You Know What They Say About Curiousity

Nicholas Tamark

UP: Atlantic

    His body arched on the table as JordanCromwell's first breath poured itself into his body. Eyes wide and handsscrabbling in confusion, he couldn't comprehend his surroundings. It took a fewminutes before he realized the figures around him were healers, trying to calmhim.

A bald, dark-skinned man with a simple robe held Jordan's hand in his, his facea mask of serenity. "Be at ease, lad. You are safe here, and quite alive.Lay back and rest, you've only just returned to us. You are safe, here inWintermoor." The healer went to work applying bandages, and casting spellsof healing where the bandages failed. Jordan drifted back off to sleep.

Some time later, Jordan awoke again. The feeling of emptiness and panic quicklygrew again, but he managed to control it, barely. He sat up in the bed, lookingabout the room. A folded grey robe was on a table next to the bed, and atop thatsat his lantern, ever glowing. Relieved, he got to his feet and stretched,making sure no injuries remained. Unfolding the robe and covering himself withit, he started searching through the pockets. The wave of panic rose again as herealized his necklace was not there. Only the sound of the healer's voice behindhim stopped him from losing control.

"I thought you might be hungry," said the healer, placing a tray offood down on the table.

"Where are all of my belongings? Is this all I have left?!?" Jordanwaved the lantern in front of the man's face. His other hand scratched idly athis neck.

"We have no need of your possessions, sir, and we ask no payment forreturning you to this world. What you hold is all that returned with you. Pleasesit, and eat. Tell me what has happened."

Still fighting with the unreasonable panic, Jordan sat wearily and took a biteof cheese. His hunger awakened, he took a few more bites. Several minutes passedwhile his body's needs took control of his mental needs. Popping a muffin in hismouth, Jordan began his tale.

"I'd recently been contacted by several parties, all seeking differenttypes of gems, although all for the same purpose. Now I'm a businessman; I don'tparticularly care why they sought these gems. I only care that their searchbrought them to me. Apparently I was in the possession of one or more gems thathad magical properties, although I had not noticed any such gems. I've spent thelast few days taking inventory and gathering all the requested gems. Even afterclosely inspecting all my gems, I could discern no special traits in any ofthem. Sure, some were clearer or finer cut, but no two gems are exact. Youunderstand?"

The monk nodded silently, and Jordan washed down his food with wine andcontinued. "Earlier today I sold my citrines off to a lovely young lady, ata sizeable profit. However, she was unsure if she held the gem she was searchingfor, and so bought my stock of amber as well. Confident she was now in charge ofher destiny, she returned home and I went in search of my other client."

"I was unable to locate either him or his guild, so I returned home. Ashort time later, I received a visitor. He introduced himself as Smogg Azalin,and claimed to be looking to make a gift of a precious gem for his more preciouswife, Reminisence. Besides the fact that I normally care not what my clients dowith items they seek, I also did not want to scare this potential buyer away byrevealing his reason as a falsehood. It's something I'm used to doing as abusinessman, after all. People tend to be less than truthful when they are insearch of something of value to them." Jordan realized he was staring offinto space, and looked at the monk. "But I digress."

"As is often the case, my visitor inquired about my more unique items. Heseemed particularly interested in my lantern, and wished to add that to thepurchase of the gem. After repeatedly telling him it was not for sale, he askedto hear the tale of how I acquired it. He summoned his librarian, Annatar, tolisten to the tale as well. I told my tale of the lantern, and we starteddiscussing the value of such tales. Smogg claimed to have a complete account ofThe Ballad of the Mournful Soldier, which made me curious, to say theleast."

"Annatar and I started talking about his library, which he claimed was oneof the largest in the world. I have to say that my interest in his boast made meless than cautious in dealing with these two men. I agreed to travel with themto see this library, in hopes of finding a new place to do my research.

"We traveled here to Wintermoor, to the Wintermoor Medical Archives. Theybriefly showed me the medical facility on the first floor, and then escorted meto the upper floor, which housed the library. I must admit it was one of thefiner libraries I've seen. It contained books on many subjects, and was easy tobrowse through. I was inquiring what tomes were located in the backroom, and wastold there were tomes of secret knowledge. Smogg, partly joking I assume, askedif I would trade the lantern for entry into the back room, which I of course didnot accept. We then heard the downstairs door open, and someone enter thebuilding. Smogg said that his wife had arrived, and went to greet her."

"Annatar and I were discussing books amongst the shelves, when I looked outthe window and noted orcs staring at me from a window in a nearby house. Icommented on how odd it was to see such a thing, when suddenly I heard manyfootsteps and words of magic come from behind me." Jordan paused, his facestarting to frown in thought. "My memory starts to get blurry here. I washit with several spells, but fortunately managed to duck behind a bookshelf toshield myself from most of it. I remember trying to reach for my sword...theworld going grey as I stared at booted feet, and hooves..."

Jordan shook his head to clear his thoughts. Shrugging, his hand unconsciouslytouching his neck, he said, "And then I awoke to seeing you."

"Well, I thank you for telling me what occurred." The monk stood andpicked up the now empty tray. "Please feel free to stay here as long as youwish."

Jordan stood as well. "I've been too much a burden already. I thank you forrestoring me back to health, but I must return home. I need to ... search forsomething I've lost..."

The monks provided Jordan with warm clothes to deal with the snow outside, andtold him where in Wintermoor he could find transport. Jordan again gave histhanks, and walked away among the buildings and snow, fear in his eyes, his handall too often reaching for his bare neck.

From the Town Cryer - The Journal of Ultima Online, Sunday, July 23rd 2000