Bumble the Bard in Camelot

This isn't really a poem, though it contains some poetic bits. It was my entry for Mythic's quest contest, and was selected as one of the finalists.

Athanasia's Flute

by Bumble the Bard


I was strolling through the streets of Camelot city, and near the entrance to the Academy I noticed a young woman whom I hadn't seen before. She was an Avalonion sorceress, and in her hands she held a flute that appeared to be fashioned from the finest silver. It glistened in the sunlight in the most captivating way, and I couldn't help but stop to admire it. At once the young woman smiled and greeted me. "My name is Athanasia," she said, "I see you like my flute." "I do indeed," I replied, "I've never seen its like. I've been a minstrel since my youth, and I have a flute made by the best of the Ellyll craftsmen, but I have outgrown it, and I have never until now seen a better one."

"Would you like to know the history of this flute?" asked Athanasia. "Surely," I said. "Well, back in King Arthur's day there was an old, old woman, whose name is now forgotten. She was a powerful mage and it was said that she spoke always in rhymes and riddles. She had a friend who was a Highlander minstrel, like yourself, and for his birthday she commissioned the silversmiths to make this flute, and then she enchanted it herself with magic powers. But alas, her friend died shortly before his birthday, and now she has entrusted the flute to me, to seek one who is worthy to play it. Do you think, perhaps, that you are worthy?"

"I would like the chance to prove to you that I am," I said. "Very well," said she, "Then you must pass three tests: one of devotion, one of courage and one of wits." "I am ready," I replied.

Then she began to chant:
"Nearby, in a holy place,
Beside the camps of dwarven race,
Fathers with no children give,
And children with no fathers live.
From you, the price of heartwood drum,
Would feed those boys for weeks to come."

She promptly bid me farewell, and left me to solve the puzzle. I began pondering it. The nearest holy place was the Church in Camelot, but that didn't fit with the part about dwarven camps. Then it occurred to me that there were dwarves camped to the north of the city, and that Vetusta Abbey stood nearby, with its orphanage. This was surely the holy place where the priests - fathers with no children - gave to the orphans - children with no fathers. This was clearly the test of devotion, and Athanasia desired me to donate the price of a heartwood drum to the orphanage. I checked with the local vendor of instruments who confirmed that such a drum sold for eight gold and 64 silver pieces. Checking that I had sufficient coin I ran at my fastest minstrel speed to the Abbey and gave the money to a surprised and delighted Brother Don.

Returning immediately to the Academy in Camelot, I found Athanasia again. "I have done as you required," I told her. "I know," she said, "I watched you in my seer's crystal. Now you must pass the test of courage."

Again she chanted:
"Far from this Academy,
A land that sinks beneath the sea,
A titan dwells who fears no man,
But eats our flesh as oft he can,
Vanquish him or perish trying,
And bring me token of his dying."

I considered the riddle for a moment. The land that sinks beneath the sea was evidently Lyonesse, much of which was already under water. I had heard tales of a great giant called Mapog who lived there and terrorized anyone he found. I knew at once I would need help, so I gathered two of my paladin friends from the local bar, lectured them about how they shouldn't be drinking this early in the day (or at least not without inviting me too) and we set out by horse on the long journey to Lyonesse. I will spare you the details of the fight, but it was hard, fierce and at times desperate. When the giant finally fell, I cut off one of his ears as a token and returned with it to Athanasia in Camelot.

"You have done well, minstrel," she said, "but you must pass the test of wits before you can be judged worthy of my flute."

She began chanting once more:
"This flute shall last from age to age,
Enchanted by an unknown mage,
Search here and there, and high and low,
Ask everyone until you know,
Then come to me and make it plain,
And say to me, the mage's name."

I smiled at the young woman, for her last puzzle was revealed to me at once.

"The mage's name is Athanasia," I said, "For you said yourself that it is your flute, and you have spoken to me nothing but rhymes and riddles since we met."

"You have answered well, minstrel. I am the ancient mage of whom I spoke, and though I appear young to you, it is because I have learned by my arts to make my form any age I desire. Here, take the flute; you have earned it. May it ever serve to delight your friends and confound your enemies."

THE END