A Wylde Tale by T. J. Schaaf and Cal Westray
Chapter 6: I Fell For Her, And She Fell To Me
“How is your progress? You are taking a long time.”
“It’s coming along well. And you know I work slow. The results are worth it.”
“Has he shown any signs?”
“No, I think is even weaker than the rest.”
“Good. Eliminate him today.”
“No, I need more time.”
“You have had over a six months! There are others to be dealt with.”
“And there are others to deal with.”
“The mage’s powers can be harnessed if I have time, and I can get to him through the boy.”
“Very well. I know you will not fail me. Now go.”
For the last six months, everything was pretty much routine. I’d go and build up my size and strength with the warriors, learn wilderness survival and holistic chemistry with the ranger, and continue to have my world shaken by the mage. They all taught me many things. I even taught them a thing or two. I convinced the warriors son that if I were allowed to “slack off” a bit here and there, he might learn to fight the way I do. He got the picture, I got to relax. I also started helping more in construction of things while I was doing my physical training. One day I found myself eager to go to training just to see if this was the day we could get the new armory but completed. I also got to help with the construction a few times. While role-playing back in the States with my friends, we had all come up with ideas of things we could build if we were ever stuck on a deserted island. Well here, I finally got to use my ideas. Some of them worked, some didn’t. After having an idea, I began to ask the mage to start teaching me powers that I named. Ones like “see aura” and a few others from my Palladium RPG main book. He took what I described, and taught me the equivalent that he knew. I also taught some of the guys in the village Rugby, which they loved to death. I also started to see the girl. She never told me her name though. When I would be sent to the forest to gather plants and other errands, she would always appear somewhere and we would talk. After a while, I really started to feel something for her. She was great. But I knew nothing was going to happen. That is, until till the day I fell for her.
“So what are you, a hunter?”
“In a way,” she answered.
“You said your house was over the ridge, we’re heading that way now.”
“So,” she said.
“So I want to see it.”
“Why,” she asked.
“I don’t know.”
“We’ll see,” she replied.
“Oh look, over there by the cliff. It looks like Dragon’s Claw. Let’s go get some.”
As we approached, I found that there was a lot more than I expected. A lot more. It grew along the edge and all down the face of the cliff. There was also a stone circle back farther from the edge. As I got closer, I felt as though I was meant to be here. There was something beautiful about the circle. I couldn’t quite place what it was. So I started gathering up the Dragon’s Claw. The ranger told me that Dragon’s Claw was very rare and could be used for many medicinal purposes. It also increased the potency of normal medicines. So I began to fill my bag up. I then got closer to the edge and collected more. We both continued to talk and gather the plant, when all of a sudden the edge gave away and we began to fall down the side of the cliff. I tried to grab onto the cliff face, but there was nothing solid to grab onto. Then I spotted some vines and plants growing out of the side of the face. As I got to them, I grabbed them all with both hands. I then grabbed onto the girl as she continued to fall.
“Hold on! I’ve got you!”
“You can’t hold on to me and the plants at the same time. Let me go, save yourself!”
“No! And this isn’t Cliffhanger, so you’re not falling! Now start to climb up.”
And she did. After she got to the plants and could hang on by herself, we started looking for ways to climb up. We found that the plants we hung onto continued to the left and finally to an outcropping. So we started moving hand over hand sideways to the outcropping. Once we got there, we gladly took a breather.
“Why didn’t you let me go?”
“I didn’t have to,” I told her.
“But your chances would have been better if you had let go.”
“True. But your chances would have been worse then,” I grinned.
She didn’t seem to be amused. “You should have let me fall!”
“It wasn’t a problem.”
“What if you had lost hold?”
“Well, then we would have fallen and died.”
“You shouldn’t have worried about me!”
“You’re not just some old shoe I can just let drop. Besides, you still have the Dragon’s Claw. And it was worth saving your life to avoid being yelled at by my teacher.”
She stared at me for what seemed like an eternity, as if looking for something. Finally her face changed and she began to smile. Then laugh. And then to almost cry. Not knowing what to do with her, and women in general, I hoped for the best and took her in my arms. I couldn’t figure out why she was crying! What had happened? Then she looked at me and I looked at her. Then it happened, my stomach began to tighten, a chill ran down my back, and time itself began to stand still. It was that moment when you no longer had control, you just switched on auto-pilot and went where it took you. Well, it took me to her lips. We kissed. And kept kissing. Then continued to for almost five minutes. First she was fine, then she almost died, then was mad because I saved her, than amused, then sad, and now attached to my face. I never will understand women. All I know is that everything was going great, and I mean great, when I was hit in the head by a rope. That which was going to get us off the rock, was also going to make my life very hard.
It was the mage at the other end. After we climbed up, I could see he was a bit displeased. “I’m sorry, we fell and then climbed to the outcropping, then I was dressing her wounds when...”
“Looked more like undressing to me. But what does an old man know?”
Something was wrong. Every warning light in my head was going off. Something was definitely wrong.
“After you to get your stuff together, we need to head back to the hut.”
So after saying good-bye to her, for a while, I got my bag and headed back to the hut with the mage. After a long time with nothing said, I finally asked, “did I do something wrong?”
“You have no idea.”
Once we entered the hut, he told me to have a seat. I did.
“You must not see that girl anymore,” he said.
“Because she is from another tribe. One with which we are at war. I must forbid you to see her any further.”
“Sorry, I’m going to continue to see her.”
That’s when I saw his rougher side. He began to yell at me. “You have no idea what you are doing! You must stop this! You must focus on your training and only that! I wondered why you had been slacking off. Why your mind seemed to be somewhere else. It’s because of her!”
“Yeah, when I’m with her, I don’t have to worry or suffer the training. She makes me feel a lot better than any of you have.”
“Suffer? Feel better? Wake up! You haven’t even begun to suffer! And we are not here to entertain you or make you happy! You must train and that is the end of it. Train or go, for as long as you are with her, you cannot learn and are of no use to anyone.”
With that, I left. I don’t know why I left. Or where I was going to go. But I knew that I finally found someone who I really like, who really liked me, and could work. Every other time, something got in the way. Not this time. I was going to be with her. So I went back to the forest to look for her. After about an hour of searching, it began to get dark. And something clicked in my head. We were both wrong. We both overreacted. I had to go back and make amends. I had come so far in the training. I couldn’t just give it up.
So I returned. But to what I wasn’t sure. The hut were on fire, there were people running all around, and there were vampires killing people. I knew what to do. I wasn’t going to panic, it’s not like me. So I headed to the church to get crosses and holy water top make my way to the hut and get weapons. I entered cautiously not know what would be in there. I’m glad I did too.
The priest was kneeling in front of a vampire, drinking blood from his wrist. “Now, soon you shall be one of us,” the vampire said as he came down on the priests neck and began to take his blood.
I ran out as fast I could and headed towards the hut. Upon entering, I found the mage lying on the ground, his favorite drinking goblet next to him and his drink spilled. He appeared to be alive but unconscious. So I gathered up some stakes and crosses and ran out to help fight off the vampires. After sneaking up behind one and impaling it, I felt a heavy blow to the head and saw everything go dark.
I woke up, unable to move, I could see the inside of the hut. At least the ceiling. The priest was leaning over me, putting something on my chest. I tried to yell out for help, but could do nothing. I then heard him talking to someone.
“No leader, they are not doing well. I can’t seem to awaken them. This is not good. After the attack, I found them both unconscious. I don’t know what to do. But don’t worry, I’ll stay and take good care of them. Good care.”
“Good. And tell me when they awaken.”
“Of course, leader.”
I heard the leather flaps on the door rustle and then the priest leaned over and looked into my eyes and spoke. “Wake up? What makes him think you are going to wake up. At least alive? Some chosen one, you can’t save your teacher or yourself. How pathetic. But no matter, soon I will have both your souls, and then it’ll all be fine.”
Oh my god, nobody knew he was a vampire! I was so screwed. Then he started talking to someone else. He was telling the mage how the mage’s soul would soon be his own. Good, if he’s next to me, than maybe we can meet in my mind. I began to meditate. After a few seconds, I entered my, now fully customized, mind. Soon after, the mage appeared.
“I wondered how long it would take you to get here.”
“What do we do? The priest is a vampire and is in charge of taking care of us, and I can’t seem to move.”
“I know. Listen, we only have a short time. Hand me a drink.”
I summoned over a drink from the bar with my telekinesis.
“There! That’s it. Use it like an extension of your body. Now your true training begins.”
“What can you do in your mind, what powers do you wield?”
“Uh, telekinesis, astral projection, implant thought, a bunch of them. Why?”
“You are almost to the end of your training from me. Now, you must apply those to the physical world.”
“What? In here is one thing, but out there, I have no powers.”
“You fool, why not? It’s the same. You have the powers! You have them but don’t know and believe you have them. Remember when I made you think that gravity didn’t apply to you? That’s what you need to do for yourself now. People in your past who told you things like this are make-believe were wrong. You believed them though. Now I’m telling you that you have the power! Things work almost the same in here and out there. You just have to try harder out there. I will tell you this, you have the powers out there. I cannot implant the belief in you this time, you must do that. Once you do that, then you will be able to save yourself.”
“What about you?”
“I’m not going to tell you at this point. But now we must begin focusing your powers on the outside world. This is your task now. You must astral project yourself and use your telekinesis to get the chemical off your chest and mine. It’s the secretions of the poison frogs. It’s keeping you paralyzed.”
“Why don’t you? You are more powerful, you can do it better.”
“No, no I can’t. He has poisoned me and injured my head. I have been trying, but I can’t use my powers in the outside world. You must do this. This is your final test to complete my portion of your training.”
With that, I started focusing. I did what he commanded me and started focusing on using my powers in the physical world. Nothing was happening. Then the priest came back.
“Wizard, where is the scroll?! Tell me where it is. Let me into your mind so you can tell me.” He waited for a few seconds, and then became very agitated. “Fine, then I’ll have to find other ways of convincing you to.”
All I could see was him bringing a knife down on the wizard, and it came up covered with blood.
“Does the pain help you decide? Let me in!” Once again, nothing happened. “Fine, than I will continue later.”
I entered out minds again. “What is he talking about, what is he doing?”
“What he is doing is slowly killing me in hopes that I will tell him what he wants to know.”
“The location of an ancient scroll I have.”
“Soon, but not now. For now you must focus on getting out of your body. We have probably three days before he kills me, so start practicing.”
So I did, we continued to work for the next two days. Finally, it clicked. It wasn’t like out of a movie. It wasn’t one thing that made me do it. It was many things, everything. It was Wylde, the girl, the wizard, my family, these people, my life, everything came together and flashed before my eyes. It was no longer a desire for me to make the powers work, it was a necessity. How much of one, I didn’t know until that moment. The priest had returned.
“I grow tired of this,” he said. “I shall kill you now and search for it later.”
Once again, I returned to our minds. The wizard looked at me and I could see he knew.
“You are ready.”
“I am ready.”
“Good, then inside your didgeridoo is a scroll. You must get out, read it, and cast it after he kills me.”
“What?! I thought I was supposed to save you? I’m not going to read some dumb scroll instead of saving you!”
“This scroll will merge our souls! Then you will become infused with my powers as well, and then you shall destroy the priest! Do not argue with me! He has already cut off my arms and legs, I am going to die anyway, but let my spirit live in you! Now go, get the scroll, and remember it! For you will have to use it again! Go!”
I had no idea what was about to happen, but I had to do something. So I gathered up my energy, and focused on getting out of my body. And with that, nothing happened. I tried again, nothing. The priest unsheathed his sacrificial knife. I tried again. Nothing. And finally, with all the energy I had, I tried. I visualized myself out of my body, I hoped, prayed, and screamed for it to work.
Slowly, I began to sit up. Had the poison worn off? No, I had done it, I had gotten out of my body. The priest brought the knife up in the air. I ran over to the didgeridoo and used telekinesis to get the scroll out. I unrolled it with my mind and ran back over to the mage. I began to cast the spell. During training, I had some problems with scrolls, I hoped this would be different.
As I got to the mage, I saw the knife in his chest. It was done. I began to cast. Every emotion had left me, every fear as well. I knew what I had to do. The priest heard me chanting and whipped around to see what was happening.
He lashed at me with his now claws. Nothing. They passed right through me.
I finished casting. Even though I was finished, the markings on the scroll seemed like they were burned into my mind. I could see them when I closed my eyes. Slowly, a yellow mass of energy rose up from the wizard and slowly went into my chest. I could feel the energy inside me growing. Everything in my body was moving. I could feel the power of his soul. I could see his face in my mind. I could feel him comforting me. I could feel his pride. Then it was done.
I’m not sure what was done, but it was. I walked over to my body, and with the telekinesis, wiped away the poison. I then laid down in my physical body and woke up. I still couldn’t move. I was also very tired.
That astral projection stuff took a lot out of me. The tent burst open. The girl was standing there. Although, she wasn’t her normal self. She was clad in armor. Black armor with spikes and, oh my god, she looked like she had the same armor on as Spawn has in the movie. She glared at the priest.
“Ah you are here,” said the priest with a calm voice.
“Yes, I am,” she said as chains from her chest went through the skull, chest, and heart of the priest, “and you are not.”
“You took his soul. It was mine for the taking. Now I shall have yours instead!”
I could see a black and green energy mass go from the priest to the girl. She the came over to me. You, you had to be the one. Why did you have to be the one? I really liked you. I am sorry for this, but my master commands it. With that a single chain snaked its way over to me right in front of my face. She was about to kill me. Women! Unable to do anything else, I threw her back with TK. She crashed through the wall.
Wow, never had it been that strong. Maybe I can... I focused on negating the poison from my body. Allowing me to move once again. I found that I could get up. So I slowly sat up, and got ready for what I thought was to be a great battle. Then, she came back. Now fully clad in her armor with chains ready. Whoops, maybe it won’t be that great of a fight.
Alban and I ride south into the hills of Dragon’s Peak. The horses carry us swiftly, Alban takes the lead when the trail becomes too narrow for both horses. Minutes pass and the trail cuts across the side of the hill, giving us a good view of Talladale. The path winds into the hillside and deeper into the woods. Soon, we lose sight of the land below and the rocky trail disappears. The grass is slightly worn where we take the horses, but thick enough to conceal the location of the path. Alban seems to know where we are going.
Nearly a half hour’s ride from Talladale and Alban draws rein. I follow suit. He nods in the direction we are to take. The trees are too thick to take the horses through, so we dismount and secure the horses to the trees. There is plenty of grass for them to feed on while we are gone.
I take out a large sack, shovel, and pocket knife from the saddlebag. Alban does the same and then leads me through the dense trees and thickets. We walk a few hundred yards, until we reach a small clearing surrounded by rocks. A large beautiful garden surrounded by huge rocks that jut from the ground like rows of teeth or claws. Some intelligence was behind the crafting of this place, marvelously artistic and pleasing to the senses.
The aroma of the various plants is both stimulating and relaxing. I have been in a grove like this before, but why can’t I remember where and when? “Alban, this is breathtaking! I’m surprised that people don’t visit here often.”
He looks at me with amusement. “Because no one is meant to be here. We are intruders to this place and the sooner we are out of here, the safer I will feel.”
“Danger from the inhabitants?”
“I see. Well, we better get started then.” We look around and I see the flowers we are looking for. They grow in large clumps around each of the claw-like rocks. It figures, Dragon’s Claw. “Alban, I will dig up the plants. You can cut and pack the roots. Then I will re-plant them I don’t want to damage the plants, just get good cuttings from the root of each. They can be cleaned and prepared when we get back. There should be plenty to harvest. If not, I will return myself and be less particular in the cuttings.”
“I doubt that you will return here. Let’s get to it, brother.”
I hold out my hand, signaling wait. “Brother, first things first.” I turn and walk to the center of the circle. “Spirits of this grove. Forgive our trespass. We are on a mission of mercy and only wish to gather what is needed to heal animals that are dear to us. Hold me and only me responsible for any harm done, for we mean no harm. Blessings be upon this place of beauty.” I turn to Alban and shrug. “Protocol and all.” I feel that it’s important to me to be concerned about protocol and hospitality.
He smiles. “Nice touch. Now please hurry, I fear this place. You should as well.”
Surprisingly, I don’t fear this place. I feel welcome or at least tolerated.
The soil is dark and soft, very easy to dig. I dig up one of the plants, trying to do as little damage as possible. I learn how wide I need to dig to gather the entire root system. The Dragon’s Claw are unusual and leafless, with many branched and toothed coral-like root-stocks. The root is a collection of fleshy, jointed tubers with a pungent odor. The stem above the root is about 14 inches high, fleshy, smooth, striped, with a few long purplish-brown long sheathes. There are ten to twenty greenish-brown flowers on a long spike. I make sure that the plants remain mostly intact. Alban uses his knife to carefully remove the tips of the roots and I replant them.
We are intruders here and I don’t want to abuse the hospitality of the inhabitants. They may leave us alone. Strange, I do feel that I am being watched and judged. It’s unnerving and probably only my imagination.
The bag is filled with cuttings from the roots and I am satisfied that I did minimal damage to each of them. I sensed Alban’s nervousness as I was taking care with each plant. He is genuinely scared of this grove. Are the inhabitants truly that menacing or is it just gypsy superstitions?
We finish the task and walk back to the horses. Alban is nearly running through the trees. I keep up with him and soon we reach the horses.
Alban visibly shudders when we reach the horses. “Brother Wylde, did you not feel those eyes upon us?”
“I felt like my soul was being judged. I felt my fear growing by the second and I couldn’t stop it.”
I shrug. “I also felt the feeling of judgment, but there was no fear.”
“I don’t see the point in putting on a false bravado to a brother. I felt... welcome.”
“Then you are either blessed or cursed. I know not which and I am glad you didn’t feel the fear. Have you not wondered why these plants are so expensive to gypsies and herbalists?”
“I thought they were just uncommon to this area.”
“Yes, but beyond that, everyone feels that fear in Dragon’s Peak. No one wants to come here and no one ever wants to repeat the experience. This is my first and my last time. It was much worse that I expected.” He pauses. “Everyone feels the fear, but you.”
“I see.” We mount the horses and I look back once more. “Fascinating place.”
We follow the same route back along the trail. As we reach the side of the hill and make our way down, I see something on the road further south of Talladale. “Alban, riders coming to Talladale. We better get back to town and warn them. We certainly don’t want their horses affected as well, until we have treated ours.”
He squints as he tries to make out details. “Brother, it’s an army! They will reach town soon after we will. Hurry!”
We soon reach the valley and push the horses into a full gallop.
We reach town.. “Alban, take the roots to the caravan. I will talk to the Captain.” He rides on.
I ride up to the Guard, draw rein, and dismount. I run in. “Captain Willows! An army approaches, they should be here within minutes.”
“I know, Wylde. Thanks for the advance notice, though. A battle is at hand and the army is coming to support Talladale. I’m afraid we will be preparing Talladale for war and we will need every available hand.” He smiles evilly. “I’m afraid you may be drafted soon.”
“Very well, but after I assist Madame in caring for every horse in Talladale. You better keep the army out of Talladale until we are done, or they will soon become infantrymen instead of cavalry.”
“Cole mentioned something about that. Is it really that bad?”
“It will be if we don’t cure the ones in Talladale first. Moonscrye will confirm it. Meanwhile, I would keep the army far from here until then. Alban is carrying the Dragon’s Claw from Dragon’s Peak. It’s just a matter of time now for Moonscrye to mix the cure. I may need to go back for more.”
“You were up there? Going back? Gods, man! Are you insane?”
“No, just determined. I don’t see what all the fuss is about, though.”
“Fuss? You are insane. Just the man I need. Get busy with the cure, I will deal with the army.”
“Thanks, Captain.” I rush out and ride to the caravan.
Moonscrye is already busy on chopping and mixing the ingredients in a huge kettle. She just needed the Dragon’s Claw to finish the brew. It takes her another half hour to cook it. The gypsies were organized while we were gone to have every horse in Talladale brought to the caravan. There are hundreds of them on the main road, waiting for the potion.
The mixture is transferred to smaller containers and mixed with wine to cool. The syrup will surely be vile, but it will cure them, I hope.
The treatment isadministered for the remainder of the day and the horses are taken to their stalls to be returned the following morning. Moonscrye and I would check them individually and hope for the best. We instructed the owners to have the stalls cleaned out to remove any manure that may have eggs or larvae and burn it.
At the end of the long day, Moonscrye asks me to accompany her. So, I follow her to her wagon. “Wylde, is it true what young Alban told me?”
I look at her closely, her age is difficult to determine. Earlier she seemed to be nearly fifty, now she appears to be in her twenties or early thirties. Maybe it’s her silver hair. Not from age, it’s her natural hair color. It lines a smooth face with soft blue eyes. Maybe she has the ability to change her appearance. “What did he say, Moonscrye?”
Her gaze measures me. “That you did not feel fear in Dragon’s Peak. Is it true?”
“Absolutely, I felt the judging but no fear. Is it important?” Honesty.
“I think so, but I don’t know what it means. Remember me telling Aldis about the reading?”
"Yes. I didn’t understand what you meant then and I was planning to ask you later.”
“Well, I did a Tarot reading when the outbreak occurred. The cards indicated aid from beyond, from one that is favored by the goddess. Also, this aid would be successful. The cards spoke true to me as always, but the answer is usually confusing. Next, I did a reading on the one that would come to aid us. The reading was intriguing. It indicated confusion but strength of will, a brother in nature but not in truth, an injury that hides great power, and an incomplete task. The final card was the important one and gave me great hope, the Major Arcana: Justice. I would like to do another reading, but I want to hear your story first.”
She shows me her Tarot deck and the card. “Certainly.” I recognize the Tarot cards, but from where? I absorbed her words, took a deep breath, then spoke. “It was only a few days ago when I woke to this world. I had a head injury and lost the memory of my previous life. I made my way to Shady Dale, where I befriended Amos and Sam at the Crossroads. At the inn, I encountered some highwaymen who had robbed me when I arrived. I recovered my possessions and learned who I was, but it seems to be incomplete. I am Jack T. Wylde, an agent of the Ministry in a place called London, England. A spy and investigator for this Ministry, why I don’t know. No such place exists here, I know. I have discovered that my bowler is very hard, my umbrella contains a concealed blade of an excellent quality, and I can fight quite well. I am also learning of talents I was unaware of: sensing the well-being of horses, being stronger than others, healing quickly, and being free from fear on Dragon’s Peak.”
“Things are becoming clearer, gifan suni.” [horse seer]
“There is something else of importance. In the land where I was from, I was responsible for protecting a youth about Alban’s age. He was in serious danger.” I show her the picture. “I don’t know what happened to him, and I have been searching for him without success.” She hands it back to me. “Madame, nightly I have dreams that greatly trouble me, but I am unable to remember any details. I feel that if I could remember them, I would know who and what I am. Maybe even find my way home.”
“Get some rest and later I will do another reading. I have a lot to think about.”
“Very well. Good night and thanks for listening, gifan misler.” [horse healer] I smile.
“Good night and thanks for coming to us, gifan suni.” She smiles.
Days go by and we continue treatment for the horses that need it. The town is organized in the effort to eradicate the parasites, everyone takes part in the effort. Smoke from burn piles are all over town and stables are kept clean. Other livestock are brought in to check out, but only the horses were affected.
I took the cure out to the army encampment and treated their horses as well. I examined each horse myself and they were free of infestation, but they were treated anyway. The lead cavalryman, a Colonel Willis Wynne, invited me to his tent for drinks to thank me for this little inconvenience. If the Captain hadn’t warned them and Moonscrye wasn’t working on the cure, the situation would have been grave. He was grateful to us.
Within the week, there is no sign of the parasite and there was no reoccurrence. We have won.
A week later, I moved out of the Silver Minstrel Inn and bought a large wagon and excellent draft horses. I now live in the caravan with the gypsies and frequently have guests over. I often join the active nightlife. I became familiar with everyone in Talladale and they know me. It’s a good life.
No, I haven’t forgotten about T.J. Everyone here knows of my search and they keep watch for him. I have no further leads to follow, it’s as though he vanished. I even went back to Shady Vale and searched the place where I woke to this world. I searched for days but there was no sign of a body. I visited Amos and Sam and told them of my travels and news of Talladale. Later, I returned to my new home Talladale.
I still have dreams and still struggle to remember them, but I can’t. I only remember. “All roads lead to...” But I still can’t solve that riddle. Maybe someday.