A Hard Landing 
First published in Tales of the Reaching Moon issue #9

Copyright © 1990 by Michael O'Brien

"Come on Murph old pal, you gotta sponsor me in. I can handle a blade as good as anyone, and I've always wanted to be a Humakti... ...So why've I been an Orlanthi all these years? Sucked me in with all that 'call of adventure' crap didn't they? Look, I realize I'm a hell of an ugly bastard right now, but no-one ever got blackballed from Humakt for havin' pimples. Besides, they reckon the rash'll be gone by Windsday next... ...How'd I know that? Bloody priests sent the Impests against me didn't they. That's why I want out of Orlanth. Pull up a pew Murph and I'll give you the full story... ...Nah, I won't sit down meself, they gave me piles too.

"You know how we Orlanthi gotta do our annual six weeks workin' for the priests, well, last year I found meself fightin' Thanatari broo - got laid up with the border sneakin' food an' stuff into Whitewall. This is back when there was talk that the Crimson Bat was comin' down to finish off them Volsaxi rebels. The most terrifyin' six weeks I ever spent in me life, Bat or no Bat. Well, the rebels are still there, and your priest's always got some broo to kill someplace, so this year I think to meself, there's gotta be some soft option I can take for me cult service where I don't have to put meself at risk.

"That's how I line meself up for this job standin' guard in the Landing Room at the temple. "What could be easier?", thinks I. Standin' around all day watchin' out for the odd Storm Voice or Wind Lord teleport in. Six weeks hobnobbin' with the gentry, never findin' meself on the wrong end of a broo, what a breeze!

"Started out all right, didn't it? Bein' holy week an' all, all of them Lords or priests were too busy makin' the winds blow to get themselves into trouble. I just stood around all day lookin' at the murals. Bloody nice paintin's they was too. Come Freezeday though, and the runies are off. It's only then that it dawns on me that the only time your priest or lord's gonna beam in s'when he's got more trouble than he can handle: and if a Wind Lord can't handle it, what hope have I?

"First back is the Wind Voice Aleous, yeah the guy they burned last Windsday. Well, what was left of 'im. Stupid bastard went to do a deal with the Inhuman King. Beams in blackened to a crisp. Seems ol' snake-face didn't get the gist of what he was on about and torched him. I hollered for the medics of course, but there wasn't much even Chalana Arroy could do.

"I'm down on the floor scrapin' up what's left of Aleous (yeah, I forgot to tell ya, I find out then that it's me who's gotta do the cleanin' up), when all of a sudden SPLAT! Thumpin' down next to me I see a great pile of iron, tin, silver an' stuff, spread flat over the floor. I have to look again before I realise there's a guy inside it! So, once more I holler for the meat-wagon, and they rush in, throw him on the stretcher and cart him off quick smart.

"I got the full story from one of the medics later. It seems Ignatius Orvost was tryin' to notch up his seasonal quota of elves, when one shoots out his sylph from under him. Problem was, the crazy bugger was half-a-mile up when it happened. "No hassle", thinks Orvost just before he hits the ground, "I'll just Guided Teleport out." Forgot that he was carryin' a heck of a lot of downward velocity didn't he?. Boy he hit that floor awful hard! My medic friend reckons it took the Healers and a tinsmith two hours to cut him out of his armour. Later that week a similar thing happened when Horseface Pandarus beams in at full-tilt on his warhorse. That's how those murals on the west wall got smashed off.

"Now, I got great respect for them Healers (fixed me well and good after me run-in with them broo last year), but I wouldn't want to be one of 'em either. You know that party that set off to kill chaos in Snakepipe Hollow? Yeah, the one that I would'a been in if I hadn't lined up the Landing Room job. Well, it seems that they didn't get far into the 'pipe before they run smack into a stinkin' Walktapi. They set about destroyin' the thing, and all but their leader Caspian Vur remembers to hold their breath. Now, this Wind Drake Vur takes a gust o' gas up the beak and decides to bail out, takin' the whole party with him. This is fine I guess, except one of his Storm Bull pals has already cast his Berserk spell and appears in the Landing Room all itchin' for a fight. It took six Healers to calm him down, but not before he'd sliced up half his pals, split me shield in two and belted the plaster off the east wall.

"T'was 'bout the end of truth week and I'm near half-way through me cult service when I really stuffed things up though. Nothin's happened for near on a week, and I'm bored stiff thinkin' maybe fightin' headhunter broo weren't all that bad, when all of a sudden this Lunar guy teleports in, scimitar in one hand, a severed head in the other. Now, it don't take much nouse to work out that maybe this guy is Thanatar or somethin', and he's snicked off some poor sap of a Storm Voice's head and is usin' his spells to get around. So before he gets his bearin's I hit him, hard, and I hit him again, and again, 'til he stops movin'. Then I yell for the guard. What else could've I done?

"Only then do I find out that this guy I've just creamed is an Orlanthi secret agent, who's managed to sneak in disguise into the Lunar camp to kill the commander. That's whose head it was.

"Now old Leonidas the High Priest didn't take it too well, me killin' one of his best agents, particularly after the Healers couldn't get him back. Still, me intentions were honest - I'm told the suspicious bastard even went as far as askin' the divine to check me up - so Leonidas can't chuck the Wind Fists at me, thank Luck. Even so, he gave me the Impests... ...yeah, I know its rude to scratch yer arse in public, Murph, I've rubbed it raw this last week... ...and I've still gotta do six more days out at the tin mine before me cult service is up.

"Anyway, come next Windsday I want out. Who wants to end up a Wind Lord if the Landing Room's all I got to look forward to?

..."So ya reckon you can get me inta Humakt, huh. Great!... ...Have I heard tell of your Rune Swords and their duellin'? Nah Murph, do tell...

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