This portion of the ZM site is a repository for all items which are Jameldic and can vaguely be described as "culture." Its present content is The Saga of Jorthel, an item which is self-explanatory. Soon, Jameldic poetry and other whimsical delights will also appear here.
(See also Revelation in Jameld.)
A dark, grim, night it was that Jorthel bestrode. The fog hung low, wreathing the fields and trees in a heavy shroud. A cloak of foreboding. A blanket of fear. A quilt of terror.
Jorthel knew that this was the time - the night was right, the heart was strong, and his ill-stubbed toe no longer throbbed as it had as an unwelcome reminder of the recent sausage harvest.
Sheep cowered in the ditches, huddled up to the hedges, seeking shelter from an unseen enemy. They would have something real to hide from yet this eve, but their foe was to them unknown.
Tidings had reached the townsfolk that an evil wind blew in the north, a malodorous gust of discontent and treachery. Something was afoot, and pleasant it was not. Hence, the market aldermen had sought Jorthel betimes, he being the noble knight and servant of the borough. They besought him to give ear to the concerns of the folk, that this terrible vileness would not descend upon them. And thus they began to recount the tales of woe from the lands and towns downriver in the great plain. It was not the Kings evil or some other plague that had driven brave thanes to tears and sages to dribbling, nor had a monster breathing smoke and brimstone devoured the livestock, as had occurred before. This was yet worse, and only Jorthel could save. A band of vicious, unprincipled, minstrel dwarves had arisen from afar, wandering the land, wreaking pillage and carnage, and causing umbrage and sewage. Further, these had seized the daughter of King Ælvard, the beautiful Princess Anadina, and reportedly were now torturing her cruelly by singing discordant roundelays and plucking lutes in an aggressive manner. Their weak-heart cowardice was plain, for they were no tutored music men, but tone-deaf, and they knew not beat from beat.
The aldermen, worry-heavy and weary with fear, addressed the honoured knight.
"Jorthel," quoth the clanchief, "we know thee to be strong of heart and shiny of hair. We have seen thy swordcraft, how thou struck down ten thousand mice in one night. Thy skill with the quarterstaff we know well, and thy wisdom in the unblocking of the drains with it has been beheld by us all. Gold cannot buy thy hands for battle, nor silver, but honour and tribute we must offer thee. Now, we beg thee, go up and rescue our kings child, the fair maiden-princess, for it has been reported that these foul fellows who presently detain her can not carry a tune, een were it handle-blessed."
Jorthel stood, the firm soil-floor yielding little to his mighty frame. Giving a nod of honour to the silver-headed clanchief, he began:
"Respected ones of this great borough, you have the knowledge that -"
Then stopped Jorthel at part breath, gasping, choking, pawing at his mouth, ill-spitting, his eyes sending anguish-torrents down his well-carved face.
And then it was all over.
"I swallowed a fly," he explained.
The mighty knight raised himself from the ground where he had fallen stricken. As he brushed the dirt from his sackcloth leg-warmers and wiped his tear-streaked cheeks with a gauntlet of mail, Jorthel recalled to his mind the tournament at distant Ulbern Castle where he had first beheld the young Princess Anadina, some three winters before.
Clad in robes of white she was, and he in battle-ready attire, yet through his shield, breastplate, mail-coat and unpleasantly itchy woollen vest Jorthel could feel the maidens smile pierce his valiant heart. He had been slain, yet still he breathed. Against such a keenly sharpened sword his armour was no defence. Although thus wounded, he stepped forward with knightly poise to kiss the fair Anadinas hand, trod on his mace, and fell.
All this had come to pass years before, but even now, as he stood before the market aldermen and clanchief, Jorthel could hear the echoing laughter of the princess as she gazed down upon him in the mud, his visor jammed tightly shut and immovable, his body twisted with pain and embarrassment. Now he knew that the journey to the lowlands was needed - to unsheath the sword against the savage minstrel dwarves, to deliver the damsel, to recover his reputation as a knight and servant of the people, and to pinpoint the dreadful squeak in his boot which had troubled him for these past four months.
Jorthel spoke again. "To meet this menace I am willing," he said. "I will go."
And so it was that as the melting sun fell in the west, and the welkin darkened from blood-red to slate, and the evening gloom spread in the land, Jorthel readied himself for the journey. He bade a strong new shield be brought for him, and this the aldermen willingly arranged. They honoured him with speech and verse, and then Jorthel girt on his sword and departed, limping slightly as the finest warriors always do. His battle helmet he let remain at his house, the visor still jammed shut.
The craved voyage would not be swift, for it would be on foot. Jorthels good and trusty steed, Klop, was lately struck with the much-feared quinsie; along with the aged stallions gout and his rotten teeth, this caused him to be of little use. Well though Jorthel knew the Jameldic fathers proverb - "Better a lame horse than a dead one" - he felt that to ride Klop would be to take the saying far too literally. The destination was many hundreds of miles to the north, in the great marshes far beyond Ulbern. Only by walking through the night would Jorthel be able to complete the journey before winter fell. Regrettably, this meant that he would have to sleep all day.
A dark, grim, night it was that Jorthel bestrode. The fog hung low, wreathing the fields and trees in a heavy shroud. A cloak of foreboding, the usual sort of thing. Jorthel knew that this was the time - the night was right, the heart was strong. Sheep cowered in the ditches, huddled up to the hedges, seeking shelter from an unseen enemy.
Jorthel pressed on into the night, alone and silent, but for the steady "squeak ... squeak" of his boot.
Suddenly, a sound to curdle the strongest blood broke the eerie still of the meadows. It was a scream and yet a laugh, the desperate cry of a beast losing its mind. Then, a dull pounding, a dreadful beat of guideless feet, a blow of harsh breath, and Jorthel turned, horrified, to see its twisted face rushing at him, cruel teeth flashing, spit-froth flying from its mouth, eyes of madness, ears wildly flailing. He reached for his sword, but it was too late, for it was upon him swiftly and then gone.
As he lay on the ground, painfully gasping his last breath, Jorthel realized he had been run over by a rabid donkey.
Some weeks later, the cowardly minstrel dwarves released the princess, having run out of tunes to play badly.
When the tale of Jorthels sad but noble demise was later recounted to her, she laughed so heartily that she nearly spilt her ale.