IMAGE01: Acia & Ryker

As long as he could remember, Ryker had been braver, stronger, and more handsome than anybody else. Eventually the time came when he could earn a good living as a scout. Since he liked traveling as much as he liked showing off his abilities, Ryker was very content. The rugged featured man usually was clothed in animal skins. Little is known about his family, other than his uncle Ozark ran a ferry across the Borphee River.

One of the jobs Ryker has been commissioned to (c. 957-966 GUE) was guarding the caravan of the merchant Gurthark the Stout, who had been employed by his brother-in-law, Mirik the Lean to transport a load of silks to Accardi-by-the-Sea. The beautiful Acia was one of three passengers, who was headed to the village to visit her ailing grandmother, Ryker was completely enamored with. The other two were Frobwit the Fair and his apprentice Dirinthrax.

The first night after picking up Frobwit and Dirinthrax, Ryker detected someone off the road keeping pace with the caravan. This was Lia, who had assumed the guise of a boy named Lim. Ryker and the rest of the companions would not realize Lia was a woman until much later. It was not until they had pitched camp near Egreth, that Ryker was able to scout the vicinity. Ryker first apprehended the young Lia with a strong hold, but then relaxed when he realized it was no more than an adventurous runaway. He proposed that if she would care for the pack of animals, they would provide her with food and safe passage. Lia accepted at once and the deal was struck. Ryker introduced her to the other travelers.

That night, Ryker startled away and knew that something was lurking around the campsite. It was a troop of night gaunts which had been sent by Radnor, the evil magician of Egreth Castle, to abduct Acia (because of the Amulet of Egreth which she herself had stolen from Lia). Before Ryker could take action, he was knocked out cold by them.

Ryker awoke to discover that Acia and Dirinthrax were missing (Dirinthrax had tried to go after Acia in the form of a bird). Determined to rescue the beautiful maiden, Ryker went with Frobwit and Gurthark towards Egreth Castle. Lia was commissioned to stay before to watch the goods and guard the campsite.

On their journey towards the castle, they spied a group of night gaunts heading straight toward them. Frobwit, intending to transform the slimy creatures into a clump of bozberry bushes instead transformed himself along with Ryker and Gurthark into them. As bozberry bushes are the night gaunts favorite food, the trio was nearly consumed, but the creatures were drawn away by their orders. Afterward the companions reverted to their human forms.

The first task of entering Egreth Castle involved crossing the expansive moat. Ryker fashioned a sturdy oar by severing the branch of a tree. Frobwit conjured up a boat from the trunk of an old oak tree, which was little more than a large bucket. They climbed into the ridiculous boat and crossed the moat to the castle. The trio reached the embankment safe and sound; no one seemed to have noticed them.

Frobwit attempted to use a levitation spell to reach an upper window, but ended up floating too high and instead clung to one of the crenellations. Ryker and Gurthark climbed up to the window using a rope which Frobwit threw down to them. They left Frobwit to tackle with the roof.

Egreth castle was dark and gloomy, but Ryker loved this sort of adventure. Searching for a beautiful woman in a dark castle! He suggested that they split up to search. Gurthark took the lower floors while Ryker proceeded to check the towers. He actually was fond with searching alone, free from the encumbrance of Gurthark.

He checked two of the towers with no luck, but in the third he smelt the odors of burning wood and potions. As Ryker started down the hallway, a succession of deafening blasts shook the old stones. They came from a dreadful battle going on between Frobwit and Radnor behind a massive wooden foor at the end of the hall. Before he could advance any father, one of Radnor’s spells struck the chamber door—it flew off its hinges knocking Ryker off his feet.

Time passed in a haze of pain. When he regained consciousness, Dirinthrax and Lia were looking over him. The three entered just in time to see Frobwit being turned into a slug. In revenge, Dirinthrax used the Amulet of Egreth to funnel his rage into a mighty spell which took Radnor by surprise. The magician’s power was subdued and Frobwit was restored to health and vigor.

Suddenly, Acia came through the wall trapped inside a bubble. It popped, landing her in the arms of Ryker. Radnor’s face suddenly changed to that of a kind and wise old man, which they thought had happened as a result of Dirin’s spell. Acia snatched the amulet from Dirin and quickly slipped it on. Radnor placed a crown upon Acia’s head, which when worn, cursed her into a deep trance. Radnor took the opportunity to obtain the amulet. Ryker sprang into action, and snatched the amulet from the magician.

Lia fished the amulet from Ryker with its own magic. At the same time, her disguise fell away, revealing a womanly figure, and her hair lengthened. Using the power of the amulet, Lia transformed Radnor into a puddle of foul-smelling liquid. Frobwit finished the deed by entrapping the warlock’s essence in a crystal ball, and sent it into the Egreth treasury. Little did the companions know, but the ignorant Gurthark took the crystal ball from the treasury, thinking it was but simple riches.

With Radnor defeated, the spirit of Thorman the Red-beard freed Egreth Castle from centuries of evil domination, magically restoring it to its former splendor. Acia recovered from her trance. Ryker and Acia confessed their love for one another, sharing both a passionate embrace and kiss.

The small caravan continued on its way from Egreth, leaving behind two of their number Dirinthrax and Lia, as the new rulers of Egreth. Unknown to the caravan, the crystal ball Gurthark took as a souvenir of Egreth was not what it seemed. The sphere was the very one in which Frobwit had imprisoned Radnor’s evil essence. The sorcerer’s malevolent force, concentrated in this small sphere, would burst out in fits of rage, wreaking havoc upon those around him. There was a series of seven evils which had been prophesied to emit from the orb.

The witch Moog, who was seeking to have Radnor’s crystal ball in her possession, desired to lead the caravan towards Pheebor. Incanting a road sign changing spell, she altered the nearest sign to read “Borphee” instead of “Pheebor.” Although Ryker suspected the sign was incorrect, they were deceived into trekking the road towards Pheebor.

Later that day, the first peril commenced—an eerie light emanated from the ball, fabricating a flock of giant corbies from nowhere. One snatched Frobwit out of the wagon, carrying him far away. Ryker bravely fought off the winged aggressors with his long bow. They searched for Frobwit but were unable to determine his whereabouts.

The caravan resumed its journey, travelling through the night and into the next morning, when the second peril of the crystal ball caused Acia to suddenly grow desperately ill. Her conscious quickly slipped away. Ryker had seen the strange pallor before and knew that some deadly magic had caused the illness. The only thing that could save her was the magical gumpwort fungus. He left for the nearby mesa where he knew it was located.

Ryker’s stallion carried him swiftly toward the mountains. It was no easy take to ford the swiftly-running river at the base of the mesa, and more difficult still to scale the steep slope. But for Ryker, no difficulty was insurmountable. Guarding the mushrooms was a giant lum ox. A mythical creature with ivory horns, the lum ox was fiercely protective of the mushrooms. Ryker had come across such creatures before. They did not intimidate him. Ryker allured the ox by holding out his billowing cape. The ox recklessly charged toward it, plunging headlong over the edge of the mesa! The beast met his end in the swiftly-running river. With the lum ox out of the way, it was an easy job to pick the gumpwort.

When Ryker returned to the campsite where Gurthark and Acia were, the gumpwort fungi swiftly did its work and Acia was brought back to consciousness. Once she was better the caravan departed. As dawn broken, they turned down an overgrown path heading southeast. By mid-morning the travelers had reached the shore of the great Borphee River. The ferryman was Ryker’s uncle, Ozark. They set sail on his boat for Accardi-by-the-Sea.

Gurthark relaxed in the warm sunshine by doing a little fishing, when a sea serpent caught hold of his line, pulling him into the dark waters of the river. Ryker dove in and searched the murky waters, but could find no trace of their companion. Ryker and Acia mourned the loss of their friend. They would find him many seasons later after his expedition within the Kingdom of the Elves. The two lovers spent a romantic evening together.

The next day, the long difficult journey reached its end as the boat docked at Accardi-by-the-Sea. Ozark bid them a final farewell. A festive air pervaded the little town, which was gaily decorated for the Enchanters’ Convention. A pleasant lane led out of town to where Acia’s grandmother lived on a knoll overlooking the harbor. They reached the house by nightfall. Ryker left her to return to Accardi to drop off Gurthark’s quilts to Mirik’s shop. Before leaving, he handed Acia Gurthark’s sack containing the crystal ball, but not before it emanated—this was the fifth burst of evil, one which would transform Ryker into a hideous beast of mammoth strength when he reached town. He began to feel his inside writhe in pain.

At Mirik’s in Accard-by-the-Sea, the pain kept getting worse to the point that he was even hard to speak. He tried to explain to the proprietor what had happened to Gurthark, but was beset with guttural speech. Ryker showed him the wagon, but all that remained were two quilts and a pile of ashes.  Ryker felt a foreign rage building inside him and made the pain worse as he transformed into a hideous monster. Unable to contain his outburst, he pushed the shopkeeper in the face. He rallied together a large band of villagers who began to pursue the fleeing Ryker.

As the monster blindly ran through the dark streets of Accardi, he slammed into Acia’s grandmother Althea, who, along with her granddaughter had been affected by yet another burst of the crystal’s evil--Althea had regained the beauty of her youth, while Acia had aged terribly. Unable to communicate with Althea, and fearing the multitude of angered villagers, Ryker fled for Althea’s house, hoping to reunite with Acia. He easily outran the villagers.

No one was in sight we he reached the house. The locked door was no match for his monstrous strength, which he pounded through, storming through the house, desperately seeking the only one who could comfort him. Acia was terrified with Ryker burst through the door into the bedroom. It took her only a moment to realize that it was him. Ryker gave Acia a bite of the last half of the gumpwort fungus, before he devoured the rest. The two of them were restored to their unblemished states. It was then that they realized that they were destined to be together.

It was then that the seventh curse of the crystal ball broke out. Ryker, seeking to rid them of its presence, grasped the crystal. As he did so, the spirit of Radnor fought its way out of the crystal ball. It darted straight at Ryker and leapt into him. Then Ryker’s spirit floated out of his own body and into the crystal. Ryker’s body now belonged to Radnor. As he moved towards Acia to take her as his queen, he suddenly disappeared (he had been summoned by Moog as part of the Triax).

As the reign of the Triax dawned, Acia tenderly reached for the crystal ball and cradled it in her arms. Outside the cottage, an eerie thunderclap shattered the stillness of the night as dark forces cast their evil shadow over the Kingdom of Quendor. And it is with much disappointment that all records of the time of the Triax have been lost to us, and the fate of Ryker is unknown.