Perry hoped that ogres had no particular reason for hostility towards elves or minotaurs – he couldn’t remember hearing of any such in the sociology stories the bards had sung by the campfires in his childhood but it seemed they had missed out rather a lot.
He said to Wulf ‘Once we’re in, I”l sit next to Weslynn and you sit next to Gronk. He will listen to you. I shall ask Zhanh and Weslynn to go to the bar while the rest of us either find a table to ourselves or join Edurin and the Captain if there is enough room. I can pay for you if you have no money, for Mensa too.’
Perry kept his Jeeves close and was ready to instruct as circumstance or whim dictated.
Edurin saw his friends at the tavern door. He quickly got up and went back to it, and spoke to Sheepdip the Ogre.
“These people are with Captain Blotar and me. They don’t have to pay to enter.”
“Why dincha say so?” growled the ogre. He gave the coin back to Weslynn. “C’mon in, you lot!” He made a kind of scooping motion toward the rest of the group.
After the rest of Blotar’s “friends” had entered and found seats at a large table near the Captain’s, the owner of the tavern came over to speak to them. Shannazan was an immensely large and fat woman who sort of hung out of her clothing in several places. She had cleavage deep enough to swallow a hobb or a leprechaun. Her dress was of some rich brown fur, but it was short–short at both top and bottom. Rolls of fat dripped down off her buttocks. Her grayish yellow hair was a sort of outrageous mane that exploded from her head in all directions and made her seem almost a foot taller than she really was.. Her chubby fingers glinted and gleamed from all the bejewelled rings she wore, but the rings were embedded in fat like rivers in mountain gorges.
Shannazan sought out Weslynn and offered her an enormous chalice of blood-red wine. “You must be the poor lady who is on a quest to recover her wine.” Her voice was surprisingly melodious; it was a kind of purr–the kind of purr that might come from a tigress. “Food and drink is being brought for your companions.” Shannazan clapped her hands above her head three times and pointed to the table where Wulf and the others were finding seats. “You and I should go aside and talk a bit.”
Gronk smiled at Zhanh, and let out a bit of a chuckle.
Perry looked about for other elves in the tavern. He wondered if that was the measure of how he and the wizards might be received. Then he checked to see that Mensa understood what was going on. Lord knew he had felt confused often enough in the last 48 hours and he could imagine it must be stranger still for the dwarf.
“Perry is good man for asking. Humans strange and smell funny, but Mensa deal with. When we go hit bloodsuckers?” To Mensa, the random violence, prejudice, and confusion was just Normal Life, and forgiveness was just another word for “I forgot you hit me yesterday.”
When Weslynn sat by Edurin, he leaned over and whispered, “You still have my pouch right?” He leaned back and enjoyed the scenery. He looked people over for a general impression of the place.
Weslynn nodded to Edurin and fished it out of one of her belt pouches and slid it across to her as she contemplated her wine she was drinking.
‘You know why I am going to the Castle, I think. My father is there and I fear he is much changed for being so. I do not know him and may never truly do so. Is there any hope that if he has been ‘infected’ – this he said as politely as possible – there may be a way to bring him back to himself? I have a gnawing horror that the ghastly fate of patricide may yet fall to me. I do not know if I have the strength within for such a deed, should it prove necessary.’
Weslynn then returned to her drink and its consequences.
She turned to ask the tavern mistress for more, but Shannazan had moved over to the table where the party was eating and drinking.
“Ahem, I’d like to say something,” she told them in a throat-clearing rumble that got everyone’s attention.
“Blotar and Edurin have told me a little bit about your quest. I’d like to help. Some of you were planning to sleep on the boat, but that isn’t necessary. I have rooms for you all–separate rooms so you can get a good night’s sleep.” She gestured and a shapely young barmaid came over to the table. “This is Wenwen. Her job is to make you feel comfortable, and to tend to your needs. She will show you to your rooms when you’re ready to sleep, and do everything she can to make you comfortable.” She grinned benignly at them all. It was rather scary.
“Do you understand, Wenwen?” Shannazan spoke to her servant and her voice changed. It seemed both menacing and promising.
“I understand, Mistress,” she answered with her eyes lowered. “But what about the bull?”
“I think the best thing for him is to give him as much wine or ale as he wants, and plenty of food. Yes, that would be good hospitality for him.”
Mensa didn’t have to think, which was fortunate since it was hard. “Wulf say sleep on boat. We sleep on boat.”
Edurin would follow Blotar’s lead. If the Captain returned to the boat, so would he. Otherwise, he would accept Shannazan’s offer. Fate had a way with him. Like a cat with a new toy. Sometimes he wondered, would he ever stop being the toy?
Perry had got long past trusting anything in this neck of the woods. He attempted to use his talent to read the woman but in any case said to Wulf ‘I agree with Mensa. It would be good if no one got drunk…’ With this he nodded in Gronk’s direction. ‘I suppose we must weigh our words very carefully if we do decline this offer of hospitality since such an act is oft times taken badly. Mayhap we could say that we all suffer from an embarrassing affliction, namely incontinence, and that we would not wish to embarrass ourselves or taint this establishment.’
Mensa was worried about Sissy Guy. “Perry sick with patterside AND incompetence?”
“I appreciate the offer of hospitality, and the extremely fine wine you have shared with me, but I will stay on the boat with my comrades.” Weslynn replied immediately, for she believes’ Gronk’s plan to stay together tonight to be a very good one.
“Who made this fine wine, Ma’am, and how did it arrive at your house?” Weslynn compared all the known tastes and scents of wine in her memory with what is in her glass, seeking for the secret ingredient.
While doing so, she reached out with her mind to Wulf & Wulfs spirit and whispered to their ears to be alert, watchful, for she fears this place is a trap, as the first stopping place on the river road to Castle Greybat from Khazen should be, now that she thinks of it, though perhaps too late, doing her best to convey her sudden deep sense of unease to her two friends in one via this still poorly understood bond between them.
“Perry is OK, Mensa,” said Wulf. “What needs to be done, We will do all we can to help him.” Then he spoke quietly to Gronk: “Don’t drink yourself witless my friend. We should be careful in places we are not familiar with.”
Gronk ate more than he drank, unwilling to allow his senses to dull. Too much had already gone wrong due to poor judgement since he took up with this group. Shannazan seemed nice, almost too nice. Gronk wondered about her generosity. Exercising great control, Gronk only drank 4 ales.
Weslynn smiled at Shannazan and extended her senses, both smell and taste, as well her untried vampiric energies, and tried to detect if there was any trace of blood within the drink in her glass, or around their hostess and her maid.
Mensa accepted Perry’s compliment with a blush to match his hair. “Perry just being nice to Mensa,” he said, playfully punching Perry in the arm and wondering what a “drama terrorist” was.
Zhanh didn’t say anything. He was used to sleeping on boats.
Perry looked thoughtfully at Weslynn. He was wondering how hard they could strike – getting in early blows might be telling.
‘Let’s go,’ he said ‘and when we’re outside let’s have another one of those Holes please. I also wonder if the Little Feets spell on Wulf or Gronk lest we are followed and need to have our backs protected would be wise.’
Those who wished to learn spells from each other now found that they had time to do so.
After supper, and the learning of spells, those who had decided to head back to the boat left the inn and walked briskly down the main street towards the river. The sun had gone down some time ago, but a gibbous moon poked through some very thin and scattered clouds and gave more than enough light to see by. A big patch of light also spilled out of Red’s Place.
Weslynn stood there as the knowledge of the magics blossomed in her mind, her eyes wide as the changes Teacher made to her mind settle into it, fundamentally and permanently altering her perception of herself and the world.
“The power within me…this strange surging energy I have felt since my change…it is kremm! The spells I have learned tell me that. How to channel it with mind and body…The power to shape reality! I…comprehend it now.” Weslynn has a satisfied sparkle to her eyes for a moment, as at least one change in her strange altered state has been explained.
“Shannazan, please do tell me. Why are you so kind to those you just met?”
Edurin true to his intent will stay at the inn. Weslynn had an excellent point, but he could not shake the feeling. This was his course.
“Gronk feel dizzy, and kind of sleepy,” he said.
Wulf was busy trying to get Mensa to go out the front door. The Dwarf had wandered over to stare at Sheepdip the Ogre, probably wondering what it would be like to hit something that big and muscular onna head.
Seven of the party members filed out into the street. Edurin stayed behind.
Weslynn noted Wulf’s face, and having her paranoia jacked up another notch, quietly turned to Edurin and Zanh, quietly asked, “Could you teach me Whammy as well? I fear I will need to strike hard tonight.”
Wulf fell back to walk beside Weslynn. “Did you know there was blood mixed in with the wine that Shannazan gave you?” he asked her.
As they passed Red’s Place they saw a man get up from the porch and go back inside.
They reached the river’s edge without incident. Two men had been left to guard the boat. They started looking around for places to sleep. There were no cabins and no bunks in sight. The two guards set up by the tiller sharing a jug of ale and rolling dice.
Gronk sat down with his back against the captain’s cabin. His head lolled to the side and he began to snore.
“Aye Wulf, that is what I thought, but could not quite discern the truth myself. The salty beauty of the wine couldn’t have been anything else that I could think of.” She sighs.
“This place is very wrong, and we need some plan for Edurin, I think.”
Lumlas wandered the decks for a while, quietly cursing her companions for passing up the comfortable beds in the inn, then woke up Zhanh and asked him if he had a spare blanket. Zhanh growled, gave her his. Then he pulled out his shelter tarp and wrapped himself in THAT, and went back to sleep.
‘We have to hope Edurin is safe by virtue of the Captain’s presence. We should have stayed at the inn if we misdoubt that. This is not an easy path we tread. I fear that the fellow we passed at the other tavern may have ill designs in our regard. Let us set a roster for watch duty. I should like to slep now next to Gronk and perhaps we could leave one wizard with Mensa on duty now for 3 hours and then change over. Three shifts should do it.
“Mensa not sleepy. Do watch all night!” He poked at the drowsing bullman. “Friend-Gronk all right?”
Wulf smiled at his friend. “Stay awake if you can, my friend,” he said. “But do not leave the boat for any reason. And yell for help as loud as you can if anything bad comes or happens.” Then, to Perry. “Would you please take a look at Gronk. I think those &^%$#’s at the Inn gave him something.”
Well, that was a surprise to Mensa. He had always thought it was pronounced “^&$#&,” with the accent on the #.
“Thank you, Zahn” Weslynn nodded to her wizard friend.
After a couple of hours of drinking, talking, and playing cards, Edurin thought he had better get some sleep. Shannazan’s maid Wenwen showed him the room he had been given for the night, a large one on the second floor toward the back. Oddly enough none of the rooms on the second floor had any doors–just doorways. The bed itself seemed unusually wide and strong for a single man–but by then Edurin was so sleepy that he hardly gave it a second thought. He pulled off his boots and lay down on it fully dressed. He was asleep within seconds.
He woke up in the middle of the night with a shortness of breath and a crushing weight on top of him. Moonlight came in through a large open window–enough for him to see the face of Shannazan hovering above his own. Her oleaginous flesh covered his body completely from side to side and almost from head to toe.
“You asked why I’ve been so kind,” she whispered. “It’s just that I expect a little kindness in return before the sun comes up.” She grinned broadly and her canine teeth were much bigger than Edurin remembered them being. “Hold still, lover,” she said. “You might even enjoy this.” She pursed her lips as if she were going to kiss him, and slowly started to lower her mouth toward his neck.
Wulf and Mensa were finding it hard to stay awake. The night was sultry and warm without being too hot. A cool breeze played over the river.
Then Weslynn noticed a large hulking shape walking across the dock toward the boat. Oddly enough, neither Wulf nor Mensa seemed to notice it.
“Lady Weslynn, come to me. You are needed back at the Big Buck Tavern.”
“Who are you, stranger, and what brings you here tonight?” Weslynn readied her pike.
“What stranger?” yawned Mensa. “I wasn’t asleep!”
Weslynn eyed Gronk and sighed. “I believe I can carry him, should we leave here.”
Mensa pointed at the sleeping bullman. “Friend-Gronk need to wake up!” Why didn’t Wes-Wels–uh, WesleyInn want him to wake up Friend-Gronk?
Stay here with Perry. When Gronk wakes up, tell him Wulf wants him to help you and take care of you. Lumlas, Zhahn! Get out of this hell-hole as soon as you can. Take Gronk and Mensa and Perry with you. Don’t wait here or come after us if we don’t return.” He looks deep into Weslynn’s eyes with love and sorrow. “Come, sweet lady. Out fate awaits us. Better a horrible ending than a life of endless horrors!” He takes up the spike shield. Then to the messenger: “We are ready. Take us to your masters.”
He stood there glowering at them all, and repeatedly thumped his meaty left hand with a heavy bludgeon.
Someone stood between Wulf and the hulking thing. “Mensa not leave Wulf! Where you go, I go. Where you sleep, I sleep. Your friend, my friend. Your enemy, my enemy. More than blood, Mensa say this stone to stone, by gold, by gem, and by heaven-blessed iron. Mensa be faithful friend to Wulf and all Wulf’s clan.”
“Sheepdip, know this. This place is accurst, I know this now. I say I shall not accompany you alone anywhere. You will come with us, back to your inn, and we shall have Edurin safely returned to us, unharmed and untouched, and we shall leave peacefully. Or I ask my friends to fight beside me, to rend this place down in fire and fang, sword and pike.”
Weslynn gestured to her friends. “Will you come with me, to save Edurin from whatever treachery and evil has ahold of him this night? Or shall Wulf and I do this alone. Decide quickly, for I believe time may be running out for our companion.”
Lumlas grapped Zhanh’s sleeve. “Has everyone gone crazy?” she hissed.
“It seems likely,” Zhanh answered.
Sheepdip lost patience. “You are all crazy,” he growled. “There is no danger here, and you had best not try anything crazy at the Big Buck tavern. Your friend is in no danger. Now come along, Weslynn, or do I have to go back and tell my mistress that you are all raving maniacs, and she should have nothing to do with you?”
Sheepdip stalked away from the boat, coming down heavily on the wooden dock and shaking it with each thunderous footstep.Mensa ran over and scraped Gronk’s horns with the edge of his war shovel. “Gronk, wake up!” he shouted.
Gronk woke up.
“Come my friends, let us go retreve Edurin.” Weslynn picks up Gronk as Mensa clobbers his horns with his shovel, resulting in a brief moment of hilarity where minotaur, Mensa, and Weslynn, end up all intertwined, before sorting themselves out.
‘Just don’t try running in and out of that ogre’s legs,’ Perry warned Mensa. ‘You don’t want to catch him a nasty knock in a tender spot.’
Weslynn picked herself up, and apologized to Mensa and Gronk briefly, and then quickly caught up to the Ogre.
“Do you know what your mistress wants? Why does she want me? And what has happened to Edurin?”
Gronk awoke to his horn being scraped, Mensa yelling, and the bloodsucker grasping him. He shifted his weight to twist out of the bloodsucker’s grip, and the three ended up in a pile of twisted extremities. Luckily (for Weslynn), Gronk’s axe was just out of reach, but his hand fell to the hilt of his sax.
“What happening, why bloodsucker grabbing Gronk? Dwarf-friend defending Gronk?”
Gronk rose to his feet, and then he noticed the Ogre stomping off. His half-asleep brain was dazed and confused. He looked to Wulf.
“What happening, Wulf?”
“Mensa never heard of vampliers ’til heard from you. And Wulf, I think. Are they leeches or mosquitos or something else? Wulf say chop off head and they get better.”
Wulf was now in full battle dress. To Gronk, he said: “Old friend, I think we are about to go to war again. One of our comrades stayed in the Inn, and they sent a messenger to fetch Weslynn. Things here stink of evil and danger. Wulf is sorry to have brought you here. But I must go now. If anything happens to me, take care of Mensa for me. Don’t let them behead me or burn my body!” He helps the Minotaur up, and then sets off with Weslynn.
Weslynn sensed that the Wolfman was close now, and ready to fight if needed.
But it was her wolfman now, her monster.
“Gronk do what friends need him to do, stay here or go. But Gronk not too happy about Wulf and bloodsucker walking off alone with ogre.”
“I wanted us all to go, to the point of carrying your sleeping form with us, so as not to leave you vulnerable here alone. Lumlas said we were mad, so I think she was the only one who wanted to stay here. I want everyone with me, that I can convince to go, Gronk. This place is full of treachery, that I am certain.”
“Gronk go, if that is what is needed of Gronk. Gronk no like to leave you alone again with Wulf, anyway.”
“Mensa, stay near me. But If I take on my Wolf aspect, you must not try to interfere with me. The wolf will bite friend or foe when he is in a fight. Gronk has seen me in this form and knows how to deal with it.”
Weslynn continued behind the ogre, jogging to catch up. “Wulf, please stay by my side as much as possible. I don’t trust this woman, or her inn, you know why, and I am certain I will need everyone’s ferocity. But you’re the only one who seems to believe me…”
“Wulf, careful, keep eye on Mensa.”
Perry dreamed of Wulf and Weslynn dressed as little lambs going to the slaughter – at least he hoped he was dreaming. He kind of knew that he was when he saw Mensa running about in a leotard waving a fishing net at passing butterflies and yodelling loudly. (Of course, he might have just had too big a mouthful of his own SFF magic mushroom meal.)
Weslynn watched Mensa catch up, dancing in his strange attire.]
Weslynn traded grim looks with Wulf. She feels like her friends have abandoned her to walk into the lair of the monster, alone, save for Mensa and Wulf. “I suppose,” she sighed to herself, “these are the ones who I can truly trust.” She reached out then and took Mensa’s hand, and wrapped a warm companionable thought around the simmering stew of rage in potentia that is the Wulf’s Wolf right now.
“Wulf sad,” observed Mensa. “Not good Wulf sad, when so much happy friends and fun battle and we not in cage. Not good.”
“No, you’re right enough there friend. I can feel him, you know, I know how he feels. He’s ready for the fight to come, for Edurin, and for us. He’s going to do his best to die gloriously.” Her expression hardens imperceptibly, as she does her best to grab that unfamiliar emotion running through Wulf and make it her own.
“When it comes to battle, we’ll sell our lives dearly enough.” Her facade of cold bravery was almost perfect, save for the tremor in her voice, and her wide eyes.
“Aye, that’s better. Making it happen, though…” Weslynn looked down at the dwarf, “How much experience fighting do you have, brave one?”
“Lumlas,” Zhanh said, “I am beginning to think that you are right.” He headed back to his coil of rope and pulled out his blanket and tarp, then handed the blanket to Lumlas. “Gronk, let me know when you are tired, and I will stand the next watch.” He wrapped himself in the tarp, and went back to sleep.
Lumlas took the blanket and went to sit near Gronk. “Why is it,” she said quietly, “That people don’t seem to know the difference between expressing doubt and and being unwilling to stand with your friends?” She sighed. “Of course this latest death march was crazy. Everything about this expedition is crazy. The jailbreak was crazy. But I am HERE.” She sighed. “I still am glad we didn’t all march into town, but I would have gone along.”
As Wulf, Weslynn, and Mensa passed Red’s Place, they couldn’t help but notice that 30 or 40 men had gathered around the front door. Some of them appeared to be drunk, and were weaving back and forth as they stood there. Others carried torches. Some had bows. Some had swords, axes, and clubs. They were all human.
Most of them watched the ogre and his three followers go by. One of them asked, “Are those the ones?”
Someone answered, “They were with the elves earlier, but there are no elves with them now.”
“Then don’t bother them,” said a tall bowman.
Wulf saw the mob in front of Red’s Place and his soldier’s good sense told him not even the wolfman at his worst could survive such an encounter. Now it was in the hands of whatever gods controlled his and his companion’s fates. He felt no real sorrow for himself, he was a warrior and most likely doomed to die a warrior’s violent death, but his heart ached for Weslynn, and broke for Mensa, both of whom deserved a better destiny. In his heart he remembered the kindly monk brothers of The Order of Omvar, their benevolent Lord, and he quietly prayed to the All-Father to spare his friends if it was possible. Then, prepared to sell his life dearly for his companions, and girded for battle, he pressed on towards the Tavern where Edurin and Shanazan waited for them. And, raging in his breast, the wolf crouched waiting, eager to sink its fangs into the flesh of any foe.
“Gronk agree, all this crazy. Gronk glad you here, pretty elf-friend. Gronk be happy when all this crazy is finished.”
Weslyn looked at the mob of weapon wielders out after midnight, and felt that nothing good could be coming of that.
“Wulf, what do you advise we do?”
Perry turned over in his sleep with a contented sigh.
Mensa finally replied to Weslynn. “Goldylix? Yellow-hair in helmet store. He scared and ran away.”
“Hey, ogre-man, do you know why those people are out in front of the other tavern, with torches and weapons? That looks rather like an angry mob.”
“Isn’t Gronk also your friend? If they plan to attack the boat he could be hurt. He needs to be warned, little friend. I will keep an eye on Wulf for you, as best as I can.”
Sheepdip the Ogre ignored Weslynn’s question and just continued to walk rapidly up the street. He neither knew nor cared why a mob had gathered in front of Red’s Place, so long as they left him and the Big Buck alone, he would not interfere with them. He was already beginning to think that he might have to fight the barbarian and the dwarf when they got back to the inn. In that case, he would try to take the dwarf out first.
They walked on, and in a couple of minutes the end of the street came into sight with the Big Buck looming in front of them.
When they reached the porch, he turned to face them all. “Only the woman goes inside. There is no danger here unless you start trouble. She should be back with you in half an hour or less.”
Other servants waited just inside the tavern Sheepdip spoke to one of them. “Molomo, go awaken Captain Blotar. Tell him there is an angry mob in town, and they might be heading for his boat.”
“Wenwen, fetch the mistress. Tell her the wine merchant woman is here.”
Not long after Sheepdip’s party had passed Red’s Place, the mob reached its full size–fifty-seven men. With torches and weapons in hand, led by Megil the Hunter, they headed out for the river docks. Their plan was simple, catch and kill those rat-bastard elves who had menaced their womenfolk and practiced magic on Megil’s private parts.
Back on the Nainevver, only Gronk was awake. Even he was close to drifting off again when he noticed a glow in the night air in town–a kind of flickering. The sound of tramping feet and muttering men came to his keen ears next. What was this all about?
As he wondered, the first of them turned onto the far end of the dock, a few burly bearded men carrying axes and torches. One of them noticed the big Minotaur standing by the boat’s rail, and shouted, “There is one of the monsters now! Let’s get him!”
The crowd of men spilled onto the dock and began to advance angrily toward the Nainevver.
Weslynn stopped outside of the tavern, and looked at the recalcitrant dwarf and Wulf. “Go now, both of you, and warn or help the boat. I fear they seek to harm our elven friends there. I will go inside and make sure that Captain Blotar actually knows what is occuring, and see what other tragedy awaits us this night. I will be as fast to return as I can.”
“Do not argue, go NOW.” Weslynn glared at the dwarf, released his hand, and turned him around, and pushed towards the docks.
“Pick him up and carry him, if you must Wulf.”
Edurin woke with a start, started rising up only to find himself closer to the large woman, so he sank back down. Edurin wiggled his hand up to her face touching her cheek gently and replied, “Shannazan, I do not wish to be anyone’s slave or become a vampire myself. I love my life too. But… if I may trust your word to allow no harm to myself, my companions, Captain Blotar, and his crew then you may feed lightly. I do need to be strong enough to work tomorrow.” He thought it a little silly to trust her at this point, but he will happily roll her off the bed without a sincere oath from Shannazan. She had the weight on him, but he trusted his strength to be equal to her vampiric strength. Martial training would be the telling difference.
She lowered her blubbery face to Edurin’s neck, extruded her fangs, and lightly pierced the skin. It didn’t hurt much. Edurin had cut himself worse shaving. For about a minute she nuzzled his neck. A strange lassitude came over the sailor. This was actually kind of pleasant. He remembered hearing that victims of attacks by lions, tigers, and bears actually felt no pain while being mauled, and then wondered if he was like a mauling victim.
Shannazan raised her head and licked her blubbery lips. “You taste good like a sailor should,” she whispered. She sat up. And now if you wish, you may have your wicked way with my luscious body.” She batted her eyes at him.
“Crewmen! Elf-friends! To your feet!” yelled Gronk. “Danger approaches! Ready your magic, spell throwers.”
“Lumlas, stay on deck,” he whispered. “If Gronk go down, hide in your magic and get away, leave all the crazy behind you.” He stroked her cheek gently and smiled.
Gronk grabbed his double-bladed broad axe and took up position halfway down the gangplank, hoping to keep the number of opponents down to a few at a time.
“Halt!” he roared at the men. “Come no closer or Gronk will chop you into little pieces! Go back to your hearths and women before it is too late!”
Wulf’s keen ears picked up the sound of the distant mob and he made a decision.
“Mensa” he said ” I go to help our friends. Stay clear of me. Come if you must, but remember, Wolf is not the Wulf you know!” With a shrug and a wiggle, he became the Wolfman. Then, with a blood curdling howl, he raced off down the street towards the docks, with his spike shield and ‘star ready to kill and maim.
As he ran to join the fray, a fleeting memory of one of the Wolf shaman’s old teachings flickered through his wolf mind:
“And is there better way to die
Than facing fearsome odds
For love of pack and family and
The honor of your gods?”
“There is NO DIE, Wolf!! There is only STOP BAD GUYS!” Running after the man he’d grown to consider his elder brother, Mensa glanced over his shoulder and waved. “Bye, Wesleylynn!” He readied his favorite and only shovel and ran as hard as his short but ironlike legs could propel him. “Dagnabit it, but Wolf is FAST!!”
“Gronk!” he shouted. “Cut the gangplank loose from the dock if you can; don’t get dumped into the water if we pull away from the dock!”
Lumlas retreated to the far side of the deck house, looking for a place where she would be at least partially sheltered, and still able to see what was going on. She readied an Oh, Go Away spell and hoped that she could identify the mob’s leader.
“Gronk no like to run from fight,” he scowled and let loose a low, rumbling growl. “Gronk no like leaving Wulf and Mensa behind.”
Waking up with a jolt, Perry was terrified when he saw the ugly mob of rabid sickos milling about on the dock. These people really got up his nose so he cast Miasmal Stench He cast the spell behind the leaders so as to catch them within its range but to leave Gronk out of the stink zone. Then he huddled behind the shields the boat so happily carried. Next he sent his two Jeeves spirits to knock the hands of anyone pointing a bow at the riverboat.
Perry’s spell created a 10-foot-diameter cloud of foul-smelling gasses.
“Wow! What a bizarre experience. Shannazan, you act as if you know the lords of Greybat well. May I pick my way with your brain?” Edurin grinned lopsidedly. “Err, have my way with your brain, and unlock some of those sweet thoughts about our fate at the castle?”
“You’d rather talk about Castle Greybat, than make hot passionate love to me!” she exclaimed in mock indignation, “I don’t talk about them. It isn’t safe. And that’s the only warning I’ll give you.”
She put her large be-ringed hand on his chest and pushed him back down on the bed. She smiled bewitchingly, a feat marred somewhat by the film of blood on her teeth.
Wenwen came to the doorway. “Mistress, the wine-trader woman has arrived.”
Shannazan heaved herself up from the bed, picked up her rag of a dress, and shimmied back into it. “Wenwen, why don’t you keep our guest entertained while I go down and take care of business?” she suggested.
“Gladly, mistress! Thank you!” The shapely barmaid entered the room and literally threw herself on top of Edurin. “Hello, sailor,” she purred throatily, “want some fun?”
Weslynn stood in the middle of the common room with her hands on her weapons, wondering why she had been summoned.
Shannazan came down the stairs from the second floor. She seemed more rumpled than usual, but there was a smile on her face.
“Greetings, Weslynn,” she said in a husky whisper that Weslynn had no difficulty hearing. “Did you like that wine I gave you earlier? You should. It came from your family’s vineyards. I added a little something as a pickmeup, just for women like you and me. Would you like another cup? Unless I miss my guess, you haven’t fed very well today.”
She walked right up to Weslynn and smiled. Weslynn could see a thin film of blood on her teeth.
Shannazan sensed Weslynn casting a spell–it didn’t seem to be at her, but it still couldn’t be good. She threw herself backwards and squawked, Sheepdip, protect me!”
Because of the crazy way these people had been acting, the ogre had been expecting trouble. He was glad that the barbarian and dwarf had left at a run. Now all he had to deal with was a crazy woman. He hefted his bludgeon and charged to the attack.
Weslynn continued her attack on Shannazan. She saw that as her only chance.
Edurin pushed Wenwen off him. “Sorry cutie… Your mistress might be in trouble.” He shot up and grabbed his spear, and ran out bootless to investigate the trouble. He was shocked by the scene below…
“Aid me, Edurin! This monster is part of the thieves! The wine she served me was from my own winery, by her own words.”
Edurin came to the top of the stairs and saw Shannazan falling backwards with a screaming Weslyhn swinging her pike at the innkeeper. The inn mistress called out something in an unknown tongue and a bolt of purple lightning flashed from her hand to Weslynn’s head. As the magical bolt hit her Weslhynn’s hair stood on end, and her eyes bulged out of their sockets. Then her heavy pike smacked into Shannazan’s head and bisected it, slaying the inn mistress instantly.
However, a second later Sheepdip smashed Weslynn from behind with his mighty bludgeon, breaking her back and pulverizing her torso. Edurin watched in horror as both women died.
Blotar came running out of his room. “What is going on?” he bellowed.
Edurin could only point at the carnage at the foot of the stairs.
“My sister!” bellowed Blotar in anguish. “Why?”
Sheepdip looked upstairs and saw Edurin standing there with spear in hand. “Do you want to die also?” he bellowed. “Drop the spear!”
Edurin dropped his spear, “I heard Shannazan call for help.” He glanced at Captain Blotar keeping the ogre in sight. “Captain, it seems the wine we chase found a home here in the inn. But before we talk business… Family is more important. Tell me about your sister? Do you share her need for blood? I only ask that to help clean up and bury the dead.”
His thoughts danced all over… He had spent much of his seed capital with potentially nothing to show for it. Perhaps there was still some sort of way to salvage the situation.
Blotar turned to Edurin. “My sister is a vampire, but not me. She bought two barrels of wine from the trader who usually procures such supplies for Castle Greybat and the river towns. My sister found out it came from Weslynn’s vineyard and was going to arrange to buy more from her directly. Why did Weslynn attack her? This is going to ruin my family.” The big boat captain sank down on his knees and moaned. “Oh, Shanna, what have you done to us?”
“What are you doing?” shouted Blotar. “That’s my sister you’re mutilating!”
“Vampires, boss,” growled the ogre. “This needs to be done. We don’t want them coming back as brain-damaged undead, and they just might if we don’t handle the bodies properly. I’ll take care of the burning.”
Blotar looked stunned. “Um, yeah,” he mumbled. “Eddie-boy, I need time to think. Let’s go back to bed, and we’ll decide what to do in the morning.”