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The Portrait of Zool

The History of the Bards of Terra

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Once upon a time, Long long ago, far far away, there was a land called Terra...

 

Terra was a place of powerful archmages, of dragons and unicorns, lizard men and liches, of angels and devils. Many people tried to live and prosper on Terra, but the region was constantly torn by near-apocalyptic war, in between apocalyptic wars.

 

The archmages died often, but fortunately mages of Terra had very strong constitutions, so that dying was not such a big deal, only taking everything they had away and forcing them to start over, making death itself just a silly nuisance, causing more embarrassment than, well, actual 'death'. Of course this wasn't ordinary death - oh no, that would have been CAKE for these people - but on Terra when people died they all went straight to hell. This, unlike death, did tend to motivate them to stay alive as long as possible.

 

Many of the archmages decided to collaborate in fighting other groups of archmages in hopes of not having to start over so often, but this only caused the wars to be far bigger and more devastating. Would their misery never end?

 

One respite the archmages had in their constant battle for domination was at the forum. There, in between battles and researching arcane spells and governing their land, they could swap a tale or spin a poem, all to the amusement of other archmages. Over time friendships and alliances, and bitter rivalries too, were formed, and one particular group of archmages gained a great deal of respect: The Bards of Terra.

 

Shurak Whitefist, Immortal of Justice, Dwarven Illusionist, and ill-tempered old coot, immensely enjoyed the rollicking encounters and clashes of the Forums of Terra. In a whimsical fit of capriciousness he instituted the order of 'The Bards of Terra' and a ceremony for initiating them into the fold.

 

Once a potential initiate posted an application piece, a story or poem, with the expressed purpose of joining the Bards of Terra, he quickly reeled them i... I mean, shrewdly judged the piece. If Shurak found it acceptable (which, oddly, was almost always the case) he would then commence the 'initiation'...

 

“...And remember to punch out and pay your dues.” Snapping his fingers as he said that, Shurak disappears in a puff of smoke. At almost the same instant, a couple of dozen men in white coats appear, swarming around the new Bard. With brutal efficiency, he is drugged and dragged limply from the Hall to the semi-secret lair of Joat and Boaz where unspeakable things are done to him, and he is turned into a Bard of Terra."

 

You might wonder just what effect such horrible experiences might have on the minds of those so afflicted, and what twisted, heinous deeds they might go on to commit...

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From Ozymandias...

 

 

The blue-robed mage, great Pharaoh, and king of kings Ozymandias strode back and forth in the great hall of his mighty fortress. He held a heavily gilt goblet in one hand as he twirled his thick black mustache with the other. A sword hung at each hip, clattering softly as he swayed widely at each end of his walk.

 

Many thoughts weighed upon his noble brow. His Kingdom was at war - as always - though it had been peculiarly quiet for a long spell now. What had become of the days when one could expect frequent visits from devils or dominions, dragons or dryads, devil monkeys/monkey devils, or even a plague of dancing carrots? Repelling such minor mages as had taken to attacking him lately was no feat, and this, in itself, was troubling. Lately, it was just dull.

 

"What had happened to this once great land?" he openly wondered. It had it's greats, it was true, but where were they now? And then it hit him - the old days were so… old! Ozymandias realized with a start that the day was slipping away, and it was up to him to seize it!

 

Gulping another swig of the heady brew in his goblet, he slammed it down on a table, which shuddered under the blow. "Something must be done!" he shouted, causing his concubines to eagerly snatch themselves up and run to the great hall. He looked at them for a moment then said, " No, not that. Something else – for now." With a wave of his gauntleted hand the women sadly dispersed.

 

Grabbing a quill and sheet of vellum, he began to write a series of invitations, dispatching each to a courier.

 

Many runners, pigeons, and riders speeding away from the castle later, Ozymandias sat bolt upright at his seat.

 

Where in sam hill did I get concu-, he thought, until interrupted by a sort of extremely loud and clear whoosh noise outside.

 

Striding quickly to the nearest window, the old Egyptian arrived in perfect sync with the assembled armies siege engines' first volley impacting with the walls of his fortress. The entire castle vibrated as an immense number of massive steel points burst through the stone - one coming within six inches of making Ozymandias ...a much lesser king. Eyeing the gargantuan weapon with practiced calm, he noticed the most important detail immediately. It was, in fact, the sexiest ballista bolt he'd ever seen in his life. And Ozymandias was old.

 

"Greased?", he shouted hesitantly out the window.

 

"The one and only", came the distant reply.

 

"Orlan filched your concubines and gave them out as 'Publisher's Clearinghouse' prizes as an April Fool's prank, didn't he?"

 

"That's about the size of it."

 

The protesting squeals of the machines being reloaded echoed emphatically across Ozymandias' front lawn. He talked just a little bit faster.

 

"And you stopped by to let me know what happened, and that you'd like them back now?"

 

 

"If it's not too much trouble..."

 

 

"Not at all! I'll be right down."

 

 

"Take your time."

 

 

"Thanks, Greased."

 

 

"Don't mention it."

 

Ozymandias' feet fairly flew for the stairs. His robes flapped madly as he shouted for the women in mid-sprint.

 

"Ozy?"

 

The somewhat winded blue mage skidded to a halt, narrowly avoiding doing so on a throw rug, which narrowly avoided him being deposited through the nearest window, which narrowly avoided him falling eight stories, which narrowly avoided him being submerged in the moat, which narrowly avoided him being eaten by one of the crocodiles, which he had just remembered he'd neglected to feed since Tuesday.

 

"Yes?", he bellowed up the stairs.

 

"Got any beer?"

 

"Absolutely!"

 

This was more like it! :w00t:

 

AND SO BEGAN THE MIGHTY ALLIANCE OF THE PEN...

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From Orlan...

 

 

"No, seriously, I have no clue," Orlan said as he leaned slightly to the side, tilting his head even more to that side. Rapier, his ever-present Fallen Dominion mimicked his movements, tilting herself and her head.

 

"The guy who sold it to us said it was a visual representation of 'the futility of man's regression into the gothic subculture, whilst remaining emo.'" Rapier said. Orlan and the Fallen Dominion tilted themselves in the other direction.

 

"But...it's just a painting of a giant Cambell's Soup can..." Orlan said. The Sexy Sexy Man sighed. It was going to be one of those days. He should have known better than to listen to Zool's opinion on buying art. "Whatever, we can put it up in the hallway and ask for Soup Donations for the poor. At least something good might come out of this." Orlan turned to leave and was promptly bowled over by a small sized thing with translucent wings. The next thing Orlan noticed was him looking into a small pair of blue eyes and a heavy breathing sylph, which was not unusual since Sylphs were always heavy breathing.

 

"SIR! IhavenewsthatIgotjustnow!" the sylph burst out. Orlan sighed.

 

"Hello, Myiia," he greeted the sylph in his most unamused voice. The sylph failed to pick up on anything and just kept on talking.

 

"Iwasjustflyingalongwhenallodasuddenthisstangelookingoldmaninacapewhosmelledlikes

andgavemethis!" A sheet of paper was shoved into Orlan's face by the fast-talking sylph. Orlan ignored the scrap of paper for a second and pushed his finger into the sylph's forehead. Slowly the sylph's speech slowed down to something almost resembling normal.

 

"Hewaslike'Gogivethis to Orlan and let him know I'll be waiting on his response' and then he handed me the letter and I sped straight here and I didn't even stop at the dinner hall like I was planning on doing because it is near dinner time and all the other sylphs would be there..." Myiia kept on talking but Orlan stopped listening. Rapier took hold of the Sylph by the back of her collar and lifted the little creature up and off of Orlan. The sylph seemed unperturbed by this and kept on talking. Orlan, now unburdened, stood up and took the piece of paper from Myiia.

 

"What's it say, Sir?" Rapier asked. Orlan scanned over it and noticed the name at the bottom. "Ozymandias, Sand-Laden King, Look Upon My Work And Then Buy It For Pennies On The Dollar!"

 

"It's a guild invite, from Old Sand Boy," Orlan said.

 

"Ozy? Doesn't he know you're already in a guild?" Rapier asked.

 

"Usually...depends on how drunk he is," Orlan said.

 

"I think the Angels of Apocalypse would BBQ you if you thought of joining Ozy's guild....What's the name?"

 

"The Penis Mightier...I'd buy some of that!"

 

"I think that's the Pen is Mightier...who do you think you are, Sean Connery?"

 

"That's a low blow against your Master," Orlan said, giving Rapier the exasperated look she so often gave him.

 

"Too bad, Master," Rapier replied. Myiia was still talking. The sylph was recounting how she had gotten the last doughnut this morning in the breakfast line and showed no signs of stopping. Orlan handed the letter over to Rapier and the Fallen Dominion glanced over it. "Ah, it's a different kind of guild."

 

"Yeah, looks like it's some sort of artist guild...thingy...amabob....doohickey," Orlan said, waving his hands dismissively. "No idea what he's looking at me for."

 

"Well....you are a Bard of Terra," Rapier pointed out. Orlan sighed.

 

"You write one or two things and some bad sonnets and suddenly everyone thinks your Maya Angelou.." Orlan said, shaking his head.

 

"Who?" Rapier and Myiia asked, the sylph seeming to be finally done with her story. Orlan turned and saw a couple of blank stares.

 

"Walt Whitman?" Orlan asked. More blank stares. "Hemingway?" Nothing. Orlan sighed. "The small Japanese man who comes every Tuesday and makes up dirty haikus."

 

"OH! Is it almost Tuesday? I love that guy," Myiia exclaimed. Orlan sighed again, and then turned back to his giant soup can painting.

 

"Do you want me to let Ozy known you'll not be joining?" Rapier asked. Orlan paused and let his mind wander before turning back to Rapier and Myiia with a small grin on his face.

 

"Damn," Myiia and Rapier said at the same time.

 

"What?" Orlan asked.

 

"I know that grin, you're going to do something stupid," the two said again in perfect unison. Orlan got an indignant expression on his face.

 

"Well I never! Sometimes I do intelligent things!"

 

"No, you don't," Rapier said. Orlan squinted at her.

 

"Phsaw!"

 

* * *

 

Ozymandias, King of Kings, Lord of the Desert, Seller of all Things Alcoholic Though Mostly Self Imbibed, woke up with a major headache. That was unfortunately, all he woke up with. He was slightly aware that he had no clothes on, and that he was surrounded by nature. He saw trees, and some grass, and the sun....all of which assaulted his senses, painfully. He did not know exactly where he was...and it was only a miracle that he knew who he was. All he knew was it sounded like a grinding whetstone spinning over and over in his brain. No matter what he tried he couldn't get the noise out of his head. It was after two or three minutes of this that he realized the noise was coming from outside his head. Ozy turned and saw Orlan, sitting on a Harley from Hell, watching him.

 

"Orlan?" Ozy asked. Orlan revved the engine.

 

"We had bets on which day you'd wake up, I'm happy to say I won the pool," Orlan said with a grin.

 

"What happened? Where am I? What day is it?" Ozy asked.

 

"You don't want to know, You don't want to know and oh man do you not want to know," Orlan said.

 

"Oh..."

 

"Anywho, I was swinging by to let you know that'd I'm sorta accepting your invitation."

 

"Sorta?"

 

"Yup, Grinch would have my head otherwise, though I'm all for the idea...I'll help you out where I can," Orlan said. Ozy was thrilled....or at least he thought he was....where were his pants?

 

"Super!"

 

"Yeah well I gotta get going, it's dirty Haiku Night and I don't want to be late. Good Luck getting home!" Orlan said, gunning the engine and spinning into a U-Turn. Ozy became coated in dirty and other foliage as Orlan sped off. Ozy stood still for a moment to gather his thoughts and let a small smile cross his face.

 

"Well that's a positive reply...Now then. Where are my pants?"

 

* * *

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