The Kraken’s Quest: The Kraken, the Rat, and the Coracle

(A continuation of Karl’s ongoing adventure! Read part one here and part two here.)

Daisy the Dragon here!

Apologies, my lovely readers, for the long delay! Karl’s messenger pigeon was delayed, as several amateur naturalists attempted to study her by putting a tag on her leg and having her take the Myers-Briggs personality test before they concluded that she was a scientific anomaly and let her go.

But I shall waste no more time in passing on to you the contents of his letter – for it is a most exciting one, and I am certain you will be very interested to read it.

Avast and ahoy, my dear dragon!

I sent off my last missive in great haste, as you may recall, for I had just caught sight of a small rodent in a vessel not far from where I was swimming. As I was still searching for clues to the location of the mysterious Waldo, I resolved to follow this curious creature wherever the tide might take us. 

It should not have taken me long to catch up to him, for I need not remind you that we krakens are champion swimmers, and in any case, the rat’s coracle was without any evident means of propulsion save for a tiny oar. Nevertheless, when next I surfaced, I found the waves had carried him away, and I could not see him as far as I looked.

There was, however, one clear mark upon the horizon, and for a moment I was overjoyed, for its forepart was in the shape of a dragon, and I could not help but be reminded of you, my dear friend! But my joy soon dissipated, as I noticed that the shape was not itself a dragon, but rather a deviously disguised ship. Furthermore, this mock-dragon lacked those telltale signs of moral uprightness that you sport proudly on your forehead – for I recalled Grace Lin’s wise caution at the festival that a dragon without horns is not to be trusted.

VDT ship view 001

“Ahoy there!” cried a voice behind me, and I nearly jumped out of the water. Somehow the rat had paddled around behind me, so that he had become the pursuer and I the pursued. “Art thou friend or foe? Either way, stand and fight!”

“I am merely an adventurer,” said I, adopting his chivalric manner as best I could. “I mean you no harm, good sir rat, unless ye be an accomplice of the scoundrel Waldo, for then thy motives should be most suspect.”

“Waldo,” he repeated, scratching his chin with the hilt of his sword thoughtfully. “I am sure I have heard that name somewhere. I shall take your word for it that he is not to be trusted, for you speak like a true knight. Come aboard, fellow adventurer, and partake in what scant comforts my humble craft can provide.”

“Indeed, I think your craft, though admirably made, is ill proportioned for a creature of my size,” said I. “And besides, I am most comfortable in the water.”

“Forgive me,” said the rat. “I had not realized that you were an aquatic beast. I am no stranger to creatures of the deep, though I have met few as noble and as civilized as yourself. I have, in my travels, encountered the Sea Serpent of the Great Eastern Ocean and legions of the Sea People – both those who swear allegiance to the crown at Cair Paravel and those who live beyond the king’s realms. But I know that those are but the least of the wonders of the eastern waters. For I have heard tell of islands where gold turns men into dragons and water turns men into gold, and where the people have but one foot. All this is told in the chronicles of this land’s history.”

“How marvelous!” I cried, thinking to myself that this land seemed just fantastical enough to be the home of the mysterious Waldo. “And pray tell, good sir rat, what brings you to these distant waters?”

“Ah, an excellent question!” he exclaimed. “What else, but the will to adventure! I am sure that you are driven by the same.”

“In truth, I have a purpose in traveling beyond my questing spirit. I am searching for that dubious figure that I mentioned to you earlier.”

“Waldo, you mean?”

“The very same.”

“A very noble mission!” said he. “But now that you mention it, I, too, have another purpose in traveling. For the chronicles of the first voyage to these uncharted waters tell of one of my heroic ancestors, another noble rat who set sail in a coracle to the edge of the world, never to be seen again. All my life I have dreamed of following in his pawprints, yet circumstances held me back. 

“Being for a long time incapable of setting off on a quest myself, I devoted my time to learning the ancient scripts and searching through the palace archives for mentions of that first great voyage. And by a stroke of luck, one day I found inscribed upon a tablet the precise dimensions and materials of the coracle in which my ancestor set to sea. 

“Why, this was the very push I needed to abandon my inhibitions and set sail into the open ocean! I have been at sea for many months now and had such adventures as one only reads about in the stories of the kings and queens of old. Many times has my brave spirit been tested, and many times have my whiskers bristled in the face of danger, yet I am determined to continue on my path until I reach the very edge of this world, and then, if fate allows, I shall pass beyond, into the lands of the sunrise and the domain of the Great Lion.”

“Godspeed, my most mettlesome murine!” I said, greatly impressed by this young rodent’s sense of valor.

“The same to you, good sir!”

“But before we part ways, would you be so kind as to point me in the direction of land? I am a stranger to these parts, and I would be most grateful for some guidance.”

“Due west, that way!” he called out as his coracle was slowly carried away by the waves. “May Aslan grant you safe passage!”

I followed his directions as far as my tentacles would carry me, until I noticed a strange  skin of silver on the water. I realized that the entire surface of the ocean, as far as I could see, was covered in white lilies. The water itself was changing, too, losing its brine and becoming clear and sweet, like fresh spring water. I closed my eyes to savor its taste and the feel of my tentacles drifting here and there in the gentle tide, but when I opened them again, I found that my surroundings had changed entirely.

I was no longer in a vast, clear ocean, but rather a small and greenish pond, with the underbellies and webbed feet of several ducks visible just above me at the surface. In confusion and alarm, I thrust my head out of the water to survey my surroundings. 

In doing so I greatly alarmed a man in a tweed suit who had been rowing across the pond in a small boat.

“Egad!” he cried, gripping the side of his boat to avoid falling overboard from his own surprise and the ripples I had caused. “What are you doing there? Shouldn’t you be with the dodo in the Natural History Museum?”

“I might ask the same of you!” I said indignantly. “Who are you and what are you doing in my pond?”

Your pond? I should think that the pond is the University’s, and as I am a professor here, I feel I am entitled to row across it as I see fit. Of course, I had meant to share this boating trip with the children, but they seem to have disappeared this afternoon. There is an odd smell of sea water coming from their room, too. Very curious.”

“My apologies,” I said hastily. “I had not realized that you were an intellectual and an educator of children. I, too, am engaged in such noble pursuits when I am not questing.”

“How fortunate, then, that you have surfaced at one of England’s finest institutions of higher learning! Come inside and have a scone, won’t you? I’m sure the children won’t be back for several hours, so you can tell me all about yourself.”

Here I must break off my letter, for the children have indeed returned, and I sense that another adventure is about to start. The professor has been most hospitable towards me, granting me lodging here for as long as I wish, yet I suspect that he has some fascinating backstory of his own that he has not yet revealed. In any case, I shall write to you again as soon as I can.

Until next time,

Yours truly,

Karl the Kraken

Dragon’s Postscript:

I wrote back to Karl as quickly as I could (though I gave the poor messenger pigeon enough time to recover from her ordeal), telling him that I had discovered the very historical Chronicles to which the rat had referred – that they were, in fact, one of the most famous fantasy series of the past century! I also told him that though he was right to show caution when faced with a hornless dragon, this particular ship’s figurehead signified nothing sinister.

 

Advertisements

The Kraken’s Quest: Lost at Sea

IMG_5112

(To read the previous installation in the ongoing saga, click here.)

Hello again, dear readers!

Daisy the Dragon here. It has been a lonely week here with Karl gone on his Quest. I’ve spent much of it gazing out the window, which is the habitual expression of forlornness in literature. Though I repeated to myself that sending Karl on a daring and dangerous quest was the right thing to do, I could not help but imagine the perils he might be facing. Had I unknowingly sentenced him to his doom?

I was greatly relieved, therefore, when the post arrived today, and in amongst the various calls for blurbs from up-and-coming dragon authors, I found a letter written in Karl’s own hand. (Or tentacle, I should say.)

I have typed it up here in full for your benefit:

My dearest dragon,

Often have I found myself in the position of acknowledging the superiority of your advice in matters concerning my personal wellbeing. Now, once again, I owe you a debt of gratitude for encouraging me to embark on this fantastic quest to parts unknown in search of the potentially-nefarious Waldo. Already I feel as rejuvenated and excited as I have on those rare occasions when I have found a sympathetic depiction of a kraken in the human literary canon.

Upon leaving the Bookmarks bookstore, I headed straight to the open ocean. My going was rough. For not two days into my journey, I encountered a tremendous storm which blew me off course and into uncharted waters. So cruelly was I tossed this way and that, and so deep was I pulled by the surging tide, that even my infallible sense of navigation proved fallible, and I was forced to search for landmarks that might give me some indication of where I had been blown.

Once the sea had subsided peered out over the surface. In the distance I saw the rocky shore of an island, yet I hesitated to lay a metaphorical anchor. Unlike humans, krakens have no need to make landfall while at sea, and to do so might have been more dangerous than remaining in the water. But perhaps, I thought, there might be civilized and hospitable strangers on that island who could point me in the direction of the object of my quest. In any case, unless Waldo possessed great powers of metamorphosis, I was sure I would not find him in the water. 

So I ventured inland. I had not gone far up the slope of the cliffs before I encountered a group of wild but seemingly harmless pigs. 

“Greetings, my good sirs,” said I, but they seemed not to understand a word I spoke. “Perhaps you do not speak English,” I ventured. “Bonjour, mes bons cochons! Guten Tag, meine Schweine! Mar haban, yaa khanaaziir!” And so on, until I had exhausted my extensive knowledge of the world’s living languages. As a last resort, I turned to tongues I believed to be long dead.

“Chaire, O hyoi!”

And to my shock, their tufted ears perked up. They seemed to understand this ancient Attic salutation better than any I had yet uttered. Employing my textbook knowledge of Greek as best I could, I asked them what creatures lived on this island other than pigs. In reply, they snorted wildly and stomped on the ground so fiercely that I feared they might trample my tentacles under their hoofs. One of them padded up to me and, giving me a fearful look, spoke in an archaic dialect.

“Turn back, O tentacled one! Many sailors have been wrecked on these shores, and they have all met a terrible fate!”

DP258803“My dear unhappy ungulates,” said I, “what fate can you mean?”

“Why, look at us!” he cried. “We have been transformed into horrible beasts!”

“How tragic!” said I. “And how fortunate that you were able to escape that fate in the end. Tell me how you were transformed back into pigs, so that I too might be saved from danger of this island.”

The pig now gave me a puzzled look and said, “But we have not been transformed back! We are still pigs!”

“Then you were never transformed into horrible beasts in the first place?” I asked.

“No, we were most surely transformed into beasts, and we have not been changed back,” said the pig.

“Why, I do not know what to believe!” I said. “You contradict yourself at every turn. First you say you have been transformed into monstrous beasts, when you are obviously now no more than pigs – and then to insist that you have not been cured at all! Perhaps the sun has addled your brains and made you think you were transformed. I shall seek directions elsewhere and tax you no further.” 

And so I bade them farewell, even as they squealed and snorted behind me. It was, perhaps, an interesting study in the effects of isolation on a population of wild animals. All sorts of strange local beliefs spring up among such island-bound societies. Were I on a more academic mission, I might have stayed and learned their ways, but I had no time to talk nonsense with such a pack of perplexed porcines.

That island, I concluded, showed little promise to my quest. I had observed at the festival that the mysterious Waldo tended to hide himself in large crowds. A remote island inhabited only by roving bands of snouted nomads seemed unsuited to his lifestyle.

I apologize, but I must break off this brief epistle in something of a hurry, for I have caught sight of something most extraordinary in the open ocean: a mouse paddling over the waves in a tiny coracle. I have resolved to follow him, for I suspect he comes from a land most fantastical.

Until next I write,

Yours at sea,

Karl the Kraken

 

Dragon’s Postscript:

Since receiving this letter I have endeavored to assist Karl in any way I can, which, given the resources that currently surround me, means looking through books for clues to Karl’s location, so that I might help him navigate these treacherous waters.

I alighted upon a tale of sailors being transformed into pigs in that oldest and greatest of epics, Homer’s Odyssey. I was surprised Karl did not recognize the allusion when it was staring him straight in the face, but I am told that krakens edit out most of the Odyssey in their retelling and skip straight to the section about Scylla and Charybdis.

I have written to Karl to tell him that he has somehow washed up in the Late Bronze Age Aegean. Not knowing what address to use on my letter, I employed the ancient method of contacting sailors lost at sea: I engraved my message on a piece of driftwood, dedicated it to the local water deities, and sent it floating into the open ocean. I hope Karl gets it soon, or he may become even more lost than he already is.

The Kraken’s Quest

IMG_5148

Karl has drawn his own rendering, from memory, of the suspicious figure he encountered at the festival.

Hello all! Daisy the Dragon here.

As Karl hasn’t written anything for the blog for about a week, I felt it necessary to give you a brief update on what’s been going on at the bookstore and an explanation for why Karl may not be writing to you directly for a little while.

It all started after the festival, when I noticed that Karl was acting rather nervous and could not sit still. He was constantly pulling books off the shelves, paging through them without reading and setting them back. That was not at all like him, for usually once he has opened a book he cannot set it down until he has read it fully and thoroughly and written a lengthy review of it for this blog.

“Karl, whatever could be the matter?” I asked him.

He sighed. “My dear dragon,” he said, “I have been in a state of great agitation since festival day. You recall the strange person I encountered hovering about Winston Square Park?”

“The one wearing the red-striped shirt and cap?” I asked.

“The very same. The one who claimed his name was Waldo, though I suspect that may have been an alias. You see, I was not able on the day to figure out his motives, for he was highly secretive and unwilling to disclose either his identity or his true purpose in attending the festival. For I suspect that, unlike the majority of our attendees, he did not merely wish to witness the gathering of eminent litterateurs and devoted readers. Nay, dear dragon, I am quite sure he had some sinister intention that may yet bring about the downfall of this great institution of Bookmarks.”

“How can you be sure that his intentions were so sinister?” I asked. “Could it not be that he simply takes pleasure in hiding and being found, just as you take pleasure in plumbing the depths of the aquatic literary canon? It is, admittedly, an odd occupation, but that does not mean that you should exclude the possibility from your consideration.”

“You are right, I suppose,” he said. “It is just possible that the fellow had no secret mission, but was merely there to entertain young readers, as he said. Nevertheless, I shall be unable to rest until I know that no ill can come to our organization from my having let him escape my watch.”

“Then what are you waiting around here for?” I exclaimed. “Any literary creature knows that the thing to do when confronted with a sinister threat is to embark on a quest!”

“A quest!” Karl repeated. “But what good would that do?”

“What good would a quest do? Haven’t you ever read a book of fantasy? Why, a quest can help you to save your home from imminent destruction (if destruction is indeed imminent) or to discover long-forgotten secrets of your own identity. A quest can introduce you to fantastical realms where you will meet interesting characters both human and bestial. Karl, I can sense even now that you are called to go on a quest by mystical forces beyond even a dragon’s understanding. It is your destiny!”

Karl seemed quite taken aback, but his apprehension soon gave way to excitement.

“Why yes, a quest is just what  is needed!” he said. “But where should I go?”

“Did this Waldo person give you any indication where he came from?” I asked.

“Indeed, he did say that he came from a beloved book series, though I was unwilling to believe he spoke at the time.”

“Then you must travel through the all the imaginary worlds of books! You know that any good novel provides a map of its world in its front cover, so you will not have to wander without directions. You must scour every corner of every literary land you can find for that mysterious striped-shirted figure.”

Karl resolved to depart without delay. He quickly gathered together a parcel of his most essential belongings, including his tentacle shampoo and barnacle remover, several of his favorite novels, and seashell souvenirs from his ancestral kraken cove.

“Be sure to write me letters, so that I can tell your blog’s devoted readers what you’re doing,” I told him. “Be brave and venture boldly, my dear kraken, and may you swiftly reach your goal!”

And so he left, promising that he would send me updates on his travels as often as he could. I assure you, readers, that I will post his letters as soon as they arrive.

Let us all hope that he will soon find the mysterious Waldo and discover his true intentions.

Until next time, my lovely readers,

Yours truly,

Daisy the Dragon

An Unforeseen Conflagration (and a Fortunate Conclusion)

20170916_104308

Avast and ahoy!

One would have thought that the weekend after the festival would be placid and uneventful. But nothing is ever uneventful when one has a dragon in residence.

Overtired and perhaps less than usually amicable towards each other in the wake of the festival’s nonstop activity, Daisy and I got into something of a scuffle over the comparative merits of our favorite books one evening. The debate became rather heated.

“How can you say that Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is a greater work of speculative fiction than The Hobbit?” she demanded.

“My dear dragon, in what way is The Hobbit at all superior to Jules Verne’s masterpiece? Not one of Tolkien’s creatures can match the elusive majesty of Verne’s oceanic monsters!”

At this she became quite indignant and, without intending to, snorted several orange sparks onto the carpet, which immediately caught flame.

To her credit, she was duly horrified at what she had done and hastened to stomp out the blaze before a single precious book could be destroyed. With eight tentacles still damp from my afternoon swim, I was quickly able to extinguish the blaze. Be assured, dear readers, no harm was done to either the bookstore or its mascots, though the smoke was enough to set off the fire alarms and bring Winston-Salem’s always-attentive Fire Department to the scene.

The firefighters were relieved to find that the conflagration had been brief.

“The city’s fire codes were not written with the risk of dragon fire in mind,” one of them remarked. “But I trust that this was an isolated incident, and that cultured, literarily-inclined dragons such as yourself would never voluntarily set flame to such an admirable institution as Bookmarks.”

Though she seemed somewhat embarrassed by the incident, Daisy thought to invite the firefighting team back to visit the store on a less frantic occasion. They kindly agreed to come for this week’s story time and entertain the children in attendance with tales of firefighters both real and fictional.

20170916_103325

Their story time was so great a success that I must now admit that the benefits of Daisy’s fiery accident greatly outweighed the cost of the large scorch mark now concealed by the rug in the Bookmarks children’s area.

Yours relievedly,

Karl the Kraken

Festival 2017 Wrap-Up!

Avast and ahoy!

Now that I have had time to rest my tentacles and clear my head, it is time for a recap of this past weekend’s fantastic Bookmarks festival!

IMG_0540

And what a tremendous festival it was! With more than forty authors presenting and attendees from across the state, the region, and beyond, it was truly a worthy celebration of a community of readers and writers that knows no bounds.

The festival itself was bigger than it has ever been, spanning four days of events and sprawling across several blocks of downtown Winston-Salem. There was too much happening at once for any one creature to experience it all.

Or so I thought. My friend Daisy the Dragon, of course, had other ideas. When I saw her intently poring over one of the festival brochures in the store last Wednesday, I immediately felt that nervous twinge in my tentacles that I always get when I know she’s hatching a plan. Sure enough, she soon beckoned me over to survey the net of lines and arrows that she had drawn over Saturday’s schedule.

“I think I’ve figured it out,” she told me excitedly. “If we split up and pop in and out of sessions fairly quickly, we can see every single author and panel at the festival!”

I traced the path of arrows that she had labeled with my name.

“My dear dragon friend,” said I, “do you not see that this is quite impossible? Why, it would surely require some sort of time travel, and you know that time travel is only possible in certain regions of Scotland. You expect me to flit between sessions in no time at all, when even for a kraken of many tentacles and a sporting physique, it would take several minutes to run from one venue to another.”

“But Karl,” said she, “this is the only way in which we can see every author’s presentation. If you wish to narrow down my selection to a few sessions, be my guest, but I cannot imagine that you will find that an easy task.”

She was quite right, I had to admit. Looking at the wide array of brilliant and talented authors in the program, I found it nigh impossible to say that one merited my top priority more than another. So I hesitantly agreed to Daisy’s schedule and hoped that it would not leave me exhausted by the end of the day.

When Saturday morning came, my first order of business was to attend the presentation and award ceremony for the Summer Reading program, a celebration of the talents of young readers, writers, and artists. I had been looking forward to it most eagerly. But mere minutes into the presentation, I spotted a suspicious person hovering around the back of the crowd. He was dressed most conspicuously, in a red-striped shirt and cap, yet his demeanor was oddly reclusive.

IMG_0241

Curious, I approached him and attempted to glean some information about his identity.

“My good kraken, don’t you recognize me from my books?” he said. “I’m Waldo!”

Yet when I tried to shepherd him toward Author Hospitality he shook his head. “You are mistaken, my tentacled friend.” said he. “I am no author. Rather, I am a beloved book character!”

“My dear sir,” said I, “were it not for the extraordinarily mild and pleasant weather, I should have said that the heat had addled your brain. I have never found your picture in any book I have read, and I pride myself in having read a great many books.”

“It is true that my picture is notoriously difficult to find,” said he. “But that is rather the point. You see, I have been hired by Bookmarks to entertain the children with a game of sorts, in which they attempt to find me in return for a prize.”

“I am afraid I cannot let you anywhere near the children!” said I. “You cannot simply stroll into a literary festival dressed in so ludicrous a costume, claiming to impersonate a beloved book character, and expect me not to be suspicious of your intentions. I should advise you to keep a low profile and remain inconspicuous, so as not to alarm our attendees.”

Though Daisy’s schedule told me I ought to hurry to the Downtown Stage immediately, I decided I ought to keep an eye on this shady character in Winston Square Park. So I dove into the pond behind the stage, where I could have a clear view of the proceedings.

It so happened that my placement here was fortunate, for I was able to attend the presentation of the radiant Javaka Steptoe, whose book I had reviewed not long before the festival. Though I had poured praise on his work in my review, the experience of reading it to myself was nothing compared with that of hearing the author himself reading it out loud to music. When the audience was exhorted to stand up and dance to the rhythm, I splashed my tentacles in the water so enthusiastically that I lost track of time, and when I remembered my purpose in remaining at this venue, I found that the mysterious Waldo had disappeared.

IMG_0335

I figured that I need not remain in the park any longer, so I hurried over to the Downtown Stage just in time to submit a passage of my own writing to the panel of editors and agents at the Slush Pile Live! session. As I watched them critique and discard numerous other submissions, I became unsure how my own work would fare. But I need not have worried. When my passage was read out loud, the panel was effusive in its praise.

“Why, this is by far the most original and unusual voice in literature that I have heard today!” exclaimed one editor. “It stands quite apart from much contemporary writing in its flowing style, its wavelike rhythm, and its almost oceanic depth of meaning. Indeed, if I did not know better, I should say that this passage possessed an almost inhuman genius.”

Supremely gratified, I left the slush pile session to find something to eat. I found I could not decide between the many enticing aromas wafting from the various food trucks, so I resolved to try something from each one. By the time I had made the rounds of all the trucks, I had a different meal in each one of my tentacles.

IMG_0458

Prodigious though the kraken appetite can be, I was sure I would not get through all of this food in a single sitting. So I was very pleased to find Daisy flying towards me on her way back from the Calvary Moravian Church venue.

“Stop and have a bite with me!” I called to her.

“I can’t!” she replied, clearly out of breath. “I am on a very tight schedule, you know, Karl. I did not allow any time in my careful plan for snacking!”

“But you must keep up your strength,” said I. “You would not want to find your wings weakened midway through the afternoon and be unable to get from one presentation to another.”

“You have a point,” she said. She quickly tossed a plate of tacos into her mouth and swallowed them whole, as is customary for even the most civilized of dragons. She seemed eager to swoop off once again, but I held her back.

“You know, I think you may be missing out on many of the festival’s delights, trying to adhere to so strict a schedule,” I told her. “Indeed, I have found that the chance encounters one has while wandering around are nearly as rewarding as the authors’ formal presentations. Why don’t we go down to the book signing tent and see what is happening there?”

She agreed, tired as she was from flying between venues all morning. So we made our way toward the signing tent, noticing as we approached the long line stretching across the parking lot.

“Why, this must be the line for the brilliant and acclaimed Grace Lin,” said I. “I reviewed her books myself several months ago, and I can say for certain that she truly merits such a long line of devoted fans. Let’s go see if she has time while signing to converse with two literary creatures such as ourselves.”

As we approached the table, she looked up from her signing and exclaimed, “I was wondering if any of my many dragon fans would come to the festival! I have a very large following among dragons,” she explained to me, “because my books are some of the few novels that portray dragons very positively. It is unfortunate that so much fantasy focuses on the cruel, murderous dragons, when they are but a tiny subset of the many varieties of dragons one meets in real life.”

“If only more people understood that most dragons are not at all cruel or murderous, and if only they knew how to tell the difference!” Daisy agreed.

“You know, perhaps I should address that very problem in my presentation today,” said the eminent Ms. Lin. “In fact, I will do so in such a way as to entertain children and give them a guide to recognizing good dragons wherever they go! Quick! Fetch me enough crayons, colored pencils, and paper to give to every member of my audience!”

We scrambled to assemble the necessary articles according to her request, not yet knowing to what use she intended to put them. But all became clear that afternoon during her presentation.

IMG_0629

“I’m going to teach you all how to draw a dragon!” she announced to the audience. And not only did she give them a drawing lesson, but she countered all the negative stereotypes surrounding dragons in most literature, explaining that in Chinese culture, dragons have long been recognized as friendly and beneficent. The way to tell a good dragon for certain, she explained, is to see if it has horns. “Horns,” she said, “are a sure sign of upstanding character.”

I glanced over at Daisy and saw that she was beaming.

And so, although we may not have managed to see every single author at the festival, Daisy and I had a wonderful time, and we hope that everyone else who attended did too.

Yours delightedly as always,

Karl the Kraken

P.S. – I never did find Waldo again, but I am still searching. I am asking you, my readers to keep a lookout for him as well. If you find him, please let me know.

Krakens in Kilts!

1322638297Outlandertpb3wide

Avast and ahoy!

You will be glad to know, dear readers, that Daisy and I had a most exhilarating festival day. But before we can settle into reminiscences of authors met, books signed, Waldos found, and food trucks patronized, we have another thrilling event to preview! Tonight Diana Gabaldon, author of the bestselling Outlander series, will be speaking at Reynolds Auditorium to a crowd of 1,800 devoted fans.

Though I am largely unfamiliar with the Outlander books, Daisy informed me that they involve a time traveler who meets her husband’s distant ancestor in 18th century Scotland.

“Why, that is not the stuff of fantasy!” exclaimed I. “There are many krakens who report encountering their Scottish ancestors from time to time while on holiday or having lost their way in some highland lochs. I myself once met my great-great-uncle Kormac the Kraken off the Scottish coast many years ago”

As soon as I had said that, it struck me that I should endeavor to find great-great-Uncle Kormac again and ask him if he could recall any of the events detailed in Ms. Gabaldon’s novels.

I swam as fast as I could to Scotland, a trip of some several hours for a moderately fit kraken. Once there, I asked around the local fish populations whether anyone had noticed any supernatural disturbances that might indicate temporal rifts. And indeed, one helpful salmon informed me that there was a well-known site of magical activity just up the river from Iverness, where Claire Randall’s adventures in Outlander began.

And sure enough, no sooner had I passed through a ring of ancient underwater megaliths at the mouth of the River Ness, but I found my great-great-uncle swimming placidly through the waters of the nearby loch.

time-100-influential-photos-loch-ness-monster-21

(A photo of Karl’s time-traveling Scottish ancestor, Kormac the Kraken, waving one tentacle at the camera)

The following is a transcript of our conversation, preserving the idiosyncrasies of Uncle Kormac’s unique Scots-Kraken dialect:

KARL: Uncle Kormac!

KORMAC: Karl me bonnie barnacled bairn, I cannae recall how long it’s been since I seen ye last! What have ye been doin’ all this time?

KARL: I’ve taken up work in a nonprofit bookstore.

KORMAC: Ach, I dinnae ken what any o’ those terms are gettin’ at, but I’ll take yer word for it that ye’ve foond a fine fashion o’ makin’ a livin’.

KARL: Would you mind if I asked you a few questions about family history?

KORMAC: Ask away, me lad! Ye ken I’ve got nothin’ better tae do wi’ me day but floonder doon the river spookin’ tourists wi’ me tentaculars.

KARL: I don’t know if you’ve heard of the author Diana Gabaldon?

KORMAC: Ach, it’s ringin’ some bells, I can tell ye that, but me auld kraken brain disnae hold water like it used te. What sort o’ books has this author o’ yours written?

KARL: She wrote the bestselling Outlander series, which has been translated into 23 languages and adapted for television by –

KORMAC: Oh, aye, it’s comin’ back tae me noo. I met ‘er while she were conductin’ some research back in the 18th century, dontcha know.

KARL: I’m sorry, that cannot have been her, Uncle. Diana Gabaldon wasn’t born until the mid-twentieth century.

KORMAC: Karl, me lad, ye’ve got a fine head on ye, but ye can be slow on the uptake. How d’ye think she writes wi’ such a lofty level of accuracy aboot the history o’ Scotland? D’ye really think she’s nae time traveled hersel’?

KARL: You don’t mean –

KORMAC: Ye ken right well what I mean, ye saltwater Sassenach!

KARL: So you’ve met her?

KORMAC: I do believe she spotted me afar off i’ the distance while she were snappin’ pictures o’ the Battle o’ Culloden.

KARL: You witnessed the Battle of Culloden?

KORMAC: Ach, aye.

KARL: How was it?

KORMAC: I near lost a tentacle, will ye believe it? Some foolish floonder of a Englishman took a shot at me, an’ woulda had a fair hit, too, if I hadnae got oot o’ the way in time. That’s all I can remember off the top o’ me head. We krakens try not tae mix up wi’ all the humans’ battles. That’s why ye dinna see any of us krakens in yer wee historical fiction. While they were all fightin’ and fashin’ theirselves, we were havin’ our haggis wi’ the haddocks down on the loch bed.

KARL: Well, thank you, Uncle Kormac, this was a very interesting talk.

KORMAC: Come back any time, me lad. I’m always glad tae see a young bairn like you would take an interest in an old tentacled time-traveler like meself.

Returning to the present century, I informed Daisy of what I had heard. She seemed unconvinced that my alleged ancestor was anything other than a delusional old kraken living at the bottom of a loch.

While I cannot say whether Great-Great-Uncle Kormac’s recollections were accurate, I will be fascinated to hear whether Ms. Gabaldon has indeed visited 18th-century Scotland in person. If not, I should be glad to take her on a visit to Uncle Kormac’s kraken cove.

Yours in perpetuity and across time,

Karl the Kraken

 

 

Every Kraken Yoga!

IMG_5085

Hello all!

Daisy the Dragon here, reporting from Bookmarks headquarters on festival eve eve. Karl has been getting increasingly excited over the past week, to the point where he could scarcely hold still. I told him he should relax and join me in gazing at the flowers out the window, but he would not take a moment of rest from work. So I took matters into my own claws and called in the greatest expert in relaxation that I could think of: the famed yoga instructor and author Jessamyn Stanley.

Karl was reluctant when he heard that I was going to make him do yoga.

“Although I do not doubt the benefits of such practices to humans,” he said, “the schools of yoga are designed specifically for bipedal land animals, and as such are unsuitable, indeed potentially damaging, to the kraken’s physiology.”

“Karl, you won’t know if it’ll do you any good until you try it. Besides, you haven’t had any proper exercise since you left the ocean. It can’t be healthy to shock your body into a new range of motion. Yoga might help your tentacles stay loose and limber as they adjust to dry air. And you know how we dragons swear by meditation.”

When Jessamyn arrived, I could not contain my excitement. In typical dragon fashion, I swooped down on her and wrapped my claws around her shoulders. It’s a very good thing her back is so strong and flexible from many years of practice, or I might have incapacitated one of our authors before the festival even got underway.

IMG_5088

She shook tentacles with Karl and asked him if he’d had any previous experience with yoga. He expressed his concern that she might not have taught a creature so many-tentacled as a kraken.

“With all due respect, Mr. Kraken,” she told him, “you underestimate the breadth of my yoga-instructing experience. My book is titled Every Body Yoga – I wouldn’t make that sort of promise to my readers if I wasn’t prepared to teach every body! I’ve taught arthropods and cephalopods, gastropods and octopods. I believe yoga is for everyone, regardless of shape, size, or species.”

Karl seemed surprised but greatly heartened by this, and he applied himself to the yoga lesson admirably. Soon he was on the floor in a perfect krakasana pose.

IMG_5082

Afterwards he reported feeling more relaxed than he had ever been, especially since he’d left his ocean habitat. After a short restorative meditation with his tentacles in an eight-petaled lotus, he told me he was ready for all the excitement and effort of festival weekend.

And best of all, fans of Jessamyn Stanley will be able to experience the transformative power of her classes themselves tomorrow morning at the Milton Rhodes Center, where she will be teaching a morning class before her appearance at the festival on Saturday.

Until then,

Namaste, my readers!

Daisy the Dragon