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  1. #1
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    Sep 2009

    Default In a Handbasket - Citrine's Trial

    A story broken into multiple parts, covering one of Cloudcaller Citrine's misadventures into Three-Barrel Cove.

    Part 1 - Departure

    “Oi! Citrine!”

    The elf looked up at the rough, accented voice that called over the wind. Draerent was approaching her with his normal swagger, resting his ax on his shoulder. She hadn't seen him brandishing the ax before, but it looked like it had seen some use. Cloudcaller Citrine stood up from where she was perched on the edge of the airship, giving a friendly smile. “Hi Draerent! How are you doing today?”

    “Oh, alright lass, alright. Jus' got back wipin' out a few nasty undead things from the gloomier parts o' Stormreach. Night, Kat, an' I are gonna head back out to the Necropolis after sellin' some loot we found,” Draerent informed her. He then snapped the fingers of his left hand and pointed at the sorceress. “But 'fore I go an' do tha', got a task fer ya.”

    “Oh? Sure, how can I help?” Citrine asked. The dwarf gave a shrug, though he wore a partial grin.

    “Out in Three Barrel, there's a pirate tha' goes by th' name o' Rackam. Normal kind o' hooligan, causes trouble, raids ships, so on an' so forth. He's got a knack for puttin' together a rowdy crew though. He's got this trial, puts people through their paces. Me an' the crew went through it an' put a halt to it a long while ago, but someone or another revived the old sea dog, an' word's gotten back to us that he's up to his old shenanigans again.” Draerent paused with an indifferent shrug. “Need someone to go out there an' get eyes on the situation. See what he's done with th' trial, an' send him back to his spirit binder if he's up to no good again.”

    “Alright Draerent! So, you'd like me to pass along the message to Velvy and Toxic to head out there?” Citrine asked. The dwarf chuckled, shaking his head.

    “Nae lass; yer goin' out there?”

    Citrine blinked, jerking her head back a little and her smile dimming. “I am?”

    Draerent nodded. “Aye.”

    The elf regarded the dwarf for a moment, a small smile still on her lips. “But there are pirates out there.”

    Draerent perked an eyebrow, and he looked to one side and then the other before leaning a little closer, nodding slightly. “Aye, I know lass. I've been there.”

    Citrine lost her small smile, a slightly alarmed expression on her face. “But why can't Velvy and Toxic do it? They love it out there!”

    The dwarf sighed, his face tilting down to look at the deck of the ship. “They'd be my go-to choice for tha', y'know. But the damn fools got into a fight down at th' harbor, so now they're layin' low. Even if they weren't dodgin' guards, the only capt'n willin' ta take 'em to Three Barrel's refusin' to carry them 'til they pay for damages to her ship. And we need th' airship here for some other ventures for th' moment.”

    Citrine slowly slumped her shoulders, and she gave a little sigh. “Oh, okay. But I don't like pirates, Draerent. They get drunk, they smell, and then they get all handsy.”

    “Well, get handsy back wit' 'em. Acid handsy, if y'know what I mean,” Draerent said with a shrug.

    “I do,” Citrine replied nonchalantly, which made the dwarf pause. The elf shook her head as she picked up her staff. “I just hate having to waste the magic. And they never learn, either. Well, except for this one pirate, who thought he was clever because he bought a potion of acid resistance. An acid ball showed him wrong.”

    A slow grin returned to Draerent, and a low chuckle began to stir in his throat. “Y'know lass, there's a reason I like you. Right; take whomever ya want to go with ya, dun' do anythin' reckless, other words of wisdom, so on an' so forth.” He patted a heavy hand against her shoulder, each pat jerking the slender elf a bit. The dwarf then turned and headed off, and Citrine turned to head below deck.

    Before she could reach it, the door burst open, causing Citrine to yelp and hop back. A drow swaddled in brightly-colored clothes and a large, feathered hat came racing onto the deck, carrying something in his arms. He was fleeing in a panic, shouting, “No! Don't shoot Skitters!”

    Citrine watched as the drow ran past, recognizing him as Jetty; what he cradled in his arms was a large, wicked-looking spider. A loud thump caused her to jerk her attention back at the entrance, where the diminutive form of Berkly had hopped into view, brandishing the massive crossbow that was nearly as large as he was. “Get back here,” the halfling barked angrily. “I'm going to make skitter-kabobs!”

    Jetty wailed at the threat, and Berkly took off hot after the drow. Following the halfling was one of the young wolf pups that the crew had obtained, adding to the frantic vibe in the air. Citrine stared after them for a moment and then shook her head, turning to head inside. As she was closing the door, she heard Draerent shouting something at Berkly, but it was mostly drowned out by the wind and then silenced as the door thumped shut.

    She was left listening to the dull thrum of the airship’s inner workings, mingling with the clanks and thunks of kitchenware nearby. Citrine casually glanced in the direction of the stoves where Orshkibruun was hard at work. The elven woman had to smile; the strange dwarf always seemed to be cooking when he was on the ship; she wondered if he even slept. She passed by, offering a friendly wave to the dwarf and planning to head down to the lower holds of the airship. Before she could though, the mustached dwarf babbled something in his foreign dialect, his thick accent blurring most of it together. He was holding up a wooden spoon toward her, his other hand cupped beneath it to make sure nothing dripped. Rather then be impolite, Citrine tentatively bent to taste the stew he had been preparing. It was a tasty blend, and she offered a hum of appreciation, nodding. “Oh, that’s good! Thank you, Orshk!”

    The strange dwarf grinned, chuckling and sputtering off something that Citrine really didn’t understand, and he retreated back to his pots and pans. He seemed quite satisfied, and Citrine heard him humming to himself as she headed down into the hold, off to where her belongings were stored. The woman crouched down, giving a sigh; she couldn’t wait until they got another airship. The Sunfire was a good ship, trusty and faithful, but it was a bit too open for her tastes There were only a few rooms, and those were given to the higher members of the guild, like Katriona, Nightsnow, and Draerent. Well, Draerent’s room was really more like Shigi’s room. Thinking of the drow mastermind caused Citrine to smile a little in amusement. Although Shigi wasn’t a senior member of the guild, she did have Draerent wrapped around her little finger - and without the use of charm spells.

    Thoughts of other guild mates fell aside as Citrine caught sight of what she was looking for. The elven woman smiled as she spied a scroll peeking out from one of her bags, and she pulled it free. She unraveled it just enough to confirm it was a hireling contract and began to roll it up again; Citrine stopped herself, looking at the contents of the scroll again with mild surprise. The magical hourglass enchanted on the parchment was almost out of sand. “Oh, lucky; I’m going to have to grab another one after this,” she mused softly.

    “Grab another what?” came a voice right beside her. Citrine gave a yelp of surprise and alarm, jumping at the sudden voice. Her body screamed out to do five different things at once, and she didn’t know which one to do first; it resulted in the elf half-contorting and falling onto her bags of stuff, floundering around and flailing the contract around in a harmless manner. When she finally composed herself to stop flailing, Citrine saw Nikufimu grinning at her.

    “Don’t do that,” Cintrie protested, making a more aimed blow with the scroll. Nikufimu laughed and jerked back, then skittered a safe distance from the disgruntled sorcererss. Citrine scowled at her smaller friend and compatriot, but it lasted only a few seconds before she brightened. “Oh! Niku, I’m heading out to Three Barrel Cove; want to come with me?”

    “Three Barrel?” the halfling parroted, then wrinkled her nose. “Eh, I think I’ll pass. Jetty and I were going to go annoy the Sharn Syndicate some more. You haven’t seen him around, have you?”

    Citrine pointed upwards. “Being chased by Berkly,” she noted. Nikufimu laughed again, folding her arms in front of her chest. “Jetty will never learn.”

    “Learn what?” Jetty’s disembodied voice floated from the nearby ramp; a second later, the drow walked into sight and looked at the two. He wore a simple, friendly smile and offered a wave of greeting, which Citrine returned. Nikufimu turned toward him, making a little sound.

    “Not to hang around Berkly. You’ve really got to stop doing that, Jetty,” the halfling scolded him. The drow looked like he was a kicked puppy dog.

    “But Niku! Berkly’s my friend!”

    Nikufimu’s face went deadpan. “He’s shot you through the knee more times then I can count.”

    “But he does that to almost everyone,” Jetty protested.

    “For looking at them?” Nikufimu pressed, leaning forward. Jetty leaned back at the same time, and he brought his hands up so his fingers could fidget with one another.

    “Sometimes,” the male drow replied tentatively. Nikufimu regarded him for a moment before rolling her eyes and sighing. The halfling turned to regard Citrine, but the sorceress quickly averted her eyes and held up her hands, indicating she did not want any part on trying to convince Jetty that Berkly seemed a little deranged at times.

    “Hi guys,” came another voice, and Citrine looked up to watch Lyonessa approaching. The elf brightened, and she waved at the human woman.

    “Hi Lyonessa,” Citrine greeted, and Jetty said the same thing at almost the same time. Nikufimu glanced back at them before turning to the cleric and nodding in greeting. Citrine brightened again. “Hey, you wouldn’t be doing anything right now, would you?”

    Lyonessa’s smile was contorted briefly in a grimace. “About to head out,” she informed Citrine. The elf sighed and slumped her shoulders a little, but quickly rebounded. The cleric offered an apologetic smile, shrugging her shoulders. “I’m helping the city guard take care of some of the kobolds in the sewers; there’s been a recent new cult worshiping some sort of new death god.” The woman shook her head. “What kind of god goes by the name of “Herbet?”

    “A very nice god, thank-you-very-much,” Jetty uncharacteristically snapped. The unusual way the drow spoke caused all three women to look at him. Jetty seemed to realize he was the center of attention, and he shrank back a little, his eyes dancing between the three. “I mean, it just seems like it’d be a nice name. I gotta go!”

    Jetty turned and hurried back up the ramp leading to the upper sections of the ship. Citrine looked back to Lyonessa and Nikufimu, finding them doing the same. The human woman shifted her weight, then sighed. “He knows something about this.”

    “Y’think?” Nikufimu asked. Lyonessa scowled at her before heading after Jetty. The halfling sighed and then looked over at Citrine again. “Alright, I’ve got to go save Jetty. I hope everything goes well in Three Barrel. Stay safe, and I hope you find good loot.”

    “Thanks; you too, Niku,” Citrine replied. “Stay out of too much trouble!”

    Nikufimu laughed and headed after Lyonessa, leaving the sorceress to return to rummaging through her things. Citrine gathered up everything she thought she might need for her trek into Three Barrel. She gave a little sigh, disappointed that most of the other members of the guild were off adventuring. It didn’t keep her down for long though; although she preferred to travel with friends and guild mates, Citrine was accustomed to the occasional venture on her own. With hireling contract in hand and a bag full of necessities, Citrine headed for the deck again. She saw a few other members of the guild heading down the gangplank, heading to Stormreach before the ship departed for more exotic venues. Citrine looked back one last time at the ship before heading to the docks.
    Anything can be explained by drunken wizards.

    "Hey! I got a piece of the +1 Butter Knife of Victory! Ah-oh, wait, wait. It's just a crummy, normal +1 dagger of ghostbane..."

  2. #2
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    Sep 2009


    Part 2 - The Trial Begins

    The heavy door gave a low, protesting groan as it budged, swinging inward to reveal dusky stone and pale torch light. Citrine’s eyes fixated on the figure in the middle of the room, turning to regard those who entered. It was an orc, uglier and more fowl then any Citrine had seen before. The orc sneered, a few missing teeth making it look more menacing. “What do we have here? A couple of pointy-eared landlubbers, lost on th’ isle?”

    “I guess this is the place,” Citrine muttered to the drow cleric behind her. Laerathor grunted, frowning slightly in distaste. The hired cleric had been in a sour mood ever since they had discovered the entrance to the trials. Laerathor had been under the false assumption that Citrine was merely scouting out the area, and his soon-to-be-expired contract would end with a return to the Salty Wench and civilization. It was only after their hike and discovering the hideout did Citrine fully disclose her purpose. Still bound by the terms of the contract, Laerathor begrudgingly agreed to accompany her.

    Not quire hearing what Citrine had said, the big orc leaned forward with a grunted, “Huh?” He lifted his left hand and cupped it near his ear, as if to hear better; his other hand moved to rest on the hilt of his cutlass.

    “Ar-Arrgh,” Citrine called back, at first a little hesitant and then throwing herself into it. She tried to swagger like a pirate into the room, leaving Laerathor to stare at her. He shook his head and followed after as she came to a halt a short distance from the orc. “We... “be” pirates,” she informed the orc, halting a moment to find the right word. She put a hand on her hip and swiveled for a moment. “We come to join Rackam’s crew!”

    The orc made a feigned look of being impressed. “Oh, such a pretty lil’ wench the likes of you, here ta join me crew?”

    Citrine tilted her head to one side as she regarded the orc. “You’re Rackam?”

    The orc scowled, and quickly approached. “Aye! I’m Rackam! And this ain’t no pub, wench, so ya’ll have no tables ta serve. I’m lookin’ only for real pirates, and only a real pirate can go through what lies behind them doors and come out the far side. You go through there, and you won’t come out so pretty, girl.”

    Rackam was standing fairly close to Citrine, smelling of sweaty orc flesh and stale grog from the past night. She did her best not to lose her lunch on his captain’s coat right there. Wondering idly if he was some sort of half-trog, Citrine looked him square in the eye for a moment. She opened her mouth to speak, but her throat choked up, trying to keep a bit of bile from escaping her; the poor sorceress’s stomach churned briefly, but she managed to keep everything down - at least, she thought she did. When she thought she was safe, Citrine tried to speak again, only to have a small belch escape her. Rackam jerked his head back, more surprised then she was. Citrine freaked out inside, feeling embarrassed and alarmed at what might happen. Her mind screamed at the rest of her to be still, and she tried to look as calm as possible as she turned to look at the door that Rackam had gestured to during his bellowing.

    “So the trial’s over there, aye?”

    Somehow Citrine managed to keep a steady voice, despite the deep chagrin she was feeling. Rackam stared at her for a moment in disbelief before letting a full belly laugh escape him. “You got stones, elf,” the orc announced, and a heavy hand slapped her on the left shoulder; if Citrine didn’t have her staff, she likely would have been bowled over by the gesture. “You’ll get yer shot then. Get through in one piece, and you’ll be part of the crew.” Rackam turned, laughing again and heading for the other doorway. “Hey, boys!” he called out to someone in the next chamber, “get ready to clean out the first room! We got dog chow headin’ in!”

    Rackam’s laughter echoed across the aged stones, cut off by a thudding boom of a door slamming shut. Citrine finally slumped forward, holding onto her staff to keep herself upright. She felt mortified at what she had done. And then she remembered Laerathor’s presence, causing a chill to race down her spine. Rigidly, she turned slowly to look at the cleric, finding him struggling in his efforts to hold back his laughter. The drow’s dark skin was an even huskier shade of purple-gray as his shoulders convulsed with restraint. One hand was shielding the lower half of his face, as if to physically restrain the laughter.

    “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” hissed the sorceress woman, storming toward the trial’s door. This only made things worse for Laerathor, and the hired cleric let slip a few bursts of laughter before quickly shutting his mouth. Citrine silently determined to do everything in her power to keep this story from getting back to the rest of the guild; if someone found out about it and word circulated, she didn’t know if she’d ever be able to live it down.

    As if somehow able to sense the thoughts Citrine rebelled against, Laerathor spoke in a falsetto, speaking, “Urp! So the trial’s over that way, aye?”

    A new flush spilled over Citrine’s cheeks, and she half-turned, raising her staff in both hands as if to strike Laerathor. The drow’s mirth vanished briefly for self-preservation, at least until he could bring his shield up between the two. Citrine weighed the temptation, and ultimately gave a sigh of defeat; she lowered the staff and turned back toward the door. She jerked back with a yelp as it suddenly slid open, revealing the first challenge.

    “The first challenge is a ledge?” Citrine asked, looking dubiously into the room. The room could have been quite spacious if it wasn’t for the large stone platform in the middle of the room. Next to the door, there was a a partially raised section, about halfway as high as the main raise; if Citrine really wanted to climb up onto it, she could use the lip to do so. Either side, there was plenty of space to walk down - and there were crates. Why were there crates? Was the challenge to see how many crates she could smash? The destruction of wooden containers didn’t seem very much in line with being a pirate, but maybe they wanted her to loot the boxes.

    Citrine started the left side of the room, prepared to smash the box into little wooden splinters. As she drew nearer, Laerathor couldn’t resist another jab at the woman, mock-belching again and repeating what she had said. Citrine jerked to a halt and turned; had her eyes been daggers, Laerathor would have been struck down on the very spot. Had Citrine not wanted to was the spell components, Laerathor would have been Melf’d on the spot. And then a cacophony of noise erupted in the room; the splintering of wood and clay, a heavy whooshing sound as something big was whipped quickly through the air, and metal forced against metal. Citrine did not want to turn around and see what was going on; the splintering sounds were gone now, but the others remained. Laerathro’s slack-jawed look didn’t matters.

    When she finally looked, Citrine saw all of the crates and vases along the path were demolished. Most of them were just plies of ruble, but a few had the glint and gleam of coins. The central pillar had a large slit open now, running the length of most of it. After a second or so, something big whipped out, revolving out of the slit and whipping across the stretch of hall at deadly speeds, making the whooshing sound. And Citrine was close enough to feel the breeze from its passing.

    Citrine beat a hasty retreat, going back toward the door. She glanced at the top of the stone platform, where large rusty spikes were popping in and out of it. The other side of the pillar was armed with a similar blade, whipping along the passage too frequently for Citrine to hope to run past. She stared at the traps for a moment, her mind racing; how did they expect her to get across this? “You’ve got to be kidding me,” she murmured. She shifted her weight and looked around. “How do they expect us to get through?”

    “That’s part of the trial,” Laerathor observed. Citrine bit back a comment about observing the obvious, and instead looked around the room. She really wished Nikufimu had come with her; Citrine imagined that the halfling would have already been busily dismantling the traps. Either that, or running along the upper section.

    That thought caused Citrine to cant her head to one side, and she looked at the spikes. They were popping up rhythmically, and sinking down in a uniform fashion that lead from the front of the platform to the back. Citrine watched it a moment to see if it changed its pattern, but it continued the same cycle, leaving a moving gap amid the spikes. “Oh, I get it!” Citrine called out cheerfully. Laerathor looked at her dubiously.

    “You mean you just now realized-”

    “I swear to whatever god you hold dear, I will Acid Spray you in the face,” Citrine warned. There was an unusual edge to the sorceress’s voice that made Laerathor decide not to test her threat. Citrine let it linger for a moment before pointing to the spikes. “I meant I understand how we get across.”

    Laerathor looked to where the woman pointed, grunting as he observed the pattern. Meanwhile Citrine moved over to the ledge and hauled herself up. Her mithral chain scraped against the stone ledge, causing the elf to wince a little at the sound. She got up to one knee and looked back at her contracted ally. “Come on; get up here.”

    Citrine was mildly satisfied as the drow started to complain, stripping out of some of the exterior pieces of his plate mail and tossing them onto the ledge. The sorceress started to climb up to the next part when Laerathor called out to her. “Hey! Help me up here! It’ll take forever for me to strip out of my armor just to climb up there!’

    Rolling her eyes, Citrine doubled back and reached over to the cleric, trying to help him rise onto the stony outcropping. She gritted her teeth as she tried to help Laerathor scramble up to where she was. “Ugh! You’re too heavy!”

    “Stop complaining, I’m almost up there. Velvy would have me up there by now,” Laerathor noted, struggling to get his right leg over the lip.

    “Velvy’s a meat-head,” Citrine grumbled. “This is the kind of thing that she and Toxic would love to do, but no, they had to go and get into a barfight.”

    “If it’s any consolation, they’d probably do the same thing to Rackam that you did,” Laerathor glibly observed. Reminding Citrine most definitely did not consol her; the sorceress regarded the cleric with a deadpan look for a moment, before giving a slight push and releasing him. With her support withdrawn, Laerathor was off-balanced and pitched backward, despite his scrambled attempts for purchase. He fell heavily to the floor with a loud clatter, launching a string of half-swears after the sorceress. Citrine ignored it, instead climbing up onto the top tier where the spikes still moved. She felt more anxious now that she was actually facing the trap, waiting for it to cycle through again and grant her an opening.

    And there it was, some of the spikes retreating to offer a gap. Citrine quickly stepped over the holes and moved forward; a moment later, the spikes in front of her retreated. The woman made haste, stepping forward again and hearing the spikes popping up behind her as the next set in front of her retracted. Again there was a slight delay that made her anxious, but then the spikes before her retreated. Soon enough, she had made it to the far side, and Citrine was more than happy to hop down the ledge and down again to the floor. When she looked back, she found Laerathor following after her, walking along the spikes as she had. The dark elf also shot her a sour look, obviously not pleased with her little shove. Part of Citrine did feel bad for it, but she justified it to herself by believing that he really did deserve it.

    Laerathor eventually caught up with the sorceress, and Citrine turned toward the door. She pushed it open and found a normal looking hallway before her. Suspicious that there might be more traps, she leaned in and peeked up and down the hall; it seemed fairly spacious, and there didn’t seem to be any signs of traps. Then again, being familiar with the common and uncommon markers of traps was not Citrine’s forte. Still, she entertained the hope that one day such precautionary measures would pay off.

    She ventured into the room as Laerathor finished putting the last piece of his armor back into place; Citrine idly noted the approach of his footsteps behind her. When they were both in the room, the door slammed shut behind them, causing Citrine to jump in surprise. At first she shot an accusatory look at Laerathor, but she only met the back of his head as he, too, looked at the door in alarm. And then there was the sound of scraping stone, like something was sliding open. Both of the elves looked forward to find doors opening up in the walls, revealing metallic hounds. Gears ticked and whirred as the hounds sprung to life, charging forward at the pair. Citrine gave a shriek and hurled forth a bolt of crackling acid to strike the first machine. The magical projectile burst and scattered, globs clinging to the hound and clinging to its metal body. The sorceress backpedaled, hurling another bolt at another dog before they closed.

    There was a loud clanging sound as Laerathor struck one of the mechanical mutts with his mace, but the rusty defender seemed to ignore it. Citrine threw her right hand forward, still clutching her staff but splaying her fingers outward; a spray of acid hurled outward, hissing and sizzling as it scorched even metal. One of the defenders collapsed right then, followed by the first defender she had cast a Melf’s Acid Arrow upon. Citrine turned to flee and open some space between them when something hit her from her side, causing her to lurch; it was the defender that Laerathor was trying to engage. The sharp talons would have cut her leg open had she not been wearing the armor. Thankful for that small blessing, Citrine released another spray of acid, ending the automaton’s false existence.

    She pivoted on her right foot, turning to face the last rusty defender. Citrine was surprised to find the construct had stopped a short distance away instead of advancing. She realized too late what it was going to do, and she only had time to throw her arms in front of her and to twist her face away before it hurled out a gout of oil over Citrine, Laerathor, and the surrounding stone floor. She felt the oil seeping through her armor and the padding beneath it, soaking into her clothes; an idle part of her mind noted irritably that she now had yet another set of junk clothes. Quite simply, a life of fighting, blood, gore, exploding bodies, and various monsters that spat out viscous substances was hell on someone’s personal wardrobe.

    Those idle thoughts faded away to the more urgent need of dealing with the remaining defender. Citrine raised a hand, but then a loud clanging noise sounded from behind her. She looked over to find Laerathor having slipped on the oil and was now laying face-first on the ground. Citrine looked back to find the rusty defender surging forward, completely at home on its little oil spill. The hound’s metal jaws were wide open, steel teeth gleaming in the torchlight and thirsting for Citrine’s blood. She took a reflexive step back and nearly fell because of it. The woman was left with her arms sticking out, flailing wildly to try and keep her footing.

    The mechanical dog slammed into Citrine, knocking her off of her feet and sending her sliding through the oil. The defender came crashing down on her, threatening to knock the wind out of the elf. She thrashed, hefting and shunting the machine off to one side. Citrine had somehow managed to interpose her staff between the two of them, and managed to receive the false beast’s bite upon the wooden shaft of her weapon. The wood splintered a little as the defender tried to chew through it to get at her. She wrestled with it for a moment, but the dog then wrenched her staff away and shook it for a moment before dropping it.

    During that moment of distraction, Citrine managed to get a foot under her, and she rolled to one knee. A brief, fanciful thought raced through her mind as she climbed to her feet. Maybe she could distract the defender by playing fetch or something. Just a toss of her staff and it would run off. She knew better than that, of course. The construct was a killing machine, unbound by emotion or desire. It did as it was ordered, and would not stop until its master said otherwise or its task was done.

    The defender gave a rattling growl, and Citrine looked over to find it facing her again. For a moment, she stared at it with wide eyes, frozen in her tracks. It started toward her then, taking a step forward when Citrine snapped. The elf shrieked and started to yell incoherently, back peddling and flailing her hands at the beast. She felt magic resonating in the air and through her body, erupting in gouts of hissing, sizzling acid that washed over the defender again and again. In a final act of desperation, Citrine screamed and raised both hands over her head; a green, illuminant sphere formed in the air between her hands, and she hurled her arms down in front of her. The sphere flew at the ground near the smoldering defender; as the sphere met the floor, it exploded, sending torrents of acid in all directions.

    No sooner had she unleashed the spell, then Citrine turned and fled the scene. She was still screaming, her hands over her head since she had been disarmed earlier by the machine. The elven woman sought refuge behind a collection of large crates, ducking down behind them. She pressed her back against the wooden containers and held her hands out at the corner, tense and waiting to see if the defender pursued her. Her screaming died down in her throat, and she waited several tense moments, trying to hear anything that may betray the defender’s position. She did hear some scraping, and then another heavy thunk followed by Laerathor’s swearing.

    Citrine dared to slowly peek out around the corner, eying the scene. The oil was thinning out now, and the cleric was trying to get to his feet. The last iron defender was laying against one of the walls, shattered and in at least three fragments. The sorceress felt a little foolish about her flight, relaxing a little and crossing her right arm across her to hold onto her left elbow. She looked around to make sure there weren’t any more of the machines nearby before drifting closer to the hired cleric. Laerathor managed to get on his hands and knees, but when he tried to stand up, he slipped once more on the oil to clatter noisily to the ground. Citrine winced at the commotion, and the drow looked up to her with a lamenting expression.

    “Help,” he croaked, and Citrine hastily came over to catch hold of a raised hand. She grunted as she tried to get him to his feet. After Laerathor was standing, Citrine retrieved her staff. Cradling the weapon in the crook of her right arm, she smiled over at the drow.

    “Look at the bright side; at least there aren’t any more-”

    Another rattling growl silenced Citrine, causing both of the elves to look over at the opposite side of the chamber. More crates had been stacked up, and around the corner approached another of the defenders. Beyond it were more clanking sounds of metal feet stamping on the stone floor. Laerathor looked over at Citrine accusingly as the woman shrank back slightly, giving a soft whimper of exasperation at seeing more of the constructs.
    Anything can be explained by drunken wizards.

    "Hey! I got a piece of the +1 Butter Knife of Victory! Ah-oh, wait, wait. It's just a crummy, normal +1 dagger of ghostbane..."

  3. #3
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    Sep 2009


    Part 3 – Up & Down

    “Are you sure we're heading the right way?” Citrine asked, looking at the splintered bits of wood and still-burning bits of grease. She idly stirred one such smoldering streak with the bottom of her staff. “It seems more like we're heading into some sort of supply storage hall or something.”

    Laerathor replied with a strained grunt, fighting with the half-melted remains of a rusty defender atop of him. “Will you come over here and help me?”

    “Is it dead yet?” she asked, peeking around the corner. The cleric muttered something that Citrine didn't fully catch, but it sounded like something he was going to have to atone for later. She nervously came around the corner and looked for more of the metallic dogs before helping liberate Laerathor. Again.

    Since their initial run-in with the mechanical mutts, Citrine and Laerathor had ventured presumably deeper into the trial. Initially they had tried going another direction, but a large, heavy gate barred their progress. Citrine couldn't find any lever or control to open it from their side, and so was resigned to exploring an alternative route. They reached a narrow, winding hallway, filled with barrels labeled as explosive, and numerous rusty defenders littered throughout it. The elven sorceress had been more then happy to push past her armor-clad helper and to hide behind Laerathor, lobbing acid spells around him and running out of sight as soon as one of the constructs looked sideways at her.

    Using her staff for leverage, Citrine gave a grunt and heaved; between she and the cleric, they shunted the defender aside. It hit the ground, and there must have been a slight spark of life or mechanical wonder left in it, for one leg twitched and it gave a brief gargling growl. Citrine immediately shrieked and threw her right hand forward; Laerathor swore and pulled his shield atop of him as she sprayed the remains with another blast of acid before turning to bolt.

    “It's dead! It's dead,” Laerathor called after Citrine as she shimmied toward the nearest corner. “Something just got jostled, it's not going to get up anymore.” Citrine slowed down, turning back and looking at the cleric. She held her staff in front of her, hands close together and wringing a little in worry. Laerathor looked at her for a moment then let his head fall back, giving a sigh. “You blew it up ten times over; why are you always running away like someone cast Fear on you?”

    Citrine frowned a little, her apprehension giving away to slight indignation. “I'm not always running away...”

    Always,” Laerathor insisted. He struggled to get up, and Citrine was reminded of a turtle on its back. The cleric muttered more half-swears and blasphemies, but he never said anything completely. The woman came over and once more helped him to his feet. Once standing, the dark elf sighed and looked at her. “Every time we saw one of those dogs, it was the same thing. Shriek, Melf, run.”

    “Well, I don't particularly cherish getting bitten, or clawed, or oiled on, thank-you-very-much,” replied Citrine. She started to say something more, but a magical hum entered her mind. “Oh! A secret!”

    Citrine brightened immediately, turning and looking around her immediate surroundings. Laerathor fell silent as Citrine looked down one way and then another; she quickly made an exclamation of surprise, and moved to mess with a section of the wall. It slide away to reveal a treasure chest, just sitting there for the taking.

    “Probably rigged,” Laerathor observed. Citrine's smile wavered and eventually became a little frown. She shifted her weight from one foot to another, holding her staff in front of her again.

    “You're probably right,” she agreed. The woman was silent for a moment, then brightened. “You open it!”

    Laerathor looked over at her. “What?”

    Citrine nodded eagerly. “Yeah! You've got all that armor, if it's trapped, it won't hurt you too badly. And you can heal yourself. I can't heal myself if I get hurt.”

    The dark elf looked at her incredulously. “That's why you have me along. To heal you.”

    “No, you're here to help me,” Citrine replied. She reached into her belt pouch and produced the contract, waving it at him. “So, go help.”

    Laerathor scoffed, shaking his head. “No.”

    Citrine blinked, and canted her head to one side. “But I have your contract.”

    “I don't care.”

    The woman's brow furrowed. “That makes no sense.”

    “Too bad,” the hireling scoffed again. After a moment, Laerathor sighed and explained, “Ignoring the fact that you melt everything and leave me the task of healing you and replenishing your magic, you might want to check the Chest clause. There are a few things you adventurers have to do on your own, and that is one of them. With that being said, I might have been in the mood to just go ahead and open the chest, if you hadn't used a contract with only a minute left on it!

    Laerathor stressed the last part, indicating he was still grumpy on his misconception this was just a brief outing. Citrine leaned away and held up her hands defensively. “Okay! Okay, sorry.” She shook her head and looked at the chest, and then tilted her head to the other side. “On the other hand, maybe they didn't trap it, because it was hidden! Yeah! And maybe there's some awesome stuff in there!”

    Cheered by positive thoughts, Citrine approached the chest. She was still a little cautious though, and circled it a few times. She eventually reached out with her staff and gave it a few jabs, just to be certain. When she was convinced it was safe, Citrine finally reached down, undid the latch, and lifted the lid.

    Clang! The sound of metal striking metal caused Citrine to jerk her hand back with a shriek. She hopped away, flailing her hands and screaming, expecting pain at any moment. She hopped from foot to foot, jogging in place as she waited to see in which direction she needed to flee in utmost terror. She heard some sort of vocalization, but in her panicked state, it seemed alien and unrecognizable at first. And then Citrine realized it was laughter.

    The peculiarity of hearing laughter while one's life was in peril helped to sober the sorceress from her panic. Citrine looked around the room again. There were no spikes, or blades, or nasty burning things raining down from above. She also realized that the laughter was coming from a certain hireling. A dark scowl replaced her normally chipper, happy-go-lucky smile, and she swiveled to find Laerathor leaning against the wall, having problems remaining upright as he laughed.

    Citrine must have been giving one hell of a glower, for when Laerathor happened to glance at her face, he sobered considerably. His mirth was swallowed almost instantly, half-concealed with a cough as he straightened. “I, ah, am sorry; my mace slipped and hit my shield.”

    “Go get soulstoned,” she snapped, not believing him for a second. The drow cleric almost burst into another fit of laughter; he visibly struggled to keep himself from cracking up. Shaking her head, Citrine moved back and kicked the top of the chest open. It thudded open, and the momentum caused it to rock and nearly topple over. Citrine, meanwhile, made a slow, open-mouthed face at the pain that danced through her toe. That wasn't the smartest thing she had done all day.

    She waited to recompose herself before reaching down to sort through the loot. The last thing Citrine wanted to do now was to give Laerathor more of a reason to poke fun at her. The treasure wasn't anything particularly astounding, just some coins, a few bottles of stuff she'd check out later, and a pair of gloves she'd likely give to Akladamas to rend and break down. Besides, she didn't die horribly, and her toe was starting to hurt less, so it probably wasn't broken.

    Satisfied with the little haul, Citrine headed back into the main passage. She looked at the other end, where a few more barrels were. “I still think the challenge is the other way. I feel like we're just breaking into their storage or something. I mean, barrels and dogs? Is that really something pirates have to face on a daily basis?”

    “Never heard of salty seadogs before?” Laerathor asked. Citrine just looked at him flatly for a moment. Without her expression changing, she pulled a wand from her belt. The cleric looked at it curiously for a moment, and then gave a cry of surprise and pain as few droplets of acid spat from the tip to sting his cheek. Citrine walked past and returned the eternal wand to its resting place, heading down the remaining hallway. The cleric followed thereafter, rubbing his singed cheek. “That hurt!”

    “It was only an Acid Splash,” Citrine replied dismissively. She was about to say more, but paused as she came to a dead end. The sorceress gave a little sound and looked around, finding a ladder on the wall. Blinking, Citrine let her eyes follow the ladder upward, and kept ascending to look at the dizzying heights. “Oh my goodness...”

    Laerathor moved up beside Citrine, staring up at the climb as well. After a few seconds, he clapped a heavy hand on Citrine's shoulder, jostling the woman. “Well, good luck with that.”

    “Wait, what?” She turned, finding Laerathor moving to a blank wall and starting to sit down against it.

    “I'm not going to climb all the way up there. I'm in armor, remember? Do you know how hard it is to climb even a short ladder in this get up? No. I'm going to sit here, nurse my cheek, and you can just use my contract to conjure me to the top.”

    Citrine was silent for a few moments and then let out a slow sigh. “Oh, alright,” she resigned, reaching for the ladder. She grunted a little as she ascended the ladder, pulling herself higher. She started to get a rhythm going, when suddenly she found herself out of ladder. The sorceress looked up, giving a surprised sound as she grasped at what should have been the next rung. She looked up above her, and found the ladder resuming several feet overhead. It was far out of reach, and there wasn't enough room for her to stand on the rungs to try and jump to it. Even if there had been the room, Citrine didn't trust her own balance to try such a feat.

    “Uh, Laerathor?” called she. She was met with a grunt from below.

    “You can't be at the top already.”

    “No. I... don't know where to go,” Citrine admitted.

    “Try... upwards maybe?” came the not-so-helpful reply from the cleric.

    Citrine frowned and looked back down toward the bottom. That was a bad idea; she squeezed her eyes shut and hugged herself to the rungs. “Bad idea,” she chanted like a mantra. When she felt better, she dared to open her eyes again, though she didn't look down.

    “What was that?” Laerathor asked.

    “I ran out of ladder,” she replied. “But there's still plenty of wall left. And there's more above me, but it's out of reach.”

    “Look for a ledge then? Maybe something to climb up on, so you can jump to the next part?”

    “No,” Citrine wondered, looking to one side and then the other. “I don't see anything like that.” She paused, noticing another ladder behind her. “I see another ladder, but it's on the other side of the wall. And it doesn't reach the bottom.”

    “Try jumping to it,” Laerathor advised.

    “Jump to it?” Citrine asked ludicrously.

    “Yeah. You've got something with feather fall right? Just drift across.”

    The elven woman was quiet for a few moments. Laerathor prompted her to reply by calling out her name. Citrine gave a little vocalization first. “I... don't have a feather falling item.”

    “Oh.” She could dimly hear Laerathor hum. "Climb down and cast it?”

    Citrine bit her lower lip before replying. “I don't know the spell either.”

    It was Laerathor's turn to be quiet for an extended period of time. “Jump and have faith you'll catch the ladder?”

    “But what if I miss it and fall to the bottom?” Citrine wondered aloud.

    “Most likely you'll go splat,” Laerathor observed.

    “I most definitely do not want to go splat!”

    “Then don't miss. Or we could pack it in and go back home.” Laerathor seemed a little too eager to offer the last suggestion. Citrine frowned, looking at the other ladder. She weighed her options; she really wasn't ready for something like this. Still, Draerent and the rest of the guild seemed to have enough confidence in her that she could get the job done. She wondered if the higher-ups in the guild had to run through the same thing when they faced Rackem the first time. Somehow, she doubted they lacked feather falling items.

    “Stupid “Cure Light Wounds” cloak,” she muttered to herself, reflecting on a choice of rewards from her earlier adventures. Laerathor, unable to follow her line of thinking, gave a curious sound from below. Citrine ignored it and instead crouched, mustering all of her strength and courage. She counted to three, each time starting to stretch out. When she got to three, Citrine held on for dear life, not wanting to jump just yet. So, she extended the count to five.

    At five, she pushed off with all of her strength, vaulting into the air. She reached the apex of her jump alarmingly quick, and soon was at the mercy of gravity. As she began her descent, Citrine gave out a reflexive scream as she had visions of not reaching the ladder and careening off the wall, or missing a rung or something equally disastrous and ending up as a pile of green goo at the bottom. Not even blood and all sorts of innards that should be inside and not outside, just hitting the bottom and becoming a green smear the color of her hair with a soul stone floating neatly in the center of it.

    With arms windmilling and legs kicking uselessly, Citrine found far more of the ladder zipping past her then she was comfortable with. She was nearly out of it before she was close enough to grab it. The sorceress latched on, and a yelp was forced out of her as she jerked to a stop. There was a terrible wrenching in her arms, and for a moment Citrine feared they were going to pop off. No such event happened, and she was left trembling as she held fast to the rungs.

    Eventually Citrine peeked her eyes open, and she looked upwards. “Well, so far you haven't gone splat,” Laerathor's voice floated up from below. Citrine ignored it, instead noticing other ladders further up that she hadn't seen before.

    “Why am I doing this? Nikufimu should be the one doing this,” she whimpered to herself as she started to climb again, this time more slowly. Her arms were sore from the sudden, lurching stop earlier. “She's good at this kind of thing!”

    And so went her ascent, scaling as high as she could up one ladder before having to launch herself to another. Each was met with a similar death-defying leap and scream of utmost terror. She was getting good at flailing in mid-air, and her screams weren't as loud as when she first leaped. Of course, that could have to do with how tiring the climb was; her arms were seriously beginning to ache from the continued scaling and catching herself. Her only reprieve was when she reached one of the small alcoves along the climb, where she managed to rest and recover.

    Finally, Citrine saw the walls yawning outward and opening into some sort of chamber. That sight gave her the will to push onward to reach the top. She half-pulled, half-crawled over the edge and onto the floor. The sorceress rolled onto her back and just lay sprawled out, panting from exertion. She panted, staring up at the ceiling, and wanted to curl up and go to sleep. But cold dungeon floors were not the place to rest; there was too much risk that something was going to sneak up on her. Citrine wondered what the pirate had planned next.

    Not bothering to even sit up yet, Citrine reached to her belt pouch. She fumbled around and then withdrew the contract, raising it up a little. There was a brief flare of blue light and soft hum as Laerathor appeared nearby. The drow looked down at Citrine with an impatient frown. “Well, that certainly took you long enough.”

    Citrine looked flatly at the drow, then lowered her arm. She set the contract down beside her, and then raised her hand again, this time with fingers splayed. Laerathor gave a startled sound and willingly jumped over the edge, disappearing below. Citrine just let her hand fall back for a moment, then sighed in irritation before grabbing the scroll again. She shifted so she could climb to one knee before calling the cleric back again. He still seemed a little wary of the sorceress as she ascended, and leaned heavily against her staff.

    “Come on; let's get this over with,” Citrine ordered, hobbling over to the door. Laerathor felt that remaining silent was the best course of action, following along obediently. They next entered a stretch that looked almost like a sewer, complete with a pool of water at the end. Citrine's brow furrowed as she looked around at the otherwise vacant hall.

    “What's this part? Smell like a pirate?” she wondered aloud as she stepped into the liquid. Laerathor cracked a smile.

    “That'll be another thing you and Velvy will have in common,” the drow hireling commented as they sloshed closer to the door.

    Citrine grimaced with a low, “ooo,” sound, uncertain which barb stung more. “You know I'm going to tell Velvy about that, right?”

    She had the satisfaction of hearing the cleric stop short. “What? No. Right? You're not going to do that, right Citrine?” The elven sorceress was satisfied enough to smile as she headed for the next door, making no reply. “Oh, hey, no, don't do that. She'll buy a contract and just throw me in the Pit. Come on, Citrine. Hey, please! Stop kidding around!”

    Before she could reply, Citrine heard the grinding of stone behind her. She closed her eyes and scrunched up her nose, frowning. “Oh, don't tell me it's an-”


    Citrine wheeled around and watched as warforged came rushing out, brandishing cutlasses. Thinking quickly, she placed both of her hands on Laerathor's back and shoved. “Go get them,” she cried, half-cheering and half-ordering. She caught Laerathor as he was trying to take a step, and ended up knocking the man off-balanced; the cleric flailed and crashed down on his side, casting up a spray of water.

    “Oh, that's not good,” she muttered, and then screamed as she was forced to dodge a sword that got too close for comfort. She responded in typical fashion, hurling shrieks and acid sprays as she flailed around in the water, looking for whatever direction looked most promising to flee toward. She managed to duck around one of the warforged and got back to the dry land, dashing back to the far end. Citrine dove through the doorway and used it to her advantage, and spun around as the pirates gathered closer. She held her hands close together, tucked close to her side; a bead of green energy appeared between them and quickly swelled. The elf twisted her body, bringing her hands up over her head where the sphere continued to grow. Citrine's back arched as she stepped forward, and then she flung herself forward as she brought her hands down. The sphere hurled from her grasp, billowing larger as it went. It slammed into the foremost warforged, and there was a detonation of force and acid.

    Acrid fumes swirled in the air and was slow to part. The warforged were scattered like broken and discarded toys. Laerathor had partially climbed out of the water thanks to a few neighboring steps, and was left staring at the sorceress. Citrine felt suddenly self-conscious, and she shifted her weight from one foot to the other. After a moment, she gave a little shrug. “What?”

    “Since when have you been able to cast Acid Blast?”

    Citrine took a keen interest in messing with an imaginary spot on the floor with her foot instead of answering immediately. Another small shrug proceeded her reply. “For a while now.”

    Lareathor stared stupidly at her before climbing to his feet. “So, let me get this straight – you could be blowing up everything with... but you... Melf's...” Citrine swore the drow's face turned on a shade of purple she had never seen before. Laerathor held his hands up as if he wanted to grab Citrine and shake her. Or choke the life out of her. Or both, Citrine really couldn't tell. Finally Laerathor let his hands drop with a sigh. “You've got all that power, yet you run around like a chicken with its head cut off during a fight.”

    “Look, I've already said it,” Citrine said defensively, marching up to and past Laerathor. “I don't like getting hurt! It.. well, hurts! And do you know how many robes I've lost because they've been cut, burned, dissolved, eaten, or bled on? Really, being an adventurer is hell on one's wardrobe.”

    Laerathor regarded Citrine with a resigned look. “And remind me again why you go adventuring?”

    “It pays well, I like being called a hero, and people give you free stuff because they like you,” she replied easily. The drow paused and then shrugged, unable to refute that. Citrine, meanwhile, was paying more attention to the large metal floor in the next room. “This is weird. What's this supposed to do?”

    “Maybe it gets electrified when the lever's hit?” Laerathor wondered. Citrine rolled her eyes.

    “Oh, come on! When would pirates have to worry about electrified floors?”

    “Ever been standing in a pool of water when one of those kobold shaman casting a lightning bolt? Imagine pirates coming on a ship with wizards as part of the crew. Too much sea spray, or raiding during a storm, and zap!”

    Citrine paused at the image that Laerathor put into her head. “Good point,” she murmured while staring at the lever. She glanced back at the doorway; there was water just before they came in; her legs were still soaked and her boots a little squishy. The elf rocked slightly before reaching into her pouch. She sneaked down a potion of Resist Electricity, just to be on the safe side.

    “Hey, what are you doing?” Laerathor wondered. Citrine tucked the bottle into a sleeve and looked over her shoulder with a hum. She shrugged her shoulders and looked forward again, pulling on the lever. The cleric took a step closer. “Did you just drink a-”

    A grinding sound cut the cleric off, and the floor retracted in two directions. A small platform stood over a yawning chasm, as everything now went back down. Citrine crept out to the edge and peered down, seeing a number of platforms, nets, and rigging strewn about the place. And no ladders. The elf gave a little whimper, wishing she had the foresight to bring feather falling gear – or at least had lucked out with that last chest.

    “Oh, I don't like the looks of this,” she muttered, looking at the drop.

    “Well, good luck with that,” Laerathor offered. Citrine scowled and looked over at the drow, who smiled pleasantly back until they made eye contact. His smile wavered, and he backed away quickly, chased nearly out of the room by her glower. Citrine once more resigned herself to going through the trial, and she looked around until she found a platform close below. She crawled out and dangled her feet off the edge, and then pushed herself off.

    She landed neatly, and worked her way down to a second. She was actually starting to feel comfortable with the descent when something hit the wall behind her. She looked over, confused, and saw a broken arrow laying there. Citrine turned in time to watch another go shooting past; she jerked back and forth, first watching the arrow splinter against the wall, and then back to find the source – a warforged archer, drawing another bow from its quiver. A short distance away, another warforged had taken notice of her and was lifting its bow.

    Citrine introduced the two of them to a pair of Melf's, and she scurried about to try and find some form of cover. They had the advantage, however, and she was completely exposed. The acid was doing its work, but not fast enough. A few more arrows where loosed in her direction, and the elf had no choice. She dove off the edge of the platform and into a cargo net sprawled out below.

    Citrine yelped as she fell into the net; her left arm and her right leg ended up slipping through the holes to dangle out in open space. Her staff was sandwiched between her and the rigging. The elf gave a little groan and then remembered to pick herself up. A heavy thunk caught her attention, and she looked over to find the first warforged in a heap, and the second one falling over. Citrine gave a little sigh of relief and looked down. That sigh was caught in her throat as she two more warforged below looking up at her.

    “Oh, I'm in trouble,” she observed. The pair raised their bows, motivating Citrine into action. She wriggled and flailed about, sending a few misguided Melfs around; just before the pirates could fir,e however, she hurled an Acid Blast their way. The force slagged one almost instantly and hurled the other off the platform to fall below.

    Citrine stared for a moment and then looked to make sure she wasn't in the sights of any other pirates. She was safe for the moment, and heaved a soft sigh. Then, a snapping sound caught her attention, and her perch wobbled slightly. Disconcerted, Citrine looked to see several supporting ropes smoldering from errant casts. “That's not good...”

    The fraying ropes gave away then, snapping beneath her weight. Citrine fell again, and jerked as her entangled limbs stopped her. She was nearly dislodged then, falling out and flailing to grab hold of the net. She somehow managed to catch herself, dangling from the bottom of it and kicking her feet. She came dangerously close to the wall, and Citrine curled herself defensively; she smacked into it with an “oof,” and nearly lost her grip. Then the momentum swung her back the other way, and more of the anchoring lines snapped.

    The sudden jostle knocked her loose, sending Citrine flailing once more through the air. She screamed and hit the wall with a thud. The air was knocked from her lungs, and Citrine was left wheezing for a moment. Gravity started to take its course, and she fell backwards; panic set in, and more flailing took place. She grabbed hold of something, and she clung to it for life and limb. She realized it was a ladder rung; there were two of them mounted on the wall, leading down to the floor. Through some blessing of fate or pure dumb luck, she had managed to hold onto one.

    “How's everything going down there?” Laerathor called back. “Need a hand?”

    Citrine looked slowly upwards, trying to catch her breath. Laerathor was peeking from above, and he waved down at her. “I see you have everything under control. I'll leave you to it then.”

    The sorceress scowled again, and she hooked her left arm around the rung. With her right, she fished out the contract. A second later, a familiar blue light and hum manifested nearby; Laerathor appeared, and a sudden look of panic crossed the drow's face. “What th-”

    And then gravity took its course.
    Last edited by Worldcrafter; 10-17-2013 at 10:46 PM.
    Anything can be explained by drunken wizards.

    "Hey! I got a piece of the +1 Butter Knife of Victory! Ah-oh, wait, wait. It's just a crummy, normal +1 dagger of ghostbane..."

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