Episode Six

Hi – Ho, Hi – Ho, it's to Stone Town We Go

Friday, March 6, 1168

Darren Temper was rather distressed at the news of his brother Elron's death, naturally, but he nevertheless handed the party some gold and told them to keep the Arcomage deck.

Caber made a Giant Beeline to the Inn to learn how to play the game. He made a nice little pile of gold for them, too, until the other three dragged him out of there for some training with Master Mikail Hadrian the "Greatest". Bard, meanwhile, flexed his merchant skills at the various shops in the town. He didn't do that well, but it was an improvement on previous attempts.

The intrepid adventurers left Basic Principles reasonably early. There was a late frost, and a chilly fog was still hanging over the town.

"Well, I guess we should take Judge Grey's advice, and get over to Stone City," Spider commented.

"I suppose," Caber said glumly.

A balding fellow with interesting – looking eyebrows approached them. "Hello, my lords, my lady," he said carefully, bowing slightly. "I could not help but overhear you. I can help you if you're thinking of going on a trip?"

Bard looked him up and down. "How?"

"First, may I introduce myself? I am Pe-EllArlo the Trader. I know shortcuts, back roads… I can cut your trip to the Downs by 2 days and save you on food, time…"

"How much?" Caber asked.

"I am really a very helpful fellow… I can – "

"How much?" Caber repeated.

"Oh, for just 200 gold pieces - " Pe-EllArlo said.

"That sounds reasonable," Bard said.

"-And 2 percent of any gold you come across while I'm with you."

"Now, hang on – " Caber said, "That's a bit rich."

"We could use the help," Bethgael said. "He can have some of my share."

"Hey, Spider, I picked up a present for you," Bard said, producing a helmet with several horns sticking up off it. "It'll keep you from getting head blows. It's the 'Horned Helm of Luck' so hopefully it will live up to its name and you'll get killed less."

Spider put the helmet on jauntily. Caber burst out laughing. "Oh, that just looks foolish," he roared.

Bard produced an Elven Sabre for Caber. "I picked this up in the White Cliff Caves. You may find it useful."

"Oh, don't be stupid, Bard, nothing beats a – hey… this is actually quite good. Thanks, there, Bard." He put it in his scabbard… it didn't quite drag along the ground, but it came close.

They headed South to the Barrow Downs.

Monday, 6 March, 1168.

The Barrow Downs were obviously haunted. You could tell, Bethgael thought, because there was very little greenery about, the sky was a funny colour, and the trees were bare and scary. Scary trees. She shivered slightly. Of course, the howling, breathy noises gave the whole 'haunted' feel a nice icing.

Bethgael may have been shivering, but she noticed that Caber's face had gone a pasty white colour. She wasn't the only one who noticed.

"What's wrong with you?" Bard asked Caber.

"I hate ghosts," Caber replied. "That's one of the reasons I left this accursed place. I couldn't stand the ghosts."

Bard laughed. "Big, bad Caber is afraid of a few ghosts?"

Caber grimaced. "You don't know the place. Besides, Mister-I-Can't-Stand-Rats, you're hardly one to talk. And the ghosts are worse. Much worse." He paused. "Oh, look – an Inn. I'm thirsty."

"You're always thirsty," Spider quipped.

"Yeah, well, we're running short on food, too, so we'd better pick some up."

The Innkeeper of the Barrow Downs Inn was a stumpy Dwarf who introduced himself as "Irving – but you can call me MetroGnome." He handed over some food, at a highly inflated price. "Stone Soup, good stuff."

"Criminal," Bard muttered. "Hey, what's Caber doing?"

Caber was sitting at a table, engrossed in his Arcomage cards. He had a nice pile of gold in front of him. Bethgael wandered over to the table. "We have to go, now, Cabie."

Caber didn't look up from his cards. "What are you, my wife?"

Bethgael squinted at his cards. "So," she said innocently, "what does it mean when you have one of those red cards and one of those blue cards that says 'tower plus twenty' on it?"

The other dwarfs at the table threw down their cards in disgust. Caber muttered sourly.

"Can we go, now?" Bethgael said firmly.

Caber pocketed his gold. "You're a spoilsport," he accused. "I was going to win, you know."

"You can play games later," Spider said. "We have some more important things to do."

"He's just trying to avoid the ghosts," Bard said.

"Damn straight I am," Caber replied, grabbing the rest of his ale and downing it in one go. He belched noisily. "Just fortifying myself. You know, one of the fellows here says that the Red Dwarf Mines in Bracada are infested with medusas. That is going to have a devastating blow on our economy if it is true."

"I wasn't even aware that you even knew words like 'devastated' and 'economy'," Bard commented mildly.

Caber belched again. "Yeah, course I do. What do you think I am, stupid?"

Bethgael grinned. "Well, you do have an Intellect of 9, you know."

Caber looked at her blankly.

"Uh, never mind," she said.

They went out the door and walked straight into a Shade. Caber killed it, and they headed towards Stone City. It helped having a dwarf who knew where to go, Bethgael thought. Then, suddenly, she felt terrified. Inexplicably terrified. She saw two Shades and a pink Specter coming towards them. She screamed, mostly because she had to, but partly to stop her teeth from chattering.

Spider jumped. "What's wrong with her?"

"Specters can make you Frightened, even if you wouldn't normally be," Caber replied. He thumped one of the ghosts, looking bolstered by Bethgael's terror. He stood in front of her protectively, thrusting with the sword and killing the Shade. Spider shot his bow at a second Shade and killed it. The Specter floated to them quickly, and Bethgael, despite her fear, swung her axe at it, glancing it. Spider then whacked it with his staff, and Caber stabbed it with his sword. Pe-EllAthor started to run around in circles, screaming, which didn't help a great deal.

"Die, damn you!" Bard yelled as he ripped at the Specter with his dagger. "And shut – up, Pe-Ell!" The Specter clawed at Spider, who hit it with his staff. The Specter floated backwards and Bethgael grabbed her bow, shooting it down.

They ran towards the bridge they could see ahead of them. Another Specter came up behind them, and Bethgael missed with her bow from trembling in fear. Bard cast Bless on her.

Bethgael felt better for it and was able to swallow her bile long enough to make a decent shot at the Specter. The Specter seemed to sense Spider's power and clawed at him. Spider screamed. "What's wrong?" Bethgael yelled at him as Bard hit the Specter.

"It's drained some life from me," Spider replied weakly.

"Run!" Caber yelled. "This way!" They ran across the bridge and up a hill, with Shades and Specters coming at them from every side.

"Oh, no, they're at the bridge," Bard whispered through gritted teeth.

They ran towards another bridge – a suspension one this time – where awaited more of the eerie beings.

"We should just run through them," Caber yelled. Bard didn't move. "Come on, Bard, what's with you?"

"I think he's got what I have," Bethgael said through gritted teeth, trying to keep her terror under control – without a great deal of success. She wanted to curl up in a ball and lie on the ground screaming. Normally, she would have felt ashamed at this, but at that point, she was just too frightened to care.

Spider grabbed Bard by the arm and shook him. Bard just stood, transfixed, watching the Shades come towards them. Then, he seemed to shake off his fear slightly and they ran across the suspension bridge… to another suspension bridge, with Caber swatting the Shades as they ran. Then they were surrounded. Shades were coming up through the bridge from under them. Bethgael started to feel like she was losing hope as they batted at the Shades in front of them.

In his fear, Bard was stabbing wildly with his dagger. Fortunately, he was hitting them, and between them, the Shades on the bridge in front of them went down, dropping into the water far below them.

"There's Stone City!" Caber yelled, and they ran towards it. It was a fortress plopped squatly on top of the hill. They bashed on the heavy iron and wood doors and the doors opened.

"What do you think we'll find?" Bethgael asked.

"Friends, I hope," Spider said. "Uh, Pe-EllAthor, you can stop yelling now."


Caber straightened his armour. "Maybe I should visit my mother," he said.


Back: to Episode Four
Next: to Episode Seven - Hi – Ho, Hi – Ho, Hi – Ho, Hi – Ho, Hi – Ho, Uh, To The King We Go : Coming soon

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