Far across the silver-blue reaches of the Sibersilica
Sea, on the continent of Innet, lay the tiny country of Webderland.
It was a peaceful country of scholars who spent their days in contemplation
and debate over the teachings of the Wise Sage. While their debates
were often heated and passionate, they were almost always good natured.
The people of Webderland respected and valued the right of the individual
to come to one's own conclusions about the Wise Sage's teachings.
In fact, the people encouraged the questioning of anything that was commonly
held as truth, for they knew that truths were only defined by the people
who needed them to be truths. They lived this way for many years.
However, that peace was soon
shattered. Hearing of the constant state of discourse that existed
in Webderland, trolls began migrating to its tranquil shores.
Trolls are vicious, spiteful
creatures who wreak havoc where ever they go. Mostly they lurk beneath
bridges and leap upon unsuspecting travelers, but occasionally a troll
who is braver and of slightly greater intelligence than his brethren, will
venture into populated areas and flame the inhabitants. In fact,
these trolls look, talk, and even act like humans. They mingle with society,
taking interest in the events, and even participating in them. However,
they eventually tire of civilized intercourse, reveal their true colors
and cause much suffering.
The first troll to come to Webderland
was a female of the species who called herself Shasitzka. She claimed
to be seeking the wisdom of the Wise Sage.
"Please tell me which of the
sacred scrolls would be best to take back to my people." She said,
"I myself have read the scroll of Shifting Earth and feel that it
would be inappropriate for my people to read. They are simple and
those teachings would only serve to confuse. I know that there are
simpler teachings which are easier for my people to understand and enjoy."
The citizens of
Webderland did their best to offer suggestions. However, a few citizens
were leery. Padraig, the chronicler, spoke. "I should not think
that simpler scrolls would benefit your people's quest for enlightenment.
You do your people a disservice by judging their capacity for knowledge.
Let them read the scroll of Shifting Earth, and through discussion
and contemplation let them create their own path to enlightenment.
The scrolls are but guides in a much greater journey. To deny your
people one of those guides is to lead them astray. And perhaps, when
the teachings have allowed them to grow, they will learn to find their
"I don't wish for my people
to suffer because they fail to understand the teachings. Don't you
see? They will turn away from them if they find them too difficult."
"But there is nothing to understand.
The truth is what they make of it. The truth is what you make of
it. To deny them the chance to discover their own truths is a crime
against them and a crime against honor." Padraig cried before stalking
off. At once, one of the most congenial citizens, he was also one
of the brashest. So he found that sometimes it was better to leave
a debate before passion destroyed reason.
"Speaking of Shifting Earth."
Ottovian said as Padraig disappeared from view. "I was wondering
about one of the tales held within." He drew in a breath and spoke
The question lead to a debate
between Shasitzka and several other citizens. Padraig returned feeling
calm after a quiet meditative session with one of the older scrolls.
But his peace was short lived as he found himself propelled into the quickly
escalating debate. The more reasonable the arguments offered by the
citizens of Webderland, the more unreasonable Shasitzka became.
And just when it seemed the debate was going to reach a head, Shasitzka
revealed her true nature.
"You foolish sycophants who
worship at the feet of your god. You who squirm and toddle
at his words. You slaver for his blessing and preach his evil sermon.
He who can do no wrong."
This stunned the citizens.
But only briefly. "We never claimed that he was a god." said Padraig,
his temper starting to get the better of him. "We only claim that
he is wise, and that he can teach us many things. In fact, the most
important lesson he has taught us is that we should never accept everything
he or anyone else says. We must strive to take the knowledge we are
given and decide for ourselves how best to use it."
The other citizens nodded and
agreed. Barnnenian, De Tseri Sman, Pejatora, and Nicolotta, each
reiterated this point. Then Doc, the wise man of the west, spoke
up. "In fact, the whole point of the passage which we have been discussing
is that we must take responsibility for our own actions and not wait for
some god, or the universe to do so for us. The universe is neither
good, nor evil. It just is. This is the truth which we take
from this story, but even this truth is subject to questioning."
You cower at his feet and take his word as scripture. Or else my
ideas would not seem so threatening to you." She screamed.
"Threatening? We welcome
them. But we also welcome reasonable debate. You offer us only
attack and insult. Please, share with us your ideas, but be ready
to hear ours as well."
"No! You persecute and
attack me because I do not bow down to your god. I do not accept
his word as scripture and that is why you hate me."
"We do not hate you." Pejatora
Unfortunately, the effect Shasitzka
wanted was starting to take hold. The citizens of Webderland were
beginning to feel violated. Their home had been attacked by a creature
who wished for nothing but chaotic conflict. Tempers were flying.
She pulled out a sword from her belt and swung at Nicolotta. Padraig
pulled out his own and blocked her swing just inches from Nicolotta's brow.
Shasitzka jumped back, breathing heavily.
"Stop this violence."
Padraig called, a light of anger flashing into his eyes. The sun
gleamed white off of the steel of his long-sword, Sethmander. It
was only the second time in his twenty-one years that Padraig had ever
been forced to draw out Sethmander in combat.
She leapt at him with a thrust.
He parried and riposted. She dodged his attack and came in low with
a slash to the legs. He jumped, but not soon enough for she nicked
his leg. She slashed low again. He parried. She slashed
wildly, trying to inflict whatever damage she could. Her eyes glowed
red with hatred and from her mouth spat fire and venom. Padraig continued
to parry and dodge. Finally she put her whole weight into a thrust.
Padraig parried, twisted around, and was able to knock her to the ground.
It was then that Wyatar, the
Webdermeister, Ruler of Webderland, came. "Begone foul beast and
plague us no more. I have brought word from the Wise Sage himself."
He held out his hands and a brilliant streak of light shot out from them.
Towering above the people was a glowing, ethereal visage of the Sage.
"Leave this place young lady. It is your destructive tendencies and
arrogant ignorance which destroy everything we have worked hard to create.
My words are merely my words. They do not reflect upon me or those
who read them. My character may guide those words, but they do not
guide the truth. And right now, the truth is that you are a pain
in the backside. So get the fuck out of here."
So it was that Shasitzka retreated,
chased by a flame of truth.
The citizens of Webderland were able to breathe a sigh
of relief. The danger was gone. Months passed, and new people
journeyed to Webderland, each gaining citizenship in the country
of truth seekers. The debates continued, but in good spirits.
New ideas and philosophies were introduced. Nicolotta, who had recently
taken to wearing all black, began discussions of music. Others debated
current and past philosophies. More continued discussing the Sage's
teachings, even going so far as to juxtapose his works with the philosophies
of old. All was as it should be.
Then one day, while a few of
the citizens were discussing a rather confused lad who wanted enlightenment
spelled out for him in a set of easy to follow instructions, a new troll
crashed its way into the city. He shot an arrow into the air and
it landed in the middle of a crowd of citizens. "Ho gentle-folk.
I'd like to offer the hypothesis that the Wise Sage is a supercilious fraud
whose ideas are hackneyed recitations of greater and wiser men from eras
gone by. His methods of discourse are sloppy and juvenile, and his
followers have the collective intelligence of a chopped onion. Any
takers?" Although his demeanor was that of a troll, his spiked tongue
rolled words softly and delicately. His throat sparkled melodies
while his words scratched glass.
The Keeper looked at the new
arrival from underneath his hooded robe. He smiled to himself and
approached the new troll who was demanding a response. "Perhaps,
but have you thought that maybe his imperfections are an indication of
his humanity rather than his wisdom. Ultimately it is up to the Sage
to decide how much thought and revision goes into his works. However,
it is his humanity which attracts us to his wisdom. If that should
make us inferior to a chopped onion, then so be it. We shall then
endeavor to study the onion in hopes of learning its secret wisdom as well."
Suluustra and The Wily One didn't
react as well as The Keeper.
"How dare you." Suluustra
called. "I didn't come here to have a fetid piece of maggoty troll
insult me. The perfume of your tone doesn't disguise the shit used
to fertilize your words."
"What gives you the right to
come crashing into our community, insulting us and those that we hold dear?"
The Wily One said.
The troll began to laugh.
Quietly at first, his laughter grew louder and more pronounced, until finally
it began to fill the city. Citizens came from all over, leaving their
discussions to find out what was happening. The laughter reached
the ears of Padraig, Barnennian, and Wyatar. They too went to find
"Why thank you!" The troll
bowed toward The Keeper. "You have wildly surpassed my expectations.
I believed that to come unto you bearing malicious discourse would illicit
a violent response. You, my friend, have proved otherwise. I bow
to your civility." He then turned to Suluustra. "As for you.
I look forward to engaging in further battles." His gaze also landed
on The Wily One. "You too, of course. I cannot be harmed by the magic of
words, warrior women. So I enjoy a good battle." He bowed once
more. "Allow me to introduce my self. I am Syzygy, for I find
myself in opposition."
Introductions aside, he found
himself in the midst of several discussions. Each time he opened
his mouth, his tongue would lash out and strike whomever was present.
His language was cultured, but his words were destructive. The Wily
One fled, unable to take the constant tongue lashings that were inflicted
upon her. The citizens understood and wished her well. They
asked that she return when it was safe to do so. Suluustra wasn't
as quick to flee. She stood her ground. Each time the tongue
lashed out at her, she made a swipe at it. Whenever someone called
Syzygy on his lashing tongue, he would shrug and say that his tongue lashings
weren't meant to harm. It was simply the way he spoke.
Wyatar watched the proceedings
with interest, but did not involve himself. Padraig jumped into the
fray, but as his injuries from his last troll battle hadn't fully healed,
he stayed back a ways. Doc reverted to childishness to combat the
tongue lashings that were being inflicted upon his friends. De Tseri
Sman watched helplessly. Nicolotta had disappeared, as had Pejatora.
"Leave troll. Your lashing
tongue has caused nothing but grief within our community. We come
here seeking wisdom, not injury." Suluustra proclaimed after a particularly
quick lash left a welt upon her forearm. A small applause could be
heard from within the citizenry.
Syzygy took a step back for
a second and surveyed the carnage around him. Those who were still
standing were seething with rage. But within that rage, they had
found patience and control. He held his hand out in front of his
face and spoke. His tongue lashed out and struck his own hand, stinging
the rough flesh. "It appears that I have caused more damage than
I thought. I have perhaps overstayed my welcome. I will leave,
if that is what you wish. But if you allow me, I would like to lurk
beneath the bridge and continue listening to your discussions. Despite
my obviously destructive speeches, you have all proved yourself most admirably."
The citizens of Webderland reluctantly
allowed him to lurk. If they were to deny him his request they would
surely prove themselves hypocritical to their own ideals.
Syzygy went under the bridge,
occasionally speaking up from his place under the wooden planks when a
topic caught his ear. He spoke toward the water, so that only the
fish would be lashed.
Eventually the people of Webderland accepted Syzygy into
their ranks. He learned to curve his tongue so that no innocents
got hurt in the ensuing melee. The Wily One made her way back and
was welcomed with open arms. Nicolotta made occasional contact, but
her studies took most of her attention. Everything was at peace.
As tempers calmed and the waves
of anger settled, a black bird flew into the city. "The Wise Sage
is dead. The Wise Sage is dead." It screeched as it flew overhead.
Wyatar shook his head as the people turned toward him.
"No, do not believe anything
the raven says. For the raven proclaims it as truth." Wyatar proclaimed.
The people knew that the raven
spoke false, but its gossip still sent chills through their hearts.
Wyatar gazed toward the setting sun and watched as the raven flew toward
the forest. It would hide among the trees until it had a new lie
to tell, and when the time came, the people would be ready. Turning
away from the sun, Wyatar and the rest of the Webderland citizens continued