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Well, we decided to go to visit the One Eyed King for my box.
My mom helped us bake travelbread -- firm, fine grained loaves. Some were a white bread so sweet to the taste I could eat it for dessert. Others were multigrain breads, with raisens and dates, that were very dense. We also packed some beef jerkey. While much of the trip would be on our boat, we might have as much as two or three days of overland travel as well and she wanted us to be able to carry everything we needed. She packed the favor ring in a silk scarf, knotting it so that it wouldn't fall out, and gave me another feather to guide us there and back. She also gave me a water bottle (more like a sack) and a small pouch full of salt.
My dad gave me three gold coins, that glowed like sunlight. He thought they might come in handy. He also called Ariel's dad and got permission for her to go on a camping trip. Her dad gave her a small flashlight, a larger back-pack and a soft down sleeping bag that adjusted for various temperatures (it was two bags, one that fit inside the other, and a liner). She also was given a camping knife -- it is a tool, even if it looks more like a bowie knife than anything else. It has a saw back and in the handle it holds flint and tinder for firestarting.
Her mom gave her a very lightweight tarp and showed her how to rig it to use as a ground cover and as a tent. They told her to be careful, even if she was almost thirteen, and my parents said that was good for me to learn as well. I think they are torn between trying to protect me from everything, and trying to give me experiences that I need so that I'm not too dependent on them. I can tell they would much rather wait until I am older -- as my Mom says, maybe when I'm two or three hundred years old -- but we promised to be careful. I think they expect us both to become heros some day, and this is the beginning of that path.
Anyway, we got everything together, and some tins of cat food and pillows and my favorite blanket (I may be a nature spirit and I may not need shelter from the elements, but I still like a pillow and a blanket, at least while we are on the boat). We were planning on travelling quickly and lightly and very carefully and quietly.
We slipped out the shadows in the corner of the back yard and loaded up the boat. Where we keep it, everything is dusty and long quiet. There aren't even any berries or shadow mice.
We sailed for a while, even making a good clip we were careful to stay close to the shore, but not too close. It was interesting to see the trees growing in the air, and the upside down groves of trees covered in vines that marked the chaos tainted relams of the spin dryads. We also saw some rock satyrs fighting with worm-men. The rock satyrs are only partially rock (about 12 points of armor worth) and the worm-men are actually creatures made of five to six semi-intelligent worms twined together (each worm adds 1d4 to the characteristics of the creature). When one fell, it often came apart and the living parts would join with another or with another of the fallen to form a new one. They are strange creatures and their fight is a long one.
Finally we came to the stream that flowed inland from the void towards the realm of the One Eyed King. He had allied himself with the Sand Man, and his town center and castle had been built in the dark. I think he didn't realize that this world had areas in the light, so the crops his people grew were colorous and his economy was slow. It did not reach to the river, so we found a place where our landing would be hidden and left the boat concealed there. We slept overnight and when the glimmerings grew paler, we started off.
This part of the world has some scary things in it. The darkness seems to call undead creatures to hide in it. While the light side has starlight that adds together to be bright as sunlight during the "day" on the dark areas it only gets as bright as dusk. Also, on the light side, some of the stars will cast fire (treat as sunspear spells, 1d3 per movement round) at undead creatures that expose themselves during the bright times, so that while the light does not burn them as sunlight would, the fire surely does. On the dark side, they are safe from starfire falling upon them.
We were very carefull, avoiding several packs of ghouls. Unfortunately, we had to camp for the "night" before we reached the walls of the One Eyed King's kingdom. I was grateful for the warding sticks and we set up a sheltered camp inside of them.
It was a good thing that we were careful. A roar split the night as a fell troll (an undead troll creature) was balked by the wards -- neither the falcon or the cat had sensed it coming. It was nine feet tall, with dark eyes (they looked like pits, even to me) and sharp claws. The fell troll all bear the chaos twisting of regeneration and iron skin (they regenerate 1d3 points per location per melee round and have 6 points of skin armor). Their claws strike like swords (d8+1 in addition to damage bonus for siz/str). When they knock down their prey, they fasten upon it and drink from them (d3 CON, 2d6 fatigue per melee round of draining). They are not very smart (INT 2d6+2), but they have a sharp sense of smell and are always hungry.
This one had its lair near to where we had camped, more things that the two of us were hiding in this tangled area of low trees and thorns. I called fire against the creature, blinding it briefly, and the little girl, Ariel, struck it with her rope. It wasn't so much the cold (as long as we don't hit at exactly the same time, the fire and ice seem to do more damage rather than cancel each other out) as it was the blasting damage from the dragon's talon rune that she had. I don't think the creature had ever taken a hurt like that without it fading. Instead the blasting power ran like lightning against the chaos taint and suddenly the fire I had cast caught hold and it began to burn like a torch. It fell into a dry thorn bush and the whole thing went up brightly.
We didn't sleep much for the rest of the night, though I renewed the glamor that I had woven to hide us even more. Between the glamor hiding us and the smell of burned fell troll, nothing else came our way.
In the morning we carefully searched to see where it had come from and found an old lair. We took the foulness and the bones of its victims and gave them a burial by fire with the help of another bush. Ariel also froze some blood maggots that were in the lair, battening off the remains of the slain. We then burned them as well, before they could become blood worms.
I found a second book to add to our collection. The other book is in the boat as we can't read it. This one opened up and I found that it made sense. Before I knew it, an hour had passed. I realized that I had learned another language as the power had passed from the book to me, leaving the pages blank. Ariel thought that a blank book was neat -- she was thinking of starting a new chapter on her journal, so she took the book, and told me to be more careful next time I touch something magic -- I might start breathing fire out the wrong end, don't you know. I decided to be much more careful.
We travelled onward and about lunch came to a wall, with towers and a gate.
They laughed at us when we said we had come to see the king for a favor, but the gate toll was only three coppers each and we received passes that let us take the king's road.
The road was smooth and it was easy to follow. We had probably walked only eight or nine miles cross country from the river in a day and a half, while on the road we could walk three or four miles in an hour. We reached the great castle by "nightfall."
There I presented the ring and asked to see the king.
The guard laughed and tried to take the ring from me. I turned to rock and held it. The little girl was suddenly surrounded by snowflakes, so I knew she was angry and prepared for trouble as well. A guard captain saw what was happening and told the guard to send us to the chancellor's secretary and not to be quite so foolish. I think if we hadn't had more power the guard would have taken our ring and cheated us. I thought about the warnings my mom had given me and then told me that she suspected that only experience would get through to me.
The secretary laughed with delight and said something about how the king's fool had just moved on and this was just what dinner needed. Suddenly we walked right into the dinner hall, with the king and his guards and his nobles all eating.
They saw us and someone said "a little young for fools, aren't they" and I said "we've come for the dwarf box." The hall erupted in laughter.
I held out the ring. "My mother said that you had promised to honor this and I'd like my box please."
Suddenly things were quieter.
"How do I know you came by that honestly?" he said.
That had never occured to me. I had just thought I would walk in and ask for the box. When my dad had asked just how I was going to get the box and tried to guide me in some thinking, I hadn't seen the point. That was right when he had given me the coins.
So I held them out. "My father said I might need these as well." They glowed like the sun, as if their magic was stronger in a world that lacked sunlight. Suddenly much of the laughter and snickers stopped. "He said that you might have some use for these, freely given, if you were not honorless." The sun magic requires great honor from people sometimes, and great truth. Most kings can not meet its demands.
The king sat transfixed. There was something more to those coins than I understood, but I was glad my father had thought to give them to me and that my memory had jogged at just the right moment.
"I do believe that you have been brought light to go with your fire" said someone from the far end of the table. It was a bald man, with a beard, who hadn't seemed to be there a moment before. He was elemental like, obviously a hero or something similar.
I could feel the potential in the air. This was a test, for the King, though not for us.
"Bring out the box, and fill it with gifts" he said and he gave me the box, and the gifts and took the coins, casting them into the air, where they rose up, through a star-cut opening in the roof of his castle.
I could see things take hold and realized that he had just succeeded, finally, in bringing light to his realm. Not the brightline of the starlight, that wasn't extended, but he had a place, in the area bounded by his walls, where there was sunlight. Stronger than walls that would protect his kingdom, grant growth to the crops and restore health to his people.
The hero smiled and the kings six companions joined him in a great shout.
The feast went on into the night, but the hero showed us to a tower room where we could sleep safely and peacefully.
The next morning, he helped us carry the box to our boat. In return for his help, we gave him the treasures in the box and he gave Ariel a new spell for her truestone -- this one was a sleep elemental. It was like a giant shade, but instead of fear attacks, it created sleep attacks, causing a sleep to come upon the target that was not to be broken until the magic faded or physical harm was done to the sleeper.
He promised her that the spell would remain with her, even after it was emptied out of the stone.
Both sides were well pleased. I had my box, he had a great treasure, and Ariel had a new spell. She hadn't understood most of what was said, the language book hadn't helped her, but she and the hero seemed to speak the same language.
He also gave me a small handful of sand, which I kept in a bag, thinking I might find a use for it at some future time.
The trip back was safe and quiet, except right at the end, in the quiet zone, we encountered a shade (a darkness elemental, a very large one, free ranging). We defended ourselves, but did not pursue it and the rage that moved it passed (most elementals when summoned into this world, are consumed by rage at the disruption). It faded, but was not dissolved, so we might see it again.
And now I have my box!
|Copyright 2001-2003 Stephen R. Marsh and
Heather N. Marsh
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