By Jason Niehaus
Part 2 - Old Enemies and New Plans
"Well that's it then, we're off to the island of... er, Yurt's home. Come on everybody we've packing to do." Lordin pauses and looks down at the giant hand grasping his robe "Yurt, would you kindly let go of my robe, its rather expensive?" Yurt's face is grim, he shakes his head slowly. "You don't want us to come is that it? Well tough dragon skin! I've travelled with you for over four years and I'll be Cyric blessed if I'll let you make this journey alone." Yurt's face turns threatening and he moves as if to toss Lordin into the air. "Fine, toss me aside, preferably into that pool over their, the one with the ducks, but I'll just get up, sopping wet, and follow you, making those annoying slaushing noises I make when I'm wet. Can you imagine that, days and days of squish squash, squish squash, squish squash, well you get the idea. Wouldn't it be better if you didn't throw me into the pool, and let me accompany you, blessing you with my sparkling wit and cheery demeanor." The mages face is split into an insolent grin, but his eyes are hard, staring directly into the big man's eyes, daring him.
Yurt grins, shakes his head, his body shaking with silent laughter, and drops the mage (none too gently) to the ground. Lordin stands up, dusts the dirt from his robe, stands up straight, adjusts his hair and smiles, a real smile, one that touches his eyes and lights up his face. "Now that that foolishness is behind us, lets go pack. We've a jungle island to explore. RAGING FOOLS, MARCH!" The slim mage puffs out his chest and marches off like a drill Sargent, the rest of the fools shrug and follow step, even Shiasta tromps a little.
There are nights that seem made for late night strolls, clean air, bright stars, dead quite broken only by the sound of your feet on the cobbles, this would have been one of those nights if not for the noise made by a band of friends strolling down the alleys and streets. There's a reason their the Raging Fools and not the Quiet and Polite Fools.
"What a splendid evening! It's a shame that is had to end so soon. No offense Yurt. I met so many interesting and influential people. I even met someone who could get you into Candlekeep and get your ban from Silverymoon lifted Lordin." gushes Vadriana.
"Candlekeep? He could get me, Lordin "banned from all libraries in the Realms for life because of one fireball in a wing containing especially old tomes" Granderson, into Candlekeep, the most secure and important library in the realms . Who was this man? Elminster?" laughs the mage.
"Elminster, yes that was it. Such a sweet old man."
"You met Elminster? Thee Elminster? Elminster of Shadowdale? Jasper did you know Elminster was at the party? Thee Elminster? Thee Elminster wants to help me get access to Candlekeep. Elminster....." Lordin's words become incomprehensible hero worship babble as Vadriana continues.
"Oh, and Jasper, I showed a noble your ring, and he absolutely fell in love with it. Do you know how much he offered to pay me? Twenty thousand gold coins. Can you imagine that kind of money. Of course I turned him down..." Jasper stumbles to a halt, his merchant upbringing calculating exactly how much gold that would be, and how it would permanently establish his reputation as one of the best jeweller in Fereun, allowing him to pick and chose his customers and live a life of comfort and ease.
"Friend Jasper, is everything all right." Shiasta's
voice breaks into his dreams of averice.
"What, oh, no, no, nothings wrong, just a rock in my boot." he mutters hastily, running to catch up to the groups, his mind filled with dreams of gold and comfort. He catches up and notices their party is down one. "Were's Vadriana?"
"Arr, the lass skipped on ahead, don't ya know"
Hanuman's imitation of Thorin is dead on, he even manages to waggle his beard,
despite the noticeable handicap of no having one.
"Shut up ya little rodent." grumbles Thorin.
"I'll have you know that I am not a rodent, you puny rock breaking gold grubber," everyone laughs as Thorin throws a rock, which the monkey dodges easily. The general good mood is shattered by a most unwelcomed sound.
"Vadriana!" Lordin's dagger appears instantly in his hand as he bolts towards the scream, the other Fool's quick on his heels. They turn a corner and find a most unwelcomed sight. Before them is a score of scruffy men, mercenaries of the Red Blades, each equipped with the trademark red painted swords. A particularly large one holds a rusty dagger to Vadriana's neck. Their leader, a short, stocky man with thin greasy hair, spits at Lordin, just missing the irate mages robes.
"Vrok!" Lordin's voice is almost a growl, "don't you ever get tired of being beaten by us? Let her go and I promise not to hunt you down and send you to the lower planes to be a daemons plaything for all eternity!"
The mercenary captain grins, revealing several missing teeth. "Let her go? And lose my strategic advantage? I'm not as stupid as you think, mage. Here's what I think is going to happen, you and your friends will drop your weapons, and accompany us to our headquarters were I will receive the substantial bounty placed on your head."
"Right, the bounty. I'd forgotten about that, what's it up to now?" Lordin snaps his fingers, as if just remembering something, only Shiasta notices that he has managed to draw a small device from his robe, and smiles, her hands straying from her weapons. She knows this wont take long.
"For your big friend and the dwarf, its up to one
thousand gold apiece, for you mage, its only two hundred gold." Vrok spits
again and laughs.
"Only two hundred you say." Lordin places one finger on his chin while cradling the elbow with the other, contemplative, his fingers adjusting the various switches on the device. "Well, I think its time I raised the ANTE." the figurine flashes, blinding everyone momentarily, when the dots and tears clear from everyone eyes, all the mercenaries are frozen, faces just beginning to register the shock of the light.
"Damn you mage! If'n I could see ya, ya'd be missing an arm!!" bellows Thorin as he stumbles around the street.
"Quiet dwarf, it worked didn't it. Yurt help me untangle Vadriana form this ruffian. Stupid spell, it's not supposed to freeze friends. A well, I'll just have to tinker with it some more." Everyone shudders silently as Lordin mentions "tinker," images of fire balls and noxious gases fill their heads, Shiasta absentmindedly fingers her bright orange "tinkered" hair. "Thanks Yurt, I can take it from here." the grey giant shrugs and lets go of Vadriana's still form, which promptly topples onto Lordin. "A little help here? Yurt, are you laughing at me?" queries the mage from under Vadriana. Recovering form his silent laughter, Yurt gently picks up Vadriana and places her carefully on a nearby bench were Shiasta attempt to rouse her. Lordin stands up, straighten his robe, and grins. "Now, its time for some fun," he says, holding up a flask.
Behind him Hanuman and Jasper are comparing the contents
of the mercenaries pockets.
"I got seven gold, twenty silver, forty copper, and this ring. Lets see what you got gnome boy."
"I have managed to appropriate six gold, twenty five silver, fifty five copper, and this necklace which I appraise at twenty gold. Your ring is a fake, the emerald is only coloured glass and the metal is plated with gold, poor quality at that. I appraise it at mabey five coppers. Which means I win this round you silly simian." the gnomes face splits into a wide grin, his nose twitching.
"I'll get you next time, Jasper oh loudest thief in all the realms." The monkey laughs as he sidesteps a half hearted swipe by the gnome, who then proceeds to pocket the spoils.
"Have you finished your work Lordin?" Shiasta's gentle voice carries from the bench were she is watching Vadriana.
"Yes my dear Shiasta. Come Fools, we have an expatiation
"What did you do to Vrok oh most wise and powerful mage,"asks Hanuman from his perch atop Lordin's shoulder.
"Just tweaked with his personality a bit."
"What right do you have to alter a man's innermost being, mage Lordin?"
"Oh don't you worry your pretty little orange head, it's only temporary. I simply used a potion made of some flowers I found while we cleaned out that goblin nest in the CloakWood last week. You remember purple smoke that exploded from my house, and for a day I did everything you told me to. Oh, by the way, you never paid me back the five gold you borrowed from me that day Thorin. Well that's when I discovered the plants ability to make you susceptible to suggestions. With the amount I gave him, he should be very accommodating for about three days. Oh, he will also perform various love ballads in the centre of the fair, wearing a dress and Elminster hat." an impish grin streaks across his face, and the Fools burst out laughing, all except Vadriana of course.
The dawn seems to beckon for new experience, the weather is clear, the wind gentle, the day just seems to call to adventurers to arise and experience it. It's a call the most of the Fools seem determined to ignore. Yurt is sprawled out on a couch, snoring, Hanuman is curled up in a blue ball on his stomach. Jasper might be curled up on his bed, there are too many blankets and no gnome in sight to be sure, quiet snores emanate from under the blanket testify to his existence under the blankets. Thorin, sometime in the night had fallen on off his bed, and is now unceremoniously drooling on the floorboards. Lordin, on the other couch is curled up, his back to the world. This peaceful scene is disturbed by a loud pounding on the door.
"Wake up you lazy louts! Lordin, how dare you use
one of your toys on me." Vadriana's normally pleasant voice had somehow
managed to become shrill and disagreeable, not something you wanted to wake
"Do you think if we ignored her she would go away?" mumbles Hanuman through a massive yawn, displaying his impressive teeth.
"Groumph thuuble mushrm" comes the muffled reply from under the pile of blankets.
"You can say that again shortly," replies the simian.
A head whose hair and beard don't seem to know about gravity and who's every hair seems to be escaping in a different direction , peeks out from the mound of blankets, grumps, "Don't call me short!" and disappears.
"Hanuman, don't you think it's a little early to be teasing our friend Jasper," Lordin's words somehow manage to bounce off the couch back and into the room, perfectly audible.
"Mff Fu," comes the thanks from under the mountain.
"Can't you wait till after we break fast? I need my sleep." finishes Lordin.
The mound of blankets emits a huff and stirs as Jasper turns his back to his friend.
"I can hear you in their! What kind of heros sleep past the noon meal? Shiasta and I have been up for hours."
"Well aren't you the industrious ones, at least you got a bed." retorts the grumpy wizard. "Magic requires that I be fully rested to work properly, you wouldn't want one of my spells to misfire would you?"
"Only one? That would be great, you'd set some kind of record. Imagine only one of Lordin's spells misfiring. Wow." replies the voice behind the door.
"Sarcasm noted, now please go away, we need out beauty sleep."
The stomping of angry boots fades down the hall, and the male Fools gradually slip back into sleep, except for Thorin who once slept through a dragon attack. Just as they are on the cusp of sleep, the world of dreams just a heart beat away, their door explodes into a shower of splinters. The suite erupts in a flurry of movement. Jasper, desperate to see what just happened, struggles to escape his wooly womb, hopelessly entangling himself in the blankets and falling with a thud onto the floor, were he lay, squirming. Hanuman, his animal instincts taking over, shrieks a blood curdling scream and springs to the top of the dresser across the room. Yurt bolts upright, promptly tripping over a table next to the couch. Lordin turns around on the couch, promptly falling off the edge. Thorin sits up and draws his axe from under his pillow, ready to meet the intruder. In the doorway is an angry Vadriana, her large mace in hand. For a split second, no one moves, then the woken fools realize that they are largely naked and in the presence of a lady. A new form of panic ensues as they hurry to find shirts and pants to cover their small clothes, Lordin just jumped into the nearby wardrobe. Thorin looked around confused, and shrugged, he never did understand his human friends modesty around Vadriana and Shiasta, they were adventurers and companions, he had no secrets from them, the fact that neither of them were of his race or particularly attractive to him. The commotion ended when Lordin exited the wardrobe wearing one of Jasper's shirts, or rather crammed into one of Jasper's shirts and Yurt grabbed a sheet from Thorin's bed and fashioned a crude toga. Vadriana eyed the commotion and rolled her eyes. Jasper managed to free his head and looked around,
"What are you trying to accomplish by wearing my second best shirt Lordin?" asked the bushy headed gnome.
"Shut up Jasper, just shut up." snaps Lordin, opening the wardrobe to find one of his shirts. Vadriana shakes her head, laughing,
"When your ready, meet me in the taproom."
"Could someone please assist in extricating me from this mess?" pleaeds the entangled gnome.
Twenty minutes later, they managed to stumble down the stairs, clothed and cleaned. The taproom was empty except for Shiasta and Vadriana, the other patrons of the inn having long since eaten and left. They sat down and ordered, porridge and black crusty bread, both cold. This elicited numerous complaints from around the table, all of which were ignored. Thorin wiped his mouth with a handkerchief he kept for that purpose, signalling that at three bowls, he was done.
"So, Hanuman, how are we supposed to reach your
home island? The way you describe it, ships don't go their often, or at all."
"Don't worry, my lord has arranged passage. It should be here by mid-afternoon."
"That be one well organized god you got their." burps Thorin.
"I should hope so, he is a god of wisdom after all. We should be home within a month."
"A month at sea? Should we not gather provisions for this trip. It would do no one any good if we were to starve on our way."
"That has also been taken care of. Do not worry, my lord has made all the preparations necessary. We merely need to be at the docks when the ship arrives."
"Would you care to explain why we are going back to your island? As I remember your people ostriscised you and left you to die in the jungle." Lordin looks intently at Yurt, noticing the slight grimace that comes across the giants face at the memory.
"It's a complicated story, but I will fill you in as well as possible. Thousands of years ago, Yurts people, who worship my lord, and the Zazil, who worshipped that demon you saw above the Ducal palace, were at constant war. This suited the Zazil deity just fine as he thrived on warfare and chaos, but it pained my master greatly. One day, my master witnessed a particularly brutal battle were both sides were decimated and decided it was time to intervene. He sought out the Zazil deity and engaged in a dialogue with him. He managed to convince the daemon that if the war kept on both sides would be destroyed and he would loose his minions, and a truce should be declared. The daemon did not want to listen but my masters great wisdom prevailed and a truce was declared, on one condition. Every five centuries a battle is to take place, between the champion of the Zazil and my lord for rulership of the Island. Last time the Zazil won, and while they are not aloud to destroy them under the truce, life has been increasingly hard for Yurts people. We need to go back to the island and escort Yurt to the Fighting Ground. All these years of adventuring have been leading up to this event, all the battles, all the training, all the experience, all have been leading up to this event. I failed my lord last time, but this time, we will win."
"So the life and freedom of an entire people rest on Yurt's broad shoulders?" Lordin asks, eyebrow raised inquisitively.
"Well we've as good as won then haven't we. Those shoulders could carry any burden. Come Fools, gather your tools, sharpen you blades and adjust your armour, we've an adventure to undertake. Lets go and make the bards sing our praise!"
"To the journey ahead!" toasted Jasper.
"To the glory of a noble quest!" toasted Vadriana.
"To the battles to be won!" bellowed Thorin
"To friends and companions," toasted Shiasta.
"To the Raging Fools!" yelled Lordin, to which everyone shouted their agreement and quaffed their drinks.
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