From Eanrin, the illustrious Chief Poet of King Ibudan Tynan, esteemed Bard of Rudiobus, most beloved figure of literary verse, Knight of the Farthest Shore, to Imraldera: greetings.
I have undergone a most astonishing and somewhat unpleasant venture. Even now, I count my whiskers to be sure they are all in place. Normally, I would account my tale to you in person, but I seem unable to do so because…well, you shall see why. It is no good to spoil the end of a tale, is it, old girl?
This is a story which you would be very wise to put in your records. I suggest the name The Last Days of Bard Earnin with all my critically acclaimed titles attached, of course. You will notice that I have entitled my account as such. I hope it did not alarm you.
Now listen well, and you better sit down.
While journeying, I came upon a gateway I had never seen nor smelt. I should have ignored it.
And so I entered an unknown world.
Instantly, I stood upon a smooth grey road, and there was a Path before me. Or at least, I thought it was a Path. But I had never seen a Path that was yellow and that extended in two parallel lines towards…
That’s when I saw it.
A terrible, horrific monster with silver teeth and eyes like blinding stars rushing towards me, roaring like a dragon!
I don’t know how I got away. I shall have to credit it to my amazing and superb reflexes. The good news is that the monster was not the end of this tale nor was it the end of my tail. I scrambled for the nearest tree I could find, and—get this—the trees in that country were cold and hard as stone! Or perhaps it was a pillar. Never mind.
So there I was atop the… um…tree. It had only one branch and from this hung rectangular boxes (perhaps it was a pillar) with red, green, and yellow lights in them. Below the branch passed those dreadful monsters. Yes, there was hundreds of them, all different sizes and shapes, but all rushing faster than a river. In truth they looked a bit like horseless carriages. However, they were paying no attention to me, so I judged it safe to observe my surroundings.
Imraldera, it was amazing.
I was surrounded by buildings as tall, if not taller, than the towers of Etalpalli. I jest not. And some of these towers were built out of nothing but mirrors.
Quite clearly, a Faerie had built these edifices, but the world stunk of mortality like I have never smelt before.
So there I sat, my fur blowing in the wind.
Suddenly, I heard a voice call, “Kitty, how’d you get up there?”
I looked down, and there was a woman on a walkway next to my tree. She started telling me to come down, and when I wouldn’t, she started called me things like “Pussy Poo” and “Snoogly Woogly” and “Kissie Kitten” and “Pretty Puss.”
Disgusting. I shudder in revulsion even now.
Then she said, and this is a direct quote, “Come to Mommy!”
Instantly, I spotted two things wrong with this statement.
First—she was not my mommy. Second—she was nowhere near old enough to be my mommy.
Or was she? My fur rose in suspicion. Was this a slip of the tongue? Was she much older than she appeared, and had just betrayed herself with that little comment?
She pulled out a little rectangular box, held it up to her ear, and began speaking excitedly. Yes, she even began arguing.
Quite obviously, she was crazy. Poor thing. I relaxed and felt sorry for her. But my pity was misguided, as you soon shall see.
Soon there came the largest roaring monster yet, with shiny red skin and flashing lights atop its back. It roared and wailed so dreadfully that I was shaken.
It pulled up and stopped at a side street near us, and I thought it was all over. But then, and this is very horrible, men in heavy costume leapt out of the side of the monster! They had been inside like some sort of parasite!
These men, soldiers I think, came to the woman and spoke with her. Then, dragon’s teeth—she pointed at me!
Then followed confusing events, but the main result was that the road was blocked off by an arc of orange cones and flashing lights. And the roaring monsters, who had tried so callously to run over me, avoided them. Was it magic?
The men grabbed a ladder from their red monster, rested it against the branch of my metal tree, and began climbing up to get me!
Then I saw it all.
This woman was an enchantress, and these men were her minions. She could summon them with thought, they rode inside a monster, and they frightened off the other monsters with a magic half-circle. This witch had heard of the famous Bard Eanrin, and she had desired to lock me away for me to sing for her listening pleasure!
It’s the strangest thing, Imraldera. You have not even read my letter yet, and I can already feel you rolling your eyes. It is not such a far-fetched theory; such things have happened before.
So I turned into a man and stood up on the branch, crying, “So witch, when you could not beguile me, will you take me by force? I think not!” So saying, I drew my knife.
The man on the ladder screamed and fell down. The other men yelled, and the woman fainted.
I know my epicness must have been overwhelming, but their reaction still caught me by surprise. Taking advantage of their state of shock, I slid down my tree, changed into a cat, and ran for my life.
Imraldera, the more I saw of their city, the more I was disturbed. People rode inside the monsters, most didn’t look happy, several walked around in a daze, and nearly all the women wore—ahem—distracting attire. Some people even breathed smoke!
The Dragon’s influence was heavy upon this land.
And yet, some things suggested to me that people here used to love our Prince once upon a time. But now, the Dragon’s shadow loomed over all. Twas very sad, my girl, and my heart fell within me.
At one point, I was caught up with a crowd of people, and Lights Above Us, I entered one of the huge, long monsters! I froze inside. The crowd went further into the monster’s belly and…
Imraldera, it was a most curious thing. It was not a monster at all. It was, in fact, a horseless carriage. The people went and sat in seats, and there they all were facing me, for I stood (as a man, by the way) at the front of the aisle.
They were a glum lot, let me tell you.
Surely, they needed a song to cheer them up. And I, Bard Eanrin, never shirk from my duty.
Sing ye all of lover’s true,
Beneath a sky of sapphire hue,
In light of the love I bear for you,
All theirs must fade like morning dew.
It seemed to cheer them up, and many clapped when I was through.
With this good deed accomplished, I exited the carriage at the next stop. I found myself in a much nicer part of the city. There were fewer tall buildings, fewer carriages, and more people looked pleasant. I was still in man form, and I meandered along a path, passing many stores all in a line in one building. The stores were named wonderful things like Safe Way, Pet Company, and Holly Wood.
There were a good many smells drifting about, and I was trying to decide where to go next. Thus I did not notice the black and white carriage with flashing lights pull up in the lot behind me. Out from it leaped two men in black. They ran up to me and yelled, “Put your hands in the air!”
Surprised, I did so, and then one of them pulled out shackles!
Ah-ha! They were working for the wicked witch! I turned into a cat and went to flee, but alas, I was not fast enough.
The man grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and held me up in the air. I growled and hissed and yelled things like, “Release me, you dog, I am a Knight of Farthestshore!”
Both the men stared at me and chewed on their lips. Then one said to his friend, “Carl, in a situation like this, I don’t know whether to arrest it or to put it down.”
“What a ridiculous choice,” I snorted. “Put me down, of course!”
Instead, they locked me in a prison called Jail.
Tis a very drab place, this Jail. But the people who operate it are not total fiends. They even gave me a paper and pen so that I might write you.
So here I am, sitting on a cot, writing these words. The witch is behind my imprisonment I’m sure, and I expect her to confront me at any moment. But she does not come.
I’m beginning to construct a new theory. It is very clear the Dragon rules this city. He must have felt me enter in, and sent the witch to capture me. I understand now! It is the Dragon who has got me in this Jail! Oh, this must be a triumph for him! To have finally caught Sir Eanrin! I can only guess how he is anticipating my demise.
So Imraldera, there we have it. We have come to my last days, nay, my final hours!
No, do not weep, my dear girl. By the time you have read this, it will be too late. I will have already suffered an agonizing, torturous death. Rejoice rather that it is all over.
These next words I can barely write. But I must. My only comfort is that by the time you read them, I will be dead.
I love you, Imraldera!
There. I said it. And Great Goblins! How wonderful it is to say it aloud! I love you, I love you, I love you! You are the joy, the flower of my existence! Know that in my last miserable moments I thought of you! Oh Imraldera, princess of my heart—
Hold a moment.
Hello, what’s this?
Goodness gracious me. The Prince’s Path is leading away from my cot into the prison wall. Could it be?
I’m walking the path, I’m going through the wall…
By the Flowing Gold, I’m in the Wood Between! Thank the Prince of Farthestshore, I’m safe, I’m free, and…
Imraldera, old thing, kindly ignore my mental breakdown in which I spouted professions of, well…um…emotion. Better yet, I never wrote it.
Dragon’s teeth and tail, what am I supposed to do with this letter now? I can’t give it you anymore, not after the…er…emotional collapse. I can simply tell my story to your face. Your beautiful, beautiful face. So I think I shall just toss this letter away, and think of it no more.
Well, life goes on, and that’s a relief.
Yours sincerely and forever,
Bard Eanrin, Knight of the Farthest Shore, Chief Poet of Rudiobus, and so on, and so on, and so on