Ha’ak al-Qulus – Level 116 Staff
Do you suppose Aliester is blissfully ignorant of his unflattering sobriquet? Or could it be that he fancies it a title of honor? I must admit his performance last week at the Royal Firkin in Rithwic left him with clear title as the most long-winded man in Dereth. He was talking when I arrived and he was talking when I left, and the whole time I was there, not one word in a hundred came from anyone else.
His topic that night was travel in Dereth, and his travels in particular. He spoke of his explorations, of weeks spent in the wilds, of all the places he’d seen in his many years. Someone suggested that the new portal routes had made Dereth much smaller than when Isparians first arrived.
“It is quite true,” he said, “that travel is easier than it once was. But there are many more towns now, as well. Civilization’s outposts are invading the wild places everywhere. There are now so many settlements, so widely scattered throughout the land, it would take months to visit them all.”
Aliester said much more, of course, but he’d set me thinking. The next night Celcynd and I were talking over drinks (which I had paid for, making him a little less dour than usual). He was saying sour things about the women in his life, by which he meant the women who’d been in his life once, but weren’t any more. It didn’t seem kind to talk about Dalli when he was feeling so sorry for himself, so I turned the subject to Aliester’s claim that it would take months to visit all the towns in Dereth. Celcynd scoffed at first, but we started counting towns and by the time we got to 55, he had changed his mind.
“Those new settlement portals added a lot of shortcuts,” I pointed out.
“So they did,” he agreed, “but there’s still a lot of running to do.”
“I think you and Aliester both underestimate them,” I insisted. “I could do it in less than a week.”
“Talk is cheap, as we both know from last night,” he shrugged, and finished his ale, waving Ricetha over to refill the mug. “This little little windbag says he can visit all the towns in Dereth in seven days,” he growled at her.
Ricetha looked thoughtful. I knew what that meant. She was figuring out how to turn a profit on our disagreement. “How about a wager?” she suggested, inevitably.
Celcynd didn’t even respond, but I think he was hiding his interest. Before long we were arguing over the details. While we drew up a list of towns and major castles I would have to reach within the time limit, Ricetha was setting up a betting pool with other customers. Unfortunately, too many people thought I could do it, so she was having trouble getting a favorable book made. She needed to trim my chances, and she found a way to do it.
The peddler from the south end of town had come in with a wild story that was earning him drinks from the Firkin’s customers. He’d heard that Tallfellows and Rainclan were doing something especially silly and everyone wanted to know the details. I didn’t bother to correct his report of our Survival event, and suffered the jokes turned my way with fair humor, I think. This was what Ricetha needed, if she could just get me to agree. I would have to visit all the towns, and do it as part of the Survival event.
At first I refused. The schedule seemed too tight. Ricetha couldn’t have that. She stood to make a lot of money on the pool if there was a decent book. She offered some concessions. We settled on 50 specific towns from the list of 58 we’d originally devised. I proposed to set out from Ayan Baqur, but Ricetha insisted people would want to see the start. I would have to begin in Rithwic. Celcynd insisted that Linvak Tukal be one of the towns I would visit, and that meant I would have to find half-way decent armor. WeiZhou and Ayan Baqur both had to be visited. And then Ricetha added the final trick to slow me a little more. I couldn’t just run through every town. I had to stop and drink a mug of ale in each one. Foolishly perhaps, I agreed, on condition that she supply the ale. I was sure her natural tight-fistedness would get me off the hook. When she grudgingly accepted that provision I was stuck. I made the best of it and promised to toast Dalli in every town on the list, and do it all in 2 1/2 days (ed: 5 hours of real time according to the usual conversion figures). I did not, however, place any bets beyond the original one with Celcynd. This was no sure thing. One thing, however, was certain: Dalli would laugh at me for getting into such a mess.
I sat quietly next to the Rithwic lifestone to which I had just attuned myself, waiting for Celcynd to give the official signal to begin my race. He was supposed to wave me on my way at [14:00] (ed: times will be reported according to a real world clock, for the reader’s convenience), but he hadn’t arrived yet. It looked like I’d get a late start. I had left my usual collection of supplies and gear with poor Luire and Quince, and was stripped down so that I looked like one of those mad desert prophets that used to frighten and attract me when I was a boy. Dalli had threatened several forms of mayhem if I were to toast her in public before making myself presentable, so my plan was to collect an outfit first. I would also need magic to speed my feet and protect me over much of my planned route. A few people who had actually bet on my success were now calling out words of encouragement and support like “Don’t get killed too often!” I stood as I saw Celcynd cross the bridge, nodded to my well-wishers, and waited.[14:04] Celcynd starts the clock and I run for the Greenspire portal. From there I dash north to the Redspire portal and then north from the drop. Destination: the Abandoned Tumerok Site. With no training at all in unarmed combat, and no spells or weapons, I figure Harvesters are just about the limit of reasonable prey. [14:08] Abandoned Tumerok Site
I allow myself 9 hours to gather what I can inside, and it isn’t very eventful. I can kill the bugs, though slowly, and my melee defense is sufficient to protect me even without armor. I gradually tire as I fight one bug after another in the deserted halls. With no potions and no tapers, the only way to recover would be by resting, and I can’t afford the time. My stamina and my time allotment both run out at the same time.
[14:46] I lifestone back to Rithwic with a nice Amuli coat, good steel-toed boots, decent gauntlet and helmet, but no staff or leggings or girth. I sell everything I don’t intend to wear, clearing almost 186,000 pyreals. I run to Martine’s Retreat and buy most of what I’ll need to finish: a quarter staff, 3 platinum scarabs, 5 copper scarabs (for recall spells), 500 tapers, and the 4 starter-town portal gems I expect to use. As I make my purchases I reflect on the days before Martine’s was available. The Tired Mage of Mayoi, who once dealt with 90% of Dereth’s mages, must now be the Lonely Mage of Mayoi.[14:58] I don’t see acceptable leggings at the Rithwic blacksmith shop, so I postpone completion of my armor. I do, however, have a pair of pants I found in the Tumerok Site. I have to hope that they satisfy Dalli’s sense of propriety. I drink my first mug of ale here in Rithwic, toasting Dalli: “To Dalli, my Dalli, my heart in Dereth. All Dereth should be so lucky as to toast you.” I run to the Greenspire portal, better dressed than I was 12 hours ago. [15:00] I repeat my toast in the center of Greenspire, recalling the opening of Mara Lassel, and the amazement we all felt on seeing the tower that rises over that town.
[15:02] Toasting in Redspire, I remember the groups gathering to form pincer turn-in fellowships at Behdo Yii’s. 7 million for a pincer! I run south to the Nanto portal.
[15:04] A toast in Nanto, town of the waterfall. I remember a wedding I attended here once, long ago, when I gave away Dalli and good advice….. I wrench myself back to the present and run past the waterfall to the Bluespire portal…
[15:10] After stopping to buy leggings and a girth from Baggs in Bluespire I drink another toast and head north toward the Marascent Plateau portal.
[15:20] After layering on some spells and boosting my poor store-bought staff to something barely useful, I enter the Olthoi Soldiers Nest and kill soldiers until I get a claw. Since I have to go to Timaru anyway…
[15:28] In Timaru I add further to the Aun’s suspicion that we Isparians are crazy by running in, toasting Dalli, and trading my claw for a healing kit, which just might come in handy. So many of our clan have laid an Olthoi Queen’s head at Aun Hareltah’s feet, I think proudly. Time to get back to Rithwic… /lifestone.
From the Rithwic lifestone I run south along the river to the Lytelthorpe portal.
[15:32] Toasting in Lytelthorpe, thinking about the early days of the Explorer’s Society and their rewards for new arrivals in Dereth… then into the local Residential Quarters for a quick trip to Tou-tou. Arriving near the fabled steam baths, I run up the road toward town, my mind wandering… this is where Obunaga lived… and his sister Nandesu-Ka, my first and only patron. It took so much longer then to run up to town from the lifstone. When did they move it closer to town? I’m a little sad to have my reverie cut short.
[15:34] A toast in Tou-tou, under the apple tree Nan-san so loved. Then into the portal to Lin.
[15:36] I shared my toast in Lin with Vuo Nin and we recalled the treks past his Inn to the Lugian Citadel when it was new. At the other end of town I find the Khayyaban portal.
[15:38] Khayyaban: I wonder as I toast why it has always been a transfer point, never a destination. Perhaps I should come explore the area and see what I’ve missed. The Al-Jalima portal takes me away…
[15:40] In Al-Jalima memories flood my mind… the first dungeon I ever mapped… Obunaga’s shopping trips … The path over the mountain to Zaikhal and the Impious Staff dungeon … I drink a quiet toast to Dalli and to many ghosts…. then up the hill to the Unified Heart Villas portal, Sylsfear…. and through to the South Dires lifestone. I cast a lifestone tie spell here, and as I race across to Candeth keep I laugh, remembering how hard it was for us then. Obunaga and I discovered Garaena and then found it nearly impossible to hold enough pyreals to actually purchase the D note she required. When we finally brought her the D-note, we were too low level to go through the portal she summoned. We reported her to Maggie the Jack-Cat and others went on to explore Aerlinthe before us.
[15:48] The guards salute me as I enter Candeth Keep, and I toast Dalli under the grown tree she and I watered when it was a sapling. I cast lifstone recall to save a couple of minutes and run south from the Dires lifestone to the Desert Edge portal. I’m dropped near the Observatory that so awed Obunaga and me when we found it, then begin the long run to Ayan Baqur. So long ago, so long ago, when I first scouted this route… I’d cast level VI spells that lasted anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes… we’d worry about the skeletons that couldn’t be seen and didn’t show on radar until they moved… I pass the Halls of the Lost Light, run along the border between the Black Butte lands and the southwestern desert. I find some use for my healing kit as Shadow Phantoms and Inquisitors cast spells, Skeletal Heroes pursue. I cross the dry ocean where we first saw Niffis and finally I break into the lagoon region and head north between the coast and the hills until I see the southern hill of Ayan Baqur in the distance. I pick up an escort of Virindi and Drudges that follow me all the way up the hill and then I’m in the clear.
[16:05] In Ayan Baqur at last, one of my two longest runs complete, I toast Dalli and then tune to the lifestone north of town. Looking around at the PKL children, I remember when there was no easy way to Ayan Baqur. No one was there who hadn’t made the long run. I salute the brave and the generous, then turn back to my quest. A whole day into it, 40% of my time used, and I have visited only 13 towns. I suspect the odds are shifting back at Ricetha’s book-making operation.
I now need to make several runs starting in Ayan Baqur. If they go well, perhaps I can make up some of the time spent in that last long trip across the southwestern Dires. I run from the lifestone to the nearby Baishi portal.
[16:07] A toast in Baishi and a nod to the town that was our supply center during the long weeks that Ayan Baqur was our base. Back when we were hunting Ravener’s to get guts for Composite Bows, when we went to Ayan Baqur because that was where we could find Raveners. When we used the Web maze, as I do now, to get to Mayoi.
[16:10] I recall my first trip to Mayoi with Obunaga and his patron, before that patron disappeared and Obunaga found himself alone. We were outmatched by a trio of Mountain Rats on the beach outside town! Later mayoi became a source for Yasmin’s fletching supplies. Still later we fought the Shadow Army on its hillsides, stormed the Shadow Spire …. dark days those were. The local Residential Quarters portal gives easy access to
[16:12] Plateau Village. I run into town and raise a mug to salute Dalli. I look in the direction of Frore’s gatekeeper, but Frore isn’t on the list of towns I need to visit, thank goodness. I think, “Had I but one more day I could fit it in.” Thinking of Frore recalls somber, loyal Kama-Dakai. So many ghosts, whispering almost intelligibly. I realize I need to renew my spells, so I stop long enough for that exercise, then enter the Residential Quarters and return to Mayoi. Up and over the hill I go, almost following the route to the Tired Mage, down toward that mansion, then East to the bluff on the beach where I find my portal to the Vesayen Isles. Once there it’s a short run to
[16:21] Kryst. Obunaga and I came to the Isles when the ‘dillos were hollow. We brought friends and hunted the new nasty Mosswarts. Miyah helped explore the depths of the Idol Spawning Grounds. Jungle Wasps, Idol Eyes, and worse. Desvon Klagg stalked a Bane Griewer in these islands. Later, a new generation, much stronger than the first, hunted Diamond and Obsidian Golems and deadly Magi. I follow the long winding chain of islands, pass the spot I waited hours for Zircon’s corpse to decay so I could retrieve her items for her, before corpse permission made recoveries so much easier. Minutes later I run up the beach to
[16:29] McNiall’s Freehold, a small pack of Devourer’s on my heels. After my toast with Jesren the Jolly Barkeep, I portal recall to my Vesayen Isle entry drop and run up the beach to the Eastham Beach portal. I take the precaution of forming a portal tie to it, then pass through. After running through the surf to the Eastham Beach, I stop for a moment. So much happened here. There is the small house that I shared with a few others. The beach where I rescued Zircon once or twice. The windmill … I continue into
[16:32] Eastham and toast Dalli, and days past and days to come. I remember the first Tasia the True, later reincarnated, and Mercury Rain, founder of our clan. Thain Steelholme. Then turn back to business. I buy a key from the Weary Man and run west to the housing portals, just past the remains of the old Spire pit. The Dryreach Beach Manors portal drops me a fair run from Dryreach. I dodge arrows from the Tumeroks, run to the main gate and unlock it.
[16:38] I share my toast with Mordmor in Dryreach and he says he wants to meet Dalli. We reminisce briefly about Dansha-Ki and chuckle over her continued escapades with the Tumeroks. “I think they just like her” he says. Taking advantage of my recent tie, I return to the Eastham beach, then to the housing portals. This time the Asandra Cottages portal takes me far, far away, into the northwest woods. I run through the mountains and forests and arrive at last in
[16:49] Stonehold Do the little griewers still spin their silk in the valley to the north, I wonder? Perhaps we need flags and banners for the holidays. I raise my mug, drain it, and /lifestone back to Ayan Baqur.
It’s hard to hurry, when every step recalls so much done, so many people. I take a deep breath and head for the Baishi portal. In Baishi, the Residential Quarters provide access to Glendon Wood.[16:55] Glendon Wood is another store of memories. The Glendon Wood Dungeon and Underground Forest, where I learned the value of Melee Defense so painfully, by not having any. Here I secretly befriended Yasmin after Obunaga told me she’d arrived in Dereth. In the nearby Hunter’s Leap I obtained Lilitha’s Bow, which eventually led to our reunion and reconciliation. Things change. It’s not quite the same place. But I’m not quite the same man, either. I race for the Highland Manors housing portal. Running east and north from its dropoff, around the mountain, I reach
[17:01] Neydisa Castle. I think of the ill-fated Ichiban enclave, and their exercises and training here, where they could be safe from the depredations of the baby-bashing PK’s that preyed on them. I salute Lady Talial and toast Dalli, then portal recall to Highland Manors. A short run south and west to the Crater Pathway and through its noisy, nasty residents brings me to
[17:08] Crater Village where I join Silencia at the top of her tower and there toast Dalli. Silencia seems to be struck speechless. Does she remember when I made Obunaga the ingot for his peerless Atlan sword? I sprint around the lake to the housing portals and take onr to Mountain Retreat Cottages. A run through the snowy forested mountains brings me to
[17:13] the Mountain Retreat. How many people now know about the mountain of Ice Golems near this fortress? Here kama-Dakai and I, long ago, trained ourselves against the local fauna. Here it was that Kama-Dakai found a Tusker trapped in the courtyard with the lifstone… kama-Dakai’s lifestone… back before lifestone protection lasted for a time after a death. 40% vitae. I /lifestone back to Ayan Baqur and replace my fading spells.
One more quick trip from Ayan needs to be made now. I run to the colossus in the middle of town, take the Foundry portal in its base and the Fort Tethena portal located inside. Arriving outside the fort, I run to one of the outside towers, climb, and jump across to the fort walls. From there I jump down inside and enter the Inn.
[17:22] Fort Tethena was legendary when I first arrived in Eastham. The incessant cry “Portal to Teth?” was one of our bete noirs. I never came to the fort until I could get there under my own power, running over the pass from the Slaughterhouse drop to the southwest. Come to think of it, despite everything else, the absence of that plaintive cry has to be a major improvement in the environment. I portal recall to get back outside the city, then run down the mountain slope to the south and east to the Tusker Temple and inside. Dodging tuskers and their human slaves I run down to the shrine and gain access to
[17:27] Oulatonga’s Refuge, where I share my toast with Brighteyes, the only one around who makes any sense at all. His eyes light up when I say Dalli’s name. He remembers her fondly. I promise to bring her with me for another visit, then wave goodbye as I cast a lifestone recall spell and return to the South Dires lifestone.
18 hours left and only just over half done. Twenty-seven of my fifty towns visited, twenty-three to go. I guess I don’t have time for a nap. How can it be that so much of this land has imprinted itself on my memory? So many stories, so many friends….
From the Direlands lifestone I take the nearby Hebian-To portal.
[17:29] Hebian-To is one town I never cared for. The layout didn’t appeal to me, being too spread out. I could never find what I was looking for and the mage was over-priced. Miyah lived here, though, and for that I could overlook a great deal. I didn’t have to buy from the local mage, after all. Besides Miyah, the library was hebian-To’s main asset. After my toast I take the residential quarters to
[17:31] Zaikhal, where I look over toward Devana’s villa, recalling the excitement and danger of her father’s Mountainous Fortress near Qalaba’r. Looking the other way, I briefly relive the discovery of Four Towers and the hunts with Obunaga around that fortress. Then I’m away, dragged by a merciless clock’s ticking, into the residential quarters and on to Cragstone.
[17:32] In Cragstone, after my toast to Dalli, I add a postscript, a short glow of warmth for the times we shared with Miyah’s clan in the Cragstone meeting hall, before we had our mansion. Then I find the portal to Colier View Hill and pass through. It’s a wild mountain run to Colier, Baron’s Colier, Banderling Colier, ghost town Colier. Ghost town please let me introduce my ghosts….
[17:36] In Colier I chase away a couple of Banderlings so that I can raise my mug in relative peace. Here I made another of my early maps. I finger the Baron’s Amulet, one of the few pieces of jewelry I keep for it’s intrinsic value. Outside, I ignore another importunate Banderling and use the first of those gems I bought in Martine’s Retreat, opening a portal to Al-Arqas.
[17:42] Xarabydun, open now to upper level citizens of Dereth. I never got to explore the lower levels below the town, but Yasmin reported what she found there, making notes good enough for a decent map. I share my toast with a farmer, then use a gem to go to
[17:45] Shoushi, where I toast Dalli aloud and Zircon in silence. She so loved the mountains west of Shoushi. The nearby Chi Zou Cottages portal cuts a little time off the run to
[17:51] Sawato, where my toast includes a lament that the town never had anything I wanted except arrowheads for Yasmin. I use the /lifestone passage back to Ayan Baqur and the Uziz portal there, as I used to in the old days when I lived there. In Uziz I ran to the Grievous Vault, and through the secret door to the Samsur portal. Echos run with me.
[17:56] Samsur, the town where I first came to Dereth, has layer upon layer of memory, like paintings put one over the other on the same canvas, for decades. No time now to strip them back one by one…. I toast Dalli on the balcony where we used to meet, then run back up the hill to the Yaraq portal. [17:57] Yaraq reminds me again of the Ichibans, but also of our awakening suspicions of the Virindi and their interference with life on Dereth. We found the Drudge note here, the first indication of what we faced. A toast to Dalli, then a recall to Ayan Baqur. From there the Uziz portal again, then the Arrak housing portal takes me to a desolate desert hill. In the distance, a hint of green is Tufa, and I lope off in that direction.
[18:02] Tufa and its cool waterfall are a treasure in the desert waste. One of the earliest casualties in the shadow war, and the site where Obunaga and I met our first Griewers, Tufa has done little but dream since then. Surrounded by the roar of the waterfall, I shout my toast and the words are drowned. I break another gem and step through its portal to the marsh near Yanshi. This part of the original portal loop is ingrained from old, old habit. I run to the burned out hulk of
[18:03] Yanshi. Another ghost town, whispering now of the warping magical fields around the Harbinger. The great rock survives and I stand next to that as I drink my toast and wonder where Nuhmidura and the Virindi are taking us. A quick run north brings me to the living but still sad tents of
[18:04] New Yanshi, where I toast Dalli in a low voice, not wanting to disturb the sleeping inhabitants. The Yanshi Namoon North portal is close, and it drops me near
[18:07] Yanshi Namoon, a pair of buildings that seems hardly to deserve being included on my list. Don’t complain, I tell myself… it might have been Frore instead.
With almost twelve hours remaining, I have only eight towns left to visit. But two of these involve serious distances and one a perilous run. There’s no time to waste. But perhaps time to place a wager against my finishing on time?
Wanting one more quick addition to the visited-cities list, I now use my last portal gem and step through to the hill overlooking
[18:08] Holtburg. A quick run into the town lets me toast Dalli at the inn before recalling to Ayan Baqur. From the lifestone I run to and through the Baishi portal then south, past the Drunken Madman’s tower, then east a bit and up the valley to the South Shores Heights portal. An image comes then, of Nan-san’s relieved face when I found her in the mountains north of Kara and helped her reach that town. Obunaga had asked her to go, to be his agent there, and she had tried very hard to satisfy him, terrified as she was. He was unmerciful in his abuse of himself after that, despite the fact that all had ended well. The run to Kara has gotten worse, as has everything everywhere, in absolute terms. As we’ve gotten stronger, the relative danger is actually much less than before.
[18:16] Kara looks much as it always has, with the beautiful lake below. The mountains are treacherous, though, with many dead ends and forced detours for those who have a specific destination. I can no longer put off what I fear will eat all my remaining time. I must now go to WeiZhou.
There’s nothing particularly clever about this run. A recall to Ayan Baqur, portal to Baishi, Web Maze to Mayoi, all standard. And here I must spend precious minutes to renew my spells or risk losing everything by an untimely death. West to the South Direlands portal on the hill… I remember when I first took that portal, following an acquaintance. There were Lurkers on the other side… Lurkers! It was terrifying. I was overjoyed to make it alive to the return portal. Now I pass the return portal at a dead run. I run by the peddler’s hut that was my base for a while, and later Yasmin’s, as we each learned how to face the Direlands fauna. I continue, turning west and running up the valleys that lie between the great wagon-wheel craters, up north and west through the hills and then the Black Buttes, until I finally reach the Rim River. I follow the river north and eventually arrive at
[18:39] Weijhou, another place I remember fondly as a challenging operational base at one point in my career. A toast here, under the shadow of the Black Hill and the Obsidian Plains, makes me smile as I contrast Dalli’s early timid attempts here with her current confidence even in the Valley of Death.
Twenty-five minutes left, and it begins to look as if I might actually make it. I recall to Ayan Baqur, take the Uziz portal and then enter the Uziz residence hall and exit at Tou-tou. I race up the road, and suddenly remember the Smuggler’s Lair, and wonder if anyone ever goes there any more? Is the path from level 1 to level 50 so well paved now that all this great banquet of low-level adventure sits on the table ignored? At Tou-tou I take the Arwic portal and run into the new fort to toast Dalli in
[18:42] Arwic. A sprint down the road brings me to
[18:44] New’ic where I repeat my toast. East then, over the hill, to the Eotensfang Cottages portal, then north into the cul-de-sac with its chittering rats and Bandit Castle portal. I drop into a small knot of Banderlings, as has become usual there, and race up the hill to the
[18:48] Bandit Castle. I choose to share my toast with the poor hungry madman in the entryway. It was he who first directed me to the Small Ice Cave that led eventually to Frore itself. Leaving him some change to buy more carrot soup, I recall to Ayan Baqur.
From the Ayan Baqur lifestone it takes a moment to reach Baishi, then the Baishi Residence Quarters give access to Qalaba’r. I toast Dalli in
[18:51] Qalaba’r, the city from which Obunaga and I once set out to explore the Three Towers dungeon when it first appeared. There he, Zircon, and I all managed to die several times before we learned to master it. With so little time left, I can afford no wrong turns. Feets, don’t fail me now. I run to the Linvak Tukal Foothills portal west of town and from the settlement I make my way south across one ridge and one valley to the great mountain wall hiding the Lugian capital. Up into a valley I race, past the threatening forms of Gotrok Raiders, whose presence reassures me that my route is correct. The valley winds around until I recognize the final descent and see the portal ahead. I plunge in past the surprised guards. Once within, I rely on speed and the armor I collected. I soon discover that this isn’t quite enough in itself, but I can heal the damage fast enough to stay alive as I race through the halls, chased by angry Lugians. Finally I reach the portal to safety and dive through to
[18:59] Linvak Tukal.
“To Dalli, my Dalli, my heart in Dereth. All Dereth should be so lucky as to toast you.”
So I say again, gazing at the massive stained-glass window that decorates the high room in the Lugian fortress. I get ready to recall to the mansion, there to rest and retrieve my gear, extremely pleased that I hadn’t laid any wagers against myself.
runner-up in the “most long-winded man in Dereth” contest.