Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 192,017,692 Issue: 627 | 10th day of Sleeping, Y16
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The Traveller's Note


by ameliorates

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A lone traveller walked quickly through the rain along a roughly cobbled pathway, cautiously patting a pocket inside a large coat, nervously ensuring his most prized possession was still there. Upon reaching the destination he pushed open the large wooden door.

     Rain and cold swept into the dingy tavern. The traveller followed, dragging the large coat behind him, his face invisible beneath a dark hood. A few heads turned, while most of the patrons paid no mind to the stranger.

     The traveller tread cautiously between the tables, making his way to a lone table at the very back. A roaring fireplace kept the table company. He took a seat and stared into the orange flames, tuning out the chatter, the clinking of dubloons and the sound of rolling dice.

     A cold draught announced the opening of the door and heralded the arrival of a large red Skeith. He pushed quickly through the aisles towards the traveller's table and positioned himself with his back to the flames.

     "I am sure we could have done this somewhere a little less cliché," he said with an air of officiousness, casting a disapproving eye around the room and shaking his head at a group patrons who were beginning to get rowdy over a game of Bilge Dice.

     The traveller reached a gnarled hand inside the coat and produced a frayed, torn piece of paper and pushed it across the table. The Skeith picked it up delicately and peered at it, intrigued.

     Across the other side of the room a rough looking Lupe and Eyerie argued angrily. "I got 24!" yelled the Lupe, fiercely. "You did not roll the 1 and 4 needed to qualify," spat the Eyrie back in return.

     After a ponderous moment the Skeith held the note up to the flames inquisitively, before shaking his head solemnly, and handing it back to the traveller.

     "I am afraid I cannot help."

     The traveller tucked the paper back inside his cloak, pushed out his chair and began to leave.

     "Wait."

     The traveller turned back towards the table, the orange glow from the flames partially illuminated his gaunt, grey face. His eyes appeared to glow red beneath the dark hood. The Skeith seemed unfazed.

     "I might know someone who can."

     The traveller reached inside the cloak once more, produced a handful of silver and bronze coins and threw them on the table. The Skeith swept them quickly inside a small bag. He took out a quill, scribbled some instructions on a piece of paper and handed it to the traveller.

     "Good luck," he said before pushing through the aisles again and departing.

     The traveller stared at the note for a brief moment, crushed it into a ball and lobbed it into the flames.

     He too then made towards the exit.

     As he passed the table that housed the rowdy game of Bilge Dice a fat Pteri wearing an eye patch and a red hat moved to block his way. The Eyrie and Lupe noticed this and stopped arguing and moved up behind the Pteri.

     "Ye sure paid yer Skeith friend lots'f dubloons," squawked the Pteri. "Ye got anymore?"

     The trio moved forward imposingly.

     The tavern-keep hobbled towards them, a grey beard tied up in a ponytail.

     "I don't want any trouble in 'ere, ye hear me!" he shouted.

     The Pteri grinned. "There won't be no trouble, s'long as he hands ov'r what he got in his pockets."

     The traveller stepped back and slowly lowered his hood. An ethereal glow emitted from his grey, translucent skin. Red eyes glowed with fury. He snarled, showing pointed teeth and the end of his long mouth. Beneath the cloak his scaled tail snapped against the wooden floor.

     The trio stepped back aghast, their hair standing up on end. The tavern keep grabbed onto a chair to steady himself, and many of the patrons turned to stare.

     "You look like you've seen a ghost," croaked the Krawk, before departing into the night.

     ***

     Draik guards lined the roads of Merivale, their decorative shields and pointed spears glistened in the warm afternoon sun. The traveller walked along the neatly cobbled pathway towards a small building, nervously patting his pocket as he walked. A stain-glass window emblazoned with a bright red flower sat at the top of the decorative door. A sign in the window announced the shop was open. The door opened with the jangle of a bell.

     The traveller crossed the varnished floor towards the small wooden counter. The shelves were lined with toys, books, plushies and bottles of various liquids. The pink Kau on the other side of the counter, stared at him uneasily.

     The traveller reached into his cloak and passed the crumpled paper across the counter with his gnarled claws.

     The Kau suddenly gasped and rushed to the window, turned around the sign declaring they were open and pushed a large, heavy lock across the door.

     "He told me to expect you," said the Kau wearily.

     She opened the paper and examined it carefully, shaking her head as she did so.

     "Just as I thought," she muttered.

     After several long moments of consideration she reached up to the top shelve and fetched a large, metal key. She approached a nearby shelf and took down a large, worn, leather-bound book, to reveal a large keyhole. Turning the key, the entire bookcase swung forward to reveal an apothecary of potions and liquids.

     She took several of the bottles and returned to the counter, carefully mixed them together and poured a single drop onto the crumpled paper. The runes on the paper began to glow slightly and a faint hum emanated from the paper.

     The Kau began to chant an incantation and the humming amplified with every word. The room grew darker as the paper shone brighter and all of a sudden it stopped.

     "You need to seek out the hermit, on Mystery Island," said the Kau, breathlessly. "He knows what this means."

     ***

     The traveller walked along a jungle trail. Lush green leaves and foliage greeted him with every step. The traveller turned a corner and seen a baby Kougra walking with a larger Kougra. The larger Kougra hurriedly grabbed the baby and scampered to the other side of the trail upon seeing the traveller.

     After a long time the traveller reached a fork and moved off the beaten track. Prickles and thorns dug into his feet and grabbed at his coat as he stumbled through the overgrowth. He slowly made his way, pushing aside vines and brambles.

     As the sun licked at the horizon he came upon the entrance to a dark cave, he walked inside tentatively before finally coming to the end. A ragged old Gelert sat at the end of the cave in front of a small fire. The traveller choked on the smoky air as he approached. The old Gelert turned.

     "Ah," he said ponderously. "At last, you have come."

     The traveller removed his hood, the glow from his ethereal skin slightly illuminated the cave and his red eyes peered at the old Gelert. The hermit made no reaction.

     "I hear you have travelled long and far to find the answer."

     The traveller nodded.

     "I have confidence I can answer it; however I do not yet know the question."

     The traveller nodded again and reached inside his cloak for the piece of crumpled paper. He patted his pocket. He patted another pocket. And another. He then became frantic. Jumping. Hopping. Searching. After several frantic moments he succumbed to the inevitable realisation.

     "I- I've lost it," croaked the Krawk.

     "Ah," said the hermit, disappointed. "It probably wasn't that interesting anyway."

The End

 
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