Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Battle of Aphid Temple – Part 1

And so it was that our courageous heroes had arrived at the Great Hall deep in the heart of the Temple of the Aphids and found there the Old Wise Aphid in deep meditation. He looked untroubled, though the weariness of ages had clearly descended upon his hoary head. He was in humanish form at this time, sitting silently on his stone chair in the middle of the Hall. All was shrouded in silence and gloom.

Storm Wizard (also known as John Bellowick), Juliette, Morgana, Laraby, Brian and Daniel entered the Hall lead by Ben who quietly lead the way. When they got within speaking range of the Old Wise Aphid Storm Wizard cleared his throat, and the ancient white haired priest opened his strange insectilian eyes.

Having explained that they'd returned on urgent errand, intending to capture the Locust Ambassador and bring him back to human lands that they might convince their fellow countrymen that the threat of a Great Swarm was real, and that they must all work together to prepare for it, the parties continued their discussion over a feast that had been summoned into the Great Hall.

“I see,” said the old Aphid. “Well, before we discuss it, I will remind you that I’ve seen the King of the Insects, and told him all that has transpired. He was very wroth, and agrees to our plan, and agreed to send help as soon as possible.”

“That is fine and well,” relied Storm Wizard, “but we have no time to wait for the King’s forces. We must act quickly while we have a chance. We wish to put up barricades within the Temple so that we can block all of the exists once the Locust Ambassador enters the Hall to speak with you. We intend to give him a draught of strong drink that will cause him to fall unconscious that we may bind him with ropes and bear him away. Thus he will be no threat to you ever more, and we may continue with the preparations of our Great Plan to burn the Locust’s Grand United Army in the Western Desert before they descend on the farms, pastures and forests of Glendale.”

“It is well,” said the old Aphid, “but what if he shall not drink?”

“We will overcome him in the Hall, whether he drinks or not,” replied Storm Wizard, grimly, and all of his companions stood firm beside him.

“He will not be easy to overwhelm, I think,” pointed out the old Aphid. “However, it is your will to do so, and you are our best defense against the oncoming disaster. The King has approved your plan to build a Great Fire in the mountains, and will send an army of Ants to help move the kindling from Glendale into the valley of Zin which is far to the North and East of here, between the Mountain of Zin and the edge of the Western Desert. To that place your people will carry the great lumber, which the Insects, though powerful in and vast in numbers would not be able to move all in a hundred years on their own.”

“It is well,” concluded Storm Wizard.

“There is one thing I must tell you before the Locust Ambassador arrives. I can not in any way lie on behalf of the plan. It would run against my priestly calling and Holy Office to do so, and so you can not rely on me for that.”

“Would you be willing to simply not speak out the truth if we lie to him in your stead?” asked Storm Wizard.

“No, that would also be a forfeit of my Holy Office. It can not be,” answered the old wise Aphid.

As this conversation was being had Morgana, Brian, Daniel and Laraby were inspecting the corridors that lead out of the Great Hall, and looked diligently for locations where the barricades could be set up, and how they might be hidden from view. They used for this a map that Morgana had made of the Temple Complex. She intended to sell the map one day to the Librarian at the Adventurer’s Guild in Hamfest, and thought she had outdone herself on detail and the quality of the map, which was quite precise, although not every area in the Temple was known to her. Therefore some areas of the map were left blank. The team quickly went to work with the help of thousands of aphids who assisted them.

The library along the corridor into the Great Hall was selected as the first barricade point. The second was the exit to the Western doorway, through which they were informed was the Sacred Precinct, and could not be entered by any save the Holy Aphid himself. A third exit from the Western wall of the Great Hall was also blocked as it too lead into the Sacred Precinct. What lay beyond those doors only the Aphids knew. It was decided that from within they could be blocked by whatever mysterious force controlled the Sacred Precinct and it was left at that. Hopefully, they thought, it would not come about that the Locust Ambassador would attempt to break through into the Sacred Precinct, as everyone was fairly sure that if he put his mind to it, the mighty Locust Ambassador could force his way through almost any barricade. It was hoped, further, that he would agree to drink the Elixir of Dreamless Sleep, and render himself unconscious without a fight. Certain of the aphids had already been ordered to work on this by the Old Wise Aphid, and so were already about the business of concocting the magical drink as the rest of the adventurers continued their discussion.

The barricade, the work crew quickly realized, needed to be piled from the floor to the ceiling and be sturdy enough to resist the powerful arms of the Locust Ambassador, and contain the far leaping warrior by baring any gap over the top of the barricade. It would be a lot of work that had to be done quickly, and quietly. Many hundreds of aphids would be required. Their plan was to wait for the Locust Ambassador to pass by and turn the two corners into the Great Hall before Brian and his crew leapt to work outside of the Library door, dragging their barricade materials from the Library into the corridor and piling it high to the ceiling as quickly possible. The aphids were already working furiously to gather massive amounts of bracken into the Library for this purpose.

“Ben will guard the corridor on the far side of the barrier, in case the Locust Ambassador should manage to break through,” said Juliette, as they all discussed this part of the plan.

“Me?” asked Ben incredulously, gasping. "... Stop the Ambassador?"

“Yes, it is very important that you prevent him from escaping if he breaks through. We don’t expect him to, of course, but just in case, you should be there to stop him. Don’t worry Ben, I have confidence in you. I know you can do it,” said Juliette firmly.

Taking inordinate encouragement from her strong words, Ben held up his staff and said, “I will do my very best!”, and walked off toward the Library with a determined glint in his eyes. After all, he thought, he had killed a wild wolf with one blow of his staff before! He could to this, he said to himself with conviction, and went into the Library to arrange things with the aphid workers.

A battle formation was planned, and the protection of the Holy Aphid was discussed amongst the planners. He would sit on his high stone chair and offer the Locust Ambassador a drink of Elixir to cement their deal. It was agreed that all of the members of the ‘Steel Wool Sheeps’ would stand in a circle around the old Aphid and protect him, as it seemed to everyone that he would be the most likely target of the Locust Ambassadors rage, should things go otherwise than planned. It was also decided that Morgana could cast a mystical power of 'Iron Skin' on the wise Aphid if any battle should commence, in which case it was decided that she should stand next to the wise old Aphid. They then positioned all of the fighters around the High Aphid in a circle, and Tinkin, who had the power of healing, was to remain in a corner, near the door to the Sacred Precinct. They also noted that the Great Hall had a very high ceiling which formed a dome overhead, which could give the far leaping Ambassador a distinct tactical advantage should he wish to leap onto the old Aphid. As they discussed their plans it became more and more evident that the old Aphid would be, in any event, in danger should anything go wrong. He became more nervous as the discussion went on.

“What shall I say to the Locust Ambassador when he enters and demands before anything else whether or not I agree to side with him before the King of the Insects against the Ants?” asked the Old Wise Aphid tentatively with raised eyebrows.

“Wise Aphid, we are here to protect you and make sure you are safe,” replied Juliette.

“Would it be possible for you … to omit the truth? Would you be willing to say, ‘I shall answer that question after we drink to our agreement.’?”, asked Storm Wizard.

“I think the Locust Ambassador has no sense of decorum. He may not respond to that request,” replied the old Aphid. “It would be better, I think, if you said these things on my behalf, as my representative,” he continued nervously.

“But I have no stake in this discussion, since it is between you and the Locusts,” responded Storm Wizard surprised by the suggestion.

“You were here before," reasoned the old Aphid, "and he will assume that you do, I think. Especially if you speak up. I’m quite certain that you will be more believable than I should be, if I might say so,” said the old Aphid, now openly jittering with a nervous twitch in his antennae.

“I see. I’m guessing that the Locust Ambassador shall enter the Hall as he did before, and demand an answer without equivocation or delay,” said Storm Wizard to himself.

“Indeed,” replied the old Aphid.

“We could tell him that he is interrupting our feast, and that he could at least have a drink with us, and that we would not speak a word to him until we finish eating. How do you think he would respond to that more forceful approach?” inquired Storm Wizard.

“It would seem to me that he may not respond well to that, and instead will get very angry,” replied the old Aphid.

“Is that a good thing, or a bad thing? I’m not exactly sure,” said Storm Wizard still thinking hard.

At that moment there was a loud boom that seemed to come from outside the Temple, and echoed loudly through the corridors into the Great Hall. Everyone stopped speaking and looked around pensively.

“Wise Aphid,” continued Juliette trying to come to a solution as time was pressing on them, “Would you be willing to hold your tongue if I were to lie to the Locust Ambassador on your behalf?”

“I can honestly say that I could not support your lying, my dear. It very much runs against my inclination. I understand that we may not always tell the complete truth in every situation, but any outright lie is wrong. I am certain of that. I could not condone it, nor support it, nor sit idly by if done in my presence. I’m sorry,” replied the Aphid.

“I think what we should do is when the Ambassador comes in, we should offer him the drink in a kind of servile way, to offer him food and drink as if we already agreed with his proposal. And that is all. When he enters I will do only that. Perhaps he will respond favorably and take the drink,” said Juliette.

“I could sit by in silence for that, since you will not be lying. Conversely, it occurs to me, that if John will speak on my behalf, and you follow the plan you just said, then perhaps I need not be here in the room at all. After all, it would be safer for your plan if I am not present, I suspect,” said the old Aphid, eyeing the door nervously. “After all, if your plan is to capture the Locust Ambassador, and take him away to the human lands… what has that to do with the Aphid’s in particular? That you may use the Temple to trap him within… shouldn’t that suffice your purpose?” asked the wise old Aphid finally.

“On the one hand, it would make the Locust Ambassador that much more suspicious if the Wise Aphid is not there. On the other hand, if the wise Aphid is sitting there behaving nervously, that would make him even more suspicious. What if when the Ambassador arrives we tell him he is early, and that the Wise Aphid is not here, yet, and then say, ‘Why not have a drink while you are waiting?’”

“It is plausible,” said everyone.

Another boom was then heard, closer in the distance than the last one. Everyone was silent as the sound echoed through the Great Hall ominously.

“You should go and hide, Holy One. We shall take care of the matter,” said Juliette. And the old wise Aphid hobbled off his stone chair and down a corridor and through a large solid doorway, and vanished from view with a number of his retainers. The room was filled with the silence of deep foreboding.

Previous Episode: Escape from Death - Part 4
Next Episode: The Battle of Aphid Temple - Part 2

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