January 2007 Archives

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

Chapter 12

By Dwayne MacInnes

"However the socks won't. At least the footprints won't. I started checking some things out a little more closely. Brent's feet are too big he wears a size 11, and I know Miss Vermont's feet are smaller than the men's size 9 1/2 of the socks' impressions.

"Also, at first glance, the gloves appear to be your common driving gloves you pick up at your local gas station. But, if you look on the inside cuff you see that they are Berletti's an imported glove. In fact, the only place you can get them are at Andy's Imported Luxury Cars. There is only one person here who drives an imported luxury car, isn't that right, Vic?"

Vic looked around the room shocked; he started to laugh, "Surely this is a joke sheriff. Why would I kill my own sister? That's a terrible thing to say."

"Is it Vic? You only bought your Mercedes a couple of weeks before the murder. I have a sales receipt showing the purchase of one Mercedes and one set of Berletti driving gloves."

"This is absurd, sheriff. Brent had the murder weapon not me."

"That is true, but I notice the week before the murder you had to have an emergency transmission repair done at Ace's Garage."

"What the hell does that prove? I told you I had transmission problems!" Vic was starting yell. Sweat started to bead on his brow.

"Your car was under warranty, but you didn't take it back to the dealership. No, Vic you needed an excuse to get to Ace's Garage. If you pay close attention to the ramps, you left out the majority of the transmission fluid spilled between them at the top. You punctured your own transmission pan and then pushed the car off the ramp. If you did it in reverse, you would never have been able to get the car onto the ramps. It's pretty hard to get those cars pushed up those ramps by yourself."

"It was a small leak sheriff. I accidentally punctured the pan trying to fix it, so the dealership would not cover something that was my mistake," Vic said condescendingly.

"Perhaps, but here's what I think. You had to get to Ace's Garage. You knew from talking to your sister that Brent was the top mechanic, and thus, he would be the one to do the emergency repair. Furthermore, we live in a small town and few people lock their doors. In addition, you knew he kept his hiking stuff in his truck.

"You went into his truck and borrowed his knife. From talk around town, you figured out what Brent's hiking schedule was, so all you had to do was visit your sister. She must have been surprised to see you dressed up like Brent. She started to yell at you. You killed her before she knew what was going on. You broke a few things up and smashed out a window hoping to attract Johnny's attention. In the process, you found a letter that Victoria wrote but never delivered to Brent. Unfortunately, Johnny didn't see you flee the house in your work clothes.

"Nonetheless, you proceeded with your plan. You stashed your bloody clothes in a tree and then you drove down Upper Country road and hid in the woods along Lower Country road. You attacked Mr. Underwood, that was how you bruised your knuckles and after knocking him silly, you scratched his face and hid the knife in his backpack.

"I think you forgot that your sister was left handed. Anyway, you planted the love note in Brent's backpack as well and then you took off. By the time Brent recovered his wits you were long gone and he unwittingly carried the evidence needed to shift the blame to him."

"That is a nice story sheriff, but it'll never hold up. Why would I need to kill my sister? I am quite wealthy and her death doesn't help me out. I am appalled at your accusations and you will hear from my lawyers."

"I am sure I will. But you are wrong about something," I paused and waited.

"Ok, I'll bite. What am I wrong about?" Vic said sarcastically.

"You are not wealthy; in fact you are in a lot of debt. Just from the few inquiries I made into your favorite gambling spots, it looks like you owe millions. I have a feeling you owe even more to loan sharks. Your debt is higher than many small African nations. No, you needed an inheritance and bad. Your father has only a few weeks to live and you could not afford to share your inheritance with your sister. You needed the whole thing."

Vic looked at me with rage and hatred burning in his eyes. "I'm afraid you will have a hard time proving this when I get my lawyers in court."

"Again you may be right. But I have a feeling that once Floyd makes an impression of your feet they'll fit into those socks like Cinderella's did in a glass slipper."

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 17: The Mighty Paladin Screams

By Douglas E. Gogerty

We had a good rest in the entry of Nebrion's tower. Once again, I slept alone in a nice bed. Nebrion's apprentice did not have any use for hers, so I helped myself. None of the ladies accepted my offer to join me, so I slept well.

There were still plenty of places in Nebrion's tower to explore. We had not opened the door at the back of the room with the carpet-mending machine. That was the only place that we had not attempted. Whatever we were looking for had to be behind that door. Naturally, Nebrion also had one of his henchpeople put a trap on it. It was clear that there were places in Nebrion's tower he did not want people to go. Clearly, beyond this door was one such place.

I easily disarmed the spike trap, and unlocked the door. It would have kept out your ordinary peasants, but it was no match for the likes of me. Once the door was open, we still had plenty of work ahead of us.

As Gudrid opened the door and Jean stood at the ready, a pack of tiger-headed rakshasas attacked us. These creepy demons seemed to spring out of the woodwork as we were quickly surrounded.

Each one attempted to cast a spell or another, but before they could finish, Jean or Gudrid's sword stroke or a bolt from my crossbow interrupted them. However, with cat-like moves they would pounce to a new location. This kept us in continuous action. In fact, we were beginning to wear down when the first one fell.

When that first rakshasa disappeared in a puff of smoke, it began a chain reaction. A second fell and then a third. Puff of smoke followed puff of smoke until there was nothing left but a pile of rakshasa eyes. The cat eyes left behind were creepy, but the puff of scent they left behind had a hint of lavender. Not one member of the party was expecting that.

In all of the commotion, we had not even had a chance to look at the room. Like all wizards' rooms, this one was lined with bookshelves. I think these sorcerer types wish to give the impression that they are knowledgeable. However, does anyone look at the titles? They could all be "The Loves of Lady Chatterford" or "William and Theodore's Excellent Adventure". They might not be tomes of learning at all.

Continuing to look around the room, I spotted in the back corner a stairway leading up. That was a good sign. Perhaps this was the way to get farther into the tower. The only problem with this route is there was an enormous red dragon blocking the way.

The dragon did not move towards us. Perhaps it was blind, deaf, or both. We were certainly making enough noise. I told Glaf that since he did not have any luck with the apprentice, perhaps he should ask the dragon to dance. He was not amused.

Jean and Gudrid prepared themselves to fight the mighty dragon. They had collected some potions during our trip, and these would immunize them against almost anything the dragon could throw at them. They were suddenly fearless and fast. They took potions to toughen them and make them stronger. When we were all ready, we struck.

With the first blows of Jean and Gudrid, the dragon fell. I think it was depressed and just committed suicide. It did not put up a fight at all. Further supporting this conjecture was the lack of treasure. This dragon had none. It was the saddest excuse for a dragon ever.

Glaf guessed that it was simply a trick by Nebrion to scare us off. Glaf continued to speculate that Nebrion was concentrating all his efforts out in the city and had little magic left for internal defenses. Glaf sure knows how to rain on a good parade.

With the "mighty" dragon vanquished, I ran up the stairs to find another trapped and locked door. While this door was a little trickier than the last, it was still no match for my skills. I had the trap off and the door unlocked in no time. However, I was going to let one of the women go first. "Ladies first" is my motto.

Jean rushed up the stairs, opened the door, and rushed into the room. She gave a horrified shriek that caused us to rush up to help. No one had ever heard our mighty paladin scream like that. When we reached the top, we found her covered in rats. There were dozens. Perhaps, there were as many as one hundred. It was very creepy and I excused her for her scream.

Nevertheless, they were just rats. They were not rodents of unusual size. They were simply "run of the mill" rats. There were lots of them, but one strike and they were dead. In fact, I got out my dagger and short sword to help exterminate them.

It is surprising how tiring it is to kill that many rats. I was exhausted by the time the last one died. Like the last room, we did not look around at all until we were finished with the rats.

This was another typical wizards' room. Several bookshelves filled with books. There were a few other gizmos scattered about. He had astrolabes, globes and other do-dads strewn around the room. To me it all looked like useless junk.

As we usually do, we each searched the room. I was perusing a bookshelf on the far wall. In it there were a few scrolls that appeared to be magic. I grabbed those to give to Glaf. That is when I spotted a hidden door. I thought that perhaps it was a secret entrance to Nebrion's lair. Thus, I pointed it out to the other members of our party.

We were all a bit exhausted from our fight with the scores of rats, so we rested a bit before entering the door. If it was the door to Nebrion's room, we wanted to be ready for him.

Since this door led to an unknown locale, entering it was going to be very dangerous. Thus, the plan was to send me in. They knew that they stomped around like huge beasts, and if I could sneak in and check it out, it would be a safer way to go.

I could think of lots of objections to that sentiment, but I reluctantly agreed. I crawled through the trapdoor and found myself at a dead end. By pressing slightly on the wall in front of me, it gave way and I went tumbling into the room.

I briefly thanked my gods that it was not Nebrion's room. Clumsily falling into my enemy's room was not how I wished to die. I was almost as loud as Jean marching down the city streets. I could tell I flushed as I picked myself up off the ground.

I found myself in a very unwizard like room. It was a plain and mostly empty. The one item the room did contain was a large wooden chest. It was placed in the middle with the lock facing away from the entrance. There were no bookshelves on these walls.

However, there was no obvious way back to where I had come. Eventually, I spotted a switch plate on the floor that opened the secret passage. This allowed me to rejoin my compatriots and give them the news.

One by one, we all entered the trap door to explore the room. Certainly, Nebrion would not leave this room unguarded. Some beastie would surely jump out of the darkness and attack us.

As Jean reached the chest in the middle of the room, that is exactly what happened. A gang of spiders descended from the ceiling. Once again, these were not ordinary spiders -- these were huge. They were going to be difficult to vanquish.

Be that as it may, we did take care of them rather easily. Glaf was poisoned, but Thorvald took care of that with some spell or potion. Thorvald took care of the minor nicks and scrapes that Jean and Gudrid had. Naturally, I emerged from the encounter without a scratch.

Gudrid was anxious to see what was in the chest. Thus, she ran to it quickly and set off the trap protecting it. A noxious cloud of some gas filled the room. Sometimes the amateurs can really ruin a perfectly good melee. Once the gas dissipated, Thorvald had to use his magic again to restore our health.

The chest was locked, so Gudrid would have had to wait for me anyway. I believe Glaf chastised her for her haste while I unlocked the chest.

The chest had no valuables in it. It was practically empty. It seemed odd to have so much security for this chest. However, its sole contents were very important to us. Thus, they were likely important to Nebrion as well. In the chest, we discovered a bundle of carpet fragments. Could this be the missing bundle? Would we be able to have it out with Nebrion after all? Gudrid's anxiousness was beginning to affect me. I was ready to rush down and take on Nebrion too.

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


By Dwayne MacInnes

I had Dave and Manny arrest Vic. Victor Drummond Sr. lay in bed, he looked worse than he did before. I felt sorry for him, but he needed to know the facts first hand and not second.

After Dan removed the cuffs from Brent, the mechanic ran over and gave Betty a huge embrace. "Thank you, sheriff," Brent said never taking his eyes off Betty.

"Don't thank me, thank Deputy Easton. If it wasn't for his determination, we would never had found those last clues."

Both Brent and Betty looked over at the deputy sheriff and smiled. Dan just presented them with his usual goofy smile. Dan was puffed up with pride. Though his theory was wrong, his doggedness was what saved the day.

Well, Brent and Betty got married soon after the whole ordeal. They act like other married couples; sometimes they get along great and at other times, they fight. However, so far, they still seem to enjoy each other's company.

Vic was true to his word in making it hard to prove things in court with his expensive lawyers. However, Floyd's forensic work was what turned the trick. There was just too much evidence placing Vic at the scene of the crime. His 9 1/2 sized feet fit perfectly in those socks.

Vic is now down at the Deer Lodge State Prison serving a life sentence. I have a feeling he has to keep a sharp eye out. He owed the underworld a lot of money and was unable to deliver.

I like to say that after Victor Drummond died from his cancer he wanted to make up for the time and suffering Brent Underwood spent in jail and made him heir to his estate. I would like to say that, but that is not what happened. Victor Drummond died the day after Vic's sentencing. His estate was sold off by the state to cover the debt accrued by his son's gambling debts.

After that, things returned to normal in Swimmer's Lake and Summit County. Dan still hasn't figured out that Jeanie is after him. I still have to break up the occasional barroom brawl. Last time it was at the Mint. But all in all it is a pretty quiet area.

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 18: How Does this Rug Work Anyway?

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"Bzzzz -- Wheee -- Wheee -- Bzzzz -- Kablaam!" the machine sputtered when the carpet fragment from the chest was placed in its tray and the machine was switched on. It was certainly working. After a few seconds, a nice rug fell out of the machine and onto the floor. We were in!

Unfortunately, we had no instructions as to its use. How does this rug manage to enter Nebrion's room? Do we climb onto the rug and have it fly us through his window? Perhaps we should sit upon it. Was it a flying rug like the ones from the ancient tales? Did it work on an entirely different principle?

Our men of letters were of no help in this regard. Thorvald and Glaf studied the object carefully, but could come up with no better solution than to place it on the ground and hop on board. I suggested we go back to the inn and talk to the man who told us about the rug, but they did not wish to harm any more townsfolk. Thus, they did not wish to leave the tower.

So what was their solution? Naturally, it was to use me as the first victim. They would have me step on the rug and determine what happens. I informed them if I go tumbling into Nebrion's room, all stealth and surprise is lost, but they reminded me of my dexterity. The others were too clumsy to be trusted on a flying rug.

Once they were all agreed that I should do this, I gingerly stepped onto the rug. I braced myself for something to occur, but nothing did. I was not in Nebrion's room I was still in the same room as the rest of the party.

I sat on the rug and concentrated on going to Nebrion's room. I made several attempts to persuade it to go somewhere. Nevertheless, the carpet was not moving. It looked as if we would have to ask the man how to work the rug after all.

I arose from my seated position and walked off the rug. The disorientation hit me immediately, and I nearly tumbled to the ground. I managed to stay on my feet, but for a few seconds I did not know where I was or what had happened.

In my daze, I looked around and noticed I was in a corner of some room. The room had several bookcases along the walls. There was no doubt about it; I was in Nebrion's room. Apparently, you just had to walk across the carpet and you were in.

Unfortunately, the teleportation mechanism to get me back was not obvious. Thus, I could not scout out the area and return the information to the rest. I was trapped in the room with Nebrion, who had not noticed me as of yet.

I stood in the shadow of the corner, attempting to decide what my next move should be. However, before I made any action -- one by one -- the rest of my party tumbled into the room.

Startled, Nebrion asked, "What are you doing here?"

Our Paladin with her lawful goodness made her reply; she drew her sword, gave a battle cry, and attacked. The rest of the party was startled briefly and did not immediately join in the fray.

"Please," Nebrion begged. "There must be some sort of mistake. I am not responsible for this..."

Jean would have none of it. She clearly detected his evilness when she entered. She would hear none of his excuses. Also by this time, the rest of us made our decision to join in the fray. Thus, we all began our attacks on Nebrion.

For someone who appeared to be older, he was remarkably agile. Gudrid and Jean's swords rarely hit their marks. The wizard was also adept at dodging my bolts. This fight was going to take some time.

After Nebrion decided that we were serious, he began his offense. With a "Phartano Verdigulum", he summoned some sort of ghoul. Our blows kept missing, and now we had a second foe.

"Concentrate on Nebrion!" shouted Glaf.

Nebrion had other spells at his disposal, and he was not averse to using them. A cloud of noxious gas was his next weapon. I was using my crossbow, so I managed to stay on the edge of the cloud. At the clouds fringes, I fired my crossbow. However, Jean was not immune to the clouds effects. Fortunately, Gudrid was unaffected. Thus, the battle could continue while Jean ran out of the cloud to be tended by our cleric Thorvald.

In the mean time, I was still attempting to hit the illusive Nebrion. One bolt missed its mark and lodged in the arm of Nebrion's ghoul. That spelt trouble for me. The ghoul took notice of me, and headed in my direction.

This ghoul was not your run of the mill zombie; he or she was quite agile. Luckily, it was not nearly as dexterous as I am. Thus, I avoided the attack and headed towards Thorvald and Jean.

After I ran past, with the ghoul on my heels, Jean took her orc-slayer and lopped its head off. In one blow, the summoned ghoul had disappeared in a puff of smoke.

As the cloud dissipated, Jean ran after Nebrion again. There were a flurry of blows, and it looked like we had Nebrion. However, he reached into his robe and pulled out a flask. As quick as he could, he drank some potion and it was as if he had just begun the battle. It was going to be a long fight.

Nebrion conjured up another ghoul and another cloud of some sort. This one did not affect Jean, but Gudrid could not stay in the cloud long. She ran to the cleric for his services.

It was at this point that Glaf took advantage of one of his major spells. Gudrid was not immune to the effects of the spell, but Jean was. Thus, he hoped that his spell would do some damage upon Nebrion.

Nebrion erupted in a large fireball. His ghoul fell dead, and Jean was still attempting to hit Nebrion with her sword. Nebrion survived the attack and continued to avoid our blows.

Our enemy was looking in rough shape. Our attacks would occasionally land, and the wounds would mount up. However, the crafty wizard had more potions and spells. He once again healed himself. This time, instead of summoning a ghoul, he summoned a dire tiger.

This tiger must have been a female because she got a whiff of me and was on my heels. "I'll keep this one busy," I shouted. "Concentrate on Nebrion."

I do not know what I was thinking when I said that. How was I going to keep that giant cat busy? Perhaps I could keep her busy by running around the perimeter because that was my only defense against the beast. Nebrion must have used a spell to make me do such a crazy thing.

Nebrion continued to fill the room with various clouds, but Jean and Gudrid continued to go after him. I would occasionally stop running from the tiger and shoot a bolt at him, but then I would start running again with the cat right behind me.

Glaf had spells, but he could not use the most powerful ones with our party in the line of fire. He was restricted to his lesser spells that did do damage to Nebrion.

Thorvald would shoot an arrow -- now and again -- at the evil wizard, but he spent most of his time with the wounds of the rest of the party. With that tiger on my tail, I was glad to have him tend to my scratches. However, he would eventually run out of his medical supplies.

Just when we thought we had him, Nebrion took another potion and we were back to square one. With his latest cloud effect gone, I dashed in to check his pockets. I wanted to steal any potions he may have possessed, but he had none.

He would not be able to make it much longer. Certainly, he must be running out of spells. He had used a great deal of magic attacking Gudrid and Jean. He chanted again and tentacles reached out of the floor with a stinging bite. Why did he save this spell? It was particularly nasty.

Jean and Gudrid hopped and jumped to get away from the spell's effect. This gave Glaf a brief instant to pile on his powerful spells. Fire and ice began flying at our opponent. Nebrion was caught between chasing the two fighters and going after our wizard. In his hesitation, more spells came his way.

Gudrid and Jean were in rough shape. They had taken a great deal of punishment from Nebrion's spells. They were also fatigued from the effort they had made to bring down the wizard.

Thorvald did his best to treat them, but he had exhausted his last potion. There was little else he could do to ease their pain. The tiger was inflicting some damage upon me as well. We could not put up this fight for much longer.

Sensing that our need was desperate, I stopped running from the tiger and shot my last bolt at Nebrion. I had missed with numerous bolts, but this one caught him right in the ear. He tumbled to the ground. The pouncing tiger disappeared in an odorless cloud. We had vanquished the evil wizard and we were victorious!

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The Haunted Mines of Krator

Part 1

By Dwayne MacInnes

Gwendolyn is my name and I am a Wood Elf by birth. You may say that I am a thief by trade. However, I personally do not like to think of myself as such. I prefer the title, scout or wealth adjuster. Granted, after I left my home in the Great Forest to try my hand at a living inside the Empire, I may have had to resort to finding some coinage in a stranger’s pocket. I figured that they would have given it to me after they heard my plight anyway, so why waste both our time with a needless story.

But then I found that I could make larger sums of money by fighting in the Imperial Arena. There is a lot of coinage to be had if you can fight well. Now, do not think I am one of those muscled bound low intelligent Amazons. Nothing could be further from the truth. First, of all I mentioned that I am a Wood Elf. We Wood Elves tend to be extremely nimble and very gifted with the bow. Even a young Wood Elf could teach that famed human bandit Robbing Hood a thing or two in the art of archery.

Now, let me interrupt myself to mention that many humans think of elves as stuffy and aloof. They would be correct if they were referring to our cousins the High Elves. High Elves are very intelligent and love to study. That is why many become mages; however, they are boring, I am sure the High Elves would probably put it as pleasantly dull. High Elves have no sense of adventure (or humor for that fact) and do tend to believe that they the most superior form of all elves not to mention sentient life forms. After all, they are the ones who named themselves the **High Elves**.

Anyway, as I was saying about the arena, I could never be able to withstand a toe-to-toe fight with your average fighter. Remember, I am a wealth adjuster (said thief) and my skills lie elsewhere. The short sword I carry is my backup weapon; my weapon of choice is of course my elven bow.

Now, a bow is hardly a good weapon to use in the arena. Not a lot of places one can hide to fire off a succession of arrows at one’s opponent. However, the construction of the arena does have its advantages to one such as me. I was quick to notice that there were a series of buttresses on the arena’s wall. These buttresses would normally be inaccessible to your average heavily armored and heavily muscled warrior. Fortunately, I am none of these. I found to my great relief that I could leap to the top of the buttresses and fire off an arrow at my opponent. As anyone who has read the military treatise, Mixed Combat Tactics will remember that you should always take the high ground. However, it would hardly be sporting to sit there on top of the buttress and kill off my adversary. Being a Wood Elf I have a streak of theatrics ingrained in me. Therefore, of course, I need to win the audience over to my side.

I could stir up interest by jumping over my opponent; sometimes I would do a flip, land behind him or her and kick them behind their knees. They would then fall over and after they regained their feet, I would then jump upon another buttress just before they could reach me with their sword. It was not long before the audience started calling me the “Black Arrow?.

An interesting thing about the arena is that all fights are to the death. There is no mercy inside the pit. Now, you know why it pays so well. Unfortunately, arena rules forbid you to loot the bodies of the fallen.

However, once the body leaves the arena it is no longer under arena rules. Well, that is how I feel anyway. Plus, I felt it was unfair that the guards and physicians would loot the bodies long after the bout was over and take what was rightfully mine. They say, “To the victor go the spoils? and I agree. It was no problem to gain entrance into the “red room? to pay my last respects to my worthy opponent. I would go into a sacred elven prayer ritual (one I made up myself) and help myself to whatever items looked interesting. That is how I got my shield of magic warding.

I usually do not carry heavy armor, especially a heavy shield. I prefer something light. Maybe, even elven by manufacture. However, this shield I have found to be indispensable. By some powerful magic, the shield absorbs all hostile spells aimed at its possessor. That has proven to be a very useful thing to one in my profession.

Now, that we have some background let me tell you about the time before I was the Grand Champion and was the rising sensation in the arena that the town of Krator commissioned me to help them with the problem with their mines. It is a well-known fact that Krator has the richest silver mines in the empire. The capitol is the only city actually wealthier than Krator. However, Krator’s wealth is due strictly to the success of its mines.

It appeared that some months before my commission the silver mines had a terrible cave-in. Inside the mine’s dark dank bowels many miners lay trapped. It was weeks before rescuers cleared the rubble and stabilized the shafts that they retrieved the trapped miners’ long dead bodies.

It could not have been longer than a week after the mines reopened before the first stories of strange events happening in the mines began to surface. First, it was just someone thinking that they saw one of their dead comrades who died in the cave-in walking the shafts. Then strange accidents began to happen. Miners would sometimes find that the oil in their lamps had mysteriously vanished. Alternatively, a miner would just disappear forever into the inky blackness without a trace.

The elders of Krator petitioned the local garrison to investigate the problem. The garrison commander dispatched a small group of ten legionnaires to the town. The ten soldiers entered the mine one morning and never exited. The town elders petitioned the local garrison again, however the commander flatly denied them this time.

Thus, the town elders petitioned the emperor himself. Given the importance and wealth of Krator’s mines, the emperor ordered the garrison commander to look into the situation personally. Now, the commander had one more and legal trick to play. He told the elders of Krator that in order for him to send a cohort of legionnaires to look into this little problem, they would need to pay a high fee of one thousand Gold Eagles per soldier in order to compensate the Empire for the movement, logistics, and sheltering of the troops.

Krator’s mines by this time had been out of operation for at least two months. Miners were unemployed and had already spent what little savings they had. Hence, a great emigration had already taken place. Until the mines were operational again, the town would be unable to pay its taxes let alone a hefty service fee.

That is how, one day after a rather successful and amazing arena bout against a Dark Elf mage, I found myself reading a letter from the town of Krator. The elders had heard of my success in the arena, they could not afford the Grand Champion (it is highly unlikely he would have helped them out if they could) but they did offer me a thousand Golden Eagles if I took the job. Usually I earned five hundred Silver Crowns for a successful bout; I still had a long way to go to be Grand Champion. So of course, being the entrepreneur that I am, I accepted.

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 19: The Quest Ends

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Our quest was over. We had cleaned the mines of creatures that were plaguing the city of Monkalakaboomistan. The only down side at this point was we had just killed the man who was to pay us. Nebrion was dead.

The chest that was supposed to hold our reward was unlocked and empty. I wonder how that could have happened... The perimeter of the room contained a series of large wooden armoires. They were protected by a trap, which I easily removed. However, the lock was a different story. It was a custom lock with some sort of magical spell preventing anyone from opening it without the key.

I thought we could just smash them to bits. After all, they were only made of wood. However, no one was willing to aid me in this venture. I even explained that Nebrion himself pointed out that our belongings were in the armoires.

Unfortunately, the party's trust in Nebrion had long since evaporated. Thus, they had given up the idea of obtaining their long lost belongings. Further, they were fond of the items they had collected on the adventure.

It was then that I thought that Nebrion should have the key. Gudrid had searched him for valuables and the items he had were useable only by an evil wizard. They would be of no help to Glaf. However, the key was among the items.

I used the key to open the armoires one by one. To everyone's surprise, the armoires were filled with our items. A few had items from other adventurers. In any event, we had our belongings back.

"Where did you get these items?" asked Gudrid.

"Those?" I replied. "I have had those for a while."

"I do not remember you having that stuff," added Glaf.

"You cannot even wear this armor," added Jean. "It is way too large for you."

"I was going to sell it at my earliest convenience," I said. "Why is everyone so suspicious of me?"

"Spill it!" demanded Thorvald.

"Okay you caught me," I admitted. "While you all were discussing the mission with Nebrion, I opened the chest. I just wanted to know what our reward was going to be. Before I knew anything, all of my items were gone and I woke up in a mine looking like a lizard."

"Hey!" exclaimed Glaf.

"Yeah!" shouted Gudrid.

"We are no longer reptilian!" shouted Jean.

Jean and I embraced. Then she smacked me across the face. After all of the things I had done for her, she was not going to thank me. Perhaps it was the fact that there were other people around. I guess I should have been grateful that she did not swing her orc-slayer at me.

We had all of our belongings and our appearance had returned to normal. Nebrion's quest had clearly ended. What do we do next? More importantly, how do we get out of this tower?

There was a lever in the corner, which did not appear to have an obvious function. At least it did not do anything the four or five times I had pulled it the first time we were in this room. Perhaps Nebrion protected its use. Thus, I pulled the lever. I heard a loud crack somewhere in the tower, but it had no other effect.

Gudrid gave it a try and we were immediately transported to another room in the tower. I was expecting to return to the carpet. After all, it was how the previous owner of the tower entered and left the isolated tower room.

Regardless, we found ourselves in the company of a beautiful woman. She was tall with long fire-red hair. She was dressed in silver plate trimmed in gold. She had a winged helm upon her head.

"I am Leela Monkalakaboom," she declared.

We each introduced ourselves. I flirted more than usual to make Jean jealous. Leela naturally took a shine to me. Jean pretended not to notice the sparks, but I could tell she had seen.

"I thank you for ridding us of our plight," she continued. "For a long time we have suspected that Nebrion was luring adventurers to our fair city and robbing them of their goods."

"He is also responsible for the monster attacks," added Thorvald.

"He changed us into lizardmen," declared Glaf.

"Ummmm -- we got better," I added.

"Apparently," continued Thorvald. "He would alter the appearance of these adventurers and dump them into the nearby mines. If these individuals made it out of the mines alive, it would appear that they would attack the city."

"Nebrion was also responsible for the monster attacks," Glaf conjectured.

"I believe all of what you say is true," responded Leela. "My brother Paul was sent to investigate and his armor and some other items appeared some time later."

"Paul?" I mumbled. "Does everyone in this town have some link to him?"

"What?" asked Leela.

"We encountered a Paul in the dungeons above the mines. He was hungry but well."

"I am relieved from this news," added Leela. "With Nebrion out of the way, I can return as protector of the city. You have given me back my tower."

"And your rug," added Glaf. "We gathered the pieces and it allowed us into Nebrion's room."

"Thanks for the update genius," I whispered to Glaf. "She has been watching us you door knob!"

"Your journey has been long and arduous," Leela continued. "You shall be rewarded for your deeds. I will pay you handsomely for any treasures you have collected in your adventure. Our citizens could begin rebuilding the town with these items."

She paid us handsomely for our extra goods. I had to hand it to Glaf; it was a very profitable journey for us. There were plenty of times when I doubted that it would be, but the coin in my pocket proved me wrong.

We rested the night in Leela's tower. She threw a large feast in our honor and the entire town showed up. The wine was good and the mood merry. Even the temple guardian Nather showed up. He was strangely quiet. A large smile seemed to be unnaturally affixed to his face, which prevented his normal talkativeness.

I flirted with many ladies at the feast. If Jean were not going to thank me personally, an attractive local would have to do. There were plenty from which to choose. The choice would be difficult. Perhaps more than one...

Nebrion's quest was over, and now it was time to decide what was next. That story is for another time.

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The Haunted Mines of Krator

Part 2

By Dwayne MacInnes

You may have heard the old verse: How much wood could a Wood Elf shelf if a Wood Elf could shelf wood. The answer of course is as much wood as a Wood Elf could if a Wood Elf could shelf wood. It is a silly little human rhyme, for of course Wood Elves can shelve wood. Furthermore, if I were a High Elf I am sure I would have taken offense if the rhyme were about High Elves. However, I am not -- and it was not -- so I recited the little rhyme as I rode along the road towards Krator.

I received many strange looks from humans as they witnessed a Wood Elf upon the back of a fine black mare singing a silly children's song. That was not something you see every day in the Empire. It only took me three days to reach Krator upon that fine steed.

The citizens of Krator were a bit surprised to see me ride in alone. I guess they figured that I would hire some fellow adventurers and then share the reward amongst the party. The thing about being a wealth adjuster (or as you may call it, a thief) is that we tend to work better alone. Your typical warrior, mage, or priest can make enough noise trying to be stealthy to wake the proverbial dead. That is not including the times when they are not trying to be stealthy. In addition, many of the above are a bit clumsy.

Which reminds of the time a warrior, mage, and priest walked into a bar. The thief nimbly tumbled beneath it. Sorry, that really gets them at the taverns.

As I was saying however, it is far better for a thief, if you will, to operate alone. Parties tend to bicker over wealth distribution and frown on service fees for unlocking locks and disarming traps. I have also heard of thieves being turned into beastly creatures like lizard-men by getting themselves involved with parties.

It took a little convincing of the elders to prove that I was indeed the arena rat they were looking for. I provided a poster of myself. Of course, it was more stylized and the artist took a great many liberties with my body. I certainly do not have large breasts nor do I ever fight that scantily clothed. I do not know what humans have for large breasts but such things would be a great hindrance to successfully firing a bow. Secondly, it is a little ironic to have "The Arena's Acrobatic Archer, The Black Arrow" emblazoned across the poster and then show me (big breasts and all) holding a severed head in my left hand and a gore covered sword in the other.

Fortunately, a few miners had been to the arena and they knew me by sight well enough to vouch for my authenticity. I suppose I could have just jumped from my mare, done a flip over an elder's head, and kick him behind the knee. Nevertheless, I feel that that would not have made my case for me.

Once the elders were convinced that I was the genuine article, they took me to the entrance of the mines. It was a heavy wooden door with the words "Mine closed" and "Danger" written all over the surface. A sturdy lock sealed the entrance. I waited while an elder fumbled for the right key to open the door.

He looked rather embarrassed as he examined every key on his key ring. He could not figure out how he could have misplaced that key. Well, it was easy for me to figure out because I had already lifted it. Now, to say I knew what key to lift would be a lie. The fact I lifted the key in the first place was mere coincidence. I had helped myself to the elder's money pouch (I do have to stay in practice) and amongst the ten Silver Crowns, I found the key.

Things were not starting too well; the elders and the crowd were becoming uncomfortable. It did not look entirely well to hire a hero to fix your problem and then be unable to facilitate said hero toward the said problem.

"Excuse me your grace," I said as I bent towards the ground and produced the key. "I believe this fell as you pulled the ring out of your pocket."

Relief broke out upon everyone's face. I had already proven myself a hero in one small regard. That of being able to find the missing key to the locked mines of Krator.

Soon the heavy door was unlocked and I found myself inside the cavernous maw of the silver mine. The town provided me with an oil lamp before they quickly slammed the door shut behind me and proceeded to lock it.

It had never been discussed how I was supposed to get out once I finished my job. But these tended to be simple folk, and spooks -- real and imagined -- play upon their minds. I can only suppose that they had as much faith in me succeeding as I did. After all, I came to rid these mines of ghosts and ghouls. The fact, that it was the most successful silver mine in the empire had nothing to do with it. Well, maybe it was not quite nothing.

My first official act as hero was to extinguish the lamp. A thief with a lamp is not much of a thief. Now, it is well rumored that elves can see in the dark and to a certain extent, it is true. High and Wood Elves can see in low light and our subterranean brethren the Dark Elves can see in pitch-blackness. However, the interior of a mine favors pitch-blackness to low light.

Fortunately, I had learned a simple spell for seeing in the darkness. A few whispered phrases and *presto* night sight for one minute. Thankfully, it was a spell that did not take a lot of energy to cast. Imagine trying to cast that every minute for an hour. As it were, the routine of reciting the whispered phrases were tasking enough.

Shortly after gaining my dark sight I began to make my way stealthily down the mine's shaft. The town was at least kind enough to offer me a map before they locked me in. My bow with an arrow readied was in my hand.

Now, you are probably asking what good my arrows would do against a phantasm. Well, the fact that immediately after casting my simple spell the tripwire I spied stretching across the tunnel ahead of me told me that these ghosts were more corporeal than anyone suspected.

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Montana MacInnes and the Reunion of Doom

Chapter 1: Home Again

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"Where to Pal?" asked the cab driver.

"1313 Mockingbird Lane," Hugo Kenneth Stein Jr. replied.

"Oh? You headin' to the Stein reunion?"

"Yes," H.K. responded trying to keep to himself.

"It looks like you'll have nice weather fer it," continued the cabbie.

"Hope so."

"How was yer flight?"

"Fine," H.K. said resolving himself to having a conversation. "I sat next to an interesting character on the way in."

"Oh -- who?"

"A guy calling himself Montana MacInnes."

"Montana MacInnes the famous Zombie Hunter? What is he doin' in town?"

"He didn't say. Perhaps it was some sort of convention."

"Montana is the foremost authority on all things zombie. He has traveled the world lecturing and solving zombie problems. To think he is in our city. I hope that doesn't mean anythin'..."

"He had lots of stories. He just came back from China. From what he could gather, one of the Chinese spacecraft came back carrying some sort of virus or something. It turned an entire town into the walking dead. He went in to clean it up."

"He sure leads an excitin' life," the cab driver said as he turned onto the street where H.K. grew up.

"I don't know if I would like to face a zombie. What the...?"

"What is it?" asked the cabbie scanning the road.

"For a minute I thought I saw my grandmother. It couldn't have been her though. She has been dead for several years. My mind must playing tricks on me."

"Sometimes one blue haired lady looks like all the rest."

"I suppose you're right. Just pull into the driveway."

The cab driver pulled into the driveway and looked around. "For a family reunion there aren't many people here," he remarked.

"The actual festivities do not start until tomorrow. They're probably all over at my Uncle Frank's house."

"Oh. That'll be $16.50"

H.K. gave the cabbie a $20 and told him to keep the change. His mom's house had barely changed. For many years, it has been the same mauve color. H.K.'s Mom had it painted that color years ago despite some family member's objections. It was obvious that it was her house.

He walked up to the door and knocked. The door was open so he walked in and called out to see if anyone was home. No one answered. He looked around a bit and made his way into the kitchen. There was a bunch of cookies on the cooling rack and by them was a note.

H.K. tried to read the note, but was unsuccessful. The handwriting was atrocious and it looked like one word was cookie but spelled "kuukii". He assumed that someone made cookies and left a note indicating that he could help himself.

He sniffed the cookie and took a tentative bite. Just then a cold wrinkled hand fell upon his shoulder. A voice in a cold monotonous tone said, "Hello Butch!"

H.K. nearly jumped out of his skin, but "Bleah!" was all H.K. could say.

"Welcome home," continued the sonorous voice.

"Uncle Ben! You startled me," replied H.K. giving his uncle a hug. "I'm a grown man. Nobody calls me 'Butch' anymore. How are you?"

"Cold, tired, hungry, poor, under appreciated, unloved, unwanted, lonely, stiff ..."

"Okay, I get it."

"So did you hear about the bird that married a bell?" enquired Uncle Ben in the same monotonous tone.

"Uh oh," replied H.K.

"They had a real wing ding," finished Uncle Ben and then broke into an obnoxious laugh.

"Funny," responded H.K. without even cracking a smile. "That would probably be hilarious like your 'owl who married a goat' joke if it were like 1890. It is just that nobody uses the phrase 'wing ding' anymore."

"I've got more..."

"Save them for the party," H.K. replied quickly. "By the way, these cookies are horrible!"


"Do you know who wrote this note? It is completely illegible."

"Perhaps your mother's arthritis is acting up."

"You may be right, but that doesn't explain the terrible cookies."

"I suppose so."

"Where is everyone anyway?"

"They went to Frank's house. Your aunt and I were tired so we stayed behind to rest. I wonder where she is now..."

"Who was all here?"

"Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice & ..."

"Fine fine... Go find your wife. I'll make some calls."

"Good idea. Beulah? Beulah? Beulah..."

H.K. found the phone in the same place it had been since he had lived there. It was even the same phone. The same flip-up address book was still right next to it. He grabbed the address book and opened it to the 'S-T' section.

He spotted his name with his latest address written on whiteout. His address had changed so many times the whiteout was rather thick. Nevertheless, he was looking for Uncle Frank's number, so he continued his search.

After he located the number, he picked up the phone. There was no dial tone; the phone was dead. Like he has seen so many times in the movies, he pressed down on the button several times and said 'hello' into the receiver. There was no response.

"I wonder if Montana MacInnes knows an incantation to raise a dead phone," H.K. joked to himself as he hung up.

He chuckled for a moment and then chastised himself for making a joke as bad as Uncle Ben makes. He decided to sit on the porch for a while and watch traffic. Perhaps one of his old high school friends would see him and stop by.

H.K. sat on the old bench on the porch and relaxed. However, the neighborhood was quiet. There was no traffic. He listened closely and did not think he even heard birds chirping. There was just an eerie silence. All he could hear was Uncle Ben's monotonous voice saying "Beulah? Beulah? Beulah..."

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The Haunted Mines of Krator

Part 3

By Dwayne MacInnes

Traps come in different shapes and sizes depending on who made them and where they placed them. In many dwarven establishments, you will find that the little dour faced people favor pressure plates in the floor. To detect these just look for the tiles with worn surfaces from usage over the ages. The difference is subtle but can be lethal, especially if you step on an unworn tile that happens to be a pressure plate. Some High Elves of old loved to have darts that shoot out of the wall once a beam of light was penetrated. Here you had to be observant to the tiny holes in the wall and natural light filtering into the area. However, in places like mines or natural caves where occupancy has been relatively short you find the ever-popular tripwire.

Tripwire traps are some of the most common, easiest, and cheapest traps to rig. Break a wire and a weapon from above crashes into your noggin. On the other hand, maybe a boulder topples into you from the side knocking you off a ledge. Regardless of their simplicity, tripwire traps are just as effective as any other trap. Dead is dead, unless of course you are on good terms with a high-ranking priest or a Necromancer. Priests are very expensive to employ in order to bring you back from the dead and even though a Necromancer is a lot easier on the money pouch, very few people want to return from the dead as a zombie or an animated skeleton.

Once a tripwire is located, the next thing is to figure out what it is on the other end of the trigger. In this case, it was some large stones nicely concealed in the roughly hewn ceiling. Having a half ton of rocks falling on you would make a quick end to any adventure. Now, that I had established what the tripwire was the trigger for I had to make a decision.

You are probably saying to yourself "what decision, disarm the trap." Yes, in some cases I would disarm the trap. Say that for example I had a couple of fighters, a mage, and priest bumbling around in the darkness behind me. However, as I established before -- I work alone.

There are two very good reasons why I would not disarm the trap. First, is that I do not want some unfriendly stumbling around and noticing that their trap has been discovered. Not good for one in my profession to alert the occupants of a dwelling that I am on the premises.

Secondly, a trap meant for me can be just as effective against the ones it is supposed to protect. You would be surprised that in the midst of a chase that the person who laid out a trap will completely forget about it. That is why it is of utmost importance that I memorize the location of traps. Many people do not realize that a thief's most important attribute is her memory. The thief that forgets something vital ends up either in prison or dead.

I avoided the trap by simply walking over the tripwire and proceeded down the mineshaft. I slowly and stealthily crept down the tunnel on the look out for other traps. I spied the occasional silver nugget lying on the ground and since I figured, the town would not miss it I kept them as souvenirs of my trip.

I had traveled down the winding shaft for about fifteen minutes (after having to stop and recite my spell every minute) when I noticed a flickering light in the opening ahead. A flickering light meant two things to me, first that I would no longer have to keep reciting that spell and secondly that there was a fire ahead.

The ghost story of a haunted mine was starting to unravel. The last I knew ghosts did not need fires to help them see or to warm themselves. I used extra caution as I approached the fire. Light is not the thief's best friend. However, shadows are and I became very close friends with the shadows.

As I drew closer to the light emanating from the opening at the end of the shaft, I started to pick out two voices in conversation. This was even more evidence that I was not dealing with the dearly departed. I have never in all my experiences encountered a ghost that needed to converse with another ghost. Hell, ghosts generally do not converse with anyone. They tend to moan and wail nonstop, which is more of an irritant than actual communication.

I slid stealthily up to the opening and peered in from behind some large rocks. There on the ground, inside a huge natural cavern with a high ceiling, burned a small fire. Around the fire were two bedrolls and on the other side of the fire sitting at a table were two living humans deep in conversation.

I listened to their conversation for a while. Listening is another trait that a good thief needs to have. It is the best way of learning about people and places. It is also a great way to discover what may lie ahead.

A fighter would storm into the room. Kill the first person and then proceed to subdue the second and then waste valuable time torturing the poor victim until he "volunteered" the information the fighter wanted. This is not a very effective and trustworthy means of gaining intelligence. Then again, intelligence and fighters do not mix.

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