The Fiction of Philip Kaveny
By Philip Kaveny 2016
Ffaldschaddar was made from iron that fell from the sky and she rested uneasily, thirstily, in her scabbard of hand tooled leather and silver inlay. The dwarves who forged her crafted this inlay of sky signs so that they alone could read them, then demanded the Norse grant them a king’s ransom for their labor. Some claimed that for a few milli-seconds every day at sunrise Ffaldschaddar glowed with an unearthly cold blue light that was visible only to a single person at a time and never to the same person twice.
As a Creation ex Nihilo Ffaldschaddar became self-aware enough to know that she had been hewn by the dwarves from a blue-white hot chunk of iron that left a blazing trail through the sky as it fell before it terrified a Sheppard and his flock, and then flattened a two hundred year old, fifty yard tall pine grove. An ancient pine grove that would, in better times, have made masts for a score of long ships. That is, if any long ships ever dared venture out into the wine dark sea, since now their world was paralyzed in fear Mara the great flying fire breathing Beast from the East might soar back across the world and demand her tariff in jewels and the blood of a dozen of the of the finest noble youths, six boys and six girls, all just come of age.
Ffaldschaddar knew she was not ordained to simply hang from a Yarl’s mantle as part of a coat of arms. For she was thirsty for the blood of the dragon that turned her last master’s town to ashes, leaving his corpse to rot unburied and unsanctified in midnight sun for fear of offending Mara Princess of Worms. By her late master’s side, attached to the former great warrior Bern’s bloated corpse, she hung until she was rescued to exact her vengeance someday.
Were these louts to foolish to know that Ffaldschaddar was made from a flaming star with just the right mix of carbon steel, burned on entry that made her proof to the breath of the Princess of Worms, they would have killed each other to have her in their possession. Yet none dared pick her up. No one claimed her as his own until Joshua the Helper, the Fixer, the Humble, who sought no glory past serving those who needed him. As far as anyone‘s knowledge Joshua had never held a weapon in his life, which made him so much different from his bellicose Biblical namesake.
The whole hall burst into laughter as Joshua strapped Ffaldschaddar to his shoulder. They laughed as if their lives, their sacred honor, and their fortunes depended on Joshua and Faldschaddar, because they did. The deepest secret was so did their souls, which could be snared by Mara Princess of Worms and dragged back from whence she came, where hope loses all meaning, its walls harrowed only once, when the Savior liberated the keys to death.
Great Uncle Philip took a breath before launching back into his favorite story; that was enough for four-year-old Anna to steal the limelight from him just like she always did with her eight-year-old brother Eddy the 3rd. In any case, he needed a break since he had been storytelling for nearly an hour. He was a natural story teller, and his stories made movies inside of people’s heads, their very own, “Once upon a time.“
Great Uncle Philip was different than most men of his age, and those that mistook him for an easy mark and tried to mug or rob him found they were relieved of their own manhood, and often walked around bow legged for several days because despite his appearance Great Uncle Philip was master of the ancient oriental art of bong dong, or nut kicking, which he was strictly forbidden to teach the children. He may have been a loveable lout, but he also had a mischievous streak to rival the best prankster. As a matter of fact, he once nearly got himself banned from their mother’s house when he suggested how Eddy the 3rd might improve his communication with the class bully, which led to little Eddy the 3rd being sent home with a stern note, which curiously ended up in Great Uncle Philip’s hands. Apparently, it was not met with approval when Great Uncle penned a note to the teacher on beautiful rice impregnated writing paper saying:
That class bully Clarence, nine years old and weighing nearly one hundred sixty-five pounds, was demonstrated by little Eddy the 3rd, a scrap of a kid half his size, to be quite sensitive.
But all that was in the past, and someone’s belly was grumbling.
Four-year-old Anna stood up and stretched her arms above her head. Her shadow, cast by kerosene lamps burning with a steady brilliant flame, made it seem as if she was actually growing, reaching for the stars as she stretched out to pull the ceiling down to her as she spoke.
”Great Uncle, I’m thirsty; get me a glass of milk and some cookies.”
It was not a request but a command, and not to be refused.
Little Edward the 3rd, whose name was first handed down from his grandfather to his father before alighting on him, became impatient and a little jealous. Despite being very grown up eight-year-old boy and really smart for his age, his four-year-old sister could always seem to get what she wanted just with a glance from her turquoise eyes and white gold spun hair, which turned a little girl’s request into a command performance and worked with everybody but her mother, Melanie. This was because she inherited it from a very beautiful lady who was the master at that particular trick herself, and once without so much as breathing a syllable got a guy to throw his cape over a ditch so she would not get her feet muddy. But the yokel got it wrong when it turned out that the ditch was actually a yard deep, and that was the last chance he ever got to prove his virtue with her. But that was a long, long time ago.
But this time Eddy the 3rd had had it, enough was enough, and he knew what to do thwart his sister Anna’s little desire. He knew that Great Uncle Philip loved to give long winded answers to theological questions, especially if it would give a chance to show of how smart he was, and talk about his favorite subject: himself. Of course Great Uncle Philip always assumed he was the brightest bulb in the room, and as long as he was going for the milk and cookies, illusions were indulged.
So Eddy the 3rd asked, “Great Uncle, what does a Creation ex Nihilo mean?”
Eddy the 3rd smiled to himself, thinking perhaps he possessed a portion of King Richard 3rd’s skill in getting what he wanted. This is because he knew how much Great Uncle Philip loved to hear the sound of his own sonorous voice, even to the point where he would forget about the story he was telling to give a lecture on theology (his next favorite subject after himself) not even knowing that he would put everybody to sleep, as certainly as if he sang them a lullaby, in his deep basso profundo voice – which he hated to do because he hated to lose an audience. But it was not to be. Barely had Great Uncle Philip been able to get three sentences out about one of the major theological conflicts in the 1st Century before Anna came over to him, fixed her turquoise eyes upon him, and simply said, “Cookies.”
Great Uncle Philip went to the over to the stairway, put another candle in the holder he carried down the basement stairs to the pantry, and descended the stairs. He returned shortly with a small pitcher of milk, two glasses, and a plate of cookies handing them, in turn, to little Edward the 3rd and his sister. Anna, ever the showstopper, again stole the show by planting her feet solidly spread, taking the sizeable glass in both hands, and chugging it in one breath with her head pulled back before saying ”Argh” like a pirate, or perhaps a junior Viking Shield Maiden who had just downed her first yard of ale.
Great Uncle Philip was so amused he forgot completely about theology and was about to continue the story when Melanie, the children’s mother and his niece by marriage, came in with a candle snuffer and said, “That’s enough storytelling for tonight. Off to bed, kiddos.” This was not taken well by anyone, including Great Uncle Philip, who could be quite trouble maker if not carefully watched. So before the roughhousing could really get underway Melanie, arms folded in an unmistakable power stance, declared, “I’m about to count down from three; does anybody want an explosion?” Melanie was about thirty and a much larger, powerful, and graceful woman than she first appeared. This was especially true when she was playing with her children; when they moved together and cooperated they had a kind of acrobatic dexterity and fluidity of movement that even very athletic middle aged men would find exhausting to replicate for more than fifteen minutes.
Nobody dared provide a spark for the exposed powder keg; not a word more was uttered as she took the children off to bed.
Great Uncle Philip had a special relationship to his nephew Paul and his wife Melanie’s family. An affable entertainer, full of love and tall tales, Great Uncle Philip had no family of his own and always made it a priority to come and stay with his niece by marriage and her young family whenever his industrious nephew Paul was called out on the road to be part of the family business, first started at the dawn of the New World some generations ago by Great Uncle Philip’s ancestors. The business was profitable, but highly perilous, as few could control the clipper ships as they navigated at high speeds back and forth from silk merchants in the Far East to the burgeoning ports of America, where the silk was loaded onto freighters destined for the high fashion markets of New York. Effortlessly outpacing any steamboat of the day by a factor of four, these clipper ships would send any man without nerves and body of steel to a watery grave.
Melanie came back into the room just as Great Uncle Philip polished off the last of the cookies the children left behind. She looked at him disapprovingly and asked, “Great Uncle, what story we’re telling them? Not that horrible one, not that terrible one; not that myth about Ffaldschaddar, Joshua and Mara the Dragon. The Beast from the East, wasn’t that what you called her?”
Great Uncle Philip stared momentarily at his feet as he pondered if sharing the truth with Melanie and her children would ever allow them to sleep again without night terrors and raging nightmares. How can I tell her? How can I get it out or make her believe that everything in this world that she counts on – even her husband and those precious children – is in the gravest danger possible, about to vanished as vapor into thin air? Mara’s eggs have hatched in the silent cave warmed gently by the draft from the god Vulcan’s forge. Now they are back, all five of them seeking revenge on the offspring of the mortal who slew their mother. How can I tell Melanie that the story is real and horrible as death itself?
When Great Uncle Philip finally spoke, the somber gravity in his voice told Melanie she must trust all he had to say. As he began his story anew, his countenance changed from a long winded but very likeable buffoon to a gravely serious sage and though he spoke in that same deep basso profundo voice, it no longer had any soporific effect; rather, it made the small hairs on the back of Melanie neck stand as if from the hot fetid breath of some invisible, omnipresent creature. Her mood darkened and fear cut through her voice.
“Great Uncle Philip you’re hiding something from me. I can tell that there’s fear and somber concern and your voice, tell me, tell me, tell me! Can there be anything worse than not knowing?”
Great Uncle Philip held on in an ecstasy of silence until neither Melanie nor he could bear it longer. Finally, he spoke.
“Melanie, taste the air with the tip of your tongue. What does it smell and taste like”
Melanie wrinkled her nose as she touched her tongue first to the roof of her mouth, then her lower lips. She thought for a moment, then said, “It smells like the hen house did the time we went away for three days and our farm hand ran off and left the chicken coop unguarded. Foxes broke in, killed all the chickens, and broke all the eggs, leaving a horrible smell of sulfur in the air”
Great Uncle Phillip looked at her and simply said, “That’s the smell of the Dragon, though it’s not here just yet. That sulfurous odor in your nostrils is not yet real, but your racial memory is calling it up because it will be real soon enough. The Dragon is coming to collect its tariffs and tributes which are long overdue.”
Melanie did not become frantic, nor did she tremble as understanding crept into her eyes. She looked intently at Great Uncle Philip and calmly asked, “How does one kill the immoral beast, the Princess of Worms, who now comes to us like a bill collector with a notice that something is a millennium overdue?”
Great Uncle Philip furrowed his brow, looking more pensive and concerned than Melanie could ever remember before seeing him. He was holding back and Melanie knew it. She ground her nails and wrist, and stated, “You’re hiding something from me. I know it. And I know that it could be very bad, but not knowing and not being able to do anything is the worst of all. So tell me all you know, Old Wise One; tell me.”
Great Uncle Philip thought of a hack writer he knew some decades before when he was working as a newspaperman in New York City. H.P. Lovecraft was his name, and he once told him, “The most merciful thing in the world… is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.” And so he thought I cannot be merciful and save these ones I love, so I must tell them. I must tell them that it is just as it is in the myth, only real. Some dolt forget to look the back exit to hell and now the blood starved beasts are soon to be upon on us. But he did not have to say it because Melanie seemed from her facial expression to know it as soon as he thought it. There was no hiding it from her as she persisted in her demand.
“Tell me about the myth,” she pressed. “Tell me the story of how Joshua the Unlikely, who never held sword in his life, vanquished Mara Princess of Worms with Ffaldschaddar.”
Perhaps the writer who said all myth is silver and the one true myth is golden was right.