The world flowed inwards as he neared the cave
wherein the wizard wove his arcane patterns.
Though but a small ferocious storm swirled round,
it seemed to suck the light out of the rays
with which the sun poured life for leagues about.
Boldly Sir Ocelot strode on, and broke
the swirling barriers of coruscating cloud,
which kept the weaker-hearted from that maw
which swallowed many supplicants, but spat
forth few still sane and sound. Yet here,
for those whose courage and intelligence held strong,
lay passages to glory, ways to fame.
Palely flickering, a fire-framed one
who smiled, it seemed, benignly, held out
a hand in invitation. "Welcome, knight,"
the figure said, and chuckled as it stroked
what seemed a century's growth of beard.
"Greetings, Necromancer," said the knight,
advancing open-eyed but smiling-brave.
"I come..." "Thou comest seeking fame,"
the wizard interrupted, "and shall find
success commensurate with my fee."
Confounded stood Sir Ocelot, not from fear,
nor niggardly reluctance to pay up,
but, from his poor command of words, not knowing
an apt reply. Thus he said, "Goodoh, then."
Patiently stood the mage while Ocelot held still,
then pleasantly continued, "Ah, my fee?"
His face suffused with comprehension, the knight
unhesitatingly held forth his purse.
"Know, Necromancer, this be thine henceforth,
when I am hero, and my quest be done!"
"Thus we come to business," said the sage,
"without the wasteful use of courtesies.
Still, this may be just as well, for quickly
may I speed you on your valorous road.
What is the quest for which you seek my aid?"
"Why, any," said the knight. "I seek A Quest.
Thus may I gain renown, intolerance and wealth."
"And possibly vocabulary too."
"Ay, if there's profit in it. Give me aid,
and a tithe of all I gain will be for you."
Seating the neophyte upon a stool
the mage unwrapped a map and fetched some staves.
"Thus you may go and haply win some fame.
Go from this cave and find a gate of birch
due North, and hid between two rocks,
the less of which might dwarf Andelfus of the Gorge,
that giant of the woods who smote the hill
and made Despairing Valley. Through this gate
a well lies hidden to your left, appearing
naught hut a hole among some leaves. Descend
by tying rope sufficient strong to hold
the raging unicorns of Pomprasil
from the fainting maidens of Ondorr,
to some stout oak beyond three swords' lengths off.
There, with this ointment smeared about thine eyes,
thou wilt behold a cup of seeming silver.
Drink but a mouthful of the lambent water
and prescience will be thine for many weeks,
enough to carry thee to Gnarle and back!"
The name caught at the consciousness of him
who sat dumbfounded by these cadences.
"Gnarle!" he repeated, "where the dragon lives
who ate the Prince and all his men alive!"
"Fear not!" the sorceror cried out, "for you
have me! Knowledge of danger will be thine
once having drunk the cup. Then go
and having donned these magic boots, stride out
for forty leagues due South. There lies the town
of Frogteeth-in-the-Swamp, or Fromp, wherein
your purse must play its part and buy
from Lackspittle the Artisan some spectacles
through which the spirit dangers may be seen.
From there take boat downstream a league, and land
upon a spit of orange-coloured sand.
Dig 'neath the roots of the single yew thereon
and breathe the vapours from the jar you find,
whenever you are wounded or brought low.
Thus will you rise miraculously well.
Follow you all I say as far as this?"
"Ay, almost. What was that thing you said
when first I left the cave? Was't East?"
"...North. Till you find a birch gate.
A well is to the left. Go down. Look.
Get the cup. Drink. Art with me yet?"
"Oh... aye. Was't North? Then drinking a cup of birch,
whate'er that is, then.. then.. East?"
* * * *
"Rib-bit," remarked Sir Ocelot, hopping
contentedly towards the village pond.