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Monthly Archives: December 2010


Pirate Days along the Yann

Words by  Ken St. Andre

Art by Greywulf

When the last gold eagle had been squandered and the great carouse was over, we wandered back down to the banks of the Yann and found our ship. By ones and twos and threes and fours, we staggered up the gangplank and came once again to the safe haven of our ship—safe for us, not for our prey.

There, in a comfy chair in the center of the foredeck, sat our Captain, reclining languidly, his eyes shut, and his swarthy countenance all foamy with lather. His scarlet coat lay folded across a barrel. The cabin boy crouched nearby, polishing the captain’s high-topped black boots while wearing a dirty yellow towel to protect his frilly silken shirt from flying bits of hair and foam. Smee swung his glittering straight razor like a maniac, but never a drop of the Captain’s blood did he shed.

With the last of the crew finally aboard, we hauled up the anchor and began the long trip to the sea, setting sail in our brigantine into the midst of the wide-rolling Yann. The sweet-scented evening wind from the mountains filled our white sails as we began yet another voyage on the lucrative Yann River, where dreams come true.

When the sun had slipped behind the western hills, I, Red Jack, stood on the fore railing next to my scarlet-jacketed captain, and we smoked our long-stemmed pipes while the gem-like stars danced gloriously in the obsidian sky overhead.  The distant sounds of squawking parrots and howling monkeys drifted over the water, but did not disturb our planning; the jungle beasts that frequented the shores of the river hereabouts settled into their treetop nesting places.  The night watch went about their work, silently for the most part, for two thirds of the crew slept, curled up on rich blankets or stretched out in hammocks wherever they could hang them, while Long Tom, the helmsman, held our course to the center of the peaceful river.

So the Yann carried us down toward the Sea of Dreams, for he was strong with the melted snow that the Poltiades River brought down to him from the Hills of Hap. During the night, he carried us past the jungle towns of Kyph and Pir, and even past the lights of stately Goolunza. We didn’t stop at any of those places, for we had plundered in all of them on the trip upriver.

Sometime past the middle of the night, the Captain went into his cabin, and I, being first mate aboard the Triumph, went also unto mine, and laid me down to see what dreams might come in Dreamland.

When the sun rose in crimson glory, and the ship moved into the waters commanded by the Khalif of Mandaroon, the Captain ordered us to port to gather supplies. Spider, Blag, and Smedley went to the jungle to gather provisions, while Smee, Dagmar, and the Captain led a party of barrel-bearing hearties to a crystal spring, nigh unto the main gate of the city, to refresh our water supply. But I went in a different direction, even past the hut of the white-bearded, bespectacled guard, to the edge of a blue-towered district where every man, woman, and child remained asleep. And, as I would have walked among them, the guardian stopped me, saying, “Go not into dreaming Mandaroon, unless thou wishest to sleep until Doomsday.” Then I turned away from the slumbering city and went back to the ship, no richer than when I had set forth.

We once again entered the slow-flowing flood, sailing, as leisurely as lords sail, down a river covered with dancing butterflies. And so the day passed, almost like a waking dream, until the purple shadows of evening began to fall once more. Then I heard the Captain shout for Smee to bring his sword, and I thought it might be well for me to claim my own weapon, even that great poleaxe from which I took my name. All around, the men gathered clubs, daggers, and fine-hilted rapiers until all were bravely armed.

Then we came to ancient Astahahn, where fabulous beasts, all carven in time-eroded stone, guarded the approaches from the river. There we saw the representations of manticore, chimera, griffin, gargoyles, and bulky black dragons, some looking so real that we feared they might come out to attack us as we drifted by. But the men of the city seemed to fear them not, and, though a few of the children waved to us, most of the citizens simply paraded on about their business, carrying strange banners and statues on gold-fringed litters to the uncanny music of flutes and drums.

“What do ye fear, Cap’n?” asked the rotund and near-sighted Smee, who had found no better weapon than his old feather duster.

“Fear!” scoffed the Captain. “There is not much here to fear, but soon we will enter the Territory of the Vampire Moths!  Be ready to fight them off, me hearties!”

Then, as the bulky walls and columns of Astahahn faded into the darkness astern and a golden moon crept over the jungle trees to the east, multitudes of great albino moths rose fluttering from the shores to either side of us. Larger than eagles they were, and paler than phantoms, and they dipped and swooped and fluttered toward us like a wave of specters.

The captain struck out with his cutlass at the first moth to reach our decks, and his glaive split it in twain with a sound like shredding papyrus.  Then, for at least two turns of the glass, we struggled with the winged hosts of hell, slaying them by tens, hundreds and thousands, and never letting them land or fasten their leech-like mouths upon our skins. And we did well, for we lost but one man, Big-belly Bert, whose flabby arms grew weary with the struggle until he could no longer swing his marlin spike, and three of the hideous insects grabbed him by the hair, and the shirt, and one hand, and dragged him overboard while all else were too busy to help him.

But when the sun came up, the devil-moths abandoned their attack, and we drifted wearily on toward a multi-domed marvel of a city. Lo!  It was Perdondaris—that famous city where the luxurious toomarund carpets are woven, the city of merchants and hagglers. Were we not so weary from our fight against the Vampire Moths, we might have gone ashore to seek refreshment and whatever booty we could gather, for it was a rich, rich place. But the Captain staggered off to his cabin, and the rest of us put down our weapons and dropped to sleep wherever we could, mostly above decks, for the day waxed warm.

We drifted past ivory-walled Perdondaris and onward toward the Hills of Glorm. Then the Yann grew narrow and swift. High, rocky cliffs closed in on both sides of the river until all the water was lost in shadow and the sun seemed only a lamp in a far blue ceiling high above us. Every man stood on his post, and the river waves crashed and splashed across the deck, and I wondered that we had sailed through this gorge once before on the upstream voyage, but truly we had had a river mage to aid us at that time.

The peril lasted less than an hour. The river widened and slowed, and we found ourselves almost becalmed in the Marshes of Pondoovery. Then black clouds of mosquitoes in their millions rose up to meet us, yet another vampiric threat. But we broke out the smudge pots and the heavy grease, and passed through them by sunset without much harm—though all had been bitten more than twenty times.

When all threats lay behind us, and the lights of Cappidarnia showed golden against the gathering darkness, the Captain ordered the anchor dropped, and our ship came to rest in the center of the river.

“Rest well, me bold bravos,” cried the Captain, “for on the morrow, I believe we shall find prey at last!”

“Hooray for the Captain!” I shouted, and the men of my watch took up the cry, until the whole ship was cheering him. He smirked with pleasure then, and stroked his black mustachios with pride and glee.

On the morrow, we sailed down toward Cappidarnia, and many boats sailed along with us, but compared to our great brigantine they were all small and fragile things. All, that is, save one. A majestic barge, whose name, Bird of the River, was painted in letters of gold upon its bow, was making its way downriver. Gaily dressed men lined its high rails, and they were bold enough to wave at us and shout. But their shouts turned to alarm as we ran the Jolly Roger up our mast.

Sailing past the city of Capidarnia.

Moving beside the great barge, the Captain ordered the cannons fired in a broadside that wreaked havoc among the unprepared tourists on the other vessel. It seemed they had no cannons of their own, and so were at our mercy. Three broadsides we gave them, and the barge was listing low in the water when our yelling horde of plundering pirates swung across its rails. They could not stand against us, though one tall passenger fought well, cutting down Blag and Nigel, but when the Captain and I approached him, he turned and dived into the river and so escaped us at the end. Soon, we had their captain on his knees before our own. And we looted and plundered. We took everything of value, from the rings on their fingers to the gold in their teeth, from those arrogant fools who never thought to encounter peril. We took their cargo of silks from Gondara, spices from Golnuz, and gold from the mines of Mlo, and left the hulking carcass of that pleasure boat to founder outside the glittering gates of Cappidarnia.

Now, richly laden with treasure, we sail on down the ever-widening Yann. The sea is not far, perhaps just another day of sailing, and the Captain speaks of making course for far Tortuga if we can but escape these unknown lands where we have been wandering.

And I, Red Jack the Pirate, am content for now, and looking forward to the great carouse that is to come.

The End


Introduction:

I have put a lot of Tunnels and Trolls dungeon delving fiction up here.  This tale is a little different.  No actual gameplay is behind it.  Rose of Stormgaard is an unpublished Tunnels and Trolls novel–mostly unpublished–a preliminary version of it has been shared at http://erbzine.com.  What we have here is a slightly modified excerpt from the novel that I think makes a very good short story. 

When you read this story, I’d like you to think about a question or two.  Rose is the heroine of the tale.  Do you wind up liking her or not?  Why or why not?

Without further ado, here is Champion of Stormgaard.

Friends of Rose

 

Champion of Stormgaard

            By Ken St. Andre

The Black Dragon door guards were a matched set of brutes.  Dressed in black leather pants and vests that left their chests bare, each man stood over six feet tall and was muscled like a wrestler.  Wearing open faced black dragon helms, and carrying a black mace a good two feet long, they looked formidable and served notice that not just anyone could enter the Black Dragon.

There were other taverns nearby with their stairways leading up from the undercity. Each had its own décor. The Deadly Dwarf Dungeon had a stairway going down and two Dwarves in Dwarven plate armor guarding the entrance. Only Dwarves and Dwarf friends could get inside. The Palace of Delight was guarded by two human beauties in transparent costumes. Each guardian carried a magical wand, and they randomly scattered sparkle-glares around themselves. You couldn’t look at them for long without getting a headache. Of course, the cure was right inside, for those who could and would pay the admission fee.

Petal bounded lightly up the Black Dragon steps and threw herself into the arms of the guard on the right.  The move surprised him, and he had to drop his mace in order to catch the airborne Elf.  The mace rolled down the steps, and Rose lightly caught and hefted it as she climbed.  Petal seized the man’s head with both arms and savagely kissed him.

“I’ll bet she gets into the tavern for free,” griped one of the beggars in the street below.  People without money were not welcome in the Black Dragon.

Petal squirmed in the guard’s grip, molding herself to the contours of his muscular chest, and wrapping her legs around his hips.  “Urm, Karn.  If the boss sees you behaving like this on company time . . .” said the other guard.

“He will be so jealous.” Rose finished the sentence for him. “Ollahay, Zheen. Here, hold this,” she handed him Karn’s mace, “until your mate gets a hand free again.” She started to move past him, but he stuck out an arm and blocked her path.

“What makes you think you can just walk in here without my approval?”

She turned and smiled at him. “Several things make me think that.  One: I live here—“

“And you’re a month behind on your rent.  Daragon said . . .”

“I have the money for Daragon with me.  He will want to see me tonight.”

Thorn shoved her way past them. No one was getting in her way.

“Two: my friend here,” Rose gestured at Calyx who stood waiting for the guards to get out of the door and let her in, “can turn you into a frog if you give us a hard time.”

Zheen noticed Calyx watching him. He took a half step to the side and gestured for her to pass, touching the edge of his helmet with his free hand, almost like a salute. High Elves often had that effect on people, especially men.  Calyx walked in with a swing of her hips and a small smile for the guard and followed Thorn across the cellar and toward the stairs leading up to the Common Room at street level.  The sound of music from a lute drifted past them.

“And three,” Rose continued, still smiling, “I can kick your butt in a fight, so you’d better not make me mad.”

“In your dreams! You got lucky the last time . . .”

“You think? Tomorrow. Noon. Wrestler’s circle. Duke’s park. You bring the oil.”

“You’re on, and this time . . .”

**************************************************************************

About four hundred people turned out to see the challenge match between Rose and Zheen. Half of them were human, but there were plenty of elves, dwarves, hobbs, and even a few fairies in the throng.  Buggins and some of his mates were there.  They were telling everyone that they were going to bet on Rose and make a fortune, although they had a problem in that they had only a few coins to bet. Gamblers worked the crowd, taking bets. Each was accompanied by a City Watchman, just to be certain that they paid their bets and didn’t abscond with the monies they collected. Street musicians strolled about playing lutes, flutes, and fiddles. Food vendors brought their carts, set up their stands, and did a brisk business. The fact that it was lunchtime made this crowd a bonanza for them.

Zheen and the other guards from the Black Dragon arrived first. Daragon, the owner, came with them, as well as the cooks, bartenders, and barmaids. Daragon had closed and locked the tavern so that his staff could all be at this gala event. The last time these two had met in combat, he didn’t close the tavern, and he had to listen to complaints for months from all the staff members who had not been able to attend. Daragon strutted around the park, twirling his mustaches, and letting everyone know what a generous boss he was to let his employees have time off to see this match, and that there would be a big party at the Black Dragon afterwards. He wasn’t quite certain how to bet. On the one hand he thought his guards were tough enough to take anyone in the city one on one. On the other hand, Rose had won the last contest. On the third hand, Zheen had been practicing his wrestling for months, and knew better than to rely on brute strength for the victory. On the fourth hand he knew from experience that Rose was very tricky and didn’t always fight fairly.  The odds were two to one in favor of Rose, and in the end he decided to bet on both fighters with different gamblers.  He put ten gold on Rose to win with Petal, who was working the crowd, taking bets for people who wanted to bet on Rose. Winning would gain him five gold pieces. A little later he put 5 gold pieces on Zheen with Monjo the gambler. If Zheen won he would get ten gold pieces. The net effect was that no matter who won, Daragon would break even. Then he would be able to tell his guard that he had bet on him to win, and he could tell his tenant Rose that he had bet on her. It seemed like a good plan to him, but he forgot that both of the gamblers charged a one gold piece fee to make the bets. Losers paid the fee from their bet, and winners paid it from their winnings, but the gambler always made money.

The Duke’s Park was near the palace in the center of the city. The river flowed on one side of it, and the castle stood on the other. It was a beautiful place, several acres of grass, trees, flowers, and fountains.  The trees had been cut into the shapes of wild animals—a roc, a dire wolf, a skunk, a goblin, and several other common beasts. Goblins were considered to be animals in Stormgaard, and pernicious pesty ones at that. The Wrestler’s Circle was a beautiful round plot of lush grass. Seats and benches were set up around it, but not enough to seat four hundred people. Athletes met there every day to wrestle or exercise, hence the name.

Zheen entered the circle, took off his shirt, cloak, cap, and boots and began stretching exercises. He had a magnificent physique, broad at the shoulders, narrow at the hips, with long legs and strongly muscled arms. He did toe touches and star jumps, and crunches, and when he felt limber enough he began doing back flips. The women in the crowd went ooh. The men in the crowd called him a showoff and swore they could do as well with a little practice. He worked up a small sweat, and then began to wonder where Rose was.

Calyx and Petal worked the crowd, taking bets, telling stories. Calyx carried a silver elven flute and occasionally trilled a lilting melody. A few people tossed coppers to her, but she let them drop. A High Elf did not play for pennies. Buggins and his mates were quite happy to pick up whatever coppers might fall to the ground, as were the children in the crowd. Children didn’t get any that fell near Calyx. Buggins made horrible faces that scared them away.

Rose arrived just as the sun reached zenith. She rode in a two-wheeled cart drawn by a Centaur named Horace. She carried a parasol and wore a frilly dress, looking far more like a lady of leisure than the sword-swinging adventuress that she really was.

“Here she comes!”

“It’s Rose!”

“Rose of Stormgaard!”

“Look at her. Is she really going to fight that brute?”

Many another comment raced through the crowd.  Rose waved to her fans and lightly stepped out of her cart. She walked into the circle with a jaunty swing of her hips.

“Hello, Zheen! You dared to come. And how buff you are! Oh, I can tell I’m in big trouble now.”

“Not yet, but you will be, Fancy Dancer!” Zheen cracked his knuckles and took a deep breath to swell out his mighty chest.

Rose smiled and waved at the crowd. Some of them, surreptitiously led by Petal, had begun to chant her name. “Rose! Rose! Rose!”

A fanfare of trumpets cut through the crowd noise, hushing it. The palace door opened and a squad of ten soldiers came out surrounding a man dressed in the finest blue silks. He wore a wide-brimmed hat with a tall blue feather in it.

“The Duke! The Duke is coming to see the match!” The news ran through the crowd like wildfire.

“Hurrah for the duke!” cried Petal. The crowd took up the cry, and the whole throng was cheering and whooping. Some of them yelled for the Duke. Some yelled for Rose. A few even yelled for Zheen. It was bedlam.

Judging by the smile on the Duke’s face he was highly gratified by the reception.  His guards cleared a bench for him, and he stood up where all could see him. He beamed, and pulled out a purse and scattered silver pieces to the crowd. He only threw out about twenty, but it was a grand gesture and crowd loved it. They cheered and cheered, and the cheering attracted other people. The crowd swelled until there were nearly a thousand people in the park, and those in the places farthest from the Wrestler’s Circle really couldn’t see a thing, but they asked questions and learned about the Duke and Rose and some guardsman who had challenged her to a match, and they began to cheer also. Some of the younger, and more nimble climbed park trees, and from their lofty perches they could just make out the principals in the Wrestler’s Circle.

“My people!” bellowed Throxeus. He had a clear strong voice, one that befitted a hunter and a warrior. The people cheered wildly. “My people! Welcome to my park! Is it not a lovely day?”

It was in fact a lovely Autumn day, neither too hot nor too cold. A light breeze blew off the river. The days in Stormgaard were often fair and fine, although storms washed the streets of the city two nights out of three.

Throxeus waited for the cheering to die away. It took several minutes. When he could be heard again, he bellowed, “Bring forth the contestants!”

Rose and Zheen stepped forward and bowed to their overlord, keeping their heads down and their bodies inclined until he gave them permission to straighten. He held the tableaux for more than a minute. “You may approach me.” His voice was still pitched to carry quite deeply into the crowd.

“Come stand beside me, Rose.” He extended his hand and pulled her up on the flat stone bench with him. He towered head and shoulders above her. He raised her hand to his lips and lightly brushed a kiss on her palm.

“It is a pleasure to see you again, Your Grace! You are looking magnificent today.”

“The pleasure is mine, my lady. How fortunate that I learned of this challenge match! I cancelled a day of hunting in the hills to be here instead.”

“I’m sorry, Your Grace. I had no thought to ruin your hunting. Everyone knows that you love the chase.”

“Be not sorry. I would not miss such an occasion to be with my people, and to see you fight.”

“You may be disappointed, My Lord.”

“Never!”

He held her hand up in the air. “Good people of Stormgaard, I give you Rose, a champion of the City. Yesterday, she single-handedly slew fifty goblins that were marauding in our forests! Rose, Champion of Stormgaard!”

The cheering took more than five minutes to die away. They stood there grinning and waving while the crowd roared.

“It seems that Rose has already kicked your butt.” Karn nudged his friend who was not looking all that happy at the moment.

“Let her have her moment of glory.” Zheen gritted his teeth. “When the fight comes, then we’ll learn who the better man is.”

“No doubt you are the better man. But she is the Champion of the City.”

“I will be the Champion when I pin her to the ground.”

“For your sake, I hope you can do it.”

Throxeus bellowed again. “And let us also have a cheer for her brave challenger, Zhang, the Captain of the Black Dragon guards.”  He beckoned for Zheen to come forward. The guardsmen turned to face the crowd and bowed.

“His name is Zheen, not Zhang, Your Grace.” Rose put in a word for her friend.

The Duke shrugged. “Sorry, my man,” he said sotto voce to the man standing at his feet. “I was misinformed.”

“It matters not, My Lord,” Zheen answered.

The Duke raised his hands for silence. Eventually the crowd noise died down to where he could be heard again. “In honor of this fine competition, I hereby offer a purse of one hundred golden rocs to the winner, and another of one hundred silver eels to the loser!”

The crowd roared again. At that moment Duke Throxeus of Stormgaard was the most popular man in the city.

“Let the contest begin!”

Rose jumped down and landed beside Zheen. “I’m sorry,” she whispered to him. “I did not think this would turn into such a circus. Promise me that no matter what happens, you will remain my friend.”

“You are asking a lot of me, Rose!”

“But I do ask it. Your friendship is important to me, and I would not want to lose it.”

“If I win, and I will, then I will certainly be your friend. If I lose,” he hesitated, “I don’t know. This is an awful lot to take.”

“Did you bring the oil?” She changed the subject.

Zheen snapped his fingers. Karn stepped forward and held out a small vial of golden fluid, stoppered with wax. “In your honor I have acquired the finest Essence of Roses.” He pulled out the waxen plug and offered it to her.

She breathed the strong perfume. “Very nice.”

“Essence of roses,” commented the duke. “I know that aroma well. Fiona, my favorite concubine, likes to wear it.”

“You are not wearing that silky dress in our fight, are you, Rose? I would tear it to shreds in the first minute.”

“That would be a shame. It is my nicest gown. No, Zheen, I have something more practical underneath.” She turned her back to him. “Please help me with these buttons.”

He undid four black buttons down her back, and she shrugged out of the dress.

Underneath she was practically naked. A band of red silk bound her generous breasts tightly to her torso. She could not have them flopping about in a fight. The nipples were visible, hard and perky, poking against the smooth cloth.  Around her loins was a wrestler’s twist of red silk.

“By the gods, the woman is shameless,” gasped Karn. “I can see the curls of her thatch, I can see the “.

“Don’t look!” Zheen’s voice came out as a snarl. “She’s mine.”

“Zheen, honey, would you oil me up?” Rose pitched her voice deep and husky. “Lay it on thickly, please. I may need to slip away from you.”

The guard poured some oil in his palm and waited for his body temperature to warm it a little. Then he rubbed his hands together, approached her, and began to spread the smooth warm oil all over her body. He began with her neck and shoulders, put some on her collar bones, and the upper slopes of her bosoms, down her supple back, onto the taut stomach, put some on the wide hips, and the lissome legs, thighs, knees, shins. Rose moaned softly as his hands caressed her. “Oh, that is so good. Mmmm. Zheen, you certainly know how to please a woman.”

Zheen found himself grinning like an idiot. Any anger he felt toward her dissipated as she complimented his every stroke.

All too soon he finished his ministrations. “Ah, that was nice. You’re good. Now, my turn, let me do you,” she told him.

The double meaning of what she said gave him an erection. Fortunately for his dignity, the tight leather of his leggings suppressed the rising flesh. He closed his eyes, briefly imagining her kneeling before him, and doing him. At the moment he wanted that more than anything else on Trollworld.

“Rose is setting him up,” Petal told Thorn. “And she’s good at it. The poor guy will be so crazed with lust that he will forget whatever he knows about wrestling.”

“He’s double her weight at least. She needs whatever advantage she can find,” the dwarf answered.

Rose took some oil in her hands and let it warm. She applied it liberally to the man’s chest and stomach, to his shoulders, arms, hands, and to his legs. “Now turn around and let me do your back.”

Zheen loved the feel of her hands upon his body, and hoped this match might lead to it happening more often.. “Now turn around. You’re so tall, bend over just a little.” Zheen turned and put his hands on his knees. Rose took one step backwards, then launched a swift kick to his right gluteus. Zheen went staggering forward and almost fell. The watching crowd erupted in a roar of laughter.

“Did you see that? She kicked him in the butt. Never saw a wrestling match start that way before.” Throxeus addressed his remarks to Thorn or any of his guards standing nearby.

“Rose is unpredictable.” Dwarves had a rare ability to state the obvious as if it were a deep insight.

Zheen recovered his balance. The red footprint on his butt matched the embarrassed color of his face. “WHAT WAS THAT FOR?”

“Do you remember last night? What did I tell you?”

“You said you could beat me in a wrestling match.”

“No. I said I could kick your butt, and I have just done that. You lose our bet and must buy my drinks for the rest of the year.”

“I’m a witness,” yelled Daragon. “I hope she doesn’t drink too much, Zheen. You could wind up poor.”

All friends of either Rose or Zheen laughed.

“She drinks like a fish,” Thorn told the Duke. “He’s in trouble now.”

“Grrrr!” The growling noise came from Zheen of the Black Dragon guards. Forgetting all his intentions of fighting calmly, using his superior weight and reach to overwhelm her, he charged, hands stretched out to grab her. Rose tossed the vial of oil aside and crouched, ready to receive his charge. As he closed, and almost grabbed her, she suddenly dropped below his clutching hands, catching herself on both hands, lifted her feet from the ground, spun them around, and took his ankles neatly out from under him..  He went down on his face and skidded across the grass.

“She should jump on his back and pin him now while he’s down,” commented the Duke.

Thorn contradicted him without even thinking about who she was talking to. “Nay! Rose doesn’t have the muscle or the mass for that maneuver. He’d rise, throw her off, and she’d lose her advantage.”

Zheen started to rise, getting his hands underneath him. Rose leaped into the air, did a somersault, and came down with her heels together right on the back of his head. A man with less impressive muscles might have suffered a terrible fate right then, but Zheen’s neck, shoulders, and arms were corded with muscle. Not only that, but his hands, which Rose had made a point of oiling, slipped out from under him sideways. Rose rode his head down into the grass. He hit hard, and when he did, she bounded off to the side with a kick that turned his head ninety degrees and left him half stunned.

The crowd roared with amazed approval. This was not at all like any wrestling they had ever seen, but they suddenly understood how a woman like Rose might stand up to a man like Zheen.

Zheen rolled over on his back. He wouldn’t let Rose blindside him like that again. He lay there, half stunned, until he heard Thorn counting. “One, two . . .” He realized that even though Rose was ten feet away, he was flat on his back with his shoulders touching the grass. A referee could rule that the same as a pin. He rolled up onto his shoulders, and then with an impressive effort, vaulted back to his feet.

“You’re tricky, Rose. Everyone knows that. You got a few cheap shots in, but that won’t win the match for you. Neither of those tricks will work again.”

“I’m just playing with you so far, Zheeny.” She pranced around the circle with her hands in the air—ignoring him, taunting him.

Zheen stalked her slowly, confident that if he could just catch her, his superior weight and strength could bring this match to a satisfactory end. He had grass stains on his face, and blood trickled from his nose, and his neck ached and felt strangely weak. However these minor concerns were not about to stop him. Second by second he closed on her as she sidled away, looking for an opening or a way past him.

Rose knew that Zheen would catch her in the next few seconds, and if he ever got a good grip on her, that could be the end of the fight. She needed to surprise him again. Suddenly she threw herself at his feet, head down and body curled into a somersault. Her neck and shoulders struck the grass; her body followed in a roll, and she straightened her legs in a mighty kick right to Zheen’s midsection. A kick six inches lower might have been a fight ender, but Rose wouldn’t do that to a friend. Her heels drove into his rock-hard stomach, and forced him backwards. He reached down and caught one ankle, but her other foot kicked him in the jaw and knocked his head back. His fingers slipped on her oily leg, and she pulled herself free. In a second she was back up and circling.

Half dazed by the tremendous kick he had just taken, and feeling like some of his bottom teeth were loose, Zheen  staggered aimlessly for a moment. Rose got behind him. She leaped on him, encircled his waist with her legs, She shot her arms under his shoulders, clasped her hands together tightly on the back of his head, and she had him in a submission hold. The pressure on his already injured neck shot bolts of red lightning through his head. It hurt so much that he considered dropping and surrendering. He didn’t want a broken neck.

But Rose didn’t apply her full strength. As Zheen reached backwards desperately, futilely, because she ducked in close to his head, she hissed in a voice only he could hear. “Do you want to win?”

“Yes, “ he answered before he realized what she was doing.

“You will owe me big time.”

“All right.”

“Throw yourself over backwards and roll. I’ll lose my grip. You will wind up on top, and pin me with your superior strength, and you’ll be the victor.”

“Why would you do this?” he asked quietly, realizing that she had slackened the pressure on his injured neck.

“I have my reasons, including half the winner’s purse. Do you agree?”

For answer he threw himself violently backwards. One of Rose’s hands flew free, and she yelped in dismay. When they hit the ground, she ducked her chin and took the impact on her mane of curly hair. It still hurt, but it wasn’t the stunning blow that it appeared to be to the audience. Her legs flew wide, and she grunted as if winded. Zheen rolled to the left, and suddenly Rose was below him.

“Groin guard,” she whispered as she looked him point blank in the face. She brought one leg up as if to knee him in the balls, but he twisted his hips and took the blow on his thigh. It did no damage.

“Now pin me,” she whispered. He let his full weight collapse upon her and held her shoulders down with his hands, her head down with his forehead. She bucked and twisted. Her legs flailed the air. A great groan rose from the audience, broken by a few cheers from the men who had bet on Zheen against the odds.

He held her down for a full minute. Finally she called out loudly, “I surrender. You are too strong for me!”

“What a fight! What a man!” chortled the Duke. “I thought for certain that she would win after that kick to the jaw, but the man’s strength prevailed.” He seemed extremely pleased.

“I declare this fight ended,” bellowed the Duke. The crowd cheered again. Zheen stood up, still swaying a bit. He reached down, grabbed Rose’s hand, and pulled her to her feet.

“You got lucky,” snarled Rose.

“You underestimated me. I told you I was stronger than last time. You went for the kill too soon.”

Those in the crowd nearest began repeating his words so that those farther away could know what the combatants said to each other. Men nodded sagely at the analysis. Many repeated it. “She struck too soon. She could have won if only she had inflicted more damage before going for the pin.” The story of the fight would be retold in every tavern in the city before the day ended, and actually became a proverb in the months to come. The words “She struck too soon” became a byword for making a critical mistake.”

In the crowd Calyx and Petal re-united under a tree cut to look like a swan. “How did we do, Forest Elf?”

“I took forty-eight golden rocs, three hundred twenty silver eels, and one thousand two hundred sixty copper pennies in bets. All of it was bet on Rose. We don’t have to give any of it back. The High Elf and the Forest Elf smiled mysterious elven smiles at each other and slipped away, headed back for the Black Dragon.

“Well done, Zheen!” chortled the Duke, placing a bulging purse in the fighter’s hand. “Your strength won that match for you.”

“Thank you, Your Grace. You are invited to the party at the Black Dragon.”

“I will be there! And if you ever tire of your employment as a tavern guard, there is an honored place for you with my soldiers.” Zheen simply bowed and took the purse.

“I honestly thought you were going to win, Rose.” The Duke put the purse with one hundred silver eels in her hand.

“He is a very strong man, Your Grace, and not as stupid as he looks.” She glared at Zheen, but it was play-acting and he knew it. “Next time, I’ll soften him up a bit more.”

“Be sure to tell me if you two fight again. I wouldn’t want to miss it.”

“I hate losing,” said Rose, “and these eels will simply remind me that I came out second best today.  People of Stormgaard,” she yelled. The crowd was still watching intently. “I feel that I let you down today. I do not deserve this reward. And so I give it to you instead!” She opened the purse and began scattering the silver coins in all directions. Hands went up and tried to catch the money raining down upon them. Some of those who caught the coins kept them for the rest of their lives as a memento of this day.

“Rose! Rose! Rose! Rose!” the crowd roared. Even in defeat she remained their favorite.

**********************************************************************************

Daragon and his employees worked frantically to get ready for the party after the match was over. The common room at street level was quickly cleaned, which consisted of mopping the hard wooden floor with soapy water. Guards did that while barmaids wiped clean all the tables. The bartenders washed out all the mugs, jugs, and vases they generally used for serving drinks. The cooks were busy frying up hundreds of rabbit, frog, and chicken legs to serve as snack food with plenty of salt in the coatings to make the customers thirsty. They also made biscuits by the scores—dry, overcooked bread with salt in it, guaranteed to promote thirst. The food would sell cheaply, at only twice what it cost to make it. The real profit would come from all the drinks the tavern would sell.

One end of the common room was roped off for the Duke’s Party. There were a couple of tables and several chairs there for the comfort of the nobility and the champions. The rest of the room was cleared for standing room only. There was a point for taking drink orders at the front door, and a path was cleared to the bar for those who needed to refresh their drinks. On one side of the room three long tables held all the food for the party, and a guard and a cash-taker stood by each table.

The Black Dragon party officially began in mid-afternoon with the arrival of Duke Throxeus. He brought ten guards and nine other members of his court, including three concubines. He took over one fourth of the Common Room floor. His guards quickly set up barriers that would keep the common people from coming too close to his exalted self—a simple barrier of chairs and ropes. He appropriated the largest chair in the room. Then he called for Daragon, the tavern owner, and Zheen, the winner of the wrestling competition to come and sit at his table. Daragon appeared; he was having his moment of glory.  The Duke of the city was in his tavern. Zheen was nowhere in sight.

Most of the staff of the Black Dragon went back to work. There were doors to guard, drinks to serve, orders to fill. The tavern had filled up early, and the party spilled out into the street. The three nearest taverns on Black Street had all bought into Daragon’s party idea. That mad it one of the biggest parties that Stormgaard had ever seen. Below the basements the underground tunnels also echoed with merriment and celebration.

Oddly enough neither Zheen nor Rose was in the crowd. They were all upstairs in Rose’s room. Zheen was closing his half full purse, while Rose was putting her fifty golden coins away. She put ten in a purse and set the other forty aside. Some she would hide. Some she would bank.

The winner of the fight had all the bruises. His jaw had a big purple mark on it where she had kicked him, and it hurt to even talk, but he had a few things to say. “Why did you let me win, Rose? A few more kicks and I would not have been able to keep fighting.”

Rose leaned in and gave him a kiss. “Thank you for honoring our bargain, Zheen. It made sense for you to win. With me the favorite in the fight, the only way we could make any money on bets was for you to win.”

“But that’s not honorable.”

“Zheen, I’m surprised at you.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re a grown man, a warrior, and a tavern guard, and here you are prattling about honor like a stripling. Do you think life is a story? Life is real, and it’s hard to survive. You have to seize your opportunities when they come. Use your brains as well as your brawn. Think about it! Who came out better in that fight, you or me?”

“I have false honor, some money, and a lot of pain. You have no honor, more money, no pain, and the crowd still loves you. You did far better than I this afternoon, Rose.”

“She learned that attitude from me,” Thorn bragged. “It’s a very Dwarvish way of looking at things.”

Calyx stepped between Rose and Zheen.  She smiled at the man. “We have taken unfair advantage of you, Zheen.  Let me make amends.”

“What do you mean?”

“This!” She put her hands upon the bruises on his neck and jaw, and sang something in Elvish.  The purple soreness on his head faded away to light green tint–the color of a ten day old bruise instead of a fresh one.  “Oh, that feels good,” he muttered.

When she took her hands away, Zheen’s injuries were barely visible. 

“Thank you, my lady Calyx.  I am your servant.”

“You are a good man, Zheen.  I am happy to help.”

“You two had better get downstairs to the party before they come hunting for you,” warned Petal. “Calyx and I have preparations to make for our next adventure.”

“You go first, Zheen. It wouldn’t do for us to be seen coming in together.”

Zheen departed. When he entered the Common Room there was such a tremendous roar that it rattled the floorboards of Rose’s room on the top floor.

Rose smiled at her companions.  “Just listen to that cheering! And he deserves it. He is the Champion of Stormgaard!”    

The end

 

 


Will slay goblins for food!

Where do old adventurers go when they aren’t needed for any adventures?  Some of them go to the Sleepy Soldier Inn, a modest little tavern on the north side of Khosht near the Great Khazan Road.  I stopped in there during my travels recently and found these characters sitting around reliving their glory days and wishing they could go dungeon delving again.

Gorpus is an old human male first level warrior

STR  13   CON  18  INT  12    DEX  9     LK   11    CHR  8

WIZ  13   SPD   11  COMBAT ADDS  1

AP  176  Age: 58.

Languages:  Common (Khazni, the basic human language of the  western part of the Dragon continent)

EQUIPMENT:

Helmet–2 hits

Leather jacket–4 hits

Boots–2 hits

Gauntlets–2 hits

Shield–5 hits

Sturdy woolen clothing–decent but showing a lot of patches

Rain cloak and cowl–keeps the worst of the storms off his body.

Money: Not much, he picks up a few coins here and there as a bouncer, a night watchman, a hunter, and a scrounger. He owes a lot of people for small loans all over town, but few of them expect to ever be paid back.

Weapons:

Straight sword (4D6 + 2)

Dirk (2D6 + 1)

3 javelins (2D6)

1 atl-atl  (adds 2D6 and quadruples range when used with javelins).

I bought Gorpus a beer and got to talking with him.  It seems the only place he ever went was on a solo excusion to Buffalo Castle.  It didn’t kill him, or make him give up on the idea of being an adventurer, but something must have gone wrong.  Somehow 30 years went by, and he never went on another adventure.  Won’t someone please get him out of the Sleepy Soldier Inn?

***********************************************************

"Is it hot in here, or have I just been sitting by the fire for too long?"

Nameless is a level 2 male Dwarf Warrior

STR  20   CON  22  INT  12  LK  11      DEX  14  CHR  8

WIZ  16   SPD  11   COMBAT ADDS:  10

AP:  200          AGE: 72

LANGUAGES:  DWARVISH, COMMON

MONEY:  7 GOLD COINS

EQUIPMENT: 

STURDY CLOTHING, NEVER SEEN BECAUSE HE WEARS HIS PLATE ARMOR EVERYWHERE.

BOOTS

PICKAXE (2D6)

PACK

        Contains trail rations for 6 days

        3 skins of wine

        100 sulfur matches

        50 feet of coiled twine

        A book written in Dwarvish: Troll and other Monsters: how to kill them.

Armor: 

Dwarven plate (high quality steel from head to toe) takes 14 hits of damage which he can double to 28 if he needs to.

Weapons:

Dwarven Greataxe  (5D6 + 3)

Sax (a Viking bowie knife in essence) (2D6 + 5)

Gorpus introudced me to his friend Nameless.  Many people don’t know that Dwarves don’t actually have names until someone gives them one.  That’s why you get so many that are called things like Ironbeard or Grumpy.  Somehow, no one ever got around to calling Nameless anything, and then one day someone asked him who he was, and his answer was “To my sorrow, I am nameless.”  Nameless he became, and Nameless he remains.

As Dwarven fighters go, Nameless is something of a wimp.  It is rare to find a Dwarf with less than twenty combat adds, and he only has ten.  But he does own this incredible suit of Dwarven plate armor.  Isn’t this the most gorgeous armor you’ve ever seen.  It would be a shame to get it all dented and bloodstained.  Perhaps that explains why after one short adventure that got him only 200 adventure points, the most dangerous thing he has done since then is stand guard at the front entrance to Old Dwarftown just south of the Khosht city limits.

************************************************************

These two stalwart fellows are ready to go dungeon delving at the drop of an invitation.  They’re not good for much, but can probably handle their own weight in goblins or some other lesser menace.

End

Postscript:  I was digging around the trollcave when I found these old character sheets from the early days of T & T.  Rather than just throw them away as scrap paper, it inspired me to do this little write-up.  Then I asked Greywulf to do some portraits for me, and look at the fine work he has turned in.  I bet we all wish we had such high quality portraits for our pcs.

–Atroll


“I told you all it was certain doom. Cruel of you all to force SilverHorn to endure all this.

Heh, heh, heh!”

– Trollgod; February 27, 2007 AD.

 

The madly thrashing tentacles carried SilverHorn toward the cavernous mouth. SilverHorn relaxed and let them carry him upward. It had been a good run, and if he had to die horribly at the end, so be it.

Suddenly the Trollgod’s ring began to shimmer and dissipate, and SilverHorn heard a voice echoing in his mind – “By the will of Trollhalla, thou shalt return to us!” When the ring was gone, so was SilverHorn, leaving a very baffled and frustrated Certain Doom monster.

Meanwhile, Rrraff reclined with his head in an houri’s lap. Another one wafted a big feather fan nearby to generate a pleasant breeze, while the other five danced languorously in a circle before him. Ah, what a life!

When the dancers paused, Rrraff sat up. “This is all very fine,” he said, smiling enormously, “but I still have a race to win. Do any of you know the way to the finish line?”

They looked baffled. “O Troll of our Delight, wouldn’t thou leave us?” one asked.

“Reluctantly, but I must,” said Rrraff.

“It shall be as thou wishest.” An houri brought an old brass lamp. Another one took a bit of her silken costume and rubbed it. Green smoke emerged and coalesced to take the form of a genie.

"Wouldst thou leave us?" the houri asked.

“What is your command?” asked the genie in basso-profundo tones.

“Take this troll to his finish line,” said the summoner.

The genie grabbed Rrraff in one outsized hand. “It shall be done!”

Then Rrraff found himself hurtling away from the seven desolate houris. Into the tunnels he sped, back the way he came, back past the two Uruks playing cards, down the other tunnel, through an arena as monsters leaped futilely at his hurtling form, out of the arena, through more tunnels, into a room full of mist – no time to even take a breath – still more tunnels, and into a guard room full of Khazani guardsmen, then past them, out of the tunnels, through the northern gate of Khazan, through the streets to the Courthouse where the Trollgod, the Death Goddess, and a great throng of spectators including all his former adversaries waited. A great cheer arose as the genie sat Rrraff on his feet before this crowd, bowed once, and swiftly dissipated into green smoke.

Rrraff is carried to the finish line by a magical genie.

The winner of the race had arrived.

The teary-eyed crowd remembered Rrraff’s words at the beginning of the race: “I’d just like my fans to know that I’m training hard, and taking the competition seriously! This is real competition folks, and all the goblins and snotlings better stand aside! Hoo-ha!”

The End

Post Script:  That pretty much completes all the dungeon stories I had to tell you readers.  Monday, I’ll offer a portrait of a couple of T & T dungeon delvers with some outstanding portrait art by Greywulf.  Be sure to stop by and see it.  After that, perhaps some of my own fiction will appear here.  I’ll find something to put in this blog.

–Atroll


Rrraff very faintly heard a grinding noise and what might have been a scream from the tunnel to the left. “That makes up my mind,” he said, and started down the tunnel to the right that promised to bring him to the Earthly Paradise. He just hoped it wasn’t the Balrukh’s paradise.

As he walked along the tunnel, it gradually got brighter and brighter. And it widened, and the stars came out, and Rrraff saw himself moving across unfamiliar territory on a flower-lined path, which led easily down a hill into a beautiful valley. In the center stood a magnificent palace made entirely of creamy white marble. A beautiful gauze-clad Trollop stood in the doorway to greet him. She looked deep into Rrraff’s beetle-browed, bloodshot eyes, and took his hand gently, and suddenly he found himself wearing a soft silken tunic of gold and green. There were rubies the size of ostrich eggs embedded in his majestic saffron turban.

You have found the earthly paradise.

She led him inside and introduced him to her six sisters, each more beautiful and delightful than the one before. They led him to a table and presented a magnificent feast, each one taking turns feeding him the finest pastries of sweetened bone. They poured flagon after flagon of delicious fire-wine for him to quaff. They stroked his brow and whispered in his ear, “Stay with us, Rrraff, you need never return to the hard life that the Trollgod will offer you.”

Rrraff dimly remembered that he had a race to win . . .

Meanwhile, SilverHorn made up his mind. The tentacles didn’t quite reach the floor. Dive and roll is perhaps not such a good idea on a rough cavern floor, but getting low and sneaking beneath the tentacles did seem to be his only way out.

He slithered on his belly like a reptile, inching forward, batting the occasional tentacle tip out of his way with his hands. The light from the exit just beyond the tentacles grew blinding. Apparently, it was full daylight outside. He felt a sharp talon rip and gouge at his back, but it barely reached him and only left a line of blood as he hurriedly scooted past it.

Twenty feet to go, fifteen, five – more and more tentacles brushed his body. Some seemed to be coated with acidic slime that burned him, others ended in some sort of sharp chitinous talon that gouged his flesh. At one point, he couldn’t help letting out a blood-curdling scream as he felt a tentacle tip penetrate the muscles of his back and hook on a rib. He lunged forward and tore loose from its grasp, dribbling gore all the way.

Then he was past them. He started to his feet, and rushed the exit . . . and slammed into a bright glowing wall. There was no exit – it was just a bright, magical trap – and now he saw the sign on the floor that he couldn’t see before. It said: ‘Certain Doom‘.

Then a tentacle, longer than the others shot out of the writhing mass behind him and wrapped around his leg. With an irresistible jerk, it pulled him back into the hideous tangle of tentacles and began lifting him toward the champing mouth that was in the center of the mass. SilverHorn’s courage deserted him, and his last scream was truly soul-splitting. With his last vestige of sanity, he remembered that he could be saved by pulling off his magic ring . . .

When all else fails, remove the ring

 

(to be continued)