Nardar Castle

Coming around the corner, trailing his spent egg cart behind him, Rahn spied a young girl dancing enthusiastically.

Her strong lower tentacles moved swiftly, rhythmically beneath her, and his heart fluttered. He couldn’t help but smile, and the girl smiled back at him. As he drew closer, he realized she was singing “Nardar Castle’s Burning Up,” just as he had so many times as a child:

Nardar Castle’s burning up
Burning up
Burning up
Nardar Castle’s burning up;
Run for safety!

Songs like that never go away because teachers never get to buy new books, Rahn thought wryly. Just the same old book of kids’ songs since time immemorial. “Nardar Castle.” “Circle Round the Zarxbush.” “Obey, Obey, for Xalax is Nigh.” Songs everyone knew but could never remember actually learning. Songs that had slightly different words in other communities, making their singers look as silly as other communities’ singers looked to them.

“Awesome Fear.” That was a good one, too.

The real Nardar Castle is a tourist trap in Mlgana now, Rahn remembered in a flash. It’s one of those stories some people know and then share around like no one has ever heard it. Nardar Castle really did burn up, or at least a major part of it, and the people of RRgzax had sold the ashes and some smoldering stones to the nothing town of Kwiu, Mlgana to try and make up some of their lost tourism revenue.

Maybe the little girl had already sat through this anecdote, perhaps just after learning this song. He smiled and then shuddered to think how quickly things got spoiled.

The cart behind him jangled a horrible metallic jangle as a ragged rusty edge caught on the cooler door. Twice in his early days on the job he had sent a case of eggs clattering to the floor this way. It turned out it really wasn’t important to do this job quickly, just not egg-breakingly.

If I ever have kids, Rahn thought, I’m never going to tell them about Nardar Castle. Someone else can be that boring.

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