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Max_Writer

Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 - Luxit Sol Campaign Session Three - Rats

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Saturday, November 7, 2015

(After playing Kit Howard’s D&D 3.5 game Friday, November 6, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. with James Dixon, Ethan Gordon, Katelyn Hogan, and Demetrius Jones-Dixon.)

From the recollections of Rory Buttertongue - Halfling

On our second day in Denrith, Dack Fel disappeared again, directly after breakfast, without telling us where he went. John Wayne, Arya, and I discussed a job and we went to the job board outside. Arya wanted to fight rats and one of the jobs was for that.

“So, what shall we do?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Arya said.

“So, you want to kill rats?” I asked. “All right, where’s this rat place?”

John Wayne looked more closely at the job board and told us we needed to talk to a Captain Louis. I left a note for Dack Fel at the inn that read: “We’ve gone to look for a missing dog. Just kidding. Rory.” I slid it under his door and we left.

The market was very, very crowded and I had little trouble picking a man’s pockets for about four silver coins. I touched the guild pebble to them and was surprised when they turned into a little bunch of grapes. I handed them over to a beggar with an eye drooping out of the socket and he tucked them away. Very interesting system.

“Oh, that’s what pebbling is,” I said to myself.

It took us about an hour to walk to the docks from the inn. I asked a beggar about Captain Louis and showed him my pebble.

“Uh …” one of them said. “Don’t show that in public. Keep it hidden.”

“All right,” I said.

“Haven’t you been taught yet?” he said.

“Sure,” I said. “I forgot! It’s been a big day. It’s my birthday! Do you know anything about Captain Louis?”

He told me he didn’t and suggested if it was for a job from the board, I should ask a guard. I gave him a silver coin and walked back to the others, telling them what I’d learned. They were talking to people passing by. John Wayne walked over to a guard while I held back. I couldn’t hear what they were talking about but the two soon came back over to me.

“So, deluxe map,” Arya said.

“Do we have a deluxe map?” John Wayne said.

“Yes, I’ve got one right here,” I said.

I opened up the scroll and we looked on it for Captain Louis and rats. John Wayne went back to the guard, Arya grabbing the map from me and walking over with him. The two learned from him how to use the map by touching the help board on the map. Then you could actually see the spot on the map where the job was. It was very magical and quite ingenious. It also showed us where we were. We headed to the spot marked on the map which was not far from the dock entrance to the slums.

I found another beggar on the way.

“I got a job for you,” I said to him. “I got five silver coins here. I need you to go to the … where we staying?”

“Scented Seasons,” John Wayne said.

“The Scented Seasons,” I said.

“Yes, I know,” the beggar said.

“Find Dack Fel and tell him that his friends are down at the docks,” I said. “Tell him Rory sent you.”

“Okay,” he said.

“All right, and you find me again, I’ll give you another five,” I said. “Go!”

The beggar took out something and scribbled on it and then put it behind him.

“It’s getting done,” he said.

“Good job!” I said.

We continued on to the warehouse. All of the warehouses looked the same but when we got close, the map zoomed in and showed us in relation to our destination. There were several people working in the warehouse and the main doors were open. The place was about 100 feet wide and looked very deep. There were windows in the walls near the roof, about 40 feet high. Sailors moved in and out of the warehouse and we headed in, following John Wayne.

A man in a red shirt came out of the warehouse as we approached.

“Hold on, hold on,” he said. “Where do you think you’re going?”

“We are here to kill some rats,” John Wayne said. “We’re looking for Captain Louis.”

“About damned time someone was interested in this,” the man said. “Please please come in. I’ll bring you to Captain Louis.”

We followed the man inside. The warehouse was massive and probably a hundred yards from front to back. It was filled with everything imaginable, crated produce and the like, and even livestock. The far end of the warehouse, the entire back, had apparently been walled off.

“There’s your rats right there, I’ll bet,” I said.

“Well, I guess I better start tracking them,” Arya said.

“Wait, let’s talk to the captain first,” John Wayne said.

We headed up the stairs, then across a catwalk to a small office built into the wall some 20 feet up. I could see another catwalk behind it and more steps leading up from there. We were led into the office where a man with rusty blonde hair sat behind the desk. The man who led us in turned out to be his first mate and introduced us to Captain Louis.

“These men and lady are here to help with the rats,” the first mate said.

“All right, go back,” Captain Louis said. “Go back. Continue.”

The first mate ran out.

“How bad is this rat problem that you’re having?” John Wayne asked.

“Well, that’s the thing, I sent a couple people back there,” Captain Louis said. “I don’t have the time, unfortunately, to go down there myself. I’ll explain. We have rats. They come out at night and into the main part of the warehouse. We’re pretty sure we know where they come from but it’s been a little bit of a problem because they’re getting into our fresh produce, eating it, they scare the cows, which break out, damage other products. It’s just not good. So, go back out there and there will be a person at the bottom of the stairs. His name is Shmee. He will help you go back. He’s the one that’s had the most experience with the rats. When you’re done, I’ll give you some gold for your time and hopefully this never happens again.”

We left the office and found a disheveled-looking teen at the bottom of the stairs. He had dirty brown hair and a baby face. He looked very poor.

“Are - are you the ones here to get the rats?” he said.

“Yes, we are,” John Wayne said.

“Oh, good good,” Shmee said. “Please please follow me!”

He led us to the very back of the warehouse where a door stood in the extra wall I’d noticed before.

“I can’t believe Dack hasn’t found us yet,” I muttered. “What’s wrong with him?”

Shmee told us the rat problems were getting worse. He noted they’d put some spoiled meat on the ground the night before and they heard the rats, so they’d sent a couple of men in.

“What happened next?” I asked the boy.

“Exactly,” he said.

“They didn’t come back out?” I asked.

“NO!” he said.

I gasped.

“This was this morning?” I asked him.

“This morning,” he said.

“The rats should be full now,” I said. “They should be easy to kill. Let’s go.”

I could hear the scurrying of rats behind the wall.

“The captain just told us to take care of it,” Shmee said. “He doesn’t have time to go down and handle it himself.”

“Okay,” I said.

“Open the door then?” Shmee said.

“Open the door,” John Wayne said.

Shmee took the lock off the door and then flung it open and jumped behind us. Four huge rats, each the size of a man’s arm, were waiting and leapt at John Wayne. All four of them tore into his legs and ankles, cutting and biting him. Blood splattered from the man. Arya fired her bow into the melee but missed completely. John Wayne drew out what looked like a small, sharp hoe, and struck at the rats but missed. I moved to my right, still some distance from the rats and took out my slingshot. I fired into the melee and struck one of the rats solidly in the skull, killing it instantly.

“One!” I called.

The rats tore into John Wayne and Arya again, biting both of them. Arya backed away and shot a rat dead. John Wayne missed again and I fired another bullet that winged one of the rats.

“One and a half!” I called.

The remaining rats attacked John Wayne. Arya fired another arrow at the rats and missed completely, nearly skewering John Wayne’s leg. John Wayne struck one of the rats with his fist, killing it, and killed the last one with his sharp hoe.

“Dinner for Dack,” I said, pointing at the rats. “Is it dark in there? Do we need a torch? I don’t have one. Do we need one?”

“No idea,” John Wayne said weakly.

“Where’s Dack when we need someone to scout ahead for pits?” I said.

John Wayne looked around for something to bind his wounds and eventually tore some strips from his shirt.

“Good shot,” I said to Arya.

She didn’t look pleased at my compliment. I think she thought I was being sarcastic.

“Can you see in there?” I asked John Wayne. “Is it too dark to see?”

There appeared to be shelves on either side of the door and the back wall of the building was only 20 or 30 feet further on.

“Let’s go,” I said to John Wayne. “Are you all right? You look very pale.”

“Close the door,” John Wayne said.

Arya just looked at him so I closed the door. Shmee walked back up to us.

“Do you get ‘em?” he asked.

“We got a few,” John Wayne said.

“How many are there?” I asked.

“How many are there?” John Wayne said.

“How am I supposed to know?” Shmee said.

“I thought you were a smart boy,” I said.

“‘Go kill the rats,’” he said. “‘How many rats are there?’ I don’t know! They’re rats!”

“One, two, three, four,” I said. “There’s four.”

“Four, at least, are dead,” John Wayne said. “Shmee, go find us a torch.”

I could still hear scurrying behind the wall.

“Do you have any torches?” I asked.

“Uh …” Shmee said.

“Or a lantern?” I said. “Something we could borrow? We don’t have to keep it.”

“All right, hold on,” Shmee said.

“Thank you,” I said. “Thank you.”

He ran off.

“So, how you feeling?” I asked John Wayne.

He just glared at me.

“You look like … there’s a lot of blood,” I said. “There’s a lot of blood …”

We waited for Shmee to return. I asked John Wayne what we were doing and he replied he was waiting for a torch. It had only been a few minutes but I was getting bored.

“I can see in there,” I said. “It’ll be fine. Let’s go. Let’s go.”

John Wayne continued to look around.

“Can you use a shield?” I asked.

“I don’t have a shield,” he said.

“Yeah, but look, there’s plenty of palettes,” I said. “You could use one as a makeshift shield.”

“I prefer not to,” he said.

“All right,” I said. “Let’s go then, lead the way! I’m ready. I’ve got my slingshot.”

I nudged him in the back of the leg.

“Before we do anything, grab one of all the produce,” he said. “Put it down in front of the door.”

I shrugged and Arya and I started to gather up single potatoes, onions, carrots, cabbage, radishes, turnips, and the like. We each got an armful and returned.

“Are you hungry?” I asked.

“I hope we don’t have to pay for this,” Arya said.

“Not right now,” John Wayne said.

“Well no one’s here to see that we took it, so …” I said.

“Well, it’ll be on the ground,” Arya said.

“No stealing,” John Wayne said.

“What are we doing?” I asked. “I’m not stealing, I’m … you just told me to steal!”

John Wayne looked around again but didn’t seem to find whatever he was looking for.

“I don’t think he’s coming back,” I said of Shmee.

Arya walked over to the door and opened it, peeking in. I followed behind her and John Wayne followed us. She went to the left and I followed, looking at shelves on either side. I figured I could climb them like a ladder but they were very high, being 30 feet or so to the top. A fall from one of them would be very, very bad.

“Rory, put the produce in the corner,” John Wayne said.

I grabbed up the produce and dumped it in the corner of the room. Then I went back outside and got the lock off the door so we didn’t get locked in. I took out my slingshot. I went back in and followed Arya, who moved off to the left. There was a bloody skeleton further on and I stopped as she walked over and examined it.

“Oh,” she said.

I turned around and watched the other direction, where there was another corridor of sorts leading through the shelves. Arya returned to me and I suggested we stand back-to-back.

“I hear something,” John Wayne said.

“What do you hear?” I whispered. “What is going on?”

“Thuds,” John Wayne said

“Where?” I asked.

“Behind the walls,” he said.

“Which walls,” I said. “Point me.”

He gestured towards the main wall.

“Behind this wall over here?” I asked.

He nodded and I moved to the back wall, as did John Wayne. There were no cracks but it was darker than one would expect from an outer wall.

“There’s another wall back there,” I whispered. “There’s some shelves over this way.”

Arya walked by me, heading off to the right. John Wayne put his ear to the wall, listening to it.

“Don’t get stuck to it,” I hissed at him. Then I looked around. “Dack’s not here for me to tease. You hear anything?”

“Slowly something is fading into the back behind the wall,” he said. “It seems to be gone.”

“All right,” I said.

“But stay on your toes,” he said.

“I don’t hear the little rats anymore,” I said.

“Stay on your toes,” John Wayne said again.

I looked around and found Arya, putting my back to her. John Wayne headed over to the right of entrance.

“He’s about to die,” she said to me. “Let’s stay with him.”

I nodded and she followed him. I followed after her. As we reached the side of the first shelf, we all saw a hand on the floor by the edge of the nearby shelves suddenly dragged away. I heard heavy breathing and the sound of someone dragging a body. I quickly told the others in a whisper.

“Go, lead the way,” I said. “I’ll follow you. I’ve got your back.”

John Wayne drew his daggers and moved to the front of us. I crept to the corner and hid in the shadows while the other two moved to the next shelf. John Wayne peeked around the corner. Suddenly, a dead body came out of nowhere and slammed into John Wayne as if it had been flung. He crashed back into Arya and they both fell to the floor.

“Behind the door!” John Wayne yelled. “Let’s go!”

“What is that?” I cried. “It’s a dead body! Grab the body!”

“No,” John Wayne said as he ran away.

“Grab the body?” Arya said. “We just got hit with that. No!”

Something bellowed loudly from back in the shelves.

“Help me!” I hissed at Arya. “Grab the body! Grab the body!”

“Why?” she asked. “That would just hinder me. Why would I grab the body?”

I ran away as something large came at us. I wasn’t about to argue with her.

“You need to calm down!” Arya yelled as she ran.

The thing bellowed back at her.

“We mean you no harm!” I yelled at the thing as we ran out.

John Wayne slammed the door shut. The thing lumbered quickly towards the door, by the sound of it. I ran back and hid by a crate.

“Where’s the lock?” John Wayne said.

I tossed him the padlock and he locked the door. The roaring immediately stopped the moment the door was shut.

“I don’t believe that was real,” I said. “It’s an illusion. It’s fake.”

“It didn’t feel like an illusion,” Arya said.

“It went off like somebody had just … like … you know … like in the stage,” I said. “You ever see the theater? How they die quickly? Like that.”

John Wayne led us back to the front of the warehouse.

“Shouldn’t we put the produce back?” I said as we walked. “At least we’d have one of the bodies to give back to them if someone had helped me.”

Shmee showed up with a torch as we walked back.

“I’ve got the torch!” he said. “Sorry, there was no fire over here.”

“Oh, thanks,” I said. “There’s some kind of giant monster back there.”

“What!?!” he shrieked.

“That’s what we said,” I said.

He ran away.

“We locked the door for you!” I called after him.

We went to the front of the warehouse.

“Tell you what,” I said. “You two go try to see the captain. I’m going to try to get Dack here.”

“All right,” John Wayne said.

“I’ll be back in five minutes,” I said.

I went out into the street and found another beggar.

“I need you to get Dack Fel here,” I said.

“Right here,” he said.

“Right at that warehouse,” I said, pointing to the warehouse.

“I can’t get him here,” the man said.

“Can you tell him where this warehouse is?”

“Sure.”

“We’re waiting for him. Tell him we’ve been waiting for a very long time.”

“Okay.”

“And we can’t understand why he’s not here.”

“All that?”

“Just make it sound like it’s his fault.”

“All that? His fault? It’s all his fault?”

“We’ve been waiting for him.”

“I like that it’s the thieves’ fault.”

“We’ve been waiting for him like he said.”

I handed him a couple silver coins and returned to the warehouse. I heard shouting from the office as if Arya and John Wayne were yelling at the captain through a door. I couldn’t make out what they were saying but they continued to converse in that way for some time, it seemed. Then they held a short conversation on the catwalk before finally coming back down. I walked up and asked what he’d said.

“He said ‘Deal with it,’” John Wayne said.

“All right, let’s go,” I said. “I’ve got my slingshot. I grabbed a bunch of rocks too, for more bullets.”

We went looking for the first mate couldn’t find him. Then we used the map to try to find a local temple where John Wayne might get healed. The nearest healer was over by the gate that led into the market district. I showed him on the map.

We went looking for the first mate throughout the warehouse and asked some of the workers what his name was: Zult. None of them had seen the man recently. John Wayne left for the temple while Arya and I waited at the warehouse for Dack Fel. We continued looking for the first mate but couldn’t find him anywhere. We discussed investigating more and ended up heading back to the back to try to recover Arya’s arrows.

“I hear whispering,” Arya told me.

We listened at the door.

“Be careful next time,” I heard someone say off to the right.

Something growled in response. Then it sounded like something was dragged away. I gestured for Arya to move away from the door and then I told her what I’d heard. She asked if the whispering sounded familiar but I told her it did not. I suggested we go look for Dack. Arya wanted to look for the first mate.

“What if that was the first mate?” she asked.

“I dunno,” I said. “It might have been.”

We walked back to the front and the first mate entered the warehouse as we got near the entrance.

“We’ve been looking for you,” I said.

“Why?” he asked.

“Well, the captain wanted to find you,” I said. “He was looking for you, and wanted to know where you were. I think he was worried. Are you all right? Are you all right? Are you okay?”

I reached up and touched his arm.

“I’m fine,” he said. “Please. Please don’t touch me.”

“Oh, well I’m sorry,” I said.

He headed up the steps towards the office again. Neither Arya nor I knew where he’d come from. I suggested we look at the outside of the warehouse. We walked out front and I looked around for Dack Fel and then sent Arya around the side of the building to look for a secret entrance into the back of the warehouse. I told her I’d wait there for Dack Fel. She left. Dack Fel arrived a minute or so later.

“Thanks for waking me up, jerk,” he said.

“There you are,” I said. “You were already awake! You left this morning without us.”

“No,” he said.

“Yes,” I said.

“What’s this note?”

He showed me the note I’d slid under his door.

“Oh, that was a joke,” I said. “That’s my attempt at human humor. Did it work?”

“No,” he said.

“Well, I felt bad, so I sent word to you,” I said. “Did you get the other messages. I sent many.”

He showed me other pieces of paper. Some were ruder than I had been.

“Where’s everyone else?” he asked.

“John Wayne has gone to the temple,” I said. “We fought rats. There’s some kind of giant monster that throws bodies at its weapon, apparently. And John Wayne got scratched and went off to a temple to get healed. And then we were waiting for you.”

“Screw this, do you want to go look for a dog?” he asked.

“No,” I said. “We’re finishing this for these people. You’ve been off doing your own thing all day, so …”

“Yeah, waiting for you. All day.”

“You’ve just been waiting? I left you a note saying where we were and you just waited? And I sent two more notes and you just waited?”

“I went to talk to the thieves’ guild and he said to go to a tavern for jobs for us. For later.”

“Well, there’s some kind of monster in the back and I heard someone whisper ‘Be more careful next time.’”

I told him everything else I could remember of the thing though I forgot about the first mate. I eventually remembered.

“Let’s go kill some rats,” he said.

“We have to wait for John Wayne to get back,” I said.

“We don’t have to wait for him to get back,” he said.

Arya returned. She said she hadn’t found anything. I was very disappointed. We discussed elves noticing secret doors and I told them I thought they could just notice them. Arya told us she hadn’t looked on the other side and I told her to do so. She left with a frown. Dack Fel said he believed someone was using the rat thing as a front. We discussed what might be going on. He believed someone wanted to keep people out of the back of the warehouse for some reason. Arya finally returned but hadn’t found anything but cobwebs.

We headed back to the door and I tried to pick the lock on the padlock without luck. It was a tough one and I asked Dack Fel if he wanted to try. I warned him not to unlatch it, merely unlock it. He tried without luck so I gave it another go but couldn’t get the lock opened. He tried one more time without luck either. I kept an eye out to make sure no one was near us.

We returned to the front of the warehouse to wait for John Wayne. Shmee returned some 30 minutes later.

“How are you?” I asked him. “How you feeling?”

“I’m fine,” he said. “Who are you?”

“We’re here to get the rats,” I said.

“Oh!” he said, heading into the warehouse. “Follow me!”

“Wait!” I said. “There’s one more of us. We’re waitin’ for him to show up.”

“Oh, okay,” Shmee said. “I’ll be around, doing my work. Let me know when you’re ready.”

“All right,” I said.

When he walked away I turned to Dack Fel.

“He’s the one that let us in, but he’s acting like he never saw us before,” I said.

“Maybe he got hit on the head,” Dack Fel said.

“But he’s acting like he never saw her before,” I said, pointing at Arya.

She looked at me.

“You stand out in a crowd,” I said of the beautiful elf woman.

“Not very,” she said.

“But you’re gorgeous so you stand out in a crowd,” I said.

“No,” she said. “Among humans. Yeah. I do.”

“And you’re so modest.”

“You should see back at home.”

“I would love to! Let’s go.”

“Hm.”

“What?” Dack Fel said. “What are we doing?”

“Your hair looks nice,” I said to him. “That’s what she said.”

“Oh, thank you,” he said.

“I did not,” she said.

It was over an hour before John Wayne returned.

“How are you feeling?” I asked.

“A little better,” he said.

“You look … I can’t say you look better,” Dack Fel said. “Because I didn’t know how you looked before.”

“Let’s go back in there,” I said. “C’mon. We got Shmee. He doesn’t remember us. At all.”

“Shmee’s back?” John Wayne said.

I pointed him out.

“How about the first mate?” John Wayne asked.

I told him how he had appeared after we’d left the back and of our suspicions of him. We also talked about the whispering in the back and Arya walking around the exterior of the warehouse. Arya used some of Dack Fel’s bandages to bind her own wounds.

“I thought we were looking for a dog,” Dack Fel said.

“Just ignore him,” I said.

“Let me look at the map,” Dack Fel said.

“Why?” I asked.

“I just want to look at it.”

I handed him the map and he looked over it for a minute. John Wayne wanted to find the first mate and we quickly did. He was barking orders to people in the warehouse.

“Did you mention to him about the monster?” Dack Fel asked. “The first mate?”

“No,” I said. “No one was told but Shmee.”

“I thought we told the captain,” Arya said.

“I don’t know what you told the captain,” I said. “I was outside.”

“Did we tell the captain that?” Arya asked.

“Yeah, we did,” John Wayne said to her.

“So, he doesn’t know we know,” Dack Fel said. “So … and he was apparently gone. You couldn’t find him.”

“What is your point?” I asked.

“Ask him about it and see his reaction,” Dack Fel said. “If he denies it, then …”

“Go ahead,” I said.

“No, it’s your idea, Rory,” he said.

“This is your idea!” I said.

We approached the first mate.

“What can I help you with?” he asked.

“So, about the rats … uh … we killed some of them,” John Wayne said. “As we went to go back to the warehouse to find more, there was something else back there. It … frankly was a little freaky. It’s … like nothing I’ve ever seen. It’s large, like a massive dog … like a bear and a dog.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t quite understand,” he said.

“I don’t either,” John Wayne said. “Has there been anything … have you found anything in that part of the warehouse that is, in any way, suspicious?”

“No, we just had a lot of rats. And a lot of rats together means you need a lot of people to kill them.”

I looked around to see where Shmee was but there was no sign of him.

“All right,” I said. “Let’s go get those rats, then.” I turned to Arya. “You all right? You feel better? You smell like lemon water.”

John Wayne asked the first mate for a torch and the man left us for a couple of minutes, returning with a rod. He handed it to me and told me there was a light spell upon it. Once it was dark, we would be able to see it. Arya suggested John Wayne carry it. I handed it off to her and she tucked it in her belt.

We went to look for Shmee and found him carrying a box onto a ship. I waited for him to come back and, when he returned, I told him we were going back to kill the rats and asked him if he had a key to the lock. He led us back to the back again.

“Don’t forget to ask him to get a torch, right before we go in,” I whispered to the others.

“We’ve got a torch,” both John Wayne and Arya told me.

“Just do it,” I said. “See how he reacts.”

Then I turned to Shmee.

“I see the door is locked, Shmee,” I said.

The youth went to the door.

“You ready?” he said. “I’m going to open it for you!”

He unlocked it, then swung back the doorway and leapt back. Then he screamed and ran away. I called after him, asking him to get a torch.

Four rats were in the doorway, just as before. They rushed forward again.

I was in the back and didn’t have a shot so I pulled back on my slingshot and stood ready. Dack Fel had drawn his knives and moved to one side of John Wayne. He flung a dagger into the doorway but it missed. Arya shot one of the rats dead, actually pinning it into the clay floor. John Wayne had some kind of punching daggers on his hands. He punched at one of the rats but missed. He skewered the second rat, killing it instantly. It was stuck on his punching dagger.

I still didn’t have a shot so I waited. Dack Fel flung another knife, skewering another rat, and I cheered. Arya shot another rat, again skewering the thing into the floor.

Dack Fel and Arya recovered their daggers and arrows.

“They’re on the right,” I whispered. “It’s on the right. The right is where the stuff is.”

The bodies of the rats we’d killed before were gone. Arya suggested they had been dragged off and eaten by the other rats. I suggested we get the others out of the area. However, when I picked up a rat, I noticed it was lighter than it should be. I examined it more closely.

“Why you looking at the rat for, Rory?” Dack Fel asked.

“Here,” I said, pointing to another rat. “Pick that up. Pick one of these up.”

Dack Fel did so and then cut into the rat with his dagger. It vanished. I didn’t notice until he did it until another one. Dack Fel suggested I try to stab mine but I was of the opinion we should try a different method, pointing out John Wayne had stabbed one, which was still on his punching knife but it hadn’t disappeared. Instead of stabbing it, I felt the dead rat. It felt like a rat but was not nearly heavy enough to be one. It was quite confusing. Blood still dripped from it.

I handed the rat to Dack Fel. Then I moved to the doorway to watch for anything else to come. When he asked if I wanted him to stab it, I told him he could do what he wanted, and explained the rat felt real, though it weighed far less than it should. I suggested he chop the tail off and he did, but nothing unusual happened. Then he laid the rat down on the floor and it vanished like the rest when he cut it.

“So, would you like this?” John Wayne said, brandishing his rat at me.

“Not really … why would want that?” I said. Then I had a thought. “Pebble it!”

“I want to cut this one,” Arya said.

“Here ya go,” John Wayne said.

Dack Fel snatched it out of his hand and then pulled out his pebble.

“What are you doing?” Arya said.

“I’m pebbling it,” Dack Fel said.

He touched the rat and it turned into a small block of cheese. Then it started shrinking. I backed away and Dack Fel put it down on the ground. Then it vanished.

“That’s so weird,” I whispered.

Dack Fel told us his blade had hit something and it had felt solid, like metal or glass. I guessed it was some kind of clockwork. He said it felt more like glass or crystal.

“Quick, get the wand out,” Dack Fel said. “Summon a kobold.”

“A goblin?” I said.

“A goblin,” he said. “Whatever.”

“I don’t know how that wand works … okay!” I said.

I took out the wand.

“Do you hear that?” Dack Fel said.

“Hear what?” I asked.

“Sounds like a thumping,” he said.

“We heard something before, right before we saw the thing,” I said.

Nervous, I pointed the wand and concentrated. A moment later, an armed goblin appeared next to me. My jaw dropped! I was not really expecting it to work.

“Hello!” I said. “Hello! Hello! Hello! Hello! I have the wand. Are you here for me? Nice to meet you. Nice to meet you! Nice to meet you!”

He was armed with a sword and shook my hand when I gave it to him.

“Go kill some things in there,” I said. “Not these.”

I pointed to my companions. The goblin looked at the door and then ran in.

“Let’s go!” I said, giving chase.

“Rory, that’s not why I wanted the goblin for,” Dack Fel said.

I tucked the wand back into my belt and took out my slingshot once again, following the goblin in excitement. I gave the creature about 10 feet of space, just in case. I followed him through a maze of shelves into a spot that opened up into a space about 25 feet by 25 feet. The others followed behind me. The goblin ran to the far wall of the room and started scratching at a grate which was very dark.

“This is the best!” I said to myself.

Then I turned to the rest.

“This is where the thing came from!” I hissed to them

There were shadows in the corners of the room so I slipped to one and hid. The others entered the room, Arya ready with her bow, John Wayne with his punching daggers, and Dack Fel, sword in one hand and dagger in another, standing near where we came in.

“All right, hold on, hold on, hold on,” I said to the goblin.

He didn’t listen and I realized I’d told him to kill everyone but my friends in the area. He was just following orders. Dack Fel kept an eye on where we’d come from and I watched the grate. With a crash, the wall over the grate bulged and fell onto the goblin, who vanished completely under the rubble with a squeak.

A pink creature standing well over six feet tall burst out. It had long hair that grew from the top of its head, partially covering its eyes. It looked like a mix between a giant, naked mole rat and a bear. I recognized it from a story my gram-gram had told me years ago. It was a rat ogre. They would come through and steal children if they didn’t do their chores. It looked exactly like she had described.

It glared at Arya and then rushed her with a roar. It was terrifying. The thing tried to maul her but she ducked out of the way.

I moved across the room to flank the thing and fired my slingshot at the rat ogre and struck him in the back of the head. It was an excellent shot. Arya, right in front of the thing, fired her bow at it as it tried to maul her again. The arrow flew off into the darkness. John Wayne punched at the horrible thing with his punching daggers. He struck the thing with both of them and the thing stumbled. Dack Fel moved around the room and stepped between the rat ogre and me and then stabbed it in the back.

Then someone punched me from behind. I screamed in terror and a fist flew by my head as he tried to hit me again.

“There’s monks behind me!” I screamed.

The rat ogre tried to attack Arya again but stumbled. I tried to tumble away from the horrible hole but was struck in the back of the head and everything went black.

* * *

I awoke some time later to find myself still in the terrible room. Arya was above me, lightly slapping my face. My head hurt horribly and the light from the windows hurt my eyes.

“Aw,” I muttered. “Someone hit me in the head.”

“Yeah,” she said.

“Don’t worry, I hit them back,” Dack Fel said.

Their voices were muffled and dull. It hurt me to listen to them.

“What’s wrong with your voice?” I said.

I felt terrible.

“Where’s the … the … you know … the thing?” I asked.

“It’s gone,” Dack Fel said. “Don’t worry.”

“Where’s my … you know … my thing?” I asked.

“Your slingshot?” Dack Fel asked.

“No,” I said. “My slingshot.”

“Yeah … oh,” Dack Fel said.

He handed me my slingshot and I tucked it away. I sat there for some time, my hands over my eyes for the most part, trying to figure out where I was and what had happened. I felt awful.

“Are we safe?” I asked.

“Yeah, we’re safe,” Dack Fel said as they continued to fiddle around.

“My head hurts,” I muttered.

“We’ll get you some water,” Arya said to me. “Later.”

I felt my head and found there was no blood but my skull ached.

“Does anyone know what the writing on this ring is?” John Wayne said.

“I’ll take a look at it,” Dack Fel said.

Arya left my side as she, presumably, looked at the ring as well.

“Why are we still here?” I muttered. “Did we win?”

“We’re searching the guy that punched you in the back of the head,” Dack Fel said.

“There was a … is there more than one?” I muttered. “What’s behind that wall?”

“We killed the thing and he freaked out,” Dack Fel said. “So, I think there’s just him.”

“That wasn’t the question that I asked.”

“We don’t know. We haven’t been there.”

“Go look before more monsters show up. What is this thing we’re looking at?”

“Give me the light.”

“A ring,” John Wayne said. “Please.”

“Ring?” I said. “What ring? I’m so confused.”

They went to search the hole in the wall the rat ogre had come from. He had the light stick Arya had been carrying and Dack Fel fiddled. I suggested he tap the floor.

“Go in!” I said.

“There could be stuff in there,” he said.

“If there’s anything that could kill us it would have killed us by now,” I said. “That back wall. There’s something behind that back wall. Over there. There’s something behind this wall.”

“Make sure he doesn’t wake up,” Dack Fel said, pointing at the body on the floor.

“There’s something another wall,” I muttered. “There’s probably something behind all of the walls!” I gasped. “They’re behind all the walls!”

“Arya, come with me, please,” Dack Fel said.

“I think there’s a wall hiding behind the walls,” I muttered.

Dack Fel and Arya went into the hole in the wall. I got my goblin wand out. John Wayne held out a ring.

“Come over here, Rory,” John Wayne said to me. “What is this?”

“What is … put it on the end of my wand,” I muttered.

“Just come look at it,” he said. “No.”

“Put it on my wand,” I said again. “Put it on my … wand.”

I giggled.

“Put your ring on my wand,” I said.

I found that immensely funny for some reason.

“The walls are going to try to kill us all!” I hissed at him. “The walls are going to kill us!”

He kept trying to get him to go over by the hole in the wall. I refused, certain the walls were out to get us.

“It’s the walls trying to kill us,” I said. “All the bad stuff comes out of the walls.”

“What are you talking about?” John Wayne said.

“The walls are evil!” I hissed.

Dack Fel stepped back out into the room.

“It’s a pocket dimension,” he said.

Things were finally starting to make sense. I told them about the rat ogres.

“We should have it stuffed,” I said.

Dack Fel went to the body.

“I wanna stuff it,” I said. “What are you doing?”

The man who lay in the corner started to stir. He was all in black and the scarf had been pulled from his face so I could see it.

“Who’s that?” I asked.

“That’s the one that hit you,” Dack Fel said.

“Who’s that?” I asked again.

“That’s the one that hit you in the head,” Dack Fel said.

John Wayne moved to the man, who was slurring swears.

“Take his clothes off,” I muttered. “He won’t run very far.”

I stood up.

“Hey, it’s your gran here,” Dack Fel said to the man. “It’s your gran.”

“What are you doing?” I asked him.

“Seeing if we can get him to speak,” he said.

“Why don’t we just take - he’s a criminal!” I said.

I walked over to him.

“Let’s just go,” I said. “Let’s take him out of here. Is he tied up? He’s not even tied up! Anyone got rope? String?”

I removed the man’s cloak and started to rip strips off it to tie his hands and his feet. As soon as I tried to grab his hands to tie him up, he shoved me and pushed me off. I stumbled back and the man leapt into the darkness behind the wall, vanishing from sight.

“Well, that was very helpful,” I muttered.

I left, walking back among the shelves until I reached the door to that area. I was so angry. They had taken the time and effort to take a prisoner and then made no provisions for keeping him. It was ridiculous. I was done with that entire warehouse. My head hurt, I felt like I’d been misused, and was completely fed up. I walked all the way to the front doors of the warehouse to wait. I didn’t even care about stuffing the rat ogre anymore.

A few minutes later, Arya and John Wayne came out of the warehouse with the rat ogre.

“Oh good,” I said.

“We took care of it,” Arya said.

The first mate, nearby, turned and ran up the stairs, bumping into Dack Fel as he went. Dack Fel headed up to the office as well.

“Thanks for bringing this out,” I said to Arya and John Wayne. “Should we get it stuffed?”

“Yeah!” she said. “Let’s do it.”

“Don’t eat it,” I said.

“No,” she said.

“It’s foul,” I said.

“It smells,” she said.

There was yelling coming from up above. Then Captain Louis and the first mate ran down the stairs and approached us as I took out the magical deluxe map and looked for taxidermists. There was one in the market district that’s advertisement consisted of the head of a bear and a title: “I Stuff Things!” Then I looked for teamsters and a place to rent a cart.

“Holy crap!” Captain Louis bellowed. “I didn’t know they stacked shit that high! Did you kill this?”

“Yes,” Arya said.

“Yes,” John Wayne said.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“I got the final blow,” Dack Fel said. “We killed this!”

“Is this what was causing the rats?” Captain Louis asked.

“Probably,” Dack Fel said.

“This was what was killing the people you were sending back there, I think,” I said.

“Yeah,” Arya said.

“Really?” Captain Louis said. “Huh.”

“There’s some kind of … what’s in … there’s a back room back there too,” I said.

“What do you mean?” he said.

“Iunno,” I said.

“What back room?” Captain Louis said.

“There’s a back room that’s−” Dack Fel said.

“Okay, this guy busts through the wall,” Arya said.

“Show me,” Captain Louis said. “Show me. Are you sure that thing’s dead? Someone take its head off!”

“No,” I said. “It’s dead. Don’t take its head.”

He glared at me.

“Then take it out of my warehouse!” he said.

“Take it out of the warehouse,” I said to Arya and John Wayne. “Take it right around the corner.”

They dragged it out front of the warehouse and I sat on it. Captain Louis asked them to show him the back room while Arya and I stayed to guard our prize. We discussed the house we’d live in someday, or at least I did. The others were gone for a little while. Then they were marched out of the warehouse by the captain and headed for the nearest guard station. They talked to a guard for a few moments. I found that a little odd but didn’t feel like thinking about it as thinking made my head hurt. Then they returned.

“All right, let me get your payment,” Captain Louis said.

I looked on the map for a place to rent a cart. The nearest was in the market district.

Arya and I talked about getting a wagon to move the rat ogre carcass. It took me a bit to convince her to go get a wagon while I guarded the carcass. She eventually left.

“Rory, go follow that guard that just took the pebble,” John Wayne said to me.

“What?” I said.

“Do it,” Dack Fel said.

“No!” I said.

“Tell us where he’s going,” Dack Fel said.

“We need you to,” John Wayne said.

“I’m staying with my prize, here,” I said. “You go.”

“Rory, please,” John Wayne said.

“No,” I said.

Dack Fel headed off to follow the guard. He returned a few moments later and told us the man was gone.

“I didn’t really realize it was that big of a problem but this is what I’ve got,” Captain Louis said when he came back down.

He handed a sack to John Wayne. He looked through it and gave us each five gold coins. Captain Louis thanked us for the help and told us if we were ever looking for a job moving freight or on the sea, they could always use good hands to help, especially bodyguards.

“A lot of people need bodyguards,” he said.

I told him we’d get rid of the carcass. It was some 30 minutes later when Arya returned with a cart and driver. We loaded up the rat ogre into the cart and took it to the taxidermist.

“If the rats disappeared when I stabbed them, what do you think it’s going to do when a taxidermist dissects the big one?” Dack Fel asked as we rode.

“How much did this thing weigh?” I asked John Wayne.

“Around 300 pounds,” he said.

“How much did those rats weigh?” I asked. “Nothing. This is real!”

“So you think,” John Wayne said.

“So are the clowns,” I said. I looked at the clown standing nearby. “I see you, clown!”

We got some odd stares but I had dropped down into the back of the cart and dozed. I felt awful. I pulled out the map at one point and figured out where we were going.

“When he gets to his stomach, he’s going to find body parts and bones,” Dack Fel suddenly said.

“Probably,” Arya replied.

“Ew,” Dack Fel said.

“That’s his job,” I muttered.

The taxidermist proved to be a gnome. He had a lazy left eye, was a little bit twitchy, and named Samuel.

“Can you stuff this?” I asked, pointing at the rat ogre in the cart.

“Yes, I can,” he said. “I can do it lickety split too!”

“Can we see some of your work?” I asked.

“Of course!” he said. “Follow me!”

We looked over some of his work and most of them looked very nice. One or two were really, really bad.

“What’s with this?” I asked, pointing at one of the terrible ones

“That’s … that’s my apprentice Jeremiah,” he said. “He’s not too good with his hands.”

“All right, all right,” I said. “How much to stuff this thing?”

“It’s going to cost you about 50 silver and it’ll take me two days!” he said.

“All right,” I said.

I paid him the 50 silver coins and gave him my name and where I was staying.

“Can you make it look ferocious?” I asked.

“Yes, I can,” he said.

“Can you make it hold this sword?” Dack Fel asked.

“Stop it!” I said to him.

“Do you want it to be magically inclined?” Samuel asked.

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“We got basic animation spells to scare your neighbors,” he said.

“That’s okay,” I said.

“It’s great during the Pumpkinseed Festival,” Samuel said.

“I’ll pay for it,” Dack Fel said.

“No!” I said. “You won’t. No no no. No magic is necessary.”

“Okay,” Samuel said.

“But thanks for offering,” I said.

“All right,” he said.

He brought out a small piece of paper and asked me to put my hand on it. It showed where I was currently staying.

“Oh, that’s not good!” he cried. “Where are you going to keep this thing? You can’t keep it at the inns.”

“Why not?” I asked. “It’s not a pet.”

“They won’t let you keep it there,” he cried. “It’s too much!”

“All right, we’ll find someplace within the next couple days,” I said.

“You have two days to do it!”

“Yes sir.”

“You sure?”

“Here’s a question. If I pay you, could you store it for me, maybe for an extra day or two?”

“Uh … it’ll cost you …” Samuel took out an abacus and started to move beads around. “It’ll cost you 10 silver a day because that is relatively big.”

“Fair enough,” I said. “I’m going to try to find a place before then though.”

“That’s good!” he cried. “That’s good! If not, I know where you are.”

I paid half of the cost up front and told him I’d return in two days.

We returned to the Scented Seasons Inn. It was close to dinnertime already and I hadn’t even had lunch, not to mention late breakfast and late lunch or early dinner. I went back to my room and put some coins into the box to pay for the next night. I was already paid for that night but I’d decided to keep a day or so ahead of my payments so I wouldn’t forget.

We all sat down and had a good dinner. There was pheasant, wild rice, and fresh vegetables for dinner. There was also raspberry mead with the meal and I got as much as I could. I was exhausted so again went to bed early. I found a note under my door. It merely read “I hate you guys.” It looked like Dack Fel’s handwriting.

* * *

I awoke in the night, or dreamed I did. I felt very groggy. I thought I saw a weird figure by the pouch that held the rings and the glasses. It was on my nightstand, for some reason. I must have dropped it there instead of under my pillow, where I usually hid it at night. The figure appeared to be looking at the items. I couldn’t move. Then I fell back to sleep.

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