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September 26, 2010

Frank, the peace-loving Vharthog (Fiction)
by Loreis

The mysterious Catacombs move constantly. One moment, they are near a lake on Mount Vryce, next, a winding trail, deep in the Mystical Forest. Most of the time, they are easy enough to find, but sometimes, Marious likes a bit of fun. Catacombs will pop up in the middle of Fire Giants, or in Yrg. And sometimes, just for giggles, they appear in the middle of a tiny wood, north of the town of Brookhaven, amongst the most ferocious of beasties, Vharthogs. Vharthogs are interesting-they are highly aggressive, don't give a whit about sneaking or invisibility, and they will kill you just as soon as look at you. Oh, and they smell. But, it turns out, not all of them are vicious, evil creatures. One of them is a pacifist, as I discovered one fateful afternoon.

As most of my friends and family know, I would have a gohome in Catacombs if it were allowed. I love collecting eggs. I have an actual mode for Catacombs, which basically involves wearing four containers, a Balefire shield for re-casting manashield during battle, and much lower mana and hitpoints than any normal hero. BUT I can carry a flipping lot of eggs. Over a thousand, if I play it right, and don't pick up anything else. So, unless they pop up in Fire Giants, odds are, you'll find me sneaking along the tunnels, charming cave weeds and dragging sixteen eels around behind me. Catacombs in Brookhaven? No problem.

One warm summer day, I trekked up to the War Room, and asked of Marious the location of the entrance to the Catacombs. He smiled benevolently and told me they were in Brookhaven, near a tree. I scrambled back down to our home, called a dragon, and switched over to my "combing mode". A large brass behemoth landed beside me, grinning.

"Ah, Loreis. you have any cookies today?"

I sighed, dug into my sack of clover, and gingerly gave him a snickerdoodle. He licked his lips (ugh), and jerked his head back.

"All aboard!" the dragon laughed, and I jumped up onto his back.

"Brookhaven, please", I whispered, and off we flew.

He gently came to rest on the warm grass, and I slid off his broad back. The dragon patted me on the head, sending me crashing onto the ground.

"Oops. Sorry, don't know my own strength" he mumbled apologetically, and wandered off, looking for deer to eat. I struggled to my feet, and began the long walk along the road to Brookhaven. I was familiar with the little town, having been to the stores and the church and school many times before. As I entered, I heard the familiar whistling of the happy janitor, the laughter of the school children at recess and the clanging of the tin cups and plates of the miners, back from a long day down below the town. All in all, a normal day in this charming, but haunted, borough.

I walked to northern gate, and was dismayed to hear snarling and growling from behind the high wall. The two guards gulped nervously and stared at me.

"You're're not going IN there, are you?" one of them asked, sweat appearing on his brow.

"Well, yes. I sort of have to. Catacombs are in there, and I need eggs." I replied.

"For Vryce's sake, don't go in there! The Vharthogs are rutting, they're seriously surly and they'll eat you alive!"

I mulled over this for a moment, and as I was gathering my thoughts, the gate was wrenched open, and a very small Vharthog collapsed at my feet. The gate slammed shut, and a raspy voice shouted,

"And stay out you loony!"

Both guards disappeared faster than you can say balrog, and I was left, alone, on a deserted street, with a Vharthog. As I was slowly backing up, the creature looked up at me. His face was streaked with blood and dirt, and it appeared that he had been crying.

"Wait! Please, please don't leave me here!"

I stopped mid stride, shocked to the core at the tone of his voice. He was pleading with me, with his words, his tone and his eyes. As ugly as he was, I felt compelled to move closer. ( I like a bit of danger, I do, or I am an idiot. Shut it.)

"Are you a Vharthog?" I asked.

He nodded, his breathing slowing.

"My name is Frank. My family disowned me earlier this morning, and the leader of our pack just tossed me out of the forest. Literally, as you can see."

Frank smiled sheepishly, blushing under his matted fur and leathery skin.

"And why did your family and pack disown you?" I asked.

Frank stood. He was about five feet tall, extremely muscular, extremely large and extremely ugly. Really ugly. Oh dear lord so incredibly ok you get the point. He was wearing a ratty tunic, caked with mud, ripped leather pants and one boot. Frank looked up at me, eyes large and wet.

"I hate violence."

I almost fell over. Vharthogs by nature are insanely violent-hell, they have been known to eat their own wounded just because it's Tuesday. Think velociraptors, but not as intelligent and not as clean. That's a Vharthog. As Frank and I stared at one another, I could not help but notice that behind him, on top of the wall, one lone claw was inching outward towards Frank. Drawing a knife from my bloodied sack, I leapt around Frank and stabbed the claw with both hands. There was an exhalation, a few choice curses and the claw was withdrawn.

"Perhaps we should move this chat somewhere less dangerous," I suggested, and Frank agreed. I called my dragon into the town, and after almost ten minutes of convincing, Frank climbed up behind me, grabbed me around the middle with more strength than anyone should grab another mammal, and off we went back to the City of Medievia. Coco (yes, the dragon was named Coco-he told me on the way back to Medievia. I was having a really weird day) dropped us off outside the gates, licked us both and flew off, laughing hysterically.

"Yeah, dragons and I have a strange relationship, it all started with this trade run I made with cookies, and would you like to see our home?" I ramble when I'm nervous, and taking one of the most feared creatures in the realm into the city was a very unpleasant scenario. But here we were, Frank and me, and logic had already gone flying out the window. He nodded, all the while looking around in wonder. Whenever I see Medievia through new eyes, I am reminded of the inherent beauty surrounding us, and watching Frank's eyes widen at the sights and sounds of the city, my heart lightened just a bit. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all.

"OH MY GODS WHAT IS THAT?!" a young cleric screamed as we entered the gate. I clapped my hand over her mouth, and whispered a few soothing words, something like shut it, or he'll chew your liver out while you watch. She tripped over her robes running away and fell directly into an Appaloosa, tethered to a post near the storage lockers. Frank stood stock still, and a single tear slowly worked its way down (?)

"My own family hates me, they called me crazy and pathetic, and people here in this nice place are afraid of me and I don't belong anywhere! What am I going to do?" he sobbed, and collapsed onto the street.

"Ok, come on now, let's get up, and we'll go home and figure this out", I murmured, trying to pull him up onto his feet. It was a struggle, but we finally were both vertical, and grabbing his hand, I opened the door to the Great Aussie Barbeque. Frank looked at the fountain, the beer cans and the grill, and a little smile began to form. He wandered into the Three Musketeers Water Park and Spanking Emporium and within seconds, he was laughing and playing with the beavers. Frank was happy. I created some food for him, and he had a little picnic with the beavers, feeding them lettuce and fruit.

"Can I just stay here?" Frank asked, his brown eyes beseeching me. I thought about that-my bloodline would completely understand, sort of, since one of them had brought a sludge mephit back once, just to attach him by a leg chain and make him do all the ironing. But that would not be fair to Frank. Frank needed to be outside, free, not cooped up in a house. I sat down, watched him play and eat and laugh, and considered our options. Suddenly, it hit me like a bolt of lightning. I knew what to do with Frank.


Three weeks later, I sat in a tree house, high above the Forbidden Forest. Laid out on the wooden floor was a picnic basket, a bottle of Wytherwind wine, and a peach tart. Frank sat across from me, regaling me with stories of his new life in the forest. He was so happy, and had found so many hiding places that wandering adventurers never even knew he was there. He told me about meeting the Ungari leader, and how that great man had given Frank a sash to wear and had begun teaching Frank how to make a potion to remove poison. Frank had hunted with the thieves, met the Elven king and Queen, and had been granted safe haven within the forest. It was such a wonderful thing to see-from an ostracized orphan to a loved, happy and self reliant creature, filled with joy. And Frank had done all the work, really, all I had done is move him. I gave him one last gift-a chalice that never needed filling, so he would never be thirsty and a scroll that created food a hundred times over, so he would never be hungry. Frank hugged me, and grinned up at me.

"When you come back, maybe I will be taller than you!"

I laughed.

"You know, I bet you will be, and sooner than you think."

Every few weeks, I check in on Frank. I never know where he is, but I always leave a note in the tree house, letting him know I was there, making sure all is well. And because I can be devious, I dragged that screaming cleric into the Forbidden Forest one rainy afternoon, and who should appear but Frank, drooling and yowling like a rabid wombat. That poor little cleric. Fainted dead away, as Frank and I laughed till we cried. Of course it helped that I had left a note the previous day, alerting him to my plan, and arranging when and where he should leap out, foaming at the mouth. Whoopsie.

So there you have it. Now, don't be lulled into thinking there are more peace loving Vhartogs: I've asked. There aren't. Frank was the only one. And he's hiding in plain sight amongst the skunks, chipmunks and squirrels, right in the middle of Medievia.



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