Tiberium Letters

Tiberium Letters

Part One

By Dwayne MacInnes

Hail and well met! I am Gwendolyn a Wood Elf. I pray you do not confuse me with my stuffy High Elf cousins. There are many differences between us if you take the time to learn them. Firstly, High Elves are very pale, probably because they spend most of their days inside dark mansions reading. A Wood Elf actually runs the same color spectrum as humans. Some have a dark brown skin; where as, others do run closer to the alabaster you will associate with the High Elf. My skin tone is closer to that of a medium brown walnut. We Wood Elves are also more down to earth, and we love and crave adventure. Like all elves, we are born with natural magical abilities. Further, being a Wood Elf, I was practically born with a bow in my hand. Because of our home in the Great Forest, Wood Elves are also very dexterous. I suppose that is why many of us become thieves.

Ah yes, I am what you would call a thief, and I suppose the word means different things to different people. The beggar in the street will see us as heroes of the downtrodden. The wealthy see us as a menace. After all, if you are wealthy and you flaunt your status and riches, you probably are not giving all you should to charity and/or to the government. So, we thieves help restore some of the balance. Of course, we have a service fee we must charge.

Some thieves do not belong to the guild and tend to give all in our profession a bad name. I assure you that the Thieves Guild hunts these rogues down and will convince them to join and adhere to our rules. Otherwise, we will help them find a nice home in some local dungeon or prison camp.

Because of this, the word ‘thief' has a negative connotation. I myself prefer wealth adjuster. After all, guild members have strict rules governing their conduct. For example, we are forbidden to steal from the poor or fellow guild members. Any good thief will tell you that it is also not profitable. The poor generally do not have anything worth stealing. You also do not want to have the guild turn against you because you pilfered another member's goods. We also do not kill our victims if at all avoidable. The worst thing a thief could be associated with is the Assassins Guild. No other guilds have such hatred for each other than the Assassins Guild and the Thieves Guild.

The Thieves Guild actually performs many useful tasks. Though most governmental types will publicly disavow any knowledge of our organization, they are however quick to use our services. They know we honor our contracts and because of our unique abilities, we make great spies. Of course, the guild must charge appropriately for our services.

I know the guild is probably just a mysterious organization wrapped in secrets to you. Of course, we culture some of that. However, some things about the guild are mysterious even to us members. The greatest naturally is the Shadow Fox. Yes, we all wonder if there is some lone mysterious figure that runs the guild. Most members are not even sure and if you ask the local guild leader, you will just get vague answers shrouded in enigmatic ancient lore.

The story states that for the last five hundred or so years a mysterious and mask covered being has been running the Thieves Guild. My first thought was that the Shadow Fox is a Wood Elf; elves in general live for over a thousand years. However, the more you delve into the history, the more obscure it becomes. The Shadow Fox is a woman in some stories -- a man in others, tall in some -- short in others. He is a human, she is an elf, or even it is a lizard-man. One thing however is the same in all the stories, the Shadow Fox wears a black mask that hides his, hers or its face from the nose up.

You are probably saying, "A thief with a mask, big deal." I will point out that firstly, most guild members do not wear masks. There is no better way to advertise that you are a thief than to walk around town in a mask. Secondly, even heroes sometimes wear masks. Look at that Ranger from the Fighters Guild, D'Lowen. He goes around shooting his silver-headed bolts from his crossbow in the name of justice and he obscures his visage with a mask. On a side note, it was probably not such a great idea to use silver on his bolts. I hear that the poor are deliberately trying to get him to shoot them so that they can get at some easy silver. Plus, it does not work in his favor that he refuses to fire a lethal shot.

Now this story takes place after I had achieved the rank of Grand Champion in the Imperial Arena. There was no more advancement for me there. I occasionally would show up for a special show, but for the most part, the "Black Arrow" was officially retired. Therefore, I now dedicated myself to working for the guild full time. I had quickly advanced through the ranks. In fact, I was to the point where I was on the cusp of having my own local guild chapter when I received a special summons.

My guild leader told me that I was to meet someone in Jermaine Gilvus' house inside the town of Lissia in one week's time. No more information was forthcoming. Lissia is an easy ride from the Imperial City so I arrived ahead of time and did some scouting around while I stayed at the local inn. I knew of Jermaine from reputation, the man was a known and trusted sympathizer of the guild. Years before, we had once rescued his daughter from a band of brigands. Since then, he has given any help he could to the guild.

On the appointed time and date, I easily found Jermaine's house. I met the man outside and as I approached, he said in a low whisper, "He's waiting for you inside. Look in the basement." This naturally piqued my curiosity. However, there is that old saying, that "Curiosity killed the Wood Elf", but I paid it no heed as I entered the old wooden house.

It was a small house. The only room spread out in front of a burning hearth. The dining area lay in the center and a bed sat on one side of the room. Off in a corner laid the stairs that led down to the basement. I crept down the creaky wooden steps into the dark interior. On the far side of the subterranean room, a lone torch flickered. Barrels, crates, and various sacks lay stacked against the walls, but in the center stood a single table and two chairs. One chair was unoccupied the other sat a figure and as I descended he raised his face towards me with a face shrouded in a black mask. I was about to have my first meeting with the Shadow Fox.

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Tiberium Letters

Part Two

By Dwayne MacInnes

I walked over and took the worn chair that the Shadow Fox offered to me. I think the surprise was still on my face as I sat down because the Shadow Fox softly chuckled. I was about to ask him some questions when he held up a gloved hand to forestall me.

"First of all, yes I exist. Now, you are probably wondering why I summoned you," the Shadow Fox stated. I merely nodded my head. I seldom am at a loss for words; however, my tongue was tied in a knot that few sailors could match.

The Shadow Fox leaned back in his chair. The smile on his lips was his only facial feature, save his sad looking eyes, that the mask did not obscure. "I have been monitoring your advancement with some interest. You are the Black Arrow, and you are also an associate member in the Mages Guild."

"Yes," I said hoarsely, the knot was starting to untie.

"Good, good!" the Shadow Fox laughed as he slapped his thigh. "Few members have taken the initiative to better themselves. They tend to shy from other guilds and focus only on their tasks in the Thieves Guild.

"But you started out in the arena. Only after you became the Grand Champion did you focus most of you energies on the Thieves Guild. I feel that the skills you learned in the pit have helped you in your career with the guild. You also show that you research your job ahead of time. I'm sure you were able to use your associate membership in the Mages Guild to gain access to their libraries. Smart thinking."

I did not bother to correct the Shadow Fox that I had joined the Mages Guild primarily to find better and cheaper spells. I still needed to find something that worked better than my simple dark sight spell that only lasted a minute. Sure, I could find cheaper spells from some traveling thaumaturgy vender. However, they tended to be shady scam artists. I remember the time an associate thief was looking for a spell to cast a low light. He bought the "moon-shine" spell dirt-cheap, but the first time he used it in a dungeon he conjured up some jugs of powerful whiskey. Fortunately, the ogres took to the drink instead of him.

The fact, that I did use the Mages Guild's library was true. Many people believe that we Wood Elves are capricious and just flippantly fly off on some adventure. For the most part, they are correct. However, these same Wood Elves do not last long as thieves. I have stated in other publications that a thief's most important attribute is her intelligence.

"I am going to need these skills from you on your next assignment," the Shadow Fox continued. "This is a matter that is most delicate and I need someone that utilizes your care and has your resources to help me out.

"This is an imperial matter you may say. It goes straight to the top," the Shadow Fox leaned back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest as it sunk in.

"You mean..." I started to say, my faculties were now awakening.

"Yes, the Emperor himself, Servanius Tiber," the Shadow Fox now leaned closer to me. "It appears that some letters belonging to his wife the Lady Tiber have been pilfered from her room. Now the only reason the Emperor doesn't suspect us is that the criminal here was indelicate enough to demand an extortion fee from the woman.

"I believe it is best that I start from the beginning. The Emperor noticed that the Lady Tiber has not been her gay self lately. She has been dispirited and she has been keeping to herself of late. The Emperor had some of his more trusted, tactful ministers investigate the matter, and it appears that her Ladyship has been secretly selling her jewelry.

"One of the ministers overheard a handmaiden mention something about some of her Ladyship's documents being stolen. On further examination, the handmaiden refused to mention anything more on the subject. Save that, her Ladyship does not want the Emperor to know and that she has to pay a ransom.

"The Emperor loves his wife very dearly and would never do anything to harm her. He knows that if her Ladyship does not want the Emperor to know the details of the letters, it is for a good reason. Nonetheless, the Emperor cannot be placed in a position where his family is at the mercy of some unknown malefactor. Therefore he has contracted the guild to solve this little mystery."

"Sounds like a real puzzler. I suppose you'll want me to start at the palace and see what I can find out," I offered.

"No, I want you to head for Giland," the Shadow Fox returned.

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Tiberium Letters

Part Three

By Dwayne MacInnes

Again, the smile spread across his face. I must have shown my surprise once again. I could tell the Shadow Fox was enjoying our exchange.

"Countess of Giland, Lady Aversfield, has a minister named Brunis. It is he who has the letters."

I shook my head, "But how did you find that out?"

"I'm the Shadow Fox for a reason," the master thief laughed. "Plus, in my investigation Brunis was at the Imperial Palace recently and left shortly before her Ladyship started receiving her extortion demands.

"Furthermore, you really don't think you are my only thief do you? I have had the greater resources of the guild investigating all who have been at the palace recently. The only likely suspect is Brunis."

"In any event, you may have heard of Brunis. He is quite the accomplished wizard with the Mages Guild. He has a very important post as Lady Aversfield's most trusted advisor in Giland on the Imperial border with the Black Swamp."

"Yes, I have heard of him. I also know that there is a rumor that he doesn't like Lizard-men who live in Giland or in the neighboring Black Swamp. The rumors go on to tell of secret chambers underneath the castle where Brunis carries out his experiments on those unfortunate creatures," I added with some distaste.

"Giland is an important post and we cannot overtly insist that Lady Aversfield hand over one of her ministers. Due to the ticklish situation, I am removing the ‘blood-price' on this mission. You may use lethal force, but it is imperative that it does not happen in the castle. It is one thing if Brunis' body is found along a road, quite another if it is inside the castle."

"How do you want me to handle it? Break in and search? It'll be difficult with all the guards, but I think I can do it," I offered.

"I've got a letter from the Emperor stating that you are his personal inspector. This will allow you access to all the public areas on the castle grounds. You will have to sneak into the private areas if you need. If you are caught, I do not need to remind you that this conversation did not happen."

I nodded my head. The old cloak and dagger routine, in the event of your capture the Emperor will disavow any knowledge...etc, etc. Therefore, I was on my own on this one. That was good because I like to work alone.

I started to rise to leave when the Shadow Fox grabbed my arm. He pulled me close and sternly looked at me with those sad blue eyes.

"This is a very serious situation. You must not fail. A man like Brunis is a grave threat to us all. Especially, if he can control the Emperor."

* * * * *

The ride to Giland was uneventful. It was nice for a change not being attacked by a group of goblins or awakened in the night by a marauding pack of wolves. The Imperial Legions patrolled this stretch of road regularly. As was stated before, Giland was an important post on the border with the Black Swamp. Any brigand or highwayman would have to be suicidal to try to hold someone up on this length of the Imperial Highway.

Black Swamp, now there is a nasty sounding place and it lives up to it as well. Only the Lizard-folk would call it home. It is a rather muddy, marshy area with giant black mangrove trees thrusting upward in such thick quantities that the sunlight in most areas never reaches the ground.

No need to describe the various insects and diseases one can meet in such areas. Even though we Wood Elves have a high tolerance against disease, we do not like to remain in such areas for long. That is one reason why the Empire has never been able to conquer it and absorb it into the Empire like the surrounding areas.

The Lizard-men of the Black Swamp are tribal and their forces would never stand a chance against the Imperial Legions. It is only their kin, who were conquered in the surrounding areas hundred of years ago, that can be called "civilized". There exists to this day an uneasy truce between the tribes of the Black Swamp and the Tiberium Empire.

Now, unfortunately there is still a lot of prejudice against the Lizard-folk. Those who have been in the Empire for generations are full-fledged civilians and have the same rights as any citizen under the Empire. They are just as intelligent as any other race, but because they look the least ‘human', they are thought be a barbarous race.

I think there is also the primitive human fear of reptiles. Too bad, in the Great Forest, there are many kinds of reptiles and a lot of them make great pets. Nevertheless, humans mostly populate the Empire and in many of the more remote areas, human prejudices remain.

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Tiberium Letters

Part Four

By Dwayne MacInnes

I entered the city of Giland with no problems, and I quickly found my way to the castle. Castles in cities are not hard to miss, just look for the largest structure made of stone, boasting many towers, and you have found the residence of the local count, duke, or lord.

If all went right, a post-rider was supposed to deliver an announcement of the Imperial Inspector to her Ladyship Countess Aversfield. That of course, would be me. I wore my usual light elven armor and my heavy shield. The shield, repainted to look imperial, was going to be of utmost importance in this mission if I were to have a showdown with Brunis.

I have stated previously in other publications about the nature of my shield. By some powerful magic, the shield absorbs all aggressive spells cast against its possessor. I learned through some research at the Mages Guild that this shield is actually a holy relic from the earliest days of the Empire named, The Spell-eater. As much as I would love to boast publicly about my shield's ability and fame, such an action would be stupid.

A thief, who advertises, tends to lose many things. Sometimes she is lucky and it is only her possessions, sometimes it is her freedom, but most of the time it is her life. So the less a thief says the better off she is.

I approached the castle gate. The guards were on sentry and alert. Now, the thing about a border town, like Giland, is that in addition to the Imperial Garrison outside of town at Fort Bleakwater, the town itself boasts of a sizeable number of city guards.

I steered my black mare up to the closest sentry and halted as he grabbed the reigns. "What's the nature of your visit?" he demanded.

I reached into my pouch and produced my official document with the Imperial seal. "I am the Imperial Inspector, and I have an appointment with the Countess."

The guard holding my horse looked over the papers. I noticed out of the corner of my eye the other guard studying me. I looked over at him and recognized him as a former member of the Imperial City guard. His name is Reyn Braxis and he is a very astute investigator.

Reyn was getting very close to uncovering the Thieves Guild. It is highly doubtful that anyone in the government, no matter what services we had rendered in the past, would come to our defense once Reyn blew our cover. So, we had to take measures in our own hands. In this case, I personally had to get documents transferring Reyn Braxis to a remote area where he would not be of any trouble to the guild. That would be here in Giland.

We never found out how much Reyn knew or just suspected about the guild. Some believe he knew about certain members and had them under his surveillance. I do not know if I was one of them or not, but I could not afford to take any chances when I was involved in such an important case. Before he could get a good look at me, I quickly turned back to the first guard.

"Everything looks to be in order. Hand your horse over to the livery boy and he'll take care of it. The Countess is expecting you in the audience chamber."

I nodded my thanks and followed the guard's instruction.

* * * * *

I made way into the audience chamber before the throne of her Ladyship the Countess Aversfield. Much like the surrounding countryside, Countess Aversfield's face was a somber affair. Rumor has it that she never smiled after the mysterious and tragic death of her husband over fifteen years ago. Next to her sat the empty throne the Count would have occupied.

I glanced quickly around the chamber and took in the decor. Many black shrouds hung everywhere and a portrait sat on the wall behind Countess Aversfield. It was of a hound-dog faced man who must have been Count Aversfield. The man's drooping sad looking expression fit in well with the dreary castle's interior.

The man off to the Countess's left could only be Brunis. He wore a black velvet outfit trimmed in gold. He held a gnarled wooden staff in his right hand. The staff did not fool me; I knew it was not a symbol of his office, or a crutch to help him walk. That was a mages staff, and I really did not want to find out what spells it could unleash. I am sure it would be nasty.

As I approached the Countess, Brunis walked down and bowed. "You must be the Imperial Inspector."

I smiled and presented Brunis the same official documents I had shown the guard. "Yes" I said, "I believe I have an audience with the Countess."

Brunis only bowed again. A little wicked smile played on his face. "Of course, the public grounds are available for your perusal."

I did not need any special hearing to notice the emphasis on the word ‘public'.

I continued my approach and as I neared the base of the raised throne, I knelt before the Countess. "I am Gwendolyn; the Emperor has assigned me to inspect the castle's public areas."

"Yes, I have been expecting you. I have a room in the guard's barracks prepared for your stay. I pray that you will have time to dine with us tonight. I would love to hear news from the Imperial City."

"It would indeed be an honor my Lady, thanks for your hospitality," I looked over at Brunis. The minister gave me a hard calculating look. I did not need to have any special sight to know that Brunis suspected I was not just here just for some random inspection. The games were about to begin.

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Tiberium Letters

Part Five

By Dwayne MacInnes

"It'ss a sshame what happened to the Count," Kreel, the Lizard-folk cook said as I pretended to be inspecting the contents of the kitchen's larder. Her face was greenish brown with a nice coloration of blue around her gold eyes. Her forked tongue would often flick out between the hisses in her conversation. "He wass ssuch a good man."

"Hmm hmm," I said as I continued to search the bags of millet. "What exactly happened to him?"

"It iss ssaid he wass invesstigating ssome rumorss about sstrange thingss happening in the ssurrounding villagess," Kreel said as she continued to prepare tonight's dinner.

"Interesting, what exactly was it he was investigating," I tried to sound halfway bored and interested. I wanted to hear the rumors Kreel would divulge but I did not want overplay my hand by being too interested. Therefore, I continued my inventory and writing miscellaneous and useless data into my logbook.

"It iss no ssecret that many do not like my kind here in Giland. However, the Count and Countesss they are fair. They treat all their ssubjectss well. The taless of my folkss dissappearing in the nearby villagess prompted Count Averssfield to invesstigate. It iss ssaid he wass ambusshed by banditss, and hizs body thrown into the sswampss."

"Certainly you do not believe this," I acted surprised.

"Of coursse, I believe it. My peopless are sstill dissappearing! I would leave here if I could, but I have to ssupport five hatchlingss. The Countesss payss well," Kreel hissed in agitation as she slammed a pot onto the counter top.

"Sorry, I meant you do not believe Count Aversfield was actually ambushed by bandits and his body thrown into the swamp," I corrected.

"No, that iss a ssilly tale. With all the guardss and ssoldierss, there are no banditss. But there are taless about him," Kreel said her eyes darting around the room to make sure we were alone.

"I'm sorry," I said acting somewhat confused.

"The minisster," Kreel literally hissed in my ear. "Rumorss ssayss he hass a ssecret chamber where he torturess and killss my peopless."

"Hmmm, interesting. I may have to investigate this," I nodded. "Any ideas where I should begin?"

Kreel looked again over her shoulder, "Hizs room."

* * * * *

Dinner was a nice affair. Many of the well-to-do attended. If I did not have an urgent mission to accomplish, I would have loved to help myself to some souvenirs. Alas, duty calls. Countess Aversfield still somber and wearing her usual black mourning gown sat at the head of the table. Brunis, as always, was sitting at her side. Captain Morgan of the city guard stood at attention behind the Countess.

Fortunately, Giland is far enough away from the pomp and circumstances of the more urbanized settlings. The occasional elbow on the table or the napkin tucked into the shirt collar could be seen around the table. I knew enough courtly etiquette to hold my own without looking too much like a country bumpkin.

The food was magnificent. The servants placed large platters of mutton and beef on the table. Salads of fruits and vegetables abounded. I did have to pretend that eating the meat from a goat's head was against the Wood Elf religion. I find it ironic that humans accuse the Lizard-folk of being barbaric when they themselves find eating an animal's head a delicacy. Nonetheless, I did not go hungry that night.

The drink, too, was exceptionally fine. The vintage of the wine passed around was a very good year. I had to remind myself that I had work to do. Although, it takes a lot to make an elf drunk; it is wise not to dull the senses too much. Especially, when there was a viper like Brunis around.

I was listening to a boring dissertation from Lord Calvert about the futility of civilizing the Lizard-folk when Brunis spoke up. "Miss Gwendolyn, I hope you have been finding the contents of our larder within the Emperor's expectation."

It was a taunt and many around the table chuckled. "You would be surprised what I can find in just a bag of millet. Why I would love to discuss all that I found missing."

I looked at the minister with a cunning glare. His icy stare probably could have frozen the fiery pits of the nether-realms.

"Missing?" the Countess chimed up. "Why what has turned up missing?"

"Oh, your Ladyship. Nothing in the castle yet, but I have learned of things in the surrounding villages. I will give you a full report when I am done."

"Please, don't overstay, "Brunis said with his jaw clenched. "We don't want the Emperor to pay for more than he needs."

"That, my dear minister, is exactly why I am here."

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Tiberium Letters

Part Six

By Dwayne MacInnes

After our evening meal, I went to check out my quarters. Fortunately, the guard's barracks are part of the castle. That would make inspecting the castle's interior easier after most of the residents had fallen asleep. My room in the barracks was on the wall opposite the door. Rows and rows of guardsmen's bunks lay between my room and the door. Just inside the doorway, there were some tables and benches where the guards could relax and/or eat.

The room I was staying in was very spartan. I had a small bed and a side table where a single candle flickered. At the foot of the bed, there was a chest to stow my gear. I did not have much gear so I hardly used it. On the wall opposite the door, was a single small window. The shutters were open, and I could see that it opened onto a narrow ledge. The ground was a good two stories down and that was actually a murky slimy moat that reflected the gray moonlight.

I sat in my bunk for a good hour. I could easily hear the guards entering or leaving the barracks most were entering and preparing for bed. I cracked my door and peered outside. There on the table next to the door leading to the castle's interior sat Reyn and two other guards. They were heavy into their drink and just conversing.

"Why do you think Brunis wants us to sit at this door all night?" the younger guardsmen asked.

"Easy, to guard her," Reyn replied nodding his head in my direction.

"Well, I don't suppose he could blame us if we had to partake of this good mead while we waited," laughed the second guard. "After all, this is thirsty work."

All three laughed at this and each took a long chug from their wooden mugs. Reyn wiped his mouth with the back of his hand as he sat the mug down onto the table. "You know I almost had the Thieves Guild revealed," Reyn started.

"Yeah, yeah, you told us before," the second guard replied in a bored voice.

"I would have had it too if I did not get this transfer," Reyn replied hotly.

"Well, you must have upset someone," the first guard supplied, "nobody gets assigned here if they did not make some enemies."

Reyn looked towards my room again, "You know I also know about her."

"I wouldn't mind getting to know her," said the first guard, definitely the youngest of the three.

"You have a thing for older women, eh?" the second guard jibed.

"Whadya mean? She can't over twenty."

"She's a hundred if she's a day," the older second guard responded. "She's an elf and they live ten times as long as men." They were both right -- in a way. I was of one hundred and twenty years. "Even if you two got married she'd still look the same by the time you are having someone chew your food for you."

"Not so bad by my reckoning," continued the first guard. Reyn just continued to drink and stare at my door.

"Are you kidding, she'd leave you and take everything you own by the time you started to lose the bloom of life. No, sir, stay with your own kind."

The first guard was about to respond when Reyn started up again. "Neither of you know what you are talking about. She's not the usual Imperial Inspector. I know what she did before. I know who she really is."

The two other guards looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders. "I think you've been into your cups too long my friend," the second guard said putting a fatherly arm around Reyn's shoulders. "Now, take Jern here. He thinks he knows everything about using that toothpick he calls a sword…"

I closed the door tightly. I learned a few things. First, I was not going to get out the barracks door. Secondly, I had better keep a closer eye on Reyn. He obviously got a good enough look at me down at the gate.

I blew out the candle and approached the window. It was a small window as I stated before, but it was wide enough to allow me to squeeze my lithe frame through and onto the ledge. I pulled my shield and bow out after me. It was not easy equipping myself piecemeal while my toes were the only thing keeping me from landing into the manmade swamp below.

I was able to shimmy sideways along the ledge until I found another window. I took a quick glance inside. It led to a small utility closet. I reversed my equipping process by silently placing my bow and shield first into the small room. I then squeezed my way through the window. Fortunately, the door did not contain a lock so I did not have to waste time picking it.

I listened at the door for a while to ensure that there were not any guards nearby. I slowly opened it and found myself looking at the throne room. There were stairs around both sides of the room that led to the private quarters.

In a matter of a few seconds, I had gained entrance into the private quarters of the castle. Here I would have to use even more care, for sentries patrolled the upper areas. Fortunately, if one is patient enough and there are enough shadows to hide you, one is able to learn where the holes are in the patrol pattern. This I did.

I quietly crept along the carpeted hallway. I did not have any plans of the castle's interior so I did not know were Brunis's room would be. So, I just went from door to door and peered inside. Most of the doors were unlocked and those that were not proved easy to open. I was able to observe -- undetected -- many of the most notable of the castle's residents sleeping, reading, or otherwise occupied with each other.

I finally found the room I was looking for. I used extra caution because it is well know that wizards love to use magical traps on their doors. I guess Brunis did not feel that he needed any because there was none. The door itself proved easy enough to pick. I quickly glanced inside the darkened interior expecting to hear snoring or to find the minister either reading or maybe entertaining a chambermaid. However, the room was vacant.

I slipped inside and began a thorough search. I could find nothing just a book on his nightstand by the High Elf Elrond Hubbard Dire-netics: Controlling your Personal Demons. I guess Brunis's mother did not love him. That would explain many of his problems.

Still I was not happy with my results. There had to be something in this room other than a book. No mage stays in a room for long without storing away some magical do-dads. I studied the room again. This time I was looking for anything out of the ordinary and I soon found it. Against the far wall there were two posts rising towards the ceiling. Normally this would not mean anything, but in a wizard's bedroom, this could mean only one thing…secret door.

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Tiberium Letters

Part Seven

By Dwayne MacInnes

It took me but a moment to find the hidden catch behind one of the posts. Before I triggered it, I listened to the door closely. It would be greatly embarrassing to open the hidden door just to find an enraged mage behind it. Only silence greeted my sensitive ears.

I released the catch and the wall between the posts slid silently upwards to reveal a small room inside. I quickly dashed inside and shut the secret door. I muttered my spell for dark sight and the interior revealed itself to me. At least, for the next minute until I had to mutter the spell again. I really prayed that I would soon find a longer lasting spell.

A quick survey did produce a few objects of worth. First, I found about one hundred Silver Crowns. I am sure that Brunis did not obtain them lawfully so it was my imperial duty to confiscate them. I also found a magical wand. It was made of gnarled black wood.

Anyone can use a magical wand if she knows the correct triggering word. The Mages Guild keeps this a secret because they make a lot of money charging farmers to enchant their fields against pests. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if a farmer just bought a wand for a few tens of Silver Crowns and did the same thing year after year.

Most mages just use the default setting on the wands and depending on the manufacturer; it can be as simple as ‘abra cadabra’ or ‘klaatu barada nikto’. However, Brunis was smarter than that. He had had it reprogrammed. Thankfully, he was not too smart because I found the command written on a piece of paper next to it. It said simply, “to operate fireball wand say ‘domo arigato mister roboto’?.

However, the next two objects were of more significance. The first was a book about the tragic murder of Lady Tiber’s father. It is a well-known tale of how when Lady Tiber or Lady Rhem as she would have been then, was a young lass of twelve when she was playing with the scullery girl of the same age in the throne room. They were behind the large tapestries when an assassin attacked and killed widower Baron Rhem while he was on the throne. One of the girls let out a shriek when she witnessed it. The scullery girl ran for a nearby balcony and the young Lady Rhem ran for the stairs. The assassin would have killed both girls if he was not surprised and the girls did not run in two different directions. At the very least, he would have killed Lady Rhem, but he could not tell the difference between the two girls for they were of similar appearance.

The scullery girl tripped and fell over the edge of the balcony and plummeted into the lake that lay below her body disappearing beneath the lake’s surface forever. A month after the tragedy some fishermen found a tattered and soggy dress snared in some snags on the lake’s shore. The Lady Rhem ran upstairs and hid inside one of the closets. Only after the guards captured the assassin did they find the girl. By this time, she had lost her memory and only a slow convalescence at a local temple restored her to her right mind. However, she never remembered anything before that horrible day.

The sad conclusion is that after interrogating the assassin it was learned who had hired him. It was the Baron’s own brother. It is the same old story of the younger sibling craving the power of the elder.

The last object or actually objects were the millet seeds found on the ground. There are only two places I could think of where Brunis could encounter millet seeds. One was the kitchen, but Kreel practically lives there and she would have gladly told me if she had seen the minister skulking about there. So, that left the storage cellars where the foodstuff was stored in large quantities.

I pocketed my findings and made my way out of the private quarters. Getting to the cellars was no problem at all. Other than the sentries at the front door to the castle, the only other guards on patrol in the castle were in the private quarters. I should let the Countess know that she may want to beef up her security.

In any case, I found myself deep inside the dank cellar. There were huge casks of wine and other alcoholic beverages against one wall. There were crates, barrels, and bags of foodstuff against another. A single torch sat in its sconce and burned away illuminating the cool and musty interior.

A search of the ground revealed that a sack of millet had a tear. Most likely, with the help of the ubiquitous rodents that one can find in such dwellings. A closer scrutiny produced faint footprints that I followed to a wall. I quickly discerned the faint outline of a hidden door. I just now needed to find the trigger to open it.

Secret or hidden doors always have some kind of panel or lever to open it. It is common for them to look like common objects. It could be a torch on the wall, a book in a bookcase, or a stone panel in the wall. However, it was none of these, particularly not a book due to the lack of bookcases in the cellar.

I studied the wall carefully again. I know it had to be something obvious I was missing. Then it hit me. One of the barrels of foodstuff was not with the others. I opened the top and found it contained wheat. I felt around in the wheat but I could not find any lever. I was about to give up in frustration when my foot kicked the bottom of the barrel. It made a hollow noise. That was odd for a barrel brimming with wheat.

A quick search produced a loose panel. Inside the panel was a lever. Soon I had the hidden door open. A long dark tunnel wound its way down on the other side of the door.

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Tiberium Letters

Part Eight

By Dwayne MacInnes

I entered the tunnel and shut the door behind me. A lever on the wall opened and closed the hidden door. Fortunately, I would not have to rely on my dark vision spell in this tunnel because someone had been kind enough to leave an occasional lighted torch on the wall.

I silently crept down the stone corridor, there was nothing interesting to note. The path was long and winding, but there were no divergences so I did not have to make any big decisions like should I go right or left. I just went forward.

After about half an hour, the tunnel led me to a set of stairs. I looked up and the stone steps ascended upwards for what looked like eternity. There was no other way, so I began my ascent. Even here, there was the occasional torch burning away in a metal sconce.

I would really hate to be the one to make sure those torches were lit and replaced once they burnt down to nothing. I could not tell you how many torches I had already passed, and I cannot imagine that even these torches would burn indefinitely. Nonetheless, I proceeded with the utmost caution. After all, I could unexpectedly meet the caretaker of those torches.

The climb up the stairs was just as uneventful and monotonous as the trek down the tunnel. Eventually I reached the top to find the tunnel resumed its twisting path forward. I was about to take a quick breather after the long climb when I heard a blood-curdling scream.

My instincts told me that something was not quite right down the tunnel. Actually, you do not need instincts to tell you something bad is down the road when you hear a blood-curdling scream like that. In fact, you should probably consider one of two options. The first is to run away from the source of the scream. The second is to proceed forward with the utmost care and caution. Therefore, I split the difference. I ran forward with some care and caution.

Though the hallway was more or less straight and narrow for most of the way, I drew my short sword. The tunnel was winding enough that it did not favor the use of my bow. I did not know if the next boogeyman was literally around the next bend. Furthermore, trying to ready a bow on the run does not facilitate a good shot, not even for an elf. In addition, on my climb to Grand Champion of the Imperial Arena, I had become more proficient with the blade.

I heard the scream again. The hairs on the back of neck began to rise. I am sure that if anyone saw me from behind, he would have thought I had a frightened black cat on my head. For, the fears that rain through my body would have made my trademark ponytail shoot straight up behind my helmet.

Nonetheless, I continued my journey down the tunnel. I soon found a wooden door on my left hand side. The smell emanating from it was almost overpowering. Blood and decaying flesh were behind that door. The next scream told me, so was the person who was either in agony, fear, or both.

I checked the handle on the door. It was unlocked so I slowly opened it up. I poked my head around the door to see the prostrate form of a Lizard-man strapped down on a table. Between him and me, there was a short hunched figure in dark robes. The figure was obviously torturing the poor Lizard-man. I could see blood funneling off the table into several buckets on the ground around it. The hunched figure had already plucked out the left eye and chopped off the corresponding hand. The scales on the Lizard-man's upper torso had been flayed back to expose the still functioning organs to the air.

The poor creature panted in pain. I witnessed the rapidly beating heart and inflating lungs under the exposed ribs. The torturer was a professional to keep one still alive and conscious under such treatment. I am sure some form of magic was involved.

I cannot ever remember seeing such a gruesome and malevolent sight before. I knew that if I did not act soon the Lizard-man would die. He did not have much longer to live. I was also on the verge of becoming violently ill.

As the dark figure raised the dagger in his right hand in the air for another chop, slice, or plunge into the helpless victim I instinctively yell, "STOP!"

The figure jerked his head around and glared at me maliciously. I was staring eyeball to eyeball with a goblin. His beady black eyes stared at me from his mottled green face. A wicked grin revealed his yellow sharp teeth underneath his long hooked nose.

I turned and fled. I know what you are saying, "The Grand Champion ran from a goblin?" Yes, I ran. However, I did not run in fear. I ran to draw the nasty creature away from the Lizard-man. Even the Grand Champion can accidentally miss her target and hit an innocent bystander. Notwithstanding that, the sadistic beast could kill the victim in an act of spite.

I paced myself to keep the goblin just a few feet behind me. I was tantalizing close but still out of reach of his dagger. I am sure if he wanted, he could have thrown the little blade. However, I am sure he realized that even if he hit, it would more than likely bounce off my armor.

As we approached the stairs, I suddenly fell to the ground and pulled my legs in close to my torso. The goblin, caught off guard, tripped over my balled-up body before he could slow down. He sailed over me and proceeded to bounce down the stairs at full speed.

After the first few bounces, he stopped screaming. I could have made my way back down the stairs to ensure that the goblin was indeed dead. But, I had to return to the torture chamber immediately if I had any hope of saving the Lizard-man's life. In addition, I did not relish the idea of climbing back up those stairs.

As I ran into the torture room, I had thumbed the cork off a healing potion I pulled from my haversack. I was relieved to see that he still lived. I poured a little of the draughts down his gullet, enough to give him some strength. I then started to repack and replace his cut muscles and organs inside his chest. I am not a physician so I am not an expert on anatomy, but I made my best guess. I poured a little of the healing potion over the muscles to help them knit. Then I pulled the skin back together and doused it with the remaining healing draught.

I watched as the skin magically reunited. A raw pink scar ran the length of his brown torso. The Lizard-man started to relax. I could see that he was still in a lot of pain and very weak. So, pulled out another healing potion and made him drink it all. The gaping wound of his bloody eye socket and his severed left wrist instantly healed up. I would have tried to reattach his hand and/or eye but I could not find them. Moreover, the Lizard-man did not have the luxury of waiting while I searched the blood-filled buckets for them.

After the Lizard-man regained his strength and seemed to be out of pain, I cut his bonds. He sat up and looked me over with his good eye.

"I am Sleestak and I thank you," he said as he sat up and rubbed his stump.

"Gwendolyn, at your service," I bowed, "what is going on here?"

"Look friend Gwendolyn," Sleestak motioned for me to look around the room with his right hand.

I turned around and realized I was not so much in a torture chamber as much as a butchers shop.

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Tiberium Letters

Part Nine

By Dwayne MacInnes

The bodies of Lizard-folk and, by the looks of it, a couple of humans, hung from the ceiling like the carcasses of cows and pigs one sees in a butcher shop. The bodies were skinned and in various states of decomposition. Goblins love their meat a little rancid.

I turned back to Sleestak, "I think you better get out of here and alert the city guard."

"No!" he shouted with fear. "It was Captain Morgan who brought us here. He works for Brunis. They are building an army of goblins."

I began to search the room as I lost myself in thought. So, Brunis is looking for more than extortion and maybe running the Empire from behind the scenes. It looks like he wants to establish his own empire and Giland was as good a place as any other city.

I did not know how many of the city guards were involved with this. I had to proceed with even more care than usual. Even if I defeat Brunis and retrieve the letters Captain Morgan and some of the local guardsmen, may try to settle accounts with me.

I found some dirty clothes that I tossed over to Sleestak. "Here wear these."

"Why are you here?" the Lizard-man asked as he dressed.

"I'm on a top secret mission. I cannot say more. But, I need you to get out of here and tell no one about my presence here."

Sleestak found a rather long and nasty blade (obviously some torture implement) that he tucked into his belt. "How do I explain my escape?"

"Just tell them you broke free and overpowered the goblin," I offered. I was about to leave the room when a thought struck me.

"Are there others I should free?"

"No, I was the last. Morgan and his men rounded up many people from my village and they sent us here. I watched my people be tortured before they were butchered. Their blood collected in buckets for goblin stew," Sleestak spat.

"Do you know where Morgan and Brunis are?" I enquired.

"Yes, this tunnel leads to an old ruined fort. Fort Abysmal, there you will find them. But, I caution you. There are more than goblins in this tunnel. I have heard...strange noises. I am sorry that is the best I can do. If you want, Sleestak will fight with you."

I shook my head, "No, you must escape, go down the stairs and the tunnel there is a lever that'll lead you to the basement of the castle. You will be able to find help from Kreel the cook. I am sure she'll find a way to get you out of the castle without the guards knowing."

I resumed my travel up the tunnel after Sleestak descended the stairs. I grasped my sword even harder now. No sound escaped my acute hearing -- not the skittering of rats scurrying out of my way, nor the plunk of water dripping into a shallow pool somewhere into the distant.

Thankfully, I wore gauntlets for my sweaty palms would have lost their grip on my blade. I did not relish the idea of taking on an army of goblins in addition to whatever else there may be down here, plus the original task of Brunis and now Captain Morgan thrown in. All I know is that there had better be a rather hefty reward after I was done.

The passage began to slope upwards. There were no stairs just a ramping floor that continued to climb steadily upwards. After awhile it finally ended at another wooden door.

I pressed my ear against it. There were not any sounds. There were also no traps of either mechanical or magical nature. However, there was a lock, which proved easy to pick.

I slowly opened the door and peered around it. All I saw was just more tunnel and more torches. However, the passage was now level.

I continued to creep down the tunnel when I suddenly came upon two goblins on sentry. I did not hear either of them for they had been sleeping in the passage and they did not hear me as I stole upon them. I left them to their dreams...permanently. I slit their throats so silently and efficiently that neither one awoke. I placed their bodies back in their sleeping repose and continued on. I am sure if anyone came upon them that at a distance they would look like they were asleep. However, closer examination would reveal a large puddle of blood on the ground.

The worse part of this was apparently Brunis did not pay his goblins very well. I only found three Silver Crowns between them. Their rusty blades were not even worth the effort to cart out and try to sell to some vendor.

Onward and forward, the tunnel wound. I did not happen upon any more goblins when I came upon another door in the right hand tunnel wall. Again, I listened and searched for traps -- again nothing on all counts. This time the lock was of good construction. It took me about thirty seconds for me to pick it.

The door swung open on its own and revealed a dark room. The little light that shone in the room revealed little except a stone floor. I stepped in and the door slammed shut behind me. I instantly felt my hackles rise as they did when I heard Sleestak's screams.

I silently uttered my dark sight spell and there at the end of the long room sneaking towards me as silent as a cat was a demon.

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Tiberium Letters

Part Ten

By Dwayne MacInnes

The demon was unaware that I could see it in the darkness. I grabbed my sword in a reverse grip. I acted as if I could not see the hell-spawned beast approaching me.

The room had many glyphs of warding on the walls around it. Obviously, they were for containing the demon and not me. I tried the door with my left hand. It had locked as it closed, much as I suspected. I did not have the time to try to pick a lock with a demon sneaking up on me, and I had less than a minute of sight before the spell failed. I would have to act soon.

I turned my back to the demon as if I was going to try the door. I heard it take in a breath of air as it started to lunge for me. At the last moment, I dodged to the right in a tumble and sprung up as the demon smacked against the wooden door. The door shook and threatened to splinter and the demon took a couple of dazed steps back turning towards me.

I stepped into the seven-foot tall beast and slashed upward from right to left with my reversed gripped short sword. Before the demon could grab its bleeding belly, I now slashed the beast's throat from left to right. Hot red blood spurted out from its new wound while I tumbled between its spread legs.

As I jumped up behind it, I changed my grip to the standard form and jabbed upwards striking the demon in the exposed back. An enraged and gurgled roar shook the room. I thought my head would explode from the agonizing scream of pain the beast from the netherworld released.

The beast fell to its knees after it turned towards me. I backed away staying outside the reach of its claws. With one hand, it held its gaping throat with the other it weakly tried to swipe at me.

I crouched low before I vaulted myself towards the demon. As I passed over its left shoulder, I swung my sword from left to right severing its head from its torso. I landed on the blood slick floor and tumbled to a stop as my spell ended simultaneously with the head dropping onto the floor.

I quickly uttered my spell again and my sight returned. There on the floor flopping in a pool of its own blood lay the headless body of the demon. The head had rolled to a far wall and now stared sightlessly at me.

Still amazed by my victory I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard a loud pounding on the door.

"You keep quiet," the gruff voice of a goblin shouted, "or the master will teach you to keep quiet."

It was no surprise the goblin was not about to check in on a demon in a containment cell. The bad thing about demons and containment cells is that they contain nothing of value. Sure, I could have harvested the various organs and horns of the demon, but I saw enough butchering for one night.

I listened intently until I heard the goblin walk away. I returned to the door and had it picked open before my spell failed again. I finally expelled the breath I had been holding. I was now alone in the tunnel and I started to think again.

That was when it hit me. Trumpets blared in my head alerting me to my stupidity and I anxiously pulled a book out of my haversack. The Hubbard book Dire-nectics was not about helping you move past your problems. No, Elrond Hubbard according to the back of the book was a conjurer of the dark arts and not a self-help guru as I initially suspected.

To add to everything else, Brunis was also trying to control a demon. I prayed there were no more demons that Brunis had socked away. I also vowed not to enter dark rooms where the doors opened of their own accord again.

Cautiously I continued my travel up the tunnel, there were no more side doors and there were never any connecting hallways. It finally ended at a large portcullis. The large iron gate sealed the entrance and on the other side were the remains of Fort Abysmal's cellar.

I tested the portcullis for any signs of weakness. A heavy coat of rust covered the gate and the sturdiness of it was in doubt. I pushed and pulled upon the various bars all but one resisted my efforts. Although the one iron bar I could move did not pull free from the gate it did bend enough to allow me to pass through.

A large waterfall had broken its way into the cellar and the lower chambers were now the source of an underground river. The thundering of the fall obscured any noise I made while exerting myself on the gate. However, it also hid any noise that may alert me to danger.

I snuck around the cellar's interior, there were many doors and passages I could take. But, I knew that if Brunis was the wizard of any worth he would be found in a tower. So, the only logical choice would be up.

I was about to head for the only set of stone steps that led upwards when my ears picked up a rhythmic beat against the thunder of the waterfall. I quickly jumped behind a fallen column and watched as a squad of goblins marching in formation exited a side tunnel, and entered the cellar heading in my direction.

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Tiberium Letters

Part Eleven

By Dwayne MacInnes

There were six goblins, and they were heading in my direction. I ducked down behind the pillar again. I could hear their clinking iron boots and their armor rattling as they marched into the cellar. In my quick glance, I noticed that they all were armed with a sword on their left hip and had a spear resting on their right shoulder. Their armor was motley but they all had some sort of helm and a shield.

I listened as they advanced ever closer to my position. The column I hid behind was large, but if they were to look over it, they would easily see me trying as hard as I could to blend in with the shadows. I silently pulled my bow from my back and readied an arrow. I know I could have taken out three of them before the rest fell upon me. I hoped that I would have enough time to ready my sword.

Then quite unexpectedly, they changed course. I snuck a quick peak over the collapsed column. The goblins were now heading for the stairs I was about to make for. They were also now marching more or less perpendicular to me.

I smiled; this was an unforeseen opportunity. I fired my bow. I hit the first goblin, or more accurately the last goblin for he was the last in line, in the back of the head. Before he could squeak, he tumbled off the steps and landed into the pool. The waterfall masked any noise the goblin made as he died.

I fired off another and another arrow, each finding their mark under the helmet and through the head. As expected, every goblin fell off the steps and landed in the pool beneath the waterfall. In this manner, I worked my way from back to front killing every goblin before the leader made it to the top step.

Unfortunately, the weight of their armor pulled every goblin beneath the surface of the subterranean river. Therefore, I could not search their carcasses for any loot. However, I figured that with the paltry amount I have been finding on these goblins and the fact that any trace of what I did, lay at the bottom of the river -- in the end -- balanced out.

I resumed my trek up the staircase. When I reached the landing, I was at the entrance of some sort. The fort had definitely seen better days. Stone bricks and wooden beams lay collapsed upon the ground. Weak moonlight filtered in from the gaping holes in the ceiling. There were no more stairs upward but there was a doublewide wooden door in front of me.

Again, I did my standard check at the door. Again, I heard and found nothing. To my relief the door was unlocked. It did not open or close of its own free will when I exited it and found myself outdoors. Well, I was sort of outdoors. I was actually in the middle of the crumbling and hollowed out remains of a tower. There were stairs leading upward and a set of doublewide iron doors that sat upon the far side of me. I assumed they truly led to the open outdoors.

By deduction, I knew my way led upwards. Well, I should say deduction because of the fact that I heard Brunis's laugh somewhere above me. I made sure that I was so far undetected. I could find no guards or sentries, so I started my way up the stairs.

It was dark and though there was a full moon, the shadows were deep. The occasional torch flared upon the wall. The smell of fresh air was the sweetest scent I ever experienced especially after the offal I encountered in the butcher room.

Brunis was in conversation with someone, I could hear his end of the conversation as I crept stealthily upwards bow ready.

"Soon, very soon my plans will come to fruition," he laughed.

"What's that? Of course, you'll be at my side," he reassured someone.

"With the Empress bankrolling us and the goblin army growing everyday I'll soon be in position to take over Giland."

I do not know why these villain types feel the need to reveal their nefarious plans but they do. Maybe it is because they are all secretly insecure. Nonetheless, it makes my job easier and I appreciate it.

Brunis's jubilant voice continued, "I am sure I can even assert some power through the Empress over the Emperor to facilitate things. Plus, my demon is almost fully trained."

I was near the top of the stairs when I saw Brunis on the opposite side of the room. He stood in the doorway perfectly framed in the moonlight and I quietly drew back my bowstring. However, before I could release my arrow someone yelled, "HALT! ASSASSIN!"

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Tiberium Letters

Part Twelve

By Dwayne MacInnes

My arrow flew erratically through the air as Brunis ducked safely behind the wall. I then notice Captain Morgan of the city guard also in the room. The good or more accurately ‘evil' captain noticed my silhouette at the head of the stairs and warned Brunis in time.

I had hardly any time to drop my bow and draw my sword before the captain fell upon me. I blocked his initial swing with my shield. I tried to push the captain's long sword away so I could expose his vitals for a thrust with my short sword. However, the guardsman had been practicing and knew my tactics.

The long sword disengaged and Captain Morgan stepped back. This gave me the time I needed to tumble past his next swing. I was now behind the captain. Unfortunately, I was now between Morgan and Brunis.

I caught the sight of the mage leveling a staff at me. I turned quickly in time to catch the electric bolt upon my shield. Brunis swore an oath as my shield absorbed the bolt without any ill effects. I dodged to the side as Morgan thrust his sword at me barely missing.

I was not in an enviable position. I needed to find some defensive position. Alas, none was forthcoming. Therefore, I worked my way backwards so that now the wizard and the warrior were both in front of me.

Things improved a bit, but only a little. For I now did not have to watch my back and front simultaneously. However, I now had both an angry mage and guardsman attacking me. They worked quietly as a team.

Captain Morgan would try to expose me to a blast from Brunis's staff. I would block or dodge his sword swing, but I always kept my shield in front of Brunis. For my part, I would try to maneuver Morgan in such a way as to place the guardsman in front of the wizard.

We jockeyed like this for some time before Brunis pulled back. I tried to double my attacks on Morgan in the hopes of dispatching the guard before the mage could conjure up some nasty new spell.

Unfortunately, Morgan was a good swordsman and even worse Brunis conjured up a spell my shield could not prevent. He summoned a stone demon from the netherworld. However, worse still was that the demon materialized behind me.

The stone giant stood ten feet tall. His body was completely made of rocks. One smash with his rocky fists and it would be like having an avalanche pulverize you. You have heard the expression "He came down on me like a ton of bricks." In this case, it would be far too literal.

Two other things to note about summoned stone demons. The first is that they do not rely solely on their fists. No, for some insane reason they can also shoot blasts of electric bolts at you. Secondly, is that the summoned beast lasts as long as the summoner wants or until the beast or the summoner dies.

Suddenly there descended upon us one of those uncomfortable pauses in combat. It is the same as often happens in conversations. Everyone is talking until all at once everyone forgets what he or she was going to say or just has nothing to say. Everyone looks at everyone else uncomfortably until someone restarts the conversation.

The only difference in this case was that I was the only one uncomfortable. For, as I glanced around I noticed the evil smiles on Brunis and Morgan's face. The stone demon just looked at me impassively, which by the way is their only expression.

"Well, my dear inspector it looks like you were unable to finish the task the Emperor commissioned you for. But, do not fear he will still pay. Just not in the manner he was hoping. Bwa ha ha ha!"

Oh, great I was about to die and one of the last things I would hear is a clichéd evil laugh.

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Tiberium Letters

Part Thirteen

By Dwayne MacInnes

Combat resumed shortly after this. I tried to remain out of reach of the stone demon and still block whatever Brunis and Morgan threw at me. The lightning blasts flew through the air like some kind of AC/DC concert.

In case you have never had that experience, before the Alteration College and the Diviner College at the Arcane University, there is a get together once a year in Imperial City for a concert. The music is great. However, the lightshow at the AC/DC concert you cannot miss and I mean that literally. You can be in any neighborhood, in a surrounding district, or even in the village. You can see the lightning and colored flashes shooting into the sky.

Anyway, as I was relating, lightning was shooting back and forth and both the stone demon and Brunis had one object in mind and that was me. I did learn a couple of important things in this exchange. First is that it is impossible to dodge lightning. It is extremely fast. Secondly, I do not need to block the blasts with my shield.

What no one has ever chronicled about my shield, Spell-eater, is that merely having it on your person protects you from hostile magic. Imagine everyone's surprise when the stone demon fired off a blast and hit me square in the back and the bolt fizzled away into nothing. I can assure you no one was more surprised that I was.

Again all combat paused. However, this time I was the one smiling. Sure, the advantage was still in Morgan and Brunis's favor. After all, I still had the stone demon at my back. However, my shield nullified the effect of magic.

Captain Morgan took the initiative and restarted the melee by charging at me. However, it was not quite what he had anticipated. As the guardsman flew at me with his sword flashing in the moonlight, I simply stepped to my right and tripped the captain as he ran harmlessly by. I should not say harmlessly because he had the misfortune of colliding with the stone demon.

There is one other thing about stone demons I forgot to mention. They are extremely stupid. I mean there simply is no other denizen of the netherworld that is literally as dumb as a box of rocks. Not iron demons, not imps, I mean nothing.

Sadly, for Morgan the demon felt that the captain was attacking it. Even sadder for the captain was that he did not have a shield to protect him from the electric bolts. Still even sadder was that all the steel the captain wore only made things worse.

The stone demon fired off a blast of electricity at the poor captain. The lightning literally fried the captain to a blacken crisp. Steam and smoke poured out of his armor before his blackened sword clattered upon the stone floor followed shortly thereafter by the recently deceased captain of the guard.

While this was happening, I flipped my short sword in the air, grabbed it by the blade, and in one fluid motion threw it at Brunis. It is unwise to throw away one's only weapon unless of course it is in a time of desperation. Desperate the times certainly were.

I watched as if time had slowed as the short sword tumbled end over end flying towards Brunis. I watched the mage slowly recognize what was happening, the surprise break out upon his face, and his attempt to try to turn. However, before he could turn completely around the short sword found his chest and buried itself up to the hilt.

There was a puff of smoke as the stone demon dematerialized behind me. Simultaneously, the mage collapsed upon the flagstones in dead heap. I slowly walked toward the mage. Slowly was the only speed I had available at the time as the adrenaline started to wear off. I was completely exhausted.

It took some effort but I was able to tug my short sword out of Brunis's carcass. I was just going to leave him there when a thought occurred to me. I ran over to Morgan's still smoking and disgustingly smelling body and grabbed his long sword. I returned to Brunis and placed the long sword into his wound. Now, if anyone came upon the bodies it looked like a falling out between wizard and warrior.

Unfortunately, that meant I would have to leave the lightning staff still clutched in Brunis's dead hand. But, I figured no one really knew what Brunis carried on his person so I searched him. I found a couple of rings, two keys, fifty Gold Eagles and a small object that resembled a green icicle about three inches long.

There was no way I was going to return to the barbequed guard and search his remains. I figured all the gold and silver he may have had on him would have melted and fused with everything else in one nasty mess. I could still hear the sizzling and popping of the cooked Morgan.

With all the lightning flashing, I figured I had a limited amount of time left. I ran into the room that Morgan and Brunis came out. Inside the room were a bunk, a table, and a chest. It appeared the wizard would occasionally sleep here. The ceiling was still whole above. Further, the door still opened and closed on its hinges on the doorframe. In this case, it was open.

I quickly searched the chest. One of the keys I found on Brunis's body opened it with a click (I learned later that the other key was to the castle, so I kept it). Inside I found a bundle of papers.

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Tiberium Letters

Part Fourteen

By Dwayne MacInnes

A quick glance at the papers revealed that they were what I was looking for. It is interesting to note that Brunis was not blackmailing the Lady Tiber for anything she had done wrong. In fact, it was the opposite.

The story about the Lady Tiber's father's assassination turns out not to be completely correct. The Empress hired an investigator so that she may try to remember her youth. The investigator succeeded far beyond anyone's imagination.

The papers I held in my hand are the correspondence from the investigator to the Empress. I have already related the well-known tale of the assassination of the Baron Rhem decades ago by his ambitious younger brother.

However, there are corrections and additions to the tale. The Baron had a loyal minister. The minister was the one who insisted that the young Lady Rhem remain in the temple under the care of the priests in the hope she may remember her past.

The minister would come in, relate the family history, and teach her on whom her relatives were. She started to learn about courtly manners and practices. Essentially the minister was teaching Lady Rhem how to run a barony.

Meanwhile, the story of the scullery maid is not complete either. It turns out the young girl survived her plunge into the lake. She stripped off her dress in order to help her swim to shore. On reaching the shore the young girl clothed only in a wet and dirty shirt climbed into a hay cart to warm-up.

Unknown to her, the cart belonged to a poor farmer who was traveling back to his village. It took two days before the farmer returned to his village with his hay. Imagine his surprise when he started to unload it and he found a half-clothed unconscious girl.

The farmer woke the girl up, who had been sleeping two days, but she could not remember her past either. Further, she did not even know how she climbed into the cart. The farmer had no idea where his stow-away came from it could have been a dozen hamlets or villages he passed.

The girl begged the farmer not to turn her out. The kindhearted man had neither wife nor heir but he took pity upon the lass and adopted her as his daughter. As she grew to maturity, the young woman wed one of the villagers that had land adjacent to her adopted father's farm. When her adopted father died, her husband inherited the small farm willed to him by her adopted father.

The two prospered on the combined farm and had five children. This is where the investigator found them.

Now that I have filled in the gaps, I will now correct the story. I am sure some of you have already guessed it. When the investigator presented his tale to the young farm wife her memories unlocked immediately. There was something wrong.

She -- not the woman running the barony -- was Lady Rhem. She remembered her fall over the balcony and the gown that she shed which was of the finest quality and a gift from her late father. Nonetheless, she was happily married to the farmer. Her children were happy and content she felt a sense of accomplishment and did not desire to rule a barony or an empire.

Surprised -- the investigator presented his evidence to Lady Tiber. Again when presented with the evidence, the Lady Tiber's memory miraculously reappeared. She corroborated the farm wife's story. Lady Tiber felt unworthy to be the Empress and wanted to confide the truth to her husband. However, the investigator pointed out that by doing so would move the farm wife from her content life to a place where she knew little and the reverse would happen to Lady Tiber.

The two women began a correspondence and the two agreed that Lady Tiber would remain as the baroness and Empress. It was because the loyal minister feared bloodshed by civil war that he put a pretender (albeit unknown to Lady Tiber) onto the throne. First, he destroyed the tattered remains of the dress found on the lakeshore. The girls looked remarkably alike and after a few years in the temple away from the public, no one would know that the Lady Rhem was actually a scullery maid.

Unfortunately, the mage Brunis somehow learned about their secret. He stole the letters he needed to blackmail the Empress. He threatened to reveal the truth and ruin both women's lives if the Lady Tiber did not pay his ransom demands.

After reading the papers, I shoved them into my haversack. I was about to check the other contents of the chest and table when I heard the chinking and clanking of a troop of goblins running up the stairs. I looked at my sword and realized in all the excitement I left my elven longbow on the stairs outside the room.

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Tiberium Letters

Part Fifteen

By Dwayne MacInnes

The rushing horde was running up the stairs. I would not have time to run out and grab my bow. I briefly toyed with the idea of jumping out and grabbing Brunis's staff, but I did not know if it had any charges left. It looked like I would have to use my short sword after all. I may be able to take a dozen down if I held the doorway, but they would eventually overwhelm me with pure numbers.

I started to pull my hand out of my haversack when I felt something. Then I remembered the wooden wand I found in Brunis's secret lair in the castle. I pulled out the twisted black stick that was about six inches long. I crept to the door and shut it most of the way, but I was in time to see the first score of goblins reach the top of the stairs.

I thrust the wand out of the room and shut the door until only a crack remained and I yelled, "Domo arigato mister roboto!"

There was a flash and I felt the backwash of heat as the fireball launched itself towards the goblins rushing up the stairs. I watched through the crack between the door and the wall as the fireball collided with the first rush of goblins.

There was an explosion of fire. The lead goblins burst into flame; some flew backwards from the impact of the spell and landed on their comrades. Still the goblins rushed on. Either they did not know what was happening ahead of them or they did not care.

"Domo arigato mister roboto!" again another explosion and again another wave of goblins went down in flames. Still they tried to push their way through the burning wreckage of their comrades.

"Domo arigato mister roboto, domo!" this time I thought for sure I could hear in a strange voice from the wand say, "Domo! Domo!" The wand released its fireball a third time and like before the tormented screams of immolated goblins filled the air, not to mention the stench.

I have to say something for goblins, when they get their blood up, they are tenacious. Wave after wave of goblin hordes rushed up those stairs and repeatedly I released a fireball. I did not know how many charges the wand had, but it could not be very many. The smoldering bodies started to form a wall that the oncoming goblins had to overcome. There were flames burning all over the place, the old fort's stone walls blackened and cracked from the blasts of fire.

Still the goblins rushed onward, I started to let them mass up once they climbed over their dead comrades so I could make the most of my remaining spells. Another blast sent the goblins flying in all directions. Finally after what felt like an eternity, but could not be more than half an hour the surviving goblins ran off in terror.

I cautiously poked my head out. The stench was overwhelming. I did not think anything could be worse than the butcher shop. Then I remembered the smell of the crispy Captain Morgan. I thought that was probably the worse smell ever. Again, I found myself corrected when I smelled the charred remains of over one hundred goblins scattered around the tower and down the stairs.

I did a quick search of the chest and table in the mage's room and only produced a flawless diamond and two sapphires. Not bad, but hardly worth the trouble I have been through. I returned to the open tower and surveyed the carnage. Fires still flickered here and there. Black corpses beyond recognition lay twisted upon the scorched and cracked flagstones. Some of the iron weapons and armor were still red from the intense heat from the repeated blasts from the wand.

I traversed my way through the rubble and charred bodies toward the stairs. I started to descend them when my foot kicked something. There on the ground and by some divine miracle sat my bow where I had dropped it. It needed a good cleaning but otherwise it was unharmed.

This little discovery put me in better spirits. I started to whistle as I made my way back to the castle.

When I reached the waterfall in the fort's cellar, I took a few minute to wash the grime and grit off my equipment and myself. I felt refreshed and renewed. I also took the time to open the portcullis.

I had no further adventures on my return to the basement inside the castle. I would occasionally see a goblin scurry away as he heard me whistling down the tunnel. But, that was the extent of my encounters. I would have to advise the Countess to contact the local Fighters Guild to exterminate these pests.

It was just after sunrise when I found myself back in the cellar. I had just finished shutting the hidden door and closing the false panel in the wheat barrel when I heard someone approach behind me.

"Halt right there! I have finally got you and I know all about you," said the voice of Reyn Braxis. I turned to see the predatory smile on his face. I could not fight him here; the Thieves Guild would dismiss me if I did. My heart sank as I looked at the guard.

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Tiberium Letters

Part Sixteen

By Dwayne MacInnes

"That's right," Reyn said as he closed in on me. "You are no Imperial Inspector, or at least you weren't always. I know all about you."

I forced a smile upon my face, "Reyn, heh heh, let me explain." I was stalling for time. *Maybe I could bean the guardsman over the head with a piece of wood or something and make my escape before he regains consciousness*, I thought. Unfortunately, there was nothing at hand.

"Oh no, you are not escaping me this time. I recognized you at the gate," Reyn appeared to be gushing. I suppose I would too if I had just caught one of the top operatives of the Thieves Guild.

Reyn reached into his belt and thrust his arms at me. I was so exhausted from my ordeals over the night that my reflexes were slow. It took a whole five seconds to see that Reyn did not have a sword or dagger pointed at me but, instead a quill and a piece of parchment.

"Oh man! I'm like your biggest fan. The Black Arrow here at this castle I can't believe it. Please, I must have your autograph," Reyn implored.

I smiled, some of it genuine, most of it was relief. Reyn just knew me from the arena he knew nothing about my ‘other' job. I looked at the parchment and sighed. It was one of the last promotional posters made before I retired.

The arena loves to embellish its pit rats. The higher you rise in rank; the liberties taken with your body also grow. Males will find, the higher they go, the image on the posters will show them with bigger and bigger muscles despite the reality. Females on the other hand gain bigger and bigger, uh well you guessed it, breasts. But, that is not all in both case you find that the posters show you in less and less garb until you are the Grand Champion standing over a pile of bodies wearing nothing but a smile.

I would have been better off to pose for a woodcut center spread in a Pageboy circular. Fortunately, the statue in the Hall of Heroes was accurate. Granted, all the statues of the Grand Champions are nudes. It is supposed to glorify the body in an artistic way, like the statues of the gods and goddesses you find in the temples. Plus, the dwarven artists are masters and have an acute eye for detail, not for embellishment.

I took the poster and wrote, "Warmest regards to my biggest fan, Gwendolyn the Black Arrow." Reyn smiled as he read my message.

"Well, I have to return to my duties, looks like these barrels are okay," I tried to sound official. I really wanted to be off when we heard a crash.

Both Reyn and I turned in time to see Sleestak tumble out from behind some crates. He was still wearing the ragged clothes I gave him in the butcher shop. However, now he had a rag wrapped around his head to hide his missing eye. He looked very roguish.

"What are you doing here?" Reyn asked.

Sleestak looked at me, "Sleestak was waiting for..."

"I'm sure your secret will be in my report," I hoped Sleestak caught my emphasis on the optimal word.

"Uh, yeah...I was, er..."Sleestak stammered as he remembered his pledge and still tried to find a good excuse.

"Well, out with it!" snapped Reyn.

"It's not like there's a hidden passage down here," I said sarcastically while I nodded towards the hidden door. Sleestak eyes lit up. Lizard-men cannot really smile so most of their expressions register in their eyes.

"Yeah, Sleestak has just escaped from a torture chamber on the other side of that wall," Sleestak replied.

"I find that hard..."Reyn started to say as I kicked the false panel on the bottom of the barrel.

"Hello!" I exclaimed before Reyn could finish his sentence. "By Jove, Reyn! Look at this."

The guardsman looked down on the open panel; he reached inside and pulled the lever. We all watched as the door slid open.

"I had better get Captain Morgan!" Reyn exclaimed.

"NO!" yelled Sleestak. The Lizard-man grabbed Reyn with his good hand. "It is he and that minister Brunis who took Sleestak down here."

"I don't think I am going to believe some Li..." Reyn started to say with disgust.

However, I interrupted again, "Of course, excellent discovery, guardsman."

Reyn stared at me in confusion.

"It is obvious those two had to know about the entrance. Who knows how many guardsmen are involved in the plot. I will have to write your discovery down in my report," I continued.

Reyn started to perk up as it sank in. I always felt bad about what I did to Reyn and now, that I learned he did not suspect me as part of the Thieves Guild I felt even worse.

"Well, my good Lizard-man, I think you should lead us on to this torture chamber," I offered.

We followed Sleestak to the torture/butcher room. Reyn started to become sick by what he found inside the room. On my subtle advice, we continued down the long tunnel. We found the demon room and the waterfall cellar beneath the tower. The smell of burnt flesh now permeated the chamber and I did not need to lead Reyn upwards. He rushed up the stairs on his own.

He witnessed the carnage above in the tower. The bodies were still smoldering, even that of Morgan. The captain's long sword was still in the chest of Brunis.

By know Reyn was starting to get into his own. The little self-confidence I had reestablished started to take hold and flourished.

"Looks like some sort of falling out between the mage and the captain here," Reyn observed.

"Amazing deduction, guardsman," I said in feigned awe.

"Elementary, my dear Inspector. Elementary," Reyn responded smugly.

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Tiberium Letters

Part Seventeen

By Dwayne MacInnes

I made my official report to the Countess Aversfield. On my advice, she promoted Reyn to Captain of the Guard and she made Sleestak her new minister. An investigation into the disappearance of the Lizard-folk in the surrounding area began and many a guardsman found himself off to an imperial penal colony.

The Countess had the tunnels beneath the castle cleared out of any remaining goblins. Giland started to look like a model city in the Empire. However, I was unable to stay long before I had to be back at the Imperial City.

On my return, I was surprised to find the Shadow Fox inside my house waiting for me. He was sitting next to a crackling fire in my hearth. He motioned for me to take a chair next to him.

"I hear you did some mighty fine work for the Countess. How successful were you with your primary mission?" the Shadow Fox asked.

I looked at him closely, for some reason he looked familiar. No, not because I saw him previously, I know that somewhere I had seen him without the mask. Anyway, I shook my head to gather my thoughts.

"Sorry, it has been a long and exhausting trip," I reached into my inner pocket of my cloak and handed over the letters. "Here you go. Every last one I could find."

"Good," the master thief said, "You made sure they were authentic right?"

I nodded my head.

"Good, good," the Shadow Fox responded and he tossed the letters into the fire. "I do not know what was in those letters. But, I do know the Lady Tiber confessed everything to the Emperor and he has ordered them destroyed. They are too important for anyone to get their hands on again."

"Was there anything else? It appears that Brunis had his fingers in a lot of pies and nothing should be overlooked."

"The only thing I cannot identify is this," I said as I pulled the green icicle out of my haversack.

The Shadow Fox stared at it in amazement, "Do you know what you have there?"

"Um, I think I established that I did not," I replied a little irreverently. I was tired and maybe a little short tempered.

"That's a memory stick."

"Huh?"

"Powerful mages can capture someone's entire memory within it. The person gets amnesia, but will never recover because his memories are trapped inside a memory stick."

"I wonder who was unfortunate enough to have their memory trapped inside this thing," I wondered aloud.

"There is no telling. The only way to restore the memory to the person is to break the stick," the Shadow Fox continued.

I shrugged my shoulders and placed the icicle-like object between my fingers. I started to apply pressure then I stopped.

"How will the memories find their owner?" I asked.

"Memories are part of their owner; as soon as the memories are released the person who lost them will suddenly find them regained."

"Hmm," I said and snapped the green icicle but nothing happened. "I guess it was empty."

"No it wasn't," the Shadow Fox replied. He stood up and headed for the door.

I stood up and cleared my throat, "Um, not to be rude but I thought there was supposed to be some payment for my mission."

"Sorry, it slipped my mind," the Shadow Fox undid a pouch at his belt and tossed it towards me. "This is from the Emperor. The guild will send you its payment later."

Before I could open the pouch, the Shadow Fox had disappeared out the door. Inside the pouch were ten perfect rubies and six large black pearls. It was obvious the Emperor knew something about transferring large sums of wealth discreetly. Coinage makes a lot of noise and is heavy for delivering hefty payments. Gems and jewels were lighter and quieter.

I was beaming with excitement when I heard the knock on my door. I hid my new wealth under a seat cushion and opened the door. On the front step two well-dressed men stood.

"Are you Gwendolyn?" asked one of the men.

"Oh, I'm sorry I belong to a church already," I said reflexively.

"I'm sorry we are not here from any temple. We have the unfortunate business to tell you that the Mages Guild is suing you," one of the men said as the other thrust the summons into my hand.

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Tiberium Letters

Part Eighteen

By Dwayne MacInnes

I sat down in my chair and read the subpoena, the gist of it was that the Mages Guild was suing me for breaking one of its tenants, that of killing another guild member. Somehow, the guild has the power to divine that I was the one who killed Brunis, but was unable to figure out that I did so in self-defense.

Yet, the thing that really burns me is that the Mages Guild will allow its members to partake in any evil scheme out there in the Empire except necromancy. I actually do the Mages Guild some good by removing this blight from their rolls and I am the villain.

Fortunately, I had lawyers already. When you are the Grand Champion, you need good lawyers to protect your good image from slander, libel, and the paparazzi. I know that two Orcs and a Minotaur run the Blud, Gutz, and Gore law firm. Nevertheless, they get results.

I met with Gore; he was the Minotaur in my living room. The large half bovine, half man sat in a large chair. He was immaculately dressed in a black business suit and red silk tie and he was reading the subpoena through his square wire-framed glasses.

"Hmmm, yes I see where they are coming from. You broke one of their rules and they want monetary compensation for the victim's family," he said in a deep calm voice.

"Are you kidding me? Brunis has no family. The jerk was trying to take over the Empire -- well at least Giland," I started to say in a loud voice. "If anything I did the guild a favor by removing this poor excuse of a mage."

"I assume you have proof of this?" Gore said in a calm voice.

"Well, it was kind of a top secret mission from the Emperor which I received through the Thieves Guild," I said sheepishly.

"Yes, that is going to be tough. I doubt the Emperor will involve himself and you know the Thieves Guild has to remain anonymous," Gore sat back in the chair that groaned in protest to his large frame as he stretched out his long cow-like legs. The Minotaur pushed his glasses back up his long muzzle. "But, don't worry. We have dealt with this kind of case before. In the case of Mordor vs. Baggins we were able to get the charges of trespassing dropped."

"So do you think this will have to go to court?" I asked.

"I am pretty sure we can settle this discreetly outside of court," Gore said as he rose from the chair. The Minotaur bent low in order to keep his horns from snagging into the ceiling. He packed up his briefcase, "I am sure we can get the charges lessened if not dropped."

He turned towards me as he headed for the door. "If worse comes to worse we'll say the devil made you do it."

I stared at him for a beat, "How's that going to help?"

"Possession is nine points of the law," the Minotaur's bellowing laugh shook the room. "Seriously, it'll be okay." Gore smiled and exited the house.

I smiled also relieved; very few attorneys will make house calls. Then again, I pay them well and I am the Grand Champion.

Blud, Gutz and Gore were as good as their word. The Mages Guild dropped their lawsuit. However, they still suspended me from the guild, although I could regain membership if I produced ten vampire hearts.

While this nasty business was going on, I was still waiting for my payment from the Thieves Guild. I was starting to worry that I may have to sue the guild, which would probably lead to my expulsion from that as well. I was having a lousy week.

Then one day I received a message from the guild. I was to meet at the secret guildhall down by the docks at midnight. The guild always favored dark for its official business.

Needless to say, I was present at the appointed time. I entered the hall after saying the secret password: Peekaboo. It was strange that the guard and I were the only ones present. The door guard pointed to a room and said, "He is waiting for you in there."

I entered the room to find the Shadow Fox sitting behind his desk. He waved for me to pull up a chair.

"I hear you've been having an interesting week," the Shadow Fox said.

"To say the least, but it is all right now," I answered.

The Shadow Fox sat back in his black leather chair, "You have been probably wondering about your payment."

I nodded my head.

"Well, before I give you that I should tell you that there is a bonus involved."

I sat up straight. A bonus was rare in the Thieves Guild; we usually gave ourselves "bonuses" from whatever we found of use on the missions assigned us.

"We have found the person you restored the memory too and he is most grateful," the Shadow Fox said with a smile.

"You mean it really worked. Out of curiosity who was it?" I asked.

"Haven't you guessed?" the Shadow Fox pulled his mask off to reveal the face of Count Aversfield. "It was me."

My jaw must have dropped into the basement.

"Yes, you are probably wondering about how I came to be here. Let me start from the beginning. I was investigating the rumors of some disappearances in the surrounding villages. My minister Brunis and I were personally looking into it. Brunis, as you have probably discovered was a devious snake.

"Before we reached the first village he hits me with his memory trap spell. I fell from my horse and blacked out. The only thing I remember when I came to was that I was sure I was fully clothed.

"That's right; the villain stole my belongings and left me naked in the wilderness. I walked for a while until I found some rags hanging out to dry. I stole the clothes and was about to leave when an elderly man accosted me.

"'By what right are you stealing my clothes?' he yelled at me. ‘Who do you think you are?' I did not know myself and just told him that I had somehow lost my memory.

"The old man looked at my hands, "Your calluses show that you know how to use a sword. However, the manicure says you are, or I should say were, a man of some wealth.

"It turned out I had stumbled upon the home of one of the former Shadow Foxes. Yes -- that is right -- there have been multiple Shadow Foxes. In any case, the old man taught me the trade. I had little trouble rising through the ranks until I succeeded the last Shadow Fox.

"For the last ten years I have been the master of the Thieves Guild. Now, that my memory has been restored to me in payment I pass the mantle onto you."

I think my jaw dropped into the sub-basement.

The Shadow Fox laughed, "Don't worry the only ones who will know about the transfer of power will be the local guild leaders. They will maintain your secret. Plus, it is time I went home."

I stood up, "How will you explain your absence?"

"Easy, I fell off my horse and got amnesia," the Shadow Fox laughed.

So, that is how I saved the Empire and became master of the Thieves Guild. I did eventually regain my membership into the Mages Guild and save the Empire again from evil, but that is of course, another tale.

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