Medievia Mudslinger

November 24th, 2002

Fame, Riches, and Ale - By Luce

Luce glanced at the baked ground. The cracks had widened since dawn and would probably worsen over the next few days. Not a cloud had threatened the sky for some weeks and everywhere had fallen into a near siesta. The raiding parties of trolls and kobolds seemed to be sleeping the heat away, and even the heroes seemed to be dozing in their clantowns.

From his seat at the inn, Yuggy looked over at the heat haze that surrounded Castle Medievia. The pennants that snapped from its lofty spires barely rippled with a slight breeze but wavered instead in the heat. The citizens of the City of Medievia would mostly be underneath it in the shade, if they had any sense.

"I am so bored!" Luce said from across the table. "My sword is getting restless." Yuggy nodded - his friend had spoken for all of them. Yuggy took another drink as Luce began to play with his mutton. The bottom of the tankard stared out and Yuggy frowned at it.

"Where's me ale?" he demanded of a listless serving girl. He suddenly passed out into his steaming chicken soup. Luce, always keeping an eye out for his friends, quickly picked Yuggy's head up and leaned it back.

"I didn't want to get your hopes up, but I bought a map from some beggar in the street. It is supposed to show the location of a dragon," Kral said from within his charcoal grey, wizard's robe.

"Where is its lair located at?"

"According to the map it is near House of Sword and Magic Clan Town."

"Well, that is not very far. Does it have the dragon's name?"

"Uh, it appears to be Zeksagmak."

"Hmm, Zeksagmak. I had a cat named Zeksagmak once. Poor thing never saw the wagon coming. I miss him"

Yuggy slowly lifted his head and asked, "A dragon? Won't that be dangerous?"

"Oh come on, it is just a big lizard. How dangerous could it be?" Kral said with an evil grin.

"Good! It is settled. We are going to slay a dragon!" Luce jumped up, scraping his chair against the wood floor. Yuggy's head felt every noise it made. "We leave tonight. Let's meet back at the Castle Square in an hour."

"Ya, all right. Just let me finish this ale. Or two," Yuggy quietly muttered.

In an hour, the three friends stood standing together in the Castle Square. The sun had gone down and it the air had begun to grow chilly. The ground quickly gave up its heat to the cloudless sky.

"Let's go hunt some dragon." Luce jammed his gleaming scimitar into a sheath that hung from his heap.

The walk turned out to be long and tiresome, though without incident. Camping for the night when there was adventure to be had was out of the question so they kept on into the starlight landscape, despite Yuggy's protests. They continued even as the sun began to rise, pausing only for a quick meal. The heat of the day seemed to leach their strength as if an energy drain spell had been aimed at them

By nightfall of the next day, they entered the House of Swords and Magic.

"What's all this?" Yuggy demanded, looking around in surprise. His eyes followed the frenzied activity of military preparations.

Luce repressed a yawn and grabbed the arm of a chainmail clad man. "What's happening?" he demanded.

"Don't you know anything? Just about the whole continent is here! Everyone is coming together to kill Zeksagmak. We will finally put an end to his rein of terror," the warrior said quickly. He made to move off but something took his attention.

There was a large disturbance towards the city gates. Several people who looked like walking armories carried a large man. His clothes where burned off of his body and large flakes of burned skin was falling off. "What happened to him?" Luce asked the warrior he had accosted.

"A few of the guys went ahead to scout the lair. I guess they found something. I need to check my gear," the man protested before walking off.

"We can't let them kill Zeksagmak. They will get all the fame and riches!" Kral said, outraged at the thought.

"We'll have to get some rest here tonight. In the morning, if he is not dead, we will go kill him ourselves," suggested Luce.

"Didn't you see that guy? He was roasted!" Yuggy protested.

"Ya, but did you see any armor on him? No, he didn't have any but we do."

"Maybe his armor melted off of him."

"Yuggy, that's enough."

Yuggy just took a large gulp of wine that spilled over his shirt.

The next morning, the trio started off yet again to find fame and glory. The military preparations continued through the night and were still in full swing as they left the gates to the clantown. Their map, however, gave them exacting directions to find the dragon's lair. Along the way they found many telltale signs that there was a dragon about - charred corpses; piles of rotting feces, the stench of which burned off nose hairs; and the air seemed to be filled with magic. It was not long before they found a large opening in the ground.

"Well this is it. This is what we came for," Luce said giddily, looking around for anyone trying to follow them in.

"Are you sure we should do this?" Yuggy asked.

Kral said, "Oh come on. Don't be a wimp. You are starting to remind me of a halfling. All we got to do is go in, lay down our righteous wrath and collect our reward. Nothing to it. You will be back to your ale before you know it."

Yuggy just nodded his head, took another swig of ale, and eventually walked up to flank his friends.

The tunnel was long and twisted many times. Only one person could go at a time in several places because the tunnel was so narrow. The darkness seemed to press in on the light as if the brightness did not want to go any further. The only noise was a steady trickle of water off in the distance. Dead monsters that seemed to have come from a nightmare lay in scattered heaps.

"Aargh!" screamed Yuggy as he fell over. Luce and Kral ran over to see what had happened, only to find him wrestling with the remains of an overly brave adventurer. Shards of the onetime warrior's armor crunched under their feet.

Luce and Kral hauled Yuggy to his feet, noticing the other human corpses arrayed around the area. One nasty stain on the cavern wall glistened darkly in the dim light - human or monster blood? It was impossible to tell and Luce shook his head. "Let's get on with this," he muttered, ignoring the gulping sound coming from Yuggy's direction.

The tunnel opened into a large cavern with several other exits, each one some way around a central lake. The water appeared jet black and was unnaturally smooth. The hair began to rise on the back of Yuggy's neck and Luce echoed his thoughts. "I have a bad feeling about this."

Their eyes darted around the cavern as they went around its edges. Luce's hands never strayed far from the hilts of his scimitars, yet even he was shocked as the water erupted.

A massive beast, scaled and topped by many dragon-like heads on snaking neck, burst from the lake and howled its defiance. It bounded towards the exit they had been heading for, blocking their path. Caustic vapor spewed forth from its mouths and they backed away as it started after them.

"Water-Hydra!!" screamed Yuggy in terror.

Kral flicked his wrist and hurled a large serrated throwing knife that dug into the monster's thick hide. It let out a another ground shaking roar at being attacked back and charged straight ahead as Yuggy hit it with a shimmering, ethereal hammer that sent bright sparks flying through the air. "It's wounded," he cried out hopefully, seeing the hydra fall back in pain.

Luce sprung into action and scrambled up a large rock. As the beast ran by, chasing the screaming Yuggy, he jumped onto its back, plunging both scimitars in deeply. The blades dug in and took hold. The hydra shook violently and Luce went flying into the air, slamming into the rock he had just leapt from.

Taking full advantage of the distraction, Kral sent a massive shockwave that shattered the body of the water-hydra. Blue scales and dragon-like heads went flying in the air sending more blood onto the walls. The last echoes of its death screams haunted their ears for several minutes.

Kral and Yuggy quickly ran to Luce's side. Dark crimson stained his face, seemingly black in the dim light. Kral stood back in horror. Yuggy slowly reached down to feel Luce's pulse while fearing the unthinkable. He was relieved when he found a small sign of life. Yuggy laid both hands onto Luce's head and asked the gods to aid him and his friend. A blight glowing light surrounded Luce.

Luce slowly opened his eyes and looked around. "What happened?"

"You got slammed pretty hard into that rock. It's a good thing Yuggy is still in on the Gods' good side, eh?" Kral said, relieved enough to banter.

The trio decided they should probably make camp and rest up a bit. Luce nodded his head toward Kral who strode to the center of the large cavern. When he got there he raised his arms up towards the pitch black ceiling. BOOOOM!! A large shimmering shield sprang up around the room that prevented anyone, or anything, from entering.

They were all dead tired but they could not go to sleep. Strange sounds came from the darkness that kept them awake. Several times, human screams rang through out that broke the silence, causing them to jump up. Perhaps the worst thing of all was the silence, when it eventually enveloped them, for it was absolute. Not knowing what is out there was worse than knowing what was.

Luce roused them after a few, futile hours of rest. It was time to return to the hunt once more. The tunnel sloped down more and it got hotter. Yuggy began to wipe great beads of sweat from his face, noticing that the others were suffering similarly. Several times, they had to dodge huge blasts of flames that shot out of the wall.

"I can feel a breeze on my face," Yuggy announced as they delved deeper.

Luce held up a hand to halt them. "I'll go ahead," he said before starting to disappear into the darkness.

"Why do you always have to scout ahead?" Kral demanded, grabbing Luce's arm. "I could do just as good a job as you. Just because I'm a mage doesn't mean that I can't walk quietly."

"Oh you think you are such a good tracker? Well then tell me, what does that slime on the wall mean? Huh?" Luce demanded. Kral just shrugged. "Well, it means, absolutely nothing - but you didn't know that."

"I did too." Kral started to say but Luce was already down the tunnel and out of sight.

"Er," Yuggy began before Kral continued.

"It's not like I don't know what that slime came from. There was plenty of that on that Hydra we killed."

"Oh," Yuggy said. He looked miserably into the darkness.

"And if we hadn't had that warrior in front, we'd have been able to slip past that beast easily," Kral added.

"Really?" Luce asked him from the darkness. He came into the small pool of light with an odd expression. "Let's go on. I've found a large cavern where there is a massive tunnel leading to the surface. It must be how Zeksagmak enters and leaves this lair." With that, he led his friends deeper into the lair.

They reached the cavern with no difficulty. The breeze blew steadily through the tunnels now, wafting away the charnel stink of the pile of bodies. Yuggy was nearly ill as he saw the corpses strewn around the cavern. Many appeared to be orcs, goblins and sunsprites, but many were obviously human. None were intact and several had what appeared to be teeth marks in their remains.

Beyond them was a sight to thrill and fear. A huge mound of golden coins and artifacts glimmered gently in the darkness. Yuggy attempted to estimate the wealth there and became certain that he'd have to take all the valuable items from Trellor, the City of Medievia and Riverton, and even then he'd be short.

Resting on this pile, though, was a shape in the darkness. The outlines of a tail snaked down the mound from an indistinct mass atop the golden pile. "Sinuous," Yuggy thought, desperately sucking on his bottle of ale. "Scaly." They were the only words he could bring to mind.

"Ready yourselves," Luce whispered, checking his armor's straps. His scimitars slid into his hands easily, their edges glistening in the little light. Kral nodded and muttered to himself, making certain that he knew exactly which spells he needed. Yuggy took another draught of ale before kneeling to offer a prayer to the gods.

"Right, Yuggy. What spell can you cast on us to protect us from being hurt?" Luce asked in a slow and clear voice so as not to confuse him.

"Well, I can pray for Sanctuary. That should protect us a lot," he replied, trying not to sound drunk and failing.

"All right - cast it on all of us."

Yuggy quickly prayed and enveloped them all in an aura that appeared red in the dim globe of light. Luce nodded and led them into the cavern that housed death itself.

As he picked his way over the corpses, Yuggy tried to assuage a nagging feeling in the back of his mind. Something did not feel right about the spell he had just cast on his friends. He'd asked for Sanctuary, not Fireshield, right? The last bottle of ale had been potent stuff. It couldn't have been Fireshield - it wouldn't work on others anyway. Those auras did look a bit red, though...

Yuggy was about to say something but it was too late. Kral accidentally tripped on a charred skeleton and went tumbling to the ground with a loud crash. The dragon woke up with a roar at being disturbed and belched searing, hot flames at the intruders.

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