View Full Version : LAG edited and moved

30th Jun 2002, 15:49
TheBlackman 06-24-2002 04:
It had been a miserable week. Pickings were poor with the increased street patrols; a result of some unnecessary mayhem by amateur thieves.
So, I went down to the Burrick for a bite and a few ales to drown my sorrow.
Except for a few requlars and some stragglers who had wandered in to avoid the drizzle, it was quiet and peaceful. The innkeeper had just finished a fresh batch of stew, and a fresh-brewed load of ale and mead had been delivered. Things were looking up, at least in the food and drink department.
Just as my meal arrived, some ill-mannered guard walked in and, in a rude boorish manner started hassling the innkeeper and some of the stragglers.
He apparently did not see me sitting in my usual shadowed corner by the fireplace. So I escaped his attention. But, for all of that, his attitude and screeching bullying of the patrons and innkeeper was ruining my meal.
Tiring of his fun after getting no response he could use as an excuse to escalate to a more vicious level, he brusquely ordered some mead.
By this time my meal was cold, I was pissed, and I had decided he needed some adjustment to his social skills.
When his nose was deep in his tankard, I slipped through the kitchen, into the alley and around to a nook by the front door.
I could lean just a little and see the interior of the Burrick and the slob quaffing his brew.
He slammed the tankard down, threw a few greasey coins on the table and started out.

Reaching the street he ducked his head against the drizzle and crossed into Harlot's Lane, probably to shakedown some of the ladies of the evening.
I followed. Not too far behind. When we passed Isaac, at the corner of Beggars Court, I played a tune on his head with my blackjack.
One sharp crack on target at the base of the skull, and he assumed a prone position in the slop running down the center of the alley.
Isaac peeked out and grinned at me then vanished back into his pile of rags.
With a quick look around to make sure he had no friends nearby, I dragged him to the center of the intersection of Beggars Court and Harlot's Lane.
His purse was light, so I threw it to Isaac. Then I stripped him naked and laid him face up spread-eagled in the roadbed.
Gathering his clothing and arms, I headed back to finish my dinner. Disposing of his gear along the way, in slop barrels, and storm drains, I slipped back into the Burrick.
I gave the innkeeper a wink and a nice finely-tooled leather belt, once belonging to the guardsman, and ordered a fresh bowl of stew.
The day was still not profitable, but things had definetly taken a turn for the better. Tomorrow is another day.

bravus 06-24-2002 06:31
The stew arrived, wreathed in delicious-smelling steam. It's advertised as 'meat stew', and a wise man doesn't enquire too closely as to precisely what kind of creatures have given their lives for his repast. I tore off a crust of bread and dipped it in the stew, took my first spoonful and chewed with some enjoyment, pausing only to spit a chunk of gristle to the dogs on the floor. A stein of ale is an essential complement to a bowl of burrick... er, I mean, of the Burrick's stew, and I took a deep draught and sat back against the wall in my dark corner...

Gum Drop
06-25-2002 04:51 PM
"Come now Fuschia, surely you wouldn't kick me out on a dismal night such as this?" crooned Gumdrop.
"You know the rules Gummie," Fuschia retorted. "No pay, no lay!"
"Y'know my credit is good enough at the Burrick my dear."
"Then why don't you return there and find yourself a patron to roll with."
Fuschia picked up Gumdrop's belt and threw it out of the open window into the mud caked lane below - folded her arms and began to tap her foot.
"Haa...I know that look Fuschia," smiled Gumdrop - his hand instinctively tracing the faint scar across his left cheek. "I guess now would be a good time to make my exit."
Fuschia shifted her weight to her other foot. She knew she had the upper hand once more and crossed the room slowly and deliberately - picking up a bottle from her dresser.
"Here's something else to keep you warm tonight instead." She tossed the bottle to Gumdrop, moved over to open the window wider and turned to look at him. Gum' walked to the window and paused to take a large slug of Marnier.
"Ahh...The second love of my life." He smiled, then swung out onto the shingle. Giving Fuschia a parting wink he dropped down into the filth of Harlot's Lane, retrieved his belt and headed east.
Gumdrop had only just left the scarlet lights when he spied something odd ahead of him in the lane. As he drew closer, he could see what appeared to be a naked man lying face down in the mud. Stopping a foot from the body, he took another swig of Marnier and bent closer.
"Eeew...Smells like old meat."
A chuckle came from the shadows. Gum looked up and squinted into the gloom.
"That you Isaac?"
"Ain't nobody else round 'ere!"
"I'm not sure I want to know, but what's with the naked guy?"
"Ahh that's the handywork of one of your own." chuckled Isaac.
Gumdrop shook his head and laughed. He looked up into the night sky and let the rain cool his face.
"It's a strange night alright."

Whats His Name 06-26-2002 05:45 AM
Sitting high in the saddle of his horse, the Knight of the Holy Templar rode slowly down the cobbled street in the rain. Since the Hammarites were fading away and a strange new order was beginning to form, the streets had become even more dangerous. The citizens outcry for peace and safety have drawn the Templars to the cities.
The Templars, being monks, have no property or belongings. All their equipment was donated to them by nobles who ask for their assistance in one way or the other. Every Templar is battle harden and experts at all forms of combat. Needless to say, the nobles keep their order well armed and supplied.
The Templar hears the alarm of a Blue Coat just a street or two away. Upon arriving, the Blue Coat just smiles and points to a naked body lying face down in a mud puddle. The Templar looks around the area just in time to see two dark figures disappear into a dark alley. The Templar realizes that the evening won't be as boring as he thought it would be.

Whats His Name 06-26-2002 09:17 AM
Knowing that it is unwise to chase a snake into a wheat field, the Templar decided not to pursue the two men into the alley. The Templar dismounted and approached the body in the mud.
"HEY! You can't just ride up here and..." the Blue Coat objected. One stone glare from the Templar stopped the Blue Coat in mid-sentence.
The Templar reached down and pulled the dead man's head up by the hair. "Do you recognize him?" he asked the Blue Coat.
The Blue Coat drew closer and looked at the mud covered face. "Why yes I do, he his a fellow officer in the City Watch. How did he get like this and why would they take his uniform?"
"And who cut his throat?" added the Templar as he rolled the body over exposing a long gash across the man's throat. "There are no defensive wounds on the body. That means he didn't see who killed him."
The Templar mounted his horse and rode away lost in thought. "There is something going on in this city and it isn't going to be good."

BrokenArts 06-26-2002 10:06 AM
Hearing the sounds, of what is likely the Blue Coats again, she arises from her chair. Pulling back the curtain, ever so slightly, she peers out the window. Eyeing suspiciously the alley way below. Blowing out her candle, she opens the window farther, and tries to hear what is going on.
The moon, just rising above the building across the alley, cast it's shadowy glow up the men down below.
"Take this body out of here now, we need to indentify the remains, who is he?"
Closing the curtains, looking around the room quickly, walking hurriedly over to her table, she begins to shuffle papers together. Shoving them into her satchel.
Grabbing her cloak, and dagger, she races out the door. "I must make contact, she thinks. No time to waste" The Templar's said it wouldn't be like this. The killings have started, they promised. No more. "
Hearing what is possibly one of the Templars voice, one that she recognizes from the conversation she overheard, the blood in her veins runs cold.
She knows her time has come.

As one bead of sweat running down her brow, tension rises within her. Climbing out the back window, so to avoid the men below.
She plant's a carefully placed rope arrow, on the eve of the building behind her, and jumps, climbing up, she is at home once more, a fog now just hangs over the buildings. As if she were apart of the fog herself, she disappears into the night.

Whats His Name 06-26-2002 01:31 PM
Having grown up in the neighboring town of Dayport, the Templar spurred his horse through the familiar backstreets. The alley that he saw the dark figures run down ended at Market Street.
With the rain clearing and a fog floating up from the warm cobbled streets, the evilish looking moonlight danced off the trickling rain water.
As the Templar arrived on Market Street, he saw a few citizens walking pass him, five or so were standing at the entrance to the pub on the corner, and two men that were walking toward him stop unnaturally and stare at him.
Before he could spur his horse forward, the two men darted back into the alley with incredible swiftness. The Templar knew entering the alley was dangerous but he needed answers. As he galloped to the alley, he managed to put on his sallet and draw his sword.
The Templar reigned his horse into the alley.

TheBlackman 06-24-2002 04
The sound of muffled laughter made me look toward the door. Shaking the damp from his cloak, and using the mud scraper near the entrance was GumDrop. On his face a big grin and a rumbling chuckle in his throat.
As he stepped into the common room of the Crippled Burrick, he stayed to the shadows until certain no threat was there to greet him.
Possessed of good skills as a pickpocket and thief, and known as a raconteur, GumDrop was one of the regular customers, and always just one step ahead of disaster.
With all his talent, his most noticeable one was his ability to turn the most innocent act into a tragedy of comedic proportion.
The simple act of cleaning a stain from a cape once started a chain of events that was epic in scope.
When he stepped into the room, I made a small welcoming gesture.
"You won't believe what I just saw," he said pulling up a stool. "Haven't seen the like for a long time."
"Oh. Over at Fuschia's again? You know if Benny finds out you are going to catch it from Benicia." I took a sip of my ale. "Innkeeper! If I know Gummie he's broke again. Bring him a pint. He already has his Marnier, so a pint will do."
"So? Did you like my living art work?" I grinned at his bemused expression.
"You," he asked? "Isaac did say 'one of your own', meaning you? It was amusing. I won't ask why, but one of these days over an ale -my treat-," he grinned, "you will tell me I hope."
The scullion plopped a tankard down in front of GumDrop, poured me a refill from her pitcher, and left as I settled back for a smoke, and Gummie raised his tankard.

Thorin Oakenshield 06-26-2002 03:10 PM
Moments later the door bursts open causing the torches to flicker in the breeze. In the doorway stood a hooded cloaked figure. Gumdrop gulped and looked over his shoulder to checkout the stranger before turning back to his brew. He was worried that he may have been seen leaving Fuschia's.
The cloaked figure slowly walked up to where Gumdrop was sitting.
"Hey You!" bellowed the stranger.
Gummie turned around, "Y y y yes" he muttered.
The stranger started to remove the hood of his cloak. Gummie was becoming even more worried. As he looked on he noticed the cloaked stranger was non other than his old mate Thorin Oakenshield.
"You Pig's Bladder!" said Gummie. His face turned from a look of worry to joy. "You nearly made my crap my pants."
"Sorry Gumdrop!, I saw someone laughing at that naked man in the square. I knew it must have been you, So I followed you in here." said Thorin grinning. "Besides I could do with a pint of Bishops Finger!... LANDLORD!!!"

Northren 06-26-2002 03:24 PM
Northren paused as he reached the familiar rooftops of Harlot’s Lane. He was home, back home in Dayport, and soon he would be back in the comfort of the Crippled Burrick. He smiled as he breathed the smoky air laced with the odors of humanity-the smell of opportunity and wealth, and of blood. A smell he could never quite get out of his mind during the past few months he was away from the city. He had only arrived back this afternoon and already his pouch heavier, his mind lighter, and his blade duller. Why he ever left in the first place was beyond him. He had some logical reason at the time, but the logic had since escaped him and all he could do was breathe the sweet scent of the Lady of Dayport and beg her forgiveness.
Rising voices from street level and the clatter of hooves brought Northren to his senses. He was heading to the Burrick to meet up with his connections and share a mug or two of ale, but the prospects for a more exciting evening lay below. He leaned forward and listened. A guard had been murdered and stripped and one of the Templars was investigating. Northren had heard the gossip about the Templars rising in power down at the market square this afternoon, but he didn’t give it much thought as he believed it to be just market gossip. Seeing how the Templar was directing the blue coat, he realized his mistake. His contacts at the Burrick would give him the information he needed and the way word traveled, they just might be able to tell him more about this particular incident.
Just as he was moving from the concealment of the chimney, he sensed more than saw a shadowy figure disappear over the rooftop across the street. He froze and focused on the darkness for any more movement. He saw only darkness and shadows that could hide a hundred thieves. He took a deep breath to wait another minute and a strangely familiar sweet scent caressed him. He breathed again, but could smell nothing more than what a crowded city could offer. Paradise for a thief. With renewed sense of well-being and a smile on his lips, Northren hurried to the Burrick. Yes the old Lady still had life left in her after all.

Whats His Name 06-27-2002 05:26 AM
Charging into the alley, the Templar was blinded by the darkness. After reigning his horse to a stop, he waited until his eyes adjusted to the shadows. Other than barrows, crates, and piles of human waste, there was nothing else in the alley.
"Surely they couldn't have run the length of the alley before I got here," the Templar thought. He then noticed a slight movement near the far wall.
Spurring his horse forward, the Templar charged the movement. "DAMN! Its just a rope blowing in the breeze. They must have used a rope arrow to escape to the rooftops."
Since the trail ran cold, the Templar left the alley to track down some contacts. The common thugs and thieves of the city may be dangerous, but they'll talk if it benefits their purse or their health.

SlyFoxx 06-27-2002 05:49 AM
Thorin shouts again now pounding on the table "LANDLORD some Bishops Finger if you please.!" A shout from across the room says, "we're all out of Bishops Finger cause your buddy Gummie's bout drank half lot eemself. How 'bout a tall bit of Monks Member...it's a bit heavy but a stout dwarf such as yer self id probably like it."
Thorin steaming: You better bloddy well bring me some Bishops Finger or I will....
Gummie interrupts: You'll have to pardon my friend...he's a bit....eccentric. The Monks Member will do fine my good man. Make it two more on me.
Thorin still steeming but calming: I can't believe they're out of Bishop again.
Gummie: That's the last thing we have to worry about.

SlyFoxx 06-27-2002 06:00 AM
The Templar let those word ring in his head.."a thief will talk if it benifits his wallet or health." His contacts would surly know something. If not tonight, they'd know soon. Then, from a shadow from behind he hears a voice. It is low and sinister.
SlyFoxx: "I saw the whole thing. If you want to know more it will cost. I'll be in touch."
Templar: "I know your voice not!" "Halt!!..."
But the thief was gone.

I regaled my friends with the tale of the oafish guard and my lesson in manners, to gales of laughter and a few toasts that liberally splashed the table.
Uncharacteristically, GumDrop looked a little serious. When Thorin tottered off in the direction of the bathroom (the combination of a dwarf-size bladder with his penchant for pints means conversations with Thorin in the pub are intermittent affairs) he braced me.
"Not really your style, now is it? I can see you instilling some manners in the brute, and even having some fun with him, but having him learn his lesson kind of requires him to be alive to benefit from the instruction: why'd you ventilate his throat?"
"But, but... I didn't!" I stammered. "A loving tickle at the base of the skull with my blackjack, I swear that's all I did to him - apart from stealing everything he had of course..."
"Hmmm, interesting - and a bit worrying", mused GumDrop, "I wonder who had a grudge against the bloke? Or maybe against you..."
He fell silent as Thorin approached, singing a dwarven mining song of which the words seemed to be "Gold, gold, gold, gold, gold..." I smiled at Thorin and bought another round, but my mind was churning, and before long I made my excuses, pulled my cloak around me and slipped out into the night.

Speedy[143] 06-27-2002 12:30 PM

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Speedy overhears two of the wranglers discussing their plans for the day.. it seems the weekly run to Dayport was put off due to bad weather… as luck would have it she hasn’t missed hitching a ride into town on the wagon that will carry fresh meat for stew to the Crippled Burrick after all. Staying hidden in the barn for another hour or so will give her a chance to freshen up a bit.
Looking forward to running into several of her fellow taffers at the pub she reminisces about meetings past… it’s the end of the month with the rent due on the first.. so there’s probably more than a few thiefty plans being made there tonight. Hoping she’s not to late to get in on the fun she sneaks onto the wagon and settles down for the bumpy ride to town………………

Thorin Oakenshield 06-27-2002 11:12 AM
Thorin finished his 3rd pint of Monkey's Member and after a large belch that turned every head in the pub he bent forward to Gumdrops ear and quietly said, "What time's our little job tonight?"
"Let's give it another hour, That way we'll have time for another couple of rounds, Giving us an alibi" Gummie replied.
Thorin sat back in his seat,"LANDLORD! two more of your finest beers."
"I'll send em over when that wench gets back up from the cellar. She's changing the barrel of Bishop's." he said.
Gummie and Thorin talked over their plans making sure no-one was in earshot. The hour soon passed.
The towns clocktower had just finished chiming 12 and Thorin and Gumdrop stood up pretending to be drunk. This was all part of the plan. As they left the pub walking into the street they paused to let their eyes adjust to the darkness. The pub door slammed shut. The pair carefully checked out all the shadows in the street and went off into the darkness unseen.

Whats His Name 06-27-2002 12:06 PM
Having instructed a few stubburn thugs in the art of using a sword, their bodies lay in distorted forms on the ground. "This is getting me no where," muttered the Templar. "If only I can find that taffer who approached me earlier."
After the Templar cleaned the blood off his sword, he mounted his horse and spurred it forward into the dark streets and alleys.

Speedy[143] 06-27-2002 12:30 PM
I’m rudely awaken, almost giving myself away, as the wagon wheel hits a deep rut gutted out by the downpour earlier in the week. The wagon driver curses as he stops to inspect the wheel and adjust the load that has shifted enough to bath me in Burrick juices… so much for freshening up. As he goes about his tasks it gives me a chance to take a peek and get my bearings for I have no idea how long I’ve been asleep.
Peeling back the burlap I can clearly see we’ve stopped just shy of the entrance to the city and there’s quite a commotion going on at the guardhouse. The gate is being lowered as one of the guards yells to the diver to hurry up or he won’t be let in tonight. Seems another guard’s throat has been cut and the city is being sealed up tight until the murderer can be caught. Cursing even louder the driver cuts his efforts short to secure the load… just inches before spying me. He jumps back on the wagon snaping the reigns to beat the gate as we lunge past the guards entering Dayport.
The gate slams shut behind us.
Oh boy… this ought to be interesting… not much changes around here I guess… no doubt this murder will be pinned on an innocent taffer and I doubt any of my cronies will be hanging out at the Crippled Burrick by the time I get there.
Hmmmmmmmmm… my plans change as the plot thickens.... better keep my eyes sharp.. a simple trip home could turn into a real adventure.

SlyFoxx 06-27-2002 04:06 PM
Unknown to Gummie and Thorin another thief...watches from a lofty perch. "Those are my two scapegoats," he thinks to himself. If I don't pin the murder on them I could be in trouble. Better follow them and see what they are up to.

Gum Drop posted 06-27-2002 04:53 PM
Thorin and Gumdrop had picked their way through the innumerable little lanes that fanned out South of the Market district all the way to the towering walls of Threegate. Gum had never ventured into these slums as they were home to all sorts of unsavory characters. Becouse of this though, the city watch rarely patrolled here, so a Taffer up to no good had little chance of being stopped.
Thorin however, was practically conceived here. The hardy Dwarf's little legs propelled him along at an alarming rate as he turned this way and that - taking short cuts down hidden allyways and through untamed gardens. Gum had to quicken his pace somewhat for fear of loosing his companion alltogether. He had known Thorin most of his life, and during his time in Dayport, Gum had come to depend on the little Dwarf's limitless knowledge of the city and it's many strange facades.
"Are you sure this is a shortcut?" puffed Gummie. "I don't remember it taking this long to reach the river, even when..."
"SHHH!" interupted Thorin - pulling Gum into the darkness behind a low stone wall.
"Haha...You're a little twitchy tonight Thorin, I doupt we've been tailed as I had a hard enough time following you myself."
"Will you pipe down! Look...over there."
Gum followed the Dwarf's gaze down the lane. A wagon cart slowly came into view and Thorin pulled Gum further back into the shadows. The driver spurred the horses faster as it rounded the bend and sped closer. Passing by the wall, the wheels hit a bump in the road and a faint "ouch" came from under the burlap. Gum and Thorin gave each other a puzzled look, then stood up and stepped back into the lane.
"Ok come on, High Bulp's Burrick Stables is just across the river there. What was the name of his prize winning racer again?" asked Thorin as they crossed the lane and into an alley.
"Err...Noxious Nelly. No hang on." Gum pulled out a crumpled piece of paper. "Gaseous Maximus it says here."
"And Gallivan wants the retched beast alive right?"
"So how in a Builder's age are we gonna get a darn big smelly lizard out of the stable and back to Gallivan's without choking to death or getting stomped on?"
Gummie plunged his hand deep into his cloak and pulled out two saddles.
"Head 'em up Oakenshield me old Dwarf...It's high taffernoonie in Dayport tonight!"

Speedy[143] posted 06-27-2002 05:26 PM
The streets were alive with guards… the farther we got from Threegate the bigger the possibility we’d get stopped and the wagon would be searched. I’m afraid the pub is going to be off limits for me tonight… Taffed!!!!! I was so looking forward to entering the basement through the delivery door while the meat was being unloaded… sneaking up the stairs and catching my fellow thieves half drunk and off guard then giving them a good scare. On second thought it would be a very bad idea to sneak up on anyone tonight unless I have my BJ pulled and plan on using it… besides I’m beginning to smell like old meat. I don’t think there’s a dark enough corner in the whole city that could hide me now. I better make my move soon.
Catching a glimpse of a street sign I make note that Harlot’s Lane is just around the corner and should have plenty of open windows with dimly lit rooms and access to clean clothes and perfume… ahhhh to look and feel like a real woman again.... I do hope Garrett’s in town.

theBlackman posted 06-27-2002 06:03 PM
With the night closing in finding a sheltered shadow in a doorway was not difficult.
With my cloak drawn well about me, I stood, just beyond reach of the cool drizzle, and mulled Gumdrops words over. I had been certain that only Isaac, in his pile of rags, the guard and me, were the only ones around.
Someone could have been in a corner, or on a rooftop, but I had scanned the area carefully. Or so I thought.
That the guard had enemies I had no doubt. An attitude like his did not invite friends. An enemy of mine might have done the deed. The lack of evidence left at the scene to implicate me, made that seem doubtful.
More like one of his former victims; one of the shopkeepers he bullied on his rounds, a whoremaster he was taking bribes from, or even one of his fellow guardsmen.
Well. For now I think I'll head over to the Whale's Spout. The patrols will be less heavy and Dovida may know something about the guard. As he is just down from the Three Gate Station, he knows most of the guard sergeants, and the assigned patrol routes.
The Burrick is too far from Three Gate to be in thier patrol district. However, most of the city guard staff do drink there. I'm sure the Sergeants had thier monthly get-together just a while ago to celebrate the disappearance --OK Murder-- of Truart, and the inexperience of Mosley.
Dovida might have something.

SlyFoxx 06-28-2002 08:39 AM
Sly sits in a shadowy corner contemplating the nights deed. The guard he knew well. He needed only to look in a mirror to be reminded of the occasion of thier meeting. It was 14 months ago. Curfew was in effect for the evening. In one small moment of carlessness he was spotted by the dead man on his way over to Lord Engelman's for the months rent. Beaten and shakeled Sly was taken to the nearest guard station where a hot poker applied to his right cheek was to serve as a reminder that thieves are not welcome in Dayport.
His revenge served cold, he only now needed to pin the crime on another. Anyone would do. "Thieves are not welcome in Dayport but there are certainly a lot of them," he spoke just under his breath. With his two most likely candidates headed off to steal a Burrick he felt someone else would have to be found. "Who would think Burrick thieves would murder in cold blood?" he said aloud. "No, I need a more sinister type."
Rising to his feet Sly makes his way to rooftops once more. "Perhaps I should find the Templar and tail him for a while. If I can tell what he's thinking maybe I can provide the answer he's looking for. He's probably headed to the Burrick. My bet is he'll bite heavily on any lead he might turn up there. Better find out what it is!"

30th Jun 2002, 20:57
Meanwhile, oblivious to all that had been happening, I (THEthief) was just finishing a rather profitable job, at a secluded summer cottage, owned by Lord Muffer, a good friend of the Knights' Templar. This would prove to be a dangerous job, if I was caught, because the Knight's Templar weren't known for their friendliness - but, never one to turn down a challenge, I was not intimidated by the thought of capture; instead, I vowed not to be caught.
Robbing Lord Muffer's 'cottage' (well, more of a small castle - but, for the super rich, I suppose it could be considered a cottage), of all that I could carry, I hurried toward the city, hoping to make it back to my small abode, and hide my loot, before sunrise.
Mounting my black steed, Tornado, I rode carefully and quickly. As we neared the city, though, I slowed to a trot - the city gates were all locked, and heavily gaurded!
I circled back to several alleys along the way - they were barred too (although unguarded)! "What the Taff??" I wondered aloud.
Looking around, I decided it would be no problem to scale the city walls, or sneak in through one of the sewers...but what about Tornado?
"Well, no getting home tonight," I decided. Instead, I decided to head to a small shack I had discovered, in the woods - one of my favorite haunts!
"Come on, Tornado," I coaxed, as we passed through the dark woods.
Nervously, he advanced. He seemed to sense something was amiss - I suppose I was too blind, at the time, to sense it too; I was too thrilled with my sucsess, and puzzled with the strange and sudden locking of the city to notice.

30th Jun 2002, 21:12
As we rode on, my senses alerted - soon I felt it too; something was not right!
Dismounting Tornado, I stepped off the moonlit path, pulling him with me, into the shadows, and watched.
Suddenly, out of the dark, a Thief, whom I vaguely recognized, tore past me, followed closely by a band of half a dozen grisley looking Taffers.
I knew I had seen the fleeing Thief before, but, as he passed so quickly, I could not place his face.
Nevertheless, even as a Thief, my sense of honor wouldn't allow me to leave the one to defend himself from six. Mounting Tornado quickly, we galloped out of the shadows, and onto the path.
In seconds, we were quickly upon the band of Taffers - pulling my blackjack, and leaning to the side of Tornado, I delivered a quick blow to the man in the rear, just as he began to turn. Two or three of the others (I didn't have time to notice, as it happened to quickly) turned, and swung at me, with their unsheathed swords. Tornado reared, and threw me from his back; I landed with a thud, but avoided the blunt edges, that were being swung at me.
Leaping to my feet, I grabbed a flashbomb, and threw it at the band of men, who were fast approaching - in an instant, both were unconsious; some time while this was happening, the Thief who was being pursued turned, and saw what was taking place. Fighting off the two men that were still tailing him, he watched as the final man fled.
"Damned coward," I muttered, brushing myself off, and looking up, only to see a broadhead aimed at my heart.
"Who are you?" the Thief asked, not lowering his bow. "What do you want?"
"Garrett?!?!" I asked, shocked.
"THEthief? What are you doing here?!" he said, lowering his bow at once.
"What am I doing here? What are YOU doing here?" I asked, still recovering. "And what was that all about??"
"Oh - sorry. I didn't know who you were."
"That's ok - but what was going on?"

Thorin Oakenshield
30th Jun 2002, 21:21
After Garrett told me about the men he continued, "Oh I've just been helping Thorin and Gummie, they were on their way to Gallivan's. I told them the name of a good fence where they could relieve themselves of some loot, Less my little cut of course. Now you're safe I'll be on my way. Oh! If you see that dwarf Tell him I want my compass back!"

Garrett made his excuses and left.

30th Jun 2002, 21:36
Deciding I might as well continue on my way, I whistled for Tornado (who had dissapeared during the fight), and mounted him. Riding towards my cabin, I pondered what had happened - Garrett related to me that he had pulled off a nice job in town, and had slipped out, to visit a fence, in the next city, when he noticed he was being pursued by a large group of men.
Within a few minutes, he had taken out about half of the group - but he was extremely low on supplies, by that time.
Slowly but surely, he took out a few more; finally, just as he was about to take out one of the group of six remainders, they surrounded him.
Although a good fighter, he didn't want to take his chances with six. And he didn't particularly look forward to getting his hands dirty with killing tonight.
He didn't know why they were after him, he said. I wondered if that was the truth. Maybe...maybe not.

30th Jun 2002, 21:41
As I approached the cabin, I concentrated on my surroundings...a far too familiar feeling returned...something...something was not right...
At that moment, a group of about a dozen bluecoats jumped out, and startled Tornado. Once again he bucked, and ran into the night, throwing me from him. Without enough time to even move, I was tackled and bound by the bluecoats. Cursing Tornado as I was dragged along, I wondered how the bluecoats had found my hiding place. Surely it was secluded enough? As far as I knew, I was the only one who knew about it...

30th Jun 2002, 21:48
My pondering was intterupted, as I was shoved into the police cart. Dejectedly, I lay on the floor, where the bluecoats had thrown me.
"Even the masters have off-days" I consoled myself; but it was to no avail. I could not believe that my secret hiding place - my one place of sanctuary - had betrayed me; not literally, but it felt that way!
And then an idea struck me '...Suppose I had been betrayed...but by who? Who knew about my hiding place? Only Garrett, and he didn't even know the exact location...' I stopped. 'Only Garrett,' I repeated, in my mind. 'Nooo - he didn't even know where it was exactly!' But the thought lingered. 'Suppose he found it? Suppose he sold me out? Suppose...NAH! He wouldn't do something like that!'
By this time, we had arrived at the city gates. "I think we've got her!" the bluecoat driving the cart shouted to the gatemaster. "The murderess!"

30th Jun 2002, 23:22
"Open the gate!" the gatemaster shouted to the guards below; after the gate opened, the cart entered the city, slowly, heading toward the jail.
Upon arriving at the local jail, Sgt. Neph (the driver of the cart) reported to Sheriff Mosley. "Yes Ma'am - I believe I have the villain repsonsible for the murder earlier!"
"Yes ma'am - she was acting extremely suspiciously!"
"I see," Sheriff Mosley pondered. She paused. "You see, Jack, the problem is this - you're the fourth this evening to bring in a murder suspect."
"That's right - Officer Drout, Officer Klep, Deputy Sha and Officer Krip have all brought suspects."
"Oh..." Sgt. Neph said, dissapointedly.
"Throw her in the cell with the others - we'll decide what to do in the morning."
"Yes Ma'am," Sgt. Neph responded, silently cursing his fellow officers; after all, the murdered man had been a friend of the sheriff's...whoever found his killer (or, someone who they could frame for his killing) would be very popular.
"Get her in the cell," he barked to his subordinates, as he headed to his bunk.

30th Jun 2002, 23:32
Removing my bonds (and weapons) the bluecoats shoved me into a crammed cell, and locked the door.
"Umm...hi," I greeted, quietly.
My greeting was returned with cold stares. 'Friendly lot here,' I thought.
Finally one of them (a tall, light haired taffer) spoke. "What are you here for?" he asked.
"Murder. I didn't do it, though."
"Hmm..." another prisoner murmered, disbelievingly.
"I didn't," I repeated. Addressing the other, I asked, "What are you in here for?"
"I didn't do it, either."
I shook my head, understandingly. "Who's?"
"Some bluecoat."
"Me too."
"That's what we're all here for."
"Oh...you mean, the same bluecoat?"
"Must be - there's only one murder that I know of..."
"Hmm...well, obviously we didn't all murder him...and, chances are, none of us did..."
"Yeah...but they'll probably hang us all..."
"What do you mean, 'maybe'? You know what they're like - they'll invent charges if they have to..."
"Yea...if we're still here."
One of the other prisoners rolled his eyes, and another murmered, "Oh, come on..."
The first, on the other hand, asked, "Why wouldn't we be here?"
"We could escape..." I suggested.
"I donno...it's been a LONG time since someone escaped from here..."
"Yes...but it HAS been done!" I reminded him.
Another inmate piped up, "Yes, I suppose we COULD try!"
"Yes," I agreed. "We certainly could!"

30th Jun 2002, 23:50
After everyone agreed, we made our plans - we were ready to act.
"Officer! Officer!" one of the inmates, who identified herself as Clarisa, called to the guard, "someone's fainted!"
"What?" the guard asked, coming to the door.
"In here - I think something's wrong - we can't revive her!"
The guard stared at her supsiciously. "Hmm..."
"Come look, you old fool!" Clarisa exploded, in mock anger, "I think she's dying!"
The guard looked at her questioningly, and then called a friend over. "Lock the door after me," he instructed, as he unlocked the door, and entered the small, dark cell.
As soon as he had entered the room, a large inmate (known as Bill) threw himself on the guard, and covered his mouth. With the help of the rest of us, the guard's sword was taken, and the guard smacked over the head, with the end of it, without much noise.
Nevertheless, the struggle made enough noise to alert the guard outside. "Bob? You ok? What's going on in there?"
One of the prisoners, imitating the guards voice as well as he could, responded, "Nothing. It's all under control."
"Hmm...I'm coming in, Bob," the other guard decided finally.
Grabbing the sword from a fellow inmate, I darted to the corner of the room, nearest the door, and waited as the door opened, and the guard stepped in.
"What the-" he began, but did not finish, as the flat side of his friend's sword came crashing down on his head, knocking him out.
Another prisoner grabbed the sword, but, instead of acting according to our plan, he dashed out the open prison door. As he ran, the guards (naturally) saw him, and took up pursuit.
"Let's get out of here," I told the others. With very few guards not pursuing the other inmate, it was fairly easy for us to exit the building, without much trouble.

1st Jul 2002, 00:02
As soon as we were free, we all headed in seperate directions; but not before one of the inmates turned and shouted, "Thanks!"
I yelled back, "No prob!" and headed in the opposite direction.
I had few thoughts, except staying free, as I ran through the dark alleys and streets, toward my home.
When I arrived, I was able to think over my situation. I had lost all my weapons, my recently loot, and the bluecoats could (rather easily) identify me. I reflected that there was, at least, one positive aspect of this situation...things couldn't possibly get worse. (:D;)) I was wrong...

1st Jul 2002, 02:03
Stikboy wanders up to the doors of the Crippled Burrick and draws a deep breath. It's been a few months since he has darkened the doorway to this place. He sits back and indulges in a few memories of parties past. Chandelier swinging and old widows. A few pints and a lot of tom foolery.

Shaking himself from his revelry, he notices a few changes. A fresh coat of paint, a new door and an even newer sign welcoming all to stop in. He grins to himself and wonders if the pickings around this place have gotten any better.

He slowly opens the door, wondering if this is the right decision. He has had many a good time here and in Dayport in general, and has even prospered to a fashion. But is returning to the place of such tremendous heartache a wise idea? He quietly slips inbetween the shadows, with hood drawn tight, and takes an empty seat in the back with a full view of the place.

As he is looking around, he notices a few familiar faces, and some familiar forms sitting back in the shadows just like he is. But, he also sees a lot of new faces, and wonders if these are free game, or just more taffers lured to the bright lights and big wallets of Dayport.

It looks like the inside of The Burrick has been completely rebuilt. New bar, new floor, new tables and even a <I>triple</I> reinforced chandelier. Stikboy smiles, knowing BA had something to do with that:)

He finally decides, after watching the patrons frollic and stumble around, that this was the right choice. This was home. And heartache will heal if given the time.

He woders if he has lost any of his masterfulness in the art of "liberating". He spies a well dressed man at the bar getting sloshed and decides that this will be a test. If Stikboy could get ahold of this man's purse, he would admit that this is where he belongs, this is what he should be doing. So, stikboy sits in his corner and watches... and waits.

1st Jul 2002, 02:27
Perched and ready to slip silently from the wagon as it rambled under a burnt out street lamp I begin to imagine all kinds of scenarios about hooking up with Garrett again.

We’d been friends since we were kids and often over the years had come to each other’s aid when the chips were down. Payback was so common we’d both lost count about who owed who… and that was fine with us. Keeping a tally was gentleman’s work and Garrett was no gentleman. I just hoped he wasn’t involved in the murder. I was even willing to forgo a chance meeting if it meant he was far away from Dayport tonight.

My boots hit the slick cobblestones and I stumbled slightly reaching out to steady myself. Grabbing at the shadows proved fruitless and I was certain I was going down hard. Preparing myself for another bump on the head I cursed softly under my breath. Just then I was grabbed from behind by both arms and set upright. I was more than a little surprised that someone was hiding in the shadows but even more surprised as they held me close and whispered in my ear…...

“Now, that’s no way for a lady to talk.”

Not knowing if he was friend or foe I pulled away and spun around to confront the taffer. Grabbing the handle of my saber, readying to use it, I squinted into the drizzle…. but the street was empty. All I could hear was the sound of the wagon wheels disappearing down the deserted street as I continued to back my way into an unlit corner. Holding still as long as I could and straining both my eyes and ears to catch any movement at all… I finally shivered realizing that the whisper at my neck could easily have been his blade.

It was time to get out of these wet clothes. I had to continue with my plan... what little of it I had. Creeping out of Beggars Court and turning down Harlot’s Lane I checked my rope arrow supply knowing I’d need one to access Fuchsia’s balcony. I knew she’d be happy to see me but disappointed when I turned her down for employment as usual. I’m a trickster for sure…. just not interested in turning those kinds of tricks.

1st Jul 2002, 07:20
As I had hoped, the guards at the East Gate of Three Gate were not too vigilant. They gave me just a cursory glance as I straggled through with a group headed to the waterfront.

I had hurried hoping to outrun any report of the murder and luck had been on my side.

I turned into Rope Walk and paralleled the wall until I neared the Main Gate. Turning on Chandlers Row, I eased down to the docks and headed west to the Whales Spout. It was early enough that the usual riffraff had not yet hit the streets looking for a drunk to mug, or some weary boatman to rob.

The Whale Spout was fairly quiet. The evening crowd of dockworkers and fishers had not drifted in as yet. Dovida was not visible, and one of the barkeeps said that he had gone into town to check on some shipments and would probably be gone for another hour, give or take.

I made arrangements for some cheese and bread to be delivered to a corner near the stern, where I knew there was a sevice entrance, - fox always has two exits from his hole- and took my mug of mead over to a table that gave me clear view of the main floor and entrance.

1st Jul 2002, 07:45
Fuschia was not as happy to see me as I had hoped. As I climbed over her balcony she cooed…

“Oh Gummy love, I was hoping you would come back.” “I was so worried about you.”

Upon seeing it was only me she blushed and pulled her robe closed asking how long I’d been back in town. Before I could answer she put her finger to her lips and shushed me. Lowering her voice she said I couldn’t stay there… I had to leave immediately. I told her I couldn’t go anywhere until I washed up and changed my clothes. As I stepped into the candlelight she gasped and asked me what had happened. I told her it was a long story. She looked at me suspiciously… her eyes narrowing as she brushed my hair back and took a closer look at my forehead. She said I looked as if I had been struggling with someone because of the bump and bruises… looking down she wanted to know why my boots were stained with blood? The blood on my boots surprised me as well… it didn’t look at all like Burrick juices. Wondering how I got blood on my boots I began to explain about my forehead but Fuschia excused herself and became busy asking customers to leave... sending her girls to their rooms for the night. Come to find out her “eyes and ears”, old Isaac, had called up to her balcony with the news of the murder. The old beggar had gone on to say that it was rumored the Templar was going to be making a visit to the whoremaster before the night was over…. and he’d be asking questions she didn’t want to know the answers to.

Fuschia came back with a set of boys clothing and hurried me to dress. She said I had to leave now… there was no time to explain and she didn’t really want to know what had happened anyway. She turned and left the room closing the door behind her before I could thank her. I stood there for a moment overwhelmed by the realization that I had no alibi… I had no way of proving that I wasn’t even in Dayport when the guard was killed. No wonder she wanted me, my bloody boots and bruised body out of there before the Templar came round.

My surprise homecoming had turned into something a lot less pleasant than I had anticipated. So far only Fuschia and the mysterious whisperer knew I was in town so if I could get out of there without being seen by anyone else it would be far better for everyone concerned. I knew I could trust Fuschia not to snitch on me. Although I was more than a bit curious about the whisperer I had no idea if our paths would cross again or if I’d ever know who he was.

Stuffing my pockets with cheese and bread I figured I’d best leave the way I’d come. I doused the candle on the dresser tossing a few coins on the nightstand for Fuschia’s trouble and took a hearty swig from the open wine bottle on my way to the balcony. My climb down to the wet streets below was cut short when I heard a horse heavy with armour approaching the brothel from the intersection. Deciding it might be safer if I took to the rooftops on my way out of town I scurried back onto the balcony and crouched in silence until the pounding on the front door stopped. When I heard Fuschia, in her sweetest voice, invite the Templar to come in I hoisted myself up on the roof and became one with the night.

2nd Jul 2002, 20:12
Stikboy watched as the richly dressed gentleman got up to use the bathroom. He decides now is as good a time as any. He silently gets up and creeps through the shadows after the man. Just as he gets to the restroom door, Stikboy hears a small whistling sound just a brief moment before a pain shoots into the back of his skull and the world goes dark.

5th Jul 2002, 06:16
The Whales Spout was slowly filling up. The fishers had cleaned thier boats and repaired the nets, and were in for a drink or a fight.

The wharfrats and other hangers on had come in to get out of the evening mist, and drizzle. I had seen no sign of Dovida, nor -what I really was alert for- the nightwatch or the city guards.

I ordered another ale, and considered my options. To make my way home in light of the murder, and subsequent suspicion my presence might arouse wandering the streets, was out of the question.

The Thieves highway in a drizzle was a gamble best not taken. I had stayed clear of the notice of the guard, but the killing would make them a bit touchy. Especially to any of my kind, proven guilty or not. I had had minor brushes with the law, but had never been caught at the scene or with the goods.

Luck, on some occassions, but mainly skill. My best choice, at the moment was to rent a room here and send out some feelers about the dead guardsman and possible reasons for his death.

At least, I might learn enough to enable me to avoid confrontation with the authorities. They would undoubtedly round up the "usual suspects" and as yet I have not been one of those.

With that in mind I had another bite of cheese and stood up. Making my way to the bar, I signaled for the barkeep to come over so I could inquire about a room.

5th Jul 2002, 14:55
SlyFoxx, perched on a rooftop that afforded a view of the Burrick, paiently awaited the arrival of The Templar. A light rain had begun falling and the mist surrounded him like a comfortable old blanket. He was just about to give up waiting and begin an active search when he heard two men comming down the street and talking. "So...The Templar's taking to rousing whores in the middle of the night eh." "Better get going and see what I can find out."

Making his way to the street below the thief headed off to the brothel.

5th Jul 2002, 15:09
As Sly made his way closer to Fuschia's he could make out the sounds of a woman sobbing and pleading. "Please sir...you are a monk of a lawful order." "Stop, stop I beg you." "Must I endure more?" "I tell you I know nothing of any murder."

"You consort with scum of all kinds in a business such as this!" The Templar screamed. "I am on the trail of a creul and vicious killer and will not be detered nor delayed in my charge to apprehend said killer by a common harlot such as yourself!" "If you don't know who then you know somebody who knows somebody." "I will not leave this place until I'm satisfied that I've gained any and all information related to this night's events." "Who did I see leave this place as I arrived?" "Not another client," he said mockingly. "Clients leave through the door, not via roof tops!" "I want a name and I want it NOW!"

That last remark was punctuated by an especially cruel and vicious blow.

"I'm begining to really not like this guy," Sly thought to himself. Spotting what had to be The Templar's horse the thief sent an arrow through the air. It pierced the animal and it fell to the ground writhing in pain. Notching a rope Sly disappeared with lightning speed to the safety of the rooftops. The Templar burst out the front door only to see his favorite steed on the ground bleading from a deep wound to the neck. For both men, it was now personal.

6th Jul 2002, 23:37
The old Dwarf was certainly alot far heavier than he looked, and Gum's knees almost buckled as he hoisted Thorin over the wall of the Hight Bulp's Burrick Stables onto a mound of damp hay. The Dwarf hit the straw and rolled down onto the cobbled courtyard - cursing as he went. Gum was quick to follow, and a moment later they were both standing flush against the Eastern barn wall examining a rough sketch they had been given of the stables layout.

"The most prized Burrick's are kept in the large brick stable over there" said Thorin - pointing to the well lit structure closest to the house. "If you can get onto the roof of this stable, you should be able to make your way around to it."

"And what are you gonna be doing?" Gum frowned.

"I'll try to creep up on that guard by the stable doors."

Gum nodded, and without further pause, placed a rope arrow just under the slate of the barn roof. Jumping up, he quickly climbed hand over hand up onto the roof, while Thorin began creeping between the haystacks towards the guard at the doors.

11th Jul 2002, 17:55
Hugging the wet roof as much for cover as stability I turned and sat for a moment with my back to the warm chimney plotting the quickest escape route from Dayport. Sounds of a struggle and loud voices rose through the bricks with the smoke. I flinched with each blow, as the Templar became more and more violent the less Fuschia pretended to know… I couldn’t leave her alone to deal with that. As soon as he said he’d seen me, I knew I had to go back in.

Scooting towards the edge of the roof I thought I saw some movement in the shadows below but my attention was quickly averted when the Templar’s horse took an arrow and collapsed in pain onto the wet cobblestones. Almost simultaneously the door below flew open as the Templar burst into the street and a cloak brushed past me as the shadowed archer from the street found his way to the rooftop.

A familiar whisper reached my ear just as he forced me down flat…

“Ahhhh, we meet again my lady."

....and as quickly as he had reached the roof he was gone again.

11th Jul 2002, 19:25
Littlek was in the stables tending to Strider, her prized horse. His sleek red coat shimmered in deep contrast to his raven mane and tail. His black tipped ears flicked forward, eyes soft as he munched on a crisp apple. The air was filled with the mixed aroma of ripe apples, sweet hay, oiled leather and a happy horse. She inhaled deeply. But the horse was not convinced it was her last treat and searched her pockets methodically.

Littlek laughed softly. “Is that all I am useful to you for? A good brushing and food?” She rubbed his soft nose and scratched his ears. Strider was satisfied that there were no more apples so he turned his attention to his hay.

This was littlek’s favorite place at the end of the day. She sat down in the deep straw in her horses stall listening to him methodically chew his supper. She began to relax. The day was tense with the Templar on the prowl looking for the murderer of the guard and Fuschia being incarcerated. She spent most of her day trying to keep out of the way of The Templar’s wrath. Knowing her line of business, he would certainly want to question her if he saw her. Best to just disappear.

The scream of a horse followed by the roar of The Templar broke her thoughts. Her horses head swung up, eyes and nostrils wide. He whinnied loudly in reply. She quickly stood up and closed the door to his stall and ran to the barn door. As she opened the door, an unconscious guard fell at her feet with Thorin standing over him, blackjack in hand. Thorin quickly raised his blackjack ready to strike her noggin when she yelled, “Thorin stop, its me, littlek.”

“Don’t spring up on me like that littlek. I nearly brained you.” Thorin gasped.

“What’s going on out here?” littlek inquired.

“Slyfoxx shot the Templars horse. My guess is that it is a distraction so he can try and help free Fushia.” Answered Thorin.

“The Templars horse! Damn him. That mare was one of mine. The Templar took that horse from me.” Littlek ran back into the stables, grabbed a bag and raced down the street towards the pain-racked screams of the injured horse leaving Thorin standing over the motionless guard.

“Glad I am not Slyfoxx right now.” Thorin shrugged then bent over, picked up the unconscious guard, threw him over his shoulder then hid him between the haystacks. He returned to the stables and peered in and sniffed. “Doesn’t smell like they keep Burricks in here.” Thorin disappeared inside.

Littlek raced toward the location of the noise and tripped over something in the alley behind the Crippled Burrick. She fell on the hard wet street. She picked herself up, found her bag and bent over the prone form. It was Stikboy with a large red angry knot on his skull. She quickly checked his condition and found that he was OK but would have one nasty headache in the morning. Another scream from the stricken horse brought her to her feet. She whispered, “Sorry to just leave you here Stikboy, but you’ll be OK.” And she ran off.

20th Jul 2002, 13:17
"Arrrgh that was grade 'A' stupid," the thief muttered to himself. He had broken a cardinal rule...DON'T GET EMOTIONAL. Hearing the cries of an innocent as a result of his vengful deed softened his heart for only a moment. Acting with a combination of vengence and pity the assassin had now caused himself even more grief. "She's just a whore!" "Why did you do that?"

20th Jul 2002, 13:33
A quick check of his supplies found the thief in good shape. "Hell I shouldn't need any more firepower this evening if I do this right." Producing a large knife stained with now dried blood he began to think. "The Templar's sure Fuschia knows something about this." "Let's give him even more reason to suspect her or a client." "I'll have to get inside the brothel via the roof or a backdoor." "If I plant the knife in a well hidden spot...."

As the thief made the long way around to the back of the brothel comotion could be heard rising up from the streets below. The Templar , as suspected had called for a fresh horse and reinforcements. They would soon be all over Fuschia's place. Needing a safe way down to the street Sly spotted an open window to what appeared to be a private residence.

20th Jul 2002, 14:01
"It's a bit of a jump but I can make it." Once inside he spotted a few silver coins on a desk in the corner of the room. "Might as well pick up some butter and egg money while I'm here," he chuckled to himself. He was just about to turn to the door when the name of the addressee on a letter atop the same desk caught his eye.


"The name of the deadman??!!" Sly though to himself. "This could be VERY interesting." He continued to read.

20th Jul 2002, 14:08
You did not come as promised last night. I checked with your superior and he confirmed that you were not scheduled to work in some last minute mix-up. Where were you? Am I not beautiful enough? Am I not rich enough? Any man of your station in life would be thrilled by my advances and yet you seem to have spurned them. My father is powerful in this city and many others. A soft word in his ear from his daughter is more that enough to ruin a man such as yourself and that's exactly where I've gone. By the time you receive this it will be too late. You will be stripped of your job, lucky to be scooping dung in the stables when I'm finished with you...........

The letter continued on in this fashion a bit further.

20th Jul 2002, 14:18
A wide grin began to spread across the face of the thief. "This is good fortune beyond belief" he exclaimed aloud, forgetting for the moment his exact location. "It's little wonder I'm not the only one with a grudge againt 'ol Danguard." "Hafta figure out how to get this into the hands of the Templar!" "I wonder who this dame is and who her father is." A cursory inspection of the empty house revealed the answer.

"So this is Laura Dagosport's place." "That would make her father Vincent Dagosport, a chief importer and exporter." "He's been know to rough up a few competetors over the years." "Wouldn't be too much of a streach to make the Templar think one of his thugs could be involved in the murder of a lowly bluecoat who spurned his only daughter."

25th Jul 2002, 17:39
Meanwhile, I was quietly waiting for a local weapon shop to close, so I could re-supply...free of charge...
"Oh well - these free-lancers charge so taffing much, they deserve it..." I decided.
After a lengthy waiting time, I decided I'd had enough - the shop keeper showed no interest in closing (probably because so many thieves kept coming in for more weapons - BUILDER! What a night to get caught!!), so I opened the door and walked in.
"Hey, you must be new around these parts - welcome to my shop," he greeted. I muttered a response, looking down, so he couldn't get a clear view of my face.
"Um...what can I help you with?"
"I ... lost my blackjack," I murmered.
"Well, that's no problem - what model are you looking for? We've got the iron blackjack, for 50, the steel black jack for 100, and the wood blackjack - !!guaranteed not to rust!! - for 150. Also, we've got -"
I cut him off, "Can I see the steel one?"
"Sure - now this is guaranteed for 30 days - will not rust, warp, or -"
He never finished. "Hmm...works well," I thought, smugly, watching the shopkeeper fall to the ground. "Very well."


After taking what I needed, I exited the shop, and made my way through the shadows, to the Crippled Burrick, to find out just what exactly was going on - who had murdered this blue coat, why Garrett was being pursued, how the bluecoats found my hide-out, and anything else of interest.

Upon my arrival, I noticed not many people were present. "Oh well." To the bartender, I greeted, "Hi! Not very busy tonight, eh?"
"It was," he said, darkly.
"Yea...and then some idiot had to go get himself murdered."
"I see - who killed him?"
"I donno..."
"Well..." he hesitated. "Well, they say...I mean, I've heard..."
"They say it might have been Garrett..."
"Yeah..." His eyes darted around, nervously. "Just don't say I said so, ok?"
"Sure..." I responded, ordering a bowl of thick, bogus broth, which I forced down. After paying with the shopkeeper's gold, I headed out - where I was going, I didn't know, but I wasn't going to hang around the tavern.

25th Jul 2002, 22:54
Lying as still as possible I tried again to place that voice… I knew it was the same one I’d heard earlier that evening but was still unsure about whom it belonged to. That taffer really gets around I thought… I realized I was inching towards the edge of the roof… digging in the heels of my boots I knew I was losing the battle as I continued slipping down the wet rooftop…

I landed hard right at the Templers feet… we were both stunned!! Quickly regaining his composer he chided “Ah, fodder from God.” Scrambling to get to my feet I collapsed in pain as he pinned me down with his right boot. Continuing to bark orders about a new ride and reinforcements… he ended with “…and take this roof rat to jail.”

Punctuating his distain by grinding his heel even deeper into my back I gritted my teeth “Some man of God,” I mocked!!! “I’ll show YOU God.” He growled… kicking me until I lost consciousness.

27th Jul 2002, 15:27
littlek runs through the streets towards the screams of the Templars stricken horse, trips over Speedy's unconscious body and sprawls on the ground at the feet of the Templar.

"You!" he snarls and delivers a well aimed kick in her gut.

littlek's body tucks into a fetal position, she clutches her painful abdomen but through her groans she hears the unmistakable sound of a blackjack cracking a skull. She glimpses the Templar falling to the ground next to her before her world goes black.

27th Jul 2002, 16:22
Hearing the nearby commotion, I hurried to the 'scene of the crime', just in time to see Speedy fade into unconsiousness, as a result of the Templar's beating.
"That dirty little -" My thoughts were interrupted, as someone whizzed past me, and tripped over Speedy's body.
Watching the Templar attack the newcomer (who I recognized as LittleK), I decided enough was enough - drawing my new blackjack, I delivered an unnecessarily forceful blow to the back of his head.
"Taff! They're both out...ahhh..." I decided to drag Speedy and LittleK to the shadows, where they would (hopefully) not be discovered.
Once I was finished, I tied the Templar up with the rope from a rope arrow, put him on a nearby cart, slapped the donkey who was pulling it, and watched it dissapear into the night.

29th Jul 2002, 17:55
A little boost. To be deleted later or as soon as I or another artiste adds

29th Jul 2002, 21:40
I heard someone calling from far far away.. calling for help. I opened my mouth to call back but I had no voice… only the taste of dried blood and that dull all over throbbing you have after a bad night you wished never happened.

I couldn’t move… I tried to focus and heard footsteps approaching only to pass within inches of me. Listening as they grew fainter I tried again to upright myself but couldn't. The footsteps continued to echo but not fade… I realized they were coming back again.... and again.... back and forth… back and forth...

I wasn’t sure where I was… all I knew was it was dark and cold and I hurt bad… real bad. My head continued to pound in rhythm with the sad whimpering and pitiful cries for help that had awaken me. They grew louder and louder as my own pain grew more and more intense.

Concentrating on the footsteps instead of the pain I was surprised when they stopped right in front of me and a torch flickered to life. Whoever lit it mumbled about not wanting to be here… Something about they should be in a game or something…

YOU don’t want to be here, I thought… ha… I don’t even know where HERE is!!!

The sound of an iron gate slamming shut made us both jump. Cursing he demanded, “Who’s there?” Holding my breath as he searched, he finally mumbled, “Musta been rats!”

Rats? Rats!!! Slowly the memory of what had happened oozed back and enveloped me like a bad dream. Forcing myself up and straining to look around, the torchlight verified my worst fear as it silhouetted a cell door across the stained floor. I had indeed been jailed. The torchlight illuminated another fact as well… I was not alone in my new residence. There was another body… silent and motionless slumped in the corner. Wondering if they were even alive I decided to ask for a drink of water before checking out my new roommate.

"Guard, I’m thirsty.” I croaked, not recognizing my own voice. “Ha, you’ve had plenty to drink my friend.” He said. “And I oughta know ‘cuz that’s where I’m headed as soon as this stupid shift is over… I hate drunk tank duty… I spend way to much time in here on my days off.” He laughed, amusing himself more than me, then continued, “You and your friend sober up and you’ll be outta here in no time, yeah in no time son… just listen to ole Benny... I oughta know.” Mumbling to himself he resumed patrolling back and forth, up and down the cellblock.

Returning my attention to the lifeless figure in the corner Bennies footsteps echoed in my mind as the realization that the longer I waited to be released the less chance I had of getting out of here before the Templar came for a visit.

Judging by Bennies comments it appeared no one knew who I was… so it was definitely time to make a break for it before anyone figured it out.

29th Jul 2002, 23:55
Gumdrop threw himself across the gap between the barn and the Burrick stable. Hitting the slate hard, he was thankful for Thorin's moss arrows, and once he had made his way to the far side and peered down, Gum could see the legs of a guard sticking out from the barn door.

"Pssst...Thorin. You down there?" The Dwarf stuck his head out into the night and motioned Gum down.

Dropping into the mud, Gum made his way inside to join Thorin - who was standing in the middle of the barn examining his copy of the map.

"Hey...Wait a minute. These aren't Burricks. These are..."

"Horses," Thorin interupted. "and Gallivan ain't payin' us to steal no foaming mares!"

"Did you hear those screaming noises a minute ago?"

"Littlek was in here. One of her..."

"Oh well that explains the wailing then." Gumdrop chuckled. "I didn't know she worked here, but I remember the last time I went into her stable back at the Crippled Burrick while she was out. I was only feeding one of her horses some of those frobbable mushrooms becouse he looked a little down, when in she came - shouting and screaming like you wouldn't believe. I didn't know what to do. Then she picks up a rake and..."

'Will you shut up!" shouted Thorin. "Littlek wasn't the one screaming. It was one of her horses a Templar stole."


"Yes...They seem to be everywhere in the city tonight. So let's just find where the Burrick's are kept and get this over with quickly. I don't want to be caught around here."

Thorin walked over to the guard and dragged him into a dark spot before stepping back outside. Gumdrop walked over to the horses and pulled out his bag of mushrooms.



30th Jul 2002, 19:25
Strider watched the taller of the two humans from the back of his stall and snorted his mistrust. But what was that? Did he hear what he thought he heard? He pricked his ears intently and walked to the front of the stall. No mistake about it. The sounds of a bag being taken out of a pocket. Bag means treats! He sniffed the air - smells like, smells like...'SHROOMS!!!!!

Strider put on his most adorable face, whinnied softly at the human whose hand was in the bag. He could almost taste the treat and feel the after effects of the morsel. Wait! The smaller human is yelling at the taller one. He watches in disbelief as the taller human puts the bag back into his pocket and walks away.

Humans! snorts Strider. Can't trust any of them and walks to the back of his stall.....planning his revenge.

2nd Aug 2002, 12:55
Speedy[143] saw a shadow crawl across the far wall, heard the nearest torch hiss, and then the other one, and the cell was almost dark once more. The room was dimly lit by a partial moon. Speedy then realized that Benny's footsteps had stopped. The door to the cell next door was unlocked, squealing as it opened, and Speedy heard two men talking.
"I'm glad I found you. When I heard that you were here, I had to come".
"I'm glad that you did, yubetcha. But how did you know?"
"A friend saw you being brought here. You'll have to tell me later how you ended up here. No time now, though. We have to leave. By the way, your sis will be glad to see you again."
"Chera? How is she?"
"She's doing well. She was being held prisoner for a while, but she's safe now. It's a long story. Come on. We have to go. Oh, by the way, this guy on the floor is Benny. I borrowed his key. Uh! My arm is a little sore. Help me move him to an empty cell, so he won't be noticed. A Benny for your thoughts".
Speedy then heard both men chuckle.

3rd Aug 2002, 06:40
As the two men exited the cell, Speedy heard footsteps going around the room, unlocking cell doors of drunks. The footsteps grew louder, until they stopped in front of Speedy's cell. The door unlocked, and swung open. Speedy could barely see the indistinct silhouette of a cloaked figure against the darkness. Speedy could not see a face in the cloak, but heard the voice.
"You don't look drunk. What are you in here for? The murder of a guard perhaps?"
"No, not at all. I was just ..."
"Save it. I hear faint footsteps in the distance. You better get outa here before someone comes"
Yubetcha and the other man walk out of the room.

3rd Aug 2002, 15:43
littlek first notices that she is returning to a conscious state by becoming aware of a throbbing gut and a pounding headache. She vaguely remembers the Templar’s foot in her gut after she tripped over a body on the ground and landed at the feet of a Templar. But that is all she remembers.

"What kind of shoes do the Templars wear?" she thinks numbly. And why does her head feel like she was hit by an iron blackjack? Still too weak to move she hears a slow, deep voice say something about rats but her head is not yet clear enough to figure out where she is.

She hears the unmistakable sound of someone or something stirring in straw next to her. “Maybe I’m back in my stable.” She thinks dully. Suddenly she hears someone with a croaking voice ask for water and the slow voice of a dimwitted man respond about being in a drunk tank and the end of a shift.

“So I must have a hangover. I don’t recall drinking too much monkey member.” She becomes aware of her own parched mouth. She partially opens her eyes but cannot see anything familiar in the dimness of the room. “I think I’ll just lay still awhile until I figure out where I am and who is fidgeting around next to me.”

Littlek did not have to feign unconsciousness very long before hearing keys jingling in a lock and low voices in the distance. “So I am in the drunk tank.” She decides. "I'm not drinking monkey member ever again." Then she hears footsteps that stop, more jingling of keys in a lock and the creak of a metal door opening. She decides it is the door to the cell she is in. A soft, deep voice asks someone who is sharing the cell with her why she is in jail. The croaking voice that earlier asked for water replied and littlek instantly recognized that the voice belonged to Speedy.

Littlek rolls over and groans as she sits up. “Hey, Speedy. Is that you?"

Speedy croaks a reply, "Hey littlek. I didn't know that was you laying there."

"Well you are not leaving without me. Did we get drunk together last night? I just can't remember much.”

Speedy replies in a whisper, “You didn’t get drunk with me. I’ll fill you in on what I remember later. Let’s get out of here. Someones coming. Can you walk?”

“I think so but I feel like I was run over by a herd of burricks.”

“I feel the same way. Let’s go.”

Two hunched forms limp out of the cell aided by a cloaked figure and disappear into the darkness.

3rd Aug 2002, 21:12
The foursome crept down the hall that yubetcha darkened earlier, ever mindful of footsteps and other noises. There were doors on both sides of the hallway, and one at the far end. Rheuma, the man yubetcha came for initially, had been given that nickname after having Rheumatic fever as a child. Because of this, he was always overprotected, and grew breathless more easily than his sister. He was prevented while growing up from excessive exercise or work, because of the resulting heart murmur. He now told the other three that he was going to go on ahead to scout.

Yubetcha replied, "Just don't get caught again".

"Don't worry, I won't. In fact, if you hear loud breathing and footsteps coming your way, it's just me, so grab me and hide!"

Yubetcha pointed to the door at the far end, telling him to go there, and Rheuma replied, "Yes, I remember the way. It's the way I came in." He then ran to the door, and disappeared.

Speedy spoke up. "That fool's going to get himself caught again! You let him go?"

"He's stubborn, and I couldn't stop him without putting a Burrick on top of him. Besides, an illness that he almost died from as a child seemed to make him rather fearless. He's had his share of fights, and he's fairly tough. And many years ago, he was even a spelunker, looking for gold. Anyway, we'll probably see him again."

3rd Aug 2002, 22:06
Bennies pacing and mumbling continued as I plotted my escape…

“About the only thing that makes a cold watch go faster is a nice bottle.”

He whined.... “I wanna know who came up with the stupid idea of no drinking on duty?”

The last thing I heard Benny say as the cell got dimmer was…

“God I'm bored!!!! Eight hours of this… I wanna be home.”

I heard him hit the floor hard.

Turning to look all I could see was a long shadow passing in the hall and then I heard whispers coming from next door.
Straining at my cell door listening to the two men talk the unconscious body behind me began to stir.

Once the men finished their conversation they exited the cell and proceeded to hide Benny’s body chuckling about it.
Then the sweet sound of keys turning in the locks up and down the block was a welcomed sound… as was littleks voice when she asked,

“Hey, Speedy. Is that you?"

Helping her up we exchanged a few comments while gathering our strength to take advantage of the good deed done by the cloaked figure.

Our cell door finely flew open… hurrying to escape we stopped short as he asked if either one of us had killed a guard… sinking back into the darkness of our cell we shook our heads and began to deny any involvement but he wasn’t sticking around for an answer. Footsteps could be heard coming our way and he told us we better get out of there fast.

All four of us hugged the wall silently inching towards what I hoped was the closest exit.

Stopping not far from our cells... one of the men decided to scout ahead and disappeared through a door at the end of the hall...

6th Aug 2002, 12:55
Two guards at the gate were talking. All of a sudden, they saw a donkey running toward them, and then saw the cart that was following it. Stopping the donkey, they looked into the cart, and found a bound templar. One guard untied him while the other dipped a pail into the water trough, and threw water on him. As the templar awakened, he held his head in pain. The guards could see that the templar was pissed. As they untied him, the templar mumbled something unintelligible ....something about people who are going to pay. Then without another word, not even a thank you, how's the family or a go to hell, the templar then jumped from the cart, and grabbed a nearby horse belonging to one of the guards. The guard considered trying to stop him, but decided that he didn't get paid enough, and the templar galloped into the night.

Meanwhile, back at the prison, the three escaping were slowly walking down the hallway. They saw a light coming from under a door to the right and five doors ahead of them. They surmised that the footsteps they heard earlier now belonged to this person. They waited and watched. Suddenly, the door opened and a silhouette came into the hall. He went to the far end of the dark hallway, and came back toward them, lighting torches as he came. It seemed that the room he came from was a storage room. He was mumbling something about how it was strange that all of the torches went out at the same time. The light with which he lit the torches shone an eerie look on his face...a devilish look. He obviously was not aware of their presence...yet.

9th Aug 2002, 00:03
I knew my companions had to be thinking the same thing I was… we only had a few seconds to decide where too next and no time to discuss it…

I pushed tight up against the prison wall making myself as flat as possible then slowly slid down the rough stone into a crouching position hoping to become even smaller… my mind racing. I realized my back was no longer against the cold stones… it was wooden now. In the darkness I couldn’t tell if it was a door or not… groping for something familiar the guard continued to approach… torchlight began spilling closer and closer towards the three of us.

Finding no handle… I turned to put my shoulder into it… hoping to force it open. I was disappointed that it only gave a few inches and wouldn’t budge any farther… I could hear the crackling of the torches being ignited and panic took over… I was able to muster a strength that surprised me as I gave it one final shove with my eyes closed tightly.

The rotted wood gave way and I somersaulted into a narrow dark crawl space just as the hallway brightened behind me. Expecting to see littlek and our rescuer duck into safety right behind me I was dumbfounded to see nothing but the guard’s boots stopping at the opening of my escape route. Holding my breath he lingered just long enough to complain about rats and drafts. Lighting another torch he slowly moved on with his business.

Out of danger for the moment I gave out a long sigh……………………

19th Aug 2002, 20:48
Littlek was in pure panic mode when she saw Speedy open the defiant door and fall into a dark room. “Feet move!” she mentally shouted to herself. But her cowardly feet once again failed her and remained rooted to the spot in a corner near one of the extinguished torches. All she was able to get her trembling body to do was to face the corner and crouch and listen to the grumbling guard walk closer, lighting torches along the way. She closed her eyes and her mind to her inevitable fate. She was unaware of another presence that slipped in behind her, covering himself and her with his shadowy cloak. The guard lit the torch and walked right past.

Speedy's long sigh at her success in escaping the attention of the patrolling guard was answered by the occupant of the long abandoned room. She froze recognizing the high pitched hiss. She could just make out its bulky ashen body suspended by eight long legs. And its numerous eyes were focused on her.

20th Aug 2002, 21:40
Hunched in the crawl space just off the prison hallway a shiver began to creep down my spine… turning I spied the entrance to another room just a few feet away… inching towards the opening, my eyes growing accustomed to the darkness, my mind quickly put the familiar hissing sound together with what appeared to be several dozen eyes glued on me hungrily… my newest dilemma reared it’s huge ugly head... inviting me to either enter and face him or exit the way I’d come in… not much of a choice I feared. Safe for the moment I squinted surveying the spider's quarters since I knew all to well what lay behind me.

It looked like it may have been a weapons storage room at one time but had either been abandoned or sealed up after being taken over by the giant spider… hard to tell from here. Being weaponless I knew my best bet for survival was finding something to defend myself with. Chances were there’d still be something in there…

Searching the ground for a sharp piece of broken wood to fend off the spider I readied myself to enter it's den...........

21st Aug 2002, 13:13
The guard was now entering the cellblock. "What the...?! These torches are out too? What's going on here? Hey, BENNY, where are you? If you're off somewhere drunk, this'll be the last job you'll ever have!".
Yubetcha and Littlek stood. Yubetcha looked at Littlek, chuckling. "That Benny is always getting the short end, poor guy. Now we have to stop this guy before he lights the torches in there and sees that the cells are empty! I wonder what happened to your friend."
Yubetcha crouched and peeked around the corner, watching the guard light the first torch near him. The light started to get brighter, and Yubetcha hoped that the guard wouldn't see that a couple of the cell doors were open. The guard didn't seem to notice, as he walked toward the other torch at the other end of the room, his back to Yubetcha. Yubetcha crept into the block, and the light from the previously lit torch was now behind him. He saw that his shadow had fallen onto the floor, at the guard's feet. Yubetcha, his mind racing, knew that as he walked closer, the shadow would be thrown in front of the guard, onto the wall. The guard walked closer to the other torch, and soon he would be lighting the torch, and turning to see Yubetcha. In one motion, Yubetcha turned, drew an arrow, and the only lit torch, near him, hissed as the room went black once more. Yubetcha hoped beyond reason that the guard wouldn't become suspicious. The guard turned. He asked, "Who's there?!" as he drew his sword. The eyes of both men had not become accustomed to the darkness yet, and Yubetcha knew that he only had mere moments to spare. He felt his way back out of the room, hoping he wouldn't be forced to kill. But if it came to his life or that of a guard...
Yubetcha, now back in the hallway, drew his sword, as the guard lit the second torch and slowly walked toward the door where Littlek and Yubetcha stood.

22nd Aug 2002, 01:20
Cautiously entering the room, our eyes locked in suspicious contempt, I paused just outside the crawlspace waiting to see if my aggressive behavior would trigger any reaction from my newest nemesis… another warning hiss escaped his taunt body but he didn’t make any movement towards me. I was fully prepared to backpedal into the safety of my own cocoon if he came at me.

He was huge! I knew if I didn’t stray to far from the crawlspace he could never followed me in there. Continuing our stare down several minutes passed.. neither of us blinked… slowly I stood up… the taller I got the louder he hissed. Eye level now with only the contents of the room between us I clenched the wooden spike tighter and tighter ready to fight for my life.

For a moment his eyes seem to glass over... holding my head as still as possible I let only my eyes sweep the room… making note I was not the first one to trespass here. Quickly returning my full attention to my adversary my eyes narrowed bringing him into better focus...... I would swear he had moved slightly closer… his stealthy ways were well honed from many a hunting trip I mused.

The room had definitely been used for storage before being taken over by spiders. One wall had several boxes piled high… the other was lined with shelves… a ladder lay broken in the center of the room.. in the far corner was a barrel of explosive powder tipped on it’s side the contents spilling out onto the floor. There was a chair and old desk littered with papers just steps from a door that I guessed had been boarded up from outside at one time..... most everything was enveloped in spider webs.

Several cocoons were tucked high in the rafters and the sound of dripping water echoed reminding me just how thirsty I was. Softly glowing mushrooms hinted to where the water puddled… beckoning me to drink. The 'shrooms gave off just enough light to give the room dimension but cast no shadows.

I began sidestepping towards the glowing mushrooms… another hiss licked my ears but the song of dripping water drowned out any apprehension I had of the giant spider… I was drawn to the light like a moth to a flame. Forgetting why I had entered this deadly den, thinking only of quenching my thirst, I moved effortlessly as if gliding above the floor creeping along the wall… getting closer and closer to the sweet sounds of water drip… drip… dripping.......

29th Aug 2002, 16:36
Tipping my head back allowing the water to kiss my parched lips I opened my mouth letting it bathe my tongue and fill my throat. Swallowing hard, finally satisfied, the drip drip dripping sound faded replaced by the spiders melodic hiss hiss hissing. Snapping out of my catatonic state I stood eye to eyes with a fate worse than death.

Pinned tightly to the wall I flailed my arms jabbing the makeshift wooden dagger up sharply catching my bewildered opponent off guard stabbing him twice in the soft underbelly. Mortally wounded it jumped back, then flipped over withering in pain… the spider’s final earsplitting screech dieing with it.

Stunned at how quickly the encounter was over I decided it was best not to question what had happen and began my search for weapons. I had taken but a single step towards the shelves when a sound overhead stopped me cold. Bending to pluck a glowing ‘shroom I raised it high enough to better see the rafters. I was horrified to find that at least one of the cocoons wasn’t a cocoon at all but a ripe egg sack. Dozens and dozens of hungry spiderlings oozed from the sack crawling over each other fighting their way to the inhabitants of the cocoons placed there by their mother.... a mother who lay dead.. soon to be consumed by her own offspring’s the very night of their hatching. Cringing I realizing how I had escaped death... mom knew her babies would hatch soon and was planning on using me as the main character in a very short one act play titled “Lesson One: How to Catch Live Prey.”

Time was running out.. I moved to the shelves as fast as I dare. Sweeping the ‘shroom back and forth lighting them in search of weapons… I wasn’t disappointed when the glint off a blade winked back. I pocketed the bloodied wooden stake and grabbed the sword. Moving on I found a bow, 2 broadheads, 4 water arrows and a warped rope arrow. Glancing up I estimated I had just a few moments before the babies descended and began to devour everything in the room. The desk was my next stop.

The top drawer was locked… the middle one was empty but the bottom drawer was crammed with personal items that appeared to have been confiscated from some of the prisoners. There was a bent dagger, 2 black jacks, several lockpicks, an assortment of diaries, about a half dozen empty coin purses, stale bread, and some moldy cheese. I helped myself to a black jack and set of picks. Checking to make sure the path through the center of the room was still clear between the desk and the passageway that lead back into the prison I decided to extend my good luck and pick the lock on the top drawer. It felt like it took forever… when it finally clicked and slid open a smile danced across my face. There was a key, a large embroidered pouch heavy with ancient coins and artifacts, and a scroll detailing an old pirate’s treasure map… well worth the risk indeed.

Securing my loot I stole a quick look up spying several fat spiders slowly lowering themselves one by one on sticky lines from the ceiling above… a thought crossed my mind. Could the spiders have been placed here to protect the contents of the drawer? Having no time to ponder the answer I dashed into the center of the room headed straight for the crawlspace when the floor gave way and collapsed under me.

Hanging from a floorboard unable to swing a leg up and lift myself out of another compromising position I tried to see what lay below. The clatter had alerted the spiders and they were coming to investigate. I had avoided being dinner once already… I refused to be dessert now. Counting to three I let go.

4th Sep 2002, 01:44
Littlek slowly backs down the hall to put distance between she and the approaching guard. Yubetcha bravely stands his ground, sword drawn, glinting ominously in the dim light. Indecision slows her progress of escape.

“I really ought to stay and help Yubetcha. That guard looks tough.” she thinks. She tugs on Yubetcha’s cloak, motioning him to leave with her. Yubetcha ignores her keeping his eye on the approaching shadow cast by the guard.

Littlek finally makes her usual cowardly decision to turn tail and run, her not so thiefy tap shoes confirming her presence to the suspicious guard. She hears the guard yell, “Halt who goes there?” Blindly, she blunders through the door Speedy opened only to find herself face to face with hundreds of newly hatched and very hungry spiders.

“Holy Moly.” Littlek mutters. She slowly begins to walk backwards to get out of the spider den and back into the hallway. The alerted guard now seeming to be the better choice as an opponent. One spider leaps at her, lands on her neck fangs poised for a strike at her jugular. Littlek lets out a scream and grabs the spider by its thorax but its 8-legged grip is strong and she is unable to pry it loose.

Suddenly something hits her from behind causing her to fall forward. She unconsciously maintains her hold on the spider while anticipating contact with the hard, dusty floor….and more spiders. Instead, finds herself falling into an abyss and she is not alone. She catches a glimpse of a cape fluttering beside her and Yubetcha’s surprised face.

They both hit the bottom hard but undamaged. However, littlek’s traveling companion did not fare so well. As she was falling, the spider loosened its grip around littlek’s throat but littlek’s fingers were clutched around the spider in terror. As a result, it hit the ground first and littlek landed on top of it. It’s gooey innards squirted with such force as to spray everyone and everything within a 10-foot diameter. Which included Yubetcha and a very surprised Speedy. All three were slimed.

4th Sep 2002, 12:18
The area was almost pitch black, except for a small amount of light filtering down from above. Yubetcha could barely see his hand in front of his face, and the outline of the other two. The three stood, hearts in their throats, anticipating the room's contents. They hoped that no spiders had followed them. Suddenly, the three heard yelling from above, the faint thud of sword against wall, and the multitudinous shrill whistles of many spiders, as if they had found something or someone to dine on. There was the sound of shuffling feet, the shrieks of dying spiders, and then the loud thud of a heavy object hitting the floor. Then all was quiet. The three below hoped that the remaining spiders were now satisfied, and would forget about them.
Heart still racing, Yubetcha handed flares to the other two, and held one. Yubetcha whispered, "Let's use these sparingly. I have just a couple of them left".
Speedy asked, "Do we really want to light one here? If someone or something is in here, they must've heard us, but they may not be able to see us."
LittleK replied that the three certainly couldn't fight what they could not see.
Yubetcha agreed, and lit a flare. Looking up, he pointed toward the hole. They followed his stare, and spied the face of the guard over the edge of the hole. It was covered with green baby spiders, feasting on their victim. They seemed to be too busy to notice the three below them. Yubetcha shuddered to think of the condition that the rest of his body was probably in. It was uncomfortably apparent that Yubetcha, LittleK and Speedy could have been lying there as well. Looking around the room, the light revealed two doors at opposite ends of the room, an old desk in the corner and a broken chair. An old dilapidated trunk was in the far corner, and another corner was occupied by a statue. A skeleton was lying on the floor next to the desk, and on the desk lay an old faded note.

May t e Bu ld r forg ve m . I di n't int nd for it to ...

Just as the flare expired, a dangling chain was heard passing one of the closed doors.

4th Sep 2002, 19:18
As the flare’s greenish glow faded both Yubetcha and littleks stunned faces disappeared back into the shadows… “Welcome to my nightmare.” I whispered as we listened to the chain rattling down the corridor just beyond the unlocked door.

I knew we didn’t have much time before the spiders came looking for seconds. Hopefully some had already exited the den into the prison and would keep any other guards busy while we explored our current surroundings and plotted our escape. Reaching to make sure I hadn’t lost any weapons in the fall I double checked the pocket I had stuffed the loot in. I decided to keep my findings to myself for now. There would be plenty of time for sharing if we ever got out of here.

5th Sep 2002, 01:21
Thorin lit a flare and began scanning the plaques above each stall in the stable. Most of the Burrick's were sleeping, but a few became agitated by the sudden light and began sniffing the air. Gum slipped in through the doors and looked around.

"We hit gold?"

"3,000 if we can find our friend Gaseous Maximus," replied Thorin. "Get those saddles ready."

As Thorin worked his way up one side of the stable, Gum dug into his seemingly bottomless cloak pocket, pulled out two saddles and ran to join the Dwarf.

"Be honest with me now," Thorin turned to face his friend. "have you ever rode a Burrick before?"

"Err...Well...Yes and no...I mean...Well there was that one incident...But then again that was more...Err...Well..."

Thorin's head sank into his beard. "I swear after this, I'm sticking to pick pocketing!"

Thorin stopped and drew the flare closer to the plaque infront of him. "This looks like our man!"

"Actually, most racing Burrick's are female as they have a more stream-lined body." corrected Gum.

"Bah...Just get over here and strap that saddle on!" snorted Thorin.

5th Sep 2002, 01:24
Gaseous Maximus had been quietly watching the intruders from between the slats in the front of her stall. She knew something was not quite right when she spied the taller stinkie pulling out two of the strange devices she was forced to wear from time to time. She hated those things on her back, and she hated the stinkies who sat on her and made her run even more! But this time was different. She was never forced to run when it was dark, and the smell of the two stinkies that came closer were different than usual.

The smaller stinkie was strange enough, but the taller one smelled vaguely familiar. She couldn't quite place it, but something about that smell reminded her of the times when it was always dark, and she never had to feel those restrictive devices on her back. She never had to run back then ither. She could spend all of her time sleeping and hunting for glowing food. Glowing food?! That was it! Food...She could smell FOOD!!!

5th Sep 2002, 14:15
Yubetcha reluctantly lit another flare. Quickly looking about the room, he saw an old candle. He lit it, and the room slowly came to life. A more foreboding, drab room he had never seen. Dust was everywhere. There were cracks in the walls, and a spider web in a corner at the ceiling. There had obviously been no life here for quite some time. He saw a bookcase, pulled a book out and blew the dust off. It and many others had incantations of some sort in an unknown language. The drawings were also unknown to him. Some of the pages had yellowed and were torn. Some fell apart with his touch. Dropping the book, he reached into the skeleton's hand, pulling out an opened bottle that once contained holy water. Now, though, it was completely empty. Tossing it, he opened the desk drawer, and found another candle. He lit it, and said, "Tell ya what. To cut the time, you guys take this candle and look through that trunk to see what you can find. I'll search this desk. Maybe we can find something of value".
Looking into the drawer, he found a book. He flipped through the pages. It was obviously a diary of some sort. He began to read. Yubetcha then turned to the other two, just as the familar sound of the rattling chain went past.
Walking to the others, he said in a low voice, "This place, according to this diary, was once a church. We are probably in the priest's office. Something terrible happened here, after the priest dabbled in black magic, and the townspeople boarded it up. It was in a small, shallow valley, so they covered it with dirt. Some of the people were still in here, and buried alive. The people outside wanted no part of them, probably our friend here included" yubetcha explained. "And then some time later, the prison was built on top of this place, after it was probably forgotten. A part of the roof rotted through the years just enough that it wouldn't hold our weight, I guess. One of the last entries, dated... lesseee...dated sixty...sixty-three years ago, also mentions a visitor. I wonder if he had something to do with all of this. Hmm, his last name was..."
Just then, the rattling chains returned, and Yubetcha changed the subject. "Come on. We better finish here and find a way out". No one noticed that the sound of the rattling chains stopped abruptly. He turned his attention back to the desk drawer, where he found some old dusty gold coins. The others were about to follow him, to ask about the name.
Just then, they heard another rattling chain come to the door and stop. They crouched and extinguished the candles as the door burst open to reveal two haunts. Luckily, the room was as dark as before, and they all hoped that it would be dark enough.
The two haunts came into the room with an evil laugh. Separating, they began to search the room. One went in Yubetcha's direction, and the other was looming over LittleK and Speedy. He was searching close enough that the laughter seemed to be almost deafening, the blade of the sword just inches away from LittleK's head. The smell of death was in the air. In the darkness, the pair could almost see the white stripes on the red pant legs in front of their faces. The dust was trying to force LittleK to sneeze. She tried to stifle it, but couldn't. The haunt looked down and grabbed her hair, pulling her up, and LittleK was sure that his sword was aiming for her throat. As it started its swing, Speedy could only think of one thing. On impulse to save her friend, she stabbed the haunt in the back with the wooden stake that she used in the encounter with the spider, causing him to lose his grip on LittleK. He swung the sword at LittleK, and missed. Speedy and LittleK ran to dark corners and crouched. Suddenly, a sickening sound of sword against skin was heard on the other side of the room, in Yubetcha's direction. And then another, and another. And then the sound of a body hitting the floor. The haunt near the two women turned in that direction, sword raised.

6th Sep 2002, 18:29
As Yubetcha thumbed through the diary, reading a few passages out loud, littlek held the candle as I picked the lock on the trunk. Raising the candle above the trunk as I opened it we both smiled at each other when the contents became visible. Before either one of us could tell Yubetcha about our good fortune he shushed us continuing to share the history of the surrounding area. Our attention riveted on who the visitor had been so many years ago. Something distracted Yubetcha and he stopped short without reviling the last name turning back towards the desk suggesting we hurry up and find a way out. Our curiosity got the best of us and we both started to ask who the mysterious visitor was? Then all hell broke loose……

Two haunts burst into the room… littlek and Yubetcha blew out their candles but even in the darkness we were detected. Yubetcha was immediately engaged in a sword fight and littlek was yanked towards the ceiling by her hair right in front of my eyes. “Oh NO you don’t!!!!” I cried. The wooden stake found it’s mark just before littlek lost her head and the haunt let her go. A sickening sound from across the room caught all of our attention.

The haunt limped off to investigate as littlek and I retreated..... crouched next to the open chest I reached in and pulled out a vile of holy water and quickly pulled back one of the two water arrows I’d found in the room above. Shooting in the direction of the rattling chains I caught the haunt that had assaulted littlek right in the back. He was already injured after being stabbed so the second holy water arrow brought him down hard.

It was deathly quiet. Littlek lit the flare Yubetcha had given her and we cautiously approached the three bodies lying in the center of the room.

Standing above the pile of bodies looking down on the carnage Yubetcha opened his eyes and said “Get these taffin things off me!!!”

6th Sep 2002, 20:59
Yubetcha explained, after relighting both candles, "I almost had it made. I was sitting there on the floor very quietly, and the Haunt bumped up against me. He swung at me, thinking I was standing, I guess, but swung too high. That gave me time to move to the side. Then he swung lower and cut my arm...why is it always my arm?! My last fight with a guard got my arm too, but that's another story. This time it was the other one. Good thing it's just a flesh wound. So I let him have it until he fell. He bumped against the statue, and it fell on me. Man, those things are as heavy as they look. I hoped you guys would be okay. I was going to help after I finished, but didn't get there. Anyway, I was sure you could take care of yourselves. And it looks like you did. Well, as I see it, we can either go out the way the Haunts came in, and explore a little more, or try the other door here. We don't know where it goes, though. I think I would like to explore a little more. These situations always fascinate me...the history, and the possibilty of treasure, and all. BTW, doesn't it seem that these things with priests and black magic always happen in churches :D ? Anyway, if you guys decide to go through the other door, I'll come in a little while, and try to catch up with you. I should only be out there for a few minutes. Or you're welcome to come with me. But to be honest, I would probably break my leg kicking myself if I left here without finding out more about this place. And I have heard that broken legs aren't any fun :D. Especially for horses. Tell ya what. Let's just look around this place for a few minutes, and then find a way out. Who knows? Maybe there's an exit near the door the Haunts came in. If not, we can always come back. Well, wait a minute. Just to satisfy my curiosity, before anything is decided...". Yubetcha then walked to the other door, and opened it...

6th Sep 2002, 22:56
"Wait Yubetcha." Called Speedy.

"Littlek and I found a lot more than just one holy water vile in that chest." "We tried telling you but you were so engrossed in that diary you were reading we couldn't get a word in edgewise." I teased, winking at littlek.

"Before anyone goes anywhere lets divide up what we found.” I suggested.

Gathering at the trunk Yubetcha whistled…

“Nice going ladies.” He crooned. Littlek nudged him with her elbow and giggled.

Stooping we each began taking our share..........

8th Sep 2002, 20:41
"BTW, I found these coins over at the desk. They are very old, but I don't know if they are more valuable than face value."
Yubetcha gave each their share.
"Oh, and I opened that door over there. There is a hallway beyond it, but it's too dark to see where it goes. And beyond the other door...the one that the haunts came through...I saw pews and a pulpit. So what do you guys want to do? Which way?"

10th Sep 2002, 17:37
Littlek ponders Yubetcha question but her mind was already made up...."I want to go wherever I can get a beer and a bath."

10th Sep 2002, 18:14
Yubetcha replied, "Well, perhaps we can find a tub filled with holy water. And instead of beer, will wine and wafers do? :D Or maybe there's a beer truck in the alley. :D
All kidding aside, we'll have to explore a little more to find a way out of here. Perhaps that hallway. Or perhaps we could go back the way we came. I brought a rope arrow. And the spiders might all be gone by now :).

10th Sep 2002, 19:07
Pocketing the coins Yubetcha gave her Speedy almost told her companions about the map she'd found but was interrupted by the sounds of another guard being trapped and eaten above.

Looking up at the hole in the ceiling, Speedy sighed. "I'm afraid I’ve used up all my luck with spiders tonight. You two can go back up there if you want."

"Or you can save your rope arrow for exploring those rafters above the pews and pulpit in there." Speedy pointed to the door the haunts had come through.

Walking over to the open door Yubetcha said. "I don't hear any more chains rattling.... it might be the best place to start looking for a way out of here."

They stood there for a moment longer contemplating all three choices until the spider sounds prompted Speedy into action.

"After you Yubetcha. Littlek and I got your back." Speedy gave him a playful shove through the door to the church then added. "I hope you kept one of those books with the incantations you found down here!"

11th Sep 2002, 12:06
Just as the three nervously walked through the doorway, hoping to not hear rattling chains, they instead heard whistling sounds coming from behind them. Turning around and looking up, they saw what appeared to be dozens of green spiders peering at them through the hole. The spiders hurriedly started to slide down strings of web material. One after another, nonstop, dozens and dozens of them hurriedly advanced as if they hadn't eaten anything in days. In a matter of seconds, they were on the floor, completely covering the dead haunts. One after another, they continued to climb down. Dozens raced for the three intruders. LittleK hurriedly shut the door, squeezing two of them against the door jamb. Spider blood found its way onto her shoes.
Speedy exclaimed, "I guess we shouldn't have lit those candles. So much for the way back".
The three hurriedly glanced around the room, thankful that they seemed to be its only occupants....but knowing also that looks can be deceiving.
Yubetcha said, "Uh....I left that other door open. Do you suppose that hallway leads into this room through another door?"

13th Sep 2002, 14:22
While Speedy and Yubetcha peer through the open door, Littlek has other things on her mind.
“Dang it. More spider goo. I must smell like week old burrick dung by now. I need a beer and a bath. Someone ought to invent a mine that will kill all those spiders.” Littlek grumbles while trying to wipe the spider goo off her shoes on the rotting floor. She then spies an old dusty rag crumpled up in a corner of the room. She gingerly walks over and picks up the rag. Immediately she feels that the rag is too heavy and that something is in it. Before she can react, an object falls to ground followed by a whirling sound and a resounding click. It was the unmistakable sound of a mine being activated. The trio freezes.

Yubetcha is the first to ask, “littlek, what kind of mine is it?”

“I… I…. I don’t know.” She stammers. “Something that I have never seen before. I am not sure I can defuse it. I lost my picks and my hands are shaking too badly to be able to defuse it safely anyhow. And I am about to sneeze.” She puts a finger under to nose trying to suppress the powerful reaction to dust.

Speedy replies irritably, “What’s with this place? We have encountered nothing but trouble here. I wouldn’t be surprised if a pack of zombies came bounding along about now. I want out of here.”

Speedy had barely quit talking when in the hallway the moans of many zombies could be heard. And they were slowly heading their way.

“This is getting to be a pattern. We speak of something and it appears.” Yubetcha replies.

“Not everything appears. I didn’t get my beer and a bath.” Littlek whispers. Eyes wide with fright.

“Hold still littlek. I can defuse this mine and I bet it is effective against spiders. And don’t sneeze. We don’t want to alert the zombies of our presence.”

Yubetcha and Speedy creep slowly towards the mine until they can work on deactivating the device.
“Speedy, where do you think the deactivation switch is? I can’t figure this one out.” Yubetcha inquires.
Speedy lets out a big sigh, “I’m not sure. Let me scoot over to the other side and check it out.” She slowly slides over to the backside of the mine. “Ah, here it is.”

Littlek, finger still under her nose, squeezes her eyes shut but soon the click of a deactivated mine is heard. Littlek’s shaking knees give way and she collapses noisily on the floor. She instinctively tries to break her fall with her hands and removes her finger from her nose. This of course releases a powerful sneeze measurable on the Richter scale. The moaning of the zombies change as they sight in on the location of their quarry.

“So much for indiscretion.” Yubetcha comments and lights a flare.

The trio is now trapped. They could hear the spiderlings scratching behind one door and zombies piling through their only method of escape. Speedy reaches for a holy water arrow from her quiver and notches it in her bow. Yubetcha draws his sword. It glints in the dim light of the flare. Littlek panics and crab like, crawls to the wall. She inadvertently puts her hand on the recently defused mine. Instinctively, she picks it up and throws it at the bunched up zombies. It lands with a thud, whirls and clicks, detects motion and erupts. But instead of exploding, a small device rises out of the middle and begins to whirl. Then a fine spray of water is released from the device spraying the zombies. The zombies react as if acid were being flung on them. Their decayed and putrid flesh sizzles and begins to smoke. Then, each zombie explodes burying littlek in zombie heads and torsos. Wet zombie guts oozes over her mingling with the spider goo.

Yubetcha lights another fuse illuminating the scene. Speedy laughs. “Well littlek, you got your bath!”

Yubetcha chuckles deeply, “Come on, let’s get out of here before something else happens.”

Littlek pushes the zombie parts off her. Yubetcha walks over and offers his hand to help her up. But before she can grab on to his hand, he walks backwards holding his nose. “Whew, we have to get this girl a bath.”

“*(&^%$ you.” Littlek replies. She gets to her feet and heads to the hallway.

“Uh, littlek? Can you walk behind us?” Asks Speedy, trying to stifle a laugh.

The trio sneaks down the hall with littlek lagging in the rear.

13th Sep 2002, 16:28
Yubetcha lit a candle, and peered into the hallway on the right. "I can see an open door down there. It's probably the one I opened earlier, which means that the spiders are in that room. So I suggest we go to the left". Peering to the left and seeing only a few doors in the hallway, they made their way. Yubetcha continued, "Since this building is underground, we may need to find a way up...a ladder or a staircase". They slowly and quietly walked, listening for any signs of trouble. They came to the first door, and Yubetcha slowly opened it. Holding the candle up and looking in past the doorway, he found a room with three toilets. On one of the toilets was a skeleton with a knife stuck in between two ribs. He walked in, and the others followed. It was otherwise empty, except for a few cracks in the walls. He was about to leave the room and move on, when he saw writing on a wall nearby, at various degrees of fading. He read aloud, "I love this place. It's so peaceful here". Some of the sentence was difficult to read. It was very faded, almost nonexistent. There were a couple of other writings of this caliber. Then Yubetcha read other writings, less faded. "Brother Tilton's mother warez bootz and shynez gard's shews fore a living!". Then he noticed that 'bootz' was crossed out, and below it in different handwriting was written, "a mustash hahahaha". Yubetcha chuckled...his mother wears a moustache and shines boots ... hahaha. And still below that was "She's buying a stairway to heaven". Yubetcha wondered if it was meant to be an insult, being written among the others.
On yet another wall was "Fairies wear boots and ya gotta believe me". And still another, slightly faded..."Here I sit all brokenhearted. Came to...". The rest was completely crossed out and unreadable. There were many writings of this nature. And still some other writings, newer and almost not faded at all, contained profanity and talk of demons, indicative of a different, more evil atmosphere. The three left the room, and Yubetcha was thankful that they weren't in this place when it changed. They move on down the hallway. The hallway turned to the right up ahead, and the three stopped at the corner and listened for trouble.

14th Sep 2002, 01:22
“You hear that?” Speedy asked.

“What?” littlek said.

“Shhhhhhhh.” Yubetcha whispered.

I glanced back down the hall behind us. I couldn’t tell if the sounds were coming from behind us or up ahead around the corner. We all looked at each other. I raised my eyebrows and asked again. “Tell me you can hear that?”

Nodding they both pointed in opposite directions as a glow began to fill the hallway from both directions. A sweet musical tinkling, like wind chimes, gently accompanied the glow calming us as its presence drew closer and closer......

Strangely unafraid the three of us found ourselves standing in the center of the hallway bathed in a warm glow with several balls of light swirling softly above our heads.

I couldn’t help but smile at them… they were so beautiful… their sounds so charming. Reaching out to touch one it danced on my open palm… I laughed out loud and said to my friends. “I think they want us to follow them.”

16th Sep 2002, 13:05
Yubetcha replied, "Well, well. Twinkle twinkle little light.
I wonder if they know our plight.
We should be very careful, see.
They could be friend or enemy.
Just remember.... looks can be deceiving. Listen to all of your senses. Keep your guards up. If these are what I think they are.... well, suffice it to say that I followed one once while I was in a forest, and it lead me to a tree ent. The only way I got away was to hide in a hollow log until it left. We all are looking for a way out, but we don't want to end up dead doing it. If we follow them, we should follow far enough back that we are in darkness, so that if they are leading us to an entity, it won't see us."
They walked a few steps, conversing, wondering where they were being lead to. Suddenly, the trio heard something they at first couldn't recognize. They stopped and pondered, trying to recognize the sound. And then they heard it.... heavy breathing and growling. It was coming from behind them in the distance far down the hall somewhere in the darkness, and getting closer. The pair squinted into the darkness, but couldn't see its source. Their hearts began to beat faster and faster. Their hearts were in their throats.

19th Sep 2002, 19:15
They were barely breathing trying to listen to the sounds behind them. They instinctively flattened against the wall in the hallway to try and make themselves less noticeable. The heavy breathing and growling noises grew louder. Yubetcha suddenly became aware of other sounds mingled with the beastly noises. Footsteps. Someone was running. He nudged Speedy and littlek to see if they also heard the footsteps. They both nodded.

In the dim light provided by the twinkles, the scene unfolded. It was Thorin and Gumdrop with Gaseous Maximus in hot pursuit, drooling and slobbering for the 'shrooms. The newly arrived trio sped past, and disappeared in the gloom but not before a quick wave at the trio. littlek thought she heard the groan of a distant zombie being flattenend by the ponderous Gaseous Maximus as she thundered over its putrid flesh.

Speedy spoke first. "Did I just see what I thought I saw?"

"I'm not sure in this place. It could have been a group hallucination." answered Yubetcha.

littlek added, "Well if it was real, they got in here some how. Shall we head in the direction they came or follow them?"

"Shhhh....listen." Yubetcha whispered.

In the distance they heard a low, ominous growl coming from the direction that Thorin, Gum and Gaseous Maximus had first appeared from. It was apparent that the source of the heavy breathing may have been from Gaseous Maximus, if the vision were real, the growling was definitely from another source and was getting louder as it crept closer to the trio.

"Let's head the other way." Speedy suggested.

Yubetcha and littlek nodded in agreement and the trio quickly turned and headed in the opposite direction.

Thorin Oakenshield
20th Sep 2002, 18:43
As the pair ran past what seemed like three blurred figures pressed against the wall.

"I think one of them was waving at you Thorin." gasped Gummie, "Maybe she fancies you." he giggled.

"It's your fault we're in this mess." came a stern reply.

They finally made it out through into the streets.

"Thorin catch!", Gummie tossed the bag 'o' 'Shrooms.

"What the...", Thorin panted.

Gummie managed to climb a nearby lamp post leaving Thorin, Bag in hand running off into the distance as fast as his little legs would carry him while Gaseous Maximus was in hot pursuit.
Gumdrop chuckled to himself imagining what his little friend must be going through. He slid back down the lamp post and into the nearest shadow before he drew any more attention to himself. Gummie made his way to the spot they had earlier agreed to meet should they have gotten split up. He was amazed to see Thorin sitting on the ground with Gaseous Max lying next to him fully saddled up eating the contents of the bag and finally the bag itself was gone.

"Thorin, Are you ok?" whispered Gummie.

Thorin slowly turned his head toward Gummie so the moonlight caught his face. Gummie burst out laughing, He noticed Thorin was covered head to toe in Burrick poop. His smelly little friend went from a look of tiredness to anger within the blink of an eye.

"So, Now you know what happens when you feed burricks mushrooms!", shouted Thorin.

Gummie tried to stop laughing by biting his lip but the s******s still snook out."

"And next time let me put the saddle on!" Thorin bellowed.

After a few seconds Thorin too started to laugh at the nights capers.

"Come on Thorin. Let's get you cleaned up and get this beast to where it needs to go."

Gummie and Thorin set off again with Gaseous Max in toe.

"Oh!... So that's where that bit go's", Said Gummie.

24th Sep 2002, 04:09
Picking up speed Yubetcha, littlek and Speedy tried to put as much distance as quickly as possible between themselves and the growls that were growing more threatening behind them.

“I wonder if that crazed burrick and those taffers chasing it scared our dancing spheres away or if they disappeared because of that growly thing that’s gaining on us?” Speedy panted passing both her comrades.

“Now we’ll never know if they were friend or foe.” She sighed.

Reaching the end of the long hallway and clearly seeing, as well as smelling, which path the burrick had taken Speedy pointed out three other possible routes…

An archway leading into an ancient cathedral…

A narrow set of stairs descending into darkness…

And a huge hole in the ceiling with debris blocking the rest of the hallway.

Yubetcha removed his sword and positioned himself between the approaching danger and the woman while littlek screwed up her nose at the pungent odor left by the burrick. "He smells worse than me." littlek said.

Finding it hard to disagree and realizing she must quickly choose the path Speedy recited a favorite nursery rhyme…

"Eenie, meenie, minie, moe
Catch a burrick by the toe
If he hollers, let him go
Eenie, meenie, minie, MOE!"

“This way!!!!” She squealed.

………and off she went.

24th Sep 2002, 15:10
Yubetcha turned to littlek. "You wouldn't believe what I read in that journal left by the priest. He experimented with some of the incantations that I found in the book. One went awry and created a terrible creature...the worst that one could ever imagine, judging by the journal's description. Maybe they brought some kind of demon from hell!". Yubetcha saw what looked like distant eyes glowing in the dark, and getting larger. Suddenly, a deafening screech filled the air, followed by a loud growl. The smell of the creature was getting stronger. Yubetcha knew that it couldn't be very far away now. It smelled very putrid, as if it had lived in the sewers all of its life, and never had a bath, and it was a good bet that it hadn't. Who would want to give it one? "Wait! Sewers?!?!", Yubetcha exclaimed. "Maybe there are sewers around here...a way out". Suddenly, the creature stepped next to a lit torch. The two saw the creature for the first time, and their hearts stopped. It was the ugliest thing ever to step out of a nightmare. It had bulging, bloodshot eyes. It had no lips, and its long, bloody, pointed teeth shown in the light as it growled one more time, and it looked hungry. Saliva dripped from its mouth. It was muscular, and its thick, long, pointed claws looked as if they could slice through a body with no effort. A network of blood vessels shown through its thin, pinkish skin. There were no ears to be seen...just two holes on the sides of its head. "Close your eyes, littlek." Yubetcha reached into his pouch and pulled out a flashbomb. It lit up the air, causing the creature to stop and scream, shielding its eyes. "We need to blow up this place, so that these things can never see the light of day. Run, littlek. I'm right behind you". Yubetcha made sure that she was safely away, and then pulled out a sunburst, and threw it. It lay at the creature's feet, who was just now getting its sight back, and starting to advance. Yubetcha drew his bow and let a fire arrow fly. The sunburst exploded, bringing down the ceiling and walls in the immediate area, as he ran after littlek, who was waiting. Yubetcha filled her in, and said, "It's gone now...and so is that part of the hall. If there are any more creatures, they can't follow us. That hole in the ceiling was far enough away, though, and is still intact". She said, "Boy, you come prepared!" He replied, "I only brought the sunburst, because I thought that I might have to blow up the prison walls to escape. It was the only one I had".

24th Sep 2002, 22:26
Littlek watched as Speedy scrambled up the debris and disappeared into the hole in the ceiling.

Listening to Yubetcha tell her what he had read in the priests chamber she turned to grab his cape and pull him along to safety. Stunned to see the most hideous creature bounding down on them she took several steps backwards in shocked amazement. She watched as Yubetcha sheathed his sword… tossed a flashbomb at the abomination… and then told her to run, run, run!!!!!!!!

Speedy had reached the top with little effort. Realizing she was alone she knelt at the mouth of the hole to encourage her friends to follow… a bright flash filled the hall below as an unearthly howl assaulted her ears. She could hear littlek screaming and Yubetcha yelling, “RUN, RUN!!!!!!!”

An explosion rumbled under her feet. Steadying herself Speedy called to her friends, “Up here.” She lit the flare Yubetcha had given her and waved it back and forth hoping they had survived and could see it through the dust… coughing her friends reached the rubble below her and began climbing up.

Once littlek and Yubetcha had joined Speedy she raised the flare to get a good look around. They were pleased to find themselves out of the ancient buried area and into a good sized cavern with two large caves. Taking a deep breath of fresh air they each gave thanks and counted their blessings.

“Let’s synchronize our compasses.” Yubetcha teased. The girls laughed at his quick wit and soon the cavern was echoing with laughter as the friends hugged each other filled with relief for having escaped with their lives.

Yubetcha finally did pull out his compass to get a bearing.... his brow wrinkled with confusion. Littlek saw his concern and asked, "What's wrong Yubetcha?"

"Damndest thing I've ever seen." He said. "It's spinning out of control!"

Speedy pulled hers out and it was doing the same thing. Littlek watched the dial spin over her shoulder.

Yubetcha walked several yards away from the ladies... he watched in amazement as the dial settled down… spinning slower and slower the farther away he got from the girls. Turning back towards them he took several steps in their direction and the dial began to spin faster and faster. "What the....???" He whispered.

"Littlek come look at this." He said walking farther and farther away from where Speedy stood.

She followed him to the wall of the cavern right next to one of the caves and saw that his compass had all but stopped spinning. "Speedy come here." Littlek said motioning her to join them.

The closer Speedy got the faster Yubetcha’s dial spun. Yubetcha held his hand up signaling her to stop. Littlek said, “Go back to where you were Speedy.” As Speedy retreated to the opening in the floor Yubetcha’s compass settled again.

Both Yubetcha and littlek looked at her suspiciously.

“What?” Speed asked.

“Something’s very wrong.” Frowned littlek.

Speedy stared at her compass spinning wildly then reached to check the stash she’d found but hadn’t told Yubetcha and littlek about.

A sheepish grin tugged at the corner of her mouth as she looked back up just in time to see a family of spiders entering the cavern through the cave right next to her friends.

Without saying a word Speedy quickly pulled her bow out, pointing a broadhead right at Yubetcha and littlek… both were shaken to think Speedy had turned on them. Grabbing for their own weapons two arrows whistled past into the largest spider in the group. Surprised to see dozens of spiderlings spilling into the cavern at their feet… littlek and Yubetcha quickly caught up to Speedy as she ran into the other cave…

“Here we go again.” Moaned littlek.

26th Sep 2002, 13:06
No one had seen the spiderling that was on littlek's back. The other two were in front of her.
Yubetcha lit the candle. The immediate area lit up, but there were some distant areas that were still dark. Stalagmites and stalactites were scattered all over the cave. As the two walked, exploring their new surroundings, they found a skeleton behind a boulder. Yubetcha picked up a note, and read aloud.....

Day 1: This cursed place! We came in here from a hole near the ceiling of this cave. We slid down a stalagmite, and Boyblunder broke his leg. It's too slippery to climb back up. I hope that we can find another way out. There MUST be one. The only light is this candle that I use to write by. I hope that being away from that entrance and behind this rock will hide it. I only hope that they won't see it. The spiders are in their cave, so I ventured out to explore the large cavern. Found a hole in the floor. Heard the strangest noises, so I came back here.
Day 2: Food is almost gone. So is water, but I did find a small pool of water in a corner. Not sure where it came from, or if it is safe. It's only as a last resort. I did a little exploring today. There is another exit to the east...a tunnel. Not sure where it goes. I went in a short distance, but <s>became fearful and</s> came back. I didn't want to leave Boyblunder for very long. Yeah, that's it! Didn't want to leave Boyblunder! Hopefully I will do a little more tomorrow.
Day 4, I think: Boyblunder writing here now...I can only judge whether it is a new day or not by the sleep I get. If I wake up and am not tired, I think it might be a new day. Not sure, though. Anyway, Rory brought over some water for me from that pool, and went further into the tunnel. He hasn't come back yet. I'm starting to get worried. I wish I could walk.
Day 5: Got terribly thirsty. I decided that I had no choice but to drink the pool water. I hope it is safe. Rory still not back yet. I'm not ready to die. Too much to live for. I hope I will see my son, daughter-in-law, and little Hawklette again.

littlek is not sure, but she thinks she feels something on her back.

26th Sep 2002, 16:14
Littlek, distracted by Yubetcha’s reading of the dead mans diary, absently reaches behind her back to scratch at the irritation. Her hand lands on the chitinous exoskeleton of the arachnid and it responds by sinking its tiny fangs into her back. She screams and begins running in circles, her arms flailing at her back.

Yubetcha quickly looks up from the diary and when littlek’s back is turned, notices the spiderling clinging on. It’s tiny fangs glistening with her blood. Littlek is now shrieking…”Get it off…Get it off.”

Speedy makes a grab at the 8 legged attacker but littlek will not quit running. “Hold still.” She yells.

Littlek is now in full panic mode and blindly runs east, down the same tunnel Rory disappeared in years earlier. Yubetcha and Speedy run after her. The spiderling continues its attack, injecting littlek again and again with its paralyzing venom. Her legs start to feel numb and wobbly and soon she is staggering. The spiderling senses that its prey is succumbing to its poison and begins to release its silk to encase littlek in a cocoon. It begins by spinning a web around her legs, causing her to trip and fall. She is now unable to get up or even roll over. She is vaguely aware of the arrival of her companions before blackness engulfs her as she loses consciousness.

Yubetcha and Speedy quickly catch up. The spiderling is not about to give up its hard earned meal and faces the intruders. It raises itself on its hind legs exposing its bloody fangs. Speedy notches an arrow and Yubetcha draws his sword. The spiderling leaps at Speedy but before it makes contact, Yubetcha swings his sword, slicing it in half. It drops at Speedy’s feet, its jointed appendages twitching.

“Nice swing.” Speedy says. Yubetcha is by now kneeling by littlek, cutting away the sticky silk. Speedy kneels beside him.

“Is she OK?” Asks Speedy.

Yubetcha answered, “She’s alive, but unconscious and she is not breathing very well. I think the venom is killing her. I can’t see her wounds because of all the blood. Let’s find that pool that was mentioned in the diary and wash her off.”

Speedy helped Yubetcha picked up littlek and slung her over his shoulder then went in search of the water. Speedy lit another flare and walked ahead. She soon found the pool and called Yubetcha over. Yubetcha carefully placed littlek on the ground next to the dark water. He peered in.

“Think it is safe?” he inquired.

“It looks so dark and ominous. I don’t know. It looks deep. Wonder where it originates from?” Speedy commented.

While Speedy and Yubetcha were debating about the water quality of the shallow pool, littlek jerked spasmodically from the effects of the venom. She fell in and disappeared from site before Speedy or Yubetcha could grab her. Speedy reached into the murky water to feel for littlek. She yelped and quickly pulled her arm out. “It’s freezing cold. Like ice.”

The pool began to glow an eerie blackish green. Soon small bubbles began to reach the surface from the depths. The size of the bubbles grew larger in diameter and also in number. The bubbles soon were the size of dinner plates. Finally one giant bubble broke the surface bringing with it a sputtering, and very much alive littlek.

Littlek grabbed the side of pool. Yubetcha helped pull her out.

“How in the hell did I end up in that ice water?” her teeth chattering. Suddenly she remembered the spider and quickly jumped up and began to run around in circles grabbing at her back. “Oh geez, get it off….get it off!”

Yubetcha looked at Speedy and laughed, “I better grab her before she runs off again.” He headed off towards littlek.

Speedy nodded absently but never looked up. She was looking thoughtfully into the now quiet pool.

26th Sep 2002, 21:49
Yubetcha ran into the tunnel after littlek, lighting his candle. Just beyond the entrance, the tunnel branched off to the left. Yubetcha listened for littlek, but could hear nothing. He decided to go straight, thinking that she would do the same thing, being in a crazed full run. Being a spelunker, he had always been intrigued with caves. This was a winding tunnel. In some areas, the ceiling was low, and parts of the walls were narrow. It reminded him of an underground cavern he had explored as a child. In it, there was also a tunnel. He named various parts of it Tall Man's Headache, and Fat Man's Misery. Coming back to the present, he hoped to find littlek. Within minutes, Yubetcha came to a cliff, and looked over the edge. Not being able to see well, he pulled out a fire arrow, lighting up the area. In the area below, there were many boulders. At the far end, there was a tunnel entrance. Guessing that it must be about six or seven feet to the bottom, he saw some bones directly below him and wondered if it was what was left of Rory. But there was only a leg, a few ribs and a skull here. Where was the rest of it? Did someone or something carry the bones away? He became more worried than ever. Seeing a figure in the distance below, he asked, "Littlek? Are you there?". Coming forward, she nervously replied, "Yubetcha I am. Get me outa here!". Just then Yubetcha noticed that there were bones in other areas of the floor below. Some were complete skeletons! Yubetcha then remembered hearing about some disappearances in a nearby town. He knew they had better hurry and get out of there. He took rope out of a rope arrow, and tied one end around a boulder. He threw the rope over the cliff, and littlek climbed up. As they were leaving, they heard growling noises coming from the tunnel below. Coming to the branch, Yubetcha considered exploring it hoping that it would lead them out of this mess, but the duo decided to check on Speedy.

27th Sep 2002, 20:00
Back at the Burrick...

Standing on his toes, Thorin slapped 2 silver on the counter and glared up at the serving wench behind the bar. Her nose twitched slightly and she visibly held back a retch.

"I want a hot bath and a good scrubbing brush." grumbled the Dwarf.

"And while you're at it you can chuck some of that fancy blue swill in too." added Gumdrop; slapping a further 2 coins down. Thorin nodded his approval and the wench scurried off to prepare the tub - greatfull to be clear of the Dwarfs stench.

"Right. You get yourself cleaned up while I go deliver our prize to Gallivan. Maximus will soon start pulling on that teather when those 'shrooms are all gone so I better be quick." Gum said. The Dwarf removed his helmet and headed for the back room as Gum returned through the kitchen to the backyard.

The night sky had cleared up a little, and a fresh wind was blowing the smog from the factories away to the West. Gum stood in the shadow of the kitchen door for a moment and surveyed the yard. When he was sure the coast was clear, he padded over to the stable to check on Maximus. The Burrick had tugged her way loose and was sniffing out the empty stalls in the search for more food, but on seeing Gum appear at the door, she hobbled over to nudge him and salivate over his hands.

"Hey knock it off you dumb lizard. You've eaten all my 'shrooms already!" Gum said; holding up his dripping but ultimately empty hands. The lizard moaned and tilted her head to one side.

"Look...All gone...Empty...NO MORE!" Gumdrop said; turning his pockets inside out. "Listen to me. I'm talking to a dumb lizard now!"

Maximus moaned again louder and began breathing in and making belching sounds.

"No, no. Wait..." Gum realised what was about to happen. "I can take you to where there is more food...Lots of food!" Maximus held her breath.

"Yes...Err...If you let me jump on your back...I can show you the way and we can reach there in no time at all." Gum grinned.

Maximus's tail started to wag and she lowered her head. Gumdrop was pleased with his little sweet talking trickery, and hopping into the saddle, he grabbed the reins, leaned foreward to give his new friend a scratch under the chin, and hooked his feet into the stirrups.

"Away Maxxie...To the 'shrooms and our pay!"

27th Sep 2002, 20:45
Yubetcha and littlek reached Speedy just as she was examining the pool of water. Littlek filled her in about the tunnel branch and the creature's lair. Yubetcha added the tales he heard about the disappearances and the bones. "We could possibly figure out how the creature was getting to the surface, if it was indeed the culprit, and that is iffy".
Speedy added, "Every option here is iffy. I wonder if littlek's swim might be a clue to the way out".
Yubetcha replied, "No one knows where that water goes, or how deep it is. And even if we did go down, it would probably push us back up like it did littlek. Which one of us wants to try first?". After being met with silence, Yubetcha added, "Or we could go back into the church and take one of those other paths. Remember, there are stairs going down. Perhaps there's a basement and a sewer entrance. But that's another if. At any rate, I'm inclined to try that way, but perhaps we should vote on it".

29th Sep 2002, 13:09
Dagosport Importing & Exporting was naturally located by the docks at the side of town. Sly had been in and out of the area on "business" a few times so planning a route was no problem.

The first part of his mission seemed simple enough. Fabricate evidence to frame Vincent Dagosport and plant it in his office. "Now for the tough part," he said aloud. "How do I get The Templar sniffing in Dagosport's direction?"

Not wanting to be found inside the house the thief left quickly the way he came. It was hard for a thief to do but he returned his butter and egg money to the table where it was discovered and made sure the house was in the same order he found it. "Don't want to arouse any suspicion," he thought to himself.

As he hit the street, SlyFoxx backed into a darkened corner. He thought for a good while.

Thorin Oakenshield
29th Sep 2002, 16:41
Thorin followed the wench into the backroom. She pulled the oak bath to the centre of the room and from the fire she grabbed a large pan of hot water and poured it into the bath. Then she poured in some cold water and tested the temerature.

"There you go Thorin. That should do you."

"Thanks Love.", Thorin said as he winked and smacked her backside. "Don't forget that blue stuff."

"You don't have to remind me of that!" She laughed.

The wench went to the fireplace and got Thorin a vile of blue liquid from off the mantle piece.

"Here you go Thorin. I'll leave you to it."

"What!... aren't you going to scrub my back."

"Not until you've got rid of that smell", She grinned.

When she had left the room Thorin got undressed and inched his way into the hot bath. After scrubbing the smells away he leaned back to relax. It wasn't long before he fell asleep, dreaming of what he could do with his share of the money.

"Thorin...thorin... THORIN!"

"Wha!, What's up" Thorin awoke with a startle expecting to find a sword at his throat. He scanned the room just to make sure.

"Thorin, Ive cleaned your clothes for you."

It was just the wench.

"Here you go. Grab this towel and dry yourself off by the fire. I'll have a pint on the bar for you. Besides, you're friend GumDrop should be back soon."

Thorin dried off and got dressed and went to claim his pint at the bar. "That's better." He thought as he supped his ale. Thorin ordered two more pints and slapped his coins on the counter.

29th Sep 2002, 23:47
“Vote?” Speedy asked. “I don’t think we have time Yubetcha.”

Pointing to the dark water littlek had taken an unexpected dip in she continued, “The water’s rising in that pool and I think I could hear……”

Littlek cut her off...... “Then let’s get the hell out of here while we still can, that water was COLD!” Littlek started heading towards the main cavern above the church when she turned back and said “Never mind… we got company… I vote we head THIS way!!!” Yubetcha and Speedy could tell by her tone of voice she wasn’t kidding and fell in right behind her.

The natural cave turned into a tunnel as the threesome kept a good distance between themselves and the tenacious spiderlings. Running for their lives Speedy’s legs were beginning to cramp from lack of water. Her stomach ached for food and her eyes burned for rest.

“I don’t think I can go on.” She confessed slowing as Yubetcha and littlek tirelessly continued sprinting ahead of her. Stumbling she called ahead to her friends, “Keep going. I’ll set a mine or two… maybe that will give us some extra time.”

“You got one minute Speedy. If you don’t catch up with us we’re coming back for you.” Warned Yubetcha.

“I see light at the end of the tunnel.” Littlek huffed to Yubetcha.

Seconds later they both burst out of the tunnel onto a long wooded bridge suspended over a deep ravine.

If the three of them could get across the bridge and sever the ropes before the spiders caught up they just might make it out of there in one piece. Yubetcha tossed his sword to littlek and told her to get to the other side and start weakening the guide ropes while he went back for Speedy. They heard a mine go off… and before Yubetcha could reenter the tunnel Speedy sped past him towards littlek who had stopped to hold on for dear life as the suspension bridge groaned under the weight of the three of them.

Agreeing to slow their pace to put less strain on the tethered planks the bridge continued to sag several inches as they crept slowly to the safer side. They had reached midpoint when the angry spiders swarmed out of the tunnel and onto the bridge.

The bridge vibrated, sagging further… swaying sharply left then right… ungulating as littlek, Speedy, and Yubetcha broke into a full run in hopes of escaping to the other side unharmed. One final moan and the bridge buckled under the onslaught as the ropes snapped and everyone fell screaming into the abyss.

Falling at least 30 feet we splashed down… resurfacing just in time to see more than a few relentless spiders struggling not to drown after following us into the water. I almost felt sorry for them until I remembered that we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them…

Wherever here was!!!!

Littlek and Yubetcha were splashing around trying to get out of the way as debris rained down on us from above. Part of the wooden bridge that had broken bobbed to the surface and was beginning to pick up speed as it floated away. Not knowing how long we’d be in the water before finding a way out I yelled to the others to swim towards the tethered planks in hopes of using them as a raft. The water was clean and refreshing. An underground stream I guessed. Thank god it wasn’t lava.

The current grew faster and faster as the walls narrowed keeping the raft just out of reach. We all swam frantically trying to reach it. It finally slowed getting caught up in a whirlpool spinning it ‘round and ‘round several times. Yubetcha was able to grab on and hold tight until littlek and I caught up. We all spun around once more then we were tossed over a small waterfall. Holding on to the raft with both hands the water picked up even more speed descending rapidly as we shot through one dark cavern after another.

Eventually we were sucked into a large sewer pipe leaving the caverns far behind. The water became soiled and filled with trash and runoff from the streets. I closed my mouth tight so I wouldn’t swallow any of the sewage. It smelled bad and I wondered how much longer we would be tossed about before we could find a foot or handhold and get out of there. It grew darker as the pipes got smaller and I couldn’t see a thing until we finally splashed into the main canal at the edge of Dayport that feeds the waterfront then empties into the sea just east of Threes Gate. One more spillway dumped us in the familar waters.

I had little strength left to fight my way back to land against the rapidly receding tide… letting go of what was left of our makeshift raft I choked on a mouthful of saltwater losing sight of my comrades. Struggling to stay afloat as the weight of my bounty pulled me under I coughed again. Exhausted I turned my back on the raft as it was pulled out to sea. I could hear it breaking up as it smashed into “Deadman’s Rocks.”

Hoping Yubetcha and littlek were all right I swam against the tide towards the silhouetted town backlit by the full moon. I could see lights twinkling through the low laying fog that tiptoed on top of the water. The early morning fog was just rolling in swallowing up the wharf as a distant foghorn warned approaching ships.

Calling to my friends a guard peered over the end of the dock above me. “Who goes there?” He bellowed. Taking refuge under the pier against a piling, I caught my breath and waited for the guard to lose interest and continue his patrol. “Probably just another drunk from the Whale's Spout.” “Stupid taffer’s always taking a long walk off a short pier… you’re gonna end up sleeping with the fishies tonight.” He warned waving his sword through the fog. “And good riddance to yea too.” He scoffed… spitting into the water.

As the sounds of his footsteps disappeared down the wooden pier I looked for a ladder to pull my bruised and battered body out of the ocean.

This was turning into the longest night of my life.

30th Sep 2002, 12:29
Yubetcha felt the jolt as his body hit the rocks. Thankful to be at least away from the nightmare church and caves, he groped for something to hold onto and found a small hole in a boulder. Feeling new pain, he took stock and was thankful that nothing seemed to be broken, although it was too hard to tell at the moment, when he was hanging on for dear life. His thoughts turned to the other two, and he thought, "What does she mean we didn't have time to vote? We were in no immediate danger, and a simple discussion takes just a couple of minutes. We may possibly have made the situation worse. Oh well, I'm not dead yet. Perhaps it'll get better". He hoped that they were safe as he felt his hold on the boulder slip. The current pulled him away from the rock like a jealous mistress, and the weight of his inventory pulled him down. He quickly emptied the items into the water as the current pulled him, keeping only the blackjack, lockpicks and money. He also made sure that he still had the book. He struggled to reach the surface, and scraped a hand on the sharp edges of another boulder. The now bloody fingers found a small edge of a boulder, and he hung on. He was quickly getting his fill of water, and wished he could feel the safety of land. He knew that no one would see him in the darkness, and not in the morning for the fog, but also knew that he had better not be there when daylight came and the fog lifted. He needed a few minutes to assess the situation and to think. Thankfully the cold water seemed to be numbing him, and he wasn't feeling a lot of pain. But he also knew of the dangers of being in cold water for too long.

1st Oct 2002, 16:44
Littlek hooked her elbow and a leg onto the ladder attached to the sea wall and held on with her remaining strength. Her fingers had no more strength in them and so she could not grip onto the ladder. She coughed the last of the foul water out of her burning lungs. She was cold. She did not have the strength to climb up and her violent shivering made it difficult to hold onto the ladder. The current pulled at her and debris piled around trying to sweep her away into the black sea. She watched a spiderling, clinging desperately to a board, float swiftly by. She kind of felt sorry for it until it hissed at her and shot some silk at her. “ I hope that is the last I see of them.” She thought silently. The spider venom was wearing off but it still sapped her strength. She was thankful that it was a small, juvenile spider that attacked her whose poison glands were not yet fully developed. Still, it left her weakened.

A deep, slow voice above her made her look up. She recognized that it was a guard standing above her. He had his hand raised over his eyes trying to peer into the thick fog. He even leaned forward at a futile attempt to see into the mist. She caught a few muttered words directed towards an unseen foe about sleeping with the fishes. Sleep. A nice nap in a warm tub would be nice. “I don’t think fish would enjoy a bubble bath though. Wonder if that spiderling would want a warm bath about now?’ She then numbly recognized the beginning effects of hypothermia. She shook her head to clear her mind. She now had no choice but to summon up any remaining strength and climb out of the frigid water or succumb to the tug of the sea. The guard soon lost interest in whatever noise caught his attention and walked away. She listened to his footsteps grow fainter. She then noticed a movement through the fog and barely made out a lone figure climb out of the water and heave themself wearily onto the dock. Well at least one of her companions made it. She called out but her voice was too weak and all she could barely manage was a croak. She then noticed that she was no longer shivering and she could barely keep her eyes open. “If only I could close my eyes for just a minute. I am just so tired.” She thought to herself. “If I can get up this ladder and out of the water, then I can sleep.” She began to climb up the ladder. One foot at a time, one hand over the other. It seemed as if she were going nowhere and that she had grabbed onto the longest ladder in Dayport. She kept climbing, one foot up, one hand up….one foot up, one hand up….wait, her hand grabbed at air. She missed the ladder’s rung. Where is it. She reached again and her hand touched something but it was not a ladder rung. She didn’t care. She held on. She then felt herself being lifted by her collar and drug onto the dock face down. A dark figure bent over her and turned her over. She recognized the voice that softly spoke, “Ah, it’s littlek…isn’t it too cold to be out for a midnight swim?” It was Garrett.

1st Oct 2002, 16:59
Littlek looked up into where she thought Garrett’s face would be but his hood shrouded his face and so she could not tell if it was truly he. “Hey Garrett. Nice of you to stop by.” Littlek croaked and coughed up more water.

“From the looks of you, you’ve had quite an adventure. Where have you been?” Garrett inquired.

“It’s a long story and I do not want to tell it right now. Have you seen Yubetcha and Speedy? They were with me.” She said through chattering teeth.

“No, I have not but we’d better get you warm. The Crippled Burrick is on the other side of town but it is safer than the Whale’s Spout right now. Some of the Templar’s are drinking there. I’ll help get you there then go look for your companions before the Templar finds them. They are out for blood tonight”

“The Templar, I had almost forgotten about them.” littlek mumbled as Garrett helped her sit up. He took off his cloak and wrapped her up in it. She was grateful for its warmth. Then he helped her to her feet and started the walk to the Inn. Along the way, she was certain that she felt his hands explore her pockets and acquire the few items she managed to keep from the sea.

Garrett pushed open the doors to the pub and escorted littlek in then Garrett slipped into his favorite booth in a shadowy corner by the door in the Crippled Burrick Pub. With his back to the wall he could see everything and everyone in the pub. His dark, gray green cloak was almost magical in how it blended in with just about any darkened corner he chose to conceal himself in. Standing alone in the doorway, littlek looked around. Yubetcha and Speedy were not here but everyone on the “Most Wanted” list was.

She instantly spied the Huntress, whose skills as a thief were legendary and her wealth of knowledge immeasurable. It was rumored she stashed her wealth in the Bonehoard. No one dared to venture into that haunted area to find it. She was in a deep conversation with Clayman, Grey Mouser, Chiefdreams and Cutty’s sassy niece, Roxy. She overheard them discussing Legion’s Run. This caught the attention of Stikboy who pulled up a chair around the small table. They were clearly trying to talk Roxy out of pilfering Legion’s Run. Wise counsel. At the adjacent table sat Apache, his long, dark hair spilling down his back. He and Bravus were laughing about something Laz told him. “Haven’t seen Laz in a long time.” Mused littlek. “He must have just gotten back from a long journey.” Which reminds me. I want a beer and a bath. She walked to the bar and spoke to the woman behind it.

“I would truly enjoy a hot bath and a large stein of ale. Is this possible?”

The woman spoke coarsely, “Nope, there is a smelly dwarf taking a bath right now. You’ll have to wait. I’ll get you the ale.” The woman walked away and tossed a mug filled with the foamy brew towards her. Littlek caught the mug and reached into her pocket for some currency. But her pockets were empty. She grinned sheeplessly at the bar maid who was then grabbing for the mug.

Suddenly change fell from the sky onto the bar and a disembodied voice said, “Here is the money for the beer, the bath and a platter of BBQ’d Burrick.” Littlek looked up and spied BrokenArts swinging from a chandelier. “BA! It’s good to see you. You don’t know how much I appreciate this. It has been a rough few days.” Littlek replied. “No problem. We were wondering where you’ve been. You must have been on quite an adventure. You look terrible.” BA answered. Littlek nodded and took a long drink from her mug of ale; its bitter effervescence refreshed her.

The pub’s door swung open and Peter Smith, Grey Mouser, Munin and ThornRaven sauntered in. Peter slapped Laz on the back in greeting and all four joined the group. RicknMel and Komag were involved in an intense chess game in a booth at the opposite end of the dirty room. A map and the combination to Karras’ vault were at stake. DJC, Gman, and bat-mite were gathered around making bets on who was going to win. BA spoke to littlek, “I’m going to go watch the chess game. Wanna go?’

‘Nope, I just need to sit here and rest awhile. Thanks.” Littlek answered. BA swung gracefully to the chess game. The bar maid returned with the food and refilled littlek’s mug. The aroma made her mouth water and she greedily dug in.

Having some of her basic needs satisfied, fat smeared all over her face and hands and still waiting on Thorin to get out of the bath, she listened to conversations nearby tables. Hawklette, MSLedd, Lytha and Sneak were laughing about being holed up in an attic together while hiding from a particularly efficient guard. They were trying to do a “group pilfer” of Lady Louisa’s estate. From across the room Ricknmel suddenly shrieked “Dang it!” Komag won the chess game. Ricknmel quickly challenged Komag to a pool game with the map as the prize. The challenge was accepted and a crowd surrounded the pool table. Leatherman, Amievil, DarkH2O and Nightwalker bet on Ricknmel while Superscammer, Scwaa and Nazgul bet on Komag.

As the evening waned more members of the “Most Wanted” list made their appearance. News traveled throughout the Thieves Guild of Nocturnal and Omega, visiting from the Netherlands offering the use of their new invention – their version of a grappling hook. But this was not an ordinary hook. The metal was as thin as a spider’s web and as strong too. It folded neatly into a crystal arrowhead that fit onto any arrow shaft. It stuck to anything – steel, stone, and organic substances such as trees and wooden beams. After it quickly dried, it neatly unfolded to form a ladder for an enterprising thief to climb. Zaccheus and Howie decided they needed to investigate this new tool and huddled over a table dismantling one. It was soon discovered that it stuck well to people when Chiefdreams accidentally shot one at Tin Star entangling him in the sticky substance. Saturnine and Whatzhisname helped Tin Star hack himself out of the sticky mess, admiring the material and its uses. “I could have a lot of fun with this new toy.” Laughed Whatzhisname.

Littlek was about to fall asleep at the bar when Thorin finally emerged from the bathhouse and heartily slapped her on the back then wrinkled his nose. “littlek, you’re a mess. Go take a bath. I thought Yubetcha and Speedy were with you. Now where is that wench…..”

3rd Oct 2002, 01:30
Wrapping myself in a blanket of fog I hugged the edge of the pier until reaching a stack of crates. Crouched and waiting for the guard to pass by on patrol I thought about the dark pool of water littlek had plunged into back in the caverns.

It was a strange experience to say the least… After reaching in to pull her from its depths I was captivated by its aura and could do little more than stare into it even though I knew my friends had run off.

I could hear my grandmother’s voice and remembered bits and pieces of a tale she told when I was just a child about a healing spring that was hidden deep in the mountains.

Legend was if you were pure of heart it could heal you… if not it would only aggravate a painful death. The water would act as an acid and eat the flesh right off your bones. It was so painful the wicked would run screaming after being spewed from its depth until falling in a heap leaving nothing but a skeleton as a reminder that evil had once passed this way.

Some believed the power of the spring was fueled by the most holy of holy books… myth says a great sorcerer who was tempted by the dark side to bring them the sacred Book had hidden it in the spring for safe keeping. Upon returning to claim his promised reward of everlasting life he reached into the spring and was swallowed up… spit out… then disappeared into the caves screaming as if he were being eaten alive. Those who had followed him to the site witnessed his demise.

Many returned year after year in an effort to retrieve the Book… those who came with a pure heart survived and were healed of all wounds and disease… those who came with an evil heart didn't live to see another day.

The book lies to deep in the spring to be recovered but its powers grow with every attempt to rescue it. The whereabouts of the spring was lost many years ago when the last of those who knew were murdered by greedy men.

I shivered as my thoughts were pulled from fairy tales to reality as the guard approached. His head hung low… coat pulled tightly against the damp air. He was concentrating on counting his steps to the end of the pier. “42, 43, 44…. “ He muttered. I stood up and put him out of his misery with one well place blow with my BJ.

Dragging him behind the crates I heard littlek talking to someone. I thought it was Yubetcha… following her voice I found her pulling herself out of the sea… she was reaching into the air and thanking Garrett for rescuing her. I took her hand and helped her up on the wet pier.

“It’s me littlek… Speedy. Where’s Yubetcha?” I inquired. “Hey Garrett. Nice of you to stop by.” She said. Collapsing she continued mumbling. I got her to her feet and we headed towards the buildings lining the docks. We both needed dry clothes and something to eat.

The first building we reached was a small warehouse… I could see a lantern moving slowly past a window on the second floor. I made quick work of the locks and pulled littlek inside.

There was an area under the stairs with a night watchman’s bed. His half eaten dinner still warm was sitting on a table next to an empty wine bottle. I lowered littlek onto the bed. “I would truly enjoy a hot bath and a large stein of ale. Is this possible?” She said to no one in particular. “Sure littlek, I’ll see what I can do.” I said pulling the blanket up and over her as she lay back.

Not knowing how long the night watchman had been on his rounds I took a few minutes and gobbled down the rest of his dinner then set out to find him....

Taking one stair at a time I heard littlek talking in her sleep to Thorn. Sweet dreams littlek I thought reaching the second floor of the warehouse.

7th Oct 2002, 03:03
It wasn’t hard to find the warehouse guard… he was drunk standing in front of a mirror singing to himself. He had another bottle of wine and was raising it in a toast to how smart he was having landed such a cushy job… I waited until he threw his head back to take another swig and then put his lights out.

I grabbed the bottle before it hit the floor and downed what was left before he finished mumbling about what had hit him. Picking up the lantern I surveyed the contents of the room. I was pleased to find the warehouse was full of boxes filled with estate items waiting to be shipped by their owners. It didn’t take long to find a crate labeled clothing…

Dressed in clean warm clothes and dry boots I gathered several things for littlek and a couple blankets from another crate. Patting down the guard and pocketing a few coins I headed back downstairs but not before I’d found the open crate the guard had pilfered the wine from and helped myself to another bottle. I covered littlek with both blankets and left the clothes and wine on the table for her to find when she awoke from the lucid dream she was having. I couldn’t help but smile at some of the things she was saying in her sleep… sounded like she was having a great time with old friends.

Blowing out the lantern I left the warehouse and aimed straight for The Whales Spout across the wharf. I knew there had to be a salty-dog or two telling tall tales at the infamous pub. Perhaps a pirate disguised as townsfolk could give me the answers to a few well-worded questions.

Entering the tavern I tossed a coin in the whales fountain for luck surveying the famous pub. I could see a couple drunken sailors throwing darts, a nobleman passed out at the bar, and a single guard getting fresh with one of the barmaids at a table in the corner. As luck would have it the pub was pretty much empty this late at night. Opening the door caught the attention of the bar keep… everyone else was engaged in other pleasures.

Approaching the curved bar the keep bobbed his head in silent greeting. I could see most of the rooms above deck had been rented from how many keys were still available hanging behind him on the wall.

“What can I get ya?” He asked.

“I’m looking for a man.” I said.

“Aren’t we all!” He responded with a wink.

Our eyes locked and I said “Uhhhh, how ‘bout some food then and a couple bottles of ale… to go!!!”

I sat down in a dark corner waiting for the barkeep to get my food. There wasn’t anyone here right now that could help me with the treasure map so I figured I’d go back and check on littlek when it started to rain… INSIDE THE PUB!!!!!!!!!!!! Strangest night of my life I thought pulling the hood of my coat over my head.

The sailors didn’t even notice as the torches hissed out, they were so drunk, and use to getting wet while out at sea. They just got louder and laughed even harder every time they missed the dartboard. The barmaid screamed running for cover… and the guard swore at his tankard as the rain diluted his ale. He yelled to the barmaid that he’d be back after his shift and she’d better be ready to make good on all those promises or he’d take it out on her hide. The nobleman didn’t even stir.

After relighting the candle on my table the barkeep came back from the kitchen. He stopped.... looking at the wet bar and puddles on the floor his eyes narrowed staring at me as he put the food and ale on the counter. “Pay up and get out.” He barked, “We don’t want your kind in here.” “No problem, I’m leaving now.” I answered tossing the coins to him while grabbing the food and bottles… quickly backing out of the pub.

I could see the fog had lifted some and the guard from The Whales Spout was entering the warehouse I’d left littlek in… picking up my pace I used a rope arrow to enter one of the second story windows. Upon entering the warehouse I could hear him questioning her loudly below… pulling out my BJ I descended the stairs ready to engage him.

7th Oct 2002, 17:45
Yubetcha woke up from his short nap on the boulder only slightly less exhausted, wishing it was all a nightmare. He opened the book and read that in order for these incantations to work, they must be used with an amulet. Thinking that the amulet was probably back at the church, he skimmed through the pages, and to his joy, soon found the amulet in a pouch in the outside back cover. Putting on the amulet, he looked more closely at the incantations. "Hmmm, I wonder if there's a spell to get me out of here. Perhaps I need to start with a simple one at first. Lesseeeee .....hey, here's one for rain. Let's see if I can make it rain, just for starters. I should probably start with a short duration in case something goes wrong". Touching the amulet, he recited a spell, waited, and waited. Nothing! Yubetcha felt like a fool ....and a little weaker. Unbeknownst to him, it did rain... inside of the Whale Spout, missing its intended mark because of the actions of an amateur, and it stopped after 30 seconds! The place was completely dark, the result of doused and wet torches. After being relit, patrons found that everything in the place was dripping wet, even the tables and floor. The perplexed and amazed patrons were staring at each other in wet clothes. Glasses were overflowing with watered down ale. Not knowing, Yubetcha wondered if it was a worthless book, but decided to try again. He skimmed through the pages and found a transport spell. He read that this spell retraces the caster's steps in reverse, allowing him to be stopped at will along the way. He didn't want to go back, but he saw no other way off of the rocks. The current was swift, and would either drag him out to sea to drown, or throw him against the rocks again. Shuddering at either option, he read the spell. He soon found himself going up the waterfall, just slightly away from it. Then he saw that he was above the gap that once had a wooden bridge spanning it, and then noticed that he was getting progressively weaker as he was moving. He soon found himself back in the caves, so weak that he could barely move. He stopped there, dropping to the floor, unable to stand. He read the book, and found that all incantations have a cost. With each spell, the caster loses a certain amount of health. "Figures. Just my luck. Oh, wait! Here's a spell for health....must be perfect health with an amount subtracted". Barely able to even think, he cast the spell with great difficulty, and felt himself slowly getting stronger. He fell into a sleep, and found himself dreaming. Or was it a nightmare? He dreamed that he was being drawn toward a book like a magnet. He stood on it and rose into the air, and soon felt his left arm being pulled. He looked and saw an angel. Then someone was pulling his other arm! Turning to look, he saw a very ugly demonlike creature tugging, and he felt that he was being pulled apart. There was a storm brewing overhead. He then felt the demon winning, and the angel losing her grip. The angel, with a sad look on her face, floated away into nothingness.

7th Oct 2002, 17:46
He woke up, and immediately felt a hint of a desire to kill something or someone. Knowing an omen in the way of a dream when he saw one, he decided that he didn't want anything to do with the book. It seemed that with each use, it was taking more control, and he wondered if the same thing happened to the priest so long ago. The desire to kill most certainly wasn't there before, and he was becoming worried that the control would soon be unbreakable if it wasn't already. He knew what he must do to keep the book from destroying any more lives, especially his own. He searched for the pool of water that they had seen earlier. He didn't know how deep the pool was, but surmised that if the pool could swallow littlek, and she could completely disappear, then it most likely wasn't shallow. He hurled the book into the water, hoping that it would never be found again. He waited for the book to surface as littlek had done...and waited, and waited. Satisfied that the book would not come back up, he started to walk from the pool. He reasoned that if anyone ever did find it, they still wouldn't have the amulet. And then it happened. All of a sudden, with the book's hold no longer over him, Yubetcha could not remember how he got there! The memory was gone. The last thing he remembered was lying on a boulder. How could he have gotten here? Or was the water ride and the boulder a dream? And how about littlek and Speedy? He called out to them, and waited for the echo to die for the answer. He listened. Nothing. He called again. Still nothing. He began to wonder if he dreamed them too. The only answer he received was a distant growl. Then he remembered the beast. If the beast wasn't a dream, then how could littlek and Speedy be a dream? He rescued littlek from that awful thing. And then he heard the multitudinous whistles, almost in unison! He looked and saw many spiders coming toward him. No, running. His heart began to pound very fast. He decided that he wasn't going to be their dinner without a fight. He reached for his sword. Not there. He reached for something, anything in his pouch, but it was almost empty. Then he remembered Dead Man's rocks, and the swim, and that he almost drowned. He remembered dumping his equipment, and watching it sink toward the bottom! So the boulder and the swim was not a dream! He ran through the cave exit, hoping he would find the waterfall. The bridgeless gap made him stop, however. He looked behind himself, and saw the spiders coming. It was Deja Vu! There were some wooden planks lying in the water below. Yubetcha jumped into the water, grabbed a plank, and held on. He paddled through the water, and after twists and turns, came to the main artery, and eventually went over the waterfall. Seeing the lights of the Whale Spout through the thin fog was a welcome sight. He also saw that he was again not far from the rocks. He let go of the plank, and swam to the shore, still confused as to what was a dream and what wasn't, and still wondering how he got into the cave. As he climbed out of the water, he felt something tug at his neck. Looking down, he saw an amulet with its chain around his neck. "What th'?" Where did that come from?!"

7th Oct 2002, 22:37
Fuschia groaned and slowly opened her eyes. It was still dark, and the faint throbbing of the street lamp below matched the rhythm of her aching skull. Tentatively lifting a hand to her forehead, she felt a bump and winced slightly. Then, running her fingers through her hair, she realised she had been bleeding.

Lifting herself off the floor, Fuschia moved to her dresser and picked up a small hand mirror. She tilted her head to one side and examined the damage. Blood had clotted and dried in the hair above her right ear, and the bump on her forehead was swollen and purple.

"Filthy pigs," she cursed. "Templar's, Hammer's, Mechanist's...These religious nuts are all the same."

Fuschia made her way to the wash room, and using a dampened cloth, began to wipe away the blood. The moist rag loosened up the clot and the pain cut through her skull. She gritted her teeth and continued until most of the blood was gone. Then, tossing the stained cloth to one side, she returned to her room and picked out some apropriate clothing for the buisness that lay ahead.

Stooping at the foot of her bed, Fuschia moved her fingers along the floorboards until she found a sliver of hemp and pulled the loose plank free. Taking out the hidden bundle, she unraveled it on the bed to reveal six slender steel blades. She held one up in the dim light and tested it's edge. Her body grew tense, her expression more focussed. Her eyes became transfixed in the gleam of the metal, as a wicked smile drew tight across her lips.

"So the Templar's are on the hunt for a murderer are they?!" Fuschia moved to the window and looked out across the rooftops. "Well the night is still young, and a girl's gotta have her fun now hasn't she."

8th Oct 2002, 16:02
Yubetcha walked into the Whale Spout, and wondered why much of the room was wet, from the bar to the walls to the floor. The barkeep was wringing out his rag. Yubetcha decided that he didn't want to know. There was a vague memory of....what was it?....something about rain....but it clearly was not raining, and even if it was, there were no holes in the roof. He decided that perhaps there was some kind of fun that happened there....some kind of game that he was not aware of. Perhaps there was some kind of water fight. At the bar stood a guard whose purse he had lightened a few nights ago, and he decided that he wasn't welcome there. He left the way he came in. It was a good thing it was so late. Most people were probably in bed.

8th Oct 2002, 16:21
Littlek was in that half awake, half dreaming state. She thought she had fallen asleep next to the fireplace in the Crippled Burrick and that someone was yelling at her trying to wake her up. She was so warm and so content to stay right where she was and decided to ignore the person trying to wake her. A thought came her to foggy brain…..maybe her bath was ready. She tried with difficulty to bring her post hypothermic brain back to consciousness and began to slowly awaken. She managed to get her eyelids to flutter open slightly then they involuntarily shut again. She willed her eyes to open long enough to get a blurry glimpse of her tormentor. It was a guard. Her eyes snapped open and the synapses in her brain fired rapidly bringing her to full alertness.

“I’m not gonna ask you again you missy. Get outta me bed. Look at what you done to me sheets! I’m gonna brain you and drag you Cragscleft, I am. That’s what I’m gonna do. You’ll rot in there the rest of your life and the lunatics will have their way with you. From the smell of ya, you’re already rottin’.” The guard already had his sword drawn and shook it menacingly.

Confused but recognizing a threat, littlek slowly slipped out of the bed and backed away. She was looking for the door to try and make a run for it but she was unfamiliar with the room and could not locate it. All she knew was that she was not by a cozy fire in the Crippled Burrick surrounded by her friends. She eyed the angry guard warily then a silent movement on the stairs caught her eye. She recognized Speedy, her BJ drawn.

The guard then started yelling for another guard. “Where’s that Arnie. ARNIE! YOU UP THERE? GET DOWN HERE. YOU DRUNK AGAIN?” The guard started to turn slightly towards the stairs. Littlek had to act fast to keep his attention on her so he did not see Speedy.

Littlek slowly crouched and faced the irate guard threateningly. “You think I smell. When was the last time you took a bath? I bet your mother was a burrick. You’re about as pretty as one and smell worse.”

The guard turned back towards littlek who was now maneuvering him so that his back was to the stairs and the approaching Speedy. “What’s me mum got ta do with this? And she ain’t no burrick you slimy, smelly taffer. I’m really gonna hurt you now. ARNIE GET DOWN HERE. I GOT YER A PRESENT.” Speedy slowly stepped off the last of the stairs and tiptoed towards the unsuspecting guard.

littlek stood up straight and put both her hands on her hips. “OK, I’ll take that back about your mother. Your mom is not a burrick. But I bet your father is. Have you looked in a mirror lately? You have a face only a mother could love.”

With that final insult the guard raised his sword high above his head, let out a growl and started his charge towards littlek. He took only one step before Speedy’s BJ cracked his thick skull and he fell in a heap on the wooden floor. He moaned then lay still.

Speedy said with a wide grin. “I could barely suppress a giggle sneaking up on him. You really made him angry.”

“It’s just what came out of my mouth trying to keep him from seeing you. He’s about as bright as a winter day in Alaska. He was yelling for another guard named Arnie. You wouldn’t happen to know what happened to him?” Littlek inquired.

“He’s taking a nap.” Speedy said with a grin.

Littlek looked around, confused. “What is going on? I thought I was in the Crippled Burrick sitting by a warm fire and I wake up to that ugly mug leaning over me. How did I end up in his bed?” Suddenly littlek’s face reflected realization, that instantly changed to horror, and ended with revulsion. “Oh no, I didn’t. I wouldn’t…..not with…”

Laughing, Speedy stopped her rambling “Stop, it is nothing like that. I pulled you out of the river and you were delusional. I put you in that bed. You were mumbling about a bath, ale and had a nice chat with Thorin. You’ve been asleep for a long time. I just got back from exploring this place and the surrounding establishments. I came back to check up on you and heard the guard yelling. So I used that warped vine arrow I found in the spider den to get upstairs and you know the rest.

Littlek gave out a long sigh. “Thank the Thievery for that. Well. Now I feel pretty good. So I was just dreaming about being at the Burrick. Too bad. Everyone was there and BA bought me some ale and BBQ’d burrick. Which reminds me. I’m starving. Wonder if that guard has anything to eat around here.”

“I already ate his supper. But I went to the Whale’s Spout and brought this food back for you. There is some clean dry clothes on the bed.” Speedy pulled out a thick chunk of greasy burrick steak sandwiched between 2 slices of thick crusty bread. It was still warm. She handed it to littlek who tore at it hungrily. Out of another pouch, she pulled out two large bottles of ale, opened up one and handed it to littlek then opened the other for herself. Littlek took a long grateful drink. They both walked to the table and sat down.

“Speedy, what would I ever do without you. You have saved my life more times than I can count. I’m not sure I can return the favor. It doesn’t get much better than Whale Spout burrick.” She took another large bite of the sandwich and talked while she chewed. “I am not a good thief. I am also a coward. I lost it in that old church, cavern or wherever we were. You want a bite of this?”

Speedy took a sip of her ale. “No, I already ate one. Who didn’t lose it in that place? You did save us from the zombies by throwing that holy water mine. That took courage.”

“That was not courage. I didn’t even know I was throwing the mine. For all I knew, it could have been a rock or even a skull. I felt something in my hand and simply threw it. Just happened to be that mine.” She chewed thoughtfully on some of the leathery meat. “That mine was neat though. Wonder if there is any more down there? We could retire selling those.” She took another long drink of the bitter ale. "Hey, you're all wet. Is it raining outside?"

“No but it was raining INSIDE the Whale Spout. Really strange. That is an interesting thought about the holy water mine. I am glad you brought it up. That pool you fell in healed you from the spider venom. I am not sure if you realize that.” Speedy paused then continued. “Are you familiar with the tale about the holy book a great sorcerer had hidden in a spring?”

“I have heard about it, yes.” Littlek popped the last of the sandwich in her mouth.

“Well I think that spring we found is the same healing spring in the fairy tale. I’m intrigued by that book. I have considered going back and getting it.”

Littlek chocked on the last of her sandwich. “Are you nuts? That place nearly killed us. Anyhow, the story goes that if you are not pure of heart the water will kill you. I do not consider myself pure of heart and it did not kill me. I do not believe that water healed me. I just got lucky that the spider was too young to have much venom. I just passed out from sheer fright and that cold water simply woke me up.”

Speedy sighed leaned forward and stared hard into littlek’s eyes. “Small or not, you nearly died from that spider’s venom. You were barely breathing when we found you. If you did not fall into that pool, I doubt you would have survived.” She signed then leaned back. “Relax, I’m not ready to venture into that place right away. I found this treasure map and I’d like to investigate it first. You game?” Speedy pulled out the map and spread it out on the table.

Littlek swallowed the last of the sandwich and leaned forward to look at the map more closely. “This is the strangest map I have ever seen. I’m in but I cannot figure this map out.”

Speedy answered. “Let’s go before more guards show up. Change your clothes and then we’ll go shopping and decide what items we want to stock up on. I’d like to find Yubetcha and I also need to get some advice about this map.”

Littlek stood up and changed into the clean, dry clothes Speedy brought. “Hey these fit nice. Best of all they are dry.” Littlek commented. “Let’s have a toast. Here’s to the treasure map.” Speedy picked up her bottle and they touched bottles then drained the last of the ale down their throats. littlek then followed Speedy out of the door.

Emerging from the mist approached a familiar figure. It was Yubetcha!

8th Oct 2002, 17:08
Speedy said, "Well, stranger, where have you been? And what is that around your neck?"
Yubetcha replied, "Well, I dunno where this amulet came from, but some strange things have been happening to me lately. Either my dreams are very realistic, or....well, I dunno. It's strange. Some things seem like a dream and yet they don't. One minute I'm on some boulders, and the next minute, I'm in a cave after we all had left it. And I don't remember how I got there."
Littlek looked at Speedy, and began to wonder about his sanity.
Then Speedy told him about the pool and the book. Yubetcha replied, "I heard something about that when I was younger, but I always thought it was a myth. Or perhaps a hit and myth.. :D Anyway, it might not even be the same book or the same pool. So are you guys going to try to find a way back in to get the book? Perhaps it would be best to just forget about it, I dunno. "

8th Oct 2002, 18:12
"A hit and myth?" Speedy looked puzzled... "I didn't know you had a lisp Yubetcha?" They all laughed...

“I can't think about the Book right now.... I have to head back to The Whales Spout.” I said to Yubetcha and littlek. “The answers I need are there and I can’t go back in through the front door… the barkeep thinks I’m some sort of wizard or something so I’m going to have to sneak in… alone.”

"Wizard?" Yubetcha blushed reaching up, touching the amulet around his neck, "Heh."

“Littlek and I were going to find some weapons first though.” I said. “Perhaps that ship docked in the Sheriff’s private slip holds the rewards we are seeking?”

“What kind of answers are you looking for Speedy?" Asked Yubetcha.

Littlek spoke up, “I’ll fill Yubetcha in on the map Speedy. You go back to The Whales Spout while we take care of getting the weapons we’ll need.”

“Map?” questioned Yubetcha, “What kind of map?”

“Thanks littlek.” I said giving her a hug. “Meet me behind the pub in an hour… I should have the information we’ll need by then.”

“What information?” Yubetcha inquired skeptically.

“Trust us Yubetcha,” Speedy whispered in his ear, “We just may become rich, rich beyond our wildest dreams!!” Walking off towards The Whale Spout Speedy turned back to wave to her friends.

Yubetcha looked back and forth between the two woman.

Littlek smiled at Yubetcha taking his arm and added, “If not rich at least it’s gonna be fun!” "Come on big guy let's get crackin."

10th Oct 2002, 21:46
Approaching the landmark I knew I’d have to enter the beached ship unseen. Edging between two buildings west of the pub I climbed a fence and entered the alleyway that had been cut off when the old galleon came to rest during the infamous storm of ’42.

Hurricane Vicktoria was the final storm that season to smash into the waterfront. Over the years the town had rebuilt the damaged wharf and warehouses but the city council had decided to leave the ship in place as a reminder of mother natures furry. Fact was they didn't really have much of a choice since everytime they tried to dismantel the ship the workers became ill... many dying of strange diseases. The curse was kept a secret from the general population and over time The Whales Spout became a hangout for cutthroats and seafarers.

I was surprised when a dog growled then barked and ran off as I disturbed his hunt for scraps in an over turned trashcan. Eyeing the ship from a safe distance I let a rope arrow fly into the side of the hull, waiting several seconds I slipped in and out of the shadows until I reached the rope end then made my assent to the main deck. Only a couple windows were lit so I knew someone was still awake… I could hear snoring coming from the other gun turrets that had been remolded into guest rooms. If I don't find what I needed inside The Whales Spout I could always check the rooms, I thought to myself.

Peering over the edge of the skylight I waited until the bartender went to the kitchen then lowered myself like a spider into the hold where the tavern had been built.

Ducking into one of the secluded booths I waited until the barkeep returned then made my way to the kitchen. I knew one of the cooks and was prepared to pay well for information that would lead me to someone with knowledge about pirates and treasure. Taffed it was empty… the stove still aglow with embers hot from the burrick roast that lay on the counter, picked clean from the sandwiches made earlier that evening. There were two other doors leading from the kitchen. Creeping along the wall I approached the first door… it was locked, picking it was easy. Pausing I listening for voices inside letting the door swing slightly ajar. The room was empty. I pushed the door with the toe of my boot until I could clearly see wine barrels and liquor storage. Moving on to the second door I could hear the sailors’ squabbling in the tavern behind me over whose turn it was to buy the next round. The door was locked too… must be the cold-room I thought. Perhaps Hans was in there. I tried picking it to make sure but to no avail.

“Hmmm, interesting… liquor storage room is pickable this one is not. What could be more valuable than liquor in a pub? There must be a key around here somewhere.” I said to myself.

Entering the hall back to the bar area I crouched then crawled into the pub and hid in a shadowed corner. The rowdy sailors were getting way out of hand. One of them was peeing in the pool just below the taverns name sake… the barkeep was threatening to kick him out and made a dash towards the huge bronze statue of a whale giving me just enough time to slip behind the curved bar.

I could hear a chair being broken over someone’s head as the brawl escalated… several other patrons joined in swearing. Safe for the moment I quickly looked over the guest book and room assignments hoping to see a name I recognized then dismissed the possibility knowing no one uses his or her real name when checking into a place like this.

Covering my tracks I carefully put the ledger back where I found it. I noticed a small box hidden deep in the same cubbyhole. Smiling I opened it. It was full of currency. As I lifted the cash I noticed a key buried beneath the bills. Leaving the majority of the coins and notes untouched I pocketed the key and some change… gambling that the barkeep wouldn’t notice that it had been lifted when he opened the box again. If this was the key to the locked door in the kitchen there were probably more valuables in there than the barkeep pulls in, in a week. If not, I could always come back and boost the cashbox after I got the information I was seeking.

Breaking glass caught my attention. I scurried out from behind the bar but was unable to reenter the kitchen unseen. Ducking back into the secluded booth I hid under the table pulling the heavy leather curtains for protection… waiting I wondered if littlek and Yubetcha were having any luck with their endeavors.

11th Oct 2002, 12:43
As Yubetcha and littlek walked down the street in shadows, he said, "Boy, I feel like a stepchild. Nobody answers my questions."
Littlek explained as they walked.
"Before we get the weapons, we need to stop at a store to get some raw Burrick meat", he told her. Littlek looked at him strangely, but said nothing. Picking the lock, they went in, took the meat, and left. Littlek asked, "Why did we need the meat? I'm sure you realize that we don't have time to go home and cook it. And don't tell me that you're going to eat that raw! Yech!" Yubetcha only said, "You'll see". Dodging patrols along the way, they went to the weapons shop. They went to the alley, and Yubetcha looked through the window. Littlek said, "Watch out. A large dog roams the building. Oh, I get it! The meat!" Yubetcha nodded, and said, "The windows are locked. You would think that people don't trust each other around here", Yubetcha chuckled. Then he continued, "Tell ya what. I'll pick the lock of the door on the other side of the building, and then you break this window. When the dog comes, hold this meat out, but don't give it to him. While he's here trying to get it, I'll go in and ...."
Littlek interrupted, "You want me to WHAT? No, not on your life!".
Yubetcha reassured her. "Relax! I'll find a gas arrow, and put him to sleep, but I need you to keep him busy till I do. You won't have any problems." He finished the sentence with a thought to himself. "We hope".
Yubetcha went around the building, and Littlek waited, and then broke the window according to plan. The dog came running into the room, with a threatening growl. It was the biggest and meanest dog she had ever seen, a Rottweiler. Its fangs looked as though they could eat through wood if given the chance, and his fiery eyes looked as though they wanted her for dinner. Littlek said, "Here, mutt", holding the meat outside the window, but up where the dog could see it. The dog just stared at the meat hungrily, and the growl was replaced by a whine, and then a bark.
"Sssshhhhhhh, ya dumb mutt. What are ya trying to do, wake up the neighborhood?!". An eternity passed, as littlek was waiting for Yubetcha. The dog barked once more. And then again. She constantly looked toward the doorway that the dog came through, hoping that Yubetcha would show up before she became an old woman. She noticed that the dog looked as if he was going to pounce. Just then, a figure appeared in the doorway. Littlek thought, "Thank goodness, Yubetcha. It's about time!".
The face came into the light, and littlek saw not Yubetcha, but the shop's owner. Then the figure said, "Sic 'em, Fluffy!". The dog started to leap just as the man fell to the floor, with Yubetcha standing behind him, BJ in hand. The dog put its head through the window, trying to find her throat. Littlek hit the dog with the meat which made him angry. He fell to the floor from the force, and leaped again. This time, she shoved the meat into the dog's mouth, just as gas from an arrow filled the room. The dog fell again to the floor, but stayed there, silent.
Yubetcha said, "Come around to the door, and help me raid the place". Littlek did so, and got to the front of the building as a guard was rounding a corner. He saw her, and drew his sword, saying, "Well, Missy. What 'r ya doin' out at a time like this? As fer as murderers of guards go, ya'll do just fine. Don't even think about moving!". He walked toward her.

14th Oct 2002, 14:27
Littlek froze to the spot and kept her eyes glued to the approaching guard. He had his sword lowered and kept twisting it menacingly in his hand. He smiled a toothless grin that flaunted confidence in that his target was trapped as he continued his approach. Littlek began to back up to maintain her distance from him.

“I told you to stay put! There aint no use in tryin’ to git away from me missy. There aint no place to go.” The guard snorted when he laughed.

Littlek remained silent, trying to formulate a plan of escape. Just then yubetcha stuck his head out the window and from his vantage was unable to see the guard but did see littlek.

“Hey, quit fooling around. I need some help wi…..” Yubetcha stopped in mid-sentence after noticing littlek’s face, her eyes focused intensely on something out of his view. The guard’s attention then focused on yubetcha voice but he too was unable to see him. He mistakenly turned his head to get a better view. This gave littlek the break she was looking for. She sprang forward, lowered her shoulder and hit the guard in the stomach with all her strength. The guard doubled and grunted as his breath rushed out of his lungs. Before he was able to force in another breath, littlek’s blackjack found its mark on his skull. He crumpled in a heap at her feet.

“Wow, that was impressive. I want you on my team the next time the thieves guild organizes a football game.” Yubetcha teased her. He had come around the front of the building to confront the guard. His sword was still in his hand. “Now quit fooling around. I found the mother load.” He grinned as he sheathed his sword and disappeared through the front door of the building. Littlek ran in after him, determined to keep him in her sight.

“Look over here. Check this out.” Littlek bent over the open chest. The chest was small but it was filled with gold coins, scrolls and jewels. Stamped on the side of the chest was “Property of Sheriff Truart.”

Littlek straighted up. “Maybe we should leave this one alone. Did you notice who it belongs to?”

“All the more reason to take it. You can bet that he stole it himself anyhow. You’ve heard the story about him. The one about he and Garrett.” Yubetcha replied.

Truart and Garrett? No. I have not heard it.” Remember, I’m a newbie. Littlek reminded him.

“I’ll tell you while we stuff our pockets and packs. Truart grew up in the same orphanage as Garrett and Cutty. In fact he Cutty and Garrett escaped the orphanage together and would sneak into the library’s basement to sleep at night. The old night watchman discovered them but rather than return them to the orphanage, he decided to let them stay and educate them so they’d turn out to be 'good tax paying citizens rather than ragamuffins.' So to keep their warm living quarters they endured hours of lessons by old Tom. He taught them to read, appreciate literature and to speak like a nobleman. The three of them used these new skills to intermingle in any social gathering hosted by the nobles; debate politics with the gentlemen and charm their wives. Tom never knew they used these skills to case the places they later robbed. After they grew up into young men, Garrett and Cutty remained friends with Garrett being the better thief and Cutty fencing the goods. But Truart was not satisfied with just robbing wealthy women of their jewels. His additional activities was jeopardizing Garrett and Cutty by attracting unwanted attention so they kicked him out of the guild. He left bitterly and migrated to the North end of the city. The guild lost track of Truart over the years until about five years ago when we learned Karras appointed him sheriff. That was a joke. A perverted thief appointed sheriff. Word on the street was that while Truart was pilfering a wealthy man’s house he found Karras in bed with someone he should not have been in bed with. If the voters or the wealthy husband ever learned about this, it would destroy Karras’ political career and rob him of his status and wealth. Truart never let opportunity slip by and so an uneasy partnership was formed between Karras and Truart. At first we thought that having a fellow thief, as sheriff would be beneficial but Truart made life for us thieves more difficult. He formed 'The Templar' and openly announced that he would personally rid the town of bandits, which meant he was after Cutty and Garrett. We figured he just knew thier habits and a quick arrest of two annoying thugs would bolster his position. Plus he was becoming an upstanding citizen in town and Cutty and Garrett knew too much about his sticky fingered past. What Karras neglected to consider was that his relentless pursuit sharpened Garrett's skills and he evolved into a thief with abilities far superior to when he used to pickpocket. And so taking his little trinkets here does not bother me a bit.”

Littlek pondered the story. “Let’s see if there are any more of Truart’s boxes in here.”

“Come look what I found up here.” Yubetcha told her and headed for the stairs.

14th Oct 2002, 17:00
As littlek got to the top of the stairs, she could see yubetcha through the doorway, drinking a potion. "What's that for?", she asked.
"It's a healing potion I found here on the shelf. Ever since I found myself alone in the cave, I've been feeling weak and slightly ill. Dunno why. Ya know, most potions are flavorless, but this one has a cherry taste. Not bad. Anyway, look what I found. A possible menage´ troi!" He handed her a journal describing Karras and two women, one in bed and one standing at its edge. The journal went on to say that the woman standing was actually a servant, and was looking at the two with a puzzled look. The journal said also that the woman in bed with Karras was on outcall from a brothel called 'The Little Shop of Whores', and that an item exists that links the three. Yubetcha continued, "It looks like someone was blackmailing Karras. I found it in this locked drawer, which I lockpicked. Some people had suspicions that the Golden Child was actually an offspring of Karras and a servant, but it couldn't be confirmed. Makes ya wonder, but it still isn't conclusive. Hmmmm.... I wonder if it has anything to do with that chest of Truart's downstairs. There was also talk of the Little Shop having large Venus Fly Traps for decorations, and Karras hated them". Littlek, still reading the journal, could only roll her eyes and shake her head in disgust. Thinking that they may be able to use the journal, littlek put it into her pouch. Noticing a book and other potions on the shelf, she opened the book. "Hey! Was there any writing on that potion you drank?" Looking at Yubetcha, she noticed that his hands covered his ears. "You don't have to shout", he replied. She picked up the bottle, and read the initials H. P. and then whispered, "This book says that these potions are experimental. You thought that H.P. stood for healing potion, but it stands for hearing potion. The effect only lasts for a minute, according to the book. Let's take all of these potions and this book as well". Gathering up anything that looked useful, she whispered, "As soon as you're finished here, meet me downstairs. I'll continue looking there".
Yubetcha replied, "WAIT! I hear shouting outside. Someone found the body of the guard that you knocked out. We forgot to hide him. They ran to get the other guards. We had better hurry and get as much as we can downstairs, and get out of here!"

14th Oct 2002, 19:49
“Damn those locals. Do they have to find every guard we forget to hide?” Littlek cursed under her breath. “This place is loaded with loot.” She quickly grabbed all the potion bottles on the lower shelves as she headed for the door. She tucked them safely into her pack. Yubetcha was now at the door carefully listening for the returning guards. “Hurry. I can hear footsteps. And they are not the steps of someone taking a leisurely stroll.” He whispered the effects of the hearing potion still in effect.

“Give me a minute.” Littlek whispered back. She climbed on the table to see if there was anything on the upper shelves. She saw a tiara, a ring, stacks coins and tucked in a corner barely noticeable she saw a small dusty box. She jumped to the shelf and grabbed onto the ledge then pulled herself up. There was no room to squeeze between the shelf and the ceiling and the loot and box were out of reach so she dropped back down onto the floor. She pulled out a rope arrow and aimed it carefully on the ceiling by the shelves. It stuck. She then jumped, grabbed the rope and began to climb up to the level of the tall shelf. She easily nabbed the jewelry and coins. Spying the small box, she leaned on the rope to get close enough to grab it. She almost had it when she noticed Yubetcha creeping behind a wooden crate and disappearing into the darkness. Moments later, the door swung open and 3 guards cautiously entered. Littlek could only hope she had enough strength to stay where she was and that she was concealed.

“Here chicky, chicky chicky. I won’t hurt you.….much.” One of the guards taunted. The three milled around the dark room searching.

“I don’t think no ones here.” Another guard commented.
“Someone knocked out Toby and gassed the owner of this place and that dog of his too. Although knowing Toby, he probably ran into the wall and knocked himself out.” This comment made the other two guards laugh. “The taffer or taffers are still here so we keep looking.” The leader of the three continued. “Herbert, you go check upstairs. Jimbo, you look for a light switch or for a torch to light. I’ll look around these crates. Maybe there’s a flare around here.” The three guards then went to perform their tasks as littlek watched from her perch on her rope. Her arms were beginning to tire.

A loud crash followed by generous cursing could be heard upstairs. “Jimbo, go up there and see what Herbert’s got into. I’ll look for the lights down here.” Jimbo vanished upstairs. Littlek saw slight movement from where she saw Yubetcha disappear earlier. She heard his bow draw back followed by the gust of feathers and wood rushing though the air. Then a greenish gas enveloped the lone guard and he silently fell to the ground. She watched as Yubetcha grabbed the guards’ legs and they both disappeared behind the crate.

A second loud crash from upstairs made littlek almost let go of her rope.

“Jimbo, you scared me half to death. I thought you was one of them taffers we was looking for. Why didn’t you warn me. I coulda kilt you.

“You darn near did you lunkhead. Looka the dent you made in my helmet. This is the only one I have. Now it don’t fit nomore.” The guard threw his helmet into a corner. “Come on, there aint no one here. Let’s get the boss and go home before my supper gets any colder.”

The two guards descended downstairs. “Now where did he go?” Herbert asked.

“Maybe he went outside.” Jimbo answered and the two guards left the building.

Littlek let out a big sigh and saw Yubetcha emerge from behind the crate. He was pocketing a purse that he took form the gassed guard. “Let’s go.” He whispered.

She made one last try at the box and stretched to her capacity. She finally reached the box and grabbed it. Then slid down the rope, gave the rope arrow a sideways jerk and retrieved it. She casually recoiled the rope as Yubetcha listened to the guards.

“What was so important up there?” Yubetcha inquired as he listened by the door. The effects of the hearing potion were beginning to wear off.

“This box was hidden in the corner. Thought it may be something important.” Littlek answered and showed him the relic. She then tucked it in her belt.

Yubetcha listened to the guard’s footsteps grow fainter as they walked around to the rear of the building looking for their commander. Yubetcha and littlek opened the door and quietly slipped out. They climbed back over the wall and into the streets then ducked into a dark corner in the wall avoiding the noisy gaslights that illuminated the streets. Yubetcha sat down wearily and rested his back on the brick wall. Littlek dumped the contents of her pack onto the grass. She examined each bottled potion; they acquired 3 health potions, 1 invisibility potion, 2 speed potions, 1 breath potion and 4 bottles with S.P. written on them. She decided to figure what S.P meant later and gave the health potions to Yubetcha who drank them gratefully, his strength renewing with each bottle.

“Let’s see what is in this little box.” She tried to open it but it was locked. She worked at the lock with her lock picks and the old rusty lock finally gave up. The hinge of the box reluctantly squeaked open and inside was another vial of potion. She picked it up and tried to read the worn label on the dim light but could not. So she got up and walked nearer to the gaslights. On the label was written faintly was L.P 99. She walked back to a revived Yubetcha who asked, “Well, What’s the potion?”

“The label says its L.P 99, whatever that is. Maybe we can use that journal you found to figure it out. I found other vials on the shelves with S.P. written on them. ” Answered littlek

Yubetcha thought a moment than began to chuckle.

“What’s so funny?” Asked littlek

“L.P. 99…. think about it." Yubetcha continued laughing.

15th Oct 2002, 13:07
Yubetcha continued, "Wouldn't it be fun to try it on someone? Perhaps one of our friends and a rock?". He laughed.
By this time, littlek caught on, and laughed with him. Yubetcha then took a sheet of paper from his pouch and gave it to littlek. "I also found this in the drawer upstairs."
Littlek looked at the note. "Who's Lop Ear?"
Yubetcha replied, "Last year he came to this area. He was into quite a few things. He tried to get our friends to do a job for him, but I don't know what it was. I wasn't in on that. At that same time, he kidnapped a friend of mine to coerce me into finding someone for him. Not a nice guy. I don't know what happened to him, but when I got back from getting my friend, I heard people talking at the Whale Spout. It seemed that someone cut off one of his arms. Just took it clear off. I don't know if he lived or died, but there was a lot of blood in the alley. I'm inclined to think that he had it coming to him. No one here has seen him since. Anyway, this note is from him to that shop owner back there. It must be pretty old".
Littlek continued to read, " Rastus, once we have the new sheriff, we'll have this town where we want it. With what we have on him, he'll be our puppet. He would never want it to leak out. And the cut he gets from the pot will help too. Now don't forget, put the money we collect to "protect" these other shop owners into our secret place. And after a few bones are broken, they will gladly pay. Put it with the rest of the loot from the scams. We'll have a fortune in no time
Lop Ear"
Suddenly, the pair heard a distant voice. "Stay where you are! Don't move!". Littlek and Yubetcha looked to see guards in the distance running toward them from every direction. Littlek said "Come on!", and scaled the wall. He whispered, "Wait!", but it was too late. She disappeared over the top. He climbed the wall and peered over the edge. Littlek was below, facing Yubetcha, her back against the weapons shop. One of the two guards from the previous encounter had his back to Yubetcha, and his sword at littlek's throat. He said, "Well, Missy! I bet you're the one tha' murdered tha' guard! I'm gonna get a bonus for bringin' you in, and they don' care if you're dead or not! If you're dead, then you can't deny nuthin'", and he laughed. Yubetcha dropped down, his blackjack connecting with the guard's head. The guard went down. "You okay?", Yubetcha asked.
"Yeah. Thanks", she said as she rubbed her throat. "We better get out of here". Just then the other guard rounded the corner of the shop, startling the two. Yubetcha drew his sword. The guard, having practiced, was superior. He blocked Yubetcha's every attempt, but as he swung, Yubetcha was able to maneuver most of the time, keeping out of reach. Then, bringing his sword down to meet Yubetcha's, pushing it down, the guard created an opening. Raising his sword once again, he grazed Yubetcha's cheek. Yubetcha tried to bring out a flashbomb from his pouch, but his fingers fumbled, and couldn't get a grip. The guard, taking advantage, swung his sword, and Yubetcha dodged it. Yubetcha then brought his sword up, cutting the guard's uniform. The guard's sword found its mark against Yubetcha's chest. However, Yubetcha moved back, lessening the blow. It was a small cut, drawing a small amount of blood. Meanwhile, littlek maneuvered behind the guard and hit him. "Thank goodness for blackjacks", she said. After they put the bodies in a shadow, Yubetcha thanked her. Just then, they heard many footsteps on the other side of the wall. Yubetcha said, "Hail, hail, the gang's all here. Come on! We need to leave".
She said, "You had better drink a healing potion. You're bleeding."
He replied, "Aw, it's not bad. Just flesh wounds more or less. I would rather save the potion for the time we need it the most. No time anyway. They'll be on this side of the wall soon". Littlek and Yubetcha ran a few blocks and sat down in a shadow to rest. Yubetcha said, "Thanks for that first healing potion, by the way. Now, after the guards leave the area, I want to go back and get more weapons. But I am also intrigued by the money Lop Ear mentioned. I saw quite a lot of things in that shop that we could use, but didn't have time to get much of it. I got some flashbombs, and gas and water arrows, and a mine and sunburst, but there are still more mines there, and quite a few other things we could use. Or do you think we have enough? Where is this treasure, anyway? Do you know? Do we have enough equipment to get us there and back? I can think of a few more, if this is Twenty Questions", Yubetcha said, chuckling.

15th Oct 2002, 20:21
“Speedy has the treasure map and I have never seen a map like that one before. It will need to be translated and hopefully Speedy was successful accomplishing that feat at the Whales Spout. As for if we have what we need to hunt for that treasure, I cannot say.” Littlek answered.

“Then let’s get what we can. We can always sell the surplus. Meanwhile, we have our own treasure to hunt for.” Yubetcha reminded her.

“Right, ‘ol Lop Ear may have gotten more than Love Potion 99 from Truart for his silence.” Littlek laughed. “Let’s pilfer this weapons shop as long as we are here then go back into the shop.”

“Lead the way!” Yubetcha emphasized with a bow and a wide sweep of his arm.

Littlek took the lead hugging the wall for cover. They could hear guards milling about. Yubetcha pulled on her sleeve and pointed to a dirty basement window. He checked the latch and it was locked. He then reached for a small bag at his belt and took out a slender brass lock pick and worked on the lock. It resisted. He pulled out a silver lock pick and soon the lock clicked open. Yubetcha opened the window and slipped easily inside. The dirt floor muffled the sound of his footsteps. Littlek soon followed. She quietly closed the window and took note of her bearings. The darkness of the basement was comforting. Except for all the damned spider webs clinging to her face. Yubetcha was also busy pulling the spider webs off himself. She hated the thought of spiders scurrying off her as she disturbed their sticky traps. But the webs implied that this part of the house was not often used and so this was a perfect entry point. They stood silently listening to the house while they both rubbed their faces free of the spider webs. They must be under a kitchen because she could hear the light footsteps and the clank of pans and dishes as the cooks busily scurried about preparing supper. There were also heavy footsteps and the sound of wooden legs of chairs being moved as what she guessed were the guards sitting down to eat. Once in awhile she would hear the mingled laughter of male and female voices. The noise was good. It would help to cover their presence and they would know where some of the guards were.

“I thought this was a weapons shop. This must also be a guard house.” Littlek whispered.

“Must have some pretty fine weapons to be guarded this heavily.” Remarked Yubetcha. “Want to turn back?”

“No, let’s see what’s here.”

The basement was illuminated only by any outside light that could infiltrate the sooty windows. But it was enough for them to see. They silently made their way to a door on the opposite side of the room, careful not to disturb any of the old rotting boxes and broken furniture that littered the area. Littlek tried the door latch but it was locked. The rusty lock did not give up easily to her lock picks but persistence won out and the lock clicked noisily open. The door creaked ajar causing Yubetcha to wince. He opened it only a crack to peer into the next room. What he found was a dark, dank hallway. The floor was also dirt with no obvious signs of use except for some strange markings in the dirt that he found strangely familiar but could not quite remember why. He slipped through the door with littlek close behind. Littlek closed it but did not relock it in case they needed a hasty exit.

Yubetcha commented. “Did you notice these markings in the dirt?” Yubetcha and littlek crouched down to examine the strange markings. They looked like footprints of something large but she could not guess what it was that made them. They looked as if whatever made them did so recently.

Littlek answered. I think I have seen these before but I cannot recall where. They give me the creeps though.”

“Me too.” Yubetcha said with a frown. “Let’s look around some more.”

They straightened up and cautiously headed west down the hall memorizing the layout. There were two more doors, both locked. They picked the corroded locks and explored each room examining boxes and cupboards finding nothing of value. They took note of any windows and tested the latches. They continued west down the hallway and came to a stairway. At the top of the stairs was a door and light shone underneath. They stopped at the base of the stairs to listen for any activity. Hearing none, they slowly walked up the old wooden stairs that creaked under their weight. The door was locked so yubetcha put his ear to the door to determine if anyone was on the other side. He heard the soft muttering of a bored guard wondering where his supper was.

Yubetcha smiled and whispered to littlek, “Good help is hard to find.” Littlek put her ear to the door and grinned in understanding.

Yubetcha pointed for them to go back down the stairs. “Let’s see if there is a sewer running under this place.” Littlek nodded in agreement.

They walked back down the stairs to look for where the sewage drained from the house. Littlek preferred using rooftops to navigate the city but sometimes the large underground sewage tunnels provided an excellent highway and escape route. They walked back east, past the room where they first gained entrance into the house. The hallway turned north for a short distance and into total darkness. Neither one could see in this blackness. littlek took out a small flare from her pouch and struck it. The small flame illuminated what they were looking for, the drain cover to the sewers. Yubetcha moved several wooden barrels that blocked the hallway to the drain cover. He lifted the heavy cover and peered inside. He spotted an old oil lamp hanging from a hook on the ladder that descended into the abyss. He reached down and lifted up the lamp disturbing the home of a particularly large spider. It scurried away and they heard it emit a high-pitched hiss as the flare went out. “Creepy.” He mused. He blew the dust off the glass cover and shook the lamp. He heard thick oil slosh inside. littlek lit another flare and Yubetcha returned the lamp to the hook. “Before we go down there, let’s check out the rest of the basement.” He put the drain cover back and they went to explore the rest of the basement under the south wing. They turned south and walked a short distance coming to a solid wall. It did not feel like it was the original architecture of the house, but in this gloom, it was difficult to tell. Nevertheless, the builder of this weapons store made sure the only access to the main part of the store from this part of the basement was using the guarded door.

“Guess we’ll have to see where the sewers go.” Yubetcha asked.

“Seems to be our only choice right now. I was hoping for an alternative.” Littlek replied.

They returned to the entrance to the sewage tunnel, lifted the cover and climbed down the ladder. littlek lit the oil lamp to save their supply of flares and Yubetcha pulled the heavy cover back into its original position. They sniffed the stagnant air and detected the stench of rodents mingled with other putrid odors of waste and decay. Littlek pulled out her sword in case she ran into that hissing spider again. She absently rubbed her neck where she was bitten previously. The tunnel extended north and south, directly under the main part of the store. They turned south and sloshed through the tunnel kicking irritably at a few rats that came to investigate the intruders. They soon found that a large metal grate stopped their progress. Yubetcha looked for a lock or door but found none. Upon closer inspection, littlek noticed that this barrier was recently constructed and would only open from a control located elsewhere. This store was a barricade that made getting inside even more appealing.

“We’ll have to find someway else to get in.” littlek commented. “Maybe the guard left to eat his supper.”

Yubetcha agreed and was about to turn away when he heard a strange sound from deep in the tunnel. He had heard this sound before but could not place it. Littlek heard it too. They stopped and pondered, trying to recognize the sound. And then they heard it again.... it sounded like heavy breathing. He stared into the gloom and thought he saw a large pale object that undulated slightly. He sensed it staring ominously at him. The only sounds now were the slow moving water and the scurrying of rats. littlek then raised the oil lamp above her head trying to spread the diameter of the illumination. Still they could not see what it was. Whatever lived in the sewers under the weapons store gave her the creeps, and the stench in the sewer had gotten worse. She tried not to breath in too deeply.

“Where is a fire arrow when I need one.” Yubetcha mused. They backed cautiously away from the grate then turned around and hurriedly sloshed back to climb up into the basement. Fear was thick in the dank air.

From the other side of the gate, the creature emitted a low growl and crept closer to the gate. It’s bulging; bloodshot eyes searched the gloom for the two humans that just disappeared into the darkeness. Saliva dripped from its long, pointed teeth. It was hungry but there was no way to get the humans through the gate. It touched the gate with a pointed claw, its thin, pinkish skin shone in the dim light. In frustration, it swiped at an unfortunate rat that scurried under the gate. The rat was cleaved neatly in half. The creature picked up the remains and stuffed the rat into its mouth before turning back into the gloom.

16th Oct 2002, 13:16
They decided to investigate the tunnel to the north, when they heard the growl again. In haste, they climbed the ladder into the basement. They went back to the wall that didn't quite fit, and examined it with the still lit oil lamp. It seemed to be built more recently than the surrounding area. However, their efforts to find a switch or some such device to move it were in vain. Then littlek went to an old bookcase that was against an adjoining wall. It looked as though it was very old, and would no longer hold books. She examined it, but could find nothing out of the ordinary. Then she saw something. On the bottom shelf was a note. She picked it up, and read to Yubetcha with a puzzled look, "My birthday".
Yubetcha replied, "Why didn't you say so? Happy birthday, but what does that have to do with this?"
She responded, "No, silly. The note! I wonder if it has something to do with Rastus." She examined the bookcase more closely, and wondered what the note could mean. Noticing that the bookcase was very light, she moved it from the wall, and found three buttons behind it on the wall. The plaster surounding the buttons looked as though it was newer than the surrounding wall, and approximately the same age as the wall that seemed out of place. Littlek whispered, "That's great. I wonder what happens if we press the buttons in the wrong sequence."
Yubetcha was thinking aloud, as he repositioned the bookcase, "Hmmm.... there aren't enough buttons for all of the birthday digits, so it could be the month, day or year, but not all of them, most likely. Or maybe the note doesn't have anything to do with the buttons at all. It could mean something else entirely. Such a mystery." Turning to littlek, he said, "I suppose the answer is upstairs somewhere. You know what that means. I wonder if the guard is gone."

17th Oct 2002, 18:34
The Whales Spout was full of activity as usual. With ships docking and sailing at all hours of the night and day I knew someone would eventually swagger in if I waited long enough.

I recognized his voice first. He’d thrown open the front door and loudly announced his presence…

“Argh, avast ye mateys, GANGWAY!!!!” Pushing his way through the crowd he continued. “It’s been a flounders age since I last set eyes on the likes of ye bilge rats.” A roar went through the pub filled with welcomes and cursing as he made his way to the bar. “Shiver me Timbers, if it ain’t Dovida. Ahoy, me hearty!'' He spat on the floor and stretched out his good hand to shake the owners, then continued... "Is that a yardarm in yer bloomers, or are ye just glad to see me?” He teased.

Slowly he pulled his unshaken hand back as Dovida glared at him.
“I’m not ye hearty you scurvy dog. You’ll be walking the plank off the poop deck and winding up in Davy Jones' locker, sleeping with the fishes if you don’t pay up from the last time you was in here.” He leaned over the bar staring deep into the scallywags eyes.

The pub got dead silent as both men squared off.

“Don’t make me get my cat o’nine tails out.” Dovida threatened, “I just got me one of them fancy gibbet cages and yer gonna find yourself strung up in it in my cabin if yer not careful.”

“Promises, promises you sight for sore eyes.” The visitor chided grabbing him by the shoulders and planting a big wet one right on his forehead.

“Hey, watch that hook Lop Ear it’s sharp!!!” Divora winced, prying the claw from his shoulder. “Aye, sorry I’m still getting use to it.” Lop Ear apologized, wiping it on his sleeve. “Yeah, all you need now is a peg leg, patch and a parrot to complete the new look.” Laughed the bar owner.

“So what brings ye back to The Whales Spout you hornswaggler?” Asked Divora. “Ahhhh, you wouldn’t happen to have some of that “Nelson’s Folly” hidden behind the bar would ya?” Lop Ear inquired sheepishly. “You got coinage this time or will you be dancen the hempen jig when I’m done with ya?” Divora signaled the bartender to take a break and took over.

Realizing this was my chance to trawl for answers I baited the hook and tossed a few coins at Lop Ears feet. They didn’t go unnoticed. Divora turned his back on Lop Ear to grab a clean tankard as he bent to pick them up and looked in my general direction. I coughed so he knew where I was hiding. Standing up he plunked the coins on the bar smiling at Divora.

18th Oct 2002, 16:12
Yubetcha and littlek walked cautiously toward the stairs, and just as they started to climb, they heard a key being inserted into the door above them. Quickly putting the lantern out, they hurried to the space under the stairs just as a figure started to descend them. Looking through the steps, they could see only that he wasn't a guard. They followed him to the wall. As he moved the bookcase, they moved closer to be able to see the buttons, all the while staying in darkness. After the figure pushed the red buttons, the wall opened wide, exposing a darkened area. The figure entered and lit a torch, and then looked behind him. Not seeing anyone, he pushed a single red button, and continued on as the wall closed behind him.
Littlek and Yubetcha walked slowly to the buttons. They decided to wait a few seconds to allow time for the figure to go past the hallway, and then pushed the buttons in the same sequence. The wall opened, and they went inside. They glanced around the area, and pushed the single button to close the wall. At the far end was a metal door. It opened with a squeal, and they hoped that no one heard it. Looking past the door, they saw a lit torch and stairs going down, and followed them. At the bottom, they found a wooden door, and opened it just enough to peer inside.

21st Oct 2002, 13:32
“Was that Rastus?” Littlek asked.

“I’m not sure but I do know he isn’t Lop Ear, this guy has both his ears.” Mused Yubetcha.

“Do you think that guard is still upstairs? We were supposed to meet Speedy after an hour and we still have to go back and plunder that shop again. Plus I have to go to the bathroom.”

“The bathroom! Now?” Yubetcha questioned.

“Yes.” Littlek said emphasizing the s and squirming.

Yubetcha rolled his eyes. “Let’s go see if we can get rid of the guard and then we can come back down now that we know the button sequence. He closed the door and followed littlek back to the guards’ door – she was nearly running. They crept up the stairs careful of the squeaky boards. Littlek and put her ear to the door. “The guard’s still there.” She whispered. Yubetcha listened at the door too. “We need a distraction.”

Meanwhile, in the depths of the sewer beneath the weapons store, the beast lurked. It became trapped under the weapons shop after the great gate closed while it was stalking an unwary meal wandering through the sewers. It had caught and consumed that human long ago and the other one yesterday. But it was hungry again. It could hear movement and smell prey above but was unable to find a way to gain an entrance. Its bulging eyes were well adapted to the gloom of the sewer as it searched the sides of the sewer for weakness. It ambled to the opposite end of the shop where the sewer was barricaded by another gate. It hit the gate in frustration and let loose a shrill scream.

The guard, Yubetcha and littlek heard the scream. Yubetcha heard the guard abruptly stand up and say, “What was that? Is somebody there?”

“There’s the distraction. But I don’t like the sound of it.” Whispered Yubetcha. They listened to the guards footsteps fade as he crept cautiously down the hall. Littlek took this opportunity to pick the lock and open the door a crack. She peered down the hall. It was empty but the guards’ footsteps could still be heard. The hall was lit by a single noisy gaslight. She pulled a water arrow from her quiver and quickly put out the light. The guards’ footsteps were now sounding louder. They slipped through the door and walked quickly and silently towards a darkened corner and crouched. The guard appeared shortly afterwards and walked past the corner not noticing the duo crouched in the darkness. The door they just slipped through also opened and the man who had shown them the button sequence ran in.

“Guard! What was that sound? The man asked.

“I don’t know sir. I heard strange noises here last night but I thought they were rats.” The guard answered.

“Well secure this door and why is the light out? I can’t see a thing. I might fall and break my neck!” The man asked.

“Sorry sir. It must have gone out when I went to investigate the noise. I’ll light it right away sir.” The guard moved over to the lamp. Littlek and Yubetcha silently crept down the hall and into the shadow of a door. Yubetcha tried the door and discovered it was unlocked and opened it.. He peeked in. The room was empty. The guard just relit the gaslight when littlek slipped undetected into the room. They heard the man walk by the door and then down the hall.

“That was close.” Yubetcha said with a big sigh.

”Too close.” Littlek replied and hurried towards a closed door inside the room. It too was unlocked so she opened it and was grateful that it was a bathroom. She turned to yubetcha, “I’ll be right back.” She walked in and closed the door behind her.

Yubetcha was impatient to get to the secret room but took this opportunity to take a look around the this room. He saw a light switch by the door and turned on the lights. There was a single bed in the corner, an armoire, a single desk and a chair. On the desk was a note. He read it silently.

My dearest Amy,

Hank did not show up for work yesterday morning and so I have been reassigned to guard the door that leads to the basement. At first, I was pleased because I thought this would be an easy post to guard but last night, I heard some strange noises coming from the basement. I went to investigate and heard something big walking around the sewers below. I almost opened the sewer hatch thinking it was Hank returning from wherever he ran off to. Then I smelled it. It’s stench permeated even through the door. I was frozen with fear and I am very afraid of what evil lurks in the sewers. I cannot help but wonder if that creature harmed Hank.

Yubetcha scanned the rest of the letter as the author professed his love for Amy and was looking forward to their picnic next week. He put the letter back on the table. He pocketed a few coins that were carelessly left on the table by the bed.

Littlek opened the bathroom door and motioned for Yubetcha to come in. “Check this out.” She pointed to a small lever cleverly hidden underneath a vanity table. She pushed the lever down and a small door opened leading into the secret passage inside the wall. They slipped inside and closed the secret door behind them. Dim gaslights illuminated the long narrow passageway. It seemed they were in the middle of the weapons shop and the passage extended both directions. “Well, do you want to go back to the basement or explore this area first?” littlek inquired.

Intrigued, Yubetcha replied, “Well as long as we are here, we may as well find where they store the weapons. Which way should we go? I have lost my bearings.”

Let me get out my compass.” littlek replied.

The monster’s hunger was unbearable. It had to get out of the sewer or die of starvation. It could hear prey softly walking above him. A light came on and shone through a small crack between the floorboards. It reached up and slipped a long claw into the crack, hooking onto the board. It began to pull at the board slowly, testing its strength. The board resisted at first then began to bow and crack. Soon it splintered inwards. The monster quickly used both of its powerful arms to break up enough floorboards for it to pulls itself upwards into the hallway. An alarmed guard ran past just as the monster pulled its massive body through the hole. It reached out to snare the human with a claw but missed. The frightened guard ran down the hall screaming for help. The monster pursued.

Yubetcha and littlek heard the sounds of splintered wood and the screams of the fleeing guards. Littlek looked at yubetcha, her face showing confusion. Yubetcha told her about the letter Hank wrote. “Sounds like Hanks concerns about what was behind the door were true.” Littlek commented. “I wonder it this has anything to do with what we saw in the caverns?”

“We buried that beast.” Yubetcha reminded her. “But the one tearing up this place had to have a momma and a daddy. And it may have a few siblings.”

“Suddenly, I’m content to stay right where we are.” Littlek said looking around.

They stood quietly and listened to the carnage. There could hear guards running and screaming but none were as loud as the ear-piercing yells of the monster as it chased after the guards. They could hear the guards run into rooms and slam the doors shut trying to hide but the beast easily shattered the doors in pursuit. Soon the sounds grew faint then the building was eerily quiet.

Littlek and Yubetcha looked at each other. “You thinking what I am thinking?” littlek inquired.

“Either the building is empty or that beast is feasting. Either way, this building is ours.” Yubetcha said with a wide grin. He looked at littlek’s compass and said, “Let’s go this way.” They headed down the narrow passage looking for another secret door that opened up into the shop.

“I’ve been thinking.” Yubetcha commented as they walked. “That monster cleared this building out very well. We could go back to the caverns, get one as a baby and train it to…..”

littlek interrupted, “What’s this ‘we’ stuff. Leave me out of your monster training schemes. Ah, here it is.” She leaned over and flipped a concealed switch next to some pipes. A narrow door opened into a dark closet. They slipped though. The closet door consisted simply of a red curtain. Yubetcha peeked though the gap. They had made their way to the kitchen.

Crunchy deer legs and freshly baked bread were on the table. Yubetcha and littlek grabbed them up and ate hungrily. They washed down their quick meal with some ale. Yubetcha continued, “I’m serious. A monster like that could be handy. Just point it towards a building, say ‘sick ‘em’ and we have an empty building.” Yubetcha grinned between bites of venison. Littlek nearly spewed her mouthful of ale all over the table trying to suppress a laugh at Yubetcha’s plans for a monster as a partner. They were in good humor while they finished their meal and on their way out, pocketed the silver and a few apples.

They walked into the hallway. It was littered with broken doors and chairs. The walls had arrows stuck into them and several activated mines littered the floor. They carefully deactivated each mine and added them to their packs. They peeked through each shattered door and soon found the storehouse where the weapons were manufactured and stored. They quickly learned why the shop was so heavily guarded. This was a place where experimental weapons were manufactured and tested. There were the usual assortment of arrows and mines that had been scattered around by the hasty attempt of the guards to fight the monster. But it was what was on the top shelves that interested the duo. They climbed up and began to gather up sunbursts, more bottles of potions with the yet unknown S.P. labels, and a familiar looking mine. Littlek held up the mine. “Does this look like that holy water mine we found in the caverns?” Yubetcha took the mine and examined it closely. “It sure does.” He shook it by his ear. “I can hear water inside.” He pocketed the mine. “Are there any more?”

“I’ll keep looking but my pack is getting heavy.” Littlek said.

“Mine too. We’d better only take the best stuff.” They climbed each shelf and sifted through the merchandise and took gas mines, sun bursts, gas arrows and moss arrows. They left the broadhead arrows, swords and flares. Yubetcha climbed down from the top of the last shelf and walked to a desk in the corner. He read through some papers in a drawer. “Here it is.” He said out loud.

Littlek hopped down from the shelf and walked over. Yubetcha handed her the document. It was a note from Lop Ear to Rastus.


Your stronghold had better be more secure than your mouth. News of our growing wealth has been a favorite topic of discussion at The Whale’s Spout. You better change the button sequence weekly. Write the new sequence under the sink in the guard’s bathroom.

Lop Ear

P.S. Don’t forget to destroy this letter.

“Lucky for us Rastus is forgetful. I don’t think he had time to change the button sequence.” Yubetcha said and pocketed the note. “Let’s go back and see what is behind secret door number 1.” They walked back into the hall. They could hear alerted guards running the streets and distant screams but no one ventured near the weapons shop. They easily found their way back to the basement. Yubetcha pushed the button sequence and the door swung open. The torch was still lit so they crept down the stairs to the wooden door and listened at the door. There was no sound. Littlek opened it cautiously and they stepped inside. It was pitch black except for the dim light that radiated from the torch in the stairway.

22nd Oct 2002, 15:26
Yubetcha reached around the doorway, searching for a switch. He turned on the light, and the dynamic duo entered the room. Looking around the room, they saw a desk against the far wall, a large bookcase filled with books, two tables and two chairs. At the far end was a metal door with a barred window. On one table, they found four bags of white powder. On the other, they saw a pile of gold coins, a sheet of paper and two books. Yubetcha and littlek counted the coins, and were disappointed that there was only enough for two months rent for each. Then they tasted the powder, but agreed that they did not know what it was. Yubetcha opened the book, and exclaimed, "Boy, it looks like these guys were into a lot of scams". He read aloud to littlek.
Shipped out to accomplice in Glester on the Lucky Lady:
four faulty gas arrows
three faulty rope arrows
two faulty mines
and a partridge in a pear tree

Shipped out to accomplice in Fisk on the Cavalier:
fifty fake diamonds
twelve crates filled with bags of "snow"
thirty crates filled with bags of hash
six crates filled with fake rubies

Then Yubetcha closed the book and opened another. He showed an entry to littlek. "Look, this one is dated from last year when Lop Ear was here. There were pirates back then smuggling out women and young girls from this and nearby towns. They were taking them somewhere else and selling them into slavery and you can imagine what else. It looks like this shop owner had a hand in that as well, but I don't think that Lop Ear knew about it, because he forced me to try to find them. That's why he kidnapped my friend....so that I would help him. One of his friend's daughters was kidnapped. I never found them, I'm sorry to say. Anyway, if ol' Lop Ear's alive, I bet he would like to see this. But he's probably dead and long gone. Anyway, I always wondered if faulty weapons existed. It looks like this shop owner found a way to profit from them."
Then littlek picked up the note. "Look at this! This is a note from Lop Ear telling Rastus to be sure that all faulty weapons are sent out of town, and can't be traced back to him in any way. Seems they didn't want angry customers to find them! And to be sure that the faulty ones are not kept here where people could find them, but in a warehouse nearby. So at least the ones we found are good".
Then the two heard a noise coming from the other side of the metal door. They walked over and opened it cautiously. They saw two cells, one holding a man.

22nd Oct 2002, 19:43
Knocking back the first pour Lop Ear banged the tankard down hard on the bar. Clearing his throat to get my attention he then tapped his toe where the first coins had landed at his feet. I tossed enough in the same direction for the whole bottle this time… hoping he would get the hint.

After scooping up the coins he laid them out on the bar… Divora told him they were square now and pushed the bottle towards Lop Ear. He picked it up with his good hand after tucking the tankard into the crook of his arm and sauntered in my direction. Closing the heavy curtain he sat down and asked “Who be ye me friend?”

“I’m not your friend… just someone looking for information.” I responded.

“Aye, a female… it must be me lucky day!” Lop Ear whispered reaching under the table. “Come here me pretty.”

I retreated enough so all he got was a handful of air and then placed the tip of my sword securely against the inside of his thigh… high enough that he knew where I was going then hissed backed at him “Touch me and YOU’LL be talking like a female you putrefied son of a rumrunner!

He stiffened in his seat and quickly put both arms on the table promising to behave.

Pouring himself another drink he stuttered, “Ask away me matey.”

“I need to speak to someone who knows about pirate lore… not just the stories children are told to keep them in line… but the real stories.” I said.

Lop Ear giggled nervously and said, “I’m no pirate… I’m just a wannabe… it’s all an act to give me a wide berth when I’m out and about.” He started to whimper as the rum turned his knees to jelly. I slid the sword tip a few inches higher and warned, “Shhhhhh… relax, I know you don’t know anything… but you have a reputation of being involved with all kinds of sewer rats, surely you’ve either dealt with or run across the name of a reputable source?”

Continuing to whine Lop Ear thumped his forehead with the palm of his hand repeating to himself, “Think, think you SOB… who could help this kind lady? Who… Who???? Let me ask the owner he’d have a name for you.” Lop Ear moaned trying to scoot out of the booth as I pushed my sword until it moved no farther. One final sigh escaped his lips as he fainted dead away slumping over. “Pfft… what a waste of time and good liquor.” I mumbled.

Stripping the scallywag I went through his boots and pockets.

Hmmmm… this just may come in handy, I thought pocketing a letter of marque and a small pouch fat with doubloons. I used one of Lop Ears own arrows and sent his clothing into a rafter high above the booth. Taking the rest of his weapons I decided to leave him with one final remembrance of our meeting and unscrewed his hook. This could prove to be quite useful in the future, I figured, dropping it into the large embroidered pouch that was already heavy with ancient coins and artifacts. I put the pouch back in my pocket with the pirate’s treasure map and prepared to leave my hiding place before Lop Ear came to and found he'd have to exit The Whales Spout naked as a jay bird.

Slipping under the curtains I inched my way down the hall towards the kitchen. Key in hand I headed for the locked door I’d found earlier.

23rd Oct 2002, 15:56
Littlek lit a flare and held it up to look at the prisoner. He raised a hand over his squinting eyes but even with his skewed face there was no mistaking Cutty, the fence. “Can you lower the light a little?” Cutty asked in his raspy voice. I haven’t seen that much bright light in a long while. Now who are you taffers? I can’t see your faces.”

“It’s littlek and Yubetcha. Everyone was wondering where you have been. We just assumed you left on one of your adventures again.” Littlek answered.

“Boy am I glad to see your friendly faces. How in the blazes did you two find this place? I didn’t think the guild knew of this stronghold. Do you think you could get me out of here?” Cutty asked.

“I’ll try to pick the lock” Yubetcha said pulling out a pick.

“Don’t bother. You’ll need to find the key and the only key I have seen is on Ratus’ belt.”

“I think Rastus is a little busy right now, in fact he’s probably running for his life.” Littlek commented. “At any rate, he’s no where near this place. How did you end up in here?”

“I discovered his bogus merchandise and refused to fence it for the rascal. He and Lop Ear lured me down here on the pretense of including me in on their scam. Instead, I ended up locked up. Rastus just told me he was selling me as a rower on a pirate ship that leaves tomorrow morning. So you have to get me out of here.”

“How often does he come here?” Yubetcha asked.

“He comes once a day to feed me and to check his loot. He’s made a tidy profit from his bogus merchandise, the white powder you shouldn’t have been tasting and from blackmailing Truart.’ Cutty informed them.

“Where does he keep his stash? Maybe there is another key there.” Yubetcha asked.

“Not sure. My view of the world is limited from my viewpoint so he’s never in my field of vision when he opens it. But he does go towards the desk when I can hear it opening.” Cutty told them.

Littlek walked toward the desk and searched all around, opening drawers and feeling under them. She could not see or feel any switch or button that would open a secret door. Yubetcha lit another flare and held it up to illuminate the area. He just happened to look up and spied a small button in the corner by the ceiling.

“Clever.” He said softly under his breath but loud enough for littlek to hear. She followed his line of sight and saw the nearly invisible button. She smiled. Yubetcha handed her the flare and climbed on the desk. He pressed the button and a small door opened in the wall underneath the desk. It was just large enough for an enterprising thief to crawl through, which just what littlek and Yubetcha did.

“What did you find?” Called out Cutty. “Hey, don’t forget about me. You have to get me out of here.” His voice rising to a shrill pitch.

“We won’t forget about you. We are going to check out where this leads. Maybe we’ll find the key.” Littlek called back.

The crawlspace was too low to stand up so the duo had to creep forward on all fours. It seemed to go on forever twisting left then right then left again. It was too dark to see but Yubetcha felt rather than saw that they had crawled into a large room where they could stand up.

“Hey we can stand up now.” He lit a flare. They both reeled back from what they saw.

24th Oct 2002, 13:14
Yubetcha exclaimed, "Gawd, disgusting! I would like to find that Rastus right now! What kind of monster IS this guy?"
It appeared that experimental weapons and potions had been tested on people while they were still alive. Seven corpses were chained to the wall facing them, four men and three women. One looked as though one arm had been removed, possibly from an explosion. Another's lips and mouth looked like it had been burned, most likely from a potion. It could only be imagined as to what his esophagus and stomache looked like. And still another looked as though some kind of explosive device was delivered to his midsection, possibly from an arrow, Yubetcha guessed. One of the women was almost bald. Yubetcha wondered if it could be the effects of a potion. Another woman's chained wrists were burned. And still another woman had no clothes and was only skin and bones. Yubetcha picked a note up off of the floor at her feet, and read aloud, still seething.
Angelina is being tested to see if she can survive only on an experimental nutrition potion. Still losing weight. Must change the mixture. Not worthy of guards in battlefield yet.
Another corpse had bruises on his naked upper torso and head. The front left of the head had a small dent just above the eye. Littlek picked up the note at his feet.
Blakjak arro still not worthy. The taffer is STILL not unconchus.
Hmmmm....that arro was too forsful.
Note to self: next time, use the back of the head.
Littlek wondered where this writer learned to spell. The two saw a door on the wall to the left, and another on the wall to the right. Opening the right one, they saw steps leading upward. Yubetcha remarked, "I wondered how everyone was brought into these rooms. Perhaps this is it."
They went to the other door in the room, and opened it. They saw three prison cells on the left wall, each with a groaning zombie. And on the right wall were also three prison cells. Two were empty, and the third was occupied by a young girl. She appeared to be in her teens, and unconscious or dead. On a small table by the door was a key. Yubetcha picked it up and read the label. It said "Cells". Against the far wall was a pile of ten holy water mines. Yubetcha exclaimed, "Do you suppose that Rastus has been in that haunted church? Naaaaa, surely not. How would he have gotten in there?"
Littlek replied, "Maybe the sewer? Naaaaaa". They picked up the mines.
"We should check the girl".

25th Oct 2002, 15:57
They used the key to open the cell door. Littlek entered and bent over the girl.

“She’s alive. Let’s see if I can wake her up.” Littlek bent over the girl and shook her gently. The young girl did not stir. Littlek then shook her more vigorously and spoke loudly in her ear. Still she did not stir.

Yubetcha entered the small cell so he could see the girl more clearly and accidentally kicked a discarded vial on the floor. He stooped to pick it up and examined it. On the vial was S.P.

“Here are those S.P. potions again. Looks like she either drank these herself or was forced to drink them.” Yubetcha observed. He looked around. “There are more of these vials in the corner. Let me check that book I found. It told us what the H.P. potion was that I drank. Maybe it will tell us what this potion is.”

Yubetcha opened the book he found in the caverns and leafed through several pages. Littlek sat next to the young girl and peered into her face. She looked familiar somehow but could not place her. She was very pretty with long raven hair, creamy skin and long dark eyelashes. “Wonder who she is?” She asked.

“I have never seen her before.” Yubetcha said and looked at the girl. “She’s dirty but those clothes are the kind you’d see a nobles daughter.” He returned to the book. “Ah, here it is.” Yubetcha suddenly exclaimed. “It’s a sleeping potion. Says that if someone drinks the entire vial, they will be asleep for 2 hours. Rastus probably made her drink one while he was down here earlier.”

‘I’d say Rastus left here about 30 minutes ago. Wonder if they made a potion that will wake her up?“ littlek wondered. “I don’t want to wait down here that long. Don’t those zombies ever shut up? They are driving me nuts.”

Yubetcha closed the book and returned it to his pouch. He walked to the cell door of one of the zombies and stuck his face in the window of the cell door and yelled, “Hey don’t you ever shut up?” The zombie growled and grabbed for him through the narrow window of the cell door. “Be careful pal, I’ll set a holy water mine off in there with you and watch you sizzle.” Yubetcha warned. He turned towards littlek. “I have an idea. Why don’t we take her upstairs to Cutty, let him out and he can take care of her? Maybe he knows who she is?” Yubetcha suggested, he turned to watch the zombie.

“Best idea I’ve heard all night.” littlek replied.

“About Cutty or the mine with the zombie?” Yubetcha inquired.

“About Cutty’s new babysitting job. Then we can finish cleaning out the store and meet Speedy. It’s been nearly an hour.” Littlek answered. “Although a mine in the zombie cell could be a new form of taffer amusement.” She added with a grin.

“It would be a waste of a good holy water mine.” Yubetcha replied. He carefully picked up the sleeping girl and headed towards the tunnel. It took both of them to pull and push her through the narrow tunnel but they finally made it to where Cutty was imprisoned.

“I was hoping that you didn’t forget about your good pal Cutty. I’ll fence anything you acquire for free for a week.” Cutty exclaimed. “Did you find a key?”

“We found one that worked on the cells at the end of the secret tunnel. Not sure if it will work on yours.” Yubetcha tried the key on Cutty’s cell door. It worked and Cutty stumbled out.

“I’m going to hold you to that free fence offer Cutty.” Yubetcha answered. “But first, we found this sleeping young lass in a cell at the end of that secret tunnel. She had been given sleeping potions and will probably be asleep for another hour. We can’t stay, can you take care of her?”

“I agreed to fence your goods for free, not baby sit this wench.” Cutty replied angrily. “Who is she anyhow?” Cutty peered into her face. “I know who she is. She’s Truart’s daughter!”

28th Oct 2002, 16:03
Yubetcha exclaimed, "What!? Truart's daughter?!?! I wonder why he would want her to sleep. Unless he wanted someone to think she was dead. But who? And why? Perhaps she can answer that when she wakes up. Or perhaps he drugs all of the girls before he puts them into the slave trade, and she was another one. I'm going to go back to that room and look around her cell. Perhaps that will provide some clues. I'll be back in a minute."
Yubetcha went back through the small tunnel, and just as he made the last turn, he saw a light up ahead in the room. As he crept closer, he started to hear muffled voices. Crawling quietly closer, the voices were slowly becoming more distinct. One of them sounded familiar, but he didn't know why. As he got to the opening, he saw two men talking. One he assumed was Rastus. The other man had his back to Yubetcha. When he finally turned his face, Yubetcha was astounded to recognize Lop Ear! They were standing at the chained corpses on the wall.
Rastus said, "Well, I think that the explosive at the end of the arrow is a failure. It just doesn't go very far. The explosive is too heavy. To get the explosive into this midsection, Jory had to stand very close, may he rest in peace. It's so hard to get help around here, too. And with this corpse, he used the blackjack arrow on the front of the head instead of the back."
Lop Ear asked, "Where do you get all of these idiots? Can't you find better help?"
Rastus responded, "No, the smarter ones would turn us over to the law".
And Lop Ear said, "Well, try blackmail. That usually works. What ya do is, you hire a harlot to accompany somebody, and soon he'll do anything you want....especially if he has a family. Or you could kidnap his friend or a family member."
Then Yubetcha got an idea. He went back to the other end of the tunnel, and back into the first room he and littlek had come to. He picked up the book that was a record of the slave trade, and crawled back into the tunnel. Reaching the end, he saw the two men still discussing the detailed art of weapon making. Their backs to him, the intense discussions had focused on the bodies. While still in the tunnel, he slid the book out onto the floor, near the two men. He had hoped and was relieved to see that they were too focused to notice or hear. He waited for what seemed like an eternity. Then his ears perked up.
Rastus said, "It's too bad that a lot of the people in this town are either dead or ran away. They'll come back eventually, but maybe we should stop operations and lay low for awhile."
"Well, maybe just for a few days. I wonder how that beast escaped", Lop Ear replied, and then chuckled, "Anyway, maybe I can find a fine upstanding young man in the next town. I have the perfect person in mind....one who has a family".
As they turned to leave, Yubetcha made a moaning sound, hoping that he sounded like a zombie.
Lop Ear, looking around the room, said, "What's that? Is one of your zombie's loose? Wait. What's that on the floor?" He walked over and picked up the book.
Rastus, recognizing the unique book, became nervous. "Oh, that's nothing. Just a little journal of mine. Boring stuff. You don't want to know." He reached for the book, but Lop Ear refused him, and skimmed through the pages. Then, something caught his eye. "Hmmm.... what's this? Hey, what...? Something.... are you in the slave business?"
Rastus, even more nervous now, said, "N... No No, of course not. I think you misunderstand".
Lop Ear, angry now, said "Well, I'm waiting!!"
Rastus stammered, trying to think of something to say, to which Lop Ear replied, "Me thinks I understand perfectly", and drew his sword. "You not only tried to keep some income for yourself, but a good friend of mine lost a daughter because of you!"
Yubetcha backed up in the tunnel to go, now somewhat satisfied. He heard footsteps fade into the distance, and then it was silent once more. He backed up further, and then curiosity got the best of him, and he went forward to the room again. The first thing he saw was blood, and then the decapitated body of Rastus. He opened the door the men came through, and went up the steps. At the top was a small cave, and the opening was covered by a fake boulder. Pushing it aside and stepping out, he saw a surrounding clump of trees. The opening into the cave was well hidden with large bushes. In the moonlight, he could see what looked like a secluded rocky beach reaching out into the ocean. He went back down, carefully replacing the boulder, and went back to the girl's cell. Searching it, he found nothing. He went back through the tunnel. As he reached littlek and Cutty, littlek said, "Geez, I was beginning to think that you got lost. Did you find anything?"
Yubetcha replied, "Yeah, I found Rastus and Loppy. Let's just say that ol' Raz lost his head during an argument. It looks like their experimentations in the weapons industry in this town came to a halt at least temporarily, but you can bet that Loppy will find someone to take Raz's place. Anyway, he won't be killing people any more. I suppose you didn't find anything more about the girl yet."

29th Oct 2002, 21:47
“She’s still asleep.” Answered littlek when Yubetcha returned.

Cutty spoke. “I have a warrant on my head that was issued by Truart. I bet if I return his little ballerina here, he’d forget all the trouble I have caused him in the past, and possibly future transgressions. I’ll take care of her until she wakes up so you two can get on with whatever mischief you are getting mixed up in.”

Littlek looked at Yubetcha with raised eyebrows. Yubetcha looked at littlek and nodded. He said, “Sounds like a plan to me. And remember you promised to fence for us for free. We may be in need for your services shortly.”

“I’ll keep my promise.” Cutty said with a smile.

littlek asked yubetcha. “Well, you didn’t happen to hear where Rastus and Lop Ear hid their loot before Lop Ear silenced Rastus for good?”

“No, and I looked around the room again just to be sure. There was however a tunnel that led to a cave with a fake boulder covering the entrance. It opens to a beach.” Yubetcha replied. “Shall we see if it leads us to the loot?”

“After you.” Littlek answered.

They crawled through the tunnel and returned to the large room. Yubetcha couldn’t help himself and stopped to taunt the entombed zombies one last time. Littlek paused long enough to look at Rastus’ headless body. She bent over him, checking for keys or scrolls that might provide a clue as to where his loot was located. Rastus’ arm moved. Littlek gave a mighty yelp and jumped quickly back. She watched him reach out and grope around the floor. His bloodless fingers found his head close by and grabbed it. Rastus then sat up and placed his head back on his neck. Then he moaned like a zombie as he stood up and faced littlek. Rastus had become what he experimented with.

Yubetcha yelled, “Over here.” Littlek ran towards him and he led her to the small door he had seen Lop Ear use earlier. Soon they found themselves on the secluded beach. Littlek pulled the salty air deeply into her lungs and sat on a boulder.

“That was creepy.” Yubetcha said sitting down next to her.

“I have never seen anything like that before. That is a shop of horrors down there. I bet those monsters we saw in the cave and what we heard tearing apart the weapons shop are products of that place. I don’t ever want to go back there again.” Littlek commented.

Yubetcha stood up, walked to the water’s edge and looked down at the sand. Footprints and the scuffmarks of a small boat still remained as evidence of recent visitors. Off shore, there was a distant light that bobbed with the waves.

“I don’t think we need to worry about Lop Ear returning anytime soon. And I bet all the loot is with that light.” Yubetcha said and pointed towards the horizen.

Littlek looked to where he was pointing and saw the light. “I’ll have to agree. We sure had quite an adventure but most importantly, we survived. How about going back to pilfer the shopkeeper place then find Speedy? I bet she has cracked the code to that map by now.”

30th Oct 2002, 20:03
Just as they began to leave, something caught Yubetcha's eye. Looking down at the sand, he picked up a glove. The engraved initials were L. E. "Hmmm... looks like Loppy dropped something. I wonder if it was for the hand he was born with or the other one". Yubetcha also saw the name of a nearby town. He said, "Well, Loppy did mention that he knew someone in a nearby town who had a family". Slipping the glove onto his hand, he remarked, "It fits like a glove", and chuckled. Taking the long way around to avoid the rooms they had just left, they went back to the shop. This time they went in through the front door after looking around for any passersby. They searched the shop, taking anything they thought might be useful. Arrows went into quivers. Flashbombs, mines, coins and potions found their way into the pouches. Littlek found a large bag made of leather, and they placed more items into it. Soon the two prepared to leave. As they walked out the door, Yubetcha said, "Hmmmm, I wonder what's in the guardhouse. Shall we look?"
"Be my guest", replied littlek.
They entered, and immediately noticed that the place was a shambles. Bodies of guards were in every room. One guard had claw marks across his cheek and upper torso, his uniform in shreds. Another's arm was missing. And still another was holding a bloody sword with one hand, while the other hand was missing fingers. One of his cheeks bore evidence of teeth or claws, and was lacking flesh. Many guards had pouches attached to their belts, some shredded from claw marks. The coins, now free, were strewn about the room, some in small piles. Pools of blood were everywhere. Tables and chairs were broken. Many of the walls had holes in them. In the kitchen, a cupboard was torn from the wall and was lying upside down on top of what appeared to be the cook, with the doors off of the hinges. Wood splinters were strewn across the floor. Every room was in a similar condition. Even the beds were torn apart. One overturned bed still had a body under the covers. Yubetcha said, "Geeez. Kind of sad, really. I hope that no one had families depending on them".
Searching bodies, they gathered coins and weapons, and ascended the stairway to the second floor, searching the rooms. These were in the same condition as the first floor, but to a lesser degree, with four bloodied bodies. The two started to search for anything that would be useful, and found potions and coins. Littlek moved a banner to the side, but found nothing. Another banner revealed a small hole in the wall, which held more coins, and a key. Another room had a safe. Using the key to open it, they found a strange device. They placed it into the leather pouch. It was unfamiliar to them, but they hoped that they could find someone who could enlighten them. They were about to descend the stairs, when they heard the front door open, and voices. Not wanting to introduce themselves, they climbed out a window onto the ledge, and lowered themselves to the ground.

31st Oct 2002, 01:40
Yubetcha and littlek tiptoed around the side of the shop and down the ally carefully stepping on grassy areas so their footsteps would not be heard by patrolling guards or by the visitors in the shop. The one thing that annoyed littlek the most was an alerted civilian running around yelling “Guard, Guard. Help me. She’s armed!” Littlek enjoyed knocking those types out. Once on the streets they began to make their way to meet Speedy behind the pub.

The streets were crawling with alerted guards, Mechanists, The Templar and even the Hammers were running about. Yubetcha and littlek hid beneath a thick bush and listened to several guards talking.

“It was huge I tell ya with large claws, bulging eyes and long, pointed teeth. It didn’t have no hair neither. Just thin, pink skin. I watched it kill Ralph with one blow then it ate one of Ralph’s legs. It ain’t natural.”

Another guard added, “Did you hear it howl? I’ll never forget that sound as long as I live. I’m sure glad that taffer finally killed it.”

“What taffer is that?” the other guard asked.

“I heard it was the Blackman. He come runnin’ out of the Whale’s Spout, sword drawn and killed that monster with three mighty swipes of his sword.” The guard reported.

“Yeah and by next week, it’ll be Fuchsia or one of them Hammer's that felled the beast with one mighty swipe of the sword.” The other guard said with a snort.

“Well that’s what Benny told me. And he was there.” The guard retorted.

“Benny was probably drunk again if it was near the Whale’s Spout. He can’t count past five anyhow.” The other guards started laughing.

“Ya got a point there.” The guard said and joined in the laughter. “We better get going before the Templar catches us loiterin’ instead of pickin’ up dead bodies. They are mighty testy these days.”

Yubetcha and littlek watched the guards walk off. They crawled out from under the bush and stood in the shadows. “So tBM killed the beast.” Littlek said.

“That’s what Benny said and we all know how reliable he is.” Yubetcha said teasing. “We better get going.”

They ran as best they could under their heavy packs keeping to the grassy area along side the streets towards the pub. They finally reached the alley only to find that Speedy was not there.

“I wonder if she left without us. We are nearly and hour late.” Littlek commented.

“Or she ran into some trouble.” Yubetcha added.

1st Nov 2002, 13:26
Yubetcha said, "Perhaps the beast scared everyone away. Let's go break into the bank, and retire on that island you mentioned".

Suddenly, they heard voices approaching. Ducking into a shadow, they waited. Two people in cloaks were headed for the Whale Spout, but littlek and Yubetcha couldn't see their faces. One of them said, "Didja hear about what happened to the regulars of this place? I don't know if it's true, but I heard some guards talking. They said that all of the regulars here were rounded up by the Templar and guards, and hauled off to prison! theBlackman, Whatshisname, GumDrop... everybody! Everyone except the barkeep and maid. Then they went over to the Crippled Burrick to do the same. I heard they were going to make some of them rot in there, and hang the rest. Probably on faked evidence. They'll never get out of there. I guess the Templar figured that they would get the murderer one way or another. Come on, let's get some ale". They disappeared into the Whale Spout.
Yubetcha exclaimed, "Wow! So that's what happened! Well, what do you want to do?"

2nd Nov 2002, 23:42
Just as I reached to place the key into the locked door a loud commotion arose from the bar area.. stopping to listen I heard some of the patrons yell to one another, “Run it’s the Templar and his goons!!”

Hurriedly I slipped the key into the lock… it turned easily… I ducked into the room pulling the door closed behind me… locking it tight.

The commotion grew louder as the Templar and his men chased several people into the kitchen who complained loudly that they hadn’t done anything.

“Save it.” Said the Templar, “You’ll have plenty of time to fess up once my interrogators finish with you.”

A scuffle insued and swords were drawn. “Don’t kill anyone,” barked the Templar, “You can't get confessions from the dead." The Templar told his guards to be sure and check all doors before securing the area.

Frozen in the dark with my ear to the door I was startled when someone rattled the handle to the room I was hiding in then called to the Templar. “This door’s locked but the other room’s empty.”

“Then knock it down,” He growled.

“Sorry sir but it’s metal and looks to be reinforced at that.” The guard replied.

“Find the barkeep and have him open it then. No one leaves The Whales Spout tonight." The Templar snarled, “Everyone’s going to Cragscliff as my personal guest.”

I groped in the darkness for something.... anything.... Finding a chair I quietly wedged the back of it under the doorknob for better protection. I could hear the kitchen grow quiet as the prisoners were roughly escorted out of The Whales Spout.

I noticed the room was unusually cold but not as cold as a regular storage area used for perishables. It was extremely dark too so I couldn’t see very well at all… squinting my eyes they began to adjust as I took a couple steps away from the door reaching out in front of me so I wouldn’t trip or make any noise. The flooring changed from wood to a crunching gritty sound. I bent to touch it, making sure my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me, and scooped up a handful of sand. “Hmmmmm, that’s what I thought it was, sand!” I whispered to myself. Footsteps echoed down the hall as two men entered the kitchen again. The doorknob was tried for a second time as one of them said, “This is the door the Templar wants open.” “I’ll go get the key.” The other promised. “But I’m not going in there!”

“Uh oh,” I sighed. They’re gonna know the key’s gone. I hope there isn’t an extra one I thought standing up. Squinting harder I took another few short steps away from the barricaded door in hopes of finding a better hiding place just in case. Arms out stretched my hands found a wall. Small room I thought. Feeling my way along the splintered wall I discovered an unlit torch. Fumbling for matches I heard the barkeep return telling the guard that the key was missing and IF anyone was in there they wouldn’t be for much longer. “Huh?” the guard asked. He told the guard he wasn’t going to stick around to find out if someone was in there either. With that he left the kitchen in a hurry. Only a second or two passed when the guard said to himself... "Well everything looks secure to me." Then he called after the barkeep saying, “Hey, wait for me.” The kitchen was deadly silent.

With the barkeeps words etched in my mind I struck the match carefully lighting the torch… prepared for the worse. Pain radiated behind my eyes as the small room grew bright… the single torchlight blinded me for a second. I blinked the pain away rubbing my eyes then opened them wide trying to comprehend a sight that made me cover my mouth in an effort to smother a gasp that could easily have given me away.

I took several steps backwards in a repulsed effort to put as much room as possible between the shocking sight and myself. Next thing I knew I tripped and landed hard right in the middle of another nasty mess. Scrambling to my feet I brushed as much of the remains off as I could and found myself pressed into a corner unable to retreat any farther.

Two nests had been formed out of the sand in the small room and were filled with the largest eggs I had ever seen. The size of the eggs was unsettling enough but the contents of the nests held more than just eggs. It appeared that someone or something had woven human body parts like strands of nesting material together in an effort to make the nests more.... homey? Disgusted with my findings I brushed some more of the broken eggshell and it's rotting contents off my clothing. A horrifying thought crossed my mind... perhaps the human remains were a snack left as a reward once the unknown hatchlings emerged hungry and ready to roam?

My heart continued to pound with the possible revelation. I tried calming myself with deep breaths struggling to make sense of the disturbing sight. Slowly regaining my composure, realizing I was in no immediate danger, I had a strange feeling of déj* vu wash over me.

“Where have I seen nests like these before?” I questioned myself.

The longer I looked at them the more familiar they became. Shaking my head to get focused on the present I found myself reaching into my stash and pulling out the treasure map… unrolling it my heart skipped a beat as I focused on an island that was clearly marked with pictures of nests filled with huge eggs.

Strange, I thought, there are no birds in this drawing........

I heard a cracking sound and slowly lowered the map. Peering over the top of it I saw one of the eggs rock gently to and fro... then a scratching sound came from within the cracked exterior. A growl rumbled through the wooden flooring and shook deep in my chest… not knowing if it came from me or the contents of the egg, I got to my feet stuffing the map back into my pocket. Two giant steps and a leap over the nest I’d fallen into took me back to the barricaded door. Moving the chair from under the knob and unlocking it with a single move I threw the door open wide without regard to who may or may not be on the other side waiting for me to exit. Leaving the gruesome hatchery and entering the kitchen I turned immediately slamming the door fumbling to lock it as quickly as I could. Facing the door listening for sounds of a pursuit I jumped when a hand rested firmly on my shoulder. Turning around I stared into the broad smiles of littlek and Yubetcha who said. “There you are Speedy, we've been looking for you."

I must have fainted because I woke up laid out on top of the table next to the burrick carcass. Littlek was mopping my forehead with a wet towel repeating my name. I sat up and hugged her.

“I’m sooooooooooooo glad to see both of you.” I confessed.

“Well you weren't waiting for us behind the pub and we were sorta late.... gotta tad busy with… well I won’t go into that right now littlek said apologizingly, but we’re here now fully loaded with weapons and cash ready to find that pirate treasure.”

“Pirate’s treasure?” I repeated. “OOOOOOOOOh, you won’t believe what’s behind door number two.” I blurted out turning to point towards the metal door Yubetcha was trying to jimmy open. “No, no, NO Yubetcha, don’t go in there, pleeeeeeeases!!!”

“Why?” Asked Yubetcha. He turned from the locked door facing us as a growl seeped through the cracks behind him making my hair stand on end. His eyes grew larger and larger as the sound of scratching filled the kitchen. I jumped off the table in a panic. Yubetcha and littlek looked at each other…

“Sounds familiar hey?” he said to her.

“Let’s get outta here.” They both said in unison…

7th Nov 2002, 20:31
The trio finally stopped running and hid in the shadows behind some bushes that grew near a wall.

“So what was that all about?” Speedy gasped between breaths.

“The momma that laid those eggs took out most of the guards in the weapons store. We heard the carnage and saw the aftermath but fortunately we were in an area that the beast did not find interesting enough to investigate.” Yubetcha explained.

“Think it was related to those beasts in the caves we just escaped from? Speedy asked.

“Maybe but it is hard to tell. I have never really gotten a good look at it. And I am not planning on introducing myself either.” Yubetcha said.

Both littlek and Yubetcha filled Speedy in on what had happened to them since they parted company.

Speedy sighed. “Trouble seems to follow you two. Let’s hope it looks somewhere else while we search for this treasure.” She eyed their heavy packs. “Looks like all that trouble did not hamper your abilities to get us stocked with equipment though.” Littlek and Yubetcha proudly smiled. They were well supplied.

Speedy took out the map and unrolled it placing the map in a dimly lit area on the grass. Speedy pointed to the drawing of the giant egg island she had seen earlier. “These look like the eggs that were in that locked room. Wonder what the connection is?”

Littlek leaned over the map to examine it more closely. “I cannot even guess what the connection is but what I am sure of is that I don’t want to go anywhere near that egg island.” She paused and scrutinized the map again. “I’m not too sure where this map is leading us. Where do we start?” She asked.

“We still need to find someone who can interpret this map, and he’s in Cragscliff.” Speedy informed them.

“Why does everything have to be so difficult?” littlek asked dejectedly.

8th Nov 2002, 14:31
Nodding, Yubetcha replied, "Yeah, I know what you mean, littlek. If it isn't one thing, it's another. And how did that thing build a nest in the Whale Spout anyway? But do we know that it's a true statement? About him being in Cragscleft, I mean. We heard those two guys talking about it, and Speedy heard it, but who was actually taken there? And what if he wasn't one of them? And if he was, perhaps someone else could interpret the map. The only question then is, can he be trusted? As far as that goes, can anyone be trusted to tell us the truth and then not go there themselves? What if they lie to us, and then go for the treasure? Perhaps we should just try to figure it out on our own. OR here's another thought.... Perhaps a breakin at the local library would be worthwhile. It sure would be easier than breaking into another prison! Maybe a book there would tell us what we need to know. But I suppose that would be too easy!"

11th Nov 2002, 19:16
littlek regained her focus and replied....."Huh? Did you ask a question? Oh sorry I fazed out for a moment. I have been pondering over your first question. My guess is that someone knows where this map leads to because I bet those eggs were brought back from that island. They hatched and some got away or were set free. I bet Lop Ear and the late Rastus had a hand in this egg smuggling. As far as finding out if those taffers ending up in Cragscliff is true, we could go to the Crippled Burrick and listen in on some conversations there. Maybe there has already been an organized rescue mission and we could just rest by the warm fireplace and wait. Anyhow, I could use a pint.” Littlek grinned at her companions imploringly.

“I may like the idea about checking the library for some information.” Speedy asked ignoring littlek’s plea for a pint. “Don’t forget about that hidden room where all those books that The Templar’s banned are kept.”

“What secret room? I never heard about a secret room in the Library!” littlek muttered. “Why don’t I ever hear about all these fun places? Yubetcha, have you heard about this room?”

Yubetcha answered. “Why do you think I mentioned it in the first place? This ‘secret room’ is far from fun though. Several haunts guard it. I am not sure how many.”

“Maybe we ought to go to the Burrick to find out how many haunts are guarding this room. We could watch the expanded version of “Lord of the Rings” on their new wide screen TV.” Littlek suggested, sensing her pint of ale was not in her near future.

Speedy and Yubetcha looked at her closely, questioning her sanity. “Wrong century.” Yubetcha replied.

“Why do you want to go to the Burrick so badly?” Speedy inquired. She narrowed her eyes and stared hard at littlek.

“I don’t know why. I just have this overwhelming urge to go to the burrick and take you two with me. It’s really strange. Kinda like chocolate. Just gotta have it.” Littlek answered.

Yubetcha opened up his pack and rummaged around. He pulled out the potion book he found in the weapon’s shop and flipped through the pages. Finding what he was looking for, he rummaged some more in his pack and pulled out a vial. Written on the vial was T.P. He looked up at littlek and simply said, “Drink this.”

Littlek looked at the vial. “I’m not going to drink that. I don’t know what it is.” She slowly stood up but Yubetcha anticipated this, tackled her and pinned her to the ground.

"Yubetcha. What is going on?” Speedy asked.

“Help me force this down her throat. It’s a truth potion. She’s keeping something from us.”

Speedy took the vial, opened it and forced littlek’s clenched jaws open. She poured in the potion then held her mouth shut so she could not spit out the liquid. She then closed littlek’s nostrils so that in order to breathe, she would have to swallow the potion first. Littlek gulped, gagging at the taste.

“That tastes like burrick piss, if I had ever tast….” She stopped talking as the potion began to take effect. Littlek relaxed, her eyes glazed over and she lay as if paralyzed. Yubetcha asked the first question.

“Why do you want us to go to the Burrick?”

“To lead you to the Templar. They want to interrogate you and Speedy.” Littlek answered in a monotone voice.

Speedy and Yubetcha stared at each other in disbelief. Speedy asked the next question.

“Why does the Templar want to interrogate us?”

“They want your map.” Littlek answered.

“Why did you betray us?” Yubetcha asked.

“When you returned to the tunnel and left me alone with Cutty and Truart’s daughter, I had to go to the bathroom again so I went back upstairs to use the guard’s facilities. On my way back, I was caught by some of the Templar’s men in the hallway.” Littlek started to become anxious as if reliving the event. “They broke open some kind of crystal under my nose and a gas came out. They asked me if I knew anything about the map. I tried to lie about it but I couldn’t. Then they told me to be sure you two were at the Whale’s Spout before midnight or at the Crippled Burrick after midnight. Can we go now?”

Speedy spoke first. “Well that explains alot. I wonder how long that gas lasts. Other wise we can’t trust her.”

Yubetcha asked littlek the next question. “Who is the love of your life?”


15th Nov 2002, 15:13
Then Speedy asked with a chuckle, "Benny?! What's the attraction with Benny?"
Littlek responded with a blank stare, and a monotone voice, "He's really hot, with long narrow feet... and he wears a uniform... and has a crooked nose. And I could almost swear that I can see the background through his eyes..." Then trailing off, "...has a uniform... long narrow feet".
Yubetcha asked the next question, "How many men does the Templar have waiting for us?"
Littlek replied "Three".
Then it was Speedy's turn. "What will happen if we don't show up?"
Came the reply, "They will destroy the place, take down the chandelier, and take everyone there to Cragscleft on faked evidence."
Yubetcha asked, "Have they seen the map before? Would they recognize it if they saw it?"
"I don't know. I don't know."
Yubetcha, still sitting on littlek, turned to Speedy. "I wonder how well we can draw a map... or alter this one." Yubetcha thought for a moment, and then took a piece of paper out of his pouch. "I found this by a skeleton in the cavern. I was going to give it to Hawklette, because it mentions her name. It seems that her grandfather wrote it many years ago. I can tear off the bottom half and draw a map on it. We could write some bogus information on it, and give that to the Templar."
Then Speedy's eyes lit up. "Maybe we could send them in the opposite direction. We could put the island in the western ocean instead of the eastern sea. But we don't have much time. We had better get started."
Littlek started to squirm. Struggling to hold her down, Yubetcha said, "Here, I guess you should draw the map", and handed the paper to Speedy. She took it, and got busy. While she was forming the map, Yubetcha asked, "Littlek, what does the Templar intend to do about the murder?"
"They are still looking. If they can't find anyone, they will torture a confession out of...". And then littlek stopped.

Meanwhile, Slyfoxx walked into the Whale Spout, and spied the Templar sitting at a table in a dark corner. Getting an idea, he walked up to the barkeep, in street clothes, being sure to be near the Templar, and ordered an ale. Striking up a conversation with the barkeep, he spoke loud enough for the Templar to overhear. "Ya know, I overheard a woman in the street bragging about murdering a guard. I don't see how anyone could do such a thing. I wonder if they will ever catch... uh... littlek". He hoped that it wasn't obvious that he had pulled out any name that he could think of. The barkeep glanced at the Templar, who was listening with interest. The barkeep became puzzled, his face grimaced. He took Slyfoxx aside, and growled, "What are you doing? Don't you see the Templar over there?"
Slyfoxx looked in the Templar's direction, and feigned concern and gasped, "No, I didn't. Oh no!" and scurried out the door, leaving his ale on the bar. The Templar gulped down the ale. Wiping his mouth on his sleeve, he looked at the clock on the wall with anger. The barkeep overheard him say to another man, "Damn! And to think we had her and let her go! Oh well, it won't be much longer".

18th Nov 2002, 21:14
Yubetcha pressed Littlek to keep talking….”Who are they going to torture?” littlek remained silent and continued to struggle to free herself against Yubetcha.

Speedy stopped momentarily on the map. “Let me ask. Littlek? Do you know who I am?”

“yes.” Littlek quit struggling and remained still.

“Are we friends.”


“Then will you tell me who will be tortured by the Templar?”

littlek remained silent.

Yubetcha asked the next question. “Is it one of us?”


“Is it me?”


“Is it Speedy?”


“Is it you?”

littlek remained silent.

Speedy commented next. “I guess we can figure out who they intend to torture. No wonder she wouldn’t say anything. I was unfortunate enough to hear Fuschia being tortured and I would not want to be in that position.”

Yubetcha unconsciously relaxed his hold on littlek while listening to Speedy. Sensing this, littlek suddenly squirmed to one side, throwing Yubetcha off. She quickly got to her feet and ran off. She was heading in the direction of the Hight Bulp's Burrick Stables.

Speedy and Yubetcha, stunned and still sitting on the ground, looked at each other. Speedy spoke first. “Now what?”

19th Nov 2002, 13:30
Yubetcha replied, "She mentioned chocolate. It's been said that chocolate affects the same pleasure center in the brain that sex does. I don't know about you, but I think we should follow her... especially in her condition. Who knows what will happen? Besides, I'm curious to see what she has in mind. C'mon"
They both stood up and ran after her.

19th Nov 2002, 21:43
Littlek, still in a daze, made her way to the stables unaware of her concerned friends pursuing her. She stepped into the familiar stable and her horse, Strider greeted her with a soft nicker. The familiar smells of the clean stable began to clear her foggy brain. She opened Strider’s stall door and rubbed his neck leaning on him for support. He sensed her weakened condition and even though he was anxious to leave the confines of his stall, he remained still and supported her weight. Littlek sighed deeply.

“Hey Strider. How ya been? Have you been treated well while I was gone?” Strider nuzzled her pockets. “No treats today big guy. I have really messed things up this time. I think I betrayed my friends and there is something about the Templar but my memory is fuzzy. I have this overwhelming feeling of danger and that I need to leave town. So, let’s get out of here my swift friend.”

Littlek was beginning to feel stronger as she brushed Strider’s crimson coat and picked out the straw that clung to his long black tail. When she left the stall and returned carrying her saddle and bridle, Strider spun in a circle unable to contain his excitement. He reluctantly stood still while she saddled and bridled him. His antics made her chuckle. She led Strider out of the stall and he pranced beside her eager to get out and run. Littlek opened the stable doors and led her impatient steed to a mounting block. She was still a little groggy and Strider was too anxious for her to safely mount from the ground. Plus Strider was a tall horse. She softly sank into the saddle and barely had time to adjust the reins when Strider, unable to contain himself any longer, leapt forward and sped off at a gallop. Littlek softly resisted with the reins asking him to slow down. They compromised at a brisk trot allowing Strider to warm up his muscles. It felt good riding again. Striders long, powerful ground eating strides brought her quickly to the edge of town. Strider resisted her asking him to stop but three guards defended the gate preventing her from passing through. All three faced her and drew their swords.

“Who goes there?” One of the guards demanded as he peered at her through the darkness..

“littlek. Let me pass.”

At the mention of her name, the guards fell silent and milled about uneasily. Littlek tensed and Strider sensed her apprehension. He tossed his head and pawed the ground.

“Well its littlek. Aint this my lucky day.” The same guard replied. “Now you just get off that horse of yours and come with us. The Templar wants to see you.”

At that, all three guards began to slowly advance. Strider grew uneasy, pinned his ears back at the guards and began to prance. Suddenly Strider spun on his haunches executing a perfect pirouette from imperceptible cues from littlek and galloped away. Over his thundering hooves littlek heard the guards yelling for reinforcements and that they had spotted the murderess, littlek.

Speedy and Yubetcha were nearly at the stables when they heard galloping hooves. Speedy cloaked and hidden in the shadows peeked down the street and saw a dark horse at a full gallop. It was not difficult to figure out the identity of the rider after listening to the yells of the alerted guards. Speedy ran into the light of a noisy gas street lamp and waved to attract littlek’s attention but it was too late. Strider and littlek flew by. All they could see was littlek’s hunched form close to Striders back giving him all the freedom to run. One of Strider’s ears flicked towards Speedy signaling that he detected her presence but littlek did not notice and so did not ask Strider to slow his pace. Strider eagerly ran on.

Yubetcha joined Speedy under the light. “Did you hear the guards call littlek a murderess?”

“Yes, I did.” Speedy answered slowly, apprehension in her voice.

Strider galloped for another mile but was beginning to get winded so littlek slowed him down to a walk. He complied and she lengthened the reins so that he could stretch his neck and capture his breath. Did she hear right? Those guards called her a murderess. Who did she murder? She thought back over the past few days. Then it dawned on her. They think she murdered the Templar.

“Oh no. I'm in big trouble. I need some help.” She whispered to herself.

20th Nov 2002, 00:08
Watching as littlek’s horse thundered down the street and around a corner Speedy laid out a quick plan to get the guards off littlek's back and the Templars headed in the wrong direction.

“Yubetcha, you watch for littlek’s pursuers while I make it look like she dropped the map along with some other convincing evidence.” Speedy continued, "They must have used some TS on her then hypnotised her turing her against us. From what I've heard she'll never remember the incident once the potion wares off."

Removing the forged treasure map and one of the ornate artifacts from her pocket Speedy dropped them in the street right under the gas lamp so the guards couldn't miss it. Scuffing the map with her boot on the cobblestones she scattered several pirate doubloons around the fake map then weighted it down with the hook she had taken from Lop Ear for good measure.

“There, that ought to do it.” Speedy smiled brushing her two hands together signaling to Yubetcha that she was quite finished.

“Come back here yoooou taffer!” One of the guards was yelling as Yubetcha caught up with Speedy.

“Here they come.” He said yanking Speedy to saftey.

Crouched in the darkness they watched as two guards came around the corner in full pursuit. Coming to a halt they both stopped staring down at their good fortune lying right in the middle of the street.

“Well I’ll be dammed,” panted one guard. “What do we have here?” Stooping to pick up the scroll he unrolled it then laughed out loud. “I thought littlek riding up to our post was lucky but this is even better! Looks like this is exactly what the Templar wanted to question her about. Yep it's my lucky, lucky day."

“I doubt she even knows she dropped it.” Said the other guard as he policed up the gold coins and ornate artifact. “What say you and me split the loot and see if we can trade this odd little box for a pint or two? No one will ever know.”

Yubetcha nudged Speedy and whispered, “Good job… it’s working like a charm.”

The guards turned and marched off in the direction they had come.

“We need to find littlek and let her know she’s safe for now.” Yubetcha said. “Then it’s off to the library so we can decipher the real treasure map.”

22nd Nov 2002, 02:06
Littlek felt a hot wind blowing across her cheek followed by gentle nudging. She was enjoying being a rat in Thievery and watching LM hide in dark corners then bounding out to blackjack BA over her head. BA would soon respawn and plan her revenge taking Salvage or Chiefdreams out for good measure. Being a rat was fun, but one had to watch out or some clumsy guard would step on you. Another nudge only stronger. Who was nudging her and who is breathing down her neck? Rats don’t have necks. Thievery slowly faded away to wherever dreams die and littlek reluctantly drifted back to reality. She slowly opened her eyes and focused on one large but familiar nostril inches from her own.

“Strider why did you wake me up?” She sat upright and rubbed the sleep from her eyes and looked around finding herself back at the stables and in Striders stall. “How in the heck did I end up here? And why are you saddled and bridled?”

She slowly stood up and untacked Strider then brushed him until he glistened. She found that she really didn’t care why she could not remember much of the evening. That in itself was curious. She knew where Striders itchy spots were and made sure she brushed him there the most. Strider stretched out his neck and pointed his upper lip in delight. When she was finished, she rummaged through the haystack and selected the best bale of hay. Strider nickered when she returned with her arms full of the sweetest, leafiest hay she could find. She had a tough time getting into his stall in his eagerness to sample the hay. She finally outmaneuvered him enough to get the hay in the manger minus a few mouthfuls.

“Only the best for you. Now to figure out what has been going on. And where is Speedy and Yubetcha? If they went after that treasure without me….. “

Suddenly the stable doors swung open and a man leading a horse was silhouetted in the doorway. Littlek quickly slipped into a dark corner by the tack room. It was dawn outside and the beginning of a new day but there was enough light for Littlek to recognize the horse. It was her mare that the Templar had taken from her and who had been shot by Slyfoxx. But who was leading her? His hood obscured his face. She watched him put the mare in the stall next to Strider, check her wound and satisfied that it was cleaned well enough, closed her stall door. He stopped at Striders stall and peered over the door. She could barely hear him say, “Now when did you get back and I can easily guess who gave you all that hay? Where did she go?” Strider looked up at him chewing a mouthful of hay and seemed to say ‘I don’t know what you are talking about.’ The stranger walked away and went over to the hay pile and then returned with an arm full of hay and filled the mares’ manger. The mare was polite enough to not badger him as he made his way to her manger. Littlek watched him stare at both horses as if contemplating something then turned and quietly left the stables. Littlek waited awhile before she was convinced the man had left. His identity nagged at her. There was something familiar about him.

She silently walked over to the stalls and entered the mares’ stall. The wound was clean and free of infection. It would heal nicely. Whoever had tended to this wound was a skilled healer. She scratched inside the mares’ ears the way she knew she liked being scratched then let her eat in peace. She checked on Strider a final time then turned to leave.

“I figured you were still in here.” The man stood before her.

3rd Dec 2002, 15:04
Meanwhile, Yubetcha and Speedy ran after littlek, but when they rounded the corner, they found that she was nowhere in sight.
"Where do you suppose she would go, Yubetcha?"
"I dunno, but I hope she didn't go home. That's the first place the Templar and guards would look, if they know where she lives. But they probably don't. I hope so anyway, for her sake".
"Hell, yubetcha, we don't even know".
They pondered, and decided that the only thing they could do now is go to the library, hoping they would find littlek there. First, however, Speedy suggested that they make a side trip to the Whale Spout to get a better grasp on the Templar's plans. As they neared the Whale Spout, they spied a dark figure looking in through a front window. He seemed to be watching with interest. Suddenly, he moved to the side of the building. A moment later, another opened the door from inside, and looked out into the street. Yubetcha and Speedy quickly ducked behind a bush, and could see that it was the Templar. He scanned the outside area as if looking for someone, and then went back inside. The door closed just as quickly as it opened. The figure moved back to the window, cautiously looking around for any watchers. He looked through the window, and then moved quickly to the side of the building again, crouching behind a bush, but still seen partially by Yubetcha and Speedy. He seemed to be waiting for someone. Yubetcha and Speedy, still secluded, watched him and waited. Time slowed to a crawl.

5th Dec 2002, 20:46
Getting stiff from squatting Speedy rolled her head to stretch her neck muscles and noticed a bunch of leaflets pinned to a public announcement board on the side of the building they were crouched below.

"Look!" She said pointing to a discolored flyer tucked under several newer notices..... It read:

******** Littlek’s indoor/outdoor boarding for breeding purposes… choose from several options. You can leave your mare to be bred and have her foal or board your stallion and mare to be bred. Our full boarding package includes 2 feedings a day, water and daily stall cleaning. Your horse gets all this for $1 daily, $3 weekly or $15 monthly********

Yubetcha reached up and pulled the advertisement from the board. At the bottom of the leaflet was the address and a map showing the way to littlek’s facilities. Half of it was missing.

Speedy stood up to get the rest of the handbill and noticed the announcement that had been pinned on top of it. Taking both she said, “Hmmmmm,” squatting again quickly she whispered in Yubetcha’s ear, “It’s an invitation to the main library’s grand re-opening scheduled for tomorrow. It says the geography wing has been expanded with the addition of several antique wall maps that will be on display for the first time.” Handing the rest of littlek’s flyer to Yubetcha she added, “Littleks’ is on the way according to the map.”

Yubetcha glanced at the rest of the map and sighed… “Well we could hide here all day waiting for that guy to make a move Speedy.”

“I really think our best option is the library.” Speedy continued, and we’d better get in there tonight before the whole town shows up tomorrow.”

Yubetcha rubbed his chin, deep in thought.

“Let’s stop by the stables first and see if littlek’s there.” Speedy suggested crawling from behind the bush…

Yubetcha didn’t move… his eyes were glued to the suspicious figure still hiding outside the Whales Spout.

“Yubetcha, you comin'?” Speedy asked.

He didn't move.

"It's gonna take all three of us to figure out this treasure map before morning." Speedy reached out and put her hand on Yubetchas shoulder. "Come on we can do this." She said smiling at him.

6th Dec 2002, 01:25
Littlek stood, frozen to the spot staring into the eyes of…….Lop Ear.

“Good day to yer littlek. Glad it was me that found yer. There be many a taffer wishin they knew yer whereabouts bein the nice reward fer ya curly locks. Now just be a good girlie and come wit me quietly to the Templar. I don’t want no trouble”

Littlek narrowed her eyes at being referred to as a ‘girlie.’ “What does the Templar want with me?”

Lop Ear hesitated and confusion creased his worn face. “Well fer murderin that poor lad of The Templar. I come to admire ya fer it though. That was good work strippin him naked an all. Got a good chuckle at that. If yer head weren’t worth so much, I’d keep ya fer my own assassin….seein that I lost my last one.”

“If your last one was Rastus, then I know why you lost him Lop Ear.” Littlek shot back then instantly regretted divulging that information. “And drop the phony pirate talk. We all know you are not a real pirate.”

Lop Ear looked hard into littlek’s eyes. Then said slowly, “Do ya now lassie. Well pokin’ yer nose into business not yer own is not good fer yer health. Now are you goin’ to come wit me easy or do ya want to do this the hard way?”

“So you are giving me a choice…well can you give me a minute to think about it?” littlek raised her eyebrows innocently.

“Eye lassie, I do mind.” Lop Ear gave his head a short nod and two of his henchmen appeared out of the darkness. They moved ominously towards littlek.

“Lop Ear you have to listen to me. I did not kill that Templar. Someone is setting me up. You are making a big mistake.” She started backing slowly but only managed to pin herself against Strider’s stall.

“Ya just don’t get it now do ya lassie. I don’t care if yer innocent or not. The Templar thinks yer a murder and is willin to pay ‘ol Lop Ear a tidy sum to bring yer in. That’s all that matters.” His eyes caught a slight movement of littlek’s hand as she reached for her dagger. “Boys.” Lop Ear said simply.

Lop Ear’s henchmen had littlek pinned face down to the ground in a nanosecond …..(Lop Ear and his henchmen look up in confusion at the terminology. Lop Ears asks “in a what?” Littlek says, “ it means in a blink of an eye.”).

Strider and the mare snort an alarm at the suddenness of the assault and littlek hears the horses move nervously through the deep straw in their stalls unsure of how to interpret the human activity. They bind her hands tightly behind her back then wrestle her to her feet. They then disarmed her of all her weapons and the few valuables she had on her person were discreetly pocketed. Fortunately she left her pack in Striders stall so the bulk of her nightly foraging with Yubetcha was intact.

“Now then lassie. All packaged up nicely fer The Templar and fer Lop Ears reward. Shall we go now? Don’t want to keep the Templar waitin’ now do we.” Lop Ear pushed her roughly towards the door.

6th Dec 2002, 03:58
Caradavin clutched her stale bread to her chest as she heard the horses rustle the straw in discomfort. She heard muffled voices, one sounded roughly feminine while the other sounded like a rusty pirate. She strained her ears to listen, but could not distinguish many words besides "Lassie." She heard rustling, feet, and a thump. After a few more minutes, they seemed to be gone. Caradavin slowly got to her feet, creeped across the straw in the stable and peeked over the door. No one. She shrugged and returned to her meal.

6th Dec 2002, 14:11
Sly, still crouched in the shaodows outside the Whale's Spout, spied on the Templar who was nursing his ale seemingly muttering to himself. The Templar had dispached a man with orders to form a party to aprehend littlek and was now taking a a breather.

The thief had thought it over and had decided against his earlier plan of the frame on Vincent Dagosport. He was made for the wrap, but with all his money and influence. Well let's just say that men of his stature rarely, if ever saw the inside of the cells of Cragescleft or the City Watch.

Littlek on the other hand had no stature or influence with anyone of import or authority. Her only friends were lowley thieves like himself or commoners who tended to bars or heaps of dung. "If they catch her, they'll hang her for sure." Deep down he knew it was a s---- thing to do but he was scared. Sly was a coward, he was bitter, he was spiteful, he was more than a little arogant but before tonight he was no murderer. Now because of his spite one man was dead and an innocent woman was soon to be next.

"You've always avoided responsibility haven't you?" he said, chastising himself. "Been this way as long as you can remember eh?" "Father said I'd end up like this." (Sly had been kicked out of his father's house at the age of 14.) "Said I was always looking for the easy way." "Said a man faces a challenge head on, not concerned with himself but with what's right and good." "Now look where you are!" "Cowering in a dark shadow, hiding from the truth once more." "So what are you going to do about this?"

He thought for a moment and then got to his feet.

"Littlek's going to be in a heap of trouble soon if she's not already," he said just under his breath. "But where to look for her?" "I guess the stables are the best place to start."

With lightning speed he was off. For the first time in his life SlyFoxx was going head on into a problem, instead of around it. He couldn't understand why at this point but courage was rising inside him. Courage gained as the result of conviction and the strength it brings. "If I die, I die." "But I can't live like this any longer."

6th Dec 2002, 19:47
Yubetcha raised his finger to his lips shushing Speedy then pointed to the figure he’d been patiently watching and waiting for to make a move.

“Theeeeeeeeere he goes,” Yubetcha said patting Speedy’s hand. “And in the same direction as littlek’s stables and the library.” Readying him self to follow the man Yubetcha added, “Let’s see where he’s headed.” Still partially hunched behind the row of bushes that lined the cobble-stoned thoroughfare we watched the man disappeared around the corner. Taking several noiseless strides to the edge of the Whale's Spout Yubetcha peeked around the corner spying the man again and began shadowing him.

“This oughta be fun.” Speedy said to herself watching Yubetcha disappear around the same corner. She knew she would have to move quickly to keep up for both men were definitely on a mission and walking with purpose.

Speedy picked up her pace approaching the same spot both men had disappeared from. Standings at the edge of the Whale's Spout she peeked around the corner watching Yubetcha and his prey move quickly up the street hop scotching from shadow to shadow. Just as she eased around the corner the door to the Whale's Spout banged opened and a guard stepped out onto the sidewalk, sword drawn demanding, “Who’s taffin’ around out here?” The Templar followed him into the street sniffin’ the damp air.

Keeping her eye on Yubetcha Speedy stayed just far enough behind not to alert the man he was following. Checking behind her to see if the Templar had caught her sent the three quickly put enough distance between themselves and the Whale's Spout to feel relatively safe....... for the time being.

9th Dec 2002, 17:59
Yubetcha looked back to make sure that Speedy was following. She was. There was still evidence of the beast's search for food. Broken carts, doors off of their hinges, bodies and blood were scattered in the streets. Guards were also in large, roaming groups and watchful, and the three traveled in the shadows whenever possible. Yubetcha hoped that the beast's stomache was full and it was somewhere far away, sleeping... or dead. At one point, Yubetcha had to stop and hide from an approaching garrison. After they were no longer in the area, Yubetcha ran, afraid that he would lose Slyfoxx. After a short search, he saw Sly in the distance, and ran to get closer. They soon were out in the countryside, where there was no fog, and a bright moon. They were following a dirt road. He had to be very careful. At various times, Slyfoxx looked back to make sure that no one was following, and more than once, Yubetcha was afraid that he had been seen. Thankfully, they came upon a ditch that Yubetcha could use for concealment, Speedy not far behind. Slyfoxx also used the ditch, crouching at times, and he was sometimes difficult to see. Soon the road was lined with trees on the left, and Slyfoxx climbed out of the ditch and traveled among them, still following the road. Yubetcha and Speedy, following a short distance, did likewise. Up ahead, Slyfoxx covered his nose, and ran faster. Yubetcha ran to keep up. The stench of a dead and bloody forest animal filled his nostrils. It had lost a fight, and was covered with ants and flies. Yubetcha hurried faster to get past the smell, and came too close to Slyfoxx for comfort. Yubetcha slowed his pace. More than once, Yubetcha thought he lost Slyfoxx, but to his relief, saw him again up ahead. Then he came upon the bloody, fresh carcass of another animal. Yubetcha hoped that the three of them and the carcasses were alone.
Soon, they heard a noise in the distance. It was difficult to recognize at first, but it was coming closer. It then sounded like the trotting of horses. Up ahead of Yubetcha, Slyfoxx crouched once again, and stopped, concealed behind a tree. Yubetcha and Speedy also stopped and crouched. There were men on horseback approaching. One of them looked out of place. His clothing was unlike the others, and in the moonlight, the distant clothing almost looked familiar. The stature of the figure was small, it seemed, unlike the taller men. The figure became more familiar as they approached, and Yubetcha thought that "he" looked similar to Littlek!
The curve in the road placed the horses ahead and to the right, and Yubetcha could see the side of Sly's face. Sly seemed to be watching the muscular horses intently. Their trot would bring them eventually toward the trio's left, and then finally in front of them on their way to town. Suddenly, Yubetcha heard a distant, faint growl coming from deep in the forest. The horses became visibly nervous, and trotted faster. The men looked intently into the forest, and Yubetcha hoped that he and the others weren't seen... by man or forest occupant. Then a horrible thought occured to Yubetcha. What if the growl came from an animal with a great sense of smell?

10th Dec 2002, 07:28
Tripping twice over bloodied body parts while looking behind her for the Templar and his guard Speedy began paying closer attention to where she was stepping.

She began to wonder who or better yet… WHAT had ravaged it’s way up and down the street. She noticed the door to a well stocked market had been ripped from it’s hinges yet the food inside was untouched. Ahead a cart carrying crates of liquor, clearly on its way to the Whale’s Spout, sat tipped on its side, abandoned. Bottles spilled from one broken crate that lay in a puddle of blood. Scraps of horsehair and a twisted bridle were the only remains of a violent act she was glad not to have witnessed.

Speedy eyed Yubetcha and the shrouded figure in front of him approach the road to littlek’s stables. They each stopped in turn looking in the direction of the stables then hurried past it continuing up the street towards the edge of town.

“What the…?” she wondered as a group of guards marched into the main street from an alley just steps behind her. One of them began shouting orders to the others about not touching the evidence and closing off the street until the Templar arrived.

Several more guards rounded the corner ahead of her coming from the direction of littlek’s. She was trapped. Following the blood trail that ran from the puddle to a partially opened sewer grate she hastily entered it and lowered herself into the sewer just as the guards passed over.

“We got every way into and out of this part of town blocked off now sir.” A guard reported to his superior. “Good.” He answered back. “Now, check the sewer covers and make sure they’re all secured and locked.” “Yes sir.” The guard said as he slid the grate and it groaned shut above me locking tight. The echo bounced off the slime covered walls until the only sound that remained was the blood dripping from above as it hit the shallow runoff I stood ankle deep in. Staring down at the remains of a bloated merchant I scrambled back up the ladder and tried sliding the grate open.... but it wouldn’t budge.

Drawing my sword and checking several other possible routes, only to find more signs of death, I tentatively followed the sewer’s incline and finally exited into a ditch outside of town. As luck would have it I ended up only paces behind Yubetcha.

Catching up with him we left the ditch and crossed a dirt road using the trees as cover following the stranger deeper and deeper into the woods.

“Do you know who he is yet?” Speedy whispered to Yubetcha. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s SlyFoxx.” Yubetcha gagged on his words and pinched his nose trying to close off the disgusting stench of dead animal while swatting at flies with his free hand. Speedy did the same then asked, "Who do you think killed all these animals and wrecked havoc back in town?" "Not who but what is the question." Replied Yubetcha.

The sounds of horses approaching took their minds off the horrid aroma. They all ducked deeper into the trees shadows as the horses grew closer. Squinting to make out the figures Yubetcha frowned… “Isn’t that…?” He stopped as a distant growl wailed through the tree tops inviting goose bumps to dance all over Speedy’s body.

Yubetcha’s face reflected his unspeakable dread, as the sickening yowl grew louder pulling the worst memories of the night from deep within Speedys mind.

They watched SlyFoxx put a rope arrow into an oak and position him self on a branch above the path the horses were taking. He seemed perched on the edge of madness ready to pounce as if his very life depended on the outcome.

10th Dec 2002, 13:40
The beasts’ howl made Littlek shiver. She felt the small bony mare Lop Ear’s henchmen threw her on stiffen with fear. The mare threw her head high, hollowed her bony back and flicked her ears back and forth rapidly. The horse was very afraid and tugged at the lead rope Lop Ear’s henchmen held. Littlek too was fearful of the deep growl and knew it did not come from the small shadowy figure that had been trailing them since they left the stables. She hoped the trailer was a friend.

One of the henchmen spoke in a whisper. “Lop Ear. Did ya hear it? It’s that beast that was let loose by Ras…….”

Lop Ear interrupted the man before he could finish. “Shad up yer pie hole ya taffer. I heard it.” Lop Ear quickly glanced at littlek but littlek had already guessed Lop Ear and Rastus’ involvement in the origins of the beast. But Lop Ear did not know what she knew. She acted as if she were struggling to stay on the back of the prancing horse beneath her and did not over hear the conversation. Riding an unfamiliar and ill trained equine with her hands tied behind her back was proving to be a challenge. She kept her weight down in her heels to lower her center of gravity so that she could be in balance and move in tandem with the unpredictable mare. Littlek did not want to be sprawled on the ground with that beast on their trail should the mare bolt. Lop Ear and his men were oblivious to the body language of the horses and continued to fight their horses for control.

“What the matter wit ya yer bag-a-bones.” Lop Ear yelled at his mount. He spurred his horse roughly causing his horse to bolt forward nearly unseating Lop Ear. They were just passing under the limbs of a giant oak tree when Lop Ears horse stopped and rapidly backed into the horse whose rider held the lead rope to mare littlek was riding. The horse stumbled and nearly fell to the ground causing its rider let go of littlek’s horse. Littlek’s mount sensing its freedom bolted.

10th Dec 2002, 21:11
The horses of littlek's captors threw the men, whinnied and snorted, and ran as if to try to catch Littlek. The men stood, and tried to catch them, to no avail. Littlek was starting to fall off of her horse, her hands still tied behind her. As Littlek's horse neared Yubetcha, he ran out into the road with his knife in one hand, and grabbed the reins with the other. He steadied littlek, who was still on the horse, and tried to cut the ropes binding littlek's hands, but could only partially accomplish the task. Yubetcha guessed the horse to be about 15 hands tall, and it was so muscular that Yubetcha had difficulty holding the horse back. Looking back, he saw another horse and the captors running toward him, and he barely had time to thrust the knife into littlek's hands, as the horse bolted once again. The other horse was closing, and Yubetcha dived into the ditch just in time to see the blur in full gallop, barely missing him. He heard a familiar voice cursing, but couldn't quite make out the words. Looking up, he could see one lone rider hanging on for dear life. It was Lop Ear, holding the saddle horn with his one arm. Yubetcha was sure that the commotion would bring unwelcome visitors, and as if on cue, he heard another growl, still distant, but sounding closer. Yubetcha didn't wait around to see what it was. He ran back to Speedy, yelling "C'mon!".
As they ran back the way they came, Speedy showed him the sewer she climbed out of. Yubetcha threw open the cover, and they quickly slid into the hole. They fell to the bottom, and Yubetcha hastily stood, and climbed the ladder. At the opening, he now heard the growl more distinctly, and closed the cover. Seconds later, something was walking toward them, its heavy footsteps announcing its presence. Yubetcha heard the footstep as it walked across the cover above him. Soon the footsteps died, and they heard the welcome quiet once more. Waiting a full minute, Yubetcha slowly pushed the cover aside, and climbed into the opening. Looking around, he could see no one. The horses, the captors, and Slyfoxx were nowhere to be seen. Most importantly, the beast was also nowhere near. Climbing back down, Yubetcha said, "C'mon, Speedy, let's follow the sewer back to town"
Shaking her head, she replied, "Can't. They locked the sewer covers in town. I was glad to find this one."
"Well, I have lockpicks, and they usually work on them".
"But it sounded like they were putting guards on some of them. I'm not sure if they did that to all of them or not, though. If they did, we might not be able to open them".
A long sigh escaped Yubetcha's lips. "Tsk. Figures! What else is gonna happen tonight? Well, then, I guess we'll have to take our chances above ground. Let's go".
Yubetcha climbed the ladder into the opening, Speedy following close behind. They had gone a short distance toward town, when Yubetcha said, "Wait a minute! Why didn't I think of this before?! I think that horses usually find their way back home if given a chance, providing that was Littlek's horse."
"And if it wasn't?" she asked.
"Well, we could take that chance", he replied.
Speedy replied, "Well, let's go to Littlek's, then".
Without another word, they turned back, following the country road to Littlek's. As they walked, they were mindful of the night sounds, grateful that the crickets were the only sounds that they heard, along with the occasional hoot of an owl. As one owl hooted hello, Speedy said, "Ya know, someone should start a restaurant with the owl as the symbol. They're so cute. It could be called Hoots or Hooters."
Yubetcha replied, "I doubt that it would be popular. I mean, it's just an owl".

13th Dec 2002, 02:35
Littlek clutched Yubetcha’s knife in her bound hands and tried to work it to cut the rope. It proved impossible at this speed and so she resigned herself as passenger on a frantic, runaway horse, ducking low limbs and pulling her knees up when the mare cornered too close to tree trunks while weaving along the narrow trail. Earlier, she heard hooves thundering after her and Lop Ear yelling at his henchmen but the small, thin mare was surprisingly fast and agile. She easily increased the distance between them and their pursuers – be it man and beast. Through the wind whistling in her ears, she heard the hooting of owls and the distant roar of the beast. The mare heard it too and lowered her head to run even faster. Littlek folded her body close to the mare’s neck to help this brave little horse run. Where she was going, littlek had no idea. The mare seemed to be ‘in the zone’ as the racers like to call it. Her breathing became regulated and her stride rhythmic. The little mare ran on for what seemed to be 2 miles at top speed. Littlek began to respect this mare that she initially thought was a bony, ill trained horse. Like all mortals, the mare’s energy reserves and strength began to wane and littlek felt her slow her pace. Soon the mare slowed to an easy canter, and then to a spine jarring trot and finally a long, easy walk though the dark woods.

Still clutching Yubetcha’s knife, littlek took advantage of the slower pace and resumed sawing at the thick rope. She soon discovered that part of the rope had already been cut. She worked on that section and soon her hands were free. She removed the rest of the rope and let it drop to the ground then secured Yubetcha’s knife in her belt.

Reaching down, she stroked the mares’ thin sweaty neck then reached under the saddle and loosened the tight girth giving the mare more room to expand her heaving chest. The mare never changed pace. She maintained her long fast walk, ears intensely forward and alert and seemed to know where she was going. Littlek reached forward for the dangling lead rope gaining comfort at holding onto something that might control this mare. Soon they walked out of the woods and entered the edge of town. Littlek now knew where she was and so did the mare. The mares’ breathing returned to normal yet she maintained her long fast walk heading towards littlek’s stables. Littlek liked her walk. The little mare covered a lot of ground.

Littlek couldn’t believe it. Here she was back at her stable sitting on a strange mare that seemed to think this was her home yet littlek had never seen her before. Littlek slipped off and opened the stable door leading the little mare in, half expecting to see Lop Ear standing inside. Instead, Strider whinnied as if he knew the mare. The mare returned the greeting. The little mare stared in a dark corner of the barn and whinnied again.

Littlek spoke, “You can come out now. Your brave little mare has earned herself a home here.” The dark corner remained silent. Then littlek heard the rustle of straw and a figure emerge into the light. It was the familiar figure that had brought in littlek’s mare that Slyfoxx had shot. The same figure that had proved to be a good healer. It was Caradavin.

“Your little mare needs some care. She just saved my life. Let’s untack and rub her down and give her that stall next to Strider. They seem to be well acquainted.”

“They are friends.” Caradavin said simply. The two worked on the little mare, brushed every sweat mark out of her ragged coat, carefully checked her chipped hooves for stones and her bony body for cuts. Then they spread straw so that the mare was knee deep in bedding, pored cool water into a freshly scrubbed bucket, and fed her plumb oats and the sweetest hay. The mare chewed happily. Littlek learned that Caradavin stole the mare 2 weeks ago from a cruel farmer in the next town and that Caradavin named her Tafferette. They had been hiding in the woods during the day and in littlek’s stable at night.

They were just finishing when the stable door slowly swung open. Caradavin quickly disappeared into the darkness before littlek could react but there was no need for alarm. It was Speedy and Yubetcha.

“Is this Hooters?” Yubetcha said with a smile.

16th Dec 2002, 14:41
Littlek appeared puzzled. "Hooters?"
Yubetcha started to explain, when littlek called out to Caradavin, and introduced Yubetcha and Speedy. "Caradavin's the one who healed my horse".
Speedy replied, "Oh, are you a vegetarian?"
Yubetcha looked at Speedy. "I think you mean a veteran".
Littlek said, "I think you both mean a veterinarian. Anyway, I don't know if she's that, but she's good with horses".
They all waited for Caradvin to speak, but she just stood there. Yubetcha thought that she must be shy among strangers. He thought that she looked somewhat familiar, but couldn't place her. He wasn't sure, but decided not to say anything, until he was. Littlek was about to break the uncomfortable silence, when they heard a horse whinney in the distance, and then a few seconds later, another, only closer.

16th Dec 2002, 19:53
Monitoring the situation, a hooded figure remained unnoticed by the others. Standing perfectly still, blending into the surroundings, unnoticed. Watching, waiting. Detached, uninvolved, ready.

18th Dec 2002, 13:02
The trio froze and listened to the iron clad sound of shod hooves resonate outside then stop in front of the stable door. Soon, they heard the thump of leather boots slap the ground as the riders dismounted. One guard groaned. They were aware that they were trapped and only had dark corners in which to hide. Littlek felt a light tap on her arm. She turned to see Caradavin motioning for her to follow. Littlek tapped Yubetcha and Speedy on the arm to get their attention and the three followed Caradavin into a shadowy corner in the back of the barn. She pulled a board sideways that hung from a single nail at the top and disappeared into the darkness inside. Littlek crawled in after her followed by Speedy then Yubetcha who carefully returned the board to its original position. They found themselves in a narrow space between the boards that lined the inside of the stables and those that made up the outside. They crawled on hands and knees a short distance. Yubetcha was having a difficult time squeezing his larger frame into the narrow space and often had to crawl twisted so that his shoulders fit. Finally the passage opened up into a small room. They heard someone rummaging in the darkness and the sound of a match being struck followed by the pungent smell of sulfur. Then the room was illuminated by a small candle. Littlek saw Caradavin blow out the match. In the small room was a bed made of clean straw covered by blankets, a pack hanging on a nail on the wall, green carpeting covered the earthen floor and a small table with a glass, a wooden bowl and the candle resting on it. There was barely enough room for the four of them to fit but they managed. They settled in and listened.

The stable doors opened and they heard the sounds of heavy leather boots walk across the floor as the visitors searched the stables. Littlek recognized the sound of Strider snorting in displeasure at the visitors.

“Look over there.” The familiar voice of Lop Ear boomed through the walls. “Yer will regret not findin’ ‘er. I want that reward.” Lop Ear muttered on but what he said was inaudible to those hiding behind the wall.

“Lop Ear! That bony nag we put ‘er on is here.” Yelled one of Lop Ear’s henchmen.

“Aye…..that she is. Yer taffers search this place and I mean every part a this barn…even if yer have ta’ tear it down. Now git on wit ya.” Lop Ear thundered on.

They listened to Lop Ear and his men nosily move through the stables tearing apart any piece of furniture or storage bin that could hide a human. They remained absolutely quiet and the only noise that came from the hidden room was from Yubetcha’s growling stomach. Caradavin reached into the pack hanging on the wall and handed Yubetcha a crunchy deer leg. He chewed on it slowly trying to eat it quietly. Suddenly they felt rather than heard the board that hid the secret passage swing open then close quietly. Soft footsteps traveled down the passage towards them. Yubetcha was closest to the narrow passage and reached for his dagger. It was gone. Littlek noticed this and realized she still had Yubetcha’s dagger and handed it to Yubetcha. He quickly grabbed it and turned with difficulty in the cramped room to face the intruder. Speedy, Caradavin and littlek drew their own daggers. The footsteps were soft and quiet. Not the same as Lop Ears mob. Yubetcha peered into the darkness, his dagger poised to strike just as the light illuminated Zaccheus’ face.

19th Dec 2002, 17:51
Caradavin let out a low growl at the sight of the mysterious figure before them, more out of surprise than mischief. She held her dagger firmly, ready to pounce if need be. Looking around at the other recent strangers, she saw that they didn't seem threatened by this figure. She warily scooted back, eyeing him. This evening had gotten strange in a very short time. But, oddly enough, there was a twinge of curiousity at the edge of her mind pulling her in closer to this group of people.

She looked over to Yubetcha and pictured the deerleg she had just given away. It definitely was one of the finer foods in her pack, but at least it saved their lives. She caught herself at that thought...their...not hers...she had been alone for so long now that she never really bothered caring about other people much, so this feeling of concern for the strangers' well-being was rare indeed. She welcomed it. She hadn't had companions besides her horse for what seemed like ages. Her past faded in and out quickly with whispered voices that grew into panicked shouts. She shut it out, and concentrated on the individuals before her.

22nd Dec 2002, 19:21
“Zaccheus, I nearly skewered you.” Yubetcha whispered.

“I barely made it in here. Lop Ear’s men nearly found me.” Zaccheus explained in a whisper. “I watched you all disappear into this wall and nearly missed the hidden entrance.” Zaccheus scrutinized the fugitives in the dim candlelight crammed into the small room. The small one in the corner he did not recognize as she warily glared back at him and fingered her dagger. But he did recognized littlek and Speedy. The room was not large enough for him to fit so he stayed crammed in the narrow hallway. “Why is Lop Ear looking for you?” he asked.

“I’ll explain all this later. After Lop Ear leaves.” Yubetcha said softly.

They listened to the heavy footsteps and grunts of men as they lifted and moved heavy hay bales, wagons, and grain bins to search behind. They heard footsteps walk by the wall that they hid behind. The boards creaked as two men leaned on the wall resting.

“That crazy ‘ol Lop Ear. He’ll git us killed he will.” Complained one of Lop Ear’s thugs. “I jest wanna git home to me Isabella and that burrick stew I seen her makin’ this mornin’.”

“Aye. I’ve seen yer Isabelle. You wanna go home fer more than burrick stew.” The other man chortled.”

“Don’t you go a lookin’ at me Isabelle or I’ll cut yer eyes out.” The other mean said menacingly.

“Don’t get yer dander up and a worryin’ about yer Isabaelle. She is safe around me. I have me own woman at home.”

“Aye. I’ve seen her. I sure hope she’s a good cook?” he said with a snort.

“Aye. She cooks better ‘n most. She better be. I’ve seen prettier mugs on burricks.” The men cackled loudly at the remark.

“Agh. That littlek. She is long gone from here along with that reward and map, if she be havin’ it. I say we stop lookin’ here and go home.”

“We'll keep a lookin’ till Loppy tells us otherwise er we’ll end up in a bad way.” Remarked the other man. “Ave yer noticed Rastus aint around no more after that little squabble they had the other day?”

“Aye. I have noticed. Well, we ave searched this entire side of the barn. I say we rest a little more then go search over yonder .”

“Best idea I ‘ave heard you say all night.”

Littlek eyed Zaccheus as he learned about the price on her head and of the map. He did not reveal any interest that littlek could tell as he simply listened and learned. She felt Speedy tense at the mention of the map. Suddenly they heard a loud crash followed by loud cursing. It was the unmistakable booming voice of Lop Ear.

“This dang, blasted place aint fit for vermin to live in. Let’s git outta here. She aint here.” Lop Ear yelled.

They heard the two men resting against the wall chuckle. Then one said. “Did ya see that? Loppy stepped on that rake and the handle hit him square on his forehead. He’ll ‘ave a bump the size of a goose egg by mornin.” The other man snickered then they both walked off. Soon they heard the stable door open then the sound of shod hooves thunder off.

The group sat quiet for another length of time then Zaccheus started to back out because there was not enough room for him to turn around. He groped for the loose board, found it then tumbled out of the narrow passageway into the vast space of the stable. Yubetcha, littlek and Speedy soon followed. Caradavin was reluctant to come out. Sometimes Littlek would hear Caradavin whispering to someone who was not there, sometimes arguing with them. She finally emerged but kept Speedy between herself and Zaccheus. Littlek whispered to her that Zaccheus was a friend, a member of the guild.

The group stood in awkward silence. Zaccheus spoke first. “Well now. What’s all this about a bounty on littlek and a map?”

7th Jan 2003, 14:47
Yubetcha spoke up. "They don't seem to know that we dropped the fake map and a few coins back in town. Some guards picked them up and walked away, supposedly to give them to Loppy. Ten to one they didn't give him the coins. And probably not the map either. They'll probably search for the treasure themselves, in which case they are way off somewhere on a wild goose chase", Yubetcha chuckled.
Littlek responded, "Yeah, but that means that Loppy's still after ME!".
Yubetcha said, "Well, we'll have to fix that. We'll have to..."
Then Zacceus interrupted, "Fake map? So where's the real one?"
Yubetcha, still wary of Zacceus' intentions, replied, "Don't worry, it's in a safe place." Then, turning to Littlek and Speedy, he said, "By the way, we still need to get something interpreted". He gave them that you-know-what-I-mean look, hoping that they would understand why he didn't want to say too much. They seemed to understand, but he wasn't sure. "So the sooner we get that done, the sooner we can be on our way".

8th Jan 2003, 19:12
Zaccheus spoke to littlek. “Did you murder that guard that the Templar is so interested in?”

littlek looked down at her feet trying to avoid eye contact with Zaccheus. She was unsure of his intent. There was an awkward silence with the rest of the troupe except for an occasional soft whispering from Caradavin. Littlek answered. “Well, it seems that someone is blaming me for murdering him.”

Zaccheus asked again. “You did not answer my question. If you are in some kind of trouble, you know the guild will help you out. But we need to know the truth.”

Yubetcha and Speedy focused their attention on littlek from her vague response. Speedy spoke next. “Well, did you?”

Littlek was silent a long while and glanced at Caradavin. Caradavin quit whispering to herself and stared at littlek with wide eyes. “No I did not kill that bluecoat, Danguard is it? But I was nearby and know who did.”

The stable was silent except for the sounds of large molars grinding hay. The troupe stared at her expectantly. She continued. “I was heading to the Burrick and saw the Blackman dragging an unconscious Danguard to Beggars Court and Harlot's Lane, strip him and left him in all his glory. I thought it was a great joke and with all his worldly possessions now belonging to tBM, there was no sense in checking his purse. So all I did was stop by his prone form to admire tBM’s handiwork then continued on my way. I was almost at the Burrick when I saw someone scurrying across the rooftops. Curious, I decided to follow. I watched him slither down a rope, kneel over Danguard, muttered a few words then slit Danguard’s throat. When he stood up, I tried to see if I recognized whom he was. I did. It was Slyfoxx. I didn’t stick around to watch what happened next. I skipped the Burrick and came back here, to my stable.”

With everyone’s attention focused on littlek’s story, no one noticed Slyfoxx perched in the rafters.

10th Jan 2003, 13:09
Zaccheus continued, "We can't let one of our own go to jail. I'm sure that I speak for everyone when I say that we'll help you all we can, even if you did murder him".
Slyfoxx was listening intently as littlek said, now seething with anger, "Aren't you listening? I didn't do it! Maybe you don't believe me. But you can bet your bottom dollar that when I find Slyfoxx, he's DEAD! I'm gonna bury him in the dirt up to his neck, next to a fire ant mound. Then, after they're done with him, I'm gonna pour grease on his head, and set it on fire! That's just for starters, for putting a price on my head! Then we'll see who has the last laugh!"
Yubetcha, seeing the fire in littlek's eyes, turned to Speedy, and whispered, "Boy, I wouldn't wanna be Slyfoxx right now".
Speedy responded with a grin, "Well, okay, when would you wanna be Slyfoxx?"
Yubetcha chuckled and snorted. He looked to see all eyes on him and Speedy, and said, "Erm, sorry. But yeah, littlek, we'll get you out of this. Don't worry"
Zaccheus then said, "By the way, is the map in a safe place? We don't want anyone to find it".
Yubetcha replied, "I told you... it's safe. Don't worry. And I guess we should be going, before Loppy decides to come back. He'll probably figure that littlek has to come home some time".
He headed for the door, and the group tagged along. Slyfoxx then decided that they needed to be followed, and he was just the right man for the job.

11th Jan 2003, 00:03
Everyone stared at littlek wondering if they dare believe her… each trying to make sense of the last few days.

A hoarse voice broke the deathly silence as Caradavin began whispering again nervously to herself. Zaccheus spoke first as Yubetcha and Speedy exchanged comments between themselves. Noticing they were being eyed suspiciously by everyone Speedy pushed her way towards littlek, turned and put her arm protectively around her. Looking intently at the small group she said, “There Zaccheus… you got your answer.” Before anyone could speak she continued, “Now, like Yubetcha said, the map's safe and we’re going to the main library. We have some important research to do before the reopening that’s planned for tomorrow…………………………………”

There was a slight movement in the stable’s rafters that caught Speedy’s attention. Stopping abruptly in mid sentence she turned to face littlek putting both hands on her shoulder and reassured her, “I knew you didn’t do it. Everything’s going to be okay if we stick together.”

Stepping back so the others could approach littlek Speedy positioned her self to get a better look at the intruder overhead. With littlek’s speech echoing in Speedy’s head she began to put two and two together.

The shrouded figure she and Yubetcha had followed from the Whales Spout into the woods, and watched climb the rope arrow into the tree wore the very same cloak she could see hanging a few inches from the rafters above them now. She had seen that cape before… but where?

Closing her eyes to concentrate Speedy remembered encountering a man on the rooftop above Fuschias when the Templar’s horse had been shot. They had exchanged words and she had recognized the same familiar voice that had saved her from a bad fall after slipping on the bloody cobblestones at the original murder site. Opening her eyes she knew that the same person hiding above them, who had just witnessed littlek’s angry denial of guilt as well as their plans to go to the library, was wearing the same cape she had seen several times in the last couple days........... Slyfoxx!!!

Speedy watched as everyone exited the stable then called after Yubetcha to wait for her as she approached the door.

13th Jan 2003, 20:06
Yubetcha turned and waited for Speedy. As she caught up, they walked down the country road toward the town's library with the others nearby, and he said, "Ya know, I think this is the longest night that I have ever spent. It seems like it should be weeks later by now". Caradavin said something about the nights being shorter in alternate realities. In the moonlight, Yubetcha saw the puzzled look on Zaccheus' face.

A horse drawn wagon lumbered down the road with a driver and passenger. It creaked and jostled under the weight with every pothole. The bulky object in the back was covered with a tarpaulin. The driver stopped the horses at the gates to the city, and the guards walked to him. One of them raised the tarp, and then nodded to the guard at the gate. The gates opened, and the guards motioned the driver to continue. A man was standing in the Whale Spout's doorway as it approached. The wagon stopped in the alley, and the driver went to the door, while the passenger remained seated. He then turned his back to the building, and he continued to look in every direction, as if he was waiting for trouble. Soon, the driver came back to the wagon with the Templar and another man in tow. The driver exchanged another word with the Templar, as the man stepped into the wagon. The driver raised the tarpaulin, and the Templar nodded. The driver then entered the wagon, took the reins and prodded the horses. As the Templar went back into the Whale Spout, the wagon lurched forward, and drove out of the city toward Littlek's ranch.

16th Jan 2003, 14:44
The group continued to walk down the road, talking and laughing. Suddenly, they heard a noise ahead, over the hill. Littlek remarked, "That sounds like a wagon. That means that there are also horses. Too bad they're coming toward us from ahead instead of behind. I sure could use a ride".
Speedy chuckled, "It could be Floppy". She then continued, "We don't want them to see us", as she ran over to the woods. The rest of the group followed just as the horses came over the hill. Smelling humans, they whinnied as they passed. The driver, looking around, said "I wonder what's got them nervous". A passenger replied, "Let's remember that Fluffy is still on the loose. We should hurry and get to where we're going!"
The driver answered, "We can't go too much faster. This road is full of potholes, and this thing is fragile."
"All the same, if we get caught out here, it's every man for 'imself, and I ain't hangin' around to introduce myself!"
"Don't worry", said the driver. "It won't be much longer. Besides, Fluffy is probably quite a few miles away".
The group came out of hiding, hearing only the first part of the conversation.
Zaccheus remarked, "It sounds like they may have lost a dog".
Littlek said, "I wonder where they're going, anyway, at this time of night".
Speedy replied, "Well, we can't worry about that now. The sooner we get the you-know-what, the better off we'll be".
Zaccheus' interest became even more piqued at this, but remained silent, hoping to hear more.
They continued toward the library.

17th Jan 2003, 01:09
The group was being closely watched by a pair of bulging; bloodshot eyes. Saliva dripped from its long, pointed teeth from the thought of tasting man-flesh again. But its hunger for human meat was overshadowed by the need to follow the noisy wagon. Out of frustration, it dug its long, powerful claws into the bark of the tree it was hiding behind and remained unseen.

Caradavin stopped, visibly shuddered and stared nervously towards the woods.

Littlek stopped beside her. “What’s wrong?” littlek asked. She had long ago accepted that Caradavin’s senses were sharper and more sensitive than any human she knew. She looked towards the woods. She thought she saw a pale movement among the trees but was uncertain. The rest of the troupe stopped a few feet ahead, impatiently waiting for them to catch up.

Caradavin stood motionless, staring into the woods. After a length of time, she took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, then turned to littlek and said simply, “It’s gone.” Then she walked quickly to catch up with the rest of the group without explaining herself.

Littlek ran to catch up. “What’s gone? Caradavin. What did you see?”

“It’s following the wagon.” Caradavin said simple.

“What is following the wagon?” Speedy asked this time.

“The beast.”

“What beast?” Zaccheus asked.

“I wonder if that beast is what the guards named Fluffy.” Yubetcha replied with a short laugh.

“There is nothing fluffy about that thing.” Littlek answered.

“What about Fluffy? Tell me!” Zaccheus asked impatiently.

“Well let me tell you all about our adventures with Fluffy on our way to the library.” Yubetcha replied.

The troupe continued towards the library listening to Yubetcha fill Zaccheus in on Fluffy. They kept to the shadows to avoid any unnecessary attention especially since littlek was now a prominent figure after making it on the Templar’s “Most Wanted” poster that was plastered all over the city. Yubetcha made sure to point out that the poster branded her as being “extremely dangerous” and the reward for her capture had doubled. No one in the guild would be tempted to collect the reward but there were those who were not part of the guild that worried littlek. Speedy and Yubetcha tried to lighten the mood and laughed over littlek’s new identity. Littlek could not help but notice Zaccheus watching her warily and keeping a safe distance between them as they continued on their way to the library. Caradavin seemed to not care. She was involved in an intense conversation with herself or whoever it was that accompanied her in her mind.

They soon found themselves hidden in the shrubbery facing the front doors of the library. The front entrance was surprisingly heavily guarded by five guards. They eavesdropped on the guards to try and gain information about why the library was so heavily fortified but all they heard was the typical mumblings of a bored workforce. Zaccheus motioned for them to follow him. They quietly crept to the side of the library. He took out his square lock pick and expertly picked open the lock to a basement window. Soon the group stood in the dark basement of the library.

“Where are we in the library?” Speedy asked.

Littlek answered. “I’m not sure. Let me get out a map.” Littlek took off her pack and rummaged around, the only sounds were of parchment rustling and littlek’s incoherent prattle. Even Caradavin had stopped arguing with herself. She was now intensely focused on the group’s activity.

“Ah here it is.” Littlek pulled an old parchment out of her pack and moved towards a nearby torch. She lit the torch and spread the map out on a dirty barrel.

The group moved around the map of the library.

Littlek pointed. “Here is the front entrance. It faces south. We came in from the East side about 200 feet from the entrance so my guess is that we are about……here.” She pointed to the area on the map theatrically.

There was a lengthy pause from the rest of the group. “Uh Littlek. The map is upside-down.” Yubetcha informed her. Caradavin chuckled.

“Right. I knew that.” Littlek turned the map around so that north pointed up and looked intently at the map. “So, we are right here.” She pointed again.

The group was quiet. Zaccheus glanced at Yubetcha with an amused twinkle in his eyes. “I think we are here.” Speedy said and pointed to the opposite end of the building. The rest of the group agreed and chuckled softly.

Littlek grinned. “Guess that wanted poster has me flustered.”

“Wanted Poster? Heck.” Yubetcha said with an amusing laugh. “You are infamous for getting lost – especially when using a map.

“OK. So we are here.” Littlek pointed to where Speedy had indicated earlier, raised her eyebrows and looked down her nose at Yubetcha dramatically.

Caradavin refocused the group. “Let’s get what we came in here for. Where do we need to go?” She looked up from the map at a visibly shocked group of taffers.

“What’s the matter?” Caradavin said. “Is it something I said?”

17th Jan 2003, 20:11
Caradavin’s back was to the basement window Yubetcha had led the group through just minutes before… she spun around to look at what had caught everyone’s attention just as Slyfoxx slid silently into their midst, index finger placed at pursed lips indicating a need for silence.

Littlek’s rage got the best of her as she recognized the trespasser. Eyes wide, face flushed her hands clinched in anger she bound towards Slyfoxx. Her voice crescendoed into a diatribe that started with “How DARE you!!!!!!!!!!!” The rest quickly muffled as Yubetcha grabbed her from behind and placed his hand over her mouth as a group of guards marched past the window Slyfoxx was cautiously lowering.

Window closed the footsteps became barely audible but still in danger the group remained motionless. Littlek’s heel jammed Yubetcha in the shin as she tried to kick herself from his grip. He bite his lips to keep from yelping as Speedy whispered into littleks ear, “We knew he was following us, I had seen him in the rafters at your stables and told Yubetcha… we decided to see what he was up to.” Turning to Slyfoxx Speedy continued, “Obviously he prefers OUR company to that of the city watch!”

Standing up to face the group Slyfoxx lowered his head, eyes staring at the floor, shoulders slumped as he turned both palms up to show he was defenseless and completely at the mercy of the group… “I have a lot of explaining to do I’m afraid.” He said looking sadly at littlek. She stopped struggling to get lose so Yubetcha removed his hand from her mouth and lowered her to the floor. After smoothing out her clothes and hair she pulled herself as erect as she could placing both hands firmly on her hips and said through clenched teeth to a forlorn Slyfoxx, “I should say so!!!!!”

Slyfoxx heaved a heavy sigh as the small group waited for his explanation.

22nd Jan 2003, 17:00
Slyfoxx continued, "There I was, minding my own business. Me and Bobby McGee were just walking down the street singin' oowahdiddy diddydum diddydo, gettin' the funniest looks from everyone we meet. Ya know, yesterday... all my troubles seemed so far away. Anyway, he looked at me and said, 'Hey! Didja happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world? And if ya did, was she cryin'? ' I told him that I hadn't seen her since they took her away to Cragscleft. Then he got mad, and said that we should start a revolution. I looked at him and said, 'You say you want a revolution. Well, ya know, we'd all love to change the world. But I don't know what to do... so I'll leave it up to youhoohoo'. Then he said, 'If ya start me up... if ya start me up I'll never stop'. Well, we didn't know that two men were following us... we didn't see them till it was too late... and hauled us off to their house. They wanted us to help with their plans, but we said no. Then they tortured Bobby. They said it was because he sang off key. They said that they were going to torture us again if we didn't help them. So anyway, their boss came into the room, and tortured him again until I agreed to their demands. They wanted me to finger you, littlek. I told them that it wasn't a nice gesture. Well, I thought it was funny, but they didn't, and they said that Bobby would die, if I didn't go to the Templar and tell him that you murdered the guard. I guess they wanted the heat on you for awhile". Unseen by all, Slyfoxx's hand reached into his pouch.
Littlek asked, "Who? Why?", and Slyfoxx replied, "I can't say. He said he would kill Bobby."
Littlek felt Yubetcha's grip loosen. She saw her chance, and said, "If you don't, I will kill you myself!". She then jammed a heel into Yubetcha's shin. As he let go, littlek quickly moved toward Slyfoxx. He threw a flashbomb into the room. When everyone could see again, Slyfoxx was nowhere to be found.

23rd Jan 2003, 02:31
Littlek rubbed her eyes and blinked hard in a futile attempt to get rid of the last of the countless black dots that dominated her vision. Her attempt was futile. She looked around. True to his name, Slyfoxx made a clean getaway, leaving false trails and circling back on his pursuers to confuse them. But Sly was not the only taffer missing. Zaccheus had vanished as well.

“Well I wonder where that sly devil scampered off to now.” Yubetcha asked.

“If I end up paying for his murderous deed, I will hunt him to his den, flog his furry tail and paint my face with his blood in triumph.” Littlek said between clenched teeth.
“Littlek.” Speedy said. “Did you not hear what Slyfoxx said? Someone he could not say forced him into accusing you. If you really want to discover the truth, you need to track down those two men who tortured Slyfoxx and Bobby McGee.”

“And their Boss.” Added Yubetcha.

“Well, I guess you are right, as usual. Danguard did abuse him terribly. He still carries the scars – both physically and emotionally. But I won’t go to Cragscliff for a crime I did not commit. I cannot afford to hire O.J.’s dream team.”

Yubetcha and Speedy looked at each other in confusion. Caradavin asked the question they all were about to ask. “Who’s O.J.?

Littlek was about to tell them when Speedy gasped. “The map. It’s gone! It was right here in my pack.” Speedy held the pack open for everyone to look.

“Don’t anyone move.” Caradavin ordered. She had grabbed the lit torch and pointed it to the dirt floor to illuminate it then sat on her heels. “Those are Slyfoxx’s footprints by the window. He never moved from that spot except to crawl back out the window. Notice the footprints left by Slyfoxx are larger than Zaccheus’.” She moved the torch over to where Zaccheus was standing. Zaccheus’ prints were smaller and from the impression left in the dirt, he stood with more weight on the outer part of his foot. “Speedy, Where were you standing when the flashbomb went off.” Asked Caradavin.

“I was right where I am now. I have not moved.”

Caradavin stood up and tiptoed slowly over to Speedy careful to not obliterate any evidence. She pointed the torch to the floor. The footprints behind Speedy were clearly made by Zaccheus.

“Well he was true to his name and collected his tax.” Yubetcha quipped. “And I think I know where he went.” Yubetcha followed Zaccheus’ footsteps to the end of the room. They could see by his footsteps that he had searched around the far wall, having to feel his way in the darkness. By his footsteps, he never left this room but he was clearly gone. Yubetcha raised the torch high to see if he had used a rope arrow to conceal himself in the ceiling. Zaccheus was not hiding there. Yubetcha lowered the torch and scanned the wall again until he found what he was looking for. A small red button low on the floor. Yubetcha pressed it and a narrow door concealed in the wall opened.

Speedy peered in. “We don’t need the torch. There are small gaslights all along this passage.” They put the torch out and disappeared inside. Caradavin found the switch to close the secret door. The door made little noise sealing itself shut. The only evidence of their being in the basement was the acrid smell of a smoldering torch and the tracks they left in the dirt floor.

The dirt left from Zaccheus’ shoes pointed in the direction he had taken. North.

“Where is he going?” Caradavin asked.

“He is going to the Bodleian room in Snohomish wing.” Yubetcha answered.

Caradavin stopped. She stared at Yubetcha. “Snohomish? No. We shouldn’t go there. That place is dangerous. Haunts and creatures even more dreadful than haunts prowl there. No. No No. We won’t go there.”

“Perhaps it is haunted Caradavin. But that is our path.” Speedy answered.

Caradavin folded into herself and began whispering irritably to her unseen companion. But she kept up with the group as they crept down the corridor towards their destiny in Snohomish.

The only sounds in the passageway was Yubetcha quietly humming a tune to himself.

23rd Jan 2003, 04:47
Rats squealed and scurried as the group followed Zaccheus' footprints. The torches illuminated bare stone walls covered with what looked like white dust. Yubetcha was still limping from littlek's kick, which made for some funky shadows. "Dammit, littlek," he muttered.

"Well, you shouldn't have stopped me," replied littlek.

"Next time, I won't," he retorted.

"Good," she bit back.

"Great," he retained.


"Guys!" Speedy turned on them.

They stopped and looked at him with surprise. "Geesh, give it up, okay?" he sternly requested.

The group quietly returned to following the dusty footprints. Caradavin could hear littlek and Yubetcha whispering on and stifled a giggle. Speedy sighed and just continued. Caradavin was soon joining in with her own whispers. Speedy listened as the cacophony of whispers crescendoed then went down again, sounding almost like a machine....wait a minute. Speedy stopped.

28th Jan 2003, 21:31
“Shhhhh” Speedy whispered. “Listen.” Everyone stopped.

They had traveled a long distance down the narrow passageway. Where they were in the library was anyone’s guess. In the silence they heard it. It was faint but there was no doubt about the identity of the noise Speedy was able to hear over the whispers of her companions. It was the unmistakable whining hum of mechanical watchers.

“I have no doubt the watchers also have those turrets with them.” Yubetcha said, breaking the silence.

“Great.” Littlek added. “What is in this library that made the Templar beef up the security? It’s a library. Not the bank!”

“I told you we shouldn’t go in here.” Caradavin added.

Speedy added. “I doubt they are protecting the book we seek. There must be something else of value that is here. After we get the map back from Zaccheus and translate it, we can have some fun and see what is so prized here.” The rest of the group smiled at the thought of some thievery.

They proceeded down the hallway. Soon they came upon a corridor that headed west. Caradavin examined the floor then indicated that Zaccheus did not take that route based on his tracks on the dusty floor. He kept traveling north.

“It’s not like Zaccheus to make such an easy trail for us to follow.” Yubetcha observed.

“Maybe he didn’t think we would find this passageway.” Littlek added.

“He knows we are following him.” Caradavin said. “We must be especially careful.”

Another passageway presented itself. This one turned East. Caradavin examined the floor carefully and indicated that Zaccheus had chosen this route. Soon they found themselves at a dead-end. Speedy was the first to notice the small switch on the ceiling. She pulled the switch and a small door opened near the floor. They had to crouch low to crawl though this door causing Yubetcha to groan. Yubetcha’s leg still hurt and crawling on all fours aggravated his bruised shin. Only the light that seeped through the cracks between the boards lighted the room on the other side but even in this dimness, they could tell that they were under the wide central staircase that accessed the upper floors. The area was wide but the ceiling made by the stairs was as low as the door they had just used to access this area and so they had to stay crouched. Caradavin moved quickly though small places and so left the group to explore this space under the wide staircase. Soon Caradavin returned and motioned for everyone to follow. Caradavin led them to another staircase. It was only accessible from this secret area under the main staircase.

“I know where we are.” Speedy said. “We found the original entrance to the Snohomish wing of the library. Remember when this library was rebuilt? They must have covered up this staircase to keep people out of this part of the library.”

“Or to keep something in.” Caradavin remarked.

“Well the Bodleian room is in this wing, that is where the book is located that can translate the map, Zaccheus has the map and he went up these stairs.” Speedy answered.

“Well then. Let’s go. Noting could be worse than what we encountered in those caverns.” Yubetcha said. He was first to start up the dark stairway; glad to be on his feet again and off his painful shins. The rest followed slowly and quietly careful to minimize the sound of the old boards creaking under their weight. They climbed two floors then the stairway ended at a closed door. Yubetcha put his ear to the door. In the dim light they could see his face go pale at what he heard.

29th Jan 2003, 21:39
He put his ear to the door again. Hearing the same sound, he tried to open the door a crack, but it wouldn't budge. He had difficulty picking the lock, but it finally clicked. Then he saw another lock near the ceiling, and another near the floor. He was beginning to have second thoughts about this venture. Someone went to a lot of trouble to keep people out. Curiosity got the better of him, however, and after many tries the locks finally yielded. Opening the door a crack, he peeked inside, waited, and then quickly closed it again. He went back to the others, trying to hide the worry on his face. "You'll never believe what I saw!". Pressed for an explanation by the others, he said "Well, on the other side of this door is a room with other doors. I have some good news and bad news. The good news is that I didn't see monster eggs. The bad news is that two haunts and a zombie patrol into that room". Yubetcha then stopped, eyeing a piece of paper on the floor. Picking it up, he lit a candle, blew the dust off of the paper, read it, and then crumpled it up and threw it down. Speedy picked it up and read it aloud. "Forget about your hair, Alice. It's your breath that causes people to give you that funny look". She then threw it down as Yubetcha continued, "I also saw a hole in the wall the size of a doorway, and a huge, long tail was coming out of it, lying along the floor. God only knows what's attached to the other end, but my guess is that it is very large. It went into a darkened room. It looked like a rat's tail, but that can't be right. That would mean that, judging by the tail, the rat is about 4 or 5 feet high! And there are a couple of skeletons on the floor. One has a guard's uniform and a broken sword in his bony hands. And the floor is wet in various places that looked like slime... or maybe saliva... and dried blood! But if this is the way Zaccheus went, I guess we will have to go there also, if we're ever going to find him. But remember... whatever that thing is in there with the tail, this place has been closed for quite some time. That means that there must be another one, if it is to survive and procreate. They might even eat their young like gerbils do... maybe just to stay alive. Just remember to enter the room just after the haunts leave, because they will be back before long. Maybe in about 20 or 30 seconds. And who knows what else we'll find in there. It must be bad, if they went to the trouble to seal this place off. And the only door that I didn't see anyone come out of was the door on the right, so maybe we should start there." He then blew out the candle.
Speedy then added, "Ya know, I was in this library the other day... the part that's opened to the public, and I thought I heard some gnawing sounds. I figured that it was just a little mouse or a rat. And a guy was walking around the room spraying something where the floor meets the wall. I wonder how close these things are to breaking through."

4th Feb 2003, 21:17
Yubetcha had the door opened a crack and waited until the last haunt turned the corner to patrol a distant hallway and was out of site. He sprinted out the door and disappeared into the gloom of the adjoining room. Speedy was next and waited until the haunts made their predictable tour and she too dashed out and hid in the shadows where Yubetcha waited. Caradavin decided to go next which added to littlek’s anguish of being the last one to go. She had a bad feeling about this. Caradavin easily avoided the detection of the haunts even when one unexpectedly changed its routine and appeared before Caradavin had disappeared in the large room alongside Speedy and Yubetcha. Littlek now knew that the haunts had changed the routine of their patrol and so she decided to wait and watch. She thought she figured out their routine and when the last haunt disappeared behind a wall she dashed out of the doorway…..only to bump right into a haunt. Littlek’s nose was pressed into its chest and she slowly looked up into its vacant eyes. It hissed at her when Littlek instinctively reached for her sword to fight for her life. Instead of skewering her with its sword, it grabbed her by her sword arm disarming her. Then it knocked her down, grabbed her leg and drug her into the dark room that her companions had successful concealed themselves in. It opened the door nearest hole in the wall that the rat-tail stuck out of and drug littlek with it inside.

Speedy watched in horror and was paralyzed with fear as the door slammed shut with littlek inside. Yubetcha elbowed her and pointed toward the large hole that the rat-tail had poked out of earlier. It was gone. Caradavin remained quiet. The zombies and haunts were now on full alert trapping Speedy, Yubetcha and Caradavin in their dark corner. They were safe as long as they remained where they were. Littlek was on her own for the moment.

Littlek could not believe that she was still alive. The haunt had drug her into the room, dropped her leg then grabbed her by the arm lifting her off the ground and onto her feet. It stripped her of her pack and weapons then roughly thrust her in a chair that was the only piece of furniture in the large room. It was clearly agitated by her presence and madly dashed about the room swinging its sword like a pirate. Maybe it was a pirate long ago. Littlek could do nothing but watch and wait. Then she heard it. The steps were stealthy and agile but its immense size and weight made it difficult for the beast to enter a room quietly. A concealed door in the wall swung open and a large, rat-like creature entered. It’s hairless tail drug the ground behind it as it lumbered up to littlek and thrust its snout into her face peering at her with its red eyes.

“Hmmmm.” She was surprised to hear the beast say. Then it lumbered next to her and sat down on its haunches and laid its tiny forelegs in its lap. “Ah, good. We have a guest. It has been far too long since my last guest. You do look far more interesting than it was. Those guards are too dim witted.” It wiggled its long whiskers as it appraised her. “They make very boring guests. I do hope you will be more entertaining, yessss, from the looks of you, I think you will.” It grinned revealing its numerous tiny teeth. “Now. What shall we talk about? Do you like riddles? I just love riddles.” It sat straight and excitedly clapped its front paws together not waiting for her to answer. “I’ll start first. This is an easy one."

"At night they come without being fetched, and by day they are lost without being stolen."

The rat leaned towards littlek and flicked its tail back and forth in anticipation of her answer.

5th Feb 2003, 18:30
The rat then explained, "And by the way, I should tell you that the last person who didn't answer that riddle was very tasty. I can't wait to see how YOU measure up to him". His snout began to release saliva to the floor. "Well? Do you have the answer?"
Littlek responded, "What happens if I get it right?"

Meanwhile, the haunts were searching the other room for the uninvited guests. As they walked around the room, the group constantly moved to avoid detection. They finally found themselves in front of the door on the right. Yubetcha opened the door quietly, and they all went in and closed the door. The haunts finally decided that they had a lone visitor, and continued their patrols. Yubetcha lit the candle, and the group looked about the room, hearts still pumping very fast. To the right was a staircase going upward. To the left was a small hall beside the staircase, leading to another staircase going down beneath the other one. Yubetcha said, "Oh great! I wonder which way Zaccheus went, or if he even came this way. We will cover ground faster if we split up. You two go down, and I'll go up. We'll search around and meet back here in... oh, I dunno... let's say an hour. Then we'll decide which way is more promising, including any sign of Zaccheus. And if any of us don't return in that time, it's probably a safe bet that they were captured or killed, and the others will carry on. Okay?"
Yubetcha climbed the stairs.

5th Feb 2003, 21:52
The rat smiled, “Its simple. If you guess the riddle then I won’t eat you. I do hope that is not your fate. I’d be most appreciative of some intellectual interactions around here.” The rat leaned close to littlek’s ear and whispered, “Haunts and zombies are so boring. They just moan or hiss and rattle those ridiculous chains. The guards are not much better.” The rat continued then absently scratched behind his ear. “Let’s see. The rules are that we keep asking riddles until one of us guesses wrong. Agree?”

“OK.” Littlek agreed reluctantly. “We know my fate at guessing wrong. What happens if you are unable to answer one of my riddles?”

“Oh dear. That scenario has never occurred to me.” The rat exclaimed. “You see I always win. But this does make me curious. What would you want from me?”

Littlek smiled. She was beginning to like this rat. “Can I assume that you have read all the books in this mysterious wing of the library?”

“Oh yes, indeed I have.” The rat said proudly. “In fact, I have read them many many times. That is why I am currently trying to break into the main library, not to get out mind you, just to have access to all those wonderful books down there. Those fools below think that whatever they are spraying along the ceiling is going to keep me out. Fools!” The rat ended with a snort.

“Well then it just so happens we….er…. I am looking for a particular book that is supposed to be in the Bodleian room.” Littlek paused for effect.

The rat said excitedly, “The Bodleian room! The books in there are very powerful. Oh this is getting interesting. Which book do you seek?”

“It is a book that will decipher a map. A treasure map.”

The rat grew even more excited learning about the map. “A treasure map! Oh how fun! Do you have this map with you? Can I see it?”

Littlek replied coyly. “Now I just met you and I have never met anyone of your kind before. I am not ready to reveal all my secrets. But if I win your riddle game, I would like your assistance in finding this book and deciphering this map.”

The rat stared at littlek awhile then clapped its tiny front paws together elatedly, “Oh you are going to be such fun. I just knew it the moment I first saw you. You have a deal. Oh this calls for a celebration. Do you like cheese and crackers? I have acquired a most exquisite aged Havarti cheese and I just happen to have some vintage French Bordeaux that I have been saving for such a glorious day as this.” The rat suddenly stopped and looked alarmed. “You do like wine don’t you?”

“Love it.”

“Splendid. I’ll be right back.” The rat scampered off and disappeared through its secret door.

Littlek stood up and stretched. The haunt, which had been standing quietly by the door, rattled its chains to remind her that she was still a prisoner. “OK. Think. What is the answer to the riddle? Maybe the rat forgot all about the riddle. I doubt that.” She repeated the riddle.

"At night they come without being fetched, and by day they are lost without being stolen."

Something that comes out at night and then gone by morning. Littlek mused. Then she smiled as she figured out the riddle. “Now to make up a riddle for the rat. She shook her head. What is it about this place? Here she is trying to think up a riddle for a rat while they eat cheese and drink wine. Creepy. I sure hope the others are safe. I didn’t hear any fights in the next room and those haunts and zombies have settled down.” She sat back down in the chair.

She did not have long to think. The rat soon bustled in pushing a cart with its tiny front legs, a white cloth draped ceremoniously over its furry forearm. On the cart was a large silver platter that cradled a brick of cheese lined with thin crisp crackers and two bottles of wine that had been carefully opened allowing the wine to breath. The rat stopped the cart in front of littlek and waited, expectantly. Littlek was puzzled momentarily until she caught the rat glancing at the cork. She picked up the cork dramatically, breathed in the bouquet of the wine from the cork and smiled at the rat. The rat was delighted and poured the wine into the glasses without spilling one drop of the precious liquid. Somehow she was not surprised that the rat served the wine in appropriate crystal for Bordeaux. The rat handed her a glass. She sniffed the bouquet and sipped careful to allow the wine to cover her entire tongue. She swallowed then breathed in the afterglow. It was good. She nodded her approval to the rat that watched her expectantly. “Of course its good.” The rat said then sipped from its glass and began slicing the cheese with an exquisitely tooled silver knife.

“I propose a toast.” Littlek said raising her glass and standing up. The rat smiled and raised its glass. “May our friendship, like fine wine, improve as time advances.” Littlek bowed and the rat nodded then they touched glasses and drank some more wine. The rat cleared it voice. “Now before we get too chummy, we have this riddle issue to solve. Have you solved it yet?”

Littlek munched on some cheese and mumbled. “UhhhHmmm. Its stars.”

“Splendid. I am so pleased that I did not have to eat you…right away.” The rat exclaimed giving littlek a sideways glance with its tiny eyes. “Now ask me a riddle. Ask me a tough one.” The rat took another sip of the wine and nibbled a cracker.

“OK, try this one. "I never was, am always to be, no one ever saw me, nor ever will. And yet I am the confidence of all, to live and breathe on this terrestrial ball."

The rat simply replied. “I have a confession to make. I have heard this one before. The answer is…. tomorrow.” The rat smiled then took a bite of cheese. “My turn.”

This exchange of riddles continued for almost an hour. The cheese and both bottles of wine were long gone and littlek was drunk. She was never able to handle her drink. The rat too was drunk but not as drunk as she. Earlier the rat had staggered out and returned with some fine chocolate and two bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon.

“This isssnt fair.” Littlek slurred. “You can drinks more than me.” She had wandered over to the haunt that guarded the door and offered it a bite of her chocolate. She lost her balance and swayed forward landing with both hands on the haunts chest consequently smearing chocolate on the front of its shirt. She looked up into its bony face and grinned. “Sorry 'bout yer shirt." She tried to rub the chocolate off the haunts tunic but only managed to make the mess worse. "Ya know haunty…if I was a girl haunt, I might go for you. Can you….I mean are you able to….is every part of you…… ghosty?” She giggled. The haunt hissed at her, irritated at being reminded of the pleasures of its previous mortal life, grabbed her roughly by her collar lifting her high off the floor then carried her to the chair and dumped her back into the seat. Littlek straightened her shirt and rubbed her bottom then leaned to the rat and whispered in its ear, “He’s sure grumpy.” The rat giggled.

“You are very drunk and so very entertaining. But drunk or not, the fact remains you still haven’t answered my last riddle. I’ll repeat it for you.”

"Runs over fields and woods all day. Under the bed at night sits not alone, with long tongue hanging out, a-waiting for a bone."

“It’s a shoe.” Littlek said laughing heartily and slapped the rat on his back.

“Bravo!” The rat exclaimed. “Now you.”

Littlek’s cloudy mind was having trouble thinking up hard riddles. She finally remembered this one that stumped her in her childhood;

"The beginning of eternity, the end of time and space, the beginning of every end, and the end of every place."

The rat was stumped. It hummed and hawed, tapped its feet, scratched its head, paced the room and ate more chocolate. It finally let out a big sigh, “Oh I just haven’t a clue. I give up. I’ll take you to the Bodleian room and find that silly book. Anyhow, going to the Bodleian room sounds more fun than devouring you. What’s the answer? Do tell me.”

“It’s a letter silly.”

“A letter? How is that a letter?” The rat pondered. “That’s not a good riddle.”

“No but itss the only one I could sthink of. I WIN!” littlek howled and tried to stand up an action that disturbed the haunt. “Thatsts good cuz I’m too drunk to sthink up any more riddles. Lets go to the Bod….er…. Bo…ya know th……” Little tried to stand up but instead fell out of her chair landing hard on the floor, fast asleep.

The rat stared at her lying on the floor snoring softly. The rat then walked over to where littlek’s pack lay and rummaged through it. “Hmmmm, no map. I bet her companions have it or the lone sneaky one that they were following does.” It knew even before the haunt captured littlek that she did not travel alone and that they were pursing Zaccheus. It was spoke to the haunt in a language that littlek would not have understood even if she were conscious. The haunt hissed and left the room.

6th Feb 2003, 18:02
The group had agreed to meet back at the staircase an hour later, but yubetcha finished exploring and went back 20 minutes ahead of schedule. He stood at the staircase and waited very uneasily, hoping that a haunt or other unwelcome resident would not come. He waited, and waited and waited for his friends. His thoughts turned once again to littlek, and her predicament. He had thought of her often in the last hour, hoping for the best, but fearing the worst. He also remembered what he told his friends about the assumption if no one returned at the hour. He wondered if he should look for them, or littlek. He doused the nearby torch, and waited in darkness.

7th Feb 2003, 18:35
Littlek slowly returned to consciousness and became painfully aware of the fact that she was mighty uncomfortable and that she had a powerful headache. “What was in that wine.” She mused raising her head slowly off the ground. “That damn rat must have put something in it.” She mumbled to herself. She only wanted to lay back down and sleep off the effects of the wine and the drug that she was certain the rat and put into her glass but nature was calling just then, insisting that she answer. Littlek slowly rolled over onto her back, the stabbing pain in her temples reminding her she was still among the living. Someone had kindly put her pack under her head as a pillow and that helped a little. She guessed it was the rat. She lay prone for a while then pushed herself up onto her elbows then finally she was sitting upright. She rolled over and got on all fours crawling towards the door dragging her pack with her, not even concerned about haunts or zombies that may be on the other side. She reached up and turned the doorknob, the door swung open soundlessly. She pulled herself onto her feet by the doorknob and stumbled into the darkness of the room. Through her haze, she was able to make out the outlines of several doors. “One has to lead to a bathroom.” She thought to herself. She stumbled throughout the room methodically opening every door and peering inside. None of which led to a bathroom. There was one room left and she staggered to it. It was locked. “Oh great.” She thought. She found her picks in a pocket and worked on the ancient lock. It finally yielded and the door opened with a creak. Inside, was a bathroom but it was not vacant. The occupant was the skeleton of a guard, still holding his sword in front of him as if he were waiting for an enemy to enter and attack. He must have locked the door and died while inside. Littlek walked inside and closed the door.

Littlek emerged from the lavatory feeling much relieved, but still drunk and sporting a tremendous handover. She looked around through bloodshot, unfocused eyes and absently pocketed the coin pouch she found on the guard. All she wanted to do was get back to the room the rat entertained her in and go back to sleep. But she could not remember which of the many doors led into the room. She took a guess and opened a door then stumbled inside. Though her bleary eyes, she noticed that to the right was a staircase going upward. To the left of the staircase was a small hall that lead to another staircase going down beneath the other one. “Maybe the staircase going up leads to some bedrooms or a lounge with a comfy couch I can snooze away this hangover on.” She hopefully thought to herself. She headed in that direction, tripped over something in the dark and fell cursing. Then she heard a familiar quiet chuckle.

“So littlek. You are still among the living.” Yubetcha bent over and helped her up to her feet. She stood on unsteady legs in front of him swaying. “Whew, you smell like you’ve been hanging around Benny at the Whale’s Spout all night.” He examined her more closely. “You’re drunk!”

“Yup. Been drinkin’ wine with a rat. A BIG rat. And good wine.” Littlek slurred. “Man, I have a headache. You didn't happen to find any potions in that shop we ransacked earlier that will cure a hangover?”

7th Feb 2003, 21:34
Before I could agree or disagree with Yubetcha’s plan he was off.

Shrugging at Caradavin I turned to descend the staircase then turned back on second thought to ask if she had any feelings about which way Zaccheus had gone? Perhaps whomever she was arguing with under her breath may have some knowledge unseen to the rest of us.

Caradavin was gone……………

........a fuzzy green haze, where she had stood, lingered just long enough for me to question my sanity. Blinking twice to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me I stepped towards the haze and caught a nose full of burrick stench..... coughing I backed away quickly.

My head swam, ears rang, and knees began to wobble as a high pitch whine filled my head. It felt like two quills were being crammed into each ear. Placing both hands over my ears in an effort to block out the horrid sound I back peddled into a bookcase that gave way.

Plopping down hard I found myself in a dimly lit crawlspace. The bookcase slammed shut behind me as soon as I leaned forward to get a better view of my new surroundings............ leaving me stranded alone and trapped.

Hmmmmmm.... I don't like the looks of this, I thought to myself.

10th Feb 2003, 06:52
Caradavin watched Speedy descend the stairs, and backed up against the wall - realizing she was alone. It felt as if the stone wall itself moved! She heard large, disgustingly squishy sounds and then found herself in a small room. Collecting herself, she surveyed her surroundings. Two torches barely illuminated the room, but it was enough to see the bones strewn throughout the place. Caradavin swore beneath her breath, then began to carefully sneak around the bones. She sensed a presence and whirled around. Ten paces to her right was absolute darkness, but it was breathing.

She reached into her cloak and pulled out a dagger. Facing the darkness she said,"Whoever you are, I know you are there."


"You might as well reveal yourself."

Then she sensed the second presence. "Clever," she muttered.

The haunt had hidden itself beneath the first presence, whatever it was. She heard a rumbling chuckle as pain split into her skull and all went black.

18th Feb 2003, 15:49
Littlek slurred, continuing, "Ma head fells lahk a wahl fell ahn ith".
Yubetcha fumbled around in his cloak. "Ah, here it is". He took out a small vial containing a potion, and read the label, which said S.R.
Looking in the book, he found the page containing many lines of text. "Lesseee... oops! There are two lines with the same abbreviation. S.R. means either Soberness Renewal or Stain Remover. Well...".
Littlek's head was still pounding, and couldn't wait. She guzzled the potion as if it was going out of style.
"What I was going to say, littlek, was that we should look at the color. They are different for each. Did it taste okay? And BTW, where are our friends?"

24th Feb 2003, 01:49
Littlek stared at Yubetcha through bleary, blood shot eyes, swaying back and forth trying to keep her balance. “Theesh tastes jest likes...….shicken!”

Yubetcha smiled but watched her carefully to see if the right potion was drunk. Eventually, her swaying slowed then ceased altogether and her eyes grew clearer. “Chicken huh.” He sniffed the drained bottle. “Doesn’t smell like chicken to me. Feeling any better?”

”Oh yesth, lots. That stuff works fast. I think I could even manage to walk a straight line for the Temblar.” Littlek rubbed her temples massaging away the last of her headache. ‘We ought to go find more of those potions. We could make a mint selling these outside the Burrick. We wouldn’t need to go through all this trouble finding treasure.”

“And give up Thieving? Never! Have you seen Speedy and Caradavin? Yubetcha inquired.

“No but a few minutes ago, I wouldn’t have been able to tell them apart from a zombie. Anyhow, I thought they were with you.”

“We separated and were supposed to meet back here but they have not shown up yet. I guess we could give them a little more time while you sober up some more. Meanwhile, tell me what happened to you? We watched that Haunt drag you into that room.”

“Thanks for the rescue attempt.” Littlek said jokingly.

‘There were zombies and haunts all over the place. We were crammed in a dark corner and had to move constantly until we finally were able to hide in this room.”

“I heard all those zombies and haunts looking for you. I am just grateful you three were able to escape.” Littlek answered with genuine concern in her voice.

“And what is this about your new friend, the rat?” Yubetcha inquired lightening the mood.

littlek recounted what she could remember about the witty rat. “The rat knows where the book is that we seek and I am certain it knows how to decipher the map. It has nothing else to do up here but read and since it only has access to these books of power, it knows a great deal about them. But it is getting bored and is trying to break into the main library to access more books. I have no doubt it will succeed. Might be kind of interesting having a giant literate rat about town. I do not wholly trust that rat but I feel it is as honorable as a rat could be. It was obsessed with manners and protocol. I do remember that I won the riddle game, so it will feel duty bound to honor our agreement. At least I hope so if we run into it again.”

Yubetcha pondered on this new information. “Haven’t you wondered about this rat in the first place?” I have to wonder where this rat came from, why the haunts obey it, and it is incredible that it can read and communicate. My guess is that someone knew it was up here and that is why they sealed this wing off.”

“Think it could have some connection to that beast and those giant eggs?” littlek inquired.

“I just don’t know. But I do know that the sudden appearance of all these strange creatures is very odd. Speaking of odd, Caradavin and Speedy should have been back by now. Maybe we should go look for them. Perhaps they found Zaccheus. They were supposed to go search the area that the staircase leads down to. Sober enough to go explore?”

“Sure.” Littlek replied and followed Yubetcha towards the stairway passing an odd-looking bookcase against the dark wall. She fleetingly thought she heard a rustling noise near it or behind the bookcase and halted briefly to investigate further.

Yubetcha was already at the head of the stairs and turned to look at littlek. He was troubled about Caradavin and Speedy and especially wanted to find Zaccheus. He called out anxiously, “Come on!”

Littlek resumed walking towards the stairs a puzzled frown creased her forehead. She and Yubetcha disappeared down the stairs.

24th Feb 2003, 23:49
Caradavin painfully forced her eyes to open. She moaned aloud, then winced at the new flash of pain it provided her. "When I find that blackjack...," she muttered. She stopped herself and froze to place. Where was she?

She focused on listening to the environment for any clues. She heard a steady drip of water off to the left. It sounded like she was in a cave almost. A cave? she wondered. That couldn't possibly be right...No, it wasn't a cave. Her blurry vision cleared enough to see that there was a torch on the far right wall, and it revealed the walls to be made of carved mildewed stone.

Caradavin slowly sat up, placing the pain elsewhere. "I got to get moving and find the others," she thought. Other than feeling parched and dehydrated, she was good to go. She reached for her pack, and then stopped - realizing that it wasn't anywhere near here. She felt panic well up.

"Where is it? Where is it?" she whispered to herself. She scanned the small dank room. There were bones flung about as if hurriedly devoured. Old banners were ripped and torn beyond recognition. To the left was where the water sound was coming from. Her pack was propped up against the wall sitting in the puddle that had been accumulating for years. She stood up and raced to it, splashing through the grimy water. Her fingers grasped the rough cloth of her pack when the floor beneath her gave way.

She hadn't thought of that. "Shi-" She made sure she had a good grip on her pack as she plummetted down...

10th Mar 2003, 17:18
Yubetcha and littlek had gotten to the bottom of the stairs. Torches lit the basement. At the other end of the room, they found a rough-hewn hallway. Yubetcha took a torch from the wall, and the two followed the hallway for about a hundred feet. Beyond that was a cave. They also found an underground creek, with a small waterfall. Water was leaving the area through an opening too small to crawl through. Broken wood that once resembled a boat was floating in the water. However, they could see no opening large enough for a boat, and wondered how the boat got there in the first place. They surmised that the opening had somehow closed. At the water's edge, they found a skeleton. Further from shore, the water became too deep and dirty to see through. Yubetcha found two coins in the pouch, and gave one to littlek, wondering why a midsized pouch would have only two coins worth almost nothing. He then took the dagger from between the skeleton's ribs, and put it into his cloak, after washing the dried blood off in the water. He and littlek also split the firearrows, gas mines, and water arrows between them. In the pouch, Yubetcha found a note.
When you get there, a man named Rastus will be waiting for you. Don't be late. He will fill you in. Here is a little advance. You will get the rest later when the job is done. After it is finished, he will take you back to your boat. Don't turn your back to him.
Then, Yubetcha thought he heard a faint splash in the water at the far end of the cavern, but he wasn't sure. He looked, but couldn't see anything. To the left in the small cavern was an opening in the wall, far from the one they came through. Yubetcha wondered aloud if Zaccheus took that route.

10th Mar 2003, 23:04
Caradavin felt the ice cold water hit her rear end, and then the hard unforgiving ground took its turn. She grunted in shock, and her throat caught back up with her. She immediately registered light voices. Grabbing her considerably dry pack, she focused her mind on their energy and headed that way. The place was damp and heavy. Her footsteps echoed in a thudding soft reverb.

Ahead of her a little ways were Yubetcha and littlek. She quickened her pace to catch up.

11th Mar 2003, 13:09
As Caradavin pulled herself from the water, Yubetcha and littlek turned around to face her. Yubetcha exclaimed, "Hey! You're back!"
Caradavin turned to look over her shoulder. "What about my back?". Then she chuckled. As she approached, they got each other caught up on what had been happening, disappointed that there was no sign of Zaccheus. Yubetcha showed her the other opening in the wall, and they all decided to investigate. Then Littlek suggested that since they have found more than one hidden door so far, it may be worth the time to search for one here.

14th Mar 2003, 01:09
The dust tickled my nose as it settled around me. Sneezing several times I let my eyes grow accustom to the dimly lit secret crawlspace. Once my eyes adjusted I pulled my compass to get my bearings before trying to move forward.

“Hmmmm, last time I checked this compass the dial was spinning widely. It must have been the treasure map,” I thought. This time it held steady at due North, straight ahead.

Backtracking in my mind, to where we had entered the library, I made a mental note of the direction Zaccheus had taken after stealing the map from me. He had gone North… then East in the direction of the Snohomish wing which housed the Bodleian room where the book, we hoped would help us translate the ancient map, had been on display before the extensive renovations had begun a month ago. Then we’d climbed two flights of stairs from the basement before getting separated so there was one more floor of the library above me… okay time to move on.

Pocketing my compass I inched forward until the crawlspace grew taller and I was able to stand up. Moving faster now I reached the end of the narrow hidden passageway. If our hunch had been right Zaccheus was headed in the same direction. If luck was with me I’d get there before he did and surprise him when I took my treasure map back. Hoping to run into the others on the way I decided to turn right and continue East towards the Bodleian room.

Unfortunately I came to a deliberately blocked dead end. Disappointed I turned back... headed West now hoping to find a junction that would send me in the right direction again. Fearing I was getting too far away from my intended target I turned back and retraced my footsteps. I pulled out my compass again just to reassure myself that I was going in the right direction. Tilting the face to get a good look I thought I saw the needle skip. Stopping to let it rest I watched as it jumped again then spun out of control. I put my ear to the wall and heard faint footsteps disappearing ahead of me as the needle slowed then relaxed. “Zaccheus!” I whispered.

Hurrying forward I reached the blocked end of the secret passageway again. This time I lit a match and very carefully examined the walls and floor… lifting it to highlight the ceiling the flame flickered and blew out before I could raise my eyes. Peering up into the darkness a cool breeze from above enveloped me as I fumbled for another match. Stretching on tip toes I felt the hard cold steel of a ladder just out of reach. Jumping I grasped the lowest rung with both hands and used my feet against two walls to shimmy up until I reached the ladder then began to ascend into the night.

It was a long climb that finally put me on the roof of the library. Clearing my lungs with a deep breath of fresh air I surveyed the area while brushing the dust from my clothes. A brightly lit dome peeked above the horizon right where I figured the Bodleian room would be. Carefully watching my step I approached the dome quietly then hunkered down and crept the last few feet before lying on my tummy and low crawled to the edge.
Peering over the frame into the room below I realized the glass had been painted on the inside so no one could see out! “Why would anyone want to block the view to the outside?” I wondered to myself. “Or could it have been painted so no one would be able to see in?”

Muffled voices and the mechanical sounds of equipment caught my attention as they echoed off the glass from the room below. I could barely see some movement through the paint. I placed my ear to the glass in hopes of catching some of the conversation.

“We’re more than ready for the grand opening tomorrow, sir,” said a guard as he saluted his superior. “With the new security system in place we can have fewer guards in the room and more outside on patrol,” he continued. “That should protect the library’s most recent acquisition.” He grinned, proud to have been part of what very few knew.

The sergeant stepped toward the guard, grabbed a handful of his uniform, yanking him close as he threatened him with his very life. “If you breathed a word about what’s gone on during the renovation I’ll make sure it’s your last breath.” Then he reminded him that he didn’t really know anything about what was housed there… now did he? The guard swallowed hard and started to apologize to his superior as he smoothed his uniform. But before he could open his mouth he felt the sharp edge of a blade pressed to his lips as the sergeant warned, “Not another word from you or your tongue is mine.”

The guards knees buckled.

"Lock up, you're dissmissed!" The sergeant barked exiting the room as he sheathed his dagger.

The glow of the dome grew faint as the wobbly legged guard turned out the lights one at a time. The final sound of the main door being locked bounced off the glass. Only the whir of the security system filled the room.

I eased around the edge of the glass dome until I found a latch. Checking for a rope arrow I juggled my lock picks into position ready to descend into the Bodleian room.

2nd Apr 2003, 01:57
“Why don’t we each search a section in this cavern then meet back here say……in 20 minutes?’ Littlek suggested.

“Sounds like a plan.” Caradavin replied through chattering teeth. Her shivering from landing in the icy water was lessening but she was anxious to get moving to warm herself further.

Yubetcha took the lead exploring the eastern wall, Caradavin took the western wall and littlek walked north further down the hallway checking the floor and ceiling for any cleverly hidden switch. The hallway was poorly lit and black soot from oily torches covered most of the wet walls making it difficult to see a concealed door. Littlek took out her compass to orient herself. It registered true, pointing North. She walked further and found herself near the opening in the wall they noticed earlier and peered in. It was very dark and there was no way to tell the direction it went but she sensed it went up. She peered at her compass again….it was spinning around wildly.

“Hey, I found something.” She called to her companions. She heard them walk towards her. “When was the last time you saw a compass do this?” She said grinning.

Bright smiles lit the dim hallway and the trio stepped into the dark narrow opening and began their silent ascent up. The map was near. Unknown to the wary group, the narrow hallway led to the Bodleian room….and their presence in the passageway had not gone unnoticed. Tiny eyes suspended from the ceiling watched them pass by then scurried off.

Littlek led the way through the airless winding passageway. It steadily ascended up and her legs ached from the effort. The stagnant, moist air made it difficult to breath. When she thought she could not take another step, the dim light from the torch Yubetcha held up behind her illuminated a narrow, mildew-encrusted door. Clearly this long forgotten door led somewhere. They listened for any movement or whispering on the other side. They all jumped when the loud voice of an angry guard suddenly boomed through the door but the thick door prevented them from hearing clearly what was being said. Littlek thought she heard “security” and something about renovation but could not be certain. Soon the angry voice stopped and all that could be heard were the leather-soled footsteps of someone walking noisly about the room.

Littlek carefully turned the slimy doorknob. It was locked. Mildew had grown unchecked on this particular door for a long time so it was difficult to see the lock and the hinges. Caradavin drew her sword and used the blade to carefully scrape off the slime from around the door and the rusty lock. She used the tip of her sword to slice underneath. Bright light that had been previously blocked by the slime peeked underneath. Littlek took out one of her lock picks and tried it on the doors lock. The lock would not budge. She tried another lock pick. It too did not work. Suddenly the glow of the lights that peeked under the door began to grow faint and they heard the unmistakable hiss of flames being extinguished. The final sound was of the main door being closed. It was eerily quiet but there was no mistaking the new sound that reached thier ears - the whir of a security system.

She turned to face her companions. Yubetchas torch illuminated the look of defeat on her face. “Now you are not going to let a simple security system stop us are you?” Yubethcha whispered.

“I can’t even get the door open let alone bypass those gold headed machines. I hate those things.” Littlek hissed back.

“Let me try the door.” Caradavin said. “Cutty sold me these new lockpicks the other day. Said they were guaranteed to work on any lock.” Littlek moved away from the door and Caradavin went to work on the locks.

Littlek sat down on the dank floor and waited. Yubetcha nudged her with his toe and gave her a sideways smile. “Still hung over?”

“I guess. It’s been a long day. Did I really get drunk with a rat? How is that possible?”

“I saw a large tail that looked like it belonged to a rat.” Yubetcha whispered back as he sat down next to her. “But I never saw what you described. If it does exist and it knows where the book is that can translate that map then the next round is on me.”

“You'd have to rob the bank. It has a palate for expensive wine." littlek teased back. "I was really getting to like that rat.” Littlek replied simply. Yubetcha glanced at her sideways. “Well we are in real trouble if we find an irritated haunt with chocolate smeared down the front of his tunic.” Littlek laughed softly then they both resigned themselves to quietly watch Caradavin as she skillfully worked on the resiting lock.

After a time, they heard the unmistakable groan of a lock giving up to the pick. Caradavin simply said “finally” then stood up and stretched looking at littlek and Yubetcha. “Ready?”

“You are clearly a master of the lockpick.” Yubetcha teased. “Allow me to open the door for you ladies.” Yubetcha grasped the doorknob and turned it. The door opened inward only to reveal another barrier. It was difficult at first to tell what blocked the entrance but soon it was clear that a heavy bookcase had been placed in front of the door.

“Now what?” Yubetcha moaned.

2nd Apr 2003, 18:45
"Well", littlek said, "We could run up and hit the door full force, and hope to knock the bookcase over."
They all agreed, went back a few steps, and then ran forward, hitting the door. The bookcase didn't budge. They tried again. This time, they heard many books fall to the floor. They decided to try a third time, and more books fell. They tried again, and again. The bookcase still didn't move, but more books fell. Littlek said, "That bookcase should be much lighter by now", as she rubbed her shoulder. The others were also feeling pain. Just then they heard a motor whir, startling them. They waited for a minute, staring at the door, not knowing what to think. Nothing happened. They tried to open the door, but it still wouldn't move. They stepped back. As they ran at the door full speed, it flew open before they could touch it, and they all raced in, falling among the books, and each other. They looked back at the door in puzzlement, and saw Speedy laughing. Littlek asked, "Speedy! How did you get in here?". Speedy, in her laughter, only pointed above to the skylight. Helping the others to stand, Speedy explained that she found the switch that slides the bookcase to the side, revealing the door. Then she realized what was happening, and held the door shut, opening it just when they were in reach. "By the way, April Fool!", she laughed.
Rubbing his shoulder, Yubetcha said, "That was yesterday!"

2nd Apr 2003, 22:32
“Oh yeah it is the 2nd already, silly me.” Grinned Speedy.

“Always a day late and a dollar short.” Teased Yubetcha.

“But more than pleased to be reunited with my dear friends again.” Speedy continued helping everyone to their feet.
“I haven’t had a lot of time to look around. I do know we only have until morning to find anything that might help us interpret the treasure map. The library will be filled with people very shortly after the reopening ceremonies in the morning.” Speedy brought her comrades up to speed, “Zaccheus is still in the building so we must find him and get the map back as well as find the control room or disable the security system from here so we don’t have to waste time avoiding detection while we comb the room.”

“Who’s excited,” ribbed littlek as she gave Speedy a friendly squeeze.

“Me!!” said Caradavin. “The four of us should make quick work of the guards’ security system and have plenty of time to investigate the room. There are several books I’ve wanted to study but never had the opportunity to until now.”

“The security system’s no problem,” Yubetcha promised the ladies. “It’s finding Zaccheus and getting the map back that might take some time.”

“I agree, Speedy said then added, let’s do it!!”

“Who wants to disarm the golden heads? And how many of us should band together to look for Zaccheus?” asked littlek.

“I’d like to find Zac… I owe him one,” Speedy said pulling her compass out to use as a tool in the search.

3rd Apr 2003, 15:57
Littlek looked around and saw two golden heads rotating slowly from the ceiling in the far end of the room. “I’ll disarm those two in the north end of this room.” Littlek volunteered then slunk off. She ducked into the shadows and quietly walked towards the first head. She scanned the far wall and spied the switch near a door. There was a sign above the switch but it was too far away to clearly read. The switch looked like all the other switches that cut the power to these watchers so she decided to give it a go. The switch was out in the open and would be difficult to access without being detected. She studied the two heads as they surveyed the room to time her approach to the switch. She noticed that she had a small window of time when both heads would be turned away from the switch for when she could dash out and turn off the switch. When that moment approached, she sprinted to the wall and pulled the switch down to the off position. Her back was turned to the heads but her ears told her that the golden heads did not turn off and that they were now focused on her. She saw their yellow lights reflect off the wall she faced indicating the heads were alerted. She stood perfectly still. She glanced up and read the sign. It said, “Master Power to Turret.” A small handwritten note was pinned underneath. It said, “Down is On, Up is Off but off does not work yet. Will fix tomorrow.” Littlek glanced sideways and detected a turret that was concealed in the shadow of a bookshelf. It had an arrow notched and she was in its sights. Her knees began to shake.

3rd Apr 2003, 21:27
She waited, focusing on the turret's sound. The instant that she heard it release the arrow, she stepped to the side. The arrow grazed the side of her chest, causing a flesh wound, and making a thumping sound as it hit the wall. Meanwhile, Speedy, not being given the name for nothing, ran full speed to another switch that no one had noticed before, at the opposite end of the room and near the Watchers. Turning it, the room became almost pitch black, except for a small amount of light coming through the open skylight. "Don't move, littlek", she ordered. Soon the Watchers went from red to green, and became silent once more, making their revolutions. The turret went back to its resting position. Littlek ran back to the others, followed by Speedy. The Watchers, as if waking from a deep sleep, became alert and went to yellow, but the pair reached the other side of the darkened room, and the Watchers soon returned to green again.
Soon the door at the opposite end of the room, near the Watchers, opened. The group froze as a guard entered. "What's all the rack...? Oh that idiot! I told 'im to leave the light on. How does 'e expect the Watchers to work?! I guess if ya want sumpthin done right, ya gotta do it yerself! I wonder if the Watchers are faulty, goin' off like that in the dark. Never DID trust 'em." The guard walked under the Watchers, toward the wall switch on the adjacent wall.

3rd Apr 2003, 22:52
Caradavin jumped stealthily into the air and cleanly blackjacked the guard. The Watchers both stopped and turned yellow. Caradavin did a side roll into the shadows. "Two seconds," whispered Caradavin. The Watchers returned their routes.

littlek shook her head at the oddity of Caradavin. "Hey," scratched Yubetcha in littlek's ear, "I found something."

The door closed. They both jumped and looked over. Caradavin quickly maneuvered through the shadows with the body and dumped it by them. She ruffled through his clothes. "Not here," teased littlek.

Caradavin chuckled, but kept digging. She received three gold coins, a broadhead, and a piece of Port Wine cheese. She transferred everything to her pack, but two coins which she regretfully offered to the other two.

Yubetcha directed their attention once more to what she had noticed. Right between the Watchers was a small arcing switch. littlek groaned. Caradavin measured the room with her eyes, "Why don't we just walk around?"

"What about the turrets?" littlek countered.

"It was just a suggestion," Caradavin replied.

4th Apr 2003, 15:07
Before anyone could react, the unmistakable sound of an arrow whooshed above their heads impacting the wood ceiling then followed by the unrolling of a rope. They all quickly turned around to see Speedy lower her bow. The rope arrow was impaled near the arching switch. She grinned rakishly then with out a word, leaped to the rope arrow and quickly climbed to the switch turning it off before the watchers could sound the alarm. The room was theirs.

Speedy dropped to the ground; pulled on the rope arrow to release it then nonchalantly recoiled the arrow and returned it to her quiver.

Yubetcha broke the silence. “Impressive.”

“You may bow to the master thief later. Let’s search for that book but I doubt it is still here.” She held up her compass for all to see. “My compass reads true again so my guess is that Zaccheus has both.” Speedy replied.

“You are wrong my friends.” A familiar voice said from the shadows. Zaccheus stepped out of the shadows.

8th Apr 2003, 13:01
His appearance was that of a homeless man... bloody, dirty, and torn clothes. As he walked closer, the sadness could clearly be seen in his eyes. He continued, "I'm sorry that I ran from you with the map. I lost my head for a moment. Then, I searched all over this place looking for you. You're not going to believe this, but I ran into a giant rat, and it talks! Now, before you judge me insane, just let me say that I've never been saner. He even ordered a coupla haunts... HAUNTS, mind you!... to take the map from me. He also has the book, so no tellin' where he is now".
Yubetcha replied, "First of all, we believe you. We don't think you're insane. If you're insane, then littlek is too."
Zaccheus asked, "You mean you...?"
Littlek nodded. "Yeah, he even likes wine and cheese. Go figure. It's almost as if he was a person who got turned into a rat somehow, as impossible as it seems."
Zaccheus responded with a nod, "That could be true. He told me that a man in a far away city who works with chemicals was hired to come up with some kind of potion, but that's all the rat would tell me. Anyway, when I found my chance, I ran from them. They gave chase, and caught me. I fought with them. The claws! And the haunts! Oh, the frightening sound of the chains! Anyway, with one free hand, I dropped a flash bomb. I lost them behind a bookcase. I saw a lot of bones there, and decided that the room was not the safest place for me. They came looking for me, and I ran around a corner. All of a sudden, I heard a voice behind me. It said, 'Whoever you are, I know you are there.' After a moment of silence, they said, 'You might as well reveal yourself.' I thought that someone saw me. I snuck back, and peeked around the corner. I then heard her say, 'Clever'. It was too dark to see who it was. I could only see a dark figure. Anyway, I decided not to stick around, and as I started to run, I heard someone cry out in pain, and I thought I heard a body hit the floor. I went back to the corner again, but the room was empty".
Caradavin said in anger, "And you didn't think that the person might be in trouble, and need help?". All eyes in the room turned to her. Then she turned to her unseen companion, as if to listen, and started to argue again. She replied to an unheard statement, "No! THIS time, he's gone too far! He could've helped me!". After a pause, she said, "I don't KNOW if I would have. But he's bigger and stronger than me! And probably better armed. All I had was a puny dagger! No, this time he needs to answer my question". As she turned to ask the question once more, Zaccheus was nowhere to be seen.
Yubetcha said, "Oh, not again!" With a sigh, he said, "Oh well, I guess it looks like we look for the rat now".
Suddenly, in the distance, a muffled, blood curdling scream was heard.

9th Apr 2003, 21:17
"Let's go," said littlek.

“Wait,” Speedy said. “That distant scream couldn’t have been from Zac.”

Stepping in the direction that Zaccheus had stood she carefully peered behind the bookcase he’d been leaning against and found him slumped on the floor out cold. A spent gas arrow anchored in the back of the bookcase had a note attached.

“One down four to go! If you can catch me I’ll tell you what I know!”

Following the angle of the arrow Speedy looked in the direction it had been fired from and saw a pair of red eyes blinking back at her from behind a large painting hung high on the library wall.

“What’d you find Speedy?” Yubetcha asked.

Drawing a fire arrow she shot directly at the portrait. Her comrades watched the fiery glow streak from behind the bookcase up to the canvas hitting it right in the center blowing a huge hole in the wall. A loud squeak was heard as the frame caught fire.

Speedy rounded the bookcase and handed the note to Yubetcha.

As he read it out loud Speedy put a rope arrow in the ceiling above the smoldering frame and said…

“After you.”

The sound of guards running up the halls towards the room was all the foursome needed to hear as they all climbed quickly to the top of the rope and jumped through the hole where the picture had hung.

10th Apr 2003, 17:29
However, just as Yubetcha, the last one of the group, reached the end of the rope, the arrow, loosened from the ceiling by the weight of the others before him, fell to the floor with Yubetcha. The door burst open, and guards came pouring into the room. The lights came on, stinging Yubetcha's eyes, and as the guards came toward him, he closed his eyes and threw a flash bomb. "Hail hail, the gang's all here", he said to himself. He knew that he wouldn't have time to shoot an arrow into the ceiling where the other had been, and then climb it. Instead, while the others were blinded, he went to the door, opened it and closed it. He then hid behind a bookcase. The others' sight slowly adjusted, and they each ran through the door, the last one closing the door behind them. He heard shouting, and footsteps running up and down the hall. The sounds slowly faded, and he was alone. He shot an arrow into the ceiling, and just as he started to climb the rope, he spied a crumpled piece of paper on the floor in the corner near a bookcase. He picked it up and read it.
If you'll get the book for me, let me know how much I owe you. Maybe I can get you a new backpack. Or I can probably send you the monkey. If the expense is more than the monkey will cover, I'll give you the neighbor's kid. Haha
Dr. Booboogone

Yubetcha climbed the rope to the opening where the picture had once hung. Peering through it, he saw that the area beyond was empty. The others had gone. He climbed through the opening, and crawled forward. Soon, in the darkness, he reached forward, finding a deadend. Groping in the dark, he found an upward incline to the side, and followed it into a room, finding his friends.

10th Apr 2003, 17:33
Caradavin was the last of the troupe to land softly in the dark room on the other side of the portrait. Speedy looked at the rope arrow dangling from the ceiling trying to decide if she should risk retrieving it. The deluge of noisy alerted guards entering the Bodleian room made the decision to leave the arrow an easy one. She checked her inventory of rope arrows and decided she still had enough. They all turned away from the hole in the portrait so no one noticed the rope arrow grow taunt then disengage from its grip in the ceiling and the ‘thud’ that followed.

The room was very dark so no one noticed that Yubetcha was missing. They each groped her way to the far end of the room stepping softly so that noise the guards made masked their footsteps. The guards seemed occupied by something else. As they walked to the end of the room littlek fell into an opening. It turned out to be a narrow hallway that led up. She called to her companions. “I found a way out.”

They followed her voice and pressed on to see where the narrow hallway led. It was not long before they found themselves in front of a narrow door. She opened it quietly and stepped inside. She found herself in another room. The rest of the troupe moved inside the dim room and stood wide-eyed.

The room they now stood in had once been grand. Even with the dim light of only one lit torch, they could make out ornately carved woodwork over an unused fireplace, dusty but sturdy chairs surrounded several elaborate tables each with tall, solid gold candlesticks. The facetted chandelier above them reflected the little light that was in the room. Grand paintings of hunt scenes, mountains and people hung crookedly on the walls and curtains thick with dust hung over windows that were long ago sealed with brick. They began to mill about to admire the luxurious room. Speedy suddenly became aware of the sound of soft footprints in the hallway they just left. She crouched to the side of the small door and drew her blackjack. She nearly brained Yubetcha as he sauntered into the room.

"Hey, nice of you to wait up for me." He said mockingly. “Wow, look at this place.”

“Where have you been? I thought you were right behind us?” Speedy asked. Caradavin and littlek joined Speedy and Yubetcha. He filled them in on his mishap with the rope arrow but cut the story short when he spied the solid gold candlesticks. He walked towards the nearest table..

Suddenly the room grew cold. So cold that they could now see their breath. Littlek thought she saw a whitish mist move in front of the single torch. As the mist moved over the remaining torches, they each relit so now the entire room was illuminated. There was no mistaking the presence of the mist as it stopped in front the stunned troupe and began to take the form of a man. It was not long before the man materialized into a hammer priest. He stood in front of them, squared his shoulders and seemed to take in a deep breath. Caradavin began whispering softly again to her unseen friend.

“I apologize for my entrance but that is the way of the spirit world. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Julian Bodleian. And I think I can assist you in your quest. But first you must do something for me.” The man said.

By now, the troupe recovered quickly from nearly any strange entity that they encountered. Yubetcha spoke first. “What do you think it is that we area searching for?”

“I know you seek the map and the book that can translate it. I also know that Sir Claudius of the Picts now has what you seek. For the life of me, if I were amongst the living, I cannot understand why you want to go to that terrible island. But your business is your own.”

“Who is Sir Claudius?” Speedy asked.

“He has been enjoying the form of a rat these days. He always did have a rodents quality about him.” Bodleian turned to look at littlek. “I understand that you are now well acquainted with him.”

Littlek stammered. “Well we have met but I wouldn’t say we were best buds.”

Yubetcha brought the conversation back to focus. “How can you assist us and what do we need to do for you to help us?”

“I have been at peace for a very long time until recently. Tomorrow there is a grand opening of many valuable items in the west wing of this library. Part of that collection was taken from this room that bears my name. He knows what items I speak of.” The priest pointed towards Caradavin but not exactly at Caradavin. Rather he pointed towards the empty space that Caradavin was whispering to.

10th Apr 2003, 20:09
The others looked at Caradavin in surprise at this revelation. Caradavin turned her back to them,and then reluctantly faced them. "Alright, alright, it's true."

She looked over with an expression of annoyance, "Okay, I am, just leave me alone for a second will ya?"

Bodlein's chuckle echoed in the large space, "He always was a taff."

Caradavin laughed with him, "That's for sure," and then she moved forward as if pushed.

"Oh, god, don't get your panties in a bunch, it's a joke. You're dead now, why should it matter? Oh, no, now, oh stop it...I didn't mean...Shut UP!" Caradavin walked towards Bodlein as if a group of rats were following her.

"I am, just get off my back for a minute, geesh. Okay, yes it's true. He does know," Caradavin said in exasperation.

Littlek narrowed her eyes, "So, we didn't run into you by accident did we?"

Caradavin slowly looked over to the group,"...No, you didn't. But I wasn't there to find you guys, I was there trying to find the map, he directed me." Caradavin pointed over her shoulder at the blank space behind her,"So, when you guys came into the picture and you were looking for the map, too - well, we thought it couldn't hurt to tag along."

Yubetcha countered,"If he's a ghost, wouldn't he be able to go through walls and stuff? I mean, we coulda found the map by now..."

Caradavin shook her head,"His type of spirit doesn't work that way. Most spirits are free-floaters and can go wherever they wish, others are bound to a place like Bodlein, Mort on the other hand well he is bound to medium. So he is bound to me. Everywhere I go, he goes...unfortunately...No, I'm just joking..no, you're not that bad of company, a little annoying, but you're alright."

"How did he become bound to you?" questioned Speedy with interest.

"Oh, I was dabbling around, talking to the spirits, and he latched onto me like fat on a baby," replied Caradavin.

Bodlein cleared his throat, "If I may continue?"

Caradavin nodded,"Go ahead, but he wants me to tell you first that he still remembers the Hyden Lake incident."

Bodlein heartily laughed,"It's been a long time since I've enjoyed such a laugh. Okay, now here's the details..."

The Shroud
11th Apr 2003, 05:13
“Events seemed to be coming to a head. Questions were being answered and spawning new mysteries with each passing moment. As the web of fate extended its precarious threads of revelation, so too did other truths fade into secrecy, preserved only in our recorded observations. It has proceeded this way for thousands of years, a flowing dichotomy of discovery and obscurity, each arising through the other in a contiguous cycle of interdependence. And only through careful balance could that delicate continuum be maintained. Now, as these new events pressed in upon our quarry, we began the next Chapter in the scripts...”

To the untrained eye,
parallels between events do not exist.
Non-correlations raise their shroud
to dominate perception.

To the eye in which Divine Insight is beheld,
alignments shift in relevance
and obscurities lift their weight
to redistribute focus on their origins.


The events closing in on the rogues were not the only ones taking place that night. Elsewhere, other things were happening. Unrelated things. Less consequential things. Instances of ordinary routine. At least...routine for this city.....

Dayport, Townsend Museum of Classical Heritage

The gray dusk of Dayport's evening held the premises in a slumbering fog, a lazy seaward wind sweeping over the marble structures of the facility in a perpetual breath, carrying sparse seagull cries and the occasional low note of a distant foghorn from the docks to the south. Construction cranes pitched their faint metallic screeching from industrial complexes uptown, and the ever-present haze woven of soot from belching smokestacks and factory exhaust, which always seemed to grip the town in its suffocating miasma, stretched across the indigo sky. Through the thick city fog, a gibbous moon bathed the walls of the museum in a surreal florescent blue, and penetrated its spacious interior through the large circular skylight atop the rear dome.

Within, artistic relics of all types adorned the exhibition chamber, preserved behind glass with Mechanist alarm systems. Carved statues of ancient Precursor craft, ornamental banner weavings, stone tablets with Karath'dinian script fragments, multi-faceted crystals and gems engraved with prismatic runes, and dozens of other forms of precious artifacts decorated the massive halls, the accumulation of centuries of excavations into the lost cities of the land's first settled people. Cylindrical marble pillars braced the fifty foot gap between the floor and ceiling, supporting ranks of giant sculptures of armored sentries, war chieftains, and stoic robed figures bearing spears. The dome was a great intersection of adjoining halls, each with its own splendors to display.

"I can't stand these overnight shifts," grumbled a chainmailed guard to his companion, leaning back against a pillar by the dome's main entrance. "Nothing to do but wait around till morning anyway. These damned Mechanist fittings have practically replaced our use." He folded his arms across his surcoat and shook his head.

"Yeah, ever since that First City Bank and Trust fiasco," replied his burly voiced partner, "things have taken a turn for the worse in this line of work. What with all those iron beast contraptions and...mechanical whatsits taking over our jobs." He sighed heavily. "Places just don't wanna hire human guards no more."

The wind washed over the roof of the dome outside, and a shadow passed in front of the moonlight.

"Those lousy mech cultists are heading up everything nowadays," the round-bellied man went on.

"Ah, don't sweat it," assured the first. "I'll bet there’re still a lot of outfits out there that could use a few living personnel running things. Not everyone can afford those steep Mechanist services, after all. Hang in there, buddy." He jabbed his comrade lightly in the shoulder and made a grin, answered by a small chuckle and a nod of consent from the latter.

"Yeah, I guess so," his mate responded.

The taller man detached himself from the pillar and began toward the dome's exit. "Hey," he threw a cocked-head gesture at the other, "I'm gonna get some grub. Wanna join me?"

The stouter guard hesitated for a moment, looking around. All was filled with the boredom of emptiness. "Oh...I dunno..."

"C'mon," pressed the first, "what's to do here? I mean, really."

"Ah..." His partner gave one last cursory glance about himself and, seeing nothing to restrain him or recall him to his better judgement (not to mention the growl in his stomach at the prospect of food), he finally threw off his resistance to temptation and rolled his head in a jollier disposition. "What the heck!" he smiled broadly, and strode forth to accompany his mate down the hall.

"That's the Ollie I know!" the man laughed, throwing a reassuring arm around his shoulder and bending his head slightly to speak more at level. "C'mon, maybe they've still got some of that beef stew down at the commissary..."

“Heheh, I’ve got a rumbly in my tumbly…” the other began in a playful rasp. Their voices faded off into the vacant halls.

A moment after they had gone, a deep shadow loomed over the room, and a faint, high-pitched scratching sounded from above in a steady stroke. When it ceased, a circular piece of glass was snapped inward from the high skylight with a sharp chink, then lifted out, and a long, narrow black rope dropped through the hole to the bottom of the chamber. A figure shrouded in a black, hooded cloak slipped through the skylight's opening along the rope, descending silently down its length until he touched down upon the central mosaic of the polished inlaid floor. Crouching in the scattered moonlight, he lifted his masked face to gaze up at the skylight and gave a quick tug at the end of his rope, eliciting a mechanical click from above as the rope's grappling device unhitched itself. With a second pull, the rope came whipping down, winding in a coiled pile against the floor with its grappler arrow falling after it, impacting dully against the silken coils. The figure deftly gathered the coils of rope into a tightly wound hoop and clipped it to his belt through a metal clasp, sheathing the grappler arrow in a quiver at his side. Pivoting on his feet, he scurried across the tiled floor without a sound, hunching low and quickly padding down to resume a crouch by the main archway. For a moment, he remained still, listening. There was nothing to be heard. Peering around the edge of the exit, he observed three broad halls, diverging left, right, and straight ahead. The main hall bore an arrow sign labeled “Gallery,” while the left and right halls had signs bearing “Auditorium” and “Library,” respectively.

He sprang into motion and swung around the left wall, darting through the dimly lit corridor that followed, his boots skipping across the narrowly laid carpet. The hall quickly angled rightward and he hugged the right-hand wall, maneuvering in and out of the dark alcoves between its pilasters with skillful footwork. As he made his way farther toward the auditorium, he detected a shifting of light down the hall and spun into a huddled position inside one of the recesses, sinking within its shadows. After a few moments, a dark shape cast itself over the carpeted floor and a guard emerged from the corridor ahead, proceeding on his rounds. Lowering into a squat with his back to the wall, the darkly clad intruder brought his cloak about himself, folding one side over the other and bowing his cowled head into his lap – becoming a black, homogenous extension of the alcove. The guard continued up the hall behind him, his proximity signaled by faint padding and the jingling of keys, and the blanketed form waited without stirring. The guard strode right beside him on his way through the corridor, and as he heard him pass by, he lifted his hood and lashed out with a gloved hand – grabbing the set of keys hanging from his belt in a tight fist to mute them, and unhooking the key-ring in mid-strike – instantly retracting his hand within the folds of his cloak and dropping his head in a single gesture. The man passed along on his patrol, unaware of his relieved possession. As the guard neared the bend of the hallway, the huddled figure resumed motion and spun out of his crevice between the wall and column, darting down the hall toward the direction from which the guard had come.

Spotting a pair of double doors up ahead on the left wall, he trotted to a halt before them, lowering to his knees and leaning in to listen… Silence. He faced toward one of the door handles and, dipping his head, squinted one eye to peer through its keyhole. The room beyond was dark and undisturbed. Briefly examining the lock, he took his eye from the hole and selected a key from the ring. He inserted it and met with success, turning it and opening the door quietly. Slipping into the auditorium behind the other door, he relocked the handle and removed the key, carefully closing the door almost all the way – just barely leaving it unlatched. With one hand resting on the handle, he knelt down, watching the hallway outside through the other’s keyhole, and waited. After about a minute, the guard’s soft padding and the faint brushing of pant-legs against each other could be heard coming down the hall, and the crouched thief readied the key-ring in his hand, tightly muting its keys with his thinly gloved fingers. As he spied the man’s legs passing by, he timed the next pace, and abruptly swung the door inward – keeping it firmly drawn so as not to allow any creaking – and lurched out behind the passing guard with his arm extended, leaning forward to replace the key-ring on his belt and releasing his hand the instant after. The guard continued on his course without incident, and his keys began to faintly jingle with his steps once more. He appeared not to have noticed the brief absence of metallic clinking above his chainmail’s regular noises. The rogue carefully drew the door closed again, slowly easing it shut until finally allowing a barely audible click.

11th Apr 2003, 17:47
Julian continued, "In that west wing, there is a small box with a hinged lid that has my remains in it. I was cremated. I want it brought back here. Heaven knows that with everyone coming into the west wing, there is bound to be someone who knocks the box over, spilling my guts". He began to laugh, but the others were patiently waiting, and becoming slightly annoyed. The more he laughed, the more annoyed they became. Sensing this, he continued, "ahem... so anyway, I need to have it brought back here. There is also a painting over there. It is of a woman I was in love with when we were both alive. I miss looking at her. Bring that back also. Then I will consider helping you. "
Yubetcha said sarcastically, "Consider?! How nice of you!"
Speedy remarked, "That means that we'll have to go back to the basement of this building and find a way up to the west wing".
Julian replied, "Not to worry. I will show you a shortcut. Follow me"
He led them to a wall, pointed to a small button near the floor, and said,"Press this. The wall will open. Follow the passage to the end. There you will find a switch. Press it. On the other side, there is another switch behind some window drapes and near the floor. Press that and the wall will close. You will then be in the west wing. I don't know where these items are, but you shouldn't have any trouble finding them. The box is on a pedestal that bears my name. And the woman in the picture is sitting in a chair, and has a small chihuahua in her lap. On the floor is a small dog dish with lettering on it, that says Killer. The woman in the painting has a strange characteristic. Some children many years ago had marred the painting. She now has a moustache and a beard. They also painted an extended middle finger on one hand. Oh yes, and they also painted over a front tooth so it appears as though the tooth is missing."
Yubetcha asked, "And you miss looking at her?!"
Julian continued, "Well, there is some paint in a nearby closet. Bring it. A painter has been called in to correct this painting. He came and looked at it, and left the paint. He will be back tomorrow. Bring these items to me, and I will show you where to put them. Now go."
As they entered the wall, Yubetcha said softly, "I would like to show HIM where to put them!"

15th Apr 2003, 02:00
Speedy giggled at Yubetcha then whispered, “Garrett and I were the ones who disfigured the painting Julian wants retrieved.” Yubetcha stole a glance at Speedy to see if she was serious. “A philanthropist for the library came to the orphanage when we were young and brought a group of us here on a field trip.”

“Really?” Yubetcha inquired as Speedy continued. “Yeah, the guide got lost and we kept circling the same hall in the west wing. So every time we passed the portrait one of us added another feature to it.”

Remembering the fun they had that day Speedy smiled, “Garrett would slip the ink quill in and out of the docents pocket without him even noticing it’d been picked.” She sighed, “I miss the good old days when we first found out how easy it was to fool the fools. Garrett was an excellent mentor even back then.”

The four continued through the passageway. Speedy stopped to look at the sole of her boot. “Eeewwww rat droppings, it appears we’re on the right track after all… Sir Claudius of the Picts has left us a rather nasty trail to follow.”

16th Apr 2003, 13:54
At the other end of the passageway, the group found themselves in a darkened, well furnished room of the west wing. It looked as though it was not used by the general public. Through a large doorway, the adjoining rooms were lit. Yubetcha walked over to the opened window and felt the welcome breeze. Looking down at the street, he noticed two posted guards at the front door, and two more patroling the street. Suddenly, Yubetcha heard heavy footsteps on the cobblestones as a big bot rounded the street corner below, stepping on the boot of a guard. Crying out in pain, the guard swung his sword at the metal beast, producing a loud clang. The guard screamed, "You miserable hunk o' scrap metal. Whatsa matter wid you? Do you think you own the street or sumpthin'? The only thing you're good for is a stove to warm my food!"
Yubetcha then noticed that a crowd of guards from the building had gathered at the door below to see what the commotion was about. As the bot quickly turned, the guard found himself staring into the cannon, and said nervously, "Uh... never mind. I was jus' kiddin'. Can't ya take a joke? No harm done", and limped back to his patrol route, scowling. He turned to see the other guards laughing at him. The bot turned and continued its patrol. Yubetcha noted that this was the second display of bad feelings for the new technology... the first was in not trusting a Watcher... and wondered if he and the group could somehow use this rivalry to their advantage. Making a mental note, he rejoined the group. They gathered at the doorway to see that the area was devoid of guards. Yubetcha surmised that they were still at the front door. They silently went into the adjoining room and then into the hall. Yubetcha said, "To cover this wing faster, maybe we should split up. We could agree to meet back here in... what, say... a half hour?".
Just then, they heard laughing guards come back into the building and up the stairs to the west wing.

18th Apr 2003, 02:24
Caradavin bent over as if listening to something or someone then looked up in understanding and motioned for her companions to follow her. “No we must stick together. Follow me.” A faint mist moved ahead of Caradavin and led the group down the hallway. Her unseen companion seemed to be leading the way.

The hallway was long and straight, well lit with no dark corners to hide the master thieves. Many doors lined the walls. Littlek felt uneasy being so out in the open and fully expected one of those doors to suddenly swing open and angry guards tumble out. Judging from her companions, they felt the same. The laughter of the two guards was growing louder as they neared the top of the stairs. The group just rounded the corner and flattened themselves against a dark wall when the first guard limped into the hallway.

“That blasted hunk a metal broke me foot I tell ya. If I knew I could git away wid it, I’d sneak into the control room and turn em all off. What kin them bots do that we caint?” The injured guard grumbled.

“For one thing, it can shoot straighter than you.” The other guard snickered. “Best leave that control room be. You know what happened to ‘ol Finney when he wandered in there looking fer a place to sleep off his bottle.”

“No worry. I don’t wanna end up the same way as poor Finney did cuz I’ll not set foot in that room. No sirree. Him screaming about…..”

“Shhh.” The other guard interrupted. “We aint supposed to talk about that.”

Littlek looked down the hallway they had now entered. It was shorter than the one they just left but there was no mistaking the familiar sound they all heard. The mechanical whirling sound of one of those gold-headed watchers. The head had not yet detected them and so the turret that she knew was near it was inactive. The wound she suffered from the last turret was still stung and it now decided to throb when she thought about it. The two guards were now making their way slowly down the hallway towards them so they had to act fast. They had changed the subject and were now arguing about who was going to be the first to eat supper.

Caradavin noticed the restlessness of her companions and motioned for them to stay put. Littlek watched in amazement as the mist left Caradavin’s side and moved through a door next to the watcher. It was not too long after that the whirl of the watcher stopped. Caradavin quickly opened the door the mist had disappeared into and the troupe ran in after her. Littlek wasa the last to enter the room when she noticed the sign on the door. It read “Control Room.” “Oh great.” She thought to herself. “Now what. The door closed silently behind her just as the guards rounded the corner.

“Now what’s this? This aint right? Them watchers is off again.” One of the guards said. They stopped in front of the control room door.

“I aint goin in there to turn it on again. Let’s just report it to main guard. Let one o’them generals go in there and fix it cuz I aint.”

“Me neither. Let’s go.” The guards ambled off and disappeared through a door further down the hallway.

The control room looked like any other control room. A smaller, well-lit enclosure housed the controls to the watchers in this wing and it was turned to the off position. There were lounge chairs, couches and tables for the guards and littlek could not help but notice a nearly empty bottle of ale on one of the tables. Suddenly, Bodlian appeared in front of another door in the room.
“In here my friends. Be quick.” He said eagerly and disappeared through the closed door.

Speedy was the first to reach the door, sensing Bodlians urgency for them to follow him. She tried the door and it was locked. She tried her lock picks but the lock resisted. Bodlian’s head suddenly poked through the door. “What’s keeping you? We must hurry.” He whispered urgently.

“The door is locked.” Yubetcha said. “You wouldn’t happen to have a key?”

Bodlian glared at the mist next to Caradavin. “You said they had it!”

The mist next to Caradavin brightened and then began to take shape. Caradavin slowly started to walk backwards away from her mysterious companion as Mort gradually began to take shape.

23rd Apr 2003, 07:18
Caradavin bumped into littlek. Mort's feet clearly formed, and then

his calves, and so on up to his hair. He was clearly a middle-aged man;

his hair was worn from time; he had a scowl that seemed permanent on

his face; and wore the dress of a Hammerite Priest. Littlek and

Speedy held out their weapons to warn Mort from coming closer.

"You're...You're-"Caradavin stuttered.

"Yes, I know I am, Cara,"he spoke gently, "but I mean you all no harm.

I am helping you out of vengence and regret."

"Yeah, right,"countered yubetcha as she whipped out her weapon as well.

"No, guys!"pleaded Caradavin,"I...,"

"It's not like they can hurt me, you know, I'm not material,"reassured


"Oh, I know, but, I was going to say that I believe you. I can tell

you are not lying, I would be able to know,"Caradavin stated.

Speedy lowered the weapon, and looked at Caradavin,"How certain are

you, Caradavin?"

Caradavin looked down,"I know it, I just do..."

Littlek sighed,"That's not enough to go on, but I will trust him for

now. He hasn't been a problem so far."

"I can assure you that I have no intent other than for myself. You all

are an advantage, an asset. I need my revenge, I need to cleanse my

soul so that I can move on. Consider it a tolerance, or a friendship,"

Mort offered.

LittleK, Yubetcha, and Speedy eyed Mort warily. They slightly relaxed.

Yubetcha whirled around,"Did you hear that?"

24th Apr 2003, 13:59
She was a raven haired beauty, with a long flowing, lowcut dress; the kind of beauty that many men would kill for, and then accompany to watch the sun come up over the horizon. The dress displayed the hourglass figure very well. She stood 5' 6" tall. Her voice was sexy, and as melodic as a beautiful song that gets into your head and will not leave. Her lower torso was transparent, and she was becoming less so as she spoke.
"Hello. My name is Krista. Please excuse the interruption. Mort, time is wasting. You need to leave this room immediately".
"Well, I thought they had a key, but apparently they don't. By the way, Caradavin, meet Krista. We have become good friends since my passing from you. But you're right, Kris. We must hurry."
Krista replied, "Too late to worry about the key! Everyone, you need to find a way to get off of the floor! Hurry! The floor is about to give way."
Yubetcha thought for a moment, and then suggested shooting rope arrows into the ceiling, and hanging on to them. Just as they had complied, the floor disappeared under them, revealing a pit with long, narrow, bloodied spikes jutting from the floor, some bones, and five small, hungry spiders below. The furniture, being bolted to the floor, stayed in place. Then just as quickly, the trap door closed, and became a floor once again.
Krista explained, "You can come down now. The trap door is connected to a switch in the door frame. It is a delayed switch, because the planners wanted to be sure that anyone who had a key would have time to use it. No one knows about it, not even the guards. They are just told to stay out of the room".
Suddenly, they heard muffled voices from somewhere down the hall, and coming closer. One of the voices sounded familiar, and they realized that the guard was bringing the captain to turn the Watcher on, and they would soon open the door.

30th Apr 2003, 13:51
Yubetcha and Speedy quickly ducked behind the couch and disappeared into its shadow, Caradavins small form easily disappeared into the shadow of an alcove. littlek panicked and at first tried to the hide under the control booth panel but then quickly realized the folly of that hiding place and ran back out to the middle of the room. She now stood turning in confused circles in the center of the room looking for a place to hide. Mort disappeared into a faint mist but Krista remained visible watching littlek intently shaking her head in disbelief. She spoke softly “She’s just like her father.” then spoke sharply to littlek. “Go up the rope you carelessly left behind! Hide in the shadows of the ceiling.” Littlek stared at her momentarily then looked up locating the only rope left hanging and quickly scrambled up. She watched Krista dematerialize just as the keys could be heard being inserted into the lock followed by the clank of a lock opening.

“Hurry now.” The captain ordered the reluctant guard. “The switch is over there.” He pointed towards where the guard needed to go but the frightened guard just stood with his mouth open and would not enter the room.

“Go now while there is still time.” The captain ordered.

“Time for what?” The wary guard asked and rooted himself in the threshold of the door and looked about.

‘Don’t ask what aint any of yer business. Just hurry or you’ll regret it.” The captain replied giving the guard a mighty push. The guard stumbled in then realized his predicament. He looked in disbelief at the captain and started back towarads the safety of the hallway but the stern look of the captain stopped him. The guard wisely ran over to the control booth and switched the watcher back on then sprinted back to the door. The captain wisely stepped back to let him through narrowly avoiding a collision. The whirl of the gears moving the rotating head was clearly heard.

“Now then, that wasn’t so bad now was it?” The captain said condescendingly and slapped the guard on his back.

The guards comment was muffled by the sound of the door slamming shut. The lock had barely re-engaged when the sound of three rope arrows impaling into the wooden ceiling reverberated throughout the room. The floor re-opened but the troupe was safely swinging overhead, much to the dismay of the hissing, hungry spiders below. The trap floor swung shut and the troupe descended once again. This time littlek retrieved her rope arrow and was coiling it as Krista rematerialized.

“I am pleased to see that you four did not end up in the bellies of those spiders.” She looked over the foursome, her eyes resting on littlek.

Littlek looked at Krista gratefully and murmured an inauadible “thanks.”

What you seek lies behind that door but it seems Mort neglected to tell you that you needed a key to get in.” Krista eyed the area by Caradavin but Mort chose to remain hidden. “Your clever lock picks will not work here.”

“And where is this key?” Speedy inquired.

“You will need to ask Mort. He is the one who put it in safe keeping.” Krista answered.

Caradavin was overheard angrily whispering to Mort, “What do you mean you lost it?”

30th Apr 2003, 17:39
Yubetcha, looking at what appeared to be empty space, said, "Mort, it's been a long night, and we can't hang around here for the rest of it". Then he chuckled and continued, "We need to get going. So where is the key?"
Mort materialized, and said to Caradavin, "Oh, like you never forget anything! Ok, I'm sorry! Anyway, before my passing, I was in possession of the key. There are two identical keys. The owner has one, and I had one. His is hanging at his residence. I guess they use it now that they can't find the one I lost. Forget it, you'll never get in there. The other one is in its present location by accident. You see, I was in this room, and without realizing it, dropped it onto the floor. That night, a thief who wanted to turn off the security system came into this room. And you can probably guess what happened. The floor opened, and ... well, anyway, the key is below this room. That's right, with the spikes and the spiders. I'm so sorry".
Littlek sat down and sobbed, feeling the straw that broke the camel.
Yubetcha said, "Oh, great!", and turned around and hit the nearest wall with his open hand.
Speedy rolled her eyes and shook her head.
Caradavin looked at Mort in anger, and said, "Figures!"
Yubetcha tried to rub the pain from his hand, and after examining the problem for a few moments, he said, "Wait! You can obviously open the floor. The trick is to get down there safely. Broadheads can take care of the spiders, and one of us can be lowered down in between the knee-high spikes with a rope arrow."
Then Speedy said with a grin, "I nominate littlek", and chuckled, remembering recent events. "Just kidding", she added.
Yubetcha volunteered, and shot a rope arrow into the ceiling. A course of action was planned. Yubetcha climbed onto the rope, while the others opened the door to the hallway. After time had passed, the floor opened, and Yubetcha waited while the others shot broadheads into the spiders. He then slid down into the pit just before it closed. Yubetcha lit a flare in the blackness, and found the key after carefully searching among the spikes. Then, searching the clothed skeleton, he found a few coins, and a note.
I have had it with you and your family. I have kidnapped your brother. You either get the following items for me, or I will have a friend show your brother as the rat that he is! You and he have given me too much aggravation. Do it tonight, or else. And if that priest gives you any problems, you know what to do. No witnesses!
After you have the items, go to 1420 Easy Street. Knock on the door three times, wait a few seconds, and then knock twice. Someone will ask, "Did you hear the one about the hen that swallowed the rubberband?". Then you say, "She laid the same egg three times".
The note went on to list gold masks, paintings and antiques.
Yubetcha said to himself, "tsk tsk. The poor fellow never got back to L.E.
And since his bag is empty, he never even got started."
The flare expired. As planned, Yubetcha waited in the blackness for the floor to open, so he could climb up.
Just then, the group above, having forgotten that the door was still open, heard voices down the hall and around the corner, and coming closer.

1st May 2003, 20:22
As littlek watched Yubetcha decend down into the spiked spider pit, this thought suddenly occurred to her and she whispered to Speedy about it, “If Mort and the other misties were unable to decend through the floor to pick up this key because they are unable to grasp solid objects, then who switched off the watchers while we were stuck in the hallway? I thought it was Mort.”

Speedy looked at littlek worridly as the thought struck her. They both instinctively turned to look at Yubetcha. Littlek felt a black ominous dread fill the room and from the look on Speedy and Caradavin’s faces, they felt it to. littlek turned to urge Yubetcha to hurry and get out of the spider pit when the floor swung shut trapping Yubetcha underneath. The rope from his rope arrow caught in the hinges of the trap and the rope broke. Speedy ran to pick up the ruined rope while Caradavin moved to shut the door then reopen it to trigger the tricky floor to open. It was then that the three ladies heard the sound of masculine voices drift down the hallway.

The voices were close and so there was no time to get Yubetcha out. Caradavin closed the door softly and the tafferettes disappeared into the shadows of the room.

2nd May 2003, 14:46
Yubetcha, trapped in the blackness, began to wonder why the floor wasn't opening. He also noticed when he came down that the pit was much wider and longer than the room above it, and now wondered why it was so. All of a sudden, a feeling came over him. He wasn't sure. It was more of a vague hint. Was he being watched? No, couldn't be. He was alone. Or was he? He waited. The longer he waited, the stronger the feeling became. Or was his mind just playing tricks on him? Yes, that must be it. "Calm down, you idiot", he told himself. "There is no one here. No one except dead spiders. And what harm could they possibly be?" He still felt uneasy, and looked around in the dark pit. Wait! No, couldn't be. Are those green eyes looking at him from a distant corner? No, his eyes are now playing tricks on him. They are too faint to be eyes. And how could he see them in the blackness anyway? Wait! Are those eyes blinking? Are they coming closer? Naaaaa. Couldn't be. Too faint to tell anyway. "It's just my mind playing tricks on me", he thought.

Meanwhile, up above and unknown to him, two guards came down the hall. Reaching the door and the Watcher, one said, "Well, I dunno why it stopped earlier, but it is staying on now. Mebee the owner was here, and forgot to turn it back on".
The other guard replied with a chuckle, "Well, I think you should tell 'im to be more careful".
"Can't. I have two more mouths to feed at home. Do ya think we should go in there to make sure everything's okay?"
"What, are ya nuts?! You know we were told to stay out. C'mon".
Turning, they went back on patrol the way they came.

5th May 2003, 00:14
“We have to get Yubetcha out and we have to do it now.” Littlek whispered urgently. A cloud of dread shadowed them as they hurried to the door to spring open the trap floor. They raced to the door and Caradavin quickly opened the trick door, then closed it and they waited for the floor to spring open. It seemed to take forever before they heard the mechanism connect. The floor began to engage but then suddenly stopped opening only a crack.

“Hey, what’s going on? Get me out of here.” They heard Yubetcha yell. “I just discovered that I am not alone in here. Hey littlek. Are Sir Claudius’ eyes green?”

“No.” littlek answered. “They are red. Why?”

“Because something is staring at me and it has green eyes. I can’t think of anything that we have encountered thus far that has green eyes. Uh, guys, buddies, best taffers in the world, get me out of here.”

Littlek summoned up the little courage she possessed and ran towards the trap floor. She knew that at any moment it could spring open and she would find herself impaled on the spikes below. She aimed a rope arrow above the door and quickly climbed up then carefully lowered herself to examine the hinge. She noticed that part of the rope from Yubetcha’s rope arrow that had earlier gotten caught in the hinge was now jamming it.

“There is rope tangled up in the hinge. It’s jamming it. I’ll see if I can get it out.” She answered back.

“Anytime now.” Yubetecha said nervously.

Littlek found Speedy and Caradavin suspended next to her. She vaguely remembered hearing rope arrows thud above her. She took out her dagger and with one hand holding onto the rope suspended from the ceiling she tried to pry at one of the hinges to force it open. Speedy was worked at the frayed rope with her hands while Caradavin slipped her slim fingers inbetween the floors narrow opening and pushing with all her strength trying to force the gap to open wider.

“The hinge is on your side Yubetcha. I cannot access it. You will have to either get the rope out of it or break the hinge itself. Do you understand?” littlek asked.

“I understand. I don’t have much light too see…..wait a minute….something….” Yubetcha stopped in midsentece. What they heard next was a scuffle ending in a loud thud followed by silence.

5th May 2003, 20:03
"Yubetcha?" littlek asked. "Are ya there? Yubetcha? Hello?"
Yubetcha responded, "Yeah, I'm here. I had to kill this beast. UHHHHHH!<pant> <pant> UHH! OW! UHHHHHH!".
Speedy asked, "What's going on down there?"
"Just a minute", he replied.
After a scraping sound finally stopped, Yubetcha said, "Okay, I had to put its body on the spikes so I could stand on it to get the rope out of the hinge. I got the rope out now. Go back and shut the door and open it again".
As Speedy did so, the floor closed, and then opened. They couldn't resist looking down at the body. It was a red blimp with legs, long claws, green eyes and sharp, bloody teeth sprawled across the spikes. It had pointed ears and brown hair on its body. A rope arrow raced into the ceiling. Blood was oozing out of four scratches across one of Yubetcha's cheeks.
Caradavin said, "What happened to you? How did you manage to kill it?"
As Yubetcha climbed the rope, he explained, "It wasn't very difficult, thanks to a flash bomb. It tried to bite me, and swung at me when it was close, and claws got me. I threw the bomb, and while it was blinded, my sword found its mark."
The floor closed, reminiscient of the beast's mouth snapping at him. He pulled his dangling foot up just in time, and then dropped off of the rope.
Putting his hand into his shirt pocket, he said, "Look. I found the key, and also an address in a note that may be from ol' Sloppy... I mean... Loppy". Yubetcha put the key into the lock, and opened the door. The group lit the torch, went inside, shut the door and locked it.

8th May 2003, 21:30
"See," said Mort out of nowhere, "If it wasn't for me, you wouldn't have had all that excitement."

Caradavin glowered at him. "Just kidding," mumbled Mort.

Littlek gasped audibly, and the group turned to face whatever it was. What they saw was beauty in its finest form. Caradavin's breath caught in her throat as she surveyed the room in front of them. Torches flickered from far above, casting a dull eerie light. The floor was covered in exquisite tile of gold and silver. Arches spanned as far as they could see.

"Its...," started yubetcha.

"Well, I don't know about you, but this place gives me the creeps," a drunk voice bellowed out.

The group immediately faded into shadows behind the numerous columns.

12th May 2003, 14:34
Littlek peeked from her shadowed spot behind a column to see what was going on. She noticed that a banner was suspended between two pillars located across the large room. From her vantage point, she could barely make out the words. She pulled a broadhead arrow from her quiver and notched it in her bow then drew back. She waited until her vision through the bow telescoped making it easier for her to see the wording on the banner. She grinned then lowered her bow and put her weapons away. She stepped out from behind the pillar into the light.

Yubetcha stared at her in horror. “What are you doing?” He hissed.

“It’s OK, everyone come out.” Littlek told the group.

They heard the drunk speak, his voice a little familiar. “Hey littlek! Did ya bring him?”

Yubetecha stepped out from behind the pillar and when he was fully visible, a chorus of voices rang out.

“Surprise! Happy Birthday Yubetcha!”

Surrounding a large round table was Mort, Krista and Bodlien. All were smiling. Mort’s smile was crooked and he swayed slightly. The table was filled with delicious foods; assorted cheeses, cured hams, slices of thick crusty bread, sweet butter and other assorted spreads, thin, crisp crackers, and even roasted burrick. Several bottles of various types of wine were open and exquisite cut glasses were sitting nearby. On an adjacent table were the desserts, mostly chocolate of course but various other sweets filled the table for those non-chocolate lovers to enjoy. In the middle of the dessert table was a large frosted cake. “Happy Birthday Yubetcha” was scrawled on the top. Littlek’s mouth began to water.

Yubetcha walked to the table followed by Speedy, Caradavin with littlek close behind. He went to hug Krista but his arms passed right through her. Yubetcha shrugged his shoulders and turned his attention to the feast.

“This is great you guys. It all smells and looks so good. Let’s not waste any more time, I’m starving. He grabbed a plate and dug in sampling each delicacy before moving on to the next. Speedy, Caradavin and littlek were right behind him. Littlek was now drooling.

“Where did you find all this food?” Yubetcha asked Krista between mouthfuls.

“Mort discovered Sir Claudius’ stash.” She answered.

“How did Mort get drunk? I didn’t think ghosts could drink” Yubetcha asked.

“He has not touched a drop since he passed into the spirit world but you know how the powers of suggestion can be. Ghosts are not immune to that. He just thinks he’s drunk.” She replied laughing.

How were you able to get all this food and drink here?” Caradavin asked remembering Yubetcha’s failed hug. “Material objects just pass right through you.” She sat next to Yubetcha, her plate brimming with food. Speedy soon followed. Littlek was still piling food onto her plate but soon joined her friends at the table.

“Now you three just enjoy your meal and stop thinking about the powers of the immortal world.” Krista answered with a smile.

The four dug in seemingly mindless of any danger. However, Speedy kept a wary eye on the 3 ghosts.

12th May 2003, 21:51
Placing my three friends between me and the ghosts allowed me to keep an eye on them while I appeared to consume the bounty along with the other party guests. My stomach ached to be feed but the thought of eating a rat’s stash kept me alert to the uneasiness I felt about the whole situation.

Something wasn’t right about Krista. She seemed to have a way with dismissing any apprehension or questions we might have about the oddities we’d encountered since her appearance.

Trying to blend in with the festivities, yet remain unsuspicious, I took a bottle of wine and filled the fancy chalices. Handing the glasses to Yubetcha, littlek, and Caradavin I raised my partially filled goblet and repeated a familiar toast that I hoped would alert my companions to the apprehension that bristled the hairs on the back of my neck……

“To Yubetcha,” I said.

“May you have the hindsight to know where you've been
the foresight to know where you're going
and the insight to know when you've gone too far.”

“Here, here” chimed in Mort, Krista, and Bodlien as they raised their empty hands participating in the birthday cheer.

Yubetcha’s brow furrowed stopping his glass half way to his lips… but before he could react any further music filled the room as all three ghosts grabbed a human partner and began spinning round and round. The music grew louder and louder until Mort and Caradavin, Bodlien and littlek, and Krista and Yubetcha spun so fast each couple became a blur. Ascending to the ceiling as the music reached a crescendo filled with screams the couples glowed fiercely until the music stopped abruptly and all three pairs became one familiar face.

Sir Claudius’ red eyes glared down at Speedy as his tail swept back and forth in an effort to keep his balance as he repositioned his claws in the paneled ceiling. He was about to pounce down on her when one of the ornate columns opened and several mages entered the room, ready for battle.

They distracted the huge rat just long enough for Speedy to slip into the shadows. Sir Claudius held his position as the mages combed the room, never looking up. Backed into a corner Speedy held her breath as two mages swept the area getting closer and closer. Drawing a noisemaker arrow she pulled the bow taunt and let it fly towards the ceiling. Drawing the attention away from her and in the direction she had last seen Sir Claudius.

The mages stopped and turned their eyes upward.
Several fire balls dislodged the rat from the ceiling with a thud as the others quickly surrounded him. A blood curdling melee ensued. Speedy scooped up the key that had flown from Yubetcha’s pocket and slipped it into the lock opening the door.

13th May 2003, 18:04
Yubetcha and the others became very dizzy. They suddenly found themselves in another room, lying on the floor.
Krista explained, "When Mort told us that he saw the rat at the ceiling, we knew that we had to get you out of that area, but we didn't have time to explain to you. So that's why we did what we did. We got out just in time, and here we are".
"Which is where?", littlek asked, looking around the room.
Mort said, "We are in the adjoining room."
littlek said, "But we need the rat to help us decipher the map! And where is Speedy?"
Mort said, "Speedy didn't come here with you. The last we saw was that she went out through the door you came in... back to the control room. And I doubt that the rat will help you. That's wishful thinking".
Yubetcha said, "I have reason to believe that the rat wasn't born a rat, and I think I know why it is now a rat. If we can change him back, perhaps he will help us. His brother is at the bottom of that pit."
Krista asked, "And how do you propose to do that?"
"He is under a spell of some kind, placed by a friend of Loppy. We found the remains of the friend in a boat. If we can find an antidote... a potion or some such item... he will be returned to his former self. The rat knows where he stashed the book and the map, and I think we can get him to tell us in exchange for changing him back".
Mort said, "Well, they're fighting in the next room right now."
Yubetcha jumped up, ran, and slowly opened the door to the next room. All was quiet. Entering the room, he peered around a pillar, and saw blood splattered everywhere. The others followed. There were three dead mages, and a large brown lump in the shadow of a pillar that he guessed to be the rat. Yubetcha slowly walked to it, fearing the worst. As Yubetcha neared the rat, it opened its eyes. Expecting it to stand and charge him, he brought out his sword. Instead, the rat just lay there. Yubetcha sheathed his sword, walked to it, and saw shallow breathing. Kneeling by its mouth, Yubetcha said, "I know what happened to you, but I don't know how to change you back. How can I do that, after I give you a healing potion?"
The rat, almost lifeless, whispered in a weak voice into Yubetcha's ear. As the others gathered around, littlek asked, "What did it say?"
Yubetcha explained, "It said that it was too late for a healing potion. It also told me where the book is located. It saw no more reason to keep it from us, since it was dying. It said that it didn't have the map, though".
"Who does?", asked littlek. "And where's the book?"
"And Speedy!", Caradavin added.
Yubetcha said, as he took a vial out of his pouch, "I'm giving him a healing potion anyway, just in case it isn't too late, but we may have to leave him here. I don't know if he will live or not. If he lives, he might still help us." Looking at littlek, he said, "If you open that pillar that the mages came out of, you will see spiral steps going down. The map is down there in a room. The mages stole it. As for the book, remember the haunts?"

The Shroud
13th May 2003, 19:03
The cloaked figure turned to survey the room before him. The auditorium was tall and broad, with many rows of seats and sprawling acoustic baffles on both levels. He calmly strode down the central aisle, making a right at the stage and pacing across the front row toward another pair of double doors at the side. Crouching beside the doors and listening, he squinted to peer through one of their keyholes. The room beyond was large and well lighted, with many displays and obstructions – but for the moment, unguarded. Carefully opening one of the doors, he slid out of the auditorium into the next room and shut the door softly behind him. Finding himself under the shade of an overhead balcony stretching along the wall, he crept quickly across the tiled floor to kneel behind one of the many tall pillars supporting the walkway above, and observed his surroundings. The room was a massive exhibit bearing giant statues against the pillars, with the left wall dominated by great windows looking out onto the exterior courtyard. The wall ahead bore another high balcony atop a row of pillars, two of them mounted with lit gas lamps, and a pair of double doors lay directly across from him, mirroring the arrangement on his side of the hall. The right-side wall held an open archway leading out of the exhibit into an adjoining corridor, from which a long carpet led into the room across the tiled floor. Two doors were visible at either end of the balcony across the room – one leading straight ahead, northward, and the other leading eastward, in the same direction as the arched entrance.

Just as he was about to start for the archway, he detected a faint mumbling from the corridor outside, drawing steadily nearer. The room suddenly became an oppressive delineation of positive and negative equilibria, taking shape in four main threats: the gas lamps mounted on each pillar. Acting on instinct, he produced a black, folded short bow crafted of a light weight metal from his cloak, and forcefully snapped it open. He then extracted a black arrow of the same metal from his quiver with a translucent, florescent blue, pointed capsule in place of an arrowhead. Knocking the arrow and taking aim at the furthest lamp nearest the entrance, he narrowed his vision to a thin line and drew back the string. An instant later, the arrow flew from his bow and pierced through the protruding tube of the lamp’s gas jet, dead-center. The second it hit, there came a muffled fizzing sound from within the jet as a white foam rushed out of the arrow and immediately extinguished the flame, clogging the tube with its thick solution. The area around the lamp instantly faded into shadow. The next series of actions took place within a matter of seconds: bursting into speed, the rogue dashed across the room toward the newly darkened area, reaching within his quiver and pulling out two more dousing arrows between his fingers. Racing between two pillars on the other side, he threw his back toward the one with the extinguished lamp and wheeled around against it, bringing up his bow with an arrow drawn and firing it the instant the second lamp’s jet passed through his vision. Another part of the room fell into darkness and he continued pivoting around the pillar, one hand shutting off the flow of gas to the first lamp with a twist of its valve, while the other reached out and yanked the protruding arrow free from the jet. Sheathing the spent arrow in his quiver, he whirled around the next pillar and drew back the last arrow, coming around the other side – and let fly across the room, right into the third lamp’s jutting tube. As he whipped around to freeze against the back of another pillar, the light from behind him vanished into blackness. Only one lamp’s light remained, in the far corner of the room, and he had no choice but to leave it. He closed his eyes to allow his disorientation to pass, and stilled his breath.

The next moment, a guard entered the room, mumbling quietly to himself in unintelligible ramblings. The room seemed quite a bit darker than it had been before…but, then again, it was late and the guard couldn’t quite remember exactly how many lights had been on before or if the moon was just shining brightly through the windows earlier or…something… And he didn’t much care, either. His mind had found other things to muse about to keep himself awake and stave off boredom. As he passed slowly through the room, a dark part of one of the pillars behind him came to life and shot a rope up at the high ceiling. The grappler arrow embedded itself in the paneled wood with a dull thud – too muted and remote to be overheard through the guard’s chainmail coif – and its blades split within the surface, gripping firmly in place. As the man strode lazily on toward the tall windows, the cloaked shape sped across the room behind his back, rope in hand, and leapt up toward one of the towering statues – skipping off of its protruding knee after grabbing something from a nearby gas lamp and twisting a valve. The form rebounded off of the statue’s leg and swung toward the other side of the room, rapidly shimmying up the rope in the process, then dashing briefly along the side of the balcony and pushing off back toward the statue across the way. Swinging up to the statue again, the figure kicked forcefully off of its shoulder and then up from its head, winding back around toward the northern balcony and flinging himself up into the air – vaulting high over the balcony wall and landing silently crouched by the eastern door. As the guard finally neared the windows at the end of the room, the crouching figure gave a quick tug on the rope, which released the grappling mechanism from its hold in the ceiling and brought it flying down toward him – where he deftly caught it and recoiled his rope through his belt-clip. The guard reached the tall windows and turned toward the northern double doors, blissfully unaware of the extra presence above. The thief listened at the door for a quick moment and then tested it – it was locked. Reaching inside his cloak, he produced a pair of fine lock-picks and inserted them industriously into the lock, probing within to gain a sense of its pins’ alignment. Working hurriedly, but efficiently, he found the correct arrangement and tripped the latch with a small click. As the guard below reached the double doors and checked them, the figure above quietly opened the door and slipped inside, locking it gently behind him once more.

14th May 2003, 14:18
As the group walked into the pillar and down the steps, Yubetcha said to the others, "This is like being at a party at the Burrick when the guy next to you gets drunk and sings or throws food. You're not sure how you got into the situation, you're always looking for the nearest exit, and when it's over you deny all knowledge of the event."

16th May 2003, 13:33
As they reached the bottom step, they were confronted by a metal door. Bodlein said, "Wait! I have to go back. A guard is about to find the jewels that I have hidden, and I have to stop him."
Littlek's eyes and ears perked to full attention. "Jewels? Wait a minute. Come to think of it... I thought you said that you were bound to that room".
"Yes, I told you that, but the real reason was that I was guarding my jewels. But of course I couldn't tell you that. And I wouldn't even think of looking for them if I were you! You'll wish you hadn't".
With that, Bodlein disappeared into thin air.
Yubetcha remarked, "Hmph! And now he's lying to us. I wonder if he's even telling the truth about the painting and why he wants it".
Krista said, "I'll help him", and disappeared as well.
They all glared at Mort, who said with a grin, "Oh, don't worry. I am staying.... for now, anyway. I wouldn't miss this little adventure for the world."
With that, littlek took out her lockpicks and attacked the door.

The Shroud
22nd May 2003, 19:31
Crouching in the doorway, the rogue found himself in a narrow, angling junction which opened onto a hallway ahead. Refolding his bow, he crept up to the mouth of the junction and observed the adjoining corridor. To the right, the hall wound back toward the auditorium, southeastward; to the left, it split off into an intersection – one way leading southeast around the bend, toward the main areas of the museum; another, northwest, toward the frontal section; and a third diverging northeast, toward the central gallery. The faint sound of creaking floor boards issued from the northwest hall, and the intruder backed inside the doorframe, sinking low. After several moments, a guard passed through the hall, heading toward the southeast corridor. As the patrolman made his way past the junction, the rogue left his hiding place and darted across the short distance of the intersection behind the man’s back, stealthily flitting through the northeast hall. Up ahead, the hall broke off into a wide circular balcony overlooking the gallery of the museum, from which tall pillars rose in a circle to support the three-storey roof. Below, voices could be heard echoing up into the huge atrium.

“Why we gotta stand watch down here in the gallery? Shouldn’t we be guarding some of those more special-like areas, like those exhibits with their precious antiques and all, and the stuff on the basement level?”

The intruder dashed over to the balcony and peered over the side, spotting two guards conversing near one of the gallery’s many exits. In the center of the vast marble floor, a large circular window provided view into the level below.

“The metal watchers and sensor traps take care of that,” responded the other. “We’re just here to make sure no one tries any funny business in the main areas.”

A third guard emerged from the northern hall of the gallery, leaving the lobby, and the rogue quickly ducked behind the balcony parapet.

“Besides,” the guard continued, “the doors to the basement stairs are fitted with those new reinforced locks, and not even the executives can get in without a pass.”

“What about the dome across the Main Hall?” the first replied. “There weren’t none of those mech-eyes in there last I seen, and I thought I saw Gavin and Ollie leave their posts a short while back…”

The crouched thief glanced up at the atrium above the balcony. A series of clerestory portals ringed the wall around the third level, admitting airflow into the upper halls.

“Heh, not surprising,” came the other’s voice. “Gavin’s always been a laggard and that round-bellied fool Oliver’s one for the bottle.”

Fixing his gaze on one of the pillars beyond the balcony, the cloaked figure backed away from the gallery and readied himself…

“Anyway, there are plenty of watchers in the Main Hall and the halls outside the exhibits to catch any intruders,” the man went on. “I pity the poor taffer who tries to break in through there.”

Charging suddenly toward the gallery, the rogue leapt up and skipped off of the balcony parapet toward the nearby pillar, springing off its surface and diving through one of the clerestory openings on the third level – somersaulting quietly into the hall beyond.

“Hehe, yeah,” the first guard answered as the shadow flashed unnoticed above them. “He’d be in for a BIG surprise, haha hah!”

The cloaked acrobat rolled smoothly to his feet and proceeded down the darkened hall to the south, as the guards continued their chat.

“Heh, like I said – I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Can’t say I can blame those two for shirking either – I’d be down there grubbing, myself, if I could shake my better senses.”

“Same here…”

Moving through the corridor, the intruder passed between two vacant offices on either side, as the echoing voices fading off behind him. Ahead, the hall broke off in a wide U around an iron wall, some twenty feet square, and continued southward. Taking the left path around the structure, he passed a hall on the east, and followed the obstruction as it transitioned into the wall of another empty office. Further down, the corridor split along a balcony, extending east and west. The rogue advanced down the hall, reaching the balcony, and observed the area beyond.

The Main Hall stretched out below, two stories down, with rows of statues, paintings, and armoured knights flanking its path. The roof was one great panel of windows looking out into the starry night sky. Balconies on the second and third floors overlooked the area from both sides, and twin sets of mechanically operated doors stood at each wall. At the far end, an archway led to an outer corridor which accessed the dome, and directly beneath him, a large second floor office window overlooked the hall, with a pair of mechanical watchers protruding below it. Within the office, one of the museum’s administrators was busying himself at his desk with stacks of documents. The thief scrutinized the wall beneath the watchers: the office rested twenty feet above the hall, and a wooden beam rimmed the bottom edge, supporting the projection’s weight. Reaching into his cloak, he produced a pair of leather bands sewn with rows of hooked steel claws, and strapped them over his hands. Leaning backward over the parapet, he hooked his legs within the clerestory and eased carefully down the balcony upside down, suspending himself above the office and peering through the window below…

Inside the office, the admin ruffled tiresomely through a pile of contracts, setting several aside and checking some figures in a nearby ledger. After marking a few annotations, he set his pen in an inkwell and leaned back in his swivel-chair with a sigh. Removing his spectacles, he began wiping them absently with a handkerchief, rubbing a hand slowly over his balding pate. It was late and he longed to be home in his own chair by the fire, with his slippers and a nice, smoking pipe… Replacing his handkerchief, he put his glasses back on and turned his chair ‘round to fetch something from a nearby cabinet…

As the man turned away from the window, the hanging rogue brought himself up and unhooked his feet from the balcony, dropping past the office in a back-flip right in-between the two protruding watchers, and reaching out to grasp the jutting beam at the bottom – swinging up beneath the office and slipping his boots between the beams to keep himself suspended.

As the dark blur flew past the window outside, the admin took a file from the cabinet and turned back ‘round in his chair to resume his work at the desk. Opening the folder, he picked up his pen and set back to task…

Hanging from the ceiling like a black spider, the figure crawled around to change his facing and crept along the beams supporting the office – using the hooked claws secured to each palm to dig in-between the wooden crevices. Below him, the passage led north from the Main Hall, crossing through an intersection where it met the same iron barrier, and rerouted around it in a similar U toward the gallery. Nearing the metal bulwark, the figure overheard the clicking of boots against marble issuing from around the obstruction, and quickly drew up his cloak – flattening himself against the shadowy ceiling and becoming still. The clicking soon ceased as the footsteps became muffled by carpet, and within moments, a guard appeared from around the corridor below – the same guard that had passed through the gallery a minute earlier. Proceeding down the hallway through the intersection, the man passed directly beneath the hanging form, unaware of his presence within the shadows above. The thief took stock of his surroundings: the wooden ceiling to which he was clutching transitioned into a metal surface bordering the wide iron wall nearby – and set right into the nearest edge of that surface was a square vent, providing ventilation between the building’s levels. As the guard turned down the passage toward the Main Hall, the intruder reached over with one hand and unhitched the air vent – letting it swing quietly down from the ceiling on its hinges. Extending his arm through the opening, he attained a hold on the edge with his hand-claws, and pulled himself up through the hole with both hands – slinking stealthily into the air shaft behind the guard’s back. Bringing up his legs, he reached down and pulled the vent up, latching it quietly in place.

26th May 2003, 01:46
Littlek crouched so that she was eye level with the lock and worked on the tumblers while the others patiently waited. Not that being at eye level would help her any. Lock picking was not her specialty. Caradavin stood behind littlek and was leaning over her watching her intently; she absently fingered her lockpicks silently schooling littlek on the tricks of lockpicking. Yubetcha knew that if littlek were working on the lock then they would be here awhile. He took this opportunity to rest and so sat on a step behind Caradavin with his elbows on his knees cradeling his head. He had many unanswered questions and so spoke up, “If the rat no longer has the book then do you think the haunt has it?”

“What haunt is that?” Caradavin asked. She was clearly getting impatient with littlek’s ineptness at picking locks.

“That haunt that we saw drag littlek into that room with the rat. He’ll be easy to spot since littlek told me she smeared chocolate all over the front of his tunic.” Yubetcha said with a laugh. Littlek mumbled something that only she understsood although Mort giggled.

“Chocolate! I can’t wait to hear that story.” Mort interjected. They heard the sound of a tumbler give but the lock still held fast.

“Come to think of it. That Haunts behavior was odd. I am beginning to wonder if it was even a haunt.” Yubetcha mused.

“Didn’t you see his face? Or what’s left of it. He looked like 100% haunt material to me and I saw him up close.” littlek added.

“He looked like a Haunt but there was something odd about him. Something familiar.” Yubetcha said absently, deep in thought then spoke up. “Littlek, can you let Caradavin work on that lock? I’d like to ask you something.”

“Gladly. It’s all yours.” Littlek said with a sigh, stood up and walked towards Yubetcha. She overheard Mort whisper to Caradavin, “Thank goodness she quit. Otherwise, we’d be here all night.” littlek narrowed her eyes at the insult. She noticed Yubetcha trying to suppress a grin as she plopped down next to him.

“Tell me about that Haunt that was with the rat. Did you detect anyting odd about him?” Yubetcha asked.

“Odd? Not really except that he didn’t kill me. That is odd in itself.” Littlek replied watching Caradavin skillfully attack the lock. “I wished we could have gone back for Speedy. I’d like to know what she thinks of all this.”

“We left enough clues for her to follow. She’ll catch up.” Yubetcha added softly. But he too was worried about their missing companion. He tried to open the door that led back into the control room but it was locked and he had lost the key they worked so hard to get. He reasoned that Speedy had found the key and the only way for her to escape the mages, was to retreat back into the control room.

“I hope Sir Claudius recovers. He is really a lot of fun to party with. The perfect host.” littlek said with a chuckle. “Do you truly know of a potion that would turn him back into a human? I’d like to visit with him in human form.”

“I have heard of such a potion. I think I recall that the Mages have it.” Yubetcha said.

“This is all so odd; that hideous creature, the giant eggs, the map, the island and now a giant snooty rat with manners. If Sir Claudius recovers and we make it out of here, we’ll have to go pay those Mages a visit, restore Sir Claudius to human form and celebrate with a barrel of ale at the Crippled Burrick.”

“I’ll drink to that.” Mort said.

Littlek became silent listening to Caradavin who was now arguing with Mort. Mort had decided to give her advise on the art of lockpicking.

“Just mind your own business. Anyhow, what do you know about lockpicking?” Caradavin said irritably. “You never picked a lock in your life.”

“I am only trying to help. Anyhow, how hard can it be? Picking locks can’t be that difficult if all you thieves can learn how to do it.” Mort retorted.

“And what is that supposed to mean? Caradavin asked irritably looking up to glare at Mort.

“Oh, now I didn’t really mean how it sounded. I didn’t….well….Just go on with your work. You do it so well.” Mort stammered.

“Can you just stand there and be quiet?” Caradavin replied and went back to work on the lock.

"Like a mouse!" Mort replied.

“If those two don’t split up soon, Mort may become a spirit a second time.” Yubetcha said smiling.

“They are amusing to listen to.” Littlek said, watching Caradavin attack the lock with vengence. “Back to your Haunt question, come to think of it, I did find it odd that the Haunt obeyed the rat. Haunts just don’t do that.” She creased her brows concentrating on what interactions she had with the haunt that she could remember. “I wish I didn’t get so drunk then I would recall more clearly. You know, I seem to remember that he would only used one arm whenever he grabbed me. And when I…..well, when I …..flirted with him trying to feed him chocolate, his breath smelled like….spiced Rum!” She glanced at Mort who stared at her questionly with one of his misty eyebrow raised.

Yubetcha looked at littlek alarmingly, “Haunts don’t have breath.”

Littlek stared at Yubetcha and then they both said simultaneously, “Lop Ear!” Followed by Caradavin’s cry of delight as the metal door swung open revealing a narrow dark hallway illuminated only by irridecent mushrooms that randomly grew on the floor, sides and ceiling. A musty damp smell greeted them.

“If Lop Ear is behind all this…..he better already be a Haunt because he’ll soon be one if he isn’t.” Yubetcha said angrily.

“I just hope he has not beaten us to the map. Lop Ear, the Haunt or whomever.” Mort piped in.

Caradavin peered into the hallway and sighed. “I hope the room the rat hid the map in is close by. This place is creepy.”

“Oh quit being such a wimp and let's go. You first.” Mort snapped back. Caradavin glared at him.

The Shroud
27th May 2003, 18:17
The air shaft was a tight space, about two feet square, and its only source of light was from the area below the vent. The tunnel led in just one direction – north, toward the iron impediment he’d seen below. Letting his eyes adjust to the darkness, he began crawling through the shaft on his elbows, scanning for any hints of detail ahead. Several yards in front of him, he could barely make out the outline of another vent, with some faint illumination showing between its bars. He continued slithering through the narrow passage, and finally reached its end, peering through the vent into the dimly lit area beyond. He could sense the airflow becoming less condensed outside, expanding in a wider volume. Reaching through the vent’s bars with his slender fingers, he found the latch and tripped it, opening the vent outward. Turning over on his back, he felt along the wall outside and gripped a ladder rung above the opening, sliding carefully out of the shaft and finding his footing on a rung further down. Shutting and re-latching the vent, he put away his climbing claws and turned on the rungs to observe the enclosure around him.

He was in a circular utilities core, twenty feet in diameter, rising in a great iron conduit through the center of the building, with rows of pipes, gas lines, and power circuits running along its walls to every level. Small maintenance lights dotted the perimeter by each row of ladder rungs, producing the enclosure’s only illumination – extending down the core into the darkness like lines of glowing points. Slipping his grappler arrow from his quiver, he triggered its mechanism manually and secured it onto the rung he was grasping. Then, freeing some rope from his belt-clip, he gripped the line and sprang off of the wall, plummeting down the conduit. Rappelling along the rope, he reached a section of the structure where the various pipes and cords fed into the surrounding walls, signaling the next level of the building. Pausing against the rungs, he looked across the core and spotted another vent on the opposite wall. He kicked across on the rope to the other side and attained a hold on the rungs beneath the vent, giving a short tug on the rope to release the grappler arrow from its hold high above. As the arrow dropped down the core, he looped the rope quickly back through his clip with one hand and slid the grappler inside his quiver. Unlatching the vent, he opened it and crawled inside, closing it after him.

Slinking through the following air shaft, he found an exiting vent in the bottom at the end, and peered down into the space below: twenty feet beneath him, a U came from around the wall of the utilities core, meeting a dim corridor which led north. No one was in sight. Slipping his fingers through the vent to unlatch it, he opened it and dropped from the shaft, landing quietly in a crouch.

The passage ahead opened into a wide hall with encased trophies and extravagantly laden manikins on display, supported against rows of pillars on either side. Glimpsing a glowing green eye moving in the darkness beyond, the intruder darted over to a place of concealment behind the wall of the passage and knelt beside it. The faint whir of turning gears reached his ears from inside the hall, and he peered around the bend to catch a mechanical watcher’s reflection against one of the glass cases. Another watcher jutted from the edge of the wall on his end, panning its view slowly over the hall ahead. Assessing the two watchers’ corresponding positions – observing the one nearest him which looked out onto the hall, and gauging the other’s location by judging the angle of its reflection – he determined their alignment: they were set up diagonally in opposing corners of the room, each monitoring the displays and exits across from them; their rotation paths were synchronized in opposite logics, such that while one spied a certain area of the hall, the other was viewing the opposite area, and vice versa. Timing their dual panning based on the one visible watcher, and listening to their harmonized gear tracks, he visualized their joined perceptions in his mind – and found a blind spot. Racing from his cover, he dashed across the hall toward a pillar, passing through the brief phase between each watcher’s scope of vision, and wheeled around behind the pillar as they closed the gap on their next turn. Staying in motion, he whizzed across the hall again toward a further pillar, crisscrossing between the watchers’ sight behind each obstruction – following an intuitive mental trajectory of the correct trigonometric pattern. Zigzagging from pillar to pillar, he zipped across the last stretch of his route, and fleeted unnoticed through the hall’s exit, passing like a ghost on the outskirts of perception.

The hall opened out onto a wide circular balcony, overlooking the bottom floor of the basement thirty feet below, with a large window in the ceiling admitting light from the gallery above. Dashing from the hall, the cloaked figure dived over the balcony and tumbled down the full distance in a graceful flip, landing with acrobatic expertise in a crouch upon the marble floor.

The area below the high balcony was a great exhibition room, decked with all manner of historic treasures, from engraved silver swords to golden chalices and crowns, to gem-encrusted staffs and scepters – monuments to some forgotten age which once dominated the land. But beyond these dazzling spectacles, one surpassed all: a brilliant multifaceted crystal the size of a man’s fist, displayed under glass, on a pedestal, in its own separate chamber – across a wide passage directly north of the room. The crystal glinted with an inner violet-blue radiance, refracting shards of light in every direction.

The crouched rogue scanned the walls of the passage leading to the chamber: several rows of tiny red dots lined their surfaces, like a nest of eyes peeking from every direction. Reaching into his hood, he flipped down a black visor over his eyes with a pair of dark lenses in place of eyeholes, and switched on the device – illuminating the lenses with an inner greenish glow. Dozens of thin red rays suddenly appeared in his vision, crisscrossing over one another in an elaborate maze of light. Studying the matrix of rays, he evaluated their crisscrossing patterns and calculated a path between them. Rising from his position, he shot toward the passage, leaping onto his hands and springing forward in a flipping dance of twists and cartwheels, bounding head over heels under and over each ray at every interval. As if enacting a pre-practiced series of maneuvers, he dove through the maze’s intersections, arched beneath its raised paths, and somersaulted over its lower angles, weaving in and out of its obstacles with gymnastic finesse. Gathering momentum with each hand-spring, he suddenly leapt up and flung himself in a double flip betwixt the final overlapping beams – landing past the ray-field before the crystal-display.

The cloaked intruder beheld the shimmering artifact before him, its multihued sheens glinting off of the surrounding glass in intricate slivers. Inside the domed case, more red beams guarded the crystal between a standing frame, encaging it like transparent wires crossing every possible side. Procuring his lock-picks, he worked through the case’s lock, manipulating its tumblers until he finally set the last and released the case’s seal from the platform. Putting away his picks, he carefully lifted the domed casing from the pedestal and set it aside next to the frame. He examined the networks of rays surrounding the crystal, tracing them to their origins: each beam emitted from one of many tiny projectors built into the frame, set up to aim a path of light at a corresponding receiver lens on the opposing side; collectively, they formed an impenetrable cage around the gem; if any of their paths were broken, it would trigger the alarm system and activate the chamber’s traps. Working quickly, the rogue produced four small prisms from his cloak and positioned them at specific points around the platform, turning each to face the next along an imaginary path – exactly perpendicular to one another. One by one, he set up their alignments, orienting three of them to face receiver lenses around the frame’s perimeter – switching the paths of light between them to fool the sensors; as one prism diverted a projector’s ray from its receiver toward a different lens, another prism compensated by bending a second ray to hit that receiver – and so on, in a continuous pattern, until only one projection stood in the way. Finally, he prepared to set down the fourth, pausing to consider the prismatic arrangement one last time – and then abruptly blocked the projector with the prism, instantly redirecting the ray through the other prisms to hit the receiver on the opposite side…
No alarm sounded. Before him, where once an impenetrable network of beams had shielded the display, there now lay a gaping hole in the pattern, permitting access to the glittering gem within. Lifting his visor, he reached in and brought out his magnificent prize...

28th May 2003, 04:50
Several stray fireballs smashed into the door wrenching the doorknob from Speedy’s hand, slamming it shut before she could escape.

Blinded by the explosion she groped the air in an effort to grasp the knob again only to find it locked tight and keyless. Dropping to her knees she scoured the floor with both hands searching desperately for the key in hopes of escaping before the victors came looking for another victim. But the pungent smell of burnt hair filled her nostrils stopping any further attempt to exit the room while sightless. Hurriedly rubbing her hands through her hair to extinguish any smoldering sparks she spun ‘round placing her back squarely against the blackened door and edged left along the wall in the direction of the darkened corner she’d hidden in just moments before while hiding from the mages.

Eyes stinging and ears ringing from the blasts made it impossible to distinguish who was winning the battle between the mages and Sir Claudius. Blinking her eyes tight in an effort to bathe them in the tears that stung her reddened cheeks she reached to rub them and found the tissue around each eye was painfully scorched. The blast had damaged her vision, singing her brows and eyelashes, leaving her deaf and blind.

Choking back a whimper Speedy prepared for the worst and made her self as inconspicuous as possible.

Praying the alcove she’d curled up in was dark enough to cloak her from danger she slipped into a healing state. A quiet, safe place she’d learned to retreat to so many times since finding herself orphaned at such a young age. It was here she revisited the tales her Grandmother had told her. Reliving adventures she wasn’t sure had even taken place. Dreaming dreams so filled with pleasure she was always renewed upon awakening……………

Taking a deep breath I stretched out my cramped muscles… much like a cat would when waking after napping the afternoon away in a field of daisies. This was my twilight time. The passage between the real and imagined… the bridge that gracefully arched connecting two worlds. One painful… one pain free.

Leisurely rolling over on my back I stretched again extending all four legs above me towards the warm sunshine. I let my paws peek above the fragrant flowers and began to purr. The rhythmic vibration deep in my chest escaped in waves to my throat filling my ears with music… blocking out all the unpleasant sounds in my head.

Relaxing I rolled on to my side allowing my own lullaby to massage any memory of pain from my mind.

Licking the bottom of my right front paw I extended it behind my ear and pulled the velvety pad forward washing my face one gentle stroke at a time. Wetting each paw over and over again I continued the cleansing process until my face was shinny and clean. Only then did I dare to open my eyes. One at a time…

The bright blue sky smiled down on me as the clouds turned to butterflies. One last glorious stretch and I flipped over. Crouched low among the long stemmed daisies I watched the butterflies fade from blood red to bright orange then a soft yellow… a bee buzzed by then returned to tease nectar from the flowers. A hummingbird flitted above my head catching my full attention.

Head down I buried my paws under my chin… bottom raised… tail swishing metrically for balance… jockeying with my hind legs for the perfect placement to pounce…

I leapt up and surveyed the room.

All was quiet. The mages were gone. Sir Claudius was very, very still. Too still I thought. Keeping my distance I decided not to approach him even though the taste of mouse tugged strangely at me. With my mouth watering and my stomach growling I instinctively licked my lips then shook the strange reaction by concentrating on finding a way out of the room.

Checking the door again proved fruitless… without the key it was a dead end. There was no telling how much time had passed since my blind spell or if Yubetcha, littlek, and Caradavin had even survived that whirlwind of a dance the ghosts had caught them up in just before the rat appeared. All I knew for sure was the mages had entered and exited the room some how and until I found a way out I was of no use to anyone.

Finally I found the way. Stuffing a bottle of wine, some cheese and fruit in my sack I grabbed a torch and entered the pillar. The stairs ascended above me into darkness. Looking down I chose instead to follow the cake crumbs I was hoping my friends had dropped as they descended the winding column.

31st May 2003, 06:39
The happy face and arrow Yubetcha had engraved into the icing of his cake had pointed Speedy in the right direction… and the crumbs on the stairs were a nice touch. Unfortunately squeaky and family were making a meal of the sweet trail her friends had laid down for her to follow and soon Speedy was going to find she was standing at another crossroads, unsure about what direction to take.

Her friends had indeed passed this way and left the metal door at the bottom of the steps ajar so they could escape back up the column if need be. The dilemma Speedy would face was based on the fact that the mushroomed pathway appeared to be underground and the Library was definitely somewhere above her. Perhaps the stairs that lead upwards from where she had entered the pillar would be a better choice since she was unaware of how much time and distance had passed since being separated from her friends.

As she rounded the column on her decent the sounds of mice echoed up the steps. Aiming the flame of the torch at her feet she lighted her way until the cake crumbs disappeared and rodent droppings took their place.

“Rats,” she whispered.

Continuing to the bottom of the column she came upon the partly open door and peered into the dank narrow hallway. The glowing mushrooms gave off an unwelcoming moldy stench.

“Hmmmmmmm,” Speedy thought out loud. “If I continue I’m just going to end up farther and farther away from the Library, but if I go back up the stairs and see what’s at the top of the column I may be able to make a better decision about finding out… ah, finding a way out… I mean… geeeze I can’t even remember what it is I’m trying to do any more!!”

A growl and searing pain in her stomach made her clutch her tummy. Nausea gripped her. She couldn’t think straight any more. It'd been hours.... no maybe days since she had last eaten.

Unable to make a decision and weak with hunger Speedy sat down on the bottom step taking the wine, cheese, and fruit from her bag. Hoping to regain some stability she took a few moments to eat and clear her head.

Re-energized she decided to save the bottle of wine to celebrate with once the journey ended. Standing up Speedy was ready to continue her quest.

The Shroud
2nd Jun 2003, 21:30
The Shroud held up the Crystalline Matrix before him, his eyes glimmering above his face mask in the gem’s vibrant iridescence. The dazzling piece lit his visage in cascading colours, reflecting its luminous image in his gaze. Wasting no time, he produced a black length of cloth and hastily rolled the crystal inside it, tying the bundle tightly and slipping it in his cloak. Flipping his visor back down, he quickly retrieved the prisms from the platform and put them away – taking care to remove them in the proper sequence, so as not to disturb the sensors. Finally, he replaced the glass case atop the pedestal, locking it down. The display appeared once again as he had found it – minus its presented treasure.

Turning from the pedestal, the thief lurched forward, flipping and cartwheeling through the maze of intersecting rays with swift agility. As he emerged from the sensor-field, he dashed across the exhibit, lifting his visor and switching it off, then reaching for his folded bow – snapping it forcefully into ready position. Halting in the center of the room, he extracted his grappler arrow and loosed several coils of rope from his belt-clip, manually triggering the arrow’s mechanism to release its hooked blades. Taking aim at the high balcony, he drew back the arrow and fired. The grappler shot up with its trailing line, clearing the top of the parapet and hooking onto its edge as it slid back. Shouldering his bow, the rogue shimmied up the rope and vaulted over the parapet, crouching still for a moment to survey the area: it was clear. Recoiling his line through the clip, he retracted the grappler arrow’s hooks and slid the device back in his quiver. Staying low, he turned and trotted down the passage southward, heading toward the hall with the watchers.

Seeing his chance, he darted into the hall and rounded the nearest display case’s pillar, flitting out of sight just as the mechanical eyes closed the gap between their fields of view. Following the pattern from before intuitively, he zipped back and forth across the hall during each blind-phase, weaving from pillar to pillar to evade detection between phases. At last, he raced through the hall’s exit, leaving the watchers’ realm of sight.

Pausing by the large iron impediment which enclosed the utilities core, he looked up at the vent hanging open in the ceiling and unshouldered his bow. Extracting his grappler arrow and freeing some rope from his clip, he aimed carefully at the vent and let fly. The arrow pierced between the vent’s bars and released its hooks, holding fast. Collapsing his bow and stashing it, he hurried up the rope, hoisting himself through the opening in the ceiling and sliding inside on his stomach. Drawing in his rope, he used the line to pull the vent shut, then retracted the grappler’s hooks and wrenched the arrow free.

The thief crawled through the air shaft, making his way to the vent at the other end and opening it. Hooking the grappler onto a rung outside, he pulled himself out of the shaft, sagging down from the opening. Closing the vent, he kicked away from the wall and descended the utilities core on his rope.

The conduit leveled out after about fifty feet, where the surrounding tubes and gas lines fed into the circular wall. Touching down on the bottom, the rogue looked up and gave a sharp tug on his rope, sending a small click from above. The rope soon came spilling down with its grappler, piling in a heap at his feet. He stooped to gather the line in a coil and secured it to his belt, stashing the grappler arrow and turning to view the core. An access hatch stood at the other side, with various utilities rerouting around it. Moving across to the hatch, he unlatched it and swung it open. Outside, a wide sewer channel led south from the utilities core, with pipes and circuits running along its walls and ceiling. Stepping into the dark passage, the thief shut the hatch behind him and proceeded down the tunnel.

The sewer branched off several yards ahead, leading southwest and southeast from the main channel. Reaching the split, he took the southeast path and followed its winding course as it bore east. The passage received less and less light as he progressed, and he began relying more on air currents than his eyes to sense his way. Taking several north and east turns, he eventually came to a large grate overlooking a vertical reservoir stretching up and down past the mouth of the tunnel. Faint light shone against the concrete walls from somewhere above…and the sound of rushing water reached his ears from upper aqueducts. Pulling the grate open on its rusty hinges, he stepped out along the edge and closed the threshold behind him. As he lifted his gaze to a grating far above, he readied his bow and fired his grappler at the target – seeing the arrow latch onto the grid. Gripping his rope, he ascended the reservoir and disappeared into the sewers beneath Dayport’s surface…

6th Jun 2003, 20:59
Lighting a flare and throwing it with all her might down the darkened hall at the bottom of the pillar Speedy called to her friends……

“Yuuuuuubetcha…. Liiiiiiiiittlek….. Caraaaaaaadavin… arrrrre yoooouuuuu theeeerre?”

Only silence greeted her. Not even an echo bounced back. The moldy mushrooms and slime absorbed her cries.

Undaunted she called again and again until the flare burned itself out and she could no longer see where they may have ventured ahead of her.

Disheartened that she may never see her friends again Speedy turned and started back up the stairs towards the entrance, torch held high. Once she reached the door she had entered Speedy continued past it moving more cautiously in a spiral ascending the unexplored area.

Another metal door reflected the flame of her torch as she rounded the inside of the pillar. Placing her ear to it before trying the knob she heard nothing then carefully twisted the handle only to find it had been secured. Resting the torch in a metal floor sconce Speedy rummaged for her lock picks. Stepping aside to better light the doorknob and conceal herself she was surprised to find the knob didn’t have a keyhole. Perhaps there was a padlock on the wall she hadn’t seen. To get a better look at the rounded walls she removed the torch from the sconce. Upon doing so the heavy metal door slid open catching Speedy off guard. Quickly extinguishing the flame she waited breathless.. plastered up against the wall, listening for any noises. The room beyond remained quiet so she replaced the unlit torch in the floor sconce triggering the door again… grinding it shut with a vibration that could wake the dead.

“Damn,” Speedy mumbled.

Counting to ten she carefully removed the torch for a second time from the floor sconce and the door slid open again just begging her to enter.

12th Jun 2003, 14:15
As the three walked cautiously down the torchlit hallway, yubetcha wondered, "But I don't understand. It seems, according to that note on the pit resident, that Lop Ear hired someone to change a guy into a rat. So why would Lop Ear, dressed as the haunt, obey the rat? And why would he be dressed as a haunt in the first place?! Unless something like blackmail was involved. Boy, I sure would like to find the answer to those!"
They walked even more cautiously as they got to the mages' residence. Finding no one at home, they quietly started to search it, each one taking a different room. Yubetcha searched the main living quarters, while littlek and Caradavin went to bedrooms. Yubetcha searched through books resting on tables, then searched under tables, under chairs, in the desk drawers. At the desk, he found a switch. Pressing it, he saw a picture on the wall move to one side, revealing a hole in the wall. In the hole, he found a piece of rolled up paper. Taking it out, he unrolled it, and called to the others. "I found the map!", he yelled. Caradavin came into the room, and he showed her the map. She then explained how she found potions, coins and a key. Beside the key was a note, explaining that the key was for the safe in the room at the top of the spiral staircase. Then littlek ran into the room and exclaimed, "I found a mysterious orb. When I touch the side of it, it starts to glow, and shows the spiral steps. I thought I saw Speedy there!"
Yubetcha said, "Well, let's go find her. I also found the potion on a shelf that will change the rat back".

15th Jun 2003, 00:46
Littlek suddenly looked uncomfortable staring at the orb in her hand. “There is another thing this orb does….”

Caradavin was anxious to leave the Mages room and asked impatiently, “What?”

“It seems that when the orb gets close to spirits, it causes them to materialize whether they want to or not. I…er….well, when I found the orb in the bedroom I was pilfering, I passed the orb close to the bed on my way out and…well….I caused two spirits to materialize and they were in a rather…. compromising position. They are very upset.”

Yubetcha laughed heartily and stuffed the potion and map deep into his pack. "That's comforting information." Caradavin smiled and pocketed the key and the coins. Mort was insistent in having littlek taking the orb back to the bedroom to see who the spirit lovers were. Caradavin gave Mort a disgusted look, grabbed the orb and held it in front of her as she walked towards the spiral stairs. The orb caused the steps of the staircase to sparkle showing them where to place their feet and they then began their spiral ascent. Mort complained loudly but he was still bound to Caradavin and so he reluctantly followed. Littlek and Yubetcha overheard Caradavin growl at Mort, “If you do not close your mouth, I’ll figure out how to make this orb dematerialize you for good. Now be quiet before you let every evil spirit know where we are.” Mort grumbled his displeasure but did so quietly as the troupe ascended the staircase in silence.

They had ascended for nearly 5 minutes when suddenly they heard a loud grinding noise that caused them to flatten themselves against the cold wall. There was no mistaking that the noise was a heavy door was being opened. They remained where they were then heard the door grind shut. It was not too long before they heard the door open and then shut again. Then silence. They quietly crept up the remaining stairs and found themselves facing a large metal door. Yubetcha examined the floor and saw the scrapes in the floor. He quietly signaled that it was this door that had recently opened. He looked for a door handle, finding none. Caradavin was busy retrieving the key she found earlier when Yubetcha caught her attention showing her there was no keyhole. The three then began searching the floor, ceiling and walls for a secret switch. Caradavin stopped by the torch sniffed it then touched the unlit torch that was in the floor sconce. It was still warm. She lifted it out of the sconce and the door opened. The noise caused littlek and Yubetcha to flatten against the wall in surprise. Caradavin peered inside then motioned for everyone to follow.

8th Jul 2003, 14:06
The large room was pitch black, except for a torch at the far end that disappeared as the door there closed. Littlek called, "Speedy!"
Yubetcha replied, "Shhh! We don't know who that was. It could be someone else".
The group entered the room and lit a torch. They gasped at the sight on the nearby walls.

27th Aug 2003, 16:02
Adhered to the wall by spider webs were Speedy, the rat and several unlucky guards. An enormous red spider was just putting its finishing touches to Speedy’s sticky cocoon. They could detect slight movements inside the cocoon as Speedy struggled to free herself. The rats’ whiskered nose comically stuck out of its cocoon and he wriggled it irritably. Several small white spiders scurried about, leaping in their excitement over the recent catch. Scattered about the floor were the desiccated carcasses of past meals.

Littlek shuddered as if a sudden fever overtook her. The spider bite she suffered earlier suddenly pulsed painfully. She backed away silently and flattened herself against the now closed door. Caradavin crouched low drawing her sword while Mort predictably vanished into a mist and Yubetcha quietly notched an arrow. Littlek shut her eyes tightly and bit her lip against the pain. It’s hot pulse felt as if a hundred spiders were biting her there.

The large red spider quickly swung its tiny head around towards littlek’s direction as if it somehow knew that she were there. Its numerous eyes glinted ominously in the dim light of the torch they lit. The troupe of spiderlings went on alert from some silent command, hissing and bouncing in their excitement. The noise of alert spiders put Yubetcha and Caradavin into action. Littlek merely crumbled to the floor writhing in pain. Several spiderlings uttered their death scream from Yubetcha’s arrows before they had a chance to challenge their quarry. Caradavin sauntered out into the open and those spiderlings who foolishly attacked barely felt the sting of her blade before writhing in their death throes. One by one, the spiderlings were dispatched keeping Yubetcha and Caradavin busy so that neither one noticed the red spider silently creep towards littlek’s position.

When the red spider reached her, Littlek could only stare in horror into its numerous eyes, each one focused intently on her. She had a crazy thought as to deciding which eye to look into as she braced herself for the feel of its fangs. Instead the red giant peered closely at her then using one of its spiky forelegs, pulled at her tunic to expose the spider bite on her back. The now inflamed wound was easy to find in the dim light. Littlek heard the spider utter another hiss then it whispered in a soft feminine voice, “So its you. The one touched by the healing spring.”

Before littlek could comprehend what had just transpired, the red giant expertly bound her arms and legs then grabbed littlek and quickly climbed up the wall and onto the ceiling. From her elevated vantage point, littlek could only watch helplessly as Yubetcha and Caradavin continued their battle against the spiderlings. The spiderlings just kept coming., tumbling out of cracks in the wall so that it seemed the numbers never decreased despite the mound of spider corpses at Yubetcha and Caradavins feet.

As suddenly as they appeared, the spiderlings stopped their offensive attack and scurried back into the cracks they emerged from. Yubetcha and Caradavin, both exhausted, merely looked at each other in confusion. The red spider slowly ascended from the ceiling using a single strand of its silk bringing littlek with it. It lay littlek down in front of Speedy then faced Caradavin and Yubetcha. “Which of you knoweth the location of the healing spring that houses the sacred book?” The spider whispered in her silky voice.

Caradavin and Yubetcha stood in amazement, chests heaving, their fatigued arms hanging limply at their sides. Yubetcha spoke first, “First a talking rat, now a talking spider. I can’t wait to get out of this place!”

29th Aug 2003, 13:53
Then, Yubetcha said, "Look, I don't know you from Adamski. Why do you want to know?"
The spider replied, "Just tell me, and I may consider allowing you to leave. I have your friends and can easily kill them right here and now... and YOU, I might add" and with that, the spider slowly walked forward menacingly, and then stopped. As if on cue, small spiderlings peered through the crack in the wall.
Yubetcha said, "Sorry, not good enough. Look. You want to know about the healing spring. Before I answer your question, my friends must be allowed to leave here alive and well".
The spider took another step forward without a word, and waited.
Yubetcha said, "Look, I know for a fact that if you use us to feed your young, you will never find the answer to your question. It will die with us. And if you kill anyone here, then there is nothing standing between the rest of us and you. We may go down, but I will make sure that you go down with us. How will the answer be of use to you then? So either take your best shot, or let everyone else go. Then I will personally answer your question. I keep my word."
The spider reluctantly nodded, and released Speedy and the rat. Caradavin helped littlek to her feet, as the spider told them that they could not leave the way they came, but must leave through the door at the far end of the room. Yubetcha gave the potion to the rat. "Drink it after you leave. Hopefully it will make a new man out of you", Yubetcha said with a chuckle.

After the group had left the room, the spider turned to Yubetcha. "Now you will answer my question. Where is the healing spring?"
Yubetcha replied, "Actually that was not your question. The question you asked was 'Who among us knows of its location?'. And I said I would tell you, and I will keep my word. Well, you see, littlek knows of its location."
The spider asked in anger, "The one in pain who left this room?!?!"
"That's right", said Yubetcha, conveniently leaving out the fact that he also knew. As the spider turned to look at the door, Yubetcha shot an arrow at the lone torch, and the room was pitch black. Yubetcha ran in the general direction of the door, his hands out in front of him, hoping that he could find it in the blackness. He heard shrill whistles behind him, and hoped that they could not see. Yubetcha ran full speed into the wall. The pain in his hands were excrutiating. Looking behind him, he saw a man relight the torch. The man had an odd air about him, as if he was in some kind of trance. "Something odd about that group", he thought to himself. The spider saw him, and she and the spiderlings ran after him. In the light he saw the door. It was near him to the right. He again looked at the pursuers, and suddenly the door seemed much farther away. He thanked goodness that they were all in a very, very large room, with the spiders at the other end. Knowing he had mere seconds to spare, he ran for the door, and opened it. He closed it behind him, hoping that the spider could not open it. Leaning against the door, he took stock of the area. It was a small room. At the other end, he could see a door ajar. Suddenly, the door he was leaning against had bumped him! Someone was trying to open it. "The trance man!", Yubetcha realized.

4th Sep 2003, 16:09
Littlek leaned heavily against the wall next to the door they left ajar for Yubetcha. She slowly slid down the wall and sat on the floor and wearily watched her companions. Curiously, the spider bite throbbed less painfully now that they were away from the spider. Speedy was pulling the last of the sticky web off her and Caradavin peered through the open door watching for Yubetcha. The rat sat on its haunches staring thoughtfully at the small vial he clutched in his tiny front paws. Then with much sighing and nose twitching, he opened the vial, sniffed the contents then drank its contents in one noisy gulp. Knowing he had an audience, he dramatically set down the vial then wrinkled his nose disapproving of the taste. Speedy and littlek watched the rats’ antics and waited for his transformation back into his original human form.

Caradavin attention remained fixed towards the room they briefly passed through after their escape from the spider. She suddenly stiffened then without a word, ran into the darkness. Speedy took notice and quickly stood up. “Stay here littlek. Keep an eye on him.” She nodded her head towards Sir Claudius. Sir Claudius merely wrinkled his forehead trying to look innocent as if saying, “Me?” Then speedy disappeared through the open door and into the adjoining dark room.

Littlek heard a bump in the next room as if someone were trying to open a door and then it suddenly slamming shut. There was a lot of mumblings and shuffling of leather soled shoes but she could not interpret what exactly was happening. Her attention was suddenly diverted towards Sir Claudius who merely muttered, “Oh my!” He was staring straight ahead into a mist that was taking shape before him. Soon the curvy form of Krista appeared.

Sir Claudius frowned at Krista then spoke first, “So have you come to prevent the reversal of your spell? Your efforts are in vain and you have come too late. I have already drunk the potion. I told you that these mortals were more cunning than you gave them credit for.” Krista merely glared at him. Sir Claudius continued. “You could make your potions taste better. A more skillful sorceress could have you know. Raspberry would have been nice.”

Krista’s silence ended at this last insult. “It makes no difference to me if you are a rat or human. Bodleian and I will succeed where you have failed.”

Littlek sat very still trying to remain unnoticed, as she comprehended the information she was fortunate to eavesdrop on. There was no mistaking that voice. It was the same voice as the giant red spider. Krista was the spider. And she wanted the book that dwelled in the deep waters of the pool littlek fell into. The pool that healed her from a venomous spider bite. So getting Bodleian remains and the picture of the mustached woman with her ‘killer’ Chihuahua in exchange for the book that could translate the treasure map was all just a ruse. All this was an elaborate scam to get them to reveal the whereabouts of the book in the pool. Littlek realized that it must be a very powerful book and one that these spirits should never acquire. Littlek also realized that Sir Claudius was also trying to keep Krista and Bodleian from acquiring the book. Krista spoke again, “So it begins.” Littlek looked at Sir Claudius and noticed that he emitted a faint glow that seemed to progressively grow brighter. Soon the room was filled with a light so bright that littlek had to close her eyes. Then the light grew dimmer and littlek found herself looking a man where a rat once sat. She quickly glanced around the room for Krista but she had disappeared. Sir Claudius eyes were shut and he breathed deeply then released his breath as a deep sigh. Then he slowly opened his eyes and shook his head slightly as if to clear his mind of rat thoughts to welcome in the thoughts of a man. He then slowly stood up, not fully trusting the bipedal nature of his human legs.

Littlek chuckled more loudly than she should have which made Sir Claudius focus on her. Then he suddenly realized why she was grinning so. He was nude! He quickly sat down and modestly covered what he could. Littlek broke the awkward silence, “So how does it feel to be a human again?”

“Better if I had some clothes. I don’t suppose you have an extra cloak in your pack.”

“No, I don’t. But you can borrow the one I am wearing. Although I doubt it would cover much. You are much larger than me.” Littlek snorted when she laughed this time.

Sir Claudius tried to assume an air of dignity and straightened his shoulders. “I fail to see the humor in this. It is just Krista’s last attempt to humiliate me. If she were half the sorceress she thought she was, she would have created the potion to include clothing. But she is an amateur.

“Or she has a great sense of humor.” Littlek blurted out with another snort.

“Spiders have no humor. Only lies and deceit. You would be wise to remember that.” Sir Claudius replied severely. “We are not free of her just yet.”

The humor of the moment vanished quickly and littlek stared quietly at Sir Claudius. She spoke softly, “Maybe Yubetcha will have some clothes that will fit you. In the meantime, you can use this.” Littlek stood up, took off her cloak then walked to Sir Claudius on shaky legs and handed him her cloak. He gratefully took it and draped it over his lap. “Sit here next to me. Her poison still pulses through you but you were wise to have used the healing pool to lessened her venomous control over you mind.”

“Well, I found this pool by accident. You see…” littlek then told what happened in the caverns and how she ended up in the pool.

Sir Claudius merely stared at her in disbelief. “Do you realize how long this pool has been searched for? And you just accidentally fall into it? Amazing.”

Before she could respond, Speedy, Yubetcha and Caradavin sprinted into the room and slammed the door shut then locking it. But just merely locking the door was not enough. All three of them put their backs to the door to try and keep out whatever was on the other side. Littlek then hears the moans of zombies, spiders hissing and scratching on the door and the laughter of the haunts as they rattled their chains. Caradavin breathlessly says, “There must be thousands of them….spiders, zombies, haunts, they just appear out of nowhere. They are being led by some guy in a trance.”

Sir Claudius stands up and wraps littlek’s cloak about his waist. “Oh is that all. I can take care of them.”

8th Sep 2003, 16:19
As Claudius walked toward the door, Yubetcha said, "I wouldn't go in there if I were you". An instant later, they all heard chain rattling simultaneously with banging on the door.
Speedy said, "It sounds like the haunts are hitting the door with their hammers. This wooden door won't take much more". Just then they heard the door crack.
Claudius replied, "Don't worry. I can take care of them. Get ready to open it."
"No, don't be a fool. I am NOT opening this door", Yubetcha said. "If you wait another minute, you can reach through the doorway and shake hands with them, but I won't open it and hasten our deaths. We need time to figure something else out, so start figuring, everyone".
With another loud hit, the door crack grew longer. Another hit immediately following it broke off a corner of the door.
Claudius said, "Ye of little faith. I was a member of the mages guild for many years". With that, he made a circular gesture with his arms, concentrating fully. Nothing. He wound up again, just as a loud hit produced another crack in the door. Still nothing. Claudius looked down at his hands. "I don't understa... wait! Now I see! My powers are slow to return! I need to build up my strength more. I am too weak! I need more time and food!"
Just then, a large piece of the door broke off and flew across the room. The group could now see the faces of haunts and zombies staring at them over the lower two-thirds of the door. They heard the familiar evil laugh, as a haunt raised his hammer to swing at the door again.

12th Sep 2003, 01:12
Caradavin and littlek quickly rummaged through all the packs piling various items of food, healing potions and even the delectable and highly sought after healing fruits in front Sir Claudius. Yubetcha and Speedy were at the door exchanging sword thrusts with several haunts trying desperately to delay them from breaking down the badly damaged door. Sir Claudius perused through the offerings then carefully picked over each item selecting only the best then settled in and munched on his pick with a lot of hmmmm’s and ahhhhh’s. Caradavin stared impatiently at Sir Claudius and paced nervously between the door and Sir Claudius, her bow in her hand.

Sir Claudius chewed thoughtfully on the last of the healing fruits then swallowed. “Hmmm, that was wonderful. I had almost forgotten how good those fruits are. Well I think I that will do it. Now move away.”

Speedy and Yubetcha looked at each other in disbelief. ”No way.” Yubetcha panted while thrusting his sword through the gap in the door into what used to be the belly of a zombie. The zombie merely moaned and swiped at him with its hands emitting a growl. A well-aimed arrow from Caradavin’s bow pierced its skull causing the zombie to fall. But it eventually stood back up and resumed its mindless attack on the door.

Suddenly there was a loud thump then the sound of wood splintering and the door burst inward throwing Yubetcha and Speedy aside. The haunts quickly ran into the room and were greeted by a rapid succession of arrows from Caradavins bow. The slower moving zombies ambled in last. Littlek drew her sword and joined her friends in battle, deflecting the swords of the haunts while dodging the swipes of zombies. It seemed all was lost as more haunts and zombies spilled into the room. Sir Claudius remained unimpressed and then with a twist of his hand, the haunts and zombies were gone in a puff of smoke. The room was eerily quiet except for the sound of lungs heaving to feed oxygen starved muscles.

“And to think you doubted me. Now you wouldn’t happen to have a nice bottle of Chianti you happened to overlook now would you?” Sir Claudius inquired while peeking into littlek’s pack.

12th Sep 2003, 05:20
"Give me that!" scolded littlek, taking her pack back.

"Thanks for taking your time!" whirled Caradavin on Sir Claudius.

Sir Claudius amusingly stepped back, his palms raised. "Now, now, there's no need to get riled up."

Caradavin harrumphed off. "So, who was the guy in the trance?" asked yubetcha.

"Oh, him. There's no need to worry about him right now," replied Claudius.

"Still, I would like to know who it was," persisted yubetcha.

"You're all alive, aren't you? Didn't I just save your lives? What's with all the questions? Lighten up! Do you have any more cheese in there?" rambled Sir Claudius.

Littlek shook her head in disbelief. "Let's just get away from here, quick, okay?"

Sir Claudius led them to the farthest wall. He stepped on a part of the floor, and a door quickly swung open. They followed him through a meandering passageway that was just big enough for walking in a straight line, it began to seem to take forever as the passageway's lighting became scarce. He finally stopped, and smelled the air -momentarily forgetting that he wasn't a rat, then reached out and flipped a switch. The narrow wall in front of them opened with a hiss, and before them stood a swarm of guard zombies. Sir Claudius quickly dispatched them and they filed out into the cavernous room. A pulsating bulge was attached somehow to the ceiling, and seemed to be made of rock. It glowed blue from the inside, and it seemed to be constantly moving beneath the hard-looking exterior. It emitted a high pitched monotonous whining sound. Littlek looked to Sir Claudius, "Do you know anything about that thing?"

Sir Claudius shook his head in awe,"Never seen it before."

Mort chose to appear at that moment, "If anyone cares, they could have asked me if I knew about it."

Caradavin groaned and rolled her eyes. Yubetcha replied, "Well, tell us."

Mort began, "Well, when I last visited this location, they were still building. It looked awful if you ask me! There was rubble everywhere, those awful Mechanist lights - you know the ones on those stands with the battery packs, and there was something else....what was it...?"

"Get on with it," Yubetcha growled to Mort.

"Well, if you're going to be so moody, then maybe I just won't tell you-"

"If you don't tell us now, I will do much worse!" Caradavin threatened.

Mort rolled his eyes, "Alright, alright. Anyway, all I remember is that there was a lot of wierd machinery and some of them sounded similar to that. There was this woman with strange eyes who would visit the place frequently. I couldn't go there anymore because she began using the orb to insure no one was watching. She was a bit paranoid, obviously. Well, she saw this one guy who sort of just started hanging around there with the orb and obliterated him. I mean she just zapped him away like Sir Claudius did with those zombies. Good job, by the way, guys - you're quite the soldiers-"

"Mort!!" Caradavin flamed.

19th Sep 2003, 16:09
Claudius' ears perked up, and he interrupted, "Wait! Did you say that she zapped him like I did those zombies and haunts? Did she have long brown hair? And did she wear a tight blue ankle length dress? Did she stand about 5 ft 6 inches, and was her name Gilda?"
Mort replied, "Yes, that's her. Do you know her?"
Claudius answered, "Never saw her before." Sensing the puzzled facial expressions, he continued "I heard my friend speak of her. He's that haunt that was with me earlier, guys. Before he was a haunt, he was a Hammerite who was in love with her. She enticed him to study the black arts with her, where he almost completely lost his soul. I say almost, because he came to his senses, and tried to leave it. But by that time, it was really too late. To begin with, though, he and she went to a church where she introduced him to a priest who was involved in it. They all studied it together there. He noticed that it was starting to get real ugly, and that's when he tried to leave. You should've seen it. They were even writing things on bathroom walls, and even conjured up demons and ugly beasts. She wouldn't let him leave, though, and she killed him. The result of it all is his becoming a haunt. But I wonder what she has to do with this".
Littlek said, "Hey! I wonder if that's the same..."
Mort interrupted, "Uh... 'scuse me, may I continue?"
Claudius replied, "Sorry. Please do go on".
All eyes shifted back to Mort, in eager anticipation...

23rd Oct 2003, 21:27
littlek sat impatiently as Mort rambled on about Gilda and her orb that pulsated above them. He nearly drove her insane when he frequently got off the subject and Caradavin had to prompt him to get back on the topic. littlek sat down on the floor next to Sir Claudius and twice she had to slap Sir Claudius’ hands while he tried to grope her pack and steal some smoked gouda cheese she had been saving. She now protected her pack by holding it on her lap. Sir Claudius’ attention refocused on Yubetcha’s full pack so he scooted closer to where Yubetcha rested. littlek could now concentrate on Mort’s monotonous account of Gilda and the Haunt but soon she found herself paying more attention to the orb. It’s presence made her nervous.

Speedy, ever alert was also watching the orb. She chose to remain standing but leaned casually on the cold stone wall. The orb seemed to be pulsating more rapidly and there was a slight change in color….it was now almost violet. The humming sound it emitted subtly changed tones. It was quieter, as if listening. Speedy reacted fast. In one quick movement, she leapt in the air drawing her bright sword and slashed at the orb twice before skillfully landing. She quickly moved out of the way of the falling debris and away from the figure of Gilda who landed hard and in a most undignified way. Gilda’s long blue dress was up around her hips and her long brown hair hung in her face. Sir Claudius raised his eyebrows and could not take his eyes off her legs. It had been a long time since he had looked at a woman through the eyes of a man. He liked what he saw and an ancient longing consumed his thoughts.

When she brushed her hair away, furious blue eyes glared at Speedy. She stood up and meticulously straightened the folds of her dress. At Gilda’s feet Speedy noticed a deep blue book with ornate gold lettering decorating the cover. She recognized it immediately. It was the book they sought that would translate the map. Gilda’s anger at being revealed and the manner of her detection made her forget about the book she acquired from Bodleian to be used to trade for information. Speedy was careful not to stare at Gilda’s feet for fear that Gilda would remember her possession. Caradavin also noticed the book and slowly crouched to sneak closer.

Gilda snarled at Speedy, “I ought to turn you into a frog beast for that.”
Speedy merely smiled then quietly said, “You have no power here. I know because I have seen the book in the healing pool that you seek and know of its contents. Your powers grow weaker the longer it is there. You are nearly mortal like the rest of us now.”

“You know nothing.” Gilda spat back but Speedy noticed the uncertainty that crept into Gilda’s eyes.

Caradavin’s deft fingers closed around the book and she slowly drew it towards her. Gilda noticed the theft too late and she shrieked as she leapt to attack Caradavin to retrieve the book. Yubetcha was quicker and grabbed Gilda holding her thrashing body off the ground. Soon Gilda accepted her defeat and hung limply in Yubetcha’s arms. Yubetcha kindly sat her next to Sir Claudius who was suddenly speechless and no longer interested in food.

“I knew she was there all along. I am so glad atl east one of you figured out the orb. Well we got what we wanted. I’m for getting out of this place.” Mort chirped. “Are we all ready?”

The three looked knowingly at Mort's 'saving face' speech since it was obvious from his earlier tale that he did not know what he was talking about. There was a unanimous nod of agreement amoung the four thieves about leaving the library. They all then looked at Sir Claudius.

It was littlek who spoke what they all thought. “Are you coming with us Sir Claudius?”

Sir Claudius spoke, his eyes focused on Gilda. “I think I’ll stick around here. I have come to think of this place as home. Anyhow, I have a score to settle with Krista and Bodleian. Like Gilda, their powers weaken. But not mine. I never followed the dark ways of my friends. And that is why they could only turn me into a rat but not destroy me. The way out of here is close. Just go through the door on the North wall. It leads to a narrow hallway that will spiral downward and ends at a secret door that opens up to the first floor of the library. The switch to open it is an extinguished torch. I think you can find you way out from there.

Caradavin looked at Mort. "Is there any chance that you'll stay too?"

"What and miss all the fun? Anyway, you thieves wouldn't have gotten this far without me. You are most ungrateful." Mort disappeared into his mist and stuck close to Caradavin.

3rd Nov 2003, 14:46
As the group stepped outside into the welcome night, Yubetcha pulled a small book out of his pack, and began reading.
littlek asked, "What's that?"
"It's a book that I found lying on a table in the library. It's interesting. It's about vampires, Pagan witches, and zombies, and mind control. Oh, and it's also about the Eye. See, some people are trying to get the Eye away from another group before they get to an old keep, where it will have the potential to destroy the world. Right now the first group is at a keeper's hideout, and they just translated a rune. They just now found out what has been hidden away at the keep. It is more evil than evil itself. Right now I am at the part where a woman has been bitten by a vampire, and is dying. Her name is... lesseee... ah yes, here it is. Her name is Fern".
Speedy, listening intently, sat down on the grass, and opened the book they got from Gilda. "Come on, guys. We need to translate our map and get going". Yubetcha sat down and placed his book onto the grass beside himself.

8th Mar 2011, 05:56
Damn! We were good!

10th Apr 2011, 03:17
Wow I cannot believe how long ago we wrote that. I did not read all of it but what I did read was pure fun. Thanks for reposting this Dusty.

10th Apr 2011, 04:45
You are welcome LK. We did have fun in those days. Too bad most of the crew have faded into 'Time was.'

I have this and part of our other adventure on the computer. I re-read the first few pages again and had to laugh at the good lines and admire the fine writing of the participants. Too bad that the level of writing skills have diminished over the years.

All the members who played in our sandbox were really good at it.

13th Apr 2011, 01:55
You are right about the writing skills. I find myself less inspired by todays writings. I see so many editing errors in news articles and published textbooks. One text got the metric system wrong and also an energy conversion. They also wrote PBC rather than PCB. I finally had enough and wrote to the publisher. They ignored me.

26th Mar 2014, 00:19
Just re-read the LAG. Fun times. drinks are on me you taffers. WHO STOLE MY PURSE!