I am Jaime, entertainer extraordinaire. I learned my craft under the great William Tremblesword. I have played in palaces and in theatres throughout the civilized world. You are probably wondering how I ended up at the bottom of this pit all alone. Let me start at the beginning.
I was born the youngest of 17 children. At least that is what the Monks of Saint Ambrose Monastery told me. Apparently, my parents left me in a basket upon their front door when I was just a few hours old. They had so many children that they could not manage one more, or so the story went. Several children at the orphanage had similar stories, so I have begun to look at my beginnings rather skeptically.
In any event, I learned to fight at the orphanage. I had no choice in the matter. It was either fight or die. However, it has been a useful skill, so in retrospect, I should not complain.
In fact, with the amount of fighting that went on between us boys, the monks decided to channel that fighting into swordplay. I cannot speak on the wisdom of that idea, but there it is. I learned to use a sword in defense of attacks by other orphans.
Further, because of the constant attacks upon my person at the orphanage, I also learned some healing techniques. Being a regular visitor to the healing monk, I could not help but pick up a few things. This is another useful skill I obtained by my rough life at the orphanage.
To reward us for our hard work with the swords, the monks invited the renowned William Tremblesword to put on the play Fred and Ethel the Pirates Daughter. It was a tragic tale full of swordplay.
Ethel was beautiful. She was a lovely young thing with blond hair and striking blue eyes. I was instantly smitten.
Since I was raised in an all male orphanage run by monks, I had never known that there were other creatures in the world other than boys. Ethel was different. She did not appear that she would attack me at first light. With her, I would not have to be constantly vigilant.
When the troupe packed up and left the orphanage, I hid in their wagon. I left the orphanage and joined the great William Tremblesword for the love of a woman.
Naturally, I discovered that Herman Snodgrass played Ethel. The first love of my life was a young dark haired boy in a wig, who gratefully gave up the women's roles to the younger orphan boy -- me.
That is how I ended up studying my craft. While I had hoped the constant barrage of attacks upon my person would subside, this did not happen as of yet. The youngest of the troupe was the whipping boy of the group. Thus, my self-defense skills were continually honed.
In addition, as the youngest, I had the greatest number of chores. Besides learning the necessities as a traveling performer, I also cooked, cleaned, washed, and learned the myriad of other skills to keep a troupe of men happy.
Eventually, as actors moved on, William recruited some young men to join us. For a while, only boys older than I were hired. Thus, my duties as the youngest continued. However, it was inevitable that I would move up in the ranks.
While performing shows, I saw my first real females. They appeared curvy and soft. They were unlike the rough and tumble males that I had spent my entire life with. I fell in love -- many times.
Unfortunately, it is quite difficult to get return affection when you are in a wig and dress. On the other hand, it is easy to get close to them. This is how I discovered much of the anatomical differences between men and women. Further exploration, however, was needed.
When I began playing male roles, I got more attention from the ladies. In fact, this is how I ended up in the town of Yansey.
We had just played Yansey, and we were continuing on our tour. We had a small performance at an inn on the road to Giland. It was just an advertisement to our main performance, and it got us a night's stay at the inn.
I found a person willing to warm my bed. She was a lovely thing, but she was about twice my age. Her name escapes me. Nevertheless, the chemistry between us was quite extraordinary. I did not get to sleep until it was quite late. I slept right through the morning bell.
William discovered me in bed with the woman. It seems that she originally agreed to spend the night with him. However, after a few minutes, she left him. Perhaps his excitement could not be contained. In any event, he kicked me out of the troupe for that.
The woman paid for another night with me, and gave me some money in addition when I went on my way. I walked back to Yansey to see if I could make a living there.
Yansey is a small town with the Grand Old Mountains on the north and the River of Yan on the south. The Yan is a fast moving and treacherous river that disappears into the Forest of No Return.
The forest gets its name from the fact that no one ever comes back from the forest unchanged. Many times, they do not come back at all, but when someone does come back, he or she is completely different. The person would have no memory of anything, and often appeared to be a completely different person.
It is because of the nature of this forest, that the town uses it as a punishment for crimes. The judge would send the convicted into the forest. Often, it may be months or even years later; the convict will emerge but is completely different. They could even go in as a woman and emerge as a man. Often, the convict would resume his or her life as if nothing happened.
I was performing daily, and making a fine living there. I would sing songs for meals. I had an arrangement with a widow for lodging. I was quite comfortable in my life. I only had an occasional fight with someone who refused to pay. It was far from the constant attacks, which I had been accustomed.
However, one day that all came to an end. Apparently, the Mayor's wife, daughter, goat, and dog all became pregnant all at once. Some sort of investigation went on, and they named me the prime suspect. I do not understand why, I would have never slept with the Mayor's wife!
After a sham of a witchcraft trial, a judge convicted me and sentenced me to enter the forest. At least I did not have to enter the forest with nothing. To make the punishment more severe, some convicts are sentenced to enter the forest naked. I was able to keep my clothes and my trusty sword. The widow gave me her husband's leather armor and a few days food ration as a farewell token.
I entered the forest bravely. There was a path of sorts from the previously convicted. I decided to follow it. I heard the rushing waters of the Yan to my left. I would use that as my navigational aid.
The path headed south towards the river, and at one spot, it opened up to a beautiful vista. The River of Yan plunged down into a great waterfall. The roar of the rushing water was immense, and I dare not stay long or go deaf.
The path continued along the river; however, it sloped down considerably. I heard a growl behind me, and a pair of glowing eyes appeared in the shadows. I contemplated battling the creature, but I decided to rush headlong down the hill instead.
At te bottom of the hill was a pit. With the speed I obtained as I rushed down the hill, I was unable to avoid falling into it. That is how I ended up here at the bottom of this dark pit -- all alone. I have not decided on what I am going to do next; however, for now I am going to stay put.
Because of circumstances beyond my control, I came to be living in Miz. Miz is a small hamlet built upon the Miz River. This turbulent river emerges from the Forest of No Return, whose name is built up upon superstition. However, like many old forests, it hides its mysteries quite well.
The Misty Mountains to the north are the real threat. The locals seem to ignore the rumbling and the sounds emanating from the mountains and worry much more about the forest. Such is the nature of some towns.
Nevertheless, the life of a sorcerer is a difficult one. I have lived in many locations in my lifetime. Because of various incidents with the superstitious, I have been blamed me for a great number of crimes. With each conviction -- no matter how deserved or undeserved -- comes exile. Thus, I have traveled extensively.
I showed an early ability to tap into the aura of all things. Night was a particularly terrifying time for my parents. It was said that household items would fly about the room as I slept. Rumors began to spread about the 'special boy' in the area.
While all was well in my hometown, I was safe. However, when a local farmer's crop failed, a mob formed. My parents died saving my life from this mob by putting me up with relatives.
These relatives felt very put out by my presence. I believe they expected my parents to come for me at some future date. Thus, they treated me terribly. However, eventually, I went off to boarding school. Here I learned to harness my powers. I made several friends, and had many school time adventures.
Upon graduation, I bid my adoptive family and those friends good bye. I was determined to make my own way. I had quite a reputation leaving school, so I thought I would have an easy life.
Needless to say, this was not the case. Sorcerers like myself have limited powers. While we can manipulate our environment and elements therein, we do not control every aspect. There is simply too much to control.
For instance, in my travels, I came upon a town suffering from a terrible drought. The surrounding farmland was dying under the hot sun. They invited me in to bring the rain. I cannot conjure rain out of the ether; it must come from somewhere.
It was difficult and exhausting to bring the water, but I succeeded. It rained for several days and the crops were saved.
The town treated me like a hero. There was a large celebration in my honor. They offered me great riches, wenches, and livestock for my services. They gave me a place to live and offer my services, and the town paid for my every want.
For a brief time, it was a great place to live. However, a powerful neighboring town exhausted their wells. There fresh water had run out which caused them great strife. They noticed the bounty that was occurring at this town and invaded. I received the brunt of the blame, and the townspeople ran me out of town.
I could affect the water supply, but I could not affect the attitudes of the neighboring village. Was it my fault that they invaded? I only brought the rain. Like so many times since, when trouble comes and I cannot stop it, they force me into exile. When my services are no longer wanted, I have to move on. These are some of the harsh lessons that we sorcerers learn.
Because a sorcerer's life is a difficult one, I was constantly on the move. I had a brief stint with a traveling theater. Before the main show, there were numerous 'warm-up' acts. I conjured for the masses. It was a nice job even though it was unfulfilling.
The master of the traveling acting troop eventually learned that I was an actual sorcerer. Thus, he asked me to give him a potion that would make him good with the wenches. I told him that it was out of my area of expertise. However, he was most insistent.
In my travels before joining the troop, I had met some people in the mages' guilds. Guild members train, study and keep secrets. They are typical book learners without street smarts. I got some tips about some herbs from some of these individuals.
I brewed a concoction that would make him irresistible to anyone smelling the cologne. I warned him against drinking it. It was to be used topically and not internally. Apparently, if you ingest this love potion, you will be rather -- premature -- in your -- interactions.
Naturally, he ignored the warning. With his breath, he could then easily attract women to his bed, but his staying power was limited. He did not blame his clumsiness on his condition, but he blamed me. Thus, he kicked me out of the troop. He did not even ask how to counteract the spell.
Nevertheless, he has become quite famous. I feel that I have a bit to do with his current circumstance. However, he may disagree.
In any event, I was visiting a guild member named Brunis in some town. Over the years, I have supplemented my natural sorcerer ability with some wizardry. While Brunis was a bit of a pill, he accepted me as I was, and I him.
While visiting him, he had a falling out with the captain of the city guard, or so I was told. A guard member found the two dead with the captain's sword in Brunis's chest. Brunis managed to cook the captain with a spell before he died, or so the story goes. I did not wait to find out.
In short order, I left Brunis's town and I ended up in Miz, which was in crisis. Their long lost princess had finally emerged from the Forest of No Return. She had no knowledge of entering the forest. I did not probe to get more of the story, so I do not know why she entered the forest either. Nevertheless, she had emerged and the town threw a great feast in her honor.
After days of feasting, she vanished. After hearing the story, I tried to duck out of town, but I did not quite make it. I was tasked with entering the forest and retrieving her. I tried to tell them there was more evidence that she left by the main road, but they would not listen to me. I tried to argue with them, but they had threatened to strip me of my possessions and force me in. Thus, I went in voluntarily as it were.
They gave me several weeks of supplies in a bag and a nice walking staff. It was not magical, but I guess they felt it was wrong to have some representative, magic-user without a staff and robe. Before I entered, I did make it a magic staff to ward off whatever I might encounter in the forest.
For a spooky forest, there was a moderately established trail into the interior. The river rushed on the right, and the trail wound lazily about. Several beasts watched my movements, but did not encroach.
After I walked for a while, I heard the rush of a waterfall ahead, and it distracted me enough to forget to watch my footing. Soon, I found myself falling into a dark pit. At the bottom was a strange man sitting in the dark. I pulled some light in and looked around. The two of us were in the middle of what looked like a long hallway dug out of the rock. With our provisions, we had enough to last for a few weeks. Thus, we made our camp just out of the way of things falling into the pit.
We were hoping that someone would come along, and not fall into the pit. Whoever it was should be able to pull us out, and we could go on our way. I put a warning spell upon some trees above, and I put a message for help on a few other trees. Now, we could only wait.
This sucks! I am a ranger. I want to be wandering the forest and helping whomever I should happen to meet. I do not want to be sitting at the bottom of this hole with an amorous bard and the "Wizard of Miz." Oh, excuse me -- sorcerer. Alas, it is the story of my life.
I never really knew my father. My mother did not have many kind things to say about him. I imagined that he was a ranger. Their paths crossed and they fell in love. However, him being a ranger, he had to move along. Thus, he upset my mother by breaking her heart.
Nevertheless, the two of us were happy. I remember the game we used to play. Even when I was quite young, she would take me out into a forest and leave me. I would fend for myself for a few days, but I would always make it home to my mother's surprise and delight.
When I was a man grown, perhaps twelve years old, she told me that it was time I left home and made my own way. From our game, I knew the ways of the forest, but I would need martial skills if I were to become a true ranger. Therefore, I went out looking for someone to teach me the way of the sword and bow.
As I wandered from town to town, I would enquire about teachers of the martial arts. Many would not teach me because I could not grow a beard, and others wanted gold to pay for these services. However, some were generous with their attention and time.
I obtained my sword from one such teacher. He offered me the sword named Remalf if I spent the night with him. How could I refuse such an offer? He must have wanted to get some exercise because all he did was chase me around his estate all night long. However, in the morning, Remalf was mine.
With a sword in my hand, I would practice against rats and the like. However, killing rats can get rather tedious. I had spent years wandering trying to get someone to teach me how to properly use a sword and use a bow.
I was thinking of moving to the northlands and performing espionage for the Eskimo peoples there. Such was the state of my desperation when I wandered into Armizen.
Armizen is a small town with the wide and rough river of the same name to the north. The impassible mountains to the south also bare the name of Armizen. They were quite clever in their naming of things, like the Forest of No Return that sat on the eastern edge of the town.
When I wandered into town, an ancient dragon had emerged from the mountains and had the townsfolk up in arms. They spotted Remalf and welcomed me kindly as their only hope in defeating the retched worm.
They had attempted to appease the beast with a virgin sacrifice, but the offer was refused. The mighty beast also refused the offer of gold and jewels. Everything the town offered met with the same rejection.
Thus, the town offered a huge reward for the slaying of the beast. They had yet to have any takers when I came into town. In addition to the offered riches, I also demanded training in other martial skills before I would take on the ancient monster. When the town and I had agreed to the terms, they showed me the path to the dragon's lair.
The local smith measured me for armor, and he designed a shield to help protect against the fire-breathing beast. To give him time to finish construction, the town threw a celebration in my honor.
On the third day, I put on the armor, grabbed the shield, and set off to face the dragon. I walked for most of the day until I spotted the ancient beast sleeping in an enormous cave. Instead of facing him at that point, I set up camp to prepare myself for the encounter.
At dawn, I approached the lair of the dragon. Its scaly skin of orange, green, and black had scratches and scars from its many encounters during its long life upon the earth. It was still in the position that it was when I first encountered it. It was upon the ground in front of the cave and not on piles of riches like most dragons.
As I approached, I could smell the sulfur of its fiery breath as it gave a labored exhale. It must have noticed my scent as it awoke with a start. I bravely stood there as it uncurled itself and stood up. It stood on its hind legs and spread its mighty wings. The enormous creature's shadow engulfed me as it stretched itself out, but I still stood my ground.
It took in a large amount of air and exhaled a huge pillar of flame upwards. It then dropped its front feet on the ground with a huge ground-shaking thud. It spied me and it appeared to have a sly smile upon its face.
The skin underneath the jaw of the dragon was gray and gave the appearance of a beard. Despite the apparent smile, its yellow eyes were bloodshot and appeared to be full of sorrow. It folded its wings and awaited my approach.
I braced myself behind the shield for a blast of fire that never came. Thus, I approached slowly and cautiously. With every twitch I was braced, yet no blast of fire. The smell of sulfur grew as I neared the beast and I could feel the heat of its breath.
Suddenly, its tale whipped around me and brought me in close. It all happened so fast, that I do not remember thrusting Remalf into the retched monster's heart. However, that is indeed what happened and the ancient dragon fell in a heap. After a few twitches of agony and some moments of labored breathing, the dragon expired.
I searched the cave, but found nothing. The head of the enormous beast would have been too heavy to carry, so I cut out a tooth and removed a few scales to prove the beast's demise before heading back.
The riches that the town promised were to come from the dragon's lair, so they could not pay. However, I did receive extensive training there. I spent many years training, but I wished to move on, but they would not allow it. I had become the town's protector and they would not allow me to be the ranger that I had always wanted to be.
They blocked my way through the main road, and my only avenue of escape was through the Forest of No Return. Thus, slightly before dawn, I grabbed some provisions and entered the forest to make my escape. I followed a surprisingly obvious path along the river Armizen. I could hear the strong rushing water to my left.
Eventually, two options presented themselves. I could attempt to climb a steep cliff to the top of a large waterfall, or I could cross a makeshift bridge to get to the north side of the river. I spotted some runes on some trees to the north. Thus, I followed that path.
I was attempting to get close enough to the messages to read them when I found myself falling into a pit. I used some of the skills I obtained in Armizen to land softly and ready for combat. That is when I saw the wizard and bard conversing. They were just sitting there.
They greeted me and offered to share their fire. After some discussion of which they were not receptive, I decided to pick a direction and see what adventures hid themselves. That is when another individual joined us. Thus, I decided to wait until morning to move along.
I am Dwanye -- King of the North. At least, that is what I told the unfortunate others that found themselves at the bottom of this pit. Otherwise, my tale is not nearly as exciting as the one about the suicidal dragon. I was not exiled into the Forest of No Return because of some deed. In fact, I entered upon my own volition.
A person of my talents does not tend to stay in one place long. I probably started out like so many others in "The Guild." My parents abandoned me when I was a young child, and I found myself in a gang of street urchins. I believe that is where many roguish persons of my persuasion obtain their skills.
My appetites often lead me into trouble -- not only with the town, but also with "The Guild." Thus, I am regularly on the move just ahead of many law enforcement individuals. That is how I ended up in Kniley.
Kniley is a quaint little town nestled in between a rough water river they call The Rough Water River and a range of impassible mountains they call The Impassible Mountains. As you enter the town, on the far west end is The Forest of No Return. They were not creative in their naming of things, but it was a nice town.
When my idol The Black Arrow, the Grand Champion of the Imperial arena, retired, I went my separate ways from the towns where the fights were staged. I heard the Black Arrow went north to Giland, but I followed my esthetic, which had never failed me before, and went south.
After several weeks in Kniley, the townspeople began noticing items disappearing from their possession. I cannot imagine how they would conclude that it was me. In any event, they set a trap to catch the theif. They held a festival and left a building unguarded. Within the walls of this building were supposedly great riches. They went out of their way informing me of the great wealth in this unguarded structure.
This warehouse, for lack of a better term, was located on the far side of town next to The Forest of No Return. It had a single entrance. Thus, they did not believe that once any thief -- er -- wealth adjuster -- entered, he or she would be able to escape.
I reveled with the rest at the festival and eventually followed their plan. I did not want to disappoint them. At the proper time, I snuck away from the crowd and entered the building. I was promised riches, but apparently, the wealthy town members were uncertain of the infallibility of the plan.
Apparently, they discovered one of my stashes, as that stuff was included in the irresistible bounty. However, when they were baiting the trap, they did not notice the extra supplies that were included. These were going to aid in my escape, and help me survive several days in the woods.
I grabbed as much wealth as I could put in my pack. I left the faux jewels and fake coins. With my provisions, I pulled up the loose floorboards that I had arranged the day before. I jumped down and replaced the boards above my head. I squeezed out of a gap in the foundation, and I was out the back of the storehouse as the entire town waited at the front door.
Quietly, I made my way to the forest. However, someone spotted me before I entered and I had to run. Not waiting to see if they were following, I kept running. After I entered the forest, I followed a minor trail. I did not pay too much attention to things as I crossed the river. In my hurry, I fell into this pit where I found three others.
With the riches I had purloined, I figured they may believe me when I said I was king of the north. In any event, it could not hurt. They were discussing their plan of action. The sorcerer and the bard wanted to sit and wait for help. The ranger wanted to move on and -- range. I was of no real opinion on the matter even after I heard each of their stories.
The sorcerer treated me like some scruffy-looking nurf herder as he tried to convince me to save some princess. The ranger complained endlessly about how he wanted to get out of this tunnel and out into the open air. I was leaning towards his point of view, just to get him to shut up. Nevertheless, we were going to rest a while before moving on.
We had rested for quite a while when a large group of dwarven soldiers emerged in perfect order from the south tunnel. They chanted to keep time as they marched north. However, they totally ignored our presence and marched on by our location. They disappeared into the darkness of the north tunnel, but we were still able to hear the slap of their boots upon the floor of the tunnel as they continued on their way.
We quickly decided amongst the group to gather our things and follow them. It was dark, and we dare not light the way or attract attention. However, the sounds of the marching soldiers were more than enough guide as we followed them north.
Suddenly the marching ended and there was a brief silence. The tunnel then erupted in loud taunts. We found the west wall and made our way towards the shouts to the north more carefully. After several taunts and much boastful laughter, the sound of metal on metal exploded.
The din of battle soon was a deafening roar. The shouts of the dwarves and their foes, the clang of axe on shield, the sound of the injured, the commands of leaders rang down upon us. It must have been a great sight watching the two forces engage, but we were still in the dark and unable to view the battle.
As the battle wound down, we found ourselves in a large expansive room. The walls glowed from some unknown source, and we could see that it was two dwarven armies battling. The group from the north had successfully defended their domain as some of the southern dwarves rushed by us in retreat.
The last of the southern dwarven soldiers retreated and a shout of victory from the northern group rang through the tunnel. The shadows hid me well, but the bard and sorcerer were glowing beacons and a couple of guards spotted our party. A fight was briefly discussed, but defeated.
We went peacefully with the guards through their gates and into their domain. Past the gates was an immense dwarven city carved into the rock. There were dwellings and shops and all matter of city structures carved out of solid rock. With my keen eyes, I could still see a few rich veins of gold. This was a wealthy underground town.
The obvious wealth was too much for me to continue with the group peacefully. I heard the wealth call and I was unable to resist. I made a run for it. I do not know where I would go; I just had to go. There was no way those little fat dwarven legs could keep up with me. They barely tried to catch me.
I ran down this road and that. I wound my way around this way and went that. I totally lost them. I found a secured dwelling below a large vein of gold. I briefly scanned the area before I picked the lock. With another scan, I opened the door and entered. Once inside, I looked around a bit, I felt a sharp pain in the back of my head, and everything went black.
At first, I was alone at the bottom of a dark pit. However, three others soon joined me, no women though. At first, I was content to wait for help at the bottom. In fact, the sorcerer put out signs warning of the pit. He also put out glowing signals asking for help. However, when two more people ended up in our predicament, it appeared that competent people were in short supply wandering this forest. If we waited much longer, there would be fifty people sitting at the bottom of this pit.
Luckily, one morning a group of soldiers marched by our camp. The four of us followed them, and missed seeing a grisly battle. We asked the guards to take us to their leader, and they complied.
However, Dwanye, the newest member of our group, must have had too much elvish parsley. The "king" twisted and gyrated his hips to the pleasure of the onlookers. He shouted something like "You ain't nuttin' but a hound dog!" which got a huge reaction. With his bedding in one hand, he grabbed a stone with the other. So, with a rock and a roll, he made his get away. Eventually, some guards told us that he left the building.
The remaining guards took the rest of us into the hall of the mountain king. Dwanye later joined us in an unconscious state. They claimed we were spies for the southern kingdom. Did we look like dwarves to them? I realize that Ranger Rex was a little small and dopey looking, but even he would not be confused for a dwarf. The peach fuzz that he calls a beard is a dead giveaway.
Cyrus spoke for the group, but he could not explain why a member of our group ran away. Furthermore, he was at a loss to explain why this member broke into the house of a former citizen who now lived in the southern city. Those actions to this kingdom seemed very suspicious. However, Dwanye in his state also could not explain his actions.
All except "the king of the north" explained their situations to the King of the North. While he was skeptical of our stories, he would consider what to do with us. A few guards escorted us into a small room outside the throne room. We were not there long. I still had my pants on when we reentered the presence of the Dwarven King.
By a unanimous vote of the king and his advisors, we were to be put to death. So much for telling the truth! I knew I should have made up a terrible tale of woe. If they would have let me tell each story for the group, they would have been weeping and lavishing riches upon us.
The king considered us for a while, and then told us his tale of woe. Naturally, I could have told it much better, but what are you going to do? After all, he was the king.
Centuries ago, there were two small mines run by two brothers. One was south of the great river and one was north. The mines contained abundant veins of gold. The two dwarves recruited others to join them in the mines. Each dwarf that joined them also became wealthy.
They opened up huge caverns beneath the mountains that eventually became thriving underground cities. The brothers proclaimed themselves kings of their underground realms. They were very happy, but they missed each other's company. Thus, they proclaimed that they would throw a festival every year in a town on the surface, so the two kingly brothers could converse.
This practice went on for many many years. However, the surface towns became uneasy about the invasion of the dwarven masses each year. The festivals became very dangerous for the dwarves of the underground mining towns. Further, the two brothers were becoming ancient and it was difficult for them to leave their realms.
The youngest sons of these two kings devised a scheme. Under the great river, they would dig a tunnel and connect the two cities. In the center of this tunnel, a great hall could be constructed for the gathering. Both sides greeted this plan with great enthusiasm and they quickly dug the tunnel.
Every year, they held their festival in this great hall. The kings and their citizens were very happy. The two brothers met at this festival until their deaths. In fact, the towns were so wealthy that they could hold the gathering several times a year.
After the deaths of the two kings, their successors continued the practice. However, the kingly cousins were not as much interested in conversing with their counterpart. Soon, the festival grew into a friendly competition between the two towns.
They had dwarfish beauty pageants and tunnel digging contests. They ran foot races. They had wrestling matches. However, the contests fueled the fire of competition between the towns. The two towns became rivals, and the competitions became much more heated.
Eventually, this rivalry erupted into a riot, which ended the festivals. The towns abandoned the great hall, and stripped it of all finery. Each town erected a strong gate to protect it from invading forces.
Nevertheless, the kingly cousins mounted excursions to test the defenses of the rival city. This resulted in the deaths of many dwarves. The cities spared no expense in the fortification and the armament of the Dwarven armies. Prosperity suffered as a result of their warrior ways. Mining the vast gold reserves took a second seat to proving their metal in battle.
When the cousin kings died, their heirs -- the current king of the northern town was one -- called for a truce. The two kings hired a young wizard who would live in the great hall and mediate disputes. This wizard would also remind the towns that mining was the path to greater wealth -- not war.
This plan was a great success until the wizard left the employ of the two kings. I think he means that the wizard escaped. Thus, the incursions have resumed as we almost witnessed.
The king was anxious to put things back to their peaceful ways. Thus, he gave us a choice. We could die on the chopping block, or we could bring back their wizard. It was quite a difficult choice, but I thought it was a fine bargain. Ranger Rex only thought about getting out of the caves, so he readily agreed.
Cyrus the sorcerer believed there was much more to the story than we were being told. Thus, he was reluctant to turn on one of his brethren. Not withstanding, he did agree to join us.
We offered them to keep Dwanye "king of the north" as a hostage. However, we appeared too eager to rid ourselves of this rogue. Thus, they made us take his unconscious body with us.
The Dwarfish king of the northern underground city had manipulated the situation to his favor. We fell into a pit, and now we found ourselves with a difficult choice. Either we could die at the hands of an executioner, or we could search for his missing wizard.
While the death would certainly be honorable, I have decided to join this group of strangers in a quest to search for the lost wizard. My original quest to search for our missing princess will have to wait. I will combine the tasks and ask after her at every opportunity.
While the tale of the battling dwarfish kingdoms is tragic, I have a great suspicion that there is much more to the story of their missing wizard. I have no love loss for the trained wizards, but I feel that this particular one was more prisoner than voluntary help. When we find him, we will determine the rest of the story.
I asked to examine his room for clues. The rest of our party agreed that it would be a good place to start. A few of the king's guard escorted us to the former Great Hall. I could see how it could have been quite a lavish room at one time. However, with time and deterioration, its grandeur had greatly faded.
Upon further inspection of the hall, it appeared that a lack of proper maintenance caused the hole into which we fell. A thin segment of the tunnel had eventually collapsed leaving a hole in the ceiling. Fortunately, it was not under the river or the entire hall would have been flooded.
The wizard's room was a typical jumble of books, scrolls, and potions. Clearly, the dwarves searched the room for clues as well because the disorganization was greater than most wizards' quarters. Things that no wizard would have treated with such disregard were strewn around the floor.
A lonely bed was set in one corner, and no one had disturbed it. The wizard had made the bed before leaving. Next to the bed was a single chest of drawers. Some of the drawers were slightly ajar, but they were all empty.
A range used for heating and cooking was in the corner, and it was stone cold. Upon inspection, someone burned some papers in the stove, and perhaps this same someone stirred the contents to insure that they would not be readable.
There were memory erase potions, fireball scrolls, and the like. To me at least, these items shed some light on some of the mysteries of the forest above. They also somewhat verified some aspects of the dwarfish king's story.
The only notable item in the entire collection of artifacts was a single unlabeled flask with only a trace of liquid left inside. This lost wizard had labeled all of the other flasks with their contents. Without labels, a wizard could not keep track of all of the items in his or her possession. Naturally, this item caught my eye.
I closely examined the remaining liquid in this flask. It was a memory erase potion; however, it was different from the others. It seemed to me that he created this potion for a special purpose, and someone consumed its contents immediately.
Why would he create a special memory erase potion when he had several ready made? I could not quite discern the exact difference of this potion. Perhaps he wanted one that was more effective, but I felt that it was an important clue to the resolution of our story. Nevertheless, I cannot fathom what significance it has at this point.
Other than the potion, if there were any clues, the dwarves had destroyed them in their search. Perhaps if the rogue Dwanye were conscious, he could have found other items. It was apparent to me that the wizard had planned his escape and did well to cover his tracks. A complete search would reveal little else by the way of clues.
Since we had gleaned everything we could from the northern dwarfish kingdom, we asked to meet with the southern king. They were very reluctant to allow us this opportunity, but at least I was very insistent. Rex, naturally, was anxious to get topside, but we needed to gain more information.
The northern guards allowed us to walk to the southern gate. Like its northern counterpart, it was well fortified. A few dwarfish guards confronted the three of us carrying our unconscious fourth. Naturally, the king immediately arrested us as spies and sentenced us to death.
We let Jaime the Bard tell our story, and that added some torture to our sentence. After much formality, the king told a similar story as the northern king's tale. He would allow us to live if we brought back the wizard. We agreed to his terms.
We asked which of the four nearby towns the wizard had been recruited. However, they had never heard of Miz, Kniley, Armizen, or Yansey. They had gone to an important town in the Tiberium Empire. They hired the wizard out of Giland. That was to be our initial topside destination.
Unfortunately, neither dwarfish kingdom had the capability of transporting to Giland. We would have to exit by the entrance in which we fell. The dwarves of the southern kingdom placed a ladder under the hole. We thought about leaving immediately, but we waited for Dwanye to regain his consciousness before setting off.
Each of us had reasons not to visit a city that bordered the Forest of No Return. After a brief discussion, we decided to head for Yansey. That town would more readily forgive the sins of the bard in our midst, and we would be able to pass through town without too much difficulty. Further, the road from Yansey leads easily to Giland. Other routes posed more difficulties.
Since we had first entered the forest, the creatures had become emboldened. Upon our first entrance, they passively watched as we passed, but something had changed. A group of spiders met our first few steps towards the northwest.
For a group of strangers, we worked together quite well. Dwanye's sneak attacks were quite effective. Jaime's sword skills were quite refined for a man such as he. Even the less than mighty ranger Rex proved his worth. We dispatched the spiders after a quick skirmish.
A pack of wolves, a pack of wild dogs, and a large group of rats all challenged our group before we reached Yansey. It was as if the forest had suddenly come alive to protect its secrets. Nevertheless, we handled the challenges with little difficulty.
Yansey presented us with different difficulties. By tradition, when a lost soul had re-entered the town, they threw a celebration welcoming the party back into the community. However, we were different. They did not have a record of us entering the forest. They knew of Jaime's entrance, but he had not been changed as their legend stated. He was the same person with complete memory of his trip into the forest.
The three of us accompanying him also put them on edge. Like many, they thought an evil sorcery was involved. Thus, they were not going to let us leave. We believed that as a team we could defeat the entire town in battle. Thus, we stated as much. The mayor unwilling to test us on our braggadocios claim, allowed us to pass through town with the promise never to return. We accepted the bargain with the full knowledge that we may break it.
Apart from a brief encounter with some highwaymen, our trip to Giland was uneventful. We found a place to stay, and we would begin searching for the wizard the next day.
This sucks! I am a Ranger. I should have been out in the forest following this wizards trail before it got cold. Instead, we had to stay in these caves and look for clues. In addition, we were lugging around an unconscious person who calls himself the King of the North, and we had to protect him from the advances of an oversexed bard.
Furthermore, after we searched the lost wizard's room, we did not even leave the tunnels then. We continued on and received another death sentence from the southern dwarven kingdom. Why do we not wander around these tunnels some more? Perhaps someone else would like to sentence us to death! After all, it is not as if we have a ranger in our party who excels at tracking or anything.
In any event, we did eventually make our way out of those forsaken tunnels and into the forest. Naturally, the wizard's trail was cold. I could not determine which way he had gone. We talked it over and decided to head northwest to Yansey. So, once again, we were leaving my element and entering a town.
Before we exited the forest, we had a few minor skirmishes with some creatures. I believe that the wizard we were after put a spell upon them to cover his tracks. They were all more ferocious than they would have been normally. Nevertheless, we dispatched them easily. The others in our party could have been a bit more help, but I was quite capable handling the creatures on my own.
There was a bit of trouble in Yansey, but nothing a little flash of steel could not have handled. They allowed us to be on our way without much fuss. I was glad we did not have to spend too much time in that city. We were on the road again headed towards a major outpost -- Giland.
The trek to Giland was a major undertaking. I was constantly scouting around looking for any indication that the wizard had come this way. While our sorcerer and the bard were aiding in the convalescence of the rogue, I was communicating with the people and creatures along the road.
Eventually, we made our way to the Imperial Highway that led to Giland. This was a well guarded and maintained stretch of road that connects Giland with other Imperial cities. This was a well-traveled road and we met many travelers along the route.
Although the communications with everyone we met did not indicate whether our subject had passed or not, it made the trip much more arduous for me. I was constantly walking hither and yon for signs. I likely walked twice as far as the rest of the party as we journeyed to Giland. I do not think the rest of the group appreciated all that I was doing. We could have got valuable information from what I was doing. Just because we did not obtain anything, does not mean that it was a wasted effort.
Giland is like all of the other cities in the Tiberium Empire. It is large and garish with a large Imperial Palace near the center on a hill. There were shops and stands lining the streets with residences behind those shops. It was a bustling center of commerce.
Moreover, it smelled. I am not talking about it had a quaint urban odor to it. The smell was enough to gag rodents of unusual size. It had a horrific odor about the place. How anyone could live with this stench was beyond me -- let alone a countess. Nevertheless, this was our starting place.
Our first order of business was to seek out the Mages' Guild. If I was a dwarf -- and I am not -- I would contact the guild if I were seeking to hire a sorcerer or wizard. Several citizens were hesitant to tell us where the guildhall was. However, after much inquiry we found it.
The hall was unextraordinary; however, it had a pleasant odor to it. The Mages' Guild, at the very least, was aware of the stench that permeated their town and took steps to obliterate it.
The members were quite reluctant to talk to us. Apparently, there was a bit of trouble in town involving one of their high-ranking members. Thus, they were very wary of strangers lurking about. We attempted to ask some questions, but they would not speak with us about the matter. They would not even speak with one of their own. Our sorcerer, Cyrus Thomas, could not even get any information out of them.
Cyrus claimed to have known a member of this very guild named Brunis. However, upon mentioning this fact, a group of mages escorted us out of the hall.
Everywhere we went we heard rumors involving Brunis, Lady Aversfield, and some guard. I have to assume that Brunis was involved in some sort of trouble. I am sure someone will write it up, but we were on a mission of our own.
We were hoping, at least, to get the name of our lost wizard from the guild. The dwarves neglected to get that vital piece of information. They had a wizard in their employ, but did not bother to note his name. Certainly, it was a wise move on their behalf. They entrust their safety and happiness to a person, but they neglect the niceties -- like calling him by name.
Without a name and only the vaguest of description, we ventured out into the wretched odor-filled town asking questions. It was embarrassing. "Excuse me, but did you ever know of a wizard who lived in this town long ago who went off with some dwarves? His Name? I have no idea," is a conversation no one should have.
The Wizard of Miz -- er -- sorcerer was having a bit of luck with his missing princess quest. She may, or may not have come through with a strange looking man. It was at least a hopeful sign.
We were beginning to discuss looking for the princess when we received a break. An old crone in a shack on the smelliest part of town remembered the event. The dwarves gave her a bit of gold when she pointed them towards the mages' guildhall. She had lived off that gold ever since.
Our wizard's name was Deffrey Jackard. At the time, he was young and a low ranking member in the guild. The idea of making lots of gold led him to volunteering for the job. Also, it was likely he jumped at the chance to get away from the smell. However, most of the other guild members were not interested, and he easily obtained the job.
With this new information, we could canvass the town again. We attempted to speak to some people at the Mages Guild, but they would not allow us in. A brief look at their records would have been nice, but they had other concerns. We were going to get nowhere with them.
It was growing late, and any further research would have to wait. Most citizens had gone to their homes, and thus we retired to one of the inns in town. In the morning our search would continue.
I am unconscious for a little while, and this group agrees to find this missing wizard. Further, I am included in this quest. Why not agree to find the Fountain of Youth? Perhaps we could also find the bard Jaime's virginity while we are at it. Does a death sentence from two kingdoms mean that they can make us do any fool's errand?
In any event, we found ourselves in Giland. I was actually pleased with how the road led us to this Imperial stronghold. Perhaps in our journey, I would once again run into the Black Arrow. She headed this way, last I had heard. She may still be here.
The fool's errand went as expected for most of the day. We did manage to determine the name of our quarry. We were looking for Deffrey Jackard. However, no one in town had heard of him. The Mages' Guild was most uncooperative, but their vocal cooperation was completely unnecessary.
When the rest of our party retired to the inn, I snuck into the night. People of my skills are more accustomed to working after daylight hours. Thus, it was time for me to do some digging on my own. If some wealth was readjusted during the process, it was all the better.
One of the problems working at night is that most people were in their homes. It is problematic searching through peoples' things when they are there. However, this venture into the night was for informational purposes. If I was going to be part of this silly quest, I could at least play a part.
Mages' are a restful bunch. They need their rest. Thus, those lower ranking mages, who do not have places of their own, will likely be in their rooms in the mages' guildhall. This was my first destination.
While it would not have been unusual for a citizen to be out at night, I did not want to bring attention to myself. Thus, I stayed in the shadows. I did not want anyone seeing me out and about. If something should turn up missing, they may instantly blame me, even if I was not involved.
Luckily, we spent the day wandering the place and speaking to people. Therefore, I had a good understanding of the layout of the city. I skulked my way from the inn to the guildhall without difficulty.
Mages are a funny lot. They put magical locks on all the doors. Thus, you need to know the magical spell to unlock them. However, they do not even lock their windows. Just for the challenge, I climbed up to the second story and crawled into the first window I encountered.
A mage was snoring loudly as I entered through her window. Unfortunately, she was a very low ranking mage as she had little wealth. It did not force me *not* to take some things; it just made me feel a little sorry for her. With the little reward I had gathered, I quietly left her room.
I was in the guildhall with little difficulty. I wanted to find their personnel records and perhaps a daily log if they kept one. They were wizards and sorcerers; thus, they had a library somewhere on the premises. I was hoping they kept their records in this library, and was counting on the library being easily accessible.
I wandered around for a while on the second floor. I opened a few doors and perhaps lifted a gold coin or two. However, it became evident that the library was not on this floor. I headed down the stairs, and I spotted a faint light coming from one of the rooms.
I carefully poked my head into the room, and I spotted a wizard perusing some hefty tome. I thought about heading back up the stairs, but I heard someone stirring up there. I quietly walked past the library opening and entered the kitchen. That was not where I wanted to be.
I went into this room because it gave me a nice view of the library. I was considering waiting out the wizard in this room. However, that was before I discovered it was the kitchen. In many places, the kitchen is often the busiest place at night. When hunger strikes in the middle of the night, they look towards the stores in the kitchen.
Before I could finish my thought, there was a push on the door. In stepped the mage whose room I used to enter the guildhall. I managed to duck behind some sacks of grain before she illuminated the room. With a combination of my presence and the sudden illumination, rodents scurried everywhere.
She ate some bread and some sort of berry. She grabbed some leaves and made some tea with them. After a brief incantation, she left, but her light spell remained. Hopefully, the tea would help with her snoring. However, I was in a bit of a spot. I was hiding behind some sacks of grain in a brightly illuminated room. It was not where I wanted to be.
I heard her exchange words with the mage in the library. She offered him some of her tea to help him sleep. He explained that he was finished, and he was not in the need of a sleep aid. I was afraid that he was going to enter the kitchen, but I heard him climb the stairs.
I had to take a chance. I did not know how long this illumination spell in the kitchen would last, but I was not going to wait and find out. In a quiet, but unstealthy manner, I burst from the kitchen and did a barrel roll into the library. It was quite the graceful maneuver, and thankfully, no one was around to see it.
The mage was reading the Son of Innes's account of Brunis and the Lady Aversfield. It was probably so gripping that he could not put it down. I hear he is an excellent author.
In any event, I searched the library for the member records. There were lots of scrolls and bound volumes on the shelves. It took some time before I found the member records for the period in question.
Before I could peruse the volume, I had to hide in the shadows as another restless wizard entered the kitchen. Eventually, I discovered that Deffrey Jackard was a very low ranking wizard. He knew very little upon his release from guild service. He could create potions of memory erase, and he could create love potions.
The guild released him from service -- not because the dwarves hired him -- but for misconduct. The guild had discovered that he had placed a love spell upon a citizen of a neighboring town for his own benefit. His services to the guild for this rule violation were no longer required.
The same day of his sentence, some dwarves came to town looking for a wizard for hire. They wanted a very long-term commitment. However, every need for this hire would be considered and, if possible, met. The guild had no interested members. There was no note that Deffrey joined them. However, he did have the required skills and he was in need of a home.
After a perusing a few more volumes, I began the exiting process. I listened at the door of the room in which I entered the hall, but she was no longer snoring. I thought of that as a bad indication.
Thus, I went back down the stairs and examined the front door. I could easily pick the lock, but I was unsure what the result would be. I decided that I would risk it. They deserved to be awakened for the poor way they treated us.
I picked the lock of the door, opened it, and rushed outward. The sounds coming from the door spell were harsh and the lights clearly lit up the area. Without hesitation, I hid in the shadows as I made my way into the night. However, no one saw me make my way back to the inn. I had a few coins in my purse, and some information to share with the group. It was a good night.
Our wizard quarry used a love potion on someone? That takes the challenge completely out of it. Personally, I would have burned incense under soft candle light. I would have spoken soft words and perhaps recited some poetry. If they were still unbending to my desires, I would just get them drunk.
In any event, we have a lead with which to follow up. In order for the guild to take action, someone must file a complaint with a local magistrate. While the information obtained from the Mages' Guild was short on details, the magistrate's office should have the details of the incident. That is, if their records go back that far.
Seeing as we were old hands at wandering around this city, we easily found our way into the record's office. With my great way with people, the group decided that I should speak with the local officials. Since I was given the task of speaking with the gentleman, I entered alone with the rest of the group waiting outside.
The magistrate on duty was a kindly old man. If we knew the age of dirt, he would perhaps exceed it in age. I gave him a friendly smile and greeted him warmly. After several kind words with the magistrate on duty, he informed me that records that old would have been destroyed long ago. They simply did not have the space to store records that long. However, he had a vague recollection of the incident.
Naturally, he told me about his son's neighbor who did business with a butcher whose daughter was married to the cousin of the cabinetmaker who did work for the party involved. It was quite a long and twisted tale involving commoners and royalty, love, intrigue, and betrayal. It was standard melodrama faire. I probably should have paid more attention to the details. In any event, it all involved the King and Queen of Miz and their daughter.
As best I could, I relayed the tale to the rest of the group. I may have enhanced it a bit. Well, since I remembered very few details of the original, I may not have been far off the original. All of those tales are essentially the same. I could not remember if the original had a dragon and a wicked stepmother, so I had no choice but to include those elements.
After this brief mission of discovery, we gathered our things and headed toward Miz. As we journeyed towards this town, we pressed Cyrus for more information on this town from which he hailed.
Miz was never a major metropolitan area. Its geography limited its size and access. However, it was a favorite vacationing spot of one of the kings of the realm. When the imperial powers consolidated many of the kingdoms, this king exiled himself to Miz. Presumably, he did this to avoid execution of himself and his family.
Thus, while he thought of himself as a king and his children as princes and princesses, the titles were meaningless. As it turns out, the princess we were after was simply a daughter of some notable nobles. She had no claim to any imperial or kingly authority.
Perhaps from the story I told, the rest of the group got the impression that our wizard gave the love potion to this nobleman's daughter to make her fall in love with him. Further, the parents got wind of this plot and had the reputation of the wizard destroyed. Thus, he had to make a living in obscurity under the direction of some Dwarven overlords.
I told a wonderful tale, if I do say so myself. Some of it may even come close to the mark. I did stave off some possible criticism by reminding them that everything said was relayed from the recollection of a very ancient man.
Even with Ranger Rex sniffing every flower and examining every broken twig, the journey from Giland to Miz was uneventful. With Imperial power holding sway in this area, brigands preying upon travelers were rare. Traveling the roads was relatively safe; however, only seasoned adventurers should wander off the roads.
Since town officials ordered the Wizard of Miz -- er -- Sorcerer Cyrus -- not to enter the town without the princess, we made camp just outside of town. The plan was to leave Cyrus in camp while the rest of us gather information about the wizard and the princess in Miz.
The townspeople here were more willing to speak to us. Few remembered Deffrey Jackard. However, many knew his story, and the old man got it all wrong. His memory must be failing him. He missed so many details.
The old king had a son and four daughters. The son got himself in trouble with the Imperial powers and has been away from Miz for many years. The eldest daughter now calls herself the Queen of Miz. The missing princess was either her daughter or her niece. Many believed that the girl was actually born from the youngest of the old king's daughters. In any event, she is the missing princess. The townspeople were unclear on who her mother and father were.
The old man also got the story of the love potion wrong. From speaking to people around town, the old King's youngest daughter fell in love with the wizard the old-fashioned way. There was no magic involved. However, the old queen would not have her daughter getting involved with some commoner.
Apparently, our wizard gave the love potion to the mother. Thus, she removed opposition to the bond. However, her reversal of mind raised suspicion with the old king. The old king's investigators discovered the plot, which led to the wizard's removal from the Mages' Guild. This story was completely different from the one the old man told.
The townsfolk told an inconsistent story after this point. The youngest daughter dies and a child appears. Some believe that she died giving birth to the child while others believe it was the new queen's daughter. Some stated that the wizard killed the daughter so no one could have her and implanted his seed in the new queen. There were many tales, and few were consistent.
In any event, the child grew up but had a tumultuous time of it. She was often in trouble and was completely unmanageable. Thus, she eventually earned herself banishment into the Forest of No Return. Is it a misnomer if you return from the Forest of No Return? That is what happened.
She returned from the forest, but she had no recollection of events that transpired within the forest. She was changed, and she appeared to have amended her wild ways. However, she gradually became moody and one day she ran away.
Since they were naturally suspicious of all magic users, they rid themselves of an awful menace by sending a resident sorcerer out to look for her. I wonder whom they mean by that. They have heard nothing. There have been no progress reports. We have been the only ones asking about her since she vanished.
While I was ready to stay in an inn in town, the rest of the group thought we should join Cyrus at the camp. I thought about arguing the point, but relented. We walked back to camp and told the story to our sorcerer as told to us by the townspeople. He too remarked that it was very different from the version told to me by the old man.
He asked about the dragon and the evil stepmother. I related to him that perhaps one or the other was responsible for the death of the youngest daughter. Nevertheless, in the morning, we would have to determine our next course of action.
With the rest of the company in Miz, I had time to think about things. I had a lot of time. They were gone for most of the day, and I had nothing to do but tend the camp. I was quite alone with my thoughts.
I spent quite a bit of time considering the various incarnations of the Forest of No Return. I found it quite interesting that each member of our party came from a different town, yet ended in the same hole. It got me wondering about the legend.
It seems reasonable to me that each individual sent into the Forest of No Return, would end in that pit. Perhaps the dwarves would intervene, or perhaps the individual would simply spend time with our missing wizard. In any event, the wizard would administer a memory erase potion, and the individual would be free to wander back to their city.
Those individuals that were "drastically changed" were likely individuals who ended up in a different town than where he or she began. This, to me, seemed the most likely explanation of the mystery of the forests.
While talking to the other members, I am convinced that all the towns border the same river and the same forest. If we could avoid the hole in the ceiling of the dwarven central hall, we could walk to each of the towns. Perhaps someday this will be possible.
I am also of the opinion that the missing "princess" is the daughter of our wizard. When she entered the forest and fell into the pit, the pair met for the first time. However, it may be unlikely that the dwarves would allow him to keep a long-term guest. Alternatively, she may have wanted to be with more people her own age. It would have been very lonely for her.
Thus, the pair concocted a scheme in order to free themselves of their dwarven obligations. She would return to Miz under a temporary memory erase spell. The wizard would sneak away up the hole, and they would rendezvous at a prearranged location.
For my part, the princess went away under her own will. Thus, that part of the quest was finished. If she wished to no longer live in Miz, that was her decision. No one abducted her, and thus, this part of my quest is complete.
When the remainder of the party returned, most of my inclinations were verified. The group voted on whether to continue to look for Deffery Jackard. We decided to continue that quest. However, it may have been mostly for our own curiosity rather than fear of reprisal from the dwarves.
With my excellent hunches playing out, we decided to pursue my next thought. The princess's uncle was also missing. Perhaps he was missing on purpose rather than some nefarious reason. If he had established housekeeping in some town, the princess and the wizard may have joined him.
Naturally, the question was where we would find him living. That was a question I could not answer, but Giland was a good place to start our inquiries. Thus, after a night camping, we headed back to Giland.
Clearly, they would not be living in Giland. We would have run into them. At the very least, someone would have noticed the strangers. I recalled hearing someone tell of a man and woman passing through, and I believe we need to follow that trail.
Ranger Rex said he could follow the trail if it were not so cold. It is always that way with him. It made little different, we would take the north road, and ask along the road. Perhaps we would hear something from another traveler or find the pair in a town along the road.
The safety of the roads south of Giland quickly made themselves apparent. We were not a day's travel north of Giland when a group of bandits attacked us. Ranger Rex, our fighting expert, was smelling roses or talking to some bear when these ruffians fell upon us remaining three.
With a fighting song from Jaime the Bard, we were all in good spirits as we fought off the attack. There is nothing like hearing "Here I come to save the day!" when you find yourself in battle.
As Dwanye ran around avoiding direct combat with our foes, Jaime picked them off one by one. I had a few spells ready, and I took care of a few of these highwaymen myself. I also did my best to protect the fragile rogue, but I too had things to worry about. At least he had a little armor.
We had dispatched the group when our ranger returned. We voted to spend the night at that spot. For his negligence, we gave Ranger Rex the first watch. I for one, needed to rest if we were going to run into any more trouble along the road.
In the morning as we ate the most important meal of the day, Ranger Rex told a story of some ruffians he fought off during the night. However, we could not locate their bodies anywhere. He claimed that wolves must have dragged them off.
Dwanye experienced no such encounters during his watch. It is curious that. I will refrain from retelling Jaime's encounter. Some people find stories of bestiality distasteful during a repast. Our bard experiences no such qualms. He does love to tell a tale though.
No matter, I was well rested when our journey continued. The previous days encounter was a mixed blessing. Because of the insecurity of the roads, we felt the need to remain in a close group. On the other hand, because of the insecurity of the roads, we felt the need to remain in a close group, which included Ranger Rex.
However, it was enjoyable to see his face when our Bard would spin one of his bawdier yarns. His face crinkles in a most extraordinary way, and he has the capability of turning many shades of red. As long as you do not have to wake him for his watch, his nighttime paranoia is also entertaining.
We walked on the road heading north for a couple of days with only a few minor encounters. It was just a few packs of wild animals, and some wandering individuals preying upon other wandering individuals. They will not bother anyone again.
Eventually, we came to a small town. An inn with a soft bed was going to be a welcome change from the ground. We inquired with several townsfolk, and they remember seeing a father and daughter pass through town several days previously.
This pair did not socialize with the townspeople much. They kept mostly to themselves. Thus, no one knew where they were headed. They just continued on the road to the north.
Ranger Rex stated that if we hurried, we might be able to catch their trail while it was still warm. However, we decided that a soft bed and a bottle of wine were more important. After all, we would not be able to stay long with Jaime the Bard on the prowl.
Despite protestations from our ranger, we lazily arose and had another meal at the inn. We did not know whom our entertainer ended up with, but the mayor's daughter had a peculiar walk that morning. Thus, we decided that we had dawdled long enough. It was back to the trail, much to our ranger's delight.
Needless to say, our trail following expert blamed our lackadaisical attitude for him not being able to find a good trail. I am beginning to get the feeling that he would not be able to track a herd of wooly mammoths if they were standing in front of him. Perhaps I am just making light of him.
The last town had completely stripped us of all motivation for this quest. Rex would not let us quit, but our thoughts were clearly elsewhere. I am certain Jaime's were.
We would soon have to decide whether we continue our quest, or whether we simply let the dwarves do their own jobs. We were free, and we knew the secret of the forest. We could avoid encounters with the dwarven kings and their people. There was no reason to continue -- except Rex. Well -- the newfound friends also kept me going.
As we decided on the watches, and settled down for a night's rest, some of us began thinking of what happens next. What happens if or when we fulfill our mission? Perhaps an answer will come to us in our dreams.
This sucks! I am a ranger! The rest of the group squashes every opportunity that I have to use my skills. Instead of picking up the trail of our quarry, they loaf about in an inn. Thus, they let the trail go cold. Despite my best effort, I just could not find any trace of the trail of our wizard.
Further, with the danger upon the roads, the rest of the group was in need of my services. Thus, their protection being paramount, they forced me to be around them. I could not forage or look for evidence of the wizard passing through. The group would have been in great peril if I wandered far from them.
With this group, I have very little opportunity to use my skills as a ranger. We did eventually leave the town, and continued north on the road. However, it was late in the morning, and the rest of the group was moving slowly.
We were following some good leads. A relative of one of the aristocrats from Miz was supposed to live north of Giland somewhere. We felt that if we could find him, we could find our wizard. In addition, we would have the bonus of finding Sorcerer Cyrus's princess.
However, pressing forward with this unmotivated group was proving difficult. Some members of our group were just trudging along. It is like pulling teeth to continue forward. The bard was joking and telling tales to the wizard. They both had no focus on our quest.
Luckily, after a nights rest, we were attacked by a group of bandits. This seemed to energize the team. With my excellent sword skills, I dispatched most of our foes with quite the flair.
The bandit leader was at least seven feet tall. His weapon was a large claymore. He waved it about as if it were a dagger. With a mighty roar, he attacked Jaime, our bard. Jaime could block the mighty blows, but it was all that he could do.
I jumped into action. I rushed the giant with my sword ready and my shield at my side. He swung his mighty sword at me, but was well above my head. Nevertheless, I rolled upon the ground and stopped at his feet. I thrust upwards, and opened up the man's belly.
After I had successfully defeated the bandit leader, the bard took his sword and cut the dead man's head off. A few other bandits that I killed, others claimed credit. In any event, I practically killed all of the bandits myself.
This encounter energized the group. They were no longer content with lollygagging our way north. We moved at a steadier and quicker pace. They had come to my way of thinking. We were now ready to get back on track for the quest.
Nevertheless, we were in an unprotected area, and we were not going to reach any civilization for a few days. Thus, we had to stay focused on our task. This area could be quite perilous
In fact, we ran into several bands of bandits as we traveled north. Dwanye was quite pleased, as many of these highwaymen had items of great value upon their persons. He always seemed more pleasant with some coin coming into his possession.
We naturally split the plunder equally, so we all had a modest income as we defeated gangs on our travels north. I think this brightened the spirits of all of our party members.
I do not mean to imply that it was all fighting as we went north. We did run into some fellow travelers. There were trades-people ferrying their wares between a town we just left to the town where were pushing towards. There were tourists and other folks looking for adventure or a new life.
Our bard spun many fine yarns when we would share our campsite with travelers. He was less inclined to speak of his sexual adventures with these strangers. It was a welcome break from the usual stories of his exploits.
As usual, we would take turns taking watches. While we shared things with travelers, it would have been foolish to trust them explicitly. Thus, we still kept our own watch and protected our items.
Unfortunately, during one night, a friendly group of travelers stole several valuable items that I collected from some bandit groups. This happened on Dwanye's watch, and he apologized most fervently. He even volunteered to replace the items, but I declined the offer. After our quest, I may seek out these travelers to gain recompense for their actions.
Perhaps I should have taken him up on the offer though. His pack seemed full to overflowing with treasure. I could have relieved him of some of that burden, but it would not be right to punish him for the actions of others.
Further, he offered to compensate me from the next group of travelers. However, I explained to him that two wrongs would not rectify the situation. Thus, I would take care of the situation myself, and that I would hear nothing further about it.
The trip north had become quite arduous. We were beginning to tire of walking each day. We had begun to wish we had hired a wagon or purchased some sort of transport. However, our wealth had not existed in its current state until we made it this far north.
With all of our items, and our tired feet, it was a wonder that we could still fight. However, we still needed to protect ourselves from bandits. There were few days when we did not have to fend off a group of highwaymen.
After a couple of weeks on the road, we eventually, came to a town. We were all looking forward to selling our collected items and resting in a soft bed in an inn. Some members of our group, who I will refrain from mentioning, were looking forward to romps with barmaids or encounters with daughters of governmental officials.
Personally, I was hoping that we would find more information on our missing wizard. The company of this group was fine, but I would greatly appreciate not having a death sentence looming over me. Thus, if we could return the wizard to the dwarves, we could move on with our lives.
However, I could not get the rest of our group to focus upon our quest until they had fully taken care of their needs. I did sell several of the items I had collected for a nice bit of gold.
Nonetheless, I sharpened my sword and performed some routine maintenance on my armor while the others visited the tavern. I got several hours of sleep before being aroused by the carrying on of other members in the group at some early hour of the morning.
I was hoping to get some help with the search the next day, but they were not in the mood for such things. This quest was going to be difficult to fulfill.
Wow! This is my kind of town. First of all, it is outside the purview of the Empire. Thus, Imperial laws do not apply here. Imagine that. Here was a place without Imperial entanglements. Well, it has very few entanglements anyway.
Second of all, it did not have a chapter of the Thieves' Guild. There was no entity telling me from whom I could and could not steal. This town gives me the freedom of my dreams.
Third and final of all, this town was rich. This town was founded near a very rich gold mine. For a thief, this gold mine was a gold mine. There was a steady river of gold flowing into town. It needed someone like me to direct some of that flow.
I visited many local merchants and unloaded the goods I had obtained by hard work, and perhaps I unloaded a few ill-gotten goods as well. After these transactions, I had a fair amount of gold upon my person.
With my newfound riches, I decided to research the town. I started at a local gaming establishment. In a lawless town like this, I expected the establishment to be crooked. However, I did not expect them to be so incompetently so.
At first, I played the "newcomer in town rube." I was all, "How do you play this rolling cube game?" I let them con me by allowing me to win some gold. Further, I let them cheat me out of a bit of my gold as I determined how they had fixed the game.
When the night was over, I owned the place. Their bait and switch was baffled by my palming and switching skills. In the end, they did not know which set of rigged dice I was rolling. It was quite a fun and exhilarating evening.
After Jaime the Bard's appetites were sated, he had joined me at the tables and acted as bodyguard. The owner protested the results of this poorly rigged game, but at the tip of Jaime's sword, he agreed to terms. I had a big pile of gold, plus the deed to this fine establishment.
It was quite early in the morning when Jaime and I decided to return to the inn. Jaime's appetite must have returned as he was thinking of taking advantage of a sleeping Rex. However, the ranger awoke before an encounter could be arranged. I must teach that bard some of my stealth skills.
In the morning -- well -- in the early afternoon, we gathered together to discuss what we found out. The ranger, with his fine investigating skills, learned how soft the inn's beds were. The rest of us were much more successful in our mission of discovery.
From Sorcerer Cyrus we found out that our missing princess's uncle founded this fine town. They call him Prince Benjamin or Prince Ben.
With the loss of any chance of a crown, Ben joined the Imperial army and won several great honors during his service. He had greatly increased Imperial holdings in the west. In many places around the Empire, his name was common. In fact, he helped broker a peace with the lizard people of the swamps.
However, with each land acquisition, he saw little in the way of monetary reward. Thus, he tired of certain Imperial entanglements. With the help of a group of entrepreneurs, he established this town. At first, the town was a simple trading post. It took frontier goods, and traded them with those with Imperial goods. In other words, they worked with the highwaymen prowling around Imperial roads.
The town was a pirate haven. However, in one of his ventures, Prince Ben struck gold. It was a mighty vein of gold too. Over night, he became quite wealthy and the town boomed. Through Prince Ben's shrewd maneuverings, thus far, they have avoided notice of the Empire.
A large flow of gold through this town would immediately bring in Imperial troops, but the outflow has been restricted. This tactic has made the original group quite wealthy. All of this success allowed Prince Benjamin to move to an extremely large estate even farther north of the city.
According to the bard, Prince Ben, with the help of his sons, runs and defends his thousand square mile ranch while helping the surrounding community. Apparently, Ben had several wives and a son with each of them. He named this town after his last wife -- Virginia -- or Vanessa -- or Valerie -- or something. Everyone just calls it V-city because no one is sure what her name was.
Furthermore, Jaime discovered that Prince Benjamin's parents were cruel people. Beatings and severe punishment was the norm for the family. With the loss of the kingdom, they became increasingly harsh. He happily left to get away from their treatment. He disappeared so they would not come looking for him and stake a claim on his newfound wealth.
For all of us, this ended the quest for the missing princess. It was clear to all of us that she left to get away from the former king and queen. Thus, it would be a crime to return her to these people.
In my conversations at the gaming tables, I discovered that the princess and her wizard father had passed through town. They stayed with Prince Ben for a few days. The Prince gave them a small parcel of land on the far northern part of his estate. It would take us months to reach their place on foot. Further, it would take weeks to reach it by wagon.
It was a well-secluded parcel of land just south of another frontier town. This town was supposedly a den of iniquity. Gambling and prostitution were not only legal but also governmentally sanctioned. This sin city was a haven for wealthy individuals wishing to relax. It has been said that whatever happens in this city stays in this city.
On a vote of 3 to 4, we decided that our quest for the lost wizard had ended. We did not want to get involved with a mob from this city, and we could make our fortunes in V-City. I was already a local property owner.
Cyrus could establish a local chapter of the Mages' Guild. I could establish a guild as well from my current business establishment. Our bard could start his own actors' troupe, or get involved in any sort of business venture. Further, I would make a nice bit of coin from his appetites at my business.
As far as Ranger Rex is concerned, he could pursue those thieves that stole from him -- er -- allegedly. Otherwise, there were plenty of opportunities in a town like this for a person of his skills. There are plenty of chances to guard shipments to Imperial towns and the like.
In addition, we were far enough from the Dwarven Kingdoms that they would never come looking for us. At a suitable time, Sorcerer Cyrus would recruit a young wizard to take our lost wizard's place. However, it could take a while.
After much wandering in our lives, we have finally found a home. I had a place I could call my own. I did not have to look over my shoulder at every waking moment. I had a steady income. I was going to put my roots down. I had a few friends that I could turn to in times of trouble. This place was definitely the place for me.