The Great Library of Palanthas

An Aesthetic shows you to a small reading room.

Stories of Ansalon from the view of Bantam.

A little gully dwarf runs by and says 'Wordwrap Off 65 80.'
The gully continues 'Eyes hurt? Turn Color OFF!! (regular story dates)

Astinus says 'Enter the main library here to view only the author list.'
Astinus gently places a leather bound tome with glowing glyphs on the table in front of you.
You note the spine bears the word 'Bantam' scribed in dull yellow ink.

Author:    Bantam         
Date:      Sat Jan 16 19:10:39 2010
Subject     The curious problem of Bantam Feedcooker

The elder of the rural village of Groundbreak, in Hylo, just did not know what 
to do about Bantam Feedcooker.  Her mother, Henbane, had it hard enough as it was, 
what with the girl's father dead or vanished (the story tended to change with some
frequency, but everyone just assumed grief had made her forgetful and left it at 
that).  The girl had just turned twelve, and she was lagging pitifully behind all 
the other kender children in her age group.   She had yet to pick a lock, she was 
unable to borrow anything from a person's pocket without raising a ruckus (and
consequently rarely did so), she tripped on her own  feet, she dropped things and 
broke them, and the first time they took her on a goatsucker hunt, her clumsy 
crashing through the brush had driven every bird -- goatsucker or otherwise -- into
hiding.  Simply put, something was wrong.  A gully dwarf could have seen that.

And she looked different from the others, too. She was quite a bit taller than the other kenderkin, for one thing. Had been since she was a toddler. This in itself wouldn't have been so noticeable were it not for her hands and feet, which were big and awkward; nothing like those of her playmates. When she was a toddler, everyone had assumed she'd grow into them, just as kender children grow into their ears. But her approaching adolescence was only making the problem worse.
While Bantam wasn't an outcast -- it just wasn't in the nature of kender to shun anyone, no matter how strange -- people did discuss her in hushed tones, heads bowed in pity, wondering if she'd wind up with the dreaded affliction of Laz-a- Bout, doomed never to experience Wanderlust. And kender, particularly kender of Bantam's age -- a tumultuous one, to be sure -- could be unkind without meaning to. She was constantly beset by hordes of her curious playmates asking why she couldn't pick a lock and why her hands were so big. Each of them tried, good heartedly, to instruct her in the ats of lockpicking, borrowing, hiding and moving about in the shadows. But her body simply would not cooperate, and such sessions always ended with Bantam dashing home in tears of shame and frustration, scattering terrified chickens in her wake as she crossed the front yard. Bantam's misery broke Henbane's heart, and the pity of her neighbors embarrassed her. She needed to find someone who could help. Author: Bantam Date: Sat Jan 16 19:17:52 2010 Subject The curious problem of Bantam Feedcooker (cont'd) Thus Bantam found herself seated on a kitchen stool, being scrutinized by Kipper Quicksnip, the village physician, Daisy Mudpacker, Groundbreak's self-appointed child-minder and mentor (not to mention the village busybody), and Toehold Gatecrasher, the elder. She was fidgeting uneasily under their gaze. They reminded her of some gnomes who had visited when she was just a toddler, eager to study kender societies and technology. They had made her feel like something under a magnifying glass, and so did these three adults.
"Bantam?" Daisy said kindly. "Don't be frightened, dear. We're just here to see if we can figure out what's wrong with you."
"Daisy!" Toehold said sharply. "Look, that wasn't the right thing to say at all! Look at her face; she's going to cry again! Don't cry, dear! There's not a thing wrong with you. Well, I don't think there is, anyway. Final word is the doctor's, of course."
Kipper Quicksnip stepped forward with a small mallet and Bantam shrank back, eyeing it with some trepidation. "What's that for?" she asked. Fearless or not, she remembered the last time she had been to see Kipper and she wasn't eager to repeat such relentless pokings and proddings.
"It's just to test your reflexes," Kipper said. "Don't worry, it shan't hurt you a bit!" He began tapping her here and there with it, and Bantam watched as her leg jerked upwards, seemingly of its own accord, to kick Kipper squarely in the chin. "Well, that seems to work..." he muttered, massaging the tender spot.
She sat for the rest of the afternoon as Kipper performed various tests, Daisy asked her various useless questions, and Toehold discussed various charities with her mother. When the three finally filed out of the room, the conclusion remained: There is something strange about Bantam. But we haven't any idea what it is. Author: Bantam Date: Mon Jan 18 03:30:33 2010 Subject The strange day of the turtle And so Bantam took to playing and exploring alone, discovering the beauty of the woods for herself without worrying about whether she was stealthy or quick. Despite her lumbering, noisy way of ambling down the paths, she had a certain way with the creatures of the forest, and she entertained herself by befriending feral cats and mongrel curs with a pocket full of food scraps, and seeing how close she could creep to wild animals before they took wing or bolted into the underbrush. Sometimes she could almost reach out and touch them.
One day, she was lying on her stomach observing a great turtle with a green shell, brown skin, and bold yellow stripes on the sides of its head, sunning itself on the big fallen tree in the pond not far from her house. Apparently it had not heard her coming through the woods, or it would have slid into the muddy water with a great splash, which was what usually happened. She had never gotten to see one so close before, and she was admiring its shell, which looked like it could have been handcrafted and painted by dwarven artisans.
"Oh, Mr. Turtle," Bantam sighed, more or less to herself. "You're big and clumsy and slow and noisy, but nobody laughs at you. I wish I was a turtle! I'd make a good one. I wonder if I could find a wizard to turn me into a turtle. Then I'd be able to swim, too." (Bantam was a notorious sinker.)
The turtle turned its head and looked directly at her.
"Oh, you're going to go away now, are you?" she said glumly. "I didn't think you'd hear me. Well, go on!"
"But I can hear you, Bantam," said a female voice. "And forgive me, but I don't think you should become a turtle."
Bantam sat up, staring at the turtle, her heart pounding. "Er -- pardon me, Mr. -- well -- Mrs., I suppose -- turtle, but...did you just speak?"
The turtle nodded its head. "I said that you would not make a good turtle. You are needed elsewhere." It had the gentle voice of a mother.
"Needed? What...what do you mean?" She looked at the turtle expectantly, but now it was staring dumbly at her. "Wait, talk again! What do you mean?!" She lunged for the shore, fully intending to wade out to the talking turtle, but it scrambled off the log in fear and splashed into the depths, like always. "Come back!" she shouted into the water. "What do you mean?!"
But all she could see in that shallow murk was her own profoundly puzzled face. Author: Bantam Date: Wed Jan 20 17:05:17 2010 Subject Henbane's Secret To everyone's relief, Bantam's adolescence, like that of all kenderkind, culminated in the onset of Wanderlust. Her treks into the woods outside Groundbreak grew longer and longer, and she repeatedly failed to appear to help her mother feed the chickens, collect the shed feathers to make pillows, and gather and sell the eggs. Henbane began to encourage her to pack up her pouches and leave.
"But..." Bantam hesitated. "Don't you need help with the chickens?"
"Of course not, darling. That's what neighbors are for."
"Bantam." Henbane put her hands on her wide hips. Her fleshy arms remarkably resembled wings. "Is something wrong?"
Bantam glanced anxiously up at her mother. She hadn't told Henbane about the talking turtle. Or the doe that followed her home, or the weasel that kept bringing her little trinkets for her puches, or the nightingale that sang, with words, in Kender. She hadn't told anybody. Of course, being a kender, she was bursting to tell EVERYBODY, but the fact remained that animals did not simply talk. And Daisy Mudpacker's words were echoing in her head: "We're just here to see if we can figure out what's wrong with you." And she did not much relish the idea of Kipper Quicksnip poking around inside her head.
But if there was one person a kender maid could trust, it was her mother. Bantam took a deep breath.
"Ma...a turtle talked to me!"
"A turtle?" Henbane arched her eyebrows in polite surprise.
"And a deer, and a bird, and lots of things, and oh, Ma, I'm worried people will think I'm crazy!"
"Bantam, I don't think you're crazy, dear."
But Bantam was not listening. "And maybe I AM crazy, and Doctor Quicksnip is going to want to cut my head open, and there I'll be looking at my own brain sitting on a plate or something!"
"And I'll never be able to go out and have any adventures because how can you have adventures without a brain, and I'll end up like crazy Aunt Skullfeathers sitting in a rocking chair on the porch muttering for the rest of my life!"
"And I can't take two steps without tripping over my feet anyway, and I can't go adventuring like that, and everyone will laugh at me because I won't have any brain, and --"
"BANTAM!" crowed Henbane sharply. Bantam immediately quieted down and looked up at her mother with wide, shining eyes. "Now listen to me, young chick, have you misplaced your entire HEAD? You may be a little different, but you're a kender through and through, and you need to stop this nonsense, grab hold of yourself by the topknot and pull yourself down to earth, or so help me, I will do it for you!"
"Yes, Ma. I'm sorry." Bantam sniffled. "I just wish you could tell me why I'm like this!"
Henbane sighed. "I don't know much, Bantam, and I'm not entirely sure, but... I would guess it's got something to do with your father..." Author: Bantam Date: Sat Jan 23 17:30:18 2010 Subject Henbane's Secret (cont'd) "What does Papa have to do with this?" Bantam demanded. "You said he died."
"He did die, at least I think he died," Henbane said. "I don't really know what happened." A faraway look drifted into Henbane's eyes. "Your father was a remarkable kender. Well, he was part kender, anyway."
"PART kender?!" Bantam glowered at her mother, the picture of adolescent rage. "PART kender?! You said I was kender through and through!"
"Oh, but my dear, you are! Your mother is a kender and all your friends are kender and you live among kender and you are short and have pointed ears. You're a kender."
"I can't be a kender if my papa wasn't a kender!"
"But he was! Practically" Henbane stroked Bantam's topknot. "You know, he was a lot like you. Tall, almost five feet tall...big hands...clumsy...couldn't pick a lock to save his life. But a great, big brain in his head! He was a half kender. Which made him also a half human. He was a little weird, of course, but he'd always lived with kender -- it was his father that was a human, and he ran off the way they do, so he was raised by his mother. So even if he looked a little different, he was still a kender. And anyway, that doesn't make you more than a fourth human. Or is it an eighth? I'm terrible with numbers. No, a fourth. A quarter human. Why, that's practically nothing."
Bantam shot her most practiced look of bile at her mother. "Why didn't you tell me? Why did you keep it a secret and leave me to think I was just a kender that didn't get made right all these years?"
Henbane squeezed her daughter tightly. "Oh, my little chick, I just didn't want you to feel any more different than you already did, that's all!"
"Hmm. Well. That's fair, I suppose." Kender did not hold grudges. She relaxed a little and smiled at her mother. "So what happened to Papa?"
" see..." Henbane was beginning to sniffle, now. "He was a...he was a m-magic user. And right after I had you, he got called away to take that know, in that tower that they have. And he...he n-never m-made it back. I never even saw his body."
"Oh, Ma." Bantam wiped away the tears on her mother's face with her sleeve. "I'm sorry. I didn't know."
"Oh, it's all right." She pulled a huge, gaudy handkerchief with a floral print out of one of the many pockets in her apron and blew her nose noisily on it. "It was so many years ago. But Bantam, if you feel different, if strange things happen to you...I'd blame it on him."
"Oh..." Bantam felt faint. This was so much for her to understand all at once. "Magic! Why didn't you ever tell me?"
"Well, because I don't know a thing about it! Your father was very secretive...but, Bantam, you've got to go out and find out all about it for me. And come back and tell me everything! Papa never got the chance to..."
Bantam hugged her mother. "I will, Ma!"
"But Bantam, whatever you do, do not go and take any wicked Tests! I don't want to lose both of you. I know it would be a great adventure, but...your father was much too young to have it. Please, Bantam... take care!" Author: Bantam Date: Mon Jan 25 02:40:27 2010 Subject And Another One... Bantam skipped down the road, her pouches bouncing against her waist and her hoopak swinging at her side. The pouches were full of parting gifts from her friends. Since they did not understand her non- borrowing nature, they had simply given her anything she admired, or anything they thought she'd like. It was unfitting, they reasoned, for a kender maid to go into the world with nothing to her name.
She hadn't any idea where she was going, but the fresh air whispering through her chestnut brown hair felt delicious, and she felt in her heart that the answer was over the next hill or hiding in a nearby thicket, if she just looked for it.
This business about her father being a magic user struck her very queer indeed. She had never done anything magical. Oh, certainly, she'd had some strange things happen to her, but she'd never made fire dance on her fingers or produced wine from her sleeve or any of those things she'd seen magicians do. How could she possibly be a wizard?
She was mulling these very questions over and over in her mind when a small serpent slithered out in the road in front of her.
"Hello," she said out of habit.
"Hello," the serpent replied affably.
Bantam frowned. "So you're one of them, are you! Well, I always enjoy hearing from you, although I don't understand you one bit. Who are you?!"
The serpent's tongue darted from its mouth. "I'm only a snake, Bantam, it said. Its voice was the same gentle female voice that had issued from the turtle and the lark. "You might as well ask Lockpick in the puppet show who HE is. You're asking the wrong question."
"Well, then, you smart-mouthed bit of clothesline," Bantam said hotly, "who is BEHIND you?"
"Dirt. The earth."
"Precisely. The earth, which feeds us and houses us all. I am from the earth, just as you are, and just as all creatures come from the earth. The earth is as our mother and guides us, and cares for us. I am trying to guide you, Bantam. There are creatures who need you, but until you begin to use the brain your mother gave you, I cannot help you. Ask for me when you are ready."
And with that, the serpent slithered off into a patch of shrubs.
"Wait!" Bantam cried, dashing to the thicket and dropping to her hands and knees to peer into it. "Come back! I'm sorry! I didn't mean to offend you, Lady Snake! I just don't understand!"
But the serpent was nowhere to be found.
Bantam shook her head. "I really AM losing my mind..." Author: Bantam Date: Tue Jan 26 05:02:03 2010 Subject Oops... It had been a good and productive day for the cleric's young apprentice until the kender entered his potion shop. He immediately stiffened when she walked in, unconsciously laying his hand on the till. She made a beeline for a case of potions of healing, and she grabbed at them, picking them up, turning them over and peering analytically at them, with no regard for their value or their fragility. That was what made him do something he regretted for years: he yelled at the kender.
"Hey! Put that down!"
The surprised kender wheeled round to find out who was shouting at her, but she paid no heed to the long, forked staff strapped to her traveling pack, and it swung around behind her and knocked an entire row of glass flasks off the shelf. They crashed to the floor, and shattered, and their contents ran together. A foul-smelling cloud began to rise from the floor as the components of each potion reacted with those of the others, and the kender stared at it, the expression on her face wavering between guilty embarrassment and intrigued curiosity.
"Oh, dear! Look at that! I'm awfully sorry! Boy, have you seen anything do that before? Look at the color of that vapor! It's quite a pretty purple, don't you think?"
"What have you done!?" bellowed the apprentice, hopping up and grabbing a rag. "Oh, by the true gods! Get out of the way!" He gave the kender a strong shove...and immediately regretted it. She stumbled backwards, and he watched for a long, horrified second as she waved her arms like an absurd flightless bird, trying to keep her balance. But instead, she toppled with a crash into a rack of drying herbs, scattering them everywhere.
"YOU STUPID LITTLE OAF!" he shrieked. He started to run for the herbs, remembered the spilled potions, and turned back to the toxic puddle. He began mopping the liquid up, but the rag quickly became saturated. "Damn it, you're going to get me in so much trouble!" He threw the rag into the pool and ran back to the counter, searching for supplies.
Meanwhile, the kender had picked herself up and brushed the dried crumbles of herbs off her tunic. "You shouldn't have pushed me like that," she said reproachfully.
The apprentice shoved a towel into her hands. "Oh, I will do something MUCH worse than push you," he growled, "if you don't step over there and clean up every drop of that spilled potion and every fragment of that glass."
"Of course I will!" she said cheerfully. She unstrapped her staff and leaned it against the counter with great care, eyeing it for several seconds to make certain it was not about to fall. Then she accepted the towel from the enraged apprentice and began her task. The apprentice watched her, red faced, for a moment before setting to work sorting out the spilled herbs.
"Oh, Master Ashaf is going to flay me alive for this," he groaned as he worked. "Do you even know what you've done? I'm sunk. I'm dead meat. Unless you can pay for all this, and I'm guessing you can't. You idiot kender would steal a bit of colored paper before you'd take a second look at a gold coin."
"We wouldn't steal at all," she said, hurt, ", I don't have enough money. I don't think. Is this enough?"
A strangled cry escaped the apprentice as he saw the handful of copper in the kender's pouch. "Oh, Mishakal," he prayed, lifting his eyes towards the heavens. "What have I done to deserve this?" Author: Bantam Date: Sat Jan 30 16:56:35 2010 Subject Crime and punishment Bantam was feeling like she was under the gnomish magnifying glass once again. She was sitting on a hard stool in the Master's cell, being glared at (one of the glarers being the Master, the other the poor nervous fellow who was running the shop when she entered). The former was giving her a particularly stern look. She shrank on her seat.
"Do you have any idea how much damage you've done?" the Master asked, gentler than he could have, at least.
"No, sir," Bantam said in a very small voice.
"You destroyed 132 silver coins worth of goods. Coins which would have gone towards mending the roof of our little temple. Know how much 132 silver coins is?"
"No, sir."
He sighed and shook his head. "I suppose we could take her into town and put her in jail," he commented to his apprentice.
Bantam gasped. "No, sir! I've heard about those places and they sound terribly boring! Please, sir! I'll do anything to make amends! Just don't put me in a jail! I mean, of course, I've never been to a jail, and I'm curious about what they look like, but my friend Tavin Twogizzards said he got put in jail and there wasn't anything in the room but a silly old chamber pot and there was nothing to look at and --"
"Please shut up!" the apprentice barked.
"You know, Evan, as a follower of the merciful Mishakal, I can't see my way clear to locking this creature up," said Master Ashaf thoughtfully. "It WAS an accident, after all, and they say confining a kender is the worst torture you can inflict on it. And torture is wrong, whether we see it as torture or not."
"But she has to repay you somehow!" cried the apprentice named Evan.
Ashaf peered over his spectacles at Bantam. His overgrown white eyebrows fascinated her, and she wondered what it would look like if they could be trimmed into shapes, like topiary. "Small one," he said, "do you think you could make up what you lost me by working here?"
"What are you thinking?!" the apprentice fussed. "They're a race of shiftless children!"
"Now, now, Evan, that's simply not true. How could they possibly have villages, let alone great cities, if that were so?" He smiled at Bantam in a grandfatherly manner. Evan looked as though he were doubting the greatness of any kender city.
"I'd like that very much," Bantam said with a low, grateful voice. "Because I may be a magic user myself, you know! And I want to learn everything I can about potions and herbs and everything else, because maybe I'll be able to use it one day!"
Master Ashaf chuckled and shook his head. "Oh, really! Well, isn't that nice."
"And I'm a gully dwarf," muttered Evan. Author: Bantam Date: Tue Feb 2 15:30:36 2010 Subject A Sympathetic Ear Master Ashaf took the kender under his wing over the following months, and even his skeptical apprentice Evan grew fond of her. The Master thought of Bantam as a sort of adopted grandchild, and he was quick to find her work which suited her skills. Noting that the kender grew bored and fidgety when assigned mundane tasks such as labeling and cleaning jars, and fearing that her clumsiness would put her more deeply in debt than she already was if she was left indoors, he sent her to the woods to scour the ground for the ingredients he needed. She always returned with a bountiful array of plants, as her small frame allowed her access to places in the woods Evan and Ashaf could not reach, and her sharp eyesight and her natural curiosity did not hinder her searches either. She was a quick and ready student, for a kender, and Ashaf taught her all that he knew of herblore. Her familiarity with her beloved woods made it easy for her to keep track of all the plants he taught her, and she enjoyed rattling off all their names in Kender for the edification of the amused cleric. He even allowed her to accompany him and Evan to the village and the temple to witness acts of divine healing. Those upon whom Ashaf bestowed his miraculous services were generally unhappy to see a kender at his side, but she always watched the process with wide eyes and silent mouth, waiting until afterwards to flood him with questions about it.
One day, Evan had come to the garden in the back of the little shop to congratulate Bantam for going a week without breaking anything. He was surprised to see her sitting on a log with a little brown bird perched on one of her long fingers.
"Why, Bantam," he exclaimed, "that's marvelous! How did you get it to come to you?"
The kender shrugged. "Animals like me, I guess," she said. But a strange look had come across her face.
"Why do you sound so glum? Seems to me you'd be happy. You know more about plants than I ever will. Beginning to think YOU'RE Ashaf's favorite. He doesn't like city people like me. And you've got little animal friends. Why do you look so funny? All that makes up for being a complete oaf, if you ask me."
Bantam did not seem to notice the jab. "Evan, can I tell you a secret?"
The young man plopped unceremoniously onto the log beside her, making the little bird start and flutter to a tree overhead. "Of course you can, shorty," he said. "Tell me all."
Bantam took a deep breath. "
Sometimes animals talk to me, and I told my mom and I said I'm crazy but she said I'm not crazy because Papa was a magic user but I can't do any magic but a snake said 'ask for me when you are ready' and I don't know what it meant but it must have meant SOMETHING and do you think it's possible that well Someone is trying to tell me Something? A Someone with a capital S, if you take my meaning?"
Evan sorted this jumble of words out in his head for a moment, then he spoke. "Animals talk to you, hmm?"
"Y-yes. I know you won't believe me, but..."
"Well, Bantam, eight moons ago when you first came here, I wouldn't have. But given the way you've taken to herblore like a duck to water, the way animals seem to flock to you, and now this whole 'my dad was a magic user' motif - I didn't know you people could use magic, by the way - well, I'm willing to admit that you are no ordinary kender."
Bantam sat in uncharacteristic silence for a moment. Then, in a small voice, she asked, "Evan, how do people become healers like you and Master Ashaf?"
"Well, sometimes, you choose the god...and sometimes the gods choose you."
"How do you know they chose you?"
"Well, if you experience some sort of miracle, like, say..." Evan arched an eyebrow at Bantam and gave her a strange smile. "Like seeing talking animals, perhaps."
(tbc) Author: Bantam Date: Sun Feb 7 17:36:34 2010 Subject Meditation, & a Strange Dream (cont'd)
"I think you should sit out here and meditate for a while, and see what comes to you," Evan said, getting to his feet. "And then, you should have a talk with the Master."
After Evan left Bantam, the bird alighted again on her shoulder and began grooming its feathers. She squeezed her eyes shut. Ashaf and Evan had tried to teach her to meditate, but it always devolved into daydreaming. She drew a few deep breaths and blew them out slowly. It occurred to her that the two clerics sometimes used mantras when they meditated, and so she began to repeat a suitable one to herself in Kender: "Who are you? Who are you?" She slid from the log to the ground, resting her back against the bark. Soon, she felt her thoughts begin to drift, as always, and she surrendered herself to the daydreams.
She imagined that she was at the edge of a deep forest. She dearly wanted to enter, but something was stopping her from doing so. The closer she got to the forest edge, the heavier her legs seemed to become, and the less they responded to her commands. She was walking through water, then molasses, then mud, until she was finally unable to move at all.
She looked up at the trees imploringly. The wind whispered through the branches, the leaves shook, and the crowns swayed. And suddenly, she was able to understand them. They did not speak Kender or Common. They did not speak with words at all. Every sound the evening breezes made as they passed through the boughs meant something. Every shade of green which flashed past her eyes as the leaves quivered signified an idea, a feeling, a memory. Bantam looked about in a panic, trying to hear all that was said at once. The graceful finger of cloud which swirled in a certain crescent shape in the stormy sky. The pattern etched by a downy dandelion seed as it danced over the grass. The particular way a stag had left the impression of his antlers in a tree trunk. All these pictures and sounds converged in her mind as a beautiful whole, and she understood, understood what had been happening to her all her life felt the being who had been trying to reach her.
"I know you now," she whispered. "Chislev. I'm ready."
And at once her legs were released, the trees seemed to beckon her, her heart was filled with a joy she'd never felt before, and her veins felt as if they were pulsing with Uncle Drinkwater's famous gooseberry cider. She wanted nothing more than to run into the forest as fast as her legs could carry her, and she did just that...for a minute, until she tripped over a tree root and fell hard on her face. A blinding pain in her nose awoke her.
She looked up. Night had fallen. She had wandered a good hundred feet into the wood near the garden. The strange dream-forest had gone was quite normal, and she couldn't understand the trees anymore. The fall, however, had been quite real, and her body ached. The bird had gone, but it must have followed her in her dream-walk, for something on the ground in front of Bantam's nose caught her eye: a single tail feather She picked it up. It was brown, with bands of yellow, and it shone metallic green when she turned it a certain way and let it catch Solinari's light.
"Chislev!" she cried. "I understand everything now! Oh, I don't know why you picked me, but I'll do my best to serve you. I'll devote my Wanderlust to you! And beyond! If if that is what you want, that is."
Clutching the feather, she skipped back to Master Ashaf's shop, singing at the top of her lungs, and blissfully unaware of the large quantity of blood that was now streaming down her face: the rock that had broken her fall had also broken her nose. Author: Bantam Date: Mon Feb 15 16:59:18 2010 Subject Goodbyes. "There," the old healer said, without much satisfaction, as he managed to stop the flow of blood from the kender's nose. "It won't ever look perfect, of broke it very badly, and the Gods don't seem as inclined to mend aesthetic injuries, I'm afraid."
Evan, meanwhile, was dabbing away the blood with a damp cloth. "You'll do yourself in before anyone else will, at this rate," he muttered.
But Bantam wasn't listening. "Oh, Master Ashaf, you wouldn't believe what's just happened to me!"
"Yes, Evan told me all about it," he said to the kender, who was quivering like a puppy in her excitement. "And I must say I'm not terribly surprised."
"And did he tell you about this feather? It's got Chislev's colors - and the bird followed me - and I I could understand the forest, and, oh, it was amazing, Master Ashaf! I could understand every word - well, not exactly, because they didn't speak with words, but I still understood! And when I understood, then I COULD go into the forest. And did I tell you about the clouds -"
Yes, yes, yes," Ashaf quickly interrupted, trying to stave off another torrent of chatter. "You did. Bantam, I believe that you have had a brush with the divine. And you are most fortunate! But...I am afraid that this also means that you may not work for me anymore."
The kender's face transmuted from one of purest joy to brokenhearted disbelief in a millisecond. "But Master Ashaf..."
"You have been a wonderful helper," he said hastily, "and you've more than paid for all the goods you smashed the day you walked into my shop. And the ones you destroyed in the course of your career here. And I hate to lose you. But you cannot further your training here at our little temple to Mishakal. You must go to the temple of Chislev in Solace and talk to the priests there. They can help you on your journey."
"Oh Master've been such a good friend..." She sniffled once. Twice. Evan and his master glanced at one another, bracing themselves for the inevitable flood. But when it came, they embraced her as if she were their kin.
The next morning, after a few hiccoughing aftershocks of sorrow and three soiled handkerchiefs, Bantam left Evan and Ashaf with a little food in her pack and a letter of introduction from the Master, who had had the foresight to imagine that the denizens of Chislev's temple might not exactly welcome a kender with open arms. She had a long road ahead of her, but she had a good map and a small assortment of medicinal herbs and potions to help keep her safe. She had borrowed all of these things from her dear Master. He wasn't using them, after all, and she was sure he'd understand that she needed them much more than he did.
And she was right. Author: Bantam Date: Sat Feb 20 16:25:24 2010 Subject The tale of the Caergoth cat Bantam was walking down an old road with her nose in a map, trying to figure out the best path to Solace, when she noticed that she was a mere stone's throw away from Caergoth. There was a rumor back in Hylo that the great Uncle Trapspringer had made that city his final resting place, and her Aunt Featherbee had recommended it as a diverting city with many beautiful things to see. She decided to make a pilgrimage to the bustling port, even though it was a bit of a detour.
As she entered the town, she elbowed her way awkwardly through crowds of sailors and marketgoers, apologizing profusely as the hoopak strapped to her back struck people in the chin. Although the place positively swam with intriguing sights and smells and sounds, Bantam found herself growing hot and uncomfortable surrounded by so many people, buildings, carts and horses, and metal-clad guards. She had grown up in tiny Groundbreak and spent a good part of the past year at Master Ashaf's idyllic little temple in the country. She was unused to the racket of a major city like Caergoth, and quickly became overwhelmed in the town center. And so she was quite relieved when she managed to escape down a quiet alleyway, where she could observe things at a more relaxed pace.
But as she walked down the dirty street, admiring the graffiti on the walls and peering curiously at the ragged-looking humans sleeping slumped against the buildings, she became aware of a strange sound echoing through the alley. It sounded like someone screaming in fear and rage, and it came intermittently, every few moments.
"What in the world is that dreadful noise?" she wondered aloud, and cupped a hand to her ear, trying to figure out where it was coming from. As she came closer to the source, she began to trot. When she neared the scene of the commotion, two figures came into view -- two big human children, much younger than Bantam but almost her size. And there was something else -- a large brown sack, constantly changing shape as something tossed violently about inside it. And in a moment, she put the sight and the terrible sounds together: the children had two stray cats in the bag, and they were fighting to the death. And the humans were laughing at it! One of them gave the bag a savage kick, which set off a new wave of horrible shrieks and thrashings. She had never witnessed anything so mean in her life.
"HEY!" she shouted, forgetting everything else around her as she stomped toward the humans. "What do you think you're doing, you pair of ugly brutes?!"
Distracted from their entertainment, they glanced up, and the bigger one of the two laughed derisively at the sight of the kender. "What's it to you, you little rat?" he said. Bantam put her hands on her hips, mimicking her mother the time she was caught trying to juggle the eggs she was supposed to be bringing home from the chicken coop. "First of all, I'm taller than you," she said, slowly reaching for her hoopak. "Second of all, that's mean! How dare you treat a couple of helpless creatures that way? What's so entertaining to you little thugs about seeing an poor dumb animal suffer like that?"
The smaller child looked as if he were thinking of obeying his elder, though she was a kender. But his thicker companion simply spat on the ground. "I don't listen to kender! My mom says humans are better. She says you're thieves and there ain't nothing worse than a thief."
Assuming a threatening stance, Bantam held her hoopak firmly and shrieked, "Your mother must think taller is better, 'cause I can see she bedded an ogre to get something like you!"
The child's face wrinkled into a scowl much too stormy for his years. "Don't you talk about my mom!"
Seeing that she had struck a nerve, Bantam stepped back and continued. "Or maybe it was a walrus-man. You from the south? You should file those tusks down a bit if you want to pass as a pure human!" (cont'd) Author: Bantam Date: Sat Feb 20 16:40:53 2010 Subject The tale of the Caergoth cat (2) (cont'd) "I AM a pure human!" he yelled, and lunged for Bantam, but she ran. She knew she wasn't quite quick enough to escape him, so she began tipping barrels and upsetting piles of junk in her wake, and she used her hoopak as a third leg, trying her best not to stumble and trip.
"I guess it could have been a minotaur," she shrieked. "That would explain the cow smell!"
"I'll wear your stupid hair for a trophy when I catch you!" the boy yelled.
"It'll be an improvement over your own!" Bantam was emerging from the alleyway into the crowded downtown. She glanced about, trying to think of a way she could lose the thug. She looked over her shoulder for a moment to see how far he was behind her, and -- THUNK! -- ran straight into the trunk-like chest of a six-foot-tall, burly sailor with a six-day beard and a deep scar across his cheek.
An idea was born.
She beamed up at the sailor. "I am SO GLAD I found you," she said quickly. "You see that young punk over there? I overheard him telling his ugly friends how he was going to sneak onto your ship at nightfall. They have some sort of contest on -- who can steal the most gold from the most boats, or something along those lines. Anyway, the lad is clearly on the wrong path and you ought to have a talk with him. Be gentle, though. I have to go warn the other sailors. Bye!"
Hoping that the sailor would detain the boy long enough for her to escape, she dashed off into the crowd, headed for the alley she had just come from. Smiling with satisfaction as she heard the boy's bellows of protest behind her, she skipped into the alley and headed for the sack.
She was surprised to see that it had already been opened, and that the small boy was sitting on the ground next to it. As she got closer, she could see that the child was actually crying. She approached slowly and put a hand on his shoulder. He started and looked up.
"Oh, ma'am," he said, his face red and tear-streaked. "I'm sorry! Bracken, he's my friend, but not my friend, really -- it was his idea, and I didn't want to! He made me do it!" The child's shoulders started to shake.
"There, there," Bantam said softly, sitting down next to him. "It's all right. But where are the cats?"
"One ran off," said the child, his voice shaking. "B-but the's..." He pointed at the sack on the ground.
Bantam slowly pulled the burlap back and uncovered the other cat. It was a skinny black tom with wide, frightened eyes. It was breathing shallowly, but there was a trickle of blood coming out of its mouth, and its fur was matted with blood in various places where it had been wounded. Its right ear was torn and gory.
After she looked into the huge round eyes of the cat, she was forced to squeeze her own eyes shut. For just a moment, she could feel all of the animal's pain and terror, a terror so pure and instinctual, one that she rarely felt as a kender. The cat's fear wrapped about her heart like a constrictor snake, and it immobilized her, just for a moment. The sound of the small boy whimpering at her side brought her back to reality.
"It's dying, it's dying," he sobbed. "I killed it!"
"No you didn't! Stop talking nonsense!" Bantam said. "If anyone killed it, it was that brute who gave it a kick in the head. Anyway, it's still breathing. I might be able to help it..." She faltered as she said this, uncertain that she was telling the truth.
But the boy looked up, his eyes full of hope. "Really?" he whispered. In spite of her size, he still recognized her as a Grownup, one of that mystic order of persons who somehow knew how to work miracles in an emergency. Bantam hoped the boy would get to see a REAL miracle. (cont'd) Author: Bantam Date: Sat Feb 20 16:41:49 2010 Subject The tale of the Caergoth cat (3) She knelt next to the body of the cat and gently laid her hands on it. It began to emit a low growl, but she spoke softly to it and stroked its head gently, and it seemed to relax. Then she shut her eyes and tried to concentrate, as she had seen Ashaf and Evan do. She touched the feather she had woven into her hair, just for luck.
"Chislev," she prayed. "This is Bantam. Er, Bantam Feedcooker. You remember, we met in the woods by Groundbreak. And then again in Master Ashaf's garden. You made me break my nose, you know! He said it won't ever look the same. But -- oh -- yes -- well, my nose, that's not the single most important thing right now. The single most important thing is that one of your creatures is dying, Wild One, and for a really stupid reason, and -- he's so scared, I -- I somehow felt it, and it's the saddest thing I've ever felt! I drove away the person that was doing this to him, but he's dying anyway, and I need your help. Please, Chislev, please help me to heal this beast!"
Even as she spoke, she felt that strange feeling she had felt in the dream -- the creeping, tingling, goosebery cider sensation in her veins, and her hands began to glow with a green light. Before her eyes, the cat's torn ear stopped bleeding, his wounds closed, and he began to breathe normally. Slowly, he got to his feet, stretched, and began cleaning himself as if nothing had happened.
The boy, who had watched the whole thing in stunned silence, turned to voice his amazement to the cat's rescuer. But the kender was lying flat on her back, her eyes shut, her mouth hanging open. The divine energy that had flowed through her in those brief moments had made her faint dead away. Author: Bantam Date: Mon Feb 22 16:43:26 2010 Subject New friends, and a new name. The next thing Bantam was aware of was an absolutely revolting stench, as if all of the fish in the sea had simultaneously gone bad. She jerked upright, coughing and clapping a hand to her nose, and glancing around to see if she'd been captured by gully dwarves. But what she saw was another kender. He was smiling, and holding a rusted tin bucket.
"Sorry," he said. "Chum." He held up the bucket as if that explained everything. "For shark fishing. I didn't have any smelling salts. Are you okay?" "Yes," she said. "I think so..."
"My name's Karac!" He thrust out his hand.
Bantam inspected the hand for fish guts, then took it and shook it. "I'm Bantam," she said. "Nice to meet another kender! It's been a long time!"
"I found you in an alley!" Karac said happily. "A little human boy was trying to drag you home. I helped him take you in here. He said you brought a cat back from the dead! Practically, anyway. Are you a healer?"
"I guess so!" Bantam said. "But not a very good one, if I'm going to faint every time I do it! I feel like I've been trampled by a woolly mammoth."
"Really? I always wondered what it felt like. To get trampled by a woolly mammoth, I mean, not to be a healer. I guess I could if I wanted to, since we have some woolly mammoths here, but I've never gotten around to it. Here, take this." Karac offered her a small cup. Bantam sniffed it -- rum. She sipped gratefully. "I'm a fisherman," he continued. "I'm the greatest fisherman in Palanthas! Well, I'm not in Palanthas, actually, but I usually am. I was just bringing the pick of my catch back here for the cook. We'll all have fish tonight!"
Bantam looked around, wondering who "we" were. Indeed, she noticed several topknotted heads peeking around corners, looking curiously at her. She was in a sunny old house, resting on a comfortable sofa. The walls were completely covered with colorful paintings, and everywhere she could see little niches overflowing with trinkets. Over her head, the ceiling was riddled with irretrievable daggers, knives, darts and letter openers. The floor was covered with soft cushions, some of which were occupied by sleeping kender. It was all so beautiful that her heart skipped a beat.
"Where AM I?" she asked.
"Uncle Trapspringer's house, of course!" Karac beamed. "A haven for all kender of all shapes and sizes! Didn't you know this was here? Well, now you know."
"Uncle Trapsringer?!" Bantam sat up rigid. "Is he here?"
"Nnno, not right now, I don't think," Karac said. "But he's here in spirit, of course. He protects us all. And lets us stay in his house. He's a very nice Uncle. You should stay here for a while!"
And so she did. She explored every inch of the marvelous house, found every hidden room, locked herself in the root cellar by accident, met dozens of new friends, ate glorious meals and played with the animals in the stables. But soon she realized that she was in danger of forgetting her goal -- the temple in Solace. And so, one morning, she sadly bid all the other kender goodbye, promising she'd return.
"Thanks for everything," she told Karac, "but I have to get to Solace."
"Of course!" Karac said. "I'm sure we'll see you here again, but Wanderlust is Wanderlust, Bantam. Say...I don't know your last name!"
"It's --" Bantam paused. Traditionally, Wanderlust was the time a kender could "make a name for himself" -- quite literally. Her mother had been Henbane Bramblehead before her culinary skills had led to her being dubbed "Feedcooker". Bantam had had many remarkable things happen to her in her short life, but none quite so remarkable as the incident of the cats. And so she decided: "It's Bantam Catsbetter, now," she said. And then elaborated: "Bantam Catsbetter, Friend of the Small!" Author: Bantam Date: Fri Feb 26 01:51:38 2010 Subject Arrival to Solace And so Bantam traveled onward. Because she still found it impossible to borrow anything without the original owner noticing and making a great fuss about it, she foraged for food in the woods and did odd jobs here and there for bread, beer, and other essentials. Between the work and all of the detours and distractions to which a kender is slave, it took Bantam months to reach Solace. But finally, after collecting a new pouch worth of trinkets and a book's worth of stories, she was strolling among the fabled vallenwoods beneath dappled shade and sunlight. Finally she was about to enter the breathtaking city of Solace.
After stopping at the Inn of the Last Home for a restorative plate of spicy potatoes and an opportunity to tell of her travels to anyone polite enough to listen, she found her way to the temple of Chislev and entered.
It was a humbly beautiful place constructed inside of a great hollow tree and swathed with vines and flowers. She felt immediately secure as she entered, and set about looking for a temple priest she could talk to.
"Hello!" she called. "Hello! Is anyone here?" The temple's interior did not seem cold and stony as others she had visited. Life surrounded her. Plants grew from great urns next to wide, sunny windows, and climbed uncontrolled about the walls. Images of animals were carved into every surface. In the center of the room there was a large wood statue of a unicorn. Bantam paused to take in its breathtaking beauty.
Her reverie was interrupted by a hand on her shoulder. She turned around. A female elf, a Wilder Elf by the looks of her, was giving Bantam a disapproving look. She was wearing robes of green, brown and yellow, and a feather-shaped holy symbol was hung around her neck. "Oh, hello!" Bantam said. "Are you a priestess?"
"Yes, little one," the elf said. "I suppose you are aware, then, that you are in a temple?"
"Oh, yes, of course I know! This is the Temple of Chislev!"
"Indeed. Most come to the temple to seek peace and balance. Plainly, you have not, since you entered shouting at the top of your lungs. May I ask why you have come here, and discourage you from disrupting the peace any further?"
"My name's Bantam Catsbetter," she said, sticking out her hand, which the priestess declined to take. "I want to be a healer. I came for a teacher."
(cont'd) Author: Bantam Date: Fri Feb 26 01:54:01 2010 Subject Arrival to Solace (2) "Oh, really?" The elf arced a delicate eyebrow. "Well, Bantam Catsbetter, I am afraid you have come to the wrong place. Chislev does not choose just anyone to heal in her name, and I highly doubt that one of your kind --"
"WAIT! Master Ashaf -- my friend, he's a cleric of Mishakal -- he said this might happen so he wrote me a letter to give you. Hang on, it's in my pack somewhere. I'll just find it." The priestess watched, stunned into inaction, as the kender emptied first her pack, then one pouch, then another, onto the temple floor. Beads, figurines, dried flowers, partially-eaten cookies, bones, feathers and shiny rocks spilled everywhere. Finally she pulled out a crumpled, but still sealed, letter from the wreckage, and handed it to the priestess.
As Bantam gathered her worldly possessions from the floor, the priestess opened the note and began to read. Her eyes drifted back and forth from the page to the absurd creature in front of her as she read accounts of Bantam's great knowledge and skill in Ashaf's neat italic handwriting. The kender couldn't have written this, she thought. And so either someone is playing a terribly unfunny joke on me...or it's true. She read: ...Please keep in mind the fact that Bantam, while skilled and goodhearted, is quite clumsy, and should be supervised around fragile artifacts. She is, however, free of the more unfortunate characteristics of her kin, such as the affinities for pickpocketing and lockpicking which are synonymous with her race. You will eventually tolerate, and then enjoy, her presence in your temple. Please instruct her, as I believe she has a good deal of potential.
Yours in Mishakal's healing hands (and in Chislev's motherly arms), Ashaf Kefalis, High Cleric of Rening.

The priestess looked up as she finished the letter. Bantam was holding out a yellow, green and brown feather.
"I found this," she said, "after I had the dream. He talks about the dream in there, doesn't he? I think Chislev might have left this as a sign. Do you think so? I mean, I don't know much about the gods and it could just be a coincidence, but maybe --"
"Enough, little one," the elf sighed. "I believe you, and it looks as if I have no choice but to take you on as an acolyte."
"Really?! Oh, that's fine, just fine! Gosh, thank you! I can't wait to learn everything that there is to know!"
"THAT would be impossible," said the priestess. "Chislev's domain encompasses all Krynn. You cannot aspire to know all of it, even if you are the cleverest kender who ever lived."
"Oh," the kender said, crestfallen. "Well, then, how do I know where to start? I mean, I suppose one starts with the most important things and moves down, but how does one know what's important? I guess, for that matter, perhaps it makes better sense to start out with the least important things and work one's way up. What did YOU learn first? Personally, I want to know how to heal --"
"QUIET!" snapped the elf. "Bantam, if you are to learn anything, first you must learn patience and restraint. Follow me and I will show you around the temple. You must remain silent until I say you may speak. THAT is your first test. Come along." Author: Bantam Date: Sat Mar 13 15:35:38 2010 Subject Bantam's training The elven priestess, whose name was Kalthana, was rigorous in her training of Bantam. She frequently subjected the kender to "silence tests," making her bottle up all her commentary and questions, sometimes for three or for hours at a time. Bantam fidgeted and squirmed so much that Kalthana often feared she would combust, but somehow, the kender managed to keep her mouth shut -- usually. Kalthana also took to placing Bantam in a room with a variety of wondrous objects -- feathers, animal skulls, fossils polished to a gleam, carved holy symbols -- and challenging her to sit still and look at them without laying a hand on any of them. The priestess often feared that what she was doing to the poor creature amounted to torture, but it was the only way Bantam could begin to cultivate the kind of patience required of one who meant to spend a lifetime serving a god. When Bantam WAS permitted to speak freely, Kalthana found her to be a curious and eager pupil, always searching for answers -- and then more questions.
"Mistress Kalthana," Bantam asked one day as they were strolling together below Solace in the shade of the vallenwoods, "aren't there any other clerics in your temple?"
"Not at the moment, no. Chislev's clerics do not tend to dwell in cities. Most of them take to a life in the wilds. I am here to assist the people of Solace and to protect its trees and its beasts. The rest are out there, in the woods and the mountains."
"I see. But Mistress..." Bantam's brow was furrowed in thought, and Kalthana could see, even in this young kender's face, the beginnings of the network of wrinkles and lines that every mature kender wore proudly. "If you're here to protect the beasts, why are people still allowed to hunt on the forest floor? They kill beasts down there all the time! I don't like it!"
Kalthana smiled. "As disciples of Chislev, we might find such violence distasteful, it's true. But we're also here to protect balance. Bantam, I want you to imagine for a moment what would happen if no one ever killed a deer or a rabbit. If there were no wolves, no bears, no panthers and no humans."
Bantam thought hard. "There would be a whole lot of deer, I guess," she said.
"And would there be enough food to go around?"
"No. They'd starve. And...there'd be no more plants, and they'd have no place to live."
"Exactly. Beasts who kill other beasts, whether they are wolves or elves or men, are preventing THAT sort of suffering, which is far worse. Chislev is nature, and nature is violent, Bantam." Author: Bantam Date: Sat Mar 13 15:36:36 2010 Subject Bantam's training (cont'd) Bantam nodded, but she still looked unhappy. "I just don't like it. When something is hurt, or dying, I feel...afraid. When I was little and my Ma would slaughter a chicken I'd feel terrible, and hide under the porch. Ma said I'd understand when I was older, but it's only getting worse! When I saw that cat dying in the street, I could feel everything, as if it was happening to me!" Bantam was beginning to shake as she recalled that day, and Kalthana steadied her with a gentle hand on her shoulder.
"What you feel is instinct, one of the most powerful forces on Krynn. Although it can be quite unpleasant, you should rejoice, because it tells you that your bond with Chislev is strong. Correct me if I am mistaken, Bantam, but you are not a pure kender, are you?"
Bantam looked up, startled. ""
"Don't be afraid. Your heritage is not your fault."
Bantam shook her head sheepishly. "My dad. Half-human."
"I see." Kalthana gazed thoughtfully at her disciple. "Bantam, pure kender do not, as a rule, feel fear. Do you know what I think? I think Chislev chose you because you have that trace of human blood in you. It's like a little door through which the fear instinct can enter where it couldn't with a pure kender. And fear is such an important, natural emotion -- it is maligned because of the way those in power abuse it to control others, but it is part of the divine plan. How could you hope to understand a wild beast if you couldn't feel fear yourself? It may seem like a curse to you, but perhaps you could learn to see it as a gift."
"A gift." Bantam brightened. "I never thought about it that way! I'm feeling something hardly any kender ever gets to feel! Wait until I tell everyone back in Groundbreak about it!"
And there, Kalthana thought, was the appeal of a kender. They may have been irrepressible, impatient, undignified, and annoying -- but they were always, always optimistic. And, she thought, recalling with a sigh the rumors that were drifting about Solace of late, of war, of darkness, of false gods... Krynn needed optimism more than it had in a long, long time. Author: Bantam Date: Sun Mar 21 22:41:22 2010 Subject The next level. "Bantam, I have been very impressed with your discipline over the past moons." Kalthana was smiling as the gangling mixed-breed kender sat in meditation, long limbs knotted into an impossible position, before a cool stream on the forest floor in Solace.
Bantam looked up and her face split into an impish grin beneath her crooked nose. Kalthana had placed her under an order of silence for the time being, so Bantam couldn't respond with her voice. Resilient creature that she was, though, the kender had learned to communicate quite effectively without it, and her face tended to go into overdrive whenever Kalthana required her to shut up. Kalthana was often driven to distraction during her priestly lectures as the eyes rolled this way and that, the eyebrows danced, the pointed ears waggled and the mouth twisted into expressions previously unknown to Krynn.
Undaunted, Kalthana continued. "You have learned to meditate without getting up and wandering off every time a twig snaps or a bird sings. You have learned to control your impulses to grab and examine everything in front of you. You've become disciplined in your daily prayer. Your bond with Krynn is becoming ever stronger as a result of your efforts. I'm sure you have felt it."
Bantam nodded vigorously, her topknot bouncing up and down on her head.
"I believe it is time for you to begin learning in earnest."
Bantam's eyes widened and she scrambled hastily to her feet. This effort caused her to lose her balance, as the grass in which she was sitting was slick with dew, and she toppled over. She got up a second time, more carefully, as Kalthana sighed and shook her head. "Are you all right? Fine. Now, do try to compose yourself."
Bantam nodded and her face grew stern and solemn.
"You cannot learn nearly as effectively as I would wish here, in the city. Even in a city like Solace. And so I am going to take you deep into the forest, to Chislev's central temple. You will learn not only to heal the wounded, but to channel Chislev's power to attack those who mean to harm her domain, and enhance the strengths of those who wish to help her. You will have to devote a great deal of prayer and study to mastering these spells..."
"Spells!?" Bantam blurted. Kalthana had made a tactical blunder. "I'm going to learn to do magic like my father!?"
"In...a way, and quiet, Bantam!" The kender clapped her own hands over her mouth. "We do not learn a set of secret words and gestures by rote, as mages do. Where they must devote their lives to the study of books, we must devote it to prayer, and the study of Chislev's domain. The stronger your link with Chislev, the more access you will have to these spells." Bantam nodded. "If you are ready to work, we will leave today."
Bantam did not speak. Instead, she turned and ran back to the temple to collect her few possessions, both hands still glued firmly to her mouth all the while. Author: Bantam Date: Sun Apr 4 17:01:09 2010 Subject Trouble in the woods To be enveloped in Chislev's magnificent wilderness swelled Bantam's heart; a million earthen scents penetrated her nostrils at once, and the cool shaded air was like a cleansing bath after weeks in Solace, with its urban miasma of mingled wood smoke and horse manure. Still, she felt uneasy. Something simply wasn't right; that was the only way to explain it, like she was trying to write with the quill in her right hand instead of her left. She looked up at Kalthana, who had halted midstride, frowning.
"I feel funny," Bantam said.
Kalthana stood silently, listening, staring into the foliage. And so Bantam continued: "There's just something that's not right here. Usually in the woods I feel good, completely, from my head to my toes, like it's my home. I don't feel like that here. It's like when you go into your house and you don't know exactly what's different but you just know that there's been a thief inside! Not that there were any thieves in Groundbreak, but --"
"Shut up, Bantam!" Kalthana hissed. She listened during the moment of silence allowed to her by the chastened acolyte. "There are no birds."
"Oh! That's it!" Bantam cried. "No birds! Well, isn't that odd? What could make them stop singing? Birds NEVER stop singing, except sometimes when they're in cages, probably because they're so sad; kender seldom sing in jail, either. . ."
Kalthana reached out with one willowy arm and drew the small person towards her."Birds stop singing," she said in a very low voice, "either because they are asleep, or because they are very, very afraid."
"It's the afternoon," Bantam said. "Why would they be asleep? So that means that --"
"Bantam, you must be silent now. You must not speak another word and you must take the utmost care to walk silently, as I showed you, without stumbling, without even snapping a twig. Something's quite amiss here, and we must go to the safety of the temple now."
"Now?! But don't you want to find out what --"
"No! Do as I say!"
And they walked, quickly, Bantam's heart pounding with exhilaration. How mysterious all this was! What on Krynn could make all the birds in the forest stop singing at once? She wanted so badly to go and find out what it was. She was poor in the stealthy arts, compared to her brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and even her ill-fated cousin Deadfoot, but maybe, if she was really careful and she focused very hard on what Kalthana had taught her. . .
Kalthana hurried on towards the safety of the temple. "Such remarkable stealth, Bantam," she whispered. "Is that what you've been working on when you wander off after evening prayer? You needn't answer. . . Bantam? Bantam?!"
But by the time she glanced over her shoulder, the kender had vanished. Kalthana swore an oath seldom heard in the vicinity of the temple. Then, she tightened her grip on her vallenwood mace, and began to retrace her steps. Author: Bantam Date: Sat Apr 10 18:38:40 2010 Subject Captured! "Well!" Bantam huffed to herself. "It's absolutely too quiet here!"
She shrunk a little in embarrassment as her shrill voice echoed in the woods. It WAS quiet, and her unintentional outburst seemed almost offensive in the silence. She placed one hand over her mouth and listened, and breathed deeply in and out through her nose, trying to lower her heart rate, as Kalthana had taught her. But it was just too exciting! She'd been cooped up in Solace for so long, and in the prime of Wanderlust, too -- it was just unfair. She was sure Kalthana wouldn't mind if she did a bit of reconnaissance.
She ducked low into the undergrowth and began to stalk, looking for a trail. She tripped over a tree root. She picked herself up and brushed a bit of moist black earth off her green and yellow tunic. She walked into a tree. She massaged the place where the rough bark had scraped her cheek, and glared at the trunk. She turned, and stubbed her toe on a rock that was embedded in the ground. She swore loudly. That was when she felt a rough hand on her shoulder.
"Look what we have here," rasped a low, moist voice behind her. The breath behind the voice smelled like rotten goat meat. Bantam looked over her shoulder, and into the face of one of the ugliest hobgoblins she'd ever seen. "Hello!" she said, attempting a winning smile.
The hobgoblin didn't reply. Rather, he hoisted her into the air by the topknot and began carrying her elsewhere. This was quite unacceptably painful, and Bantam began to scream, curse, and flail her limbs. She managed to land a few good kicks and punches, but the hobgoblin's arms, unfortunately, were longer than hers, and he simply moved her further away from his body. After a short walk, she was brought to a small camp, where the remains of some animal charred over a flaming pit and a hodgepodge of mercenaries sat around it, talking in loud voices. There were a few wooden wagons, too, with bars in the windows, and Bantam could see dejected, malnourished figures huddled inside. Slavers!
"Look what I found stumbling around the camp," the hobgoblin said with a sticky chuckle. "A volunteer worker!"
"That's a kender," scoffed a lean, fair-haired human who was lounging against a tree. "They don't work. Better just kill it."
"Too big to be a kender," argued a dwarf sitting by the fire. "Looks like an elf in a kender costume."
"Too clumsy to be an elf OR a kender," the hobgoblin growled. "Didn't seem to know WHERE it was going."
The human laughed. "Give it to a band of gnomes to dissect and figure out exactly what it is, then. But don't clutter up the camp with it."
"Okay." The hobgoblin unsheathed a large knife. Bantam gulped.
"Wait!" she said, throwing up her hands. "Don't kill me! I'm, um, half human," she lied. She tried to make her voice sound lower and calmer than it actually was. "I grew up in Solace. I'm barely a kender, really. I'll work for you. Please."
"You sure LOOK like a kender," the hobgoblin said.
"I'm, um, trying to find my real father. I thought it'd help if I dressed like them. Pretty stupid-looking, isn't it?"
"You got that right," said the hobgoblin. He turned towards the other members of the camp and reinitiated the debate. Bantam wished they'd stop arguing so he'd put her down. "What do you think? We're low on workers. The two in there look like they're going to drop dead any minute."
The human rolled his eyes. "Do what you want, then, but don't let the Fewmaster blame me when he sees we're feeding and housing a god damn kender."
The hobgoblin lifted Bantam up until she was eye to eye with him. She winced. "You'd better work, half-breed scum, or we WILL kill you.." He confiscated her hoopak, threw her into one of the wagons, and slammed the door shut. Author: Bantam Date: Sun Apr 11 18:16:16 2010 Subject Mysterious murmurs (1 of 2) Well, this was just too much. First the indignity of being dragged around by a smelly hobgoblin, then the "filthy half-breed" remark, and now this -- a cage. Every kender's worst nightmare. Oh well -- at least now perhaps she could listen in and figure out what these "people" were up to.
She had, at the very least, a couple of roommates, but they weren't very much fun. One was a dejected Qualinesti elf, thin as a sapling, whose body erupted in hacking coughs every few minutes, and who simply rolled over to face the wall when Bantam asked what his name was. The cough sounded terrible. Bantam wondered if she might be able to cure him. The other was a middle-aged human who sat in the corner, hugging her knees. Friendly enough, but not very chatty -- understandably. She felt sorry for them.
She found a spot in the corner where she could easily see and hear what was going on outside, and laid down on the straw- covered floor of the wagon, pretending to be asleep. Then she listened to their conversation.
"The Fewmaster wants us to build the fortification right here, so we have strategic access to Solace..." (Fewmaster? What in Chislev's domain was a Fewmaster?) "We'll have to cut down some of these big trees and burn away the undergrowth..." (Not under her and Kalthana's watch, they wouldn't!) " of wildcats living under that uprooted hackberry has been poking around the supply wagon, I'm going to try to smoke them out and kill 'em tomorrow..." (Why! She'd like to see the ugly brutes try!) "The Fewmaster said there might be some weird druids lurking around here -- said to kill them if you see any..." (Well, of all the nerve!) "Their temple's supposed to be around here somewhere and we might be able to raid it for food and medicine..." (When Kalthana hears about this!)
Bantam had heard enough. She had to escape and warn Kalthana. She'd think of a way to do that later. First, she thought, she'd better pray. So she sat cross-legged in a corner and began murmuring to Chislev in a low voice. Bantam had heard enough. She had to escape and warn Kalthana. She'd think of a way to do that later. First, she thought, she'd better pray. So she sat cross-legged in a corner and began murmuring to Chislev in a low voice.
The starving elf lifted his head. Then, he rolled over and stared at Bantam as if he were seeing her for the first time. "I can't believe my eyes," he croaked. "A kender...and a disciple of the Wild One?" (cont'd) Author: Bantam Date: Sun Apr 11 18:20:11 2010 Subject Mysterious murmurs (2 of 2) Bantam looked up, annoyed that he'd interrupted her, but happy that he was talking to her at last. "Of course," she said proudly. "I was just on my way to the t --" She stopped, glanced out at the hulking figures around the campfire, and lowered her voice to a whisper. " the temple. My teacher said to be quiet and come with her because something was wrong but I decided to come investigate and then they caught me and threw me in here."
"And look where it's got you! How very like a kender," muttered the Qualinesti.
Bantam glared at him. "You're lucky I'm here," she hissed. "Maybe I can help you!"
The elf's face softened a little. "I don't know, little one," he said. "You'd have to have some pretty good tricks up your sleeve..." His body was racked with another violent coughing fit. Bantam crawled to his side and began to pray to Chislev. She imagined her knees were the roots of a tree, reaching far, far down into the dirt and binding her firmly with Krynn, and she imagined Krynn's power filtering up through those roots like pure water, and dripping though her fingertips, bathing the sick elf. She felt the divine energy tingling through her body, a familiar feeling, now, and a pale green light flickered over the elf's prone figure for a moment.
She could tell that she hadn't cured whatever ailed him, but she did, at least, manage to calm the spate of coughing, and his breathing became normal again. She whipped an old handkerchief from a pouch on her waist and wiped a bit of blood-specked spittle from his lips. Then she slumped against the wall of the wagon, her energy spent for the moment. "True healing," he said quietly. "Thank you."
"My name's Bantam Catsbetter," she said, and stuck out her hand.
"Ganathali Thornpath," said the elf. "And I'll shake your hand only because I have nothing left for you to borrow..." He clasped her hand. His grip was weak and his skin was icy.
"I'm going to get us out of here," vowed Bantam. Author: Bantam Date: Sun Apr 18 16:43:23 2010 Subject The demise of a tree (1 of 2) "Rise and shine," roared the hobgoblin guard as he struck the wooden wall of the slave wagon hard with his brass-knuckled fist. The little room rattled with the impact, and Bantam, Ganathali, and the silent human woman jolted awake. He slung the door open. Bantam followed the elf and human as they shuffled out. "You're going to cut down these trees." Bantam winced and Ganathali's shoulders sagged a little as the creature gestured towards a stand of beautiful old-growth vallenwoods. "You cut. Don't mess the wood up. We need it."
"But we haven't even had breakfast," Bantam cried. The hobgoblin bashed her on the head with the handle of his sword and she yelped in pain, massaging it as tears sprung to her eyes. Ganathali gave her a "Well, what did you expect?" look. The three of them were chained together with rusty leg shackles and given dull axes that they could barely lift. The mercenaries seemed amused by their struggles to keep the axeheads upright. The hobgoblin shoved the three of them to one of the largest and most magnificent trees, and watched them expectantly.
"But why do you want us to do it? We're smaller than you and they're half-dead!" complained the irrepressible kender, still rubbing the welt on her head and examining the palm of her hand for streaks of crimson. "You're so strong. You'd be faster and better at it."
"Shut up!" The hobgoblin smacked Bantam sharply across the cheek. "Slaves cut. We do IMPORTANT things, like read plans."
"You can read?" Bantam asked. Ganathali covered his eyes in anticipation before the kender was bashed over the head again.
"Disrespectful little worm!" snarled the hobgoblin. "You know, I was CHIEFTAIN of my tribe before they..." The hobgoblin paused, and frowned. "Not important why I'm not chieftain anymore! But chieftains don't cut! Slaves cut! You are a slave! Now, get to work!!" He gave her a little shove towards the tree.
"I can't do this," Bantam thought. "This tree must be centuries old..." She looked into Ganathali's eyes, and sensed that similar thoughts were running through his head. Then, she glanced over at the little cluster of wagons nearby that made up the caravan, and suddenly, a memory came to her...
Author: Bantam Date: Sun Apr 18 16:46:20 2010 Subject The demise of a tree (2 of 2) "We need to get rid of this rotten old thing to put in the new chicken coop," Henbane Feedcooker said briskly as her daughter stood before the long-dead mulberry tree with a small axe in her hands.
"Why do I have to do it, Ma?" Bantam complained.
"Because you're bigger than me, and also, my rheumatism is acting up! Kipper Quicksnip said to rest my wrists. Anyway, you go ahead and do the thing in while I go and get the chickens out of the old coop so we can tear it down for the scrap lumber. It'll be fun." Henbane bustled off.
"We meaning me, I suppose! Don't know why we need a new chicken coop anyway," Bantam mumbled to herself as she swung the axe as hard as she could. It buried itself in the wood with a satisfying THUNK. "I like this tree. I mean, it's dead and all but it's perfect for climbing..." THUNK. "Besides, someone might live in here..." THUNK. "Chopping trees is a job for some big old ogre, not for a kender girl! But just 'cause I'm bigger than everyone else..." THUNK, THUNK, THUNK. She continued to daydream and mutter to herself as she hacked at the tree. Soon, it began to shudder in a telltale way. Excited to be done with the chore, she chopped faster and faster until...
"BANTAM! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" shrieked Henbane, as shrilly as the birds she was carrying under each arm.
"Cutting down the tree, of course," Bantam explained as it rocked and teetered. Was her mother going silly in her old age?
"But you've notched it on the wrong side, you silly girl! Oh, no! It's too laaaate!" Henbane's voice reached the summit of its range as the tree fell majestically onto the rooftop of their little house, caving the roof in and shattering the attic windows.
Henbane and Bantam surveyed the destruction in silence for a moment. A squirrel emerged from a hole in the tree and began barking a string of complaints, threats and ultimatums at Bantam. Henbane turned towards her daughter, who shrank to about half her former size. "Well, you never said..." she began.
And suddenly, everything was all right as her mother burst into great whoops of laughter, dropping the armful of chickens to dab tears from her eyes. "Oh, Bantam," she giggled. "For someone so smart you sure don't have an ounce of sense!"
"Sorry, Ma," Bantam said. "I wasn't paying attention..."
"Well, let's get 20 or so of the neighbors together and pull this thing off the house," she said. "I've been thinking how nice it'd be to have some extra sunlight in that attic, anyway..."

Bantam looked at the massive vallenwood, and then back at the little wagons of the caravan, which looked like children's models next to the towering, ancient trees. A slow smile spread across her face.
The human woman swung her axe.
"STOP!" Bantam said. "You're notching that tree on the wrong side." She assumed her most confident voice. "I grew up on a farm. I know what I'm talking about. We want to start over here." She took a wide stance, swung, and planted her axe on the side closest to the caravan. THUNK. "I've cut down millions of trees." She stared into the human's glassy eyes, willing her to play along. To her relief, the woman shrugged and nodded. She looked over at Ganathali. The corners of his mouth turned up, just slightly, and a glimmer that wasn't there before came into his eyes.
"If you say so, Bantam," he said, and hurled the axe at the trunk.
"No more chatter," growled the hobgoblin. "Cut!"
Bantam raised her eyes to the heavens and silently thanked Chislev for the stupidity of the hobgoblin race.
THUNK. Author: Bantam Date: Sun Apr 25 15:22:21 2010 Subject Diversion and flight The noise and chaos caused by the collapse of the mighty vallenwood onto the little cluster of caravan wagons were terrific. In the short time it took for the slavemasters to figure out what was going on, Bantam, Ganathali and the mute woman were off, doing the best they could with the chains around their feet as Bantam shouted steps like a drill sergeant.
Her eyes had been darting about, looking for escape routes, as they felled the tree, and at last she had settled upon a narrow deer trail she had spied which led into a wooded gully. She made for it - "Left, right, left, right, left!" - but they stumbled over tree roots and downed branches as they descended into it, and they ended up tumbling down the wall of the ravine instead of climbing. They landed in a muddy hole, their chains tangled around a gnarled stump, and were scurrying to pick themselves up when they felt a strong gust of wind and heard a beating of feathery wings. Bantam looked up.
"Kalthana!" she yelped in astonishment. So her mistress hadn't forgotten about her! For here she was, and mounted upon a beautiful creature which Bantam had never had the good fortune to see before -- but she'd certainly heard a number of tales about it back in Groundbreak. It was a griffin, a great powerful beast, the back half lion and the front half eagle. True, it wasn't twenty feet high like Cousin Featherfoot had told her, nor was it spitting fire as Fleabane Stoneskipper had averred -- but to be sure, it was far more thrilling to see this one face to face than to hear a story about the most monstrous fire-breather of all. And besides, Bantam thought, maybe it was still young.
"Shhh!" Kalthana put her finger to her lips. "They're coming after you right now!" she whispered. "I've been waiting for a chance to grab you and this is the best one I'll get. Hold still!"
She spoke a soft command to the griffin in her ancient elvish tongue, and the beast reared and brought its talons down on the tree stump. Then, it dug its claws into the ground beneath the stump and lifted, uprooting it with one powerful swipe. Grabbing the stump and the chains in one great fistful, it beat its wings and leapt gracefully into the air on its huge feline hind legs, rising up out of the ravine just in time to send the three slavemasters staggering backwards in fear and surprise. Bantam winced as the chain dug into her leg and pulled herself upright to take the weight off of it, hugging the griffin around its narrow, scaly ankle with one arm while offering her other to Ganathali and the human woman, that they might do the same.
She couldn't hear what the enraged hobgoblin was roaring at her as they rose into the air, but she was sure it wasn't nice. She gave him a little wave and a smile, and then relaxed, hypnotized by the infinite green of the forest as it broadened in their wake. Author: Bantam Date: Tue Jun 8 03:44:31 2010 Subject Rescued "Bantam, let me just tell you one thing," Kalthana said after the griffin had landed safely on a faraway hilltop, and the dizzy passengers had disembarked, tumbling onto the cool grass to collect themselves and thanking the gods they were back on land. "When I tell you to follow me, you do as you're told! Do you understand? You might have gotten yourself killed by those brutes! You're lucky they didn't just slaughter you on sight because you're a kender!"
"Three quarters kender," Bantam corrected her. "And I wasn't lucky - I just had to be smarter than a hobgoblin, which isn't all that difficult, and are you even going to ask me what I found out? Oh, it's really important, Kalthana!"
The Kagonesti sighed. "I'm interested in hearing what you discovered, but first we have to get you into the temple."
"Okay, but can we take my new friends, please? Ganathali's really sick, and I don't know what's the matter with this lady, but she sure could use a good meal."
The Qualinesti stood up, looked down in disgust at his tattered and muddy clothes, and tried to recover his dignity as he bowed before the priestess. "I am Ganathali Thornpath of Qualinost. I pledge my allegiance to the Wild One. I do not know who this poor woman is, but she doesn't speak." His knees buckled as another coughing fit seized him.
"I tried to cure him, Kalthana, but I couldn't, not all the way," Bantam said apologetically.
Kalthana scrutinized the human woman closely for a long moment. "Of course, we will take your new friends," she said finally. "Come along, it is very close. I will show you the way from Solace, Bantam, once it is safe for you to be in these woods on your own. There is too much evil lurking here." The elf spoke a soft word to the griffin, and the great animal padded a good distance from the group before springing into the air and gliding away, back to wherever it had come from, Bantam assumed.
"Wow," she breathed. "Wait until I tell Ma I got to ride a griffin! Maybe I could ride one all the way back to Groundbreak so they would all know I was telling the truth..." She closed her eyes and smiled for a moment, picturing her sensational entrance. They wouldn't tease her for not being able to pick a lock after that!
"That will NOT happen," Kalthana said sternly as she put a guiding arm around the weakened Ganathali and led the group forward through the woods. "At least not without the griffin's permission, and they are not fond of kender."
"How do you know what they're fond of?" Bantam frowned at the back of Kalthana's head. "They can't talk."
"Some say they can," Ganathali said in a hoarse voice, "but they choose not to as they feel it's foolish."
Bantam glanced involuntarily at the human woman, then felt embarrassed and looked back at the sky where the griffin had been. "Well, I know what it's like not to be allowed to talk," she murmured, "and I'd ALWAYS choose talking..." Author: Bantam Date: Sat Jul 3 18:40:07 2010 Subject The temple When Bantam stepped into Chislev's temple, she felt that she had entered the heart of Krynn itself. Though it was nestled in an earthen grotto, the air was not the stagnant, stale stuff she knew from the handful of little caves she'd stumbled into over the years -- it seemed to pulse rhythmically with an unseen energy Bantam did not understand. The sanctuary was cool and damp, illuminated by a few shafts of sunlight that entered through small openings in the cavern's ceiling. The quality of the light was dim and soothing. Bantam's eyes and those of the elves quickly adjusted to the darkness, but the human woman blinked and grasped for handholds as she walked further into the inner sanctum.
"Please, take my arm," Bantam said to the human. "We don't want you to slip and fall!"
The woman looked warily at Bantam, but as she had been stripped of her possessions by her captors weeks ago, she seemed to decide she had nothing to fear from the kender, and accepted her guidance.
A fat drop of water fell from the ceiling and burst on Bantam's forehead, and she giggled. "Oh! I've been kissed!"
Ganathali raised an eyebrow at the kender. "What are you talking about?"
"Oh." Bantam grinned. "When a cave drips on you, we call it the cave's kiss! It's just a story. The way my Cousin Hotspurs told it, Furlow Paddingfeet, the hero, was riding his Abanasinian pony when --"
"There's no time for a story right now, I'm afraid, little one," Kalthana said. "Come along. I must take you to the chambers of the Starmistress."
"What's a Starmistress?" Bantam asked.
"The Order refers to the highest-ranking priest or priestess of any temple as its Starmaster or Starmistress. Rank is not quite so iron-clad a concept in our temple as in some of the others, and so we simply elected our eldest and most accomplished cleric as our Starmistress."
Bantam was even more confused. "What's the Order?"
"The Holy Order of the Stars, Bantam. It is an organization to which all healers and other devotees of the Gods must belong, lest they be marked as Heathens and prosecuted."
Bantam frowned. "I don't recall joining that! Am I a Heathen? Gosh, I've been running around being a Heathen all these moons without even knowing it! How exciting! Should I go into hiding?"
"No, no, Bantam! You are an acolyte of our temple and our temple belongs to the Order. It is unnecessary for you to join both. The two are linked."
"Oh." Bantam failed to conceal her disappointment in this news.
"Not that there aren't a few rogue druids out in the wilds who do not associate themselves with us. They are no less disciples of Chislev for avoiding such alignment. The Order is a human construction. It cannot possibly encompass all the faces of the Beast -- nor can it wield power over every devotee of every face."
"I see," Bantam said, now picturing Chislev as a bizarre, many- headed thing, antlers and ears, manes and snouts of every ilk springing from her. She made a mental note to try her hand at sketching later - perhaps she could convey her vision in paper and charcoal.
"Stay here. I am going to take your companions to a senior healer so that we might find out what ails them, and then I shall take you to the Starmistress." Author: Bantam Date: Thu Jul 8 22:37:37 2010 Subject Starmistress Janna (1 of 2) As they delved further into the depths of the temple, leaving the two former captives behind, Bantam began to notice something different about the walls. They were glittering slightly, as if they were covered in ice -- but it wasnt cold. She drew a match from one of her pouches and struck it, admiring the strange rock, and momentarily, something clicked. "Oh! Quartz!" she exclaimed. "Its all quartz! How beautiful!"
"Oh, yes," Kalthana laughed. "People are always impressed the first time they see the Geode. Wait until we get a little further in..."
And as they neared the end of the dim tunnel they were in, Bantam saw a faint white glow in the darkness. Finally, she thought, a little light but she was unprepared for what she saw when the tunnel widened into a vast central chamber. The walls, the floor, and the ceiling were all made entirely of glittering quartz. The rock of the floor was ground down until it was as smooth as glass and the color of milk, but everywhere else, the untouched, translucent crystals reflected light from every face, and the effect was more dazzling than the finest chandelier any hands could craft.
"It may well be the largest geode on Krynn," Kalthana said, smiling inwardly at the kender's childish, speechless wonder. "It is said that a priest was guided here many centuries ago by a vision of Chislev in the form of a lynx. We have worshipped here ever since."
"My cousin Randik Pinfeathers collects geodes," Bantam breathed, "but I bet he never found one like this..." Spinning around where she stood to try and take in everything at once, she tried to locate the source of the light. They were deep in Krynn's belly now, so it wasn't the sun. Where was it coming from? Her sharp eyes fell upon the answer. "Oh, my! Is that moss glowing?"
"Yes, indeed," Kalthana said. "It is actually a very rare variety of fungus. It is a native of Klarbardin, but we cultivate it here." She reached towards a cluster of the luminescent fuzz clinging to the rock, and plucked a small piece of it. "Here, touch it." Bantam held the fungus between her thumb and forefinger, examined it, and sniffed it. "But don't eat it," cautioned Kalthana.
"I wouldn't do that," Bantam said indignantly. "What makes it glow? Is it enchanted?"
"Only by Chislev, Zivilyn and Branchala themselves," the elf said. "The glowing is part of its chemical structure, although I'm afraid I cannot explain it much further..."
"It is a fairly simple thing, small one," came a bright, clear voice behind them. "A catalyst, a little oxygen, a chemical reaction and praise Chislev, the darn thing lights up like a dwarf in a dark alehouse!"
Bantam turned at the sound of the voice, and saw a slight, grey-haired woman in plain brown robes. She had hazel eyes and a network of wrinkles over her suntanned face that would have made any kender proud. "Ah, Bantam," Kalthana said. "Meet Janna. The Starmistress."
"Oh, what an honor!" Bantam bowed so low the tip of her topknot brushed the toes of her boots. So this was the Starmistress -- a human, of all things! She had been expecting yet another haughty elf, and so was rather pleased with the surprise. She wondered how old the priestess was. Kender tended to wrinkle much more quickly than humans, so she'd always been bad at guessing. She could have been fifty or one hundred, for all the kender knew. Author: Bantam Date: Thu Jul 8 22:39:30 2010 Subject Starmistress Janna (2 of 2)
"I'm pleased to meet you, too," said the old woman with laughter in her eyes. "You are, ah, an unusual student for us, to be sure -- but I'm much too old to turn down such a challenge. I shall have to teach you better than any of my previous students, just to prove that I can."
"Lately, Bantam has not only been a healer, but a spy, Janna," said the elf. "I had to rescue her from a slave caravan, from which she escaped after a few nights of unplanned reconnaissance."
"Oh? How exciting, Bantam! Let's go to my chambers and you can tell me all about what you found out."
And so Bantam related the tale of the hobgoblin, the other slavers, of the strange talk about Fewmasters and fort-building and pillaging, and the outrageous implication that the very temple they sat in was to be raided for supplies. Janna chuckled at this.
"Pish! They'd never find it," she said. "Chislev protects this place. The entrance is practically invisible to outsiders. Anyway, even if they did, the Wildrunners could dispatch them easily."
"Especially if they all have griffins like Kalthana does," Bantam said, her eyes clouding over with the blissful memory of the ride she had taken earlier.
"No, I'm much more concerned with the fact that these people seemed to have their eyes on Solace. You say there were only a handful of men?"
"Yes, but they talked like they were just a part of a bigger group. I got the idea they weren't very important in the scheme of things. A bunch of stupid, dirty old mercenaries in charge of a sick elf, a kinder and a mute lady? I doubt they're the worst this 'Fewmaster' has to offer, whatever a 'Fewmaster' might be."
"Disturbing stuff." Janna tapped her chin and paced back and forth for a while. "I don't doubt for a minute it has something to do with these rumors of war coming from the south. I think that you ought to return to Solace, Kalthana, and be vigilant! I will send a few of our scouts with you and they can see what they can see. If anything happens, send me a message. Meanwhile we'll have our ears and eyes open here, and keep our watch over these woods as we always have."
"So it shall be, Janna," Kalthana nodded. "And do you think you'll be capable of managing my young acolyte here?"
"I think so." Janna's eyes bored into Bantam's, and for a moment she almost felt herself quail under such powerful scrutiny. But then the old woman smiled, and Bantam grinned back, relieved. "Are you ready to work, young thing?"
"Oh, absolutely! Oh, of course!"
"Then let's begin!" Author: Bantam Date: Fri Jul 9 22:03:38 2010 Subject Higher education Life at the geode temple was strenuous, with long days of prayer and study -- but there were advantages, too. Bantam had her own private chamber to work in. She was provided with her own wooden rack where she could dry and squirrel away all the herbs, flowers and fungi she could gather. She had her own library full of delightfully musty old tomes on herblore, zoology, and the more mystic, arcane healing arts. For half the day she would toil away in her little pharmacopoeia, her wiry arms growing strong from hours spent pulverizing plants in a large mortar and pestle, making powders and tinctures, and macerating leaves for their essential oils. And for the other half, she would go out into the wood to gather more supplies, to meditate, and to pray.
Even more than having her own room, Bantam adored Starmistress Janna. Where her initial training with Kalthana involved a great deal of shushing, severe looks, and busywork, Janna treated the kender as a colleague. She was included in everything that went on at the temple, and encouraged to experiment and explore on her own. Janna barely seemed to notice that her student was a kender, and never admonished her to put something down, just because she was curious about it -- that was refreshing. On the other hand, the expectation that she would behave as a senior cleric was a burden sometimes, too. Often Janna would give Bantam a quick, complicated set of instructions with little explanation and hurry away, confident that Bantam would figure things out for herself. "Make that elf a tisane of willow bark and meadowsweet," she'd say, "boiled over a fire of hedge wood for the length of time it takes for the sun to get from the top of that big elm to the base of its trunk, and put a blessing of fever reduction over it, and administer it to him in five doses over a day." Well, that was all enough to remember already, but how much water? What quantity of each plant? Did she give it to him hot, or cold? What if the sun wasn't up at the time? Bantam was frequently sent scrambling to her books and her notes to clear up the details. For a while she resented this -- what if someone keeled over because she made the medicine wrong?! -- but after a while, she noticed that she rarely forgot things after she'd been forced to look them up once or twice.
Ganathali improved rapidly under Janna's supervision and Bantam's care, and became even more sarcastic and insulting towards his diminutive healer. Bantam didn't mind, though, since he was the kind of person she could tell didn't mean it. Usually when elves want to insult you, Bantam reflected, they do it without actually doing it.
The human wasn't improving much, though. "She's not deaf," Ganathali said. "I know she's not. She jolted awake with the rest of us when those idiots would bang on the bars in the morning. There's nothing wrong with her throat. She just won't say a word. Maybe she's suffered some kind of trauma."
"Or maybe she's some kind of holy woman," Bantam speculated. "Maybe she's under a vow of silence!"
"But then why doesn't she just WRITE it?"
"Maybe she can't write."
"And there's something else strange about her," Ganathali added. "Her eyes. They stare at you too hard."
"Yes, I've noticed that too," Bantam said. "I wonder where she came from."
"We might never know," he said. "I'm just glad I don't have to share a small, cramped cell with her anymore..." Author: Bantam Date: Thu Jul 15 22:59:01 2010 Subject The mute's disappearance (1of 2) As the weeks passed, Bantam began to wonder if Ganathali and the mute woman planned to leave. It was impossible to ask her about it, but she seemed to be waiting for Ganathali - furtively peering at him when he discussed his plans with Janna and Bantam, and sighing in apparent exasperation every time he decided to stay another day.
"You can go any time you want," Janna told him repeatedly. "You're well enough. You'll be back to normal in no time."
"Thank you," he'd say, "but I have no place to be."
"Don't you want to go back to Qualinost, Ganathali?" Bantam asked.
"No," came the short answer.
"But why not?"
"I don't like it there."
" But why not?"
" They don't like me there."
" But wh--"
" I'd rather not talk about why, all right, you pest?"
" Okay, but then where will you go? Solace?"
" Oh, I don't know. Maybe. Maybe I'll do some traveling, just see if anywhere else suits me better than here."
"Traveling!" Bantam's ears perked at this. "Could I come with you? I mean, when I'm done here. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to go yet."
Ganthali cringed. "If I said no, would it stop you from going with me anyway?"
"Of course," Bantam said, hurt. "I don't stay around when I'm not wanted. I don't like being around grumpy people who don't like me and say mean things to me and think they're better than me because they're an elf and..."
"Oh, Bantam, I was only joking. I'm sure you'd be a very good traveling companion. If I do go, you can feel free to come with me."
(contd) Author: Bantam Date: Thu Jul 15 23:01:00 2010 Subject The mute's disappearance (2 of 2) fall down and cut yourself or pick up a cold or something."
"Now, don't get too ambitious with your healing." Ganathali laughed. "Didn't I see you mend two broken legs yesterday? Didn't you master the prayers to cure the plague and the wasting disease right after you came here? And those teas you make me!"
"Well, that's with Janna watching..." Bantam frowned. "I still don't know how I'd do all by myself. I feel like I'm with Chislev all the time, of course. I'm just still not sure if she always knows I'm there. Also I can't take my books with me and I still look at them all the time."
"Oh, I'm sure you will be fine, Bantam. Maybe getting out of the temple and into Chislev's domain for a while is exactly what you need."
"Maybe you're right!" Bantam said, intrigued. "Well, I'll ask Janna. I know she wanted me to stay for a lot longer...oh! Let's ask that lady to go along!"
Ganathali grimaced. "Are you serious?"
"Sure! She doesn't say much and she can't just creep around here for the rest of her life, bothering the clerics, can she? I'll go ask right now."
And so Bantam skipped down the cool, earthen hallway that led to the little chamber where the mute woman stayed. She saw dim yellow lantern light pouring from it as she approached, on tiptoe, in case the woman was resting or napping.
But as she came closer, to her great shock, she heard something -- she heard whispering! But it didn't sound like a woman's voice. It was low and harsh and guttural. And it was speaking the strange, sibilant tongue of magic, the sound of which always gave Bantam gooseflesh. What in the world is going on? she wondered to herself. Could she actually be a magic user? Hardly breathing, she crept to the chamber opening, and peered in.
She could not see the woman at all, but on the wall of the grotto she saw a massive shadow flickering in the light. It did not belong to a human. The form was bent and lumpy, and the head was long and reptilian, and the tail - - well -- the tail! Bantam covered her mouth with her hand, catching her astonished squeak before it could emerge. The string of arcane words reached a growling crescendo as the creature raised its arm, and Bantam thought she could see claws on the ends of its fingers.
She tore herself away from the scene and pounded up the hall at full speed, her heart battering against her rib cage like an agitated bird. It was only after she had arrived, panting, in the central chamber, that she stopped to wonder if the creature had heard her departing footsteps. Author: Bantam Date: Tue Jul 20 21:13:09 2010 Subject The mute's secret "Goodness, Bantam!" Janna laughed when the kender burst into her study. "You're pale as a wraith."
Bantam glanced over her shoulder, panting. "I've just seen something scary!"
"It's not like your kind to be scared."
"But Janna, listen!" Bantam dropped her voice to a whisper. "The human lady! She's gone, and instead of her, there's a...a...a THING in her room! A magic-user, with a long snout, and a...tail!"
"What?" Janna said in a low voice. Though she sounded surprised, her voice carried no trace of doubt.
"It's true, Janna, and its voice was so terrible, and - well - all I could see was the shadow, but it frightened me a little! We have to go and find out what it is and what it's done with the woman!"
Janna was listening to Bantam, but no longer looking at her. Her attention was drawn to the sounds of a scuffle outside in the geode's central chamber. Swift as a coyote despite her age, Janna rose from her chair and followed the sound, Bantam tailing close behind her.
But Bantam was quite relieved to see her human friend was the one struggling with the guards at the chamber entrance. "Oh, thank the true gods, it's you!" She ran past the guards, breaking through their crossed spears, and clasped the woman in a warm hug. "What was that THING in your room? Did it attack you? Where is it now?"
"Bantam." Janna's voice was more tense than usual.
"Janna, we should get her to the healing chambers! She's been through a terrifying attack! She may be in shock. Gosh, what did that thing LOOK like up close? I guess you can't tell me."
"Bantam. Get away from her."
The Starmistress's voice was so forceful that Bantam stepped back almost immediately, a confused look on her face. But then she looked up at the human. She was breathing quickly, her eyes darting from the Starmistress to the guards, and she was now trying to back away down the corridor.
Janna bowed her head. "Chislev," she prayed. "Reveal the woman's true nature!" Her hands shot out from her robe, and translucent purple smoke billowed from her palms, enveloping the woman. Instantaneously, the woman's visage and body melted away and were replaced by the features of a monster: a long, scabrous head with protruding fangs and short, curved horns, a lean, muscular body shaped like a man's but covered with a tough, bony hide like a reptile's, a long spiked tail, clawed hands and feet. The thing gave a horrible, piercing shriek of rage and ran, knocking the Wildrunners aside with one great outward sweep of its muscular limbs. Janna gave chase, and Bantam, again, was at her heels. Ahead, they heard a loud bang, and the corridor began to fill with thick, black smoke.
"Magic," Bantam managed to say before she began to cough. Janna swore. She said a quick prayer to Chislev and a cool wind began to swirl about them, bringing life-saving air to their lungs.
"We have to keep going," Janna said. "It might kill someone! But this breeze won't follow us for long. Get a good lungful and RUN!"
On they pounded through the black smoke. Bantam stumbled and fell once, bloodying her palms on the jagged quartz as she grabbed at the geode walls to stop herself. Moments later she fell a second time, and upon impact, her desperate lungs involuntarily opened and gulped a mouthful of the smoke, and she became lightheaded, drowsy. Dangerously low on oxygen, she tried to stand and run, but stumbled, and felt herself falling, falling, further than she should have, past the floor, forever into the infinite blackness... Author: Bantam Date: Wed Jul 21 22:25:02 2010 Subject The scale and the stones (1 of 2) Bantam opened her eyes. It was black all around, as if she had stepped into a moonless, starless night sky. No floor was below her feet, she could see no ceiling above her, and her groping limbs could find no walls. She managed to get to her feet in spite of this, and marveled that she could stand upon nothing. "Goodness! Have I died?" she wondered aloud. "Well, I certainly hope not, because this is not what I'd imagined at all. How boring! I thought Grandma would be here! Maybe even my father! But THIS!" She placed her hands on her hips and frowned at her surroundings. "It's just NOTHING!"
"You're not dead, Bantam," a disembodied voice intoned inside her head. It was a comforting, maternal voice with which Bantam was already quite familiar. "Not yet. But you do need to find your way out of here."
"Chislev!" Bantam shouted. "It's you! I wasn't sure you were following me around anymore!"
"Of course I am, Bantam. But I haven't needed to help you as much as I used to."
Bantam scanned the featureless black dreamscape. "Is there a way out?"
"You are a kender, Bantam. There is ALWAYS a way out."
"Hmm." Bantam tried to begin to walk, but walking on the black nothing wasn't as easy as standing on it. She wobbled and fell and spun round and round in the air -- if there was air there, anyway. Down became up and up became sideways. There was nothing to hold on to, nothing to grab for support. "But I can't walk!" she protested. "I keep falling every which way! I'm not quick on my feet like a pure kender!" "But you have other strengths that a pure kender could only dream about."
"I guess, but how can I get anywhere if I can't even keep my balance?"
Balance. The word repeated itself in Bantam's head. As a worshipper of Chislev, she knew that Balance was the only way to peace -- both inner peace and peace on Krynn. Balance was the way. "Balance. There must be balance," she said to herself.
(cont'd) Author: Bantam Date: Wed Jul 21 22:27:05 2010 Subject The scale and the stones (2 of 2) Even as the thought occurred to her, a massive scale materialized before her, and the air filled with thousands of pebbles of different sizes, floating, suspended. "Oh, so this is the game!" she said delightedly. "Make it balance!" She plucked a couple of good-sized pebbles from the air with one hand and grabbed the base of the scale with the other, pulling herself through the nothing, and stood up before the massive instrument. She placed one in each side.
To her dismay, the basket on the right side of the scale filled itself with a small mound of pebbles, and the left side rose into the air. She gathered a few more to even it out, and clambered up to the left basket, which was now well over her head. But then the pebbles multiplied again, and now the left side plummeted. "Hey, stop that!" she pleaded.
She kept plucking more and more pebbles from the air, but every time she tried to balance the scale, pebbles appeared of their own accord and threw everything off kilter. "This is so frustrating!" She glowered at the pebbles. "There's got to be a way to make you guys behave. Hmm...maybe if I take them from the baskets instead of from the air..."
And so she tried to take a handful of rocks from the heavier basket, but as soon as she touched them, an equal number rose into the air from the lighter one -- and when she transferred them, the floating rocks zoomed through the air and settled in the basket she had just taken from. "Hmph! Well, I guess you're not going to fall for that..."
She tried distributing the rocks in every possible way: throwing them in from a distance, tossing them into both baskets at the same time, emptying them completely and starting over -- but it was no use. The same thing kept happening, no matter how she arranged things.
Finally, in desperation, she climbed into the lighter basket herself.
The basket fell to the ground...then bounced back up again! Then down a shorter distance...and then back up...down...up...until it came to rest, exactly level with the other basket. She had done it! She had actually done it! "HA!" she cheered, triumphant at last over the misbehaving stones.
"And now you see," Chislev said sorrowfully, "what it is like for me." With that, an arch made of white light, surrounded by vines, rose out of the darkness before Bantam. "Go, little one. Hurry!"
Bantam leapt from the basket and dashed, with ease and grace, now, through the blackness and into the archway. Author: Bantam Date: Thu Jul 22 21:16:24 2010 Subject Back from the black And then something jerked her roughly by the arm and pulled her the rest of the way through the the door. She felt someone throwing her body over her shoulder like a sack of flour. And then she began to see light, and feel the delicious, cold cave air fill her nostrils. She shook her whole body as if to scatter the black cloud, and blinked her bleary eyes. Ganathali's soft leather shoes came into focus. "Oh, Ganathali!" she exalted. "You saved me! Gosh, I had the funniest dream..."
The elf crouched and dropped her unceremoniously. She stood up and then let the hacking coughs take over, her lungs feeling like they'd been beaten inside and out by a wheat thresher.
"There's no time for thanks," he said, "and DEFINITELY no time to tell me about your dream. Great Gods, you're clumsy! You could have just DIED in there! Lucky for you you're so loud it's impossible not to notice when you're missing."
"No time for thanks, but time for insults?" Bantam said incredulously. "Well, I think YOU are the worst excuse for an elf --"
"No, no, shut up! There really isn't time. We've got to block the exits. What IS that thing?"
"Oh, that's the human woman," Bantam said. "I guess you were right about her!"
Janna dashed into the room. "Run for it," she said.
"What? No, I want to fight!"
"RUN." As if to punctuate Janna's command, a massive fireball exploded against the wall mere yards away from them, and they dove for the ground. Fragments of quartz rained down on their heads and they could feel the magical flame's intense heat against their skin. "It has VERY strong magical power, Bantam. Your defensive benedictions are improving, but I wouldn't bet your life on them."
"I'll hold it off. Get moving!" Janna knelt and prayed fervently, conjuring a milky shield before them. Ganathali grabbed Bantam's arm and they sped off down the one corridor they had access to, panic nipping at their heels. Author: Bantam Date: Mon Jul 26 18:43:28 2010 Subject Escape? The sounds of battle grew fainter behind them as they trotted down the long tunnel. "This is a way out," Ganathali said breathlessly. "I remember this hallway."
"Oh, I hope Janna will be okay!" Bantam fretted with tears in her eyes. "I can't believe we're just going to leave her! She's just an old lady!"
"Well, she's one old lady I know I wouldn't want to have to fight. Come on!"
Their flight ended abruptly, though, when they were barred by a massive, circular wooden door over the tunnel's mouth. "Oh, no! They've sealed all the exits!"
Ganathali grabbed the door handle and throttled it. "Locked!" he said. "Okay, Bantam, pick the lock! Go on now, hurry!"
"But Ganathali..." Bantam said haltingly.
"There's no shame in it. Come on, are you a kender, or aren't you?"
"Well -- you do remember that I'm one quarter human..."
"So? What of it?"
Bantam stared at Ganathali's hopeful, coaxing face for a second and then couldn't help herself -- she burst into sobs. "Oh, Ganathali, I can't! I've never picked a lock in my life, except for really easy ones they give babies to play with, and that's with a full set of tools! I just don't understand how to do it! I can't!"
"Oh, brilliant," the elf muttered. "It stands to reason. The one time in my life I'm stuck at a dead end with a kender, and I get the kender that CAN'T PICK A LOCK!"
"I'm sorry!" she wailed.
"Crying won't help! We've got to think of a different way -- oh, no..."
The lizard creature was now approaching them, its claws clicking on the stone floor, and the laugh that escaped its lungs as it beheld the trapped pair contained only a twisted parody of mirth. Author: Bantam Date: Tue Jul 27 18:55:45 2010 Subject Facing, and Taunting, One's Demons Bantam's tears cleared up startlingly quickly. "You!" she said, taking a step toward the lizard man and pointing an accusing finger at its beastly snout. "How COULD you? I thought you were my friend, you lying sneak! I let you hold onto my arm when we were in the dark! How dare you pretend to be something you're not!"
The lizard-man hissed and showed its many teeth. "Out of my way, pest, before I kill you and the elf," it said.
"I WON'T MOVE!" Bantam shouted, stamping her foot.
"Bantam, this is not the time!" Ganathali quavered. "Just let it go!"
"NO! You, sir or madam, are an ugly, ill-tempered crocodile and you should go back to whatever mudhole you crawled out of and stay there until you run out of filth and slime to eat, and shrivel up just like you were a...a green raisin!"
The creature sneered. "Do you think everyone can be flustered by your childish insults, kender? Your race is a pestilence, and now I will do my part to exterminate it." He drew a wicked, foot-long jagged knife from the sheath that hung on his hip. Bantam backed away, her back pressed against the wooden door.
Then, all at once, thick vines burst from the floor, crumbling the stone as if it were gingerbread, and shot up to wrap around the creature's wrists and ankles. It screamed its frustration as it struggled against its bonds, and bit and tore at them with its teeth.

"Brilliant! Janna's saved us again!" Ganathali rejoiced. "Where is she? Bantam?"
When Ganathali looked down, Bantam was slumped limply against the door, a dazed expression on her face. "That wasn't Janna,{s" she said.
That was YOU?"
"That was Chislev," Bantam murmured. "Turns out she CAN hear me! And you wouldn't believe how angry she is about this thing in her temple!"
Listen! The guards are coming!" Ganathali whispered.
"Ha!" Bantam glared into the reptilian face from the floor. "They'll run you through with their spears, lizard, and you'll be history!"
The lizard man chuckled deep in its throat. "If only you knew how wrong you were," it said. "I am sorry I won't have the pleasure of showing you today." And then it vanished. The vines fell uselessly to the floor. Author: Bantam Date: Wed Jul 28 21:13:53 2010 Subject Picking up the pieces Janna arrived, flanked by four tattooed Kagonesti Wildrunners armed with spears and daggers, and stared in disbelief at the spot where the creature had been.
"We had it," Bantam explained sheepishly. "But now we don't."
"Teleportation!" Janna shook her head and walked in a circle around the spot where the creature had been. "My, my, my. We are dealing with powerful forces here. Nice work on that entanglement spell, though, Bantam. I do believe I underestimated you."
What was it, Janna?" Bantam stood up. The stress of the battle behind her, she began to suck at her bloody, stinging left palm.
"A spy, apparently," sighed Janna. "But as far as answering the question you're really asking...I've never seen any creature like that on Krynn before." The old priestess frowned. "Oh, I've read about a race of 'lizard-men' that existed on Taladas long before the Cataclysm...some of them worshippers of Chislev, in fact. But they haven't been seen for thousands of years. Well, not by any...reliable sources, anyway. And the illustrations of the Bakali, ancient though they are, don't look a bit like that thing that visited us."
"It was awful," Bantam shuddered. "Its voice gave me the chills!"
"It was evil," agreed Janna. "And now it's out there somewhere. If it really is after something here in the temple -- or if it just wants revenge -- it may be back. With friends."
"No wonder it was so easy to escape," Bantam moaned. "It was planning to escape with us the whole time! That hobgoblin and his crew might not have even known who was the real brain of the operation!"
"Wait a minute," Ganathali said. "How could it be looking for something here? It couldn't have planned this. It was thrown in the cage with me. Bantam showing up was -- well -- a bonus, but it had to have been an accident. I'll bet it was trying to follow ME somewhere. Well, if it wanted to infiltrate Qualinost, it would have been disappointed. I'm not going back there."
"We were just outside Solace," Bantam said. "They were talking about getting access to Solace, remember? Maybe we were supposed to flee to Solace! YOU were, anyway. And when I came along...she just had to improvise!"
"Bantam, you might just have it." Janna's expression was sorrowful. "And if you're right, I don't like it at all. The idea of one of those running around Solace is just terrible. My hometown, you know...but if they were to come back and get into the temple, it'd be disastrous."
"Why would it be? What could they do?"
"Come with me, Bantam. I'll show you something." Author: Bantam Date: Thu Jul 29 21:24:37 2010 Subject Chislev's Riches (1/2) "This is the Life Node."
They had retreated into the dark recesses of the temple, past the healing chambers, where druids tended a wounded stag, a family of lost and starving human refugees from the south, and a half-feral gully dwarf who'd lost a thumb and a couple of fingers to a "snappy turkle" in Crystalmir Lake. Past the convalescents they had gone, behind a curtain of swaying vines, and into a tunnel which led them into a small, round room, where a column of crystal grew from the floor like an ancient tree trunk.
The strange feeling that Bantam had noticed upon first entering the temple, the curious rhythmic pulsing of the air around her, was magnified tenfold in this room. The blood in her body seemed to grab hold of the rhythm like iron filings placed near a magnet, and synchronized with it. She could hear her blood pounding in her ears like a steady drumbeat.
"Oohh, I feel funny!" Bantam massaged her head.
Janna grinned. "Takes some getting used to, I'll admit."
"What is it?"
"You can think of it as Chislev's heart," Janna said, "though she has a few more of them than we do. This is one of them."
"Hey!" Bantam held up her hands. The skin of her palms was now soft and unbroken. "Look at my hands! I skinned them on the wall earlier, when we were running down the hall -- that quartz is really sharp, Janna, it's kind of dangerous, you know, it's like having a house made of broken glass -- but now they're better!"
"Yes. Simply being near the Life Node will cure almost anything that ails you."
"Well, why do we need to be here, then? Why not just heal everyone with this?"
"Because Chislev's power can't last forever. Think of your own heart. You could have run from that lizard thing for a pretty long time -- if you didn't keep falling, that is -- but not forever. Your body needs time to rest, breathe, make more blood, and keep everything running smoothly. Krynn is the same."
"I'm confused -- aren't we just using Chislev's power when we cast spells?"
"Yes, but we're helping Her out with some of our own strength, too. Don't you feel tired after you pray?"
"Yes -- in fact, I fainted the first time. Did I tell you about that? When I healed the cat? I was in Caergoth, when --"
"You told me." Janna smiled. "All of Chislev's clerics and druids give Her a little of their own power, a little of their own life force. That doesn't tax Her. But is Her life force. It is Krynn's life force. There is enormous power in this thing. But in the wrong hands..."
"It could all get used up!" Bantam exclaimed. "And then...would Chislev..." She gulped. "...Die?" (cont'd) Author: Bantam Date: Thu Jul 29 21:26:06 2010 Subject Chislev's Riches (2/2) "Not die. She is a goddess. But she would not be able to help us here on Krynn for a long time. Nature itself would be weakened. It could lead to disaster. So we must protect the Life Node, and use it only in a case of severe emergency."

"Gosh! It's more serious than I thought!" Bantam paced furiously back and forth before the column. "There's lots of those things out there, Janna, I know it! What if they found it and didn't know what it was? Or didn't CARE? What if they overpowered us? What if they bring a whole army in here?"
"We will fight them if they come," Janna said, "but there are ways to hide this place."
"We evacuate it, and together, we place a very strong blessing over it to conceal the entrance. We would still be able to find it, of course, since we know where it is. But the spell would be broken if anyone went in or came out. So we evacuate, and watch, and wait until we have more information about them."
"They couldn't find it by accident?"
"It would be like stumbling upon a particular grain of sand you were looking for on the bed of Crystalmir."
"Then we'll have to do it." Bantam's face fell. "But then where will I study?"
"Out in the world, Bantam!" Janna said, spreading her arms wide. "All Krynn is Chislev's temple! I know you're not ALL kender, and my pockets thank you for it, but you do still have Wanderlust, don't you?"
"Oh, yes," Bantam sighed, smiling beatifically at the mere sound of the word.
"Then we can't keep you cooped up here for too long, anyway. Your power's growing. Go out! Practice! Pray! And find out who released that unholy beast into our temple! But don't get yourself killed just yet. We might need you."
"Okay, Janna!" She grinned more enormously than she had for months, and began to follow the high priestess away from the pounding, pulsating column. Author: Bantam Date: Fri Jul 30 21:13:17 2010 Subject A Job for a Kender As they wove through the many tunnels leading back out into the open, a grain of an idea, like a snowball rolling down a hill, began to bounce about and collect bits of thought inside of Bantam's head. "Janna, you said there was more than one Life Node..."
"Yep. All our pre-Cataclysm records seem to indicate it, anyway."
"Who's going to protect them?"
"Well, Bantam, you know how the Cataclysm jostled everything around, putting a new sea here and moving a mountain there..." Janna stopped to pick up and dust off the weathered skull of a stag, which had fallen from its dwelling in an alcove on the wall during the battle with the lizard man. "...Fact is, the other Life Nodes just got lost in the shuffle. The one in our temple seems to be the only one that stayed put well enough for people to keep track of it."
"Oh..." Bantam frowned. "How many are there?"
"That..." Janna laughed sheepishly. "That, we don't know either. The Cataclysm could have destroyed some of them. On the other hand, it might have just buried them somewhere we haven't found yet. Pre-Cataclysm, there were eight that we knew about." Janna looked down at Bantam and recognized the keenness in her face, the touch of adrenaline obvious in the way she was moving, and gave her a conspiratorial smile. "I think you're planning on going and looking for them, Bantam!"
"What if I am?" Bantam began to walk about in a circle, the words tumbling out of her mouth at a gnomish speed. "I mean, what if someone else finds them before we do? What if the enemy knows about them? They're just sitting out there somewhere, waiting to be found, and we don't know where they are! Why am I the only one who's worried about this?!"
"Most people would tell you it's a fool's errand. They've been considered lost for centuries, and no one goes looking for them anymore except for mad adventurers who have read too many storybooks about dragons."
"What would you tell me?"
"I don't think it's a fool's errand. I think it's a job for a kender."
"Terrific!" Bantam shouted with a clap of her hands, making a passing priest jump. "Where should I start?"
"I have some dusty old books of lore and some rotten old maps you can take a look at in my library. They're very special, so you'll need to copy them out tonight before we seal off the place."
Bantam was so excited she could barely speak. There were just so many things she wanted to talk about that they all tried to come out at once, and stopped up the exit. Studying and praying and learning were fine for a while, but here was a REAL adventure worthy of her wanderlust! Here was a way she could serve Chislev AND fulfill her irrepressible urge for travel and adventure.
She would rediscover the Life Nodes, and she would see to it that they were protected! Author: Bantam Date: Tue Aug 3 20:14:33 2010 Subject Traveling song Chislev's temple was sealed and its entrance concealed by divine power. The clerics that normally dwelt within it dispersed into the surrounding woods, where they really felt the most at home anyway. Janna, a few senior paladins, and a band of Wildrunner scouts spread out within a mile's radius of the temple to keep an eye on anyone who might return to the scene of the crime. Others went further away, to investigate the rumors of war that had been drifting in over the past year on the lips of refugees and travelers from across the continent.
Bantam and Ganathali best fit into this latter category. Bantam was singing a traveling song and clearing a path in her typical bumbling, twig-snapping way while Ganathali followed silently, wondering how long it would take for her high, piping voice to fray his nerves.
"And so that chapter's ending, And we turn the next page over. (The fields are all in clover And the winter's far away.) The story's just beginning, But the writer's head is spinning. Which paths lead to tomorrow? Which lead back to yesterday?
Along the trail we're wending, With time left still to borrow. And now that chapter's ending, Which paths lead to tomorrow?
The book's spread wide before me And it has so many pages! (The snow-fed river rages, And the fawns are in the grass.) I can't read very quickly, And the pages fall so thickly. That's all right, I have no worries, For I've so much time to pass.
Fool knights and thieves, ignore me! Pity be on he who hurries! See, the book's spread wide before me, It's all right, I have no worries.
Yes, the time will come to end it, And look back upon our reading (All the butterflies are feeding, And the blooms perfume the air.) But for now, I'll just keep going, Though there's no good way of knowing If my tale will end in glory Or the scribe will treat me fair.
Oh Chislev please forfend it, For I'd hate to leave this story, But the time will come to end it, So please let it end in glory.
"Nice," Ganathali nodded approvingly at the conclusion of the song. "Did you just write that?"
"Last night," Bantam said. "After the temple scribes and I got done copying out all I wanted from the library."
Ganathali raised his eyebrows. "Did you sleep at ALL last night?"
"No! I was much too excited!"
"Oh, boy..."
The elf was starting to wonder what he had gotten himself into. Author: Bantam Date: Mon Aug 9 21:21:50 2010 Subject how "So where are you going to look for these Node things?"
"Well..." Bantam frowned thoughtfully as she pored over her book of notes. "I still have to look through all this stuff I wrote down. It's a lot to take in. But the most promising thing I found is that according to the legend, the Life Nodes corresponded to the elements. That one in the cave, obviously, is Earth."
"Huh. So we'll be looking for air, water, fire, that sort of thing? That's a lot of help," Ganathali snorted. "We just have to look for someplace on Krynn where there's air..."
"Don't be such a pessimist, Ganathali! I never said we'd find all of them tomorrow!"
"You kender certainly love your wild goose chases."
Bantam held her head high. "If you don't want to go with me, you can go away," she said.
"SOMEONE'S got to keep you from dying. How many kender survive Wanderlust, anyway?"
"I have no idea. Most of them, I expect. No one's ever taken a survey. Hmm, that'd be an interesting project..."
"Don't get distracted from the Life Nodes, now."
They wandered along through the woods in silence a while, until Ganathali asked, "So where are we going first?"
"Solace. I'm dying for a plate of spicy potatoes."
"Oh, yeah, of course. Can't go adventuring on an empty stomach."
Bantam cocked her head. "Ganathali, can I ask you a question?"
"Why don't you talk like an elf?"
Ganathali looked at Bantam for a moment, considering the question. "I don't quite know what you mean," he said finally.
"I just mean you don't talk all PROPER all the time. Elves seem like they're always so serious. I don't feel like I can joke with them. But you're not like that."
Ganathali thought this over, then shrugged. "Guess I've spent more time around humans than most of them, that's all. I haven't lived in Qualinesti for years. We're not going to get into why. Just haven't, that's all."
"Where did you live before you got captured?"
"Outside Solace."
"Does your family live there?"
"Where do they live?"
"Qualinost. You know, we play a fun game back in Qualinost. All you have to do is see how long you can keep quiet."
Bantam gave the elf a withering glance. "That's NOT a real game. They've tried that on me before. But I get the message."
"Getting the message. I guess that's the difference between a full kender and a mixed-breed," Ganathali said, grinning. Author: Bantam Date: Wed Aug 11 21:02:27 2010 Subject Ganathali's Exile (1 of 2) It was on their way to Solace that Bantam and Ganathali ran into an elven hunting party traveling in the opposite direction. A pair of haughty Qualinesti sat atop russet-colored horses, and four or five others walked in front of them, carrying long, elegant bows. They were beautifully dressed in forest greens and browns and carried themselves with a grace Bantam rarely saw, even in the temple. Behind them, Bantam could see three bedraggled and drably dressed servants carrying large packs on their backs. They were elves, too -- but Kagonesti, not Qualinesti. Bantam felt an immediate surge of sympathy for them. Why were they being treated that way? she wondered. Kalthana was a Kagonesti, and she was a priestess! These three looked like they'd been denied something of their humanity -- well, their elfhood, anyway. It didn't seem right, and she stared at them with pity and confusion.
Ganathali's attention, however, was focused on the Qualinesti elves, and theirs upon him. Drawing her eyes away from the Kagonesti servants, Bantam could tell as soon as she looked at Ganathali and the strangers that they knew each other.
"Well," said one of the mounted hunters after an uncomfortable silence. "Ganathali Thornpath, alive and well. And traveling with a kender. How appropriate."
"Appropriate?" Bantam looked at Ganathali, then back at the mounted elf. "What does that mean? Why is it appropriate?"
"Arunassus." Ganathali bowed before the speaker, but without taking his eyes off him. "Please let me be. I do not wish to trouble anybody."
"Your word means nothing to me. Thief!"
"Hey!" Bantam stepped in front of Ganathali, glowering at the elves. "Don't call him a thief! He's not a thief! And he's been through a lot more than you tenderfooted, finicky housecats have!"
"Shut it, Bantam," Ganathali hissed. "Let's just leave, all right?"
The elves were staring at Bantam now with sour distaste in their faces, their eyebrows gently arched. "And who are you, anyway?" said the leader.
"Bantam Catsbetter, Friend of the Small, devout of Chislev, herbalist, future discoverer of the seven lost -- oh, well, actually, that's a secret. Forget I said I was the future discoverer of anything, OK? Just Bantam Catsbetter."
The leader laughed. "A sticky-fingered elf traveling with a kender devoted to Chislev! Well, you've gotten your roles mixed up, but I suppose you make a good team."
"What are you saying? Kender DON'T STEAL!" Bantam gasped with outright indignation.
"Of course they don't," he said with a derisive snort. "We've no time to debate the subject anyway. Please, move aside."
Before Bantam could taunt them again, Ganathali slapped one hand over her mouth and the other over her shoulder, and pulled her aside so that the hunting party could pass. He waited until they were a good distance away to release her.
"Well!" Bantam burst out as soon as the hand was removed from her mouth. "What a bunch of high-minded nincompoops!" She cupped her hands around her mouth and shouted after them. "I'M NOT EVEN A PURE KENDER! I'M A MIXED-BREED! A MONGREL! WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT?!"
"BANTAM!" Ganathali said firmly, hiding a smile. "Leave them alone, all right? If we run into anyone else who knows me, let's just get away from them as soon as possible. No heroic causes, okay?"
"But they were being just plain mean! And I can't tolerate meanness! And why did they call you a thief, anyway? And why did they have those Kagonesti elves carrying all their things? They looked so sad..."
He frowned, hesitated, looking like a parent who had just been asked about the facts of life. "Well...the Kagonesti are slaves in some elven cities, Bantam. There's this notion of 'civilizing the savages'. I never agreed with it myself," he added defensively.
(cont'd) Author: Bantam Date: Wed Aug 11 21:06:00 2010 Subject Ganathali's Exile (2 of 2) "What?! That's terrible! You mean they'd make someone like Kalthana a slave? She's not a savage!"
"I wouldn't ask her about it, but she probably WAS a slave once. She's a little more -- well, like me...than the untouched Kagonesti are. You know, like the warriors in your temple. Covered in tattoos. Pierced everything. Living in the wilds. Some of the Qualinesti and the Silvanesti think they're doing them a favor taking them in and cleaning them up."
Bantam fell silent, shaking her head. There was so much wrong with the world, and she was so small, so powerless to change it. She looked over her shoulder as they walked on, trying to get one last glimpse of the Kagonesti's dejected forms in the distance, but they had already gone.
She almost forgot that she had asked Ganathali another question before she asked about the wild elves. "Hey!" she exclaimed. "So why did they call you a thief?"
Ganathali groaned like a sullen youth. "Oh, Bantam. It's a long story."
"I like long stories," she said stubbornly.
"Well." He collected his thoughts for a moment. "It was more than a hundred years ago. I was still young..."
"We live for centuries, Bantam..."
"I know that but it still sounds funny to me."
"I'm not going to tell this story if you keep interrupting!"
Bantam put her own hands over her mouth.
"All right, then. I'll be honest, I wasn't a very good child. Didn't get along with my family. They seemed unsympathetic to anyone on the outside. Mean, even, like you said. That was my uncle you just insulted, by the way."
"Your UNCLE talked to you like -- sorry. Go on."
"There was a family in town with a half-elf daughter. Human father. My family despised her. She was my age - physically, anyway, although she was actually much younger. I started to spend time with her. I liked her, and it also made my parents furious. She had a lot of anger inside her, too, since most of the community didn't even like to acknowledge her existence. We started causing trouble. Innocent pranks, really. She had quite a sense of humor. We'd sneak under some old bag's window in the middle of the night and make noise -- roar like ogres or light off firecrackers we'd bought off gnomes in Solace. Move things around in people's gardens, turn signs upside down. Just stupid things. Sometimes we'd sneak out of the city and buy rum and mead from the nearest merchants we could find, and drink too much together."
"Oh! That sounds awfully romantic!"
"Well." Ganathali grinned. "Yes, it was, for a while. But gradually I started noticing that some of my things were going missing. And then my parents were missing things, too."
"Uh oh..."
"I confronted her about it and she confessed that she took them. She said that she just liked to take things them and confess, but she didn't want to get in trouble, especially when everyone despised her already." Ganathali sighed with regret. "She was just troubled. It wasn't her fault. Everybody hated her, suspected her. You know, people tend to conform to your expectations of them. Everyone thought she was weak, inferior, degenerate. So that's what she turned into."
"So what happened?"
"Well, of course she was accused eventually. And I was worried they'd imprison her, or at the least exile her. And she had nowhere to go. She wasn't educated, she wasn't skilled. And I was young and stupid and in love, so I confessed. I said that I was the one who took all those things. And I was exiled. I've been living among humans ever since. I don't know what happened to her because I never saw her again. She's probably getting older now.
(I lied, cont'd again) Author: Bantam Date: Wed Aug 11 21:07:33 2010 Subject Ganathali's Exile (3 of 3 :P) Half-elves don't live as long. I wonder about her a lot. I often think it would have been better for her to leave...but there's no telling what would have happened to her on the outside." Ganathali looked up, distracted from his reverie by a tiny whimpering sound. "Bantam! Are you crying?"
"Oh, Ganathali..." The kender's lower-lip quivered, and she gave Ganathali a tight hug around the middle, sobbing openly. "What...a...a b-beautiful story!"
"Hey, let go of me!" The elf was still quite unused to kender and their unabashed emotional expression. Like children, they could go from hysterical convulsions of laughter to agonized weeping in a minute. He imagined their political ceremonies and wondered how their society managed to function.
"Sorry." Bantam withdrew from Ganathali, and awkwardly brushed at the moist patch on his clothing with her hand.
"Anyway, THAT'S why I'm not going back to Qualinost," Ganathali concluded.
"Thanks for explaining. I was curious. Maybe someday we can find your friend again. Maybe we could go to Qualinost and see if shes still there."
"That's a terrible idea," Ganathali said. "But I can't say I wouldn't go with you."
And then they walked together in silence until the wooden rooftops of Solace became visible over the trees in the distance. Author: Bantam Date: Wed Sep 15 17:15:36 2010 Subject A Rumor, and a Change of Plans The Inn of the Last Home smelled of centuries of saturated woodsmoke and grease, and Bantam inhaled deeply, letting the aroma fill her nose and lungs like ale would fill a flask. Ganathali made a motion towards an isolated corner booth, but the kender, starved for talk after weeks in the forest temple, grabbed him by the arm and strode towards the long, communal table in the center of the tavern. Ganathali made an involuntary grab for his purse as he noticed the the other kender who was already sitting there, before he remembered that he'd been stripped of it when he was captured by the slavers.
"Hi!" Bantam said. "I'm Bantam Catsbetter! What's your name? Is anyone sitting here?"
The kender looked up from his pint. "Hullo. I'm Dakin Brownberry, and no, no one is sitting here. There was a huge crowd here at one point but a few minutes after I got here everyone seemed to clear out. I guess there must be something going on outside if they were so eager to leave a nice warm inn but as for me, I'm going to sit right here and finish my pint. You've got to take things easy sometimes, you know. None of this rushing around. Foolishness! I'm glad someone's come to talk to me."
"Thanks!" Bantam took a seat across from the other kender. Ganathali had thought of Bantam as short, but she did indeed appear a little oversized next to her pure-blooded kinsman, who wasn't all that much bigger than the mug of ale he was drinking. The thought of a drunk kender sent the elf into a fearful reverie, and he remained lost in thought while the two babbled about nothing.
A few half-heard snippets of conversation, however, brought him back to the present. "...strange things in water...not right...magic staff...preparing for war..."
"What was that?" Ganathali said, motioning for a waitress.
"Dakin here says the mayor of Kendermore says that the people coming back from Wanderlust are telling him that there's war on the wind!" Bantam explained.
"Well, we've known that for a while. What was that, that next thing aboutStory + a 'magic staff'?"
"There's a magic staff," Dakin said simply, a contented smile on his foam- flecked face. "Everyone wants it."
"What 'magic staff'? What are you talking about?"
"That's all I heard. All these people ready to pummel each other into bits over a magic staff! It sounds dreadfully silly to me. I'd love a magic staff, too, even if I don't know what it does yet, but if I wanted to find out, all I'd have to do is borrow it for a while, I don't have to hit someone over the head and take it, that's not very nice at all!" Dakin yawned and stretched out his legs, annexing the seat next to his. "People are quite stupid sometimes."
"So what does the mayor think?"
"Oh, him. Well, he's preparing Kendermore for war. Putting up the defenses, and everything. Battening down the hatches, and all, whatever that means. He's quite worried about it. He thinks if there's something missing there's a good chance it will show up with one of his constituents and he doesn't want anybody getting hurt."
"Who IS the mayor now, anyway? Is it still that half-gnome?" Bantam wondered.
"Oh, no, she was about seven mayors ago. It's an old kender with a beard. Levelheaded sort of person, or maybe it just seems like it because of the beard. He spent a good deal of his wanderlust on Mithas and he's quite interested in war because of it. I wouldn't have anything to do with it myself..."
"If Kendermore needs protection," Bantam said, "maybe I should go! I'm a priestess, you know. Or at least I'm going to be one. And it would be a shame if Kendermore were attacked and there was no one to heal the people..."
So Kendermore would be destination number one. Ganathali was now very glad he had no personal possessions. Author: Bantam Date: Fri Sep 17 17:16:01 2010 Subject Kendermore at War! Bantam had only been to Kendermore once, when she was a child, and her mother had wanted to sell some fancy hens to the people there, reasoning that the crowd was more metropolitan and might have more interesting things to barter. But she had a vivid recollection of the city, with its chaotic streets and its constant mad activity. It was mostly as she remembered, the half-finished buildings sticking up crookedly on the horizon. But there was one obvious difference that made itself plain as soon as they arrived at the city gates, which were closed, perhaps for the first time in history.
A short figure was standing before them. He was dressed in armor that was plainly not made for him -- dwarf-sized, from the looks of it, Bantam thought. The helmet wobbled upon a head that was too small, and the arms were simply tucked inside the massive breastplate at the person's sides to fill up the extra space. A hoopak leaned against the wall next to him. They approached him, and waited.
"Hello," Bantam said after the silence became awkward.
A scramble ensued. The breastplate wriggled like an overdue cocoon until two skinny arms popped out. One seized the hoopak and the other lifted the eye shield on his helm, revealing a forehead. A muffled curse echoed from the metal shell, and the curser's hand jerked the helmet off his head by the plume and threw it aside. An adolescent male kender was underneath.
"Who goes there!?" he demanded, assuming a defensive stance.
"Bantam Catsbetter. Hello! I'm from Groundbreak. That's in Hilo, by the way. Not many people have heard of it. I'm a priestess. Well, sort of, anyway. I'm here to assist with the war effort."
The sentry thrust his hoopak at Bantam. "How do I know you're not an enemy spy?"
"Well, I'm a kender! Why on Krynn would I be spying on Kendermore?"
"You're awfully big for a kender. Maybe you're an elf in disguise!"
"Don't be insulting!" Ganathali cried.
"And you!" The guard eyed Ganathali suspiciously. "Don't go telling me YOU'RE a kender too!"
"He's just my friend," Bantam explained. "He's a runaway! He doesn't have a home, so he came with me. He seems kind of grumpy, but he's actually quite good-hearted."
"All right, I guess you can come in," said the kender, looking at Ganathali sideways. "But you have to obey all our laws while you're here, understand? We don't want any thieves or vagabonds hanging around Kendermore!"
"I'll keep that in mind," Ganathali said sullenly.
With a cacaphony of scraping and clanking, the guard made his way to the gates and opened them with a groan of effort. "Go on in," he panted.
"Thank you! Have a good day!"
The gate squealed shut behind them, and they heard the guard clanking back over to his post.
"Gosh, it's martial law here!" Bantam exclaimed.
"Yes, I didn't expect such a rigorous security process," Ganathali said.
"This mayor must be taking these rumors pretty seriously! I'll go and speak to him right now, and make my services available..." Author: Bantam Date: Mon Sep 20 17:23:00 2010 Subject Kendermore Town Hall After Bantam and Ganathali had asked five different kender for directions to the Mayors office, and been sent through five different weaving, crisscrossing ant tunnels through the massive city, they managed to track down an exhausted- looking human citizen - an elderly greengrocer whod lived there for years and he kindly drew them a map. As the sun set over the chaos of Kendermore, they finally found the town hall, a stately building made of marble blocks with a lush lawn and little islands of overgrown garden spreading before it. And here they noticed another strange thing: the lawn was full of kender, but they were not playing games or brawling and taunting one another. There were kender marching to and fro in neat rows, kender mounted on ponies, shouting orders, kender dueling and target-shooting with hoopaks, kender rushing at straw dummies - it was a sizeable army. And they were practicing. And they were organized. Ganathali whistled, impressed.
"Look at them lined up like that!" he exclaimed. "I didn't think it was possible. They look just like real soldiers."
"They ARE," Bantam said, looking up at Ganathali, her face suddenly serious. "It's not all fun and games, you know, being a kender. We have to protect our homes just like anyone else. We're not useless just because we're small."
"No, no, I didn't mean that, I -"
"It's all right." She gazed over the busy scene, her brow wrinkled. "So it must be real, then. It's not just a rumor. I was hoping that Dakin was just exaggerating things. But if preparations have gotten this far..." She shook her head.
The soldiers eyed them curiously as they passed, but they made no move to leave their practice. Bantam noticed an inscription on a standard carried by one of the mounted kender: "Ek'thik allus mot durnat."
"Goodness is best," she translated.
"Ah," Ganathali said. "Well, can't argue with that, I suppose..." Author: Bantam Date: Mon Sep 20 17:25:46 2010 Subject The Knights of Hylo The officer, noticing her squinting at his banner, wheeled his slate-colored pony around to face them. "Yes, indeed, 'Ek'thik allus mos durnat,' and long live the Knights of Hylo! Have you two come to enlist? Hullo, I'm Daven Brownberry, by the way."
"Bantam Catsbetter," said Bantam, reaching up to shake the kender's hand. "Do you know Dakin Brownberry?"
"Oh." The kender's exuberant expression sagged a little. "He's my brother. He ran away. Not interested in protecting the homeland. Personally I think he's acting like a cowardly field mouse!" He spat on the ground. "But he's family, and all, so I can't really complain about him too much, because it would be wrong, and he IS in the middle of his Wanderlust, after all...say, how do you know Dakin?"
"I met him in Solace and he told me about the war!" Bantam cocked her head. "What are the 'Knights of Hylo'? I'm from Hylo and I never knew we had any knights."
Daven grew solemn, and sat up straight in his saddle. "The Order of the Knights of Hylo is an ancient brotherhood -- and, er, sisterhood -- of Knights dating from before the Cataclysm. Consisting of the Knights of the Pouch, the Knights of the Sparrow, and the Knights of the, ahem -" Daven thumped himself on the chest, indicating the forked staff embroidered on his tunic -- "--the Hoopak. Mayor Steeltoes told us all about it. He was really interested in the Knights of Solamnia and he did some poking around in the Palanthas Library because he can read pretty well, you know, and what do you know, he found out that there used to be a Knights of Hylo, too! So he decided to restart it. We all thought it was a jolly good idea, considering all that's been going on, so we elected him mayor."
"Do you need any healers in your ranks?" Bantam said eagerly.
"Probably. Do you know one?"
"I AM one!"
"Oh, my! Then you'd better go up and talk to Mayor Steeltoes right now! I'll take you to him. Follow me!"
Daven barked an order at his troops, and then beckoned to Bantam, riding his pony directly through the doors of the town hall. Author: Bantam Date: Thu Sep 23 18:19:55 2010 Subject Bantam's Induction Bantam followed the pony as it wound through the crowded corridors of Kendermore City Hall to the Mayor's office. Mayor Steeltoes was a short and rather burly figure, constructed as if the gods had used dwarf blueprints by mistake -- a fellow mixed-breed? Bantam wondered hopefully. He held a feather-bedecked hoopak like a sceptre, wore a helmet topped with a pair of goat's horns, and stood on top of his oaken desk, examining a large map of the Goodlund peninsula spread across an entire wall before him. Perched on a stool next to the desk was a clean and well-groomed aghar, no doubt wiped down and crammed squirming into the starched, bright clothing he wore by a well-meaning kender matriarch.
"...Might want to send a few Knights over there, to protect the port. Take that down, Snub!" "Send Nights to pertect port," he repeated, drawing an indecipherable squiggle on the piece of parchment in front of him.
"Ahem!" Dakin said. "Captain Mayor Steeltoes, sir! New recruit, sir! Maybe new recruits, sir. But one of them's not a kender, sir. Is that okay?"
"Ah! Possibly! Send them in!"
"They're here already."
"Ah." The kender turned away from his map. "Welcome! What a strapping young kender! And wearing Chislev's colors, I see. I'll bet you're some kind of...wild warrior woman!"
"No, sir," Bantam said. "I'm a priestess, sir."
"Oh." The mayor looked disappointed for a moment, his dreams of a savage forest assassin crumbling. But then he brightened. "A priestess! Of Chislev! So you can make the birds and the beasts do your bidding and bring down earthquakes upon your foes, eh?"
"Well -- er -- sometimes -- you know, when Chislev is in the right mood -- but, um, my focus is on healing, sir. Especially with, er, wild herbs and plants. I can find medicine almost anywhere, sir."
"Ahh. Well, that's important, too. Healing. Yes! We don't have a healer! We have a doctor, but unfortunately he's ill at the moment, so we really could use a healer. Let's see, it's the order of the Sparrow for you, I think! Yes! Flitting about, spreading happiness and doing good, that's what a healer's for! And also it's a bird, which should make your Chislev happy."
"Oh, yes! And it'll match my colors, too."
"Fine! Fine! Snub! Write down that we've inducted a new healer into the Order of the Sparrow. What's your name, Priestess?"
"Bantam Catsbetter."
"Tan...bum...Cat...spitter," the aghar recited, scribbling illegibly on the parchment.
Author: Bantam Date: Thu Sep 23 18:20:43 2010 Subject Bantam's Induction (2) At this moment, Ganathali could no longer restrain himself, and he burst into loud guffaws. "You don't really think he's writing all of this down, do you?"
"Well, of course I do!" Mayor Steeltoes snorted. "Do you think I would have used taxpayer money to hire him as my secretary if I didn't? He's part of our new Aghar Acceptance Program. You know, YOU may not be able to read all those things he's writing down, but he sure can! Snub, read back the last ten minutes for me!"
"OK, Cap'n. One: Take this down Snub! Two: Put more guards by gates. Two: Get better armor for guards. Two: Go build fartificashuns outside. Two: Go pertect port. And two: Induct Tanbum Catspitter in the Knights."
"You see? Who knows how he reads it, but that's exactly how I dictated it to him!"
"I don't know if that's EXACT--"
"Enough, enough of your bureacratic nitpicking!" The Mayor waved his hands at Ganathali as if he were a horsefly. "I have enough of that here at City Hall! Anyway, you can be in the Knights too, I suppose. You're not a kender, but it's not as if that's a problem we can't overcome. Snub, write that down."
"Wait, wait, I don't know if I'd like --"
But it soon became clear to Ganathali that he would be inducted whether he wanted to or not, and eventually he found it easier to give up and allow it. There was little time for ritual, anyway, as they were to go out with Dakin's group the next morning to deal with a band of mercenaries a scout had spotted a few miles away from the city. He barely even had time to be annoyed. Author: Bantam Date: Tue Sep 28 00:20:40 2010 Subject The Smoke The squadron of Knights of Hylo ambushed the mercenaries, who were just over a dozen and easily overpowered by Daven's company of fifty-five. The Kendermore troops incurred a few casualties in the melee, and Bantam dutifully tended to them. The mercenary leader, a scowling red minotaur, surrendered after a few good, sharp blows between the horns from Daven's hoopak, and agreed to accompany them back to the city. They returned in a triumphant horde, laughing, singing and jostling one another, until one of the company, a young female member of the Order of the Hoopak, came and tapped on Daven's boot. "Commander Daven, sir..."
"Yes? What is it, Grimolokin?"
"There's smoke coming from over there. And I smell something funny, like rotten eggs."
Bantam turned and looked out over the horizon. Indeed, a column of smoke was rising towards the sky in the distance. She couldn't tell how close it was. "Everyone, quiet!" Bantam said. "Please, quiet down for a moment!"
The song and laughter and chatter continued. "COMPANY! QUIET DOWN!" Daven bellowed, making Bantam jump. The noise began to dwindle.
Bantam cupped a hand around her ear. She could barely perceive a steady, rhythmic sound -- like massive drums, like a multitude of heavy feet approaching in unison. "Oh, no, oh no, oh no," she whispered. "Someone's coming!"
A kender mounted on a white pony reached into his pack and pulled out a long telescope. He stood up in his saddle, wobbling a little, and peered into it. "I can see something," he said. "Just barely. It looks like an army. I can't tell who it is, or how many, but it's big."
"Reorx's beard," Daven swore under his breath. "We've got to get back to the city and warn everyone, right now."
"They're getting closer!" squeaked the kender with the telescope. "They're moving fast! We're really going to have to hoof it! Er, if you'll pardon the expression, Mr. Minotaur, sir."
A low, sinister chuckle began to rumble out of the captive. "Well, well, well," he growled. "Maybe I won't need to stick around you miserable hive after all."
"Shut your infernal hairy muzzle, prisoner, or it's steak and eggs for breakfast tomorrow! Come on, men! And women! March! Faster than you ever thought you could!" The ponies broke into a brisk trot, and the Knights flew frantically after them, desperate to protect their homes and their families from disaster.
They were not fast enough. Author: Bantam Date: Tue Sep 28 00:33:25 2010 Subject Kendermore Burns The following hours were the stuff of nightmare. The Knights of Hylo were overwhelmed by a massive army of humans, goblins and hobgoblins, minotaurs, ogres, and -- to Bantam's horror -- dozens of carbon copies of the reptilian abomination that had assaulted the Temple of Chislev so many months ago. The army swarmed over Goodlund, slaughtering any kender foolish enough to get in their way, and striking down those that fled with burning arrows, for no purpose beyond cruel bloodsport.
The only things that saved the citizens of Kendermore were their stealth and their intimate knowledge of its mazelike streets and secret passageways. Parents hurried their children out of the city in droves, yanking them away from the windows where their curious eyes were glued to the horrible scene, turning their heads away from the small bodies that littered the streets they had played in the day before. Unfamiliar, confusing fear bubbled up in their chests. The world of innocence they knew was annihilated before them.
That night, Kendermore burned.
Daven and the surviving handful of hopeless Knights helped to evacuate the citizens, checking every exit they knew and stumbling across a few they hadn't known about. They brought the survivors to Bantam, who was stationed in a small forest grove a short distance from the city. She prayed that Chislev would conceal it from view, for just a little while. There was only time to perform the most essential first aid as the injured and dying citizens continued to flood in. Ganathali stayed behind, too, comforting the wounded, and putting to use the handful of healing lore he had picked up from his stay in the temple. When the cold, grey light of the morning was beginning to filter through the trees, Daven, Grimolokin, and Snub, the aghar, stumbled into the grove, helped a final group of dejected children down from the two ponies, and collapsed, overpowered by smoke. And Bantam, exhausted, the bright greens and yellows of her tunic dulled with dust and soot and spattered with blood, dragged herself away from a badly burned infant to tend to them.
When she was certain that they would survive the smoke inhalation, she collapsed to the ground, and fell instantly into a deep, troubled sleep. Author: Bantam Date: Tue Oct 5 01:03:06 2010 Subject Trauma Flame and blood chased Bantam through her dreams. She dangled over chasms of brimstone, floundered in viscous red rivers, jaws of unseen creatures snapping at her limbs. Too exhausted to be awoken by the terrors, she tossed and whimpered on the hard earth. One after another the procession of horrible images tormented her sleeping mind. And then she was running through the woods from a rising flood that threatened to swallow her up. Grasping vines clung to her feet and naked branches clawed at her clothing. The black water lapped at her feet. But then she lifted her eyes and she saw a faint white glow ahead in the gloom. She approached it. It was a unicorn. It was the most achingly beautiful creature she had ever seen; its mane was spun quartz, its body was mist given form. It raised its head, and when she made eye contact with it, an extraordinary sense of calm and well- being enveloped her. The two stood face to face, gazing at one another, oblivious of the danger.
And then, abruptly, the animal leapt at her; her vision was filled with hoof and horn, and she cringed, protected her face with her arms -- but then it passed over her, sailed directly over her head, and landed, and trotted into the flood waters, and in its wake they seemed to vanish, to evaporate before her eyes. And the black water faded into a tapestry of greys and greens, distorting and shifting, until she realized she was lying on her back, looking at the sky, in the real world. Awake. She sat up slowly, surveying her surroundings. Kender huddled in small, subdued groups, around campfires. Someone had managed to kill a few rabbits, others had scrounged a basketload of berries from the surrounding woods, and the rest had emptied their pouches of any tea, candy or snacks they might have had with them. The wounded groaned and shifted on their beds of dry leaves and pine needles.
She had work to do.
She stood up, her body stiff and aching from the night on the ground. Her clothes were sodden. It was a cold, misty day. Darker than it should have been. Even the trees looked grey. She shivered and approached Daven's fire.
"You're awake, at last," he said with a weary smile. "Good! Someone had a little tea. We fleshed it out with some herbs and pine needles. It's not exactly Aunt Silverspoon's best,, have some anyway. Oh, er, well, we don't have enough cups for everyone; in fact we have exactly two cups...but we found this rusty old can and cleaned it out a little. I hope it's all right."
"It's perfect." Bantam took the can, using the hem of her tunic as a potholder, and sipped it, nearly burning her lips. "It doesn't taste bad. It's not the same as normal tea, but then, who's to say what's normal nowadays, anyway?"
"I've had worse tea." Ganathali limped up and rested by the fire. "I'm glad you're awake. Didn't look like very good sleep."
(cont'd) Author: Bantam Date: Tue Oct 5 01:05:01 2010 Subject Trauma (2 of 3) "How many of them didn't make it through the night?"
"Three." Bantam winced. Ganathali bowed his head. "Some people have already taken them, the, uh, the bodies away. Didn't want to attract animals. You'd be able to guess which ones, though. It never looked good for them. Everyone else is doing fine."
"I've got to check on everyone," she said, starting to get to her feet.
"Sit down. They're fine. I've been watching them. I fed the ones that could eat. You've got to eat something first. Go on. Look, someone had oatmeal. We made a pot. No sugar, but we put some berries in it. It's nice."
A scalding can of oatmeal was thrust into Bantam's hands and everyone sat in silence as she ate. Daven was beginning to sniffle, and Bantam soon noticed tears running down his face. This was nothing out of the ordinary -- Kender rarely suppressed their emotions, and the majority of the band of refugees had been sobbing bitterly throughout the morning, tortured with the knowledge that most of their families and friends were likely dead. Bantam put her hand on Daven's shoulder. "Don't give up," she said. "A lot of people probably got away without us even seeing them."
"I'm glad Dakin didn't join," he said with a shaky voice. "He might be the only family I have left."
"Don't say that because you KNOW it's not true," Bantam said firmly. "Half of Kendermore is out wandering all the time. I'm sure you have some other relations that weren't in town at the time. Why, some might have left town without even telling you about it!"
"Not Mara," Daven quavered. "And Edwidge and Durbin. My wife and my two children. They were in the city. Our house -- it burned!" Daven buried his face beneath his arms and shook with sobs.
"Oh, Daven!" Bantam wrapped her arms around him. "I'm so sorry."
Author: Bantam Date: Tue Oct 5 01:07:08 2010 Subject Trauma (3 of 3) He let his grief tear through his body for a few moments, and Bantam said nothing. Finally, he lifted his head shakily and pulled a white handkerchief with an embroidered red rose from his pocket, and emptied his sinuses noisily into it.
"Hey, that's mine!" Ganathali exclaimed. Bantam promptly gave him a withering stare. "But, um, feel free to use it, of course..."
"It's over," Daven said weakly. "The Knights of Hylo are done for. I saw Captain Steeltoes die with my own eyes, at the end of an ogre's spear. He was brave...but we never even had a chance! It was all play-acting! A farce! A bunch of little ants ganging up on an elephant!" He threw the sopping handkerchief to the ground in disgust.
"Don't say that!" Bantam cried. "No one knew a gang of brutes on that scale was coming. No one knew how many they were. We didn't even know anyone wanted anything to do with Kendermore. But that doesn't mean the Knights were useless! Ek'thik allus mos durnat! We may be small, but we can still do good!"
Daven hugged his knees and shook his head. "I don't want any more people to die!"
"So -- so we'll do good in safer places!" Bantam said desperately. "Come on, I KNOW some of the Knights must still be alive. We are! We can get everyone together and move west, look for friends, find whoever's fighting these monsters, and help them!"
"I know you're great with a hoopak. Daven, you could hit anything with it! And you're brave and you can get a crowd of people in order in no time! You're a Knight of Hylo...don't give up!"
"Oh!" Daven heaved a sigh. "None of that matters, Bantam! The only thing that matters is being big and mean and willing to hurt people. There's no hope in the story + world for us!" Daven got up. "If you'll excuse me, I am going to go and look for some more food. At least maybe I can keep everybody from starving to death, and then I'll have been good for something, won't I?" And with that, he stomped off into the woods.
Ganathali shook his head in disbelief. "I've never seen a kender act like that. Like this..." He gestured at everyone around him. "Angry... defeated... hopeless. They're -- well, of course they get upset, like anyone else, but I never met a person more willing to pick himself up and start over again than a kender. I thought you -- you people thought of death as an adventure..."
"Well, our OWN deaths, sure," Bantam said, as if this should have been obvious. "But that doesn't stop us from missing people who are gone. He'll get better...I'm sure of it." But there was not as much certainty in her voice as in her words. Author: Bantam Date: Mon Oct 11 23:36:01 2010 Subject Leadership (1 of 2) "How are we going to get back on our feet with Daven moping around like this?" Bantam complained to Ganathali as she rubbed half of a plump aloe leaf on a young man's burned neck. "Knights need leaders!"
"Do kender knights really need leaders?" Ganathali asked skeptically.
burned soldier said wistfully.
"Yes, and we have to stick together," Bantam agreed. "Especially when there are this many wounded to take care of. At least four can't even walk. I can't carry those all by myself!"
"Wait, you're thinking of moving them?"
"Well, of course!" Bantam said. "We can't stay here! What if some of those -- things -- in Kendermore come out here and find us? Chislev won't hide us forever, and we're pretty defenseless..."
"Now, that sounds like leader talk to me," Ganathali mused.
"Hey, you're right, you know! Ow." The patient had spoken a bit too animatedly, and put stress on the burned skin of his neck. "Why doesn't Bantam just be our leader?"
"Oh, I couldn't!" Bantam discarded the aloe leaf, now sapped of its soothing lotion, and turned to a makeshift mortar and pestle she had constructed from found stones. She began to mix a poultice as she talked, nervous energy fueling the pounding motion of her hand. "I've never led anything or anybody. I wouldn't know what to do with myself."
"You drag ME around enough," Ganathali mumbled.
Author: Bantam Date: Mon Oct 11 23:37:15 2010 Subject Leadership (2 of 2) "It's easy," said the patient. "At least it LOOKS easy. All Daven did was get up there and talk rather loudly and everyone tended to listen to him. It can't be that hard. You could start now, if you wanted, I should imagine."
"Ohh!" Bantam said faintly, now spreading a thick, leafy paste over the soldier's blistered skin. "I just don't know..."
"Say, that DOES feel nice," the kender said happily. "What's in that? Oh, I can barely feel the pain at all anymore! How extraordinary! You see, now, if you can do something like THAT, I don't see why you can't get up and tell a bunch of people what to do and where to go. This sort of thing, it makes people trust you, you know."
"Well," Bantam said, inhaling deeply, "it's just that I am not entirely fond of public speaking! I lead a quiet life, you know, I'm used to hanging around animals in the woods -- well -- ones that talk more than they usually ought to, I'll grant you that, but that's Chislev's fault, not mind -- and priests and druids and the like, who usually barely talk at ALL, seeing as how they're always sec -- cloist -- secloistered in the forest and everything, and I get the queerest feeling when I'm up in front of a lot of people with them looking at me, like they're gnomes looking at me under a magnifying glass or something, and I come over all tongue-tied!"
"A kender not fond of public speaking," Ganathali said, shaking his head.
"Three-quarters kender, remember! Oops - you weren't supposed to hear that," she said, turning to the soldier. But the soldier had begun to occupy himself by jabbing curiously at his newly-numbed flesh, and had not heard her. "Hey, leave your neck alone! You'll rub the medicine off. Here, I'll just put a bandage over it for you..."
"Extraordinary!" the kender whispered again, grinning at his index finger, which was now completely anesthetized. Author: Bantam Date: Fri Oct 22 15:35:33 2010 Subject Moving on (1 of 2) The day was coming to an end, and Daven had barely spoken since the outburst at the fire. Bantam, having resigned herself to the miserable fate of leadership, clambered up onto a mossy rock with some difficulty, since the cold, misty day had made every surface slick. She looked over her disorganized charges for a moment, then took a deep breath. "Hey!" she shouted, fully expecting to be ignored, like the last time.
To her surprise, most of them actually looked up -- they were much more subdued now than that joyous, carefree day after their first battle, and they hadn't anything better to do than shiver, huddle closer together, and listen to her. Well, that helps, she thought, cheering up slightly. "Listen, everybody," she said, her voice only shaking a little. "I know we're all tired and very sad, and it might be nice to stay here and mope around the fire for weeks, but we just can't do that. We might get found, and anyway, we have to get somewhere where the sick people can get a roof over their heads. So we've got to move."
There were murmurs of assent through the crowd. Devastated or not, they were still kender, and travel was always the more palatable alternative.
"I have decided that we should go west," she said. "The Solamnic lands are out there, and, well, maybe those Knights would want to help our Knights. I know our armor isn't as shiny and there aren't as many of us and we aren't as big, but...well, it's the best thing I could think of. Is that -- er is that all right with everyone?"
"Sure, Bantam," Grimolokin said. "I've always wanted to meet a real, genuine Knight! They don't come to Kendermore very often. In fact, they never come to Kendermore anymore, not after the last one that came around. My mother told me about him. They say he came around looking for a missing something-or-other he said used to belong to Huma, but he left SO mad he forgot most of his stuff. I don't know what got him so worked up and neither did Mother." She sighed. "We could have used a few in Kendermore yesterday..."
Author: Bantam Date: Fri Oct 22 15:37:09 2010 Subject Moving on (2 of 2) "Well, they couldn't help us, but maybe we can help them!" Bantam said. "A lot of us are still in good shape! Maybe...maybe we could do something for them...and anyway, we can at least find someone there to take care of our wounded. Right now we just need to concentrate on getting as far away from Kendermore as we can. So...does anyone have a map of the continent?"
"I do!" one kender piped in. "It's very nice, that I look at it, the bit with Goodlund on it is missing. The rest is fine. I wonder where it went?"
"Well, that isn't a lot of help, is it, you great fool?" snapped another. "I have a map, Bantam! One thing to watch out for is that it IS from before the Cataclysm, so we might have to mentally rearrange some of the oceans and such."
"W-well, I really was hoping for an up-to-date map," Bantam stammered.
"I have a map of Goodlund," said a familiar voice at the back. It was Daven. "Why don't we take my map of Goodlund and put it together with his map that's missing Goodlund, and then we'll have a whole map?"
"That's an excellent idea, Daven." Bantam smiled at him, and he forced a weak smile back. "I think it's best if we travel in the dark -- I'm sure we can all see pretty well in the dark -- and be as sneaky as possible. Of course, we'll have to build some kind of a litter for the people that can't walk..."
"Oh! I've got an idea! I have a cape we can stretch between two poles!" a Knight of Hylo said eagerly, happy to be distracted from his misery with a new challenge. "Everyone, your capes! Your cloaks! Come on, pitch in!"
They began to work together, packing their pouches with anything edible that they could find, and preparing the convalescing kender for transport. They had a long, cold, wet, miserable journey ahead of them...and yet, they were beginning to talk and laugh and even sing as they worked. And when Daven initiated a round of sea chanties he'd picked up during his Wanderlust, Bantam knew that he was still a kender after all. Author: Bantam Date: Thu Jan 13 21:11:00 2011 Subject Revenge: The Aftershocks of War, Part 2 "Ah! There!" The kender spied a tuft of tiny white flowers in the grass and crouched to examine their triangular, notched leaves, feel their velvety texture, and inhale their aroma. A cloying, thick citrus perfume flooded her nostrils as her fingertips crushed the leaf. "Lemon balm! Just what I'm low on!" She drew a knife and began slicing through the stems of the plants, stuffing her medicine pouches and humming a traveling song as she worked.
During a fortuitous half-rest, however, her ears caught the faint sound of voices in the distance. She stopped and listened. Someone was coming -- lots of someones, by the sound of it. She suppressed her kender impulse to stride up and speak to them; times being what they were, she followed the inclinations of her fraction of human ancestry, slithering off into the underbrush, crashing and snapping branches as she went, and concealed herself in some bushes to watch.
The sounds of hoofbeats and wagon wheels and marching boots and voices grew stronger until, at last, they came into view. The Dragonarmies, she observed with a shudder -- a small troop of nasty-looking brutes armed to the eyelashes and led by a minotaur in an ostentatiously decorated helm advertising some superior status. On their way from someplace to another, no doubt, and bound to terrorize anyone they met on their way, the scoundrels. With a sickening drop of her stomach, Bantam realized that she recognized the minotaur in command. It was one of the murderers who had led the army that leveled Kendermore. Keeping to the shadows as she helped the children out of the city, Bantam had seen this monster murder innocents, set fire to houses and shops, and, she was fairly certain, delivering sharp kicks to feral dogs. She would have recognized the bloodthirsty cow anywhere.
An uncharacteristic vengefulness bubbled up in the kender's chest, and she felt her cheeks grow hot. How she would love to go and bring Chislev's wrath down upon the minotaur's long-horned head!
But she'd most certainly be killed, she realized with a sigh. There were just too many of them. She couldn't have done a thing even if she had all that remained of the Knights of Hylo with her. She watched them pass by with sad resignation.
But then her eyes narrowed into a glower at the lead minotaur. "If I can't hurt them," she said to herself, "then I shall at least give them a very bad day!"
As if in response, she heard a harsh, shrill note sound from a nearby patch of grass. She glanced down and saw an emerald-colored katydid. "That's the loudest, most irritating sound I've ever heard from someone that small," she said admiringly. Gently, she lowered her hand to the ground, and nudged it beneath the insect so that it repositioned itself gingerly in the palm of her hand.
She cupped her hand over the insect and prayed to Chislev. "Wild One, I know I've been asking for a lot lately, but things are tough down here. I need your help to -- well -- just to distract these people for a while so they're late to wherever they're going, because wherever they're going, they'er going there to destroy life, not to help it, and that's wrong! So please, tell this bug to cooperate with me? I have an idea!"
A feeling of calm settled in the brush where she hid, and she felt certain that this insect was now her partner in crime. "Hide real well, okay?" she whispered into her hands. "Don't let them find you!" With that, she released the katydid and willed it to flutter into one of the Dragonarmy supply wagons, where it alighted in an empty water barrel. Bantam fancied she could hear its scraping song beginning already, even from that distance. "But that's only a start, isn't it?" she said. "Let's see what else I can cook up..." Author: Bantam Date: Thu Jan 13 21:25:44 2011 Subject Revenge: The Aftershocks of War, Part 4 Bantam giggled as a stampede of wild bison, her final request of Chislev, sent the Dragonarmy troops scattering in all directions. Served them right! Now, to get out of the way before anyone noticed her lurking in the bushes...
As she crept through the underbrush, her foot snagged beneath the gentle arch of an exposed root. She cursed as she tumbled to the ground...and out of her cover.
"Uh-oh," she said.
A goblin who had run in her direction fleeing from the stampede was the first to notice her. "KENDER!" he bellowed.
A nearby human soldier approached them. "Spying on us!" he snarled.
The cry had sent the minotaur leader running towards them. "Grab her, you fools, quick! Look at her robes, she's a priestess of Chislev! SHE is the one responsible for all this, I'm certain of it!"
"Me? Oh, my, no," Bantam stammered as she sat up and scooted backwards into the brush. "I was just gathering herbs on the plain -- my, these animals have been acting strange, though, now that you mention it..."
The fastest Bantam could run was not, in fact, all that fast, and her hereditary clumsiness slowed her down even more. It was not long before the mob closed in on her and rough hands grasped her arms and legs.
"Want me to slit her throat, Sarge?" snickered the goblin who had her in a headlock.
"No, don't, as much fun as that'd be," growled the minotaur. "I've got a better idea..."

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