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The Quest is the Thing

I still remember fondly the day Rognar, the Inefficient wandered into my little hamlet of Poshdale. He was a muscular guy in iron-plated armor with a huge battle axe strapped on his back. He seemed to my young eyes to be eight feet tall, with a bushy red beard.

(This is a pretty good rendition, except the artist took liberties. A sword, but this is Rognar!)

"Yo," he roared as he came upon me in the village square, a place I often sat the entire day until something compelled me to go inside and lie in my bed. "What is this village? And can you point me to any people in this town who might need my help?"

I looked up at him strangely from my perch on the bench. "Are you a mighty warrior?" I asked. 

"Yes, surely you have heard of Rognar, the Inefficient before?" he said, flexing one bicep absent-mindedly.

"No, sir. Sorry, but I haven't. Why do they call you 'the Inefficient?'"

"Because I can gut a troll with one huge swing of my mighty ax!" he exclaimed, pulling it from behind his back and hefting it for me.

"That is a mighty impressive ax," I said. "But I don't think that word means what you think it means."

"It was given to me by my mighty wizard companion who kept track of things for me. Sadly, he is no longer with us. He was surprised by a Grondark and...well, it wasn't pretty. But he was always impressed by my ability to defend him by tearing our opponents apart. Well, until that last time, that is." He coughed and shook his head. "But anyway, you did not answer my question. Are there any people in your village who need help?"

I thought for a few moments. He stared at me the entire time. Finally, a couple of things occurred to me. "Sure. Old Widow Mary is ill. I think she needs something from an apothecary in Tindlemouse, but we'd have to go ask her. Also, the blacksmith needs some more iron for his forge, but the local mine has been overrun by bandits. He needs somebody to clear them out. I'm not sure where it is."

"The point me in their directions and I will find out for myself."

"Can I come along?" I asked. He nodded his assent, so we went on our way.

When we spoke to each person, Rognar pulled out a book and wrote something in it. Maybe details of what was needed? The second time, I managed to get a look at the book. At the top of one of the pages were some words in beautiful handwriting. About half-way down the second page, however, it became all ugly and misshapen. "May I look at that book?" I asked.

He nodded and handed it over to me. I opened it and saw four pages with items numbered from one to fifty-four. Then there were ten entries that weren't numbered. These were in the ugly handwriting. All of them were entries such as "Find missing cow for Bushberry farmer in Holboken" and "kill vampire lord in deep cave near Tragopile." Three of the fifty-four were crossed off, and none of the ugly ones were.

"What is this?" I asked, mystified.

"This is my quest journal," Rognar said. "This is where I record what I have been tasked to do by the local townfolk or maybe the king. I take it out at night and look at it before going to sleep." He took the book from me and put it in his pack. "Now, thank you for your help, but I must be going if there are no other citizens in distress here." He started to walk down the road.

I hurried up behind him. "Can I come along? There's nothing for me here. My parents are dead, nobody really likes me here, and I'm just kinda bored."

He thought for a moment. "Ok, you can come. Do you have any skills? Or weapons?"

I pulled out my dagger. "Not really, though I can cook."

He laughed. "Done! Follow me!" and he took off at a jog, ax clanking against his armor in a rather annoying fashion.

After a few minutes of this, something struck me. "Wait a minute!" I called out to him. "Stop!"

He came to a halt. "What is it, young...what was your name again?"

"Cyril," I said. "And we're heading south. The mine is north and the plants the widow needs are to the west. Why are we going south?"

"There's an abandoned fort a fair distance down this road. I thought I would look and see if there were any evil-doers who had taken it over."

"But what about the mine? And the widow? She's dying! She needs those plants!"

"She'll live," he said, taking his ax out and giving it a few practice swings. "I want to do this fort next."

"Is that what happened with all of those jobs in your book? You took them down and then you just ignored them? What if some of them were urgent?"

"They'll keep, and they'll be there when I get to them. Look, Cyril," he said, stopping his ax-swinging and kneeling down to my height. "To me, the quest is the thing. To have a bunch of stuff to do, so I have a lot of choices. I don't really care about actually doing any of them, though if I happen to show up some place where one of them is supposed to happen, I'll go ahead and do it. And then if I happen to need to sell loot in a town where the person who gave me that job happens to live, I'll go and tell them I did it and get the reward. But for me, doing these things isn't important. I'm a collector! Some people collect gems, gold, equipment. I collect quests."

I didn't understand him, but I didn't have the chance to think about it. Suddenly there was a vicious roar behind me, and I found myself flying through the air, landing so hard that the breath was knocked out of me. I looked up from the ground where I was lying and saw a creature I had never seen before, with vicious-looking fangs and claws that were already red with blood. Rognar's ax was out and he was swiping it at the thing, doing some damage, but blood was also flowing from deep gashes on every exposed part of his body. He was clearly weakening, in fact he appeared near death.

Suddenly, everything stopped, the creature's arm raised for the killing blow but now frozen. Rognar moved away from the creature, opened his pack, and took out a red potion. He unstoppered it and drank it down. A few of his cuts were magically closing! But he still looked horrible. He took out another one and drank it down, then rummaged through his pack some more. Irritated because he clearly couldn't find what he was looking for, he started pulling out what looked like food from his pack. Yes! That was an apple pie! He ate it down whole, then pulled another one out! He ate that and looked a little better. Then he started pulling tomatoes from his pack one at a time, eating them whole too. Then potatoes, then a huge mammoth steak! The blood flow was stopping finally, so he ended his feast with some cooked leeks. I don't know how he fit all of those into his pack, but there they were.

Or, I guess, there they weren't, at least not any more.

Suddenly, things started moving again and Rognar took a couple more swipes with his ax. The creature inflicted a few wounds on him, but was otherwise no threat to the newly-revitalized warrior.

"That was amazing!" I shouted as he started looting the body.

"Good thing I was hungry," he said, grinning.

So that's how I became the companion to Rognar, the Inefficient. I never bothered to give him a new name, since it fit him so well. Sure, nothing was getting done, and I had even had to start a new quest book for him because the first one filled up. I crossed off one here and there, but they largely went unfulfilled. When I asked him what started him down the road to becoming a warrior, he mentioned something about the emperor tasking him with finding an ancient relic to fight off the impending invasion from some hideous demon realm. "That was....six? Seven years ago, I think?" he said, thinking back.

Funny how I hadn't heard of it before. Oh well.

Life's always an adventure with Rognar. And I have learned one of the most important lessons in life from him.

The most important thing about a journey is, in fact, the journey itself.