Thursday, April 9, 2015

Frank's Party

I'd found out about Frank Mentzer's pre-Gary Con parties last year, and I'd promised myself to pay a visit this time around.  I managed to do precisely this, thinking I would post this short article before the one on Gary Con VII.  It then occurred to me that I had failed to ask for Frank's permission to publicly post pictures about his home and private life.  I did obtain his blessing a few days later, but that led me to talk about Gary Con first (see the previous article).  No problem, I thought.  I'll just post Frank's right afterward.  But you know what they say about best-laid plans.  

Inside the treasure chest I hauled back from the convention lurked an evil bug.  The nasty hairy thing was nestled there, in a shadowy corner, awaiting an instant of inattention, a second of weakness that created a tiny chink in my +5 plate armor of non-stick-annointed mythril.  It shouldn't have mattered.  With a constitution somewhere between that of a dwarf and an ox, I'd always swept aside all such concerns in the past.  Alas, I failed my save.  Or was it that I just rolled a 1?  Out of commission for several days, the old hero thus lay on his back, hacking most painfully and cursing most colorfully in tongues before sinking into feverish and ever-so-fitful naps.  So there.  Frank's pre-Gary Con party ended up as a postscriptum.  All told, this in no way diminishes its value as I attempt to give an account of the gathering in an appropriately rightful style.

Frank had made great efforts to communicate what he needed to share with attendees, down to the very last detail and then some. The phone number to the fire department, the local NSA branch office, and the outer-space undercover alien hideout were all duly identified.  The width and depth of the tire-tracks on Frank's lawn and the density/moisture of the underlying soil came into the equation, and it was wisely ascertained that climate change forbade anyone parking there.  Good thing, that.  I can attest to the trouble of stopping one's chariot of fire on a muddy, blood-soaked battlefield, and finding it later, resting a few inches lower and frozen in place.  Yes, this is Wisconsin spring weather.  (What?  Am I still suffering some pangs of fever, you wonder?  Nay, says I, as I reach for the amulet of aspirin and gulp down my N'th cup of tea.  It is a murky thing, a true witch's brew so dark I can never gaze upon the mug's bottom.  Something vile and glistening lurks beneath the surface, coating the otherwise white porcelain.  It matters not.  I quaff the medicine and the swirling liquid, and head into the kitchen for more. . .)

As it turned out on that gray-yet-not-stormy afternoon, I rode my trusty chariot to the Principality of Delavan so that the magical scribes dwelling there could produce the scrolls I intended to purvey at Gary Con, on the next day.  I also needed periapts of ink refilled for my own enchanted inscribing device.  I could have bought brand new ones at Burlingtonshire's Olde Wall by the Mart, mind you, but those thieves sell them at twice the price.  The nearest periapt-refilling shoppe also stood nearby, about 30 minutes away as the Bruce flies.  It has been said that tar melts in the wake of my ancient Buick artifact.  My needful deeds being done, I looked at the old master's map.  "There be dragons," it cautioned, with an arrow pointing at the road to the fabled city of Sharon.  But I was coming from another direction. . .  Hah!  The nasty, teeth-gnashing, tongue-flicking, mulct-doling wyrm would be asleep.  Thus did I boldly launch the mighty chariot of steel across the flat, deserted, and hauntingly gloomy stretches of the Walworth Marches.  Leaving behind swirls of mist, molten asphalt, and horrified blackbirds, I approached the sanctum of fair folkdom.  At the sight of strange eyes looking out from the darkness of a room high up in the turret of an old Victorian house, I slowed down.  It reminded me of the one in Psycho.  With the ominous sound of the knife striking down again and again still ringing in my ears, I suddenly observed "ye auld dragon," stopped on a driveway across the street.  It was a tricky one, slyly sitting there, on the lookout for a speeding prey while hidden by its dull gray plumage, as if a warrior's trained eye couldn't tell the difference.  I drove by, gave a big smile (with a bright twinkle on the side, like a paladin's), and merrily went on my way.

The old master's map indicated visitors must leave their war machines behind and continue on foot, or face untold horrors.  Images of screws, hangings by the thumbs, flaying, and quartering before some cheeky, bloodthirsty audience crossed my mind.  Erring on the side of caution, and given that I could not foresee my lucidity at a later hour,  I parked at the center of town so I could find my trusty chariot without trouble (yes, there is more than one intersection to befuddle unwitting visitors, and all roads are paved. . . I think).  A short walk later, I reached the old master's manor house.  The gargoyles peered down at me and decided I should pass.  Oddly, when entering a lair, one does not stumble immediately upon the treasure chamber.  Yet, that was precisely what I accomplished when I stepped in.  Before me was the kitchen, with piles of golden cookies and hoards of scintillating goodness lying here and there within reach.  Frank and Debbie stood proudly by, happily welcoming other heroes who, like me, wandered in with the regularity of a metronome.  As it turned out, the fair lady of the manor happened also to be the house elf, a lively sprite wielding her magic to bake wondrous treats for all.  The scent of fresh coffee and fine things roasting in the ovens suffused the heavens.

I quickly abandoned my coat, retrieved my image-capturing contraption, and began exploring the old master's lair.  I left behind the kitchen's family-like atmosphere and discovered the hall of feasts, just as generously purveyed as the previous chamber.  What?  No wicked monster leaping at me as I stepped in?  Nay, my friends.  This was a dungeon with nothing but reclining and replete heroes trading fabulous tales and enjoying the old master's hospitality.  The hall of feasts opened directly upon the den of peace, friendly and relaxing.  Just past a secret panel, I uncovered a narrow stairwell worming its way to the upper floor.  Away ghouls, ghosts, and goblins!  There was no place for the likes of them in the old master's chancel.  Past the soft golden glow of candles, I drifted to the loft, joining a handful of joyful adventurers who, like me, liked looking down upon the kitchen.  After trading a few stories, I made my way back to the den, and headed around the corner to the old master's scriptorium.  The ancient desk had once belonged to the Marvelous Game Wizard of yore.  It stood in front of a row of windows bulging outward to form a pleasant nook.  Shelves heavy with many old treasures covered the opposite wall.  On the side hung a painting from the hand of the Game Wizard himself, though a most-obscure work never to become as legendary as its honored maker.  Nonetheless, the old master cherished it all the same.

Moving along, I returned to the kitchen's vestibule as more heroes arrived.  There wasn't a place in the manor without a gaggle of adventurers, laughter, and happiness.  Done with my spying mission, I put away the image-capturing device, and joined another conversation.  Dinner time came by. . . and kept coming again well into the night.  The kitchen muse never faltered.  The heroes were honored and fed to their hearts' content.  I wandered back to the scriptorium and found the old master.  With a twinkle in his eyes, he revealed his secret project.  The gaze of a watchful giant hiding among the shelves made it eloquently clear that I should hold my tongue about it.  Not being entirely devoid of imagination (honest!) I suggested a few more things that raised the old master's bushy eyebrows.  A rust monster then skittered across the desk, investigating those present with its antennae.  I asked if I could borrow the beastie, for I had some use for it at Gary Con.  The host nodded and requested I bring it back unharmed.  I agreed and promptly stuffed the creature into my pocket.  A few more guests wandered into the scriptorium, and the conversation shifted.  More later about this.

The party went on.  Chats here and there continued merrily, but the time for me to head back to Castle Brucelot was fast approaching.  I was granted a ride back to "downtown" Sharon where I found my steel chariot waiting.  It was a cold and starless night.  Though freezing again, enough moisture hung in the air to chill one right to the bones--I much prefer those frigid nights in the dead of winter when all is crisp and dry.  The thrum of my wheeled artifact keeping me awake, tail lights of another ahead of me glaring angrily now and then, I navigated back to Burlingtonshire while I kept in mind the prospect of the great gathering on the following morning.

Welcoming the guests

Ye Hall of Feasts

Ye Den of Peace

The kitchen spied upon from the loft

The harvest of  new golden coins

The old master's scriptorium

The party goes on!