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Ramblings from the Marginalized » 2006 » August

August 2006

Family and General August 31st, 2006 by HMTKSteve

Ah, the first day of school. The day kids dread and parents embrace. I love my family but summer vacation seems to have gotten longer since I was a kid.

Back in the day, when I had to walk up hill (both ways) through four feet of snow, along a ten mile rocky ledge I remember looking forward to summer vacation. The end of the school year always dragged on and summer just could not come fast enough. Now I'm a parent and the day I look forward to has moved about two months into the future.

As a kid, mid-June was the target day to look forward to, now it's the last week of August I look forward to!

I don't participate in the school shopping, my wife and daughter handle that well enough on their own. I do take part in the "after shopping fashion show." That's when my daughter shows me all the great stuff they purchased while my wife hides the receipts...

"Look at this one daddy! It's got all these cool designs on the butt!"
"Wow, you sure got a lot of those."
"It's OK daddy, they were only thirty cents each."
"Thirty cents!"
"Maybe it was thirty dollars, I don't remember... and look! We got you a pack of underwear!"

It's nice to know they thought of me when they were shopping.

So, where was I, oh yes... back to school!

Now that the school clothes shopping is complete we move on to the shark fest that is "school supply shopping." Unlike buying clothes, buying school supplies can be cut-throat.

About a week before school starts we get a list from the school about what supplies my daughter needs for the coming school year. We have an office store nearby and during that week, it is packed! Moms show up in their gladiatorial armor and fight over pencils, notebooks and filler paper.

"Back you foul beast! I claim this Sponge Bob folder for my child!"
"Avast ye scurvy lass, I was here first! I need that folder as I have already acquired the matching pencil box and eraser set. Look elsewhere for folders! Try one of those boy band folders over there."
"Oh no, those boy band folders are leftovers from last year! No child of mine will go to school with old school supplies! En Garde! Feel the wrath of my yardstick!"
"Yardstick?!?! Damn you mother of a fourth grader! My child is only in kindergarten and all my items have rubber safety caps on them... I must concede to your superior school supplies..."

My wife did the majority of school supply shopping this year. There was only one thing I was tasked with finding... a second grade composition book.

I don't remember these from when I was a kid. I always thought all composition books had the black and white cover and were exactly the same. Oh no, not anymore! Now they come in various colors, line spacing, etc...

So, on the way home from work, I stop by the big office supply store to look for one second grade composition book. I quickly find the regular composition books, the graph paper composition books, the green covered composition books and the red covered composition books, but I can not find the object of my quest... the "second grade" composition book. So, I ask a clerk.

"Excuse me, I'm looking for a second grade composition book, do you have any?"
"Yes sir we do... but... They're over there..." he points to the area of the store where all of the moms were shopping and fighting over supplies, "do you really need one?"
"Yup, I'm afraid I do. Do you have any in the back?"
"Sorry sir, everything we have is over there."

So, I make my way over to the school supply pit and try to slip through.

The first thing that hits me is the shear number of moms and kids packed into this area of the store. I can tell the experienced moms from the new moms. The experienced moms use their kids like extensions of their arms, "Bobby, over there, grab three packs of pencils. Jill, one aisle over, shelf two, get us 12 folders. Mike, rush that kid going for the pencil box sets, just slow him down long enough so your brother can pick out the one he wants. Ok, break!"

The experienced moms are like the coach from an NFL football team. They know the strengths and weaknesses of all of their children and she uses them to the fullest. She doesn't see additional kids as a problem, she sees them all as assets ready to be deployed onto the field of battle. The very best of experienced moms are even know to borrow kids from other families on school shopping trips. They look over the kids from other families and fill the holes in their lineup. She'll take the small squirrelly kid from one family to cover for the lack of a youngster on her team. She'll borrow and older kid to act as a team captain to help rein in the occasional wandering child. Yep, she knows how to get things done.

The in-experienced mom is the opposite. She's still learning the harsh realities of school shopping and often settles for the over-priced pencils from the big box store or just sends her kid in with basic yellow pencils and boring notebooks.

If you see a kid in class with a single color notebook and a box of number two pencils, he's got an inexperienced mom. See that kid with the folder that matches her hair clips, pencil box and shoes? She has an experienced mom, and it shows.

So, as I make my way into the pit of school supplies I put on my "oblivious dad" face and dive right in. It doesn't take long to find out they are out of stock of the book I needed. No, it wasn't due to my massive observation skills. I just walked in, walked through, found a manager and asked.

He is a bit frazzled looking but he is clearly glad to be out of the pit for a minute to talk.

"Second grade composition books? Sorry, we ran out this morning. A new shipment should arrive tomorrow evening. Do you need anything else?"

I can clearly see he wants an excuse to get out of the pit and walk around the store with me, but it is not meant to be. An inexperienced mom has grabbed on to him. She looks frightened and he has the 'oh no, not again' look. I walk away. I don't look back. Never look back.

Well, my daughter is one second grade composition book behind in the school supply department. I'll go back in a few days and buy one... but it will be AFTER school opens. I'm not cut out for this kind of duty.

I'll be there when she's ready to buy a car or talk about Quantum Mechanics and String Theory. I just can't deal with school shopping, it's not something men were meant to do!

Stories August 31st, 2006 by HMTKSteve

Part 4 of the Keep series.

"Light me a torch and join me Ereptor. And you, the elf, come too. Let us investigate this cave and report what we see." Says Zoltan in a casual manner.

"I think we should all go into the cave together. Here, I’ll go get my lantern," suggests Corran.

Durin thanks Grendel with a pat on the back and turns to the party and says, "Not to sound greedy but perhaps we should look in the direction the ogre came from to find his lair and maybe his treasure? Not delay and we can press on into the caves. If we do continue into the caves I vote we do it together." So speaks Durin the warrior.

I agree we should enter the caves as one group (together), there are strength in number’s, Grendel begins to light a torch, than thinks," but perhaps we should find out where the ogre came from first", agreeing with Durin, "treasure sounds good to me", Grendel say’s with a smile.

"Hello," says Ereptor and comes out from the bushes. "I was trying to sneak around him, I didn’t expect it to end so soon." Now let us go inside.

After hearing Ereptor’s reason for stepping out of the bushes, Grendel just let’s out a short giggle, as he look’s to the other’s, "so what is the decision, are we to track back to the ogres, lair or enter the caves", let us decide.

"Okay, I can see all your points." Speaks Corran, "Perhaps we should go in search of this Ogre’s lair, though I think there are more than just 1 or 2 of them, we should be cautious."

"I believe stealth would be our best ally," says Zoltan.

"If you insist then by all means go and scout Zoltan, but do not leave us out here too long. I know it is not a great idea to split up the party, but I might have a look to see if there is any treasure nearby. Anyone else is welcome to join me especially if you have a light source." Durin walks to the trees to try and spot any tracks or tell tale signs of an ogre lair nearby.

"I agree with Corran, lets go fight the smaller creatures first", Gwynth said in a cautious tone. "The ogres seem to be a little more than this group can handle at the moment, but if you guys really want to do it, I will be sure to guard the rear!"

"Ogres, more than we can handle!" said Grendel, to Gwynth, shaking his head, "if they bleed, they can die, no problem, eh Durin." laughed Grendel, slapping him on the shoulder, in a friendly gesture.

"Alright everybody," began Corran, "we are not going to get anywhere being pig headed or greedy. The priest at the inn said to check the caves. That is what I purpose to do, besides the goblins may have a treasure in the cave, and they are more our caliber at this point. I say let us all go in and explore the cave."

"I think we shall go in now." Said Ereptor, "We are a big group now so will probably "kick some ass" We need some kind of light, but we also need someone to scout so we will be aware if someone is coming They will probably see the light before we see them."

"I nominate the thief to scout ahead, he can sneak around, find any traps along the way, I will venture up front with him if, that helps, never ask any one to do any thing your not willing to do yourself, I always say!" but let’s get going, said Grendel impatiently.

"I believe we must always have an advantage. If we all go into this cave, we all may die. But if a few of us go in the hobgoblin cave with stealth, we all can reap benefits in the long run", says Zoltan. " Let the thieves go in, hiding in shadows, searching for traps, then we’ll come out at report to you all"

"On second thought, I believe a thief and the elf should go up front to scout. Stealth will be our best bet," interjects Corran.

"If the thieves want to go in, I say ok. The rest of us will wait here and cover your backsides", said Gwynth.

"Ok," says Zoltan, " Ereptor and I will go into the cave. I’ll use my bow as I pretty good with it. Ereptor, you hold the lantern and use your sword. I have a gut feeling that you are better with a sword than I am. We’ll should go in 200 feet, look and listen, and then come back here to the party and report. You guys be ready. If we come running out, be ready to start fighting. We can always get out of the way, rather easy."

Grendel say’s in a gruff voice, "we shall be ready, if a fight, arises, already the goblinoids, have tasted my steel."

"I agree with Zoltan," says Corran, "his plan is sound, is everyone agreed?"

"AGREED!" Says Grendel.

" Good," says Zoltan, "then we’re all set."

"I’m not so very good on sneaking yet," says Ereptor, "but we can try. I don’t think it is good idea to have a lantern when you shall sneak, but that just what I think. Wouldn't they see you easier?

"Good luck guys!" sings Gwynth, "Zoltan, need someone to hold your money bag? I’d hate to have the jingling noise alert the goblins!"

"Good, let’s go in Ereptor," says Zoltan.

The two thieves slowly approach and enter the cave. Leaving the rest of the party outside the cave.

While waiting outside the cave for the return of your scouting party some vultures have begun to descend upon the dead ogre. They are making a lot of noise as they slowly tear at the fallen beast.

While waiting for the thieves to return, Durin turns to Grendel and says "I wonder if those goblins you scared off are going to get reinforcements or even setting up an ambush. That would not be pleasant for our little scout friends. And by the way I did find a trail though the bushes where the ogre came from."

"Hopefully, the goblin’s were scared off, into hiding more so than regrouping, I really hacked the hell out of there comrade, any way if the scouting party needs us we will be there, besides there only goblin’s, the thieves can hold there own, I would hope" said Grendel in a gruff voice, his attention was sparked when Durin mentioned he found a trail, to the Ogres lair, "excellent my friend, we could always come back to it, good work".

Durin says, "I wonder how much time has gone by since the scouts have left? Maybe we should go after them if they don’t return soon."

"I don’t want to go in after them," said Gwynth thoughtfully," I say we go check out that path!"

Durin glares at Gwynth and says, "The Thieves may be foolish in their actions, but they are part of our party and you are too. So we need to look out for each other. If they don’t come back in 5 minutes I think we should go in after them. The path will be there when we get back. What do the rest of you think?"

Grendel glared angrily at Gwynth, after she said "I don’t want to go after them", referring to the thieves instead she wanted to investigate the ogre path, "this is news you could have shared with us before we sent out our fellow party member’s on a scouting mission, I will not abandon them, they could be in danger, I say we go search for them, if you wish to follow the trail, that is your choice, I will search out and find our fellow party member’s, but if they are in danger I am sure they will not be too impressed, that you chose to venture off instead of coming to there rescue, like Durin said, the path will be there when we get back", with those final words Grendel lit a torch, drew his sword and prepared to enter the caves, with his party, in search of there, scout’s.

"I agree with Durin." Says Corran, "We should wait. Give them another 5 min. then we’ll enter the cave. I have my lantern right here ready to go."

"Excuse me oh wise Corran, but didn’t you give you lantern to Ereptor? I guess you will be going in the cave, but you will be going in blind!" smirked Gwynth. " I guess we can give them another 5 minutes, but don’t expect me to go in after a bunch of thieves."

Grendel hands a torch to Corran, "I have extra’s, take one, my friend", he say’s, as he extends the torch toward, Corran, Grendel still wait’s at the cave entrance, " 5 minutes, than we enter the cave, I wonder what the scouting party is up to", he say’s as he, look’s back to the party.

A distant scream echoes from the cave entrance.

Family and General and Movies August 30th, 2006 by HMTKSteve

Recently, I signed up for Netflix. It was a decision I had been working up to for a long time.

I always liked going to the video store to browse the shelves and find something good to rent but... Lately I just have not been able to find many new movies worth watching. If a movie was worth watching there was a 75% chance I would go ahead and buy the DVD rather than renting it. The biggest renter in my family is probably my daughter. Have you checked the number of variant Sponge Bob DVDs that are on the market? Talk about a parental repackaging collecting nightmare!

"But Dad, this one has all the Plankton episodes on it!"
"But, I already bought you the complete first two seasons on DVD!!!"
"But, but, this one just has all the Sandy episodes from Season one on it, can I get it? It's only $14.99!"

So, we took the plunge and signed up for Netflix. I set everything up so *I* got to pick the movies that would start our *queue*. I tried to find some good ones for our first order (I went with the two at a time option) but I found myself only looking at header pages so I picked a few that I wanted to see. Later on my wife and daughter went on and added some movies and re-arranged the queue... Guess I'll be waiting a while to see those Cowboy Bebop episodes...

So, within about two days the DVDs came in. With school right around the corner we didn't get to watch them right away. Every day I would peer at their little red envelopes and wonder if that night would be the night we watched them.

Finally, the night arrived. I put in the first DVD, The Bourne Supremacy, and went into the kitchen to make tea and popcorn.

Yes, I said *tea* and *popcorn*! You can call me old if you want to but I enjoy a movie just fine with tea and popcorn. Besides, we watch at night, after my daughter has gone to bed, why would I want to get wired on soda when I can relax with tea???

Where was I? Oh yes... After the popcorn and tea were ready we sat down on the couch and started watching the movie. We had this strange deja vu feeling that lasted all of five minutes, and then we knew.

"Didn't we see this before," asked my wife?
"Hmm.. I'm not sure, I thought we only saw the first one," I countered.
"No, I remember the thing with the headaches."

Isn't that interesting? Here I was thinking, "oh yeah, doesn't he go on a big rampage because his hot girlfriend gets killed" and my wife was thinking, "headaches, yep I can relate to that!" So I turned to her.

"You are right honey. I messed up and ordered a DVD that we have already seen. I'm sorry."

I know what you're thinking, time for a 5 minute break in the movie action. He just admitted he was wrong; no woman can resist that...

"You're not going to make me watch that other movie, are you," was what she said next."

See, the *other* movie was an anime flick called Steamboy. I'd read about it, seen a bunch of books on it at the comic book store, but knew very little about it, so I put it in the queue. That and the fact it was on the front page of the anime section!

So, I pop out the DVD and put in the anime one and sit back to watch.

Now, I'm a big anime fan. I'm one of those guys that will put on the English subtitles and leave the Japanese dialog in place but... The first thing that greatly offended me was the English dubbing did not match the English subtitles, it was not even close. It was a case of the dubbed voice saying, "He watch out, the pressure is too high and your going to get us all killed" and the subtitles saying, "That's dangerous, stop!"

I have not seen such bad dub to subtitle work since Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. When they dropped American slang words into the dialogue on that movie they forced me to go back to the Mandarin audio...

Back to Steamboy... It's a movie about a kid, who gets this ball of steam and some other folks want to get it back. It came out as being far too preachy for my tastes and it was just plain boring to me. My wife fell asleep somewhere during the movie and I had to try like hell to keep my interest level high enough to avoid the same fate... Perhaps I should have had a soda?

Once the movie finally ended my wife and I went to bed. While lying in bed I looked over at her and said, "I'm sorry I put you through that dear."

By that time of night we were too tired to do much else than sleep...

The next day I sent those two DVDs back. I don't know what will come in next as I have lost my power over the queue.

Stories August 30th, 2006 by HMTKSteve

Here is part 3 in the series.

Corran kneels on the ground behind a small bush and rummages through his pack for his lantern and tinderbox. You hear a scratching noise as he works on lighting the lantern.

All of the adventurers who are outside the cave notice a large creature (8'+) heading out of some nearby trees. It wears the skin of at least one bear and wields an old 6' long by 1' diameter log as a club. The club looks well worn. Upon seeing the party, a toothy grin is exposed on its face.

"Look out! We surrounded," yells Zoltan. "Anyone else have a bow. I have a plan."

Corran moves to the wall outside the cave mouth, his back to the wall. "Okay guys get ready to attack the giant, he's our main concern listen to Zoltan." He then turns his head to the cave mouth and yells into the cave "Hey idiot get the hell out hear now!"

Hearing Corran yelling, and guessing Corran was talking to him, Grendel responded "Love to, friend but I have company of my own in here", perhaps when I am done wiping the walls with, these pale devils, I will join ye" with that Grendel speaks not another word.

Zoltan gestures towards the group a "take it easy sign" and points to the giant. "Shhhh, let him worry about the cave thing. Perhaps he can lure it out here in the open", Zoltan whispers.

Durin pulls forth his crossbow and fires at the giant, his crossbow bolt misses the giant and sticks into his club.

Ereptor pulls forth his bow and fires at the giant, unfortunately, his arrow is far from the mark, flying into the canopy of foliage above the beast, and sending several black birds to flight.

Taking careful aim with his bow, Zoltan aims for the giant. He releases the bowstring to see his arrow hurtle towards the giant and stick into his belly. The monster screams in pain as he tears the arrow from his now bleeding flesh and breaks in his hand.

The giant charges forth, club raised, to be met by the mighty warrior Durin, who has dropped his crossbow and is charging with his battle-axe. A blood-curdling scream has just come from the cave.

Zoltan screams to the party members. "Corran, get out and fight you! Durin, get out of the way so I can get another clean shot. Let's fire weapons, not swing!"

Corran steps forth from behind the bush, lantern on the ground. He pulls his hands out of his robes and begins chanting. Magical words and shapes begin to take shape in the air around him. You feel a slight charge in the air and a slight wind picks up. A magical bolt of light leaves the mage's hand and travels forth to strike the giant squarely in the chest!

Zoltan pulls back his bowstring yet again, taking a bead on the giant fighting against Durin. Letting the arrow take flight he sees it fly straight towards the back of Durin's head! The warrior narrowly misses being struck by the flying arrow.

Of Ereptor there is no sign. Durin is locked in hand to hand combat with the monster, neither one able to land a telling blow.

Durin dodges a mighty blow delivered by the giant and in turn lands a solid blow with his axe. The giant howls in pain but continues the fight.

Grendel rushes out of the cave and steps into the massive battle. With an angered charge, Grendel rushes toward the massive giant, he grips his sword tightly, attacking the giant with all his rage. A good solid hit ensues as the giant's blood spatters both combatants.

Suddenly, from out of nowhere fly's an arrow. Straight and true it lands between the giants eyes. The creature falls limply to the ground. All five men turn to see the approach of two persons. One a cleric in chain mail armor, holy symbol shinning brightly upon his chest. The other is an elf, holding a bow in one hand dressed in leather armor.

"Greetings," speaks the cleric. "My name is Juda, this is my compatriot Gwynth. I am a cleric of the gods of good and she, as you can see, is an elf. We have tried to catch up to you since the gate guards told us of your departure but, as you can see, it took us a while."

"That was not a giant," Grendel says, "That was an ogre. Can't you see the resemblance?" He says the last part while showing a toothy grin.

"Greetings new friends, thanks for the assistance back there, Grendel are you hurt, and what was it, that you fought in the cave? Well guys, my magic is used, I cannot be of much use until we rest again." so speaks Corran.

"I am fine my friend", replied Grendel, to Corran, "the creatures in the cave, were some sort of goblinoids, cut one down and sent the rest runnin' wit there tails between thar legs", Grendel smiled from ear to ear, Welcome to you both, said, Grendel, as he turned to face Juda, and Gwynth, "eh! Corran, spoke Grendel again "The goblinoid I cut down is sprawled out in dat there cavern, perhaps we should check it out ta see, what it is exactly, we are up against".

Gwynth walks over to the fallen ogre and pulls her arrow from the body, taking a moment to clean it off, she returns it to her quiver. "Hey! Can someone give me a hand searching this body? By the way where did this thing come from anyway?"

Zoltan jumps down from over the cave mouth. He runs to the fallen foe, searching for anything that might be of use to him. " Greetings newcomers", says Zoltan, flashing a quick smile to them. " I am Zoltan of Burgesses, and these are my associates."

The search of the fallen ogre nets not more then one oversized club, and one oversmelly bearskin.

Zoltan tries to pull out his arrow from the ogre to see if he can reuse it. After pulling out a broken shaft he starts towards the nearest tree, looking for something.

It is currently mid-morning in the ravine. About 5 minutes have passed since the demise of the ogre. The seven of you stand about amidst the trees and shrubs that grow in this area discussing your next move.

Stories August 29th, 2006 by HMTKSteve

Here is the second installment of the Keep PBEM game.

After spending almost two hours on the road you enter the ravine the priest told you about. Within another 30 minutes you find the trails. Following them the trails becomes more overgrown.

The forest you have been passing through has been getting more dense, tangled, and gloomier than before. The thick, twisted tree trunks, unnaturally misshapen limbs, writhing roots, clutching and grasping thorns and briars all seem to warn and ward you off, but you have forced and hacked your way through regardless. Now the strange growth has suddenly ended - you have stepped out of the thicket into a ravine-like area. The walls rise rather steeply to either side to a height of about 100' or so - dark, streaked rock mingled with earth. Clumps of trees grow here and there, both on the floor of the ravine and up the sloping walls of the canyon. The opening you stand in is about 200' wide. The ravine runs atleast 400' west to where the eastern end rises in a steep slope. Here and there, at varying heights on all sides of the ravine, you can see the black mouths of cave-like openings in the rock walls. The sunlight is dim, the air dank, there is an oppressive feeling here - as if something evil is watching and waiting to pounce upon you. There are bare, dead trees here and there, and upon one a vulture perches and gazes hungrily at you. A flock of ravens rise croaking from the ground, the beat of their wings and their cries magnified by the terrain to sound loud and horrible. Amongst the litter and rubble, boulders, and dead wood scattered about the ravine floor, you can see bits of gleaming ivory and white - closer inspection reveals that these are bones and skulls of men, animals, and other things.

You know that you have certainly discovered the Caves of Chaos.

"I propose that a fighter and I go into the cave a bit and investigate, then we'll report to you. Hey, any elves her," asks Zoltan?

"I think it maybe best if we stick together so that we are not divided and surprised when we are weaker, but if you insist on a scouting party, a mailed warrior such as myself may ruin your stealthy approach." says Durin.

While your party discusses what to do, Corran notices a cave to the south of you at the bottom of the ravine. All other visible caves are higher up in the ravine. Although there may be some shrouded in the denser growths of foliage.

"Well my friends, we're here. Now which cave should we enter first? Or do you want to spend the night here, and enter the caves at first light," asks Corran?

Ereptor speaks, "it is probably best to spend the night here and in the morning enter the caves."

"I propose we make a camp, get situated, and travel at first light," says Zoltan

"I think it would be a mistake to make camp here and waste the day away because orcs and such like to attack at night. I vote we enter the caves closest to the bottom and work our way up like the priest suggested. If we all agree then lets go before the day is wasted." So speaks Durin.

"Let's go guys, pick a cave," says Corran, "I say we all go in together, Thief up front, warrior behind, me in the middle, and the other two at the rear, we are stronger that way."

" We are going to start at the bottom, remember," asks Zoltan? Zoltan leads the way, to the mouth of the first, closest cave.

The party enters the cave spotted by Corran. A passage leads in about thirty feet before ending in a small chamber with exits to the west, south and southeast. It is quite dark in here and the light from outside is barely enough to see by.

Durin the warrior asks, "Could someone light a lantern or torch. In my over zealousness it must have slipped my mind to buy one. And I guess Zoltan you should guide us because you are so intelligent."

"Alright, who has a torch," asks Zoltan?

From out of the darkness of the right (or is it the left?) passage comes a guttural scream of "Bree yark!" followed by the sound of many feet.

Your party still stands in half-light. A sort of gray light which filters in from the cave mouth... very dim though...

Grendel draws his sword, glaring into the darkness, trying to pin point the exact direction the patting of running feet is coming from, "something comes this way" warns Grendel as he prepares to engage a possible enemy.

Ereptor speaks, "I don't like it here if there comes any enemies I don't see very good in this dark place and neither do u I think If someone is coming we must have some light or it will be very difficult."

"Umm. Why don't we go back and get some torches, right now." says an uneasy Zoltan.

"Let them come where we can see and where the scavengers can make use of the carrion we shall provide," whispers Durin as he backs to the light of the entrance anxiously gripping his battle-axe with a slight smile on his face.

" Alright I happen to know that one of you has a torch and another one of you has a lantern. One of you better have a good explanation as to why you're holding out on the rest of us". Zoltan eyes the party as he steps away from the cave entrance, sword drawn. "You're crazy! You can't fight in the dark" Zoltan climbs above the mouth of the cave.

" Now someone please light a torch and draw that creature out here," whispers Zoltan from above the cave opening.

Pets August 29th, 2006 by HMTKSteve

When my wife and I got married we each had two cats. I had two long haired cats and she had two short haired cats. When we brought them all together... We had cat fur all over the carpet.

Her cats; Min and Byter, were older then my cats; Spyder Cat and Fat Cat. Though we never knew just how old Fat Cat was because I got him *used* from a friend.

Min was the oldest cat. He was also the first cat my wife had gotten after she left her parents home and started to live on her own. He was a mostly black cat with some white spots. He looked to be wearing a tux. He was the king cat, and up until he died, he was the master of the house and yard.

Byter, my wife's temperamental calico, was close in age to Spyder Cat. We also call her "The Bitch Cat" due to her nature. Byter is not a bad cat, but she is a very persistent cat who likes to chew your hair while you sleep, and while you are awake... In fact, if you sit still long enough you will find her purring her way towards your head.

She is also very particular about being pet. If you sit on the couch, and she sees you, you will soon find her under your hand moving her head back and forth. Yes, she will use your hand to pet her if you don't. Also, never stop petting her unless she is ready, otherwise she will bite you.

Fat Cat, my 'used' cat came from a friend who had too many cats. She claimed Fat Cat was gay and hated all female cats. Well, I never saw him do anything to my other male cats but he used to do this really weird thing with pillows... He was passed on to my sister-in-law because him and the Byter just never got along. She did give him a torn ear as a going away present though.

He lived a better life where he went anyways. Often times when we visited my sister-in-law Fat Cat would hide from me. I think he was secretly scared I would take him back to the house of many cats. In his new home he was the only cat and he was treated as a child. All of the catnip he wanted and he got to eat out of one of those fancy dishes you see on the gourmet cat food commercials, the ones you say, "no one would ever feed their cat out of one of those," but then you go to my sister-in-laws house and say, "can I be one of your cats?"

Spyder Cat was not always named as such. He started out life with the name Harley, due to his very loud purr. However, after becoming an 'outside' cat he learned a very peculiar *trick* for getting our attention. He would jump up and grab the window screens. Then he would climb up the window screens until we let him in. We lost a lot of good window screens to his claws.

Spyder Cat is a very loving cat, but he is also a bit of a loner. On game nights he always comes to the game room and plays musical laps. The only problem with Spyder Cat is his grooming skills, he doesn't have any. He will often come in the house to eat and have a pricker bush hanging off of his butt. One time he came in with a whole Azalea bush stuck to his backside. He saved me a couple of bucks that day but I had to avert making eye contact with my gardening neighbor for a few weeks.

One day, while petting the Byter's belly, I noticed a hard lump on her. We feared the worst and brought her to the vet. My wife, thinking it was cancer, was overcome with grief. She was so overcome with grief that she went out and got us another cat while the Byter was still at the vet! she came with a cute orange tabby kitten that we named Max.

Max was a very cute kitten. when he heard my pants hit the floor in the bedroom he would come running and jump right on the bed and demand to be pet. Byter came home a few days later (it was a strangulated fat cell) and did not understand why some new kid was in the house. She was very suspicious...

Max and Min both died about a year later. Min had sever internal organ failures and we had to put him down. He would not eat, dragged himself around the house (when he moved at all) and all the fat on his body had burned off. His eyes had sunk in and he was a very sorry sight.

Max was diagnosed with FIP about a month later. I found him out in the yard, just sitting there, he would not even move for food. It was all very strange as he appeared healthy. After the vet told us the bad news we had to have him put down too. It was a very hard time for us...

Around this time we ended up with two new kittens. Grey and Figaro. Grey came first and he was a little off. He was prone to seizures and never got very big. He disappeared one afternoon when a thunderstorm passed through. We have no idea what happened to him as he never went more then 100 feet from the house. He was a quiet cat, but like most with brain problems he could never seem to retract his claws.

Figaro was fine though. He was very similar to Min in coloring and also very shy. where Min was the king of the house Fig was glad just to be in the house. He was never much of a fighter but he was a great cat to have on your lap.

We then added another cat to our home, Squirty. He is a long haired orange tabby that is all muscle. He is also a purr machine, if you just look at him he will purr. Once you touch him you can't shut him off. He has some grooming issues but he is no where near as bad as Spyder Cat. He is also very neurotic and hyper.

After a while my wife started bugging me about wanting a Siamese cat. See, she had always wanted one and since we were down to only four cats we had room for him! He would be an inside cat and never go outside. so, we broke down and got a Siamese and named him Kiko.

Kiko was a very interesting character. He liked to play fetch and be carried around. For the first few months I thought his legs might be made of rubber because his paws never touched the ground! He especially like to sit on your shoulder while you walked around the house. He was very loving but... He bonded to me.

This made my wife very upset, so she bought another Siamese! For those of you at home that brings us up to six cats! Koko was from the same breeder as Kiko but he looked less like the classic Siamese breed. Koko bonded to my wife and at first Kiko was real mad, but after a few days he realized he could play with Koko.

See, with the exception of Squirty, none of the other cats wanted to play with Kiko. I think even Squirty regretted it later because he got Kiko's undivided attention whenever he was in the house!

Also, Byter enjoyed being the mom cat! We have many pictures of the Byter covered in little sleeping Siamese cats, all you can see is her head. She was very good to the kittens and they still sleep with her on cold nights.

Eventually, Kiko and Koko took over the house. they are like two peas in a pod and play together constantly. Especially late at night when I'm trying to sleep! The other cats come in mostly just to eat or sleep, but sleeping is tough when the combined team of Kiko and Koko are chasing you! One will attack from above, the other from below, and unlike our other cats, these two work effectively as a team!

So there you have it, a quick tale about the cats in my house. Feel free to share your own cat stories.

Family and General August 28th, 2006 by HMTKSteve

There are certain benefits to raising an only child.

1) Once the diaper days are gone, they stay gone!
2) You don’t need to worry about calling your kid by another one of your kid’s names.
3) If something in the house ends up broken, you can usually figure out who broke it.
4) If they start behaving badly you can threaten them with an unborn sibling…

The list goes on and on.

I have one child, a daughter. I come from a family that had three boys. Raising a single daughter is far different then growing up in a house with 3 boys.

For one thing, I’m out numbered. No matter what, it’s two against one. There is no debate or compromise. When I was a kid I was often the “swing” vote. My word was worth a stick of gum or even a matchbox ™ car now and then. These days, my word is worth less then what I scoop out of the cat box.

All those cool “boy” toys I played with as a kid? Well, we have some but my daughter is one of those “club” kids. Everything is a club, complete with club cards and memberships. More often then not the cats get higher level memberships then I do.

We do own hot Wheels ™ cars, but they do not get out much. We have a ton of Pokemon™ figures, and they get a lot of play, but so many of the “boy” games I remember have no place in my household.

I mean, who can forget such perennial favorites as; uncle, beatings for the slow kid, soft punch contest and first one to the parents gets to lay blame on the other kid. Yeah, those were some good times…

The games we play are along the lines of; so, what do you want to do? Another favorite game is; what do you want to eat? Which is often followed up with the “I don’t know” game?

In my house we have taken to creating a special menu of “I don’t know” foods. The way it works is very simple. If the question is, “what do you want to eat” and the answer is “I don’t know” then the asker gets to pick. This has turned the “I don’t know” answer into “what do we have?” Which is a far more interactive answer.

We don’t have this problem at restaurants, they have menus pre-printed! My wife and I do have a game we play at restaurants; we try to guess which of the food items our daughter will actually eat. If the menu looks as follows:
• Macaroni and cheese
• Pizza
• Hot dog
• Grilled cheese

I feel pretty safe betting on macaroni and cheese, unless the pizza is of the “make your own” variety, then I bet on that. Betting on anything else is a losing bet, though grilled cheese does sometimes get her vote.

Another important aspect of restaurant eating, when you have kid(s), is wait time and the “occupation” factor. I’m not talking about jobs at the restaurant; I’m talking about what is there to occupy my child’s attention until the food arrives?

I’ll let her bring a few things with her to the table to fool around with but each item has a set amount of time it will work for and an “interactive” factor.

• Crayons and paper – works OK, but devolves into tic-tac-toe which has a very high interactive factor. Especially when the place only gives you three colors and they are not all primary colors.

• Toys – your mileage may vary if you bring in an “already-owned” toy. I suggest stopping off somewhere along the way to the restaurant to buy a *new* toy. New toys last longer and, if you plan correctly, you can limit the interactive factor.

• Nothing – well, if you brought nothing then you can expect your little one to jump around, run through the aisles and do other things to cause you great indigestion while waiting for your meal. Hey, you came unprepared; you should have just stayed home…

Before I had kids, I would actively avoid restaurants that had a high kid to adult ratio. It wasn’t that I did not like children, I just didn’t want them staring at me while I ate. Now, bring ‘em on. The worse those other kids are, the better mine look!

Like a friend of mine once told me about why he liked to hang around with some very neurotic friends, “Hey, I come here, spend an hour or so and go home. Once I get home I can sit back, relax and truly appreciate how good my life is.”

Stories August 27th, 2006 by HMTKSteve

The adventuring group that Gorf was a part of moved to an email format... A format that did not continue for long.

After defeating the dreaded spider creatures inside of Old Man Mountain and rescuing the maidens the party returned to the town of Byr amid a chorus of cheers. The following days were full of celebration and more importantly, free food and drink!

Mr. X and Brewster decided to take their leave after a talk with the one-armed man. They took jobs with a passing caravan and headed north. Gorf has decided to stick around in the village for a while to collect war stories from the old man.

The three of you, however, are beginning to feel the urge to move on. Your gluttonous consumption of ale and meat is beginning to wear thin on the locals and the prices for such things appear to be increasing from free to almost twice the price they were when you first arrived.

It is now lunchtime and two short men are approaching your table. One is obviously a dwarf, the other a halfling. "Greetings noble warriors," speaks the halfling, "I am Roger Evanson." He takes a slight bow and then points to his companion, "this is my associate Theobold Hamsmacker." The dwarf nods his head slightly at mention of his name. "We have heard much of your exploits against the evils of this land from the townsfolk. We have need of others to travel with, for two such as us, though quite adept, are hardly enough to really take on the world."

The short man takes a seat at your table, as does the dwarf, he leans in close and whispers, "I have heard rumors of an old barbarian tor along the coastline."

"Barbarian tor!" Speaks Relgar, "It is never wise to upset the dead."

"Or the undead," speaks Fulgrim, "my papa told me 'bout undead, real bad."

"Not to fear, I have an amulet against such things," says Roger while pulling forth a strange amulet from under his shirt. "Besides, this was no ordinary barbarian buried in that tor. I'm talking about." He leans in even closer and the dwarf begins to look around nervously. "Bjorn the Flameking!"

"Bjorn the Flameking? Did you just make that up," asks Relgar?

"Not so loud Relgar, it is Relgar, yes?" He looks over the group, "I got your names from the townsfolk. And no, I am not making it up! Bjorn the Flameking ruled this land not long after the fall of the Sule Empire. He was a pale skin you know."

At the mention of the word Sule, Caradeen turns his head, "Sule you say? This may be worth our attention."

"As always, my life is to travel," says Relgar, "I am always up for a journey, the longer the better!"

"Yes, Soulooise was he, had the power of fire did he. I suspect his treasury to be very impressive. So, will you join us?"

Caradeen turned to Fulgrim and then back to Roger, "We would agree but my friend here has a very dry throat, as do I."

"Myself too, "added Relgar.

"And we have trouble speaking certain words on a parched throat." Caradeen turned back towards Roger smacking his lips and looking about the inn.

"Wench! Five ales for our table!" Roger shouted out while climbing atop his chair. A few moments later the woman appeared with her tray laden with five mugs of ale. After a quick look at the three heroes she spoke up, "That'll be ten gold coins milord."

A slight snicker erupted from Fulgrim as Roger dug into his purse, "Ten gold coins! This had better be good ale!"

"You're not paying for the quality, "interjected Relgar after the woman departed, "you're paying for the company you keep!"

"Ahhh," Said Roger while nodding his head, "and your answer?"

"We'll go with you, " spoke Relgar.

"Good, hear that Ham? Their gonna go with us. All right here's the game plan. We leave as soon as y'all are ready and travel north for two, maybe three days. Depends on the weather, which should be clear this spring. After that we've got to spot a certain landmark. Once we spot it we head for the coast. Shortly there after we should encounter the tor!"

"We need to stock up on a few items before we leave town," says Relgar after draining his mug. "Food, water, blankets perhaps a down pillow?"

"You don't need a pillow!" Yells Fulgrim while slapping a mighty hand across Relgar's back, "Use a rock! Me and Caradeen been using rocks for pillows for years!"

"As I was saying…" Relgar finishes by standing up and walking from the inn.

With the Elves' throat no longer dry, Caradeen looks around the table. "Gentlemen, this will not be easy. The undead, if that is what we are to face, are as unpleasant a thought as I can muster. They are already dead, killing them is no simple chore."

The Elf looks into his satchel, the bag where he stores the components to his spells. "I will meet you at the general store. I'm afraid I'm going to need more than some blankets if we wish to stay alive." With that he downs his ale, nods his head to the good gents who bought him the drink and heads off to the local bogedy bogedy store to restore his spell supplies.

After purchasing all supplies the three men meet outside the inn.

"I'm ready to go." Caradeen says to the group as he pats his new mace into his hand. "My father told me a trick to the undead. He always said to smash them cause they're mostly bone. Hopefully the memories of his bantering about his adventures will give us some insight."

He looks over to Fulgrim. "Let me guess what your father said about the undead. Could it be.... Cut their heads off?" The sarcastic tones are easily identifiable in his voice.

"My father was a brave man, far braver than yours." Fulgrim scowls, eyes locked on the elf.

Caradeen laughs. "I'll admit. Courage definitely runs in your family." The elf turns his head away from Fulgrim and whispers to Relgar, "...but intelligence doesn't..." The elf slings his pack over his shoulders. "Shall we go?"

Upon entering the inn they find the old one-armed man waiting for them. "I heard you were leaving."

"Yes we are, "says Fulgrim. "We go forth to destroy undead!"

"Fulgrim speaks truly, " adds Relgar upon seeing the mans quizzical expression.

"In that case I wish to grant you some parting gifts. Gifts from my old adventuring days." He slowly walks over to a table and picks up an old leather sack and places it upon the table. "First, for Relgar, " he begins with his head half in the sack finally emerging with a small purple bottle. "Relgar, this is a potion of extra healing, use it wisely." He hands the bottle to Relgar who takes a seat while examining the bottle.

"Next will be Fulgrim. Fulgrim please come over here." While talking the old man removes a blue and silver scabbard from the bag. "Hand me your sword." Upon receipt of the weapon he carefully slides it into the scabbard.

Suddenly the scabbard begins to glow with a fuzzy blue light. Soon several small blue sparks begin to encircle the scabbard and then all goes quiet. The old man then removes the sword from the scabbard revealing a blade that is now etched with fine blue and silver lines. He hands it back to a somewhat mystified Fulgrim. "Your sword will now be able to hurt any beast you encounter, however it will only last so long. When the silver begins to tarnish the enchantment will soon fade." Fulgrim steps back, swinging his sword in long arcs through the air.

After placing the scabbard back into the sack he turns to Caradeen. "You, hmm." He then turns and puts his head back into the sack. A few moments later he produces a slender piece of blue wood, a wand. Caradeen's eyebrows rise at the sight. "This is a wand of magical missiles. I'm not sure how many are left within it, and it is not rechargeable, but there are atleast a few!" He hands the wand over to Caradeen who nods approvingly. "Oh, before I forget, the command word is 'bite me' and don't ask."

"Well, there you go, those are my parting gifts for you. Oh, one more thing." He raises his hand and the barmaid brings over a tray with four ales upon it. "To the road ahead," toasts the old man!

Outside the inn the five adventurers gather, prepared for the road ahead. "Quite a haul you guys just scored," says Roger, "I imagine that sword of yours to be the biggest prize Fulgrim." He turns slightly and rubs his chin, "too bad he didn't give you the scabbard! Could do a lot with a scabbard like that!"

"Just remember whose sword it is Roger," says Fulgrim with a grin on his face, "besides, it's bigger then you are!"

"I suggest we say a short prayer to Fharlanghn before we depart," says Relgar. He prepares to speak and then looks over at Caradeen. "Caradeen! You've converted! How wonderful!"

Fulgrim, Roger and Theobold look around somewhat puzzled until Relgar points to the holy symbol of Fharlanghn worn by Caradeen. "Well, uh," is all Caradeen gets out before Relgar begins his prayer.

"Great Fharlanghn, traveler of the road. Grant us a safe and speedy journey." He then takes a moment to stamp his feet upon the road and bring up a small cloud of dust. "Let's go, I feel the power of the road taking me," finishes Relgar with a smile upon his face.

The first day on the trail proved good. The sky remained cloudy and the temperatures briskly cool for the first day of the month of Planting. The party managed to travel far along the baron's road north towards Ratick.

As dusk approached the five men began their search for a campsite. After a suitable one was found they sat down and prepared for the long night. "That was a good day of travelling, " spoke Roger. "If thanks be due to Fharlanghn then I give them freely!"

"Your welcome, "replied Relgar while throwing some logs into a pile for a cooking fire.

"So Roger," began Caradeen, "how much farther will we go before sighting your landmark? I am very eager to try out my gift upon the undead, though I know not how long it will last." He spoke the last with a slight sigh.

"How long? Oh not much farther. Another day or so."

"Hurumph," interjected Theobold.

"Oh you just hush Ham," Spoke Roger while shaking his finger at the dwarf. "As I was saying, it is not much further along. We will also be travelling near another town. The town of Awad to be precise. It's a small community but we will be able to stay in their inn for a night."

"Do they have ale there," asked Fulgrim? "I will need to have another ale when we get inside the inn. Old family custom, right Caradeen," Fulgrim ended his sentence with a wink to Caradeen!

"That's very true," spoke Caradeen.

After a short meal and a dousing of the fire the party laid down to sleep, Caradeen taking first watch. "What is that," asked Fulgrim of Relgar?

"It's my pillow," replied the cleric.

"Pillow! What's wrong with that rock over there? I cleared that spot just for you," said Fulgrim while pointing at a particularly large rock.

"As I have said before, you and Caradeen may prefer to sleep on rocks but I see no need to torture myself when the real thing is at hand," Relgar finishes up by turning his back towards the warrior.

The next day passed much as the first while the third day of the journey proved different. The sky was only partly cloudy and the breezes were shifting, bringing in warmer air. Not so warm as to bring about an uncomfortable sweating, but warming up none the less.

Near midday on this third day the party sighted a caravan heading in their direction. Upon it's arrival it was seen not to be a caravan but a group of refuges.

There are five carts, many people and much livestock. One man atop a horse rides out to speak with you. "The curse of the elves has fallen. You should turn around and go back from where you came lest it…" he stops talking and spits upon the ground after seeing Caradeen's elvish features. He then kisses a holy symbol hanging about his neck, turns his horse around and heads back to the small caravan.

"Well what do you make of this? And here we are only a few miles from Awad." Roger looks about the group and then up at Caradeen.

"Ignorance. If the elves cursed them, well they probably deserve it". Says the elf as he tries to hide a scowl. He looks around the group with seriousness in his eyes. Then throws his cloak hood over his head. "We better get to Awad before nightfall."

"I don't know Caradeen-most elves I ever met are pretty mean...My father always told me never to trust an elf, said they won't fight fair and use bows cause they're cowards."

"They're not cowards. They're smart." He looks to Fulgrim and raises an eyebrow. Fulgrim always seems to improve Caradeens mood. "They live to fight another day my friend. They pull out the steel when necessary."

Over the next half-hour you pass by many more refugees. Many curse at the sight of Caradeen whilst others fall at his feet begging him for forgiveness. Those who do stop by long enough to speak are quickly ushered along by others.

Up ahead looms the town of Awad. You pass by several boarded up homes as you enter the small fishing community. Off in the distance you can hear the sounds of a large group of people.

Rounding a corner you see a large mob of folk armed with tridents, forks and other simple weapons surrounding a large dais. Upon the dais are several large men wearing swords that are ridiculing an aged man.

Shouts of "What shall we do with him?" ring out from the men on the dais. Many in the crowd answer back with words describing some hideous forms of death and disfigurement. With the enthusiasm of the crowd the men upon the dais begin to hit the old man and throw him down. This is followed by many taunts and one of the larger men picking the old man off the floor and holding him tight in his arms for all to see.

The old man looks to be scanning the crowd for help and at the sight of you he tries to raise his hand, only to have it knocked down by one of the men.

"I think they mean to kill him," says Roger, "I haven’t got much experience in human affairs, any ideas guys?"

Fulgrim yells out, "What was his crime you unruly dogs..." and sizes up the competition, looking for someone to cut down in an act of heinous bloodshed.

At the sight of your party several of the townsfolk move aside to allow you a clear path to the old man. They appear to be nervous at the sight of Caradeen, many mutter oaths beneath their breath as he draws near.

One of the townsfolk yells out, "He’s a meddling sage from Greyhawk."

This is quickly followed by many shouts of agreement, then another chimes in, "He brought down the elven curse!" This brings many more shouts and a waving of weapons in the air.

The old man upon the rock tries to raise his voice over that of the crowd but is quickly tossed to the ground and kicked. After climbing to his knees one of his captors roughly holds him. "Please help me," he shouts from the center of the mob! "I am innocent!"

A man in leather armor approaches your small group and says, "I am Dridian, a ranger in these parts. Do you know what is going on?"

Caradeen, whose patience is waning is the wind, looks to the new face of the ranger. "I don’t know, but I’m about to find out."

With his eyes trained on the old man, Dridian speaks to the party in a voice soft but full of conviction, "I think you will understand if we delay a more formal introduction, but I see there is work to be done here."

The elf makes it obvious as he climbs the steps of the Dais, trying to get all eyes on him. His hooded cloak not doing much to hide his elfish features. He glares at the people in the crowd with absolutely intensity.

With a sudden move so fluid and quick that a mere human may spend years training to move so fluid, he pulls his hood off his head. Then pauses allowing the crowd to see him in his elfish glory. Many in the crowd quiet down at the sight of Caradeens elven features.

"Let the old man go." He says monotonically.

"Or I will kill every last one of you..." Fulgrim finishes Caradeen’s thought and reaches for the hilt of his bastard sword.

With that the ranger darts up alongside Caradeen and without pause gives the elf a quick nod to show him their fight is one and the same. Dridian turns to face the crowd, a smirk barely perceptible on his face, as he anticipates the next few minutes. Although never willing to spill innocent blood, deep inside he cannot deny his lust for serving the unrighteous with swift justice.

Relgar remains behind, at the outskirts of the crowd, watching and waiting for something. Beside him stand Theobold and Roger, looks of confusion dart across their faces.

"Who are you," asks one of the men upon the dais. The other two with him take the old man from him and carry him a few feet away.

Many people mumble from the crowd when someone yells out, "See, an elf has come to save him! Proof that he is responsible!" Many other voices begin to cheer in agreement.

Fulgrim Draws his bastard sword and approaches the man holding the sage. "Let him go, or I will cut you down", he speaks, slowly and with conviction. He then counts to ten in his head (the highest number he can count to) and if the man has not unhanded the sage, Fulgrim will strike.

Caradeen, knowing how many fingers Fulgrim has, realizes there’s not much time to delay a bloody massacre and speaks up. "Good people, let him go, and let us discuss this peacefully."

"I am Fulgrim Darksword, the last name your feeble ears will ever hear if you harm the man. You can see I am no elf, I barely like them myself, like my father before me. But I will not sit by idly while you hurt an old man, so if it is quarrel that you seek, try picking on someone my size..."

Caradeen smiles on the inside. Caradeens words were mostly for show whereas Fulgrim, like his father, will have no problem in hacking down the people who plan to harm the old man. His grim visage of seriousness doesn’t display his inner happiness of knowing who to have on his side.

Fulgrim waits, seeing if there is anyone who will take up his challenge.

The large man in front of Caradeen throws up his hand in a sign of quiet. The mob hushes and he turns to Fulgrim, "If you wish to take this meddlesome man from our village and promise to never again return, we will let you. But be warned, he has brought a curse down upon us and may do the same to you."

"I am innocent," The old man whimpers as the two men holding him drop him to the ground.

"Now, take this garbage from our town and do not bring it back," commands the man in charge. Relgar, Roger and Theobold appear at the foot of the dais and help the man to his feet. The large man then tosses a staff and a large sack at the sage’s feet and sneers.

During this an old woman kneels at Caradeen’s feet pleading slowly, "I am not part of this, please spare my life! I do not wish to die as the old man’s assistant did!"

A troubled look passes over the old man’s face and a slight paleness enters his complexion. "My name is Crommard and I thank you for saving me," says the old man while picking up his staff and sack. He takes a quick look inside the bag and then says, "Will you help me?"

Dridian steps up, pats the old man on the shoulder, brushing him off, "Old man," he says, "you are alright, I pray." He coolly glances around, fearing the climate has not settled down much. "Now, tell us, what is this all about?"

"Gentleman, why don’t we find a more appropriate place for this discussion." says Caradeen as many eyes still glare in his direction. "I feel one misunderstood sentence could turn into a disaster with all these ears around."

The old man nods his head in agreement and picks up his things. The lot of you travels to the eastern edge of town, shadowed by several wary townsfolk. After leaving the town proper the villagers depart, but you are certain they are still watching.

"We must find my assistant," proclaims the old man, "Some of the villagers said he headed off into the woods in this direction. Do any of you have the skills of a hunter?"

Caradeen looks towards their new acquaintance. "Dridian, you have the look of the outdoors type?" The elf’s nose doesn’t detect the smell of stale ale and dungy outhouses on him.

Fulgrim looks at the man but his mind wanders off while he speaks. The large warrior snaps out of his daydream in time to hear the last few words the old man speaks. "Uhhh, I can kill stuff", Fulgrim replies....

As most of the others give Fulgrim a strange look, Caradeen takes the eloquent sentence in stride. "After he kills stuff, we usually have Roger cook it...if that’s what you mean by hunting. Roger knows how to get the most out of a Fulgrim kill."

"‘Tis true," spoke Roger, "but I fear Fulgrim’s skills are not what you seek."

Certain words trigger immediate reactions to the ranger..."find" is one of them. As soon as Dridian heard the old man utter the word, almost instinctively his eyes were scouring the area. His concentration went from ground, searching for tracks, to the brush searching for disturbed branches. Almost too locked in this game that he loves to play, he almost doesn’t hear Caradeen address him. But, always alert he picks up his gaze for a moment, "Yes friend, you could say that I have spent a good amount of time under the sun and stars Please, follow me and I will do my best to find your assistant and then perhaps we can sort this all out."

Within moments Dridian picks up the trail of Crommard’s assistant. The trail zigzags through the woods, indicating the man was in a state of confusion or exhaustion.

"So Crommard, tell me what happened," asks Relgar.

"Well," begins the old man, "I was up here with my assistant Sethus investigating an extraordinary orcish find."

"Orcs," puffed in Theobold.

"Come now Ham, let the old man finish," interjected Roger with a hand upon the dwarfs shoulder.

"Ah yes, orcs. Marvelous creatures they are. We found some great items of interest! Why, I believe I have a bit of fossilized orc dung here in my bag. It’ll only take me a moment to get it." The old man then stopped by a tree and began to rummage through his sack.

"That will not be necessary," spoke Relgar, "but please tell us more of your expedition!"

The old man stopped for a second and then hefted his sack over his shoulder once more. "Ah yes. I met Sethus in the city of Greyhawk. I was doing some research into ancient orcish settlements when I encountered him. We decided to work together and we soon traveled here to investigate the ancient stronghold on the northern coast, Jawarl Avignon. It was once populated by elves and men but then was taken over by orcs many years ago."

"This is strange" spoke Dridian, "The trail turns sharply northeast here, and he is no longer staggering!"

"Yes, very strange indeed." The ranger continues, "I suggest we proceed with caution." Dridian lifts his head to cast his glance around them. Often in the woods alone and using stealth as one of his greatest allies, Dridian says, "perhaps, it would be best if we pay heed to the noise we make." His gaze falls uneasily on the big fighter, Fulgrim. "And as for you old man," Dridian addresses the elf, "you speak of the orcs with slightly more affection than I care for. No friend of the beasts myself, I do however think it is wise to know your enemy well. I could learn a lot from you."

The ranger then looks back down at the trail left by the assistant, "Shall we continue then?"

After a non-verbal yes from all concerned you continue to track the missing man. Crommard goes on and on about different aspects of orcish culture during your trek until the forest you are in begins to break and you smell the telltale sign of the sea nearby.

Up ahead you also see an old ruined fortress. Crommard begins to strain to look about before sagging back down.

The old fort is about four hundred feet away across clear and open ground and the trail heads straight towards an opening in one of the walls.

Dridian speaks, "It looks as though your assistant went in there, Crommard." He pauses as he knows that no matter what the answer to the next question is, he will probably end up inside. "Do you know what this place is?"

Seeing the ruined fort, Fulgrim begins to ready himself for some exploring. He sits down and rummages through his pack, looking for a torch...

"This is Jawarl Avignon, where we were digging." The old man’s gaze seems to glaze over slightly as he surveys the sight, his head cocked as if listening. "The orcs called it ‘Alhurmus’, or ‘Elves Blood’, as it would translate. There is an entrance along the western wall." Crommard points northward where a low wall extends out to the west from the northern wall. "That is the sea wall, for beyond it lies a high cliff and below is a sandy beach."

Caradeen, with his utter distaste of Orcs, draws his sword. "We need to be ready. I have no intentions of having any of my ‘Alhurmus’ spilled."

Fulgrim looks to his companions..."Shall we enter?"

Dridian, not so eager to blindly enter the fort as his big companion Fulgrim, says to Crommard, "Why do you think that your assistant would retreat into the fortress? What kind of things might we expect waiting for us in there?" He casts his glance about the party. "I must remind you all, that we still haven’t gotten to the bottom of this whole mob situation. While I do not particularly care for the superstitions of the ignorant, I must think that there was probably some catalyst for the uprising! "What say ye, Crommard?"

Theobold is heard to grumble slightly at Dridian’s words, followed by a gulping sound from Roger, "he does have a point old man, why would your sickly friend return to the dig site?"

"I do not know," replies the old man, "perhaps he returned to die here?"

"It looks as if we might all die here then, "quips Roger, "except for Caradeen, he’s probably immune to this elven curse!"

"As for the mob, "interjects Crommard, "They came upon me a short time before all of you arrived." He takes a moment to wipe some sweat from his forehead and then looks back over at the old fort. "Shall we?"

Dridian takes a deep breath and looks up to the sky. He is no coward but hates rushing into situations that could be potentially deadly. He scans his party. Most of the adventurers seem eager to get on with the business at hand, especially Fulgrim who he notices is already readying his sword. ‘Orcs’ he thinks, ‘how I do detest them.’

He straightens his posture and says, "Well my friends, I do feel charged with the responsibility to fight evil in its many forms. No doubt evil is at work here." Noting the strange change in the tracks from before he continues, "I am not expecting to find this assistant dying in there. However, there seems to be but one way to get to the bottom of this!" With that, he walks over to the big fighter. "Fulgrim," he lets out a little laugh, "I can see what you plan to do!" He places his right hand on the large man’s shoulder and locks eyes with him, "What are we waiting for?"

"Indeed." is all the large fighter bellows as he turns towards the fort, intent on entering. He pauses only to light a torch, and enters the open field.

Dridian follows behind the fighter, struggling to see over his shoulders.

Caradeen follows behind Dridian. The Elf’s ears were keen enough to pickup Roger’s Blurb and knows that Roger wouldn’t like an Elf guarding his back right about now.

The party slowly makes its way across the open field towards the old fort. Crommard ambles near the back of the formation with Relgar, ahead of him walk Roger and Theobold. In the lead is Dridian, with his eyes intent upon the tracks on the ground. Fulgrim and Caradeen follow him, both poised for action with their short bows at the ready.

After a few minutes of walking the party of seven arrives at the entranceway of the citadel. To the north lies a low wall that extends for a good distance to the west, beyond this wall can be seen the ocean many feet below, as well as two bodies lying upon a sandy beach. There is also a large pile of clothing and other items to the right of the entranceway.

Dridians concern mounts when he sees the two bodies. "Wait!" He says in a harshened whisper. He instinctively trains all his attention to every little movement and sound to make sure that whatever danger befell those two bodies is gone now. "We must go check those bodies!"

A sudden pallor overtakes Crommard’s complexion as he gazes upon the pile of discarded items. He slowly moves towards it and prods it with his staff, several items of clothing, small plates and eating utensils fall upon the ground.

To your east lies the citadel entranceway, a very long 10’ wide corridor. Any roof that might have been over this corridor has long since vanished. The left wall is a continuation of the aforementioned low wall and the right wall appears to be pockmarked with arrow slits.

"This was the entranceway," begins Crommard," It goes for over 100 feet before turning sharply to the right. The right and far walls are evenly spaced with arrow slits, to aid in the defense. Most enemies who made it this far were quickly killed when they tried to enter here."

‘Umm... It may be an elaborate trap of some sort’ Caradeen says, knowing some of the cruel traps his father’s companions had run into. "But, I personally think we should let them be. They aren’t going anywhere...at least not too far without their clothes" the Elf says as he picks up what is most likely a woman’s dress.

Fulgrim points at the elf and laughs..."We have no time for you to try on clothes Caradeen ." His chuckles continue as he walks into the passage, knowing that he has embarrassed the elf.

The elf looks around with just his eyes and mutters a few words barely within an audible range. "Not my colors anyway..."

Dridian looks over at the bodies again. He hates to leave someone that could be in trouble but they look really dead! Not to mention that he knows the truth of Caradeen’s words, that it may indeed be a trap. So he forces himself onward to keep up with his companions. Not terribly used to being constricted to group decisions, he chokes that urge of freedom that nags at him to check the bodies and follows the general will of the party. He moves along towards the entrance.

Fulgrim begins to walk down the corridor when a heavy crossbow bolt lodges into his chest (5hp), another flies past him and the rest of the party. It is obvious that the bolt came from the far end of the corridor, from behind one of the arrow slits.

Fulgrim immediately staggers backwards and takes cover around the fort's western wall. He drops his pack and begins rummaging through it.

Dridian drops to a knee and begins sending arrows down the corridor. They both shatter against the far wall, as he proves unable to send them through the narrow arrow slit.

Caradeen also launches several arrows towards the far wall and similarly finds his aim lacking as they crash into the hard stone of the fort.

Crommard quickly ducks after Fulgrim while launches a sling bullet all the way down to pass through the arrow slit! Roger levels his crossbow but does not manage to pierce the arrow slit. Theobold climbs up on the low wall, but after a quick look over the side he jumps down and heads for Fulgrim.

At this time Fulgrim pours some water into a jug and makes a clicking noise with his teeth. He then downs the contents and looks refreshed (back to full hit points).

Meanwhile one more bolt comes towards the three men in the corridor, striking Relgar in the chest. (4hp).

Caradeen launches two more arrows, one finding its mark. Dridian's two arrows, Roger's bolt and Relgar's bullet all succeed in impacting upon the wall.

"Of all the rotten, bloody luck," replies Relgar, looking down at the bolt buried deep in his chest. "Someone pull this God-forsaken bolt out" he says, as he slides to the ground.

Dridian looks at Caradeen, "Perhaps we can scale this wall down to the beach, move over to where we are being shot at and climb back up. Maybe from there we can stop whoever is shooting at us!"

Relgar pulls the arrow out of his chest, and places his hand over the bloody wound. Considering the damage, he trots to the safety of the wall and casts a cure light wounds upon himself. (4hp). He then leans around the corner with his sling and returns fire.

Roger turns to Dridian, Theobold by his side, "not a good idea Dridian, Hammy took a look over that low wall and he says it's a real steep drop on the far side. I think we might have better luck scaling the wall here and going topside. 'Course, I'm not sure how secure those old battlements up there are, they may give way when someone heavy climbs up."

Theobold grunts in agreement whilst scratching his beard.

Caradeen launches a pair of arrows, one finding it's way through the arrow slit. Relgar's bullet impacts upon the wall, but suddenly, there is no more return fire.

Fulgrim begins to approach the arrow slits, this time brandishing his shield.

Caradeen looks to Fulgrim. "I think we can make it to other end of the hallway before they can get off too many bolts." Caradeen’s wisdom not being his strong point. "Mad dash on three?"


Dridian, seeing what’s about to happen, realizes that it is time to act. He sees the potential for bolts to come out of the right wall. So he puts away his bow, and puts his back to the right wall. He readies his shield against any more bolts from the east. As he begins to inch his way along the wall.

Grabbing his gear, Relgar takes a deep breath, "I hope you guys know what you're doing!" Relgar smiles!

"Know what we’re doing? What does that have to do with anything?" Dridian, under his breath, realizing the somewhat brash collectiveness of the party.

"Ha!" Relgar laughs, crossing himself. "Well, my friend, let us trust to Fharlanghn, and do this thing!"

Three! Fulgrim bellows charging at the far end of the hallway...

Caradeen follows at break neck speed. Noting how happy he his not to be as big as his human friend. Relgar trails in third place behind the two old friends.

Dridian, with not even a chance to take a deep breath, executes his plan, trying to keep up with the rest as best as possible.

As the two brash warriors rush towards the far wall two bolts fly out form the right wall. One whizzes right past Fulgrim's head and the other catches Caradeen in the right arm. (4 hp.)

Dridian's progress seems to be working well and no more missile fire is coming from straight-ahead. The two demi-humans and the sage follow behind Dridian.

Upon reaching the far end of the gauntlet the party is almost shocked to see it continues to their right and then back again! Taking a moment to find some relative safety, all six men sit low between the arrow slits on the eastern wall.

"Now what, brave men," asks Roger?

Dridian quickly catches his breath and surveys the party. "I do admire your bravery but such blind moves of attack surely fall to the side of foolishness!" With that, Dridian carefully peeks around the corner.

Looking down the corridor Dridian counts nine arrow slits on the north wall before the corridor abruptly turns south. The dwarf lets out a deep sigh and Roger speaks up, Another death trap? How did this fort ever fall?"

"Oh no," interrupts Crommard," This is the end of it. Beyond the opening in the south wall lies the main courtyard of this fort. Once we reach it we will be much safer. I do wonder what has been shooting at us, you don't suppose their might really be orcs here, do you?"

Dridian looks at Crommard, "Well, it looks as though we may soon find out!" Dridian slides up to the north wall, keeping himself between arrow slits. "We know how to deal with these arrow slits now. Shall we make our way down now?" With that, Dridian prepares to reverse his tactic and make his way down the hall to the south.

Relgar readies his sling, and prepares to follow the others down the hall. "Here goes nothing!" he grunts as he pushes off!!

"I don’t care what is here...let’s just kill it and be done with this place..." Says Fulgrim.

Dridian thinks to himself, this party can’t be good for my soul.

Caradeen, reeling in pain, gets the arrow out of his arm and wraps a quick bandage around it. "To hell them! Damn Orcs." Caradeen summons the energies for a spell. "Everyone be quiet." The Elf sends the Sleep spell down the hall beyond the arrow slits. "When you hear the bodies hit the floor start moving."

After casting his mighty spell the distant sound of armored body bodies hitting stone is heard. The elf then prepares himself to move down the hall in the rear of the group.

With Caradeen’s new tactic, Dridian draws his sword and prepares himself for whatever lies ahead.

Charging down the open-roofed corridor the party finds that immediately beyond the bend lies a vast courtyard. Right at Fulgrim's feet lie two sleeping orcs and one ogrillion in a like state. His smile quickly increases at the sight of more orcs in the courtyard beyond.

"It’s time for us to fight!" Dridian proclaims as he sees the enemies that were his many generations before he was even born. But being the man of goodness that he is, he yells to them, in what he is sure will be in vain, "Throw down your arms or prepare yourselves for battle!" He is already moving towards the orcs armed with bows though with full expectations to fight.

Relgar takes one look at the orcs sleeping on the floor, and turns his attention to the orcs with bows. Swinging his arm, He releases the sling in the direction of the orc to the left of the broken statue. He then glances about at the slumbering orcs. In the distance his bullet hits the orc but does not seem to affect him.

Roger and Theobold scamper over to the slumbering orcs and begin slicing throats.

Caradeen launches a pair of arrows towards the archers while Fulgrim charges straight towards the orcs with bows, his gleaming bastard sword in hand.

Caradeens arrows do not hit their mark but instead impact upon the broken statue. The two orcish archers take aim upon the party and let their arrows rain down upon the party. Caradeen (-2hp), Roger (-4hp) and Theobold (-1hp) are all struck by the flying missiles.

A javelin thrown by one of the black orcs narrowly misses the charging Fulgrim and in the distance the two ogrillions and giant rats charge towards the broken statue.

Fulgrim and Dridian crash into the two orcs behind the statue. Fulgrim's blade, leaving a trail of blue sparks in the air, slices cleanly through an orc and the rock he was hiding behind sending a spray of blood all over. Dridian's target proves a bit more difficult to hit and it drops its bow and draws a scimitar.

With the immediate missile threat gone Caradeen pulls a slender piece of wood from his belt and points it at the orc throwing javelins. Smirking while saying, "bite me," a blue bolt exits the wand and flys across the courtyard to impact into the orcs chest. The creature drops a javelin and falls behind a wall.

Relgar takes aim at the giant rats approaching the ruined statue and launches a bullet. He winces slightly as the projectile ricochets of the statue near Dridian's head.

Roger braces his crossbow and lets fly at the giant rats, also missing. At the same time Theobold slices the throat of the one remaining sleeping opponent.

The two ogrillions and giant rats finally reach the statue. The rats nip at Dridian and Fulgrim's feet but do no damage. The ogrillions let loose with their fists. Dridian manages to dodge the powerful blows but Fulgrim is hit solidly by one fist (-4hp).

Fulgrim, annoyed at the senseless spilling of his own blood strikes out at the offending creature. His swing begins to go wide, but with a shower of blue sparks the sword guides itself to its target and removes the creature's head from its shoulder revealing a fountain of blood that pours forth from its neck.

Dridian launches an attack upon the orc; intent on removing the easier kill and lands a solid piercing strike into the creatures' chest, dropping it to the sandy ground.

The giant rats continue to nibble at the men's feet but neither draws any blood. The ogrillion attacking Dridian lands a solid fist (-5hp) on the ranger's face, which sends a sparkle of stars across his vision.

Seeing the orcish javalineer re-emerge from where he fell Roger takes aim and watches as his bolt shatters against the wall to the creatures left. Theobold in turn heads for the opening in the wall to your west.

Relgar, deciding that his sling fire may end up striking his friends heads for the ruined statue with his quarter staff at the ready. Caradeen launches a few arrows at the lone black orc that once held the rats on leashes.

Strangely enough, the creature does not even flinch as the arrows miss him by mere inches. All it does is turn towards the elf and begin to slowly walk towards the battle with a quarterstaff in its hands.

The black orc with the javelins throws one towards Relgar but misses him by several feet.

The heroes' momentum slows a little and Dridian finds himself on the receiving end of a very effective right hook (-7hp) that sends the warrior to the ground. His sword clangs noisily to the ground near his feet.

The rat nibbling at the toes of Fulgrim stabs one of it's filthy teeth through his foot (-1hp) eliciting a yell from the mighty warrior. Fulgrim, in response stabs his blade through the center of the creatures' back. Lifting his blade with the skewered rat upon it he swings it towards the approaching black orc. The body of the dead rat lands near the creature, but does not seem to affect it.

Caradeen, realizing that the strange orc may be protected against his arrows points his wand and yells, "bite me!" Once more a blue bolt races across the courtyard to impact upon the orcs chest. The creature was obviously affected by the blast but continues it's slow amble.

Roger launches a bolt at the orc with the javelins, but not before it was able to send one aloft. The bolt catches the orc in the neck and it drops to the ground clutching at the shaft. The javelin flys high through the air and impacts the ground mere feet from Roger.

Relgar clashes with the ogrillion but is unable to land any hits upon the creature.

Fulgrim charges at the slow moving orc and swings his sparkling sword. Strangely enough he misses. At this point the orc strikes back with his staff and also misses.

Relgar lands a mighty blow upon the ogrillions side yet the beast continues to fight on, both fists flailing. Luckily for the cleric, he is able to dodge the flailing fists.

Caradeen and Roger look at each other, shrug their shoulders and charge to the aid of Relgar. Of the dwarf there is no sign, as for Crommard he is peeking out at the battle from behind the entranceway.

Once more Fulgrim slashes at the orc with his sword, this time it bites deep into the orcs armored flesh, severing muscle and bone alike. The force of the blow sends the creature backwards to land upon the ground with a sickening crunch. A smile creases the mad mans face as he turns to watch Relgar.

Relgar once more launches an attack on the creature and once more misses. The rat near his feet does not bite him but the ogrillion lands two solid blows (-8hp) that send the cleric back several feet to land beside Dridian.

Caradeen and Roger arrive to attack the ogrillion both of their swords bite deep into its flesh and it falls dead. A moment later roger stabs his sword through the remaining giant rat, killing it.

Roger leans over the fallen ranger and bandages his wounds while Caradeen does the same for Relgar.

"Alas, blood has been spilled..." you hear Fulgrim say as he surveys the carnage with a certain wildness in his eyes. Fulgrim then begins to bandage the severely wounded to the best of his ability.

While Caradeen carefully ties off Relgar’s bandages, he speaks to the party. "That Orc was no normal Orc. I know of no orc that can take a shot from lightning wand and keep coming." He tears off another piece of cloth to bind up his own wound. "Let’s find some cover before another group catches us sitting here."

Fulgrim speaks the words of healing and pours each of the fallen characters a quaff from his magic jug. He then takes a pull himself.

Spitting and sputtering, as the liquid is poured down his mouth, the fallen cleric feels his wounds begin to close. Sitting up and holding his head, Relgar shakes the fresh cobwebs from his brain, and attempt to stand. Woozy, he manages to get up right. Grabbing his staff, he leans on it for a moment. "I’ve bloody well have to get some better armor, " grouses Relgar, he looks his self over, and is disgusted at the battering he has taken.

"Anyone see a decent orc shield, I can grab for the moment." he says, looking around, "When I get back to town, I’m definitely buying a shield!"

"Now, Let’s find ourselves someplace to hide." Caradeen says while looking around the courtyard for some cover. "I wonders if it would be possible to hide in the corridors that the orcs were firing they’re crossbows from."

"Agreed," says the none to steady Cleric. "Standing here in the open is asking for trouble!"

Dridian looks to his companions through eyes that are still a bit humble, "I am sorry I have failed you. Thank you for healing me." With that he looks towards the ground and says, "I agree, cover would be the best thing right now."

Relgar says, "I see that we are all still banged up pretty well. I have one Cure Light Wound spell left. As we all are in need, and with a good chance of combat yet to come, I propose healing Dridian, or Caradeen, either of which perhaps be more of a asset in combat then I seem to be!"

Relgar gets on his knees in front of Dridian and while holding out his holy symbol he begins to chant. A green light emanates from the clerics body, out his hands and enters that of Dridian. Dridian shows an obvious improvement (+7hp) as the glow slowly fades.

Dridian gets up and goes to examine the statue in the middle of the courtyard. He spends a few minutes looking it over and then walks over to the open well to the west. He leans over the three-foot high outer wall and stares down the hole. After a few seconds he takes something from the ground and drops it in. He calls to the others, "Hey, down here", pointing down the well. "I think there may be something down here to investigate!"

At the same time Theobold emerges from one of the chambers off the courtyard with the sage in tow. "Wonders of wonders," exclaims the old man! "I have just found their treasure chamber!"

Dridian looks at the old man and asks, "Is this the reason I have been brought out here? To seek out treasure? If so, then I know I could find somewhere else to be - somewhere where my talents will be used to fight for goodness!"

Relgar says to Dridian, "Sir, consider what you say. While I will be the first to say that treasure is not the end all of goodness, with a bit of money, we could all purchase perhaps better equipment, and items to further perpetuate the cause you expound. I, for one, as a cleric, would be grateful for a share to return to my Lord and my church, to further our cause. Not to mention, Dridian, We have met evil creatures in battle, and you’ve shown your prowess. Do not begrudge the others if they do not seek immortality as you do!"

Bowing to Theobold, "I, sir, would be honored to share the wealth with you, and the others. May it go far in enhancing our abilities to carry the word of my lord to others!"

"Shut up and get out of my way", Caradeen says as he hands Fulgrim one end of a rope and ties the other around himself. "We’re here for one thing gentlemen. Don’t kids yourselves..."

"Caradeen, Relgar, and me have been through this before," Fulgrim says, holding the rope. We fight, we kill, we find some gold... Now let’s get all this loot and rest for a while. There will be more battle soon."

"And another thing...we need to quit fighting amongst ourselves, that will just make us easier prey for the orcs. If anybody has a problem with that, I’ll punch ‘em in the face."

Dridian looks at the large fighter and with somber tone replies, "I have no intention of letting the orcs get the upper hand, that I assure you." He ignores the threat of the fighter though. He then scans the rest of the party, "Strange that we should find ourselves in the same order together." he pauses and looks upwards as if trying to find his answers in the heavens, "True, we may have different purposes for our adventures together, but seeing that the path for all of us is one and the same, I feel that it would be wise for me to stay the route." Almost yearning to be back on his own, as any good ranger would prefer, he pushes out the thoughts that he might be making a mistake and speaks finally, "Then let us continue and see what this treasure room holds for us, and may it aid us in our journey."

"Yes a marvelous treasure chamber," continues Crommard.

Theobold just rolls his eyes and makes a spinning motioned with one of the fingers on his right hand and then points at the sage.

Roger pulls in tight to all of you and says," one sage's treasure is another man's trash. Bury some trash in a hole and eventually some sage will regard it as an artifact!"

"Well, I was going to say haven’t found shit yet...but I’d be wrong."

"I will go into the well," Dridian proudly exclaims!

Fulgrim looks over at Dridian and then begins lowering Caradeen down the shaft.

Caradeen thinks to himself, "why do I feel like bait?" The Elf pulls out his dagger knowing that his sword wouldn’t work in the confines of the well walls.

Relgar watches as Caradeen is lowered into the well. "Oh, Lord Fharlanghn, guard Fulgrim, and see him safely in his endeavor. As his success furthers our goals, guide him well!"

About a minute after Caradeen is lowered, a loud scraping sound, as of stone on stone echoes up from the depths of the well.

"Perhaps we should pull him up now, that sounded ominous!" says Relgar, in a worried tone, "Who knows what is down there!

Meanwhile, Theobold begins rooting about the ground. Producing a sizable chuck of stone he moves back towards the well, ready to heave his rock over the side at the first hint of trouble.

The muffled voice of Caradeen responds from well, "I'm fine!"

Theobold puts his rock down next to the well and looks down at the rock and shakes his finger at it, "You stay there." Carefully, Hamsmacker climbs on the rim of the well and really studies the walls of the well. He runs his hand around the inside of the walls trying to determine how sturdy the stone is for the possibility of climbing down. If he finds any nitches or finger holds, he pulls at them as hard as he can to see if the stone will crumble under his weight. He also looks at the diameter of the well to see if he could shimmy down the well.

"I am concerned for our friend. What if something is lurking in the darkness below? It could kill our friend while he is grasping onto the rope and climbing down. I want to go down after him, just in case there is any trouble." Hamsmacker continues to study the stonework to determine his best chance to descend down into the darkness of the well.

Dridian peers over the edge of the well, preparing his own descent when a cloud of smoke begins to exit the shaft. Looking down he sees the elf waving his hand in front of his face as he tries to avoid the worst of the smoke effect.

Relgar stands, and clutches his holy symbol, "I...I...I... I don’t like the looks of this!!!"

Dridian’s concern heightens as he sees the smoke wafting up the shaft. "Caradeen! What is going on down there? Are you alright?" Not waiting for a response, Dridian continues to get ready to descend.

"Ahh, I’ve got it." Hamsmacker mumbles to himself. He climbs off of the lip of the well and goes to pick up his stone. As he heaves the heavy stone toward the well, Hamsmacker changes his mind, "No, you’re to big." and puts the small boulder back onto the ground. Picking up a stone with about a 1" diameter he prepares to drop it down the well and count the seconds until he hears it hit.

Caradeen leans back to look up the well, "I’m fine down here, cough, I found a secret entrance and had to burn some webs. Cough." At the same time Theobold drops a rock down the well that impacts upon a piece of wood 30’ below the elf. Suddenly an ominous popping sound is heard. A large cloud of yellowish fog erupts from the bottom of the well. Upon reaching the level where Caradeen hangs upon the rope it catches a strong draft from the burning webs that sends the cloud spiraling up the well to explode in the air over the party.

Small yellow particles descend upon the party causing a violent series of coughing and choking spasms. Fulgrim loses his grip upon the rope as he tries to cover his mouth. Luckily for Caradeen, he had enough purchase on the ledge he was clinging to not to plummet to the bottom of the well.

As the cloud descends to fully encompass the party all fall to the ground clutching at their suddenly dry throats. Fulgrim recovers first, getting to his knees several yellow clouds exit his mouth. He slowly looks about to see his comrades in similar straits.

All except Dridian recover. The poor ranger lies face up near the well, one hand on his throat the other resting upon the sandy ground.

Rising up from the floor, Relgar begins to check the others.

The elf yells from the well, "What happened?"

Fulgrim speaks, "I believe we need to rest and bury our fallen comrade."

Roger looks over at the fallen form of Dridian and gives him a once over with his eyes, "not much worthwhile for gear, guess we can bury him. Though dumping his body into the ocean might be quicker."

Crommard turns from the well and begins walking towards one of the openings in the walls. Mumbling about his ‘things’ the entire time.

"Hey guys," shouts Caradeen from the well," What’s going on up there?"

Relgar looks aghast at the others, "You surely can’t be serious, just dumping him in the ocean? We must, at the very least, find a suitable spot and lay him out. We cannot just dump him!" "Are we nothing to each other, other then useful tools to be discarded and tossed away when they break, or are no longer useful?"

"Let’s pull Caradeen up, at least, and let him know what is happening." Relgar says, still unbelieving the callousness of his ‘friends’, wondering how he is to be treated if he was to die.

Fulgrim looks at Relgar, nodding his head. "We must bury our friend. Let us leave this place for a while and regroup." He then drops his rope into the well...

Caradeen grabs the rope and looks upward to see the somber faces of his companions. Their grave faces foretell bad news. In a soft voice he asks again, "what happened?"

"Dridian is no more", Fulgrim says, "poisoned by spores from the well".

"Son of a bitch." The Elf says as he turns his head away from the group and towards the ground. His eyes open mournfully as he turns back the others. "We should leave here and come back better prepared."

"Let’s" Fulgrim says, and begins to wrap the body of Dridian up in an old cloak, wary of any lingering spores. That done, he hefts the body and begins to make for the exit.

"Wait!" Relgar says before Fulgrim can lift Dridian up. Bending low, and removing his Holy Symbol, Relgar intones a prayer, and touches the head of Dridian with his Symbol. He finishes with, "May the gods bless thee, and take thee into their arms" Finished, Relgar helps Fulgrim lift Dridian.

The sound of Crommard screaming echoes about the courtyard.

From here forward is unknown as the game ended suddenly due to a withering of player postings.

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