October 12th, 2004

duke-juggle

It’s better to die upon your feet than live upon your knees

Friday night we arrived a bit late at OtherWorld. Well not precisely late, but right when everyone was already settled, and things were just beginning to get started. We dumped our bags in a corner and were quickly introduced to the other members of our group.

C and I had arrived together, and we knew we’d be a part of the same group. That left 4 unknowns, since we travel in groups of 6. Much to my delight, I found an old friend P standing there talking with some strangers in the area I’d been told was my group! I stopped with my head cocked at him, trying to catch his eye, deciding if it was really him or just somebody with similar facial characteristics. He saw me, and he said “Excuse me, I have to hug someone.” I gave an excited squeal when he came over, and we exchanged big hugs.

Neither of us had been sure if the other would be there. I told him that I’d hoped he’d be on staff, but hadn’t known for sure. He said, “No I’m not staff, I’m your ranger!” It turned out they were letting him attend OtherWorld again as an experiment, one of only two people ever allowed to. Then C came up and greeted P as well, then we met the other 3 members of our party.

Our party consisted of Raven the rogue (that was me), Cedric the mage, Sunflower the cleric, Lauren the paladin, Jonah the ranger, and Rutger the bard. We did a short get-to-know-you exercise, then listened to a bunch of explanation of how stuff would work (battle, spells, etc) over the weekend. We changed into our costumes. Then we were issued our equipment – swords, money, spell information, maps… stuff like that.

Then we Entered the Story. Everything I am about to describe actually happened. We didn’t just sit around a table and create this story in words, we actually lived and experienced it. Our group gathered together outside, and a gentleman introduced as the Storyteller read a tale from a large book. He walked backwards as he told the story, and we followed where he led. He told of the adventurers from the island duchy Keer. They were on a quest to find help from a group of heroes known as the Knights of the Golden Circle who could to save their island from a terrible sea monster which was destroying all their ships. They had journeyed many days to this place at Worlds End where, according to their duchess’s prophetic dream, help could be found. They had been robbed along the way, and they had few possessions and little money. Finally after a long day’s travel, they came upon a gaily lit tavern, and they entered inside…..

Our Storyteller left us at the entrance to a building, and we left our “real” lives behind to become those adventurers from Keer. We opened the door to find a tavern lit with candles and a large fire, filled with village people and nobles engaged in boisterous conversation. We were greeted by a friendly barkeep who ushered us to a table and generously gave us a plate of bread, cheese, and fruit “on the house” (though I’ve forgotten why).

I took off my travel cloak and leaned my sword against the wall behind me. It was nice to sit down and enjoy the food, looking around to get my bearings. The tavern was filled with people. The only thing we knew was that we were to look for a friend of our Duchess, a man named Aubry. A couple of gypsies came up and admired our mage’s hat. Several other friendly folk came up to say hello, and ask where we’d traveled from. Were we here for the festival, they wondered? For tomorrow was the Day of Mirrors, one of the sacred holidays of the land. We told them of our quest, and asked if they could provide any leads or pointers.

Everyone who had heard of the Knights of the Golden Circle said that they were long-dead, but they wished us luck in our quest. We did eventually track down Aubry, who pointed us to another person, who pointed us to another person. We got to know a lot of the townspeople, and we suffered from a bit of “information overload.” We learned a whole lot in a very short evening, and I for one probably forgot much more than I learned.

Eventually, we met a gentle cleric named Hyacinth. She said that she might have some information about the Knights for us, but could we ask her tomorrow instead? She was just too tired and distracted to talk. We agreed to meet with her at the inn for breakfast the next morning.

The evening was pleasant, with lot of people milling around, plenty of food and drink, and cheerful conversation. Then suddenly our merriment was interrupted by a pounding on the walls and windows, and an eerie howling. Silence fell as everybody turned to the windows in fear. Strange beasts in black-and-white were pounding at the door, reaching through... “Close the windows!” shouted the barkeep. The open windows were closed, but the beasts continued to howl and try to pound their way in. “Wood Spites,” somebody identified. I looked around at the people murmuring in fear; the room looked suddenly dark, and the walls felt very thin.

“A song,” somebody said urgently. “We can drive them away with cheer.” He started to sing a drinking song. At first just a few tentative voices joined in, and the noise from the wood spites was still overpowering the song. But then more and more of the townsfolk raised their voices in defiance of the danger. It was clear this was a popular song that everybody knew. When they reached the song’s chorus, the music was hearty and strong as everybody chorused the final lines:

So raise a glass and toast to them, for everyone agrees
It’s better to die upon your feet than live upon your knees!


I looked to the windows -- the wood spites were gone. The tavern was warm and cheerful once again, the fire and the camaraderie driving away the darkness of the night.