Thursday, October 08, 2009

Wizard Wars

Once upon a time, in the swine-herder's village of Hamfest, there lived two brothers. They were called Fire Wizard and Water Wizard, though their real names were Eiryn and Unda Bellowick. Since the time they were young, one was brash while the other was thoughtful. One day the Adventurer's Guild of Hamfest obtained three very old scrolls written in a language that no one could decipher. While the scrolls were being readied for transport from Hamfest to the Hill Town of Glendale for further study, the underground vault in which they were stored was bored into, and the scrolls were stolen.

Fire Wizard, seeing an opportunity to sabotage the reputation of his arch rival, Water Wizard, announced immediately that his brother had stolen the scrolls, to everyone's shock and amazement, especially Water Wizard's! A war of words broke out. In the end Water Wizard became wroth for the falsity of his brother, and demanded a Trial By Combat, by which he intended to clear his good name. A Trial by Combat was often used in those days to prove the guilt or innocence of an accused person before the Great Celestial Elkron was demanded, and by this he wished to force Fire Wizard to recant his lying accusation.

In the field outside of Hamfest, over the hills and to the North, shrouded in a swath of snow, they met one crisp morning. Each had brought three retainers, stalwart men of arms. As the freezing wind howled through the nearby groves, a Guild Judge summoned the two combatants to the center of the stone circle and stated the rules.

"Whomever shall blow out the candle, set as you see on this rock, three times, shall be presumed the victor of this trial," said the Judge sternly. "You may stand in your places."

And the brothers stood. Around them were their retainers, who themselves brought four dogs each, and much further off were friends of the family and a number of neutral witnesses from Hamfest Village. And so the battle commenced and the warriors surged forward, the dogs leaping over rock and ice, all surging together to get to the candle, whom the two Wizards suspected would be blown out easily, given the wet wind and the frost that blew through the air like cold knives.

Dashing toward one another, barely keeping their footing on the icy slate surrounding the square stone upon which the flickering green flamed candle stood, with much shoving, and wielding of swords and the clashing of shields, Fire Wizard seized the day, and blew out the candle, after the fourth try, having sustained injuries both physical and mystical. Three times the two brothers clashed, and Fire Wizard proved victorious.

Whatever his physical wounds, the deeper emotional wounds of Water Wizard and his friends were worse, and so he was forced to quit the field, and with a brooding heart he returned to the Guild to plead his innocence once again. The Elkron, he thought, must have had some reason to allow Fire Wizard to win the trial. After all, the Celestial Elkron must be Just, mustn't they be?

It wasn't long afterward that rumors spread far and wide about the scrolls and a guard who vanished without a trace, and his aggrieved widow, and how the scrolls must have been magical, and the thief bold and ruthless. None could say who would have been able to do this deed and how, but all eyes fell upon Water Wizard with suspicion.

And so it was that he argued his case before Gravitavius, Guild Master, who had journeyed all the way from Glendale to retrieve the scrolls, only to find them stolen. With insight far beyond the ken of normal men, Gravitavius discerned the truth. Yet, as a Guild Lord it was his duty to uphold the law of Oswald's Kingdom, and so he explained that a trial must be had, unless within seven days Water Wizard could prove his innocence.

One day, not long afterwards, while passing time in the Guild Outpost of Hamfest, Fire Wizard overheard an odd conversation while he was passing the doorway of the dinning room. He recognized the voice of the Guild Master, Gravitavius, whom he met once in far off Glendale where the main Guild Hall is. He quickly concealed himself behind the door in order to listen without being observed.

"Do you think Water Wizard will succeed?"

"It is difficult to say, Lord Gravitavius. However, if he fails, then the Guild will have to bring him to trial on the charges alleged by the Fire Wizard."

"But Fire Wizard has not produced any evidence, is that right?"

"That is correct. However, either way, we have little choice."

"You are right. While I can not say for certain, I have reason to believe the three scrolls were of great importance. They must be recovered."

"I understand, my Lord. Please leave it to me, and do not worry. I will take care of the matter and go with Water Wizard myself."

"Good. I am counting on you."

The conversation abruptly ended, and before Fire Wizard could peer around the door to see who the other man was, the lamp at their table went out, darkening the room, and they both were gone, as if by magic.

And so, Fire Wizard set about plotting what he should do. And it came to pass that he was aroused to action, and finding one of his younger siblings, he gave the lad five pieces of iron to go and find their brother Water Wizard, in the fields and then in the town of Hamfest. Fire Wizard had in mind to look far off in Deep Gully, where Robert of the Green Rangers might be found, for he had heard that it was Robert who had first come to Hamfest bearing the three ancient scrolls. But first, other work had to be done.

Finding that Water Wizard could not be found, he went himself to Hamfest to see if he could not locate his brother. But Water Wizard could not be found as he was at that time investigating the chambers beneath the Guild Outpost to learn more about the nature of the theft, and perhaps discover the fate of the missing guard, which he most certainly did.

And so Fire Wizard found himself in the late afternoon at the Green Feather Tavern, talking with the tavern keeper, and telling lies about his brother's guilt, and his need to find his whereabouts. When he called his brother's sweetheart a "floozy", the conversation took a sudden turn for the worse, as Fire Wizard absentmindedly insulted the girl's father, who happened to be the tavern keeper himself. With a gruff wave of dismissal, the tavern keeper sent the boy away. So Fire Wizard left there, and purchasing some supplies, headed off with his best henchman, Fadin, toward the far off forest called Deep Gully. No one normally went that way for it was reputed to be a dangerous place with wolves and, some said, goblins, ghosts and other frightening creatures.

Along the way, as they passed over McFearson Hill, they walked by the old McFearson house, now burned down and devoid of life. The barn, disheveled and over grown, looked haunted in the moonlight. But onward the two adventurers journeyed into the late hours of night, across the far fields, and to the edge of the dark primordial wood, Deep Gully. There they made a small fire, cooked a meager meal, and slept. In the morning the world was misty and cold, and as they walked along the edge of the forest they found a foot path and followed it into the dark forest.

Through many miles of thick wide trees overhanging with great canopies of leaves, over giant roots writhing with snakes and spiders, they traveled silently. Finally, they came to open clearing, at the center was a large broad rock twice as tall as a man's head, known as Wolfstone Rock, where the Hamfest Hell Hounds, the famous Adventurer's group from the Hamfest Adventurer's Guild, had so recently adventured. They climbed the rock and found the rusted chainmail. They picked their way through the armor, finding only bones and rusted metal links, and then walked around the rock, looking at it very carefully from all sides. Then they found the tunnel into the rock. With their lantern lit, they took a look inside, only to retreat from that long dark tunnel where they found many wolf tracks.

It wasn't but a few moments before they heard wolves howling in the near distance, and answering howls from elsewhere. The two men took to their heels following along a foot path southward, rather than the taking the northern path, which was fortunate for them. After a long run down the path they came upon the hoof prints of horses, and then a man leaning against a tree, smoking a long stemmed pipe.

"What brings two men of Hamfest out this far into the dark wilderness?" asked the man.

Thinking quickly, Fire Wizard told the following lie:

"You may have heard of me. My name is the Water Wizard. I have come all this way to find Robert of the Green Rangers, as I must find an answer to a mystery involving him."

"I am he," replied the man, tapping the ashes of his pipe out and gazing curiously.

Pretending to be Water Wizard, Fire Wizard, ever the clever liar, wheedled information from Robert the Green Ranger. What he discovered was that the scrolls were in a language that neither he, nor the Guild Outpost Sargent could recognize, which alarmed them both, as this region so far as anyone knew, was never populated until the hapless colonists of Glendale found themselves stranded in these mountains by the Storm-Witch Watho and her wicked brother Klingzor. And so it was decided that the scrolls should be shipped to Glendale for study, but the scrolls never made it that far. It was news to Robert that someone stole them just prior to Gravitavius' arrival.

At this point Fire Wizard announced that he had wished nothing more in his whole life than to become a Green Ranger, the news of which caused Robert to raise the eyebrow. "Return in a month, alone," he told him, "and you will be tested. If you pass the test, then you may join the Green Rangers."

With the information exchanged, and nothing else to be done, the two deceivers  left Robert and took the path back toward Hamfest. Along the way, as they were just leaving the dark cover of the woods, just in the nick of time, they spotted Water Wizard and a stranger coming over the crest of the hill. They hid, and let them pass.

Four hours later, after a brisk morning trek, they made their way back to the McFearson barn, determined to explore it. And lo, inside the barn, against the south wall, hidden in the straw, they found a beautiful, unmovable chest made of a dull gray metal, and in the shape of a dragon curled and coiled in on itself. The face and head and mouth and fangs of the dragon formed the frame around which was a triangular keyhole. The two men, tired and grimy as they were, in excited whispers, argued over what they should do with the chest, which neither of them could budge nor open. And then they heard a hiss and before they could think of what that sound was, they turned to see four hunched burly men with furry heads and arms, wearing red caps, brown vests, and wide belts, inching toward them with swords and daggers drawn. A battle commenced, in which Fire Wizard used magical flaming bolts to slay one of the creatures, while the others were done in by Fadin's unerring sword. In a few moments only one of the creatures remained living.

Pointing to a spot on the far side of barn floor, with a tongue full of goblin gibberish, the furry fellow withdrew a key on a rope from beneath his shirt. Into a tiny hole in the center of a circle, he fit the odd little key. And as he did, the edges of a trap door showed upon the floor, and the Fire Wizard said, "You know, as much as I favor your miserable company, it seems your usefulness is rapidly coming to an end, my little furry friend."

But once the trap door opened, the dark square hole in the ground disgorged a huge gnarled face. Its head and shoulders rose up, and in its strong right hand it held a large gnarled club. The heroes forgot entirely about the goblin who scrambled behind a bail of hay, and concentrated their attention on the monstrosity that had emerged from the trap door and was bearing down on them with extraordinary malice.

With many Fire bolts and slashing swords, Fadin and Eiryn bested the monster and flung him back down the hole, where he died. And apprehending the goblins and tying him up in strong rope, they went down the ladder, into the darkness below, about forty feet, and at the bottom where the monster lay crumpled in a heap, a tunnel, twelve feet tall, and twelve feet wide, vanishing off beyond their lantern light in both directions. Without further ado, they ransacked the body of the dead ogre whom they had slain, finding on his gruesome person a pouch filled with silver coins.

Up the ladder they returned, determined to get the remainder of their men and return to explore further the mysterious tunnel. And so as they prepared to leave the barn they searched for the bodies of the goblins they had slain, only to find them turned to leaves and sticks and briars and blowing away in the wind. Infuriated, Fire Wizard took the remaining goblin, that little trickster, and holding him over the gaping mouth of the hole in the ground, let off a curse, and then dropped the creature, who made a pitiful shriek, into the black hole. Far below they heard a satisfying thud that signaled the end of the wretch.

And so it was that Fire Wizard found himself in possession of a strange round iron key that opened a door into a tunnel whose smooth crafted walls told of a craftsmanship far beyond the talents of anyone in Glendale valley... And this was a great mystery to him and Fadin.

Next Episode: Water And Fire Wizards Join Forces

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