paulmundane

General and somewhat random story things

Archive for the month “November, 2012”

The Delays and whatnot.

So, my new readers may have noticed a bit of a delay on my posts.   My older readers will just recognize this as a thing that happens.  Both deserve a bit of an explanation.

 

See, I’m opening a candy store in Kitchener.  Yes, that is a shameless plug, but also an explanation.  We’re at the last week of paint and struggle, and right now, there is only time for that.  It may hold me up till December, but then I’m back to Adventurers!.  I mention this to tell you, but also to remind me.

This will be the first Nanowrimo that I fail to beat since I learnt of them.  It’s not that bad a thing, cause I’ve learnt most of my skills at finishing from them, but it’s still a bit of a bummer.

As for all of you?  I have more written, but nothing that’s readable yet.  Just chunks.  Once I have the store open, I’ll give it a bit of a polish.  It’ll still be roughish, but there is a limit to how rough I’m willing to share.

Anyways, I’ll see all of you soon.  At least, I’ll see you reading my stuff, hopefully.

 

Paul Mundane

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Adventurers! 08

Hill wasn’t stupid.  He wasn’t as book smart as Fell, and he wasn’t as clever as Leif, but he wasn’t an idiot.  Hill did tend to keep quiet at times, and people sometimes mistook him for slow.  No one ever said so out loud of course.  Hill could bench press a horse, and there were very few people who were going to call him stupid to his face.

There was a bit of classism to the assumption that Hill was dumb.  He was huge, and he carried a sword; by popular perception, he should be a drooling idiot.  All fighters were, right?  It was the sort of stereotype that weak people clung to; so they could feel smarter instead of just feeling cheated.

The fallacy of this was that stupid fighters didn’t live very long.  There was a lot more to fighting than just waving a sword around and hoping for the best.  There was tactics beyond killing the guy in front of you, and there was math beyond how many guys wanted you dead at the current.  Hill was running these numbers at all times.

Right now Hill was recognizing that the numbers were not to his favour.  There were at least thirty lizard men, not including their king.  Hill could take out a half dozen without breaking a sweat, but he admitted that the Lizard King looked the type that could actually use a weapon.

Hill knew that in fair conditions, Fell could maybe blow up a dime of her own.  Right now though, the lizard men were close enough to kill her before she could gesture off any big spells.

As for Leif; the elf had his useful moments, and his useless moments.  Most of the time, he was his most useful when no one could see him.  All of the lizard men were staring right at them, which as far as Hill considered made the elf useless.

Hill knew that right now, the best they could do was buy time, and hope for an opening.  He held Party Starter forward.  Hill wasn’t planning on starting things, but he made it clear that he was ready.  “I don’t have any good ideas,” Hill stated under his breath.

“Well, that’s new,” Leif muttered back.  He withered under Hill’s glare.  “I’ve got nothing,” he admitted after a moment.  Both he and Hill looked over to Fell.

Fell looked at the men, then to the Lizard King, then back to the men.  “We buy time,” she whispered.  “Look at him; he’s dying to monologue.  Why do you think they haven’t rushed us yet?”  She stepped forward, and gave a slight curtsy.  “You have us at your mercy, oh great Lizard King.  What are you planning for us?”

“We have waited for you,” the Lizard King answered cryptically.  “We were told of your coming, and we have prepared.  There will be a great feast tonight,” the King stated.  “You will be an important part of it.”  The Lizard King smiled, showing rows of sharp teeth.  “You will be the main course.”

Hill glanced over at Leif.  The elf rolled his eyes at the fighter.  “This does not count,” Leif commented under his breath.  “It’s not cannibalism.  They’re not human.”

“Still,” Hill mused, “twice in a week we’re on the menu.  That’s got to count for something.”

“It counts for something,” Fell agreed.  She nodded towards the fat statues at the door of the temple, and spoke out loud for the lizard men.  “You’re worshiping Quatterlash now?”

“The Bounty God comes to us in our dreams,” the Lizard King offered happily.  “He promises us great riches, and bountiful meals.”

“Well, yes,” Leif agreed.  “A Bounty God would offer bounties.  It’s kind of their stock and trade.”

His trade,” The Lizard King corrected.  “There is only one Quatterlash.”  There was an angry hiss of agreement from the lizard men.

Fell kept her hands in her robes, hiding a complex series of gestures.  She just needed time.  “He has offered you great things,” she agreed, placating the lizard men.  “But has he delivered?  You have stopped your worship of the Great Dragon Arthur, and angered him.  What has Quatterlash offered that is worth the wrath of an angry dragon?”

There was a murmur amongst the lizard men, as they looked to their king for an answer.  It was a good question; very few things are worth angering a dragon over.  Religion wasn’t always one of them.

The Lizard King, however, was not swayed.  “Hurr-Tyr is only a dragon.  Flesh and bone, and as mortal as us.  He is but a speck in the eyes of Quatterlash.”

Leif kept his voice low.  “Is he mispronouncing Arthur’s name, or are we?”

Fell ignored Leif, even though she was wondering the same.  “But the dragon is physically here.” she questioned the Lizard King.  “He sent us here to stop your worship.”  This was true, in a round about way.

The Lizard King smiled, showing rows of sharp teeth.  He was evidently enjoying a bit of theology with his dinner.  “Quatterlash is here as well,” The Lizard King told Fell.  He touched his head, and his stomach, to show where Quatterlash lived.

“Yes,” Fell agreed slowly.  “But I more meant that Arthur is here, in this swamp.”  She pointed off to the horizon.  “He’s really less than an day’s fly from here.”

“And I meant that Quatterlash is here with us now.  He is hunger and He is want.  He is in all living things,” the Lizard King explained.  “More important, he is here in spirit and in voice.  He is how we knew you were coming,” the King continued.  “Quatterlash told us.  He told us that there would be a feast delivered.  Three humans brought to our temple.”  The Lizard King cocked his head, and stared at Leif.  “Two humans,” he corrected, “and…”

“Elf,” Leif stated.  He rolled his eyes in annoyance.  “Yes, I know, not really common in a swamp.”

“Enough talk,” the Lizard King hissed.  “It is enough that we waited for your arrival.  Quatterlash’s biddings will not be delayed further.”

The lizard men moved forward as a group.  Fell shot her hands from her robes, and barked a series of sharp words.  Several balls of light shot from her hands, and exploded brilliantly amongst the collected lizard men.  They did little to hurt the monsters, but they were bright, and they were loud.  The lizard men stopped, rubbing their eyes, and blinking in confusion.

“We can’t fight them in the open,” Hill stated quickly.  He looked past the confused lizard men.  “We’ll hole up in their temple.”

“Oh, good idea.  I love this plan,” Leif replied, voice dripping with sarcasm.

“I’m going to rush through,” Hill continued over the elf.  “It’ll keep them occupied; focused on me.  “You’re going to get over there however you get over there, and make sure the doors are open.”

“And me?”  Fell regretted speaking the moment the words escaped her lips.

Hill grabbed Fell by the front of her robes.  “Up and over,” he told her.

Fell braced herself.  Hill was going to throw her, and sadly, this was not the first time.  “I hate you so much” she declared.

“Yeah, I know,” Hill replied as he tossed Fell over the crowd.  The lizard men were recovering, and he really didn’t have the time to chat.

Fell twisted over the lizard men, and for a moment everything seemed to slow enough for her to watch the action.  Beneath her, Hill was already rushing in against the mob.  He was swinging Party Starter in wide arcs, forcing the lizard men to keep a wide berth.  Thankfully, the Lizard King seemed the sort to let his minions do the dirty work.  He looked like he could match Hill blow for blow.

Fell only had a moment of clarity before the panic of her situation kicked in.  The ground was quickly coming up to say hello.  Fell was flipping like a coin.  She pin-wheeled her arms frantically, trying everything in her power to make sure she landed tails instead of heads.

Fell landed down ass first, before skidding along the wet ground on her back.  She came to a stop when she hit the doors of the temple; legs splayed up in the air.  Leif was already at the doors, somehow, and was standing over Fell when she looked up.

Leif’s lips twitched as he smiled down at her.  A close facsimile of politeness was the only thing keeping him from laughing out loud.  He offered a hand at least.  “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” Fell lied.  She fought every urge to frantically rub her aching tailbone; she’d just been tossed like a rag doll, and refused to leap up rubbing her butt.  Fell planned on keeping some of her dignity.  “You let a guy throw you once,” she commented as she took Leif’s hand, “and suddenly it’s a regular manoeuvre.”

“Words to live by, I suppose,” Leif replied.

Adventurers! 07

Fell and Hill stared from cover at the Lizard Man Camp.  It was built on higher ground, and happily much dryer than the rest of the swamp.  More importantly, it was solid enough to manage to grow a few trees and bushes.  This was a great thing, as both Hill and Fell were terrible at the whole stealth thing, and any cover was good.

Leif was particularly good at the stealth thing, and he was quite proud of it.  He’d be showing off if it didn’t completely ruin the stealth part of stealth.  Right now he was not being seen slinking through the Lizard Man camp, while Fell and Hill tried to watch his back from a distant.  It was a difficult back to watch, as once again, Leif was pretty good at his job.

Fell stared instead at the huts around the outskirts of the camp.   It wasn’t a camp really; as the huts seemed to be permanent.  Still, Fell couldn’t find a better name for the site.  Lizard Man Hamlet really didn’t have the proper ring to it.

Fell shook her head.  She couldn’t decide if the problem was the hamlet part, or the lizard man part.  Lizard Man.  It was really lazy as far as monster naming went.  Sure, they were lizards, who happened to also be humanoid, but still.  Fell idly considered better names for the lizard men as a race.  Leif was busy infiltrating the camp, so she honestly didn’t have much else to do.

“What about Alligorns?” Fell tried out loud.  “Or Crocanapes?”

“What, like crocodile apes?”  Hill shook his head.  He wasn’t considering the politics of monster cataloguing at all, but was getting pretty quick at picking up Fell’s random thoughts.  “I don’t think so.  Alligorn I could force myself to take seriously.”  He shrugged.  “Barely.”

“Barely.”  Fell considered.  “Crocagorn?”

“Stick with Alligorn,” Hill suggested off hand.  He was getting tired of the hiding bit, and it was starting to show.  He fidgeted, and ran his hand over Party Starter’s hilt again.

Fell didn’t feel the same urgency.  She laid back on the hill, and soaked up the sun.  They’d been soaked for the past two days, and it dawned on Fell that she wasn’t even sure if it had been raining or not.  That’s deep swamp for you.

Hill watched the camp for a moment more before sitting down near Fell.  “I hate this part,” he admitted.  “Damn twig eater goes on ahead, and we just sit here waiting.”  He put up a hand to keep Fell from interrupting.  A pointless gesture, as she had no intention of doing so.  “I mean, I get it,” Hill continued.  “But it just seems a waste of time.  Leif will make his way around the camp, come back here, and tell us what we already know.  There are lizard men down there.”

“And what’s it all going to add up to?”  Hill left a slight pause in case Fell wanted to add anything.  She didn’t.   “We’re just going to attack all of them anyways.”

“Well if you feel that way,” Leif replied from directly behind Hill, “then maybe I won’t tell you about the temple.”

Hill turned quickly, and struggled to hold back the instinct to swing.  “Damn it,” he grumbled.  “How’d you do that.”

“I’ve been practicing,” Leif replied.  “Besides, soft ground.  You’d be amazed how easy it makes my job.”

Fell didn’t get up.  She tilted her head backwards, and looked at Leif upside down.  She’d found a patch of sunlight, and she’d be damned if she was giving it up so easily.  “You said something about a temple?”

“Its hard to miss,” Leif explained.  “Center of town.  Ziggurat sort of building.”  He thought on it.  “I think everyone in town is there right now.”

“Everyone?”  Hill grumbled under his breath.  “If everyone in the camp is in that building, what the hell have you been doing for the last hour.”

“Rifling through their stuff,” Leif replied casually.  He showed Hill a handful of coins and small gems he’d absconded off with.

“Wait,” Fell added suddenly.  She sat up to look at Leif fully.  “Have you been calling this a town?”  She brushed some of the dry mud from her robes.  “I’ve been thinking hamlet at best.”

“Lizard Man Hamlet just sounds wrong,” Leif stated matter of factly.  He had been considering it.

Alligorn central, as the three had finally agreed upon, was deserted.  This wasn’t much of a surprise, as Leif had only it was abandoned moments ago.  They still showed full caution as they walked between the huts.  It wasn’t a big place, though it was spread pretty wide.  It had several huts, and a central temple, but not much else.  Fell was quickly dropping it back to camp in her head.

The temple did stand out.  It was a couple stories high, in a stairway design.  It looked to be carved from the mud, and hardened to a glaze.  The temple was covered with ornate carvings of strange tentacle creatures, and giant winged lizards.  Two statues of overweight humanoids were set at the closed doors.  Unlike the rest of town, there was a good bit of rubble littering the area around the temple.

“Are you seeing this,” Fell commented as she picked up some of the litter.  “It’s all broken statues.”

Hill held up one piece of black rock.  It looked distinctly like a dragon’s head.  “I don’t get it,” he commented.  “It looks like they’ve already stopped worshiping Arthur.”

Leif, Hill and Fell looked at each other, and all drooped at the shoulders in unison.  No one had to declare ‘set up’ out loud.  They were adventurers, for them, this was a Tuesday.

“Well,” Hill commented.

“Yes,” Fell agreed, though there was nothing to agree with.  She pointed at Hill’s rock.  “Keep the head.  When we see the dragon, we can use it as proof that we stopped the Alligorn.”  She turned to lead the others away.  “We should probably…”

Fell was cut off by the sound of giant temple doors opening.  This sound of course was made by the lizard men all leaving the temple in unison.  There was a chorus of confused hisses and yells as the lizard men spotted the completely unhidden trio.

The lead lizard man wore a tangle of bone and shell necklaces over its otherwise bare chest.  It leant on an ornate staff that could quite easily second as a club.  Long tentacles of scales and skin hung from its head like a mane.  The rest of the lizard men seemed to be waiting for this one’s reaction.

“Well, this is awkward,” Leif commented.

Hill nodded agreement.  He stepped forward, putting himself between his companions and the mob of lizard men.  “I think I can take the Lizard Man Leader, if you two can start taking down the rest.”

“Lizard Man Leader?” the Leader questioned.  It stretched out its arms, and smiled wickedly at Hill.  “I am the Lizard King!”

Hill looked back at Fell for a moment.  “See?  Lizard King,” he commented.  “That, I can take seriously.”

Adventurers 06!

Arthur had given vague directions to the lizard man camp.  He’d assured the three that the camp was on pretty solid ground, which was a plus.  Of course, he’d never promised solid ground the whole way there.  It would have been a ridiculous promise, since they’d been on a small island when the dragon had met them.

The evening, and most of the morning had been a long trudge through waist deep muddy water.  They’d tried to get some sleep before they left, but something about a dragon in your campsite really says ‘get up and go’.  Lack of sleep wasn’t new to the adventurers, but that didn’t mean it was something anyone was happy with.

“Every bit of this is a really bad idea,” Fell stated.  She’d stated it several times now, and showed no signs of stopping.  “You both know it as well as I do.  Never deal with dragons.”

Never deal with dragons.  It was a common adventurer saying, right up there with always pack an extra pair, never touch a jelly cube in a dungeon, and don’t discuss goblin mating rituals in polite society.  It was good advice.

Leif was never one for good advice.  “Yes,” he replied irritably.  “Yes, we’re fully aware of the saying.  I’ve been thinking about it though.”

“Oh, here we go,” Hill muttered.

Leif shot Hill a look, but continued nonetheless.  “What if this is why dragons have such giant hordes of things?  I mean, Arthur’s right; what use do dragons have for swords or suits of armour?  Maybe they end up stuck with a horde of stuff.”  Leif brought his hands together, and mimicked a creature flying.  “What would a dragon do?  Fly into town, bring it’s unused things to the local merchants?”

“No,” Fell cut in sharply.  “Dragons have hordes because they are dragons.”

“That’s racism, that is,” Leif replied in his best Arthur voice.  “Besides, if you don’t believe him, why are we going after the lizard men?”  Leif smiled.  “You’re as hopeful as I am.”

“Not hopeful, practical.”  Fell brushed a lock of hair from her eyes, leaving a line of muck along her forehead.  She was beyond caring.  “That dragon had us pinned, and it knew it.  Even if we weren’t all overly tired, that dragon was between us and half of our equipment.”  She shrugged.  “What were we going to do, say no?”

“Wouldn’t have said no anyways,” Hill added.  “Dragon was right, we were likely to stumble onto the lizard men anyways.  Might as well hope for a reward.”

“There won’t be a reward,” Fell stated.  “Once we’re done with this, the dragon will likely thank us with fire breath, so be prepared.”

“Acid,” Leif corrected.  “Arthur breathes acid.”  He chuckled at the look Fell gave him.  “Now who’s prepared?”

It was another hour before they found the promised solid land.  They pulled themselves free from the muck, and laid about the shore for a good few minutes.  It was a feeble hope that they’d dry out.  By this point, all three were quietly contemplating whether they’d ever dry out.  It was likely they’d still be finding mud in their stuff for weeks to come.

Fell’s boots made a sucking noise as she pulled them off, and poured the water from them.  She stared at them in disgust.  They’d been brand new when they’d left town weeks ago.  “No offence Hill,” she commented off hand.  “but if you ever say short cut out loud again, I will turn you into a newt.”

Hill polished Party Starter with a large leaf he’d found.  “Hey, I didn’t hear any arguments when I suggested it,” he grumbled.

“Ever again,” Fell repeated.  She mimed casting a spell at the large man.  “Poof.”

Leif motioned irritably for the others to be quiet.  “We’re not alone,” he whispered.

“How many,” Fell asked; equally quiet.

“I don’t know,” Leif replied.  “At least one.”  He flicked his hand out suddenly, throwing his dagger forcefully through the nearby brush.

There was a grunt of surprise, and a hiss of anger.  It was echoed by several other hissing voices.  “More then one,” Leif stated, as three large lizard men burst out along the shore.

“Thanks,” Hill said.  Semi-dry cakes of mud fell from him as he rushed the oncoming lizard men.  Hill watched as Leif dodged past him, and ran off into the brush.  “Where the hell are you going?” he shouted after the elf.  Leif didn’t respond, and Hill didn’t really  have the time to follow up.  The lizard men were meeting his charge, and that really kept Hill pre occupied.

He swung Party Starter upward at the closest of the lizard men, expecting to slice the monster in two.  Hill stumbled a bit on the soft ground, and came up short.  He managed to slice the lizard man pretty good, but not as great as he’d like.

The injured lizard man hissed, and sidestepped around Hill.  It raked its claws along his side as it passed.  Hill followed through his swing, and brought Party Starter down on the injured Lizard Man.  He caught it at a bad angle; driving Party Starter through the lizard man’s shoulder before lodging the sword in the beast’s rib cage.  He was still trying to yank Starter free when the second lizard man smacked him hard in the back with a club.  Hill managed to swear quite creatively as the lizard man hit him again.  He did not, however, manage to free Party Starter.

The lizard man hit Hill a third time before the big man decided that it was enough.  He turned and grabbed the head of the club as it was coming down for a forth.  Hill yanked the club from the surprised lizard man’s hands, and smacked it on the nose with the handle.  The lizard man backed up a step.

“Yeah, you don’t like that, do you?” Hill asked.  He spun the club around to hold it proper, and brought it down on the lizard man’s head.  “That’s what that feels like,” he yelled at the staggered monster.  “Now cut it out.”

Hill tossed the club into the water, and turned back to Party Starter.  He pulled the sword free, and casually drove it through the stunned lizard man.  Hill twisted it for good measure before he turned to search for the third humanoid.

When hill finally spotted the third lizard man, it was laying on its back, only a few feet from Fell.  Hill missed whatever spell she’d used to knock it down, but it was already getting back up.  Even with Hill’s complete lack of magical understanding, he could see that Fell was struggling.

Fell jerked her hands about, and cursed as she finished her incantations.  The energy that flowed from her outstretched hands jagged about drunkenly in the air, and slammed forcefully into the ground at the lizard man’s feet.  The lizard man fell suddenly through the ground as though it wasn’t there.  There was a short scream, and a sudden geyser of red gore.

“Wow.”  Hill watched with mild fascination.  “The hell was that?” he asked.

“It’s these damn robes,” Fell swore.  “They’re stupidly heavy with sludge and water.  It’s screwing up my spells.”  She looked over at the still spurting geyser of ex-lizard man.  Her face was a mix of frustration and awe.  “I didn’t mean for that to happen.”

The geyser stopped for a moment, then suddenly coughed up a fully intact lizard man skeleton.  Hill and Fell watched as the skeleton flipped comically over the trees, and flew out of sight.  Somewhere deep in the swamp, it landed down with a mud sucking sploosh.

“Mistake or not,” Hill commented.  “That was pretty impressive.”

“Magic should never be a mistake,” Fell responded with an annoyed sigh.  “No matter how impressive it turns out.  Magic is about control.”  Fell recognized that a lecture about the finer points of magic was wasted on Hill.  “You’re hurt,” she commented instead.  “I can heal you up while we wait for Leif to come back.”

Hill looked at Fell, then to where the geyser had been, then back to Fell.  “No,” he decided.  “I’ll be fine.”

“Oh, for crying out loud.”  Fell stomped her foot in frustration.  “I’m not going to do that to you.  We have time; I don’t need to rush.”  She swore under her breath as Hill seemed unmoved.  “What, do you need me to take my robes off?  Will that make you more comfortable.”  She angrily slid the top half of her robes off.  “There.  My arms are free.  No mistakes.  Does that make you happy?”

“I wouldn’t answer that,” Leif commented from behind.  “Not until you two have some alone time at least.”

Hill turned on Leif.  “Where the hell have you been, Twig Eater?”

“Cleaning up,” Leif replied.  He feigned hurt.  “Did you think I just ran away?  I went after the injured one before he could get help.”

Leif gave an honest sneer as Hill shrugged ignorance.  “The injured one?  The one I threw a dagger at?  You did notice that the three here were unharmed?”

“I just assumed you’d missed,” Hill said.

Leif looked at the claw marks on Hill’s side.  “And I assumed you could handle three lizard men.  Looks like we were both wrong.”  Hill responded with a rude gesture, which Leif completely ignored.

Fell fixed her robes with obvious discomfort.  She sighed at the condition of them.  “You did catch him right?” she asked of Leif.

“Of course,” Leif replied.  “He’d managed to catch up with some friends, but I dealt with them.”

Hill shook his head.  “You took out a few lizard men?” he questioned.  “Can you prove it?”

“Hill.  If I left proof, I wouldn’t be doing my job right.”  Leif smiled cockily.  “I can, however, show you where the lizard man camp is.  Will that do?”

Adventurers! 05

Adventurers tend to stumble into things.  It’s part of the job really.  Maybe it’s because they tend to stick their noses into other people’s business.  Or maybe it’s because they tend to stick their noses into other people’s crypts.  Either way, it’s as common for adventurers to find their own adventure as it is for them to have it given to them by others.

The trio had been trudging through the swamp for two days now.  It had started when someone had let Hill look at the map.  According to it, the road curved a wide berth around the swamp, and then circled back to the town of Stone Bottom.  Hill had simply stated that cutting through the swamp would cut a day or so off of their travels.  It seemed feasible enough on paper.  To be specific, it seemed feasible on the paper the map was printed on.

Problem being that swamps tend to look much more manageable on paper.  In real life, they were quite ranged in level of horrible.  This particular swamp was rating pretty high on the horrible scale.

Our adventurers had spent the day alternating between trudging and outright swimming before they finally found a small semi solid island.  The three sat about a small fire in their undergarments; their clothes and armour hanging from the roots of an upturned tree.  They were caked with black mud, and had still only removed most of the leeches.  At least the coating of sludge was fending off a bit of the blackflies.

Normally a fire is a difficult thing to get going in the middle of a swamp, but one of the benefits of having a wizard about was the ample supply of flames.  It’s the tiny perks that keep you going sometimes.  Hill cooked up the meat from a giant snake he’d had to kill earlier in the day, and had been dragging around ever since.  Tiny perk.  Finally, Leif still had a few bottles of wine that he’d stolen from the Meat Pie Emporium, which beyond being a final tiny perk, was the only reason everyone was still talking at all.

With the fire, the food and the wine, the small island camp was looking quite comfortable.  In fact, if one was able to ignore the short tempers of the occupants, or the fact that the island was in the middle of a swamp, one could convince themselves that this was just a regular camping expedition.

Arthur was quick to convince himself of just that.  He was what you’d call a denizen of the swamp, so the concept that it could be less than a comfortable place to anyone was a bit foreign to him.  The entirety of the small island shifted as he dropped down on it from above.

“Hello all,” Arthur announced.  “I couldn’t help notice you had a fire going.  Quite nice.  I thought I’d just pop on by and…”  He smiled his most winning smile, only to be met by looks of shock and horror from the trio around the fire.  Arthur nodded quickly.  “Oh, I get it, I do.  You’re all having a private conversation here.  And?  And here’s me just dropping in uninvited, and unannounced.  No manners, that’s what you’re thinking.”  Arthur took the silence as an agreement.  “Well, We could start at introductions maybe, then go from there, right?  I’m…”

“Dragon!”  Hill leapt to his feet, and brought Party Starter between him and Arthur.  He quickly measured up the beast in front of him.  At least ten foot of black scales, fangs and claws.  Great big wings, and giant horns.  In all fairness, Hill hadn’t listened to a word Arthur had said.

“Now hold on,” Arthur suggested.  He held his hands up, trying to look inoffensive.  It was difficult, because he was feeling rather offended himself.  Arthur gave Hill an indignant glare.  “That’s racism, that is,” Arthur accused.  “It’s because I’m chromatic, isn’t it?  If I’d been all shiny; like a polished metal color, you’d assume nothing but the best.  But no.  I’m a black dragon.”  The dragon pointed at itself.  “He’s a black dragon, that’s what you think right away, right.  Must be evil, right?”

“I’ll tell you what though,” Arthur continued.  “I knew a shiny dragon.  Silver bloke by the name of Syvanas.  You know what he did?  I’ll tell you.  He’d pretend to be all friendly, and then?  When anyone got a bit close?  He’d eat them.”

“That’s uh, wow.” Hill stared at the dragon, unsure of how to react.  He lowered Party Starter slightly, and motioned for Fell to do something.  She was the go to when it came to talking to anyone, or Hill supposed, anything.

Fell resigned herself.  She grabbed her damp robes from the tree, and tugged them on, trying to keep at least a small semblance of professionalism.  “We’re sorry if we offended you, oh great and mighty dragon.”

“You know that I breathe acid right?” Arthur continued over her.  “If I’d wanted to, I could have breathed acid on you from over there.  I didn’t have to come over here, you know that right?  I could have said to myself; self, lets not go say hi, lets just breathe acid on them.  You know that right?”

“Alright,” Leif admitted.  “I’m going to be the first to say I’m pretty ok with that not happening.”

“And you should be,” Arthur agreed.

“We are sorry,” Fell tried again.  “It’s just,” she opened her hands imploringly.  “We don’t see dragons that often.”

“Twice,” Hill verified.  “We’ve seen them twice.  Both times smaller ones; both times a hell of a fight.”  Hill didn’t add the last bit with any bragging tone, just matter of fact.

“They attacked us,” Fell added hastily.  “It was self defence.”  She nudged Hill hard, and motioned for him to put Party Starter away, before smiling back at Arthur.  “You just surprised us is all.”

“No, no it’s all right,” Arthur stated.  “It really is.  I mean, I should know better than just popping up on a group of adventurers.  Fighting monsters, stealing treasures; I could see where you’d become jumpy after a bit of that, right?”  He looked them all over closely.  “You are adventurers, right?”  The dragon chuckled.  “Stupid question, that.  I mean, you’re tromping through a swamp with no good reason.  It’s not like you’d be farmers now is it?”

“I’ll be completely honest with you,” Arthur continued.  “I haven’t actually seen many humans myself.  I mean, I’m telling you this because you said you haven’t seen many dragons, and I think this is something we have in common.”  Arthur thought on it.  “I’ve seen, oh, maybe three humans before you.  Close up that is.  Out on the road.  They had a cart.”  Arthur motioned at the three.  “Six now, what with you three.”  He considered carefully.  “Well, alright, five. Five humans and,” Arthur stared at Leif.   “And, uh, and you,” he concluded.

“I’m an elf,” Leif explained dejectedly.  “We are the second most common demi-human.”

“Good for you,” Arthur said.  “I have heard of elves,” the dragon explained.  “I’ve just never seen one.  Forest types, right?  Not exactly what you’d call regular in a swamp.”  Arthur nodded happily.  “Second most common demi-human?  Huh.  I would have thought goblins myself.  It’s all they do when they’re not killing things is breed.  Did you know that?  They just, just breed all the time.”

“I suppose if it makes them happy,” Fell offered.  She didn’t want to dwell to long on the subject of goblin sex.  No one ever does.  “So you live here then?”

“Oh, yes.  This is my home.  It’s uh,” Arthur looked about.  “Well, it’s a swamp.  But?  It’s alright as far a swamps go.  Actually quite homey, once you settle in a bit.”  He looked at the tiny island.  “It’s, uh, it’s much nicer if you settle better then this.  I’d offer you a room, but,” Arthur shrugged his wings.  “I breathe under water, so you might find my place a bit, a bit damp.”

“Thank you,” Fell replied.  “We’re doing fine here, but thank you.”

“You’re quite welcome.”  Arthur smiled silently at them all for an awkward moment.  “So, ah, so,” he tried, mostly for small talk.  “You’re all here adventuring then?  Hidden tombs or anything like that?”

“Nothing like that, actually,” Fell admitted.  “We were just passing through.”

“Just passing through.”  Arthur nodded, then stopped.  “Really?  You just decided to wander on through a swamp?”

“We were headed to Stone Bottom,” Fell explained.

Arthur leant in close.  “You do know there is a road to Stone Bottom?”

“It loops around,” Hill stated.  “We thought this would be a shortcut.”

You thought this would be a shortcut,” Leif muttered.

“Well,” Arthur offered.  “I would be a shortcut.  On paper at least.  But?”  he unfolded a wing off towards Stone Bottom.  “It gets real deep off in that direction.  It’s not going to be a shortcut unless you have a boat.”

“Great,” Fell commented.

“Do you have a boat?”  Arthur looked about.  “No.  No I suppose you don’t.  Well, I suppose.”  He thought on it for a second.  “I might have a boat,” Arthur said finally.  “I have tons of things I haven’t even bothered to catalogue really.  I have swords, shields.  Magic rings and cloaks.”  The dragon winked at Fell.  “Scrolls and wands for the lady.  That sort of thing.”

“Wait.”  Hill furrowed his brow, as it was the only real gesture he had for this.  “You’re offering us your horde?”

“Not offering,” Arthur replied.  “Looking to sell some.”  The dragon sighed.  “I mean, think about it.  Horde.  Really think on that word.  I just have some stuff laying around, and I’ve been thinking, you know what?  I’d rather have the money.  You know, gold coins, that sort of thing.”

The dragon shrugged.  “My place isn’t that big.  Not really.  And?  And I think that a lot of stuff I have laying around just isn’t working with the space.  I mean, what do I need a rack of swords for?  I’m a dragon.  But I could put a lot of use to coins.  Easier to sort, and they stack so much better than, oh say, suits of armour.”

Fell, Leif and Hill looked at each other.  These were the sorts of things that interested them.  The problem was that between the three of them, they’d be lucky to scrounge enough coin to order dinner, much less a dragon’s pile of magic items.  They cursed quietly in unison.

“How much for just the boat,” Hill grumbled.

“Ah.”  Arthur nodded understanding.  “A bit tight on coin.  You know, I suppose that’s not a surprise.  I mean, you’re walking through a swamp, and that’s not regular for, uh, for the wealthy.”  He nodded slowly.  “Maybe though, we could come to an agreement?”

Leif smiled, and gently pushed to the forefront.  Agreements were his sort and trade.  “What did you have in mind,” he asked.

“well, there is a bit of a problem I have,” Arthur told them.  “Sort of thing that really?  Really you may have accidentally stumbled on anyways.  You know, if you were adventuring.  It’s embarrassing really.”

The dragon looked about, as though someone might be listening in.  He lowered his voice.  “See, here’s the thing.  There is a large group of lizard men that live nearby.  Nice enough, in their own kill everything they see sort of way.”

“Lizard men,” Leif repeated in an assuring tone.  “And they’ve wronged you?”

“In a round about way,” Arthur replied.  “See, they’ve made me their god.”

“I can see where that could be a problem.”  Leif lied without losing a beat.  It was a particular skill of his.

“Well, the thing is,” Arthur explained.  “The thing is that having a bunch of lizard men worshiping you really sends out the wrong message.  To other dragons, if you know what I mean.  I’ve been enjoying the quiet swamp life out here, and well, being worshipped, that’s the sort of thing people talk about isn’t it?”  Arthur rolled his eyes.  “So, if you could all just nip over, and tell them to cut it out, that’d be great.”

Leif nodded.  “Get them to stop,” he verified.  “And then we can talk about the boat?”

Arthur smiled.  “If you get them to cut out this whole god thing, we can talk about the boat, and more.”  His smile became wider as he leant in.  Less friendly, and more, well, more dragon-like.  “Do we have a deal?”

Adventurers! 04

No one was sure when it became common to build a basement out of long halls and tiny rooms, but these days, you couldn’t enter a fort or ruins without walking through an underground labyrinth at least once.  Most adventurers accepted this as fact, and never really questioned it.

Hill was questioning it now though.  The halls tunnelled and dug for what felt like miles.  There were dead ends, and unused rooms littering the path, but very little on a straight way.  They’d finally gotten clear of the smell of burnt maggot.  Only now, it had been replaced by a new, and not more welcome stench.  Hill tightened his grip on Party Starter.

“You smell that,” Leif commented.  “Rotting bodies.  But mobile rotting bodies.”  One of the skills picked up quickly by adventurers was a distinct sense of smell.  The ability to tell the difference between still rotting corpses and moving rotting corpses was pretty distinct.  “Zombies,” Leif commented with a victorious smile.

“Might not be,” Hill replied with no conviction.  Ahead of them, there was a distinct groaning noise.  Hill sighed.  “Zombies don’t always mean necromancer,” he continued.  “Sometimes they’re just about.”

“They’re about all right,” Fell stated.  She pointed ahead, as several zombies lurched around the corner, groaning and limping about.  She waved her hands, and orange tinted smoke formed around her.  “I got this one,” she said with a smile.

“Hold on,” Leif interrupted.  “They’re not coming at us.”  He motioned at the zombies.  “Look.”

Sure enough, the zombies shuffled around the corner, and turned away from the adventurers.  They were dragging a few bodies, much fresher then themselves, and showed no interest in the trio.  Fell swore, and stopped her spell mid incantation.

“Sorry,” Leif offered.  “I’m sure there will be a chance later.”  He nodded towards the zombie horde.  “We should see where they’re going; might lead to the necromancer.”

“If there is a necromancer,” Hill corrected through gritted teeth.  “I think they’re bringing those bodies for our cannibal captors.”

“It’s not going to be cannibals,” Leif commented happily.

“We’ll see,” Hill replied.

The zombies stumbled along the hall, followed closely by Hill, Fell, and Leif.  The three began at a good distance behind the undead, but soon were only steps from joining the crowd.  The zombies didn’t seem to care, which wasn’t that big a surprise.  Being dead, zombies didn’t often care about much.  They had no problem leading the adventurers straight to their master, because no one had thought to tell them to have a problem with it.

The hall ended at a large room filled with greasy smoke.  The zombies marched in, and threw the fresh bodies into a giant metal grinder that dominated the center of the room.  Off to the far wall was a large oven, currently being watched by tall spindly man in an apron.  He had a pair of Gruberlings nearby, but had them busy flattening out pie crust.  It was, to say the least, a bit off as far a scenes went.

The man watched the zombies with an appraising eye as they loaded bodies into the grinder.  It took him a good few minutes to even notice Hill, Fell and Leif.  “Hey, hold on,” he commented to the adventurers.  “How’d you lot get down here?”

The three all blinked at each other.  They’d expected something more sinister than ‘how’d you get down here’.  This man was obviously the big bad; there was certain protocol to follow.  Fell was the first to recover enough to comment.

“You tied us up,” she offered.  “In the far room?”  She made a face.  “Took our clothes?  You’d think that would be at least a bit memorable.”

The spindly man looked the three over.  He gave a slight nod.  “I suppose it would have been,” he admitted.  “I have servants for that sort of work.”  He glanced them over again, his eyes stopping briefly on Party Starter.  The man swore.  “I specifically said no adventurers,” he muttered to a nearby Gruberling.  “I was very clear on that.”

The Gruberling hissed what might have been an apology back.  It went mostly ignored by the adventurers.  Hill was already walking into the room.  He shot a smile at Leif, before pointing at the machinery.

“Is that a giant meat grinder?”  Hill asked the cook.  “A giant meat grinder for grinding down people?”

Fell walked slowly around the room, keeping the long table between her and the Gruberlings.  She picked up one of the unfinished pies, and immediately put it back down as a dread realization came over her.  “Oh Gods,” Fell muttered, turning a slight shade of green.  “Did we order the meat pie last night?”

“It’s pretty likely,” the pie man offered.  “I mean, it is our specialty.”  He mimed out a large marquee.  “House on the Hill Meat Pie Emporium?”  He gave a sheepish shrug.  “Most people can’t taste the difference,” he commented.

“Meat Emporium,” Hill recalled.  “That does sound familiar.”  He shrugged at Fell.  “I think it was a pretty good sales pitch at the time.”

“I ordered the salad,” Leif added smugly.  He thought for a second.  “You did make the zombies though, right?  I mean, you are a necromancer?”

“I dabble,” the Pie-Man admitted.  He stared confusion at Leif’s smile towards Hill.  “I’m not sure you three recognize the situation here,” the cook suggested.  “I mean, yes, I’d rather not have a bunch of adventurers here.  It’s a hassle.  But these are my zombies, and these Gruberlings do listen to what I tell them to do.  You are all sort of outnumbered here, and I do need you dead.”  He motioned to the adventurers, and both the Gruberlings and the zombies turned towards them.

The adventurers moved immediately into practiced position.  Fell stepped quickly backwards to get range for her spells, while Hill charged directly towards the Gruberlings.  Leif stepped forward as well, but without the urgency of his larger companion.  He tossed a dagger at one of the maggot men to get its attention, but he didn’t bother with the obscenity filled battle cry that Hill was using.  Despite this, Leif did meet his Gruberling target slightly faster than Hill met his.

Leif grabbed one of the pie plates, and shoved it pie first against the Gruberling’s face as the maggot man leapt over the table at him.  He then drove a dagger through the center, pinning the plate to the Gruberling.  Leif took a moment to point out his work, before he pulled his thrown dagger from the Gruberling’s shoulder, and replaced it in the monster’s chest.

Hill nodded grudging admiration of Leif’s work as he dodged his own Gruberling’s attack.  He stepped forward with both hands on Party Starter’s hilt, and drove the great sword through the Gruberling’s groin.  Then, with a twist and a lift of his shoulder, Hill pulled the great sword straight up; cutting the maggot man neatly in two.  He stood in the shower of gore, and stared at Leif.

“Well, yes,” Leif drawled.  “It is impressive.  But is it art?”

“Using a pie plate isn’t art,” Hill retorted.  “It’s just.”  He stopped.  “Alright, the pie plate was pretty damn funny.”

“Thank you,” Leif said.

Hill and Leif turned attention to the horde as one of the zombies groaned at them.  Zombies were not that fast.  Possibly because they weren’t in any hurry.  During Leif and Hill’s fight, the entire group had managed to meander closer, and given time, might even become a threat.  Once you got over the stench, and the horror of the walking dead, it turned out there wasn’t that much to be afraid of.

“Zombies?” Hill suggested.

“Zombies,” Leif agreed.

“Oh, no you two don’t,” Fell snapped.    She’d shifted across the room, and was already gesturing towards the oncoming zombies.  Orange smoke flared from her hands, and burst into small flames in places.  “I’ve been waiting all night to cast this spell, and I’m damn well casting it if you two are in the middle of those zombies or not!”

Fell didn’t wait for the men to agree.  She waved her hands and chanted the last bits of her incantation.  Finally she stomped her foot, and pointed at the zombies that were doing their best to come across the room.

A pillar of white fire burst from the floor in the midst of the zombie horde, instantly incinerating the few that were directly in its path.  The fire hit the ceiling, and umbrellaed back downward, encircling the rest of the group.  It was almost too bright to look at, but no one could force themselves to look away.  The zombies, being undead and without care, continued forward; each flickering out of existence as they tried to casually wander through a wall of white fire.

The pillar of fire didn’t go out so much as it just stopped existing suddenly.  Beyond the smell of ashed zombie, and the scorch marks on floor and ceiling, it was like it had never happened.  Fell nodded approval at the area of devastation before turning to Hill and Leif for approval.

“Yeah,” Hill stated.  “That was worth waiting for.”

“It was quite the spectacle,” the Pie Man agreed.  He’d slid right behind Fell during the light show, and quickly wrapped a long arm around her; pinning her hands to her chest.  He held a large meat knife to her throat.

“Damn sexist,” Fell accused.  She used a whiny mocking voice as she continued.  “Grab the girl as a hostage, she won’t put up a fight.”

“I’m not being sexist,” the Pie-Man replied indignantly.  “I grabbed you because you’re a wizard.  Your type don’t often put up any sort of fight.”

“Classist,” Fell spat.

“It’s not classism,” Pie-Man defended.  He turned purposely, keeping Fell between him and the men, and keeping his knife at Fell’s throat.  “I mean, honestly, look at your friends.  The big one would just get mad if I stabbed him, and the little one is too slippery for me to hold.”

“You though, I’m pretty sure I can take.  And no, not because you’re a girl.  You’re a wizard.” The Pie Man continued.  “I mean, wizards.  All that time spent in libraries and whatnot.  You’re not going to be able to put up a decent fight.  This is just common sense really.”

Fell made an indignant noise.  “Has it ever occurred to you that some wizards might actually take time away from books?  Maybe that some wizards take a few minutes a day to consider physical activities?”

“Not for a second,” the Pie-Man stated curtly.  “Now, unless you two want to see your pretty friend’s throat torn open, I’d suggest…”

He didn’t get further than that, which was probably for the best.  Beyond ‘I’d suggest you both drop your weapons and kindly feed yourselves through the meat grinder’, he didn’t really have a follow up.

The Pie Man was interrupted mid sentence as Fell grabbed his wrist, and twisted hard.  Pie Man dropped his knife, and let go of Fell.  She didn’t bother turning to face him as she slammed her elbow into his chest, and the back of her fist into his teeth.  Fell stepped forward away from the cook, as he stumbled backwards.

“Oh you total…”  Again the Pie Man was interrupted, which again was probably for the best.  Hill stomped forward, and hit the man hard with the flat of Party Starter.

The cook was flung backwards.  He tumbled over the table, and smacked into the side of the oven.  There was a hissing sound as the flesh on the side of his face cooked against the hot metal.  He squealed, and pulled free with a slurching noise.  The Pie Man hadn’t managed to step away before Leif tossed a dagger, and pinned the man’s hand to the oven.  There was a new bacon hissing, barely covered by the Pie Man’s screams.  By the time he pulled free, his arm had been burnt to the bone.

The cook shrieked and swore.  “My master comes!” the Pie Man shouted at the three.  “Quatterlash will return soon, and when he does…”

“He’ll have something to eat,” Fell finished.  She made a quick gesture, and a translucent hand shot forward.  It hit the Pie Man in the chest, and drove him into the oven.  With a dismissive wave, Fell magicked the door of the oven closed.

“Harsh,” Hill commented.

“I’m a fan of ironic justice,” Fell replied.

In the end, it turned out that they were in the basement of the House on the Hill Meat Pie Emporium.  By this point, it was barely a surprise.  The three never did find their money pouches, but since there was more money in the pub’s till then they’d come in with, they were willing to consider it a scrub.  Besides, they’d also managed to steal away with several bottles of random alcohol, so there was that.

Hill, Leif and Fell watched the House on the Hill Meat Pie Emporium burn for awhile before they set out again.  It was a pretty quiet journey for the first bit, as Fell dropped behind.

Hill slowed down, and walked beside Fell.  “You ok?”

“Oh yeah, sure,” Fell muttered.  “We just saw possible proof that the Titans are returning.  I’m fine.”

Hill considered a moment.  “Could be an isolated incident,” he offered with a shrug.  “This might be the last we ever hear of this.”

Leif chuckled at Hill as he dropped back to join the others.  “Oh, you don’t believe that any more than she does,” he commented.  “We’ve never kicked open a hive like this without it coming back to haunt us, and you know it.”

“Could be a first time.”  Hill said.  He sighed and shook his head.  “Ok, not likely.  I’m trying to cheer her up,” Hill added.  “You don’t have to be a jerk about it.”

“Just being a realist,” Leif stated in defence.  He turned attention to Fell.  “If you are truly concerned, I have something for that.”  Leif tossed a bottle of pilfered wine to Fell.  “There, now open that, and continue drinking till you’ve forgotten what the problem was.”

Fell waved a finger at the bottle until the cork popped free.  She gave the men a half smirk.  “We’re talking about the return of Gods,” she commented.  “Drinking is a stopgap answer at best.”

“Sure,” Hill agreed as he opened a bottle of his own.  “But it’s been a pretty good one so far.”  He pointed off towards the road.  “C’mon.  We’ve got a bit to go till we hit a town.  Maybe we’ll find an inn along the way.”

Adventurers! 03

Now, there was often talk amongst adventurers about the usefulness of having a cleric wander about with them.  Clerics could heal wounds with a touch.  They could drive away demons with a quick sermon.  They could destroy the undead with a quick glance and a few halleluiahs.  Right about now, the healing bit would be useful for Hill, but in his mind, not worth the price.

Hill, Fell, and Leif had tried in the past to travel with a cleric.  They’d travelled with a few in fact.  It was nice to have a walking first aid kit with you, but not one that needed to lecture you on your sins every time they had a chance.  The problem was that as a group, the three were not exactly pious, and there was plenty to lecture them about.  In short, clerics did not last long in this particular group.

As much as she disliked it, the lack of clerics forced Fell to waste precious mystic energy healing wounds.  She wasn’t able to pull off the miracles a cleric could; but really, who could?  Fell could mend flesh, and on a good day maybe set a bone or two.  The secondary part was in theory; a good day doesn’t often include broken bones.

Fell gripped Hill’s arm on either side of the wound.  She muttered a few incantations and blue energy flowed from her hands to the damage.  A black ooze rose from the wound, and dripped like hot fat to the floor.  “How’s that?”

Hill flexed.  The wound was raw and puckered, but it would get better.  Hill grimaced as sensation flooded back to his arm.  “It hurts,” he commented.

“Big baby,” Leif commented from the door.

Hill looked at the elf.  “No, it’s good that it hurts.”

“Big masochist baby.” Leif corrected.  He pointed to the door before Hill could comment.  “Shall we?”

The hall had the same dug out quality as the small room.  No windows, and few doors marred it.  There were torches here and there, but they were more of a second thought.  The smoke from the Gruberling Fell had roasted leaked out of the room, and pooled along the ceiling.  The three took all this in intently.  Being an adventurer meant following even the most trivial of descriptives.

Hill slid into his leather tunic.  He’d never been a fan of the steel suits many fighters wore.  They were too cumbersome, and a literal pain to wear for long periods.  He gently lifted his sword.  It had had some fearsome name once; Hate-Bringer, or Storm-Bringer.  Something-Bringer at least.  Hill just called it the Party-Starter.  Its blade was nearly as long as Fell was tall, and as wide as Hill’s bicep.  Most folks would hold the Party-Starter two handed.  Most folks weren’t Hill.

Fell leant casually on her ornate staff, and watched Hill admire Party-Starter.  “Feel better?”

“Much better,” he admitted.  “Lets get going.”

Leif didn’t move.  He looked under and around the table, evidently annoyed.  “Our money pouches are gone,” he announced.

“Well of course they are,” Hill replied.  “That’s a big part of being robbed, isn’t it?”

Leif shook his head in disgust.  Robbery was only ok if he was participating.  “Doesn’t really make sense though, does it?  I mean, the Gruberlings wouldn’t have any use for our money.  I mean, what are they going to do?  Go into town and spend it?”  He thought on it.  “They must be working for someone.  Bet it’s a necromancer.”

“We’d be knee deep in zombies if it was a necromancer,” Hill argued.  “I’m going with cannibals.”  He pointed a thumb over his shoulder back to the room.  “That’s why they didn’t kill us right away.  Saving us for dinner.”

“It’s always cannibals with you,” Leif argued.  “Not everyone wants to eat us.”  He shrugged.  “It was the one time.”

“Twice,” Hill corrected.

“Once.  Goblins don’t count as cannibals.  They count as monsters hoping to eat us.”  Leif looked to Fell for backup.  “Right?  Has to be the same species to be cannibals.”  He considered a moment.  “Well, same subspecies at least.  I mean, if humans tried to eat me, it’s not technically cannibalism, but I’m sure it would count.”

“Sure,” Fell replied.  She wasn’t listening to either of the guys, lost in her own thoughts.  “Gruberlings shouldn’t still be around,” she stated.  “Quatterlash isn’t here any more.”  She looked at her companions, and continued.  “None of the Gods are supposed to be around.”  She sighed exasperation when Hill and Leif shrugged at her in unison.  “The Godswar?”

“Huh,” Hill muttered.  He thought on the fact for a moment.  “So your money is on cultists then?”

“If you had any money of course,” Leif added.

“Damn it you two, this is serious!”  Fell rolled her eyes, and gave up.  “Alright, fine.  Ten on it being cultists.”

Adventurers! 02

The three considered their options quietly.  It wasn’t that they were afraid.  After all, they were adventurers, and killing monsters was part of the job description.  They were however, a bit indisposed at the moment.

“Well,” Leif started.  “I suppose a parley is out of the question; they don’t look to be the talking type.  Shall we dash out there, grab our weapons, and kill the both?”

“No, that’s not going to work,” Hill commented.  “I won’t have time to grab my pants in a dash.”  Leif gave Hill a quizzical look.  “I’m going to have to fight those things,” Hill explained.  “Sure, I can get to my sword before they can get to us, but I don’t want to fight them without my pants though.”  Hill tried to find the words to elaborate, and settled on a slight shrug.  “I don’t want to.  Not without pants.”

“Your…” Leif swore in High Elvish.  “You can put your pants on after they’re dead.  I mean, we kill the monsters first, then worry about dignity?”  He looked over to Fell for support, and swore again as Fell shook her head.

“No, I’m with Hill on this one,” she admitted.  “I have to make some pretty dramatic gestures for any spells worth a damn, and I’m not doing that naked.  Not with those things in the hall.”  Fell hugged herself unconsciously.  “Just looking at them makes me feel dirty inside.  I’m not facing them without something on.”

“Humans have very strange priorities,” Leif noted.  There was, however, little conviction in his voice.  “Right, I’ll get us all some coverings, then we get out of here?”

Fell nodded.  She gave a slight smile of concern.  “Do you think you can get to our stuff and back without being heard?”

“Well,” Leif started.  “I didn’t see eyes or ears on those things.  Yeah, I’m pretty confident in my abilities here.”

Hill waved his fingers in front of his mouth.  “They have those tongues,” he commented.  “Bet they taste the air, or something.”

“That’s fine,” Leif said.  “I’ll just hide my taste as well.”  He smiled.  “It’s another trade secret,” he explained.  “Besides, I’m an elf.  Taste the air?  For what?  We smell like nature, when we smell like anything at all.”

Leif quietly opened the door, and slid out.  He was gone only a moment before he burst back in.  Leif tossed clothing through the air to his team mates, and gave a sheepish grin as he pushed his back against the door.

“Ok,” Leif admitted.  “They can taste nature.”  The door lurched as one of the Gruberlings threw its weight against the other side.  “I don’t think they like it.”  The door lurched again.  “Or they like it too much.  Either way, I don’t want this to be seen as a slight on my skills.”

“Of course not Leif,” Fell agreed.  She tugged her robes on, and immediately began to weave an intricate pattern.  The air shimmered in front of her, and formed into a translucent giant hand.  Fell pointed forward, and the hand shot towards the door.

Leif leapt aside as the hand smacked open palm into the door.  Fell kept her actual hands outstretched, concentrating on the giant ghost hand holding the portal closed.  “I can’t hold them forever,” she stated through clenched teeth.  “You boys may want to get your pants on.”

Hill adjusted his belt, and watched Leif hop into his pants.  “You didn’t bring Party-Starter, did you?”

“That big fuck off blade you carry?”  Leif gestured dramatically to his mostly naked form.  “Oh yeah, I have it secreted away on me.”  Leif tugged on his belt, and drew his daggers out.  He looked at them, and grudgingly offered one to Hill.

Hill looked at the thin bladed dagger, and shook his head in disgust.  “I’ll take my chances,” he muttered.  Hill grabbed some ropes from the ground, and spun them quickly around his fists.  He rolled his shoulders as the door let out a solid crack noise.  Magic hand or no, the maggot men were coming in soon.  “Let them in Fell,” he suggested.  “I think were dressed enough for company.”

“Right,” Fell agreed.  She waited a moment, looking for a pattern to the pounding on the door.  Fell closed her fist, and dispelled the giant hand.  The door flew open, and the Gruberlings tumbled in unceremoniously.

Most creatures would have been thrown off by the entrance.  Any creature with a slight intelligence would have been flustered by the lack of grace.  The Gruberlings didn’t show any embarrassment.  They hissed, and charged in a loping crawl/run as they regained their feet.

Fell and Leif backed away, quick to find the far end of the room.  Hill charged the few steps forward, and slammed a rope covered fist into the first Grub.  The creature seemed to squish against Hill’s fist.  It was a feeling akin to punching a rotting tree.  A spray of black ichor fountained from the Gruberling’s mouth as the weight of Hill’s punch threw it back out the door.

Hill shook thick strings of black ooze from his arm.  He turned a moment to his companions.  “I don’t think they have bones,” he said.  “It’s like punching a slab of old beef.”

“Great,” Leif replied.  He threw one of his daggers at the second Gruberling.  The blade passed easily though the monster’s skin, sinking hilt deep into the Grub’s shoulder.  Deep black liquid sprayed from the wound, and coated the weapon.  “I don’t know if I’m going to want that back,” Leif said.

Hill punched the exposed hilt of the dagger.  The thin blade was pushed through the Gruberling, and shot out its back with the speed of a crossbow bolt.  “I was never sure why you wanted it to begin with,” he commented of the dagger. He smirked at Leif, and meant to add to the insult.  He was rudely interrupted by the return of the first Gruberling he’d punched.

The Gruberling gurgled and hissed as it leapt back into the room, landing square on Hill’s back.  It punched Hill in the shoulder hard, and reared back to bite his neck.  Hill swore, and tried to reach for the small opponent.

“Hill,” Fell yelled.  “Duck!”  She waved a set of wide circles, drew her hands back to one side, and then thrust her palms forward.

Hill saw the energy crackle around Fell’s hands, and dropped to a crouch.  He tucked his head down, and waited for the impact.  A bolt of lightning crackled from her outstretched hands.  It arched over Hill’s head, and slammed into the Gruberling.  There was a popping noise, and the stench of ozone and burning meat.  The Gruberling exploded, and soaked Hill in a wave of gore and black pus.

Hill let loose a string of obscenities, and shook off the sludge as best he could.  He looked with disgust at Fell.  She mouthed an apology at him, but couldn’t manage more than a choking noise.  Leif gagged, and offered a slight ‘what can you do’ shrug for Hill.  The room was hazy with black oily smoke, and stunk of burnt garbage.  Hill swore again.  Distracted, he was slow to turn attention to the second Gruberling, and wide open when it lunged at him.

The Gruberling dove teeth forward at Hill, and bit into his arm.  Hill could feel the teeth sink in, and could feel the monster’s long tongue burrow deep into his skin, but there was no actual pain.  Instead, the area around the bite went numb.  Hill punched the Gruberling in the head twice before it let go.

The Gruberling left behind a vicious wound.  It was a perfect circle of punctures with a smaller jagged hole in the center.  Hill had been hurt much worse in the past, but the lack of pain left a strange disconnection from the gash, and made Hill feel a bit nauseous.  The fact that he was soaked in the remains of the other Gruberling did not help.

Hill growled at the Gruberling, and grabbed it by the arm.  He swung his opponent into the wall, and sunk a fist into its stomach.  The Gruberling vomited another wave of black blood at Hill, but he was past caring.  He punched it again, and then brought both fists axe handle down on its head.  The Gruberling collapsed in a wet heap, and Hill stomped full weight on its head.  He took small pleasure in the sound of teeth breaking on the floor, and stomped on it again just to be sure.

Hill smiled at his work, and gave an approving nod as he looked to his team-mates.  Leif was already recovering his dagger; holding it with disgust between thumb and forefinger.  Fell drooped at the shoulders.  Hill missed what she’d been trying to do, but the wisps of orange smoke drifting from her hands suggested it was going to be impressive.  “Sorry,” Hill offered with a shrug.

“No, it’s fine,” Fell sulked.  “I’m sure I’ll find a chance to use it later.”  She pointed at the door.  “Leif, go make sure there aren’t more coming.  I’m going to fix up Hill, then we’re getting out of here.” Fell strode towards to Hill, but stopped a foot short.  “Gods, the stink,” she complained.

“Yeah,” Hill agreed.  “Someone exploded a Maggot Man over top me.”

“And someone apologized already.”  Fell sniped.  “It’s not like I expected it to explode.  Normally, monsters just twitch a bit, then fall over.”

Adventurers! 01

Centuries ago, the world was rocked by a great war.  The Titans: Gods of the Earth, felt the land was theirs to do with as they pleased.  The races that lived on the world were their playthings by default; price of living on the land.  The Seraphs: Gods of the Skies, felt the peoples of the lands were destined for more, and deserved stability to prosper and grow.  Sky Gods backing stability, Earth Gods backing Chaos.  Really, it seemed a bit backwards to the casual observer.

Both sets of Gods battled for the right to do as they wished with the world, and in the process, Nearly destroyed it.  Great cities were decimated.  Forests became deserts, and deserts became jungles.  In fact, nearly everything just went to pot.  Every creature that lived on the land was made to choose sides.  The battles waged amongst the people were equally as grand and terrible as those waged by the Gods themselves.

In the end, both sets of Gods up and vanished.  Most stories say that the Titans lost the war, and became prisoners in their deep earth homes.  Pleased with the outcome, the  Seraphs just up and left.  All anyone can really say for sure is that neither has been seen since the Godswar.  The land is devoid of Titans, and notably sans Seraph.

Even now, the world is a vast wilderness wasteland, dotted with sporadic towns, desolate ruins, and occasional reminders of the war.  Oh, and monsters.  Tons of monsters.  In short, it was a hard time to be a farmer, but a great time to be an adventurer.

Adventurer tended to be a catch all title.  Thug, mercenary, treasure hunter, tomb raider.  Really, whatever let some bloke swing a sword, and not have to hold down a regular job.  It wasn’t a career path meant for just anyone though, and most shied away from the thought.  Sure the stories made it sound like a great, well, adventure.  In reality though, it was a hard slog, with a minimal payout, and a pretty high casualty rate.

Now, most good stories begin and end at the pub.  This is true for most people, but especially for adventurers.  Looking for adventure, the pub was the best place to start.  It was without a doubt the best place to get information.  Sure, it was also the best place to get a drink and find someone to kill an evening with, but it was also great for information.

Once an adventure was done, the pub was a great place to unwind.  This was the time where finding that drink and some company became top of the list, though finding information about the next adventure was always on an adventurers mind.  Adventurers always had to keep an eye on the next big score; mostly because they were spending most of their meager loot at the pub.

Hill opened his eyes with a groan.  The beers from the night before were currently punching a steady rhythm into the back of his eyeballs.  He could remember going to the pub.  He could remember getting many drinks.  Hill could not, however, remember the later half of the evening.  Hill and his companions had stopped for the night at a dive of an inn.  A wayside really, as there wasn’t any sign of civility around it.  Just an old inn, on a cliff, in the middle of nowhere.  Normally, such a find would have set off several warning bells.  Hill, however, had been particularly thirsty, and had money burning a hole in his pocket.

Waking up, Hill was pretty sure he was no longer in the pub.  He was laying on a cold dirt floor in a windowless room.  One sole torch lit the entire room.  Hill was naked.  His hands were tied behind his back, and his feet were bound.  He put some serious thought into the night before, and was mostly certain that he hadn’t chosen to be here.

Hill took a quick glance about.  Felicia was laying in front of him, knees to his face.  She shifted a bit as he looked to her, but she didn’t wake.  Felicia preferred to be called Fell.  In fact, it had taken a vast amount of prodding and alcohol to get her to tell Hill her full name.  He only used it when he really needed to annoy her.  Besides, Fell knew Hill’s first name was really Hillford, so he didn’t push his luck.

Fell was wearing the same thing as Hill, which was to say she was wearing nothing.  As a wizard, she tended to go against the grain.  Fell was most certainly not the wizened old man regularly found in the profession, yet she wore men’s robes instead of the tiny bikini common to female wizards.  Fell was not one to flaunt her body, and she was likely not going to be happy with her current state of undress.  Hill took this fact in quickly, and found somewhere else to look.

Leif was here as well, laid out nearby.  Leif’s full name was L’cileif Myoundrop, which he didn’t mind at all.  He did, however, prefer being called Leif to being called Lucy.  Leif was a fine example of elf; slim and effeminate. Also naked; Leif was at least male, though barely by Hill’s standards.  Hill felt less uncomfortable trying to wake the elf.  Besides, locks, ropes, and quick escapes were supposed to be Leif’s specialty.

“Leif,” Hill whispered.  “Leif, get up.”  Hill muttered under his breath.  He very much wanted to get free without waking Fell.  “Gods damn it, Leif,” he raised his voice a bit.  “You damn twig eater, get up!”

Leif rolled in his sleep.  He mumbled something that sounded a bit like profanity directed at Hill, but didn’t stir beyond that.  Hill growled, and took a deep breath, ready to yell at the elf.  He was interrupted as Fell woke up.

Fell gasped an awkward mix of shock and embarrassment.  Hill was much taller than Fell, and he was pretty sure she wasn’t waking to the view of his knees.  Hill tried to adjust, but Fell’s new sound of surprise told him that he was just making it worse.

“Ah.” Hill tried at small talk.  “You’re awake then?”

“Yeah.”  Fell stared at the ceiling, and blushed deep red.  “Yeah,” she said again.

“We’ve been captured,” Hill explained calmly.  “We’re tied up somewhere.”

“We’re naked,” Fell added.  She looked over at Hill again, and again stared quickly at the ceiling.  “We’re very naked.”  Fell continued to talk to the ceiling.  “I remember the inn, and having a few drinks.  I don’t remember leaving though.  We got captured somehow after that?”

“That’s what I figure.  I mean, I’m sure we didn’t tie our selves up.”  Mostly sure, Hill mentally added.  It had been a pretty heavy night of drinking.  “Can you magic us out of these ropes?”

“My hands are tied.”  Fell gave an indignant glare.  She turned back to the ceiling as she remembered she wasn’t looking Hill in the eyes.  “You’ve seen me cast.  You know I need my hands,” she continued.  “It’s not like I flail my arms about just for show.”

“Alright,” Hill huffed.  “No reason to get pissy at me.  I didn’t tie us up.”  Again, mostly sure.

“Sorry.  Our current, uh, our situation is…”  Fell searched for a word.  Awkward?  Mortifying?  Humiliating?  She let it go.  There was no single word for your penis is near my face and I don’t much like it.  “Can’t you just snap your ropes?”

Hill tugged at his bonds.  “I’m not sure,” he admitted.

Fell gave an exasperated noise.  “What do you mean you’re not sure?  I’ve seen you lift a horse.  These are just ropes.”

Hill grunted a response, and struggled full against the ropes.  Hill was strong; bend bars/lift gates strong.  Still, snapping ropes wasn’t just a matter of strength.  Tied like this, Hill had no leverage.  He was more likely to break his wrists before he snapped his bonds.  Worse, Hill’s struggling thrust him well into Fell’s comfort zone.  She squeaked, and squirmed away from Hill’s escape attempts.  She didn’t manage to get far, though she did manage to knee Hill in the nose pretty well.

“Sorry,” Fell said.  “It’s just, your, uh…”  Again, no single word worked for descriptive.

“S’all right,” Hill muttered.  He rolled onto his back, sparing Fell any further uncomfortable interaction.

“Thank you.”  Fell gave a small sigh.  “I’m not sure if this can get any more awkward.”

“Give it time,” Leif suggested from across the room.  “I’m sure you two can raise the level.”

Hill and Fell stared over at the elf.  Leif sat in the corner.  His hands were still tied, but he had them cupped up front, keeping his dignity.  His feet were free, and he stretched a leg out to show this fact off.

Hill stared daggers at Leif.  “You were just laying there a second ago.  How’d you even?”

“Trade secret,” Leif commented with a shrug.

Fell glared at Leif.   Hill noted that she was less uncomfortable looking at the elf, and took it as a compliment.  “Huh,” she sniped.  “I see your hands are still tied.”

“Yes, well.”  Leif shrugged again.  “I didn’t say it was a great secret.  I can’t reach the knots on my wrists.”  He walked across the room, and knelt behind Fell.  “I can reach your knots though.  Unless you’d both like to keep trying to untie yourselves?”  Leif chuckled.  “I’ve got to admit, it’s been entertaining.”

“Go screw, twig eater,” Hill growled.  He rolled back on his side so Leif would be able to reach his bonds, never looking away from the elf.  “How long have you been awake?”

“I was always up,” Leif said.  “Elves don’t sleep.”

“Bullshit,” Hill replied.  “I called to you several times.  You were out cold.”

“I was meditating,” Leif replied indignantly.

“Again I say bullshit.  If you don’t sleep, how’d you end up here with us?”

“We drank an awful lot last night,” Leif countered.  “I’m a pretty sound meditater.”

“Oh, it doesn’t matter,” Fell cut in irritably.  “This is horrible enough without the bickering.”

The three worked together to get loose.  Everyone stretched and groaned while all politely looking at anything that wasn’t each other.  It wasn’t an easy task, as it was a small room with little else to look at.  The ceiling was becoming everyone’s favourite point of interest.

Leif was the first to get to work.  He quietly opened the door, thankfully unlocked.  He poked his head out.  “Well, that’s disturbing,” he commented.

“What is?”  Hill leant over the elf, and looked down the hall.  “Oh,” he whispered.  “Yeah, I see what you mean.”

Fell joined the two, careful to not brush against either.  She nodded sagely, but didn’t add comment.  Beyond the door was a long hall.  It was badly lit, with only a few torches, so it looked to go on forever.  There was a table not more than ten feet away that held the trio’s clothes and equipment.  Just beyond it was a pair of odd looking guards.

The two were short, and built out of thick muscle.   Their skin was a translucent white.  Even in the bad lighting, Hill could see the black veins that throbbed just beneath their skin.  The little men had no neck, and no faces.  Instead, their stump heads were dominated by a large round mouth full of tiny sharp teeth.  When they moved, their bodies shifted and squirmed in an unsettling manner.  On the odd occasion, a long sharp tongue the length of a child’s forearm would shoot out of one of their mouths.

Hill, Fell, and Leif ducked back into the room, and quietly closed the door.  “Ok,” Fell admitted.  “This is quickly going from humiliating to terrifying.”

Hill nodded a slight agreement.  “Maggot Men?”

“Gruberlings,” Fell countered.  “Minions of Quatterlash, the Obese Lord.”

Leif smirked at Fell.  “You just made that up,” he accused.

“I did not,” Fell replied indignantly.  “Quatterlash was the Titan God of gluttony and excess.  His followers were in to all sorts of debauchery.”  Fell shuddered unconsciously.  “We’d be lucky if they only wanted to eat us.”

Whelp, that was that.

Burt and Mary just aren’t doing it for me.  Going to go with a different story.  Then, the usual.  Post a day till we get close to the end, peter off a bit then.  New story in three…two….

(The one was silent, but it was there)

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