Monday, February 13, 2012

Being a Treatise on the subject of Narwhals.

Dear Aaron,

As all good persons will be aware I, Captain Sir Martin Frobisher, am the discoverer of the Alicorn or Narwhal. It is, therefore quite fortuitous that you would ask me about them.

I first discovered the narwhal on my second voyage to the New World in search of the Straight of Anean in 1577. The body of one of the whales had washed onto the shore of Frisland and looked as though it had been drowned some time. We were first attracted to the single, spiraling, pearlescent horn which protrudes from the forehead of the beast. We know, of course, that only one creature in nature is so adorned. I knew it immediately to be a unicorn. As it happens, we now know that these equine beasts can transmogrify themselves into great fish; seemingly for protection from hunters. This also explains why so few are seen upon the land in our modern age as it seems they have fewer predators under the sea.

After some discussion I procured a saw from our goods and removed the horn from this great drowned beast as a gift to our great patroness, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. It hangs in Windsor Castle and I understand her majesty has been known to use it's magical properties regularly to protect herself from Spanish poisons. I am greatly pleased that even whilst I am away at sea I may have a hand in protecting her majesty's person.

After much study afterward I can tell you that Narwhals are great blubbery magical whales native to the Arctic waters around Greenland, Frisland and the mouth of the aforementioned Straight of Anean. They are smaller than most whales of the North which betrays their magical nature and alternate form.

We know that unicorns have a knowledge of our human jousting and it has become clear that while in this fishy form they engage in the sport. Some of the sailors witnessed the beasts tilting while we sailed between Frisland and Queen Elizabeth's Foreland. 

So blubberous are these whales that when I alerted the natives to them they quickly began to hunt the beasts with great skill and enthusiasm. They harvest almost all of the animal in a most impressive way.
The Inuit people of Meta Incognita began to refer to the raw blubber and skin as "mattak", a flattering mispronunciation of my first name. They seem to consider it a delicacy. Personally, I find the dish turns my stomach.

This is all we know of the Narwhal though I expect once we have found the ideal time of year to traverse the Straight of Anean from Frobisher Bay to the Pacific Ocean and Cathay many more expeditions may be made to study these creatures. Perhaps their greatest colonies lie in the middle of Meta Incognita and it is here that they frolic most often in equine form.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

How Captain Frobisher Saved Christmas. pt.3

I was thrown against the bench back as we crashed through the timbers and shingles of the barn roof. John, who had been tying down provisions given by the elves was thrown to the floor behind the bench. The planking and splinters blew off quickly leaving us careening into the ice blue heavens drawn by these eight mad reindeer.
"John!" I cried out over the wind, "Why are we not on the ground?"
"I've no idea, Cap'n. Maybe we're going too fast! How hard did you crack 'em with that crop?"
"Not nearly hard enough, I think." I raised the crop against the wind once more and cracked it hard. The reindeer slackened their steps and the sleigh leveled out a bit some 500 fathoms from the ground.
"Cap'n. You'll never believe what's in this pack!" John cried, having just discovered what had broken his fall. "bottles of brandy, a whole tub of roast mutton and turnips, a roast goose and..." The man was silent for some minutes. I was enjoying it and did not wish to interrupt whatever passed for thought in his mind. All too soon he continued. "NEW POTS! A whole set of new pots." he cried out in glee. "They've even got my name on! Saint Nickolas must have had them set aside for me this Christmas."
"All due respect to the missing myth but I don't see that this was the best time to provide them to you. We're hardly going to be doing any cooking up here. I don't even know how we're going to get down or where down will be. See if there's a parcel in there marked High Admiral of Cathay. It ought to have a length of rop, a map of the north pole and an excuse out of this situation in it."
"No Cap'n. All we've got is the food and my pots." his eyes got all glinty and he held the shiny new pot up so the clear arctic sun could shimmer off the metal.
"So, do you think Father Christmas will be far off? How far can he have gone?"
"I can't even think why he would leave" John responded, "He's got that nice little village full of hard workers and boiled sweets. Why go somewhere else in the arctic? You don't suppose he..." As my Bosun spoke my mind drifted off. Paying him no mind, I looked down to the ice and noted that at the speed with which we were careening through the air we had traveled quite far. Quite independently I came to a disturbing conclusion.
"John, I don't think we're staying in the arctic. We're already starting toward some low pines and I can see patches of grass toward the horizon."
"Cap'n I was jus'..."
"Shut up John! We might cross over the Straights of Anean at any moment! Maybe this wasn't a childish waste of time after all." Tying down the reigns I slid over to the side of the sleigh and peered at the earth unfolding beneath us. White changed to brown. Brown transitioned to green. Then green began to be broken by patches of blue. "Hawser, Look below! Do my eyes deceive me or is that a great bay out of the sea?"
"I think me, Cap'n these be just great lakes."
"They never are! Look it goes all the way out to the East toward Frobisher Bay and... damn they're gone already. You'll see when we come back this way. I'll bet that was it! Proof!" I have rarely been so euphoric. For a while all I could do was sketch what I'd seen onto a spare bit of parchment while John watched the landscape slip by beneath us. After some twenty minutes John reached to the back where I was finishing my map. He prodded me lightly and giggled.
"Cap'n, look. This bit of land looks like a willy."
"John, I think that's New Spain. Leave it to the Spanish to find the biggest pizzle in the world to colonize. I can't tell if it's because they like it so much or because they need to compensate for something."
"Probably both, Cap'n."
"Fair point." I conceded. Suddenly my stomach jumped and the horizon moved higher. "Are we getting closer to the ground?"
"I think so. Saint Nick wouldn't go to New Spain for holidays would he?" John asked, looking very worried indeed.
"Not on purpose. Papists still remember the true meaning of Christmas. They wouldn't be his sort. It's only in the North of Europe and England that we know the glory of the old winter festivals. This can only mean one thing. The Spanish have abducted Father Christmas!
"If they have it their way no child will set his shoes out hoping to find questionable sweets in them the morning after, nor will they hang their socks to dry on the hearth and hope to find them filled with trinkets. Worse still, no one will run skyclad round their local pub whipping each other with switches. If we don't save father Christmas it will be all masses and candles without any presents, overeating or recreational drinking.
"John, more than ever our mission is clear. We must save Christmas!"

Thursday, January 5, 2012

How Captain Frobisher Saved Christmas. pt.2

'Twere like what I imagine a cannon shot feels like as it is blown from the muzzle at mad speed. I were pulled by the foot out across the arctic sky far to the north. As I flew the lights played around me and I saw their beauty and how they came to be. As it turns out they are birthed of... Nevermind I'll tell you when you're older.
Before long I found myself standing firm on packed snow and not far off I espied a small village in the Norwegian style. Behind me was Hawser and quickly I found the source of my troubles. "John," I said in a reasonable tone, "what have you done? Are we in Scandinavia? If we've gone east instead of west I'll have your rubbish doublet up the ensign line with you still in it."
"I wouldn' think so cap'n. If we were somewhere like that there'd be reindeer."
At just that moment the gods of poor timing smiled down upon us and eight smallish reindeer were led into sight chuffing and sweating from a run.
"I can hear it now; Reports of a ship taking cargo off the coast of Spain flying the flag of a strangely dressed man flailing. That's what master Walsingham is going to say to the queen come autumn."
"Cap'n did you notice the man leadin' those reindeer?"
"Child, John. When they are that size we call them children."
"He had a beard!"
"Perhaps there is a fancy dress party later."
"Let's just ask him then."

Since I speak not a word of Norwegian I called out to him in the time honoured manner of persons who need to make contact.
“Oy!” said I. Then, slowly and clearly so he was sure to know my meaning, “WHERE… ARE… WE?”
The boy turned, his full beard brushing his shoulder as he craned his neck behind to see us. Without a word he reached a hand out toward us and waved for us to follow him toward a small barn which I presumed to be the resting place of the reindeer. We followed across the frozen plain. The only features of the land were small rises in the ground and no plants whatever grew there. As far as the eye could see the only mark that heaven and firmament had ever been rent was this small cluster of brightly painted houses. While we trudged I pulled my emergency whiskey reserve flask from my exploring codpiece and took a dram to keep off the chill. John turned it down for some reason and we soldiered on.
As we approached the boy made a funny whistle and the doors were pulled open. Inside the barn everything was a bustle. There were little people, like our guide. They were busily crafting all manner of things. Tiny wooden people were scattered on every workbench. Little skin animals sat in organized bins. Crate upon crate of bladders ready for inflating were stacked against a wall. Every kind of toy a person could imagine was being assembled in this tiny workshop. There were even frustrated looking little people trying to tie strings to wooden chickens. Even more of the workshop was devoted to clothes. Big warm woolen socks and knit jumpers, fluffy sheepskin coats and silly fox fur caps were stacked, hung and draped over more than half the space.
“What manner of place is this?” I asked forgetting that our guide could speak no English.
This is the workshop of St. Nickolaus.” He responded in a tiny voice. John’s eyes nearly fell from his head and his mouth fell open. “We are making the toys and presents for all the children of the world to receive this Christmas.”
“Provided they follow the true faith, of course.” I responded knowing that infidels and savages do not celebrate our holy day.
We are not picky. Children will explain it for whatever celebration they observe.”
“I will pretend I never heard that. John, you didn’t hear it either.”
“Aye, Capn’. Bishop wouldn’ like it at all.” He said, coming back to what passes for his senses.
“Indeed. More importantly though, if we have found ourselves at the workshop of St. Nickolaus, it still does not tell us where in the world we are. Honestly, I thought this was more of a somewhere-magic-and-far-away sort of place which didn’t exist.”
We are on the North Pole. Since you are the first people to visit us here we thought it was suitably far away and magic. Perhaps we shall have to move now. Though, it may not matter if St. Nickolaus never comes back.”
“Are you telling me that not only am I on the North Pole in the workshop of St. Nick but I’ve come on a day when he’s away? This is frustrating. John, I am blaming you for this.” I said trying to remain calm.
Perhaps you have been sent to replace him! You, John, you could be the new father Christmas. We’d have to work on you some but you might pass for the old one.” The little man squeaked hopefully.
“I am flattered. But if you don’ mind my askin’. What happened to the old one?”
He never came back from his month off in January. Here it’s July and we’ve not seen him. We’re behind schedule on bon bons and boiled sweets, we have no idea what new things we ought to make or whether the children have been naughty or nice and even worse there’s no one to deliver everything.”
“Has anyone been to check on him? Have you sent a missive?” I asked, wondering at such irresponsible behaviour from a magical person.
We haven’t the resources. Who would we send? How would we send them? We are too few to send anyone and too small to drive the sleigh.
“Well, we certainly aren’t going to help sort children or boil sweets and there is no way Hawser is going to stay here and play at being a mythical person. However, if there’s voyaging to be done, we’re your men. Hitch up the sleigh. We’ll retrieve the man for you!”
You want to…” the little man began.
“I said hitch up the sleigh didn’t I? Get on it. I’ve no time. I have a continent to explore, a passage to Cathay to find and a barrel of wine to dump overboard.”
“Cap’n,” John started, “are you sure this is a good idea…”
“John. I think things are fairly clear here. We’ve been caught in a holiday story. Father Christmas must be returned or there will be no Christmas presents for the children of the world. Compared with rampant plagues, war, strife and the looming Spanish threat to our very kingdom it may not seem important but trust me, we cannot go back to the way things were until we save Christmas.” A crash broke the bustle of the workshop. “That wall looked perfectly sturdy, what happened?” I asked of John who was looking at the planks I had just destroyed.
“I’m not sure myself, Capn’. It’ll be okay though. There are three other walls here. I’m sure the elves will have the fourth one back up in no time.”
“Right, well the sleigh looks ready now. Let us make our way to Father Christmas wherever he may have gone.” With that I mounted the sleigh, took the reigns from the small man and waited for John to clamber in.
“So, are you an elf?” I asked, offhandedly.
Not really, we prefer to think of ourselves as… yes, I’m an elf.”
"Good to know."
With that, I cracked an ancient looking whip which happened to be nearby and we vaulted into the sky. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

How Captain Frobisher Saved Christmas as recorded by George Best. pt.1

“Westward from the Davis Straight ‘tis there ‘twas said to lie. The sea route to the Orient for which so many died.” So we had sailed due West from Bristol that warm spring day. Few of the men aboard for this voyage truly heeded the warnings we’d given of the horrors of the voyage ahead. The very air before us was like to congeal and shatter about the bowsprit as our adventuresome sails make first entrance into the virgin northern waters untouched by any but ourselves the year previous. Soon they would learn the truth of the voyage and see the hardship of real cold. Before long they would see how the rime on the deck must be scraped continually else the ship should freeze to the spot and there stay till the thaw should chance to free her.

Our captain, great hero of England, Martin Frobisher stands atop the rearcastle peering out into the clear northern skies past the jib boom. He raised his hands to the height of his shoulders and smiled. “We come for you Anian Straights.” He challenged, “We shall soon be upon you and we, brave men of England, will take your jewels for our queen and pass beyond to the lands of Cathay securing our place in history. Every man here has pledged his life and hazarded his body to this purpose and you, savage land, shall give us our immortality!”
“Beggin’ yer pardon cap’n but isn’t the passage in the west?” This is our good bosun John T. Hawser.
“Of course it is John. Wherefore else would I address the horizon?”
“Only You’re not looking West. We’re still tacking out. That be North by Northwest.” He pointed out, gesturing past the jib boom. The gallant captain made a face causing his beard to stick out funnily.
“Very well.” He turned sharply to the left and shook his fist at the horizon. “You heard me.” Then the bold hero pointed his finger threateningly and manfully declared. “All the stuff I just said.” With that he turned to Hawser and, ceding the bridge, he headed below to “check the maps.”
The sailing was smooth out past the Isle of Man and into the Irish Sea. We stopped at Londonderry to lade on final supplies for the passage across the North Atlantic to the Labrador Sea.  

By July we had sighted Labrador and turned North once again to make for the mouth of the passage. This was the first time turning to the northward since leaving the safe waters around dear England. Here in the savage waters around this godless land any thing may come to pass and the curses of great men may be remembered.
As evening fell lights played across the horizon and as the men chuffed through the ice on their beards and scraped the planks a magic air blanketed the ship. The men on the stanchions paused in pushing the bergs from our hull and our captain, swathed in esqimaux furs, looked up from his wine and his astrolabe.
“John!” He called for the hardy bosun.
“’Ere Cap’n.”
“John, do you hear that music?” John sniffed instead of answering. He sniffed his way straight to the captain’s goblet.
“Cap’n. Where did you get this wine? It’s not from the tub what went septic is it.”
“Don’t be a fool, no wine can harm my steely mind” John took a sip of the liquid in question and turned to spit it out. “Do not spit out my good wine, John. That is captain’s wine.” The bosun made an uncomfortable noise as the wine burned slowly at his cheeks. Seeing that the captain was not going to budge he swallowed with a grimace.
“Cap’n that wine’s gone off. Cabin boy’s still laid up from having a thimbleful last week. Now I’m sure we’re both to be joining him.”
“Belay that mess about wine, John. Honestly, I am far more concerned about this music. Is someone fool enough to play a flute in the arctic? They’re lips’ll stick and they’ll have to wait for… never mind. It’s foolish.”
“Well, now you mention it, there is a sort of music about but not like any flute I ever heard. It’s comin’ from outside.” The lights in the sky grew brighter as the pair moved to the rear door to look out.
The captain tells me at that moment a whip of blue light cracked out from the sky above and caught the two in its blinding flash. The following is his account of why we found the pair of them in the water several hours later.