Knightfall's Letters to Gilwen - #11

My dearest Gilwen,

I think I may have started something. Several of our friends have requested the story continue and tell of how we met. They must really love you to be interested in my mundane life. Anyway, with the help of the scribe, this is how I remember those first few days in Kelfour.

The palisaded gates of Kelfour were both foreboding and inviting. The high walls spoke of the fierce determination of the residents to defend their town, while the open gate said to me, “Welcome. You are home at last”. I adjusted my helm as I walked through those gates and vowed to fit in and not be taken for a newbie.

“You’re new here, aren’t you?” said a voice behind me. “Welcome to our town. Here is a map. Do you need a loan to get started?”

I sighed as I looked into the doe-like eyes of the beautiful High Woman before me, but before I could speak, she slid some coins into my pocket and disappeared into the crowd. “Thanx,” I mumbled and examined the map she had given me. It was printed on such fragile paper I could tell it was not going to hold up for very long.

I counted 794 coins and wondered where to spend it. Looking at my map, it seemed to me the streets to the armory were accentuated. I took a look around to get my bearings and headed south. I had a sneezing fit as I hit the North Ring Road with the furrier’s shop and quickly headed west, then south. I marvelled at the wonders around me. From Cheldars Bath House, half dressed women called to me and I wondered why such a wealthy town had people who could not afford more clothes.

I then entered the western side of a huge square. I felt lost in the hustle and bustle of the crowd. One fighter entered the Threk Inn singing “Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me.” I heard people holler out they were hurt or needed a picker or wanted to buy wands. Glancing at my map, I saw I was almost to the armory and kept walking south. Going past the bank, I came to the SW corner of the square with a road heading west and a walkway leading to a house. A sense of belonging swept over me and I stopped to watch the crowd before heading west to Anzell’s.

Ducking into the armory, I was met by Anzell himself.

“Hello, stranger,” he said to me. “Care to examine some of my wares?”

He told me I needed greaves, an aventail, a shield and heavy hide armor. His prices were high but he loved to haggle and we quickly agreed on reasonable fees. I stepped outside feeling proud that I looked like a real adventurer. I decided to head back to the square, confident no one would think me a newbie now.

The center of the square was by far the busiest area. Under a huge tree was a bench where folks gathered round to help one another and trade stories. However, with everyone talking at once, I had trouble following the conversations.

“Mants got me good. Heal me, Eivar?” someone asked.

“Have the merchants opened up yet?”

“Going to do Mass Guards, Marc?”

“Jesh, get a gorc chest for me?”

“Have time to sing for me, Mordak? I found this item.”

“Where are those merchants?”

“Where did you get those tarts, Katrioania?”

“Free drake! Anyone want it? I’ll leave it on the bench.”

“Did someone say merchants are here? Where?”

“Are you new? Need any help, Knightfall?”

I almost did not hear that last question. Startled out of my reverie, I searched to see who had addressed me. Looking down, I saw a female halfling, wearing lavender armor, a golden shield, a purple sash and white boots. Not waiting for my reply, she continued talking. “My name is Gilwen. What’s your profession?”

Trying to hide my disappointment for being identified as a newbie so quickly, I answered, “Hiya. I’m a thief. Pleased to meet you.” I was glad to be making a friend.

“Are you on the net?” she asked me.

I felt a sinking sensation as I glanced at my feet. I couldn’t see a net but I fully expected to be hoisted into the tree at any moment. I searched around for a safer place to stand but did not see one.   “Do you need an amulet? Here, I have an extra,” she said as she reached into her backpack to hand me one. “Put it on and rub it. Someone was asking for you a minute ago.”

“For me?”

“Yes. Wanted to know if anyone knew where you were. I’ll tell them you are here.”

I put on the crystal amulet and gave it a rub. Suddenly, Gilwen’s voice was in my head! “I’m with Knightfall. He is in TS with me.”

Then another voice replied, “Gilwen, I was told to ask you to come by the grocery store. Run in there a second.”

“Will do! On my way,” was her reply even though she didn’t move her lips. “Be right back, Knight. Wait here,” she said as she scurried west.

I waved goodbye after she had left and stood there hoping no one had noticed I was waving to nobody. The confusion surrounding me was now even worse, because there were voices in my head as well as the dozen conversations going on around me.

Someone called out, “Oh, Aivybard! Sing to something for me?”

A voice in my head asked, “How do I get off the dock in fishies?”

“Skaggs, want to do cavers?”

A voice in my head asked, “Which merchants are coming?”

“Kris, would you bless my sword?”

A voice in my head said, “Go shore.”

A voice in my head said, “Go shore!”

A voice in my head said, “Try to go shore or ring.”

An adventurer suddenly appeared in the act of placing a ring upon his finger. Around me, folks were preparing spells and casting them on others making them glow.

“Anyone see Wanton?”

A voice in my head asked, “Merchants? Are there merchants?”

“Have the merchants showed up yet?”

“Look, Knightfall! You’ve got presents!”

That cute, perky halfling was squiggling her way through the crowd. She flashed me a beautiful smile as she offered me a black brocade backpack. “Accept it. I found it,” she said.

“Thanx.” The backpack was heavier than I expected. “Is there something inside? Where did you find it?”

“There’s something inside? Look! Let me see!” she exclaimed. “When I got to the grocers, someone was hiding in the shadows and told me to give it to you.”

I opened the backpack and peered inside to see an exquisite silvery broadsword. “There’s a sword in here.” I gingerly grasped it, being careful not to cut myself as I pulled it out.

“Nice,” said Gilwen. “Laen. Very nice. Who do you think left it?”

“The merchants, perhaps,” I said, thinking out loud. I wondered if Xarbex would have left it. “Was it a rough, gravelly voice?”

“Nope, but he whispered though. Can’t be sure. This is so exciting.”

“Well, what am I going to do with this?” I wondered, staring at the sword.

“Go hunt, of course. You do want to go hunting, don’t you?”

“Sure, but…” before I could finish, Gilwen grabbed my hand and dragged me west.

“Lets hunt torkaans and kobs,” she said, pulling out a mace and removing her shield. “You ready?”

“Almost,” I muttered as I put on the backpack and readied my shield.

“Good. You want me to drive? Unless you want to lead.”

“No, that’s O.K. But shouldn’t …?” I started to say when I saw she was leading me through a breach in the wall. Turning north, we quickly came across a torkaan. I had never seen one up close before and was shocked to see its malevolent eyes and fangs dripping with venom.

“Attack him!” cried Gilwen.

Remembering my training, I parried my swing to twenty percent defense and swung that big laen broadsword. I missed by a mile.

Still, Gilwen seemed impressed. “Good swing!” she cried. “Try again. Attack him!”

As I regrouped for my next swing, I fought off a sneeze. My eyes were also watering up. “I bet the venom is airborne,” I thought to myself. Although I had trouble keeping the torkaan in focus, I swung again, fumbling badly.

“It’s The Rule,” cried Gilwen. “If you hadn’t fumbled, you would have had him.”

I don’t think the torkaan shared her optimism for my swordplay. While I sneezed, he charged with a probing attack, nicking my arm lightly.

“Something’s wrong,” stated Gilwen. “Parry up. You’re hurt.”

The couple drops of blood were no big deal, but by now I could barely see to fight and was sneezing like crazy. I parried up completely and awaited the next attack.

The torkaan charged again and sunk teeth deep in my leg, breaking the bone, its venom barely missing the wound. I felt agonizing pain for a moment, then was stunned.

“Oh, no!” cried Gilwen. “Parry up!”

“I was, it just didn’t helped,” I would have said if I was could have spoken. The torkaan prepared to attack again, instinctively knowing to finish me off. Luckily, Gilwen stepped forward and swung her mace.

“Oh, drat!” she cursed. “Forgot to parry down.” But she had saved me, for the torkaan switched its attack and charged her. Being at full defensive parry, she easily fended its bite, startling the torkaan so much that it ran west to escape.

“Are you OK ?” she asked me.

I started to move again and glanced at my leg. I felt very weak, but was finally starting to breath better. “I’m bleeding,” I informed her.

“Let’s go find a healer,” she said. “Ready to move?”

She didn’t wait for my answer, making me wonder why she had even bothered to ask, but I knew she was being as helpful as she knew how. Back through the breach and west to the Square we went, Gilwen looking much too nervous to talk. As we entered the center of the square, she dragged me to a bench where a halfling sat swinging legs that didn’t quite reach the ground. “Shy,” she addressed the other halfling, “Knightfall’s hurt. He has a broken leg. Can you heal him?”

The halfling named Shy then examined me and made her diagnosis. “Glad to, Gilwen.” she said, as she magically took my broken leg and the scratch on my arm. “Nasty fracture. What got you?” she asked.

“A torkaan got him, Shy,” answered Gilwen.

“Ouch. Are you a newbie?”

“Yeppers,” she answered again. “He just got here. I was showing him how to hunt.”

“Well, better luck next time, Knightfall. Nice chatting with you. Oh! Gilwen. You wouldn’t have an extra tart on you, would you?”

“Ah, no. No tarts. Sorry,” she said. “Well, Knight. What do you think went wrong?”

“Well, this sword, for one thing. I’m not very good with swords.”

“Don’t worry. I wasn’t either when I first got here. But keep training every year and you will get better. Ah…you did train didn’t you?” she asked.

“Double trained in crushing weapons. I’d love to find a good mace or hammer to swing.”

“Ah, you shouldn’t use a laen broadsword then, Knightfall,” Gilwen admonished.

“Gilwen’s grasp of the obvious is exceeded only by her beauty,” I thought to myself. But what do I do now? The irony of my situation almost overwhelmed me. Just minutes ago, I had never adventured and had no real hope to own a magical weapon. Now, all that had changed and I failed miserably. The torkaan nearly killed me and my weapon was worse than useless.

Determined to survive by my wits if need be, I struggled with what I should do next. Yave’s advice rang in my ears: Make friends. I smiled at Gilwen as I remembered I was doing just that. She was my friend. And I had better be friendly back.

“Thanx for saving my life, Gilwen. You were great back there.”

Gilwen blushed. “It was nothing, Knightfall. I should have done more.”

“No, no. You helped me a lot. I’m sorry I failed you. I just wish I could trade this sword for a laen mace.”

“Well, you can ask on the net.”

“How do I do that?” I asked.

“Just think the words in your mind. It’s great.”

I asked out over the network if anyone wanted to take a laen sword for a mace of similar value. Suddenly, folks were asking me what color it was and if I’d sell it. When someone offered me 25,000 coins for it, I quickly agreed. Soon, Guyton showed up, grabbed my hand and took me to the bank. I handed him the sword and he took the coins from the teller and handed them to me. I thanked him profusely, pulled out my map to see where the arms merchant was and rushed over there. To my huge disappointment, he would not sell magical weapons to me because I was too inexperienced.

I left the shop empty handed and moped back to TS central. Gilwen waved to me as I entered the area.

“So, what happened? Did you sell it?” she asked.

“Yeppers. But the arms merchant won’t take special orders from me. I still don’t have a weapon.”

“There is that. I know! Wait right here.” Then Gilwen ran east. I went to the bank and deposited my coins while waiting. The flurry of the hectic TS crowd continued.

Groups of hunters constantly crossed the square, and you could not help but eavesdrop on parts of their conversations. Several folks were playing an odd game called “Runes”. One would pick up a scrap of paper off the bench, look at it and then put it back. Then the other players would rush to be the one to pick up the paper, look at it and put it on the bench. Off to the side, a curious dwarf was singing to a sword as if it could hear what he sung. He even told the crowd what the sword said to him.

I finally saw something that made sense to me when I heard the words, “Aurien, would you pick a box for me?”

“Yes, drop it,” came the reply.

The adventurer then pulled a trunk out of his backpack and dropped it to the ground. I was impressed with how skillfully Aurien checked it for traps and then picked the lock and even more impressed when the adventurer paid him for the services.

Snippets of conversations ran through my mind and ears to the point that little made sense. Finally, I saw my hobbit friend weaving her way through the square searching for me.

“Here Knight. Take it,” said Gilwen, handing me a special looking mace. “I don’t need it anymore.”

“Thanx,” I said, hefting the weapon. It felt great. “Now this is a weapon!” I thrilled. “It feels powerful.”

“It’s a drake. You will love it.”

“Wow! I betcha I can kill torkaans now.”

“I bet you can too. Ready to try?” Gilwen asked.

“Sure,” I answered, just before she grabbed my hand and led me to the breech. I quickly made my attack plan to pay back the torkaan for the humiliation and suffering it had caused me. We met up with the torkaan just outside the breech and squared off for battle.

It attacked first and I parried its charge easily, but as I drew back to swing, I began to sneeze violently. Instead of swinging, I parried up fully and tried to keep an eye on it through my tears. Twice more it attacked, unable to hurt me except for the debilitating sneezing fit it was causing.

Finally, Gilwen said, “Ah, Knight? Are you going to swing?”

“Achoo. I’m trying to. Achoo. But can’t see him.” I gasped, breaking off in a coughing fit. Just then the torkaan got in a lucky bite, nipped my leg for slight damage.

“Oh dear,” said Gilwen, just before she unleashed a mighty swing, slaying the torkaan. “Are you O.K? What’s the matter?”

“I don’t know. Maybe I’m getting the flu,” I sniffed, though already I was starting to feel better.

“Hmmmm,” murmured Gilwen. “Never heard of that disease here. Are you sure?” she asked as she quickly bent over and skinned the torkaan.

Suddenly I was breathless. My throat clamped shut as if an ogre had grabbed me by the neck and squeezed tight. I fell to my knees and gasped for breath. Spots streamed before my eyes as if emanating from the torkaan pelt. Allergy! I had heard about the malady, now I knew I had it and I feared that it was killing me.

“Get the pelt,” I gasped weakly.

“Ah, no thanks,” said Gilwen. “I just skin for fun; pelts aren’t worth much. You need to stand up.”

“Allergic,” I squeaked out. I fell prone and pointed to where I wanted her to take it.

“Stand up, Knightfall. What’s allergic?”

My lungs felt on fire and every attempt to breathe added to my agony. Slowly I sucked in enough air to answer her. “Me,” I wheezed. The pain of that breath near killed me yet I felt relief that she would now save me from the pelt that was killing me.

“You have to stand, Knightfall,” she urged while tapping her foot. “Me what? What are you talking about?”

A coughing fit almost ended my life right then, but somehow I found the breath to whisper one word answers. “Pelt. Allergic. Move. Please.”

“You want me to get the pelt? Is that it, Knightfall?” Gilwen asked.

“She’s enjoying this,” I thought to myself. She likes watching people suffer; no other explanation exists. I fully expected her to rub my face with the pelt at any minute. I was completely out of breath, so with my most baleful look, I tried to nod to her but broke into another coughing fit, hoping she’d find mercy within her soul for me.

At last Gilwen picked up the pelt. Almost immediately, my allergy relented enough to allow me to wheeze in a small breath. “Please. Take it away,” I gasped.

Gilwen then went north and returned without the pelt. “I dropped it in the next area,” she stated.

I was already better. As air filled my spent lungs, strength slowly returned to my limbs. I slowly sat up, amazed at what had happened.

“Stand up, Knight. What’s the matter with you?”

I stood up, a little shaky but recovering fast. “I’m not sure. I once heard about allergies. Could that be what went wrong?”

“Allergies?” said Gilwen doubtfully. “I’ve never heard of anyone having allergies before. Do you really think you’re allergic to torkaans?”

“I don’t know. I never saw a torkaan before today. But both times I began to sneeze, choke and couldn’t breathe.”

“There is that,” said Gilwen. “So what are you going to do?”

“Not hunt torkaans, I guess.”

“That will be tough. No torks, huh? Well, want to try a kob?”

“Yeppers! Um, what’s a kob?”

“A kobold. We should be able to find one around here somewhere.”

“Sounds great. Let’s go.”

We headed out in the woods a short ways when suddenly Gilwen pointed and shouted, “There’s one!”

I stepped forward to meet the foe. The little monster did not look very tough, so I decided to be fully offensive. Then as it turned to face me, I realized it could be a formidable opponent. I hesitated a moment, long enough for the kobold to attack first. It took a good swing and my shield caught its sword. I gulped as I realized, unless I got him first, it would sooner or later make me feel the edge of his blade. Quickly I brought my drake mace into play.

It was not a particularly good swing. Still, my mace landed heavy on its shield, dissolving the kob’s confidence. As it rocked back a little, I was able to land another blow, catching the left shoulder. I was elated at landing the blow and spinning the kobold around until it counter swung at my head. I ducked and returned an overhand strike. As my drake landed, it suddenly flared into flames, scorching the monster’s head and stunning it.

“Did you see that?” I shouted to Gilwen. “I nearly killed it!”

“Yes, very good, Knight. Now finish him.”

“Oh, yeah. Will do.” However, in my enthusiasm, I fumbled the handle of my mace in an embarrassing show of inexperience, allowing the kobold to clear its head from the stun.

“The Rule,” said Gilwen.

“What’s this rule?” I asked, just before the kobold took a weak swing at me.

“The Rule. Whenever you should get a easy kill, you miss by a mile. I thought everybody knew The Rule.”

“Not me. But I’m new here. Who made this rule?” I asked suspiciously.

“They. Them. The powers that be,” said Gilwen matter of factly.

“Of course. I should have suspected,” I said as the nearly blind kobold took another wild swing. I carefully aimed my next shot.

“I’m glad you understand,” said Gilwen. “You’d be surprised how many people doubt The Rule.”

“No! Really?” I said in mock surprise as I struck the kobold. The mace landed full force upon his chest, striking him dead.

“Wonderful! Good swing!” exclaimed Gilwen. I was excited, but I swear she was even happier than me. “Search him,” she instructed.

A quick search found a few coins. “This is great,” I thought to myself. “Another one?” I asked Gilwen.

“Yeppers,” she said. “Lets head south.”

Soon I was face to face with another kobold whose sole intent was to kill me. We traded a couple blows with no real damage before my mace flared up as I hit its leg. The kobold turned to run, limping badly.

“Hurry!” I cried to Gilwen. “Let’s go get him.”

“No hurry. He’s bleeding. That means he will sit,” she lectured.

“Sit? Or get away!”

“No. He’ll sit. Get ready to swing. Let’s move.” she said, leading the charge. And true enough, there we found the kobold, sitting tending its wound, right next to the biggest torkaan I have ever seen. My swing was already in motion, but it was a weak strike and my mace glanced off the kobold harmlessly.

“The Rule!” piped in Gilwen as she fended off an attack by the torkaan.

“Achoo!” I answered. I wondered which I hated most, torkaans or her rule. My eyes were swelling shut and I was coughing again. I couldn’t see to fight so I parried up in defense.

“Oh, no. Allergies again?” asked Gilwen.

“I can’t see a thing. Let’s hope the tork leaves.”

“Even better,” said Gilwen. “The kobbie just ran out. He’ll sit down again.”

“He couldn’t be that stupid, could he?” I asked.

“You watch. Ready?” she asked rhetorically as she dragged me into the next clearing. Sure enough, the kobold was sitting down again. This time, rule or no rule, I wasn’t going to miss and brained him good. He fell dead before the mace even had a chance to flair.

“Don’t forget to search,” Gilwen told me.

Remembering the other one had coins, I was already searching. Interestingly, he had a small green rock. “What’s that?” I asked.

“A green aventurine stone!” cooed Gilwen. “It’s a good omen. You’re a good searcher.”

“I am? What’s it for? Does it do anything?”

“Yep. You can get a deed with it,” Gilwen said solemnly.

“A deed to what?” I asked, picking up the stone and putting it in my backpack.

“Oh, Knightfall,” sighed Gilwen, “you’ve so much to learn. A deed to life. You really need them. Just ask any cleric.”

Remembering Mieke and her fanatical beliefs, I responded, “No thanks. Clerics give me the creeps. Too religious, you know?”

“Ah, no, I don’t know,” Gilwen glared at me.

“You have friends that are clerics? I’m sorry. It’s just the ones I have known have been that way. I’m sure your friends are OK.”

“Yes, most of my clerical friends are very nice. You might be surprised to find out who turns out to be a cleric.”

I could see I wasn’t making friends, though it escaped me why my point had bothered her. I thought it best to change subjects.

“Want to keep hunting?” I asked.

“Yeppers. I’ll lead,” she said.

The next critter we found was a torkaan. Gilwen passed it by so fast I only sneezed once. A little ways later, we found another kobold. I got in two good hits when in ran a big ugly monster.

“Look out!” cried Gilwen. “Karnelin!” She swung at it, breaking its right leg.

“Achoo!” I sneezed. I looked around to see if a torkaan had run in, but there was only Gilwen, the kob, the karn and me. “Achoo! Must be a torkaan nearby.”

“Oh. You poor dear. Parry up, karns are dangerous.”

A coughing fit sent me backing up. Almost doubled over, right now I’d probably find a mouse dangerous. After another sneeze, I wiped my eyes to see what was happening. Gilwen hit the karn again, stunning it momentarily. The kobold attacked me again, his sword clashing with my shield. Another coughing fit suddenly ended. The karnelin had run away and I was feeling better.

“I guess the tork left,” I said as I swung on the kobold.

“The karn did too,” said Gilwen as she swung and killed the kob. “Go ahead and search him.”

“Isn’t it your kill?”

“It’s OK. You search.”

He had a shield, short sword and light leather is all. “I found zip,” I said. “They don’t all have treasure?”

“Ah, no, Knight. Not even close. But there will be more monsters. One more before we go in?”

“Yeppers. Thanx!”

We mover further south, away from where the karnelin had run. Suddenly, we were faced to face with a low, sleek, black-haired killing machine. Meaner looking than my worst nightmare, I parried up instantly.

“Look out!” cried Gilwen. “Wolverine!” She then took a swing at it. It was an impressive swing, her mace landing full force against its skull, knocking it to the ground stunned.

I had expected her to run, but this looked like a genuine opportunity to gain some experience fighting. I parried down and “Achoo!” I sneezed while swinging, missing by a mile.

“The Rule!” Gilwen and I chimed together. She then hit the wolvie again as I coughed. “Knightfall? Ah, I don’t see a tork.”

“I don’t see one either,” I hacked. “Sorry, but I can’t see to fight.”

“OK,” said Gilwen as she killed the prone wolverine. “There. Safe now,” she said as she skinned it.

I was choking. “Ack!” I whimpered just before passing out.

I came to with Gilwen looking down at me. “I did not know what to do.” she said. “I got rid of the Wolvie hide. Did that help?”

“It must have. I choked the moment you skinned it.”

“So sorry. I did not know. You said it was just torkaans.”

“Not your fault. I know, so far, all I can fight is kobolds.”

“That’s right, Knight! All the critters have made you sneeze. What does it mean?”

“And it gets worse when they are skinned,” I added.

“There is that. Maybe you’re allergic to their hides.”

“Must be. Am I going to be able to adventure here without fighting the critters?”

Gilwen wrinkled her brow while thinking. “Oh, yes. There’s lots of monsters here. I know I hardly ever fight critters. Not counting manticores, of course. And threks.”

I remembered the old Elanthian saying that taking advice from halflings is like taking beauty lessons from ogres. No harm in listening but not likely to make you wiser or more attractive. Still, I was glad to have met Gilwen and appreciated her help. But I wondered what effect my friendship with Gilwen was going to have on my career in Kulthea.

We went back to town, stopping whenever Gilwen had to reply on the amulet network. I suspected she needed the conversations to compensate for the boredom of newbie babysitting, though I now know that she’s not happy unless she’s involved in two or more conversations at once. Besides, I was busy trying to memorize the trail.

At the Town Square, Gilwen dissolved our group. I asked what I needed to do next.

“Just one thing, Knight. Rest and think about what you’ve learned. And bank. You might want to sell your gems first, though. Or get deeds! Very important, you know. Go to the temple to get deeds.” She then whispered to me, “Go through the black arch and behind the tapestry. Hit the chime twice.”

“Thanx for everything,” I told her. “This was a great trip. I would have been lost without a friend out there.”

Gilwen beamed at me, then headed east. I visited all the places she named and more with the help of my map. Kelfour was a great town. So many places to go and to see. And such interesting people. Friendly, too. The rest of the day was spent exploring.

I got my deed from Eissa. Knowing her to be a diabolical liar, I listened carefully to the priestesses’ words. But they were slick and I could not figure out their angle. Unless the deeds were not worth the gems they were collecting. Even so, my soul seemed safe from her machinations and I was sure Gilwen and her cleric friends would be relieved to know I had my deed. Not that I ever planned to use it.

I got a room in the inn for the night. It had been quite a day. I had arrived a green newbie. Now, I felt different inside. Something today had changed me. As if I had grown up. Inside, I knew I was now a Kelfourian forever. Until the end of the age.

Maybe that was what made me feel different. Or perhaps the thrill of holding a laen weapon and the mystery surrounding it’s arrival. Or simply that I was now an adventurer, with some small fame in the realm. Or that worrisome deed had changed me and had let Eissa get her hooks in me. But I felt it was a good change and was sure it was because something important and wonderful had happened today.

My thoughts turned to Gilwen and I wondered if I could explain to her the change in me. She’d probably just call it another allergy. I fell asleep thinking about the fun I had while hunting with her.

Early the next morning I was up and about Kelfour. I explored the dark alleys and back rooms scattered throughout the town. I could tell this was going to be a great place in which to be a thief. Folks carried so much money around. I was sure to make my fortune. Coincidentally, I had picked up a few silvers while exploring. As I crossed the square to bank my income, I heard my name called out. I started to hide, worried I was about to face an accuser, when I saw Gilwen scurrying towards me.

“Knightfall!” she cried. “Good to see you again. What are you hunting?”

“Nothing yet. Just exploring the town. I’m not sure where to hunt yet.”

“I was thinking about that. How about nymphs?”


“Sea nymphs. Good newbie creatures.”

“OK. How do I find them?”

“I could take you. It would be fun. Want to go?” Gilwen asked.

“Yeppers! What do I need to know to fight them?” I asked.

“Nothing special. You’ll do fine. Ready to go?”

“Almost,” I said while getting out my drake mace and shield.

“OK. Want me to drive?” asked Gilwen.

“Uh, yeppers. I don’t know the way.”

“There is that,” said Gilwen. “Ready yet?”

“Yeppers,” I answered again.

“OK. Join me,” she said.

I stepped beside her as she got out her shield and mace. She took my hand and asked, “Ready to move?”

“Yes. I am,” I said slowly and distinctly so she would be sure to understand me.

“Great,” said Gilwen. “Now, when we find the nymphs, be careful of their spells.”

“I thought you said there wasn’t anything special about them.”

“Uhh, I did. Nothing other than that.”

“OK. What kind of spells?” I asked.

“No bad ones. They cast spells when they sing,” she said.

“Ahhh…anything else?”

“Nope. That’s about it. Ready to go?”

“I think so. Uh, Gilwen, did you know you had your mace in your left hand?”

“Drat!” she said. “Let me switch hands.” She switched hands then looked at me and asked, “You ready now?”

“Yeppers, Gilwen.”

“OK. Let’s move.” And finally we were off. Soon Gilwen led us out the gates and to the Merchant Road.

The vista along the coastal cliff was breathtaking. The air was clean (I noticed right away) and the view of the bay reminded me of Squires Bluff. We walked a long ways without seeing a sign of any creatures. Gilwen chatted the entire time about how neat it was to be returning here. Suddenly, I had the eeriest feeling we were being watched. I parried up in defense, but saw no signs of a creature. We kept heading west until we came to a dead end and Gilwen looked puzzled.

“We might be lost,” she said. “I did learn to hunt from a ranger. Let’s go back the other way.”

“Good plan,” I thought to myself, seeing there was no other choice. We walked until we reached the last fork, where Gilwen stopped to consider directions. Suddenly, something dripping wet crawled out onto the path!

“Oh. Good. We found one,” said Gilwen, facing off against the seaweed draped monstrosity in front of us. Though the nymph brandished a dagger, she seemed vulnerable enough, having no armor other than a robe.

“Wrong again,” I thought to myself after her dagger drew first blood, scratching my thigh. “Why does adventuring have to be so hard? There must be a trick to all this,” I thought as I checked the wound.

The nymph then began singing a tune. Remembering Gilwen’s warning about spells, I attacked. A lucky blow to her head stunned the nymph.

“Are you hurt?” asked Gilwen. “Look out! She’s singing. Oh! Good shot,” she exclaimed.

Gilwen’s running commentary made me smile but threw off my rhythm and I missed the nymph with my next swing. “The Rule!” Gilwen sang out. Now I was chuckling and still trying to fight.

The nymph came out of her stun and whispered a seductive song to me but nothing happened. That spell was a close call so I renewed my efforts. My mace fractured her leg, knocking her to the ground. Before she could stand, I crushed her skull and she lay still. Gilwen was ecstatic. She must not get to hunt much, I decided.  A quick search of the nymph revealed a dagger and robes, nothing else.

“Very good Knight!” bubbled Gilwen. “I admire a good crusher. Not very many of us, you know.”

“They don’t teach it much in school. Perhaps that will change some day,” I said.

“They should. They are great weapons. Let’s find another nymph.”

A short walk to the east found a nymph waiting for us. We traded ineffectual swings, testing each others defenses. She then began singing a seductive song. I landed a blow to her arm but did little damage. She whispered her song to me and again I resisted the spell. Gilwen swung at her, stunning her with a blow to the chest, and she lay dead following my next swing. My search turned up 67 coins.

“Look Gilwen! Coins! She had money,” I said excitedly. I never imagined that monsters would carry cash.

“Ah, yes. They do that, Knight. How do you think they buy their gems?” asked Gilwen.

“Do you lie awake at nights dreaming up these questions?” I replied. “Where do they buy gems?”

“Must be someplace. They sure carry plenty of them.”

Gilwen picked up the coins and shared them with me. She was trying to decide which way to go when a sea nymph crawled up at our feet. We both attacked without doing much damage. The nymph began her song right away and then whispered it to Gilwen. She must have liked the music because she was noticeably calmer after that.

“Darn,” said Gilwen. “She calmed me.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“I can’t fight. Swing at me Knight?”

It shocked me to see how powerful the nymph’s spell song was. Gilwen was now calmed, noncombative and quite demented. “I couldn’t hurt you Gilwen,” I insisted, “but it’s just a spell. I am sure you’ll be alright.”

“Ah, Knight. I doubt you could hurt me. But the calm spell keeps me from fighting until someone attacks me to break the spell.”

To my great relief, the nymph solved Gilwen’s problem by attacking her. I dreaded attacking a woman, especially one as nice as Gilwen. We finished off the nymph with a couple more swings but found nothing but seaweed.

Instead of tracking down the next creature, Gilwen tugged on my arm as she asked, “Ah, Knight. Mind if I ask you a question?”

“Not at all. What do you want to know?”

“Well, I’ve noticed the nymph’s siren call doesn’t have much effect on you. Don’t you find them irresistibly attractive?”

Just then a sea nymph crawled out into the rocks before us. The hideous monster, covered with slime coated seaweed, wavered her dagger. “No, Gilwen. What makes you ask that?” I asked, dodging the nymph’s attack.

“Most of the guy’s I hunt with are always talking about how much they like the nymphos and making suggestive comments. I was just wondering if you liked them too.”

I snuck a glance at Gilwen while keeping guard against the danger before me. The nymph’s mannerisms were an attempt to distract me, but my training had taught me to focus on her eyes. And her eyes were searching me for an opening in which to slide her dagger. Not my idea of a fun date. It sure sounded like Gilwen ran around with some bizarre people. A question occurred to me. “What sort of things do their comments suggest, Gilwen?”

“You know, the usual,” she answered as if she was sure I had not needed to ask. “So,” she continued, “you really don’t think the nymph is pretty?”

The way she asked reminded me of Dalin worrying about stuff he had no way of changing. I wondered if this was a characteristic of halflings. “Are you really worried about what a sea nymph looks like? I don’t think I understand why you’re asking,” I replied.

“Was just making conversation. Would you rather talk about something else?” Gilwen said breezily.

“I guess so,” I said.

“Okay, what were you wanting to bring up?” she asked.

This was rapidly becoming one the most frustrating conversations in my life. It had me far more distracted than anything the sea nymph could do. We both took swings, weakening the nymph a little before Gilwen spoke again. “Does it bother you for me to ask you questions?” she asked.

“Noppers. I just didn’t know why you were asking,” I said.

“No reason. It’s just that every time I hunted here before, the boys talked about loving the nymphs.”

“For real?” These guys she hangs out with sounded degenerate to me. “Were your friends followers of Orhan?” I asked.

“Of course,” said Gilwen, “but they aren’t really like that. They were mostly joking.”

“Some joke,” I thought. The poor saps had been seduced and deluded by Orhan and his evil followers, losing all sense of decency. I wondered how much Gilwen had been tainted by their contact with them but as long as she was not threatening me, I assumed it was none of my business. We traded blows with the nymph in silence until Gilwen landed a fatal blow.

“Nice hit,” I said.

“Thanks,” smiled Gilwen as she searched. “Nothing. One more before we go in?”

“Great. I really appreciate this. Hunting nymphs is fun.”

“So!” exclaimed Gilwen. “You do like nymphos?”

“Not the way you’re saying. I said they were fun to hunt, not to look at.” Those deluded followers of Orhan had really gotten to her.

Gilwen beamed at me, then led our group west in search of another foe. A nymph was awaiting us but was not prepared for a flaring drake mace to the abdomen. Gilwen applauded my sudden attack, which I finished off with my next blow, rule or no rule.

“Well done!” squealed Gilwen. “Impressive! Be sure to search.”

I found a surprise. A scratched silver coffer! A little damp but an exciting find. Gilwen was delighted too.

“A box!” she exclaimed. “Very good, Knight!”

How an experienced adventurer could confuse a box with a coffer was beyond me but I was to find this was just one of Gilwen’s idiosyncracies. “What do we do with it?” I asked her.

“You pick it. You’re a thief aren’t you?”

“Uh, yeah. But, I don’t have a lockpick.”

“Well, there is that,” said Gilwen. “Get it and take it to town.”

“OK,” I said as I placed the coffer into my backpack. “Let’s go.”

Gilwen headed west, but I politely did not mention it until we came to the dead end. “The other way?” I suggested.

“Yeppers,” said Gilwen, completely oblivious to my subtlety. As we headed back to town, I kept a watch for nymphs, but instead, as we left the cliffs, we were confronted by a giant worm.

“Carrion worm!” Gilwen warned. “Be careful!”

Careful nothing. I smashed my mace into its maw, stunning it. Gilwen went east, having not expected my attack. She came back swinging, and knocked it to the ground, giving me an easy finishing shot. Instinctively, she skinned it, then gasped.

“Oh no! Knight? Are you all right?”

I stared at the worm skin on the ground in horror, but nothing happened. We glanced at each other and as our eyes met, slow smiles showed our relief. I was not allergic.

“What’s the matter, Knight? You’re not passing out?”

“I guess it’s fur I am allergic to. The worm skin seems OK.”

“Ahh. Well then. Get the skin. You can sell it at the furriers.”

“Good idea,” I said. “Now something else is wrong, I seem to have too many items.”

“Ah!” said Gilwen. “It happens. Let me get it for you or you could drag it.” She noticed my confused look so she quickly grabbed the skin and headed back to town. In no time we were through the gates (an abandoned area in those times) and into the furriers. I coughed as she dropped the worm skin. As it hit the floor, I followed right after.

“Now what?” asked Gilwen, but I was too overcome to respond. “I thought you were not allergic to worms?”

My eyes fluttered briefly. There were stacks of hides everywhere. “I’m dead,” I thought. Gilwen’s voice filtered into my mind dimly, “Knight? What’s wrong? Are you not talking again? Is it the hides in here that are bothering you?” I was barely conscious now and completely paralyzed. “It’s the allergies that keeps you from answering, isn’t it, Knight?”

I came to with a coughing fit. Gilwen had dragged me out into the street. “Are you okay now?” she asked.

“Yeppers,” I mumbled embarrassedly as a group of lords strolled by, glancing at me. Slowly I sat up. “I’ll be okay. Thanx for everything. But keep the worm skin.”

“Okay. And we have a box! Can you open it?” asked Gilwen while rubbing her crystal amulet a couple times.

“I don’t know. I’ve never opened a real box..err…coffer before. Let’s take a look.” I said while pulling out the coffer.

I placed it on the ground and checked for traps a couple times. It looked clean. (I now know I had not yet trained well enough to be safe, but it seemed like a good idea then. Gilwen certainly seemed impressed.) “Rut roh,” I groaned. “I still don’t have a lock pick.”

“Oh no! Can you buy one?”

“Sure! Where do they sell them?” I asked.

“I don’t know. Let’s go ask,” said Gilwen.

I stood up and Gilwen led us to The Square. And there, on the bench, was the prettiest common lock pick I had ever seen. “Can I have the lock pick?” I asked. No one answered, though I did get a couple of you’re-a-silly-newbie looks, so I picked it up.

“Let’s go to the well,” said Gilwen, already leading me there by the hand. “Try it here,” she said.

“Okay,” I said. I kneeled down next to another picker and dropped the coffer. He seemed perturbed by my action but did not say anything. Then I tried the lock. I heard a SNAP. “Crud,” I mumbled under my breath. I had broken my lockpick.

The other picker leaned over and angrily whispered to me, “Knight, you have to check for traps first. What level are you?”

“I checked twice. Did not see one. First level,” I said out loud.

“Hi, Rayzor,” said Gilwen. “Knight and I found a nymph box.”

“Ahhh,” said Rayzor in guild speak after disarming a trunk. “You’re new here?”

I nodded to Rayzor.

“Okay. Some rules here. Only one picker at a time in a room.”

“Oh,” I said. “Sorry.”

“It keeps accidents from happening,” said Rayzor. “Also, it’s dangerous to try to pick until you’ve trained more.”

“Oh,” I said. I was grateful for his instruction, even if I wasn’t liking what I was hearing.

“And,” he said, returning to guild speak, “common lock picks are junk. They break even on me. Buy a professional pick at the least in a couple years.”

“Oh,” I said. I hated looking like a total newbie in front of Gilwen.

But she seemed impressed. “Shop talk, huh?” she commented. “I just love getting boxes opened.”

Rayzor carefully examined our coffer. “Want me to unlock it?” he asked.

“Yeppers,” we said.

He pulled out a lore lock pick and “CLICK” it was open. As he slipped the pick into his boot, he opened our coffer and looked at Gilwen. “One scoop,” he said, taking some coins from the chest.

“Thanks!” said Gilwen, picking up the coffer. “Let’s go see what we got.” We went to the general store and seeing no one else there, Gilwen scooped up all the coins. She handed me 85 of them. “That’s half,” she said. “And some gems. Here, you take them to get some deeds. You need seven.”

“Seven gems? Wow! I got a deed with just one gem.”

“Ah, no, Knight. You need seven deeds. No more and no less. Everyone knows that.”

“I’m such an ignorant newbie,” I thought. “Okay. Thanx!” I said.

Gilwen gave me a hug, waved goodbye and headed northwest. I stood there for the longest time, reflecting on all I had experienced. I had learned apprenticeship was only a beginning. I still had a lot to learn. But that was okay. This had been the most fun I had ever had. I felt lucky that Gilwen had taken the time to help me out and vowed that I would return the favor to future newbies. Assuming I survived this first year.

Scrivener’s Note

I bumped into your Lord Knightfall by accident as I entered town this week. He informed me that he wanted to record more of his history, an assignment that pleased me greatly. It is my intention to interview you soon concerning your version of this story. I am anxious to confirm if you really met this way.

On the subject of confirmations, I met the merchant caravan last month. Yavetka remembered Knightfall and was delighted to hear he was now a Lord. Wejula insisted that I describe his wardrobe. Xarbex wondered if he would want to buy some vultite items he had in stock. After his indenture was over, Paelior left the caravan after Wejula rejected his marriage proposal. Sadly, Azuhkim died in an ambush shortly there after. The merchants verified his story to my complete satisfaction.

I will return to your town in then the near future. I have made an appointment with Knightfall at that time. He tells me this account is just half the story of when you two met and that the best is yet to come. As I understand this tale, at this time in your relationship, Knightfall dislikes clerics and does not realize his new companion is about to become a rezzer herself. My bardic sense tells me it going to be a great story.