AOH :: MICROSAG.TXT|
Sci Fi story by Leo Schwab, Amiga guru
It's too late! I foist this off on to people every chance I get. I
won't tell you how long it is. I will, however, tell you that this is
merely part *one*.
I think this beats everything 'untitled' ever wrote.
BTW: Under the today-signed Anti-Drug Law, it is a Federal Offense
to not completely read this response. You Have Been Warned!
A long time ago, on a world far, far away.......
(RING, RING) <click> Hello?
(Hello, this is LucasFilm. We're looking over your shoulder and if
you try and use that intro, we'll sue the shit out of you for
Oh, pardon me. I'll change it immediately. Goodbye <click>. Scums...
Once upon a time.........on a world quite a long way away......
> > > > M i c r o S a g a < < < <
Many years ago, a great adventure took place. An adventure so
great, so incredibly awesome, that tale of it found it's way to this
Bols was a withdrawn sort of fellow. He kept mostly to himself,
keeping his house immaculately clean inside and out. He was well liked
throughout the neighborhood, but nobody really knew him very well. The
most anybody ever found out about him was that he was a scientist of sorts.
It has been said that every day, he would perform some sort of useless
experiment in the privacy of his own home, constantly learning new things,
amazing himself and others with these admittedly pointless discoveries.
Bols Ewhac was his full name, and proud he was of it. The Ewhac
clan have long lived in this particular valley and have always been
respected for their long-standing role in the community. Bols never could
live up to the legend of his great-great-grandfather who, it has been told,
completely destroyed the armies of the Admines over three hundred years ago.
Incapable of ever equalling this, he chose to remain to himself in his
perfectly clean house, performing his perfectly pointless experiments.
The day started just like any other. He woke up, took a warm bath,
got dressed, put on his favorite sweater, cleaned his eyeglasses, and
settled down to a delicious breakfast. He planned today just before
retiring last night. He was going to experiment with something interesting
he discovered some weeks ago but was too busy to bother with then. He
glanced at his wall to remind himself what he had called it. Bols keeps his
house very tidy, but one wall of his home is covered with bits of paper,
notes, names and addresses of people he met long ago, and almost all of his
experimental notes and calculations. 'Cybernetics' he had called it.
But today would not turn out as he had expected. Fate had planned
his day differently. Today would begin a sequence of events that Bols was
never prepared for, and that would change his way of life forever.
There was an unpleasant knock at the door. It was unpleasant
because Bols was just about to start in on his favorite part of breakfast,
the pancakes, lightly covered in butter, maple syrup, and strawberry jam.
"Damn", he thought. Much annoyed, he got up to answer the door.
The door swung open to reveal a rather unkempt fellow. Unshaven,
shirt tail hanging out, old shoes, long hair, with hands behind his back.
Bols always trusted his first impressions, and his first impression was not
to let this unkempt fellow into his tidy house. Inside of five seconds,
Bols had classified this person as 'boor'.
"Good morning", said the gentleman.
"Good morning", said Bols. Bols thought his voice more civilized
than he had originally anticipated. It belied his appearance.
"I am Naron Mejof. May I come in?" Bols feared he would ask this.
"What do you want?"
"All will become clear to you....in time." Naron brushed past Bols
into his house. Bols was not happy about this.
"What are you doing here?", Bols demanded.
"As I said," Naron said mysteriously, "all will become clear to
Bols is not normally given to anger, but in this case he decided it
was prudent to make an exception.
"Now see here, Mr. Meson..."
"Mejof, my dear Bols", he interrupted. Bols was rattled by this.
"I don't know you, so how do you know me?"
"Patience, my dear Bols, patience. In the meantime, finish your
breakfast." It became evident to Bols that Naron was going to have to make
the first move. He didn't like this, but there didn't appear to be anything
he could do about it. So Bols carried on as if he weren't there.
Bols continued with his breakfast. The pancakes had cooled
slightly, but were still delicious. Naron sat in the chair across the room
from him, staring constantly, smiling constantly. Bols was not accustomed
to this, but he was good at ignoring things, so he carried on. He drank
his cup of hot cocoa, and ate his english muffin. Naron continued to smile
Bols finished and leaned back, quite satisfied. He looked over at
Naron. Naron stared back, still smiling. Bols decided that Naron wasn't
ready to tell him whatever it was he was trying not to tell him.
"Okay", said Bols to himself, and carried on with his pre-planned
day. He walked over to his wall and pulled down the notes on Cybernetics,
and went to his lab.
It was a small lab. One or two beakers (clean, of course), a small
bench, various jewelers tools, and a myriad of strange devices which many
people today found either old or unsophisticated. Bols found their
simplicity (and low cost) attractive and ideally suited to his work. He
walked up to one of these devices and pressed a lever. The device and
others around it sprang to life with noise and light. Bols already was
somewhat pleased with himself. He proceeded to press an array of buttons
on a panel in front of him. Words appeared on a device in front of him.
The words were of a strange language of which only a few people knew as
well as he. Bols considered himself a master of this language.
"That's wrong", said Naron.
Bols spun around frantically. He hadn't been aware that Naron was
in the room with him. Bols gets frightened rather easily.
"That's wrong", repeated Naron as he pointed to a word on the
Bols thought this man completely mad. Only himself and a handful
of other people spoke this language. How dare this man tell him his
business. Bols was ready to give him the shout of his life when, for some
reason, he looked at the word Naron pointed to. Bols' mouth fell open. It
was indeed wrong. He had been pressing the buttons too fast and had
inadvertently hit the wrong one. Bols corrected it. Bols turned around to
face Naron. Suddenly, Naron didn't look as boorish as he did earlier this
"Who are you", Bols asked.
"I've told you. I'm Naron Mejof. Could we go to your sitting
room?" Bols agreed.
They sat across from each other in the sitting room. More odd
devices were here, although one could almost determine what they were used
"I'm looking for some recruits for a major expedition. Are you
interested?" Naron asked.
"Wait, hold on." Bols decided to adopt a more sophisticated
diction. "Before you continue, would you mind kindly explaining how you
succeeded in determining earlier that my spelling was in error?"
"Ah, yes, your careless error. Allow me to explain. I am from a
realm called Rachek. You wouldn't by chance have heard of it?"
Bols had indeed heard of Rachek. It was supposed to be realm of
highly developed science. The inhabitants there were told to know the
language that Bols had been using earlier, and many others even more
complex that Bols had heard of but had never learned. This was all legend,
however and Bols had dismissed it as poppycock.
"Poppycock", said Bols. "That realm is a myth."
"Ah, yes. Well then, how do you explain the earlier incident?"
"You see, I and some fellow Racheks have heard of a nemesis that is
rapidly approaching our realm. If it strikes our realm, it will eventually
strike yours. We have decided to venture forth and vanquish this common
enemy. We need one more to complete our group, and you are exactly what we
are looking for."
Bols pondered this.
"What is the nature of this enemy", Bols asked.
"The Admines are rising again", said Naron coldly.
"Impossible. The Admines were destroyed centuries ago by my
great-great-grandfather", Bols replied.
"Yes, but that was over three hundred years ago. They have since
rebuilt their forces. They pose a threat to our realm. Small scout groups
have been attacking us at night. But recently they have been getting more
ambitious. One of our group discovered that they are reconstructing their
army. If they succeed, they will destroy all we have created."
Bols was extremely confused.
"But my great-great-grandfather destr......."
"This is precisely why we have chosen you", Naron interrupted.
"You have the fighting blood in you. It is because your
great-great-grandfather fought that we want you to join us. Together, we
can defeat them again, this time forever."
This certainly wasn't the day Bols had planned for himself. He was
going to perform yet another pointless experiment, and now it was barely
noon and he was being asked to go on a journey that could very well cost
him his life. It was interesting, though. At last, he could live up to
his ancestor's example. But Bols, being a practical person, was nagged by
one particularly disturbing thought: getting killed. Naron sensed this.
"The danger is great, indeed. But I believe the probability of
your getting killed is rather low. Just a minute, we figured it out, I
have the exact figure right here somewhere...." Naron hunted about this
person. He produced a sort of folding scroll colored green and white and
"Ah yes, here it is. '73.137351779666 to one against'. I think
that's comfortably low, don't you?"
Bols had done some basic experiments in probability, but found that
they mostly resulted in a waste of good tea. However, what he had learned
indicated that the figure quoted him was indeed low.
"Suppose it's my lucky day?" said Bols with a touch of sarcasm.
"You will have myself and several other companions to see to it
that it won't be", replied Naron. He seemed fairly certain about this.
Bols was still confused.
"I don't know. It's all happening too fast", said Bols.
"I understand", said Naron understandingly. "I will call upon you
tomorrow. I trust by then you will have made a decision?"
Bols wasn't sure that would be long enough.
"Maybe", he said.
"Fine. I'll be 'round tomorrow."
Bols walked him to the door. He was amazed that he was actually
considering such a thing. Fight the Admine army? "I must be crazy", he
thought to himself. Naron stepped out and turned.
"'Till tomorrow then?"
"I guess so", said Bols, still confused.
Naron smiled and walked off. Bols went back inside and shut the
door. He sat in his favorite chair and thought. Thought about Naron,
thought about his great-great-grandfather, about the fame he could earn,
and about the life he could lose. But, after all, the probability of him
getting killed was 73.137351779666 to one against.
He never finished his Cybernetics experiment. He spent the entire
day thinking. Trying to decide 'yes' or 'no' had never been so difficult
for him. That night he lay in bed awake, thinking, particularly about how
they came about that probability figure. "Maybe it will all sort itself
out in the morning", he thought. The bed was comfortably warm that night.
Bols woke up to face his ceiling, as he had done hundreds of times
before. But, for some reason, it looked different today. He saw cracks
and splotches on it that he had never noticed before.
"It's too early in the morning", he thought, and got out of bed.
He felt odd this morning. His day wasn't clearly planned like it
usually was. He tried to figure out why he hadn't planned today, but
couldn't discover why. He dismissed the problem and decided to enjoy
He bathed, brushed his teeth, got dressed, put on his favorite
sweater again, cleaned his glasses (they were always dirty in the morning.
Bols once tried to develop glasses that wouldn't always be dirty in the
morning, but it proved to be an impossible task), and went into the kitchen
to prepare his breakfast.
He sat down to a bowl of farina, a glass of grapefruit juice, some
milk, and toast. He sipped his juice, and started on his farina.
There was an unpleasant knock at the door. Bols froze. At that
instant, he remembered why he felt odd this morning, why his day hadn't
been planned as usual, and why his breakfast was being interrupted. It was
Naron, come for his reply. He suddenly became anxious. But one thing had
finally become clear to him: he was not going to fight the Admines.
He felt somewhat relieved that he had finally made a decision on
the subject. He took one quick spoonful of farina, and went to answer the
He opened the door, expecting to find Naron. Bols froze again. It
was not Naron, but someone else, someone Bols had never met before. He was
neat; hair combed, shaven, no skin problems, and had a pleasant smile. He
was carrying a large bag on his shoulder.
"Good morning", the gentleman said, and brushed past Bols into his
home. Bols was displeased.
"Here we go again", Bols thought.
He approached the gentleman, who was putting his bag down on the
"Right. Who are you", Bols asked sternly.
"Pholke Jinspog, dear sir", he said, and proceeded to empty his
"What are you doing here", Bols asked, now rather confused
Pholke puzzled over this question.
"Don't you know?" asked Pholke.
Pholke became rather worried at this.
"You are Bols Ewhac, are you not?"
"Yes, of course I am", Bols replied.
"Ah, well that's all right then", said Pholke, now confident he was
at the correct place. He continued to empty his bag.
"No, it is not all right. What are you doing here?" demanded Bols.
"If you're Bols Ewhac....."
"Yes....." waited Bols.
"Then you know why I am here. It was all explained to you
yesterday", Pholke replied.
Bols suddenly felt frightened. He didn't have time to fully
realize how frightened he was, for at that moment, there was another
unpleasant knock at the door. He rushed to the door expecting Naron.
He opened the door and was again surprised to find that it wasn't
Naron. It was a woman. She was about medium height, blonde hair, with
glasses and a pleasant smile. She wasn't exactly Miss Universe, but she
wasn't unattractive, either. She was also carrying a rather large bag.
"Hi", she said, and brushed past him. Bols stared at her in
disbelief. Why did everyone find it neccesary to forego any formal
introduction and waltz right into his home?
"Hi, Pholke", she said.
"Good morning, Sheila", replied Pholke.
"Right. Now, who are YOU?" Bols asked Sheila.
"Me?" she replied.
"Sheila Thezerdapb. Where's your bathroom?" she replied.
Bols pointed vaguely in the direction of the bathroom. Sheila
curtseyed in gratitude.
"Thank you", she said, and scurried off.
Bols was thoroughly confused. "A woman who answers questions by
asking where the bathroom is", he thought. He walked over to Pholke, who
by now had pulled out a large book.
"What was that?" asked Bols, pointing in the direction of the
"That was Sheila. She can be a little off-the-wall and random at
times. You'll eventually get used to her, though."
"Get used to her?" Bols exclaimed.
"Yes. Get used to her. You do know what that means, don't you?"
Bols stared at Pholke, confused. He was not listening.
"Get Used To. To become aquainted with, to have understanding of,
"Yes, I know what it means", Bols interrupted. "I'm trying to
figure out exactly how I will be in a position to get used to her."
"It WAS all explained to you yesterday, wasn't it?" asked Pholke.
"All right, then", said Pholke, and he sat down.
Bols sat down too. He had started to realize that these people
were under the impression that he was going with them, and that this was
the place that they were to meet. Since he was not planning on going, he
thought it prudent that he tell them this. He stood up.
"Ah, excuse me, but there appears to be a misunde........" said
Bols, when he was interrupted by yet another unpleasant knock at the door.
Bols sighed and went to answer it. He hoped it was Naron this time.
It wasn't. It was a rather large, husky man with dark combed
hair, and a face that looked almost, but not quite, ready for a shave. He
looked like the stereotype of the kind that lives in a mountain cabin. He
was also carrying a large bag.
"Good morining, I'm Thern Parraw", he said.
"Uh, good morning. I'm...Bols Ewhac", replied Bols.
There was an awkward pause.
"Um, may I come in?" asked Thern.
"....I suppose so......"
"Thank you", said Thern, and he walked in.
Bols was still confused, but at least he was pleased that Thern
had good manners.
"Hello, Pholke", said Thern.
"Oh. Good morning, Thern."
"Isn't Sheila here?" Thern asked.
"Yes. She's in the bathroom."
"Ah", replied Thern. He proceeded to empty his bag as well. Bols
sat down again. Thern looked at him.
"Where's yours?" he asked.
"My what?" replied Bols.
"Ah, yes. Well that's something I should explai......" started
Bols, when he was interrupted by a cheerful voice coming from the hall.
"Hi, Thern!" said Sheila, who had finished in the bathroom.
"Hello, Sheila", replied Thern.
Sheila surveyed the room. Her eyes fell upon the breakfast table.
"Ooh! Is that farina?" She made a beeline for the breakfast table
and took a spoonful of the farina.
"Ick! It's cold", she said.
"Marvelous", thought Bols, who still hadn't finished his breakfast.
"Never mind", she said brightly and walked out of sight toward the
kitchen. Bols followed her so he could see what she was up to.
He found her in the kitchen putting the farina back into the
cooking pot, adding some water, and reheating it.
"Excuse me, but that's my breakfast, which I haven't finished yet",
"Oh, that's all right. I'll make you something else", she replied.
"If you don't mind, I would much rather........"
"Don't worry. You'll like it. Trust me", she said.
Bols was too confused to want to argue further, so he decided to
leave it alone. He went back to his favorite chair and sat down. He
listened to his unexpected guests as they exchanged information and stories
of adventures and misadventures they had been through. He listened as they
laughed at each other's jokes, and mulled over each other's equipment.
Bols shut his eyes and thought. Maybe he should go with them. These were
interesting people who were counting on him to come with them. Perhaps it
wouldn't be so dangerous. Perhaps he would actually be of some value in
their quest. Perhaps he would get cut to tiny bits. That last part
Once again, there was an unpleasant knock at the door. "Not
another one", Bols thought. He started to get up to answer the door.
"I'll get it!" shouted Pholke, and he jumped up and rushed to the
door. Bols heard the door open.
"Hello, Pholke", said a voice.
"Morning, Pholke", said another voice.
"Ah! Good morning, Hendel, Troc. Do come in", replied Pholke.
Bols heard footsteps approach and pass him. He saw two men
following Pholke. The first one was rather well-kempt; short wavy hair,
quiet disposition, and well spoken. The second, who from the gist of
introductions appeared to be Troc, was somewhat less well-kempt, curly hair,
and looked somewhat similar to Thern. They all said good morning to each
other, then Troc and Hendel put down their bags and started to empty them.
If they were going on a trip, thought Bols, why were they emptying their
Hendel suddenly noticed Bols.
"Oh. I'm sorry; I didn't see you. I'm Hendel Limcabick."
Troc became aware of this and introduced himself as well.
"Oh yes. I'm Troc Casston. Sorry for barging in like this."
Bols waved his hand nonchalantly.
"So, you're Bols Ewhac?" asked Troc. Bols nodded.
"Ah. You're the one Naron told us about", said Hendel. "You're
going to help us out, right?"
"I haven't decided", said Bols quietly. Bols was shocked at
himself. He suddenly wasn't sure whether he was going or not. He thought
he wasn't going. Now he wasn't sure. "I MUST be crazy", he thought.
He sat quietly, listening to his guests chatting away. They had
pulled the expected clothes and personal neccesities out of their bags.
But they also pulled out a number of books and green-and-white folding
scrolls, like the one he had seen Naron with earlier. "They surely must
come from Rachek", he thought. He marveled at some of the devices they
pulled out. One of them looked like a miniature version of all the
equipment in his lab. He continued to debate with himself the possibility
of going with them.
Just then, he caught wind of an unfamiliar but pleasant smell. He
turned toward where he thought it was coming from and found himself face to
face with a plate full of an unfamiliar yellow mass.
"I think you'll enjoy this", Sheila said.
Bols took the plate and tried a bite. His eyes opened wide. It
was delightful. He ate some more.
"What IS this?" he asked, mouth half-full.
"Eggs", she said. Bols was surprised.
"Impossible. I don't like eggs."
"Neither do I. I sort of stumbled on this recipe. I was supposed
to put in one thing and accidentally put in something else. This resulted.
I fell in love with it."
"It's fabulous", exclaimed Bols. "You have to give me the
recipe. I love it."
"Thank you", replied Sheila
"Thank YOU", said Bols. He got up and ambled over to the
breakfast table to eat there so as to avoid soiling the carpet. He
finished his eggs, drank his grapefruit juice and milk, and ate his toast.
He leaned back, satisfied with himself.
There was a knock at the door. It was still unpleasant, but it
wasn't as unpleasant as the earlier ones. He got up to answer it. "I
wonder who it will be this time?" he thought.
The door opened to reveal Naron.
"Naron!" exclaimed Bols.
"Bols!" mimicked Naron.
"You've got some explaining to do!"
"In due time, in due time. Has anyone else arrived?"
"Good", interrupted Naron, and he walked inside. Bols glared at
Naron said good morning to everyone, and everyone said good morning
back, while Bols was trying to get Naron's attention. He finally got it.
"Look, just what did you tell these people?" he asked.
"That you're coming with us."
"I thought that's what I was supposed to decide today."
"Well, you've decided, haven't you?"
"Yes! I mean...sort of."
"Well....I'm still undecided, leaning towards 'no'."
"Towards 'no'?! You want to disappoint all these people?"
"Well, no, but...."
"Well then it's settled." Naron started to walk away.
"Hold it! I said I haven't decided yet."
"What haven't you decided about?"
"That part about getting killed."
"Look. I told you yesterday. The probability of you getting
killed is 73.137351......"
"Yes, yes, you explained all that", interrupted Bols. "That still
doesn't make me feel too comfortable about going. I'm also wondering how
you came up with that number."
"That probability is based on a thoroughly complex mathematical
property which I don't feel like explaining now. If you're interested,
last night, I computed the probability of your coming with us." Naron
hunted in his pockets and pulled out a piece of notepaper. "Ah. Yes, it's
491.791758810501 to one in favor. Now, you're not going to argue with
that, are you?"
Naron had successfully confused Bols.
"I guess not...." said Bols.
"Good", said Naron, and he proceeded to interact with the others.
Bols thought some more about this. The chances of his getting
killed were unlikely. He stood to learn a lot from these people. If they
were victorious, the wealth of knowledge and treasure would be staggering.
He would be famous. And if things ever got too hairy, he could sneak away
at night and go home. He turned his attention to his guests.
Sheila had just started unpacking. Bols just caught sight of her
removing a long red bar with handles from her bag.
"What is that?" he asked.
"A pogo stick", she responded.
"A pogo stick."
"What in God's name do you need with a pogo stick?"
"I told you she was wierd", interrupted Pholke.
"Shut up, Pholke!" Sheila said.
"Now, Now", said Naron, "if Sheila brought a pogo stick, I'm sure
there's a good reason for it, although I can't see any valid logic for it
"All right, Sheila, I'm sorry. But why did you bring that thing
anyway?" asked Naron.
"I have my reasons."
At this point, the author has suffered a creative block (aren't you
lucky?). Since I am the author and in Total Control of the situation, I
have the right to truncate and handwave as I please.
After general chatting, unpacking, and handwaving, they all sat
down in Bols' sitting room to discuss final arrangements. Bols sat
quietly, hoping no one would notice him.
"All right", said Naron, "here we are. You all know why we're
here, so I shouldn't have to explain that too carefully. We're all going
to try to destroy the rising Admine Empire. Now, I think I should explain
a few things so that we will all understand each other.
"First of all, I have this all worked out. I have more or less
thought out every detail and have selected each of you because you have
specialities which will be needed. However, everyone who will be going are
not here. We will be picking up two others during our journey. You people
make the plan work. I wish to emphasize that the plan will ONLY work if
all of you stick together. No bickering, no fights, no running off and
getting yourself killed. We can't afford it.
"Second, our mission is not as striaghtforwardly dangerous as it
seems. That is to say, there is not only the danger of the Admine Empire,
but there are other realms with close ties to the Admines who sympathize
with their policies. We unfortunately have to pass through a few of these
realms before arriving at the Rachek realm where we will finalize our
attack. Thus it will be neccesary for us to appear as Admine sypathizers
from time to time. We may also may be forced to prove it. This may mean
some of us will have to do something they find absolutely terrible. If
you find yourself in this situation, remember: this is a life-or-death
situation. Namely, YOUR life or death. In this sort of thing, you will
have to throw your moral convictions aside and do what is neccesary.
"If I may use a cliche', you all know the dangers, and you all know
what you'll be fighting for: the safety of our realm and the well-being of
our people. And also lots of treasure and fame. So if there's anyone here
who isn't sure he or she wants to go, if they aren't sure what we're doing
this for, tell me now."
Bols was silent. So was everyone else. Naron looked at everyone.
His gaze fell squarely on Bols. Bols was scared to death. He knew that
he had to make his decision now. No ambiguity, no vagueness. It had to
be definite. And it had to be now.
"Well, Bols", said Naron. "Have you decided?"
Bols thought about many things in those few seconds. He thought
about himself, all the things he had ever done, all the people he had met
and how interesting they were. He thought about his mother and his father,
how well they had brought him up, how much they loved him, how sad he was
when they died, how he vowed to always remember and cherish their memories.
He thought about his home. He liked his home. It was always clean, always
tidy, except for that one wall. He thought about his lab, all the
experiments he had performed, all the experiments he wanted to perform, all
the interesting things he had learned. He thought about Naron, Pholke,
Sheila, Thern, Hendel, Troc, and the others he hadn't met yet, about
helping them, about disappointing them. He thought about the journey, the
wealth, the fame, the knowledge, the danger, the danger, the danger.....
That thought nagged him quite a lot. Even as he spoke, Bols didn't know
what his answer was.
"Yes", said Bols quietly. "I'll go." There was a moment of
a deafeningly loud silence. Naron's eyes opened widely.
"Fantastic!!" said Naron. He got up to shake Bols' hand. Bols let
it be shook. He didn't notice what was going on. Bols was in a state of
shock. He couldn't believe what he had just said. He just got a terrible
feeling; a feeling that almost every living creature has experienced at one
time or another. The feeling that he just made the most terrible mistake
in his life.
Everyone in the room applauded. They knew how he felt. Almost all
of them felt the same way when they made their decision to go. They were
in a state of complete shock and disbelief, too. The applause stopped.
Bols was still staring through the carpet. It had affected him more
adversely than Naron had thought it would.
"Pholke. Thern. Give me a hand here", said Naron.
They carried Bols into his bedroom and laid him down. Bols was now
staring through the ceiling. Naron shook Bols.
"Bols. Bols!! Come on, Bols! Snap out of it. Bols... Bols!"
Bols turned and looked at Naron.
"I said 'Yes', didn't I?" asked Bols.
"Yes, you did."
"Oh, no....." said Bols, and he turned and buried his face in his
Bols had high moral standards. It was his view that once a person
made a commitment, he was to keep that commitment unless he had an
important and valid reason why it couldn't be kept. Bols didn't have a
reason like this. He was scared. To him, however, that wasn't an
important or valid reason. That is to say, he didn't think it would be
acceptable to everyone else.
"Come on", said Naron. "Let's get some of his stuff together."
They left the room, leaving Bols on his bed, face buried.
They went about the house, collecting things that they thought
would be important. They cleaned up his breakfast table, washed the
dishes, and collected his clothes. They found a suitable bag in a closet
and proceeded to neatly place these things in the bag. Thern was in one of
Bols' closets looking for more important things. He turned around and came
face to face with Bols. Bols had the face of a man who has been told he is
going to be executed, but has come to accept that reality.
"Are you all right, Bols?" Thern asked.
"Yes, I'm all right now. I'm sorry about all that."
"Oh, that's perfectly all right. I was there when Sheila and
Pholke responded the same way. I was in shock, too. It's nothng to be
"Thank you. Anyway, what is everyone up to?"
"We're trying to figure out what you're going to take with you."
Bols panicked at this slightly. He liked to do such things
"I see. Where is it all being collected?" asked Bols.
"In the living room."
Bols darted into the living room to see what disaster they had
created. He politely pushed Sheila aside who was packing his bag.
"Excuse me, I want to see what you have here", he said.
He searched through the bag and discovered they had done a good
job in collecting all the important things.
"That's good. May I finish?" asked Bols.
"Sure", Sheila replied.
Bols started to leave.
"Bols!" Bols stopped and turned.
"You're all right, aren't you?"
"Yes, I am. Thank you."
Bols went to the bathroom and collected his toothbrush, a
facecloth, a towel, and a bar of soap. He shut the light out as he left
the room. He went to his bedroom and got his favorite sweater, the case to
his glasses, and lens cleaner. He got out an old shirt from his closet
which he used to clean his glasses with. He went all about the house,
looking for other things. He went to his lab and got some paper, some
pencils, and some of his tools. He also went to his bench and picked up
one of his devices, and checked to see if it functioned properly. He felt
he would need it. He locked the door to the lab behind him.
Bols finished packing his bag. He then took one last walk about
his house. He turned out all the lights and shut all the doors. He drew
the curtains to the window that overlooked the valley. He tidied a few
things. He stopped in the living room, next to his bag and looked around
him. He picked up his bag and walked toward the door. He grabbed the keys
hanging on the wall and went outside. Everyone was assembled there,
waiting for him. They looked supportive and sympathetic. He turned and
looked back into his clean entry hall. "Goodbye", he said. He shut the
door gently, firmly locked it, and went to join his new friends.
"Welcome" said Naron. And together they left.
The day was bright and clear. There were no clouds. Birds sang
and flew above them. "A perfect day to destroy the Admines", thought Bols.
Everyone rode across the valley where Bols lived. Those who lived in the
valley thought it highly unusual that Bols was with these strangers. They
started whispering among themselves, wondering what they were up to. They
all thought Bols was a introverted social recluse (and they were right) but
they were at a loss to explain this.
They continued to ride through the valley, and everyone continued
to whisper. When the villagers first noticed this they suspected he was
being kidnapped. By the time they were nearing the end of the valley, they
word was that he was being sold into slavery to an evil wizard. One of the
children in the village heard some of these whispers and wanted to know
just where Bols was going. Children have a unique quality in that they say
exactly what is on their mind without regard to proper manners (they never
pay attention to phrases like, "You don't ask questions like that, son...").
In this respect, children are more apt to get the correct story than anyone
else. He ran up to Bols innocently.
"Where are you going, Mr. Ewhac?" he asked. His parents, who were
across the street, cringed at this. Bols laughed quietly to himself.
"I am going with these people on a trip", he said vaguely.
"Are you being kidnapped? My daddy says you're being kidnapped
into....slay-vuh-ree. Is that where you're going?" Bols laughed again.
"No, I'm not. These nice people are going far away to do something
very important, and they need me to help them. That's all."
"Oh. OK. Thank you, Mr. Ewhac", he said, and ran back to his
parents, who by now were thoroughly embarrassed. Bols smiled. They rode
"You certainly have a way with children", said Sheila.
"Not really", said Bols. "I have no patience. When children start
to argue or cry, I would like very much to kill them. I can't stand it
when they cry. They're nice to talk to, though. That I can handle."
They finished crossing the valley and made their way up the other
side. Bols had been here once before. It was about ten years ago. Many
things have changed since then. New buildings, new people, new roads, old
buildings getting removed, old roads getting torn up, old people dying.
There was that thought again: death. He tried to think about other things.
He looked at where they were headed.
They started to enter the next valley, which was uninhabited. Bols
couldn't figure out why not. It was almost as beautiful as the valley
where he lived. The beauty here was incredible: lush plantlife on all the
surrounding hills, fertile ground in the valley itself, and a river which
bisected the valley almost perfectly. They continued to ride down the
hill. Bols had never seen this before, and was absolutely awestruck. He
had never been this far away from home before.
They approached the river and crossed a bridge which had been
placed there for travellers. They stopped to fill their canteens and water
their horses. Bols wandered about briefly admiring the scenery. Then they
As they rode up the valley, Bols looked back and was just as
pleased with the scenery from this side as he was from the other. The sun
shone straight down on the valley. Noon had arrived. They rode on.
They entered a small forest. The sounds of the forest flowed past
Bols' ears. He was beginning to feel happy that he had come. If he
hadn't, he would never have bothered to come to see all this. It was
They continued to ride through the forest through much of the
afternoon. As sunset approached, they emerged from the forest to face a
small hill. Climbing the hill, they found themselves on the edge of
another beautiful valley. This valley was inhabited. It was a thoroughly
interesting arrangement of streets, buildings, and plantlife. It was as
though somebody had taken everything into consideration to maximize the
co-habitation of people and the environment.
"Quickly", said Naron. "We have to get there before sunset."
As they rode down, Bols saw the arrangement was even more complex
than he thought. Streets twisted to avoid trees. Houses were built to
accomodate the hill instead of the other way around. And, it appeared to
Bols that the trees and plants were returning the favor. Tree trunks
turned out of the way to avoid a house. Plants appeared to leave a strip
of ground untouched so that people could pass. It was all hideosly
complex, to be sure. But it was organized to the finest detail, and it was
They arrived at the village just as the sun set over the hill.
Bols suddenly got the thought to find out where he was.
"Naron, where are we?"
"We are in the village of Vern."
"Yes it is. The person primarily responsible for all this is to
join our group here."
"You mean one person is responsible for all this?" Bols asked.
"Not entirely. But he got the machinery moving for all this to
happen. He wanted to see us live in perfect harmony with the environment.
As you can see, his work is a tremendous success."
It began to get annoyingly dark as they arrived at a magnificent
house on the side of a hill. The plantlife around it seemed to dance
around the house, through the house, making decorative designs and
patterns. There was no choice but to feel happieness in this place.
"Wait here", said Naron, and he walked up the path to the front
door and knocked. Bols was rather interested to see what kind of person
could have masterminded all this incredible beauty. Bols saw the door
swing open and a a figure emerged and spoke to Naron. Bols could not hear
what they were saying. The two figures spoke briefly and then Naron
"Our host is very gracious. We're spending the night here", said
Naron. Everybody proceeded to enter the house.
Bols was once again awestruck at the beauty of the house. It was
amazing. It was sort of a half-manmade-half-natural house. As though
pieces of board had been placed between trees and the trees grew up and
around the edges, creating a weather-proof seal. As he entered the living
room, Bols mouth fell open. It was a grand chamber with a vaulted ceiling
created by the tree branches above. Vines hung down from above, creating a
tranquil effect. The room was lit, but Bols could find no distinguishable
light source. This was all too much for Bols, and he sat down and shut his
eyes while he tried to figure all this out. Bols was not the only one
impressed. All his companions were awestruck as well, and they all sat
down, unable to think of anything else to do. Naron was not affected like
the rest. He appeared to be familiar with this setting. He put down his
bag and sat.
"Well, what do you think?" he asked.
The room was still. Nobody could answer. Bols did manage to think
"Nice", Bols said. Naron laughed.
"Our host will be with us shortly. In the meantime, feel free to
drool", said Naron.
Bols opened his eyes again and stood up. He walked about and
explored the room. He went to the opposite end where the bookshelf was.
It was several horizontal tree branches that intertwined together to form a
suitable shelf. He looked at the dining table. The surface was clearly
manmade but the legs appeared to grow out of the floor. He tried to
discover the source of light by observing shadows. But there were no
shadows. At least none clearly defined. The light seemed to come from
above in all directions. He looked up. Could it be that the leaves were
glowing? "No, that's silly", he thought. He went to the window. Below
was an exquisite garden with flowers of all shapes and colors. It appeared
that they were moving slowly to and fro. It was hypnotic. Bols sat down
and shut his eyes again to try to figure all this out.
Bols heard footsteps enter the room. He opened his eyes. There
stood a tall man, black curly hair, mustache and beard, and a peaceful
smile. The light in the room appeared to brighten when he entered.
Naron stood up and stood next to him.
"People", said Naron, "I would like you to meet our host, and the
person responsible for all this. Ivade Deviz."
"G--g--g--g-good evening", said Ivade. Ivade had a slight stutter,
but it didn't appear to bother anyone.
At this point, the author believes it has been made painfully clear
that all the characters in this story are interpretations of people in this
lab. The author also believes that he may have stepped on a few toes and
would like to take this opporunity to apologize for any feelings that may
have been hurt. If you are unclear as to who is who, their real identities
may be found in the character's names, which are anagrams of their real
Bols piped up.
"Where's the light coming from?"
"The leaves", replied Ivade.
"Of course", Bols thought to himself. It seemed to him that the
answer that was most impossible and irrational was always the correct one.
Bols had determined that this must be a law of the universe.
They all spoke for hours on many subjects. The dominant subject
was how Ivade had accomplished all this. It turned out to be a rather long
story. Ivade had always loved the outdoors. He enjoyed climbing trees,
running through the forest, swimming in the lake, just as all young boys
do. But he began to notice something when he went out. If he stood very
quietly, he could hear the plants speak to him. Ivade thought he was crazy
at first, but it kept happening. Soon, he was having long conversations
with trees, bushes, and grass. He understood their way of life. It was so
incredibly simple that he was amazed that people hadn't figured it out long
ago. The plants lived by cooperating with each other. Since plants can't
move like people can, it doesn't make sense to be hostile to everyone else
around you because you will have to be with them for the rest of your life.
Plants saw this great truth and decided that they shall live in peaceful
cohabitation. In the hostile areas of the world, like the desert, the
situation is far more critical. All plants must cooperate and share what
few resources are available. Only in this way can the plants survive. It
obviously works; they've been around all this time.
The plants expressed to Ivade a grave fear that they have. People
had not yet learned how to live with each other and the environment. When
they wanted to go somewhere, they would cut down everything before them.
When they wanted to live somewhere, they would evict all previous
inhabitants. The plants knew this would result in disaster. Ivade saw
this too and sought to do something about it. Unfortunately, nobody was
particularly interested in listening to him because they all thought he was
crazy. They didn't have his gift of talking to the plants. Ivade found
one person who was interested, however. Happily, he was the Mayor at that
time, and found Ivade's views interesting. The Mayor liked Ivade. Most
other people who wanted something done usually yelled and screamed and
marched outside his office and just basically made a nuisance out of
themselves. Ivade had been taught by the plants that this only serves to
create hostility in those around you. Ivade was very calm and rational and
presented a very intelligent view.
The Mayor decreed that Ivade's plan was to be implemented. And so
the entire town was slowly reconstructed to maximize the cohabitation
between the environment and the people. The plants were happy about this
and began to decorate the village's streets and houses. They made way for
the new people who came. The people caught on to what the plants were
doing and built new homes where the plants left a space. The system pretty
much runs itself now. The plants sense what the people want to do, and
then they try to accomodate in the best, and usually the most beautiful,
way possible. The people see the change and take advantage of it. The
villagers enjoy their homes, their park, and they enjoy taking walks along
the path that surrounds the village; a path which suddenly appeared one day
and constantly changes so that the walks will never be the same. Vern is
probably the most beautiful village to be found in the world.
"And that is why I am going on this quest", said Ivade. "I could
not bear to see all this work destroyed at the hands of the Admines."
"You've certainly done a magnificent job", said Sheila.
"It's fantastic", said Hendel.
The conversation pretty much ended there because no one could think
of any more suitable adjectives. They all sat down to supper and ate a
magnificent meal. It was one of the most delicious Bols had ever tasted.
They all finished, quite satisfied.
"Well, everybody", said Ivade, "It's rather late, and I need my
sleep for tomorrow. So if you don't mind, good night."
"Good night", everyone replied. Ivade left the room. The light in
the hall brightened as he entered it.
"People", said Naron, "Ivade has a good idea. We will be leaving
early tomorrow, so I think we should all get to bed about now; we will need
They all agreed and went to their rooms. Bols placed his bag on
the bed and looked around. The room had walls of trees and a roof of
branches. The bed was created by a set of branches thick with soft leaves.
Bols sensed that the room was "aware" of him. Bols felt rather awkward.
"Hi", he said.
The light in the room pulsed in response. This kind of shook
"Uh....I hope you'll forgive me. This is all very strange to me."
The light flickered understandingly.
Not knowing what else to say to a bedroom, he proceeded to get into
his pajamas and went into the bathroom. He brushed his teeth and washed
his face. He walked back into the bedroom and got into bed. It was warm!
Bols never really enjoyed getting into cold beds and was very pleased that
this one was warm. In fact, it was exactly the way he wanted it.
"Thank you", he said to the room.
The light in the room pulsated in gratitude.
Bols got comfortable. The bed and pillow were very soft and
"Good night", he said.
The light pulsed in response and slowly darkened.
Bols slept very well that night.
Ok ladies and gents, hang on to your hats! Here's part TWO!!!
Bols woke up the next morning, looked around him, and sat up quickly
wondering where he was. Suddenly he remembered and felt much better. He sat
there a moment to look at the room around him. It still seemed aware of him.
He went to the bathroom, brushed his teeth and washed himself. He
returned to the bedroom and dressed for the day. He put on his glasses and
started to leave the room, when he stopped and turned around to look at the
bed. He remembered what happened last night.
"Thank you", he said to the bed. The light in the room flickered
thankfully. Bols was pleased. He went out to the living room for
He found that everyone else had already woken up and had assembled in
the dining room for breakfast. Naron and Ivade were talking over chocolate
milk and a strange, funny looking bowl of stuff that looked like nothing he
had ever seen before. Ivade and Naron were discussing methods of travel and
battle. Everybody else appeared to be playing with their bowl of strange
stuff. This puzzled Bols, since he was brought up to not play with his food.
Sheila seemed to be enjoying it, but Sheila appears to enjoy everything.
"Good morning, Bols." Naron said.
"Morning, Naron," Bols replied. "What is that stuff you are eating?"
"Fout. It's... well... It's a kind of health food. It takes some
time to get used to it, but once you have, it's great stuff."
"It looks like mud," Bols said.
"Yeah, it does kind of," Naron observed. "Would you like some?"
"Uh, no. I'll just have some milk, thank you very much."
"Yes, thank you."
"Suit yourself, it's not bad stuff."
"Yeah, right," Bols muttered.
Bad stuff or not, it looked positively frightening to Bols, so he
decided to avoid it. He wandered around the table and greeted everybody.
Hendel handed him a glass of milk, and he sat down to listen to everybody.
They all spoke of strange devices and odd languages, some of which
Bols had only heard of in legend. Some of those mentioned were FORTRAIN,
SIMPLE, CAMUS, and others which he couldn't pronounce. It was all rather
confusing to Bols, so he found a corner to himself and drank his milk.
Troc noticed Bols and walked over to him.
"Why are you here all by yourself," Troc asked.
"I don't know," Bols answered, "I just was listening to everybody
talking and I couldn't understand a word of anything. I really don't think
Naron is aware of how little I know compared to the rest of you."
"I don't think Naron would have chosen you if he didn't think you
were going to be useful in some way," Troc replied.
"Well," said Bols, "I'm sitting here listening to all of you talking
about things which I never heard of, and I'm wondering, 'How am I supposed to
help them if I haven't the vaguest idea of what they're talking about?' It
all rather makes me wonder..."
"Do what I do," said Troc.
"Don't think about it."
Bols saw the logic in this. He finished his milk and turned his
attention to Naron when he started to tap a glass.
"Today is the day our adventure really starts," Naron opened.
"After we leave this morning, we will be picking up one final member of our
party. I'm afraid that this final member is Mic Jucoh"
Everybody in the room groaned. Bols had heard of Mic Jucoh before.
In fact, that was the wizard that everyone in his village thought he was
being brought to. Mic was said to be not a very fun person.
"I know how you all feel about this," Naron continued, "but he is
neccesary for the success of this mission.
"Once we collect him, we will be travelling through some rather rough
Bols wished he wouldn't go into this again. He was still in the
process of subduing his fear of the whole thing and didn't need to be
reminded of how dangerous it was all going to be.
"....And we shall all have to be as diplomatic as possible when we
pass through various cities. Our journey will also take us through the
Desert of Sanyd. This is neccesary so that we can avoid the PRAAvian
realm which, as you all know, is highly Admine-sympathetic. It will also cut
our travel time significantly.
"We will be leaving as soon as you have all finished your breakfast,
so please be ready. We need as much daylight as possible."
Bols had already finished his milk, but was still hungry. He
wandered around the dining room looking for something to eat, and found an
orange, his favorite fruit. He ate that, and then went to his room to
collect his things.
He had everthing. Or did he? Bols always worried that he would
forget something. He checked his pockets, his bag. It seemed he had
everything. He turned to leave, when a thought struck him.
"Thank you very much for my good night's sleep," he said to the
bedroom. The light in the bedroom pulsed in gratitude. Bols turned and left
to join the others.
He found Naron waiting outside and waited with him. The others soon
followed. Soon, everyone was outside waiting for Ivade. Everyone started
chatting away while they waited. Eventually, Naron got impatient and was
just about to go in after him when Ivade came running out.
"Sorry, I had to leave last minute instructions," Ivade explained.
Everyone then left Ivade's house. The plants around Ivade's house
seemed to wave goodbye to them. Ivade waved back. Bols didn't really
understand how this worked, but didn't want to be rude, so he waved as
well. Soon they were out of sight of Ivade's home and were making their
way through town.
People were about in the town conversing with the plants. Ivade
waved pleasantly to all as he passed. Everybody waved back to him and the
rest of the group. Plants are rather gossipy creatures and, by morning,
everyone in town knew where Ivade was going and what he and the party were
going to do. The villagers waved, the plants waved. It made Bols feel both
good and uneasy. All these people were expecting their group, including him,
to be victorious.
As they reached the center of town, Ivade stopped and instructed the
town council to keep things running smoothly until his return.
Soon they had crossed through the town and were making their way up
the opposite side of the valley. As they travelled, Ivade pointed out the
changing path the surrounds the village. Bols looked in both directions.
It was quite beautiful.
They quickly arrived at the top of the valley, and began to
make their way through a wooded area. Apparently, the plants here knew
about Ivade. They waved as he passed, and Ivade waved back. Bols was once
more impressed by the magnificent scenery.
Bols suddenly wanted to know more about Naron. Troc and Thern were
behind him. Bols slowed up a bit to talk to them.
"How long have you each known Naron," he asked them.
"About two years," Thern answered.
"A long time," answered Troc.
"What's he like?"
"Well....", Troc began, "he's kinda pushy sort of. I mean, he knows
what he wants and what he wants of others. You know. Like how he got you
to agree to come."
"He's also very intelligent," Hendel added. "He's come up with
some pretty incredible stuff. And the really amazing part is that he
doesn't really go through any set procedure. He just sits down and does
what ever he wants to do, and it works perfectly usually the second or
third time. And the type of stuff he comes up with would take an ordinary
person hours, even days to figure out. It's unbelieveable sometimes."
"And he also does stuff just for fun," Troc said. "He's not too
organized about having fun, either"
"Well, I hope he put a lot of thought into this mission," Bols said.
"Oh, I'll bet he's going to improvise this just like everything
else," Hendel said. Hendel began to notice that Bols was suddenly looking
very worried. "Oh, don't worry about it, Bols. Naron knows what he's
doing. He always does."
This didn't comfort Bols too much, but he had put his faith into
Naron and wasn't about to give up so soon.
The group cleared the wooded area and began to descend into a
small shallow field. This place was not as beautiful as the other valleys,
but it was still interesting to Bols, primarily because he had never seen
it before. They had been walking all morning, so the group stopped in the
middle of the field to rest and break for lunch.
"We should see Mic Jucoh's castle just after this next rise,"
As Bols sat down he noticed a curious mound in the field a few dozen
yards away. He looked at it a while, but couldn't figure out what it was.
He ignored it and started in on his lunch, a salame sandwich.
Bols suddenly realized that he needed some water. There was a small
brook nearby, so he got up and went over to the brook to fill his canteen.
On his way back, he looked at where the mound was, except that it wasn't
there. It was a few feet away from where he thought he had seen it before.
"I must need new glasses again," he thought and went back to finish
About fifteen minutes later, Bols had finished. He got up and
wandered around. Everyone seemed to have a vastly different idea of what
lunch was than Bols' idea. Naron had an exotic-looking soup, Hendel had
some crackers and cheese, and Ivade had a sandwich of some leafy green
vegetables. Bols thought this was curious.
"Excuse me, Ivade," Bols said.
"Yes, Bols?" Ivade replied.
"I couldn't help noticing that you're eating a sandwich composed of
"Well..." Bols found it hard to tactfully formulate his next
question. "Having the relationship that you do with plants, doesn't it
bother you..., I mean, don't they object to..., I mean..."
"No, Bols, they understand. You see, they have learned to live
harmoniously with the rest of nature. Part of the rest of nature is that,
in order for animals to survive, they must eat plants. And so the plants
are prepared to be eaten. And after all, animals wouldn't be able to
produce... uh... fertilizer if they didn't eat. So it all works out rather
"Oh, I see." Bols felt incredibly stupid with Ivade. It was all
so terribly simple. Why couldn't he figure it out for himself?
Sonn after, everyone else had finished lunch, too. Everyone started
to pack up their things and carry on. Bols finished packing his equipment.
Suddenly, he caught the mound out of the corner of his eye. It had moved
again. Clearly, his glasses weren't at fault. He went over to Naron.
"Naron, you see that mound over there?" Bols asked.
"Yeah," Naron answered, "what about it?"
"No, really. It's moved at least twice in the last fifteen minutes."
"Well, we'd better find out what it is then," Naron said, and started
off toward it.
"Wait!" yelled Bols in a hushed voice, "what are you doing?"
"I'm going to find out what it is."
"It could be dangerous."
"Do what I do."
"Don't think about it," Naron said, and continued toward the mound.
This time Bols thought the logic was blatantly flawed, but didn't want to get
any nearer to the mysterious mound.
Naron reached the mound and said "Hello". The mound said "Hello"
back. Bols now felt rather foolish and went to see who or what this mound
As he got closer, he saw that it wasn't a mound at all, but a rather
large gentleman with brown wavy hair and a moustace and beard. He also wore
glasses. Bols rather liked that.
Bols eavesdropped on the conversation and discovered that this
gentleman was named Sister BacBark. Naron, after some conversation with
BacBark, determined that he would be useful in their quest, and invited him
to join. Sister, wondering just what he would be getting into, was curious
as to what the immediate future held.
"Where are you going right now?" he asked Naron.
"We are going to meet Mic Jucoh. He is going to help us as well."
"Is this the same person who is a self-proclaimed wizard, and who
resides just over that hill?"
"Yes," Naron replied.
"Then I will join you, if only to see if this Mic is a real
wiz or not."
Sister introduced himself to the remainder of the group, and he was
well received. They then all started toward the far end of the field.
As they walked, the weather took a definitely ugly turn. Clouds
began to form over them, and although they weren't threatening rain, they
cast a gloomy mood over the field. Bols didn't mind; he rather liked
overcast weather and fog.
They finally reached the other side of the field and climbed over the
hill. What stood before them made everyone freeze. They blinked. They
blinked again. It was still there. They blinked a third time, hoping it was
their brain making a mistake. It was still there. Nobody liked what they
"Are you sure we have to go *there*?", Bols asked Naron.
"Yes, I'm afraid so."
"That place doesn't look terribly fun. Are you *sure* that's it,"
Bols asked nervously.
"Am I ever wrong," Naron answered.
"Come on, let's get over there before the sun goes down."
What it was that so bothered them was Mic Jucoh's castle. The castle
looked like it had been deliberately designed to make people turn white with
fear and run off in a fit of terror. Had it not been that Bols rather
expected something like this, he probably would have done just that.
Our not so fearless troup slowly traversed down the mountain to the
valley floor and headed out straight across it. As they progressed, the
weather turned even more gloomy, as though the weather were part of the
hideous nature of the castle, and meant to frighten unwary travellers away.
They walked up the path that led to the castle and reached a locked gate.
"How do we get in?" Bols asked.
"Use the key from the building," Sheila said, and then laughed. She
stopped laughing abruptly when an intimidating mechanical voice called out
from apparently nowhere.
"State your name, and business here."
"I am Naron Mejof of Rachek on important business. With me are
others from various realms on the same business."
There was a pause. The mechanical voice continued.
"What is the nature of this business?"
"It concerns the war with the Admines. Let us in, Mic."
They hear Mic mumble an incantation that went, "Chmod Jee Oh Plus Are
Eks Gate". At that moment, the gate opened. The group entered cautiously.
The gate closed behind them.
The castle from within was quite barren. There were many hallways
and passages, and in them were many doors. Along the every wall there were
gargoyles with deep red eyes. The celing was quite high. So high in fact
that you couldn't see the top of it. A mechanical voice boomed through the
castle, startling everybody.
"You will be met in the Grand Hall. Go there immediately." After it
said this, Bols heard another incantation and a distant clicking noise.
"Well, I guess we get to find to the Grand Hall," Naron said. "I have
no idea where Mic keeps anything in here, so look around."
Bols wandered about, trying doors as he went. They were all locked.
Every door he tried was locked. He went down another hallway. Again, all
the doors were locked. Bols gradually got the funny feeling that he was
being carefully watched.
Bols continued to search around. He went up to the umpteenth door
and tried it. It opened.
"Finally," Bols muttered, and walked in.
This didn't look like a Grand Hall, and this was primarily because it
wasn't. The room was full of junk. Bits and pieces of this and that lay
scattered around the floor. Some of the stuff appeared to be quite old. He
fumbled around for a while, sorting through it. Although he would never
openly admit it, Bols like to snoop. Soon, he got bored with this and left
He returned to the entry foyer where they had all entered.
"Has anyone found it yet?" he called out.
A resounding "No" came from all directions.
Bols stood there and thought.
"There has to be a logical way to find the Hall," he reasoned. He
remembered the distant clicking noise he heard earlier.
"Obviously a lock disengaging", he thought. "Now, where did it come
Bols struck off in the direction where he thought the sound had come
from. He kept trying doors, all of which were locked. He finally reached
the last door in the hallway. It opened. This time the room looked like a
"Found it!" he called out. "It's over here," and went inside and
Soon after, everyone else found the Hall, too. The Grand Hall was
not misnamed. It had a high vaulted ceiling, many tapestries on the walls
depicting what Bols thought were Mic fighting and winning many battles, a
brightly burning fireplace, and a long table down the middle. Everybody was
seated, waiting for Mic to arrive.
Bols got tired of sitting idly and got up to look around. He still
had the feeling that he was being watched. He suddenly turned to face one of
the gargoyles that were present everywhere in the castle. He stared at its
eyes closely. As he did so, he moved around. The eyes seemed to follow him
as he moved. He looked at another gargoyle. Its eyes were not focused on
him, but were instead looking at Naron. He looked at another gargoyle, and
its attention was focused on Sheila. Apparently, all of them were under
surveillence by Mic. Bols thought this was pointless.
"He knows we're here, and he knows what we we're here for. So why is
he spying on us?" Bols thought.
At that moment, there was a bright flash. Bols reeled around. A
bright light was descending from the ceiling. It emitted a strange noise,
and fingers of lightning danced around it. As it neared the ground, it
gathered form. By the time it reached the ground, a distinct shape of a man
was visible. The light pulsated and went out. The noise stopped. There
before them stood Mic Jucoh.
"Welcome," said Mic. There was a dreadful moment of silence. Naron
stood up and approached Mic.
"Hi, Mic. It's been a long time," Naron said as cheerfully as he
could. Mic was silent.
"Um, nice setup you've created here. Very nice...," Naron said. Mic
remained silent, staring at Naron with cold eyes.
"You know why we're here.... Don't you....," Naron said.
"I do," Mic said flatly.
"Ah, good. Great. Glad you got my message."
Once again, there was a dreadful moment of silence. Mic continued
his stare at Naron.
"So... uh... Are you coming?" Naron asked, hoping that Mic would stop
Mic motioned for Naron to sit down,, and he did. Mic then sat down
at the end of the table.
"This mission," said Mic, "it involves the rising Admine Empire?"
"It also involves doing battle?"
Naron nodded again.
"It involves getting injured, even getting killed?"
"And you want me to help you, right?"
Naron nodded. Mic fixed Naron with a cold stare that went straight
through Bols' heart, and it wasn't even him being stared at.
"Why?" Mic asked comtemptuously.
Naron tried to regather his prose.
"Because if the Admines reconstruct their Empire, they will destroy
Rachek, and all other dissident realms, including you," Naron said. He felt
he made his point comfortably clear.
"I can defend myself quite well, and I don't need help from
amatures," Mic said coldly.
"I wouldn't be too sure of that," Naron said.
"You underestimate my capabilities."
"And I believe you overestimate your capabilities. This fortress is
impressive, yes. But under a full Admine attack, you wouldn't stand a
"This is irrelevant. Why do you need me in particular? You have,
as I can see, plenty of other 'talented' people. Why am I so vitally
Naron stood up and began to walk slowly around the table.
"When I started work on the attack plan, I realized early on that I
was going to need someone who was skilled at fortress infiltration. Someone
who knew all the weaknesses, the other ways inside, the internal and
external design flaws that inevitably make any fortress crumble under
skilled attack. I spent many hours trying to decide, to choose who should
be the member of our team that would perform this function. No one else is
skilled or experienced enough at these things to be of any use. Except you.
I am not pleased with this, but selecting anybody else could spell failure
for our mission. I am therefore forced to select you."
There was a silence while everybody waited to see what the next move
would be. Naron had reached the opposite end of the table and stopped,
looking at Mic. Bols had noticed an air of testiness in the air. As though
Mic and Naron had known each other at some time.
"Suppose I were to refuse?" Mic said.
"Then we shall leave. And we shall attempt to make do without you,"
Naron replied. Mic laughed loudly at this.
"You will fail dismally," said Mic, certain that the mission's
success rested entirely with him.
"That is quite possible," said Naron, unshaken. "It is also quite
possible that we can perform quite well without you."
Mic laughed again.
"I doubt that very much, my dear Naron."
"Once again, I believe you overestimate your capabilities."
"And you overestimate my patience!"
This caught everybody with a start, and there was another dreadful
silence. Mic stepped back from the table and collected himself. He checked
"It's too late for you to leave now. You shall have to spend the
night here. I trust you will be content to remain as my guests?"
"No," thought Bols. But rather than get himself vaporized, or
whatever this guy did to people when he didn't like them, he nodded, as did
"Good," said Mic. He then mumbled another incantation which Bols
couldn't hear, and there was strange noise from the hall.
"Your accomodations are down the hall," Mic said. "I shall see you
in the morning. Good night."
And with that, Mic dematerialized. Everybody gaped at where Mic
wasn't standing. A few moments later, the door to the hall opened.
Everybody took this as a cue to leave for their quarters, which they were
glad to to since they were rather scared by this time and wanted to leave
Once again, the process of door trying resumed as everybody looked
for where their rooms were. Bols walked toward the entry foyer-end of the
hall, and suddenly noticed a door that hadn't been there before. He tried
it. It opened to reveal another hallway beyond.
"Over here, I think," Bols said, and then walked into the hall.
He tried a door in this new hall. It was locked. He tried another.
It was locked, too. He tried a third. This time it opened. Inside was a
rather spartan bedroom; a cot, a chair, a dresser, and a door that
presumably went to the bathroom.
"I found one," Bols said.
Sheila was about to try one of the doors that Bols couldn't open.
"I tried that one. It's locked...," Bols said, but Sheila tried it
anyway. Bols's jaw fell open when it opened for her.
"No, it isn't," she said, and walked in and shut the door.
Bols went over to the door she just went through and tried it. It
was locked! Maybe Shiela locked it when she went in. He knocked on the
door. Sheila opened it.
"What is it?" she asked.
"Did you just lock this?" asked Bols.
"Come out here for a second. I want to try something."
Sheila came out and Bols shut the door. He tried to open it, but
once again, it was locked.
"Now you try," Bols said.
Sheila promptly opened the door.
"Why can't you open the door?" she asked.
Bols stood there looking at the door, wondering exactly the same
thing. Naron came up to them.
"It's one of Mic's ideas," Naron said. "No one can get into any
room except their own."
"What a stupid thing to do," Sheila said. Bols silently agreed.
"Come on," said Naron, "let's get to bed before Mic throws us out."
Bols went into his room and shut the door. The room was very
boring. Only the bare essentials had been provided. Bols opened his bag,
got his toothbrush, and went into the bathroom to brush his teeth. He came
back into the room, put on his pajamas, and started to get into bed.
Suddenly, he became aware of one of the infinite gargoyles in the castle on
his wall, staring at him with glowing red eyes.
"Do you MIND??" Bols said at the figure. Surprisingly, the eyes in
the figure went out.
The bed was not terribly comfortable. Bols barely managed to get
enough sleep for the next day.
Bols woke. He looked at the ceiling. It was stony gray. He knew
where he was this time. He started to get out of bed. A stiff pain in his
lower back said "Good morning" to him. It wasn't the sort of greeting he
particularly enjoyed. That cot had really screwed up his back. Bols stood
up and stretched, hoping that would get rid of the pain. He suddenly
noticed the gargoyle in his room. Its eyes were glowing and looking at him
again. Miffed, Bols took the blanket off the cot and draped it over the
gargoyle's face. It took a little ingenuity to get it to stay there. Bols
"There!!" he said at it.
Bols went to into the bathroom, washed his face, brushed his teeth,
and serviced other bodily functions as well. He returned to the room, got
dressed, cleaned his glasses and put them on. Then he took the blanket
down off the gargoyle and made up the cot. He arranged his belongings
neatly in one corner of the room. Then he opened the door and walked into
The hall was empty. All the doors were closed.
"Good morning!" Bols said. There were some replies and some groans
from all parts of the hall. Abruptly, a door opened.
"Hi, Bols," said Naron, "Come on in."
Bols entered Naron's room. It was just as bare and uninteresting
as the one Bols had.
"Sit down," Naron said. Bols sat. "Hendel tells me your worried
about whether you're going to be any good to us during this trip." Bols
was now somewhat embarrased.
"Not exactly...." Bols started.
"It's all right. I think I know what you're worried about. You've
been listening to the conversations we've been having and have wondered,
'What the hell are they talking about?'"
"Yes, that has rather bothered me...."
"I wouldn't worry about it. You see, I didn't select you just
because of your ability with your machines. Anybody could have fulfilled
that requirement. I chose you because I believe you have the innate
understanding of the machines that we need for this mission. Also, because
your great-great-grandfather fought the Admines, you are an ideal choice
this most recent confrontation."
"But that was over three hundred years ago," Bols countered.
"That makes no difference. My research indicates that the Ewhac
line is filled with people just like your great-squared grandfather.
People who fought when there was a need, who fought valiantly and, more
often than not, were victorious. I believe the same is true of you,
although you may not believe it yourself. But I think you will come
through with your heritage and ingenuity at the proper moment. You may
very well surprise yourself."
"You're making all this up."
"Nope," Naron said.
"Yes, you are," Bols argued.
"No, I'm not."
"Yes, you are. The only famous person I ever heard of in my family
was my great-great-grandfather. No one else, just him. Now, since I'm an
Ewhac and in a far better position to know about famous people in my
family, I find it hard to believe that you're telling me that I am
descended from an entire line of warriors who have fought of wars centuries
past. Besides which, our family tree only goes back about three
generations. I know me, and I'm not who you describe. I'm a pathetic little
cretin who like to dabble in the sciences, that's all."
"Bols," Naron patiently began, "I have done months of extensive
research on all our party members. You don't think I would have selected
someone as off-center as Shiela if she weren't key to this mission, do you?
And I certainly wouldn't have chosen Mic if I could have avoided it. You
are suitable for this mission and you are needed. Otherwise I wouldn't
have selectefor thiiences,ou. Your family heritage is not completely, shall we say,
honorable. The Ewhac name only came into being relatively recently.
But I have traced before that. Believe what I tell you. You are indeed
the latest in a line of warriors."
Bols thought about this for a moment. "From my perspective, what
you say is total nonsense...."
"I understand that, and I am asking you to please trust me. I know
what I am doing."
"I can produce the research for you when we reach Rachek. Until
then, I would greatly appr......."
Naron was rudely interrupted by Mic's voice coming from,
appropriately enough, the gargoyle in Naron's room.
"What are you doing in Naron's room, Bols?" Mic demanded.
"We're having a conversation," Bols replied.
"Talk in the hall," Mic ordered.
"It's all right, I invited him in," Naron said.
"Do not argue. You are not permitted to enter each other's rooms.
You will talk in the hall."
"Mic....", Bols started. Naron cut him off.
"Don't argue with him. Let's go in the hall."
The door swung open and Naron and Bols entered the hall. The door
shut behind them.
"What's the deal with Mic?" Bols asked.
"Paranoia," Naron replied.
"That's self-evident, but I was wondering what the basis for it
"Well," Naron began, "he kind of stole this castle some years
"How do you steal a castle!!??"
"Well, he didn't exactly steal it. You see, Mic is also from
Rachek. He was one of the most important people there once. But it wasn't
enough for him. He wanted more power, more control over people's lives.
The Rachek Council of Sixteen were worried that he might try to take over
Rachek by force. So they removed him from his position and retired him.
Mic was furious at the Council, and tried to destroy Rachek. We stopped
him in time, but he managed to duplicate one of our fortresses and he
placed it here."
"Why didn't you destroy it?" Bols asked.
"We didn't find out what he had done until months afterward.
By that time, Mic had fortified this castle to the point where we could
no longer easily destroy it. So we simply let it stay here."
"But surely you could destroy it if you wanted to."
"Oh, yes. Rachek is quite capable of that. But the amount of
time and energy it would take would be far more than we're willing to
expend on someone like Mic."
"What do you mean, 'on someone like Mic'?"
"We don't consider him a significant threat to Rachek. It was
widely regarded that, although he was an important person, he wasn't
all that talented with machines. So we leave him alone. And he leaves
us alone. An equitable arrangement, I think."
"Yeah, I suppose so," Bols said. Then he got a mean thought.
"Just how vulnerable is this fortress?"
"Come, I'll show you."
Naron and Bols left the guest hall and entered the main foyer.
Naron then carefully inspected all the halls that broke off from the
"That's the one!", Naron said, "This way."
Bols followed him into the hall. Naron walked along for some
time, when he suddenly stopped in front of a particularly ordinary
door. Bols looked hard, but couldn't tell what made this door so
significant. Around them, the gargoyles eyes were watching them
intently, their eyes almost on fire with bright red light.
"Beyond this door," Naron said, "is one of the most valuable
and important pieces to this castle's integrity. Destroy it, and not
even Mic can re-enter this castle once he leaves."
"Wow," said Bols. It wasn't a particularly intelligent thing
to say, but he really couldn't think of anything else appropriate. "It
looks just like all the other doors. Is it really that important? I
mean, could we really lock Mic out?"
"Yes, but it's a double-edged sword. It can also be
manipulated to let anyone enter and have free run of the castle."
"And of course it's locked."
"Oh, I'm sure it's more than just locked. There's probably
door after door beyond this one, all locked, all extremely difficult to
get through. I'm sure Mic keeps this room guarded very well."
Bols now had a worried thought. "If Mic sees us here, won't
he......." was as far as he got before he was interrupted by Mic's
"What are you doing here, Naron!" Mic screamed.
"...Get angry?" Bols finished.
"I'm showing Bols some points of interest."
"In this hallway!!??"
"Yes," Naron replied calmly.
"I could have you killed for this!"
"Yes," Naron said again. There was a moment of silence. Bols
sensed that Mic was fuming over Naron's last response.
"Leave this hall at once!!" Mic yelled.
"As you wish," Naron said, and walked toward the end of the
hall. Bols quickly followed.
They reached the end of the hall in short order. Bols turned
around and looked back. As he did so, Mic mumbled an incantation.
Suddenly, a large steel door materialized before the hallway, closing
it off. And then in front of that, a giant portcullis materialized,
made of steel with sharp spikes and edges. Clearly to deter anyone
from trying to enter. Bols was fascinated. "How did it get there?" he
thought. He approached the portcullis to see if it was real. As he
reached out to touch it, a bright spark leapt from the portcullis to
his hand. Bols was violently thrown back fifteen feet.
"I trust you shall not try that again," Mic said.
"Mmmph. Uh, no, I don't think so," Bols said as he stammered
to his feet.
"Good," Mic said. "Breakfast will be served in fifteen
minutes." And Mic's voice cut out.
Bols looked at Naron. "Paranoia?"
"Unquestionably," replied Naron.
Bols considered for a moment. "It's kind of too bad, in a way."
"A very small way," Naron said.
"I suppose, " Bols replied. "Well, I want to get cleaned up.
I'll see you at breakfast." And Bols walked toward the guest hall. Naron
made his way toward where he thought breakfast was being held.
As Bols approached his room, a door opened and Sheila emerged.
"Hi, Bols," she said brightly.
"Oh. Good morning, Sheila."
"How'd you sleep?"
"Rather poorly, I'm afraid."
"Me, too. Mic must not have too many guests; he sure doesn't
know how to treat them properly." Bols agreed. He knew all too well about
that now. "Do you have one of those peeping-tom gargoyles in your room
too?" Sheila asked.
"Yes, I do. Damn thing keeps staring at me. I yelled at it
last night and it seemed to leave me alone." Then Bols realized the
significance of Sheila's question. "*You've* got one of those things staring
at you as well?"
"Yes," Sheila replied, "but I keep a bathtowel draped over it
all the time."
Bols was relieved. He rather liked Sheila, and didn't like the
idea of Mic watching her. "Good," he said.
"When's breakfast?" Sheila asked.
"In about fourteen minutes, I think."
"Great. See you at breakfast," Sheila said, and went back into
Bols entered his room, went to the bathroom, and looked at himself in
the mirror. His hair had been mussed, as though every strand had shot
straight out and then fell into whatever place gravity took it. He
recombed it. He inspected his hand where the spark had hit. There wasn't
any mark, but it still stung a bit. He ran some lukewarm water over it for
a while. As he did, he began to think. He wondered about what fate held
in store for him. The trip had mostly been uneventful so far, but there
was no guarantee that it would remain that way. He wondered exactly what
it was he was going to do once he reached Rachek. Was he going to fight on
the front lines? Or was he going to direct a squad of troops on a sneak
attack? Or would he just sit back and watch while his new friends got
killed? Come to think of it, just how would this battle be fought? Now
that he thCome t do onwas at it would remain t about it, he really didn't know exactly *how* his
great-great grandfather had defeated the Admines centuries earlier. All he
knew was that it was dangerous, and that his ancestor had fought against
overwhelming odds and won. But he had no idea just how it happened, or how
it was about to happen to him. He was more useless to them than he
thought! And what about this unpredictable Mic Jucoh? Where did he fit
into all this? Bols hoped that he would not have to deal with him very
often. Not after what he did this morning.
Bols' thoughts were interrupted by a knock at his door.
"Bols! Breakfast!" Pholke said.
Bols dried off his hand, shut the water off, and went into the
guest hall. As he did, he met Troc coming from his room.
"Any idea where breakfast is?" Troc asked
"Well, I know where it isn't," Bols said, remembering this morning.
They both left the guest hall and entered the foyer. Bols and Troc
glanced in each hall looking for wherever breakfast was. Bols gave up,
reasoning that this was ridiculous, having to search for everything. Why
couldn't Mic make things be easy to find?
"Where's breakfast!?" Bols called out.
"Over here!" many voices replied. Bols and Troc started off in
that direction. As they did, Troc noticed the new addition to one of the
"Where'd that big gate come from?" Troc asked.
"I'll explain it later," Bols replied.
They arrived at the Grand Hall. Everybody was there, seated. They
were talking to each other about how uncomfortable the beds were, and how
annoying those gargoyles were. Bols checked the ones in the Grand Hall.
The gargoyles were still watching them intently. Bols found a chair next
to Thern and sat down.
"Morning, Thern," said Bols.
"Morning, Bols," Thern replied.
Suddenly it occurred to Bols that no one was eating. This was
primarily because there wasn't any food on the table.
"When's breakfast served?" Bols asked.
Suddenly there was a bright flash from the far end of the table
near where Bols was. Brightly colored regular polyhedra expanded outwards
from the center of the flash travelling the length of the room. As the
last polyhedron expanded and disappeared, Mic was left standing at the
end of the table. He had a smug grin on his face. He had startled
everbody and he knew it, and he was happy that he did.
"Good morning everyone," Mic said.
Bols was tempted to say, "Good mor-ning Mis-ter Ju-coh," but didn't
want to take the chance of earning another large spark in his direction.
So he just said, "Morning." So did everone else.
Mic produced a wand from his pocket and pointed it at the table.
A point of bright light emerged from the wand and travelled to the center
of the table and hovered over it. Then the point of light turned into
lines. It quickly expanded into a grid-like surface. At it reached the
edges of the table, it turned down to meet it, forming a transparent box
covering it. Then the box flashed brightly and vanished, revealing their
breakfast. Mic once again grinned.
"Gentlemen.... and ma'am, enjoy your breakfast. We have far to
travel today," Mic said.
Bols inspected his plate. He was amazed. Before him were six
pancakes, covered with butter, maple syrup, and strawberry jam. There was
also a tall glass of grapefruit juice. It was his favorite breakfast!
Bols looked at Thern's plate. He had some rolls, chocolate wafers, some
butter, and a large cup of coffee with a cream and sugar bowl next to it.
Thern turned to Bols.
"You know this is my favorite kind of breakfast?" Thern said, and
he started in.
Bols looked at Hendel's plate. He had some eggs, hash browns, and a
tall glass of orange juice. Hendel seemed to be enjoying it. Bols looked
at Naron. He was greatly enjoying his breakfast, too. So was Sheila. In
fact, everyone was very happy with what they had been given. Bols stared at
his plate. He couldn't understand how......
"Something wrong, Bols?" Mic asked.
Bols looked at Mic in disbelief. "How did you know?" he asked. "I
mean, all of us got.... How did you know?"
"All part of being a wizard, my dear Bols," Mic said with
Bols felt very uncomfortable. Mic had absolutely no way of knowing
that this was his favorite breakfast. He certainly hadn't told Mic, and no
one else would have known, so they couldn't have told him, either. Yet Mic
knew, and this disturbed Bols deeply. He didn't like the idea of anyone
being able to find out something like that without asking him.
Although it was Bols' favorite kind of breakfast, he didn't enjoy
it very much. He was still very disturbed about Mic's apparent
clairvoyance. Sister finished his meal in short order, and was satisfied.
Soon after, everybody had finished. Mic stood up.
"Are we all done?" he asked.
Everybody said "Yes."
"Would anyone like more?"
Everybody declined; they had been well fed. Mic then directed his
attention at the table.
"Make clean," he said.
At that moment, the grid-box reformed, surrounding the table
surface and everything on it. The box flashed again, and decomposed back
into the original point of light. The table was now bare. All the dishes
were gone. The point of light rose rapidly and disappeared through the
ceiling. Sheila looked at Mic.
"You really enjoy doing that, don't you?" she said.
"Quite," Mic replied. He then addressed his guests. "Please
collect your belongings. We leave in fifteen minutes." And then Mic
vanished. Everyone was still amazed that Mic could do such a thing, but
they weren't as impressed as before, since they rather expected it of him
The door to the Grand Hall opened, and everone made their way to
the guest hall. Bols entered his room. He collected his things and placed
them in his bag. He searched the room for anything he might have
forgotten. He picked up his bag, went toward the door, and suddenly turned
to check the gargoyle. It was still watching, intently as ever. Bols
stuck his tounge out at it.
"Same to you, Slob," a mechanical voice responded.
Startled, Bols abruptly left the room and shut the door. As he did
so, the door vanished, leaving only a stone wall. Bols searched the wall
for where the door had been, but there were no marks, no seams. It had
just vanished. Bols went to Naron's door and waited, rather confused.
While he was waiting, he saw Sister leave his room. His door vanished as
well. Bols couldn't understand what was going on.
Naron emerged from his room.
"Hello," Naron said. "Ready to leave?"
Bols did not respond. He was waiting for Naron to shut his door.
"Something wrong?" Naron asked.
"I want to see what happens when you shut your door," Bols
"Oh. It'll probably disappear." Naron shut his door, and sure
enough, it disappeared. "Yeah, I knew it."
"Why...." Bols started.
"It taxes Mic's resources to create and maintain these rooms and
this hallway. When we're all out of here, it will disappear completely.
As though it never existed. This helps conserve the limited resources Mic
"Oh...." Bols answered. He certainly had a lot to learn!
Bols and Naron left the hall and entered the entry foyer. Soon,
evryone was assembled there. Bols watched in amazement as the door to the
guest hall shut and then vanished completely. Bols was now quite ready to
"Where's Mic?" he said.
At that moment, there was another bright flash from the ceiling. A
translucent cylinder was decending rapidly from above. It reached the
floor, pulsed brightly, and went back up again, leaving Mic in front of
them. His pack was next to him.
"You've really got to stop doing that," Naron whispered to Bols.
Mic then mumbled an incantation, and the portcullis and steel door
that Naron and Bols had seen created this morning vanished, giving free
access to the hallway beyond.
"Let's go," Mic said. The giant front gate opened, and Mic grabbed
his pack and walked out.
"I don't think I'm going to like this guy," Sister mumbled to Troc.
As soon as everyone was out of the castle, the gate closed and
locked. The weather was quite gloomy, just as it had been when they had
"Does the weather have to be so bad?" Sheila thought out loud.
"Of course not, my dear," Mic replied, and he snapped his fingers.
Suddenly, it was a clear day.
"Awww. I like overcast weather," Bols said.
"As you wish," Mic said. And a cloud of fog appeared surrounding
"Uh, that's not quite what I had in mind," a voice from within the
cloud said. And it vanished. Bols now felt rather foolish.
"Mic, could we please keep going and stop playing with the local
weather?" Naron said. Mic fixed Naron with another cold stare, and then
walked on. Bols still sensed that there was more between Naron and Mic
than met the eye. Perhaps he would learn more by the time they reached
Rachek. Bols wondered what it was like. Would it be the way he
imagined it? Would he be disappointed in what he found? Or would it be
even better than he imagined? He always rather wondered about what Rachek
was like. Years ago, he daydreamed that it was the place he most belonged,
the place where he could do the most good. But when he left his daydream,
the stark and boring reality of his life made that hope preposterous. But
now he was getting a chance to visit it, and would find out if he really
wasn't daydreaming after all. He hurried to catch up to his friends.
Here we go. Part Three. It's (relatively) short.
They had been walking for most of the morning across what had been
mostly open plain before they finally stopped for lunch. Bols looked back
the way they had come. They were now well out of sight of Mic's castle now,
which pleased Bols since he decided that he didn't like that place.
Over lunch, they talked about amusing things that happened to them.
Naron related a story about how he watched with morbid amusement as a piece
of rather expensive machinery he had just "repaired" blew up with a most
impressive display of sparks and smoke. Sheila talked about how she fell
for a trick designed especially for her. She had pressed a button clearly
marked "Don't Press", and several water balloons promptly fell on her
followed by fits of giggles from all those around her. Thern told of how he
and some friends had made all the clocks in his school run backwards.
"What's the strangest thing that happened to you, Sister," asked
"Well, that would have to be when I attended a strange service
directed by my father's will."
"Oh, this is going to be depressing," Sheila said.
"No, it isn't, really," Sister reassured. "My father left a
directive in his will that a box hidden in the basement of our home be taken
to a nearby open field and burned in the presence of my family. He had
specifically stated that nobody was to open the box or attempt to discover
its contents in any way, just burn it.
"And so one night, we got the family together, took the box out
to the field and set it on fire. So we're sitting there watching this
box burn, and we all start speculating about was was in the box. My
mother thought it might be photos of him with some other woman from
years ago, my brother thought it might be some secret documents
revealing something terrible he did.
"Anyway, we all thought it was something that my father wanted
destroyed without a trace; some deep, dark secret of his. Then one of
us looked at the box and said, 'I guess we'll never know.'
"The moment he said that," Sister said, and started to giggle, "these
fireworks started shooting up out of the box! There was noise and light,
and it just sacred the hell out of everybody! It suddenly dawned on us that
my father had a warped sense of humor. He was always kidding around. And
this was his final joke on us. It was great!"
This story left everyone rolling with laughter. After they managed
to collect themselves, they began to collect their things for the afternoon
Bols suddenly looked at Mic. Mic appeared to be uninterested in
everybody else and their stories.
"That's odd," Bols thought. "You'd think that he'd try to be
friendly with everyone, considering how clear we made it back at the castle
that we don't like him."
Bols dismissed the subject, and in a few moments, thay had all
started walking again.
At this point (.), the author is convinced that the foregoing
paragraphs are quite weak. However, the author was unable to think of a
better link to the remainder of the story at the time it was written. For
purposes of backward compatibility and archival, I'm leaving it in, but I'm
going to start this chapter again with the hope that it works better this
In a few hours, the group crossed the knoll on the far side of the
valley, putting Mic's castle behind them.
The terrain in this valley was rather barren, with the odd bush
every now and then. If it weren't for the bushes and the gentle cool
breeze, it would have qualified as a desert.
This was the image Bols had created for himself of the world outside
his home valley: barren, formidable, inhospitable, and generally not much
fun. This was the primary reason he had never ventured beyond his home
valley. In fact, the farthest he had ever been from his home before this
was the cemetery at the extreme end of his home valley where his parents lay.
The valley adjacent to his and Vern had proved to him that he was wrong
about his generalizations, but now he had decided that he didn't like this
particular leg of the trip since it fell right into his "Avoid This"
He looked to his left and just caught sight of a strange creature
scuttling from one bush to another. Bols got worried. Was it dangerous,
he wondered. "Are there many of them? Are they in all the bushes? What
are they?" he asked himself. He quickened his pace and caught up to Naron.
"Naron," Bols asked.
"Yeah, what?" Naron replied, walking on.
"I just saw something weird."
"It was a strange animal or something."
"It ran from one bush to another."
Naron continued to walk on silently.
"What do you think it was?" Bols persisted.
"I have no idea."
"Well, do you think it's dangerous?"
"I have no idea."
Bols looked at Naron oddly. "Don't you care?" he asked.
"Not in the least," Naron responded flatly.
Bols got miffed. "Thank you, you've been helpful," he said.
"Not at all," Naron replied.
"You jerk," Bols muttered, and then got close behind Naron and
synchronized his step with Naron's to see if it would annoy him. It didn't.
After lunch, they continued their march across this non-desert.
Bols turned and looked at everyone else. Thern and Troc were enjoying a
conversation with Sheila, apparently about what they did at school. Hendel
and Pholke were discussing something very obscure and technical. Sister
and Ivade were talking about nature and its wonder. Naron was leading
everyone all by himself, apparently in deep thought, definitely not in the
mood for talking. Mic was at the back all by himself. Bols wasn't exactly
sure where he got the idea, but he decided to try and talk to Mic. He
waited for Mic to catch up.
"Hello," Bols said.
"Hello," Mic responded flatly. There was a slight pause.
"How long have you and Naron known each other?" Bols continued.
"Far too long," he responded.
"I don't understand."
"About twelve years."
"Do you know him well?"
"Not well enough," Mic muttered.
"Not as well as I thought I did."
Bols puzzled over this. "What happened?"
"I should think that would be rather clear."
"Naron obviously told you the whole story," Mic replied
"No..." Bols said.
Mic looked at Bols. Bols saw his expression change. "You see, many
years ago, I was a widely respected citizen of Rachek. Like any good
citizen, I was interested in making sure that Rachek remained a powerful and
secure province. But the leaders of Rachek were more interested in
scientific and cultural advancement than provincial stability. I tried to
make them see that their policies would make Rachek vulnerable to attack
from lesser-developed provinces. I tried to rally the people on my side, to
help them see that disaster was imminent if the policies weren't changed.
But the leaders felt threatened, and had me exiled. I built my castle from
almost nothing. I wanted to be sure that when Rachek fell, I would not fall
"Your predictions appear to have been right," Bols said.
"Of course they were right. I gave them a detailed outline of how
they should strengthen Rachek, the new policies they should enforce.
Everything they could possibly need to know, I gave them. They implemented
none of it. And now they are paying for their mistake, and asking me to
return to help them out of their crisis, a crisis that could have been
avoided if they had listened to me in the first place."
Bols was impressed. It certainly explained a lot of things. "You
have good reason to be bitter. After all this, are you still going to help
Rachek defend itself?"
"Of course. Rachek is still my home. I don't want to see it
destroyed by anyone."
Bols thought a moment. "Where does Naron fit into all this?"
Mic's controlled scowl returned. "Naron was a colleague. At the
time I was exiled, he was the lead member of the Rachek Council. It was his
vote that decided my exile."
Mic fell silent, and Bols decided not to press the issue. Bols'
opinion of Naron fell a few slots, and his opinion of Mic raised a few
positions as well. After all, he was benevolent enough to help save Rachek
after all they'd done to him, so he couldn't be all that bad.
They crossed the plain and had just entered a wooded area on
the hill bordering the plain just as it began to get dark. Naron left his
private thoughts just long enough to tell everyone that they will spend the
night here and to make camp. Everyone put their belongings down and started
to prepeare for the night. Bols pulled out his pajamas and started looking
for a suitable place to change. Ivade, noticing Bols' pajamas, walked up to
"What are you doing?" Ivade asked.
"I'm looking for a place to change," Bols replied.
"Into my pajamas."
"Why?" Ivade asked.
"Because I'm going to sleep."
"...So?" Ivade pressed, hoping Bols would see some logic that Ivade
thought was painfully clear.
"So I always wear pajamas when I go to sleep."
Ivade decided to spell it out for him. "In the middle of the
wilderness, you're going to take the trouble to put on a pair of pajamas,
which will only get very dirty and make you look extremely silly if we have
to break camp in a hurry?"
Bols saw immediately, albeit too late, that this was perfectly sound
reasoning, and that he now looked like a complete idiot. Bols liked to
believe that he had an uncanny ability to make himself look foolish in front
of people he had no intention of looking foolish in front of, particularly
people he was trying to make a good impression with.
Bols, now knowing he looked like an idiot, came over with a defeated
look on his face and proceeded to put his pajamas back into his bag. Then
he unrolled his sleeping bag and started to get in, when he suddenly stopped
"I just know I'm doing something wrong again," he thought to
himself. He looked at himself. He was fully clothed. "Wrong," he thought.
He then took off his shirt and shoes and put them in his sack. He then got
into his bag, took off his pants in the bag, took off his glasses, and put
them all in his sack. Then he tried to get comfortable. He had another
thought. He reached for his sack and selected the clothes he would wear
tomorrow and put them in the bag with him. This was so that they would be
warm the next day when he put them on. He then shut his sack, and tried to
get as comfortable as he could.
As he tried to sleep, his companions were talking to each other
about many things. Most of them were remembering things that happened to
them many years ago, when they were young friends. Bols got depressed. He
had mostly kept to himself all these years, and had always felt that he was
missing something. His parents had decided the best thing they could do was
let him be, and he always wondered whether maybe they should have coerced
him into socializing more with people, particularly people his own age.
That was another thing. He always seemed to get on well with people about
two to three times older than he was. But when it came to socializing with
people his own age, he felt very uncomfortable.
Now here he was, forced into a situation where he needed to interact
positively with people who he perceived as far more interesting than he was.
They all had done interesting and fun things with their lives, whereas Bols
spent most of his life in his lab or with his nose buried in a book in a
corner where nobody could get at him.
Eventually, all this depressing thought put Bols to an uneasy but
Bols opened his eyes. Silent darkness. He glanced around. "What
woke me up?" he thought. He was sure some sound woke him up. He turned
slowly around in his sleeping bag and looked around. More silent darkness.
"What was it?" he thought. Bols lay still for a few moments, listening.
"I knew there was something," Bols whispered to himself. Bols got
out of his bag as quietly as he could, stood up, and looked around. He
decided it might be prudent to investigate. A thought asked him, "Suppose
it's some vicious animal?" Another thought countered, "Nah, it couldn't be;
it said, 'ow.'" Bols looked at his companions to see who it might have been
who said, "ow." He took a mental roll call. Naron, Thern, Troc, Hendel,
...um... what was his name? ... oh, yes, Pholke, Ivade, Sheila, Sister,
"Where's Mic?" Bols thought.
Bols looked behind him where the noise had come from. He started to
move in that direction. It was the middle of the night but a crecent moon
dimly lit the night. Bols' eyes strained looking for something he
recognized, like Mic, or a human shape, or a deadly creature shape. "Mic?
Mic, is that you?" Bols whispered. He continued onward, looking for
anything that moved.
Bols had a hyperactive imagination, and it was at times like this
that it worked against him. One night, when he was very young, he had
convinced himself that a sheet that had been tossed, as Bols put it, "in
exactly the wrong way" over a chair was a giant wolf, waiting for him to
fall asleep so the wolf could eat him. Bols, however, happened to have a
stout branch near his bed that night which he had been playing with earlier
that day. He had moved incredibly slowly toward the stick so as not to
arouse the wolf, took firm hold of the branch, and then pounded the wolf as
hard as he could, and reared back for another blow. Then he saw that when
he hit the wolf, it didn't behave like a wolf being hit, but like a sheet
tossed on a chair being hit, the chair portion now being thoroughly
crumpled. This earned him no end of strange comments and looks from his
parents that week.
"Mic? Are you there?" Bols whispered, hoping that Mic would answer,
but at the same time that nothing would hear him, so that nasty things
couldn't find him. "Come on," Bols thought, "it's probably totally
harmless." This logical reasoning was the only thing that kept Bols
from running in panic. It did not, however, get his imagination to
stop operating. By now, it had come up with all sorts of theories.
One of them was that perhaps it was Mic trying to scare the living hell
out of him. That led to the theory that Mic was out to kill him.
Several thoughts later, it was that strange creature that Bols had seen
on the plain earlier that day. Now it was currently working on the
theory that it was some mysterious invisible or black beast that hunted
by night, and it had already gotten Mic, wasn't satisfied, and now was
after him. The beast also said, "ow!" occasionally to fool logically
thinking people into believing that it was some person stumbling around
in the night. Maybe it was some undead creature searching for human
Bols' logical mind was still deciding whether or not to believe
all this drivel, when a heavy, cold hand decended upon his shoulder.
At that point, Bols' logical mind believed every bit of it, no
questions asked, then switched itself off so it wouldn't have to deal
with whatever happened next. He screamed and turned to meet the demise
fate had planned for him.
"Do you always wander about the woods at night in nothing but your
underwear?" Mic asked.
Bols felt several emotions at once, and wasn't quite sure where to
begin. He decided to start with anger.
"You scared the hell out of me!" Bols said.
"I'm sorry, but you looked so ridiculous tramping about like that..."
"What are you doing out here?" Bols demanded.
"Call of Nature," Mic replied calmly. He then walked back toward
Bols was once again convinced that he was a complete and utter
idiot. He stood there in the cold night for several moments trying to come
to grips with just how stupid he was, when he thought he heard another noise
"I'm not falling for any more of this," he said to himself, and
walked back to camp.
Bols arrived at the campsite and started to get back into his
sleeping bag. Sheila was awake.
"What were you screaming at?" she asked.
"My brain needs overhauling," he replied.
"I'll tell you about it in the morning. Go to sleep."
"What happened?" Sheila persisted.
"It's embarrassing. Go to sleep."
Sheila lay back down and went to sleep. Bols tried to get
comfortable again. He lay there for a few moments to stew in his
"I refuse to believe that I heard that," he said to himself, rolled
over and went to sleep.
Copyright (C) 1985 by Leo Lafrenz Schwab. All Rights Reserved.
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