Now there are those, most of whom have made their appearances these later few years, who maintain the whole episode, the whole story of Sandoz Roache and Owlie Cwoss, should be disposed off, preferably in the nearest incineration chute.
But then there have also been those who argued the Gospels of St. Fmungo, and the Acts of the Nepeasians, are tripe as well. And after all, when dealing with narratives the likes of these, wherein no original record or scrap of real evidence remains (other than the Shroud of Dunholm which is still being mooted), there are no real benchmarks to assure veracity.
What it comes down to is what most of the people believe to be true, and theyre told by people like me who write these things. So this is the way it happened.
And while Im at it, these mewling self appointed experts are those who have little or no concept of the reasons for the interlude Roache spent in company with the Mage, for in all it was only some 14 or 15 years, and that in almost total isolation. But it was the time that made Roache, and thus, made the Shire, and indeed all the land we enjoy today.
So that having been established, we will continue, drowning out the heckling of the Bridgers, with the strident tones of truth. As I see it, of course.
Some years had passed since the Mage had sat with his small charge, and explained the what and the why, if not the how of the Art. During this time our young elf had scarcely changed in appearance at all, other than the characteristic deepening lines about his swampelvish eyes, which added a true sense of the sinister to his attitude. Truth be told, Roache was about as far from sinister as one could be, without being dressed in white, female, and trussed for ritual sacrifice.
For the third time is something less than three-quarters of an hour, Roache paused in his trudge down the dusty road, and wiped his brow with the back of his hand. It might be a good time to mention, that while Sandoz Roache was indeed a Swampelf, his mothers son, he was also half human, and this combination in concert with some twist of fate, the types of which always are wished for but rarely happened, had his maturing into what was quite a reasonable looking young fellow. He was not the typical shortish low-browed devious-to-a-point of near perfection-swamp elf, but was an odd hybrid, who with more than average human height, and attractive eleven features, was someone often looked upon with some longing by members of the opposite sex, and species.
Nevertheless, the sun was already more than a quarter of its way across the sky, and the signs were obvious this would be yet another scorcher, not the conditions even a good-looking swampelf truly appreciated. Especially with the prospect of a protracted hike in the offing.
Turning, and peering back through the shimmering heat waves at a crossroad, while easily three miles distant was still perfectly visible, he stood and watched, arms akimbo, at what appeared to be a small dust cloud, moving through the crossroads and towards him.
The elf showed no concern at this; the cloud was not moving particularly fast, but his instincts for some reason made him smile. To see anything on this particular road, in this forsaken part of the country, at this time of year, was something unexpected in itself. Roache actually wasnt that sure what he was doing there himself
Not being one to throw all caution to the wing (he hadnt quite yet reached that stage in his life..), he pulled his grey-green cloak about him, and effectively, disappeared. Moving slowly and carefully to the edge of the road, so not to disturb to much of the ubiquitous dust, he once again smiled to himself, his faith in his invisibility lending fuel to the anticipation. Roache lived to take the piss, to startle people, to scare the living excrement from them literally if possible. Nothing amused him more, even the disapprobation from the butts of his jokes taking little from the joy..
Meanwhile, down the road a piece, Cleric First Class Owlie Cwoss, straight from the gates of the seminary, was swinging his morningstar in short circles before him, as he hummed a martial ecclesiastical cant, and marched into the morning.
He felt good! There were deeds to do, innocents to be saved, and gods knew there were thousands of the poor heathens to be brought to the light!
Cwoss also suspected there were many things under these heavens and on this earth, than were ever covered in The World and How To Deal With It:101. He was no flaming philosopher, but he understood it took many plates to make a meal, and he was interested in tasting al of them.
So involved as he with his proposals to convert the known world, that Cwoss missed the slight waft of sweet smoke that wend its way across the road, but his keen nose did catch the full effect of the bouquet.
He swung violently in a circle, his face transforming into something akin to a bewildered bull, and pausing his swinging for a moment, peered about locating the source.
"Godsdammnit I cant see you.. but Im a man of the cloth you bastard! Best get out here and share that before I begin really looking about..." This announcement was accompanied by some truly impressive swings of that morningstar. He stepped closer to the edge where the elf was squatting, doing his utmost not to bust a lung holding back his laughter.
"Fer Fecks Sake man," shouted the elf, "Watch where youre swinging that bloody thing. Could take somebodys head off yeejit.." Roache removed his cloak, and the two young men, so to speak, glared across the road at each other, the smoke wafting uselessly away between them.
Roache glared at Cwoss, in his pristine robe and tabard, while muttering obscure swampelvish curses and epithets, revolving about what young priests could do with their fecking beads and the relative enjoyment it might actually afford them.
Cwoss stood as though poleaxed. The last thing he had been prepared for was the untoward and utterly sudden appearance of a scruffy odd looking man on this deserted road. In fact it had been his suspicion for some time that he had been sent in this direction precisely because it was so unfrequented..
"Witchcraft!" he bellowed, and swung his mace such a mighty swing, that it flew out of his grasp, skimmed the top of Roaches hat, and ended up twisting some several hundred yards into the aforementioned field. Looking at his now empty hands with total dismay, Cwoss once again whispered "..witchcraft..", and sank to his knees in the middle of the rutted road.
"Come on then! Kill me you festering servant of the nether parts of a gravid goat!" cried the cleric, looking as much a Martyr as two years of Seminary and one morning on his own could manage.
"Actually,." laughed Roache, " it might do us both good if you got off your knees before you really get that new gown filthy, and took this doob from me."
It was odd to see.. as the elf spasmed with what was obviously gales of laughter contained, and to most it would have been a fine indication of both his character, and degree of self control.
"And as for witchcraft.. what is the Church teaching its youth these days.? Elves practice the Art, not witchcraft. Now take this thing.."
And as the weed came closer to the Cleric, Cwoss threw one more light spasm, and took it, albeit grudgingly. Immediately his spirits reappeared, and with a look on his face that was a mixture of really amazing peace, and stolid concentration on something onviously painfully memorized, he began.
"They taught us the Truth of the Way, how we would need to maintain our strength to keep to The Path,, and how to use all manner of blunt weapons to speed along the conversion process " The sentence petered out as the face of Cwoss appeared to swell to half again its size, and the length of the joint decreased at an amazing rate, but having turned several ever deepening shades of red, he brightened once again, literally, and handed the sad remains of the joint back to the Elf.
"They also taught us how to cultivate that Number Ten youve got rolled there.. " mentioned Cwoss as though in passing. "Ive close to two pounds in my bag here.."
Roache took the proffered joint back one more time, and smiled.
A strange wild look fled through the eyes of the Cleric as he saw his companions face in its expresion of pleasure. He shuddered lightly, yet managed to return a semblance of a smile himself, and the two of them, as though their meeting had been planned, turned and walked down the morning road together, entirely alone.