By Barynsk Tarnysk
Bustfang And The Revel
Barynsk Tarnysk--better known as Bustfang thanks to a broken canine--was in a quandary.
There was a challenge posed by Glaciess to tell a tale--but while Barynsk had a few exploits worth a story or song, none could be told in that court. Maybe he could clean some of them up, censor them? No... That would only render his tales incomprehensible--or thunderously lame.
He was oblivious to the sounds of music until he stumbled and was jerked out of his thoughts. Looking around, he found himself surrounded by Kitsunes, Kitterwings, Spirit Wolves, and Mythical Feriens of all kinds and he was hit by the sound of music and the smell of a great feast. They seized him and brought him before a Kitterwing who sat on a glittering throne. Her eyes narrowed at his intrusion. "You who are called Bustfang have come to my celebration with no invitation from me and no preparation. I, the Lady of the Revel, therefore demand you pay toll."
Bustfang knew better than to ask how she knew his name. "What sort of toll do you want?" he asked. He knew a few sword dances, and some songs that were quite common.
"A tale, I demand of you," she said.
Bustfang looked around at the audience, which included several Furlings. He took a deep breath. "Apologies, my lady, but I don't really have one that young ears should listen to," he admitted.
The Lady of the Revel bared her teeth. "Then alas, and truly alas for you, T'Barynsk Ti'Tarnysk Am'Naheer M'Varaan J'Jesoran Ay'Reeagar Ay'Scarlong Ay'Jemmion Na'Donnkhai," she said, using his full name, "for you have stumbled into my realm and into my power, and a sport shall you be for all here." She gestured towards a tree, and Bustfang found himself going to the spot she indicated and thence he could not move.
The little orchestra near the Lady of the Revel started up an energetic tune, and a Kitsune spoke up. "A dance! I want a dance with him!"
"Very well," said The Lady. "Barynsk Tarnysk, dance with her until the end of the song, and you shall have paid your toll."
Bustfang found he could move then, and he approached the Kitsune. But when she took his hand, Bustfang found himself caught up in the music, and she whirled him round and round to the beat. Bustfang was a decent dancer, and he knew this would only be for one song. This was even turning out to be quite enjoyable. Then the Kitsune spun him, letting him go--and Bustfang had only a moment torealize they were no longer standing on the ground, but 20 feet up. At least the Kitsune had been merciful enough to let him fall while they were over a river.
Bustfang swam to the shore, heart pounding from the shock. The Lady of the Revel shook her head. "You could not last a single song?" she asked with amusement. The Kitsune above him giggled, giving the unfortunate vulpine a teasing wave. Bustfang looked up and realized what he'd stumbled into. He would be sport indeed, forced to play one game after another that he could not win. He prayed to the Prime of Canines Reeagar for the strength to survive the night.
"Ho, a prayer to Reeagar," laughed a burly werewolf as Bustfang fished himself out of the river. "Let us do homage to him with a test of strength." He grinned, rubbing his knuckles.
The Lady of the Revel smirked. "Indeed, wrestle him. If you win, you will have paid your toll."
Bustfang took a deep breath--he'd taken on bigger foes before, but the werewolf carried himself like a fighter in his own right.
The two grappled with each other, and Bustfang's arms were simply too short to get any purchase on his opponent. He managed to slip inside the werewolf's reach a few times, and even threw the monster once, but such small victories were fruitless, as they only gave the werewolf opportunities to slap more holds on the smaller fox. The match was over quickly, with Bustfang forced to surrender. The Lady of the Revel shook her head in mock pity, as the other revellers applauded.
.o0(At least I'm still in one piece), the fox thought as he went back to the river to drink some water. Then he felt a tug on his tail. A kitterkin hovered in front of him. "I wanna play!" he demanded. "Wanna play chase!"
The Lady of the Revel nodded. "This is your final chance to pay your toll. Catch him before the end of the next tune, and your toll to the revel will be paid. Fail, and you shall be our plaything until the morn." Bustfang frantically scrambled after the kitterkin, desperate to catch the small creature and free himself of the predicament he was in. But the creature could fly wherever it pleased, hover just out of the fox's leap, or force him to climb trees only to fly where the fox dared not go. Meanwhile, the song below continued through its course, as Bustfang became more and more desperate--until he went too far out on a limb, which broke beneath him. Through the branches he tumbled, and landed to the sound of the song's final chord. To his shock, no bones seemed broken; and while he was scratched, he was not bleeding.
The Lady of the Revel smirked darkly. "Ah, Barynsk Tarnysk, alas, alas, alas for you. Three chances I gave to you to pay your toll, three times you failed. Now you are ours to do with as we please."
Bustfang knew better than to argue that the "chances" had been no more than jokes. He offered up another prayer, to any prime that might be listening, but he didn't think even Beekin could help him this time.
The werewolf he had wrestled earlier came to lift the unfortunate fox from the ground, to the arms of the Kitsune who'd dropped him in the river. "Another dance," she said. Bustfang had no choice but to comply, his aching body whisked into another energetic dance, whether he could keep with the beat or not. Around and around they spun, until Bustfang collapsed from pain, weariness, and dizziness.
When he finally got up, he was surrounded by spirit wolves. The Lady of Revels held her paw high. "You have until my handkerchief touches the ground for a head start. Then these spirit wolves will hunt you. Avoid them, if you can."
Bustfang hadn't thought he could run in this shape, but he could. He was away from the party when he heard the howls of the spirit wolves. He sought any hiding spot he could, but any means of hiding was meaningless against those who were not entirely of this world, and he was flushed out time and time again. Before long, Bustfang realized they were herding him back towards the party, where surely they would capture him and... well, Bustfang was still praying to the Primes for his life. And it was indeed when Bustfang stumbled back to the party that the Spirit wolves pounced, ending the chase in their victory.
Another werewolf took Bustfang for an opponent, actually wrestling him in rhythm to the song thatthe musicians played, and then in yet another dance, he had to do so as a youngster rode his shoulders.
Bustfang had considered himself a strong dog fox, but even this was beyond him. Not once was he allowed to neither rest nor eat, and drinks were allowed sparsely.
Then suddenly the weight of his body seemed to multiply a hundred-fold, and he could not make his legs move. He looked at the Lady of the Revel and tried to say, "Forgive me," before darkness
landed on him and drove the fox to the ground.
Bustfang woke up in the warm day, scratched and sore from the revel. He sniffed, smelling something tasty. As he struggled to sit up, he found three bowls of food and a wineskin nearby. A tiny Kitterwing--The Lady of the Revel in her small form--floated before him. "Take this, as your reward for never complaining," she said, truly smiling for the first time. "And fear not. When you reach the Court of Glaciess, you will have a tale you can tell."