Medievia Mudslinger

January 14, 2001

The Rain in Medievia Falls Mainly on... - By Rapscallion

"Hey - watch what you're doing!" Rapscallion prayed as he rubbed his head. There was no answer as he picked himself up and dusted the cookie crumbs from his robes. The entertainment value of waiting for a janitor to arrive to sweep up the cookie fragments was something only a true specialist could appreciate, so he just stamped off down Avadale Road (trailing crumbs all the way) and wandered into the park. "Great, the gods do some baking and I get buried in cookies," he muttered. "Well, I like the gods - especially the goddesses - but the gifts can be a touch enthusiastic," he added, just in case anyone was listening.

He flopped down onto the grass and looked around reflectively. He liked the park, the sense of peace was rather conducive to composing his poems and it was a place where he was rarely disturbed. He dug out his Mudslinger quill, now slightly worn from use, and a scroll of paper. Making himself comfortable he readied himself for a quick scrawling session.

"Need another for a trading expedition and you're it, Raps," a voice sounded in his ears. Well, rarely disturbed until quill touched paper that is.

"Azakan? But you hate getting everyone moving when we're trading."

"That's where you come in. You're that bit faster on your feet - get over to Trellor now."

"I am? Coo! I'll grab a dragon and be right there." Sacrificing the now- ruined scroll (remember kids, don't litter your parks) he stood up and put two fingers in his mouth for his infamous dragon calling technique. One brief, shrill whistle later he waited patiently for the firelizard.

And waited.

"Oh, for heaven's sake," he muttered and blew another blast. A small portal opened in the air and the head of a firelizard poked out to cautiously peer at him. It snorted briefly and emerged out of the rent in the air, one baleful eye on Rapscallion and the other on his money pouch. It hovered in mid air whilst maintaining a respectable distance, its little wings flapping furiously. The impasse continued for some minutes as both sides watched each other intently.

"Look - I lost my pipe in a card game the other week. You can come close safely," Rapscallion told it impatiently. The firelizard just eyed him suspiciously as it hovered steadily for another minute.

"All right, all right, I'll leave the cash over there out of reach," Rapscallion sighed, hurling a small pouch a few yards away. The firelizard darted over and peered inside the bag, snorting derisively as it looked up accusingly.

"Of course there's no tip - now get me that dragon because I've got a long way to go. With a brief puff of smoke the firelizard vanished through another portal, flicking its tail with contempt. "How come I always get the same firelizard?" brooded Rapscallion, ducking too late to avoid the snow that splattered across the back of his head. "And why are the gods such good shots?" he added to himself.

As he dug the last remnants of snow and ice from the inner recesses of his ears, he noticed a shadow passing over the ground. He glanced up to see what colour dragon was arriving.

Recognition and self-preservation caused him to duck into a small ball awaiting the inevitable.

"Do you want this ride or not?" Rapscallion peeked out to see a massive silver dragon peering down at him. "Oh, it's you," it sneered. "No wonder the firelizard was sniggering. Right, get on and we'll get you off as soon as possible. Unless you fancy another cleaning job?..." It left the question hanging in the air.

"No, just the ride thanks," mumbled Rapscallion as he clambered aboard.

As those familiar with the workings of the service industry might understandably expect, turbulence was very much in evidence until the dragon finally spiraled to a landing near the city of Trellor.

"I must apologise for the lack of stability in the flight," announced the dragon as a green faced Rapscallion dismounted shakily. "I've never seen so many clear air downdrafts in all my flying days. Quite astounding really." It's hard to make out a dragon's expression but Rapscallion had a suspicion that it was smirking.

"Quite... all right," he eventually replied as he tried to stop his head from spinning. With a mighty flap of its wings, the dragon soared into the sky and Rapscallion stared after it. He'd heard a dragon laugh before and once was once too often. With a heavy heart he trudged off to the trading post.

"There you are!" declared Azakan. "Took your time, I see. Why not use the portal like everyone else?"

"The last three times I tried that thing it malfunctioned and I ended up all over the continent. The last time I found myself in the middle of a load of kobolds and I only escaped by begging and pleading until the traders they were waiting for rescued me. Don't trust them now. And that was the first dragon ride I've had for some time - don't ask." He looked around at his fellow clan members. "Big turnout for today, yes?" he noted, counting heads.

"Coo-ee!" waved Elthia, beaming broadly as she casually juggled a pair of daggers. "We're doing a short trip to Derah, so get your running shoes on."

"Got you a horse, Raps," noted Whitebane, pointing at a spare mount next to him.

"Even better," Rapscallion beamed, thinking about the cost of shoe leather and checking out the available wagons. "So, you want me to take you at high speed across the continent?"

"Certainly do," replied Azakan, "We've always thought that you had the best burst of speed of us all." Rapscallion was somewhat surprised but praise is praise, and letting it go to your head was always fun.

"We expecting any backstabbers on the trip?" he asked. A few frowns and headshakes made him smile. "I'll be at the back then," he declared as a large cup of steaming eggnog smashed onto the back of his head.

He awoke some moments later and, as his eyesight cleared, saw a pair of hands lift away from his body. "Whaaaa...?" he asked.

"Well, there doesn't appear to be any permanent damage," noted Mertilus, "It's just a shame they rained cups of chocolate straight after. He was a sitting duck."

"Just think of the hitroll the gods must have," mused Torx wistfully, "That hit the dead centre of his head both times."

"Let's just get on with this," Rapscallion muttered as he cast a nervous eye at the sky before loading a sturdy-looking covered wagon with produce. Gingerly feeling the back of his head for bumps, and brushing fragments of broken cup from his robes, he failed to notice the quick grins shared behind his back.

The road stretched ahead of them in the way that the trading routes do, rutted from the many wagons that had traveled that way. Without further ado Rapscallion pushed his colleagues onto the road and set off at a merry pace. Obediently, the party's wagons followed on their wooden wheels. Rapscallion noticed his was the only one with a squeaky axle, his own fault for arriving late he assumed with disgust. "This isn't as fast as I've seen them ride," he thought to himself as they pressed on, "What do they mean I'm the fastest?"

"Hiissssssss...." came a noise from behind him.

"Banelar!" screamed Mertilus.

After several miles Rapscallion finally reined to a normal walk. "We clear?" he asked nervously.

"Wow - it was all I could do to keep the horses in energy," panted Ysabell, mopping her brow.

"Hiissssssss.........ssssss" added another familiar voice. The next few minutes were mere blurs in the memories of all those Rapscallion were pushing along in his haste. Finally he called a halt as his horse panted to a complete stop.

"We'll just take a moment," he announced through great gulps of air. "I think we've left them behind now."

"Oh good," said Ysabell, her face white from the vast quantity of spells she'd cast over the last few miles to keep the horses moving. "Perhaps you'd like to take over Mert?"

"Indeed I can," replied Mertilus, smiling too broadly for truly honest work. "Of course, with this undergrowth a banelar could be hiding anywhere..."

"Hiiiissssssss...." came the noise right on cue and the traders vanished down the road in a cloud of dust. The countryside sped by at an alarming rate of knots until Mertilus gasped that he needed a rest. Rapscallion slowed the horses to a walk and peered nervously behind him.

"We're making good time," noted Torx as he stared off into the distance. "Looks like the City of Medievia over there."

"Crikey! How did we get here so fast?" wondered Rapscallion aloud.

"I said you were the fastest," Azakan smirked. With swollen head, Rapscallion beamed widely and continued down the road. "Of course," Azakan noted, "Those banelars do turn up when you least expect them..."

"Hiisssss..." Without further ado the party vanished down the trail and sped past the gleaming spires of the City of Medievia, only slightly trampling Alfred on the way.

"Hold on," said Rapscallion reining up suddenly, his expression thoughtful. "Banelars don't prowl so close to the City. Where did that one come from?" He looked around at the surrounding countryside with a careful eye.


"Now I know there's something going on. There's no way a banelar could get even slightly close to us here without me seeing it - no undergrowth for them to hide in."

"We'd better make a move in case it attacks," suggested Azakan, sniggering slightly.

"No way - I want to know what's going on here. There's no banelars around. I can hear some sort of war cries and the shouts from the City, but there's no way I should be able to hear a banelar here..."

"Um, we really should get away from it," urged Elthia, grinning broadly. Rapscallion stared hard at her, his brow furrowing.


"I see. Thanks Whitebane, that's almost convincing." Rapscallion turned to his clan's coleader sat on the horse next to him. Whitebane gave a sheepish grin and had the decency to blush.

"Well, you do have the best speed," Azakan pointed out, ignoring the flock of birds that rose from some scant bushes ahead. "Under the right circumstances, anyway."

"You've been imitating banelars all this way?" A loud warcry sounded in the near distance.

"Hiissssss...." admitted Whitebane, guiding his horse around a corpse of an unfortunate trader.

"I see, right. I'm not falling for that one again. And whoever is imitating that bunch of trolls can stop as well. Own up - who is it?" Blank faces stared around "Come on. We're not going anywhere until someone admits who it was."

"Mebbe me?" grunted a guttural voice. As one the group turned to face the newcomer, a shaggy troll warrior who was standing in the middle of the road.

"Uh-oh..." managed Rapscallion before Torx, Azakan and Elthia pounced on the unfortunate scout. Slap, bite, hack, slice and pierce went the fighters. Ooof, argh, youch, eek and urk went the troll as it collapsed as a steaming corpse.

"Hey, I chipped a nail on him!" screamed Elthia in fury. "Let's get his friends for that."

"Er..." squealed Rapscallion, seeing he was outvoted before he opened his mouth.

Without much enthusiasm he forged ahead as the other casters began the battle preparations. Two more trolls attempted to block the way but were ridden down with ease.

"The main batch are just ahead," announced Whitebane, uncrossing his eyes after casting a divination.

"In we go," announced Azakan cheerfully, as Elthia and Torx nodded in eager agreement.

The next few minutes etched themselves into Rapscallion's mind as some of the most frightening he'd ever endured. Well, maybe in the top ten at least. A wall of furry trolls was lined across the road, foam dripping from tusks and eyes gleaming with fury and little thought. Elthia squared off against her chosen opponent as Azakan and Torx picked their own marks. Whitebane, Mertilus and Ysabell chanted out spells and the air was full of fury as lightning, acid and fire screamed around.

A shadow passed overhead and Rapscallion caught sight of something glowing brightly before his sight was obscured. He blindly flailed around as he tried to regain his vision, desperately keeping away from the sounds of the battle as beasts and horses shrieked, humans yelled their warcries and magic rended the air.

"You were some help there," sneered Azakan's voice when the battle's noise had finally died down. Rapscallion felt something pulling at his head and suddenly vision returned. "No wonder. You're not supposed to wear a sun goddess vest on your head, you know."

"Not my fault! They only just rained! It's all so unfair because it's all hit me! And I think someone's been wearing that beforehand from the smell! Ptooiee!!!" he spat, using more exclamation marks than was warranted. Azakan shrugged and wiped off his blade on the body of one of the trolls.


"And now it's cupcakes as well," Rapscallion protested. "I'll admit I like the frosting," he added, nibbling away at the fragments manfully, "but I'll be brushing bits from my hair for the next week. Let's go." Elthia looked up from the corpse she was casually looting with sudden alarm.

"Firestorm," she said as the crimson-hued strands fell around. "Great," she added, sarcasm dripping from her voice. Rapscallion glanced around.

"Big one too," he noted with distaste, and urged the horses forward at a steady trot. The landscape was tinted red from the firestorm as the shimmering strands fluttered to the ground, evaporating as they hit. A couple of the mages at the back attempted to catch strands on their tongues as they fell, something Rapscallion as a lifetime mage considered to be nearly blasphemous. At least there were enough warriors to deal with anything dangerous on the way, as a luckless sunsprite found out the hard way.

Without magical assistance it wasn't too long before the horses refused to go any further, flecked as they were with foam and breathing heavily. "We'll have to rest them," Rapscallion announced as he gazed at the storm, trying to gauge how long it would be before it passed overhead. A dark shape caught his eye, silhouetted against the sky. "Uh oh...." he commented.

"Dragon," spat Azakan as his eyes snapped round to follow its descent. "It's tracking us."

"We'll have to make a stand and fight as best we can," Elthia said with resignation. She dragged a number of wands from a pouch and handed them round. "Save a charge for yourself," she instructed with meaning.

The dragon could be heard crashing through the undergrowth, barging trees out of the way as it scented its prey. "Give me a second," Rapscallion announced as an idea hit him. He composed himself on his saddle, ignoring the frightened whickering of his mount.

"What are you doing?" asked Whitebane with curiosity. Rapscallion ignored him as well.

"Thanks for the newbie gear," he prayed, "but there's heroes down here who want toys as well." He paused a moment and added, "Please." He checked his mount as he began counting under his breath. They'd had just enough rest, he reckoned - enough to allow him to pull this one off if he timed it right.

"Hitch your wagons," he commanded fumbling with his tethers. The insane grin on his face made several of his friends glance at each other in consternation, but they did as he bade anyway.

"Charge!" he roared as the dragon, a massive blue-scaled beast, burst onto the road. It roared in confusion as the party's momentum carried them between the beast's forelegs. As it curled its neck around to snap at them as they stopped beneath its belly, Rapscallion finished his count and listened expectantly. Everyone stared at him as if he were mad.

Thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk and thunk went five pointed candy canes as they impacted into the dragon's back.

"?" inquired the dragon, its eyes widening in surprise.

"Hey - who's the man?" yelled Rapscallion triumphantly as the dragon expired from multiple divine backstabs.

The queue at the altar was long enough and Rapscallion's undead corpse found itself at the back.

"I cannot believe you did that."

"But it seemed such a good idea at the time!"

"Oh yes, very good, but it got us all killed."

"Well, at least it's a very nice altar, lovely stained windows you must agree..."

"Gee, I'll have to die here more often. Don't try and change the subject. Kill the dragon, sure, good idea."

"I knew it would work."

"But standing around gloating underneath it as it dies? I've never had a more humiliating death. Do you know how much those things weigh?"

"More than enough, but it still worked."

"That's not the point..."