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A Strange Encounter
Meet Eloise - a simple girl who tries to accomplish a very simple task. Much to her misfortune, a strange encounter ensures that her day is less than trouble-free.

"It was a day like any other. Eloise's morning started with preparations for a trip. She was getting ready to make her usual rounds to the various tailor shops around Britannia. Having spent the previous night putting the final touches on two gowns and their matching hats, she was looking forward to selling them and hopefully making some sort of profit. With the proceeds, she was hoping to purchase a new mount - an ostard.

"With great care, Eloise packed the garments into her backpack and set out for the first town on her list: Papua. She was always fond of Papua. It was a small town with friendly people. Of course, the swamps around the town weren't much to look at, and the creatures that inhabited the area could be downright dangerous, but she felt comfortable there nonetheless. Closing her eyes, she mumbled a single magic phrase, and in a blink of an eye, she was at the Papua bank.

"Eloise released a shaky breath and blinked open her eyes. Recalling always made her nervous. She was not very proficient with magic, and always feared that she would end up somewhere less than convenient, like on a mountain, or in the middle of a group of nasty monsters that were craving a taste of tailor-chops. With a deep inhalation of breath, she squared her shoulders and set off for the town's tailor shop.

"'Hello, Nancy,' she greeted the resident merchant in the Papua tailor shop. They bantered for a short while before getting down to business. 'Wouldst thou have a look at my wares?' Eloise was in luck; the shop's till was full and Nancy was happy to purchase a good portion of her wares, including the two gown and hat sets. Beaming, Eloise bid adieu and made her way toward the bank.

"Eloise located a banker and quickly had access to her funds. Adding the small sack of proceeds from her dealings with Nancy, she asked for her balance. The total made her beam; she now had enough to afford her ostard, and stabling fees!

"All she had to do now was find someone willing to sell her an ostard. How difficult could that be? With a bounce to her step, Eloise made her way back outside and surveyed the area for tamers that were selling their pets. There were sinister-looking nightmares, gigantic white wyrms, and even a lovely unicorn being sold that day - none of which she could have any hope of controlling. A slight frown crossed her features as she sat down on one of the steps leading to the bank, and mulled over what to do next. A stranger's voice suddenly interrupted her thoughts.

"'Hi. Wanna buy a mare?'

"Eloise blinked up at the stranger, and then towards the dark beast behind him with its crimson red eyes, 'Um…no. No, thank you. I wouldn't be able to control it.' She paused for a moment, and then asked hopefully, 'Would you happen to have any ostards for sale?'

"The stranger shook his head, 'Nope. No ostards. Try Delucia. Saw some there before I came here.'

"Eloise visibly brightened at the man's answer. 'Delucia! Of course! Would you happen to have a rune to Delucia that I could borrow?' she asked.

"The tamer merely smiled. 'I'll gate you.' The incantation flowed easily from his lips, 'Vas Rel Por', and suddenly there was a sparkling, blue vortex between them. Eloise could only blink owlishly for a few moments. The effects of the higher spells never ceased to amaze her. With a bob of her head, she thanked the man, took a deep breath, and then stepped through the portal.

"The difference between the two cities was striking. Where Papua was a town built on stilts in a swamp, Delucia was situated on gentle hills and surrounded on two sides by mountains. The tamer's gate opened near the Delucia bank. Like all banks across the realms, this one was a center of commerce. Delucia was Ostard Central; the tamers who brought them in from the wild but couldn't cast Gate Travel instead led them here.

"It didn't take her long to pick out an obvious ostard dealer. A strange chap, dressed in horribly clashing pastels and a straw hat stood next to a line of ostards in varying shades. He had assigned them letters, presumably to make it easier for the buyer to specify which one she wanted. As Eloise arrived, the tamer was dickering with a buyer over a green named 'C'.

"'Excuse me,' she inquired after the transaction was completed. 'Do you have any more green ones?'

"'No,' the tamer replied. He spoke slowly, one word at a time, which almost drove Eloise to distraction. 'Just…sold…my last…one.'

"'Oh,' she pouted. 'Well, how long before you can get more?'

"'I can…go now,' the tamer replied. 'Won't…take…too…long…to find…green.'

"'Wonderful. How much will it cost me?' asked Eloise, fearing the answer.

"'Two kay,' came the reply, in that curious merchant shorthand. It meant 'two thousand'. Joy! It was within her budget. Eloise nodded happily. 'I will wait here for you.'

"'You…could…go with…me…. No spawn…where…green ones…are.'

"'If you're sure 'tis safe,' she hesitantly replied, 'I will accompany you.' The tamer took a moment to give each of his beasties a treat and quiet orders to stay put.

"'Follow me,' he said, and proceeded toward the town gate.

"Eloise did her best to keep up with the man as he led her outside of town at a brisk pace. They were just rounding a corner when she spotted something peculiar from the corner of her eye. The tamer continued on his way, oblivious to the fact that his customer had stopped following him. Squinting her eyes, the tailor peered long and hard at the figure standing off near the Paladin complex.

"It was a man, or so she assumed, but not an ordinary man. This one was extremely pale, as if he had just seen Death, or something worse. He was also nearly naked. This didn't bother Eloise, as she was used to seeing half-naked people from her many visits to the various banks around Britannia. She was known to offer free clothing to those that were unfortunate enough to not have their own, and the recipients of her generosity often thanked her by saying 'Noob', or a number of other colorful phrases. She was never certain of the meaning of their words, since they always seemed to speak with such a strange dialect, but she assumed it was gratitude they were showing.

"Approaching the strange, pale man, Eloise offered him the brightest of greetings, 'Hail, Sir! Tis a fine day in Delucia, is it not?' The man didn't answer. In fact, he took a couple steps away from the tailor. Not one to be easily dismissed, Eloise approached the man again, still cheerful as ever. 'I didn't mean to bother you. I just thought you could use a robe or something. You're as pale as untouched snow, and may have a severe chill. That's not healthy.' Still, the man remained silent. With a sigh, Eloise rummaged through her backpack and produced a shirt. 'Well, at least take this shirt. No charge.' The man didn't move; he didn't even acknowledge her charity. Eloise tucked the shirt back into her pack, and just as she was about to say something snippety, along came the tamer she spoke with earlier, riding a green ostard.

"'Where'd you go?' he asked. The ostard pecked curiously at Eloise's blouse, which made the tailor giggle. But before she could say anything, the pale man behind her leapt into action and attacked the tamer! The tamer barely managed to yell out in surprise before he was facedown on the ground, and his newly tamed ostard joined him there shortly thereafter.

"Eloise blinked wide eyes at the pale man, and shook her head. 'That wasn't very nice.' The man didn't say a word. He walked away from Eloise once again, leaving her alone and disgruntled. With a sigh, she headed back into town and towards the stables. If buying an ostard was going to be such a chore, she would just buy a horse instead."

Ever witnessed something unexplained in UO? Want to share a story about a peculiar encounter of your own? If so, keep an eye on FYI for future Spotlight topics as we continue to showcase tales from around Britannia!

Published: October 2001
Please Note: Some dates are estimates as exact dates were unavailable.
Ultima Online ESRB Rating
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