No Bad Deed Goes Unpunished
Areia led them into the hero’s plaza, and they approached the area of the statue where the note had told them to look. Morn and Inara had decided to go on to the next pub, since they were spotted coming out. Luckily, Areia, Thrak and Andril weren’t and so with a slight gesture to their comrades, they carried on and found the plaza in due time. The fountain in it’s center was one of the most odd monuments in Far Realm. Idol worship of any kind would not be tolerated in Celn lands and yet here sat a stone scupture featuring a series of statues battling two reptilian monsters. This particular version represented the iconic four heroes. Traditional statues back in Celn lands were molded so that the faces were unrecognizable, but these here clearly depicted Taryn, Mesilla, Jasper and Bolvist. They battled the dreaded basilisks their first night in Carr Alpha.
“Andril, sober up buddy! Do you have the password?”
“Ducky fuzz!” shouted the mage. At first, Thrak thought it was just the alcohol talking, but then he saw the statues begin to move!
“Thrust me,” the Mage smiled, his right hand pulling his left ear.
It only took a moment and in that tiniest of an instant Thrak saw the stone eyes, the dead eyes of the statues turn towards him. One by one the grey and sculpted images of the four heroes rose off of their stone pedestal inside the fountain and splashed their way through it. Their perpetual enemies, the stone basilisks animated and followed them as well! Stone weapons were held aloft menacingly. The figures came straight for the party, stepped out of the fountain and then scattered merchant tables and wares left out and covered from the storm in the plaza.
Taryn, the warrior, walked towards them with his well recognized and famous sword in stone. He barely missed Thrak with a mighty swing and splintered a merchant’s cart into pieces. Andril and Areia quickly attacked the others and Thrak’s weapon swung in an arc, knocking the image of Bolvist, the trickster, back into the fountain, where it broke into a pile of rubble splashing into the water.
But the other statues began to strike their marks and before long the party was being cut down. There didn’t seem to be much hope until they heard a yell. For just then, a soldier whom they would later know to be Alexander Peabody, had entered the plaza. He came to their aid immediately and curing their wounds, they fought the statues until the last lay in a heap under the fountain’s murky water.
“Look there!” Areia pointed to a place inside the fountain’s pedestal. There was a hidden stairwell and a scrawled word above it, “Fuzzy Duck”. She nearly said it out loud, but Andril stopped her.
“It is sure to be the correct password, master rogue! Clearly, the one Lazlo was given was meant to kill him.” Andril wiped his hands off by holding them out in the rain. Blood from his wounds dribbled down into the fountain’s water.
“But why would someone employing Lazlo to kill us, want to kill him as well?” Wondered Thrak aloud.
“It’s a puzzler,” whispered Andril. He was watching the stone pieces that had earlier been the statues magically liquefy and reform together. They oozed their way back to the pedestal in the fountain’s center where they began to coalesce into their original shapes. “The fountain is resetting, we should carry on. Clearly, the reward here was a death. It strikes me as odd. We would have been cut down and found. Everyone would have thought it was some unknown assailant but never suspected this magick! If we wish to come back we can do so, but we had better make it to the next bar in time, or else we’ll be disqualified!”
They learned from Peabody that a great many things had been going on that eve. He himself could not find the other members of his unit, and he had been looking for any superior officer, not just his own. He agreed to follow them back to their next bar, intrigued of course because they were contestants in the famous contest.
They ran on and joined Morn and Inara who were already seated. The night and the contest continued, from bar to bar. Nearly half way through the contest though, while the rain and the wind picked up outside, it became obvious that something else was going on, the plot was thickening intensely.
For one, they could sense that Humbolt was becoming distraught over something and without much effort, they learned that his daughters had too gone missing. Peabody had told them what was now becoming a string of similar rumors in each bar. Something smelled wrong in Far Realm. Thrak, and Areia, who could hold their ale better than the rest began to notice that the bars were becoming emptier and emptier. Even with the blistering rain outside, this seemed a bit odd for such an important event as Taryn’s Bane.
“Looks like only the ladies out tonight,” Areia mused. “Guess the men have better things to do.” She looked over at Humbolt who was gesturing passionately to one of his guards, but also leaning close to him, and whispering. The guard had a grave look on his face and seemed to be delivering some news that Humbolt didn’t like. As they left for the final bar of the night, Humbolt left with the soldier. Peabody went with him.
Thrak, Andril, and Areia joined Morn and Inara at the Dragon and Castle, where the contestants were to sleep. The contest continued some four hours from then, but for now, each team was allotted a breather as per the custom, “The Seventh Bar’s Stretch” they called it.
“Something is wrong,” Inara muttered going to the window and searching the alleys below for some clue to what was happening. She couldn’t see much in the driving rain, but she sensed that there was something foul out there. “Something is wrong tonight, and I don’t think staying here is going to keep us alive.”
The thought must have been on all their minds, because without so much as a discussion about breaking the game rules, they followed Areia, who had already been tying a bed sheet out of the tiny window as a make shift rope down. Into the drenched and dirty alley they climbed and ran to a large cart covered by a tarp.
No sooner had they gotten there and crawled inside, than they realized it was the best decision they had made that night. Skulking shadows and then the figures casting them emerged from the tiniest of glows from a candle somewhere in the inn. Creatures of an odd shape and stature began to creep out from an alley, and in some guttural tongue they spoke to one another. Up they climbed the sides of the inn and crept into the windows where the contestants were sleeping! Into the very rooms they themselves had moments before been in! Breathlessly, they hid under the tarps and watched as moments later, the beasts crept back out. Some carried things rolled up in large sacks. They might have been bodies, but they couldn’t tell.
“What in the Ketian hells do we do now?” Andril asked.
“I’m not sure,” said the bard, “But one thing is for sure, we aren’t going to be winning any contest if we’re dead.” They all nodded. Thrak tried to make a smile on his lizard face, but the end result was his teeth just stuck out a bit. He looked hungry. But then, he always did.
“I suggest we try the fountain,” said Areia. “Perhaps we can ride out the storm by following the stairs down in the fountains’ pedestal. There we can make a plan as well as figure out how we intend to survive this night.”