May 2008 Archives

Green is the Light

A Poem

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Green is the light,
I see no trouble ahead
Green is the light,
So get going before it's red

Green is the light,
A lovely mix of yellow and blue.
Green is the light,
Please hurry and get yourself though!

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The Veterinarian

Part Three (The End)

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"What is that crack suppose to me?" Ben asked me.

"Oh! Nothing," I replied.

"Do you want to hear the story or not?"

"Yes -- please continue..."

"Because I didn't ask for your help, and I don't need your help."

"I know. I'm sorry."

"So, where was I?"

"You were explaining how the voice seemed like it was trying to tune in your brain."

"Right!" responded Ben. "It went on for weeks, and I was beginning to get the feeling that it would never happen. However, one day it was clear as a bell. The voice and I could finally communicate both ways."

"What did the voice say?"

"Patience my friend -- patience -- I'm getting to it."

"Once again, I apologize."

"Naturally, the voice is not a valid name because it occurs completely in my own brain. Hence, at first I asked fairly mundane questions. Things like 'what is your name?', 'where do you live?', and the like. Simple questions allowed my new friend to get a handle on the technology on his end."

"His?" I asked.

"While I don't know if his or her has any meaning where they are, the voice was male in my brain. Thus, I use the masculine. In any event, the name question was more difficult than either of us thought. I still don't have a handle on what his name is. It just goes to show how much culture has an effect upon names. Thus, I called him 'Hank' and he was okay with that. You may have noticed that I spoke aloud to Hank. We found it easier for him to know what I was trying to say by speaking out loud."

"Why was that?"

"Apparently, the area of the brain used for speaking is easier for their technology to reach than if you just think the words. Once the communications problems were mostly ironed out, it was time to get to the meat of the reason he was reaching out to me.

"Hank is the intelligence officer for a mostly peaceful race, who happen to be at war with a particular nasty race. One of the tactics of this warring race is to take advantage of the peaceful nature of Hank's people and attack a neutral third planet. His department discovered that they were going to use this tactic upon our planet."

"Let me get this straight," I interrupted. "There were two races at war, and one of them was going to attack us."

"Right," Ben replied. "In that way, Hank's race would have to allocate resources to help us out. This tactic would work to his enemy's advantage."

"And you believed him?"

"Of course not, but I heard him out. Their enemy has this technology that allows them to enter a planet via a wormhole type technology. They pick a latitude at random and they have to be half way between the equator and the pole. Thus, they have to enter at 45 degrees north or south at the longitude that they select. It just so happens that my parlor is exactly 45 degrees north. Further, according to Hank, it was at their selected latitude."

"So, these aliens were going to invade through some sort of hole in your parlor?" I asked with a great deal of skepticism, but I tried hard not to sound sarcastic.

"That is about how I felt. However, Hank said there was an easy way to stop them."

"The plates?" I asked.

"Yes. There is something in ceramic plates that blocks their matter transference equipment. Further, if we have our shield enabled, when they enable their transference equipment, Hank's people will be able to knock it out. Thus, we won't have anything to worry about after that."

"So, why were you wearing the aluminum foil hat?"

"The plates also block some of his communication abilities; thus, I need some sort of amplification method."

"I guess that makes sense. I do have a question though."

"What is that?"

"Was this your first psychotic episode?"

"You think I'm crazy..."

"Perhaps it is stress, or something more serious. However, you have to realize that this scenario you have just outlined is impossible."

"So, you think it all happened in my head."

"Yes. No aliens. No invasion. None of it."

"So what happens now?"

"I cannot force you into anything, and it is simply my inexperienced opinion. Perhaps there is something behind this. You should see a doctor and get a checkup. Perhaps it is some sort of toxin localized in that room."

"Your localized toxins is just as crazy."

"Yeah, I know. I was just theorizing, but there must be some logical explanation for this."

"And, you think that what I just outlined is illogical."

"Honestly I can't think of any other way to put it," I said as we walked towards the parlor.

"Do you think it is the first step towards Alzheimer's?"

"I wouldn't think of commenting on that," I said taking a plate off the wall and examining it. "You *should* see a doctor, and he or she should be able to determine what is going on."

"I guess there is no harm in that."

"What?" I asked.

"I said -- I guess there is no harm in that."

"I heard that, I mean the other thing."

"I did not say anything else."

"You clearly said something about the plate."

"That wasn't me."

"Stop with your tricks!"

"I'm telling you -- I'm not doing anything."

"If you don't cut it out," I asserted. "I'll break this plate!"

"Honestly, I'm not doing anything," insisted Ben.

"Okay! Okay! Okay!" I screamed. "I'll put it back!"

I replaced the plate, and it stopped. I looked around, and saw Ben looking at me with great concern.

"Are you all right?"

"I'm fine, and so are you."

"What?" he asked.

"It is my expert opinion that you're fine. It'll be all over soon, and we can go on with our lives. You're fine, and I'm fine."

"You now think I do *not* need to see a doctor..."

"Yes. There is nothing wrong with you. Going to a doctor will probably only make things worse."

"Very good."

"Thanks for your time -- and the coffee -- Ben," I told him. "I think I'll be heading home now."

"Thanks for checking up on -- my animals," he replied. "Come back anytime."

I have gone back to see Ben a few times. The plates are now down, and his parlor has returned to normal. Neither of us speak of the incident, we just talk about his animals. I wonder if he saved the world, or if we both had an episode. In any event, that was one of my most interesting cases -- and days.

The End

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The Captives of the Lost City of Alhassar

Chapter 3

By Dwayne MacInnes

I froze momentarily as I noticed in the dark two flaming red orbs rising from the box I held in my hand. I do not need to tell you that freezing in horror like this can be very unhealthy for a thief. I completely forgot to finish my spell and could only stare in fascination as the two orbs rose up to the level of my eyes.

"Sorry, I didn't realize you were female. Well, in any case I can't thank you enough for finally freeing me from that beastly chest," the voice said.

I slowly realized that the red orbs were the "thing's" eyes and it was now looking at me face to face. I still had a hard time regaining my composure and the first words out of my mouth were not to summon my dark sight spell, but instead a simple, "Who are you?"

"Why I guess you could say I am nobody," the thing said and then began to laugh.

The laughter put me enough at ease that my mind finally relaxed and I was able to function. Before the voice finished its laughing, I summoned the dark sight spell again.

There standing in front of me, or more accurately floating, was a disembodied skull.

"Get it? Nobody, because I have no body," the skull explained.

"Yeah, I get it," I replied dryly. "How did you end up as...?" I trailed off, for I could not figure out how exactly to phrase my question.

"As a disembodied floating skull that has two flaming red orbs in its eye sockets and can talk?" the skull finished. "Well, I wasn't always in this state. I used to be an apprentice to a mighty mage. Being ambitious, one day I found a tome hidden by my master.

"I asked myself, ‘Mobius, (for that is my real name) what arcane knowledge does this book contain?'

"I knew that if I could find some secret spell that would allow me to attain greatness in a hurry my boring internship would be at an end. So, I opened the book and began to read.

"The words were captivating. But, not in the usual sense. They literally capture my mind and I could not stop reading. The words tumbled out of my mouth and an enchantment began to build. First, I noticed that my skin began to dissolve. I did not feel any pain for my entire focus was on the words that I could not tear myself away from speaking aloud.

"Then my legs disappeared, yet I did not drop to the ground. I kept on speaking and I tried to force myself away from the book. It was not long after that my torso and then my arms vanished. Yet the book did not drop. Finally, in a last desperate attempt, I ushered up every ounce of willpower and I tore my eyes away from the book.

"So here I am a floating skull because I was able to quit while I was a head," the skull started laughing again. "Get it? A head, because I am a head."

"Yeah, I get it," I replied dryly. "That isn't what really happened was it?"

"Well, no. I used to be a jester and I pissed off a wizard," Mobius replied.

"And the chest?" I queried further.

"He figured he would use me as a bookend. I can tell you that being a bookend is rather dull, so I used to tell jokes to amuse myself. I guess he did not have much of a sense of humor for he boxed me up and dropped me down a privy," Mobius said. "Imagine dropping me down the toilet like that and in a box that only he had the key to. How rude!

"Thank the Gods you were able to open the lock. I can't tell you how long I've been down here. I also can't tell you how many people have tried to open the box and failed.

"So in gratitude I, Mobius, King of the jesters and jester to the king is at your service."

"I believe I've heard someone else use that line before," I said.

"Stole it from me I'm sure."

* * * * *

I soon started my travels down the corridor again with a floating skull now following me. The one advantage of a floating skull is that they generally do not make noise. Well, I guess the average floating skull does not. I really do not know how many floating skulls there are but I can only assume that not all of them chatter incessantly as Mobius does.

It took me quite some time to press upon Mobius to be silent before I returned him to the box. I guess that did it because Mobius just hovered there for a moment with his mandible agape before he finally clapped it shut with an audible click.

Soon, we again encountered torches lighting the corridor. I took advantage of every shadow and obstacle as I made my way down the hall. I probably would have been less conspicuous if I did not have this floating skull hovering over me everywhere I went.

Fortunately, we did not encounter anything, not even a giant rat. Eventually, we found a stout wooden door set into the side of the hallway. The door boasted a barred window that usually spoke to the fact it guarded a gaol or dungeon. As quickly as I did with the box containing Mobius, I had the lock on the door picked.

I swung it open slowly and started to creep in when I suddenly stopped.

"Ah, you know Mobius, we need a rear guard here. Do you think you can handle it?" I inquired.

"Not a problem, mate. I'll keep my eyes peeled," again the skull started to laugh. "Get it? Peeled, because my eyes have no lids and are peeled."

"Yeah, I get it," I replied dryly. "Just keep it down so no one can hear you and warn me if you see or hear anything coming this way."

"Right-o. Cheers," Mobius replied as I started down the hall.

* * * * *

I did not have far to go before I came upon a large room lined with cells. The first few cells contained a person stripped down to her undergarments. It was curious that there was no guard on duty. Nonetheless, I crept up to the first cell containing a female orc wearing only a dirty shift.

Thank the Gods for that, because no one should ever see an orc in anything less than a shift. Well, unless it is another orc I suppose.

I peered around the bars and studied the orc for a while. She was sitting on the edge of a wooden cot stuffed with filthy straw. Her mottled green head was in her hands as she grumbled below her breath.

"Psst," I hissed to get her attention. The orc's head shot up and stared at me in surprise.

"By the blood of Uranus!" she exclaimed.

"What?!" I replied in surprise.

"Huh?" she replied in turn, "You do not know of Uranus the god of the sky?"

"Oh," I said, as I finally understood what she said. "Sorry, thought you meant something else.

"I'm here to save you and your party."

The orc ran over to the bars in excitement, "That is wonderful. With my group and yours we should be able to defeat the vampires who have taken up residence down here."

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The Vacuum

Frightday Short

By Conrad Bones

My grandma has this really old vacuum. It's the kind with a tank and a hose, not the stand-up kind. It sounds like an airplane. I've seen it suck up socks, plastic bags, spare change – even a dead mouse once.

I stayed with her for two weeks last summer. Grandma vacuumed every morning. She walked around with the hose part while I pushed the tank. "That thing is so heavy," she said. "I don't know what I'd do without you." She must vacuum all the time by herself, when I'm not there.

One morning there was a loud banging on the door. It was two guys with long hair.

"Hey, old lady," one of them said. "We were wondering what the deal is with the vacuum."

"I like to keep things tidy," she said.

"Well, do you have to do it at the crack of dawn?"

"I have more energy in the morning," she said.

"It wakes us up," he said. "We live right upstairs."

"Well, I'm sure you have to get up for work anyway," she said.

"Look, lady, stop it, or else," the first guy said.

"Yeah," said the other guy. He flexed an arm to show grandma the tattoo of a big snake with blood dripping off its fangs. "No more vacuuming until after noon," he said. "Got it?"

They slammed the door and grandma sat down, scared and shaking.

I felt bad, but what could I do? I'm only eleven.

Later that afternoon, my grandma went to vacuum the hall.

"If I don't do it, nobody does," she said.

"Do you need help?" I asked.

"Oh, it's nothing," she said. She wheeled the tank out, and shut the door behind her.

She was gone for a long time. I heard the vacuum roaring, and some banging and hollering. I guessed people were just trying to be heard over the vacuum.

"This place is so filthy," Grandma said when she came back. "It's better for now, at least." She shoved the vacuum back into the hallway closet. The machine was off, but it was still making little rumbling noises. It almost sounded like chewing.

We didn't hear from those men upstairs anymore, but the last day I was there, there was a knock on the door.

An older man was there, wearing a tie.

"Oh, it's you," my grandma said. "I sent you the rent check last week."

"I know," he said. "Do you know what happened to the two guys upstairs? They never seem to be home."

"Oh, my," said my grandma.

"I figger they ran off," the man grumbled. "They owe me two months rent."

"I'll let you know if I see them," grandma said.

"That's the fourth time this year some tenants disappeared," he said.

"Kids these days," my grandma said. She closed and latched the door. Then she stopped by the vacuum and gave it a friendly pat, just like it was a pet dog. She loves that thing.

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The Messenger


By Douglas E. Gogerty

Mongolian Empire and the Khwarezmian Empire

Genghis Khan considered himself the ruler of the east, when he had defeated several surrounding kingdoms. His influence had reached to the Khwarezmian Empire. Instead of warring with them, a trade caravan was sent to Otrar, one of the boarder towns. The great Kahn wished greatly to become trading partners with this Islamic empire rather than having to fight them.

One of the merchants was the father of The Messenger, whose real name has been lost to us. However, the young boy of 12 was pledged to the daughter of one the commanders in the Mongol army. Hence, he did not join his father, but remained in Mongol territory with his young bride.

The Messenger would soon be of the marrying age of thirteen. During the winter hunt, he would get to show his skills to the rest of the military personnel. By this time, he would be of age, and he would then become a member of the army. He could also marry his arranged bride. However, currently he had to do whatever his father-in-law said. These things were very mundane and did not include going to exotic locations with his father.

Eventually, word came back that the caravan had been ruthlessly murdered and their goods confiscated by the governor of Otrar. This greatly distressed all of the Mongol people, and greatly upset The Messenger.

The great Khan did not want this to be a precursor to war. The Messenger's feelings not withstanding, every attempt would be made to prevent all out combat. After all, the Khwarezmian Empire was large and powerful. Their military greatly outnumbered the Mongolian forces. Nevertheless, it looked like Sultan of the Khwarezmian Empire was provoking the Mongols.

Thus, in Genghis's attempt to avoid outright war against that empire, an envoy was sent to meet with Sultan Ala ad-Din Muhammad. Among the members of this envoy was The Messenger's father-in-law to be. Unbeknownst to anyone at the time, The Messenger was also a member of the entourage. He disguised himself and stowed away on the diplomatic caravan.

The young man watched in horror as all of the official emissaries were shaved and beheaded. This Empire had now taken his father and his father-in-law. He burned for revenge, but he was a mere child and faced a large military force. He reluctantly returned with the remaining entourage to tell of the incident.

"This is not the act of a King, it is the actions of a bandit!" exclaimed Genghis.

"They must all die," responded The Messenger. "Future generations should not know of the Khwarezmian Empire! The city of Otrar should be lost to the ages."

"I share your sentiment young one," responded Genghis. "However, they are powerful. We must be cautious."

Genghis Khan retreated to the mountains to reflect upon the sultan's actions and to determine the next course of action. After three days he returned to assure the Mongol people that this affront would not go unpunished, and that God himself had assured him of victory.

By the time that the full force could be raised, The Messenger had become of age and was allowed to join the army. His desire to wreak havoc upon the Khwarezmian people had not waned. He was anxious to begin the battle.

By autumn, they had 20 tumens (200,00 soldiers) on the march, approaching the city of Otrar. The Messenger was anxious to wreak his vengeance upon the killers of his family members. He had shown great skill in the winter hunt, and many were impressed by his fighting skills.

Nevertheless, they had to siege the city. It could be quite a while before actual personal combat would occur. It would take a while to get into the city.

The great Khan had spread word throughout the area that those that did not oppose the approaching army, would obtain leniency. However, if they did not submit, they, their family, and all of their worldly possessions would be destroyed. Several emirs joined the fight against the sultan on word of this proclamation.

While many thought it was just words, Genghis Khan was true to his word. Those that showed they were loyal were treated well. However, those that betrayed trust were treated very harshly. Entire families were killed upon the actions of just one member.

The siege of the city took several months, but they had finally breached the city's defenses. However, the governor, who ordered the deaths of the merchants, made it to the citadel with 20,000 soldiers to continue the fight.

Since the fall of the city was immanent, Genghis Khan left it to continue his pursuit of the Sultan Muhammad. Nonetheless, The Messenger remained in Otrar. The young soldier showed his bravery and skill in the street fighting.

Like all Mongols, he was very proficient with the bow. Children learned to ride and use the bow at a very young age. Thus, when the young boys joined the military, they were highly trained bowmen. However, The Messenger was also very good with the pike and the spear even at the very young age of 13.

His desire for vengeance spurred him on to kill as many citizens of Otrar as he could manage. He would often engage in groups of 5 or more. During this particular campaign, his martial skills became greatly tuned. While he was still quite green, his skills easily overcame the groups of farmers that were recruited to save the city.

It took the remaining Mongol army a month to finally take the citadel. The governor was captured alive. The Messenger stated he would have killed him on sight, but he was elsewhere. After a brief interegation, he was executed.

When the group had reunited with Genghis Khan, The Messenger told the great leader that he personally poured silver into the governor's eyes as a means of execution. While Genghis knew that this did not really happen, he understood the meaning.

The beginning of the payback had begun. The Sultan would be next. For the next year, the Mongol army chased after the Sultan. They sieged city after city, but the sultan continued his retreat. The Messenger's fighting skills improved with each encounter. Soon, many soldiers drew lots to see who would fight next to him. It was thought to be the safest place in battle.

While the main force brought the Khwazemian Empire under its control, Genghis sent a force of 20,000 to search for the sultan. Naturally, The Messenger was part of this force. They followed every bit of intelligence to track down the sultan. They did encounter some resistance, but they fought less often than the main force.

To their dismay, they discovered that the sultan had died on an island in the Caspian Sea. While they did not discover if it was murder or natural causes, they were not involved in the death. This greatly disappointed The Messenger.

They returned to join the main force and they conquered the empire shortly afterwards. The Messenger had earned a name for himself, and he was a most respected warrior. He often volunteered for the most dangerous missions. Since being an emissary was fraught with danger, he often was sent to meet with opposition leaders. He always returned; thus, he earned the name of The Messenger.

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The Captives of the Lost City of Alhassar

Chapter 4

By Dwayne MacInnes

"Excuse me. You said vampires, right?" I asked.

"Yes, they captured us and are going to use us as food. But when we combine our forces we should be able to defeat them handedly," the orc replied with confidence.

"You must have a good group of soldiers to have made it this far," the orc continued. "How large is your party?"

"Ah, I guess you could say two at best."

"What, only two of you. You must have had to battle your way down here and taken many casualties."

"Well, not exactly I came by myself."

"I thought you said there were two of you."

"I said two at best. It is a little hard to explain my companion."

"By Thor's blood how do..."

"I thought you believed in Uranus," I interrupted.

"To orcs -- Uranus is Thor," the orc started to explain.

"Whoa! What was that?" the voice of Mobius exclaimed behind me.

The orc jumped back from the cell's bars with a shriek.

"It's not what you think," I said to both Mobius and the orc at the same time.

I turned to Mobius. "She was explaining her gods to me."

"Oh good!" the skull sighed, "I thought for a minute she said..."

"I know," I replied as I turned back to the orc. "This is Mobius my companion."

"I am Mogutz leader of this doomed party," the orc replied tentatively returning to the bars.

"I am Gwendolyn rescuer of your doomed party," I began when I suddenly turned towards Mobius.

"Why are you here?" I asked.

"Oh yeah. I heard someone walking this way."

"Great!" I cried as I ran down the hall of cells with the skull tucked under my arm. I found a wooden door and quickly picked the lock and secreted myself inside.

It was not too soon; as I heard footsteps enter the room. I peered through the crack I left open in the doorway. I watched a tall-emaciated man walk into the room. His skin was sunken and cadaver gray. I did not have to be a High Elven lore master to know I was looking at a vampire.

"Pardon me," Mobius whispered.

"Shh," I hissed.

"Sorry I was just talking to..."

"If you don't clam up I'll use you as a bowling ball," I whispered harshly.

The vampire addressed the prisoners, "Tomorrow you will be taken into the old city. When the full moon reaches its zenith your blood will be spilled to summon the great lich-mage Zormandus. Then we shall feast upon your life's blood.

"Prepare yourself. You may want to send prayers to your gods."

The vampire then motioned for the servants who were waiting out of my sight to enter the room. They brought in bowls and mugs and dispersed them amongst the prisoners.

After the servants finished their tasks, the vampire ushered his minions out of the dungeon. He turned back towards the prisoners and said, "Enjoy this meal for it shall be your last. The gathering of dark mages, necromancers and the undead has begun."

With that, the vampire left the room. I waited a few minutes before I exited the sanctuary of my closet. I returned to the cell containing Mogutz with Mobius hovering just behind me.

"Looks like you guys stumbled upon something big," I stated.

Mogutz just nodded her head before sniffing at the bowl full of some type of stew.

"Rat stew again," she said.

"There is more here than just merely a conference of every evil baddie," a voice in the cell behind me said.

I walked over and looked at its occupant. He was a High Elf, with the telltale pale skin and the arrogant expression on his face.

"A Wood Elf, eh. Did you get lost?" the elf sneered.

"If I did it is a good thing for you because I'm your only hope of getting out of here," I replied hotly.

"Then we are as good as dead," the High Elf continued.

"Now that is not cricket, old chap," Mobius interrupted. "She's already freed me and she did make her way into this cell."

"Oh, that's rich I'm supposed to take the advice of a symbol off a bottle of poison," the elf shot back.

"Gandelf!!!" Mogutz hollered. "This is not the time for your uppity attitude. If you want we can leave you here."

That seemed to take the wind out Gandelf's sails. He muttered an apology and sat back down on his bunk.

"You mentioned that there is something more going on," I stated.

"Rather!" the elf ejaculated.

"Would you care to share it with us," I prodded. It was obvious Gandelf did not like being in the presence of such common folk as us.

"I am Gandelf. I am an archaeologist, and I have been researching the lost cities of the old elven empire. It was rumored that one of those lost cities lies underneath Imperial City. In fact, we can conclude that it is true. These vampires have excavated it and are now going to use it for their evil purposes.

"The elven ruins that Imperial City is built upon are believed to be Alhassar, the ancient city of lore. When the war between the united elven armies and the combined dwarven clans raged over the millennia, many cities were lost on both sides. So many towns and cities were razed that even we forgot where they were once located. We just had rumors and folktales to recall our ancient glory.

"I may add that if it weren't for the desertion of the lesser elves we very well may have won the war that raged for thousands of years instead of having it end in a stalemate. Even the dwarven High king Efdee Ore was quoted as saying ‘We have nothing to fear but fearless elves.'"

"If I remember right it was the arrogance of the High Elves that forced the Wood Elves to return to the Great Forest, the Dark Elves to their mines, and the Sea Elves to the ocean," I rebutted.

Gandelf just snorted, "In any event, as the two sides retreated to their remaining dwellings the humans over the years built their own cities upon the charred ruins of our old glory. The gods compensated the humans for their short lives by letting them propagate as if they were rabbits.

"So now after all these centuries I believe I have found the lost city of Alhassar only to find that its ancient libraries are about to be used for the dark purpose of opening a gate between our world and that of the Nine Hells."

"But that would utterly destroy our world!" I exclaimed.

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The Messenger

Chapter One

By Douglas E. Gogerty

With the complete destruction of the Khwarezmian Empire, Genghis Khan needed to return to the Steppes to put down an uprising. However, The Messenger remained with the army that searched for the sultan. It was their task to take the 2 tumens (20,000 soldiers), each under generals Jebe and Subutai, and scout further west, while the great Khan headed east.

Naturally, there were some relatives of the sultan that had to be removed from power. This was the impetus of the expedition. With rumors and intelligence of alliances further west, these needed to be explored.

The two tumens split up, and The Messenger remained with General Subutai. While General Jebe was sieging and capturing several cities around the Caspian Sea. Many reports returned of the brutal nature of this process. The population did not submit readily to the Mongol invaders.

The first encounter for The Messenger's tumen occurred when General Subutai's army fell upon the city of Qazvin. The governor of that city was uncooperative, and the city was sacked. The siege of the city was difficult, but the catapults eventually did their work.

The able bodied men were taken to be used in the front lines of the next encounter. However, the process was slow and expensive. Thus, in order to scout more efficiently, a new tactic would have to be employed.

General Subutai organized a group to act as emissary to the province of Dilem. While the 14 year old messenger was too young to be the main diplomat, he went along on the mission as an escort. This was done at the request of the individual responsible for delivering the general's message.

The group met with Atabeg Uzbeg. A dozen guards made aggressive moves towards the envoy. Quickly and almost effortlessly, The Messenger with his pike, disarmed the group and pushed them back. With a glower but no words, the guards understood that they were to stay back.

Atabeg watched as his twelve guards were completely over matched by one young Mongol. The fear on his face was clear. What the ruler had heard about the ruthless Mongols was confirmed in that incident. Without hesitation, he showered the Mongols with presents.

The envoy packed up the silver, garments, and other treasures upon the provided horses and returned to General Subutai. Thus, it was assured that the Mongols could move unencumbered through the territory. Hence, the scouting went very well for them.

The weather was turning bad, thus they needed a place to winter. An envoy was sent to the city of Tabriz. The general gave them the task of securing unfettered hunting ground for a few months.

The group arrived in Tabriz with the standard array of gifts. Seeing the riches which the envoy entrusted to the young messenger, some townspeople hatched a plan to take some. Six men singled out the youngster and fell upon him.

The Messenger pierced the first man through the heart with his pike. He quickly removed it and broke the jaw of a second man with the butt end. In a fluid motion, he blocked a blow from a club from one man and stabbed another in the throat. He hit the man with the club four times before getting around to killing him. The man with the broken jaw rushed him, and was stabbed in the eye and the pike exited the back of his head. The remaining two were frozen with fear watching their comrades dispatched in mere seconds. In a powerful charge, he drove his pike through both men.

After quietly piling the men up, the young man rejoined the envoy. He did not say a word about the incident. Thus, no retaliation was visited upon the citizens of Tabriz. However, the governor must have heard of the incident because a large tribute was paid to the Mongols. They would have plenty of provisions to winter in the area around the southern part of the Caspian Sea.

As was the common practice during the winter months, the army staged a great hunt. The soldiers created a large circle. Slowly, they drove all manner of animal towards the center. No animal was allowed to escape the circle as the soldiers closed in.

Further, no animal was killed until the signal was given. They would have a number animals completely surrounded. When the signal was given, the animals were all killed. This allowed the soldiers to keep using their martial skills. In this way, they practiced their cooperative maneuvers, horsemanship, and even bow skills. Not to mention, they also obtained great amounts of food for feasting with these hunts.

During the hunt, he once again wowed the group with his prowess. Many soldiers just sat back and watched him do his thing. They were awed at what he could do with the weapons at his disposal.

It was during the great hunt, that they celebrated the young man's wedding. Despite his father-in-laws death at the hands of the Sultan Ala ad-Din Muhammad, the wedding plans went ahead. Some worried that his killer instinct would be negatively impacted by his involvement with women. Nevertheless, it did not show during the hunt.

During this particular winter, General Subutai formulated a plan of action. He decided that in the spring his army would scout around the entire Caspian Sea. They may meet resistance, but it may prove useful to know the area around the Caspian. It would be a long and difficult campaign, but it needed to be done.

The Messenger would be a year older, but he was still too young to be taken seriously by anyone outside the group of Mongols. However, his skills were beyond that of anyone they had encountered.

When spring arrived, the army headed north. The Messenger's commitment would be certainly tested. No doubt there would be plenty of chances with General Subutai's psychological warfare. He would be on plenty of diplomatic missions.

Some of this was based from the account of the campaign found here:
Howorth, Henry Hoyle and Ravenstein, Ernest George. History of the Mongols: From the 9th to the 19th Century. Oxford, England: Longmans, Green, and Company, 1876. p. 93.

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The Captives of the Lost City of Alhassar

Chapter 5

By Dwayne MacInnes

"Yes it would mean the end of the world," Gandelf simply replied. "So if you free us we would be the only ones that could stop the destruction of the world."

Mogutz raised her voice, "Will you free us and help us in our quest, Gwendolyn?"

I nodded my assent and quickly picked the locks on the cells. First, I freed Mogutz and then Gandelf. The next cell I found a Northman barbarian named Nanoc. He perked up as I approached his cell.

"You are the Black Arrow," he boomed. "I've seen you in the arena many times."

From the cell across from his, a human female ran to the bars. "The Black Arrow I have heard many tales of you."

I had Nanoc's cell open before the woman finished her sentence. I was walking over to her cell when she studied me up and down.

"Hmm, your pictures made you look, ah...bigger."

"Sorry," I said with a little acid. As I have stated before -- I get this a lot, "I hope you aren't disappointed."

"Oh, not at all," she perked up. "I think I prefer you as you are. You seem more genuine if you understand me."

I smiled at her compliment and had her cell door open in a matter of seconds.

"Oh where are my manners? I am Treena acolyte of the Church of Athena."

I noticed the male members of the party were ogling the young human who was only wearing a thin, practically see-thru shift.

I quickly opened the cell to the remaining party member a small human male named Quint. He was small and was neither a fighter nor mage. He also was not an academia like Gandelf. I reasoned that he fancied himself a thief and took mental note that I would need to keep and eye on him.

With the prisoners freed, I watched as they started to pilfer the closet that I had recently hidden myself. It was apparently where the party's gear had been stored. Mogutz dressed herself and then donned her armor. Clunky plate, I noted no chance of stealth near her. However, what really caught my eye was when she buckled on an old sword. Thick rust covered the ragged blade and a few places sported small holes eaten through the metal. One good hit and the sword would disintegrate in a reddish brown cloud.

Gandelf dressed himself in a robe of a scholar and armed himself with a journal and quill. He did at least carry a small dagger in his belt for protection.

Nanoc did not dress himself except for the fur boots on his feet. It appeared the breechclout he wore was his sole form of clothing and armor. The black broadsword Nanoc armed himself with looked more formidable than the one sported by Morgutz. He slapped it and smiled as he looked at me.

"This is Biter. One of the best swords ever forged," he said proudly. Then a frown broke out upon his face. "Sorry, ‘the' best sword ever forged."

"A little proud," Mobius said in my ear.

"Yeah, barbarians can be that way," I replied.

"No, not him, Biter," replied the skull.

Before I could inquire further, Treena walked into the room. She was wearing a short white tunic with high wrapped sandals and a short sword on her slim waist. Again all the males started to ogle the fair-haired priestess.

"Why doesn't anyone look at me like that?" I heard Mogutz mutter forlornly.

"Probably because most folks aren't into green warty skin covered with coarse black hair," Mobius uttered in my ear. I managed to suppress a chuckle.

The last member to exit the closet was Quint. He wore a tight leather jerkin with matching pants and soft low boots. A dagger was his only visible weapon.

"Okay," I said once everyone was dressed and armed. "What does everyone know about vampires?"

"They suck!" shouted Mobius again breaking into laughter. "Get it? Vampires suck because they suck blood"

"Yeah, I get it," I replied dryly. "Does anyone know how to kill one?"

"Ooh, holy water will do the trick," offered Treena.

"Great!" I exclaimed. "How much do you have?"

"Well, actually none," Treena said sheepishly.

"Okay, how long will it take you to make some?" I inquired.

"I'm just an acolyte. I can't make any."

"Does anybody else have any suggestions?" I grumbled.

"Yes," Nanoc offered, "magic weapons will do the trick."

"How many of you have enchanted weapons?" I asked.

Morgutz and Nanoc raised their hands. I looked hard at Morgutz rusty blade and shook my head in doubt.

"Does anyone else know anything?"

Everyone stared down at his or her feet. Well, everyone looked at down at his or her feet except for Mobius who did not have any feet.

"Alright," I finally conceded. "I was trying to ascertain your knowledge of what we are about to go against. Unfortunately, you don't know much. Fortunately, I do. Fire works wonders against vampires as well as silver.

"So I suggest everyone carry a torch and we should have some silver crowns we could melt down and coat everyone's weapons.

"I also suggest you let Mobius and I reconnoiter in advance before we take off."

Being that the party was going to be loud and bumbling about I planned to keep a great distance between them and myself. I would not even have offered to have Mobius with me if I did not already have a plan.

I rummaged through the closet until I found what I needed.

"What are you going to do with that robe and cloak?" asked Mobius.

"We are going to wear them," I replied.

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The Messenger

Chapter Two

By Douglas E. Gogerty

General Jebe took his tumen further west as he headed north. He revisited the towns that they had sieged the previous campaign. Naturally, they did not resist the army and considered themselves part of the Mongol Empire.

General Subutai led his tumen north along the shores of the Capian. The Messenger, still a young man, accompanied all of the diplomatic missions. Thus, when an envoy met with Atabeg Uzbeg to assure their safe passage, The Messenger accompanied them. Governor Uzbeg assured the group that his country's allegiance would be forever with the Mongols.

This group's route took them to the Caucus mountains. They followed the mountains and occasionally explored passes through the mountains. Also, there was a great river along the mountains; thus, they followed the river which provided them with water.

At first, when The Messenger and an envoy would enter a town, they were greeted kindly. The territories obeyed the agreement that Atabeg Uzbeg had made. However, the tumen eventually exited the realm of Atabeg, and negotiations had to begin in earnest.

In one town, a group of citizens attacked the envoy. However, they were not armed with much in the way of weaponry. They had mostly rough hewn branches to be used as clubs. The Messenger ordered the other guards to stay with the envoy and protect them. Alone, he met the mob.

The townspeople were poorly trained in the use of weapons. Further, they did not coordinate their attacks. The Messenger's first move was to draw the mob out. Thus, he dismounted, challenged them, and then ran. The citizens ignored the rest of the envoy and pursued him.

There was a large rock near the outskirts of the city. He led them to there, and then turned. Several impaled themselves upon his outstretched pike. With his back to the rock, he methodically began killing the mob. When a majority laid in a pile in front of him, others began running away. He took care of these with his bow. He piled all the bodies in front of the rock, and rejoined the envoy.

This town offered no further resistance to the Mongols. However, it was clear that they could not be trusted. Thus, every able-bodied man was conscripted into the Mongol army. Some of their women and children were taken along. The old and enfeebled were left behind.

It was clear that they had entered the Kingdom of Lasha Giorgi or George IV of Georgia. Most cities they would encounter on this particular journey would likely be resistant to the Mongol forces.

In fact, some of the towns resisted in this regard and met the same fate. Others welcomed the Mongols, and were mostly spared. However, they met more and more resistance as they approached Tbilisi, which was heavily fortified. Further, King George had begun preparing for the eventual arrival of the Mongols. Hence, they had a large contingent of their army.

General Jebe's tumen had been exploring Armenia, and the two groups met in Georgia. Thus, the full contingent of the Mongols would meet King George's army.

With their conscripted footsoldiers in front, and the mounted Mongols in the rear, the two groups met in the battle of Khunan on the Kotman River . Just as in the great hunts, the mounted Mongols attempted to work their way around the standing army and not let anything escape.

The Messenger, while still very young, took control of a group of conscripted soldiers. He also recruited a small group of Mongols to join with him. They pressed hard. In intense fighting, and multiple arrow forays, they pressed the Georgian lines hard. They pushed within sight of the King's contingent.

The Mongols launched a massive arrow assault upon the royal guards, and the lines broke. The Georgian army engaged in full retreat to Tbilisi. The Mongols pursued and killed many of the soldiers.

For weeks, they followed the retreating army which would occasionally regroup and fight. In this way, the 2 tumens and some of their own recruits killed tens of thousands of Georgian soldiers.

Because the Mongols were on a reconnaissance mission, when the reached Tbilisi, they stopped. They had learned that King George IV was critically injured in their main battle. Thus, the kingdom would likely fall into disarray. They could easily conquer it upon their return.

In other interrogations, they heard of the fertile lands beyond Tbilisi. However, they could not conquer it all with their current forces. With a full contingent, they could explore these lands later. Perhaps they would even conquer the entirety of the Caucus mountains. For now, they would have to determine a path through the mountains to the north side of the Caspian Sea.

The entire Mongol contingent headed south and returned to Tabriz and obtained more supplies. They also hired some guides to get them through the Caucuses. Once again they headed north.

They crossed the territory of Uzbeg Atabeg without incident. Outside of that realm, they approached the town of Meraga. Quickly, the two generals assembled an envoy to negotiate with the town. The Messenger was given the honor of leading this envoy. While he was still quite young, he had earned the honor.

Upon entering the city, the envoy was attacked by 100 citizens. The Messenger sent the other emissaries back to the generals with town's response. They were not going to allow the Mongols to pass peacefully.

The remaining envoy left The Messenger and returned to generals Jebe and Subutai. Upon hearing word, the Mongols mounted and rushed to the town ready for battle. They planned on avenging the death of the great messenger.

However, when they entered the town, all they found were several piles of dead bodies. They searched in vain to find The Messenger. He was not in any of the piles of corpses. After carefully searching the town, they made their way toward the far end of the city. The piles of corpses became less frequent. When the Mongol army reached the far end of the city, they found The Messenger sitting on a large stone with the towns leaders kneeling at his feet.

He had successfully negotiated a peace with the town, and the Mongols could peacefully continue northward. The story of the one Mongol who entered a street where there were 100 individuals and proceeded to kill them all without any resistance was told throughout the region. No longer would the Mongol generals send an envoy not led by The Messenger.

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The Captives of the Lost City of Alhassar

Chapter 6

By Dwayne MacInnes

I looked at Mobius hovering in the air, "You must have done some acting while you were a jester."

"Oh, sure. I did lots of plays, told jokes, sang songs, and told riddles," the skull explained.

"Well, that was more than I needed -- but nice resume."

"Granted most of the plays were parodies and comedies," continued Mobius.

"What exactly did you have in mind?" asked Mogutz interrupting the blathering skull.

"I'm going to see how well Mobius can play at being a lich," I explained.

"Surely you jest," scoffed Gandelf. "It takes more than a floating skull to make an undead mage."

"I always jest and don't call me Shirley," snorted the skull. "However, I can rise to the occasion," Mobius replied before laughing again. "Get it? Because I can levitate."

"Yeah, I get it," I replied dryly.

"First we are going to need some background of Alhassar," I explained. "I'm sure Gandelf has a good idea of what this place used to be."

"Ahem," Gandelf straightened up as if he was about to give a lecture to a class, which was not too far from the mark. "As I have previously stated Alhassar was the ancient city of lore for the old elven empire. A copy of every book, scroll, clay tablet, etc. was stored in the city. Nothing was excluded; even forbidden lore was stored away. Alhassar was considered the crowned jewel in the Elven Empire. Its loss is one of the greatest travesties ever to happen to the world.

"At the zenith of the war, an army of dwarven super-heavy infantry sacked the city. Not a single elf was spared in the onslaught. It is rumored that the dwarves did not entirely destroy the buildings or the lore deposited inside.

"Although dwarves value wealth, gems, and precious metals above all else, they were not completely ignorant of the true wealth they held. Many battles were fought to reclaim the city and all failed.

"Over the centuries the dwarves forgot about Alhassar and the elves were too busy trying to hold onto other cities. These were now under assault and they had no forces to spare on retaking Alhassar. The humans probably saw a mound of rubble and debris, not knowing that underneath it all, a treasure trove of incalculable wealth in knowledge lay where they stood. Thus, they built their new city on the ruins."

With the newfound information given us by Gandelf, Mobius and I came up with a story for the character he was too play. Then we created a plan on how best to deal with the threat about to literally release hell on earth. Trying to reach the surface and rallying the imperial legions would take too long. Therefore, it was upto a skull, and a party of five amateurs and me to save the world.

The party was soon prepared to travel down to the lost city. They wisely decided to let me lead far in advance. I could effectively scout out any danger without alerting the whole evil underworld that there was a party of blundering neophytes wandering in their domain. I would only allow Mobius to accompany me. But, that was with the strict stipulation that he kept his mouth shut.

It proved to be a very smart decision for we had not even left the dungeon when I encountered two of the vampire's servants acting as sentinels. They had no idea as to what was about to befall them in the flickering torch light. I had my bow with an arrow nocked when suddenly Mobius shot down the hall.

"Pardon me," Mobius politely asked the two sentinels. "Have you seen my body?"

The guards stared at each other in stunned amazement for a while. They were probably wondering why a lich was looking for his body or even pondering on how a lich could lose his body.

I did not wait for them to answer Mobius before an arrow was sticking out of each of their skulls. Before the dead sentinels could crumple to the floor, I stomped up to Mobius seething in anger.

"You could have ruined everything!" I yelled.

"Ah, rubbish," Mobius replied. "I only diverted these blokes attention so that you could dispatch them quickly and quietly."

"But..." I caught myself, for he was right. I started to chuckle. "Thanks, and sorry."

"Don't think of it mate," Mobius dimmed one flaming orb in a semblance of a wink.

Before the Mogutz and party reached the door the sentinels were guarding I had searched the bodies. Other than a few coins and pair of dice, the two did not carry anything of note. Even their weapons were not of good quality.

It is odd to think that evil masterminds rarely arm their henchmen with good weapons. I suppose being thrifty and the desire of world domination go hand in hand.

We were soon outside the dungeon and sneaking down the hallway. Well -- I was sneaking -- I cannot exactly say what the rest of the party thought they were doing. Fortunately, as before, I was way ahead of them and leaving little marks upon the wall with a piece of charcoal so that they could follow the correct route.

It was not hard to find the right corridors to follow seeing as how most of the hallways had deep dust covering their floors and one was heavily trafficked. It was also highly unlikely there were any traps. However, I still took precautions. The thief, that forgets that, is not one long for this world.

As I progressed down the tunnel, I started to hear the sounds of many voices in conversation. I slowly advanced far enough to see that the hallway ended at the mouth of an enormous cavern. The vampires, necromancers, et al. had obviously excavated the cavern over many years for it contained many ruined buildings and a large pyramid shaped temple in the center of a square. The denizens had spread torches about illuminating the entire excavation. I was probably the first elf in thousands of years to rest her eyes on Alhassar the lost city of lore.

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