Magni Alehound stood at the announcements board at the bank/bar (finance and booze – how human) of Celador and patiently waited for attendees of Penny Shambleshot’s latest tour to arrive. It had been a long night, followed by a miserable morning. His head still ached from the cheap ale served at the tavern occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Paws. He had no love for Mr. Paws – but Mrs. Paws he had found himself strangely smitten with. He endured their cheap booze while admiring the long legs and ample curves of the proprietor’s wife. Penny would be none too pleased – but per Magni’s testimony, it was harmless infatuation.
Magni placed a couple of nails in his mouth, grabbed a hammer and took a crumpled piece of parchment from his pack. While it was well and good that Penny engaged in business endeavors with the people of Celador – Magni was keenly aware that terms of service needed to be put into writing. Whist lying in bed nursing his hangover, he had set about scratching off a contract onto parchment:
I – being of sound mind and body: Do absolve Celadorian Adventure Company and its agents, successors and/or assigns from any liability resulting from partaking in a tour with said company. This absolution shall cover all events – including:
- Scattering – transportation error
- Projectile Vomiting
So signed through acknowledgment by the word “Aye”.
Holding the parchment firm to the board he drove nails into the corners, stood back and admired his handy work. Terms of service had been expressed and questions of liability had been soundly answered. Neither he, nor Penny would be responsible for the travails that might befall the unprepared adventurer.
Penny was a more stout soul. She cared not about the legalities of such a flight of fancy. She was more concerned that whoever should choose to participate have access to ample supplies for the journey. Magni was unimpressed. If a fool chose to go forth into the wilds of the Barren Lands ill prepared it was on them, not the guide. Still he loved her for her generosity…. even if it meant diminished returns on their profit.
Two adventurers arrived. They seemed eager to set forth. A third person meandered, gawked and then fled like a scared little girl toward the town center. So much the better, they could not venture forth with such a soul. Magni stood looking at the board, thinking surely that the parties undertaking this adventure could not be so daft as to not see the scroll tacked so neatly to the board. Penny however, knew well her clientele. She instructed that they review the contract, acknowledge it, fill their packs with the provisions provided and then wait for her summoning.
In order to protect the innocent – and the mentally infirm – this author will refer to the two people that engaged in this adventure as Participant 1 and Participant 2. Be it known now that Participant 2 said little beyond, “Hehe” and “Haha”. Be it also known that Magni Alehound found Participant 2 to be the more pleasant of the two adventurers engaged in this endeavor.
Penny is a highly skilled mage master… as far as dwarves, be concerned. While our people are known for their skills as metalsmiths, entrepreneurs and warriors – Penny is something of a unique commodity. She is by far one of the most learned practitioners of the magickal arts that this short of stature writer has ever encountered. She wiggled her fingers and in an instant she was gone.
Know well that Magni Alehound is perhaps the most inept of our kind where it concerns the art of social interaction. Whilst Penny was gone, doing whatever it is that she was doing to secure their transport – Magni engaged the participants in conversation. He spoke of their impending end in terms most horrific. He had determined on review of the participants that they were far too feeble and squishy to endure such an arduous journey. He had no love of those who engage in the art of magick yet here before him stood two practitioners. His mind went instantly to the darkest of places. He told them that he did not expect that they would survive and queried as to the coin lust of those that might survive them. He admonished them, pointing to the contract and the terms of service. Participant 1 stated that his kinfolk would be disinclined to “bitch” about his end should it come. Participant 2 remained mute – which was more to Magni’s liking.
Magni, ill prepared to engage in a lengthy dialogue recounted two tales that were suspect in their veracity. The first involved his uncle Fudge and advice about digging holes for a living – be it known that this author cannot verify that any such character ever existed. The second involved Penny Shambleshot being a wetnurse to a herd of goats. This seemed less likely to be a reality and more likely to be an invention by which Alehound was able to comment on the ample womanly attributes of his beloved.
Alehound commanded that the participants take what the needed from the chests provided by Penny and instructed that they had but mere minutes to take what they needed. Meanwhile, Penny Shambleshot scattered her being to the ether picking her way through time and space to arrive at a point where she might have the power to portal her clientele. She found that point near the bridge that leads to The Barren Lands.
Penny set to conjuring the portal. She focused her concentration, recalling with the clarity of a painting the visages of both participants and Alehound who she is far too good for. Be it known that this author has no love for Alehound – who it is suspected holds Penny Shambleshot in servitude for reasons unknown.
In an instant the participants and Alehound were drawn to the bridge to The Barren Lands – and so they departed making the trip across the narrow span, finally arriving at the hilltop overlooking the desert. Again, Penny begged their indulgence as she pushed forth deeper into the region, to the place where she knew a previous expedition had met an untimely end at the pinchers of a beetle swarm. Alehound once again regaled the participants in tales of their eventual demise. Participant 1 responded – stating that it was his intent to investigate and perhaps tame a dragon. Alehound was unamused. He mocked Participant 1 unabashedly. Participant 2 to his credit and Alehound’s glee – remained silent.
Penny pushed deep into the desert, finding the skeletal remains of dragons that marked the place where they needed to be – and again she summoned forth the expedition. They marveled at the magnificent beauty of the barren locale – but were quickly set upon by a horde of lizardmen and snakes. Alehound and Shambleshot were quickly overwhelmed by the task at hand but were soon bolstered by the magickal prowess of the participants to their expedition. Riding horses, these participants were a deadly combination. They summoned forth fire, lightning and the earth itself – raining a persistent fire upon the enemy. Alehound a capable swordsman in his own right was relegated to mop up duties. Participant 2, keen in the art of taming used a beetle to do a good bit of his dirty work and Alehound found himself in league with the beast administering bleeds with theinsect taking the brunt of the attacks.
The expedition spent what seemed forever dispatching these lizardmen and their serpentine allies to the great beyond – it was a dance of savagery that made Alehound smile. Meanwhile, Penny Shambleshot had slowly regained her magickal strength and was soon unleashing a barrage of arcane destruction on the mass of the enemy.
The expedition pounded away at the desert minions until finally a great heat engulfed them all. A dragon emerged. It was a creature of such immense proportions that it seemed to swallow up their whole field of vision. There was nowhere that any of them could look that was not awash in the scaly visage of the beast. They set to attacking it. Alehound short in stature but tall in bravery ran headlong for the beast’s belly. To her credit, Penny followed. The lizardmen enraged and frightened sought to cage their beast yet again – engaging it with the expedition. Be it known that many of their number perished. Participants 1 and 2, were stalwart in their support they did as they had done with the lizardmen, unleashing magickal energies in a barrage that was both savage and beautiful. They commanded the elements – bringing forth the earth as a pummel, lightning as a dagger and fire as a poison. The whole of the elements was dropped upon the form that was this giant monster. Alehound screamed to his companions, ”The belly is weak!”
Human, lizardman, beetle and dwarf all conspired to end the life of this dragon and in time their will was done – but at a great cost to the keepers of the beast. The lizard folk were decimated, seeming to be little more than chum for the beast. The expedition having more sense and skill took advantage of the blind stupidity of the lizardmen and used it to their advantage. Slowly and methodically they cut at the beast while their enemy sought to contain and recapture their prize. Fools all of them – for the expedition (with the possible exception of the delusional participant 1) never sought anything but the beast’s demise. They hacked, slashed and conjured all meaning of damage until finally the dragon succumbed and fell dead upon its belly.
Penny whose nose is attuned to smell loot beckoned the expedition forth to the chests that were guarded by the beasts and instructed that the party take what they could. To her credit she set about making a portal for their escape because the lizardmen while weakened were again amassing for an assault to deal retribution. Alehound stood watch while the participants took what they deemed to be of value and then Penny conjured them forth yet again to the hillside leading to the bridge back to the lands of Celador.
Alehound, Penny and Participant 2 ran up the hill and across the bridge. They arrived on the other side and breathed a heavy sigh of relief. All was well until Penny asked, “Where is the other guy?” Alehound was immediately concerned. “This will end in litigation!” he lamented. Yet there was a third party at the encampment. Penny wisely conspired with Alehound, “We left with two and it appears we have two at this locale.” Alehound, smiled and surmised that she was correct – they had left with two and they had arrived with two. Yet Magni was not uncivilized. He demanded that a kind word be said for their disappeared comrade. “We should say a kind word of our friend – so let it be known, we hardly knew him.” Their deed done, Penny summoned forth Alehound, Participant 2 and the stranger to Celador. Thus our tale ends.
YES – THE END – BEGONE WITH YE!