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April 1st, 2004, 07:46 AM
"Where are we going?" complained Bass as he watched Boldar strap his rug to his horse.
"Juzzza wants us all ready to go," replied the giant.
"Go where?"
"I dunno, I plan to just follow the carpet munchers."

Mya dropped her pack and turned to face Boldar. She drew her sword and took a step forward.

"What did you just say you pig?" she snapped.

Boldar laughed and spread his hands wide. "What? I didn't mean any offence Big Bird."

Bass elbowed his large companion in the hip and stepped towards the warrioress. "I am sorry Mya, you will have to excuse my friend, his mouth travels at twice the speed of his brain more often than not," he said.

"Maybe if I cut his tongue out his brain would catch up," Mya replied.

Gina rode into the camp on her horse and looked at her friend questioningly upon noticing the sword in her hand.

"What's going on?" Gina asked.

"Ah forget it," said Boldar grinning. "Just a small misunderstanding between me and your... Partner."

Mya paced forward and when she was within range, her right hand shot forward and caught the giant on the chin. He took a step back and grinned.

"You should have used the sword," he said, stepping forward and back handing Mya off her feet. Gina slid from her horse and ran forward. Boldar turned to continue packing and jumped back in shock. Two yards before him stood a large wolf, with teeth bared and the hair on its shoulders raised.

"You shouldn't have done that," said Mya from the floor, climbing to her feet and pacing towards the giant.

April 1st, 2004, 11:19 AM
Boldar stepped back warily, the shock slowly being replaced by readiness. He unlimbered his sword and stood ready. Standing loose and ready, sword in hand, he appeared younger and far more dangerous than the others had ever noted.

Mya, still enraged, wiped a thin stream of blood from a split lip, watching the scene upfold before her, a thrill of anticipation at seeing the crude giant humbled... or perhaps killed.

To everyone's suprise, however, it was not the wolf, nor Boldar that took action fist, but Bass.

Bass, had reached into a pocket inside of his vest and pulled out a small shiny object. Before anyone could move, he stepped in front of Boldar and began making an incantation in a strange tongue, and to the shock of everyone, Boldar included, the wolf disapeared with a 'POP' that hurt the ears.

Gina barked a startled, "Wha?"

Bass put the small object away. "Don't worry about the wolf, he is not harmed, I just put him back where he came from for now."

Mya turned slightly to look directly at the ancient man, her eye's narrowing. "That should not have been possible old man, you had no time for a casting of that magnitude!"

Bass shrugged. "Nope. I didn't have time. But, this foolishness had to be stopped, and let's just say I have other means, and leave it at that, eh?"

Mya, unsure of what that meant, but respecting the power that had been used, dismissed the crinkled old man and turned her attention back to Boldar, who had re-sheathed his sword, though he seemed as surprised as she, and perhaps a bit miffed.

"It is not over between us, big man." The threat came out in an almost sultry tone.

Boldar shrugged. "No problem lass, I'll be happy to teach you any lesson you please, any time... including what you should be doing under the sheets at night."

Mya simply gaped at the huge man for a moment, then came to the conclusion he was an ingorant child.

She turned away, actually having to foce down a small chuckle at the ignorance of the man.

"Boldar," she said over her shoulder, "the only thing you can do under the sheets is snore. I doubt you've been UP," she emphasized the word, "to more in several decades."

Boldar turned, red rising from his neck to his cheeks. "To cut a man with a blade, or even set a wolf upon him is one thing... but that's just cruel lady. Uncalled for." And with a huff of indignation he went back to packing.

Gina smiled and Mya. "Now that is how to hurt the man."

April 1st, 2004, 11:26 AM
After the two woman had moved out of earshot, Bass walked over to Boldar and kicked him in the ankle. "Stupid, stupid oaf!"

"Hey now," Boldar stepped back. "Just having some fun."

"You are going to get killed for nothing, big man, and this is turning out to be important."

"Fine, fine," Boldar waved his hands placatingly. "I'll behave."

For a moment, Boldar seemed to be struggling with something, then he spoke again. "Do you suppose you could whip up a spell that would... well... put a rise in the sheets so to speak?"

Bass looked at the big man, amazed. "Just shut up, Boldar, and act your age for once." Then he turned away, ending the conversation. As he moved towards his own horse, he unconsciously patted the small the small hard lump in his pocket, checking that the demon bottle was once again secure. And for the hundredth time in the last several days wondered if the continued use of that particular source of power was a good idea.

April 1st, 2004, 12:25 PM
"More wizards," spat Mya, then glanced guiltily at Gina. "Sorry."

"You've been so acting strange lately," Gina frowned, staring up at her.
"I don't understand it," Mya sighed. "When that big man spoke, it was like someone else took over me, filling me with rage and sending me against him! I don't even know what a 'carpet muncher' is!"

Gina laughed and pulled her away from the others.
"I'll uh, explain later," she said with a grin. "Let's get you on a horse."
"It was an insult, yes?" Mya demanded, eyes narrowing.
"For him, yeah," Gina nodded.
"What about Oddida?"
"He'll be fine I'm sure. But that wizard was fast...."
"I don't know yet, we'll have to see."

April 1st, 2004, 08:57 PM
"You are pretty far off our usual route, you know. Not very considerate, is it? You could have rented a box office down in the city, but, no, you prefer the lonliness of the plateau. All the way up here, just for a few letters? And there are dragons in these hills! Dragons!" The pixie from the BPS handed him the letters, a sour expression on her face.

Reed took the letters. "Well, I thought of taking a subscription to the Adventurer's Gazette. No make that 3 issues. I like to read various articles simultaneously. It's quite unfortunate that my simultanious reading capability is limited to three articles, isn't it?"

The pixie glared at him. It seemed so long, since he'd had genuine fun. "I'm especially looking forward to the weekend editions." He was aware that the joke was getting old, but he'd been alone for almost a day now, and nobody to pull their legs. The shadows weren't a satisfying audience.

"Very funny. Just sign the receipts and I'll be on my way, okay?" The pixie held out two sheets of paper.

Reed took the pen from his pocket and signed the two sheets: Mystique Yassassin, Arleena D'Jyle. Then he frowned. "Where do I sign for the third letter?"

"Oh, stop it, already. I've delivered two letters, you've signed for them. I'm off."

"But..." Reed said, but the pixie made a point of ignoring him, so he didn't go on.

He counted the letters. There were three:

"Dear Reed, I was surprised to find...."

"Hi stranger formerly known as friend, this is Arleena..."

"Dear Reed, Well you've got yourself up the creek without a paddle..."

Ah, the mystery letter. He read it through, getting to the signature. Reed grinned. So he'd drawn Albert's attention. Up the creek without a paddle? Hah, what use is a paddle when you haven't got a canoe and there are rapids ahead...

"Wha-" Reed dropped the letter, as he saw his thoughts appear on the page, erasing the original letter with what seemed to be his hand writing. The letter never reached the floor.

So Albert wanted an answer. Reed grinned and nodded, wishing he knew how to cast that spell. It would make his life a lot easier. (Although his messages would be kind of hard to intercept; definitely a downside.)

In high spirits, Reed read Mystique's answer. One word jumped out at him: contact. So they had an understanding, then. His grin broadened. This was a good day.

And Arleena had written, too. He'd wanted to visit her time and again, but somehow never got around to it. Feeling a little guilty, but overjoyed from hearing from an old friend he began to read:

"Hi stranger formerly known as friend,

This is Arleena. You do remember me? The fat mage. Hey, I lost weight, well not all that much, but - hurray!

What's new? You really could drop in one day, wouldn't that be neat.

I hear you've renewed other old acquaintancies. Oh, and by the way, Gillian Meriweather sends her regards. We get on splendidly. She's such a charming little spirit. We really need to get together one of these days."

Gilli? Oh no, this is not good. Arleena knows. And she's angry!

"Aynsley won't be able to make it. He's in a loony-bin. Keeps seeing elves, dragons... that kind of stuff. And, to boot, he's hallucinating that the doctor's are telling him that, yes, these things do exist; I mean they're supposed to heal him. I guess not everybody can deal with changing history as well as we can...

As for Suz... I haven't heard from her at all. Which comes as no surprise, really.

Oh, and there's a little story I've just got to share with you. It goes like this:

Once upon a time there was a scared little man. His name was, oh, I don't know, lets say, Barney."

Barney? Oh, dear. She's frothing!

"And this scared little Barney, he found a basket full of snakes. And the snakes hissed to him. 'If you release us, we will bite anyone who wants to hurt you,' they hiss. And Barney opened the basket. Now he was safe. Hurray!

But the snakes, they knew when the bullies wanted to punch him, but they were so low to the ground, all they saw was legs, but not the fist. And so, whenever someone was about to hit him, the snakes bit everyone all around. Just to make sure.

Barney was horrified. Because, you know, the snakes had bitten all his friends. Poor little Barney. All alone.

So Barney took a big, mean looking knife, and cut both his wrists. With precision, I must say. He bled to death quite quickly.

And when the snakes noticed that Barney was dead, they crawled back into the basket, all of them, one by one, until the only thing between two snakes was a snake. And the last one resealed the basket.

Do you buy this ending? Me neither.

Anyway, you really need to drop in some day. I miss you.



After finishing the letter, Reed stared at it, nor reading.

"But they are not snakes," he said aloud.

"They are not snakes," he repeated.

And then he sat down on a rock so hard it hurt. He was feeling numb. Sorry for himself. But, already, that inner voice was talking. Quoting random snippets from the letters he's just read.

"...As for Suz... I haven't heard from her at all..."

"...some change to new and strange creatures..."

"...Revenge is best attained with ice cold certainty and deliberation..."

And suddenly, things started to make sense.

"You child," Reed called out.

"Yes, our child. Our rogue child. The changeling. Yes. What about her?" The shadow figure appeared by his side, too close for comfort.

"This time round, she would not be human, would she?"

"Ah, you are back. The vortex. The collector. Words make sense now? Good, good."

"Suz is a strange name for a Drow, isn't it?"

"Strange, yes. Strange name for a human, too, no? Yet human she was, no?"

"And she remembers, doesn't she? How you slighted her, deserted her for the Aimless One? She holds a grudge."

"She hates us. Builds prison. Infects us. Kills us. We need her, like we need you, like we need the mage, the healer. But she kills us."

"But I, I call for you."

"Oh, but you taunt us. Threaten with death. So we can no longer honour your memory."

"And once I'm gone you'll direct your powers elsewhere. That's what you said isn't it. Meaning elsewhere here, not elswhere back there?"

"Ah, the vortex is back. Most excellent. Most excellent."

"You were bluffing me!"

"Yes, we learn. We watch you, we learn. What you teach us, will remain. Your legacy."

"I hate you!"

April 1st, 2004, 09:32 PM
Dear Mystique,

Your letter was, indeed, a surprise.

You won't much care about this, so I'll be brief. Revenge is hardly ever worth it.

And don't say, I don't know the feeling. How about this? You stand in the doorway and watch a very good friend being stabbed to death by a fenzied bully. And what do you do? Nothing! The shock, you know. And the fact that you suck at fighting. The worst thing? She isn't even angry with me. I let her down and in turn she wants to protect me. (Ask her to explain, if you ever meet her again. She's really not that bad when she's not shattering your ear drums.)

So, what about that bad, bad man? Well, let me tell you, he ended up being hunted by more parties than I am now. He didn't make it for long. And did I feel better? Not one bit. Gilli was still dead. I was still the guy who let her down. And, well, let's just say, quite a few people didn't appreciate the misinformation I spread. (I'm not lying nearly as much, since then. My methods have become much subtler, I hope.)

Oops... It seems I wasn't brief, after all. Sorry, but I get carried away.

By the way, I give you credit for trying. But if you're going to appeal to my ego, which is always quite an effective move, I must say, you should make sure to ask for information that is a bit harder to come by. I mean, you can ask anyone at Lovable Rogue Inc. about Sharn.

Why don't you ask about the Kult'ar, instead? Then I could be cryptic in return, and ask, if you know about a dark elf named Suz. I wouldn't expect her to be a major name; just someone who pointed the elven mages in the right direction, towards a special ingredient perhaps, something to do with shadows? Someone most notable for her odd name...

And then you might find out something, write back, subtly wonder about her motivation.

And then I'd be half helpful saying, revenge. (Familiar concept, isn't it?)

Anyway, I wouldn't want to say more before I spoke with said Suz myself. While I wouldn't exactly call her a friend, we have been on the same side in the past, and I need to cater to my sentimental side, lest it gets hold of my decisions.

But, alas, you didn't ask about the Kult'ar, and my ego must remain unsatisfied. It's really such a shame.

But don't worry. I forgive you. Mutual distrust is something to cultivate, and stimulating contacts are hard to find.

That I don't really trust you, doesn't mean I don't still think we could have been good friends. Quite on the contrary!



April 2nd, 2004, 05:57 AM
The caravan meandered through the woods, consciously avoiding the well-trodden paths.

At the head of the Loveable Rogue Inc. rode Juzzza, with Mystiqe riding side-saddle alongside his Palamino on her perfectly groomed steed.

Behind them rode Hume, followed by Boldar and Bass. The giant constantly complaining about how uncomfortable the 'horse-riding business' really was.

Following them were ten horses with the newly trained LRI recruits, then Mya and Gina, more recruits and at the back, Terk chatted to the chef, who rode a plump black, and tethered to his horse were two mules, loaded with camp supplies, pots and pans.

Following at distance was Kahn, his goblin, Urk, scampering in-between his horse's legs and every now and then, darting off into the forest.

"Where is the other big man?" asked Terk.

"He was sent ahead to the Crystal City with the Ogre," replied the chef, huffing and puffing, clearly finding sitting on a horse hard work, sweat beading at his brow.

"Are you okay?"

"No, I'm a chef for the love of God, I should be in a kitchen not sat on a beast dragging my kitchen across the world." replied the chef.

"My name is Terk,"

"My name is Shef," replied the chef.

Mya looked back over her shoulder, her attention drawn by the laughter.

"Ah well, at least the chef is happy, that's good. Hopefully the levity will transfer into the food, that stew was terrible."

Gina did not respond and Mya reigned her horse in close and bumped its shoulder into her friend's horse.

"Hey, what's up?" she asked.

"Oh nothing," Gina replied.

"Gina?" said Mya now a little concerned.

"Something isn't right here," said Gina, "look at Juzzza and Mystiqe. The chemistry is all wrong, for a start she is riding side-saddle with her back to him."

"And you are the expert on sexual chemistry right?" laughed Mya.

As the path widened Hume kicked his chestnut into a light trot and flanked the dark elf.

"I don't think you should respond to Reed anymore Myst, he is playing mind games and is quite clearly as mad as a box of frogs," he said.

"If that's what Juzzza wants that is fine with me," replied Myst smiling at Hume. "I just thought he could shed some light on his relationship with Sharn, I know Kahn has a history with him but I am intrigued by the hold this gangster seems to have over Reed is all."

"We shouldn't encourage him, I want him and his shadows as far away from us as possible. The last thing we need before finding Danika, is to have to put up with his nonsense," said Hume.

"The thing is," replied Juzzza, "there isn't a lot we can do about it if he did turn up. If we engage him, the shadows are unleashed and currently we have no way of stopping them."

"Well, that's why I was trying to start up a dialogue with Reed, I thought if we could at least keep on civil terms a confrontation can be avoided," said Mystiqe.

"I don't think a confrontation will occur unless Reed finds Danika before we do. He seems to think we are out to destroy her, which is not necessarily the case," said Hume.

"But it is a possible outcome?" asked Mystiqe.

"We are only asking where the Kult'ar is hidden," stated Juzzza.

"That is so, but she may not wish to give that information up and with your history, she may not be too happy to see you Rogue," said Hume pulling on his reigns and backing up as the path narrowed again.

"You must tell me more about this... History, Hume," shouted Myst over her shoulder.

Hume smiled, "You'll have to ask Juzzza," he shouted back.

April 2nd, 2004, 10:27 AM
Many miles away, many miles below, Sacrifice shifted in his chains, violet eyes open wide, deperately staring upward. He had felt the use of the bottle, had once balanced fear and hope that it all could come to a bloody and final end.

In the darkness he could only wonder about the deal he had made... wonder if a demon lord would truly hold to a deal such as this.

So many years ago now the wheels had been put in motion. What had begun as a game, toying with the workings of drow politics had become a desperate gamble to save an entire people, perhaps all people. Bass had been so young and powerful then, and while the power remained, he seemed so frail now, so shriveled, while Sacrifice (he could only think of himself that way now, hardly remembering his real name) was ageless in his self imposed prison.

But, the die was cast, and many deals had been made. The bottle had been moved into Bass' hands, and the journey had finally begun. He hoped it would be enough to tip the balance, hoped that the others, such as the Hat Man did not interfear too deeply when the time came. He thought of so many things. Mostly, he thought of the daughter he sought to protect above all, the daughter who must not retrieve the bottle he had worked so hard to get away from her, for her own protection. He knew she knew nothing of his existance, and must know nothing. Bass would watch out for her, it was part of the three way bargain they shared.

Sacrifice could feel them above somewhere, could feel her. With uncharacteristic emotions for one of his race, he smiled.

April 2nd, 2004, 11:43 AM
Boldar was taking walking beside his horse for a time, to the mutual relief of his backside, and the horse.

He saw a brief flash of color in the trees in the distance, and thought he heard something...

"Bass, did you hear..."

"Shhh," Bass hushed him, head cocked to the side. "Yes, there it is again, someone is calling for help out there."

Boldar slide a dagger out from his belt. He looked intently out into the forest, but could not see anything further. As he stood there, Mya and Gina rode slowly up and stopped.

"What is it, you think you see your lost manhood out there?" Mya quiped.

"No, someone running and calling for help. Wanna come take a look with me, Blade Tongue?"

Mya shrugged and climbed off her horse. She stepped over by Boldar. "Lead on big man, let's see what this is." She looked over her shoulder at Gina. "Be back in a minute, Gina, stay here and make sure the raisin stays out of the sun."

Bass scowled at her.

Boldar and Mya wandered off into the wood, walking quickly in the direction Boldar had last seen something. After about a minute, they heard faint calls in the distance. The panick in the calls brought them both to a run. Mya pulled a long dagger with one hand, and a throwing knife appeared in her other hand.

After a run of about two or three minutes, they approached a small glade, surrounded by tall pines. The cries, it appeared were coming from up one of the trees on the far side of the glade. Mya and Boldar, now walking almost shoulder to shoulder emerged into the glade, ready for anything.

Mya was the first to grasp what she was seeing. She sheathed her dagger and started to laugh.

Boldar looked around, and then, following her gaze, saw what she was looking at. A large badger was at the base of a pine, scratching at the bark and growling upward into the tree.

Boldar began to walk toward the creature with the intent of kicking it out of the way so that they could help the person, which he assumed must be a local child, that had been chased up the tree.

"Stop," Mya called to him. "It could be a trap."

Boldar stopped and frowned. "Good point," he grumbled. Mya smiled.

"Hello the tree," Boldar barked. The badger growled over its shoulder, but stayed put at the base of the tree.

A faint, tremulous, but clearly adult voice called back. "Yes, yes, help with defeating the horrible creature! I am for coming down safely with your help!"

Mya walked closer. An adult, she thought, had been treed by a badger? Unthinkable. "Who are you, and what are you doing?"

"I am honored to be Nasim, and I am in efforts of joining a great party of adventurers known to be about. You surely have heard of me? Nasim the adventurer?"

Mya grimaced and growled to Boldar. "I've heard of this one. Let's leave him."

Boldar smiled at Mya. "Now that's the spirit girld, though it hardly seems sporting."

"Please defeat the furry dragon, Nasim begs of you! I will then be coming down and perhaps will share with you a story of my exploits!"

Boldar grimaced. He reached into his pack and dug around for a moment. He produced a small pouch and bounced it on his palm thoughfully for a minute before nodding to himself and then stepping a bit closer to the tree.

"Nasim," he called.

"Yes, sire."

"Catch." He threw the pouch high into the branches, and saw a hand shoot out and grab, almost drop, and then secure the pouch.

"What is this being, Nasim would inquire?"

Boldar smiled and winked at Mya. "Don't open it, just tie it to your belt and climb on down. It's dragonbane and it will keep the dragon far away."

He motioned to Mya and they started walking away, Mya frowning a bit at Boldar.

As they re-entered the woods, they heard a voice call back. "Nasim has done what you say, and is coming! Don't leave, Nasim will be joining you shortly!"

Boldar and Mya walked about another minute before they heard a loud, long screech of absolute terror. It went on and on, and finally the sound faded into the distance.

"What was in the pouch?" Mya inquired, wondering just what Boldar had done.

Boldar grinned, showing his stained teeth. "Sweet meats."

Mya double over in a fit of mirth. Perhaps, she thought, she could get to like this old man.

April 2nd, 2004, 02:41 PM
The small glade, further down the wandering track Juzzza's troop were taking, was sprinkled with sunlight. A large black Stallion cropped the grass, its silver encrusted harness rattling gently.

A small white feathered firedrake had his head down a rabbit hole and the muffled words, "Here bunny, bunny," drifted up on the soft breeze.

A man, who could be taken for being in his early 50's or 30's depending on the light, but was really in his 500th year, was lying on his back in the glade.

A large brown felt hat was over his head, his legs were crossed and he was humming.

"Come here you damn blasted Rabbit!" The drake bellowed into the hole and puffed a tongue of flame down it. "Oh yum roasted bunny..." The firedrake dragged a well roasted once rabbit from the hole and tried to swallow it whole as he waddled to his human companion.

"Be quiet" Albert hissed.

"Oh excuse me for wanting to continue living." Daniel retorted.

"Shush!" Albert repeated.

"What are you doing?" Daniel whispered through chunks of bunny.


"To what?"

"Not a what, a whom,"


"No stupid, thinking. "Albert retorted.

"I am not stupid and there is no need to be sarcastic!" Daniel huffed, swallowed the last of the rabbit and flew up into a tree.

"I wasn't" Albert sighed and continued to listen to the thinking far below, saying out loud.... "Deals never turn out the way you think they will, chained you may be, lost you think you are, but..... but the time might come when you are no longer chained and home... then what?"

Just then the sound of horses blocked out the thoughts.

"Hells four walls its Albert!" Juzzza's voice sounded out across the glade.

"Is the old fool hurt?" Myst asked reining in her horse.

Albert pushed back his hat and said "Fool maybe, but old never! I can give that young cock by your side a run for his money any day, with sword, or lass.... Or do I mean with my sword with a lass."