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   | The Olympia Times                                      times@pbm.com |
   | July 20, 1994                                             issue g1-4 |
   |                                                                      |
   | turn 4  104 players                              "Squirrely hijinks" |

Questions, comments, to play: info@pbm.com

Olympia PBEM

* * *

Person man, person man Hit on head with a frying pan Lives his life in a garbage can Person man.

Is he depressed, or is he a mess? Does he feel totally worthless? Who came up with person man? Degraded man, person man.

-- They Might be Giants

* * *

The reminder messages are only sent if orders haven't been received by you. If you don't want to get the reminders, have your orders in by Monday.

Player-contributed press


Vitalstatistix [w5z] and his band of thieves

Vitalstatistix is wanted for the mass murder of 15 peasants in Aethelarn, when these solid citizens resisted being robbed of their money. Vitalstatistix is also wanted for looting, and petty theft performed during month 3, year 1. The wanted "noble", and his henchmen is considered to be armed and dangerous. An award of 1000 gold is available upon receipt of the noble's head. Body is optional.

The city council of Aethelarn

Are all allies welcome? ======================

Anthony Benn leaped nimbly onto his soapbox and began his harangue, quickly attracting a curious crowd. 'In Olympia, the entire world revolves around nobles: they decide what you should do, ruthlessly exploit your labour, and take all the profits for themselves! And how often do you read of ordinary folk in the press?' 'Youse a noble yourself!' sneered a gnarled figure in the crowd. 'True,' conceded Anthony apologetically. 'But I have founded THE LEVELLERS: in the Olypmia of the future, none shall be favored, and the lowest person shall earn the same as the highest person in the land.' The crowd shifted uneasily, and started to disperse. A cowled figure lingered, and approached Anthony. 'It may be that some associates of mine might be interested in thy cause...'

Question: Why did the Noble cross the road? Answer: To get away from all the pots on this side!

Question: What do Nobles serve at their parties? Answer: Pot luck!

Question: How does one track a Noble? Answer: Follow the trail of pot shards!

Question: How can you identify a Noble? Answer: Look for the potter's clay under the fingernails!

Question: What do you call a Noble who doesn't make pots? Answer: A basket case!

(A few pot shots from the Normandy faction.)

Who would like to give us names and details of the noble-upon- noble attacks in the Newleaf area? I myself would be very interested to know which players are preying upon others without any warning or provocation and I think the rest of the players in Olympia would like to know too. So if one or more of you know the truth of things, give us your case. Perhaps you can convince us. Myself, I'll be joining some friends in Newleaf in a couple months and I, at least, am eager to meet the brutes. Not as eager as my troops, though. They've been marching without combat. They're tense and tired and the good thing about fighting nobles is that you most often take them alive. What they really need are a few perfumed, limp-wristed, overeducated noble prisoners to help them relax in their own special way.

Journal Entry, Blossom Bloom - Gonzo Greybeard

Finally! Away from the city and the masses packed therein. Clay pots everywhere! It was rumored that the nearby sources of material from which the ubiquitous pots were being made was just about exhausted. Rumor also had it that the roads leading into the city were significantly lower, the clay material that was used to form the road bed was being dug up and used in the creation of yet more clay pots. The Emperor had posted Imperial Guards along the roadways to prevent further erosion of the roadbeds. Another disconcerting movement was that which appeared to be denuding the forest immediately surrounding the Imperial City. It was as though a horde of crazed beavers had been released upon the countryside. It was so peaceful being out here away from the din of the crowds, the thunks of the axes and the rasps of the saws, not to mention the crash of the clay pots breaking on the streets of the city. Surprising as it may seem, we have only seen one other faction in this province, and they seem intent upon traveling elsewhere. Earlier today we saw a small band of wild men running through the trees. It appears the squad of pikemen and the six heavily armed nobles was sufficient to keep them away. A young man wandered into camp and indicated a desire to join our band (perhaps the three bottles of wine had something to do with his enthusiasm). He seemed to be interested in the crossbow that I had fashioned and showed a certain aptitude with it before we began the ritual recruitment drinking. He should make a good squad leader of the crossbowmen. He also indicated that there were a number of his friends who would be interested in joining our band.

This would be most fortuitous. We will spend some time here exploring and studying. Unless it gets to crowded, we will determine what is here before moving on. Now where did I put those instructions for making those fascinating baskets...?

Those seamen, they call themselves explorers?

Why, He Wanderer was an explorer, facing the dangers of the wilderness with nothing save a fast horse to protect him. Since he left the Imperial city two months ago he had travelled long and fast, yet those ships had covered more space, and faster. Whats more they did it in luxury.

Leaving behind NewLeaf and Cykarth he could see the spires of the Silver city rising just above the horizon. What wonders would that hold he wondered? It was the last city marked on his map. He hoped there would be another further east but he had heard nothing of it up til now. Still the people of the Silver city might know of one...

Olympia land rush! Can you get there first? Can you hold it? Actually, when you look at the size of the map and consider that it takes one noble per location to exploit resources, there's plenty of land to go around. Relax everybody! We're all in for a long haul.

Things seemed to be going well for Bogodon. The wood had arrived and the ship was well underway. Nearly half finished, it looked beautiful in the setting sun as the workers swarmed over it. He was just sweating on the arrival of the peasants that where needed to sail the ship. Soon, so soon and they would be off!

Greetings & salutations, fellow Olympians;

In the interests of holding my gaming costs down (I'm sure you can -all- relate! - grin), please send me future Email via "DAZCapn@aol.com". My CIS ID can still be used by those on CompuServe, since I do not get an extra charge for them.

I thank you for your cooperation...!

Tony Baldacci (Varangian Freeholders, faction sb0)

So the bloodbath has already begun. Noble attacking noble, brother pitted against brother. One would think that these lands would be large enough for each to establish himself before such conflicts would inevitably take place. Alas, this does not seem to be the case. Why can't we just get along?

Sludge peered through the spyglass at the island in the distance. Half a dozen or more cyclops stood on the shore, yelling at the ship and tossing boulder sized rocks into the sea. Probably hoping to capsize the ship and force the crew to swim to shore.

And we thought the mainland was dangerous, Sludge thought. He'd hooked up with some other adventurous folks and set off to sea in a galley. At least, they thought they'd set off to sea.

Instead, after rowing out of the Imperial City, they'd found themselves in the Atnos Channel, a one region wide sea lane stretching east and west.

What we need, Sludge thought, is a good atlas of Olympia. His forehead wrinkled slightly as he thought further to himself.

He woke with a start in the middle of a filthy street, crowded with many a vendor of clay pots. "Where am I?" he moaned as he struggled to remember his identity. Then he looked across the street: "A magic academy!" He ran across the street, followed by a few curious peasants.

Financial Planning (or lack thereof)

Cousins, I have just discovered that, hard as this is to believe, our peasants do not practice sound (or for that matter, any) financial planning!!! No IRA's, Keoghs, mutual funds, bearer bonds, saving certificates, nor even savings accounts. Of course you don't believe me, but I assure that this is true. Last week, I was busy with typical upper class business (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more) when I returned home much the worse for wear and stumbled over the carcass of one of my peasants which had the audicity to starve to death exactly where I wished to stagger...er walk. Imagine my suprise to discover that merely because I was too busy to attend to the boring task of payroll maintenance, that they up and starved to death! Of course it was their own fault for not practicing sound financial planning, but it is still terribly inconvient for moi! So, cousins, be warned...pay 'em or bury 'em.

The Dagda [s4b]

The Olympia Atlas is now accepting contributions.

In the tradition of Oleg's Map (tm), the Atlas will be a compilation of geographical information useful for explorers, traders, and adventurers. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

To contribute to the Atlas, simply send turn excerpts (cut out all the incriminating parts) that contain the following information:

o) Mapping data o) City market reports o) City skills lists o) Inner locations

and send it to sx6@g1.pbm.com. We'll include it into the next version of the Atlas.

The Atlas is available by ftp on ftp.cp.tn.tudelft.nl, in the directory /pbm/olympia. The file name is atlas.x, where x is the turn of the last update.

(Note that the first installment of the atlas will likely be atlas.4, and should be available soon).

Brought to you by the Skulking Vermin (sx6)

The Royal Geographer Emeritus watched the approaching galley. Some of best weeks of his life, sailing down the west coast of Atnos, had been rudely interrupted by the sight of the galley approaching on a stern chase. Then the lookout shouted that the galley was flying the royal ensign. The Geographer stared - the galley _did_ resemble the old Royal Survey galley 'Sonta'.

The Geographer and the Captain conferred, then the Captain ordered battle stations and came about to await the galley. It _was_ the RSG 'Sonta'. The crew stood down from battle stations. Apparently the Emperor himself had become concerned about the many and conflicting claims being made to various regions of the world. He had had the RGS 'Sonta' hurriedly recommissioned and sent out to determine the actual state of the world. So far, the 'Sonta' had seen many travelers but few large parties, and no castles under construction. There had been some activity that might presage castle construction, but only the earliest stages. On what had been seen so far, the report would be that the claims filed so far were unlikely to be enforced for many years.

Later, the two ships having parted to continue on their respective voyages, the old Geographer rethought his decision to establish his family on Krussos. Were all the other claims misdirection? Could hordes of claimants be sailing to Krussos? At this point, it seemed nothing could be trusted about any claim. Best to sail on and see what actual conditions were on Krussos. In the meantime, he would keep his sons busy with their swordplay and archery practice.

Fellow Sea Captains! Anyone interested in exchanging information on Coasts, Cities, Zones of Fearful Dangers, or other items. Anyone interested in an informal Captain's union for our general, mutual wellbeing. Adventurers interested in transit.... contact Curtius at: tonys@cs.berkeley.edu

You never know when that ship sailing by could but be your friend.

On the 24th day of the Third month of the First year, the disciples of the faction MooPlague Jihad began their holy crusade against the corrupting influence of Necromancy in earnest.

A graveyard was discovered near the Imperial City, haunted by six spirits. Brother MoonPlague, accompanied by the Hero Twins and fearless pikemen, engaged the foul undead and dispatched them.

Hereafter, the ranks of Jihaddi pledge their swords to ending the undead menace. Those requiring assistance should contact Brother MoonPlague [b5l].

Gaulish Soccer Fans Loot Aethelarn

OP - A drunken mob of Gaulish tourists ran amok in Aethelarn yesterday, pillaging several downtown pepper warehouses before an angry band of locals took the law into their own hands and attempted to terminate the rowdy celebration. The Gauls, apparently unaware that their soccer team was not even in World Cup contention this year, had been spotted earlier in Moe's Tavern drinking kodva, a beverage fermented locally from fish oil.

Gaulish chief Vitalstatistix delivered a bleary-eyed apology this morning asking for forgivenness and "to please not talk quite so loudly." He promised to make restitution to the families of locals slain in yesterday's set-to "absolutely immediately after I take a very brief nap." He went on to sing the praises of Aethelarn's brewmasters and vowed to lay in a large stock of kodva for the journey back to Gaul.

Rumors of war in Mt. Olympus may be premature. But to avoid the rush, buy your souvenir "Raga Rock" now. Rumor has it that there are only 50 of these puppies available.

Ralph was pleased with how well things had gone so far. Lugging aroung all this wood was a pain, but Ralph was being well paid for it. Sure beat life as a peasant! He laughed a bit to himself: near as he could figure, the bloke in charge had delusions of grandure, and actually thought he could take over the whole ruddy island! On the other hand, Ralph had to admit that those pikemen looked pretty determined. "Just so long as they keep paying, and don't expect me to be on the front lines!" he thought. The sergeant gave the order to move out; evidently they'd foraged all they could get out of this area, and were looking for more. He hefted his load and got in line, wondering how long "The Master's" purse would hold out.

Things are *MUCH* more crowded out there than we expected. Anyone interested in forming some bigger stacks to travel in?

The Trien Company has arrived! We are seekers of adventure and knowlege, recently transported to this wonderous new world. Once we have become accustomed to this new world, we will be available for hire to find and do things others wouldn't dare. Until then Good Luck!

Val, spokesperson for the Trien Company

The old peasant woman wailed hysterically as she related her tale of woe. "We was walking throught the forest, real peaceful like, me and my Bob behind John Doe, when all a sudden the trees trembled and out sprung these horrible rats. They had huge slavering teeth and fur as black as the night. John went straight at them and flailed away with his gleaming broadsword "Invincible". The rats stopped at first, but then closed on John, driven by some satanic force, all the while shrieking like the banshees of Hades themselves. John continued to slice at the rats, his sinewy muscles straining in the hot humid day. Blow after blow rang out, but the rats divided and attacked from both sides. One of them jumped on his back and sank its razor sharp claws in John's head. John grabbed it and squeezed the life out of it with his bare hands. Suddenly the remaining rats leaped onto John's face. His feet buckled and he fell, blindly screaming as the rats dragged his badly scarred body back into--"

"Just the facts, Ma'am" cut in Sgt. Joe Friday of the local garrison.

The old peasant composed herself, collected her thoughts and said:

"11: Horde of rats [db2v] comes out of hiding. 12: Horde of rats [db2v] attacks John Doe [id]! 12: 12: Horde of rats [db2v], rats, number: 6 12: 12: John Doe [id], with two peasants 12: 12: Horde of rats [db2v] is victorious! 12: 12: Horde of rats lost one rat. 12: 12: John Doe [id] lost two peasants. 12: John Doe [id] was taken prisoner."

Dum-da-dump-dump. Dum-da-dump-dump-daaaaa.

Tales From Typographic Hells

The headache was excrutiating.

Ok, so it was stupid to go our drinking wildly before heading out of the city, early in the morning. No wonder Allah forbid the unholy stuff.

For god's sake, did the damned innkeeper have to send someone with a battering ram to deliver the requested wakeup?

"Yes, yes, I hear you. Go away!" Wincing at his own raised voice he sat on the lumpy mattress and held his head, checking for the pieces that must be missing to hurt so bad.

Someone was yelling at the door, probably one of the maids checking that he'd not fallen back asleep. Why so loud? Merciful god, she must have woken the entire place--next door!

"Yes, I hear you. Go _away_!" He paused, listening to the blessed silence for a moment. Then the voice started again. Had he gotten married? No, no, he could remember last night, only too well. He shuddered, and tried to pay some attention to the woman with the incredibly loud voice. What was she asking? What? His brow furrowed, painfully, in puzzlement. Did everyone know how vile he felt? Why was the woman asking if wanted to barf? He considered it, and while the idea was not without some merit... he decided against it.

"Damn it, no! Go, away!!"

Silence. And more silence. He breathed out slowly and rose carefully, leaning against the wall, making his way to the pitcher of water. He took a mouthful, washed his hands, and poured the rest over his head to clear it. As the water cascaded over his head, the woman with bellows for lungs returned, yelling. He tried to hear this the first time, hoping that she would accept a single response, and go away, and stop (please, O Merciful Allah!) yelling.

Something... the woman was clearly mad. He felt horrible, he admitted freely to himself, and perhaps dying was not unthinkable, but why was she asking him if he wanted to be buried. Insane. Should he simply climb out the window? No, there were people meeting him... probably at any moment.

"No, damn it! Go away!"

Painfully, he hurried his few things together, and listened at the door. No sound. Maybe the lunatic was gone. He'd have to risk it. He unlatched the door and peered into the hall. Clear....

Downstairs, he sat in the darkest corner he could find, and prayed for a dark, gloomy day. As people entered, he squinted at them, trying to see if they might be Ulf and Buri. Both of them were late. He waited, and waited, and after drinking much water, and even managing to gag down some dry toast, he decided that his companions were clearly not going to show up.

He'd have to climb Mount Olympus himself.

--to be continued--

Oleg the Pleasant's Lore Archive remains open for business!

Sure, you're new to Olympia, but you say to yourself, hey, maybe the folks who played in the Alphatest learned a bit of lore or two? Yes, it may be shocking, but it's true. Fortunately, some nice folks among the Alpha-testers gave me all that lore, and I'll give it to you, for the mere price of a piece of email. Act now! Don't delay!

-- Oleg the Pleasant [b2q]

OP News - Aethelarn - City pillaged. The citizens of Aethelarn's worst fears were confirmed when Vitalstatistix [w5z] pillaged the city and made off with an estimated 68 gold. An angry mob formed within a week to recover the stolen gold. Sixteen angry peasants attacked Vitalstatistix. In the ensuing battle, Vitalstatistix won but lost six soldiers and one pikeman leaving the battered noble with three soldiers and one swordsman. Vitalstatistix is known to associate with Oelix [c4b], Asterix [h5u], Getafix [q4t], Bashar Teykanik [l7x] and Unhygenix [d1b]. City officials are discussing whether to offer a reward to the arrest of Vitalstatistix and his henchmen.

RECEIVED FROM WEST CAMARIS EXPEDITIONARY FORCE(en route): Ships are on course, outbound for West Camaris. Timetable may need to be delayed 2 weeks due to bad weather. Foodstuffs and water are holding out well, due to a easy supply of fish.

OLYMPIA TIMES FINANCIAL ANALYSIS: Share prices are holding steady, as the rampant speculation of the last few months has settled into a waiting period. Analysts predict that we will see heavy share activity in a few months, when reports of the West Camaris landing are received. This stock is still listed as highly volatile.

I have overheard quarrels, oaths flying, tempers flaring, threats hissing like crossbow bolts. Indeed I have participated in some, but the matter was settled without need for blows. But there comes a time when honor demands nothing less than satisfaction on the field of honor -- a duel. I suggest the following conventions for dueling, call them the Kingsbury rules.

* A Challenger calls out an entire faction -- there is no loss of honor if the challenged brings forth a champion.

* A Challenger should issue a Challenge in the Times. The Challenge should name the offending party and mention the grievance. Please be brief, we aren't that interested in your petty quarrels.

* Dueling should take place between two nobles with no other assistance in the form of peasants, soldiers, beasties, undead, other nobles, etc.

* Swords, armor, and magic items are permitted in general. The challenged has the right to choose what weapons are permitted and the obligation to provide them should the challenger not have such.

* Duels should take place on Mt.Olympus on the first day of the month, if at all possible. The Challenged names the month, allowing ample time for both parties to travel to the site of the duel.

* Duelists will be allowed free passage for their own persons to travel to the site of the duel by reasonable people. This does not obligate people to go out of their way to take them their however.

* To the victor goes the spoils: the vanquished noble, should he survive will be sworn to the victor, along with all his possesions at the time of the duel.

* It is advisable for both parties to appoint seconds from differing factions to work out details of the duel. It is the duty of the seconds to ensure that no other satisfaction is possible.

* Dueling is a last resort. Polite society looks askance on those who duel frivolously. There is no loss of honor in refusing a frivolous challenge.

Taira Yoshinawa

Dearest Miyuki,

I miss you already and I have only been gone these two weeks! How I hope that I will be able to send for you soon. Thank you so much for your help making the pikes for the pikemen. You did a wonderful job. You should be able to train the 5 peasants I left with you into able-bodied pikemen in no time using the wood we have left.. Travelling has gone well so far. We arrived where we wanted to be by the end of the month but we have stumbled into an incredibly thick fog. Touchstone thinks he hears drums from wild men in the distance but we can't see to know how many there are or what they are doing here. We hope to cover much more ground before the end of next month. I shall write you again then.

- Kovaq'nu

The blue-eyed thief sized up his latest mark. An old man, wearing bright new clothes, with a fat purse jingling at his belt. "Piece of cake," he thought. As he sidled up behind the old man, the ancient suddenly stopped, turned on one heel and caught his hand.

"You want my money, do you? Hmmm. Yes. You'll do. Follow me, and you can have half of what is in here."

They arrived at a small villa just outside the city, fit for minor nobility. The elder fixed the vagabond with a steely gaze.

"You'll have to work for your money, but you shouldn't find it too hard. The Hand is already upon you. I've arranged for tutors. You'll spend the next few weeks learning, and then you will leave this place."

"I don't think so, old man. I kind of like it here in the city. Lots of opportunities."

The young man turned to go, but the ancient stopped him with a word.


"What do you know of her!" The bravo whirled, drawing two knives.

"The Wanderer has sent me a vision. She was taken from here on a ship, and is now far from this land. I don't know who took her, but you must trust in me now if you ever want to be by her side again. You must find her, wherever she is."

"And how will I know where she's been taken?"

"You must wander until you are ready. Only then will she be found."

The blue-eyed scoundrel frowned at this religious nonsense, but followed the old man, determined to once again be with his wife.

"You talkin' to me?"

The dark figure in the corner stands ands moves towards the fire, but the shadows appear to follow and swirl around him.

"The Dark Rangers are in another time, another place. They do not walk the world of Olympia. Those who have cause to fear them should not call upon their name, or that which they most fear may be summoned to walk this world as well.

"I know nothing of your petty squabblings, and have attacked noone. But I shall mark the names of those who accuse me without provocation or proof, those who want an enemy are welcome to my best services to that end."

There is a swirl of darkness, then only the flicker of sparks from the fire, drifting upwards.

Horses for sale.

Announcing the pre grand opening of our Imperial city horse market.

We will be delivering the finest quality horses to your home in the Imperial city next month. Priced at only 100 gold apiece!!

Be sure to have your orders ready.

- the dark riders

They passed through a marketplace, its sounds and smells at once familiar and disorienting to Covenant. He recognized none of the foreign tongues he heard spoken in the market, and the smells that drifted by mostly surpassed him, hinting of foods cooked in unknown spices and of arcane perfumes gathered in places he would never see. Some of it was familiar- the ordure of too much humanity packed with too much urgency into too small a space. Beneath the strange words, he heard familiar cadences, tones, and implications, bearing the message of civilization and civilzed men. He pulled his robe tighter about him. The crush of people made him more keenly aware of his ostracism, the openness of the marketplace a parody of the way human society had closed ranks against him, in those long-ago days when he when he was first diagnosed. Leper outcast unclean, he thought, and a grimace fleeted over his features. Shouting back over his shoulder, a man slammed heavily into Covenant, dropping a load of textiles he had been carrying. Covenant recoiled, waiting for the expression of dismay and horror that he had seen many, many times. The man cursed vehemently, but looked up into Covenant's face with no revulsion as he apologised. "I'm sorry, I was careless to walk without warding my way." Covenant stared mutely at the man for a moment. Mhoram, who had been standing nearby, oblivious to Covenant's daze, interceded. "There has been no harm but to you and your burden, citizen. I'm sure that I speak for my companion when I say that no offense was taken." Mhoram looked significantly at Covenant. "No- no offense. I'm all right." Covenant waved his hand vaguely. He caught himself too late. His half-hand was exposed, and the white gold of his ring flashed in the light. A moment passed, as wonder and dread warred in the face of the merchant. Covenant collected himself, and bent to help the man collect his burden. "Here, let me give you--" The man scrabbled backwards, away from Covenant, scooping some of the fallen textiles into his arms as he retreated. "White gold!" He croaked. "You bear the white gold- the signs--" He caught himself, and looked at Mhoram, who was moving between the man and Covenant. "The ring is not--" Dread renewed itself, doubled itself, in the man's face. "A Lord!" He hissed. "One of the Lords of Revelstone! The propheses are proving themselves. The doom is coming!" "What doom?" grated Covenant. "What are you talking about?" "We come with no harm, citizen, and our fate is ours alone." Mhoram spoke soothingly, but his words had no effect. The man's eyes slitted. "I know you. Others would not, but I have studied much. I know you, Mhoram son of Variol!" "If you know me, then you know we mean you and your city no ill. We are passing through on a quest that will take us far from here--" "You will get no further! The Reaver must be told!" The man threw his armload at Mhoram and Covenant, and ran off to melt into the crowd and disappear. Mhoram appeared shocked by the man's behavior and reaction, and rubbed the bridge of his nose, deep in thought. "Well, we certainly handled that well," Covenant grated sardonically. "There is some force at work here," muttered Mhoram. "Shall I bring him back?" Bannor appeared, poised for action. "There you are!" exploded Covenant. "Where the hell where you when we needed you?" "There was no need," Bannor said placidly. "That man was no threat to either of you. Had there been any danger, I would have"- - he trailed off a moment --"intervened." "Well, there's need now," Covenant cried, frustrated, "bring him back! There's some sort of scheme at work here. We've got to find out what it is." "No." Mhoram spoke with finality. "There is no need." "We've got to find out--" "That man was under a compulsion. We will find out nothing from him." He steadied himself, regripping his staff. "The trap has been laid. It boots nothing to avoid his snares." "Damn it, Mhoram! You always say that, but just for once I would like to try! Why does it--" Covenant was interrupted by the return of Foamfollower, who held a small, grey globe in his hand. The giant was clearly enthralled with it, and his enthusiasm distracted the others in the party. "Ho, friends! This town is truly a place of wonders unlike any in the land!" "What do you have, Rock-brother?" "A most amazing thing, one whose wonder surpasses my ability to set it forth in hut beneath the threshold of hearing, a chiming sounded, lingered, and died away. "It is indeed a very precious thing." Mhoram nodded to Foamfollower, then held the globe out to Covenant, who regarded it skeptically. Covenant lifted it to his ear, but its balance shifted, and his riven hand, missing two fingers, could not hold it. It fell from his grasp, and landed on a paving stone where it cracked, opened, and flew apart. Smoothly polished beads spilled out, some attached to a complex weaving of threads. "It's a machine," blared Covenant. "The thing was a fake! There was no forest spirit in there!" He felt angry at the broken toy, as though the land and its magic had itself betrayed him. "I do not know what you mean by fake machine, but I am glad to learn there was no spirit trapped in there. I was concerned for it to be held in such a thing." Mhoram bent down and examined the device. "It is good that such things do not change the natural place of things in the land." "It was a fraud, Mhoram! Somebody made that thing to fool people into thinking it had magic." Covenant looked up accusingly at Foamfollower. "You were cheated." "It did have magic, my friend. It made me believe a thing of metal and clay was alive, and that is magic indeed. I admire the man who can take such a dead, plain thing and make it live enough to treasure. That is a tale worth telling." The giant beamed, as though a greater gift had been given him than he had been promised. "You bought this thing thinking it had a forest spirit, but it was a trick! How can you be pleased by that?" "It did have a forest spirit, as far as I knew. It would still have one, if someone had not. . . exposed it." "It was just some beads in a shell! It only sounded like a spirit, like a spirit might sound." Covenant was defeated by Foamfollower's lack of outrage, at his equanimity. "Joy is in the ears that hear," Mhoram chided Covenant. "We know that the spirits are free in the forest, but a piece of their wonder is brought to the city. Is that not wonderful?" "I will never understand you people," said Covenant. Hellfire, he thought. The group moved out of the market.

--------------------- (Apologies to Steven Donaldson, author of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. The above is an original, derivative work written in the style of those books, and intended as a compliment. If you have not yet done so, read the books.)