Thursday, April 26, 2012

Kendall's Fight

Hi, all

Ashard's wife Kendall has been diagnosed with cervical cancer. She has also found out the hard way that her insurance does not cover her treatment, which is insane. This is a young woman with children. Ashard and Dmitri built a website to chronicle her recovery and raise funds. Please consider visiting her site and keep her in your thoughts and prayers.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Dukkering, Chapter Four: Gypsy Gold by Baron Bardulf

“Well, what do you remember?” Katherine hovered close.

“The woman gave me something to drink in a beat-up old goblet. She said it was a potion that would protect me. I was cautioned to drink it slowly. It had an odd taste, very sweet and bitter at the same time.”

“As soon as I touched the goblet, everything shifted, it all was so clear and transparent - no, that’s not it. It was as if I became transparent. Nothing came from me, it all came through me from somewhere else. I had no fear, no thoughts, and nothing to remember…”

“Everything was revealed to him - I spared him nothing. When I turned up the 'Tower' card, I saw it all - betrayal, torture, disgrace, and death by fire. To his credit, I saw him flinch only once.”

“The infidel would escape - but just barely… I told her where to hide something. If she did so, the old woman would win her freedom before she too died.”

“That’s the last thing I can remember before I woke up here.”

Dulcy’s voice trailed off. “I’ve tried over and over to recall what I said, but I just can’t. The memories keep going through my head like a song. I know the melody, but I can’t remember the lyrics.”

Katherine interrupted gently. "I was thinking about that gold...."

"Yeah, me too. I already know what you're going to say." Dulcinaya smiled sadly. "I know they meant well, but they might as well have filled my purse with rocks. We can't do anything with that gold - it’s worthless. You and I must keep it hidden and never tell a soul. If that wealth became known, every cutthroat in God’s creation would hunt us down."

"Besides, I’m a dirt-poor gypsy. Can you imagine me telling a judge that two strangers that nobody else saw drugged me and then stuffed my purse with ten gold florins?”

“It’s not hard to imagine at all. After he enjoyed a good laugh, the judge would hang the whole Kumpania as thieves."
Katherine scowled, as if to recall an odd memory. “I didn’t think of it until now, but there’s one more thing. Elphin told me that when he pulled your face off the table, you opened your eyes for a moment and said one word before passing out again.”

“What did I say?”

Katherine eyed Dulcy quizzically. “Got any idea what it means?”

Dulcinaya pondered a moment and shrugged. “No - not a clue.”

© 2010 Baron Bardulf

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Clean, no holes or skid marks , size M 32-34

Okay, ya'll. Seriously, nobody is gonna claim these? Don't be shy about it, they are nice undies.
These were found in the upstairs of the garage, so it would stand to reason they got lost when we were all swimming and using the garage as a changing room.

However, it is possible that they went missing as long ago as maybe Twelfth Night, and migrated up to the garage loft with the new storm windows while the house renovations were going on. That's a possibility, too.

Nobody has claimed them, so now we are just being mean about it and posting somebody's underwear on the internet because we are a nasty lot. I reckon you all will damn straight keep track of your flimises after this, eh?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dukkering, Chapter Three: Soldier of Fortune by Baron Bardulf

After a candle had been placed in a window, the sound of a carriage could be heard outside. A man and a woman entered and surveyed what was before them. Although they were dressed like commoners, their disguises failed instantly.

He was old and bearded but presented himself with the calm, rock-solid demeanor of a seasoned warrior. He was a man born to command armies, yet there was a sense of earthy humility about him. He expected obedience and devotion, not out of pride, but simply because that was the natural order of things.

Although she too carried the weight of many years, the woman was unlike her companion. The dark skin and eyes bespoke a Turk, or perhaps a Moor. While it was clear that the other four men beheld her with respect and awe, fear was easily seen behind their regard. They took pains never to look her in the eyes.

“Are we alone?”

“Yes Sire - as you have ordered, there are none here but the gypsy woman.”

"Take your men outside. Stay in the shadows, remain unseen and allow no one to enter."

"Sir Tancred..."
The ice in the woman's voice halted them. "...that doesn't mean you can kill some unlucky wretch."

When the door shut, the old man glared at the woman beside him.

"I'll thank you not to address my men in that way. Tancred's a fine knight..."

"- and a damned sorry excuse for a monk. Have you forgotten what he did to those poor bastards at Caesarea? They had laid down their weapons and yet he slaughtered them.”

The man shrugged off the reproach and turned his attention to Dulcinaya.

“So that’s her, eh? - that gypsy?”

“Don’t make light of the humble; she is a powerful seer.”

“How did you learn of that knave’s ‘talents’?”

“I have my own gifts.”

He gave the old woman a look of barely contained disgust. “I’ve had enough of your foul arts.”

“I didn’t choose to be what I am - and neither did she.”

The man strode across the room and stood before Dulcinaya’s table.

"Now then…” He placed his fists on the table-board and leaned closer. “…tell me my future with those cards and we'll be done."

"Cards?” Dulcy’s eyes opened wide with sudden panic. “Oh, you mean these? Fortune telling?? N-N-Never M'Lord!!! I'll not do such a loathsome thing! These cards are for clever tricks, idle amusements, games of chance, sleight of hand...."

“There! - you see? Here is your great oracle! This miserable creature has confessed herself to be a fraud. We’re done here! I’m through with this nonsense.”

"Stop it, Jacques. You’re scaring her. She thinks you're a witch-hunter."

"Me, a witch-hunter? Of that you must have no fear." He looked at the older woman with a wry smile. "I've already found all the witchcraft I can deal with."

“Pray, be seated.” The woman took her place at the end of the table while “Jacques” made a great show of sullen resignation and sat opposite Dulcinaya. “You must forgive the old dog.” Her voice hinted at affection. “He’s a soldier. Oft-times he forgets that not everyone must jump when he barks.”

The woman’s demeanor shifted. The dark eyes beheld the gypsy with a serious and uncompromising regard. “I now ask for your service…and above all…your trust.”

She reached beneath her cloak and unfastened a leather pouch that hung from a belt.

“NO!” He rose to his feet and bellowed. “I FORBID IT!!”

“You can’t stop me. Accept that…”

“You don’t dare…you wretch! Have you forgotten your oath?”

“Spare me the lecture - I’m not one of your acolytes."

“If you defy me….”

“Even in my defiance I will honor my oath. I pledged you my service - not my obedience! When you spared my life at Antioch, I gave my vow to you. In Jerusalem I accepted the burden that you placed upon me. I have served you like no other.”

“If it’s any comfort to you, you were my last choice.”

“I was your only choice. Only I could bear its touch without going mad. How many of your men paid dearly for that knowledge? I’ve often marveled at my fate. How can it be that only an infidel woman can hold and possess the object that all of Christendom desires?"

The dark eyes grew cold.

"Mark my words, you fool! You and your knights are too rich, too powerful, and too proud. The whirlwind is coming, Jacques. I can feel it, but I cannot see it! It will soon be upon us and it may already be too late. The gypsy is your only hope."

The old man looked at the woman. His eyes searched her as one who was grasping for a shred of trust.

"Please believe me." Her voice softened. "If there were any other way........"

Jacques slowly regained his seat. “May God forgive me for this.”

The woman opened the pouch and produced a well-worn goblet and cruet.

© 2010 Baron Bardulf

Monday, May 24, 2010

Dukkering, Chapter Two: The Gypsy Trap by Baron Bardulf

Life would slow down after All Hallows Day. The harvest was done and the farmers had plenty of idle time and idle money. On a cold night, they would find their way into the tavern. The lure of a warm fire, the company of friends and perhaps some spiced wine would prove irresistible.

Dulcy usually set herself up in the fire-side corner of the public room. An azure tablecloth, two borrowed candles and some scattered herbs would set the stage. There she would hold court like a ragged gypsy mage-queen.

In that corner, magic reigned and a ha’penny or other petty coin would buy a peek at whatever the future held. While a palm reading was best for some queries, the cards were Dulcinaya’s favorite.

Theatrics were the enchantment of the game. Each card was revealed slowly and teasingly. The turn of a card brought forth a look of grave concern, feigned shock, or perhaps surprised delight. The secret to dukkering was to answer each question with yet another question. Thus a heart’s desires would be laid bare. When a few more cards were shown, there would be a raised eyebrow, a knowing glance, or perhaps a conspiratorial wink and a sly smile. Whispering a vague prophecy somehow made it all seem true.

However, this Sabbath’s Eve had been a wretchedly slow night, and there was naught but three pence in her purse to show for it.

It was near closing time. A few farmers argued drunkenly as to what next year’s market would bring. Off in the other corner there were four strangers who drank and kept mostly to themselves. One could overhear the usual debate concerning the vagaries of gambling, the fickleness of women, or the merits of one horse over another. By the look of them, they were likely nothing more than sell-swords.

“Tis Sabbath Eve, gentlemen, and midnight is upon us - we must bid all a good night.” The serving wench made her usual announcement to no one in particular. The farmers downed the last of their grog and ale while gathering their cloaks. The four in the corner didn’t so much as lift their cups. The wench went over to their table. “There’s an inn less than a league north of here. I’m sure you gentlemen will find a night’s rest there.” They kept their seats and said nothing as the last of the farmers left the tavern. “Surely you'll not break the Sabbath? There’ll be hell to pay if the Vicar finds out that you were sitting here with an ale in your hand past midnight.”

“What about the gypsy?” One of the men queried.

“I let her stay because she helps me clean up. Now out with all of you! None of you look like the sort who will sweep floors.”

“Sit down and be silent, woman.”

“I’ve no patience for your nonsense. I’ve got work to do. Now get out!”

The man stood up and towered over the wench. “That wasn’t a suggestion.”

He turned to the other three and gave orders…"You guard the door - and keep the gypsy in her seat. Search the larder and kitchen - make sure no one else is here.”

The brute held the trembling woman's face before his.

"Leave this place, tell no one what you have seen, and do not return until sunrise. If you disobey, the gypsy..." He glanced in Dulcinaya's direction. "...will be found feeding the crows in a field somewhere. Do you understand?"

The wench gave a terrified nod and fled the tavern.

"Give the signal that it's safe to enter."

© 2010 Baron Bardulf

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Dukkering, Chapter One: Consciousness by Baron Bardulf

Consciousness, when it arrived, simply hurt.

Maybe the damned priest was right.....I am bound for Hell...
That the rhythm of pain kept pace with a heartbeat and thus gave evidence of life blessed her with an odd sort of comfort.

The gray peace of oblivion enfolded once again......


A blast of cold air invaded the lungs and dragged her once more amongst the living. Dulcinaya rose upon one elbow and faced the open door. Squinting through a single blood-shot eye, she discerned Elphin's silhouette.

She gave him a terse description of how his ancestor's unfortunate mating choices had cursed this land with his existence. He smirked, shook his head and slammed the door with malicious effort.

"God-damned gadjos - why do I keep taking in every stray dog?"

"Go easy on him.
When you didn't come home on Sunday morn, Elphin went to fetch you. The rest of us thought nothing of it - after all, it wouldn't be the first time you and the serving wench got snockered after hours." Katherine spoke gently. "Elphin carried you all the way from the tavern by himself. He swears he didn't drop you on your head more than twice."
"Where am I?"

"You're in your own bed. You're safe - now shut up and lie down."

Katherine pressed a cold rag against Dulcy's forehead.

"By the way, Morwenna says you're not drunk and you don't have a hangover - you've been drugged."


"Mor-Wen-Nah... remember her? She's another stray-dog gadjo you took in recently. That 'dog' has been with you ever since Elphin brought you in - she left only after I threatened to throw her out."
Dulcinaya took a deep breath and held her eyes shut.

"Whenever I can eat again, I'd like a large plate of crow."

"Save the humility. We all know you're not well."

"How did Morwenna know that I was drugged?"

Katherine remained silent and only raised an eyebrow - a prudent woman never revealed where such knowledge came from.

"Leave those things to the healers."
Dulcy rolled upright, sat on the edge of the bed and buried her face in her hands.

"Morwenna said to give this to you when you were strong enough. She said it would help clear your head."

Dulcy gave the potion a sniff and recoiled. That was followed by a tentative sip.

"Augggh! This stuff is awful!

"Drink it, it's good for you."

"Drink it? - I'd sooner kiss a pig's........."

"Aysha's sow just had a litter. I'll fetch one for you - got any preferences?"

When presented in that manner, the correct choice was obvious. Dulcinaya took a few deep breaths, steeled herself and downed the entire dose in a single gulp. Her eyes bulged as the cup shattered on the floor.

"Oh - My - Gawd." The words were forced out between croaking gasps.

"You were supposed to sip it, dammit."

"Yeah, thanks for telling me. I hope that was fun to watch."

Katherine placed a finger to her lips to compel silence and gave a quick glance about to make sure there were no others present.

"After Morwenna told me you had been drugged, I was pretty sure that you had been robbed." Katherine leaned close and spoke in a low voice. "As soon as she left, I looked to see if there was anything in your purse."
" - Bet it was kind of empty, eh? - At least I know the bastards didn't get much..."

"- Shut up and let me finish. When I emptied your purse onto the table there were three coppers.."

"- So what? That's just about all I ever have....."

"... and ten gold florins..."

Katherine waited until the shock began to fade from Dulcinaya's face.

"Close your mouth, you look like a fish."

"Y'know, sometimes your sense of humor really gets on my nerves....."

"I wasn't joking and you have some explaining to do. What happened at the tavern?"

"I'm having trouble remembering anything from last night. Hell, when I woke up, I didn't recognize my own vardo."

"It didn't happen last night. Today is Monday - you've been unconscious for a whole day."
Dulcinaya collapsed back onto the bed and wrapped the pillow around her head.

"Gimme some time, this may take a while to piece together."

© 2010 Baron Bardulf

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Raptor's Tale, Part Three: by Cap'n Jack Black of Flint

After BlackJack’s meeting with Madame Sylvie, he walked through the compound to the stables. Once there, he prepared his horse for the long ride back to Calais. It didn’t take long for him to finish saddling the horse, and he was off. As he approached the gate, Madame Sylvie was there waiting for him. Standing on a small carriage boarding platform, she watched him approach. Watching her watch him, he realized that while somewhat diminutive, she was probably the single most powerful woman in France. She stood there, regally, in her long flowing gown, red shot through with gold, in the current fashion in the courts of England and France. The hat that protected her from the sun was tilted low over her brow, with the gold feathers sweeping back over the deep blood red wrappings around her hair. He pulled up his horse at the platform.

“My lady Sylvie,” he nodded. “I am honored that ye’ve chosen to see me off, but tis not necessary. I do know my way out.” He laughed, and turned back over his shoulder as he heard hooves clattering behind him. Two proud percheron stallions were pulling a carriage forward towards the platform. Sylvie turned and smiled sweetly, as he moved his horse to one side, so that the carriage could be pulled to the platform.

“Do not over flatter yourself, my dear Captain. I happen to have business in Calais myself, so shall accompany you on the afternoon’s journey to the city. After all, I have a ship load of cargo to get to my factors to be sold and profited from.” She smiled again. “You DO want a share of the profit, don’t you? If I can get the items sold before you put to sea, you may be able to use the funds on your current mission.” I also wish to acquire some sort of messaging system, possibly some pigeons, for you to keep me informed of your progress.”

“Unfortunately, Sylvie, pigeons are of no value once we cross the ocean, exceptin as food.” He chuckled as she made a face. “Ye’ve no issue with eatin birds here in yer home, but do with us doin the same at sea? I thought ye were better than that, lass. Ye’d be a bit surprised at what we usually eat whilst at sea.”

Sylvie boarded the carriage, and it rolled towards the gate before she spoke again. As BlackJack pulled his horse alongside her window so that they could speak as they traveled, she began again. “You know better than most the struggle to survive I have had, Jack. I shall speak frankly, and remind you that while I have worked my way to learning the ways of a Courtesan, and now run the largest and most popular house in France, I have lived in the streets.” She plucked at the white lace around her neck. “You know that when I was born, my fate was to be much worse than this. The fact that I have turned my adversity into a successful life, much as you have done yourself, shows the type of people we are. I know the nuns at your orphanage in London would never recognize you, just as any family of mine that may still be alive would not recognize me. Many things change every day, people live and die, and only those who are in control of their lives can be happy. It’s my personal belief that many of my ladies who serve in the Noble houses here in Calais, and even in Paris and Marseilles, are among the most intelligent, most skilled, and quickest thinking of many of the men who are in charge of those same houses. You know that is why my ladies go through all the training they do. They know how to read and write multiple civilized languages, they can cook, sew, know mathematics, and more. And that is not even counting the more “gentle” skills that each learn to keep their men happy. Do not even BEGIN to lecture me on what your life is like, because you will find no sympathy from me, Captain.” With that, she closed the blinds on her window, and did not speak again. BlackJack shrugged and rode ahead.

Four hours later, a tired and sore BlackJack finally saw the city walls of Calais in the distance. Turning around, he rode back the short distance to the carriage following him. Pulling along the carriage, he spoke as formally as he could. “Madame Sylvie, we are approaching Calais. If you have no further need of me, I shall be on my way to check on my ship. Most likely we shall sail on the morning tide. I shall send word as often as is possible as to our status.”

The curtain slid aside, and Sylvie peered out. “Very well, I shall endeavor to get whatever I can to you by the time you put to sea. I wish you luck in dealing with Sir Francis Drake, and hope that you are able to escape Queen Elizabeth’s noose.” As he turned his horse to depart, she called again. “BlackJack! I apologize for speaking in anger as I did earlier. These are dangerous times, and I would be unhappy if the last we spoke to each other in this world were words of anger. I bear you no ill will, and sincerely hope that we shall continue to be friends for many years to come.”

A grin split BlackJack’s beard as he replied, “No worries lass, I understand. You’re a woman, yer very nature is to be contrary as hells. Seriously, though, I accept your apology, and offer me own as well. As usual, my words came out afore me brain could think about what I was sayin. Nothin new there, I’m sure you know. This Drake thing has me a bit on edge, and am wantin to be to sea as quick as I can.” He then nodded to her, and spurred his horse to a gallop towards the city wall.

Shortly thereafter, he stopped at the inn where he first met Magnus the evening before. Handing the horse over to a stable boy along with a gold coin, he walked inside. He walked straight to the Innkeeper, and put two gold pieces on the bar. “I’m in need of a couple of things, lad. Gimme what I need, and these be yours. First, I need to know if any have been around askin questions about me.” When the innkeeper shook his head, still watching the coins, BlackJack shoved one towards him. Keeping his hand on the other, she spoke again. “Question number two. Have ye ever seen me, or know which way The Raptor be headin?” The man, numbly reaching for the coin, shook his head again as he spoke.

“I ain’t never heard of BlackJack Flint, or The Raptor, so can’t tell anyone who ye are or where ye went.” BlackJack laughed, handed over the coin, and walked out.

Shortly thereafter, he was climbing the gangplank to his ship, and started shouting as he came aboard. “Mr. Thomas! I need a report, now! All officers, in my cabin, immediately! Bosun, make preparations to set sail with the mornin tide! All hands, hop to, and MOVE!” Men immediately began scrambling about as he went below to his cabin, to begin to prepare his next move, and discuss the situation with his officers.

Once the officers were gathered, he poured himself a drink, and looked about the room. “Well lads, we’ve done it again. That ship we took on the way to Lisbon has turned out to cause us an issue. Well, it turns out that the fop that died when we took her was some relation to Elizabeth. Now word has reached me that Drake is hunting us, with orders to bring me to Elizabeth. Magnus wasn’t sure as of last night if that’s a dead or alive thing, or what. We’ll be settin sail in the mornin, and headed south. Me intent is to get around Good Hope as quick as we can, and lie low near Singapore for a bit. Maybe we can avoid him, or if we’re REALLY lucky, the sea will sink him at the Cape, and not us. Now, here’s where we see what’s what. Mr. Thomas, I need to know how our provisions are for the journey. I also need to know the condition of the ship, were ye able ta get divers over this mornin ta inspect? And finally, how many of the crew made it back to the ship this mornin?”

Mr. Thomas stood and began his report. “We’ve got enough provisions on board to last us about 3 weeks currently. With what we can get on board tonight, we should be able to extend that to a month. We have enough powder and shot for the cannons and small arms for several battles, if need be. Divers are over the side now, and should have a report on the hull shortly. As soon as I get it, I will let you know. Inspections on board are revealing no major leaks, the few small ones have been or are in the process of being repaired now. We have reports of two crewmen having gotten themselves arrested last night, and one was found floating in the harbor shortly afore you arrived. I think that about covers everything as you requested at this time.”

“Very good, Mr. Thomas,” BlackJack replied. Turning to the rest of the officers, he asked, “Do any of ye have anything further to add?” Looking around the room to negative responses, he turned back to Mr. Thomas. “Then ye have yer orders, lads, let’s get ready to heave to. Mr. Thomas, keep an eye out, Madame Sylvie said she’s goin ta attempt to get us our cut of the Pride’s cargo profits afore we leave in the mornin. She knows our first stop is going to be Lisbon, and Magnus will have information for us there, or one of his operatives will be there. Dismissed, gentlemen.” The men all got up and left BlackJack to his thoughts, as he sipped his whiskey and stared out the windows of his cabin.

© 2010 Jack Black of Flint