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Along on Operating

A RevenGauss Literary Society Publication

it was the time when rest the gift of gods
sweetly sliding into the eyes of men,
doth drown in the forgetfulnesse of slepe,
the carefull trauaile of the painfull day;
Spencer: poetical works


Renju lifted his eyes from the crackling flames of their small campfire. "Then we really have no choice in the matter." he said wistfully. "Tell me again, if you please, the nature of our mission." "You young fellows are so impatient," Flower snapped. "All that you need to know now is that we will be leaving for the ruins of Elthus in the morning. You should get some sleep while you can-- tomorrow we may only be an eyewink away from death, and you will need all the speed and alertness you can muster." With that, the old wizard turned back over and closed his eyes. Several moments later, a gentle snore revealed that he was once again sleeping. Renju fidgeted, wondering if he could ever be free from the practical advice of the old man. As time passed, his eyes slowly closed as he drifted away to somewhere not entirely unreal.

He is floating in a infinte black chamber, surrounded by darkness. A deep, rasping voice in the distance intones an endless-chant lasting far into the void. "How much longer must we wait before making our move?" he finds himself screaming into the blackness. The dark chant cuts off abruptly, and he falls through a well of silence.

Suddenly, he was being shaken. "When I tell you something, don't take it so literally, son. You don't need to sleep all morning. It is time for you to get up and set off with me on the last leg of our journey." Opening his bleary eyes, Renju barely managed to make out the face of the wizend old man know to him only as 'flower.'

Renju trudged labouriously, following the steps of the old man though the twisted undergrowth. The plants clung to his limb as he tore his way through the creepers and vines that infested this area of the Swamps of Stergon. "How much farther must we go before we arrive at these so-called ruins of yours," he called ahead. "We have only been walking for four hours and still we are going through this hideous swamp. Aren't there any easier ways to get to these ruins of yours? If I have to smash through another ten miles of this stuff then I will be in ruins!!" The old man slowly turned back around. "Have you any idea HOW MUCH treasure those ruins hold !? If half of the rumors are true, then we could live like kings for the rest of our lives with just a handful of the poorest gems which were lost when the town sank into this god-forsaken swamp."

"Anyway, to answer your question, just look over there." Flower stopped and pointed towards a gargantuan vine-covered block of stone that jutted out of the brackish waters of the mire at a crazy angle. "THAT is all that remains of the town gate." Renju squinted at the colossal wreck. "How can you be sure?" he snapped. "I have seen many blocks of stone like that one while wading through this disgusting swamp."

Without a word in reply, Flower began walking again. "Hey!" Renju shouted, "Wait for me!"

At that moment three things abruptly happened.

First, a tremendous wall of sound and light knocked Renju from his feet. As he fell into the sticky mire, the last thing which he remembered seeing before the veil of darkness descended upon him (like unto the final curtain call of an actor at the end of a Shakespearean romance), was a dark cloud of miasmic water rising up out of the very ground itself.

Luckily for Renju, he lost consciousness at this point, and was spared the sight of the second and third things which then occured.


Unbeknownst to the impetuous Renju, he was not the only adventurer out on a quest in the Kingdom of Lucamae. Not far away, another foolhardy apprentice slogged through the marshes. Her name was Minra, and, though they had never know of each other's existence, their lives would soon be inexorably bound together, in the near future.

As Minra groped her way through the eternal fog, she began to regret having run away from her kind master. Her life had not been that bad. She had been provided with food, and even, on Saturdays, a particle of freedom. She had quite recently overheard her tutor, Mulari, refer to her as his prize student, a rare and unusually skilled artist. (Minra had missed his statement that she was still overconfident and stubborn). However, her pride did not allow her to turn back yet, and anyway, she wasn't sure which way 'back' was.

Suddenly, she heard voices, and her ravenous hunger overcoming any sense of caution still remaining, she dashed forwards, bellowing out at the top of her lungs. There was some yelling, and then, silence. She burst out into a more open area, and stumbled over the prone body of a boy some sixteen years of age. She, having seen no one else since she left the village, hauled him out of the viscous muck, and leaned him against a nearby growth of some unidentifieble vegetable matter which would have bewildered any botanist of the time.

Renju awoke to find someone shaking him. As he stirred, the hands left him, and when his vision cleared suffeciently for him to see, he saw a girl carefully sizing him up. She had a smoothly curved sword in a sheath on her belt, and he noticed, to his astonisment, her tunic was brown, not from mud, but by design. In fact, it was almost perfectly clean. As he staggered to his feet, she took a breath, and said, "Well, I suppose you don't have any food either. Drat." "Food?" "Yes, food. Are you deaf?" "No, no! I'm not deaf. I don't have any food myself, but I'm sure Flower has some. Here, help me find him." They searched for several minutes, but didn't find the old man. Renju said, "He was right here. Where could he be?" The girl grumbled, "He's probabally dead or something." "He CAN'T be dead! I KNOW he isn't dead! He's alive, I know it!" "Suit yourself. I'm going to find something to eat. Like those berries, they look edible." "DON'T EAT THOSE!" "Why not? They look really good, next to everything else." "There poison. I recognize that plant, Flower mentioned it." "Alright, Mr. Know-It-All, what DO we eat!?" "The leaves are edible, and so are the shoots of that plant over there. None of the others I recognize."

They ate in silence. After they finished, the girl said, "Since I am obviously stuck with you, I may as well know your name. Who are you?" Renju was a little startled, but quickly replied, "Renju. And you?" "Minra. Which way out of here?" "I haven't the foggiest", Renju said, after looking around. "Cut out the stupid puns", Minra snapped. "I didn't pull you out to make stupid jokes." "Calm down, I can get us out once I find the path, but I have to find Flower." Minra began to say, To hell with Flower, but Renju interrupted, "We're both too tired to think. I say we turn in, and make plans tomorrow."

Teclaq lifted a burning torch and waved it at the menacing darkness. "I shall never give my fealty to one such as you!", he cried out in fear. "Nothing of this earth can change my mind!" As if in answer, there was a loud crack of thunder and the rain began to pour down. Teclaq crept back into his tent, leaving the burning torch outside. The night was filled with strange, disturbing sounds, and he barely slept.