|| Asymmetry | Role-Playing | Earthdawn-ish | Chapter 2 ||
During Harrick's watch, something snuffled around the brush near the camp. It was another bear, or the same one. It looked in over the palisade, unconcerned by the fire.
Mortimer turned over. Woke up. Sat up. Screamed at the top of his lungs.
The bear looked briefly taken aback and shuffled away into the darkness. Meanwhile everyone else had started awake and was grabbing a weapon before they realized what was going on. Given that the bear had gone away, they charitably decided not to kill the kid.
In the morning they continued along the trail. It was relatively straight and clean, but nevertheless seemed designed so as to be invisible if you weren't actually standing on it. Nothing magical seemed to be happening. Harrick wondered if maybe it only worked at night, but there would be little chance to test that; by nightfall they would be within a few hours of the town.
The day passed without event; as evening fell they continued, in case Harrick's guess was correct. There was enough moonlight that going on wasn't terribly hazardous. Nothing. Eventually it occurred to them that much of the other magic they had seen linked to the northern town had been triggered by verbal commands.
"Istaris," Harrick pronounced. They resumed hiking. The stars began glowing far more brightly than normal. The effect was disorienting for all of them, more so for Harrick, who could see best in the dark; each of their steps now carried them as far as five would have. Less than an hour later they reached the end of the path, in the woods on the western side of town, near the most outlying houses.
"We head for the armiger's. Directly," Harrick suggested. Robin wasn't too anxious to deal with her parents right away, and the others had no objection. Warning Mortimer to silence, they took one of the public skiffs that was tied up on the west bank across the river, rather than pass through the center of town to cross the bridge.
Harrick rang the bell at the gate. A sleepy-looking servant came out saying, "Yes, can I...." Then he saw Mortimer. He opened the gate. "Why don't you come on in." Harrick was familiar with the house, of course, and led the others to one of the waiting rooms. It was a very short time before Kendrick joined them. Terzin bowed.
"First off, one of you broke into the house and stole a toad head," Kendrick began briskly. "However, since, no doubt you acted as a unit, I will not assign blame to any one person." He nevertheless was looking at Terzin. "Then you presumably went south and found Mortimer where we least expected to locate him?"
"Actually, in a place even less," Terzin began, but had no chance to launch into the tale.
"Have a seat," Kendrick suggested to the group. "Determine exactly what your story is, and get it in the shortest order possible. My father will be down in a few moments."
After some hurried murmuring, they decided to let Harrick do the talking; Kendrick was wearing a faint smile. Five minutes later, the Armiger entered the room. He was old, in his sixties, but had an immense presence; this man had been through wars, and now in his later years stood as the ultimate symbol of law and justice for Crapaud and its surrounding area. He was the agent of the Countess, and therefore of the King. All thought of lying simply vanished from their minds. He sat down at the head of the table and looked each of them in the eye briefly.
"I understand that some of the younger citizens of my community have taken it upon themselves to perform an extreme rescue effort? I am glad to see that it has succeeded. Mortimer, I expect to hear from you everything that happened during the course of your disappearance. First, how did you find the young lad? Start from the beginning." He was looking at Harrick; unlike many of Crapaud's human residents, Kenneth could not be expected to underestimate him.
"We decided to do the toad thing," the orc began cautiously.
"So that no one would know you were going on a wide-range patrol for the young lad?"
"Well, yes they were dangerous areas..." Terzin put in.
"You didn't want your parents to worry? Or you didn't want us to stop you?"
"That, and whoever it was killed off the Raelites, we really didn't want them to"Harrick began.
"Who?" Kenneth asked sharply.
"The body they found," Kendrick reminded him.
"What body?" Mortimer wanted to know. "And what about the guy I was following?"
"We'll get back to you, Mortimer," Harrick said patiently. Let's hang us first, then you. "One moment." He rummaged through his pack and pulled out the journal, handed it to Kendrick. "Here."
"I distinctly remember asking if you found anything else with the body," the elementalist remarked, paging through it. "I said that these people usually kept very good journals, and it's a shame that you guys didn't locate one. I distinctly remember you saying yes, that's quite a shame. Father?" He handed the book over while the kids cringed under their collective guilt. It was impossible to tell what Kenneth was thinking.
All he said was, "Hm. Yes, most unfortunate that he did not keep an accurate journal. Precis for me the contents of the journal, if you would."
"Travel notes, mostly what would be expected," Harrick summarized. "They were looking for a city they assumed would be upriver. There's evidences in there that somebody in town worked upriver of them, as people were waiting for them. Only we didn't know who it was."
"And therefore trusted no one with this information, as it might have been anyone. Even myself or my son?"
"Though it would have rent our hearts, we had no way to know," Terzin averred.
"Stop helping," Harrick muttered, and Jared kicked him.
"So what did you find at the town?" the armiger wanted to know. "I assume that's where you ended up."
Harrick described the buried town and the unusual plant life.
"And hideous monsters, which we fought and defeated!"
Jared kicked Terzin again.
"Large complex underneath the crypt of an elementalist nethermancer," Harrick went on, interrupted by Kenneth's sharp inhalation. "Zombies, the plant thing, more zombies...."
"Our victories were many!" Everyone ignored him this time.
"Really clever use of green slime to seal off a corridor," he glanced at his mentor, but managed to refrain from plunging into a technical description of the various magics.
"And yet, our cleverness got around it!"
"Really, really big lizard thing..." The catalog continued.
"And where did you find young Mortimer?"
"In the kitchen."
"Well, once we found him we brought him out and returned."
"How long did it take you to get back here?"
"About two days. It would have been faster, but it took me a day and a half to figure out how the magic road worked."
"There's a magic path that the cultist uses to get between here and there," Terzin explainedfor once without embellishment.
"Well, cultist is an interesting pejorative, but there is a roadway that's faster to travel along than it really should be," Harrick qualified.
"And how did you find this?"
"I showed it to them!" Mortimer announced. The adults turned their attention to him.
"Mortimer. Explain yourself."
With the armiger actually looking at him, he tended to stutter more than normal, but they quickly heard the story of his trip to the town and how he had been trapped.
"And we came out right by Chandler's place, and then we came over here," he finished.
A brief silence.
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Copyright © 2000 Brian Rogers et al