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WHFRP: Symm learns some new tricks - Ed's journal
WHFRP: Symm learns some new tricks

"Well, chaps, I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm planning to kick back, and relax. It's been a long few days, and I don't know about you, but I could use a couple of days of sleep."

The group had gathered in one of the smaller dining rooms in the Graf's Palace, and were currently munching their way through enough food to feed a small army. The food and wine were most excellent, a 'token of appreciation' from the Graf's halfling chef.

"I think, I'll be getting some sleep, a long rest, and then I'll be trying to locate a Druid so I may continue my training.

Well, after this bottle of wine of course..."

The next day, Symm awakens. It's very late in the day, probably nearing sunset.

"Whew, I must have really needed that. I've been running a little short on sleep for a while I suppose. Now, I just need to find someone to teach me Druidic, and then I'll be ready to ..."

He's interrupted by a familiar sound. It's the contented rumbling of his fox spirit guide.

"Drudic? You already know that. Everyone does. It's the language of life, the whispering echo of the trees and the noise that grass makes when it grows." the fox points out. "I've been talking to you in that language all along. You don't think I speak that woffle woffle that you humans seem to think is so great do you?"

Symm ponders a moment. "Really? But I just though we were speaking in common"

The fox just laughs. "There you go again. Listen to yourself for a second. You're accent needs a little work, you've got a very thick human sound to your speech, but you do understand it."

"But anyway, that's not why I came." the fox continues "You see, I think you'll make a good Druid. But there's some stuff you've got to do first. The fox, you see, is at home in all environments. City, village, forest or field. Now you're a good woodsman, and I don't doubt your ability to hunt and play in the forest. But the city is still not a place where you're comfortable.

Oh, and the Mother thinks that there's some things you're going to need to learn. Things you're going to need soon."

"Well, I suppose there is a thing or two..." Symm pauses a moment.

"No no. There's a chap in the city. Follower of the fox. He won't admit to it, and probably doesn't realise it yet, but he's been doing that all his life. Anyway, you need to learn the ways of a city. And this is the man that can show you. Go to him, and learn from him. Do whatever he wants in order that he'll teach you. Even if it is just mucking out the privvies.". The fox continues.

"Erm. OK. I guess so. Who do I have to go and find?"

"Follow me, I'll show you."

"Hang on a minute, let me get dressed."

"Oh you man things. Always fussing about clothes. I suppose if you really must then I'll wait a while. But don't take too long."

A short while later, Symm approaches the large and rather elegant house with trepidation. It's three stories high, and has a notable amount of garden surrounding it. It's obviously the house of some wealthy merchant.

"Are you sure this is the place" he whispers.

"Of course it is. Trust me." replies the fox with a wicked gleam in his eye. "Go on. Knock. Speak to the guy. I'll be back when you're a litte more ready."
The fox dashes across the street and disappears down a side alley.

Symm considers the allure of going back for breakfast and a leisurely day. But puts those aside vaguely regretfully.

*Knock* *Knock*.

"Who is it?" a voice calls. The door remains closed.

"Errm. I'm Symm. I ... umm ... find myself in need of your services."

"Bugger off. I'm retired. I've been out of the business for a good few years, and I'm not about to start now."

"Please? I need you to teach me."

An elderly gentleman opens the door. He's getting on in years, but still exudes the vibrancy of an active man. He's dressed in elegant clothes, coloured in a mix of black, grey and white. His hair is cut short, and is a little silvery.

"Teach you!?" the man exclaims "And you're a Druid? What the hell are you doing here. And how did you know where to find me?". A cold look crosses the man's face. One almost of a fear long forgotten.

"Uhm. Sir. My name is Symm. As you say, a Druid. My familiar guided me here."

A look of consternation crosses the man's face.

"Hmpf. Well, you'd better come in then, hadn't you."

The man leads Symm to into a lounge area. The house is elegantly furnished, but practical. Everything in it has a look of quality, and there's remarkably little superfluous ornamentation.

"Right. Well, then. Learning you say?". The man starts.

"Well ... yes. I appreciate this might seem a little strange, but ... well, I have directions I must follow that ... "

"No I understand. Some things one just has to do. A Druid helped me once out of a sticky situation. Vaguely odd bunch, the lot of you, but I sort of understand your calling."

"Thank you. I find that I need to learn the way of the city."

"Yes. That I can show you. In a previous life, I knew a thing or two about that. Go home. Get a good night's sleep. We start early tomorrow."

Symm stands, bows and turns to leave...

"Actually, there is one thing ... I'm sorry, I'm afraid I don't actually know your name."

"My name? I've had many names over the last forty years. Few that I'm proud of." He pauses for a moment. "For now, I shall just be 'Teacher'."

The following morning, Symm returns to the house. He's greeted tersely by 'Teacher', and led into a large warehouse type room.
It's fairly sparse, however has all manner of strange items, from knives to oddly shaped hooks to ladders.

There's two open backed bookshelves standing there. On each are five rows of four targets.

"You're an archer are you not? Your first task is to knock down as many targets as you can, before this sand timer runs out."

Symm nods aquiescence, and prepares, 50 arrows in front of him, and longbow ready.

"Ready?" enquires the Teacher.


"OK. Go".

The timer is inverted.
Symm draws, aims, releases.
One target down.
The second.
Then the third.

As the last target is knocked down, there is still a little sand in the glass. He turns, and looks at the Teacher.

"You have a good eye. You only missed a couple. But you're far too slow."

"I got all of them in the time!" Symm protests.

He reaches and pulls a lever, and another 3 bookshelves descend from their hangings.

"You missed a few. 100 targets. Knock down more than 70."

"70! There's just not enough time for that!"

"My personal best is 92. I have met a man who managed to do all 100 in the time, but even he acknowledges that there was a notable amount of luck involved. But 70 is good enough."

The Teacher pulls a rope to stand up the knocked over targets. Turns, picks up a rack of knives, and takes aim.

"Turn the timer".

*Thwack* *Thwack* *Thwack*. Every few seconds another knife. A few off target, but all thrown very rapidly.

As the last grains of sand trickle away 87 targets lie flat.

"See. It can be done. You may use knives if you wish, but I suspect you'll have more success with your bow."

Symm steps up once more and tries. 47 targets.

"If you wish to learn from me, you will knock down 70. Practice until you do, or you give up. If you don't manage today, well there's always tomorrow, or the next day."

He leaves Symm, to practice.

"So. You can do 70. That will do. For now. Your next task is simpler. All you have to do is catch a piece of rope."

The Teacher then leads him to a strange looking contraption outside the warehouse.

6 pillars in a rough hexagon. Each of which with a shutter at about shoulder height. Above, 6 baskets hanging.

"This is a fairly simple device. When I open the valve, water starts to fill the baskets at different rates. When the basket is full, then it will drop. As it does, the shutter in the pillar will open. You must try and catch the rope before it drops all the way."

"Sounds simple enough..." Symm replies.

The Teacher stands in the ring, turns the valve and waits. A few seconds later, one of the baskets starts to drop, and a shutter opens.

He spins, grabs the rope, and stops the fall. After it is stopped, the basket slowly winds back up.

Symm steps up to try the same. As the basket begins to fall, he spins, and jumps for the shutter that has just opened, but is just a little too slow and misses the rope. The basket of water upends over him, and drenches him in water.

"Not quite as easy as it seems. One will fall every few seconds, once you have caught them, they will wind back up. Try again until you have dried out.

Oh, and try not to get too wet. If your clothes are soaked you'll slow down."

"Hmm, that's better. A bit faster. Excellent.

Your last task is even more simple."

The Teacher leads Symm to a rope strung between two pillars, some 10 metres apart.

"All you have to do, is cross this rope."

Symm remembers back to times of tricky footing. Of near drowning in sewage, and falling out of windows. This one may be simple, but it's going to cost a lot of bruises...

"The Teacher looks on admiringly. Well done. You learn quickly. You've obviously got the right skills, it's just a question of practice to perfect them.
And now, I guess you've earned some insight into the ways of the city.

"There are five skills you need to be in tune with the city. It's important to remember that it's as much alive as the countryside. The difference is only in the types of creatures you encounter. Where in a forest, you will have rivers to cross and trees to climb, in the city, you have walls, streets and houses. You may be hunted by people rather than animals, and that is of itself, usually a slower and weaker foe, but notably more clever.

"So first, we start with moving silently across stone. It's similar to the technique for woodland, you must choose carefully where you place your feet, and concentrate on as little noise as possible. It will be slow going at first, and you will look strange and suspicious. But practice, and the speed and even motion will help hide the fact that you are hiding the sound of your footfalls.

"Second, we hide oneself in the city. Consider, that the principles are the same as forest. The difference is in the nature of the cover, and the places to hide. In a city, all the things you encounter will be sharp and angular. This is completely different to forest - where one much break up lines to hide in a forest, one must create them in the city. Observe carefully as you position yourself such that you are parallel to lines presented by shadows and objects on the street, whilst moving from shadow to shadow.

"Thirdly, we take these two skills and merge them. Hiding and moving quietly, but quickly now, such that we may follow a person and not be observed. They may be wary and so you much merge and blend with whatever is around you. Ideally this will be people, simply become a leaf in a bush, and don't stand out."

"Fourth, is climbing. There are rarely convenient handholds, and one must learn to position fingers and feet to gain purchase on a sheer surface. I have a wall just outside that is perfect for such practice.

"Lastly, is disguise. There will be times when hiding, moving quietly, and going where others cannot is not enough. Forget what you've heard about wearing fake beards or wigs. That serves as a disguise, but it will be spotted. Unnatural alterations will stand out, and it is hard to match precisely hair colours. Pad parts of your face. Alter how you walk. And most importantly of all conceal the way in which you move. Everyone moves in a distinctive fashion. It takes practice and awareness to hide that."

And so, let me take you around the house, and we shall practice this.

"So, you're seeming to get the knack now. Do you feel confident?"

"Actually, yes I do. I think I'll be needing more practice, but I think I have learned what I need to."


"You realise that now is the test of it. I have spoken to a few friends. Tonight, your task is to cross the city without being spotted by them.
Be wary, they are alert, clever and know the routes through the city. You will certainly encounter some of them, but I want you to not be seen.
Make no mistake, this is your final test. I do not wish to be disappointed. I will be waiting at the Boar's head. If I hear report of you being spotted, I
will leave.

"There is a map and some clothing in the next room. I'd suggest waiting until gone sunset until you depart, but I leave the choice to you.

"Become one with the shadows of the city. See you tomorrow."

The Teacher leaves through the open door.

Ah, so that's how it is, Symm thinks. Time to put what I've been taught to the test. Checking that he remembers clearly his way around the city, he dresses in the black and grey that the Teacher provides him. Concious that the colours are chosen to match well the major colours of stone within the city.

Just after sunset, he sets out. Crossing the city by day, and on foot takes several hours. By night, and avoiding being spotted is a long and laborious process. Sometimes making progress along rooftops. Other times having to backtrack because there is not enough cover to cross a particular street. It takes many hours, but gradually, as the first glimmers of sunrise start to streak the sky, Boar's Head is in sight. A matter of mere minutes left, but important still not to rush. There is an open square to cross to reach the pub, and a man quite obviously watching.

Symm grins. He spots his opportunity. Using a druidic incantation, he summons to him a cat and a dog. And asks them nicely to distract the watchman. They're a little confused, but happy enough to oblige a polite request from a Druid. The poor watcher is pestered and confused by a cat and dog chasing around him, as Symm makes his way through the pub entrance, just as the sun starts to enter the sky.

"Nicely done young Symm. The cat and dog were a nice touch."

Symm looks round. He didn't spot the Teacher standing in the shadows.

"You've learned well. None of my informants within the Guild saw you, although there must have been some hundred looking. I am well pleased. Go, with my blessing. There is little more that you can learn from me at this time."

"Thank you, it has been an honour."

"No, the honour is mine. As I said, I have gone by many names, and none of which I consider of any worth. That has now changed, I think I am now proud to be known as 'Teacher'."

"Then I shall remember you thus, and fondly."

The words fade into the rising sun. The Teacher has already gone.

Symm returns to his house, thinking on the things he has learned.

"So... made it then. Good show. Being sneaky is fun isn't it?" comes a familiar voice.
The fox emerges from an alley and prowls around with a satisfied look on his face. "You've still got stuff to learn, but I think you're now more at ease with the life of the city."

"Actually, now you mention it, I do feel more confident, and at ease. I think you're right, there's a kind of spirit to the city. It's not quite the same of that of the country side, but it's definitely there." replies Symm.

"See. Told you so. Come on, there's a nice pub over there, that does good beer and some really tasty food. But watch out for falling baskets. You don't want to get wet do you?"

Actual advances:
Arcane Language Druidic.
Career change
1x Wound advance
1x Attack advance
2x Initiative advance
3x Dex advance
Concealment Urban
Silent Move urban
Scale sheer surfaces
2x Leadership advance

(Although, if jorune will let me, I think I'd favour an different advance over a leadership advance...)

2 comments or Leave a comment
jorune From: jorune Date: July 9th, 2004 01:41 am (UTC) (Link)
I enjoyed the story, nice touches of character with a visual flair. Keep the leadership advance, Symm as described above is a competent figure with the ability to command himself and others. A low leadership stat does not reflect the character justly. There will be time enough to advance.
From: sebbo Date: July 9th, 2004 05:13 am (UTC) (Link)
very cool... hmmm... me thinks some flattery is in order, through imitation of course *G*

2 comments or Leave a comment