Iterative Fantasy

Fantastical Creations getting better, one idea at a time…

Prospero’s Prologue

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You decided to just ask him, after months of him making these kinds of comments.

Why do you talk like you’ve met your goddess?

The surprise is apparent in Prospero’s face. His mouth opens slack enough to see it below his mustache. It is quickly replaced with red flushed cheeks, not of anger, but embarrassment. A stammer appears. “Well, uh. Sounds barmy, I know. But, really… I, uh, have.”

Your disbelief is apparent, but is well deserved as often and as badly as Prospero puns and teases.

He sighs, knowing this is a common reaction. “It’s true. I suppose I should be able to tell this story now, and you have a right to ask with the way I talk about her. Though, I have to be careful how I tell it, because every time I don’t do it right, I notice I lose even more than usual when gambling.”

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say I’m special, either in a crazy ‘Go get a healer’ type way, or in an extra righteous and blessed way. But I did meet her.” He takes his divine icon off his belt, the silver medallion that looks like an oversized coin, with the profile of a woman on it. You’ve seen it every time you meet him. He points to the relief of the woman.

“This is what Tymora looks like. I saw her once. I drew the lines after seeing her, and gave it to a silversmith, who put the lines down on the face of this medallion. It commemorates the moment I met her, and she blesses that memory of her that I keep.”

He hands it to you to inspect. It is heavy, but when making a closer look, there is amazing detail in the silver. Hair, curly, flows down her neck and off her head. A regal profile, with a smile hinted on her lips. She looks human for a moment, then elven, and when you turn it this way and that, perhaps like a halfling. Something about the bright eye. Flipping the medallion over, there is the reverse profile, and it differs slightly. The hair is different. The smile is wider, as if she’s got a lopsided grin from the other side, but the eye is bright still. You twist it in the light, admiring the skill of the silversmith.

“It’s easy to become a priest, when you have a goddess like that. I envy those in the time of troubles. They slept under the same roof as her for months. Some of the elven priests remember when they met her and had dinner with her. We’re not even talking that long ago!”

He’s obviously becoming excited, talking about this. The priest delicately takes the medallion back, and then produces a small silver comb, set with blue aquamarines, from somewhere on his person. He shows it to you, but doesn’t offer it to hold, like he did the holy symbol.

“While that medallion is a memory of her, this comb was hers. It’s now my lucky comb. She gave it to me when I was still young, not quite an adult. I say she gave it to me in a dice game because when you play dice with Lady Luck and get something, it’s not like you won it.”

“It’s not a long story, really.”

“With my parents owning a brewery and a tavern, games of cards and chance always surrounded me. I would play with the older patrons when not working, and was known as a sharp player. But my strategy was simple: always bet big. If I lost big, father owned the place, so I wouldn’t get thrown out and all I’d lost are some pocket money. But this was the midsummer’s festival, and I’d been given a rare holiday to just enjoy it. So I did, and spent the evening playing at a couple of tables of games set up for locals and travelers.”

Whether you believe him or not, the dreamy tone of his remembrance and the sincerity are infectious. He holds the comb in one hand, and slightly twirls the mustache with his other as he recounts the events.

“But in the evening, there was a lady there, and not just some traveler. Growing up in the Dalelands, I’d seen plenty of beautiful elves, humans, and a few cute halflings. But never a woman like this. She had long, curly silver hair, and the pure, icy blue eyes. She drank ale by the quart, and laughed as heartily as anyone, but still had a unnatural grace and composition about her despite enjoying the revelry. Clothed in blue and white, simple cut but perfectly tailored. She looked noble, but enjoyed rubbing elbows with these villagers. I would have willingly lost any pot that night to get a word alone from her.”

“She joined our table where we were playing Ship of Fools, sitting to my right, on the other side of a merchant. She laid down ante, bought drinks for some, and played a few rounds chattering, challenging, and laughing with the rest of the players. I instantly fell in love with her smile. Once, when I left the table for another drink, I passed close by her and noticed that even in this crowded tavern she smelled like a fresh breeze over a field of lush grass, right after a summer’s rain.”

He is idly playing with the teeth of the comb, and hasn’t looked at you in moments as he stares off in nostalgia. He turns his attentions back to you and continues.

“Now, if you know anything about Ship of Fools, it’s the most arbitrarily lucky game I know of that is still a game besides “roll higher” than the other. Any card game takes more skill. Ship of Fools is practically pure luck. And the lady hadn’t been doing well, losing ante and also losing most of the side bets on people’s expected rolls, or if they would make cargo. When the previous round had ended in a tie because the merchant and someone else had both rolled the most cargo possible, the lady didn’t have ante. It was a large pot. Several people, including myself, had offered to pay it for her since she’d played the first round, but she refused with an infectious laugh. Instead, she pulled a silver comb out of her hair, and put it in the pot. Everyone protested, but she insisted, so we all put in a few more coins to match the price of the comb.”

“It was similar to this one.” He gestures with comb in hand. “Can you see where this is going? I couldn’t, and trust me, it’s not what anyone expected then.”

“I started the current round with a cargo point of four. It was not the best. Half of the time people get cargo between their three rolls, so only getting a four on the two remaining dice meant I’d most likely lost. There were eight of us total, in the circle. The person to my right was the hammer, or eighth in the circle, and came after the lady, who was then next to last, as seventh. The hammer was some sort of wealthy merchant as I mentioned, on his way through on the high road, overweight and dressed in expensive, soft clothes. I don’t think he appreciated my luck up to that point, and had commented as such in less than good humor as he had more drinks, despite not losing much at all.”

“Then a most peculiar thing happened. I kept my point. The man to my left didn’t make cargo at all. The next person after him, the third player, only got 3 cargo, After those, the fourth man placed a side bet with the fifth man that at least one of the two of them would at least get a five and a four on one roll out of the three sets of five dice, which would have given him money even if he didn’t make cargo. They both received all ones, twos, sixes, and threes, resulting in neither paying the other.”

“People can recognize a bad streak even faster than a good one. The fifth man made a side bet with sixth man that the fifth man would at least roll a 6 on one of his 15 dice. The wager was accepted, he rolled, but rolled all fives once, and assortment of others the rest. The sixth man, happy for at least getting a side bet from the fifth man, offered the fifth man terms that the sixth man would roll at least a three, which meant he could still win the pot if he made a cargo over four, even if he lost his side bet. In the first set he got cargo, but only made 2. Rerolling the two cargo dice, he rolled the same two more times, losing the pot and the bet with the fifth man!”

Prospero laughed, finishing this bit up. The technical odds and results would seem funnier to a more practiced gambler than you. Yet, through the storytelling, he conveys the let down and the surprise of the gamblers with a theatrical flare, obviously enjoying the retelling of the story.

“With the lady and the merchant left, the merchant seemed giddy at this point. He could win the largest pot of the night if the lady’s luck stayed consistent and his was somewhat average. I still couldn’t believe my cargo of four had held up to this point. Neither could others, because our table had gathered a crowd of people to see such horrible luck. A tragedy always attracts more to a theater, doesn’t it?”

“But when the silver haired lady was passed the little pewter dice cup with the five ivory dice inside, I swear the pewter gave a shine, or a glow. She made a dramatic show of shaking it. She asked, ‘Who will wager, with these cursed dice, that I’ll make cargo?’”

“I knew the chances of getting some cargo were even, and my point was only at four. It was easily beatable, well… beatable by any other players on any other night. But I also knew something was different having seen enough years of gambling. Still, I’d have paid two weeks wages to see her win the pot and get her comb back. I thought to myself, “It would be great if the lady beat the merchant with cargo. It’d be greater than great, I think. That’d be fantastic.”

“I didn’t realize I’d spoken those thoughts out loud until the merchant, hearing this by being still seated next to me, spoke up and nudged me for emphasis with his elbow.”

“’Oi! The boy here says he bets two week’s wages she gets a cargo of eight or higher than eight! Haha! I’ll take it! You better hope Tymora smiles upon you, lad!’” As he sat back, he winked at me with a haughty grin.”

“I visibly blanched.” Prospero does a horrible rendition of a wide eyed stare due to still being so animated about telling the tale. “I knew the rules. You don’t speak bets without expecting to pay them, and no one else at the table would take my apparent backpedaling as anything but cowardice. I looked down at the pot, which was sizable, and knew I couldn’t back down. While everyone pays ante in the same amount as everyone else to have a throw, no one that late into a festival day in a tavern owned by a brewery was counting to make sure they were good for side bets. I didn’t have two week’s wages for a side bet after most of my winnings were tied up in this one pot. I gave a little curse, under my breath, and stared with apprehension at the woman, hoping to the gods that the lady was as special as I thought.”

Prospero smiles, and pauses a moment, looking at you. He shakes his head. “It seems obvious how this ends, right? It turns out the lady is Tymora and she wins it all for me? I agree, that wouldn’t be much of a story.” He gathers himself again, continuing.

“So the lovely lady gave one more shake, the dice inside clattering, and loosed them for her first roll into the wooden tray we used as a dice ring. As she did so, she did the oddest thing, I thought at the time. She didn’t look at the dice. She just smiled at me.”

“Laughter went up around the table. She’d rolled a combination of 1s, 2s, and threes, giving her nothing. The merchant clapped me on the back, and took a long pull off his drink. He was a lot friendlier when he was winning and I looked to lose. She had two more rolls.”

“She gathered up all the dice, and rolled again. I tried to not audibly groan, and instead coughed into my drink, sputtering, as she had gotten a five, six, and a four, to give her a point of seven. She’d won the pot, and I’d lost both the pot and the bet.”

“You don’t know how much I despaired in that moment.” He stops, as if an idea came to him. “Well, I suppose you do if you’ve suffered any significant loss in your life. But, you know what I mean. At that age everything is devastating.” Satisfied with his caveat, he continues.

“It might be my father’s house, but I’d never lost more than I actually owned before. The shame would be immense, I’d be docked at least a week’s wages once my father paid for me, and I’d never live it down in the villages. Games of chance are for fun, but those who bet too much are treated rather seriously in a village where hard work is needed to get by.”

“The merchant laughed again, and mockingly toasted the lady, to the crowd’s mix of cheers and jeers. He put his hand out for the dice cup, and made a move to scoop up the dice with his other. The lady put a hand up, stopping him. ‘Hold a moment, I want to roll again.’ Gasps came from the crowd.”

“She smiled a bit, and looked at me, then the merchant. ‘You’re the hammer, aren’t you, good sir? Well, it’s tradition to hold your cargo at 9. Seven is barely average!’ She then picked up the two dice showing seven, and put them back in the cup, starting to shake it.”

“While I was dumbfounded, the merchant protested. ‘My lady, you have such a significant chance of winning! And the bet with the boy will not concern the pot. If I should win the pot over your roll of seven, I shall give you your comb back. My hair is not as fair as yours, and needs more than a comb to help it.’”

“His job was to sell things, and it did cause her to laugh. ‘Do you forget, good sir, that “Fortune favors the bold?” Dare all, and trust in the Lady of Luck. So I shall not trust in your rolls, but will only thank you for your gracious complement, and refuse your offer. I, for one, like the faith the young man has in me.’”

“The crowd roared with laughter and approval. One or two comments were made about how often I didn’t shave, or how much I’d NOT traveled outside the Dalelands. The merchant touched his head in begrudging respect, and sat back, looking a bit resentful at the rejected offer. His knuckles on the drink were white, I was told later.”

Prospero pauses again, looking at your expression. “Oh, right, you might not be familiar with the game. See, here were the stakes. If she rolled a three or two, I lost the wager but could win the pot if the merchant failed. If she rolled the same point as me, a four, then we could lose to the merchant or tie, and anyone could win next turn, but I’d lose the wager. A five through seven, I lost both. If the lady rolled eight or higher, which is unlikely on two dice, I then won the wager, but the lady could still lose her silver comb if the merchant rolled higher on his turn. So, back to the story, which is almost finished, I promise.”

“At that moment, I said ‘Oh, Lady help me,’ perhaps a bit too audibly, not sure if I meant to the woman sitting at the table or Tymora herself. The woman at the table smiled, shook the dice cup again, and this time I knew it glowed. The two dice tumbled over each other for minutes, it felt like, and one come to rest showing two pips. The other was spinning, as dice sometime do when thrown with excitement. The second dice came to rest as a two, for a total of three.”

“The merchant cheered at the edge of his seat, at least now getting his side wager. The crowd groaned in disapproval to see the woman lose her comb from her own daring and defiance of odds, and I was saved for a brief moment by custom, which required side bets to be paid after the pot, but the merchant didn’t hide his expectations of a payout to match several weeks’ wages from me. He rubbed his hands together, in the most stereotypically greedy manner I can impress upon you, and took the cup and dice from the lady. ‘Well, I suppose now that comb will look nice in my wife’s hair!’ he taunted. The lady just took a sip from her glass, as if nothing had been said, and as if she hadn’t just lost her comb.”

“The merchant chuckled as he placed the dice into the cup, gave them a cursory shake, and then spilled them upon the table. He got a ship from a five, a crew from a four, and two more fives and a four. The fifth and fourth man slapped each other on the back and laughed out loud to see the dice they needed earlier, but hadn’t lost money over.”

“The merchant looked unfazed without making a captain, and no cargo. He still had two more throws, but a part of me wished it was over already and I could get the hard part over with.”

“Again he gave a small shake, and again dice rolled out onto the table, only two this time as he kept his ship and crew dice, as well as the four, meaning all he needed was a six and any other number to win if he hedged his bets. The ivory dice didn’t even clatter very loudly on the wood. Two fives. The merchant cursed, and I started to hope. He needed a six, but with so many chances before, surely a six is bound to happen soon? I couldn’t be sure, what with the way the dice were rolling tonight. I wished that I could influence him somehow. He was scowling as he picked up the dice.”

“’I’ll make you an offer, good merchant!’ I called over the din.

‘What!?’ he scoffed. ‘You will?’ he said, distastefully and surprised. “I already have your wages, boy. I might win the pot as well in this throw. What is it, then?’ He was distracted, anxious.”

‘Like you said,’ I began. ‘You only need a 6 on one of these two dice to win the whole pot, and even if you don’t roll that six, you already have my wager. I’ll add to it. Roll a 1 on any of the dice you throw next, and if you lose the pot, I’ll give the pot I win to you to satisfy our wager and you can keep the surplus, minus the silver comb, which goes to me, to give to the lady.’

“Calls came from the crowd, suggesting I was crazy, in love, or rigging the game, or, as some suggested, I was somehow doing all three at once. People made the international gesture for doubling down, a few people called for the merchant to not take it. Through the almost wild state of the crowd, the lady caught my eye and smiled over the glass she held and winked. I’ll never forget the wink she gave me. Most people look so awkward when they wink, have you noticed? She even winked gracefully.”

Prospero continues in hushed tones. “The merchant looked at me for a moment. The room got quiet. I was doubling down, because, as I had counted, if I won the pot I’d have enough money to cover the wager by itself, with some silver leftover for a few drinks for the players. But I didn’t want him to win the comb.”

((to be continued when I finally get the ending perfect…))

Written by Mark

October 3, 2013 at 4:49 PM

Sergeant Mapple, Companion of Prospero

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((From his companion’s point of view.))

“I’d all the luck,” he thought.

There was that bloody half-elf, scaling a rocky position, as if there weren’t enough orcs in the area to fill in the Neverwinter river. He was silhouetting himself against the rising dawn like a rooster about to crow. He even put his hands on his hips, like he was proud of himself for obviously attracting too much attention.

“Er, yer Rev’rence,” Mapple called out from beside his gathered belongings. “It might’a be a good’un of a view, but dere’s a bit more ‘dan a ‘undred score o’ orcs in ‘da area. Yer sticking out like a sore ‘tumb. Might as well put a sign on yer back, “Eat me pointy ears.”

The large mustache on the half-elf’s face lowered a few degrees in disapproval. “But look at it, Sergeant Mapple! Even a man of your tastes can appreciate the sight of sparkling Neverwinter on a glorious spring’s day, sun rising over it’s port like a blazing jewel, coloring the waters with its…”

Sergeant Mapple never found out what colored the water for sure (sewage, he reckoned) because then the half-wit slipped while dramatically gesticulating for emphasis, and tumbled down the rocky outcropping that created the sides of their hidden camp. The veteran of many battles grabbed his things, stood up, and walked over to offer the cleric a hand up.

“Can’t say I’m not appreciatin’ a good view, yer Rev’rence, but yer temple paid me good coin to keep ya safe till Neverwinter. Said I’d collect more fer da job with all yer limbs.”

Reverend Prospero dusted his tunic and breeches off, and produced a comb from somewhere on his person and tidied up the very lush mustache. Mapple believed the atrocious face decoration was growing so long to make up for the rather apparent lack of hair on the Reverend’s head. It wasn’t military, that’s for sure. If he had that kind of facial hair, a kobold dragonshield would have pulled it out by now.

“Well, Mr. Mapple…”

“Sarg’nt, Rev’rend. I insist.”

“Well, Sergeant Mapple, it is an inspiration to me to see our goal so closely at hand. Tymora has truly blessed us this far on our journey. You shall finally enjoy the comforts of a nice large city, and I shall finally see the adventure that Tymora has deemed for me to take part in as part of my new assignment.”

“If you’ll pardon me, Rev’rend, but the hobgoblin slavers patrolling upriver were enuff adventure fer me. I’d just like to get you to Neverwinter and have some warm, strong cider.”

The priest scoffed. “Why, it was only half a dozen of them! And we had a fool proof plan of letting the prisoners go from inside the hold. We barely even needed luck at all! Tymora was bored, I bet, watching us crash through the hold, blowing one end of the ship to smithereens, and then sedately floating down river on salvage until we hit shore. I don’t see how it could have gone any other way.”

“I still feel soggy, and dat bloody mess was a week ago, Rev’rend.”

“Right! No, this time, my friend…

“Sarg’nt, Rev’rend. I still insist.”

“Well, Sergeant Mapple, this time we’ll be saving hundreds of people! Thousands! The blessings of Tymora and the stories about how we did it will spread all the way back to the Dale Lands, and even the elves of Myth Drannor will sing of Tymora’s faithful servant, and his fellow brave crusader guiding them both through untold danger!”

“Danger is much better be’in told about, Rev’rend. Dat’s how you know which bit ta stick the sword in.”

“Tymora bless your pragmatism, Sir Mapple.”

“Rev’rend, I really must-”

“Sergeant, by Tymora! I meant to say Sergeant that time!”

The priest of Tymora gathered his pack, and began walking out of the rocky cleft, towards the seaport of Neverwinter which sat still many miles in front of them. Sergeant Mapple gave a long suffering sigh, slung his shield on his back along with his pack, and said another of many prayers to Ilmater. He needed less luck, and just a bit more patience.

Prospero, Reverend of Tymora

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A well groomed, lean half-elf meets you on the road. A large smile is mostly hidden by a reddish mustache of ridiculous proportions. You notice it seems ridiculous because he has no hair on his head, except for a low knot, tied backwards on the back of his otherwise bald scap. He does have thin eyebrows but you had to look a bit longer than is socially acceptable to see them in the sunlight and against his fair skin. He wears chain armor that gently clinks as he strides, and a bright blue symbol of Tymora adorns the tunic over it. A brass holy symbol dangles from his belt along with pouches, and he carries a pack bursting with supplies as with ease. He’s obviously been traveling a while judging from the keep of his clothes, but he looks scrubbed and combed.

An armed soldier of many more years, and of more wear and tear, strolls a few meters back. He is chewing a long stalk of grass, taking no heed of you or the half-elf except to give you a nod that communicates acknowledgement and an intent to be very quiet. His thumbs are tucked into his sword belt, and a shield covers his own pack.

The half-elf’s voice is enthusiastic as he clasps forearms with you in greeting. You’re first inclination is to not be grabbed by a stranger, but the priest doesn’t seem to notice this.

“Well met! Tymora’s blessings be upon you, traveler. May your dice always turn up doubles and may your bluffs always be believed.”

He resumes walking the same direction as you are. A few minutes pass as you two walk along the dirt road, apparently heading in the same direction. He whistles absentmindedly, taking in the sights and even making a very enthusiastic deep breath through his nose.

“Ahhhh… Don’t you love the weather we’ve lucked into?”

“Certainly it’s lucky! Tymora must have something to do with the weather. It’s too random to be anything but chance.”

“Ok, right, sure, there’s a weather god, but how could anyone be that fickle? I mean, if they were managing the weather, do you think it would be so bad all the time? Or change so much? No, I’d make it sunny every day, and rain for a half hour in the afternoon.”

“Good point, I suppose they could be evil. That would explain why every time I randomly came up for mucking stalls back at the temple as an acolyte it was raining.”

“No, it wasn’t on purpose at all! I have been personally reassured from the High Priest of Tymora himself in my home temple that they assigned these duties by drawing lots, or casting dice. As if Our Lady would approve of any other method!”

“Well, I suppose She was teaching me something.”

You could hear him pronounce the capital letter in reference to his goddess. He seems to think a moment.

“Patience, maybe? I never took the time to figure it out, really. I was too busy cleaning up most of the time. I was very lucky to just be cleaning up after all the trouble that happened.”

“What trouble? I won’t bore you with all the details. But despite our patron deity being called Lady Luck, the Dale Council does not approve of the gambling ring I set up for a fun, alternative worship service, even though all the money “the house” won went to the church.”

“No, it wasn’t just that, since you asked. I suppose they also got frustrated a bit about the reduced rate alcohol sales since it’s easy to run thin margins by selling donations. Apparently that bit into sales at the inn across the street, which the vice-chancellor of the council ran. But inebriated people are wonderfully random! Very friendly when you brew using blessed water, too. The minotaur even apologized for walking through that house. And I fixed the hole, so I know it wasn’t too big.”

“Yes, there was more. But really, I insist, enough about the tough times where Tymora didn’t bless me as much as I would have wanted. Let’s focus on the blessings and good fortune we do have, my friend!

You don’t remember swearing any oaths of friendship.

“We should be optimistic about the here and now. Just like this wonderful weather, theological doubt of it’s source aside. I am glad to be here, and recently ordained, and on my very first assignment. They even picked it especially for me they said.”

“Why for me? I’m glad you asked, but I’m supposed to be humble as a priest. But it’s just you and me on the road, right, friend?”

You still have your doubt about the friendship.

“You see,” he continues. “Apparently, even to my own surprise, all that patience and such I was learning must have made my wisdom practically radiate out of me. The temple enclave who handle assignments said that a city like Neverwinter could use someone as lucky as I am to get them out of trouble.”

“Yes, that is the gist of it, as I gathered. I think their exact words were ‘Your luck could be the downfall of any enemy, no matter how mighty!’ And then we all laughed for joy of me receiving such an important assignment right out of acolyte-ship, of course. All of Tymora’s priests have a bit of gambler in them, so we’re all optimists at heart and quick to laugh.”

He chuckles, and he inquires about you for a few moments.

“Oh, you’re headed to Neverwinter as well? Wonderful! See, a coincidence! I believe those are just Tymora working anonymously.”

“You’re an adventurer too? Also fabulous! I figured the Undead hordes besieging the city should be easy foes for you and I. I mean, how lucky could undead be? They already died once, am I right?.”

He laughs quite a bit at his own joke. Wiping a tear on his sleeve after few moments and the laughter pauses, he continues.

“Oh… Yes, Tymora does hate the undead. She prefers beings with free will as worshipers and… um, just living people in general, probably. And I think she feels that the supposedly intelligent undead already had their chance, and so are sort of mocking her.”

“Right! Exactly, this is serious business, I agree. I should probably not make too much light of it. But I believe we can be of real help here, and shed some light of our own on a dark situation. Whether it’s tending wounds, or crumpling the undead into dust, it’ll be a grand adventure, and Tymora loves a good adventure. They say the grander, and more daring, the more She can bless you.”

“Well, that’s not an actually expressed promise anywhere in the writings, per se, but I do know, that one of these days, I’ll be lucky enough to meet Her face to face.”

He sounds almost wistful, and pauses a moment. He gives a small sigh.

“In the meantime, She’ll watch out for me, and if you stick close, both of us.”

The afternoon, for whatever reason, continues to be sunny and enjoyable. Eventually, he remembers to tell you his name.

Prospero, Reverend of Tymora.

Written by Mark

June 24, 2013 at 10:31 AM

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