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Letters - by Crazto

Sometimes the life of an author is very strange, especially the inepts. I should know, considering I'm still in their shoes. Yes, no matter how many tales I weave with the quill, I will still be an inept, learning more and more and yet so much left unknown still. Even after this incident, I'm fairly new, and I'd like to share this tale for the simple reason that if you are frustrated at your writing attempts, you are not alone, and the fact that company is a decent remedy for literate irritation.


The sun had already set, and me, my poor writer-block-ridden self was on the verge of desperation. I've tried a lot of strategies I can think of, from juggling ideas to even scribbling nonentities on my scroll, but all I got as a result was ink-blotched fingers, a headache to rival a hangover, and...well, a lot of nonentities on my scroll. Considering that I (more or less) never knew when Lord Excrucior was going to dump a new set of articles for perusal by the general public, time was not being a friendly companion to me. But eventually, time, allied with writer's block, conquered me once again, as it had done so many times.

"Screw it," I finally grumbled, at a loss for stronger terms that would not earn me a personal meeting in the icebox with Lord Vryce. Crumpling up the scroll, I tossed it to the ground and watched as a janitor scowled at me and sweeped the note up. He sure wasn't a source of inspiration, and soon I started getting thoughts of running to the hotel to catch a rest someplace--goodness knows I could use one after the mental exertion.

Then, to my surprise, a puff of smoke appeared, materializing into a grouchy-looking imp. In one hand, it held a rolled-up note.

"Chitter!" It said darkly, thrusting the note into my hands and vanishing before I had a chance to say anything or even blink. Well, one must appreciate their efficiency, really.

Bewildered, I unrolled the scroll with great difficulty and squinted my eyes to read the elegant handwriting, forming two words.


"Don't litter."


Those two words, and nothing more. I turned the paper over, examined it, and even singed it a little with a little flaming spell, just to see if the rest was in code. No, just that little sentence. If you say it's getting weird, I'd say you're not too far off the mark.

Puzzled, but intrigued, I pulled out my quill, and wrote back. Figured a little curious scribbling wouldn't hurt too much.


"Sorry for littering, but who are you?"


A whistle summoned an imp (unfortunately, the same ornery one), and sent it phasing back to the sender.

Quickly enough, the letter returned.


"My name means nothing to you. Yet, you can do a service for me. I wish Not mere pictures written by clumsy hands and forever stained with charcoal fingerprints, nay. I desire a mosaic, made by pieces of gold, pasted in a thing of beauty for my eyes."


I think I blanched at the letter, considering the air seemed to grow cold all of a sudden. I wasn't exactly rich, if you need information, and it's basically a miracle I can still hold my own financially without resorting to gesticulating for money. The fact that this anonymous message-sender seemed to know this weak link didn't help my mental and financial stability, if you know what I mean.

As a direct result of the shock, the reply was, in a sense, to the point, and probably a little snide, especially if the sender was divine. A single freezing session, no matter how minor, is a pretty incriminating obstacle in the path to my goal, and this situation wasn't looking too comfortable.


"Are you serious? I'd like to inform you that I barely have enough money to pay for dragons, much less create gold coin pictures for the whim of some mysterious messager."


I don't think the messager got it, considering the trouser-wetting reply...


"Pictures NOW...mortal."


That clinched it. The famous "M" word those divinities like to toss around seem to be effective at galvanizing the ones addressed instantly, and much to my embarrassment, I am no exception. By now, I bet the imp sending this little exchange is now thinking of a pay raise.

Speaking of pay, too bad I left most of my savings at the bank. The cringing, nervous reply was sort of like this:


"I'll get the gold--most of it is in the bank. But what do I do with it once I have enough?"


Most legends claim that the Gods are omnitolerant, but I doubt this one passed that category, as well as proper usage of sentences. Then again, it probably excluded that last characteristic deliberately in the next message:


"Gold, use it. Anything, attach it with. Scroll, attach it to."


"Oh, brother," I sighed dejectedly, aware not to use stronger language again. Inwardly, I wondered what would be the consequences of refusing, however polite. God or no God, they really wouldn't take my turn-down into too much consideration.

Shame that the next letter kind of dashed that thought as soon as it appeared. By now, the imp looked ready to kill, and I nearly lost my hand in the process of taking the letter, earning a pretty painful bite mark for my troubles.


"You dare deny the will of an immortal?"


"Oh fine, local divinity," I said snidely to the cold night sky, my quill hand aching with exertion. "I'll make you a gold coin mosaic to your heart's content, but I'm not going to guarantee the quality, or what I need to do after it."

Like a dragon call, the message came with swift--if a little grouchy--efficiency.


"You can worry about that part later. Now, GET TO WORK. I shall wait for your alert."


"Does this God have a vendetta against me?" I wondered out loud as I discarded the last message. It was more or less a rhetorical question, but the expected scroll came, anyway. By now I've gotten used to a divinity breathing over my shoulder, sort of, so I might as well take it in stride. Too bad I can't exactly do that, as the floor was shaking...somewhat. Or was it me?


"My favour or disfavour towards you will be related to the quality of your work. In the meantime, get working, and I did mention to you NOT TO LITTER?"


Then the earthquake hit full force, forcing me to the ground. "All right, all right!" I yelped five minutes later, when my brain stopped jumping around. "I'll make coin pictures..." I tasted blood where the tremors made me bite my tongue, and shaken in more ways than one, I began working.


I should have been suspicious from the start, as Gods rarely take attention to us mortals, but there are exceptions, and I guess I had been quite an idiot to overlook it when it was practically screaming in my face.

Ah, well, it was fun while it lasted.


I looked at the mosaic, turning it over and wondering if the God would like it. It was a pretty disgusting process trying to find something to paste the picture together with, and I settled with some dragon spit from a willing subject. Of course, I had to pay extra for the unorthodox service, but hey, anything to please my strange patron.

Remembering the letter, I took it out, and scribbled my message.


"I finished your...uh, gold coin mosaic picture. Where do I put it now?"


The grumpy imp bared its teeth at me as it reluctantly took my scroll and vanished. In a short waiting time, it returned, glowering murderously as it thrust the reply in my hands.


"Leave it at my altar so I shall gaze upon your performance and decide on what reward or punishment you will receive. In the meanwhile, I will highly suggest you run and hide, for if the picture is displeasing to my eyes, my punishment will be swift. Pleased, my favour will be yours.

These are your instructions, mortal. Leave your work of art on my altar, leave, and wait, rest assured in a job completed."


With increasingly hesistant steps, I approached the well-worn path to the altar, strangely sweet-smelling despite the fact that countless undead adventurers have rested their decaying forms here to pray for life. I held my soggy, dripping mosaic, wondering what I had gotten myself into at the whim of a God.

"Man," I grumbled audibly, ignoring the stares of an undead adventurer who overheard my grouching with its remaining ear, "I must have gotten this misunderstood or something."

The message came with alacrity, and the words basically crackled with divine anger.


"Mosaic picture, altar. Mine. You, somewhere NOT in the vicinity of my presence. Go, before my irritation turns to wrath."


Needless to say, I left the awful mosaic on the top of the altar and ran really, really fast, ignoring the scandalised glower of the high priest as he stared at the dragon-spit-laden creation of mine, although I must admit I had to share his sentiments. It was disgusting even for ME, and I very much doubted that even my mysterious message-sender would take it pleasantly. I mean, if he, she, or it did, I'm a God.

Even now, I'm still trying to find signs of divinity within my being, and it started at that time, when after a long, hair-raising, heart-palpitating, sweat-inducing moment, the message finally came.

At the look on my face, the imp sniggered, flicked the note at me, sneered at my involuntary yelp, and vanished again. Contained therein:


"This work is satisfactory to my eyes. Come mortal, to receive your reward."


I think my heart was about to explode with anxiety. My boots seemed to be made of lead as I dragged my way to the dreaded altar room, wondering what this strange eccentric letter-sending God as in store for me. Something sadistic, most likely, but what is "likely" to an omniscient, omnipotent, omni-whatever divine being?

In the altar room, the high priest glowered at me and at the soggy mosaic picture. Most surprising was that Seraphie, my long-time friend, was looking at the drawing with a mixed expression that I couldn't figure out. Hrm, no surprises, as she might have been that undead adventurer I passed by. Indeed, she did seem somewhat freshly revived.

"What're you doing here?" She asked with a grin and a bear hug that made my ribs creak.

I half-choked an answer before Sera got the point to relax her hold somewhat. "Some person--or God--ordered me to make that"--I pointed at the spit-soaked creation between gasps--"and then it told me to come here to receive my reward."

"Weird," Seraphie said with a slight crook to her eyebrow. "I also got mysterious letters as well."

"Oh? From who?"

"Don't know," she said with a shrug. "The letters were as rude as the imp that sent them, and they weren't signed. At one instance, the sender called me a lowly shiitake mushroom, and I had to tell the person that I've never seen a shiitake mushroom in my life!" She handed me the letter, and turned away to conceal her indignation. "I think I got the point."

Surprising us both, the imp popped back into existence, sneered lewdly at Seraphie, blew a raspberry at me, and put the letter in my hand before disappearing.


"I am pleased with your creation. Behold my reward, which is in your pocket."


Puzzled, I probed around my pockets, and finally pulled out one from my back pocket--a bag of sweets. Funny, how it looked so familiar, despite the half-melted food inside. I took a whiff of the bag, and the sweet smell, as well as the faint hint of vanilla that seemed so out of place, filled my nose.

Then it hit me.

I glared at Seraphie, who was trying to look innocent, and failing miserably. "SERA!" I yelped, still staring at her laughing form, doubled over the altar. "IT WAS YOU!" I strode over as she turned red with a fit of giggles.

"Sorry!" She said with a mischievous grin.

"Hah! So you want to play God, eh? I'll give you something to think about...!"


Moral of this story? Don't trust anonymous letter senders. Especially letter senders that use grouchy imps.

I've long eaten the sweets, but I still have the bag, sticky and disgusting as it is. But hey, compared with a dragon-spit-laden mosaic, it isn't that disgusting. Besides. the smell of vanilla reminds me so often of that incident that I've decided to start a thing of my own.

Enclosed with this scroll is a nice bag of sweets, coated liberally with the scent of vanilla, just for your enjoyment of a mere speck of the many things a mortal mind can create.

Hopefully you won't lose too many teeth in the process.

January 21, 2006

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