Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Cantankerous Poet

An interview by Richard Beetleman of Fantasy Press

Bragi Stringbreaker, a self anointed “cantankerous coot”, is a tall fellow: broad at the shoulders, large hands, yellow to silver wavy hair that’s combed straight back and into a braid of medium length. His teeth are straight and white, signs of a well kept man of breeding and manners; yet his beard is ragged, his clothes colorful but wrinkled and scruffy and his person smells a bit of campfire and rabbit stew capped by a touch of fruity red wine.

His cornflower blue eyes are piercing at times and quite gentle at others, his demeanor on the whole is intense and overly serious, yet his laughter peals from his barrel chest. He seems a vacuum, constantly aware of his surroundings, able to absorb multiple conversations at once and take part in as many as might strike him worthwhile.

RB: You must be aware that you share your name with a Norse god of poetry.

Stringbreaker: I suppose you want me to perform a miracle then, like, conjure a bowl of rommegrot or a giant straw goat.

RB: No no, I was just curious as to how it made you feel to be christened a Bragi.

Stringbreaker: How does it make you feel to be christened a Dick? Surely you don’t want to know if I were a tree what tree would I be?

RB: (laughs nervously) Well now that you mention it….

Stringbreaker: A silver maple.

RB: That was quick, I’m impressed. Why a silver maple?

Stringbreaker: It roots near the surface, never reaching too deep. When the wind wants it to move, it simply picks up the tree and places it elsewhere.

RB: So, you’re saying that you don’t like to be tied down, that you’re a nomad perhaps?

Stringbreaker: I’m saying I will have a clever answer no matter how silly your question.

RB: (visibly agitated) I’m sorry if my questions don’t suit you mister St…

Stringbreaker: Oh relax boy, I’m just having a little get ta know ya fun, don’t take life so seriously. I’m not a bad sort really; ask me anything, I promise to answer jibelessly at least once this aft.

RB: Where did your surname come from, I hear there’s a story attached.

Stringbreaker: Aye, true enough and worth telling I suppose. Ya see I was strumming tunes for my lads and their ladies one fine evening when the scoundrel Cirian L’Fay asked me to play Dunnegal’s Devil Dance as his wedding present. He’d been married a few weeks before and I’d been indisposed at ceremony time, hunting down my muse and saving her from a rather belligerent dragon; so I owed he and his bride a gift and could hardly refuse the calling.

But he knew as well as I that Dunnegal’s takes a steel hand as it’s a round with a plucked counterpoint, and the plucking is all the more passionate as the tune progresses. So I opened my instrument crate and stood my tools in a neat row outside the box before strumming the first notes. Well, I do get a bit intense you might say, and the crowd was dancing up a storm so I felt obliged to sate their desires, even as I began to break strings with overly powerful plucks. I worked my way through a crwth, a lyre, a mandolin and a 12 string balalaika before I’d finally pizzicato-ed the final tink. 34 strings I broke that evening; 34 feral cats that needed to be requisitioned and modified, if you get my drift. Somehow, Stringbreaker became my moniker, so I took it as a surname.

RB: What would be your favorite instrument then?

Stringbreaker: I like the crwth best methinks. I admire it’s having a beautiful tone in spite of it's lack of vowels. And it only has four strings. Much easier for an old man to find his way when he’s lost on the fretboard. Yet I have to admit I’d dearly love learning to play the sackbut; if only because I love the name. Say it with me boy, Sackbut!

RB: (laughs, and avoids the request) What can you tell us about the characters you cavort among? Do you have any favorite persons that might give us insight into your world?

Stringbreaker: Martyn, my youngest brother and sadly, only living relative now that I’ve hung my twin Madrigan for treason. He will be king one day as I am not willing to take the crown as is my right; but in the mean Galtee is watched over by my love, Queen regent Mishael Albane, Holy Paladin of the house of Amoria.

RB: Your author seems to have a weakness for using the same starting letters in naming his secondary characters.

Stringbreaker: You’ll be watchin your tongue lad lest it find it’s way onto the point of my dagger. Mishael is no “secondary character” as you say, but the scent of newly bloomed witch hazel and the silvered aura of the harvest moon.

RB: Nicely turned phrase sir, I meant no harm.

Stringbreaker: Nor I lad, I was just poking your ribs again. It’s true then, my author’s a putz and quite fond of lexical trickery that loudly announces his many and varied academic ignorances. He also takes glee in creating words from whole cloth as must be obvious by this hour.

RB: We’ll return to your author, but first tell me of your skills. I understand you’re a poet of some note.

Stringbreaker: I am King’s Bard, if that’s what “some note” means; if there’s a more stuffy and pompous title I don’t know what it is. Yes, I believe I am a fair wordsmith and worth the price of admission, which is generally nothing at all save the purchase of a bottle of champaign for the ladies of the night who frequent my working establishments.

RB: Have you some song you’re particularly proud of that you might sing a few bars of?

Stringbreaker: I think that’s bad English boy, I’d be havin your editors look this interview over were I you. But let’s see, to your question…

Editor’s note: At this point Mr. Stringbreaker pulled from a leather bag, a 4 stringed, highly polished rosewood instrument and began to strum; then sang:

I watched your face an hour or more by moonlight's last and softest rays
I watched you that my heart would soar
envisioning your gentle ways

I traced your outline with my eyes and wondered at your silken skin
so pure against my own disguise
how ever did you let me in

Did e'er you know my buried truth, I'd never be your knight in arms
did you ignore my lack of youth
my simmered rage, my suspect charms

My breath was held as not to miss a moment of your whispered sound
I lay one soft, imagined kiss
that spell now cast; your soul now bound

I watched your face an hour or more by moonlight's last and softest rays
I watched you that my heart would soar
envisioning your gentle ways

RB: (Claps) Bravo sir, well done! Is it easy for you, to rhyme I mean?

Stringbreaker: Easier to do than for some I’m sure, though not so easy to teach. I made an attempt to tutor my friend Ogre and while I think him quite talented, for one of limited intelligence certainly, I’m afraid his audience has never felt as I. Even his own kind are skeptical of his verbiage.

RB: Can you recall any of his works?

Stringbreaker: (thinks for a long moment, then smiles and recites)
He calls this simply


As a bird you iz dumb, you can't fly, you don't swum
you iz mighty damn quarrelsome too
but as shown on my waisty in bready or bastey
youze mighty dang tasty to chew

RB: (Chuckles) I see what you mean.

Stringbreaker: He’s a lovely lump, but he’s got a bit of study to do before I’ll give him my job. For the moment I have awarded him the title of King’s Enforcer, which means nothing really but the old boy loves having an addendum to his name.

RB: Say, it seems we’re nearly out of time. What of your author then, how would you describe him?

Stringbreaker: He’s a bit daft wha? The sod fancies himself Erik the Melancholy, King of Dementia. Well, Erik’s an elf by all that’s holy! And the pensman seems much more a troll if you share my meaning…. hides under bridges so as to scare passers by, steals penny candy from the mouths of young tomte, bulging eyes, razor sharp tongue, a disposition that would make a lesser demon green with envy.

RB: So how do you deal with him then? I assume you still do his bidding as he is in charge after all.

Stringbreaker: Well, he seems to have given me a break lately, prattling on about less important things like his childhood and his silly fears, and plooping mad tales about psychotic salesmen and fast food marketeers. He only uses me as his fallback position, though lately it seems he’s falling back less and less.

RB: Doesn’t it get boring, waiting in stasis? Do you have things to do between adventures?

Stringbreaker: I make my own adventure lad, I’ve stolen the keys to the kingdom.

RB: What do you mean?

Editor’s note: Bragi Stringbreaker again opens his bag, replaces the instrument inside and then pulls from it what seems to be an ochre colored Crayola and a spiral notebook.

Stringbreaker: With these I can do anything I please. They are magical utensils, stripped from the authors very own desk while his fat self was sound asleep in his chair, using a French onion potato chip bag as a pillow while drooling onto his Kim Possible mouse pad.

RB: Can you demonstrate?

Stringbreaker: I can lad, but I fear you’d not like what happens. It’s a powerful magic I possess, it is not to be trifled with.

RB: (Laughs nervously) I’m sure I can deal with whatever you might develop sir; try your hand if you might, I’m sure our readers would love to hear of your “magic powers”.

Stringbreaker: Alright then, but don’t go all whackadoo on me then. Just relax and I’ll take care of everything.

Editor’s note. The Bard Stringbreaker began to write, quickly and most precisely. The interview was soon ended prematurely, but in the interest of fairness we must report what happened next. The text of Bragi’s writing is as follows.

And then the bard slipped from its sheath the sword Grimblade, its ruby pommel glimmering, sending a spray of faceted beams of blood red light throughout the room. With both hands the man raised the blade above his head and then struck downward onto the wrist of his interviewer Mister Beetleman, cleaving the man’s hand from his immediately spurting arm.

The journalist screamed

RB: (Screams and stares at the stump that was once connected to a palm and fingers)

and stared at his bloody stump.

Stringbreaker: Well I told ya you wouldn’t like it. Here let me fix that for you!

Editor’s Note: At which time Mr. Bragi gripped a bottle of white out and began to paint over the ochre words he’d penned. As the Crayola was overcome by white nothingness, Mister Beetleman’s hand reformed upon his wrist. Then our reporter stood, screamed again and again and ran out of the room.

Stringbreaker: I’ll be writing a bit about an editor and a hangin’ tree if ya don’t shuttup now. I have places I'd much rather be and need to write their descriptions if ya don't mind.

Editor’s note: The end.

Stringbreaker: Good choice lad!

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