October 2006 Archives

Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 3: Something Went Wrong

By Douglas E. Gogerty

As I regained consciousness, I felt that something went wrong. First off, I was cold. I think that should be expected being in the bottom of a mine, but this cold was different.

My second clue was the darkness. Why was it so dark? My light baring amulet should provide me with enough light to see. "My amulet," I thought to myself as I reached for it. "Where was my amulet?"

When my fingers reached my neck, I knew something was terribly wrong. There were claws scratching at my chest. Moreover, these claws were mine! When did I get claws? I searched for all of my stuff, but I am naked. I do not have any of my things. I was naked. I wondered if we were all naked.

"Jean? Are you there?" I asked.

"What has happened?" she asked. "Where are my things? I am naked!"

"Relax sweetheart, I am here for you!" I assured her.

"Let there be light," Glaf said in some strange tongue and the cavern became dimly lit.

"No!" shouted the Paladin. "I am not decent!"

"Neither am I," I thought to myself.

At that moment, we all realized that we had somehow been transformed into lizard people. We were greenish and scaly. Furthermore, we were all naked. My excitement over that prospect dimmed when I realized we had no weapons.

Fortunately, for me, I still had the same control of myself that I had always. Thus, I could still walk silently and sneak around the caverns. My eyes were still sharp as they had always been. Thus, if there was enough light, I could find items, which I immediately went to do.

The cavern had a few bodies scattered around. I thought they would have something on them, but before I could check, some skeleton creatures emerged out of the shadows. Naturally, I jumped into action. I saw that Jean was locked in hand-to-hand combat with one, so I decided I would rush to her aid. However, before I got there, Glaf used a spell and the skeleton crumbled into a pile of bones. I took the short sword from the dead creature and handed it to Jean.

"You could use this more than I," I insisted, and she took it with thanks in her eyes.

I would get a more substantial "thank you" later, but there were a few more creatures to take care of first. As I attempted to fight a creature, it would explode, implode, catch fire or what have you, from a spell Glaf would cast. I expect it was probably for the best anyway. I was thankful that he could still cast his spells.

Once we were satisfied that the current attack of creatures was over, I carefully examined the bodies around the cavern. A few of the skeleton creatures had small iron short swords. They were not great, but they were better than having no weapon. Several of the other corpses had died rather brutal deaths, but they were unarmed. I did collect several arrows and a few spears, which caused the deaths of the adventurers. Without a bow, the arrows were not terribly useful. Also, I know nothing about using a spear, so we had nothing to get excited about at this moment.

I carefully examined the cavern where we found ourselves. There was only one exit. It was a rather decrepit mine door. It appeared to have withstood plenty of abuse. There were claw marks and dents of all kinds. I found it locked, but I would not have any problem unlocking it.

Before I took any action, we held a group conference. We took stock on our weaponry. It was pretty meager, but our best fighters were rudimentarily armed. I a few arrows and a spear. In essence, I had nothing, but I could still hide in the shadows and stay unnoticed when need be.

"What do you think happened," Thorvald asked Glaf.

"I have no idea," the sorcerer replied.

"Do you think Nebrion double-crossed us?" I asked.

"Yeah, is he trustworthy," added Thorvald.

"While I would not personally vouch for him," responded Glaf. "Several contacts claimed he could be trusted."

"Do you think there was some sort of spell-caster on the other side of that door who is responsible for our condition?" asked Gudrid.

"I have thought of that," replied Glaf. "There have been several others killed in this room."

"While that is true," I retorted. "None of them look like monsters."

"Perhaps the spell wears off after some time," replied Glaf.

"Why turn us into lizards?" asked Thorvald.

"I cannot answer that," replied Glaf.

"We certainly cannot stay here," I added. "We will have to go through that door."

"Teleportation magic would come in handy right about now," included Thorvald.

"So are we going to work on the assumption that some sort of nefarious spell-caster is on the other side of that door?" I asked the group.

"It is the safest course of action," Glaf chimed.

"If this cavern did not glow so brightly, I could sneak into the other room and take a look," I stated confidently.

"The spell will dissipate soon enough," replied Glaf.

"Does anyone have any better suggestions?" Gudrid asked the group.

"It sounds like that is our plan," asserted Glaf.

"Just to make sure everyone understands what is going to happen," I began. "Let us all get close to the door. Those of you with weapons, get towards the front. I will sneak into the room and look around. If I call out, come quickly. There will probably be a few armed with bows, by looking at the corpses around the door. I want you all to be aware of this point. Once I have all the information I can gather, I will sneak back here. Are you all clear on the plan?"

The adventurers nod in agreement.

"Jean, you have been awfully quiet in our discussions," asserted Glaf. "Are you okay?"

"My current state of undress is making me very uncomfortable," replied the paladin. "I would very much like some clothing. Unfortunately, that is all I can think about right now."

"Do not worry baby," I consoled. "I will take care of you."

Thorvald and Glaf mumbled something. They probably doubted my powers. However, I was hoping that this distraction would not continue once the arrows started flying. We needed Jean.

While the light was still good, I easily picked the lock of the door. I found the claws quite handy in this regard. We just had to wait for the room to go dark, and let my eyes adjust to the darkness. Once this happened I snuck into the room.

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Mac MacKinnon and the Race for El Dorado

Chapter 18: Journeys End

By Dwayne MacInnes

Mac took a deep breath as they exited the tunnel and began the plummet over the edge of the waterfall. Mac tried to unwind his wrists from the raft but as they tumbled repeatedly, it became impossible. The passengers bashed and banged either into each other or into the raft as they plunged downward.

Then the river drove the raft underwater as they splashed down into the pool at the waterfall's base. Remarkably, the raft had remained together and its passengers, though battered, bruised, and waterlogged were all alive. The moon was high in the night sky.

The four companions had found themselves in a lake. They began to swim to the closest shore and pulled the raft behind them. Soon they beached themselves upon the sandy bank. The jungle foliage reached out to envelope them.

Rebecca coughed and sputtered. Dr. Strong stood up and stretched his bruised limbs. He was looking out onto the lake when a gasp escaped his lips.

"Well, doesn't that beat all," the archaeologist said.

Mac looked out onto the lake to see what Dr. Strong was looking at. There parked in the center of the lake sat the zeppelin. The giant aircraft was beginning to lift itself up from the water. Mac quickly began to untie their possessions from the raft.

The airship was too far out for his Tommy gun to be any use. Therefore, Mac grabbed Dan's Lee-Enfield. He ran a few yards up the lakeside to gain a better perspective on the zeppelin and in the case the Germans returned fire they would not inadvertently hit the professor or his daughter.

The airship was now above the treetops. It was soon pulling away. The moonlight did not make for the best of shooting conditions; however, Mac had to try to stop the Germans from escaping. The zeppelin was almost at the extreme range of the British rifle.

Mac took careful aim. There was very little chance he would be able to ignite the highly combustible hydrogen gas with a simple rifle round. At best, he could only puncture the airbag. Even then, the Germans could repair it before the ship lost much gas. During the Great War, the attack aircraft were loaded with incendiary rounds. Something he did not have for the Lee-Enfield.

However, Mac needed to do something. The zeppelin was rapidly increasing its speed. Mac squeezed the trigger. If he hit, he did not know. He fired repeatedly. Mac fired his last bullet before the zeppelin pulled out of range. Mac could not be sure but he thought he might have seen a flash on the zeppelin.

As the zeppelin pulled beyond their view Mac knew that against all odds he must have hit a girder, causing a spark that ignited the hydrogen gas. For the skyline was beginning to brighten over the horizon.

Lee Enfield Rifle

The next morning Dr. Strong led everyone back to the pyramid temple. Just as Mac had feared, the Germans had permanently sealed off the entrance to El Dorado.

"What a pity," Dr. Strong lamented.

"I can't say it was all a loss," Dan replied.

"How so?" Mac asked arching one of his eyebrows.

"You said not to take any gold but you said nothing of precious stones," Dan said as he began emptying his many pockets filled with emeralds, sapphires and other stones.

"There was more than monetary wealth contained in there," Dr. Strong continued.

"I'm afraid the few artifacts you packed away will have to suffice. But, I believe that the world is not yet ready for El Dorado. Maybe it is all for the best," Mac said.

Dr. Strong nodded his head, "Perhaps you are right. I believe you know the way to your plane from here."

"Just one minute," Mac replied as he ran up the stairs of the temple. In a few minutes, he returned with the crystal skull. He handed it over to Dr. Strong.

Chrystal Skull

As they were flying back to British Honduras, Mac searched the jungle for any signs of the burning zeppelin. After a few minutes, Mac sighted the burned jungle near the river's edge. The burning aircraft must have crashed into the deep river where it sank.

Mac returned the floatplane to Major Roger White who was again sitting with his colleague in the cantina. Mac introduced Rebecca and Hugo Strong to Major White and Dr. Frederick Mitchell-Hedges. The major and the British archaeologist looked over the four adventurers. They all appeared the worse for wear.

"I'd love to know what you've been up to, Captain," the major said.

Dr. Mitchell-Hedges started a conversation with his American counterpart. Dr. Strong only commented that he was on another futile search for the Lost City of Gold.

"Speaking of futile searches. I've been searching for the perfect gift to give my daughter Anna for her birthday. I'm afraid I too have ‘struck out' as you Yanks say," Mitchell-Hedges said a little downtrodden.

"Perhaps, I may help out," Dr. Strong offered. "I did find this on our trek why don't you give it to your daughter." Hugo pulled out the crystal skull and handed it to the British archaeologist.

Mitchell-Hedges smiled and looked at the crystal skull, "Beautiful, just beautiful. She'll love it. How can I repay you?"

Dr. Strong laughed as he pulled Rebecca over, "Let's just say that I too understand how important it is to present the perfect gift to a daughter."

Rebecca blushed, "Oh Dad!" Rebecca then kissed her father on the cheek.

THE END

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 4: The Dead Adventurer

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Our little group came to a consensus, even without Jean. We decided that I would attempt to enter the next cavern unnoticed and have a look around. It was going to be tricky, but I am talking about myself, so it really was going to be easy.

When I entered the next cavern, it was dark. However, in the shadows I saw a few creatures. I let my eyes adjust to the darkness to better identify who or what was in this section of the mine. It was another largish mine cavern room with a well in the middle. There was a mine door blocking a tunnel on the far side of the room. I counted twelve orcs. Three of the orcs had bows as weapons and the others had swords. I did not see any magic users. There were just monsters in the mine room. It would be a tough fight armed as we were.

I snuck out of the room back to the original cavern. I explained the situation. I gave our group a complete description of the room. I also described what creatures were on the other side of our door and how they were armed. We needed a plan to take care of the well-armed creatures on the other side of the door. Naturally, I proposed a plan. I would open the door and have Glaf toss a fireball into the room. Before the fireball erupted, I would close the door.

It was agreed, and Glaf and I executed it perfectly. Once the heat from the door dissipated enough, I entered the room. I looked around and discovered that my plan had worked to perfection. There were no living creatures in the room. I went through and collected weapons. Everyone was now armed. Glaf and I had bows, and the rest had a sword of some sort. We did not have any armor, but we could defend ourselves.

Without any armor, our paladin was still uncomfortable. She was not going to be herself until we could find her some clothes to wear. With that in mind, I made a sweep of the room, and found a few items in the nooks and crannies, but nothing of particular interest. In the center of the cavern, I noticed there was an adventurer at the bottom of the well. For a corpse, he looked good.

The well was deep and dark. It would take someone of remarkable dexterity to climb out of the well. Naturally, I was a perfect candidate for the job. Jean needed some clothes, and the man at the bottom could provide them. For Jean, I decided to risk being trapped down there to see if he any of his items were useful.

I climbed down into the well, and examined the good-looking dead adventurer. It was odd, as he was the best-looking corpse I had ever seen. I examined his armor, and discovered that it was enchanted. It made an attractive person more attractive. If I wore the thing, I would be unbelievable! However, it was bulky and uncomfortable. I could barely move in the thing.

I found the man's journal, and I read of his last days. He wrote:

   "I do not have much time left.  I have been trapped at the
bottom of this well for days.  I thought I would be able to
climb out of this well, but it is not to be.  It is just too
difficult.
   "On the good side, the armor I found here makes me look
good.  I mean, I look REALLY good, and I will wear it until
my death.  I can hardly keep from looking at my reflection
in the water.  It will help me live up to my motto:
**Live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse.**
Even when I die, I will look nice with this fashionable armor.
   "That brings me to these mines.  I wonder what had
happened.  I woke up with nothing.  All my possessions were
missing when I arrived in these mines.  I could have used
some weapons when I fought my way to this room.  I saw this
armor in this well, and I had to have it.  This armor has
been my downfall.  I cannot get over how good I look in it.
   "I think I should have been leery of that wizard's offer.
What was I thinking?  I could have used some help clearing
out these mines.  Why did I try this on my own?  My
possessions would be useful right about now.  I hope no
one takes my armor..."

I apologized to the adventurer, but Jean needed the armor. It might affect her mobility, but at least her head would be with us. Furthermore, she would look stunning in this armor. It is too bad she is a lizard right now.

I hoped the added weight would not be a problem climbing out of the well. I briefly wondered if the adventurer could have made it out if he took the armor off. Sometimes these thoughts come to my mind.

I gave the adventurers journal to our cleric. I thought he would want to say a few words over our deceased comrade. We had a brief service for the fallen adventurer, and it was nice and somber.

Afterward, I gave the armor to Jean. She was happy to receive the uncomfortable armor to cover her. Once again, there was gratefulness in her eyes. However, it was still not the place for her to express her gratitude. Her smile was irresistible, so I gave her the adventures great sword. Engraved on the hilt was the name meurtrier de orceller. According to the knowledgeable sorcerer, it meant 'Orc Slayer'.

I wondered how that sword got here. Did some adventurers keep their equipment? Perhaps the magic-user taking adventurer's equipment and turning them into monsters is not always around. Perhaps we were unlucky in this regard. In Jean's capable hands, that sword would be extremely useful in a mine full of orcs.

Nevertheless, we had to move on. There would be plenty of time to think about these things later. They will probably come to mind just before Jean wants to thank me completely. The plan was going to be the same as the last door. I would sneak in and check the place out. It was going to be a long trip out of these mines.

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Vampire Confessions

By Dwayne MacInnes

You may call me Nicodemus, for that is who I have become. To know where I came from and how I got here, you must first have a little background. It all started out as a fascination with vampires. I have read everything from Bram Stoker to Anne Rice, though I must confess I found much of the older writings dull. I also loved to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I cannot explain the magnetic draw I felt towards vampires, but it was there and it soon consumed my very being.

With some friends, I started playing a vampire role-playing game. It was Vampires against the dreaded vampire hunter who counted the ubiquitous wooden stake, some holy water, and a cross as part of his arsenal. It seemed silly that weak mortals, who vampires considered mere cattle, could so easily overcome the mighty nosferatu. In any account, as we continued to game my character, Nicodemus, gained the upper tier of the tenth level.

Yet, I was not satisfied. My compulsion drove me further into the dark world of the undead. I started to dress in gothic garb, it seemed natural that I should wear black clothing and display a somber demeanor. I began to take my role-playing to the next level, LARP or Live Action Role-Playing.

Still, my compulsion was not sated. I needed more. I joined a group of self-proclaimed vampires and we started to consume each other's blood or hematophagy. The iron after taste of human blood lingered on my palate and I loved it. It felt as natural as you eating a hamburger or drinking a glass of water.

This did not completely quench my desire but it sufficed. For many years, I lived the life of a mortal living as one of the undead. I built my own coffin that I slept in throughout the day and I would arise with the setting of the sun. I started up a webpage dedicated to the myth and lore of vampires. Discussions in the forum covered issues from whether technology would help real vampires to their little known history.

One day I received an email from someone calling himself Mordecai. There was nothing unusual about the email in of itself except the brevity and directness of it. Mordecai simply asked, "Do you want to become a vampire?"

Often, I have been asked if I wished I were a vampire, but never if I wanted to become one. I felt that there was more to Mordecai than just another person asking me a question. I instantly responded with one word, "Yes" and before long, we were involved in a lengthy correspondence.

Essentially Mordecai stated that he was a real vampire and that if I truly had the desire he would help me to obtain my goal. His revelation did not surprise me. I always knew that vampires existed. The legends of beings of the night and drinking the life's blood of mortals, span the globe from Europe to Asia and to the western hemisphere.

I asked if Mordecai could send me a picture for I have never seen a "living" vampire. Mordecai laughed in his response reminding me that a nosferatu's image could not be capture by film or even digital cameras. I read such things but I never quite believed it. It was not scientifically possible, and yet, I still believed in vampires who also were not scientifically possible. The hypocrisy never entered my mind until that moment.

I finally asked if I could meet him in person. Mordecai responded that it might be better if I invited him over to my place. Without a second thought, I responded that he was welcome to my home anytime he wanted. I did not realize the significance of this until later.

I knew that once I met Mordecai I had the chance of fulfilling my lifelong dream. I would ask -- beg if needed -- to become a vampire. Visions of being one of the vampires seen in the movie Blade ran through my mind. With my superhuman strength, my fellow nosferatu lords and I would harvest what we wanted from the human kine. I would be able to coat my body in sunscreen and roam the world during the day if I desired. I would have the natural magnetism, which would lure any woman I desired to me. The world would be at my feet.

I did not know how long I had to wait before Mordecai showed up at my home. It appeared that I did not have to wait long after all. For, at the stroke of midnight I heard a rapping on my front door. I quickly answered the door. I knew who it was before I opened it. His briskness surprised me. It appeared I still had a thing or two to learn about vampires.

I nervously opened the door to see a tall thin pale bald man on the porch. He rubbed his long boney fingers. His eyes showed no spark of life. They were just plain black. He smiled and his sharp canines reflected the dim moonlight.

"Greetings, Master Nicodemus," Mordecai said in low breathy voice. "May I enter?"

"Y-yes," I stammered still caught off guard my visitor.

In a rapid and fluid motion, Mordecai stepped into my house. He seated himself down on the couch and awaited my entrance into the room.

"There is no need to be nervous Master Nicodemus, I will not harm you. I will gladly answer your questions, and I offer you the gift of immortality. If you so desire it."

I sat down next to the vampire. I noticed that he was dressed in the gothic clothing much the same as mine. He never lost his smile.

"I have been enjoying your website, Master Nicodemus. You tend to favor the modern interpretations over the folklore I notice."

"Yes, some things in ancient folklore do not make much sense or contradict each other. For example, was there a Count Dracula?"

"Of course, but Vlad Tepes III Draculea son of Vlad II Dracul was never a vampire. He was just a Romanian prince who fought deadly and terrible battles against the Ottoman Empire," breathed the vampire. His breathe smelled like an old dusty basement.

"Who was the first vampire? Is it Lilith of the Jewish legends or Lilu of the Babylonian legends?" I continued my line of questioning.

"You might as well ask ‘who was the first human?' Is it Adam? Or are humans the spawn of Lucy from the Oldevai Gorge."

I pondered what Mordecai said. It was obvious that I had a lot to learn about vampires. Yet my impatience to ask the long waited for question grew with each passing minute.

Finally, Mordecai leaned closer to me, "Master Nicodemus," he said in his musty breathy voice, "I know what you want to really ask me. I see the desire in your eyes and I will grant it if you truly have the courage to accept it. However, you must realize that once given it can never be returned."

Without further thought I blurted out, "Master Mordecai I am destined to be a vampire. Please, grant me the gift of immortality."

The smile on Mordecai's white face grew larger. His fangs glistened in the light of the living room lamp. He opened his mouth and sank his teeth into my jugular. Oddly enough, there was no pain. I must have passed out for I awoke inside my coffin that I kept in the basement.

I learned many lessons about vampires from that day. It is true that vampires are immensely strong and can only subsist off the blood of mortal humans. However, the sun block theories are false. It turns out that vampires came into being by rejecting God. It is ironic that I never believed in God while living now I know he exists now that I am undead. Because of the curse, any natural thing made from God and not man will harm a vampire. That is why wooden stake is fatal, though a particleboard one will be painful but not lethal. So too is iron, but not steel. That also goes for sunlight.

Sunlight is pure; it was fashioned by God in the beginning. Ultraviolet light does not mean a thing one way or the other to vampires. During the daylight hours, vampires are as weak as newborn babies are. They cannot move a finger to save themselves if the need arises while the sun is still above the horizon. Crosses and holy water are also lethal for the same reason (though for crosses to function the holder must have faith). It appears that Christ exists after all and is the son of God.

I also learned that vampires have no magnetism. In fact, we are impotent. The blood that was in our bodies no longer flows and so certain organs cannot simply function. Vampires also do not simply drink blood for food. Blood is sacred, and by turning from God, vampires must drink blood in order to drain the life essence from it so we can exist. The blood must come from a living human. Virginity is not a factor.

Finally, humans are not cattle waiting at our disposal for slaughter. We cannot simply enter any house we want. We need an invitation in order to enter. Garlic indeed is a deterrent and is all too common in the modern household.

We vampires are loathsome creatures that can only hunt at night. We are parasites and not hunters. As for vampire hunters, they do exist leading as secret a life as we do. They are potent and all too worthy of adversaries. That is why there are only a handful of vampires in existence around the world. We are hunted and must constantly move to find new hiding places.

I now know why Mordecai smiled when he turned me into a vampire. He must have found a perverse pleasure in giving me what I always desired and yet be able to teach me a valuable lesson. Now, I am cursed to roam the earth as the undead and when my end does come, I am doomed to damnation for all eternity.

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 5: Orcs Carry Little Treasure

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Jean Dark was a little more comfortable wearing her new armor despite it pinching and rubbing in various places. She liked the fact that she was no longer naked. She did look good in it despite her being a lizard -- woman. Further, despite her altered appearance, I knew she wanted me. However, our lizard appearance and physiology were making physical manifestation of that desire difficult.

Be that as it may, we were making our way through these mines. We were looking for the wizard who transformed us to lizard people. I hoped that we could find this individual before long and retrieve our things. We would have to make due with the weapons we have scrounged. Jean had the 'Orc Slayer' that I gave her. This helped our situation greatly.

We were deep in these mines, and there were many creatures lurking in the shadows. As we explored the caverns, we tried to fulfill Nebrion's quest. That is, with each orc and monster killed, there was one less monster that could terrorize the city. Thus, our actions helped aid the city.

This portion of the quest was not important to me, as I was in it for the treasure. Thus, I quickly noticed that orcs carry little treasure. With each monster, I gathered in some more arrows, but not much else. Occasionally, an orc chieftain would have something special. Mostly, they just had little trinkets with almost no value. Every now and then, we would encounter an orc shaman who would have scrolls that our sorcerer, Glaf Hellion, could use. However, mostly we would gather a gold piece here, a gold ring there...

What upset me most about the situation was that I had to lead the way. At various places, there were traps. None of the others had the talent and skill to spot these. Thus, it was my job to make sure the way was clear.

In addition, I had to scout out orc locations and numbers. Thus, I was doing valuable reconnaissance work. This allowed our fighters to have a chance against the monsters. After each encounter, each member of the team would search the corpses for treasure.

Naturally, I did not complain about doing most of the work and not getting most of the reward. That is, what reward was to be found. I am not that type of person. I just did my job keeping everyone safe. Even though I did not join the group for some grandiose goal of helping people, I kept my displeasure to myself. I never mentioned my lack of reward to the team.

Nevertheless, I am here to tell the story of our adventure rather than discuss how unfairly the party treated me in the mines.

While deep in the mines, I did discover the living quarters of some of the orcs. We found a few trinkets in these small huts. To me it seemed that these were rewards for some action on their part. Orcs do not generally pillage corpses. They eat them sure, but they do not rob them of treasure. Thus, why would they have adventurer items?

From the adventurer items, we managed to armor many of our party. These items I graciously gave to the other members the items that I purloined from these huts. In fact, I obtained my dark armor from this area. It gave me some extra protection without compromising my sneaking skills. It was not much, but it was something.

We encountered several groups of orcs while trying to extricate ourselves from the mines. I judiciously used my arrows since my supply was spotty. I would take some arrows from corpses and occasionally from bow wielding orcs. Every now and again, I would retrieve some of my own arrows from dead orcs. This would not happen often, as they would be difficult to retrieve.

The mines were dank and dark. There was danger at every turn, and we worked our way through the tunnels. We cleaned out tunnel after tunnel from the monsters that may have been plaguing the town. We wound our way upward towards the exit of the mines. At least, I hoped that was what we were doing.

We wandered the mines for quite a long time. It could have been days. I just kept pressing us onward. Many orcs lost their lives as we wound our way out. Eventually, we found ourselves at a sturdy wooden door. I noticed a small light emanating from the other side of the door. Perhaps we were at the end of our journey.

We took our normal precautions. This means that I snuck into the room and looked around. This was a little more difficult as the room glowed. Glowing pits of molten lava surrounded the orcish dungeon. Clearly, much suffering had occurred in that room. However, I managed to stay in the shadows and was not spotted by the orcs that were guarding the room.

It appeared that we would not be free yet. We were going to have to fight our way through an orcish dungeon. There would be various well-armed creatures. With orcs, it is difficult to predict what type of thing goes on in their dungeons. We were going to have to fight our way out of this dungeon.

There was trouble too. I tried to return to our party, but it would not let me back through. I could not open the door behind me. Therefore, I had to wait and hope the team would figure out what had happened.

After what seemed like hours, the rest of the group joined me in the dungeon. It did make sense that prisoners should not be able to find their way into the mines. Thus, they had a one-way door at this point.

When the party joined me, they were ready to fight. Thus, we continued our battle with the monsters who had been plaguing Nebrion and the city.

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J.D. Stone and the Case of the Bloody Knife

Chapter 1

By Dwayne MacInnes

I suppose I should lay out a little background for you. I am Sheriff James D. Stone of Swimmer's Lake, Montana. I will bet you have never even heard of Swimmer's Lake, Montana. That is of no surprise because the town is not all that big. Usually a lake next to your berg means a resort town teaming with tourists looking for some good swimming, fishing, and boating. The sad truth is that our "lake" is not so much a lake as a big stagnant pond infested with mosquitoes and leeches. In fact, the town's original name was Swimmer's Itch Lake, but sometime ago our Chamber of Commerce thought that dropping the offending word may help increase our tourist revenue. It did not.

I will not bore you with the results of the last census taken of our small town, which is nestled between the peaks of the Rockies. Suffice it to say that between me and my score of deputies we can maintain the peace in our little hamlet and the surrounding Summit County. Nonetheless, I have been witness to some mysteries as puzzling as one might expect in some of the bigger cities.

Unfortunately, we don't have the same resources as one would find in more populated areas. It can take weeks or even months to obtain the results to a piece of evidence sent to the crime labs in either Missoula or Great Falls. Therefore, in order for us to move quickly on a crime, we are encouraged to rely largely on old police methods of investigation and our own small crime lab.

During the day there are usually only myself and two or three deputies on duty at one time. My deputy sheriff is Dan Easton, a young man still trying to find his calling in life. He owes his position to the fact that his mother happens to be our town's mayor. I'm not saying Dan does not exhibit some good qualities as a law enforcement officer. He is a crack shot on a nonmoving target and hotshot driver on straight-aways.

However, Dan's main flaw is that he needs a hefty dose of self-confidence. He tends to chose flight over fight and that is not good in a pinch. There was this time when the two of us responded to breakup a bar brawl at the Stockman's. Dan and I entered the smoke filled room to find men and some women punching, throwing bottles, and cursing at each other.

"Hold it right there!" I yelled at the top of my voice. The barroom quieted down and everyone turned towards me. "Now let's settle things down before my deputy and I have to run you all in."

Everyone started laughing at this moment. Unknown to me Dan had discretely made himself scarce leaving me alone with two dozen angry drunks. Fortunately, the levity of the situation pacified everyone's mood. However, it is still the humorous story told around town, and it does nothing to inspire confidence in the department.

Now I am going off on a tangent. To bring us back on course I was explaining that even though we don't have a large population we still get our share of some real puzzlers. One case comes to mind that really had our department stymied. 7B973 is the case file's official name; unofficially it is the Case of the Bloody Knife. The name will make sense as I tell the story.

It all began one June afternoon. Dan called in saying that he found Brent Underwood covered in blood and staggering along side Lower Country road. According to Brent's initial statement, some unknown assailant had beaten him up. Dan was now taking Mr. Underwood back to the station to get a more detailed report.

Being that I was on Upper Country road, which is just a few miles up from Lower Country road, I was about to radio in that I would join Dan back at headquarters when our day dispatcher Jeanie Carson broke in suddenly.

"J.D. you better get out to Victoria Drummond's place. There's a body out there."

"I'll be there in five minutes Jeanie."

Yeah, you probably noticed that our radio protocol is a little informal. But, as I said, we are a small department. We tend to be more like an extended family.

In less than five minutes I had my black and white Blazer pulling into the gravel drive of Victoria Drummond's little house nestled in the trees just off the mountain road. I saw Johnny Blake sitting on the front porch with his head in his hands. He looked up at me as my truck pulled to a stop. The man's face was ghostly white and his eyes were bloodshot.

"Johnny, you alright there?" I said as I stepped out of the Blazer.

Johnny weakly rose up from the steps, his body was shaking uncontrollably as I approached. "I dunno Sheriff," He stammered. "I…I was just doing some fishing in the river there when I thought I heard some arguing from Victoria's house."

Johnny used to run the local hardware store before he retired a couple of years back. Now he spends all his free time fly-fishing the local rivers. He knows everyone along the riverbanks and though he is mainly catch and release, he will share his occasional catch with whoever's land he is fishing.

"Just sit down and take it easy," I consoled Johnny as I eased him back down on the top step. "I'll need you to tell me everything you know. But first I need to see what's up in the house."

Johnny nodded and returned his head into his hands. As I approached the screen door, I noticed Johnny's rod and gear lying on the porch. The flies where buzzing around the basket containing his catch. There were a couple of bloody footprints leading out toward where Johnny sat.

The screen door opened with a screech of rusty hinges. I walked through the dining room. The table and chairs lay strewn across the room. Broken dishes littered the floor. I saw a few spatters of blood on the floor along with some bloody smudges and footprints leading from the kitchen.

The next room I searched was the kitchen. The window above the sink had been broken out. More smashed dishes were scattered across the countertops and the floor. However, the worse mess was the blood. Blood covered everything. Splatters of it covered the cabinets' doors and even the ceiling.

On the floor, lying in her own pool of congealing blood was the butchered body of Victoria Drummond. Her tangled blond hair matted in places with blood, her dead gray eyes stared at the ceiling, and the flies were thick around her throat that someone had savagely sawn through.

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 6: Prisoner Paul and the Mutants

By Douglas E. Gogerty

At first, it appeared that this orcish dungeon would be like all other dungeons. There were orcish guards doing what guards do. Thus, we had skirmishes with groups of guards. Needless to say, these orcs were surprised to see us, but they did not have a lot of time to consider it because they were soon dead. Jean and her orc-slayer made quick work of the guards with which we came in contact.

Gudrid, the ranger in our group, was getting a little anxious to leave the confines of interior spaces. Thus, we pressed on as best we could. As you may expect, there were several locked doors in this dungeon. Further, several of them had magical locks that I was unable to open. If we were going to get out of this dungeon, we were going to need a key. This did not sit well with Gudrid, but those were the facts.

Gudrid started trying every door we came across. That is when she discovered "it." The rest of us were just mopping up some guards and securing any treasure when we heard her give a blood-curdling scream. Glaf nearly fainted dead away at the sound, but managed to stagger to where the scream had emanated.

There stood Gudrid trembling at the sight of this -- thing. It was some fleshy-headed mutant. It stood at least 10 feet tall, and had two ghastly heads. One fleshy head was featureless, but had eyes that looked like two oranges stretching through a woman's silk stocking. The other head was bald and eyeless. It is difficult to describe, but it looked somewhat like a green turkey vulture's head. This second head appeared to emanate from the shoulder of the other's body.

At the juncture of this, protruded a single limb of some kind. On the end of this limb was a metal hook, which was remarkable agility. Clearly, it fed itself by hooking its food with this appendage and bringing it to one of its heads.

This creature had three more arm-like appendages. One of these arms stuck out the back of the creature and the other two hung by its sides. A ghastly talon with razor sharp claws terminated each arm. These claws would be dangerous if the beast could lower them enough to hit a human.

He was an awkward and unwieldy beast with no coordination. It had but two legs and was somewhat unsteady on those. It shuffled slowly towards our party and gave a most unsettling screech from one head while the other gave a low gurgling moan.

My description does no justice to the horror of the beast. Its smell alone would freeze any man in his tracks. However, after a few moments of hesitation, Jean jumped to action and relieved the monster of its burden of life. While it was a terrifying site, its appearance was much more frightening that its defenses and the huge beast toppled over with a thud.

"There are sinister forces at work here," declared our Paladin Jean.

"I have never seen an abomination like that," sobbed Gudrid.

"It is like some scientific experiment to put two bodies together and create a better fighting monster," added the sorcerer Glaf.

"It looks like a failed experiment," added Thorvald. "It had a terrifying look, but it had little skill in fighting."

"The smell of rotting flesh and chemicals may indicate that it is not truly dead," theorized Glaf. "We may have wounded it, but not mortally. It may be able to regenerate its vital body parts. I suggest we move on."

We agreed, and left the poor creature locked in the room that we found it. Gudrid and Thorvald said some words over the creature, and we continued our search for a way out of the dungeon.

With all of the things we had killed in this dungeon, not one had a key that we could use to open some vital passageways. It was beginning to look like we were trapped. That is, until I made a surprising discovery. I was checking every door, and I opened one particular door that appeared to be a cleaner's closet. There was a mop and bucket, broom, and some other cleaning supplies. I thought it was odd, so I investigated further.

On the floor of the tiny room, was a rug. That in itself is not unusual, but it struck me as odd. Thus, I pulled back one corner of the rug back, and it revealed a small trap door. When I reached into the compartment, my hand tingled and I felt something. With my lightning reflexes, I pulled my hand out without any damage.

Naturally, I was curious. Thus, I put my hand back into the compartment and there was a key in there. I felt the same tingling sensation as I pulled out the key. Again, there was a key in the compartment. Perhaps this compartment magically provided one with his or her deepest desires.

I cleared my mind and concentrated on producing something valuable. I have always wanted a 500-carat diamond, so I concentrated on that. Unfortunately, the compartment only produced keys. After a several unsuccessful attempts, each member of our party reached in the compartment and produced keys.

I hoped one of these keys would open previously unlocked corridors, and we were quite fortunate in this regard. It unlocked the first door we tried, and it led into a block of cells. Naturally, it was guarded, and we had to take care of some orcs. As usual, they were no match for our crew.

While most of the cells were empty, one cell had about a five naked people inside. I opened the cell, and it appeared that the prisoners were going to fight me. That is when I remembered that I still appeared as lizard person.

"Relax," I said. "My appearance is due to a spell. I am here to release you."

"Thanks friend," replied a prisoner representative. "My name is Paul, and this is my group of adventurers."

"Greetings Paul," I returned. "You may go free."

"As you can see friend, we are in no shape to go traipsing around this dungeon. We will wait."

"That is fair enough. Here is the rest of my group. This is Glaf, Gudrid, Thorvald, and Jean."

"Were you sent by that wizard Nebrion?"

"We were."

"I figured as much," replied Paul. "You look very much like we did several months ago."

"Have you seen any magic user who may be responsible for our plight?"

"I blame Nebrion, although I have no proof. There is some magic user lurking about but I have not seen him or her. They have asked our orcish guards to retrieve some of the other prisoners."

"Do you know what they are doing to those prisoners?"

"As far as I can tell, they are doing experiments. I think they have created various monsters. They have definitely created some undead. I have seen some zombies that resemble some of the prisoners that were in this cell block."

"You should be safe now."

"Do you have any items you would like to unload?"

"Do you have gold?"

"Well, Tonya is an excellent pick-pocket. She has been stealing gold from our orcish captors for quite some time. We have collected a large store which we are keeping in our escape tunnel."

We sold some of the items we had picked up along the way. It was a shame to put some clothes on Tonya, but she was glad to cover her nudity. We sold them armor and weapons. They were grateful for the items, and we were glad to rid our excess in exchange for some gold.

They were going to stay in the cells to make sure the coast was clear. We decided to rest in the cell. Tonya and I had a nice conversation before I took some well-earned sleep. After a good long rest, we parted company with Paul the prisoner and his group. We pressed on to get out of the dungeon.

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J.D. Stone and the Case of the Bloody Knife

Chapter 2

By Dwayne MacInnes

Victoria Drummond was the daughter of Victor Drummond, the Victor Drummond of the Victory Lumber Company. Victor had made his fortune by cutting and selling logs from around the area. Besides agriculture, timber is Montana's chief industry.

Now Victoria was a bit of a floozy. She tended to sleep around with anyone she fancied. As you can guess this didn't sit too well with her father. He threatened to have her removed from his will, sent away to a boarding school and such. Alas, none of it worked to tame the young girl's wild ways.

Finally, in an act of desperation after Victoria graduated from high school, Victor decided to remove his daughter from the temptations of town by buying her a small house in the mountains and granting her an allowance that exceeded my annual pay. The results were not exactly what Victor wanted but at least now, her trysts were discrete and removed from the public eye.

Victor also has a son, Victoria's younger brother, Victor jr. or just Vic. Vic had a gambling addiction. He would spend all he had in the casinos. It wasn't long before Vic had run up some sizable debts. There is a rumor, which Vic, who at the time ran one of Victory Lumber's smaller operations, started to embezzle money from his father's company. The rumor continues that Victor quietly removed his son from the company and enrolled him into a gamblers recovery program.

It must have broken Victor's heart to have two children fall so far from his high expectations. Now, one of them lay dead in her own home.

After making a quick survey of the house, I called in two more of my deputies and began to question Johnny.

"Now Johnny, I need you tell me what you heard and saw." I said to the still shaking fisherman.

Johnny nodded weakly. He stared off into the trees as he began his tale, only occasionally looking up at me. "I fish Miss Drummond's place every Monday. She doesn't...ah, didn't mind. I would always share my catch and she'd happily accept it. Sometimes her latest boyfriend would be here. They would argue sometimes over stuff. I never paid attention to what it was they argued about. None of my business, I'm just here to fish.

"I got here early this morning. I had caught a couple of nice rainbow when I heard arguing coming from the house. Nothing new I figured. Her boyfriend was probably here again. So I continued my fishing."

"About what time was that?" I interrupted.

"Oh, I'd say about two hours ago, maybe eleven." I nodded for Johnny to continue as I scribbled notes down in my notebook. "Then I heard some really loud screaming. I didn't think anything of it at first. She and her boyfriend always argued.

"You know her father didn't like her boyfriends. She being the heir of the lumber tycoon in these parts, her father didn't think it was proper for her to be cavorting around with such men.

"I guess that is what finally made me decide to see what was going on. Her boyfriend hadn't been around for weeks and suddenly he shows up. Plus, even when they did argue she never screamed like she did today.

"I probably thought it over for ten minutes before I went up to the house. By this time the screaming had stopped.

"I saw the kitchen widow had been busted out. It was fine this morning. So, I stepped up to the door. I could see through the screen door the mess in the dining room. I knocked on the door, but there wasn't any answer. I called out for Miss Drummond and still only silence.

"So, I stepped into the dining room. I remembered the window in the kitchen so that was where I went next and...Oh God! The brutality of it all."

"That's quite alright. Did you see anyone else enter or leave the house?"

"No," Johnny shook his head, "Not a soul."

"Did you recognize any of the voices in the argument?"

Johnny sat straight up as if shot through with an electric bolt. "You know sheriff. I remember only hearing her voice."

"Did you hear anything she said?"

"No, I just remember her yelling at someone."

"Did you remove anything from the house?"

"No, I just used the phone to call you guys and I came back out here."

"Johnny, do you remember who Victoria's boyfriend is?"

The older man sat there and scratched his chin. "I was never properly introduced. But, I've seen him around town. Let's see I believe his name was Bart...no that's not right. Brent...yeah that's right Brent Underwood."

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 7: The Battle for the Armory and the Mechanical Monsters

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Gudrid, the ranger of the party was getting anxious to get out of the dungeon, so she was now leading the way. Traps? That is why we have a healer with us. At times, it was difficult to keep up with her. Nevertheless, we pressed on slaying orcs and other abominations.

Eventually, we came to a room with some stairs leading upward. However, an enormous mechanical monster guarded these stairs. Like one of the previous abominations we fought, it was at least 10 feet tall; however, unlike that beast, this monster could fight. He was quick and agile, as far as mechanical creatures go. Naturally, he was not as quick as I am.

One of the problems with fighting this golem was that my arrows were useless against it. I used my quickness and agility to distract the monster, while the others hacked away at its metal shell. Eventually, we managed to disrupt its circuits and immobilized it. Therefore, we were going to move up.

Gudrid ran up the stairs and through the door before I finished searching the room. The others followed her, but I finished my searching before continuing. When I made my appearance, they had already killed the zombies and abominations at the room at the top of the stairs.

The group was consoling Gudrid, as we were in another dungeon level. She was going to rush on, but the group convinced her to rest. Those brainy types sure need their rest. Therefore, I kept guard as the rest took a nap.

To while away the hours as they slept, I took an inventory of our gear. They accused me a snooping when informed them of the results of my study. Be that as it may, we were running out of projectiles. Some of the orcs carried arrows, but the zombies and abominations did not. Thus, we were beginning to use our arrows up. We needed to find the armory.

We now had conflicting interests among party members. Gudrid and her lackey Glaf wanted out of the dungeon; whereas, others needed weapon replenishment. Luckily for them, we stumbled upon the armory before it became a problem. However, unluckily, the armory was full of orcs.

There must have been 100 orcs in this room. When combat began, arrows were flying from all directions. I darted to a corner and concentrated my efforts on the bow-armed orcs. Thus, I provided a bit of cover for Jean and Gudrid as they hacked and chopped at various orcs.

Glaf found a spot where he could hide. Occasionally, he would come out of his hiding spot to throw a magic spell. Mostly, he would magic missile an orc that I had just killed.

Thorvald attempted to flank the orcs. He made his way around the left side of the room, and began attacking the orcs from the side. Thus, following his lead, I made my way around the right side of the room. Thus, we had the orcs in our crossfire as well as a frontal attack.

Gudrid and Jean were gradually making their way through the long column of orcs, but they were also taking damage. It is amazing how tough the young women were, but they would not be able to continue much longer without aid.

Thus, we put into practice our plan of assistance. Glaf conjured up an awful smelling cloud. I get nauseous just thinking about the concoction of his. Nevertheless, it is amazing as long as only engulfs the enemy. This provided enough cover and distraction to allow our cleric Thorvald to do his thing.

Thorvald did his "laying on of hands" thing, and Gudrid and Jean were back to full strength. Once they had full health; we returned to our positions and continued the battle.

Jean and Gudrid were creating a hallway where dead orcs lined the sides. Thorvald and I were beginning to make headway with the orcs firing arrows. Our crossfire was working as intended, but the orc armor and even their skin was quite tough. Thus, it took several arrows to kill them, and as I stated earlier, we were running out of arrows.

I was down to my last 10 arrows, when Gudrid and Jean reached the group of orcs using bows. These orcs did not have any close-order combat weapons, so Jean's orc-slayer sword, made quick work of them.

I had run out of arrows before the last orc was killed; therefore, I began searching before the battle was over. This upset some party members, but what was I to do? I managed to find the dungeon stockpile of arrows and other projectiles. I would have rejoined the battle, but it was over by that time.

We did a full search and fully armed ourselves. With the bow wielding orcs and the cache of arrows, I had more than enough now. Moreover, Thorvald had an ample supply. In addition, because it was an armory, the swords could be repaired and sharpened. It was such an important place to find, that Gudrid forgot her anxiousness.

However, I became anxious to leave this room. Since it was an armory, it was not a place to hang around. Others would come and look for weapons; thus, it was not a place to rest. It was quite an exhausting battle, but we would need to find a better place to rest.

Therefore, we pressed on. We fought more zombies and hideous creatures. With the ease that we worked our way through these monsters, I wondered if they were the battle-rejects. They were frightening, but were slow and not combat worthy. I felt that we were doing them a favor by relieving them of their burden of animation.

After several rooms and corridors, we once again found ourselves at the bottom of some stairs. Like the previous stairs, a mechanical monster guarded them. However, this one appeared to be larger and more formidable. In any event, our tactic was the same. I distracted the monster while the rest hacked at it.

They took their sweet time disabling this beast. I was dodging and running from it for what seemed like hours. I did a tuck and tumble here, and a jump and dodge there while the others chopped at its metal skin. Finally, when I was nearly exhausted they disabled the creature.

Someone else had to keep watch this time, as I was asleep moments after the golem hit the floor. I did not even search the room before resting that is how tired I was.

After a good rest, I searched the room but did not find anything. The rest of the group must have already searched the place. Those rats did my job. I forgave them for their actions and sat down next to Jean who was guarding us. She looked tired, so I told her that I would watch while she rested.

Once everyone was well rested, we gathered our things to continue out of the dungeon. What would we find at the top of the stairs? Would it be more dungeon? Would we have to fight more orcs? There was only one way to find out. Thus, we climbed the stairs and walked through the door at the top.

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  • Douglas Gogerty: Thanks for the kind words Kerry. I too am very read more
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