October 26th, 363
It's been nearly three months, and I'm still feeling weird about it all. I was kind of happy for a while – Britannia is a wonderful place, and it's not like my life was going anywhere back home. Anywhere important, I mean. And I can spend time with my friends, and actually talk about sword slinging and adventuring without fearing the funny farm.
Still, every once in a while it hits me that I could be here for the rest of my life. Nothing big, just the shock of it, and I feel really weird. Like I said before. Nothing new.
So October snuck up on me and I didn't even notice. The trees turned already, and we had a dusting of snow. Apparently, that's not too normal, but it happens sometimes. And Britannia doesn't have Halloween. I guess who needs spooks when you got the real thing, huh?
No Place Like Home
Spending time with the Avatar had begun to wear off on Spark. His feet were lighter, his perception keener; she was teaching him the sword, and he was grateful. So it was, when she sneaked off into town one chill, October evening, he was the only one to notice. The boy followed her – naturally.
This was new. She crept along the streets, moving with a trained grace that he couldn't hope to emulate; skirting from shadow to shadow; glancing back every so often. He had seen her move in a similar fashion in the dungeons, and sometimes around the campfire, but this was different. This was almost playful.
If she hadn't seen him, he would have been surprised... but she didn't seem to notice, and she was in an awful hurry. He trailed her into East Britain, to Brownie's pumpkin patch, and watched.
The Avatar surveyed the fields, and looked back across the roads. Satisfied with what she saw, she vaulted the fence and crouched amongst the vegetables. She cut apart the vines, and began to carefully load her backpack.
It was unthinkable – for all the honor and honesty and Truth in the world – that the Avatar – of all people – would be stealing. And stealing pumpkins at that. Fueled by the righteousness that she, herself, had instilled in him, he crept up to the fence and cleared his throat. Alex jumped, pivoting on her foot and arching her dagger defensively.
"Virtues... Spark?" She narrowed her eyes in the dim light. "I thought you were Shamino."
"Those are Farmer Brownie's pumpkins," Spark pointed out. The woman chuckled and nodded.
"Yes, they are."
"But... thou'rt stealing!"
Alex shrugged and conceded halfway, "Sort of."
"I will pay for them later." Caught, as Spark stared in a wholesomely innocent and hurt way, the Avatar stood up and sighed. "I'll pay for them now."
She reached for the pouch at her belt, and dropped a handful of coins to the earth. Spark frowned, at a loss, for this made very little sense. "But if thou didst want pumpkins so badly, why dost thou not buy them properly?"
"Because," Alex smiled, "Farmer Brownie can't keep secrets."
"So I'll show you." Hoisting the backpack across her shoulders, and more carefully clambering over the fence, she waved him forward. "Come on."
She was well prepared. Under her bed, she had stashed a dinner tray and a select number of dishes – borrowed from the kitchens – a serpentine dagger, a spoon, and a number of candles. While Spark watched, she systematically gutted the pumpkins from the top.
"Is it magic?" he asked, studying the viscera she scraped into a bowl.
"Not really," she replied, "It's Halloween."
"October thirty-first! Halloween."
Spark took her word for it, until he realized there was something truly wrong with that. "But there are only twenty-eight days in a month."
"Yeah... it's kinda an Earth thing."
The Avatar hacked at the first pumpkin, talking to herself all the while. Spark watched, confused, but fascinated. He wanted to know what she was doing, and his patience was rewarded when she spun the pumpkin around with a triumphant grin. A familiar hackapart face glared from its surface.
"It's the Guardian," the boy squealed, and Alex nodded.
"Why would anyone want to carve his face into a pumpkin?"
"I dunno." She turned it back to examine it, and shrugged. "Tradition, I guess."
She set the Guardian aside and picked up the next pumpkin, thoughtful.
"I couldn't say. Earth doesn't have magic or anything like that... I guess the closest thing is when kids play around with stupid old superstitions.
"When I was your age, I thought it was kinda silly, but... I grew into it. I think it has something to do with facing your fears."
Showing him the blank slate, she grinned, "What do you think? Arcadian?"
Soon, they had a row of jack-o'-lanterns – the Guardian, Arcadian, a dragon... some creatures he didn't know, or didn't recognize. He examined the dragon closely as the Avatar hid her tools and gathered up the candles.
"Now we scare the living daylights out of people." Alex flipped a coin a number of times, and winced. "Alright, then."
She handed him Arcadian, gathered up the Guardian, and was out her chamber doors. He followed her to Dupre's room, and watched from the doorway as she set the pumpkin on a nightstand facing the door, and stuck a candle inside of it.
"What's that?" he asked, as she fiddled with a little blue stick.
"A lighter," she replied, clicking it a few times to unsuccessful sparks. "An old lighter, on the verge of death. A nasty, damnable death if it doesn't..."
The flame caught, and she lit the candle. He wondered why she didn't simply cast Flam. The Avatar wasn't the best mage Britannia ever saw, but he was certain she could conjure up such a simple spell. But she merely shrugged, "Tradition."
The lantern glowed brightly, and the Avatar took a moment to admire her work. "Perfect, let's go."
Together, they planted lit pumpkins all over the castle. Some, like the dragon, were mere decoration – set up high for passers by to admire. Others, Spark questioned. They had put the last – Sherry – in the kitchen, and paused in darkened courtyard, when the Avatar snapped her head around.
"What is it?"
"I'm not sure," the woman answered quietly, "but I think Dupre just found the Guardian."
Spark looked that way. "Surely he is going to know it was thee."
The boy fidgeted, and pressed, "Now what?"
"I'll think of something..." she murmered, and then grinned brightly, "Hey, let's go see if Lord British remembers the meaning of Trick-or-Treat."
November 3rd, 363
Yeah, so I guess they missed me. And by that, I mean that they totally forgot who 'me' is. Oh, they remembered the Avatar and everything, but they forgot that I can be "so childish" as they've been putting it recently. Ha, yeah, like I'm the one who grew down without them and left them behind. They've all lost their sense of humor, and the closest person I have to my own age is Spark. And not that the kid isn't great and all, but that's kinda depressing.
Okay, okay. You can just tell, can't you? And I don't blame him, really, but come on! I said I was sorry. What's it going to take?
Dupre's still not talking to me.
Working Title: Pumpkins
Inspiration: Thinking about Halloween, and then thinking about Ultima.
Noteworthy: I'm... not really sure.
Disambiguation: I beat Ultima IV when I was quite young, so my Avatar is fifteen when she became the Avatar, and ages accordingly regardless of when I played. Here, if I remember rightly, she is in her twenties. Same Avatar as in Dead Ends, but I use her for pretty much everything Ultima.
Derivative work of material © Origin and Richard Garriott.