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Bad Luck Charm, part three

November 13, 2010

            The prince was pleased. “Very good, son.”  With the tone of voice nobles use for their sickly, over perfumed pets.
            But I didn’t let ‘em off that easy.  “I’ll take ye to him, but before we go, I’d like to join up with yer peers and all.”  Yer thinkin’, don’t I have any loyalty at all?  Men have only two loyalties in this world: family and his stomach.  I’ve lived through the reigns of about five monarchs and it makes very little difference if one or another sits the throne.  Ye pay taxes and ye do as yer told, same as always and ye try not ta get noticed.
            The prince’s eyes narrowed suspiciously.  The wizard gives me one more look and then shrugs indifferently, which actually was a good sign.
            “Why do you want to join me?”
            I bow again; real obsequies like and say. “Well yer lordship, by helpin’ ye out I kind of made meself a tad bit unpopular with the folks around these parts.  Ye don’t bring a lot of good fortune where ye ride usually.  Besides, I been lookin’ for an opportunity and ye seem to fit.  I’m handy with a sword, and can buy me own provisions.  Ye won’t regret havin’ me along.”
            The prince considers it for a moment then glances at the wizard, who shrugs again.  Like I said, a good sign.  The prince just assumed the wiz knows what kind of man I be because the prince nods.  “Very well, consider yourself one of my men.”
            I didn’t see any spell bein’ cast.  People just think a sorcerer can see things others don’t, mayhap wizards just believe they know people.  If any of them could it would be this fellow.
            Another bow and I try to act real grateful like.  Nobles get all impatient with stuff like that, but the truth is they like bein’ fawned over.  I suspect it has somethin’ to do with their delicate features and sensibilities.
            We leave the establishment and I can feel the stares of the other patrons.  Shady Brook is no good for me now that I’ve aided the enemy.
            Outside are two of the ‘peers.’  One was Lo’an the Red.  Not many folks are twenty stone with a beard the color of fadin’ sunset.  He had that great sword of his with all the runes carved into the blue steel.  I heard tell that he’s died several times when he was younger and there were several scars on him that looked the sort that a man wouldn’t wake up from.
            Dyin’ and comin’ back didn’t seem to make him cautious.  I never saw a more reckless man in me life.  Scared the spit out of people we fought.  Maybe dyin’ ain’t so bad and he wanted to get back to it.
            The other one was a small foreigner.  I mean real foreign, not like a neighborin’ country, but like from a land far away kind of foreign.   There was a bit of the twilight people’s blood in him, or I’m a darklin’s uncle.  Went by the name of Timis or some such, most just called him Whisper.  There’s no better name for him.  Of the two of them, Whisper was the one that scared me.
            Lo’an would come right at ye in a fight.  At least ye knew what ye were up against.  I never saw Whisper kill anyone, but saw plenty he’d killed.  By the looks of them they never saw him either.
            The rest of the peers were out in the woods waitin.’
            I gather’d me stuff and took ‘em out of the town and along the old, rutted lane that leads to the various farms of the valley.  Shady Brook was right pretty then.  The apple orchards were full of fruit.  Least ways, all of them but Talf’s.  Some kind of rot had run through the lot of them at his place.
            Somewhere along the way Whisper disappeared.  Don’ know when and I figure he was around close by, but it gave me a prickly feelin’ all the same.
            Walkin’ toward the remains of Talf’s burned out barn we passed several grave markers.  I recognized the ones belong to his parents.  I was there for the rites and all.  But the other ones were newer – a larger one and two small ones.  There was somethin’ sad and lonely about those markers, despite someone’s attempt to keep the area clear of weeds.
            Talf’s wife and wee ones.  Now, ye can learn a bit about bad luck charms right now if ye think on it.  Yer thinkin’ of the obvious.  I can see it on yer face.  Yer thinkin’ a bad luck charms loses his loved ones.
            Well, we all do at one point or another, except at such time as we leave them instead and if the priests are right ye go to join the love ones that have gone before, less of course we go to join those that hate us on account of our misdeeds.
            Yer closer if ye think a bad luck charm loses them tragically early on, but that’s only the start.  I see its time for a little help.  What happens to every hero?  I can see yer mind turnin’ like the wheel on a cart. 
            Yep, their family, spouse, children maybe the whole village they lived in gets massacred.  Many heros get sold into slavery as a child.  Don’t sound like good luck to me.  See, the tragedy’s what motivates the hero, propels them on their journey of discovery, vengeance and whatnot.  They would have stayed there and been a blacksmith or bakers like common people and died of old age otherwise.  Their bad luck don’t end there either, but I’ll show ye that later.
            See, a hero is a mixture of good and bad luck.  Most people, it just cancels out, but in heros it pools at the extremes of their lives, teeterin’ back amd forth.  Ye think hero’s have only good luck?  People with just good luck tend to be villains if ye look at it squarely.   Everythin’ goes their way, ‘til the end when their luck runs on ‘em.  A hero, though, struggles, tis what makes ‘em heros.
             A bad luck charm gets only half the luck of a hero.  The bad luck.  That’s the other thing about bad luck that ye ignored about the graves.  Bad luck charms don’t die very easy.  The bad luck keeps them alive.  Ye think that’s good luck, don’t ye?  Spend some time on a battlefield and ye’ll change yer view on that.  Death means the end of sufferin’.
             We came upon Talf’s hovel and the prince took everythin’ in and I can see the worry on his brow.  “You sure about this?”
            The wizard nods, “Yes, sire.”  I never heard anyone else use those words and sound like an equal, but the wizard did.
            He added. “My magic will protect us.”
            Now, I’ve done a lot of thinkin’ about those five words.  The way I figure it, all wizards use ‘em.  The successful ones get remembered as havin’ control of powers beyond the reach of mortals with the ability to see the contours fate has set for the world of men.  Visionary.
            The unsuccessful ones, well, there’s no one around to remember them makin’ the blame foolish statement if ye take me meanin’.  Course, then I found the words very reassurin’.  So did the prince.
            So, out comes rummy eyed Talf, half drunk, though where he got the drink I don’t like to think about.
            “That’s Talf, yer lordship.”  I say, though twas  hardly necessary.
            The prince nods.  If he looked uncomfortable in the tavern, he looked green here.
            “Talf.  Talf Cern?”
           “Yesss?”  Talf slurred.
            “I’m Prince Cathel.  I’m looking for men to join me on an adventure.  Kelig said,” the prince nods in me direction, “you might be interested in joining.”
            Now Talf looks at the prince for a moment and I can see the hope growin’.  Bad luck charms always think their luck is goin’ to change, but it don’t.  Talf still thought he had the makin’ of a hero.  Most men do when they’re young.  I did, although I didn’t have a proper name.  Sure, I had two syllables, but ye got have a name that sounds heroic, like Storm, or be named after some dragon or past hero, that or ye got a nickname as a youth that makes ye stand out somehow like Silk if yer a thief or Blade if yer a warrior.  Somethin’ simple and memorable.
            Sure, now, there are some stories that have plain names for their heros, but those tend to be stories about every day blokes that use their wits to kill the giant or whatnot before they get home to their wife in the cozy cottage. Just plain wish fulfillment for the commons, nuthin’ more.  Ye never hear of Ferd the barbarian king, it just don’t sound right. 
            Talf’s eyes linger on the graves for a moment, tis not enough to keep him.
            “Whatz de offer?”  I can hear the greed in Talf’s voice. 
            “An equal share of any loot, after I get the first pick of course, meals and whatever provisions you need.”  The prince answered.
            Talf considered it.  I tell ye now, I could see that his health wasn’ great.  The free food was better than he was doin’ at the moment, but still he bartered.  Mayhap, he sensed the prince’s need.
            “Gold crown month wagez.” Swayed Talf,
            The prince ground his teeth, but nodded.  “Done.”
            Talf stood there, smilin’.
            The prince frowns.  “Don’t you want to get your stuff?”
            “This it.”
            “Then lets be off.”  We head back up the road and it ain’t long before it begins.  We’re not far when we hear a crack, followed by a branch heavy wit apples fallin’ to the ground followed by Whisper landin’ on his feet. 
             The prince looked over at Fargyle.
             The wizard was unconcerned.  “These things are going to happen.  It’s the major force events that need to be postponed and guided to their proper proportions, interfering with the course of the minor inconveniences can lead to a build up of negative causality that will only dissipate through a major chaotic event.”  Or some such, the words get kind of jumbled when ye listen to a wizard.
            “You’re the vizard.”  Lo’an said in that particular accent of the northern tribes.  Twas the first time he spoke and I’ll tell ye, aside from the accent he spoke well for a man wearin’ a bearskin.  He wasn’t a typical crazed warrior from the steeps.
            I see the prince nod thoughtfully.  Whisper though, well tis hard to judge the features of foreigners sometimes, but from the look he gave Fargyle there was no love betwixt the two.

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