Modern Living Leprechaun Style

Leprechaun engraving 1858
Leprechaun engraving 1858 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once upon a time there was a leprechaun named Shaun.  He lived in modern times, which was tough for a fairytale creature.  His woodland had been bulldozed by a suburban developer outside of Dublin and now he found himself in the basement of one of the low rent tenement buildings that the city council had dubbed The Green Hills in honor of what was there before they put in the grey, drab concrete apartment blocks for the poor and destitute to get them out of the central city.

Like the rest of the development, the Leprechaun was supposed to be dealt with, never seen from again.  And many of Shaun’s people had left, some immigrating to America in the bottom of potato sacks, taking up residence in the Keebler Elf factory, where at least they could be out of the closet about their fairytale nature.  Others had gone deep underground, where sooner or later the dirt and the dark would turn them into dwarves or worse, trolls.  Very few people recognize that genetics are only the beginning point for an organism, and that nurturing green fields are as much a part of the makeup of a Leprechaun as the slime pits and bilge waste are for a troll.

But Shaun fought the direction of the world and refused to leave his ancestral home.  As soon as the tenement had gone up he’d picked a basement flat that butted up against what had been his ancestral cave under the branches of a great oak now sold for toothpicks and beer barrels.  There Shaun had stayed, donning dark glasses and shabby clothes and screaming obscenities and throwing things if anyone came near.  He’d moved in so soon they’d never had time to mark his flat with a number, so later neighbors just assumed he was the tenement’s terrible crazy fix it man.  They’d complain about his temper, but the next day whatever they complained to him about would be fixed.  So they liked their super despite his bizarre ways.  As for the owners, they never noticed they were one super short, and wouldn’t have said anything if they had.  So Shaun fixed things and had a place of his own.

It all started to go south when Shaun reached his mid-life and started thinking about getting a wife and settling down.  Where was a fellow to go in these parts to find a Leprechaun wife?  He thought about many things but then heard several of the tenement boys talking about the internet.  One nightly raid later, Shaun was online looking for other Leprechauns.  He found exactly what he was looking for at the Keebler personals, where wanton hussies looking for Leprechauns with very green jackets gave all their particulars.

Shaun wrote them all.  In the next few weeks, none of them wrote him back except to taunt him for being a fool.  But one of the girls knew a girl with a very strict family and mentioned to her that a stick-in-the-mud was writing from the old country looking for a traditional wife.  “As if,” she huffed.  “A girl has to look forward.”  The traditional girl, who’s name was Mabel, got Shaun’s address and sent him a honest-to-God letter asking him questions.  Shaun was flabbergasted to receive mail, but wrote her back.

Things progressed nicely until Mabel and her family took the journey out to the old country.  They knocked on Shaun’s flat and were not impressed by his shenanigans.  “What’s this?” Said Mabel’s father.  “You’re nothing more than a squatter! How will you support my daughter?”  As a little person he was used to standing tall for his rights.  He hired an attorney who mentioned that the super in tenement six had never been paid.  The owners called it a clerical error and corrected it with a nice settlement.

There weren’t any Leprechaun ministers in Shaun’s neck of the woods, so they had the festivities in America.  Shaun flew back with the family, who had passports and everything else.  It took some time for Shaun to get a passport of his own, but once that was settled, he became a citizen like everyone else.

Now Shaun and Mabel live in the basement flat of tenement six.  They’re little people, but keep themselves to themselves.  Shaun’s even stopped screaming at the other tenants, though he still does his housework secretly at night.  Some things never change.

Once Upon A Time: The Vast Ocean

English: Trawler Hauling Nets Source: http://w...
English: Trawler Hauling Nets Source: http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/fish0813.htm (was http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/fish/fish0813.htm) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once upon a time there was a vast, dark, still ocean with the moonlight glittering across it.  A small ship, sails down, rocked gently with the swells.  The crew of four slept, three on her deck and one in the cabin.  With a sense of foreboding, the captain awoke in the cabin.

He stepped out onto the deck, carefully stepping over the crew, his crew, who depended on him. The captain stepped to the bow and looked out over the moonlit sea.  It seemed to him that he saw a great shadow pass beneath the boat.  A shadow so wide it would take his boat a minute to sail across it.

What to do?  Do you awaken your crew because you see shadows?  How foolish, the captain thought to himself.  But a creature that great would leave a trail of eddies that would rise to the surface, like little whirlpools.  As he watched, the boat was rocked gently by small swirling eddies that stretched almost to the horizon.

Far off, the captain saw an island break the surface.  Nothing else would describe the size of the great thing.  Should he now wake the crew, send them screaming and shouting about as their doom approached? What could they hope to do, with no wind to even outrun the thing?  Better to let them sleep through whatever horror would come.

The island approached, very slowly and very fast.  It seemed slow because of its size, but must have been moving very fast to approach so quickly.

Do you await your doom with clenched fists, white-knuckled along the railing?  Or do you simply wait?  The captain waited.  He had known from the time he was a little lad that the sea would take him in time.  Any man who devotes himself to the waves knows she will claim him at last.  But not like this, not like this.

The creature approached with a head three lengths his boat at least.  It slowed as it approached, and the ripples of its coming rocked the boat.  On the sides of its great black head were great dark pools that could only be its eyes.  A man might swim in those pools full length with three strokes or more before reaching the other side.

Perhaps the creature called out, a great rumbling, or perhaps it was just the grumbling escape of gases.  The captain awaited the opening of the great maw, the dark chasm that would swallow his ship whole.

The creature nudged the ship with its head, turning the ship so that the captain could see himself reflected in one of those great black eyes.

It is a foolish gesture, to try and make the utterly alien more familiar.  We seek even in completely unknown territory to bring some semblance of control over the uncontrollable.  The captain waved.  He waved at the eye, as one would wave at a departing shore, or a newly acquired neighbor.  It was a futile gesture, but seemed the only thing to do.

With a sound like the escaping of gas from great pipes, the creature submerged.  It was so close to the ship that the resulting waves rocked the ship hard enough that one of the crewmen awoke.

“What’s the matter, Captain?  Did we hit a squall?”

“No, nothing like that.  Just a swell.  Go back to sleep.”

The captain paused for a few moments more, watching the ocean settle.  Somehow, he knew the danger was passed.  He had met something beyond imagining, and now it was time to sleep.

Once Upon A Time: Fjorn Ironbender

Blacksmith working hot iron
Blacksmith working hot iron (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once upon a time where the mountains rise above the clouds, there was a man name Fjorn Ironbender.  Like his father, and his father before him, he was a blacksmith.  In those days the blacksmiths were necessary to any community.  They built the shovels, the plows, and the knives for farming.

Fjorn was the only blacksmith in his village, so when his Lord called to him to come to the great hall in the valley and make weapons, he was sad.  Who will build the plows now? So Fjorn worked day and night to lay up a store of horse shoes and plows for the farmers before he went down to the valley.

The blacksmiths in the great hall worked day and night to build the weapons of war.  Some times Fjorn worked nights, and sometimes he worked days and nights.  Eight of the men of the village came down as well.  How could Fjorn tell them they were well met when he knew many of the men would not return home again?

But the Lord’s greed and envy of other lands could not be turned.  The great army marched.  Because Fjorn was a blacksmith, he stayed behind the lines.  Every day bloody, broken swords were mended, spears were rebuilt, and iron casts were made for wounded men.

In the end Fjorn wasn’t sure who had won.  Perhaps his lord’s lands now extended to another river, or perhaps another village had sworn him fealty.  But Fjorn only knew that three of the eight men remained to return home with him, and two of those were wounded.

Only two years passed, and again the Lord called to Fjorn to come build the weapons of war.  Fjorn joined the three men, one of whom still limped, as they traveled down into the valley.

The Lord called his assembled army together before the great hall and they knelt before him.  As he looked about at his shrunken army, the Lord was not pleased.  “This will not do!  We will call the boys from the villages.  You will teach them the ways of war on the march.”

Something came over Fjorn then.  He stood.  His silence was so potent the Lord paused and asked him:  “What is it you want?  Why are you standing?  What is your wish?” Fjorn looked up at the Lord and said:  “I challenge you for the Lordship.  A battle of single combat.”

It had been done in the distant past.  No one had thought of it for years.  But it was the law.  A gasp swept through the men.

The Lord retired and called his advisors.  He was afraid of this strong blacksmith.  “Get me out of this challenge.”  The advisors thought this and that, but the law was clear.  “If only you hadn’t asked, he would have had no claim.  But you asked him what his wish was, and he said it in front of the assembly.  The challenge must be met.”

“What would happen if I were old or sick?”  The Lord wanted to know.  “Well, if you were old or sick, then you could have a proxy fight for you.”  That night the Lord fell down the stairs, badly spraining his ankle.  So the next day when Fjorn came for the challenge, the Lord’s largest and most experienced warrior awaited him.

Fjorn did not flinch.  “Give up now,” said the Lord, “and I will pardon you.  I need you to build my weapons of war.” Fjorn looked in the Lord’s eyes, and knew that once the weapons were finished, his life would be ended.

Every challenger has a choice of weapons, and Fjorn picked a hammer.  He picked up the great two handed hammer and held it above his head.  Fjorn’s challenger flipped his sword around expertly.  This blacksmith was no warrior.  It would be a simple matter to kill him.

Fjorn did not move.  He held the hammer rigid above him.  At last, the warrior moved in for the kill.  As he did so, Fjorn brought the hammer down.  The warrior thought to deflect the hammer with his sword, but he had forgotten that Fjorn was a blacksmith.  In the night Fjorn had forged himself a hammer with a solid iron handle, so heavy that all he could do was hold it aloft.  As the hammer struck the sword, it shattered.  The hammer kept on coming, down onto the warrior.  The battle ended as quickly as it had begun.

The Lord was banished, and Fjorn Ironbender became Lord.  He told his people that there would be no war.  He was the first of a long line of kings who ruled in peace and harmony.

Once Upon A Time: The Ice Castle.

The main gatehouse of Harlech Castle. The step...
The main gatehouse of Harlech Castle. The steps were originally a drawbridge. As well as this formidably defended entrance, the castle also had a fortified dock so that it could be supplied by sea. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once upon a time there was an ice castle. It had great slabs of ice, within which there were trapped predators from another age, cut from the ice mountains and dragged to the castle to put fear into any who would invade.
The castle sat at the edge of the great Norse wastes, so the blocks never melted. If the sun shone its fiercest, the top layer of the blocks would become moist, freezing all the harder with the frost of night. A town had grown up around the castle, and the villagers of the castle were trained from birth to defend the castle with their lives. The castle was not just a defensive building, it was a sacred space.
In part because of the dedication of the villagers, the castle had never been taken. It had exchanged hands from inheritance, and from all the political and royal intrigues. But it had never been taken in an armed combat.
Now, as the villagers awoke, they knew that the world’s greatest emperor was sending his greatest army against the ice castle. It made no sense politically, because the castle did not defend rich lands beyond. The wastes around the castle were barely able to support the few villages that scraped their living from the soil. But it was something that the emperor wanted to do to prove he was better than any of the other emperors who had come before. He would be the one who destroyed the ice castle.
So the great army approached the ice castle. For an army of this size, great supply chains were necessary, bringing up carts of meat, wood, and grain from areas far distant. To feed an army this size was an undertaking in its own right. The emperor, even in his greatness, could not afford to siege the castle. He must take it by force, and quickly, or exhaust his finances and his military power.
To do what none had done before, the emperor had assembled great military engineers. They had no maps of the inside of the castle, because none of the villagers could be bribed and died before they told the secrets. But they had many maps of the outside and felt confident that it was possible to break. The ice could be shattered by sufficient power, but the power had to be concentrated in a single part of the wall.
A great ram was built, long enough that fifty men were necessary to move it. To move the ram, they built a great cart and covered it over with a roof to protect the men. It was this great military machine, pulled by dozens of oxen, that the villagers beheld below them. It was as yet far off on the plain, but coming slowly across the plain.
The villagers met together. They were prepared for fire, for many had tried that. There were great stores of water within the castle, and they could put out fires of any kind. But never had they faced such a weapon. At length, they came up with a desperate plan.
In ones and twos, the defenders of the castle left the castle. Within any great force, there are many who do not know each other. A great army is made up of many packs of men. So few notice when a man here and there goes missing. They think he must have gone off with another group. In this way the defenders of the castle became part of the attacking army. Their success was such that when it came time to man the great ram, with its metal spike for piercing the castle, fully half of the men were those from the defending side. The labor of the ram was heavy and unrelenting, so all the defenders had to do was not protest as much as their fellows to be chosen.
As the ram swung back and forth, half of the men heaved backward even as the other half was heaving forward. After a day of battering, the wall barely had a scratch.
The emperor was upset, and called his engineers. They reassured him and went out to inspect the ram. They failed to inspect the men running the ram and could only show the emperor the calculations that showed the castle should crumble.
For twelve days and nights the ram swung. On every shift the defenders made up half of the crew. And for twelve days and nights nothing happened. At the end of twelve days the emperor abandoned the ram and left in disgust. He left the engineers’ heads on pikes, and moved his armies off to more fruitful lands. Over time the villagers cut the ram into pieces and used it for firewood and to repair their homes.

Once Upon A Time: The Clarinet Player

English: Bb- and A-Clarinet, German System (wi...
English: Bb- and A-Clarinet, German System (with Mouthpiece on the Bb-Clar) 日本語: エーラー・システムのクラリネット 2 本: B♭管のクラリネット(左)、A 管のクラリネット(右、マウスピースなし)。 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once upon a time there was a man who played the clarinet. He played beautifully, for the clarinet had become part of his soul. Then one day a man from the government came and told him that he made too much noise and that he could no longer play the clarinet.
At first the man obeyed the rule. He stopped playing and his clarinet was confiscated along with all the other things that the government did not approve. Instead, the man took up knitting, which was approved. He knit beautiful things, but always found his fingers wanting something else.
So the man took up sewing, which was also an approved task. He sewed many great and useful things, but he could not shake the sense that he wasn’t doing it right.
One night the man awoke to find himself playing the clarinet in his sleep. His fingers were dancing and his lips blew, but there was no instrument to play.
The man got up the next morning and protested the loss of his clarinet. Many people told him to sit down and go back to living, but the man persisted. He created a movement, and a great many people listened to his passion and said he would be a great politician. The man did get elected, and his first law was one reversing the ban on clarinet playing. The bill passed, and the man served the rest of his term well and properly. When the end of his term was done, he stepped down. Many people wanted him to run again, but he told them he had done what he set out to do. Then he went back to playing the clarinet, and made beautiful music.

Once Upon A Time: Tabitha Razor

Minogue in a futuristic outfit in a video scene.
Minogue in a futuristic outfit in a video scene. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(Panned, not for any lack, but because the story seems like the start of a book)

Once upon a time Tabitha Razor stepped out. She had on her tiger’s fur coat, fake synthetic, top of the line with musk enhancements. Her dress was pure spun platinum, with thread so fine that spiders watching would have hung their heads and wept. Her shoes glittered as only pure synthetic quartz asteroid belt high heels can.
It had the desired effect on the club. The patrons, a mass of tattoos, synthetic attachments, and egos the size of small moons swiveled slowly as she walked. Two girls with prehensile monkey tail attachments greeted her as if she was a rock star, and ushered her onto the dance floor.
But Tabitha wasn’t there to dance. Oh no. There was one particular table she was interested in attracting the attention of. So she slithered across the dance floor, collecting a bevy of muscled background dancers only too keen to bump and grind as she undulated to the latest in direct-up-feed wetware techno rave music. To an out-of-the-loop outsider, the dance floor would have been silent. But Tabitha was definitely in the loop.
At the table Tabitha saw James talking to his smurf. The girl wasn’t technically entirely blue, but she was covered with the neo-Maori black light glowing blue fertility tattoos, and Tabitha saw her as an evil smurf. James on the other hand, was ultra-conservative retro-goth. He had the full eighteenth century suit, complete with cravat, top hat, and gloves. Nothing of the retro affected his chiseled good looks and his pink, uninked skin shone in the black light like a pale remonstration to his tattooed brethren.
Tabitha whipped her makeshift posse into a frenzy by activating the musk glands in the coat. It was the pure stuff, guaranteed to set off a crowd. Suddenly everyone downwind of Tabitha found themselves that much more into anyone around them.
James looked. Tabitha saw him looking. She made it clear that any one of these muscular fellows could be his replacement. But it was him she wanted. No one could look into your eyes and melt your socks like James.
With a gesture, James sent his smurf scurrying to fetch drinks and then walked out onto the dance floor. His cane, which he had no need of, doubled as a TASER. So when one of the muscle men blocked his path, James TASED him out of the way. He made a gesture to Tabitha, the universal plucking of earphones, now made archaic by the advent of the wetware up-feed. Tabitha turned off her up-feed with a double flick of her eyes and she and James stood in the silence of undulating bodies.
“I’ve missed you,” said James.

“I know,” said Tabitha.
“Shall we?” only James could put out an arm like it was both natural and the highest honor in the world. Tabitha wondered if he’d taken on a butler chip to get this good. She filed it away for later questioning. “Your smurf?” Tabitha looked back at the bar.
“I think Jennie can find her own way home, and she won’t lack for playmates.” Said James. Together they exited the club and hopped in the first hovertax at the curb. Tabitha thought to herself that even if they didn’t take the shoes back in the morning it was still worth it.

Once Upon A Time: The Gamer

English: A unicorn.
English: A unicorn. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once there was a silly video game called Flower Walk.  No one got shot, and nothing happened except you picked flowers. The graphics weren’t very good, but the game was free on the first levels, so it was a hit with the six-to-eight little girls crowd (none of whom should have had smartphones, but that’s society for you).

So the little girls would pick flowers and skip down a path in a wood. Then the programmers got messages from some of the girls thanking them for the awesome unicorn graphics. Nothing in the program was set up to give unicorn graphics, and the programmers didn’t even believe the girls when they got screen shots of high definition unicorns in their pixellated forest. They figured the girls were photoshopping in unicorns as some kind of prank.

Then the programmers started getting fan mail about the “unicorn adventure” where the little girls would go off the flower path and follow the unicorn.  They would follow the unicorn to a little candy cottage, where they would be chased by an ugly old witch, so realistic she terrified them.

The programmers were mystified by the reports, because nothing in the program showed them anything but a flower path, and all the HD graphics the girls were describing wasn’t even on their bandwidth.  They monitored the girls’ games, and could see no difference between the regular adventures and the “unicorn” ones.

But the game got very popular, and the programmers were happy they were making money with upgrades.  They eventually started advertising the unicorn adventure and claiming it was part of the game.

Then the gaming regulators stepped in with a ruling that the unicorn adventure made the game too scary and slapped the game with an over-13 requirement.  There were complaints from some users that the witch continued appearing in the game even when the girls weren’t at her cottage.  She would show up and start tearing up the flowers in front of the girls.   Some girls had nightmares and the programmers were at their wits’ ends.  It looked like the game would need to be pulled.

They contacted a fifteen-year-old gamer called Lola, who had her own fan following and a fully immersive game room complete with suspended goggles and flexible arm supports.  Lola had beaten every game she played.  She ran a successful empire of gamer fitness bars and sold videos of the gamer exercise program.

The programmers offered Lola a Wall Street hourly wage to help them fix the unicorn bug.  She was to play the game in every way until she figured how to trigger the unicorn and then how to beat the witch.

Lola spent three months in the game, running it through to the highest level, without seeing the unicorn.  She was pissed, because it felt like a failure.  So she bought the isolation tank she’d been wanting to get, and jacked herself into electrodes and the works.  Everything that happened in the game she would feel real-time.  It was only when Lola decided to play like a little girl, blithely skipping along and picking flowers at random, that the unicorn appeared.  Lola was terrified to leave the game, afraid she’d never get it back.  She spent days in the tank, fed by mouth, trying to beat the witch.  Finally she found a branch on a tree, tore it off, and stabbed the terrifying witch.  But instead of ending, the unicorn then led Lola to a town and a castle.  Lola met a HD prince, who asked her to be his bride.  Lola clicked yes.  Three days later her body was found in the isolation tank.  The Japanese term Karoshi was used on her death certificate.  It means worked to death.

Players of Flower Walk report that now when they travel on the unicorn path they just pass an unoccupied candy house on the way to the town.  Then they go on to candy city, where they meet a beautiful princess that bears a striking resemblance to Lola.  Some have mixed feelings about the programmers tribute to Lola.  Only the programmers know that they never wrote her into the program.