March 24th, 2002
Similia Similibus Curantur - By Kessell
As I crouched behind the grove of trees, nerves tingling with anticipation, I noticed the sun creeping slowly toward the horizon. Somewhere off in the distance an owl began hooting. I glanced around and noticed my companions were just as nervous as I was. The sinking sun cast an eerie shadow on my party, and I knew it wouldn't be long. Wiping the sweat from my hands, I thought back to two weeks ago and remembered how this ordeal all got started.
The sun, high in the sky, cast small shadows of Jierdan and I onto the sand. As we walked along the shore, a stiff breeze rolled off the sea ruffling our shirts. Catching up on the last few days apart, I noticed my friend's brightly polished armor and new clothing. Looking down at my used armor, nowhere near its once pristine condition, reminded me I once again was short on funds. When I inquired about his new armor he told me of a recent money making venture he had stumbled upon.
"It's easy." Jierdan said. "All you have to do is keep the freight safe, watch your back, and make sure no woodland monsters get in the way."
"It sounds simple enough, but does it really work?" I asked. I had heard of trading items across the great continent, but had never tried it myself. Most of the stories I had heard detailed great hardship, almost not worth the time and effort put into the trip. Some people told tales of almost festival-like trips, with drinking, gambling, and dancing all the way. But with my luck, bandits would find us, take all we had, and leave us for dead.
Casually opening his pouch, he said "Sure it does. As a matter of fact, I just got back from a *very* lucrative trip."
As I peered into his pouch, my eyes lit up with excitement when I saw all that gold! I had never seen anything like it in all my life! If I had doubts before, the sight of Jierdan carrying all that gold made me forget all my worries.
"I'm sold!" I exclaimed. "Where can I find out information about these trips?"
"Unfortunately, I have plans right now, or I would tell you all I know about trading. Mostly, the information can be found at the local trade shop, just south of town. When I was selling my cargo, I saw a caravan getting ready to head out. If you're lucky, you might be able to tag along with it." Jierdan told me.
Not wasting any time, I waved goodbye to my friend, and set off to find this caravan Jierdan told me about. With the spires of Medievia fading from view behind me, I caught sight of this "caravan." Jierdan had been known to exaggerate from time to time, but this was a bit much even for him. Not quite a caravan, the single wagon started rolling away from the trade shop even as I watched.
Waving at the driver to stop, I chuckled as I strolled up to the wagon. The driver looked road weary, and had dust all over his clothes. His face was weathered, like he had spent too much time in the sun, and his sandy hair waved in the slight breeze. His slim frame looked like it belonged on the wagon. Even sitting relaxed, he looked like he could hold his own in a fight.
"Are you going on a trading trip?" I asked. "If you are, would you mind some company along the way? I'm not very experienced in this sort of adventure, and since you are traveling alone, you must know exactly what to do. My name is Kessell, and I, uh ..."
Catching myself in mid sentence, I remembered my friends always said I talked too much. I extended my hand in greeting, and waited for some expression from the trader. Something in the driver's eyes caught my attention, but flashed away before I could ascertain what it was. He jumped down from the wagon, and extended his hand in return. He clasped my hand in both of his.
Wiping his brow with a handkerchief he had pulled from his pocket, he said, "Sure friend! I was just getting ready to start. We'll turn back and get you some items to trade. By the way, my name's Pedus."
As we pulled into the shop, there were piles of various items stacked neatly. The trade merchant, bald and fat, stood behind the counter with a smile upon his face. He looked fondly at Pedus, almost like he knew him.
"Back so soon, Ped?" he asked.
"Just picked up a new partner for this trip. Say, could you load him up a wagon with the same supplies as mine?"
Reaching into my pouch, I remembered the reason I was doing this in the first place. I was short on gold. Real short. Pedus must have seen my expression, because he patted me on the back and said he'd return in a second. Overhearing him talk to the merchant, Pedus had just paid for my supplies! He explained to me that after the trip was done, I would have more than enough money to pay him back, plus have enough gold to line my pockets for a good long while. With a hearty handshake, I thanked him and we started on the way.
The trip itself was fairly boring. The horses did all the work while Pedus and I mostly made small talk. The occasional topic of our adventures and our families coming up made the trip go quite quickly. Every so often, Pedus would get a blank look on his face, almost like he was distracted by something. With a glance up ahead, Pedus told me we would be stopping. Looking around and seeing only wilderness, I was perplexed. He explained to me that we were taking a magical portal to the Citadel of NaeraMae. The trade shop could only be reached by this portal, but it was well worth it. The trading post at the Citadel was in need of everything all the time and was willing to pay the best prices for it.
I was a little skittish about the idea, but Pedus explained to me that he did this all the time. It was safe, and we would be there in no time at all. I reluctantly agreed. He grabbed my hand, said something in a strange language, and with a burst of light we were back at Medievia! Feeling a bit woozy, Pedus explained to me that the horses couldn't make their way through the dense wilderness, and that we would need mules to traverse the surroundings. With him paying for my mule also, I hoped he was right about all the money we were going to make.
The trip back to the wagons took considerably less time that the first and we started unloading the wagons onto the mules. After walking a bit, we came upon some of the strangest looking woods I had ever seen. Pedus told me that the portal was just through the woods, and told me that the gold would be in my hands very soon.
I lead my mule down to the woods, started to enter, but Pedus grabbed my arm and told me to wait. He said he was going to cast some spells on me that would make me able to walk twice as fast! Not being that familiar with magic, I closed my eyes and waited for him to start. After hearing some arcane language, I felt refreshed and ready to tackle anything! After quaffing a potion to make me invisible, Pedus and I headed towards the entrance to the woods. Right before we got into the woods, Pedus stopped me once again. He explained that a band of raiders had been known to attack people close to the portal. Pedus wanted to go into the woods alone and make sure the path was clear. As I waited patiently outside the woods, I noticed the sun sinking low. Hearing Pedus shout that it was safe to enter, I gathered my belongings and headed into the woods. Faintly, I heard Pedus shout that he would meet me on the other side of the portal. Steadying my shaking hands, I entered the woods, hoping the road was marked clearly
The trail looked heavily trodden as if many people knew of the trade post at NaeraMae. Following the path I could see the outline of the portal just ahead. I picked up my pace, anxious to leave the woods. Right before I got to the portal, I noticed several indistinct figures but it was too late. My legs were kicked out from under me and my head snapped back from the blow of a sword hilt. There were at least six people attacking me but it felt like more. Not being able to move, and not knowing what was happening, all I could do was feel myself slowing losing consciousness. While I could still feel what was happening, the attackers started ravaging through my armor and clothing. I could feel hands start removing my armor, and then the blackness took me.
I awoke to find myself with no money, very little clothing left, and a terrible understanding of what had just happened. My entire body ached, and I wondered what I was going to do now. I remembered the City of Medievia being somewhere to the west, so I started traveling that way, knowing the City wouldn't come to me.
Several hours later as I arrived, I caught Jierdan coming out of the city. He rushed to my side, seeing that I was in pain. After helping me into the city, we made our way to a cleric who healed my wounds. I winced as the magic entered my body. I was still afraid of magic, maybe more so now. Jierdan asked what had happened, and as I described the details of the story, a grim look of recognition came over him.
"Why did you go near the Dark Woods? That place is dangerous!" he shouted.
"I know that now, and quit yelling. My head still hurts." I said.
Not really wanting to listen to a speech right now, I started thinking over the events that had just taken place. Jierdan's voice buzzed in the background, and my thoughts raced. Only halfway paying attention to Jierdan ramble on about how I shouldn't be going there alone, and still trying to sort through my thoughts, I mumbled "Uh, huh. Yeah, OK." and walked off to think.
Several hours later, I found Jierdan hanging out in the local watering hole. I apologized to him for the way that I acted, and he explained to me that he went through something very similar. He told me of his experience, and it was stunningly similar to mine. Almost getting to the portal, and then getting attacked by a mass number of people. He told me even though I felt bad I was fairly lucky. I didn't lose my life, and I wasn't carrying very much gold. Somehow, I didn't take solace in knowing that.
Over the course of the next two weeks, Jierdan gave me some of the gold he had just gotten, replacement armor, and introduced me to several of his friends. It seems that his friends have had dealings with the same people that attacked me before. Jierdan's friends were very helpful as well, helping me regain most of what I had lost. They told me that with good planning, we could catch the people that attacked me by waiting for them to attack another unsuspecting trader. I pondered over this idea, and the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. With the assistance of my newfound friends and a little luck, we could pull this off.
Feeling the butterflies in my stomach and hearing Braell start talking brought me back from my memories to the moment at hand. He was giving out orders on what would happen, and how we would attack them. The only problem was we didn't know how many people were waiting inside. Turning my attention to what Braell was saying, I realized that everybody was listening to him.
"Like my guild master always says, 'People are creatures of habit. Once they find something that works, they tend to stick to it.' Even though he was talking about combat, it applies here as well. They attacked me with six people, they attacked Jierdan with five, and they attacked Kessell with six. Hopefully, they will stick to what has worked in the past," he explained.
Braell was a great warrior, and an excellent leader. It was easy to see why people followed him. Looking around, I saw that we had eleven people waiting for action, counting myself. Even though this was my first huge brawl I was no stranger to combat. I had hunted goblins and dwarves, but this was against humans! After receiving Braell's instructions we waited patiently. It wasn't long before we were rewarded.
Seeing a trader approach cautiously, we knew they band of attackers would be waiting for him. As he entered the Dark Woods, the band rushed from their hiding spots and started attacking him. Sadly, it didn't take long before they were doing to him what they had done to me just two weeks earlier. Braell gave the order, and I awaited my friend Jierdan to cast a summoning spell on me. Suddenly, a flash of light came before my eyes and I found myself directly next to the woods. I rushed in to find the battle chaos raging.
"Target the leader! Target the leader!" Braell yelled.
Coming face to face with the person who was solely responsible for my demise wasn't easy - the leader was Pedus. Suddenly, it all made sense! He had set me up from the beginning! Extending my foot, and pushing with all my might, I tripped Pedus! He wasn't the only one fighting us though, and I got bashed over the head by one of his cohorts. Trying to keep by balance, knowing that at any time I could feel cold steel enter my heart, I jumped back to survey the situation. I saw Pedus regain his footing and start to run away.
I heard Pedus shouting "Get out, Get out! They have too many!"
Seeing Pedus attempting to flee away, Braell pursued him and thrust his sword into the leader's side. As Jierdan bashed Pedus over the head with his dagger, I ran to them. Seeing Pedus lying on the ground, writhing in pain but still alive, I grabbed my sword and swung it at his head. With one swift motion, my sword got buried into the earth and Pedus' head rolled away, detached from his body.
Seeing their leader die wasn't what this band of raiders expected. As they scampered off, fleeing into the night, I looked down and noticed that Pedus' lifeless corpse was wearing *my* armor. As I pulled it off Pedus' body Braell said that we better get out of here before someone did to us what we just did to them. I cringed as a spell of transport was cast over our group. Holding my re-attained armor in my hands, I rejoiced in the fact that Pedus couldn't hurt anybody ever again.
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