Cedric and the Tent

As Told By Mandrake of Rhiassa
Written by Steven Matulewicz

"This is absolutely ridiculous," mumbled Cedric to himself as he kicked the red and black canvas tent that had been placed in the hayloft above the stable. He would stand watch over it for the next eight hours. This had been going on since their experience in the Nexus. Duncan had posted guard day and night, even at events, to make sure the tent was safe. Obviously the tent had some significance, but the explanation that had been deduced for the abduction of the tent through the Nexus was shaky at best and it gnawed at Cedric even more than having to sit up in a loft to watch something they could remake in a matter of hours. However, it was Duncan's order that these actions be carried out. As his squire, and for lack of any other reason why they shouldn't protect the tent, he would take his turn at watch.

Dugal was still downstairs, grumbling over his horse. Cedric could hear him brushing down its grey coat. Now and again the mare would let out a small whinny as Dugal's polearm pricked it in the side. A small but gruff 'sorry' would leave Dugal's lips shortly after. He has GOT to learn to put it down, thought Cedric. Rumor had it he even brought the polearm to bed. He had seen Dugal stagger out of his room in the morning, gripping his weapon like it would run away if he loosened his white-knuckled fist. Nonetheless it was comforting to hear him; it gets pretty lonely standing guard in a loft. Cedric knelt by the hatchway and peered down.

"Hey, Dugal!" shouted Cedric. There was a loud squeal and a mumbled sound of "Oops." from beneath him and suddenly Dugal appeared staring up at him. "Could you do me a favor and have someone send out dinner to me? I forgot to tell the cook."

"Sure." Dugal disappeared from Cedric's view. The loud thump of the stable door moments later meant he was alone for the moment. He stood up and straightened his armor. Dugal was a good man; a little strange, but then again they all were a little strange in Rhiassa. Tolerance and understanding to a point, he remembered Sir Pyr telling him once, is the difference between a warrior and a knight. If you go off half cocked at every little thing, every feast hall would be drenched with blood. He knew what Sir Pyr had meant; fight the fights that are worth fighting, and not all fights are fought with steel.

Which brought his thoughts back to the task at hand. No matter how he thought about the situation, he could make no sense of it. He sat down on a small wooden stool with a solid "thump" and sighed. He had hoped to spend his early evenings training with Vinal, Rhiassa's newest member, instead of in this musty hayloft. He could almost imagine their practices on the drawbridge, the sound of metal on metal, Vinal's fencing-style thrusts against his saber-like movements, the wind about them as he advanced and retreated ...

Cedric stood up suddenly and drew his sword. There was a strong wind blowing through the loft, much stronger than the sturdy loft should or could have, even in the stormiest weather. He quickly moved to where the tent was at the far side of the loft. It was there, but he saw a pair of black hands pulling the tent to behind a pile of hay.

He drew in a breath to yell for the guards on the outside of the loft, but before he could make a sound he felt the cold steel of a dagger at his throat.

"Drop your sword," said the gravel voice behind him. He dropped it, but not where the voice expected. Cedric grabbed the fist with the knife in it with his right hand while reversing his grip on his sword in his left hand and plunged it through the breast of the attacker. The knife dropped away from him and he charged toward the tent, now out of sight behind the hay.

Turning the corner he saw a shimmering portal of black and green plastered like a door against the wall of the barn. He began to run as he realized the tent was all ready half way through the portal. He leaped at the tent and landed on it, stopping its movement. I guess Duncan was right after all, he thought to himself has he straddled the tarp. He gave the tent a good pull and it began to move back to his side of the gate. Well, whatever their reasoning they are surely putting up a great effort, he thought has he pulled again.

This time the tent did not budge.

Cedric suddenly lost his footing and he and the tent were swiftly jerked through the portal. Cedric closed his eyes, not entirely sure if this was going to hurt or not. He disappeared through the wavering gate. There was a loud "Pop!" as the gate snapped shut and the loft was quiet, except for the thumping sound of someone coming up the ladder.

"Oh, bad." said Dugal as he stared at the gutted Drow on the floor.

* * * * * * * * * *

Cedric awoke slowly. He attempted to move but there were sharp pains in his hands and feet. As his head became clearer he realized there was a cloth over his eyes so he could not see. He seemed to be sitting, his hands bound behind him. There was a foul odor in the air, as if someone had been dead for weeks. I hope that's not me, thought Cedric as he assessed his situation. He tried to call out, but a gag prevented him from speaking. Where am I, he thought, his mind still swimming.

The last thing he remembered was trying to keep the tent from being dragged into a portal that had opened in the hayloft. He remembered killing one of them, running for the gate, flying through the portal and then .... well, waking up like this. So to answer his own question, he was definitely NOT in Rhiassa and could be anywhere, and any when for that matter. The last tent caper had been in old Rhiassa, so if these were the same people then that was where he was; old Rhiassa.

Cedric's gag came off with a snap and the cloth over his eyes was lifted. Before him stood an ebony skinned woman clad in a black and silver dress, her silver hair draped over her left shoulder, showing her right elfin ear. She smiled at Cedric and a chill ran up the back of his spine. He had heard tales of the quest into Niffelheim, of knights and squires screaming as their skin was pulled slowly off their bodies by these lovely but deadly priestesses. Cedric shoved his fear deep inside; he would not give her the satisfaction of seeing his emotions.

"What do you want from me?" he asked, staring into her dark eyes. Her smile became a grin as her arm flashed out in front of her. Cedric lurched in pain as her dagger drew a line of blood across his cheek, but he did not cry out.

"Rudeness is not tolerated here, little squire," said the Drow Priestess gently, placing her dagger to her lips to lick his blood. "You would do better if you did not speak unless asked to speak. However I will answer your question, because you amuse me. I want you to sit there and slowly die after a few days. But first I want you to be the bait that brings your lord into our waiting trap. Old King Duncan will die soon after you do. But we are not entirely inhospitable." she raised her eyes to look behind him. "Feed him and then begin to ... converse with our guest. I will return soon to see your progress." She took one last glance at Cedric and left through a flap in the wall.

I must be in a tent somewhere, thought Cedric as he tried to see the other person in the tent. He strained his eyes to the right, but could not see who or what it was behind him. The stench, however, was getting worse.

A smaller Drow woman dressed like the other priestess walked around to where he could see her. She had a wooden plate and it took a moment for Cedric to realize that it was the plate the stench was coming from. She held it up to his nose and he gagged from the fumes. It looked like a sheep's intestine cooked with something dark inside it.

"Yummy, isn"t it?" asked the priestess smiling a fearfully sweet smile. Cedric knew she intended to simply shove the hot sheep's intestine down his throat. I've got to do something, he thought wildly. What would Sir Duncan do? What would Sir Callin do? What would Sir Shane do? Shane, he thought grimly, would swallow it down and ask for seconds. At the thought of that, Cedric almost threw up again.

"Are you ready, little squire?" asked the priestess. She held the plate directly up to his lips while pulling out a kris blade dagger with her free hand. I KNOW this is going to hurt thought Cedric as the hot intestine reached his mouth.

* * * * * * * * * *

"I hope you're hungry." said the Drow priestess as she slowly pushed the hot sheep's intestine toward Cedric's lips. Somehow Cedric knew this disgusting meal was not sheep, but it was easier to think along those lines. He closed his eyes as his possibly last meal brushed his lips, hoping to shut out at least one of his senses. If I only had my sword he thought as the slimy, burning food finally made contact.

There was a slight wind that passed under his nose that made a'swoosh" sound and the smell and feel of the food suddenly vanished. Cedric opened his eyes. It was sitting in a tent pole, neatly skewered by an arrow. Cedric smiled. He knew the fletching on that arrow.

"What.....?" said the Priestess who was suddenly covered with arrows and blood. She staggered back and fell to the ground. There was a ripping sound and a good third of the tent wall came crashing down. There before him were five women in red tabards with bows, while a large man with a knife pulled away the fabric.

"The Rhiassan Archer's Guild to the rescue!" shouted Fallon as they rushed the tent. There was another flurry of arrows at the Drow priestess as she tried to get off the floor. Mandrake came around behind Cedric and cut his ropes.

"What's new, Cedric?" said Mandrake with a wide smile.

"Not much," said Cedric, rubbing his feet and his wrists to get back circulation "That was some great shooting. How did you know where to fire?"

Mandrake gave him a wry grin. "Lucky guess?"

Cedric frowned a bit. "Are you saying you would have shot me too?"

Mandrake shrugged.

"In most countries, thirty five percent fatality is considered acceptable in terrorist hostage situations. Besides, we can raise you later. Speaking of later, we have got to hurry; Sir Myriel can"t hold the gate for long." Another volley of arrows were shot into the Drow priestess as Cedric and Mandrake escaped the tent.

"We may not be able to kill her, but we can piss her off for a while," said Myrrh to Cedric as he and Mandrake approached. There was a commotion in another nearby tent. Dugal and Lord Duncan burst out of the tent with a large black and red object under their arms. It was very clear to all of them that they would have to book it for the portal. A knight of Eagle's Rook can"t hold a portal for more than thirty seconds, thought Cedric. I wonder who they got to help her?

There was a loud "BOOM" from behind them and Cedric turned to look. There were ten Drow priestesses on a platform with twenty Drow Knights running at a full tilt at them from beneath the scaffold.

"Magic Missile!" the priestesses screamed at once and a swarm of glowing balls began to make their way at great speed toward them.

"Run!" yelled Duncan.

They all took off, Cedric following the others because he had no clue where the gate was. Balls of hot energy exploded about them. One enveloped the head of Lord Duncan with a sound "FOOMP!" Lord Duncan shrugged it off, but was glad he had made that new, and now charred, helm. A few confused Drow came out of their tents to see what was going on and were immediately cut down by the Archer's Guild.

They turned toward a small thicket at the edge of the Drow camp. Magic Missiles were still raining down about them. There, right before the thicket was a shimmering portal. A woman clad in chainmail stood in the portal pushing at the sides of it with all of her strength. Sir Myriel called out:

"You have ten seconds!" Cedric could vaguely make out Junior and Sir Randal the Light behind her. Quickly the Archer's Guild moved through the gate, followed by Lord Duncan, Dugal and the tent. A Magic Missile hit Cedric in the leg.

"Now that hurt!" he screamed as he stumbled into Sir Myriel, who fell back. The portal promptly snapped shut behind the two falling figures, leaving the Drow Knights who were closer than they knew to stumble into the thicket...

* * * * * * * * * *

Sir Myriel, Cedric, Junior and Sir Randal the Light lay sprawled on the floor of the hayloft. The Archer's Guild, Dugal and Lord Duncan stood ready to take on the approaching horde, which did not appear after the portal Sir Myriel had held open with the help of Randal and Junior's magic closed. The four of them rose to their feet , Junior healing Cedric's leg and cheek; wounds gathered from his ordeal.

"Good job everyone," said Duncan who lovingly placed the tent back in its place in the hayloft.

"So what's going on?" asked Sir Randal inquisitively, pulling out his book and a pen.

"How did you all know where I was?" asked Cedric. They all began to descend the stairs to find a more hospitable place to talk. Sir Myriel explained as they headed into the Rhiassan fortress.

"Apparently," she said with some seriousness. "Dugal found a dead Drow in the loft and came running to tell your lord. I happened to be here on business and Sir Randal just conveniently showed up and we devised a way with his magic, Junior's magic and my knightly powers to open the gate you went through."

"How did you know it was a gate we had gone through?" replied Cedric, still a little confused.

"We used Junior's Divine Intervention to find out where when and how you had gone. The rest was really academic."

"So what happened over there?" asked Sir Randal insistently, who had been listening in to the conversation.

By the time they had entered the great hall, Cedric had told his tale to Sir Randal and Sir Myriel. The servants brought drinks for them all and Cedric told his tale once again so that everyone knew what had happened.

"Hmmmmmmm." said Randal, who began to scribble in his book while stroking his chin (a difficult skill that Randal performed very well.)

"So what do you make out of all this, Sir Randal?" asked Duncan as he sipped slowly on his ale.

"Well....., um, see..." stammered Sir Randal, "it seems to me that time in Old Rhiassa is... newer than the time of New Rhiassa, or at least the Drow, um, think that way and that perhaps the tent and / or Sir Duncan are pivotal, um, things, in the main um, time stream."

"What did he just say?" whispered Myrrh to Mandrake. Mandrake shrugged. Sir Myriel, who had dealt with Randal for many years, offered to explain.

"So what you are saying is they thought Lord Duncan was somehow a King Duncan who ruled Old Rhiassa hundreds of years ago and his tent made some kind of significance to the initial founding of Old Rhiassa?" Sir Randal smiled a little at Sir Myriel.

"Sort of," he said, flipping through his book. " I think that, um, they think Duncan and his tent will, um, show up in the past sometime in your future and by stopping it they will, um, maybe, win a few hundred years sooner. Maybe." Cedric's eyes opened wide as he realized what Sir Randal was saying.

"So if they take him out now, they think Rhiassa will never be founded."

"But there was never a King Duncan in old Rhiassa," said Lord Duncan, thinking back on the history of the devastated lands. Randal shrugged.

"Things aren"t always as they seem. Um... since they were from the Nexus, perhaps they are not from our time, but from another time line." Myriel nodded her head.

"When I entered the Fay a long time ago, we encountered a world ruled by alternate selves. Maybe in this way you, Lord Duncan, or another you do go back in time?" Junior sat straight up in his seat.

"Luthrien Blades!" he yelled.

"What?" asked Fallon who had almost fallen asleep.

"Maybe," said Junior excitedly, "we go back in time by some means to obtain more Luthrien blades. Since no more can be made, the only way to do it is to go back in time and meet the Silver Elves of hundreds of years ago and ask them to make them, or to ask Luthrien himself!" Lord Duncan stood up.

"We have learned a great deal in the past few months. Indeed there may come a time when the Drow armies will attack again and we may need to be resourceful in our efforts to obtain more Luthrien blades to stop the Drow Knights. Keep these incidents in mind as you go out into the Realms, for there may come a day when this alternate reality may come to light. In the mean time, I have a lot to think about." He excused himself and headed to his chambers.

They all sat stunned for a moment, trying to drink in the possibility of an insane time circle, where they might be their own ancestors. This is really creepy, thought Fallon as she rose to follow Duncan. Sir Myriel talked in low tones with Sir Randal, who sat rapidly stroking his chin. Cedric's stomach rumbled and he realized he had not eaten in quite a while. He stopped a serving girl who was picking up their tankards.

"What's for dinner?" he asked, his stomach grumbling louder as if to add its own questions.

"Well," she said thoughtfully, "The Queen is stopping by tonight along with her guards, so the cook thought it would be good to make a traditional Highland meal." Cedric paled.

"So what are we having?"

"Haggis." she said, at which Cedric turned three shades of green and ran out of the room.

"What was that all about?" asked Myrrh, hearing the wretching noises echoing from the corridor.

The Training of Vinal

As Told By Mandrake of Rhiassa
Written by Steven Matulewicz

There was a sickly "thud" as a man dressed in white with the red Rhiassan tabard fell to the ground, twisting to avoid getting his shield beneath him and causing his shoulder to pop out of joint. He skidded a few inches in the practice yard, the dust clogging his mouth and nostrils. His practice sword came away from his hand, clattering a few feet to his right. He had lost count of how many times Lord Duncan had trounced him that day and the taste of dirt was becoming common on his tongue. His name was Vinal, and he was in training.

"Dead!" he called as he slowly picked himself up from the ground. Most of Rhiassa was in the Practice Yard that day. He raised his head and saw Cedric fighting with Lucas, Oberon's Squire, who had made his way to Rhiassa last winter. They too were fighting sword and shield, Cedric with the Rhiassan kite shield and Lucas with his black "coffin lid" shield. Cedric is having about as good of a day as I am, Vinal thought dimly. As if on cue, Lucas' pell work got through Cedric's defenses and Lucas knocked Cedric to the ground with a swift blow to Cedric's head. He may be the new Champion of Rhiassa, Vinal thought as he brushed roughly at his tunic to get some of the dust off, but compared to a one hundred and fifty year old warrior of the Fay court, he had a few things to learn. He turned to meet Duncan's gaze.

"What happened?" asked Duncan in an even tone. He stood like a stone, his shield even then in a ready defensive position. He made no motion to help Vinal up; getting knocked in the dirt was part of training. If you don't learn to get up on your own, you may not get up when you really have to. He waited patiently as Vinal thought about the last maneuver.

"Did I over-extend on my thrust?" Duncan smiled and nodded his head. He's learning very quickly, thought Lord Duncan.

"Remember not to get too over-eager in a defensive position. It leaves you open in both the back and the front. Your pell work will protect your head and the shield will protect your body." Lord Duncan looked up into the sky to check the time. The sun was in the third quarter and dinner would be soon. "That's all for today, Vinal. But I have a question for you to think on and I want an answer by the end of dinner."

Vinal stooped to pick up his wooden practice sword. He was used to Duncan's questions; his Lord believed that in order to fight, you must have a fit body, a keen mind and a ready spirit, which meant training was much more than getting pounded into the sand.

"Yes, Lord Duncan?"

"You have not been a Rhiassan long and are probably still wondering about our ways. For tonight I wish you to ponder on what it means to be a part of Rhiassa and what it is we strive for here. Talk to the other members about what they think. I am sure they will have some interesting views." This is going to be a tough one, thought Vinal as he bowed.

"Yes, Lord Duncan. Shall we see you at dinner?" Duncan began to walk from the Practice Yard, but stopped at Vinal's question.

"You will; we have much to celebrate after our victory at the North/South War this past weekend." He left Vinal to ponder his new task.

Where do I start, thought Vinal as the heavy sound of Cedric hitting the ground came from behind him.

"Hold your shield higher," encouraged Lucas, who was standing over Cedric. "You won't die as fast."

Vinal strode into the kitchens in the heart of the Rhiassan Keep, his mind filled with pondering the quest Lord Duncan had set him on; to find out what it means to be Rhiassan. The servants paid him no heed as they dashed around, preparing the evening meal. He stood in the center of the kitchen for a moment, letting himself get lost in the smells and sounds of the making of dinner. It was a busy, but happy sound as the metal pots clashed and the small swishes of the servants' skirts would rustle by. There was an occasional belch of fire from the fire pit as the bellows would be blown to heat the flame, the smell of the fresh bread from the hearth. If I am going to learn what is means to be Rhiassan, here seems a good place to start, he thought as he slowly strolled over to where the water was being drawn for the stew. There was a separate well sunk for the kitchens, to make the care of the meal and of the dishes and laundry easier on the help. There was a metal pipe running into the well below and the "pump" as Junior called it pulled water right into a basin! Wonderous magic he knows, thought Vinal.

Without thinking, without even knowing he was doing it, Vinal ducked. A tomato whizzed over his head and landed against the wall with a "splat!" Several more came flying by and he dodged and rolled to behind Junior's contraption.

"What..." was all he could say before he saw a large and fast-moving form speed past him. Mandrake muttered "Excuse me..." as he gleefully weaved around the tomatoes being hurled at him. Vinal peered over the basin to see Kethrellen and Damona sending the tomatoes at Mandrake as fast as they could throw them.

"I'll show you a magic missile!" cried Damona as she threw one with deadly aim to hit Mandrake square in the back of the head, making him falter slightly. He was in the back door, almost at the point of escape, but the tomato had enough force to sned his head crashing into the stone doorway. Vinal watched as Mandrake tried to gain composure and running speed. Two more tomatoes from Kethrellen sent Mandrake spinning into the yard. Vinal stood up, his hands raised.

"What was that all about?" he asked Damona and Kethrellen as he slowly came from around the water basin. They were both still angry, but not so as to not let out occasional chuckles. Kethrellen had one of the servants help him in getting the "mess" cleaned up.

"Well," said Kethrellen, scrubbing the red mess from the wall, "Mandrake has gone a little loopy with his new spell. He's been trying to find the littlest excuse to send his magic missiles flying. So when the pit fire was accidentally squelched by some water, he jumped at the chance to re-ignite it. The explosion from the missile knocked the soup over and set the cat on fire. So banishing him from the kitchen seemed the best thing to do before we had exploding turkey for our meal." A small grin never left Kethrellen's lips as he told his tale. Vinal helped to clean up a bit of the mess and when it was done, he turned to Damona and Kethrellen and told them of his quest.

"So what do you two think it means to be a Rhiassan?" Kethrellen declined to answer, not being a full member yet. Damona stood for a moment, her head cocked to one side pondering the question.

"I would say... it means to keep Mandrake as far from the Kitchen as possible." Satisfied with her answer, she returned to getting the cooking done. Vinal shook his head and walked out into the inner gardens. This is going to be MUCH harder than I thought, he said to himself.

The inner gardens of Rhiassa were simple in their beauty. Several lazy paths wandered through the many varieties of plants, bushes and flowers. It was here Vinal chanced upon an odd sight during his quest for what it was to be a Rhiassan; Myrrh was gleefully walking slowly up a path, followed very closely by Lady Fallon, whose face was drawn in fear and anxiety. Worrying for the Lady Fallon, he edged closer behind her.

"What is going on?" asked Vinal. Myrrh turned her head and said with a wild grin: "I'm playing Stomp!"

Lady Fallon winced at these words, fingering her spellbook for some comfort.

"Yeah," said Fallon. "She hunts down caterpillars and stomps on them. I don't know why." Vinal shook his head.

"Perhaps you two can help me. Lord Duncan has asked a questions of me and I am seeking a proper response. What does it mean to you to be a Rhiassan?" Lady Fallon stood up and smiled at Vinal.

"I can't answer that, you'll have to ask someone else... I'm over- qualified." They had all ceased their creeping about. He asked the same of Myrrh.

She immediately piped up. "Don't let Mandrake in the kitchen!" she said with perfect happiness.

"Umm.." stammered Vinal, "I already got that answer."

"And with good reason," said Myrrh, returning to Stomp. "Did you see the mess he made at breakfast? Damona is never going to let him make scrambled eggs again. If he keeps it up, we're gonna starve. Or duck a lot."

"Why don't you ask Cedric?" prompted Lady Fallon, pointing to the far end of the garden at Lucas and Cedric, both obviously just returning from the practice yard from the amount of dust and blood on their clothes and armor. Both stopped as Vinal came to greet them and ask his question. Lucas, who also had not been inducted yet, puzzled over the question for a bit.

"I must admit," Lucas said with a sternness in his voice that did not seem to fit with his youthful looks, "Being here in Rhiassa is very different from the Fay courts. Not as much killing or political trickery among your friends. But I will have to think about this, for I am sure, if I am allowed to stay here, I will soon have to answer the question myself."

"And how about you, Cedric?" said Vinal, turning to Duncan's Squire, who was fixing the strap on his kite shield. Cedric pondered it for a moment.

"Well," he said, scratching his beard, "Being Lord Duncan's Squire I have a little insight into why he asked you that question. He and I have fought and laughed together many a time and usually, for him, the truth is simple, not a complex series of criteria."

"So what is the truth about being a Rhiassan?"

"Well, for today it is keeping Mandrake out of the kitchen, so we might have a dinner to eat. I'm starved!" They began to head to their rooms when a wail came from within the garden, followed by hysterical chuckles. Both Cedric and Lucas dashed off into the gardens, but Vinal headed to the apartments.

"I think Myrrh found one," murmured Vinal.

"You might as well ask someone else," said Mandrake. Vinal was in Mandrake's apartment, still on his quest to find out what it meant to be a Rhiassan. Mandrake was in the corner of his room at a writing table, a bunch of parchment strewn about and a pen and inkwell sat amidst the mountain of papers. "But don't ask Dugal," Mandrake advised, returning to his writing, "He'll just say it's to poke things with his spear... no double entendre meant."

Vinal stood his ground in the room. "But why can't I ask you?"

Mandrake looked up from his manuscripts. "Because you already have the answer. That and I have to finish this story... Aderyn has been bugging me to write something about her and the new Royal Archer's Guild, and I need to finish it soon so she doesn't run me through." They both knew Aderyn would do no such thing, but her ferocity as a fighter and as the leader of the Royal Archer's Guild meant very few wanted to cross her, just to be safe.

"What do you mean, I already know the answer? All I've gotten are polite rejections and the advice to keep you out of the kitchens." Mandrake smiled at this.

"The answer lies not in what they say, but in how they say it. Lord Duncan wants you to look around. Don't worry, the answer will come to you in one way or another."

Vinal walked over to where Mandrake was sitting. He read a little and let out a small gasp. "You're writing down this conversation, not Aderyn's story at all!"

"Well," said Mandrake "I WAS hoping to keep this a secret and give it to you later, but I overheard the conversation between you and Lord Duncan and have been keeping notes. That's why Kethrellen and Damona pelted me; I shouldn't have followed you into the kitchen." Vinal felt a little honored with this, being included so prominently in one of Mandrake's stories. Immediately a question bubbled to the surface for him, one he had wanted to ask for a while.

"Mandrake, why do you write about us in such an exaggerated way? I mean, for example, Lord Duncan is not as obsessive or aloof as he seems sometimes in your stories, although I'll admit that the tent thing was a bit overboard..."

Mandrake started to arrange the papers on his desk. "Well, mainly it's for humor's sake. It's part of the craft and no real harm is meant to anybody I write about. The purpose of my writing is to entertain. But mostly it is to show how well we work together and are still able to be close friends, whether we are serious or off the wall." A bell could be heard outside the chamber; dinner was to be served. Mandrake got up from his table and followed Vinal to the door. Vinal stopped short and turned to Mandrake with a small wry grin. "You had better keep your spellbook here, else this may turn into a fight rather than a feast."

Mandrake shrugged and put his arm around Vinal. "At least I won't be in the kitchens."

Vinal paused outside the feasting hall, still grappling with today's question from Lord Duncan. He had spent the past few hours trying to find the answer to what it means to be a Rhiassan, and to his mind had not turned up much of anything. He knew Lord Duncan would expect an answer as soon as he saw him enter the great hall, and as with all of his studies he wanted to give it his best try. Unfortunate for him, his mind wasn't working well that day. One too many shots to the head in practice, thought Vinal, trying to think through the confusing answers he had received.

All of the others who were not inducted couldn't answer, Lady Fallon and Mandrake declined to. All the other answers had something to do with making sure there was food on the table tonight, not exploding turkeys via Mandrake's magic missiles. He couldn't understand what that had to do with being a Rhiassan. He pictured Mandrake being chained in a tower somewhere, like some Gothic Tale's "Monster" that the House Rhiassa had to restrain else all would fall to ruin. Somehow he did not think that a literal translation of their answers was the key.

"Boo!" said Aderyn and Vinal jumped. He had not heard her approach, so completely had he been engrossed in his problem. She looked pleased at his reaction and smiled. "Why are you just standing out here, unless you are afraid Mandrake is going to pull something..."

"No, Aderyn, it's just... well, Lord Duncan has had my head reeling." Vinal told her about his afternoon and about the quest. She listened intently, only stopping now and again for clarification on the situation. When he was done, her face was calm, a small smirk on her face. She patted him on the shoulder and turned him toward the Great Hall's large oaken doors.

"Mandrake was right," she said, edging him forward. "You do have the answer. You just have to see the forest through the trees. What has everyone you met today been doing and saying, and how does it all fit to the question? Remember what Cedric said; it's the simplicity you must look for in your answer. Go on, I'm sure he's waiting for you."

The Great Hall was a combination of tall stone walls supported by high, strong wooden beams for the ceiling. Everyone was seated at the table, munching away. As Aderyn predicted, Lord Duncan motioned for Vinal to sit by him for the meal. Vinal walked slowly to the empty chair by Lord Duncan. He sat down at his place, ready for the worst.

"So, Vinal, do you have your answer?" said Lord Duncan, his eyes patient for Vinal's words.

What exactly was the question again?" said Vinal, quickly adding, "...I just want to make sure my answer is accurate."

Lord Duncan's eyebrows raised slightly. "What does it mean to be a Rhiassan and what do we strive for here?"

Vinal was about to answer that he had no idea when the pie in front of Mandrake erupted with light and fire, covering Mandrake with hot lemon and crust. The table began to roar with laughter except for Damona, who had a look that all was now made right in the world. Looking around the table a thought entered Vinal's head; the answer was here in front of him. It was so simple; he had been searching for some lofty, philosophical credo, but the antics of Mandrake and the others made him understand one thing. And that one thing was that no matter how Rhiassa might be seen by others, what was important was how they were and who they were when they were together. He turned to Lord Duncan with a look of triumph.

"To be Rhiassan means to be yourself, to be honest to yourself and to respect honestly in others. We strive to better ourselves and to teach others how to be better. But most of all, we follow rule #1: Have fun." Lord Duncan smiled at Vinal.

"Well done; you have learned to see the forest and the trees. You are coming along well in your training, Vinal." They ate in silence for a while, listening to the chatter around the room. The recent darkness and the Drow were forgotten and their tales of this year's North/South War were the most active topics.

It's going to be a great year, thought Vinal as he reached under the table to grab the arm of Myrrh, who was trying to tie his bootlaces together.

"Rats!" she said, scurrying away under the table to another victim.

The Story of Calypso

Originally told at Queen of Hearts XVII by Elder Duncan

I would like to tell you the story of Calypso. Not Calypso my gyspy wife, but another Calypso from a time long past.

This story of Calypso is also the story of Odysseus. Odysseus was an ancient Greek hero who fought in the Trojan war and then had many adventures on his way home once the war was over.

Now the Trojan war was fought over a beautiful woman, Helen of Troy. That in itself is an excellent story, but it's not this story. This story starts with the end of the Trojan war.

Troy was sacked. It was utterly destroyed, reduced to ashes. The heroes of Greece had defeated the great warriors of Troy. Everything was great, but one of the Greeks made a minor miscalculation. Minor, that is, in the way that angering the gods, incurring their wrath and getting most of your comrades either hopelessly lost or killed could be considered "minor".

The Greeks found the King of Troy's daughter, Cassandra, clinging to the feet of a statue of Athena amidst the smoking ruins of the city of Troy. Before I tell you what happened to Cassandra, you should know a little bit about her.

Cassandra was both cursed and blessed with a unique power. She was able to know what was going to happen in the future. You might think that would be a great gift. You can just imagine her in the morning as her father, King Priam, comes down to start his day...

"Dad, whatever you do - DO NOT make toast for breakfast. There are two slices of bread left, you'll burn the crap out of 'em and you'll be in a piss-poor mood all morning."

Unfortunately, if she told anyone what she knew was going to transpire, they were fated to never believe her.

"What do you mean, darling? I've made toast hundreds of times, and look, we have two slices of bread left. I'll just bring them over here and toast them over the coals and OH MY GOD THEY'RE ON FIRE WHY DIDN'T YOU WARN ME, WORTHLESS DAUGHTER OF MINE!?!?!?"

So you can imagine how Cassandra felt when the Greeks built an enormous wooden horse, put it before the gates of Troy while the war was still raging, and proceeded to withdraw their forces and sail out of sight. Cassandra and King Priam looked down from the walls of Troy upon the now empty battlefield at the enormous wooden horse and probably had a conversation something like this:

PRIAM: "Wow. That's one big-ass wooden horse."

CASSANDRA: "Yes father, but I have a bad feeling about-"

P: "No, really. Have you EVER seen a wooden horse that big??? I'm impressed. Not only did those Greek bastards admit defeat and leave, but they left us a gift for all the harm they brought us these past 10 years...

C: "Daddy. I think it's a trick."

P: "Cassandra, don't be such a Debbie Downer. What are you talking about?"

C: "That wooden horse is hollow. If you bring it into the city, tonight Greek men will come out of it through that hatch in its belly. Their ships are just out of sight around that far island. The men from the horse will set a bunch of our houses on fire and will open the gates so the Greeks can sneak back and sack the city. Whatever you do, DO NOT bring that horse into Troy."

P: "Really? Wow. That would be terrible."

C: "Um... yeah, Dad. It would be terrible."

P: "But look at the size of that horse..."

C: "Dad?"

P: "I've NEVER had a wooden horse that big. It must be 30 feet tall! It's a BIG horse. I can't wait to tell all my friends. None of them have a horse this big."

C: "Dad..."

P: "I wonder how many men it would take to bring it through the front gate. Good thing I had those doors built so damn big. It'd be a shame to leave it out there. We could put it smack dab in the middle of the market square as a monument to our glorious victory over the Greeks!"

C: "Okay, Dad. Whatever. I'll just be over here slamming my head against a wall. Don't mind me."

So you get an idea as to the kind of life Cassandra led. As fate would have it, she was the one found by the Greeks clinging to the feet of a statue of Athena in the smoking ruins of the sacked city of Troy.

The Greeks had plenty of experiences with the gods by now, but for some reason they had utterly failed to learn from their many adventures the one great lesson of the Homeric epics - DON'T MESS WITH THE GODS. Thus, when they found Cassandra under the protection of Athena, literally clinging to her feet (or to the next best thing, the feet of her statue), what did they do?

They could have left her there, they could have pleaded with Athena to allow them to take Cassandra away, they could have made offerings to Athena, they could have found a more powerful god to pit against Athena, or they could have just dragged Cassandra off, kicking and screaming and calling for Athena to avenge her.

I'm sure you can guess which choice they made.

Ajax, a greek hero, was the one that dragged her off. This wasn't Ajax the great greek hero that everyone has heard of, but another Ajax, less great, less noble, and apparently far less wise. Think of this guy as the real Ajax's stunt double.

Athena was pissed that the Greeks would drag Cassandra off from under her statue, and she went to have a chat with Poseidon. Poseidon was more than happy to help Athena out and get the Greeks back for their little transgression. When the Greeks finished celebrating their victory and went to sail home, they were beset by storms. Not just storms, but such bad weather that the Greek fleet was scattered and many boats and heroes were lost.

The great hero Menelaus was blown to Egypt. Odysseus was blown terribly off course as well. Ajax (the stunt double) had all of his ships destroyed, though he nearly survived. Ajax was clinging to a rocky outcrop and had the presence of mind to turn his head back towards the sea and call out, "I am the mortal the gods could not kill!" Needless to say, Posiedon was paying attention, responded "OH NO YOU AREN'T!" and promptly caused waves to sweep over Ajax, pulling him back into the water and drowning him.

Let's turn our attention back to Odysseus.

Poseidon's terrible storms blew Odysseus so far off course that he was completely lost.

He managed to find his way to the Island of the Lotus Eaters. Why lotus eaters, I don't know. I'm sure there is some reason they were lotus eaters and not cantalope eaters or rutabega eaters, but that particular detail is lost to me. Odysseus and his men went onto the island and met the King of the Lotus Eaters. Unfortunately, some of Odysseus' sailors missed the memo to not drink the water or eat anything weird, and the next thing you know a bunch of his men had eaten lotus leaves. Lotus leaves make you not want to leave the Island of the Lotus Eaters, so Odysseus had a hell of a time getting his weepy, distraught sailors back onto the ship so they could keep looking for their home, Ithaca.

The next island Odysseus and his men found was an island inhabited by the Cyclops Polyphemus. This is a particularly long and interesting part of the story of Odysseus and his adventures, but it boils down to this. If you have a big red button with the words "PUSH ME" on it, it doesn't take a wizard to figure out that the thing to do might just be to push the button. Well, when you have a huge one-eyed freak keeping you captive and killing and eating your men, it doesn't take a wizard to figure out what to do. You take a big wooden stick, light it on fire and poke the creature's eye out. The fire part is just for fun. Eye poking is always better with fire. Long story short: Cyclops. Wooden stick. Fire. Poke eye. Escape. Odysseus lost a few men, but was on his way to more fun adventures.

After two not-so-fun island getaways, Odysseus was very pleased to find that the next island he landed on was the Island of the Winds, ruled by King Aeolus. There was a big feast and King Aeolus took care of Odysseus and his men and after a while sent them on their way with a valuable gift. He gave Odysseus the Bag of Winds. This was a bag that Odysseus could use to control the winds and help guide his ship to where he wanted to go.

You might think that with the Bag of Winds, Odysseus would be all set. Sadly, Odysseus' men got it into their heads that the special bag Odysseus was given by King Aeolus must have something REALLY cool in it. Maybe they didn't buy the whole "Bag of Winds" story and figured there was gold and jewels in it. Maybe their curiosity got the better of them. Whatever the reason, one night the sailors got their hands on the bag when Odysseus was sleeping and opened it up to see what was inside. It was like Pandora's box was opened, only this time with wind. They were again blown off course and were again completely lost. This is the point where the story of Calypso, which turned into the story of Odysseus, now turns into the story of Odysseus and his dumb-ass sailors.

Odysseus (and his dumb-ass sailors) sailed their way to another island. This island was a very bad place. It was populated by the Laestrygons. The Laestrygons were mean and nasty, and they were big. Not only were they giant, but they were cannibals. For some reason, this didn't mean that they liked to eat each other as much as it mean that their favorite diet consisted of greek heroes and their not-so-bright sailor sidekicks. I honestly don't know why the original bards didn't just go all out and make them giant cannibal pirates, or giant cannibal pirate zombies, or even giant cannibal ninja pirate zombies. Maybe they just weren't all that creative. To make another long story short, Odysseus and his dumb-ass sailors barely escaped with their lives from the island of giant cannibal ninja pirate zombies, losing all but one of his ships in the process.

You can imagine the level of enthusiasm Odysseus was met with when he and his sailors reached the next island.

"So men, we need volunteers to go ashore and scout out this next island..."

Odysseus' men all probably looked around uncomfortably, trying not to make eye contact with him and invariably wearing "here we go again" expressions on their faces.

"No, I'm not insane - somebody has to check it out. How bad can it be? If we can survive the war, a cyclops and giant cannibal ninja pirate zombies, we can survive anything. Guys? Come back here, guys! Don't jump into the water! Really - it'll be alright!"

So somehow Odysseus convinced a small group of his sailors to scout out the island. This just happened to be an island ruled by the witch Circe, who promptly turned his scouting party into swine and imprisoned them in her pigpen.

Fortunately for Odysseus, he was actually a favorite of Athena's. She gave him a magical herb that made him immune to Circe's magic. When Odysseus went onto the island and eventually found Circe, she tried to transform him into a pig as well and was astonished when he resisted her spell. For reasons unbeknownst to... well, anyone, Circe was so impressed by Odysseus that she fell in love. His dumb-ass pig sailors were all transformed into plain old dumb-ass sailors again and she kept them there and took care of them for quite a while. Eventually Odysseus had to get on his way, and Circe was able to give him the first good directions he had been given yet on his journey. I like to think that conversation might have gone something like this:

ODYSSEUS: "So, Circe..."

CIRCE: "Yes, Big O?"

O: "I asked you to stop calling me that."

C: "Sorry, lover. I did stop calling you that in front of the men. It's just that I've never had a man like you before."

O: "Other men aren't like me, Circe?"

C: "Men are pigs. Did you get it? When I turned your sailors into swine? Did you get that I was being clever there?"

O: "Yes, dear. It was very clever. Now... I need to leave and I need your help."

C: "Do you really have to go, Odysseus?"

O: "Yes. I have a family to get back to. You don't want me to get killed or lost at sea, do you?"

C: "Of course not. Here's what you need to do. You need to talk to Teriesias."

O: "Got it. Teriesias. He can help me?"

C: "Yes. He's a prophet."

O: "He's got more than one eye, right? I have this thing about pointy sticks and folks with one eye."

C: "Umm... no - he isn't a cyclops."

O: "Good. He isn't a giant either?"

C: "No."

O: "Or a cannibal?"

C: "Not that I know of."

O: "Or a pirate?"

C: "He's a prophet, Odysseus. He can help you."

O: "OK. Last thing I need is a giant cannibal cyclops pirate ninja zombie prophet, and the way this trip's been going..."

C: "I understand. So, he's dead, and..."

O: "He's DEAD???"

C: "Yes. He's dead. You need to sail across the river Ocean."

O: "Not a zombie?"

C: "NOT a zombie. Now - you need to sail across the river Ocean."

O: "River Ocean. Got it."

C: "And you need to land at an island that has a big cave that is an entrance into the underworld of Hades."

O: "OK... River Ocean. Cave into Hades. I'm liking this less and less, Circe."

C: "You'll be fine. Just dig a short trench."

O: "Huh?"

C: "Did a short trench and fill it with goat's blood."

O: "You're putting me on."

C: "No, really. The spirits will come up out of Hades to drink the blood."

O: "Yum."

C: "You have to fend off the spirits until Tereisias shows up. Let him drink and he'll tell you everything you need to know."

So Odysseus, possibly against his better judgement, and probably after pleading with Circe to just turn him into a pig and be done with it, set sail again, this time for the river Ocean. Why Ocean is a river and not just an ocean, or why it isn't the river River, I can't really tell you. What matters is that he sailed across the river Ocean and found the entrance to Hades.

I haven't the foggiest idea how he managed to convince his dumb-ass ex-pig sailors that it was a good idea to dig a hole and fill it with goat's blood so all the spirits of the underworld would march up out of Hades, but somehow he pulled it off. I suspect alcohol was involved. They were able to fend off the spirits until Teriesias showed up, though to be honest I don't know how he knew which spooky-looking goat's-blood-craving underworld apparition WAS Teiresias. After all, he'd never met the guy. I can only assume they had nametags on the order of "Hello. I'm dead and my name is Teiresias" on their lapels to tell them all apart.

So, Teriesias drinks the goat's blood and spills his guts, figuratively, of course.

TERIESIAS: "Hey, thanks for the trench full of goat's blood there, buddy."

ODYSSEUS: "The name's Odysseus. Teiresias, I need your help."

T: "How did you know? Oh... Nametag. Right. I forget it's there sometimes."

O: "Right. So, I need to know how to get home."

T: "Well, Odysseus, I can help you, but you have to pay attention. The first thing to do is sail past the Island of the Sirens. Their song is so powerful that if you and your sailors hear it you will change course to go to their island and your ship will be dashed to pieces on the rocks."

O: "Got it. Sirens. Song bad. Rocks worse."

T: "Then you need to sail past Scylla and Charybdis. Scylla is a horrible sea monster and Charybdis is a vast whirlpool. Both are very deadly and either could easily be the death of you and your crew."

O: "OK. Sirens. Scylla. Charybdis. All bad."

T: "Once you get past Scylla and Charydbdis, you need to sail to the Island of the Sun."

O: "Sirens. Scylla. Charybdis. Island of Sun."

T: "The Island of the Sun has sacred oxen on it. Whatever you do, DO NOT harm the sacred oxen."

O: "OK. Sirens. Scylla. Charybdis. Island of the Sun. Something something sacred oxen."

T: "Are you paying attention? Let no harm come to the Oxen of the Sun."

O: "OK. OK. Sirens bad. Scylla bad. Charybdis bad. Sacred Oxen good."

T: "Good luck, Odysseus, you're gonna need it."

At this point, the spirits were swarming out of the entrance to Hades and Odysseus and his dumb-ass (ex-pig) sailors were freaking out just a little. They thanked Teriesias and hauled ass back across the river Ocean.

At this point one must assume that Odysseus had learned from his experience with the bag of winds to tell his sailors as much as possible. For this next stage in their journey, he had to have their cooperation. You see, Odysseus is a hero, and I think that's the ancient equivalent of what we might now call an extreme sports adrenaline junkie. When any NORMAL person is told that they need to sail past an island where the creatures will sing a song so powerful that you will be drawn to them and will get killed by being dashed against the rocky shore, they simply go the other way. If they're smart and if they really have to go that way they might realize that all they have to do is plug up their ears so they don't hear the song.

So what does the "Big O" do?

Odysseus has his sailors plug their ears with beeswax and then tie him to the mast so he can listen to the song.

I consider myself a music lover, but this is the ancient equivalent of bungee jumping over a mosh pit covered head to toe in "Punch Me!" bumper stickers. This is unnecessarily dangerous showboating, but Odysseus is a Greek Hero and he needed to hear the Sirens' song for himself. To their credit, his dumb-ass sailors were able to tie decent knots and despite his every effort to free himself so he could leap from the ship and swim to their island (and be dashed to pieces on the rocks), he and his sailors made it safely past the Island of the Sirens.

Now past the Sirens, all they had to do was sail between the terrible sea monster Scylla and the raging whirlpool Charybdis. The exact details are lost to us now, but somehow they managed to lose six sailors in the process. What I think happened is that six of his dumb-ass sailors forgot to take the wax out of their ears. They were probably on deck leaning up against the rail as they neared Scylla's waters. She reared up out of the sea behind them, and they the hapless sailors watched their buddies point at them, gesticulate wildly and yell something that they couldn't understand because their ears were still full of wax.

Their last words were probably something like "Hey, what's wrong? Why are you pointing at me? What? Are we playing charades? Lemme guess! First word, first syllabAAAAAAIIIIIIUUUUGH!!!!" as they were pulled into the sea by one of Scylla's serpentine heads.

So now, with Odysseus' sailing crew's average IQ slightly higher as a result of their latest adventure they made land on the Island of the Sun. If you've been paying attention you can probably guess what happened to the sacred oxen that once inhabited that island.

Odysseus made the mistake of taking a nap...

"Oh MAN I needed that nap. I feel much better now. Rested... and... hungry! I wonder if the men found anything on the island worth cooking. Hey... What's that smell? Do I smell.... Barbeque?"

Needless to say. Odysseus' men killed and cooked up all of the sacred oxen. I'm sure when asked, they insisted that our hero kept saying "Sacred Oxen GOOD" over and over again.

Odysseus high-tailed it out of there as quickly as he could get his men together, but it didn't do them much good. Not far from the island, their boat was shattered by a bold of lightning, no doubt the result of their dinner of sacred oxen. Odysseus was the only survivor and drifted for days on the open sea before he was washed up on the shores of Calypso's island.

This is a story about Calypso, after all.

So, Odysseus is from Ithaca, has a wife, Penelope, and a son, Telemachus. I know I said this is a story about Calypso, but this is important.

Odysseus was at war for 10 years. During that time, every man on the island of marrying age moved into Odysseus' hall, ate his food, drank his wine, and tried to convince his wife Penelope to marry them.

Penelope, like Odysseus, was not without a certain amount of guile and cunning. Also, as you will soon see, Penelope's suitors were no smarter than Odysseus' sailors - which is to say not very smart at all.

In order to buy time for Odysseus to eventually return home she tricked the suitors. She told them that she needed to weave a burial shroud for Odysseus' aging father Laertes, and that once she had finished the shroud she would consider possibly choosing a suitor.

Every day she dutifully wove the shroud.

Ever night she would carefully UN-weave the shroud.

You can just imagine their daily conversations...

SUITOR: "Good morning Penelope. I see you're back to your weaving again..."

PENELOPE: "Uh... yeah. I'm still working on it."

S: "How's it coming along?"

Penelope holds up a tiny 3" by 3" square of fabric, so small it couldn't even serve as a potholder.

S: "And how long have you been working on it, Pen?"

P: "Oh, five or six years so far."

S: "You're not very good at this weaving thing, are you, Penelope?"

Needless to say, the suitors eventually saw through Penelope's ruse and the pressure was on for her to choose a suitor. At this point, her son Telemachus stepped in. When Odysseus left for Troy, Telemachus was but a child. Now he was a young man, eager to take on the world and prove he was a man, but not old enough to impress the suitors.

Telemachus wanted to go to neighboring islands to get word of what had happened to his father. The suitors refused to help and mocked him. Fortunately, Athena was still looking out for Odysseus and helped his son to get a boat and go looking for news of his father's fate.

Telemachus sailed to visit Nestor, one of the Greek heroes, but Nestor didn't have any news of Odysseus. He then went to visit Menelaus and there he found out what had happened to his dad.

Menelaus had been blown to Egypt when Poseidon unleashed his fury on the Greek fleet as they departed for home. He was swept up on the shores of the island of Pharos where he met a sea goddess. He begged her for aid and she told him that her father, Proteus, would tell him anything he needed to know, including how to get home.

All Menelaus and his men had to do was catch Proteus and keep hold of him. The problem was that Proteus was a shape-shifter.

Proteus' daughter instructed Menelaus to take three of his men down to the beach, dig four holes, hide in the holes covered in sealskins and wait. Proteus came up onto the beach every day around the same time and all they had to do was leap out and grab him. They'd be all hot and sweaty (and probably half naked), but as long as they held on they'd be fine.

With no other options, Menelaus got three of his men, dug four holes and lied in wait for the sea god to come up out of the water. Sure enough, Proteus came onto the beach and the men jumped out and grabbed hold of Proteus. The next thing you know, Proteus turned into a horse, then a lion, then a dragon and on and on while Menelaus and his men tried to keep hold of him.

What I can't understand is that if gods are supposed to be ancient one would assume they're also fairly bright. I have to figure Proteus must have at some point decided to turn into a mosquito.

Have you ever seen four hot, sweaty, half-naked men try to wrestle a mosquito?

I'm guessing that was probably the point at which one of the local fishermen came along looking for a good spot to cast his line in and bring home some supper for his family.

FISHERMAN: "Excuse me. You, there on the beach. What are you doing there?"

MENELAUS: "Uh... we're wrestling a mosquito."

F: "Oh really? That's what they call it these days? You know, there's another beach for that sort of thing just a little way down from here."

M: "No, really. We're... wrestling a mosquito. Earlier it was a horse!"

F: "Oh my... Well, I don't think we have a beach for THAT around here. I, uh... I think I'm going to find another place to fish... Good luck with your uh... wrestling. Hope everything comes out OK in the end!"

So the local fisherman, now rather stunned, ambles away and the four men trying to hold onto the mosquito are relieved when Proteus changes into the final form he would take before giving up the fight. Proteus turned into a tree.

You just know that after all that hard work, now that they're holding onto a tree, one of them excitedly yelled out, "Hey guys - I've got wood!!!"

From over the edge of the sand dune you can be sure the fisherman heard him and yelled back, "I KNEW you guys were up to something funny over there!"

Once Proteus gave up the fight, he told Menelaus how to get home. He also told him that Odysseus was stranded on an island with Calypso.

Let's get back to Calypso. This is a story about Calypso, after all.

Calypso... was a Nymph.

At this point it's unclear as to whether that title is an abbreviation, a classification, or both, but as the story goes for nine years Odysseus spent every night in Calypso's bed and every day on the beach crying.

Nine years.

Every night.


The original storyteller implies heavily that Odysseus was crying every day because he missed his home, Ithaca, his wife Penelope and his son Telemachus.


I look at the fact that Odysseus was at war for 10 years, had scores of perilous island-hopping adventures with his dumb-ass sailors and watched everyone he sailed with drown or be killed. They he got to spend nine years on a desert island with a nymph.

Sure, I'd miss Ithaca, Penelope and Telemachus, but my tears?

They'd be tears of joy.

So after 10 years of hell and almost as many years of heaven, Telemachus found out where Odysseus was and Athena took advantage of a weekend when Poseidon was off partying in Ethiopia (yes, really) to send Hermes down to Calypso with instructions that the Big O had to be sent on his way.

Calypso was devastated, but would not defy the gods. Odysseus build a ship and sailed home. The last leg of the voyage was not without incident, but the bottom line is that he got home, killed a bunch of the suitors and was reunited with his family.

So why is this the story of Calypso?

When you look at it, Odysseus' journey home was marked with brief moments of high adventure and many, many years shacked up with a nymph on a desert island. Most storytellers, perhaps with good reason, focus on the trials and tribulations of his journey from Troy back to Ithaca. However, when you look at the true time he spent, the vast majority of it was spent with Calypso.

Many men are seen for their achievements and for the brief moments of high adventure they are lucky enough to live through. The truest story of their lives is often not the story of the dragons they slayed or the battles they fought in, but rather the way they shared their lives with the women they loved.

Given that Calypso was a Nymph, it's possible that a full and detailed accounting of the days and nights Odysseus spent with Calypso would not be appropriate for younger audiences, so let it suffice to say that she was the biggest part of his life for the greatest part of his journey home. For that reason, the story of Odysseus is the story of Calypso.

We each just have to think about what we know about his adventures, and what we know about life and love, and decide for ourselves if we think the tears he shed on the beaches of Calypso's island were tears of sorrow or tears of joy.