Uncle Hyena (unclehyena) wrote,
Uncle Hyena

Jasper's Journey

My friend Scott Grant runs a regular T&T campaign down in Indianapolis. I sit in on it whenever I can (not often). A few months ago, the campaign acquired an apotheosis theme, based on an article Scott had written for a T&T magazine. After my second visit under these circumstances, I took the time to do something none of his regular players have ever done, and read the article. It set wheels spinning in my head, and the following story resulted.

Jasper's Journey

Jasper had no grand plans when he set out. He wanted to see the world, and he wanted to bed as many women as he could. To that end, took a job as a caravan guard, because he was competent (and a bit) with sword, shield, spear, and bow, and he brought along his grandfather's lute, because he already learned that a well delivered song tended to make the drinks cheap and the women easy.

Early in his career, he chanced upon a minor magic item, a strip of cloth that cleaned itself of any dirt or stain, and repaired itself when damaged. It was about four feet long and one inch wide, was bright white, and had quarter inch transverse stripes at one inch intervals along its length. It was mostly useless, but Jasper took to wearing it as a headband, to keep his hair out of his eyes.

There came a night when Jasper was trying to impress a particularly attractive barmaid. He told the girl that his headband was an heirloom from his great, great grandfather (who was also named Jasper), and who had been an adventurer of some note, once upon a time. And then Jasper sang a song he had learned many miles away, that he had adapted to just this purpose. It was an old hero story, but Jasper substituted in his own name, and included a reference to the red and white headband.

The song was successful; the girl ended up in Jasper's bed, and the next night the patrons of the bar asked him to sing the song again (twice!). Jasper was encouraged by this, and started adapting other songs the same way; he even wrote a few of his own. Whenever it was possible, though, he changed the story so that Jasper the Sly (as he called his fictitious ancestor) won the day through cleverness rather than strength of arms.

Over time, Jasper found that he was making more money with his lute than with his sword; he found he could afford to simply travel with the caravans (they were always glad of his company) rather hiring on as a guard (which saved him from standing overnight watches). He was always able to afford a private room (and often a very good one) at every inn he stayed at. And he found that female companionship was almost embarrassingly easy to come by (so much so that, like his fictitious ancestor, he often had to leave town in a hurry to avoid irate husbands and fathers). His repertoire of "Jasper" songs grew.

After some years, Jasper started to notice that other performers were playing the Jasper songs, though they did not claim Jasper the Sly as an ancestor. Jasper also noticed that people were beginning to wear copies of his headband as good luck charms. And sometime after that, he noticed that the red and white patterned charms had moved from being only headbands, but also armbands, and even medallions. He was baffled, but gratified, and his life was as easy as he chose it to be.

One day, he made an offhand comment, while performing, that it was his birthday, and someone in the audience asked him how old he was. He blinked, then answered that he was too drunk to count that high, and went on with the show. Later that night, when he was alone in his room, he stared into the mirror and tried to answer the question.

Calendars change across borders, and Jasper had not been home in a long, long time. It had been so many years between the time he had left home, and the time his grandfather's lute had been smashed in a bar fight. He had carried the replacement for so many years, and then lost it in a shipwreck; he had traveled with that short fellow for a few years... Was he really 63 years old? But he LOOKED 30-something. He felt... Well, he felt great. He went through the calculations again, and got the same result. He MIGHT have been as young as 61, or as old as 68, but still...

There was a knock at the door. Jasper answered it cautiously, and found himself facing a handsome, 30-ish man of average height.

"We were wondering when you would figure it out," the visitor said. "Taking bets, actually, but that is what we do. May I come in?"

Jasper did not open the door. "Figured what out?"

"Your age. Do let me in, Jasper. You do NOT want to discuss this in the hallway." Jasper scowled, but opened the door. The stranger came in and seated himself in the only chair; Jasper sat down on the bed facing him.

"You are quite the success story, Jasper," the stranger said. "Without the least bit of planning on your part, you have managed to become someone whom the peasants and livestock invoke for luck. Of course, that is really the only way to do it; one simply can NOT become a trickster god by setting out to become one. Rather defeats the whole point."

Jasper gaped. "What are you talking about?"

"Apotheosis, Jasper. You haven't aged, in fact you have aged backwards a bit. And you won't. You have become a member in good standing of the Brotherhood of Tricksters. And because, as a matter of enlightened self interest, we operate as a cooperative, all you have to do from now on is sit back and reap the benefits." Jasper simply goggled as the stranger continued. "Our policy is that any worship of any trickster is shared out among all tricksters. Once you have passed the threshold of recognition, once the Brotherhood acknowledges you, you just have to get on with enjoying the meta-life. And since, being liars and thieves, we get to count a piece of every commercial transaction, to say nothing of pretty much anything any lawyer ever does, there is quite a bit to collect."

"I am NOT a god," Jasper said firmly.

"Oh, but you are, Jasper. How long has it been since you have played to an audience that did not include at least one person wearing your token? More than a decade. Of course, they aren't really invoking the musician who is in front of them, they are invoking the Jasper whom you invented, and gave your name to. But it all works out. Besides, we had to draft SOMEONE to absorb the worship you were generating, and you were the obvious choice."

Jasper scowled again. "Assuming I believe this, what does it mean? What now?"

The stranger smiled. "I take you on a tour of a slightly larger reality than you are used to, and then you make your own decisions."

"Fine," Jasper growled. "But I'm taking my lute."

"Of course you are."

Paul Haynie
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