Sunday, December 5, 2010

Wulfgang’s Progress

Colyne Stewart, January AS XXXVI (2002)

Wulfgang is a wanderer, a traveler. Anyone that has met him can tell you so. From the pilgrim’s staff, hung with tokens, clasped in his calloused hands, to the dust on his boots, all of his appearance proclaims him to be a traveler.

Before Wulfgang found his way to Ardchreag he would wander from place to place, meeting new people, partaking in new experiences, but never staying anywhere for long. One day, he found himself following a dirt trail that led towards the great lake that separates Ealdormere from its parent Kingdom of the Middle. Along this path he met a man heading in the opposite direction. As he drew near the stranger’s garb declared him to be a man of importance, though Wulfgang did not recognize his device.

When they came face to face, Wulfgang hailed the man, who grew enraged.

“How dare you speak to me!” he thundered. “You will address me as Your Royal Majesty Duke Sir Master Master, and speak only when spoken to! Now kneel and do me homage!”

Now Wulfgang knew the man to be Peer Fear, and he laid his staff against a tree, picking up a spoke from a wagon wheel lying by the road. With this weapon Wulfgang chased Peer Fear through trees, up hills and down valleys, beating him severely, until finally the man crawled away whimpering.

Collecting his staff, Wulfgang continued on his way. Soon he met a beautiful woman sitting in a throne by the side of the road. Her clothes were resplendent, and her throne was studded with jewels. Sacks of gold lay spilled at her feet, and a pile of scrolls sat on a plinth to her left.

“Hail traveler,” she called to Wulfgang as he approached. “I greet you, and wish you well.” She held out a ringed hand which Wulfgang kissed. She then asked him to fetch her an apple from a tree a good distance away. Wulfgang was about to accept her task when she added, “If you do, I’ll give you a scroll.” She then began to recite a list of chores for him to do, and the rewards he would get for doing so, and Wulfgang realized that this was Promise of Reward.

Wulfgang went to the tree and found a wormy windfall apple which he brought back to the lady. “This,” he said, “is what you get when you only do something for the reward.” He left her as she sat rigid in her throne, sputtering in anger.

Walking on, he met another woman, this one dressed in an exquisite gown who, once he had drawn near, began to criticize his clothes, his hair, his staff, and all other aspects of his appearance. And Wulfgang knew at once that he faced Authenticity’s evil offspring Intolerance. Calmly he asked her if that was a watch he saw poking out from under her sleeve, at which point Intolerance turned bright red and exploded.

Humming a tune, Wulfgang’s feet carried him farther along the trail where he found an old man mired in a bog, his load spilling from his back. Without a second thought Wulfgang waded into the mud and helped the man extricate himself. Once freed he sat the old man on a large rock and went back for the man’s load.

When he had gathered all the man’s belonging, and repacked them in his sack, the old man placed his gnarled hand on Wulfgang’s shoulder.

“My name is Commoner,” he said, “and the load you help me carry are my troubles. By your aid I know you, for you are Chivalry and Courtesy, the true aim of all who live in these lands.”

The man’s words pleased Wulfgang more than any other reward could, and the two of them walked on, carrying the bundle between them.

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