Chris White’s proposal

Poxig beheld his true self in the mirror. It was a blurry spectral presence, which reminded him of his father. But he couldn’t help but ignore his red eyes, which was the evil that still dwelt within. He could not bear to look but for a few moments, and then turned away. He thought that he was impervious to evil, but the magic mirror had revealed that even he could bend to such a nefarious force.

Chris White stroked his beard in response to Poxig’s silence. He knew that Poxig would probably be the most unlikely hero, if indeed he was capable of greatness. Clearly, his attachment to legends was a liability. But Poxig had a heart that exceeded even the humans in Marginalia. He certainly could be counted on, but did not have anything in the way of brute strength or magical talent.

The magic mirror had indeed shown the dark side that Poxig did not want to face. If he were ever to aspire to the guardianship of the ORB, he would have to acknowledge this darker half and fight against it. Chris White knew better. He knew that the darker side, that is visible only to demons, exists within every heart of man and elf. Only the beasts were morally neutral. “We are all combinations of dark and light,” White stated emphatically.

“Well, I’ve never thought…”

“Never mind what you’ve thought. Everyone winces at the image in the magic mirror. To see your true self is a harrowing process, but each hero must know the good and evil that dwells within. The evil you face…”

“But what if…?”
White interrupted him. “The evil you face is more threatening than you can imagine. You must try to vanquish the source of the earth’s rot. But only the Naughright guild can ordain you to accomplish this task. You must win their approval.”

“And if they reject me?”

“That is a scenario that you must not acknowledge. You have been entrusted with the ORB. Somewhere, the other three ORBS exist. Those heroes and heroines have their own monsters to slay. You have your own. But nary an elf has ever had the heart that you have. Now that you know your true self, go forth. I give you this letter of recommendation to take to the guild. Take it and go, and do not turn to the left or the right.”

“I will be going then,” Poxig said boldly. “But what if I meet trolls on the way.”

“Your penknife has protected you thus far. It will suffice. It is your wit that is your true ally, not a sword and shield,” said White.

Poxig braced himself for the long journey ahead to the Naughright guild. It was there that he would receive the approval of the magicians who guided the forces of dark and light. White had agreed to accompany so far as the golden gate, but there Poxig would have to speak for himself as the guardian of the ORB.

Poxig, undeterred

The old sage

As Poxig fled the premises, he darted near the wood. The king’s guard followed close behind, raising their halberds towards the sky. They began to close in on him, and Poxig clung to the orb tighter. Then, he heard a voice come from the wood, “Enter here, young fellow!” There was a trapdoor in the roots of a tree.

Poxig hurried down the hatch, which closed behind him. There was an old man in a scarlet coat and a conical red hat. He sat in an enormous chair that was gnarled and ornate like an old tree. Poxig stopped to catch his breath. The old man spoke with a booming voice full of resonance.

“You need not worry about them. They can’t find us here.”

Poxig could hardly believe that he had escaped with the orb. Perhaps Releven had acknowledged his plight and provided an out to this dilemma. He knew that if he was found, the king would throw him in the castle dungeon again.

“Welcome, young elf, I have expected your coming.”

“What? How can that be?”

“The sages can use clairvoyance to perceive the future.”

“Why should I believe you?”

“Trust me. The destiny you seek can only be found with the aid of the circle.”
“The circle? What is that?”

“They are the guild of Naughright. They determine the fate of soldiers and wizards of yore.”

Poxig could not retain his skepticism. But he was glad to be away from the king’s guard. There was no reason to doubt the old sage, but he was still unfamiliar in this underground passage. It was warm and inviting, but everywhere along the walls were byzantine bookshelves, with thousands of colorful volumes. Field mice wandered in the dark recesses of the cavern.

“Why did you rescue me?”

“You can’t understand the omen of Naughright. The guild can see calamities before they are borne.”

“So in some strange way, we were destined to meet?”
“Precisely. You are the bearer of the sacred orb. That sphere contains incredible power that can be used for good or for ill. Master Control knew that you would need guidance in its use. I have come to help you become the elf that you are destined to be. But in order to be a true guardian of the orb, you must confront your true self. Most men, when confronted with their actual self, run away screaming!”

Poxig had always thought that he had known himself. But he reasoned that Releven probably knew him better than his own self-conception.

“What must I do?”

“Look into this magic mirror, and behold the self that will become the light warrior!”

Poxig was filled with trepidation. But he managed to heed the old man’s call, though he had to fight with his own cowardice. In truth, he didn’t really believe that he could become a light warrior. But he had to face his fear.

White the old sage

Traitor to the crown

Poxig renounced his ties to the calumny that he had been linked to. He had been accused of disloyalty to the king and acquitted. Now, he had to regain the ORB that he had buried in the graveyard in order to show the king that he was indeed of the elect. But time and time again, he found himself doubting the king’s devotion to his own cause. He needed to find the cause of the earth’s rot, and this caused him some trepidation.

He had to go when no one was around towards the end of dusk. The horse he had taken neighed when he pulled the reins, and stopped at the gate to the graveyard. The church beside it was dark and the windows looked like dim irises of a ghostly figure. The trees were gnarled, bare, and shadowy in the gloom. Poxig had come alone, but he sensed something was wrong.

He approached the burial mound behind the sepulcher. As he began to uncovered the buried ORB, he noticed a figure in the background behind the weeds of a gravestone. A mountebank from the court had had Poxig followed! The king’s guardsmen came from behind the stone. He drew his halberd.

“Stop where you are! This is the king’s guard!”

“I should have known that I would be followed.”

“Well, this is the end of the line. Give us the ORB!”

“There’s no chance. It belongs to me!”

“You plarts stole it from his majesty! Don’t make us impale you like a beast.”

Poxig searches for the buried ORB.

Poxig thought about his condition. He was by no means ready to molder in the king’s dungeon. He had spent months there. But if he surrendered the ORB, then he would have to get it back again. There was no chance of his being accepted by the Naughright guild if he relinquished the sphere.

Poxig threw the ORB over the gate and made a flying leap. If he could make a break for it, there could be a chance that he could retain the ORB.

“Stop thief!” exclaimed the halberdiers, hot in pursuit.

The mourning king

Poxig was wondering why the king did not make an appearance. He asked the amanuensis about it.

“The king has locked himself inside the North tower since the disappearance of his daughter. His daughter Sara fell in love with a knight that was in his retinue, but turned against him. He now sits in the ruined Temple with his bride.”

“So then, he won’t show his face until the time that he is reunited with his lost daughter?”

“Yes, you’ve spoken the truth.”

“Well, what about princess Sara? Was she complicit in this?”

” She fell in love with the dark knight, but her passions led to this captivity. The dark knight will not allow her to depart, and most think that he keeps her in the stronghold with powerful dark magic.”

“Why doesn’t the king send a hundred knights to liberate her?”

“The king still believes that his daughter chose this fate. He cannot make her return. The dark magic is based upon her dark passions for the rebel knight.”

Poxig wondered what god had deemed that the king live in such a horrible estate. The truth of the matter was that the king suffered two losses: that of a valuable knight and his only daughter. Such was the fate of the rich, to lose their progeny to the clutches of the unthankful former knights of the guard.

“What is the dark knight’s name?”

“You know him as Garlang.”

He was the rune warrior who had entranced the imp army to serve him, instead of the true king of Marginalia. Of course, imps could be easily persuaded to follow Garlang, since they were tricksters and blackguards. But Poxig had remembered the stand at Jongleur’s library. It had been against a formidable imp army. They had saved the sacred library from the torches of the enemy.

The king in spite of himself.

Poxig’s release

There he sat in his cell alone for two weeks straight. It seemed like the rats were his only companions. He kept waiting for the king’s pardon, but he did not know if it would ever come. He knew that he could not surrender the Orb, no matter what. Towards the end, the hard tack was soft and the beans were hard. It appeared that there was no end to his misery.

And then, the jailer opened up the jail cell.

“Er. Seljuk has secured your release,” he said.

“Praise Releven! Er. Seljuk had finally come through. They handed him a knapsack with his belongings. He sidled up next to the guard. “What is the basis of my release?” he asked.

“I am not authorized to say,” said the guard.

Poxig had to appear in court in order to clear his name. As soon as he entered the courtroom, Er. Seljuk was there in order to be his defense attorney.

“The amanuensis must write,” said the guard “Here stands the accused, as one who was indicted by the king, his majesty, Charles I. This elf is accused of conspiring to aid the king’s enemies.”

Poxig could not believe the charges that he had heard. But he had to admit that after all he’d been through, it would take a miracle to get him through this ordeal. He was expected to be above the level of a normal elf, and it was well-known that everyone was prejudiced against elves since the wars of religion.

Er. Seljuk gave his opening remarks: “Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, this elf , Poxig of Excelsior, stands before you accused of treason. There has been no evidence to suggest that this is true. We have seen a horrible prejudice in our land. Elves are decent creatures, wise, and rational. The magic arts flow through many of their veins. I have known the accused for almost a year, and have never known him to do anything untoward or unbecoming of a citizen of Marginalia.”

Someone shouted from the crowd: “Enough of this! Away with this elf!”

“I plead with you, ladies and gentlemen, not to be withholding due process from Poxig the elf,” said Seljuk.

“What crime has he committed?” said another voice.

“We have a letter from the royal pen of King Charles. He has addressed it to the accused.”

“Read it!” came a voice from the crowd.

She began to read:

“Concerning the fate of one treasonous to the Throne,

I have never received a letter from any elf, but yours struck my interest. Since my father fought against the king of Elvira in the wars of religion, I have looked for a way to pardon them from the penalty of the law.

I had to imprison you because you claimed to possess the missing orb. Your father stole it from my treasury years ago. I have the remaining 3 orbs in my possession. They will belong to the light warriors, who according to prophecy, will restore our land by finding the cause of the earth’s rot.

If you return the orb to me, I will secure your release from the depths of the dungeon. I want to determine if Emissary Seljuk is right that you might be the light warrior who has come into the world to save it from the pernicious evil that causes its rot.

If you heed my call, I will give you a quest. If you succeed in this quest, then I will know that you are truly a light warrior from the legend of the prophecy. In any case, I set you free from any indictment of this court. You may only see my face if you bring the Orb!

His Royal Highness,

Charles I

Poxig, the bearer of the Sacred Orb

Poxig awaits trial

Nothing could dissuade him from standing trial. They might put a noose around his head, but they couldn’t take his pride. King Charles remained aloof, and would not describe the reason for the solipcism. He begged for messages from the jailer, but could get nothing. Time was against him. Every passing day was another day that he could be executed.

To make matters worse, he was alone. John had been released, and he did not know why. He was alone with his thoughts, which kept swirling about in his skull. He began to talk to himself inside the jail cell. The food had gotten worse. Nonsense pervaded his head.

Night after night, he kept waiting for word from Er. Seljuk, but he was beginning to think that he was not going to intervene. He was the king’s coadjutor, and so his first loyalty was to the king and not to him, and certainly not to elves. Their bias against the elven race was well known to Poxig.

There was a ghostly howl of wolves outside the chamber. Suddenly, the gaoler opened the door and motioned for Poxig to enter. The time had come for his death. Nightmarish thoughts of his end began to trouble his mind. Now he had to face trial, and perhaps execution, and for what? He had done nothing wrong.

Poxig awaits trial

Poxig’s train of thought

There were no more nights of sleep. Each night, eyes stitched open, Poxig awaited his ultimate fate, which was possible execution. He did not see what was necessary for survival, only saturated nonsense pervaded his psyche. By this time, he should have been exonerated, and yet, here he was near the gallows.

There was no longer the need for courage, since his mind had retreated into itself. All that John and Poxig could do was stare at each other; no words were spoken. Poxig remained tethered to his hope that at some point he would see daylight, but until that day, he would fend off the melancholy of this isolation.

Poxig knew he was innocent. But now he thought of whether it was possible to suffer for a higher purpose. This was the manifest content of what could be labeled as a “prayer.” Although he had never prayed, he realized that certain events were not in his control. In this dungeon, prayer was the only thing that he could focus on. Relying on Releven, instead of his ephemeral thoughts, seemed to be the only path forward.

Somehow, he would see further than his own temporary chains. These were the four walls of his freedom. He no longer lived an external life, but bent toward the introspective. He remembered the Latin phrase: “saecula saeculorum.” Time outside of time.

Poxig lost in thought.

John Carr’s idea

The jail cell was dank, dark, and cramped. Condensation on the walls convinced Poxig that he must be in some sort of grotto. He could hear the shouts and shrieks of other prisoners in the cell block. John Carr paid them no mind, but he beckoned to Poxig to draw nearer.

“I know of your great exploits,” continued Carr, ” and of how you converted the great vampire to the light. Master control, of whom I have deep knowledge, has told me of this.”
Poxig wondered how this could be so. He had hardly told the mage of his life at all, and he knew about Conrad and his son. Perhaps there was something to this ersatz magician.

“He has brought us together, because he knows of your great deeds. “
“I’m afraid none of these exploits you refer to will gain us egress from this cave,” replied Poxig.

“Nevertheless, we are kept here for master control’s appointed purpose. You and I will see the daylight again.”
“I envy your optimism, but I’m not sure you are correct, sir,” said Poxig.

“Once the king learns that we are light warriors, he will grant us freedom,” Carr retorted.

“But until then, the light grows dimmer, and our food grows stale,” said Poxig.

The day turned into night as the two discussed the possibility of escape. A red mage could scientifically pick the lock with a ‘epingle’ , but the pin might cause a noise that would rouse the guard. Then, of course, there was a greater problem of trying to leave the dungeon. Heavily armed guards were around every corner, and without weapons, they couldn’t overcome them.

In the back of his mind, he was sure that Er. Seljuk had heard of his capture, and was trying in some way to secure his release. But Poxig reasoned that Er. Seljuk’s loyalty to the king made it difficult to oppose him, and perhaps that was the reason that he could not get his aid.

In the back of his mind, he was sure that Er. Seljuk had heard of his capture, and was trying in some way to secure his release. But Poxig reasoned that Er. Seljuk’s loyalty to the king made it difficult to oppose him, and perhaps that was the reason that he could not get his aid.

“Perhaps we ought to find the ‘sanctus descendit,’ and give the mole a chance to emerge from his hole,” said John.

Poxig could no longer believe his foisting of his magic art.

Poxig and John Carr in the gaol.

The Nonsuch Wizard

In his jail cell, Poxig met an impish old man.

His hair was green and spiky, and he wore a purple coat. His boots were long, and his pockets were inside out. He stood watching Poxig as he was led into the chamber.

“Well, elves don’t deserve this imprisonment. You plarts deserve much worse,” he said.

“What… might … be the purpose of impugning my race?” Poxig retorted.

“You must have offended the king, ” said he laughing, ” or else you wouldn’t wind up here.”

“Who might I have the pleasure of meeting in these less than auspicious circumstances?” asked Poxig.

“I am John Carr, the red mage, ” said he, “I was brought unbeknownst to my friends for criticizing a king. I am sure no one knows of my whereabouts.”

“You must be guilty of some nefarious act to be here,” said Poxig. “I have done nothing.”

“Ah… they all say that. I have been here two months & everyone says that they are innocent.”

“Well, I am! And I will be vindicated when my friend emissary Seljuk hears of this.”

“Well good luck sir. I practice both black and white magic, but in order to keep the balance, I cannot use it to extricate myself from this jail cell. I’m afraid we are trapped.”

The discussion continued that way all through the night. John Carr would propose his innocence, although admitting to criticizing the king. It would seem that something united the destinies of this elf and human magician. Yet, there was no real way to know if John was a charlatan, since he could by no means demonstrate his qualifications as a red mage.

“I’m not sure that I’d like to be associated with a red mage that can’t do magic,” said Poxig.

“Suit yourself. But I have been here two months. Who knows how long they’ll keep you?” replied John.

“I have a friend on the outside,” said Poxig.

“If he hasn’t come for you yet, there’s a reason,” said John.

Poxig stared at the gentleman with a skeptical air. It was possible that Er. Seljuk had not heard of his capture. But something told him that John Carr was right. Perhaps if he were to side with Poxig, he would lose the king’s trust. Of course, Er. Seljuk would never allow that to happen. Poxig grimaced when he thought of how long he could molder in this dungeon.

Treason!

Then, Poxig of Excelsior got a premonition that for some reason, the orb might be in danger. He decided on a whim to bury the orb behind the graveyard in Marginalia. The stars were out, and the moon was high and round. Poxig left the company of Er. Seljuk and took a spade behind the graveyard. It was quite terrifying, even though Poxig was not superstitious, he was still very much afraid in his mind. The barn owl hooted in the distance. He could feel on his shoulders the weight of the dead who had passed through that gateway from which nobody ever returned. He buried the ORB and now sure of his safety, returned to the Inn.

As he opened the door, he saw a detachment of soldiers sneak up beside him. They pointed their halberds toward him. “Halt where you are you elvish scum!” said one of the guards. Poxig knew that he could not resist such military force.

“Where is Er. Seljuk? He will vouch for me,” shouted Poxig

But Er. Seljuk was nowhere to be found, and Poxig was at his wit’s end. The soldiers put heavy manacles on him, and led him away to the town prison.

“what have I been accused of?” asked Poxig.

“Thou hast been charged with dissembling against the king!” one police officer shouted.

“You must stand trial by noon tomorrow.”

“This is all some mistake!” said Poxig. They brought him to a clay-brick building, where a shadowy jailer with a hooded cloak stood guard nearby. He looked all around, and the suzukibs were a-chattering in the trees. They seemed to mock him and his fate. Poxig tried to focus his energies on the trial.