Friends in High Places

Part 5 by SamIam

And then, back where things were outside the courthouse:

“Mind you, judge Jake, them thievin’ ghosts may be back, and it wouldn’t look good for yer judgeship over the county if these lot couldn’ go route em out of any publick house whenever they need to,” said Rick.  “Oh dear.  I suppose you are quite correct, I shall return immediately with a writ of entry!” And with that, the judge returned to the courthouse.

“Rick,” said Grumblepig, “thanks, but what’s all this about us scaring ghosts?  You weren’t even there.  If you think we’re up into the northlands to fight manor ghosts, forget it.  We’re having an adventure, not a ghost hunt.”

“I’m just happy to be a part of your group. I may look depth-blind, but I can shoot the arms off a troll before he knows it’s Tuesday.  As far as ghost hunting, I only said that to convin… Back already!”

“Yes,” said Judge Jake, “here is that writ, all drawn up, clearly reading: Be it known, whosoever beareth this writ may enter at any time any publick house, should they suspect that ghosts, spirits, or any other vapors known to rob villagers of coinage is quartered there.  Be it further understood that use of this writ is limited to villages in Initial County, and does not exempt the bearer from the minimum height requirement of pubs in the Borough of South Gluehorse. Your Pal, Judge Jake (vote Jake he’s no fake!). Hopefully this will help keep you out of more trouble.  Good luck!”

“Thank you, judge,” said Rick, and a round of thanks was given by the rest of the party, “Thank you Judge Jake.”

After a crossbowman’s handshake with Rick, the judge went back into the courthouse and locked the doors for his next case, as is the custom when trying people for causing a ruckus

“Now that that’s all cleared up, we should get some rest before heading out.  Do you see anywhere that looks especially haunted?”  Said Roguish, a little confused but glad to not be shoveling manure.  He’d left that part of his life a long time ago, he was a thief and never wanted to go back.  “I think we could all go for a warm drink, and if I’m not mistaken, there are spirits hiding behind every bar in the tricounty.”  With that group started making it’s way up through the village.

“Alright,” said Fluvio, “but first, we need to get some supplies.  I’m not sure exactly what we need, and after getting robbed so much and all of the legal fees, we don’t have much money, so we should start with the bare essentials.  We don’t need torches, because my hands can cast a dim green light, and because camping for the night only leads to trouble, we don’t need any knapsacks or tents”

“We should get lots and lots of armor,” said Grumblepig as he kicked a pigeon to improve his fighting skills.

“and balaclavas,” said Roguish

“and some potions to make up for not having a good healer” said Fluvio

“I don’t need nothin’ I hain’t alread got.” Said the mysterious Rick.

“Ok, in that case, you can stay outside the store and keep watch, while the three of us look around.”

The three of them walked in and began to rummage through the unsorted bins of goods.

“How do these fit?”

“Shouldn’t there be labels on all of these different roots?”

“those cost how much?!”

And after about ten minutes of bartering with the shopkeeper, they left the store.

“You know, I’m not sure a rope this thin really can lift as many hayloads as the guy in there claimed” said Grumblepig, examining what looked like a huge coil of clothesline.  “Well, none of us told you to get it.  Anyway, if it that elf girl doesn’t show up and steal all our stuff, maybe it’ll come in handy some time.  Do you think that these are green potions, or just cheap clear potions in green bottles?” Fluvio was holding a vial up in the light. “Maybe if you’d been more careful buying stuff, you wouldn’t be asking so many questions,” said Roguish, “anyhow, you just wish you’d gotten a crowbar like me.  They were so cheap, I should have gotten a few”

“You lot can natter about yer toys later.  While you were inside, I overheard something that may be of some use in our adventure,” said Rick.

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Meanwhile…

Part 4 by Rory

Meanwhile…

The figure stood there unmoving. It looked up at her, but she still couldn’t tell if it was male or female. Or young or old, for that matter. Coming or going. Friend or foe. Its face was partly obscured by a heavy hood; what features she could see almost seemed to shift back into the gray fabric it cloaked itself in. She called out again.

“Who goes there?”

Its lips moved, but if it said anything, Mariz couldn’t make it out. She spat out the inkroot she had been chewing and smiled, showing her ink black teeth. She was not afraid.

“Friend or Foe?” Better to get things out in the open. Mariz preferred it that way. Keep it simple. Talk or fight. Kill or die if it came to that. Subtlety was not her strong suit.

“Neither.” It smiled, showing its crooked teeth. They were ink black like hers.

That gave her pause. Seeing those teeth. Just like hers… Why was it wearing those heavy cloaks anyway? She looked up . The sun hung above, bright and hot. Not a cloud in the sky. It must be sweltering. “Don’t play games. Is that your house?”

“No.”

“Do you work there? Is that the Carver estate?” The manor lay right ahead. At first she assumed the figure was some servant sent to greet her. She had been sent for after all. Or so he had claimed. But this person, whatever it was, was no servant. No reputable one anyway.

“No.” It’s voice was soft and ethereal. Barely audible.

“Who are you?”

A whisper. She was too far away to hear. It stood only ten feet away, yet she could not hear it.

“Speak up!”

“Come closer.” It smiled, showing those ink black teeth again. They even had the same missing incisor, just like her own… Something wasn’t right here. Something was very wrong. She reached for her sword.

“Who are you?”

Another whisper. She unsheathed her sword from it scabbard and held it in front of her cautiously. She immediately felt like a fool, drawing a weapon against a defenseless wretch of a creature who by the looks of it posed no threat to her whatsoever. It wasn’t even armed. It was probably just some backwards local farmer playing games with her, or some beggar too stupid to realize she was the closest thing to a trained killer ever to walk into these parts.

Never draw your weapon without cause. The first rule. Or was it the second? She could never remember. Her mother had gotten them mixed up too. Sometimes there were twenty rules, sometimes ten. Sometimes every piece of advice was a rule, every insult, every begrudging compliment. But one rule or five hundred, she knew this one was important; draw your weapon when you are ready to fight, ready to kill. She was neither.

Yet she couldn’t bring herself to sheath her sword. She eyed the creature, forcing herself to inspect every detail of its bedraggled form. It was about her height, covered in voluminous gray robes. Probably wool. It slouched with its head slumped down, like it was too tired to invest more than the most trivial of efforts to keep itself standing. It looked like it had been standing here all day, but that couldn’t be right because she would have seen it earlier as she was traveling down the path. But then she didn’t see it walk into view… Its face was even less visible than it had been before, now that it wasn’t looking at her.

It was just standing there. Perhaps she should just ignore it. Perhaps she should just climb up the hill and march up to the manor and find out why someone had already paid her more gold in advance for a job than she had ever received before, and she hadn’t even done anything yet.

Never turn your back on an enemy, and especially never a friend. Another rule. If it was an enemy, then it was better to approach it head on. If it was a friend, then she owed it whatever assistance she could give. Best not to abandon one’s principles in the face of uncertainty.

Her sword remained unsheathed. She stepped cautiously forward, daring herself to come in closer. Closer still. Willing herself to override those instincts that had kept her alive so long, that would soon be serving her if things became violent. Why did she push herself, she wondered? Because she had to figure out what it wanted. Because she had to prove that even if she was afraid, she could own her fear.

She stopped only a few steps away from it, her sword which she still held out in front of her almost touching its gray ragged robes. From this close, she could detect a feint smell of rot emanating from the figure. It clearly hadn’t bathed for some time. Its head remained down, the hood almost completing cloaking its face, which was hidden in shadows.

She waited. It did not stir. She tensed the muscles in her sword arm and then willed herself to speak those words, “Who are you?”

It brought its head slowly up to meet her gaze. She let out a gasp, but was surprised at how much she had been expecting to see what stood before her. It was her own face staring back at her. Or some amalgamation of it anyway. A good attempt. There were the same full lips, missing tooth, gently sloping nose, cold piercing eyes, but somehow they all seemed to fit together wrong.  Like a good first attempt by an amateur artist. The pieces were there, but it lacked her passion, her fury; it failed to capture her spirited determination in all things. Or maybe it just seemed that way. She was frozen, not with fear, but with wonder. What was this thing? What did it want with her?

Then it spoke. Its breath smelled rancid and yet felt noticeably cool, a strange combination. “I am whispering sorrow,” it whispered.

“That’s not a name,” she shot back. She was regaining her composure, as her memory of the world she lived in returned to her. There were those who could do what this person was doing. It was rare, but not unheard of. She had never met one personally, of course, but there were rumors of those who could tame snakes with a gaze, control fires with a flick of their fingers, even bend time to their whims with only a thought. Surely something like this was an afterthought to someone with those powers. Then again, she wasn’t in a rush to test her sword against anyone with those kinds of abilities.

“I am Whispering Sorrow,” it repeated. And she realized that was its name. And perhaps something more.

“I am Mariz. I do not fear you.” And she did not fear it. But her heart felt heavy to see it. To see its eyes staring back into hers. Her eyes staring back into hers. Two sets of eyes locked together in sorrow. And she felt alone. With only herself for company. A broken version of herself that felt nothing and cared for no one. And tears ran down her face.

She touched her hand to her face to wipe away her tears. But when she withdrew her hand, she saw only blood. She was crying tears of blood. And it was smiling. With her black teeth.

She raised her arm to bring her sword slashing down upon it, but found herself suddenly too weak to lift it. With a gasp of surprise she found her own weight pulling her to the ground. She was exhausted, unable to stand. With growing terror, she forced herself to her feet and tried to raise the blade once more, but it came tumbling out of her hand as she tried to heft it, wrenched forcefully from her grasp. Her vision blurred and it was all she could do to stay upright. She tripped on something, stumbled, and tried to get her bearing.

And she never stopped crying.

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Rick Joins the Party

Part 3 By Grugzug

“Shoulda let me hit er.” Roderick said his arms now crossed. The group looked towards the courthouse as what at first appeared to be a well-dressed man walked out; as they inspected him closer, they noticed the scar across his eye, and his other eye completely foggy. He wore a trench coat, which jotted out to each side of his waist where they guessed he had two swords. A high-end crossbow sat on a hook that was implemented into his shoulder pads, two pouches on his thighs, each with around twenty bolts.

The man walked towards the group, “So what is a group of such unlikely individuals doing hanging out together?”

Fluvio spurted out the words before he thought not too “Forming a party!”

The man looked Fluvio up and down, “And to what end do you hope to accomplish?”

Roderick looked at the ground, “I…..we don’t know, I answered an ad that Fluvio put out.

The man looked back towards Fluvio “So to what end do you hope to accomplish…my dear friend.”

“I don’t know either; I was hired by a man to find a group, willing to work. He said once we had a suitable group, to come to his manner to the north.”

“The manner to the north…” the man said aloud, and then looked towards the group, “You don’t happen to need a ranger, or even a master of the falchion.” He parted his trench coat showing the two long curved blades to each side of his waist

“Let me talk to the others, real quick.”

“I can heal if need be, not the best at it, but I know a little, none of the growing limbs back, but I can fix gouges and cuts.”

Fluvio turned around “I don’t know, an all human party doesn’t seem very impressive, if you know what I mean.”

The man smirked “Oh don’t worry bout that, I don’t think anyone will hassle us about what race we are…and live…” the man trailed off looking into the distance.

Grumblepig laughed “I like him.”

“What is your name and what exactly do you do?” Roderick asked

“My name is, Rick, and I am a bo…” his eyes looked up as he rephrased his answer “hunter.”

“Well, welcome aboard then, since none of us have any objections,” Fluvio looked around half hopping that one of them would; there was something about Rick that he did not trust.

Rick looked back to the court, “I will be right back, I am going to fix your community service issue.”

The group waited outside for a few minutes until the man came walking out with the judge, the judge laughed and shook Roderick’s hand, “I didn’t know you were friends with Rick, he’s told me what really happened and I’ve decided to overrule the jury, your free to go”

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The Thief Off

Part 2 by Shootthesea

Suddenly, the bar was all but silent. Everyone had turned to face the band, Roderick’s fist was still on the table, between his beer and Grumblepig’s chicken bones. The other patrons glanced at one another shrewdly until one of them spoke up.

“Well, now, sonny, I couldn’t help but overhear,” he smirked around the room. “But that you’re fixing to have a thief-off. Well, I think I speak for all of us when I say neither we nor our moneys shall be partaking in your little game. Not tonight. In fact—“ Whatever the man was planning to say next was cut short as he slipped his hand into his jerkin and froze. He withdrew his hand, slowly and empty. “My silver!”

“He got mine, too!” cried a voice from the back of the room.

“My rings!” shrilled another.

“My toupee!”

“My gold!”

Fluvio looked around wildly, and saw that Nynalama was nowhere to be seen. “Now hold on a minute, folks, Roderick hasn’t moved from this table since we got in here! Clyde, you can vouch for us!”

“You’ve caused enough trouble for one night, you lot! Ghosts, broken glasses, and now that thief of yours costing me my clientele! I’m sending for the sheriff!”

Two days later, the band was walking out of the courthouse with a shaken Roderick. “It’s alright, Roderick. Community service isn’t so bad. I mean, I don’t think it would be. Exercise, fresh air, giving back to the community…” he tried to bolster his friend with a weak smile.

“Six weeks of transferring the county manure heap to the new tricounty manure heap in Skob Knotch, Fluvio! Six weeks!”

“Skob Knotch is…nice” muttered Grumblepig, but he trailed off. He’d never been to Skob Knotch.

“You’d be payin’ me back my 6 gold, thief!” came a voice from a window somewhere above. Roderick didn’t even look up.

“We really should have asked for a healer or cleric directly in the ad,” sighed Fluvio, “rather than an elf. I figured we’d get more responses this way. And I was really hoping for an elf, or even a half-elf. I mean, an all human party? Who’d take us seriously?”

“Not me.” Nynalama spat and stood before them.

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A Most Unexpected Elf

Part 1 by Fellstorm

Nynalama Tanduri guzzled from a pint of beer and propped her feet up on the table. Her filthy boots dropped clumps of dirt all over her placemat. Her three companions hunched protectively over their appetizers. She was not the sort of elf they were expecting when they placed the ad. Elves were supposed to be gentle and giggly and wistful creatures with a deep connection to nature. This one was rude and pushy and downright dangerous-looking. Not that they were profiling just because she was… dusky, mind you. It’s just… She was missing half her ear on the left side and the one on the right was chock full of earrings all the way to the top. Her clothes weren’t very elflike either. They were decidedly… more urban. Hip-hop would have  to be invented ahead of time to explain most of her fashion choices. One arm was done up in a long sleeve tattoo of black snakes and the word “fuck” was written across the knuckles of the other hand. She was a real tough cookie.

They glanced amongst each other with nervous expressions that pleaded for someone else to speak first. The brightest looking one rolled his eyes and turned to the rude elf.

“So, er…” He started

“Nynalama.” She said around the mug at her lips.

“Nynalama.”

“Yea?”

He tapped his fingertips together as he searched for the right words. He never really knew what to say to girls.

“Since you’ve decided to answer our ad, you of course know we’re forming a band.”

“That’s what the flyer said, yeah.” She held up the torn end of a poster stub between her thumb and forefinger.

“Right, well…” he mustered his courage into his best interviewing voice “What do you think you can contribute to our fledgling organization?”

“Huh?”

“What is it you do, exactly, miss Nynalama?”

Nynalama finished the last of her beer and belched. She knocked herself in the chest a couple times to get the last few bubbles out and set the mug back on the table.

“ ‘M a thief.” She said “An expert.”

The group’s shoulders sagged.

“I see. That’s too bad. We’ve already got a thief in our group, you see. Roguish Roderick.”

Roguish Roderick smiled a crooked smile and politely tugged the tip of his eyepatch at Nynalama.

“ ‘M a fair hand at fighting.”

“We already have a swordsman. He’s the strongest in the land.”

The third man at the table smiled and grunted.

“My name’s Grumblepig.” He said through a mouthful of chicken wings. He wiped his greasy hand on his tunic and offered it to Nynalama.

She nodded, but kept her arms folded across her chest. Grumblepig withdrew his hand, feeling a little snubbed.

“So what do you do?” she asked the first man.

“I…?” he said, drawing himself up with a deep breath and puffing out his chest “I am FLUVIO SHATTERWIND! Master of the arcane!” green sparks and ghosts shot from his fingertips and sailed around the room. The other customers jumped and shouted. A barmaid screamed and dropped a tray of drinks.

“OI! NO MAGIC IN HERE!” Shouted the barteneder.

“Sorry Clyde!” Fluvio called over to the bar, shrinking down smaller than before.

“AND YOU’RE PAYIN’ FOR THOSE GLASSES!”

“Yes Clyde.”

“AND THE DRINKS INNEM!”

“Yes Clyde.” Fluvio turned back to Nynalama, but couldn’t look her in the eye until his blushing faded down.

“Anyway…” Fluvio said “That’s us. I’m sorry but we really don’t need another thief. We’re really looking more for a healer or cleric.”

Nynaslama didn’t even blink “ ‘M a healer, too.”

“Really?” Fluvio eyed her incredulously.

“Yup.”

Fluvio frowned.

Nynalama frowned back and cast her eyes around the tavern. She pointed to a man coming out of the gent’s.

“You see that bloke?”

“Yeah?” Fluvio turned in his seat to look. The man passed close by their table and returned to his seat. Fluvio turned back to Nynalama.

“What about him?”

“I just cured him of his heavy wallet.” She grinned; both her fang-teeth were gold. She conjured a jingling purse with a flash of her hand and tossed it lightly in the air.

Fluvio sighed with disappointment and sat back in his seat.

“Very nice, but as I said, we already have a thief.”

“Yeah.” Said Roderick.

“Pah, I’m twice the thief he is. Three times even. You should kick him out.”

Roderick jumped to his feet “Hey! You watch your mouth or I’ll…”

Fluvio jumped between them and eased Roderick back to his seat “Easy now. Just cool off, everyone. I’m sure we can settle this in a civilized manner…”

“Right!” said Roderick, pounding his fist on the table “It’s a thief-off!”

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