Thursday, November 05, 2009

Across World Bubbles - Pt 4

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

So it was the next day that Tasslehoff set off for fabulous Lankhmar, with specific instructions to avoid, at all costs, vile Ilthmar and its rat gods. Naturally, that is exactly where Tas went first, as he very much wanted to meet a rat god. He soon became embroiled in a scandalous adventure that is still denied in the most vehement language by the government of that ill-famed city.

After his escape from their attempt to sacrifice him to their shark gods - who were second only to their rat gods, Tasslehoff was once more on his way to fabulous Lankhmar. In his pouch he carried letters of introduction, delicately penned on a scroll of dragon skin, to the pair of heroes he was supposed to find. He crossed the Sinking Land, very much puzzled why it should bear such an extraordinary name, until it began to sink, much to his delight and consternation. Luckily, he still had on his magic boots and so was able to escape the demise suffered by Pharoah's army in another time and another world.

His boots brought him safely and speedily to the Causey Road through the Great Salt Marsh on a day when a brisk noreaster was blowing; the gale had all the huge salt spiders sailing through the air depending from their spiderwebbery parachutes. Tasslehoff ducked and dodged them as he walked, looking rather like a short, drunken sailor who hadn't got his land legs.

As he neared the Marsh Gate of the great city of Lankhmar, the sun had begun to set and the brisk noreaster had blown itself round to a sultry southwester. He found the road blocked by some poor peasant's hut that had been wrecked by the gale. It lay on its side in the middle of the road with its four stilts sticking up in the air, like some huge dead dog. Before it sat its wretched owner, grieving over his loss. So heavily robed and cowled was he that Tas could see neither his face nor his hands.

"I'm so sorry about your house," Tas commisserated. Now, Tas, being a stranger to this world, didn't know that nobody, but Nobody, lived in the Great and Extraordinarily Dangerous and Deadly Salt Marsh, except Sheelba of the Eyeless Face - the other greatest sorcerer in all Nehwon and bitter rival of Ninguable of the Seven Eyes. So he was completely unprepared for the rude response he received.

"What do you care?" barked a harsh voice from deep within the hood.

"Well, I..." Tas stammered. "Look, you, I was only trying to help!"

"You want to help? Give me a chicken foot, or get lost," the rude and strangely hooded creature shrieked.

"A chicken foot!" Tas exclaimed. "I have the very thing." He sat down in the middle of the muddy road and began to joyfully rummage through his pouches. All kinds of interesting new things had fallen into them, and what with the exciting misunderstanding back in Ilthmar and his harrowing escape from certain doom, he hadn't had time yet to go through them. With giggles of deltight, he pulled one oddity after another from his pouches, each one stranger than the next, and taking time (now that his voice had recovered) to explain in great detail the history and lineage of each new surprise to the ever-more-irritated archmage.

At long last, at the bottom of the fourth pouch he discovered that which he sought. "One chicken's foot, slightly used," he said as he flourished the grisly relic before him. "I seem to remember there was a voodoo priest from tropic Klesh whose performance I was priveleged to witness in the bazaar in Ilthmar. For some strange reason, he couldn't understand a word I said, and this led to the most unfortunate..."

"Thank you very much," Sheelba snapped as he snatched the chicken's foot from Tasslehoff's grasp. The archmage shuffled over to his shattered hut and attached the foot to the base of the fifth - and broken - stilt. It grafted itself to the wood as if by magic. With a shudder of strange life, the entire hut scrambled to its chicken feet, much to Tasslehoff's delight. A ladder dropped down from the doorway and Sheelba ascended with a movement unnervingly spiderish, and there in the darkened doorway he sat, or squatted.

"You're welcome," Tas said. "And goodbye," he waved sadly as the hut strode off into the swamp. Before it had gone completely out of sight, it turned. Something sailed out and landed with a thump at Tasslehoff's feet. He picked it up and found that it was a clay tablet carved with a single, strange rune. Looking at it made his insides turn upside down, so he quickly looked away.

"Find the Gray Mouser," a scratchy voice called from the distance. "Likely he's drunk to the point of uselessness in a tavern called The Golden Lamprey. He'll be in the company of an equally useless sot name Fafhrd."

"But Ninguable has already sent me to find them," Tas said.

"Ha!" Sheelba laughed like a cracking stone. "Give him that rune; the Mouser, not Fafhrd. Tell him Sheelba sent it with very deepest regards and under no circumstances should he attempt to use it." He laughed again, briefly, with a sound like shattering glass. The hut turned and vanished into the thorn and seahawk trees which grew thick as weeds throughout the Great Salt Marsh.

Read Part 5, if you dare

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