Unknown and unseen by Juzzza and his mates, a small black mouse sat in the corner, listening.
The small beast put a paw up to the side of its head as it sighed. Typical Albert thought as he curled his tail round him and began to move off. The fool just left it, with a woman of all creatures...Never trust a woman, they scratch your back and mess with your head and..." Albert grinned very un-mouse like; hopped through the window and scuttled across the yard of the inn.
March 24th, 2004, 07:28 AM
"Alright you lot, calm down... QUIET!" shouted Mik. The camp hushed and the men waited for their boss to continue.
"Right, first thing's first... If you're wondering where everyone else is, don't bother. You are it, the elite, or in my opinion the best of a bad bunch. Tonight we will be joined by the new members of the LRI and in the morning, we set off to complete the mission you have been training for, for the last six months.
"You knew what you were signing up for when you joined the LRI but if you have any doubts about your abilities or have now decided that this adventuring lark isn't quite as romantic as you first thought, you have until the morning to hand your notice in at the office. If any of you start this journey and then have second thoughts, I will kill you myself. This is your chance gentlemen, to make a name for yourself and trust me, any man or woman who survives this quest will be sought after by every recruiting army, mercenary group and band of adventuring wannabes in the land. But you can be sure that it don't get much better than this, you are the LRI gentlemen, the best.
"About our guests tonight. A warning if you will. These individuals are veterans, proven warriors, adventurers and assassins. Show them some respect.
"Eight guests are set to arrive, if you've never seen a dark Elf or an Ogre before... Get over it. The horses arrive this afternoon, Red, Sam and Jerad your job is to take care of them, make sure they are fed and watered and comfortable ready for the morning. There is mead available tonight gentlemen but take my advice, go easy, you all have a big day tomorrow."
Mik paced from the camp leaving the twenty or so men to whisper and bicker over the news. Red, Sam and Jerad left the other men to prepare the pens for the arrival of the horses.
Terk moved over to the man he recognized as the Chef.
"So here we go at last, I'm not sure if I'm happy I made it or not," he said trying to start a conversation.
"What the hell do dark Elves and Ogres eat?" the Chef replied. Terk held out his hand to shake.
"My name is Terk," he said.
"Good for you. If you're alive in three day's time, I'll bother to learn your name."
March 24th, 2004, 08:30 AM
The first rays of sunlight crept through sealed shutters, casting long shadows across a small bedroom. Mystiqe groaned softly, sinking deeper into the silk sheets. The material glided across her bare skin, caressing her intimately. She slid her fingers down across her stomach, caught half in the real world, half in dreams.
She saw him standing before her, shrouded in mist. Clad in a black linen shirt and leggings, he gazed at the ground, idly scuffing worn leather boots. A thick belt wound its way around his waist, bearing two sheathed daggers. His dark hair was ruffled and a thin layer of stubble was visible on his face. He rubbed the back of his neck, raising his eyes to meet hers, a weary grin emerging. He looked tired and dishevelled, worn out by the long journey. Shivering slightly in the bitter wind, she turned away, pretending to survey the frozen mountains of Derudin.
"Ah, i see our new charge has arrived", an icy voice cut through the silence.
Unobserved, the master assassin had approached through the hardened snow. He strode around the newcomer, gently prodding him with manicured fingers. The stranger continued to scuff the ice, his eyes locked onto her, intense and probing.
"I could swear standards are falling", her father murmurred, stepping back to look the new recruit up and down. "How would you assess this one's capabilities, Myst?".
"I prefer to withold judgement until i see him in action. First hand observation, of course.", she spoke slowly, eyes glinting in the bright sunlight. Her pupils roved over the human, emulating her father. The corners of her mouth turned upwards in a sensuous smile. "It may take me a while to make a thorough assessment of his... capabilities."
The master assassin laughed, a harsh twisted sound. "One of these b*****ds is much like another. They have no class, no subtlety, no sense of style. It's like trying to train pigs to dance. Give me a subject with some quality, and i can shape him into anything those ******* desire. Create him in my own image even."
"Still seeking a worthy successor to your talents?", she spoke bitterly, a trace of hurt sneaking through her smooth emotionless mask. Fingering the hilt of her sheathed dagger, she murmurred, "I'm sure you'll find one somewhere, master".
He glared coldly at the dark figure. "Report to the lodge at first light. I warn you now, i will not tolerate insolence and will make no effort to accomodate your weak logic faculties. You will be taught like one of my own kind. I expect nothing except perfection."
Tularis turned on his heel, vanishing into the white snow as swiftly as he had appeared.
"He hates me already", Juzzza remarked wryly. Still he refused to release her gaze.
"No", she replied, trying to steady her breathing, "On the contrary, he likes you."
March 24th, 2004, 09:54 AM
The training session complete, Juzzza leaned over and scooped up his vest, he squatted as he pulled the white linen over his head. Mik took a last look at the many scars that traced the history of a 'true' warrior, across his friend's torso. He had heard how many of the scars had been formed in stories shared by firelight and some relayed by the man himself.
He trusted Juzzza more than any man, he was not prone to exaggeration and the giant often wondered how his friend had survived so long. He was tough, there was no doubt but Juzzza had the lives of several cats and he had outlived stronger, fitter and more ruthless adversaries.
"Be honest," said Juzzza. "Were you pulling your punches?" he asked.
"If it was a real fight, I would have planted my feet firmer and perhaps thrown my right hand with more venom but on the whole, no, I gave you my best shots." Mik dabbed at his right eye, it was starting to swell, a well-placed left hook had caught him flush and though he wouldn't admit it, a few stars had twinkled when the shot landed.
"You caught me with a beauty to the body there Mik, I think my ribs are bruised."
"Well shorty, you always complain if I damage your face, like I could make you any uglier," the friends laughed together.
"Is something wrong, you didn't seem yourself today," Mik added. "You were sticking to the basics and not taking any chances, that's unlike you."
Juzzza shrugged. "I guess I'm a little anxious about seeing Myst and Dani again. I'm not sure how either of them will react, and more than that, I'm not sure how I am going to feel. They are the only women I believe I have ever loved and both may want to destroy me and I may have to destroy one or both of them if the need arises."
"I can see why you are a little pre-occupied Juz, that must weigh heavy on your soul," Mik said, genuinely feeling sorry for his colleague. The scars on his friend's heart would be far worse than those on his body if they were visible.
"I remember seeing Myst once when you and I first met, a beautiful woman indeed... I didn't know dark Elves could have blue eyes, quite stunning with her ebony skin and long hair. Very flirty if I recall correctly, got you into trouble a few times," said Mik.
"Yes, she drove me crazy. She drove all men crazy, Elf or otherwise. I suppose it is too much to ask that she has aged terribly, put on weight and yet retained all her skill?" Mik laughed at this.
"A women like that will leave a beautiful corpse my friend, and probably long after you and I have been buried."
"And Dani?" said Mik.
"When I crawled into that village I thought it was all over, my body was ripped to shreads, I had at least three arrow heads poking out of me and I was starting to hallucinate. When Dani found me I thought she was an angel. She was so caring, so tender. Just being near her seemed to dull the pain and clear my head, I felt a kind of... Peace.
"She was beautiful, stunning. Chestnut eyes, jet-black hair that fell down her back and her skin was pale like milk. She was the opposite of Myst... Myst was/is a firecracker, full of passion, impulsive, explosive and hates to be held back, she is tall and lean, a warrior.
"Dani was kind and gentle, soothing and calm, small and curvaceous... Talk about choices Mik, I was ripped in two and in the end I lost them both... What an idiot."
Mik shook his head. "Nothing idiotic about it my friend, love makes fools of us all. And how do you feel now?" he asked.
"Excited, nervous, scared, just about every emotion you could imagine," Juzzza replied.
"And if they both still love you?"
"Then I beg you to take that axe you are so fond of and use it to end my misery."
Mik smiled. "Maybe you should stop being a Rogue... Or stop being loveable."
"Can't help it mate," replied Juzzza. "It's who I am."
March 24th, 2004, 10:12 AM
The oak door creaked open. Unseen, he crept into the bedroom, savouring its earthy odours. The bed floated before him, adrift in a haze. Cream silk sheets encased a lithe, shapely form. Bare-footed, he padded nearer, bloodshot pupils fixated. His heat thudded, pumping in an indulgent slow motion, temptingly whispering that it could fall silent at any moment. He slid onto the bed, lightly resting a delicate hand upon her covered thigh.
A hand shot up, pressing the sharp edge of a dagger against the veins in his neck.
"Don't you ever try that again, brother", she spat the last word out with utter contempt.
He smiled, breathing in deeply. "Oh, but you looked so relaxed".
The blade dug in harder. A faint line of blood spread across his dark flesh. He gasped, releasing a deep sigh. "Still sleeping with your blades after all this time", he whispered.
"Some of us have to!", she snapped, feeling his emaciated body tremble. "How much of that stuff did you take tonight?".
"Not nearly enough", he grinned, reaching out with a quivering finger to trace along her jaw.
Mystiqe shuddered in disgust. She manouvred deftly, twisting his frail frame so his back was towards her and his head jerked backwards. Gripping the dagger hilt firmly, she pressed it against his jugular. One movement, and it could all be over.
"I found out your little secret. Such a nice little secret", he whispered, voice half choked.
Her blood ran cold. She looked across the room, gauging the distance from the bed to the door.
"Sisters aren't supposed to keep secrets from their brother", he murmurred. Delirious sweat rolled down his soft skin, dripping on her arm. "You can share anything with me. Anything and everything. I'm always here for you."
"You need to get some sleep", her voice was hard.
"I know all about your devious little plans. Such naughty little plans", his hand crawled upwards, stroking the fingers holding the knife, trying to prise them loose.
"Dargeth, don't make me do this", she pleaded, unsplilt tears blurring her vision. "You're the only family i have left".
"You can't leave me", he whispered, red pupils drifting upwards towards the swirling ceiling. His body convulsed, wracked with pain. When he spoke again, the words were faint and jolting, "I can still see the blood. It's always there, in every waking moment, in every dream. I can't escape it. It smothers my hands."
A single tear rolled down her cheek, "That's all over, Dargie. It was a long time ago now."
"I promised him", he hissed. "I promised to keep you away from that man."
"I have to go, back where i belong", she replied passionately. "I have to be free to live my own life."
"You still love him that much? After what he did?", he beseeched, voice cracked.
A dull pain was growing inside his head, behind his eyes, throbbing and pulsating. The room drifted in and out of focus, blackness threatened to obliterate it. Relinquishing to its seductive call, he slipped down into the immersive folds of darkness, slumping in her arms.
She pressed her lips against his cool forehead, gently releasing him and wrapping the silk sheets around his shivering body. Dressing quickly in her black leather attire, she sheathed her daggers and took a final glance around the room.
"I have to go", she murmurred, words evaporating in the early morning air.
The oak door swung closed behind her.
March 24th, 2004, 10:42 AM
The intruder slipped into the room and allowed the oak door to click shut behind him. He moved silently to the bed and stood over the bundle of silk sheets. The Elf's body was shaking despite the heat in the chamber.
He pulled the sheet away to expose Dargeth's upper body. The Elf's pupils were swimming beneath his dark eyelids and he mumbled his sister's name over and over.
The assassin pulled a silk hankerchief from his utility belt and palmed it around the hilt of a dagger strapped to his chest. With one swift stroke, he parted the ebony flesh at Dargeth's throat and blood bubbled and pulsed from the wound and a crimson halo crowned the dark elf who mouthed the word "Myst" before dying.
The assassin didn't bother to wipe the blade, instead he carefully placed the dagger on the floor at the end of the bed, ensuring the 'LRI' logo etched into the hilt was visible for the person who would find the body.
March 24th, 2004, 11:20 AM
Boldar strolled into the camp with an appreciative eye for the bustle and the feel of a well organized endeavor.
"This Juzza seems to know his stuff," he commented over his shoulder. When he recieved no response, he looked back and found that Bass had fallen behind. He paused and allowed the older man to catch up.
Huffing, Bass caught up to him, the pack on his back making him look a bit like a wizened turtle. "Where to now, big man?"
"Don't know 'bout you, but I think I'll wander over to the training yard and get established a bit..."
"Boldar, what are you going to do?" Bass sensed something in his freinds tone that made him nervous.
"Don't worry, friend, don't worry."
Boldar strolled off to where the practice dummy's and archery butts were and set down his pack. After a moment a smirking man at arms wandered over from where he had been slouching casually against a wall. The man looked him up and down, appreciating his size. "You here as ogre bait, oldster?"
"Yep, something like that. You care to help an old man stretch his muscles a bit?"
The man shrugged. The old man was huge, and his green eyes gave him a vague sense of unease, but he was older than his aged grandfather after all. "Sure thing old man, let me get a few practice swords."
Boldar grinned, showing even but stained teeth. "That's a good lad." As the other man left, Boldar stripped down to his bare chest.
His training partner returned, staring at his scar covered torso. Boldar noted the way the man walked, and the poise in his stance as he handed over a practice blade.
"I'll go easy old man," said the soldier.
Boldar smiled an easy smile. "Don't worry yourself over me, lad." He took up the blade and held it low, as if a bit uncertain. His opponent held his comfortably and moved forward, the point twitching a bit, testing Boldar's nerve. Boldar stood still and waited for the man to finish his posing. "Come on, BOY, as you noticed, I am old, and I am getting tired watching you."
The soldier shrugged and lunged, preparing to follow up with a reverse sweep that would take the man in the side and quickly end the fight.
Before he could complete the move, Boldar, with an easy economy of motion stepped in and clubbed the man with his free hand. The man fell as if poleaxed. Boldar dropped his wooded blade on the ground.
"Yes indeed, that was just the thing to loosen up the muscles". He notices a number of folks watching from about the camp.
As he walked back to the camp, he noticed a man watching from the shadows. I thin trail of smoke rose around the hooded man from the long pipe he held in one hand. Boldar turned in the direction of the quiet figure.
He stopped and nodded to the unmoving figure, whom he noted was holding glimmering coin in his other hand, rolling it across the backs of his fingers. "Juzza the lovable rogue, I presume? You may want to send a healer over to your guard over their, I think I may have broke him."
The figure just nodded, amuzement in his eyes.
"Fine then," grumped Boldar, "don't be social. Just two things I want you to know. One, Bass and I expect full shares each of whatever we take. I'll train up any of these younglings you bring along, if they want it, but they'll have to settle with me direct for the service. And two, I don't know what this stuff about 'lovable rogue' means, but I expect you to keep it to yourself. Got it?"
He heard a low chuckle from the shadows.
Watching from a short distance away, Bass cringed and mumbled. "Damn fool just keeps making friends wherever he goes." Knowing it was fruitless to try to change his longtime partner, he went back to studying the tome of spells in front of him.
March 24th, 2004, 12:07 PM
Dani strode into the Inn, eager to quench the thirst she had worked so hard at creating. After leaving her brothers in the Great Room she had ridden Fluerre hard, God that dragon still excited her, after all this time. Even escaping from the camp The Beserker had held her in never quite made feel as free as she did when she was soaring through the air on the back of Fluerre. She sat down in a corner, hiding herself from the crowd. She did not feel like partaking in the easy banter that always greeted her in such places. She had no intention of sharing tales of any of her adventures, new or old. Did not want to discuss the weather or the harvest or even how the Crystal Cities would be hers one day, to rule over with Gravin. And most of all she did not feel like fighting off the advances of fat, ugly barkeeps with yellow teeth. She just wanted to sit there and drink some of the strong ale she new Meallan kept in the back. And when the first cup was empty she might have another and maybe another after that. She just wanted to forget - the crazy ride on Fluerre's back to the belly of the Fire Mountains had not helped....maybe the ale would.
"Meallan!" She commanded "Bring me a cup of ale...and not that watered down horsepiss you pawn off on travellers either. I want the good stuff"
The fat old barkeep smirked, he's retort dying on his lips when he saw the look in her eyes. "Oh Gods" he muttered to his wife, trying to squeeze past her on his way to the backroom where he kept his best ale, "Look at her, I smell trouble brewing. Eandor protect the one who's got her in that state".
"You haven't heard?" his wife gasped, her heavy bossom rising with the effort of trying to fill her huge frame with the air needed to speak. "Heard what?" "HIM....he's back...or he is going to be very soon"
"What? Woman, speak sense or do not speak at all! You know I do not have time for riddles, what are you getting so excited about?"
"Oh HERE", she shoved a copy of the Adventurer's Gazette under his nose "Urgent need for sacrificial virgins" he read in his agonisingly slow manner. "Not that! Oh, here.....LOVEABLE ROGUE INC".
Meallan paled, his face a sombre mask. Slowly he lifted his eyes to come to rest upon Dani's small frame. There was no question about what had put her in such a terrible mood today. He has known her all her life and remembered the sweet, caring young thing she had been before she set of after the Rogue. He missed that girl, with her easy laugh and merry lights dancing in her eyes. Doe eyes that could melt a man's heart. But since she came back from that first quest she has been different. The laughter still comes easily to her mouth, yet sounds hollow now. And her eyes seem darker, no longer melting hearts, but rather piercing them like sharp daggers.
"Meallan!" Dani shouted "Are you bringing that ale or should I go somewhere else?" The irritation seemed to grow in her as every second past.
"Dani" he started as he placed the cup in front of her, but anything he had planned to say stilled in his mouth as he looked at her "Errr....enjoy".
Dani looked at table, barely noticing when Maellan placed her drink there. "Ten years", she thought "It's been ten long years and NOW he's recruiting himself an army to come and get it from me?"
She sprang up, slamming her fist into the table, her sudden movement sending the cup of ale spinning into the corner. "Well the Seven Seas take you Juzzza! You will NEVER get it while I still breathe the sweet air!"
Curious glances followed her as she made her way out of the room. The excited babble that followed carried on long into the night. Dani never heard them, she knew what she had to do and she had to do it NOW.
March 24th, 2004, 12:12 PM
"Bloody Adventurers!", scoffed Gunsar the barkeep at the "Sword and Barrel".
The main bar was strewn with bodies looking more like a battlefield than a tavern and through the carnage moved a small darting figure, weaving amongst the table and chairs with all the stealth and agility of a cat.
"What the bloody hell?", he muttered, trying to fix eyes on the elusive shape.
There had been talk of imps, demons and all sorts abound in the tavern as the revellers exchanged tales and rumours. Spies and assassins were all over the damned place and God alone knew what manner of life had been drifting through the town recently.
The small figure paused for a moment by a man slumped over a table and proceeded to rifle through his pockets.
"Well damn his eyes!", cursed the barkeep, "Stop thief, and show yourself!"
Gunsar took up a short mace he kept behind the bar and hurried around to set upon the figure. "I'll teach you to...".
The small figure leapt onto the table with lupine agility and glared ferociously at the stunned barkeep branidishing a small, evil looking, curved dagger.
It was the ugliest little gremlin he'd laid eyes on, with big ears, and a snarling maw, showing sharp fangs.
The shout startled Gunsar, but it sounded too deep to have come from the ugly little beast standing on the table.
Thus time the evil looking gnome visibly shrunk into a submissive stance and looked sheepishly over to a stranger sitting in the corner.
Gunsar looked over to see a large hooded figure sitting in the corner. A large double bladed axe leaned against the wall, and the pommel of a huge longsword was just visible from it's shoulder slung position.
The gnome leapt off the table and scamped over to the stranger to sit compliantly by his side.
"More mead barkeep.", the stranger said nonchalantly.
Gunsar boldly challenged the request, "Who are you with this awful little thieving troll? State your business!", he said waving his spiked mace at the creature.
As the man rose Gunsar realised he had greatly underestimated the size of this odd fellow and his repugnant companion.
"My name is Kahn."
He felt great relief at recognition of the Berserker's name, "Ah, yes sire! The rogue has been expecting you sire, but you are a little late. I believe the training sessions have started. You'd best hurry to..."
"Hush man and bring me more mead! I need no training from any sergeant!"
"Yes of course sire. I will send word of your arrival."
"You will do no such thing!", barked the barbarian, "If I wanted my arrival announced, I would not have slipped in under a hood and cover of darkness!"
Gunsar swallowed hard, scared to speak in case he enraged the man further.
"The rogue knows of my arrival already so bring two mugs and some roast meat!"
"ROAST MEAT!", screeched the trollish creature gleefully.
"As you wish sire.".
March 24th, 2004, 01:18 PM
Bass sat alone in the tavern watching and listening. No one bothered the ancient man. He was thinking about the drow. Yes, the drow may be a problem. Granted, he thought, it was over a hundred years ago, but the drow rarely forget, and were never cheritable to those that wronged them in any way.
It would be bad enough to be recognized for who he really was. Those days were passed. But that was the least of his worries. He fingered the small figurine in his pocket. If the drow recognized him, there would be trouble, most likely, and he had no intention of giving IT up, none whatsoever.