miércoles, 30 de abril de 2014


Or Euros for No One.
A funny German parody of the New Year's sketch starring Angela Merkel as the countess and Nicolas Sarkozy as her loyal butler:

martes, 29 de abril de 2014


Herger said to me, “The wendol come. They know of the mortal wounds of Buliwyf, and they seek a final revenge for the killing of their mother.”
Each of the warriors of Buliwyf took a place at the perimeter of the fortifications that we had drawn up against the wendol. These defenses were poor, yet we had none else. We peered into the mists to glimpse the horsemen galloping down upon us.  I  had seen the aspect of the wendol and I knew them to be creatures, if not men, then like enough to men as monkeys are also like men; but I knew them to be mortal, and they could die.
Thus I had no fear, save the expectation of this final battle. In this manner was I alone, for the warriors of Buliwyf displayed much fear; and this despite their pains to conceal it. Verily, as we had killed the mother of the wendol, who was their leader, so also had we lost Buliwyf, who was our own leader, and there was no cheerfulness while we waited and heard the thunder approach.
And then I heard a commotion behind me, and upon my turning, I saw this: Buliwyf, pale as the mist itself, garbed in white and bound in his wounds, stood erect upon the land of the kingdom of Rothgar. And on his shoulders sat two black ravens, one to each side; and at this sight the Northmen screamed of his coming, and they raised their weapons into the air and howled for the battle. 
Now Buliwyf never spoke, nor did he look to one side or another; nor did he give sign of recognition to any man; but he walked with measured pace forward, beyond the line of the fortifications, and there he awaited the onslaught of the wendol. The ravens flew off, and he gripped his sword Runding and met the attack.
No words can describe the final attack of the wendol in the dawn of the mist. No words will say what blood was spilled, what screams filled the thick air, what horses and horsemen died in hideous agony. With my own eyes I saw Ecthgow, with his arms of steel: verily his head was lopped off by a wendol sword and the head bounced upon the ground as a bauble, the tongue still flicking in the mouth. Also I saw Weath take a spear through his chest; in this way was he pinned to the ground, and there writhed like a fish taken from the sea. I saw a girl child trampled by the hooves of a horse and her body crushed flat and blood pouring from her ear. Also I saw a woman, a slave of King Rothgar: her body was cut in twain cleanly while she ran from a pursuing horseman. I saw many children likewise killed. I saw horses rear and plunge, their riders dismounted, to be fallen upon by old men and women, who slew the creatures as they lay stunned on their backs. Also I saw Wiglif, the son of Rothgar, run from the fray and conceal himself in cowardly safety. The herald I did not see that day.
Now the sun burst through the mist, and the dawn was full upon us, and the mist slipped away, and the horsemen disappeared. In the broad light of day, I saw bodies everywhere, including many bodies of the wendol, for they had not collected their dead. This truly was the sign of their end, for they were in disarray and could not again attack Rothgar, and all the people of the kingdom of Rothgar knew this meaning and rejoiced.
Herger bathed my wound, and was elated, until they carried the body of Buliwyf into the great hall of Rothgar. Buliwyf was dead a score over: his body was hacked by the blades of a dozen adversaries; his visage and form were soaked in his own still-warm blood. Herger saw this sight and burst into tears, and hid his face from me, but there was no need, for I myself felt tears that misted my sight.
Buliwyf was laid before King Rothgar, whose duty it was to make a speech. But the old man was not able to do such a thing. He said only this: “Here is a warrior and a hero fit for the gods. Bury him as a great king,” and then he left the hall. I believe he was ashamed, for he himself had not joined in the battle. Also his son Wiglif had run like a coward, and many had seen this, and called it a womanly act; this also may have abashed the father. Or there may be some reason which I do not know. In truth, he was a very old man.
Now it happened that in a low voice Wiglif spoke to the herald: “This Buliwyf has done us much service, all the greater for his death at the concluding of it.” Thus he spoke when his father the King had departed the hall.
Herger heard these words, and I also did, and I was the first to draw my sword. Herger said to me, “Do not battle this man, for he is a fox, and you have wounds.”
I said to him, “Who cares for that?” and I challenged the son Wiglif, and upon the spot. Wiglif drew his sword. Now Herger delivered me a mighty kick or manner of blow from behind, and as I was unprepared for this I fell sprawling; then Herger joined battle with the son Wiglif. Also the herald took up arms, and moved slyly, in the desire to stand behind Herger and slay him at the back. This herald I myself killed by plunging my sword deep into his belly, and the herald screamed at the instant of his impalement. The son Wiglif heard this, and although he had battled fearlessly before, now he showed much fear in his contest with Herger.
Then it happened that King Rothgar heard of the clashing; he came once more to the great hall and begged for a ceasing of the matter. In this, his efforts were to no avail. Herger was firm in his purpose. Verily I saw him stand astride the body of Buliwyf and swing his sword at Wiglif, and Herger slew Wiglif, who fell down upon the table of Rothgar, and gripped the cup of the King, and drew it toward his lips. But it is true that he died without drinking, and so the matter was finished.
Now of the party of Buliwyf, once of the number thirteen, only four remained. We set out Buliwyf beneath a wooden roof, and left his body with a cup of mead in his hands. Then Herger said to the assembled people, “Who shall die with this noble man?” and a woman, a slave of King Rothgar, said that she would die with Buliwyf. The usual preparations of the Northmen were then made.
Several days probably elapsed before the funeral ceremony.
Now a ship was fitted out upon the shore below the hall of Rothgar, and treasures of gold and silver were laid upon it, and the carcasses of two horses also. And a tent was erected, and Buliwyf, now stiff in death, placed inside. His body was the black color of death in this cold climate. Then the slave girl was taken to each of the warriors of Buliwyf, and she said to me, “My master thanks you.” Her countenance and manner were most joyful, of a variety in excess of the general good cheer these people show. Whilst she dressed again in her garments, these garments including many splendid ornaments of gold and silver, I said to her that she was joyful.
I had in my mind that she was a fair maiden, and youthful, and yet soon to die, which she knew, as did I. She said to me, “I am joyful because I shall soon see my master.” As yet she had drunk no mead, and she spoke the truth of her heart. Her countenance shone as does a happy child, or certain women when they are with child; this was the nature of the thing.
So, then, I said this: “Tell your master when you see him that I have lived to write.” These words I do not know if she comprehended. I said to her, “It was the wish of your master.”
“Then I will tell him,” she said, and most cheerfully proceeded to the next warrior of Buliwyf. I do not know if she understood my meaning, for the only sense of writing these North people know is the carving of wood or stone, which they do but seldom. Also, my speech in the North tongue was not clear. Yet she was cheerful and went on.
Now in the evening, as the sun was making its descent into the sea, the ship of Buliwyf was prepared upon the beach, and the maiden was taken into the tent of the ship, and the old crone who is called the angel of death placed the dagger between her ribs, and Herger held the cord that strangled her, and we seated her alongside Buliwyf, and then we departed.
It is true that at the moment of her death the maiden smiled, and this expression afterward remained, so that she sat next to her master with this same smile upon her pale face. The face of Buliwyf was black and his eyes were closed, but his expression was calm. Thus did I last view these two North people.
Now the ship of Buliwyf was set aflame, and pushed out into the sea, and the Northmen stood upon the rocky shore and made many invocations to their gods. With my own eyes, I saw the ship carried by the currents as a burning pyre, and then it was lost to vision, and the darkness of night descended upon the Northlands.

In the company of the warriors and nobles of the kingdom of Rothgar. This was a pleasant time, for the people were gracious and hospitable.
Soon enough I thought the old King less a fool than I had previously.
 “This King is not such a fool as I have taken him to be.”
In reply, Herger said: “You are wrong, for he is a fool, and does not act with sense.” 
Here was the manner of it. Herger sought the audience of King Rothgar in private, and said to the King that he was a great and wise ruler whose people loved and respected him, by virtue of the way he looked after the affairs of the kingdom and the welfare of his people. This flattery softened the old man. Now Herger said to him that of the five sons of the King, only one survived, and he was Wulfgar, who had gone to Buliwyf as messenger, and now remained far off. Herger said that Wulfgar should be summoned home, and that a parry for this purpose be arranged, for there was no other heir save Wulfgar.
These things he told the King. Also, he spoke some words in private to the Queen Weilew, who had much influence over her husband.
Then it happened at an evening banquet that Rothgar called for the fitting out of a ship and a crew, for a voyage to return Wulfgar to his kingdom. The preparation of the ship took the space of several days. Herger had chosen to remain behind.
One day we stood upon the cliffs, overlooking the ship on the beach, as it was prepared for the voyage and fitted with provisions. Herger said to me: “You are starting upon a long journey. We shall make prayers for your safe-keeping.”
I inquired whom he would pray to, and he responded, “To Odin, and Frey, and Thor, and Wyrd, and to the several other gods who may influence your safe journey.” These are the names of the Northmen gods.
Here there are many gods and each has his importance.


A rather prevalent custom in Germanic/Viking society:

The youth replied: “You mistake my words.”
Now Herger said, “Indeed, for your words are twisted and timid as a feeble old woman.”
“This old woman shall see you taste death,” the youth said, and drew forth his sword. Then Herger drew his, for the youth was the same Ragnar, the friend of Wiglif, and thus I saw manifested the intention of Buliwyf in the matter.
These Northmen are most sensitive and touchy about their honor. Among their company, duels occur as frequently as micturition, and a battle to the death is counted ordinary. It may occur on the spot of the insult, or if it is to be formally conducted, the combatants meet at the joining place of three roads. It was thus that Ragnar challenged Herger to fight him.
Now this is the Northman custom: at the appointed time, the friends and kin of the duelers assemble at the place of battle and stretch a hide upon the ground. This they fix with four laurel poles. The battle must be fought upon the hide, each man keeping a foot, or both, on the skin all the while; in this fashion they remain close one to another. The two combatants each arrive with one sword and three shields. If a man’s three shields all break, he must fight on without protection, and the battle is to the death.
Such were the rules, chanted by the old crone, the angel of death, at the position of the stretched hide, with all the people of Buliwyf and the people of the kingdom of Rothgar gathered around. I was myself there, not so close to the front, and I marveled that these people should forget the threat of the Korgon which had so terrified them earlier; no one cared anything for aught but the duel.
This was the manner of the duel between Ragnar and Herger. Herger struck the first blow, since he had been challenged, and his sword rang mightily on the shield of Ragnar. I myself had fear for Herger, since this youth was so much larger and stronger than he, and indeed Ragnar’s first blow smote Herger’s shield from its handgrip, and Herger called for his second shield.
Then the battle was joined, and fiercely. I looked once to Buliwyf, whose face was without expression; and to Wiglif and the herald, on the opposite side, who often looked to Buliwyf while the battle raged.
Herger’s second shield was likewise broken, and he called for his third and final shield. Herger was much fatigued, and his face damp and red with exertion; the youth Ragnar appeared easy as he battled, with little exertion.
Then the third shield was broken, and Herger’s plight was most desperate, or so it seemed for a fleeting moment. Herger stood with both feet solid on the ground, bent and gasping for his air, and most direly fatigued. Ragnar chose this time to fall upon him. Then Herger side-stepped like the flick of a bird’s wings, and the youth Ragnar plunged his sword through empty air. Then, Herger threw his own sword from one hand to the other, for these Northmen can fight as well with either hand, and equally strong. And quickly Herger turned and cut off Ragnar’s head from behind with a single blow of his sword.
Verily I saw the blood spurt from the neck of Ragnar and the head flew across the air into the crowd, and I saw with my own eyes that the head struck the ground before the body also struck the ground. Now Herger stepped aside, and then I perceived that the battle had been a sham, for Herger no longer puffed and panted, but stood with no sign of fatigue and no heaving of his chest, and he held his sword lightly, and he looked as if he could kill a dozen such men. And he looked at Wiglif and said, “Honor your friend,” meaning to see to the burial.
Herger said to me, as we departed the dueling place, that he had acted a sham so that Wiglif should know the men of Buliwyf were not merely strong and brave warriors, but cunning as well. “This will give him more fear,” Herger said, “and he will not dare to speak against us.”
I doubted his plan would have this effect, but it is true that the Northmen prize deceit more than those for whom deceit is a form of art. Cleverness in battle and manly things is accounted a greater virtue than pure strength in warriorship.
Yet Herger was not happy, and I perceived that Buliwyf was not happy, either. As the evening approached, the beginnings of the mist formed in the high inland hills. They were thinking of the dead Ragnar, who was young and strong and brave, and who would be useful in the coming battle. Herger said as much to me: “A dead man is of no use to anyone.”


From the same source of "A Germanic Encampment", here's another setting that I have recreated in my works (when I haven't done Baroque/Rococo courts, that is!):

For the next two days, we sailed among the islands of the Dan country, and then on the third day we crossed a passage of open water, and eventually arrived at the territory called Venden. These lands of Venden are mountainous and forbidding, and the men of Buliwyf in his boat approached with some trepidation and the killing of a hen, which was thrown into the ocean thus: the head was thrown from the bow of the ship, and the body of the hen was thrown from the stern, near the helmsman.
We did not beach directly on this new land of Venden, but sailed along the coast, coming at last to the kingdom of Rothgar. High upon a cliff, commanding a view of the raging gray sea, was a huge great hall of wood, strong and imposing. Iit was a magnificent sight, but Herger and all his company, led by Buliwyf, were groaning and shaking their heads. Why this was so? He said, “Rothgar is called Rothgar the Vain, and his great hall is the mark of a vain man.”
“Why do you speak thus? Because of its size and splendor?” For verily, as we came closer, we saw that the hall was richly ornamented with carvings and silver chasing, which sparkled from a distance.
“No,” said Herger. “I say that Rothgar is vain because of the way he has placed his settlement. He dares the gods to strike him down, and he pretends he is more than a man, and so he is punished.”
There could not exist a more impregnable great hall. “This hall cannot be attacked; how can Rothgar be struck down?”
"Rothgar deserves the misfortune that has come to him, and it is only we who shall save him, and perhaps not even so.”
Each warrior in the boat dressed in the garments of battle, which were thus: first, boots and leggings of rough wool, and over this a coat of heavy fur, which reached to the knees. Over this they placed coats of mail, which all had save me. Then each man took his sword and clasped it to his belt; each man took up his white shield of hide, and his spear; each man placed a helmet of metal or leather upon his head; this all the men were the same except for Buliwyf, who alone carried his sword in his hand, so large was it. The warriors looked up to the great hall of Rothgar, and marveled at its gleaming roof and skilled workmanship, and agreed that there was none like it in the world, with its lofty gables and rich carving. Yet there was no respect in their speech.
At length we decamped from the ship, and traveled a road paved in stone up to the great hall. The clanking of swords and the clatter of mail raised a goodly noise. After we had gone some short distance, we saw by the roadway the severed head of a steer, set upon a stick. This animal was freshly killed.
All the Northmen sighed and made sad faces at this portent.
Buliwyf looked away, across the fields of the lands of Rothgar, and saw there an isolated farming house, of the sort that is common in Rothgar lands. The walls of this house were of wood, and sealed with a paste of mud and straw, which must be replenished after the frequent rains. The roof is thatched material and wood also. Inside the houses there is only an earthen floor and a hearth, and the dung of animals, for the farm people sleep with their animals indoors for the warmth afforded by their bodies, and then they burn the dung for fires.
Buliwyf gave an order that we should go to this farmhouse, and so we set out across the fields, which were verdant but soggy with dampness underfoot. Once or twice the company halted to examine the ground before continuing on, but they never saw anything that mattered to them. I myself saw nothing.
Yet again Buliwyf halted his company, and pointed to the dark earth. 
Buliwyf and his warriors shook their heads at the sight, repeating one word over and over: “wendol” or “wendlon,” or some such. Herger should not be asked at this moment, for he was as apprehensive as all the rest. We pressed on to the farmhouse, now and again seeing more of these horned footprints in the earth. Buliwyf and his warriors walked slowly, but it was not caution; no man drew his weapon; rather it was some kind of dread.
At length we came to the farming dwelling and entered it.

Now they set off for the great hall of King Rothgar. No man spoke during our travel, which was the better part of an hour; every one of the Northmen seemed to be wrapped in bitter and consuming thought, and yet they showed no fear anymore.
At length, a herald upon a horse met us and barred our path. He noted the arms we carried and the bearing of the company and of Buliwyf, and shouted a warning.
Herger said to me, “He craves to know our names, and curtly, too.”
Buliwyf made some answer to the herald, and from his tone I knew that Buliwyf was in no mood for courtly pleasantries. Herger said to me: “Buliwyf tells him we are subjects of King Higlac, of the kingdom of Yatlam, and we are on an errand to the King Rothgar, and would speak to him.” And Herger added, “Buliwyf says that Rothgar is a most worthy king,” but the tone of Herger conveyed the opposite sense of the matter.
This herald bade us continue to the great hall and wait outside while he told the King of our arrival. This we did, although Buliwyf and his party were not pleased at such treatment; there was grumbling and muttering, for it is the Northman’s way to be hospitable and this did not seem gracious, to be kept outside. Yet they waited, and also removed their weapons, their swords and spears, but not their armor, and they left the weapons outside the doors to the hall.
Now the hall was surrounded on all sides by several dwellings in the fashion of the North people. These were long with curved sides, as at Trelburg (a nearby encampment); but they differed in the arrangement, for there were no squares here. Nor were there fortifications or earthworks to be seen. Rather, from the great hall and the long houses about it, the ground sloped to a long flat green plain, here and there a farmhouse, and then, beyond, the hills and the edge of a forest.
I inquired of Herger whose long houses were these, and he said to me, “Some belong to the King, and others are for his royal family, and others for his nobles, and also for the servants and lower members of his court.” He said also that it was a difficult place, though I did not comprehend his meaning in this.
Then we were allowed entry into the great hall of King Rothgar, which verily I say is to be counted one of the marvels of all the world, and all the more for its presence in the crude North country. This hall is called, among the Rothgar peoples, by the name of Hurot, for the Northmen give the names of people to the things of their life, to the buildings and boats and especially to the weapons. Now I say: this Hurot, the great hall of Rothgar, was as large as the palace of Versailles, and richly inlaid with silver and even some gold, which is most rare in the North. On all sides were designs and ornaments of the greatest splendor and richness of artistry. It was truly a monument to the power and majesty of King Rothgar.
This King Rothgar sat at the distant end of Hurot Hall, a space so vast that he was so far we could hardly discern him. Standing behind his right shoulder was the same herald who had halted us. The herald made a speech, which Herger told me was thus: “Here, O King, is a band of warriors from the kingdom of Yatlam. They are newly arrived from the sea, and their leader is a man of the name Buliwyf. They beg leave to tell you of their errand, O King. Do not forbid them entry; they have the manner of earls, and from his bearing their chieftain is a mighty warrior. Greet them as earls, O King Rothgar.”
Thus we were bid approach the King Rothgar.
King Rothgar appeared a man near death. He was not young, his hair was white, his skin was very pale, and his face was grooved with, sorrow and fear. He regarded us with suspicion, wrinkling his eyes, or perhaps he was near blind, I do not know. Finally he broke into speech, which Herger says was thus: “I know of this man, for I have sent for him on a hero’s mission. He is Buliwyf, and I knew him as a child, when I traveled across the waters to the kingdom of Yatlam. He is the son of Higlac, who was my gracious host, and now this son comes to me in my time of need and sorrow.”
Rothgar then called for the warriors to be summoned to the great hall, and gifts brought, and celebrations made.
Buliwyf then spoke, a long speech.  To speak when Buliwyf spoke would be a disrespect. However, the meaning was this: that Buliwyf had heard of the troubles of Rothgar, that he was sorry for these troubles, and that his own father’s kingdom had been destroyed by these same troubles, and that he had come to save the kingdom of Rothgar from the evils that had beset them.
Still, I did not know what the Northmen called these evils, or how they thought of them, though I had viewed the handiwork of the beasts that tore men to pieces.
King Rothgar spoke again, in some haste. He wished to say some words before all his warriors and earls arrived. He said thus (from Herger): “O Buliwyf, I knew your father when I was myself a young man, new to my throne. Now I am old and heartsick. My head bows. My eyes weep with shame to acknowledge my weakness. As you see, my throne is almost a barren spot. My lands are becoming a wild place. What the fiends have wrought to my kingdom I cannot say. Often at night, my warriors, brave with drink, swear to topple the fiends. And then when the bleak light of dawn creeps over the misty fields, we see bloody bodies everywhere. Thus is the sorrow of my life, and I shall speak no more of it.”
Now a bench was brought out and a meal set before us.
That evening there was a great celebration, and King Rothgar and his Queen Weilew, in a garment dripping gemstones and gold, presided over the nobles and warriors and earls of the kingdom of Rothgar. These nobles were a paltry lot; they were old men and drank overmuch and many were crippled or wounded. In the eyes of all of them was the hollow stare of fear, and there was hollowness in their merriment, too.
Also there was the son named Wiglif, of whom I have earlier spoken, the son of Rothgar who murdered three of his brothers. This man was young and slender with a blond beard and with eyes that never settled on anything, but moved about here and there constantly; also he never met the gaze of another. Herger saw him and said, “He is a fox.” By this he meant that he was a slippery and changeable person of false demeanor, for the North people believe the fox is an animal that can assume any form it pleases.
Now, in the middle portion of the festivities, Rothgar sent his herald to the doors of Hurot Hall, and this herald reported that the mist would not descend that night. There was much happiness and celebration over this announcement that the night was clear; all were pleased save Wiglif.
At a particular time, the son Wiglif rose to his feet and said, “I drink honor to our guests, and especially Buliwyf, a brave and true warrior who has come to aid us in our plight-although it may prove too great an obstacle for him to overcome.”
All eyes turned to Buliwyf for his response. Buliwyf stood, and looked to Wiglif, and then said, “I have no fear of anything, even the callow fiend that creeps at night to murder men in their sleep. This I took to refer to the “wendol,” but Wiglif turned pale and gripped the chair in which he sat.
“Do you speak of me?” Wiglif said, in a trembling tongue.
Buliwyf made this response: “No, but I do not fear you any more than the monsters of the mist.”
The young man Wiglif persisted, although Rothgar the King called for him to be seated. Wiglif said to all the assembled nobles: “This Buliwyf, arrived from foreign shores, has by appearance great pride and great strength. Yet have I arranged to test his mettle, for pride may cover any man’s eyes.”
Now I saw this thing happen: a strong warrior, seated at a table near the door, behind Buliwyf, rose with speed, plucked up a spear, and charged at the back of Buliwyf. All this happened in less time than it takes a man to suck in his breath.  Yet also Buliwyf turned, plucked up a spear, and with this he caught the warrior full into the chest, and lifted him by the shaft of the spear high over his head and flung him against a wall. Thus was this warrior skewered on the spear, his feet dangling above the floor, kicking; the shaft of the spear was buried into the wall of the hall of Hurot. The warrior died with a sound.
“You shall sing a song for the court of King Rothgar. All desire it.”
“You will sing something that entertains the heart. Do not speak of your one God. No one cares for such nonsense.”
 “Sing a song of kings and valour in battle.”
The name of “wendol,” or “windon,” is a very ancient name, as old as any of the peoples of the North country, and it means “the black mist.” To the Northmen, this means a mist that brings, under cover of night, black fiends who murder and kill and eat the flesh of human beings.  The fiends are hairy and loathsome to touch and smell; they are fierce and cunning; they speak no language of any man and yet converse among themselves; they come with the night fog, and disappear by day-to where, no man durst follow.
 “You can know the regions where dwell the fiends of the black mist by many ways. From time to time, warriors on horse may hunt a stag, chasing the stag over hill and dale for many miles of forest and open land. And then the stag comes to some marshy tarn or brackish swamp, and here it will halt, preferring to be torn to bits by the hounds rather than enter that loathsome region. Thus we know of the areas where the wendol live, and we know that even the animals will not enter thence.
“In olden days, the black mist was feared by all the Northmen of every region. Since my father and his father and his father before, no Northman has seen the black mist, and some of the young warriors counted us old fools to remember the ancient tales of their horror and depredations. Yet the chiefs of the Northmen in all the kingdoms, even in Norway, have always been prepared for the return of the black mist. All of our towns and our fortresses are protected and defended from the land. Since the time of the father of my father’s father, our peoples have thus acted, and never have we seen the black mist. Now it has returned.”
“The black mist has come from the vanity and weakness of Rothgar, who has offended the gods with his foolish splendor and tempted the fiends with the siting of his great hall, which has no protection from the land. Rothgar is old and he knows he will not be remembered for battles fought and won, and so he built this splendid hall, which is the talk of all the world, and pleases his vanity. Rothgar acts as a god, yet he is a man, and the gods have sent the black mist to strike him down and show him humility.”
Perhaps Rothgar was resented in the kingdom. He replied thus: “No man is so good as to be free from all evil, nor so bad as to be worth nothing. Rothgar is a just king and his people prospered all of his life. The wisdom and richness of his rule are here, in Hurot Hall, and they are splendid. His only fault is this, that he forgot defense, for we have a saying among us: ‘A man should never move a step from his weapons.’ Rothgar has no weapons; he is toothless and weak; and the black mist seeps freely over the land.”
The old man was tired, and turned away from me, and soon was asleep. Verily, the food and drink of Rothgar’s hospitality were much, and many of the number of earls and nobles were drowsy.
Of the table of Rothgar I shall say this: that every man had a tablecloth and plate, and spoon and knife; that the meal was boiled pork and goat, and some fish, too, for the Northmen much prefer boiled meat to roasted. Then there were cabbages and onions in abundance, and apples and hazelnuts. A sweetish fleshy meat was given me that I had not tasted before; this, I was told, was moose, or reindeer.
The dreadful foul drink called mead is made from honey, then fermented. It is the sourest, blackest, vilest stuff ever invented by any man, and yet it is potent beyond all knowing; a few drinks, and the world spins. 
 Buliwyf and all his company did not drink that night, or only sparingly, and Rothgar took this as no insult, but rather acknowledged it as the natural course of things. There was no wind that night; the candles and flames of Hurot Hall did not flicker, and yet it was damp, and chill. Out of doors the mist was rolling in from the hills, blocking the silvered light of the moon, cloaking all in blackness.
As the night continued, King Rothgar and his Queen departed for sleep, and the massive doors of Hurot Hall were locked and barred, and the nobles and earls remaining there fell into a drunken stupor and snored loudly.
Then Buliwyf and his men, still wearing their armor, went about the room, dousing the candles and seeing to the fires, that they should burn low and weak. 
The Northmen have a saying of praise that they carve upon the tombstones of noble warriors, which is this: “He did not flee battle.” None of the company of Buliwyf fled that night, though the sounds and the stink were all around them, now louder, now fainter, now from one direction, now another. And yet they waited.
Then came the most fearsome moment. All sounds ceased. There was utter silence, except for the snoring of the men and the low crackle of the fire. Still none of the warriors of Buliwyf stirred.
And then there was a mighty crash upon the solid doors of the hall of Hurot, and these doors burst open, and a rush of reeking air gutted all the lights, and the black mist entered the room. Verily it seemed thousands of black grunting shapes, and yet it might have been no more than five or six, huge black shapes hardly in the manner of men, and yet also manlike. The air stank of blood and death; I was cold beyond reason, and shivered. Yet still no warrior moved.
Then, with a curdling scream to wake the dead, Buliwyf leapt up, and in his arms he swung the giant sword Runding, which sang like a sizzling flame as it cut the air. And his warriors leapt up with him, and all joined the battle. The shouts of the men mingled with the pig-grunts and the odors of the black mist, and there was terror and confusion and great wracking and rending of the Hurot Hall.
The battle raged for how long I cannot know, but it concluded most suddenly of a moment. And then the black mist was gone, slunk away, grunting and panting and stinking, leaving behind destruction and death that we could not know until we had lighted fresh tapers.
Here is how the battle waged. Of the company of Buliwyf, three were dead, Roneth and Halga, both earls, and Edgtho, a warrior. The first had his chest torn open. The second had his spine broken. The third had his head torn off in the manner I had already witnessed. All these warriors were dead.
Wounded were two others, Haltaf and Rethel. Haltaf had lost an ear, and Rethel two fingers of his right hand. Both men were not mortally injured, and made no complaint, for it is the Northman way to bear the wounds of battle cheerfully, and to praise above all the retaining of life.
As for Buliwyf and Herger and all the others, they were soaked in blood as if they had bathed in it. Now I shall say what many will not believe, and yet it was so: our company had killed not one of the mist monsters. Each had slunk away, some perhaps mortally wounded, and yet they had escaped.
Herger said thus: “I saw two of their number carrying a third, who was dead.” Perhaps this was so, for all generally agreed upon it. I learned that the mist monsters never leave one of their kind to the society of men, but rather will risk great dangers to retrieve him from human purview. So also will they go to extreme lengths to keep a victim’s head, and we could not find the head of Edgtho in any place; the monsters had carried it off with them.
Then Buliwyf spoke, and Herger told me his words thus: “Look, I have retained a trophy of the night’s bloody deeds. See, here is an arm of one of the fiends.”
And, true to his word, Buliwyf held the arm of one of the mist monsters, cut off at the shoulder by the great sword Runding. All the warriors crowded around to examine it. It appeared to be small, with a hand of abnormally large size. But the forearm and upper arm were not large to match it, although the muscles were powerful. There was long black matted hair on all parts of the arm except the palm of the hand. Finally it is to say that the arm stank as the whole beast stank, with the fetid smell of the black mist.
Now all the warriors cheered Buliwyf, and his sword Runding. The fiend’s arm was hung from the rafters of the great hall of Hurot, and marveled at by all the people of the kingdom of Rothgar. Thus ended the first battle with the wendol.

lunes, 28 de abril de 2014


I love hot showers. And I can't bring my watch into the shower lest I should spoil it, so I lose track of time. Fortunately, there is some advice on the Net for people like me:

If you lose track of time in the shower, bring a radio into the bathroom and time yourself by how many songs play while you're in there. Try to get your shower time down to one song (or less).

That is, one only average song, three or four minutes, should be played in the background. No Genesis or other groups with epic songs (and don't even think of Bach!) Just pop or Sabaton or Rammstein.

There are also shower timers, but acquiring one in Spain must be rather tricky. Could an ordinary timer, set on four minutes, do the trick?

Waiting for the cold water to warm up is a waste of time and water. Yet I don't like it cold. I want to steel myself, but cold H2O is sooooooooooo uncomfortable! Maybe I could use some vodka or warm tea to drink after leaping into the shower when it's already cold...

I should also have my hair cut, so it takes less time to rinse (and less time to dry afterwards). A pixie cut or crew cut may do the trick.

I've used an egg timer before and that's cut my shower time down to 15 minutes. I don't use one now because I live with other people and they'll hear it go off and wonder. I have an iPod, which I have a protective see-thru case for, and I put a playlist on play, and then put the window thing in clock view. Then I hang it on the shower curtain. That helps me keep some track of time, especially how much time has elapsed (I can be really bad about that). The leave-in conditioner is a good idea, I'll have to buy some. I lather my hair with shampoo twice because, I believe it's a habit from middle school when I was going through puberty and my hair was greasy. I'd read in some magazine that if you wash your hair twice, the first time cleans it while the second gives it more body. I guess nowadays it wouldn't make a difference if I only shampooed it once, huh. LOL

I had to learn to take fast showers.
Because there are other people here who also need the hot water and to use the shower.
I hung a clock in the bathroom that I can see through the glass shower doors.
Keeping an eye on the clock.
I get done in 5 mintues Hair washed ,rinsed and body washed.

If a clock in the room or a timer doesn't work.
Try a shower radio.
Get out of the shower by the end of the 3rd song.

Cut your hair short ~ Takes less time to clean

Get a timer and set it for 5 minutes.. see how much you accomplish in that time. If it doens't work set it to 10 minutes or something. A timer is much easier then looking at your watch or something. Plus its irritating when it goes off.

I have my top five favorite songs on a playlist and blast them while I shower. When the playlist stops (about 15 minutes) then I know to get out. Most of my friends do this too and it works for them as well :)

You can set a timer for like 15 minutes and when it goes off get out of the shower.

  • Set a timer. This may feel silly at first, but people tend to lose track of time in showers or baths. So setting yourself a five- or 10-minute timer can alert you to just how much time you really are spending under the water.
 I put together a music playlist that was about 12 minutes long (about four songs) and used that as cues when I’m in the shower. When the song switched I would start to hurry up a little more. After a few days I realized I was finished in the shower before the four songs were done! So I decreased my shower time to a playlist of three songs for a few days. Now, I’m down to only two songs which is seven minutes!

Or you could set a timer and when it goes off so does the water, whether or not your inner creature feels perfectly comfortable yet.

Find it! Shower timers

A simple egg timer with a buzzer set on the bathroom counter would certainly do the trick, but if you want a shower timing specialist, these options are fun and functional (i.e. waterproof). Once you’ve bought one, get to cutting that shower time. Start by figuring out how long you actually take on average, and when you've got a baseline, decrease the time you’re in there by 30 seconds every week. Your goal? Get your time down to five minutes or less.
  • Crank some tunes: Having a hard time shaking off that morning sleepiness? Try putting on some tunes to get you moving. Even better, pick a song that’s five minutes or less—when it’s over, so is your shower. 
  • I pick my favourite song, start is as I'm about to get into the shower, groove to the tunes while showering, and then get out when the song is over.  I have found this to be the most effective way to limit my shower time. 


The Clever Princess and Christina Vasa. Christina Vasa as the Clever Princess (not Barbara Gordon, Anna Milton, Mary Winchester, Sue Storm-Richards...) So I thought. Take forth your handkerchiefs and prepare for a good story I wrote a couple of years ago (historical fiction based on real events, fairytale retelling focused on secondary characters, my own Swedish background and family history included). This story was originally in Spanish, so I have translated it into English.

Once upon a time, there was a long and great war. And there were two people whose lives were branded by the conflict.
The young girl wiped her brow clean with her right hand, for she had been riding all morning long. Casting off her cavalier hat, she untied her strawberry blond ponytail in her bedchamber. She had come of age indeed, but not all maidens in the world had inherited a kingdom and a war (though the front was leagues away, south of the royal court). A kingdom to rule and a war to stop.
Sitting before a modest firwood table, Christina started to read the electors' letters, as she sucked her feather quill. Some of the handwritings were hard to understand, yet she could figure out, grosso modo, the most relevant facts. For it was a matter of life or death: the sooner they came to terms with each other down in Westphalia, the better.
But there were no letters from Charles. Had he fallen? Perchance not. If that were the case, she would already had received the condolences. Like the day of her sixth birthday.
It was a cozy winter evening. Christina was in the same place, the great hall at Stegeborg, opening her gifts with the Wittelsbachs, the ones who raised her (for both her birth parents had left for the war front shortly after she had come to the world). One book in particular was dedicated to her: The Daring Feats of the Great Gustavus Adolphus, whose daughter he was. She couldn't have been happier or more innocent. And right then, suddenly, Aunt Catherine had her turn over to the last pages: the battle of Lützen, the dearly bought victory, the military funeral.
Christina's steel-blue eyes let go of a few tears. So early in her life did she cease to be a child. Then, a stern and aged stranger in black made an entrance. Chancellor Oxenstierna began to discuss the most relevant matters with John and Catherine: the education of the new girl queen, his own duties as regent, and the way the child should be prepared for her reign. Then came foreign tutors, ponies, fencing lessons, physical exercises, deer hunts, foreign languages, literary classics (the Aeneid, the Metamorphoses, the Gallic Wars...). She would be reared both as a warrior and a scholar, as if she had been a boy, together with Charles of Wittelsbach. The bonds between them hadn't tightened that early: being an only child, Christina always saw Charles and his sisters as good friends. But she usually told him, to tease him, that they were betrothed to each other.
Betrothed? And he still believed so! And no letters written by Charles had arrived from the German Empire... Could he have committed suicide?
Thrice were they parted by others. The first time, he went forth to study a certain degree at Uppsala University, when he was thirteen or fourteen summers old. The second time, Herr Oxenstierna had encouraged him to take the Grand Tour across Flanders and France: Charles spent three years away from home, and, upon going forth, he hadn't grown that dark stubble on his upper lip yet. The third time, he had already returned to Stegeborg from the Grand Tour with those little strands of raven hair for a moustache. The war kept raging on.
Christina herself, like Charles, had been born in the heat of the armed conflict that changed their lives forever.

Like he always had done at that time of year, Herr Oxenstierna had dropped by his homelands before returning to the war front, and he discussed the neverending war with the young girl. The silver streaks that once stood out had spread throughout his goatee, his eyebrows, and the rest of his hair. After all, a decade had passed since that evening's condolences.
The chancellor wanted to discuss matters of vital importance: the Austrian headquarters had received Swedish military and state secrets, and his suspicions were set on John of Wittelsbach, a foreigner and a Calvinist. The Count of Pfalz, married to Gustavus Adolphus's sister, had fled with her to Sweden after losing his lands and privileges at the start of the war. Charles had been born at Stegeborg, four years before Christina, but he had never felt like a foreigner or like an outsider. His father charged with treason? That was a name to be cleared, and he was ready to wash the Wittelsbach family name clean with blood if necessary.
And thus, he left for the third time, perchance never to return. The dark youth had received, from Christina, a fair lock from her ponytail and the command of the whole Swedish Army (it shouldn't be less, for perhaps, as a strategist, he could be the successor of the Great Gustavus Adolphus).
And years went by. The young princess who soon would be queen became aware of the fact that peace had to be signed as early as possible. If not, perhaps the young general wouldn't return alive. Actually, she didn't feel attracted to him, or to any other person, after her sexual awakening: after all, she was an intellectual, and a tomboy as well, and little did she care for her appearance or for fashion. Yet she liked him after all: only in conversation, riding together, drawing steel against each other. No sexual attraction or interest in wealth, just an intellectual relationship. Hence the importance of all that peace making.
"You should marry", they had told her at the table for the umpteenth time. She had been adressed by more than one of the noblemen seated beside her. Christina replied with a glare of her blue eyes, cold as ice and hard as steel, that said many things without a single word. She blushed and stood up, violently hitting the table with both her hands.

They had summoned her to Tre Kronor. Though she preferred Stegeborg, she had to present herself at court to carry on some procedures. And also to visit the Chancellor, whose post she had decided to fill after the last farewell to Oxenstierna with a dashing gallant of Wallonian descent, Magnus de la Gardie.
She still felt restless at the deathbed of a gentleman in his seventies, who already saw before him the end of a lifetime and that of a regency. He had always been by Christina's side, from the very day he had arranged her parents' marriage. The Chancellor was strangely pale, and he could hardly breathe.
"Marry, Christina. Choose your husband..."
Then, he closed his eyes and became forever silent.
Once more, she burst into tears, which she quite rarely did.

In a kingdom in the North there once lived a young princess so clever that she read all the newspapers and every book in the known world: partly due to her fondness of strange nations, partly because she had to stop a war that had already claimed enough lives. Her late regent and her other loved ones had sung to her always the same old song: "Why shouldn't you marry?"
Thus, shortly after she had ascended the throne, she received letters from southern lands, messages that peace was soon to be signed. If she wished for a bridegroom, he should not only be dashing (for that would be so tiresome!), but able to understand her as well. And thus, she assembled all of her court ladies together, and they were astonished upon that decision.
When the treaty was signed, she had proclamations printed and exported, and sent to the ends of the Habsburg Empire, stating that every well-favoured youth was free to visit Her Majesty (either at the royal court, at Tre Kronor, or at Stegeborg, her childhood estate) and speak with her, and those who displayed their wit were to make themselves feel quite at home, but the one who spoke best would be chosen as confident for Her Majesty ("perhaps as husband for her", countless suitors thought).
Thus, gallants came in crowds, from as far south as Prague and Constance, but none of was able to meet the requirement on the first or on the second day of the peace celebrations. They all could speak very well in a lecture hall, or on the street, or even by a campfire... but when they entered the royal residences, surrounded by gilded plasterwork, and rose-­red tapestries, and great, silver mirrors that glowed with the light of a thousand candles, and saw the counts and barons in all their finery, and the guards in blue and silver uniforms, they grew nervous, and they were stunned.
And, once before the throne, they could do nothing but repeat, like Echo, the last thing the young queen had said. And thus she grew bored with each man, and sent them all away, one by one.
On the third day, a dashing person came to Stegeborg on foot, without horse or carriage, with long raven hair and a lieutenant's or ensign's uniform (a rather worn and torn one, but nevertheless colourful and beautiful). When he passed through the palace gates, he saw the guards in their silver and blue uniforms, and the nobles in all their splendour, but was not the least embarrassed, though his own clothes were faded and worn. The halls were dazzling with light. State councillors and ambassadors walked around barefooted, wearing satin slippers. It was enough to distract the most brilliant orator. But the officer, though his worn boots creaked, didn't even flinch.
He went boldly up to the princess herself, who was seated on her throne, and all the ladies of the court were present with their maids, and all the counts and barons and knights with their servants; and every one of them was dressed so finely that they shone as brightly as the mirrors. They were placed around the throne according to their station: the nearer they were to the door, the lower was their rank and the prouder their look. Even the servants wore cloth of gold, and they were all so proud that they would not even look at him, because he had come to the palace with ink on his fingers. He was quite solemn and not at all afraid, free, lively and agreeable... and said he had not come to woo the princess, but to hear her wisdom; and he was as pleased with her as she was with him.
They looked at each other for a while, his eyes of black fixed on her eyes of blue. They recognized each other. And they embraced.
"Charles! You're alive!"
"Christina! How come you're wearing a gown?"
"You see...", she stroked her yellow satin skirt. "Today is not a usual day."
Both told each other everything they couldn't have told each other. He had been to Prague and seen there halls more elegant than those of his childhood, and thus, he had got used to the decadent elegance of the Baroque. She had stayed in Sweden due to affairs of state. The war that branded their lives had lasted for thirty years.

The first ray of sunlight in one of those long summer days filtered itself through the curtains that covered her white lily-bed. A blond young girl with rather tangled hair, dressed still in her nightgown, stood up to take up a book from a nearby table and start reading it by daybreak light. Le discours de la méthode. The author would soon arrive in response to her invitation. They dressed her in breeches once more: wearing corsets and petticoats was meant only for special occasions.
Looking at herself in the mirror, she thought of Charles and of marriage. For a while, she felt light-headed and nearly fainted upon remembering that night's dream: one of her childhood memories. She was in a far darker room, that could be even considered eerie. In her dream, she was a child of seven, reading a history book beside a beautiful lady in mourning black, with platinum blond hair and bleak countenance, who never ceased to weep. Before both of them, within a crystal glass case, lay the lifeless form of a rather dashing gentleman, doubtlessly a warrior, a military man from what his attire could tell, with the same sharp goatee and the same impressive physique as the Great Gustavus Adolphus in the illustrations. He was strawberry blond with a high forehead, just like little Christina. As she read the account of the battle of Lützen, she couldn't avoid hearing all that weeping and those sighs of despair: "Why you, and not rather me? I can't even live without you!"

They returned to the stables, that afternoon, from a ride that reminded more of a race. Charles was lagging behind Christina, like he had always done. Once more, they cast off their cavalier hats and their spurs.
"Christina... Shouldn't we..."
She blushed once more: her cheeks looked like strawberries. Locking eyes with Charles, she held a few tears in check.
"You shall be my successor, not my better half. Since we were raised together, I'm sure you'll even be a better ruler than I".
They exchanged glances once more, and they understood each other once again. The succession issue was no more a problem. And freedom lay just a few weeks ahead.


From a Supernatural fic. The kingdom, "where they have great halls of knowledge", is called Sur-la-Lune, "Above the Moon", after a famous fairytale website. The Clever Princess is Mary Winchester (another blonde, like Sue Storm-Richards!), while her husband is John Winchester.
This one is AWESOME, second only to my retelling "Christina's Choice" and to the Richards version by Elspethdixon...

The Queen and King announced throughout all of Sur La Lune that any men who desired the Princess’ hand could step forward as a suitor on her eighteenth birthday. When that day came, men lined up outside the castle for miles, all waiting for their brief audience with the Princess. Most were so awed by her and the castle that they could not speak, and in the end she turned them away. But one man came, and though he dressed very poorly, he was said to be unimpressed with the riches of the castle. And when he met the Princess, he asked her what she thought about politics, and science, and religion, and told her he came seeking her wisdom, rather than her crown.
She chose him among all others. They were wed just this past month.
Is the Princess very graceful and fair?
 The fairest in all the land.
Is she very wise, and will she be a great Queen? 
The oracles have foreseen her reign will be glorious and peaceful.
Does he love her, this Prince? 
With all of his being. For who would not love a princess?
They snuck through the castle grounds and up the servant’s stairwell into the kitchen. Most of the staff was in an uproar preparing hot and cold delicacies for the King and Queen’s banquet, leaving only a few servants to handle the Prince and Princess.
The dining chamber was an impressive room, with a large fireplace and heavy stone walls adorned with intricately woven tapestries depicting great battles.
The man was handsome with broad shoulders, but his hair was jet black and his eyes a warm brown.
The Princess smiled, and she was every bit as fair and lovely as had been described, with waves of blonde hair and an enchanting smile.


A new general appeared. His name is Phantom, and he's a Precure Hunter. Id est, he targets Cures and traps them in those coffin mirrors. He's very courteous and loyal towards Queen Mirage, making Oresky feel jealous.

Today, Phantom confronted Cure Fortune, who may have realized that she needs to stop being aloof:

We also got to see Mirage before being corrupted. She was an innocent priestess.

How could this have become an evil overlady?

And there is apparently something going on between her, Blue and Phantom... though we may have to wait until autumn for those loose ends to be tied up!

viernes, 25 de abril de 2014


  • Queen: Alice Liddell.
  • Hand of the Queen (chancellor): Peter White.
  • Master of Laws (legislator): Elliot Nightray.
  • Mistress of Coin (in charge of the state treasury): Sonomi Daidouji.
  • Mistress of Ships (admiral and naval advisor): Patty Fleur.
  • Master of Whisperers (head of intelligence): Xerxes Break.
  • Grand Maester (court sage and lore expert): Fai D. Flourite.
  • Lord Commander of the Queensguard: Kurogane Yoô.


I have written more than ten original tales (not to mention fandom and translations), set between the Thirty Years' War and the 1848 revolutions.
When it comes to detailing the influences I have received, I must mention Hans Christian Andersen, William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, and Julio Cortázar as my masters.
Sometimes, I retell plots by other authors in the public domain: Chaucer's Knight's Tale transposed to eighteenth-century Prussia, or "magical flight" folktales, featuring active and dynamic heroines, between Czarist Russia and 1710s Sweden.
In some of my stories, the influence of one author is more patent than that of the rest."The Story of Katinka" (Arc II of The Ringstetten Saga) reads without much detail, quickly, like a folktale. On the other hand, more Andersenian attention to detail is paid in "Les Enfants de la Patrie". "Kristina's Decision" has the rhythm of a French chanson and Dickens's characters' quirks and psychological depths reflected in the heroine.

My stories often feature young aristocratic people of at least average attractiveness, who have to cope with feelings like loneliness, feeling left out, star-crossed love, regret, and dissappointment, in rural and semi-urban communities (royal courts, fortresses and barracks, outposts, military camps, the itinerant life of minstrels and performers). In the past few years, most of my stories ended with both leading characters together in death (the exception being "Ludwig and Károly", with a bittersweet ending: one of the titular rivals dies of his wounds and the other marries the heroine). Since the summer of 2012, I have changed these endings to "happily ever afters" embittered by the loss of one leading character, yet light and rife with hopes for the future (compare the cast, themes, and settings in The Ringstetten Saga or The Countess of Toggenburg).

One of the leitmotifs in my fictional works: there is always a character whose internal state is described in more or less detail when injured or drugged.


Just a glimpse of a villain's lair in a Norse myth. Cold, craggy, barren, isolated, overlooking a vast and restless ocean. Simply Sturm und Drang ("Storm and Stress", German Romanticism). So I had to put it here, like the description of Templin Fortress last autumn, to show you what kind of settings I like. Secluded settings: royal courts and outpost communities, fortress prisons and cave castles like this one, estates,  encampments, and pirate ships. 
(By Annie and Eliza Keary)

Thiassi's castle in Jotunheim (frozen regions):

It was called a castle; but it was, in reality, a hollow in a dark rock; the sea broke against two sides of it; and, above, the sea-birds clamoured day and night. There was a gloomy chamber
shut up from the fresh air and sunshine, and yet, perhaps,
 it was safer than being allowed to wander about Jötunheim,
 and see the monstrous sights that would have met us there.


I send the locusts on the wind such as the world has never seen...
...on every leaf, on every stalk, until there's nothing left of...


That suddenly landing mean green close-up of a locust scares most people who have seen the musical number for the first time in their lives...

miércoles, 23 de abril de 2014


Dedicated to Elena, my dear mother, and the keeper of the Heritage.
To María Calzada, who recently crossed the door with me.
And to William Shakespeare, whose birthday and storytelling are celebrated today.

"A story, mistress!", a fine voice may echo through the room.
"One with dragons and damsels for today!", a naive child would ask.
"No, no!", a slightly older voice corrects. "Sandra doesn't like that kind of story. She'd rather make up one with warrior princesses saving harmless dragons from wicked black knights!"
"Calm down", I reply. "You shall have a nice story. One without dragons or damsels, warrior princesses or black knights... a true story that happened to me a few years ago. And it isn't that dull or ordinary!"
"Let's listen! Maybe it's as good as the one with the Ringstettens!", they called out in chorus.
Upon that I relied and began to relate...

It would never have happened if I hadn't flunked the Maths test that year. Another one choc-a-bloc with sign errors, and another 4 out of 10. It was the third time in my teenage years. Thus, I had to take the chance to ask some of my Swedish friends that summer. Being able to spend every holiday abroad is a pleasure, and getting away from the heat waves in Spain, picking berries, sailing... were definitely on my playlist. 
But that short night, I was lying in bed at my Swedish Nan's and hugging my soft white pillows, while trying to fall asleep. Nothing special would happen that week, meant for reading, for crafts, and gardening, and making cakes, or so it seemed.
Now, before I resume, there is something you ought to know. Behind my Swedish Nan's châlet there is a high and somewhat steep hill, with heathland and woodland and even a little lake at the top. Ever since I spent my first holiday there at 7, I had often heard the warning given to generations of Dermark children: "Never go up to the lake on your own!" And I had faithfully paid heed to that warning.
I was thinking of nothing more than the pleasures I had already experienced weeks before, when suddenly a ray of moonlight sneaked past the curtains, and then I woke up, startled, to find a young boy with dragonfly wings, as tall as my arms, sitting on the pile of books (topped by Andersen) on my bedside table, beneath my reading lamp.
I neared by, he addressed me. How did he know my name? He picked up the watch from the floor, and put it in my hands. I turned the light on. It was five minutes to midnight. The pixie boy was turning pale and staggering as if he were drunk. As he fainted, I took his warm form in my arms and tucked him into bed like a ragdoll. He was copper-haired, dressed in a scarlet doublet of rose petals, but the rest of his clothes, and the hood of his doublet, were made of green reeds. Once he had been tucked into bed by my side, his eyelids fluttered, a rosy colour returned to his freckled cheeks, and he woke up, revealing eyes dark green as pine needles. He was coming to.
"Carry me away from here, bring me to the lilac..." His voice was sweet and musical, more than any human child's. "I'm weak, I'm dying..."
Cradling the young pixie in my arms, I put on my nightgown in haste and ran out into the garden. We sat beneath the lilac tree. The sky was as rife with stars as our cheeks were with freckles, and the bright full moon watched over them, and over us, like a loving mother hen.
"Thank you... you saved my life... there was cold steel in there, so close to you..." I thought of my reading lamp. Cold steel makes fairies weak. I wrapped myself in my nightgown and looked at my new friend. Now he skipped up on his feet. "I haven't introduced myself! I have many names, but most people call me Robin", he said, as he put his green hood on and climbed onto the lilac tree.
"I'm not good at climbing", I explained. "Then, cling to a low branch as tight as you can!"
I did as Robin had told me. And, voilà, the lilac tree started to grow at lightning speed, just like Jack's beanstalk! Within five seconds, it had grown as tall as our hill, so one could easily jump from our leafy and flowering seat to the shore of the lake, a liquid mirror, with a frame of lily pads, for the moon and stars.
We remained perched on the branches, as I listened to Robin's stories. "You know, you're still a child at heart. Not many have the pleasure of listening to my stories". We leapt onto the hill, and then, Robin started to tell a familiar story:
"Once there were two royal brothers. And, while the eldest went to war in foreign lands, and was finally killed at the end of these wars, the younger one stole his crown. He got drunk on power and oppressed the common people... Now the fairy king, Oberon, saw the mortal king, John, become a merciless despot... and he sent me, his most faithful servant, to aid the peasants. I recruited a few rebels, we set up a tree fort in the forests of Sherwood, we stole from the nobles and gave to our fellow peasants. There was also a court lady in our merry band, an orphan left to die in the woods by her guardians... Her name was Mary Anne, or Marian, I can't remember exactly. But I had to let her go. For a better ruler came, and the peasants were well fed once more, and Marian went back to the royal court to marry the new king or become one of his queen's ladies. The people still remember me, a hero, a freedom fighter, Robin Goodfellow in the legendary Hood. But a trickster hero, who loves chaos, who enjoys playing pranks..."
"Pranks? So did I, before going to high school!"
"You should have seen me. For only children at heart can see me. I'd dance a polka inside a butter churn and listen to the milkmaid's curses on the cream. In the end, she'd have whipped cream in there as I flew out! Or trick the copper vats in the brewery (all of our utensils are made of copper) and spoil the good lads' beer! And, once the beer was served that evening, I'd turn into a crab, slip into a tankard, and pinch any fellow who'd drink it in the nose! Or when an old nan is telling her grandchildren tales by the fireside... off goes the chair, down goes the nan, everyone is laughing! Alas!! I can't do anything like that anymore! For mortals nowadays have cold steel vats for beer, cold steel churns for butter, cold steel boxes instead of grandmothers to get hitched on stories... and cold steel chairs to watch the pictures on those boxes... The number of pranks I can play has, honestly, dwindled. But nothing can be compared to the prank I played on Their Majesties on their wedding anniversary!"
"A royal prank? Sounds interesting!" We were sitting on a mossy rock by the lake. After all, it was the witching hour, and I was not on my own.
"Picture yourself in the woods of Arden, on a short and quiet summer night like this. King Oberon and Queen Titania. Both of them tall, blond, beautiful, with pointy ears and brittle wings. Having an argument over the cake. And I was close by, listening. Her Majesty had forgotten His Majesty's anniversary. But he hadn't. And he wanted Jamie as a special gift. Now Jamie was a changeling from one of the nearby villages: a raven-haired little mortal boy who suffered the misfortune of losing both his parents. The Queen herself whisked him away from an abusive stepmother and put Peasblossom's young son in the cottage cradle. So she kept him as a valet of sorts, and the King wanted him for a bodyguard. By the time this story is set, such a bickering would mean a declaration of war. Queen Mother Mab, responsible for the mortal children we rear, had declared herself neutral. The royals were going to break up. And I couldn't partake in the feast with such a threat ahead! Now there is this flower (here, Robin took some wild pansies) called love-in-idleness. You spray the nectar on a sleeping person's or fay's eyelids and... voilà! Love at first sight ensues. I had seen some mortals not far from court, an actor troupe in fact, and the shy lead going to essay his lines away from the others. I found the actor sleeping on a mossy rock, like this, and my queen sleeping in her riverbank bower, decorated with all the flowers of the Northern summer. A few drops of love-in-idleness here and there, and a donkey's head spell given to Nick in a moonflower cup, and soon I was watching from atop a fir like this one... a beauty and a beast mad with love at each other, yet unaware of it! Soon, Nick had the Queen's ladies and maids at his every beck and call: Peasblossom massaging him between those long ears, Cobweb taking up honey from a hollow hive tree in acorn cups, Mustard-Seed shaving those furry cheeks with a copper razor... and Queen Titania fondling and kissing her lover, who responded with lovely caresses. In the light of the full moon and the fireflies, a squirrel brought them some hazelnuts to dunk in their honey. And they finally fell asleep together. As the King chanced to pass by and take his hand to the hilt of his sword. I woke the lovers up and the effect of the spells faded away. Nick, with a human head once more, set off to encounter the rest of the troupe, as Their Majesties reconciliated and thanked me for the trick that had saved their relationship".
"I like being a peacemaker. I can't stand fighting".
"Well," Robin said, "you mortals are worse peacemakers than we fay are. There was this young lady in this outpost... she was beautiful, she was clever, she was gifted in the arts like you. And she was married to this great general who would give his life for her sake. Now there was one lieutenant her age, a childhood friend of hers and equally clever and dashing. And this lieutenant was punished for getting drunk on duty. So he asked Her Ladyship to make peace, to bridge the rift between the general and this irresponsible lieutenant. And she put all of her passion into defending his cause as well as any lawyer. Now she lost a shawl which her lord had given her, and the lieutenant found it in one or other way. So the general thought his lady was unfaithful... and thus, led by the whispers of his deceptive aide, he strangled her in bed on a summer's night like this, with an equally full moon. The lieutenant survived, but he left the army to become a lecturer, for he had broken his left leg in a fight with the aide's cronies. The aide literally lost his head, and the general's heart broke apart, pierced by cold steel, with four tears of regret and one last kiss from his late beloved."
"Poor folks! It makes me sad, that there are wicked people here as well!" We had left our mossy rock to sit once more on our lilac throne, before I returned back home.
"Yes, mortals can be rather wicked! But there are good ones as well. I knew one who could do magic like us, and he didn't get drunk on power! He lived with a little girl, a sprite, and a monster (the two latter were slaves of his) on a rainforest isle somewhere in a vast ocean. The mortals were the only survivors of a shipwreck. And another shipwreck did they cause, to sink the royal flagship of their home kingdom (for the wiz and the girl had been driven away by courtly intrigue and war to the New World). They had the heir to the throne and his crowned father wash upon opposite shores and think each other was dead. And then, they ensured everyone reunited in a rainforest cave. The royal family joined in one passionate embrace, and the girl was doubtlessly accepted as the old king's daughter-in-law, for she was a dethroned princess. So all three sailed to court in a raft, which all of the castaways had made together. The old wiz freed the sprite and the monster, relatives of mine, and then he cast his wand into the ocean from a cliff and buried his sorcery books in an oaken chest. Only Ariel and Caliban, my sprite and monster friends, know the location of that hidden treasure, that inspired generations of pirates through three centuries, but has not been found yet".
The lilac tree was slowly shrinking. I thought of my storybooks and asked: "Do I have a stash of treasure?"
"You have one indeed", Robin replied as I landed and looked sorrowfully at him.
"It's time for me to go to bed. After so much fun together!"
"This is not the farewell", he replied with a Cheshire Cat grin. "Just make a wish for me every night you feel bored, take me away from cold steel, and I'll bring you more of my stories". Then, like the Cheshire Cat, Robin gradually faded away, his eyes and grin being the last of him I saw that night.
The next morning, I woke up at midday. At first, I thought it all was a dream... but I had gone to bed in a dewy nightgown, and there were little human footprints on my Andersen storybook. 
Come what may, I will never forget that midnight summer dream.