Vivi & The All-Lands Tournament- Event 01
Gearing up for the fun
Vivi has tamed griffons, dragons, owls and many sizes of cats. She just has a hard time in crowds. The All-Lands Tournament is only held every other year and it's the perfect opportunity to learn new things, have fun and meet new people. But hopefully not too many people. The food vendors would be interesting, if she didn't have to bring all of her own food anyway. There's so much to do and see, at least before she has to go take a break in a quiet spot. Who knows what other opportunities await?
Follow the adventures of Vivi and Rary as they navigate the twists and turns of competition and cooperation in this middle-grade whimsical fantasy.
This story is the result of my daughter’s requests to have me write stories about her stuffed animals, one of whom is actually a griffon. As usual, things got more and more complicated, until I ended up with an entirely new world, separate from Euphony of Seasons and the Torchmouth Saga, but with a lot of familiar elements too. Going forward this series will largely make up ZMT Books’ middle grade offerings, and allow us to reach even more readers with heartwarming stories about friendship and doing the right thing, all decorated with our signature humor and style.
I highly recommend you read this on the Substack website, as this post is a multimedia experience. You’ll find many audio embeds below that score the story, and they won’t function as intended in your email client. Only one track can be playing at a time, so if you reach the next one and the first is still playing, just start the one you’re on and they won’t overlap. If you like the music you hear, please consider supporting the artists as well.
Find all the available Events at the main story page!
"Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise." -Psalm 98
Event 01- Preparation
An icy wind blew in from the wide ocean, as though the seagulls wheeling overhead were upset that no one had dropped a pile of bread or French fries for them to feast on yet. They would harass everyone by summoning the frigid ocean air until they got their way. Although, none of them were courageous enough to risk getting close to the griffon bounding around on the pier, causing disconcerting creaks every time he landed on the old wood with his scaly front talons. The wind ruffled the white feathers on its head and the brown fur on his body, fluttering the wide brown wings on his back.
"Come on, Vivi!" the creature yelled through his yellow, curved beak. "Let's go! I'm too excited to wait!" He stamped up to a pile of barrels and coils of rope, behind which was crouched a short, brown-haired girl.
At first, you couldn't tell that her hair was brown, since it was all bound up in an orange bandana tied around her head. You also couldn't tell she was short, because of the crouching. But she was both of these things, and a lot more besides.
"Hang on, Rary," she said unsteadily. "I'm still feeling seasick after the boat ride."
"Aw, you'll be fine after getting up and walking around for a while," Rary insisted. "Why don't you just eat another ginger candy?"
Vivi held an empty plastic bag toward him, crusted with specks of sugar. "Because you ate them all…"
"Oh, that's right." Rary stretched his wings out, blocking the overhead sun from reaching her hiding place. "They make me feel strong and vigorous! That's an especially good thing today, right?"
"I guess we'll see," Vivi said, standing up to her full height, only a head taller than Rary's white crest feather. She dusted off her dark blue pants, tucked into black boots lined with brown. Even with the decorated green jacket over her shoulders to keep her warm, she decided taking a walk somewhere warm might not be a bad idea.
From the closest barrel, she picked up a white canvas bag, slinging it over her shoulder, then took up the most important cargo of all. A diminutive blue and gold dragon had been patiently watching the exchange between the girl and her griffon. Vivi helped her slide into the largest pocket on the front of her jacket, a tiny blue head peeking over the top of the cloth.
"I'm glad Sapphire doesn't get motion sick, too." Vivi patted the dragon on her scaly head, causing her to gleefully blow a stream of pink bubbles.
"Yeah," Rary said, following the two away from the edge of the pier. "Who knows what she might cough up?"
About halfway down the length of the dock, Vivi felt a gust of wind push at her, and she felt the urge to turn around. Like most of the urges she felt, she did it. The little white boat which had brought the three of them was still docked, unloading the last few passengers and crates of cargo. A girl in a black dress with a wide hat stood at the gangplank, a broom under her arm. She was waving a shiny ticket in the air and arguing with the captain about staying on for another leg of the voyage.
Part of Vivi wanted to run back and ask to be let on again too, to go back home and fly kites and explore the woods and hunt for geodes in the creek bed. But they had already gotten this far. There wouldn't be any turning back now. Except for that turning back just then. But that was all.
Rary was already at the gate, his brown tufted tail twitching as he waited for them to catch up. Brightly colored tents and banners awaited the three travelers, long pennants flapping in the persistent wind. Signs were printed in several languages, from neat English capitals to flowing, accented Spanish, orderly Dogland code, and many others. One long red banner looked as if it had been scratched up with a gold-tipped pen.
"Look Rary, they even have signs in Gryffish. I wonder if we'll find any other griffons here."
"That would be great!" he cheered in agreement. "Maybe I could learn some tricks from them." His head hung lower as he plodded along. "But what if they don't like me, or make fun of me?"
"You'll never know unless you try," she said firmly.
The group queued up behind a tall red-haired boy, his warm jumpsuit covered with pockets. At his side was a sleek dog with ice-white fur, wearing a harness with metal plates on his chest and back. Rary studied his potential competitor carefully, while Vivi got distracted by everything and everyone around them. This wasn't difficult under normal circumstances, and even easier now, with people from every Land, each paired up with more kinds of different creatures than she could count.
Stately lions preening in the sun, feathered birds walking around on their wings like hands. What looked like an octopus rolling along on its tentacles, next to a spiked and horned golden dragon. A tall teddy bear wearing boxing gloves, beside a few robots, some sleek and polished, others leaking steam from their joints. Slow moving plants, throwing root over root to crawl along. One creature was nothing but a large, featureless rectangle of stone, floating along ominously. Who knew what that could even do?
Vivi turned around. She must have walked to the front of the line automatically, because there she was. Rary was similarly distracted, and Sapphire was gently nudging her elbow. She approached the table covered in green cloth and gold tassels, to speak with the impatient-looking clerk. His uniform matched his desk: green button-up shirt with yellow epaulets.
"Oh, sorry. Um…here." She reached into her handy haversack for the right piece of paper. "Here's my registration form."
The clerk read it over, handling it gingerly to avoid the dirt in one corner and the beak-marks in the other. Vivi pet Sapphire to keep from being too nervous. The fellow tapped at his little tablet computer. "I don't see your file here…"
"I mailed it in," Vivi said. "The Internet can be a little spotty where we live."
"Ah." The clerk turned to a plastic file box and rifled through that instead.
Behind them, an exasperated snort drew everyone's attention, and clearly on purpose. "Unbelievable," came a pleasant, yet snide voice. "How long are they going to keep us waiting?"
Vivi turned partway to see the newcomer, pretending to look somewhere nearby so she didn't have to look directly at them. Standing there was a taller blonde girl, her hair tied in ringlets around her face and shoulders. She was dressed for the weather; a long brown fur coat covered her to her knees, under which was a heavy black-striped dress. A square fur hat protected her head, and instead of gloves, she carried a small muff to hide her hands. Though her face was fair and delicate, it was currently marred by the sneer she had put on it.
"What is the meaning of this…" she continued to mutter, partially to herself and partially to the regal winged horse that stood beside her, looking just as haughty and important. "We didn't have to wait this long at the regional tournament."
"Of course, Miss Marguerite," the horse replied, shaking his white mane. "I will see what can be done to expedite the process." No sooner had he put a hoof forward than the clerk held up a signed form.
"Alright, Miss Vivi, we have everything in order here." Vivi relaxed her shoulders while Rary let out a relieved squeak. The gold ribbon pinned to the bottom of the form fluttered in the breeze. "You're registered as the representative from Griffonland. You have entries for the battle pavilion, the air race, and the log pull. And this is the competitor," he pointed to the eager griffon sitting in front of the table, "Braveheart?"
"Rary!" Rary said.
"Ah, it says here Braveheart…"
Vivi intervened before they lost any more time. "Yes, 'bravery' is 'rary' in Gryffish, that's why we call him that."
"Very good," the clerk said, which wasn't one of Rary's names, but that was alright. "And what about the faeriedragon?" He pointed to Sapphire, who nodded back.
"She isn't competing," Vivi said. "She's just here because she's too young to stay at home."
"Understood. She'll need to wear an exhibition badge, then…here's a small one." He rummaged around in a box for another item. "Alright, here are your competitor badges and your medal holder. That should be everything you need for now. Good luck and have fun!"
Vivi and Rary thanked him with words, while Sapphire blew an orange bubble that popped with little red sparkles. They headed for the entrance gate, which was good since their impatient neighbors wasted no time approaching for their turn.
"I'm Marguerite, representative of Princessland, and this is Halcyon, you'll find our forms at the top of the priority queue!"
Rary shook his beak while he padded along. "I wonder what her deal is…"
Vivi took the lanyard off the gleaming red badge and pinned it to her jacket, admiring the shine in the afternoon light. "She shouldn't be hasty, it's bad for you."
"Right, hasty is a spit word!" Rary flicked his tongue to illustrate his derision. "Ptah!"
"No, don't start that again!"
"Whoops, I forgot about her…"
Sapphire wiggled in her pouch and gleefully spat too, except what came out of her mouth was a bright pink ball that exploded like a tiny firecracker.
"No more spit words," Vivi warned as she slipped the thick lanyard around Rary's neck, the green glass of his badge matching his eyes. The currently empty medal holder clipped onto her belt, and the quarter-sized blue badge went on Sapphire's neck. She had to re-tie the cord to fit it over her large snout, but finally it was done.
When everyone was suitably adorned, the gate guards tipped their helmets and let them through. The dock area seemed practically empty compared to the main grounds themselves. Confused handlers tried to find their way around, while patient staff members attempted to guide them. Some of the more competitive creatures had gathered for impromptu sparring matches and training sessions; seeing which lanky monkey-like creature could scale the light poles the fastest, or which muscular, multi-armed fighter could lift the most tables or benches at once. Bonus points if they had people sitting on them, and even more if they didn't fall off!
Vivi stood for a few moments taking it all in, also trying to remember where they were supposed to go first.
"So, where are we headed?" Rary asked, as if she had spoken her last thought out loud. But she might have actually done it, that happened sometimes.
"Um, let me check the schedule…" Sapphire squirmed as Vivi reached into her haversack again, but she hadn't found the paper before she heard a girl's voice.
"Vivi, there you are!" An orange and black blur came speeding up and stopped just short of Rary. A girl about Vivi's age followed, holding onto her wide-brimmed pink hat to avoid losing it. Her jacket was red and her shoulder bag brown leather with little brass stars, but otherwise her outfit was quite similar to her friend's.
"Good morning, Clara," Vivi answered. "And hi, Amur."
"You're so funny," Clara said, glancing up at the noonday sun, twisting a lock of her long brown hair in her fingers. "I'm so glad you made it, though. After that big rainstorm, I was sure your awful driveway would get washed out."
"It did," Vivi said calmly, watching Rary and Amur circle each other like cats about to pounce. "But we just walked through the woods to get to the road." She scratched at the hair under her bandana, picking out an errant piece of moss.
"Of course," Clara said, grinning. "So, what are you doing first? We already had a round in the battle pavilion."
"Indeed, we did!" came the nearby tiger's booming voice. He padded over to the girls and sat on his haunches like a house cat. "And a fine run I had as well. My claws and fangs struck fear into the hearts of my opponents," he showed off these fearsome features in turn, despite as awkward as talking while showing your fangs was. "Or, whatever functioned as their hearts, I suppose."
"Oh, did you fight any robots?" Rary chimed in. "I heard if you hit them too hard, you might end up more hurt yourself!"
"That's quite possible, young Rary." Amur curled his thick tail while he spoke.
Clara was smiling at their creatures' antics, then turned back to her friend. Vivi furrowed her brow for a moment, then remembered what they had been talking about. "Oh, right." She pulled the schedule from her jacket pocket. "Let's see, first on the agenda is the—"
"Air race competitors!" A deafening voice on a loudspeaker pole cut through the conversation. "Please make your way to the Cloud Tower, the event will start in five minutes!"
Vivi checked the black watch clipped to her belt. "Oh great…"
"You can still make it," Clara encouraged. "Just go, we'll catch up!"
Keep an eagle/lion eye out for another Event next week! Don’t want to wait for the rest of the posts? Read the whole story right now from ZMT Books.