Trade Article: The Way of the Warrior — a personal tale, by Elowan of Wind

Preface | Introduction | The beginning ... | Thy education ... | The Flower of Britannia | Black magic ... | Training up — as a beginner; as a novice; as an adept; as a master | Virtue Shield | The Noto killer | Some days it doesn't pay ... | I lose my Shield ... | A tale of two thieves | A tale of etiquette | The Lich — revisited | Elowan's Guide to Dungeon Delving

arlan Magee was a poacher and the most despised man in the Land because of it. It seems strange, does it not, for a man to be brought so low merely for the crime of poaching? After all, there are more serious things he could have been guilty of — like murder. But it was what he was poaching and how that became the crux of the matter.

Magee had not always been a bad man. And it cannot be said that he was ever truly evil. But he had always been annoying and was never well liked. Things just went downhill from there. It wasn't his fault — he was born that way and nothing he or anyone did could change that. Harlan Magee was a congenital coward and an inept one into the bargain.

The Good God knows he tried to overcome his twin faults but everything he tried came to naught. He could never do anything right; even plain thievery was beyond him. He never got away with it; he always got caught. It wasn't for lack of good intentions either. Every trial he undertook was begun with enthusiasm and determination but when the 11th hour struck, Magee's overweening sense of self-preservation completely took over and he ran — ran as fast and as far as ever he could.

Hence the only thing that one could count on Magee for was that in the pinch he would be gone. To that degree at least he was reliable. But he never gave up trying which is what made him so annoying and what made him so disliked. It got so that one hated to even see him because one knew that sooner or later he would be under foot and getting in the way. But how can you stay very angry at a man with inborn faults who keeps trying despite all? At first people tried to buy him off; gave him money so that he wouldn't have to try to work. But that did not solve the problem because Harlan Magee had ancillary faults to accompany the other two. He was proud to a fare-thee-well and refused to take charity. What's worse, he had developed a taste for the finer things in life. Things obtainable only through expenditure of large sums of money. What was a fellow to do?

Magee was not stupid. In point of fact he was quite bright and it occurred to him one day that there was a way that he could accumulate the large sums of money that he needed to obtain the things he wanted. It was an accident, really that set him on his way. He had been involved in a melee with two other chaps and an orc. He was in no danger really; in point of fact the other fighters were, since Magee was such a bad hand with a sword. Hence he found himself being jostled aside and not gently by his comrades. It was while he was trying to get his footing that he reached out and grasped the orc's pack. The flap came open and Magee found himself staring into it. He instinctively grabbed a pouch and scurried off hiding his booty within his shirt as he ran. The others didn't even notice. Once at a safe distance Magee opened the pouch and was delighted to find 50 shiny gold pieces! He was rich and had suffered not a scratch!

This was infinitely better than the standard 'snatch and grab' routine he had tried and failed at on the streets of Britain. Here there were no eagle-eyed guards watching ones every move. People in a fight were usually too busy and everyone expected him to run anyway. It was ideal. So Harlan Magee became a poacher. His tactics were simple. He'd wait in a likely spot where other hunters were casting about for prey. When a fight was engaged Magee would join in, snatch something from the monster and skedaddle.

Magee knew that he was violating one of the strict rules of the monster hunters etiquette. That is: one never attacked another hunters prey unless and until invited. People had been known to get killed or maimed that way. But everyone knew Magee and what he was and other than for a momentary feeling of pique, ignored him knowing that fear would set in soon enough and Magee would be history. If any complaints were heard it was mainly to the effect that monster bashing had become less profitable of late and veterans began lamenting the 'good ol' days'.

So it was that for a time Magee got away with his little scheme and if anyone noticed his high living they thought he had found some benefactor or other and paid it no mind. But after awhile unsettling rumors began to circulate that Magee was always present and engaged when a monsters corpse would turn out to be somewhat sparse in the loot department.

It started when a hunting party had tracked an orc mage who had offed two of the parties members and looted their possessions. They knew that the orc had taken the belongings and so close on his trail were they that they also knew he had no opportunity to stash the loot. Thus it was that when they finally cornered him and were bringing him to justice Magee happened by and joined in uninvited — as usual — for a few blows and then ran off — also as usual. Searching the orc later showed a number of items missing. Suspicions were confirmed when some of these items turned up at a gem shop and the proprietor was 'persuaded' to reveal where he had obtained them.

So the word went out and it wasn't long that Magee found himself warned off; sometimes along with an arrow or two for emphasis. But veterans hardly ever talk to newbies and newbies are too much in awe of veterans to ask many questions. So while Magee soon found himself out of luck poaching on veterans hunts, he still managed to purloin the goods from the prey of the less experienced. This would last until the inexperienced fighter had made sufficient 'bones' to become more wise and wily whence it became time for Magee to seek greener pastures.

But even though poaching from the newbies kept Magee fed, the nature of the newbies prey was such that the loot they might be carrying was insufficient to slake Magee's thirst for the good things. He'd had to find a more profitable venue.

And so he did; in the dungeons of which there are many scattered abroad in the Land. It would seem an unlikely place for a congenital coward such as Harlan Magee to venture, but Magee was not without resources — he was particularly adept at employing the Recall spell and he was also good at hiding — and he also knew that if wealth were to be found it would be there and not necessarily from the denizens of those fell places. There was always the hunters themselves. Magee had come full circle.

His plan was simple enough. He would sneak into a dungeon whilst its denizens were otherwise engaged and hide himself. Possessing himself with great patience he would wait until some lone adventurer happened by and got himself offed. Whereupon Magee would leap out of hiding — after the monster had departed of course — and loot the fallen heroes body. This worked after a fashion but it was not without its hazards. More than once Magee had to Recall out to save his cowardly skin and once in a lower level where Recall did not work, it was only blind luck that saved his carcass.

If Magee ever felt the slightest pang of conscience whilst standing silently (and invisibly) by whilst a fellow man got torn apart he never revealed it. Doubtless he had steeled himself to the plight of the hapless or was preoccupied more with the thought of the loot than anything else. He was a coward after all; countless others could attest to that.

But man is an intelligent creature and a sign of intelligence is learning from one's mistakes. Pity that process did not take completely with Magee. Soon few if any were venturing into the more lucrative (and dangerous) parts of the dungeons and once more Magee had to come up with another plan.

It was about this time that Magee acquired his nom de guerre — Three-fingers Magee. It was whilst Magee was looting what he thought was a dead body when the only stunned warrior roused to find Magee rummaging through his belongings. The warrior took offense and remonstrated. Magee managed to Recall out to safety but not before a backhanded swipe of the warriors dagger had amputated two of the fingers of Magee's right hand. To a real warrior this could have been a fatal problem but Magee was useless with a sword even with all ten fingers so having only seven did not signify. It did mark him though once and for all. There was no way Magee could pretend that his fingers had not gone missing nor was there any way for him to lie his way clear — all were quite finished with his 'coincidences'. He was a marked man and it was worth his life to venture into any town for any length of time especially after someone put a price on his head.

But Magee proved elusive and surprisingly resourceful. And even though reports there were of him being sighted in various dungeons and elsewhere there were none who could say for sure that it was he. For the moment at least Magee's head was firmly attached to his shoulders and there it remained whilst the yeomanry busied themselves with other matters.

Magee continued to press his luck which is why questions were raised about, if not his intelligence, then his mental state. He continued his depredations but they took a new form. Instead of waiting to loot the fallen adventurer — though he still took advantage of a situation when it befell him — he would wait until a monster had just been slain and then leap out of hiding and loot it. It was risky but less risky than the chance of having to confront a monster filled with blood lust. Many warriors hesitated just a little when he sprung his trap which was all that was needed for Magee to snatch up the booty and scamper off to hide again.

His luck finally ran out; luck always does. During one of his forays he had followed a group of intrepid hunters into the bowels of Hythloth whence they began stalking dragons. After a kill or two of lessor beasts they wended deeper within the fell place with Magee close behind. If the group had spotted him they gave no sign. Magee was confident in his abilities to walk softly and hide well; so confident that he lost track of his surroundings. Suddenly, up ahead, a daemon struck the group out of the darkness. As they occupied themselves with the creature, Magee worked himself slowly around the group so as to be in position to grab the loot and bolt. He wasn't sure exactly where he was but the tunnel beyond was plenty dark and doubtless filled with plenty of bolt holes. He settled down to watch the fight when suddenly another daemon appeared and then another. Magee was startled and knew that he was in a bad place. Daemons can detect hidden so Magee carefully moved away down the tunnel to escape. He hadn't gone far when he ran up against an obstruction. The tunnel ended! Heart racing, he pivoted on his heel and started back up the tunnel toward the sound of the fighting. As he neared the melee it suddenly stopped and before he could react a gate opened in front of him and out stepped an ancient wyrm! Beyond him he could see the group of warriors standing and staring at him; even the daemons, who suddenly changed to reveal what they truly were — polymorphed fighters. Magee back peddled which was a mistake. The wyrm started for him. He was trapped.

The group later related that they then beheld a wondrous sight. Magee, knowing he was trapped, suddenly stopped retreating, unbuckled his Viking sword and stood his ground. And so it was that Three-finger Magee, coward, finally and at last, found the courage that had eluded him so long. Alas for Magee, he had found it too late.

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