September 2006 Archives

Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero

The End

By Douglas E Gogerty

"1000 is a staggering number," replied the former gladiator's wife when the story ended.

"The last one brought me to a conclusion," responded Pervalidus.

"What was that?" Bella inquired.

"Notoriety as a killer brings more opportunity to kill."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, every man I have killed has a father. Perhaps he has a brother or maybe children. In any event, his death can have effect on many others. These others may want revenge. Thus, they may come after me as several have."

"You cannot change the past."

"Thank you Bella. I can -- however -- change what people hear about the past. I asked Octavian to rebuke the story about his dream to give me credit for saving his life. I realize now that this is a mistake. If history records that a dream saved his life rather than me killing those 53 men, the relatives of those men will not come after me."

"That is sensible."

"The entire time I was fighting for Rome, I was looking for notoriety. I should have been doing it for something more noble. I feel ashamed about that."

"You said you were fighting to appease the gods who promised peace. That is a noble cause."

"Indeed I did. However, when I was actually in battle..."

"No 'howevers'! What went through your mind while in the heat of battle is irrelevant. Those thoughts kept you alive and fighting. The dreams of glory stopped you from giving up. However, your true motive was 'peace.'"

"Why did I name you Bella when I should have named you Astuta..."

"Your words honor me husband. Let us prepare to dine now."

The former gladiator contacted the Emperor Caesar Augustus to tell him not to fight the story of the dream at the Battle of Philippi. He was suddenly comfortable with his anonymity. He would be happy to fade into history.

His family would remember, although he would not tell the stories of his exploits very often. They all knew the truth about the Battle of Philippi. They knew how much of a hero their ancestor was. They knew how much he sacrificed and how much he did in his life.

Marius Batiatus Pervalidus quickly stopped being a former gladiator. He stopped being a former soldier. He stopped being the former hero of Philippi. He was just father, husband, neighbor...

His family thrived in the peace. His horses were renowned in the chariot races. Patrons from all over the Empire sought out "Pervalidian Horses." They were said to be strong, powerful, and fast. "The finest horses in the world" became the family slogan. Pervalidus claimed that Neptune smiled upon him for his years of service.

In fact, as he traveled, he never ran into any more trouble. The gods were happy with the 1000, and his battles were over. The roadways became safe and highwaymen never accosted him again. The days of explaining to the local magistrates how he killed the half dozen men were through. The extra days during travel to speak with authorities about troubles in town became a thing of the past.

Pervalidus had entered his final stage of his life. He started out as an ordinary child living in Bithynia. That was the first stage of his life. That stage lasted a mere twelve years.

With his family's death and Lucullus capturing him and selling him into slavery, he entered the short second stage of his life. This ended when he killed man number one, his master.

He lived with Spartacus and was part of the slave rebellion. However, this portion of his life did not last very long either. The fourth period in his life began when Crassus and his legions killed Spartacus and sold the future Validus Maximus into slavery again. He was purchased by the Batitus's gladiatorial school, and this was longest section of his life.

This long portion of his life brought him much fame and wealth. Citizens from all over the Roman Republic shouted his name. They all admired his skills with the trident and net. They were amazed at how he could handle any situation in the arena. However, he always thanked his personal patron Neptune for his survival.

He acquired a great fortune and purchased his freedom to begin the next phase in his life. This phase did not last as long as he had wished. The conflicts as a freed slave continued and he would kill bandits and highwaymen occasionally. He got out of the arena with a desire to stop killing. However, this was not to be as he continued killing. Thus, he decided to enter another part of his life.

He joined the forces of the future Emperor of Rome Caesar Augustus, and became a soldier. Most citizens and members of the Equestrian Order would retire from fighting in the army at the age Pervalidus started. However, he quickly became a war hero with his skill using the spear. He killed the most men during this phase of his life. However, he was clearly a war hero.

After that period of his life, he was able to enter the final stage. He was able to retire to private life. The killing stopped. He could finally relax and enjoy what he fought for all those years. There was peace in the realm and the Roman slave, Gladiator, Freeman, and Hero would fade into the past. He was just an ordinary citizen. The life made him very satisfied to enjoy the little things. Thus, all around him were happy.

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Mac MacKinnon and the Race for El Dorado

Chapter 14: El Dorado

By Dwayne MacInnes

Mac and Dan could not believe their eyes. There in the middle of the jungle stood a tall stone pyramid. They wasted no time in following the sound of the rifle shot to its source. They arrive in time to see a brilliant light glaring from the top of the pyramid.

The piercing high-pitched screeched originating from the pyramid's top was a minor irritant to Mac and Dan at the foot of the structure. Therefore, they had a front row seat as a concealed door slowly swung inwards. As the stone door opened, it pulled the vines attached to it until they started to snap apart one by one.

Mac nudged Dan with his elbow before he ran into the pyramid's interior. Dan was right behind Mac as they disappeared inside the darkened depths of the ancient temple.

* * * * *

It had happened so fast that Rebecca had no time to scream. She had just clapped her hands over her ears when the piercing whine ended just as suddenly as it began. The skull had now stopped glowing. No one dared touch the crystal skull because of the electrical energy that appeared to radiate from it.

A few of the Germans had fallen to their knees as the noise overcame them. The stony expression on Captain Wolfgang's face belied the fact that he appeared unaffected by the sudden noise. He alone stood erect and looked down the steps of the pyramid.

"I believe we have opened a door," Wolfgang said in a matter-of-factly tone.

Johann shook his head and quickly joined the captain on the pyramid's edge also peering below.

"Men, get ready to move out," the captain ordered.

The men gathered their supplies and began to climb down the stairs. At the pyramid's base stood an open doorway. Johann slowly approached the darkened interior and peered inside.

"Light the torches, we are on the doorsteps of El Dorado!" Johann exclaimed excitedly.

* * * * *

Mac held the flashlight in front of him. The beam of light illuminated their passage down the stone hallway. The roaring sound of a river filled their ears. The engineering of the temple amplified the sound of the rushing water to loud crashing. Mac was sure the design was intentional. It no doubt added to the mysticism of the temple priest.

With it now covered in dirt and roots, the ground in its heyday, would have been bare stone like the walls of the long hallway. The frozen stone faces of ancient gods grimaced as the two walked further down into the bowels of the pyramid. The musty humid heat was nearly unbearable. Sweat soaked through both Mac's and Dan's shirts. The only redeeming feature was the absence of the biting insects that had plagued them in the jungle.

Dan tapped Mac's shoulder. Mac looked back and noticed Dan pointing over his shoulder. In the distance, a flickering light was on their trail. Mac did not need to be psychic to know that the Germans were on their way into the tunnel. As long as Mac kept his flashlight aimed forward, they could remain unnoticed. Just to be safe Mac increased their pace to slow trot.

* * * * *

"Just think," Johann gushed excitedly, "we are the first people to walk these halls in hundreds of years."

Johann's voice echoed down the stone passageway as the party slowly descended further into the pyramid's interior. Occasionally, a German would catch his foot on an exposed root and stumble. The growing roar of the subterranean river forced Johann to speak even louder.

"The temple priest certain knew how to create awe amongst their parishioners," Johann continued.

Throughout, Rebecca and Dr. Strong remained silent. Both of them did not want to draw any attention to themselves. After Rebecca's escape attempt, neither Rebecca nor her father wanted to tempt the stoic Captain into carrying out his threat of killing them. The two armed guards escorting them only encouraged their silence.

"Not even my great uncle made it this far. We have attained the goal of thousands of Europeans over the past four hundred years. We shall all be rich."

Captain Wolfgang suddenly pulled up to a stop and turned on Johann, "Herr von Hutten, please compose yourself."

Von Hutten sheepishly cleared his throat, "Sorry, Captain I was momentarily lost in emotion. Please carry on."

The party continued on its journey in the flickering light of the torch carried by the lead German. Dr. Strong whispered to his daughter that they had long since left the pyramid behind and that they must be on the passage to the legendary city.

It felt like they had been traveling downward for several hours. However, it was only two when they finally came to large opening. This was the doorway to a huge natural cavern. Inside the cavern were the remains of several stone buildings. Most of the structures were single storied, but a few were as tall as three stories. In the center, there was a large pyramid, and in the back of the cavern, a waterfall crashed into a subterranean river. The river flowed out the opposite side of the cavern. An opening in the ceiling let the sunlight enter into the cavern.

"Gentlemen, and lady," Johann's voice boomed with excitement, "I present to you El Dorado."

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By Douglas E. Gogerty

I must admit that I have had a happy life. While there has been fear of death for some of that time, it has just resided deep in my mind and never come to the forefront. Now, as I grow old, I feel reflective of my youth. I think about how much people have hated my kind and me. I do not know what we ever did to them, but so many speak of genocide.

I remember times when neighborhood kids liked us. I am sure we are part of fond childhood memories. In fact, they would take us home to their mothers. Those mothers would smile and greet us with open arms. They would offer us some water. It was nice. Looking back, I now realize that they were not happy to see us, and they wanted us dead. When those kids that happily offered us water grew up, they would also want to kill us. It seems they all wanted us dead.

I know now that it is partly because we just do not fit in. No matter what we do, we stick out. We definitely look different from all the others. In a crowd, we always seem to stand out as different.

However, we did not ask to be brought here. Like so many others, we were uprooted from our families and brought here against our will. We are not unique in that aspect. Europeans brought us here like so many others. So many of us face the same scorn and hatred. They cannot see that we are victims in this.

In all of our time here, we have tried to get along with everyone. Even when faced with such hatred, we try to put on our bright sunny faces. However, some will not be convinced. They want us dead, and not just some of us. They want all of us dead. These fanatics will not rest until every single one of my kind is removed from this Earth.

I will readily admit that in some places we do not fit in. However, we go where we can live just like everyone else. Truth be told, we are constantly persecuted in the suburbs. Thus, you will find us more readily in the urban neighborhoods. We gather in places where people are more tolerant. We find areas where people have other concerns than our wholesale destruction.

In the suburbs, they do not want us around and single us out. They have systematically excluded us. In some places, they have rules against our existence. Homeowners can be fined just for having us around. Yet, the authorities do nothing.

It is not just these exclusionary tactics that take place. Often we watch as they poison our fathers and mothers. These citizens do this without fear of reprisal. Everyone just turns a blind eye to the slaughter. They act as if we simply do not belong and deserve what happens to us.

Of course, part of the problem is there is nothing we can do with our appearance to blend in. We are obvious. However, why is it fine to persecute us like this? Why do authorities turn their backs when such atrocities take place? Why should it be so difficult to prosecute these murderers?

I think part of the problem is that we have been too silent. In our attempts not stir up trouble; we have rested silently. We have continued with our sunny disposition. This has gotten us nowhere.

We are systematically torn from our homes. We are ripped from the very places we have spent our entire lives. No one is sympathetic. They let it happen.

Now that I am old and losing what little white is left on top, I am speaking out. Before my children face the same persecution that I have seen with my own eyes, I am taking a stand. It is not just for me, but also for all those that are different.

Not everyone has to be the same. Whether we are white, black, yellow, green, purple, or any other color, we should all be treated fairly. Even if we stand out in the crowd, we want what everyone else wants. We want to live and have families.

I will admit that part of it is our fault. We have not put reading and writing as a priority. Thus, we have not communicated our complaints to the masses before. We were fighting one injustice at a time rather than banding together to gain public awareness of our plight.

That is where I come in. I am here to tell you to stop the killing. We want to get along, but unless the general public decides that we have a right to be here, things may start to turn ugly. We may start to fight back. Instead of just moving to where we are more accepted, we may try other tactics. We may not accept our fate and we may begin to rise up against our oppressors.

We have put up with many degrading words in our history. We have been slandered for far too long. We are no longer willing to accept the blatant slaughter and institutionalized discrimination. We have a right to our lives. We have a right to our homes. We have a right to our children.

I am here to ask you to put aside your prejudices. We all have a place on this earth. Others have labeled us, and we do not have any choice in the words they use. Some of them are just plain ugly. I want you to think when you hear these labels. Think about what they actually mean and what harm they can do.

After all, what is a weed? It is an unintended plant. One person's weed is another person's treasure. The prejudicial words are like that. It gives individuals a marker between us and them. It allows for the rationalization of action. Thus, when we are discriminated against, they just say we are one of them. When we are poisoned, we are inconsequential. They were just ridding themselves of one of them.

This has been the way it has been done since the dawn of human history. They easily divide groups into those that belong and those that do not. The ones that do not belong are eliminated. This is how the violence begins. This is why there have been wars throughout human history.

I am telling you now, that this has to stop. We all have a right to be here. There is not them. There is only us. The living have a right to life no matter what their label. I am asking everyone to stop the genocide. Stop the killing! We dandelions have a right to our place in your yards. Thank you!

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Mac MacKinnon and the Race for El Dorado

Chapter 15: Treasure of El Dorado

By Dwayne MacInnes

On entering the city, the Germans fanned out. The deafening roar of the river died down to quiet rumble. A few birds flew from the buildings as the Germans approached. Apparently, the fowl must have fallen into the hole and have taken up residence here.

Dr. Strong noticed the dark shapes hanging from inside the opening of the cavern's ceiling. These were bats, which were another of the residents of the subterranean city. They would become livelier as the sun disappeared behind the mountains to the west.

Johann ran from building to building in excitement. The stories where the city had its building's walls encrusted in precious stones were obviously false. So to were the rumors of streets being lined in gold and silver. Nonetheless, the Germans ran from building to building looking for any riches.

All they turned up were some pottery, woven sleeping mats, and a few stone utensils. The closest thing to any precious metal returned to the feet of Captain Wolfgang was some copper rings. The captain coolly looked over at the feverish von Hutten.

"It must be here somewhere," raved the anxious German.

Johann grabbed Dr. Strong by his collars, "Where? Where is the treasure?" Johann screamed in the professor's face splattering it with spittle.

Dr. Strong slowly wiped the spit from his face and composed himself. "This city is itself the treasure. The things we could learn from it are incalculable..."

"Save me your speeches," raved Johann. "Every South American empire was built upon gold. This is no exception and you know it."

"Very well, the gold you seek is more than likely inside that pyramid," Dr. Strong waved his hand over towards the stone structure.

Captain Wolfgang whistled and motioned for his men to search the pyramid. Ten crewmembers and Johann von Hutten ran towards the pyramids carrying their tools. Captain Wolfgang and the two armed guards remained with Rebecca and Dr. Strong.

"If you are correct Herr doktor," Wolfgang said stoically, "you and your daughter will be left at some local village. Provided there are no further escape attempts."

Dr. Strong nodded his head and wrapped his arm around his daughter. Rebecca felt exhaustion overcome her body and sat on the street. She could not believe that one way or another they were at the end of their journey. She just prayed that her father was correct about the treasure being in the temple.

Suddenly, the screams and yells of the German crewmembers escaped from the pyramid's interior. For the first time the Strongs noticed some signs of emotion pass across the face of Captain Wolfgang. He took a few steps toward the pyramid when Johann came running out.

"It's there! It's all there!" yelled Johann as he thrust a golden statue into Wolfgang's hands. The captain studied the scowling expression of the ancient god. The small statue easily had to be twenty-five pounds. A smile spread across Wolfgang's face. The sight of the smile filled the Strongs with dread, for it was cold and lifeless.

"Load the packs and return to the zeppelin," Wolfgang ordered.

Johann smiled broadly and saluted the captain, "Ja wohl, mein herr."

Johann returned to the interior of the pyramid. Wolfgang then motioned for the two guards to join the men already at work within.

"I take it I don't need to waste any men on watching you two. Nonetheless, I'll keep watch over you," Wolfgang said.

* * * * *

Mac and Dan had taken cover inside a two-story building waiting for the Germans to enter the city. The plan was to ambush them as they walked down the main boulevard. However, when Mac noticed Rebecca and Dr. Strong amongst the Germans he held his fire. They needed a new plan.

Mac and Dan held a quiet council as the Germans ran from building to building. They decided to wait until the Germans left the Strongs unguarded. Until then the risk was too great. When Johann violently grabbed Dr. Strong, Mac felt he might have to risk confrontation. He had the Tommy gun to his shoulder aiming at von Hutten when he suddenly let the professor go.

They watched as the Germans ran for the pyramid. Even with only two guards and an officer Mac held his fire.

"Mac," hissed Dan next to his ear. "Look at the officer."

Mac gazed through the dusty air at the officer. At first, he did not see what Dan was getting at. Then he nearly gasped aloud when he realized who he was. Captain Wolfgang, the supposed leader of the Stein Ritter and a German top ace during the Great War. Mac had never confronted the German personally, but all his friends who did never returned alive. He owed Wolfgang a blood debt.

Mac knew Wolfgang by sight because he worked with the British and French secret service trying to hunt the pilot down. He was more dangerous than even the Red Baron. Now after all these years Mac might just have his revenge. Mac put the Tommy gun to his shoulder again and slowly began to pull the trigger.

Dan put his hand on Mac's shoulder forestalling him from firing. "Wait!" Dan whispered loudly.

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 1: Gathering the Party

By Douglas E. Gogerty

I met the Cleric Thorvald Larsenski of the Cygnus clan while luring 30 orcs out of a woman's home. She lived on the outskirts of some town, and some orcs decided to take up residence in her place. She offered a 300 gold pieces to get rid of them. I thought that was easy money, so I took the job. I managed to lure all 30 of them out of her house.

They followed me for a ways, and I met up with Thorvald. He claims that he saved my life, but it was all a part of my plan. With a bit of finesse, I lured the orcs out of this woman's house, and I did not have to kill one. As I am leaving the town, Thorvald comes along and riles them up, by killing a couple. I had no choice in killing several orcs myself.

Once the orcs we killed the last of the orcs, Thorvald thought he should get some of the money for saving my life. However, from my point of view, he spoiled my plan. The woman was paying for removing the orcs. If they were able, they could come back to that woman's home, and I could have gotten more work. You never know, I could possibly earn another hefty bounty. However, I ended up having to save Thorvald's life because all 30 had turned to him. In any event, we split the gold evenly.

The woman was quite grateful, and I could tell she wanted me to stay a little while so she could further reward me. However, Thorvald mentioned that he was meeting a sorcerer friend to save some princess. He said that they could use someone like me to help him with the task. I told him that dieing was not my idea of a good time. Of course, he mentioned that she was rich.

"How rich?" I asked.

"The reward would be more than you can imagine," he replied.

"I don't know," I added. "I can imagine an awful lot."

"You'll get it," he promised.

"I better!" I said. "By the way Thorvald, after a long battle are you then Thor?"

"You may call me Cleric Larsenski, Most Revered Thorvald, or Thorvald Larsenski of the Cygnus Clan. Thor is right out!"

Some people do not have any sense of humor. He did not catch on to the pun at all. I hope the sorcerer we meet has a better sense of humor.

We travel a bit up the road, and we meet up with Thorvald's sorcerer friend. He was a typical sorcerer type. He was small and studious and reading a lengthy tome as we approached. A small castle was a little off in the distance. He had been trying to determine a way into the castle. In typical sorcerer fashion, he was at a loss.

"Greetings Most Revered Thorvald, you have brought along a companion," proclaimed the sorcerer.

"Salutations, I have brought a rogue to aid in our quest."

"Rogue," the sorcerer began. "I am Glaf Hellion of the Western Highlands, sorcerer of the Marquis of Mellicore, bearer of the vessel of the pestle, and barber to the king of swing."

I must admit I do not remember all that he said. I think he went on for an hour just reciting all his titles and honors.

"Nice to meet you," I replied. "So, how are we getting in the castle?"

"I have been unable to open the gate," he stated boldly.

"It should be simple enough to gain entrance."

"OK hotshot," he said. "You find a way in."

"Wait here and I will have us in shortly," I bragged.

I looked around and observed the high wall that surrounded the castle. On the other side of the wall was a moat. It appeared that getting in would be a difficult task. I checked the lock and it was one of those shifting locks. It was not going to let me pick it. I started to get worried, but I knew the type that had these types of castles. There had to be a key somewhere. Low and behold, there was a key hidden in a placard reading "Keep Out!"

Sorcerer Hellion was not impressed with my feat of awesomeness. I did not see him produce a key. We would still be standing outside the wall if he were in charge of getting us in. I guess what they say is true. "Some of the most astounding feats are nothing if you know how they are done."

With the produced key, I casually unlocked the gate and we walked inside. There was a small bridge crossing the moat on the other side of the gate. It was then that I noticed just how small the castle was. I was beginning to doubt the wealth of the princess we were rescuing.

We crossed the small bridge and opened the front portcullis of the castle. After we entered the castle, we killed some rats, spiders, and such. Nothing difficult came across out path.

According to Glaf, our goal was the dungeon in the lowest levels of the castle. Thus, we find our way down to the lower levels. When we make it to the lowest chamber of the dungeon, we had to kill some iron golems. That was as tough as it got. They were guarding a door that Thorvald claimed held the "princess." I easily picked the lock. Okay, it used the same key as the front gate. Inside we find a ranger named Gudrid.

"This is our princess?" I complained.

My complaint fell on deaf ears as Glaf and Gudrid embraced. I think they have a thing going on. Thorvald explained that Gudrid went ahead to look for the princess. Apparently, the iron golems trapped her in the room. The princess's remains were in the room when Gudrid made her way into the dungeon room. I asked about the riches, but a group of spiders and a gelatinous cube interrupted me.

We fought our way out of the castle with nothing. I know Gudrid looted the princess's corpse, so she may have gotten something out of it. I got nothing. I was about to part ways with this group when they mentioned that a town was having problems with some bandits. Thorvald claimed that this town had some wealth, and with some help, I would definitely earn some reward. I did not want to believe him, but I was heading in that direction.

Normally, I do not like taking on bandits as a personal courtesy. However, these bandits were ruthless. We had almost reached the town when we found them fighting a Paladin. However, they wanted to kill everyone. In fact, they had wiped out the rest of her party, but she was holding her own against them.

There were 10 or 15 bandits already slain when we came along. I killed a bandit with my crossbow just before he took a swing at the Paladin. Our eyes met and there was quite a bit of gratitude on her face. We must have killed at least 100 bandits that day.

My attitude was beginning to improve, as this town must be wealthy to be able to support a gang of bandits that large. Jean, the Paladin thanked us for our help. She wanted to thank me in a more personal way, but this was not the time. The bandits had killed every member of the group she was escorting, and she was a little distraught.

We collected the belongings of the travelers to disperse to family members. However, we were unable to locate any, so we just sold what we found at a local merchant. Needless to say, the items brought only a few gold pieces. We searched for the town mayor, and he rewarded us with a paltry 25 gold pieces each for the destruction of the gang. Luckily, I stole 10 times that much from his office or I would have been upset.

With the coin in my pocket, I considered taking my leave from the rest of the group. However, when I expressed my wishes to leave, they begged me to join their group. I told them that I am not really a joiner.

"I am the Paladin Jean Dark and I am joining them on their next adventure. Please come with us," she said in her most seductive voice.

"We have heard of a job," the sorcerer Glaf added. "We could use someone with your skills."

"There will be a big reward," added Gudrid.

"The wizard Nebrion has come to us, and he is quite wealthy."

"I have heard this song before," I replied.

"Please," begged Jean.

With those sad blue eyes, how could I resist? Thus, our party began Nebrion's Quest.

The story "Nebrion's Quest" was constructed from a "mod" I wrote for Neverwinter Nights™. Some friends and I played the campaign, and this story is loosely based upon our characters. If you have Neverwinter Nights™ Platinum, (or Shadows of Undrentide and Hordes of the Underdark), and you would like to play my mod, you can download it here. Just unzip it into the "modules" directory of the Neverwinter Nights game directory. Enjoy! You may want to play it BEFORE you read the rest of the story or it will ruin all of the surprises. Thanks!!!

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Mac MacKinnon and the Race for El Dorado

Chapter 16: Ambush

By Dwayne MacInnes

Mac watched as von Hutten ran out of the temple and presented something to Wolfgang. Johann was obviously excited about something. Wolfgang ordered the guards watching over the Strongs to enter the pyramid along with Johann.

Mac and Dan again held another quick planning session. Mac would provide cover while Dan grabbed the professor and his daughter and escorted them to safety. For the third time, Mac raised the Thompson waiting for Dan to signal when he was ready.

The birdcall alerted Mac who sighted low in front of Wolfgang. He could not risk hitting either of the hostages. He had to make the captain seek cover.

The Tommy gun opened up. Shards of stone flew up from the street as the rapid burst of .45 bullets ripped into the blocks. Wolfgang instinctively ducked into the cover of a nearby building.

Dan did not waste any time running out and grabbing the archaeologist and his daughter. He pulled the pair into the building where Mac and he were hiding. After he pulled them to the second story room where Mac was firing burst after burst, Dan began to fire at the Germans running out of the pyramid with his Lee-Enfield.

Thompson Submachinegun

Rebecca sat on the cold stone street with her father holding her in his arms. They had both been through quite a lot in the last few days. They still mourned the deaths of Mac and Dan. They still did not know if they could trust the captain.

Surprise gripped them when the street suddenly appeared to explode in front of Captain Wolfgang. Bits of rock and dust showered the Strongs. They watched as the captain ducked inside a nearby stone structure.

A stranger ran up to them and grabbed them. He led them inside a stone building and up to the second story. There they saw a man firing a gangster's submachine gun into the street below.

Rebecca let out a gasp when she realized that the men were indeed Mac MacKinnon and Dan Edwards. For the first time since her abduction joy returned to her heart. She could see that her father also recognized their saviors.

Bullets began to slam into the walls next to them as the Germans began to return fire. Rebecca and Hugo Strong ducked down onto the floor seeking what little cover they could.

Lee-Enfield Rifle

Wolfgang was only momentarily caught off guard when the submachine gun opened up on him. Without a second thought, he jumped into a nearby doorway. Somehow, someone had followed them into the cavern and was now firing upon him.

He reached for his Luger and cocked it. Wolfgang noticed that the Strongs had disappeared. More than likely, the men in the building across the street had rescued them. Wolfgang could not make out anyone inside the building, but he could make out the muzzle flash of the automatic weapon.

By now, the crewmembers were pouring out of the pyramid carrying their cargo as well as their own weapons with them. These unfortunately, were only two rifles and eleven pistols. Nonetheless, Wolfgang surmised that there could only be two assailants in the building.

Wolfgang started firing at the muzzle flashes in the second story room. He did not know if his bullets had found their marks or not. He did not have time to find out.

"Johann," Wolfgang yelled, "return to the zeppelin with the treasure now!"

"Ja wohl!" Johann replied from near the entrance of the pyramid.

German Luger Pistol

Mac ducked back into the room as a rain of bullets pelted the small room. Mac dug into his backpack and produced another fifty round drum that he fitted into the Tommy gun. Dan continued to work his bolt-action rifle.

Mac returned to the window just in time to see the Germans by the pyramid begin to run for the cavern opening. Only two riflemen remained concealed to pin Mac and Dan down as the rest of the Germans made for the exit.

Dan dropped the two riflemen in a matter of seconds. Mac for his part, fired into the crowd as they ran out of the cavern. Most were loaded down with packs of gold. Ironically, the gold saved many of their lives as the .45 pistol rounds fired by the Thompson bounced off the precious metal in their packs.

However, Mac did manage to drop three men before they left the cavern. The men lay still on the ground as their life's blood pooled beneath them. The rest of the Germans including Johann and Wolfgang had managed to escape the ambush.

Not bad Mac smiled inwardly. They at least had saved the professor and Rebecca.

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 2: Meeting with Nebrion

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Glaf Hellion arranged the meeting with the wizard Nebrion. Our group gathered at the rendezvous spot and waited. Gudrid and Glaf sat together and napped. If it were not so sickening, it might have been cute. Jean Dark also rested, and she implored me to keep watch. I obliged, although a little snuggling before a mission would have been nice. Thorvald Larsenski, our cleric, took to some prayers and afterward rested.

I paced the area anxiously. We gathered outside the gates of a town that had seen better days. It looked as if it had been continuously attacked for quite some time. The only thing that made me stay was the nice looking tower on the edge of town. It was my belief that the so-called rich wizard lived in that tower.

Wizards like their towers. I am not personally a fan, but to each his own. It was quite ornate. It was as black as coal with white marble sculptures running up the side. The sculptures were all manner of grotesque imagery. However, they looked quite expensive. I could not see the entire structure, so I did not know what the entrance looked like. I imagined a large heavy wooden door with brass hinges and gold adornments. This structure had a new roof, so despite the poverty of the rest of the town, the owner of the tower was doing quite well.

As I continued to observe the surroundings, I started to wonder about our group. I was the guard for this hopeless bunch. Did I really want to hang with a group who would leave someone like me to guard them? I strongly considered taking their loot and heading on my way. Fortunately for them, Jean awoke and smiled at me. Despite her Paladin ways, we could get along.

One by one, the group arose from their rest. The journey to the spot had been long, but it was uneventful. Now, we were mingling outside the gate of a shambles of a city, waiting for some wizard to show up.

"What are we supposed to do now sorcerer?" I asked Glaf.

"My instructions were to wait outside the gate," he responded.

"Hooray for your instructions," I responded. "Are we to wait here until the leaves fall from the trees or what?"

"Are you asking how long we are to wait?"

"Did I stutter?" I asked. "Of course I am asking how long we are supposed to wait."

"I was told to be here on the fourth day and the fourteenth hour."

"What does your manacle of time tell you?"

"It should be any time now."

"Yeah right," I started to say when a strange sensation overcame me. My entire body began to tingle and the surroundings began to fade. I tried to fight the feeling, but I could not move. I felt as if I was traveling down a sewer tunnel. I felt the pull in one direction and just as quickly as it started, the pull stopped and all went black.

I tried to open my eyes, but it was quite a struggle. The disorienting feeling was still with me. I shook my head to snap out of it. It took a couple of seconds but I began to feel like myself again. I eventually was able to open my eyes, and I noticed that I wasn't outside the city anymore.

I laid on the ground for quite a while as I saw the rest of my party materialize in the room in which I found myself. I heard incantations in the corner, but I did not wish to move. I would let the others go first.

Eventually, up jumped Jean and Thorvald. I heard a voice in the corner say, "Arise everyone! I am Nebrion."

I gradually got to my feet, and looked around. It was a largish round room with intricately carved wardrobes around the perimeter. I looked for a door, but I could not find one. Glaf and our host began having a conversation, so I took the opportunity to look around.

I walked up to the first wardrobe, and found that it had been trapped. It was a good trap, and it was very dangerous. Perhaps, it was even deadly. Naturally, it was no match for me, and I easily disarmed it. Sadly, the wardrobe had a very intricate lock and I was unable to open it.

While our host was distracted in conversation, I disarmed all of the traps on the wardrobes. All of them had the same lock, and I was unable to do anything with any of them.

However, hidden between two wardrobes was a chest. It had a very complicated trapping mechanism protecting it. Its trap was even more complicated than the ones protecting the wardrobes. It was no match for my skills either.

The chest's lock was a standard lock and it was opened in seconds. Inside the chest were some valuable items. I did not have time to identify all of the things, but it looked like what was there would fetch a large price in any city shop. When I had time to inspect the items more closely, I would share them with my colleagues. For now, what they did not know would not hurt them.

Glaf called us over for a conference. "The wizard Nebrion is the protector of this town," he began. "For perhaps the last year, the town has been besieged by wave after wave of monsters. Orcs, Kobols, and Lizzardmen have taken turns attacking the citizens of the town. Nebrion has recruited adventurers from all over to attempt to stop the onslaught. He will offer a chest of riches to any party that can stop the attacks.

"If we accept his offer, he will transport us to the mines where he believes the monsters are originating. All we have to do is clean out the mines from the creatures and return here. Upon our return, he will give us the chest filled with items we might find useful. Any questions?"

"What happened to the other adventurers?" I asked.

"None have returned so far," he explained. "It is a very dangerous mission, so we should discuss our misgivings."

"Is there any chance that one of these groups is nearly finished and will claim our prize?" I continued.

"He has not had any volunteers for this mission in months. It is unlikely that any will return."

"So dear sorcerer," I added. "Do you personally guarantee that I -- er -- WE -- will be paid?"

"If we accept this mission, I will guarantee payment if I have to pay you all myself."

"I am in!" I volunteered.

"Why does he not go himself, or why not use his magic?" asked Gudrid.

"He is expending a great amount of energy with a protective sheild in an attempt to keep the creatures out," he replied. "However, their numbers are just to great."

After some further question and discussion, the rest of the group also decided to take on this dangerous mission. Nebrion gave us all the information we wanted, and the party prepared to be transported to the mines. Nebrion informed us that we would face mostly orcs. Thus, if we had anything that excelled in killing orcs, we should prepare those items.

Once everything was prepared, we stood upon a strange mark upon the floor. He started his incantations and the same feeling came upon the others and me. We were out cold for moments and awoke in the mines.

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Mac MacKinnon and the Race for El Dorado

Chapter 17: River

By Dwayne MacInnes

Mac and Dan searched the bodies of the dead crewmembers. Dan stood watch by the cavern entrance in case the Germans decided to return. In the mean time, Mac explained to the Strongs how he and Dan made their daring escapes from the clutches of the Germans.

It was obvious that after two hours the Germans were not returning. To pass the time, Dr. Strong searched the pyramid and collected a few clay tablets and figurines. Mac forbade anyone from taking any gold. The weight could be deadly if they needed to run once they made their way back to the surface.

Mac led the way back up the passageway as they began their return trip. He had the Thompson in one hand and his flashlight in the other. Dan was close behind holding his Schofield; he had surrendered his Lee-Enfield to the professor.

The roar of the river again drowned out but the loudest voice as the party continued on their way to the surface. Mac was becoming more uneasy as they continued on their way to the surface. Certainly, the Germans would not let them get away so easily. They must be laying a trap or waiting in ambush somewhere ahead.

They were only a half a mile from the surface when they heard the explosion. The passageway shook and dust rained down on them. Fortunately, the ancient architects were superb builders and the passageway did not collapse upon them. Mac waited a few minutes for the dust to settle. Then he ran ahead leaving Dan with Rebecca and Dr. Strong.

A few hundred yards ahead confirmed Mac's worst fears. The Germans had sabotaged the passageway. The entire length of the passage from here to the surface had collapsed. The small party had no chance of escape by going this way. So they returned to the cavern.

Mac looked around for a back door. Unfortunately, there was none. Even the ceiling opening was beyond their reach. The sun was rapidly disappearing behind the Andes. Soon darkness would envelope the cavern.

How long could they survive with no food? They had plenty of water…

Suddenly, Mac jumped up.

"I've got it!" Mac exclaimed.

"What is it?" Dan asked excitedly.

"Quickly, before we lose the light. Gather any wood you can find. We'll go out down the river."

"We don't know what is down the river," Dr. Strong pointed out.

"But we know we'll die if we stay here," insisted Mac.

* * * * *

Just before the last rays of sunlight exited the cavern for the night, the small group had manufactured a small raft. It was not large enough for them to all sit on, but they could hold on to it to keep them afloat as they flowed down the river.

Mac and Dan lashed the packs and weapons onto the raft. Once the small party was ready, they grabbed onto the raft. Each had a vine wrapped around a hand. If worse came to worse and they need to escape the raft all they had to do was unwrap their hand.

The four companions then pushed off from the riverbank to the center of the stream. The water was refreshingly cold. Even now in the night, the jungle heat and humidity was stifling. However, Mac knew that any prolong exposure to the subterranean water could lead to hypothermia and then death.

The current was strong and before long, the raft with its four passengers was rushing downstream. There was barely enough headroom as the river exited the cavern out the small tunnel. Mac had his flashlight strapped to the top of the raft to provide any light. How long it would last, he did not know. The batteries could die or the water could short it out. Mac did his best to water proof it by wrapping wet clay around the flashlight.

The tunnel appeared to stretch on endlessly. The twists and turns would occasionally bash the occupants against the wall. Fortunately, the walls were smooth and the channel was deep. They had to avoid the occasional stalactite as a sudden surge upward could leave one impaled upon the sharp protuberances.

Mac figured that they had already covered several miles in the few minutes they were in the river. By good luck, the river never submerged its occupants underwater for any prolonged time. That was another fear Mac had, but he felt best not to mention it.

As the raft continued to flow down the watery course, the flashlight began to dim. When the light went out their chances of survival also lessened. They could no longer see the dangerous stalactites nor prepare for the turns.

They sped along even faster now. The channel was narrowing. Before the flashlight died, Mac notice that there was light coming from up ahead. His spirits raised considerable. Then they dropped just as suddenly when he heard the roaring of a waterfall. There was no escape; the river pulled them at an alarming rate towards the watery cliff.

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