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Welcome to Imaginary Realities' mythic memoirs. Each month you will find here a new story; tales of astonishing adventure, daring deeds, surprising success or terrible tragedy - the stuff of myth and legend.
Your story is kept in here for posterity.
As is to be expected, our narratives are connected in some way to muds. Some are real epic adventures that actually happened on a MUD, recounted in a grand style. Others might be taller tales based on MUD events or merely inspired by a MUD world.
Yet, these stories do not simply leap forth, fully formed. No, these are your stories, sent in by you so that your words and deeds will live forever rather than fade into obscurity. This means this column will die a rapid death if no one sends anything in... Here's your chance - if you want us to continue presenting mud-fiction, contribute something. It doesn't have to be a fully fledged, polished product - anything is better than nothing and we can always work to give it a shine ourselves.
This first tale, I provide myself - based on an adventure I had long ago, with friends on one of the first muds I played. I've changed the names to protect the innocent but tried to recapture the feelings of excitement, fear, dread and relief I felt as I played this way back then.
Read on, and enjoy - next month, your own tale could be here.
- Scatter ///\oo/\\\
You want a tale, child? Very well, I'll give you a tale - from times of old when I was but a naive young girl and the world was a much different place from the way it is now. I'll tell you the tale of how three of us set forth to explore the world, with nowt but the foolish enthusiasm of youth to protect us. Mayhap, you can learn something from the tale.
In those days I lived in Comgal, the large city on the eastern coast. I was learning magic - real magic - and thoroughly enraptured with my wondrous new abilities. Among my friends were two with whom I spent much of my free time and it was these two that accompanied me on a daring voyage. Traolach was one - a handsome fellow too. He was in training with the Guild of Warriors and had already gained some impressive fighting skills and more than a few trophy scars. The other was Aoife and in many ways she couldn't be more different from Traolach. She was dedicated to the priest hood of Grainne and so she was learning the healing arts and filling her days with peace and prayer. Yet, different as we three were we often found ourselves wandering the city together.
Medusa, someone to take the edge off your sword.
This was a time in Comgal when some strange, exotic items were beginning to turn up - artwork, statues, pottery, even weapons the like of which had never been seen before. They appeared in the pawn shops and market stalls and no one ever seemed to know where they had come from or who had owned them before. We found them fascinating, intriguing and we began to investigate, piecing together the little tidbits of information we could find. What we found out was simple but surprising - there seemed to be a strange new land, far across the Emerald Sea! We could find no one who'd been there or claimed to know about it, but the rumors being whispered gave it an exotic name - Vzar.
Well, our imaginations ran riot and we came up with a daring idea - we would sail to this strange new land of Vzar return with more valuable items and get all the fame and glory of discovering a new land. I can't recall exactly how we came to this plan or who it was that first suggested it. I'm fairly sure that alcohol was involved yet not even the cool, calm light of day the next morning was enough to dissuade us from such a folly. Ah, the blindness of youth - it should have been so obvious that someone had already traveled there and back to bring such items to Comgal in the first place. And surely, if it was such an easy trip, Vzar would have been discovered long past.
The excitement of such a venture got us all fired up and we began making arrangements to undertake the trip. I spoke with Mahgnus himself, the Magister, to explain my absence from the Academy and he said nothing to discourage me from such a voyage. Mahgnus was widely thought the most knowledgeable, most powerful mage in the world and all of us students of magic considered him a friend. If he didn't warn me of danger, how dangerous could it be?
Aoife took a similar leave of absence from the Temple of Grainne and we all met up again to discover Traolach had secured us a boat. Ah, me - such a boat it was. A small sailing boat, barely adequate for a trip up the coast let alone a voyage across the sea into unknown waters, but to us it seemed a magnificent, beautiful ship - perfect for our epic exploration. And after all, I had sailed a boat once and Aoife too had been to sea - of course we could handle it.
We took a day to gather some supplies and the next morning we set sail under blue skies with a mild wind pushing us east into the calm sea. Only now, at this late stage, did I begin to feel some misgivings. As Comgal slowly slipped below the horizon to the west, I started to appreciate just how big a place the Emerald Sea was. Suddenly it didn't seem such a simple thing to sail all the way across. But the Venture, as we had named our boat, slipped nimbly across the waves and as time passed uneventfully I began to relax again.
We sailed that way for several days - heading roughly east in blissful ignorance of the need for charts or maps, caring only that the mystical Vzar was somewhere that way, over the sea. At night we dropped anchor and slept, raising the sails again the next morning. Aside from a little sea-sickness, we encountered nothing to dampen our enthusiasm or give us cause for concern. Naturally, all this was to change.
It was the fourth, or maybe the fifth day that the ocean decided to give us our first lesson. Night had fallen and rather than risk becoming lost in the star lit darkness, we had once again dropped sails and anchor and settled down to sleep. We were not granted much rest on this night - something began to bang against the side of the boat. For a minute, as I woke, it scared me - my heart beat loud in my ears and all my hairs stood on end. Traolach, ever practical, muttered that we must have bumped into some floating object and stood to see what it was.
With this ordinary explanation my fears seemed to evaporate and so I was utterly unprepared when Traolach shouted with alarm and came scrambling over us, grabbing for a weapon. As my heart leapt into my throat, my thoughts seemed to freeze in terror - there was a tentacle reaching over the side of the boat. Something was trying to climb in. Something from out of the sea. Something with tentacles.
Naturally, living as we did in Comgal in those difficult days, we had all fought before - even fought for our lives before. But to fight in the darkness against a strange sea monster in a small boat that threatened to tip us into the cold sea - ah it was far more terrifying than any battle I had been in up to then. It was fortunate for us the creature wasn't larger or the Venture would surely have capsized and lost us all but even so it was heeling over sharply and Traolach's valiant efforts were not making much impact on the thing.
It was strong and vicious too - with many of its tentacles tipped with spikes and claws. In the close quarters of the rocking boat, I dared not try my beloved new fire spells - not that the risk to the wooden boat occurred to me, I simply didn't want to hit Traolach or Aoife and the motion of the boat distracted me from casting.
As it became clearer that the creature was not just fierce and determined, but also very tough, Aoife ceased her own efforts at combat and dropped back to pray. It turned out to be a wise decision for Grainne heard her and saw fit to heed her request. Through Aoife's constant prayer she was able to heal Traolach's wounds almost as fast as the monster could inflict them. Aoife's movement also served to better balance the boat and I felt able to cast some magic of my own and contribute to the effort. I still wasn't willing to try fire and thinking water would likely be a bad choice for a sea monster, I strove to remember what I had learned of controlling air. As Traolach battled to keep the monster at bay, I began my cast - concentrating on the air just behind it, twisting, rolling, adding speed and energy.
As the whirlwind sprang up around the beast, we were almost saved. The first impact of the roiling wind nearly tore the creature from the boat but somehow it managed to keep a grip. Then the wind rapidly went from near savior to near downfall as it began to stir the sea - in my haste I had forgotten the impact of wind on water. The Venture tipped and tossed in the sudden waves, and we were all but pitched into the water. At the cries of my companions I had to quickly cease my efforts, letting the wind collapse to nothingness.
Through Traolach's efforts, the creature was noticeably wounded, with cuts and gashes gaping and bleeding black ichor into the sea. But Traolach too was hurt and showing signs of failing, despite Aoife's continuous healing. My thoughts flashed and suddenly I remembered a simple spell - taught so long ago that I'd almost forgotten it - to transfer strength from oneself to another. Quickly, I dropped back next to Aoife, out of the creature's reach and began to cast.
My first attempt failed and I began to wonder if indeed I could remember the spell at all. Traolach began screaming for me to do something before he was overwhelmed. Fighting against haste, I concentrated again trying to build the link between myself and him, trying to work quickly but without hurrying and making another mistake. Then, abruptly, the connection clicked. It opened in my mind like a great dark hole, sucking at my soul. I vividly remember the way my strength seemed to drain from my body, how I struggled to give of myself without losing all of myself into it. Treacherous memory now brought the Magister's words to my ears again, "a simple spell, but deceptively dangerous..."
I think I had my eyes closed but I remember hearing Traolach's exuberant war cry as he felt my power flowing into him. With my strength added to his own, Traolach's flashing sword began to bite deep into the creature, striking off it's tentacles cleanly when they threatened. Dimly, I heard Aoife's prayers trail off into exhausted silence but her part had been done and done well - it was only a few moments later that the sounds of battle ceased. As the dead monster slid back into the dark depths, the Venture lurched upright with a jerk that shook everything. I would have fallen, but it turned out I already had - I was slumped in the bottom of the boat, with hardly the strength to do more than breathe and tremble. I knew, though, that I had to do more - I had to end my spell before it ended me.
It was more difficult than I could believe - the magic was drawing from me, feeding from me to pass strength to Traolach. It twisted from my control like wet soap, taking the power I tried to focus on breaking it and whipping it away to pass through the link. Traolach said later that I cried out in a strangled gasp, begging for help - I don't remember that but fortunately he realized what to do. He hit me. Hard. Square on the temple, with the hilt of his sword.
The blow knocked me out and in doing so saved my life, shattering the flow of magical energy through my body and mind. I came to sometime the next morning with a splitting headache and a beautiful big bruise but the dangerous spell was gone and we had survived the night. We were all wet and cold, quiet and subdued that morning. I had barely the strength to sit up and Traolach had several nasty looking wounds. Aoife tended to us, providing a drink that made me feel somewhat better and dressing Traolach's injuries. She tried further prayers for his health but I think we had long used up whatever patience Grainne had for us and no easement of his hurt resulted.
As we took stock of our situation, we became somewhat grim. Many of our supplies were gone, lost overboard or coated in that foul-smelling ichor the creature had leaked from its wounds. The Venture was intact and seemed sea worthy, but we were adrift with no anchor and the sail had been rent into useless ribbons. We still had some oars in the bottom of boat but our lodestone was gone and the weather had conspired against us - smooth grey clouds covered the sky, leaving no clues to direction.
Bleakly we mocked our former optimism, Deoch the Dark One had taught us a cruel lesson in the dangers of the world. All we desired now was home - thoughts of fame, riches, glory and adventure now seemed distant and ridiculous. Exhausted still, I slept fitfully that day, as we drifted through the grey seas, hoping for sign of the sun to give us a heading. Without the stars, that night was black and filled with nervous tension. We sat huddled together, peering into the darkness and saying little. When morning finally came it was a blessed relief but also a disappointment. The ominous clouds lingered, denying us clues to the position of the rising sun. I began to fear what might happen if a storm blew up.
It wasn't until the afternoon that breaks in the clouds offered us a glimpse of the sun. With a rough direction to follow, Traolach began to row us towards home. Even with the wind behind us, we seemed to be making very little progress. We took turns at the rowing, but neither Aofie nor I really had the strength or stamina for it and it fell to Traolach to do the honors - despite the harm he had suffered. When night fell, we kept going, by unspoken accord. When Traolach had to rest, Aoife and I took over - whatever little progress we could make was better than drifting.
I do believe Aoife's prayers must have regained Grainne's favor, for on the second morning of constant rowing, we sighted land to the west. Jubilant, we celebrated and Traolach pulled strongly at the oars with renewed vigor. Soon we could recognize the land - we were near Comgal! We were some distance to the north, admittedly - but nearly home and so relieved. We turned to the south, aiming for the harbor we could now see in the distance.
Alas, Deoch was not done with us yet. Our meager seamanship took the Venture into waters real sailors knew to avoid. By the time we realized what was happening, it was already too late. The Venture was caught by fast, dangerous currents and swept towards the looming cliffs. We put all our strength to the oars, but to no avail. I tried spell casting, but the sea was easily too much for the scanty skills I had in conjuring water.
Sharp-eyed Aoife sighted a gravel beach beyond the rocks and Traolach gave up fighting the current and tried simply to steer us across the flow to reach it. It was a desperate gamble and as the sea threw the battered Venture around, none of us really expected to reach the shore in one piece.
It was then that I realized I had an opportunity - I felt I was probably close enough to the shore that I could transport myself to safety. It was a spell I had learned but recently and I had not the knowledge or practice I'd need to transport my friends - but myself alone, that I could manage. I could save myself. To my credit, I wavered. I was torn between my fear of being shattered upon the rocks and a sense of duty to my friends. I like to think I would have decided to stay in the boat and ride it out to the end with them.
I'll never know for sure - the choice was denied me. The moments I hesitated were moments too long. The teeth of the sea rose up to crash, black, jagged and final, through the bottom of our ill-fated craft. As the water began to pour through the rent, the surge of the sea pushed the boat up, up and over - casting us into the roiling waves.
Now, belatedly, I tried my cast, striving to teleport to the shore. I didn't have a hope - it took so much effort simply to stay afloat, there was no way could I concentrate on a spell. I gave up the attempt hastily and focussed on just staying up, breathing and swimming towards shore. For an eternity I seemed to struggle against wave after wave, feeling myself hurled against rocks, buoyed up, sucked under - breathing air and water in almost equal amount.
Then, finally, somehow, I was hauling myself out of the water onto the narrow strip of exposed rock at the base of the cliff. I spent some time catching my breath and hardly daring to believe I had made it, before reluctantly I stood to search for signs of my friends. Some stroke of fortune had preserved us all - I found Aoife clinging to the edge of the rocky shelf and pulled her up to safety. Traolach, a much better swimmer than us, had made it back to the beach and our search for him met his for us at its edge.
Of the Venture, all that remained was splintered wood, drifting forlorn amongst the surf. We clasped each other and rejoiced at our survival. Limping back to Comgal, we laughed at our pride, our presumption, our glorious folly. And once back we found, to our ironic amusement, a spectacular sailing ship moored in the harbor - whilst we had been away seeking the glory of Vzar, the glory of Vzar had arrived without us.
This column will depend on your contribution - all of you out there who are exploring, adventuring, creating legends on muds every day. Send in your stories and become a part of the bigger myth. We can polish any rough spots, smooth out any bumps - or if you wish, even write your story for you if you give us enough detail of what happened and why. Simply use the form provided, or send in your story via email.
July 2000 Imaginary Realities, the magazine of your mind.
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