Week 9, Visiting the Centaurs
We left our heroes in the midst of a scene from the "Pastorale" sequence of "Fantasia" -- fauns and wood nymphs itching to party. While they waited, Tom and Pfusand mixed up the gold and purple flowers with the ingredients given them by Mother Myrtle. Wu recites the spell she gave us, does a magical cure, then probes at Cantrel's innards. He's not blighted anymore. Sigh of relief. Now we are only two giant steps back, instead of three.
We ask a few questions of our translator faun. Was that bull Cantrel wrestled owned by anyone? No. What do they know about the Golden Mage? They try to avoid mages, but they know the way to his castle and give us directions. We tell them they can start partying without us if we aren't back tomorrow, then leave.
Our faithful faun leads us off into the woods. Soon, we hear a waterfall, with harp music mixed in. Alag plugs his ears and several of us consider doing the same. But the music appears non-addictive. The faun tells us the centaurs are still celebrating. Celebrating what? He doesn't know.
As we proceed, we pass two centaurs in the woods, who dart away down a bridle path. Soon, we come to a clearing at the foot of a cliff. A steep waterfall pours down the face and centaurs are gathered around the boiling pool at the foot. A big, Clydesdale-caliber stallion is playing a large harp, accompanied by a colt and a mare with smaller harps. The faun murmurs that this is Claystor, their chief harpist. Some of the other centaurs are armed, but no one is pointing the weapons at us. However, they are between us and the path up the hillside, to the road to the mage's palace.
We send the faun off with Chris to explain our peaceful intentions to Claystor. The faun comes back saying that he isn't very happy with our presence, but he isn't mad either. That's doing pretty well for human/centaur relations. We slip through the herd, smiling pleasantly. Claystor sends the adolescent colt ahead to tell the outliers to keep an eye on us.
We spot other centaurs as we climb the trail, but do not interact with them. Soon we notice that all the centaurs we see are males carrying bows. Coming to the top of this ridge, we find a road running along it, crossing the river by means of a large arched bridge. The road itself is paved with sandy-yellow cobblestones. And we're off to see a wizard. "How classic," several of us murmur.
We head away from the bridge. We notice that our faun falls slowly behind until he's following at some distance. "Are you staying or aren't you?" Wu asks. It seems he just wants to see what happens to us next, since we obviously attract excitement and adventure. No kidding, kid-feet. Well, we don't mind since he's handy as an interpreter. If he's staying, we'd better know his name. Issik.
We proceed, still encountering the occasional centaur scout. We smile and wave at them. One of them nods back. Then a shadow glides across the road. Looking up for its caster, we see a big black pegasus with white mane and tail. "How classic," quoth the Naza. "Classical, too," Tom remarks.
We ask Issik about pegasi. He tells us they're fairly common and gives the impression they are semi-intelligent. Cantrel asks him for the word for "friend" and starts levitating. He mimes climbing an invisible tree or ladder. Just as he did during the bullfight, Issik tries to follow. And fails.
The pegasus, understandably curious, makes several passed by Cantrel, who hails it with "Friend!" each time, to no avail. Then the pegaus makes the mistake of flying UNDER Cantrel, who promptly drops onto its back. We are then treated to a long and complex aerial bronco-busting show. From time to time, the pegasus gets tired and lands briefly. Cantrel tries to get off and it takes off again, once clipping Tom on the head with a hoof. The party gets tired of this show and starts marching again, leaving Cantrel to find us from the air.
As we march along, Wu casts some detection spells at Issik and determines the faun is magical in nature but not under any particular spells (e.g. a geas to spy on us). He also learns from Issik that the pegasi are intelligent FOR BEASTS. They aren't people-caliber. We tell Cantrel this next time around and he gives up on the "Friend" routine and start simple bronco-busting.
Also as we march, we spot a figure in gold and red, down in the valley below, on a course parallel to ours. Our mage? The hero Cantrel robbed of the enchanted sword? Around this time, Cantrel starts noting the hint of spires in the distance. Two or three big things fly about them, maybe griffins.
Late in the afternoon, a brown pegasus, probably the mate to Cantrel's, flies by to investigate. She soon peels off and vanishes. We camp for the night, Cantrel tying the pegasus down firmly, then ties himself to it. He gets hijacked in the course of the night but comes limping home by dawn. During his morning flight, he spotted a figure in blue and gold on a distant hill. Cantrel hopes that, what with a pegasus, a Mo Pi, a faun, and a couple of Faen, we look eldritch enough to be worth the time of an archmage.
We approach the castle, which seems to have been grown out of the mountain side in a style reminiscent of King Ludwig the Mad, of Bavaria. Or Disneyland. The stone is the same yellow tan as those of the cobblestones. The road ends at a chasm. Beyond is the castle drawbridge, raised. We hail the castle and two guards appear in gold and red armor. They stare fixedly at us and do not respond. They look rather oriental, but beyond that they look a whole lot alike. After a bit, a third figure in gold and red appears. This one is a dark, massive fellow looking faintly Mongolian. He barks at us and Issik translates, "Master is not expecting visitors. Get thee hence."
Wu tells Issik to say that this Hero (thumb jerked at Cantrel) and we have business with the Master, concerning the balance of powers among the mages. Issik is not happy at getting caught up in the affairs of wizards, but complies.
The big guard comes down to the drawbridge, which he lowers. The portcullis behind it remains closed, however. There are now four of the silent guard-clones with him. A man in long robes and peaked hat, red with gold trim, comes gliding up. Chris asks if anyone speaks Faen. No one answers, but the portcullis WHIPS up, dust swirls, and poof there stands a man in light yellow robes, with a pure gold staff. We all bow.
This is indeed the Golden Archmage, and he speaks Faen. Tom explains to him that we had a run-in with Gorlach the White (an expression of revulsion passes briefly over the Gold Mage's features), and that he stole from us certain tools that we want back very much. They, like we, come from another world, and they are so powerful we think they could upset the balance of powers among the mages here. Therefore, we hope that the Golden Archmage would be interested in helping us get them back. After which we want nothing but to get back to our own worlds.
He is interested to hear we are from another world, or worlds, but doesn't think an upset in the power structure is likely, even when we try to give him an idea of the power of a disflorger or a diadem detector. (He mentions that, if the detector lets one locate anything magical, Gorlach might soon become more powerful by uncovering various lost magical items.) However, we are interesting enough to invite to dinner while he explains the relations between the Three Archmages and the Twelve Mages, and why those relations are not likely to change. So we are invited in to dinner. The archmage vanishes again. Cantrel decides to stay outside and continue pegasus-busting, but the rest of us file across the drawbridge and follow the character in the red robes and wizard's cap.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.