Badaim joins us with a rundown on FOSSEGRIM, and the next installment of Bragi’s Muse!
Fossegrim is a water troll from Scandinavian folklore who is renowned as an expert fiddler. Also known as Strömkarlen in Swedish traditions (which translates to "The river man") 'fosse' means 'waterfall' in Norwegian as he is also associated with water mills. Fossegrim is said to have eleven songs which give the forest and water their sound when played over his fiddle. The eleventh song is said to be reserved for night spirits as, when it is played, "tables and benches, cup and can, gray-beards and grandmothers, blind and lame, even babes in the cradle" will begin to dance.
Legend says that Fossegrim is willing to teach his musical talent to anyone willing to make the offering of a male goat or lamb that has its head turned away from a waterfall that flows northward on a Thursday (Thor's day) evening. Other traditions say the smoked mutton must be stolen from a neighbor four Thursdays in a row.
If the lamb is not plump enough, Fossegrim will only teach the student how to tune the fiddle. But if the offering is worthy, Fossegrim will take their hand along the fiddles strings and make them play until their fingers bleed. After which, the student will be able to play so well that trees will dance and rivers will stand still to listen.
The Norwegian musicians Ole Bull and Myllarguten are said to have earned their respective musical talents from Fossegrim. Legends surrounding the enigmatic blues guitarist Robert Jhonson share similar veins, as he is famed for supposedly 'selling his soul to the devil' in exchange for the ability to sing and play guitar. While not related, Tommy Jhonson was the first blues guitarist to start the mythological tradition of alleging that he learned to play from the devil, and his most famous contemporary depiction is in the (2000) film "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"
Bragi Finds his Muse (part 5): Fosse-grim Tutelage
An elf in an immaculate blue suit stepped casually through the burning vortex and held Bragi and the Muses back with a single absentminded finger as he chatted away completely focused on his phone.
'I'm telling you: it's gonna be a hit!...Six months...well you can't rush the creative process, you know how these artists are!..Just give me some time to figure out how I can wiggle out from under this current contract an-Kiiiiids! Heyyyyy! How's my favorite flavor of the week? (I'll call you back).' The elf stuffed his phone away and spread his arms wide in bombastic greeting. Soaking in smarm, he made his rounds planting ginger kisses on each of the muses' foreheads.
'Alright guys, enough of the formalities, this better be good: it wasn't cheap switching 'ports last minute like that. I had to take a connection through South America to make it and Magpyre 'port security is...robust.' The elf adjusted his trousers. Xinyi stepped forward and French inhaled her smoke as she spoke.
'It appears there may be a snag in our contract: The headliner has unexpectedly dropped out which means…'
'What!? That old bast…' Bragi folded his arms and arched an eyebrow over a glowing azure eye. '...-ard certainly looks good for his age! My apologies Mr. Bragi, I thought you were one of them! Well...this certainly would be an issue if I hadn't already collected my retainer, but I'm afraid if you also had bothered to read the clause regarding my stipulations on profitability you would know…' The elf turned with a passive wave to step back into the portal, but Leif grew 10 feet taller and pressed his index finger firmly down on the elf's head and twisted him about face to meet his rugged scowl.
'...that I'd do anything for my meal tick-er, I mean, you guys...that's within our budget of course!' Leif calmly returned to his normal, but still substantial, size.
'Oh I like him!' Cal nodded to Mel approvingly.
'Ahm shar da youngins 'are mare dan Willin' tae gise ye adikit compansatin' fer ye tiem ahn reesaurces.' Leif offered with an open hand that slowly curled into a fist.
'Aww there's no need for the dramatic, you had me at cost plus scalable percentage!' The elf grinned nervously as he tenderly pushed Leifs fist down from his face.
'I was wrong: I really like him!' Cal added.
'Great, glad we've come to an understanding!' Bragi shook the elf's hand with a binding handshake. 'So what should we call this new addition to our retinue?'
'Uhh, for legal reasons I generally try not to give out my full name (he's not a process server is he?) So…Gywyn is just fine.'
'Oh yeah? Then why do you always ask for your checks to be made out to "cash," huh?' Pan asked, squeezing a bleat with a rising intonation from her lamb.
'Wow, seriously? After all this is done you kids really need to reconsider your representation.'
'Hey now, after all this is done and you see what I bring to the table you might have to eat those words! Don't worry, that crack only cost you a very reasonable increase in my eventual cut of commission!'
'Rite'ta, dahn't gou flowtin' ahwee jas yit yah ballun' ah hawte ar! Sam alf pinched yon Bragi's sang ahn we need ye tah elp ahs nick de we chancer.'
Ah, so you're looking for information? And I suppose you thought I could help just because I'm an elf? What, you think we all know each other? Well, it just so happens that you're probably right! I might not know them personally, but elves do tend to run in tight knit circles and these pointed ears are well suited for being kept to the ground.' Gywyn stroked his chin thoughtfully. 'You know: I'd bet that, despite your notoriety Mr. Bragi, they're probably still out trying to scrape more material. Plagiarists tend to have narrow margins, so they rarely do just one rip on a single run to turn a profit. They are probably still out trying to sniff on something else to steal.'
'wE WoUlD hAvE sEnSeD sOmEtHiNg...' Nia chimed as she channeled the Cognate.
'Nah, you guys are too high profile. It would have to be something, and someone, small.'
'There's a battle of the bands tonight at a dive called Elysium. Starts at midnight. Only the nothing-est of nobodies need apply.' Psi strummed her lyre with a thoughtful pluck.
'Now that sounds like just the mark!'
'So we enter and hope we can bait the grokker out by winning? How hard could that be?' Xinyi confidently flicked away her smoke.
'But we are super famous, everyone would recognize us. How tragic that we must like, suffer from our own success!' Mel swooned.
'Well it just so happens that during my layover I managed to pick up a set of duty-free libre masks, just enough for each of you and Bragi! You guys could be: Las Musas Del Norte!'
'Why do you even have those?'
'I have a personal life too you know.'
'Ugh, I had to ask.' Pan slapped her face into her palm.
'So we got that covered, but what about Bragi? He can't play, that's the whole reason why we're in this mess.' Xin gave Bragi a side eye.
'I'm sure it can't be that ba-' Bragi tried to hold a fermata that cracked at every conceivable corner. '-oh wow. Ok, I can see why that's a problem.'
'So what are we gonna do? We'll still get recognized unless we have a different sound, even with the masks.' Said Xin. Gywyn tapped a crooked finger against his lips.
'What you need...is a tutor.'
'How will that help? We need him to be able to play in a few hours!'
'Well...there is this one guy: What city are we in? Actually, scratch that: it doesn't matter. He has a way of getting around!'
'This? This is the guy? He's just some old busker!' The crew peered around a corner at an unassuming troll stringing a sad tune from a fiddle.
'He's better than he looks, so just make sure you don't piss him off!'
'Is that why you're hiding in that bush?'
'We don't exactly have the best working relationship right now, so it's probably best if you don't mention my name.'
'So how's he supposed to help us exactly?'
'He'll teach anyone for the right price, and judging by his current financial situation (of which I claim no responsibility for) that should be well within your budget. Now, I do have to get going, but I have complete faith you can handle it from here. Let me know how things go, and remember: don't mention my naaaaaaaaame!' Gywyn faded away into another portal, taking the bush along with him and leaving behind a flurry of leaves.
Bragi and the others cautiously approached the wiry troll, who seemed too wrapped up in his playing to notice. Xinyi flipped a coin into his hat, which pulled him from his entranced performance, taking him mildly aback by the arrival of the abrupt audience.
'A tune then?'
'Aye, gise us ah planxty ye jakey trawl, ahn ah swar nae teh batter ye sumpin' fearse!'
'You know, I don't much care for your tone friend. I'd hate to see us get off on the wrong...foot!' With a vibrant pluck of his fiddles' string, the troll began sawing away at a manic melody. Suddenly, Leif's upper body seized up as he started rapidly tapping his feet in an Irish line dancing style to the troll's vicious tune.
'Oi! wahs hanin'? Ah cannae cantrawl mesef!'
'None can resist Fossegrim's furious fiddling!' The troll replied with a wicked grin.
'Alright that's enough. So you are good. Sorry for our friends' exuberance, but we're really in a bind. What will it take for you to teach me how to play like you?'
'Not so fast, chum! My musical mastery isn't so cheaply conveyed! My allegiance isn't acquired...automatically!' Fossegrim switched tempo to an electronica style, forcing Leif into a blocky robot dance. Psi nodded acutely with muted approval.
'Joost ye waite yah boaky bawbag! Ah delt wit dangleberries mare dastardly dan ewe!'
'Oh I doubt it. Still with such insolence? How about a ballet to soothe the savage beast?' Fossegrim segued into a classical concerto that impelled Leif to pointed toe pirouettes.
'Ay plase, mahk haim sthap! mah towes cannae teak meh weet!'
'We already paid your toll toll, do we have a deal or what?' Xin snapped a flame out of her index finger.
'That paltry pittance? You shame yourself sister! Why don't I heat things up instead, strumpet?' A belt of sultry stripper music forced Xin to grind hard against Bragi, turning both their cheeks red as they looked awkwardly into each other's eyes. The other muses stood back speechless, too scared to antagonize the troll any further.
'You've made your point. What is it you want then?' Bragi tried to tactfully ignore the helpless Xin drag herself across his chest.'
'It has been a while since I've had a hot, steaming, satisfying meal. Something savory and succulent should suffice.'
'Anyone see a shawarma cart nearby?'
'Oh no, nothing so simple: This must be a significant sacrifice to sate my salivation: Something held...dear.' Bragi followed Fossegrim's drooling locked gaze to Pan, who shook her head tearfully.
'C'mon Pan, I'll buy you a whole herd if I have to, I swear!' Xin pleaded as her and Leif twerked tenaciously cheek to cheek.
Fossegrim licked his fingers delectably while sucking at the end of a greasy bone. Mel and Cal consoled Pan who had buried her face into her hands.
'Are you finished torturing the girl grim? We don't have a lot of time left.' Psi passed Bragi her lyre. Fossegrim tossed the last bone onto a small pile and wiped his hands on his pants. 'I still don't see how you're going to be able to..' But before Bragi could finish Fossegrim flossed his fiddle fanatically, forcing Bragi's fingers to fly and match every note on the lyre.
'You did say you were working against the clock, right? Then I hope you don't mind if I offer a crash course!'