About wesleyallison

Author of twenty science-fiction and fantasy books, including the popular "His Robot Girlfriend."

Eaglethorpe Buxton and… Something about Frost Giants

Chapter Six: In which I remind the reader of just who Ellwood Cyrene is.

I looked at Ellwood Cyrene, her face lit by the light of the full moon.  That’s right, I said “her face.”  I had known Ellwood Cyrene for many years.  We had fought side-by-side in countless adventures.  And during all that time, I was under the impression that she was a he.  She walked like a man.  She talked like a man.  She fought like a man.  She pretended to be a man.

Then I found out that she wasn’t a man.  I found out she was a woman.  Then I found out that she wasn’t just a woman.  She was a queen.  The queen.  She was Elleena Posthuma, Queen of Aerithraine, Guardian of the Faithful, Protector of the Realm, and… a whole lot of other things.

“I thought you were over all that,” she said.

“Over what?”

“Over what you were just talking about, about me being the Queen and all that.”

“There are certain situations in which a man can get over all that,” said I, “and there are certain situations in which he can’t.”

“Well, what made it so intolerable all of a sudden?” she demanded.

“Oh, you well know what it was!” said I, striking an intimidating pose.

“You’re still angry that I wouldn’t marry you and let you be the king.”

“I never wanted to be the king.  All I wanted was to live a long life with my resplendent and enticing, though somewhat robust and virile wife, to whom I was properly married, I might add, and my eight to twelve imaginative and perspicacious children, whom I also might also add would not be bastards, because I would have been married to their mother!”

“I see you got a new thesaurus,” she said.

“I would have been a great king!” said I.

She reached out a hand and stroked my face.

“Let’s not rehash this again.  Let’s enjoy the time that we have.  We could have a little family reunion.”

“I would,” spoke I, “but I am leaving posthaste, with… um, haste, which is to say, right away.”

“But I want… But I thought you would… What about…?”

“Spare me your half sentences.  You have sentenced me enough to last a lifetime.”

With that, I turned and walked back into tavern.  I didn’t even look back to see if she was looking at me.  I had just stepped inside the door, when I ran into my daughter.

“Come.  We must pack up and get out of town right now.”

“Right now?”

“Yes, that is what I said.  Right now.”

“Perhaps that is for the best,” she opined.

“Get our horses,” said I.  “I will gather up our things.

I hurried up to our rooms and gathered our meager, which is to say small and not in any way many, possessions, returning to find Ethyl standing by the tavern’s entrance, nary a horse in sight.

“Where are our noble steeds?”

“They should be here in a moment,” she said.  “I paid the tavern boy a silver coin to saddle them and bring them forth.”

“I thought you preferred to do that yourself,” I noted.

“Oh, um, yes… normally.  Right now, I’m still a little shaky from the whole ordeal of the giant attack.  I mean that it was an attack by giants, and not a giant attack, as in a big or large or Brobdingnagian attack, because as far as I know, it wasn’t more than four or five giants.  And I’m not shaky because I was frightened either.  It’s because I was excited.  I felt a surge of adrenaline that I’m sure would have resulted in heroic efforts against the giants had I only been six or eight inches taller.  Besides, given the location of this town, a silver coin placed in the pocket of the tavern boy might well do a great deal to build up the local economy and make it a more prosperous place to visit should we venture here again.”

“You must be filled with adrenaline,” I noted, “as heretofore, I don’t recall you ever speaking five sentences at one time, usually being prone to limit yourself to a few expletives, and here you’ve gone and spoken seven sentences all at once, and several of them quite long ones.”

“Um, darn tootin’,” said Ethyl.

The tavern boy arrived leading our two noble steeds, which is to say horses.  They had been saddled and looked well-rested.  My steed was the noble warhorse Hysteria, who had been my companion on countless adventures over the years.  In truth, she was getting a bit long of tooth, which is to say old, but I would never tell her so, as it is impolite to discuss the age of ladies and horses and Hysteria was both.  She was still capable of a good long gallop in full barding, which is to say armor for horses, though truth be told, I often had to promise some delicacy to be given in the future before she would demonstrate that capability.  She was also prone to bouts of depression, which I attributed to her recently having given up both chewing tobacco and gambling, neither of which are appropriate for horses or ladies or lady horses.  Ethyl’s mount was a pony, which is to say a small horse, but not small because it is young, but just small in general—a compact horse if you will.  His name was Acrimony, and Ethyl had picked him out as a colt when she was only four years old.  He was a light bay, which is to say brown, and was covered with a caparison, which is to say a cloth horse covering, emblazoned with the Dewberry coat of arms.

I quickly mounted Hysteria and watched as Ethyl attempted to do the same to Acrimony.  He pranced around and even turned to snap at her, but she slapped him soundly on the top of the head and told him, “Knock it off, you!”

“Is he upset to be leaving in the middle of the night?” I asked.

“One might assume so,” Ethyl replied, climbing up into the saddle and pulling back on the reins.

Acrimony quickly fell into line, seeing who was in charge.  If there is one thing that little girls know how to do, it is how to manage a horse.

“Come,” said I.  “It is time for this town to see the back of us, which is to say, it’s time for us to go.”

“Yes, Father,” said Ethyl, and she gave me an odd look.  “I’m so happy that we are together.”

This warmed my heart, for it was the first kind word that I had heard from the girl’s lips in a long time, or maybe ever.

“Me too,” said I.

And we rode off down the trail, into the wilds of the far north portion of The Fallen Lands, just south of the great glacier known as The Skagarack.

Eaglethorpe Buxton and… Something about Frost Giants

Chapter Five: In which I save the town and others do some fighting as well.

I didn’t have time to speak to Ellwood Cyrene and Ellwood Cyrene didn’t have time to speak to me either. Seconds after we had jointly dispatched the first giant, which is to say, killed him together, we were set upon by another.  In a great acrobatic leap and using this new giant’s bended knee as a platform, Ellwood launched into the air, stabbing the monster through the left eye.  Ellwood was always showing off like that.  It was revolting.  I was so revolted, that I turned and went off to find my own giant to kill.

I didn’t have to look far.  Another frost giant was ripping the roof off of a small house.  I jogged over to him, but he took no notice of me, being, by this time, engaged in looking down into the house like a decent fellow would have looked down into a stew pot, having just lifted the lid.  I thought about leaping up into an acrobatic display that would put to shame anything that Ellwood Cyrene could do.  I thought about it long and hard.  In the end though, it just seemed like a waste of energy, so I stabbed up into the giant’s manly bits.

I can’t say for certain just how manly the giant’s bits may have been.  Had they been exposed, I certainly wouldn’t have looked at them, and they were completely covered.  On the other hand, I feel certain that they were quite manly, which is to say, large, or giant, or even Brobdingnagian.  Even if they were proportionately very tiny, they still would have been very large because he was a very large giant.  He certainly reacted in a very manly way, which is to say, he grabbed his crotch and screamed girlishly before falling.

In my dispatching that giant, I did prove that though they may have had very large brains, since they had very large heads, the giants were not proportionately smart.  If I had been a giant, fighting, for the most part, beings that were less than waist-high to me, the one article of armor upon which I would have insisted would have been a cod piece, which is to say that piece of metal which guards the family jewels.  But while many, if not all, giants wore helmets, I cannot recall ever having seen a giant wearing a cod piece.  How often do you suppose a frost giant is hit upon the head, unless it be by another frost giant?

I looked around.  The battle seemed to be over, for while I could see four giants in addition to the two that I killed, I could see no living ones.

“You killed one frost giant,” said Ellwood Cyrene, “and I’m not sure he’s dead.”

“Of course he is dead,” said I.

“Look.  He’s moving.”

I walked over and stabbed the giant in the neck several times.

“Are you happy now?” I asked.

“You still only killed one giant,” said Ellwood.

“One and a half,” I corrected, “for I knee-capped that one before you stabbed him in the back.  That was rather a rather cowardly blow, if I may say so.”

“I had to stab him quickly in order to save your life.  At least I didn’t poke him in meat and two veg.”

I shook my head and looked around.  The town had been lucky.  In addition to myself and Ellwood Cyrene, a mercenary company known as The Bloody Dogs were camping at the edge of the village.  Evidently, they were as unhappy as I to be woken in the middle of the night by marauding giants.  They had taken down two and had apparently wounded another, for there was a trail of blood leading away to the north.

“At least I saved the mayor,” I said, pointing to the house from which that the giant had torn the roof.

“The mayor’s house is down the street,” said Ellwood.  “That home belongs to the local wet nurse.”

“Even better,” said I.  “A wet nurse is far more valuable to a town than a politician.”

“I’ve missed you, Eaglethorpe,” said Ellwood, eyes filling with tears, and lip trembling.  “It’s been eight years.”

“It’s been six years, eleven months, and sixteen days,” I said, “and some number of hours, minutes, and seconds.”

Eaglethorpe Buxton and… Something about Frost Giants

Chapter Four: In which Ethyl and I take our baths, and the town is invaded, as is inevitable in these types of stories.

I made my way up to my room, and just as the tavernkeeper had promised, I found a hot bath waiting for me.  It had been a good two weeks since I had a hot bath.  I had suffered through several very cold baths in the interim, and I can tell you, that a hot bath beats a cold one any day of the year, except maybe summer, but certainly any autumn, winter, or spring day of the year.  Peeling off my clothes, I slipped into the tub.  It was only about three feet around, so my arms, legs, and my head hung over the sides, but my torso was happy.

My torso was still feeling nice and warm, when the door opened, and my daughter entered.

“Look around,” said I.  “Is there some soap and a clean cloth somewhere?”

Ethyl found both items sitting on a chair by the door and handed them to me.

“Go wait in the other room,” I directed.  “As soon as I get out of this bath, you’re getting in.”

“But I had a bath last week!” she growled.

“You must wash some of that grime off of you, lest some wild animal drag you off, thinking you’re its long-lost cub.”

“At least then I won’t have to take a bath.”

“So you think,” said I.  “It will be your luck to be dragged away by a cave lion.  You’ll be longing for a bathtub after a cave lion licks you clean with its rough tongue.  I can tell you that from experience.”

With a rude gesture, she turned and left.

As loath as I was to leave the warm embrace of the bath, I didn’t want my child left with nothing but cold water, so I quickly soaped up, rinsed off, and dressed in my night shirt.  Then, I went to the other room to fetch the girl.  I was forced to pull her by her ear back to the first room, wrestle her to the floor so that I could strip off her filthy clothes, and then throw her bodily into the water.  Luckily for her, the tub was just her size.  She only agreed to use soap when I told her that if she didn’t, I would make her take another bath on the morrow.

When she was finally passably clean, I dressed her in her nightgown.  It was a cute pink garment, made of the finest, softest wool in all of Aerithraine, and had the image of Castle Dewberry embroidered upon it.  Castle Dewberrywas our home, though we had not been back since before Ethyl’s first birthday, so she had no memory of it.  She crossed her arms and made growling and hissing noises as I brushed her hair.  If a cave lion had only heard her, it would have reinforced the idea that she was its missing cub.

“There now,” I told her.  “You make a charming and presentable girl, which is to say that I could present you to… a king or queen, if I had a mind.  Perhaps to the Queen of Aerithraine.”

“She’s a wicked slattern!” hissed Ethyl.

“Be that as it may,” said I.  “We could present you to somebody.  It would have made your mother so proud… bless her departed soul.”

“Tell me what she was like?” asked Ethyl, in the rarely heard tone of tenderness.

“What would you like to know?”

“Was she beautiful?”

“She was extremely beautiful,” I said wistfully, which is to say, full of wist.  “She always wore beautiful dresses and she never even once dressed in pants and pretended to be a man.”

“Why do girls have to wear dresses?” grumbled Ethyl.  “Dresses are stupid.”

“But you look so cute when you are in a dress, with ribbons in your hair and your cheeks all rosy.”

“When I grow up, I’m never going to wear a dress!” she hissed.  “I’m going to wear pants and go adventuring!  If you think dresses are so great, then you wear one!”

“I am a man and so I do not wear dresses, not even for fun, and not even for seven months one time to avoid the army.  As for you, hop into that bed right now.  Tonight, I want you to think about what you just said and what your poor, dear, departed, saintly, deceased, beautiful, dead mother would say.  I shall be next door if you need anything.”

I went back to the other rented room and dropped down onto the bed.  I was asleep instantly.  I frequently fell asleep instantly, as I was usually exhausted from dealing with my unruly offspring, which is to say my daughter, which is to say Ethyl.

It seemed I was asleep only a minute, when I was awakened by the sounds of shouting and the clanging of sword and shield.  Grabbing my own sword and my own shield, I ran out of the room.  A quick glance next door showed me that Ethyl was still asleep.  I hurried down the stairs and out the door.

I almost immediately ran into a giant leg.  It was attached to a giant body, which is to say, a giant.  It was not Thurid Njärlbjörnsdöttir, for it was a male giant.  He carried a huge axe in one hand and a torch in the other.  He looked about ready to toss that torch onto the tavern.  Not wanting that to happen, I stabbed him in the kneecap, which was just about at eye level with me.  With a cry, he dropped to his knees.  But before I could stab him in an even more tender spot, he arched his back and fell forward, struck from behind.  As the giant dropped into the dirt, I came face-to-face with the warrior who had finished him off, which it to say, killed him.  It was Ellwood Cyrene.

Eaglethorpe Buxton and… Something about Frost Giants

Chapter Three: In which I hear the story of Thurid Njärlbjörnsdöttir.

“So, my dear,” said I.  “How did you come to be sitting behind this tavern making pies, when I happen to know that your people live far to the north on the great icy glacier known as The Skagarack?”

“Aren’t all glaciers icy?” she queried.

“Not at all.  In the distant south there is a glacier they call Monoglyceride that is made entirely of oil.”

“If it’s oil, then why doesn’t it just flow away?”

“Oh, it does.  It just flows very slowly.  Not as slowly as ice, but slower than water.”

“That doesn’t sound possible,” she said.

“Many things that sound impossible, are actually possible,” said I.  “For instance, there is a giant animal in the fetid, stinking jungles of Ennedi called an elephant.”

“How giant is it?”

I looked at her.

“Well, not so giant that you would call it such, being quite large yourself, but it has five legs and horns growing out of the bottom of its head.”

“That doesn’t sound possible either.”  She climbed to her feet and stretched, before sitting back down.  “Now I don’t know what to believe.”

“All the world knows Eaglethorpe Buxton and all the world knows that he would never lie just to make a point.  But more to the point, or more to a different point, why are you here among humans instead of with your own kind?”

“You really want to hear my story?” she asked.

“If I don’t, then the title of this chapter makes no sense,” said I.

“Well, here is my tale, such as it is.  My clan lives in a fortress in one of the great rifts in The Skagarack.  We are just one of many clans of Frost Giants.  For as long as anyone can remember, the various clans would join together and go off to war.  We have always been naturally warlike.  We warred mostly with the Sky People and the Cloud Giants, but then they exterminated one another, and we had to go further afield to find enemies.  We went far to the west and attacked the lands of Catolan and Aerithraine, but the queen of that latter nation proved to be a match for our armies.”

“She’s a heinous bitch.”

I looked to see that Ethyl had returned from seeing to the horses.

“Did you see that the horses had oats and water?”

“Oats and water,” she said, rolling her eyes at me, “and ordered the stablemaster to give them both a good brushing.”

“I was just hearing the story of Thurid Njärlbjörnsdöttir,” said I.  “You can tell it’s an important story by looking at the top of the page.”

“Whatever,” said Ethyl.

She picked up a bucket of sand near the giant oven and turned it over, using it as a stool.

“Please continue, my dear,” I told the giantess.

“Well, with no enemies to war with, our people eventually went to war with each other.  My clan became embroiled in a bloody conflict with the Ice Peak Clan.  During one of the battles, we captured a dozen of their warriors.  Among them was the Ice Peak Jarl’s son.”

“Jarl?” I asked.

“It means king,” said Ethyl.

“I knew that, of course,” said I.  “I was just going to ask you if you knew it.  Thankfully you did, so we can continue the story without you having to be punished for ignorance.”

“You are a coxcomb,” said Ethyl.

“It is a term of affection,” I told Thurid Njärlbjörnsdöttir.  “Now, continue with the story.”

“We captured Gorm Birggersson, the son of the Ice Peak Jarl.  I was put in charge of bringing the prisoners their food.”

“I can see it already,” said I.  “The two of you met each day as you brought him his meals.  You talked.  You found out how much you shared in common.  Then you fell in love, a forbidden love, forever separated by the strife that separated your families.”

“No,” she said.  “That is not what happened.”

“Then what happened?”

“I brought him his food.  He told me that I was a horrible cook and that I was a fat ugly cow.  Naturally, I stabbed him.”

“Naturally,” said I.  “I hope he learned his lesson.”

“No,” she said.  “He just died.”

“This is the best story I’ve ever heard,” said Ethyl.

“It does have its charm,” I opined, “though it will need some major revisions to be suitable for the taprooms and alehouses of Lyrria.  I am thinking something along the lines that he fell in love with her so terribly that he committed suicide.  People like when someone kills himself over love.  Drunk people especially like it.”

“But he didn’t love me, and he didn’t kill himself,” said the giant woman.

“No, not yet,” said I.

“So, why the hell are you here?” asked my daughter.

“Ethyl!” I chastised her.  “Do not hurry a storyteller!”

I nodded toward the giantess.

“Killing a prisoner is against our laws,” she said.  “I was banished from my home.  And having nowhere else to go, I came south.  I had hunted as I traveled and took down several deer, so when I stopped here, I made a meat pie.  The townspeople were wary of me, but I shared some of the pie with them and they let me stay.  Master Turklewink offered me this job.  I have been baking pies for the last three days.  When I have enough money, I will build myself a cottage here.  There is plentiful wood in the forest, but I’ll need to buy some things to set up house.”

“Wait a minute, wait a minute,” said Ethyl.  “That guy in there is named Turklewink?”

“That is his name.  I believe his first name is Claud.”

“Claud Turklewink!” snorted Ethyl.

“It is late,” I told Thurid Njärlbjörnsdöttir.  “We have a room here, and with any luck, we shall be able to eat another of your pies on the morrow.”

“Good night,” said the giantess.

“Come along, Ethyl.  Let us turn in for the night.”

“You go ahead,” she said.  “I’ve got to find the outhouse and drop a clod and a turklewink.”

Eaglethorpe Buxton and… Something about Frost Giants

Chapter Two: In which I ponder the theoretical limit of piesmiths.

I was very full and satisfied by the time I had finished my slice of pie, or at least by the time I had finished that portion of it that I had eaten.  I would wager I had eaten a good ten pounds of that slice, and despite the fact that she had claimed to be sick of pie, I would wager that Ethyl had eaten more than I had.  Even so, there was far more of that slice left than there was gone, which is to say, we ate less than half of it.

“My good fellow,” I called to the tavernkeeper.  “I did not see an inn when we rode into town.”

“We don’t get too many visitors up these parts,” he replied.  “We’ve got two rooms to let upstairs though.  For a sovereign, you can have both rooms, and I’ll have you a hot bath drawn.”

“That sounds excellent,” said I.  “I did see a stable.  Can you have a boy take our horses over?”

“That I can, sir.”

“Have him tell the stablemaster to give them oats,” said I.

“And a good brush down too,” added Ethyl.

“That is a good idea,” said I.

“And check their hooves,” added Ethyl.

“Also, a good idea.”

“Never mind,” she said.  “I don’t trust anyone else with the horses.  I’ll do it myself.”

She jumped to her feet and left the premises, which is to say walked out of the tavern.

“Girls and horses have a natural affinity,” I told the tavernkeeper.  “Now, about this piesmith…”

“What about the piesmith?” asked the man.

“That was a clever use of an ellipses in order to demonstrate that I want to meet your piesmith,” said I.

“Oh.  Right this way,” he said, leading me through the room and into the kitchen.

I had expected to find said piesmith in the kitchen, and not only that.  I had expected to find some amazingly large oven in which to bake an amazingly large pie.  That was not the case.  The oven was a normal sized one, incapable of baking the pie that I had seen and eaten part of.

“This way,” said the tavernkeeper, leading out the back door.

Behind the tavern was an oven.  It was round and made of fitted stones.  Sitting cross-legged beside it was a giant woman, or more precisely, a giantess.  She would have been a good fifteen feet tall, had she been standing up, and she was proportionately large all over.  Long blond hair hung past her shoulders, and she wore a jacket and pants made by the sewing together of dozens if not scores of thick furs of various colors.

“This is Thurid,” said the tavernkeeper.  “She made the pie.”

“Thurid,” I repeated.  “What a lovely name.  I must compliment you on it and your pie.”

“The choice of name was not mine,” she said.  “My father named me.  My full name is Thurid Njärlbjörnsdöttir.”

She had a lovely voice, though a trifle deep for a woman, and a trifle loud for a human being, which she wasn’t, because she was a giant.

“But I thank you for the compliment on my pie, though I’m a bit ashamed that it was so small.”

“It was a very fine pie,” said I.  “I would not say that it was too small, though I am generally of the opinion that most pies should be larger.”

The tavernkeeper turned to go back inside, but I stopped him.

“You should introduce me.”

“Oh, yes.  Thurid, may I introduce story-teller Eaglethorn Bucklenut.”

“That’s Eaglethorpe Buxton, with a thorp instead of a thorn and bux instead of a buckle and a ton instead of a nut.”

“Eaglethorpe Buxton,” she mused, as the tavernkeeper left us.  “I believe I have heard of Eaglethorpe Buxton.”

I liked the sound of my name when she said it, though truth be told, I generally liked the sound of my name, as long as it was pronounced correctly and not mixed with nuts and thorns and buckles.  When Thurid Njärlbjörnsdöttir said it, it sounded like it was being amplified by magic, or by being spoken by a really large woman.

“Perhaps you know me as the great and heroic adventurer,” I suggested.

“No,” she said.

“Then you must know me from one of my many wonderful tales, such as Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Mercenary Warrior Who Ought Not to be a Woman but Secretly Was.”

“I do not think so,” she said.

“How about Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Fury of the Monkey People?

“No.”

Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Fork of Destiny?”

“No.  I do not think I heard of you as a story-teller.”

“Well, some people know me as a playwright,” said I.

“I know,” she said.  “It was a human man named Eaglethorpe Buxton that caused a war between the Cloud Giants and the Sky People, which ended up destroying both their civilizations.”

“I remember it differently,” said I.

Eaglethorpe Buxton and… Something about Frost Giants

Chapter One: In which I ponder the theoretical limit of pies.

It was the largest pie I had ever seen.  When I say that, you can rest assured that it means something, because I am Eaglethorpe Buxton, famed around the world as a heroic adventurer, a brilliant author and storyteller, and a connoisseur of pies.  There are some who would insist that I am a connoisseur of pies first and foremost, but that is not true.  While it is true that there are some who would slanderously, which is to say with much slander, espouse that Elwood Cyrene is a more heroic adventurer than me, there are none who could claim, even slanderously, that there is a better storyteller.  On the other hand, I would freely admit that my cousin Celia is at least the connoisseur of pies that I am, though perhaps not the eater of pies that I am.  In any case, it was a large pie.

“That must be the world’s largest pie,” said I.

“It is a large pie,” said the man standing opposite me, who was the local tavernkeeper.  “I don’t know about the world, but it is the largest pie in Fencemar, for it is baked in the largest pie pan that could be found in the town.”

“Not surprising,” said I.  “I would imagine that not a bigger pie pan could be found in Celestria herself.”

“Notwithstanding that,” said he.  “If she could have come by a bigger pan, our piesmith was more than ready to make a bigger pie still.  In fact, she expressed great disgust that this was the best we could do in cast iron production.”

“I should like to meet this piesmith,” said I.  “First though, I would like to eat a slice of that pie.”

“Then have a seat,” said he.  “It’s a sovereign for a slice, but that slice is a full meal for a grown man and his three grown sons.”

“Then there may well be enough for me,” said I, “and my daughter.”

“Come in here, Ethyl!” I called.  “It’s pie for dinner!”

“Ethyl is a lovely name,” said the tavernkeeper, but he stopped and stared at the seven-year-old ball of spit and anger that stomped into the room.

“Her real name is Ethylthorpe,” said I.

“It’s Ethyl!” she hissed, “and I’m sick of pie!”

“Lovely child,” said the man, but he was being polite, or he was mistaken, or he had some kind of degenerative eye disease, because Ethylthorpe Buxton was not a lovely child.  She wore a pair of baggy overalls and a stained shirt, and she was covered in dirt from head to toe.  She had snot running from her right nostril and bloody scab on her forehead.  Long gone was the lovely pink and yellow dress that I had ordered her dressed in that morning, and now, the only indication that she was a girl and not some kind of grotesque miniature half-ogre, was her long blond hair, and in it, only one of my carefully braided pigtails remained.

“You’ll sit there, and you’ll eat that pie,” said I, “and you’ll like it, or I’ll give you what for!”

She sat down at the table I had selected, crossed her arms, and stuck out her tongue at me.  I unwrapped my heavy cloak and put it on the back of the chair.

The tavernkeeper went to the pie and cut out a slice, which he placed on a wooden platter only slightly smaller than a wagon wheel.  Then he and two of the tavern girls wrestled it to my table, which it completely covered.

“Not to put too fine a point on it,” said he.  “I did say it was a sovereign.”

“That you did,” said I, tossing him the required gold coin.

“You folk are from Aerithraine,” said he, showing the obverse of the coin, which is to say the front, upon which sat the image of a beautiful woman.  “I recognized Queen Elleena.”

“She’s a beastly hag!” growled Ethyl.  “And I don’t want a huffleberry pie!”

“You will show some respect!” I growled right back at her.  “Respect for huffleberry pie, if not for the queen!”

“Hmph!” she hmphed.

“I come from Aerithraine originally,” I explained, “but I’ve been living in Lyrria some seven years now.”

“I’ll get you some forks,” said the tavernkeeper.

“Not to fear,” said I, whipping out my fork from my shirt pocket, which I call my fork pocket, for it is the pocket in which I carry my fork.

I glared at Ethyl, until she too produced her fork, waving it at me insolently.  Like mine, it was made of fine silver and featured a stylized E on the handle.

I sat opposite my dirt-encrusted offspring and took a bite of the pie.  It was very good.  Despite huffleberries not being my favorite, something that I was not going to admit to my unclean progeny, it was sweet and tart, and the crust was first rate.  I had expected huffleberry pie, because we were traveling in the far north of The Fallen Lands, just along the southern border of the great glacier known as The Skagarack, and in the far north of The Fallen Lands, just along the southern border of the great glacier known as The Skagarack, there were no fruits to be had except for huffleberries, which only grow where it is too cold for any other plant to grow that isn’t mostly made of pine needles and pine cones, which is to say pine trees.

“Eat your pie,” said I.

Ethyl grumbled but took a bite.

“You should be happy to get a pie,” said I.  “You know there are some places in the world where a man would kill for a good pie.”

“You know there are some places in the world where a man would kill for a good pie,” she repeated mockingly, which is to say, full of mock.

“Oh, how sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child,” quoth I.

“Plagiarer!” she said, jumping to her feet, taking an accusing stance and pointing at me.  “You did steal that line from William Shakespeare and his play Macbeth!”

“Nonsense,” said I.  “I did take that line from Eaglethorpe Buxton and his play MacElizabeth, and I am allowed, as I am that self-same Eaglethorpe Buxton.”

“I’ve heard of you,” said a tavern girl, stopping at the table.

She was quite attractive, with short vanilla hair and cherry lips, and her generous breasts threatened to fall right out of the top of her blouse, the top three buttons of which were undone.

“And what have you heard, my dear?” I asked.

“I have heard that you are a teller of tales, quite free with your coin, and the greatest lover in all of Duaron.”

“You know me well,” said I.

“Can I bring you a beer?” she asked.

“You are not only lovely,” said I, “but you’re clearly very smart, which is to say, yes, beer.”

“How about her?” she asked, nodding toward Ethyl.

“Bring me a beer too,” said Ethyl.

“Oh, sit down already,” I ordered her, for she was still standing accusingly.  “Unless you sit, no beer for you.”

She sat.

“We have milk,” said the tavern girl.

“I’m lactose intolerant!” hissed Ethyl.

“What does that mean?”

“It means that milk is too good for her,” I said.

Eaglethorpe Buxton and… Something about Frost Giants

Has Eaglethorpe’s daughter been replaced by a vile doppelganger?  Wait… Eaglethorpe has a daughter?  Who is her mother?  And why is he on the outs with his best friend Ellwood Cyrene?  And I assume there are frost giants somewhere in this book.  It’s another improbable tale from the wandering storyteller and scoundrel Eaglethorpe Buxton.

It is here, friends.  You can download it at the following address free: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1102572

Astrid Maxxim and her High-Rise Air Purifier – Chapter 12 Excerpt

The Suncraft arrived in Honololu just before noon.  It took just over an hour to refuel and some of the passengers, Toby, Austin, Denise, and Penelope among them, went for a walk through the airport terminal to stretch their legs.  Christopher had fallen asleep just before they had landed, and nobody wanted to wake him up.  Astrid spent the time talking to the flight crew and going over the safety check with them.

“Look who I found,” said Penelope upon her return, pulling along a wiry young woman of medium height, with a strong nose, bright eyes, and massive waves of curly brown hair.

“Hello, Paige!” called Astrid, hurrying to give the newcomer a big hug.

“Hey, Boss.”

Paige Liebowitz looked much younger than her twenty-eight years.  She had been in charge of Maxxim world-wide construction projects for the past two years, but now, pending board approval, was the Senior Vice President of Construction, upon Astrid’s recommendation.

“Tell me you’re coming to Beijing with us.”

“I had to agree to come to stop Penny from whining about it,” said Paige, elbowing Penelope, whose sour face indicated that she was no fonder of Paige calling her by her childhood nickname than anyone else.

“Come on, boys!” called Paige, waving forward Austin and Toby, both weighed down with metal cargo chests.  “Here comes lunch, dinner, and snacks for the rest of this epic voyage.”

The five of them loaded the food into the plane’s kitchen area and were ready by the time the aircraft was prepared to return to the skies.

“Wait!  Denise came running across the tarmac, waving her hands.  “Don’t leave without me!”

“Where have you been?” asked Astrid, as the door was pulled closed and the two of them maneuvered toward their seats.  

Denise pointed to her face.  The tiny gold ring that normally hung from the center of her nose, just above her full upper lip, had been replaced by a ring, that while no larger, featured a tiny round coral bead in the middle.  It definitely made the jewelry more noticeable.

Astrid pulled out her phone and began typing.

“What are you doing?” asked Denise.

“I’m texting your brother that this wasn’t my fault.”

“No, you would never do anything as dangerous as help me pick out jewelry,” said Denise.  “You’re all about throwing me into shark infested waters or killing me in a…”

She stopped and looked like she was biting her tongue.

“What?” said Astrid.

“I was going to say killing me in a plane crash, but I don’t want to anger the aircraft gods.”“Good thinking,” said Astrid.

Astrid Maxxim and her High-Rise Air Purifier – Chapter 9 Excerpt

“You’re going steady?” said Denise with a frown, while looking around the Brown-Richards back yard.  “Is this the 1940s?  Have we gone back in time?  I distinctly remember telling you that I didn’t want to be part of your time travel experiments.”

She was seated, facing Astrid, as both relaxed in the family’s bubbling hot tub. “There’s no such thing as time travel,” said Astrid, “and quit making fun of us.  I think it’s sweet that he wanted to go steady.”

“Yeah, sweet like that artificial sugar substitute that makes you break out in hives.  We’re young, beautiful women and we should be out playing the field.  We should be serial dating, and not granola either but some cereal with lots of real sugar, that rots your teeth and makes you bounce off the walls like a hyperactive puppy.”

“Sometimes I wonder if even you know what you’re talking about,” said Astrid.

“I’m talking about dating.”

“But you’re dating Christopher.”

“That’s right; I am,” said Denise, “right up until I see somebody I want to date more.  And then I date that guy, unless I find out he’s not as good as Christopher and then I go back to dating him.”

“But you always go back to Christopher.”

“That’s because they never turn out to be better,” Denise grumbled.

“Doesn’t it bother you if he goes out with someone else too?” asked Astrid.

“No.  He can date Alicia all he wants… if he likes big butts and stupid faces.”

“Well, as long as you don’t mind,” said the girl inventor.

At that moment, Astrid’s phone rang from where her pants were draped over a patio chair.  She answered using her Maxxim Carpe wrist computer.

“Hello?”

“Astrid?  Hi.  It’s Michelle Pennington.  I hope you don’t mind me calling.  I got your number from Dr. Born.”

“No problem.  What’s up?”

“Arthur and I were going over our experiments and we think we have a winner.”

Astrid and the Pennington twins had, weeks earlier, set up an experiment to test a dozen compounds of Astridium to see which, if any, might absorb carbon from the air.

“You’re looking over the results now?  At school?  It’s Sunday.”

“It’s all right,” said Michelle.  “Dr. Born is with us, and Mrs. Frost is somewhere in the building.”

“Mrs. Frost,” grumbled Denise, evidently still upset about the aborted assault on her nose ring.“All right,” said Astrid.  “We can go over the results in class tomorrow and if it works out, we should start designing some kind of prototype device to use the product.”