ale is cool and slides down my gullet most satisfyingly.
It is my second. I'm thinking about having another when
I hear a commotion behind me.
"I mislike yer face! Ya spalpeen!" Someone yelled. I looked around to see who or what the fellow was yelling about.
"Hey! Ya spindly gawk! Are yez daft?"
Spindly gawk? My eyes swept the room and again I was puzzled to find no one who met that description but my observations were interrupted by a hand on my shoulder spinning me roughly around and spilling my drink. I was confronted by a leering, scraggle toothed face bearing many scars. Lord but he was ugly and dirty into the bargain. Perhaps this was the chap the other fellow had been shouting about.
"Are yez deef as well?" he spat.
His breath reeked of stale ale and uncounted meals undoubtedly of orc cheese. Perhaps something had crawled into his mouth and died there. In point of fact he looked rather like an orc except that he stood somewhat taller his skin was of a color. It seems this was the fellow who had yelled and obviously he had been yelling at me! Curious. As I squinted at him I could see a faint reddish glimmer surmounted by something else. There was a distinct eldritch energy playing about his body and dimming his normal aura. I glanced over his shoulder and could see his companions leering at me with obvious delight. They had played this game before it seemed. I was outnumbered but that counted for naught if I could but gain the upper hand. I looked back into the face of my adversary for it was obvious that he had singled me out for sport and took stock. Liverish and slightly unsteady on his feet. Obviously somewhat gone with drink. And over-confident to a fare-thee-well. Equally obviously an idiot but a dangerous idiot withal. I spoke then.
"No, fellow I am not 'deef' nor am I deaf. Neither do I need help in standing. Kindly remove thy hand from mine shoulder." I thought that I had said it politely enough but he was primed to take offense for with the offending hand he pushed me back and with the other brought out his sword whilst grabbing up his shield with the now freed hand. It was neatly done and designed to throw a person off balance but I only look spindly. I maintained my footing whilst he staggered back slightly and as I fumbled for my own weapon I quickly cast a magic arrow in his direction. If he had, as I suspected, ensorcelled himself with Magic Reflection, my spell would bring it down and the rebounding of it would harm me not. When it struck I saw the glimmering of his aura brighten and felt the faint tingling as my spell reflected back upon me. I quickly followed with an electrical discharge of electricity to give him and his cronies pause. The sound of the crash of lightning often stuns the target and in this case it did its job well and it was obvious that it had more than stunned him. I could see clearly the look of shock and disbelief in his eyes and those of his companions. He had blundered. And he had been sorely struck into the bargain.
Perhaps it was the nondescript robe I had thrown over my enchanted ringmail. Perhaps it was the fact that I had entered the place unarmed. More like it was my boyish countenance which belied my true age and experience. It mattered little to the outcome.
By the time he had gathered his wits I had Fang in my grip and leaped forward uttering my favorite battle cry: 'Zastraniiiiitz!' Zastranitz is a Scythian word (did I not say my father's people were Scythians?) which roughly translated refers to an orifice in the nether regions. Rather apt in most cases of this sort dost thou not think? And this one was nekulturney into the bargain. Another Scythian word that I may translate for thee but later.
My war axe Fang and I have been together for years. It is an enchanted blade, one that I had removed from the rapidly cooling corpse of an ogre years ago in my youth. It has been repaired countless times and always by a master smith but it was growing tired and would soon have to be put aside. But not today. Fang is enchanted as I said but it is not alive and yet it sings when it strikes. It sang now as my first blow struck the miscreant between neck and shoulder. Dark red blood fountained as his left arm went limp and his shield dropped from nerveless fingers. Wrenching the axe free I swung it in a long whooping arc to strike at his midsection. It took only one more blow delivered back handed to his skull to leave him collapsed at my feet and his life's blood flowing across the floor.
During this time neither he nor his stunned companions had laid a mark upon me nor uttered a sound. I turned to them now and with my eyes invited them to take a hand. But it must have been something else in my eyes or my expression that caused them to decline. I shifted Fang to my off hand (I had not unbuckled my shield) and keeping a wary eye on my new "chums" ripped the dead fellows pack from off his body. I am not a looter of innocents but there was a price to be paid for folly; I myself have paid it more than once. He had a small pouch of gold coins therein. This I tossed to the innkeeper standing silently by the bar. "For the mess." I said. His sword I quickly identified as a durable Viking a mundane weapon worth a few coins at the armorers. I tucked it under my arm and pushed his sack of magical reagents into my tunic. I prodded his lifeless body with my toe as I looked pointedly at his former friends. "Use what's left to resurrect him. And the Good God help ye if I find ye've misspent the proceeds!" With that I turned my back and addressed the innkeeper. "What do I owe thee for mine ale?"
He bobbed his head. "Nothing, good sir. The honorable Lord Elowan can always be assured of a glass to quench his thirst at this establishment." I bowed to him and left, not looking back. Outside in the street I reflected. 'Honorable?' Was taking the life of an incompetent fool honorable? More like murder. Was I to be honored for murder? I resolved to seek out a shrine for absolution straightaway. Behind me I could hear loud cries as the man's 'friends' squabbled over his pitiful possessions. Honor indeed! Lord British had much to answer for.
Note: My purpose here is not to advocate the killing of other warriors out of hand but merely to illustrate a tactical response to provocation. Of all the foes thee mayest encounter within the Land; thy fellow man will usually prove to be the most formidable and dangerous.
As I sit here, I find my mind drifting back to one over-weaning thought, one that has plagued me since I 'came of age'. I do not speak of the 'coming of age' written of in romantic terms by scribes who live more within their minds than within the world. Rather I speak of that time when all men shake off the last vestiges of childhood naivetÚ and come to view life as the raw, harsh mistress she truly is. It is hard to say when that exact moment arrived for me and I doubt me that there was a single moment that marked that instant. Nay methinks that it was a gradual dawning of the truth that suddenly thrust itself into my consciousness as a rose in spring.
The mind is a wondrous thing and constantly at work behind the scenes, twisting and turning and examining and evaluating while we are about whatever it is we are about. Some call this intuition and some pay more attention to this instinct than do others. I know I do now. I pay much more attention to it now than I used to because I have found it to be right most of the time. And it is crying out to me now and it is the source of these disquieting thoughts I continue to have when I am at leisure.
It is true that what follows is a description of how things were in the past at least in part. Our Lord British has set out to right some of the wrongs described but in so doing it is not clear that the situation has been helped. It many cases, the changes well meaning though they may have been have served only to further muddy what was already dim and murky.
When I was younger in spirit and in age I believed what I had been taught to believe and what, it seems, others in the Land either believed or wished to. Namely that balance and order had been once more returned to Britannia and all was right with the world. But this is not the case and I fear for my beloved Land. There is great evil abroad in Britannia. An evil more pernicious and more pervasive than ever. The Shadow Lords are not in it. I can feel it. It lies thick in the air of this place. There are times when I can almost smell and taste it. It is everywhere and what's worse it wears a mask a mask of Good and of Truth.
Forsooth! I do proclaim it to be so and every right thinking man jack (and lady) within this Land knows it to be true. One need only venture into the "Flower of Britannia", the capitol city Britain, to see it for thyself. Thee need only witness the indiscriminate murder of innocent citizens by the minions of our Lord British the so-called City Guards to taste a bit of it. And this is by decree: "Thou shalt not attack any person within the demarcated Justice Zone." The appellation 'person' applies to all living things, good or evil, that find themselves within the city limits though these limits are nowhere clearly defined and seem to be most elastic in their extent.
It matters not if one is being harassed by the ubiquitous, infamous and downright brazen thieves who run rampant within the "Flower", and even if one witnesses a crime being committed thee may not act to either defend thyself or any other. Only the guards may mete out 'justice' and they do not always come.
Then there is 'murder by proxy'. This is a heinous method of circumventing the altogether rigid interpretation of the Rule. Since everyone is forever discarding personal effects and what-not throughout the city, it has been decreed that anything lying unattended upon the city streets, swards or shop floors is there for the taking this includes bodies by-the-by. Certain unscrupulous individuals not all of whom are evil, some bear the title 'Honorable' and even 'Noble' have set about to trap boxes with explosive devices which they leave upon the street. Any unsuspecting person who gathers up such an object and opens it is very likely to be maimed or killed. In the latter event, those who left the box and who are lurking nearby, swoop down upon the hapless victim and carry off everything they can. There is no recourse here. The guards will not act because the death is deemed suicide. Thus it is that within the Flower of Britannia, the na´ve can be murdered out of hand and the 'killers' get off freely. Thus are there thorns amongst the blossoms of this fair city.
There are those who play an even more devious game. I myself have been victimized by this deception not once but thrice. Yes, even an old fox such as myself has fallen prey to this ploy. Here the perpetrator utilizes the powerful Polymorph spell to distort their persona into a likeness of some fell beast such as an orc. They disport themselves just outside the city limits hoping to entice the unwary to attack them as the evil creature they appear to be. When the inevitable happens, they rush into the city crying out for the guards. These 'worthies' immediately teleport to the scene and dispatch not he who has instigated the attack but the attacker! Again the body is looted and the criminal walks away unscathed and unaccountable. This is so because the guards are empowered to act in such cases against the attacker. And sometimes they can operate even outside the so-called 'limits of protection'. Thee can avoid this trap by casting the cantrip AllNames which will pierce the disguise and reveal the true identity of the target. But how many remember this always in the excitement of the moment? Certainly not I, that's is certain sure.
Today a variation of this ploy is seen. When thou doth cast Polymorph thine aura becomes gray that of a beast. Those with gray auras may be freely attacked and at any time without suffering at the hands of the guards or losing thy honor. But thy life could be forfeit just the same. When thou doth attack another thee becomes the aggressor and the target of thy attack may defend him or herself without penalty. Since many who employ this trick are seasoned warriors an indiscriminate attack may lead to thine own demise and forfeiture of thine possessions just as surely as in the 'good old days'.
Hence the Sage Elowan's advice: keep thine sword within its sheath whilst within the city and choose thy targets wisely.
Even if thee were to attack a creature who then wounds thee deeply, there is no haven within the city shouldst thou seek refuge there. Unless the creature is of surpassing evil such as a lich or spider the guards will not come. Thine only hope is to outrun the creature and hide within the city. This comes about because thou hast attacked in the first place. In some ways there is a modicum of justice here in that thou shouldst not attack anything thou canst not prevail against. But the message is clear: the cities are not safe. Thus it is that Britain, and almost every other city save one is overflowing with tension and paranoia.
The only city within which there is even a modicum of sanity and safety is Wind. But since most cannot venture there, it is worth thy life to attempt entry even if thou shouldst qualify, it does not signify.