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A Tale of Fervus

 
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Apple



Joined: 20 Jan 2000
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 PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2002 10:21 pm    Post subject: A Tale of Fervus Reply with quote Back to top

Prologue

A man was stumbling up a snow-covered slope, gasping for air and with increasing weight on his legs. He tripped once but continued moving on all fours. His responsibility was heavy upon him and that lent him strength. The sight of the roofs of the village houses gave him hope. With a final surge of energy, he staggered into the community.

"Goblins," he forced all his strength into his voice, "goblins... gathering for attack!"

This news stirred the villagers into excitement. They began to cry out, "The goblins are coming! Help us, the goblins are coming!"

The cult of Fervus had a shrine within the village. It was nothing more than the statue of a varg watching over a stone altar. This sacred place, dedicated to the God of Chaos, was where the village people gathered with their pleas for aid.

"Snow Bunny, we need your help!" one of the villagers called.

"Help us, we are in danger!" another cried.

"SNOW BUNNY, WILL YOU GET YOUR SCRAWNY SELF OUT HERE NOW!"

As one, the villagers turned to the person who shouted that last demand. It was a small man, wrapped in white furs with a hat of matching material. A perplexed expression formed on the man's face. "Wait a minute," he said, "I'm Snow Bunny!"

Snow Bunny pushed his way to the shrine. He stood on the altar and addressed the assembly of about forty people, "So what can Snow Bunny do for you today. No, don't tell me." He held up a hand. "I shall use my powers to divine your needs." The cultist rolled his eyes up and mumbled something to himself. "A man came into the village tired from a long run. He needs water and rest."

"The goblins are coming to our village," someone in the assembly stressed with exasperation.

"I also see that the goblins are coming to our village," Snow Bunny announced, to the relief of the people, until he added, "We should hold a festival to welcome them."

"The goblins are coming to plunder our village," another villager stated the obvious.

"We need Hordran," one of the women cried.

"Dear me," Snow Bunny said as he leaned against the statue, "You know you can always call on Hordran on your own. You know where he lives."

The people drew back. "You're closer to him," one of the men quickly suggested, "He'll be more comfortable hearing about the goblins from you."

Snow Bunny sighed. "All right, I'll go fetch him. Let me get my staff first." He went into the shack next to the shrine. When he returned, he had a wooden staff in his hand and a crude mask resembling a white bunny on his face.

The village was built on a mountain plateau. On one side of the settlement was the only entrance to the community. A pair of sloping trails led from there. One led down to the land below. Snow Bunny climbed the other, which went higher up the mountain.

The cultist entered a cave that was along the path up the mountain. Deeper within was a wooden wall. Light was coming from the open doorway. Snow Bunny entered the inner chamber to find a man sitting cross-legged before a fire. That man's arms were as thick as the timbers of the wooden wall and his shoulders were half again as broad as those of an average man. His black hair was short on his head but thick on his arms and legs with none on his chin.

"Hordran," Snow Bunny called cheerfully. The other man's eyes flicked open at the sound of his name. The cultist continued, "Goblins are coming."

"Play," Hordran uttered as he rose to tower over Snow Bunny. He reached for his armour of steel, an item to protect his shoulders and part of his body. The armour went over his head and settled on the skins he wore. The big man then retrieved his helmet and put it on.

Hordran then turned to consider the weapons on the rack against the wall. "Which toy to use?"

"How about the scythe?" Snow Bunny suggested as he reached for it, "It's big and scary."

"Played with scythe last week," Hordran replied.

"The maul?" Snow Bunny rested a hand on the long handle of a small, but heavy, block of metal. "Crush their little heads."

"Used maul to smash varg yesterday."

"How about this?" The cultist fingered the blade of a large double-bladed axe.

"Chopped snake-women with axe two days ago."

"Oh, for Fervus' sake," the smaller man screeched while dancing on a foot, "You've used each of these toys at least once already!"

"Hordran know," the larger man decided, "Hordran go get new toy..."

"Hordran, we don't have time. The goblins are coming!"

But Hordran had already walked out the door. With a sigh and the shake of his head, Snow Bunny followed.


The twelve green-skinned goblin marauders had arrived and were marching up the hill in a disorganised pattern. They brandished their swords and clubs and shouted their war cries along the way. At the sight of a towering man at the top of the slope, they hesitated.

Hordran had made a new weapon on his way down from his cave. In his raised right hand, he held a ball of snow, carefully crushed into a rough sphere. He threw the snowball at the foremost goblin with such force that the creature fell tumbling down the hill.

While the marauders were still stunned by his appearance, Hordran leaped down the slope. As he landed, he knocked down another goblin. Picking up the fallen goblin by its ankle and its leather jerkin, he smashed its head into another. The big man then spun around to knock a fourth goblin so hard that it lost its footing and rolled down after the first.

Swinging his goblin above his head, Hordran batted the marauders around. When they had received enough bruises, the few goblins that were still able to stand fled down the mountain.

"Nice work," Snow Bunny complimented as he sat on a groaning goblin. He began searching the creature for valuables.

Hordran held up goblin he had been using. It was bruised and its head hung loosely, as if it were about to fall off. "Goblin no look too good. Hordran think goblin not good toy."

"You did all right."

"Hordran play some more," the larger man said as he started his way down the hill after the fleeing goblins.

"Enough play for today," Snow Bunny decided. He held out a handful of gold coins. "Look - shiny things. Come, let's go back." The cultist poured the coins into the larger hand of his companion and pulled him back towards the cave in the mountain.
 
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Apple



Joined: 20 Jan 2000
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 PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2002 11:02 pm    Post subject: A Tale of Fervus Reply with quote Back to top

Chapter One

The sun was high in the air, giving clear light as Hordran wandered around the frozen trees of the forest near his mountain home. Over one shoulder, he carried a sack. The hunt that morning had been short since he had found his rabbit early. He had reached into the sleeping animal's home with his hand and pulled it out by the head.

Breaking its neck had been easy for a man with his strength. Considering his rough hunting methods, Snow Bunny had insisted he do that to the food he caught, stating something about 'stopping the animal's hurting'. Hordran did not mind - he would do what his friend had asked, though he had trouble looking for the neck on a cluster of wild berries.

As Hordran was making his way back home, he heard a cry for help in the distance. Curious as to the sound, he decided to investigate. His large strides brought him quickly to the scene.

Three wolves were gathered around an outcropping of rock. One of them was different from the rest, with fur of white instead of brown. All the animals were barking at someone at the tip of the rock.

The person on the rock was definitely female, with skin the colour of the clear sky. She wore a golden circlet and her dark blue hair spilled out of it. Her clothes were rich with colours and they fit perfectly on her lithe body.

The blue-skinned woman noticed Hordran. "Oh, I'm so glad to see you."

Hordran raised a finger to point at her. "You strange with blue skin."

"I'm an elf, an elf!" The woman pulled back some of her hair to show the pointed ear beneath. "See."

"Oh, you are elf! Hordran heard of elf before."

"Now would you please resolve this little problem." The elf extended both hands to indicate the wolves.

"Problem?" Hordran scratched his head as he looked at the wolves. The white wolf only regarded him for a moment before it resumed growling at the elf with its fellow animals.

"Hello?" the elf called with an annoyed tone, "The wolves want to eat me."

"Hordran understand. Hordran take elf and give to wolves." The man took a step forward.

"Yes-ah, NO!" the elf shrieked, "I don't want to be eaten!"

The man stopped. "Hordran not sure. Wolf want eat elf. Elf not want that."

"Hordran," the elf pronounced his name perfectly with her sweetest and most melodious voice, "I am asking you to not let the wolves eat me."

The big man hesitated. "But wolf Hordran's friend. Hordran not want wolf get hungry."

The elf shook her head. "The wolves can hunt other animals elsewhere, there are plenty of them. There is only one of me!"

"Elf right." Hordran walked to the wolves and crouched before them. "You go hunt other animals, all right?"

The white wolf looked into Hordran's eyes. Then it barked to its companions. With a pair of yelps, the other two wolves sprinted off into the forest.

"What about that one?" the elf demanded pointing at the remaining wolf. "Send it away."

Hordran looked up to her. "Wolf no eat elf. No worry."

"I still don't trust a savage beast!" the elf declared, "Get rid of it!"

"But Snow Bunny is Hordran's friend." The man hugged the wolf.

"Snow Bunny?" the elf uttered, "Is that a cultist!?"

The white wolf barked twice.

"Can't he change back into a man?" the elf asked as she gracefully slipped down the rock, "Wolves scare me."

The wolf barked once. Hordran rose to his feet and explained, "Snow Bunny must be wolf, or he will be very cold."

The elf reached down and, keeping an eye on the wolf, picked up her possessions. She had a pack with the end of a lute sticking out of it. There was also a longbow and a quiver of arrows. "Is there a village nearby? I need some hot food."

"Larns Hill village, over there." Hordran pointed the direction. "Hordran go there now."

The elf glanced at the wolf and shook her head. "Is that going to be following us all the way?"

"Yes," Hordran answered, "But Snow Bunny no eat elf."

"Finona Joyfingers," the woman said as she started walking, "please call me by my name, not 'elf'."

Hordran followed. "Then why Finona Joyfingers say Finona Joyfingers is elf?"

"That's because I'm an elf."

"Huh?" Hordran turned to her with a look of bewilderment.

Finona stared up into the eyes of Hordran. "Look, I am an elf and my name is Finona Joyfingers."

"All right," Hordran replied with uncertainty.

"This is Snow Bunny." The elf indicated the white wolf. "And he is a cultist. At the moment, he is a wolf. Do you understand?"

At that moment, understanding clicked into place within the big man's head. "Hordran understand. You are Finona Joyfingers and you are elf. Finona Joyfingers is elf."

"That's right." A charming smile appeared on the lady's face. "Just because I'm an elf, doesn't mean I can't be Finona."

Confusion returned to Hordran. "But you say your name is Finona Joyfingers not Finona."

The elf groaned. "Finona is short for Finona Joyfingers. It's easier, you don't have to pronounce my full name all the time."

Hordran scratched his black hair. Then he looked to the wolf. "So Snow Bunny I can call 'Snow'!"

The wolf yelped with amusement and wagged its tail while Finona covered her face with her hands. When the elf looked up again, she said, "Look, I'd like to explain some more, but I'm getting hungry and I'd like to eat something that is properly cooked. Can we go to Larns Hill?"
 
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Apple



Joined: 20 Jan 2000
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 PostPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2002 9:43 pm    Post subject: A Tale of Fervus Reply with quote Back to top

Chapter Two

One evening, after her performance at the village inn, Finona went to look for Snow Bunny. The cultist's home was easy to find with directions from a helpful villager - and a conspicuous shrine to an unpredictable God right next to it. From the outside, the building appeared to be constructed out of excess building material with mismatched panels of wood and lumber thrown on it.

In reality, however, the shack had a sturdy foundation with a firm frame. The walls had layers of straw padded within them to contain the warmth within. It could withstand the fiercest of winter storms while keeping its occupant warm and safe.

"Hi, Finona," Snow Bunny greeted as the elf appeared at the door to his shack. Without his mask, the cultist appeared to be a young man. His dishevelled hair was of a colour matching the wood of his home. The small man wore rough fur clothing. "Come and have a sit," the cultist invited before turning to a shelf of herbs at the back of the building.

Finona entered and sat on the mat Snow Bunny waved her to. She began plucking the strings of her lute one by one to check its tune. "I hope I'm not disturbing..."

"No, it's fine." Snow Bunny shook his head. "Just preparing a little something for Little Ryk. His body's getting warm and it's up to me to chase away the spirits tormenting him." He selected several jars and brought them to a knee high table. Sitting on a separate mat, he opened one of the containers and tapped some dust into a mortar.

"Actually, I'm here to ask about the Warrior of Discord," Finona began.

"You mean Hordran?" The cultist pulled a leaf from another jar.

"Yes, he looks kind of... familiar. Like I've seen someone like that before..." The elf stroked her lute.

Snow Bunny added some seeds to the mortar. "Do you know Dran Strongarm?"

Finona stared at the ceiling. "Ah, yes, I remember that warrior. Gave me some gold years ago just to sing Shatal's Ballad." She frowned. "Come to think of it, he does look like Dran."

"Of course Dran looks like Dran. What else would he look like?" Snow Bunny watched his mortar and snickered. "Prepare to be crushed," he whispered as he brought the pestle threateningly to the mortar.

Finona planted her hands at her sides. "No, silly, I meant that chaotic warrior of yours looks like Dran."

The cultist raised a finger. "It's Snow Bunny, not Silly Bunny." He brought the pestle to the mortar again but suddenly stopped. Snow Bunny reached up for his white bunny mask on a barrel and put it on.

The elf drew her breath and held it for a second. Then with a controlled voice, she tried again, "I was saying that the Warrior of Discord looked like Dran."

"That's because Hordran is Dran." Snow Bunny started mashing the contents of the mortar. He held his ear close as he twisted the pestle to hear the grinding sounds made as the herbs were being crushed into a paste.

Finona's bright blue eyes grew wide. "You mean Dran chose to become that?"

The cultist shrugged. "He was badly wounded by goblins. Fervus offered him life. He didn't want to die, so he accepted."

"But he's so..."- Finona waved with a hand about as she searched for the word -"clueless. Can he be happy as a thing like that?"

"Slow, perhaps." Snow Bunny dropped some tinder into a small brazier. "But definitely happier. Before, he had to worry about gold and people and work and demands and reputation. Now he's free." He struck a flint over the brazier until a spark caught the tinder. With light breaths of air, he coaxed a small fire to life.

"Free from the demands of gold?" Finona asked.

Snow Bunny scraped the paste onto a metal dish, which he lifted with a pair of tongs. "Burning time," he announced silently to his victim before lowering the dish over the fire. He looked over his shoulder to his guest. "Yeah, free from gold. He still collects the shiny things, though."

"All that gold and nothing to spend it on out here..." Finona mused for several silent moments. "Where does he stay? I didn't see him in the village."

"He's got a cave further up the mountain," Snow Bunny answered without his eyes leaving the cooking paste.

Finona tapped a finger to her lower lip. "Doesn't he get lonely staying up there in the cave on his own?"

"The people don't trust him." Snow Bunny removed the dish from the fire and laid it on the table. "The general reputation of Warriors of Discord isn't helping. There are those who go around demanding fights from everyone, including kittens and flowers. Others just smash things - anything and everything in sight - unless someone gives them something or someone to crush. Hordran is one of the few quiet ones."

"Someone should teach him to socialise," Finona suggested, "Get him out here with the people."

"You can try," was all the cultist said in reply.


And thus, the next afternoon - just after waking up - Finona went to visit Hordran. She found him sitting cross-legged in the first chamber of his cave home. He had his head bowed with his eyes closed. At one corner were the rotting remains of some unknown animal. Scraps of leaves and shells of nuts were strewn about the ground.

Hordran opened his eyes at the sound of feet crunching the snow at the entrance to his cave. "Hi, Finona," he greeted with a voice devoid of mirth or irritation.

"Hello, Hordran," Finona replied with a smile, "How are you?"

"Hordran not know," the man replied. Confusion appeared in his brown eyes.

"You mean you don't know how you are?"

The big man scratched his head. "That is hard question."

Finona sighed. "Let's try an easier question. What are you thinking about right now?"

"That is easy question," Hordran declared. He opened his mouth to say more, but instead stared up to the rocky roof of the cave.

The elf waited for several moments before speaking, "You were not thinking of anything were you?"

"That's it," Hordran said with a grin, "Hordran not think!"

Finona groaned silently. "Hordran, I spoke with Snow Bunny. You don't spend time with the villagers."

"People scared of Hordran." The big man shook his head. "They run when Hordran come near. When they need help, they ask Snow Bunny to tell Hordran."

"Would you like to make friends with the people?"

Hordran's eyes brightened. "Yes! Better than not thinking everyday."

"That's good." Finona leaned against the cave wall. "I can teach you how to make friends."

"Hordran want to make friends."

"Very well." The elf nodded. "The first thing you must learn is how to talk."

The big man scratched his head. "Hordran know how to talk."

"Yes, but it's what you talk about." Finona tapped her lower lip and thought for a moment. "In every conversation, you need a subject. Have ever been in a situation where you wanted to talk but had nothing to say?"

Hordran pressed his fingers together. After a pause, he answered, "Yes."

"That's because you don't have a subject. To talk you need to speak about something."

"What can Hordran talk about?"

"Anything, what you are thinking of-" Finona winced silently when she realised what she had suggested -"what you see, or what you have. Let's try what you have."

Hordran looked around his cave. "Hordran have door!" he announced as he pointed at the entrance to the back of his cave.

"Yes," Finona smiled reassuringly, "where does it go to?"

"Door go to Hordran's bed." Then the man stopped and stared at the frozen floor. "Hordran not know what to say."

"That's because you've run out of subjects," Finona explained, "Try another thing you own."

"Hordran's things here." The man got to his feet, opened the door and entered the inner chamber.

"You must invite me in," Finona called from the other chamber, "This is your home and it is not polite for me to enter your room without invitation."

"Invite?" Hordran appeared at the door. "Umm... Finona come in?"

"That will do." Finona smiled her approval as she slipped pass the big man into the sparsely furnished chamber. There was a smelly mess of furs, which she guessed was the bed, near the wall. Beside it was a stout wooden chest, rimmed with metal. At the opposite side of the room, beside a rock the size of the elf and a pile of wood, was a rack filled with Hordran's weapons and armour. A patch of black and burnt splinters at the middle showed where a fire was sometimes built.

Hordran was still stumbling for a subject. He pointed at an item in the rack. "Ehm, this is Hordran's scythe..."

Finona stepped forward and laid a hand on the man's hairy arm. "Hordran, it is time for you to learn something more. When you choose a subject, you must choose one that your listener would like to talk about." She shook her head towards the weapon. "Now think about what you know about elves and decide if that is what I'll be interested in."

The man swallowed. The next thing that caught his eye was his bed. "This is Hordran's bed..."

Finona wriggled her nose. "It's a bit smelly - you should know that elves like things that smell good."

The man's eyes moved to the rock. Then it darted to the chest. "This is Hordran's chest..."

The elf looked at the object. "What is in the chest?"

The student's shoulders eased as he relaxed. "Hordran keep shiny things in chest."

The smile on Finona's face grew. "You must have a lot of shiny things."

"Hordran has a lot of shiny things," the man declared.

Finona tore her gaze away from the chest and looked into Hordran's eyes. "Sometimes, the person you are speaking to may choose a subject of her own. All you have to do then is to follow." She read relief in his eyes. "Now tell me, where do you get shiny things from?"

And so, until it was time for dinner, they talked. They talked about Hordran's many adventures from which he had gathered his wealth. And they talked about improving the condition of the cave Hordran called home.


One evening two days later, Finona went to see Hordran. This time, she had brought with her two earthenware jugs of ale and several cups.

"Today, I'm going to teach you how to drink," the elf explained as she laid out the things she had brought on the ground. A fire burned in a nearby brazier, something that she had convinced Hordran to obtain since it was safer and less destructive to the floor. Finona noticed that it was the exact same size and shape as the one Snow Bunny had used.

There were other changes that she had noticed. Hordan had followed her advice concerning the improvement of the dwelling place. The smelly litter in the outer cave had been cleared. A clean rug with blankets had replaced the offending bedding in the inner room.

"Drink?" Hordran uttered. He stared at the jugs, as if sensing something familiar but without recognition.

"Yes, drink," Finona confirmed as she poured a cup of ale for herself. "To make friends, you do things with them. Drinking is one of the things people do together." She took a sip. Then offered the other jug and a cup to Hordran.

The elf watched as Hordran rather clumsily spilled some of the ale into the cup. She lifted her own drink to her mouth to conceal her smile as the man emptied his cup in one gulp. Her eyes stole a glance at the chest at the corner of the room.

Earlier, Finona had obtained some sleeping powder from Snow Bunny, with the pretext of having difficulty resting at night. All of that powder was now in the jug that she had handed to Hordran. As the man poured another cup, she reached out to stop him.

"Not so fast, Hordran," the elf said, "Remember what you learned the other day? Usually, while drinking we talk."

With his cup still in his hand, the student asked, "How can Hordran drink and talk at same time? If Hordran open mouth, drink fall out."

Finona laughed with her musical voice. "No, no. You drink a little then talk. If you only drink, that jug will be empty soon. It has to be enough to last until late at night." She lifted her own cup. "Just take a sip at a time, like this."

It took Hordran two tries before he learned how to sip. Once he had mastered that, they continued talking about adventures, this time from Finona's experience.

As time passed, Finona felt tipsy from her share of ale. Hordran still had not shown any sign of drowsiness. One more cup, the elf thought as she forced more ale down her throat. The last thing she saw was Hordran doing the same.

Hordran stared silently at the still form of Finona. He waited patiently for her to continue the lesson. After that, he tried what he had learned but no matter what subject he thought of, he could not start a conversation with the elf.

After more time had passed, Snow Bunny appeared at the door. "I was here to check on Finona... oooh!" The cultist laid a hand on the elf's neck. Then he sniffed her breath. "She drank too much. Hordran help me carry her back to her room."


"Snow Bunny," Finona called when she saw him the next afternoon. Holding a hand to her head, she walked up to the cultist, who was at the edge of the village. "I wanted to ask about the sleeping powder you gave me. It didn't work."

"What do you mean?" Snow Bunny stopped patting the puppy on his lap. "You slept like the dead last night."

"Oh... yeah," Finona stammered, "Ehm, did you know I drank with Hordran last night?"

Snow Bunny started playing with the puppy again. "That, I do. You drank too much." He tapped the side of his head. "You hurting up here now?"

Finona nodded, bringing another pang to her head. "Shouldn't have drank after the two jugs at the inn. I was curious that Hordran seemed normal after drinking."

"Oh, that." Snow Bunny nodded knowingly. "Hordran is immune to the effects of many drugs and poison, including alcohol. Most Warriors of Discord are."

Finona winced as her headache launched another assault. "You don't happen to have something for my headache, do you?"

There was no mask to conceal the evil smile Snow Bunny flashed at her.
 
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Apple



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 PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2002 10:19 pm    Post subject: A Tale of Fervus Reply with quote Back to top

Chapter Three

Finona had perched herself on the stone altar of the shrine to the God of Chaos as she waited. Her wait was not long as Snow Bunny soon returned. With his mask on his head and a bulky sack over his shoulder, the cultist danced his way through the village.

"Snow Bunny," the elf called.

"Hi, Finona!" Snow Bunny greeted in reply. He spun himself in a circle, continuing his silly little dance.

The elf saw Snow Bunny's actions as frivolous, and definitely lacking in style. With a finger to her lower lip, she asked, "Is there any particular delicacies around here? Or perhaps some rare fruit?"

Snow Bunny stopped and performed a quick low bow. His sack had decided not to partake further in the foolishness and leaped onto the ground, rubbing past the cultist's head on the way. Snow Bunny straightened himself and pulled his sack over a shoulder.

"There's the Darkfruit," Snow Bunny said in a flat tone, "Cute circular fruit, smooth black skin. It fruits all year round, even in winter. You can find it by a lake, a day east from here. Only other place I've seen it grow is at another lake near Traluxa." Then the eyes behind his mask brightened. "Hordran knows the fruit and the place - he can take you there."

"Thank you for the information." Finona put on a warm smile that would have had most other men thrilled. Snow Bunny, however, started another dance with random movements of his limbs, dragging his sack through another round of absurdity. The elf shook her head and pushed herself off the altar.


That very afternoon, Finona went to tutor Hordran through his next lesson. "Today," she announced, "I'll teach you about giving."

Hordran sat quietly in his inner chamber as he listened.

Finona pushed out of her mind the thought of an obedient little puppy, which had intruded when she noticed its similarity with Hordran's present expression. "By giving a person something, you'll make the person like you better."

The big man pondered over the words for a moment. Then he reached out and grabbed a log from the pile of wood and thrust it before Finona. "Hordran give."

The elf shook her head and giggled. "No, no." She held a hand to her mouth. "You'll get better results if you give what the person you're giving to wants."

Hordran scratched his head for answers.

After a moment, Finona decided to prompt him. "Remember our previous lesson about talking. Now you have a subject, which is 'what I want'."

"Hordran think that to make friends, Hordran do things friends want."

"Yes, that is correct." Finona smiled reassuringly. "But you don't always know what people want, do you?"

Her student shrugged.

"So ask. Go on, ask me what I want."

"What Finona want?" Hordran asked a little hesitantly.

Finona's eyes started to stray towards the chest before she resisted. She had decided not let her intentions be known so soon. After staring distantly at the ceiling in mock consideration of her reply, she answered, "I would like some Darkfruit."

"Ah, Darkfruit!" Hordran grinned as he stood up. "Hordran get Darkfruit for Finona."

"Do you know where to get it?" The elf stole a glance at the chest.

The man nodded. "Hordran know."

Finona studied her fingernails. "It's quite a distance, isn't it?"

"Far away," Hordran confirmed. "Hordran return with Darkfruit tomorrow."

"I suppose we can continue our lessons tomorrow or the day after." The muffled sound of many small objects clinking together prompted Finona to look back. "What are you doing?" she demanded when she saw that the big man had lifted the chest.

"Hordran go for long time. Must bring a few things." With his chest balanced on one of his shoulders, Hordran left.


And Hordran did return the next day, with his wooden chest on a shoulder and a big handful of small round fruits with black glossy skin. He had found Finona sitting on the altar of the shrine. The man came over and dropped the fruits on the stone altar. "Hordran give Darkfruit."

"Thank you." Finona forced a grateful smile onto her face as she selected one of the fruits. She drew a handkerchief from a pocket and polished the fruit before biting into it. That immediately brought a grimace to her delicate face.

"Finona not like Darkfruit?" the concerned Hordran asked.

"It's sour!" the elf said. Her false smile returned as she patted Hordran's arm. "Oh, don't worry. You didn't do anything wrong. I didn't know that I wouldn't like it."

Confusion appeared on Hordran's face. "Finona don't know what Finona like."

"Well, it's... it's like this. Sometimes, people don't know what they really like. Take the Darkfruit, for example. I heard that it's good and so I wanted it, but I didn't know that I wouldn't like its taste. So I wanted the Darkfruit but I didn't know that I wouldn't like eating it."

Hordran rubbed his chin with his free hand as he thought.

At that moment, Snow Bunny popped his head out of his shack beside the shrine. He caught sight of the black fruits. "Oooh, Darkfruits!" He scampered over and snatched one. "May I?"

"Help yourself." Finona waved a hand over the fruits. When she caught the question on Hordran's face, she explained, "Snow Bunny likes the Darkfruit. So I'm giving it to him."

Hordran's eyes brightened with understanding.

Finona watched as the cultist pulled a little pouch out of his fur jerkin and started popping the fruits one at a time into it. "Aren't you going to eat them?" she asked.

"Oh, no." The cultist shook his head. "They're much too sour to eat. They're good for cooking, though. Want to taste my Dark Rabbit stew?"

"Ummm, no," the elf replied, "Thank you anyway."
 
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Apple



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 PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2002 10:14 pm    Post subject: A Tale of Fervus Reply with quote Back to top

Chapter Four

Sitting comfortably on a mat within Hordran's cave, Finona began the afternoon's lesson. "Today," she said, "I'm going to teach you how to gamble."

"What is gamble?" Hordran asked.

"Gambling," the elf explained, "is used to describe some games people play together. Usually it involves keeping score and we use gold to help us with that." She showed him her small pouch of gold coins.

Hordran took out his own pouch of gold, which Finona had instructed him to prepare the day before. "Why people gamble?"

"As I told you before, people do things together to make friends," Finona explained, "And gambling is one of the things people do together."

The student carefully nodded to show his understanding.

"Let's start with a simple game," the elf said. She removed a pair of dice from her pocket and showed them to Hordran. "These are dice. Do you know what they are for?"

Hordran stared at the two dotted cubes for a long moment. Then he relaxed. "No," he sighed.

"Let me show you." Finona tossed the dice on the hard ground. Each of the objects landed with a single large red dot facing up. The dice would have, for they had been secretly weighted to do so. The elf smiled and announced, "I have rolled a pair of ones. You do know how to count, don't you?"

The big man returned the smile. "Hordran can count. Hordran like to count shiny things." He emptied his pouch of gold on the ground and started counting the coins, aloud.

Finona glanced at the gold. Then she waited until Hordran reached six, to make sure that the man could count the largest number of spots on a single face of her dice. "All right, Hordran." She smoothly stopped him by presenting before him the faces of her dice that had six black spots. "Now if you can roll a pair of sixes, you win and I give you a gold coin. If not, you lose and you give me a coin."

The elf pressed the dice into Hordran's large hand. "Why don't you try it?"

Hordran stared at the dice again. Then, with a flowing sweep of his hand, he rolled a pair of sixes. "Six!" he exclaimed with excitement. He looked to his mentor expectantly.

Finona sighed as she tossed him a coin from her pouch. Certainly this was just an exception. However, she began to suspect something amiss when Hordran rolled a second pair of sixes, and then a third. Of his eleven throws, not a single one of them failed to produce the pair of sixes.

"This is fun game." Hordran clapped his hands. Then he picked up his latest pair of sixes and held them out to Finona. "Here, you try."

That was not going to according to her plan. Quickly, she said, "Now if I roll a pair of ones, I win..."

"That not right," Hordran protested with a growing frown, "Roll six and six to win."

"Oh, yes." The elf decided not to insist. She still needed Hordran's trust. "How forgetful of me." And so Finona called upon all her die-rolling skills. However, she only succeeded in throwing double sixes half the time.

"Again," Hordran encouraged.

"Sorry." Finona held out her empty pouch, thankful that she did not bring much gold. "That was the last of my gold. Maybe we'll play some other time." She pocketed her dice. "Now, I think I'd better get myself something to eat."

"Hordran wait for Finona," the student called as Finona left.


"Ah, Snow Bunny," Finona greeted the cultist when she met him after dinner, "I wanted to ask you something about Hordran."

"Sure, ask," Snow Bunny said without interrupting his task. He was using snow to sculpt a sitting bunny on the altar of the shrine. Torches stabbed into the ground around the shrine provided light for him to work with.

"I was thinking about Hordran," Finona began as she hovered closer to examine the cultist's work, "How good is he with dice?"

Snow Bunny slowed his work but did not stop. "It's not good to play dice with Hordran. Dran was a master die player and Fervus bestows luck. I wouldn't be surprised if Hordran can roll a one with two dice."

Realising her mistake, Finona pouted. She began forming other plans.


The next afternoon, the elf went to Hordran's lair again, this time with a new trick. "The game is simple," Finona explained to the man, "I'll ask you a question. If you can't answer it, you'll give me something. After that, you ask me a question. If I can't answer that, I'll give you something."

"What Hordran give you?"

"Something like... that chest over there?" the elf suggested hopefully. She watched Hordran's faced carefully.

Hordran glanced once at his wooden chest. Then he turned back and asked, "What Finona give?"

Finona jingled all of the six gold coins out of a small pouch into her hand.

The man stared at the coins then turned to the chest at the corner. "Why Hordran give bigger thing to Finona?"

"Umm... because you're bigger than me," Finona said quickly, "Surely you can answer my question and then you don't have to give your chest."

Hordran thought about it. Still uncertain, he asked, "What Finona's question?"

Finona took a deep breath to calm herself. Then she presented her question: "What has five wings, three legs and lives in fire?"

The big man's eyes grew vacant. Then he stared at the ceiling. After he had noted the shape and texture of the roof, he turned to the ground. He still did not say anything.

Finally, Finona's impatience prompted her to ask, "Have you got an answer, yet?"

"Hordran think." After speaking those words, the man resumed the study of his home.

Dinnertime soon came and the elf began to feel hungry. "Hordran," she interrupted, "I'm getting hungry. Can't you hurry up?"

"Hordran think."

Finona held her hands to her stomach. "I'm going to get some food," she decided, "I hope you'll have the answer by the time I get back."

"Hordran think," was the man's reply.

Unable to bear the longing in her stomach much longer, Finona left. She rushed past Snow Bunny at the entrance to the cave. The cultist glanced once at the elf before he entered into Hordran's den.

"Snow Bunny," Hordran greeted the cultist, "What has five wings, three legs and lives in fire?"


It was not long before Finona returned with a package of bread, cheese and meat. So intent was she to get the answer to her question that she decided to forgo the comforts of the village inn. Instead, she brought her dinner, and some food for Hordran, to the cave.

"A pyromoth," Hordran said as the elf entered his home. The light from the small brazier fire danced across the smirk on his face as he had announced his answer.

"I'm afraid that's incorrect," Finona said.

"Pyromoth," Hordran insisted.

"There isn't any such thing as a pyromoth."

"Come, Hordran show." The man rose to his feet and grabbed Finona's free hand. He dragged her out so fast that the elf dropped her package.

Hordran pulled Finona down the hill and out onto the surrounding forest of leafless trees. He continued pulling her further and further into the growing night. Then, when it was dark and the stars were high in the sky, a light could be seen flickering in the shadows of the trees. The big man was bringing her to the light.

The light came from a large patch of fire in a clearing. In the middle of the fire, a strange creature sat. It had three spindly legs and five long translucent wings. The creature's body was covered with hard plates that formed its shell.

"Pyromoth!" the big man proclaimed, "Hordran right!"

Finona was so struck with awe at the sight of the creature that she could not think. Numbly, she agreed that Hordran was right.

Glee brightened the man's features. "Hordran ask question."

The elf glanced once at the pyromoth, then looked up to Hordran. "Sure, ask."

"Where pyromoth come from?" Hordran asked.

"How should I know?" Finona looked at the creature again. "I didn't even know one existed before." She felt the pain of hunger again.

"So Finona give Hordran shiny things?" the man suggested hopefully.

Finona tossed to Hordran the pouch. As she turned to go back, a thought occurred to her. "Hordran, where did the pyromoth come from?"

As if in reply to the question, the fire died. Slowly, the creature changed. Two of its legs fused together and its wings slowly shrank into nothingness. Its skin gradually softened into flesh. Snow Bunny reached for his fur clothing hidden in the snow beneath a rock and quickly put them on.

"YOU!" Finona shrieked, pointing a finger at the cultist.

"Yes, me," Snow Bunny replied calmly as he wrapped his cloak around himself.

"So there's no such thing as a pyromoth," Finona concluded.

"There is," Snow Bunny disagreed, "You saw it just now."

Finona wanted to argue more but her stomach was insisting even harder that it be fed. Grumbling, the elf returned in search of food. She did not notice Hordran dividing the gold with the cultist.
 
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Apple



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 PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2002 11:03 pm    Post subject: A Tale of Fervus Reply with quote Back to top

Chapter Five

Frustrated at her lack of success in swindling gold from the Warrior of Discord, Finona had decided that morning to go hunting. Perhaps she might have the opportunity to impose some torment upon some unlucky creature. It was unfortunate for her that it was still winter and many of the smaller animals had turned to extended slumber or had journeyed further to the warmer south.

After a fruitless morning, Finona perched herself on a fallen log. She removed the wool mitten on her right hand and drew her lunch out of her pack. Halfway through her meal, she suddenly felt the ground shudder. Snow fell off the shaking tree branches as something huge trampled its way through the leafless forest.

The elf packed away her food and drew her longbow. She slipped an arrow into position while backing away from the source of the heavy disruption.

Then Finona saw it pushing its way through the forest, snapping branches in its path. It was a large creature of humanoid shape covered with fur matching the colour of the surrounding snow. Its height was more than three times the elf's. Without a concern, the yeti continued lumbering away from the unnoticed elf.

Finona had an idea. She replaced the arrow in its quiver and shouldered her bow. Gathering some snow into a ball, she chased after the yeti. When she had overtaken it, she stopped in full view of the creature. The elf threw her snowball at the yeti.

As the yeti wiped the snow from its face with a hairy paw, Finona dashed a short distance away. Hearing heavy steps behind her, she turned to find the large creature clumping towards her. The elf then led the way back to the village. The yeti's long steps enabled it to move fast, urging Finona run as hard as she could. Dodging between trees and leaping over minor obstacles, the elf was soon fleeing in genuine panic.

Finona soon reached the foot of the slope to the settlement. Though her legs were heavy, she forced herself onwards. When she had arrived, she used what breath she had left to shout a hoarse warning: "Yeti!"

The village was soon alive with people running to and fro in panic. Some of them recognised the threat of the furry creature clambering up the hill and they quickly gathered loved ones and valuables before fleeing the village. At the same time, Finona continued climbing up towards Hordran's cave.

"Yeti!" the elf announced again, this time to Hordran who was sitting in the inner chamber. "Yeti in the village."

"Play," uttered Hordran as he quickly put on his armour. Selecting his scythe from his rack of weapons, the Warrior of Discord marched out to meet his foe.

As Finona sat to gather her breath, she allowed herself a smile. The elf removed her other mitten as her eyes studied Hordran's wooden chest.


As Hordran made his way down the hill from his cave, he could see the devastation caused by the yeti. The creature of the frozen mountains had smashed the wooden buildings with its fists and trampled the rubble that remained. It ignored the people still milling around it in blind fear though it stooped down to examine the food supplies in the destroyed storehouse.

When Hordran arrived at the edge of the village, he roared his challenge to the marauding creature. The yeti immediately turned to face him. The creature rose to its full height, which was twice that of the armed warrior, and bellowed back. It then shambled forward to attack.

Hordran dashed towards the yeti and slashed at his foe's legs. His attack opened a long wound on the yeti's thigh. In response, the creature balled its fist and smashed it into the warrior, throwing Hordran back into the snow with his weapon landing close.

Though bruised, Hordran casually retrieved his scythe and charged at his opponent. At the last moment, he leaped from the ground. His shoulder rammed into the yeti, throwing it back into a hut. The hut's walls creaked and gave, surrendering to the creature's massive weight. Pressing his advantage, Hordran raised his weapon and struck.

After receiving a blow to its side, the yeti rolled to its feet and swiped at the human warrior. The back of its hand met Hordran, knocking him onto his face in the snow. As he picked himself up, the yeti crept up behind him. With a snarl, it raised both arms into the air.

Then a snowy hawk shrieked out of the sky into the yeti's face. The creature made a grab at the attacking bird but missed. As the bird continued its harassment, Hordran rose to his feet and, with his scythe in his hand, swung at his foe.

Whenever the yeti tried to attack Hordran, the hawk would attack with beak and talons. When the yeti grabbed for the nimble bird, it opened itself to devastating attacks from the warrior. Soon, unable to bear any more injury or frustration, the yeti took a step back, then another. Then it fled down the hill and into the wilderness.

The hawk descended into the remains of Snow Bunny's shack. Growing back into his human form, Snow Bunny snatched some clothes from the rubble and quickly put them on.


Finona was still trying to open the chest when she heard Hordran and the cultist return. She had found a large brass key hidden among the pile of wood but though it fit the lock, it would not turn. Then she had tried picking the lock but without success. The elf quickly returned the key and reclined in a relaxed position as the men entered the inner chamber.

"Oh, there you are," Snow Bunny quipped as he entered, "We had a yeti down there." He helped Hordran remove his armour.

"Ah, well," Finona began with a shrug, "I know how Hordran likes his things so I stayed behind to keep an eye on them."

"That's kind of you." Snow Bunny started inspecting Hordran's wounds.

Then, unable to contain herself after weeks of frustration, Finona asked Hordran, "Would you like to check if your shiny things are still there?" She gestured towards the wooden chest.

Hordran glanced back at Snow Bunny with a question on his expressions.

The cultist nodded. "Might as well." He gave the larger man a pat.

Hordran went over to the pile of wood and retrieved the key. Then he picked up the chest with both arms and flipped it onto its lid so the bottom faced up. Opening a hidden panel to reveal a keyhole, Hordran inserted his key and unlocked the chest. He flipped open the bottom.

The chest was half filled with treasure. The little light from the outside danced across the gold coins, the rubies and the emeralds, attracting Finona's attention. There was a necklace of gold with a blue gem inlaid at the centre along with assorted rings, all of them well polished.

"I designed the chest," Snow Bunny stated proudly, "Fooled many people when they couldn't find the lid at the bottom."

Finona was still staring openly at Hordran's hoard.

Snow Bunny took out a pouch of medicine and begun treating some of Hordran's more serious wounds. "Say, Hordran," he said to the warrior, "the village is in ruins thanks to that yeti. It's winter you know and the people need shelter."

"Hordran build new homes," the patient announced as Snow Bunny applied a paste to one of his cuts.

"That's nice but we're going to have to do things quick," Snow Bunny said, "Also, half the store of food is gone. The yeti must have had a large appetite. And the people are going to need new furniture and stuff. That's too much for you to do on your own."

Hordran took a glimpse of his treasure and thought hard. Finally, he tentatively suggested, "Hordran buy new things for villagers?"

"What a splendid idea!" Snow Bunny agreed.
 
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Apple



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 PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2002 9:23 pm    Post subject: A Tale of Fervus Reply with quote Back to top

Chapter Six

"I've come to say goodbye," Finona said to Hordran after she travelled up to his cave to meet him, "It's been nice staying here for the winter."

"Where Finona go?" Hordran asked.

"I haven't decided," the elf admitted, "after one winter in a village, I think I'd prefer to be in a city. Maybe I'll go to New Garuta..."

"Finona visit Hordran again?"

"Not very soon, I'm afraid." Finona took a mournful glance at Hordran's empty treasure chest and sighed. "There's only so much to see in a village as small as this."

"Hordran say thank you," the big man said with a bright smile, "Hordran learn much from Finona. Buy things to give to people. Now people not afraid of Hordran. Hordran have many friends."

"Yes..." Finona sighed again. "Well I must be going." She lifted her pack over her shoulders and collected her longbow. The lute was not present, as it had been crushed during the yeti's rampage.

"Bye!" Hordran waved as the elf left.
 
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 PostPosted: Fri Jan 11, 2002 10:41 pm    Post subject: A Tale of Fervus Reply with quote Back to top

Epilogue

Long after Finona had left, Snow Bunny came to visit Hordran. "The villagers have everything they need and they're happy," the cultist reported.

"Hordran happy with friends."

"Yes, yes," the cultist agreed, "There's still the matter of Fervus' shrine. We're going to need a new varg statue and a new altar."

"Hordran make new varg statue," the larger man announced optimistically.

Snow Bunny shook his head. "Hordran, I've seen your carvings. That won't do for our God. You can help with the stone but we're going to have to hire someone with proper skills to do the carving."

The warrior looked at the smaller man with worried eyes. "More shiny things?" he said plaintively.

"Yes, we need more shiny things."

Hordran grunted as he rose to his feet. He walked to the wall separating his inner chamber from the outside and barred the door. Then he walked over to the large rock at the corner and grappled it off its position. Snow Bunny meanwhile prepared a small torch and lighted it with fire from the brazier.

Behind the rock was a narrow passage. Both men entered it with the light of the torch leading the way. They soon arrived in a small roughly chiselled room.

There were three chests here. Snow Bunny handed Hordran his torch before pulling out a small pouch. He opened the coffer beside a gold-rimmed steel shield, which was leaning against the wall, to reveal the gold coins stored within. A silver bowl, filled to the brim with sparkling sapphires, sat on one of the other chests. A golden helmet studded with gems sat beside the bowl.

Snow Bunny filled his pouch with gold coins. Then he gestured to Hordran to follow him as he led the way out of the cave.
 
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