Archive for July 2012

Chapter 4: Part 2: Jail Break   Leave a comment

Meanwhile, inside the Dog’s Bone Watch Station . . .

Wulf was still sleep befuddled. He smelled his blood and saw some of it on Weslynn’s lips. He became aware again that he was shackled and roped up securely. And then he was once again distracted from the small wounds on his thigh by the street door coming open, and turned his attention to see who or what was coming in.

Weslynn twitched as she was flung in surprise from Wulf. She had not thought to grip him securely in his stupor. Scrambling up from the floor, she glared at Wulf, not really noticing anything else. She blurred across the dark cell, in an blink Weslynn had him slammed up against the wall, chains rattling, his body lifted an inch off the floor, the chains binding him held in her hands, pushed against the wall on either side of his chest. She stared at him, glanced at his throat, bent close, and whispered, “I need you. Your blood. Your strength. I am sorry.”

She bent her head, kissed him, and then trailed her mouth down to his throat, pulled back slightly, opened her mouth, baring her fangs on his skin to bite.

Then she paused, on the verge of biting again, comprehension finally penetrating her daze of lust and thirst.

“Mensa? Where are you?” She released Wulf abruptly, the bound man falling to the floor, as she spun around in utter shock to stare out of the cell and look for Mensa, to see the door opening to the street, reflexively wiping her bloody mouth on a handful of the dirty blanket still tangled around her as she did so.

Wulf could feel his Wolf pacing inside him, very alert now, and not at all pleased to have been ‘nipped’. He felt pretty fragile as far as his ability to stop the beast from ripping off Weslynn’s face if she looked like she is going to bite him again.
“Weslynn,” he said softly, ” See if you can get these furshluginna ropes off of me. I think I have about had my fill of being restrained. The next person who insults me is going to be really sorry.”

When the door opened, Mensa had immediately walked towards it, urging his next-door neighbors to come. And walked right into the bars of his cell door. “Forgot about those,” he murmered, rubbing his nose.

After rubbing his nose, Mensa looked to see why Wulf and Lady Wrestler weren’t interested in the door opening. Looking closer, he saw that Wulf was tied up or something.  He wondered if he could reach Wulf’s ropes through the bars. Trying, he found he couldn’t – not by a yard or two. (Mensa wished he knew what a “yard” was.)

“Why Lady not untie you, Wulf?”

“I feared him getting free, Mensa, and hurting me or himself. But now that he has recovered himself, aye, it is time to remove the ropes. Little I can do about the chains, though.”

Mensa snorted. “Chains – HAH! Pfui!” He looked to see if he had any of his tools or weapons.
Then, concerned that Wulf hadn’t spoken: “Wulf? You OK?”

Mensa grunted and pulled at the chains. He wondered if he could bite them apart, as he’d done with ropes in the past?

“Mensa, use your hands and your shoulders. You’ll break your teeth, trying to gnaw them.”

Weslynn strained, pulling with her most of her strength, trying not to reveal exactly how unnaturally strong she has become.

“Mensa got strong teeth,” the red-haired dwarf grumbled, but he continued using his hands to snap apart the chains. “How did we get here?” he asked.

“You guys got in a fight on the street. Either you were knocked out by your assailants, or the guard did so bringing you in. They used some sort of drug or sorcery to knock Wulf out for most of the night.” Weslynn explained what she knew to the dwarf.

Mensa looked to see if he had his standard tools, which he carried in his pack, but no, the pack was stacked against the wall near a weapons rack on the other side of the room. He did, however have a nail that he had picked up and put in a pocket.

Weslynn saw that Wulf was fully awake. She needed more blood, but this didn’t look like a very good time to get it. The right thing to do would be to untie the wolfman. That wouldn’t be easy. The rope was twined and knotted in such a way that there was very little slack. The main knot was on Wulf’s back, down low near his hips. The guards in Khazan certainly knew how to immobilize a prisoner.

It took a few minutes, but with Wulf alternately straining with all his might, and then relaxing, she managed to get a little slack, and once she had that the knot was quickly undone. She unwrapped the Wulf until the only thing restraining him was a heavy manacle clamped across both writsts. In the process she gained about 20 feet of sturdy hempen rope.

As soon as the ropes were removed, Wulf growled to Mensa to help him with the chains. “Don’t be afraid,” he told Weslynn and his Dwarf friend. “I am in control right now, and I need my Wolf to help me get unshackled”. Hair sprang from Wulf’s skin, and his head morphed suddenly into the head of a huge brown wolf. Dwarf and Wolf then applied all their strength against the restraints that held the Wolfman, who growled savagely with the effort.

Weslynn added her strength to the chain breaking effort, trying to act normally.

Strain as they might, they could not break the shackles on Wulf’s arms.

Mensa pulled the nail out of his pocket and looked at it. His eyes lit up. “Wulf friend come over where Mensa can reach him,” he called out “Mensa can break chain.”

Wulf shrugged the wolf back into its cage, and took on his human form
again, keeping his eyes on the watch station door. He waited anxiously for Mensa to pick the locks of his bonds.

Wulf backed up to the bars of Mensa’s cell. Mensa clutched the nail in one fist then put his other hand under Wulf’s shackled wrists to steady them. “What are you . . .?” Wulf started to ask, when he suddenly felt a tremendous blow, not on his flesh, but in the center of the lock on the shackles. There was a kind of a popping, grating noise as the steel nail punched through the iron links of the heavy locking mechanism, and broke them. Mensa gripped Wulf’s arms, one in each hand and twisted in opposite directions, and the iron broke and fell away. Wulf felt like someone had tried to wrestle him to the ground, and failed, and his wrists ached a bit where the iron bit into them before falling off, but he brought both arms in front of his body for the first time in the last half day.

Mensa let out a crow of delight. “Friend Wulf not chained any more. We leave this place now.”

“What are you prisoners doing?” said the watch corporal who just walked into the room.  It had been he who came in through the door from the street, having stepped out about half an hour earlier when everyone was sleeping.  Weslynn hadn’t been asleep, but she wasn’t paying much attention to Margtan the guard.

“Good work, Mensa, I am impressed at your skill and strength, breaking the lock with the iron nail like that.” Weslynn nods to the dwarf.

Mensa replied to the guard, “Freeing Wulf-friend, o’course.”

Weslynn looked at the guard, from the darkest corner of the cell, hoping he would not notice anything amiss about her.

Mensa had to wonder if the guard was blind or just dumb. Couldn’t he SEE what they were doing?

Wulf bent and pulled up his trousers and fastened them about his waist. “A gentleman would not inquire into what was going on here,” he growled. “Would it trouble you to help me remove these broken shackles from my wrists. I had no idea your budgets were so stingy as to make you use this inferior equipment and weak restraints. Do not be concerned,” he added, seeing the corporal’s suspicious mien. “See. I am my poor weak human self again. The wolf has gone to bed.”

Wulf used his skilled bouncer’s eye to evaluate the Uruk guard.  He whispered to Weslynn to pretend he was attacking her if that occurred and to help him grab the guard if the Uruk got close to the cell door. “Bite the b@st@rd if you have to,” he whispered.

The uruk backed away from Wulf’s cell. If the prisoner could break iron shackles, there was no telling what else he could do. Although he had strict orders never to disturb the captain between midnight and dawn, this might be the exception to the rule. He rushed through the outer office and pounded on the door to the captain’s office. When he tried to open it and walk through, he found it locked. Of course the Captain wouldn’t want anyone to walk in on him when he was snoring away drunk. Margtan the guard pounded harder and started to shout, “Wake up, Captain!”

“Hraka” said Wulf, heatedly. “Crom curse these b@st@rds! Well, make them come in after us. I’m pretty dangerous in a small area like this where you can’t effectively use a big weapon. If I can’t find my knuckledusters, I have this chain and the broken shackles to use. If they do come in, pretend to rush to one of them for ‘help’, and then knee him hard in the groin, while I give them a lesson in hand to hand mayhem! Unbutton your blouse. It will look like I ripped it open when I pretend to be raping you.  Mensa! If one of the bad Gobbles falls close to your bars, grab his head and bang it repeatedly against the iron bars. But you can stop when he quits moving.”

Weslynn, in her shadowy corner of the cell, ripped her blouse open.

Wulf watched for the guard’s response and waited to see who was coming and how they were reacting. He was also a little curious to know why the watch stations door was standing open. “Don’t be afraid, Weslynn,” he whispered. “I will do my best not to hurt you, but I must look convincing to draw them into the cell.” He grabbed the young woman with his left hand around her waist and pulled her hips tight against his. He moved them into the darker part of the cell where it would be hard to see exactly what was going on, and was practically guaranteed to look really bad! “If they come, cry ‘Rape! Rape! Oh Help Me!’ ” said Wulf going thru some convincing motions.

Mensa tried to remember everything Wulf had said. But why was Wulf now attacking Weslynn? He moved towards that end of his cell to get a better look, to make sure no one got hurt.

Weslynn struggled under Wulf’s hands, doing her best not to actually break free, but make it look convincing.
“Hey! Let me go! HELP! YOU BEAST! ” She cried loudly as she could, muffled slightly by his lips against hers, beating at his back with her hands.

Wulf and Weslynn were putting on quite a show, all for the benefit of the lone urukish guard currently in the building. Wulf should have known better. Uruks loved rough sex–it was practically the only kind they ever got.

The guard was more concerned that Wulf was no longer tied up and chained. He wouldn’t have opened that cell if the building were on fire–at least not without direct orders from the captain. Wulf must have been spending too much time with humans, or perhaps reading romance novels if he thought that trick would fool anyone.

Weslynn screamed, Wulf growled, Mensa said “what, what?”

Finally the captain’s door opened. It seemed to take forever, though only two or three minutes had elapsed since Margtan the guard started beating on it.

“Wha’s going on?” slurred Bohgus.

Margtan looked back at the cell. It looked like the wolfman was either attacking or perhaps raping the woman in the cell with him. “Sir, the wolfman is attacking the woman.” he said.

Bohgus was coming to life. “Really, how did he get free?”

“Um the woman and the dwarf must have freed him.”

“Then it serves her right,” snarled Bohgus. “She’ll be sorry she ever threatened me.”

“But, sir!” protested the guard.

“Oh, very well! Get a crossbow. If it looks like he’s killing her, you can shoot him. Under no circumstances are you to open that cell door until we have a wizard and more guards here just in case.”

Whether it was cowardice or cunning, Bohgus was a master of avoiding situations that might put his life in danger.

Mensa turned to the human and the uruk. “What you said? Can’t hear you good. Speak up!”

Wulf realized his plan was futile, a complete fiasco now. He sighed, and stepped away from Weslynn. “Do not concern yourself for the lady,” he said. “She was never in danger. I sought to draw you into the cell so I could attempt an escape. It was a ruse. But chivalry is apparently dead here in Khazan. Go back to your bed and your bottle.” He turned to Weslynn: “Dear lady, forgive me. I have made a complete ass of myself here, and beg you not to judge me too harshly. I will make no more trouble for any here tonight.” He sat down against the wall, sighed again, and closed his eyes. “Let whatever comes, come then, and be damned!”

Weslynn sat beside Wulf, again on the most shadowy side, leaning against him, sitting back, watching the outside area, and Mensa in the next cell.

She shifted till her lips were as close as she could get them, and whispered softly, for Wulf alone, “I am sorry to have failed convincing them to free you. I lost my temper and ended up joining you. I am also sorry for my feeding without permission. I am thirsty, and was afraid if I waited too long I would lose control and gorge myself on all. I am…new at this. Still, I fed but little on you, my hunger was not sated, my strength is not what I feel it could be…I am rapidly approaching where I was before… I don’t think I’ll be in control properly until I do.”

She gestured to the area beyond her cell. “If it comes to breaking out, it will be easier if I am stronger, not…dehydrated, no?”

Wulf took up the cell’s tattered blanket and covered Weslynn’s and his head and shoulders. He offered his neck. “What I give, I give here feely.” he whispered. “At least this will be one thing I have done today that does not give me shame. It is what I deserve for my failures. If I die, do not let them have my body, or burn it. My kind are hard to keep down.”

Weslynn kissed Wulf on his neck, then she licked it lightly, savoring it’s flavor, and then whispered, “I accept your offer. But bare your leg again, I do not wish to leave wounds that are indiscreet…”

Wulf sighed, and pulled up the pants leg of his trousers above the knee.
He gave the blanket to Weslynn, and lay back against the wall.

“Weslynn covered herself with the blanket, and whispered to Wulf, “Watch that we are unobserved by the guards, and keep Mensa calm…”

She paused then, and looked at him again, “Should I draw too much, you feel your life threatened, or should the guard return, stop me.”

With those words, she found the earlier bite marks, largely healed by Wulf’s curse…and resumed her feeding.

She bit down, hard, grasping onto Wulf’s legs with all her strength as she did so, drawing fiercely upon his body’s reservoir of life. She drank her fill, till her weakness and incompleteness were gone. Sshe could feel Wulf’s blood as a part of her, as his soul would be now, linked to her by the kremm within.

She tried to keep a watch for the edge of no return as the beast within her was satisfied, and her transformation completed, the point where her feeding would endanger her host. She could only hope that she would stop herself, or Wulf…or Wolf would stop her.

Mensa had something of an idea, but stinky human and big gobble were still watching Wulf and Weslyn. Was that gobble whistling?

Driven by her desperate need of blood, Weslynn fed on the acquiescent Wulf. Mensa sat back down on his cot, saying, “Friends should not bite friends.”

The blood in her mouth was thrilling, but it soon began to lose its tang–becoming bitter and sour to her taste. After taking about a quart, the taste had changed to repulsive, and she stopped. Her stomach was full; her eyes glazed over with satisfaction, her face smeared with blood.

Weslynn’s mind was now preternaturally clear. As she withdrew her face from Wulf’s thigh, she noted that his blood continued to flow. This could not be good for him. She tore off a piece from the bottom of her blouse and improvised a bandage which she applied and knotted tightly around his leg. Blood soaked the bandage in an instant, but then began to clot and after a few seconds the wound quit bleeding. That didn’t mean there wasn’t a mess, and a small pool of coagulating blood on the floor of the cell.

After the first sharp pang of her teeth penetrating his flesh, Wulf found a strange lassitude overcoming him. Within seconds it all began to seem like a dream to him. He closed his eyes and sank into lethargy. A warm, happy feeling rose up in him. He lost the power to think, and submerged into a dream-like pleasure.

Captain Bohguss had gone back into his office, but Guardsman Margtan was in the same room with the prisoners. He lit an oil lamp and built up the flame to produce as much light as possible. Thus he saw most of what Weslynn and Wulf did. The cell wasn’t very deep, and the blanket was little more than a rag. He could see the blood that spilled on the floor, and he could smell it with his keen uruk senses. He saw Wulf sink into lethargy, saw Weslynn raise her bloody face and then improvise a tourniquet. His eyes grew wide as he tried to understand why she was biting him, and why he allowed it. He hated to disturb the Captain again, so he got his crossbow ready, cocked it, and left it lying on top of his desk.

Weslynn, noticing the guard watching, “Your punishment for beating me around like a whore for your amusement. Let’s see if some time bleeding out on the floor doesn’t calm your stupid raging man-beast!” Weslynn spat, trying to mislead the guard as to what was going on.

Mensa was already angry with Weslynn for biting Wulf, and wouldn’t have stood for it, had not Wulf acquiesced. “What is you talking about, Lady? Wulf not hurt you!”

Wulf dreamed of his childhood, his sweet mother, and stern, but loving father and uncles. He dreamed of hunting in the great forest and fishing in the streams, and playing with his friends. And then, there came pain, a bat was biting him on the leg, but in the strange paralysis of nightmares, he could not move to defend himself or drive it away. Somewhere on a distant mountain a wolf howled in sorrow and pain. And then came blessed darkness and silence…

Mensa wished the gobble guard would go to sleep. Oddly enough, the little dwarf wasn’t the least bit tired.

Margtan the guard decided that the Captain needed to know about what was happening in the cell. He quickly walked over to the Captain’s door and pounded on it.

Out in the street the group heard an uruk voice shouting, “Captain, come out. “The woman is eating the man!”

The pounding on the door and the shouting uruk woke Wulf up. He hadn’t been very deeply asleep. Weslynn was just pulling his pants back up to cover the bite. She had a bit of a glazed look in her eyes.

Wolf, confused as to where he was, stood up. Weslynn noticed some subtle changes in his appearance: He had more and coarser hair, he was a little bigger than before, and he had a wolf’s eyes. So far he still looked human and was recognizable as Wulf. He looked atound, and said in a gravelly voice: “Where…?? What…??” He looked at Weslynn, and sniffs. “Blood…?! My blood…??” He shook himself and went to the cell door to see better what was going on in the station. Absentmindedly he wrapped the chain from the shackles around his left fist, and took the two shackles on his right fist like a knuckleduster. Weslynn sensed that this was no longer the Wulf she knew and fed on. This guy was definitely dangerous, and he meant business. Where Wulf would have talked and reasoned, Wolf would act, and, if he was confronted, there would be bad consequences. Wolf took hold of the cell door bars and tested their strength. He growled when they proved sturdy.

Gronk smelled blood inside the building. He could also smell Mensa, who was clearly upset about something, and Weslynn who seemed almost happy. But the blood odor was mixed with Weslynn’s spoor.

Weslynn wiped her mouth on Wulf’s already blood covered clothes, and then hugged him impulsively. “Thank you, Wulf. You’re a good man, so is your Wolf.”

She then turned and looked out at the guard and Mensa, taking stock of the situation, now that she had, at last, a clear head.

Mensa was shocked! First she hurt Wulf, then she hugged Wulf!?! Wha -?? “Shut up, gobble!” he growled at the guard. “Can’t hear Wessle!”

Gronk let out a snort.

“Something wrong, something smells wrong. Gronk smell blood. Must save Wulf and dwarf,” he said to the group. “Gronk no trust Weslynn, something smell wrong.”

He tightened his grip on his axe, and snorted again.

“Something very wrong.”

Wolf started briefly as Weslynn grabbed him in her impulsive hug. Wolves hate to have their personal space invaded, and she was lucky to escape a warning ‘nip’ in response. She felt him go tense, and noticed his eyes and eyebrows looked different. He smelled different too. His look said: careful there! I am not your dog! When she backed away, he turned and tested the air. Was that Gronk he smelled! His grip tightened on his shackles and the chain around his fist. If only that guard would come close enough. Wolf longed to break his sternum from top to bottom, to teach him not to threaten tied up prisoners in the future.

Hearing Wulf snuffling the air oddly, she turned and looked at him, closely, nothing the return of his strangeness, his monster coming to the fore.

“Wulf! Calm yourself, this is not the time. If you are the Wolf, they will never let you out, or they’ll shoot you with a damn crossbow.” Weslynn whispered urgently into his ear. “Calm yourself, let your Wulf out, this is not the time for claws. This is the time for reason.” She stood in front of him, unafraid, forcing him to look her in the eyes as she did her best to calm the beast within him.

Mensa smelled a familiar scent. “Dad?”

Wolf, pressed up against the bars, was still sniffing the air and trying to catch the other scents that he recognized. As Weslynn conntinued to pester him, he gave her a sideways glance and a warning growl.

Weslynn signed, and grabbed Wulf-Wolf’s head, forcing him with all her speed and strength to look her in the eyes, reaching out with her charisma, and her mind to their new bond, sending waves of calming authority along the kremm-blood bond, to where she could feel the anger and fury of the Wolf building. “WULF! Wake up! Now is not the time for your Wolf. Now is the time for reason, not fangs! Obey me, wake up, before our mistakes makes this night any worse!”

Zhanh’s first thought was that a jailbreak was already in progress, and that it was going badly. But the front door was open! “Huddle up!” he hissed. “Get as close together as possible.” Once they had done so, he said, “I don’t think there is time for finesse. Lumlas can cast a Hidey Hole on all of us, and then we go through the door and see what is going on. We will be able to see each other, but no one else will be able to see us, I will work on opening any locks that are in our way. If… When we get our friends free, I will call for another huddle, and Lumlas will cast another Hidey Hole, and we will get out and head for the river dock. Gronk, grab Mensa and make sure he comes along; carry him if he gets stubborn. Perry, you are in charge of making Wulf understand and come along; Edurin, you do the same for Weslynn. Try not to kill any guards, but we need to get in and out FAST. Ready?”

Perry shuffled up to Lumlas. ‘Sure, Zhanh. You can count on me. If anyone hears me yell ‘Firestorm’, look to see where I’m pointing and make sure you’re 20′ away from me on the other side. I hope I’m not going to have to use it but you sure don’t want to be caught up in it if I do! I’ll give you 3 seconds after I shout the warning.’ Then Perry began to fret about the responsibility of making Wulf be calm – he could imagine a raging beast rather than a compliant and grateful rescued person.

“Gronk will grab Dwarf-friend.”

Lumlas cast the Hidey Hole and said, “Spell’s done; time to go,” and turned toward the door.

Edurin nodded acknowledging the Minotaur’s request. He checked his pack one last time. Everything was tied down tight. Nothing to rattle or jingle. He pointed to the side of the door, then to himself, and back to the door. A silent message to indicate he would post at the exit to handle the retreat.

Captain Bohgus had a foldable cot inside his office–normally stashed out of the way, but used at night when he rested while he should have been working. He was sprawled on it with a bottle of whiskey in his hand when the sargent started pounding on his door again.

Reluctantly, he put the bottle down and staggered to the door. Margtan was babbling something about the woman eating the male prisoner and blood. He pushed the door open . . .

. . . just as the door to street was pushed open. Did he hear footsteps? Something like hooves on the wooden floorboards. Hooves? Didn’t he see a minotaur earlier?

Bohgus wasn’t smart. He wasn’t brave. He did have a knack for staying alive. He grabbed Margtan, who was just turning to face the street door and jerked his uruk sargent back into his office. Then he slammed the door and dropped the bolt into place–the bolt that was an addition to the lock built into the doorknob.

“Somebody is out there,” he hissed. “We have to get help, and we need it fast. You run to the Central Watch station and summon help. I’ll try to stay and find out what’s heppening. Blow your whistle! Send any patrols you see to our location.” This might seem like a brilliant plan for a drunk to come up with on the spur of the moment, but it was, in fact, the number one standard response to what to do if the Watch House was invaded by hostiles. Bohgus had read it 100 times or more, and even practiced it.

He pushed aside his desk, moved a throw rug, and revealed a trap door in the floor. It was not locked, and with Bohgus going first, the two cops evacuated the office, never even looking back through a peephole to see what was going on inside the station.

The invisible Fellowship of the Vine surged into the Watch station just in time to see Bohgus jerk his urukish sargent back into his own office and shut the door. They heard a heavy bolt fall into place.

It seemed kind of anti-climactic. All that preparation, and there was no resistance at all.

Wulf and Weslynn shared one cell. They seemed to be staring into each other’s eyes in something of a hostile confrontation.

The party found Wulf, Weslynn, and Mensa locked into two cells. No keys were evident. Wulf had bits of chain wrapped around his knuckles, and looked like he wanted to kill something. Both Wulf and Weslynn smelled of blood to Gronk’s keen senses. It should be a simple matter to get them out of their cells, recover their weapons and equipment, stashed around the office somewhere, but not obviously in sight, and exit. The only question was, would they succeed in doing this before reinforcements arrived?

That dreadful feeling was overcoming Edurin. Sometimes if it was too easy, those were the times to worry. At least the others were inside while he was outside… He looked around for any nearby patrols while trying his best to nonchalantly hang around outside the front door.

Perry whispered to Gronk ‘Can you break those bars? Now would be a good time, I think.’

Gronk gripped one of the bars of Wulf’s cage and tried to bend it to one side enough to allow Wulf to exit the cage.

Perry spoke to Wulf gently. ‘You look as if you have had a bad night, my friend. We have come to get you away from here. Things won’t be easy if we don’t all stick together now. Will you follow me away from this place, down to the docks?’

Edurin was standing in the shadows near the front door to the Watch station when he saw a 5 person squad of guardsman round a corner and walk briskly in his direction. It looked like there was a dwarf, 3 humans or uruks, and either an ogre or a troll in the group. They were obviously heading back for the station. The big one was carrying a bag over its shoulder and something inside it was struggling to get out, though not successfully.

Gronk grunted and snorted fiercely as he pulled the lower bar on Wulf’s cage.

Wulf, jerked violently out of his coma, fell back into the bars. He stared at Weslynn with horror in his eyes.

“Mensa has better idea. Nail worked on Wulf’s chains. Nail work on door lock.” And Mensa inserted the nail into the door’s lock.

Gronk strained every muscle and slowly bent the bar to the side. But even when he finished, and his body shook with the strain, it was doubtful that he had moved it enough. Weslynn ducked down and got through the wider opening, but when Wulf tried it he found himself still too wide to get through. Perhaps if he took his armor off.

Gronk moved over to Mensa’s cell and tried again, but he stopped abruptly with a curse. His arm felt like string, and seemed to have hardly any strength at all. This time the bar didn’t bend.

“Gronk hurt arm,” he said. “City steel very strong.”

“Good Khazahd steel,” said Mensa. “Mensa has better idea. Nail worked on Wulf’s chains. Nail work on door lock.” And Mensa inserted the nail into the door’s lock.” Except that the locks were not the same size. The nail hung loosely in the door’s lock, and when Mensa smacked it, it popped all the way through the door and landed on the floor. The lock was unaffected.

Zhanh pushed his way to Wulf’s cell and cast a level one Knock, Knock on the lock. “Weslyn,” he said, “Find your gear. Mensa, Wulf, if you know where your gear is, point it out; someone will grab it for you.”

Seeing that Wulf was fairly calm, Perry beckoned Lumlas to the door to see how Edurin was doing, wanting to stay invisible.

Edurin shouted out loudly, “at last watchmen!” he anxiousness visible. “Something terrible has happened over by the Grinning Goblin! All the guards rushed out from here to go gather more watchmen to help! You did see them right?!”

He moved to put himself between the front door and the approaching guards.

The Dwarf swaggered up to Edurin. “What are you doing here?” he demanded.

An uruk said, “Grinning Goblin? Not our precinct.”

The wolf troll shouldered forward. “I wanna dump this prisoner. As he stepped toward the doorway, one hand reached out to push Edurin out of his way, his black wolf-like nostrils twitched. “This man is lying.” he snarled. “Alert!”

Wolf trolls are a rare breed of flesh trolls on Trollworld. Usually about 12 to 15 feet tall, they are completely furred and have a bushy tail. The body is lycanthroid, more wolf-like than human, but walks erect on two hind feet, while two front feet are actually arms. The head is wolf-like but has massive crunching jaws, but it has a fully domed skull–there is a big brain inside the animalistic form. Vocal chords are fully developed and wolf trolls can speak normally. This one was wearing leather armor that has been specially made for him. He should be carrying a pike, but left it in a safe place in order to carry the prisoner.

“Take him down!” snarled the Dwarf, launching a vicious blow at Edurin’s knees with the truncheon he was carrying. Edurin jumped back, and the Dwarf missed him.

At that moment Perry stuck his invisible head out the door, only to have the rapidly retreating Edurin bump right into him and knock him down. The contact also negated Perry’s invisibility.

Axe in hand, Gronk snorted furiously and bull-charged the Troll with his head/horns in the lead.

“My friends! You have come for us! Many thanks!” She paused, noticing some of them are ever so slightly hazy, and then noticed Perry pop out of the hazyness after running into Edurin outside. “How very odd,” she thought, but now is not the time for an explanation. Clearly some magic.”

As soon as Perry saw what was outside, he leaned past Edurin, careful to avoid his companion and the dwarf, and, as he heard Gronk moving behind him, cast a web spell at the Watch group, before stepping out of Gronk’s way and back inside.

Edurin danced further away laughing, “Glad you are not stupid. Who wants a good fist fight? I bet I could take the troll.” Edurin made no move for his weapons. Fighting the watch was dangerous enough. Assault with a deadly weapon would not do much good. “Hey my friend, you ready for some chaos?” He could only hope Perry was ready for his special spell. Edurin didn’t know what to expect, but could trust a wizard to make a tough situation much more chaotic.

Wulf rushed about searching for his shield, helm, and kukri.  He hoped to find his spear and morning star or Mensa’s shovel.  He wanted nothing to do with Weslynn at that point. The pack was in danger; there were foes to be fought!

Wulf could smell the Wolf Troll, and he redoubled his efforts to find a weapon, any weapon. He began to chant the death song of his clan as he frantically searched for anything he could use to defend his friends..

“Wait! Wait wait wait!” hollered Mensa. He could see his pack lieing against the opposite wall, but what he really wanted to find was his lucky nail.

Gronk, first into the fray, jumped over Perry, surged past Edurin, and took the wolf troll by surprise. It barely had time to react as Gronk swung a two-handed axe blow at it. The troll threw one massively muscled arm into the path of the descending axe.
Edurin planned to evade the Watchmen without actually fighting them, but was knocked off his feet as Gronk brushed him as he surged past. He rolled over in the street, and when he came rightside up again, he was looking into the face of an uruk patrolman who held a short pike only inches from his chest. ‘Surrender!” grunted the uruk.

Wulf collected himself enough to start searching. A big wooden cabinet on the far side of the room caught his attention, perhaps because it said “WEAPONS’ on it. When he ripped it open, the first thing he saw was his morning star, hanging inside on a peg, right next to Mensa’s war shovel. His shield wasn’t there, but any other weapons he had been carrying were.

With a roar of satisfaction, he snatched up the star and turned toward the front door, currently clogged up with Perry on his hindquarters and the minotaur’s back just going through it. Although Wulf hadn’t seen anytthing outside the station yet, he smelled the wolf troll and knew it was out there. He began to chant a death song as he turned to enter the fight.

Mensa saw his shovel almost immediately after Wulf shredded the cabinet. Scrambling over to get it, he tripped on his nail and snatched it up on his way. At least he tried to. He zoomed right on Wulf’s heels, shovel raised and shouting “FOR — uh – US!!”

Wulf rushed towards the door with his morningstar in one hand and his spear in the other, chanting in his native tongue;
“Ho, Wolf-father, Ho, Pack leader.
Now I go to join the fray!
May my fangs and jaws be worthy!
Take me if I die this day.
Spirit given at my birthing.
Rise and come and give me aid.
But if Death’s cold jaws should seize me
Let us face him unafraid!”
Wulf reached deep inside for his wolf, trying to coax it out of the cage where the vampire spell had driven it. If he was going down, he wanted his spirit brother to go into the next world with him.

Zhanh decided that he would be best off if he avoided the tangle in the doorway, and moved so that he could watch both the door to the captain’s office (to be able to react to a surprise re-appearance) and the main door (to be ready if a target of opportunity presented itself). Lumlas was bewildered by all the seemingly random action, and Zhanh told her that she should look though any obvious storage areas.

“Ok, ok you’ve got me.” Edurin will wait for an opening. Being on the ground is the best location to both be trampled and trip others. He waited for the wolftroll to drop the bag with their current prisoner.

Lumlas did as Zhanh suggested, but called back, “We need to get outside; shout as soon as the door is clear.”

“Right!” Zhanh answered.

Perry’s web spell was only partially successful. It entangled one uruk and the human in the party. The dwarf and the wolf troll had been too far forward to be hit, and the last member of the party had been just out of range behind it all. He came up quickly and got the drop on Edurin as that sailor rolled to the side of the door.

Wulf leaped over Perry, already in full battle chant. His nostrils told him there was a wolf troll outside, though he hadn’t seen it yet.

But Gronk was ahead of him. The minotaur caught the troll by surprise. It raised an arm to fend off the stroke and took a greivous wound that almost amputated it. The troll went over backwards, almost jerking the axe out of Gronk’s hands. Hot, dark crimson blood sprayed everywhere. It let out a very surprised yelp and dropped its bag which then popped open. The creature inside struggled to get out.

Wulf’s nearest target of opportunity was the dwarven leader of the squad. The barbarian warrior saw immediately that the troll was down, and that Gronk was following up on his surprise attack. The dwarf had a truncheon in one hand and was just pulling a sax almost as big as he was out of its back scabberd. The dwarf saw Wulf appear and whipped around to face him.

The guardsmen hadn’t expected an ambush at the door to their Watch staion. The troll had been carrying a prisoner and was unarmed. The only fighter who could react quickly was the squad leader dwarf.

Gronk bared his teeth and snorted, then swung his axe at the troll again.

Wulf burst out of the door howling his death song, and, seeing the dwarf as the only target of opportunity, tried to strike him a disabling rather than a killing blow with the morning star. Instread of the head he aimed for the shoulder or arm holding the sax, as it would be impossible to wield a weapon with a broken arm or shoulder.

Perry scrambled to his feet and the door was clear. Outside, the combat had moved away from the door into the street.

The uruk guarding the prone Edurin growled, “Squad in trouble.” He shifted his grip, planning a disabling leg wound at his prisoner so he could go to the aid of the two entangled. Edurin saw the uruk’s eyes shift and the pike draw back a little.

Wulf tried to strike the Dwarf commander a disabling blow as he went by, but saw the little fellow duck underneath his swipe, stick his leg between Wulf’s legs, and take a vicious swipe at the barbarian’s head as he went down. Luckily for Wulf, his speed and the Dwarf’s short arm, caused the knife blow to slide along the armor on his shoulder, raising sparks, but doing no damage. Falling, Wulf tried to tuck and roll, and still hang onto his weapons.

The wolf troll sprang back up to his feet even as Gronk strode into him and cut again with his axe. This time the troll did not even try to block with his arm–he only had one functioning arm left. He interposed with his leather-armored chest, and though Gronk struck at his head, the troll was nimble enough to move to the side and take the blow on chest armor. the axe crashed through the leather armor and buried its head deeply in the fur-covered muscles of the troll’s upper torso.) The mighty blow staggered the troll, but did not knock it down this time. The troll’s left hand carried no weapon, but came down, groping for a hold, on top of Gronk’s head.

Mensa stopped and picked up his nail, then put it back into the same pocket he originally took it out of.

The gharg managed to struggle its way out of the sack. Both hands and feet were shackled, but its wings remained unbound. With a leap and some mighty flaps of its wings, which had the effect of buffeting the uruk and the human currently entangled in Perry’s web, it fought its way into the sky and flapped up out of the battle, disappearing into the darkness of the night sky.

Now that he had his lucky nail, Mensa grabbed his shovel and, raising it over his head, rushed out the door. Wulf was singing a war song, and Mensa knew a warrior should have at least a battle cry.

“FOR – uh – Grimelgris – no, um – GRIDDLEGRIM!!”

Gronk yanked his axe back.

Edurin used the opportunity to roll away from the uruk, while shouting the command, “Watch out!! The gharg!!!” His goal was simple avoid being hit and take advantage of the distraction. Edurin would get back on his feet at the best opportunity.

Perry was almost bemused at the different scenes of violence unfolding around him. For all his diligence as a student in the forests, he had never had to contemplate so many choices at the same time before. Remembering the attitudes of uruks towards elves in this city, he picked on one of the breed and threw a Hold That Pose ( rolls 3,4 makes INT SR ) on the guard by Edurin. ‘Give him one for the forest boys, Eddy!’ he screamed at the sailor.

Edurin rolled frantically. His shout about the gharg caused the uruk to take his eyes off him for a second and in that second Perry cast Hold That Pose on the guard, who forgot what he was doing, as he turned and looked back into the street. Seeing that he was unopposed, Edurin came to his feet.

The Dwarf tripped Wulf as he went by. Wulf managed to tuck and roll as he went down. He held onto his morning star and delivered an off-balance blow to the wolf-troll’s legs, smacking into his leather shin greaves with considerable force, but the impact jarred the spear out of his hand and it flew wide, doing no damage to anyone.

Mensa came out the door with warshovel raised just a few seconds behind Wulf. He saw the big barbarian go down. He heard the dwarf patrol leader snicker and start to leap toward Wulf’s unprotected back. He had his war shovel ready to smash.

Wulf’s unexpected and unplanned morning star strike came right at the wolf troll’s left ankle (doing 20 points of damage after adjusting for armor) and breaking the bone. The troll howled and switched its weight to its other foot. The big trollish hand came down on Gronk’s head with stunning force. The troll gripped Gronk by a horn and tried to throw him off to one side against a wall. Momentarily stunned, it was all Gronk could do to hold onto his axe as he abruptly sailed through the air and smacked into a stone wall. He fell heavily to the street, unconscious, and the axe dropped from his hand.

Wulf rolled to his feet and whirled the ‘star in a pattern to strike at any target of opportunity. He also glanced about to see if he had any chance to recover the spear without endangering himself. Seeing Gronk, his friend, knocked out, he howled a war whoop and launched himself at the wolf troll aiming his ‘star to do maximum damage.

As he launched himself towards the foe he prayed to the wolf father that one of the wizards would thow some kind of spell on the huge monster so he would have a snowflakes chance of really hurting it.

Mensa frantically defended his surrogate father: “NO HURT WULF!!!”  He felt concern: Why would a dwarf try to hurt Wulf? That was something gobbles would do!

Seeing all the havoc, Perry shouted to Zhanh and Lumlas that someone should go tend to Gronk. He then passed a flask of oil from his pack to Jeeves along with matches and instructed the invisible servant to tip the oil on the wolf troll and then ignite the bugger.

“Lumlas!” Zhanh shouted. “The door is clear; get out of here! Run!”

Lumlas looked up from her treasure hunt and followed the suggestion with Zhanh following close behind her. Lumlas saw that Gronk was down and ran toward him in the hope of helping. Zhanh tried to figure out where he could be most useful.

“Time to leave!” Edurin kicked out to sweep the uruk off his feet then rip the pike from the uruk’s hands.

Leaving sounded good to Zhanh. He rushed to help Lumlas with Gronk; they needed to get him on his feet as quickly as possible.

Lumlas put most of her available kremm into a Poor Baby on Gronk: barring a bad feeling, she heals him for five points of damage (rolled 5,1).

‘One more for good measure,’ thought Perry. Subject to their being nothing else to attract his concern, Perry threw a Hold That Pose spell at the dwarf

Mensa came up behind the dwarf patrolman, and the officer never had a chance. A stunning blow took him on the side of the head and laid him out cold, severely concussed and with a broken skull.

To everyone’s surprise but Perry’s, the wolf troll suddenly caught on fire. With a howl that woke everyone within a half mile radius, the troll threw himself backward, dropped and rolled, but since he was doused in oil, that didn’t seem to do him much good.. The danger was now that in his frantic twitching, he would set other things on fire. A flying spark hit the downed dwarf’s beard and it caught. Then Edurin spun his legs and tripped the bespelled uruk who fell right into the flaming troll with unfortunate results.

Even though it was the darkest time of the night, and most people were asleep, all the howling, fighting, screaming and other combat noises were bound to rouse people. The door to the Dog’s Bone tavern crashed open and the bartender and his night bouncer came out to see what was going on.

The human Watchman was a wizard, but he wasn’t Service. He had no idea why these beings were attacking his squad, but if they weren’t stopped soon, he and his squad mates might soon be dead. Although it went against all his training, he tried something that cops almost never do. Talking.

“Stop!” he shouted in his most commanding voice. “We surrender. Do whatever you want, but don’t kill us! We are the Khazan Watch!”

Edurin came to his feet and saw the watchman he’d just tripped fall into a flaming troll. That broke the spell. The uruk broke the spell and began beating at the flames that were attacking his tabard. Edurin grabbed the pike.

Lumlas and Zhanh ran over to Gronk. Lumlas cast a healing spell on him. Gronk opened his big eyes to see the two elves staring down at him with worried expressions. He had the granddaddy of all headaches, but otherwise seemed to be unhurt.

Mensa took a moment to pound the lower spine of the uuk when it fell. “That keep big gobble out of way!” He looked up in disappointment: “Flying gobble got away. Bummer.”

Suddenly there was no one left to fight, but lights were going on in nearby buildings. Doors and windows were opening. Edurin’s idea about it being time to go was certainly appropriate.

Wulf forced his rage and the Berserker fury back as he ran to avoid the flames. Wulf hated fire and had had a taste of burning oil as a mercenary in the baronial wars. Having heard the surrender offer, he stopped attacking, but stayed ready to fight if anyone else raised their hand against him or his friends. He quickly made his way to Gronk and to Mensa, stopping just for a moment to extinguish the Dwarf captain’s beard.

Mensa glared at Wulf. “What???! Fight just started!?”

Zhanh blinked once at the sudden change in fortune. “Is there anyone who has a better idea than moving on to our next destination immediately?”

“YES!!!!” shouted Mensa. “Punish bad men and gobble! And get our stuff.”

‘Come on!’ Perry urged. “Let’s get out of here – now! Invisibility would be nice, Zhanh… ‘Wulf, Mensa, Edurin, Gronk – we’re going to the docks and don’t get distracted by anything!’

“NEED OUR STUFF!” grouched Mensa, as he walked back into the station to find his stuff and Wulf’s. Cranky Lady could look for her own.

“Thank you, elf-friends. Gronk owe you life.”

Wulf scanned the street for danger, and not seeing any real threats, ran after Mensa to make a last quick look around the station for his shield, and any other useful items (Mensa’s gold would be good). Wulf hoped Weslynn had been busy looking too. His search completed, he hustled Mensa out into the street again, ready to go with the pack, wherever they chose.

Mensa was shocked! “WAIT!! WULF!!! PUT ME DOWN!! WANNA BURN JAIL!!!”

“Come on, now,” said Wulf to the struggling dwarf. “We must help Perry and Gronk and others to get away from this awful place. Go to docks. Take ride on boat and get out of this furshluggina dung heap of a city. It smells like a cess pit here! Maybe come back later and burn watch station. Go now before too many gobbles and trolls come to fight us!”

‘Good to see you two,’ Perry smiled as he saw his two shopping companions again. ‘I hate this city and I bet you do too, friends!’

“Let’s GO!” Zhanh shouted. “We need distance!” Zhanh wanted to get around one corner and then try to cast a Hidey Hole; he wished the odds were better.
Weslynn searched for her hatchet and shield, took whatever she could find, looked for the other’s shields and gold, as Mensa and Wulf had inquired about. She also looked around before she left to see if anyone had dropped a better weapon than her hatchet that she could use, before heading off with the others to the docks.
Mensa crashed back into the jailhouse and started ripping open every cabinet and drawer he could find. He found some extra pikes and truncheons, and he found the keys to the cells inside the sargent’s desk drawers. He found a bag with all his personal effects in it, except his money. There was no trace of that in the general watch room.
Weslynn had her hatchet in one hand and a Watch Pike in the other. The pike was a finely balanced weapon (5D6 + 3). Since she hadn’t brought any money with her, she hadn’t lost any. She had also found Wulf’s shield, and was looking forward to returning it to him.When Zhanh suggested they make a speedy retreat to the river, she thought that sounded like the best idea of the evening.
When hostilities ceased, the Watch wizard immediately called Water on the still burning troll. There was little left of the wolf troll but a blackened twitching ruin, and yet it was not dead. If given a couple of days, the troll would regenerate. The Dwarf whose beard had caught on fire was not so lucky. His face was badly burned, and the Watch wizard was using the last of his kremm trying to heal the burn wounds. As for the uruk who caught on fire, he, too, was badly scorched, but had run away to seek help from the next nearest watch station.
Wulf was delighted to get his shield back, and recovered his fine sharp spear from the street. He wished they had found his helm as well, but he could get along without it, or perhaps borrow Mensa’s extra hat. He was wound up now, and did his best to encourage the rest to head for the river before watch reinforcements arrived.
Gronk regained his feet, and his axe, then started towards the docks. He looked over his shoulder at Weslynn, then at Wulf.”Wulf-friend OK?”
Mensa’s trouble-causing curiosity wouldn’t let him leave the keys behind. He carried all the other stuff that he could, especially his bag, outside.
“WHO WANTS WEAPONS?”
Wulf answered Gronk: “Just so glad to see you up and about. I was sure the troll was gonna make a meal of all of us! Thank Omvar for the wizard and his fire! He saved all our lives! And I am so glad to be out of that Hraka hole of a gaol. And I will be even more glad to show this cess pit of a city my backside as we sail away. This has been one of the worst experiences of my young life!”

Gronk looked Wulf in the eyes.

“Gronk smelled blood at watch station. Gronk no like smell of Weslynn. Gronk ask again, Wulf OK?” Gronk whispered to his friend.

Weslynn came out of the station with a few things in her hands, including Wulf’s shield.  After having given Wulf his shield back, and having taken a last look around for her shield, she hefted the pike she took from inside.
She stood there, looking around at her companions, who had rescued her from the consequences of her own out of control rage.”Friends, I think we should head for the river. While we head for the docks, I have a tale to tell you all, what happened inside the watch station, and the full truth about the theft of my wine.”Weslynn looked at each of her friends, in the eyes, and then turned to the shortest path to the docks and said, “It’s time we moved from here.”

Mensa: “Wulf! PUT ME DOWN and look through them weapons I piled up! See if there’s a Krisp for you!”
Edurin dropped the uruk’s pike into the nearest fire. He thought to himself, ‘Why does this always happen, I think of setting fire as a distraction, and a fire becomes reality without any effort from myself.’ He followed the others to the river docks.

The group had recovered most of their possessions from the Watch station.  In the street the human wizard and undamaged uruk were trying to help their wounded companions. With Wulf leading the way, they rapidly left the Dog’s Bone station and headed back toward the market, and from there north to the river docks.  The citizens of Khazan did nothing to hinder their escape.

High atop a nearby rooming house, a gharg managed to break the iron shackles holding its hands together.  In its dim mind it noted that it had been rescued by this group of strangers.  In a few minutes it freed itself from all restraints–a spell simple enough for even a gharg to learn got rid of the foot shackles.  Then it silently followed Weslynn’s group through the city.  The masters would want a report on these adventurers.

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Chapter 4: Part 1: The Rescuers   Leave a comment

Perry, Zhanh and Gronk crosseed the street and got a table at the Dog’s Bone tavern, planning to get a drink and see if Service would appear to help them out.

Perry turned to Zhanh. “Let’s leave the drinking til later and go straight to the Grinning Goblin to get the others. Service was quite nice to me really, considering the circumstance, but I think if Gronk is concerned about a trap we should pay heed. Let’s double our numbers and, with luck, double our chances of not running into something worse than we’ve already come up against. This might be a long night!”

Zhanh’s shoulders sagged. “Perry, we have a thirsty minotaur on our hands. Why don’t we take a few minutes, let Gronk have one drink, and have a VERY quiet conversation about our options.” He leaned closer to Perry and gestured to Gronk to get closer. “I don’t see why anyone would want to trap us here, for one thing. For another, in a private conversation I might be able to exaggerate my connection to the wizard’s guild a bit, and get Service to bend the rules just a little bit. I didn’t think there was much chance of doing that on the heels of Weslynn’s presentation.” He looked up briefly, then continued. “If Service doesn’t show, or if he can’t help us, then we go back to the Goblin and consider more… military options. But it’s a hard target, particularly if we don’t have anyone on the inside.” He looked up again, then said, “If you still want to leave now, fine, we will. Otherwise, I like cider, and Gronk likes pretty much anything that comes in a pitcher.”

“OK. Thanks, Zhahn. It’s been a long, tiring day and my nerves are a bit frayed, I’m afraid.” Perry walked to the bar and ordered a cider, a silverwood gris and a jug of ale.

When Perry returned with the drinks, Zhanh thanked him and gestured that the three should put their heads together. “It’s like this,” he said. “I have to say it: Weslyn’s rescue mission is insane. Fewer than a dozen people are going to infiltrate a fortress occupied by intelligent monsters, and recover a ‘treasure’ that we can’t even collectively LIFT? No wonder Service reacted negatively. IF service shows up, I am going to say that we going to try to scout the place for the Wizard’s Guild, and that the wine is just a cover story, which is at least partially true. The mention of the Wizard’s Guild might make him willing to help us a bit. We can, maybe, VERY carefully investigate the possibility of a bribe, but we don’t have much money, and can spare even less.”

Zhanh took a sip of his cider and savored it for a moment. “Of course, if Service doesn’t show up, then we fall back on jail break, which comes down to Hidey-Hole– which I can cast slightly better than 50% of the time, twice– and a few Knock-Knocks, and then running like hell. Bad odds, but a lot better than invading a castle full of vampires…”

“Gronk want to rescue his friend Wulf, and the little dwarf. Not care much about the one that smells wrong.”

Service entered the Dog’s Bone half an hour later and over a drink explained the facts of life in the big city. He mentioned that the Watch station would be practically deserted in the hour before dawn. Then he wished them well, and went home.

Perry, Zhanh, and Gronk finished their drinks and then made their way back to the Grinning Goblin.

Perry said to Zhanh as they got back to the Goblin and walked over to Lumlas and Edurin “Your round, I think. I’ll just have a Meadowblush as I shall need a clear head. I was thinking that along with your Hiding Hole spell I could be ready with my Fire Storm of Protest – it might well keep any guards from trying to stop Wulf, Weslynn and Mensa from leaving. It kinda causes confusion and disagreement. Will the Hiding Hole makes us all invisible or just you?”

Algris had apparently decided that this group really didn’t have his welfare in mind. He slipped away and went to the next tavern on the street, the Cherry Pit where he got himself a cheap bed in the common sleeping room. He knew where to find them in the morning if he decided to rejoin the group.

Edurin and Lumlas really never noticed that he had left them behind.

Edurin was curious about the turn of events. “Wulf, Mensa, and Gronk made a good impression on the Minotaur captain of the watch. Seems like we just go to him and ask for a favor…” He quickly realized the others were not listening. “Well, if we’re in for it, then I’ll keep watch outside to help block any pursuit.” Edurin’s plan was simple, prepare a nearby fire to distract any pursuit. He hoped minor arson would be unnecessary, but it was best to be prepared.

Zhanh came back from the bar with two pitchers of beer, a pitcher of water, and whatever they gave him when he asked for “Meadowblush” for Perry. “Edurin, that isn’t a half bad idea. If the watch captain will turn our people loose, we don’t have to break any more laws. We have some time before we can try a jailbreak, so if you want to head toward the other station and see if you can accomplish something– don’t go alone– please try.”

Zhamh poured himself some water and continued, “Hidey Hole covers several people who don’t have to stay together to stay invisible after the spell is cast. I can’t cast it reliably; if I can teach it to Lumlas, she will be able to hit it every time. My short term plan is to try to teach the spell to Lumlas, and then get a bit of sleep and recover my kremm, because I am exhausted.”

He took a long drink of water. “I really hope that Eduin can appeal to Captain Grynosk, but in the meantime we need to work out the details of our jailbreak.”

“Then I would like to stay close by you, Zhanh, in your Hiding Hole. I will be ready to cast my spell if it is needed and I am confident that I can perform successfully. I can also help put out a fire should anyone accidentally immolate themselves. This drink you brought me tastes quite odd – we do not make it with pepper nor does it have lumps floating in it. Would you think it rude if I were to remove these strangely slimey globules?”

“Come on Gronk let’s go find Captain … Grynosk,” he looked at Zhanh for confirmation. “Your minotaur elder(?) may be willing to help Wulf.” Edurin shouldered his pack thinking of the rented bed. Sometimes there is no easy path. “Zhanh, be careful. There’s a wizard killer working at night. No warriors to back you up. Perry, what about that dragon you met today. Was he friendly?” The dragon did not eat Perry, but Edirin knew very little about dragon kind. Maybe they did not indulge in ‘bush’ meat…

Edurin led the way letting Gronk cover his back. He kept his eyes open for trouble. The day was bad enough. Night in Khazan might be worse. He would start looking for Captain Grynosk back at the watch station. “Gronk, do you know where Captain Grynosk might be found?”

Zhanh tugged his forelock at Edurin. “Grynosk is right. And thanks for the warning; we will be as careful as we can in all things.”

Zhanh looked at Perry, and his drink, and said, “I suspect that the only way to offend the proprietors of this place is to set fire to their bar, Perry. But about your spell… I think it would be more useful as an initial diversion that later.” He started regrouping glasses on the table. “I have seen the Firestorm spell in action, and it often backfires. Imagine this glass is you, and these two glasses are Lumlas and me, and these three glasses are watchmen. You cast your spell, and the watchmen start arguing with each other, but Lumlas and I also start arguing, and try to pull you into it. As long as the spell lasts, the only one who will get anything useful done will be you, and when it is over, we will have wasted more than half of the duration of the Hidey Hole, and the watch will know that there are invisible idiots in the station.”

Zhanh took another drink of water. “On the other hand, if you were to lean against the station wall and cast the spell, you would probably catch one or more people inside, and THEY would start arguing with each other, which would mean that they would NOT be paying attention when we went in.”

‘That’s a good thoughts, Zhanh. I’ve only ever used that spell before to get out of school. It’s funny watching teachers argue and if some kids get caught up in it, that just adds to the mix. But the stakes are higher now so I am happy to follow your suggestion. There are other spells I can do afterwards if necessary that I have used more than once. Are we ready to go now? I shall get too sleepy if we wait much longer.”

Zhanh shook his head and counted off on his fingers. “First, a quick spell teaching session, then we finalize plans, then we take a nap to recover kremm and let the city fall asleep around us, and THEN we strike. And if we are lucky, Edurin and Gronk will come back in the meantime with the others, and save us the trouble.

Zhanh wiped a section of the table with his sleeve, then drew a rectangle with a wet fingertip. “The station is sort of fortified, so there is only one door. There is the main entry room, and then a door to the back where the cells are; it will likely be locked, and then there will be the cell doors. Let’s hope there are no more doors to go through.”

He put two copper pieces side by side at one corner of the “building”. “Lumlas and I will wait here, out of range of your Firestorm spell, Perry. You go to the place, just past the door, and cast “Firestorm”– that should catch most people in the main room, but not the cells. Then knock on the door. When they answer, say ‘Blessings of the Death Goddess’ —or anything else that strikes your fancy– and the join Lumlas and me. Lumlas will cast Hidey Hole on the three of us, the we go in– they probably won’t close the door because of the Firestorm– and then back to the cells– I will cast Knock Knocks as needed– gather our friends, Lumlas casts a second Hidey Hole on all of us, and then we get out as fast as we can and head to the docks.”

He took another drink of water, and looked at it sadly, wishing it were stronger. “Any comments? Perry? Lumlas?” He took a long swallow. “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy; gods of chaos find amuesment in our idiocy.”

“Gronk think we try Wolf watch station for Captain. Gronk talk to Grynosk.”

Gronk went with Edurin, eyes peeled, nose to the breeze, and axe ready for whatever trouble might arise.

“Gronk hope Grynosk is back from visiting minotaur elders. Gronk’s message for Captain stolen…” he continued to grumble to himself inaudibly.

Perry listened to Zhanh’s plan and nodded enthusiastically. “You were probably a great general in a former life. May your past selves always be by your side, friend.”

“Gronk how far away are the elders?” If Captain Grynosk left immediately after talking with Gronk, then the trip may be out of reach. Edurin counted on the Captain’s duties to keep him busy for one day. Edurin would know this part of the city pretty well by morning.

Gronk answered, “Two days to walk home to village. Gronk hope Grynosk not leave yet.”

Gronk and Edurin left the others making plans at the Grinning Goblin and made their way through the darkened streets of Khazan back toward the southern gates of the city. Before they had gone more than three blocks, they were accosted by a group of four ladies of the evening. Two were human, one was elven, and one was, incredibly enough, a young Minotaur cow. The largest, and prettiest of the human women ran a few steps and bumped right into Edurin before he could do anything to ward her off. She threw here arms around his neck and squealed, “Oooh, this guy is handsome!” She snuggled into him, smushing her large firm breasts against his chest. “Hey, sailor,” she giggled. “Do you want to have some fun?”

Her companions came into the light of the corner lamp and smiled at Edurin most winningly. The elven girl had a charm unlike anything he had ever seen before–her eyes seemed to twinkle and a sweet smell came from her body.

“And look!” said the elf. “We even have a girl for your friend. Ellsee, come forward and say hello to your new best friend. He’s a real bull!”

Ellsee was not the prettiest cow that Gronk had ever seen, and the ragged shirt she wore loosely hanging from her shoulders did not flatter her, but she seemed young and healthy and willing.

The cow walked up to Gronk, lowered her eyes, swayed her hips, then turned around and stuck her butt out toward him. “Want some fun, bull man?” she asked “The first time is free.”

“Gronk must help friend, ” he said to the cow. “Gronk come back later?”

Edurin took advantage of the moment to feel his curvy ‘assailant’ for weapons, then he gently, but firmly, disengaged. He rotated while prying her off to keep his back to Gronk. He placed her between them and her ‘pack’. “If only we met earlier. Maybe next week.” He looked to the bullman, “Come Gronk,” he moved on looking for the women’s protectors. Another group of people to avoid.

“Wimp!” screamed the streetwalker as Edurin and Gronk rapidly walked away from her and her friends.

“Gronk not know that women were so friendly in this city,” said the Minotaur.

They made it to the Wolf Street Watch Station about 20 minutes later, only to find the doors locked and the lights off.

Edurin smiled, “Yes, women can be very friendly in the city, but you must always give the friendliest good presents. They prefer gold or silver. These are not the kind of girls you bring home to start a family.”

At the closed station, “Gronk, do you think the Captain sleeps here or has a home nearby?” Edurin evaluated the surroundings. Any sign that guards live here, especially signs of big Minotaur relief?

“Gronk not know. We waste time, must help Wulf. We go back and help Zhanh, we rescue Wulf.” His grip tightened on his axe and his nostrils flared. “Wulf not happy in cage, Gronk must free Wulf.”

Gronk and Edurin turned away from the locked Watch station. They had a long walk back to the Grinning Goblin, and they were approached several times by beggars and streetwalkers as they returned. But when Gronk put his head down and started snorting, even the boldest of mendicants ran away.

They arrived shortly after midnight, only to find that Perry, Lumlas, and Zhanh had all gone to bed. Exhausted from their fruitless walk, they too went to bed.

It wasn’t long until Bert, brother of Bart, the bartender came to wake them up. He wondered why they would want to get up in the wee hours of the morning, but it wasn’t his job to ask questions. Edurin had already paid for everything, and they could leave early if they wanted to.

The five of them met at their usual table in an empty common room. Zhanh took the lead–he was the only one with even the rudiments of a plan.

—————————————-

Inside the Grinning Goblin Zhanh and Perry drank their drinks, ate some supper, and then got a couple of the cheapest beds in the common sleeping room on the second story. The bartender had instructions to wake them up an hour after midnight. All the walking and drinking had tired them out, and they were soon snoring lustily–at least as lustily as elves ever snore.

Back at the Goblin, Perry sat upright, disturbed in his nap by thoughts of the task ahead. He pulled his thoughts together and summoned up sufficient reserves of khremm to cast a spell.

Perry began some stretching exercises and then moved on to his positive visualisations of a successful jail bust. He had heard tales of large scale breakouts in the city of Khosht and he was glad their task was much less grandiose. He was sure the wake up call would come soon.

Perry couldn’t sit on his fingers on the lumpy pallet any longer. ‘It must be time for action’ he said to himself in a poor imitation of Riccardio, an elven archer who everyone in the forest steered clear of. He tip-toed down the corridor and scraped his fingernails down the door to Zhanh’s cubicle in an effort to make the wake up gentle.

Perry pulled on a clean pair of socks, the ones with the sparkly bits sewn into the weave by his great-aunt Catnip, and fairly sprang up to the two wizards. ‘Let’s go do some jailbusting,’ he said exuberabtly. ‘That Wulf should stick to shooting dice!’.He went to the door of the Grinning Goblin and opened it with an extravagant bow to the two wizards.

Zhanh rolled to his feet, filled the chamber pot, emptied the chamber pot out the window, straightened his clothes, and shouldered his pack. He had a full charge of kremm, most of his brain cells were talking to each other, and it was time to move on to the next phase of this seemingly never-ending day. He opened the door to his room and stepped out.

Lumlas woke up from a dream in which she had cut open the stomach of a sleeping dragon, crawled in, and then sowed the wound shut behind her. She could hear someone, probably her friends, fumbling about in the dark outside her room, and she joined them.

Gronk fidgeted in his seat, huffing and puffing.

“No find Grynosk. Zhanh, how we help Gronk’s friend Wulf get out of cage?”

Edurin rubbed the sleep from his eyes and splashed clean, cold water on his face. Heading downstairs he headed out to relieve himself. What does the day bring? He asked himself.

Zhanh gathered the group (Edurin, Gronk, Lumlas, Perry, and himself) and indicated that they should follow him, and that explanations would be made on the way. Once they were clear of the Grinning Goblin, he told Edurin and Gronk the details of their plan, and even stopped in an abandoned alley to sketch a rough map into the dirt. He wasn’t sure how to work Gronk and Edurin into the plan, and asked for suggestions.

Perry asked Lumlas if there were going to be two Hiding Holes or just one and how long they would last. ‘Maybe when we get the others out of the cells, we’d be better off in two Holes?’

“Gronk and Edurin stay hidden outside watch station. If trouble start, Gronk and Edurin rush in and surprise guards.”

Zhanh led the Fellowship of the Wine to the Dog Bone Watch station. The streets were nearly empty. Half way there they met a group of Watchmen on patrol. The officers stopped them and asked, “Why are you all out so late?” The Watchmen looked a bit suspicious–it was probably the fact that there were two obvious Elves in the party and a Minotaur–not a combination seen very often. Khazan was a city dominated by humans, dwarves, and uruks. Elves were generally held in low regard.

Perry grimaced. He had Jeeves pick up a rock and then throw it through a window about 50 yards behind the Watch. As soon as the Watchmen turned to look, he cast a Befuddle on the biggest one near the man who had spoken, sheltering behind his companions. ‘Come on,’ he said to the other wizards. ‘Make us invisible and let’s get away from here.’

When the glass broke behind them, the Watchmen all turned around and started toward it. (6 a.p. for Perry) (Where did you get a Befuddle spell? I don’t know that one. When they turned and started to investigate it, Zhanh and party ducked down a side street and ran for it. They were mostly out of sight before the Guard realized they had been tricked.

A few twists and turns brought them to the Watch station. Unlike the one on Wolf Street, this one had lights on inside and the door cracked open.