Week 11, Entering a Tourney
We left our heroes visiting the Golden Archmage, who proves to be amiable and helpful, though not as helpful as we had hoped. Cantrel, who stayed outside the castle during the feast, now elects to stay behind. The rest of the party is returning to Marchford to earn money and learn local skills, but Cantrel figures he can do his best learning with the Mage. Also, he wants to break in the pegasus he captured. The Archmage is amenable to this arrangement.
The party leaves the Golden Fields with little further incident. Issik, the faun, stays behind. We re-cross the Lake of Sleep using a boat concealed behind a waterfall on the far side. The Archmage told us where to find it, and that it returns to the falls by itself. It can also be summoned by command, but the command is a spell and would take some time to teach. Well, next time we'll bring a canoe or something.
On the road, we see a troop of horsemen approaching. We therefore veer off into the woods and let them pass by. They are heading INTO the Golden Fields, possibly to attend a tourney with the Archmage's chess pieces.
Then we are surprised by a remarkably stealthy fellow -- big and strong and wearing vaguely Romanesque armor. In fact, he is the warrior Cantrel, Lorelei, and Daewen tangled with the last time they were in Marchford. He doesn't recognize the womenfolk but asks if we have passed anyone of Cantrel's description. (His description of Cantrel involves terms like "thief" and "knave" and "dastard," but we have no trouble recognizing Cantrel from these.) PASSED him? No. (Thou shalt not lie / But don't believe / Thou art required / To undeceive. -- Burma Shave)
We return to Marchford without further incident and start job-hunting. Christopher gets a job singing at the Bolewood Tavern, which he augments by gambling. In turn, he augments the gambling with his Dicing PK. Daewen gets a job there as serving wench, and Alag tags along as serving boy, but gets fired the first day.
David locates an archery master, a willowy fellow about seven feet tall who refuses to tell anyone his name. David pays for his lessons by acting as assistant hunter when the master goes out game-hunting for the local restaurants. Once they hear about this fellow, Christopher and Alag also sign up for lessons. The master is a little reluctant to take so many people skulking in the woods, but is impressed with their marksmanship and stealth, and so agrees. He is also intrigued by Chris's outworldish compound bow.
Tom gets a job working for a jeweler who, by chatting with him through the day, gives him a free education in the Hremish language. Pfusand finds they are expanding the marketplace and hires on as a laborer. [And what are Wu and Lorelei doing? Their players weren't there last week.]
The weeks roll by. The group habitually meets at the Bolewood to trade news and to re-distribute cash. Tom meets the archery master and decides the fellow can't be normal human -- what he would have called "eo-human" back home. The gentleman admits to being "of the woods," whatever that means. The locals catch on to Chris's extra-reliable luck and refuse to gamble with him any more.
Meanwhile, back in the Golden Fields, it's a couple of days after the party left. While out riding the pegasus, Cantrel has spotted a golden figure on a gold-and-red pegasus dog-fighting with another golden figure on a gold-and-blue griffin. More chessmen at play.
The next day, Cantrel's once and future victim, the hero from Marchford, shows up at the castle gates. He has (of course) no sword, but carries a heavy and used-looking club. In general, he looks a bit the worse for wear. But that doesn't stop him from challenging Cantrel to come out right now and fight like a man, etc. He wants the return of his sword, Mansplitter. (Since Cantrel speaks little of any local language, this challenge has to be interpreted by the Castelan.)
Cantrel says that he regards the sword as rightful spoils of war, but would the hero take a good greatsword for it? Ridiculous! How about a fight barehanded? Sure. Does it have to be to the death? No answer. Magic allowed? NO!! Cantrel doesn't like the reach of that big club or all that armor. The hero points out / boasts that he has just recently beaten a band of horse barbarians single-handed, whereas Cantrel is fresh.
Cantrel proposes a fight without armor or magic, club vs. nunchuks ("This little broken stick here), the winner gets the sword. Done.
Cantrel then leaps deftly off the wall and over the moat, landing in front of the hero. (We hear a whoop of delight from the Castelan. We hadn't known he could BE delighted. And there is a poof as the Mage 'ports in to watch.) The hero is taken aback but strips off his armor. Cantrel then wades in with nunchuks and karate and soon KOs the poor man. "Have I won?" he asks the Castelan. In response, the Castelan jumps off the wall himself (landing with his feet six inches below the surface) and inspects the fallen hero. "Yes, you've won." They wake him up and he tries to kick Cantrel. Cantrel was ready for that and blocks in. "Tch, tch. Tell you what: you get a re-match with me just because I'm the magnanimous type. Of course, you'll have to find me." The beaten hero slumps off into the sunset.
The Golden Archmage is mightily amused by all this and asks Cantrel to take a pegasus-ride to the Lake of Sleep, to verify this story about fighting off the horse barbarians single-handed. Cantrel rides off and finds it is true. It was probably just as well for Cantrel that the hero wasn't in top shape.
The Mage has little to tell Cantrel about these "heroes" that everyone keeps lumping him with. They show up from time to time and are known by the great deeds they do. It appears to be a status, not a race. The sword, Mansplitter, has a find-me spell on it, but also does some extra damage. The dwarves beyond the northern mountains do similar work.
But over the next couple of weeks, Cantrel and the Mage start to bore each other. Cantrel fights some demonstration duels with chess pieces, but that's about it. The Mage sends him out on reconnaissance missions a lot.
Cantrel asks about getting some equipment. Well, there is a tournament off to the south, and the Mage has been asked to send someone. He'd been planning on sending a chess piece, but Cantrel would be more flexible. The Mage offers to lend Cantrel some armor to attend the tourney in. Cantrel keeps any prize money he wins and gets to use the armor for three months if he wins. Cantrel accepts and sets out for Marchford. Riding a pegasus in gold-and-red armor, he cuts an impressive figure.
He arrives and asks the party if they would like to go along. Pfusand, David, and Tom decide to go, to try for the prize money and to gain information. Tom's employer, the jewel-smith, is reconciled to the idea by the thought of selling some stuff at the tourney. He sends his own agent and three bodyguards. We run into a small band of robbers on the journey south, but drive them off without much effort.
At the tourney, Cantrel fights a furious duel of sword vs. nunchuk and just barely wins. He is surprised when his opponent takes off his helmet at the end of the round -- the fellow is feline, a humanized cat in the way that Pfusand is a humanized panda.
Tom is eliminated quickly in a duel with Victoria's spear. (Tom is lost if he can't block a blow -- he's not very tough.) Pfusand goes much longer in a wrestling match, but is beaten. She makes it up by winning a greased-pole- climbing contest and winning a roast pig. David comes in second in an archery contest. Cantrel goes two more rounds but loses the final contest, so he comes in second in whatever his event was. Could be better, could be a lot worse.
We make the acquaintance of Cantrel feline opponent. (This requires two interpreters.) He is from Nyouwhon or something like that, the local equivalent of Japan, far away from the east coast. We ask if he would like to join our group and do deeds of great desperation, er, valor. Sorry, he's booked up. He and a couple of other samurai cats are looking for a cat-lady who has been sold into slavery, probably further south. He attended the tourney for the same reason we did, for financing. He also tells us that the samurai cats mark the walls of the cities they visit with their sigils. His is a lotus modified to look like a cat's face. This way they (and we) can tell if one of their band is in a city or has been there recently. Well, maybe we will meet again.
We head north again. Cantrel goes back to the Mage to return the armor, though he buys some less flashy stuff from him with the second-prize money. The rest of us return to Marchford. We've now been in this world three to four months.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.