Chapter 53

previous chapter (#52)                  next chapter (#54)

With most of us feeling a great need for a rest, we elected to head
north, to a largish city we'd never visited before.  Serga asked why
we wanted to go there if we'd never been there, and we had to explain
that not having been there was a necessary condition for us.  The poor
fellow looked confused, but no one wanted to explain the Three Idiots.
     The ride was quiet, and mostly uneventful, except for Dania
trying to sidle up beside Kortul's horse and grab her staff back one
time.  There followed another spirited debate, employing the fine and
objective reasoning that so typified our merry band of travelers,
before Dania was banished to whichever half of the party Kortul was
not occupying.  Finally, with the day dying around us, we dragged into
town just as they were closing the gates.

Guard 1: (Looks this scruffy bunch over dubiously.) "Your business in

Kory: "Enhancing the local economy through infusion of liquid capital.
     With emphasis on liquid."

Kortul: "Rest."

Topash: "Yes, rest and relaxation.  We're tourists."

Guard 1: (Looks even more dubious.)

Guard 2: "Where's your Hawaiian shirts and funny knickerbockers?"

Topash: "It's a bit cold, and besides, it's the off-season."

Guard 2: (Looks at Guard 1 suspiciously.)

Serga: "Do you have an armorer in town?  Mine is damaged."

Guard 1: (Looks back to rear of party.) "WHAT is THAT!?!"

Topash: "Oh, don't worry, he's house trained."

Guard 2: (Grips pike.) "I demand to know what you are doing trying to
     bring a GIANT into our city!"

Topash: "Serga is not a giant, he's a... dear friend of ours, and he's
     quite harmless."

Lao Tsu: "O honolabre haily one, what exactry ale you?"

Serga: "I'm very tired and my horse needs to rest."

Guard 1: "I don't doubt it!"

Dania: "Look, he's not gonna hurt anybody, or we'd know it already.
     He's been with us for a long time."

Navero: "Yes.  As a follower of the True Path of the Correct and
     Unalterable Way, I can vouchsafe for our friend Serga's honorable
     and trustworthy nature, and assure you and the city you have been
     commissioned to safeguard that no harm will come of him."

Topash: "Quite so.  You may take the word of Topash Raycin of the
     Green Path of Harmony was well.  Serga is harmless."

Kory: "And if the word of Malcom Goldentongue means anything in this
     provincial and impoverished city, I will stake my reputation on it."

Dania: (Considers driving her staff into Kory's side, then realizes
     she doesn't have it any more.  Grumbles.)

Guard 1: "Well..."

Serga: (Smiles and tries to look nice and harmless.  He's very bad at it.)

Kortul: (Is beginning to look impatient.)

Guard 2: "Should we ask the sergeant?"

Guard 1: "He's with Fanny right now."

Guard 2: "Oh.  Well..."

Kory: "Say, look at all those gold pieces in the snow down there."

Guard 1: "What?"

Kory: "Yeah, there must be ten or twelve of them, just lying in the
     snow.  That must be a whole year's salary for two hard-working
     guards like you."

Guard 2: (Mouth starts watering.) "Um... I think I did lose my life's
     savings somewhere around here this afternoon."

Guard 1: "Yeah, yeah, I did too!  Thanks for finding it for us!" (They
     both scramble to pick up the coinage.)

Kortul: (Snorts, then rides into the city.)

Guard 1: "Wait, wait!  Sign this here registry first."

Kortul: (Puts large X in appropriate place.)

Topash: (To Kory) "You know, money has been called the greatest
     lubricant ever invented."

Kory: (Signs registry.) "Maybe, maybe, but I prefer KY."

Dania: "Nah, you can use Vaseline here just fine.  We have Cure
     Disease spells, remember?"

Kory: "Oh, but of course!  Silly me."

Navero: "What's KY?"

Kory: "One of the TI groups, Nav.  They make a very fine brand of oil
     you can use for curing sword sheaths.  Treat it with their stuff,
     and your sword slides right in, with no catching or chafing."

Navero: "Oh.  That's nice."

Topash: "TI groups?"

Kory: "Two Initials, of course."

Dania: "Also known as QEB.  Now let's get out of here."

Guard 1: (Finally makes it back to Serga with registry.) "Uh..."

Serga: (Takes registry, signs his name beautifully.) "Here you go."

Guard 1: "Uh, thanks!  I didn't know you could... uh..."

Serga: "Don't worry, I'm used to it.  And I read too." (Rides in after

Guard 1: "That was bizarre."

Guard 2: "Boy, won't my wife be glad when she finds out I didn't lose
     my life's savings?"

Guard 1: "Why should she know about it?"

Guard 2: "Good point."

     We found in inn, paid a few weeks rent on several rooms, and had
a very productive and relaxing time of it.  Navero found a branch of
his order in town, and stayed with them.  We also conspired to keep
Dania's staff hidden away very nicely, in spite of her best efforts.
Her persistence was impressive, though; at one point, Topash came in
to find her ripping up the floorboards and looking underneath with a
Dancing Lights spell.  We also got in some training, and everyone had
enough to go up a level.

          Navero, male human cleric, 6th level
          Dania, female 1/2-elf MU, 5th level
          Kortul, male human fighter, 6th level
          Kory, male elf bard, 5th level
          Topash, male elf druid, 5th level
          Serga, male half-ogre fighter, 4th level
          Lao Tsu, male human monk, 4th level

(Some of us actually had more than enough; it had been a long time
since we'd been able to stop for training.  Our DM was kind enough to
let us keep the points; I heard of a DM who insisted that if you go
into training with more points than it took to get to the next level,
the excess was lost.  I'm not sure if that's kosher AD&D, but we
hardly ever bothered with the rule books anyway.)

     While we were in town, we made some inquiries as to the location
of the Orb of Spheres.  We had no idea what our time limit was, or how
impatient immortal beings tend to be, but we all agreed it would be
best to get this stupid quest out of the way as soon as possible.

Navero: "Excuse me, father?"

Abbot: "Yes, my son?"

Navero: "I hate to disturb you, and crave your patience in a matter of
     some importance."

Abbot: "Yes, my son?"

Navero: "I, and my traveling companions, have been on a quest, to seek
     an ancient relic called the Orb of Spheres.  But so far, we have
     been unable to even locate it."

Abbot: "I have never heard of it."

Navero: "I believe it would be very important to the Order, father, to
     locate this artifact."

Abbot: "Oh, I am sure.  We do prize our relics.  But why this one in

Navero: "It is the object of the quest, father."

Abbot: "But you can go down to the market square and find relics by
     the hat-full for sale, and at very reasonable prices."

Navero: "But father... I know there are people hawking relics down in
     the marketplace.  But surely, most of those are not real."

Abbot: "Is it important that they be real?  Look here at this turkey
     leg.  It's realness is very important, to me.  But over in the
     reliquary, there is a fragment of the staff of St. Altheas, which
     when planted in the soil of Ben Barnim, sprouted leaves and holy
     fruit, thus marking the site of the first church."

Navero: "Yes, my own monastery has another fragment."

Abbot: "Yes.  But if it were to be replaced by a splinter from this
     sideboard, who would know the difference?"

Navero: "The Lords would know!  That would be the most terrible breach
     of the covenant of the Saints, whereby we keep their relics in
     our worship as we keep their words in our hearts."

Abbot: "Young man, you miss my point entirely.  The Lords will not
     strike you down if you present the holy fathers with a lesser
     artifact, of great worth in and of itself.  Here is a sprig of
     Bluewort, from the caves of Lord Kindoli, where every living
     thing grows in perfection.  Surely, this is a fine relic, to be
     treasured greatly, and would no doubt be more than enough to
     satisfy your superior's every need."

Navero: "But father, those are just some nasturtium buds."

Abbot: "Then they are a sprig of nasturtium buds from the caves of
     Lord Kindoli, where every living thing grows in perfection.  But
     what plant they are isn't important.  What is important is the
     esteem with which they are held by the people."

Navero: "But anyone of the faith could look at them, and tell they
     were not holy relics."

Abbot: "My son, you do not understand.  Holy relics are not for those
     with the faith.  They do not need them.  The display of holy relics
     is to impress those who need to be impressed, those who follow,
     not those who lead."

Navero: "Father, I'm afraid I do understand.  I have been placed on
     this path by the Gods themselves, not by my superiors at the
     monastery.  And I am very surprised that you, who have advanced
     so high in the sight of the Lords that you are abbot of your own
     monastery, would speak so lightly of holy relics."

Abbot: "Boy, the holy relics are made holy because the people and the
     brothers believe in them.  Do you think one saint could hold more
     holiness than all the brothers of the Way?  If you put together
     all the fragments of St. Altheas's staff, you could build a
     church of your own!  They can't all have come from one primordial
     walking stick, but who can tell the difference?"

Navero: "But what of the Lords, father?  We are the followers of the
     Correct and Unalterable Way, and none of us lead, but only follow
     on the one true path.  The Saints serve as our guides and our
     inspiration on that path.  When you do not follow them, you are
     lost, and when you lead others astray, you are worse than lost!"

Abbot: "We are on the path, child, we are on the path.  We have not
     strayed here.  The words of the Saints ring in our ears as surely
     as they did when they were first uttered.  Our spirit remains
     true.  But the body, the body of the church must be maintained,
     and the body of the church is made of churches, and relics."

Navero: "Which is why they must be true relics.  How could the Lords
     bear false relics in their houses?"

Abbot: "The Lords are more concerned with our good will, I am sure.
     The concerns of the body of the church are only important in so
     far as they uplift the spirit, are they not?"

Navero: "Well... yes."

Abbot: "The relics of the saints bring the people into the church, and
     show them the power of the Lords.  But the Lords do not need this
     or that specific fragment of whatever for their power to work
     over the faithful.  Are the Lords so limited?"

Navero: "No, but..."

Abbot: "Then whether you have a real saint's knucklebone or an old
     dead orc's won't make a bit of difference to them.  The important
     thing is to have them, so the people come to your church, and
     worship the Lords, and make their donations to keep the body of
     the church strong and capable."

Navero: "But if the relics aren't real, aren't you just trying to
     trick the people?  You shouldn't trick them onto the true path.
     The path is reason of its own, and the miracles that come to
     those who follow it."

Abbot: "Miracles?  We have no miracles in our day."

Navero: "Miracles come to us every day.  Only by the will of the Lords
     can we call forth the power to cure the sick and heal the hurts
     of those around us."

Abbot: "I haven't cast a prayer in years.  Except for blessing the
     sacred ewer to make holy water and the sacramental wine.  And
     I've never been able to taste a bit of difference."

Navero: "But a miracle happened to me, as I rode into town.  Two of
     the guards at the gate had taken their life's savings out, and
     lost them that very afternoon.  They were distraught, and stopped
     every traveler who came in the gate."

Abbot: "Aren't gate guards supposed to stop travelers?"

Navero: "They would not let my companions and I into the city, even
     though it was dark and cold, and dangerous outside of the gates.
     But suddenly, we all saw gold shining in the snow; it had not
     been there a moment before, I know.  They were so filled with
     happiness, they let us into the city and asked nothing more of us
     than what their duty required them to."

Abbot: "Hmph.  Yes, very nice.  They kept their life's savings in
     gold, even though it amounted to only a few coins?"

Navero: "Well, yes.  It is easier to keep than silver, as it does not
     tarnish, and is more easily kept hidden from thieves.  My friends
     explained that to me afterwards."

Abbot: "Yes, very sensible.  Is there any way I could meet your

Navero: "I asked my friend Dania to come visit, but she said she
     needed to stay and wash her hair."

Abbot: "Of course.  Women must, you know."

Navero: (Nods.) "She washes her hair nearly every night."

Daniel Parsons            "So, Nav, did you ask him for a Divination?"                "No.  I feared he might not agree."
                                  "Because you're not from his order?"
                               "No.  He might not be able to anymore."

previous chapter (#52)                  next chapter (#54)