I found this missive sitting on my porch when I returned home last night. It’s the first in a series of lectures from the Headmaster of the Warrior-In-Hero-Training School of the Round Table, promised to “grace” this blog with wisdom.
I’m not sure about the “gracing” part, but Sir Galgadin does have a few useful things to say. What do you think?
At the Warrior-In-Hero-Training School of the Round Table, one of our entry level classes is Questology 101. Before a student can graduate as a full fledged hero, he must successfully complete a quest. (Success being determined by several factors including but not limited to time of completion, number of fatalities, civilian casualties, etc.)
Questing is an ancient and noble art. Yet you cannot imagine how many trainees enter this school hopelessly ignorant of the most basic principles of Questology. Thus I find it best to begin a quester’s training at the very beginning.
Questing is not for everyone, nor can every quest be fulfilled by just anyone. Quests tend to be picky critters. It takes the correct combination of a quester’s unique skills in addition to general heroic abilities (plus a dash of plain luck) to solve them. And stumbling into the wrong quest generally ends in disaster for all concerned.
So how does one know if one was called to a specific quest or not? And if one enters into a quest, how can one avoid being waylaid by the perils of the road?
Here are a few guiding principles to bear in mind that will (hopefully) keep you out of the ogre’s den:
Quests are always inconvenient.
Quests always come when you least expect them, at the most inopportune time, and with the greatest level of difficulty possible. It’s their nature. So if a quest appears easy or simple, chances are it’s not the right quest for you.
Should you choose to ignore such wisdom and embark on said quest, I guarantee you’ll wind up walking straight into a trap … or falling off a cliff … or boiling in some giant’s cook pot.
The unlikely hero always succeeds
Questologers all agree that the unlikely hero is most likely to succeed when questing. Numerous examples come to mind: farm boys, servant girls, orphaned children, outcasts, halflings, etc. So if you should feel adequate for the task when considering embarking on a quest, chances are it’s bound to end in disaster.
If you had felt yourself sufficient, it would have been proof that you were not.
– Aslan, Prince Caspian
Politely decline and head on your merry way. It’s not the right quest for you.
However, you can take comfort in the fact that the same skills and abilities that resulted in your classification as over-qualified for one specific quest, may be completely unnecessary for another, enabling you to fill the position of unlikely hero there.
Never pass by anyone in need of help
Here’s a “no-brainer,” as my trainees put it. If you stumble across someone in need, chances are that you have just been given the call to a quest. Such a call should not ignored … unless you think being shadowed by disaster for the rest of your days sounds fun.
This rule applies to anyone requesting a drink of water, or wandering lost in the wilderness, or begging a night’s lodging or a crust of bread. Such people tend to be either faeries or princes in disguise or true unfortunates in need of aid.
However, it may come as no surprise to you that villains oft employ a plea for aid as a trap to waylay heroes performing their duty to those in need. I will cover the primary means of distinguishing between a villainous trap and a true need in a later lecture.
Regardless, if it is in your power to give aid, you are duty bound as a hero and a quester and a knight errant, to do so.
Shortcuts are a bad idea
Shortcuts make long delays.
– Renowned traveler Peregrine Took, The Fellowship of the Ring
As a common rule of thumb, questers should never choose the path of least resistance. Trust me, it may start out looking all right, but it inevitably leads into a pathless forest, a bottomless swamp, or a troll’s cave. None of which make for pleasant traveling.
Choose the narrow, steep path over the broad, winding way if you value your life. And don’t stray from the path. Shortcuts are bad, detours are even worse, and the scenic route? Gracious me. You might as well carry your life in your hands.
Be wary of the kindly stranger
Only tell them, that She of the Green Kirtle salutes them by you, and has sent them two fair Southern children for the Autumn Feast.
-Lady of the Green Kirtle, The Silver Chair
A quester can never be too cautious. The road is perilous nowadays and one is as like to meet a ruffian as a ranger. Be extremely careful when asked to stop and dine with strangers. Never turn aside from the path to follow a rumor of good lodging. And if someone invites you into their cottage and begs you tarry awhile, express your gratitude and your regret, then ride away with what speed you may.
Kindly strangers rarely have kindly intents.
Come back next time for another lecture from the Headmaster of the Warrior-In-Hero-Training School of the Round Table.