Medievia Mudslinger

April 9, 2000

Endless Horizon - By Taloc

Part I: The Four Strangers

It was a frigid morning in the city of Trellor. Strong, swirling gusts of wind, and driving rains were keeping all but the most healthy adventurers indoors. None of this mattered, however, to the lone figure plodding along the path towards the city's trading post. Short and slender for a human, and enshrouded by the black cloak around his shoulders, he made his way inside, shimmying slightly to rid himself of the moisture that had collected on his apparel. He slowly examined the contents of the room, when his eyes fell upon a female elf in a shimmering blue robe, meditating near the stored packmules.

"Hmm...seems she hasn't become aware of my presence yet...interesting opportunity indeed", he thought to himself as he quietly crept closer, moving quickly yet cautiously. Silently, he ducked behind one of the packmules, and peered around the beast's hindquarters to get a better look at her belongings. Finally, he spied what he had been hoping for: a small velvet pouch, hanging loosely from the elf's belt."Well well well, what do we have here. A poorly- hidden money pouch on an unsuspecting victim. I think I'll lighten her load just a bit", the pickpocket thought to himself as he slowly extended his arm towards the pouch. He squinted his eyes slightly, examining the elf, watching for even the slighest of movements that might disrupt his attempt. As he slid his hand inside the velvet container, he grinned to himself as his fingers fell upon a number of coins.

Quickly, he removed his hand from the pouch, his newfound "earnings" firmly in his clenched fist. Before he could react, however, the woman whirled, grabbing him by the shirt and pulling him towards her. As he stared into a set of piercing, ice-blue eyes, his mind began to work, planning an escape route . . .

The dwarf spun, and swung his warhammer high above his head, shouting a warcry as he charged into battle with the abomination of the swamp. The creature was a step quicker, however, and his blow fell just shy of its intended target. While preparing for another blow, the dwarf was knocked backwards by a well- placed kick from his enemy, causing him to fall violently to the muddy ground. "Damned mage, what's she doing over there?" he thought angrily to himself. Upon regaining his feet, the dwarf yelled towards a nearby forest

"Blast it, Mi'Yale, quit stalling and help me!"

From the other side of the road, a blast of energy formed seemingly from nothing. Molding into a magical arrow, it shot through the foggy air and struck the abomination in the back, prompting a roar of pain from the beast. Suddenly, a tall, beautiful human's image shimmered into focus, as she began the incantations for another spell. The creature, having seen the source of its pain, advanced on the human and knocked her into a ditch with a single blow. Realizing how badly he had misjudged the situation, the dwarf bellowed loudly for help: "Someone, please HELP US!!!"

Meanwhile, inside the trading post the would-be victim confronted the thief face-to-face, her angry stare being met by a pair of shifty, tired-looking eyes.

"Who are you, and just what do you think you were trying to do?" She demanded, as a lock of hair fell across her face. She brushed it back briefly as the thief replied. "Just trying to keep myself alive, ma'am..Y'see, if I don't have money, I don't get to buy food. And if I can't buy food, then I can't live, right?"

"Funny method you have of sustaining yourself, scum. I demand to know your name, else I shall call the guards. I assure you, they won't be so kind."

"Funny definition of kind you have, lady. Anyways, I'm Lomak, at your service. Now then, if you would do me the pleasure of your name, I would be much obliged." Lomak performed a slight, awkward bow, as the elf still held him by the collar.

"As if it is any business of yours, my name is Shaya." Noticing the vagrant's shifting eyes, Shaya immediately understood what he was doing. "Stupid thief," she mused,"If he even thinks about running I'll render him sightless or worse before he makes his second step." "Now then, about your hopes of escaping. Let's just get those out of the way right now, because you won't get far at all."

Lomak retorted amusedly "Oh, I see..a tough girl, eh?" Shaya quickly responded by tightening her grip, making breathing for Lomak slightly more difficult. Gagging slightly, Lomak struggled to break free, but only succeeded in worsening the situation as Shaya's grasp on him grew more and more constricting.

"I normally don't waste my time with your kind, scum. I am above such petty things, and yet you seem to be of a different breed than other rogues I have met. Besides being a criminal, you also manage to be cocky at the same time. Quite a poor blend, I must say. Now then, how to teach you a lesson . ." As Shaya was pondering, her thoughts were interrupted by a yell for help coming from outside. She immediately turned towards the door. Loosening her grip on Lomak slightly, she dragged him outside with her. On the way outside, Shaya gave Lomak orders.

"I'm going to see what the trouble is, and you are going to come with me. Pity I don't have any rope with me, or I might bind you up to deal with you later. While I'm helping whoever just shouted for assistance, you're going to stay close to me, and you better not try anything. Understood?"

"Not to worry, lady, I may even help ya. People in need are always grateful after you help them, and grateful people are apt to give rewards."

Smirking slightly, Shaya strode down the road a few paces, with Lomak right behind her. As they mounted a ridge, the two saw who had shouted, and the reason why. In a ditch beside the road lay the crumpled heap of what was apparently a human while, no more than ten yards further, a dwarf clad in a full platemail battled a muddy creature of enormous size.

As Lomak rushed down the hillside, he shouted over his shoulder "Stay back lady, this is no place for you to be." This led to a look of amusement and disgust on the part of Shaya, who slowly advanced down the path, evaluating the situation. "Foolish thief, she thought to herself, surely he has never battled a swamp abomination before. Oh well, I suppose this will teach him not to be so brash."

Drawing a knife from his scabbard, Lomak immediately threw it at the creature, striking it in the leg. This was followed by a flurry of such attacks, as he closed his range to the abomination. However, with each hit the creature only seemed to become more and more enraged. Lunging forward, Lomak drew a dagger with a serrated blade, and attempted to slash the creature's side. His attempt went for nought, as he tripped over the abomination's outstretched leg. Just as the creature bent over him, preparing to strike a fatal blow, it was knocked do the ground by a mystical hammer. Lomak jumped to his feet, to see Shaya sending yet another hammer towards the beast. This one proved to be enough, separating the swamp horror's head from the rest of its body. Stunned, Lomak dusted himself off and gave a sheepish smile in Shaya's direction, which was returned by a cold, hard stare.

As Shaya tended to the wounded warrior and mage, Lomak sat on a rock and assessed the situation. "Perhaps I did underestimate this elf..she may be just the companion I need for my venture. While she may look down upon me now, the lure of the profit I plan to make should be more than enough to change her feelings..."

Lomak's contemplation was cut short by a firm pat on the back from the dwarven warrior, which nearly knocked him off the rock. Glancing upward, Lomak's jaw quivered slightly as he got a good look at the dwarf. Standing up slowly, Lomak extended his hand cautiously.

"I..uh..hi there. I'm Lomak." Lomak suddenly had a bad feeling..what if the cleric told this guy what he had tried? Lomak gulped slightly at the thought of what that dwarf could do to him.

"Ho there, mate. Thanks for the help back there, though it was more your friend than you that saved our hides." Thurdnor guffawed loudly, causing Lomak to wince slightly at the sound.

"Well, uh..don't mention it. Anyways, I'd better be going, so I'll just.."

Lomak's exit was cut short, for as he turned around he noticed Shaya a mere ten yards away, with the female magician alongside her. Realizing he couldn't make an escape, Lomak decided he'd better smooth things over as best he could.

"Hey, mage, you alright there?" Carefully avoiding eye contact with Shaya, Lomak advanced towards the mage, introducing himself as he went. "Lomak, at your service."

The mage giggled. "Hi, I'm Mi'yale. Sure, I'm alright head just hurts a little bit."

Frowning slightly, Shaya explained "All three of you were almost killed, you know. Perhaps you had better be more careful from now on. And as for you," She approached Lomak, motioning for Thurdnor to join her. "I've decided to simply hand you over to the guards. I don't have time to deal with someone like you. "

Lomak panicked. "Wait lady, I can make it up to you, really I can. See, I'm going to take some goods down to Riverton to sell, for a very nice profit indeed. If you'll just forget that this whole incident ever happened, I'll take you with me." Trying to hold back a grin, Lomak formulated a plan in his mind: "It's almost too easy ...I'll play along for the whole trip, and when we get to Riverton, she'll meet an untimely demise. Then I, never being one to pass up a good opportunity, will sell my goods and hers. Damn, I'm a genius."

Shaya grinned disapprovingly. "You really think that I trust you enough to trek down to Riverton with you?"

"Don't worry, cleric. We'll be happy to join you! Won't we, Mi'yale?" bellowed Thurdnor.

Mi'yale smiled brightly. "Sounds like it'll be fun! I love adventures!" She giggled quietly.

Lomak didn't look so pleased, though. "I hate dwarves. Always sticking their noses into business that doesn't concern them. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to alter my plans ever so slightly."

Turning towards the group, Lomak managed a weak smile. "Sure, let's all go down. Of course, in return for my leading you all down there, I will have to ask for ten percent of what you make from the expedition. It's only fair, you see."

"Can't you ever get your mind off of money, even for a second?!" Shaya snarled. "But fine, the profit should be enough that it won't.. come to think of it, how do you know that this is going to be worth our while?"

"Trust me. I have a friend down in Medievia, and he knows a guy who used to work in Riverton. Just relax, my friend never lies to me. Well, lady? You're the only undecided one left in the group. Are you going or staying?"

"I don't trust that guy," Shaya sighed to herself, "but I could really use the money... And I guess those other two are trustworthy."

"Alright, I'll come along...for now."

Mi'yale gave out a cheer, and Thurdnor smiled from ear to ear. Still rather angry at the way things had turned out, Lomak began giving instructions.

"Alright the looks of things, it's going to be dark soon. We'll spend the night here in Trellor, and head out in the morning. Hopefully we'll have better travelling conditions than this."

Leading the way towards the city, Thurdnor pondered the current situation, and his newfound travelling companions. "Well, I already know Mi'yale is okay, but I don't know about these other two. Oy, life's complicated. I should have stayed in the mountains like pap told me to."

As darkness fell over the city of Trellor, the four adventurers slept soundly in the local inn. In the morning they would depart for their journey to Riverton, which Lomak said would take no more than seven or eight days. However, all was not well in the lands of Medievia that dreary night. Reports from the northwestern towns contained stories of strange behavior from the creatures in the vicinity. Strange symbols were being found carved in the ground, and during the night, evil screams were heard echoing through the countryside. Little did the reluctant band of adventurers know that they were in for far more than a simple journey to Riverton.