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PostPosted: Fri Jul 04, 2014 6:01 pm 

Joined: Sep 22, 2013
Posts: 888
The Destitute Seeker
by RavenoftheBlack, and Raiker Venn
Status: Public :diamond:

Lightning flashed a brilliant arc in the sky as a single, dark-clad figure walked casually through the empty streets. The rain was falling only lightly, but the lightning was getting worse, illuminating the early night sky on a nearly constant basis. The figure glanced down at the silver-tipped cane he carried in his right hand, then glanced up at the electrified sky. He paused for a moment, then shook his head and continued on at a slightly quicker pace. He pulled his black cloak tighter about him, adjusted his brimmed hat slightly, and tried to ignore the thunder that screamed at him from all around. He briefly debated ‘walking away, but decided against it. He was nearly there anyway.

Finally, he made it to his destination, a large tavern on the edge of town. He did so love taverns. He rarely found a reason to spend his time anywhere else, except when necessity demanded it. Of course, he tried to be as discerning as possible about which taverns he frequented, but this dreadful plane offered him little in the way of choices. He paused just outside the tavern door, trying to remember just what this plane was called, but its name had completely escaped him. All he knew was that the people here were friendly, if a bit simple, and that there was only one decent drink worth having. But, oh, was it worth having! He licked his lips in anticipation and pushed his way inside.

The interior of the Seven Barrels tavern was ill-lit and poorly cleaned, but Raiker Venn knew it was important to appear cordial. He took off his hat with an exaggerated motion of his free hand and flashed a winning smile at the crowd, most of whom ignored him, which soured the planeswalker’s mood a bit. Still, he maintained his smile for their sake and made his way immediately to the bar. It took a few moments for the barkeep to notice him, as the barkeep was too busy making clumsy attempts at wooing a particularly noticeable barmaid, but eventually he turned his attention to the cloaked man. When he did, his eyes widened and his jaw hung open a bit.

“Well, as I live and breathe!” the barkeep said, loudly enough for several of the closest patrons to hear him. “Raiker Venn, Gentleman Poet, is that truly you?”

Raiker’s grin widened with honest joy. He so loved being remembered. “It is, indeed, and I am so pleased that my name still rings a pleasurable note in these parts!”

“Are you kidding?” the barkeep said, astounded. “Everyone remembers you! We were all there that day of the Countess’s funeral. She was much loved, as you well know. The Ode you wrote for her still moves me to tears, Mr. Venn.”

There was a murmur of agreement from the crowd as more and more of them recognized the poet and began listening in. Raiker forced himself to drop his grin to a small, sad sort of reminiscing smile for the benefit of the townsfolk. “Ah, yes, well do I remember the Countess. A blessing of angelic delight to us mere mortals, she was, almost as though she flew with the angels themselves in the ancient times.”

“Three cheers to the memory of the Countess!” Someone in the crowd shouted, which was immediately answered by nearly everyone else in the room.

“Indeed,” Raiker agreed, pretending to grow sorrowful. “It was such a sudden and tragic illness that struck the good Countess. My very spirit still aches when I think how that vile sickness sullied her flawless beauty.”

The barkeep nodded. “Yes, it was so strange.” He paused, then seemed to remember his duty. “Mr. Venn, would you like a drink? On the House, of course! I would be honored to buy the great Raiker Venn a drink.”

Raiker smiled again as he cast off his cloak in an elegant motion. “I would love a drink, my kind friend, although I can well afford it myself, and I would not feel right about allowing you to give away a bottle of Blizzardberry Wine!”

There was a gasp from several people in the tavern, and even the Barkeep’s eyes widened again at the mention of that drink. Even the Countess, during her life, had rarely allowed herself such extravagance.

The Barkeep gulped before he responded. “Are you certain, Mr. Venn? Blizzardberry wine is an extremely rare vintage, and I would not be able to refund you if…”

“Nonsense, my dear man!” Raiker said with a confident nod. He pulled out three large coins from an interior pocket of his black, tailored suit coat, and this time, everyone in the room gasped. The coins were King’s Mint, a currency minted for the royal family and worth a small fortune throughout the kingdoms. It was likely that no one else in that room had ever held one before, or certainly ever seen three in one place at one time. Raiker laid them on the bar and slid them over to the Barkeep.

“This should cover my wine, a hot meal, and a bed for the night, as well, I think, as a generous tip. Would you agree?”

The Barkeep was dumbstruck, but managed to nod enthusiastically as he scooped up the coins and ran down to the wine cellar to fetch the valuable wine. Raiker turned around to look at the crowd, who was now staring at him in abject amazement. The planeswalker poet smiled back at them, scanned the crowd, and decided it was time for another performance.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began simply, “I can see that you are interested in the fortune you have just seen, but I ask that you believe me when I tell you that such treasures carry terrible risks. Would you be interested in hearing my latest work? It is a poem about such things, the sort of things that men desire, sometimes to their own ruin. Shall I share it with you?”

There was a murmur of consent from the crowd, and it was good enough for Raiker. The Barkeep returned and, with an almost pained look on his face, opened the rare and precious bottle of Blizzardberry Wine and poured a glass for the expectant gentleman. Raiker nodded his thanks and took a long, indulgent sip. The Blizzardberry was as delicious as he had remembered it, a rich, smooth flavor that seemed to dance on his tongue like a living thing. This bottle in particular must have been aged just about perfectly, which Raiker’s calculations had assumed before he even returned to this plane. After another sip of the divine liquid, Raiker set his glass down on the counter and looked at his audience, smiling.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I invite you to please enjoy this cautionary tale. I now present you with ‘The Destitute Seeker,’” he paused, widening his smile, “by Raiker Venn.”

“The concept of Fortune’s an interesting thought,
It can mean different things to us all,
It’s the flip of a coin or the cast of a lot,
Or the reason men stand up or fall.

But Fortune is also a prize that’s obtained,
By the brave who are willing to seek,
And the lure of the splendor that might yet be gained,
Is nepenthe when life seems too bleak.

The unfeeling sun casts its fire below,
And it scorches the unyielding lands,
The sorrowful farmer with sickle and hoe,
Scans a fate which is out of his hands.

With a tear on his dust-laden cheek he departs,
Says farewell to his children and wife,
He will seek out the Fortune they hope in their hearts
Will provide them a happier life.

He’d heard tell of a treasure, this destitute man,
That was worth thirty seasons of pay,
But his journey would force him to cover a span
That extended a half-world away.

His family was with him each step that he took,
In his heart and the depths of his mind,
But it seemed that wherever this Seeker would look,
There was never a Fortune to find.

After nearly a year with no sign of success,
The Destitute Seeker turned home.
He was poorer than ever but glad to confess
He had lost his desire to roam.

His eyes never turn on the signs with the names,
Of the towns where his body arrives,
They are also too late to have witnessed the flames,
That had taken his family’s lives.

The Destitute Seeker saw nothing but ash,
As he cursed at his bitterest luck,
The lightning had claimed his whole world in a flash,
And he cried at the Fortune he’d struck.”

After Raiker had finished with his recitation, he received his traditional round of applause, although several in the crowd took longer to join in, as they were wiping away their tears. They all lived in a land very similar to the one Raiker had described, and more than one could identify with the situation the farmer in the poem had been placed in. The tragedy of the poem affected these people the most, and Raiker Venn graciously allowed them their moments of emotion. Once they joined in the applause, however, Raiker smiled widely, and gave his traditional bow, his ornate black and silver cane tight in his hand for the extra added effect.

Afterward, Raiker Venn ate his meal and drank his Blizzardberry Wine while talking to whichever patrons felt like approaching him. Near the end of the meal, the barmaid Raiker had noticed when he had first entered came to chat with him. Raiker smiled warmly at her and offered to share some of his wine. Having never even dreamed of tasting such an expensive wine, she accepted, and they spent the remainder of the meal talking quietly. The barkeep sighed deeply as the barmaid led Raiker to his room for the night. She didn’t leave until the next morning, long after Raiker Venn had left.

* * *

It was just about midday after Raiker Venn had left that a thin, scraggly stranger walked into the Seven Barrels tavern. He was dusty and exhausted, barely able to put one foot in front of the other. His ragged clothes were wrinkled, having been moistened by sweat and yesterday’s rain, then dried in the oppressive sun of the first few hours of morning. He nodded politely to the barkeep, the barmaid, and the handful of patrons who were in the tavern and asked for some food. The barkeep obliged, and the tired man handed him a few tiny coins.

“I hope that’s enough,” the man said before he started eating. “It’s all I’ve got left.”

The barkeep looked over the coins on the counter. It fell a little short of the price of the food, but this man was clearly in poor condition, and he figured he had made more than his share of profit the night before.

“Good enough for me,” the barkeep said with a smile. “Say, what’s your story, stranger? You look like you’ve been in a fight with the world.”

The stranger nodded as he began to eat the humble meal. “I can’t argue with you there, friend. I’m a farmer from Lindvale, about two hours down the road.”

The barkeep looked the man over carefully. “You look like you’ve been on the road two months, not two hours.”

Again, the stranger nodded. “No question there, and a lot longer besides. I haven’t been home in about a year.”

“Oh, yeah?” the barmaid asked. “Where’ve you been?”

“Looking for my fortune, I guess.”

The barkeep looked at the scattered coins on the counter. “No luck, I take it?”

The man shook his head. “I guess some treasures ain’t where they’re supposed to be. That’s my burden. But there’s always some good in anything, right? I’m almost home now, and I can finally see my family again. You know, I’ve been thinking about them every day I’ve been gone.”

Everyone else in the room began looking at each other, this man’s story bizarrely reminiscent of Raiker Venn’s poem. The stranger glanced up from his meal, noticing the sudden silence. “What is it?”

“It’s nothing,” the barmaid said, refusing to meet his gaze.

“It’s something,” the stranger replied, more forcefully. He turned toward the barkeep. “What’s the matter with everyone?”

“It’s just,” the barkeep began, trying to choose his words. “It’s just that we heard a story like this last night. A tragic story. It’s just a strange coincidence, that’s all.”

But the stranger could tell it was more than that. “What kind of story? What happened in this story of yours?”

“Well,” the barkeep said, “it’s like you said. A poor farmer is having trouble on his farm, so he leaves his family to go find a treasure that he never finds.”

The stranger nodded. “I’m sure it happens all the time,” he said, then forced a laugh. “I kind of wish I’d heard it before I set out, you know!”

He expected a laugh, but none ever came. Finally, the stranger continued. “How did it end, this story of yours?”

The barkeep and barmaid shared a long glance at one another, but the barkeep finally relented. “When he gets home, he finds that his house was destroyed by lightning…his family dead.”

The stranger went pale. “It stormed last night…”

For a few long, chilling moments, no one said anything. Then, with a shocking suddenness considering his physical condition, the stranger turned around and burst out the door of the Seven Barrels tavern. He scanned around for a moment and spotted a horse nearby, tied to a fence outside the tavern. Hating himself for doing it, the stranger untied the horse and stole it, kicking it into a full gallop down the road toward his home. He would return the horse as soon as he was able, but right now, fear dictated his actions. He had to get home. His family had to be alright. They had to be.

Although he covered the distance much faster than he would have on foot, the final leg of his journey still seemed torturously long. Every second that passed was filled with fear and terrible imaginings, and yet all of his mental images did not prepare him for what he saw when he rode up to his home, or the smoldering pile of ashes where his home had once been. He nearly broke his neck as he scrambled off the stolen horse, but he recovered and ran full speed over to the ashes. His tears were already falling when he found the remains of his family, trapped within their simple, wooden home. The lightning strike was obvious; several of them must have occurred in this area, judging from the broken trees and burnt patches of ground. But his family, they were all the destitute man could think about as he wept, and cursed his Fortune.

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