While strolling through Britain,
thinking back fondly on a wedding I had recently attended
in the hedge maze of all places, a silver and blue flash barreled
into me and all but knocked me from the cobblestones. He stopped
and helped me steady myself, all the while quickly apologizing,
and then just as quickly disappeared up the street toward
the Main Gate. After a few moments of stunned bewilderment,
I realized I knew the receding figure. 'Twas none other than
Halston Montil of the
Royal Guard. My previous musings lost and forgotten, I hurried
off in pursuit of the guardsman.
Upon reaching the Cat's Lair tavern
with no further sign of Halston, I prudently decided to forego
the chase. He was gone. I shut my eyes in disappointment for
I knew something must be afoot to leave the normally sure-footed
and polite guard rushing about so haphazardly. After a moments
consideration, I decided to head toward the castle
and see if any of the others guards knew what was happening.
My luck appeared to be changing, for as I approached the outer
gate to our Liege's castle guard I spied a guard I had spoken
to before, Burlen. I had spoken to him and a few others at
the tavern in Vesper
after a close call with some bloodthirsty headless. When finished
with the usual pleasantries (he had no idea who I was), I
mentioned that I had seen Halston rushing off toward the south.
"Heading ta dat battle down
near Trinsic, he
was," Burlen told me. "A whole mess o' us had been
eatin' at the Salty Dog tavern when we heard dat a horde o'
mages was attackin' ever'one on dat road to Trinsic. Attackin'
wit elementals even. Well, when Sir Halston heard dis, he
set his fork down onta his plate, slowly raised his eyes ta
mine, and then hurried out o' the tavern."
"We're heading down there ourselves," chimed in
another young guard named Harolis. He smiled quickly. He looked
every bit as eager as he did scared, and I mentally saluted
his valor. I wish now that I had made that salute known to
I didn't really wish to head to
where a battle was raging, but I wanted to determine who was
attacking and why. This attack was such an audacious thing
to do... striking boldly on the road between Trinsic and Britain.
I was swaying in my decision when
Harolis spoke again, "Your that writer, aren't you?"
he asked. "In the newspaper?" He smiled enthusiastically.
I nodded somewhat absently, deep in thought. "You might
be interested to know then," Harolis continued, "that
there is also an attack in Jhelom.
On the north island. Orcs and ogres and ettins and more mages.
And the Followers of Armageddon
are responsible for both attacks." Absorbing this startling
information, I turned slightly toward Burlen. Burlen smiled
sadly and confirmed the news with a slight nod of his head.
At that I bid them both farewell
and rushed toward the moongate to the south of Britain intent
on going to Jhelom. Battle or no, with the FOA involved, I
wished to be there. My previous attempt to speak to one of
the members of the FOA had come to a abrupt end when the prisoner
who had just been transferred to the Court
of Truth in Yew
was slaughtered, viciously and suddenly, by the troll G'thunk.
I had discovered this while speaking to a young lass named
Birmingham. She had blamed herself for the prisoner's death,
but there had been nothing she or anyone else could have done.
The troll struck with cunning and excellent planning. But
perhaps another FOA members would be leading one of the battles.
I was determined to go and hopefully be able to speak with
one of them. Valor? Not so much
foolishness I would
now say. But luckily it never went that far.
I had barely taken more than a
dozen steps before realizing I was heading into battle not
only unarmed, but also wearing only a shirt and pants. Armor
and a weapon were definitely needed only I had left mine in
Vesper. With a sigh and a shake of my head at the delay, I
continued toward the moongate, but bound for Vesper rather
than Jhelom this time.
Upon the sixth time stepping into
the moongate, I finally emerged in the forest between Minoc
and Vesper. Making my way to the road, I moved aside for a
small troop of guards hastily moving north along the same
road to Minoc. I turned south toward Vesper. Then paused,
furrowed my brow, and reversed direction toward Minoc. Arriving
in Minoc, all seemed normal. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
Every other time I had seen someone rushing about, it had
meant danger somewhere. But not in Minoc. Bewildered, I wondered
if perhaps the tavern, The Barnacle, had just brought out
a fresh keg of ale, and the guards had wished to be there
for the tapping of it. I must say I couldn't blame them.
Since I was in Minoc anyway, I
decided to go check on Julia and see how she was faring. I
had pretty much given up on trying to "interview"
an FOA member during the battle. What exactly had I been thinking?
(**clang** So did you always want to destroy the world? Even
as a kid? **ducks and drinks yellow potion**) Smiling at my
own foolhardiness, I let my feet find the path to Julia's
cabin. Nearing the cabin, I thought it odd that her door would
be wide open. When close enough to better see, I saw that
the doorway was splintered and mangled, and that the door
itself was no where to be seen. Too numb to be surprised by
anything else, I calmly asked the guard who was standing outside,
Madellene, what had happened to the door.
Wincing in pain as she involuntarily
shook her head, Madellene told me, "Someone struck me
before I ever saw anything and knocked me unconscious. I don't
know what happened. Talk to Averill inside."
Entering to do just that, I immediately
noted the disarrayed state of Julia's normally tidy room.
I also found the guards who had come rushing up the road.
I nodded to Averill who stood among them and told him I was
a friend of Julia's. "What happened here? Where is Julia?
Is she well?"
"They took her," he replied,
"but did not harm her. At least as best I could tell.
The one in charge, wearing a strange necklace, used some kind
of enchantment on her and she just followed him out. She struggled
at first against him then just slumped. When he told her to
follow, she did unquestioningly, but haltingly. Almost like
some part of her was still resisting even though she wasn't
"Did you recognize any of them? Do
you know where they went?," I asked. Averill shook his
head. "I have no idea. They kept me pinned up against
the wall. It took fou.. five of them to hold me," he
said puffing out his chest proudly. Then deflated, "Aw,
who'm I kidding. I was helpless against them. I could do nothing
while they took her away." He glanced at the other guards
and then his gazed dropped to the ground in shame.
Split between concern for Julia
and for the portents of these events, I wandered out of the
cabin. More guards were standing outside and were speaking
hurriedly amongst themselves. Hoping that perhaps they had
news of Julia, I went over to the group. But instead of Julia
they were speaking of another kidnapping that occurred shortly
before Julia's. A young mage from Moonglow
had been taken. A mage named Mariah. And she had been abducted
in the same manner as Julia. I prompted them a bit by asking
to know more about Mariah. According to the guard doing most
of the talking, Mariah was one of the brightest students at
in Moonglow. She had recently been doing some research on
Looking for references to it in the many books of the Lycaeum's
libraries. At the word "blackrock," I thanked them
and left. Back to the moongate for me.
It took nine times stepping into
the moongate this time, but I was finally on the island that
housed Moonglow and the Lycaeum. Getting to the Lycaeum was
much easier. The halls were oddly quiet. There was a knot
of mages by the statue. I approached them, but as I drew near,
their conversation instantly faded. A few minutes of trying
to speak with them garnered nothing more than a few vague
head movements. Frustrated, I glared at them all and then
turned away. My spirit slumped as I walked toward one of the
library rooms. I pulled a chair away from the table and collapsed
into it. For the moment at an end, I idly thumbed through
one of the many book piled on the table in front of me. Glancing
at the writing, I realized that it wasn't a library book,
but rather someone's journal. Feeling guilty, I promptly closed
the journal. The word written on the journal's cover, however,
brought a sudden, wry smile to my lips. "Mariah."
Turning in the direction of the mages who refused to help
me, I gave a curt laugh and then reopened the journal.
Mariah had never spoken to Sage
Winslow after hearing he wished to ask her about some
substance. After learning about the blackrock being gathered
by the Followers of Armageddon, she reasoned that blackrock
may have also been the substance Winslow had been interested
in speaking about with her. So she began pouring through the
many, many tomes of the Lycaeum's libraries in quest of any
references she could find. She threw herself at her task eagerly
and almost hungrily, by her own account enjoying the challenge.
For there was little reference to blackrock in your average
book. But she persisted and gathered what information she
could. This information she had been compiling in a second
journal. Discovering this information, I search the library
for the second journal, but there was no sign of it. Which
didn't surprise me. A hollow feeling told me that it had been
taken by the same who kidnapped Mariah.
I dragged myself to the moongate
one more time. I had decided to return to Britain in the event
that more information could be gleaned there. Treading heavily
this time through the streets of Britain, I tediously made
my way back to the castle. My natural vigor all but sapped,
I wearily walked up to the castle gate and again found Burlen.
He looked none the worse for his part in the defending the
attack. I inquired as to how the battle had gone. Without
looking up from the sword he was cleaning, Burlen said sullenly,
"What da yer expect from a fight. Blood and pain. I guess
"That's... good," I stammered.
He seemed reluctant to speak of the fight, and I found myself
wanting to change the subject. "That's a nice sword.
Much nicer than mine. You take very good care of it."
" 'S not my sword," Burlen
replied slowly and heavily, "It belonged to Harolis.
He... Harolis... he was killed during the battle." Burlen's
voice voiced dropped almost to a whisper, as though afraid
to repeat what he had seen happen to his friend. "He
died screamin' as three earth elementals pulled his body apart.
I can still... **swallows hard** ... can still hear the bones
and muscle rip and crack." Tears welled up at Burlen's
eyes. They streamed freely down my own cheeks. Not only for
poor Harolis. But also for Julia and Mariah who were at the
mercy of those cruel, savage brutes.
Mercy... was there any hope for
such? I slumped into the chair next to Burlen. He looked up
at me, paused, and then handed me the sword. "Please,
he'da liked it ta know ya had his sword. Take it. It's all
dat is left of the boy. Ya would honor him ta accept it."
Silently I took the sword from Burlen's
hands. As I held it across my lap, I remembered Harolis' eager
smile when we spoke. I nodded. "Thank you, Burlen. This
means quite a lot to me." I wrapped the sword in some
clothes and slipped it into my pack.
I ended my day at the Wayfarer's
Inn, lying sleeplessly in my room. I had realized by this
point that the attacks had been diversions away from their
true aims. The true desire of the FOA had been to kidnap Julia
and Mariah. A tinker and a mage. One thought and one alone
brought me some measure of comfort. The Followers of Armageddon
had gone to great lengths to ensure that there would be little
obstacle when they nabbed Mariah and Julia. Harolis' death
may not have meant anything to them, but the mage and the
tinker did mean something to them. They would be safe... for
now. But for how long? And why did the FOA want them?
From the Town Cryer - The Journal of Ultima Online, ?,
October ? 1998