The Great Red Tiger of the High Green Plateau at the Crossroads of the Four Mighty Winds

Here is a humorous fantasy story that is meant as a spoof of the “lonely wizard on the mountain top” trope. I hope it will make you laugh or at least smile.

Once there was a lovely small town called Wirkburg. It was a very prosperous – and very civilised, thank you very much – small town, and had always been so. A prophecy as old as the town itself – which was not literally as old as the town itself, this being merely an expression used by the town historians in order to spare themselves the tiresome research – stated that should the town ever fall on hard times, the only thing that would restore its prosperity was a whisker of the Great Red Tiger of the High Green Plateau at the Crossroads of the Four Mighty Winds.

As story logic demands, the town did indeed fall on hard times and the townspeople were understandably quite displeased and spent many an hour complaining to one another about the numerous misfortunes brought about by the dwindling economy. And so, the Council of the Town Elders – most of whom were, at the time, not so elderly, having secured their positions through the generous interventions of friends and family – decided to embark on a most perilous journey.

They travelled through the plains, and consequently got to the hills, which they also travelled through, until they reached the mountains. They travelled through the mountains too, which proved exceedingly strenuous as none of them had ever bothered to get in shape, until they reached the cabin of the Wizard Harlyn, who was the only man able to come close to the Great Red Tiger of the High Green Plateau at the Crossroads of the Four Mighty Winds. The Wizard’s cabin, which stood next to the Wizard’s greenhouse, where the Wizard was able to grow all the plants he needed in his field of occupation, was small and cosy, and the Wizard invited them inside and served them herbal tea. He then left them in the company of his niece and apprentice Griselda, who was at the time ten years old, as he went to search for the Great Red Tiger of the High Green Plateau at the Crossroads of the Four Mighty Winds. He returned the same evening with a whisker of the aforementioned beast.
The Town Elders found it a bit suspicious that he should return so quickly from such a perilous task and also expressed some concern with regard to the small red spots that had appeared on the Wizard’s face and the sudden fit of sneezing that had seized him. Either way, they were quite happy to be able to leave so soon, especially since they’d had to tolerate the presence of a little girl. It should be noted that they were serious gentlemen with important social positions and therefore, needless to say, had more important things to do than spend time with children.

Upon their return to Wirkburg, the whisker of the Great Red Tiger of the High Green Plateau at the Crossroads of the Four Mighty Winds was placed inside a jewelled case, which was in its turn placed in the Council Room of the Town Hall, and the town quickly regained its prosperity.

Alas! – Thirty-five years after this noble feat, the whisker of the Great Red Tiger of the High Green Plateau at the Crossroads of the Four Mighty Winds was lost again, and the town was once more seized by economic collapse.

Naturally, the Town Elders – who had now aged so that the name finally suited them –, assumed the priceless item had been stolen and set a high a price – well, as high as their declining economy allowed – on the head of the thief, with or without the body attached. However, the search for the chaos-loving villain took on an unexpected turn when a Town Hall employee admitted to having removed the whisker from its case, in an attempt to clean said case, which over thirty-five had gathered quite the amount of dust and, after completing this self-set task, had been unable to find the whisker, which, unbeknownst to him, had in fact been blown out the window and out of town by a sudden gust of wind.
After the man was fired and banished to the country, where he lived self-sufficiently on a small farm, the Council of the Town Elders resolved to once more undertake the perilous journey to the cabin of the Wizard Harlyn.

They travelled through the plains, and consequently got to the hills, which they also travelled through, until they reached the mountains. They travelled through the mountains too, which proved exceedingly strenuous as none of them had ever bothered to get in shape, and – as stated above – had in the meantime become truly elderly, until they reached the cabin.

The cabin was the same as they remembered, as was the Wizard’s greenhouse. They silently congratulated themselves for having successfully reached it this second time. Then, the Eldest of the Town Elders, who was, by reasons implicit to his title, the one to speak for them all, took a step forward and knocked on the door.

Being an old wooden door, it opened with a creak, as it had thirty-five years before, and in it stood a beautiful woman in a low-cut black velvet gown that prompted the Town Elders to make a conscious effort to keep their eyes on her face, which also put some strain as their necks, as the woman was also quite tall. Due to this effort, they did not notice that the look of happy anticipation the woman had on her face as she opened the door had at the sight of them turned into one of not-so-happy confusion.

‘Well met, sweet lady,’ said the Eldest of the Town Elders, assuming the aging Harlyn had in the meantime hired a maid. ‘We are here to see the wizard.’

The woman did not budge. Indeed, she did not even blink.

‘I am the wizard,’ she replied.

‘No, kind lady,’ the Eldest of the Town Elders said, indulgently. ‘We are here to see the wizard Harlyn, whom we have visited thirty-five years ago, to require of him a whisker of the Great Red Tiger of the High Green Plateau at the Crossroads of the Four Mighty Winds.’

‘The wizard Harlyn has retired,’ the woman informed him. ‘He has gone to seek the Secret White Cave in the Perpetually Snowy Rocks of the Nigh Unreachable Mountains, so that he may achieve completion of the spirit and thus become properly equipped for his journey into the Great Mystery.’

‘Oh, I see,’ the Eldest of the Town Elders conceded. ‘And who might you be, sweet lady?’
‘His niece, Griselda,’ the woman promptly replied.

She tilted her head back discreetly, yet noticeably.

‘Wizard Griselda.’

‘You mean “Witch,”’ the Eldest of the Town Elders rebuked.

‘Not at all,’ she persisted. ‘The correct title is, in fact, Wizard. It is a hereditary title and I happen to be holding it at the moment, having inherited it from my uncle.’

‘Either way,’ the Eldest of the Town Elders insisted, ‘you cannot be Harlyn’s niece Griselda, for we remember Griselda, and thirty-five years ago she was but a wisp of a girl, and, as simple arithmetic has it, she must now be around forty-five years of age and, as it is true for ladies of such an age, nature has certainly followed its course with her, while you, dear lady, look not one day over twenty-five… Ish… Or so.’

A smile flashed across the wit – beg pardon, Wizard’s face. It seemed to the Town Elders that it was of the smug and self-satisfied kind, but, alas, it was too brief to tell for sure.

‘I am Griselda,’ she spoke again, repeating herself, with as straight a face as before, ‘and I am indeed forty-five years old. Keep in mind that, due to the nature of my occupation, I have access to the highest quality natural and unprocessed cosmetics, which I use quite diligently. Nevertheless you have – alas! – just missed my birthday party which was not even one full moon ago. I would have served you some of my Wizard Mead, of which the secret recipe has been passed along in my family from generation to generation for nigh a thousand years, but I fear my friends, who have, in the meantime, embarked on the long journey back to their homes, have drank all of my provisions in but a few hours, and I have not yet had the time to prepare more of this superlative liquor.’

The Eldest of the Town Elders found himself lost for words, and so resorted to blinks, which he had plenty of. Griselda sighed, finding herself in the position to break the awkward silence.

‘Pray, gentlemen, let us get past the small talk,’ she declared. ‘What can I do for you?’
The Eldest of the Town Elders coughed solemnly and, having thus regained his words, stated the purpose of their journey.

‘One moment,’ Griselda said, ‘did not my uncle give you this very item when you came to this very place thirty-five years ago? Did you not just say so yourself? Come to think of it, did we not spend an evening together inside this very cabin, during which you made an excellent point out of ignoring me, as I was, at the time, ten years old, and you were serious gentlemen who had more important things to do than talk to children?’

‘That is true, my lady,’ the Eldest of the Town Elders replied, ‘and do forgive us our impertinence, as we had not a clue that you would grow up into this –’

He gestured vaguely in the direction of Griselda’s chest. Griselda frowned.

‘Your point?’ she demanded.

‘Our point, my lady,’ said the Eldest of the Town Elders, thus forced to regain his train of thought, ‘is that this precious item has been tragically lost and we have come to beg of you another one.’

‘Another one,’ Griselda repeated, with an exasperate roll of her eyes. She turned around and went inside the cabin. ‘Oh, poor thing,’ they heard her saying, ‘poor thing.’
Assuming she meant him, the Eldest of the Town Elders nodded his head in silent and deeply sorrowful approval. The Town Elders then heard the back door opening and Griselda’s voice crying out.

‘Lawrence!’ she called. ‘Lawrence, where are you, sweetheart?’ And then ‘Come here, I have a nice treat for you!’

They heard the sound of heavy footsteps, immediately followed by a thunderous roar that shook the mountain cliff, making the blood of the Town Elders freeze in their veins, which was most aggravating, since they were already quite cold. They should have been truly worried for Griselda’s fate, but they were too busy being worried for their own fate. Thankfully, the worry they did not deem to spend on the lady would have been completely unfounded, as her voice was promptly heard again.

‘Aw, I’m really sorry, baby!’ she cooed.

Another roar followed, albeit considerably more sorrowful than the first.

‘Don’t cry, kitten!’ came Griselda’s voice again. ‘It will grow back, I promise!’

In less then a minute, she was back at the front door, presenting them with a whisker of the Great Red Tiger of the High Green Plateau at the Crossroads of the Four Mighty Winds.
‘Here, gentlemen,’ she said.

The Eldest of the Town Elders stood blinking in confusion.

‘Pray, dear lady, what is that?’ he asked.

‘The very thing you have come all this way to ask of me,’ said Griselda, in a tone that failed to entirely hide her suspicions regarding her interlocutor’s possible onset of senility. ‘A whisker of the Great Red Tiger of the High Green Plateau at the Crossroads of the Four Mighty Winds.’

‘Pardon me, lady,’ said The Eldest of the Town Elders, ‘but do you expect us to believe that just now you proceeded to rip it from the beast’s muzzle?’

‘The Great Red Tiger of the High Green Plateau at the Crossroads of the Four Mighty Winds is a magical creature,’ Griselda explained. ‘It will grow back soon, although now he seems to be slightly vexed and will therefore sulk outside for a while until it begins to feel the lack of treats.’

‘We thought it would be a rather, um, difficult item to obtain,’ The Eldest of the Town Elders insisted.

‘Not at all,’ Griselda shook her head. ‘Lawrence is a very good kitty. Although,’ she added, ‘thirty-five years ago my uncle did find this task rather distressing. He is, alas, allergic to feline hair.’ She made a polite pause before asking, ‘Will that be all, kind gentlemen?’

‘Um,’ the Eldest of the Town Elders um-ed.

‘I am sorry to come across as one with no sense of hospitality,’ Griselda spoke again, ‘which I assure you I am not, but I am afraid it was not you that I was expecting when I opened the door. I was, in fact, expecting my boyfriend, himself a highly respected wizard, who resides quite far away from here and whom I have not seen since last moon’s party which has left me out of mead. As a matter of fact, when you gentlemen came knocking, I thought he’d arrived early, but, alas, I see he is keeping by his schedule and will not be here for another few hours. Should things proceed well tonight, we might discuss moving in together, which I should very much like, for I am all too fond of him.’

The Eldest of the Town Elders still stood there, this time having run out of both um’s and blinks.

‘The reason why I am telling you this, kind gentlemen,’ Griselda explained, ‘is not that it should count itself among your concerns, which it most decidedly does not, but merely as a way of pointing out that it is the sole and only reason for this garb you see me wearing, and therefore I would greatly appreciate it if you ceased looking in the general direction of my chest, for that is not where my eyes are.’

‘Sorry,’ the Eldest of the Town Elders blurted, followed by a series of muttered “Sorry, ma’am”’s from the members of his party.

They were preparing to say goodbye, and Griselda was preparing to shut the door, but, seized by a sudden idea, she stopped herself.

‘Wait just one moment!’ she urged.

Trunk lids and cupboard doors were opened and slammed and drawers were drawn and quickly shut back, as Griselda uttered a few most unladylike expressions. She then re-emerged brandishing a small box, which she held out to the Eldest of the Town Elders, who stared and blinked.

‘Do take it, sir,’ Griselda urged, ‘for I haven’t got all day and I need to put on some perfume for when my boyfriend gets here. He finds it quite enticing.’

‘Yes, of course,’ said the Eldest of the Town Elders, seizing the proffered box. ‘Thank you, my lady.’

He examined it in search of a label, but, unable to find one, he looked to the woman wizard again.

‘Pray, what does it contain?’ he asked.

‘Rheumatism ointment,’ Griselda promptly enlightened him. ‘I can see you gentlemen have never bothered to get in shape and I daresay once you get home and lay down to rest you will be unable to do so, as you will be seized by a most unpleasant soreness.’
The Eldest of the Town Elders blinked.

‘Indeed,’ he conceded. ‘Thank you!’

‘Well,’ said Griselda. ‘I do believe that settles it. Safe journey to you, gentlemen!’
The Town Elders stood blinking in front of the door for a good while after it had shut.

Later, as they walked silently down the mountain, one member of the party decided the journey was too quiet and approached the Eldest of Town Elders.

‘Pray, my lord Eldest of the Town Elders,’ he said, ‘is not your wife, whom I believe to be your fourth and younger than you by nigh thirty years, also forty-five years old, the same as Lady Griselda? But while my lord’s wife has grown most wide and, may I add, increasingly displeased, the Lady Griselda, who is of the same age –’

The Eldest of the Town Elders interrupted him by casting in his direction a most sour look.

‘I believe you should refer to her as Wizard Griselda,’ he muttered. ‘It is a hereditary title. Furthermore,’ he added, ‘you were there. You heard the woman. She has a boyfriend.’

‘Pray,’ the man pressed on, to the distress of his interlocutor, ‘what is a “boyfriend”’?

‘I believe,’ the Eldest of the Town Elders answered, ‘it is a term these modern ladies use to refer to a member of the male sex with whom they engage in acts of fornication out of wedlock.’

‘Oh!’ the man interjected. ‘She is such a free spirit, is she not? Why, in our town, one has to show great care, unless one wishes to be pointed and laughed at in the streets, as my lord the Eldest of the Town Elders was at the time when he’d just met the third of his wives and was still married to her predecessor.’

Here, the Eldest of the Town Elders set a new personal record as far as sour looks are concerned.

‘Either way, speaking of this boyfriend,’ his interlocutor said, ‘I wonder what he looks like.’

‘Do you really want to know?’ the Eldest of the Town Elders enquired, although in a fully rhetorical fashion.

The man thus addressed looked down at his own protruding stomach, which he had lovingly fed with the finest – oh, alright, not always the finest – ale ever since he was a green young lad.

‘Not really,’ he sighed.

Upon their return to Wirkburg, the whisker of the Great Red Tiger of the High Green Plateau at the Crossroads of the Four Mighty Winds was placed inside the same jewelled case, placed in the Council Room of the Town Hall, with a note saying ‘Do Not Try to Clean – Ever!”
The economy quickly flourished again, and if the Elders and the townspeople were not happy – well, at least they were content.

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