September 2007 Archives

The Lost Wizard

Jaime the Bard - Third Tale

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Our wizard quarry used a love potion on someone? That takes the challenge completely out of it. Personally, I would have burned incense under soft candle light. I would have spoken soft words and perhaps recited some poetry. If they were still unbending to my desires, I would just get them drunk.

In any event, we have a lead with which to follow up. In order for the guild to take action, someone must file a complaint with a local magistrate. While the information obtained from the Mages' Guild was short on details, the magistrate's office should have the details of the incident. That is, if their records go back that far.

Seeing as we were old hands at wandering around this city, we easily found our way into the record's office. With my great way with people, the group decided that I should speak with the local officials. Since I was given the task of speaking with the gentleman, I entered alone with the rest of the group waiting outside.

The magistrate on duty was a kindly old man. If we knew the age of dirt, he would perhaps exceed it in age. I gave him a friendly smile and greeted him warmly. After several kind words with the magistrate on duty, he informed me that records that old would have been destroyed long ago. They simply did not have the space to store records that long. However, he had a vague recollection of the incident.

Naturally, he told me about his son's neighbor who did business with a butcher whose daughter was married to the cousin of the cabinetmaker who did work for the party involved. It was quite a long and twisted tale involving commoners and royalty, love, intrigue, and betrayal. It was standard melodrama faire. I probably should have paid more attention to the details. In any event, it all involved the King and Queen of Miz and their daughter.

As best I could, I relayed the tale to the rest of the group. I may have enhanced it a bit. Well, since I remembered very few details of the original, I may not have been far off the original. All of those tales are essentially the same. I could not remember if the original had a dragon and a wicked stepmother, so I had no choice but to include those elements.

After this brief mission of discovery, we gathered our things and headed toward Miz. As we journeyed towards this town, we pressed Cyrus for more information on this town from which he hailed.

Miz was never a major metropolitan area. Its geography limited its size and access. However, it was a favorite vacationing spot of one of the kings of the realm. When the imperial powers consolidated many of the kingdoms, this king exiled himself to Miz. Presumably, he did this to avoid execution of himself and his family.

Thus, while he thought of himself as a king and his children as princes and princesses, the titles were meaningless. As it turns out, the princess we were after was simply a daughter of some notable nobles. She had no claim to any imperial or kingly authority.

Perhaps from the story I told, the rest of the group got the impression that our wizard gave the love potion to this nobleman's daughter to make her fall in love with him. Further, the parents got wind of this plot and had the reputation of the wizard destroyed. Thus, he had to make a living in obscurity under the direction of some Dwarven overlords.

I told a wonderful tale, if I do say so myself. Some of it may even come close to the mark. I did stave off some possible criticism by reminding them that everything said was relayed from the recollection of a very ancient man.

Even with Ranger Rex sniffing every flower and examining every broken twig, the journey from Giland to Miz was uneventful. With Imperial power holding sway in this area, brigands preying upon travelers were rare. Traveling the roads was relatively safe; however, only seasoned adventurers should wander off the roads.

Since town officials ordered the Wizard of Miz -- er -- Sorcerer Cyrus -- not to enter the town without the princess, we made camp just outside of town. The plan was to leave Cyrus in camp while the rest of us gather information about the wizard and the princess in Miz.

The townspeople here were more willing to speak to us. Few remembered Deffrey Jackard. However, many knew his story, and the old man got it all wrong. His memory must be failing him. He missed so many details.

The old king had a son and four daughters. The son got himself in trouble with the Imperial powers and has been away from Miz for many years. The eldest daughter now calls herself the Queen of Miz. The missing princess was either her daughter or her niece. Many believed that the girl was actually born from the youngest of the old king's daughters. In any event, she is the missing princess. The townspeople were unclear on who her mother and father were.

The old man also got the story of the love potion wrong. From speaking to people around town, the old King's youngest daughter fell in love with the wizard the old-fashioned way. There was no magic involved. However, the old queen would not have her daughter getting involved with some commoner.

Apparently, our wizard gave the love potion to the mother. Thus, she removed opposition to the bond. However, her reversal of mind raised suspicion with the old king. The old king's investigators discovered the plot, which led to the wizard's removal from the Mages' Guild. This story was completely different from the one the old man told.

The townsfolk told an inconsistent story after this point. The youngest daughter dies and a child appears. Some believe that she died giving birth to the child while others believe it was the new queen's daughter. Some stated that the wizard killed the daughter so no one could have her and implanted his seed in the new queen. There were many tales, and few were consistent.

In any event, the child grew up but had a tumultuous time of it. She was often in trouble and was completely unmanageable. Thus, she eventually earned herself banishment into the Forest of No Return. Is it a misnomer if you return from the Forest of No Return? That is what happened.

She returned from the forest, but she had no recollection of events that transpired within the forest. She was changed, and she appeared to have amended her wild ways. However, she gradually became moody and one day she ran away.

Since they were naturally suspicious of all magic users, they rid themselves of an awful menace by sending a resident sorcerer out to look for her. I wonder whom they mean by that. They have heard nothing. There have been no progress reports. We have been the only ones asking about her since she vanished.

While I was ready to stay in an inn in town, the rest of the group thought we should join Cyrus at the camp. I thought about arguing the point, but relented. We walked back to camp and told the story to our sorcerer as told to us by the townspeople. He too remarked that it was very different from the version told to me by the old man.

He asked about the dragon and the evil stepmother. I related to him that perhaps one or the other was responsible for the death of the youngest daughter. Nevertheless, in the morning, we would have to determine our next course of action.

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The Scout

Chapter 9

By Dwayne MacInnes

A muffled sob brought Scott back to consciousness. On the seat next to him was the small boy. He lay curled in a fetus position with his back toward Scott. The boy shook with each sob.

Scott rubbed the sleep from his eyes and noticed that the morning sun had risen behind him from the East. With any luck, he would be back in the restored United States by nightfall or the next morning at the latest.

The scout reached out to the boy and touched him. The boy instantly became aware of his surroundings and jumped back against the door. The fear in his wide tearful eyes told Scott that the lad did not trust him.

"Easy kid, I'm one of the good guys," Scott said with a smile.

The boy just stared at Scott and shook with fear. He sniffed a couple of times, wiped his nose, but he did not respond in any other way.

"Look here, I'm a scout," Scott said as he showed the young boy his steel badge.

The expression on the boy's face instantly changed. Awe and wonder replaced the fear in the boy's eyes.

"No Fooling?" the boy finally said in a small voice. "I heard of you guys. But, I always thought it was just a story."

"Yep, I'm the genuine article," Scott continued with his smile still intact. "So, what is your name? Mine is Scott."

"I'm Sam."

"Well Sam, how about a little breakfast?"

The boy nodded his head. Scott noticed how thin and dirty the boy was. There were not any showers around and he could not afford to waste water on cleaning up Sam. But, he could at least feed the kid. Scott rummaged through his supplies next to the fuel tanks in the backseat and produced an MRE.

"Looks like spaghetti and meatballs," Scott tossed the boy the Meal Ready to Eat package. The boy wasted no time in opening the brown package and devouring the contents.

"When was the last time you had something to eat?" Scott asked as he observed the boy licking the remaining sauce off the packaging.

Sam just continued licking as he shrugged his shoulders. Finally, after he consumed every morsel he began to talk.

"Ma and Pa were traveling from our old home in Wyndmere to find a new one somewhere else. We were low on food and Pa heard that one of the other towns may have some to spare. Sis and I hadn't had anything to eat in a couple of days and for Ma and Pa it was longer."

Suddenly, Sam stopped speaking and began to cry as the memory of his ordeal replayed itself in his memory. "We…we were attacked by wasters. They shot up the car real bad and Pa crashed," Sam choked out between sobs. "We were all thrown out of the car in the wreck. Ma and Pa didn't move and looked real bad. I heard the motorcycles coming so I…I crawled out into the field to hide. I noticed Mary, that's my sister, getting up.

"I was going to tell her to hide too, but the wasters saw her and grabbed her. All I did was hide. I should have done something but I didn't know what to do. By that time I lay down on the ground and I don't remember anything else."

"You took a nasty spill. I found you just before a radioactive storm hit."

Sam's eyes nearly bugged out of his head hearing this. Everyone knew that exposure to a radioactive storms turned people and animals into muties. Hair would fall out of the body from the severe radiation sickness. Skin would blacken and crack from the radiation cooking it. Open, bloody sores would instantly cover the body and the mind would become twisted in a mixture of madness and pain. Muties tended to live short but violent lives. They would wail and moan in torment and any living thing crossing their paths would be the focus of their fury. If a pack of muties did not finish you off, their radiation would either kill you or turn you into a mutie as well.

Sam looked down at his feet thinking. Scott did not disturb the boy. Instead, he took the time to eat an MRE himself. Scott was nearly finished with his breakfast when the boy looked over at him.

"Mister, I know Ma and Pa didn't make it, but do you think you could help me find Mary?"

Scott nearly choked at he boy's request. "I wouldn't know where to begin, kid."

"They took her to Sturgis. That's their main camp, and they sell everyone they capture in the Wastes there as slaves."

"Sturgis? Sturgis, South Dakota? Look here kid I'm on an important mission and I need to get back to Montana. I can't go down to the Black Hills."

Sam began to open his door. "Fine, I'll go myself!" he shouted as he began to climb out.

Scott reached over and pulled Sam back into the car. "Ok, kid. It is against my better judgment and it will probably land me in hot water back at HQ. But, I will help you find your sister."

The Geiger began to click again. "Sam shut the door looks like there are some muties heading our way."

Before Sam could slam the door shut, Scott already had the Charger started and heading down the ravaged road.

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Commander Joe

Chapter One

Part 4

Ooops! I accidentally left the commercial in. Well, the show will continue after the brief commercial break.

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The Lost Wizard

Sorcerer Cyrus - Third Tale

By Douglas E. Gogerty

With the rest of the company in Miz, I had time to think about things. I had a lot of time. They were gone for most of the day, and I had nothing to do but tend the camp. I was quite alone with my thoughts.

I spent quite a bit of time considering the various incarnations of the Forest of No Return. I found it quite interesting that each member of our party came from a different town, yet ended in the same hole. It got me wondering about the legend.

It seems reasonable to me that each individual sent into the Forest of No Return, would end in that pit. Perhaps the dwarves would intervene, or perhaps the individual would simply spend time with our missing wizard. In any event, the wizard would administer a memory erase potion, and the individual would be free to wander back to their city.

Sorcerers Map

Those individuals that were "drastically changed" were likely individuals who ended up in a different town than where he or she began. This, to me, seemed the most likely explanation of the mystery of the forests.

While talking to the other members, I am convinced that all the towns border the same river and the same forest. If we could avoid the hole in the ceiling of the dwarven central hall, we could walk to each of the towns. Perhaps someday this will be possible.

I am also of the opinion that the missing "princess" is the daughter of our wizard. When she entered the forest and fell into the pit, the pair met for the first time. However, it may be unlikely that the dwarves would allow him to keep a long-term guest. Alternatively, she may have wanted to be with more people her own age. It would have been very lonely for her.

Thus, the pair concocted a scheme in order to free themselves of their dwarven obligations. She would return to Miz under a temporary memory erase spell. The wizard would sneak away up the hole, and they would rendezvous at a prearranged location.

For my part, the princess went away under her own will. Thus, that part of the quest was finished. If she wished to no longer live in Miz, that was her decision. No one abducted her, and thus, this part of my quest is complete.

When the remainder of the party returned, most of my inclinations were verified. The group voted on whether to continue to look for Deffery Jackard. We decided to continue that quest. However, it may have been mostly for our own curiosity rather than fear of reprisal from the dwarves.

With my excellent hunches playing out, we decided to pursue my next thought. The princess's uncle was also missing. Perhaps he was missing on purpose rather than some nefarious reason. If he had established housekeeping in some town, the princess and the wizard may have joined him.

Naturally, the question was where we would find him living. That was a question I could not answer, but Giland was a good place to start our inquiries. Thus, after a night camping, we headed back to Giland.

Clearly, they would not be living in Giland. We would have run into them. At the very least, someone would have noticed the strangers. I recalled hearing someone tell of a man and woman passing through, and I believe we need to follow that trail.

Ranger Rex said he could follow the trail if it were not so cold. It is always that way with him. It made little different, we would take the north road, and ask along the road. Perhaps we would hear something from another traveler or find the pair in a town along the road.

The safety of the roads south of Giland quickly made themselves apparent. We were not a day's travel north of Giland when a group of bandits attacked us. Ranger Rex, our fighting expert, was smelling roses or talking to some bear when these ruffians fell upon us remaining three.

With a fighting song from Jaime the Bard, we were all in good spirits as we fought off the attack. There is nothing like hearing "Here I come to save the day!" when you find yourself in battle.

As Dwanye ran around avoiding direct combat with our foes, Jaime picked them off one by one. I had a few spells ready, and I took care of a few of these highwaymen myself. I also did my best to protect the fragile rogue, but I too had things to worry about. At least he had a little armor.

We had dispatched the group when our ranger returned. We voted to spend the night at that spot. For his negligence, we gave Ranger Rex the first watch. I for one, needed to rest if we were going to run into any more trouble along the road.

In the morning as we ate the most important meal of the day, Ranger Rex told a story of some ruffians he fought off during the night. However, we could not locate their bodies anywhere. He claimed that wolves must have dragged them off.

Dwanye experienced no such encounters during his watch. It is curious that. I will refrain from retelling Jaime's encounter. Some people find stories of bestiality distasteful during a repast. Our bard experiences no such qualms. He does love to tell a tale though.

No matter, I was well rested when our journey continued. The previous days encounter was a mixed blessing. Because of the insecurity of the roads, we felt the need to remain in a close group. On the other hand, because of the insecurity of the roads, we felt the need to remain in a close group, which included Ranger Rex.

However, it was enjoyable to see his face when our Bard would spin one of his bawdier yarns. His face crinkles in a most extraordinary way, and he has the capability of turning many shades of red. As long as you do not have to wake him for his watch, his nighttime paranoia is also entertaining.

We walked on the road heading north for a couple of days with only a few minor encounters. It was just a few packs of wild animals, and some wandering individuals preying upon other wandering individuals. They will not bother anyone again.

Eventually, we came to a small town. An inn with a soft bed was going to be a welcome change from the ground. We inquired with several townsfolk, and they remember seeing a father and daughter pass through town several days previously.

This pair did not socialize with the townspeople much. They kept mostly to themselves. Thus, no one knew where they were headed. They just continued on the road to the north.

Ranger Rex stated that if we hurried, we might be able to catch their trail while it was still warm. However, we decided that a soft bed and a bottle of wine were more important. After all, we would not be able to stay long with Jaime the Bard on the prowl.

Despite protestations from our ranger, we lazily arose and had another meal at the inn. We did not know whom our entertainer ended up with, but the mayor's daughter had a peculiar walk that morning. Thus, we decided that we had dawdled long enough. It was back to the trail, much to our ranger's delight.

Needless to say, our trail following expert blamed our lackadaisical attitude for him not being able to find a good trail. I am beginning to get the feeling that he would not be able to track a herd of wooly mammoths if they were standing in front of him. Perhaps I am just making light of him.

The last town had completely stripped us of all motivation for this quest. Rex would not let us quit, but our thoughts were clearly elsewhere. I am certain Jaime's were.

We would soon have to decide whether we continue our quest, or whether we simply let the dwarves do their own jobs. We were free, and we knew the secret of the forest. We could avoid encounters with the dwarven kings and their people. There was no reason to continue -- except Rex. Well -- the newfound friends also kept me going.

As we decided on the watches, and settled down for a night's rest, some of us began thinking of what happens next. What happens if or when we fulfill our mission? Perhaps an answer will come to us in our dreams.

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The Scout

Chapter 10

By Dwayne MacInnes

"How did you survive in Wyndmere?" Scott asked the young boy.

"We still had some areas that weren't completely blown away. We could grow some crops and the water wasn't bad either," Sam replied distantly looking out the windshield.

"I guess I never made it to your neck of the woods. I just assumed all of the land was blasted and blown like here."

"Most of it is. That is why it is important that we grow what food we could. The wasters wouldn't bother us if we gave them some of our food."

"I never thought of that. I guess that explains why the wasters survive so well up here. Normally the parasites like to live in warmer climes and just raid the communities that survived the Big Bang."

"Pa said they used to do that, but many people started to leave or were killed so raiding wasn't so good anymore. Then the wasters made many people move to the towns and start to farm. As long as we had food to give them, they wouldn't bother us. But, if we didn't they would sell everyone off into slavery."

"Is that why your family left? Because the crops failed," Scott continued.

"Yes, but the wasters don't allow people to leave towns. Pa was hoping to find a new home somewhere else without the wasters noticing. Other people have done it," Sam became quiet and withdrawn after this. Scott knew that the wounds of losing his family were still too fresh. Even in a time when losing loved ones was common it did not lessen the pain.

"So you ever hear of the ‘land piranha's'?" Scott asked changing the topic as he drove southwardly down the rough road formerly known as Highway 8 towards South Dakota.

"Yeah, I heard of them. But, I never seen them. Aren't they a bunch of squirrels?" the boy responded.

"You're close they are actually roving packs of Chihuahuas," Scott glanced over at Sam noticing the question in his eyes. "Small dogs, they were annoying before the Big Bang. Now they are deadly. I don't know what, but something changed them. So now, down in Mexico and Arizona you have these packs of dogs…packs of over a hundred little mean dogs that can devour a buffalo in a matter of sixty seconds."

"Yeah right, mister," Sam snorted in disbelief.

"No really, I've seen it myself. Hell, I didn't even believe in muties until I saw one myself and you know they are real."

Sam nodded in agreement.

Ping! Ping! Ping!

Scott shot a glance at his monitor. Following behind the Charger was a two-person dune buggy. The driver was accelerating and weaving the light vehicle through the wreckage on the road. The passenger was firing a .30 machinegun mounted in front of him. Fortunately, the ammo was still of a small enough caliber that as long as it hit the armor the Charger would be fine.

Nonetheless, a lucky shot from the automatic weapon could still seriously damage the scout's vehicle. Scott was not about to let that happen. He stomped on the accelerator and the Charger surged forward on the torn-up highway as the M-60 chewed up the concrete behind the car.

Sam's face paled, his last run in with the wasters had left his parents dead and his sister abducted. The young boy gripped the dash with white knuckles. His jaw clenched tight in fear.

The scout started to weave the car back and forth in hopes of throwing off the pursuers' aim. However, the buggy was a much more maneuverable vehicle and could easily keep up. An occasional ping off the armor audibly reminded Scott of that fact.

Scott also knew that trying to turn the Charger around to face the buggy would be futile. The buggy could easily stay on the muscle car's tail and fire away at its rear armor. Alternatively, the buggy could just also drive off road with ease and snipe at the Charger's side. No, Scott's plan of attack would need to rely on something in the Charger's favor. In this case, the scout figured it would have to be its weight.

Scott started to aim for debris and wreckage on the battered road that he could plow through that might ensnare the buggy. Unfortunately, what large obstacles Scott encountered would just explode or fly away once the Charger smashed into it. The net result was that Scott was actually clearing a path for the buggy that was still firing burst after burst at the car.

The scout desperately searched for something that would work in his favor. So far, the buggy had the advantage. The only redeeming thing was that the gunner still had not been able to get that lucky hit to incapacitate the Charger. Thank God, the buggy did not have an M-2 or a grenade launcher or the battle would already be over

Sweat was starting to stream into Scott's eyes; he wiped his brow with his left arm while wildly cranking the steering wheel left and right. Scott scanned the horizon for anything that might work to his advantage. Then he saw it, an old off-ramp leading to some small dead town.

The Charger was easily doing 120 miles per hour with the buggy keeping pace. The engine on the light off-road vehicle was definitely not stock. The horsepower on the small block engine may just be too much for the dune buggy Scott figured.

At the last minute, just before passing it Scott quickly cranked the wheel hard to right. The Charger barely managed to make it onto the off-ramp. Caught off guard the driver on the buggy tried to correct his mistake in anticipating the scout's move. Unfortunately, the buggy was a second too late in matching the Charger in reaction. As a result, the fast but light vehicle caught the left embankment of the off-ramp flipping the buggy into the air.

Scott watched in amazement as the buggy corkscrewed in the air towards the Charger. Just before the unguided projectile hit the muscle car, Scott made a hard right turn onto an intersecting road. The buggy instead plowed into the ground and now started to flip end over end down the off-ramp kicking up a cloud of loose concrete and smoke. The buggy finally came to rest as it slammed into the wooden front of an old store.

The scout slowed down his Charger and started to head back towards the wreckage of the dilapidated building that was now billowing smoke. Sam looked over at the driver and began to pant. He was now just remembering to breathe again.

"What are you doing?" the young boy asked between breaths.

"If we are lucky I think I found our ticket into Sturgis."

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Commander Joe

Chapter One

Part 5

What exciting revelations will be made in this installment of Commander Joe? Let's find out:

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The Lost Wizard

Ranger Rex - Third Tale

By Douglas E. Gogerty

This sucks! I am a ranger! The rest of the group squashes every opportunity that I have to use my skills. Instead of picking up the trail of our quarry, they loaf about in an inn. Thus, they let the trail go cold. Despite my best effort, I just could not find any trace of the trail of our wizard.

Further, with the danger upon the roads, the rest of the group was in need of my services. Thus, their protection being paramount, they forced me to be around them. I could not forage or look for evidence of the wizard passing through. The group would have been in great peril if I wandered far from them.

With this group, I have very little opportunity to use my skills as a ranger. We did eventually leave the town, and continued north on the road. However, it was late in the morning, and the rest of the group was moving slowly.

We were following some good leads. A relative of one of the aristocrats from Miz was supposed to live north of Giland somewhere. We felt that if we could find him, we could find our wizard. In addition, we would have the bonus of finding Sorcerer Cyrus's princess.

However, pressing forward with this unmotivated group was proving difficult. Some members of our group were just trudging along. It is like pulling teeth to continue forward. The bard was joking and telling tales to the wizard. They both had no focus on our quest.

Luckily, after a nights rest, we were attacked by a group of bandits. This seemed to energize the team. With my excellent sword skills, I dispatched most of our foes with quite the flair.

The bandit leader was at least seven feet tall. His weapon was a large claymore. He waved it about as if it were a dagger. With a mighty roar, he attacked Jaime, our bard. Jaime could block the mighty blows, but it was all that he could do.

Scottish Claymore

I jumped into action. I rushed the giant with my sword ready and my shield at my side. He swung his mighty sword at me, but was well above my head. Nevertheless, I rolled upon the ground and stopped at his feet. I thrust upwards, and opened up the man's belly.

After I had successfully defeated the bandit leader, the bard took his sword and cut the dead man's head off. A few other bandits that I killed, others claimed credit. In any event, I practically killed all of the bandits myself.

This encounter energized the group. They were no longer content with lollygagging our way north. We moved at a steadier and quicker pace. They had come to my way of thinking. We were now ready to get back on track for the quest.

Nevertheless, we were in an unprotected area, and we were not going to reach any civilization for a few days. Thus, we had to stay focused on our task. This area could be quite perilous

In fact, we ran into several bands of bandits as we traveled north. Dwanye was quite pleased, as many of these highwaymen had items of great value upon their persons. He always seemed more pleasant with some coin coming into his possession.

We naturally split the plunder equally, so we all had a modest income as we defeated gangs on our travels north. I think this brightened the spirits of all of our party members.

I do not mean to imply that it was all fighting as we went north. We did run into some fellow travelers. There were trades-people ferrying their wares between a town we just left to the town where were pushing towards. There were tourists and other folks looking for adventure or a new life.

Our bard spun many fine yarns when we would share our campsite with travelers. He was less inclined to speak of his sexual adventures with these strangers. It was a welcome break from the usual stories of his exploits.

As usual, we would take turns taking watches. While we shared things with travelers, it would have been foolish to trust them explicitly. Thus, we still kept our own watch and protected our items.

Unfortunately, during one night, a friendly group of travelers stole several valuable items that I collected from some bandit groups. This happened on Dwanye's watch, and he apologized most fervently. He even volunteered to replace the items, but I declined the offer. After our quest, I may seek out these travelers to gain recompense for their actions.

Perhaps I should have taken him up on the offer though. His pack seemed full to overflowing with treasure. I could have relieved him of some of that burden, but it would not be right to punish him for the actions of others.

Further, he offered to compensate me from the next group of travelers. However, I explained to him that two wrongs would not rectify the situation. Thus, I would take care of the situation myself, and that I would hear nothing further about it.

The trip north had become quite arduous. We were beginning to tire of walking each day. We had begun to wish we had hired a wagon or purchased some sort of transport. However, our wealth had not existed in its current state until we made it this far north.

With all of our items, and our tired feet, it was a wonder that we could still fight. However, we still needed to protect ourselves from bandits. There were few days when we did not have to fend off a group of highwaymen.

After a couple of weeks on the road, we eventually, came to a town. We were all looking forward to selling our collected items and resting in a soft bed in an inn. Some members of our group, who I will refrain from mentioning, were looking forward to romps with barmaids or encounters with daughters of governmental officials.

Personally, I was hoping that we would find more information on our missing wizard. The company of this group was fine, but I would greatly appreciate not having a death sentence looming over me. Thus, if we could return the wizard to the dwarves, we could move on with our lives.

However, I could not get the rest of our group to focus upon our quest until they had fully taken care of their needs. I did sell several of the items I had collected for a nice bit of gold.

Nonetheless, I sharpened my sword and performed some routine maintenance on my armor while the others visited the tavern. I got several hours of sleep before being aroused by the carrying on of other members in the group at some early hour of the morning.

I was hoping to get some help with the search the next day, but they were not in the mood for such things. This quest was going to be difficult to fulfill.

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The Scout

Chapter 11

By Dwayne MacInnes

Scott removed wooden plank after plank. The buggy had done a great job of burying itself inside the partially collapsed building. After a few minutes of hard work, Scott finally reached the buggy. The vehicle laid upside-down half immersed in rubble; the occupants were bloody and torn remnants of human beings. The scout cursed to himself as he did a quick survey.

For the most part the buggy was still intact. The engine was relatively undamaged, just a thrown belt and some loose hoses. The frame was a little twisted and a few of the welds on the roll-cage were broken. Scott could fix these minor things in a day or two with the proper tools. However, the rear axle was broken and the driver's side rear wheel had completely broken off.

Time was not a factor on their side if Scott hoped to get to Sturgis in time to save Mary. It would take just a few days alone to repair the axle and replace the wheel by himself. Again, that was if Scott had the proper tools, which Scott did not. There was always the small chance that some tools remained in a garage or gas station. However, that was unlikely for the wasters immediately would have looted the town for such equipment.

The scout had really been hoping to use the buggy to get into Sturgis. Going in with the Charger would have been suicide. It was clearly a scout vehicle and though it was better armed and armored than the wasters, the gang of thugs could easily overwhelm Scott with their sheer numbers.

Sam reached out and placed a hand on Scott's shoulder bringing the scout out of his musings. Scott looked over at Sam with a reassuring smile. Scott hoped that he could project some hope into the boy. Sam's face suddenly took on a look of horror. Scott twisted his head in the direction of whatever was scaring Sam.

Six large men with long beards and assault rifles aimed at the pair were standing in the open wall. They looked like hillbillies with their unkempt beards, dirty overalls, and menacing looks. The only thing out of place was the fact that they carried M-16s and AK-47s instead of muzzle loading rifles.

"What do we have here, Brent?" asked one of the men.

"I'd say we found ourselves some lost souls," replied the man supposedly called Brent.

"One of ‘em looks like a scout," said the first.

Brent sniffed and looked coolly at Scott. "Well, I guess we better take care of them."

Scott was about to launch himself into a suicide leap at the one he perceived to be Brent and therefore the leader when he heard him say:

"How can we help you boys?"

Scott blinked his eyes and his mouth dropped in surprise. This was the last thing he expected to hear.

Brent broke into a loud laugh that instantly infected the other five men. "Who'd you think we were, wasters?"

Scott relaxed and started to laugh himself. By some divine luck, he stumbled upon some friendly people.

Brent held out his hand and grabbed Scott's in strong firm handshake. The big man continued to talk as he nearly pumped Scott's arm out of his socket. "We're Anderson Brother's Salvage. Finding a scout out here was the last thing we expected to find."

Scott relayed his story about opening a path to the Twin Cities and that now his quest was to help Sam rescue his sister. The six men eagerly agreed to help the scout fix up the buggy and offered to hide the Charger in a nearby Post Office.

What would have taken Scott a matter of days or a week by himself they accomplished in only few hours. The six Salvagers had all the necessary tools packed in the back of the two full ton pickup trucks that they used for their scavenging. Soon the buggy was nearly as good as new. They even painted the buggy with a gray primer to help disguise it. Scott transferred some .30 ammo to reload the almost empty M-60 and then placed his .30-06 hunting rifle in the back of the buggy.

"Yeah, it would not do you any good to walk into the Anarchist's camp with one of their patrol buggies," Brent said while they ate a light dinner.

Scott looked at Brent questioningly, "Anarchist?"

"Yep, that's the name of the wasters who run this part of the area. A dangerous lot they are. We saw that buggy drive by on patrol yesterday. With the storm last night, it is possible that the Anarchists will think it was lost. Plus, with that patrol out of commission we can extend our salvage operation another day before the Anarchist send out a search party."

"What are Salvagers?" Sam enquired of the large man.

"We are. That is to say, that is how we make our living. With the world gone to pot a few of us more adventurous entrepreneurs will scavenge the Wastes looking for things they can use back in the U.S."

"But you guys have factories, right?" the boy asked.

"Sure we do. But, production still isn't what it was and the demand outstrips supply. This makes many things very expensive. We are able to help with the supply by salvaging things out here and selling them back in the States at a slightly less cost than a new one from a factory. There are big profits to be had out there if you are willing to take the risks.

"Anderson Brothers Salvage is the most successful salvaging operation out there. We use our wits and avoid the wasters as much as we can. Part of that is to study and know who those wasters are."

"Why are you hiding Scott's car in a Post Office?" Sam asked taking on a new line of thought.

Brent laughed, "Easy there isn't anything in those Post Offices that a waster would want so it's the perfect hiding place. Now it's my turn to ask a question," Brent turned his attention to Scott. "When do you expect to take off?"

"Right after we finish eating," Scott replied.

"Then you better take this," Brent tossed Scott a dirty, faded, and worn denim jacket that said, ‘Anderson's Garage' on the back. "Wouldn't do to have you walk into Sturgis looking like a scout would it?"

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Commander Joe

Chapter One

Part 6

In this final part of Chapter One, what adventures will Joe encounter?

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The Lost Wizard

Dwanye the Rogue - Third and Final Tale

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Wow! This is my kind of town. First of all, it is outside the purview of the Empire. Thus, Imperial laws do not apply here. Imagine that. Here was a place without Imperial entanglements. Well, it has very few entanglements anyway.

Second of all, it did not have a chapter of the Thieves' Guild. There was no entity telling me from whom I could and could not steal. This town gives me the freedom of my dreams.

Third and final of all, this town was rich. This town was founded near a very rich gold mine. For a thief, this gold mine was a gold mine. There was a steady river of gold flowing into town. It needed someone like me to direct some of that flow.

I visited many local merchants and unloaded the goods I had obtained by hard work, and perhaps I unloaded a few ill-gotten goods as well. After these transactions, I had a fair amount of gold upon my person.

With my newfound riches, I decided to research the town. I started at a local gaming establishment. In a lawless town like this, I expected the establishment to be crooked. However, I did not expect them to be so incompetently so.

At first, I played the "newcomer in town rube." I was all, "How do you play this rolling cube game?" I let them con me by allowing me to win some gold. Further, I let them cheat me out of a bit of my gold as I determined how they had fixed the game.

When the night was over, I owned the place. Their bait and switch was baffled by my palming and switching skills. In the end, they did not know which set of rigged dice I was rolling. It was quite a fun and exhilarating evening.

After Jaime the Bard's appetites were sated, he had joined me at the tables and acted as bodyguard. The owner protested the results of this poorly rigged game, but at the tip of Jaime's sword, he agreed to terms. I had a big pile of gold, plus the deed to this fine establishment.

It was quite early in the morning when Jaime and I decided to return to the inn. Jaime's appetite must have returned as he was thinking of taking advantage of a sleeping Rex. However, the ranger awoke before an encounter could be arranged. I must teach that bard some of my stealth skills.

In the morning -- well -- in the early afternoon, we gathered together to discuss what we found out. The ranger, with his fine investigating skills, learned how soft the inn's beds were. The rest of us were much more successful in our mission of discovery.

From Sorcerer Cyrus we found out that our missing princess's uncle founded this fine town. They call him Prince Benjamin or Prince Ben.

With the loss of any chance of a crown, Ben joined the Imperial army and won several great honors during his service. He had greatly increased Imperial holdings in the west. In many places around the Empire, his name was common. In fact, he helped broker a peace with the lizard people of the swamps.

However, with each land acquisition, he saw little in the way of monetary reward. Thus, he tired of certain Imperial entanglements. With the help of a group of entrepreneurs, he established this town. At first, the town was a simple trading post. It took frontier goods, and traded them with those with Imperial goods. In other words, they worked with the highwaymen prowling around Imperial roads.

The town was a pirate haven. However, in one of his ventures, Prince Ben struck gold. It was a mighty vein of gold too. Over night, he became quite wealthy and the town boomed. Through Prince Ben's shrewd maneuverings, thus far, they have avoided notice of the Empire.

A large flow of gold through this town would immediately bring in Imperial troops, but the outflow has been restricted. This tactic has made the original group quite wealthy. All of this success allowed Prince Benjamin to move to an extremely large estate even farther north of the city.

According to the bard, Prince Ben, with the help of his sons, runs and defends his thousand square mile ranch while helping the surrounding community. Apparently, Ben had several wives and a son with each of them. He named this town after his last wife -- Virginia -- or Vanessa -- or Valerie -- or something. Everyone just calls it V-city because no one is sure what her name was.

Furthermore, Jaime discovered that Prince Benjamin's parents were cruel people. Beatings and severe punishment was the norm for the family. With the loss of the kingdom, they became increasingly harsh. He happily left to get away from their treatment. He disappeared so they would not come looking for him and stake a claim on his newfound wealth.

For all of us, this ended the quest for the missing princess. It was clear to all of us that she left to get away from the former king and queen. Thus, it would be a crime to return her to these people.

In my conversations at the gaming tables, I discovered that the princess and her wizard father had passed through town. They stayed with Prince Ben for a few days. The Prince gave them a small parcel of land on the far northern part of his estate. It would take us months to reach their place on foot. Further, it would take weeks to reach it by wagon.

It was a well-secluded parcel of land just south of another frontier town. This town was supposedly a den of iniquity. Gambling and prostitution were not only legal but also governmentally sanctioned. This sin city was a haven for wealthy individuals wishing to relax. It has been said that whatever happens in this city stays in this city.

On a vote of 3 to 4, we decided that our quest for the lost wizard had ended. We did not want to get involved with a mob from this city, and we could make our fortunes in V-City. I was already a local property owner.

Cyrus could establish a local chapter of the Mages' Guild. I could establish a guild as well from my current business establishment. Our bard could start his own actors' troupe, or get involved in any sort of business venture. Further, I would make a nice bit of coin from his appetites at my business.

As far as Ranger Rex is concerned, he could pursue those thieves that stole from him -- er -- allegedly. Otherwise, there were plenty of opportunities in a town like this for a person of his skills. There are plenty of chances to guard shipments to Imperial towns and the like.

In addition, we were far enough from the Dwarven Kingdoms that they would never come looking for us. At a suitable time, Sorcerer Cyrus would recruit a young wizard to take our lost wizard's place. However, it could take a while.

After much wandering in our lives, we have finally found a home. I had a place I could call my own. I did not have to look over my shoulder at every waking moment. I had a steady income. I was going to put my roots down. I had a few friends that I could turn to in times of trouble. This place was definitely the place for me.

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The Scout

Chapter 12

By Dwayne MacInnes

The engine of the buggy purred as Scott prepared to drive out of the ghost town. Brent leaned over the driver's side.

"Look, I can take the kid back with us over the border."

Scott smiled and replied, "I don't think he'd go. Plus, I'm going to need him to I.D. his sister."

Brent slapped the roll cage and laughed, "Good luck to you."

Scott pulled the buggy back onto the pothole filled highway. The ride tended to be smoother as Scott was able to maneuver around debris better than he could in the Charger. Still Scott would have preferred the muscle car's thick skin to the smooth ride of the buggy.

As the buggy drove down the highway, Scott noticed that Sam sat hunched over working on something. "What are you doing there kiddo?" Scott asked.

Sam just shrugged his shoulders and responded in a small voice, "Nothing."

Scott returned his attention to driving. Sam was probably just thinking over his recent tragedies again and would like to spend some time alone. There was still a couple of hours of sun Scott figured.

Scott noticed that the wasteland was slowly giving way to grass. Here and there, clumps of tall yellow grass waved in the wind. More commonly however was the scrub grass that tenaciously clung low to the ground. Life was slowly returning to the blasted hard-packed wasteland.

The sun was starting to dip below the hills on the horizon and Scott figured it would be best if he found a place to set up camp. The boy and he could sleep under the stars. Everything would more than likely be all right as long as Scott kept his .30-06 rifle and his .357 Magnum ready.

The scout pulled the buggy off the road and parked it behind an old dilapidated barn at the base of low hill. Scott and Sam grabbed some blankets and a couple MREs. With the sun starting set and the barn between them and the old highway Scott figured it was safe enough to risk a small fire.

The two were comfortably eating their evening meal beside the low fire when Sam twisted his head toward the hill.

"Did you hear that?" the boy asked in surprise.

"Sorry, I guess you ears are better than mine. It is probably nothing," Scott replied before shoving another spoonful of mashed potatoes into his mouth.

Sam looked again towards the hill. This time Scott too thought he heard a low wail. The scout really wished he had his Charger now; the Geiger-counter would really help as an early warning against muties.

Scott picked up the hunting rifle and scrambled up the hill in the receding daylight. When he reached the top, he fell to his stomach and put the rifle to his cheek. The scout peered through the scope and surveyed in the direction he figured the wail came from.

It was not hard to locate the source of the noise. The only feature in the bleak landscape was an old twisted high-tension power tower. Near the top on the steel crossbars was a man; below him was a party of five humans furiously beating against the tower. The inhuman wails emanating from the people at the base left no doubt that Scott was looking at some muties.

"Damn," Scott cursed under his breath. Muties did not have to kill you by tearing you apart their radiation soaked bodies could do it if they got too close. If the man at the top had been quick enough, he may have put enough distance between himself and the muties to forestall him sharing their fate.

Scott prepared to fire on the first mutie when he cursed again a little louder.

"What is it?" Sam asked. Scott had forgotten about the boy who now sat next to him straining his young eyes to make out the forms near the tower.

"It's muties. They have a man trapped in that tower and if I shoot them, they will die near the base and the man will still be stuck up on top the tower. I don't think that man has weeks for the muties to decompose and the radiation to dissipate," Scott replied never taking his eyes off his target.

To make matters worse the sun was nearly behind the hills and Scott would lose his target once the light faded completely. Scott figured maybe he could fire the rifle and the muties may come towards him. It was definitely very unlikely, muties did not respond to firearms. They only tended to care about venting their insane rage on the living.

Scott took closer aim and was about to send a shot past the first mutie when suddenly the mutie turned towards the scout. Surprise stunned Scott for there was no way the mutie could know he was there. Scott had been silent and it was impossible for the mutie to see Scott unaided on top of the hill.

Then surprisingly the mutie let out a mournful wail and started towards the hill. His four irradiated companions also turned toward the hill and started to shamble towards it. The pain and rage filled cries sent a shiver through Scott's spine. The form of what had once been a man but now resembled a hotdog overcooked on the campfire made Scott's hair stand on end. The mutie had charred black skin; that cracked revealing the red and pink tender flesh underneath. He had pustules and blisters, which burst releasing its pent-up blood and pus all over his body. A milky film covered the mutie's left eye, but the rage and pain manifested itself in the right. As the abomination exhaled another wail between his blackened and cracked lips, two teeth bubbled out with bloody foam from his ruined mouth.

Then he heard it. Above the wails, Scott heard the noise of a boy yelling. Jumping to his feet Scott saw Sam at the base of the hill running towards the muties screaming to grab their attention. Without further thought, Scott brought the rifle to his shoulder and peered through the scope.

Sam was keeping his distance and drawing the monsters toward him. Scott did not know whether to be happy or angry with the lad. That was something to he would deal with later.

The blast of the .30-06 shattered the twilight. The first mutie's head exploded, the body stopped and stood still for a fraction of a second before it toppled backwards. Without missing a beat, Scott smoothly worked the rifle's bolt to eject the spent shell while it simultaneously chambered another cartridge. Within half a minute five radiated corpses littered the field between the hill and the tower.

The man in the tower worked his way back to earth and took a wide path around the corpses. He wore some faded denim jeans and a flannel coat that was patched in many places. His boots were worn and dusty. He met up with Sam and the two of them marched up the hill.

The stocky man was panting by the time he and the boy reached its top. The man's face burned dark by the relentless sun; his black hair matched the thick mustache on his round face. Scott was still fighting internally whether to rebuke or reward the boy and he was surprised when the stranger stuck out his hand.

"That was mighty fine shooting. I want to thank you and your son for saving me," the man said. Scott looked at Sam and the boy winked at the scout. "My name is Wade Benson. I was on my way back to Sturgis when my bike broke down. Those damn muties had me treed.

"Anyway, thanks. Your son says you are on your way to Sturgis to sign-up with the Anarchists."

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Deus Ex Aleatorium

In the Beginning...

By Douglas E. Gogerty

If time had any meaning for them, it could be said that they grew up together. However, they have never grown in any sense. It is as if they had always been. Some may call them gods, but they are simply transdimensional entities. Most importantly, they are friends, and have been always.

First, there is the god of the darkness as it is often called. In some places, some people consider this the god of evil. However, that is simply an interpretation. This god simply does not like rules. Chaos is the nature of the multiverse, and the god of darkness believes that imposing order on this chaos is a waste of effort.

Darkness has enormous holdings in the cosmos. Vast stretches filled with darkness and chaos. While ownership is meaningless to this being, this is its dominion. It holds sway of the darkness.

Second, there is the god of the light, again, for lack of a better description. Every pinprick of light visible is the responsibility of this entity. Unlike its friend, this god believes in rules. It attempts to tame the chaos with natural laws and concrete rules.

Without rules and order, there is only darkness. Thus, the influence of the god of light can be felt where there are some rules -- any rules. Therefore, it is also a very powerful influence in the multiverse.

While these two are very different, they enjoy each other's company. Perhaps it is simply that opposites attract. Perhaps it is their exploring different aspects of the same situation. In any event, these beings spend a great deal of time in each other's company.

One thing they both enjoy is explosions. They would spend time in a vast dark portion of the multiverse. The god of darkness would gather up huge quantities of dark matter in a central area.

Once the matter was accumulated, the god of light would configure a set of rules that would cause the accumulation to explode. The order and rules would create interesting and different patterns, which the god of light enjoyed. The chaos and randomness gave great joy to the god of darkness.

Hence, they participated in this activity with great enthusiasm. Once an explosion had taken shape, the rules would be stripped and all would go dark. The pair would repeat the process at their leisure.

With one particular explosion, they were distracted and it went on beyond their normal interval. When they returned, they watched with great interest as stars, planets, and other bodies formed. They watched and watched to see what the rules would bring.

With each new discovery, they would attempt to predict the next. Which planet would be the next to collide with the something? Which comet would escape which solar system? The vastness of the interaction kept them very excited. Thus, they decided to see what would happen if they let it go to its natural conclusion.

Of course, the god of darkness knew that eventually all of the energy would eventually be used up and darkness would prevail. The stars would burn out. The hunks of rocks would go cold. Darkness would once again rule this part of the multiverse. However, how long would it take?

On one particular rock orbiting one particular glowing ball, life formed. It was simple one celled life, but it was a living organism capable of spawning other organisms. Thus, when the pair had the opportunity, they would look in on the planet. Eventually, that single life form turned into multiple life forms.

The rules the god of light had imposed were branching out in interesting ways. These rules were causing interesting things to happen in several places in this created cosmos. However, this particular planet caught the eye of the pair, and they kept going back to it.

Thus, after watching it for a great while, the god of light proposed a wager. He believed that rules and order would take hold on this planet. A natural side effect of this would be intelligent beings. Thus, he wagered that without intervention of either of the two, intelligent life would form and shape the planet to their whim.

Since there is nothing in the rules that would ensure that intelligence would be beneficial over any other survival trait, the god of darkness agreed to the bet. They decided that purposely shaping the environment to the animal's needs would be the definition they would use for intelligence.

Life on the ball struggled. There were disasters that wiped the earth nearly clean of life. The natural laws nearly did the planet in. It was frozen snowball, but life struggled on. Eventually, life forms exploded onto the scene. There was much diversity, and diversifying continued.

Eventually, enormous scaly creatures ruled the lands. Fierce toothy creatures ruled the sea. However, none of the creatures met the definition of intelligent. None of the creatures shaped their environment to suit them.

Small furry animals had the potential to become intelligent, but the dominant species was too much to overcome. These small marsupials occupied nooks and crannies in the ecosystem. It would take a major disaster for these animals to take hold.

The pair watched and waited. The large creatures continued to dominate and diversify. Without their destruction, there was no way for any other animals to take hold. It was looking like the god of darkness was going to win the wager.

Thus, when the god of darkness was not looking, the god of light threw an enormous asteroid at the planet. It crashed into the planets surface and killed all of the large beasts that roamed the planet. Only the small creatures survived. The system had greatly changed, and perhaps intelligence could now arise.

However, the god of light did not get away with these actions. The wager was lost, but the planet was still interesting to the pair. They continued to watch, and intelligence did arise on the planet.

Once again, a wager was struck. With the existing rules in place, they bet on who would become the more powerful entity on the planet. The intelligent creatures were capable of understanding. Would rules run their lives? Would they simply find order in the chaos? Which one would prevail?

These creatures were fruitful and multiplied. They hunted and gathered food. They began living in small clans and began creating order out of the chaos. After several thousand trips around their star, some creatures discovered agriculture.

With agriculture came towns and cities. Civilization was born. Some had time for other things besides obtaining food. Thus, knowledge began accumulating and passed around. The communities were becoming quite sophisticated.

However, these civilized places worshipped multiple gods. Many had gods of light, but they also had equally powerful dark gods. In the largest civilization, Osiris was a god of darkness and was being actively worshipped.

Once again, the god of darkness was winning the wager. It appeared that rules were not the guiding principle for these intelligent beings. They simply attempted to bring order from the chaos. He was once again going to lose. Thus, he was once again going to cheat. However, this time he was going to be more careful.

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Recent Comments

  • Douglas Gogerty: Thanks for the kind words Kerry. I too am very read more
  • Douglas Gogerty: Thanks Christian! I too had a DOS computer. read more
  • Christian: A great story, i remember my first computer with DOS read more
  • Kerry Glasscock: Good story. I love that Dwayne. nice work! read more
  • Douglas Gogerty: Thanks Susanne. You are correct, the OS of computers has read more
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