View Full Version : Vacancy ~ Adventurer

Home - Discussion Forums - News - Reviews - Interviews

New reviews, interviews and news

New in the Discussion Forum

Pages : 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 [19] 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36

April 16th, 2004, 11:15 PM
"What is it you want, that you couldn't ask before your friends?"

Reed saw Gravin stare at him, quizzically. "Your sister has only mentioned you in passing. You're twins aren't you?"

Gravin leant back slightly. His eyes narrowed.

"Have you looked into your diary, lately?"

"Barnabas Reed. I should have known. Whatever happened to 'If you ever meet me, stand on the other side of the shadows'?"

Reed shrugged. "It still applies." Reed looked around at the bright sunlight. "I'm a bit lax, though. I take it, you don't trust me?"


"Good." Reed smiled. "Of course, I will endeavor to stay out of combat, whilst travelling with you. It is in your best interest."

"What good will you do us, then?" asked Gravin.

Reed shrugged. "If you decide, you don't want me on your team, I'll stay here, seeing to it that little Quinot is safe."

Gravin stared. "Is this a threat?"

"No. In fact, I'm currently dedicating what little loyalty I have to spare to your sister. And in extension to you and your family. This is a highly unusual thing for me to do; I'm not used to this kind of thing."

"Oh no, it isn't. You've always been loyal to your friends. Well, to me. And Arleena says so, too."

Both Gravin and Reed turned their heads. Gravin gaped. Reed smiled.

"Ah, but Gilli, I'm not sure if Danika and I are friends."

Gilli drifted closer. "The way you've been talking about her... the way you reacted when you learned that she's got the Kult'ar... You're her friend. Even if she isn't yours. You can't help it." She sighed.

Gravin faked a cough.

Reed turned to Gravin. "Oh, I'm sorry. Sir Gravin Longress, this is Gillian Meriweather, a good friend of mine. I suspect she will accompany us, as well."

Gilli beamed at Gravin. "Pleased to meet you, Sir. I'll go where ever he goes."

"You trust him?" Sir Gravin asked.

Gilli smiled. "Absolutely." She paused. "Of course, I know him pretty well, and know what to expect of him."

Gravin laughed at that. He seemed to like Gilli. "And he's serious about helping my sister?"

"I haven't seen him that serious since... I've never seen him that serious." Gilli looked thoughtful. "I think he may be in love with her."

Gravin turned to Reed, his eyes wide open. "Could this be true?"

Reed smiled. "I don't know her enough for love. But she certainly made a favourable impression."

"How?" asked Gravin.

Reed frowned.

"Tell me of her. I want to know how she managed to impress you. I know my sister, and I've got good instincts. I'm pretty sure I can catch a lie. Tell me, and I'll get a feeling for you."

Reed's frown turned into a smile. "I'm beginning to like you."

"Compliments won't help," Gravin said, but he was smiling.

"Oh, alright. We were walking through a market place, and there was a little boy selling painted pebbles. She picked one up and held it into the sun. Then she said something like 'Now, that's a pretty one,' and she turned to the boy and gave him a smile. That smile nearly knocked me off of my feet. It was so full of... warmth, I don't know... I didn't expect... I'm babbling, am I not?"

Gravin sighed. "These moments have become rare, ever since that Rogue..." He stared to the ground. "I know what you mean," he mumbled, then looked Reed in the eye. "I know exactly what you mean."

"She only told me about the Rogue, later, when we spent the night together. That's when I learnt that she was a telepath."

Gravin took a step back. "You and Dani...?"

"What? No. No, we just shared a room in an overcrowded inn. None of us was particularly keen on sleeping in the streets. There was a festival..."

Gravin smiled impishly. "It's okay. Dani's a big girl. She can do what she wants..."

"Um... That's quite a compliment that you think I would be considered... but really..."

"Actually, I believe him," Gilli chimed in. "I mean, he never slept with me, either. And we met in a brothel. While I was working there."

Gravin looked at Gilli.

"I don't think he likes men, if you wonder about that," she said.

Gilli and Gravin exchanged looks, then turned to Reed.

"No, I'd love to sleep with women. It just... kind of... never... happened..."

And this was the first time Gilli saw Reed blush.

April 17th, 2004, 11:29 AM
Originally written by Jadziel

"Don't use that word it's not nice", Daniel retorted sarcastically, belching a small plume of flame into the air.

Albert chuckled, sweeping the brown felt hat from his head. "All words have their time and place, m'dear. In fact, I could think of a few more for this situation".

"Maybe we should just have a nice cup of tea and slice of fruit cake?", Daniel suggested hopefully, hopping from foot to foot.

"Thankyou", Albert replied, peering at the dull brownish red writing on the table, "But that would be a mistake. Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid being drawn into these things, however hard one tries. Here i was minding my own business, sampling the local teas, when all of a sudden all of this happens... the place is madder than i am, it’s as overrun with tea as it is magic. No wonder i keep coming back to it."

"Wellllllllllll.....". The drake began to strut across the table, round belly extended. Things were indeed looking bad, the Hat Man really was taking this personally. "What are you going to do about this mess then?".

"Mess?", Albert said tartly. "That's an understatement."

"I learnt the art from you", Daniel huffed, cocking an eye at a mouse scurrying beneath the kitchen sink.

The Hat Man sighed, staring across the kitchen at the open window. "The more complicated things look on the surface, the more simple they are at the heart", he said, addressing nothing.

Daniel rolled his eyes, pacing towards the edge of the table. He sat back on his haunches, flapping his wings and looking at the large, plump mouse. He supposed it would have to make do as a light snack.

"It's time you and i went to work, old fruit", Albert chuckled, grabbing the drake around his neck.

Daniel squeaked, talons clawing the air. "I do have some dignity", he huffed. "I'm starving, i haven't eaten all day."

The Hat Man gestured with his hand. A small puff of smoke appeared and disappeared. The mouse vanished and was replaced by a feather. Daniel growled.

"It's a dangerous thing being caught between multiple worlds", Albert said, sweeping his hat back onto his head. "There are always so many possible futures, all conflicting of course, and somewhere hidden amongst them is the one that will restore equilibrium. The trick is finding it


Albert strode from the house, Daniel skimming through the air after him. Outside the door stood Albert’s black stallion, the large raw boned animal glanced round, barring its yellow teeth as Albert approached.

“Oh in a mood are we, dragged you out from dozing under that oak tree did we..? You are getting fat, need a bit of exercise.” Albert remarked as he avoided the snap of the black’s teeth and checked the packs strapped across the front of the saddle. He then swung up and flicked the reins. The black snorted and dug its heels in not moving an inch and clashing its bit between its teeth.

Daniel laughed and eyed up one of Alice’s ducks as it waddled to the pond.

“Oh like that is it, not going to play ball, what’s wrong? Want company? The roan or a lady of a darker complexion?” Albert addressed the black. The animal stamped. Albert laughed; pulled five hairs from the beast’s mane and blew on them. The strands twisted, turned and began to expand.

“Oh, for me!” Daniel announced as a neat, well-formed back mare, with a four white feet appeared, complete with her own silver trimmed tack and packs appeared. The mare sidled to the side of Albert’s mount and nipped its neck. Albert took hold of her reins and his own mount, jumped forward into a trot, the mare keeping pace.

“You have often said you could eat a horse, but I have yet to see you do so at one sitting, make do with the duck.” Albert remarked.


April 17th, 2004, 12:22 PM
Alice squinted at the rising sun. South West They were heading in the direction of Elk. course they were she shook her head and earned a cuff, that made her ears ring. There must be more uncomfortable ways of travelling, but Alice was hard pressed at the moment to think of one. She was bound in iron and slung across the front of one of the Elves. He took pleasure in hitting her each time she moved.

Since she had managed to kill two of the four, her luck had run out. The remaining two were not clever, but they were careful.

The clever were easy to fool, you allowed them to think you were not clever so they got smug and made mistakes. When a man or elf knew he didn't have a full deck, he made one hell of a careful soldier.

The horses were blowing, stumbling, yet the elves kept up the pace. They must have remounts stashed else they would not push their horses this hard.

On they went; they splashed into the shallows of the Longfin River and tracked along the bank. Alice licked her lips as the water plumed up, it tasted so good.

The bank widened into a wide sandy expanse and the elves forced their flagging mounts towards an outcrop of rocks. The remounts. Alice thought, just as four horses bolted across their path.

The elf, Alice was riding with, swore and hauled his beast to a stop.

"Not nice to speak like that before a lady..." A voice Alice knew well said. She twisted her head and there was Albert sitting on his black, a drawn sword draped across in front of him. The blade was different, it was not a short sword or long, in fact it was unlike any blade on this world. It had a shaped metal basket which covered the user's hand, the blade was only sharpened on one side and half way up the" back" of the blade.

Stand aside, human." The elf barked.

Won't and am not..." Albert said.

"Going to zap them?" Daniel called from on top of the small outcrop of rocks, as he picked his teeth with the duck's wishbone.

"Nope, need a bit of practice," Albert raised the blade and kicked the black on. The horse sprang forward

The two elves whooped and Alice found herself flung from across the saddle, she hit the sandy bank hard, the breath driven from her lungs. She gasped and struggled to turn, to see.

Albert thundered between his two opponents his blade held out low, it flicked as he past between them slicing right through the leg, girth and side of the horse of the elf on his left. Elf and horse screamed. Then as if caught in a second stopped then started with a jolt, the horse stumbled and fell, pinning the Elf under its bulk, before it struggled up and broke way, dragging the elf by his half severed leg into the river. Albert ducked low at the same time, onto the black’s neck avoiding the blow from the elf on the right.

The black turned, rearing; neighing a challenge as Albert charged again. This time his and the elf’s blades met in a silvered clash, metal screeching against metal, muscles in arms bulging as each sort to snatch the advantage. Albert’s black sidestepped using its bulk and strength to push the exhausted mount of the elf to it’s knees.

Albert released the reins and balled a fist, smashing it hard into the Elf’s face as he freed his blade. The basket hilted sword came up, then down, then across, taking the elf in the chest. The Elf’s eyes widened in surprise and he slumped and fell from his saddle, his horse scrambled to its feet and stood there shaking.

“And we have a winner!” Daniel bellowed. Albert ignored the drake and the remains of both elves and their horses and dismounted, walking to Alice’s side.

“Hello…” He said as knelt beside her..

Alice tried to speak, but still couldn’t get her breath. She raised her chained hands and beat on Albert’s chest as he held her close

April 17th, 2004, 04:38 PM
Albert held Alice till she found her breath and fell sobbing in frustration, pain and tiredness on his chest. He said nothing, did nothing but hold onto her.

Finally he pushed her to arms length; looked at her and gave her a crooked smile.

"Don't know what you are smiling at?" Alice said, her voice shaking.

I am smiling at a Lady I care very much for," Albert said and leant forward and kissed her bruised forehead. Alice sighed and began to sway, boneless, all strength gone. She fell forward her mouth dropping open and Albert laid her gently on the sand, He swept off his hat and glared upwards and addressed thin air. "Right... can I use my magic? I haven't the time for the mumbo jumbo they use here?".

A flight of sparrows skimmed over the sand and dropped to the river to drink. One hopped up to Albert and put its head on one side and chirped loudly.

"Thank you.." Albert said and settled down on the sand setting into the lotus postion, resting his hands palm up on his knees and closed his eyes

"Careful..." Daniel said as he came and sat alongside. Albert opened one eye, gave a sideways glare at the drake and then closed the orb again.

He began the litany of his kind. A High Mage from a far off world, A being some would consider a God, Saint, Sinner, Devil...

All things are the same, each is part of the other. I am the sand below me, the river before me, the sky above me. All are part of me and I am part of all of them. My soul wishes to take this form, therefore I am man, should my soul wish otherwise, thus it shall be... My soul wishes that the part of me that is Alice should be well, all wounds healed, body refreshed and strengthened, fifteen years younger and 20lbs lighter

"Not bad... " Daniel commented as he peered at the sleeping Alice. "What's her son going to make of it?"

"Live with it...It's only fifteen years, it could of been twenty five.." Albert said as he uncurled from the floor and picked up hia basket hilt and walked to the remains of the elf on the sand, as he neared it the elf burst into flames, as did the one bobbing in the water. nothing, no remains were left. Albert then stripped the tack of the elves horses, the wounded one he used the last fading fragments of his real power to heal. The sparrow chittered and shook its head.

"It would have been cruel not too." Albert told the bird. The sparrow ruffled its feathers and flew away.

"What the?" Alice exclaimed and sat bolt upright.

Albert turned and looked at her, winking ." You look lovely m'dear."

"I am a mess..." Alice huffed and pushed back her hair from her face.

"One river... one horse with packs containing saop, clothes and food." Albert pointed towards the mare.

"I am coming with you?" Alice said, slightly puzzled.

"You want too?"

"Yes..." Alice replied.


An hour later Alice and Albert were riding knee to knee at the gallop, the horses hardly breathing heavy. They skimmed the attacked village, noting the remains of Sharn's warped creatures as they pounded on.

Soon they were gaining on what was left of LRI, who were facing some 300 men/creatures of Sharn's forces.

"Tally Ho!" Albert cried and drew his sword. Alice pulled the one strapped to her saddle free and rubbed her fingers on the leather hilt. It had been a while, yet she felt as if she had the strength and youth to use it again.

"Fire one! and oppps, duck, Juzzza! " Daniel burped, as the fire in his belly erupted from his throat and tore through the air, crisping the right sideburn of the Loveable Rouge as it barreled past.

April 18th, 2004, 12:56 AM
As the sun rose over the Highwall Mountains, Lord Gravin led the small party eastward from Crystal City on the East Path, an aptly named cart path, uneven and often covered in large puddles of water, which hid deep ruts.

"Shite on a stick!" Boldar cursed, not for the first time, as he sunk a foot deep into a puddle.

Mya, walking ahead looked back. "Quite yer bitchen."

"Couldn't we have left AHEAD of the ogre regiment? Gods, they have churned the road into a mire..."

Bass chirped in. "Yes, I suppose we could have left yesterday with, or ahead of them, though that would put US in the direct path of any large drow parties between here and the cleft..."

Lord Gravin, who had dropped back to see that everyone was moving, overheard. "Indeed, and I'd fair say that you'll be glad for their moving ahead of us. They also move a bit quicker than we do... they left yesterday, but likely will be at the meeting point a day from the cleft two full days ahead of us."

Gina, shaking something that was not mud from her boot replied. "Uh, don't you suppose that a whole regiment of ogre might just bring the enemy out?"

Gravin shook his head. "No, no. If they could get out any sooner, the dwow would already be here. We have enough time I think. But not is we dawdle, so let's keep moving!"

Boldar, unused to forced marching, and generally grumpy reached down and scoopled up some mud. When Gravin was about ten paces ahead, he grinned maliciously and launched the blob directly at the man.

Before it could strike, Bass whispered something and made a sweeping motion with his hand. The mud veered away and fell off to Gravin's right a ways.

"You," Boldar growled at Bass. "Are a boring old man!"

"And you," Bass replied calmly, "Are an idiot."

Mya, only several feet behind Boldar, saw the whole thing and let out a little giggle, which she quickly surpressed, holding her hand to her mouth.

Gina shook her head in disgust.

To the rear of the party, Mik and Crom walked together, speaking quietly. The others were spread along the path in a long broken line several hundred feet long.

Boldar, no longer wishing to walk with Bass fell back to where Gina and Mya were walking. "How's the morning find you two?"

"Ready to get on with things, I suppose." Gina answered.

Boldar looked at Mya. "Don't worry if trouble hits lass... Bass and I'll keep us all safe. Been through lots of scrapes we have."

Gina barked a laugh. "You, keep us safe? What makes you think we need the help of two old men?"

Boldar gave a hurt look and fell even further back, thinking to talk to the ogre, or even Mik, though the man never seemed freindly.

Mya turned back from Gina for a minute and patted Boldar on the arm. "Gina's right you know, we can take care of ourselves. But I'll tell you what. If trouble hits, I'll have your back, big man." Then she blushed a bit and stepped quickly back up to from where Gina was staring at her.

Boldar, smiliing widely, dropped all the way back to walk beside Cromwell. He patted the ogre on the shoulder. "Hey Crom, do a fellow a favor and pull my finger."

Crom looked confused. "Don't understand, but okay."

The noise that followed caused several birds to break from the nearby grass.

Only a second later, practically in unison, Gina, Mya, Bass, and Mik all cried out, "Boldar!"

Crom laughed and slapped Boldar on the shoulder, knocking the huge man sideways. "Good one! I teach that to ogre friends when we find them, they like good joke!"

From just ahead, Lord Gravin could be heard cursing.

April 18th, 2004, 10:33 AM
Gravin led his party deep into the ogre valley as the rain started. It came as a fine mist at first, condensing from a fog that haunted the group all evening. As the night went on, the drops grew in size and intensity, until it felt as if the heavens had opened up floodgates.

Gravin could only see a dozen yards in any direction. The mud from the East Path got worse. On top of growing thicker, it got cold. The horses struggled under the weight of only the party's gear.

They were almost upon the brigde when Gravin held up his hand, halting the party.

In front of them was an ancient, metal suspension brige that streched across a deep chasm. Gravin could barely see the bottom, but what he could see was rushng water. A stream, two hundred feet below had swelling into a torrent river, with bone crushing rapids.

"Long drop," Boldar commented.

"How far do you figure it is across?" Gina asked, after blowing on her hands to warm them.

"Quater mile," Bass said. "Maybe more."

"I don't like it," Gravin said. "I say we make camp here and cross in the morning."

Boldar ventured out onto the bridge. The wooden planks that made up its floor were slick - wet and coated with a fine layer of mud. It was very wide - large enough to fit a pair of carts side by side. But even after only a few steps he could feel it sway. He jumped - sending a wave down the bridge. "It looks fine to me," he said.

"This bridge of Nedrak Half-face," Cromwell said. "Should have guard. But can't see them. Can't smell them."

"If we camp here we'll be late for our meeting with the loyal ogres," Bass said.

"Captain Arkell not like late." Crowell said.

"Well I don't care, what he thinks," Gravin argued. "I'm not crossing this bridge until I can see the other side."

Both Mya and Gina had already joined Boldar on the bridge.

April 18th, 2004, 12:18 PM
Bass looked at Sir Gravin. "Leaders don't tell those they lead what they think. They tell them what to do."

But it was too late. Half of their numbers had already ventured out onto the bridge. Gravin clenched his teeth, but held his tongue.

"Alright," Gravin said. "We cross now."

Not long after the rest of the group set foot on the on the bridge, a small howl of a sound began. At first it sounded like nothing more than the rustle of wind across the bridge. But it quickly grew into a deep guttural tone that resonated withing the bridge itself.

Gravin whirled around and drew his sword. He could hard see the start of the bridge.

"Ogres!" Cromwell shouted. "Not friendly."

The came out of the rocks on the side of the road. Their bodies were caked in mud and clad in primative armour. They dashed towards the foot of the bridge - dozens of them - all of them large enough to make Cromwell look like a dwarf.

"Ready your weapons!" Gravin shouted.

"Not on the bridge," Bass said, leaning over to the young knight.

Gravin hestiated. "Run."

"I'll not run from the likes of them!" Boldar shouted.

"We'll take the fight to the other side," Gravin said. "Don't argue. Bass can you..."

He was interrupted as a stone the size of a large pumpkin sailed though the air and crashed down into their ranks, nearly flattening Mya. She slipped, dashing out of the way.

Sliding... off the side of the bridge.

Snatch! Boldar caught her hand. With a yank, he hauled her back up to safety. "The other side," Mya said. "We'll fight on solid ground."

Pounding. Gravin led his unit across the quarter mile stretch. The wind picked up - whipping rain that felt like hail pellets into his face. Ever step threated to slide out from under him. And in the floorboards he could feet the pounding of massive ogre feet as they pursued, onto the bridge.

Bass took up the rear. More ballistict rocks came hurtling at them. One at a time, he could concentrate and guide them safely off course, just as he had done with with Boldar's glob of mud. But the ogre's were launching them with individual slings - like little trebuchets.

Dodging the rocks, Gravin managed to lead his company to the other side of the bridge. Solid ground was suddenly in sight.

So were more ogres.

Blocking the way stood an enxtended gagle of beasts. Their maces were held up, ready to fight. In the centre, one stood out, a mammoth ogre sat mounted on top of a thunder lizard. The lizard's spiny scales looked like armoured spikes. Its talon-like claws dung deep into the mud.

Only when he got closer could Gravin see that the mounted ogre was severly scared. The right side of his face looked like it had partially melted from his skull. His right eye was swollen and almost sealed shut. Long, straggly hair flowed off of one side of his head, but none could grow on the other.

"Nedrak Half-Face!" Cromwell shouted. "Him not friendly either."

April 18th, 2004, 01:05 PM
Reed had forgotten what it was like to walk in the wilderness. The path they'd chosen hadn't been good to begin with and had only deteriorated. Arleena had displayed surprising stamina, considering the weight she had to carry around. Gilli had disappeared somewhere along the road, after getting one too many annoyed glances for cheerfully drifting along with them, not exerting herself one bit.

They'd both been quite exhausted when they'd come to that bridge, but the adrenaline rush provided by a horde of angry ogres gave them surprising energy, helping them across the bridge.

"Nedrak Half-Face! Him not friendly either," shouted Crom. It was then that the true danger of the situation dawned on him.

The dark elves knew of him, but had they shared their knowledge with the ogres? Reed couldn't count on that. He had to stay out of combat.

But there was nowhere to go.

Ah, yes. Stay. You are safe. They cannot hurt you. We will protect you. Stay, and be safe.

What to do?

Reed took a step sidewards, trying to find shadows to stand in, but it was dark. The whole area was one big shadow.

Reed edged sideways.

Why are you scared. Nothing will happen. You are safe. We will protect you. Safe. We promise.

There was an opening, and if nobody noticed him...

The crowd of ogres parted and Nedrak Half-Face approached on his mount. Reed surveyed the crowd. Most of the party had drawn their weapons, but not yet raised them.


Reed darted sidewards, but an Ogre noticed him, swinging a club and hitting the mud in the direction he was going. Reed stopped, slipped on the mud, and fell, sliding dangerously close to the crevice. He looked down and gulped.


If the fighting would begin that would be only way out. The ultimate gamble. Arleena had indicated that the shadows would be released after his death. If worse came to worst, she would find out if she was right.

April 18th, 2004, 04:36 PM
"Who leader?" Nedrak bellowed.

Gravin took a step forward. "I lead this troupe. I am Gravin Longress. You are Nedrak Halfface?"

"Yes," the large Ogre said. "Voice good. No whine. You go now other way, we not hurt you. All go, but traitor and coward." He looked at Crom and Reed respectively.

"We cannot go. More will be lost than our honour if we turn around, now," said Gravin, while, behind him Reed was slowly rising from the mud.

"Then you will die," said Nedrak in a curiously soft voice.

"I have important..." Gravin began.

"I am not a coward and this fine Ogre is not a traitor!" Reed cut him short.

Gravin turned and gave Reed a sharp look.

Nedrak frowned. "You not good leader if even coward interrupt you."

Gravin opened his mouth, but didn't get to speak.

"I repeat, I am not a coward and this fine Ogre is not a traitor," said Reed.

"I will not speak to coward. Tell him." Nedrak was still addressing Gravin.

But Reed did not relent. There was an unusual edge to his voice. "Nedrak will shut up and listen to me. He has called me a coward and is bound by honor to let me proof differently."

Several eyes turned to Reed. Had he gone mad? He can't possibly challange the Ogre. They were all going to die, if it came to a fight.

Nedrak jumped off his Thunderlizard and walked straight towards Reed, pushing side several Ogres on his way. He came to a halt right in front of Reed, looking down at him. Reed looked him straight into the eye. "Puny human challange Nedrak?"

Reed laughed. "Hah, I am not a coward. But neither am I stupid. I am not a warrior."

Nedrak looked confused. "Then you coward," he said. But his voice was less firm than before.

Reed laughed again. "What honor is there in defeating a man who never had a chance to defeat you? Is smashing skulls all that Ogres do?"

Nedrak grunted. "No. Ogres break legs. Tear out arms. Squish guts." And Nedrak guffawed. Humour to overcome a unexpected situation. Not all that different from humans, are they? Reed laughed along, but only briefly.

"Well, this fine Ogre can do more," he said, pointing at Crom.

Nedrak turned to look at Crom. "He no Ogre. He Macka Pittus." These last words were spat out like bile. "Want human like him. Follow like puppy dog. Macka Pittus fight for human. What human do for Macka Pittus? Like them?" This time Nedrak really spat. A dismissive grunt followed.

"Well, this fine Ogre has beaten me at a battle of wits."

Nedrak frowned.

Reed rephrased that. "He beat me at a thinking game."

Nedrak took a step back, looking uncertainly at Crom. He frowned, then said, his voice as pensive as Ogre voices get, "Thinking games for humans, not Ogres."

Reed smiled. "So Nedrak says Ogres cannot think?"

Nedrak stared at Reed, anger boiling. Then, suddenly, he laughed.

Reed pulled Crom's key from his breast pocket and began to tell the story of how an Ogre outsmarted a gambler. As, at the end of the story, the key dropped back into his breast pocket, Reed said, "Ogre has learned to trick human, and human has learned to respect Ogre."

Nedrak took another step back, looking at Reed from a more comfortable angle. "If you no coward, why you run."

Reed's features went cold. "If I should be attacked, everybody dies. Humans. Ogres. Elves." He paused, watching Nedrak frown for the umpteenth time, then added, "Only I remain."

"You better not lie," said Nedrak in a deep, slow voice.

"I am protected by magic, as dangerous as the Kult'ar," Reed said, "This is why I am here. If Elves get it, this may be the end of life. Not only humans."

Nedrak frowned. "Why should I believe human."

Reed shook his head. "Nedrak need not believe me. All Nedrak has to do is think. I know Ogres can think."

Nedrak frowned yet again, "Nedrak is bound by promise to help elves."

"But do elves care what Nedrak is thinking? Humans do, and especially Sir Gravin Longress. Talk to Mr. Cromwell Hornsmash. Talk to the other Ogres. And talk to Sir Gravin."

"You no coward. Perhaps he no traitor. Nedrak will think. You be guests of Nedrak. Come."

And Nedrak turned and walked back to his mount.

April 19th, 2004, 06:22 AM
Ravens circled above the plains that lay before the Tin Hills, their wings outstretched. They swooped down through the smoke-filled sky, casting ominous shadows across the blackened land. Mystiqe watched their silhouettes from the crest of a hill. She shivered in the bitter wind, and drew her jacket tight. Brushing her hair back with trembling fingers, she followed the ravens undulating flights. In the Great Northern Kingdom, the black feathered bird was known as a symbol of sacrifice; their brooding form lingering around those destined to be slain.

The sky was dark, heavy clouds rolling across the firmament. Rain lashed down, pelting the plains. The ravens soared, riding with the wind, caught within a gale. They soared over tiny figures upon the plains. Staring into the gloom, Mystiqe could make out two or three hundred specks massed to the south, at the foot of the Tin Hills. A mere handful stood in opposition on the northern edge of the plain. The dark elf dragged her gaze away from the ravens, fighting against a cold dread.

Turning towards the north-west, she surveyed the fortified encampment. Construction was continuing at pace. A wooden fence surrounded the camp, complete with watchtowers. Beast-men dug into the earth, creating a wide ditch aound the base. Others hacked down surviving trees, transforming them into sharp spiked barricades within the ditch.

Despite the barbarity of his followers, Saerka Sharn was known to be a meticulous commander. His western empire had eaten into the Great Northern Kingdom, claiming more land year by year. Swathes of ice covered his realm. Few men dared to trespass there amongst the glaciers, mountains, caverns and castles. Those who did were rarely seen again.

Pinned high on the wooden watchtowers, green banners stirred, trembling as though before a mighty storm. Scrawled upon them, in blood, was the shape of the raven. An omen of victory for the barbarian horde.