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The Princess and The (Fraud) Squad


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#1 Carlisle Dave

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Posted 21 November 2010 - 10:18 AM

The Complete Tales Proudly Presents...

The Completely Fantastical Tale of...

The Princess and the (Fraud) Squad

Featuring: Anyone Who Wants to Join In!


The AGM of the Bakaria branch of The Generica Adventurers Guild had begun and had already bored everyone present at it. It was one of those rituals, much like a funeral or an exorcism that everyone put up with purely to get to the cake and alcohol afterwards. Even the Guild-master was beginning to doze off as the Guild's accountant gave a run down of the current state of the Guild's finances.

"Well, to cut a long story short," he said above the snores "We're broke,"

At this everyone woke up and took notice - no money meant meant no new equipment, no interest-free loans, no more Free-Mead-Mondays.

"How did this happen?" demanded the Guild-master, slamming his mighty fist down on the table.
"Well Sir," said the accountant adjusting his pince-nez "Our insurance premiums have gone through the roof for one, the compensation cost to the families of dead adventurers has risen ahead of inflation and then there was the... dragon incident." He looked pointedly at Percy the Barbarian.
"Look, how many times do I have to explain myself - the guy said he was having problems with a real dragon!" exclaimed Percy.
"And?"
"Well, how was I supposed to know he was talking metaphorically?"
"Yes, well," continued the accountant "The civil-action brought against the Guild for the murder of the gentleman's mother-in-law has effectively bankrupted us. If we don't find money and soon then we're not going to be able to pay our fee to head office, let alone our taxes."
"Something must be done!" said the Guild-master, slamming his fist down on the table again. "Ah, got the bugger," he said, peeling the squashed fly off the bottom of his fist.
"Funny you should mention that, Sir," said the General Secretary "But we received a letter this morning that I think will alleviate all our financial problems,"
"Well, read it out then man!"

The General Secretary cleared his throat and began.

"From the desk of Her Royal Highness Princess Spondoolix

Dear Great Sirs,

This might seem very deplorable for a person that you do not know but as the title implies I am Princess Spondoolix, daughter of the late King Wonga of the Kingdom of Moolah. I am contacting you due to the present situation as regards the special committee set up by the present ruler of our great Kingdom, the evil usurper President Skinflint, which was set up to recover what they consider to be my father's ill gotten gains.

This committee is yet another smear campaign aimed to frustrate, humiliate, dismember and widen the scope of hatred to family. A personal vendetta by President Skinflint who was jailed by my father’s decree for plotting a coup d’etat against his administration. The rampaging situation in our accounts in the kingdom and abroad has yielded to the barbaric pressure and just last month we were squished out of another twenty thousand pieces of gold.

My brother Kerching, the heir apparent, currently resides in a gaol cell, left to rot by the current administration. I myself hold no hope of seeing him again but I do hope to one day see what is left of our family fortune. For this reason I am soliciting for general assistance in recovering what money remains, locked in a vault. Though the President has guards on it day and night, no man may enter as no man possess the unique, jewel encrusted key required to open the vault. No man that is expect my father; but he was fed to a basilisk so I think we can rule him out. I alone possess the unique design documents which would allow the creation of another key. Alas, I lack the money and jewels to create such a key.

I ask, nay, beg of you to attend forthwith with one thousand gold pieces, which will cover the cost of the jewels and the creation of the key by skilled key-makers. In return for your assistance I promise that you shall receive 30% of the contents of the vault, estimated to contain the equivalent of half a million gold coins. Attend forthwith! In the event of you not being interested in this proposal, endeavour to keep this highly confidential! Thanks and God bless!

Sincerely,

Princess Spondoolix"


"Our prayers have been answered!" cried the Guild-master. "We must help this Princess out at once!"

Meanwhile...

In the Assassins Lahyer, Ma'Skd and the other assorted ne'er-do-wells finished listening to the exact same letter being read out to them whilst they lounged on a series of comfortable couches, chairs and chez-lounges (it had long since been realised by the Assassins that just because they were evil did not meant that after a hard days killing and mutilating they should not enjoy some creature comforts (and the creatures the furniture was made out of were very comfortable indeed.))

Ma'Skd stood up. "We must kill this Princess and steal her money at once!"

#2 Innokenti

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Posted 21 November 2010 - 11:33 AM

Jakar rose from his seat as soon as the Secretary had stopped reading.

"I shall take up this quest for the Guild," he began, "I shall travel to Moolah, rescue the Princess and craft witty limericks about er- what?" Someone was whispering to him from an adjacent table. "I'm not actually needing to rescue a princess? Oh just a vault raid? Sounds far superior."

There is a general round of applause and hammering (though the latter was Derek the Smith, nailing chairs to the floor in the adjacent Tavern.)

"I will journey to recover the Royal Family's honour and substantial assets, but I cannot go alone? Who will come with me. After all - we will face a great many dangers, and though I can sing a Republican to sleep any day, or cut their nose off with my wit, we must yet steal a Grand, fight through the orc-infested Borderlands, get across the lake of the Man-nibbling Dolphins and... well, I don't really know how to row a boat," Jakar confessed and looked expectantly at the adventurers around him.
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#3 Carlisle Dave

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Posted 21 November 2010 - 12:08 PM

The only thing that could match Jakar's icy stare was the icy silence that greeted his request. Everyone looked down at their laps, or began playing with their lapels. One of the reason's why the Guild was in the financial mess it was in was the reluctance of its adventurers to do any adventuring. After a few minutes the Guild-master spoke up.

"Well, Valgus shall certainly go with you," he said. Valgus looked up from where he was sitting, a surprised expression across his face. "The terms of his community service dictate that he must go on x number of quests per year for the good of society and what could bring society more good than reuniting a princess with her lost gold and the Guild with her lost gold too." He reached over and grabbed the red quill the accountant had been using. "You won't be needing this anymore," he said, throwing the quill into the fire. The accountant looked on as his pride and joy began to burn - he loved writing things in red ink: it was why he had become an accountant in the first place. "So that's two... well it's a start at least. At least if we only send two it will cut down on costs - less equipment, less insurance, less compensation when you're both horribly killed. Right, someone give them some money so they can tool up."

#4 Strudel the Dancing Pastry

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Posted 21 November 2010 - 01:10 PM

Sammy had raised his hand when Jakar had asked for volunteers but clearly no one had noticed his hand raised just slightly above the height of his eyebrows; which he felt was legitimately high to raise awareness without being too intrusive.

This Jakar character seemed like a strong leader, someone Sammy could learn from but someone who would also listen to Sammy and help him become the adventurer he knew he was - he just had to show people. This was his big chance as well; there was a Princess involved!

He decided it was best not to jump up and make a scene; instead he would wait for everyone to start disbanding and then go up and join whatever team was assembling. So he sat, and waited, knowing that soon, very soon, he could be a leader of men.
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#5 Inflammable Jim

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Posted 21 November 2010 - 01:50 PM

The silence greeting the guild-master's request for finance started well, with an absence of noise, and continued in that vein for several seconds before being overlaid with a delicate tapestry of gentle coughs, hem-hems, and the pat-pat-pat of pockets being gently tapped to indicated nothing precious was within them. Given time, a dull breeze would pick up and a clock tower bell would begin to toll. The guild-master did not want that, as by the time those chimes sounded he would have been late for a viewing at a nearby dung gallery. His reputation for fastidious observation of appointments made was on the line here.

"Percy, shut the doors"

Percy the Barbarian did so, mastering the latch on the third attempt. The guild-master fished out a tatty-looking sack from a barrel and held it up. This was the guild's real enforcer, the monkey-trap bag of cajoling. Anybody could place their hands inside and release whatever they were holding but a system of valves, spikes and enchanted monkey teeth ensured that if anybody tried to remove their hand while still holding an object, said fist would be torn from the wrist. This was the origin of the phrase "Almsgiving". Only he and the guild accountant knew how to remove items from the bag and it wasn't pretty.

"Okay folks, can I ask you to take whatever's in your pockets and dump it in the bag and we can get on with this whole guild-saving exercise. Percy, don't let them leave until they have demonstrably put something in."

The members muttered but complied, remembering the statue above the guild entrance which most people just assumed the hands had fallen off.

"Right, now obviously I can't tell you how to open this, guild secret and all but I'm sure in an emergency you'll find a way", smiled the guild-master as he chucked the bag at Jakar, "and for security purposes, I've locked the Deus Ex Machina compartment. On the plus side, I believe we emptied the fist filter a few weeks ago so it shouldn't be too gruesome. And that'll have to do for supplies."
You know...we lost the first battle of the Chesapeake because of a mysterious...treacherous...Ankylosaurus

#6 TSP

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Posted 21 November 2010 - 02:00 PM

Burold shook his head as he surveyed the damage to Burold's Tavern. It had been a short, brutal bar fight but it had left devastation in its wake. The floor was awash with spilled ale and half his furniture had been reduced to splinters. It would cost a pretty penny to replace. A pretty penny that Burold didn’t have, especially with Fingers the Money Lender calling for repayment of Burold’s debts.

“By all rights, I should slit the throats of the men who started this,” Burold complained.

A face looked back at him blankly from across the bar. “Weren’t you were the one threw the first punch?”

Ormn was Burold’s best customer but he had less sense than a sack full of hammers. “I don’t remember it exactly like that. The smugglers started it, they‘re always coming in, stirring up trouble.”

Ormn was off in a world of his own, rerunning the moments before the fight in his head. “Yes, that’s definitely what happened. One of those smugglers said ‘I’ll have another pint of ale, dwarf’, and then you hit him over the head with a bottle of Gutrotter ale.”

“Well alright,” Burold conceded. “In hindsight that was a bad move, but how was I meant to know that his friends weren’t going to be reasonable about that? But that’s not going to bring back all the gold this is going to cost me.”

Another figure at the bar looked up from his pint of ale and laughed. “Maybe this is your lucky day, dw- … little man. If it's gold you need, just so happens I have the answer to all your problems right here.” The customer drew a piece of parchment out of his robe and handed it to Burold, who read the letter quickly and eagerly.

#7 Masked Dave

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Posted 21 November 2010 - 10:20 PM

"I don't know Ma'Skd," said the Standards Compliance Officer, sitting on luxurious chair made of red dragon leather, "that sounds a lot like theft to me. Doesn't really sound like it's a society matter."

"Oh I know," said Ma'Skd, lounging back into his large phoenix feather bean bag and taking another bite from his unicorn steak, "but I'm just so bored lately. All the local royalty is just so damn... stable! Oh don't you miss the old days when everyone needed a good back stabbing performed in order to progress through the ranks? What are we supposed to do with ourselves these days?"

"Hrm, I know what you mean." said the SCO.

There is a moment of quite contemplation around the room as they all think back to their glory days.

"Wait, what about this Skintflint fellow?" asked Ma'Skd.

"The Republican? Never heard of him before. You know these People Power types, always a flash in the pan, never any legacy. What about him?"

"Well it sounds like his life would be made a lot easier with a quick assassination or too."

"Hmm, yes, this Princess does sound like rather a bother, but these little experimental governments never have any spare cash."

"Except for the large vault full of wealth taken from the Royal Family."

"They'd never chose to go for it."

"No indeed, meaning the only thing to do..." leads Ma'Skd.

"Is to kill the Princess and steal the money."

"Exactly," smiled Ma'Skd with a smug look on his face. "I best be off then."
"It's amazing how deep we had to drill to find our key difference,
but it seems that whilst I am Amazing you are Ultimate."- Lu

#8 Innokenti

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Posted 22 November 2010 - 09:47 AM

Jakar carefully too hold of the bag with just his thumb and index finger and inspected it with the full expectation that it would wrap itself around his hand and begin chewing...

"Valgus... erm... you are appointed the official bag-handler of this adventure?" he suggested and carefully handed it over.

"This is probably a great honour," Valgus said, taking the bag in the same dainty and expectant grip. "Yes, we are honoured, Guildmaster."

"And so you should be! We're screwed if you don't come back with all the Princess' loo- uh... reward. So make sure you do. Much as it is unfortunate for our Guild, I am afraid that you must stay reformed and on the path of the straight-and-narrow for this Valgus. God knows this will make it nigh on impossible for you. But apparently you relish the impossible."

Valgus nodded enthusiastically.

"I don't suppose anyone else has been heartened by the display of loyalty to the guild by Jakar and Valgus... well, Jakar anyway, and wishes to come along with them?" the Guildmaster demanded. "Well?"

"Well?!" Jakar added in his best berating-yet-friendly voice. "It'll be great fun. We'll go to the armoury, get tooled up and then it'll be a pleasant wander through the orc infested countryside!"
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#9 Elihu

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Posted 22 November 2010 - 03:04 PM

"One more thing before you leave, agent Ma'Skd." said the Standards Compliance Officer. "You won't be working alone on this one. There were some serious irregularities in your expenses claims after your last mission."

"What are you talking about?" asked Ma'Skd, "I didn't even charge you for my taxi fare!"

"That's right," said the Standards Compliance Officer, "we are an evil organization, you know. We do expect our employees to meet minimum levels of corruption and decadence."

"This is ridiculous!" said Ma'Skd. "I for one would like to see the person who you think can keep me on the bent and crooked."

"He's standing behind me," said the Standards Compliance Officer.

Ma'Skd blinked.

"I thought that was a statue," he said. "A really big statue," he added. And then: "Of a massive granite wall. In the shape of a giant man. With a beard the size of a tree. Made out of reinforced oak."

"Agent Ma'Skd," said the Standards Compliance Officer, "I would like you to meet Ike Hammamörgen, the beserker flat-pack furniture salesman."

"Umlaut," rumbled Ike Hammamörgen, stretching forth a hand the size of a reasonably-large siege weapon, "Umlaut, umlaut."

#10 Masked Dave

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Posted 22 November 2010 - 04:50 PM

Ma'Skd looked up, and up, at the man mountain that was Ike. He gently pressed his hand against the slab of palm that was being presented to him and quickly snapped it away before the slab could close on it. Although he was knocked back by the shockwave.

Picking himself up and straightening his robes Ma'Skd turned back to the SCO. "This is ridiculous! I'm the 2nd best assassin in all of Generica. I don't need a damn sidekick to show me the dark at the bottom of the pit. I live in the damn pit, I am the pit!"

"And yet..." smiled the SCO, gesturing upwards with a wry smile on his face.

"Oh all right, I'll bring him along if you insist. How exactly I'm supposed to be the master of stealth with this guy around I've no idea," Ma'Skd looks back up at Ike. "I hope you've got your own transport? I was planning on riding Wing, but I actually quite like the creature and wouldn't want to break him in half."

Wing was Ma'Skd's black pegasus, a beast he'd spent the best part of year hunting and trapping and another breaking him in, it wasn't an investment he was happy to throw away so easily. Also painting him black had been a nightmare.

There was stony silence from the head hanging above him.

"No? Hrm." A brief pause. "I don't supposed I could ride y-" Ike's grip on his axe tightened. "Nevermind! Silly idea. I'll go and find some sort of..." he trialled off as ever vehicle he could think off was crushed into pieces within his mind. "We could walk?"
"It's amazing how deep we had to drill to find our key difference,
but it seems that whilst I am Amazing you are Ultimate."- Lu

#11 Carlisle Dave

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Posted 22 November 2010 - 09:15 PM

Valgus meanwhile was ignoring everyone trying to ignore the Guild-master's pleas for more assistance. He, instead, was occupied with the bag he had been given responsibility for and barely noticed as they left the meeting hall and proceeded to the armoury. It was the first responsibility that Valgus had been given since his fall from grace and he meant to take it seriously and do a good job. He knew the Guild was in dire straights financially and that every penny mattered. He knew therefore that what was in the bag had to protected at all cost. Of course, to protect it he would need to know exactly what it was that he was protecting: how would he know that something had gone missing if he didn't know it was there in the first place? Of course there was only way to find out what was in the bag and so Valgus plunged his hand right in deep.

We all do rash things from time to time and Halux realised that this was one of those times pretty much straight away. Not only could he now not remove his hand from the bag without losing it (or so was his understanding) but it would also probably look pretty bad that a convicted recidivist and kleptomaniac couldn't keep his hands out of what remained of the Guild's coffers for more than five minutes. Just don't draw attention to it, maybe no-one will notice he told himself, just act casual.

They arrived at the armoury. The Quatermaster waved at them in greeting. Jakar waved back as did Halux, unfortunately using his bag-ensconced hand.

"He's got a bag on his hand," said the Quatermaster pointing.

Jakar looked across and sighed.

"Well, you're not saving on gauntlets - they come as pairs. If I gave out only one and it went missing do you know how long I'd be waiting for a one-handed bloke with just a left-hand to come along so I could give out the other one?" Valgus looked shameful, much as the Quatermaster had intended. Pleased with his emotional attack he carried on with business. "Now what can I do for you gents?

#12 Innokenti

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Posted 22 November 2010 - 09:31 PM

Hammers beat out the breastplates.

Fingers clamp rings of mail.

Feathers are glued onto arrows.

The trumpeters play heroic notes.


...


This is what happened in some far-away place, a Guild in another place. Back in Bakaria? Jakar and Valgus stood by the Armoury. Um, the Guild's Quartermaster eyed them suspiciously.

"The Guildmaster did say we were to be equipped," suggested Jakar.

"Hmm," Um said.

"With the best equipment," Valgus added.

"Ah?"

"So... I would like the finest coat of mail, a longsword, straight and true, a small crossbow I can conceal about my person, two dozen quarrels, and three enchanted bolts (ice, lightning and exploding please) and... oh, any magical lutes?" Jakar suggested expectantly.

"Um..." Um said looking around the empty stores. "We're all out." He even smiled.

Jakar and Vulgus visibly drooped. "So, Vulgus, it's just you and me and... the bag you stuck your hand in? Ah... shit..."
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#13 Inflammable Jim

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Posted 22 November 2010 - 10:59 PM

There are pros and cons to every job, mused Nebb as he paced around his quarters. People may look down on you for what you do, but as long as you could find some purpose within it, something to hold onto and strive for, it could all be worthwhile. He thought of a dung farmer, sweating and stinking every day but holding the dream of eventually becoming a dung artist, held in high esteem but at arm's length. Then he hurriedly tried to think of something less horrible. His job was not a traditionally prized, honoured or sought after, but that was what gave it its strength. He picked up a robe and tossed it into a steadily growing pile in the middle of the room.

In most walks of life it is difficult to just up sticks and set off but this was an adventurer's guild, no matter what the AGM indicated. Even the admin had to be able to quickly move into land that had been newly acquired, or more usually out of a building under siege. Several interesting developments in non-flammable parchments were liberally deployed as without paperwork and deeds, landlords tended to get surly in a hurry. Nebb crammed as many of the items as he could into a pack, then stamped on top of it to try and cram some more stuff in. The result was a holder he could barely carry on his skinny shoulders, but he slung it on them anyway and hoped for the best. As long as he didn't have to climb too many steep gradients, this should just about be doable.

Like all good accountants, he had to protect his investment, and right now his investment was about to head off into the wilderness
You know...we lost the first battle of the Chesapeake because of a mysterious...treacherous...Ankylosaurus

#14 Innokenti

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 11:10 AM

"Fresh air Valgus! This, I have yearned for for many days. Staying in he city is always so... dirty. I do love the countryside," Jakar declared as they entered he lush green lands of Bakaria, "Can you feel the spirit of adventure once more enter our lungs?"

Valgus breathed in deep. A wasp flew into his mouth.

"Sngrfl.. AAAAAAAAAAARGH"

"Bugger. The wasps out here are as malicious as the monsters... woah! Don't drop the bag," Jakar said.

"Yeah. Thanks," Valgus croaked, "my wasp-avoidance skills are a little rusty."

"Hmm... I think I have a song for wasp stings. Let's give it a try," Jakar suggested and brought out his very old and slightly broken recorder.

I saw a wasp upon a wall
And did not like his face at all:
And so the creature had no time
To wonder whether he liked mine.



They took a moment for the thing to sink in.


"Did it help?"

"Not really sure. What's that buzzing?"

"Damn... that's the song for attracting wasps. RUN!"
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#15 FinalSin

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 11:47 PM

Jim nudged me into contributing, feel free to retcon this if it's no use to you!

Five guilds, two academies, three inns and one den of iniquity. Was there anywhere he'd missed? The shady figure thumbed through the remaining copies of "Princess Spondoolix"' letter. There were certainly a few left, and that was after the clumsy oaf at Burold's tavern spilled a mug of something disgusting over three copies of it. The liquid had gone all over his best, most sinister cape too. For shame.

It had taken him the best part of three days to deliver the letter to the various intended recipients. Sometimes in person, sometimes wrapped around a brick and very occasionally nailed to a pheasant and hurled through a skylight. But he was getting tired, his supplies were running low, and like all people hired on a low wage to dish out pieces of paper to unsuspecting stool pigeons, the temptation to merely shove the remaining few copies into the nearest waste heap was growing. He skulked down an alley or two - it had been years since he'd had a good skulk - and finally decided that he was unlikely to remember the remaining targets for the letter.

He passed a beaten-up door around the next corner, and without a second thought shoved the last few copies of the letter underneath it. Then, with a smile on his face that was mostly hidden by the tattoos and the dark, foreboding grimace his forehead was locked into, he skipped happily on his way.

#16 Strudel the Dancing Pastry

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 09:17 PM

Sammy awoke to find the AGM had ended long ago. He sat hunched across a chair, having missed all the free food and drink and clearly no one had woken him up to see if he wanted to go adventuring. Fine then, he'd do it all by himself.

He stood up. Tall, proud, resolute. He stood there, staring into the distance, imagining the great deals and heroic accomplishments he would achieve. People would cheer, children would idolise, and the hot girls would throw themselves, (or at least their undergarments) at him.

Determination unfortunately took over from his brain which was already running at full capacity with all this imagination malarky and before he knew it, (actually before he knew it; it took a while for his brain to catch up with his body) he was dashing out of the Guild and in search of a stable from where he could... requisition a horse, or at least a pony (hopefully not a donkey) and set off to save the princess!



-----------



By 4am he had found his gracious steed, and by 5am, as they slowly sauntered towards the Main Gate of the town, Sammy had decided on a name: Shadeyfax. As they passed from the security of the walls out into the open countryside, Shadeyfax gathered just enough energy to trot over to the grass verge where she decided to spend some time eating, and chewing the cud.

Sammy took a nap.
Spins and turns, angles and curves. The shape of dreams, half remembered. Slip the surly bonds of earth and touch the face of perfection - a perfect face, perfect lace.
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<@Strudel> How big's your dongle Kramer?
only about 2 inches :(

#17 TSP

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 09:30 PM

Fingers the Money Lender slouched back in his chair, appraising Burold carefully. He was clearly unconvinced by Burold's request for his loan facility to be extended by one thousand gold pieces. "See, I want to consolidate all my debts into one affordable affordable monthly payment," Burold explained. It was a lie, but once Burold had paid for the construction of a key to Princess Spondoolix's vault Fingers would get the money back with interest on top. "You see, I borrowed a lot of money from the Erutian Mage's Council and it's variable rate so I can get a better rate if I secure the loan against my property."

"It's a variable rate tied to the Bank of Generica's base rate? Isn't that currently pretty low?"

"No, they're some kind of Wild Mage fly-by night operation. They roll a d20 every week and charge interest at that rate."

Fingers rubbed his chin, thinking over Burold's proposition. "Well the Financial Services Council of Generica are currently cracking down on lending for debt consolidation ..." Burold's heart sank. Could forthcoming regulation be about to scupper his attempt to fraudulently obtain a loan? "But that paper is still in the consultation phase and this looks like a good case so I'm willing to approve the lending, subject to passing a check with our credit rating psychic of course."

Burold rose out of his seat and was escorted by Fingers through to another room, where a mysterious figure in a red hood was seated in front of a crystal ball. Burold slipped into the seat opposite the psychic and watched the crystal ball. To his surprise, shapes and images were swirling inside. His empty coffers. The empty seats of Burold's. His rat-infested cellar. The ball lingered over each of the images, causing Burold to start sweating as he felt his ruse unravelling.

Then the images began to move quickly and rapidly. There was fire and death. A masked assassin. A shadowy figure delivering letters across the city. An axe lodged in somebody's skull. In short, all the elements required for a classic adventure ... except one. Burold knew the guidelines of the Generica Adventurers Guild as well as the next man, and they dictated that something wasn't a proper adventure until some kind of prophecy was involved. The vaguer, the better.

"The Princess lied." The psychic's words flew fast, in a monotonous voice. "You will have four chances ... take heed of the Knight, for he is wise beyond his years ... don't eat the yellow snow ... listen to the words of the dancing man ... remember that you've got to drop it like it's hot."

Burold was confused. "Sorry? Can you repeat that ... what does that mean?"

"Crystal ball says no," the psychic proclaimed as Fingers grabbed Burold by the collar and dragged him out to the street.

#18 Carlisle Dave

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Posted 27 November 2010 - 12:05 PM

"Do-ra-mi-fa-so-LARRRRGGGGHHHH!" cried Jakar as he fled down the street from the swarm of wasps that was busily (or some would say buzzily, though these people are not worth given recognition to) chasing after him and Valgus. Of course, Jakar didn't want to miss an opportunity to improve his craft and so took the chance to practice some scales, especially as he was quite a distance ahead of both Valgus and the wasps. Jakar prided himself on being able to run at at least vivace and had even been known to hit presto on occasion. Being generous to Valgus, adagio was about as good as it got. His fall from grace and also seen a fall from the exercise horse and he had yet to jump back on and ride its toned back once more. As such he was surrounded by the cloud of wasps and was busy frantically flapping his hands around his head in an effort to shoo them away. Unfortunately this just meant that his left hand was being stung repeatedly and becoming increasingly swollen whilst his hand-bag (if we can call it such) was crawling with wasps. Unfortunately for Valgus the bag's nature seem to extend to the wasps (well either that or its fine fabric coatings were such that they were trapping the stinger of each was that tried to sting it) and each wasp that landed on it ended up trapped to its surface. This did of course mean that eventually the swarm around Valgus's head dissipated but only because it had all become ensnared around his hand. Still looking down at his hand he shrugged and figuring that beggars can't be choosers, slowed down to a trot as he turned into an alleyway down which Jakar had just fled.

His trot was brought up short by what he saw in the alleyway. Jakar, running at full tilt and not really looking where he was going, had run straight into a gang of burly street ruffians. Knocked to the floor he had shuffled back as quickly as he could (allegretto) as the toughs had begun to advance on him. Valgus, arriving shouted "Look out!" and pointed vigorously with his hand-bag at one of the gang who had drawn a mace. In fact Valgus pointed so vigorously that a wasp went pinging off the hand-bag and flew straight into the eye of the armed ruffian.

"Aiiee! My allergies!" he cried as he fell to the floor clutching his face.

This seemed to enrage the remaining members of the gang who each drew weapons of their own. However, before they had a chance to use them everyone's attention was turned to the sight of man being thrown out of the moneylenders, which opened into the alley, by the scruff of his neck.

#19 Schtroumpf

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Posted 05 December 2010 - 03:01 PM

Ma'Skd was reimagining his plans for the mission.  He usually relied on stealth but after his attempt in teaching Ike had resulted in what would eventually be know as The Scouring of Littlehampton he decided that maybe another method was needed.  So far his plan consisted of pointing Ike at the castle and instructing him to run as fast as he could.  They had a few more days of travel before they arrived though so he had plenty of time to iron out the creases.  Or flatten down the hills as seemed to be the case with Ike.

Ma'Skd had gone on ahead to scout the path in a bid to lessen the headache that the furniture salesman's thunderous steps had created.  He had just stopped to lean up against a tree to rub his temples when he felt a knife being pressed against his neck.  He'd fought enough Orcs to know the feel of one of their blades.  Ma'Skd was furious with himself that he'd let this happen.  Orc's were not known for being quiet so quite how he was able ambush him like this he didn't know, although he put it down to the headache and the noise created by Ike.

"Lay down your weapons"  The Orc squeaked.

Ma'Skd smiled to himself, that didn't sound like any orc he'd ever heard.  Using a technique the Monks of Mount Flurtergurter had taught him before he murdered them all, he swiftly and deftly removed himself from the blade of the orc's weapon and spun round and drew his own blade and thrust it into the face of the orc.  Into the face of the tiny orc.  That was riding a rat.  That was standing on the branch of the tree at head hight.

"Um...."  This was all the time that Halifax The Orc needed and he launched himself off his rat mount and onto the collar of Ma'Skd.  He grabbed onto his ear and pointed his sword at one of the assassins eyes.

"I said, lay down yo....."  Halifax stopped mid sentence as the shadow of Ike fell over him.  Ma'Skd closed his eyes and waited for the end.  He didn't expect Ike had the accuracy to knock off a 5 inch tall Orc from his shoulder and would probably flatten him trying.  After a few seconds of waiting Ma'Skd opened his eyes.  Halifax was now back on the branch and seemed to be in full conversation with Ike.

".....yeah, must have been 2 years now."

"Umlaut, umlaut"

"No, I gave up the mercenary gig.  Now I just live out here off the land and kill the ocassional passer by for something to do.  So where are you off to"

"Umlaut, umlaut, umlaut."

"No way, that much?"

"Umlaut, umlaut, umlaut, umlaut."

"And a princess!"

"Umlaut."

"No Dragon though, huh?

"Umlaut?"

"Ah, of course.  I'd love to come along."

Ma'Skd sighed.

"The temperature inside this apple pie is over 1000 degrees. If I squeeze it, a jet of molten bramley apple will squirt out. Could go your way; could go mine. Either way, one of us is going down."


#20 Inflammable Jim

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Posted 05 December 2010 - 06:21 PM

On another road, an altogether more treacherous and secretive one, Nebb was making slow progress. Weighed down by his bag and hacking through paths overgrown with the uglier class of creeping plants, he would have no chance of making it to the kingdom of Moolah in a reasonable time. Indeed his descendents, were they to carry on from wherever he fell, might struggle to make it there too. Fortunately, he wasn't headed there, not immediately. Ahead, perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the road, stood an ominous tower. It was the sort that you expect to be surrounded by dark brooding clouds and perpetual twilight, issuing forth a clap of thunder whenever anybody said "..the tower".

"The tower", murmured Nebb, always keen to test a hypothesis. Nothing changed. As he got nearer, the regalia of whoever was occupying it became clearer. Skulls featured prominently and there was a definite hint of crushing, rending, and wailing on their behalf. On a massive flag projecting from the tower's spire was a jagged line. Teeth maybe? Something about lines of power? There was a loud snapping noise that promised to explain everything and Nebb stumbled forwards, or at least tried to. He was stuck.

A flowing beard emerged from a window halfway up the tower, attached to a bald man with a furious expression.

"Attention adventuring buffoon: You are ensnared in a magical beartrap! I wish to point out now that any attempt to escape is, believe me, futile! Honestly, I did try to make this clear with the flags but I suppose you thought I was bluffing. Now, you've got the rest of your life to wait around and then we'll see what we can do with your bones. Toodles!"

The wizard sniffed and ducked back inside the tower. Nebb looked down at a coruscating circle of orange around his ankles and cursed quietly. He cupped his hands to his mouth and yelled.

"OI, BALDY!"

The beard reappeared at the window and the expression was somehow even more furious.

"You know!", bellowed the wizard, "I gave you an opportunity to die with dignity and you throw it back into my face! Have you any last requests before I scatter you to three of the four winds?!"

Nebb appeared to give this a few moments thought before responding, "Kytheres: Blink".

"Kytheres Blink?! What does that even mean? What sort of ridiculous last request is that?!", the wizard was now practically purple with the effort of yelling condescendingly, and fortunately he did not hear the scraping above him until it was too late, and the windowspace closed and knocked him out of the tower. He hit the ground with a considerable thump and an unpleasant mixture of snaps and squelches. The circle around Nebb's ankles dissipated and he jogged up to the building, which was shifting and rippling. Had to act quickly now, thought Nebb, ditching his bag and dragging the ex-wizard up to the buckling walls. He pressed one of the man's feet against a vibrating pillar.

"Kytheres: Transfer!", he bawled above the cracking of masonry, and there was a definite...spark. Something moved from the tower to the corpse, which opened its eyes experimentally. Its first sight was a wall moving away from it very quickly, as Nebb dragged the body back to a safe distance. It tried to stand up, managed on the third attempt and located its voicebox after some investigation. And it spoke:

"Remind me Next Time That, Despite the Powerful symbolism of Being a Watchtower while Watching for the Necessary changes, I Should not Invest Myself in Anything that a Wizard could feasibly Live in". The man's voice creaked like a barn door in a gale, and he paused to cough out a mouthful of shale-coloured dust, "Essentially, my Pancreas was Converted into a Rumpus Room. How do I Look Now?"

Kytheres the Fiendish did a twirl. Nebb sized up his new vessel critically.

"Well, I mean, you're an evil wizard there, nobody's going to doubt that. Little bit cliché, little bit obvious, but looks perfectly serviceable. Oh and you have a bit of post-structural capitalization going on there sir."

"I'm sure it Will Wear off in Time, Nebb", enunciated Kytheres.

Behind them, robbed of the lifeforce holding it together and weakened by the structural shifting that had kicked the previous owner of the wizard's body out the window, the tower collapsed.

"Now suppose You Tell me why I'm Awake"
You know...we lost the first battle of the Chesapeake because of a mysterious...treacherous...Ankylosaurus

#21 Innokenti

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 10:05 AM

Jakar carefully regarded the muddy man, his attention occasionally distracted by the passing buzz of Valgus' bag flying over his head.

"Burold?" he said quizzically at the muddy bundle. "Burold the Barkeep? Burold the Keeper of Inns? Burold the jolly dw- guy who always makes you pay your tab on time? Burold the-"

"I think that's Burold," Valgus confirmed, plinking another wasp into and off a nearby wall.

"I was going to say, 'Burold the best distraction a man could ask for when taking on a bunch of thugs'!" Jakar cried, roaring into action. The action in question being a sweet lullaby he had learned off the Duchess of Degran (also known as Duchess of the Delicious Cakes). It sent its listeners to sleep simply by virtue of hammering past their mental defenses and switching things off. Which worked remarkably quickly on the thugs. "See - one bard fits all situations."

"Except grisly death?" Valgus asked.

"Yes. How are the wasps?"

"I think most of them are gone now. A few have stuck around to be useful in the future. Shall we see to Burold?" Valgus asked and then quickly added, "By which I mean tend to, not relieve of valuables and run."




They inspected Burold, who had taken a bit of a knock in the mud (it seems the moneylenders made a point of placing cobblestone underneath the thin veneer of mud) and was only now coming to and lifting himself up the few requisite inches.

"Oh. The bard and the reformed pilferer. I see," Burold said taking in the two. "Care to come in and take a mug of ale?"

"Awfully sorry, can't. On an important quest for the Guild. Princesses and all that," Valgus rattled off.

"Princesses? Ah..."
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#22 Elihu

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 02:38 PM

"Ok, we need to go over the division of labour again," said Ma'Skd.

"Umlaut umlaut," said Ike.

"What was that?" asked Ma'Skd, suspiciously.

"He says he finds labour both empowering and dignifying," explained Halifax.

"Umlaut!" rumbled Ike, happily.

Ma'Skd rolled his eyes.

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a successful adventuring group must be in want of a wide-range of mad skillz to survive," he said, "It is therefore imperative that we have the correct mix of tanking, healing and damage-dealing abilities."

Ma'Skd took a deep breath.

"Ok," he said, "hands up for damage."

Three left hands went up into the air simultaneously.

Three right hands went to their weapons simultaneously.

There was an awkward pause.

"I call damage," said Halifax. "I called it before you woke up this morning."

"No way, because: shut up," reasoned Ma'Skd. "I'm the damage."

"I'm the damage!" said Halifax.

"Umlaut umlaut!" rumbled Ike.

"Ike, we already agreed on this," said Ma'Skd, "You're the Tank. Your job is to stand there and get beat up on by all the enemies."

"You're basically a gigantic beserker human shield!" said Halifax, cheerfully.

"Umlaut umlaut," said Ike, sadly, hanging his mighty head.

"As for you," said Ma'Skd, pointing at Halifax, "I see only one way to settle this..."

#23 Schtroumpf

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 08:31 PM

"Hertilian Poker?"  Halifax looked hopeful.

"What? No!"

"March Rules Cribbage?"  This one was a favourite of Halifax as it usually ended with someone down a limb.

"I...No!"  Ma'Skd deflated slightly "You know what I mean."

"Ah, of course!"  Halifax raised his finger to the sky.  "But where are we going to find 4 whores, a juggler, 2 incense burners and a priest out here?"

"I, um...that is.  I, huh?"  This one was new to Ma'Skd and he had to say he was intrigued.

"And of course to play it properly we're going to need at least 2 sharks."

"Umlaut, umlaut!"

"Ah, of course!  And we'll need a lute, but I suppose a guitar or harp will do instead.  Well reminded Ike!"  Halifax started to wander off into the undergrowth and Ike was standing there looking quite excited.  Well, as excited as a wall could possibly look.

Ma'Skd stamped his foot down.  "What are you doing?  WHAT IS GOING ON?"

Halifax turned round and pointed over his shoulder.  "I need to go get the stuff for a round of Questionable Mr Olive."

Ma'Skd had to restrain himself from jumping up and down on the spot.  "We're not playing Questionable Mr Olive or Hertilian Poker or Greenville Blackjack or any stupid game!"

Halifax leaned towards Ike and whispered in his ear as well as a 5 inch Orc could to a walking mountain, "I'm not sure that Greenville Blackjack is even real"

That was too much for Ma'Skd and he couldn't contain himself anymore.  Jumping up and down on the spot he started yelling. "A TEST! A TEST OF STRENGTH TO SEE WHO TAKES DAMAGE!  NOT A GAME, A TEST!  A PROPER CERTIFIED GUILD TEST!"

"Well if it's nature damage you're after you're certainly showing that grass who's boss."  Halifax pointed to the flattened vegetation at Ma'Skd's feet.

"Oh, sweet generic evil deity give me strength.  Fine, take damage.  I'll concentrate on stealth or something."  There was certainly going to be blood spilled on this quest and Ma'Skd wasn't sure it was was going to be the Princess's.

"Sweet! high five, Ike!"  Halifax lept into the air, arm raised.

"Umlaut!"

Ma'Skd just had time to duck as Halifax was sent rocketing into the distance.

"The temperature inside this apple pie is over 1000 degrees. If I squeeze it, a jet of molten bramley apple will squirt out. Could go your way; could go mine. Either way, one of us is going down."


#24 Inflammable Jim

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 10:35 PM

"...and yeah, seemed like this would be the best possible moment to take it", concluded Nebb. Most of the talk had been spent ironing out Kytheres' watchtower-based idiosyncracies. Some progress had been made in adding a hint of slouch to his ramrod-straight spine, but he still had a habit of going completely still and scanning the horizon that was quite unnerving.

"Excellent, Excellent, we Should move Fast if we are to take Hold of the Item", agreed Kytheres.

"Right, now, like I say there's a group of guild adventurers involved, they probably at least vaguely recognise me as the accountant, and you are unquestionably an evil wizard right now unless you can find someone kinder-looking to possess. I reckon I should arrange to intercept with that merry band and guide them to a suitable loca....sir?", Nebb trailed off as he realised Kytheres had gone into watching mode again. He waved his hands in front of Kytheres' eyes to little effect, sighed, and decided to head off and scrounge up some supplies while this trance was in effect.

A few minutes passed peacefully, Kytheres' head slowly scanning the air for threats to warn the kingdom about. Hang on, there was a flash over there, a loud noise, a little shape getting closer and closer...

"GIANT MOUSE!", cried Kytheres, "WARN THE KING! SEND OUT THE CATS! LOOK OW-"

Halifax bounced off Kytheres' head with a noise like a wet coconut, and both fell down in a daze.
You know...we lost the first battle of the Chesapeake because of a mysterious...treacherous...Ankylosaurus

#25 Schtroumpf

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 11:32 PM

Halifax shook his head and removed himself from the toadstool he'd landed on.  He tried to avoid toadstools as much as possible to avoid any parallels between himself and ugly gnomes.  It was the same reason why he never went fishing in ponds or pushed a wheelbarrow.  He dusted himself off and looked around for whatever had broken his fall.  "Probably a palm tree or something" he thought.

"Oh shit, Stonewhistle! Jeremiah Stonewhistle!  Small world!"  Halifax exclaimed, barely containing his glee as he noticed the wizard.  "How the devil are you?"

Having picked himself back up Kytheres had entered watching mode again.  As he had never encountered a five inch tall Orc he had come to the conclusion that before him stood a standard Orc and it only appeared small because he was still a huge watchtower.

"Jerry?  Jerry?  JERRY!"  Halifax had started jumping up and down.  Kytheres remained stationary, he wasn't sure why this Orc was shouting at him but as a watchtower he couldn't easily make him go away.

"Jerry! JERRY! JER.... HEY!  What happened to your tower?"  Halifax stopped jumping and pointed to the pile of rubble behind the wizard.

"What did Happen to my Watchtower?" Kytheres thought.  He was sure he remembered it falling down.  "Yes, Of course!"

"I'm Not a Watchtower" He stated to the world.

"I, yeah.  Me neither!"  Halifax replied on behalf of the world.

Kytheres looked down at Halifax and finally worked out the scale.  "You're a tiny Orc."

The tiny Orc rubbed his temples.  He must have hit his old friend pretty hard when he landed.

"Jerry?  It's your old buddy Halifax?  We took down Guthrie the Flawless only the other month!"

Kytheres looked down at his hands and gave his face a rub.  "I'm not a Watchtower, I'm An Evil wizard!"

Halifax knew he should have visited more often.  Clearly being alone in his tower hadn't been kind to the wizards mind.  But still, being insane had never really been a hinderence to any evil wizard in the past.  He couldn't neglect his friend for a second time though and started to tick things off on his fingers.

"Tank. Check.  Damage.  Check.  Stealth.  Check.  Magic....."  If this was cliche ridden story a firefly would have hovered over his head just as the idea clicked into place and a droplet of water somewhere would have fallen and made a 'ting' sound all at the same time.

Halifax swatted away the firefly that was buzzing around his head and looked up at Jerry.  "Do you have any plans for the next few days?"

Kytheres remained stationary as Halifax explained the situation to him.  Ideas and plan were starting to form in his head.  By now Nebb would be well away and hopefully nearing connecting with the guild adventurers.  This group seemed to be on a similar road and could prove useful somewhere along the line.  Clearly this orc knew the previous occupant of this body which would help but he had to be careful that he didn't slip up.  He realised that he'd drifted off again when he heard the tiny Orc shouting at him again.

"And Ike is here too.  You remember Ike, right?  Good guy, good guy.  Great furniture"  Halifax winced as he said that.  Jerry was probably still sore about losing his tower and not having anywhere to put any chairs.  It was just at that point that Ma'Skd and Ike crashed through into the clearing.

Kytheres approached Ma'Skd and held out his hand.  "Good to See you Again, Ike."

*      *      *

In the bushes Nebb quietly slinked away.  This turn of events was working out better than he had hoped.

"The temperature inside this apple pie is over 1000 degrees. If I squeeze it, a jet of molten bramley apple will squirt out. Could go your way; could go mine. Either way, one of us is going down."