December 2006 Archives

Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 12: Nather Reynolt and the Temple of Tragedy

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The city was in bad shape, but it did have one thing going for it. All along the outer wall, there were powerful magical traps. I could not disarm them. These were likely traps set by Nebrion. If you triggered one, it could cut you into pieces. They were at least some protection for the townspeople.

Thus, we carefully made our way along the wall just outside of the range of the traps. We were looking for the statue that would allow us entry into the city. Otherwise, we would have to fight the guards to get in, and we did not wish to do this poor town any more harm.

We did have to duck some arrows fired by townspeople as we went along, but eventually we came to a statue. It was of a beautiful female warrior in full armor. At the base was the inscription, "Welcome to Monkalakaboomistan".

"That was the name of the city?" I thought to myself. "No wonder no one knew what it was..."

The trap by the statue, unlike the others, had a flaw in it. Anyone could disarm it, so I took the liberty. This allowed us to get close enough to the statue to read anything engraved upon it.

The inscription under the welcome banner described in great detail the enormous battle fought here by the founder Leela. She destroyed the orcish hoards and was protector of the city. In retrospect, it was a sad tale as the orcs were striking back.

After everyone was satisfied in reading the entire history of the city, the group climbed the back of the statue and followed me through the small breach in the wall. We were now in the city.

However, this city was constantly on the lookout for attacking creatures. If a citizen spotted us, they would attack. At the very least, they would sound the alarm and the city guards would come after us. We needed to be careful.

Near our entry point stood a large looming structure. It appeared to have withstood many attacks. Thorvald deduced from its position and architecture that it was the temple. He suggested we seek sanctuary within. We agreed and snuck our way into the temple.

Fortunately, no one saw the clumsy and obvious lizard people enter the temple. However, once inside a cleric spotted us and yelled, "Be gone reptilians! There is nothing here for you!"

"May peace be with you," replied Thorvald. "I am the most revered cleric Thorvald Larsenski of the Cygnus Clan. These are my compatriots. We mean no harm."

"Your response is surprising," he said with obvious astonishment in his voice.

"You will find us most surprising," I replied.

"We are adventures under a powerful spell," added Thorvald. "We seek a cure."

"It is powerful magic indeed; however, I do not believe this temple can be of any service."

"Why not?" implored Jean.

"Sorry milady," started the cleric with a slight bow. "I am Nather Reynolt, and I am the sworn protector of this temple. All of the clerics, apostates, healers, visiting pilgrims, and individuals of that sort have gone. I am all that is left. I have no power over such curses."

"What can you tell us of the wizard Nebrion?" enquired Glaf.

"Nebrion is the sworn protector of our fair city -- so he says."

"Do you not believe him?" asked Gudrid.

"My belief is of no import. I am the protector of the Temple of the Healing Waters and Chief Cleric of the Protecting Arts here. External politics is not my realm."

"What *can* you tell us of Nebrion?" I prodded.

"Adventurers have come from far and wide to aid our city. Not one has been successful, but Nebrion has grown wealthy. The town is in ruins and few visit the temple. Study in the temple has ceased as the town further decays. Yet, Nebrion does not do anything but grow fat."

"He has a protective shield around the town walls," defended Glaf.

"Yet you, a group of reptilian looking individuals managed to thwart his defenses without so much as a scratch. No, Nebrion's main concern are his own and not the town in general."

"Thank you for the information." Thorvald said. "Is there anything we can do for you to show our thanks?" I tried to shush Thorvald as those words came out of his mouth, but I was unsuccessful.

"The temple has been invaded by numerous unsavory types. If you could ask them to leave, I would greatly appreciate it."

"What *kind* of unsavory types?" I asked because these cleric types like to leave out lots of details.

"There is a large band of orcs in the front hall that are preparing for an assault on the town. I would like them to go back to their home peacefully."

"Is that all?" I muttered under my breath. "Anyone else?"

"We are often plagued with large numbers of curst beings. If you could explain to them that until the temple is back in order, there will be no help for them. If you could do that it would be most kind of you. Otherwise if you could get them to try another place, it would be of a great help to me."

"Is there anything *else* you would like from us? Perhaps the crown jewels of Maplevania..." I suggested without an ounce of sarcasm in my voice.

"I can think of nothing. Please help yourself to the healing waters from our fountain."

"Thank you for your kindness," replied Thorvald.

"Oh!" Nather added. "The fountain waters attract many Water Elementals, they do not like interlopers interrupting their baths, take care not to disturb them. The baths are right next to the fountain room."

"If we are attacked are we allowed to fight back?" asked Gudrid.

"By all means," replied Nather. "The entire flock has left the temple. I am the only true believer here, so everything and everyone else is fair game. There are rats in the kitchen and perhaps some spiders here and there. You may dispense of them at your whim. If anything attacks, you may defend yourselves and that includes the Elementals."

"And..." I muttered.

"Oh, and once you have cleared the temple and head out to Nebrion's tower, please take care not to harm our citizenry. They have suffered greatly and they may attack you on sight because of your reptilian attributes."

"Are you sure you are not forgetting anything?" I asked attempting to hide my distaste for his long windedness.

"Let me think. Healing waters... Beware of bathing elementals... Rats and spiders... Do not harm citizens outside of temple... Did I tell you to enjoy your stay in our fair city?"

"No," answered Thorvald.

"Well then," Nather replied. "Enjoy your stay in our fair city!"

After speaking with Nather, we gathered to discuss our next move. I suggested that we partake in the healing waters and leave. We did not owe Nather that much for his help, and cleaning out this large temple from all of the riff raff would be way overdoing it in giving him thanks.

Naturally, they decided not to take my advice. They wanted to help the town more and make sure they had a safe temple to visit. Further, if there were orcs here it would be part of our quest to eliminate them. Thus, it looked like we were going to spend the day cleaning out this temple of tragedy.

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

Chapter 8

By Dwayne MacInnes

I pulled up to the Drummond Mansion on the outskirts of town. For a mansion, it really wasn't too ostentatious. It was still twice the size of your average large home, but Victor didn't like to show off his wealth. He loves his job, the wheeling and dealing is what really gets his heart thumping. Of course, naturally the man was going to accumulate some wealth.

I pulled the Blazer up the brick paved driveway. The sun had half an hour before it would dip behind the mountains so I still had plenty of light. By the time I was done with interviewing Victor, it would be dark out and the night crew would be starting their shift at the station.

I noticed the new red Mercedes convertible parked outside the mansion. It wasn't like Victor to own an import. He tended to love to get around in his old '78 Ford F-10 pickup truck. I stepped out of the Blazer and started to approach the mansion. I noticed two auto ramps placed parallel to each other by the garage. Being naturally curious, I sidetracked over to the red ramps. A small stain covered the bricks at the base of the ramps and a small trail trickled up between the tops of the ramps to a large leak stain. There was a toolkit sitting next to the ramps. Its top was open and tools lay scattered across the drive in front of the garage. Next to the kit, there was a Haynes repair manual.

I turned away from the tools and headed back to the front door. Before I could knock or push the doorbell, it opened. Vic, Victor jr. stood in the doorway. "Good evening sheriff."

"Vic, I'm sorry. How's your dad doing?" I held my hand out and took his in a firm grasp. I noticed Vic wince in a little pain as we shook.

"I'm sorry sheriff; I kind of bruised my knuckles working on my car." Vic pointed out towards the Mercedes parked next to my truck.

"My apologies Vic, you know you may want to pick up those tools before it rains."

"Yeah, I'm learning I'm not much of a mechanic," Vic said as he escorted me into the house. "A week ago my transmission started leaking fluid. I thought I could fix it on my own. I think I made it worse, had to take it into town to get it repaired."

Vic led me to his father's bedroom and stopped outside the doorway. "Ah, sheriff it is not common knowledge, but my father is very ill."

"Oh, I hope he recovers soon," I offered.

"I'm afraid it's cancer -- terminal. I fear this latest bad news isn't going to help father out," Vic said solemnly.

Vic opened the door and ushered me into a large bedroom. A nurse sat next to Victor monitoring his symptoms on the myriad of machines registering his body signs. The old man (strange to say but, Victor never looked old until now) lay in his bed. Wires and tubes led from his body to the various machines beeping and blinking alongside him.

"Sheriff," Victor said weakly as he feebly waved me closer. "I wish I was in better shape to receive you."

"Don't worry about it, Victor. You just get well you hear me," I said as I walked over to the bed.

"Lisa," Victor looked over at his nurse, "Vic, I want to talk to the sheriff alone." The two quietly left the room leaving Victor Drummond and me alone.

As soon as the door closed, Victor looked over at me. Fury burned in his eyes as he looked over at me. "Sheriff, I want you to nail that bastard to the wall." It must have taken all his strength to spit out all that anger. The heartbeat monitor sped up as his pulse quickened. "They say I don't have much time left. But, I am going to live until I see justice done for my little girl," Victor vowed. Then he slumped back into his pillow and started to weep.

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 13: Water, Water Elementals Everywhere...

By Douglas E. Gogerty

I held out small hope that the healing waters would remove our reptilian forms, so I suggested that we first look for the fountain. Further, if we did run into any ruffians after we found the fountain, we could return readily to partake of the healing water. In my astonishment, the group agreed with me.

The only issue is that we did not know where the fountain could be located. We dare not ask the talkative Nather, so naturally when I suggested a direction, we went the opposite way.

We were standing in a main room in the temple. It was a very large room on the south side. A wall emanating from the north end divided a third of this room. Most of the rooms were secured behind wooden doors. In the northwest corner of this main room was an open passageway. We headed this direction. There was no need to follow the splashing sounds I heard to the southwest.

They asked me to go and scout it out. I refused. If they were going to continue to disregard my input, I was not going to stick my neck out for them. If my only value was the ability to sneak into places, then I was done. I have a full compliment of skills that were not being used to their full potential, and I was tired of having my input ignored.

They apologized and explained that they wanted to explore all of the open areas before they started opening doors. I asked, "What happened to the whole 'find the fountain first' strategy?"

They made up some story about believing the fountain to be out in the open. To me, that made no sense. If the temple guardians had a valuable resource, they would put it behind a lockable door and perhaps guard it if circumstance allowed. You do not set your valuables out so that anyone could take them. Apparently, they have not paid any attention to what I have been doing on this quest.

I still refused to scout the corridor, so Jean rushed headlong down the hall. Her battle cry and the clash of sword on armor indicated that we should come to her aid. The remaining group rushed down the hall to find Jean surrounded by several cursed beings.

Instantly, we jumped into action to aid her. I let loose bolt after bolt from my crossbow. I fired as fast as I could because there were dozens of cursed joining the fight.

Glaf unleashed several magic spells and Gudrid jumped to Jean's side with her sword. As best he could, Thorvald fought the monsters and gave aid to the battling females. We had a tough fight on our hands.

The cursed warriors seemed to come out of the woodwork. When one would fall, it seemed like two had taken its place. Jean's sword would inflict a wound on one and she wound up striking another moments later.

Gudrid swung her sword at a frantic pace. She hacked and slashed at the beast as she worked her way to Jean's side. She used her shield to push the beasts aside and they would fall back to be hit with a sword or with one of my bolts.

These beasts often inflict fear upon their combatants, but we stayed strong. Thorvald ran off into a corner a few times when fear overcame him, but we did our best to keep the cursed away from him. Eventually he would gather up his courage and rejoin the fray.

I ran from position to position reloading my crossbow and firing. I would let loose arrows from different directions around the melee. I would take out a cursed warrior here and a cursed mage there. They never got close enough to frighten me.

The smell was atrocious. The rotting flesh of the cursed combatants was strong, but when they were mortally injured, they would release a malodorous gas from their wound. This gas stung the eyes and it was being released in great quantities around the room.

The melee seemed to end as quickly as it had started. Around the room, the corpses were releasing their gasses and vanishing. The room reeked of sulfur. Thorvald had used all of his healing power to keep Gudrid and Jean fighting. In addition, he had a few injuries he sustained by being so close to the combat. Further, Jean was poisoned in the battle and Gudrid was badly injured. On the other hand, I did not have a scratch on me.

It was at this point that they listened to my advice. They followed me as I followed the sound of the water. The sound seemed to be coming from behind two doors. I let Glaf choose the door.

I opened the door to find a tiled room with a large L-shaped pool in the center. It was decorated with urns and plants. It had a finely marbled floor and frescos on the walls. Gudrid rushed in to drink the water.

I shouted, "No, this is not...", but I was too late.

The water elementals sprang from the pools to attack. They were not pleased with Gudrid disturbing their bath. I rushed in and pulled Gudrid out. I pushed the entire party out of the door and closed it behind me. I took the full brunt of the attack and saved the party from certain annihilation.

I did not know if the door would hold back the irate elementals, so I opened the next door and ushered everyone inside. This room had a bubbling fountain in the center. Like the other room, it had a marble tiled floor, but it was otherwise unadorned. I instructed everyone to drink of the waters from the fountain and quickly.

I felt a tingle throughout my body and could hear the hum as the waters did their magic. While we were all still reptilian - to my dismay - the party looked as if it were fully restored. Even Jean's poison was removed from her system. It was none too soon, as the water elementals stormed into the room.

The elementals give the temple's fountain its healing property. However, they do not like to be disturbed by humans or other creatures. Thus, they send their minions to fight when they are disturbed. These water elementals are impossible to harm without magic of some sort.

Jean's orc-slayer sword had no effect upon them. She had a short sword of shocking which she used because it had some effect upon the elementals. Glaf had used many of his spells in the last bout so he had little magic left. Gudrid's sword had some magical properties, but these creatures were tough. It looked like we would be in for another tough battle. Luckily, the fountain was right there, thus if we were badly injured we could drink and be healed.

We fought the elementals for quite a long time, but we managed to stay alive and defeat them. I do not know about the rest of the group, but I had more than my fill of water. I needed to find a large chamber pot or some other large vessel. The healing waters had run their course and wanted to continue their cycle.

I was not the only one in this situation, and I reasoned that the goal of this mini-quest would not be far. Using my keen senses, I found the location of the privies. To be honest, I found the sign for them. They had separate ones for males and females, and we each entered our prospective rooms. That is to say, the women would not let me join them.

Once that emergency was resolved, we decided to leave further exploration of the temple until the next day. We had fought two difficult groups and we were all exhausted. We thought of asking Nather where we could sleep, but we decided it was best just to claim a spot and rest.

I took first watch because I was certain that I would need to alleviate myself of some excess water in a few hours anyway. We found some benches along the center wall of the main room, and camped out.

It was an uneventful night despite the many trips to the four-holer by the group members. That healing water runs right through you sometimes.

When everyone had as much rest as they needed, we broke our fast with some of our remaining provisions. We finally consumed the last of the salted pork. It was an excellent pig, but it was now all gone.

After breakfast, we went looking for the orcs. They actually took my advice on directions, and I led the party right to them. After all, orcs are easy to smell, and with a little intuition, you can determine where they are staying.

The orcs were gathered in a large room in the center of the temple. It had no windows and it had only one door. It was a dark and musty room exactly to the liking of the orcs. They looked to be waiting for some sort of signal to make their attack, and they were quite restless.

They were not restless for long, as we rushed into the room and made quick work of their hoard. Jean's orc-slayer sword sang as each orc fell. The orcs anxious for battle jumped at the chance, but were the first to fall at the hands of our party. With the single door, they could not escape and even Glaf killed a couple orcs.

With the orcish threat removed, we continued to explore the castle. We encountered a few cursed warriors and a couple of bandit groups, but none in any great numbers. We cleaned out a spider's nest or two and we killed the rats in the kitchen.

For our trouble, we -- er -- I cleaned the kitchen out of a few badly needed provisions. With the last of the salt pork gone, we needed to restock our stores, and we did the temple a great favor. There was no need to speak to Nather about it.

We were going to spend one more night in the Temple before going out into the town. The temple was now safe, and we could use a good rest if we were ever going to finish this quest. In the morning, we would further explore the city of Monkalakaboomistan.

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

Chapter 9

By Dwayne MacInnes

I didn't get too much new information from Victor or Vic Drummond. They both knew about Victoria and Brent's affair. Neither much cared for the mechanic, the shame of having a Drummond cavorting around with a person of such lowly status brought shame upon the family name.

Victoria did confide to her brother that Brent and her relationship was fiery in and out of bed. Their passions ran hot in both directions. Often after a passionate roll in the sack, they would both be at each other's throats. The two would often scream and throw objects at each other before Brent stormed out of the house.

The two met because Brent loved to hike up and down the Country roads nearly every day. It was his way of burning off steam and relaxing after a hard days work at the garage. Every day Victoria would see Brent hiking past her house in his sweat suit with the small backpack on his back. They started talking one day and one thing led to another.

Brent claimed that he always left his clothes and backpack in his truck. He never locked the doors because he believed nobody would break into someone's property in a small town like Swimmer's Lake. He worked everyday except Sundays and Mondays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the garage. Occasionally, his boss called him in if there were an emergency because he was that good and fast.

Brent's friends and neighbors did not add too much more about Brent and Victoria's relationship other than what Vic had offered. They did mention that recently Brent proposed to Betty. Betty had a jealous streak in her that could lead to violence. She had a couple of assault charges on her record while she lived in Missoula when she beat up her rivals to former boyfriends.

After that, everything rather dried up. Floyd did not have any new evidence other than the blood found on the knife was definitely Victoria's and the blood on the sweatshirt belonged solely to Brent. Harris was unable to find any new evidence on Victoria's body that could help things out either.

We were pretty much at a stonewall. I had to keep Brent behind bars because the evidence, no matter how strange and circumstantial, still pointed to Brent as the prime suspect. The judge did offer bail at $500,000 but the only people with that kind of money were the Drummonds, and they had no desire to see Brent walking the street.

After a week of nothing, Dan rushed into the office. He was excited as he nearly flew over to the desk. The excitement nearly burst the poor boy. However, he did keep his voice down when he spoke to me.

"Sheriff! I found it!" he pumped his head up and down with that goofy smile on his face. His hat nearly flew off his head as he spoke. "I've got the evidence we are looking for."

My jaw dropped in disbelief. I climbed out from behind the desk and led Dan further away from the cells. "What did you find?" I asked in a low voice.

"Follow me," Dan waved for me to follow as he took off like an excited puppy out the door. I had no choice but to follow. Dan led me out to his patrol car.

He opened the back door to his black and white and pulled out some clothes. "Look sheriff. I found these alongside Upper Country road. They were hidden in a tree, but I found them."

"Are you sure they are what we are looking for?" I asked skeptically. Dan wasn't known for his abilities to sniff out clues.

"Yes sir, look they are covered in blood." I looked more closely and I noticed dried blood all over the clothes. "And sheriff look." Dan reached into the backseat again and pulled something out. He nearly waved them under my nose in excitement, "Gloves!"

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 14: Meet the Flannigans

By Douglas E. Gogerty

When everyone was fully rested, we broke our fast with what little was found in the Temple's kitchen. After all, we did not want to use up our provisions. It was a satisfying meal, and we were all ready to take on the day.

We knew that Nebrion's tower was to the west of the temple, so when we exited the temple we were going to head west. Everyone agreed on that plan. We filed out the exit farthest from the gate. We did not want to attract the attention of the city guard.

Our procession was like a ghost being followed by a mummer's parade. I do not think they could have been any more obvious. I do not know why they just did not break into song or shout for the guards.

I heard some shouting, so I ushered the group into the nearest available house. I just hoped that no one put up the "Hey! we are in here" sign. We did not need to be fighting with townspeople in this small house.

Upon entering the house, we noticed a dead man on the floor. He had not been dead very long as his body was still warm. After a bit more searching, we found a woman in the kitchen. "No more," she gasped as she took her last breath when Thorvald discovered her.

"They are still in here," Thorvald whispered to Jane.

"Upstairs," I guessed. "Quietly now!"

I snuck up the stairs in utter silence. There were six bandits ransacking the bedrooms looking for treasure. I signaled for the rest to join me, and they rushed up the stairs like a heard of cows.

The bandits must have been significantly distracted, as they did not hear them until they burst into the one bedroom. It was too late for them as Gudrid made quick work of them. Jean took on the group in the second bedroom and I just watched.

As we were searching and disposing of the bandits, Thorvald went down to the first level and did his thing.

"Please, we do not have much." said the man as Thorvald restored him.

"Peace be with you sir," replied Thorvald. "Do not fret my appearance. My comrades and I are under a spell and not reptilian at all."

"My wife? Where is my wife?" enquired the man.

"Wait here and I will bring her forthwith," replied Thorvald.

"No more," said the woman.

"Peace be with you madam," replied Thorvald. "Your husband awaits you in the front room."

The woman, with an astonished look on her face, entered the front room of their house in wobbly legs. "What happened?" she asked.

"Bandits," started her husband. "I remember bandits breaking into our home."

"They will bother you no more," responded Thorvald.

"I am Mark Flannigan, and this is my wife Laurie."

"I am the most revered cleric Thorvald Larsenski of the Cygnus Clan," our cleric replied. "My compatriots and I have business with Nebrion and we came upon you in a state of distress. It was my sworn duty to aid you."

When Thorvald said the name Nebrion, the Flannigans gave a frightened glance to each other. "We owe you a great deal cleric Larsenski," Mr. Flannigan stated graciously. "Whatever we have is yours."

"Your offer is most kind sir, but I can accept no payment for this deed."

"Thorvald, if I may interrupt," I said. "May we have a word with you in private?"

"Certainly," he replied. "My comrades and I must confer on what it is we should do next. Please forgive us, and I shall return shortly."

I escorted Thorvald up to the upstairs hall. "We found this," I said to Thorvald as I handed him a hand written piece of paper.

"What is this?" he asked.

"We hoped you would be able to read it," replied Glaf. "I could only make out the word 'Nebrion' from it."

"It is written in an ancient script, but the writer is unfamiliar with the syntax. It is likely used to conceal the actual content from unknowing eyes."

"And...?" I asked impatiently.

"It is difficult to decipher; nevertheless, these men do work for Nebrion that is for certain."

"What were they doing here?" asked Gudrid.

"Oh Flannigans!" exclaimed Thorvald ignoring Gudrid's question. "That is that the meaning of those glyphs."

"And...?" I asked even more impatiently than before.

"I beg your forgiveness," responded Thorvald. "Essentially the note reads, 'Flannigans suspect - look like orcs. Nebrion' That is the best I can decipher."

"I am beginning to think that Nebrion does not have this city's well-being at heart," responded Glaf.

"No! Really?" I said without a bit of sarcasm in my voice.

"If you please my comrades," Thorvald said. "We should leave these fine people's house and continue on with our journey."

"With pleasure," I replied.

"And," Thorvald added. "Please leave all items found upon the bandits with the Flannigans. They have suffered greatly this day and we should not compound their grief."

"Agreed!" responded Glaf without consulting anyone.

"What?" I asked.

"I said 'Agreed'," Glaf said as forcefully as he could muster.

I stifled my laughter of Glaf attempting to be tough, but I had not collected much in the house in the first place. Thus, I agreed to their request with only a little prodding from Jean.

We bid the Flannigans farewell and left them with the little they had. However, they insisted that we take a bundled of rug fragments they had collected. Without speaking of it, they had known what Nebrion had done, and they knew that we were their best hope of saving the town. Thus, they aided us in our quest the best way they knew how.

The mummer's parade continued towards Nebrion's tower and lo and behold, some townspeople spotted us. The city's inhabitants were attempting to save their homes, and we did not wish to harm them, so we ran.

We wanted to head towards the tower, but that way was cut off. Thus, I led the party into a large estate northeast of the tower. This estate had a large wall surrounding it, but the front gate was open. I closed the gate behind us and directed the group into the large house. The front door of this house was also unlocked and we went right in.

The house was quite large and it looked as if its occupants had packed and left in a hurry. There were webs and dust in great quantities all over the entryway to the house. With the uproar that we had caused, someone -- read me -- mentioned that we stay in this house for a while until the town quiets down.

"While we're here," suggested Gudrid. "We might as well have a look around."

How did I know that was coming? We could not just sit and rest in the front room of this mansion. No, we had to poke our noses into everything. At least it was something to do.

In the first room we explored, it smelled of death. When we entered, we saw a large group of rats gnawing on a pile of bones. They looked quite hungry, so they naturally turned their attentions upon us.

We made quick work of the rats, but we were unable to determine what it was they were gnawing. The body had decayed far too long ago for any of us to determine what it was. It could have been a person, or orc, or even a dog. We just could not tell.

Many of the rooms were like the first. We fought many rats. To mix things up a bit, a group of spiders or other insects would attack us. It was beginning to appear as if this house was devoid of human life.

Suddenly, we stumbled into the kitchen where a large group of bandits where hiding. I do not know which group was more surprised. They had probably been fending off rats for quite a long time and in walks a group of lizard people.

They were a very experienced band and were excellent fighters. However, they were no match for Gudrid and Jean. They fell readily at the feet of our experienced fighters. With a bit of magic thrown in and a crossbow bolt here and there, the bandits were soon vanquished.

They were sitting on a small cache of supplies. It was not much, but we could make a fine meal out of them. Clearly, with all of the rats about, they constantly had to guard their stores.

I could tell we were getting cavalier with our actions, as we did not give a second thought about other bandits. That is why we were quite surprised when they walked in while we were dining on their supplies.

As they rushed in, I distracted them by running at them. I turned and they attempted to catch me as I raced around the room. This gave Gudrid and Jean a chance to leisurely swallow their last bites and wash it down with a little wine. I think they may have even stretched out a little before jumping into action.

This group of bandits was not as experienced as the last group, and we dispatched them in short order. Before we returned to our feast, we decided to check out the remainder of the house.

Luckily, we did not encounter any more bandits. We did run into plenty of rats, and a few spiders. If I had owned this place, I would have moved away also. It was crawling with creatures.

In the entire house, we only found one locked room. Not only was it locked, but a trap was guarding the door. We all thought that this was quite odd. Naturally, the trap and the lock were no problem for me. I easily opened the door and went inside the room.

It was a very small room with a chest along the far wall. This chest was guarded by three helmed horrors in full plate. Whatever was in that chest was important to somebody. However, before we could examine a treasure of such magnitude, we had a fight on our hands.

These armored specters were not going to be easy to get by. They were quickly upon us, and my bolts were useless against them. Thus, I was once again used as a distraction as the ghosts chased me around the room.

Thorvald was quite effective in this fight. His magic was quite useful against spirits of this nature. Jean and Gudrid had to resort to their less effective magical swords. Thus, we fought these horrors for quite a long time.

Eventually, they did succumb to our weapons and I unlocked the chest with the valuables in it. Inside was a bundle of rug fragments and nothing else. While I understood that we could potentially use the rug, I was quite disappointed in the contents of the chest.

We now had four rug fragments, so if we got into the tower, we could possibly gain entrance to Nebrion's room without his knowing. However, I would have liked to see a little gold or some jewels in the chest.

Quite satisfied that the house was secure, we returned to our meal after fighting off some rats of course. Rats -- why did it have to be rats? Why not snakes or some other creature?

It was well into the night when we had finished everything. Thus, we decided to rest in this house. I found a quite comfortable room, which would have quite comfortably slept two. However, the women thought it best to keep guard. It was their loss.

In the morning, we would push on to the tower no matter what. If we had to slice through every citizen of this town, we were going to make it to the tower. I was well passed ready to shake the dust off my boots and leave this crumbling town. I slept quite soundly.

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

Chapter 10

By Dwayne MacInnes

I hated to admit it, but it looked possible that one of Dan's hairball schemes may be true. The bloody work shirt and pants were the same size and color that Brent wore at Ace's. The bloody driver's gloves resembled the ones you could find in any gas station. Just like the one Brent worked at. The most telling evidence produce was a pair of bloody socks. It was apparent that the killer wore them and slid his feet across the floor leaving the tell tale smudges on the floors. However, in doing so they left nice bloody impressions of the killer's feet on the socks.

I immediately had everything sent off to Floyd's for analysis. Within a couple of hours, Floyd sent over one of his assistants, Judy McCall to trace Brent's hands and feet. She also spread ink over the bottom of his feet and had him stand upon a sheet of white paper leaving behind some nice black feet impressions. Brent by now started to take everything in stride. Floyd had already collected samples of Brent's blood and DNA. If Floyd could find any samples on the clothes he would send them off to either Missoula or Great Falls for analysis, depending on which lab had the smaller workload.

Judy finished her work in a businesslike manner. When she finished she gathered her evidence into a briefcase and then left the station only nodding a goodbye on her way out. Sometimes I felt Floyd hired robots instead of people to work for him. But, I figured the people who excelled at this kind of work tended to be very methodical and down to business. They were the, sorry to use the cliché, "Just the facts, ma'am" type.

I don't know who the waiting bothered more me or Brent. I suppose it had to be Brent, after all it was his future on the line and not mine. Nonetheless, time just crept on in tedious beat. The deputies, David Scott and Manny Kitter would drop by occasionally to check in with me. Though they could have done it over the radio, they still stopped in. They too were curious as to what Floyd would glean from the evidence. Even Sonny and Ed, who had the day off, stopped by.

Probably the most annoying though was Dan. He was excited to see if his pet theory paid off. He could barely contain himself, he was sure he had single handedly cracked the case. I suppose I couldn't blame him. This was his first big case and his efforts did result in some vital clues. Nonetheless, his grin and the "I told you so" look in his eye were starting to wear on my patience.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity Judy brought over Floyd's labs results. It was nearly sundown and though it was half an hour after the shift change, everyone gathered in the small office. I anxiously opened up the file that Judy had placed on my desk before she left never uttering a word.

As I read along a smile broke out across my face. I slapped the file down on my desk, "Hot damn, I believe we broke this thing!" I exclaimed. Brent rushed towards the bars.

"Am I free sheriff? Who did it?" he exclaimed while Dan yelled, "Did I break it sheriff?"

I patted Dan on the back, "I think we'll make a lawman out of you yet." Dan's smile spread even further across his face. "I'm sorry, Clyde and Bill, but you guys have to go on patrol. I'll fill you in later. Dave, grab Mr. Underwood. Manny get Miss Vermont."

Scott and Manny looked at me questioningly. "This is highly unorthodox, but I want everyone involved in this case to hear this at the same time. We are heading for the Drummond Mansion."

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 15: Remember, Do Not Kill Anyone

By Douglas E. Gogerty

I was rested and ready to go before any of the other members of our adventuring crew. Thus, I took the opportunity to scout out our way. Unfortunately, many of the townspeople looked to Nebrion for protection. Thus, his tower was surrounded by townsfolk who would not look to kindly on a band of lizard people marching up to their benefactor's dwelling.

Further, our party had the sneaking skills of elephants wearing jingle bells. Therefore, if we were going to get into Nebrion's tower, we would need a plan. We could have sliced through the entire town if we wished, but some in our group would frown upon such actions. We needed a diversion.

I reentered the abandoned mansion and waited for the rest of the group to rouse. Those sorcerers need their beauty rest. When everyone was gathered in the entryway, I detailed the situation.

Somehow, I supposedly volunteered to be the distraction. After all, I was the quickest and I could definitely lose the chasers without resorting to combat. Nevertheless, volunteering for such a mission, does not sound like something I would do. However, that is what was claimed.

"Remember, do not kill anyone," Jean pleaded.

The next order of business was entry to Nebrion's tower. It was doubtful that Nebrion would leave the lower level of his lair unlocked. The group would need to gain entry as quickly as possible without my aid in picking the lock.

That is when Thorvald spoke up. He made up some story about talking to Nather back at the temple. Thorvald stated that Nather happened to mention that he had a key and gave it to him. My take on the story is that Thorvald stole it from somewhere and was hesitant to admit that. Nonetheless, he claimed to have a key to Nebrion's tower. That certainly simplified things.

Once the plan was worked out in full, I used my stealth to circle around the tower. I looked back at the mansion and received the go-ahead signal. I walked up to one of the citizens and gave a mighty roar. It startled the entire group who began shouting oaths at me. Without retorting their silly statements, I ran towards the mansion and the citizens chased after me.

As was the plan, I ran past the mansion with the townsfolk in hot pursuit. Naturally, I was not running at full speed so they would think that they could catch me. In fact, a few times I pretended to stumble on a stone, which made me slow down and allow them to catch up.

Everything was working according to plan. I had a mob following me, and the group successfully entered Nebrion's tower. It was time for me to lose the crowd and join my cohorts in the wizard's lair.

I ran down around a few buildings with the crowd close to my heels. I was just about to shake them, when I ran into another group of citizen's at the market. They too joined in the chase. At least thirty citizens with various implements of death were now chasing me.

I ran a couple of times around the city square with the screaming mob behind me. I let them get close, and I ran down an alley. I wished I knew this town better, because I really did not have an escape route planned. The alley turned out to be a dead end. It looked as if I was in for it. I would have to fight my way out.

The crowd had appeared to grow with each step. There were probably forty citizens and several town guards, and there I was, trapped in a blind alley with no way out.

Fortunately for me, I have great acrobatic skills. I ran at the wall in the back, and at the corner, I vaulted up to the second story and caught a drainpipe. It looked like I just walked up the wall and grabbed the pipe. I went hand over hand along the building and above the crowd below. They shot arrows at me, but none hit their mark.

There was a window on the second floor of one of the buildings and pulled myself up and went inside. There was a beautiful young woman there brushing her long brown hair. She had a plain nightgown on and she had the most striking blue eyes. For a moment, I had forgotten myself, but her bloodcurdling scream reminded me that I was still reptilian.

I bolted out of her room to find her younger brother attempting to aid his sister. I leaped over him, and dashed down the stairs. Her mother and father had stirred to see what the matter was, and I flew past them like a streak of lightning.

I crashed through their front door and ran as fast as I could. I zigzagged my way back to Nebrion's tower with not one citizen at my heels. I enter the unlocked tower to find my adventure mates sitting around in Nebrion's front room.

They had not done one thing beside unlock Nebrion's front door and walk in. They did not speak to Nebrion's apprentice to make an appointment. No, they just "waited for me."

Knowing how quiet they could be, I would not be surprised if Nebrion had notified the entire town of our presents at his residence. I was certain that all of my running would be in vain as the mob would burst into the tower at any moment.

In an effort to assuage my fears, Thorvald used his key to lock the door. I must say, that little gesture completely put my mind at ease. Nebrion, who could teleport a group of adventurers hither and yon, would be completely unable to unlock his own door remotely. I felt utterly safe.

My fears aside, the group decided to knock on the door that had a sign reading 'Apprentice' in an effort to continue our quest. On the other side of the door we hear, 'Bar Selonis Lo Kat!' which was not the 'Who is it?' we had hoped for. Glaf tried to open the door but found it locked.

I heard the incantation of another spell, so I decided I would open the door. It was a simple lock, and if it was meant to keep us out, they should have used a better lock.

I opened the door and there appeared to be three apprentices there. They did not ask us to explain our presence; one of them just shot a fireball at us. It did not appear they were in a friendly mood. We were going to have to do this the hard way.

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

Chapter 11

By Dwayne MacInnes

I had Jeanie Carson call ahead to the Drummond Mansion to okay my request to gather all interested parties into Victor's bedroom. Vic was at first apprehensive, but his father overheard us and overruled Vic's decision.

As expected, I was the last one to arrive at the Drummond Mansion. It was important that I make a couple of stops first to double check some theories. As I pulled up onto the estate, the sun had long since dropped behind the western Rockies. I noticed Dave was reclining against his patrol car with Brent Underwood still sitting in the back seat. Manny's patrol car and Betty's Camry were also on the brick drive.

I jumped out of the Blazer and walked over to Dave, "You can bring Mr. Underwood in with us." Dave just nodded and opened up the rear door and escorted the handcuffed suspect up to the Mansion.

I rang the doorbell, and was surprised on how quickly the door flew opened. "Gee, sheriff it sure took you long enough," Dan said as he greeted us at the door. "Everyone is waiting for you. Did you get a flat?"

"Naw, nothing that dramatic. Is everyone in Mr. Drummond's bedroom?"

"Yes, sir," Dan was excited. He nearly ran up the stairs to the upstairs' bedroom.

Everyone was assembled once Brent and Dave walked in behind me. The glares that Victor and Vic gave could have killed. Victor's heart rate increased rapidly, he pushed himself up higher in bed and was about to yell and curse at Brent. However, I held up my hand to stop him.

"Please, if everyone will please calm down," I said looking at Victor, but I meant it for everyone. "Mr. Drummond, I believe you wanted justice for your daughter's cruel murder. I will now administer that. First, everyone please have a seat. Deputies please remain standing and alert."

I couldn't help but smile to myself seeing everyone taking seats around the large room. The deputies stood near the door keeping an eye on everyone. I started to pace back in forth as if in thought. I could not resist being a little theatrical at a moment like this. Hell, this was right out of an Agatha Christie novel.

"I know for some of you this will be very hard to hear. However, let's go back over the facts. A few weeks ago, Dan Easton found Mr. Underwood staggering along Lower Country road. It was not long after that when I got a call about Miss Drummond's body, which had been found dead on Upper Country road.

"Mr. Underwood claims that he was jumped by someone and roughed up. On further examination, we find a hunting knife belonging to Mr. Underwood in his backpack that has the victim's blood all over the blade. There is no denying the knife is the crime weapon and that the weapon belongs to and was found on Mr. Underwood.

"A witness claims to have heard some screaming coming from Miss Drummond's house. He only heard her screaming, but no other voices. He never saw anyone enter or leave the house of the victim.

"This same witness pointed out Mr. Underwood as the victim's lover." I noticed Victor Drummond physically flinch when I mentioned this.

"However, there were no fingerprints on the weapon. Neither, were there any fingerprints nor footprints of the suspect near the body of the victim. The assailant thought they did a good job covering their tracks.

"But why would Mr. Underwood keep a bloody knife in his backpack? Why weren't there any fingerprints? These questions have been bothering me.

"Now, my sheriff deputy Dan Easton had some crack pot story about Mr. Underwood wearing gloves and changing clothes and conspiring with another person. I even thought at the time it was crazy.

"Miss Vermont even admitted that she threatened to kill Victoria and has a police record to back up some of her previous jealous behavior." Betty let out a loud gasp and was about to protest. Once again, I held up my hand to forestall any interruptions.

"Please, let me continue. Thanks to the help of my second in command," I pointed over to a beaming Dan Easton, "who continued to look for clues when the rest of us gave up. He found something quite interesting. Some gloves and some blue work clothes." Brent's head dropped even further as I mentioned the clues.

"But one of the most important clues he found were some bloody socks. By the assailant dragging their feet across the floor, all they left were some smudges. However, on the socks they left a nice set of footprints.

"I had Mr. Underwood's hands and feet traced. The gloves will fit, sorry Mr. Underwood." Brent even sunk lower; Victor's face broke out in a smile.

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 16: So Close and Yet So Far

By Douglas E. Gogerty

It appeared that Nebrion was not expecting us. His welcome committee had just attacked us. Jean and Gudrid wasted no time in pouncing on the trio of mages. My crossbow bolts were ineffective against all but one of the apprentices. I deduced that two of the visions in the fight were merely astro-projections. Thus, I concentrated on the one I could damage.

Naturally, the wizard was none too pleased with my bolts, and she kept launching attacks against me. I had to dodge fireballs, lightning, and a myriad of other spells. Did she not realize there were others in this fight?

Jean and Gudrid eventually disrupted the two false apprentices and began concentrating on the real thing. This helped me out immensely because she could no longer concentrate solely upon me.

She was quite a powerful magic user in her own right. She conjured up a dire tiger, and sent it after me. I do not think we had met before, but for some reason she seemed to have some sort of grudge against me.

Her face was cloaked, so I could not get a good glimpse of her. Plus, I was running away from a huge tiger with teeth the size of my dagger. Thus, I did not get a real good look at her face, but I did not think I knew her.

Glaf kept attempting to calm her down so we could speak with her, but those efforts were for naught. She was very resistant to magic, and Glaf was always nervous around girls.

Gudrid helped me with the tiger. I could have handled it on my own, but it was nice to have some help with it. Thorvald did his thing with my cuts and scrapes, so when the tiger fell, I could have taken on a few more. Unfortunately, I did not have the chance.

Shortly after the tiger fell, Jean finished off Nebrion's apprentice. I took a good look at her face, but I did not know her. At least, I did not recall ever meeting her. Perhaps she was attracted to me, and this is how she showed it. I am certain that is it.

Gudrid searched her body, and took her personal effects. She had very little. She had her journal, which made no mention of me. Hence, that reinforced the idea that she had developed crush upon me at first sight.

It was just a personal journal. In it, she had the usual complaints about long work hours and low pay. She was often complaining about how little Nebrion trusted her. It did describe some of her deeds to show her boss that she was worthy of more. However, it made little mention of Nebrion's schemes or plans.

Along with the journal was a key, but little else. A search of her room revealed nothing else. There was no device to mend the rug in this room. She was an ordinary underpaid apprentice attempting to please her boss and get ahead. It was too bad she was evil and tried to kill us. We could have become friends I am sure.

My group of adventurers and I left the apprentice's room, and returned into the entryway. Occasionally, someone would try the door only to find it locked. It appeared that Nebrion was not interested in letting any of the townspeople in. For this, we were grateful because we wished to continue searching this lower level of his residence unmolested.

Naturally, this was not to be. We opened the next room and found ourselves face-to-face with a large gang of bandits. They just appeared out of nowhere. If only I could get the others of my group to be so stealthy.

Nevertheless, we were once again fighting in close quarters. We had faced several large groups of bandits before, and this group was much the same. We easily dispatched them. They had a little treasure, which is a nice thing about bandits. You usually get some sort of reward for your trouble.

Once we had taken care of the bandits, I noticed a strange device along one wall. I was about to examine the machine when we were suddenly attacked by a group of enormous insects. Every creature in the world was stealthier than my party.

The difficulty with giant insects is that they are naturally armored. Their exterior coat is very difficult to penetrate with ordinary weapons. Further, they have nasty crushing appendages near their mouths. Furthermore, they always look creepy.

These particular bugs had one more thing going for them. Their bite was poisonous. We had to be careful to avoid being bitten. Nebrion was not messing around with the protection of his belongings.

It took longer than we would have liked, but we managed to stomp the bugs. Gudrid was poisoned in the battle, but Thorvald was up to the task and was able to neutralize the poison. Naturally, the bugs could not just lie there dead with their legs crossed. These bugs vanished in a noxious gas cloud. The cloud was not dangerous; it was just fowl smelling.

We thoroughly searched the room for any more creatures. When we were certain that the room was secure, I went to look at the rug repair device. There was a tray in which to place the bundles that we had collected. I put the four bundles on the tray. The machine whirred and buzzed and a message appeared reading 'Not enough material.'

We had a fake bundle! There was a bundle for this carpet out there somewhere, and we needed to find it. It could be anywhere if it existed at all. Perhaps it was destroyed.

I was most upset about this development. Without the rug to enter Nebrion's room, we could not complete our quest. Moreover, we may be permanently stuck in our reptilian forms. Paul and his group had reverted to their ordinary selves, but we did not know if we were under the same spell.

Furthermore, when we began this adventure, we had some items with us. They had disappeared on our transport into the mines. Would we be able to recover these items?

With that crushing disappointment, we took a brief rest. Many people had claimed that there was only way into Nebrion's room, but did they know for sure? Perhaps there was a secret way into his room that no one knew about. We decided to look for ourselves.

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