April 2008 Archives

Fire, Iron, and Wood

August 19, 1812

By Dwayne MacInnes

"Her sides are made of iron!"
-Constitution gunner


August 1812
Captain James Richard Dacres

As he did in July, Captain Isaac Hull left harbor without orders. Then like now, he was taking a great risk with his ship, crew, and career. If he failed the consequences would be dire, however if he succeeded no one in congress would care he left without their authorization.

Hull left the harbor for fear of having his frigate bottled up as the British navy established more blockades off the coast of the United States. In a bit of historical irony when orders did arrive, Congress had ordered Hull to remain in Boston.

Hull set the Constitution on an easterly course. For two weeks, Hull did not notice anything worth engaging until 2 p.m. on the 19th. A square sail appeared on the horizon off the coast of Nova Scotia. Word of the sighting passed like wildfire, men rushed to the deck to see the ship. It was obvious that the ship noticed the American frigate as well, for the strange ship turned towards the Constitution. Only a British warship would risk approaching an American frigate.

Captain Hull wasted no time; he made careful preparations for the inevitable battle. His first order of duty was to make sure he kept the windward position. This would allow the Constitution maneuverability. If a ship found itself in the leeward position they would literally be out of wind and therefore at the mercy of the ship in the windward. Hull's second order of duty was to approach the enemy warship when he was satisfied with his own preparations.

For the next couple of hours the two ships closed upon each other. The gun crews were ready and the marine sharpshooters climbed into the rigging to snipe the enemy crew working on the exposed deck. It was 4:10 when the British ship, now recognized as the 38-gun Guerriere hoisted her colors and fired on the Constitution. Hull responded ten minutes later by hoisting his colors and returning fire. Both ships maneuvered to avoid taking fire by grapeshot, which could decimate the crew, or round shot, which could pulverize the wooden hull.

Captain James R. Dacres of the Royal Navy had no doubt that, though the American vessel had heavier armament with her 24 and 32-pounders, his seasoned crew would win the day. After all, the British navy on October 21, 1805 had soundly defeated the combined French and Spanish fleet off the coast of Trafalgar. When the battle concluded, the French and Spanish fleet lost 22 of its 33 ships while the British lost none of its 27 ships. Dacres smiled to himself. Great Britain was the master of the seas, and he was about to impart that lesson on the upstart Americans.

An 18-pound cannon ball from the Guerriere struck the Constitution near one of the gun ports. Wood splintered everywhere but somehow managed not to injure anyone. Some Yankee gunners in grim humor grabbed the spent ball, loaded it into one of their own 18-pound long cannons, and returned it to its proper owner.

Another broadside sent an 18-pounder into the foremast of the Constitution doing minimal damage. Hull was in full motion now; the time for action had arrived. He passed from officers and men addressing them and building up their courage.

The USS Constitution engages the Guerriere

"Men, your officers cannot have entire command over you now," Hull advised. "Each man must do all in his power for his country."

The crew set upon their task with grim determination and encouragement. Hull turned towards the warrant officer who relayed orders to the crew working the rigging and sails. He said in his usual calm demeanor, "You shall have her as close as you please, Sailing master! Lay her alongside!"

As the ship swung to bare its broadside, the gunners loaded the cannons and carronades with double-shots of round and grape. When the Constitution was in position, the guns exploded in a thunder of fire and acrid smoke. The grapeshot swept over the deck felling any exposed sailor with the tiny iron balls. The larger round shot smashed into the hull of the opposing ship. The wooden planks on the hull splintered into deadly missiles of wooden fragments that could injure, maim or kill a sailor as readily as the hot iron fired out of the cannons.

The Guerriere's crew was quicker at reloading the cannons. However, their accuracy was not of the same level. The British frigate's broadsides tended to fire into the Constitution's rigging doing little damage to the ship. By 5:20, the heavier and better place shots from the Constitution's guns soon had the Guerriere's mizzenmast shot away.

Nonetheless, some of Guerriere's shots found their way to the Constitution's hull. With the construction of using southern live oak combined with the diagonal beams to reinforce the frigate's skeletal frame, many of the 18-pound cannon balls bounced off the American frigate's hull. One of the Yankee gunners observing this exclaimed, "Huzzah! Her sides are made of iron!" and the Constitution earned her nickname of 'Old Ironsides'.

Hull used the Constitution's better maneuverability to his utmost advantage. He would cross the Guerriere's bow in the classic crossing the 'T' maneuver, allowing him to maximize the Constitution's firepower. However, with the damage to the rigging, this maneuver proved extremely difficult and the Guerriere's bowsprit became entangled in the Constitution's mizzen rigging.

Captain James Dacres was in the midst of preparing his marines for boarding when the ships became entangled. However, two things suddenly happened that prevented it from occurring. First, he received a wound to his back. Second, shortly thereafter, the two ships pulled apart. As the ships parted at 6:20, the fore and mainmasts of the Guerriere crashed over her side. The British frigate was now a sinking derelict. Yet she fought on.

Hull pulled the Constitution back and made emergency repairs. When the repairs were complete, he sent his marines back to the masts and approached the helpless Guerriere again.

As Captain Dacres witnessed the Constitution approaching he quickly ordered the gunners to fire to leeward in a token of surrender. The battle ended at 7:00 p.m.

The USS Constitution and the disabled Guerriere

After the battle, Hull sent a boarding party over to the Guerriere to help the wounded and see if repairs were possible. Unfortunately, the British frigate was beyond help. The surviving British crew boarded the Constitution and the Americans showed them every kindness.

Captain Hull was on hand as he helped Dacres from his crippled war vessel. After Dacres set foot on the Constitution Hull extended his hand and said, "Dacres, my dear fellow, I am glad to see you aboard."

Captain Dacres winced from the pain of his wound to his bandaged back as well as to his pride. He sharply replied, "Damn it, Hull. I suppose you are." As per military tradition, Dacres unbuckled his sword and offered it to Hull.

Hull smiled and shook his head, "I will not take a sword from one who knows so well how to use it. But, I tell you, Dacres I will trouble you for that hat."

Captain James Dacres of the Royal Navy taken off guard only looked at Hull for a moment before he broke into laughter and presented Captain Isaac Hull of the United States Navy his hat.


For further reading you can visit wikipedia or The US Naval History website
Or if you are fortunate enough to find it: Old Ironsides: The Story of USS Constitution by Thomas P. Horgan, ©1963.

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Commander Joe

Chapter Two

Part 5

The chase is on as Joe goes after the mysterious Man in Black who has grabbed Barb.

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M.O.P.S. in Space

Chapter Fourteen

By Douglas E. Gogerty

With Kelly and an interviewer already in the room, another member of the local police brought in the three other MOPS members. This new interviewer remained, likely to take advantage of a popular interview technique.

The MOPS members took seats around a table in the secure interview room. Hello Kitty™ girl looked at a clipboard and translated, "Your gang is charged with breaking and entering, breach of promise, dangerous disposal of deadly chemicals, impersonating a deity, kidnapping, and fishing for tuna in a non-dolphin safe manner. A few other charges are pending -- including stalking a young co-ed."

Naturally, the MOPS member denied everything. They were not even sure what the whole fishing for tuna charge was referencing; although, they had ideas about the other ones. Nonetheless, they did not want to complicate matters, so they kept quiet.

The local officials grilled the members of MOPS for a few hours, but did not get anywhere. Well, the MOPS members received a grilling as much as Hello Kitty™ girl could translate it. The effectiveness of the good-cop -- bad-cop interrogation attempted by the local constabulary was lessened with the young Hello Kitty™ girl attempting both parts.

Eventually, they came to an impasse. In other words, they gave up. Thus, the officials left the room to discuss what would happen next.

"Thanks a bunch -- Sammy 'The Bull' Gravano!" whispered Tommy.32

"What?" asked Kelly.

"Yeah, thanks for ratting us out Joe Valachi!" responded Angus.33

"Huh?" inquired Kelly.

"Yeah -- you squealed like Paul Lynde," added Victor.

"Okay, now I'm really confused," replied Kelly.

Angus looked inquisitively at Victor and asked, "Paul Lynde?"

"He was the voice of Templeton -- the pig -- in Charlotte's Web - the movie..." explained Victor.34

"Oh!" exclaimed Tommy. "Yes, very funny -- and pertinent."

"I guess I'll be the ass and point out that Templeton was the rat and Wilbur was the pig," interrupted Angus.

"I just didn't want to be left out," explained Victor. "And you guys took the obvious ones..."

"But -- Paul Lynde?" asked Angus. "The joke might have worked better if you gave the pig's or rat's name. No might about it -- it would have. Even if you had the wrong character name, either rat or squealer would have worked in this instance."

"Let's get back to Porky here," Tommy insisted as he pointed towards Kelly.

"See how he did that," began Angus. "He took the pig theme and went with it."

However, before they could berate Kelly any further, the officials entered.

"Okay" said the official who acted as the good-cop.

He then said a bunch of other things that none of the MOPS members understood. They just stood there and shrugged. The "good-cop" used what could be called a hand to smack what could be called a forehead. He made some motion, and Hello Kitty™ girl entered.

"They are taking you downtown," she translated.

The "good-cop" pulled Kelly up from his chair and shackled him. Once Kelly was secured, the official pushed Kelly towards the door. One by one, the MOPS members were ushered out the door.

The bad-cop was waiting, and he pushed the members into a waiting vehicle. There were no windows in the strange alien vehicle, but there was plenty of room for each prisoner.

The MOPS members experienced some vertigo-type feeling, and then back to normal. After several minutes, they had the feeling again. They were ushered out of the vehicle into another cube of a building. From the outside, it looked like the previous building, but the inside told a different story. Well, it was a similar theme, but the story was different. Actually, it was a familiar story, but arranged differently. In any event, they were now in another governmental building of some sort.

The MOPS members were placed in a holding cell. After waiting a few moments, another navy blue individual entered and grabbed Victor. This official removed the shackles and placed Victor on some sort of stool-like pedestal.

"Okay say 'cheese'," stated the official with their strange alien accent.

He, she, or it began motioning for Victor to look at him or her or it. A flash startled Victor and he blinked. After a few seconds, the official looked at the image and mumbled, "Sassa rassa frassen ricken racken blinken blanken."35

The official reset the device he, she, or it was working, and pointed as sternly as was possible at Victor. "Okay say 'cheese'," he, she, or it insisted again with the strange accent.

This time, however, an indicated of a sort of countdown was given so Victor would not be surprised. Hence, Victor managed not to blink in this photo.

Thus, he went on to the next station. For some reason, they took elbow prints, and returned Victor to the holding cell. One by one, the MOPS members were photographed and elbow printed. Oddly, the officials never took any of the MOPS member's belongings. Each of them still had their weapons, and Victor still had his bucket.

Once they were finished with the photographs and prints, they went into a very secure room. They were glad to be free of the uncomfortable shackles. They were about to have more harsh words with Kelly when a very beige individual entered their cell.

"Gentlemen," he, she, or it began. "The charges against you are quite serious. You could potentially incur a very hefty fine. Since you have no money, this could require you to spend a quite a lot of jail time."

"Who says we don't have any money?" enquired Angus.

"Well I just assumed by the way you were dressed," replied the official.

Angus took out a handful of paper, and showed it to the official whose eyes lit up and he, she, or it turned a much more formal shade of brown. He took the stack of paper, and added it up in his head.

"Well, that changes everything," he, she, or it replied while signaling for another official. "I'll have you out of here in a matter of hours."

The official took the stack and handed three sheets back to Victor. The mood of the group changed dramatically. They forgot all about giving Kelly a hard time. Instead, they just rested silently and waited for the officials to release them. Despite the pleasant surprise of the impending release, they all managed to nap.

The sound of a somewhat subdued navy blue official opening the door awakened the sleeping MOPS members. They all scrambled from their resting spots, and anxiously awaited the news.

"Okay," he, she, or it said in a dejected voice pointing towards the way out. He may have uttered some other non-comprehended words, but they were too excited about leaving custody to enquire about the meaning of those words.

It was dark as they left the standard cube-looking government building. The building's door locked as they exited, and the MOPS members gave a few cries of joy as they walked away from the building.

It had been a full day, but they were fully rested and ready to go. The only problem was that they did not know where they were. They were free, but they were completely lost once again. This time, they had no point of reference to find their way back. Further, the government building was locked so they could not ask anyone there for directions.


NOTES:

32: This is a reference to a mobster turned informant.

33: Another mobster famous for testifying against the mob. His story was made into a movie starring Charles Bronson.

34: In case you were wondering about Charlotte's Web and Paul Lynde.

35: A cultural reference to how Muttley used to express his displeasure.

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A Friend to Die For

Part One

By Dwayne MacInnes

The steady clip-clop resounded upon the wet cobble road as the drenched black horse pulled a wooden covered wagon through the raining night. The well-maintained road from Imperial City was slick with water that pooled into dark puddles reflecting the scant moonlight peaking through thick black clouds until splashed by a hoof, a wheel, or a fat raindrop.

The lone driver huddled into his oiled-leather long coat with his matching floppy hat pulled down. Thus, obstructing any chance of an observer catching a glance of his visage. Both driver and horse puffed out mist as if they could breathe fire in the cool air.

On a night like this, the only observers would be the nocturnal animals either foraging or hunting in the surrounding woods. The patter of the heavy rain as it hit the leaves of the surrounding foliage competed with the creaking wagon wheels and the horse's steel shod hooves on the wet stone road. Occasionally the driver would flick the reins in his gloved hands to encourage the soaked beast of burden to keep its forward momentum.

The time had to be close to midnight when the wagon approached a large villa in a clearing. Stone walls surrounded the manor house inside, and the wooden gate was sealed tight for the night. Nonetheless, the driver reined in the horse as it neared the closed entrance. There were no lights emanating from the coarse servant shacks that dotted the newly plowed fields surrounding the walled villa.

The driver dismounted from the wagon and tied the reins to a nearby post beside the gate. The wet figure then reached under the plank bench and produced a large wooden case. The stranger tucked the bulky container under his left arm as he proceeded to push against the imposing gate with his right.

The gate swung open effortlessly betraying its apparent security. The man slipped through the gate and shut it behind him. He glanced around the darkened courtyard and found the sentry box where there resided a sleeping guard. A bottle lay tipped over upon the table where the guard sat slumbering heavily.

"Good," thought he stranger, "It appears my gift was received by the household guard. Now, I'll have to remember to bar the gate when I leave. With luck, everyone will think the Thieves Guild was involved."

The man proceeded up the rain-slick stone steps and pushed upon the large double doors. Like the gate, the doors too opened without effort. The man dodged inside and quickly closed the doors behind him. A thick red and gold shag carpet led down the hallway towards the main hall.

The stranger shook the rain off his large coat and hat, before he silently strolled towards the hall. Portraits portraying the previous tenants lined the walls of the hallway leading to the main hall. In the low light emanating through the high barred windows it appeared the eyes of the paintings followed the man. The stranger knew it was a trick of the paintings; nonetheless, he could not help the feeling that the ghosts of the keep's former owners were keeping vigil.

Once the man approached the main hall, he located the stairs and proceeded to climb them to the second story. Moving with care so that the sleeping residents would not be disturbed, the stranger reached the landing and disappeared down a darkened passage.

More by feel than sight the man found the door he was looking for. A turn of the brass knob found that the door was unsecured. The man mentally noted he would have to give the servant he bribed a bonus for a job well done.

Without a sound, the figure ducked into the room and secured the door behind him. It was of stout oak and it would take several minutes for anyone to hack his or her way through. However, the stranger did not plan to let anyone outside the room know of his presence.

The stranger walked over to the orange glowing embers of the fireplace and pulled up a stool. He set the large wooden case on the floor next to it and then began to feed the dying fire a few sticks of wood from the pile lying next to the brick fireplace. When the hungry flames grew to the stranger's satisfaction he seated himself upon the stool and observed the lone person laying in the large four-posted bed.

* * * * *

Jarlis awoke from a troubled sleep. The temperature in the room had grown quite uncomfortable with the thick blankets covering him. As he tossed the blankets from his body, he angrily thought how he would give a good lashing of the tongue to the servant who decided to feed the fire too much wood. He was in mid mental rant when he noticed a figure sitting next to the blazing fireplace. Jarlis suddenly sat up straight in bed with fear coursing through his veins.

Jarlis thought his heart had stopped as he noted the figure by the fire. Fine mist steamed off the stranger's long coat and floppy hat, giving the man the appearance he had just arrived from one of the nine hells.

The strange man reached down to his large case and pulled it to his lap as his low voice carried across the room to reach Jarlis's ears. "Good evening, Jarlis. I hope I haven't interrupted any good dreams."

"T-t-the gems are under the flagstone where the wood is set," the frightened man offered.

"Now, now relax. I am no...thief," the man spat the last word out with much distaste.

Jarlis swallowed twice before he could find his tongue. "Then who are you?"

The man lifted up the brim of his hat to reveal his comely face. Two sparkling dark eyes radiated from the stranger's face. He had a neatly trimmed black goatee that surrounded a well-formed smiling mouth with straight white teeth.

"I am Raylondo. I was sent from your good friend councilman Brill of Navorre," the stranger replied.

Jarlis's face lost even more color as he heard the name of the man sitting by the fire. He had to work his jaw several times before he could choke out the words. "You're the... the famous assassin."

Still smiling Raylondo only nodded his head once in affirmation.

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M.O.P.S. in Space

Chapter Fifteen

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"Well, we're dead," insisted Kelly.

"Don't be ridiculous," responded Angus. "I got a merit badge in orienteering. I can get us back to the convention hall."

"Okay Mr. Orienteering," replied Kelly. "Which way is north?"

"For that matter, which direction is the convention center?" added Tommy.

"Unfortunately, we'll have to wait for the sun to come up before I can answer the first question. However, we can walk around a bit to see if we find anything familiar."

"Well, I am not in the least bit tired," added Victor.

"What do we have to lose?" Kelly said.

"If we do not make it back to the Convention Center," responded Tommy. "Our bus may leave without us."

"I was asking a rhetorical question," replied Kelly.

"Oh," Tommy acknowledged.

The quartet walked around for several hours. They completely lost track of where they were, as they could not even make it back to the government building they had left. They continued to walk as darkness gave way to morning.

"North is that way," Angus pointed out as he looked at the sun.

"How do you know their sun rises in the east?" asked Victor.

"By definition," responded Angus curtly.

"Can we find someplace to eat?" asked Tommy.

"I am hungry too," added Kelly.

"Is that all you two think about?" asked Angus.

"Of course not," answered Tommy. "But we have been walking all night, and I'm too tired to think about other things."

"Also, it has been almost a day since he's had a gin and tonic," joked Victor.

"Gin and tonic!" came a cry from across the street.

"There is where we'll eat," stated Angus as if he knew the café was there all along.

Angus waved his remaining bills, and the staff brought course after course of food. Despite being early in the morning, Angus and Tommy had gin and tonics. Kelly tried to get some sort of juice, but was unsuccessful. He settled for soda. Victor's request for milk was right out! He too settled for soda.

The group ate until they could eat no more. Angus handed over the bills, and the quartet rested a while at their table. They enjoyed the early morning sun for a short time, and then they arose to continue their journey.

They asked a few people where the convention center was, but they got nothing intelligible back. They were no closer to finding their way back than they were in the middle of the night. However, fate soon smiled upon them. Kelly recognized a landmark. It was the statue they had seen the first night.

"Are you sure?" asked Tommy.

"I stopped here for a bit -- waiting for you guys to catch up with me," replied Kelly. "Remember the Japanese tourists?"

"Nope," answered Tommy.

"I have vague recollection of it," added Angus.

"Just up that way," pointed Kelly "is that busy section where we first saw Hello Kitty™ girl."

"No," replied Angus pointing in the opposite direction. "It was that way."

"I remember it clearly," assured Victor pointing in a direction 90 degrees to Angus and Kelly. "It was that way."

"You were drunk," insisted Tommy pointing in the remaining direction. "Clearly, it is that way."

"Okay, let us think about this logically," insisted Kelly.

"That leaves you out," Angus said sarcastically.

"No hear me out," answered Kelly. "Since we got here, lots of improbable things have happened."

"Like Victor getting lucky?" asked Angus.

"Exactly," replied Kelly. "Everything we have been through has been very improbable -- a pseudo-impossibility -- if you will."

"So what you are saying is that we are still in that impossibility bubble Gogle spoke of?" inquired Tommy.

"Precisely!" replied Kelly. "And you know what that means -- don't you?"

"You mean..." Angus answered in disbelief.

"It is true," Kelly said with great confidence. "Victor must be right about the direction."

"No way!" exclaimed Tommy.

"It does make sense," added Victor with a nod.

Thus, the three MOPS members followed Victor's directions and he led them directly back to the convention center.

The cougar who got to know Victor quite well, was flirting with a navy blue individual who was supposed to be guarding the entrance. He, she, or it completely missed the four MOPS members as the entered the building.

They spotted Gogle at the far end of the hall still standing at his table. A small group had gathered around him. As the MOPS members approached, they heard him say, "And many of them say that they evolved from apes..."

The group around him burst into laughter.

"Hey wait a minute," interrupted Angus. "You guys don't believe in evolution?"

"Heavens to Mergatroid, do not be ridiculous," replied one of the group. "Everything in the universe evolves."

"Language evolves, technology evolves, there is not one thing we know of that does not evolve," added another member of the group around Gogle.

"You would have to be crazy or deluded or ignorant to not believe in evolution," finished Gogle.

"So what is so funny then?" asked Victor.

"Do you believe you evolved from apes?" asked Gogle.

"Of course!" insisted Victor.

"But," Gogle answered. "You *are* apes. Why not go a little farther back on your family tree?"

"Hey! I'm an octopod" added one of the group. "I evolved from an Octopus. Duh!"

"Is it so shameful to say you evolved from -- say -- rodents?" asked one of the group.

"Okay okay," answered Victor. "You made your point -- so can we go now?"

"Go where?" asked Gogle.

The group did not experience the same sensation as they had when they found themselves at the Intra-Galactic Comic and Gaming Convention. However, they found themselves talking to the individual with the booth pointed towards the wall. They were back on earth -- their earth.

"How long have we been gone?" asked Angus.

"Gone?" asked Gogle. "Did you go somewhere?"

"You know darn well we did," insisted Tommy.

"Alright -- alright," replied Gogle. "So you went on some sort of trip. What is it to me?"

"Was it a dream?" asked Kelly.

"According to the clock on the wall," added Angus "It must have just been a few minutes."

"So it was all in our heads," insisted Tommy.

"Then what about this?" asked Victor as he raised the shiny bucket.

The Mystic Order of Pumpkin Slayers

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A Friend to Die For

Part Two

By Dwayne MacInnes

Raylondo stood up from the stool and placed the large wooden case upon the seat he just vacated. He opened it up to reveal several vials, flasks, bottles, and strange implements that Jarlis could only guess to what use they were intended.

The assassin then removed his long coat and hat. Afterwards, he neatly folded them and placed them upon a nearby shelf. He took a moment or two to straighten his shimmering, red silk shirt before he returned his attention to the man sitting shivering in bed.

Jarlis continued to find new depths of terror as he watched helplessly as the assassin went about undressing his outer rain garments. Raylondo continuously smiling his amiable smile did not relax Jarlis at all. It only heightened his fears for it revealed the fact the assassin was in complete control.

"Now before your paralyzed mind thinks of it, please do not scream out for help. I really do not want to kill more than I have too," the assassin said in a friendly tone.

The man in bed mentally kicked himself for not thinking of the obvious. Any female or even the smallest babe would have cried out alarm. Yet, he -- a grown and prosperous man -- became too frozen with fear even to contemplate such an action. However, he knew the wisdom of the assassin's words. Jarlis was a dead man and there was no reason to bring anyone else down with him.

"H-how..." Jarlis began to stammer before Raylondo interrupted him.

"How did I get past your guards?" the assassin asked in a calm voice. "I'm no thief to be sure, but I did have to incapacitate your entire body of arms men. Now relax I did not kill anyone and they are not to blame. Right now, they are sleeping from a draught I put in their drinks tonight. However, the small dosage of poison I also added will not kill anyone, but will leave them quite immobilized for the next day and a half."

"W-why..." stammered Jarlis before Raylondo again finished his sentence.

"Why was I sent? Come now. You know your publications have been unflattering to the councilman. Your constant reminders of his corruption have the man desperate to be rid of you and therefore end your posts.

"Brill hired me to take care of it because he still holds his early friendship with you dear. As you know, I am not just a member of the Assassins Guild, but the best and most expensive member. I do special requests.

"Now please do not make that face. We members of the dark brotherhood get that a lot. We do prefer that others realize us as specialized bounty hunters. We just bring ‘em in dead," the assassin chuckled at his little joke. However, Jarlis just sank down in his bed, bringing his blankets up to his face.

"Please do relax. I am here to offer you the form of death you prefer," continued Raylondo.

"What? I don't get it," Jarlis lowered the blankets and peered at the assassin.

With a wave of his hand towards the open case, Raylondo brought the man's attention to its contents.

"I can offer you any means of death you prefer. I have iocane powder. Odorless, tasteless, and undetectable," Raylondo said lifting up a silver tube.

"I can offer you any psychotropic you prefer," the assassin said now holding up several flasks in succession.

"I have a silk pillow stuffed with the finest gosling down to wisp you away to oblivion," Raylondo offered Jarlis the red pillow for his own inspection.

Jarlis could not help be taken in with the turn of events. He studied the pillow and nodded his head in approval.

"That is very nice," Jarlis offered. "Anything else?"

"Surely and definitely. I have the finest bottle of Elven Ambrosia wine I can lace with any poison without disrupting its flavor. I can cook you the finest meal any master chef could prepare using my ingredients here so your last sup will be your best.

"If your whims are of a more carnal manner, I know of certain females who could send you away in the midst of the greatest ecstasy."

"No, no," chuckled the condemned man, "my days of womanizing are long past. Nor could I long enjoy any fine meal you could prepare. My stomach is much too delicate for such."

"Anything you request I am at your disposal. Save of course sparing your life. I cannot afford to ruin my reputation," Raylondo quickly added.

"I wouldn't think of it," Jarlis said. "I think maybe the best would be a sleeping draught with some psychotropic mixed in the Ambrosia. If I can't enjoy those corporeal things you mentioned, I can at least taste them in the dream realm. Then if you don't mind I would like very much to be finished off with this pillow while in the midst paradise."

Raylondo smiled and bowed, "excellent choice."

The assassin began mixing various flasks, tubes, and bottles. Jarlis watched with great curiosity and anticipation.

"I would like one last request," the condemned man asked.

"Yes?" Raylondo said looking up from his work.

"I would like to pen a final letter to my friend Brill. I assume you have some ink in that case of yours."

Raylondo smiled and nodded.

It took only a few minutes for Jarlis to finish his last testament to Brill while Raylondo concluded his preparations.

"Ooh, I can't wait," Jarlis said with genuine excitement.

"I do aim to please," Raylondo said offering Jarlis a chalice of the special brew.

Jarlis took the proffered chalice and drank deeply. Within seconds, he lay upon his pillow with a deep smile upon his face.

"Sleep well," Raylondo said as he lifted the silk pillow.

* * * * *

"So did he die well?" councilman Brill inquired in his own bedchambers.

"Yes, here is evidence penned by his own hand your grace," Raylondo offered the letter to Brill.


	Dear Brill,
            I too remember our younger days and look
	upon them fondly. A pity we took such varying
	paths as we grew older. Yours were ambitious
	and corrupt. Mine were to expose you for what
	you are.
            Nonetheless, I thank you for allowing me
	to die in a manner of my own choosing. I however
	regret to inform you I did not return the favor.
            You will find that the ink on this paper will be
	just as lethal as the death I chose. I can't wait to
	see you in the nine hells.
					Jarlis

Brill looked at the ink upon his fingers and then towards Raylondo. Fear began to sink in.

"But we had a contract..." the councilman began.

"Yes and it was concluded. Now the contract I had with Jarlis is also concluded," Raylondo replied hefting the small bag of gems. "Don't worry. Death will come upon you quickly and painlessly. Maybe it would be best if you sit down."

The councilman nodded as he sat upon a chair in his bedchamber.

"I wish you a good-night," the assassin said as he exited the room.

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The Thrill of the Slide

A Poem

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Down and down I slide.
Faster and faster as I glide.
At the end there is a bump,
I have to know when to jump.

Closer and closer I get.
Nearer and nearer, but not yet.
I still have a little room.
I can press on. Down I zoom.

Quicker and quicker I go.
Bigger and bigger the bump grows.
I can no longer wait.
I have to jump. OUCH! too late!!!

Sharper and sharper the pain.
Louder and louder screams do rain.
The pain, it will subside.
Ah, the thrill of the slide.

March 1994 (Published "Minnesota Daily")

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The Veterinarian

Part One

By Douglas E. Gogerty

I have a very interesting job. I am a veterinarian in a very sparsely populated area of America. In fact, the animals greatly outnumber people here. So, I am kept pretty busy, and I travel almost constantly. After all, if a 2000 pound bull is sick, it is kind of difficult to get him in the truck and get him to the vets office. So, I have to make house calls.

While I have a house in Sheridan Wyoming, I am seldom there. My truck has all of the medical equipment I need, plus a bed. Sometimes my client puts me up for the night, but often I'll be off to the next stop. There are times when I spend the night in between places. It is difficult sometimes, but I meet all kinds of interesting people, and I deal with all kinds of interesting cases.

For instance, on one particular day, I helped a dog with a snake bite, and a snake with a dog bite. On another occasion, I helped get a cow down off a barn, and get a mule out of a well. Thus, on any particular call, you never know what you'll run into next.

To be honest, I do have my share of mundane days. I have spayed and neutered plenty of dogs and cats. I have dealt with plenty cantankerous animals. However, overall I love my job.

Nonetheless, with the remoteness of some of the areas, I am the only medical person some of the people see. Hence, I am called upon, on occasion, to offer some advice on the treatment of people. Mostly, if the problem seems serious enough, I recommend that they see a people doctor. However, I can treat sprains and strains if called upon to do so.

Sometimes, the interesting part of my day is the people I am asked to observe and diagnose. One particular case always comes to my mind when I think of my most interesting cases.

It was a fairly mundane day. I was checking a herd of cattle for various inflictions. This herd got a clean bill of health, and the family invited me in for dinner. I graciously accepted. After all, I was fairly close to home. With a good meal in me, I would be looking forward to sleeping in my own bed that night.

I thought that they were celebrating the health of their herd because they really put on a feast that night. It was only later that I discovered their ulterior motive. They were worried about their Uncle Ben; however, they were not worried about his physical health.

Uncle Ben was a high school math teacher in Cheyenne for many years. His kids were grown and moved out of the state. His wife died a few years ago, and he retired to a small cottage near the Wyoming/Montana border.

The family would check on him every now and again, and he seemed to be doing well on his own. However, not that long ago, they noticed a change in his behavior. Uncle Ben's family tried to get him to talk about it, but he refused. At any rate, that is what they told me.

Further, since I was in the neighborhood, they told me I could drop in to check his animals. That would give me an excuse to talk to the old man. They felt that someone with a medical background would be able to help Uncle Ben with whatever was bothering him.

While I was suspicious of the situation, I grudgingly accepted the challenge. I received directions to Uncle Ben's cabin and was off with a bag of cookies and some leftovers. I am not sure if they were for me or him, but nonetheless, I had them.

The family made it seem like Uncle Ben's place was not far. Perhaps it was not far as the crow flies, but the winding road took me far and wide. It was over an hour before I reached the turnoff to Uncle Ben's place.

As I drove up, I was greeted by a friendly mixed breed dog. Since my excuse for coming was a veterinary trip, I gave her a quick check. There were no signs of abuse. She appeared to be well fed, and she looked as if she had plenty of exercise.

I wandered around the property briefly. He had no livestock that I could see. I found no chickens, pigs, or cattle. This was not unusual for a retired person. Ranching is difficult work.

I did spot a few feral cats living in a shed. They would not let me get close to them, but this type of situation is fairly normal in many agricultural areas. They keep the rodent population in check, but require little intervention from people. While that type of situation pushes my buttons, it is the way some people think.

I decided that I would offer to spay the cats for Uncle Ben at no charge. Thus, the population of feral cats would not grow unchecked. At least, it would be a good excuse for coming along with the family recommendation.

From the looks of it, this house was probably once the ranch hands house. A wealthy ranch owner would normally live in a large main house. However, some of the hired help would live closer to the herd. This house looked just sort of structure for this purpose. Nonetheless, it was a fine place for a retired widower.

I walked onto the porch and knocked. I waited for several seconds, and knocked again. Their was no answer. I walked around the house to see if I could spot anyone inside. I did not see anyone, and I thought that was strange.

The family had told me that he rarely left the house anymore. Perhaps their fears were unfounded after all. However, I saw his car in the garage, so he did not drive anywhere. Maybe he simply went for a walk.

I looked around for a little while longer, but I did not spot him anywhere. I decided to knock once again. There was still no answer, so I decided to try the door. It was not locked.

"Hello?" I called as I cautiously walked inside the house.

I did not hear a response to my words, but I did hear some mumbling in one of the rooms towards the back of the house.

"Ben?" I asked as I slowly ventured farther into the house.

There still was no response. However, I was getting closer to sounds inside. It sounded as if Uncle Ben was having a conversation on the phone. I thought that he was on an important call, and he did not want to be interrupted. That is why he did not reply to my knocks and calls.

I continued towards the voice I heard. I found a door. Clearly, Uncle Ben was on the other side. I opened the door, and Uncle Ben was sitting their with a tinfoil pyramid hat on his head, and the walls of the room were covered in kitchen plates. Furthermore, he was alone and not on the phone.

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The Captives of the Lost City of Alhassar

Chapter 1

By Dwayne MacInnes

Gwendolyn the wood elf

Greetings and felicitations, I am Gwendolyn a wood elf and wealth adjuster. You do not know what a wealth adjuster is? The easy answer is that I am a thief. However, that title carries many negative connotations with it that are not strictly accurate. To be sure, there are thieves and then there are thieves. Now that I have muddied the waters a bit let me clear up some things in our profession.

Most thieves belong to the Thieves Guild. Our organization regulates and set strict rules that our members must follow. In exchange, members receive some degree of legal protection. Now, there are rogue thieves, who do not belong to the guild. I fear to say these rogues give us all a bad name. These unregulated thieves will steal and rob from anyone. They do not refrain from using violence to obtain their goals that can even lead to ghastly murders.

To be sure, we as a guild, hunt down these rogues. We cannot afford to have anyone using our title running amok doing whatever he or she very well pleases just to obtain a handful of silver crowns. Some of the rules are that we do not rob from the poor, nor do we rob from fellow members. We also frown on using violence to rob someone. Furthermore, we do not condone murder. Only in the case of self-defense is a guild member allowed to use violence. After all, any idiot can club someone from behind and lift his or her coin purse.

Now that I have established my profession, I will now regale you with who I am. In previous publications, I established that I became the Grand Champion of the arena in Imperial City. Many know me by my title as the "Black Arrow". Unfortunately, many more know me by the romanticized and embellished woodcuts printed in fliers. These show me in the arena as an Amazon -- sans any piece of garment for modesty -- often holding a severed head in my left hand and a raised gore covered long sword in my right.

I cannot tell you how many people are a little disappointed to see a lithe average built Wood Elf armed mainly with a bow when I tell them who I am. The Imperial Arena loves good promotion and nothing packs the arena better than the idea of a naked muscle-bound woman in combat. Nonetheless, I can still fill the seats when I make my special post-retirement engagements in the arena.

Therefore, you now know my official profession as a retired gladiator and you know I belong to the guild. However I am not merely a guild member, I am also the leader of the Thieves Guild. That is right I am the Shadow Fox.

Many of you dear readers may doubt the existence of the Thieves Guild and more will doubt the existence of the Shadow Fox. However, I can assure you both exist and we take great pains on making sure that the general public is mostly unaware of either one.

As the Shadow Fox, I am even an enigma to most thieves in the guild. However, I am the overall head of the organization. With the help of the guild leaders, we assign various tasks to the most suited thieves. Believe it or not, most of our work comes from the government. We are adept on securing secrets, restoring lost possessions, and just knowing the everyday buzz on the street.

To be fair, we are not the only organization often employed by the Empire. The members of the senate often use the Assassins Guild to settle debts in a less subtle manner. To say there is a rivalry between the Assassins and the Thieves Guilds would be an understatement. Fortunately, when it comes to being unnoticed the Thieves Guild will always beat the Dark Brotherhood.

Now, as I was saying, being the head of the guild sounds prestigious. Unfortunately, it is also a lot of paperwork and sitting behind a desk. So every once in awhile I would assign myself a task, much to the chagrin of the guild leaders, just to keep myself in tip-top condition.

It came to pass that a few months after the whole "Tiberium Letters" affair that a group of adventurers found their way into Imperial City. Word quickly passed around that they were associates of Brunis, the evil mage I killed in Giland. I knew that one of these strangers was a mage. If they were looking for revenge, a little research with the Mages Guild would discover my suspension from that organization over the fortunate (or unfortunate) demise of Brunis.

I also took the time to scout this quartet of adventurers. I heard many things and learned even more. I heard the so-called ranger had killed a dragon. On observing him moving clumsily around town I figured the dragon was old and decided to choose ‘suicide by knight' which is more common than you can imagine.

There was a rogue thief claiming the name of King of the North. A fairly good thief I will begrudge but not much of a fighter. However, I would choose him over the ranger to back me in a scrap. I kept my spies on him to make sure he did not try anything disruptive in town.

The party also boasted of a bard. He was a decent singer and tale-teller, but with dubious tastes of the carnal nature. I fear his hormones tend to make most of his decisions. Not too terribly good if one is attacked by a succubus, nymph, or even a group of choirboys.

The final member of the party was a sorcerer of average quality. However, his street smarts bespoke of some time traveling with a troupe of performers. I can tell you that if I had the thief under watch I had the sorcerer under double watch. He was the one rumored to be an associate of Brunis.

I soon put any concerns I needed to fear this band of adventurers to rest. They were at best a group of amateurs. Nonetheless, I decided it was best for all involved if I left town for a while. As I previously stated we thieves do not kill if we do not have to. There would be no honor in dispatching this small group.

It so happened that the Emperor had sent another group of adventurers into the city sewers for its annual clean up. Now, a maintenance organization makes sure the city's sewers operate efficiently; however over the course of a year, things move into the sewer. Nasty things and the Emperor will pay handsomely for a group of adventurers to clean them out.

Usually, the adventurers are lower ability and desperate. The money is good, but the danger is great, and the smell is even worse. It happened that no one had heard from the latest group for over two weeks. The Emperor had petitioned the Thieves Guild to look into it. I personally accepted.

I grabbed my trusty longbow, elven armor, short sword, and my enchanted shield that dispels all forms of hostile magic as well as a few other do-dads. Little did I know I was about to engage in one of the strangest adventures of my life.

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Lost

A Poem

By Linda Heuer

In darkest night there is a sound
A shriek, a cry, a plea.
I look but briefly all around
But no one else I see.

I shudder long and tremble more
Not knowing what I hear.
A dog? A Horse? A beast of yore?
My frenzied thoughts do jeer.

How came I here, I do not know
But curse the bitter cold.
The wind doth cut the spirit low
Which used to be so bold.

Alas I do not know the way
To leave this Nightmare land.
I try to keep my fears at bay
And take a lonely stand.

All night I say upon the hill
As terrors 'round me leap.
Around my eyes the monsters kill
What e'er they find asleep.

For now I understand that sound
The shriek, the cry, the plea.
The knowledge sends me to the ground;
The cry echoes through me.

I know I'm here forever more
Within these woods of ill.
Trapped in the darkest depths of lore,
Tears from my eyes do spill.

Alone I stand against the cold.
Alone I'll always be.
Alone within my heart I hold
But one last shining key.

For tho I stay within the night
No others need do so.
For I alone can choose to fight
And land a winning blow.

All tears are gone new resolve rings
I'll win before I'm done.
Once more with laughter my soul sings
I'll fight and see the sun!

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The Veterinarian

Part Two

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"Who are you and what are you doing in my house?" Ben asked me.

"My name is Robert Adams, I am a veterinarian," I replied.

"And that gives you the right to come into my house?"

"Ummm -- no I guess not. It was just -- er -- uh..."

"Go on, spit it out!"

"Your niece was worried, and she sent me up here to check in -- on -- your animals."

"She was worried about my animals more than me?"

"She did mention that you had been acting strangely."

"And she sent a veterinarian to check up on me?"

"I think she wanted some sort of medical person to check on you. It wouldn't be my first time diagnosing humans, and to be honest, you are wearing a tinfoil hat."

"Actually, it is aluminum foil -- what of it?"

"You know that there have been studies that have determined that such hats may act as an amplifier rather than a shield."

"Naturally, that is why I am wearing it."

"Huh?"

"If it were actually tinfoil, it would block the signal."

"Are you telling me that it was a government cover-up to switch from tin foil to aluminum foil?"

"Are you crazy? Aluminum is much more common than tin, it does not impart a taste upon the food it wraps, and it is highly recyclable. It makes complete sense to use aluminum over tin."

"I am glad to hear you say that, and Alcoa probably is too."

"So, how are my animals?" Ben asked to change the subject.

"They appear fine. Although, I am concerned about the feral cats in your barn."

"You are a vet aren't you?"

"Of course, you didn't think..."

"I didn't know what to think -- probably -- like you when you saw me sitting here."

"Do you want to explain?"

"It is kind of a long story."

"I had a good meal at your niece's place, and I was just about to head home. However, I've got time."

"Would you like some coffee?"

"Sure."

"We can take this into the kitchen," Ben said as he took off his hat.

I followed Ben into the kitchen where Ben poured us each a cup of coffee. I followed his lead and sat at the kitchen table. We both sat silent for an instant as Ben thought about where to begin.

"You're probably wondering about the hat and the plates," Ben eventually said after taking a sip of coffee.

"You could say that," I replied.

"I don't know how to begin without sounding crazy."

"That is a conundrum."

"Okay, so about three months ago, I went into the parlor there to get something. Out of nowhere, I hear this voice. It wasn't exactly a voice, but it sounded like a cry or a call. Like anyone, I just thought it was the wind or my mind playing tricks on me. I thought it was nothing, and I went on with what I was doing."

Ben took another sip of coffee, thought for a moment, and then continued.

"I did not hear the voice again, until I returned to the parlor. In fact, I became frightened of even entering the parlor for the thought of hearing the voice. I went for days avoiding the parlor, and I never heard any voices outside of the parlor.

"I searched the outside of the room for cracks and whatnot. I wanted to eliminate the wind at first. I caulked all of the cracks, and I even used a bug bomb. Thus, that would eliminate animals and insects playing tricks on me.

"As you may have guessed, the voice was not very distinct. I could not make out any words, but there was some sort of voice. I assumed it was trying to communicate with me."

"Did you think the room was haunted?" I asked.

"I never believed in ghosts, but this started to make me a believer. Thus, I went onto the internet for advice on 'exorcising' my poltergeist. In an effort to give the spirit rest, I started spending more time in the room; however, it had the opposite effect. The more time I spent in the room, the clearer the voice became. What started out to be sort of a 'hey' became more complicated. Also, the voice became more persistent and more frequent. Thus, it eventually became less of a disembodied sound and more of an actual voice."

"You do realize that all of this was happening in your head don't you?" I remarked.

"Yes. There was no physical person there, so I knew it was occurring all in my head. However, I wondered what it was and why it was only happening in the parlor. My curiosity was peeked, and therefore, I spent even more time in the parlor. What was at first a fear of the room became somewhat of an obsession."

"This is when you family first noticed you not leaving the house," I added.

"Unfortunately, that was a side-effect. I had to know what it wanted to say -- or do. Thus, I spent as much time as I could in the room. I ate in there and slept. I wanted to know what the voice had to say."

"What was that like?" I asked with great curiosity.

"It was like trying to tune in a station on a very touchy radio. Whatever it was would occasionally hit something, but would zoom right past. It was a very painstaking process and sometimes very frustrating. Primarily this was because I was not in control. Whoever had the remote would zoom right past whatever showed promise."

"So, do you think it was some sort of radio communication you were picking up?" I inquired.

"That is more of an analogy than actuality," replied Ben after taking another sip of coffee. "Our brains are complicated, and our brains give off varying brain-waves for lack of a better term. Thus, if someone was attempting to communicate with us via telepathy, they would have to tune into a particular brain pattern."

"Telepathy!" I exclaimed.

"It was the only conclusion I could make. Someone -- or something -- was studying my brain to communicate with me via telepathy. All I could do is go through a normal series of actions, and let -- whatever -- study how my particular brain operates. Thus, eventually the disembodied voice would actually be able to communicate."

"Communicate with you via telepathy?" I asked. "What is this -- some sort of science fiction story?"

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The Captives of the Lost City of Alhassar

Chapter 2

By Dwayne MacInnes

There are many ways into the city sewer, most of them quite well known. However, I did not want anyone to notice my entrance -- in the unlikely event someone was on the lookout for a person such as me investigating the disappearance of the party of adventurers.

I am good friends with a certain proprietor of a food stall, you may have heard of his shop, "Lord of the Onion Rings". He has been known to be interested in certain... ah, artifacts that are not strictly legal. So, we have an agreement for our mutual benefit. Now, this businessman has a secret entrance behind his stall that leads to the sewers. He figures it is wise to have an escape route close to where he works and lives. I cannot argue, though personally the sewers would not be my first choice.

To say the least, I found my way into the city sewers without anyone the wiser. One thing many people do not realize is that sewers are not only smelly but also quite dark. I have stated before that most elves can see in low light, but are utterly blind in pitch darkness. I have also stated that I know a night sight spell that only lasts a minute that allows me to see in complete darkness.

It has been a quest of mine to find a spell, talisman, or enchanted trinket that would to allow me to see in the dark for extended periods of time. So far, my search has been futile. I have located spells that would allow me to generate light. However, if this were what I truly wanted any torch or lantern would serve my purpose. Alas, I again found myself forced with muttering that simple spell every sixty seconds.

One should note, it is not easy to mutter any spell, including simple ones, when you are gagging over the smell of a city's accumulation of filth. Sure, the underground waterworks are supposed to wash away the sewage into the nearby river; however, we are talking about thousands of people voiding themselves several times a day. Further, the annual maintenance had not happened yet. So the occasional dam or stagnate pool of waste were starting to accumulate.

I choked out the spell that allowed me a quick view of where I was. I think it may have been better not knowing exactly what was around me. Nonetheless, I started on my quest. It was not long before I picked up the trail of the adventurers. Seeing as how they were composed mainly of the non-rogue types and stealth was not in their main interest, I did not have much difficulty.

With a piece of cloth wrapped over my mouth and nose, I was able to keep the worst of the vile scent a bay. At least, I would like to believe I was. In any case, I continued to gag and choke out my incantation that allowed me to navigate through the dark and damp sewers.

I quickly came across an old campsite the party of adventurers had prepared a week or more ago. The charred remains of a campfire lay upon the cold and slimy flagstones of the sewer floor. I guess no one bothered to warn the party that having a fire down in the sewers was risky at best.

A pocket of confined methane gas could easily explode any unwitting party member to smithereens. Despite the adequate ventilation of the sewers, this catastrophe has happened more than once in the past. Fortunately, the sewer's construction was first rate, so the pressure from the blasts tended to funnel down the long corridors.

Sometimes the blasts would actually help the maintenance crew by removing many of the obstacles that obstructed the optimal function of the sewers. These maintenance crews would often contain at least one mage or priest that could conjure up a decent light spell to help them navigate and work in this subterranean world. Thus, most fires were unnecessary.

It was obvious that the party I was after did not meet with such a fate because their footprints led further down the dank and smelly corridor. I kept my short sword ready in case I came upon one of the denizens of the sewers. These were mostly composed of giant rats. These animals about the size of a large dog somehow thrived down here. I do not even want to think about what they ate in order to survive.

I did not travel far when I came to the scene of a struggle. It appeared that another group of humanoids ambushed the adventurers at this point. I could easily read from the footprints and blood splatters against the walls that the fight went poorly for the adventurers. The party's struggle was not very long and they were quickly subdued and taken prisoner.

I should point out that not only giant rats live in the sewers. Those seeking to escape from the eye of the law or civilization often made their way down here. That is why many of the maintenance crews often employ a novice member of the Fighters Guild or two. Of course, if there were any such people down here, the maintenance crews hoped the annual party of adventures would take care of them first.

Unfortunately, it looks like the adventurers were the ones who were the worst of it this time. I could not understand immediately why the ambushers did not just dispatch the party and dump their bodies in the deep channels of raw sewage that ran down the middle of the corridors. I could tell that the unfortunate adventurers became the unwelcome guest of some other party.

I followed the trail as it wound down the labyrinthine corridors and over more than a few bridges that occasionally crossed the river of filth. Occasionally the bones of rats and other small mammals littered the slime-covered flags. I stealthily and unerringly followed a trail until it led to a blank wall.

I have had experience with trails suddenly stopping at walls to know that I had come across a secret entrance. It only took me a couple of moments to find the trigger, a rusted iron ring set in the stone floor, which opened the door.

I quickly slipped passed the door before it slid back to the closed position. Here I found the random torch set into the wall. As I sighed in relief from not having to mutter that infernal dark sight spell again, I realized that the smell of sewage diminished noticeably. That or I was finally getting used to it.

A quick glance in the flickering light revealed several shattered crates and barrels littering one of side of the new corridor. This tunnel was not an original part of the sewers and led straight from the wall. I also noticed that amongst the debris of shattered containers there appeared an iron bound chest about the size of a hatbox.

The quality of the lock told me that something of great value must be stored inside. My lock picks made quick work of the lock. As I flung open the top, a gust of wind blew from the box extinguishing the torch and leaving me in pitch black.

I was in mid mutter of renewing my dark sight when I heard a voice echo across the corridor.

"Ah, thanks old chap. It was getting a little musty in there."

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