In celebration of Gweneveres pregnancy, Torvall announced a break to eat. After some creativity, food, cooking and more food, Torvall managed to completely fill his guests while almost emptying his larder.
Shall we continue? asked Torvall, collecting used dishes for washing.
There was no objection among the replies, so the game spread back over the table as Torvall lit lamps against the setting sun.
The remainder of your travels are without incident, Erdan announced to the table, you find yourselves in your new shared office. You all await your employers instructions.
Everyone awaited for a moment, prompting Erdan to say, That is Patrick, Torvall.
So it is, Torvall laughed, then coughed to indicate he was changing to Patricks voice, Youre all qualified accountants, so ya know your stuff.
Whats an accountant? asked Gwenevere.
Forgive me, said Erdan, Gwenevere plays so well that I forget how little she has been told of New World. An accountant is like an oracle only with greater accuracy. They see many futures and prepare their clients for the worst of them, using their powers of financial accounting.
Cost accounting, corrected Darrak.
Cost accounting. The power of financial accounting can only be used for the preparation of documents to demonstrate a firms value.
I believe you are both mistaken, said Torvall in his normal voice, Cost accounting is the power to see into the past. The first chapter of the second volume of Epic Accountancy clearly states that the power to see into the future is managerial accounting.
Erdan searched the wooden chest for his copy of the second volume of Epic Accountancy. Once hed checked it, he said, It seems you are correct Torvall. Perhaps you should explain then.
Accountancy is a language, explained Torvall, a language Melissa speaks, yet most do not. It is the language spoken by currency and business itself. We record and decipher it for our clients, advising them as to their best course of action.
So is an accountant like a book keeper? The rest of the table looked slightly disgusted.
An accountant, said Alek, is to a book keeper what a trained archer is to a child who throws stones.
Book keepers are mostly not required in New World, explained Torvall, as such books are computed by machines known as computers. As accountants, we are trained to speak to the computers in the language of Accountancy by touching its runes in the correct order. The computer speaks back to us by displaying writing upon itself.
Which Melissa then translates into Common?
Perhaps if she could speak Common, but Melissa cannot. No one speaks Common in New World.
Surely you must be mistaken! Just before our meal
No, they cannot. Erdan translates all languages Melissa understands into Common and all languages she does not are not revealed to you.
So what language does Melissa speak?
Torvall checked his character paper and said, Eng-Lish
Enough linguistics, interrupted Erdan, You were addressing your employees?
Forgive me, a cough indicated Torvall was changing voice again, Ive organised one client this morning so I can show the successful applicants how its done. After that, were fully booked out, so youll each have your own consultation room and youll be seeing clients for the rest of the day.
Just as you are speaking, said Erdan, Veronica enters the room. She tells Patrick that his first client, Matthew, has arrived early, expecting slower travel. She asks if you wish to speak to him now, or if he should return later.
His timing cant be better, said Torvall, Send him in.
A man enters in informal clothing. Although he is clean, it seems it has been a week since a razor has touched his face.
Gwenevere, said Darrak, This is where the game shines. When you judge this game, judge it by the moments that follow.
Aware of Gweneveres judgement, Erdan noticed a slight tremor in his own breathing.
Welcome Matthew, said Torvall, and congratulations on winning the four-for-one special! You got four accountants for the price of one today. Im Patrick and this is Michael, James and Melissa. How can we help?
Here we go! said Darrak, examining both sides of his character paper, We shall be heroes!
Matthew tells you all that he is thinking of a new venture.
Before we begin, said Darrak, with one finger pointing to a section of his character paper I will need to examine your most recent balance sheet and the profit and loss statement. My gifted analyst ability allows me to perform this without dice throw.
I suspect you may have trouble there, said Alek, Even if he had such documents, his venture has not yet started, thus leaving both blank.
Everyone but Gwenevere chuckled at Darraks error.
I ask for a business plan, said Alek.
Matthew says he has none with him, but could write one upon request.
I supply him pen and paper.
He takes the pen in his hand, stares at the sheet for a moment, and then asks you all what he ought to write.
Has not yet created a business plan? Filled with excitement, Darrak spoke louder than he intended, Without a throw, I shall perform the swot, then the Porters five, then the V.R.I.O.
The what, what and what? asked Gwenevere.
I shall explain
For her sake, do not, said Erdan, Gwenevere has learned enough new things today. She need not know these now.
As you wish.
Why do we not give him the chance to speak freely? asked Gwenevere.
Top work, Melissa, said Torvall, From the moment I saw how you handled the knife wielding maniac, I knew you had people skills.
Matthew moves his chair an inch further away from Gwenevere.
Matthew, continued Torvall, Well all shut up for a moment while you tell us all about your venture.
Erdan threw a die and consulted a chart. He wishes to create a website, he threw the die again, for online dating.
A what for what?
May I explain it to her? asked Alek.
Erdan spoke of computers before, but he did not mention their true power. Each computer occupies space in two different worlds. In the world of our characters, they are unmoving machines, but in the world of the web they may travel across infinity in a blink. There are countless sites to visit in the world of the web, each built by architects like our client Matthew. Once constructed, people who navigate their computer to Matthews proposed site may meet each other in search of love.
Matthew says millions of people shall enter for free, said Erdan, He says people shall pay to be allowed to advertise their own ventures within. He says he plans to construct a site that finds the most suitable lovers for each visitor.
How? asked Gwenevere.
He says he possesses the power to make computers intelligent. An intelligent computer of his creation shall see to it personally.
Are computers common in New World?
Yes, said Erdan, anyone who does not own one is thought to live in poverty.
Erdan, said Darrak, You forget I was performing
Yes, yes. One moment Darrak. For almost a minute to follow, Erdan was throwing dice and consulting tables, fear growing with each throw.
Is something the matter? asked Gwenevere.
Forgive me everyone, but I am bound by the throws of the dice.
There is nothing to forgive, said Alek, we cannot be heroes every session.
How bad is it? asked Torvall.
Matthew has no significant strengths and is weak at budgeting; there are no significant opportunities and a high threat of fraudulent customers; many such sites already exist, as do many alternative ways of finding love; there is a great threat of many more sites being built in future; although he has the power to bargain with sellers of space in the web, he lacks the power to bargain with advertisers; his skills, although valuable, are not rare and are easy to imitate.
Who shall be the one to deliver the bad news to Matthew? asked Darrak.
There was a moment of sad silence, interrupted by Gwenevere.
How intelligent can Matthew make a computer?
Matthew asks what Melissa has in mind.
Could Matthew teach a computer to translate one language to another?
Sites in the world of the web perform this already, said Erdan, from any language to any other.
This cannot be so! protested Gwenevere.
The table went silent, shocked by Gweneveres conviction. The silence was interrupted only by the faint sound of a wolf howling in the distance.
Why can it not be so? asked Torvall eventually.
If a site in web world can translate Eng-Lish into Accountancy and back again, why do our clients pay?
The table went quiet as they all struggled to resolve Gweneveres enquiry.
I see your point Gwenevere, said Erdan, sites translate between every language, except Accountancy.
I ask Matthew if he could create one that could.
All eyes were now on Erdan as he searched through his scrolls.
Learning to speak Accountancy from Eng-Lish Erdan tried to re-find the number on the scroll, four years. Teaching a computer should be much longer.
Suppose I teach not in Eng-Lish. Suppose I teach in Gwenevere checked her list of languages, Does Matthew speak Mathematics?
Mathematics? Erdan was still looking through his scrolls, Yes. You should teach Matthew to speak Accountancy within three years through mathematics.
And if, together we taught the computer?
His scrolls didnt answer this one, so he made something up. Five years, both working full time, you should teach a computer to translate Eng-Lish to Accountancy and back again.
I perform the same again for Gweneveres venture proposal! said Darrak.
Once more, Erdan spent a moment throwing dice.
What is your budgeting skill? asked Erdan.
Together with Matthew, you have no weaknesses; Opportunity: accountants exist, so Gweneveres reasoning supersedes dice throws; No significant threats exist; Competition and substitutes, Gweneveres reasoning says no; Protection of her idea is effective; Sellers of space in the web lack the power to bargain as before; Advertisers for an Accountancy site also lack the power to bargain; Gweneveres idea is valuable, rare and we can protect against imitation.
Huzzah! cheered the table.
Matthew, said Torvall in his Patricks voice, all my staff are on fifty-K, and if youre prepared to work full time with Melissa starting tomorrow, not only will you be on the same, but Ill be prepared to wave your consultation fee. What do ya say?
Matthew shakes Patricks hand vigorously. He is eager to sign whatever is placed in front of him, eyes almost weeping as he thanks Patrick repeatedly.
Dont act like Im the hero, said Torvall, Gweneveres the one you should be thanking. If it wasnt for her pitch, youd be paying us to tell you to give up.
Still on the verge of weeping, Matthew exclaims that you are all heroes!
Huzzah! yelled the table once more, but this time with feeling.
On to the next client? asked Alek.
Perhaps if I were four, said Erdan, But I am only one, so instead I say that the remainder of the day is filled with consulting clients who happily pay for the service. As the clocks strike five, your work is concluded, and this is where your adventure ends.
And the next adventure? begged Darrak.
Shall begin next session, as it still requires preparation.
In his own voice, Torvall said, That was the greatest session I have ever played Erdan! Your talent surpasses all others tenfold!
Your flattery is appreciated, said Erdan, And in exchange for your hospitality I feel I received quite the bargain.
I beg of you Erdan, return again and return often! I shall be better prepared with food next time! You shall all feast as kings!
I must confess, said Erdan, We arrived with a hidden agenda. Aleks good friend, Regdar, was a member of Aleks raiding party until he was taken by a dragon. His party is now left without a healer.
I am sorry for your loss Alek. So you are offering an equal share?
Yes. It shall be split between four.
Normally, Alek, I should ask for more, and tonight shall be no different. Each week, I shall work five days of your choosing for both an equal share and Torvall smiled, A weekly New World adventure. You shall eat like kings that day, I promise you.
Alek looked around to see a nod from Erdan and Darrak, but a shake from Gwenevere. He held out his hand to be shaken. Once a week, we shall all return but Gwenevere, who should not travel now she is with child.
I will not hear of it, said Torvall, My firm is not complete without Melissa. I shall travel to any place of Gweneveres choosing each week, and that is my final offer.
Gwenevere looked sincerely into Torvalls eyes, ignoring the weight of everyone elses. Torvall, you shall always be welcome in our home.
You shall eat like a king! said Alek, The food alone shall be worth the journey.
With one handshake, business and friendship was formed for life.
Gwenevere found it difficult to sleep on a thin bedroll in Torvalls living room over the sound of Darrak snoring, but she was happy watching Alek sleep. It was the first time he had slept soundly since Regdars passing.
Afraid to wake him, Gwenevere crept outside to meet Erdan and found him sitting on a tree stump, writing by the light of a lamp he had hung on a tree branch above. She sat on a rock in front of him.
It must be grand to require no more than four hours sleep each night.
Indeed, said Erdan, which I may receive once I return home.
You too cannot sleep?
Elves do not sleep as you know it. We require four hours of restful trance, which is very much impossible when Darrak snores so.
Gwenevere laughed, Sounds much like sleep as I know it.
Only if you sleep with your eyes open.
Can you do it here, on that stump?
In my younger years, yes. Perhaps I still can, but I prefer not to. For now I am content to write.
Our next adventure?
You truly are a skilled writer Erdan.
Tis an illusion, I assure you.
You insult yourself.
Do I? Gwenevere, you enjoyed our adventures in New World, did you not?
Indeed, Gwenevere confessed. She preferred people to think her participation was entirely for Aleks benefit.
Please, recall for me your favourite moments.
Melissas latest career change; The moment Michael purchased a knife from a thief and threatened him with it; The dance James performed for the tavern that increased his standing; The moment Robert tried to use James as a shield against the guards, earning a near-fatal punch to the face.
Perhaps you enjoyed the partys risk of breakfast spillage? Or the map of the tavern? Or the moment the thief entered and threatened the party?
Gwenevere shrugged, I cannot say those moments were among favourites.
Yet all the moments you recall, I had not written.
Forgive me Erdan. Give me a moment to recall your great contributions.
Difficult to recall, I know.
Gwenevere, I learned long ago that no one wishes to hear my stories.
This is not
Before your time, my adventures were well crafted stories, interspaced with puzzles, riddles and encounters. They were not popular, not because I lack writing talent, but because players prefer to tell their own stories. So, I allowed them to, writing only the beginning of their story and allowing them to write the middle and conclusion.
So why the dice throws?
A good tale has moments of woe and misfortune. Suppose the market was ripe for online dating, how would you be able to tell your tale of victory in the face of adversity? Even had you not, an epic defeat creates stories to be told time and again, like your famous cock blocking.
Gwenevere laughed, and continued to talk for hours longer before returning inside to her bed roll. She was happy to see Alek still sound asleep, and soon after, so was she.
How did it feel to be a hero last night, asked Alek as he ate the porridge Torvall had provided him.
Gwenevere paused with her spoon part way to her mouth. Given the choice, she said, I would prefer to be a hero in this world.
Aleks laughter slowly died once he realized Gwenevere was trying to make a serious point. Of course it would be preferable if the entire game were in this world, but there is no way to become a hero within a single evening.
Are you certain?
Even in New World, interrupted Torvall, finally sitting down with his own bowl, it should take many years of study.
In the game, said Erdan, all study can be dismissed as complete with a single sentence.
Also smart phones, agreed Darrak, it should be quite difficult to become a hero without a smart phone.
But surely not impossible, said Gwenevere.
The rest of the table thought about this. Although it was difficult to imagine a hero without a magical smart phone, the phone was never part of the definition of the word.
The journey home was uneventful, possibly because they were now travelling with Torvall or possibly because of Gweneveres impressive sword twirling abilities. Although she did not see any bandits scared away, she had scared away at least five birds, three rodents and a small furry thing she could not see properly.
Darrak and Erdan were first to return home, then Gwenevere. Alek and Torvell continued onwards to the tavern. Anyone who took the time to read the ancient sign would know that the tavern was named The Dancing Horse, but few people did. The tavern was the biggest tavern within the city walls, so no name was required.
So, your entire party arrives here to drink before work? Torvall was hoping he misunderstood.
We arrive to meet, plan, gather information and check the noticeboard, explained Alek.
Torvall was visibly relieved, until Alek tried to order the first round of ale. Samuel, the barkeeper, caught the look on Torvalls face.
Alek, said Samuel, as sensitively as he could manage, last I served your party ale of a morning was the day Regdar was taken from us.
Twas not the drink, said Alek, we were quite sober by the time he was taken. At least an hour passed per drink, I assure you.
Alek, pleaded Samuel, I urge you not to drink this morning.
Samuel, your tavern always served us well. It should be wrong for us to use your tables without paying.
There are many tables Alek, and so few required this early.
This does not make taking advantage of your hospitality less wrong.
Samuel turned to Torvall, Torvall, I should have spoken with you almost a week past, then back to Alek, In this, Alek, I have wronged you. If you cannot accept that I have poisoned Regdars mind, at least agree I have delayed his replacement.
And you are forgiven. Two wrongs make no right. I am obliged by friendship to order a round of ale.
As am I to refuse. If you must have a round of ale, so be it, but I shall accept no payment.
If you insist, said Alek, the usual then, plus one more for Torvall.
I think not, said Torvall.
You heard him not? He says no payment.
No ale before work, no matter the discount.
As you wish,
Samuel was filling the second mug. One round only, he said, no amount of coin shall have me risk gaining another death on my conscience.
Torvall agreed, this is he, said Alek as he gave a mug each to Torrin and Nebin.
At your service, said Torvall bowing slightly.
At yours, said Nebin bowing back.
Yours, said Torrin, his thick Draconian accent could not hide his fear that he may be responding incorrectly.
Torvall, said Alek, Meet Nebin, perfect with cross bow and small enough to reach places we cannot.
Torvall and Nebin exchanged nods.
And meet Torrin, half dragon. His scales alone protect better than chainmail, and he can fell any tree with three swings of an axe. No one dares cross the path of his sword.
Again, two nods.
Samuel buys our first round for failing to reach Torvall himself.
Nebin and Torrin raised their mugs towards Samuel.
Our next round shall be from the Laughing Duck.
Now the mugs were raised towards Alek. Torvall disapproved, but remained quiet.
Torvall, continued Alek, I shall show the noticeboard.
Bother not, said Nebin, nothing is new. I have a far greater mission.
They should all be new to Torvall. He must see it.
There was a thin strip of exposed wall surrounding the noticeboard. Torvall was amazed that Alek could glance at the giant mess of posters and know with certainty that no more had been added since last he looked.
If anyone is willing to pay for any task, explained Alek, it shall be displayed here. No good tasks are displayed presently, but note: someone requires rats removed from a cellar; rare berries fetched; ten wolf pelts; investigation of disappearing cattle; defeat the Alek had to blink away a tear. He tore down the poster and proceeded back to the others yelling, Gwenevere! Curse that woman!
Is something the matter? asked Torvall, What has she done?
Opened my eyes.
Now you have returned, said Nebin, I shall tell you all of
Bang! The poster slamming on the table silenced Nebin.
We shall fight the dragon of Skull Mountain! said Alek.
At least hear the alternative, said Nebin, a mysterious elderly man is willing to show us the way to a wondrous cave, filled with riches beyond imagination.
Riches beyond imagine, said Torrin, is more riches than three thousand gold?
I suspect so, said Nebin.
Who is this mysterious elderly man? asked Torvall.
He gave no name. He said the spoils were ours if we fetch him the lamp.
This lamp, said Alek is a magic item?
I suspect so,
And these riches beyond imagination belong to whom?
They are beyond our walls. What should it matter?
And what are the chances that the lamp shall be used to enslave humanity?
Hopefully he shall, said Nebin, then we shall defeat him in combat, rescue humanity, and claim all he possessed as part of our prise.
You convinced me, said Torvall, We may defeat the dragon another day.
Hmm, this mission good, agreed Torrin.
What have we become!? Alek felt the frustration of seeing something no one else could, We plan to steal from a wondrous cave, empower a man to enslave the world, and then profit from cleaning our own mess?
Not just profit, said Torvall, large profit.
Large profit: best profit, said Torrin.
I did not waste so many years learning sword play to become a thief!
Many times we have stolen, said Nebin, why is this different?
It is not, but now I am different.
Oh, this is about Regdar, is it not?
It is not.
There is no need to lie to friends. I too want vengeance, but the dragon who took him is dead. Defeating the dragon of Skull Mountain will bring him back no more than if you defeated Torrin.
Torrin avoided Aleks gaze and swallowed a laugh. Even if Alek could betray him after years of friendship, the thought of Alek winning hadnt even occurred to Torrin.
Slaying a young red dragon for three thousand G.P.? Added Nebin, Tis well below market rate.
Only by three and a half hundred gold pieces, said Alek, referring to his mental chart.
What? said Nebin, checking his own mental chart, Slaying a young red is worth no less than seven thousand!
Both wrong, said Torrin, Young red: rating ten. Four for young, plus six for red. Five-thousand four-hundred fifty gold average. Range: three-thousand six-hundred fifty to eight-thousand two-hundred. Alek think very young red, not young red. Very young: two. Young: four. Nebin think young gold. Gold: seven. Red: six.
Right you are, said Nebin, I must have confused young with young adult.
Young adult: seven. Plus six for red: rating thirteen. Eleven-thousand six-hundred gold average. Nebin think juvenile red.
Right again, admitted Nebin, But suppose it is juvenile. Perhaps the poster is wrong.
Maybe poster not wrong, said Torrin, but number 26 birthday tomorrow.
Also, said Torvall, tis below market rate by two thousand four hundred and fifty gold pieces. The wondrous cave could contain anything.
Torvall, said Alek, remember last night to the game. Remember the moment Matthew is weeping with joy because Patrick created an employment opportunity.
I remember it well, said Torvall, the memory sending shivers up his spine.
Do you believe the wondrous cave may contain such a moment?
I suppose not, said Torvall, finally seeing Aleks point.
I assure you, Alek was pointing to the poster now, this mission shall.
If it means so much to you, said Nebin, we shall perform it after the wondrous cave. Delay this, and the opportunity may be taken by some street rat.
They shall no matter who takes it! They shall be a thief also, even if they did not begin as a street rat thief.
Were we to live in a small community, I should agree. In a city such as this, however, someone will take the opportunity, so why not we? Its a whole new world.
Dont you dare close your eyes to your morality! said Alek.
The villages near Skull Mountain waited many moons without a dragon slayer. They may wait another day.
They should not wait another second longer than necessary! We all know what a dragon is capable of, given an extra second.
There was a moment of silence in respect for Regdar.
Alek held up the poster and said, We can be heroes!
What is hero? asked Torrin.
Do they have fantasy stories in Draconic? asked Nebin, Someone from one of them.
Like an accountant, said Torvall, programmer or scientist.
Policeman, said Alek, doctor, lawyer
Venture capitalist, added Nebin, angel investor, chief executive officer
Or educator? asked Torrin.
The Draconic word he was translating from literally meant teacher of many, and was only found in fiction. The closest Draconic word outside of fiction translated closer to tutor. Torrin heard tales of educators who could instruct dozens of students at once. He wasnt sure if tutors had ever achieved that. The most hed ever witnessed was a tutor teaching to three.
Or educator, agreed Alek, yes, educators are heroes.
So, I fight dragon, I like educator? Torrin was sceptical of this connection, but also inspired.
Exactly correct Torrin!
Villagers like students?
Indeed, Alek was smiling now. Torrin was beginning to understand.
But three thousand G.P. with no provision for travel expenses, said Nebin, tis hardly worth it.
Torrin stood in rage, knocking his chair over in the process, You think educator care for money!? he roared, You think educator leave many hundred student speak Draconic only because wonder cave?
But three thousand
You need money so bad? Torrin dropped a heavy coin purse on the table, causing the mugs to bounce slightly, My money! Take what need!
I shall not take your money.
Oh? So you not need money now? Good! We fight dragon!
Very well, said Nebin, giving up. I shall find the mysterious elderly man and tell him we cannot perform the mission until we return.
You think educator: street rat thief? Find man. Tell him shove lamp from behind!
One cannot argue with that, said Torvall, referring to Torrins argument, but once spoken, he realized it could refer to Torrin in general.
Very well, said Nebin, completely in defeat, Let me be certain I understand you. All we must do is slay a dragon, and instantly we are all heroes?
Alek had to admit, it was quite a stretch of the word.
After a moments thought, he said, Only if we slay it well below the market rate.