The Ugly Ogre of Fiffenbrew
About a year ago– along the lines of a year, two months and three days, actually—Wizzfeth Stipplewhim left the foothill village of Nolkay at sunrise of his seventh day in town. He bid very few farewells. In fact, some of the townsfolk cheered, probably because they knew he answered the call of another adventure. He packed up his fur-covered satchel, gave his room key back to the lady innkeeper who resembled a stick with a tuft of mud-gray drooping leaves for hair, and started the journey south through the foothills of the eastern Praedons. Since winter forgot it wasn’t supposed to show up for another week or so, the smell of snow promised flakes would soon cover the ground.
He walked for two days, occasionally recounting the keepsakes acquired from his wanderings through the green fields of the mid Yitanian lands. Only when he reached for a pocket of salted cooked meat did he realize he needed more. The drifting smoke from hearths beyond a grove of leafless trees beckoned to the weary Gedni. Not wanting to offend the inviting smoke, and it being close to nightfall, he obliged. He smiled through the dark brown stubble on his face and tromped into town with images of a clean shave and a full meal dancing in his mind.
He passed a gently swaying road sign that read 1‘Welcome to Fiffenbrew” in smooth lettering. The woodland town he entered should have been filled with life, but oddly it was not. The streets yielded no horse or foot traffic. No one called to Nobody to buy their wares, and the closed doors of businesses held signs saying ‘Open’ that should have had ‘with caution’ scribbled beneath them.
“Hello!” He cupped his hands around his mouth. “Is anyone here? I really need to take a bath!”
He feared his voice would scare away any birds that silently adorned the trees. The only other time Wizzfeth had encountered such a lonely scene was three months back in the Anairan planes in a recently deserted nomadic settlement next to the Énoé River. That was to be expected; nomads were nomads for a reason, after all. This, however –a town fully settled with brick and mortar buildings, a central well, and a dairy house (for cheese is very, very important in a well balanced meal)—was not.
He entertained the worrying thought that he had unwittingly stumbled into a wake, and the people’s way of honoring the dead was to say nothing at all. Though Yitan was a long, vast land united by King i’Dahlutan the first, the traditions of some of the old Kingdoms still remained. For all he knew, this could be one of them. If not, he thought the village must have come under attack by the Dominion –for this area of Yitan is governed by a Liege Lord defeated by the Highlord, Valk, and allowed to stay in power if he followed Dominion law. It’s a common practice that hardly raises any eyebrows these days. Without any bodies from either side to be seen, or fires burning the fields, that theory quickly vanished. A dragon attack would make for a fantastic story. Still, again, no fires. What he knew of magic –which is more than he’s willing to let on to save his hide—failed to show its involvement in the unnatural silence. The town was simply…empty.
Wizzfeth shuffled through a pile of leaves that seemed to have all dropped off the tree above it simultaneously. He accepted the dare of the ‘Open’ sign snarling at him from the door of ‘The Arrogant Fop Tavern’, and stepped inside.
It nearly burst at the edges with people. A fire crackled in the hearth heating the room to an almost unbearable level, though no one seemed to notice. He elbowed through the murmuring crowd to the bar and squeezed between a farmer and a slim Gnome on a stool to see over the bar top. The farmer gave the Gedni a sneer, but let him be.
“What’s going on around here? Has the town been cursed?” Wizzfeth deftly snagged three grits from a patron’s tip and pushed it over as his own payment for something to drink. “Is there a battle I need to prepare for?”
The Gnome bubbled in his brew before swallowing. “Yup, yup. Ogre took our Heart.”
“An Ogre? Ya don’t say.”
“I do say,” the Gnome continued. “We call him Grunkle. He’s been attacking day and night since our Heart disappeared! You’re lucky to get in here alive. Mmhmm. Anyone who goes outside for too long first hears his terrible roar before he drags you away into the forest.”
“I am a trained Adventurer, my good Gnome. I have fought the 2bat-winged P’nai she-mage of Balantagh, battled the Odious Overbite of the foul-breathed Weaselrat, and valiantly ate three—no—four whole pies in the annual Serillian Crossroads Festival in one sitting.”
A handful of others stopped their conversation to listen to his fantastic feats in awe.
Wizzfeth leapt on top of the stool. “They were the size of a troll’s head, and twice as thick, with a gooey center that exploded in steam when you sliced into them—“
The entire room stared at him annoyingly, and somewhere in the distance, a cricket chirped.
“Still,” mused the middle-aged Gedni, taking his seat, “An Ogre attacking a village. You don’t see those every day. Fascinating.” He tipped up his woolen green flat cap. “Are you sure it was an Ogre, though? Could it be a dragon, or an Arcyn Wolf, or a really really fat squirrel?”
The Gnome balked at the new comer. “It was not a squirrel! I am Seef! Seef sees what Seef sees, and Seef saw what Seef saw. And Seef did NOT see a squirrel!”
Wizzfeth glanced around the room to the others. “How interesting.”
Indeed it was interesting if you know anything about Ogres. Your average Ogre smells five times worse than he looks, and thinks three times more slowly than he can run. Their skin is gray as caked mud, and their eyes are as dull as bone buttons on a sleeve. Through the flat pupils, if you dare to look, there’s a spark in them that would make a Warrior shiver. Since it’s common knowledge that they stick to their marked territories, the average man can avoid having his skull crushed like a ripe sweetmelon if he knows where not to venture. All of these elements make for an average Ogre.
“Aha, then! You’re not dealing with an average Ogre,” Wizzfeth tipped the glass to his lips when it was served to him. “Must be a rogue. Highly dangerous creature. What do you mean by ‘Heart?’”
Seef slurped up more brew and wiped at his mouth. “Our Heart is what brings spring to our forest. It—“
He was cut short when a large fist banged against the bar top. “Enough, Seef,” the farmer said. “He’s a stranger. Ain’t no good getting’ a stranger involved in our business.”
Wizzfeth nodded. “Oh, I agree. Strangers are strange folk, indeed. Never met one I liked, personally. Hardly trustworthy, and,” he sniffed his underarms, “smell horribly. Could I trouble you for a bathhouse?”
He was pointed to the middle of town. With a thanks to the inebriated Gnome –who soon fell off his stool in a fit of hiccups—he left ‘The Arrogant Fop’ in search of the Fiffenbrew Bathouse.
The sound of his jovial whistling bounced off the windows and filled the lonely street. Yet he knew he wasn’t alone. Wizzfeth spun at the crackling of twigs behind him. “Who’s there?” he demanded. Whatever it was wouldn’t find him in a bathhouse. No one goes in there without paying or an invitation. Determined to get off the streets, he turned on his heel to run, and slammed into the base of a square stone pedestal as high as his head.
“Ow! Who puts a pedestal in the middle of the road? What kind of architect thinks this is a good idea? Must have been the idea of an apprentice.” He noticed, through the haze of throbbing pain in his nose, an inscription just below the top edge of the stone. Two dainty, light-hued bare Human footprints indicated where something once stood atop the pedestal. He read the inscription aloud.
“May Our Heart Stand Eternal Against the Tide of our Enemy.”
He wondered who would be rude enough to steal a statue from an ill-placed pedestal. The guilty party was probably some other poor fool who slammed into it face first.
Leaves rustled loudly behind him. Wizzfeth crumpled up his nose at a sudden putrid stench of dirty socks and moldy butter mixed with fermenting berries. He froze as a bone-chilling guttural roar vibrated the air around him. Loud, hot breath moistened the back of his neck.
It took more effort in that moment to turn around than it ever had to heft a weapon in his life. He gulped, wide-eyed and paralyzed.
Towering above him at a full Human-and-a-half height loomed the scowling beetle-black eyes of the largest, bulkiest, ugliest Ogre he had ever smelled. Its dog-like face held hundreds of wrinkles, and its nose looked as though someone had slammed it into its skull with a shovel. Thick teeth like those of a Gantu bull’s jutted up from an underbite, and downward in boar-like tusks. Its hide was littered with the scars of battles with warriors that failed to return home. Thick, dark calluses and pustules oozing an acrid stench pockmarked its near naked body. Thank Livanthia for the strip of leather the creature dared to deem a ‘loin cloth.’
Wizzfeth grinned with a nervous chuckled. “You must be Grunkle. I’ve heard a lot about you.” He shrank back when the Ogre growled closer. “Good things, only good things.”
The roar that followed burst through the Gedni’s eardrums, into his skull, and bounced around his head like a wild Fire Sprite indulged with too much kava. He rolled away from the force of the sound.
The Ogre thundered after him, scraping its massive hand against the ground as it scooped up its tiny prize. Its meaty paw covered half of the Gedni’s body.
Wizzfeth nearly lost his hat. He squirmed and wriggled, punched, and kicked, bit, and spit out the nasty flavor, but his attacker’s grip held. “You don’t want to eat me,” he tried. “My bones are crunchy, my skin is easily torn, my muscles are thick and– Ok, I’m not sending the right message here, am I? Let me try this again.”
Into the forest he was carried like a sack of grain. The stalks of the trees seemed to turn their backs on him and his plight. Throughout the jostling journey, he tried every way possible to convince the Ogre to let him go. The Ogre splashed across a river, trudged up a hill, and when Wizzfeth was sure he was going to have to start singing to get the beast to release him, they entered a wide-mouthed cave hidden by a veil of Ola Ivy. The beast dropped him onto a pile of old cloth that bore the faded blue and gold crest of the Yitanian Warriors. Around him were bodies ripped in half, missing limbs, bones with teeth marks ground into them, helmets, and even a horse or two that failed to escape the wrath of the 3two story tall mountain beast. It was clear that Wizzfeth’s adventuring life would end there in its wicked gut.
He picked up a bone from a jagged pile and flattened himself against the wall with his weapon aimed to spear out the Ogre’s eyes.
He darted quickly to the opposite side of the cave, swinging the bone at the Ogre and hitting its kneecap with a loud ‘crack!’ The Ogre howled and swiped at him, aiming to take his head clean off. Wizzfeth –knowing more about Ogres than the average Gedni—dove into the ivy and began to climb. He swung from side to side like a Mataru Squirrel, and just when it was about to latch its long, 4razor-sharp jaws around his leg, he twisted up and around just in time to avoid losing a foot. His pants, however, did not fare so well. The Ogre caught hold of the rope holding his trousers –three sizes too big– up instead, and in a ‘whoosh’ of fabric, it became blinded by the only clothing it had probably ever worn. Thinking fast, Wizzfeth jumped onto its back and pulled the pants over its face. The Ogre bucked and roared, but the brave Gedni held fast and even shouted in excitement –as though riding a wild Gantu Bull (which he had when he was blessed enough to meet Kin Dindan and his incredible flying Gantu Cow, — but we digress).
That’s when he caught sight of a strange mark painted into the tough hide at the base of its barrel-thick neck. Unless this Ogre had suddenly decided to dabble in intricate body painting in the only place its sausage-like fingers couldn’t reach, the only logical reason left was simple: The mark was a curse. And every learned man knows the only way to remove a curse is to remove the curse-mark. And the best way to do that is to take a bath. Plus, this creature needed one much more severely than Wizzfeth. He pulled back as hard as possible on the waistband of the pants and dug his heels into the creature’s neck. It flailed its arms, staggering toward the steep hill.
While it was busy trying to rid itself of its annoying passenger, it failed to remember a cliff just to the right of the hill leading down into the rushing river. Wizzfeth, however, did not. He steered the creature to the dangerous drop, sweating and straining to keep control. At the last possible moment, he released his grip and grabbed onto the low hanging branch of a nearby tree. The Ogre spun around, roaring in rage to grab him, and tumbled over the edge of the cliff. It hit the water with a mighty ‘slap! Splash!’ as though someone had tipped an entire lotten oak into the river.
Wizzfeth dropped to the ground and ran around down the hill to the water’s edge. “Haha! I keep telling people that baths are a marvelous thing, but no one ever believes me. Believe me now!” He ran to keep up with the flailing beast as the river carried it through rough rapids, banging it against granite rocks, and finally dumping its stinking body over a waterfall into a lake. Wizzfeth waited to see if it would bob into sight before he dared declare the creature dead. But only his pants bubbled up with air from the drowning Ogre. Although Ogres are vicious on land, they are utterly useless in water.
Wizzfeth stood triumphant, arms akimbo, and full of pride at defeating the Ugly Ogre of Fiffenbrew. A valiant thing such as this is far more important than a pair of trousers. He was thankful for his long tunic as, even for a famous Adventurer like himself, having one’s bits and pieces waving in the breeze is unseemly.
He stepped into the water to retrieve his clothing, but halted when the surface of the lake turned the color of a King’s most precious gold. It sparkled like gems as it converged together, melting and mixing into a swirling ring of sunlight. His chin dropped in awe as the lithe form of a woman rose from the golden orb, clothed in a simple dress of the same color –as though the gold itself had become her mantle. The sleeves of her gown hugged her wrists with ornate ivory trim resembling knotted ivy. A slim aureate circlet wrapped around her long auburn hair. She stepped across the water as if it were solid ground and stopped just as the shores lapped at her dainty feet –feet the same size as the prints on the town pedestal. With a smile she offered the small, brave Gedni his pants –completely dry—though he could barely form words of thanks in the face of such beauty.
“You, you mu-must be the statue from the, the, the—“ he stammered, taking them and putting them on.
“I am Lady Elayn, the Heart of Spring. Thank you for freeing me from that wicked curse.” Her voice dripped into his ears with the same seductive power of a heartfelt ballad played by a bard in love.
Wizzfeth bowed deeply. “It is my pleasure. But who would want to curse you?”
She frowned. “An embittered P’nai mage named Serestin did this. His heart was so jaded by the war against his people that he couldn’t bear to see anything beautiful after so much destruction. He painted that mark on my neck from sheer jealousy of what I stand for. It cursed me to destroy the one thing I hold dear.” She regarded him with a slight bow of her head. “I owe you a great debt of gratitude, my small Gedni.”
Wizzfeth blushed. “As soon as I heard the story of Fiffenbrew’s plight, I knew I must do whatever it took to rid the town of its aggressor. A man would do no less for the people of the land he loves. For I, Mistress of Spring, am Wizzfeth Stipplewhim of Gade, legendary Adventurer, explorer, and Mendace for the greater Gedni society. Why, just the other day I mentioned to 5Seef in ‘The Arrogant Fop’ that a new quest called my name, and that it would be a glorious adventure full of terror and death-defying feats of bravery, and that he would hear of it as the bards sang tales of Wizzfeth the—“
She pressed her hand to the top of his cap, and he fell silent. Being a Gedni of honor, he escorted the Lady back to town.
Each delicate footstep brought green back to the grasses, rich colors to the flowers and life into the trees. Her gift of Spring trailed behind her like a cloak of warmth. The townsfolk of Fiffenbrew emerged from the shelter of their homes, unlocked their doors, and opened their windows in great cheers as Wizzfeth strode boisterously beside Lady Elayn. She stopped at the pedestal and held out her hand to him. Resting on her palm lay a slim, silver two pronged fork etched with the same pattern as that adorning her sleeve.
“If you ever need my help, strike this against any hard surface. Its clear tone will alert me and I will be at your side.” She bent to kiss his cheek before taking her place atop the pedestal.
“I will, fair Maiden of Spring.” Wizzfeth clutched the tuning fork against his chest.
In a flash of sunlight, Lady Elayn’s visage smiled on the town from a marble statue with her right arm at her side, her left hand resting over her middle.
Spring returned in full to the Forest and village of Fiffenbrew. The people celebrated long into the night with a great feast, music, ale and mead flowing continuously, and all with Wizzfeth as their honored guest. He took great pleasure in telling and retelling his battle with the Ogre to all who would listen.
As the sun rose the following day, Wizzfeth gathered his things and bid the townsfolk farewell. He paused only to bow in reverence to the statue of Lady Elayn. With his supplies refreshened, his trousers cleaned, and the people waving goodbye to their savior, he took to the road once more ready for his next adventure.
The important part in the morning before his departure was that he finally got the chance to luxuriate in a hot bath — free of charge.
1 Upon further research, there is a forest in the south-eastern area of the Yitanian region called the Forest of Theffenborough. It is the opinion of this bard that Mr. Stipplewhim either did not hear the name pronounced correctly, or could not remember it, and came to his own conclusion. ‘Fiffenbrew’ is a mistransliteration.
2 This bard lived in Balantagh for 23 years. There is no such creature as the ‘bat-winged P’nai she-mage,’ nor has there ever been a tale of one.
3 It used to be a Human and a half in height. Its height suddenly changes.
4 Remember when he first said the Ogre had “Thick teeth like those of a Gantu bull’s?” Now they’re suddenly sharp.
5 He’d not known Seef before that very day.
The Fantastic Tales of a Wandering Mendace
My name is Dia Kanmarrae, and I answer to the call of the Bard, wherever it may sing.
The stories you’ll find within these pages are the known adventures of one fearless, and very imaginative little Gedni, Wizzfeth Stipplewhim. I came across Wizzfeth and his jovial renditions in Ranira Gand’s ‘Fang of the Dragon’ tavern as he shared his adventures to half-drunken Dwarves, tiny, slightly deaf Gnomes, hardly-paying-attention Humans, and the horses tethered out front. He is eager to proclaim his title as ‘Renowned Gedni Explorer of the Miraculous and Unknown Lands of Itara.’ No matter who came and went during his animated gesticulating storytelling, he continued on as if the house were full. He amused me so much that I felt these grandiosely silly tales deserved a solid –and unalterable–place to live.
These are the original stories as told to me by Wizzfeth. Whether the details have changed since the actual event or not remains to be seen –if there was an actual event to alter details from to begin with. I’ve taken the liberty of omitting a majority of his subject changes, and added necessary notes at the bottom of each story, though kept true to the tails as much as possible. They are from his point of view, so please keep in mind the Gedni tendency to remember things in a honey-gold haze. These may become useful in the future for posterity purposes, though at this time I can’t think of any particular reason why.
I hope you find the same amount of amusement as I did in the wanderings of an intrepid man who barely reached my elbows in height, but couldn’t be more generous of spirit.
–Dia Kanmarrei, Bard of the town of Balantagh