Knightfall's Letters to Gilwen - #10

["Do not fear. Some day, someone special will make all the power and the magic yours. Lets go wake up the others."]

Everyone was in good spirits at breakfast. They felt another group of ambushers would not be working the same territory. And once we were close enough to Kelfour, we would not have to worry.

After we had cleaned up, Yevetka asked me if I had slept at all.

"No," I told her, "But I'm really not sleepy."

"Paelior! How much of Xarbex's coffee did you give Knightfall?" she demanded.

"Uh," blinked Paelior. "Just one cup." He noted her reaction. "Or maybe two."

"Tell the truth. Knightfall? How many cups?" she asked.

"Not much more than two," I said, not very convincingly.

"So three then, Paelior? Or was it four?"

"Definitely not four," Paelior stated emphatically. "Unless he poured more after I....uh...went off watch."

"Three cups? What were you thinking?" Yavetka stared at the two of us, then threw her hands in the air, spun on her heels and went inside her wagon. Paelior started to say something to me, obviously thought better of it, shrugged and went to his wagon.

I put out the fire, then jumped on Xarbex's wagon just as he was ready to pull out. He was quiet until we reached the first curve, then he glanced over at me, grinned and said, "Yeppers, purty fine coffee I brew, if I say so myself."

I was jittery the entire day. Even if no one else worried about ambushes, I still sensed them at every turn. It was a long day and I was glad when Xarbex found a campsite for the night.

I almost fell asleep during supper, much to the other's amusement. Paelior offered me some coffee, but Yavetka quickly hushed him up and sent me to bed. I must have fallen asleep opening up my bedroll, for I woke up then next morning with it half unrolled beneath me.

I shuffled over to the breakfast table where the others were already eating. "Good morning, sleepy head," said Wejula.

"Mornin'" I mumbled, accepting a bowl of porridge.

"Pour you a cup of coffee?" asked Yavetka.

Not being fully awake yet, I struggled to remember what it was about coffee that made me not want to drink it. In the meantime, Yavetka took my silence to be a "yes" and placed a hot cup in my hands.

"Thanx," I mumbled. The first sip was scalding hot, but did help clear my head. After blowing to cool it down, I finally drank enough to get a taste. Mmmmmm, it was really good. A dark, rich aroma complemented its full-bodied flavor. "This is really delicious," I said to no one in particular.

"It's too weak. Yave's too chinchy with the beans, in my humble opinion," stated Xarbex.

"Aye," agreed Paelior, "But she does make it smooth. Her coffee has a great flavor."

"Yep, hers is smoother. Never have figured out her secret for smoothness," said Xarbex.

"It's because I wash the pot, you old codger. It's not a secret, I tell you constantly, you've got to wash the pot."

"Don't be lying to the boy! I do wash my coffee pot."

"I mean more than once a decade. I don't remember any fish kills, so obviously yours hasn't been washed lately," shouted Yavetka.

"Bah!" shouted Xarbex. "Let's get rolling. I've better things to do that jaw with crazy mages."

I loved it. Now that I knew them, I saw that these were people who loved and cared for each other, even if they never said so. No one was upset or angry, but were secretly tickled being silly and glad to be together to share their differences.

As we rolled deeper into Quellbourne, the landscape became more and more magical. It was all strange and new, and I wondered if I would ever learn my way around here. A growing sense of excitement made me feel that the adventure was beginning. My self doubts were dwindling; I was ready.

By supper time, my excitement had spread. Xarbex announced that we would reach Kelfour tomorrow. Yavetka prepared a big meal and they talked late into the night discussing the trip and their upcoming arrival. As they talked about the ambush I realized that they were deeply troubled by how close they came to losing. Yevetka and Xarbex wanted to hire some bodyguards, pointing out that I had made the difference in the ambush.

Everyone told me how much they liked having me along and wished me luck in my new life. I felt pangs of jealousy for Paelior getting to adventure with these guys every day and wondered if someday I could be their bodyguard too.

I was up at dawn, barely able to contain my excitement. However, everyone else slept in. There was no rush, since we only had a few hours to go. I had breakfast cooked and even made my first pot of coffee. It tasted better than Xarbex's, which is about all you could say for it. But no one complained about it, even if they did grimace bitterly after each sip.

After an hour on the road, Xarbex pointed out two adventurers along the road. He chuckled to himself as they looked excitedly at the wagons. Curiously, both adventurers rubbed amulets made of clear crystal around their necks. Xarbex reached back into the wagon and pulled out a similar amulet and wore it. As he rubbed it, a bewildered look came across his face. Soon, he smiled to himself and yelled back to the others that our arrival was already expected.

Later he turned to me and said, "Knightfall, I want to give you some advice. Lords know you've been like a son to me this trip and I would give you a weapon if I could, but I don't carry items for folks under ten. When you get to Kelfour, save up your cash for a laen weapon. Until then, find you a mace with drake magic in it and it will serve you well. I wish you well, Knight." And with that he hugged me.

The sudden show of emotion embarrassed us both and we rode in silence the rest of the trip. Finally we met a group of young adventurers and Xarbex called a halt. The group all rubbed their amulets and then ran off. Xarbex pulled the wagons off the road into a hidden clearing. In no time, camp was set up and Yavetka began preparing a late lunch.

Paelior offered to help me bring water. On the way, he told me that he wanted to talk to me before I left.

"Sure, Paelior. I'm listening."

"I wanted to tell you that in everything you do, do it with honor. Folks do not always remember good deeds but they never forget a scoundrel. Besides, I have found that good deeds are often rewarded in ways far beyond my expectations.

"And one more thing," he continued, "it is very honorable to marry a rich lady. It's as easy to love a rich one as a poor one."

I smiled at Paelior, not sure how to reply. He simply tipped his helm and headed back to camp with his water. I filled my bucket and followed him. In camp, Wejula strolled up and smiled at me.

"Knight, I did want to wish you luck before you left."

"Thank you, Wejula."

"Remember what I told you. You have a role to play in this town and you are needed to dress and play your part. Even if you are the rankest newbie, you are important. And I have a gift for you." With her most winsome smile, she pulled out a black helm and offered it to me. I gasped, it was so beautiful.

"Thanx, Wejula. It's wonderful. I don't know what to say."

"Don't say anything. Put it on."

Yavetka called us for lunch just then. I quickly wore the helm and followed Wejula to the dinner table. Everyone admired my helm and told Wejula what a good job she had done. I was about to burst with pride. I had the first merchant item in Kelfour this day.

I was too excited to eat much, but I hung around to help clean up. While Yavetka carried some things back to the wagon, Azuhkim turned to me. "I did want to offer you some advice before you get away, Knight."

"I need all the help I can get."

"I believe you will do well here. People like you. My advice is to look for magic items. Magic makes mages the most powerful profession in the land, and you can get items that will make that same magic yours to wield. You need magic to survive here."

"I've heard that before, Azuhkim. Thanx for the advice."

"And here, a gift from Yave and me," he said, handing me a blue crystal as Yavetka joined us.

"Thanx!" I beamed.

"It's magic! Do you know what it is, Knightfall?" asked Yavetka.

"I have no idea. What does it do?"

They chuckled, then told me it would make me super strong for a few seconds. Azuhkim then shook my hand and wished me luck before leaving Yavetka and me alone.

"Everyone's giving you advice, aren't they, Knight?" she asked me.

"Yes. Everyone is being so nice and giving me stuff."

"You mean Xarbex gave you something?" Yavetka asked.

"Well, no, he just gave me advice."

"Whew!" grinned Yavetka. "For a moment I was afraid you had really gotten to him. But they make my point for me, Knight. Do you know the most important thing to have to be successful here?"

"Magic?" I guessed.

"No," sighed Yavetka. "You know I think it's important, I've dedicated my life to the study of magic. But it's not the most important thing you need."

"A laen weapon?" I tried again.

"No, Knightfall, though you will need good weapons and armor."

"Honor?" I asked. Yavetka shook her head.

"You're not going to tell me good clothes, are you?" I asked.

"Of course not, Knight. Is this the advice you've been getting? It is all good advice, but I've saved the best for last. What I want to tell you is the wisdom I learned from my cousin Natasha. Her advice to all that would listen was to make friends.

"Friends will make the difference in your career. Good friends will help you get the magic and weapons you need to survive. Treat everyone with honor and politeness and you will have friends that will risk all they have when you are in need. Heed her words, make friends."

"I've been doing that, Yave. I've made five of the best friends a guy could have this past week. I really hate to leave you all."

"So you have Knight. But, I sincerely doubt you've come all this way to miss your big chance. Best of luck to you, big lug. I'll miss you, too."

"Thanx, Yavetka. Thanx for everything. You guys are the greatest!"

"Oh, and Knight, one more thing."

"Yes, Yave, what is it?"

"Don't brew anymore coffee. Just buy it a cup at a time." Then she laughed and hugged me, gave me a kiss, and pointed out the road to Kelfour.

"Bye, my friends," I mumbled under my breath and set foot for the town that I wanted to be my home for all time.

Scrivener's Note - Dear Gilwen, this concludes the tale of Knightfall Boxpopper's journey to Kelfour, but I hope his story will continue. I propose a meeting with both of you when I next return to Kulthea for the purpose of recording your adventures together. By the way, I have met Xarbex' caravan on occasion and hope to do so again this trip to verify Knightfall's account. You will understand if I elect not to visit the temple of Scalu for similar verification.