<body> <table width="100%"> <tr> <td> <table width="100%"> <tr> <td align="middle" width="33%"> </td> <td> </td> </tr> </table> uring this past night, strange creatures gathered in Wispwood shire. Not the normal paladins, mercenaries, and mages of this land, nor the lumbering creatures such as ettins and trolls, were these. Nay, these were far more fearsome beasts. These were the tellers of tales, the singers of songs, and the makers of myth. One by one, they came to perform their strange and ancient rites, each in turn standing before the assembled crowd, and presenting as a sacrifice, their words, and the living tales that dwelt therein. <p align="center"> </p> And so, to the first of these unearthly beasts - a reborn vampire, who walks in the daylight, and has been known to sate his bloodlust with croutons. <table border="1" width="100%" bgcolor="#000000"> <tr> <td align="middle"> <font color="#ff0000">Call of the Kindred by SpyderBite</font> </td> <td width="71"> </td> </tr> </table> <table border="1" width="100%" bgcolor="#000000"> <tr> <td> <font color="#ff0000">ome to me, little mortal I can bring you to heaven's portal There'll be no sorrow, there'll be no pain Feelings of joy will fill your brain Come to me, sweet human thing Give me your heart and I'll make it sing Forget your fears, leave them behind Forget the troubles of your kind Come to me... yes, that's right Now hold still, it's no good to fight I'll take your blood, and leave you dying Didn't you realise I could be lying? </font> </td> </tr> </table> <p align="left">I quickly made a fair profit selling silver and garlic encrusted gorgets, after that, while Spyderbite nibbled on a garlic flavored crouton - a fact which seemed to evade my new customers. </p> <p align="center"> </p> Even stranger, if that were possible, came the next adherent to the rite of the Golden Unicorn. A human. And, as we all know, there is nothing stranger than those! Angharad had two tales to tell, one new, one old, although the sounds of the usual street musicians without did provide strange accompanyment to the first. <table border="1" width="100%" bgcolor="#ffffff" bordercolor="#80ffff"> <tr> <td align="middle" bordercolor="#ffffff"> The Return by Angharad </td> <td width="80" border="0" bordercolor="#ffffff"> </td> </tr> </table> <table border="1" width="100%" bgcolor="#ffffff" bordercolor="#80ffff"> <tr> <td> nd I hear and answer her summons' demand. The heroes will rise and return. The legends come down from the days of bran's head: This island's defended by her belov'd dead. In her greatest hour of need, it is said, The heroes will rise and return. Hear the horn call! Mount up and ride. The shades of old friends will stand tall by your side. Hear the horn call! Heroes will rise And return... Old Puck tried to warn me, in days long gone by: "Your old friend's old stories will never run dry, There's more than old mem'ries they'll never let die." The heroes will rise and return. The Moor's tall white towers look out t'ward the coast The Underground's haunted by my old foe's ghost. There's a war? Bring my steed! I'll take up my post - - The heroes will rise and return. Hear the horn call! Mount up and ride. The shades of old friends will stand tall at your side. Hear the horn call! Heroes will rise And return... I've come home again to the land I love best. The game is afoot and I need no more rest! The heroes will rise and return. Hear the horn call! Mount up and ride. The shades of old friends will stand tall at your side. Hear the horn call! Heroes will rise And return... </td> </tr> </table> One near the start of the eve, one near the end! <table width="100%" border="1" bgcolor="#c0c0c0"> <tr> <td align="middle"> Hard Luck by Angharad </td> <td width="30"> </td> </tr> </table> <table width="100%" border="1" bgcolor="#c0c0c0"> <tr> <td> in't no use as I can see In sitting underneath a tree An' growlin' that your luck is bad, An' that your life is extry sad: Nor any harder are your labors; It's on him the same as you, An' he has work he hates to do; An' he gits tired an' he gits cross, An' he has trouble with the boss; Why - he's no better off than you. If whinin' brushed the clouds away I wouldn't have a word to say; If it made good friends out o' foes, I'd whine a bit too, I suppose; But when I look around an' see An' see em sad, and see 'em gay Wi' work to do most every day Some full o' fun, some bent wi' care, Some havin' troubles hard to bear - I reckon, as I count my woes, They're 'bout what everybody knows. The day I find a man who'll say He's never known a rainy day, Who'll raise his right hand up an' swear In forty years he's had no care, Has never had a single blow, An' never known one touch o' woe Has never seen a loved one die, Has never wept or heaved a sigh, Has never had a plan go wrong, But always laughed his way along; Then I'll sit down an' start to whine That all the hard luck here is mine. </td> </tr> </table> As the speaking-altar at the front of the sanctum was vacated, another's footsteps could be heard approaching. And then... she spoke! The crowd grew silent, as these words filled the air: <table border="1" width="100%" bgcolor="#8080c0"> <tr> <td align="middle"> "Valorite and Copper" by Nuriko </td> <td width="20"> </td> </tr> </table> <table border="1" width="100%" bgcolor="#8080ff"> <tr> <td> y tale is perhaps a bit silly, but tis true AS some of ye know I have a blue beetle, he is called Valorite.. he has become something of a problem... he has strted to behave more like a human, everyday he is demanding, wnating his way... today it was his undoing I had taken him and my mare copper and my ferret hunting all was well, until Val bit copper and the ferret and the mare *NOT a nightmare mind ye* attacked him in unison I think that Val finally got his due today cleaned. he was very humble after that and was extrememly meek and mild this afternoon almost to the point I was afread his spirit was broken but I was sadly mistaken to my own grief. he just waited for the opportunity to exact his revenge up on me as he saw the attack was MY doing... even though I TRIED to assure him it was not he would not believe me so he is stabled now, I have been cured of my injuries somewhat and Copper is to be my companion for a day or so while Val considers his sins </td> </tr> </table> Aye, beetles can be disagreeable beasts at times. I have found it best to keep them well fed, especially after a visit to a vet. This evening, 'twas Morning, and in the midst of the day being thusly rent asunder, this work of art did reach our ears, and dance on the wind... <table border="1" width="100%" bgcolor="#ffff80"> <tr> <td align="middle"> Ev'ry Smile is Justified by Morning </td> <td width="40"> </td> </tr> </table> <table border="1" width="100%" bgcolor="#ffff80"> <tr> <td> v'ry smile is justified, and ev'ry kindness right while sobs are heard from children near and candles burn the night when streets are filled w/ lowly beggars off about their plight let ev'ry smile be justified, and ev'ry kindness right as falling stars touch longings and wishes 'pon them are made as silver linings fall cascading 'yond reach of men as little people hug the street in search of colors light let ev'ry smile be justified, ev'ry kindness right oh, laugh with me from far away! and show me just how close my soul is gone from most pass me flowers in the hand and greet me by and by, knowing ev'ry smile is justified and ev'ry kindness right ev'ry smile is justified and ev'ry kindness right </td> </tr> </table> Yancey DeFlorio did bring a repeat of an old masterpiece, and, while all marveled at this artifact, these words resounded about the tavern, and were occasionally echoed by the birds who dwell there: <table border="1" width="100%" bgcolor="#80ff80"> <tr> <td align="middle"> Birth of a Dragon Rider by Yancey DeFlorio </td> <td width="50"> </td> </tr> </table> <table border="1" width="100%" bgcolor="#80ff80"> <tr> <td> he saw them in the distance. Killers dressed in black. Horses draped in battle bells, Signaling the attack. She looked at those around her, Immediately she knew. Any thing that could be done, She would have to do. If the foe to had advanced this far, Protectors would not arrive. Theyd already be there, If they were alive. She called upon the untried powers Flowing in her veins. Demanding that they answer From family ties arcane. First, she went to Water, And called him from the deep. I know that you can hear me, she cried, For Water cannot sleep. Answer me now, Forefather, I need your help desperately To do what I must do. As Water rose to meet her, She looked on him in awe. She had never seen his anger Roar like this before. By what right do you disturb me, The master of the seas, Do you think to order me? I warn you, I do as I please? I meant no disrespect, But there are many lives at stake. I ask nothing for myself, But only for their sake. What eer I do for you, daughter, Comes with a cost quite high. For a moments hesitation, The price is that you die. I am the descendent of the first warriors, Who walked upon the Earth, And the daughter of the dragons, Who were present at mankinds birth. Fear and hesitation, Are things I do no know, They vanished from my bloodlines, Centuries ago. Next, she turned to Earth, And woke her from her long repose. Mother of all living things, Be at my dispose. Upon my lineage so ancient, I make this request, Rise and face my enemy, At my bloods behest. Earth was quick to answer The ancient warrior plea, What gives you the right To make demands of me? I am daughter to your first born dragon, Her blood is my lifes source. I am child of your first man, In my veins, I carry his lifes force. I will gladly help, you child, But theres a price to pay, If I see you falter, I accept your terms knowing, That I will win or die, I will wage this battle, To the end or I fall from of the sky. Then, she called to Fire, To help her plight, He, too, made demands upon her, To stand with her and fight. Beware, my fair young maiden, Hold my warning true , If, I witness cowardice, I will turn on you. She told him with no hesitation, My honor you disgrace. I am a full-blooded member Of a courageous and noble race. I tell you, like the others, I fail only if I die in battle grand. Before my foe is vanquished, And my charges in safer hands. Finally, she beckoned Wind, And the spirits that live in air, Her young voice calling to them, With an ancient prayer. Air elements of nature, Come to your child in need. Help you newest mistress, Compete this honorable deed. Air's answer floated on a breeze That only she could hear, I will stand beside you, Unless you give in to fear. She answered, Im the daughter, Of warriors brave and proud, I swear that I fear nothing, Not even deaths white and holy shroud. With Water, Earth, Fire and Wind On either side she flew, To meet the mighty attackers, And mete out what was due. Water gave her fluid motion, That kept her from their reach. The Earth swelled up beneath them, And created a dividing breach. Then Fire filled her mighty lungs, And death came from the sky. The Wind blew strong and mighty, And scattered their ashes all awry. When her last foe was vanquished, And on solid ground she stood, Her champions bowed to her, In solemn honor as they should. She had proved herself in battle. She had passed her greatest test. As facing her foe unflinching, She succeeded in her quest. That is how the Mighty Dragon Warrior is born To defend those of us who are not as strong. And those who say there are no more dragon Couldnt be more wrong. So when you hear the thunder Roll across the sky Fear not the awesome rumble, Of the Dragon Warriors Cry. </td> </tr> </table> <p align="center"> </p> I, myself, did bring a tale to this gathering. And, as is known, there are few stranger than I! However... Since presenting this piece, several messengers have visited me. Some have praised it. Others expressed deep injury, and anger towards me. And so, if any were indeed deeply hurt by this tale, or any are further hurt by reading it here, I ask that you forgive me. It was largely inspired by the tragic events of people I have known, and was meant to shine a light on one of the more tragic aspects of life. It was certainly not meant to offend, but rather, to help, and make some aware of the suffering of others. With that said, here is my tale: <table width="100%" border="1" bgcolor="#d5ffff"> <tr> <td align="middle"> The Pounding Rain by Blind Otto </td> <td width="60"> </td> </tr> </table> <table width="100%" border="1" bgcolor="#caffff"> <tr> <td> he could not see him. </p> That changed nothing. She knew that he was near. </p> His presence was unmistakable. So were the throbbing points of pain where he had struck her, time and time again. </p> She had cried out, for the first time in months. She had told him to stop. </p> Now... </p> Her situation could not have been more dire. </p> She strained to hear where he might be, to follow his movements, this now unwanted guest in her home. </p> Ebon blackness filled the room. The harsh storm winds from the open window had extinguished every candle and lantern in the small house, leaving her in pitch darkness. With him. </p> She had seized the moment when darkness first fell, to find a hiding place - but it was a small house. </p> She would soon be found. </p> She had to remain still, and silent. If she was found, she would die. When he let her. </p> She stayed in her hiding place, hunched up in as small a ball as she could manage, constantly feeling nothing but the freezing coldness of fear, and the burning fire of pain from where he had already struck her, again and again. </p> Tears ran down her face as she remembered how he had once been. Kind. Peaceful. Loving. Incapable of lifting a hand to anyone. She forced herself not to sob. She had to remain silent. </p> She prayed silently to every deity she could think of. But in her heart, she knew. No one would be coming to visit her in this weather. No saviour would arrive at her door. Only one of the two people in her house was likely to see the coming dawn. She wanted it to be her. </p> He continued searching - under the bed, in the armoire... why oh why did she not take the chance to strike and flee when he bent to look under the bed? WHY? </p> A massive rumble of thunder rolled across the heavens, making the room shake. Her heart nearly stopped, doing his job for him. The effort not to cry out, or leap in panic at the sound, was almost more than she could bring to bear. </p> "Where do you hide, woman? I know ye are still here! I will find thee, and when I do, nothing will save thee!" </p> Her tears stopped. This was not the man she had loved. He was gone. This was another, even if he looked the same. The loving heart that could do no wrong beat no more. In its place was a cold, hard lump of stone, filled with hatred and violence. All of it aimed at her. </p> She began to think of escape - and of attack. </p> He would find where she hid sooner or later. She was small, and had managed to slip into the large woven basket of tailoring supplies. But, eventually, he would come to that - either to search it, or toss it aside in his rage. And she would be found. </p> She felt around in the basket. Cloth. Yarn. Hemp. Cotton. </p> Scissors. </p> If he opened the basket, she would take his eyes, she thought. But what if he did not open it? What if he simply kicked it, or struck at it? No. She could not take the chance. </p> But he was a large, strong man. She was a small woman, armed only with a pair of scissors. </p> What if she missed? What if she just made him angrier? If that were possible. </p> No. She had to have a better idea than simply to stab him in the eyes with scissors. She was no fighter. </p> She stayed hunched down where she was, and listened. </p> He continued to scream every obscene word known to him into the night air. The room was now in turmoil, as he had searched almost everywhere, and flung nearly every posession she had around the room. </p> There were two places left to look now. Behind the armoire, and where she hid. She heard him dragging the heavy armoire across the floor, and then it was flung to the floor with a mighty crash. </p> She startled at the noise - the falling armoire had missed her by inches, but had shaken the basket. </p> Surely he knew where she was by now. </p> But no. </p> She heard his footsteps leave the room, and shortly the sounds of destruction came from her kitchen. Pots and pans were being hurled everywhere in his rage. </p> She cautiously peeked out of the basket. The rampage continued. </p> Quietly as possible, she went to the open window, and climbed out, out into the storm. </p> And fled, leaving her husband to take out his drunken rage on the home that they had spent decades building together. </p> She knew she would never make it to town. The time spent crouched in the basket, together with the fear of her former heart's desire, and the earlier beating - the worst one yet - had left her legs in no condition to run far. And, there was the storm. </p> There was but one option. She headed for the nearby gypsy camp, and, once there, pounded on the door of the old fortune teller. </p> "Please" she sobbed through her tears and the rain "please." </p> and then she fell, collapsing on the steps. </p> </p> He stood in the devestated kitchen, panting, pure rage still in his eyes. A large pan was still in his hand. </p> "I know ye are here, woman! Come out, thy man demands it!" </p> He angrily smashed the pan against the wall, sending splinters flying everywhere. </p> "She will not respond to thy demands ever again." </p> He turned, startled at the voice from the doorway. </p> "Get out of my house, gypsy, unless you want some of this!" He advanced on the gypsy woman, pan raised. "If ye know where she is, tell me! If not - leave!" </p> "I will do neither. I have come to give ye a gift." He was right upon her now, she could smell his rancid, beer-tainted breath. </p> "Gift? The only gift I want is to have my woman be as a woman should be! She has earned her punishment!" </p> The gypsy smiled a wry smile. </p> "Ah, but this is a special gift. Just for ye." </p> She blew a handful of powder into his face, and his world grew grey. </p> When he awoke, there was a metalic taste of blood in his mouth. He could not move, but he was aware of someone nearby. </p> Then it came. </p> A red hot, blinding pain, slamming down on his back, with the force of a balron's blows. </p> He tried to scream, but no sound came. </p> Again and again the pain came. Through a haze of agony, he tried to understand. Why were these blows not killing him? No one could withstand somthing like that! He longed for death's release - but it never came. </p> Voices, however did. </p> "Good day, master smith. How do ye like it?" </p> "It is fine and sturdy, milady. Many thanks for the gift!" </p> Then, the gypsy's voice, apparently to another. Why could he not turn his head and see? </p> "There, my dear. He will trouble you no more. But, should you ever find that small spark of love that once was, ye can always come here to visit him. </p> It seemed fitting that he should live the rest of his days knowing what it is like to be told that he has no function in life other than to be beaten on. </p> Besides... </p> he makes a fine anvil, does he not?" </p> </td> </tr> </table> </td> </tr> </table> Again, if that wounded any past victims of such, or their friends, I am sorry. If that angered the perpetrators of any similar acts, then I am most assuredly not sorry. May you, likewise, meet a fitting end, if anger is all ye feel, rather than remorse. On a less serious note, well done to Angharad and Yancey, who tied for first place! In other news, another tragedy. It seems that the last bastion of one of the great legends of Siege has fallen. The home of ORC, the famed orcs of Siege, is no more. To any who were present, a request - namely that their history not be destroyed, or flung aside as worthless, but given to those who might care for it. To the shard's museums, to the libraries, and so forth. I do not know if the guildstone is lost - but if it was not, let us find a place of honor for it - and perhaps hope that one day, a young orc might find the courage to start a new clan, in their memory. Come next week, and join we strange beings, for an hour or so of something other than swords and bandages!