethorpe Buxton and… Something about Frost Giants

Chapter Nineteen: Wherein I contemplate pies from the other side.

“There, there,” I said, as I held Elleena.

“Careful,” she said.  “Keep your hands off my naughty bits.”

“The virgin queen, apparently, despite having two children,” said I.

“Girls don’t just want to be jumped on,” said Thurid.  “They want a little romance first.”

“That has not been my experience.  They just seem to throw themselves at me.”

“And he is pretty good at catching them when they do,” sniffed Elleena, pulling away and wiping her tears.”

“You should talk.  I have scarcely had opportunity to meet any women the past seven years,” I said.  “Women are not interested in a man with a small child.”

“That has not been my experience,” said Elleena.  “Ellwood Cyrene is a kind and loving father, and women find that appealing.”

“Do they find his lack of manly bits appealing too?”

“Who is this Ellwood Cyrene,” said Thurid.

“What is your story?” I asked, turning to her.  “I thought that you had been banished.”

“I was.”

“I thought that you had been captured and brought back here against your will.”

“I was.”

“I see you are sitting there unbound and with an assortment of knives next to you.”

“That is correct.”

“So, can I assume that you have come to some sort of understanding with your fellow giants?” I asked.

“Yes, indeed,” she said.

“What is the meaning of all this then?”

“They banished me but found that they missed the pies that I made,” said Thurid.  “They sent out a party to bring me back so that I could be the chief piesmith of the tribe.”

“Apparently the frost giants are far more intelligent and cultured than they are given credit for,” said I.  “Can you take one of those knives and, reaching between the bars, cut these bonds, which is to say the ropes around my wrists and ankles.”

“Oh, sure.”

She picked up a butcher knife that would have made a good two-handed sword for a large man and freed my hands and feet.

“I really feel bad about this,” she said, “but they have asked me to make a special pie for tonight.”

“No need to feel bad on account of that,” said I.  “A reunion does call for a special pie, and indeed, so does a promotion to chief piesmith.  For the former, which is to say a reunion, I would recommend a cherry pie, and for the latter, which is to say a promotion, I would recommend a transparent pie, which is a pie that is transparent.”

“The kind of pie they want tonight, is a pie with the two of you baked in it.”

“That does sound delicious,” I agreed.

“If I can time things right,” said Thurid, “it might allow you to escape.”

“How so?” asked Elleena, for some reason, giving me an evil glare.

“If I can prepare some alternative form of meat beforehand, I can slip it into the pie, just as I allow you two to disappear.  It all depends on if there is some suitable substitute in the storeroom.”

“To replace Eaglethorpe,” said Elleena, “you need only a great ham.”

“Well,” said I.  “You might as well look for some fat ugly cow too.”

I don’t know what happened next.  Something hit me on the head, and I awoke some hour and a half later.

“Get up,” said Elleena.  “Thurid Njärlbjörnsdöttir has broken down two hog carcasses and has them ready to go into the pie.  She is now making the crust.”

“Be sure to keep the butter cold,” I recommended.  “It ensures a flaky crust.”

“We are on the icy slopes of The Skagarack glacier,” said Thurid.  “The butter is always cold.  Right now, I am working slowly, in hopes that the others will leave.”

I glanced back over my shoulder and observed that three other giantesses were engaged preparing food.  Soon however, two of them left.  The third stepped over to Thurid and gave her a giant hug, which is to say a hug between giants as well as a very large and expressive hug.

“I missed you so much!” cried the newcomer.  “Thank the gods that you are back.”

“This is Thalia Góðurrisisdöttir,” said Thurid.  “She is the love of my life.”

“But you two are both females,” said Elleena, her eyes wide.

“Forgive my naïve companion,” said I.  “I have visited the Island of Stratios, where such relationships between women are common.  In fact, I once had the pleasure of vacationing there for a fortnight.”

“And you two understand,” said Thurid, “because you are in love.”

“We are not in love,” said Elleena.

“We are like two ships that passed in the night,” said I.  “Then they both sank.”

“Never mind,” continued the giantess.  “We must make haste.  I will get the pie assembled and Thalia will guide you out and see that you have supplies for the journey.”

Eaglethorpe Buxton and… Something about Frost Giants

Chapter Eighteen: Wherein I do an excellent job of tracking Elleena, the proof being that I find her.

I left immediately, rather than waiting until first light.  This was not to Hysteria’s liking, but I had only to remind her of my now-empty purse to put her into her place, which is to say heading north through the cold night.

I traveled north, through the snowy wasteland that leads up to the great glacier Skagarack.  It was rough going.  The ground was snowy and beneath that, frozen.  The way was steep and interwoven with deep ravines and mountainous boulders.  In addition, there was no real clue as to the direction that I should travel.

I don’t mean to impugn the tracking ability of Ellwood Cyrene, which is to say, speak badly about her ability to follow things.  I have seen her track down bandits, goblins, a rogue wizard, a demon, an immature dragon, and once, a bugbear assassin.  Of course, almost all of these feats of stalking were accomplished before I had found out her great secret, which is to say that she is really Queen Elleena of Aerithraine.  So, it might well be said that she was a better tracker as a man than as a woman.  In any case, I am sure that she had something more to go on in her pursuit of the giants than I had in my pursuit of her.  Blood trails perhaps.  Alas, I had no such luck.

Fortunately, I needed no such clues.  On my second night out of Fencemar, I was set upon by three frost giants, who attacked me in my sleep.  Fortunately for them, I was sleeping soundly, and they had me securely tied about the wrists and ankles before I was fully awake.  I was tossed into a very large cloth sack, though to be sure, to the giants, it was probably more of a medium-sized cloth sack, and was uncomfortably carried away, which is to say with my head and shoulders where my feet should have been and my feet where my head and shoulders should have been.

I could tell that we were moving northward, because I could sense that we were moving uphill, and it grew increasingly colder.  The giants followed a leisurely pace, but being so long of stride, which is to say having really long legs, they covered a lot of ground very quickly.  Before long, the bag was being unflung from the giant’s shoulder and dumped out, which meant that I was flung out of the bag, and as I had been upturned in the bag, I came out feet first.  I have been tossed headfirst out of a great many places and things, and I can tell you that all in all, I prefer feet first.

Although I was happy to land on my feet literally, I didn’t land on my feet figuratively.  By that, I mean that I landed in a cage.  It was about ten feet square and about eight feet high, the only opening being a door in the top.  It was a perfect cage if one was a giant.  He could reach down into it without having to bend over.  It wasn’t a bad cage if one expected to stay in it for any length of time.  There was plenty of room to lie down and plenty of room to stand up.  It was not a very good cage if one were planning to escape, since the exit was eight feet up, had a padlock on it, and was in a room with several giants.  And it was a terrible room if one had a troubling relationship with Ellwood Cyrene, as she was locked in there too.

“Eaglethorpe,” she said.

“Elleena,” said I.

“I trust our daughter is safe,” she said.

“Both our daughters are safe,” said I.  “Edna, who has been with me, is safe, and Ethyl, who has been living with you, or perhaps it would be better to say, who has been neglected by you, is also safe.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The girls switched places several days ago.  Edna has been traveling with me, wearing cute little dresses, and having her hair put up in pigtails, while Ethyl has been traumatized by having to dress as a boy and have her hair cut.”

“My dear… Ethyl… was with me?” said Elleena, tears filling her eyes.  “And I didn’t know it?”

“Yes,” I said.  “Amazing, is it not?  And after all the times you accused me of not paying attention to what was going on around me.”

At that, she burst into a full bout of crying, hands covering her face, and shoulders slumped and shaking.

“You’ve won the argument,” said a loud voice.  “Now, don’t be a fool.  Give her a hug.”

I looked through the bars of the cage to see Thurid Njärlbjörnsdöttir sitting on a stool, not far away.

“She does not want me to hug her,” I said.

“Of course I do!” wailed Elleena.

“Oh!” I said and threw my still bound arms around her.

 

Eaglethorpe Buxton and… Something about Frost Giants

Chapter Seventeen: Wherein I learn whither is the piesmith, and Elleena too.

It was true.  My own little Ethylthorpe had not only usurped my identity, which is to say pretended to be me, but she was dressed even more like a boy than ever before.  She had on breeches and a shirt and a leather jerkin.  I grabbed her by the ear and pulled her from the room, shoving her into an alcove near the bottom of the stairs.  Edna followed me in and the three of us stood there looking at one another in silence for sixty seconds, which is to say one very long minute.

“Well, you messed up, didn’t you!” Ethyl hissed at Edna.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean you couldn’t even fool this great idiot!”

“I suppose you had mother completely fooled,” demanded Edna.

“I guess I did.  She didn’t say anything.  I asked her if I could cut my hair and dress like a boy, and she was fine with it.  She wasn’t really paying much attention.”

“Aha!” said I.  “Now we see who the truly caring parent is!”

“Shut up!” said Ethyl.  “You told me my mother was dead.”

“What I told you was true… after a fashion.”

“No, it wasn’t,” she said.  “It wasn’t true in any fashion, shape, or form.  My mother is alive, and plus, she’s the Queen of Aerithraine.”

“Where is your mother, anyway?” I questioned.

“She has gone after the frost giants,” said Ethyl.

“What do you mean, she has gone after the frost giants?”

“I mean, the frost giants went.  And she went after them.”

“Why?” asked Edna.

“Why what?” asked Ethyl.

“Why did Mother go after the frost giants?”

“When they attacked the village the other night, some of them captured the giant woman and took her north with them?”

“Not the piesmith!” I cried.

“Indeed, she was the very one.  Mother went to rescue her.”

“Now I must go and see that the piesmith returns safe, and your mother too, else I shall have to tell my poor daughters that they are motherless.”

“You’ve been telling me that for years,” quoth Ethyl.  “I will go with you.  It will be a great adventure.”

“Well, I don’t want to go,” said Edna.  “I’ve been dragged along on all her adventures and I’m just tired of it. Ethyl, step aside and talk to me for a moment.”

The two girls huddled together in close talk.  After about two minutes, they gave each other a nod, and returned to my side.

“We will both stay here,” said Edna.

“I will make sure that Edna is safe,” said Ethyl, sticking out her chest, heroically.

“Very well,” said I.  “Your mother has a two-day head start, so it will probably be seven or eight days before I return.”

“My room is paid up for a fortnight,” said Ethyl.  “If we need more money, I can tell stories in the taproom.”

“Just remember your billing,” said I.  “You may bill yourself as the offspring of Eaglethorpe Buxton, but not as Eaglethorpe Buxton himself.”

“Very well,” said Ethyl, thoughtfully.  “I am already working on a new story: Eaglethorpe Buxton and how he was torn to pieces by frost giants and consequently left two poor, pathetic orphans to fend for themselves.”

“You make me very proud,” said I.

Eaglethorpe Buxton and… Something about Frost Giants

Chapter Sixteen: Wherein we recover and make our final return to Fencemar.

I opened my eyes to be greeted by the night sky, filled with stars.  I took a breath and immediately regretted it.  As long as I didn’t move or breathe, I was fine, but if I failed to follow that rule, my entire body punished me, which is to say, hurt.  A little round face peered down at me, and I was certain that a goblin was about to bite off my nose.  I was greatly relieved then, when I noticed that this little round face was framed by blond hair tied up in two pigtails.

“Do not move, Father,” said the face, apparently belonging to my child, which is to say Ednathorpe.  “I believe you have broken every bone in your body.”

“I have not,” I gasped, punished for every syllable.  “A giant did it for me.  Where is he anyway?”

“The giant?”

“No, the last remnants of my patience, sanity, and consciousness.  Yes, the giant, stupid girl.  Owe.”

“It wandered away after I shot out both of its eyes with my bow,” she said, with a bit too much smugness, I thought.

“And where are the goblins?”

“Most of them are all around us.  The giant stomped most of them into the dirt as it blindly wandered around.”

“Well, it appears you have inherited my warrior instincts and abilities,” said I.  “Now, please reach into my saddlebag and retrieve the three healing potions that I have stashed there.  I think I shall need all three.”

“I am sure you could do with three or maybe even four potions,” said Edna, “but your saddlebags, your saddle, and your entire horse are nowhere to be seen.”

“Drat,” said I.

“Maybe she will wander back to us by morning.”

“You shouldn’t assume that,” said I.  “By this time, Hysteria has returned to Rumplegate, and is using my money to buy her way into a game of poker.”

Edna watched over me the entire night and made sure that a large fire kept us within its warm glow.  This might have been important on any trip through the wilderness but having to spend the hours of darkness on blood-soaked ground amid the mangled and dead bodies of a score of goblins made it doubly, or triply, or quadropoly so.  Who knows what terrible predators glared at us from just beyond the edge of the illumination, which is to say the light?  But by morning, they were gone.  And to my great surprise, Hysteria had returned.  She still had the healing potions in her saddlebag, but my money purse which had hung on her saddle horn was now empty.

Ednathorpe brought the healing potions to my lips, and I drank them.  Even so, it took a while before I was once again steady on my feet.

“You should be ashamed of yourself,” I told Hysteria.  “A horse of your years.”

She looked at the ground and kicked the dirt.  There was no use dwelling upon it though.  What was done was done.  Instead, we continued on toward Fencemar.

It was late when we arrived.  We stopped first at the stable, and notwithstanding the fact that my purse was decidedly lighter, in fact empty but for a few coins I had stashed on my person, and notwithstanding the fact that I was not overly happy with my noble steed, which is to say Hysteria, I still arranged for hay and water and a good brushing for her and for Acrimony.  After all, as far as I knew, he was guiltless.

Edna and I stepped through the tavern door in time to hear someone speaking loudly from the common room. We looked inside to see a fellow dressed as an adventurer, speaking before a crowd consisting of a few townsfolk, some travelers, and if looks were to be believed, a fair-sized mercenary group.

“And now, I shall tell you how I, Eaglethorpe Buxton, saved Celestria and defeated the zombie horde with only this fork!”

“Varlet!” I cried.  “You are not Eaglethorpe Buxton!  You did not save Celestria!  You were not even born when that happened!  And what did you do to your beautiful hair?”  The fake Eaglethorpe Buxton stared back at me, eyes wide.  “Mother said I could cut it.”

Eaglethorpe Buxton and… Something about Frost Giants

Chapter Fifteen: Wherein we encounter goblins again and something more dangerous.

Edna and I had traveled most of the day when we reached the site of the goblin attack on us from way back in chapter eight.  Though it was still quite a few hours from sundown, the overcast sky made it seem later than it was.  It was just the sort of time in which to expect a goblin attack.

I looked at my daughter and said, “This is just the sort of time in which to expect…”

“Goblins!”

“Yes, that is the right of it.”

“No, Father!  There!  In the road!  Goblins!”

“Really, Edna?” I shook my head.  “Four exclamation points?”

“Five goblins per,” she said.

Sure enough, there was a horde of some twenty goblins rushing toward us.  I am sure that there are some among you who will scold me for my use of the word horde, there being only twenty or so of the snotty little gits.  Normally, I would not ascribe horde to any number less than a hundred, mass to no number less than two hundred, and throng to a group that did not consist of at least a thousand.  It was certainly not a multitude.  In reality, I would say that this was halfway between a gang and a crowd, but the fact that in addition to myself, my daughter, in a brand-new blue dress I might add, was being born down upon by these goblins, armed as they so often are, with knives, razors, and sharp sticks, made them seem more numerous than they actually were, which is to say like a horde.

“Get behind me, Edna,” I ordered.

In reply, she whipped out her bow, seemingly from thin air, and fired off three arrows, all of which hit their marks, assuming those marks were the head, throat, and kneecap of three goblins respectively.

Hysteria reared up and stomped down upon a couple of goblins, and I swung my sword at a couple more.  It was, all in all, something of a repeat of the previous goblin attack in the same location.  That is to say, it was something of a repeat until a hulking form stepped out from behind a group of trees.  It would not have been difficult to identify this new figure as a frost giant, even had I not had encounters with a number of them recently, which is to say discussing the life story of one, kneecapping another, and stabbing the manly bits of a third.  This one was a hulking fellow of about seventeen feet in height, clad in a mix of gigantic armor and furs and carrying a huge war hammer.

This is not as odd as it may sound to those of you who are not trained monster hunters.  Goblins, being tiny, sniveling little creatures often team up with a larger humanoid of some type.  Often it is a hobgoblin or a bugbear.  Many times, I have found groups of goblins throwing their lot in with an ogre.  A frost giant was somewhat unusual, though hill giants are not, but then, this was the edge of frost giant territory.

The giant took three great strides towards us.  This was one stride too many for my brave and noble steed, who bucked once, sending me falling to the ground, and then took off at a gallop to the southwest.

There were three or four goblins on me by the time I could get to my feet.  I could hear their little knives and razors clanging against my armor.  One sliced me across the cheek with its knife.  I shook them off and cleared a path around me with broad swipes of my sword.  By then, the giant was upon me.  With a mighty thrust, I stabbed right up into his manly bits, only to hear a very loud clang.  This was the smartest frost giant that I had ever encountered.  He was wearing a codpiece, which is to say armor over one’s family jewels.  Then I was hit along the entire left side of my body by the enormous war hammer.  I went flying through the air, and lost consciousness before I hit the ground.

Eaglethorpe Buxton and… Something about Frost Giants

Chapter Fourteen: Wherein I teach Edna about truth and responsibility.

The breakfast at The Rolling Barrel was certainly not the best one that I had ever been served.  That would have been the breakfast brought to my bed by the princess of the monkey people.  Her name was Princess Ack-Ack-Ooh-Ooh and she was lovely, as was her tail and her feet that looked exactly like her hands.  But as we were in the far north of The Fallen Lands, just along the southern border of the great glacier known as The Skagarack, I had not expected banana waffles.  At The Rolling Barrel, in the town of Rumplegate, we had regular waffles.

“There is no such thing as monkey people,” said Ednathorpe.

“Princesses do not talk with their mouths full of waffles,” I chided.  “Neither do monkey people, which do indeed exist.  I suppose your mother told you that all my stories are rife with falsehood, which is to say, mostly made up.”

“She said that some of your stories were very loosely based on your perception of reality.”

“Poor child, to have been raised by such an angry and vengeful woman.  All of my tales are completely and absolutely and unquestionably true, having only been edited that they might fit the occasion, the audience, the limits of time, and the point that I am trying to make at the moment of the telling.  In other words, you can bet your life on the veracity of any of them, which is to say, the truth.”

Edna looked at me, her eyes wide.

“So, you really killed a werewolf with a fork?”

“Indeed.”

“You defeated the wicked Sorceress Myolaena Maetar?

“It is a fact.”

“You saved Celestria from zombies?”

“Not just the city of Celestria, but the whole country of Aerithraine.”

“And you escaped the Amazons by seducing their queen and then leaving her alone and bereft?”

“I… um, what now?  I don’t recall telling that story recently.”

“I heard it from my mother.”

“Oh, you did, did you?  And did she tell you who that queen of the Amazons was?”

“She said that the queen was a poor virgin, unwise to the ways of man.”

“That is not how she was and that was not how it happened,” said I, “and that is not how the story goes.  I shall be happy to tell you the real story of Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Amazons just as soon as I come up with it… um, remember it.”

“I can’t wait to hear it,” said Edna, her eyes sparkling with admiration.

“You are a lovely girl,” I told her.  “I wish I could take you straight from here to a civilized country so that you could be presented to royalty.  I am afraid though that we have to turn around and go back to Fencemar.”

“Why ever must we do that?” she cried.  Tears immediately appeared in her eyes and rushed down her cheeks.  “You don’t like me!  You want to take me back to trade me for Ethyl!  I’m so sorry!  I never meant to impugn your honesty, which is to say call you a liar!”

I stood up, rushed around the table, and pulled her to my chest.

“Do not think it, my sweet daughter!”

“That seems a little much,” said she.

“Um, I could jump over the table.”

“No.  How about you just take my hand and clasp it in yours.”

I took her hand and clasped it in mine.

“Do not think it, my sweet daughter.  I am so happy to finally know you, and I am looking forward to spending the next year with you.  However, we must make sure that Elleena and Ethyl have not killed each other, and Elleena and I must make sure that your plan of you spending a year with me and Ethyl with her mother will work out.”

“I suppose that is the responsible thing to do,” said Edna.

“It is,” I agreed, “and we’re going to do it anyway.  And let us not forget that there is unusually large pie in Fencemar.”

So it was that I, Lord Dewberry Eaglethorpe Buxton and my sweet daughter Ednathorpe turned our horses back to the east and made once again for the village of Fencemar.

Eaglethorpe Buxton and… Something about Frost Giants

Chapter Thirteen: Wherein we spend the night at the inn.

“I miss my mommy,” said Ednathorpe.

“You have only been away from her for a day,” I replied.

“A day and a night.”

“I was saying a day, as in one cycle of the sun, and not a day as in the time of daylight which is opposed to the night which is the time of darkness.”

“I still miss her.”

“That is understandable.  You are only seven and so can only stand to be away from your mother for a day.”

“How old are you?” she asked.

“Nearly six times as old as you.”

“How long have you been away from her?”

“My mother?”

“No,” she said.  “My mother.”

“I saw her briefly last night, but besides that, it has been some seven years.”

“You love her.”

“Why would you think that?” I demanded.

“Otherwise, you couldn’t have had Ethyl and me.  Mother told me how it works.  When a mommy and a daddy love each other very much, a stork brings a baby and drops it in a cabbage patch for them to find.  If they love each other twice as much, the stork brings two babies at once.”

“That does sound like a story that your mother would tell,” I allowed.

“Isn’t it the truth?”

“Of course not.  You were born in Dewberry, where there is nary a cabbage patch within fifty miles.  Plenty of onion patches, but no cabbage patches.”

“Would you tell me the truth about how babies are born?” she asked.

“I suppose you are old enough.  When a mommy and a daddy love each other very much, the mommy sends the daddy on an epic quest.  On this quest, he must perform many difficult deeds such as crossing mountains and valleys, until he reaches a great stone castle.  There he must fight his way in.  It doesn’t matter how many times the owner of the castle invites him in, he still ends up fighting.  Finally, once he has entered, he must kill a hundred or so monsters that live in the castle, all the while searching, until he finds a great egg.”

“Is the baby in the egg?”

“Edna, do not hurry a storyteller.”

“Sorry.”

“The warrior, which is to say the daddy, brings the egg home and the mommy sits on it.  She sits on it even though it makes her sick and messes up her emotions.  For three months it makes her very sad.  For three months it makes her very angry.  And for three months, it makes her… well, it makes her want to kiss the daddy all the time. Then finally, the egg hatches and inside is a golden coin.  The mommy and the daddy take the gold coin to the midwife and she gives them a baby.  Rarely, one finds two gold coins inside the egg, and the parents end up with twins.  The trip to the midwife also involves a lot of bitching and yelling, as I recall.”

“But where does the midwife get the baby?” asked Edna.

“That is a story for another time.”

“You must miss my mother an awful lot,” she said.

“Why would you think that?”

“Well, you loved her very much, and you’ve been away from her for seven long years.  That’s almost as long than I have been alive.  And even if you are seven times as strong, because you are seven times older than me…”

“Six times,” I interjected, “more or less.”

“Even if you are six times as strong, you have been away from her for one thousand three hundred and twenty times as long, so you must miss her two hundred twenty times as much as I do, and I miss her so much that I want to cry.”

“That can’t be true.”

“You can’t argue with math.”

“You can argue with math,” said I.  “Math always wins though, because math is a vicious cur.”

Both Ednathorpe and I eventually fell asleep.  She woke the next morning at the crowing of a particularly abominable rooster.  I had been awakened much earlier by that very same fowl.  Contrary to popular belief, roosters crow all the time.  They crow in the morning and they crow in the evening, and sometimes they crow in the middle of the night.  Many of us, who have grown up keeping chickens, have learned to ignore those phantom cries in the darkness, but this one was simply too much.  I resigned myself to not sleeping any more that night and was only stopped myself from hunting down and killing that rooster and his owner by the fact that my daughter managed to sleep soundly through the cacophony, which is to say, roostering, at least until morning.

Consequently, that morning, I was somewhat less than fully awake, which is to say, I was still sleepy.  My daughter, however, was well-rested and quite bubbly.  She insisted that I dress her in another of the cute little outfits that I had originally procured for her twin.  This time, it was a blue satin dress with lots of lace and beneath which were seven petticoats.  A petticoat is a sort of skirt that goes under a skirt, which make the skirt on the outside poof out.  The poofing effect is compounded the more one adds additional petticoats.  The blue dress also had quite poofy arms though there was no undersleeve garment making them do so.

“I love this, Father,” said Edna.  “I feel like a Princess.”

“Well, that stands to reason, because you are indeed a princess, or at least you would be if you had not been born a bastard, which is entirely your mother’s fault.”

“Well, I still feel like one.”

“You look like one too.  You have no idea how I have longed to see my daughter dressed up just so.  I’ve spent the better part of the last six years wrestling Ethyl into girl clothing, only to have it torn apart, dragged through the mud, or set fire to.”

“I wonder how Ethyl is doing with Mother?” she wondered.

“Not as well as I am, I imagine,” said I.  “All evidence indicates that I have come out ahead in this exchange.”

“Don’t say that, Father.  You know you love Ethylthorpe.”

“Of course I do, though it has not been easy.  Your mother will have to deal with all the profanity and the foul language and the vulgarity and the swearing from now on.”

“I am afraid that Ethylthorpe will have to deal with all of that too,” said Edna.

“And Ethyl has recently been referring to the Queen of Aerithraine in unflattering terms,” I said.

“My mother has been doing the same,” said Edna, “Only in regard to Eaglethorpe Buxton.”

“Mayhaps, they shall get along famously,” I said.  “Let us go downstairs and have breakfast.”

Eaglethorpe Buxton and… Something about Frost Giants

Chapter Twelve: Wherein I recall a wonderful and later less-than-wonderful romance.

I kissed Ednathorpe on the cheek and left her to change into her jammies, a brand-new pair that I had purchased for her sister in AntriadorAntriador was with jammies something like Oordport was with dresses.  This particular pair consisted of a warm and cozy top and leggings, blue and dotted here and there with tiny images of unicorns.

The unicorn is an animal that is common in the woods around Antriador.  They are a bit like a horse, but as they make horrible mounts and aren’t good to eat, they are completely worthless.

I made my way, by way of the corridor, to my own room.  There I removed my gear and undressed, finally blowing out the candle and climbing into bed.  I lay there for a long time, staring at the cedar planks that made up the ceiling.  As I did, I thought back to the events that had brought my family to its current condition, which is to say split into two halves.

Nine years ago, give or take a few months, I had the misfortune to find myself engaged to be wed to three or four women at the same time, all of whom, I hasten to point out, had asked me to marry them, and not the other way ‘round.  I wasn’t ready to be married, and notwithstanding the fact that one of the women was the Queen of Aerithraine, with whom I was deeply and honestly in love, and had been for a long time, I decided on a different path.  I ran away.

Elleena, the aforementioned queen, followed me and found me, although she was in her guise as the manly warrior and adventurer Ellwood Cyrene.  We adventured together across the eastern world, putting wrongs right, putting evildoers in their graves, and putting quite a lot of beer in our stomachs.  Eventually, of an evening, Elleena even took to dressing up as a girl, and we would stroll in the moonlight, lie under the stars, and dance the night away.  We did it all, adventuring of a day and frolicking of a night.  We did it all until she was unable to adventure and very nearly unable to frolic, as she was heavy with child, which is to say pregnant.

We traveled back to Celestria, and just before we arrived, I tenderly took her in my arms, and tenderly touched her cheek, and tenderly kissed her lips, and tenderly asked her to marry me.  I was expecting a simply “yes,” seeing as how she had asked me to marry her only a bit earlier, but that was not what I got.

“Oh, so now you want to marry me?” quoth she.

“Um, yes.”

“You just feel forced to marry me because I’m pregnant!” quoth she.

“That is not the reason why I asked you to marry me, but it might be why I asked you to marry me now.”

“You just want to be King!”

“I want no such thing, although I would be a good king.”

“Aha!  I knew it!”  Her voice turned low and menacing.  “For years, petty nobles and weakling merchant have tried to worm their way into my life and my bed, all in order to steal my power, my authority, and my crown.  Now, the most petty and weak man that the gods have ever molded from clay has gotten where no other man has been and I will not have it.  I will not have it!”

“What do you mean ‘petty?’” I demanded.  “Besides which, you will have it, whether you want to or not.  There is no question, but it is coming out of there and it is coming out of there soon.”

“We will go to Dewberry Castle,” she continued.  “There I will give birth, and you may play mother to the fruit of your transgressions, and I will go on with my life and never have to see you again.”

“I have heard that women get moody at this time,” said I.

I was not expecting the uppercut that followed, leaving me with a swollen jaw and a bruised disposition.

As it turned out of course, she had not it, but them.  We were blessed with beautiful twin girls, whom I was happy to name—Ethylthorpe Dewberry Buxton and Ednathorpe Dewberry Buxton. By that time, Elleena was in a better mood, which is to say less prone to punch and yell.  She was still determined to be gone from me however, but she had fallen in love with the tiny pinched little faces of the girls.  We stayed together for almost a year after their births, but in the end, it was decided that she would take one and I would take one.  After all, they looked so much alike that looking at one twice was almost like looking at both once.

I took off on a grand adventure, taking my baby with me.  I had assumed that Elleena had gone back to being Queen of Aerithraine, but apparently, she was doing much as I was doing, which is to say going on adventures and acting like a man.

My musings, which is to say my thoughts about the past, were interrupted when my door opened.  In stepped a diminutive, which is to say tiny, figure in blue jammies.  She climbed up onto my bed and snuggled up against my side.

“I miss my mommy,” she said.

Eaglethorpe Buxton and… Something about Frost Giants

Chapter Eleven: Wherein I learn what happened to Ethylthorpe and Ednathorpe’s hand in it.

“Ednathorpe?”

“I prefer Edna,” she said.

“Your name is Ednathore,” said I.  “If indeed you are Ednathore.  But you cannot be.  I looked on your back and saw the birthmark shaped like a kick ball.  That is Ethylthorpe’s birthmark.  Ednathorpe has a birthmark shaped like a pie.”

“I used lip rouge to fill in the empty slice, so that it would look like a whole pie, or a kickball, depending upon one’s point of view.”

“Let me see.”

She turned around and I unbuttoned two buttons on her dress, just where her birthmark was.  There was a round kickball.  I wet my thumb and then rubbed the little mark, and behold, an empty slice was revealed.

“Ednathorpe!  My beloved child!”  I spun her back around and grasped her in a mighty hug.  “I haven’t seen you since you were a baby.  Oh, how you’ve grown!”

“Oh father, I am so happy to be here with you, and I have enjoyed these past twenty or so hours.  I have yearned to be with you for so long, and I knew much about you, but alas, I didn’t think I would ever see you.  My mother told me that you were dead.”

“Oh, what perfidy!” I cried.

She raised an eyebrow.

“Did you not tell Ethylthorpe that her mother was dead?  At least Mother told me who you were.”

“It’s an entirely different situation,” said I, “but that is not important.  Tell me of how you two managed to become switched.  It was no doubt due to some incompetence on your mother’s part.”

“It was not my mother’s fault.  She is a good person, and I love her.  She is a fine mother, except that she never lets me wear dresses, and always has me dressed up as a boy, and never puts my hair up or ties it with a ribbon, and we always have to go adventuring, and seldom even stay in an inn, but have to camp out on the hard ground, and she never lets me have tea parties or play with dolls or live in a castle.  I want to be a princess!”

“Oh, my poor, poor child,” said I.  “She has probably neglected your education too.”

“She has taught me to read and to write and to algebra, but I’m sure it’s not the same level of education that I would have received from you.”

“Of that, there can be no doubt,” said I.

“Anyway, we had been traveling for the past several months, moving westward from Aerithraine’s border, when we arrived late in the evening at Fencemar.  I begged and pleaded with Mother to let us stay inside, as I was frozen through, but the tavernkeeper informed us that he had let out the only two room in his establishment.”

“Which is to say, his tavern,” I added.

“Indeed.  Mother said that we could stay in a room, if I could convince the current occupants to double up into one.  I went upstairs and knocked on the door of a room and it opened.  There, standing before me, was an almost exact copy of myself.”

“It was a doppelganger!” I shouted.

“No, it was Ethylthorpe,” said Edna.  “We were both shocked, but after sharing a bit of information, we figured out that we were twin sisters, separated at birth by our parents.  I had always wanted to meet you and hear your wonderful stories, and Ethyl had always longed to know her mother, so we exchanged clothing and took each other’s place.  Now I get to travel with you, not to mention sleep inside, wear pretty dresses, and have my hair tied up in ribbons.”

“I suppose sleeping inside is a big deal for a little girl,” said I.

“I said not to mention sleeping inside,” she said.  “Ethyl and I agreed to maneuver you and mother into being in Oordport in one year, so that we could compare our experiences and decide if we wanted to trade back or not.”

“What happens when you both inevitably, which is to say certainly and unavoidably, want to be with me.  Then your mother will be all alone, with neither of her children there to keep her company.  Why, she is likely to fall under the sway of some ruthless man… or woman… or bugbear.”

“That is something you should have both thought about some six years, ten months, and fourteen days ago.”