A shining orb as bright as the sun hung over the city of Elturel. Known as the Companion it was rumoured to be a blessing of the deity Amaunator, although I suspect this is a story spread by the city Elders to boost trade. (When you’re as truthful as I am you can spot the tell-tale signs of a porky-pie from a considerable distance.)
True or not, the light was renowned for keeping away the foul beasts that roamed the fields of the dead and perhaps more importantly it kept Komgrirk, whose stench was not unlike a plague ridden corpse, hidden in the back of our wagon. I sat at the reins enjoying the sunshine as we approached the city, only slightly irritated by Lori’s religious fervour. It was apparently a long held dream of hers to commune with the Paladins of Elturel and she was eager to share wine with them at the temple.
I was eager to share wine with nobody but myself so after the wagon and goats (don’t ask) were stabled I headed for the nearest hostelry. Unfortunately Lunar and Itiff insisted on coming with me. I suppose I should feel flattered that they feel safer in my presence and so I nobly allowed them to buy me a drink. The ale was as mediocre as the company, but we did learn of the Festival of the Hero, which was to take place the very next day. The majority of the events were best suited to the type of swarthy adventurer with thick arms, and a thick head. Itiff grabbed the entry parchment and indeed began scribbling his name, or at least made some sort of mark next to these events. I had no such wish to engage in such rough-housing but there was one event that caught my eye, the Foot Race.
Running has always come somewhat naturally to me and I anticipated that this was an event at which I would excel. So I added my name to the parchment and a little over twelve hours later, Itiff, Lunar and myself assembled with a rag-tag bunch of ne’er do wells upon the race’s start line.
As the master of ceremonies explained the rules I recited my words of motivations that I knew would put me in a positive mind-set to run faster. These were the affirmations that I always used and were in no way any form of magical spell that would somehow give me an unfair advantage.
The starting flag dropped and I sprinted from the line leaving my fellow competitors for dead. Well not actually for dead, because the glowing Companion floating over the city would have turned them to ash, but I outpaced them so easily it was as if they were dead. I won’t bore you with the details of my race because to be quite honest I aced it. The only tricky patch was when some half-witted fishmonger dropped a barrel of pilchards right in front of me. However, with the grace of an eagle I soared over the obstruction and finished the race with an air of regal majesty.
If only the same could be said for Lunar. It was indeed unfortunate timing that the temple of the fallen was having its new, and much acclaimed stained glass window delivered this very morning. The window, which depicted the holy priest Samarin in full armour smiting a horde of demons had taken myriad craftsmen two years to complete and was quite irreplaceable and perhaps more importantly, not gnome resistant.
Lunar sprinted around the corner as the craftsmen unloaded the window from their wagon. Why she didn’t stop I cannot say but instead she decided to throw a dagger at the window. I mean, a dagger! What was that ever going to achieve? As it turned out, nothing. The blade bounced from the glass as did Lunar a matter of seconds later, landing somewhat comically on a pile of horse droppings, left by the craftsmen’s mare.
Miraculously the window hadn’t broken and for the barest of moments it seemed all would be well. Then the glass representing Samarin’s head fell from the window and smashed on the cobbles, closely followed by the rest of Samarin and indeed then the remains of the window. The craftsmen were not happy and I decided the best thing I could do was wipe the tears of laughter from my face and then make myself scarce until the awards ceremony.
In the spirit of truthfulness, and I am nothing if not truthful, I should mention that Lunar later won the drinking competition, although I personally find nothing heroic about a half-cut gnome. And Itiff won the wrestling and the tug of war, for which he was awarded a leather mask and the Goblet of the Tugger, fitting prizes indeed for a half-elf such as Itiff. I myself received a not inconsiderable sum of gold for my excellent endeavours, which everyone agreed was the most heroic performance of the day and I, Tarquin the Honest, was hailed as the hero of heroes.