Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Legend of the Half-Naked Dandy

When the fields are nearly ready for harvest on the rich countryside of Bumblespire a curious figure makes his presence known.  This is the time for the half-naked dandy to visit the farmers late at night and wrestle them for the promise of good weather.  If the farmers are able to impose their dominance on the dandy then they can be assured that their crop will be protected from the unpredictable Bumblespire late season storms.  This has long been the tradition, and the farming community has made it into a celebration that includes competitions of strength designed to prepare the farmers for the coming visit from the half-naked dandy.  It is a time of great joy and friendship.

But one fall, after the harvest celebration was long over, the farmers began calling on each other in a panic.  The half-naked dandy hadn't visited any of them yet, and they all feared that the storms would claim their delicate crops before the had a chance to wrestle.  And since the dandy only appears in the pitch black of night the farmers had no way of knowing what it looked like, or how to find it and plea for their harvest.  The only detail they knew is that the dandy was a being with a skinny build, who wore nothing more than a hide tunic.  It never spoke, but if bested in a wrestling match it would leave the bones of a small rodent at the farmer's doorstep signifying that their crops were safe for this season.

When the dandy first appeared it had the farmers badly outmatched, and left them confused and terrified about the purpose of this clandestine invader.  But whenever someone successfully wrestled the being out of their home they found their crops would withstand even the most foul late season storms.  The farmers had all become very able wrestlers to give them an edge, and over the years their fear of the half-naked dandy turned into eager anticipation.  Some years only a handful of farmers could best the dandy, and when the storms came they were the only farms left untouched, and they enjoyed a fantastic financial return when they took their harvest to market.  But these days the farmers rarely lost to the dandy, and everyone seemed to prosper.

That season the half-naked dandy never came to Bumblespire, and the late season storms devastated the crops.  The following year the farmers made a great effort to find out who, or what, the half-naked dandy was.  They knew that their hard effort in growing their crops would be wasted if they couldn't find their wrestling savior, but try as they may, they found no evidence of the dandy within the town, out in the fields, the forest, or in the northern hills.  It seemed hopeless as the growing season came to a close, and the community didn't even bother to celebrate the coming harvest.  They all just desperately hoped the dandy would come, or that the storms wouldn't appear until the crops were ready.

But one morning the town of Bumblespire erupted with excitement.  One of the farmer's daughters rushed to the market with the news that the half-naked dandy had returned that night, but her father had been unable to defeat it and was badly hurt.  Everyone in the town traveled down the dirt road to speak with her father and make sure their salvation was at hand, and they crowded at the doorstep with hope in their hearts.  The farmer's wife reluctantly let the townspeople in to speak with her husband, but warned them that he would not be able to entertain them for long.

The crowd gasped as they gazed down on the broken man, arms and legs twisted in un-natural contortions, his face battered and broken, and barely able to speak through shattered teeth.  He moaned and told his story, that the dandy was bigger than before, and was more aggressive than ever.  He told about their violent struggle the night before, and how the dandy clawed, bit, and battered him to within an inch of his life.  He warned the other farmers that the years of easy victories were over, and the half-naked dandy had grown weary of losing.  In the past two years it had transformed into a much more formidable and ominous foe.

The news crushed the hopes of the farmers and their families.  No one had trained for this kind of challenge in some time, and the canceling of the harvest celebration seemed so foolish in retrospect.  The next night another farmer fell victim to the dandy, and although he gave a spirited wrestling match, he was nearly killed for his efforts.  Rumors began to spread through the community that maybe the dandy had never really saved anyone from the storms.  Maybe the dandy had been causing the storms all along, and had the sadistic habit of punishing the weak when he bested them.  Everyone began to agree that it might be better to get rid of the half-naked dandy rather than face him and risk permanent injury.  

The townspeople of Bumblespire formulated a plan to capture the dandy and try to exploit his powers for their benefit, or defeat the menace once and for all.  The blacksmiths, the innkeepers, and the town guards all agreed to lay wait in each of the remaining farmer's homes the following night and overpower the dandy when he appeared looking for another victim.

That night, after midnight, the dandy returned.  One of the farmer's cabins was as quiet as the night outside, and just as dark.  The dandy crept into the farmer's room looking for another wrestling match, when suddenly four large men sprung from their hiding places and attacked in unison, quickly overpowering the beast and beating it unmercifully.  Once satisfied that the deed was done, and the dandy beaten into submission, one of the men lit a lamp to get the first ever view of their foe.  Laying on the floor between them was a massive man with several obvious handicaps.  His face displayed all the hallmarks of severe retardation, and one leg was noticeably shorter and less muscular than the other.  They all immediately recognized the unfortunate freak.

Years prior the town was considerably less modern, and was ruled by superstition.  One of the innkeepers' daughters bore a child with the same grotesque maladies, and in keeping with the superstition of the time, was forcibly taken from the mother and left in the woods as a gift to the forest spirit.  Those superstitions had long since faded away, but now appeared to be haunting the town that committed the injustices.  The men wasted no time in dispatching the freak with a fire poker, and paraded the corpse through the town that night, sparking a celebration that lasted for days.

In the years that followed the town learned to deal with the unpredictable late season storms, and managed to thrive by staggering the harvest schedule and sharing profits should the late crops become damaged.  They also renewed an ancient custom that had long ago been forgotten, and with it came revitalized superstition.  The harvest celebrations were no more, but every season one newborn child was taken to the woods as a divine sacrifice, in hopes that one day the half-naked dandy would return to Bumblespire and bring with him the ability to secure the crops agains the harsh late season storms...

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