— by Slodius Rex
Of all the stories in the world, none are as remembered or cherished as those our parents would teach us to keep us in line. Many cultures and races have many different ones and kinds, of course, but the main theme is always to trust your parents, seek guidance, or don't lie. All of these we learn to do the opposite, of course, but the spirit of it, and at their core, these stories are to make kids behave not as the parent really is. They are to instill innocence and keep the children safe a little longer before life whips them harder than any drunken father could.
The first tale comes from the Tieflings and falls in line with their macabre sensibilities. This is the tale of a little child --- the gender varies based on the teller, but let us say "boy" for this instance --- who likes to wander.
He wanders over hills and into glens, over rock and stone and brush and shrub. He is a Tiefling child, so his parents almost always have a good sense of where he is. One day, they sense him near the swamp (ostensibly any old swamp but it is actually Ognatum) and feel him turn back home. Once home, they command him to never set foot again in the swamp. He chuckles and says he is not afraid, but the parents are earnest in their commanding.
The next day, what is a child to do but go investigate why the swamp is off limits. He wanders near it, but not too close, for this boy was too clever for his own good. He spent the next few months tricking his parents into thinking he was making his play area near the swamp. It was so common for him to be near the swamp his parents grew lax in their commandment. And so, one day the boy journeyed into the swamp with trepidation.
The first thing he came across was a owlbear cub. It growled low at him, not liking his slightly sulfur smell. The boy laughed but did not approach. "Oh what a smart boy I am!" he said joyously. "I know an owlbear mother is close by! I am not deterred! I am a brave boy!" (The girl variation of this story sounds similar, but replace "brave" with "smart." For some reason, the Tieflings believe men to be almost wholly brave and women almost wholly smart.)
He continued onward, passing over fallen logs and murky puddles. In one felled tree he heard a rattle. "A-ha!" he said to himself. "This is merely a den of vipers! I will not be so fooled, and turn around and go a ways away!" And so he did.
Finally, he came to a small hut in the swamp. Smoke rose from the chimney and a hunched figure stood in the window, silhouetted by a flickering candle. "And this is a hag!" he gasped to himself. "I know this to be a hag because I am brave!" He nodded to himself as in self-assurance and went back the way he came.
But, oh poor boy, he did not know the enchanting swamp and its ways. He did not know the witch had sensed him the moment he entered her swamp and had him marked with powerful magic. Oh poor boy who now served a good stock in the witch's soup.
The next tale comes from the peaceable Elves of Rerya. Rerya is a very large place, especially compared to Evoria. This tale of the lost harp, though, is the same throughout every Forest there.
In the verdant and distant woods of Felia, a young daughter of a noble heard a sonorous harp waft on the warm breeze through her window. She fell in love with it and sought it out.
She looked hither and yon, but the sound never neared or retreated. In badger dens she thought she heard it, but it wasn't there. Under still pools she thought it was emanating, but nothing came of it. Inside great tree hollows she thought she heard the harper plucking, but nothing but air was found.
Disheartened, she returned home and her mother and father noticed her sour expression: "What troubles thou, my dearest?" they asked. "What sort of thing stirs deep in your soul to conjure this look of a lesser creature?"
"Oh, Mother and Father," she began through tears, "I am heartbroken! I heard the sound of a harp in the distance, but no matter what I do, I gain it not, and it doth escape my sight!"
"Now, now," said the father. "My dear, dear daughter! We shall seek out the council of the diviner. For he shall surely tell us its true location. We will seek him, yes! And next week at the earliest!"
"Week?" the daughter lamented. "No, Father, I must have it now!"
"But in a week, O my daughter, you shall have the exact coordinates to achieve your goal!" "Yes, Daughter!" the mother insisted. "Let us wait until next week to begin seeking him out."
The daughter acquiesced but in her heart she knew she must find it before then.
The next few days she spent in the woods. It was Midvernal, and the autumn leaves began changing. The clouds gathered and a terrific thunderstorm struck. She still followed the sound, singing sweetly through the sheets of rain. She would find that harp, or else die trying! Before a week? How could they suggest such a thing?
Well, dear reader, I hope you are very well aware of what occurred next: she, having traveled so far and wide as to follow the sound, found it finally. Yes, she prevailed! but not as she had thought. The player was clad in gray robes and had pale features. When he looked at her and smiled its teeth were wider on the bottom than the top, like a shovel. It smiled and greeted her warmly, giving her the harp and offering a quick lesson.
As soon as she took the harp, she froze. The golden thing was covered in a paralyzing dust! The creature reveled in her fear and danced as silent tears streamed down her fair face. Oh, if only she had waited! Oh, if only she had gone with her family to the diviner! He then could have warned her of the music that never stops and always sweet. The music of death. The music of skinwalkers.
Well, next is the traditional "boy who cried hobgolbin." This story has so many variations and retellings the original is hard to track down, but let me tell it here. The backdrop is southern Brin Balo, the home of Dwarves.
Once, there was a Human boy who lived in the shadow of Mil Bazon. His Dwarven parents loved him as their own kith and kin, and he was never in want. One day, he outgrew the hovel they stayed in, so he was taught by his father to find the wood of the area and how to chop it down in a way to allow for maximum timber. Spurred by this teaching, the teenager took to the far away wood.
Along the way, he grew very bored, for he was never satisfied with anything. He thought of a story of hobgoblins from the mountains falling upon him and taking them back to be a sacrifice to whatever evil thing they worshiped. He shuddered at the thought. But that thought fastened itself to him.
And so before he was too far from home, he yelled out that hobgoblins were coming! His father rushed with some townsfolk to his rescue, but only found the boy laughing to himself at their haste. His father asked the situation and chided him for behaving in such a way. The boy apologized and went again to cut down the trees.
But mark, you good reader, here at the same exact spot the boy got the idea of screaming for hobgoblins attacking him. Again the townsfolk rushed to the laughing boy. His father scolded him this time, and told him if he continued he would be throttled so soundly he wouldn't be able to lift his eyelids for a week. The didn't apologize this time.
A third time he set out for the wood. At the same spot before and the time before that he cried out. "Hobgolbins! Help!" but none came. He waited on this side of a hillock by a shrub by the road. A cold wind chilled his bones and a snow raven cawed at him before settled beside him. This bespoke a bad omen. He knew he was in for it. Probably hobgolbins, he thought to himself, have sent this raven to torture me! He bolted from the thicket back for home, and safety.
He looked over his shoulder, expecting to see hordes of the evil creatures trailing behind him, but there was nothing. He frowned to himself then turned to his home. It was all ablaze with war torches from orange-colored creatures wielding black and heavy blades. His father's head on a pike, his mother's body naked and covered in red. He turned pale and backed up, but hit something.
The thing was the general of the hobgoblins. "We came as fast as we could," he said in a very guttural voice. "We heard you cry out for help!'
And thus concludes the tales from Daeg to help keep children in line. To many younger children these tales will work beautifully, but the older children will be more skeptical as to their veracity. My advice, beef up the stories with higher stakes or use a different story all together. There are many, many more.