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The Tar Maiden

Popular with: Akathia, Tarsikka, Oresund
Unpopular with: The Principalities
Less known by: Gaunt, Athral Isle
Archtypes, if any: Wise-Man
Variations, if any: NA

In the Days and Nights before the Truce of all Nations, there was an evil wizard called Fra' Vulpone. He was thoroughly devoted to all that was evil, and profoundly dedicated to the Most Foul, so much so that it was said, in some circles, that he was no longer human, but instead a creature from the blackest depths. Some said that he had never been human, but took the guise of a human to work his evil magic, and to turn others into the service of the Most Foul. In various ways he bribed, cajoled, swindled, and tricked many wizards into joining his Cabal before they knew what happened to them, and he used them to carry out his wicked plans.

So it was that he bound the seven most powerful wizards in all of the land, and so he set to work on the last, whose name was Rexyl Xyan.

"All else have joined my cabal," said Vulpone to Rexyl, "Of the Wizards that matter, thou art all that is left."

"I see," said Rexyl, who knew what Vulpone was, and saw that were he to agree and be bound, he would surely lose his will, "but I fear I must decline; A curse was lain upon me as a child; that should I join in a cabal with any other wizard, I and they would be struck with terrible fortune. I would hate to bring such a doom upon thee; by the respect I have for thy wisdom."

And with that, he went into the public house for a game of Stones, and left Vulpone there fuming.

Along with his cabal, Vulpone did a good many evil deeds, but for the worst of them, he needed one more wizard, and no other was quite so suited as Rexyl. But no matter what bribes he laid out, or what riches he offered, or what power he promised, Rexyl would not agree. So Vulpone tried another tactic.

Rexyl was very fond of the public house by the marketplace, and would often play Stones or other gambling games there, or duel with other wizards. To get there from his home, he had to pass the city well coming or going. Further, he was known to have an eye for beautiful women, and to be great friends with quite a few of them.

Vulpone went and collected a quantity of wicker and shaped it into the form of a woman. He then covered it over with sticky black tar enchanted so as to yield to nothing, and cast a powerful glamour upon it, so that it looked like the most beautiful and demure maiden in the whole land. He placed it by the well in the night, before Rexyl had left the public house for the evening, and went away.

By and by, Rexyl came along. He saw the Tar Maiden standing by the well and stopped. He thought it was the most beautiful maiden he had ever seen, and so he offered her a cheerful and friendly, "Good morning!"

The Tar Maiden said nothing.

Rexyl came a little closer and still being as polite and genteel as he could, said, 'How have I never seen thee by the well here before, miss?'

But still the Tar Maiden made no reply.

Rexyl came closer and said, "If I may be so bold, thou art truly the fairest maiden I have seen in all of this land! Wouldst thou favor me with but a look only, or a word?"

Still Tar Maiden did nothing and said nothing. Then Rexyl felt she must be very, very shy, and very sweet and demure, and feeling very bold, said, 'Surely, you will allow me to kiss your hand, at the very least?"

The Tar Maiden still said nothing, did nothing. So Rexyl seized her hand in his, and touched her shoulder, but when he tried to move his hands, they were quite stuck in the tar and he couldn't pull them loose!

Then Rexyl began to shout, 'Let me go, let me go!' But Maiden wouldn't let him go. The more that Rexyl struggled, the worse and more firmly he was stuck to the Tar Maiden, and worse-- it was very nearly morning, and people would be waking out of their homes shortly. Soon they would see him, of the most powerful wizards in the land, stuck in the centre of town to a maiden of tar! The anticipation of the embarrassment burned him deeply.

Presently, Vulpone came by to see what he had caught.

'Good morning, Rexyl,' said Vulpone. 'How dost thou this morning? Thou seems't to be a little stuck today!' And Vulpone laughed at him.

Rexyl's face burned with fury, and he swore he would get even.

"If thou think'st I will join with thy cabal because thou hast humiliated me, thou art a fool as well as a coward," growled Rexyl, forgetting to be polite.

"Not at all," said Vulpone, I think that thou wilt join with my cabal for if thou dost not, I shall throw thee into this well with the Maiden, and thou shalt straightway drown."

"Fine," snapped Rexyl, "throw me into the well, but first, let me play one last game of Stones-- for if I am going to die, I should like my final memory to be a pleasant one, and there is nothing in the world so pleasant to me as a game."

"The public house is still closed," said Vulpone, "there is no one to play with thee."

"Thou canst fetch a board," said Rexyl reasonably, "and thou canst play me thyself, nay?"

Vulpone stopped short; for of all the wisdom and craft that his evil master had imparted to him, he had never taught him the game of Stones. But he did not wish to admit this to his captive.

"I shall tell thee what," said Vulpone, "would a game of the Duel suffice thee?"

"Well, I suppose it will have to," Rexyl sighed, "if you don't know how to play Stones,"

"Of course I know how to play Stones!" Vulpone snapped, "but it is a child's game after all, and terribly dull. The Duelling Game is far more interesting."

"It bores me stiff," Rexyl yawned, "unless the stakes are very good. I was all but raised with the Duelling Ikon in my hand; for sport, it is hardly worth my time. And naturally, I am always being challenged, but no one has anything good to offer. So I am forever turning Duels down."

"Is that so?" Vulpone mused, thinking that this meant that Rexyl was not very good at the Game, and so didn't wish to play it. "In that case, I shall be pleased to make it interesting for thee. Play me, and shouldst thou win, I shall neither drown thee, nor attempt to bind thee further. Shouldst thou lose, however, thou must join my cabal."

"That is all right, I suppose, but still not very interesting," Rexyl said, "Surely thou hast something better to offer?"

"Thou shouldst be pleased with this much!" snarled Vulpone, "And learn to mind your betters! Into the well with thee!"

"Fine," yawned Rexyl, "It is a shame that thou hast lived so long in this land, and have not yet learnt the Game of the Duel well enough to offer a proper wager. It is a great shame, but I shall welcome drowning rather, for I see now that thou wouldst be a very poor Game indeed, and I shouldn't wish to embarrass you. Indeed, it is the least I can do, as thou art sparing me the shame of humiliation before all of the land by drowning me quickly."

Infuriated beyond all reason, Vulpone snarled back, "Oh-oh! Thou shalt not be permitted to die with such an insult on your lips! We will have this duel, and shouldst thou win, I shall offer me the pick of three spells from my Book, the pick of three jewels from my coffer, and three hands-full of my gold."

"A more fair sport, to be sure," said Rexyl, "but thou wert truly a gentleman, thou shouldst make it three times three, and so we shall be even."

Still enraged, Vulpone agreed, produced a Duelling Board from the air, and loosed Rexyl from his binding with a strength beyond that of the mountains. Happily, Rexyl sat down to play the Duelling Game with him, right there in the square in front of the well.

By the time the Duel was well underway, the morning bells had rung out, and the square filled with curious spectators interested in the duel's outcome. To be sure, Vulpone was a tremendously skilled Duellist, but the game was Rexyl's natural state, and the wager quickened his blood and sharpened his focus to such extent that by the end of the game, as the bells rang out the noon-day, he had beaten Vulpone handily.

His defeat witnessed by the entire town, Vulpone had no choice but to let Rexyl go, and keep to his promise to never trouble him further; and also to hand over the treasure that he had promised. But for Rexyl's part, he got up from the table shaking his head sadly, "It was not fair of me, to take advantage of him so-- but I did warn him that I was all but raised a duelist, so he has no one but himself to blame. Ah well."

And then after a moment he said, "Ah, I am such a fool! I ought to have held out for nine times nine!"