Forum Story: Chapter 2

Hypes

Emperor!
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Time to begin a new chapter! Nice work on the first one, all of you. I'll get to work editing it soon.

CHAPTER 2

”Can you outrun a horse?” asked Alvis as he scanned the southern horizon.

“Have you gone completely daft?” replied Haj.

“You’ll have to admit it would be a help right now, though.”

“By Belal, you really have lost your mind.”

“Absolutely not. What makes you suggest such a thing?”

“Do I look like a horse to you?”

“Stop flattering yourself. We’ve two thieves to roast over a slow fire.”

Haj cursed, and muttered a few choice things concerning his companion’s heritage. “Where’s your horse?” he asked.

“Where’s your horse?” riposted Alvis.

“I don’t believe it!”

“Stop being such a nay-sayer. I think I saw a horse merchant down the street from the tavern.”

“Have any money, do you? She pickpocketted my money, along with the pebble.”

“I’ve a few crowns left.”

“From what?”

“Sold off my grandmother.”

After several years of travelling with his peculiar-at-best companion, this particular comment warranted only a shrug.

“Is it just me, or was this day oddly short?” mused Alvis as they started to make their way back into Falle, the sun setting beyond the western mountains.

“Moody gods,” reasoned Haj.

“I suppose you’re right.”

###​

The Sickly Green Dragon still stood, despite its drunken patronage best efforts. Alvis had been more or less right, there was in fact a horse merchant a few houses down from the tavern. However, upon further, more thorough examination it appeared that he had gotten a few key elements wrong.

“A donkey is not a horse!” an angry voice yelled from inside the shop.

“Stop being such a snob!” replied another voice.

“We can’t bloody well outrun a horse on a bloody donkey!”

“Don’t worry, they’ve asses here, too.”

“Why!”
 

polymorphikos

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The way-station at Klammerdich was a lonely sight, standing uncertainly by the roadside and sending a few yellow beams out into the night. Mist swirled around it and a moon hung in perfect crescent overhead, and from the trees came the uncertain noises that only the station-master could ignore.

He sat on the veranda with a pipe and a crossbow, and looked out into the mist. He was in darkness, and his pipe was concealed behind a complex shade. Every now and then he would tilt his head and sniff, and then mutter something dark under his breath.

The trees swayed in the breeze, and creaked, and whispered with far too much humanity for any decent tree. Now and then an animal would squeak or scuffle in the undergrowth, and then a sound like an old chair being sat on could be heard, and a squeak, and a flurry of the sounds of struggle. A moment later it would be silence again except for the renewed whisperings of the trees.

CLICK.

The station-master's head snapped up. He dropped his pipe into a bucket of water and held his crossbow tightly.

CLACK.

The station-master slowly rose from his chair and sunk down behind it, propping the crossbow on an arm.

CLICK.

In spite of years of experience, he prayed that whatever it was would go away.

"Hello there!" The station-master's crossbow fired into the planks of the veranda and he gasped for air.

"Hello?" he said.

"Can we come in?"

* * *

The two men were not of an entirely trust-worthy appearance, but atleast they were men. They sat at the table and excepted a bowl of soup each, and asked politely how much it was to stay.

"A penny each," said the station-master. "Just enough to pay for soup. I've no right to charge men for a longer life."

"Really?" said the darker of the two. "That's generous. I know a few people who would think that was exactly what they had a right to."

The pair seated themselves by the fire and the station-master put his son on watch. He poured each of the men a glass of sherry and asked them politely about news. The pair had some excellent stories.

"Surely though, here, you'd recieve a great deal of news?" said the fairer one, who called himself Alf.

"Surely," agreed the other, Harry. "People coming through here all the time and such."

"No, not really." The station-master took a sip of his sherry. "Generally we only get one or so parties a month, and then just smugglers or fleeing murderers. Or people lost in the forest." This last sentence was spoken with some chill.

"Really?" said Alf.

"Really," said the station-master. "This month, for example could be considered a buisness peak just because a week ago I had two women stay here a night. They were on their way south or some such and were caught out after dark. How did you two manage?"

"Luck, I suppose," said Harry. Alf pulled his sleeve down to conceal a number of scrapes and a bound gash. "Anyway, enough morose introspection. Have you ever been to Sviras?"

The old man of course shook his head, and began to hear a very strange story indeed. A moment later he called his son in so that the boy could hear it too.

The next day the pair rode off south, sitting on their asses and waving warmly to the old man where he stood on the veranda. Then one of the trees creaked and they put their heels into their mounts and rode faster.
 

Sirathiel

Spy with looks and guts
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Some way to the South fropm the Klammerdich waystation and its spooky forest, Judith and Vey were on their way. Over the days of their journey they had become more accustomed to each other. Although they still bickered from time to time, it was now in a more friendly manner and mostly for fun.

Vey was once again on one of her babbling sprees, a habit Judith had learned to live with by tuning out Vey's voice.

"And then the elder of my village thought he had to marry me off to the next best man that he could find. Come on, I am a successful healer, I can fend for myself. I do not need a husband to care for me. Just because I was orphaned, that elder thought he had all the rights to decide about my destiny. Imagine that! In what kind of a world would we be living if every elder..."

A muffled sound to her right, drew Judith out of her Vey-babble-induced stupor. With a sharp gesture of her hand, she commanded Vey to be silent. The redhead complied, but only to open the mouth to ask why.

Judith shushed her and concentrated on the little noises she could perceive from the direction of the bushes beside the road. There clearly was someone there. But were they humans - and a threat - or some strangely noisy animal?

Before she could reach a decision, heavily armed men stormed the road and took hold of their horses' reins. Judith started cursing while struggling to stay in her saddle.

Vey did not have so much luck. She, too, was cursing violently as she was pulled out of her saddle. But then the old blood in her veins started boiling and she began to fight back.

Somehow she managed to draw her dagger and the blood shed began.

Judith finally ceased to struggle and used that moment of inattentiveness on their aggressors' part to draw her own weapons.

The ensuing fight was vicious and desperate. And hadn't it been for their disadvantage in numbers, Judith and Vey would have prevailed. But since they had been seriously outnumbered, they found themselves, bound and gagged, being dragged to the lair of the bandits.

It suffices to say that they weren't it the best of moods.

 

Esioul

The weird one
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Judith swore to herself,
"****! ****!" and one of the bandits laughed, so she swore at him again. Her knife taken away from her, she made sure she was as difficult to be dragged as possible, digging her heels into the mud wherever she could and making herself as heavy as possible. Whenever a tree was in reach, she grabbed for it, scraping the skin of her palms but irritating the bandits.

Their pockets were searched; the pebble was found, along with what remained of Haj's money and Vey's sweets. A sterotypical-beared-ugly bandit found the pebble and laughed, and another equally stereotypical-bearded-ugly bandit nudged him a little too hard and laughed too, untl they were both scuffling and rolling about on the floor of the lair (which was a small cave, made especially lairish by the necessary piles of greasy bones and sacks of plunder), with the rest of the bandidts watching them in delight. Judith decided that this was a good time to leave, but Vey was sitting in a huddle looking miserable, and the most sterotypical-beared-ugliest bandit (who must have been the leader) was scowling at her. She swore at him.
 

polymorphikos

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(Damn it, but I can't resist)



There was a jingle of metal from somewhere at the back of the cave, and a stereotypically-foppish bandit leader appeared. He had well-groomed hair and a feathered cap and seemed apt to be the kind of man who introduced himself with "Enchante'".

"Why, Ulgrik, what have you done to our guests?" said the fop. "Ungag them at once and fetch some wine."

Ulgrik muttered something about lousy dandy gits and left his prize alone. He returned moments later with a bottle of very-expensive wine and smashed the top off.

"Wine, sir," the man grumbled. Then he ungagged the two women and propped them against a rock. Judith at once poured out so much invective that Ulgrik poured wine down her throat to shut her up.

"So, my dears, what are two dainty maidens such as yourselves doing on such a lonely and dangerous stretch of road?"

"Dainty maidens?" whispered Vey.

"Well, to be fair he doesn't know us very well. Why have you kidnapped us? You're not going to seduce us, are you?"

"Seduce you?" The fop laughed richly and cocked his feather hat. "No, my dearest, I am afraid that I am a homosexual, and everyone here except Ulgrik is married." Ulgrik grumbled again and wandered away to fetch some tea.

"Then are you going to sell us as slaves?" asked Vey.

"No, not that either."

"Then what are you going to do, you poncey, feather-sporting pillock?"

"Sacrifice you to our gods."

* * *

The pair were standing tied betwixt two trees, their arms held in the air by the ropes. Behind a low barricade of tree-trunks and spiked staves, the bandits were watching them and counting their money. Ulgrik had ended up with the pebble, and decided to keep it for spite.

"Have you ever been a sacrifice before?" Vey asked Judith.

"No. You?"

"Not as such. Except for that one time when my village elder tried to sell me off as a wife, and just because I was an orphan. Imagine the indignity of it all..."

The trees rustled, and the wind blew, and with a creak and a crash their lurched into the clearing three hideous rats, each as tall as a man.

"Oh fcuk," said Vey.
 

Hypes

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”Well, this is certainly good fun!” said Alvis. They were standing behind a sturdy oak, its trunk wide enough to conceal both Haj, Alvis, their two as'ses: Marvin and Albert, and quite possibly a large cart and a spaceship if one should feel so inclined as to join them in their hiding spot. However, one had not felt so inclined and thus, the space behind the oak was quite luxurious. Not quite as luxurious as if it had been a redwood, but they were not fussy about such matters. After all, the oak with its immense trunk had been thrown up at only a moment’s notice.

All of this to the great disdain of the tree deity, Ark’varos. He held the staunch belief that along with packet-brewed tea, assembling trees at a moment’s notice for the sole purpose of providing a deus ex machinima was in horribly poor taste. As much as he would enjoy smiting the travellers and their sad-looking transport he was currently occupied by the fact that the weather god, Pæl, was brewing lemon tea with packets.

“We should rescue them, I suppose,” continued Alvis.

“They stole my pebble,” said Haj.

“You certainly know how to carry a grudge, don’t you.”

“Well, yes, but they certainly earned it!”

“We can’t just sit here and watch them being eaten!”

“Then what are we doing right now then?” said Haj. One of the rats was munching away happily at Vey’s shoe, the mud-stained fabric quite the culinary experience judging from the rat’s eagerness.

“Don’t be such a child!”

“Oh, do I hear Alvis Valtyr speaking of childishness! Ah, we’ll be ice-skating with Baal in no time!”

“I’ve never had anyone killed because of it!” said Alvis.

“What abou-” started Haj.

“They had it coming to them!” interrupted Alvis.

“He looked at you oddly, and only after you had mooned the fellow!”

“As I said, he had it coming to him,” said Alvis.

“Well, I am not childish!”

Alvis raised an eyebrow. “Right.”

“F'uck you and the a'ss you rode in on. I’m not doing it.”

“Hey now, Marvin’s down enough as it is without you slandering the poor thing! You child. Probably scared, too!”

“It’s not working, you know,” said Haj.

“Then why are you fingering the hilt of your sword?”

“Itch.”

“Child.”

“Curse the giant that shat you into existence, Hoarr!” Haj yelled and charged.



I’d love to do the action as well, but I must be hobbling off to bed.
 

polymorphikos

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(and thus I steal your thunder. MWAHAHAHA! Mmm...)



The life of a rat-god was a simple one. It held few aspirations; merely that it recieved food and had a warm nest in which to huddle when it rained. In exchange for such things, the creature would not consume whole villages or bring verminous plagues from the pits of Nur-Nim-Rhath. This was why the rat-gods were less than pleased when one of their number was cloven in twain by a single blow of a sword.

The rat-god screamed and writhed and blood poured from its wounds, and with a stream of fire and smoke it boiled away into the air. A dull glow remained on the earth for a few moments and then faded. The other two rat-gods span and hissed and kept low to the ground, facing the two mortals that had appeared out of the trees. The one weilded a scimitar and the other dropped its sword and began to twirl a suspicious-looking staff.

Kar-Sun-Chi leapt at the scimitar-weilder. It hissed and spread its claws and its eyes shone like the sun at noon. In a burst of light the human was knocked aside onto the ground, and the Kar-Sun-Chi wheeled and pressed a claw down upon it and growled hideous oaths in the tongue of rats.

The rat-god hissed as it was knocked aside, and its partner ran down upon the staff-weilder. It leapt through the air and bore the tiny human down, and then stretched back its thick-jowled cheeks and opened its jaws. It howled as a dirk was pushed into its brain, and with a burst of searing heat it evaporated into the twilight.

Kar-Sun-Chi stood and hissed at the two humans. They were strange. There was something about them. He crept slowly around to the flank, slithering snake-like along the rustling grass of the clearing, and shone brightly from his eyes. Instinct told him to flee, but he knew that to do so would lose face in the eyes of his subjects. There would be no more warm beds and sacrifices and the plagues would be answered by some other deity. This man, the dark one, was not of this place in any case. He was of an older order. The second held no stock in corporeal deities. Kar-Sun-Chi had only the powers that they could see. He had no powers of belief. He would be forced to fight.

Rising up in a billious cloud of screaming chaos, the rat-god poured down upon the pair with all of its simple, raw, primitive powers. He picked the one up and threw it, and shredded the clothes from the other's back. He tossed them like rags in the wind.

With a scream, he died, a blade through his heart. The wind and fog of chaotic, divine, primitive power stopped where it was and gradually faded away.

"That wen't well," said Alvis.

"When are you going to start carrying a bow?" asked Haj.
 

Esioul

The weird one
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"Very nice" said Judith, who had been wriggling about in her ropes. "But you musn't forget the bandits" she added. She thought maybe it sounded somewhat slurred; but she couldn't imagine why.

They all looked at the bandits. Several of them had run away; the rest were hugging each other and weeping in the mouth of their lair.
"What shall, er, do with them?" said Vey.
"My pebble! Which one has it?" Haj asked. First things first, after all. He approached the bandits and waved his staff as threateningly as he could. One of the bandits shrieked desperately and stumbled further into the cave.
"The homosexual one has it" Judith said. Funny, she thought, looking for Ulgrik, everything was blurry and moving.
"And which one is that?"

Vey cleared her throat, and scratched her head. "Do you think you could let us out? Then I'll tell you which one is Ulgrik"

Alvis and Haj experimentally cut the ropes, and this resulted in only a few cut wounds and bites wounds on both sides.
"Now," said Haj, glancing back at the bandits to make sure they were all still there, "Which one is Ulgrik?"

Judith was smirking at Vey; he wondered why.
"Ulgrik? Oh, he must have run away ages ago. He's not there now" said Vey.
 

polymorphikos

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"Are you sure this is right?"

"Look, which of us is the experienced hunter?"

"You."

"Exactly."

"But do you really think this is right?"

Haj and Alvis had been tracking the bandit for an hour through the forest. It would have taken less time if they hadn't had to stop and tie the women to the bottom of a high tree-branch. The "Ulgrik" fellow wasn't very easy to track, because buy some unfortunate chance he happened to have some woodcraft. They were creeping slowly through the undergrowth and watching the scraped edges of roots, and smudges of dirt out of place, and leaves and blades of grass bent slightly out of place. This was the third that they had tracked.

Ulgrik appeared before them in the dim light, looking around and moving with quick skill. He had a blade out and was muttering about the lack of alternative employment oppurtunities in the hinterland.

"Perhaps I could be a farmer," he said, "Or a hunter. I could sell furs to travelers. Maybe this whole "Death of the Gods" thing might be beneficial after all."

The trackers crept up behind the man to a distance of ten feet, and Alvis raised a dagger. Haj gave him the "Whatever happened to Mr Pacifist-save the pretty girls?" look.

"Yes. A furrier. That's it. I'll be a furrier. No more sacrificing damsels for me. Errk!" A dagger hit Ulgrik in the head. luckily for him, it was the pommel. The man fell onto the ground with an expecting sigh and passed out.

"I like it when they go down in one," said Alvis. "Do you remember that oaf in Kalachritch? I hit him with an iron bar and he only stumbled."

"As I recall, you only hit him because he wouldn't raise the offer for your sister."

"Well he did, in the end."

They rummaged through Ulgrik's pockets and produced the pebble. It still looked very dull and grey and unmagnificent. They left Ulgrik and wandered back to the tree in which Vey and Judith hung. Judith grimaced at them, and Vey was asleep. They cut them down, and propped the sleeping girl against a conveniently-placed trunk.

"Now what?" said Judith.

"Now," said Haj, "we have tea and biscuits. Would you like shortbread or arrowroot."

Judith took the arrowroot, and they made a fire and boiled some water from one of the skins.
 

polymorphikos

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Okay, so that was a little bad. I had a better idea but I did that one instead. Feel free to ignore the last post if you so wish, or keep it. I'm not very attached to it.
 

Esioul

The weird one
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That seems fine.... I just can't think of anything to add right at this moment, I'm half blind anyway, as the opticians have got my new glasses wrong, grrr.
 

littlemissattitude

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Caterina was still disoriented, and when she first heard voices not far from her, she huddled deeper into her hiding place. Could they have followed her here? She didn't think so. She didn't even know where "here" was, or how she had gotten here, exactly.

All she remembered was running, as fast as she could, from the count's men. Her uncle's men. As much as he hated her, she had never thought he would harm her. He might be stupid and ignorant and altogether too pious, but he had never been vicious. He had ignored her since he had become her guardian, but he had never actively mistreated her. Until she had refused to marry Robert. Then he had threatened to denounc her for sorcery. She shivered as she recalled his words.

"You are just like your father, you know. And you will end up just like him if you don't obey me."

But she could not marry Robert. Even if her heart had not belonged to another, she had overheard the women at court talking more than once, murmuring over Robert's latest atrocity. And so she had run. Even with a night's head start, her uncle's men had soon picked up her trail and only through the kindness of strangers who had lied for her had she found a place to rest and hide. In her exhaustion, she had burrowed into a haystack, muttered a hurried prayer of protection, and then more passed out than fell asleep.

When she had come to there had been no haystack, no farm house, no cows lowing nearby. It was night, deep and dark. She was in the middle of a meadow surrounded by trees. From what she could see of the sky, the stars were not right. She could hear no one, but fearful that the men would be coming after her, she got up and started for the trees, looking for a place she could hide until she could get her bearings. She found a hollow in a group of rocks where she could huddle back in the shadows and not be seen.

Whatever had happened to her, it had sapped her strength and she soon was asleep again, a more normal sleep this time. Sometime later, still in the dark she had awoken to some kind of violent clash. She huddled further back in the shadows and listened until it was done. Now it was quiet, except for some voices talking in a fairly conversational manner.

Listening for a few minutes, she finally determined that it could not be her uncle's men. She could not hear the words they were speaking, but from the sound of it, there were two men and two women. There would not have been women along with the party that was after her.

Caterina determined to wait until they were gone or asleep, and then she would emerge from her hiding place and try to find out where she was. But then she realized that she was very, very hungry. She wondered if there was any food where the voices were. They didn't sound too hostile. Perhaps they might share with her. Her hunger overcame her good sense, and she crawled out from the shadows and followed the voices until she came upon the group. She didn't think she had ever seen a more motley group.

And they were all staring at her as if she had grown an extra head.
 

polymorphikos

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"So anyway, then the ogre says "Sorry, sir, but I already ate you bride"!" Haj laughed, and watched his companions, and they stared at him oddly. "What? Too tasteless?"

"So what do you want this pebble of ours for, anyway?" asked Alvis, ignoring his friend's attempts to explain the joke.

"Oh, just reasons. What do you want it for?" Judith was halfway through her six arrowroot biscuit and second tea, and very sleepy. Vey had woken up and was trying to brew a foul-smelling, dark liquid that tasted bitter when Judith tried some.

"Oh, just reasons." Alvis looked about the place with mock innocence.

"You two," said Haj, "Look."

They followed his finger, and looked with absolute astonishment at a young woman who was standing under a nearby tree. She slunk back slightly behind the trunk and peered. Then she smiled and reemerged tentatively. Then she slunk back again, and finally she stepped out with a nervous grin and her hands everywhere at once.

"Hello," she said.

"Um, hello," said the three travelers. The fourth looked up from her foul-smelling brew and froze. The two asses were asleep by a tree, so they just brayed slightly and kicked a leg or two.

"Would you like some tea?" asked Haj.

"Yes, please." The young woman moved forward cautiously and excepted a hastily-poured cup. She drank it and sighed with relief, and suddenly the tension broke.

"I'm Caterina," said Caterina.

"Pleased to meet you," said Haj. "You don't have any aspirations towards owning a pebble, do you?"

Caterina looked at him as though a second mouth had just sprouted on his forehaed and spouted poetry.
 

littlemissattitude

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"Not unless it is edible," Caterina said, once she had recovered from the oddness of the question. "Or unless it can tell me where this place is."

"Amnesia?" Haj asked mildly.

Caterina could feel herself blushing slightly and hoped that the darkness would hide the flush on her cheeks. "No. Not that I know of. I'm just...not where I was when I fell asleep, well passed out, the time before I slept last. But I remember what happened up until then, and I remember everything that has happened since I...arrived here."

"Well, then," said Judith, a bit more awake now that something interesting was happening. "How do you know you're someplace different from where you were before?"

"I know the land surrounding my uncle's estates very well, and there's no place like this there." She paused. "And the stars are wrong."

"What do you mean, 'wrong'?" This was Alvis. "Are you an astrologer?"

"No, no. I mean, I can cast a horoscope if I have to, but I'm not very good at it. But my father taught me to know the locations of the stars in the night sky, how to tell the seasons by the stars' positions, how to find my way on the earth by knowing where the stars are in the sky. The stars here are not where they are supposed to be at all."

Alvis looked up. "They look the same to me as they always have."

Caterina looked up, too. "Well, where I come from, they don't look anything like that." She looked back toward where the last of the food was. "Do you think I can have one of those biscuits?"
 

Esioul

The weird one
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Judith sighed and threw the last of the biscuits at her. She looked at the woman, and decided she was probably a theif who was after the pebble. She made sure her knife was close to her hand, and smiled charmingly at Caterina.
"Help yourself, eat them all, I don't mind" she said.

But Caterina already had eaten them all, and drunk the rest of the tea.
"Well" said Haj, "Why are you here, and not on your uncle's estates?"
Estates! thought Judith. Estates!
"Um, well, my uncle wasn't that nice, you know, and I had to run away"
"Oh, so did I" said Vey. Caterina seemed relieved to hear this.
"I didn't run away. I walked and with a purpose, too" Judith muttered, but no one was listening.

As it was rather late, (or more likely, rather early), everyone went to sleep. Anyone who has been obliged to sleep outside knows how horrible it really is. Judith did; it took her several hours to eventually fall asleep, what with the cold and the mud and a small fear of spiders and rats, and she was woken up at dawn by the light and the cold and her stiff muscles. She groaned, and swore "******!"

Caterina, who was groaning too and trying to stretch, looked shocked.
 

polymorphikos

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“Please.”


“No!”


Please.”


No!”


“PLEASE!”


NO!


“Why not?” said Judith.


“Because you are a thief, and apt to thieve.”


“So are you.”


“Yes, but you haven’t got anything worth stealing.”


The quintet was moving down the road, with Alvis and Haj on back of the asses and the other three walking. Judith was pleading unsuccessfully with Haj, and the rest were cheerfully discussing the quality of the weather for such a time of year.


“If you make me go, then I’ll come at night and steal it.”


“We could kill you. Or tie you up at a major intersection and get a good head-start before anyone finds you.”


“But it’s much simpler my way. We go down south –,”


“Mmm?”


“And then once I’ve nabbed Holofernes you can wander off to do with the stone as you will.”


“I don’t really see the gain to us in all this.”


“Gold. And diamonds.” Haj’s eyes lit up.


“Diamonds, eh?” he said with mock-nonchalance. His fingers began to fidget.


“Perhaps, if I were able to get Holofernes, then…”


“What do you think?” Haj asked Alvis.


“I think it was fairly obvious that this was going to happen in the first place. Me and Vey have already begun making plans.”


Uswavran.


“Eh?”


“Oh, nothing. So would I actually get these diamonds, or would I be politely brushed-off at the celebratory after-party?"


"Oh, no, certainly not. Definetly lots of diamonds. Many. I can assure you of that."


"You're lying, aren't you?"

"Yes." Judith hung her head. Haj turned to the others. They were deeply-involved in a game of "I spy". He sighed and scratched his head.


"I enjoy this way of life," he said amiably, "But sometimes I think I'd prefer to go back to dragon-slaying. At least it's consistent, if nothing else."


"A tree!" cried Caterina. Vey clapped and smile.
 

Esioul

The weird one
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Judith wondered at what stage their horses had disappeared, but said,
"You know, Holofernes is rich. If I kill him, we'll be able to steal all his gold. If I don't kill him, we'll never get near it."
Haj thought about it; he'd heard of Holofernes, and from what he's heard, he was rich. "How do you suggest you're going to kill him, anyway?" he asked.
"I'll bribe him with that pebble. He's desperate for some goat medicine. He's stupid, anyway. It'll be easy." Judith said.

"Ummm... it's pretty, it's nice, it begins with an 'A'" Alvis was saying. Everyone swore at him, and Vey threw bits of of mud off her coat at him.

"Yes, I'd rather have dragons, thank you" said Haj to himself.

It was therefore rather well timed of a drunken peasant to appear from around a corner in the road, running towards them in a panic, slipping in the mud.
For a few moments he croaked at them, and waved a bottle at them but eventually he managed to scream, "Dragon!"
 

polymorphikos

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"You know, generally when someone yells "Dragon" you're supposed to be frightened and run away," said Judith.

"It's a complex," said Alvis, "It reminds him of his childhood."

"Killing dragons?"

"Mmmm. What are you angry about? At least you'll get new horses." The new horses were penned nearby, and looked suspiciously like the ones that the bandits had stolen. From inside one of the cottages a grown man could be heard crying.

"Well, I suppose. He may even be killed, so that's always there on the upside."

"Smart-alec."

Alvis, Judith, Vey and Caterina were all huddled behind an upturned cart, watching around the sides. The villagers were mostly several hundred yards away in the trees that formed the edge of the clearing. The cottages that formed the tiny farming village were mostly smashed or at the least severely dented.

"You know, for the effort it would take them to rebuild, these people could just go and settle somewhere without any dragons," said Caterina.

"Yes, but that would be common-sense."

Haj was creeping through the long grass of the pasture, past the carcasses of cows and goats. He had his staff, and was carefully circling around against the wind. The dragon was eating a cow. It wasn't a very big dragon, mind. It only stood about twelve feet tall and thirty or so feet long. It had the red crests of a bashva.

From the cart, the travellers watched as Haj leapt up and ran at the dragon, yelling. It wheeled on its two tree-like legs and roared, and swept a foot at the human. Then it began to chase him around the field.

"I thought that you said he was a great hunter."

"I never said that. He did."

The dragon swung its jaws down with a roar and then began to flank Haj. It was far swifter. It ran around to the fore and began to chase him back the other way, and Haj ran. With another roar, the dragon took a swipe at him, and he fell to the ground.

"He did die!" cried Vey.

"Mmm."

The dragon stood over its prey, rumbling and growling, and putting a foot on the carcass it lowered its head to eat. With an errk! of surprise, it found a staff in its mouth. There was an audible snick and a river of blood, and the dragon fell over, dead. The staff was removed and the various spikey bits folded back into place.

"You know," said Vey, "I always thought there was something suspicious about that staff."

_______

With the dragon dead, Haj did something entirely unexpected. He stripped naked and cut the beast ope, then climbed inside its stomach. Several people vomited.

A few minutes later, Haj reemerged with the heart, and his body covered in blood. He wandered cheerfully up the paddock, grinning ridiculously. He was met halfway, everyone except Alvis regarded him as insane.

"Why did you just climb inside a dragon?" asked Judith.

"What a stupid question. I'd've thought it entirely obvious." And that was all the answer they recieved.
 

Sirathiel

Spy with looks and guts
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Vey sighed as she watched the body of the dead dragon while the others pestered Haj. The dragon had been a full blood. They were getting rarer and rarer these days. Probably because they had a heritable tendency to go crazy and attack humans.

Silently she approached her distant 'cousin', regretting his death, but knowing that it was necessary. Vey was quite pleased with the way she was feigning to be the innocent and slightly stupid part of the company. She was rather afraid what they'd do if they found out that she was a Dracomorph, a half-dragon.

Pushing aside these slightly depressing thoughts she approached the head of the dragon, determined to profit from this situation. In her capacities as a healer she knew of a healing property of dragons that was scarcely known.

Decidely she pulled out her dagger and drove it between the dragon's eyes, cutting open his leathery skin and revealing a yellow gem that had said healing properties.

A soft smile played around her lips as she thought back to Judith's remark concerning goat medecine. That was, obviously unknown to Judith, quite powerful medecine. And it was the reason that she, unassuming Vey, was after that pebble.

Storing the dragon gem in her bag, she rose and went back to the others who were staring at her strangely.

"What!?", Vey exclaimed innocently. "I thought you knew that I was a healer."

Haj eyed her curiously: "But even a healer can't bring back a dragon from the dead."

Vey just shook her head. "I didn't try to revive him. Just shows that I am the healer around here and not you, Haj."

She then proceeded to pick at the mud that still clung to her clothes.
 

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