Monday, July 23, 2012
The pretty and slender young woman with luxurious long red-brown hair sat by the steaming outdoor bath as she watched Senior Borge and his small entourage of lawyers bustle their way through the snow, bracing themselves against the cold wind. Senior Borge, noticing the beautiful eyes gazing at him, waved and called out “Hello young lady!”
She turned her eyes away and pretended not to have heard him. Senior Borge, remembering that he was in a great hurry to leave the vale, shook off the girl’s enchantment and continued on his way, his young lawyers following regretfully in train behind him.
Meanwhile, further up the trail, and well out of view, the party stood gaping in astonishment that the Great Frost Eagle had vanished up into the sky and became a cloud. They regrouped and began to discuss matters. It seemed, they decided, that the dreadful beast had been something of an illusion.
“Chicken says it was an ‘IllU-ZZIon’!” exclaimed Bantum, excitedly trying to pronounce that complicated multi-syllable word. Dr. Chickenhiemer felt a pang of pride that the giant baffoon had managed to pronounce it sufficiently for the others to understand it, even if Bantum himself had absolutely no idea whatsoever what that word meant.
Back at the bath, Senior Borge had been unable to resist the girl’s charms after all. And so he had turned his entourage around and made his way back down the path, and eventually came up to the edge of the steaming pool. He commanded his retinue to clean their faces and take a moment to refresh themselves for the long journey. Mae, with a condescending turn of the head, proceeded to ignore them as they feasted their eyes on her voluptuous form. After a few awkward moments of everyone gaping at the poor girl she wrapped her towel around herself carefully and went to the bath house to change into more substantial clothing, annoyed that she had been interrupted. Without a word to any of the forelorn men there she took her leave and went back to the Prancing Unicorn Inn. It was none too satisfying there either, however, as there were still people dashing about repairing damages from the barn fire, and many miners were moaning and groaning on cots all around the first and second floors of the Inn.
“Say, Miss,” said the barkeep when he saw her come in, stop at the door and look around with an expression of ennui, “I don’t suppose you happen to be a nurse?”
“No,” she replied.
“Do you know how to bandage wounds?”
“No,” she replied.
“Can you comfort any of these wounded men at least?”
“No,” she replied.
“I see. Ok, well, if you must be that way…” he said, his voice trailing off as he admired her beauty just the same. His wife came out from he kitchen caring a basin of hot water and fresh white towels to help some of the miners with.
“Oh, hello, Mae,” she said as she passed the wanton girl, whom she knew would be unlikely to offer any sort of assistance.
“Hello, ma’am,” replied Mae as the woman bustled past. She watched her as she bent over a wounded miner and began applying warm water to an open cut. Disinterested in that, she looked around again. In fact, she found that there wasn’t much of interest here for her after all. There was no music, no dinner, and no handsome men of sufficient health and wealth to provide her any particular incentive to stay. And so, without much ado, she left the Prancing Unicorn and decided to head home. It would be something of a trek, and the snow was deep, but she knew the way well, and had traveled it many times. Nor was it particularly far, taking only the morning to get there on a clear day. In the snow, she might make it home by night fall. And besides, she thought, her father would worry about her if she did not come home soon, given that he would have likely seen the dark plume of smoke from the recent barn fire. Off into the white snow drifts she went, her head bound in a gorgeous black sable hat, and her beautiful black cloak trailing behind her.
Further up the trail, Star of Justice was panting frosty vapors, bent over with his right hand hand on one knee. Sweat dripped from his forehead and started to form icicles on his hair. The others stood nearby in similar condition.
“I didn’t know Divine Judgment would be so tiring,” he said, wiping his forehead with his sleeve.
Hermel came out from his hiding spot and made his way through the snow toward the party.
“Look – it’s the coward!” shouted Bantum cheerfully.
"I was crouching in my 'sniper's hole'" announced Hermel unconvincingly.
Praymar made is way to his parents, and they clasped each other with exhausted relief. The battle may have been against an illusionary Frost Eagle, but it was no less perilous for that. They were lucky that no one had been seriously injured, or driven mad.
“Someone is approaching on the road,” said Star. They all peered through the trees and caught sight of Senior Borge and his entourage, huffing and puffing as they trundled their way through the snow.
“That’s Senior Borge. He’s an important man. I wonder if we could flank along with him, as it might give us the means to get over the bridge, perhaps.”
Praymar Makes A Move
Praymar was curious about Senior Borge and snuck up to the road planning to hide behind a pine tree in order to watch them pass. As he approached he inadvertently stepped on a twig, which snapped with a loud ‘twak’. One of the lawyers took notice of Praymar and mentioned his presence to Senior Borge.
“Oh damn it!” squeaked Praymar.
“Praymar, they are going to kill you,” whispered Hermel angrily, “and I’m going to watch.” The fact that the wreckless little albino had given away their presence might have been fatal. Praymar decided to step out from behind the tree and make a bolder stand. Everyone waited for him to be riddled with arrows, but the men, seeing the strange looking white haired boy with glowering red eyes, proceeded to trundle along pretending that they hadn’t noticed him after all. Praymar thought twice about flickering his forked tongue at them.
“I’m over here!’ he shouted, now annoyed at being ignored once again. The men continued trundling away as quickly as they could.
“Say,” called Praymar to the party, “maybe if we hurry we can follow close behind and get over the bridge with them!”
“I just suggested that,” replied Star to himself. Arik thought it sounded like a reasonable plan, and the others didn't disagree. Hermel, listening to this kind of talk, decided that he would be far better off to get far away from the party after all. These people, he suddenly realized, are far too reckless for his tastes. He immediately turned face and headed south through the snow.
“Do me a favor,” he said, turning around briefly, “when you get captured by the men on the bridge and are beaten and tortured to death, don’t rat me out, ok? I’ll be escaping elsewhere. My townsmen need me. Farewell.”
And with that, Hermel entered into the pine trees. Star of Justice watched Hermel vanish from view with dismay.
“Arik, will you go with Hermel?” asked he thoughtfully. “He may need help along the way, after all.” But Arik had other things on his mind.
“Beyond giving away our position,” asked Arik, turning to Praymar, “do you have any sort of plan?”
“I just wanted to see what they were doing,” the albino squeaked in reply.
The gaggle of lawyers, meanwhile, were hustling as quickly as they could down the road toward the Dragon Bridge. Praymar, having exhausted his meager supply of patience, ran off down the road after them. Lanna and Ben both ran after him, calling his name trying to get him to slow down. Star decided it wouldn’t be a bad idea necessarily to follow behind and see how the lawyers fare at the bridge. Arik, on the other hand, looked back after Hermel, thinking that he was probably the wisest among them for having run off. And Bantum, none the wiser in any event, simply followed along behind everyone else wondering if it was time to feed his chickens. They seemed a bit peckish as they clucked and squawked on the bandoleer as he strode through the snow. Only Dr. Chickenhiemer remained quiet, keeping a careful eye on the two men in cloaks on the Bridge from his perch on top of Bantum’s head.
The lawyers, pretending not to notice the weird squeaking albino and his family following after them, picked up speed, and made it onto the bridge. With a few curt words, and a wave of his hand, Senior Borge somehow gained passage, and with his little crew waddled past the guards, and hurried over to the other side, with ne’er a glance over his shoulder. They sped away as fast as Senior Borge’s stubby legs could carry him. As the last of the lawyers was ushered through, the ranks closed and the thuggish guards faced the road with grim expressions, shields raised. Praymar stopped. Lanna and Ben stopped behind him. Star stopped. And Arik held Bantum at bay. Praymar, never one to waste a moment in thought dodged back into the forest and made his way back the way they came supposing he might run into Hermel again.
Far behind them on the road he spotted a figure in a black cloak trudging through the snow.
“Hey, here comes someone else on the road!” he squeaked. Everyone turned around and watched as the young lady approached along the road. Praymar, shy as a field mouse, hid behind a tree and peered at her as she passed. He had seen her many times before but had never been able to introduce himself. Lanna met her on the road.
“Greetings, Mae,” said Lanna warmly.
“Oh, hello Ma’am,” replied Mae with a little curtsy. Everyone in the party crowded around her, half amazed at her astonishing loveliness. Bantum came up, covered in clucking chickens, and said, “Hello, pretty lady!” Mae’s eyes went wide.
Star explained to the young lady that they were hoping to leave the vale, but the Bridge was blocked by armed men who insisted that everyone turn back, except for Senior Borge and his people, who were allowed to pass. The girl asked what they intended to do. None of them were quite sure what to do. They began to squabble. Some wanted to go after Hermel and find another way out of the vale. Some wanted to fight the guards in a sudden assault. Some wanted to sneak around the guards and avoid the bridge all together somehow.
It was decided after all to go off and find Hermel. What they didn’t know was that Hermel was hiding in the forest meditating in order to recuperate the mystical power he had recently expended. He did not wish to be disturbed. Yet, after quite a bit of a trudging around in the forest, they stumbled upon Hermel’s trail and eventually found him. He was none too pleased.
When Pretty Young Girls Go It Alone
For her part, Mae had decided that her best chance was to use her charms to persuade the guards to let her go home. And so after bidding the party a good day and the best of the luck, without further ado she made her way to the bridge where she caught the eye of one of the thuggish Captains, was immediately captured by the craven bullies and carried off. Unfortunately, the party members, having made their way into the forest, did not hear her cries for help, and so there was no one to come to her rescue. She decided, therefore, to make the best of things, and wait for an opportunity to get her revenge.
Meanwhile the party, having reunited, debated long and hard on how to escape the vale. They decided eventually, that the best idea was for the mystics to spend their time in meditation and healing, and so restore their mystic energies. Since they knew that there was an Illusionist of some kind on the bridge it seemed to them a good idea to prepare themselves for another mystic battle. It took the rest of the day. Fortunately, the guards on the bridge made no effort to track them through the woods, undoubtedly reasoning that doing so would deplete their force and create a vulnerability that could allow an aggressive band of fighters to overwhelm the bridge and escape the vale. So the held their position and waited.
Once the sky became a deep indigo speckled with stars, the party, having positioned themselves carefully along the brook where it was narrowest, prepared to make their way across. They handed a rope to Lanna who made a great ‘salmon leap’ over the river, landing gracefully in the snow with a flourish of her cape, and quickly tied the rope securely to a tree. They tied the other end to another tree on their side, and with that and two other ropes they managed to make their way one by one over the precarious crossing, and landed safely on the other side. All except for Praymar, who unluckily fell headlong into the water and injured his leg on a sharp rock. Lanna ran to him as they hauled him gasping out of the freezing water. She tried to bandage his wound, but poor luck and a mother's frantic nerves pestered them further and she found herself unable to help him effectively. His father, however, was steady of heart, a determined man, and once he put his hand to it he bandaged his son's wounds and restored his ability to walk. He bundled Praymar in blankets and Lanna, who always seemed to have something useful in her sack, handed him a change of dry cloths. It was now getting dark. The party quietly made their way to the edge of the woods and peered out across the snow drifts. The guards had lit several torches and occupied the bridge. To the east a tall cliff was on the other side of the drifts, about a hundred feet away, hugged along its base by a snow shrouded pine forest.
Evasion in the Dark
Since they were cautious and had crossed over into a clump of trees the men on the bridge had not spotted the heroes. When a patrol passed along the path near by, the adventurer’s were concealed, and remained undetected. Once night time had sufficiently fallen Praymar with his uncanny ability to see perfectly in the dark lead them steathily over the drifts and along the base of the cliff through the forest so that they skirted the bridge entirely.
After they had walked some ways past the bridge they relaxed and came out of the forest onto the road. There they stood congratulating one another in whispers as they looked up and down the road for any guards, but there were none. All of those rough thugs were clustered on the bridge, and most of them had leaned their backs against the wooden railing and had gone to sleep for the night in their blankets, while only a few stood watch, and those could not see far in the darkness. Praymar reported on the disposition of the guards, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. They had escaped the vale of the Prancing Unicorn unscathed after all.
And so they made their way quietly down the road toward the south, when they came upon a three-way fork where the road from the vale intercepted the north south road that went between Hobbington and the northern villages of Fenton, and Bear Claw. Hermel thought of Hornmel, his cousin, and wondered how he was faring on his journey to meet the old Kung Fu teacher at Bear Claw Village, and hoped he would not have too many troubles on the road alone. Bantum, who had managed to quiet all of the chickens for their stealthy get away, with considerable help from Dr. Chickenhiemer though he did not know it, noticed a light coming from the woods along the base of the cliff further south. He tapped Star on the shoulder and pointed. Dr. Chickenhiemer had helped Bantum to keep silent too, and that was a good thing indeed, as usually the youthful giant would have made a loud exclamation at seeing anything out of the ordinary. Dr. Chickenhiemer kept Bantum steady with a low whispered “Cluuuuuuck", least the guards on the bridge be alerted by the kind hearted moron.
Praymar wondered how the beautiful young woman in the black cape was faring. For some reason he imagined that she was much like he was, the sort of person who craved drinking the delicious gut-blood of dying men. He rehearsed her name, Mae, to himself a few times, and hoped she was back at her home safe and sound. She lived in the same hamlet as he did, and it gave him something to look forward to that he might peep at her again sometime. Little did he realize then what danger she was actually in! Or vice verse, perhaps.
And then the moon came out from behind the clouds, casting silvery rays across the white landscape, as huge shadows sailed eerily over the forested hills for as far as the eye could see. In the distance a lone wolf howled long against the silver moon.
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