Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dragontales: “Sir George”

The Dragontales anthology (and yes, I’m still working my way through it) does its best to appeal to everyone, no matter what their preferred flavor of fantasy might be. So far we’ve seen game fiction, pulp sword & sorcery, and second-wave feminist faerie tales; it must therefore be time to delve into the comedic to lighten things up. We get it in the form of Carl Parlagreco’s “Sir George.”

Like most of the authors whose work resides in Dragontales, Parlagreco seems to have been an unknown writer who caught the eye of Kim Mohan & company when assembling the anthology. It is possible that this Carl Parlagreco is the same one associated with The Spartacus File (the dates seem to fit in any case), but again a cursory web search reveals little about the author’s post-Dragontales writing endeavors.

What is evident is that Parlagreco has a fondness for puns, play on words, and is undoubtedly familiar with the works of Douglas Adams: “Sir George” is that kind of tale. In it, we are introduced to the eponymous protagonist, a dragon who awakens one morning to deal with both a sore throat and a bold (if inept) knight named Byron Elpus, Lord of the Pristine Lands. Yes, that makes him “Lord Elpus,” who is just the first of several outlandishly-named characters.

Lord Elpus needs George’s head so that he can marry his beloved, the glorious Maiden Form. George, being rather attached to it, manages to convince the knight errant that a solution exists that would allow him to keep his cranium while still meeting the conditions placed upon Elpus. And thus an unlikely buddy tale in the vein of Dragonheart is born.

The illustrations that accompany the story are the work of an artist who signs his or her work as “Yeehan,” “Seehan,” or “Geehan” depending on how one interprets the first letter in their signature. The pieces are all competently rendered and their style fits a lighter, funny story.

Sir George is a one of the shorter tales in the anthology and being a comedy piece (especially on that relies on a lot of puns to deliver its comedic punch), there’s not a whole lot of depth or subtext to read into. That doesn’t mean it’s a poor tale, however, although one’s enjoyment will largely depend on your own attitudes towards word play in humor. Some of the puns are more dated than others, while still others are likely to sail over the heads of younger readers. It also ends on a slightly ominous note depending on how one chooses to read it.

Wong & Boris, Culinary Masters and Chefs of Renown

When the jaded palettes of nobility grow tired of stag, peacock tongue, and turkey-stuffed-with-chicken-stuffed-with-duck, they summon the legendary chefs, Wong & Boris. Once word arrives in their Kitchen Stronghold that their talents are required, the two masters of the culinary arts sally forth with the caravan of prep cooks, mobile larders, and chest of endless herbs & spices to wherever their skills are wanted. They charge a fortune for their efforts (one banquet they prepared for the Sultan of Yugglestan resulted in the economic collapse of the county’s infrastructure), but the results are well worth it.

It should be noted that Wong & Boris provide only the means to prepare and serve a meal, and the necessary garnishes and seasonings that accompany it, not the dish itself. For that, they typically rely on their employer or any number of wayward adventurers with empty pouches, loose morals, and questionable common sense. More than one out-of-work adventuring band met their end on a quest that bean with the appearance of an apron-clad, funny hat-wearing, mysterious stranger with an outrageous accent who sidled up to their tavern table with an offer of work.

These adventurers are tasked with the job of locating, killing (or sometimes capturing), and returning with the carcass of creatures running the gamut from anhkhegs to dragons to purple worms to tarrasques—all of which Wong & Boris have a dozen recipes for. Those adventurers who succeed with aplomb may even be granted a seat and plate at the meal (although usually seated at a small folding table near the kitchen).

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