"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Wednesday, February 16, 2005

"I believe that modern opposition, both overt and cryptic, to natural selection, still derives from the same sources that led to the now discredited theories of the nineteenth century. The opposition arises, as Darwin himself observed, not from what reason dictates but from the limits of what the imagination can accept." - George C. Williams: Adaptation and Natural Selection

***

Random verbal diarrhea on my D&D PBEM:


Rather droll conversation was occupying the morning. Bob was beginning to feel bored, George's antics notwithstanding, which probably explained his lack of mental alacrity when conversing with Cedric. The nobleman was acting pompously (typical of the sort of self-important flunkies and catamites who thronged courts throughout the land), having eyes only for the elven maiden.

However, the diminutive halfling was beginning to look familiar. Where had Bob seen him before...

***

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the leaves (for it is in the forest that our scene lies), rattling along the treetops, and fiercely agitating the Will O' Wisps that struggled against the darkness.

Bob was tracking his latest quarry - a feral deer.

Not too many days ago, a Baron of Urnst had been out with his hunting party, trampling the forest like it belonged to them; like typical humans. The deer that they were hunting was particularly fleet-footed, and had eluded the Baron for many hours. Tempers flared, and when the party finally caught sight of the deer, the Baron impetuously let loose an arrow in the general direction of the deer.

The deer was not struck fatally. Nor was it dealt a glancing blow. Instead, the arrow struck at an angle and lodged in the deer's flesh. The churlish Baron, not caring that he had not made a clean kill, had been frustrated by his ineptitude (blaming it on his minions, again like a typical human) and called off the hunt.

In the days following the misjudged shot, the deer's wound had become infected and festered. The pain was driving it mad, and it started to savage all who traversed the woods. Injured it might be, but its pain gave it strength, and in its eyes a feral rage could be glimpsed.

Bob did not care all that much for the idiotic trappers and poachers who ventured, ill-advised, into the forests, hoping to net a prize catch. They knew the risks they were invoking (at least, they should have known). But the sanctity of the forests was being disturbed, and furthermore, as a Ranger Bob had a duty to keep the forest relatively safe for travellers and the odd mendicant. And so, he had gotten on the trail of the feral deer.

With the ease and grace of one at one with the woods, Bob loped through the forest, stalking his prey. The tracks were fresh, and every now and then the undergrowth was smeared with blood and pus which retained a hint of warmth. The prey was not far away.

Cresting the next hill, Bob saw it in a clearing. The deer was resting from its exertions. Bob hesitated - was that a glow of sanity he saw in the deer's eyes? Was this mercy killing really necessary?

The glow quickly faded, and the feral glint reappeared. The deed would have to be done.

Hefting his bow, Bob nocked an arrow to the bowstring, and whispered a prayer to Celestian for the soul of the beast under his breath.

And then, with a crash of thunder and flash of lightning, a portal opened above the deer, and a small child, garbed in outlandish clothing, fell through it - and onto the deer. The child seemed quite stunned (as anyone would be if they'd materialised in the sky and fallen a good ten feet onto a feral deer), but luckily the deer was equally stunned at this sudden occurence.

A curse on his lips, Bob shouldered his bow and bounded forward. He was going to have to do this the hard way.

With practised ease, Bob unsheated his sword, and executed the "Spitting Fly" technique flawlessly. The sword flew true through the air, and embedded itself in the deer's heart.

When Bob reached the child, he found that this wasn't really a child, but a halfling. And like the halflings he had known, this one was garrulous - a pest, basically. He kept babbling his gratitude, and seemed on the verge of tears.

Wiping his sword on the grass and sheathing it, Bob wondered what to do with the whimpering halfling. He was largely incoherent, and his strange accent and dialect did not help either. However, he seemed to be very grateful for Bob having saved his life, and was offering all sorts of improbable rewards (everything from the services of a Djinn to a lifetime's supply of lingonberry juice).

Bob did notice, though, that he was carrying much treasure. And so, through the whimpering and babbling, Bob asked the halfling (whose name was Furt) for an interest-free loan; Bob was getting a little tired of the forest, and knew that adventurers needed premium gear. What could he need more than a little boost to start him off? And after all, he would never see the halfling again, so this was a course free of risk.

***

Bob muttered a half-curse under his breath again.

The halfling.

Hopefully he would be less annoying this time than during their last, admittedly brief encounter.


Ah, their employers' lackies had finally deigned to put in an appearance. Finally things were going to happen.

Ever the silent (if not so strong) type, Bob gave a half-bow in the direction of the two functionaries, and inclined his head ever-so-slightly at the pretentious nobleman with the unpronounceable name. At least he would be able to make himself useful now, rather than posturing, preening and flirting!
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