March 18, 2001
Some Dates are Blinder than Others - By Rapscallion
"It's not the fact that I'm trading - I try to do as little as possible but
I can usually do it when no-one's looking," thought Rapscallion, a fit of
pique rushing around between his ears. "It's not that I'm in a firestorm,
out of wands and potions - I can keep on running for now. It's not that
there's a dragon on my tail - that's about normal for me. It's not that
every single wilderness beast I've come across so far wants to take a piece
out of me - that's perfectly standard procedure." He swung at a wombat,
forcing it to jump to one side with a squeak. Fleeing again he tried to dab
ineffectually at his wounds. "It's not that the bandits have my freight - I
can beg the cash for another one from my clannies. Maybe.
"It's not that I'm going to die very shortly - anyone who comes out trading
with me knows that's pretty normal." The roar of the hunting dragon spurred
his feet and he breathed harder and harder as he stamped on a banelar's tail.
"Oh no," he wailed as he dodged poisonous fangs, slapping away at the snake's
head before bolting into the undergrowth again. Impassable terrain, uh-oh...
The dragon roared in triumph as it caught up with him, rearing its head
dramatically before it struck. Rapscallion shrugged as he saw death incoming
and did about the only thing he could.
"Do you mind?" he shouted at the dragon as it struck, killing him instantly.
"It's not the fact that I'm dead," he reflected as the dragon flew off
triumphantly, taking the meager gold he had with it, "It's more that it's just
so damned undignified. I mean, here I am, Hero, Avatar, Poet, Author, lead a
clan for five minutes once, don't smell too bad, yet I try to trade? Hah! -
everything jumps on me." He waited on the floor for the Necromancer to arrive
to do his good deed for the day. "Hope he doesn't take too long - with the
position that dragon left me in, I'll have a right old crick in the neck when
I get resurrected again."
Something prodded him in the chest and moved his head around so that his
limited field of vision could take in the dark robed figure stood to his side.
"What are you waiting for?" he tried to think loudly. The figure spoke in a
whisper, quiet as the grave and Rapscallion could only stare blankly as the
Necromancer shook in grim mirth. "Season ticket indeed! When I get out of here
I'm going to have a word with the gods about him, you mark my words. Oh great,
he's using scarabs on the eyes again. Doesn't he know that I have to pick
insect legs out from my eyebrows every time he sorts me out? It's just so
old fashioned..." The Necromancer gave a mocking bow and vanished in a puff
of greasy smoke.
"Well, altar hunting time again," Rapscallion thought to himself as he rose
from the ground. "That said, I reckon I could have some fun with this..." Off
he sped, searching for the road he'd left some minutes before and once more
enjoying the lack of necessity for breathing.
Perhaps a minute later he found the dirt track and, after glancing both ways,
took a gamble and lurched west at high speed. A few hundred yards down the
road he paused and grinned ghoulishly, not that he had much choice at the
time. The bandits who had ambushed him were just ahead and he shuffled
forward slowly. Most of the group were nosing around in the contents of the
wagon, pulling goods out and tutting at the quality, but the nearest one was
stood along the road wit his back turned. Rapscallion quietly sneaked up behind
him and yelled "BOO!" in his ear.
The bandit dropped his throwing knife and span around in shock. "You made me
cut my finger," he accused, brandishing the offending digit and dripping blood.
"Eeek..." he added as Rapscallion's undead face leered out at him, drooling
from every orifice. The bandit's face went pale and he started to stammer.
Rapscallion started to jiggle and dance in the way that zombies do, head
perfectly still and the body jerking as if controlled by a mad puppeteer. He
continued the Danse Macabre as he lurched toward the bandit who suddenly turned
tail and fled, screaming incoherently.
His colleagues turned at this and Rapscallion turned his attentions to them,
swapping his eyeballs as he went. He made greater and greater efforts in his
grisly dance, ululating, "Boogidi boogidi boo!" as he went. The bandits
turned pale and bolted into the undergrowth, taking the few contents of value
from the wagon with them.
"Boogidi boogidi boo!" yelled Rapscallion's corpse, chuckling to itself as he
listened to the receding moans of fear. "Boogidi boogidi boo!" he repeated,
pleased with the effect.
"Can't take you anywhere, can we?" Rapscallion's corpse span around, shedding
fingers and worms as it went. A party of heroes sat on massive morgan horses
just behind him, staring at him intently. Their horses whickered nervously as
he approached, attempting to identify them by aiming his eyeballs with his
"Dorrinsh?" he slurred through missing teeth, hazarding at the halfway
familiar face. The hero nodded. "Janshish, Lynshey, Altisha, Appleadeshia..."
he continued, reeling off the faces he could work out. "Whash ish thish?
Avasharsh on patrol or shomeshing?" Dorrin sighed heavily.
"We're off to the Symposium," he told the baffled zombie.
"Shymposhium?" dribbled Rapscallion uncertainly.
"Look - there's an altar just north of here. Get alive again and we'll talk
about it then, ok?" Rapscallion nodded, loosening a few more molars as he
did. Scratching his head he sped off into the wilderness once more, the temple
drawing him closer as a glowing beacon of purity. After all, opposites attract.
The peace of the altar was disturbed by a slightly unseemly discussion. As
soon as the swirling green mists had finished with Rapscallion's resurrection,
the monk on duty handed him a piece of paper.
"Come on, a frequent user's discount is usually more than that. Don't get all
uppity with me, my man, I know a lot of gods." The monk sneered slightly.
"I've been zapped with lightning by the best of them, I'll have you know!
When I've finished with my friends out there I'm going to take this higher,
you mark my words."
"Y.u ali.e agai.?" came Dorrin's shout.
"Y.p:)" yelled back Rapscallion in similar fashion. As he groped at his
equipment a rift formed in the air behind him and a large hand emerged to
grasp at the scruff of his neck. With a startled yelp he was jerked backwards
through the rift to be dropped unceremoniously back on the dirt track. He
blinked in confusion and looked around to see what had caused all the feminine
Then he started to pull on his leggings with undue haste. "Come on," he moaned
as he managed to get both feet stuck in one leg, "You could have waited till I
got decent again." Dorrin just watched impassively as Rapscallion fumbled with
ties and belts. The sniggering from the ladies was rising, despite their best
efforts to keep straight faces.
"Your scabbard's on back to front," Dorrin eventually noted critically.
"That's the latest fashion from Karlisna. Everyone's who's anyone is wearing
them that way around," Rapscallion retorted huffily.
"Anyway, we're off for the Avatar Symposium in the Hall of the Avatars,"
Dorrin continued. "Didn't you get the note in your mail?"
"What note? Damn - I must have thrown it away with all the Mudslinger
rejection slips. I get so many I just tend to ignore pieces of paper in the
post. What's it all about?"
"Refresher courses in newbie helping, basically. New rules, new areas that
are deemed newbie friendly - things like that.
Rapscallion nodded at this. "Fair enough, that's on now? Mind if I join you
for the trip?" Dorrin gave a non-committal shrug but that was enough. "Great.
Any spare horses? No? Er..."
"There's an inn about half a mile ahead," Altisa noted as she peered into
the distance. Rapscallion patted at his blatantly empty pouches and looked
around hopefully. "Dragon got your cash?" she asked. Rapscallion nodded
mournfully. "I see. We'll just have to pass the hat around then."
A short while later Rapscallion found himself perched on the saddle of a
massive horse, flailing his arms for balance as he clung on with his legs.
The horse glanced round at him with contempt and whinnied derisively. "We'll
have no more of that," Rapscallion told it as he eventually settled. "Or I'll
take you to Genesia. You know what they do to horses in Genesia, don't you?"
The horse looked decidedly unimpressed and managed to rear up as the party left
the inn, beating Rapscallion's head against the lintel of the door.
His vision didn't clear fully until the golden spires of Castle Medievia hove
into view, the pennants snapping in the breeze. Still, it never did to let on
you were feeling better if there was someone else around to do the work, and
everyone else seemed to be quite adept at beating up banelars and ogres.
Dorrin lead the way to Castle Square where he dismounted and went into the
New Adventurer's guild. Everyone did likewise, although Rapscallion nearly
managed to fall from his horse as it casually sidestepped at just the wrong
The Hall of Avatars was, by any standards in the City, luxurious with a
massive pool in the center. The light from crystal globes reflected in the
ripples to give a constant dappled effect on the ceiling and walls, a sight
renowned for calming the troubled mind. It always made Rapscallion seasick.
Orderly lines of chairs had been placed around the pool, all facing to the
center. Rapscallion was lucky enough to grab the last one in an unseemly
scramble, and he sat there expectantly as the buzz of small talk echoed around
With a shimmering of light, the Goddess Caeraela formed into existence,
floating a few inches above the surface of the pool. "Good afternoon, all,"
she greeted the assembled host. A chorus of replies and smiles came back.
"Thanks for coming," she continued, waving a hand graciously and creating a
teacup in everyone's hand. Rapscallion grinned and took a deep draught.
Delicious, just the right temperature. "You can give those out to new
adventurers later on," Caeraela added, glancing down at a scroll she was
carrying. Rapscallion hastily stuffed his cup into his pocket, ignoring the
sideways glances he received from his neighbors.
"Today we'll be focusing on several aspects of Avatarship. I'll be giving a
long talk on 'Scruff through a Newbie's eyes' and hopefully we'll have a
visit from Taralynn to test your knowledge of the Refuge. There are
walkthroughs under your seats so you have a little time to refresh your
memories." Rapscallion hastily started to scrabble beneath his chair and
felt some thin sheets of paper slide away from him. With alarm he looked
down and saw them slowly sink beneath the surface of the pool. "But first,
I want to have a quick talk about conduct on the new adventurer clan channel.
"We've had reports of odd behavior from some people here, so I'll run
through a checklist of what we do and what we don't. Firstly, if you meet a
new player in the guild room and they ask for help, you can say some variant
of 'Hello - I can guide you through the first steps'. Fleeing off and
sneaking back to yell 'Whaaasssup' in their ears from behind is not good."
Rapscallion glanced around at the looks of shock on the faces around the pool
and stayed silent.
"Responding to prayers for name approval - a quick response that you are
checking is fine, something like 'I wouldn't want to log on with that myself,
but I'll look at it anyway' is not what we want to hear." Rapscallion sank
further back in his seat.
"The new adventurer channel is intended for people to ask advice on. We'd
prefer it if the new adventurers were asking questions and the Avatars
answering, not the other way around. By now you should know how to get out of
the Graveyard outside the City of Medievia." Rapscallion gulped and tried to
keep his face blank.
"Someone asking on the new clan channel about which areas would be good for
them to adventure in should either get direct advice or be informed about the
suggested zones leaflets. We have reports that someone offered to take them
'on a tour of the best bars with the best beer and the best looking mobettes
'serving' as long as they were buying." Rapscallion's eyes bulged and his
face drained of color as he tried to avoid attracting attention.
"I'm sure we can all see what's wrong with those," Caeraela added, peering
over the top of her scroll, "And I won't be naming names as I'm sure the
people or person involved knows who they are. Anyway, on to Scruff..."
It wasn't long before Rapscallion's head began to droop. He'd had a
traditionally late night and dying always took it out of him. He shook himself
awake and looked around for something, anything, to distract his
"Psst, Altisa?" he whispered to his neighbor.
"What?" she hissed back, her eyes never leaving Caeraela's face and
"It's a bit embarrassing but... can I have a look at your..." he hesitated.
"What?" she exclaimed rather more loudly than she had intended. Every eye
in the room turned to face the pair who blushed and fell silent. Caeraela
coughed meaningfully and resumed her narrative.
"Just your walkthrough," whispered Rapscallion when he felt safe again.
"Mine's in the water," he added, nodding his head to the sodden mass that
was drifting past. Altisa snorted and thrust her copy at him before turning
her attention to the talk. Rapscallion thumbed through the sheets and his
eyes widened in surprise - that many items that could do what? Better than
his normal equipment. He dug out a quill and started marking things he
thought might be important, resisting the impulse to doodle in the margins.
Eventually he stowed the papers away inside his robes and watched Caeraela
for a while. Phrases such as 'abstract paradigm of mascothood' were
prominent and he started to feel even more out of his depth. Everyone else
seemed to be drinking it in and some were even taking copious amounts of
notes. He turned his attentions to Altisa again, eyeing her speculatively.
"So, what you doing after this is over?" he whispered casually.
"I've got to stock up on some leveling gear, probably some of the stuff in
NPK," she replied quietly, her attention not wavering.
"And then?" he persevered, restraining a shudder.
"Well, there's the newbie party Caeraela will be throwing at Crystal Lake
so I'll be helping there."
"And then? Look, I've got an idea. Why don't we go off somewhere together,
eh?" He flashed a quick look at Caeraela who was now doing the rounds of
the chairs, handing out small, stuffed Scruff dogs.
"I'm doing my description."
"Again? You were doing that last time..." he protested.
"Look, your idea of an exciting night out is to hang around in a library,
wrestling with scansion, verbs and adjectives." Rapscallion smiled with
encouragement and nodded vigorously. "Then you go to the bar, end up rascally
drunk and find yourself even deeper in debt the next morning. A girl needs
more excitement in her life."
"Well, some of those bars can be dangerous - I've seen loads of fights in
them you know."
"From under the table, true. Fights that you managed to cause in one way
or another. It's not what I would call a good night. And no - I don't want
to come to your place to see your quill collection."
"But it's a very good quill collection, I've got loads of different sorts!"
"That's part of the problem... There's no drama or fun there, eh? No real
"I've written loads of poems with those quills, some that were really
romantic as well!"
"Oh yes, 'Shall I compare thee to a summer's banelar' and the unforgettable
'If I said you had a beautiful description would you hold it against me'.
Ah, thank you Goddess," she added as Caeraela handed her a stuffed Scruff
toy. Caeraela rummaged in her bag and drew out what appeared to be the last,
a rather bedraggled affair with only one eye and a paw hanging off.
Rapscallion stared at it as it was placed into his hand and eventually
remembered who was in front of him.
"Thank you," he mumbled quietly as Caeraela peered at the bedraggled object
he held. She shrugged and walked back across the water, leaving not even a
ripple in her wake. He took another look at the toy - so that's what a
paradigm was, then, he decided as its tail dropped off. It joined the papers
inside his robes and he looked around as several glowing forms coalesced into
existence at one end of the room.
"I've asked the NHPRs to prepare some refreshments for you," announced
Caeraela as the gods and goddesses started to create a variety of objects on
a large table. "Feel free to sample the wares should you feel the need. We'll
have a break for the next twenty minutes before we resume." She winked out of
the room with a slight inrushing of air.
"Don't know about you but I'm starving," Rapscallion said to Altisa.
"There's a surprise," she muttered before walking towards the table,
Rapscallion trailing behind. A number of judicious elbowings and nudgings
later he managed to break a trail through the throng of heroes to the table,
whereupon he set about filling his plate with abandon. He paused at the
selection of drinks and eyed them critically. Fruit juices?
"Um, excuse me?" he said to a nearby NHPR divinity who turned toward him
with a quizzical expression. "Do you happen to have anything a little...
"I beg your pardon?" inquired Roirdei, his name betrayed by a large name
tag pinned to his robes.
"Well, fruit juices are all well and good but we're all at least heroes here,
you know what I'm saying? Some of us have real thirsts, yes? A touch of ale,
or Firebreather, maybe?" He wiggled his eyebrows conspiratorially.
"I'll see what I can do," Roirdei replied doubtfully.
Altisa was already reseated by the time Rapscallion managed to stalk back to
his seat, his face grim. "Don't they do Firebreather here?" she asked.
"Yes," he replied, "But he wouldn't do me a pint." He made a disgusted face
and glanced at the tray he was carrying - it was full of thimbles bearing
his favorite brew. The plate in his other hand was overflowing with
sweetmeats and little things on cocktail sticks.
"There's a lot of banelar on that plate. It's bad for you," Altisa noted
critically as she picked at her salad.
"Revenge," he explained as he sat down. "They've had a few bites out of me
over the years." He grabbed a thimble and threw back his head to consume
the brew, a substance so volatile it was banned in three major cities.
Within seconds he was gasping for breath and pounding his chest with a
fist. "Good stuff," he croaked with a smile. "Gods' own brew is always
better than draught." He dragged a battered pipe out from his robes and
started to fumble for his tinderbox.
"You've got Firebreather and want to put an exposed flame near it?" Altisa
"Um," replied Rapscallion with a sudden rush of unpleasant memories, "Perhaps
I'll leave the pipe till later." He grabbed another thimble and raised it
to his lips.
"You're going to drink all that before the test?" Altisa queried with
disbelief, a radish halfway to her mouth.
"Test? Oh my..." he winced. "Better soak some of it up with some food,"
he uttered as he began to chew vigorously. He took the precaution of placing
the tray with the rest of the drink behind him on the floor, giving it a
lingering gaze as he turned back to his food. Spitting an olive stone
into the pool, he looked at Altisa again. "So, if I did something dangerous
then I'd be more interesting?"
"Ah, well, don't take it as gospel. It would be a start, though," she
mumbled carefully, not daring to look at him. His eyes had already
unfocussed, though, a sign of deep and futile thought.
A sheet of paper interrupted his musings as it was thrust in front of his
face. He blinked and looked around to see Roirdei holding out a fresh sheet
and he grabbed it with haste. The other NHPR gods were handing out forms
around the rest of the assembled avatars. A sudden flash caught him off guard
and he accidentally found himself blinded by a burst of light from the center
of the pool.
"Now that we're all refreshed," came Caeraela's voice as Rapscallion tried
to blink the spots away from his eyes, "The test will begin. Taralynn
couldn't attend so she had to make other arrangements. You have a multiple
choice paper with you and five minutes to answer as many questions as you
can." He groaned as he rubbed at his eyes furiously - still nothing. He could
feel the paper and his quill was always handy - there was nothing better for
prizing a cork from a wine bottle in his opinion. He just mentally shrugged
and stabbed at the paper for the next few minutes, hoping fervently that
he'd manage to get somewhere near the questions themselves.
"Sacre bleu," came a voice he recognized. He heard a mumbled enchantment
and his sight returned, bringing Roirdei's concerned face into view. "Your
paper, please, monsieur" he said, taking the sheet and adding it to the pile
he carried. Rapscallion stared bleakly after him as he passed by, taking
more sheets as he went.
The courtyard outside was busy as always with adventurers hurrying back
and forth, shouting and generally carrying on. "Well, well, well," said
Rapscallion to the air in general.
"So you passed the test, big deal," retorted Altisa, "So did everyone else.
There's no need to keep going on about it."
"I just... feel good. That's all I'm trying to say," he said, smiling
broadly and looking around for an audience. "And as a matter of fact, I've
thought of a fun filled evening with lots of excitement as well. You up for
it tomorrow?" Altisa frowned as she looked at him suspiciously.
"Come on, Apsu, we've discussed this before. You're the little Scruff and
Elnissa's the Ornamented Black Mitre. Right, you rolled eleven which puts
you on... Dragon Court. You buying that? No? Your loss. Who's next?"
"This isn't exactly what I had in mind, you know."
"Hey, it's the Fire Giant's Keep so that's exciting, yes? Great view of
the mountains as well - they must pay a lot of rent for this place. Right,
you got a..." he peered at the dice as they finished tumbling, "an eight.
Right, Dhaulagiri, that puts your Mystara counter on... Divine Whimsy. Let's
see. Necromancer's fees, pay 100 gold. Bad luck old bean."
"But it's dangerous in here, especially with some of the biggest mobs you
could get to answer your invites as well."
"Danger is exciting," he smiled, a sickly looking expression if truth be
told. "Besides, it's not often we get to meet these people socially. Much
nicer than trying to kill them all the time, eh? Right, Elnissa, you rolled
four. Oh dear. Go to the Trellorian Penitentiary, go directly to the
Trellorian Penitentiary, do not pass Log In, do not collect two hundred gold.
Now that is really bad luck."
"There's people from three clans in the area and they're getting reinforcements
"We'll be gone before they get here, even if we stay for wine and nibbles.
Van Kylin's brought some of his own vintage wines with him and it would be
rude to refuse. He's got a good selection of reds, I can tell you. Now then
Van, you've landed on... let me see, Free Tethering. Nice and safe there."
"Don't tell me, full bodied? He's a vampire - what do you think he's got in
red bottles? You're playing Medopoly in CPK with some of the most bloodthirsty
- literally in his case - mobs you could find when there's known killers
around? The trip to go windsurfing on Thought Slugs in the combs was bad
enough. Are you insane?"
"Probably," he conceded.
"And what's so romantic about this?"
"All right, all right, I'll roll in just one moment. Look, when I win this
game the prize will be enough for a really good candlelit meal in Medlink.
All the trimmings. Even onion rings! I only need to avoid one square on my
next throw and I think it's in the bag."
"You realize that our dragon fares are riding on this as well?"
"Of course. Let's see what I get. Hmmm, oh dear. I've landed on the Godhalls
and it's built up with the Hotel Medievia. That's yours, right Apsu?"
"Blurble," Apsu acknowledged with a wave of a flipper.
"How fast can you cast teleport?"
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