1998-06-29: The Festival Of Masks A Chaotic Success
The Festival of Masks in Nujel'm - Well, it was certainly an evening to remember.
The main street of Nujel'm was lined with tables and flowers, and brightly clothed vendors wearing masks. The vendors sold these masks, as well as instruction booklets for the Festival, and a very few fireworks wands.
The masks ranged from the horrific lizardman tribal masks to animal headdresses. Food was on the tables in great abundance, and even with the huge crowds, did not disappear quickly. The exotic layout included dates, coconuts, and doughnuts, some of which it is rumored the great chef, Ben Kahns, prepared for the occasion.
The festival was a chaotic affair… throngs of people everywhere, talking, yelling, screaming… the clashing of bright clothes was hurtful to the eye, and everywhere thieves worked the crowds, searching for the elusive dark red “Box” that would earn them the Prize of the Festival.
The carrier of the Box turned out to be Hurley IronWood, who was quite inconspicuous in the crowd, until someone spotted the box, and a great cry ensued. Hurley escaped the crowd, though, and then switched clothing with Ben Kahns, which further confused the Game.
“It was in the spirit of the Festival..." Ben explained, grinning. "And it was fun!”
Here is an account of the Game from Lissa of Yew, a frequent patron of the Great Horns Tavern:
“Twas mighty good to see many of my friends at the Festival of Masks in Nujel'm last eve! The Game was an absolute riot of pack-snooping, the food was plentiful, and the island was packed.”
“Far into the festivities, I rode Marr to the entrance of the Silver Bow for a breather. A young man by name of Jasper Coin trotted up and politely asked if I knew where a Healer might be found. I directed him to check the docks, he thanked me, and trotted away again.”
“Some time later, after Marr and I had each enjoyed a snack, the young man returned and asked if I had any lockpicks. I told him I had none, and was not sure if any could be had on Nujel'm. One named Urian strolled up then, and suggested a Tinker might have them. Urian wandered off, and Jasper shared with me the urgency of his situation: he had managed to steal the Game box! He quickly showed me the box, and nearly begged me to help him obtain some lockpicks. Being in a festive mood, I agreed to run back to Magincia and buy some for him.”
“Jasper hid in the Silver Bow to await my return, and I rode Marr as fast as I could through Otto, and on to the Tinker of Magincia. Once I confirmed the price of the lockpicks, I got the necessary gold from the bank, bought them all, and rode quickly back. As I circled the interior of the Silver Bow, Jasper came out of hiding and I quickly passed him the lockpicks.”
“He suggested we adjourn to the docks where it might be safer to work the lock. On the way, he thanked me profusely for my help, and promised to repay me. Well, the poor lad broke all ten lockpicks in no time. He admitted he had never taken the time to learn the skill, and that now might be a good time. I offered to take him to Magincia and help him find training there. Alas, none of the shopkeepers of Magincia knew that particular art, and all of the thieves wandering about claimed not to train whilst working. What to do?!”
“I knew we should have much better luck in Jhelom, for I know it to be a city of scoundrels and thieves. I offered to show the way, and asked Jasper if he knew the Recall spell. He did not, and asked me if I could Gate him there instead. I agreed to do so, so we went to the bank. I retrieved a Gate scroll, invoked its power, and followed Jasper through its blue light into Jhelom. Again, we scurried about looking for someone to train him; again to no avail. Jasper spent what little gold he had on another batch of lockpicks, prepared to try again, training or no training.”
“As we were leaving the Provisioner’s shop, a green robed Seer by name of Ozryn appeared and followed us outside. He greeted us, and we informed him of our dilemma, not mentioning the Game or the box. After several minutes of brainstorming, another thief wandered near, and Ozryn suggested we ask him. Jasper approached the thief Maurice, and Maurice agreed to train and quoted his price! Jasper shyly admitted that he was now penniless, and asked if I could again help him out. As I was thoroughly enjoying this adventure by now, I told him I would be glad to, and turned Marr toward the bank. Maurice started to wander off, so I told Jasper to keep talking to him, thus keeping him still long enough for me to get the gold and return.”
“I galloped Marr to the bank and back, and handed the gold to Jasper. Maurice whispered some trade secrets into Jasper’s ear, and his eyes went wide with the knowledge! I encouraged Jasper to try the lock again, and heard it spring a few moments later. Success! Knowing the box was trapped, I then suggested we go to the Healers in case the trap was a deadly one. All was quiet in the Healers’, so we moved to a corner and held our breath while he lifted the lid of the box. Jasper was engulfed in flame! My heart stopped, but he was still standing! Having no reagents or bandages with me, I insisted he hide until he Healed up enough for me to Gate us back to Nujel'm. Jasper told me the prize claimwas indeed inside the box, and was fairly jumping up and down in excitement! Just then, two angry warriors rushed into the Healers, asking if we had seen a ghost. I said, "Nay!" but the two remained and waited. Shortly, a ghost appeared and was resurrected, whence the two warriors pounced upon him and slew him! This was repeated a few times, then the two seemingly decided that their justice had been served and left. Jasper was now totally healed, and we took one step on the way to the bank when *POOF!*”
“I found myself standing in the street in front of the Nujel'm palace! I shrieked and looked vainly about for Jasper! Twas no sign of the lad. I had visions of him stranded and alone in Jhelom with no way to return here and claim his prize. My heart sank as I rode slowly toward the bank, thinking I’d Recall back and try to fetch him. As I approached the gazebo, I heard his name being announced as the winner of the Game! Breathing a sigh of relief, I moved Marr and I off to the side of the gathering and listened to Marsett’s speech, scanning the huge crowd for a glimpse of Jasper. I could not see him, though, and once the crowd dispersed, I asked around if any knew where he went. No one I asked had seen him. Thinking he might wander by and find me instead, I waited in the street for a bit. Tiaganna came up then, and we chatted a bit of the Festival and bounced some naming conventions around for the Skara councilmen. When Tiaganna left for the meeting, I sadly made my way back through Otto to Magincia. Recognizing Epini’s horse outside the Great Horns, I dismounted Marr and went inside to inquire if she or anyone else had seen Jasper Coin. None had, so I stayed on to chat a bit.”
“About ten minutes later, Jasper came in! He had been looking for me, and wanted to repay me for helping him. We started to walk to the bank together, and he told me of his prizes: a magical cloak of invisibility, and 1000 gold pieces. He had also become more famous! Jasper told me that he had also been somehow transported back to Nujel'm as I had. Sadly, someone had killed him when he arrived in an attempt to steal the prize claim, but the murderer felt remorse, and gave him another 500 gold by way of apology.”
“Jasper tried to give me 1000 of the gold as his partner, but I could only accept 500 to cover my expenses (I am not hurting for gold). The skill was his, I merely provided transportation, funding, and guidance. A more gentlemanly and honorable thief I have not met, and I vowed my friendship to him before he left for Britain, his home. I’ve not had such an adventure in a long time, and will remember it fondly for many days to come!”
I also had a chance to interview Marsett, the Master of the Ceremonies and Vizier to the Sultan, replacing the late Aleyh Jaskinor. He was an interesting man, unlike his fellow Nujel'mites his clothing reflected utility and function rather than flash, and his manner of speaking was more concise and educated. I later learned he was schooled in Vesper, and was appointed a Vizier for his grasp of logistics.
Genn: Many of the festival attendees were disturbed that they would lose karma playing the Game… Why have such activities then?
Marsett: Those from the mainland often do not understand our ways here in Nujel'm… every player in the Game always knows the risks he runs. We don’t expect the mainland to understand this. They see only a crime, and react to it. We here in Nujel'm, though, honor the winner of the contest. In this instance, the ends justify the means.
Genn: And the accusations that the winner, Jasper Coins, cheated because he did not work alone?
Marsett: In any contest, is it wrong to seek help in what you have no knowledge of? The Game is not meant to be easy. Jasper showed common sense in seeking help, and was fortunate enough to find one willing to assist him in his quest.
Genn: And the shortage of fireworks wands?
Marsett: An oversight in organization… our contact that was supplying them turned out to be less than reliable. I apologize to all that sought them.
Genn: And the Eye of Dahsk? It was not in the Box then?
Marsett: Nay. The Sultan has decided that since certain unknown parties seem to be interested in the Eye, that he would not place it in a compromising position. This is unfortunate, since the Eye has been a part of the Festival as long as any of us can remember.
Genn: It was noted that the elusive Sultan did not make an appearance during the Festival… any comment?
Marsett: The Sultan is a busy man, and his free time is very valuable. Be assured he watched the Festival from afar, and was pleased with the results. As for public appearances… his enemies are numerous, it is well known that his policies and his city are actively disapproved by the Lord British and his minions. He sought to avoid a confrontation.
Genn: Final question: Was the Festival a success?
Marsett: Aye, I think so. Many do not understand that chaos is a large part of the festival. The huge crowds, the yelling, the screaming, the numerous “accidents” involving the city guards… all are part of the Festival. I hope all enjoyed it, and shall return next year.
Of course, like all large planned occasions, not everything went according to plan. The Festival started an hour late because the vendors and their supplies were delayed, and they only sold a few of the rare fireworks wands that were promised… and the food was a long time in being brought out. Everything was put in place though, and the Festival began and sucessfully concluded after several hours of feasting, drinking, talking, and general revelry.
Your roving reporter, for one, stayed in bed the next morning, with an ice pack upon her head, and a grinning tribal mask on her pillow...