Medievia Mudslinger

April 8, 2001

To Trellor! An Adventurer's Account of Trade Running - By Deiad

Vito pulled his shadow cloak tighter, hoping to keep the rain off of his shoulders. He smirked to himself and shook his head sadly. The piece of black cloth had done wonders at keeping the monsters from seeing him, but it certainly didn't do much for keep him warm. Vito seriously regretted giving his old green riding cloak to a young adventurer. He tapped his horse's flanks with his heels and clicked his tongue as he pulled gently back on the reins. He eased the old gray bay back to the covered wagon being pulled by a sickly looking brown horse that was wheezing audibly at the pace Vito was driving it at. Vito carefully lifted the thick wool blanket off of his wagon's cargo: a few boxes of foodstuff he picked up for a song. Vito glanced at the canvas cover of the wagon, wondering if maybe the food wouldn't get too wet without it. He could use the extra warmth. Not that he needed it or anything, just that it would be more comfortable that way. The rain dripping through the canvas stayed Vito's hand. The food had to stay dry.

Vito heeled his horse forward and surveyed the area. The rain was too heavy for him to see very far, but he could make out a town in the distance. It wasn't Trellor, but in the driving rain, any shelter would be welcome. Quickly, Vito attempted to discern what time it was. It was near to dusk, or at least it seemed to be under the thick clouds. As far as he could tell, he had another hour and a half of riding time. Horses broke legs when it got dark. Adventurers did too. While it might have been easier to just get an inn at this town, he knew another inn was just an hour's ride from where he was. Every inch of ground he covered put him ever closer to his goal... Trellor.

He took one more look at the town to the south. It was out of his way, and he had no time to lose. The strange fiery stones had been falling from the sky for a while, tearing Trellor apart. He had heard about this from his friends in his clan, and he quickly decided to head out on his own to make a fortune in there. Their storehouses had been reduced to flaming rubble, and needless to say, the city would be willing to pay huge sums of gold for just about everything. But only if he got there first! Vito wiped the rain from his eyes and wondered if it would just be easier to get to the town and use their portal to warp to Trellor. But the harsh lessons he had learned taught him that was not an option. The shifting clouds on that astral plane or whatever it was made it so if he so much as took his hand off of his wagon, it would become lost forever in that colorful fog. He had to do it the old-fashioned way.

Vito stood up slightly in his saddle and rubbed his rear. A full day in the saddle would do that to you. He knew that far to the west was the Fire Giant's Keep, but he would do well to avoid that place of murder. Just a clubhouse for murderers, and no matter how curious Vito was to what it was like inside, nothing short of a pack of dragons could chase him into that stony death trap.

What Vito really wanted was a chance to stretch his legs, but he couldn't spare even a moment for that... he had to hurry if he was to get a decent deal for his goods. The recent depression had hit him hard. He could barely afford to keep himself fed and clothed, let alone buy magical equipment. Just too many merchants on the roads, and too many merchants drove down the prices. An old adventurer he knew had told him of days when you could sell trade goods for millions of gold, and a man could get rich with only a little work. Vito longed for those days, but those days were long gone. Now, every adventurer was being forced to trade. The gods who kept an eye on mortals didn't hand out awards to just anyone. In the old days they did... so long as you kept adventuring to hone your skills, they would reward you with greater vitality and spiritual power. Now you had to trade, prove yourself as a leader, venture into those hellish caverns called Catacombs to recover eggs, and even slay dragons! Now that was a laugh! Vito could say that no god was going to make him go into some dragon's nest just for a slim chance to be reborn. He had heard of others who had done the gods' bidding and were reborn. Strange, they were. They used magic and weapons. But Vito didn't need that! He patted his trusty sword, Anarchist, and chuckled. He couldn't imagine himself using magic. Although he wouldn't mind learning how those blasted mages turned themselves invisible. If he could do that, Vito could ditch his paper-thin shadow cloak in exchange for a nice, warm, wool riding cloak.

He just wanted the money - he didn't need to be reborn! He had his eye on a sword he had seen older adventurers auctioning off in Medievia City. It seemed to be made of ice, and the sellers said it could rend a man better than any sword of simple steel. They had proven that, too, slicing and dicing some poor mercenary to bits with that icy sword. He wanted it, so much it hurt. But they wanted a lot of gold for it - more than he had. But if this trade run proved successful, he could easily buy that sword. Then he could get his revenge on those blasted dwarves in Riverton. Vito rubbed the scar beneath his chain mail. He had gotten that from one of their bloody pick axes, and had it not been for a kind-hearted cleric, he probably would have died. In his mind, he replayed the fights he'd had with the dwarves. He could kill them easily, and with that sword he could carve through a whole cavern of them like they were nothing.

A loud roar echoed across the valley, snapping Vito back to reality. Something was on the road ahead. He slowed his horse and began scanning more carefully for danger. It suddenly grew very dark, and Vito looked up.

A huge red dragon was circling just overhead. Vito stood frozen in fear as he watched the monstrosity flap its wings, then spiral in for a landing just around the bend he had recently navigated. Fumbling through his mind, Vito remembered what the grizzled old adventurer in his clan had told him about dragons. They would only stop chasing you for two reasons: if they killed you or if you killed it. Vito wasn't too confident of his odds.

Vito quickly pulled a small metal tube out of his backpack. As softly as he could, played the haunting elven melody he had heard from the Elven Merchant, and he shimmered brightly then faded from normal sight. Vito smirked. He'd bet his sword that the dragon wouldn't find them invisible! His cloak would have done the same job but it was still recovering its power after he'd used it when a doglike beast had tried to kill him earlier.

With a smirk of a man victorious, Vito heeled his horse on, away from the evil dragon. His heart leaped into his throat every time his horse's hoof stepped on a twig or the wagon hit a bump, but the dragon was nowhere to be seen.

Then the huge reptile plunged out of the woods, nearly on top of Vito. Cursing himself, Vito realized that his freight was not invisible. The beast reared and smashed Vito in the side with a swipe of its tale. He was thrown from his horse nearly fifteen feet into the woods. Before he could recover, the dragon tore through the woods to land nearly on top of him. With a whimper, Vito crawled backwards until he banged his head loudly on a tree. The evil dragon stepped forward, almost regal in appearance, and then leapt into the air, coming down right on top of him. The sudden impact tore the ground beneath the adventurer wide open, and Vito plummeted into darkness, landing with a heavy thud on hard-packed dirt. He felt around blindly at his waist and held a lantern up to see what he could.

He had landed in a small niche in the wall of a long tunnel going nearly straight down. Above him, the dragon was clawing furiously at the ground. Every now and then it spewed flames from its mouth, but they passed harmlessly down the tunnel. Vito weighed his options. If he just waited the monster out, he would probably live. But Vito didn't have time to waste. He pulled a burning gold rod from a pouch on his hip. He had intended this one for only the most dire of emergencies, but Vito was sure that this qualified. With a flick of his wrist, the rod hummed and a bolt of lightning danced from the tip of the rod up the tunnel. Vito heard the dragon inhaling deeply for another gout of flame, then a squeal, partially of pain, and partially of surprise. Vito peeked up and saw the dragon spitting blood from its mouth, clawing at the burns on its face. With a cry of rage, the dragon unfurled its wings and flapped furiously, flying away.

Vito sighed with relief. That dragon was the worst possible thing that could have happened to him on this trading adventure. Now it would be smooth sailing to Trellor. And at Trellor, he would find the gold he needed to buy that wonderful sword. With a grin, Vito pulled himself up from the tunnel and back into the rain. He glanced around, and the dragon was nowhere to be seen. He hurried back to his horse and freight, which were both still spooked from the dragon's sudden arrival. Vito soothed both horses, stroking their noses, then mounted up and headed on down the road.

Now he was home free. If a dragon couldn't stand in his way, nothing could! Vito wiped some dirt and leaves from his cloak, then inspected his boots for any signs of wear. Fortunately, those old boots had held up well. Vito wondered if he could find someone in Trellor to make him a pair of boots that would be more comfortable than what he had. After all, what good was a new sword if your feet were too sore to fight? And those accursed dwarves still had to answer for the scar on his chest.

Farther along the way, Vito came across some mutilated carcasses scattered about the road and a horrible stench a little further on. He knew that smell well: trolls. Vito hastily dismounted, tethered his horse to a tree and his wagon to another, then stepped into the woods. He carefully made his way through the woods, keeping a wary eye up ahead for any trolls. Then he saw them. Two trolls, standing in the center of the road, one carrying a huge axe and wearing tattered leather armor, the other wearing dirty gray robes and a shabby pendant shaped like a sword. A cleric and a warrior. Not ideal. The warrior wouldn't be much trouble... trolls might be bigger than men, but they didn't fight much better. The cleric, though, used magic. He had seen human clerics make men's flesh wither and rot, make flame erupt from the earth and even raise the dead. The cleric would be trouble.

Fate smiled upon Vito, though. The rain began to subside, and in its place a steady drizzle of fire. He had seen this before, and this fiery rain meant that the cleric wouldn't be able to use magic. That made him as weak as a babe. Vito drew Anarchist with a toothy grin and charged onto the road, knocking the warrior troll flat with a shoulder check. The cleric looked shocked and took a step backwards, but Vito had no time for the cleric. The warrior was the main threat now. He slashed at the warrior three times before the lumbering monster pushed itself back onto its feet. It was bloody and wounded, but still eager to fight. Before it could swing with its mighty axe, Vito slashed twice more, one nicking the creature's shoulder, and the other opening a deep wound on its chest.

The troll faltered for a second longer, and Vito capitalized on this with a hard kick to the monster's kidney. Now it swung its axe, slashing Vito's left arm open. It swung a second time, but Vito easily parried its attack. This time the troll was wide open to attack. Vito feigned and attack to its face, and when the creature reacted, he hastily twisted his wrists and rammed his sword into his foe's gut. With a grunt, he pulled it up as far as the chest wound he had already inflicted where it tore free. The gutted troll coughed up some black blood, then fell heavily onto its side and died.

The cleric was less trouble. Vito opened the fight by removing the troll's left arm at the elbow then tore its belly open with a wild swing. The troll stared at him for a moment with glassy eyes. That stare ended when Vito bashed the troll over the head with the hilt of his sword. Much to his delight the troll didn't get back up. It simply remained where it fell, its black blood slowly pooling around its head.

Hurriedly, he wiped the blood off of Anarchist with the cleric troll's robes, because everyone knew that troll blood would pit and tarnish steel, then returned it to its scabbard and ran back to his horse. When he arrived, the bay gave him an odd look, then jerked its head a bit. Vito unhitched his wagon and horse, then mounted the horse and lead the animals at a more grueling pace than before. It was then that he realized how badly his arm hurt. He dove into his saddlebags and produced a small green vial. He quickly worked the seal off and quaffed it, and the wound on his arm closed up with a slight tingling sensation. He heeled the gray bay forward as he passed the bodies of the two trolls he had slain, looking back only to see if his wagon was keeping up. The brown horse was doing exceptionally well, considering the pace. When Vito returned his gaze to the road ahead, he noticed a very large troll in the way. It could only have been a troll captain. Vito knew that if one killed the captain, any others would run away. He heeled the gray into a gallop and pulled Anarchist free from its scabbard, holding it back for a killing stroke. The troll captain bellowed loudly and produced a 7-foot long, jagged, rusty sword and hoisted it to meet Vito's swing. Had the captain done it a second sooner, he would have succeeded. But instead, only the tip was there to meet the full force of Vito's mighty attack. Anarchist knocked the larger blade aside and tore through the troll's neck, spurting black blood. Vito was too concerned with making up for lost time to wipe the blood from his clothes or Anarchist.

He rushed on, and farther down the road found thousand of tiny footprints: obvious signs of Kobolds ahead. Vito surveyed the area and noticed a steep ridge to his east. He knew that ridge sheltered a tributary stream that fed the river that wound all the way to Trellor. The horse pulling the wagon refused to leave the road at first, and Vito couldn't get the horse to leave the road for even a shiny red apple from the food in the wagon. He even tried pulling the horse physically off the road, but the sickly horse showed surprising resolve, and simply dug its hooves in. Then the roar of the dragon shattered the silence. It was a ways in the distance, but Vito didn't want to risk another run in with that monster.

The roar of the dragon had forced Vito to give up forcing his freight off road. The Kobolds would be gone in a while, and after he escaped from the dragon, he could continue on. Vito forced his horse up the slopes of the ridge as fast as possible, only slowing when they were at the crest of the ridge. Vito's jaw dropped when he saw the renowned Fire Giants' Keep little more than a few miles distant, standing triumphant amidst a maw of jagged mountain slopes. Trellor was still a ways to the north of that, along the river that ran past the keep. He glanced at the sky. Small streaks of light split the clear night sky. Then he heard the furious roar of the dragon, closer than it had been. He whipped around and looked over his shoulder. Sure enough, the massive creature was silhouetted against the moon. Vito needed to find cover until the monster gave up.

With a grunt, Vito's horse sped towards the imposing Fire Giant's Keep. Vito had heard that in there, the mandate of the gods held no sway, and that adventurers killed and looted one another for little more than sport. Vito was willing to risk it though. No adventurer could be as bad as a dragon!

Vito dismounted and led his horse up to the keep along the rocky path through the jagged slopes. He reached the massive doors and ever so carefully opened them, peering inside. Darkness pervaded the interior of the keep, but it seemed empty. Vito quickly tethered his horse to a post, then walked quietly inside.

As Vito figured it, the dragon would only chase him for another half an hour before it decided there was better game to be had elsewhere. So if Vito just found a quiet corner and rested up, he would be fine. Reassured, Vito strutted down the immense hall, glancing into the shadows every so often to keep an eye out for any danger.

Then Vito's foot caught on something and he fell flat on his face. With a groan, he rolled over, and the moon-shaped blade of an axe crashed down into the floor next to him. Above him stood a man three times as large as himself and a head taller, with short graying brown hair. Two more men seeped out of the shadows on his left, and three came from the shadows on his right. Vito whimpered piteously.

One dressed all in black with a long black cowl stabbed at Vito with a dagger, but Vito squirmed out of the way. Two more swung with swords, and those missed him by no more than a hair. One of them chanted loudly and summoned up an invisible wave of force that smashed into Vito's chest, forcing the breath out of him and shattering the granite floor around him.

Vito coughed and spat up blood then quickly realized that unless he ran, he was done for. He kicked his legs up, tucked his head, and rolled under the axe-wielding man's legs. The group gave a surprised grunt, then turned to him. Vito didn't give them a chance to react and ran, despite the ache in his chest and the soreness of his feet. Fireballs singed the air around him, and Vito thanked the gods that it was only the air. Still, he racked his brain to find a way out of the keep. When a man wearing jet-black platemail appeared at the end of the hall, Vito dove into a door and landed with a heavy thud on a thick, ornate red and orange carpet. As the man stepped into the doorway, Vito kicked the door shut, smashing the man in the face. His assailant shouted loudly, then shoved the door open again, clutching a bleeding nose. Vito felt around the floor for something, anything he could use to defend himself. Then his hand happened upon a very large toe. He arched his neck and looked up at a very angry looking female giant. She growled and smashed at the man in the door, not paying Vito any heed. The man side-stepped it neatly then returned the favor with a swing of his sword. Vito decided to run while he could.

Outside of the room, he saw at the end of the hallway the doors that would take him out. He broke into a mad dash. Back outside, no other adventurers would chase after him out here. He ran as he had never run before, each step taking him closer to freedom and safety. Then he heard a shout behind him and the same chanting as before, and a wave of force exploded the floor just a step behind him. A woman appeared from the shadows, wielding a massive spear. She lowered it at Vito and grinned victoriously. Vito heard the mage chanting again, and heard the crackle of invisible energy shooting through the air. With a grimace, Vito jumped.

The wave of energy smashed into Vito's back and hurled him through the slightly ajar doors. He fell to the earth and rolled a few rocky feet before coming to a halt. Waves of pain worked their way through Vito's back. Odds were that it was broken. He didn't put that beyond any mage he had ever met. He eased a handful of green potions from his belt pouch and downed four before he could move again. A fifth deadened the pain, and a sixth eased his breathing.

Vito scanned the area. At the base of the rocky slopes lay the carcass of a huge red dragon. Somebody had killed the thing! Now he was free to head to Trellor. Then he would sell his freight and be rich, and then he could finally buy that precious sword. Vito unhitched his horse and mounted up. He fumbled in his saddlebags and pulled out several scrolls, sticking all but one into his belt. He heeled his bay on and unrolled the scroll, reciting the arcane words. As he finished, the scroll burnt away in his hands, and he felt a renewed vigor, as if he were just starting off after a full night's sleep. The horse looked refreshed and eager too. With a click of his tongue, Vito started his horse back to his freight as quickly as possible. He galloped back over the ridge and to the road, where he unhitched the sickly brown horse and started it following him once more. The Kobolds were nowhere to be found. Vito would make it! He would be the first one in Trellor with those badly needed supplies - and then he would be rich!

Vito hurried along the road and over a series of bridges, growing ever closer to Trellor. The ground was no longer the gently rolling, wooded hills he remembered around Trellor. Instead, the land was pitted with craters. In the distance, a streak of red light crashed into the ground with a titanic explosion. Sheer power ripped the road to shreds beneath his feet. The horses stumbled, but they kept their balance. The flaming balls from the sky fell more frequently. Now and again, he could feel the heat from the explosions. One even knocked him from his mount. He landed awkwardly on his elbow, banging it hard against the scorched earth. He dropped three scrolls, but didn't bother to pick them up. Instead he hurled himself back onto the gray bay's back and set it dashing again with a yell and a slap on the horse's flank. He pulled himself into the saddle and saw on the horizon the dome of the Temple of Trellor. Vito's goal was within reach!

A huge fireball came down no more than fifteen paces in front of Vito. His bay reared and almost threw him to the ground again. The wagon and other horse came to a quick stop a few paces behind him. Vito reigned the horse hard and forced the bay to go around the smoking crater. There were a few more close calls, but now Vito could easily see the walls of Trellor. Broken in some places as they were, they still instilled him with a sense of awe. But there was no time for awe! Vito was so close he could taste it. All of that money would be his! He could wait out this rain of fiery stones in the tunnel under Rose Hill, where most of the other refugees would be. He'd be safe and have a wonderful market for his goods. He would make it! Then he'd be rich, get his new sword, and the dwarves would all...

A ball of flame crashed down within arm's reach of Vito, on his right. The explosion tossed him from his horse and sent him crashing into the road. He felt the bones in his left arm shatter, as well as a few ribs. He fumbled in his belt pouch for a green potion. After all, what was a broken arm? He certainly didn't need his arm to walk! Vito felt a pang of panic when he realized the fall had shattered all of the vials in his belt pouch. Vito tried to look around, but couldn't see his horse anywhere, or his wagon. He closed his eyes and cursed himself for being so foolish. Then, darkness overtook him, and the pain was lost in a sea of infinity.

Vito pulled his wagon into the Trellor Trading Post, plodding behind the cleric's wagon. The cleric had been kind enough to heal his arm, after all. Most would have left Vito for dead. Vito was glad to be alive, but still he was very upset over the delay. The sky was blue and besides the craters, there was no sign of those horrible stone fireballs. The cleric emptied out his wagon, mostly spices and carpets, and handed them to the merchant. He in exchange gave the cleric a sizable chest of gold coins. Vito's heart soared when he realized now he would be rich! It was his turn to sell his valuable food to the needy city! Vito proudly unpacked his freight, which had held together remarkably well, and gave it to the merchant. The merchant raised an eyebrow as he looked over the foodstuffs, then handed Vito a chest.

Throwing the chest open, Vito quickly counted out how much he had made. The chest held about a quarter of a million golden coins. Vito turned angrily to the merchant to accuse him of swindling him, but the merchant merely shook his head.

"If you wanted more, you should have gotten here last night, when we really needed that food. With all the traders, we have more in our stores than we'll ever need. It's supply and demand, kid. You should have been quicker..."

Vito buried his face in his hands and began to cry, moaning over and over, "... all that for nothing... for nothing..."


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