Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Legally Dead - Dragonlance Fan Fiction

Before I became a Dragonlance author, I was a Dragonlance fan fiction author. Back then, there weren't any websites for fan fiction and we carved all our stories on stone tablets, which I sent to Dragon magazine. None were ever published there, but one of my fan fiction stories was eventually published in a Dragonlance anthology. It was The Restoration and the anthology was Relics and Omens. But that's another story.

I wrote Legally Dead sometime in the early 90s, which was before Dragons of Summer Flame came out. The setting of the story is Solace, after Legends but before Summer Flame.

Mama always said no good would come of that marriage, but some people wondered what business was it of hers anyway? Mama always had something to say about everything and everybody, whether they wanted to hear it or not, and it got so that people just quit listening to her and started shunning her. But she sure hit the goblin on the head about that Widow Burrfoot.

People called her Widow Burrfoot long before Uncle Tas was declared legally dead. You may have heard of Tasslehoff Burrfoot. From what he says, he saved Krynn from almost certain destruction at least five times, been to the Abyss and met the Queen of Darkness, seen the Kingpriest of Istar, and was close personal friends with Paladine. He wasn't my real uncle, as he was a kender, but Mama said he might as well have been my uncle as I seemed half kender anyway, because I was always losing what I needed and finding what I didn't. My pants had big pockets in those days and they were always full of useless junk.

Anyway, this Widow Burrfoot caused no end of talk around Solace. Mama said she behaved like a harlotous old gully dwarf, always running around on poor old Uncle Tas and him just sitting there taking it like a whipped dog. What he was thinking marrying a full grown human woman - that's what everybody wanted to know.

And boy was she ever full grown! She had half the men in Solace falling over their chins that day as she rode into town on the back of that horse, with Uncle Tas leading it by the halter and grinning like the goblin that drank the grog. But the widow (she wasn't a widow yet) just sat in her saddle scowling down her nose as though she didn't like the looks of Solace at all.

She was from Haven, and that's where Uncle Tas had met and married her. He always said he clearly remembered the first part, but not so much the second. He said that in Haven she had been a debutante in the hoidy-toidy, whatever that is. Mama said it meant she earned her keep by handing out towels to people after they visited the outhouse, like what you see at the finer inns in Palanthas.

I remember that first day like it was my Day of Life Gift. Mama and me were walking home from the market, me with a basket full of vegetables and Mama with a mouth full of nonsense, when we met them on the road from Haven. The widow wore these long white gloves that came up to her arm pits and a tall wizard cap with a bit of somebody's drapes hanging off the point. I suppose that was her hoidy-toidy uniform. Mama just looked at her and said there was no accounting for what a kender might bring home.

Uncle Tas had retired from the adventuring lifestyle and had opened this shop that he called Burrfoot's Museum of Krynn, where he kept some of the strangest and most wonderful things you ever laid eyes on. People would come all the way from Palanthas just to browse. Uncle Tas did business like a kender. If you found something you liked in his shop, you could take it, provided you left something behind.

One time I caught this old muddy boot while I was fishing in Crystalmir Lake. Uncle Tas wanted that boot, because he thought it might have been the boot that Flint Fireforge had lost that night they were escaping Fewmaster Toede and his toadies. He traded me a magic ring for it, a ring he said could turn you into a mouse. It was a most special shop that way, chock full of stuff you never would have thought of, and Uncle Tas had a knack for discovering the fascinating history of anything you might bring in.

But sometimes people didn't have anything to trade, so they would buy what they wanted. Pretty soon, Uncle Tas had become one of the richest people in Solace. Of course, him being a kender he didn't have much use for money except to buy presents for his friends or rounds of ale at the inn. He also donated a good bit of money to the Shrine of the Hat in Haven, which is where he met his wife. The kender had shrines to Paladine all over the place. There was the Shrine of the Feather and the Shrine of the Golden Span and of course they had the Shrine of the Fireball, until it blew up. But for all the money he gave away, Uncle Tas couldn't help making more. His shop was always full of customers, like gully dwarves in slop jar, Uncle Tas would say.

When he had about as much money as he could stand, Uncle Tas decided to take a vacation to Mt. Nevermind, where the gnomes live, so as to get some peace and quiet. I think he just wanted to get away from his wife, as she had started to run around with every sort of ruffian and scoundrel you care to name. He didn't take her with him, that was for sure. Maybe she didn't want to go, and I can't blame her, from what I've heard of Mt. Nevermind.

The widow stayed on minding the shop. You couldn't trade things anymore and all she wanted was money and lots of it, and she even tried to make me give back my magic mouse ring. I don't have to tell you, business slacked off pretty darn quick. After about a year, she closed up the shop and moved back with her family in Haven, 'to wait for Tasslehoff' she said. But he never showed up.

Part 2
© 2009 Jeff Crook

Legally Dead - Part Four

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

"Uncle Tas!" I shouted. "What are you doing here?"

And do you know what he said? He said, "EEEEEEAAAAAWWWWWWW!" I just about messed my britches. I yanked off those spectacles and there before me stood that mule that had busted up the auction.

"You wait right here," I said to him. "I'll go get somebody. I'll find Palin. He'll know what to do. They're selling all your stuff on account of you're dead and all."

I found Palin up near the front. They were getting ready to start the bidding on the magical stuff. I pulled on the hem of his wizard's robe.

"What is it, Ruell?" he said. 

"Come on. I need to show you something," I said.

"Can't it wait? I want to bid on a wand."

"No, come on," I said. I tugged and pulled until he finally gave up and followed me. He was a lot older than me and he was a wizard, but he was still young enough to listen to a kid and not turn him into a frog or something. I took him over to the tree where Uncle Tas was tied up. "There," I said.

Palin took one at the mule and said, "Reull," in the most disappointed voice I've ever heard come out of a person's mouth who was not my Mama.

"Here, look at him through these spectacles," I said. He heaved out a big, heavy sigh and took the spectacles and held them up to his eyes. Then he dropped them, he was so surprised.

Uncle Tas said, "EEEEEEEAAAAAAWWWWWWW!" and commenced to bucking and kicking.

"It's a good thing I've got the right spell memorized," Palin said. He pushed back his sleeves and went to work. Magic has always been a wonder to me, and seeing him cast that spell just about stood my hair on end. But when he was done and the smoke had cleared, there stood Uncle Tas with a rope around his neck and a bit in his mouth. He spit the bit out on the ground.

"Can you speak?" Palin asked him.

"I'm almost afraid to try," Uncle Tas said.

Well, I can't begin to describe the uproar when Uncle Tas pushed his way through the crowd, jumped up on a table, and snatched a magic bowl his widow's hand. Caramon Majere took one look at him and fainted dead away. The Widow Burrfoot screamed, grabbed the till, and ran off. That gnome, he just kept right on auctioneering like nothing had happened and they had to pull him down and stuff a rag in his mouth just to shut him up.

Seems when Uncle Tas had set out for Mt. Nevermind, he met up with a wizard just outside of Solace. He said he should have been suspicious from the start, because the wizard actually acted like he needed a traveling companion. Uncle Tas said there was something about him that seemed familiar, but he couldn't 'put the beard on the dwarf' and every time he tried he got a headache and a compulsion to think of something else.

They made camp that night and went to sleep by the fire, and when Uncle Tas woke up the next morning he was a mule. The wizard put a stall on his head and led him to the nearest farm, where he traded him for a bag of apples and a rusty bucket with a hole in it.

"And never have I spent a more miserable three years," Uncle Tas said. "After you've pulled a plow in the hot sun all day long, a mule isn't quite as grand a thing to be as you might imagine."

The Widow Burrfoot had hired the wizard to charm Tas into marrying her and then to get rid of him so she could sell his stuff. Though nobody remembered it, she had visited Solace about six months before and seen the musuem and how valuable it was and how Uncle Tas was practically giving his things away. After she took over, business got so bad (because she was such a greedy skinflint) she decided to auction it off instead, but to do that she had to wait three years to declare her husband legally dead and take full control of his estate.

A lot of folks wanted to know if they had to return the stuff they had bought, but Uncle Tas was only too glad to get rid of it, as it freed up space in his museum for the acquiring of new things. He let me keep those magic spectacles. Nobody ever saw the Widow Burrfoot again, and three years to the day of the auction, Uncle Tas had her declared legally dead. 

© 2009 Jeff Crook

Disclaimer - This story is not part of the official Dragonlance canon and was never intended to be so. It is fan fiction. The author has not been contracted or compensated for writing it. Yadda, yadda, yaday.

Legally Dead - Part Three

Read Part 1

Read Part 2

It just about broke my heart seeing that "harlotous old gully dwarf," as Mama called her, setting up for the auction. All sorts of strangers were coming and going, and where they came from was anybody's guess. The Widow had to have been given notice of the auction weeks earlier, but the trial was only the day before. The evening after the trial, me and some of the other kids in town had our own little memorial service out behind the museum. We talked about Uncle Tas and all the things he had given us and tried to remember all his best stories. Inside the museum, the Widow and her out of town friends were throwing a party you could hear all the way to Crystalmir Lake. Some of the older folk in town came by to shake their heads and suck their teeth, but Tanis Halfelven noticed us sitting in the trees in the dark and he came over and sat down with us. I showed him my magic mouse ring, and he told us stories about Uncle Tas that we had never heard before.

But we just couldn't get over it, Uncle Tas being dead and all, and the Widow about to sell off all his things. It was enough to make a person misdoubt the whole human race. I wished I was a half elf, too, and I told him so. Tanis just smiled. He was a great comfort to us.

The morning of the auction was sunny and breezy. They had set out all of the stuff from the museum on tables on the lawn and everything had been marked and tagged with a number. There was a list of all the numbers and what items they went with, and the items were divided up according to nature and value: art, jewelry, magic, and so on. She was even selling all the most worthless junk, the chicken feathers and bits of twine and river pebbles, which was what Uncle Tas had always loved best.

In addition to the strangers, there were people from all over, more even than were at the trial, and there were horses and mules and wagons clogging up the lanes, and the folks were browsing through all the things and talking about Uncle Tas. I wandered around, looking at this and that and trying not to cry. The Widow had her a whole throng of security men with ropes and cudgels securing the perimeter to keep the kender away. I could feel their eyes on me the whole time.

Just about the time they were ready to begin, a mule broke his harness and got in among the tables. He knocked everything over and kicked and bawled, the Widow screamed like you wouldn't believe, and her security men jumped all over it wailing away with their cudgels until the farmer showed up to claim his animal. The Widow threatened to sue him for damaged goods. The farmer led the poor beast away and tied it to a tree, but by this time it was already noon and they still had to set up the tables and straighten everything out, so everybody went home to find some lunch. Mama brought onion and apple sandwiches.

I sat on the grass and ate my sandwich and watched them sort through the mess. Then I walked around and looked at the tables the mule had missed. There was one table that big piles of junk piled into crates with a single tag on them. The gnome saw me fingering the merchandice and came over to make sure I wasn't stealing anything. I asked what this stuff was and started rattling off like an avalanche until I clapped a hand over his mouth and asked him to slow down.

So he said it again, real slow and deliberate, like he thought I was thick in the head. "These items are being auctioned by lot," he said. "What you see is what you get so you can pick through it's junk mostly but as this is a kender estate there might be a rare treasure tucked away in all this so we call it a grab bag even though its a bag not a box." She showed me a few things and kept talking, mostly about himself.

He was from Mt. Nevermind, so I asked if he had ever met Uncle Tas.

And he was off and running again. "NoIdidnotbutitispossiblehecouldhave..."

I put my hand on his mouth again. "He would have been there three years ago," I said.


"He must not have made it," I interrupted.


I wandered away and left him talking. Once a gnome got going like that, he no longer cared if anybody was listening. I rummaged through the items on several more tables until I came across a true treasure stuffed into an old pillow case. It was one of Uncle Tas' pouches, and it still had stuff in it! I wanted it like I've never wanted anything in my life, so I looked around until I found the Widow Burrfoot. She was setting up a table of magic items.

"Mrs. Burrfoot?"

"What?" she shouted, then she saw it was only me. She ran her hand through her hair and sighed as though at the tattered end of her last nerve. "What do you want, boy? Just look at all this stuff? How could one person have accumulated so much stuff?"

"He was special," I said. I held up the pouch I had found. "Can I trade you for this?"

"Sorry, no trades," she said. "Coin of the realm only, and beside, this is an auction, not a trading post. You'll have to bid on that if you want it."

"But it came from a grab bag," I said. "I don't want the rest of the stuff, just this pouch."

She rolled her eyes and sucked her teeth. "What have you got to trade?" she said.

"I'll trade you my magic ring that you've been wanting," I said. Her eyes lit up and I knew I had her.

I took my new old pouch and sat under a tree. Folks started heading back to the auction. I saw Palin Majere pass with his father and mother. Me and Palin were third cousins on my father's side. Poor old Caramon, he was taking things mighty hard. Him and Uncle Tas were about as good a friends as can be, they'd been through so much together. His nose was red and his eyes were swollen and Aunt Tika led him by the elbow as though he couldn't see where he was going. Things just wouldn't be the same around Solace without Uncle Tas. That was for sure.

You wouldn't believe the history that was in that pouch. There was a map of some rooms that was labeled Pax Tharkas. There was some writing on it that said Here is where Tanis found the sword of Kith-Kanan and I almost got eaten by a giant slug. That was fun! On another part of the map it said Here is where Fizban died. That wasn't fun. And next to it, in a darker ink, it said No he didn't!

The auction started and everybody finally realized why the Widow Burrfoot brought that gnome. He was the auctioneer. If ever there was a job suited for a gnome, that was it. I wish you could have heard him go.

I found all sorts of other maps. One was of part of Thorbardin and one was of Tarsis when it was beside the sea, back before the Cataclysm, which meant it was really old. Down in the bottom of the pouch I found an old piece of parchment rolled up around something. I unrolled it and saw that it was a page torn from a book, but the writing was so faded you couldn't read it. It had been wrapped around a pair of wire-frame spectacles. I put them on to see what they looked like, and all of a sudden I could read the writing on that old torn page. It was all about good dragons and looked like it had just been written.

Boy, wouldn't the Widow be kicking herself if she found out she traded a pair of magic spectacles for a dumb old magic ring that turns you into a mouse. I left them on my nose and walked around town to see what else I could see through them. For the most part everything looked just the same as it always had - the same trees, the same houses, same roads and shops. A few of the signs over the shops had other writing on them, which I guessed were the old names of places that had been painted over or weathered away. All in all, it was pretty boring and the spectacles, being so strong, were starting to give me a headache. Still, I thought, there might be something interesting at the auction, so I headed that way.

The place was pretty crowded and the auction was going good. You couldn't hardly find a way through all the wagons and mules and horses. The lawn was crowded, but there was also a good-sized crowd of kender sitting together off to the side, surrounded by security men. Off to the other side, there was a lone kender tied to a tree, and I figured they had caught him walking away with something valuable. He looked so miserable sitting there, without his pouches and a rope around his neck, I went over to see who it was.

When I saw his face, I just about fell over. It was Uncle Tas!

Part 4

© 2009 Jeff Crook

Monday, September 28, 2009

Legally Dead - Part Two

Read Part 1

The Widow Burrfoot showed up back in town three years to the day after Uncle Tas disappeared. She had a lawyer with her this time, a little spindly chap with a cough like somebody chiseling out a tomb. And she had a priestess of Gilean to judge the law, and she also had a gnome with her, but couldn't nobody see what he was for. The priestess posted a notice at the Inn of the Last Home, stating that a hearing would be held in three days, where it would be determined whether Tasslehoff Burrfoot, a resident of Solace, could be declared legally dead.

Now, when a man, dwarf or elf has gone missing for three years, he can be declared legally dead, but nobody knew for certain how long you had to give a kender, even an old one like Uncle Tas. Mama said that sometimes older kender go through a second childhood, and with it comes a second wanderlust, in which they feel compelled to return to all the places they saw in their first wanderlust and see how things have changed. Mama had a tremendous store of such wisdom, but I don't whether she was right because, as I have said before, half the time she didn't know what she was talking. It was hard to tell when to believe her because she was just as sure she was right whether she was right as rain or as far from the truth as the other side of the world.

People came from far and wide to hear the trial, because Uncle Tas was an original Hero of the Lance and they knew all his friends would be there. There were so many that the inn filled up and they had to move the court outside. It was a wonderful autumn day, as cool as you could want, with woodsmoke in the air and the smell of mulled cider barrels wafting through the trees. Days like this always reminded me of Uncle Tas. You'd find him sitting on a beer barrel under the tree beside his museum, telling stories of his adventures.

The judge opened her book, took up her pen and began to write. As she wrote, she called for any witnesses who could offer proof that Tasslehoff Burrfoot was still alive. Mama stood right up and told her theory of the second wanderlust. She said she never had much use for kender, but she hated to see one "wrongfully done in by the law." The Widow Burrfoot only scowled from her chair, but the judge copied it all down.

As Mama finished her explanation, the judge looked up from her book and said, "Do you mean to tell me this Tasslehoff Burrfoot is a kender?"

"Ain't you never heard of him?" I shouted from my seat at the back.

"Well, this does shed new light on the matter," the judge said. She turned to the Widow. "Mrs. Burrfoot, you failed to mention that your husband is a kender."

"I didn't think it mattered," the Widow said.

"I'm afraid it does. You see, there is no legal precedent for declaring a kender legally dead. There has never been any pressing need, as the estate of a kender is rarely disputed." The judge scratched her head and flipped through a few musty law tomes she had brought with her.

The Widow's lawyer stood up and cleared his throat. "May it please Your Honor," he said, "there is one case mentioned in the Chronicles of Astinus which, I am sure, has merely slipped your mind and would have occured to you at any moment." The Chronicles of Astinus was only the most holy work of the priesthood of Gilean, so I imagine the judge was not a little embarrased to be reminded by a lawyer of something written in her own book.

"Ah yes," she said. "I had forgotten. Please, do me the honor of reading the case for the record." She resumed writing.

The lawyer smiled and cleared his throat again. "It was a criminal case, not a civil dispute. It seems that a certain kender was accused of burglary..." At this, a roar of protest went up from the kender in the audience. The judge gave them a stern look and they quieted down. The lawyer continued, "This kender's defense was that he had been lost, wandering as he put it, for over three years, and since the statute had expired, he should have been declared legally dead. And if he were legally dead, then he could hardly have committed the crime in question. The case was resolved when the kender managed to have himself declared dead through another court."

"That would be Uncle Trapspringer," said a kender in the front row.

"Given this information, I believe the statue should be applied equally for all -- man, elf and kender alike," the judge said. "So unless anyone can come forward and offer evidence that Tasslehoff Burrfoot is still alive, I will be forced to rule in favor of Mrs. Burrfoot."

No one said a word, not even Uncle Tas' friends. The entire assembly was completely quiet, except for a mule somewhere that started braying like the trumpet of doom. It was as though we were witnessing Uncle Tas' death, right before our eyes. He had been, for so many of the people of Solace, especially us kids, such a huge part of our lives, and now a stranger was about to bring an end to all that. It was as though an age of the world was about to pass away.

The judge closed her book and put away her pen. "Mrs. Burrfoot, I regret to inform you that your husband is dead," she said.

The Widow Burrfoot stood up and faced the silent, stunned assembly. She said, "Tomorrow there will be a public auction on the lawn before my late husband's Museum of Krynn. You may begin viewing the objects for sale at sunrise. The bidding will begin at noon."

"Doweworknow?" her gnome asked.

"Yes," she said.

Part 3

© 2009 Jeff Crook