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Adventurers! 12

“Of course,” Fell noted.  “The urges?  The temptation?  Of course it’d be a succubus.”

Hill stared at the girl.  He took a long moment to respond.  “What?”

“Girl’s a succubus,” Fell whispered.  “Temptation she-devil?”  She rolled her eyes.  “It’s not like I’m pulling this from some obscure arcana Hill.”

“Are you sure?”  Hill never took his eyes off of the girl.

Fell’s mouth hung open a second.  She looked from Hill to the succubus.  The girl gave Fell a ‘what can you do’ shrug.  A long thin tail had snuck from behind the girl, and wrapped around her leg.  A triangular pad at the end of her tail rubbed itself absently along the succubus’s knee.  Fell motioned frantically at this.

“Sorry.”  Hill shook his head.  “I’m just not seeing it,” he said.

“You’re joking, right?”  Fell looked to Leif for backup, only to find the elf also shaking his head.

“Maybe it’s just you,” Leif suggested.  He smiled sympathetically.  “It could be a jealousy thing.”

“It’s not…”  Fell swore under her breath.  She took a deep calming breath, and looked again at the succubus.  She was possibly the only other sane person in the room right now.

The succubus tugged the hem of her shirt down over her tummy, giving her boobs a good shake in the action.  She smiled at Fell.  “You have to admit,” she commented, “it could be a jealousy thing.”

Fell bit her lip so hard she could taste blood.  She had a spell that would burst a circle of fire and lightning from her; which would hit the succubus and the men.  Fell strongly considered casting it.  Her hands twitched with the incantation.

Hill’s eyes widened as he saw Fell’s hands move.  He drew Party Starter instinctively, and stepped between Fell and the girl.  Leif was already there; knives drawn and ready to protect the girl.  Both men watched Fell, daring her to continue.  Only Hill spoke.

“Fell,” Hill started.  “Stop whatever you’re casting.  You’re wrong.  She’s not a succubus.”  He hoisted Party Starter two handed; something he only did when he really meant business.  “She’s just a girl Fell,” he said.  “I won’t let you hurt her.”

“You really are taking this too far,” Leif added.  “I mean, we get that you’re jealous, but this is too much.”  Leif took a moment.  “I’d expect violence as an answer out of him,” he added, pointing at Hill, “but you?  You’re normally the level headed one.”

“Damn it; she’s a succubus,” Fell snapped.  “Look at her!  She has wings and horns!  She has a tail!”

Hill and Leif paused a moment; and their weapons drooped.  The horns were pretty damning evidence.  Besides, There was the adventurers’ oath buzzing in the back of their brains, reminding them that whatever reasons they had for protecting the girl; they weren’t noble.  Hill and Leif turned in unison to the girl; able to see her for what she was, if only for the moment.

That moment died when the girl put a hand on each of the men’s shoulders.  “Don’t let her hurt me,” the girl whimpered.  “You need to protect me,”

Fell watched as the men’s eyes glazed over, and swore quietly.  “You don’t need to protect her,” she protested.

Fell watched as Leif tossed a knife in the air, and caught it by the blade; ready to be thrown offensively.  Hill shifted Party Starter again to full position.  Fell strongly considered her situation.  Charm magic was particularly effective at convincing people that the stupidest action was the best one.  There were flaws in charms though, and Fell smiled slightly as she reassessed her tactics.

“No, I mean it,” Fell said, as she laid her staff on the ground at her feet.  She put her hands forward: defensively, not casting.  “You don’t need to protect her from me.”

The only thing more satisfying then the confusion in Hill and Leif’s eyes was that in the succubus’s.  “Maybe you were right,” Fell admitted with a painfully apologetic smile.  “Maybe it was just jealousy.  I can see now that she’s not dangerous.  I wouldn’t think of hurting her.”

The succubus narrowed her eyes at Fell.  “What,” she stated simply.

“No, I see it now,” Fell continued.  “True love, right?”  She smile/sneered at the succubus.  “I mean, it’s a three way true love, but I’m sure you can handle that.”

Hill slid Party Starter back into its sheath across his back.  He smiled at Fell.  “I’m glad you’re seeing reason,” he stated.  He looked about, slightly embarresed, before he added, “I’m sorry things never worked between us.”

Fell raised an eyebrow.  “Yeah, uh, me too?”  She wasn’t aware there was a thing to work out to begin with.  Yeah, ok, there was a few times: some kissing, waking up in the same bed more than once, and whatever that was at the entrance of the temple.  Every time though?  Alcohol or magic.  She chalked Hill’s comment up to the charm spell messing with his head.

Leif shrugged at the moment being shared.  “We never had a thing,” he stated about himself and Fell.  “It’s not personal.”

“I’ll still miss you,” Fell replied.  “I’ll miss both of you, but if you’re sure this is what you want?”  She gave a proper pause, knowing damn well neither of the men had the ability to change their minds.

“Fine.  I’m sure you’ll be happy here,” Fell stated.  She looked around quickly at the shallow water around them, then pointed to the dry dais.  “Here,” she corrected, motioning both men up the small steps.  The succubus continued to stare confusion, but didn’t get up from her altar.  “I’m sure you’ll all be happy here.”

“I won’t stand in your way,” Fell conceded with all the sincerity she could muster.  “I’ll go, and never bother you three again.”  Fell wiped away a crocodile tear, and rifled through one of her pockets.  She pressed a small collection of stuff into both men’s hands.  “Here,” Fell said finally.  “These are to remember me.”

Fell could barely hide her smile as Hill and Leif stared confusion at the handful of sand and cricket legs she’d handed both of them.  They looked at Fell for a moment, before both slumping to the floor before the altar.

The succubus watched the two collapse.  She blinked at Fell.  “What did you do?” she asked.

“I put them to sleep,” Fell explained in a casual tone.  “I’ve robbed you of your servants.”  Fell retrieved her staff from the ground, and turned slow attention to the succubus.

“It’s just you and me now,” Fell stated.  She put one hand forward, palm up, and gave the internationally accepted ‘bring it’ gesture.   “Your move.”

Adventurers! 11

The temple turned out to be a bit of a let down, all things considered.  Fell had expected a continual flurry of temptations; beds and drinks and food.  Instead, there was little of anything.  Most of the temple sunk into the ground, and was continually flooded with about of foot of swamp water, but that was the worst the place had to throw at them.

In fact, the whole slimy, wet, and somewhat boring effect of the temple was only helping the adventurer’s oath do its job.  Perhaps this was tempting for lizard men, but for the trio, it really wasn’t that appealing.  Not that the urges were gone; just that sitting down and passing the bottle around in a hall of stale water just wasn’t appealing enough.  Laying down in any position was right out.

“Do Alligorn even breed?” Fell wondered out loud.  “I mean, they breed, but you know, do they..?”

“You know, I’ve never considered it,” Leif responded.  He left it at that, since he wasn’t about to consider it now either.

“Maybe they lay eggs?” Fell continued.  “I mean, we’ve only ever seen lizard men, that we know of.  But maybe that’s not it.  Maybe men and women just look alike.”

“Nope,” Leif admitted with a shake of his head.  “Still not thinking about it.”

“Egg layers,” Hill commented nonchalantly.  “Females lay eggs, and the men fertilise them.”

Leif and Fell stared at Hill in stunned wonder.  He ignored it, pointing towards a set of double doors ahead.  “This is the main room,” he stated certainly.  “If there’s anything worth seeing, it’ll be here.”  He pushed open the doors, and strode in.

Fell stayed close behind Hill, while Leif slunk off to the side, staying to the shadows.  It was a large room, and not that well lit.  Still, they could see enough to recognize it as an old church.  Probably here long before the lizard men.

The room had a series of unused pews, half sunk in ankle deep stagnant water.  A dais rose from the at the far end of the room, and was home to a small altar.  Once rich tapestries hung torn and rotted from the walls, and did little to hide the once secret door in the wall.

Not that anyone was looking at the exit.  Fell, Hill and Leif were too busy staring at the only other occupant of the room.  She was laying across the alter when the three came into the room; idly playing with a lock of her hair, but she sat up when the adventurers walked past the pews.

The girl was slim and slight.  She wore a small light cloth skirt, and a shirt that rode up her torso and exposed her midriff.  Her hair was pulled into a pair of short pigtails, and when she smiled, the freckles on her nose stood out.  The girl was a walking description of harmless; it was easy to look beyond the curved horns that sprouted from her forehead, and the small leathery bat wings that grew from her shoulder blades.

The girl stretched out one of her long legs, and wiggled her bare toes absently.  She smiled mock annoyance as she watched the trio’s eyes wander to her panties, before she crossed one leg over the other.  The girl arched her back, and thrust out her perfect breasts.  The small wings on her back fluttered as she stifled a yawn with the back of her hand.

“You took your time getting here,” she accused with an exaggerated pout.

Adventurers! 10

Leif slammed the great doors shut behind the trio.  He braced against them until Fell gestured off a giant translucent hand to hold the doors closed.  Leif watched as Hill struggled to drag over a large fat man statue one handed.  He considered helping, but recognized quickly how pointless that’d be.

“What’s with you and big hand spells?” Leif asked Fell.

Fell didn’t look up from her casting.  “They were all the rage years ago, but fell out of favour,” she explained briskly.  “These days everyone wants Summon spells.  I got the full set dirt cheap off another mage.  Twelve gold, and a copy of Summon Celestial Badger.”

“Really?” Hill pushed the large statue against the door, and struggled to push it into place.  “There’s enough Hand spells to have a set?”

“Oh yes,” Fell replied.  “Big Grasping Hand, Big Punching Fist, Big Ground Shaker.”  She nodded to the translucent hand against the door.  “Big Open Hand Push.  Full set.”  Fell frowned a bit.  “I have one called Big Slow Clap, but I haven’t found a good time to use it.”  Fell waved away her casting, certain that Hill had the door.  “Most mages specialize in one sort of magic or another.  Similar spells normally have similar gestures.”  She shrugged.  “That’s why you see pyromancers, and necromancers, and whatever other mancers.  It’s just picking a favourite; makes for easier casting.”

Leif raised an eyebrow.  “And you favour giant hands,” he commented.  “That says something about you, I dare say.”

“I have plenty of not-hand spells,” Fell replied indignantly.  “Did you see the pillar of fire?  I just have all the hand spells…” she almost said ‘on hand’, but stopped short.  “I just have all the hand spells.”

Hill stepped away from the statue, and surveyed the door.  “I don’t think they’re trying to get in,” he commented.

Leif put an ear to the door.  He nodded professional.  “You’re right,” he stated.  “No sound outside.  No one’s trying.”  He looked about, and shrugged.  “Maybe this is the only exit.  They could be just waiting us out.”

“You know better then that,” Hill growled.  “All temples have a secret exit.”

All temples did indeed have secret exits; often right behind the altar.  Religion, in general, was a fickle game, and it wasn’t that uncommon that the head priest of any sect needed to make a quick getaway.

“It’s likely the only exit they know,” Leif corrected.  “Be a sad excuse for a secret exit if everyone in town was aware of it.”  He shrugged.  “Either way, they’re not trying the door right now, which gives us a moment to recover, right?”  He dug into his pack, and pulled free one of the bottles of wine they’d taken from the Meat Emporium.

“Yeah,” Fell agreed absently, “recover.”  She wanted some of Leif’s wine, but recognized something she needed to do more as she looked over at Hill.  “You’re pretty hurt,” Fell commented. She didn’t wait for Hill to give permission, as she began to cast up some healing.

Fell ran a hand over Hill’s shoulder, numbing the pain while resetting the dislocated shoulder.  Her magic flowed through the rest of his body, knitting bone and muscle wherever it was damaged.  Fell was surprisingly aware of every part of Hill her magic touched.

Fell ran a hand slowly along Hill’s arm.  She leant against him from behind, and reached around him to trace the muscles of his torso.  “Better?”  She whispered the question with heated breath into his ear.

“Better,” Hill agreed as he turned his face to meet her.  They stared at each other for a moment, slowly moving their lips closer.  Fell half closed her eyes.  She wanted this.  It didn’t matter that Leif was right there.  It didn’t matter that they were in an evil temple, or that they’d all just escaped a horde of Alligorn.  She pressed against Hill, feeling the warmth of his back against her chest.  All that mattered was…

Fell pushed off of Hill, and shook away the feeling.  “That was real weird,” she said.

“I wasn’t going to call you two on it,” Leif commented with a smirk, “but yeah.  That was a bit awkward.”  He offered Fell the bottle with a slight smile.

Fell grabbed the wine, and drank deeply before passing it to Hill.  “Something’s wrong,” she mumbled.  “I can’t be the only one feeling this.”

Leif shrugged.  “I feel fine,” he commented as he opened a new bottle.  “A bit thirsty, but who isn’t after a fight?”  He tilted back the bottle, drinking till wine dribbled down his chin.  He looked up, suddenly aware of his feelings.  “I see,” he commented sagely.

“It’s like an urge,” Fell admitted.  “I want to eat, and drink and…” she blushed deep as she trailed off at the end.

Hill tossed his empty bottle across the hall, and grabbed the new bottle from Leif.  He thought on it a moment, and shrugged.  “I’m not feeling it,” he told Fell’s breasts.

“You’re a terrible liar,” Fell accused with a sultry smile.  She shook her head suddenly, and put both hands forward, palms up.  “Solemn adventurer vow; right now,” she declared.

Both men grumbled, but they put their hands forward as well.  “This feeling is likely going to get stronger the longer we are here,” Fell stated.  “We, a band of adventurers, solemnly swear that we will not give in to these urges.”  Fell shifted her fingers slightly, causing a glow to form between all their hands.  “There will be no debauchery.”

“Until we reach a pub,” Leif added quickly.  He looked at Fell.  “Let’s not doom ourselves to a life of the cloth here.”

“Until we reach a pub,” Fell amended.  “Then debauchery will be fine.”

“It should be expected really,” Hill commented.

“No,” Fell stated.  “It’ll be fine.  Wording is important in this.  You know that Hill.”

Hill stared at Fell, not budging on the subject.

“I can’t amend it to expected,” Fell insisted.  “If I do that, we’ll be under oath to overindulge at the next inn we find.”

Hill continued to stare at her, still not moved.

Fell swore under her breath.  “Fine,” she relented.  “We, a band of adventurers, solemnly swear that we will not give in to these urges.  There will be no debauchery until we reach a pub.”  She glared at Hill.  “There, it will be expected.”

The light between them shone brighter as they all agreed.  The solemn swear couldn’t stop them from breaking their word at all; that wasn’t how the spell worked.  Instead, the spell would make you feel slightly guilty about breaking your word.  It would nag at you about any thought that would break your vow.  As far as spells went, it was quite insistent.  In short, it was like bringing your mother adventuring with you.

“It’s buzzing away already,” Leif announced as he rubbed his temples.  “I hate the solemn swear,” he declared.  “It always feels so preachy.”

“It would,” Fell agreed.  “I learnt it from Kelvin.”

“That would do it,” Hill said.

Kelvin was one of the rare clerics to travel with the group.  He wasn’t memorable for being preachy; all clerics were preachy, and Kelvin was no different there.  No, Kelvin was memorable because he lasted longer with them than any other cleric.  He traveled with the adventurers for almost a week.  For clerics, that was record breaking.

“He wasn’t so bad,” Fell admitted.  “Taught me to heal you guys; showed us the oath.”

“Showed you the oath,” Leif corrected.  He rolled his eyes.  “Kelvin followed Kailee.  He would have shown you a lot more if you’d given him the chance.”

“Then he should have stayed a bit longer,” Fell replied without pause.  Kelvin was very attractive, and very open minded in relativity to other clerics.  Most followers of Kailee were.  After all, they were believers in a particularly active fertility goddess; good looks and an easy attitude were part of the faith.  A slight buzzing in the back of her mind reminded her that thoughts about what she could have done with Kelvin were against the oath.

Fell shook her head, and glowered at Leif’s remarks.  “Besides,” she continued, “the fact that Kelvin followed the Goddess of Practiced Fertility had little to do with him sharing with me.”  She smiled inwardly.  “He recognized my natural affinity for the Arts.”

“Sure,” Hill said with no agreement.  He picked up the wine bottle, and went to put it against his lips.  His eye twitched, and he gave a long sigh before corking the bottle.  He stood, and tossed the bottle to Leif; taking slight enjoyment as the elf’s face twitched between want and annoyance.

“Well, we’ve rested,” Fell stated, changing the subject.  “And we’ve managed to go five minutes in here without doing anything we’d regret.  Shall we see what else this temple has for us?”

Adventurers! 09

Hill waded through the lizard men.  He swung Party Starter in wide arcs, forcing them to give him a wide berth.  Fell and Leif were waiting already at the door to the temple.  The elf was working on the door’s lock, and Fell was working out a series of complex gestures.

“Hill,” Fell yelled across the melee.  “Stay still for a second!”  She barked a few sharp words, and threw her hands forward; thumbs up.  Gouts of flame shot from her fingers, forming a wall of fire on either side of the fighter.  Fell tilted her hands to either side, leaning the walls of flame over the mob of Alligorn.  Fire fell on the crowd.

A few of the lizard men unfortunate enough to be in the path fell back howling; the others backed up considerably.  This cleared the path a fair bit for Hill, which was a good thing.  It also reminded the remaining lizard men about Fell and Leif, which all things considered, was less good.  The Alligorn that weren’t currently on fire hissed at the two near the door, and advanced.

Fell opened her hands, but the flames shooting forward were barely more than a flicker.  “Hill!  Stop being still now!”

Hill wasn’t actually being still at all.  There were less lizard men in his path; what with the fire and all, but that wasn’t the same as clear.  Hill elbowed his way through a small group of distracted lizard men, trying to rush his approach.  He ended up with a spear through the shoulder for his efforts.

Hill grit his teeth against the pain, and smiled at the lizard man who’d stabbed him.  He’d learnt long ago that shrugging off damage was an effective way to throw off your enemy.  Viciously cutting an opponent in half was another fine way; so Hill did that as well.  He stared over the gore at the other two lizard men.  Being thrown off was pretty contagious, and the two were seriously reconsidering their day.  Still, the other half dozen had missed half the action, and were coming for Hill regardless of his intimidation aura.

Fell shot off some quick, violent hand gestures, and slammed the butt of her staff hard on the ground.  Two giant translucent fists appeared above the lizard men closing in on her and Leif, and smashed the ground.  The lizard men unfortunate enough to be directly beneath the fists were reduced to paste.  The others were flung backwards as the ground shook.

One of the lizard men leapt over the giant fists, and rode the rocking ground towards Fell.  It hissed loudly as it stopped face to face with the wizard.  It took a moment to growl and posture, and seemed slightly confused when Fell failed to be impressed.  The lizard man didn’t even see Leif slide behind it, and didn’t know about the elf until it’s throat was already opened by one of Leif’s blades.  Blood geysered from the wound, and hosed Fell down thoroughly.

“Thanks,” Fell stated dryly as she flicked blood from her face.  “Thanks a lot.”

“Saved your life,” Leif replied.

“You didn’t,” Fell began, but the elf was already turning his attention to Hill’s fight.

Leif tossed the bloodied dagger at the lizard men surrounding Hill; and lodged it deep in the back of one’s skull.  It dropped, only to be replaced by another lizard man.

“Hey Hill,” Leif yelled over the fray.  “Remember the part where we escape through the mysterious temple?”

“Kinda busy here,” Hill grunted back.  He yanked Party Starter from where it had become lodged in a dead lizard man; slamming the hilt of the blade into the jaw of an incoming Alligorn.  A new lizard man leapt onto Hill’s back; as though to show just how busy the fighter was.

Fell twisted her hands into a series of intricate shapes, and pointed at the lizard man on Hill.  An arc of neon blue electricity shot from her extended finger.  Sparks flew from the twitching monster as it slid off of Hill.  Lines of electricity shot suddenly from the dead lizard man into the next nearest enemies.  The fingers on Hill’s free hand twitched, and smoke wisped off his back where the lizard man had been in contact with him.  He turned a slow annoyed glance to Fell.

“Saved your life,” Fell called out.

Hill considered a response, but found nothing that would be polite out loud.  He watched as both his comrades looked with sudden horror over his shoulder.  Hill didn’t bother to ask, and spun quickly; and brought Party Starter up in a defence.  Hill parried as a large club swung down at him.  The Lizard King was evidently bored of the side lines, and had come out to play.

Hill pushed the Lizard King’s club upward; and tried to swing Party Starter through the opening.  The Lizard King laughed as he sidestepped the wide blade.  He brought his club back down hard on Hill’s already injured shoulder.  A loud, and unsettling crack echoed over the hamlet

Hill felt his arm go numb.  It was his off hand, but it was still off setting.  He swung upward at the Lizard King, who again shifted out of reach.  Hill extended at the end of the swing, managing to catch the tip of Party Starter under the King’s upper lip.  He pulled away, and left a gaping tear in the Lizard King’s face.

The Lizard King showed no notice of the wound.  He laughed as blood poured from his ruined lip.  “Getting tired little warrior?” he mocked.  “You put the sword down; I’ll make this quick.”

Hill answered with another swing of his sword.  The Lizard King didn’t step aside this time.  He took a slash across the chest, just to show he could take it.  Hill stopped a moment as the Lizard King smiled over the pain.  That’s how that feels, he thought, just before the King clubbed him in the side.  Hill stumbled back; his ribs moving with a life of their own.

The Lizard King shook his head at Hill.  “You can’t beat me,” he declared simply.

Hill looked over at his dead arm, and at his tenderized side.  Part of the thing that got stupid fighters killed was their pride.  “You’re right,” Hill agreed.  “I’m in no shape to win against you fairly.”  With that, Hill dropped into a low crouch

The Lizard King blinked confusion as Hill dropped.  He howled his annoyance suddenly as a dagger flew over the warrior, and buried itself in the King’s shoulder.  The Lizard King stepped back as the ground split before him, and a pillar of molten earth and fire shot between him and Hill.

The Lizard King hissed his anger, but made no move to chase Hill as the warrior and his companions dashed into the temple.  The Lizard King smiled as the doors slammed closed between the adventurers and the lizard men.  It was as it was supposed to be.

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

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.”

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