(Part 10 of 10)

"And so," the stranger said, "my tales have numbered the Virtues. I do not know if you are convinced by them, for that choice lies with your hearts and minds, but perhaps now you better understand my opinion."

The young soldier was the first to speak. "Your tales are cunningly wrought, sir, and pleasant enough to hear. But tell me, how do they pertain to real life? Any clever bard can fabricate a pleasant tale to illustrate nearly anything, even if it's to show that dark is light, or fire is cool."

"I see that you mistake the nature of my tales," the stranger answered. "I assure you, they are not mere fancies. Each one is a true record of an actual event, and each was related to me by the very person to whom it occurred. Further, the honesty of those involved is absolutely beyond reproach."

At this the merchant laughed heartily. "Ah friend, you must think us simple folk indeed, to believe that such noble and honored ones would take the time you tell you their tales. Or perhaps you pose us a riddle? Well then, I will answer it. Those whom you choose to illustrate the Virtues are a most select brotherhood, and I have not so far forgot my lessons as to fail to know their names. Well you may say that their honor is beyond question! All those you name are renowned from old as heroes and exemplars, and some are dead long years past, but when they all lived they were the honored champions of Lord British, and together were the companions "

Then the merchant fell silent for a time, as though he suddenly feared to say what a moment before had seemed merely amusing. And he looked into the cool gray eyes of the stranger across the fire, and when he spoke again it was in quite a different voice.

"The companions of the Avatar?"

But the stranger only smiled, ignoring the question in the tone, and said, "Hark, the rain has stopped at last, and with a few good hours of travel time left in the day." Then he rose and hoisted his pack up on his shoulders, and set out briskly through the shelter's broad entrance, and the others watched in silence as he quickly vanished into the gathering mists of early evening.

The End.

Stories taken from the official Ultima Ascension site
All Virtue stories written by Chris McCubbin
An Incan Monkey God Studios production
1999 Electronic Arts. All rights reserved.