Medievia Mudslinger

August 6th, 2001

The Rappy Horror Music Show - By Rapscallion

Rapscallion stared at the froth sliding down the side of the tankard. It wasn't the normal sort of froth that Griselda's ale produced, this must have been her special reserve. It didn't normally slide slowly like this, this had proper quality to it. He shook his head slowly, thinking hard. She only came out with stuff this good when it was time - or past time - to settle his bar tab. He'd only paid last month as well so it couldn't have been that. Most peculiar.

He looked up to see Griselda, owner and barkeep and absolute mistress of all she purveyed, watching him while wiping a nearly clean tankard out. What had he done now? He hadn't been especially drunk or bellicose that he could remember - well, as far as he'd been told, anyway. He hadn't recited any really bad verse for eons - where she could hear, that is. He'd not risked any of the gambling games she put the dampers on - or at least made sure the house got its tithe at any rate. Maybe she was just waiting for him to do something, keeping an eye out for warning signs. The problem with that was that he had no ideas of his own in progress and he felt slightly persecuted. At least if he had another scheme for quick cash he'd be able to understand it, but when he was behaving himself it seemed a touch unfair.

He turned back to his beer, musing deeply. A quick sip confirmed his suspicions, this was her best brew and he was worried. Why was she staring at him and why was the ale so good? She didn't... uh-oh. She wasn't... interested, was she? He glanced back at the bar where Griselda still watched him intently. His eyes widened in fear.

Now it must be said that Rapscallion was an attempted ladies man, though he always seemed to try his luck with the ladies who had a sense of taste - accounting for his well documented failures. He'd taken several on trips to exotic corners of the continent to no avail, some slight snag hindering his romantic intentions every time. The time he'd managed to talk someone into climbing Mount Vryce would be recounted in many a drunken conversation - great view, attractive companion, high climb and falling asleep in an instant. He'd woken to find himself alone and realizing too late that his vertigo was making itself known.

He'd tried his luck with lady love in the streets of Trellor, ordering many fine gourmet foodstuffs from the very best restaurants. It was only after eating the stuff that he saw the notice saying to beware of pickpockets. When his date had finished paying for the food he knew the fact that she'd used teleport to make her exit a sure sign she wouldn't be back. The time he'd tried to take another lady somewhere so exotic it hadn't been explored by mortals yet. Well, the sign was just a sign, right? Just because it said "Not open yet - stay out" was only bureaucratic stuff that didn't apply to him, right? The lightning bolt they'd both received cut that date short. Most humiliating was the fact that she wouldn't let him heal her because that would have meant him touching her.

As mortal men went, it could easily be said that Rapscallion was an enthusiastic failure in the lists of romance. Griselda was herself famous for her exploits in that regard, each of her previous four husbands having lead short but henpecked married lives. Surely she couldn't be keeping him in mind for that? Rapscallion considered it carefully - each of her four previous husbands left her a richer widow than she started, each being an owner of an inn which she inherited upon his death. It could hardly be said that Rapscallion fell into that category, and Griselda was more than comfortably well off with a chain of taverns. Unless she was fancying him for reasons other than business. A cold sweat made itself known, trickling down his back and he stared at her. The nickname 'Grizzly' wasn't said where she had a chance of hearing, but it was said with accuracy and heartfelt panic in most cases.

Oh no - she was coming over...

Rapscallion grabbed his tankard and took a deep gulp in case he was mistaken and she had realized he had a mug of the good stuff. She'd been known to put people's ale back into the cask, sometimes even straining their teeth out first, if they hadn't paid promptly.

"Now then, Rapscallion," she boomed. He nearly choked on his beer - she never sounded that cheerful near him unless he'd just paid his bill. She wanted something.

"Er, hello Griselda. Is something wrong?" She arched an eyebrow at him as she sat down. "I haven't set fire to the place in ages, you know that," he began babbling desperately.

"What's wrong with you?" she asked. She rested her elbows on the table top and cradled her head in two massive hands, staring at him. He watched her warily. "I have a proposition for you," she continued. "Are you ill? You look a bit pale."

"What? No, no," Rapscallion replied, taking a deep draught of ale. How could he put her off tactfully? "Do go on, I await your every word with breathless anticipation," he lied.

"Very well, look around the room," she ordered. He frowned - this wasn't what he expected, unless she was showing off her assets before popping the question. He risked a quick glance around, aware that her eyes never left his face. It seemed pretty normal and he reported as such. "Notice anything wrong?" she asked. He shook his head, baffled. "It's the third day of Justice - this place ought to be heaving with customers," she hissed to him conspiratorially. Now that she pointed it out he realized she was right.

"So why isn't it?" he asked carefully. He glanced at the only two other customers in the saloon area, both of them emanating boredom.

"It's that damned dragon," she explained. "Every time it flies overhead - or even nearby - it does a double barrel roll over the roof and makes the foundations shake. You're usually dead drunk by then so you won't notice it," she added, ignoring his protesting yelp. "It's scared my customers away - the other inns are doing fine. If this doesn't improve then I'll have to close the place down," she told him. His face drained of color.

"Any idea why it does that?" he asked. She shook her head.

"Nope. I caught a sight of it once - a big silver beggar. Is there something wrong with your beer?" she asked.

"No, just some going down the wrong way," Rapscallion lied, coughing hard. "Please, continue."

"Anyway, if I could find its name then I'd get a load of heroes to go and finish it off for once and for all. For the moment I need you." His eyebrows shot up, as did his spirits at the subject change. "I need you to drum up trade for the Inn in the meantime." He stared at her.

"Er, Griselda, I don't really have that much success at attracting people. Quite the opposite, in fact," he protested.

"Well, if I'm going to close this place down then it's going to be soon and I'll have to have all accounts paid now..."

"I'll do it!" he squealed quickly.

"Good boy," she replied with a smile. "I'll start on getting the bar snacks ready. When do you think you'll have them in?"

"I don't even know what I'm going to do, yet," he protested. Griselda's face wasn't happy at that, he realized.

"I'm sure you'll think of something," she replied ominously. "You have three days."

As Rapscallions went, it was a pretty glum variety that trudged to the Hotel that night. A few shouted entreaties for people to visit Griselda's had left him on the wrong end of a Janitor's broomy wrath. Scruff wouldn't change his advertising from the long gone Daddy O's, not even for as many bones as he could bury. The Ungiri village was a complete waste of time, one word from him and several of the villagers had said something about 'firewater' and chased him out. He'd even taken a look into the graveyard and dismissed the idea instantly - there were some customers Griselda just didn't want. She had opinions.

He'd even had the bright idea of writing out a whole load of adverts on sheets of paper and leaving them where people could find them. The nib on his quill had shortened considerably by the time he'd finished and his hands ached from writer's cramp. The observant reader will have realized the problem already - people could find them, but the janitors did as well. He'd wasted minutes in a tug of war with one of the cleaning staff, losing ingloriously, and finding that the rest of his papers had been swept away during the struggle.

It was an uncomfortable night, staring into the darkness above his bed with his hands behind his head. How could he pay his account in that short time? It would take weeks to raise that kind of cash! Perhaps he could arrange a loan from a clan god? Dangerous to try but it may be possible if he talked fast. Of course, that would mean he'd have to pay it back and their wrath on a defaulter was worse (or so it was claimed) than Griselda's. No dice. He hummed a tune, one of his own, absently as he sought inspiration. Then it struck him.

Barely clean teeth grinned in the night as he thought the idea through. It was perfect! If this didn't attract the crowds then nothing would. Within minutes he was sleeping like a baby. 1



"What do they mean, a snoring surcharge?" fumed Rapscallion as he strode out of the Hotel into the afternoon sun. 3 "It's not as if it's that loud." Still, he wouldn't let a mouthy chambermaid spoil his day. He had an idea and a half and he needed to take it to Griselda.

"You what?" she asked, her face turning to a dangerous shade of purple. The bar meal she had brought out quivered dangerously on its plate and she took little note of the customer who was watching it with misgivings.

"The idea's really simple, be reasonable," he whined, "And it won't be me doing it..." Rapscallion's voice trailed off as he watched the meal slide off the plate. Griselda bent and swept it back, setting it before the diner without even a glance. She ignored his protesting whimperings and dragged Rapscallion over to a side table.

"Just where did you get this lunacy from?" she demanded.

"Well, it's a little known splinter sect of monks who used to live in the Academy of Braneri. You probably won't have heard of them, the Brothers of Kara."

"Ok, I'll bite. What do they do?" Her eyes remained fixed on his and he didn't like the threatening way she clenched and unclenched her fists.

"They have a really novel system of prayer which caused the schism," Rapscallion explained hurriedly. "They have the various holy instruments playing but to lead them the head monk holds up cards with the words to different prayers up - they chant these out as he brings them out." Griselda's eyes narrowed, a sure sign of thought.

"So how do you mean to attract people by this?" she challenged. "You can't be wanting to turn this place into a temple? I don't want undead traipsing in all the time. Are you wanting to bring in these Brothers of Kara?"

"Ok, let me explain more fully. We don't have to do prayers, we just do songs, stuff people want to sing - right?" Griselda nodded slowly. "And we have the songs written up - by me - on large boards so they know the words. You know what people are like when they try to sing and have drunk too much."

"Aye - you're a regular so I do all too well."

"Gee, thanks," he muttered. "Anyway, people like the sound of their own voice, right? You don't have to answer that one... We'll use the stage and get them singing away and they'll love it. If they're singing they'll be thirstier and that's a good thing, right?" Griselda stroked her chin, rasping at the stubble noisily.

"Do it," she commanded. "Two nights from now and it starts at sundown." Rapscallion grimaced - that was hardly enough time but he'd do what he could.

The next couple of days saw a frenetic burst of activity. A few navigators could be trusted to add the message "Coming soon to Griselda's tavern, a singalong in the style of the brothers of Kara, Ok?" to the directions they gave. Some needed bribes, others responded to threats, but most needed a certain mage hiding in nearby bushes trying to ventreloquise at the top of his voice.

It certainly seemed to be effective. Barely half an hour remained before sundown on the appointed day and Griselda's tavern was packed out. She'd hired a couple of extra maids against her instincts and had already realized she could do with more. Still, she had a happy smile as she swept the coins into her bulging money belt. Over by the stage, Rapscallion was making a final check on details.

"You lads ready for this?" he asked as he looked down into the (badly named) "orchestra pit".

"Chitter!" A number of little heads bobbed in agreement.

"Good - all instruments tuned up? You reckon you can make yourselves heard over this noise?"

"Chitter," came the acknowledgment. After a pause the spokesimp asked, "Chitter?"

"Play first, Firebreather later - that's what we agreed - right?" Rapscallion told him firmly.

"Chitter!" Rapscallion ignored that. He should have know what to expect when you hired Imps, especially on their day off. He hadn't dared to ask if their owner knew what they were doing because he may not have liked the answer. Still, three bottles of Firebreather was a pretty reasonable wage - Griselda had crates of the stuff around. As long as they played right, that was all he asked.

He looked over to see Griselda ordering a maid to light the lamps. It was nearly time to begin. He hadn't had time to get more than a quick gulp of ale and that felt like hours ago. Without the numbing effect of alcohol it would be a different matter altogether and his palms started to sweat. A sound of the Imps tuning up their instruments failed to distract him, but it attracted the attention of the crowded room. It fell silent apart from one person who hadn't been listening.

"...of course the cream the cleric gave me nearly cleared it up..." his voice was distinctly heard before he realized he didn't need to shout any more. Several appraising glances caused one hasty exit and a ripple of laughter. Rapscallion cheered at this, at least they seemed to be in a good mood.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he began, reasoning that it would be a safe enough introduction. Might even be accurate as well. A lot of heads turned to face him and he stalled briefly. "Tonight, for your delectation, we present an evening of song in the style of the Brothers of Kara..."

"Ok," came the interruption from a thief in the front row, wearing the joke a little thin, "What's that then?"

"Since you're volunteering, we'll begin with you sir," Rapscallion announced with a smile.

"Hey - hang on..." said the thief, but was pushed forward by his alleged friends, many of them wielding daggers and grins.

"Now sir, you'll stand here where everyone can see you," Rapscallion explained, ignoring the cheers from the thief's friends. The man himself looked uncomfortable at this, his eyes darting around. "I'll stand over there and hold up the boards with the words on and you sing in time to the music, right?" The thief blinked violently.

"But I'm not a very good singer..." he protested feebly.

"Even better," replied Rapscallion as he strode off to the side where he had his boards prepared. At least there would be some genuine entertainment value here, he thought, and not at his expense for once. "Now, keep in time with the music and you'll be safe," he cautioned with a grin.

"Safe?" asked the thief?

"Chitter!" came a noise from below him. He stared down with horror at a row of smiles that were full of far too many teeth. At this point he knew he was in the presence of vindictive professionals. He started to sweat. Rapscallion looked around the room to see an expectant crowd watching the main attraction. Unfortunately he also saw Griselda watching him carefully.

"A one, a two, a one two three four..." called Rapscallion and the music began. He held up the first board.

4

"All my lair maps seem the same," began the main attraction unsteadily.

"Those demon lords are to blame
Yet I'm still there to meet my leader and my clannies
Down the hole I sneak, my knees so shaky,
Dragon breathes, my skin turns flaky,
I'd like to form with more clerics next time.

"Aye, they'll all chant prayers out,
Hands a-touchin', healing swiftly,
I'd like to form with more clerics next time.

"The clantown is a-creaking,
For the dragon we're a-seeking,
And there's a few charred rooms that I once descripted.
Down the street I run, my armor steaming,
Skin burnt black, my voice loud screaming,
I'd like to form with more clerics next time.

"Aye, they'll all chant prayers out,
Hands a-touchin', healing swiftly,
I'd like to form with more clerics next time."

By now the thief had started to relax and was following the words on the boards easily, despite Rapscallion's infamous handwriting.

"Now I see that the dragon's perished
At the portal by heroes vanquished,
And I know I'll get my fair share of the hide.
For all the guys and gals in holy vestment
Bound my wounds, soothed with linament
I'd like to form with more clerics next time.

"Aye, they'll all chant prayers out,
Hands a-touchin', healing swiftly,
I'd like to form with more clerics next time."

"Can we have a big hand for our first contestant tonight?" Rapscallion called over the hoots, cheers and jeers of the audience as they went wild. Embarrassment was always a crowd pleaser, he mused to himself, filing the information away for later use. The thief staggered away and sat at his table, grabbing at his tankard with shaking hands. Ignoring his friends, he spilt ale down his front as he gulped desperately. Rapscallion grinned in appreciation - entertainment like this was hard to come by. Even Griselda seemed to enjoy the after-performance performance.

"And now, we need another person to edify our acoustic taste buds - can we have a volunteer, please?" he called to the assembled masses. Several unseemly brawls broke out as to who was going to volunteer to go to the bar first, which made Griselda smile broadly. Other disturbances broke out around the room as people attempted to push each other forward. "Come on, there's nothing to be frightened of," Rapscallion urged and smiled as someone lost a wrestling match and fell against the stage front. He smiled and bent to help them up, guiding them onto the stage while they were still dazed. A lady warrior, he noted, this could be fun.

"Now, you've seen how it works. Are you ready?" Two eyes in a scarred face shot him the sort of look that made him wonder if she thought it was a chat up line. "Do a good job," he whispered to her, "and I may be able to talk Griselda into a free pint for you." She frowned at this and then smiled.

"Chitter?" The expected response to the mention of alcohol came from below.

"Not yet" Rapscallion replied, glancing into the pit at his feet. "And now, we have the second part of tonight's entertainment," he announced. "Music, Mankstro, please." With a flurry of robes he sped off the stage to his boards and rummaged through for the next in line.

5

"Take a plague, then get blinded, my foe,
Do those icy shards hurt you, I really hope so
Do they cause you pain? I can hear you screaming
Are you feeling this fight is in vain."

Rapscallion nearly fumbled his boards - this girl was a good singer. It looked like he may have to pay for her free pint out of his commission for the night's work. Out of sheer malice he turned the next board upside down but it gave the warrior no problems.

"I think I am doing well, my foe
I scan round while you are sneaking
Your hide is for me
Do you feel the fear, can I hear you screaming
And are you feeling this fight is in vain?"

Rapscallion looked around at the audience as they watched the girl, transfixed. Damn - he'd have to pay up on that pint after all. Still, at least people were listening and not throwing things, quite a novel experience for him. It can't have been just her voice, he'd spent minutes on that song after all. She finished the song easily and gave a deep curtsey.

"Thank you, thank you," called Rapscallion as the blushing warrior made her way off the stage to catcalls and cheers. "We'll have a small interval before the next act so if you'd like to make your orders at the bar then we can resume shortly." A minor stampede began and Rapscallion glanced over to see Griselda under siege. At least she looked happy, taking vast amounts of cash, and she wasn't smiling at him which was even better. Pity, really, he had rather a thirst from all the announcing. All in good time, he reasoned.

"Chitter?" came an insistent query from below.

"You're doing great. Keep it up and there may be an extra bottle in it for you."

"Chitter?"

"No - not yet. We want you to be able to keep playing, so make sure those instruments are properly tuned - right?" He ignored the protesting hisses from below and watched happily as the crowd began to settle down. There hadn't been any fatalities in the scrummage at the bar, and the few serious injuries had been taken care of by a group of clerics at the back. So far so good, Griselda hated resurrections in her place. Too close to undead in her eyes. Still, he was beginning to enjoy himself and that was what really mattered.

"Now we're all refreshed," he resumed, "We'll have the next act. Can we have a volunteer, please?" He gazed around at the suddenly silent and sweating faces, each fixed with a glassy smile. "Willing or otherwise..." he hinted and several undignified scuffles broke out. Quite by chance, three 'volunteers' arrived at the foot of the stage at once. He smiled down at them as they stared at each other in shock. "Hold it right there," he commanded as they made threatening moves towards weapons. "I have just the piece for you - needs a triplet to sing it." Three pairs of eyes eyed him warily and he beckoned them onto the stage. It was amazing just how much power he had over people up here, he mused as they arranged themselves into a line at his pointed directions.

"Right folks, we'll get the boards ready... Mank! You can stop the tuning, they must be ready now." He glared at the Imps in the orchestra pit.

"Chitter!" the Imp replied indignantly.

"Well, if you're not making that sort of growing, whistling, diving noise then what is?" he countered, crossing his arms to show his anger.

"It's that damned dragon again!" came Griselda's voice from the bar.

"Dragon?" cried the customers in perfect unison. 7

The roar grew and the assembled masses looked around in alarm as Griselda and her staff grabbed solid parts of the bar and held on tightly. The noise increased and with a massive *whump* something passed overhead at high speed and low altitude. The air pressure in the inn increased suddenly, rattling the shutters, then just as quickly decreased, shaking the building violently. Above the din Rapscallion thought he could hear a voice screaming that this wasn't the way to Trellor, but it could have been his imagination.

"Not tonight," moaned Griselda as Rapscallion peeled himself from the floor of the stage.

"It's coming around for another pass," screamed a mage who was staring out of a window.

"Right lads," came a booming voice from the crowd, a voice that Rapscallion recognized. "Let's get the scaly beggar." Several of the customers filed out of the door, followed closely by most of their fellows. Rapscallion trailed behind avoiding Griselda's gaze.

The booming voice belonged to a warrior dragon hunter Rapscallion had met before 8 and he arranged his comrades in a long line ready to meet the foe. He glanced up at the dragon, the silver scales glinting in the last rays of the setting sun.

It pitched high in the sky, banked and began a descent that tore at the air. Wings beat for extra speed and then came closer to its body as it streamlined for a faster dive. A volley of spells flew past it and it began to swerve erratically, coming in closer and faster.

"More spells - get the lizard before it gets us!" cried the warrior. More shockwaves followed, each one close to the mark, but not quite there. Still the dragon dove, determined to make it a good one, and Rapscallion took the hint - he started to sidle away. He was rather proud of his sidle - he'd spent many escapades practicing it. Another volley of spells erupted, one glancing off a wing, causing the dragon to scream in pain.

The spells stopped as the dragon started to spiral out of control, smoke streaming from the burn on its right wing. The warrior watched it carefully. "Duck!" he yelled as its flightpath became all too obvious.

Everybody dove to the ground as the dragon flattened out of its dive and roared overhead, spinning madly and attempting to stop the uncontrolled barrel roll. The wind tore at people, nearly dragging them off the earth in the wake of its passing. Rapscallion heard a massive crashing noise, but waited for the wind and debris to calm before risking a look.

In the distance he saw the dragon fitfully beating the air in a retreat, its squawks of rage barely reaching his ears. Much closer, however, he saw the remains of Griselda's tavern. The top half was strewn around the countryside in the direction of the dragon's flight and much of the rest was barely standing. A few boards forming one wall took the chance to sway dramatically and fall outwards, adding that little something to true devastation.

The customers seemed to be dispersing, sensing that without a venue the fun would be over. Rapscallion had other things on his mind. With a deep breath he made his way to what remained of the entrance.

Peering inside he saw the splintered remains of solid oak beams that had once roofed the common room, crushed tables and a huge hole where the stage had been. He put his head in his hands and groaned. A noise caught his attention and he started to pick his way through for survivors.

Somehow he seemed to hear a splashing noise and he made his way to that. A cask remained upright, to his surprise, and the top was off. He peered within to see his erstwhile orchestra splashing around and swimming in ale. A chorus of chitters greeted his arrival and he shrugged - they seemed to be happy enough. Picking his way to the bar he surveyed the scene of devastation.

"Well, if I had a bar tab then it's gone for good," he reasoned with as much decorum and sympathy as he was able under the circumstances. His foot nudged something that rolled away. He looked down to see a full bottle of Firebreather, miraculously sound. Another one rested by it, poking from a damaged crate. He smiled and bent to recover a few for personal use - nobody would ever know they were missing in this.

A moan from under some rubble made him pause. Griselda's head emerged slowly, her eyes blinking as she looked around. "Hi Griselda - just helping clean up," he told her with a sickly grin.

"'sright," she mumbled back incoherently. Her head slumped again and he heard her begin snoring. With a sickly grin he started to quietly make his way out of the bar, trying not to wake her again. She might not remember it from the look on her face, but he didn't want to tempt fate. He stumbled through the remains of the door and paused.

A posse of Imps barred his way. He stared at them and they stared back.

"Chitter!" demanded one of them, probably Mank.

"Come on - you haven't finished playing. What makes you think you get paid for half the work?" he protested.

"Chitter," he was told and the other Imps nodded in agreement. "Chitter!" Mank added.

"What do you mean 'danger money'? I could only carry five bottles out as it is, you're not having them all. Have a heart - my local's been demolished and you're trying to extort more Firebreather from me..." As one the Imps took a step forward.

"Chitter," they chorused in unison. Rapscallion fled to the right, dropping a bottle in his haste. Two Imps darted off to grab this and then followed the chase into the night...



1 - Without the crying and wetting the bed, that is 2 [BACK]
2 - Unless he was really drunk, of course.
3 - Some people slept, others really slept. If you've ever been at a university then you'll understand.[BACK]
4 - To the tune of "Green green grass of home" by Tom Jones.[BACK]
5 - To the tune of "Eternal Flame" by the Bangles (the superior version) 6[BACK]
6 - Well, the song was to that tune, the Imps were playing 'Greensleaves' but nobody noticed.
7 - They'd been rehearsing this bit. For many of them this would be the only speaking part they got so they wanted to get it just right.[BACK]
8 - See "Rapscallion and the Bar Bill of Terror" [BACK]


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