Jean Baptiste sat with the githzerai. The crimes he had committed, the crimes his son was committing, were grave. Without question, they were worse than any that Jean Baptiste himself had ever committed, but the druid’s past was not clean. Far from it. Staring into the fire, Jean Baptiste’s mind traveled back, far, far to his own past.
The moment of happiness is always so fleeting, Jean Baptiste thought to himself as the whore took his money and exited the room. It was good while it lasted, at least. But as soon as it was over, he again felt unfulfilled. He leaned over towards the bedside table and picked up the tankard that sat there, hoping to find fulfillment in a glass, but when the tankard is empty, fulfillment is impossible. Jean sighed.
Jean was young, not even fifteen yet. His father had money, and so Jean Baptiste spent it. His father believed that one day the business would pass on to his son, yet Jean was unsure if working for a living was something that appealed to him; though to be honest, as of yet, nothing really appealed to him. Jean wondered if the woman was so far from the door that he couldn’t call her back to fetch him a refill from the bar downstairs so that he wouldn’t have to go himself. He glanced towards the door and nearly fainted in fright and surprise.
Standing at the foot of his bed was what could only be described as a monster. Its torso looked like the fiercest of minataurs, yet it stood tall on a horse’s body. Sheathed (thankfully) at its side was the largest and longest sword Jean had ever seen.
“Greetings, prophet,” it rumbled in a deep voice.
“What…. who…. wh….”
“Be not afraid. I am not here to harm you, prophet. I am Ravpos, a member of the Great Hunt of Trithereon. I come to tell you that my god, Trithereon requires your services. Indeed all the gods require your services. You have work to do.”
“I’m just a child,” stammered Jean, trying to get out of this without the monster drawing that ginormous blade. “I work for my father.”
Ravpos laughed. It was horrendously frightening.
“You only work at spending your father’s money on things that do not last. The work you have ahead of you will offer you true fulfillment. Go to the Shining Citadel. Go to the Monastery of Trithereon. Tell the guard at the gate that you have cake to deliver to Herp.”
“Cake?” This might well be, thought Jean, the strangest encounter with a monster that had ever occurred.
“It’s just a code, prophet. You don’t actually have to bring cake.”
“So, the cake is a lie?” Jean asked, confused.
“Who knows, maybe someday Herp will get his cake.”
And with another frightening laugh, the monstrous creature disappeared. It was as if he was never there. Jean looked into his tankard wondering if somehow his drink had conjured such an odd vision, yet it remained as empty as it had before.
“What the hell…, it isn’t as if I had anything else to do.” Jean Baptiste rose from his bed and began to dress himself, resigned to the journey he had before him.
The guard was young, as young as Jean himself, younger in fact. He appeared to be unarmed, unless the flute strapped to his back was a weapon. He stood before the door. If he was going for menacing, he was failing.
“I am here to see Herp.”
The guard, if indeed that’s what he was, looked at Jean with a sad and confused look on his face. “Then I fear you are five years too late, traveler. The dragon born has left this plane of existence.”
“But the bull-horse thing told me….”
The guard, or perhaps door-man, put his hand out to stop Jean Baptiste from continuing. Excitement, wonder, and disbelief warring across his young face. “You saw Ravpos!?”
“Yes, that is the name it gave. It told me to come here and say I had cake for Herp.”
The young boy’s eyes opened wider. The disbelief was gone. “Well, that isn’t what you said. You should have started with the cake! Then I’d have known what you were talking about. Going on and on about Uncle Herp like he was still here when in actuality you were supposed to be using the entrance code. Herp isn’t really my uncle, you know. I just call him that. He and my Grandpa were best friends. The Champion sure picked a strange person to send a message through. Did he have Ginormo with him? That’s his sword. Well, it’s the heavenly representation of his sword now, I guess. The real one, the one he used when he was mortal is in Grandpa’s office. Grandpa! You gave the entrance code. I’m supposed to take you to Grandpa. Well, really he’s my great grandfather, but that’s awkward to say. Neither my grandma, who is his daughter, or my dad, who is his grandson, joined the Trithereon order, but I did. Almost as soon as I could talk…”
Jean Baptiste stood there as the young boy continued to go on about things that made absolutely no sense to Jean. He looked longingly at the door behind the boy as the journey had exhausted him. Luckily, the young boy seemed to notice that exhaustion.
“Oh, listen to me prattling on and on while you wait to get inside. Stupid, Douglas, stupid.” The young boy slapped his own forehead. “Come on in, and let’s get you to Grandpa so you can tell him whatever Ravpos wanted you to tell him and then we can get you some refreshments. Uncle Herp always wanted cake, but I like ice cream. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? Have you ever had ice cream? Grandpa says ice cream is rare and that not everyone has actually had ice cream. I can’t imagine not ever having had ice cream…”
As Douglas continued to prattle on about gods know what, he opened the door and led Jean into the monastery, past the elaborate entry chamber, and through a small side hallway. Finally, they came through an ordinary looking door into an office that was almost sparse. Sitting at a desk was a very old man. He looked to be in intense thought, although his fingers absentmindedly played a hauntingly beautiful melody on a lute. He stopped playing and looked at the door when Douglas ushered Jean into the room.
“Hi, Grandpa. This is…. Um, I don’t know his name, but he said he had cake for Uncle Herp! Also, he saw Ravpos! Isn’t that incredible!”
The old man smiled at the insufferable young man. He raised a finger and the boy, blessedly, stopped talking. “Thank you, Douglas. That will be all for now. Head back to the door for the rest of your duty.”
Douglas gave a serviceable bow and, as proof that there are miracles throughout the world, departed without another word.
“Hello, Jean Baptiste.”
Jean’s jaw dropped in surprise.
“My name is Zayne. Although I might not look like much, I am the Abbot of the Trithereon order. Well, most of it, anyway. After Kylantian died, not everyone approved of my appointment, but that’s neither here nor there. You’ve travelled a long way. Have a seat.”
Jean set in the comfortable, if worn, chair that Zayne had indicated.
“Comfy, isn’t it.”
As Jean nodded in response, an apparition of a dragon-like humanoid drifted through the wall. “Cake?” it asked longingly.
“Soon, Herp. Soon,” the old man answered. The apparition nodded and continued through the other wall. Zayne watched the ghost depart with a smile, “Even though he’s dead, he still has work to do, as do we all, and he wouldn’t get anything done if we actually gave him that cake.” Zayne looked back at Jean Baptiste, who no longer felt that his encounter with Ravpos was that odd. Things had only gotten stranger since then, after all.
“Um, sir, why am I here?”
“Yes, you must have a lot of questions, Jean. For instance, how do I know your name. Well, that’s simple enough. Trithereon told it to me. You’re also probably wondering how old I am. 94. I probably don’t have much time left on this plane, but I still have work to do, and like my friend Herp, might still have work after I pass on as well. As to why you are here, that is part of the work I still have to do. I am going to let you know your purpose, Jean. You’re young. Younger than I was when I discovered my purpose, which happened the first time Herp died, but that’s another story.” Zayne smiled. “You’ll have to forgive me, telling stories is something I’ve always been rather fond of, so getting to the point can occasionally be a little difficult, although I’m much better at it than my great grandson. Anyway, you have a great purpose. Your purpose is important and so it wouldn’t surprise me if you have probably felt a desire to get to work on that purpose, even if you weren’t sure exactly what it was.”
Jean looked up at the old man in wonder, as the truth of that statement made itself known to him. “I have always felt that nothing I did was what I should be doing. Everything I tried left me wanting.”
“That is it exactly. It is because you have a destiny. You are meant to prepare the way for a great hero. A great messiah, a teacher, a revolutionary. Someone that the world sorely needs, or at least, sorely will need once this person arrives. You will mentor this person, help to guide this person towards their destiny. History might not place as much importance on you, if they remember you at all, but the person that history recognizes, that person will always be indebted to you. And as a person that stood alongside, or at least got to watch the people history remembered, that isn’t a bad destiny to have, I can tell you.”
“How will I do this?” Jean asked, wonder and acceptance coursing through him.
“First you must learn, then you must wait. Your training can begin here, although other gods desire you to study amongst them as well. Ultimately, I have no idea where this task will take you. I’m sure I won’t be around to see how it all turns out, but I will be there at the beginning if you will accept this task.”
“Where do we start?” Jean asked, standing, feeling the stirrings of what might just be fulfillment. It felt like a long desired piece of cake.
Jean Baptiste looked at the forlorn man next to him. He could almost feel the pain that radiated off of him. “Redemption can be yours, Willikin. The gods want us to change; they want to redeem us. My life was one filled with sin, perhaps not to the extent that yours was, but I can not claim to have led a blameless life. The gods had a purpose for me, and they have one for you as well, if only you are willing to give yourself to them. I have seen you in action. You are trying to atone. Let the gods help you, guide you. Let them grant you that redemption you desire. It isn’t too late, my son. Trust me, the gods don’t let time stop them from having you work towards the good. They don’t even let death stop it. Work towards your redemption, my son. The rewards will be vast.” Jean Baptiste smiled, “Even better than cake.”