Chapter 17

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          Navero, male human cleric, 3rd level
          Dania, female 1/2-elf MU, 3rd level
          Rourk Ravensbane, male drow cavalier, 3rd level
          Kortul, male human fighter, 2nd level
          Razuli, male human fighter, 2nd level
          Arlor, male dwarf thief, 2nd level

We continued to ride for a long time.  This was not due to the guards
- they left us after the first couple of days, and rode back to the
keep.  Rather, we wished to put as much distance as possible between
ourselves and the Paladins.  The Three were obviously far beyond our
capacity to survive, and if they considered Dania's master an enemy
worthy of "heavy artillery" we didn't want to run into him either.  He
had seemed just a trifle annoyed at us for killing his dragon and
letting Them loose.  We rode on, to the north and west.  On the
journey, we all saw to it that Dania explained just what was going on.

Dania: "...and so anyway, I was apprenticed to the guy..."

Rourk: "You would voluntarily associate with such an individual as
     THAT?  I wonder that he didn't send you about town, digging up
     graves or such ghoulish activities.  And what was it that you
     were doing with the dragon brain, little mage?  Your capacity for
     greedy immorality astounds me."

Razuli: "Actually, Captain Whitebread Sir, I hope you aren't
     forgetting all those women and children you guys killed."

Rourk: "They were Orcs and deserved no less.  They are like a cancer,
     and must be cut away."

Dania: "Listen!  Then, when the idiots showed up and attacked, the
     bastard tried to kill me, so I ran."

Navero: "I would expect no less, if this individual is as you describe
     him.  On those occasions when evil wears its own face, you should
     be able to recognize and avoid it."

Dania: "Yeah, Nav.  It was stupid, but he was the only wizard in town.
     Except for a bunch of lunatics."

Razuli: "You mean the Purple Polka-Dot Magicians?  We had a bunch of
     them in my home town.  At least until we burned 'em all at the
     stake.  That was fun."

Dania: "Oh, please.  Why does everyone burn mages?"

Rourk: "Because warriors can defend themselves.  Mages, being weak and
     vulnerable, are constantly exposed to the innate viciousness of
     the rabble.  In this regard, you should note that all true
     nobility is comprised solely of warriors.  No others possess the
     requisite strength, grace, and fortitude to rule."
Razuli: "Strange attitude for a darkie.  I thought the women were tops
     in your place, Rourk?  Women WIZZERDS and PRIESTESSES?"

Rourk: "There are, of course, exceptions."

Razuli: "Maybe the darkie women were ugly enough to scare you away,
     and traumatized you."

Rourk: "Bite your tongue, Human!  Their grace and beauty could never
     be matched by your pitiful species."

Razuli: "Then why are you up here?"

Rourk: "I refuse to speak on that.  Silence."

Razuli: "Admit it!  You came up here looking for a good fuck,

Dania: "Raz, shut up.  You're annoying the hell out of me."

Kortul: "And everyone else.  Quiet, all of you."

Rourk: "When did you have my permission to give orders?  Please stand
     downwind of me when you open your mouth.  This, mercenary, is a
     typical example of humanity: filthy, unsophisticated, incapable
     of even the simplest of tasks..."

Kortul: (grrr....)

Rourk: "...having no regard for others, probably even mistreats
     members of his own family!  Disrespectful of his betters..."

Kortul: (GRRRR.....)

Rourk: "...uncouth, uneducated, insensitive and impatient..."

Navero: "STOP IT!!  Why are you DOING this?!"

Razuli: "Oh, jeez, not again..."

Navero: "Will you please stop this?  Why do you all hate each other so
     much?  I don't see how you can hate each other so much, you
     haven't done anything BUT hate each other!  WHY!?"

Rourk: "Priest, we can hardly be said to hate one another.  These
     others simply amuse themselves with childish name-calling.  Think
     nothing of it, for it is of no consequence."

Kortul: "Childish, yes."

Rourk: "Did you intend some insult with that, o great slab of
     underdone Orc fodder?  Perhaps you even meant I?"

Kortul: "Meant EVERYONE.  Shut up or split up."
Dania: "Nav, forget about it.  We're all just stressed from having to
     run out of town so fast, Ok?  Don't worry.  It'll blow over.  And
     we are not splitting up."

Navero: "Well...  It just seems like... this is like every other time
     we're together, only worse.  Everybody seems to be so angry.
     Maybe it would be better if we did separate, if being together
     makes everyone so mad."

Razuli: "Dania's just mad 'cause Arlor looked up her robe."

Dania: (Swings at Razuli, misses)

Razuli: "Ha!  And Rourk's mad 'cause he had to run from..."

Rourk: "THAT will be QUITE enough!  From here on, we shall travel in
     silence.  Unless others voice objections...?"

Arlor: "I wanna go home."

Dania: "I'm not going with him.  I'm not crawling into some smelly

Razuli: "I don't like smelly holes either.  You should bathe more,
     Wizzerd.  Especially after riding horses."

Dania: "Oh, fuck off, asshole."

Razuli: "Wrong hole.  (Sings) She's back in the saddle, again..."

Kortul: (Bashes Razuli over the head with his sheathed two-hander.)
     "Enough.  You annoy even me.  Shut up."

Razuli: "Owww..."

     The remainder of the day was mostly spent in glum silence.  No
one spoke much, although many angry glances were exchanged.  Nothing
of note occurred that day, except for a curious incident which had no
direct affect on us.  We heard a scream or keening from the sky, and
looked up to see some sort of flying unicorn, far, far above us.  It
was flying eastwards very rapidly, when a bolt of blackishness shot
out of the western skies and hit it, and it disappeared.  About 15
minutes later a shimmer of golden particles wafted gently down, and
vanished in sweet-smelling velleities when they touched the earth.  We
decided to alter our course northwards.

     We set up camp early that evening; we all carried out our duties
alone, as we found one another's prolonged presence intolerable.
Navero and Arlor stayed together, but did not speak much.  Dinner was
rations and carefully boiled water from a stale pool.  Rourk was on
the first watch, when we were attacked.

     First, a wild boar charged into camp, with no warning and little
sound, and battered into Rourk.  Borne down by 300 pounds of angry
pork, he was lucky to get out a warning shout sufficient to wake the
rest, as another boar and a sow charged in.  Razuli stabbed the sow,
and luckily killed it with one stroke.  Kortul took to the second
boar, while Rourk shoved his boar away.

Rourk: "Slaughtering pigs.  My mood is poor enough as it is."

Kortul: "Shut up and swing."

Rourk: "You presume to...  ah!" (Watches his swords bounce off the
     boar.  Boar almost seems to laugh and tears him with a tusk.)

Dania: "Incoming!"

Navero: (Starts chanting.)

Kortul: "Ha!" (Slices boar.)

Arlor: (Hides under a blanket.)

Kortul: (Is criticalled upon by boar.  Drops like a rock.)

Razuli: (Stabs Kortul's boar, does damage.)  "Oink, you little

Boar #2: "Fooolis human." (swings tusks, misses)

Razuli: "How now, what how?  Talking piggies!"

(Two boars charge in, one as large as the first two, the other

Dania: "Shit!  Wereboars!  Use magic weapons!" (MM's Wereboar #3)

Wereboar #1: (Misses Rourk)

Wereboar #2: (Misses Razuli)

Wereboar #3: (Hits Navero, who stops chanting and falls down.)

Boar: (Tramples Arlor.)

Rourk: (Hacking at Wereboar #1 with normal weapons) "Die, insult to

Razuli: (stabs Wereboar #2, kills it.) "Yee-ha!  Two little piggies!"

Dania: (Magic missiles Wereboar #3.) "Rourk, get a magic weapon!"

Navero: (Thumps Wereboar #3 with non-magic mace.) "Go away!  You

Arlor: (Crawls out from under blanket, stabs Boar.)
Razuli: (Kills Wereboar #3) "And the score, ladies and gentlemen, is:
     Amazing Stud, 3; Pork, 0!

Dania: (Grabs Kortul's enchanted two-hander, looks comical trying to
     carry a sword larger than she is.  Ends up dragging it through
     the dirt.)  "Rourk, you idiot!"

Rourk: (Continues hacking and slicing.)

Navero: (Bashes at Boar with mace, misses.)  "Oops."

Arlor: (Stabs, kills Boar.)

Wereboar #1: (Misses Rourk, runs off into forest.)

Dania: "Oh, great!  Rourk, that was a magic beast!  You couldn't kill
     it anyway!"

Rourk: "Oh, hush, little mage.  I was belaboring quite well.  I refuse
     to lay hands on that clumsy carving knife, especially when it has
     so recently been in the possession of the odorous barbarian.  How
     is he, anyway?"

     Kortul, and everyone else, was healed back to health by Navero.
The Wereboar did not come back, and we saw no sign of it again.  The
rest of the night actually proved quite restful.  We rode on, still
not talking much, but no arguments rose.  Late that afternoon, we rode
over a hilltop and saw before us a moderately size city; we asked a
friendly roadside peasant, who revealed to us that it was Propyla, the
local capital of the Empire.

     (There are a string of capitals across the empire, each governing
the surrounding territories, and answerable to the Grand Poobah far to
the east.  Propyla was third to last on the line.  The next one to the
west was experiencing trouble with some local monsters, we had heard.
The westernmost was little more than a single castle, out in the true
wilderness; very little news had come from it for some time.)

     Having nothing better to do, we entered the city.  We immediately
encountered a problem; the gate guards.

Rourk: "Hail!  We wish to enter your fair city in peace and

Guard 1: (snif!) "You come, all armed, into our midst, and speak of
     peaceful intentions, o MOST noble knight?"

Guard 2: "Come now.  One must be understanding of these provincials."

Guard 1: "Ah, yes.  Well, gentlemen and lady, if you would care to
     follow this man, you can be processed and given your chits."

Dania: "Chits?"
Guard 2: "New policy, madam.  Only instituted about 12 years ago.  I
     see that you do not visit often."

Dania: "No.  What are chits?"

Guard 1: (sigh!) "A chit is a token which shows that you have passed
     into the city through one of the gates after proper processing,
     and so cannot be arrested for an illegal entry.  It is very
     convenient to have."

Razuli: "Yeah.  C'mon, lets go!  I wanna see what your women are

(We follow Guard 2 into a small room.  A very bored looking official
receives us, with all due pomp.)

Official: "Hullo.  Any valuables to declare?"

Razuli: "You can see all we got.  Any problems with that?"

Guard 2: "A more respectful tone, if you please."

Official: "Right.  Ten percent tax on liquid assets transported across
     city boundaries.  Cash?"

Razuli: "Fresh out."

Official: "Sorry, we do not allow beggars to walk the street.  Good

Rourk: "Sir, do you insinuate that I am a pauper?  You insult me.  I
     demand an apology, or a response!"

Official: (Looks even more bored, if possible.) "Yes, sir.  Good day!"

Navero: "Well, we do have some money.  We won't beg if it's illegal."

Official: "How much?  And would you mind wearing this ring?"

Navero: (Puts on ring.) "I have 120 gold pieces, and some silver."

Razuli: "Nav, you idiot!  Why'd you have to tell them that?"

Official: "And you others?"

Navero: "They have only pocket change, Mr. Official.  I am the party

Official: "You trust all your money with one?"

Dania: "Oh, absolutely!  We all trust ol' Nav!  He holds the party
     fund, until we distribute it."

Arlor: "Yup!  We spent all our money.  None here."
Official: "Oh, very well.  (Takes ring back.)  Twelve gold as entrance
     tax, 6 silver chit tax, please wear the chit where it can be
     seen, you'll be arrested without it.  Good day!"

     (The Ring of Truth did not indicate any lies from Navero, mainly
because he was not lying.  Navero had very little money; he had given
most of his to the people of Swamp Keep, and the temple of Kiliy.  The
other characters did have only pocket change; the last of the dragon
money, amounting to nearly 15,000 gp.  (The term "pocket change" is
naturally ambiguous and open to interpretation.)  And Navero was party
treasurer; it was a position he elected himself to at that moment.)

(Afterwards, within the city proper)

Dania: "Hey, Nav!  Good going!"

Navero: "Uh, thank you.  I guess."

Razuli: "Good goin', kid!  You're starting to think like me, now!"

Rourk: "Perish the thought.  His brain would fall out."

Razuli: "Actually, it already did that once."

Navero: "Uh, yes..."

Dania: "Lets go!  Maybe they have a magic shop!"

Razuli: "Maybe they have a red light district!"

Navero: "Uh, Dania?  Was that the right thing to do?"

Dania: "Huh?  Sure.  No prob."

Navero: "Well...  I know the law can't always apply... at least I
     think it can't... but wouldn't society collapse if we all just
     casually broke laws whenever we felt like it?"

Dania: "I don't see it collapsing.  Do you see anything collapsing?"

Rourk: "Not I.  It was no more than those churlish miscreants

Navero: "Maybe we should go back."

Razuli: "Are you sure they closed all the holes in your head?  Kid,
     they'd just arrest us and torture us all for days.  You wouldn't
     do that to your friends, would you?"

Navero: "Well, I thought..."

Razuli: "Don't do that.  It's not your strong suit.  Do you want to
     have all of us put away, just 'cause you wanted to show off how
     clever you were?  That's incredibly selfish, Nav."
Navero: "I'm sorry..."

Razuli: "Lets just go, Nav.  Tell you what: pay them later, in secret,
     Ok?  And then go confess to another priest or whatever."

Navero: "Well..."

Razuli: "Great.  C'mon, lets go!"

     And so, we entered the great city of Propyla...

Daniel Parsons                    "Was that just stealing that I did?"

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