September 18, 2004
I stared down the road, quaffing the last of my green potions. I might have been able to catch my wagon, I suspected, but did I really want to meet the trolls again? They hadn't been too pleased to see me, but they had been very pleased to see my freight.
I kicked the dust and stared for a while. That had been a huge pack of trolls, and I had only just escaped with my life. "It's not fair," I muttered. "I've not managed to get any freight to its destination in some months. If it's not bandits, it's rogues or trolls..."
I looked up to see a knight on horseback. I hadn't heard him arrive. "There are trolls on the road and they took my wagon," I said. It was only fair to warn him.
"That's not a problem. I can handle them."
I watched him go. A few minutes later, I watched him return with my freight. Blood had dried in patches on his armour, but he seemed happy enough.
"There you go."
I was astonished. "How come you can handle them?" I asked.
"I have a special item." He showed me an amulet. "It's called a mystical talisman, and it makes your body really strong. Soleil sent it to me one day, because I made a donation." He waved and left again.
I watched him ride off, my mouth agape. I'd never heard of one of these before, but I knew I wanted one. Some time later, I tried to make a donation.
"Good day, I would like to transfer some money."
The woman behind the desk in the bank grabbed a piece of paper and asked: "To whom?"
She looked at me as if I just turned into a monkey. "Why?"
"Because I would like to make a donation. Could you please specify `for a mystical talisman' with the transfer?"
"You can't donate to Soleil simply by transferring money. She doesn't even have an account. I cannot help you," she said.
I wondered if someone in the temple could tell me more. Soleil was a goddess, and to give to the gods you had to sacrifice at a temple. So I asked a priest whether he knew how I could donate.
"Almighty gods of the realm, give me strength to aid this battle-weary traveler," the priest said, but the gods didn't respond.
Great, just great. Nobody seemed to know how to donate. I asked everyone.
Scruff just barked at me. Famar ignored me, greeting a new adventurer instead. Guardsmen looked at me suspiciously. Merchants simply tried to sell me things. The janitors simply shrugged and looked around, as if expecting to be attacked.
I caught sight of a man bearing a pair of amulets like the one the knight had worn. I tried to ask him a question, but he had to drag me out of the way before a dragon landed on me.
"Where did you get those talismans?" I shouted over the beating of the dragon's wings.
"Nifty, aren't they?" he shouted back. "No time to stop - must dash!" With that, he clambered onto his mount and flew away.
No knowledge or no time - it wasn't fair!
I was ready to give up, when it hit me: the Donation Room! Where else to look for donations then in the Donation Room. I hurried through the streets of the city and almost threw myself in there. I started to scavenge through the mess. Mage robes, green potions, makeshift daggers and more junk, but I could find no donation items. After I turned the entire room inside out three times and anxiously examined every new object falling on the floor, I gave up. I sank to my knees and wept.
I felt depressed, tired and hungry. In my search for donations and talismans I had forgotten to eat. I went to a tavern, sat down and ordered. I can't remember what I ordered, or even whether what I got was what I ordered. I just started eating. Sometimes I stared and chewed slowly. Most of the time I was just staring.
A tall man approached my table. He introduced himself as Minosh and asked me: "Are you the guy who has been asking about donations?"
"I might be able to help you." He sat down and started explaining. "You see, I can arrange for a talisman such as you seek, but they are very expensive. If I were to obtain one of the talismans you are looking for, you would have to pay me more then you have at the moment"
Minosh jotted down a number on a piece of paper and showed it to me. I almost fainted, since I couldn't even imagine that much money.
"But you said you could help me," I said. "This isn't helping me, I can't pay you that much."
"I want you to pay me in a different way. I want you to work for me for a couple of years. Then I will give you the item you are looking for."
I readily accepted the offer. Without a talisman to give me strength I couldn't earn any money.
"Meet me tomorrow, just outside the city gates and bring all the stuff you need", said Minosh, and he left.
The next day, as I walked through the gates I saw a large dragon. Its scales glittered in the sun and it flapped its wings slowly up and down. The wind this caused almost knocked me over.
"We're going bear hunting", said Minosh. I looked up and saw he was mounted on this beast. He sat proudly in the saddle, which was made of the nicest alligator leather.
"But, how do I get there? I don't have a dragon to ride on", I replied.
"Of course not, you don't think I'll pay for an extra dragon, do you?" After he said that, Minosh clicked his heels. The dragon toke off and hovered a few yards above the ground. Then it came down, grabbed me with its scaly claws, and flew away. I hung in open air, the dragon's nails pierced my shoulders, and I was rocked violently as the dragon used his paws to keep balance. Once in a while, I was hit in the face by one of the wings
After the flight we arrived at a forest with trees rising high in the sky. Sounds from various animals could be heard all around.
"Here, rub this on your neck and hands", said Minosh as he gave me a vial containing some sort of oil. I opened the vial and became nauseous from the smell.
"What iz thiz ztinking ztuff?" I asked Minosh, unable to talk properly. The fumes from the oil had nearly sealed my nostrils.
"Female bear urine. It will attract all the male bears to you. Once one of them is following you, you run out of the woods towards me, and I will hunt him down."
"And when no more bears follow me?"
"Then you will wash and rub some male bear urine on you."
After the hunt, we flew back to Minosh's estate. After the dragon had dropped me down, Minosh dismounted and walked through the front door. I wanted to follow him, but he wouldn't let me.
"I can't allow you inside. You would scare the maid, and a good maid is hard to find these days. Sleep outside" said Minosh, and he slammed the door in my face.
I thought: "Oh well", turned around, and looked into a large mouth with sharp teeth.
"And don't scare Fluffy," Minosh shouted from within the manor.
"Nice doggy." I took a step sideways. "Don't eat me." Another step. "I don't taste good."
For some reason, Minosh always kept me running. Through woods, away from dogs, after pickpockets even when then only had looked at Minosh's purse, behind his horse when he traded and needed me to take care of the freight. Always more running.
Like the first time we went dragon-hunting. We had landed at a large hole in the ground. I looked inside and saw a system of underground passages and large caves. I was wearing rusted armor and a large dented shield.
"Today we are doing something really dangerous", Minosh had said. He entered the hole, and I stayed close behind him. After a few corners, Minosh paused. "Ssh, it's a wyrm", said Minosh as he drew his sword. He sneaked toward a large creature, which was calmly chewing on a carcass. I followed Minosh at a safe distance and watched as he attacked the wyrm. I heard the sounds of battle, but something else as well. I turned to see where it came from.
"Minosh, another one behind us!" I yelled.
"Just keep it busy. I'll help you in a minute."
I held on to my shield as the creature trampled toward me. A large blow shook my entire body, and I lay on the floor. The beast put his front paws on me, hesitated a little to decide which part of me would taste best, opened his mouth and ... dropped his head on me.
After that, its decapitated body collapsed. I struggled to breathe and get out from underneath. "Get on your feet!" snapped Minosh, "and clean this for me." He threw his greatsword at me, and it almost missed me. I used a large cloth to wipe away the blood from the sword and my arm.
After a few more fights and a lot more corners Minosh stopped. He looked down a large shaft and whispered to me: "Here, take my shield. I want to use both of my hands to fight. Once I've lured him out of there", Minosh pointed down, "and when I shout `Now', you run in front of me and hold the shield towards the dragon. The shield is special; it won't be burned by the fire."
Minosh quietly climbed down the shaft and a few second later I heard a low growling. Minosh hurried out of the shaft and after him came the dragons head. It had one of Minosh's swords stuck between its eyes. The dragon inhaled.
"Now!", Minosh screamed. I ran towards the dragon, holding the shield in front of me. The dragon exhaled a large column of fire. I jumped in front of Minosh and ducked down behind the shield. Only the tips of my hair were burned. Minosh quickly turned around and charged to the dragon. With one mighty cleave of his sword Minosh made a large cut in the dragon's throat. The dragon inhaled again and I hurried to get in front of Minosh. This time I was more careful, so I wasn't burned. But the dragon was less lucky. The fire came partly through the cut in its throat, and the flames burned away the flesh around it. We repeated the process numerous times, and after every slash from Minosh the dragon became less furious. And when I almost couldn't run any more, Minosh made one last swing and cut off its entire head.
Minosh and I stood there, panting for some time; neither of us could say a word.
"Stand up and remove the scales", Minosh said after a few minutes. I hadn't even realized I wasn't standing any more. I got on my feet and started removing the scales from the dragon. They were attached with tough tendons that were hard to cut. Pretty soon I was sweating all over, and my arms were aching.
My days were filled with hard, strenuous choirs. My body was always aching. The days became months, and I got more and more difficult thing to do. During one trade when the horse became lame, Minosh ordered me to put the horse on the wagon and pull it. The months became years, and the chores became even more difficult. One time, I had to carry an entire dragon out of its lair, just because Minosh wanted it as trophy.
After two years, the last day came. Minosh had instructed me that morning. "I have one last job for you." my master had told me. "I'm planning some festivities for tomorrow, and I want you to get me a wagon full of wine. If you deliver it safely, you will receive your reward."
I left to get the load, but I wasn't happy about it at all. How could he do this to me? He knew it was impossible for me to trade alone, not without the talisman. Why was he doing this? Did he want me to fail, so he wouldn't have to give me a talisman? Or did he forget? Was he so caught up with the feast he had forgotten how hard it was for me? I hoped that no-one came along to steal my freight.
That hope was forlorn. Half a dozen dogs appeared out of nowhere and charge to my freight. No, not now. I was so close to getting my reward. I was not giving up. I was ready to save my wagon or die trying. The dogs continued running to me. Suddenly they stopped, looking horrified. With the tail between their legs they turned and ran away, yapping, "Kay, kay, kay."
I turned around. What had they seen that frightened them so much? But there was nothing behind me. I was puzzled for some time, but decide to continue. I kept thinking about what had happened, when suddenly it hit me: an arrow fired by some creature within the bushes along the road. I wasn't even hurt, the arrow had bounced off my chest. I kept walking and a hail of arrows struck me. All of them bounced off, or only made a little scratch. The leaders of this kobold gang had gathered on the road. With one swing of my sword I beheaded two of them. After that, the others were very eager to sneak away.
The rest of the trade run went on with very little problems. I smelled some trolls, but they never even attacked me. Finally, I arrived at Minosh's mansion. He wasn't there. All the doors were closed. The only thing I found was a note:
"Please forgive me for not being here personally. I feel uncomfortable when someone leaves me after so many years. I believe I have already given you that which you wanted, though maybe not in the way you thought you needed when you started working for me. However, I haven't forgotten the deal we made.
Please leave the wine at the front door. I shall collect it later. Your talisman will be at the post office in the City of Medievia. I hope you make good use of your gift, but do you really need it?
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