The Memoirs of Father Shiron



Part 4 - Home Truths

They quickly crossed the narrow belt of hotels and beach bars and soon found themselves in gently upward sloping open countryside which stretched out before them.  They walked Briskly, Presto's pet dog, who suddenly winked into existence out of nowhere at the start of this sentence and was immediately accepted by the entire party like he had been there from the beginning ......... Sorry this really is far too silly, even for me!  Let's see how convincingly I can write him out again ............ Dick picked up the well chewed stick which the playful hound had dropped at his feet and hurled it in their direction of travel as hard as he could.  The stick sailed through the air and disappeared over the lip of the low hill they were climbing.  Briskly eagerly tore after it and also disappeared from sight over the hilltop.  At the instant they lost sight of him the entire party immediately forgot all about him, just as if he had never existed, which he hadn't before 8 lines ago ....... 

As they marched briskly along they passed the time with talk, relating tales of past exploits, discussing the adventure before them and having a laugh about what happened at the beach, all except for Feanar who was singing along tunelessly to his Walkman.  They had been traveling steadily uphill and before long had covered quite a respectable distance and so when they decided to stop for a rest, sat down and surveyed where they had been, the whole scene spread out below them.  The grasslands, the built up area behind the beach and beyond that, the blue sea shimmering and sparkling in the hot noon day sun.  It appeared to them that they were surveying a giant map rather than real terrain, at least that's what travelers in a similar position in other fantasy stories think isn't it?
        They carried on after their short break and made their way up further towards the crest of the hill they had been climbing steadily since they left the resort.  Eventually they reached the top at exactly 2:15 pm and collapsed from exhaustion and lack of Carlsberg.
        "Right lads," commanded Erendil in a leaderly way.  "I'm famished.  Break out the sarnies and the booze."  Everyone in the party apart from Shiron and Falamir produced a box of lovingly prepared sandwiches and a can of chilled Carlsberg lager from out of their packs.
        "My Mum makes lovely sarnies," munched Presto, tucking in.
        "So do ours," agreed the others in unison, apart from Shiron and Falamir who had neither sandwiches nor liquid refreshment of the alcoholic variety.
        "All we've got is a plastic beaker of warm orange squash each," said Falamir sadly.  "And I'm starving, have been since we started 'cos Shiron here was in such a hurry to get going he wouldn't let me get anything to eat before we came out."
        "All together now ....... Aahh," said Erendil mockingly.  Multiple 'Aahhs' followed from the others.
        "And anyway I haven't got a Mum to make sandwiches for me.  I haven't got a Dad either.  Come to that I didn't even have a childhood at all."  Falamir's eyes began to water as the situation hit home.  "I'm no good at chatting up girls.  I'm tired, hungry and fed up."  Tears welled in his eyes and he began to sob pitifully.  Shiron tried to comfort him but he knew all to well how he felt as he had no parents either and had even less of a missed childhood than Falamir.
        Erendil ceased his mocking laughter along with the others when they saw Falamir break down in tears.  A lump came to his throat as the painful memory of his own similar experience surged to the surface.
        He turned to the others and said quietly "I think we all know the problem this young lad is having don't we guys?"  They nodded soberly.  "I'll have a quiet word with him, I suggest one of you do the same with Shiron."  They nodded in agreement.
        In an unfamiliar display of compassion Erendil went over to Falamir and put a brotherly arm around his shoulder, taking him aside away from the others to make it more private.  After all it was a very personal problem and one that they had all had to overcome in their early years.  It had been the same for all of them.
        "There's something very important you should know lad," said Erendil in an unusually soft and caring voice.  "I have a pretty good idea you are miserable and jealous because you think we all have parents and that our Mums make sandwiches for us and we have brothers and sisters waiting to hear of our adventures when we return home."
        Falamir sniffled and nodded in between sobs.
        "Well, this may come as something of a shock but we don't actually have any parents, or brothers, or sisters.  None of us do.  It's all a pretence."
        Falamir looked up blankly, trying unsuccessfully to comprehend what Erendil had said.
        "None of us adventurer types have parents.  None of us have childhoods to look back on either.  It's all pretend.  We make it all up."
        Falamir looked at him more closely through his tearful eyes as Erendil explained how it was.
        "You see Falamir, all of us are created from THE BOOK, just like you.  Maybe not the very same BOOK but from THE BOOK all the same."
        "You mean there is more than one BOOK?!" exclaimed Falamir.
        "Yes, there are many," answered Erendil.
        "But I thought there was only the one BOOK," Falamir said looking puzzled.
        "Try to imagine it a bit like The Bible," Erendil explained.  "There are countless copies of it in existence around the world and it also exists in several slightly different versions.  This can lead to confusion and disagreements, some quite heated and long running.  However, fundamentally they are all the same book."
        "I see," replied Falamir.  "But why do you pretend about parents and childhood and all the other things you never had?" he asked sadly.  He could feel the tears coming back. "It's all just lying  to yourself."
        "Well," said Erendil as they both sat down on the grass.  "If we all went around feeling sad and sorry for ourselves because of all the stuff we missed out on, we would become manic depressives and that's no way to carry on is it?  No-one would ever get anything done or go out on adventures, they'd just sit around moping and feeling miserable and the world would go to wrack and ruin."
        "I, I guess so," agreed Falamir.
        "And so to maintain our sanity we all make up fictional parents and siblings and a whole imaginary childhood.  It gives you a past you never had.  Something to 'look back on' where really there is just a gaping hole.  Ask anyone here and they'll give you a full account of their childhood, teenage years, parents, brothers and sisters, family pets.  The good along with the bad, in infinite detail and infallible completeness as if it were all perfectly true but it's all in their minds.  It keeps us all, I suppose you could say, content with our past.  We know it is all pretence, a lie, but we believe it so strongly, so completely, that to us it becomes reality and solid fact.  It's not easy and takes a long time to formulate and collate the many 'memories' which make up our imaginary past lives, relatives and their imaginary pasts too.  But it is something that must be done and you too must now begin the process for yourself.  It is vitally  important that you spend long hours creating your missing identity to provide yourself with a valuable part of your equipment - peace of mind.  Not only that but it's in the rules!  We all of us know that our respective backgrounds are a work of fiction but it is an unwritten rule between adventurers that we hold to our own and believe in each others."              
        "I think I understand now," said Falamir beginning to feel better about things.  "But then where did you and the others get your sandwiches and drinks?  I didn't see anyone buying them earlier on at the beach."
        "From THE BOOK of course," answered Erendil.  "Everything comes from THE BOOK.  It provides all we need and use."
        "But what about the lagers?  It's a hot day and yet they're lovely and cool straight out of the packs?"
        "A simple 1st level wizard spell called 'Chill Touch'.  Child's play for Feanar." 
        "I see," said Falamir.  "But I'm still hungry, hot and thirsty and THE BOOK's not around to provide me with anything so what shall I do?"
        "Never fear," said Erendil with encouragement.  "We'll sort something out."  He clapped his hand on Falamir's back and then stood up.  "Come on.  Let's get back to the others.  Shiron will be older and wiser now just like you are."
        "Well Falamir.  Quite a lot to take in at once isn't it?"  said Shiron as they met up again.
        "It sure is," agreed Falamir.  "But I feel a whole lot better for it now."
        "I agree.  It sounds a bit daunting but you never know, we could really have fun making up all that stuff.  We can think up all sorts of stories as long as they're consistent and not too silly as to be totally unbelievable," he said with a grin.   Falamir swore he could hear the cogs grinding away in Shiron's head already.

"What about something to eat then?"  asked Falamir.  "I'm starving.  It only took us 1 line at the start of the first chapter to get through the resort so I didn't have a chance to get anything.  A Big Mac or a Whopper and large Coke would go down a treat right now but we're nowhere near  a fast food restaurant all the way up here."
        "I don't recall seeing McDonalds or Burger King but I did spot a Kentucky on the way through," suggested Dick helpfully .
        "And I found this lying on the pavement on the way out of town," added Presto.  He handed Falamir a small piece of card which was a token entitling the bearer to 2 regular chicken meals for the price of 1.
        "Thanks Presto," said Falamir gratefully.  "But don't you want to keep it for yourself?"
        "No.  Kentucky doesn't really agree with me.  I'm more of a kebab man."
        At that point Feanar approached from behind and laid his hands on Falamir and Shiron's shoulders with a mischievous glint in his eye.  He leaned in close between them.
        "So are you hungry then lads?" he asked.  They both nodded.
        "Well now, what shall we do about it?"  he asked again.  They both shrugged.
        "No-one wants to give up any of their sarnies or beer and you certainly don't want to walk all the way back down to the resort do you?"  They both shook their heads.
        "Do you fancy a Kentucky?".  They both nodded vigorously.  "OK then, here's what we'll do.  I'll do you a favour and get in some practice in the process.  I'll magically transport you down there and back again.  How's that?"
        "Brilliant," they both said.  "We've never seen any real magic before."
        "It'll just take me a few moments to prepare it so make it easy for me by standing close together and in contact with each other to produce a single transportable 'unit'.  I suggest putting your arms round each others shoulders.  It looks a lot better than holding hands!"
        The pair obliged accordingly as Feanar rummaged around in his bag of tricks for the necessaries.
        "All magic spells require a combination of up to 3 components to work properly - verbal, somatic and material," instructed Feanar academically.  Magic was Feanar's chosen discipline and by the sound of it he obviously knew what he was talking about.
        "Eh?"  said Falamir, who obviously didn't have a clue what he was talking about.
        "Spoken words, physical gestures and some sort of item." answered Feanar in a muffled sort of way with his head halfway into the bag.  Ah, here it is."  He pulled out a small colour fan club photograph of Scotty from Star Trek and placed it at the feet of the pair who were growing more excited by the moment.
        "This will act as the focus point for the transporter spell.  You will de-materialise here, re-materialise out of sight round the corner of the Kentucky and then after a set time period you will de-materialise from the same spot and re-appear again safely back here clutching a box of hot chicken and chips and a large drink of your choice, subject to availability of course."
        "Sounds finger lickin' good," chuckled Shiron.  Falamir sniggered too.
        "You'll have to buy it yourselves of course.  I can't magic up the money for you as that's dishonest and against my alignment - and the rules.  I'll give you 15 minutes from when you disappear from here to when the return beam fires.  It's 2:45 now and so the lunchtime rush will be over.  You should have plenty of time to get what you want and get back to the return focus point.  Make sure you don't miss the  beam as it's a long walk back up here."
        "Message received and understood," said Falamir."
        "Get ready then.  Oh, one more thing.  Don't be eating or drinking when you step into the return beam as it will probably make you violently sick."
        The pair tensed with anticipation.  Shiron tensed with cramp as well.  That left leg, he'd have to get it seen to.
        "Energize," commanded Feanar in a strange, slightly Scottish accent.
        A little circle of light appeared briefly both above them and under their feet and then Shiron and Falamir shimmered, wavered and then faded into nothing as their individual bodily particles were transmitted to a point just round the corner from the Kentucky.

Squelch!.... "Oh shit," exclaimed Falamir.  "I've landed in a bloody dustbin!"
        It was so.  Feanar had managed to materialise them right next to the dustbins.  More precisely, Shiron materialised right next to a dustbin but Falamir had materialised right inside the dustbin, and a particularly smelly one it was too.  Shiron could not help but burst out laughing.
        "Oh dear.  That's a spot of bad luck," he managed to get out.
        "Very funny - I don't think.  Quit your laughing and help me out of here," said Falamir not amused.  Shiron helped him to clamber out and saw that he had stuff all over his feet, what it was he dreaded to think.
        "Oh hell.  Look at my nice new white trainers, they're ruined."
        "Maybe Feanar can magic them clean for you when we get back.  I certainly wouldn't try chatting anyone up at the moment, your charisma just hit an all time low," he chuckled.
        "OK Ok no need to rub it in.  I'll stay here out of sight while you go in and get the grub.  I'll have 2 pieces and chips and a strawberry shake."
        Shiron disappeared round the corner and went into the Kentucky.

The shop was empty of customers so he got straight to the counter, put his order in and paid.
        "We're waiting for fries at the moment. Be about 5 minutes," said the lad at the till.
        "OK, but I'm in kind of a hurry," replied Shiron.  The lad grunted something and then went about getting the other things ready.
        "S'cuse me partner," said a voice from behind.  Shiron turned round to see an elderly gentleman with a neat little beard in Kentucky uniform standing there with a floor mop in his hands.  "Can I get t' that ol' bit o' floor right there, it needs a moppin'."
        Shiron looked around.  The place was spotless from top to bottom, in fact it was gleaming, he could actually see his reflection in the floor.
        "Sure," he said as he stepped aside to allow the man access to the tiles under his feet.  The man diligently mopped the spot then looked at Shiron again.
        "S'cuse me agin partner," he asked politely.  Shiron again obliged the old man and stepped aside even though the tiles he was standing on appeared every bit as clean and shiny as the ones he was standing on previously.  The old man diligently mopped the spot and then gave Shiron the look again.
        "Oh for heavens sake man, the floor's so clean I could use it as a shaving mirror.  What's the matter with you?"  he asked in a rather irritated tone.
        "Begin' yer pardon but it's th' rules.  We's s'ppos'd to clean where ever customers are a sittin' or a standin'.  No offence to y'all but customers make th' place dirty an' we gotta keep it clean an' hygienic.  It's a point of pride."
        "I see.  So that's why whenever you go into any fast food restaurant someone always wants to wipe the exact table you're sitting at so you have to pick up your food and hold it in the air like an idiot waiting till they're done?"  Shiron observed in a very cynical way.
        "Yes siree bob, darn tootin."  answered the old man apparently oblivious to Shiron's heavy sarcasm.
        "Take a break for a minute mate.  I'll be gone in a moment and you can clean the floor to your heart's content afterwards."  It was then that Shiron noticed the old guy's name badge and impressive array of gold stars.  Instead of the normal plastic badge with the maximum 5 gold stars on it this guy had a treble row of 10 making an extremely impressive total of 30 gold stars.  His name was C. Sanders.  Shiron made the connection with the drawling deep south accent and took a stab in the dark.
        "I feel really silly for asking you this.  But the 'C' in your name wouldn't happen to stand for Colonel by any chance would it?"
        "Holy moley in a cactus patch.  It sure as hell does.  How on god's green earth did y' know that?  Are yer one o' them thar psychics?", the old man exclaimed in surprise.
        "Just a lucky guess," answered Shiron wryly.
        The Colonel leaned on his mop and told Shiron how he was doing one of those 'Back to the Floor' things where top management go back to doing the menial jobs to get a better idea what life is like for their staff.
        Fascinating as the story was, Shiron's fries were ready and he had to get going so he apologised for his earlier abruptness and politely bid the Colonel farewell.  Before he left the Colonel fished around in his apron pocket and gave him a special token.  "I think I know what kinda business yer in partner so I reckon this'll come in real handy later on when yer've got a bit more experience under yer belt."
        "Thanks a lot," said Shiron in gratitude.  On his way out he turned round and said with a smile, "I think you missed a bit."
        "Get outa here yer varmint," answered the Colonel with a laugh.

Shiron made it back to Falamir with moments to spare before the return beam sent their bodily particles scattering back to the others up on the hill.
        "You only just made it.  I wasn't going to wait for you if you were too late.  You'd have had to walk back on your own," chided Falamir.
        "As you get to know me you'll find I always leave things to the last minute.  Time management isn't my strong point."  answered Shiron.  They  sat and ate their Kentucky, which was really nice.
        "Phew!  What happened to your trainers?  They stink?", said Presto wrinkling his nose up.  Falamir explained and everyone was most amused.  They decided that along with his lack of chat up success on the beach earlier he deserved a suitable nickname.
        "How about 'Plonker'?" suggested Dick.
        "I was thinking more of a distinguished D&D type name like 'Falamir the Unfortunate', said Presto.  They all agreed that was an excellent title for him and so it stuck.
        Feanar felt a bit guilty about ruining Falamir's trainers so he used a simple cantrip spell to clean them up good as new, which they had been at the start of the day.
        Fully rested, fed and watered, the party picked up their weapons and equipment and marched off onward into the next part of their quest.


Here endeth Part 4.
Don't miss the next episode 'B & B'
It's here now.  Click on Next.



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Copyright John Angus Walker 1986, 2003.  All right reserved.