Saturday, 31 July 2010

Milestones Blogfest

This being my entry for the milestones blogfest. It's one of the more traditional heroic milestones, even if this doesn't work out quite as planned.

Norman’s muscles bulged, or at least creaked ominously, his fingers fighting for purchase on the hilt of the sword, his feet jammed against the stone below it. He paused, swore, and then took out an inhaler from the pack slung across his back. He stepped back, stared at the stone, and reached into the pack again.

A few seconds of work later, and he held the sword aloft. It caught a shaft of light perfectly, sparkling in the early morning sun.

‘Oi!’

A rather elderly figure hobbled forward at speed, leaning on a gnarled staff. He wore an ancient robe that Norman fancied was worked with mystic symbols.

‘What do you think you’re doing?’ the old man demanded. ‘I was in the bath!’

‘I have drawn the sword from the stone,’ Norman said. It sounded more impressive in his head.

‘I can see that. Set all the alarms off too. This thing is supposed to be locked down tight until tomorrow. Bugger off, you.’

‘But I’ve drawn the sword from the stone!’ Norman repeated. ‘I’m the rightful king!’

The old man looked Norman up and down. Or at least, given that Norman was five foot two, down and further down. ‘No you’re not.’

‘What?’

‘The rightful king is a stroppy great bloke called… hang on, I’ve got it written down somewhere… begins with A. Oh, forget it. Anyway, you’re not him.’

Norman put his hands on his hips and attempted to look the other man in the eye. After a moment’s thought, he stood on the rock to do it.

‘That’s not how this works. You don’t know in advance who’s going to pull the sword out.’

‘Of course I do. I’m a powerful seer and wizard, I am. Also,’ the alleged wizard added, ‘he’s not coming by until a little after ten tomorrow, so you can’t be him.’

That didn’t strike Norman as particularly fair, but he didn’t get much chance to say so. The wizard was too busy trying to put the sword back into the little groove it had left in the rock.

‘Honestly, I’ll have to glue it now. And it’s not even as though super glue works. You have to use the builders’ stuff. Have you ever stayed up three hours with your thumb on the pommel of a sword while the glue sets?’

‘Look,’ Norman said, ‘I know how this works. “Whosoever pulls the sword from the stone shall be the rightful king,” the legends say. Whosoever. Not some bloke you’ve picked in advance.’

The wizard shrugged. ‘Well… whosoever is a difficult word, isn’t it? And not just with the things chronicles do with the spellings these days. I mean yes, technically whosoever is right. It’s just that… well, it has to be the right whosoever.’

‘So all this is a fix?’ Norman demanded. This was just typical. Like that thing with the screaming stone in Ireland. Apparently, it only counted if the stone screamed when you stepped on it, not if you just happened to stub your toe…

‘If you want to look at it like that,’ the wizard replied. ‘I mean, it’s not like I’m about to go to the trouble of shoving three foot of steel into granite for just anybody, is it?’

‘Why can’t I be the rightful king? I think I’d make a very good rightful king.’

The wizard appeared to give this some thought.

‘Three reasons. First, you aren’t the right bloke, he’s tougher than you, and you’ll only get your head cut off if you try.’

‘Oh.’

‘Second, I can see that bottle of WD40, you know. Oiling the stone is cheating.’

‘Um…’ Norman hurriedly returned the bottle to his pack.

‘And third… blokes wandering around with swords almost as big as they are is fine, as far as it goes. Perfectly acceptable part of the fantasy landscape, that is. The thing is, generally the swords are almost as big as they are because they’re bloody great two handed things, not because the bloke in question wouldn’t get onto most of the rides at a funfair. It just wouldn’t scan.’

Norman sighed. There hardly seemed to be much point in arguing.

‘Look, just go away,’ the wizard said. ‘Fair play to you for inventiveness, but some of us have a job to do. More of a job now. And I've got to set up some sort of quest thing. Honestly... all I ever wanted from life was a chance to settle down and look after my garden, but do I get chance? They delivered a rockery last week, and... well, let's just say that someone wasn't reading the scale properly, but have I had chance to sort it with all this going on? Have I heck as like. So the last thing I need is some twerp adding to my problems.’

Norman hung his head and skulked off. Well, that hadn’t gone as well as he hoped. That was the problem with these heroic milestones. For some reason, people always seemed to demand heroes. Still…

Norman rooted through his backpack, drawing out a couple of faded maps with big Xs drawn in blood, a scroll labelled “to finde thee rightful kinge”, and a ring with some writing on the inside. The ring next, he thought. He had a good feeling about the ring.

11 comments:

Christina said...

That was really creative. It was funny, but also a little sad. Poor 5'2 Norman. Is this from a longer piece? I really want Norman to reach his goals.

I was drawn to Norman right away. He's one of those characters that you really want something to go right for.

Francine said...

Hi,

Comical take on legend of old - though I do think historians have missed the clue "sword in the stone" as geological property to that of mythical sword in stone - but nicely paced plotting. :)

A fencing man and Sabre blade. Hmm, much prefer a Rapier and fancy tooled hilt. ;)

best
F

Justin W. Parente said...

Stu,

I loved this comical little twist into Arthurian legend. It was so funny, especially when you have the wizard call out Norm's use of the WD40. Of course lubing the stone is cheating. Silly boy! As usual, you're writing is strong, engaging, and in this case it has taken an interesting spin on the standard idea of the milestone. Well done!

Tessa Conte said...

*laughing her head off*

That was...

*still laughing*

ahem... THAT WAS SO COOL!!!

Way the go, Norman. I mean really. Who makes those rules, anyway?

Wonderful story, absolutely wonderful.

Donna Hole said...

Ditto Tessa.

This was hilarious. I always cheer for the underdog - or the off kilter bad boy.

Thank you for participating in my blogfest.

.........dhole

Dawn Embers said...

hehehe

Nice work. I never would have thought of that, but the spoof on the stories is great. Good choice with arthur and the ring at the end is a nice touch. Keeps things moving and I'd probably want to know how those quests turned out. Great, creative take on the milestone blogfest.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

My heart goes out to Norman. "The Norman Conquests" this adventure wasn't -- at least not for him.

Christina is right. You've portrayed Norman so that the reader roots for him. It was very funny, very creative. Roland

February Grace said...

I

LOVED

this!!!

Sorry to shout, it was necessary. I was seriously laughing out loud, I think I scared my husband and he's across the room with headphones on.

Brilliant, gloriously funny.

Perfection. Perfection!!!

bru

Donna Hole said...

Sorry Stu; I posted earlier. Really. I'm having blogger problems.

Saying "I like this" just doesn't cut it, but I do. Who says omnipotent beings have to be likeable.

I love how you end this; with Norman off to discover THE RING. His whole personae is one anyone can identify with. Perseverance in the face of adversity!

Thank you for participating in my blogfest. Non-traditional milestones are my favorite types.

..........dhole

Angela M. said...

Oh, Norman, the story of your life is so funny to me! Stu, I really love your style of taking a far-fetched tale and asking the question "What would really happen?"

I enjoy my visits to your blog, so I'm passing on this lovely award to you!

Tessa Conte said...

I've tagged you on my blog, come check it out!