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Friday, 1st October, 2004, 11:11 AM #1
Maissen: Shades of Grey [UPDATE 12/12, post 199]
This Story Hour is set in Alish2o’s homebrew world of Maissen.
The session notes and write up were all* done by me. Following our first session I simply typed up a brief summation of the night’s highlights, and made sure to include the names of prominent NPCs. It’s horribly dull, even for those of us that were there, but it was never meant to be anything but a list of reminders.
Obviously that won’t do for a Story Hour. So those notes have been extensively rewritten to resemble conventional prose. I took the opportunity to showcase some facts about the setting, using my character Ren as the main focus (which let me type up his backstory as prologue ).
Starting after the second session I made an effort to make the write-ups actually interesting to read, but I also wanted to prevent them from coming off as, “The Adventures of Ren and Pals.” The price of that was widespread use of the passive voice.
So there will be a drastic change in voice once the story goes into the second gaming session. Short of a complete re-write of every session’s write up (currently at 53 pages!) and centering the perspective on Ren, the passive voice is here to stay.
For that same reason, the episodes following the first two or three are going to read more like an adventuring log than a story. I hope you find it all interesting nonetheless.
If I follow through on my plans, this Story Hour will be updated two to three times a week, with any relevant meta-game notes posted following the updates.
*except session 05, which I missed.
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Friday, 1st October, 2004, 11:23 AM #2
With a smile, Ren d’Hayson backed quietly out of the kitchen. Popa Thorson’s servants were too busy looking over the kill he had just brought in to notice his exit. This doe wasn’t the biggest the hunter had ever brought to the nobleman’s house, but it was close. It would more than do for this feast Popa Thorson was said to be preparing.
Ren didn’t care about any of that. He did care about the two gold coins he’s been promised for the deer, but even that wasn’t the focus of his thoughts. All he really wanted right now was what he only ever really wanted when he came to Popa Thorson’s home. He ducked through a side room, opened one of the doors, and there she was.
The dark haired beauty sat with her back to him, concentrating on her stitching. To her right was a tall stack of neatly folded and freshly mended clothing. The pile yet to be mended was much smaller and Ren’s smile grew wider at the sight. It meant she could probably spare a few moments.
He stepped softly into the room and eased the door closed behind him. The woman’s rhythm didn’t miss a beat, and Ren was satisfied she didn’t know he was here. Step by quiet step he crossed over to her, ready to cover her eyes and surprise her.
“You know they don’t like you sneaking around like this, Ren,” the woman said, not even looking up from her work.
Surprised, Ren stopped short and felt his heart throb in his throat. He shook his head to regain his composure and then leaned in close to her. “What about you, Lela?”
She giggled and finally set her stitching down. Casting her glance up at him, she smiled. “It’s not really sneaking when you stink of hunting so much I can smell you across the room.” She stood and took his hands in hers. “But let me show you how much I like you sneaking your way to me.”
Lila stepped closer to Ren and their lips met in a long kiss. When at last they broke it, the couple smiled happily at each other. Both faces showed a mix of Maissen and Churky blood - Ren’s more the latter, Lela Needleset’s more the former. They were minorities in the nation, and though neither were slaves the potential was always hanging over their heads. Anger the wrong full blood Maissener noble and their fate would be set.
Happier thoughts were on their minds just now though. Quiet moments alone together were all too rare.
Lela’s smile turned to a teasing smirk. “You left a few deer in the woods to hunt later I hope?”
“For now,” Ren answered. “But if I had to kill off the lot to bring our wedding day closer I would.”
Lela looked away and chewed at her lip. “How much further do you think…..” she let it trail off.
Ren knew his love’s worry. It had been awhile since she gave it even that much voice, which meant he could give her a pleasant surprise today after all. “Soon. Within a year, I think. Counting what I got promised today I have 62 gold saved.”
Lela turned back to him, her eyes so wide Ren could see every bit of their pretty brown color. “You’ve been busy,” she said, “You only had 49 when winter began.”
“The gods have blessed us with an exceptionally good season,” Ren replied. “If they keep it up through summer, by fall I’ll have enough to satisfy your father.”
With a gentle laugh, Lela shook her head. “He won’t know what to make of that. Stars, *I* don’t know what to make of that.” She paused. “It won’t make him happy, that’s a for sure thing. He’s still trying to arrange a marriage to someone with full blood.” Another pause and her eyes drifted. “Anyone with full blood I think.”
“The way the Maissen are about full blood marrying someone not full blood, with their rituals, long engagements, and other tricks they make us do, I think his chance has passed,” Ren said. His smile opened to show teeth. “And he made his condition right out in public at the temple, I know two or three priests heard it, so he’s bound to it.”
Lela’s eyes brightened again. Dropping her voice she comically quoted her father. “’When you have four score gold you can marry my daughter.’” She shook her head again, smiling. “He never imagined a groomer’s son could gather such a fortune.”
“This one will,” Ren said.
He paused, imagining the shocked look Lela’s father would have when he threw the bag of gold to Goodman Needleset’s. It would have to be someplace public, probably a temple feast, so he couldn’t deny the proof before him or back out of his word. This had been his goal for four years, the main reason he took up hunting.
Once he started, Ren discovered how much he enjoyed being out in the wild, and how good he was at hunting. He’d quietly developed a reputation as the premiere hunter of Vaunth-on-the-Lake, bringing fresh meat to the local nobles and common butchers. Not only did it also allow him to build up the small fortune he needed, but it was a far better way to earn a living than the life of a groom. Tending horses, mules, and the other common pack animals of the town was the d’Hayson family business, but Ren only helped a little since he’d focused on hunting. His parents and eight siblings were really more than enough to handle the work.
The door opened, stirring Ren from his thoughts. He and Lela, hands still clasped together, turned to see Shonder, Popa Thorson’s chief servant, standing in the doorway. The old man glanced briefly at the couple’s hands, which promptly released each other.
“There you are, Ren,” Shonder said in his signature low, gravely voice. “I have something for you.” With one hand he reached into his finely stitched tunic and pulled two gold coins and a small bit of rolled parchment from a deep pocket. He held these out but didn’t move toward Ren. The implication was clear.
Ren gave Lela a smile and rolled his eyes before walking to the door. Shonder stepped into the next room, making the leather clad hunter follow. The servant closed the door to the sewing room and stood before it.
“Your promised payment for the deer,” he said as he handed the coins to Ren. He waved the scroll before Ren’s nose. “This,” he said, “is an invitation to an audience with Lord Thorson tomorrow evening.” Shonder held it for Ren to grasp, but did not let go. “I suggest first that you interpret it as something more than a polite request, if you can grasp my meaning. Secondly, I suggest most strongly that you bathe before entering this house again.”
Shonder released the small scroll and stepped across the room. He opened the far door as Ren opened the scroll. It was nothing more than what Shonder had said. There was no hint why one of the most powerful men in Vaunth-on-the-Lake wanted to speak with Ren. The two had met once or twice and exchanged expected pleasantries, but nothing to merit a private meeting.
“What’s this all about?” Ren asked.
Shonder pointed to the next room, the servants entryway. “Good day, Ren.”
Knowing he’d get nothing from the pompous old man, Ren pocketed the scroll and coins and made his way home, wondering all the way if he was in trouble.
Friday, 1st October, 2004, 11:52 AM #3
Session 01, part 1 Meetings and Explanations
Dusk the next day found Ren standing before the door to Popa Thorson’s home. The FRONT door. He had never crossed that threshold before and was having trouble bringing his hand up to knock.
Shonder’s advice, despite how arrogantly it had been given, was good advice. Ren had bathed and dressed in his finest clothes, which made him look like a cleaned-up field hand but that was the best he could do. He wasn’t about to spend precious coin on clothes he’d only wear once.
Over the last day and a half, Ren had dreamed up countless reasons why Popa Thorson wanted to see him. Most were ridiculous. Quite a few involved Ren being somehow in the noble’s bad graces. But none of them really made any sense. Ren’s ragged fingernails, now bitten down to the nubs, were testimony to how much this was driving him mad.
Steeling himself, Ren forced his hand to knock on the door.
It opened almost at once. Shonder, in another of his fancy outfits, looked him over. “You cleaned up. Very good. This way then.” With that, the old man stepped aside and gestured Ren inside.
As soon as he crossed that threshold the hunter felt very much a fish out of water. Thick rugs, detailed tapestries, colorful plants in fine pottery atop delicately carved stone stands, and more shows of wealth decorated the wide hall. Ren gawked at the riches as Shonder closed the door and led him to the corner stairs. They walked up those stairs and around an inner balcony and Ren’s nervousness returned. Any one of the things he’d seen could feed his entire family for months. What would such a wealthy man want with a common hunter, or even an extraordinary one, that needed a private meeting?
“You are the last to arrive,” Shonder said, bringing Ren out of his thoughts.
“The scroll didn’t say anything about others,” he said.
Shonder sniffed. “Would it have made any difference whatsoever?”
Ren bit his lip.
“I didn’t think so,” Shonder said at the hunter’s silent answer. “Here we are.” The old servant gently rapped on a heavy looking door and waited. A muffled answer came from inside and Shonder opened the door.
Ren took a deep breath and stepped inside.
The smell of scented oil from the lamps struck Ren at once. Two of them sat on the wide table that dominated the room. Two others hung low near corners, casting light on the nearby shelves, full of books and scrolls.
Ren recognized Popa Thorson immediately. The big, bearded man was a large as he was generous and in his oversized chair he was the focal point of the room. Three of the other four seats around the table were occupied; Popa Thorson waved Ren to the one that wasn’t.
“And here is the fourth,” the master of the house said as Ren took his seat. “Shonder will send word for the dinner.”
The servant wordlessly nodded and closed the door. Ren took that moment to glance over the other guests. Next to him was a man he didn’t recognize, but judging from his expensive looking outfit the two probably ran in very different circles. Next to that man was a woman in leathers much like Ren’s own and suddenly Ren felt a little bit of relief. That was Bessie Fisherman, a druid that he had met once or twice before. On Ren’s other side was someone wrapped head to toe in robes. It was impossible to even tell if it were a he or she.
Popa Thorson cleared his throat, snapping Ren’s attention back to his host. “You are all here to answer the call of heroes. I have been given permission by the Council to assemble a team for the decennial quests. I have chosen you four, if you are willing.”
He paused to let that sink in. He had to pause for several moments. What he was saying was outrageous.
Everyone knew about the Quests. Every ten years or so the ruling council in Maissen chose several prominent national figures to assemble a team of Heroes, “Heroes of Maissen”, to spend a few months out beyond the national borders. If the heroes returned in time and with proof of heroism, then it proved their sponsor was a good and wise leader. He, or she, was then allowed to found a new settlement somewhere.
Critics, what few there were that spoke openly of such things, decried the whole thing as stifling, resulting in inorganic national growth. They also decried the restriction of traveling beyond Maissen’s borders. The ruling council’s age old reply to the critics was the simple fact the nation’s resources had to be tightly managed. Willy nilly growth and far wandering citizens would stretch things dangerously thin, and Maissen was surrounded by enemies.
The system had worked so far. Maissen boasted several towns and cities and was safely stretched along the coast. But that all left a burning question.
“So why us then?” asked the man beside Ren.
It was exactly what Ren had been thinking. People that went out on these adventures as Heroes of Maissen were the great ones. He checked himself. People that -returned - from these adventures were the great ones. Their lives were lives of fame and fortune, without the sort of mundane concerns that hung over common folks such as the d’Hayson family. It would be great beyond words to be a Hero of Maissen.
But most of the people who went out into the wild to chase that title never returned. They were honored and remembered in death, but they were still dead.
“I picked you four for your talents, Thorson answered. "Killian, as a sorcerer your natural spell casting talent will be useful wherever you find yourself. The rest of you excel at thriving in the wild. Bessie, as a druid you have an innate connection with nature and can heal any wound. Ren is hunter known for his stealth and keen eye. Madge is ranger, at home in the wild and strong in a fight – and there will be fights.”
Ren squirmed in his seat. A sorcerer, a druid, and a ranger?! He felt a little outclassed and a little redundant.
Popa Thorson seemed to read this. “I assure you all, I have given the composition of this team long and serious consideration. Individually you are outstanding. You represent strength and stealth and magic both arcane and divine. You are the best at these that Vaunth-on-the-Lake has to offer. Together – I have complete faith you will be even better.
In her robes, Madge spoke up. “How long do we have to prepare?”
At the question, Thorson’s shoulders dropped. “You are to be in Maissen the city, ready to depart, in three weeks time. The local ceremony to see you off is in three days.”
The other four glanced back and forth at each other, mouths open, eyes wide in disbelief.
Popa Thorson held up his hands. “I know. Believe you me, I know,” he said. “Tradition calls for a year, but little about this is traditional.” He stood and began to pace around the table.
He’d only taken three steps when the door opened. Dinner had arrived. Shonder and three other servants laid out a small feast of spiced fowl, potatoes, and more, while Popa Thorson and his guests sat in uncomfortable silence. When at last all the food was in place and the servants departed, he continued.
“I have made enemies on the Council,” he said, “and I believe they are trying to present me as a fool. If I, by way of you four, fail, I become irrelevant in all things.”
“You become irrelevant,” Madge said, her voice gravel. “We become dead.”
“You are not forced to do this. None of you are.” Thorson paused and took a long drink. “I regret that this is thrust upon you so suddenly but there is nothing to be done about that. What I can promise you is that you will have the very best equipment available. You tell me what you want and I will get it for you.”
That got Ren’s attention. “Really – anything?”
“Short of horses,” Thorson answered. “Those are beyond even my reach.” Everyone nodded at that. A single horse cost probably as much as the house they were in, and everything in it.
“That,” said Killian as he reached for some chicken, “I believe we can work ‘round.”
Thorson smiled at the group. “Furthermore, I have gifts now that will help your adventure.” He stood and stepped over to one of the room’s shelves.
After gethering four bundles, Thorson stepped over and handed them to his new Heroes one by one.
"Bessie, a scroll that will summon a powerful ally of nature to aid you. Killian, a wand that detects magic. Ren, a pair of arrows that will slay any natural beast they strike. And Madge, two doses of a potion that will increase your strength and stamina."
Popa Thorson let them handle their gifts for a few moments before speaking. “So then. What do you say to my offer?”
Only one thought was playing through Ren’s mind. Lela. If he returned, Goodman Needleset wouldn’t dream of standing in the way of their marriage. He smiled. That was worth any risk.
“I’ll do it,” he said.
Beside him Killian was stroking his chin as if a beard were there. “Y’ can count me in too, Thorson.”
“It sounds interesting,” Bessie said. “I’ll be a part of it.”
All eyes turned to Madge, still wholly obscured in her robes. Slowly she nodded. “It suits me to come along as well. I’ll get my affairs in order.”
“Wonderful!” Popa Thorson said. His face brightened and he looked ten years younger. He raised his mug, “Here then is to the newest Heroes of Maissen.”
The others joined him in the toast and then he turned to the matter at hand. “Let’s turn our attention to this food and I’ll tell you the other news.”
Over dinner, Popa Thorson told the group about three others in town that would have business with them as the newest team of heroes for Vaunth-on-the-Lake. Corrin the brewer, Shayder, wealthiest of the local shipowners and fisheries, and Petris, a local high priest, really didn’t want much to do with Thorson himself, but they were eager to speak with a group about to venture beyond the borders of the nation. What they wanted, Thorson didn’t know, but he suggested that between tonight and the departure ceremony that the four take time to visit and speak with each of them.
Talk then turned to Popa Thorson’s own adventures. He’d been a Hero of Maissen as well, and pointed out the badge he’d been given at his departure ceremony.
There were rules to follow, he explained. The team would have ninety days. That was all. Ninety days to go and do heroic deeds and discover exciting and interesting things. And to not die. “Don’t return too soon,” he said, “or the council will just presume you didn’t really try. And certainly don’t be late. Bringing back the keys to the universe on day ninety-one counts for nothing.”
No help would be offered by past heroes. The point was for the current heroes to discover things, and deal with them, themselves. He could help on basic geography though, just general guidelines that any well educated Maissener knows. Even the ones that were never official heroes.
“To the south of Maissen is the great desert, home to Idien, the witch king whose name parents use to scare small children into behaving. Despite that, have no doubt that Idien is real. He is lich, and an ancient enemy of Maissen.
“West of the nation are the endless plains. The Chakta, bison riding barbarians live there, and they aren’t the only threat. As many heroes as they have killed, more have died simply by becoming lost in the featureless grasslands. They get their days confused, don’t know if they’re heading east or west, and often wander in circles until they die of thirst and starvation.
“The northwest leads to hills, forest, and eventually the Ghost Dragon Mountains, said to be home to dwarves. Also in that general direction is the Valley of Drayne. Due north and northeast are swampland – bad lands. East of Maissen of course is the sea, from where the earliest Maisseners came during the troubled, hard days after the storm.”
Popa Thorson answered a few more questions after that, but the night was wearing down. Soon the quartet left his home, having decided to meet in the morning and start calling on those that wanted to see them. Their host broke with tradition and saw them to his door personally. He stood at the open door and watched as they went their four separate ways, praying to all the gods he hadn’t sealed their doom.
But he knew he had.
One way or the other, the life they knew had come to an end.
[continues on post #8]
Friday, 1st October, 2004, 02:01 PM #4
A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)
I vote for the Ghost Dragon Mountains.
- Piratecat, EN World Admin. Now writing TimeWatch, an investigative time travel game.
Friday, 1st October, 2004, 02:18 PM #5
Friday, 1st October, 2004, 07:41 PM #6
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Killian is teh kewl!!!
"If you're in a war, instead of throwing a hand grenade at the enemy, throw one of those small pumpkins. Maybe it'll make everyone think how stupid war is, and while they are thinking, you can throw a real grenade at them."
Saturday, 2nd October, 2004, 04:45 AM #7
Monday, 4th October, 2004, 11:26 AM #8
01 – 2 Exposition and Ceremony
The next morning the team met up at the Ale’s Well. Ren was the first to arrive. Not only was he used to getting up early, but he was anxious to get out of the house. His family did not take well his announcement; there was much hand wringing and gnashing of teeth and attempts to talk him out of it. It was a long night. Ren remained resolute and they all calmed down, but none of them were happy. They were sure his death was immanent.
Bessie arrived just minutes later, followed by Killian. Madge arrived well behind the others, and she was a sight.
She wasn’t wearing the face shielding robes she had the night before. The others had heard the rumors, everyone in town had, but seeing her scarred and pitted face was jarring. Madge could tell what they were thinking.
“If I am to be a Hero of Maissen, I will no longer hide my face,” she said. “The people will have to see that heroes may come in any form.”
The others nodded, but it was Killian that spoke up first. “Aye, lass. That they do. All kinds of forms.” He had a odd grin when he said it, but didn’t elaborate. “Who to first then?”
First was Crowin the brewer and proprietor of the illustrious Feathered Prow inn. He had arraigned with Papa Thorson to put the new team of heroes up in his inn for the three days before they left. What he wanted was straightforward enough.
“Ale,” he said. “One pint of dwarven ale. I’ve tasted it once, when I was a hero of Maissen and I have long wanted a pint of it so I could discover its secrets. Do this for me and not only will I pay you handsomely, but I will also host each of you, and your families, at my inn and taverns for free for ever.”
Corwin went on to tell the group what he could about the dwarves, primarily assuring them that they were, indeed, real. They made their home in Ghost Dragon Mountain, which lay beyond the valley of Drayne, which itself was beyond a forest on the other side of a narrow rift valley.
“That all sounds too fantastic to believe,” Lela said.
She was sitting across from Ren at a prominent table at the Feathered Prow. The hunter had wasted no time in indulging his new standing. If he was going to be treated to a few days at this grand establishment, he wanted to share as much of it with Lela as he could.
“That’s what I thought, too,” he said. “But there’s no reason to think what he said was anything but the truth.”
Lela shook her head, more in amazement than disbelief. “Real dwarves,” she said. “What did the others want?”
“Shayder wants to make some kind of special ‘coche’ biscuit,” Ren answered. The man he referred to was Vaunth-on-the-Lake’s wealthiest ship owner, with a fleet of more than a dozen fishing vessels. “To make it he needs a special kind of honey made by giant bees.”
Across the table, Lela laughed. “Giant bees.”
Ren laughed too. “I know, it sounds ridiculous. But he said there’s a rift valley up to the northwest that’s home to hive of bees as big as cats. He gave us a container to fill and warned us not to eat any or we’ll never want to do anything else.”
“That must be some good honey.”
“There’s a race of beast men that have fallen prey to it,” Ren said. “Furry things called kerbals. He has the pelt of one on his wall. Said it killed three men before Youst the paladin finally did it in.”
Worry formed on Lela’s face. Ren reached across the table and took her hands. “I plan to avoid them,” he said. “Or at least shoot from a safe distance.”
Lela just looked into his eyes for a long moment. At last she said, “You’ll come back, right? Please say you’ll make it back.”
Ren smiled despite his own concerns. He’d hunted too often to not know that any venture into the wild might be the last. Going out beyond the borders of Maissen was certainly going to be even more dangerous. Lela was as right to be worried as his family was. But there was no sense adding to it.
“I have to come back,” he said. “I’ve got High Priest Petris’ box.”
Ren took the opportunity to steer her away from worry. “He wants us to get some special rocks from a valley off northwest. They come in different colors and have some kind of magic in them that he can use to create stone walls out of nothing. But the different colors can’t touch each other, so he gave us a box built to hold them separate from each other.
“And I imagine he’d be…” Ren straightened bolt upright and made an exaggerated frown, sticking his lip out as far as he could, “Most! - Put! - Out! If that box comes to harm.”
Lela laughed and Ren joined in, happy he changed her mood, even though it meant replaying the team’s meeting with Petris. It had left a sour taste in his mouth. The old man was more pompous than pious, invoking the gods’ names and an obligation of duty more to pressure and guilt the team into doing what he wanted than to inspire them. And unlike the other two requesting favors from the new heroes, Petris offered nothing in exchange for the errand, and seemed offended when the issue came up. Only with Ren’s badgering did he agree to use the magic to construct better housing for Vaunth-on-the-Lake’s poor – once the town’s defensive wall was complete. And Bessie had to turn the guilt back onto him to squeeze the priest for a few scrolls of healing.
Their laughter ebbed and the couple smiled at each other. Then Lela turned somber again. “Just two more days,” she said.
“We’ll make the most of them,” Ren said. He waved one hand to sweep her attention to the grandeur of the Feathered Prow’s central hall. “In the finest inn around.”
The two days passed in a blur. Ren tripled checked his supplies, and was measured for proper armor. Popa Thorson was following through on his promise to outfit his team the finest equipment. Ren asked for top quality leather armor, the metal stuff was too hard to move quietly in, and master crafted spears and arrows. His short bow wasn’t the finest quality, but it was the one he’d learned to shoot with and it didn’t feel right to leave it behind. Armor and weapons, Popa Thorson assured him, would be waiting when they arrived in Maissen the city.
Madge and Bessie saw to getting the team a goat and wagon. A mule would have been better, a horse even more so, but such animals were so rare in Maissen that their price was even beyond Papa Thorson’s resources. The goat (named Jimmy by Bessie for some reason) would serve well enough though. If the team was going to be venturing into valleys, nimble feet would be needed.
Though he never gave his concern voice, Ren prepared for the worst by writing directions to where he’d hidden his stash of gold. He sealed the letter and gave to Popa Thorson to pass to Lela. In the event he didn’t return alive, Ren wanted her taken care of.
Despite his new status as Hero of Maissen, Ren still wasn’t getting the approval of Lela’s father. Indeed, Goodman Needleset’s opinion of Popa Thorson seemed to plunge simply because he’d chosen Ren to be on his team. This didn’t bother Ren in the least. Not only did it make Lela’s father look foolish, but it also gave Ren all the more reason to make it home alive and successful.
At last the day of the group’s departure arrived. Ren joined Bessie, who brought her pet owl along (“He isn’t a pet,” she said, “he’s a companion.”), Killian, and Madge, face fully exposed, on a stage in Vaunth-on-the-Lake’s central square at mid-morning. There they were subjected to more blessings and praise than they had ever known. They were showered with flower petals and perfumes, enveloped in the smoke of expensive incenses, draped with fine oils, and sprinkled with holy water.
Then began the speeches. The chair of Vaunth-on-the-Lake’s council spoke first, explaining just what the team would be doing, what it meant to the town, and how it was part of the grand old traditions of Maissen. He took three times as long as needed, and used words most in the crowd probably didn’t know to do it, but everyone cheered anyway.
Popa Thorson was next. He thanked the council for the opportunity, diplomatically skipping the fact he’d been given less than a month to do what the two other chosen leaders had been given a year to do. Thorson named each of the Heroes on his team and explained their strengths and how well they could work as a team, despite that they didn’t look like the usual type of Heroes. That was in fact, he said, their greatest strength.
Once his speech was finished, Popa Thorson was followed by an endless stream of dignitaries. Each one seemed determined to out speechify the others.
Beside Ren, Killian soon began to squirm in his seat. “This has already passed too much,” he whispered.
Ren nodded. “I hope the speeches don’t count against our ninety days. There’s no way we’d make it back in time.”
“I never knew we had so many so many very important people in Vaunth-on-the-Lake,” Bessie said. “Perhaps they should move the capitol here.”
The three of them chuckled at the druid’s joke, but Madge only grumbled. “These people live and die on prestige like we do meat and water. It doesn’t matter they have nothing to say, they’re deathly afraid if they say nothing they won’t truly be real.”
Killian nodded. “Aye. The elders always said a wise man speaks because he has something to say and a fool speaks because he has to say something.”
Ren and Bessie looked at the sorcerer then at each other. He didn’t know about Bessie, but Ren had never heard that particular turn of phrase – but it sounded wise and true enough.
Fools or wise men, there were still plenty of people lined up to speak. Ren let his attention drift. He started watching the crowd, and most of them had quit paying close attention to the speakers as well. Ren easily picked out his family, standing together as their own knot in the crowd. He saw Lela, standing with the rest of Popa Thorson’s servants (even Shonder) and he smiled. Though too far away to tell if she were watching him of not, Ren drank in the sight of her. It would have to sustain him for many weeks to come.
At last, after the sun had peaked, the last speaker finished. The newest Heroes were directed to stand and make their way to the street. There, waiting to ceremoniously guide them out of town, was Vinne – paladin of Simus the Uncaring. More impressive than the holy warrior in his gleaming armor was his steed. Vinne owned one of the very few horses in Vaunth-on-the-Lake, and his was easily the most impressive of them all.
Ren, Bessie, Killian, and Madge were the centerpiece of an elaborate procession through the town’s main streets and then finally out the north gate. The crowd, they couldn’t help but notice, grew thinner with nearly every step. By the time they were outside the gate and Vinne had bidden them farewell, there were only a handful of towns folk still watching.
“Well,” Killian said, “we’re off.”
[continues on post #11]
Monday, 4th October, 2004, 04:57 PM #9
Monday, 4th October, 2004, 08:08 PM #10
Edited to streamline things.
Last edited by Greylock; Wednesday, 26th January, 2005 at 01:52 AM.