Once upon a time, in the lovely country of Finland, there lived a young man named Emil Larmi of Lahti. He loved playing ice hockey, specifically as a goalie, so he became a “hockey-playing knight,” wearing orange armor and winning important battles.
One day in very early June, not long after the hockey-playing knights had won the most important battle in the country, Emil was invited to join two of his countrymen, Juuso Riikola and Olli Määttä, in the faraway city of Pittsburgh! Emil immediately said yes, for Pittsburgh was known for playing excellent hockey.
Soon thereafter, Juuso and Olli visited him to explain how to travel to Pittsburgh, which was in a very confusing land called America.
“I have to get to Pittsburgh before you do, so I can’t accompany you,” Olli said. “However, you can ask me for help along the way through this magic Finnish flag, and I will greet you in person when you arrive.”
“And I have to visit Tux the Penguin in WBS to ask for his blessing over my new contract,” Juuso said. “But you can use this magic puck to ask me for help. It’s not as strong as the magic flag, so wait until you’re close to Pittsburgh to use it.”
“Thank you,” Emil said wholeheartedly. “I look forward to seeing both of you in America.”
A couple of weeks after this visit, Olli was sent to the Windy City, which was nowhere near Pittsburgh despite also being in America. He spoke to Emil through the magic flag: “Iceburgh the Penguin has promised to hug you on my behalf once you reach him in Pittsburgh. And you can still ask me for help on your journey there.”
With this in mind, on the first day in September, Emil made his way to America. It involved poking his hockey stick at the sky until the wind lifted him up, then staying still so the wind could place him on a cloud and carry him across the ocean. It took several hours for him to reach the border of America, where a very bored mage asked him several questions before allowing the cloud to drop him on the ground.
Emil looked around and was surprised to see lots of orange, not unlike his former team of knights. Even more surprising was the huge crowd partying with...a four-limbed snake?? Emil used the magic Finnish flag to ask Olli what on earth was going on.
“Uh-oh,” Olli said through the magic flag. “You’re in Philadelphia. They’re all celebrating that the snake’s soccer team got to the playoffs.”
“Oh, like that’s really something to celebrate,” Emil scoffed. “They still have to face Finnish great Alexander Ring.”
Olli coughed a cough that sounded strangely like ‘Niklas Moisander is better,’ then spoke properly: “You have to get to Pittsburgh. It’s about five hours by car, one hour if you find a nonstop flight, and...eight hours or so by train, I think?”
Emil gulped. “Am I close enough to ask Juuso for help?”
“I think so, but you’ll have to be careful. Philadelphia is enemy territory - if they weren’t all distracted by the soccer team, they would probably have spotted you by now.”
“Thanks.” He snuck to a small area and whispered into the magic puck. “Juuso, this is Emil. Can you hear me?”
“Not very well,” Juuso’s voice came through. “Where are you?”
“I landed in enemy territory somehow.”
“We have several enemies. Can you be more specific?”
Juuso groaned. “The mage must have misheard you. Keep your hockey stuff hidden. Do you remember the Penguin song we taught you?”
“Sing it under your breath. If someone sings back, tell them you’re waiting to buy paint with a friend. Once they take you somewhere safe, let me know. I’m leaving now.”
“Got it.” Emil put away the magic puck, checked that his stick was concealed, and began to quietly sing:
Birds who don’t fly, you know how I feel
Gray-colored sky, you know how I feel
Those who said ‘bye,’ you know how I feel
A soft voice responded:
It’s the strange dawn
Of a strange day
In a strange life
The singer, a woman in a black trenchcoat, came into view just as she and Emil sang the last line together:
Yet I’m feeling good.
“I’m waiting to buy paint with a friend,” Emil said carefully.
“You can wait for your friend in my home,” the woman said. She led Emil down several streets to an unassuming house and opened the door.
Emil gasped when a cat rubbed against his leg, but sighed in relief when he realized the cat’s collar was decorated with the Penguins logo. He took out the magic puck and spoke to Juuso: “I’m in a safe house now.”
“Good. I’ll be there in under two hours.”
As it turned out, Juuso’s estimate didn’t account for very bad traffic or the still-partying crowds in the street. It took him closer to two and a half hours to reach Emil in the woman’s house. The two men hugged tightly, gifted the woman with season tickets in gratitude, gifted the cat with Penguins-colored yarn for being so cute, and set off to Pittsburgh with a basket of food from the woman.
They reached Pittsburgh late in the day and were greeted by two very large penguins. One of them was smiling, but the other one was scowling. “Iceburgh, Tux, I bring you Emil Larmi of Lahti, who fought valiantly as goalie for the Hockey-Playing Knights in their very recent title success in our homeland, Finland,” Juuso said with a flourish.
The smiling penguin waved and gave Emil a big hug. “You must be Iceburgh, hugging me on behalf of Olli,” Emil said. Juuso and both penguins nodded. “It’s an honor.”
The scowling penguin glared at Emil, then at Juuso, then at Emil again. “I...may have cut short asking Tux for his blessing when I decided to head to the city of brotherly loathing,” Juuso admitted. “Considering there are plenty of safe places there if you know how to find them, I didn’t need to leave exactly when I did, strictly speaking.”
“Sorry, Tux,” Emil said. “I’m sure Juuso will go back to WBS for his blessing soon.”
Emil was proven wrong. Iceburgh was very picky when it came to goalies - some would argue he’d been spoiled in past years, but that’s a story for another day - so Emil wound up being sent to WBS to improve under Tux’s tutelage. Juuso, however, was told to stay in Pittsburgh, so he assumed he didn’t actually need the blessing from Tux and never went back to WBS. This annoyed Tux greatly, and he took it out (rather pettily and unfairly) on Emil, who fought right back. Eventually they made peace, but every so often they provoke each other for old time’s sake - and yet they still live happily ever after.