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Tales of Virtue: Table of Contents
Stories taken from the official Ultima Ascension site
I'm sure you know that the Gargoyle folk joined Britannian society after the restoration of the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom. I'm also sure it will not surprise you to hear that the treaty between Lord British and Draxinusom, King of the Gargoyles, did not instantly bring accord to the two races. Certain ignorant humans continued to hate and fear Gargoyles, and certain intractable Gargoyles continued to regard humanity with enraged contempt. The most notorious Gargoyle fighter against mankind in those days was named Gratagmalem. He was equally renowned among his people for his keen intellect as for his fierce disposition, and when peace was achieved between the races, he turned outlaw with a small band of likeminded Gargoyle bravos. This fierce troop devoted themselves to burning and pillaging the remote crofts and farms of the land, stopping short only at outright murder of unresisting enemies. Nonetheless, they were the cause of much suffering, loss and deprivation to their victims.
Now there was a certain inn, located midway between Britain and Yew, and famous for its excellent autumn ale. So good was the brew that many fine folk were given to retire to that place for a fortnight's holiday when the new casks were breached. Tents had to be pitched on the grounds to hold all the guests, and for two weeks each fall the place took on the air of a faire or festival.
It was during this time that Gratagmalem choose to attack that inn, and he and his band flew down during the late afternoon, surrounding the place and quickly dispatching the few hired guards. And they mockingly ordered all the humans to leave forthwith, or see the whole place burned around their heads.
At this, one lone festival-goer stepped out from the crowd, wearing the clothes of a gentleman, but gripping the sword of a knight. And he spoke, saying, "I am Dupré, Knight and Paladin, and I call on you to cease this unlawful incursion, and to surrender in the name of Lord British."
But Gratagmalem only laughed, saying, "Of all the names of man or Gargoyle to conjure with, that one is the least likely to inspire fear in my heart. I reject your demand for surrender."
(Now I confess that those were not the very words he used, but Gargoyles speak in their own peculiar fashion, and I will not try to mimic the intricacies of that speech in this tale.)
Dupré retorted, "Then let us settle this honorably. I shall face you or any of your troops in single combat, with the winner to determine the fate of this Inn."
The Gargoyle laughed again at the human's audacity, but when he spoke, he said, "Very good, then, man, your proposal intrigues me. You shall face three of my brothers, and if you defeat all three I shall leave this place standing, asking only a suitable forfeit in return for my generosity."
Then Gratagmalem named his three champions. The first was a great brute almost 10 feet tall, wielding a mace of solid iron, and the second was a young champion of the Gargoyles, wielding a sword nearly as long as Dupré was tall. The third was Gratagmalem's chief lieutenant, who fought with two great-bladed battle axes, one in each hand.
But Dupré was a veteran of many battles against dragons, daemons and giants … aye, and Gargoyles as well, and he did not fear the size or fierceness of these foes. One by one they engaged, and the first two he cast down with severe wounds, while the third he killed outright.
This loss only seemed to amuse Gratagmalem more, and when the last Gargoyle was dragged from the field, he announced, "I shall honor my word, oh man, but first I must see my forfeit paid. And my price is you, Sir Knight."
"I will gladly give my life for the safety of these people," Dupré replied, "though you may find the collecting of it more costly still."
"Nay," said the Gargoyle, "I have no use for your head, but rather your arm. Today you have cost me a lieutenant, and I demand that you shall take his place. You shall join my company, and teach us your ways of battle."
"I will never take up arms against my king or his people," Dupré replied, hotly.
"I would not ask it," the Gargoyle said with mocking gentleness. "You will come and train my company, and when I order them back into battle you may be excused, if only you give the word to do nothing to resist or hinder our efforts."
Now Dupré knew that Gratagmalem offered him a Daemon's bargain, one which could easily lead to the utter destruction of a man of Honor like himself. At the same time, he could not stand idly by and see the honest innkeeper ruined, nor could he oppose the whole Gargoyle company alone. Most importantly, perhaps, it would not be fully Honorable to refuse the forfeit after fighting under those terms. He could only hope that time would provide a means of escape. "I will accept your terms, sir," he said, and there he knelt and presented his sword to the mocking brigand.
So he went to live with the Gargoyles, and he drilled and trained them. He found that while Gargoyles were both mighty and courageous, they had little mastery of concerted tactics or strategy, but they quickly grasped the fundamentals of both. He also soon learned that it was futile to try to hold back knowledge from his command, for under the watchful eye of their leader, any useful hidden expertise was soon sniffed out and analyzed, and presented to all.
Nor could Dupré Honorably refuse when Gratagmalem proposed that they try out their new skills against brigands, pirates or Goblin bands, for Dupré had only sworn to stand apart from actions against the subjects of Lord British. So he fought alongside the Gargoyles, and saw his teachings tested by fire.
But at last the dread day came, and Gratagmalem announced that they would attack a walled town, with the garrison of King's soldiers stationed in it. This was a stronger objective than the Gargoyles had ever assayed before, but Dupré knew that they were well capable of victory, thanks to his teaching.
On the day of the battle, Dupré went up to a hill overlooking the doomed town, for he would not turn away from the evil that his hand had caused. But while he waited there, he was surprised when a contingent of the Gargoyle band approached him, and asked an unexpected question.
"Lieutenant," their spokesman said, "we know that you base all your decisions on Honor, which is a strange concept to us, but nonetheless we wish to know if this is an Honorable fight today."
Now Dupré well knew the cool power of the Gargoyle intellect, and that any attempt to dissemble or dissuade would be immediately perceived, and would discredit him forever among the Gargoyles. He was also minded of his oath to Gratagmalem, to do nothing to overtly subvert his plans, so he kept his answer as straight and honest as he could.
"You have been told by your Captain that Lord British is a tyrant. Well then, it is no dishonor to take up arms against tyranny, if that is truly what you believe. However, your people do not extract oaths of fealty as mine do, and I have often heard your Captain say that you follow him at the call of your reason and of your own sense of what is right, which is the Gargoyle way. Now your hearts and minds have moved you to ask whether the fight today is Honorable. Perhaps the question itself is its own answer."
Then the Gargoyles went apart again, to dispute the question among themselves, and the end result was that fully a third of the band declined to follow Gratagmalem into combat against the town. And one young Gargoyle of impetuous nature (that same young champion whom Dupré had cast down at the inn) took it upon himself to fly down and warn the garrison of the pending attack.
Nonetheless, Gratagmalem, in a cold rage, refused to call off the battle. But against warned and ready defenders the diminished Gargoyle force could not prevail, and Gratagmalem himself was slain.
But the Gargoyles who had refused the battle (and aye, some of the survivors) returned to Dupré, and begged that he continue to lead them as he had in the past, against brigands and pirates and monsters, so that humans could see that Gargoyles were capable of service to all. And Dupré agreed, and he named the band the Locusts of Britannia, and they won great renown and did much good for many years.