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The Caverns of Kildun Aalda--Chapter Seven-The Mission
Chapter 7—The Mission
"It may be easier to give a bit of the history," Britt began. "Many years ago, there was a fighter and wizard from Antares. Stephan, the fearless..."
"I heard of him," Bard exclaimed. "People in the village knew of his reputation; my grand-father told me stories when he fought in the Barbarian Invasion. The elders and sages in town always talked of him with awe, respect and admiration."
"That is what our mission is about, to see how much of Stephan's background are facts and which are just stories. Stephan the fearless was one of the greatest warriors of all time. However, he did not accomplish this by himself. He became friends with Joban, one of the most powerful practitioners of the arts of magic and sorcery."
This time Balon smiled and nodded his head.
"No one knows what caused these two men to join forces. Yet they created a strong bond together. Their friendship created a union that lasted their entire lives."
"Shortly after their friendship began, the two disappeared from civilization. They were two individuals who, while they were close to each other, did not like other people. They decided to build a home that was also used as their base of operations. Since they did not like and trust intruders, they built this stronghold away from civilization. It was said that this hideaway was constructed as far away from traveled roads as possible."
"Does this place even exist?" Bard asked.
Unfortunately, no one knows for sure. That is what we are to find out on this mission. If it does exist, it is well-hidden in this forest."
"I see," said Bard, smiling. "Well, what does this fortress look like; being that it may not exist?"
"Leave it for us to get a smart aleck for a warrior," Britt grunted.
"Sorry," said Bard. "Just won't we just be wasting our time if we discover nothing on this mission?"
"It is a risk we take. We basically are looking at what is known and what is unknown. What is known is these two great people existed. They built their reputations over the years. What is unknown is if this place exists."
"Why have you decided this forest holds the fortress?"
"Here is the map. Look on the top."
"The Caverns of Kildun Aalda” Bard read. “That is the name of the forest to the north."
"No other forests in the land have that name," George said.
"That explains it," Bard agreed. "I have never traveled much in it, except to hunt."
"From the journal that was found with the map, this fortress was built on a high stony hill. Apparently it took over twenty years to build, using both magic and manpower from hundreds of slaves and laborers. Large amounts of rock were removed as the rooms were carved out of the stone. Look at the map."
"There are over fifty rooms!" he exclaimed. "This is amazing, running his fingers through his hair. "Even the houses in Antares took a long time to build. Yet, they are not nearly as complex as this."
"When are you planning to leave?" Bard asked.
"We want to give it a few days," Britt said. "First it will give you time to rest. Hopefully the weather will be a bit warmer; it seems than it is colder than normal for this time of year. Then we have business to take care of in town. We have to get supplies and food."
"I know I need to get a new sword. I have to replace the one that rust monster got. I hope it gets heart burn."
"We need to open up a bank account," Britt told Bard the next day.
"Why do you need to do that?"
"To keep our gold safe. We can not just keep traveling with the coins building up in our sacks. Eventually, they would get too heavy to carry around."
"I never thought of that," Bard admitted. "The last time I explored the Catacombs, the bags were so heavy that I barely had the strength to make it back to Antares."
"Open an account and put most of your coins in it. We have several bank accounts throughout the world. That way we travel with only what we need."
"How do you determine how many coins each person gets, when a mission is completed?"
"Everybody gets an equal share. Then each person gives ten percent of his earnings towards the rebuilding efforts."
"Even George gets an equal share?"
"I sure do," George said, joining the two. "I have no excuse to pick somebody's pockets."
"Where are the others?"
"They are at the library, researching. They are trying to see if they can find any history on Stephan and Joban. Reading is not my thing, so I decided to join you."
Bard went up to his room and gathered his coins. He would deposit them in the bank. They would be safe there anyway; too many thieves break into rooms and steal money.
"I am ready," he said, returning to the others. "We can open the account. However, how do we know one of us is not going to withdraw more than his share?" he asked, looking a George.
"Not to worry," George said, pulling out a ledger. "When you make the deposit, let me know how much. I will write it down here. That way you will know how much to withdraw. Mark you; I keep a strict eye on the books. I know how much each person withdraws. Therefore, do not try to swindle me."
Bard shook his head at the thief. "It is a good thing I am starting to like you George."
After completing the business at the bank, Bard, George and Britt went to Joe Smith's armory. "Back so soon, Bard?" the blacksmith asked.
"I need to replace my sword. I lost it to the rust monster in the Catacombs."
Joe Smith grabbed his belly and laughed. "I can just imagine that excuse in school. 'I am sorry teacher. I did not practice because the Rust Monster ate my sword.' Well I have one you will like. It is much better than your old sword. Now, young man," he said to George, "keep your hands to yourself."
George stuck his hands into his pocket and began to whistle innocently.
After leaving the armory, the three walked slowly through the marketplace, discussing supplies.
"I have plenty of torches and oil," Bard said. "Plus I have a lantern. The only problem I had in the Catacombs was it was too hard to fight with a sword in one hand and protect myself with the shield in the other, while at the same time holding onto a lantern."
"I see well in the dark," said Britt, "just as good as Eileena. However, human do not have that ability. Usually, when we go into caverns, one person is designated as the torch bearer."
"Don't you have a wooden pole?" George asked Bard.
"Yes. I bought one when we first met. I thought it may help make walking easier. Yet, I think I may have wasted my money."
"No, that was a good investment," said George. "It is useful in finding traps on the ground. Plus you can use it to poke around corners. "I even used one to poke at a suspicious looking box. It is a good thing I did. I found a trap."
"George saved our lives on our last mission. If we had walked onto the trap, we would have been impaled with spikes," Britt looked at George with respect.
"Let's go in here Bard said.”It seems that we are going to need food. I took some food with me in the Catacombs. However, the first time I never got a chance to eat until after I left."
"It is very important to eat and get rest," Britt said. "That helps you to stay strong and healthy. If you are hungry and tired, you will not fight as effectively."
"Are we going to get the usual?" George asked.
"What is the usual?"
There are two types of food we get. The first is standard rations. This is unpreserved food. However, these rations are not good in caverns. They become moldy and inedible if you stay overnight in damp places. From the look of things, if the caverns of Kildun Aalda exist, we may be exploring them for several days.”
"What would we eat when we are underground?"
"Iron preserved rations. They are foods that are stored in tin cans, such as ham and soup."
"I always call them C-Rations. I think I heard some of the students in the warrior school call the food C-Rats for short."
"We will buy both types of rations, a weekly supply of each for every person in the party."
The three started looking through the shelves at the different food. The door of the shop slammed open. In the entrance, three warriors stood. The biggest one, a man in black plate armor, looked at Britt and started to laugh.
"Look at that midget over there! I am surprised that they make armor that small!"
The other two men laughed. They walked to a different part of the shop, the leader still cracking jokes about the dwarf.
Britt said nothing, but his face reddened. Bard clenched his hand over the hilt of his sword, ready to fight the antagonizers. He felt a hand on his arm. George slightly shook his head at Bard.
"I am going to look for supplies over there," he said.
Whistling nonchalantly, he casually walked over to the group of men, picking up a can here and there. The three men ignored them. He was standing right next to the bully. He picked up a can of food in his left hand. Bard saw George reach out with his right hand and touch the back of his armor. Then the thief hurried back to his companions.
"What was that about?" Bard asked.
"Cover your ears!"
Suddenly there was a loud crashing and clanging sound. They looked over to the warrior. Standing naked from the bottom down, the plate armor was scattered in the pile on the floor.
Two women stared at the man trying to pick up the pieces of armor with one hand while using his other hand to covered his exposed parts. They covered their mouths and started to giggle. The two men with him laughed also. Red in the face, the warrior ran out of the shop.
"It is good it is not cold today," George said.
The dwarf turned to the thief. "Just what did you do?" Seeing his face getting redder, Bard thought Britt would lose his temper.
"I just noticed this pin sticking out of his armor," he said, handing a small metal peg to Britt. "I thought I was helping him," he said innocently.
Britt barked out a laugh. "I do not know about you, George. You can be annoying at times, but you always look out for me."
The door opened again and the others had walked in. "We just saw the strangest sight," Johanna said. Britt, Bard and George burst out laughing. They quickly told them what had happened.
"Deserved them right," Eileena said. "If I was in here, he would have been cracking jokes about me too."
"Why is that?" Balon asked.
"Some humans look down on individuals like elves, dwarves and halflings. We belong to the demi-human race. Even though we are distantly related to the human race, and are partially human, some humans do not see us as equals. They believe we are inferior to them."
"Maybe, some day, we will get the recognition we deserve," Britt said.
"We leave in the morning," Britt told the group later that night over dinner."
"I checked with the stables," Balon said. "There are no horses available. They are all rented out."
"Whoever heard of a stable in a stone city?" George said.
"People are renting them everyday," Bard said. "The local farmers sell feed to the owners. Maybe, when we complete our mission, we can buy some. I know a few people who sell horses."
"I forgot to pick up the iron spikes and hammer," Britt spoke up. "I have to wait until the markets open in the morning."
"That is right," George said. "You lost them on that last expedition. I also forgot to get a mirror and some rope."
"I have both," said Bard. "I got the rope to help me pull open doors."
"It also comes in handy if we have to tie up a monster," Balon said.
"I use rope to climb steep walls," George said. "The mirror will help us peek around corners. That way we will not be surprised if a monster suddenly appears in front of us."
"I have several hammers and spikes," Johanna said. "I use them to wedge doors open and to pry things loose. You can have mine, Britt."
"Thank you," the dwarf said. "I cannot climb well with a rope. What I usually do is the spikes into a wall. I use the spikes as grips for climbing."
"That reminds me," Balon said. "I stopped at the apothecary and purchased bottles of healing potion. I have four does for each of us."
"Do not forget the wolfsbane," Johanna said. "You never know if we will be attacked by werewolves.
"That settles it. We leave at dawn. Get your bags packed. Do not oversleep."
On the way up to his room, Bard noticed a man talking to the innkeeper.
"Are you sure you do not have any extra rooms?"
"I am sorry, Sir," the innkeeper said. "We are all filled up."
"I am going to be in town for a while. Do you know of anybody who is willing to rent a room?"
"Well, you can try..."
Bard interrupted. "I will be going out of town on business. He can have my room while I am gone. I can sleep in the stable tonight."
"Are you sure?" asked the man.
"It is no problem. I am leaving tomorrow. I just need time to pack my stuff."
"I appreciate your kindness."
"Bard," the innkeeper said. "I will need to reimburse you for the days you are gone."
"We can figure it out when I am return. If somebody still is in the room when I return, I can get a different one."
"Hey Bard!" yelled George. "You can stay in my room. I promise I will try not to take anything. Remember, I said try."
Bard laughed. Shaking his head, he followed George up to the room.