A most crisp autumnal greetings to you all, dear readers!
You’ll have to excuse my absence these past few weeks. Once again, one of the harpies became entangled in the magic printing press, this time breaking it completely in her panicked squawking. Incredibly intelligent as I am, I was able to disassemble the machine and figure out which parts were broken, but replacements were only available from a script wizard a few towns over. Geldrin volunteered to fetch them, but the trip took quite a while for his little legs.
Regardless, in his absence, I had no one to pen my words, thus no storytimes were sent out. Not that we could print them anyhow with the press torn apart and still covered with frazzled feathers. Now Geldrin has returned, we’ve fixed the press, and to the delight of all, you’re now reading a brand new storytime! I’m not sure how you all survived without me.
While our gnome friend was out trudging through the fallen leaves, he reports that many of the local villages were already getting ready for Stuffing Day! Hoards of townsfolk are sharpening their swords and axes, fletching crossbow bolts, and gearing themselves to the teeth for the annual Stuffing Day Hunt! For those readers who may not be familiar with this local holiday, it’s a day where mortals gather in vast mobs to trudge into the wilderness in search of the dangerous dire turkey. Once found, the bird is slaughtered and stuffed with some sort of seasoned bread before being cooked in a huge oven and served. For some reason, the stuffing seems to be most folks’ favorite part, thus most refer to it as Stuffing Day.
I personally only know all of this because last year, Geldrin invited me to come with him to visit his family during their celebration. It had been years since the gnome had seen his family, with him being so busy here in the lair, and I generously agreed to accompany him to visit his little gnome family.
Editor’s note: He bullied me into letting him come. I agreed, but only if he’d attend polymorphed into gnomish form. At this he said something about me being embarrassed to be working with a dragon, which is NOT true of course. In the end do you think any of my conditions were followed?
A few days later, we landed outside a small village situated in a pleasant, wooded valley. Dozens of tiny figures scattered in a panic as my imposing form flattened trees, bushes, and at least one fence. I expected to see Geldrin’s gnomish family greeting us, but the frantic citizens, though small in stature, seemed to more resemble halflings.
“Hmm… did I get land at the wrong village?” I asked the gnome. “Or have you actually been a halfling this whole time?”
“No and of course not,” he said as he climbed down from my back. “I told you this before, but I guess you weren’t listening. You really need to start paying attention to me when I…”
He rambled on for a bit about who knows what before actually providing important context.
“My brother Willrin married a halfling a few years ago. Anmia’s her name. Haven’t met her yet, but from the letters I’ve been getting from my parents, she seems nice. We’re all meeting at their house for Stuffing Day. Hopefully the in-laws were able to make proper accommodations for my… unexpected surprise.”
I have no idea what surprise he had in mind, but I cared little. I was mostly looking forward to this stuffing-filled dire turkey that I had been told about, though sentient meat it was not. In fact, I had heard that dire turkeys are some of the least intelligent creatures in the world. While disappointing, I still couldn’t pass up a chance to try a dish so celebrated.
We passed through the village, with Geldrin attempting to calm the terrified villagers as I stepped carefully over and around tiny halfling houses.
“I promise he’s a friendly dragon!” he called out, then turned to me. “I told them I was bringing my boss, and I know I mentioned what you are. I don’t know why this is so surprising.”
Eventually we arrived at a little house at the end of a cobbled street. Knocking on the door, a couple of grey-haired, bespeckled gnomes answered. They were even smaller than Geldrin! The one in front took one look at his son, and warmly embraced him in a fierce hug.
“My boy! My youngest son, it’s been years!” the mustachioed old gnome said, but then seemed to realize the dragon in front of him. “BY THE TINKERER’S TOOLS! You weren’t kidding! That’s an actual dragon!”
“Yeah, I mentioned that in my letters quite a few times,” Geldrin replied rather sheepishly. “Mom and dad, this is Grendel my… boss, I guess. Grendel, these are my parents—Orlin and Bantina.”
I lowered my head as low as I could to meet the gnome’s eyes and gave my most respectful greeting. “Well met. When’s dinner?”
“Oh! It’s almost ready!” replied Geldrin’s dad. “And you had both better have brought your appetites! The in-laws left me in charge of bringing the dire turkey this year and boy did I not disappoint! It’s going to be extra delicious! Though… the place at the table we set might not fit your friend…”
“Oh, no problem!” Geldrin replied. “Grendel can shapeshift! He’s supposed to be in gnomish form anyway…”
“Nonsense!” Orlin said, waving a tiny hand. “If a dragon’s attending our Stuffing Day feast, then we’ll make room for a dragon at our table!”
After a few more introductions and a ton of furniture shuffling, we were all set outside in a field, halflings and gnomes lining one side of a long series of tables, with a dragon and Geldrin on the other side. Various dishes filled the table, and in the middle of the green bean casseroles, sweet potato pies, and buttery rolls sat an absolutely huge (for a gnome or halfling) dish, covered with a large white sheet. Hobgoblin, human, or yakfolk meat it was not, but even I had to admit it smelled adequate. Geldrin’s father stood up and readied himself to reveal the main course.
“I just wanted to say…” started the gnome, “…that I’m just so thankful for the family and friends that are here. Thank you to Anmia and her family for hosting. Thank you to Geldrin for bringing the most interesting dinner guest we’ve ever had! And especially a hearty thank you to Anmia’s mother for allowing me to provide you all with this year’s bird! I know it smells good to me already, so I hope you all enjoy it! Dig in!”
With that, he pulled off the sheet with a flourish. What was underneath was… not exactly what I was expecting. Sure, it was big and vaguely bird-shaped, but the whole thing just looked a bit… off. Halfling faces around the table dropped from an excited look of anticipation to confused apprehension. Geldrin’s father seemed not to notice the lack of enthusiasm toward his weird bird and began carving it up. As halfling and gnome received their portion, I watched a most curious reaction to the meat occur—the gnomes seemed to love the stuff, but nearly all the halflings ate one bite, reacted with concealed disgust, then began eating other sides instead.
Eventually, after all the small folk’s portions had been distributed, the rest of the dire turkey—nearly half of the beast—was presented to me. I picked up the morsel and tossed it into my mouth. Finally! Though, instead of the texture of bone and flesh I was hoping for, what squished in my mouth was something ABSOLUTELY horrible. Immediately I spat the foul thing back onto the table.
“WHAT IS THAT?!” I hissed “Are you trying to poison me?!”
As Geldrin immediately began apologizing to his father and the other guests, his father burst into a hearty laugh.
“Ha! No problem! So sorry there, dragon!” said the gnome. “I wanted an honest reaction to it and that’s about as honest as I could get!”
He then turned to the rest of the table and addressed them once again. “Sorry for not warning everyone. I’ve been trying out a new recipe and I had hoped to get some feedback from everyone once they tried this dish. As you may know, we gnomes tend to be much more herbivore-ish in our cuisine. What you have on your plate it one hundred percent vegetable-based dire turkey! Not an ounce of animal is in it!”
What a horrible dish. What a horrible trick! If I had been the same mean dragon I was a few centuries ago, I would have roasted and eaten him instead just for lying to me. Gnomes around the table, though, seemed to react more impressed with the dish, while I could tell the halflings were severely disappointed. One halfling child even began crying as his mother explained that there would be no real stuffing-filled dire turkey for Stuffing Day.
Well, I couldn’t have it. I was hungry, and maybe I felt sorry for the halflings. I gave a quick, “Be right back,” and took flight, heading toward the forest. I searched for a few minutes, then spotted a small group of torches and pitchforks below me. A Stuffing Day mob! Perfect. I landed, much to the shock of the crowd, and bellowed out a quick, “DIRE TURKEY. WHERE?”
One of the shaking hunters gathered himself a bit, pointing to a set of large avian footprints on the path they had been following. I gave him a nod and took off, following the tracks until I found the oversized bird standing on a log, head up, beak open, staring at nothing in particular. Somehow the bird either didn’t notice the huge dragon creeping up on him, or he was so enamored with the sky that he didn’t even attempt to flee when I grabbed him. Flying off, I shook my head at the foolish creature. It wouldn’t be long till these things were extinct unless they could find a few brain cells to rub together. Oh well, intelligent or not, meat was meat and I had a holiday to save.
I made a quick stop at a bakery back in town, demanded all the stuffing they had, ripped off all the feathers covering the bird, stuffed it and roasted it for a few minutes with my fiery breath before landing back at the table. I threw down the large bird with a thud and bellowed a fierce, “THERE. MEAT. EAT.”
The halflings all gave a mighty laugh, cheered my praises, then dug in. I’m no chef, but even my quickly thrown-together meal seemed to satisfy my fellow carnivores. Geldrin’s father even seemed somewhat relieved.
“Dragon, I must thank you,” he said, patting my claw with his tiny hand. “I was so excited to show off my new recipe, I didn’t even take halfling palate into consideration. Thank you and happy Stuffing Day to you!”
So that’s how I saved last year’s holiday. Hopefully this year we’ll get some real meat when we visit Geldrin’s family again. And for you, dear reader, I hope you have a wonderful Stuffing Day, wherever and however you celebrate it! Until next time, continue to season your delicious minds with knowledge and turkey!