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Oard: Prologueby Nicholas Hudson
Well, I'm back (I hope) and while I have been gone for awhile (believe me, it couldn't be helped), I haven't been unproductive, so, as an appeasement of sorts, I am posting all of my work via vis the Oard, my favourite villains (and I have done my best not to make them Borg). Since I have a bit, I'm posting the prologue first, then, after I make sure it works this time, I'll send an article on the politics of the Sphere of time, and then, a gazetteer of sorts of Fixed Time, also known as Happy Oard-Land. Any and all feedback is welcome.
"Now, you must be wondering why this chest is in your living room, or impressed in your field...No wait, I shouldn't use impressed, you might not know that word, then again, you might not even be literate, or sentient, in which case, why am I talking to you? Sorry, I didn't mean to offend, but this is a rather chancy prospect at best, and I've got a lot on my mind. But anyway, back to what I was saying: You must be curious as to what all this junk is. Well, it's probably best that you don't know. Maintain credible deniability and all that. What I know can't hurt you, or something like that. Well, I assume that the current year, not that that has any meaning for me right now, not that 'now' has much meaning either, but I digress. So, I hope that your year is roughly somewhere around 1000 AC as the Thyatians measure it (if you're Alphatian by any chance, I greatly apologise; to make up for it, let me give you some important advice: learn to swim. Hah!), give or take maybe...umm, let's see...carry the three, divide by pi...(this would go a lot faster if Lesliuke's Fantastically Advanced & Amazingly Proficient Case of Wondrous Auto-Manipulating Numerical Machinations 6000 (R), patent pending, worked worth a goblin's eyes! 'It's missing two, nine, and addition!' I said. 'That's a value-added feature,' he said. But I digress)...six years! Hmph. Well, there you have it, the current year should be between 994 and 1006. I'm mostly sure that I got Mystara, and reasonably certain that you're somewhere in Eastern Brun...I think.
"Okay! Thanks for taking the time to read this. I really appreciate it. You don't realise this yet, but you are involved as we speak in an epic adventure/quest/crusade/thing to save the world as we know it. Here's what you need to do: In the case, you should find 500 pieces of pure gold; I don't know where you are, but this should pass as money where ever you are, and/or are going. Take this money, hire a nice caravan, not too ostentatious, some decent guards (stay away from the Otto Bros. Shipping Emporium; I had a nasty arbitration with them once, or will, depending on when you get this) and take this chest (and EVERYTHING in it) to Ierendi, a small archipelago south of Darokin, pleasant waves, good fruit, nice holidays...ah, for those good old days...Anyway, there's an island there, called Honor Island. All the natives will know where it is, you can't miss it, it's usually spouting fire or something like that. There's a boat that carries provisions to the island; get on it, go to the docks, and talk to whoever looks like they're in charge. Give said In-Charge Person the chest, and tell him/her/it to give this chest to: (and this is important; practice saying the name a couple of times to get it right) Vhaletessa. Vhaletessa. One more time, Vhaletessa. She's a druid there (or will be; if it's really early, leave it there for her to get when she arrives, or gets born, whichever happens first). Once you do that, you'll be amply rewarded. Did I say amply? I meant luxuriously. We're talking obscene amounts of wealth. Trust me.
"One more thing: (at this point, imagine that I'm speaking in a very deep, very sinister, very powerful voice) I am the am insanely powerful Mage of Mages, Locutio, Master of More Dimensions Than You Can Count, Destroyer of Entire Realities (no, wait, scratch that, it sounds evil, and I really am a good guy)...anyway, DON'T READ OR TOUCH A SINGLE THING IN THIS CHEST! I see all, I know all, and beware, beware! For a great and terrible reckoning shall befall you if you do not heed this warning. If you do heed this warning on the other hand (or tentacle; no offence, but I was kind of hoping for a humanoid-type thing...oh well, c'est la vie, as Gar..., I mean R..., I mean d'Ambreville used to say), you shall be amply rewarded; see above.
"Thank you for your co-operation."
"Hi Vhaletessa, how are you doing? Me, I'm...HEY YOU! Yeah, you anonymous person who brought this chest to Honor Island! I'm talking to you! Stop reading this instant! I told you not to snoop around with other peoples stuff, but no, you had to be a sneak! Well, that's just plain rude!
"Oh, maybe there is a good explanation. Maybe, your year is something like BC 300, and there is no Honor Island yet, and you're not a moulder dwarf or something like that, and can't live forever. Gee whiz,(as my chak friends would say) that is a problem. Hmmm...I know. Keep it, as a sort of family heirloom, passed down through the ages, until you reach an appropriate generation to undertake the decidedly uneventful (I hope, I mean, I, uhh...know! Yes, I KNOW, without a doubt, 100% sure, that the trip will be safe) journey to Honor Island. Trust me, your descendant will be amply rewarded, and your family name will live on...well, not quite forever, but pretty close. Okay? NOW STOP READING!
"Hmm...now where were we? Ah, yes...Vhaletessa, I am here to warn you of a great threat to our world. Greater than any I have ever seen, and I can't even identify it. You may never see me again. Even as we speak (well, not really speak, but as I write this to you), forces I can hardly recognise are tracking me down. For the past three months (my absolute time, that is), I have been chased across the Multiverse, and beyond, even through time. I am presently in a place called Averoigne, on a planet not altogether unlike our own. I couldn't help but suspect some connection between this Averoigne and Nouvelle Averoigne of Glantri...oh wait, you've already been here. yes, well, it's Laterre, although the inhabitants call it something different entirely (imagine that). The local year is AD 1321, but I shall be gone soon.
"I have seen Immortals, yes Immortals, tracking me down; I have seen reptilian monstrosities, things That Should Not Be (yes V., a trite clichéd, but I couldn't resist) sniffing for my blood; I have seen hideous abominations of what I can only classify as golems, but golems unlike any I have ever created, (now watch for my poetic ability!) of whose likeness is made of both the mortal flesh and the base metals of the Earth (good, huh?). I do not believe them to be acting in concert, but all three seem to desire nothing more than my utter destruction. Rather inhospitable of them. I can't even understand why. I mean, I hardly saw a thing.
"Saw what, you say? Oh yes, that. Well, do you remember Lesliuke? Yes, that little gnomish chap who had the habit of re-arranging furniture? I remember one time we were waiting in the Golden Khan's yurt, and he started to...but I digress. Anyway, we were zooming around in one of those Serraini aero-machines, this being about six months ago, when he said he do a quadruple roll while climbing, and then stop on a dime. I said he couldn't. He said he could. I said he couldn't. He said he could. And so it went, until we hit a mountain somewhere over the Heldanners because he wasn't paying attention. We just barely managed to escape the wreck, and jumped into a hole in the ground. After a good deal of sliding, we came to a tunnel complex. I don't mean to bore you with the details, but there were quite a few traps, all of which had Les squealing with delight at their ingenuity, and me fuming at my twisted thumb (now, I've suffered quite a few pains in my life, but let me tell you, that has to be one of the worst). We entered into a large chamber, the main focus of which was a dwarf slouched over in a throne covered with diamonds. It was a Modrigswerg who had committed suicide, (poor fellow, hung himself upside down) but not before apparently torching the entire complex. Everything was destroyed. Everything, that is, except for a most curious device. I simply can't explain what it looked like beyond an unusually shaped and coloured egg.
"It seemed to be in perfect working order, and Les acted like...like, umm..., well, like a gnome with a new machine, I guess. He managed to convince me to help him take it out of the cave (no small feat, as it must have been roughly six metres in diameter), and back to his workshop in Serraine (no small feat, as Serraine was now somewhere over Renardy). Well, needless to say, we got it back in one piece, even though I kept telling him, 'You can't mess with moulder gear, Les!', 'It's always cursed, Les.', 'You're going to get yourself into a lot of trouble, and I'm not bailing you out this time, Les.', and 'Stop eating all of the haggis, Les! I went to a lot of trouble to get that from Klantyre!' ...I'm sure you get the point. You know Les.
"So three months go by, and Les spends all of his time working on this and convinces me (to this day, I don't know how he does it) to aid him with some of the magical underpinnings. I was inside, staring at this crystal, set in front of a chair (dwarf-size, so decidedly uncomfortable to your archetypal lanky, tall mage). Now, I don't know what happened next, but I was looking deeply into this crystal, and the next moment, the egg started to shake, and I heard loud noises from outside. I stepped out to see what the problem was, and that was when I lost my cool.
"The land was desolate, just dust, as far as the eye could see. Completely flat, and devoid of vegetation and animals. Utterly lifeless. The sky had a sickly greenish hue to it, and odd ripples permeated across the horizon. Even the wind was still. I coughed a bit, and wondered what had made the noise I had heard. It only took a minute for me to find out.
"A deep rumble came out of the sky, and I crooked my head upward to see what it was. A gigantic ...building, not unlike Serraine, but much more orderly, much more...consistent in it's design, zoomed above me. Wires, spires, and translucent domes spotted the bottom. Well, I thought, here's some intelligent life; if they can build flying cities, then they must have magic, and should thus be favourably inclined to such a mage as myself. So, I teleported aboard the building.
"Or tried to, anyway. The spell failed. Now, I had a clear bead on the place I wanted to teleport to, and I haven't failed that spell for a long time. So I tried to scry to building with a couple of spells.
"None of them worked either. Now, at this point, I began to get a little suspicious, and not quite a bit worried. I tried a few more miscellaneous castings. Not a single one worked. That's when the nausea hit. I felt tired and ill, and could literally feel myself being drained of energy. I picked out a wand of fireballs, and let a few loose. A spark came out of it, and then fizzled. Later, (back in Serraine, and yes, I know it ruins suspense, but this is important) I would discover that it was no longer magical. I used a few more trinkets, and came to the realisation that all of my magic was being drained, and at a rather quick rate; whatever was eating it was hungry.
"Now, at this point, I decided that I had had enough exploration for the day, and hastened back inside the Moulder Egg, as Les had taken to calling it. Before I could close the door, though I caught a glimpse of four human-like beings. They were about 20 metres away, and didn't look too friendly. They were those golems I mentioned earlier: partly human, or humanoid bodies, I wasn't too sure, but covered with wires and plates and metal coverings. They all looked about the same, so I assume the same mage made them. They raised glass-looking tubes towards me. After a few mage duels, you quickly learn that when someone points something at you, it's not a good thing. I closed the door, and felt a thud hit the side of the ME.
"Just as I wasn't sure how I got to that wasteland in the first place, I wasn't sure how I got back to Serraine. The ME shook like the first time, and when I cautiously opened the hatch, Les was hopping up and down, grinning like a mad-gnome (he does that about seven times a day, and I've even caught him doing it in his sleep). 'So, how'd ya like it? Was it good, huh? Was it? Was it? Hah ha ha ha ha ha!' He was bouncing like a zzonga-addict in withdrawal.
"'How did I like it? I nearly got killed, and all of my magic's gone! What was that place?"
"'Killed, hm? That's downright odd. I guess one can't trust future folk.'"
"Well, it turned out that our good friend, Mister Modrigswerg, decided that he would build a time machine. Yes, a time machine! I've always felt that such ideas are for the birds, but Les assured me that the fantasy physics principles were sound. However, the ME only worked with one time. It seems that it was hard-wired to go to a point some time in the future. Les hadn't been able to figure out exactly when, but he told me that he had seen a similar relic in gnomish hands before. I wanted to know why it was hard-wired, and Les explained that, with these devices, each point in time had to be calculated entirely in one's head using arcane mathematics, and required over four decades per temporal destination. Add the requisite time to build such a machine, and you have the culmination of a very long life.
"I was shaken by the encounter, and I went to rest, to regain both my strength and my spells. The next morning, I went downstairs to see what Les was up to. He had a frown on his face, and it was then that I noticed the damage. Near the door, where the golems' wands had hit, the skin of the ME was pocketed with craters and cracks. Les glumly pronounced the ME dead (I was rather chipper about it's lack of use, given what I had seen on the other side) with a sigh. But he was about to perk up.
"It seems that, sometime during the night, our mutual friend Les received a package. Inside was a lovely full-length mirror, made from pure gold, and had an unearthly quality of workmanship to the glass. Gnomes aren't exactly renowned for their vanity (which is good, as they have little to be vain about), but Les decided that he might be able to use it in one of his next meddlesome inventions, and took it down to his workshop.
"As Les was performing the post-mortem on the ME, a crackle of energy filled the air, and before any one could respond, blasts of fire came screaming through the room. Les and I are both accomplished adventurers, and we knew how to rumble. Marching through the mirror came a small squad of those cursed golems (although, given their strength, I could make a killing selling them in any, and I mean ANY, magocracy...if I knew how to make them, that is), firing away with their wands. My magic had returned, but given all of the volatile equipment Les had lying around, I couldn't use any of the really heavy stuff; no problem, as I was rated top-shot with magic missile back in my freshman year. Les activated some defence systems he had been working on (as an aside: I don't think blowing up everything in a three metre radius counts as 'defence'), and joined in the fray. The two of us aren't slugs, but those golems were powerful, and it might have been bad if it weren't for Obistecix (do you remember her? The sphinx that nearly sat on you in Esterhold?), who picked that time to show up for an appointment; Les has been making a nice bundle after having perfected that automatic hair-cutting machine. With her aid, the invaders were defeated, and Les' house was saved for another day. Les and I set about to investigate what crawled through the mirror.
"I quickly determined that whatever magic powered the golems and their weapons had left, as I could detect no magic on them. They looked even worse close-up: their flesh was lumpy and ill-shapen, and the metal that oozed over their skin was decidedly unnatural. It was Les, however, who made the really shocking discovery.
"'I've seen that before.'
"'Seen what?' I asked.
"'That mirror. I've seen that exact same sort of mirror before, on some of our adventures, in places.'
"He was right. It wasn't exactly an eye-catcher, but when you think about it, you can recall seeing it in certain places, usually in, say, royal bedrooms (don't ask how I know). Something evil was afoot.
"We left Les' house the next day; if they had already found us there, they would be certain to strike again. Ever since, we've been on the run. I had to split up with Les in Blackmoor (you've never stayed at the Comeback Inn, so you wouldn't understand; it's a story for another time). I don't know why Immortals and their agents are so interested in what I saw, or where these lizard-things are following me, but I see them, usually out of the corner of my eye. It's getting harder and harder to stay ahead of the competition.
"Which is why I've sent you this. Vhaletessa, the wizards of the future (who, I am not sorry to say, I never saw, as if their creations are any measure by which their looks can be judged...) are powerful indeed, and, while I have found little proof of widespread infestation, I have seen these golems disguised in various forms; I saw one a month ago looking exactly like King Hord of Ostland. I killed it, and as far as I know, the current (so to speak) Hord is the real one, but be wary. I suspect an invasion of some sort is under way. I'm trying to return home, possibly in a guise so that I can fool all of my hunters, but V.: I know you, and the Honor Islanders, are powerful. Investigate this, and see what defences you can raise. I hope that this message finds you. Do not trust anyone."