Search for the Golden Egg (Part 2)

Chapter 2

Thomas Goes to Work

Throughout the next week, Thomas Puddlespoon partied, toured, and mailed souvenirs to friends and family back home, but as the week neared its end, Thomas began looking for his next target. Security in the capital had tightened after the noble realized that he had been had. Fortunately, the mud and shaggy hair from traveling, and the additional height and sinister atmosphere that the noble’s imagination had supplied, prevented the guards from getting an accurate description. Thomas was short, thin, and had light tan hair, and after getting cleaned up in his room, he looked nothing like the tall, dark gangster that had boldly attacked the noble last week.

Still the police patrolled the markets with more diligence these days, and the nobles had all started traveling with a cloud of bodyguards that barely let their servants through. Thomas was not heartless enough to steal from the servants and leave them to deal with the nobles and their wrath, nor was he foolish enough to mess with that many bodyguards. So, effectively, the nobles’ money was off-limits now. That left the peasants and the craftsmen. Neither one offered nearly as large a target as the noble had — especially the peasants, who kept most of their wealth in the form of turnips and radishes.

So Thomas Puddlespoon began working daily and skimping when necessary. His old village would never have believed he was capable of such dedication and restraint. His brothers would have teased him incessantly. Thomas shook his head and took comfort in the fact that they would never know.

The Queen Presents a Problem

The Queen of Dreamland was a beautiful lady with long, flowing blond hair, ruby-red lips, emerald-green eyes, small ears and feet, and pristine manners. She was also somewhat spoiled. In fact the only ones who dared to not spoil her were the King and their one-year-old son. The King continued to go to war each summer despite her begging him to stay home, and their son cried promptly at one a.m. each night in a that shrill screech that mothers always hear, even when hiding behind meters of solid stone walls.

The Queen was resigned to waiting out her son, but she was determined to find a way to convince the King. That is why each summer, after the King left for war, the Queen summoned all the advisors together so that yet another plan could be hatched and enacted as soon as the King returned.

Two years ago the Economist had suggested that they empty the royal treasury by funding charities and schools. That way the King would not have the money required to fund his war. Unfortunately, the King brought back enough bounty to restore and then double the Royal Treasury. Last year, the Tax Collector had suggested raising taxes in order to create a rebellious populace which the King would have to put down instead of going back to war. But the peasants simply paid the taxes with the charity money they had been given the year before. In fact, they even had enough left over to plant extra corn and feed extra pigs, and there was a feast awaiting the King when he came home. The King thanked the people by lowering their taxes.

The Wizard Provides a Suggestion

This year, it was Wizard Glimmer’s turn to suggest a plan.

The Queen gathered the advisors, and they all turned to look at Wizard Glimmer. Under such pressure, Glimmer’s mind went blanker than usual. He had never been good at thinking outside of the box. Now if it had been one of the servants, or even a rebellious teenager, Glimmer could have solved the problem with a simple Staying Spell, forcing the King to stay within the castle walls. That seemed very much like house arrest, however, and Glimmer was relatively certain that it would be treasonous to put the King under house arrest.

But if there is anything that a wizard is good at, it is inventing ideas on the spot and worrying about applying them later. It is one of the first skills they learn and perfect — much like any group of royal advisors. And so, Glimmer started to reason.

“What we need is something here which the King wants more than the glories of war out there.” Glimmer waved vaguely, casting a murmur of agreement into one of the corners of the room.

Not wanting to seem dull, the advisors quickly added their murmurs of agreement to the corner’s, and Glimmer, forgetting that he had caused the murmur, was encouraged by it.

“So we must find something too wonderful to resist,” Glimmer continued. “I have recently come across the perfect object for producing this effect: The Golden Egg.” All eyes in the room widened as Glimmer described the fabled egg’s power to make anyone too beautiful to resist, and the ferocious roosters that guarded it. “Now,” Glimmer said, “what we need is a thief to retrieve it for us.”

A noble in bright red robes stepped forward. “There is such a thief in our very own market place. I’ve already told you all of how brutal he was when he robbed me.”

 

To be continued…

Advertisements

Search for the Golden Egg (Part 1)

In the land of Childhood Dreams, there is a legend that tells of a Golden Egg. Whoever eats this egg becomes incredibly beautiful and will live a long, happy life. The Golden Egg lies hidden in the ancient Chicken Temple deep in the rainforest and guarded by angry roosters, who love nothing more than gouging the eyes out of careless opponents and anyone else who walks by…

Chapter 1

Thomas Puddlespoon Visits The Capital

Thomas Puddlespoon entered the capital in high spirits. After walking along dusty roads for the past week, nothing could be more appealing than a soft bed at the nearest inn — unless it was a tall glass of iced water. First, however, he would have to raise the funds to pay for the bed, so he went straight to work.

He found the marketplace easily enough. It’s not the sort of place that is normally hard to find, and since it was late afternoon, the market was filled with a crowd trying to finish their shopping before the stalls all closed. In the marketplace, he started browsing — only he wasn’t browsing the stalls selling jewelry, foods, and clothes. He browsed the shoppers around him. There were mothers trying to herd their children through the crowd, boys looking for trinkets to give to their true loves, and men looking for a snack after a long workday.

Thomas found what he was looking for when he saw the noble meandering through the crowd. The noble’s robes held a million shades of blue, and his fingers held a million rings. A lone servant in a plain brown tunic, leggings, and worn boots followed along after the noble. As Thomas watched, the lord reached into a pocket and pulled out a coin. He gave it to the servant, who ran off towards a stall selling roasted nuts.

Thomas smiled. Could there be a more succulent prey? He ambled up beside the noble, bumping him slightly as he passed. The noble turned red and whirled on Thomas.

“Oh, I am so sorry, m’lord!” Thomas exclaimed before the noble could cause a commotion. He wasn’t really sorry, but the commotion would have made it harder to escape. “I am sooo clumsy,” he continued, bowing and scraping before the noble. “I must apologize. I was deep in thought and didn’t see your lordship standing there.” Thomas pulled a coin out of his own, now heavy, pocket. “Perhaps I could buy you some roasted nuts as a token of my deep regret.”

The noble stammered and hesitated a moment, not sure what to do. This peasant was clearly regretted the great offense of  bumping into nobility and didn’t need the usual talking down to. As the noble tried to decide what to say, his servant appeared with the nuts.

“My thanks to you lad,” said Thomas. He handed the coin to the servant, whose eyes grew large, and he took the nuts. Before the servant could protest, Thomas handed the nuts to the noble. “Here you are, m’lord. And may I again convey how deeply regretful I am to have inconvenienced you?” With one last bow, Thomas slipped back in the crowd, laughing to himself. The nobleman might just be baffled enough to let the servant keep the coin.

Thomas Finds A Room

Thomas found a tavern near the city gate. After eating supper and renting a room for the night, Thomas sat down on the bed. It was hard, and the sheets probably hadn’t been washed, but there was a roof over his head.

Thomas pulled the noble’s money pouch out of his pocket. He knew from the weight that he had scored big, but he preferred to know how big before he planned his next move. The pouch contained five gold coins and twenty silvers, plus a small golden ring. Thomas slipped the ring onto his left pinky. It fit perfectly. The ring didn’t have any etching or adornments. No wonder the noble hadn’t been wearing it. It would be too plain for a lord. But why carry it in the first place?

Oh, well. It didn’t really matter. The coins would be enough to last Thomas for a week, a month if he was responsible, but who wanted to be responsible on their first visit to the capital?

As Thomas fell asleep that night, his mind planned an itinerary for the next week. It was full of food tasting, sight-seeing, and buying souvenirs to send back home to his mother and brothers. He could even buy himself a new outfit if he got ambitious.

To be continued…

Mazonti Badlands

The world Manzot has a single continent by the same name. Manuel Zottingvan, the explorer who discovered Manzot, declared that it was void of sentient life.  This view was very popular on some of the most over populated worlds.  Therefore, Manzot was quickly invaded by colonists escaping from oppressive governments, war zones, and car fumes.  As a result, Manzot has a wide cross-section of cultures and ethnic groups.

As the number of colonists continued to increase, unclaimed fertile land became non-existent.  New colonists began looking at the expanse of land called the Mazonti Badlands.  These badlands cover about 70% of the continent Manzot.  The Mazonti Badlands consist of rocky hills and dry plains.  It is populated by a wide variety of lizards and a few birds, but it is inhospitable for farms or ranches, so the colonists began irrigating the edges, adding nutrients to the soil, and in general changing the environment to fit their ideals.

This was when the colonists discovered the drakes.  There is much debate over how intelligent the drakes are, but it is clear that they claim the entire badlands as their territory.  Although there was barely a sighting before the colonists expanded into the Mazonti Badlands, the drakes have been constantly raiding their herds and destroying their fields ever since.

The colonists of course responded by sending out hunters.  Many of these hunters come back mauled, or worse.  They keep going, however, because of the potential bounty for bringing in drakes.  The highest bounty belongs to the Drake Inferno, a giant red lizard with wings tipped with claws.  He looks similar to the European dragons, but he cannot fly with his wings, only glide.

A few months ago, I went on a safari of the Mazonti Badlands led by one of the hunters.  We took a shuttle, and the goal was to spot some of the drakes in a fly over.  No landing, and certainly no close contact.  The drakes had other plans.

I cannot say what type of community these drakes have, but they were intelligent enough to have one of the Drake Infernos ambush our shuttle from above and destroy our radios so that we could not send out a distress call.  They then waited silently until we had no choice but to risk a dash for the colonies.

Only one member besides myself made it back to civilization, and he later died from the injuries that he received.  I myself lost a lot of blood and one of my mechanical arms.  I have heard however that there is a colony in the north where some mages were able to tame the drakes.  As soon as my arm is replaced, and my doctor forgets her latest tantrum about my lifestyle being unhealthy, I intend to go there and discover if there is any truth to this.

Magnisi: The Nightengale Club and Fantasma

My favorite place to enjoy an evening when I visit Magnisi is a small night club in Columbia.  The food is good, the dancing is fun, and the music is beautiful.  Most nights, Fantasma comes out to sing a few songs with the band around 7:00 pm.  She sings a mixture of swing and blues, but she does more than just sing.  She has the ability to bring the songs to life, as if the story were happening to you at that moment.  I’ve tried to get recordings of her songs, but they never live up to her performances.  In fact, on tape she sounds average at best.  This leads me to believe that she might be one of Magnisi’s few remaining mages.

Fantasma does not talk much after her songs.  She will often linger in the club either acting like a hostess for the manager when he has special guests or drinking at the bar, but she does not interact with anyone whom the manager has not introduced her to.  Amazingly few people even try to talk to her, especially considering that she is pretty on top of singing well.  On the nights when I have observed her after her show, she and the crowd seem perfectly happy ignoring each other.  It is as though she turns invisible to those close to her.

My final hypothesis is that Fantasma is some form of telepath.  This could explain the projection of the songs and also her invisibility.

Fantasma’s drinking concerns me, however.  There are very few planets where magic and alcohol mix well.  In fact, on Chaldor it is illegal for mages to become drunk, or for telepaths to drink at all.  This is because natural magic users, such as mages, cannot control their powers when drunk, but neither can a natural user stop using the powers.  I compare it with drunk driving: a wizard or technomage can choose whether or not they want to drive (or cast spells) when drinking, but a mage is always driving, so to speak.

It is possible that Fantasma does not realize what she is, or how dangerous drinking is for her.  After all, the majority of Magnisi’s mages are unaware of their powers.  One of the effects that alcohol can have on a telepath is a muffling of the voices that she hears in her head.  Because of this, many telepaths are prone to becoming alcoholics if left unchecked.  I have tried to warn her, but whenever I get close she disappears.  My mind shield is apparently no more useful against her than the rest of the crowd’s.  This is promising because it means that she may be controlling how much she drinks so that she can remain invisible.  Then again it could mean that invisibility is her natural state of mind.

In my talks with the locals, I have found surprisingly little information about her, considering that she lives in a small town, and in all worlds small towns are infamous for their gossip.  They know that she and her father always kept to themselves, and that after her father’s death (9 years ago), she has been living completely alone.  She used to sing on the corner for passing tourists until the Nightingale’s manager found her and hired her.  Now she is very rarely seen outside of the club.  Some of the locals say that her spirit died with her father and she is now little more than a ghost herself.  This is where the name Fantasma came from.  They have forgotten what she was called before.

From the Chaldonian Files: Races of Chaldor

Chaldor is home to not one but two distinct humanoid races: the Númia and the Mahanub (silent “h”; accent on “u”). The Númia are very similar to the humans here on earth. The Mahanub, on the other hand, possess a magical gene that produces a variety of powers. In short, they are a race of mages. The precise power possessed by the Mahanub varies much like hair color, skin tone, or height. The most common powers are telepathy and telekinesis, but there have been cases of transportation and even precognition.

The two races are compatible with each other. Because of this, arranged marriages among the upper classes have often been used as a means of tying families of the two races together politically. The magic gene is passed on about 25% of the time when the races mix. The children who do not inherit the gene, however, cannot pass it on. In other words, there is no such thing as a latent Mahanub.

The Mahanub power(s) are active from birth; however, they are initially very weak. A Mahanub’s powers strengthen as he matures, but they often are not of any practical use until puberty or later. As with any other ability, training strengthens a Mahanub’s power and control while disuse dulls them. For most Mahanub, training consists of basic pointers from their parents until the age of 12, when they are apprenticed to a Mahanub of similar abilities. Their mentor is required to teach and look after them until they reach 18 (legal adulthood). After that, the student is no longer required to stay with the mentor. Often, the student does not actually leave until his mid- to late-twenties.

Although the form of government has often favored one or the other, neither race has ever ruled over the other completely. This is because the Númia are so much more numerous that they can meet the Mahanub on equal terms. In recent years, however, the Mahanub population has entered a decline which has increased tensions between the two races as the balance of power slides towards the Númia. There have been extremist groups on both sides. Some Númia wish to increase the monitoring of their Mahanub counterparts in an effort to control them. A portion of the Mahanub population has responded violently to these attempts, and there is a group known as the White Fist that is attempting to overthrow the current government in favor of an Mahanub-controlled system.

Chaldor has a unified federal government which governs both races. The legislative branch consists of a council body of elected officials and an executive branch headed by the Númian royal family. Both races are allowed to participate in either branch, but Mahanub with mind-controlling abilities are forbidden even entry into the capital during council sessions, and brainwaves are carefully monitored against tampering during votes.

Cal’hern: World of War

I have been observing Cal’hern for nearly two decades.  It is a fascinating world populated by countless races, some magical and some not.  There are four powerful races that have directed the main flow of history. Each race has distinct personalities and tendencies, and all of them hold the ingrained opinion that Cal’hern belongs to them.

When I first traveled among them, I was amazed that Cal’hern was not constantly torn with war, and I found that historically it has been. Every millennium or two, the four races will face off in a war that reaches every corner of the continent. These wars are called the Great Wars, or occasionally the Magick Wars.

One of these Great Wars started about eleven years ago. I was of course forced to leave when the fighting started, so as not to risk “corrupting the younger cultures” by taking sides. (According to the World Jumper Rules and Ethics, WJRE, no jumper is allowed to interfere in the politics, economics, or religion of a non-jumper planet. This way they can develop naturally—by making all the same mistakes we did.) I was able to ask several of my sources among the Cal’hern to keep a log of what happens and send notes to me, and I am putting together a record of events.

The story begins in Grenelbane’s Legacy.