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Monday, August 21, 2006

3.1.6.2. The Red Envelope and the Treasure Map (Part Two)


Meanwhile, Robert has just finished his bath in the inn bathroom and walks to his room. His face looks a bit relaxed, but he can’t stop thinking why a girl can make him adapt a healthy, clean lifestyle he hated, that was compelled to him during his service to Duke Walthorn and his days in the Marlham Palace.

‘Bathing at least once a day is for royalties, for Vadis’ sake. For us commoners and adventurers, once a week or once a month is just satisfactory for a perfect health. And this “cooked well done” meal policy... In the forests, the options are only “medium rare” or “burnt black”. Huh, are you a royalty or something? Just loosen yourself, will you, and learn the ways of the hunter.’ Robert once said that in an argument with Carolyn.

To this, Carolyn responded with, ‘This is for your own good, Rob. A healthy habit will max up your hunting performance. You need to stand against the competition and face danger every day, right? Get the job done before anybody else. You need to be thankful that I didn’t force you to be a vegetarian.’

‘But, I’m at the max of my performance!’

‘No, you’re not. Remember Grad.’

Andreas who was listening to them at that time added a comment, ‘Aye, she’s got a point, you know.’

Robert plainly can’t make up any more excuses to win the argument. His face expression stayed cool, and he kisses his ring habitually.

‘I take that as “agreed”,’ said Carolyn in triumph.

Robert’s recollection ends as he reaches the door to his room. Sighing, he opens the door and goes inside. As he rubs his towel on his hair to make sure his hair is dry enough, he glimpses onto his table and surprise comes on his face.

He sees a strange red envelope lying there. Robert comes closer and although his face resumes being expressionless as usual, Robert does feel curious and cautious to go near the envelope, even to open it. The envelope has the name ‘Robert Chandler, Monster Hunter’ written on it. Robert tears the envelope open. Only a piece of parchment is inside. The parchment is blank, but then dots of ink appear on it, forming a series of words. Robert thinks this must be an enchanted letter, a very important letter written and sent by a very important person. Only kings and anyone important than a king use this.

So, as the words are complete, Robert reads the letter. There’s no signature and sender’s name on it. No seal or anything. Robert reads the letter anyway, and then his eyes are widened, his expression changes to a mild surprise. Robert then closes the letter and takes it with him as he walks out from his room towards Father Andreas’ room.

He hears Father Andreas in there with Carolyn. They are praying with murmuring voices. Robert can’t hear what they say clearly, although anyone can pray to Vadis with any language he or she is fluent with. Robert just stands in front of the room, and waits there because it is inappropriate to interrupt a praying in progress. Maybe this is the answer of their prayer, Robert thinks, staring at the envelope on his hand.

The praying finishes in a while. Robert comes in and finds Father Andreas and Carolyn on their knees on the floor. Andreas sees Robert and says, ‘Hi, Rob, what’s up?’

Robert answers, ‘Hmm. The next time you two want to pray together, be sure to call me, okay? We’re a party, and we’re like a family. So I have the right to know what’s going on...’

Andreas interrupts him hastily, saying, ‘Oh, ‘twas nothing, really. Carolyn just came here to ask about... er... some Vadisian dogmas. Just a little thirst to quench, it’s no big deal. So, what’s on your mind?’

Robert feels that Andreas is trying to hide something from him, but he decides not to inquire about this any further, as there’s a more pressing matter at hand. He talks,

‘I just found a letter in a red envelope on my desk, with my name on it. It has no sender’s name, and I think we’ve got a job from a mysterious person. Here, take a look.’

Robert puts the envelope on the table. Carolyn picks it up and is going to read it, but she sees no word on it. She exclaims with surprise,

‘Hey, this letter is blank! And you said you’ve read it?’

‘Yes. The letters appeared by the time I saw it.’

Andreas says with a nod, ‘Hmm. This letter is enchanted. Only the person it is addressed can read this. We apply this magic in Valanis. I happened to write this sort of letter, by Pope Xylen’s order. But anyone other than the pope can send this letter. She never used red envelopes before.’

‘It seems I have to read it to you guys,’ Robert concludes, taking the letter and reads it to his comrades. The letter says,

To whom this may concern;

We hereby ask you to undertake this urgent task of great importance. This concerns the future and the people of Aurelia. The great sword of Deathblade Zweihänder is known as the confinement of the vanquished Dark Lord Vordac’s spirit. We just heard a rumor that a person that is appointed by The Dark Lord as his ‘heir’ is attempting to retrieve the sword, use it, free The Dark Lord’s spirit and become Vordac’s new host.

So, please stop him. Kill him, as he is as corrupted as Adair, the Sodomos himself. The sword is kept in Enia’s Sanctum, in a dormant volcano in Western Aurelia. One of our agents will find you, give you directions and guide you there. If you succeed, you will be rewarded beyond your wildest dreams by the grace of Vadis and Enia.

May Vadis’ blessing be with you and takes you to safety and success in your mission.

The letter has The Pope of Valanis’ seal on its bottom. Carolyn reacts after Robert finished reading the letter, ‘Enia’s Sanctum! Enia, the Mother of Eternia! I was from Thyrine, and my mother sent me to Valanis to learn Vadisian instead of Enian! And this place, even we Thyrinians don’t know where it is! These ‘agents’ must be the selected few who actually know where the place is! We MUST do this mission – just skip the rewards – by Vadis’ sake!’

Andreas puts his hand on his chin, rubbing his beard with his fingers. He is thoughtful at the moment, trying to recall any information in his memory and link this to this matter at hand. Robert and Carolyn is thoughtful too, they must calculate every risk and prepare for anything.

‘This Vordac’s heir must be powerful,’ Robert says.

‘But no one, even the sender knows not who he is. So they invite each and every possible person with power, and one among them must be him,’ says Andreas.

‘But how can we determine Vordac’s heir among the invitees? Remember, they all will go there to “protect” the sword.’

‘It’s a mystery. The heir can be you or me. The answer is there, hidden in our hearts. I think our best bet is anyone who wants to use the sword. The Deathblade is known as an all-powerful enchanted two-hand sword, once wielded by the Invader of Arcadia, Duke Mildred Urganon, bastard son of The Archmage of Chaos, Mandrach Urganon. A jet-black sword, with a winged devil carved on its hilt. A true rival for the Angelic Sword of Justice with an angel carved on its hilt.’ Andreas keeps trying to recall anything he knows about Deathblade Zweihänder and its grim history.

Carolyn cuts in, ‘So, the Deathblade itself can be the reward, right? I mean, the heir may only free Vordac’s spirit without wanting to use the sword. Without Vordac’s spirit, the sword can be used by anyone without having to be Vordac’s heir. So, the only way we can find out is to go there and choose which side we wanted to be in: sword protectors or sword claimers. I heard some traps are also set there too, and some powerful monsters also guard it.’

Robert responds, ‘So, we can choose to stay out of this responsibility and resume our lives and professions, no matter how good or how bad the situation may get.’

Carolyn nods. ‘Yes, we can let the others do the dirty job ‘for mankind’ and get the whole package of glory, wealth and fame. But I’m afraid Chris won’t stay out of this. He’ll go for the sword, with or without us.’

Andreas sighs, ‘Ah, that greedy chap is going to be our doom. Anyway, we haven’t seen him since morning. I wonder where he is now.’

Carolyn snorts, ‘No need to worry about him. He’s a big boy, he’ll be home when all his pocket money are all spent, fooling around in the town.’

‘Uh-huh. All we have to do now is prepare for anything, and wait for the so-called ‘agent’ to find us, and then we can say to him that we’re not interested to take the mission. It’s settled then.’ Robert finally made a decision.

‘But we have to tell Chris about this too, because – like it or not – he’s one of us.’ Andreas reminds them.

As soon as they finished talking about it and change to another subject: whether they should leave town tomorrow or take a job or two again, the door springs open. It’s Chris. He hurriedly comes in and talks real fast and gasps, as though he’s out of breath.

‘Oh, here you are, Rob. And you guys too! Man, I’ve searched in your rooms! Guys, check this out! This is the quest of our lifetime!’ Chris takes out something from his pocket and spreads it in front of his comrades.

‘What is this? A treasure map or something?’ says Carolyn.

‘This IS a treasure map!’

‘It’s a bad children’s drawing if you ask me, a bad phony map to fool babies.’ says Andreas.

‘Hey, I paid a fortune for this, you know! I know this map is for real!’

‘How much did you pay for this, Chris?’ Robert asks patiently.

‘Well... eleven crowns.’

‘WHAT?’ Carolyn looks enraged. ‘That’s almost all your pocket money for this month! How come you can be so stupid?’

‘Gee, that geezer who sold me this map said it’s worth fifty crowns, but I said I only have ten, so after much haggling he finally gave up and sold me this map.’

Robert asks again, ‘Did he tell you what sort of treasure plotted in this map?’

‘Errr... honestly I didn’t hear him quite clearly, I was heavily drunk at that time. He did mention something about an ancient sword... once wielded by a king... and it’s worth a zillion times more than the ten crowns I’ve spent.’

‘Hmmm... This is interesting.’ Robert puts his hand below his chin on hearing this. ‘Maybe he’s the “agent” we’re looking for.’

‘Huh? What agent? Is there something I don’t know?’

‘And now we’re telling you about it, and sooner if you didn’t come late.’

Robert tells Chris all about the letter with the red envelope, and the mysterious mission.

‘And now that we’ve got the map from the agent, what are we waiting for? Let’s search for it, and guard it from the so-called “heir of a devil”. And if in any case the spirit is freed from it, we can still use the sword, right? Or sell it for a fortune.’ Chris is as excited as a schoolboy as he says it.

‘No, Chris. We’re not going to undertake it.’ says Robert.

Chris is open-mouthed with disbelief, and he protests...

‘How can you guys make such decision? I’ve paid a fortune for this map! And this is the big thing we’ve been waiting for since our escape from Grad! I say we take it, and follow this map!’

‘No, Chris. I smell something fishy about this mission. We don’t know from whom we received this letter. What if the sender neglects to give us the reward if we succeed? And the odds will be a million to zero, that if we can still be alive. Think, Chris! Another big job will come sooner or later, and we better be straight and safe for now. Hunting down Sheena Mekh’ta is our top priority right now. Sorry for your allowance, but the answer is still no.’

Chris can’t contain himself any longer. He bangs the table, shouting,

‘THAT’S IT! I’m sick and tired of you! Yippin’ and yappin’ all around, but when a big opportunity comes, you guys just back off? Some hunting party! Huh! I’m outta here!’

Saying that, Chris snatches the map from Andreas’ hand and hurriedly gets out from the room, slamming the door behind him. Robert is indifferent; Carolyn and Andreas get up and try to stop him. But Chris already locked himself inside his room. Andreas sighs and says, ‘Hmph. Maybe a night’s sleep will get Chris back to his senses.’ Carolyn shakes her head disapprovingly.

‘I won’t count on that. Trust me, he won’t. He’ll go daringly, searching the sword by himself, I know him’.

‘But it’s not wise to break the door, barge into his room and make a fuss to force him to change his mind. It won’t get any better but worse.’

‘You’re right, father.’ Carolyn sighs, ‘Oh well, guess we’ll have to wait until morning so he’ll be in a cooler head by then.’

==oOo==

The next day, early in the morning, Carolyn goes to Christopher’s room. She knocks the door, saying, ‘Wake up, Chris! Hey, wake up!’

There’s no answer.

‘Get your lazy butt up now! We’ve decided to leave town today to avoid the agents as far away as possible, and you better get prepared now! We’ll leave at seven!’ *)

(* Note that this story uses time measurement that’s similar to modern Earth time, thanks to the Parthenian time mages who invented it.)

Still no answer.

Carolyn eventually loses her patience and she starts to bang on the door, and the door opens as she does that. It’s not locked. Carolyn goes in, and finds no one there. She is highly furious and walks out from Chris’ door, stamping her feet as Robert comes near. He asks Carolyn without showing any surprise on his face.

‘What’s going on, Carol? You look mad!’

‘Chris is gone! He has deserted us!’

‘What?’ Robert is a bit surprised. ‘No way. Maybe he’s taking a morning stroll to clear his mind.’

‘No, no. Believe me, he’s gone! I knew him. And he took all his things too! And no farewell note!’

‘That’s a very stupid thing to do. It’s a sheer suicide, going there without proper qualifications or very strong companions.’ Andreas says that, arriving at the spot on hearing Carolyn’s yells.

Robert says, ‘Naturally, other people will see him as a liability and let him go to his doom. But I have chosen him; I’ve sworn to guide him so he can be independent and dependable. So we better search for him.’

Andreas replies, ‘You’re right. A liability or not, he’s one of us. The only trouble is, we don’t know where to start. The map is with him.’

‘And without me to point the directions, Chris will be lost anywhere he goes.’ Suddenly Carolyn comes up with an idea. ‘Hey, we can use Chiel to track him down. He can sense Chris’ aura from a great distance, so we can follow him.’

Andreas claps his hands in awe. ‘Haha, good idea, Carol. Fabulous animal, that Micha. I was right to entrust him to you, after all.’

No sooner than it’s said, Chiel the micha comes flying into the corridor, with a loud, continuous ‘chi, chi, chiii...’ voice as though it wants Robert, Andreas and Carol to follow it.

‘...and great instinct, too.’ Andreas’ eyes are widened. ‘C’mon, let’s pack, don’t waste any more time, let’s follow him!’

They quickly pack their things, settle the payments at the front desk and walk quickly to follow Chiel. Andreas talks on with awe, ‘He must’ve followed Chris at a distance, and returned to us when he’s sure where Chris is going to.’

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