Various preparations
 


UP: Britannia

    As he blinked his eyes and wiped the dripping ale from his beard, Iolo slowly turned to face Dupre. "I want to find out what's going on as much as thee, my friend, but smashing mugs and getting drunk is of little help."

    Dupre glared at Iolo then began picking up the pieces of the shattered mug. "I'll agree that I should at least empty the mug before slamming it down so. Forgive me, Iolo, but this idleness suits me not. I feel we should be doing something. Anything. Lord British and the realm appear to need our help. We must accept and do what we are able."

    Iolo nodded, agreeing with the sentiment. "It irks me to know that I sat in this tavern while other fought the fires in Moonglow. But we could not have known that attack was coming, and by the time we did learn of it, 'twas too late. When Shamino arrives, we shall determine what course we shall take."

    Dupre stood and walked a couple paces beside the tavern table. He stopped and ran his finger along an ale soaked carving in the tabletop. Then abruptly turned and sat back down. "Nay. As much as I would have our friend at our side, 'tis no longer acceptable to wait. We should go speak with Lord British. Sir Geoffrey told me he worries about Lord British and these visions. While I put little faith into such things, 'tis hard to ignore something that so strongly effects our Liege. We must offer our aid and do whatever can be done to remove the furrow Lord British's brow."

    Staring across the room where two bar patrons took turns hurling their daggers at a target on the wall, Iolo finally nodded his concurrence. "Thou art correct, Dupre. Lord British needs our help. Shamino will catch up to us when he is able. But I suggest we find and speak with Nystul first..."


    The castle barracks seemed especially cold this night thought Sir Geoffrey. He stopped in front of the twin oaken doors. They were of normal stock... banded and hinged in metal. He had seen their ilk countless times across the years, but these two seemed to give him pause. 'Twas just stepping through these doors that Branson One-Thumb was murdered by a member of the Followers of Armageddon not so long ago. And behind them now were three warriors he hoped were not being sent to their deaths.

    They had been chosen by he and Halston to investigate Buccaneer's Den. 'Twas a vital task. It still gave him a twinge of guilt to send someone else on such an errand. But Halston had spoken true when he reminded Geoffrey of his duty to Lord British here. If not for his concern about his King's wellbeing, Sir Geoffrey might have gone on the mission himself anyway.

    Geoffrey sighed and opened the door. He was immediately greeted by Halston Montil. Sir Thevel, Lady Catriona, and Sir Hrothgar quickly stood and came to attention. Sir Geoffrey motioned for all to relax and sit.

    "How goes their preparations, Halston?" Geoffrey asked.

    "Quite well, sir," Halton confidently replied, "Physically, of course, all were already in peak condition. But 'tis their minds which will likely prove the difference between success and failure. They have been training to blend in with the pirate natives of the Den."

    "Avast ye matey," said Sir Hrothgar with a smile, "shiver me timbers."

    Shaking his head, Sir Geoffrey inspected the soldiers, one by one. Finally his gaze came back to Halston. "I trust misused pirate clichés are not all they've learned?"

    "Nay, of course not," Halston quickly answered. A fleeting glance at Sir Hrothgar proved that the soldier had reddened with embarrassment.

    "'Tis a serious matter this," continued Geoffrey, "the slightest slip could prove they undoing. And speech is the least of thy worries. 'Tis the instinct to offer aid to others that could be thy greatest foe. Most pirates serve only themselves and greed. There are exceptions, of course, but in newly arrived faces and in these current times, such could easily be viewed suspiciously. This is truly the most difficult part. The virtues will be of little direct aid to thee in Buccaneer's Den. Not on this mission, anyway. Hold them close to thy heart, but I fear ye must conceal them from everyone but thyselves. We need the information ye seek in Buccaneer's Den, thus it is vital that ye be accepted. Those who are the driving force behind the attack on Moonglow, and perhaps even our Lord's visions, must feel comfortable around thee else they shall reveal nothing."

    Sir Geoffrey paused and looked each in the eye. He was gratified to see, not fear or worry, but rather bold determination. Geoffrey visibly relaxed. A bit. Not completely. "I have the utmost confidence in the three of ye. Just be sure to come back safely and unharmed." With an inward glance and a short, quick of his head, Sir Geoffrey took a seat in the corner of the room to observe the rest of the night's training.


    A lone crow sat atop a metal signpost outside of the Magical Light mage shop in Vesper. A strange inner fire lit its eyes, and its head seemed to move with a purpose unusual of the featherkin. It seemed intent upon watching as people strolled by its post and keenly interested whenever someone entered the shop.

    An older man pulled the door to the shop open just as a young mage inside had been making ready to leave. Plowing into the older man and almost knocking him over, the mage stopped and began apologizing for not watching his steps. While they stood in the doorway, the crow leapt from its roost and flew through the opening.

    Landing on a bookcase in the back of the room, the crow began to watch as the shopkeeper helped her customers. When she opened a chest to sell an alchemist a few reagents, the crow again took flight... this time landing beside the recently opened chest. It hopped under the counter, where it would not be noticed, and vigilantly began to watch the chest of reagents...

 

From the Town Cryer - The Journal of Ultima Online, Saturday, March 27th 1999