Events & Services of Avalon
The Day Began
with a Dream
A nine-part autobiographic recollection, by Jack the Fool
In the dream he saw his mother. In truth she had disappeared many years ago, but she was there now, for him. She was as he remembered her: tall and thin, hair of spun gold, pale of skin, eyes the color of emeralds. Her voice, when she spoke, was lyrical--an integral part of a cosmic symphony. She spoke (if you could call such dream conversations speaking) comforting words. He told her that he wished she was still with him, that she had never left. Smiling, reassuring, she spoke of the miracles that can happen when they are most needed. She spoke to him of the beauty of wishing. He slept contently, with her safely in his memory.
Jack the Fool awoke refreshed. It was a time when gifts were given, and Jack had cleared out most of his things to make room for all the new gifts he expected to be given. He went to the chest he shared with the other Fools, and opened the large pack he kept within. He counted the presents he would give to those he loved the most, and giggled with unbridled glee. But, that was for later. Now, he wanted to go outside, and give everyone a holiday hug.
Avalon, which Jack called the City of Density, was uncharacteristically empty. The Rune Library was unoccupied, as was the Town Hall. As he wandered, looking for his friends, he pondered a most pivotal point in his life. He wondered what his life would have been like had his mother not disappeared. Every child needs a mother, he thought. Would he have been a better Mage, had she not gone away? Would he have become a Fool? A Healer? Would he be a better person because of her influence?
The hefty Fools thoughts were interrupted by the sound of...was it crying? He tiptoed toward the corner of the Dead Dove Tavern, ever so cautiously. Would he see a hideous monster? Were a small band of marauders waiting to pounce on him? Jacks eyes were wide with healthy amounts of fear and curiosity as he poked his head around the corner.
A child sat crouched on the ground. The small boy held his knees close to his chest, to keep warm as much as for security. He cried softly, in rhythm to his rocking. Abandoning all caution, Jack stepped out in full view.
"Can I help you?" offered the hefty fool. "Are you okay?"
Jack stood in the center of the Dead Dove Tavern.
The big-boned Fool was very animated, trying to help his friends to understand what he had learned about the boy he found crying nearby.
Crysania, whose parents were dyslexic, watched Jack with attentive concern, her brown hair woven into her signature pig tails dropping over the dark armor she wore. The others essentially surrounded her.
Cryss fellow Guardsmen Eaghawk and Juilin Sandar stood beside her, wearing the official green color of the Guards of Avalon. Also nearby sat the young and darling Riene Faire, adjusting her cap, looking onward with rapt attention. Jixxa wore a full set of armor, accentuated by the same bright red that she shared with her beloved GilMour. Although trying to pay attention to Jacks tale, Jixxa was having a great deal of fun with GilMour as she tried to stand on his feet, and GilMours attention fared no better. Paco, blue cloaked and tribal masked, sat by the window, glancing outside occasionally as though he were waiting for something. Hazard sat with his chair tilted against a nearby wall, his feet propped up in a casual reclining pose.
Claude, the Bird of Avalon, tried to pay attention in his own way...which meant that he was running hither and yon, calling out his tell-tale cry: "Caw! Caw! Caw!" His exuberance must have been infectious, for soon Fripp, youngest of those present, joined the Bird in his targetless chase. The eye-popping colors of Claudes wardrobe flashed by every few seconds as he ran out onto the patio, then along the bar, then out the front door, then back to start.
Hugh DePayns stood behind the counter of the tavern, ever working. He placed jars of fruits onto shelves that separated the back room from the main area of the Dead Dove, and only occasionally looked out onto the floor (and that was mostly to frown at the shenanigans of the younger patrons).
The boy whom Jack found had himself sat in a far corner, scribbling something artistic on some papers, which Jack had given him before the telling of his tale. Occasionally the boy paused to eat some of the food Hugh donated for his rehabilitation.
The boy, from what Jack could gather, was from some distance away, although the Fool wasnt sure exactly where. He had wandered away from home, seeking a Holiday gift for his mother--his father having died when he was very young. Several gentlemen fitting the description of the infamously evil Lords of the Dead came upon and chased the boy, but he was able to elude them...the only reason for his escape, no doubt, was that he clearly had nothing to take.
Crysania had listened for a time in silence, but a question came to her, and she took advantage of a convenient pause.
"Jack," she began, "whats the boys name?"
"I dont know," replied Jack, matter-of-factly. "He cant speak."
Crysania frowned in response, puzzled. "You dont know his name but you know his life story?"
"Jay drew me pictures of it all," said Jack. "I gave him my paints."
"Jay?" Lucina Juno asked the question which immediately came to everyones mind. She had been sitting in the corner with her friend, Nobody--she in her new sky blue dress and he in his identifiable orange. "How do you know his name?"
"He drew this." Jack handed over one of the pictures. It showed a simple, childs rendering of a blue jay. "He made it for me when I asked him what his name was.
Hazard, upon hearing this, put his feet in the ground and sat up straight. "Theres a village by the Justice Shrine, north of the Golden Brew. They often named their children after birds." He grew concerned.
"Thats not that close," noted Riene. "He must have been constantly moving."
Eaghawk cleaned off his hands and stood up. "Well, whatever the case: problem solved, lets..."
"No, you dont understand," Hazard cut him off. "I said named. Past tense. Two days ago it was destroyed by a tribe of Orcs, the survivors scattered all around the region. What few of there are, that is."
At that point a pigeon flew into an open window. It circled once, landing on the table next to Paco. The Grandmaster Mage reached out and held the mottled-grey bird, taking from its leg a small tube.
"Hey! Get that sky-rat out of here!" complained Hugh. "Im not running a pigeon coop!"
Most of them ignored Hugh, except Riene, who flashed him an amused smile. Hugh left them for his room in the back of the Dead Dove, grumbling about the group blatantly ignoring him.
Within the tube was a note, which Paco read quickly and thoroughly, with the skill of one to whom the understanding of words can mean life or death. His body tensed; he looked up.
"This is it," he relayed grimly. "The Alliance needs us to meet at the bank in the Abbey."
They all quickly mobilized. Fripp, the 12-year old prodigy, called out the Words of Power which tore a hole in the air: an angry, glowing, electric blue floating disk. Claude was first to leap through, then Juilin, and the others in their turn. Last to go through was Crysania, watching to make sure everyone else made it safely.
But Crys stopped abruptly as she readied herself to step into the Gate, considering something. She glanced at the boy, Jay, and then looked at Jack. A worried look washed over her face, revealing to Jack "that look," the one of precious concern, the one he knew she didnt reveal to anyone else.
"Jack, dont do anything until we get back. Understand?"
Jack grinned and shrugged, giggling. "I have to help him."
Her worried face softened, and she smiled back, nodding. "I know."
Crysania stepped into the Blue Void, leaving Jack alone with Jay.
The wind was cool and refreshing, bringing with it the nearby salty air.
Jack walked in a bouncy rhythm, whistling a bright and cheerful tune. The leaves in the trees clapped along in their own small way. The boy he called Jay followed alongside, in a quicker step, but imitating Jacks bouncing walk and trying to whistle the same melody. Jack smiled, and broke up his whistling as they laughed together.
"Im sorry that Im not a better mage," Jack apologized. "If I were wed be able to walk through a magical Gate." Jay shrugged a response, indicating that the walk was fine by him.
There was a noise in the woods, and Jacks eyes opened wide. He put one finger to his mouth, motioned for the Jay to stop. But it was too late. Several rough-hewn men came out of the woods to the path on which the Fool and the boy travelled.
The grim looking men, dressed in red hats and yellow capes, surrounded Jack and his youthful companion. The men had the look of sailors, albeit desperate, angry ones. They wore cutlasses and eyepatches, and their accents were hard to understand.
One man spoke first. "Arr, what ave we ere, eh?"
"Oi believes Oi see, afore me, Capn, two scalawags what wish tbe our supper!" replied a very fat man, and all the men joined in his ravenous laughter.
The boy was wide-eyed with fear, and Jack knew he would quickly join his small friend in the Land of Helpless Panic. The viscous sailors tightened their circle around their two victims. Jacks mind raced, and then seized. He began blurting out the first, and only, thing that came into his oft-empty head.
"Would you like to hear my favorite joke?"
The pirates paused.
For a moment Jack was sure that the burly sea-faring men were going to pounce and eat the two of them, but...they just stood there, staring.
The lead pirate, after staring at Jack (with his good eye) for what seemed like minutes finally demanded, "Well, ye scurvy dog? Yell tell us yer joke, or yell be tastin the edge o me fine blade!
Jack swallowed hard, and told his joke very quickly. "A horse walks into an Inn. The Innkeeper turns to the horse and says, Why the long face?"
Another pause followed, one that Jack worried was too long.
"Har har!" the raucous reaction came at last. Laughter, pure and from the belly. These smelly, salty men clearly had not heard a good joke in a long time, and were eager for whatever humor Jack would impart.
They shifted places in a short time, all gathering around a campfire. The pirates cooked fishsteaks as Jack told the one about the difference between roast beef and pea soup. They politely roughhoused with the boy as the hefty Fool rattled off the one about what the Star received for second place.
And as Jack regaled them with the tale of the Cousins Fools first trip from Minoc to Avalon, and the fierce Mongbat who dared to try to stop them, they all sat around in awe of Jacks accomplishments. In time Jack even told them of his love for Keowas, and their wonderful life together, their marriage, and her death. Although the sun had set and the firelight was not very bright, Jack saw a few of the pirates were wiping tears from their eyes--although they claimed that was from stray soot from the campfire.
"Arr, Jack," said the gravelly-voiced leader, "We thought ye a fool, but yere less fool than any man ever had the ill-fortune t meet th loikes o me." He raised his bent, dinged-up mug. "T Jack!"
Mugs raised all around. "T Jack the Fool!" they sung in chorus, and began a chantey in his honor. Later, as Jay slept, and the pirates were close behind, the leader took the Fool aside.
"Arr, matey. Ye be doin a good thing here, and Oi wishes Oi could help ye. But, a deals a deal, and weve got a run t make. But, that dont mean that Oim guin ta let ye go without something, an Oim gonna gives ye the only things Oi got wots worth somethin. Knowledge.
"Theys guin ta be trouble the ways yere headed, and Oi suggests ye travel sloightly south, ifn ye take moi meanin, Jack."
Jack drowsily thanked the man for his advise, telling him he would do just that. The man laughed, a hearty sea-faring laugh, and told him that the men would stay with Jack and his ward until dawn. After that he would once again be on his own.
They walked back to the camp, and Jack fell asleep almost as soon as his head lay down on his balled up pack. When Jack and the boy awoke the next day, they were alone next to a dying fire.
Jack, a Fool from Minoc, was a little confused. Well, more than a little. He knew the general direction of where he was going, but, well, had gotten a little lost.
As Jack the Fool travelled with Jay they played games. Jay never spoke, so Jack made sure to not play any word games, at least any that required Jay to speak. It started with Jack making faces, and doing whatever sort of antics to make Jay laugh with that silent belly-laugh of his. Suffice to say that they had fun.
But, fun is not often had without a price. They had strayed off the path--the trees in the woods made for better hide and seek--and were a little off-track. Jack wasnt worried, but he also didnt want to worry Jay. So they just kept going, and playing. At least they were going in the right direction. Mostly.
After a time they heard something. A banging...no, more of a clanging. Like a hammer or something. The hefty Fool looked at his waifish companion.
"Do you hear that?" he asked. Jay nodded. Jack asked, "Shall we see what it is?" Again, Jay nodded, this time smiling.
Cautiously they approached the source of the sound, at the edge of the forest near the mountains. K-tang, ping! K-tang, ping! K-tang, ping! The sound of metal on metal. They approached with great caution. Beyond the treeline they saw...someone. A blacksmith? Spending too much effort into tiptoeing and not enough watching where he was going, Jack tripped into the view of the stranger.
The clanging stopped as the smith turned to stare at Jack, incredulous. The old man rested the head of his hammer on the edge of the forge, pulling off one of his gloves. He wiped the sweat from his wrinkled forehead with his equally sweaty but massive forearm. Jack watched him, locked in place in that same way in which a hind stands transfixed at the sudden appearance of a glowing Wisp. Is it safe? Or will there be trouble?
The old man ran his fingers through his thin white hair, then brushed the soot out of his moustache-less beard. Wiping his hands on his pants, he frowned, and began walking toward Jack.
Jack sat on the ground, watching the old smith. Jack had seen few people as muscular as the man and the Fool knew that one strike could turn him into instant cat-food. The burly smith stood over Jack and his wide, panicky, eyes. They waited.
"Well? What do you want?" demanded the man, clenching his massive hammer tightly in his forge-burned hand.
Jack stood, never taking his eyes off the aged blacksmith. Jay slowly emerged from the edge of the forest, and the smith took notice of him, too.
"We...we were going to the Shrine of Justice," Jack generalized.
"Pfft...pilgrims," responded the old man, shaking his head and turning away from them. He strode over to a pack next to the forge and hefted its tremendous weight over his shoulder. Mining supplies--picks, shovels, and the like--peeked out from within. He gathered up the smithing tool which he was repairing and began making his way to a nearby mine entrance.
Jack watched the muscular old man walk into the darkness of the mining cave. He looked at Jay, unsure of what to do. The sounds of a pick chopping into the inner walls of the mountain began, but offered no answers to Jacks questions. The hefty Fool sat down on the edge of the forge, lost in thought.
...And burned his bottom on the hot stones surrounding the smithing flame. He jumped up, patting his bottom to smother the embers. Jay watched, enjoying the simple humor of the situation, silently chuckling at his larger-than-average friend. Jacks bottom cooled, no true harm being done other than a hole in his kilt, and joined Jay in laughing at himself.
Their fun was cut short by the horrific sound of the mine collapsing. The world shook, throwing Jack and Jay to the ground, and the inside of the shaft coughed out a thick grey cloud of dust. It quickly calmed, the dust began settling, and the two travellers sat up, dumbfounded.
The area was quiet except for the occasional tumble of small stones that had waited for the end of the collapse. Jay stood first, and darted to the entrance of the mine. He was able to peek inside, as it was not fully blocked, and turned back to Jack, his eyes pleading.
Jack would be ashamed to admit it later on, but it took him a moment to realize the worry behind Jays expression. He jumped up and ran to the caves entrance, peeking in cautiously. Somewhere inside was the blacksmith, inside the collapsed cave. Jack looked left, then right, then at Jay, who looked at him. He didnt know what he was looking for. He didnt know what to do.
"Stay here," he said to Jay, and let his body take him within the dark shaft. The occasional rubble dropped onto his head as he passed the threshold, jingling the bells on his jester hat.
He remembered his spellbook, and excitedly pulled it from his pack. He began flipping through pages in the half-light of the entrance, looking for the Night Sight spell...but then remembered that he had no reagents with him. He put the book away, disappointed in his lack of forethought, and ventured further into the cave.
Almost immediately he heard the moaning. There, beyond a small hole held open by a split beam, he could make out a barely moving form.
"Sir?" called Jack, softly. "Mr. Smith?"
The smith looked up and Jack could make out the features of his face, now far dirtier. Jack knelt next to him, realizing that he was trapped. Jack held up his hands, wanting to do something--anything--with them, but he wasnt a "do-er": wasnt a smith or miner or even a warrior. He was a teller of tales, an unprepared jester who incompetently dabbled in magicks.
"You shouldnt be here." The old man coughed up blood. Jack realized that all he would be able to do was watch the man die. "There aint nothing you can do for me," the man continued, his voice more gravelly and dry than before.
How do you comfort someone whose body is crushed and failing? What do you say to a dying man, when you are healthy and able? What can you give to someone who will, in a minute, perhaps two, will have everything theyve ever cherished, everyone theyve ever known, cruelly taken from them?
"I wont leave you," Jack promised. The empathtic Fool felt tears of pity start flowing. Jack was glad that Jay stayed outside; he wouldnt have wanted Jay to know such dreadful things so early in his life.
The mountain shuddered.
Jack looked back to the entrance, considering too late that the world was not yet finished scratching itself, or whatever it was doing. The Fools youthful companion stood just beyond the opening, taking a step forward and mutely trying to yell for Jack to be careful. Rocks began tumbling into the cave. Jay looked up and around, and was forced to back away as the entrance became blocked by more earth-fall.
The miner gathered his strength to yell, "Get out, you fool!"
Were the situation not so dire, Jack would have smirked at his coincidental observation. More rocks tumbled, grey dust filled the air. A wall fell across the entrance, only a small hole remaining. Perhaps if Jack was not so "big boned" he would have been able to squeeze out with much discomfort, but...this was not the case.
Jack the Fool was trapped.
"Youre an idiot," the old blacksmith told Jack.
Jack thought to himself, "Thats not very nice," but declined to say it aloud. The hefty Fool had to admit to himself that the grizzled old miner had a point. If Jack had never followed the man inside after the cave-in, he wouldnt have been trapped himself by the second wave of rock-fall. But, theres nothing productive in spending time trapped in the mistakes of the past. Jack knew time was running out for the dying man, and if he didnt act soon then he would be dead...and Jack could be following him soon after.
Jack was still next to the man, who could basically only slightly turn his head to look at the stout Fool. He watched as Jack opened his pack and began pouring out everything within. Herrings, some teal bandages, teal robes, a teal bag, scissors, a pile of gold coins, a magic wand, a mortar & pestle, another teal bag, a spellbook, 3 empty potion bottles, a dull dagger...Jack found nothing that he would consider useful. He went to check his pockets, then remembered he didnt have any.
Jacks area, unlike the old mans, had a little room to move. He went from crouched to sitting, and began re-packing his pack in the dark. A beam of light tried to cut from the small hole that as now the entrance through the dust that floated within the cave.
Jack wiped the tears and dirt from his eyes. He felt around for the blacksmith as much as he tried to see him through the thick cloud surrounding them. The Fool had left one bandage out of his pack, and started using it to heal the man whom Jack was starting to get worried could be his last friend.
"What are you doing?" The man was becoming resigned to dying, and was giving up.
"Dont give up hope," replied Jack. The old man laughed, just barely, but more blood was coughed up and he was forced to stop. Jack paused, winced, and continued bandaging. "I dont have any tools or reagents, or...well, please, just dont give up hope," said Jack, trying to convince himself as much as the fatally-wounded smith.
There was a tapping of stone by the entrance. Jay, unable to speak, was patting his hand excitedly against the rocks around the small hole that was Jack and the miners only view of the outside. The man ignored the activity, but Jack looked up at his young, mute companion. Jay had his own bag, and was dumping it out in front of the window. Jack could barely see the contents, but at a certain point Jay stopped. He bent over, out of view, and came back up. He tossed a small yellow bag with red trim into the hole, and it landed next to the hefty Fool. The colors of the bag reminded Jack of the hearty sailors they had met the day before, and his curiosity spiraled out of control.
He dug into the pack, pulling out the contents. A skinning knife, a blank book, a jar of water, and a mandrake root. Jacks hope for their future skyrocketed.
He left the objects on the ground, and dug eagerly into his pack. He withdrew an empty bottle, then went back for his mortar & pestle. Jack began grinding the root; his father was once one of the greatest alchemists of the Court of Lord British, and Jack learned at an early age many of his advanced alchemical techniques. But he had let his training lapse, and he prayed that all his skills had not left him.
The old man began complaining sarcastically, "Oh, great! I suppose there never was any real reason for me to leave Britain, then. Not only am I trapped in here with a total buffoon, but I get to hear all the sounds of civilization, too."
"Be quiet, please," said Jack uncharacteristically negative. "I have to concentrate." The Fool ground the mandrake root until it became a thick, liquidy paste, able to be poured into the empty bottle. He held the bottle up into the pale beam of light, spinning it in a slow circle, checking the consistency. It looked right, but it was hard to tell in the dark. Jack took one of his largest rags and laid it over the face of the broken man. The man began protesting, but Jack ignored him.
Jay remained outside, trying hard to see inside without blocking Jacks only source of light. He couldnt see inside very well, but in time he saw Jacks eyes turn, looking right at him.
"Jay, get away from the entrance, please. Far away." Jay immediately ducked away, far from Jacks view. Jack felt suddenly alone.
Jack held up the bottle again, swishing the white fluid within, mentally preparing himself. He wouldnt have much time. He lifted the bottle to his lips, and drank the potion as fast as he could, praying on the Virtue of the future Avatar that he not fail in this as he had in so many things before.
Jack the Fool was suddenly invigorated, powerful, strong. He reached into the hole surrounding the dying miner as far as he could. The old man muttered something, but Jacks heart was pounding in his ears. Jack braced his arm against the split beam, and lifted.
The beam creaked, moaned, and lifted as the Fool forced his body up against the weight of the cave-in. Even with the power of the potion Jack had to strain, incredibly so. He lifted it farther and farther, until he was able to roll under it to get more leverage. The beam and the rocks shifted, and Jack worried that even with his momentous strength he might not be able to rescue the man in time. The ceiling could collapse again, or the potion could fail with Jack in a very unfortunate position, or...
There, high enough. Although extremely awkward, Jack used his free hand to grab the aged blacksmith by the waste of his pants and pull hard. The man, whose broken body and blood loss had reduced him to mumbling, screamed in excruciating pain.
Jack pulled him clear, into the now altogether way-too-small cubbyhole where Jack had been trapped alone. He slowly let the broken beam down to where it rested before. Initially he had not planned to bandage him some more, but for a quick instant he wondered if he should. His decision was made for him, however, as the earth above the beam began crying under stress. The beam jerked down and stopped. It creaked, breaking under the tremendous strain of trying to hold up a mountain.
Jack pulled the old man to his chest, ignoring his cries of pain, drawing his own body into something close to a tight ball, then pushed off hard against the inner wall.
Jay had stood far away, as Jack had needed him to do. But he was worried, and if anyone were nearby they would see it in his expressive face. He kept shifting nervously, but never took his eyes from the small hole which had become the only entrance to the mining cave.
The entrance exploded, the mountain came down with finality, and a huge dust filled the air, obscuring everything.
Jay gathered the last of Jacks things, spread across the dirty lawn outside what was once a prosperous mining cave--some of the things had blood on them. Jay put everything in Jacks pack.
Jack had finished bandaging a short time ago, and the combination of mundane and magical skills had helped the grizzled old miner regain a level of health that allowed him to sit up, but not yet stand.
Jacks potion of strength hadnt lasted long, but long enough to grab hold of the old, fatally wounded blacksmith and push backwards through the new-fallen rock-wall--exploding the rocks outward and creating an exit for the two of them just as the entire cavern collapsed behind them. Not the sort of thing Jack would want to do again, but he figured once was probably enough.
The gnarled old smith spoke, for the first time since he screamed as Jack extracted them from the collapsing cave. "You were going to Justice."
Jack looked him in the eyes and smiled, and Jay stopped to watch them both. "Yes, well, were lost..." started Jack, but the old man cut him off by trying to stand. He wobbled, weak from the ordeal, and used Jacks shoulder to help push himself to a standing position. After a moment or two he seemed to think he was strong enough, and turned to West.
The man waited for Jack to stand, his head turned but not really looking at the Fool. Jack stood, looking at Jay in mutual confusion.
"Wed better get going if we want to get there by morning," grumbled the man, and he began limping slowly West.
Jack smiled at Jay, and Jay smiled at Jack. The mute boy began hopping up and down, clapping, and pumped his little feet as hard as he could. He quickly ran in front of the smith, and then past.
Jack sighed with satisfaction, dusted himself off, picked up his pack, and followed his two friends toward the Shrine.
It took Jack the Fool, the mute child Jay, and the aged but strong miner the rest of the day and some of the next morning to reach the Shrine of Justice. The old man thanked Jack profusely for rescuing him, giving him a new lease on life and a new perspective...a new hope for humanity. Well, not in so many words. What he actually said was "Thank you," which, for the non-conversant blacksmith, this show of gratitude spoke volumes. But, the smith also waved as he left them at the Shrine, and Jack beamed with the pride he always felt at making a new friend.
Jay and Jack waved goodbye as the man began trotting away. He left them in full health now, thanks to Jacks humble healing skills.
The hefty Fool and his young travelling companion stood at the wall of the Shrine of Justice, next to the entrance. Jack turned to Jay, who looked up at Jack.
"Does any of this look familiar?" asked Jack, waving his arm as if displaying the Shrine for the boy. Jay shrugged a non-committal "maybe," as might be expected of a boy who was still fairly new to travelling the world.
"Well," said Jack, thoughtfully, "We can go North, start circling around the lake."
Jay brought his fingers to his mouth and tapped his lips, pondering the suggestion. He looked up at his friend, the Fool, and nodded, smiling.
On the way Jack took from his pack two of his prized pickle, herring, and mayonnaise sandwiches--one for Jack and another for Jay. Jay received his with what he hoped was a straight face. He stared at the sandwich with concern, and watched Jack devour his as they walked. The hefty Fool had tried to give Jay one back in Avalon, at the Dead Dove, but one bite of the well-aged herrings had made Jay sick. The mute boy wondered in silence how Jack ate just about anything that could fit in his mouth, then he tossed the putrid sandwich behind them, hoping the older traveller wasnt paying attention.
The scene of a battle interrupted their path to the North. Nay, a huge war had erupted sometime in the recent past, and the stragglers and recently resurrected wandered the bloody battlefield.
Oddly, it was Jay that first recognized Claude. But, to be truthful, Jack would have seen him one second later, as Claude ran over a hill screaming "Caw! Caw! Caw!" at the top of his lungs.
"Lets go!" said Jack, but Jay was already pulling the sleeve of Jacks jesters tunic, imploring him to join the friends they last left in Avalon.
They found the larger group of friends on the other side of a nearby small knoll. The group from the Dead Dove stood together, surrounded by quickly dissolving robes...the variety that magically appeared on the recently resurrected. All over the rolling wooded hills signs of the battle were being swallowed by the earth, as is natural so long after a conflict.
"An Corp!" called out both Crysania and Paco, casting the resurrection spell so invaluable to such stalwart adventurers. Mystic energies coalesced and Juilin Sandar & Riene Faire appeared, garbed in "Death Robes" next to their old bodies, the forces of Magic having crafted new forms for them from the ether.
The party of adventurers wandered about in various modes of dress, gathering their things, re-suiting their armor, and sheathing their weapons. Hazard, Lucina Juno, and Nobody stood alongside the resurrection area, chatting happily about the state of the world. Eaghawk was slightly to one side, having trouble slipping on a boot and hopping up and down trying to somehow force it on. GilMour and Jixxa were fully armored. The two of them were skipping back and forth in their own two-person game of "tag."
On the far end of the group Claude had joined Fripp (both now fully geared up), and they stood next to each other committing a flurry of interactive hand motions and verbal distractions. "Why, would you look at that behind you!" "Glad to meet you, friend!" "Excuse me sir, I beg your pardon," "You seem to have a strap loose here...," and so on went the banter, each trying to distract the other while practicing their ability to pick from each others pockets.
Riene had excused herself, skirting behind a large bush to change her clothes back to her everyday attire. She hooked her brown cap on a branch and started to slip off her robe when she heard a noise from behind her. Startled, she jumped a foot into the air, screeching, her robe halfway in disarray.
Behind her stood Jack the Fool and Jay the mute, both grinning in silence.
"Jack!" shouted Riene with unbridled joy, but then realized Jack and Jay had been waiting while watching, and scolded them in mock anger. "You two! I should take my, equip my, I..." she trailed off, unable to keep up the false negativity, fixed her robe and hugged the two of them.
The rest of the crew came running behind the bush, some caught halfway in preparation (Juilins armor still being put on, Eaghawks boot still only half-on, etc.). What started as a panic quickly swung toward relieved happiness. "Jack!" they cried, one after another.
Jack bowed to each of them. "Hail, friends!" he said. Jay also bowed to each in turn, perfectly imitating his Foolish companion.
"Jack, you smell," noted Fripp, holding his nose.
"Why are you all dirty?" asked Lucina, fruitlessly trying to brush off some of the stains on his teal jesters tunic and yellow jesters hat.
"Well, let me tell you...!" Jack started off, and began telling them the tale of how he met and single-handedly defeated the pirates in a battle of wits, how for a short time he became the strongest man that ever lived, and how he missed them all along the entire trip.
As Jack regaled them with his tales of derring-do they finished equipping themselves. Full armor, straps in place, weapons girded on, other accouterments became the finishing touches. They were all back to normal. But Jay had lived the tales along with Jack, and as a mute he had trouble contributing. Besides, Jack was rattling on a march-a-minute, and Jay hadnt much room to squeak in his side anyway. Nothing to contribute, nothing to gear on, Jay became bored quickly. The small boy started walking around, examining the battle-site.
Near the edge of the cliff, by the river next to the waterfall, he spied a small bird in a tree. Something seemed wrong, and Jay went closer to investigate. It seemed stuck, somehow.
Jay trotted underneath the tree, squinting his eyes as he looked up toward the bird. He saw an arrow, piercing the bright blue bird. Nay, not piercing the bird, but its wing, in fact the tip of the wing. It didnt look that bad to Jay, and he figured he could climb up and help it. After all, its what Jack would do, and Jack always makes things right. Jay started climbing.
It was an easy climb, and the mute boy was next to the bird in seconds, He shimmied out onto the branch that the bird was pinned against, and it bobbed with his added weight. Jay looked down and realized for the first time that the tree actually reached over the falls, and he started to get slightly nervous. But he continued on, thinking that he had to make things right like he knew Jack would. He heard Jack telling their tale nearby.
The bird was surprisingly calm. Had it been there for minutes? Hours? Longer? Perhaps all the fight had gone out of it, and it was resigned to its end. Jay was determined now. Trying not to look down, he straddled the branch with his legs, leaned his chest down upon it as well, and reached forward with both hands. With one hand he held the bird, carefully holding the wing against the branch so that it would not move with the arrow when he pulled it away. The other hand grabbed the arrow itself. He steadied himself...and pulled hard.
The arrow jerked out fairly easily, but Jay almost lost his balance. He accidentally let go of the bird to steady himself, wide-eyed with a mild panic. And steady himself he did, just in time to catch a glimpse of the blue-colored bird take of in flight--not so injured as Jay had believed, it seemed. Jay smiled at a job well done.
Jay started to try to slide backward. He still held onto the arrow, and was glad because he was proud of what he did and wanted to show Jack his trophy. He slipped a little as he backed up, but that was okay because all he had to do was grab on with his other hand...but, what about the arrow? He couldnt let it go...could he?
Time and nature made Jays decision for him. A slight breeze waved the bark-covered arms of the tree, just enough to turn Jays off-balance into Jays plummeting. He fell hard through the branches and leaves below, getting small cuts and bruises with a clatter, then fell past them and the pain stopped.
But he didnt hit the ground. He kept falling, into the valley made by the river, right down toward the base of the fierce waterfall, and into it.
They all heard the noises, the snapping of branches, the whooshing of...something...past the leaves of the tree overlooking the falls. Claude was first to realize what had happened, and called to the others as he ran to the cliffs edge.
"Jay fell into the falls!" he cried, and was able to see the boys last moment before the water took him into its churning embrace.
They all ran to the edge, clamoring for a view, crowding each other. "By the Avatar!" sobbed Riene, her hands to her mouth as she started crying.
"What do we do now?" asked Hazard of no one in particular.
Nobody pointed out, "Hell be slightly downstream if he comes up," and started down the side of the cliff wall, going a little too fast and slipping in places.
"Weve got to go in," said Crysania. Armor-clad warriors began stripping off their gear--a time consuming process to say the least.
GilMour noted absently, "The Roguesll be done first, they have less armor."
Crysania almost hesitated upon hearing this. Something clicked in her mind and she abandoned her task, spinning on her heel. Quickly she spied her cousin-in-law, already in motion...running full tilt toward the cliffs edge.
"Cousin!" she yelled, leaping in to stop him, to block his path. "Jack! DONT...!" She screamed, reaching out with her two gauntleted hands, but only grabbing one small, silver bell off his hat, as Jack the Fool plunged
Jack hit the rough waters below the nearby waterfall very hard.
The hefty Fool swallowed a great deal of the bitter cold water, making him gag and choke. He paddled his arms randomly, not exactly knowing which way was up, to the air. Without even realizing the gravity of his situation, let alone that of the small boy for which Jack was searching, Jack broke the surface and breathed in deep.
He kicked his feet hard, turning into the water and dove in again. He struggled against the tumultuous underfalls as he sought out his friend. He had always been a fair swimmer: never exceptional, never terrible. At the moment he regretted not putting more effort into the swimming lessons which his father had tried to teach him.
The angry waters threw the over-sized Fool viscously to one side, into a cluster of rocks, and he exchanged a mouthful of air for one of water. For a moment Jack was dazed, a grey veil drifted across his vision. He began flailing, almost in a panic, and one of his hands brushed up against something that felt like...a stick? Nay, an arrow. Attached to the arrow was a small boys hand, Jays hand. Jack held onto Jay, knowing he would not let go, no matter what.
Somehow, in an instant, Jack got his bearings, and was able to push off the rocks--sending his above-average form to (what he hoped was) the surface. But, comparing Jacks strength to that of the waterfall would be like comparing the power of a herring to a sea serpents. Jack and Jay tumbled, hit with a hard-moving wave as they broke the surface, and were forced under once more, for a last time.
The Fool and the boy sunk deeper into the Cold Black.
This was all wrong. His vision was growing dark; his body felt like lead. He was...they were sinking fast, in spirit as well as form. His body began to ignore his will, and swiftly he realized he could no longer swim. He tasted the frigid water in his mouth, and felt its volume in his lungs. He could sense in his big-boned body that this was the end of Jack the Fool.
He considered--subconsciously, instantaneously--that he had few regrets, that he loved and was loved in return. He saw these moments in his thoughts: playing as a youth with his mother; being with Julian and Todd as they spied Jewl, ogling her advanced pubescent body; meeting the Parliament of Fools for the first time (the Glorious Fool, the Great Fool, and the rest); being caught laughing at the very foreign Monseir Ze Fool; the Evils of Stewart the Crafty, the disappearance of his mother, the downfall of his father as he turned from his family to lose himself...
This instance also brought to him evocations of Avalon: leaving Minoc for the frontier with his cousin; gaining so many friends; achieving some prominence in his actions to thwart the Followers of Armageddon, and hoping Joseph didnt hold it against him (for that matter, he hoped Crysania would forgive him for this poorly executed rescue attempt); meeting Keowas, the one and only love of his life. He wondered if she watched over him, from wherever she was. He hoped she knew that he had tried to continue her work as a Healer, to mend the soul as well as the body. He considered that, all-too-soon, he may be in a position to ask her, and was somehow comforted that these last thoughts of his included her.
If only...if only his mother were here. He longed for her comforting words, her simple and obvious resolutions. Warrior, mage, philosopher. She would help, were she here. Jack knew his mother could fix everything.
"I wish..." his thoughts began, and the universe seemed to give pause. Well, nothing really stopped, nor even slowed. Battles half-a-world away in Hythloth didnt cease. Merchants in Trinsic didnt lose track of their finances. Dogs in Jhelom didnt all begin howling in unison. But, there are times, like this, when even the universe knows that a decision is about to be made that may change the very structure of reality, and so it cautiously holds its breath...waiting on the hopes of a fool.
Jack wished as he felt the End coming, He held onto Jays tunic, who was drowning alongside and along with the Fool. He wished that every boy could be with his mother this Holiday...
She merely existed. Her life had become a droning blur, and she only acted according to habit.
The fact was that she captained the small fishing boat, but the truth was her crew only consisted of her and the Tillerman. Once there had been two more...but, best not to dwell on that.
The sun would set soon, and the light of day was giving way to the blue-grey tint of a half-mooned twilight, which would be fringed on the horizon by the reds and oranges of a true sunset. Her day was over, she had caught all the small fish that she dared. There was another spot she avoided that she normally found a good amount of fish, a small but deep pool up the river. She didnt want to go there because there had been a huge series of battles happening there, a large war where no one escaped its savagery.
Such a war had taken her husband from her almost a year ago, and more recently, her...she had to stop there. She had to resign herself to the lonely life that she must now live.
"Southwest," she ordered, as briefly as she could. The Tillerman complied. She had to consciously hold back the tears, to keep from sobbing.
The boat finished turning and followed the coastline. The signs of conflict on the shore were fading, but, still, some remained there to be seen. The memory of the fight with those monsters only a week ago certainly helped keep those images fresh in her mind. The closed in on the mouth of the river that came from the nearby large interior lake.
"Tillerman, Northwest," she commanded her single crewman, and the keel turned and the boat shifted direction. She wasnt sure where she was going, or why she felt this...increasingly unbearable need to travel up the river.
There was curious activity upriver, near the waterfall. In the water itself she saw a large amount of fish, small fish, "bubbling" up in one particular spot. She instructed the Tillerman to bring the fishing boat alongside. Small pools of red appeared now. Was it blood? Green followed the red, then blue, and yellow, then teal...she recognized them as paints. She extended the plank and crawled out onto it, lying flat. Without an appropriate level of care she felt compelled to reach down into the heart of the colorful liquid mosaic.
On the shore and up the cliff there was a flurry of people, scurrying about frantically. An armored man in orange slid awkwardly down the slope. A gaudily colored man darted down, passing the first man with the sure-footedness of a mountain goat and speed of a hawk. Others followed, casting Teleport and arriving virtually instantaneously on the thin shore. She considered that perhaps they were coming here for something they had lost. Perhaps she was helping them find some precious, priceless treasure. Hopefully at least one person would recover that which he or she had lost.
She got hold of something. Cloth. Was...was that an arm? Was the cloth a shirt sleeve? His fist clenched around it and she pulled. She pulled as hard as she could.
She raised an arm out of the water, wrapped in a teal-colored sleeve.
She almost let go. Too many deaths. Too many loved ones lost. Her eyes became blurry with the welling-up of her tears of self-pity. These people, they had lost this person in the water, but she would make sure that they could pay proper respects to the body. She reached down with both hands, grabbing the corpses belt, and heaved.
This was a fat one, she thought, already out of breath. She started to ask her crewman for help, but stopped, knowing that he would stick to the Tillerman Code and never leave his post, never deviate one fraction from his shipboard duties.
She noticed something about the other hand of the dead body. It held an arrow. But that wasnt all. The arrow was also held by another hand, from another body--a smaller hand. She leaned over the first body, without realizing it trying to keep from knocking off its yellow jesters hat, and pulled the second body up. Once the head was above water, she saw the small boys face. And recognized it.
She began to panic. She looked up, turning her head this way and that, looking for any assistance. The woman pleaded to those on the shore, "Help me! HELP! PLEASE, HELP!"
If she had been able to concentrate on anything other than the scene immediately before her she would have heard another woman casting "Rel Por" A sparkling burst of light on the shore was matched by one on the boat behind her. The woman turned. Looming over her was an armor-clad Angel of Mercy in brown pigtails.
"Stand aside," Crysania commanded of the woman, and the woman couldnt help but comply.
The Guardsman crossed her arms in front of her and called out the Words of Power that allowed her to move the bodies of Jack the Fool and Jay without touching them. "Ort Por Ylem!" she called forth, rocking her body in time with the pulse of the celestial ether. The two bodys floated softly to the center of the deck.
Jack, or poor, stupid Jack. Crys looked into his pale face, his blue lips.... She could easily cast on him first. But, Jack wouldnt have wanted that. Time was running out, moreso for the boy, as he went under the water first. Jack would have to wait, and then she could help him...unless it was too late. Crysanias lip quivered, but she steadied herself. The boy first.
The woman watched as Crysania drew upon all her power, focusing it into two of the most miraculous words ever known, "An Corp!"
A heartbeat passed, then two.... The boys lifeless form began convulsing, and he coughed, spewing water from his lungs onto the deck of the boat, exchanging that for sweet, precious air.
Quickly Crysania followed up with two more powerful spells, "In Vas Mani!" and "Vas An Nox!" She contemplated even more, but she had to help her cousin-in-law.
Crysania, ever the once and future Captain of the Avalon Guards, stood over Jack the Fool, quickly drawing the reagents from her pack with practiced ease. She drew in her breath and shouted, "An Corp!" She demanded of the cosmos that her will be done...
...And it rudely ignored her.
Black smoke engulfed the spent reagents, the spell undoubtedly a failure. Crysania almost hesitated. Her mind taunted her with doubts: too late, it was now too late. Again she reached into her pack and drew forth the reagents that had to give Jack back his life. They had to.
"An Corp!" she commanded of the universe, and the love she felt for the Fool, her passion that he needed to live, compelled it this time to conform to the will of Jack the Fools guardian angel on Sosaria.
The universe showed its good faith in a showery display of glittering lights, leaping from her hands to surround the body of her exceptionally-sized friend. Crysania experienced another moment of doubt. What if he couldnt be helped? What if he was gone for....
Jacks body convulsed, mimicking the motions of Jays before him, albeit on a larger scale. He coughed out water, struggling to replace it with air.
"In Vas Mani! Vas An Nox! Rel Sanct!" Crys wondered if there any other spells she was forgetting. "In Vas Mani!" she casted, redundantly. The color came back into Jacks skin and he turned to Crysania, and grinned. She couldnt hold back any longer. She lifted his huge sopping wet body and hugged him.
"Cousin, if you ever, ever die again, Ill kill you myself." Crys turned away from the crowd on the beach, hugged the Fool close to her, and cheek-to-cheek cried by the side of his face.
She hugged Jack tightly, perhaps too tightly, but that was okay. Jack tried to hug back, but his arms were pinned to his sides by Crysanias powerful arms. It was almost all that Jack could do to turn his head.
He looked across the boat deck at his small, mute friend. There woman a woman there, holding Jay close to her with a grip that seemed more powerful than Cryss on Jack (if that was possible). She caressed Jays wet hair, rocking the boy gently back and forth, crying. Jays eyes were closed, and he hugged her back, strangely content after the entire ordeal. What could make someone feel that way after so much? She was saying something over and over.
"Jay, oh, my son...how I missed you..."
Jay opened his eyes and looked at Jack, who watched back as Jay embraced his mother. The setting sun cast refreshingly warm colors across the four of them. They saw on each others faces mutual looks of pure happiness, the joy of being held by someone who feels so strongly for you. Someone you would do anything for, and who would never, ever abandon you, no matter what, without neither condition nor reservation. Jack and Jay grinned at each other.
The day ended with love.
Avalon: City of Destiny is a player-city, located on Ultima Onlines Baja Shard.
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