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Library: Castle of Aval

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Author: Heidel
Date:Jan 16 2003

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 Castle of Aval, the castle of sand
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(you might want to read 'sandcastle-the play' first, if you missed the play)

As usual, the forecast for the dawning day was sunny, hot, and windy. As it
had been for, well, for as long as anyone could remember Not that the weather
would matter much for the people; the castle had been long since covered with
sand, only leaving the tallest tower on the surface. Living their lives as
they could, protected by the enchantments of the elders, the people struggled
between the deadly desert and the invading kobolds. Little did the people of
Aval-on-sand know that this day was to be the day of change. 

Waking up had never been young Devon's forte, and he found the daily wake-up
call rather irksome. Every morning he cursed his rather well developed
physique, for he had been recruited as guard instead of getting a nice and
peaceful kitchen job. His contemplations of a nice day in kitchen were rudely
interrupted by sergeant Garland's angry voice: "Well well, feeling a bit
sleepy, again, eh? I think we just found the replacement for afternoons tower
guard shift, didn't we?" Devon's attention was thus cruelly drawn from kitchen
maids to sergeant Garland, supposedly the most sadistic of the lot they called
the officers of castle Aval. Knowing better than to start arguing with
sergeant Garland, Devon gave a weak "yes, sir" and started his well-rehearsed
getting up-ritual. It included getting up very slowly, but fast enough to
avoid further disciplining, making the bed almost properly and wearing his
uniform slowly and sloppily, all this under Garland's watchful eye.

Most of the time the guard of castle Aval just kept a few guard posts manned,
and practiced in the main hall of the castle. The legend has, that the posts
were assigned by the elders who built the castle, just before their
disappearance, and the appearance of the slime-things by one of the guard
posts after long years of peaceful silence had convinced the struggling
occupants of the castle that the elders had been right. The talks about moving
the few seemingly useless guards into the cellars, where they would certainly
be needed, had ceased at that time.

The kobolds were the guard's nemesis. No matter how many of them they killed,
still they would keep digging their tunnels into the cellars of the
sand-covered castle. And, because the fierce little creatures occasionally
managed to kill someone, the need for new guards was always present. Luckily
for newly initiated Devon, the kobold attacks lately had been the most
ineffectual attacks that anyone could remember. Maybe because of this, when
the alarm from the cellars came that morning, the response wasn't as sharp as
it could be.

Sergeant Garland stormed into the common room of the guard's wing and screamed
"ATTENTION!" as hard as he could, and he really could yell. After a few
seconds of hectic getting up and snapping into attention, the only sound in
the common room was the slow shuffling sound of Devon getting up. Sergeant's
eyes flared at Devon, and he started shouting and pointing at people: "You,
you, you and you, get your armament and get to guard post theta, asap! And
you, you, you, and YOU, DEVON, to arms and to guard post sigma. I think that
old corporal Kenderson won't mind you being a little late from your shift, the
old bastard likes it up there. Why are YOU NOT moving ALREADY! GO!" Devon had
only had time to open his mouth to begin his whine of his guard shift, and
that he should go relieve poor old Kenderson from the post, but sergeant
Garland won this round with his sharp response. So, Devon closed his mouth,
and started his half-run towards the armoury, of course after everyone else
had already ran off the room, towards their assigned posts. After the sharp
and extremely loud 'move it, move it!' from Garland Devon actually speeded up
for a little moment; just to get him behind the corner.

The sharp sounds of sergeant Holm ordering his assigned division into battle
and sergeant Garland collecting up the rest of his division could be heard
clearly at the armoury when Devon arrived there. The officer in charge seemed
to have decided that the third and fourth division could stay as reserve,
instead of the all-out defense the older members of the guard could remember
being the standard response to kobold alerts. So, Devon took a spear and a
short sword from the rack, and after having the feeling that someone was
staring at him, proceeded to the helmet shelf. He would have rather
"forgotten" his helmet, as it was hot and uncomfortable, but if there really
was some officer staring at him, there was no point getting more shitty tasks
for hesitating or misequipping during mobilization. That one time had taught
him the lesson, so he put the helmet on and proceeded to sigma-post, his
teammates' footsteps already echoing far ahead of him.

After the alarm was declared over, possibly the only disappointed person was
sergeant Garland, because the kobolds never attacked, and thus Devon had had
no chance of getting killed. The teams had taken positions, and listened the
chipping sounds of kobold digging teams behind the cellar walls, until they
stopped. After ten minutes' wait, the lieutenant in order ordered most of the
men back upstairs. All this time Devon had this strange feeling someone was
staring at him, but since he had the reputation as the sloppiest man in the
whole guard, he had grown rather accustomed to the nagging stare of his
superiors. 

After taking the detour through kitchen for a little snack, Devon headed
towards the tower stairs. He was already late for his guard shift, so he had
reasoned that being a little more late meant nothing. And he doubted old
Kenderson would question his alibi; he had been in the cellars. The staring
feeling left as he started the long ascension.

The only good things about the tower guard that Devon could think of was the
fresher air and the absence of superiors. These were little things compared to
the hellish sand and heat and sun of the outdoors, though. The air in the
staircase was fresh, and without sand, and Devon took a good sniff. Devon
couldn't believe what he smelled; chicken. Old Kenderson was known to be sharp
and loyal man, a bit stupid, but obedient. And eating while at guard was
strongly forbidden. Devon slowed his pace a bit and stared to sneak upwards,
thinking about the possibilities of extortion if he could catch old Kenderson
eating at the guard post. With the rumours of  Kenderson's long due promotion
to sergeant already in the air, this could be a goldmine.

He could already see the end of the stairs, when he noticed the strange little
flapping sounds. A bit confused and disappointed that he could not see old
Kenderson at this point, he slowly advanced to the last steps, wondering what
those flapping sounds were. And those really were his last steps; he turned
his head, saw Kenderson's dead body, surrounded with some chicken-looking
birds. Then the demonic pigeon from hell pecked his head off. His last thought
was that of an someone saying 'die stupid human.'

While Devon was climbing the stairs up the tower, the pigeons were furiously
finishing their job. The winds had been bad and the stupid human guard had
been more troublesome than the master pigeon anticipated. Master pigeon had
almost canceled the operation, but fearing the loss of years of preparation,
he had decided to go on. It was their luck that poor Devon had decided to get
a snack for his long guard, because he would have surely interrupted the
ritual of summoning. The tower was the only place where it could be done,
because of the relative protection it gave for the delicate sulfur drawings.
The wind and the sand outdoors would have broken the circle in seconds. Now
that the pigeon from hell had been summoned, victory was certain!

And that was the day Aval-on-Sand fell.


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