Chapter 6

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Last time, we explored the Orc caverns, Rizudo died in a trap, and we
found a dwarven prisoner and about 500 gold pieces in assorted change.
There were also some weapons and armor; they were in poor condition,
and nothing we didn't already have enough of.  Somewhat disappointed
in the expedition so far, we went back to the great hall and stared
out over the eastern barrier; beyond, we could only see a little bit
of a large dead cavern, which seemed utterly empty.  However, we were
not about to go over and start exploring yet; first, we had to go back
to Swamp Keep, report that the Orcs were all gone, and claim the
reward that we so richly deserved.

Guard 1: "Aw, it's them again."

Dania: "Will you PLEASE open the goddamned gate?  You know who we

Guard 2: "Look, yu.  Yu go' a might big fat hed there, l'il lady.
     Now, be nice, an' maybe I'll let ya in."

Rourk: "We are not amused at your attempts at humor.  And our patience
     is wearing quite thin.  This ill-treatment of those who should be
     your honored guests speaks volumes of this pitiful place.  I
     demand that you open the gates at once!"

Guard 1: "Oh, I'm going to get a headache again from all this, I just
     know it."

Dania: "Aw, poor baby.  Are there any other gates in this place?"

Guard 2: "No.  Look here, li'l shrimp, shut up an' stop orderin' us
     around.  We get enuf o' that from tha captin, an' dont havta put
     up with it from tha riff-raff like yu!"

Kortul: "OPEN GATE!"

Guard 2: "Say pleese."

Kortul: (Punches Guard 2.  Guard 2 drops unconscious.)

Guard 1: "Oh, good.  He's been especially crass this morning.  Nigel!
     Could you open the gate for these lovely people, and put Mungo to

Guard 3: (From above) "Is he out cold?"

Guard 1: (Checks guard 2) "Yes, he is.  Lovely, isn't it?"

Guard 3: "Quite."

     And so our triumphant heroes returned to Swamp Keep.  There were
no cheering throngs to greet us, which was a disappointment to some
more than others, but they were willing to be patient, for the moment.
Once inside, we got ourselves healed up, (we use a point-based magic
system, and Navero had just enough spell points for everyone.) and
went to see the official we had spoken to the previous day, to report
on our success and see to our reward.

Official: "You have succeeded?  Wonderful!  I can't tell you how happy
     I am to hear that.  They came raiding every couple of months;
     they used to stay away from our area completely, but since the
     caravans started travelling on the North road, they have given us
     all their attention.  I could never convince the council to risk
     the militia; I rather expect they didn't want to loose any
     voters.  Of course, you will receive your reward and much more
     besides.  The Lord of the Keep will naturally wish to see you."

Rourk: "Think nothing of it.  It was child's play."

Official: "Ah.  Well: did you bring the Chief's head with you?"

Rourk: "The coward fled into the swamp, and so I was unable to obtain
     it for you.  Rest assured that if we meet again, that oversight
     shall be corrected."

Official: "Did you bring any heads back?  Or hands, or ears...?"

Navero: "That's... kind of barbaric, I mean, mutilation of the

Official: "...So you have no actual proof that you ever went anywhere
     near the Orcs?"

(Dead silence.)

Kortul: "Stupid."

Rourk: "You doubt my word?  Those who do learn not to."

Kortul: "Real stupid."

Official: "I, of course, believe every word you say.  However, Lord
     Eric is a very hard man to please.  He will want to be certain,
     and must have proof.  I must say, that under these circumstances,
     seeing his Lordship would be out of the question.  And, of
     course, the status of your reward money is placed somewhat in

Navero: "Well, there's the money we found in the *ow!* (Dania drives
     her staff into Navero's foot.)

Official: "What's this?"

Dania: "My little friend here was just saying how short on cash we
     were. Would it please you if we were to go back and get battle

Rourk: "We may even find a few more, if you absolutely insist upon
     this matter."

Navero: "ow..."

Official: "Yes, I believe that would be the best thing for you to do.
     A word, children; 'foresight makes all matters go to your
     advantage.' Now please go finish your task."

     We did spot one other Orc out in the marshes; it was not the
Chief.  It tried to run away, and Kortul killed it with arrows.  We
collected all the right ears we could still find, even the females and
children.  It was an unpleasant task, and accomplished hurriedly.  The
total came to 32; not bad.  We arrived back at the Keep that night.

Guard 1: "Oi, this lot.  Fuck it, let 'em in."

     As even government officials need sleep, we decided not to bother
him until morning.  Kortul, Rourk, and Dania went to the tavern, where
they saw a few familiar faces.  The first was that of the rescued
Dwarf, whom we had left at the inn; he had recovered enough to come
down to the common room to eat.  His name was Arlor.  The second was a
larcenous-looking mercenary type who strongly resembled the late and
unlamented Rizudo; this worthy turned out to be his twin brother
Razuli, who wished to hear of his brother's death.

Rourk: "So, Dwarf, you were captured by the Orcs during the idiotic
     act stealing from them.  Being naturally incompetent, you were
     unable to fight them off or escape."

Arlor: "I, um, was jus' trying to earn a livin', yup."

Dania: "God, that guy looks familiar.  Unpleasantly so."

Razuli: "Hi there, kids!  Say, you look like those morons who were
     hanging around with my brother!"

Rourk: "Oh, no...  Please leave us at once."

Razuli: "Not 'till you tell me what happened.  Say, are you the

Dania: "Shove it, asshole."

Razuli: "I see you are.  Well, kids; wanna have some fun?"

     The remainder of their evening is best left to your imagination.
Navero did not go to the tavern.  While he did not approve of the others
going there, he didn't know what he could say without offending, and he
desperately didn't want to offend anyone.  Especially so soon after the time
in the swamp when he'd been trying to protect Dania.  She had been so angry,
and rightly so; he had done a lot of harm.  They must think so badly of
him.  It was very late at night by this time.  Most people were indoors
asleep, like good people should be.  Navero wandered through the streets for
a while, but found nothing requiring aid, nothing for him to help.  Once a
patrol of watchmen passed by, and eyed him with obvious suspicion.  Navero
realized he must look like a vagrant.  He went to the only temple in town,
which was consecrated to a Defender goddess he did not recognize.  He
apologized to the goddess, as she was not of the Order and he had no right
to be in her place, found a prayer alcove, and curled up and went to sleep.

Dan Parsons                     "Forgive me, Lords, for I have failed."

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