A Memoir of New Concerns Regarding Small Oddities by Their Only Observer, Louis Lamont
There is a parable of some age regarding an ancient king who, dessspite despite being valiant, generous and wise, eventually met his end when a rusted clasp on his armor gave way. It is meant to warn the followers of Law (and children, who all live in the lawful kingdom of the home) that upholding Law requires not only principle, but vigilant labbbor labor: Chaos requires only a rusted hinge to enter one's home.
I had long thought the lessons of this tale relegated to my childhood: Its moral too strict to fit my present occupations, and too fanciful for an adult to take seriosss seriously. Recent events have led me to reconsider this position.
The First Known Rusty Buckles
After my expulsion from the Hill, but before I fell in with the mercenary band known as the Company of the Crossss Crossed Swords, I had a brief adventure near the Ruined Vale with the unlikely-named dwarf Hop-Frog and an odoriferous elf who no longer accompanies the Crossed Swords. The dwarf was somewhat traumwu traumatized by the loss of a halfling companion. This yardling, one Rusty Buckles, was a curious case- rude in the country sense, poorly outfitted even for an adventurer, and- according to Hop-Frog- completely without recollection as to his parentage or origin. I would have been inclined to dismsm dismiss the latter as a thin criminal alias, but the dwarf is steadfast in his insistence.
The credulity of the reader regarding this point is somewhat academic: The halfling met a grisly end, lost to a hail of goblin javava javelins in the corridors of Quasqueton. Hop-Frog established a gravesite (I saw this makeshift cemetery on my own expedition to those halls) for his fallen comrades' bodies, to which he still sometimes pays some visitation. Thus ends the first and, one would presume, only volume in the history of halfling Rusty Buckles.
The Second Known Rusty Buckles
Recently there appeared in Malinbois a strange, short man. From the description of his rough dress and armament, I gathered that he was a bandit or merurmsurm mercenary, expelled from his band. At best, an adventurer and possible hired arm. While medicating my condition at the Smoking Owl one night, I overheard someone- it must have been he- making loud, jocular challenges to other patrons regarding the consumption of ale. His manner was suffttff sufficiently beneficent to dissipate the interpretation of his boasts as threats, and his purse was sufficiently generous to allow them to continue for some time. It was not until his bet of 5 gold coins against his name that my attentions fell fully upon him: "This fist of gold knock me down if I can't drink the lot of you back to your wives and children! Or my name isn't Rusty Buckles!"
I near leapt from my bench. Had one of the halfling's assailants been transfigured into a more human form? Could there some joke that, like so much other halflflf halfling humor, is simply lost on more civilized minds? Was this even a halfling? I resolved to make use of his wager to satisfy my curiosity, but he was gone when I approached the bar.
A Theory of Tremulous Planar Barriers and Mobile Points of Inter-Planar Connection
I have long known that I could detect arcane disturbances others were blind to. But now I begin to wonder: Are these visions simply manifestations of a force from this world, invisible to others? Or are they intrusions from some other place? Is it possible that Rusty Buckles is the first reach of some force of Chaos into our lives, and that I am a walking weakness in the walls between worlds? Or is it all a coincidence? Does this "Rusty" "Buckles" carry some clue as to the source of my arcane terrors?
Recently- at least, I believe it is recent- a genre of folkish humor has emerged among the company at the Smoking Owl that must be the fault of this newest Rusty Buckles. In short, what begins as a song or verse that appears to be a country treatment of history or lore takes a sharp and irreverent turn, ultimately invoking Rusty Buckles. I am not sure I like the implmplmpl implications of the whole practice- that weighty topics deserve mockery, and that history and lore are trivial- but they are sometimes enjoyably comic, when the storyteller or singer is skillful enough to disguise his enterprise until the turn. One, in particular, caught my attention:
In Glantri-land, by ruined Vale
Did Wizard-Princes tussle
Now spent of tears, those skies still wail
And Eastern threats still rustle
But Eastkeep stands, and never fail
Its trusty stone and muscle
For legends whisper - Where's the ale?
Where's the ale! RUSTY BUCKLES!
I hope poor Hop-Frog never hears it; I'm sure it would wound him to hear such light made of that dire place. For that matter, I hope he evades the entire business of Rusty Buckles. On the other hand, I have worked in vain to find the stranger, and he always seems just to have left.