All posts by Rickardulus

Roleplaying, game designing, pun throwing, quick smiling nerd who like writing fantasy stories, designing Board games and RPG Scenarios, and socializing with friends. "Humor: Emotional chaos remembered in tranquility."

Hercules Chapter 3: The Moon

Chapter 3:  The Moon
As the ship arrived at its destination in a far off solar system, Rick turned in his chair and said to the black haired guard behind him, “So, I put in the coordinates, and I feel I owe you an apology.  We didn’t explode, even though you wouldn’t let me verify the trajectories or even look at the map and in fact, wouldn’t even let me near my own desk until you had finished doing what you were doing.  I for one am glad you got lucky.”  With that, Rick spun around back to his keyboard while the guard replied with indignation, “Lucky?  I have been working on-board vessels as a navigator for years!  I know how to plot a jump, and this is a secret location!”  Dan grinned slightly as he looked at his screen and muttered, “Not anymore.”  Just then he felt a large, rough hand on his shoulder and heard the blonde guard saying, “The device we put on your ship also deletes all files the moment it is removed, so all those numbers will be gone whether this ship explodes or whether you somehow actually manage to pull this off.”  Dan slumped in his chair for a moment before suddenly staring at the screen, muttering numbers to himself.  Kaleb wandered over and asked, “Is he actually trying to memorize the coordinates?”  Karl blinked a moment before yanking Dan from his chair and answering, “He was.”  He then drew his pistol and said, “Alright.  Make for the small moon.  The blue one, dead ahead.  That is our objective.”  Rob steered the ship straight where Karl had directed while replying, “Alright, but only because I want to see what’s so important myself.”  Jess added, “And perhaps we WILL get rich on this?  Wouldn’t that be a great turn of things?  From death sentence to filthy rich, just like that!”  Karl Shook his head and motioned to Kaleb, saying, “Come on, let’s get our gear ready for the landing.”  With that, they left the bridge.  The moment the door closed behind them, Rob jumped up from his chair and said, “Alright guys, I need a plan to get rid of our trackers, the ship tracker, and the two goons which also lets us become rich.  Any ideas?  After a short pause with all the crew racking their brains, Jess let out a small grunt as she threw her hand in the air and said, “What if we hold the goons hostage until they get the trackers out?  I’ve always wanted to tie someone to a chair!”  Dan shook his head and replied, “They can just push a button and boom, tracker explodes, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they also had a voice command or a timer or some other back up for the trackers.”  Rob stroked his chin and replied, “ok, what if we just remove our own trackers first, throw the goons out the airlock, then hop on the top of the ship with a crowbar and wedge the ship tracker off?”  Rick replied, “Yeaaah, if these things get tampered with too much, they go off even if they didn’t get a signal to, so I’d say no.  The ship tracker should be the least annoying one to do though, so we just have to focus on the goons and the trackers in our arms”  Michael shrugged and said, “What if we cut our arms off?”  The rest of the crew looked at him, stunned, causing him to raise his hands defensively in front of himself and add, “It was a joke!  It was a joke!  Although, let’s be honest, it would remove the tracker.”  Dan replied, “True, but it just adds a whole bunch of new problems.”  Jess let out an exasperated sigh and replied, “Ok, we can figure it out eventually, it’s not like we need them out now or anything.”  Rick rubbed his arm where it had been put in and replied, “Easy for you to say.”  Right then, Kaleb and Karl reentered the bridge, each one carrying a surprisingly large blaster rifle that, in all honesty, was only a few small steps beneath being a handheld cannon.  Rob took one look, blinked rapidly for a moment, and asked, “Where did you get those, and where’s mine?”  Kaleb pressed a button, causing his gun to make a slight buzzing sound and replied, “This is mine, that is Karls, you don’t get one.”  The crestfallen look on Rob’s face would have made a small puppy cry, but neither of the soldiers were small puppies, so it had no effect on them other than making Karl raise an eyebrow in mild amusement before replying, “Get your gear and meet us on the exit ramp.  Be ready to fight.”  As they turned to leave, Rick let out a small moan and asked, “Fight?  Fight what?”  But the only reply he got was the door closing behind the two.  A few minutes later, at the exit ramp, Karl and Kaleb looked over the crew in shock for a moment before asking the entire crew, “This is a joke, right?  Please tell me you’re joking.”  One could understand his distress because other than basic outdoor survival gear, none of the crew was especially well armed, each one having just a single pistol at their side and each with something unusual.  Rick was wearing a electronic monocle, Jess was wearing a device on her wrist that looked like a mix of a watch, phone, mechanical pencil, tape measurer, pedometer, and a stapler, none of which seemed to be working.  Rob was wearing a belt with more flashing lights and spinning gears than any device had any right to have and Dan was carrying a staff.  Not a fancy, electronic staff or one made out of glued swords or something, just an ordinary wooden staff which he was busy sliding a smoking pipe into as he entered the cargo hold.  Michael had slightly better looking armor on and a sheathed Katana on his back, making him look the most prepared to Karl and Kaleb, but only in comparison to the rest.  As the crew looked at the guards, then at each other, Rob smacked his forehead and replied, “Of course!  What were we thinking!”  With that he ran to the side and grabbed a small cooler, saying, “Almost forgot lunch.”  Kaleb looked at Rob for a moment, speechless, before replying, “Well, if nothing else, you’ll make an adequate meat shield when the creatures attack.”  With that, he hit the button to open the door while the entire crew in unison asked, “Wait, creatures?”  As the ramp reached the ground, Karl and Kaleb moved out, sweeping the area and giving shouts of, “Clear right!  Nothing on scanners.  Thermals clear”  And other military jargon while the rest of the crew timidly stepped out quietly muttering among each other;

Creatures?  What kind of creatures?
Maybe they’re just trying to scare us.
Well, it’s working!  I wanna go back on the ship!  I’ve always wanted to escape guaranteed death, you know, add it to my resume.
Yeah, good luck with that.
Hey, I can talk to judges, I can’t talk to creatures that want to eviscerate me.
Don’t worry, most creatures just want food.  Give them that and they’ll leave you alone.
And if they decide I’M the food?
Then I can get away safely.
Har har.  You’re hilarious.

With that, Rob yelled out to the two guards, “So what exactly are we looking for?”  He bent down and grabbed a rock off the ground, held it aloft and asked, “Is this it?  Can we go home now?”  Kaleb pulled out a small scanner, scanned the rock and replied, “No.  That’s Andesite mixed with Dunite.  We’re looking for pure Leonium.  Rick straightened up at that and replied, “Leonium?  I’ve heard of that stuff.”  Michael looked at him and asked, “What is it?”  Rick replied, “Well, for starters, it’s supposed to be the stuff of legends, but according to the legends it’s virtually indestructible.  Stories talk about a famous ship that could survive a direct hit from a Mark 5 Hull Breacher missile unscathed.”  Rob whistled and said, “Wow, our ship couldn’t survive even a Mark 1 version of those things.  So is this moon supposed to be where it comes from?”  Karl looked at his scanner and replied, “Yes.  Now let’s get moving, we should be able to get more supplies about 5 clicks in that direction.”  Jess angled her head quizzically and asked, “Why?  Is there a store over there?”  Kaleb grinned and replied, “No.  It’s where the last ship we sent here should be.  They landed, started searching, and then were never heard from again.”  Dan jerked his head around to look at Kaleb and said, “You know, this mission is sounding less and less fun the more you talk.”  Jess added, “Maybe he shouldn’t talk, it feels like he’s causing all the bad stuff just by saying it exists.”  Michael silently nodded his agreement as the whole group made their way in the direction Karl had indicated.  Rob made his way over to Rick and quietly asked, “Anything?”  Rick tapped his monocle and replied, I’m not getting anything unusual on thermal, backscatter, motion, sonic, UV, or Pheromone scans.  For now it seems safe enough other than the two goons we’re stuck with.”  Rob nodded and turned to Jess and said, “Be ready to deploy the moment Rick gives the word.  Dan, be ready if she fails and Michael…”  Michael interrupted, “No worries, I’ll take care of it if everything else fails.”  With that, they made their way towards where the ship was supposed to be with Karl and Kaleb leading the way and everyone else chattering absent-mindedly in the back.

Hey, maybe there will be Military food supplies on the ship!  Our supplies are running a bit low.
Military food?  I think I’d rather die, or eat the cables from the engine room.
Don’t you dare!  I finally got most of those fixed and in more or less the right place!
It was a joke.  Don’t panic Jess
I’m more interested in seeing their weapon reserves.
If they disappeared without a trace, they probably used up their weapons.
Hey, you never know, maybe they disappeared very suddenly?
Yeah, not boosting my moral here.

The chatter continued until Karl turned around and glared at the group, shushing them into silence for the remainder of the Trek across the rocky terrain.

Hercules, Chapter 2

Chapter 2: the trial

“Rick.  You are charged with forgery, bribery, extortion, and attempted obstruction of justice.”
“Jessica.  You are charged with smuggling, black market dealing, bribery, and insulting an officer of the law.”
“Robert.  You are charged with unlawful entry, forgery, black market dealing, and assaulting an officer or the law.”
Daniel.  You are charged with bribery, extortion, stealing secure knowledge drives, and insulting a military officer.
“Michael.  You are charged with desertion, owning illegal weaponry, bribery, and attempted assault of a military officer.

“How do you all plead?”

With that, the five people in trial all stood up and Robert said, “I speak for us all when I say.  I still think you have the wrong guys!”  Rick mumbled under his breath, “Besides, they didn’t even mention that time I snuck aboard a Fleet Mothership and stole a fuel cell.  I mean, if you’re going to charge me, at least have my crowning achievement on there!”  Dan nudged him in the side, causing Rick to squeak and collapse back into his chair.  The other crew members could not control themselves as they all broke out into grins.  The judge thought it was less funny, “Stand up.  You can collapse after your sentence is carried out” He said quietly with malice dripping from every letter.  With that, he straightened up in his chair and continued, “Under the circumstances, I could have you all shot, hung, and starved.”  Michael interrupted here and asked, “Don’t you mean shot, hung OR starved?  Seriously, you can’t starve a corpse.”  The judge just glared at Michael before continuing, “However, I have a much better idea.  For your punishment, you, and your ship, will be sent on a special mission to gather resources that our fleets could use to great advantage.  I’ve sent other men to do this and so far, no one has come back, so as far as I’m concerned, this is a death sentence, but if you succeed, I’m willing to forget your crimes.”  Rob looked at the judge and said, “I’ll need a moment to discuss this with my crew.”  With that he turned around, looking expectantly at the other four crew members and waited for their response.  After a second, Rick spoke up, saying, “Well it seems to be either guaranteed death or certain death, and we’ve escaped certain death before.”  Jess nodded in assent and added, “Yeah, like that time we were eaten by a Cave Worm or when we had that mine lodged under the wing or that guy who was trying to backstab us or…” Dan cut her off and said, “Yeah, let’s go for it.”  He also added, “If we succeed, will we get paid?”  The judge rolled his eyes and muttered, “Mercenaries, I have no idea how you’ve survived even this long.”  He then turned to two guards and said ,”Take them to get beacons and then to their ship.”  Jess spoke up timidly and asked, “Can we skip to the ship?  I’d rather just go to the ship.”  The judge moaned and added, “Quickly.  Before I change my mind.”  With that, the five crew members were escorted out of the room.   As they entered the next room, Rick stopped dead in the doorway.  Looking around, he saw medical equipment, chairs with restraints, and worst of all, needles.  He stood there saying, “Oh no.  No way.  I am not going in there, take me back to the judge guy, I’ll take the firing squad.”  One of the guards grabbed him and shoved him into the room, saying casually as Rick hit the far wall in a clump, “Too late.”  Rick got up, wincing a little as he faced the guard, trying to look as intimidating as possible, which was not easy since Rick was 5’6 and the guard was almost 7’ tall.  After the short contest, Rick wandered meekly to where the rest of the crew had huddle, much like how a herd of animals huddles when it senses a storm coming.  The black haired guard rolled his eyes as he grabbed a small, pistol-like device off of a tray and said, “Alright.  We are going to put this tracer in your arm.  If you attempt to flee, overpower me and my associate, tamper with it, deviate from your mission, or annoy me in any way, it will release a neurotoxin into your bloodstream and you will be dead in minutes.  Understood?”  Rick Raised his hand, causing both security guards to raise an eyebrow before asking incredulously, “Uh, do you….. Have a question?”  Rick put his hand down and answered, “Yeah, is there any way I could just get a bracelet or a necklace, maybe a ring that does that instead?  I mean, do we have to put it inside me?”  The dark haired guard grinned and replied, “Actually, I think I do, come on over and I’ll put it on you.”  With that, Rick timidly walked closer, and before he could utter a word he was grabbed by the blonde guard who pinned his arms to his sides while the dark-haired guard quickly injected the tracer.  “There” Said the blonde guard as he released Rick, “Now get back with the others.”  Rick couldn’t respond though, because he was passed out cold on the floor.  Jess spoke up quickly saying, “That was mean!  Do you have any idea how long he could be out?”  The blonde guard shrugged silently, grabbed his own injector, and within a few minutes had a tracer inside everyone.  The crew was then escorted to the docking bay, with Rick still out cold and being carried by Dan and Rob who asked, “Hey, nameless guard guys!  You want to carry him?  After all you knocked him out and where I come from, we clean up after our own messes.”  The black-haired guard pointed first at himself, then his associate and said “Kaleb.  Karl.  No.  Keep walking.”  Rob shifted his grip while muttering under his breath.  About halfway down the hall, Rick awoke with a yelp and a sudden sporadic jerk, which caused several events.  First both guards had their pistols drawn within a second to deal with the unexpected noise.  Second, Rob and Dan lost their grips, causing Rick to experience gravity, first-hand.  Third, Rick’s head hit the ground first, sending his glasses flying and causing Michael to lunge with surprising speed to catch them in mid air.  Seeing the catch even with his blurred vision Rick said, “Thanks!  I really wasn’t looking forward to ruining another pair of those.”  Kaleb sheathed his gun and replied, “Another?  How often do you break them?”  Rick simply shrugged as he put them back on and replied, “Hey, it’s not like I can glue them to my face.”  Jess spoke up and said, “Although that idea has been tossed around almost as often as his glasses.”  Karl simply shook his head and answered, “Let’s just get to your ship.  As soon as they arrived in the hanger and saw their ship, Rob stopped dead in his tracks and said in an quiet, but annoyed whisper, “What are they doing to my ship?”  Several uniformed engineers were standing on top of the craft, affixing something to it and sending sparks flying.  Kaleb answered calmly, “They’re attaching a tracer to your ship as well.  It also opens a direct line of communication to our base here so we can inform our boss of anything going on without it being intercepted.”  Rob just stood there, mouth open as he stared, looking like someone had just hit the Mona Lisa with a paintball.  Karl, looked at Rob for a moment in mild amusement before giving him a quick shove and ordering, “Alright, enough gawking.  Inside.”  The crew went on board and immediately dispersed all over the ship, faster than either of their guards could track them,  Suddenly the internal com system was abuzz with chatter.
“Engines seem to be in order, Oh!  And I found that die I lost a few days ago!  It was lodged in the manifold.  That actually explains a lot!”
“Well, other than that abomination on our roof piggybacking on our signals, the comms seem to be in good order.  Also, who ordered pizza?  I’ve got several missed calls from The Moon Pie, looks like they want an address for delivery.”
“Heh, they didn’t find all the secret compartments…. I mean, cargo hold is… Holding.”
“Someone clearly went through my locker, my stuff is all over the place!  Have they no respect?”
“Oh, actually, that might have been me.  I couldn’t find my hat and someone hinted that it might have been hidden there.”
“Hey!  I didn’t take it!”
“I know, but SOMEONE *cough* Jess *cough* said that was where it was.”
“Hey, I said it was in a locker, not necessarily his.”
“Wait, did you go through all our lockers?”
“….No comment.”

As this chatter continued, Kaleb looked at Karl and said, “If we don’t die on this trip, it’ll be a miracle.”  Karl shrugged and replied, “Hey, if it gets rough, we leave them, simple as that.  No need to get attached to a bunch of prisoners.”  Kaleb nodded and headed to the comm, turned it on, and said, “Hey!  Where’s the bunks?”  “Oh, go to your left, third door on your right down the hall.”  Kaleb replied, “Great, now get this thing ready for liftoff, on the double, I don’t want any delays!”  He went in the direction he was directed and opened the door, only to find himself staring at a small, one-person bathroom.  His yell could be heard throughout the ship, almost as clearly as the snickering coming over the comms.  Turning to Karl, he sighed and said, This is going to be a long trip.”

Hercules

Introduction:

In the year 2567, World War IV finally came to its terrifying end.  The land had been scorched to ash, the air was filled with toxins, and countless lives had been lost.  In order to preserve humanity, all the nations that were still standing gathered together and worked on the technology needed to travel and survive in space.  After years of research, they built transport ships and developed devices that would allow mankind to travel through the stars and populate new planets.  The ships left earth, leaving behind some men and women who chose to stay and try to fix the planet, while the rest colonized new places.  In their travels, they encountered alien races, some hostile and some friendly, and after many years humanity had reestablished itself on several planets, as well as coexisting with several alien races on their planets.  Humanity was saved.

Unfortunately, this would not last and in 2852, the Galactic War began.  The universe quickly divided into two sides.  The Alliance held that some alien and human colonies had been working together to take over and rule the universe in a massive coup.  The Coalition claimed that the Alliance were the ones doing this.  Defenses have been placed, fleets have been dispersed, armies have been raised, and the battle line is drawn and negotiations are long over.

Chapter 1: Caught

Space is a very open area when you think about it.  After all, the numerous planets, stars, asteroids, and moons that spin around take up the merest fraction of a galaxy.  In one particular area though, where empty does not even begin to describe the surroundings, there were two ships.  The first was a large, triangular vessel with large gun placements clearly visible all over the exterior.  Beside it, and being drawn towards it via tractor beam, was a small frigate which boasted only a few light weapons.  On board the bridge of this frigate, a young man stood looking at a console where a stern looking man with an eye-patch glared at him through the communication screen.  The young man smiled widely, pushed up his glasses by the bridge and said cordially, “Well, if we have no other options beyond being blown up or boarded, we would be happy to entertain you and your crew.  Feel free to make yourself at home!”  The other man only nodded seriously as he reached forward and turned off the comm. unit.  As the screen faded to black, the young man turned around to the other crew members who were staring at him wide-eyed and said, still smiling,

“Guys, I think we’re screwed.”

This statements was met by a flurry of motion as everyone erupted into interjections.

“What were you thinking!?!”
“We are in SO MUCH TROUBLE!”
“Wait, maybe we could board their ship?”
“Jess that won’t work, they have at least a platoon on that thing!”
Why did you tell them we were all sick?”
“Well I didn’t think they would offer to send their medic along!”
“Do you realize how much Contraband we have on board right now?!?”
“Well why isn’t it in the secret room?”
“Because that room is already full!”
“What are we supposed to do now?”

This statement was followed by a small pause, interrupted by a slight hissing sound.  Everyone turned to look in the direction of the noise and saw that a bearded crew member had opened one of the numerous crates on the bridge, pulled out a bottle of alcohol, and opened it.  When he realized that everyone was looking at him he said, “What?  We have to get rid of this stuff somehow!”  There was another pause before a young blonde lady with grease-stains on her shirt threw her arms into the air and cried out, “BRILLIANT!  Dan!  Rob!  Start drinking!”  This statement was met with an even louder explosion of noise.

“We can’t drink 500 gallons of beer before they get on board!”
“Well I don’t hear any better suggestions!”
Maybe we could beam it all above their ship?  Where they won’t pick it up on scanners?”
“OOO!  Even better!  Let’s beam it aboard their ship!”
“You do realize they will know exactly where it came from, right?”
“Well, what if we beamed it quietly?”
“*Sigh* I’m going to try and stall them.”

With that, the Navigator leapt out of his chair, grabbed a comm-set off his desk and attached it to his glasses, and headed out the door leaving the rest of the crew to argue about what to do.  As he made his way quickly down the hall toward the airlock, he forced a smile back onto his face and stood, beaming as the door was forced open from the other side. Once it was open, he was able to see 4 heavy military soldiers, each with blasters leveled right at him, while behind them stood a stuffy looking officer in a neatly pressed uniform, a blaster pistol sheathed at his right side.  The Navigator began to introduce himself, “Greetings!  My name is Rick, welcome aboard the Herc…” He didn’t get to finish as the soldiers rushed past him towards the bridge, with the officer barely glancing at him as he passed.  “Wait!  Don’t you want the full tour?”  He yelled at their quickly disappearing forms, following this up by turning on his communicator as he ran after them, saying, “guys, they’re coming.  Look casual!”  Immediately, a voice came over his set saying, “What happened Rick!  I thought you were going to delay them!”  Rick replied, “I would have, but they weren’t interested in a full tour or in my rant about politics!”  As he said this, he heard a distinct click which at first he assumed was his headset, but then a gravelly voice spoke up from behind him, saying, “That’s enough talking little man.  Let’s join your friends at the bridge.”  Turning, Rick realized there were two marines right behind him, guns drawn and pointed at him.  He kept on grinning as he nodded and headed towards the bridge, but in his mind all he was thinking was,  “We’re-dead-We’re-dead-We’re-dead”

When Rick entered the bridge, he saw the rest of the crew standing sheepishly off to the right, so he went over to join them, partially because he wanted to and partially because he had been vigorously shoved that way.  The captain of the other ship casually walked over to one of the crates and pulled out a bottle.  He read the label, turning it in his hands before opening it and smelling the contents.  After a few tense minutes, he threw the bottle onto the ground, smashing it into a thousand pieces.  With that, Jess yelled out, “Hey!  We just cleaned this ship!”  The man turned and glared at her coldly before asking, “You do realize that with this much contraband on your ship, I have the authority to shoot you all on sight.”  With that, the entire crew exploded.

“What?  Contraband?  We just…. Found it on a derelict ship!”
“Yeah!  We had no idea!  You had better take it from us then.  So sorry!”
“Hey, why don’t we all head to the mess hall and have some non-contraband stuff, you know, to celebrate?”
“Oh!  Good idea!  And we could…”

The commander of the military ship yelled out at the top of his lungs, “SILENCE!”  Instantly shushing most of the crew, with just a few high-pitched yelps being uttered.  With that, the captain turned while saying, “Put them in the brig and their ship in the hanger.  We’ll take them back for a fair trial.  Afterwards, we will have them shot.”

Delving the Deep. Chapter I

            The deafening crash of thunder, coupled with the sound of the heavy oak doors banging open, forced everyone in the room to look up from their drinks, books, and games as the outline of a man was framed against the storm outside. As the man staggered in, rainwater and blood mingled and dripped to the floor from his cloak, trailing a crimson path behind him as he struggled to maintain his footing.  His clothes were torn to shreds, his armor in pieces, and one of his boots was completely missing, as were two of his toes.  His eyes stared wildly about the room as he gasped for air.  Fear, anger, shock, and disbelief played across his face in a rapid and violent dance as he stared around the room like a wild man.  Several of the men in the room leapt to their feet and ran towards him, concern in their faces as they asked: “Are you alright Roin?  What happened?  Where is everyone else?”  Roin opened his mouth, twice, trying to say something before he finally managed to gasp out on his third attempt: “I… I failed.”  With that, his eyes rolled into the back of his head and he collapsed to the floor in a crumpled heap, too quickly for anyone to try and arrest his fall.  As he hit with a sickening thud, a small, odd shaped emerald stone rolled out of his hands and came to rest a few feet from the unconscious man, almost unnoticed by everyone in the room as cries for a healer went up, unheard by Roin whose mind had drifted to a dark place free of pain, misery, or memory.

 

            That had been three weeks ago and now, Roin was in his infirmary ward, tapping his foot impatiently as a man reached his hand out towards Roin and closed his eyes.  After a few moments, the man lowered his hand and said: “Your body is healed up now, but your mind is still shattered.  If you truly wish to leave you may, but if you stay I might be able to bring back your memory.  Something is holding it back from you, but I’m not sure what or why”  Roin looked the priest in the eyes and said: “Thank you for everything you’ve done for me, but regarding my memory, I want it to stay fractured.  I know who I am, where I am, and what I am.  If you had been with me, you would understand why I don’t want to remember everything that happened, because what little I do remember, I am trying to forget.  Now if I may go, I need a pint of ale.  Maybe two.”  The priest placed a hand on his shoulder and replied: “Just take it easy for a few days and think about it.  If you change your mind, I’ll be here.” 

Memories flashed chaotically through Roin’s mind of tendrils of darkness, fangs, and a terrifying laugh, causing him to shudder slightly before answering stiffly: “Nothing could make me want to relive that experience.  So long Thomas.”  He walked out of the building and headed straight to his quarters in the King’s Lodge, headquarters for the King’s elite explorers and adventurers. For years this building had housed those that the King saw as having unique skills both in war and peace, and from here many had gone forth recovering ancient relics, saving villages, and speaking to restless warlords about the importance of peace.  As he reached for the Iron handles, his memory flashed back to the last time he had opened these doors, only three weeks ago, and he was forced to shake the rising memories off as he forcefully pushed them open.  The room looked much the same as it had always looked, minus the expression of shock on everyone’s face he had seen last time.  Now, when people looked up and saw him, they looked relieved and offered him a seat by the fire and a free mug of the King’s finest ale, asking him how he was doing and what had happened. 

Roin said nothing at first, choosing instead to down the entire mug in an instant and enjoying the taste and the slight burning sensation as it swished down his throat.  After a few more drinks, he finally began to explain that he was fine, but that he was not going to talk about what had happened right now.  Most of the men in the room respected his privacy, but a few tactless individuals kept pressing him for information.  Apparently, rumors had spread far and wide about his most recent adventure and the tales of what may have happened were travelling faster than Roin would have thought possible.  Stories of dragons, ancient magic swords, beautiful princesses, and more had traveled through most of the King’s Lodge.  Still, despite what had been said, Roin knew in his heart that they were just rumors, because he wouldn’t, nay, couldn’t talk to anyone about what had really happened.  Some of the new recruits who didn’t know him very well continued to bother him until wiser heads dragged them off, scolding them as they sent them off on menial errands. 

Roin was grateful for the assistance, but more grateful to be left alone for a few moments.  Ever since he had gotten back, he’d been pestered by priests, wizards, chroniclers, and others who hadn’t given him a moment’s piece.  Finally, he was able to close his eyes, lie back and listen to the crackling of the fire, and forget about the past in a mug of ale. 

As he sat there, drifting off into sleep, a voice jerked him back to the real world as it said with authority cutting through any fog of alcohol or dreaming: “Roin, get up.  William demands your presence.” 

Roin opened his eyes just enough to see a man in very formal attire, with a short sword at his side.  Roin suppressed a moan as he remembered the number of messengers William had sent while Roin was in the infirmary, demanding he come and make his report about what had happened.  William was the sort of man who didn’t have a single compassionate bone in his body.  For him, all that mattered was that people followed the rules, one of which was to report what happened on any of the King’s errands immediately.  Roin knew he couldn’t ignore the messenger without experiencing repercussions, so with a loud sigh of frustration he stood up and followed the man out the door and down the street to William’s lodgings.  The building was not exceptionally large, but the ornate decorations made it clear that this was no commoner’s home.  Two golden lions, their jaws opened in a silent roar, flanked the marble stairway to the front door which was decorated with a coat of arms depicting an elaborate shield flanked by an owl and a snake with both an over-sized pen and a sword crossed behind the shield and a family motto in Terran scrawled along the edge.  Roin half-grinned when he saw the design because the many conflicts he had been in meant that he recognized that the shield’s design was utterly useless in a real battle.  “Much like the man inside” Roin thought as two servants opened the door and ushered him in.  He made his way through the fancy vases, portraits, and up a spiral staircase to a door with a large placard on it that read ‘Office of Sir. William Graves.  Please knock before entering.’

 Roin banged as hard as he could on the door and immediately heard an annoyed voice bark out hurriedly from inside, “Alright, damn you!  You can come in.”  He pushed open the door which swung open easily on its well oiled hinges and revealed a short, heavy set man sitting at a desk with stacks of gold coins on his left and stacks of papers on his right.  Behind him were shelves upon shelves of meticulously organized books, scrolls, and maps of the world that Roin knew were not to be touched without William’s express permission.  In front of William’s desk was a wooden chair, which Roin plopped down into as soon as he had entered, leaving the door wide open behind him. 

Sir William’s face scrunched up as he said with forced courtesy, “Please… Have a seat.”  He then flicked his hand, magically closing the door for Roin and glared at him for a moment in silence before saying coldly, “Well, it’s been two weeks since you returned from your mission, and I haven’t heard anything about what happened, what was lost, what was gained, nothing except rumors and this.”  He pulled a silk bag into view and carefully emptied the contents onto the table.  All that was inside was a small emerald stone that seemed to glow with an eerie green light, which Roin immediately recognized as his only souvenir from the caverns below.  William continued, “I don’t know what it is, under what circumstances you found it, and none of the books in my expansive library can tell me anything, why, not even my magic seems to work on it.  So, I summoned you here to tell me what happened and what this thing is, so I can get the records straight.”  He reached for his quill, dipped it in the pot of ink and waited impatiently for Roin to start.  For his part, Roin just shrugged and said, “I have no idea what that thing is.  I know it was down in caverns me and my team went to investigate, but to be honest, I don’t remember much of what happened down there.  I know something dangerous was there and I know I am the only one who escaped, and I know that I had that rock when I left, but beyond that…”  He shrugged, keeping his face as emotionless as possible and hoping that he would be able to leave before William made him really angry. 

William sat there a moment, as if he expected Roin to continue his tale, but when it became obvious that there was nothing more to be said he asked, “And your gear?  Your team?”  Roin glared back at him, restraining his growing anger on an increasingly weaker leash as he replied in a cold tone of voice that hardly felt like his own, “I.  Lost.  Everything.  Never ask about the Cavern again.” 

William didn’t seem not realize how close he was to getting Roin’s fist planted firmly in his pale face and merely sat back in his chair as he closed his eyes and said with a disappointed sigh, “Well, I guess the mission wasn’t a total loss.  Now that I have my report, I can send this thing to a higher authority and hopefully they’ll know what to do with it.  As for you,” he stood from his chair, disdain in every feature of his face, “you had better get back to the Lodge and get some more training in before your next mission, the gods know we’re not a charity organization!  The gear you lost was very expensive and won’t be easy to replace, never mind the cost of training new recruits to fill in the gaps your failed mission left within our ranks!” 

Roin stood up violently from his chair with every intention of smashing the man through at least two walls before beating him to a pulp, but he restrained himself and merely allowed himself to say through clenched teeth, “I lost three of my closest friends down there.  Don’t talk to me about gear and replacements.  I would greatly enjoy smashing your head through a wall, but I don’t think any of the walls here have done anything to deserve having someone so dense smashed against them.  Pray I never find anything that has earned such a punishment.”  He then turned and strode purposefully towards the door as William sputtered behind him about how he had more questions for him.  Roin didn’t care to listen though as he yanked the door open and slammed it behind him, leaving the building as quickly as he could and ignoring the servants who glared disgustedly at him and his dirt-covered outfit.  He made his way back to the chair he had been forced to vacate back at the Lodge, and upon arriving, he found a Halfling, sitting there studying a map, who must have come in after Roin had left.  Without a word, Roin plucked him into the air and set him down roughly in a nearby bench before retaking the seat for himself and turning his face away from the stunned Halfling who had begun to sputter interjections such as, “What the heck?  What’s your problem?”  He continued his protest on how unfair life was, but Roin was done listening to people for the day and he drifted off into a deep sleep despite the chattering complaints that continued to stream from the indignant fellow for several minutes.  His dreams though were far from restful, for in his dream he found himself trapped, unable to move as a half elf looked at him pleadingly.  Her daggers hung uselessly at her sides as her entire body became wrapped in a dark tendril, choking the very life from her bones with a sickening crunch.  Beside her, there lay a broken quarterstaff, its owner’s severed hand still clinging to it as acid continued to eat away at the wrist.  Just in front of Roin was a pile of bones and the red hot head of a great axe, all of which were still smoldering from the ray of intense fire that had engulfed the half-orc that had moments ago been standing there with his arms crossed in front of his face in a vain attempt to save himself from the inevitable.

 Roin stared in helpless horror at this scene as a cold sweat broke out on his brow.  After a moment, his strength returned and he tried to run, run as far from this terrifying place as he could, but as he turned he found himself encased in a dark cocoon of thick strands of webbing.  It was suffocating him, restricting his movement and he thrashed wildly, trying to become free, sheer terror lending him strength he never knew he had.  As he furled about, the vision passed and he realized that the web was nothing more than a bedspread someone had thrown over him to keep him warm after he had fallen asleep.  He sat there a moment, gasping silently with terror and feeling the cold sweat that had built up on his forehead, before wiping it off with his sleeve.  “Tomorrow, I’m going to see Thomas again, maybe he can at least make the nightmares stop.”  With that, he got up and headed to his room to clean up his spare weapons and armor.

The True Story of the Trojan War

The Trojan guardsman peered over the vast field that separated his city from the Greek camps.  From where he stood on the walls, he could see the smoke from their campfires and smell the dinner being cooked.  His stomached growled, as he shook his head and focused on his duty.  He would get a meal when he was relieved.  He glanced behind him, trying to figure out why his replacement hadn’t arrived but as he looked, another guard appeared on the steps behind him and saluted him, saying: “I’m here to relieve you.”  The guard nodded and replied: “Good, I was starting to worry I was going to be stuck here all night and I’m famished.”  The new guard laughed and said, “Well, better get yourself down to the hall then, the scouts brought back a boar earlier today and I think there’s still quite a bit left.”  This news made the guard smile as he gave one last look over the battlefield.  Suddenly, his smile dropped as he saw something leaving the Greek camp.  He motioned to the other guard and said, “look, is that someone on horseback approaching the gate?”  The other guard peered out and replied, “Looks like it is, and he appears to be carrying an olive branch.  Do you think the Greeks want to surrender?”  The other guard contained his excitement at the idea and said, let’s not get to excited yet.”  The Greek soldier continued riding at full speed toward the gate and as he approached, the Trojan guards could see that he wore no armor, carried no weapons, and seemed to be waving at them and as he got closer, the guards could hear that he was yelling at them to open the gate.  The y roused a few more guardsmen, just in case, and went down to the gate to meet the stranger.  The Greek entered the city, dismounted his horse, still waving the olive branch enthusiastically as he said, “I come in peace!  I am unarmed and I wish to speak to your king.”  One of the guards laughed, “You think you can get an audience with the king, just because you show up at the gates?”  The Greek looked puzzled for a moment before replying, “Yes?  I just need to speak to him about the war, it won’t take very long.”  The guardsman who had spotted him from the wall asked, “Are you here to negotiate a surrender?”  The Greek laughed and replied, “Oh no, we’d never do that.  Have you learned nothing of the stubbornness of Greeks?  No, actually, I was wondering if you guys wanted to take a break?”  The Trojan guards stared at him for a moment before one of them finally replied, “A break?  You mean, stop the war as if it was the weekend?”  The Greek shrugged and said, “Why not?  I mean, come on, we’ve been at this for five years, Five Years!  I’m getting tired, I’m sure you guys are getting tired, and we all know that all work and all play, makes Jack a dull boy.”  One of the Trojans asked, “Who is this Jack person?”  The Greek shook his head and replied, “No one of importance, anyway, as I was saying, if we all just agreed to take a break, we could sail home for a year, rest up, get cleaned up, maybe get some better food and meet back up in a year to pick up where we left off.”  The Trojans stared at the man in disbelief.  “You mean to say you want to just, stop fighting for a year, and then go right back at it afterwards?  Are you serious?”  The Greek looked at him quizzically and replied, “You know, that’s almost exactly what my commander said when I proposed the idea, but after I explained the reasons to him for a few hours, he told me to just grab a branch and tell you guys.  He’s pretty smart and knows a good idea when he hears it, why, he even suggested that I should forget the olive branch and just come over as fast as I could ride because he knew you would want to hear this, but I know the branch is symbolic, so I grabbed it anyway.”  The guards paused for a moment before they all broke out in uproarious laughter, causing the Greek to look at them in annoyance until they had settled down.  When the laughter finally subsided, one of the Trojans looked at the Greek and asked, “You’re being serious, aren’t you?”  The Greek, becoming flustered at this point replied, “Yes.  Now if you are quite finished, I demand that you take me to your king!”  One of the guards nudged the man next to him and said, “Escort him to the king’s palace, I’ll let him know who’s coming.”  With that, he sprinted ahead while the other guards formed a detail around the Greek, escorting him down the street.  After a short hike, they arrived at the royal palace and entered the gold-plated doors.  Inside, the king sat on his throne waiting and once the group had reached him, he said, “I was told you had something I needed to hear.  Speak quickly Greek, and I sincerely hope you are not wasting my time.”  With that, the Greek cleared his throat and explained again his plan for taking a year off.  After he had finished, he looked expectantly at the king who sat there, looking ponderous for a moment before turning to the guard next to him to ask, “Are you certain he is serious?”  The guard, barely containing his grin, nodded in confirmation.  With that, the king leaned back in his chair, nodded to himself, then almost fell off of his throne laughing.  The Greek’s face flushed, but he remained quiet and waited for the king to regain his composure, which took a considerable amount of time.  Then, the king straightened his robes and said, “I’m afraid we cannot process your request at this time.  If, in the future, you have any other ideas you feel would be helpful in this war, feel free to let me know.  Guards, take him back to the front gate, and see that he is unharmed.”  The Greek was then returned to his camp, and became the only Greek allowed into Troy for many more years.  He proposed ideas ranging from settling the war with a Denarius Flip to trading places halfway through the war and letting the Greeks defend Troy while the Trojans besieged her.  One day, a note was left for the Trojans that the Greeks would be doing a gift exchange the next day and that they should have a present ready.  The Trojans paid little mind to this, until a giant wooden horse appeared on their doorstop overnight.  And that is how the Greeks eventually won the war.