Attack from the nemesis of Melmond

The master of the manse presented himself before the two denizens. He was dressed in a cape with a large black collar, and he had blood streaks down the side of his face where he had sucked the life from a marsh squirrel. His hair was combed back, with some sort of hair gel. He had sunken cheeks behind pronounced cheek bones, and his pallor gave a  sort of wan complexion. He introduced himself.

“Allow me to present myself. Carl Conrad. I am the descendant of the Conrad family who have owned this manse for seven generations. We are a proud race of the clan Farraday, who you may be familiar with. Our name shows our pedigree. We have our own family seal. Now, before I devour your blood, may I ask what you are doing in my graveyard?”

“We will never surrender, Conrad. We know that you are the vampire that is terrorizing Melmond. Your reign of terror ends here,” said Lakfi.

“We are the light warriors,” shouted Poxig. “We will not go quietly.”

“Then, you will know the full power of dark magic!” replied Conrad. He proceeded to cast a dazzle spell, which blinded them with white light. Then, in their confusion, the heroes could not see the vampire approaching.

Then, Poxig was reminded that vampires could be repelled by the aroma of garlic. Just as the vampire was about to reach his person, Poxig threw the garlic. It gave off a smell that repelled the evil genius. Then, when he was muddled by the garlic, Poxig took his penknife and waved the dagger near the undead creature’s heart.

Conrad immediately turned into a vampire bat and flew into the evening sky. Lakfi, who was blinded by the spell, awoke from his stupor. He realized that Poxig had saved his life from the vampire. The black magician congratulated Poxig and then thanked him for saving his life.

Behind him, the vampire had left the ruby necklace. Poxig took the necklace and put it around his neck, and he heaved a sigh of relief. It was the case that he had repelled the vampire, but he would be back to torture the inhabitants of Melmond.

“We never got to tell him about his wife’s plea,” said Poxig.

“This kind of evil will not be reformed, my green-faced companion,” uttered Lakfi.

“Still,  I believe that we can change him back to his former state, if only we could use holy magic on his person. But this kind of magic is beyond your purview,” said Poxig.

“Indeed, we would need to inquire the service of a practitioner of white magic,” replied Lakfi.

“Still, if we could find him in his coffin, then maybe we could…”

Lakfi interrupted Poxig. “The ruby necklace! Remember that Mrs. Conrad had told us that she gave it to him!”

“Yes, maybe we could use it as leverage. Once he remembers his former self, then he  will relinquish his nefarious ways.”

The daylight was coming over the mountains on the horizon. There would be no vampire attack until nightfall. Lakfi and Poxig planned their attempt to revitalize the sailor-turned-vampire. Of course, neither Releven, nor Master Control could ensure their success. But the two prayed to their gods nonetheless, and began to make a plan to reform the terror of Melmond.

Conrad

The Dark Magician’s confession

As they sat in the graveyard awaiting the return of vampire Conrad, Poxig began to importune the obscure black mage about his life. They started a fire and awaited nightfall. The suzukibs were making the loudest noise in the trees, and the bats would have to eat them for supper. Neither of them expected the vampire to emerge from his sepulcher, but they would be damned if they wouldn’t wait for dusk.

“How did you become a student of the dark side?” asked Poxig.

Lakfi paused and tipped his wizard’s cap. “This is a strange question, for I might as well ask why your skin is green. Of course, you had no part in your physical characteristics, since they were determined by Master Control. Many people such as I are born for the dark side. We have never known anything else. But even such as I cannot deny that our continued mastery of a gift given to us at birth is more or less up to us.”

“And the wizard’s cap? Is that standard issue for all wizards in the Naughright guild?” asked Poxig.

“Black mage, mind you!” Lakfi chortled. ” I haven’t yet earned my stripes as a wizard, and so I am still learning the dark arts. I am by no means a master wizard, but then if I was, there would have been no chance of me coming on this quest.  You would have had to pay a hefty fine,  the likes of which I daresay you would not have been able to afford. But to your question; yes, the cap is standard. But it was given to me by a master wizard who had known Darxon before he fully surrendered to the Chaos.”

The name made Poxig flinched.  Of course, the Chaos was the nefarious evil  force more powerful than anyone could reckon with. Even the greatest of knights-errant would tremble before such an evil. It was theorized that this force had come before the dawn of  modern era in Illyria, 2,000 years ago in the Temple of Fiends.

“What was the name of your teacher?” questioned the humble elf.

“Black mages never can give the names of their teachers to those outside the craft. It’s against our protocol. But know this, my young elven friend, not all who practice black magic are outside the realm of Master Control. There are, in fact, chapters in the Dark Wizard’s manual which not even the worst of us would dare to touch, since we know that it would irrevocably transform our likeness to that of the Orc-heraldry. Most of us are simply trying to channel the black magic against the enemies of Master Control, and not for our own benefit. We have much in common with the Red Mages, and more than you would know,” Lakfi said.

“But surely you know the wellspring of life comes from the light warriors?” Poxig offensively asked.

“Ah yes, but we can no sooner deny our affinity for the dark side than you can turn your hair white. You only have an advantage over those who practice dark arts if you know how they think. Whereas a true friend would never betray, the wicked warrior will destroy his closest companion who comes too near his worldly pelf of gold. We come here to vanquish the vampire, but you must know that vampires will only attack innocent victims that they are sure of killing.”

“Then, we may be waiting in this graveyard in vain,” added Poxig.

“Exactly,” said Lakfi.

But at that moment,  a dark form emerged from behind the stone obelisk. Then a voice was heard.

“I’ve been waiting for you, Lakfi,” said the voice.

“Carl Conrad, I presume,” returned Lakfi.

“Ah yes, it is I,” said Conrad. “And you have spoken correctly about our kind. We vampires never fight a battle that we can’t win.”

“Then, be prepared for the worst, for I have no other aim than to vanquish these hosts of night!” shouted Lakfi.

But before he could finish his sentence, the vampire changed into a bat and flew away.

Lakfi (2)

The weird encounter

Poxig brushed back the hair from his eyes. He had always wanted to become a wayward wanderer, and now he was able to do so.

It was time to say goodbye to Janquis for now and head to his mother’s house, and this time is was for an extended goodbye. He was now going with Janquis to Marginalia, and he would not return for some time, if ever.

Life would become more fantastical and wildly erratic for this young elf, especially because that time had passed from young adulthood to adult, & now he would see new things and experiment on a level that he had never known.

There were gifts from his mother that he did not want to forget. One of them was the Orb which had once belonged to his father. This was the Orb that the prophecy had talked about, & he had realized how important it was to retain this knowledge. If leaked out, it could cause the imps to summon dark-magic that would overthrow the delicate balance of Illyria.

Once he had arrived at Excelsior, he stayed at his mother’s cottage for a little while, & then moved on towards castle Marginalia. There he would gain an audience to king Charles I, and receive his mission. It was a long slow trudge to the emissary Seljuk, who was the first person to visit on his journey.

In fact, emissary Seljuk, or Er. Seljuk as he was known, was a friend of his father’s, and had been a trusted adviser of the family for many years. He came to the man’s cottage and knocked on the door. In fact, a nameless beggar prevented him from getting to the door. He was asleep on the doorstep.

“This is Emissary Seljuk’s house! Who goes there?” he asked.

“It is me, Poxig, ” said the young elf.

“Er. Seljuk doesn’t like mendicants!” he exclaimed.

“What makes you think I am as such?” asked Poxig.

“I am the guardian of his house,” he said.

“Why do you look like a beggar?” asked Poxig.

“Obviously, to repel the beggars,” he replied.

“And so?”

“You didn’t even ask my name or pay me respect, even though I am a  surrogate for an emissary.”

“Pardon me, what is your name?”

“Guess,” chimed the beggar-man.

“Rumplestiltskin.” said Poxig.

The beggar chortled.

Suddenly the door opened to the house, and none other than Emissary Seljuk emerged.
“What’s all this racket?” asked Er. Seljuk.

“Oh, dear sir, pardon my intrusion. I am looking for Er. Seljuk,” intoned Poxig.

“Is Sheldon bothering you? I told him not to be rude to visitors,” said Er. Seljuk.

At this, Sheldon turned into a falcon and flew away.IMG_0551

 

The search

The two neophytes wandered to the foot of the statue outside the great manse. Inside, there was surely the remains of the undead creature. Poxig felt trepidation, but in all honesty, he was glad to have his new friend Lakfi by his side.

“The first rule of black magic is that you must never underestimate the power of the opponent you are facing. The best bet is to overwhelm him with superior force at the beginning, and not give him a chance to retaliate,” said Lakfi.

“That would be fine, but we’re not trying to kill this agent of darkness. We must convince him to come back to his lost love, and so to save his soul. Somewhere in the soul of the vampire, there is Carl Conrad,” said Poxig.

They approached the castle and knocked on the solid oak door. The lion’s head knocker showed them that this man was one of wealth and taste. There was no answer. They knocked a second time, and suddenly, a man dressed in a suit and tie opened the door.

“May I help you?” asked the butler.

“We’re trying to locate Carl Conrad,” said Poxig.

“I’m sorry, but the master of the house has been deceased for three years,” said the butler.

“We happen to know that’s not true!” said Lakfi.

“I’m quite certain of it,” the butler said. “but if you’d like to come in and look around, you’re more than welcome to do so.”

Poxig and Lakfi went in. But as soon as Poxig had his back turned looking at an old suit of armor in the foyer, the butler accosted him and tried to bite his neck. Lakfi blasted him into a corner with a rush of fire magic, and knocked him out cold.

“You can’t trust anybody here!” said Lakfi. “They’re all vampires. They aim to kill.”

“I owe you one,” Poxig said. He knew that without Lakfi, he would have surely met his doom.

The two friends ventured into the basement, where there was a sepulchre. In the gloaming, there was a head stone. “Carl Conrad (872-902),” it read.

“So maybe the butler was right!” Poxig said. “But I’m sure that Conrad awakens at night to feast on human blood.”

“Can you be sure that Dr. Unne is telling the truth?” Lakfi questioned. “Perhaps he is not the friend you thought he was.”

Poxig had a small doubt. But then he remembered what his mother Eliana had taught him about dark magic. It was always to see the pessimistic side of things, which eventually led to a spiral of negativity.

“No, let’s search the house. Dusk has almost arrived.”

The two friends went into the manse and searched the corridors. Around the halls were old paintings, sacred manuscripts, and suits of armor. They could not contain their expectation. Someone was keeping up this place, for it had not fallen in disrepair. They knocked on the tower door.

“Hello?” Poxig shouted. “Anyone here?”

“Come in,” said a voice.

Right in front of them in a fauteuil sat a man who was impeccably dressed. He was sitting by a roaring fire, and smoking a pipe.

“Lane must have let you in,” said the man. “Who do I have the pleasure of meeting this evening?”

“I’m sorry sir, but we’re looking for Carl Conrad,” Lakfi blurted out.

“Well, you are speaking to him,” retorted Conrad.2016-04-29 15.18.07

 

The new friendship

Poxig continued to the hallowed Hall of black arts,  where mages of every stripe would go to learn the craft. He realized that his grasp of Latin was small, and therefore, his chance of learning any magic would be nil. But his story was too good to keep to himself. He had to reunite the lost widow Conrad to her ancient lover, and so perhaps, save his soul.

He approached the front counter, where concoctions of magic potions were strewn about. There were journeyman mages everywhere saying incantations of an inscrutable tongue. He nodded at the strangely dressed attendant, who wore a coat of rainbow colors.

“May I help you, sir?” he asked.

“Yes, I am trying to find a black magician in order to accompany me on my way. I am going to a dark circle where only dark magicians can navigate the terrain. Perhaps, you can tell me who is selling their services, and I will choose from one,” uttered Poxig.

“Yes, yes.” At that moment he heard some shouting in the back.

“Κοσμος, Κοσμον, Κοσμου,” the strange man chanted.

Poxig did not know it, but he was practicing his Greek declensions. Poxig was very curious what this strange language might have to do with his question. “Who is that?” asked Poxig.

“That is Lakfi,” said the attendant. He’s the worst student here, but his price is very small.

“Will you call him for me?” asked Poxig.

The attendant called for Lakfi, who appeared in a disheveled garment,  without any formality. He wore a giant  wizard’s cap, although it was apparent by his coarse appearance that he was not a master, but merely a moonlighting mage.

“What were you talking about back there?” asked Poxig.

“Oh, hi. Yes, that was the word ‘cosmos’, which is the Greek word for ‘world.’ I was expressing my general frustration with the world,” chimed Lakfi.

“Oh?” said Poxig.

“Well, injustice  seems to come more often than I would like. I should be in a wizard’s guild by now, but I am stuck in Melmond,” he replied.

“Well, it’s funny that you should ask. I am looking for a mage to accompany to the castle of a well known practitioner of the black arts. Perhaps, you fit the description of someone who might be able to help me.”

“That depends on how much you are willing to pay,” Lakfi responded.

As Poxig could not afford to hire him, he tried a different approach. “I am a light warrior. I wish to have someone to aid me in pursuit of the reason of the corruption of earth.”

“A light warrior!” exclaimed Lakfi. “Then, perhaps I can learn something from you! I am always open to learning things. But I must admit, if there is no chance of success.”

“If we find the cause of the earth’s rot,” interrupted Poxig, ” then, you can be sure there will be a reward in the land where I am from, Marginalia.”

“Ha! Everyone knows there are no elves in Marginalia!” retorted Lakfi.

“My father was held captive in the wars of religion. He converted and changed his name.”

“I see. Well, that makes sense.”

“What do you say about this idea?” asked Poxig.

“Well, I don’t very much think I can help you, but a chance to learn something from a light warrior seems reason enough. I will help you on one condition. You must answer a riddle. What is the opposite of happiness?” asked the black mage.

Poxig thought for a while and admitted he did not know. He guessed, “The question is flawed. You must claim to be happy to know its opposite.”

“Clever! We’ll leave it at that! I will join this enterprise.”

The two associates left the hall of black arts in a peal of laughter. It was likely that they would become friends, even if they never accomplished the mission.  Poxig was glad at least that he would have some insight into black magic, which would be indispensable if they were to return the vampire to its original state.2016-04-29 15.17.46

 

 

Why Greek?

Greek tablet

Some of you might be wondering why the story has Classical Greek in it. In fact, this kind of Greek is used in Homer’s IliadOdyssey, a testament to the enduring quality of this language.

Greek was the lingua franca of the 1st century A.D. Due to the conquests of Alexander the Great, the language was the means by which different cultures could communicate, much like English is today.

However, many of our writing conventions had not yet been established.  This tablet shows that in ancient Greece, letters were often written  without spaces in between words. This is primarily because nothing was written that was not meant to be read aloud. Principally, the reader would be able to sort out the sounds and then speak the words aloud.

No punctuation was put into words until reading silently became important, which developed for English in Victorian England. Of course, this happened at different dates for different cultures.

I consider Classical and its later counterpart Koiné Greek ( the language of the New Testament) to be a magical language that has since been forgotten by a generation of English speakers who have forgotten in large part how important this culture has been in shaping our own.

My current Greek textbook calls Christianity the “last great achievement of classical civilization.” I think this is true in large part. Although this language is very hard for young people to learn, I do think it is possible. My son has learned the Greek alphabet by replacing the Greek characters in the ‘abc’ song.

The love lost ( part 2)

Dr. Unne and Poxig traipsed up to the dilapidated old cottage at the end of Melmond. There were feral cats around everywhere, and suzukibs in the tree. They knocked on the wooden oak door thrice.

“Is anyone home?” asked Poxig.

“No one could be sure.” said Dr. Unne. “Milly! Open the door!”

“Maybe she is out,” said Poxig.

“It is not possible, since the old widow never leaves.”

They waited for what seemed like 20 minutes, and then Dr. Unne was convinced that there was something wrong. They decided to break down the door. They found a sturdy tree trunk from a fallen one. Then, they began to slam into the door.

“Heave, ho!” exclaimed Poxig.

The door was not bolted, and  easily gave way. Inside they saw Milly Conrad, who was lying motionless in her bed. Dr. Unne approached her cautiously, and then checked her pulse. There were no vital signs.

“She’s gone,” said Dr. Unne. “It must have been natural causes.”

But nearby, Poxig spotted a note on the bureau. It was written in green ink and stamped with a red stamp. Here were the contents of the note:

“To whom it may concern:

I could not go on living without Carl. I decided to take arsenic and end it. But I want to say one thing. Carl is not dead. He simply was transformed into an evil being by the dark orc-wizard Darxon. He is now known as the vampire of Melmond. He had tried many times to take me with him to his lair in the church vault, but I would not go, for the man I loved was gone. I tried to rehabilitate him but failed. But remember the man he used to be. Tell Carl that I love him, and he may yet be saved from the horrible fate that awaits the wicked. Please save my Carl and bring him back to life, so that I may enjoy eternity with him in the hereafter, where I am now.

Milly Conrad”

“So that’s how he became  the vampire who terrorized this town for so many years,” said Dr. Unne. ” I never knew the truth.”

“Well,  now I know what we must do. We must try to find Carl in the vampire and restore him back to his old self,” said Poxig

“You must go alone,” replied Dr. Unne. ” I am no warrior, and I am no match for the vampire’s evil magic.” But Dr. Unne handed him a pendant, that was blue and gold with a Latin cross on it.

“This will protect you from the vampire’s fangs,” said Dr. Unne. “But tread carefully, the vampire has a way a dazzling his enemies with his dark power. He may convince you to give him the pendant, and then you will surely perish.”

“I will take your advice to heart,” Poxig thought. But he knew that he could not face the wicked magic alone. He would need someone who was able to understand the vampire’s weakness. And that was the town’s vendor of black magic, whose name was Lakfi. He went to the purveyor of magic just outside Melmond.2016-04-29 15.18.07

The lost love

“Nauta puellam amat.”

Poxig read from the stone obelisk that was at the entrance to the town of Melmond. It must have been some kind of a gravestone. Melmond was known for its lugubrious atmosphere. Broken gravestones littered the town, which was almost deserted.

“Go to the lowlands,” shouted a shadowy figure. “Necessary items will have to be jettisoned.”

“What?” Poxig retorted. “Who’s there?”

But the figure disappeared into the woods.

There was no telling what Poxig would have to do in order to make the situation bearable.  The wizard who dwelt in the land would help him through the next item on his journey. Perhaps like this lonely voice from the wood, he would find the purpose of his lowly journey. Perhaps he would be like the forgotten sailor who made this stone to his lost love.

Poxig wondered what the shadowy figure could have meant. It was not altogether obvious. He had heard from a villager in these parts that a vampire had been terrorizing the town. As the prophecy had read, “the earth begins to rot,” he realized that their town was in grave danger.

Perhaps Poxig, with the help of a hero of old, would be able to vanquish this host of night. But he knew that his guitar would not be of much use in destroying the vampire. In order to do this, he would have to find a stake to drive through the heart of this unholy beast. But he knew he could not do it alone…

He came upon a house with a thatched roof with the letters ‘DR UNNE’ on them.

“This must be the residence of Dr. Unne, the linguist!” exclaimed Poxig. “Maybe he can help me end this misery of Melmond for good!”

He knocked on the door, which opened. A man of studious appearance and thick glasses appeared. He wore a white lab coat and had bits of papers shoved in his coat.

“Dr. Unne, I presume…” said Poxig.

“Yes,” he replied. “And you are…”

“I am Poxig, the elf, from Marginalia.”

“No elves live in Marginalia.” he said. “Good day.”

“No wait!” he stopped the door from closing shut. “Can you help me translate something?”

“What is it? That is my scientific speciality.”

“It is a phrase on an obelisk near the entrance to Melmond.”

“What does it say?” Unne asked.

“Nauta puellam amat.”

“This is a Latin phrase from our ancestors,” the doctor replied. “Our alphabet is closely related to theirs. The phrase means ‘The sailor loves the girl.’ It is the sailor from Melmond by the name of Carl Conrad, who fought in the wars of religion and died to defend our religion from the apostasy of the elves.”

“Thank you, sir,” replied Poxig. “But may I ask just one more thing?”

“Go ahead.”

“Does the girl still live in Melmond?” Poxig asked.

“She does. She’s an old woman that lives down the road by the name of Milly.”

“Thank you sir.”

“Let me ask you one question, Mr. Poxig,” replied Dr. Unne. “What brings you to this desolate town?”

“I am on a quest to become one of the light warriors. One of the stages of my quest is to find the cause behind the earth’s rot.”

“A noble cause!” he said. ” You know that it is connected to the vampire that terrorizes the town, looking for fresh human blood when the sun goes down.”

“I had hoped that Milly might be able to give me some information about how the town used to be before the vampire’s curse settled here. Then, I might be able to find a weakness.”

Dr. Unne grabbed his overcoat. “Let me go with you. Perhaps together, we can end this evil, and restore the earth.”

The two new friends walked down the road to Milly Conrad’s place.

IMG_0542 (2)

 

Comprehensible input?

I just read an article in Language magazine that argued for Stephen Krashen’s theory of comprehensible input. (For you language teachers out there, it is often referred to as ‘n+1’) While nobody would disagree with Krashen’s basic premise, (given that Krashen has rock-star status in ESL and Applied Linguistics) the article was immensely frustrating. It suggested that pleasure reading, more than any other skill, provides comprehensible input to a larger degree than anything else.

Anyone who has been teaching ESL for more than 5 minutes knows that to get your students to ‘pleasure read’ in a second language is about as easy as pulling a tooth from a crocodile’s mouth. Anyone knows that the slightest bit of text that is ‘read in class’ (not pleasure reading) has to be scaffolded with an immense amount of vocabulary building. The one thing that ESL learners are unable to do is pleasure reading.

This is why I wrote in an earlier entry that teachers must make methods ‘work.’ Most of the research does not actually boil down to useable stuff in the classroom. For this reason, teachers constantly have to be adapting their material to the realities in the classroom. The only research based trope that I’ve been able to use in the classroom is Diane Larsen-Freeman’s ‘Form-Meaning-Use’ chart in the “Apple book” edited by Marianne Celce-Murcia.

It makes me furious that this sort of stuff gets published in major magazines! ‘Pleasure reading’ is what native speakers can do with their L1, nobody can read for pleasure in an L2 that’s being acquired. The statement “all horses are purple  with blue polka dots” makes more sense than the article by this anonymous author.

Ah well! ESL is like a blue and purple polka dotted beast! You can claim to understand it, but then we might ask how many articles you have published in TESOL Quarterly. None? Oh, that’s what I thought. So you’re not a researcher. I hope you’re a good teacher.blue and purple horse

Poxig and the evil orc

He  moved slowly down the riverbank, penknife in hand and his guitar strapped to his back. He had just lost his friend Jancuis in the evil swamp, and all around him he heard:

‘Ο Ποταμος, ‘Ο Ποταμος.

The talking trees were chanting again, and this time it was the Greek word for “river”. He had heard of a huge beast called the ‘hippo-potamus’, which meant ‘horse of the river.’ This beast had huge jaws and was very dangerous, but this was the least of his worries.

Poxig had yet to find his father’s friend’s house, Emissary Seljuk, who had known him before he disappeared. If he made it through the forest, he would be able to at least get to that small hamlet in the woods called Renfro, where the Emissary lived.

“These woods are spooky,”  he said. “I had better get out my guitar and start singing, and that way, the imps would be scared away. If I run into an orc, there’s no chance that I could defeat him. If only I had not lost Jancuis in the forest!”

The sun was setting as he got out his guitar and began to sing to the elven god, Releven.

‘O Releven, Releven,

You are the shining star

Bring us back to our senses,

Show us eternity from afar.’

As he began singing, the talking trees seemed to sing along with him, as if he were bringing life back to the forest. Just then, as he was smoking on his pipe and taking a small rest, he spotted a sinister figure through the underbrush. Poxig quickly hid behind a tree, for his friend, who was a skilled warrior, would have been his only protection from this beast.

It was an orc, of that much he was sure. The he-beast ambled through the underbrush, searching for forest creatures to devour whole.  He had a huge pig-like face, and three ugly horns emerging from his chemical green face. His jaws were dripping with blood. The beast was pregnant with evil, looking for more ways to trap his innocent prey like a poisonous spider.

Fortunately, Poxig successfully concealed himself behind the tree. Then, strangely, the trees began to shriek loudly. They were protecting him! The orc held his ears and then dove into the river. He swam down the river and disappeared out of sight.

Poxig wondered if this had been Trink-Zelfo, the orc who was formerly Sir Belhomme the dashing prince. He was sure that it was possible, for the descriptions of him fit the likeness that he saw. He had just missed certain danger and sudden death. The orc would have beaten him to a pulp, since Poxig did not have a weapon strong enough to repel him.

He would have to make sure to bring his bow and quiver next time he came to this evil wood. But Poxig’s luck was about to change. He would soon meet his confidante  and closest friend, in the most unlikely of places.

2016-04-29 15.17.39