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Thread: The Passion of the Liger

  1. #41
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    Default Chapter 33

    The carriage rolled quietly along the cobblestone roads of Firgenduke.
    “It is such a shame you struck him with your needles, sister,” said Abigail, “I was looking forward to sparring with the Iron Snake.”
    Javier and the Three Sisters, who were seated on the plush, purple seats, looked down at the floor between them. Anton was lying there with his hands bound by some thick rope.
    “How long will he stay unconscious for?” said Javier.
    “It’s hard to say,” said Arisa, “It could be a few days. Or a few hours. He could even wake up right now.”
    All of them were silent for a moment, as if they half expected him to wake up.
    Suddenly, there was a noise from the front of the coach; it sounded to be a struggle, then voices, and then the sound of someone being thrown off.
    “What’s happening?” said Gwendolyn, “The carriage is turning around.”
    Javier turned and pulled back the little wooden slat, which revealed a metallic grill. He peered through, but in the darkness saw nothing.
    “Svenson,” said Javier, “Why are we turning around? I need to get Anton to the King as soon as possible.”
    There was no response.
    Javier shuffled to the door and opened it. He leaned out into the cool, night air and looked at who was driving.
    It was Lena Straud, owner of the Encumbered Adventurer. Seated next to her was a man dressed in rags that Javier didn’t recognise.
    Why were these people driving his carriage?
    Lena turned to Javier, smiled and pointed upwards, indicating that he should look upwards.
    Javier looked up and saw a very familiar looking man perched on the roof of the carriage.
    “Clarence Straud!” said Javier, “What are you doing?”
    “Rescuing my friend,” said Clarence, and he reached down and gave Javier a push. Javier who had been balancing out the door, now tumbled out and skidded onto the cobblestone road. When he finally came to a stop, his coach was disappearing down the road.
    In the opposite direction to the Castle.
    Javier wasn’t sure what was going on, but he knew he didn’t like it. He jumped up and bellowed at the top of his lungs:
    “After that carriage! Arrest the Straud’s! Bring them to me!”

  2. #42
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    Miami and sometimes Bentre


    Thanks Thauners

  3. #43
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    Default Chapter 34

    Clarence clung onto the roof of the coach as it rolled down the road, and thought to himself, Today really is not a typical day! What am I doing here?
    The coach rolled over a large rock in the road, which jolted him and he nearly slipped off! That sure brought him out of his daydream! I suppose I had better do something now, seeing as how I am on a rescue mission and all! Well here goes nothing!
    Clarence did not even think, he just grabbed onto the edge of the carriage and did some crazy somersault, half twist in midair, that seemed like a good idea at the time --until he was actually in it-- and then it seemed like a very bad idea! But then, somehow, through sheer dumb luck, he managed to swing feet first in through the side of the carriage and landed neatly on a spare seat! If he had been in a gymnastics competition he would have been give a score of 10 by all judges and a standing ovation! But seeing as how he was not in a gymnastics competition, he was simply met by stunned looks on the faces of the three girls who were sitting in the coach.
    "Hello, ladies," said Clarence, "I hope you don't mind me dropping in."
    One of the girls chuckled.
    Yes! thought Clarence, rather pleased with himself. Having made his big entrance, and also taken the opportunity to make a joke, the next thing on Clarence's agenda was to quickly scout out the situation. He saw three young ladies and being the knowledgeable guy he was, instantly knew them to be the infamous ‘Three Sisters’. They sure were beautiful girls! The next thing he noticed was that his feet were not resting on the floor of the carriage, but on someone! He looked down and saw the unconscious body of his old friend, Anton DiManlen! He suddenly a mixture of many different emotions, all at once.
    "Pardon me, my three lovely ladies, but this is my best friend, Anton DiManlen, who I have not seen in an age. Would it be alright with you if I take him off your hands? He is heavy and quite smelly and I am sure that you do not want him."
    "You..." said the blonde girl (who was Arisa), "Are Clarence Straud!"
    "Indeed I am!" said Clarence, "You've heard of me?"
    "Have I heard of you?" said Arisa, "I'm your biggest fan!"
    "No way," said the brunette, Gwendolyn, "I am his biggest fan! I'm a way bigger fan than you are!"
    Clarence turned to the third sister with the red hair.
    "Don't look at me," said Abigail, "I just like fighting."
    Just then, another person appeared! It was Lena! She swung in with the grace of a ballerina, but because there were no seats left, she ended up sitting on Arisa's lap, which was a little awkward.
    "Not as cool as my entrance," said Clarence.
    The sisters nodded in agreement.
    "The atmosphere in this carriage is not what I was expecting," said Lena, lowering her sword, "Why are you guys just sitting and chatting?"
    "It turns out they know who I am!" said Clarence.
    "We are big fans!" said Arisa.
    "Not me," added Abigail, "To me he's just another charming guy."
    "I see," said Lena. She wasn't quite sure what to do next.
    "Mr Straud! Tell me," said Arisa, "Do you know what you'll be sculpting the Obelisk into? I'm busting to find that out!"
    Clarence's face lit up! "Funny you should ask that! I just got the idea for it today! It's going to be so cool. I can't wait to get started on it! Which reminds me, the sooner you let me rescue my friend here, the sooner I can get back to sculpting."
    "Let him take, Anton!" said Arisa and Gwendolyn at the same time. Then everyone turned to Abigail.
    "I don't care, do whatever you want," said the third sister.
    "Great!" said Clarence, he reached down to pick up Anton.
    "Oh wait," said Arisa, "Let me give him some of the fast recovery antidote. She whipped out a needle and stuck it into Anton's neck. "That should help him wake up sooner."
    "Thank you very much," said Clarence. He reached down again to pick up Anton, when the carriage suddenly screeched to a halt.
    A voice came from the front of the coach.
    "Err... guys. We have a problem.”
    It was Four-tooth.
    Clarence wondered what it could be. He climbed out of the carriage to take a look. The sight that he was met with stunned him like getting slapped in the face by a dolphin. A blanket of dread draped over him. The blood seem to drain out of his body.
    Standing before him was the possibly the most fearsome warrior he had ever laid eyes upon.
    “My name is Cronax. I am here to take Anton DiManlen to the King.”

  4. #44
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    Default Chapter 35

    What was this day turning into? thought Clarence.
    One minute, he was hanging off the rooftop of a moving carriage, the next, he was being confronted by one of the five most powerful fighters in the realm! If he wasn't so busy being petrified, he would have thought it was the coolest situation ever!
    "Hand over, Anton DiManlen," said the beefy King's Champion, "I want the Iron Snake."
    There was complete silence.
    Clarence decided it was up to him to speak up, but before he could, Gwendolyn put a hand on his shoulder and whispered into his ear, "Be ready to grab Anton and escape. Understand?"
    Clarence nodded automatically, but his brain hadn't quite registered what was expected of him.
    "You three girls," said Cronax, "Don't you nomrally work for Javier?"
    "This guy is Clarence Straud," said Arisa, "We are fans. And no, you may not have Anton."
    She reached into her belt and took out a small round object, that looked like a silver pea. She threw it onto the ground and...
    Smoke filled the air!
    Clarence couldn't see a thing! He couldn't even make out his hand in front of his eyes! It smelled nice though, like a peachy smell. He sniffed it admiringly a few times, before he snapped out of it. He had been given a task! Grab Anton and get out of there!
    He fumbled his way through the smoke, taking one tentative step at a time. Suddenly his outstretched hands came upon something warm and soft, but firm at the same time. It was strangely familiar.
    "Err..." came Lena's voice, "Is that you, Clarence?"
    "Why are you groping me? I don’t think now is the best time."
    "I'm looking for, Anton."
    "He's still in the carriage," said Lena, "It's over there."
    She was probably pointing, but Clarence couldn’t see. He reluctantly let go of his wife's bosom and dived once again into the misty nothingness. He had no idea where he was going! He was just using his instincts and praying! He stepped, and stepped and stepped.
    His hands were waving about in front of him, he hoped they would touch the carriage soon. But all he felt was air. Slowly his vision came back. The smoke was clearing. Finally, he could see again!
    And realised he was no where near the carriage! He was standing a fair distance away from everyone else, on the side of the road, next to a well. A few more steps and he might have fallen in!
    Everyone else was still clustered around the carriage.
    "Oh," said Clarence, "I was way off."
    "A nice little trick, Lassie," laughed Cronax, "But aren't you supposed to be gone by the time the smoke clears?"
    Gwendolyn dashed to the carriage, dragged Anton out and in one graceful swing, slung him over her shoulder. She ran over to Clarence and transferred the unconscious man to him.
    “Oof!” said Clarence.
    Anton was heavy! It was like carrying a bull! He marvelled at how easy Gwendolyn had made it look.
    "Go now," said Gwendolyn,"Save your friend. We will slow down Cronax as best we can."
    "I can't leave you," said Clarence.
    "Go," said Gwendolyn firmly.
    She turned and glided back to the others, and drew her two short swords. She said to Lena and Four-tooth, "Go help Clarence, we sisters will take it from here."
    Lena shook her head, "I will aid you."
    "And I go where milady goes,' said Four-tooth.
    Lena smiled warmly at him. Then she said to Clarence, "Now go my darling husband. I will meet you at the special place. Till we meet again."
    Clarence did not want to leave Lena! But he knew if he stayed, Anton would certainly be captured by the King. And that was as good as a death sentence.
    He turned and ran off. Well, ran is not the correct word. Anton was very heavy. Clarence moved away at a pace equivalent to a fast walk. But he was giving it one hundred and ten percent effort, which is what really counts.
    Cronax watched him leave and did not seem the slightest bit worried.
    "Do you five really think you can stop me?" said Cronax with a self assured smirk.
    Gwendolyn said nothing, but just waited.
    "Buying time for your friend, I see," said Cronax, "Well, let us do this then," said Cronax, "But please, all five attack me at once, I don't have all day."

  5. #45
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    Default Chapter 36

    “Oh, man,” said Clarence, “Anton you sure are heavy!”
    He was carrying his best friend on this back and unfortunately his friend seemed to weigh as much as a bodybuilding bull! Every muscle in his body was burning, screaming at him to put his friend down, but Clarence would have none of that.
    We are carrying Anton out of town until he is safe. Until he is safe, shut up! was what his mind was telling his body. It was a little bit strange for his mind to be talking like that but he was so exhausted he was delirious.
    “Urrr…” came a voice from behind his ear.
    “Was that you, Anton?” said Clarence, “Are you awake?”
    “I think so,” said the big man, “Where am I? What’s happening?”
    “I’m taking you out of the city,” said Clarence, “The King is after you! He has sent Cronax!”
    “Who is Cronax?”
    “You’ve never heard of Cronax?” said Clarence, “He’s the King’s Champion and one of the strongest fighters in the realm! You really have been away haven’t you?”
    “Is that you, Clarence?” said Anton, peering forward to look at who was carrying him.
    “It sure is. So you do remember me after all these years!”
    “Dude!” said Anton, “It is good to see you again, my friend. You can put me down now. I’m good to walk.”
    “Thank the Heavens,” said Clarence, “You are so heavy, Anton.” He gently put his friend down on the ground and then groaned as he straightened up.
    “Sorry,” said Anton, “It must be a pain to carry me.”
    “You can say that again.”
    “It must be a pain to carry me,” said Anton.
    They both chuckled.
    “So what’s been happening with you?” said Anton, “Still doing the art?”
    “Yes!” said Clarence, momentarily forgetting the dire situation they were in. It always lit him up to speak about art. “It’s been going so well! And they’ve asked me to sculpt the Firgenduke Obelisk!”
    “Dude!” said Anton, “That is huge. Literally! I’m so happy for you.”
    “Thanks,” said Clarence, “But we really need to get going. If Cronax catches up with us, I fear it may be game over. The Three Sisters and Lena can only keep him occupied for so long…” Clarence hoped the girls were alright.
    “What did you say?” said Anton, “Lena and the Three Sisters are fighting Cronax?”
    Clarence nodded, “It’s a long story but the gist is they are buying us some time. We need to get to the docks and get to a secluded island that Lena and I often go to. We can hide there, no one will find you.”
    “You say that Lena and those three girls are fighting the King’s Champion right now? In order that I may hide?”
    “Yes,” said Clarence, “We need to get going, otherwise their actions will be in vain. I trust that Sir Cronax will not harm them.”
    “I won’t go to this island while others fight for me,” said Anton, “We go find this Cronax immediately and I put him down. Then you can help me find Maruska.”
    Clarence’s jaw opened. He had feared Anton would say something like that.
    “Cronax is the most powerful fighter in Tuscan. And the city will be swarming with the King’s men-“
    Anton held up one hand to indicate that Clarence should stop talking.
    “We go find Cronax,” said Anton, “Lead the way.”
    Clarence knew his old friend well enough to know there was no point arguing with him. The two friends turned around and started running towards the man who was pursuing them.
    The Destroyer.

  6. #46
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    Default Chapter 37

    The four women stood in a circle around Cronax, each was huffing and puffing.
    “How is this possible?” said Abigail, “I can’t even hit him. He’s dodging everything! From all four of us.”
    “It is possible because I am way better than you,” said Cronax.
    “Grrr!” said Abigail, “Trash talking! That’s my job.” She lunged at Cronax and swung her longsword.
    He merely leaned to one side and her blade flew past him harmlessly.
    “He’s just toying with us!” said Abigail.
    “Keep your cool, Abi,” said Gwendolyn.
    “Perhaps you are right,” said Cronax, “I think I am warmed up enough to fight Anton. Thank you ladies for helping me practice my dodging a little. It’s not every day I have the luxury of training with four fairly decent opponents. I’ll be going now. Please enjoy the rest of your day.”
    “You make me so mad!” said Abigail. She slashed furiously once again and once again Cronax evaded her as easily as one fends off a toddler. But this time, following his dodge, he did a neat little round house kick that sent Abigail flying into some trash cans. She groaned and it did not seem that she would be getting up anytime soon, such was the power of the kick.
    Now only three surrounded Cronax.
    Gwendolyn looked at Arisa and said, “The Viper Spits.”
    Arisa nodded, and took out a bunch of poison needles from her belt. Gwendolyn leaped into the air, somersaulted and swooped down at Cronax, both of her short swords bared. Arisa simultaneously threw her needles at him.
    Cronax instinctively knew what was happening, so he jumped into the air, grabbed Gwendolyn and threw her in the path of Arisa’s projectiles.
    “Oof!” said Gwendolyn.
    She had been hit in the buttock by one of the needles. Her leg went numb and she tumbled to the ground.
    “Dammit!” said Gwendolyn, “Your poison is so potent. I think it-”
    She didn’t finish her sentence as her mouth had gone numb and now she was drooling.
    Arisa ran over to her fallen sister and took out a little porcelain bottle containing antidote. She pulled out the stopper and poured a few drops into Gwen’s lips. Once she was satisfied it had been administered, she gently laid Gwendolyn down and said to Lena, “It’s up to us now.”
    Lena could feel in her heart it was futile to attack Cronax. He really did live up to his reputation. But she also knew every moment they could delay him, would allow Clarence and Anton to get further away.
    She nodded at Arisa and said, “Let’s take this sucker down.”

  7. #47
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    thanks Thauners

  8. #48
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    Default Chapter 38

    Anton and Clarence were running down the street.
    "I've been neglecting my running," said Anton, "I'm so disappointed in myself! I used to run like it was nothing!"
    "You're doing better than me," said Clarence, "I was never good to begin with!"
    Then they turned the corner and saw a body flying through the air towards them. Anton recognised that it was Lena!
    "Catch her!" he shouted.
    Clarence immediately dived to catch the body, as if he was playing kick to kick with a football with a friend. He crashed to the ground on his back, the familiar body on top of him.
    "Oh hello, darling," said Clarence.
    She was unconscious and so he gently moved her off him.
    "Why is your wife flying through the air while she's asleep? said Anton, "Is it like a more advanced level of sleepwalking?"
    "No, silly," said Clarence, "She is flying through the air because of him."
    Anton turned to look at where Clarence was looking and saw a man standing there. He was exuding power, confidence and deadliness.
    "You must be Cronax," said Anton.
    "Aye," said Cronax, "And you must be doomed."
    "No," said Anton, "My name is Anton DiManlen."
    "Psst," said Clarence, "He knows that. He was just trying to intimidate you with a smart response."
    "Oh," said Anton, "Haha! Good one. I get it."
    "I am obligated to tell you that you should turn yourself in, for the King wants you. But oh how i wish you would resist."
    Anton just paused and said nothing for an awkwardly long time.
    "Um, Anton," said Clarence, "I think he is waiting for you to say something."
    "I will in a minute," said Anton, "I was just trying to think of something smart to say back to him. He's set the level of banter to a higher standard than I usually do. I want to step it up."
    Finally, after another minute, Anton said, "The King wants me hey? Well you can tell him I'm already married."
    Cronax looked very puzzled.
    "Oh, Anton," said Clarence.
    "Well in any case," said Cronax,, "It looked like you wont be coming in quietly. I am so sad to do this, but I will have to use force now. Prepare yourself, Iron Snake."
    Cronax started jumpping around on the spot, and then kicking his feet on the ground and snorting. Then he charged, like a bull at a red flag.
    "Wait!" said Anton holding up a hand.
    He said it with such power that Cronax the Mighty actually stopped in his tracks.
    "I don't have a weapon," said Anton, "Will you let me go get a sword?"
    Cronax laughed and said, "If you don't have a weapon that is your problem, not mine." He immediately continued his bullish charge. He pulled out his Great Axe and held it out menaxingly.
    Anton stood his ground and felt his stomach rise up into his chest. His old friend adrenaline had come to visit him. From now on, it was all pure instincts, he felt the warrior inside him take over. He saw Cronax reach him and take an epic 360 degrees backhanded swing at him with the Axe. Anton’s body automatically ducked and then did a leg sweep, which Cronax jumped over.
    Impressive, thought Anton to himself, This boy is good.
    Anton dodged attack after attack, like a little fish evading a little kid in a pond. Each slash by Cronax was made with such power that an actual little gust was created. Anton did not want to get hit by any of these strikes. He liked being alive.
    I really need a weapon, he thought to himself.
    Meanwhile, Clarence, watching from the side came to the same conclusion. Anton needed a weapon and fast. He picked up his beloved Lena and then placed her in a side street and ran off. He knew there would be a sword somewhere! He ran as fast as he could. He turned this corner and that, and pleaded with the Gods that he would find something that Anton could use.
    And then salvation!
    Well, salvation guarded by…
    A big white wolf.
    For yes, before him, there were a few unconscious City Guards, the glint of shiny steel weapons next to them. But standing between him and them, was a giant white wolf!
    It was Cronax's mount!
    In ordinary circumstances, Clarence would have fanboyed over seeing Cronax's epic mount. But today was not ordinary circumstances.
    Clarence was so upset that he actually spoke out aloud.
    "This is less than ideal," he said.
    The white wolf looked at him.
    It licked its lips.

  9. #49
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    Default Chapter 39

    Anton ran and Cronax followed close behind; they were running around the city. Anyone who didn’t know might have thought they were going for a jolly nighttime jog together. Anton was looking for a weapon but also he had planned on running around enough that Cronax would become tired. But unfortunately Cronax was in much better shape than Anton was and the one getting tired first was him!
    It was very discouraging!
    "Quit running you cowardly cur!" said Cronax.
    "I'll stop running when you..." said Anton. He paused for a bit because he was out of breath. "When you stop chasing me."
    Oh, Dear, thought Anton, He is gaining on me! I hear him. I can feel his breath on my neck! Anton's instincts kicked in and he darted to the side, just as he felt Cronax's axe cutting through the air behind him.
    Hmm, this guy is not playing around! thought Anton.
    Anton suddenly felt a burst of energy and he suddenly dashed forward. Anton was rather impressed by how fast he was currently running. It's amazing how fast you can run when someone is chasing you with an axe.
    Anton looked at who had called his name.
    It was Clarence!
    His friend had suddenly returned from wherever he had disappeared to. And he was holding aloft a sword! He was certainly a sight for sore eyes, like an angel lighting up the darkness.
    "Here, catch!" said Clarence, and he threw the sword.
    Oh Clarence, thought Anton, that is so dangerous. But he was on automatic now, and his body calculated the trajectory of the spinning weapon somehow and Anton leaped into the air and caught it by the handle and in mid air turned and landed, facing Cronax, just in time to block a mightly strike from the warrior.
    They both stood there, facing each other, neither weapon moving am inch as each tried to force the other's weapon down.
    "I have a weapon now," said Anton, suddenly serious. And with a humungous effort, he pushed Cronax's axe down and the King's Champion stumbled backwards a few steps. The look on Cronax's face showed he was not used to being pushed around by anybody.
    "I am Anton. They call me the Iron Snake. Let's play."
    Cronax laughed and then attacked ferociously.
    Clang! Clang! Clang!
    Anton blocked each strike, but Cronax was swinging with such force that sparks were flying from the blades! It had been a long time since Anton had fought anyone this strong before. He prayed his blade would not break. But he realised he couldn't worry about that now. He focussed on the fight.
    He cleared his mind and let his instincts take over.
    Clarence watched from the side as these two warriors fought each other. It was like art. There was speed, spins, deft movement, fancy footwork. It was hard to tell who was winning, it was so evenly matched.
    "You fight well for an old man," said Cronax, through gritted teeth.
    Anton didn't reply. He was too busy trying to look for a weakness in Cronax's attack. But he could see none. This man's technique was solid.
    So Anton decided he could continue as he was, and wait for Cronax to make a mistake or get tired before him (not likely!) or he could push into his bezerker rage. It was something he used to do when he was younger and facing a superior opponent. He would go all out offense, using every ounce of his strength in every swing and try to overpower his opponent through sheer force and rage. But it was a gamble. If he didnt' defeat him with that push, he would be utterly exhausted afterwards.
    But Anton was not the type to sit back and wait for things to happen. It just wasn't who he was.
    "Raaaaaaaaaarrrrrrr!" cried Anton, the power from his scream alone startled Cronax. Anton swung so hard that Cronax's axe vibrated audibly in his hands.
    Anton looked into Cronax's eyes and saw fear. This was the moment. The Iron Snake struck.
    Crunk! Crunk! Crunk! Fwip!
    Cronax's mightly axe flew out of his hands arcing through the air and landed blade first into the trunk of a thick tree behind them.
    Anton pointed his blade at Cronax's throat and held it steady.
    "I have been defeated," said Cronax. He opened out his arms and said, "Do with me what you will."
    Anton lowered his sword. "I have no quarrel with you. I just want to heal my wife. I will leave now. You are worthy of the title of King's Champion. Long has it been since I have fought an opponent as worthy as you. It was good. But now I am exhausted!"
    Cronax smiled and the two men bowed at each other.
    And then Anton's danger senses went off!
    He heard the sound of footsteps. Many footsteps.
    A swirl of city guard surrounded them, like water going down a drain.
    It felt like every man in the King's army was there. Archers with bows set up behind the soldiers at the front. Then one man stepped through the crowd.
    It was Javier.
    "Arrest him, Sir Cronax," said the Captain of the Guards.
    Cronax shook his head.
    "If he is to be arrested, it will not be by me." and with that, Cronax began walking through the crowd.
    "Those are the King's orders," said Javier.
    Cronax ignored him and vanished through the crowd.
    Anton readied his sword. He could feel his body cramping up from fatigue, even his scalp was getting a cramp.
    "It looks like we will have to do this ourselves,” sighed Javier, “Charge!"
    All the soldiers, made courageous by their superior numbers, rushed Anton. It must be noted that Javier, however, did not move an inch and actually stepped back a few paces.
    Clarence also ran into the fray, to stand beside his friend. He knew it was futile and it would surely mean his death. He made it to Anton’s side, but he was weaponless and was knocked out almost immediately. The last thing he saw as he was going down was Anton spinning and taking out a circle of soldiers around him.
    Yes, thought Clarence, Today really has not been a typical day.

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    Default Chapter 40

    "Didn't I tell you never to return here?"
    Anton opened his eyes. His hands were bound together and he was hanging from a chain from the ceiling. They were in a tiny, dimly lit room. It had dungeon written all over it.
    Standing before him was his least favourite person in the world.
    "Hello Bastion," said Anton, "Long time no see. Not long enough sadly."
    Bastion was holding his royal sceptre and he prodded Anton roughly in his exposed stomach.
    "Don't you get smart with me. I am the King!"
    Anton said nothing but just looked Bastion in the eyes. The King could not match his steady gaze.
    "Remember that time I saved your dearly beloved Maruska, and you promised to never return to Firgenduke to see her? I thought you were a man of your word Anton. I saddens me to see that you have no honour. Did you not promise never to come back?"
    "I did," said Anton, "My wife was turned to stone and Maruska might be her only hope. I promise to leave as soon as I have spoken to her."
    "Your promises are worthless, Anton DiManlen," said King Bastion. "Also, do you remember what I said I would do to you, if you ever returned?"
    Once again Anton remained silent.
    "Let me remind you," said Bastion.
    The King used his sceptre and traced a line, slowly and deliberately across Anton's neck.
    "Goodbye, Anton DiManlen," said Bastion, "Long have I loathed you. Like a long splinter that Is stuck in your foot that you just cant get out completely. But today that will end and I will be rid of you. And Maruska will be entirely mine.”
    And with that, the King left the little dungeon, leaving Anton hanging by his arms from the ceiling.

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    Default Chapter 41

    Maruska stood on the dock. The great ship was there, as it had been all night. The sun was just rising over the sea and the first light of day was warming Firgenduke. She had not been able to sleep at all and had been waiting for hours.
    "Calling all passengers to Newport!" came a voice from the ship.
    She walked over to the ship, a churning feeling in her stomach. This was really happening, she was casting aside her putrid life and beginning anew. A fresh start where she could be anyone she wanted. A life free of bitterness; was that hoping for too much?
    She walked the plank onto the ship and gave the man her ticket.
    He bowed when he recognised her.
    "Milady," he said.
    She boarded the ship and walked onto the deck.
    It was done! She was leaving. She breathed in the fresh sea air. It smelled so sweet. She would never forget that smell.
    "Did you hear about what happened in the city last night?"
    One the men was speaking to another, his voice was just background noise to Maruska. But then he uttered something that felt like a bucket of ice being poured over her.
    "They say that the Iron Snake returned to Firgenduke overnight!"
    "Anton DiManlen?" said the other.
    "Aye! And he fought with Cronax in the city and was defeated, and the King is having a public execution of the traitor this very morning."
    The men continued to speak but their voices faded to a uniform humming. Maruska grabbed onto the side of the ship, her legs were feeling weak.
    Could this be true? Had he returned to Firgenduke? Was he due to be killed this very morning?
    She looked around her. Here she was on this ship, this ship of freedom. Ready to venture to a new life. And then she received this news. How could she leave knowing this?
    In times like these, she realised that she truly loved Anton.
    There was only one thing she could do.
    She turned and ran off the ship.
    "Lady Maruska, where are you going? We are leaving soon! Should we wait for you?" called out the man.
    But Maruska didn't even hear him. All she knew was that she had to get to the Castle as fast as she could.
    Last edited by Thuaners; 01-25-16 at 09:00 PM.

  12. #52
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    Aug 2004

    Default Chapter 42 - Shai'Susu

    It was early morning and much of the town had gathered in front of Dead Man's Cove.
    Ten trumpeters blew out a bombastic tune to begin the ceremony. When they were done, they stepped back, and King Bastion stepped forward.
    "We are gathered here today to celebrate the execution of a traitor to the Crown," said the King, "Anton DiManlen is his name and many a heinous crime he has committed against us, far too many to list here today. Let it be known that many years ago I, the benevolent and kindhearted King that I am, spared his life and banished him from the Realm. As you can all see, he has returned and thus I am forced to the grisly business of an public execution. Bring forth the traitor!"
    There was a murmur among the crowd and then a big man was escorted up onto the wooden platform next to the King.
    "Here is the traitor," said the King, "The villain! Let us be rid of him once and for all!" He turned to the crowd, "You may now throw things at him!"
    There was silence.
    "I said you may now throw any eggs and tomatoes and the like at him!"
    Still nothing from the crowd.
    This was unheard of! Folk generally loved coming to executions to throw things at the evil-doers.
    Suddenly one person spoke up, it was an old lady. She shouted, "Thank you, Anton! I have not forgotten the time you saved us! I am alive because of you!"
    "Hush!" said the King. He did not like this at all. Everywhere he went, people loved Anton. It made him furious! Did they love this traitor more than their own King? Bastion glared at one of his soldiers and by a tilt of his head, indicated that they should take this old woman away for a bit of questioning.
    "That's enough of this," said the King, "We shall delay no longer! Summon the Beast!"
    Also on the wooden platform was a gigantic golden gong. A big, brawny man went up to it and gave it a big hit.
    The sound reverberated towards the sea.
    "Escort the traitor to the position!" cried the King.
    Soldiers took Anton, who's hands were bound behind his back, up some stairs and then along a long, narrow plank that extended over Dead Man's Cove below. There was probably a twenty metre drop down into the water. It must be noted here that the soldiers had clipped themselves via a chain around their waist to a metal pole that went the length of the wooden plank. Their prisoner had no such safety. When Anton had reached the very end of the plank, he stood there, as the two guards blocked his path back, spears pointed at him.
    There was a murmur among the crowd now.
    "Shai'Susu is here!" someone called out.
    In the water was a big dark shadow that glided into the bay. It was huge! It circled beneath the plank Anton stood upon.
    "Now," said King Bastion, "Witness the Glory of the Sea, the Great Judge and Executioner of Tuscan, Shai'Susu as she devours Anton DiManlen, and I am rid of him forever! Push him boys!"
    Everyone stopped and turned to look at who had called out.
    It was Lady Maruska!
    She was sweating and looked absolutely exhausted.
    "Do not kill him, Bastion, I beg you."

  13. #53
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    Default Chapter 43 - Swan Dive of Love

    "Please!" said Maruska, "Spare his life."
    "No!" said Bastion, "Today I will be rid of this pest forever." He turned to the guards on the wooden plank, "Push him over!"
    One of the guards, nervous at being so high up, poked his spear at Anton, but missed.
    "Bastion!" said Maruska, "I am begging you, please, spare his life!"
    "I am the King," said Bastion, "Do not tell me what to do."
    Once again, he turned to the guards and said, "Push him down!"
    This time, the both guards moved into position and poked their spears at him.
    "Stop!" said Maruska.
    They stopped when they heard her cry out, so desperate it was.
    "Please, Bastion," said Maruska, "You say that you love me, please do this for me. Spare his life."
    The King screamed in frustration. "Why do you care so much about this wretch? This man who betrayed you and left you for dead? It was I that cared for you all these years and did everything you wished, and you don't even look at me."
    “I love him,” said Maruska.
    Bastion was burning with up with rage. "I said, push him in!"
    Now the guards thrust their spears at Anton with gusto. Anton dodged the first, but the second pierced his chest and he toppled over and fell backwards!
    Maruska saw only one thing, Anton falling backwards towards the water below. At this point, nothing else in the world mattered to her. She zipped past Bastion on the wooden platform and sprinted down the plank, skipping around the two guards and then jumped off the edge, swan diving after Anton! She was met with a terrifying sight. Anton was plummeting down, against the backdrop of a giant gaping mouth! The legendary sea creature was flying up from the water, ready to eat its offering.
    "ZOOMBALA NE CORTEGA!" Maruska screamed.
    Pure fire came out of her hands, two torrential blasts of orange flame! She aimed it so that it would not hit Anton, but would burn Shai’Susu. The sea creature immediately closed its maw and withdrew back into the cool, watery depths.
    Maruska breathed a sigh of relief. She closed her eyes. It was one of the most powerful spells she knew and she had put all her energy into it; she would be tired for days. But she was happy. It had been worth it. And then the water hit her.
    She had never, ever been hit so hard. She felt her body go down into the water for a long time. Eventually she began to float up again. She gasped as she reached the surface. The pain from the impact screaming at her, but she paid no heed. Her eyes scanned the water for Anton. His hands had been tied! Would he drown?
    Then she saw it. A splash to her right and before she could even think, she was swimming over to him. She grabbed him and said, "Calm down, I've got you."
    Anton stopped flailing his body and went to float on his back. Maruska dived underneath him, and undid the rope binding his wrists.
    When she surfaced, Anton put his arms around her. She suddenly felt an overhwleming feeling of warmth, peace and joy. She was back where she belonged.
    "I really missed you," said Anton.
    "Then why did you leave?" said Maruska.
    Anton looked her in the eyes and said, "I had to.”
    When she saw his face, and heard these words, she knew they were the truth.
    "I believe you Anton," said Maruska, "But can you tell me why?"
    Anton, who had been seconds away from being digested by a giant sea creature, looked at this woman who had just saved his life in the most incredible fashion. He decided she deserved to know the truth. He would break his promise.
    "Remember that time I dived from the cliff and you saved me from that mysterious sea creature?" said Anton.
    "Yes," said Maruska, "That's all I remember actually. When I woke up you were gone."
    "Well, it seemed that you had been poisoned," said Anton, "I had taken you to Bruskala Dee, but even she said she could not cure you, and that you were about to die. She told me to take you to Lady Joyce. I took you there. Bastion said he would allow Lady Joyce to cure you, only if I promised to leave the Kingdom and never see you again. He made me promise."
    Maruska felt an overwhelming sadness wash over her. Everything made sense now. But it still didn't give her back all the time she had wasted being bitter.
    "Bastion," said Maruska, "That bastard."
    Anton kissed her on the forehead.
    "I'm so sorry," he said.
    "You did nothing wrong," said Maruska, "It is I that should apologise to you."
    Maruska began to shiver, the cold water finally affecting her.
    "Let's get back to shore," said Anton, "Come, grab onto my shoulders."
    Maruska wrapped herself around Anton's mightly back, a position that felt immediately familiar to her and he gently swam towards the shore.
    A swarm of guards was there to greet them, weapons drawn. They made way as the King emerged. He held a long, deadly looking dagger in his hand, and a murderous gleam in his eyes.
    "Please!" said Maruska, "Spare his life!" She ran up to the King and knelt down at his feet, her head pressed against the ground, she could go no lower.
    "No," said the King.
    Suddenly Maruska knew what she had to do. She did not want to do it, but she knew she must. She could feel the life ahead of her start to rot. She knew she would forever be in a figurative cage. But she would do anything to save the one she loved.
    "I will marry you, Bastion."
    There were gasps amongst the crowd.
    "No, Maruska!" said Anton, "Don't do it!"
    Maruska ignored him.
    The King's dagger dropped to the ground.
    "What did you say?"
    "I will marry you, Bastion. Anything you want," she said, "Just please don't kill Anton."
    King Bastion heard the words. He almost thought he would never hear them. Music to his ears. Finally he had won! The woman of his dreams, the most beautiful woman in the world, was agreeing to marry him.
    "Under one condition,” said Bastion, “I will keep Anton in the dungeon. And you are never to visit him."
    Maruska did not like this, but she would not get greedy. Anton would live. There would be hope for him.
    "I agree."
    "No!" said Anton, "I refuse!"
    Maruska turned to him. "It is my decision. It is final." She smiled at him. She wanted her last words to him to be happy ones. "I will think of you fondly."
    Bastion felt like vomiting. "Take this swine away. I want him locked up in the deepest, darkest dungeon we have, never to see the light of day again."
    Guards surrounded Anton.
    "I love you, Maruska," he said.
    "Shut up!" said the King.
    Maruska closed her eyes. Those words from Anton. She had not heard them in an age. She let them wash over her like a cool breeze after vigorous exercise.
    As the guards took him away from her, she realised both of them were being locked up, although in different types of cells.
    Maruska looked up at the man she had agreed to marry.
    Bastion looked down at her, grinning from ear to ear.
    Her cell would be far worse than Anton's.

  14. #54
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    Default Chapter 44 - Soups and a message

    Skaife stood in front of the Encumbered Adventurer, the tavern had not been open since the night before last, that eventful night in Firgenduke. She had thought it strange that Clarence had not come into the library yesterday, especially after he had seemed to crack his case of sculptor's block. When he had not come in today, Skaife decided to come over and see what was up. The door was not locked, so she pushed it open and entered.
    The tavern was empty, save for one person. It was Four-tooth. He was seated at a bench looking despondent, tearing off hunks of bread and dipping it into some broth.
    "Skaife," said Four-Tooth.
    "I came to see Clarence. I was wondering why he didn't come into work the past two days."
    "He's looking after Lena, they are in their bedroom," said Four-tooth.
    Skaife nodded and made her way into the back where Clarence and Lena's room was.
    She knocked.
    "Come in."
    She entered and saw Clarence sitting beside Lena, he had a bowl of soup in his hand and seemed to be trying to feed her. She was in bad shape! She had a multitude of bruises and a great bandage wrapped around her torso.
    "Lena!" said Skaife.
    "I'm alright," said Lena, in a voice that was hardly more than a whisper.
    "She's not alright," said Clarence, "If she has any bones that aren't broken, I am yet to see them."
    "Stop exaggerating, babe."
    "Is there anything I can do?" said Skaife.
    "Make me some soup, that's better than this stuff," said Lena.
    "Hey, this is good stuff!" said Clarence.
    "Did you taste it?" said Lena.
    Clarence looked at the soup for a little bit, then said to Skaife, "Can you cook soup?"
    "Sure!" she said, "I can make a mean leek and potato soup. But first, what happened to Lena?"
    "Cronax beat me up," said Lena.
    Skaife gasped.
    "Save your breath, honey bun," said Clarence, "Let me explain. The short version is that my best friend, who the King hates, came back to town. He needed our help. The Three Sisters captured him, and we rescued him-"
    "This one was particularly cool," said Lena, pointing a finger at Clarence, "The Three Sisters fangirled over him and ended up helping us."
    Clarence smiled then continued, "Cronax arrived and the Three Sisters, Lena and Four-tooth stayed to buy us some time, did I mention my friend Anton was unconscious this whole time? The Three Sisters had knocked him out with some sleeping potion or something. Well I carried him away, and then he woke up. He told me he had come here looking for Lady Maruska. But he refused to run and he ran back to fight Cronax with the others. But by the time we arrived, everyone had been beaten up, including Lena, who we actually came in time to see her flying through the air!"
    Skaife looked confused.
    "Cronax kicked me," said Lena.
    "I see!" said Skaife, "Then what happened?"
    "Anton and Cronax had this epic duel and Anton won!"
    "Whoa!" said Skaife, "That's mad!"
    "I know right?" said Clarence, "My friend was actually very tough back in the day. Anton the Iron Snake they used to call him."
    "Iron Snake," said Skaife, "I've heard of that name before actually!"
    "Well, after he defeated Cronax, Cronax decided to leave us alone, but then Javier showed up with just about every soldier in the Tuscan army. I got knocked out and Anton got captured."
    "Hang on," said Skaife, "I heard something about an execution yesterday?" She covered her mouth with her hands.
    "Thankfully the story didn't end there," said Clarence, "Lady Maruska turned up at the execution apparently!"
    "Wow!" said Skaife.
    "She begged the King to spare Anton's life. The King agreed not to kill Anton, but has locked him up permanently in the deepest, darkest cell under the Castle. And another condition, Maruska is to marry the King. And now you are up to date."
    "Wow," said Skaife, "No wonder you have not been at work. Okay, I will go make some soup."
    "Can you make some for me too?" said Clarence, "I don't really feel like eating mine either."
    Skaife smiled.
    Just then there was a knock at the door.
    They all wondered who it could be.
    "Come in," said Clarence.
    It was a teenage girl with jet black hair. They all recognised her to be Lady Maruska's apprentice.
    "Hi, I am Fog," said the girl, "My Mistress Lady Maruska sent me. She has an urgent message to pass onto your both. She would come here herself but she felt it was best to be discreet, such is the current situation."
    She took out a piece of rolled up parchment from her pocket and handed it to Clarence.
    Clarence unravelled it and read it silently. His brow furrowed at first and then his eyes widened.
    "What does it say?" said Lena, Don't keep us in suspense!"

  15. #55
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    Default Chapter 45 - Repentance

    Clarence cleared his throat and read from Maruska's parchment.
    "Dearest Lena and Clarence, Although I have much I wish to say, I will try to be brief. For many years I believed that Anton had abandoned me. But now I know the truth. He did nothing wrong. It was Bastion who is to blame, for he orchestrated all the events and made Anton promise to leave, in order for me to be saved from a deadly poison. In my blind jealousy, I travelled to the village he has been living in, and turned his wife to stone."
    Clarence paused after that part, his eyes widening in disbelief.
    "Have no doubt about that part," said Fog.
    Clarence nodded and then continued.
    "Anton came to Firgenduke to beg me to turn his wife back to flesh. There is no cure that I know of. But that does not mean there is no cure. There are far greater and more ancient magicks in this world than the ones I am capable of. Anton has a son, named Narteb. He lives in Manangatang. Please seek him out and give him this page from my spellbook, the page containing the details of the petrification spell I used. Perhaps knowing this will help him find a cure for his mother. I thought I was casting a spell that was irreversible, but someone once told me that nothing is impossible in this world to those who believe. I hope this to be true. I would go myself, but Bastion has made it clear that I am to stay by his side at all times. Please do me this favour and seek out Narteb. Tell him that he is the only hope for his mother. His father will never again see the light of day. With love, Maruska."
    "Turned to stone," said Lena, "And I thought I had problems! You should leave today, Clarence."
    Clarence was torn. "I am not leaving until you are better."
    "I can look after myself," said Lena, "Every day we wait is another day, Anton's wife is a stone statue. His poor son. We need to give him this information as soon as we can."
    "I will go," said Skaife.
    "No!" said Clarence, "This is not your problem."
    "My friend's problem is my problem," said Skaife, "I will take this message to this boy in Manangatang."
    Clarence and Lena began to protest but Skaife silenced them, "I have already decided. I will leave immediately." She went up to Anton and took the parchment.
    "Where is the spell?" said Skaife.
    Fog reached into her dress again and took out an oilskin pouch. "The page from the spellbook is in there." She handed the pouch to Skaife, nodded at everyone and then left.
    Skaife placed the letter from Maruska into the oilskin pouch and then tucked it into her pocket.
    "Thank you, Skaife," said Lena.
    And with that, Skaife's life shifted in a totally different direction. She was now headed to Manangatang to deliver a message to a boy named Narteb DiManlen.
    After she had left, Clarence suddenly realised something, and said sadly,
    "I suppose she won't be making that soup for us after all."
    Lena looked at the soup that Clarence had made for her.
    "Quick!" she said, "Run after Skaife and ask if she can make some soup before she leaves! Narteb can wait a few minutes!"

  16. #56
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    Default Chapter 46 - The Crossroads

    Three weeks later, Skaife found herself approaching the bustling town known simply as the Crossroads. It was the interestion of three busy highways and was a busy, bustling place, with people coming and going all the time. Skaife had asked around Manangatang village, and had found out that Narteb and his best friend, Pip, had headed north along the North Road. She was feeling really good. In her younger days, she had done a fair bit of travelling, wandering around the realm. It was nice to get back to that. The feeling of freedom was an exciting one. However, in the back of her mind, she knew she had a task to accomplish. She had to find Narteb to give him Maruska's spell.
    Upon reaching the town, she felt a feeling of butterflies in her stomach. If she had to describe the Crossroads, it would be yellow, dusty and constant chattering. The buildings were mostly made of white stone, and roundish domes seemed to be the predominant shape. The ground was an orange coloured sand. And yes, there was this constant hum of people chattering, like what you hear in a busy tavern, or a large tree full of birds. There was quite a lot of people milling about. It was a little overwhelming, Skaife wasn't quite sure where to begin. She decided she might head to the tavern first and ask the bartender. They usually seemed to be quite knowledgable on the comings and goings of people.
    She went up to the first person she saw, who was a young girl walking with a small round clay pot balanced on her head.
    "Excuse me," said Skaife, "Can you tell me where the closest tavern is?"
    The young girl pointed to a large red dome in the distance.
    "Also," said Skaife, "Have you met a teenage boy recently? His name is Narteb." Skaife knew it was a long shot. But right now she was happy with any shot.
    "Narteb!" said the girl, her eyes widening, "Oh yes, everyone knows Narteb. He has helped a lot of people here. And a few times a day, he will stand in the middle of town square and shout out at the crowd. He's like a cuckoo clock, only cute. A cute clock." The girl stood there, obviously trying to make a pun or a joke, feeling she was really close, but not quite there. "Cutey clock. Oh nevermind."
    "Can you tell me how to get to the town square?" said Skaife.
    "Cute clock..." muttered the girl, "Oh, just follow that road there and when you see the oasis, turn left and you can't miss it." And then the girl's face lit up and she blurted out, "Cute-koo clock! Ah, I'm happy with that."
    "Thanks!" said Skaife and the two girls parted ways, both very pleased with the exchange.

  17. #57
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    Default Chapter 47 - They Meet

    Narteb sat on the bench. It was a beautiful sunny morning. As in his perfect weather. Sunny, without being too hot. But as lovely as it was, he felt terrible.
    Pip, who was sitting on the ground beside him said, "What's wrong?" That's the thing about best friends, they can tell if something is wrong, as if it was written in red ink on your forehead.
    "I don't know what to do," said Narteb, "We've been here for weeks. This place is so busy, with so many people, but no one knows anything about reversing this spell. Am I just wasting my time here?"
    "You know, it's always darkest before the dawn," said Pip, "At least you are doing something. All you need to do is hold on for one more day! Who knows what can happen tomorrow?"
    It was exactly what Narteb needed to hear, just when he needed it most.
    "You're so wise, Pip," said Narteb.
    "Not really," said his friend, "I just read it in a book somewhere. It seemed like the right time to pull it out."
    "I feel better," said Narteb, "I can do one more day!" He felt reinvigorated! Like the feeling you get after you finish a really good workout!
    "Now that's the Narteb I'm used to seeing!" said Pip.
    "Let's do this!" said Narteb, standing up.
    Both boys bumped their fists together and then went running off towards the Crossroads town square. They zipped and zigzagged their way through the crowd who were mostly meandering through their quiet morning. The two boys on the other hand looked like two bottles of champagne shaken up and ready to pop!
    They found their way to their usual spot. It was this large fountain in the middle of the square. In the centre of the fountain was a few big white statues of men and women in togas, lazing about on a giant white rock. They were probably depictions of Gods or something. But that didn't concern Narteb right now. He clambered up onto the wide rim of the Fountain, drew in a big breath and then bellowed out, for all to hear:


    As usual everyone in the town square stopped what they were doing and turned to look at Narteb. There was silence. This had been the response they’d had every day so far.
    After waiting for a few moments, Narteb drew in another breath and was about to shout out again, when he noticed something different happening for the first time. There was a beautiful girl gracefully making her way through the crowd towards them. When she reached the fountain, she and Narteb looked each other in the eyes.
    "My name is Skaife Ortega,” she said, “I have some information that may help you rescue your mother."

  18. #58
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    Default Chapter 48 - Party Time

    Narteb couldn't believe it. This beautiful girl was standing before them, saying she might be able to help them rescue his mother somehow!
    "No way!" said Narteb, "What info have you got?"
    The girl reached inside her backpack and took out a brown, weathered looking oilskin. She handed it to Narteb and said, "The brief version is that Maruska, the woman who was in love with your father, turned your mother to stone. Then she regretted it and gave your dad the page of her spellbook that had the petrification spell on it. She doesn't know if there is a way to reverse it, but she feels that having that page might be helpful."
    Narteb opened the oilskin and took out the page from Maruska's spellbook.
    "Cool," said Narteb, "I love brown, yellowing paper!"
    "Same," said Pip, "Nice and crinkly! Seems old, and mystical!"
    "This is exactly how spellbook paper should look," said Narteb, holding the paper up to the light, and looking at it from different angles.
    "Maybe we should try reading it?" said Pip.
    Both boys crowded over the page and studied it for some time.
    There was silence.
    One minute passed.
    "So what do you think, Teb?" said Pip.
    "Uh, I didn't actually read it," said Narteb, "I got bored after the first sentence. I was hoping you would just tell me what it said."
    "I did the same as you!" said Pip.
    Both boys laughed.
    The blonde girl took the piece of paper and started reading it.
    "So what does it say?" said Narteb.
    She ignored him and continued to read it, right through to the end.
    Narteb was impressed.
    "She has good concentration, Pip," noted Narteb, stroking his chin.
    "I wonder what it's like to have that," said Pip, "I imagine it would be good for reading books."
    "Okay," said the girl, "It says-"
    "Hey," said Narteb, "What's your name by the way?"
    "Skaife," said the girl, "I told you when I first met you."
    "Sorry, I forgot!" said Narteb, and then he glanced sideways and sneakily added, "A thousand apologies."
    Skaife nodded.
    "I don't normally talk like that," said Narteb, "It's this phrase they say here at the Crossroads. I was waiting for an opportunity to use it!"
    "Okay," said Skaife, "From the terminology used, it seems the witchcraft Maruska used was somehow related to the Ancient civilisation of Hyborea. Perhaps if you can find an expert in Ancient Hyborea, they might be able to give you some leads. That's my best guess."
    Narteb and Pip looked at her rather blankly. They looked like she had been speaking another language.
    "Otherwise," said Skaife, "You might want to find someone who is a Loremaster. They are these people who wander around, collecting information and knowledge. Those guys know a lot of things, perhaps they can direct you on what to do next."
    Skaife nodded and turned to leave.
    Narteb and Pip nodded at her and then looked at each other blankly.
    As Skaife was walking away, she had this strange feeling inside that she shouldn't leave them. Her intuition was telling her to turn around and help these boys, at least for the short term. Skaife always followed her inner voice and so she did exactly that.
    She turned around and once again was standing in front of Narteb and Pip.
    "Would you like me to-" she began.
    "Yes!" said Narteb.
    "Great," smiled Skaife.
    "Our party has three members now!" said Pip.
    "So where did you say we should go first?" said Narteb.
    "I was thinking we go find a ship that can take us to Kuma! From there we can try and find an expert on Ancient Hyborea," said Skaife.
    "Find ship, go to Kuma. Got it!" said Narteb, "Let's do this!"
    "Wow," said Pip, "We are going to Kuma!"
    "I'm excited too," said Skaife, "I've always hoped to see Kuma one day!"
    And that is where we will leave our brand new party of three, full of hope and buzzing with the eternal spirit of adventure.

  19. #59
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    Default Chapter 49 - Lucy and Sandy

    Narteb, Skaife and Pip walked down the path towards the docks.
    “I can’t believe that we are actually going to Kuma!” said Pip.
    “That’s so exciting,” said Skaife, “You guys should write to me when you get there, to tell me what its like.”
    “Skaife,” said Narteb, “I have an idea way better than that. You should come with us.”
    “What?” said Skaife. She had never really considered going with them as an option.
    “It’ll be lots of fun!” said Narteb, “A whole new country and culture to explore.”
    Skaife began to feel very excited. She was a person who loved to learn things about the world, and here was an opportunity to go to Kuma, a place she’d always been interested in. Only this time she wasn’t reading about it from a book. Presented before her now was an opportunity to actually go there herself.
    Her whole body was telling her yes!
    “Why not?” she said with a smile.
    “Why not, indeed!” said Pip.
    “Fantastic!” said Narteb.
    The three of them were suddenly feeling quite light on their feet, and continued down the crunching gravel path until they reached the dock. They saw a lot of ships and people milling about. They asked someone about how to book passage to Kuma, and a man told them they needed to speak to the girl in red down the far end.
    “You young ‘uns are either very brave or very foolish for wanting to go to Kuma.”
    The three of them just nodded, not sure what to say to that and followed the path right down to the end of the dock. It was there they saw the girl, who seemed to be in her late teens, wearing a red jacket and a red hat that was close fitting and slanted at the top. A bone whistle hung from a leather necklace she wore.
    “I’m Lucy,” said the girl, “What are you lot staring at?”
    “I like your hat,” said Pip.
    “Eyes off!” said Lucy, “I’m the only person in Tuscan with a red beret that I know of, and I’d like to keep it that way.”
    “We would like to book passage to Kuma,” said Narteb.
    Lucy’s face brightened. “Well today is your lucky day, because I happen to be the only person that has transport to Kuma from this port. And we have just started a new mode of travel.”
    “A new mode of travel?” said Pip.
    Lucy winked at them and put the bone whistle to her lips and blew. The sound was loud, but pleasant.
    Then she stopped and turned to face the sea.
    The water began bubbling; slowly at first, and then more violently. Suddenly a huge beast emerged from the water!
    “No way!” said Pip, “That is too cool!”
    It was some kind of sea creature. It had a plump, round body, and a long neck. Smooth skin like that of a dolphin, except blue. At the moment its head was high up above them, so looking up at it, with the sun glaring behind it was quite a sight.
    “Presenting, Sandy the Pleiosaur!” said Lucy, “The fastest way to get to Kuma.”
    Narteb, Skaife and Pip all looked at each other, barely able to contain their excitement.
    “So you guys aren’t scared?” said Lucy.
    “I wanna ride the Pleiosaur!” said Narteb.
    “That’s great,” said Lucy, “All the other people today were too scared. Just because she’s never been tested properly doesn’t mean she can’t make the distance. We also have a deal. If she doesn’t get you to Kuma, then you can ask for half your money back if you survive.”
    “Don’t you mean get ‘us’ to Kuma?” said Skaife.
    “Heck, no!” said Lucy, “Do I look crazy to you? Who knows if she’ll make it. Its all theory at this point. I’m staying here where its safe. Okay, so time to pay for tickets. Are all three of you going?”
    Narteb and company nodded.
    “That will be fourteen gold each,” said Lucy, “Except for you,” she pointed at Narteb, “I like your face. You pay ten.”
    Narteb looked at Pip and said, “High charisma.”
    Pip chuckled, but then got serious, “We don’t have fourteen gold, let alone enough for three of us.”
    Narteb frowned. “How much do we have?”
    “Well, together we have eight gold. That’s not even enough for one ticket.”
    Narteb furrowed his brow, which meant he was in thinking mode.
    Skaife opened the leather pouch that was hanging at her waist and looked inside.
    “I have enough,” said Skaife. She looked at Lucy and said, “I’d like to buy three tickets to Kuma, please,” and then she added, “On the Pleiosaur!”
    “What? No!” said Narteb, “We can’t let you do that!”
    Skaife put her finger on Narteb’s mouth, “Shh. We are a party, right? Where I’m from, this is what companions do for each other.”
    Lucy held out two cupped hands and Skaife poured in practically all the gold in her pouch. She was left with one gold and two bronze.
    Lucy put the coins in her bag and then took one coin and bit it with her tteth. “Good stuff,” she said. She wrote them out three tickets and handed it to each of them and said, “You can leave whenever you are ready.”
    Narteb looked at Skaife and said, “I don’t know what to say. Thank you!”
    “You’re welcome,” said Skaife.
    Narteb really liked this girl. They stared at each other.
    Lucy butted inbetween them and said, “So are you guys ready to leave to another country on a giant sea monster?”
    Suddenly, there was the loudest, spine tingling roar from above!
    “Sorry! Sorry, Sandy!” said Lucy, “I mean sea creature.”
    Sandy the Pleiosaur looked pleased.
    The three companions, who had their jaws open in shock and wonder, started laughing.
    Finally, Narteb said, “So, are we ready?”
    “Ready!” said Pip and Skaife in unison.
    “Let’s ride!” said Narteb.

  20. #60
    Member Thuaners's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2004

    Default Chapter 50 - All Aboard!

    Narteb, Pip and Skaife stood on the pier.
    Lucy waved her hands about wildly, it looked a bit like a lizard haad crawled down her back. But she must have been making signals to Sandy, for eventually the Pleiosaur lowered her head and rested it on the pier right before them!
    Narteb could hardly believe he was now gazing almost eye to eye with a giant sea creature! She smelled strongly of the sea, which was fine with narteb, he loved that smell.
    “Well, we don’t have all say,” said Lucy, “Climb aboard, team.”
    Narteb, Pip and Skaife looked at each other and eventually Narteb realised Pip and Skaife were waiting for him, so he turned to face Sandy. He looked ofr a place where he could stick his foot to start his ascent.
    e wedged his foot into her nostril.
    “Not there! What are you doing?” said Lucy, “If she sneezes she’ll send you flying a hundred feet! See over there, at the back of her head? There are leather straps you can hold onto all the way up her back.”
    Narteb walked around the back of Sandy’s head (her large reptilian eyes followed him. Sure enough, he saw the leather straps. It was almost like a leather ladder that went all the way along Sandy’s neck. Narteb decided not to think too much about it and just started climbing, sticking his feet into the horizontal leather bits, one rung at a time, and gripping hard on whatever else he could hold onto. He could feel himself getting higher and higher up, as he made his way along Sandy’s neck, until he eventually reached a series of white leather seats strapped to the highest part of her arched back.
    There was one seat at the front, probably for the driver, because that’s where the reins attached to this neat looking mechanism that held them in place. Behind the driver’s seat were twelve more white leather seats, arranged side by side in pairs along the ride og Sandy’s back. There was a narrow gap between the pairs of chair, an aisle that one could walk along to get to the back seats.
    Now that he had reached his destination, Narteb finally allowed himself to look around.
    “Wooo. This is high up,” said Narteb and he took in a deep breath.
    Pip and Skaife followed son after and Narteb grabbed them each by the hand and helped them walk around to the white chairs.
    “I am certain this is not a good model for a safe transport business,” declared Pip.
    “It is beautiful up here, though,” said Skaife.
    “It certainly is,” said Narteb, gazing at her.
    She wrinkled her nose at him and smiled.
    “Okay, team,” called out Lucy from below, “Take your seats. One person sit at the front and be the driver.”
    “What?” said Narteb, “Aren’t you coming with us?”
    “I’m sorry but I value my life. No, its just the three of you going to Kuma. Don’t worry, Sandy knows where she is going. In theory, everything will be fine. It’s more of an emergency thing. Just pick someone to sit in the drivers seat and look pretty.”
    “Good luck, Narteb,” said Pip and he sat down in the first passenger seat.
    “”You can do it, Narteb. I believe in you,” said Skaife, and she took a seat next to Pip.
    “Well, I guess I’m driving then,” said Narteb, “How hard can it be?”
    He sat down in the driver’s seat. In front of him was a mechanism that attached to the think white leather reins which in turn attached to Sandy’s mouth. The main part of it was two vertical discs each with a handle protruding horizontally out, one on the left and one on the right.
    “I’m assuming,” shouted Narteb, “If I wind the left handle, Sandy will turn left. If I wind the right handle, she will turn right. And then if I wind them both forwards at the same time, she will slow down, and if I wind them both backwards at the same time, she will go faster. Is it something like that?”
    Lucy just looked up at Narteb, uninterested and shrugged her shoulders. “Okay, good luck, team!” she said, “Off you go now! And if you happen to make it alive to Kuma, remember to give my company, Bon Bon Voyage a good review, and be sure to mention how helpful and cute I am.”
    And with that, Lucy raised her arms. The wind blew coolly across her.
    “Sandy!” she said, “Time to-”
    It was the sound of a deep, loud voice.
    They all turned to look and saw the voice belonged to a large man with a black bushy beard, who wore a red jacket with yellow trimming. He was running as fast as he could down the pier towards them. He looked exhausted and his face was almost the same red as his jacket.
    “Wait!” he said once again, when he reached them, “I need passage to Kuma. Urgently.”
    Last edited by Thuaners; 01-09-18 at 09:50 AM.

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