The House that Fish Built…

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… No smoke from the roof-rounds

of Albion without tribute to them…

A tribute on the Quern.

A tribute on the Kneading Trough.

A tribute on the Baking Flags…

An ounce of gold for every nose

North, South, East or West

of the Wondrous Head.

*

King Grim-Gaze, the slug-man, was planning a great feast at Red-Hill-Hall.

…Said Grey-Sway to Father Fish, “Wake up, wake up! You must undertake a work of construction: a mead house for my father’s banquet is required; it is to be completed a year from this day.”

So Father Fish set about his work, and one morning Little Nipper came to him and said, “soon you will finish your labour, you must not seek payment until the cattle of Albion are brought before you, when this is done you must choose from among them all only the white, black-maned cow.”

Father Fish did as bidden by Little Nipper and, with all the cattle of Albion before him, he asked only one white, black-maned cow as the price of his labour.

Now that seemed right foolish to King Grim-Gaze but he consented all the same…

*

The house that Father Fish built was constructed in this way: it had nine compartments from fire place to wall, with each facade made of bronze, standing thirty feet high; it took a wagon team to haul each beam, and the strength of seven men to fix each pole.

At the front of the house, high above the rest, a royal compartment for King Grim-Gaze was erected, and positioned around it in a circular fashion were twelve couches replete with blankets and cushions for the comfort of the heroes of Albion.

In the roof of the house Father Fish constructed a sun bower with a cunningly crafted spy hole so that he could look out over the feasting without being seen.

*

King Grim-Gaze issued a proclamation:

‘Unless the men and women of Albion partake of my feast, I will stir up strife between father and son until mutual slaughter results, and I will set mother and daughter at blows until their breasts become loathsome and putrid.’

*

Admirable was the march to Red-Hill-Hall as the men of Albion set out for the house of King Grim-Gaze with host, battalion and company under the leadership of their chieftains.

From the north came Connor Cruel-Crest and his host.

“Hail, mighty warrior: bright bannered bearer of the thunderbolt,” said Father Fish, lolloping alongside Connor’s company on foot, “by the time the men of Albion cross into foreign bounds you are a distance of three nights and three days in advance over many a ford, what then should hinder the Champion’s Portion of Red-Hill-Hall being yours ?”

*

Said Connor Cruel-Crest, “why, if it isn’t that lackey Fish Face, the unpaid fool of King Grim-Gaze,” he laughed out loud and his company set up a shout and raised their spears.

“Truly, the Champion’s Portion of the house I built is not that of a fool’s house,” smiled Father Fish, “belonging to it is a cauldron full of generous wine and a seven year old boar; since it was small nothing has entered its lips but fine meal in springtime, curds in summer, the kernel of nuts in autumn and beef broth in winter, indeed, the Champion’s Portion of Red-Hill-Hall is well worth contesting; if it be yours then the Championship of Albion also will be yours forever.”

Connor Cruel-Crest looked the fish man up and down.

Said Father Fish, “Since you are the bravest hero among the men of Albion, it is but just to give it to you, and so do I wish it.”

“By the god of my clan,” shouted Connor Cruel-Crest, “his head shall he lose, whosoever comes to contest it with me!”

Father Fish laughed at that, for it pleased him right well…

– Excerpt from; The Heart of Albion: tales from the Wondrous Head.

4 thoughts on “The House that Fish Built…

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