June 11, 2000
After my brief encounter with the troll and my transportation to the trade post I was given the untimely job of acquiring horses for the long voyage. I strode down the streets of the city looking for the local stables, only to find magic shops and an abandoned barbershop. I reached down and felt my chin; my rather sinister looking goatee was growing rather untamed so I decided I come back later when the shopkeeper was around.
The span of ten minutes pasted while my search continued, so I reasoned with myself I should ask directions, I looked around and found a young girl playing in the mud so I decided to ask her.
"Um, excuse me sweet-heart do you know where the stables are?"
"Yeah, they are over there past those statues over to the right."
"Thank you, think fast!" I threw a clump of mud I found just lying on the ground, I knew it was childish but it was fun I must admit. The little girl smiled at me and made a comment on my throwing arm.
I proceeded over to the spot where the little girl said where the statues were, and I looked to the right. All though I could not see the stables I could smell them, I followed the scent which was rather easy and I came to the gate noticed it was open a crack.
"After that troll I should be able to handle this place." Boy was I wrong.
I opened the door and was instantly overwhelmed; a small whirlwind of noxious fumes flooded toward my senses. The sight, rather then the smell overcame my eyes, small mounds of brown semi-solid matter decorated the stable. This would make walking a problem, so I decided not to walk.
Carefully taking small controlled breaths I spoke an ancient phrase and my feet rose a few feet off the ground. This made mobility a lot easier; I approached five muscular light skinned geldings. I also gave them the power of levitation so they wouldn't have to walk into tiny piles of stench. The horses gave off a small whinny when their feet arose off the ground but they seemed passive enough for me to take them outside the stable. As the horses and I left the stables we all took a deep breath and they seemed very appreciative for my leading them way from there. I nestled my head against the neighboring horse and I whispered softly.
"You will do, strong as an ox and fast as lighting. May you help find my fortune."
Since I accomplished my task I decided to head back to the trade post and see what I'd be assigned to carry. It was a short walk back to the post but on my way I ran into a friend.
"Hi mister! You found the stables, what are you doing with all those horses?
"We're going on a trip half way around the world in search of adventure." I tried to make my quest seem more important then it really was.
"Oh," she seemed really sad, "Well you are taking Stukov, he is my favorite, please take good care of him and if you could bring him back safe."
My heart just melted, this was truly a sad tale indeed. At that moment I made a vow, Stukov will return, with or without me. I could never see to that young girl be upset over my vain desire for gold.
"Don't worry he'll be back in a couple weeks, that I can promise. Before I go would you like one last ride on Stukov?"
Her eyes lit up like the world-renowned jewels of the city, and a smile came across her face that would warm an ice dragon. I gently picked her up and placed her on the saddle and gave her the reins. She slowly trotted around the park, giggling and whispering unknown things in the horse's ear. I could feel my spirit shining from the inside. Fifteen minutes passed and I called the girl over and told her it was time. She nodded solemnly and dismounted the horse, and a single tear rolled down her cheek. With a lump in my throat I proceeded to the trade post.
"Ah! Mighty fine horses Hetic. They will serve well."
"They shall, Shadim, don't ask why but we must safeguard these horses back after our journey, can you promise me this?"
"If it was anyone else I wouldn't have given it a thought, but for you yes, they will make it back."
"Hetic! Shadim! Hurry over here, your wagons are waiting!"
Alara was more impatient then ever, especially since there was a lot of money involved. Shadim and I led the horses over to others; I took the reins of Stukov and mounted him. The rest followed suit on the rest of the horses. Before I knew it the trade post at Riverton soon faded over the horizon, with the small girl waving her arm goodbye.
Two days passed rather quickly and we about thirty miles past the city, according to the conjectures on the map. I was assigned the task of navigator since I was the only one with enough sense to bring a map, compass, and sextant. Everything seemed to be going rather well, but then Nquadroa said,
"Seems almost too good doesn't it?", I must admit it did sound a bit pessimistic but it was exactly what I was thinking.
Every night when we make camp I volunteer to make some magic rations, everyone usually accepts, but Shadim politely refuses and heads into the forest to catch his dinner. He usually comes back with a deer draped around his shoulders, or a trio of rabbits in his bag. I often question him about why going through the trouble when I can easily make dinner. He just tells me that it isn't natural to conjure food, and hunting is the way it's supposed to be, I concluded it's the warrior in him.
But anyway Alara likes my magic cuisine, she says it takes lots of skill and practice to get it that way, praise best when it comes from a woman, or so I believe. We often sit by the fire and swap stories of our travels and how we were before we met up. It is pleasant to talk to someone who is refined, it helps to know whom you work with. After two or three stories we are drowsy and we lay down and catch some sleep before dawn breaks.
The morning felt rather awkward, I'm not really sure why though; Shadim seemed to share my feeling. He kept his hand on the hilt of his sword all throughout the morning although he seemed to take the edge off after lunch. Our horses trotted along the road with everlasting stamina but then Nquadroa held up his gloved hand, and whispered,
"Everyone, dismount and draw your weapons and ready your magic."
Even though Shadim is the leader of this party, he seemed to put deep faith into Nquadroa's order. After Shadim dismounted the rest of us followed suit. I removed my war hammer from the strap across my back, Shadim drew the his sword from his scabbard, Alara held a rather large blue rod, that had small symbols of lightning on it, and Nqudroa wielded a large staff that was attached to his belt pouch. A flurry of incantations were recited, we were all at peak readiness. And we waited for the threat to come to us, and we waited. Till suddenly nothing happened, Shadim looked over at Nquadroa with a disapproving visage, and shook his head. Nquadroa gave an innocent, worried look back.
"Everyone sheath your weapons, false alarm." Shadim spoke in an irritated tone.
As the four of us walked back over to our horses, I heard a strange whistling sound, and so did everyone else. Then I saw them, axes, throwing axes, four of them heading towards us. The closest one headed for our leader, Shadim. He quickly raised his large metal shield over the top half of his body and a loud clanging sound exploded from the colliding metals. The axe ricocheted off into a nearby tree, causing the wood to splinter.
Alara turned toward her death but a crackling blue shield comprised of magic deflected the missile. Nquadroa nimbly bent the upper part of his torso backward to a full ninety degrees, and the hatchet sailed majestically, over him. The last axe I didn't even see coming at me, it caught me straight in the head, I fell down to my knees, slumped forward and landed on my face. Then I dematerialized, if a cloud of blue smoke. That image saved my life. The next thing I heard was the rustling of the bushes and the trees. Then they dropped down on us from all angles, rogues, it had to be rogues.
Stay Tuned For Part 3!
A Golden Opportunity: In the Garden of War