Elder Players' - Collin


Collin sat in the common room of the Portly Griffin in Cornwalsh. It was mid-afternoon and he was already working on his second bottle of brandy. He didn't even have a buzz yet and this was bothering him, almost as much as the wanted poster on the wall with the atrocious likeness of him on it. The quality of the drawing almost negated the need for his disguise skills. This was also bothering him since the only satisfaction he'd gotten lately was flaunting the wanted posters. He'd taken to only drinking in establishments that displayed them and then drinking in close proximity to the posters. But the dense cattle who made up the population of Cornwalsh hadn't picked up on his little joke. So after a time he'd taken to not even disguising himself and still the dolts hadn't figured it out. He was beginning to bore of the game.

As he sat holding the bottle up to his eye and peering into its depths to assure himself he'd gotten every last drop from it, a shadow passed across the table. Perhaps someone yet had decided to play in his little game. Putting the bottle down he perceived a hazy figure who somehow looked familiar although Collin was unable to immediately place him, but he was obviously not one of the common fools who made up the population of Cornwalsh.

"Aye MacGregor, you've fallen farther into the bottle than I'd dare believe."

"'Tis me only intellectual stimulation you see", Collin gestured towards the room around him, "me fine friends here have little use of my stories and even less ov me songs.

The shadow continued, "Have you no pride left man?"

"And why should I av pride? Everything I've given a damn about as fallen to ruin. So 've quite giving a damn."

"MacGregor there's none left of the Azure that can play as you can! We've a great tradition of bards and you should know that the kingdoms not through with ye yet. I've come to seek yer help for a friend of us both, Morvin Barsew, who sits even now on the steps to Walpole abbey singing the song of silence so that the abbey may yet not be found by the devils. He cannot hold out much longer without aid. Will you not come with me to aid him? To keep safe the treasures of the abbey that may yet save the Kingdom?"

Maybe it was his sodden state or the offer of doing something that had real meaning, but Collin could barely speak. He fought to keep the tears from falling down his face and to retain some of the magical lilt in his voice as he responded. "Aye, I will help out Barsew. E's done much for the kingdom and I'd be no bard worthy of the name were I to turn me back on em now. When will we be off?"

Collin almost recoiled from the cold touch of the man in front of him as he laid a hand and his shoulder and said "We should go to Gelhorn now. By that route we can speak with VanDrunan on our way."

Suddenly Collin realized he'd never asked the man's name, but now there seemed to be little point. It could be no other than Dutton Hobbs.


Stretching before Collin was the same endless plain of his memory. Seemingly devoid of color, dry, dusty, flat with no hint of vegetation, the terminus was a line of low mountains somewhere in the indeterminable distance. A single dirt road wound towards those distant mountains populated by an endless line of walking corpses. Old, young, women and children, some horribly mutilated but all with the same sunken eyes and vacant expressions. Save when they caught sight of Collin and Dutton making their way forward beside the road. They drew looks of rage, hatred, jealousy, envy, hope and pleading. This was a torturous trip for Collin. He couldn't bring himself to look at those in the slow moving line as he and Dutton moved steadily and rapidly towards those mountains.

At the great counting house at the gates of Gelhorn, all manor of celestial and infernal beings milled about, seeking to collect the bounty which was soon to arrive. They had been called for that very purpose, to collect the new property of their various bosses. Their soon to be charges also milled about seeking them, and cries of joy and wails of despair rang out from those finding out their eternal fates. Still others milled about not finding anyone to claim them. Most of these would end up swelling the ranks of the Great city of Gelhorn. But Dutton pushed on through the throngs of the counting house, Collin close at his heels. He was seemingly the only being with a purpose in that great mass of humanity.

With a jolt Collin realized he was now walking down the busy streets of Gelhorn. People and life seemed to buzz about him but still his surroundings seemed to have no color unless you looked very close. The occasional dusky blue or faded red blended with the ever present grays and browns of this place. Locations came back to him. As he passed a café he remembered discussing politics with Wilford Frazier there. Wilford was a highlander who'd lived in the Azure seven centuries before Collin's birth. They'd discussed the way the kingdom had been and the way it might yet be reborn, safe in the knowledge that they'd never have to lend a hand to bring those things to pass. At that time Collin had resigned himself to living in this place for eternity, accepting the occasional commission from Alcald VanDrunan for a song commemorating some event back on Kempin or the arrival in Gelhorn of some notable worthy. Now Collin was back in Gelhorn but this time bearing the burden of one who has committed himself to some small part in the drama that is the World of Kempin.

Collin and Dutton Hobbs spent hours winding through the boulevards, streets and alleys of Gellhorn until their feet hurt. Eventually they found their way to the huge plaza that contained the Great Library. They made there way up the grand stairs to the building between the two flanking statues of hope and despair both of which could be found in abundance within the libraries walls. Dutton moved through the stacks with a purpose. Wending his way towards the back of the great library he found a small staircase behind an unassuming door and made his way down. Dutton did this three more times going deeper into the library each time, taking different turns and jogs until Collin was thoroughly lost even though he'd spent most of his time in Gelhorn in this very library. He'd never been this deep into the bowels of the monstrosity that was for sure! Finally Dutton stopped beside a small door partially obscured by books stacked from the floor to the ceiling. The door was ajar and inside Collin could see a white skinned man in black robes sitting behind a stark wooden desk in a tiny office. The silver skull holding the man's cloak in place confirmed that it was indeed Alcald VanDrunan. That same old feeling of dread that Collin always felt when in the presence of this … man? … took over the pit of Collin's stomach. VanDrunan was leaning forward making notations in a ledger of some sort. What debt or credits it recorded Collin was sure he didn't want to know. Dutton turned to him and said "Wait here lad. I've something to discuss with the great man before we continue on to the abbey." Collin nodded and began perusing some of the titles in the haphazard stacks by the little office. Dutton stepped inside but did not close the door. Collin thought, surely they must realize I'll be able to hear them! But he just shrugged to himself and decided if they were going to let him hear what they said, then he'd do them the courtesy of listening.

VanDrunan began, "I see you've found our young protégé. Has he come far enough to suit our needs?"

"His mind is as sharp as ever and his music is magical if he can just be drawn out of the bottle long enough to play. As to whether he'll suit our needs? With Javair consorting with Vampires he's our only option. I admit I never saw this coming. After all our work to find a bard up to the task. Seeking all across Kempin and finally finding one worthy. Then to lose him at the last moment and find we had another, of the Azure blood even! …Right under our noses he was."

"I'll entrust the key to you then. Take the lad to Walpole. If he can hold up his end of the great song, then we'll know playing your mandolin should pose little trouble."

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