Prudence Decor

by Angelo Bertolli
	Prudence found herself in darkness and silence.  A splinter of 
light split the abyss with a radiating warmth.  What had been 
moist, dark, and cold was dispelled by an awesome power, giving a 
dry and warm light.  Prudence drew her sword, the Luckblade, in 
preparation for what might come.  Though she was in fear, she could 
sense that there was no danger here.
	A misty cloud formed.  At its center, a clear pool.  Prudence 
gazed into its still waters, a forever deep baptismal font.  She 
reached forward with her fingers.  Their dance formed rings upon 
the water, disturbing the stillness.  Within the waters she 
witnessed a cave amidst a grassy plain with but one tree directly 
in front of her.  The tree was dry and withered with moss and fungi 
feeding off of it.  Yet it stood.  Entwined about it was a serpent 
who had sucked the life from it and from the man who now lay at the 
base of the tree.
	Prudence could not see the face of this man, but felt he must 
be familiar.  The serpent's tail gripped his feet and it was 
obvious that he had tried to escape.  Instead he had fallen when 
the poison reached his heart.  The dead man's arm was stretched out 
against the grass and a few feet away lay a strange fruit that 
Prudence had never seen before.  At first it was glowing with a 
radiant light, but then it grew dark and brown maggots left it.
	At the sight of this Prudence rose and turned away.  But the 
Luckblade vibrated with fury and guided her back to watch the 
waters.  Reluctantly, she returned to finish the vision because she 
knew it was the only way--she could stop along the road, but could 
not change paths.
	Prudence saw the serpent return to a hole in the ground as the 
man and fruit became lost in the grass.  Prudence waited.  She 
could faintly hear a light melodical voice in the wind.  Nothing 
was left save the withered tree and the cave.
	A golden-haired girl, a young child, entered the picture.  
Prudence judged her to be seven or eight years old.  The child was 
innocent, pure, and unaware of the danger that lay beneath her.  
The child looked upon the broken tree with naive eyes.  And then 
she reached forward and touched the tree.  Prudence recalled the 
sensation of touching the pool with tingling in her fingertips.  
With the child's touch, the tree became revived.  It's decaying 
roots and trunk were filled with renewed strength as it stood 
taller than before.  It's barren branches were filled with green.  
The moss and fungi disintegrated to nothingness.
	A breeze blew through the child's golden hair as she climbed 
into the tree's strong, sheltering arms.  Prudence saw the serpent 
exit its hole and begin to make its way up the tree.  The child 
wasn't paying attention and when she turned to look the serpent had 
reared its head, about to strike.  The child had no fear in her 
eyes.  The serpent struck, flying downward onto the child's face.
	Prudence's heart screamed and she awakened.  She found herself 
in darkness and silence.
	The door to her room at the Church of Selenica opened and an 
acolyte stood in the doorway with a candle.  "Excuse me, mi lady, I 
do not mean to barge in.  I heard a cry..."
	"It's all right," Prudence testified unconvincingly.  "Just a 
dream, nothing more.  I'll tell Galin about it in the morning.  
Tell him not to worry."
	Silently, the acolyte acknowledged this and, placing the 
candle on the table near the doorway, closed the door as he left.  
Prudence reclined to her bed, not wanting to bother getting up and 
putting the candle out.  Mesmerized by the small dancing flame, she 
thought of her dream and what it could mean until finally she fell 
asleep once again.

	The next morning Prudence was sitting down at the table in the 
dining room.  An acolyte was making breakfast.  Prudence had slept 
late and Galin never did.  She told one of the acolytes to fetch 
	Galin the Wise stepped into the room.  He was an old man now. 
 He still carried his druidic staff.  Of course, his look was more 
neat than had been when he was a druid.  He wore the white robes of 
the clerics, adorned with outer garments befitting someone of his 
power and authority.  Prudence respected Galin for all his wisdom 
and experience.  And she was grateful to him for taking care of the 
church while she had been away.  "I hear you had a hard night?" he 
asked as he sat down across from her.
	The acolyte set a display of bread, cheese, and cured meats in 
front of her and left the room.  "Oh, like I said, just a dream," 
she responded.  "But I do need to ask you about it.  In my dream 
there was a cave and I need to find it."
	"Well, if you’re sure you want to..."
	"Can you tell me where it is?  It was carved into a huge dark 
gray boulder--nearly a mountain.  It's on a grassy plain and there 
was a tree in front."
	"A little way to the north, there's a cave like you just 
described.  There's no tree in front of it, but I know there's no 
other cave carved out of dark gray stone around here."
	"Thanks.  I'm going there first thing today," she concluded, 
ripping a piece of the bread and eating it.
	Galin rose to leave, putting his hand on her shoulder.  "After 
that, maybe you should go find Tomei and settle the score."  She 
didn't respond and Galin left the room.
	"I've got better things to do," she whispered to herself.

	As Prudence approached the cave, she heard the same light 
mystical melody she had heard in the dream.  It blew upon the 
breeze, barely audible.  Boldly, she stepped into the cave.
	Prudence saw the dark corridor before her and began to light a 
torch.  Doing so, she descended down the sloping tunnel into the 
underworld below.
	She eventually found herself in an ancient hall with archways 
on either side.  This must have been an old place of worship for 
the people who lived here ages ago.
	A glint caught her eye from beyond the archways on her left.  
She walked over, through the archway.  She looked with concerned 
eyes on the man she had seen in her dreams.  He was on a bed of 
stone, entwined and surrounded by roots.  She uncovered his face 
and beheld the likeness of Tomei.  She stepped away, not exactly 
understanding what this was.
	An apparition appeared beside her.  She looked at the familiar 
figure of her dead brother.  "Marcus?" she asked.
	"Yes, I'm still here," replied the apparition.  Marcus looked 
down at Tomei.  "He cared for you, Prudence.  Even if you don't 
love him, don't let this be the next time you see him."
	"Are you coming back, Marcus?"
	"You know I cannot."
	"Will I see you again?"
	"No." Marcus paused for a moment.
	"I have your sword," Prudence drew it out.
	"That sword is special.  Say 'ironheart,'" Marcus told his 
foster sister.
	"Ironheart."  And with that the metal of the sword began to 
change shape.  It formed into a metal bow.
	"Now we have to say good-bye, Prudence.  Just don't forget 
me."  Tomei's body was replaced with Marcus.
	Prudence placed the Luckblade on Marcus' body, in his hands.  
She lit the wood with her torch and whispered one last good-bye to 
her brother.  She stood silently and watched as the wood burned and 
Marcus was set free.  She stepped out of the alcove and back into 
the hallway.
	Forty feet from the entrance, in the middle of the great hall 
Prudence came upon a deep well.  She could see the surface of the 
water.  The moon reflected off of it through a hole in the cave. 
Prudence felt she must have lost track of time and wondered why it 
was already night.  There was a rope attached to the well with its 
other end in the waters of the well.  She began to pull the rope 
and noticed something was glowing down there--faintly glowing.  She 
had to pull sixty feet of rope before she could see what it was.  
It was armor--plate mail and a shield--reflecting the light from 
the moon.  It glistened as she pulled it out.  Attached to it was a 
small pouch and a strange spear-like rod.  The armor and the rod 
were made of silvery, bright metal.  The rod was about four feet 
long and sharpened to conic points at both ends.  She opened the 
pouch and found a platinum ring of two bands twisted about each 
other.  She donned the armor and the ring.  She kept the rod at her 
side under her belt.
	She approached the end of the hallway and torches along the 
hallway lit up magically.  Prudence could feel a magical authority 
here.  Before her she could see a pair of eyes form and a smile.  
Soon the goddess Diana appeared.  The goddess was young and slim 
with light gossamer clothing.  She levitated as her eyes penetrated 
Prudence in a long silence.  Diana touched Prudence's head, mouth, 
and bosom with magical energy.  Prudence felt a magic force enter 
her, endowing her with persistence, courage, and passion.  She was 
filled with a spiritual exaltation that transcended all reason.
	With this done, the goddess disappeared and Prudence noticed a 
hole in the wall before her.  Above it was a golden mirror.  
Prudence saw herself in the mirror.  She noticed her own blonde, 
sinuous hair and her blue eyes looking back at her.  The hole was 
about four feet in diameter.  A steady, low noise was coming from 
	Prudence stepped back as a huge serpent came forth.  It filled 
the hallway with its mighty bulk and lifted its head a good five 
feet above Prudence.  She handled Ironheart, her brother's bow, and 
slid out one of the arrows that used to be his.  The serpent looked 
at her with its slit eyes, ready to strike.  Prudence let her arrow 
fly, but the arrow missed its mark.  Sticky strands of webbing 
grasped the ceiling where it hit.  The giant snake struck with a 
downward stroke.  Prudence stepped out of the way just in time, but 
fell hitting her head against one of the archways.  She sat against 
it, trying to reorient herself.  The serpent quickly struck again, 
plunging its venomous fangs into her lower torso and left leg.  
Prudence didn't make a sound, but she was dizzy with pain and 
poison.  She whispered to the bow, "ironheart," and it immediately 
changed.  It's metal took the form of a sword.  The serpent did not 
let go and it coiled itself around Prudence and the archway, 
crushing her against it.  She struck its head with the sword too 
weakly to penetrate it.  It made another coil and tightened even 
more.  With the last bit of her strength she lifted the sword above 
her head with both hands and brought it down through the demon's 
serpentine skull and probably through her own leg though she 
couldn't discern it from the pain she already had.  The serpent 
jerked violently and debris fell from the ceiling.  Prudence could 
hear the archway crack.  The serpent opened its jaw to lift its 
head.  Prudence turned the sword and stabbed upwards, penetrating 
the great monster where the head and neck met.  Its coils relaxed a 
bit as it snapped its head back so quickly that Prudence lost the 
sword.  As the snake continued to toil, Prudence found herself 
falling asleep.  She opened her eyes and tried to push the 
monstrous body off of her.  The snake gave its last tug and died.
	Prudence, fighting to stay awake, tried to free herself of the 
snake's grasp and the pool of her own blood that she sat in.  
Through her desperation, she was able to tumble over the serpent's 
body.  Blood poured freely from her leg and torso as she fell, 
barely able to keep her eyes open.  She made a feeble attempt to 
escape using her good leg.  She realized she was too weak to go on 
and turned over at the hallway entrance.  "This is the beginning 
and the end," she thought to herself.  She was so tired and wanted 
to sleep so bad that she closed her eyes.  "No!  Don't let yourself 
do it," she told herself.  "You'll never open your eyes again."  
Her blood still poured and her time was quickly escaping.
	She finished ripping her tunic and pants that the serpent's 
fangs had started.  She wasn't able to rip enough with her little 
strength and wouldn't have been able to tie a descent bandage 
anyway.  It was discouraging, and to make matters worse, there was 
nothing between her body and her plate mail armor save her personal 
garments.  Her vision blurred as she looked around for a solution.
	Prudence took one of the arrows and punctured her own leg with 
it.  Strands of webbing wrapped themselves around her leg many 
times over in a tight, constricting way.  She took another arrow 
and stabbed herself in the stomach and created another silk binding 
for her lower body.
	Prudence breathed a sigh of pain as she felt the poison 
flowing through her veins.  She hoped since most of her blood was 
on the cave floor that most of the poison was also.  Prudence began 
to struggle against the cave floor again.  Her vision blurred to 
the point of total obscurity and she groped around blindly, trying 
to find her way up the corridor.  Her hands and feet tripped over 
many sharp rocks.  Her energy was drained and she could not climb 
upward.  Prudence closed her eyes.  She struggled against the 
poison as darkness filled her eyes, but it was stronger and she 
fell asleep.

	She opened her eyes in the morning to see familiar faces over 
her.  She was on a bed in the Church of Selenica with her wounds 
	"We're lucky," said Galin.  "We thought we were going to lose 
you a few days ago.  Dilvish found you in that cave you went to."
	She took Dilvish's hand and managed a "thank you" and tried to 
get up.	  "No," instructed Galin, "stay there until you get your 
strength back."
	"Dilvish," Prudence called.  Dilvish bowed and closed the 
distance between their faces.  "Where's Tomei?"