The Caverns of Kildu Aalda--Chapter Six--The Adventurers Gather
The hustle and bustle of Antares was dying down. People were finishing up their business in town for the night. Joe Smith closed up his armor shop and walked back to his home. The owners of the markets did the same thing. The people from the villages, both the ones selling and buying merchandise were getting ready to leave the town. The gates of the town were locked and the night guards replaced the day ones. Once in a while a person would be let in or out of Antares. The last two entering the town were a man and woman, traveling from the west. They had a room at the Stoneville Inn.
"Britt Stonewall said that you would be here tonight," said one guard. "Enjoy your stay at Antares."
The Stoneville Inn was quite. A few of the patrons were in the ale room drinking beer. The two visitors saw the three individuals they were seeking-a dwarf, an elf and a thief. The dwarf recognized them and walked over to the man and woman.
"I knew you would come," Britt Stonewall said shaking the tall man’s hand and giving the female a hug.
The female spoke, "I thought there was to be a fighter."
"Jeff had other plans. Hopefully, they are permanent this time. However, we are testing a fighter in the Catacombs. If he returns, we may consider using him. Come, sit by the fire; it is a cold night.
They joined the elf and the thief. Rubbing his hands to warm them up by the fire, the tall man asked, "When do we leave?"
"We will give it three days. That way Bard can rest before we set out. He has been gone since yesterday morning."
"You met Bard," the female said. "I think he will be a major asset to this quest. I hope he did not fall victim in the Catacombs."
"Johanna?" a voice came from the doorway of the ale room.
The woman jumped up from the chair and saw Bard. She ran to him and threw her arms around his and embraced him. "When did you get back?"
"I got back a couple of hours ago. After I got out of the Catacombs, I was too tired to make it back to town. So I camped by the church and headed back in the morning."
"It was nice of you to tell us,” Britt grunted.
"I am sorry but I wanted to take a bath first and get cleaned up."
"If you travel with us," laughed the thief, "You will not have the time to be a pretty boy."
Britt and Eileena laughed. "He is right. We may spend many days outside. However, our helmets serve a second purpose. They hold water and serve as good wash basins."
Bard noticed the tall man in the chair. "It is good to see you again, Balon."
The man stood up and shook Bard's hand. "I hope you will be joining us. I am sure Johanna and I can convince them."
"Bard," Eileena said, "we have not eaten dinner yet. I am sure Johanna and Balon are hungry too. We can eat and then you can tell us about the catacombs."
"I am impressed," Britt said over the meal of mutton. Bard had just finished telling the group about his recent adventures in the catacombs.
"It was wise not to tangle more than you did with the rust monster," said Johanna. "It is not worth to lose all your armor. Besides, the rust monster is not an evil beast. It only attacks you for your metal. That is all that it eats. If you walked up to one with no armor on and no steel weapons, it will leave you alone."
"You may think the catacombs are dangerous," Britt said, "and believe me, they are. However, where we are going has even more monsters. While we may see giant rats and goblins, we may encounter giant centipedes, kabolds and troglodytes to name a few. The amount of rooms and caverns you explored in the catacombs is few compared to where we are going."
"If this place exists," mumbled George to himself.
"When I want your opinion, I will ask somebody else instead," the dwarf thundered at the thief. He continued, "Do not think that this will be a one day adventure. Plan to travel for many days. I will give you a list of what you will need."
"Are you telling me that I can join your group?"
"Yes," said Eileena. "I think we had decided when we first met you. While you almost came to an end the first time in the Catacombs, you were not afraid to return. This shows that you have the courage to be a fighter."
"Call it bravery if you want," said George. "I think it is just plain foolishness. Traveling in the Catacombs alone," he muttered, shaking his head, "how stupid can you be?"
"Relax," Britt said as Bard's hand clasped the handle of his knife. "He is just expressing his opinion. He is not a bad lad. He can be a bit of a prankster and a bit annoying. Yet he does care and was worried that you would not return."
"I would not mind if he got lost in the Catacombs," Bard thought to himself.
"I think we can tell Bard what our mission is," Eileena said. “Since we have decided to allow him to join us, he should have an idea of what we do."
"What we do is fairly simple," Britt said. "We are on a goodwill mission. We explore different parts of the world. What treasures we find, we get to keep except for ten percent."
"Why ten percent?"
"It is used to help rebuild different areas in this world. Just like the village you came from, the houses is deteriorating, people live in poverty and education is non-existent. While people in towns, such as Antares, have everything they need, the ones in the villages usually go without. The money we give is used to rebuild houses and provide food for the residents. We do not just give the food; we educate the people how to live off the land. While we are helping the people, we are teaching them how to help themselves."
George laughed, "I know all about helping myself."
"Nobody asked you," Britt grunted.
"For the last time, I am not your father!"
"George is something else," Bard thought to himself shaking his head. "If he was not so annoying, I would find his antics rather amusing."
"Well you are the father I never had. I honestly appreciate all you have done for me. If it had not been for you, I would have been at the mercy of an angry crowd."
Britt's expression softened a bit. He reached out his hand and patted the thief on his back. "Thanks son. Why don't you explain a bit about yourself to Bard, Johanna and Balon?"
"As you already know," George began, "I am a thief. You probably do not respect me for who I am, but thieving is the only thing I know how to do effectively. I have been doing this ever since I was a child. It was something I had to do in order to survive.
"I was born in a village similar to the one you came from Bard. My parents barely had the food to feed themselves; there were times when I went days without eating. I never had an education; what I learned I knew from the streets.
"I began my thieving life when I was five years old. My parents went on a long trip and took me with them. We came to a town like this one. They left me at a market and told me to pick out some fruit. They would be right back.
"They never returned. They had abandoned me. Sometimes I am bitter because I think they had left me because they did not love me. Yet other times I believe they left me to give me the chance to live a better life.
"Therefore, I had to survive. I learned how to steal food without being seen. I studied people and saw how they carried their coins. Some were careless, such as having their pouches loosely tied to their belts. I could easily take coins from these people before they realized what was happening. Then, when they realized their money was missing, I would be gone, blended with the crowds."
"I understand," Bard said. He was starting to sympathize with the lad. Before he had entered the catacombs he also was poor. He had to fight for the coins he found.
"As I got older, I found a place in a bad part of town. This was a place where other thieves lived. It was at the Thieving Guild where I improved my skills. I learned things such as stealth, lock-picking and removing traps. While the other thieves were considered friends, they could not be trusted. I found that out one night.
"One thief was jealous of my progress. My master was planning to promote me from Apprentice to a Fox. This was because I was able to conceal myself in the shadows. Well, this thief did not want me to succeed. He set me up.
"He told me that for me to get promoted I would have to break into a prison and help another thief escape. While I was scaling the walls, another good talent I learned, the guards were tipped off.
"Here I was halfway up the wall, with arrows flying all around me. How they missed me, I have no clue. So I jumped from the wall to the ground. Then I ran through the forest. Thankfully this town did not have fortified walls like Antares has.
"I never was a fast runner and I was beginning to tire. The crowd of people chasing me had grown. If they had caught me, I am sure they would have drawn and quartered me.
"I fell to the ground, too tired to move. Then I heard a voice yelling, "Quick! Over here!"
With what energy I had left, I picked myself up and ran towards where the voice had come from. I found myself at the entrance of a mineshaft. For some off reason Britt hid me in the cart. When the mob asked if he had seen anyone, he pointed them in the direction of the river and said I had jumped in.
"I have been with Britt ever since. He treats me like his own son. You can say he reformed me. I am still a thief; I will always be a thief the rest of my life. Yet, since I get paid, I only thieve when necessary. I sometimes pick pockets for a prank. Yet, I think it is a habit that I cannot break."
"True he can be annoying at times,” Britt said. "Yet he is the one who got us involved with the goodwill missions. Before I rescued him, he had overheard that the elders of the town were looking for small groups of individuals to carry out these missions to help the poor in this world."
"I too was looking for a purpose in my life," said Eileena. "I was brought up in a family where everybody was interested in feasting and dancing in woodland glades. Well, I wanted more. Therefore, I left my partying family to make a name for elves in the world.
"However, in the cities of men, I could find no work. Many people thought elves would be nothing but trouble, even though we are equal in strength and intelligence.
"I had met Britt a few days before. I knew that he was working in one of the mines outside of town. I decided to go and see him, to see if he had any work that I could do. When I found him, George was already there. He told us about the goodwill missions. We decided with our different skills, we can form an excellent team."
"I understand that elves have excellent vision," Johanna said.
"Elves have infravision and can see up to sixty feet in the dark. I can see if an item is warm or cold. Warm items appear red; where cold items appear blue."
"Aren't you immune to ghoul paralysis?" the cleric continues.
"Elves can also do the same spells as magic-users," Balon commented.
"Yes," said Eileena. "We even speak different languages. I have been able to fool goblins when I speak in their tongue."
"She is almost as good as I am in finding traps," George said. "She and I usually work together if we have to look for secret and hidden doors."
"The missions are simple enough," Britt said. We explore different ruins, finding treasures. Sometimes we fought monsters, things like goblins and rats. The missions usually last no more than three days, though sometimes we spend more time traveling.
"Word got to us, thanks to George once again, that more extensive missions were being made. The elders told us of the one we are embarking on. We are to secure a fortress that is in the forest north of Antares.
"The main problem is we do not know where it is. The map the elders gave us just shows the fortress, with a little information of the surrounding area. However, it goes no further. We may spend many days searching for it. In fact, this place may never have existed.
"Well the mission is two-fold. The first is to fight the monsters and the treasures. The second is to change the fortress into a tourist attraction. The elders believe that if this fortress can draw in people, the profits can be used to help the poor.
"As we neared Antares, we realized that we needed more people. We would be fighting more monsters than before. We also had the feeling that Jeff would stand us up again. It is a good thing that we found you, Bard and both you two," Britt said to Balon and Johanna.
"While you and Britt have no magical skills,” said Balon, "I like all magic-users have poor fighting skills. Since we are forbidden to wear any type of armor, just robes, I always have to travel in the middle of a group, to be protected from attacks. I can help in battles by casting spells. I carry a dagger in case I need it in hand-to-hand combat.
"I was glad to be asked to join this mission. I am usually looking for spells. I write new ones down in a book and study them. The mission will give me the opportunity to become a seer or a conjurer.
"It is like me," Johanna said. "I want to become a priestess; I am still an Acolyte. While I can cast some spells, there are many more I must learn. While Balon and I are similar in many ways, the types of spell I use are for healing, protection and gathering information. While Balon usually used his spells during battles, my spells are either needed after battles, such as healing the wounded, or for detecting traps."
"Your spells helped in the Catacombs," Bard said. "You turned away the ghouls."....
"That also may come in handy in this mission. From what I know about it, we may be facing ghouls and skeletons," Britt said.
"I can both fight and cast spells," Johanna continued. "As I told you in the Catacombs, I have to meditate to learn the spells. The details of the spell form in my mind. Then I am able to cast the spell any time after I learn it. Once I learn a spell it stays in my mind until I cast it. Then I have to meditate again to relearn the spell.
"Yet, I can only cast a couple spells a day. If I do too many at once, I have to rest and meditate before casting anymore. That was my mistake when we fought Trent. I had thought I could defeat him with my spells. However, it was too soon after I turned away the ghouls. I was too weak for him. Fortunately, I still had the energy to protect both of us."
"That is true," said Britt. "With the group of us on this mission, we may be better prepared."
"Speaking of which," said Bard, "what is this mission about?"