Friday, October 14, 2011

The Ghost Fish of Dunn’s Brook

After the events of their last Mission, the members of the AAA Adventure Group wound up having various restless nights sleep, consumed by thoughts and dreams of what had transpired earlier that day. The adventure of the Yellow Robed Man had concluded successfully, but left a number of questions lingering. What had Wuton and Rothmon said to one another? What would Wuton do? And would Hermel ever meet Elizabeth Warrenstone again? Hermel’s dream was probably the most interesting of the lot, but that is a tale for another day.

When they awoke at dawn the next morning the group met in front of the Adventure Guild Hall. It was a small stone and brick building on the outskirts of the Old Quarter, not far in fact from Dunn’s Bridge. It had two stories, and an iron fence surrounding the edge of the property. It looked like an enormously old building, practically melted away, with red stone beneath a covering of pale green mosses, and dark green ivy. Within was the main foyer where there was a desk at which usually sat Peter Larkin, the head master of the Guild Hall, who received members at the door, and shooed away nosy strangers with a gruff and huff when he wished to. He could be quite a formidable man when he chose. In any event the three young men were ushered inside to the waiting room outside the library. There was a conversation going on in the inner room, but none of the boys overheard what it was regarding.

Out stormed Jeremy Jones with a huff of his own from the inner sanctum of the library. It was serving as Peter’s council room, as well as the charter hold, and the map room, and out through the deep purple curtains stormed Jeremy, a scowl three miles wide across his face. He cocked his head, and stopped.

“Well, Mr. Rothmon, … I’m going to rescue my friends! Right now. Thanks for everything you’ve done, but I can’t wait any longer! I’ll rescue them alone if I have to!” and out of the library, past the boys, and out the building stormed Jeremy, his young heart filled with urgency.

“As you wish, young Jeremy Jones, but don’t say later that I had not warned you of the perils of such a hasty course. But you must make your own decisions,” said Mr. Rothmon gravely. And at that Jeremy Jones turned on his heels and ran straight out the door and down the stairs.

After him ran Hermel, out into the road. He had taken a sudden liking to Jeremy, and called after him,

“Excuse me, but I couldn’t help but notice your rush out. May I ask, what’s wrong? Perhaps I can help you.”

Jeremy’s twelve years of experiences in Hobbington made him squint his eyes with interest and a certain edge of suspicion. Hermel persisted and eventually he’d found out from the boy that his four friends from the Hagglesmith Horde had been exploring some tunnels under Dunn’s Bridge for Mr. Rothmon when the four of them got in a fight in the tunnel and were captured in nets by several men in the first room. And Jeremy, who alone escaped, was heading back to rescue them.

“Well, hold on, there. Don’t go running off by yourself”, said Hermel. “I’ll go and get a couple of my friends, and we’ll help you out. Can you wait a few minutes for me to collect them?” he asked pointing to the hall.

Jeremy thought for a moment.

“Ok, but five minutes. Then I’m heading out!”, replied Jeremy stiffly.

“Sure, sure, ok!” said Hermel as he ran back up the stairs toward the library.

Through the purple curtains walked Hermel, and was stopped in his tracks by the money on the table, that was stacked up in two piles of five iron coins each. Mr. Rothmon gazed up at the lad, and gesturing for him to come collect his payment, said,

“Ah, Hermel. As I was saying, you young men did a fine job finding the Yellow Robed Man, and it was the right step to come back and get me once you found him. I had a chance to speak with him, though his Mission here is still a mystery. All we know is that it has something to do with a woman that he wishes to see in the Palace. Of course that makes the entire affair rather dangerous. And without facts, let alone evidence, of his true intentions, which he would not explain, I’m afraid no charter for a Mission can be drawn up. Ah, yes, Hermel, here are the 10 Iron for your work on the successfully completing the Mission.”

At this point Hermel picked up the money, put it in a thick leather pouch, and roped it to his belt again. He was pleased. As were his two compatriots.

“Ah, and at any rate, I should like to offer you fellows another Mission, if you will. It is also a level one Mission, and you should be able to accomplish it, I should say. Once your group achieves second level I will then be able to offer you second level Missions as well. So be patient, work hard and …”

“Excuse me, sir, sorry to interrupt you,” said Hermel suddenly, glancing out the window looking for Jeremy outside. “But I am wondering, why can’t we help that boy who just stormed out of here, Jeremy?”

“Well, I, uh, don’t have any way for you to help him, actually. The Guild is very specific about its rules, as you know. In this case there is no Guild Mission in Jeremy’s regard to conduct a rescue. It has not been drawn up, and no plan has been formulated as to the approach. I was explaining this to Jeremy, but he grew regrettably impatient. Now he’s run off to rescue his friends alone. I fear we shall see none of them again, perhaps.”

At this all of the three clambered that they would want to help Jeremy and his friends. They quickly listenned to the story as Jeremy had explained it to Hermel, and agreed. They were determined to help the lad. But the laws of the Guild, as mentioned, are specific and unbendable. No Mission had been drawn up for the rescue. It would take hours, if not days. The Guild is many things, and powerful, but fast is not one of them. However, due to quirk in the rules, no one had been assigned as an Adjunct Member of the Mission that the Hagglesmiths had taken, and this loophole allowed the boys to join that Mission. Unfortunately, as Rothmon explained, the rescue Mission was likely going to be a higher level than the first level Mission the Hagglesmiths had accepted. This detail was quickly pushed passed in the clamber to join Jeremy within the thirty seconds left to get outside. They ran out just as Jeremy was turning around to head off at a sprint to Dunn’s Bridge, and as soon as he saw them, he pelted out a “Great! Lets Go!” and ran off down the cobblestone road eastward. Dunn’s Bridge lay ahead by several blocks.

As they ran the streets became foggy, and by the time the got to the old towering bridge itself the air was thick with white fog. They could only see ten feet before the white haze swallowed all. It was early in the morning. A horn sounded in the distance. Crows cawed as they flew between the four towers of the odd old bridge.

“Tell us exactly what happened, Jeremy,” they asked, having gotten only sparse information as they ran.

“Well, I had gotten inside the tower through the window on the second story of the north east tower. I crept down the stairway to the main door and opened it to let the Hagglesmiths in. We crept down stairs to the lower level and searched the circular room that Mr. Rothmon had spoken about. We searched and finally found a secret sliding doorway. It lead down a tunnel! I was in the rear keeping a lookout behind when suddenly up front they had opened a door to a room and immediately got in brawl with some men. Then I heard melee going on and I saw nets fall over the Hagglesmiths and a few men around them with swords, and they were telling them to give up or die. Well then that’s when I ran to go fetch Mr. Rothmon, or an adventure group to come help us! But now I think they need to be rescued. Anyway, as far as I can tell the tunnel would go under Dunn’s Brook in the direction of that tavern over there," he said all in a fluster.

He pointed across the street at Five Crows Tavern. It was early in the morning, mist was curling around the window sills of the ancient red brick building. The wood and glass paneled door was closed shut, and no light showed through from the darkened windows.

It was then discussed as to what to do. They decided that Ishcandar, one of the two hobbits in their Group, would go back to the market area and try to find Wuton at the Fountain Inn, and try to persuade him somehow to help them rescue the Hagglesmiths. He marched off across Dunn’s Bridge with high spirits and soon found his way through the maze of streets and allies, over the bridges, and stairs, directly across the way from the old magic fountain of Town Center, at the market. Across the street was the Fountain Inn. Marching inside Ishcandar took a quick look in all directions but did not see Wuton in the main room, or in the drinking hall. He went to the bar tender who had been serving the day before. Old and grizzled was he.

“What can I do you for, son?”, he asked.

Well to make a long story short, Ishcandar wound up having another drink, hair of the dog as it were, and leaving a big tip and with lots of glad handing managed to find out that Wuton had taken residence in room F on the second floor, and was free to go and knock and his door, though the barkeep was not certain whether the man was there or not. So Ishcandar marched himself upstairs, hung over, and now drunk again, as he was, and knocked on the door of room F. There was no answer. He listened at the door, but heard no sound. He examined the lock on the door, but it was solid. He tried, even, to pick the lock, having tools he had bought, but little skills to do so, and after two tries which failed, he went to the window. Opening it, he looked out down the ally way, and saw that there was a ledge. He climbed out and shimmied over to the window of room F. The window was locked, and so he took his elbo and with a sharp snap broke the window on his leather sleeve. He used is dagger to clear the edges, and stepped inside. It was a reasonably nice room, the bed was ruffled, and there were no papers, luggage or artifacts. And so with nothing else to do, Ishcandar opened the draw of the main desk, having in mind to write a note for Wuton imploring his aid. From the drawer he withdrew paper, and with a quill that was on the desk managed to scratch out a note of half letters, and ill-drawn stick figures that explained what he wished. “Come help us! Dunn’s Bridge!” it said.   He carefully and politely left the note on the desk, and then turned his drunk self to the window, shimmied to the hall window, and went downstairs.

He apologized profusely and paid the Innkeeper a large amount of Iron pieces for breaking the window, and then ran back to where he left his friends. They meanwhile had gone snooping around Five Crows Tavern. There were, as it turned out, some men inside, and the adventurers convinced them that they wanted something to drink early, as “hair of the dog, you know” seemed a popular reason for doing things in Hobbinton. Having gained entrance, they saw two men at one table and gruff and grizzly bartender staring them down from behind the bar. They ordered a few drinks and, getting themselves a little drunk, managed to say a little too much out loud. Ishcandar came in at that time, and seeing the awkward moment, interceded with a loud and bawdy offer of drinks to the two men sitting at the corner table. They stood up. One was enormously tall and broad chested, but with vacuous eyes and a dull looking expression. The other was small, but well armed, and had a shrewd look as he stroked his blond moustache and beard.

“We don’t want to drink with you,” said the blond man.

Ishcandar was taken aback. He had not expected such a direct counter attack to his obfuscation. He stammered at the bartender, instead, asking for another drink, to calm his nerves, as he needed hair of the dog, don’t you know. The bartender suddenly took a liking to Ishcandar, little drunk hobbit that he was. He gave him a drink, and all was well with the world, as his friends scurried back outside into the foggy street.

Ishcandar soon followed, and they high taled it away up the street away from Dunn’s Bridge. They huddled and decided that they’d just tipped off the bad guys, and that their plan had been compromised. Poor Jeremy was mighty peeved. After all, he might have had his friends rescued already had he only tried right away, he thought. At this, everyone decided to go straight to the bridge again, and this time follow Jeremy’s original plan, which was to climb into the second story window again, and let the others in. Instead, however, they made a slightly different plan. The new plan was for the two hobbits to climb to the window, and let Hermel and Jeremy in. and so the two hobbits made their way around the ledge along which was a narrow iron fenced walkway that lead to a door on the outer far side of the bridge. Above the door on the second story was a narrow window, dark. Lido began climbing, and Ishcandar, feeling rather unsettled by the dark swirling waters below and the ghostly white fish swimming in it, threw a coin in with a wish for good luck. One of the ghostly fish leapt out of the water and grabbed the coin in mid air and swallowing it, vanished with a ‘kerplunk’ in the dark fast moving waters.

As he was shimmying up the drain pipe after Lido, Ishcandar suddenly lost his footing and fell backwards. Down and down he fell with a long little yelp, and plunged into the swift dark waters below. Four ghostly fish immediately began swimming rapidly in his direction converging from four directions within the water. Ishcandar began to try to swim as fast as he could, as he was being carried away into the swirling depths by the burbling current.

Fast thinking Lido pulled out his sling and aiming it at one of the fish, knocked it clean on the head so that it died with a waif of blood flowing over the shimmering white scales of its body.

Meanwhile, having heard the noise, Jeremy grabbed Hermel and they ran around the walkway to the other side and looked down into the waters. Hermel took out a small crowbar and rope from his backpack, quickly tied them together, and launched it into the water. With a huge heave, and a special prayer while holding his lucky dragon stone, Hermel gave one of those Too-Good-To-Be-True Perfect Tosses and landed it with a 'kerplunk' exactly in front of Ishcandar, who, suffering from a serious bout of sudden bad luck, failed to catch it in his hand, and so rolled under the water again with a gasp. Down into the depths he swam as the first of the ghostly fish took a bite out of his armor with its sharp teeth. The fish followed. Hermel gave the end of the rope to Jeremy, who tied it to the bridge grill. Meanwhile Ishcandar was bit again, this time severely in the throat. Lido attempted to hit the fish with his slingstones, but they were too deep in the water now, and the shots missed their mark. Another bite. Hermel managed to take aim with a special mystical power. It was known as Earth Healing, and he but needed to hit his friend with the lump of dirt and it would help. And so it did. When it smacked into Ishcandar has he rolled to the surface again with a huge gasp, it crumbled into dust, and that dusty powder spread into his wounds, and within moments he was miraculously healed, the wounds closing up almost immediately. He was, however, soon to drown just the same, unless he could be rescued at the last moment. Another of the fish had bit him again, he was bleeding into the water, and he strength was almost gone. Another minute and he would submerge forever into the dark swirling waters of Dunn’s Brook. During this minute Lido managed to hit each of the remaining three ghostly fish, killing them all. And Hermel, having loosened the rope from the bridge rail, and running along side of the canal, took another toss with his grapple and this time they were both lucky. The rope 'kerplunked' into the water within range, and Ishcandar was finally able to catch it. And so they hauled him out of the water, and there he stood shivering on the side of the canal, looking down over the water’s edge.

They all suddenly thought the same thing at the same time, and as one craned their heads around and upward to look up at Dunn’s Bridge. Indeed in the window of the north east tower they saw a dim green light. And at the edge of the window, they saw a silhouette standing silently watching.

Previous Episode: The Mystery of the Yellow Robed Man
Next Episode: The Hagglesmith Rescue - Part I

No comments: