Keli… short for Keli

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    • Markshire PCs:

    Port finally showed up, after the battle was over, carpin’ and goin’ on ‘bout how come we ain’t found the hole yet. Ya see, he’d stayed at Faith’s house, flittin’ about like a flutterby, helpin’ her with the dishes.

    I knows folks calls ‘em butterflies but I don’t know why, cause they ain’t got a thing ta do with butter. But they does flit and flutter ‘round ya. . . just like Port. So I calls ‘em flutterby’s.

    Anyways, we poked around a bit and finally found the hole down to the cavern in one o’ the goblin’s huts. We’d been in the hut before but missed seein’ it cause the goblins had covered it up with a funny lookin’ yellow rug what had strange symbols painted all over it and no one thought ta pick the damm thing up ta see what was underneath.

    The hole was a small one, but we had no trouble squeezin’ down ‘cept fer Durok who got stuck half way cause he’s so wide, bein’ a dwarf and all. The rest o’ us had ta push hard on his head ta pop him through.

    And there we was! In another part o’ the cavern, on a narrow path with muddy foul smellin’ red water stretchin’ far off into the distance, on either side o’ us! Ta clean the water we needed emeralds, sugar, sand and ginsing. Accordin’ to the instructions Frankie give us, we had ta throw ‘em in the water in that order, ta clean it up.

    All went well til the boys got to the ginseng. As hard as Walis tried, he couldn’t manage ta chuck the ginseng out far enough into the water fer it to have any effect. There was a slight breeze comin’ in on us from off o’ it and it kept blowin’ the damm ginseng straight back into his face! No one knew quite what ta do about that.

    I had some rope what I was savin’ in case I decided somewhere down the road, ta hang Frankie from his damm tree o’ shaftin’. I suggested we use the rope ta tie the ginseng ‘round Port ta give it a little weight ya know? Walis would get a good toss that way and . . . well, it’d be like killin’ two birds with one heave!

    Well, ain’t no one liked that idea, Port most o’ all, cause he stopped his flittin’ and right quick, disappeared behind a big rock and ain’t bothered us no more. Walis kept at it, the wind died down a little and glory be, his last bit o’ ginseg flew outta his hands and landed atop the emeralds, sugar and sand he’d thrown out earlier!

    The ground started shakin’ and all the lights went out and we all grabbed on to each other ta steady ourselves thinkin’ the cavern was cavin’ in on us! And oh geez! When the lights came back on, the water was all crystal clear, and smellin’ sweet, and you could even see little fish here and there, swimmin’ about in it!

    We made our way up and out o’ the cavern, and started back ta Frankie’s camp, anxious ta give him the news ‘bout cleanin’ up the cavern’s water.

    • Markshire PCs:

    Frankie and the rest o’ the frogs was happy ta hear ‘bout our success cleansin’ the water in the cavern. He reminded us there was four pictures we sto . . . . uh, removed from Sar’s house.

    On the back o’ each was a thing we had ta do so’s the tree o’ shaftin’ would get better. Oh geez! Four pictures meant four things and so far we’d only done three! One, Monty had put the tree ta sleep, two, we’d stopped the beatin’ hearts and put out the fires, and three, we cleaned the water so’s the shaftin’ tree could suck up a nice drink now and then.

    Frankie told us we’d have ta go down into the cavern one last time to make the dirt good fer plantin’ stuff. I just stood there starin’ at his legs and wonderin’ whether they’d taste better boiled and dipped in butter or rolled first in a nice batter with bread crumbs and seasonin’ then fried up all crisp and crunchy.

    He told us ta rest up a day or two from our battle with the goblins before we made the last trip down ta fix the dirt. But in the meantime, mayhap one o’ us who wasn’t hurtin’ so bad might help him with another problem what popped up. Oh geez! Ain’t he never gonna stop askin’ fer things?

    Frank said his tribe had a trade agreement with the Pellytes and the Grippoli’s was fallin’ short on their end o’ it, cause o’ all what’s goin’ on with their tree o’ shaftin’! Now he’s needin’ someone ta bring a load o’ axes ta Thane, the leader o’ the Pellytes, who lives in a big castle up in Zariat pass.

    Sun-Ok, bein’ as she only had a couple o’ nicks and scratches from the few goblins what got close to her, volun . . . uh, told Frankie she’d be glad to do it. I ain’t knowin’ much o’ what happened later that night, if anything, cause I was really tired from all the fightin’ and hikin’ ya know? I just walked a little ways off, set up me tent and went to bed.

    • Markshire PCs:

    Monday o’ last week, I was in Foothold and met Sun-Ok outside the Temple. I asked her where she was off to, and she told me she’d be makin’ a delivery o’ axes to Thane, at his castle out by Zariat pass.

    She asked me if I’d like ta tag along. I said sure, ‘cause I always enjoys seein’ how kings and royalty is livin’ in their huge castles, dressed up in fancy robes with all their servents and maids buzzin’ ‘round makin’ things easy fer ‘em. Anyways, off we went!

    On the way there, we run into Bel who was standin’ ‘round doin’ nothin’ and he joined us. When we got to the castle, Sun-Ok run off to an empty room and changed quick into a pretty purple dress so’s she’d be lookin’ her best before she met with the head o’ the Pellytes.

    When she was ready, the guards ushered us into a big room and there he stood! All puffed up and proud and feelin’ good about himself. Thane, the leader o’ all the Pellytes!

    Well I hailed him. I shouted “Hail Thane! leader o’ all the Pellytes!” Sun-Ok give me a dirty look, and Bel told me ta shut up and I did. But I thought all kings and lords and important folks like ta be hailed, ya know? When Lord Mark hops in his wagon and rides through the streets o’ Foothold, I waves and hails him too! He always gives me a wink and a little smile as he’s passin’ by.

    Ohh! Speakin’ o’ wagons Port told me Lord Mark’s got a new one! All fancy and painted in different colors with lots o’ bells and whistles hangin’ off o’ it! Imported, I think! Thing is, it’s got five wheels on it and a huge map built into it, what keeps droppin’ down in front o’ the driver blockin’ the view.

    The Lord and all his friends is havin’ a devil o’ a time learnin’ ta steer it proper cause o’ the map and the fifth wheel ya know? And it’s so heavy they can only go from one place to another really slow and they need twice as many oxen ta pull it as they needed ta pull the old one around!

    Lady Mark’s havin’ a conniption ‘cause they’s doin’ their practicin’ in the court yard, and they keep runnin’ over her shrubs and nice flowers what she worked so hard on ta plant! Oh geez! The old wagon’s sittin’ in a corner somewhere and none o’ the earls, and dukes and the rest o’ Lord Mark’s friends is payin’ much attention to it no more.

    Men is like that, ya know? They’s the same as children when they gets a fancy new toy. They just ain’t wantin’ ta put it down ever! And if ya ain’t watchin’ ‘em close they’ll even try ta sneak it into bed with ‘em!

    And I heard that when Lord Mark finally gets the new wagon workin’ right, him and his friends is all gonna jump in and ride off ta some other place much nicer then where he’s livin’ now! Yup! I heard that!

    But one o’ the earls said they’d paid the rent on the land here, for the next hundred years and it would be ok with him if any o’ us wished ta stay here. Or we’d be welcome to come along with them, even though all o’ the other earls and dukes and the rest o’ his close close friends already has reserved seats inside the wagon and there ain’t none left.

    But he said the new wagon would be pullin’ a cart behind it which all o’ us could cram into if we decided ta come along. I’m thinkin’ he don’t care too much whether we stays or goes, cause all o’ the other earls and dukes and the rest o’ his friends has decided to make the trip ta the new place with him.

    But they’s gonna leave the old wagon here so we can ride around in it. They’s gonna leave a few merchants too but they’s gonna be all business now, and ain’t gonna chat no more ‘bout things with us. They’ll still be lots o’ things ta do . . . like whackin’ monsters and . . . well, like whackin’ monsters.

    Seems kinda sad ta me, ya know? All o’ this started ‘cause o’ a new wagon what some o’ us think ain’t nearly as good as the old one. Nope. I guess the town’ll be kind o’ empty now. We ain’t gonna be seein’ Lord Mark in his old wagon, ridin’ down the streets o’ Foothold no more. I wonder if he’ll stop by some day, and tell those o’ us whats left, one o’ his tales . . . like he used ta do, in that nice park out by Stonemark.

    Oh geez! Where was I? Oh! I know! Thane, the leader o’ the Pellytes . . .

    • Markshire PCs:

    . Sun-Ok made a nice curtsy to Thane, then she drug the huge sack o’ axes what she was carryin’ up to where he was standin’ in front o’ his throne. Thane seemed pleased with the axes and assured her their trade agreement with the Gripplies would still be in effect, at least fer another couple o’ days.

    Then I think the two o’ them chatted a bit ‘bout the weather. I aint’ too sure ‘cause me and Bel hung back and it was hard to hear ‘em, ya know? I ain’t hailed him no more and that was that and the three o’ us left Thane’s castle and journeyed back ta Foothold.

    The bunch o’ us spent the rest o’ the week healin’ from our battle with the goblins and preparin’ for our last trip down into the cavern ta fix the dirt so’s things could grow again and the shaftin’ tree’s roots would be all cozy and comfy buried in it. By Friday, Bel had collected a load o’ dead fish, and Sun-Ok the silk we’d be needin’, to finish our work in the hole below the tree o’ shaftin’.

    But I gotta tell ya somethin’ first. A man always smells a bit to me, ya know? They’s all got a sour odor to ‘em somethin’ like pipe tobacco, ale and general grubbiness all mixed up together and I tries never to stand too close to a man. Yup! All men is kind o’ stinky! ‘Cept for Port o’ course, who’s always wearin’ perfume and Voran who’s got kind o’ a pleasant scent to him.

    Anyways, I ain’t never smelled nothin’ in my life as bad as Bel, carryin’ all those dead fish ‘round in his pack fer the better part o’ a week! Oh geez! Bel stunk somethin’ awful! The stench o’ him was makin’ me hair curl and my tummy queasy and givin’ me a headache all at the same time and I just wanted ta writ all o’ that down.

    So we made our way into Barrelgore’s kitchen and shortly after, Bel, Durok, Voran, Walis, Sun-Ok and me was in the cavern, fixin’ ta make the ground in it good fer growin’ things once more. T’was my job ta dig little holes along the path we found ourselves on and Bel’s job ta drop one o’ the fish he was carryin’, into each hole I dug, makin’ the dirt fertile again.

    I done the very best I could diggin’ the holes. The ground was hard and I ain’t thought ta bring a spade. I was scrapin’ ‘em out with me sword and some o’ the holes was kinda shallow. After Bel threw in a fish, he’d have to squoosh each one down hard with his boot, makin’ the stink o’ it even worse! Oh geez!

    All the while, Sun-Ok was busy sewin’ silk into every corner she could find along the path and securin’ all o’ it with Grippli Stick Sharps what she hammered into little cracks in the rock. She was makin’ homes for the spiders and ap . . . uh, aphi . . . uh, all the other tiny bugs what lived down there.

    Meanwhile Durok, Voran and Walis was busy guardin’ those o’ us who was diggin’ and sewin’ from all the skinnies what had popped up outta nowhere and was doin’ their best ta kill us all! We finished with the diggin’ and used up all o’ Bel’s fish and Sun-Ok made some really nice places fer the bugs ta live and we all climbed back outta the cavern, leavin’ most o’ the odor from the dead fish down there.

    We ain’t let Bel come with us til he took off his smelly boots and threw ‘em in the hole we’d just come up from and he had to make his way back to Frankie’s camp, limpin’ and hoppin’ along in his bare feet.

    Frank was happy, hearin’ ‘bout our fixin up the dirt and makin’ homes fer all the bugs and spiders in the cavern. He told us all ta rest up ‘cause next week we’d all be goin’ off ta Arik lookin’ for somethin’ else he was needin’

    Ohh geeeeez! Arik!

    • Markshire PCs:

    So off we went to Arik, Bel, Walis, Voran, Sun-Ok, me and Port. With Durok leadin’ the way. Or Port doin’ the leadin’, dependin’ on how ya was lookin’ at it. Men is like that ya know . . . each one o’ em always wants to be doin’ the leadin’.

    Anyways, ta get to Arik, ya first gotta get to Bal’ynaz, the Duergar city. A long walk through Thrym’s pass and a short walk through a cave’ll at the end o’ the pass’ll get ya there, but there’s also an express wagon you can take, what leaves from Foothold every couple o’ minutes. Takin’ the wagon’s much safer and that’s what we done.

    After ya gets ta Bal’ynaz, ya gotta cross the timeless desert to get to Arik and there ain’t no wagon fer ya to be jumpin’ on. Nope. Ya gotta walk. Now the timeless desert’s directly under Thrym’s control and he ain’t likin’ anyone traipsin’ across it, ya know? If he’s payin’ attention, and he sees ya trespassin’ in his desert, he’ll start droppin’ things outta the sky on top o’ ya just outta sheer meanness!

    Awful things! Frost giants! Dozens o’ ‘em! Woolly Mammoths! They’s like hairy ele-fonts only much bigger and they tries ta squash ya under their feet and gore ya with their tusks! And Dragons! Oh geez! Mayhap four or six at a time belchin’ their fire at ya! Winter wolves howlin’ and snappin and tryin’ ta rip ya to pieces!

    But . . . Thrym musta been busy with somethin’ else and he ain’t seen us, cause we made it across the desert without havin’ any problems. Soon we was outside the walls o’ Arik and makin’ our way to the gate so’s we could get inside the city, and oh geez, all hel broke loose! Aloonies! A whole bunch o’ ‘em popped up outta nowhere and jumped right over the wall and came straight for us!

    Now Aloonies is somethin’ like mind-flayers, dressed up in dark robes and havin’ squiggly tentacles hangin’ outta their faces. But they’s got a much stronger magic, and it’s a real chore ta battle even one o’those things, never mind five or six!

    Well, since I was nearest to where they’d jumped over the wall, o’ course they attacked me first! I ain’t even got a chance ta raise me sword before everything went black and when I awoke, Garm was standin’ there above me, mumblin’ somethin’ ‘bout if I decided ta stay awhile, he’d let me have a nice room with a view! I told him no thanks, I’d be goin’ soon. Then I felt somethin’ tuggin’ on me, pullin’ me away from Garm and his fire and back to the spot where the Aloonies had attacked.

    Ya know. . . when ya goes ta Arik, yer half expectin’ you’ll be seein’ Garm if ya stay there long enough. Yup! The longer ya dally in Arik, the better yer chances o’ makin a visit to Garm! But . . . I ain’t even got inside the gates yet when the Aloonies took me. I’ll tell ya, dyin’ before I even got inside the city, put me in an awful snit fer the rest o’ the night!

    Anyways the aloonies had moved on and we made our way to the gate that led into the lost city of Arik. Frankie was needin’ a seed, I ain’t sure why, and we was gonna look fer it in an ancient part o’ the city.

    • Markshire PCs:

    Through the gate we went, bein’ as stealthy as we could, tryin’ to avoid any Anal Slavers, or hill giants what might be wanderin’ about.

    Anal Slavers is cruel and ugly lizard like creatures with faces like dogs and scales stickin’ outta their backs and they always travel in packs, each o’ ‘em carryin’ a heavy stick with a big long knife tied on to the end o’ it with rawhide. And believe me, they’s just itchin’ ta cut somethin’ up into little pieces with it!

    Hill giants saunterin’ along, grumblin’ and mumblin’to themselves, lookin’ fer somethin’ to whack with the huge clubs they’s carryin’. And they always has their shamans with ‘em and those shamans is really nasty, with powerful magic what they hurls at ya!

    Or Mind Flayers what like ta suck yer brains out right through yer ear and leave ya standin’ there, babblin’ like an idiot! ‘Cept men don’t have to worry so much ‘bout mind flayers, ya know? A man can loose a good deal o’ his brain to a mind flayer and it don’t bother him one bit. Like I said a few pages back, most o’ a man’s brain is just paddin’ anyway.

    On top o’ all that, Thrym could decide at any moment ta drop a load o’ dragons or a huge purple worm or a bunch o’ dire bears right down on top o’ us! Oh geez! Arik really is a horrible place ta be walkin’ ‘round in!

    Anyways, Sun-Ok lead the way, doin’ her scoutin’, clearin’ traps and lookin’ fer monsters, makin’ sure the path was safe fer the rest o’ us. Shortly we found ourselves in front o’ Njord’s temple with the boys arguing ‘bout whether we should go in or not.

    Durok and Walis was thinkin’ they knew a better place to start their huntin’ for the seed what Frankie was needin’. And Port was jumpin’ up and down, his face gettin’ all red and blotchy lookin’ with spittle shootin’ outta his mouth, stompin’ his foot, insistin’ Njord’s temple was the place to look first!

    Well Durok and Walis, and I aint’ sure who else, went off to do their lookin’ in some other place, and Port, Bel and a few o’ the others made their way into Njord’s temple leavin’ me standin’ there between the two groups watchin’ them each go their separate ways.

    Well I’ll tell ya! Bein’ in Arik with a bunch o’ folks is bad enough . . . but when the group splits up, with each goin’ their separate way, its just about the worst thing ya can do in a place like this! I just don’t think men is too bright, ya know?

    Anyways I’m standin’ there alone realizin’ that now I ain’t part o’ either group and I better join one soon or for sure I’ll be seein’ Garm again! I chose ta go along with Port ‘cause he always seems ta be good at findin’ things we’s lookin’ fer.

    With Port, it’s almost like he’s been to the place we’s lookin’ in many times before, and he knows just where ta look! Well . . . mayhap in another life?

    I followed Port and Bel inside, and straight off we were set upon by a bunch o’ water elementals but they ain’t caused us much o’ a problem. We poked around a bit and found a few pretty sashes, purple ones! The color matched perfect with the trim on me armor! And they was infused with magic too!

    There wasn’t much else in the Temple so we headed outside again and glory be, Faith was standin’ there makin’ small talk with Durok, Walis and all the others who’d returned, tellin’ them she’d decided she was gonna help us in our quest!

    Well, I can’t think o’ anyone better ta have along then that girl! She can conjure up some potent magic! Now back together again, the bunch o’ us made off to another Temple, this one close by, and built in honor of Loki. Once inside, Port found a key what was tucked away in an old chest. We decided to keep it, thinkin’ it might unlock some doors to other places in the lost city.

    Loki’s temple was dank with a bad odor to it and gloomy too, and I ain’t wanted ta stay any longer then I had ta ‘cause I just don’t like Temples o’ any sort, so when our searchin’ was over I was the first to leave.

    I made my way out the door and walked away from the entrance and through the gate, breathin’ deep, gettin’ some good air back into me lungs. I happened ta glance up and ohh geeeez! Not twenty paces in front o’ me was Father McGreggor and with him, at least five Aloonies! And they was all headin’ straight at me!! Oh geez!

    Well, fer sure I ain’t no hero, and I was determined not to be dyin’ again that night so I gave McGreggor me nicest smile and said “Hello Father” and “Goodbye Father” in the same breath, gave him a quick curtsy, turned and ran like hel away from them wicked things as fast as me legs would carry me!

    I guess when Bel, Port, Faith, Sun-Ok, Durok, Walis and Voran came outta the Temple, they was more than a match fer McGreggor and the aloonies. I ain’t sure ‘cause I was still runnin’ ya know? I ran all the way to that hut near the house where the slavers eats their meals, and climbed in the hole what leads into the basement and after I stopped shakin’ I curled up into a little ball next to the wall and went to sleep fer three days!

    I’m sorry I can’t tell ya anymore ‘bout what happened that night in Arik. I ain’t seen anyone all week ta ask. Foothold’s pretty much deserted these days, ya know.

    But we’s all goin’ again tonight. Yup! Back to Arik! Mayhap we’ll find the damm seed what Frankie’s needin’. Mayhap we’ll find some other things too. We’ll see, I guess.

    • Markshire PCs:

    She’s been trapped in “The Forgotten Chamber” in the sunken ruins below the lost city of Arik for almost four days without food or water. She’s tried to grab for the rope at the top of the stairs which would bring her up and out and perhaps to safety, but someone or something must have moved it and it now lies beyond her reach.

    She’s convinced she’s been ‘forgotten’ also. She’s scratched a short message on one of the walls of the chamber with her skinning knife and then collapsed below it in exhaustion and despair. It reads:

    “I was here with all o’ my friends. I think they’s trapped upstairs someplace and I ain’t able ta get up to ‘em. We fought well and ain’t run away from nothin’. Keliana Weiler.”

    I had so much to tell ‘bout this place, but I ain’t about to scratch it all out on a wall with a skinnin’ knife. I’m sayin’ a small prayer ta Odin now, hopin’ he’ll send someone along to lower the rope again so’s I can climb outta here and get somethin’ ta drink.

    Or mayhap if he ain’t too busy, he’ll just wisk me right back ta Foothold! Gods is able ta do things like that ya know!

    • Markshire PCs:

    Well, shortly after I said me prayer to Odin, I picked myself up, and stood there below the hole we dropped down out of, starin’ up into the darkness. I was lookin’ at the tip o’ the rope, dangling there with the end o’ it too high fer me ta grab onto.

    Then ohh geez! A big skin full o’ water comes shootin’ down outta that blackness and lands right at my feet! Whump! Along with the water, some healin’ kits, a few loaves o’ nice dark bread, a few pages o’ blank parchment and a quill, tied up together with a pretty yellow ribbon!

    Lastly, a small bottle of me own special tobacco juice ink, what broke when it landed, splatterin’ its contents all over me! There was also a note attached to the water bag what said the others was camped upstairs in a little house and someone would be along soon ta lower the rope, so’s I could climb back up to ‘em!

    Oh geez! Well I’ll tell ya! Prayers does work! But I’m thinkin’ t’was not Odin who dropped all o’ this stuff down ta me, ya know? Odin’s always busy sittin’ at that table o’ heros in his great hall, drinkin ale, singin’ battle songs, carryin’ on the way men does, enjoyin’ himself and gettin’ tipsy along with the rest o’ his friends.

    I’m thinkin’ it was his wife, Frigg who done this kind thing fer me. She’s the one they say is always weepin’ ‘bout somethin’. Well, I’d be cryin’ too if I had ta keep the ovens goin’ fer eight hundred hungry men, never mind runnin’ ‘round that damm table with a big pitcher o’ ale, tryin’ ta make sure everyones mug was full! Geez, I’ll tell ya! Men is sometimes really inconsiderate, ya know?

    Well, now bein’ in a really good mood, I started chewin’ up a new batch o’ ink, sat myself down and got set ta writ ‘bout all o’ the things what happened to us over the last few days . . .

    • Markshire PCs:

    Well gettin’ back to last Friday, like I said, we all set off to Arik again, in search o’ the seed Frankie the frog was needin’. I think the travelin’ magic in Barrelgore’s kitchen musta wore off, ‘cause Bel, Durok, Walis, Voran and me and Durok had ta take the express wagon again, what leaves Foothold every few minutes or so, ta get to Bal’ynaz.

    Sun-Ok and Monty wasn’t able ta squeeze on with us, but they took the very next wagon and soon the bunch o’ us was hikin’ our way across the desert and on to the lost city.

    Thrym musta been takin’ a nap, or he ain’t seen us, ‘cause he ain’t dropped nothin’ outta the sky ta try and murder us. We made our way through the gate and before long the bunch o’ us was standin’ in front o’ a stone ramp with two big iron doors what was locked up tight on either side o’ it.

    On a platform at the top o’ the ramp was sittin’ a statue o’ huge dragon, with his wings spread out, as if he was gonna take off and fly away any moment. Sun-Ok made her way up the ramp with a crown what she took out from her pack, and stuck it somewhere on the dragon statue. I ain’t sure where she placed it‘cause Bel was blockin’ my view.

    Then she stepped back a bit, and oh geez, the tumblers in the lock on the left hand door started whirrin’ and grindin’ and clankin’ and soundin’ as if they hadn’t been used in a thousand years! Ever so slowly, the door creaked open; with stale fetid air now shootin’ out o’ the crack’ with a hiss from where it had been imprisoned for god knows how long.

    And there it was! We’d found a way down into the depths that lay below the lost city o’ Arik! Mayhap Frankie’s seeds were down there too.

    T’was at that moment, Ghak, who is a troll, who was slinkin’ along behind us all the while without us knowin’ it, chose ta pop out from where he was hidin’ bellowin’ with evil laughter, yellin’ at Monty, tellin’ him he was sittin’ right next to him in the wagon what took him and Sun-Ok to the dwarf city!

    Monty couldn’t see him in the wagon ‘cause Ghak kept drinkin’ invisible potions for the whole trip! Then he stepped close, whacked poor Monty, who was standin’ there, his mouth half open in surprise, right on top o’ his head! Oh Geez! Well o’ course, straight off, we all came to Monty’s aid, ya know? We put Ghak down right quick but that wasn’t enough fer Monty.

    He . . . well, uh, ya see, like I said, Ghak fell quick. The troll was just layin’ flat on his back, leakin’ blood from a hundred places, moanin’ and groanin’ with his eyes rolled back in his head and we was kinda done with him, ya know? But Monty wasn’t and he forgot all about his magic and started beatin’ away on Ghak with his staff! And spittin’ on him too!

    All the while, screamin’ and cursin’ at the troll! Oh geez! I ain’t never heard anyone use language like that ever, except mayhap fer Sar! Then Monty hops up on Ghak’s chest and begins ta jump up and down on him with his eyes shut tight, his fists clenched up into little balls, while still screechin’ away at the troll who ain’t heard or felt nothin’ cause he was unconscious, ya know?

    Oh geez! We could hear Ghak’s ribs snappin’ and cracklin’ and poppin’ and air wooshin’ outta his lungs each time Monty landed! Finally we had ta drag Monty off o’ the troll, and hold onto him tight till he calmed down and stopped shakin’ with anger! Oh geez, Monty hates that troll!

    Anyways, we left Ghak outside layin’ there bleedin’ and dyin’ and the rest o’ us stepped through the doorway what Sun-Ok had unlocked a few minutes before, with the crown. We wasn’t more then a few paces inside, when the whole place started shakin’ and huge pointy stones started risen’ up outta the ground all around us!

    The shakin’ stopped, and who’s standin’ there between the stones, but Lady Kaldt with a big smile on her face, her hair done up, lookin’ all neat and spiffy in a light blue and white full length gown what I’m sure she ain’t bought in Stonemark! She’s a Valkyrie in case anyone don’t know that.

    Well she tells us she’s aware o’ the Grippoli plight, and how we’s tryin’ hard ta help them and whatever we does for them will be good fer the forest. But there’s another one what’s needin’ our help and his name is Opinvu. Oh geez! Another one needin’ our help!

    It seems he’s’ been doin’ research fer a book he’s writin’ ‘bout the fall o’ Gastlynk, or somethin’ like that. Now he’s layin’ low somewhere in that city and can’t find a way ta get out ‘cause the Titan’s minions know he’s there and now they’s out and about, lookin’ fer him, and they’ll skin him alive if they finds him! Well, Bel and Monty knows Opinvu quite well and I met him once or twice.

    He seems like a nice enough chap with always a ring or an amulet for sale, and a funny thing to say, so we told the Lady Keldt we’d do our best to rescue him. She thanked us, then the ground started its shakin’ and the pointy stones came out again, and Keldt was gone.

    There was some talk between the men ‘bout whether we oughta split up, with half o’ them goin’ off to rescue Opinvu and the rest o’ us pushin’ on in search o’ the seeds Frank was needin’. In the end we decided to stay together and keep searchin’ for the seeds.

    We turned and started down into the darkness and mystery and danger, and only Odin was knowin’ what else was waitin’ fer us, deep below this lost city of Arik.

    • Markshire PCs:

    A few paces beyond the entrance, we passed by a scargalopafuss. Actually, there was two o’ ‘em, each one sittin’ on its own slab, with an iron gate goin’ ‘round three sides o’it.

    For those o’ you what ain’t knowin’ what a scargalopafuss is, they’s big sturdy boxes, very well made and usually chiseled outta stone, with a really thick slab sittin’ atop o’ them.

    They’s constructed that way ‘cause their makers ain’t wantin’ anyone to be openin’ them up and pokin’ round inside . . . or, ‘cause they aint’ wantin’ what awful thing they’s stuffed in it to be getin’ out ever again! I ain’t really sure which. Probably a little o’ both, ya know?

    Anyways, they always has a bad odor leakin’ out o’ them and most times, they feels warm when ya touch ‘em. It’s best to leave a scargalopafuss alone. We made our way past ‘em and along a narrow wooden ramp what twisted this way and that, with Sun-Ok out ahead clearin’ traps and makin’ sure the path was safe fer the rest o’ us.

    The ramp was narrow so’s we could only walk two abreast and every so often, spikes would come shootin’ up outta the floor, blockin’ our way, leavin’ a few o’ us on one side and the rest o’ us on the other! Oh geez! Well ‘I’ll tell ya! I’m beginnin’ to understand why Monty hates Ghak so much! We ain’t killed him at all! I think he’s immu . . . uh, I think acid don’t have no effect on him like it does on most trolls! Somehow the damn thing musta healed itself and then followed us in here!

    As soon as the spikes would pop up and separate our party, Ghak would pop outta the darkness and begin’ harassing and tormenting and tryin’ hard to murder those o’ us what was left behind! Oh geez!

    On top o’ that, Doom Knights was sneakin’ up behind us whackin’ away, doin’ their best to stop us from goin’ any deeper into the cavern! We fought like demons, with Durok, Voran, Walis and Bel choppin’ at them and Sun-Ok lettin’ loose a hail o’ arrows, and Monty shootin’ spell after spell at the Doom Knights, and Ghak, to keep him at bay!

    Eventually, we managed to make our way across the ramp and after killin’ a few skinnies and searchin’ ‘round a bit, we found a door what led to a place below where we was, and in we went, all o’ us keepin’ an eye out fer Ghak ‘cause we was sure we’d be seein’ him again before the night was over.

    • Markshire PCs:

    We made our way through the door and found ourselves in a huge chamber with corridors branchin’ outta it, leadin’ every which way. I was more interested in a big round couch sittin’ in the middle o’ the room what had pretty red velvet slipcovers, and thinkin’ I could snip off a few pieces and make a nice gown fer meself!

    While the boys was standin’ there debatin’ which corridor to search, a horde o’ Amal Viziers what was hidin’ somewhere, leaped out at us and began slashin’ away, tryin’ ta drive us back to where we’d come from!

    I think they’s cousins o’ Amal Slavers except much more brawny and powerful and before I could say Odin’s apples, things went black again, and when I regained con . . . uh, finally opened me eyes, Garm was starin’ down at me with a big smirk on his face! Oh geez!

    Anyways, the boys musta finished off the Amal Visiers, ‘cause I felt somethin’ tuggin’ on me again and shortly after, I was back in the chamber, with them standin’ ‘round me, grumblin’ about somethin’. I ain’t sure exactly what, and I could be wrong cause me ears was still ringin’ from the blows I took on me head, ya know?

    It sounded like they was complainin’ ‘bout Raise Dead Scrolls bein’ expensive, and I should be spendin’ my time preparin’ for what might be lurkin’ behind a door or around a corner, waitin’ ta jump out and beat me silly instead o’ worrying ‘bout red velvet slipcovers! Well oh geez, ain’t that somethin’! Raise Dead Scrolls is expensive!

    Let me ask ya? How many times have ya seen a man go out and spend a small fortune without blinkin’ an eye, on a useless old war axe with the blade all rusty, chipped and bent and the bindin’ rotted and hangin’ off o’ it? Important to him because some famous dwarf swung it in a battle hundreds o’ years ago what nobody remembers anyways?

    Then you stand there watchin’ him destroyin’ the wall above your mantle, poundin’ iron spikes into it so’s he can hang the damn thing up? Oh he ain’t gonna use the damn axe . . . he just want’s ta look at it! Then he plops himself in a big chair in front o’ the fire, along with his friends, all o’ ‘em just starin’ at it with really dumb looks on their faces! And all the while you’re slavin’ away in the kitchen, tryin’ ta fix them a nice meal! Oh, the nerve of ‘em!

    Well, we’ll see how quick I’ll be pullin’ out my scrolls if one o’ them gets in a fix! Anyways, they give me a minute to recover me senses, and on we went, searchin’ all the halls connected to the chamber, and carefully openin’ all the doors we could, hopin’ we was gettin’ close to findin’ the seeds Franklin was needin’ and wishin’ Port had come along with us, cause he’s always good at findin’ stuff.

    Along the way, we run into a room full o’ wyrmling blue dragons, and further on, some Korns, and even Ghak made an appearance, now and then, doin’ his best to torment us. There were some other evil things too, lurkin’ about what I ain’t knowin’ the names of. All o’ them doin’ their very best to murder the lot o’ us! With Walis and Bel and Voran up front, we ain’t had much o’ a problem choppin’ our way through ‘em.

    Me and Walis cought up to Ghak and put him down again, and we ain’t seen no more o’ him the rest o’ the night. And by the way, Korns is the strangest lookin’ things I’ve ever seen! First off, they ain’t got no body, just a big round head with stalks, stickin’ outta it fer arms and legs! And where a person’s belly would normally be, they’s got massive bulgin’eyes stickin’ out! And instead o’ hair, they’s got a large gapin’ mouth sittin’ right on the top o’ their head!

    We kept up our search and managed to find a trap door in the floor. When we climbed down . . . oh geez! Well we ain’t found Frankie’s seeds yet, but we sure as hel found somethin’ else!

    We’d just dropped down into the real Lost City o’ Arik! Not that shabby collection o’ huts and hovels and Temples sittin’ hundreds o’ feet above us half buried in the ice and snow, Nope! This was the true city!

    Hidden under tons of rock, its streets thick with dust, the echo of human footsteps not heard on its cobblestones for ages!

    The real Arik now stretched out before us! Residence after residence towering above us! All of them built from stone! Some large enough to house a hundred! Shops lining the streets! And the avenues as wide as any you’d find in Stonemark! Mayhap even wider! Oh geez!

    • Markshire PCs:

    She’s sitting on a rickety hardwood bench beside the little table she works at when writing her bio. In her lap is a gift Port gave to her, weeks ago. A fine helm, hammered out with great care, from a rare, luminous yellow ore.

    Sections of it dyed a deep purple and polished to a high luster, with golden rivets perfectly spaced around its sides and back, running up to the top, securing heavier strips of some unknown exotic metal, giving it great strength.

    And with the words, “Headband of Intellect” emblazoned in bold letters across its visor. Truly a work of art! She’s looking intently at it and she senses a powerful magic emanating from within and she’s debating whether or not she should slip it on.

    Now why the hel would that conivin’ little gnome be givin’ a thing like this to me? Mayhap beause he likes me? But . . . if I put it on, I’m thinkin’ its supposed to make me into somethin’ . . . well, different from what I is now. Will he still be likin’ me then?

    Oh geez! Or . . . by givin’ this helm to me, is he implyin’ that he don’t like me the way I is and he’d be feelin’ better ‘bout me if I changed a bit?

    Well damn that little twerp! Sittin’ here tryin’ ta figure all o’ this out is givin’ me a headache! I ain’t knowin’ what the hel was in Port’s mind when he give this to me, and I ain’t carin’ anyways! But . . . if I put it on there might be a number or two inside what I could learn about, ya know? It’d be worth it to try. I’m always wantin’ to learn somethin’ ‘bout numbers!

    She picks up the helm and places it on her head.

    Oh . . . ohhh OH! OHH GEEZZZ!

    Boggle, Boggle, Boggle! Alhoon, alhoon, alhoon! Sarcophagus, sarcophagus, sarcophagus! And . . . E=mc2 . . . and . . . a photon is just an electron traveling backward in time!
    Huh? OHH GEEZZ!

    She quickly removes the helm and tosses it into a far corner of the room.

    Eeee! What the hel was that! Well . . . just what I thought! A worthless piece o’ junk he give me! All full o’ gabble cloudin’ up me thinkin’ and it ain’t had even one number in it I could recognize! Its only good fer one thing! I’ll make a planter outta it! Yup! Gonna get me some dirt and a few seeds and soon I’ll be growin’ me very own tobacco!

    • Markshire PCs:

    Where was I? Oh! The real Arik. Well, we all stood there, lookin’ this way and that, kind o’ discouraged, thinkin’ now we’d be havin’ ta search through the whole city, huntin’ fer the damn seeds what Francis the frog was wantin’. It would take weeks to do it and we’d only brought enough supplies ta last us a few days.

    Sun-Ok had wandered off a bit, and now was hunched over, starin’ close at the dust what had built up on the streets what ain’t been walked on fer so long. She beckoned to us to join her and we toddled over to where she was standin’.

    She clasped her hands together as if she was gonna say a prayer, bowed to us, then pointed at the cobblestones below her and said, “Humble comlades . . . ah . . . you look . . . stleaks and swirls in dust on floor please?” Sun-Ok’s got a really odd way o’ speakin’ ya know?

    Anyways, she stepped back, bowed to us once more and pointed at the stones again. Oh geez! Streaks and swirls! It could only mean one thing! Mind Flayers! Mayhap Aloonies even! Glidin’ along, a couple o’ inches off the ground! Their robes draggin’ in the dust, makin’ those marks! Oh geez! We wasn’t alone!

    Well, straight off, five things popped into me head. Number one, we wasn’t safe standin’ out here and we’d best be gettin’ off the street, and inside someplace right quick before we run into any Flayers, or Aloonies what happened to be out and about!

    Number two, ta me it just ain’t seemed right that someone would leave those seeds layin’ ‘round unprotected in one o’ these empty buildings. Nope! I was thinkin’ those seeds was nowhere to be found in this city. They had ta be hidden in a secret room, mayhap a Forgotten Chamber or someplace like that, locked up secure, inside a strong chest with wards and traps set all ‘round it.

    And number five, I was really wishin’ Port was here with us, even though I ain’t likin him too much fer trickin’ me with that damn helm! Port always seems ta know what’s best ta do next!

    Anyways, we found a door with hinges what ain’t seemed rusted too much and managed to work it open a bit and squeezed our way inside. The room was empty and dark, but Voran lit a torch and we seen a hole in the middle o’ the floor with a sturdy rope, one end tied to a post what was stickin’ outta the wall on the far side o’ the room, the rest o’ it danglin’ down the hole and into the blackness below.

    Well, what the hel . . . who’s gonna pass up a chance ta climb down a rope what’s danglin’ into blackness and God knows what the hel else, and down we went!

    • Markshire PCs:

    Sun-Ok, Voran, Bel and me inched our way hand over hand, down into the murky gloom, hangin’ tight onto the rope. Or mayhap hand under hand . . . ‘cause we was goin’ down, ya know?

    I was next to last on the rope, with Walis behind me and he kept stompin’ on’me head with his boot ‘cause he thought I was climbin’ down’ too slow. Shortly, we found ourselves standin’ at the top o’ a stone ramp what led into what looked to be a large, well lit room.

    Chisled into the stone floor below us we read the words, “The Forgotten Chamber”. Well, oh geez! Now we was really gettin’ somewhere!

    Its really hard fer me ta writ about what happened next ‘cause, whenever I think about it, I gets afraid and me knees start knockin’ together, and my writin’ hand won’t stop tremblin’ but I’ll do me best.

    We gathered at the foot o’ the ramp, all o’ us wonderin’ what the hel we ought ta do next, when I felt an icy tinglin’ what started on me neck, and run all the way down the middle o’ me back, stoppin’ just short o’ . . . lets say I could feel it quite a ways down me back.

    I turned ‘round quick to see what might be behind me causin’ it. Well standin’ there, green eyes sparklin and her hair the color o’ wheat ready fer harvest and hangin’ down in front o’ her eyes, was another me! She’d even tied it up behind her head in a ponytail exactly the way I fixes mine!

    Oh geez! She was the same size and build as me and was even wearin’ the same clothes! The only thing I could see different ‘bout her was that her teeth ain’t had no tobacco stains, and was a pearly white! Was I lookin’ at a . . . uh, doppelganger? That’s a word what I found inside o’ the “Headband of Intellect” Port give me and it kinda stuck with me, ya know?

    Anyways, I was speechless, and it was a good thing, cause awhile later when I finally did get my voice back, I’d utter a few words and they’d wind up comin’ outta her mouth instead o’ mine! I kept tryin’ to run away from her but she kept pullin’ me back!

    Then she musta got tired o’ me runnin’ and she put a spell on me what stuck me onto the wall right next to her! I couldn’t move a finger and she took me voice away too!

    Geez! The boys was confused, not knowin’ which one o’ us was me, and Walis fell down in a dead faint, probably thinkin’ he’d now have ta be dealin’ with two o’ us when one was bad enough!

    Leavin’ me stuck against the wall, she went off and wrapped her arms around Bel, which is somethin’ I’d never do cause Bel’s married to Aels-witch. I wouldn’t do it even if he wasn’t married to nobody, ya know? I think it was then, the boys realized which one o’ us the imposter was!

    Then she started in on them! Beratin and abasin’ ‘em, tellin’ them they was a bunch o’ worthless fools and on and on like that! To demonstrate how powerful she was, she then knocked ‘em all down! All at the same time! Oh geez! The boys got up and Voran who was really angry, went after her, his knives flashin’ away!

    She give him a scornful laugh, then disappeared in a burst o’ flame and smoke! The spell she put on me was broken now, and I slid down the wall I’d been stuck to and collapsed in a heap on the floor, shakin’ like a leaf.

    We talked fer awhile ‘bout who or what could o’ managed to pull off a stunt like that. Bel thought it mighta been one o’ the thirteen pokin’ ‘round in our business but I don’t think so.

    I’m thinkin’ somethin’ with that kind o’ power had to be a God. Probably Loki. They sometimes calls him the trickster God. Anyways, it wasn’t no comfort to me knowin’ powerful entities, was watchin’ and mayhap had some interest in the things we was tryin’ to accomplish.

    • Markshire PCs:

    We began our search o’ the place, all o’ us troubled ‘bout what we’d just seen. I mean, a monster is one thing, but havin’ to deal with one o’ the thirteen, or even worse, a God with a bag full o’ tricks . . . well, oh geez!

    Sun-Ok picked the lock on the first door we got to. Bel swung it open and a bunch o’ rust monsters shot out at us, takin’ us by surprise, their mouth parts whirrin’ and clickin’ and clackin’, doin’ their best to grab hold of one o’ us!

    Straight off, some o’ ‘em snatched at our weapons while the rest o’ ‘em began chewin’ away on our armor, tryin’ ta eat it right off our backs! Rust monsters is small, mayhap a bit larger then a badger, and to me they looks like huge bugs what’s made outta some kind o’ strange metal. And by the way, that’s what they’s hungry for! Metal!

    They look somethin’ like what a blacksmith might throw together as a joke, from scraps o’ what’s layin’ ‘round his shop. Anyways, one o’ em caught hold o’ Walis’s sword and chomped on it till there was nothin’ left, except a little nub o’ steel stickin’ outta the hilt! Oh geez, was he upset ‘bout that!

    And before we slaughtered ‘em all, they managed to gobble up Voran’s armor, leavin’ him standin’ there almost naked, with only his small clothes coverin’ him! Well I dug ‘round in me pack real quick, lookin’ fer somethin’ what might fit him and I found a nice red outfit, a bit large fer me, what I thought would do fine, till he could get a new set o’ clothes fer himself.

    I gotta tell ya, Voran sure looked silly, struttin’ ‘round in a bright red outfit all full o’ frills and ruffles what was special made fer a girl! I couldn’t look at him direct, afraid I’d burst out laughin’!

    With the rust monsters outta the way, we continued our exploration of the chamber and found another room what was filled up with chests, most o’ ‘em locked up tight with strong wards and traps put ‘round them. They’d be difficult to open and there was a risk o’ destroyin’ their contents if we ain’t disarmed them properly.

    It was late, we all was tired, and the boys decided to camp upstairs, and after we got a good rest and our minds was fresh, ta come back down and have a go at openin’ up those chests. It sounded good to me. I was really exhausted, and when they started back to the rope we’d used to climb down, I was laggin’ behind ‘em by quite a bit.

    They turned a few corners, went through a few doors, and I lost sight o’ ‘em but ain’t thought too much about it, cause I knew my way back. Well, when I got to the place in the chamber we’d came down from, the boys was gone. I figured they had climbed up already.

    When I looked fer the rope to begin haulin’ myself up, it was too high fer me ta reach! Now I ain’t accusin’ anyone o’ pullin’ up the rope. Mayhap it was Loki, playin’ his tricks again. Mayhap the boys thought I’d climbed up ahead o’ ‘em . . . and was thinkin’ I was lost up above someplace. Or . . . mayhap Walis was finally gettin’ back at me fer chewin’ on his fingers, weeks ago and figured he’d leave me down here ta rot, ya know? I just aint’ sure.

    Anyways, that’s how I came ta be stuck in this place till Voran finally came along and rescued me. The two o’ us spent the next few days camped up above, in a nice quiet room, and nothin’ tried to murder us . . . and nothin’ happened!! I swear!

    Later, we found the others, and we made our plans about how we’d disarm the traps and wards what was placed ‘round the chests in the Forgotten Chamber below, and started down again. We ain’t had much trouble findin’ our way back and shortly we was down and makin’ our way to the room what was full o’ all the chests.

    We looked careful at the boxes and found one with strange markings on it what appeared to be Grippli Glyphs. It aint’ took too long before Walis disarmed the wards and popped it open. Well glory be! There they was! Frankie’s seeds! We’d finally found ‘em after all this time!

    Oh geez! We all joined hands and danced around, doin’ a jig, laughin’ and singin’ a little tune! But there was more! Besides the seeds, the chest had loads o’ treasure in it! Somethin’ fer everyone! Walis laid it all out on the floor fer us and we went about pickin’ up the things each o’ us wanted.

    I chose a Falchion! A huge curved sword, weighted at the tip so’s it could deliver a crushin’ blow! All fancy and shiny with not a speck o’ rust on it! And words was inscribed on it, namin’ it the “Arik Defender” and sayin’ it was made for a golem who was goin’ to protect the city from the Gods but that ain’t worked out so well so they just stored it down here long ago! Wow!

    And Grippli Sticks! And Grippli Healin’ kits! Oh geez! Well everyone picked out what they wanted, Walis tucked the seeds away in his pack, and we started the trek back up to the surface. We had to battle a bit here and there, but finally we was out, and makin’ our way towards the gate and the timeless desert what lay beyond.

    We had just cleared the gate and Lady Kaldt is standin’ there waitin’ fer us, somehow knowing we’d be along shortly! Well, she reminded us of Opinvu’s dilemma, bein’ stuck in Gastlynk, and about to be ambushed by Father McGregor, who was settin’ a trap for him!

    She give me a dirty look ‘cause I’d completely forgotten ‘bout that part, and I was thinkin’ it was only the minions what was after him, ya know? Geez! How the hel does she know all that stuff?

    We told her that it was the very next thing we was about to do! Our plans were to cut across the Timeless Desert, and on to Gastlynk, goin’ in the back way. She nodded to us, wished us luck with our venture, and then she was gone.

    We ain’t run into nothin’ trekking’ across the desert and shortly, we was approachin’ the gates o’ the city what now belonged to the Titan and his minions. We met some resistance at the gate, and a minion or two once inside, but none o’ ‘em give us too much trouble.

    Eventually, after lookin’ ‘round a bit, Walis found McGregor hidin’ in a doorway, waitin fer Opinvu ta amble by so’s he could pounce on him and kill him dead!

    Well instead, the lot o’ us pounced on McGregor and we beat him to a bloody pulp! Nope, fer sure he won’t be botherin’ Opinvu no more.

    Anyways, we’d saved Opinvu and we now had Frank’s seeds and we ain’t seen Loki or any o’ the thirteen again.

    We headed back to Foothold, our heads high, with Bel whistlin’ some old marchin’ tune. Walis and Voran had big smiles on their faces, and I was strollin’ along behind ‘em, swingin’ my new Falchion, getting’ used to the feel o’ it, and feelin’ really good ‘bout how things had turned out fer us.

    • Markshire PCs:

    Last Friday, me, Sun-Ok, Walis and Voran, along with Durok, me and Bel, set off to the Grippli encampment ta give Frankie his seeds. I was thinkin’ finally we’d be done with him and his clan.

    Now there aint no wagon what goes from Foothold to Frank’s camp, so we had ta walk. Nobody cared too much ‘bout that ‘cause it was a nice evenin’ and besides, we’d had a week ta heal and rest up after gettin’ back from Arik.

    We aint’ got too far out o’ the west gate of Foothold and Sun-Ok whispered to me she’d finally finished sewin’ up me pan . . . uh, me things. Oh geez! I’d been goin’without ‘em fer so long I’d forgotten I wasn’t wearin’ any, ya know?

    I took a quick look in the bag she give me, and there they was! Soft and silky! Six pair! And in the special colors I’d asked fer! And each one with a tiny letter ‘K’ what she embroidered on ‘em usin’ a gold thread! Anyways, I thanked her, paid her for her work and tucked ‘em away in me pack and that was that.

    The way the boys chose to go, would take us through Yar, past Old Man Brudabega’s Soup Store and part way ta Stonemark before we’d have ta turn south at the Everspring Inn and follow the road to Spinhold fer quite a ways. Then a short jaunt into the forest to the east o’ the road would take us to where the Gripplis had set up their camp.

    Most times those roads is safe and its enjoyable strollin’ along ‘em without a care in the world. But oh geez, this night was different! We ain’t even got to Yar yet when we was ambushed by a bunch o’ zombies! And there was a Balor with them too!

    A balor’s kind o’ a cross between a man and a fiend and they’s very powerful and it’s a rare thing ta see one o’ ‘em! I heard a balor’s job is ta check if an evil curse or spell what’s put on someone is still workin’ and nobody’s tried ta remove it! Yup! That’s what I heard!

    Anyways, we killed the zombies and the balor too and off we went, the lot o’ us wonderin’ ‘bout that monster and why he’d decided on payin’ us a visit. We turned onto the road to Spinhold without nothin’ else botherin’ us. Sun-Ok was toddlin’along behind Voran and it seemed ta me she was gettin’ closer and closer to him, ya know? Almost steppin’ on his heels!

    I turned my head for a moment and when I looked back at the two o’ ‘em, she’d grabbed Voran around his neck! Voran was strugglin’ twistin’ this way and that, tryin’ ta pull her hands away and throw her off but she was hangin’ on tight with no intention o’ lettin’ go and she was dead set on chokin’ the life outta him! Oh geez!

    Walis was closest, and he balled up his fist and give her a hard whack right in the middle o’ her back! Whumph! Glory be! Well, the blow done it and Sun-Ok’s grip loosened just enough fer Voran to wiggle free! Sun-Ok slid down his back, her eyes glazed, and she collapsed in a heap in the middle o’ the road!

    ‘Course we healed her and Voran too but when Sun-Ok was finally able to speak, she kept mumblin’ somethin’ ‘bout some old lady what sold her a pair o’ purple gloves what was now forcin’ her to do evil! She wasn’t able ta take ‘em off ‘cause they was cursed, and stuck on her almost like a second skin, and now she’d have ta find someone kind enough to lop off her hands and on and on like that!

    Then she glanced at my Falchion hangin’ at my waist and gazed up at me with a pleadin’ look in her eyes! Oh geez! Well, folks’ll be sein’ white blackbirds before they sees me lop off the hands o’ a good friend!

    Sun-Ok shoulda known better, acceptin’ a gift from an old lady! I just don’t trust ‘em! They’s always cacklin’ and smilin’ at ya with one tooth in their mouth what’s rotten and turned all black! And they squints at ya outta their one good eye, ‘cause the other one stopped workin’ long ago and rolled back up into their head, so’s ya only see the white part o’ it! And they’s all got big long black hairs growin’ outta the middle o’ their chins and they’s always holdin’ onto a dirty soggy hanky what they uses to wipe their nose ‘cause its always runnin’! Then they want’s ta hug ya or pinch yer cheek and they never puts the hanky away, so they’s huggin’ and pinchin’ ya all the while still hangin’ onto the damn soggy hanky!

    Eeeee! Disgustin’! Oh geez! I hates old ladys! They gives me the creeps! Now understandin’ better ‘bout what came over Sun-Ok and why she done what she done ta Voran, we pushed on to Frank’s camp, thinkin’ since we’d helped him and saved his tribe and the tree o’ shaftin’ he might be able to help us find a way to remove the gloves from Sun-Ok’s hands and un-do the curse the old witch put on her.

    Well, I’ll tell ya, none o’ us was prepared fer what we walked into when we finally got to Frankie’s camp!

    • Markshire PCs:

    Well, there must o’ been a frightful encounter what took place in the camp! The poor gripplis was scattered about, with some o’ them stretched out dead on the ground while others still alive and bleedin’ was thrashin’ about, screamin’ in agony from dreadful wounds they’d suffered!

    Off to the side o’ the camp was a huge pile o’ dead ones what someone set ablaze and the fire was cracklin, and poppin’ burnin’ away the fat and flesh from the corpses! ! Oh geez! The stench o’ it was somethin’ awful! And there was cages set up ‘round the camp too! And more gripplis what seemed to be unhurt, locked up tight in ‘em!

    Standin’ there in the middle o’ all this was Ebb, a boy we sees sometimes in town who I think lives with his wife in a house somewhere along Spinhold road!

    The lad had a wild look in his eyes and straight off, we seen his weapon was all bloody with grippli guts drippin’ off o’ it! Ebb ain’t wanted to talk much about what had happened here. All he seemed concerned about was the seeds fer Frank what Walis was carrying in his pack and I ain’t sure just how Ebb knew ‘bout ‘em, ya know?

    Anyways, Ebb wanted us ta give the damn seeds to him instead o’ Frank! He told us someone . . or something, was holdin’ his lovely wife hostage in the Spider Temple and he needed ta have those seeds fer ransom! Oh geez!

    Then he tells us he ain’t got much time ta waste dickerin’ back and forth with us and we’d better hand over those seeds right quick or he’ll go about killin’ the rest o’ the Grippilis and us along with ‘em! Why the nerve o’ the pimply faced half pint little twerp!

    Well, like I said, we’d noticed his sword, drippin’ blood and we was sus . . . susp . . . uh, we ain’t trusted Ebb one inch or believed his story about his wife. While the rest o’ us was havin’ this pleasant chat with the boy, Walis and Durok had worked their way ’round behind him and we now had him surrounded. We was ready fer anything he might be tryin’, ya know?

    So a moment later, when Ebb flew at us in a rage, swingin’ his sword like a mad man, tryin’ ta chop us up into little bits, we began swingin’ right back! And oh geez, we wasn’t battling Ebb anymore ‘cause right before our eyes the little twerp turned into Kalem Salt, one o’ the Thirteen and now we had a real fight on our hands!

    With all o’ us hackin’ away at him he ain’t had much o’ a chance and before long he was makin’ a trip to Garm, or wherever the hel one o’ Thirteen goes, when they’s dead. Then we ran quick to the cages and we let out the rest o’ the Grippilis so’s they could go about patchin’ up the others o’ their tribe what was still layin’ wounded, here and there around the camp.

    We found Frankie in one o’ the cages and he ain’t had a clue to why Kalem Salt wanted the seeds. He suggested we keep ‘em, thinkin’ they’d be safer sittin’ in walis’s pack then in the camp with him. Later we talked a bit with Frankie ‘bout Sun-Ok bein’ cursed and unable to remove the gloves what was makin’ her do evil things. He tugged on ‘em himself, strainin’ hard ta pull ‘em off but he ain’t had no luck either.

    He told us the only one what could take off those gloves was Sun-Ok herself and she’d be needin’ a huge amount o’ wisdom to be doin’ it. He told us if she did manage ta get ‘em off, they must be burned in a kiln or somethin’ like that what had a really high tem . . .uh, somethin’ really hot, ya know?

    Then Sun-Ok, bein’ afraid she was gonna hurt someone else, run off into the woods somewhere and I don’t think nobody’s seen her since!

    Walis left a bag on a post by the Foothold gates marked with her symbol and a little note tied on it, hopin’ she’d come by and notice it was left fer her. He put some things in the bag what he thought she might be needin’ and the rest o’ us has been addin’ almonds and other stuff to it durin’ the past week, tryin’ hard ta keep the poor thing from starvin’ to death!

    We’s been collectin’ magic rings, amulets, charms and potions too! We’s lookin’ fer anything we can find what could give her a boost o’ wisdom. I heard Aelswort who’d heard about the whole thing from Bel, met Tam the other night in the Dragon and handed her two really strong potions ‘o ‘Heroic Wisdom’, thinkin’ they might be helpful!

    Anyways, we’s done all we could think of, to do fer her. We’s hopin’ we’ll see her tonight and with what we’ve collected between us, mayhap the girl’ll be able to pull those damn gloves off.

    • Markshire PCs:

    . I walked into the Dragon Inn that Friday evenin’ and Bel, Durok and Walis was already there, discussin’ what we ought to be doin’ about the seeds Walis was carryin’ fer Frank. Voran was kneelin’ on the floor beside ‘em in some kind o’ trance payin’ no attention to anyone and burblin’ some strange twaddle to himself in a language nobody was familiar with.

    Shortly after I came in, Monty joined us. Barrelgore had told us his kitchen was open for transportation again, so except fer Voran, still kneelin’and burblin’ away, that’s where the rest o’ us headed. We was thinkin’ we’d wind up in Frank’s camp but the travelin’ magic must o’ been the local kind, cause we made another stop first.

    We found ourselves in another part o’ the woodland and glory be, who’s standin’ there waitin’ for us but Sun-Ok! She ain’t had too much to say and kept backin’ away from us, I guess afraid o’ assaultin’ someone cause we seen she still was wearin’ those damn gloves!

    We put the things we’d collected fer her on the ground and she went about pickin’ all o’ it up, all the while noddin’ and bowin’ to us in that funny way she has. I’ll tell ya! Ain’t no one in all o’ Markshire who’s as well-mannered as that girl! Some o’ the oafs I hangs around with would do well to take a lesson or two ‘bout manners from her! Yup!

    Anyways, Sun stepped back a good bit from us, closed her eyes tight and scrunched up her face like she was concentratin’ hard on somethin’ ya know? After what seemed like forever, well oh geez, those gloves came slidin’ off her hands like they was all greased up with lard inside!

    Sun-Ok run quick over to where we was standin’ and Monty, knowin’ the gloves had to be burned in a fire, shut his eyes tight and began gibbering’ and jabberin’ his magic words, and oh geez, a huge fireball shot out o’ his fingers and flew in the general direction o’ where Sun-Ok dropped the gloves! There was a gigantic clap o’ thunder, the ground shook, and when the smoke finally cleared, there was nothin’ left in that spot! Nothin’!

    There was an enormous hole in the forest floor where Monty’s fireball hit. I’m sure them gloves was burned to a crisp! Vaporized! Along with seven trees, a pixie, three badgers, a whole bunch o’ squirrels and birds and I ain’t sure, but I think I seen three Pellytes strollin’ by that spot just before Monty let go o’ the fireball and now they was gone too!

    Well, the thing was we’d gotten our good friend back and ta me it was all that really mattered.

    The next stop on the magic local was Frank’s camp and in the blink o’ an eye there we was! Frank and the rest o’ his friends had worked all week cleanin’ up the mess from the battle last Friday. They’d dismantled all the cages and buried their dead. They’d patched up all the wounded and they was all healin’ nicely.

    He told us he ain’t seen or heard from Kalem Salt no more and he ain’t thought they’d be bothered again by that monster. Then he told us it’d be safe fer us to go about plantin’ those seeds Walis was carryin’ ‘round for a week in his pack.

    They’s gotta be planted near the roots o’ the shaftin’ tree, he tells us. Ya know, we’s so used to doin’ stuff fer that damn frog, we ain’t even thought to ask him why the hel can’t he plant the darn things himself! Oh geez! Then Frank says we can’t use any o’ the holes we’s used before to get into the cavern cause they’s all plugged up! We’ll have to slog all the way to the One’eye’s fortress in Zariat pass, and then lower ourselves into a cave full o’vipers!

    Somewhere in that pit full o’ snakes, Frank says we should be able to find a hole what will lead into the cavern! I’ll tell ya! That cavern must be vast! I’m bettin’ if ya dug a hole deep enough, just about any place in all o’ Markshire, for sure you’d find a piece o’ that cavern underneath!

    So, off we went, headin’ toward the pass and the One Eye’s Fortress what lay beyond. We was all wonderin’ ‘bout Voran, and whether he was still kneelin’ on Barrelgore’s floor, chantin’ away in that strange tongue what nobody understood.

    • Markshire PCs:

    We was uneasy ‘bout the trip we’d be havin’ to make through Zairat pass ‘cause like the Timeless Desert, these mountains belongs to Thrym and he don’t like nobody strollin’ around in ‘em.

    Before long we reached the gates o’ the Cyclops camp and made our way to the cave they stays in when the weather turns bad. We ain’t seen no ‘one eyes’ inside . . . they all must o’ been out huntin’ or somethin. But before they left, they set powerful traps ‘round the mouth o’ the cave, what Sun-Ok had to disarm before we could move on.

    Shortly after she cleared the traps we found a rope what was layin’ by the edge o’ an outcroppin’ and we used it to climb down into the place below, where the vipers lived.

    The snakes ain’t give us much o’ a problem and it wasn’t long before we’d killed the lot o’ ‘em and began searchin’ for the opening in the floor what would lead us to the cavern what the tree o’ shaftin’ was growin’ up out of.

    We turned a corner and oh geez! Standin’ there, bold as brass was Voran, who we’d left in the Dragon Inn, kneelin’ on the floor twaddlin’ away in some strange tongue! Now I ask ya? How the hel could he have gotten here ahead o’ us! And how the hel did he even know where we was goin’?

    He uttered a few words and although the voice was Voran’s, the words he spoke was icy, cruel and brutal and Voran don’t speak like that at all. So we knew straight off the thing standin’ there in front o’ us was not the real Voran.

    The imposter, sensin’ we was onto his deception, lashed out at us with his rapiers. There was a short struggle, we triumphed and sent whatever it was imper . . . imperso . . . uh, pretendin’ to be Voran off to Garm!

    Shortly after, the real Voran came runnin’ up to us, huffin’ and puffin’ apologizing’ for bein’ so late in joinin’ us! Barrelgore had told him where we was goin’ and he’d run all the way as fast as he could, afraid he’d be missin’ somethin’!

    Awhile later, we found the hole in the floor we was lookin’ fer, and down we went, thinkin’ it led into the cavern close to the spot where the shaftin’tree’s roots was anchored into the soil.

    Oh geez! Instead, we found ourselves in a place called the Dreamscape Desert! A pleasent little valley it was! We could see it was bounded by mountains on every side. The land around us was sandy and smooth and the sky overhead was clear, with a bright sun shinin’ down on us warmin’ our backs! At first, the place looked rather peaceful. But . . . nothin’ is ever peaceful fer long in Markshire.

    We hadn’t walked twenty or thirty paces when we was assaulted by . . . uh, well, by us! Yup! And we was tough! I mean, they was tough? Well, I ain’t minded much ‘bout thumpin’ some o’ the men in me party, ya know? Sometimes a good wallop’ll do a man some good. Especially Walis!

    But I couldn’t bring myself to go about choppin’ another Keli into little bits and sendin’ her to Garm. But she ain’t had no qualms about hittin’ me at all ‘cause, oh geez, she whacked me good and sent me to see him instead! I’m tellin’ ya the truth!

    Anyways, while we’s all goin’ about hackin’ away at each other, I’m hearin’ a buzzin in my ear, “DESTROY THE CRYSTALS! DESTROY THE CRYSTALS!”, and on and on like that. I’ll tell ya, when you gets a message in yer ear comin’ from god knows where, you’d better be doin’ just what it’s tellin”’ ya to do and not be askin’ any questions!

    So in between killin’ ourselves, now we’s havin’ ta run all over the place lookin’ fer crystals what we’s gotta shatter, and only Odin knows the reason why! We was all gettin’ the same message about the crystals, and while we was killin’ our counterparts we also managed to look for and find all the crystals and smash ‘em into little bits. Pretty blue crystals they was!

    It took awhile, but we also delt with those o’ us who wasn’t really in our party, if ya knows what I mean!

    None o’ us was wantin’ to be here no more and in a short time we found the place we’d came down from and back up we went. ‘Cept when when we climbed up, it wasn’t into the ice cave full o’ vipers. We’d climbed into the cavern what Frankie’s’ tree o’ shaftin’ was stickin’ up out of!

    But we ain’t got too far in when somehow, we all got stuck in here and no matter how hard we try, we ain’t been able to get out o’ this damn place!

    Me and Sun-Ok is sharin’ a little corner on one end o’ the corridor while the boys is down at the other end. And . . . when they sleep it sounds like there’s elevendy six wagons drivin’ really fast over cobblestones, ‘cause they snores! And . . . when they sleep they takes off their boots, and their feet stink somethin’ awful! And . . . if I don’t get out o’ this place soon . . . . I’m sure I’m gonna go loony!

    • Markshire PCs:

    None o’ us gave up tryin’ to get out and little by little over the next few days, we kept sloggin’ away at one end o’ the corridor, pushin’huge stones aside and usin’ our picks and shovels to scrape and burrow around the rocks what was too big for us to move.

    Finally, we’d cleared a path for ourselves and we was able to press on. We ain’t found no more obstica . . . uh, the rest o’ the corridor was clear and it ain’t took too long for us to get to where the roots o’ the Shaftin’ tree was growin up outta the floor o’ the cavern.

    But we wasn’t alone! Now I ain’t got no idea how they managed it, but somehow Opinvu and Ebb had gotten there before us! Yup! Ebb again! And they’d brought a big cow along with ‘em too!! Well straight off, the both o’ them began tellin’ us what a mistake we’d be makin’ by plantin’ the seeds what Walis was carryin’ into the ground anywhere near the shaftin’ tree’s roots!

    Opinvu told us a lich had taken up resi . . . uh, a lich was livin’ inside the tree and if we made the tree well again, we’d be also be makin’ the lich stronger! Oh geez! Ain’t none o’ us was wantin’ to help a lich! What a dilemma we was facing! After all we done to finally locate the seeds and get this far! Weeks and weeks o’ work wasted! Odin’s apples! What the hel was we gonna do now?

    Opinvu told us the Gripplis was gonna have to find a way to get along without their tree o’ shaftin’ bein’ hale and hearty and that was that! Meanwhile, the cow they’d brought along with them kept edgin’ closer and closer to where we all was standin’. And it had an evil look on its face too! Well . . . I mean, if a cow is capable of havin’ an evil look on its face, you know?

    Nobody was quite sure what to do next. Then Bel spoke up, but to no one in particular, wishin’ Lady Kaldt was here ‘cause for sure, she’d be able to help us make the right decision regarding what to do with Frankie’s seeds. Well glory be! Lady Kaldt must o’ heard Bel cause there was a puff o’ smoke and there she was! Standin’ right next to the tree!

    She told us there wasn’t much she could do in the way o’ helpin’ us. For some reason, that was beyond her power. But . . . what she could do was tell us that Opinvu was safe! Yup! He was safe! I ain’t makin’ this up!

    We all got to thinkin’ hard ‘bout what Lady Kaldt had said. Here we was, with a mad cow creepin’ up on the lot o’ us and lookin’ for sure like it wanted to take a bite out o’ some ones’ leg. And . . . at the same time we’s standin’ here havin’ a chat with Ebb who’d tried to fool us once before in the Grippili’s camp. Remember that? And . . . Opie’s standin’ there alongside him and the two o’ them’s lookin’ like they is the best o’ friends!

    We could see things was fast comin’ to a head and all o’ us got a firm grip on our weapons, sensin’ the pressure buildin’ up between the two groups. At that point, with that kind o’ tension, nobody was really very safe in that cavern, includin’ Opie! But . . . Lady Kaldt had told us Opie was somewhere . . . safe!

    In a flash we realized the thing standin’ there in front o’ us wasn’t Opinvu but a charlatan! An imposter! And they knew we was on to ‘em too, cause a second later their swords came out! Opie, Ebb and the damn cow set upon us, and oh geez, we was all fightin’ for our lives!

    I’ll tell ya, they picked the wrong bunch o’ folks to be attackin’. With Durok and Walis and Bel swingin’ away, Sun-Ok lettin’ loose with a hail o’ arrows and me whackin’ at ‘em with me new falchion, they ain’t had no prospect o’ winnin’ that battle!

    After we’d finished with the lot o’ ‘em we checked the dead cow, lookin’ on it’s rump fer a brand or somethin’ so’s we’d know what farmer they’d stole it from. We found one. It read, BOVINUS THE DESTROYER. PROPERTY OF THE SPIDER TEMPLE. Oh geez! The Spider Temple!

    Then Walis pulled out the seeds he’d been keepin’ safe in his pack, scraped out a little hole alongside the shaftin’ tree, and dropped ‘em in. Soon as Walis was finished with the sewin’ o’ the seeds, Lady Kaldt came back and con . . . congra . . . . uh, she told us we’d done a really good job o’ things!

    She said while we was battlin’ away here in the cavern, the real Opinvu had made a trip to a crypt under Yar where the lich really was! He’d brought along a magic towel that was soakin’ wet, what he kept flickin’ at the lich! Ouch! Ouch! Eeee that stings!

    Sometimes boys does that to girls when they’s all at a party or somethin’, ya know? A boy done that to me once and I socked him right in the eye! He never done it again! It was a few weeks before we even talked to each other!

    Anyways, Opie was distractin’ the lich with his flickin’ and he kept edgin’ closer and closer till finally he was able ta wrap the lich up tight in that soppin’ wet magic towel! Then he stuck the lich in a dark corner at the very bottom o’ that crypt and it ain’t gonna be botherin’ no one for a long time!

    Lady Kaldt said that there had been a pact between the lich and Garrison, the Demi-Dragon, who sits atop the Temple in the Meadow. With Opinvu doin’ away with the lich, the pact was now broken!

    And with us finally fixin’ the shaftin’ tree and savin’ the Grippili clan we’d made the forest healthy again! Lady Kaldt told us between what Opie had done and what the rest o’ us accomplished, we’d weakened the Spider Temple and all the evil things what was livin’ in it! Now the balance o’ power in Markshire was finally shifted to the good and all we’d have to worry about was the Titan! Yup! She said that to us!

    Then she give us her blessin’ and, poof, she was gone! We had to kill one more o’ those cows before we finally managed to climb up and outta the cavern. It was sportin’ the same brand as the other one. Before long we was standin’ in the Grippili camp, right under the shaftin’ tree, tellin’ Frankie the frog all the good news.

    I was in such high spirits I give him a little hug and a kiss and I ain’t thought once about cookin’ up a bunch o’ Grippli legs in a big pot! But when I kissed him he ain’t turned into a prince or nothin’. I was kinda hopin’ he would. Sometimes a story’ll end that way, you know? With a frog turnin’ into a prince!

    Then, oh geez! The shaftin’ tree started to shudder and shake and then huge boxes started droppin’ down outta its branches! One hit Durok square on top o’ his head and knocked him flat! Oh geez! The tree was rainin’ boxes!

    Frankie laughed, and told us his tree was rewardin’ us now for the wonderful job we’d done and to look inside o’ ‘em! Well glory be! We found a fine set o’ Armor for Voran! He’d had his old armor chewed right off his back by the rust monsters in the Forgotten Chamber” deep under Arik. Armor for Durok too! A helm made special for me! Lined on the inside with soft cotton and the very finest silk what was spun by worms that lived inside Amal Slavers guts!

    And unique gripili rings called Grippligeddons, with our names engraved on the inner band! And they’s able to heal ya a little at a time while you’re wearin’ it! Its like havin’ a miniature Father Ryche wrapped tight ‘round your finger instead o’ havin’ to make a trip to that damn office o’ his, when your all bruised and bloody and your needin’ to be patched up a bit!

    And robes, and staffs, and other nice things too! Odin’s olives! There was somethin’ fer everyone! Even those o’ us who for whatever reason, ain’t made the last few trips!

    Word got around quick ‘bout what we’d done and when we finally made our way back to Foothold, all the folks we met greeted us with a big smile and a warm hand!

    Anyways, we’s done things together what I’ll never forget! And we’ve been to a few places no one’s ever seen before! All I can say ‘bout the whole thing, is I’d do it all again in an instant!

    And there ain’t another bunch o’ folks I can think of who I’d rather be trudgin’ around with or fightin’ and dyin’ alongside of! And . . . and . . . we all lived happily ever after!

    Well, at least we stayed happy for a few days, till we heard a rumor makin’ its way around ‘bout some crazy lady up by Stonemark who’s chokin’ the life outta all the folks she happens to run into! Oh geez! We’ll have to see about that, won’t we?

    • Markshire PCs:

    Ain’t nobody gonna believe this, but I’m writin’ all o’ it down anyway.

    The other night, me and Sir Aetion was standin’ by the west gate ‘o Foothold what leads out to Thrym’s pass and beyond. We was just chewin’ the fat. Sir Aetion’s a good friend o’ mine and he’s the head guard at the gate.

    Before he’ll unlock that gate and swing it open you gotta show him a piece o’ parchment with Captain Hillar’s special seal pressed into it in the lower right hand corner. That paper states you’ve enough trainin’ to be able ta survive the dangers what lie beyond.

    Anyways, me and Sir Aetion worked out a deal o’ sorts. Sometimes folks what’s new to Foothold is curious ‘bout what lies on the other side o’ those big sturdy wooden doors what Sir Aetion always keeps locked up tight. Well, fer a handful o’ gold, I’ll oblige ‘em by givin’ them a little tour!

    Of course I gotta give Sir Aetion a per . . . a . . . percen . . . uh, I gives him a cut so’s he’ll look the other way when I sneaks new folks out the gate. The excursions is always kinda short cause after they’ve seen a giant and dodged a stone or two, their interest seems to wane and they’ll stand there tremblin’, as pale as ghosts, carpin’ and complainin’ they’ve seen enough.

    They’re wantin’ me to lead ‘em back to Foothold right quick and off we go! And I got a big smile on me face, listenin’ to their coins jinglin’ and janglin’ tucked safely away deep inside one o’ my pockets!

    Anyways, before I leave with a customer, I always check the pass myself, to make sure there ain’t no minions or dragons lurkin’ about. I mean giants is one thing, but it would be bad fer business if word got ‘round I was runnin’ a tour what nobody was ever returnin’ from, ya know?

    Anyways, that night I had one customer interested in my little venture. A paladin in trainin’ whose name was Lawson Goode. He had a starry look in his eyes, and was hopin’ we’d find a dragon in the pass so’s he could slay it! What a fool! A typical man! They’s always lookin’ fer conquest and glory, and for what I’ll never know!

    I don’t like paladins too much anyways but business is business so I took his deposit and told him there’d be no dragons for him to be slayin’ tonight. T’would be too dangerous, and that was that! I asked him to give me about five minutes to make sure the pass was relatively safe for travel, and to wait by the gate for me.

    I flashed my parchment with Hillar’s seal on the bottom, Sir Aetion swung open the gate for me, and off I went. I ain’t traveled into Thrym’s Pass more then a couple o’ paces and a boy, makin’ his way from the east, gives me a wave and a smile and walks right up to me! Around the same time Sun-Ok pops up outta nowhere and joins the both o’ us! She’s been doin’ that a lot lately. Poppin up outta nowhere. I’m thinkin’ it’s a new kind o’ magic trick she’s learned.

    I ain’t sure o’ the boy’s name but he says he’s a town crier on his way from the dwarf city, and he’s bringin’ a message to all those livin’ in Foothold and Yar ‘bout what’s been goin’ on in Stonemark!
    It’s a warning to all those who’ve a mind to be visitin’ that fine city! It seems the maniac lady doin’ all the stranglin’ ain’t been caught yet and it’s become dangerous for folks to be walkin’ the streets! They’s even gonna have a curfew in effect after dark!

    Oh geez! Well me and Sunny looked at each other, the both o’ us thinkin’ the same thing. Someone was gonna have to catch this mad woman, this Stonemark Strangler, and put a stop to these dreadful crimes she was committing! Even more important, Lord Mark might be offerin’ a hefty reward fer bringin’ her in!

    Well, with Sun-Ok bein’ a good tracker, and me trailin’ along behind her, guardin’ her back while she’s bent over lookin’ fer clues, we figured we’d make a good team and decided to give it a try. We made our way back to Foothold and to the wagon what would take us to Yar, and then on to Stonemark.

    I gave the paladin back his deposit and told him the tour was canceled for the night. I also told him if it was dragons he was lookin’ for, to buy a nice warm cloak then start walkin’ north. Eventually, he’d meet up with a dragon or two that he could have a go at.

    I ain’t seen him since. I’m wonderin’ how he made out.

    • Markshire PCs:

    The Carona Stable Company runs a kind o’ shuttle wagon between Foothold and Yar and the trip’ll cost ya ten gold either way. If you’re goin’ on to Stonemark you gotta change to an express wagon in Yar, what don’t make no stops in between and the driver’ll charge ya fifty gold for the trip.

    Now, when you’re payin’ your fare to the driver, if you look close at him, you’ll notice his eyes is crossed, and they always has a glint in ‘em too. And he’s got a silly smile on his face with a bit o’ his tongue hangin’ out o’ the corner o’ his mouth. There’s dribble drippin’ off o’ it, runnin’ down his chin and onto his neck, gettin’ the collar of his shirt all soggy.

    I think he’s a little dippy, you know? Yup! Dippy! I suppose the lady what owns the place hired him ‘cause he ain’t afraid o’ drivin’ that wagon as fast as he possibly can and that’s just what he does! Well, it’s an express wagon, remember? It seems like he can make the trip between Yar and Stonemark before you blinks your eyes two times!

    Oh geez! He works those poor oxen what he’s got yoked up to the wagon into a lather, cursin’ and swearin’, flailing’ away at ‘em with his whip, pushin’ ‘em faster and faster till you’re shootin’ along the road at an incredible speed!

    The passengers in the back is bangin’ and bouncin’ all around inside, laughin’ and cryin’ at the same time, holdin’ tight onto each other, cause there ain’t no hand rails for hangin’ onto!

    And they’s all prayin’ they don’t fall out the back and hopin’ an axle don’t snap or a wheel come off and send ‘em smashin’ into one o’ the buildings they’s flyin’ by, what’s been built up alongside the road!

    And God help anyone who happens to be out for a walk, cause the driver ain’t gonna slow down or veer outta the way tryin’ to avoid ‘em! Nope! He’ll run right over ‘em squishing ‘em flat for sure if they happen to be in his path! Yup! I seen him do that a couple o’ times!

    By the time he gets to Stonemark, the oxen is half dead and all the passengers got sore bottoms ‘and queasy tummies cause o’ the jostlin’ they’ve had to suffer durin’ the trip. But, like everyone always says, it sure beats walkin’!

    When me and Sunny got to the Corona Stables in Stonemark we met Belfron. He told us he’d been doin’ some shoppin’ in Market Square and asked us what we was up to and we told him about the plan we had, to catch the Stonemark Strangler. He said he’d be glad to help!

    Well oh geez! All I could think about was now we’d be havin’ to split Lord Mark’s reward three ways, but I ain’t said nothin’, you know? Well, mayhap I grumbled a little to myself, but I don’t think nobody noticed.

    Just then, a guard ambles out o’ Corona Sar’s office, walks up to us and starts askin’ questions ‘bout who we is and what we’s doin’ there. He starts goin’ on about the murders and how Stonemark’s streets is dangerous now! As of that night, he tells us they’ll be imposin’ a ten o’clock curfew, same as the little boy we met in the pass said!

    Then he stops his babblin’ for a moment, eyes Sun-Ok’s boots and informs us they matches the description o’ the ones what the Strangler’s supposed to be wearin’ and demands she take ‘em off and hand ‘em over so he can get a closer look!

    Well I’ll tell ya! Ain’t nothin’ what upsets me more, than a pushy guard, doin’ his best to harass and aggravate a poor civilian, never mind one o’ me best friends!

    He must o’ seen somethin’ in me eyes what alarmed him a bit. He gave me a long look, glanced quick at my falchion, noticed my hand wrapped tight ‘round the hilt, with my knuckles white from squeezin’ it so hard, then let out a nervous laugh, stepped back from us a few paces, and told us he’d decided it wouldn’t be necessary to be checkin’ Sun-Ok’s boots after all! T’was a wise decision he made, if you know what I’m gettin’ at.

    With that settled, me, Sunny and Bel turned, pushed open the stable door and made our way outside. The strangler had been busy that night. We ain’t had to look far for clues. There was bodies strewn about all over the place. Some of ‘em was still warm so we knew this monster couldn’t be far off.

    The trail o’ corpses led us to a courtyard what had a metal grating in the middle coverin’ up a hole that led down into the sewers under the city. We thought the killer might be on to us, and could be hiding down there somewhere, hoping to avoid being captured. We ain’t wanted to leave no sewer unturned, if you get my meanin’! So we moved the grating aside, and down we went.

    We searched in every nook and cranny but we ain’t found no trace o’ her. No bodies, no blood, nothin’. All we seen was a bunch o’ rats, some sewer people who was really mad at us for invadin’ their abode and o’ course their king who fought gallantly but was no match fer the lot o’ us. So, back up we went and, oh geez! While we was down below the Stonemark Strangler had been hard at work right above us! More bodies! Some still twitchin’ with a bit o’ life left in ‘em!

    Sunny and Bel began to search the corpses, lookin’ for somethin’, anything, a piece o’ thread from her garments what she might have left, what could lead us closer to findin’ out who she was and eventually catchin’ her. I heard someone sneeze and knowin’ it wasn’t one o’ us, I glanced up to see who’d done it, and glory be, there she was!

    The sinister Stonemark Strangler! All decked out in her funny lookin’ helm what had the workin’ end o’ a broom stickin’ out o’ the top of it! She was standin’ there on a walkway just above us leanin’ on an iron fence, gazin’ down on us as if she ain’t had a care in the world!

    Well I’ll tell ya, the sight o’ her really got my blood boilin’ and I took off, runnin’ as fast as I could towards a stone ramp what led up to where she was standin’. She seen me comin’, made off in the opposite direction and the chase was on!

    • Markshire PCs:

    She kept throwin’ darkness spells behind her, makin’ it difficult for me to see and early on, I stepped into a big empty flower pot made out o’ iron, what somebody left out, and my foot got wedged tight in it!

    It wasn’t no picnic tryin’ to follow her through that inky blackness she kept placing in front o’ me but I managed to catch a glimpse o’ her here and there, and I ran like the wind, clankin’ and clunkin’ along with my foot still jammed into the damn flower pot and managed to gradually close the distance between us!

    I’ll tell you, if you’re really determined to catch someone, you can make a fair job o’ it even if you have a big iron flower pot stuck on to yer foot!

    I finally got close enough to give her a good whack on the back with my falchion. I used the flat part o’ my blade, thinkin’ she’d be worth a lot more alive than dead, ya know? I could see myself now, me pockets stuffed full o’ coin, lookin’ through rack after rack o’ gowns in Anastasia’s fine Apparel, an up-scale clothing shop just down a block or two from where I was standin’!

    Well anyways, down she went but she ain’t stopped wigglin’ and it was annoyin’ me so I give her another hard wallop, she whimpered a little and then she lay still. Then I stomped hard on her fingers with the flower pot, squooshin’ ‘em good so she’d not be shootin’ anymore spells out o’ them at nobody.

    I had a bunch o’ rope in me pack and I used some o’ it to bind her hands and feet, makin’ a nice neat bundle o’ her! I wrapped what was left o’ my rope around a lamp post and tied a huge knot in it thinkin’ if she had a mind to go anywhere, she’d be havin’ to take the lamp post along with her!

    Sun-Ok and Belfron had fallen behind in the chase ‘cause Bel don’t run so fast and couldn’t keep up. Sunny decided to stay with him, makin’ sure he didn’t take a wrong turn and get himself lost, you know? The both o’ them came along soon enough and the three o’ us just stood there staring’ at our captive, wonderin’ what the hel we should do next.

    The lot o’ us was curious ‘bout what she looked like, so straight off, we decided to remove her funny lookin’ helm what had the broom stickin’ outta the top o’ it. Well Odin’s apples, was that helm stuck on tight!

    Belfron got a good grip on it by curlin’ his fingers under the lip what came out from both sides. Then I wrapped my arms ‘round Bel’s waist and Sunny got hold o’ my foot what had the flower pot attached to it. The three o’ us yanked and tugged and struggled so hard we actually bent the lamp post I’d tied her to!

    Finally we popped it off, the three o’ us tumblin’ backward, end over end windin’ up in a heap, with our arms and legs all tangled up with each other, and Sun-Ok clingin’ to the flower pot what had also come off o’ my foot in the process!

    We sorted ourselves out and made our way over to where our prisoner lay, anxious to have a look at her. There she was, stretched out before us! Finally un-masked for all to see! The malevolent Stonemark Strangler!

    And, oh geez! . . . It was Vala!

    • Markshire PCs:

    You remember the guard what confronted the three o’ us in Carona Sari’s Stables who wanted to take off Sun-Oks’ boots, thinkin’ they looked like the ones the strangler was wearin’? Well he must o’ been followin’ us all over the place cause right after we popped Vala’s helm off, he comes runnin’ up to us huffin’ and puffin’, his face red with anger and lookin’ for sure like he wanted to take a bite out o’ someone!

    He insisted we tell him which one o’ us had been tearin’ through the streets, clattering’ along with an iron flower pot stuck onto their foot! It caused a dreadful racket and he said it woke up just about everybody who lived in the neighborhood!

    Oh geez! He tells us he’s got a list o’ complaints ‘bout the noise from half the folks in the Laatner district!

    Well . . . Sun-Ok was standin’ there, still hangin’ onto the flower pot what she’d pulled off my foot a moment before . . . and friendship only goes so far, and most times I’m in enough o’ a pickle with Father Ryche and I ain’t wantin’ no more trouble added on to it. So right quick I caught the guard’s eye and kinda nodded my head a few times in Sun-Ok’s direction, thinkin’ for sure, he’d notice her holdin’ the pot, ya know?

    But when the guard seen Vala laid out on the ground in front o’ us, his jaw dropped and he stood there gaping’ at her, his eyes growin’ large as saucers and he forgot all about those poor folks what I disturbed during the chase!

    “Ah ha, what have we here?” he said, in that deep authoritative tone what all guards seem to have. I thinks they only makes guards out o’ men who can speak like that. Yup! You can’t have no guard sayin’ “Halt, who goes there?” or “Stop or I’ll shoot!” in a squeaky little high pitched voice, cause no one would pay ‘em no mind at all!

    Anyways, Bel tells the guard the girl on the ground is none other than the Stonemark Strangler and her name is Vala Felt Marker! Or . . . somethin’ like that. Belfron goes about showin’ the guard her helm what matched the description he had o’ it, and Bel also pointed out the day-glo colored threads hangin’ off o’ Vala’s gloves what she still was wearin’!

    Everyone knows that Boppi, one o’ the strangler’s first victims, is the only person in all o’ Markshire who wears a day-glo colored scarf!

    So, there it was! All the proof he needed! While the guard was occupied with the criminal, Sunny managed to place the flower pot directly behind her and then she sat down on it, her gown flowin’ ‘round it, coverin’ the pot up and all the while glarin’ at me and mumblin’ somethin’under her breath I couldn’t quite understand.

    The guard untied the ropes what I’d used to bind up Vala, which I thought wasn’t such a good idea, but I kept my mouth shut about it. Then the four o’ us started marchin’ our prisoner off to a little building the guard told us about, what was down the road a bit that had a shield bounty booth and a tiny jail just big enough to hold one person.

    We figured we’d lock her up tight in it till we could alert the proper authorities about her capture. All I could think of was the reward money, which for sure Lord Mark was gonna be handin’ over to us as soon as he heard the news!

    I figured my half and Sonny’s half should be about the same cause even though I’d done most o’ the catchin’ she hid the flower pot from the guard, thereby keepin’ me from gettin’ into a big mess, you know? Bel who’d done almost nothin’ at all in the way o’ helpin’ me and Sonny because he ran so slow and had trouble keepin’ up with the chase, deserved the smallest half out o’ the three o’ us. At least that’s how I seen it.

    Anyways, while the four o’ us was makin’ our way to the jail with Vala, the guard kept yammerin’ at her, goin’ on and on, not lettin’ up, tellin’ her he hoped he’d be the one the judge picked to lop off her head or at least let him torture her a bit before she was put to death! Oh geez, Sunny, Bel and me could see he was workin’ himself up into an awful frenzy!

    By the time we got to the steps in front o’ the building the guard was demandin’ Vala remove her gloves ‘cause he wanted ‘em for evidence and if she didn’t, he threatened to chop off her hands right there where we was all standin’! Vala just stood there tremblin’ and mumblin’ over and over again somethin’ about not bein’ able to take the damn gloves off.

    Sunny and Bel seen things was startin’ to go down hill real fast so the two o’ ‘em run off to the Temple to get Bishop Kolton, knowin’ he was a good mediator and thinkin’ he’d be able to calm things down. I stood there watchin’ Vala and the guard not knowin’ quite what I should do.

    The guard started screamin’ he’d have those gloves one way or another, drew his short sword and went straight for Vala, aimin’ for a spot on her right arm ‘bout half way between her wrist and elbow.

    As quick as a cat Vala dodged his blow, and with a fierceness I’ve only seen in one possessed by a demon, she went for the front o’ his’ neck what was bare and un-protected, with those gloved hands o’ hers’, clamping down with a vice like grip, tearing away a huge chunk, spattering blood and gore all over the three o’ us!

    The guard fell to his knees a look of shock and supprise on his face, his left hand reaching up for the large piece of his neck that was no longer there. He gurgled once, turned and looked at me, knowing his time would soon be over. He could no longer speak. That part of his throat had been ripped away, but in his eyes I read his message. He was pleading with me to stay with him. He did not want to die alone.

    I knelt, cradling his head in my lap as I watched my reward and my new gowns along with Vala run off, finally disappearing behind a building far in the distance. The guard looked up at me and gave me a little smile. I suppose he was thankin’ me for the bit o’ kindness I was showin’ by stayin’ there on the steps with him. Then he sighed once, closed his eyes, and he was gone.

    I guess there’s a lesson or two what could be learned from all that took place that evening, you know? The first one bein’ you shouldn’t be countin’ the reward money before the chickens hatch . . . or somethin’ close to that.

    The second one applies to the guard. I know he’s dead so it’d be hard now for him to benefit from it, but I’ll writ it down anyway.

    The thing is this. He tried twice to remove items from a woman. He wanted to take off Sun-Oks’ boots when he first met us in Carona Sari’s stable. I’d say it was good luck for him he changed his mind and backed away. Then, here on these steps only a few moments ago, the poor man tried to remove a pair o’ gloves from Vala. This time he wasn’t so lucky and as I’m lookin’ down on him, lifeless, with a huge gapin’ hole in his neck and his body already cooling, I’m thinkin’ he paid quite a steep price for attempting’ that trick!

    I guess lesson number two would be that a man ought not to be tryin’ to remove any clothing from a woman . . . unless he gets express permission from her first!!

    • Markshire PCs:

    . I was hangin’ ‘round outside the Temple in Foothold last night with Sunny, Tam and Raven just shootin’ the breeze when a dwarf I ain’t never seen before, saunters up to where we was standin’.

    The little man was well-mannered, acknowleging us with a proper bow and a warm smile. We said hello to him and introduced ourselves. He told us his name was Hermie, or somethin’ like that. I ain’t too good rememberin’ names. He said he hadn’t been to this part o’ Markshire in quite awhile.

    While we talked I noticed his military pick what he kept twiddlin’at and I suspected at one time or another he’d belonged to a militia or some kind o’ army. He had the look o’ someone who’d journeyed long and hard from someplace far away because his clothes was a bit ragged and his armor tarnished.

    But he was polite, seein’ he was a man, and he reminded me o’ Durok a little. Both he and Durok had the same sparkle in their eyes so, straight off, I decided I liked him! At least until he’d be doin’ somethin’ awful what would make me change my mind, you know?

    Anyways, he asked us where he might be findin’ a blacksmith and we pointed out the entrance to the bazaar up on the hill what lay beyond. In there he could find just about anything he might be needin’ including’ a master blacksmith. We also told him ‘bout the Dragon Inn, where he could buy a decent meal for a fair price, ‘cause he looked to us as though he could really use one!

    So off he went, smiling’ and bowing’ to us one more time, which I thought was so nice!

    With Henry gone the conversation started up again with Sunny askin’ me about the . . . things she made for me awhile back, and had I tried each one o’ them out yet? I told her I’d worn every one except for the pair she made out o’ leather cause I ain’t got no idea how to go about washin’ leather . . .things! Tam laughed at that and suggested I use saddle soap.

    Well, between you and me, I ain’t even asked her to make me any leather . . . things, and I ain’t got no idea why she done it. I guess she’d run out o’ silk. Anyhow, straight off, Raven and Tam was wantin’ to know what the . . . things was, and could they see the . . . things, and what colors did Sunny make, and was they comfortable and not binding, and where did Sunny sew on the monogram, and oh geez, they went on and on like that for what seemed like an hour!

    Finally Tam and Raven decided before they’d go about placing’ an order with Sunny for any . . . things for themselves, they wanted to see what I looked like wearin’ them! Then Sunny chimed in, agreeing’ with the both of them, tellin’ me it would be a grand idea ‘cause she’d have a good chance to show off her merchandise on a real live model!

    Ohhh geez! I remember not too long ago, back home in the village I come from, havin pajama parties every so often with the rest o’ my girlfriends! Yup! We’d be runnin’ all over the house, screamin’ and laughin’ carryin’ on like a bunch o’ maniacs and havin’ a grand time whackin’ at each other with huge down filled pillows, never thinkin’ for one moment ‘bout what we was wearin’ . . . or what we wasn’t!

    But this was different, you know? Now don’t get me wrong and I can’t exactly put my finger on the why of it, but there’s somethin’ about those three . . . and the thought o’ paradin’ around in front of them wearin’ hardly nothin’ at all . . . Well it was givin’ me a nervous stomach!

    They said they was even gonna build a ramp for me to traipse up and down, and Sonny knew a cobbler what could make me a pair o’ shoes with pointy heels stuck on ‘em so I’d look as though I was walkin’ ‘round on my tiptoes and that was that!

    After all that gabbin’’ we was thirsty so the four of us made our way to the Dragon Inn, found a table and we sat there drinkin’for the rest o’ the night. We seen Howie one more time. He came in late, loaded up with the new gear he’d bought in the shops we’d told him about, and before he left our table he sang us a lovely ballad!

    It was late for me too, and I said my goodnights to everyone and walked out the door. Oh geez! Who do I meet on my way home but Loli Elgyr! You know that old lady monk with the wart on her nose and one short leg?

    Well, anyways, we get to talkin’ and I tell her all about the plans what Sunny, Raven and Tam is makin’ to have me model my . . . things for ‘em and how the thought o’ doin’ it is givin’ me a nervous tummy!

    Well, glory be! She tells me she’s always wanted to try her hand at modeling, and she’d be glad to do it for me! I gave her a big hug, and except for the ones I was wearin’, I dug down into my pack and pulled out the rest o’ my . . . things and handed them to her! She looked at them a moment, then looked at my waist, and the rest o’ me, then looked down at herself and began to shake her head. I snatched a pair back from her and began to stretch ’em out till my arms were as wide apart as they would go. “Do you see Loli? Sunny wove Spandex into the silk!

    You’re able stretch ‘em out so far you’d be able to cram a horse into them! Not that I think you’re anywhere near the size o’ a horse, mind you! And look!” I let one end go and they snapped back into shape with a twang. “You see? One size fits all!”

    Her face lit up with a smile and my nervous tummy ain’t bothered me no more, and I went home to bed, knowin’ I’d be dreamin’ about Loli, scootin’ up and down that ramp, twirlin and twistin’ and giving those three girls a show, the likes o’ which they’d never seen before!

    • Markshire PCs:

    Lo all! Well, I been away fer awhile . . . in case nobody noticed. There ain’t much to write about in Markshire no more, but I know some o’ the boys I’ve met in Foothold over the past few months has a hobby o’ huntin’ and fishin’ in their spare time, so I thought I’d writ a little ‘bout where I been, and what I done while I wuz away.

    I spent the summer back in my old village far south o’ Markshire where a bunch o’ my friends and me rented a tiny beach cottage on the shore o’ a vast ocean! My brothers was there too, ‘cause they likes to fish and they brought their fishin’ poles and bait and all the stuff they was needin’ fer fishin’ along with them.

    For awhile, they was even givin’ me lessons ‘bout how to cast. They had an extra fishin’ pole and a gizmo with buttons and knobs stickin’ out all over it called a reel, what they let me use, but they ain’t had no extra pair o’ boots what come up to your chest and have straps you buckle over your shoulders, so I done most o’ my fishin’ in my bathing’ suit. Well, most times I was at least knee deep in the water anyways, you know?

    After awhile they kinda left me on my own, thinkin’ eventually, I’d figure things out by myself. Well I’ll tell ya! It ain’t so easy holdin’ a nine foot pole over yer shoulder what’s got a huge live eel danglin’ off the tip o’ it! ! The poor thing’s fastened onto a big hook what’s tied to a string and it’s squigglin’ and jigglin’ every which way, even tyin’ itself into knots, doin’ its best to work its way off cause it ain’t enjoyin’ the pickle it finds itself in at all!

    Well . . . you wouldn’t like it either if someone stuck a huge hook up under your chin and kept pushin’ and twistin’ till finally the sharp end popped out a little bit above your nose! Eeeee! I’ll tell ya! There ain’t no way I’ll even touch one ‘o those squirmy, slimy things, never mind havin’ to pick it up and try to stick a hook into it! Uh uh! I’m sorry but someone else gotta do that part for me.

    Anyways, now you have to try to fling that eel as far as ya possibly can, by whippin’ the pole fast over your shoulder with all your strength, aimin’ for a spot ‘bout a mile out into the deep! Well, that’s where all the really big fish is right?

    All the while, yer strugglin’ to keep a good balance while yer feet is sinkin’ deeper and deeper into the wet sand below you and yer bein’ pummeled by a roilin’ surf what’s tuggin’ away at your bathin’ suit, and it’s a two piece suit, and your worried ‘bout that cause you got both hands on the pole, and you ain’t able to make no adjustments, you know?

    And the tide is also doin’ its best to suck ya out into water what you know is gonna be way above yer head! And god help you if ya loose what little balance ya have, ‘cause for sure you’ll soon be swimmin’ ‘round out there with the very fish you’re tryin’ ta catch! Oh geez! The things men dreams up to amuse themselves! And then they calls it a sport!

    Well, I ain’t gonna let no man beat me at nothin’ and practice makes perfect, so I kept at it. I found out there’s only two things what’s really important when I’m tryin’ to heave an eel what’s danglin’ off a huge stick, far out out into the ocean. My back, which after a short time was hurtin’ me like hel, and my index finger, what you use to curl around a string that’s wound up tight ‘round a spool on the reel.

    To those o’ you men what might be interested, but didn’t know, your index finger’s usually the one what grows right next to yer thumb but I ain’t too sure ‘bout it havin’ to be there exactly. I suppose it could grow outta some other spot mayhap. Most folks has two o’ ‘em, one on each hand. I ain’t never seen no one with more than two index fingers.

    Anyways, I had to time it perfect, swingin’ that stick as hard as I could over my shoulder and unbendin’ my index finger allowin’ the string fly off the reel at the right moment or really dreadful things would happen.

    If I let go o’ the string a bit too soon, the eel would travel straight up ‘bout elevendy three feet, into the air above me, and I wouldn’t be knowin’ where the hel it went, mayhap even thinkin’ I’d made a nice cast, and lookin’ ‘round fer the splash o’ it! Finally it would come down, smackin’ me hard on the head, with the eel drapin’ itself around my neck all wet and wiggly! Oh geez!

    More than once, my timing would be really bad and that damn eel would go flyin’ backward, scatterin’ anyone who happened to be standin’ behind me! Yup! Folks would gather there every day, watchin’, laughin’ even sometimes cheerin’ if I managed once in awhile, to flip the damn eel into the water! They was actually enjoyin’ my trib . . . tribula . . . uh, difficulties! I think some o’ them might even have been takin’ bets ’bout how long it was gonna take before somethin’ I was wearin’ came off and started floatin’ away!

    I ain’t cared none ‘bout them anyways. I enjoyed makin’ them run like hel away from that eel shootin’ back at them as much as they enjoyed pokin’ fun at me. So I guess we was about even on that score!

    Sometimes I’d do everything perfect ‘for sure, ‘cept the damn reel would break or somethin’, and the string wouldn’t unwind proper. Somehow it’d get all tangled up in itself and make an awful mess! That happened so many times I can’t think o’ a number for it.

    I guess I spent most o’ my time sittin’ there in the sand, tryin’ to unravel everything. I ain’t minded too much though, ‘cause with me sittin’ and not castin’ I wasn’t much o’ a show no more, and most o’ the crowd what was gathered ‘round would fade away. Driftin’ off to look fer someone else to torment, I guess.

    It seemd like forever, but after a few days o’ practice, and a whole bunch o’ dead eels, I finally got the rhythm o’ it, and after heavin’ that eel out into the water a good distance, I caught my first fish!

    Oh, the crowd behind me was cheering, clappin’ and even whistlin’ for me! It was a big one too! At least three or four pounds! A blue fish, my brother called it ‘cept it aint looked blue to me. He took a pliers outta his bag, got a firm grip on the hook and wiggled it out of its mouth for me. Then he held it up and asked me if I was gonna use it for bait!

    The crowd standin’ behind us was silent for a moment, mayhap waitin’ to see how I was gonna respond to that bit o’ nastiness and than they started roarin’ with laughter! Well, sometimes brothers will say a thing just to get ya riled up, you know?

    I ain’t said nothin’ back to him, but I was burnin’ inside and it made me even more determined to catch that coveted prize, a striped bass, sometimes weighin’ thirty or forty pounds what the men was always hopin’ they’d hook onto. It was only a day or two after suffering that embarrassing moment on the beach, I finally got my chance to do that! Well . . . kind of, you know?

    But my mouth is dry now and I ain’t able to squeeze out one more drop o’ ink. You’ll just have to wait till I can spit out some more.

    • Markshire PCs:

    I’ll finish writin’ ‘bout my fishin’ incident some other time ‘cause more important things has popped up and I wants to jot ‘em down before I forget.

    I was in Foothold town the other night and I ran into two old friends! Nitha, with her raspy voice, which by the way, I think is gettin’ worse! And Voran too!

    Taggin’ along with them was those two new boys, Jon Duh Fist, and Celadur Mo’ped. Jon sticks an “h” right after the “o” in his first name but I ain’t writ it ‘down cause its obvious you don’t need that letter when writin’ the name Jon. I’m thinkin’ he just ain’t too good with spellin’ words, includin’ his own name!

    Anyways, I’d met Jon and Collider not more than a few days ago and the three o’ us cleaned out a cave full o’ orcs a bit south o’ Foothold. They impressed me, bein’ so brave and all, battlin’ those orcs and even layin’ low a giant or two! I’ll tell you, that Ciludur; got a hand what don’t shake with fear, and a sharp eye and he don’t miss hardly nothin’ with that bow o’ his!

    So . . .I figured it wouldn’t be too much o’ a risk if I gave the two o’ em a little tour o’ the pass. After all, Nitha’d be comin’ along with her magic spells and all . . . and Voran too, bringin’ his steadiness and that quiet confidence he always seems to have. Ya know I thinks Voran musta been trained in the military arts somewheres. I ain’t never seen him get rattled ‘bout nothin’! And he don’t smell half as bad as most other men I knows!

    I give Sir Aeton a big fist full o’ coin ta swing open the gate and look the other way while we was sneakin’ Jon and Colander by, and off we went! We ain’t traveled more than a few paces and, oh geez! minions! A whole bunch o’ ‘em! I hates minions almost as much as I hates bugs!

    Well those two new boys let out after those malevolent nasty things, hackin’ and slashin’ away at ‘em and it wasn’t long before all those horrible monsters was layin’ there dead at our feet! “Course Nitha, Voran and me did our share o’ killin’ but fer sure we’d not be havin’ to baby-sit those two boys!

    We pressed further on, slayin’ one giant after another, doin’ a good job ‘o dodgin’ the stones they was hurlin’ at us! We even stopped along the way, radin’ a cave what had a gigantic dragon livin’ in it! Oh geez! Anyways, after a fierce battle with that scaley fire breathin’ monster we finally managed to slay it. Nitha busied herself chippin’ away at some rock, lookin’ fer gems while me and Voran just stood around catchin’ our breath, watchin’ Jon and Celery go about lootin’ the substantial treasure they found in the back o’ the dragon’s cave.

    The boys finally finished with their lootin’ and Nitha managed to break a few pieces o’ emerald off o’ a big rock. So out we went’ pushin’ on, whackin’ more giants along the way, till we reached the cave what leads to the dwarf city, Bal’ynaz.

    Just before we we got to the cave, we was attacked by three tigers. They was so pretty, white with black stripes! A shame we had to put ‘em down but one o’ ‘em had hold o’ Voran’s leg and was chompin’ away on it and he was needin’ that leg, you know?

    We made our way through the cave and shortly after, the seven o’ us arrived in the dwarf city o’ Bal’ynaz. Twas there I said my goodbyes and left them. I was tired from the trek, and took the wagon back to Foothold, to bed and good long rest.

    Tomorrow I’ll speak to Capt. Hillar ‘bout issuin’ passes to Jon and Celeder. Those two’s ready and able as anyone else I know to brave Thrym’s pass and I’ll tell him so.

    • Markshire PCs:

    Now I’m gettin’ back to writin’ ‘bout fishin’. Like I said a page or two back, I ain’t gave up at it and I kept pluggin’ away, achin’ back and all, each cast a little better than the last.
    Well . . . mayhap not each cast, but I was gettin’ better at it, you know? And thinkin’ ‘bout how my brother and his friends had schooled me on the arts o’ surf fishin’.

    Yup! Over and over they told me things like, “Listen up Keli! If somethin’ tugs on the string, give a hard yank or two right back and that way ya’ll stick the hook good in its mouth! And remember, always keep the pole pointed up at the sky while you’re fightin’ with that fish! That way, the pole’ll be helpin’ too!

    And if ya hooks onto somethin’, back yerself outta the water and up onto the beach! Do your fightin’ on the shore, not in the surf! Watch the waves! Use the ‘strength o’ ‘em em to help ya pull the fish in!

    And don’t be foolin’ round with no knobs or buttons on that reel! We’s got it all set up just right fer ya! We’s even re-wound a whole bunch o’ special heavy duty string on it and what ever you might hook onto, ain’t gonna have a chance in hel of breakin’ it!” That last part, they’d always say with a snicker, you know?

    Anyways, my brother was upset with me ‘bout killin’ all his eels, bangin’ and bonkin’ them all over the beach without ever gettin’ them into the water and he wouldn’t let me have no more. Instead he give me somethin’ to fish with called a lure.

    A lure looks kind o’ like a little make- believe minnow, mayhap ‘bout six inches long. It’s mostly carved outta wood and it has a cluster o’ really sharp nasty lookin’ hooks danglin’ outta the belly o’ it. Lures comes in a bunch o’ different colors, all painted up nice and pretty with fake eyes and everything! He told me the blue colored ones was best for today but I insisted he let me have a yellow one, bein’ as I likes that color more than blue.

    Yup! Lures! I figured I’d be okay usin’ ‘em ‘cause he’d already cought a few truly big fish with those lures o’ his, one o’ them weighin’ in at almost thirty pounds! A striped bass it was!

    Anyways, lures is easier to throw, bein’ they ain’t nearly as heavy as those damn eels, but the wind would do tricks with mine, blowin’ my pretty yellow lure what had a bunch o’ horse hair stickin’ outta the back end o’ it every which way, spoilin’ my aim!

    Besides fightin’ the wind on each cast, I was also fightin’ a terrible throbbin’ soreness what had started the other day in the back o’ my neck and had gradually spread downward, now almost reachin’ my . . . well, really far down. T’was the price I had to pay from all my castin’ practice! Oh geez! The things a person’ll endure just so’s they’ll mayhap have a chance to catch a big fish!

    It was late in the afternoon with the sun a big red ball sinkin’ down toward the horizon to the right o’ me. A stiff breeze blowin’ all day outta the east had finally let up a bit and I was just standin’ there up to my knees in the surf, the pole sittin’ atop my shoulder. I was breathin’ deep o’ the clean salt air, enjoyin’ the moment, thinkin’ ‘bout dinner and what my friends was cookin’ in that big barbeque pit what we dug out a few days before.

    I was also watchin’ a huge flock o’ seagulls what had gathered out over the water directly in front o’ me. The gulls was dippin’ and divin into the ocean, squawking’ at each other, makin’ a terrible racket and havin’ a great time o’ things! More often then not they’d fly up and away after catchin’ a little silvery fish what happened to be swimmin’ up near the top o’ the water, sometimes even jumpin’ right out o’ it!

    My brother who was fishin’ ‘bout a couple hundred paces along the beach to the west called out to me, started wavin’ his arms like he’d gone loony, yellin’ somethin’ ‘bout birds and began runnin’ in my direction. What an oaf! Did he think I ain’t seen the damn birds? Geez! They was right in front o’ me! So I ain’t paid no attention to him and prepared to make another cast.

    I aimed a good bit to the left o’ those birds, not wantin’ my lure to be comin’ down in the middle of ‘em, mayhap spookin ‘em and possibly spoilin’ their dinner. It was one o’ my better casts. My pretty yellow make-believe minnow streaked up and out over the water travlin’ in a huge lazy arc headin’ far off to my left and away from the flock. Then a gust o’ wind caught it and kept pushin’ at it till the damn thing plopped down smack in the middle o’ all the seagulls!

    I watched it flutterin’ down outta the sky, finally makin’ a little splash. T’was not more than a second or two after it hit the water and there was a really big splash in the same spot! My lure, what was made outta wood and was supposed to float on top o’ the water, disappeared and . . . oh geez, all hel broke loose!

    Well let me tell you! Whatever the hel it was what sucked in my little yellow lure and swam away goin’ ‘bout as fast as a race horse, was doin’its best to tear my arms outta their sockets! It also had its own idea ‘bout how and where this battle was gonna be fought!

    Attemptin’ to keep the pole’ aimed up toward the sky like my brother’d told me just wasn’t gonna happen! Nope! Instead, my pole, string and all, stretched out in a line, straight as an arrow, pointin’ out and down a bit, and directly at the monster what was hangin’ onto the other end o’ it!

    I’d managed to get a good grip on the pole with both hands just after I seen the splash near my lure and now I was hangin’ on for dear life! My grip on the pole was way down toward the butt end o’ it and a good distance away from the reel. It wouldn’t o’ made any difference anyways had I been able to reach it. There was no way I’d be able to crank the handle what winds the string back onto the spool.

    And backin’ outta the water and onto the beach wasn’t gonna happen either! The damn thing kept yankin and tuggin’ on the string and was doin’ a good job o’ pullin’ me further out into the water! Now the waves was becomin’ a big problem for me, sometimes the breakers smackin’ me right in the face, but I wasn’t givin’ up!

    Oh geez! My brother, who’d been runnin’ toward me from a ways down the beach, was closer now and had a really good view o’ the battle. He’d stopped his yellin’ about the birds and was now screamin’ something ‘bout the drag bein’ too tight! Sometimes men will say the silliest things, you know?

    I guess what he meant was fer me to hold tight onto the pole, which I was already doin’ and to drag the monster what was chewin’ on my lure, closer to the beach, but I was fast loosin’ that battle! The damn thing kept pullin’ hard on the string and yankin’ me out into deeper water!

    Now the waves was sometimes breakin’ over my head, givin’ me a real thumpin’ and I’d swallowed a good bit o’ salt water. My heart was poundin’ with the excitement o’ it. Mayhap there was a good bit o’ fear mixed in with the poundin’ you know?

    Yep! The thought occurred to me, I might be havin’ some real difficulties if I’d soon be havin’ to continue this struggle under those waves!

    Funny, the things you notice while your battlin’ a colossal fish on the very edge o’ the ocean. For instance, I took note o’ the crowd o’ folks what was standin’ on the beach watchin’ this epic encounter. Normally they’s noisy, laughin’ whistlin’ and clappin’, some even jeerin’ when I do somethin’ wrong, you know? Well, they ain’t made a sound throughout the whole ordeal. Not a peep outta them!

    And when some o’ the boys in the group realized I might be gettin’ in over my head, so to speak, they began makin’ their way out to me, sloggin’ through the surf, clothes and all! I thought that was so nice o’ ‘em! They got there ‘bout the same time as my brother arrived. But . . . it was too late.

    You see, I’d already let go. Yup. My brother’s custom made one piece nine foot surf castin’ rod, and fancy reel what was crafted by some guy named Van Staal, went sailin’ off into the deep, attached to what had to be the largest fish what ever swam the ocean depths! Least ways, that’s how I like to think o’ it.

    My brother and the rest o’ the boys helped me back to shore and I thanked all o’ ‘em for bein’ so chiv . . . uh, gallant fer rescuin’ me. Than the group wandered off, leavin’ my brother and me alone on the beach.

    I told him I ain’t wanted to head back to camp till my eyes cleared up a bit, you know? Uh . . . bein’ they was all red and irritated from the salt water. So, the two o’ us sat there for awhile, on the shore, enjoyin’ the sunset and listenin’ to the surf poundin’ up onto the beach. I said I was sorry ‘bout losin’ his pole and fancy reel. He just laughed, threw his arm ‘round me and told me he was thinkin’ his sister was worth at least a couple more pieces o’ gold than an old pole and worn out reel and not to fret ‘bout it.

    Geez! As much as I hates my three brothers, sometimes, they can be really nice, you know? We could see the cookin’ fire aglow, ‘bout a quarter mile to the east and the wind was waftin’ the aroma from the things what my friends was preparin’ for our nightly feast right down the beach at us.

    We was both starvin’ for a good dinner, so we picked ourselves up and started the walk back to camp. We ain’t spoke much along the way. each o’ us alone in our thoughts, goin’ over the days events in our minds . . . and thinkin’ ‘bout what new adventure tomorrow was gonna bring.

    • Markshire PCs:

    A few days ago, me, Jon, Gunny, and that funny lookin’ little fella, Celadur May’fly, went off on another trek through Thrym’s pass.

    We put down a load o’ stone giants and even a few frost giants but we ain’t seen even one minon! Can you imagine that? Not one o’ those nasty, evil things!

    We pushed on, eventually makin’ our way to Bal’ynaz, the dwarf city. For those o’ you what might be interested, Bal’ynaz is pronounced, “Bale-ye-naz.” For the life o’ me, I cant’ understand why the hel they don’t change the spellin’ in that word and writ it down the same way they pronounces it!

    Anyways, on we went, eventually crossing Thrym’s desert and windin’ up in Arik where Jon and Cecil had a chance to show off their newly learned fightin’ skills!

    Well let me tell ya, those two battled mind flayers, and slavers with a fierceness I ain’t seen in a man in quite awhile! Geez, they really impressed me, you know? We even managed to slay ‘bout seven Dragons! Well . . . mayhap two Dragons.

    Gunny fought hard also, but she ran into an aloonie in one o’ the houses we raided and the damn thing done her in! I always carries a bunch o’ “Raise Dead” scrolls, and I managed to snatch the poor thing back quick from Garm before the heat o’ that awful place singed her too badly.

    The boys got a good chance at lootin’; collectin’ all sorts o’ nice things, axes, rings, cloaks and stuff. They was both itchin’ to get back to Market Square in Stonemark so’s they could sell the lot o’ it and we made our way out o’ the lost city and back across the desert, without much trouble.

    But . . . it kept botherin’ me ‘bout not seein’ any minions in the pass, you know? I mean, when I go trekking’ through Thrym’s pass, I always sees a minion or two. Always! Sometimes a whole bunch o’ ‘em!

    Where the hel did they go? What the hel was they doin’? Was they plannin’ somethin’? Was the Titan gatherin’ his forces? Was he preparin’ to bring down another city, murderin’ everyone, slaughterin’ women and children, and burnin’ it to the ground, like he done with Gastlynk? Oh geez!

    Well, last night I decided I’d do a little checkin’ ‘round. I figured Thrym’s Desert, might be a good place for the Titan and his minions to congregate and off I went, hopin’ I’d be able to track ‘em down and then report my findings to Captain Hiller or Ederyn. Mayhap they’d decide to send out a patrol, and disrupt whatever malarkey those wicked monsters might be up to.

    I ain’t got too far into the desert when I heard a commotion to the north o’ me, in the direction o’ the Frost Giant’s Castle. T’was only a short distance from where I was standin’ and I began runnin’ hard in that direction. When I arrived at the little bridge what leads into the courtyard in front o’ their castle, there was dead giants strewn about all over the place! Some o’ them still twitchin’ with a bit o’ life left in ‘em!

    I heard a frost giant inside the castle bellowin’ at the top o’ his lungs in anger! I heard human voices too. And, oh geez, they was screamin’ in pain! I dug ‘round in my pack fer some potions to fortify myself, downed ‘em quick, drew my falchion and made for the entrance to the castle . . .

    • Markshire PCs:

    I paused for a moment, a few paces inside the castle, ignorin’ the biting coldness o’ the place. I spit once and watched my gob o’ tobacco juice freeze up quick on the stone floor before it had a chance to spread out. It sat there on the icy granite, staring’ back up at me, lookin’ like a chunk o’ hard candy what someone had dropped!

    My body was tense, like a coiled spring, my eyes dartin’ every which way, lookin’ for movement of any kind. I had my falchion raised high above my head, graspin’ the hilt so tight my knuckles had turned white and I was ready to strike hard and fast at any creature what might decide to jump out at me.

    Warily, I moved on, realizing there’d been a horrific battle fought here. I carefully stepped over one dead frost giant after another. The corpses was gray, almost colorless in their death, each one o’ them bled out now, and lyin’ in a fast freezin’ pool of their own blood. And, oh geez, who ever done this, ain’t even had time to loot the bodies!

    Anyways the bellowin’ had stopped, but in the rooms below me I heard the shufflin’ o’ heavy boots and a groan or two, so I made my way to a little narrow stone ramp what led down to the lower level o’ the castle. Once on the ramp, I took care not to loose my footin’ ‘cause for sure, if I slipped I’d be fallin’ forever down into the abyss below!

    After safely navigatin’ it I made my way to where I thought the moanin’ was comin’ from. I seen two bodies, and from the looks o’ the dents in their helms, I was sure they was both sufferin’ concussions. One o’ ‘em was that new boy, Jon Duh First. The other, a girl I’d only seen a few times before. I ain’t had no idea what the hel her name was.

    I bent down close to the both o’ ‘em thinkin’ I could help ‘em with a healin’ kit or two. I heard that shufflin’ noise again, what heavy boots makes, and whirled ‘round just in time to see a colossal frost giant shaman ‘bout to brain me with a huge hammer . . . then, oh geez, everything went black!

    When I awoke, my head was achin’ somethin’ awful and every tooth in my mouth was loose! I think some o’ the ones in the back was missin’ even! Likely I’d swallowed ‘em, you know?

    Jon was sittin’ up and was a pasty green color, lookin’ like he’d eaten a bad apple or somethin’. The girl I’d found with him, was awake also, moanin’ ‘bout a sore arm, and complainin’ she was havin’ trouble breathin’. She was havin’ trouble? I was havin’ trouble!! Somehow she managed to wind up draped over the top o’ me, and geez, she weighed a ton!

    That other new boy, Caleb Ma’fer was there too, standin’ a bit away from us, havin’ a nice chat with the damn frost giant shaman what had just tried to maim me! Oh geez! It seemed the shaman wanted us to do a chore for him and if we done it proper, with no trickery, he’d let us live.

    He told Carlyle the bunch o’ us would have to make a trip to Arik for him. Yup! We was gonna have to make our way to a Temple in the lost city, what someone, or something, called Angrybody lived in! Anyways, this Angelbelly’s got a special ruby shard what was chipped right off one o’ Hel’s tears! It has a devine power locked up in it and the giant shaman had an itchin’ for it!

    Yup! He told us this Annabelle’s got it hid somewhere in one o’ the rooms along the east hall of her Temple! The shaman said he’d be watchin’ our every move, even sendin’ along evil spirits to observe us, and they’d report back to him if we faltered!

    If we failed, he’d be roundin’ up every frost giant between here and Thrym’s mountains and sendin’ them off to hunt us down and slay us! Hundreds of ‘em! And he meant it! You could tell he wasn’t foolin’ ‘round none! Then the shaman stalked away, but not before remindin’ us he was an impatient sort, and if we ain’t returned soon with the shard, he’d be unleashin’ those damn giants!

    We made our way outta the castle, with Chadwick helpin’ the poor girl who could hardly take a step without wincing in pain. He kept callin’ her Helena, so I guess that was her name. Jon was still quite a bit woozy, and I was aidin’ him as best I could. We stood around outside, talkin’ ‘bout what the shaman had said to us.

    None o’ us had any idea where this Temple was in Arik. Carlos was sure Gunny’d know but that ain’t helped us none, ‘cause Gunny wasn’t here. I’ll tell ya, sometimes a man’ll say the most useless things, you know?

    Anyways, no one in our party was in any shape to be makin’ a trip to Arik. Besides, Cuthbert told us he ain’t had no potions to protect himself from the magic the mindflayers would be throwin’ at us. Well, that clinched it! We’d be headin’ back to Bale-ye-naz and then on to Foothold to heal up a tad, and get ourselves a good rest. We’d see ‘bout makin’ a trip to Arik, later on in the week.

    Chauncy threw together a makeshift sled, lashin’ together a few old giant rib bones what he found stickin’ up outta the sand, usin’ some rawhide what he had tucked away, deep inside his pack.

    He strapped Helena tight onto it, ignorin’ her moanin’and made ready for the trip back. ‘Bout that time a dweeble pops right outta thin air startlin’ the four o’ us, and starts goin’ on and on about the ruby shard, and how he knows just where Abblebabble’s got it hid, and how happy he’d be to guide us right to that Temple! Oh geez!

    Well . . . for a moment I thought about takin’ him up on his offer , but Jon kept nudgin’ me in the ribs, and Conan was makin’ all sorts o’ faces, so we, thanked the dweeble for his kind offer but told him it was late and we’d decided to head on home. Caleb started off ahead o’ us, draggin’ his sled with Helena bound tightly to it, now lookin’ quite comfortable, and sound asleep.

    I waited there with Jon till his head cleared a bit, then we started out, followin’ the tracks Cormac’s sled had made. The journey across the desert and through the cave what leads to Bale-ye-naz, was uneventful. I mean, we ain’t met nothin’ on the way what tried to murder us, you know? We finally reached the gate what the guard’ll swing open when you show him yer pass and I asked Jon if he’d do the honors, so to speak. He stuttered a bit, then blurted out he ain’t had no pass.

    Well, I knew the little twerp ain’t had no pass, and he ain’t had no business bein’ out there in Thrym’s desert gettin’ himself mixed up in all sorts o’ trouble either! So . . . I flashed my own pass to the sergeant guardin’ the gate, he swung it wide open for me, then I ran in quick and slammed the gate on Jon, leavin’ him stuck outside!

    Then I made him promise me two things. One, not to go anywhere near that desert till he’s got the proper trainin’ and has his own pass, or unless he’s taggin’ along with at least two folks who are qualified! And two, to stop callin’ me Keli lady, or lady Keli, or lady! My name’s Keli, short and sweet! And I ain’t wantin’ nobody tackin’ anything else onto it!

    After some hemmin’ and hawin’and a bit o’ beggin’ he give me his word on both, so I had the sergeant swing open the gate again and let him in.

    He stood there for a moment, staring at me with a dumb look on his face. Then he smiled, gave me a little bow and said, “Thank youse lady Keli!” Ohhhh geez! When the gods was layin’ out the blueprints for how to make a man, they give ‘em too much muscle, and left all o’ ‘em a little short on brains!!

    Its been a few days since I got back and my teeth has tightened up again. They’s sittin’ right proper in my gums! I ain’t missin’ the few I swallowed when the giant shaman conked me on the head with his hammer at all.

    The two front teeth in my upper jaw is good and tight, but now there’s a tiny space between ‘em what I ain’t had before. I found out I can squirt a good healthy stream o’ tobacco juice through that gap! Yup! Accurate too! I’m able to shoot a fly right outta the air at about ten paces!

    I can’t wait to try it out on Father Ryche. Yup! I’m sure I’ll be able to reach his desk with a good squirt without havin’ to go in his office! He ain’t chased me for quite awhile. Like I said ‘bout elevendy six pages back, its fun when he chases me!

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