Finally! A new fairy tale from one of my talented students at USQ.
This one is an original tale by Stephen Denham. Stephen is a film-maker/singer-songwriter currently in the final year of a Creative Arts degree at USQ. Doctors determined that writing was in his blood from a very early age which, unfortunately, led to a very painful extraction process and a lengthy hospital stay. Upon further examination, they determined that the writing was still stuck in his heart but felt it was best to just leave it there. His three biggest achievements in life are as follows:
- That time he quit smoking on a whim just to spite a fellow would-be quitter.
- That time that guy was being a stupid sexist jerk at a party and Stephen said “Hey! Stop being such a stupid, sexist jerk!”
- That time a video he made appeared on the Japanese TV show ZIP.
He is currently that annoying friend who is ‘working on a screenplay’. You know the type, right? Gah, so annoying.
Abed the Opportunist
The men and women of Montesanto gathered in the city square. They patiently but anxiously waited for word from their king, Randolph the Stubborn. Randolph was known by his subjects for two things; for being fiercely argumentative and for loving his eldest daughter, Elsa the Radiant, above all things. Elsa had recently been taken against her will by the evil wizard, Jarvaskan. Randolph wasn’t the only person in Montesanto who wept for her absence as, not only was her beauty well known from land to land, she was even more renowned for her kind and gentle spirit, which caused all of the mothers and fathers to love her as if she were their own child. Randolph approached the purpose-built podium to address his subjects:
“People of Montesanto, it is with great sadness and the heaviest of hearts that I must confirm what a great deal of you already know; that Elsa the Radiant, favourite daughter of all, is lost to us. Jarvaskan, this kingdom’s chief antagonist, has seized her. For too long, the good people of this kingdom have lived in fear Jarvaskan turning us all into insects or making the sky rain red like blood or bending the brims of our hats so that they don’t look quite right. This time, he has gone too far. The hero who rescues my daughter and returns her to the loving arms of her father will be rewarded handsomely. The successful hero will become next in line to my kingdom by virtue of marrying my daughter … Anka the Unruly.”
The Montesantons were stunned. Surely not even the promise of a kingdom would make anybody in their right mind risk life and limb travelling to Jarvaskan’s far away citadel to battle the wizard, especially when their “reward” would be marriage to Anka, Randolph’s rough-and-tumble daughter who seemed to be the polar opposite of her older sister in many ways and consistently proved inadequate at many of the central tenets of being a princess. She was brash and uncouth and had a knack for acquiring mysterious cuts and bruises. The general consensus was that Randolph, a wise and wily man, had thought he could solve two problems at once; rescuing his favourite daughter while also finding somebody else to be responsible for his less favoured, more problematic daughter.
However, much to everyone’s amazement, a hero would soon emerge.
Hector the Brave, the most famous knight in all the land, rode into town with several squires. Hector was tall and muscular. In fact, he was so muscular that he had to have his armour custom-built by the best blacksmiths money could buy. On top of this, his head was adorned with long, flowing locks of golden hair. He was so easy on the eye that many a princess would secretly wish some kind of peril upon herself in the hopes that it would be Hector the Brave who would come to her rescue. He had rescued many princesses in his travels so he was no stranger to adventures such as this. He rode to Jarvaskan’s citadel carrying the hopes of an entire kingdom on his back, so, naturally, they were deeply saddened when giant birds delivered the heads of Hector and his squires to Randolph’s palace.
If this turn of events had caused the people of Montesanto to despair, they weren’t given much time to wade in their collective grief-pool as another adventurer soon announced his intention to rescue Elsa the Radiant. However, instead of a gallant knight, this man was a wise and respected wizard by the name of Brattan the Blue. What better way to defeat a wizard, they thought, than with another wizard? Brattan was one of the most respected wizards in all the land. He had used his powers to right wrongs and restore social order on many an occasion. The only thing he couldn’t do, it seemed, was smile; not for nothing was he known as Brattan the Blue. Despite his generally miserable demeanour, he instilled in the people of Montesanto a great sense of confidence that he was the hero they had needed. The kingdom’s hopes were again raised but they were again dashed when Brattan’s head was delivered back to Montesanto, again via giant bird.
A desperate Randolph was left with no choice but to improve his offer; not only would Anka marry the successful hero, but Randolph would take the unprecedented step of abdicating on the spot. Adventurers across the land buzzed at the thought of being a ruler now rather than later. One such adventurer was Abed the Opportunist. Every item of clothing he wore, from head to toe, exemplified just how much Abed had achieved and just how little he had done to actually deserve it. His boots, made from the finest leather, were won in a card game he’d cheated in. His trousers were made of silk and had quite literally fallen off the back of a wagon. His satin shirt was won in a drinking contest (where again, he cheated) and finally, his fox-fur cape was taken from the body of a man he had found dead by the side of the road. He casually strode through town towards the palace with his trusty sidekick, Charith the Mute (named so for obvious reasons), and set about charming King Randolph.
The king was no match for Abed the Opportunist and his sugar-coated words. Abed ate the king’s best food, drank his best wine and generally swanned around as if he owned the place. If there was one person who wasn’t buying what he was selling, however, it was Princess Anka. He had tried to woo her, like he had with everybody else, but she scolded him in front of the entire palace. “Just because you want something, doesn’t mean you get to have it!” she barked. Abed, however, was completely unfazed. From time to time, people were initially resistant to his charms, but they always came around in the end. Always. Besides, once he was king, it mattered little to him whether his queen actually loved him. Having made his intentions clear, Abed set off towards Jarvaskan’s citadel with Charith in tow.
Several miles from the palace, Abed and Charith encountered a vast and rapid stream that they could not cross. Charith pointed towards a group of nearby beavers and Abed, instantly understanding, approached the largest beaver;
“It is well-known throughout the land, mister beaver, that you and your fellow beavers are the best at building bridges. Me? I say that is poppycock of the highest order. I propose that if you and I were to each build a bridge across this stream, that my bridge would be much better than yours.”
Incensed, the beaver accepted his challenge and proceeded to build the best bridge anybody had ever laid eyes on while Abed and Charith appeared to struggle with the simple task of gathering logs. Abed was on the verge of conceding defeat, but insisted that he test the bridge first to ensure it was as sturdy as it looked. If you have any idea why they call him Abed the Opportunist then you probably know what happens next; Abed and Charith ran across the bridge as fast as they could until they reached the other side of the stream. The angry beavers gave chase and eventually ran them down with sheer persistence. Abed decided that discretion was the better part of valour in this particular instance so he hid behind a bush, leaving Charith to fight for him. Charith the Mute fought with all of his strength until the beavers retreated, allowing he and Abed to continue their quest. Charith rolled his eyes at his companion, but he knew that what Abed lacked in courage, he made up for in resourcefulness. He also knew that if he could help Abed become a king, he would be handsomely rewarded.
Further along the way, the two adventurers encountered a mountain they had neither the equipment nor the ability to climb. If only there were something nearby they could use for rope and a means to get it to the top of the mountain. Abed saw a group of nearby monkeys and approached the largest one:
“Hello there, mister monkey. Why, I was just talking to the beavers who live by the stream and they said that your vines weren’t nearly as sturdy or strong as their bridges. Can you imagine such rot? You should climb this mountain and hang your vines from the top. That way, when people use them to climb the mountain, they will see that your vines are stronger than any bridge.”
The monkey immediately summoned several of his kin and they wasted little time in running several thick vines up the mountain and climbing back down them. Abed offered to climb the vines, in order to prove their strength. He and Charith scurried up the mountain before the monkeys could realise they had been tricked, but realise they did and the angry monkeys set off after them and eventually caught up to the pair at the top of the mountain. Just like before, Abed hid in the bushes while Charith fought off their attackers. This time, however, Abed was unable to sit idly by and watch his trusted sidekick do battle alone, so he gathered his courage and charged into the fight… only to be knocked out almost instantly. He eventually regained consciousness to discover that Charith had forced the monkeys into retreating and, after briefly licking his wounds, resolved that doing the right thing was a sucker’s game and that he wanted no part of it in future. Abed the Opportunist instead focused his thought on the kingdom that awaited him as the pair continued onward.
Further along the way, Abed and Charith encountered a deep valley that would have taken several days to traverse. Neither of them really feeling up for that, Abed approached the largest of a group of birds:
“Have you birds ever been to the other side of this valley? Because I was just talking to the monkeys who live at the base of the mountain, and they say you’re scared to even look upon the other side of the valley. I think you should fly the two of us there so that, the next time we see the monkeys, we can tell them that you’re real birds and not chickens.”
Abed could barely even finish his speech before he and Charith were swooped up and carried across the valley. However, if the birds were quick to take his bait, they were even quicker to realise they had taken it. The angry birds attacked the pair with great fury. Abed considered running and hiding like he had always done, but couldn’t stomach the idea of leaving Charith to fight by himself and, together, they fought the birds off. For possibly the first time in his life, Abed had chosen to do the right thing over the easy thing and, truth be told, it actually felt kind of good. The two adventurers were now only a few miles from Jarvaskan’s citadel and it appeared nothing could stop them.
The pair approached the citadel and were so taken by its wonder and majesty that they briefly forgot that it housed an evil wizard they had travelled a great distance to slay. Abed and Charith both had to work hard to ignore the superbly-sculpted marble structures with their gold inlay and focus on the task at hand. They approached the front door, but overheard a commotion. Was Elsa in even more immediate danger? Was another adventurer already here? They rushed the door, only to have it fly open before they could even reach it. Out strode a mysterious, hooded figure on horseback carrying Elsa the Radiant. The figure, holding a sword in one hand and the bloody head of Jarvaskan in the other, stopped in front of the pair. Abed remonstrated with the mystery hero, explaining that he and Charith had travelled a great distance in order to rescue Elsa. The hooded figure wouldn’t even give Abed the courtesy of looking directly at him as it replied “Just because you want something, doesn’t mean you get to have it!” before casually riding off. Abed was confused to say the least. Where had he heard those words before? How did this other adventurer manage to get there ahead of them? Didn’t he sound oddly… feminine? Abed cursed the fact that all of his hard work had been for naught. Charith, for the first time in their professional/personal relationship, interrupted him:
“With all respect, mister Abed, that is complete rot. The whole time I’ve been with you, you’ve done nothing but take shortcuts and use charm to open doors that would otherwise be closed to you. You’ve never done a hard day’s work in your life. It isn’t as if they call you Abed the Diligent or Abed the Workaholic, is it?”
Abed considered striking his sidekick for his insolence but resisted for two key reasons; he was really big and, more importantly, he was right. The pair agreed that they had little choice but to travel all the way back to Montesanto to congratulate the hero who had succeeded in their place.
The return leg of the journey proved much more difficult; the birds refused to fly them across the valley, the monkeys had removed their vines, forcing them to climb down the hard way and, while the beavers’ pride meant they couldn’t tear down their immaculately-constructed bridge, they ensured that the way was blocked to both Abed and Charith. After several weeks on the road, Abed the Opportunist and Charith the No Longer Mute (in fact, now he had a hard time shutting up) arrived at Montesanto to find the place much changed. The people were still celebrating Elsa’s safe return as well as the crowning of a new ruler in Queen Anka, who they now called Ankathe Heroic. As she had successfully rescued her sister herself after growing impatient, she was free from the bonds of marriage since she couldn’t exactly marry herself. Randolph, overjoyed to have his favourite daughter home, stuck to his word and abdicated the throne for Anka. Abed, his failure known to all, was subject to intense ridicule from the moment he entered town right up until the moment he approached the new queen. He humbled himself before her as he spoke;
“Good and gracious Queen, I congratulate you on your recent, hard-earned success. Before I left this place, I declared my intention to marry you and that has not changed, but I know that you would not take me as I currently am. Recent events have caused me to do a great deal of soul searching and one thing has been made abundantly clear to me, I am not the good and noble adventurer I have tried to present myself as. I have resolved to travel the lands of these great kingdoms doing good and righting wrongs. When I am known throughout the land as Abed the Righteous, send someone for me and we shall be married. That is, if you’ll have me.”
Anka, with no current suitors and no urgent rush to find one, agreed to this and the two parted ways. Abed the Opportunist left Montesanto adorned in the simple clothes of a travelling man but, perhaps for the first time, felt rich on the inside.
“It’s a shame you sold all of your fancy clothes, mister Abed.” Charith opined, “They hung rather splendidly from you.”
“That’s alright, old friend. They were never really my clothes anyway. Besides, we’re going to need the money where we’re going.”
“And where is that, mister Abed?”
“We’re going to hire a publicist. A damn good one.”