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Last seen attempting to escape from the unwelcome attentions of an angry mob, Vizz soon finds himself an entirely new predicament...

Sauntering backwards in a sideways sidle, a shambling amble which would take some practice to repeat without tripping over, the First of Danlarni Exiles bumps into a particular longhouse, stoops under the roof and makes his way along the side of the building as if searching for something that might have fallen from the sky and rolled from the roof onto the ground. Not fiinding it, he peers back at the farmers, and the increasingly noisy scene.

The burly farmers keep watching the noble far walker, eyeing him suspiciously, but less keen to thwack him round the skull for humming derisory songs now that he had ceased humming. Less interested in the tall swarthy hummer they turn back to the riotous scenes that seem to be more interesting, to put it mildly.

Of a sudden Vizz is yoiked backwards:


And disappears into the darkness of the longhouse, yanked inside by unseen hands.

"Pardon me, I'm having a strange interlude," he gasps, not in the least bit sure what's going on.

"Sssh! Stay silent, you big lummox! There is trouble. All manner of disaster befalls. Bullmen, crazed for carnage!"

"Oshana! But? Here? What's? Who?"

"No time to explain now, dearest Vizz."

A small man has scurried back: "Issaries save our souls," he exclaims. "There's ducks a quackin', burly scarred warriors shouting in the thunder voice, volcanoes eruptin', featherlegs, and all! Threats of ransoms, and hostages, chaos and the very Devil!"

"Big Lig?" Vizz cries. "What in the world? Let me get my wits about me..."

"There's no time for that," says Big Lig, redundantly. "He's got it in for you Danlarni," he says, gesturing at the boarded window he had been peering through.

"Oh am I glad to see you," says Oshana, as she feverishly begins to untie Vizz's fine brocade cloak. "We're going to spring Alfons, if he's any spring left in him. But first, quick, get this off! I need..."

Vizz is finding it hard to resist Oshana's accustomed hands. "There's no time for that," he says, collecting his thoughts as she whips his cloak off his shoulders, but is left standing like a stroopleberry as she turns away, cloak over her arm, to face the burly man who storms in.

"Thanks Vizz. This is Marcus, Alfons' sister," she says, as the man who rescued Vizz relaxes his posture and sashays across the straws. "She works for Harvar and will get us in."

Marcus nods to Oshana and Big Lig and the three make quickly for the exit. Oshana pauses on the threshold but, in a poignant moment, walks back to Vizz, tenderly cupping his cheek in her hand and tweaking his mustache affectionately. Gazing deep into his eyes, she speaks quietly above the racket from outside, "You will look after Molly, won't you? I loaded her up and she's stabled at your inn." With that, she smiles and rushes for the exit.

"Hang on a jiffy," Vizz exclaims, with barely a moment's pause. "I'm coming with you! Alfons is one of my best business partners, and a friend."

"So, whither we and what's the strategem?" he asks, and adds under his breath "And may Orlanth bless this venture, and Issaries guide us!"

Oshana glows with pride at her lover's heart and bravery, but Marcus seems a bit put out when she returns the golden cloak to its rightful owner. The four of them, Big Lig's brow creased with worry, get into a huddle and the Plan is revealed to Vizz in all its cunning intricacies.

In a trice, so it seems, they have crossed the Place of Bronze, dodging falling rocks and bemused confused plainsmen, and snaked through the Yelmalian quarter to approach the temple complex from the side. Marcus ensures them passage, aided by Vizz's noble bearing and radiant attire. Once within, Marcus leads them through the winding coridoors which the servants tread and, hurrying the others through a large wooden door, hands a large cold chisel and hammer over to Vizz, remaining on the other side as he closes the door behind them.

The glass staircase is like nothing Vizz has ever seen. The blue glow and draconic designs draw his eyes down and Big Lig looks at him expectantly.

Vizz softly speaks encouraging words to his small companion.

"Come Lig, as I've said before we're grabbing adventure by the seat of its trousers and shaking it until the belt buckle of danger snaps open and the bare buttocks of fame and glory are ours for the spanking!"

Big Lig is unconvinced: "Yes, boldly spoken Vizz, but this place stinks of squamous revelry; it has stricken me with no small anxiety. I might even call it panic - and not a mere thin scratch but a bad spear jab."

Vizz replies with brisk certitude: "Ah, you are so mercifully free of the ravages of foolhardiness! No time to ponder, come on, follow me!"

He heads off down the glowing blue staircase, hammer and chisel in hand.

"Stay close, there may well be monsters a-wander in these dungeons! Aaargh... Oooh! And mind your head: these tunnels have a peculiar geometry..."

Big Lig follows, unpeturbed by the perilous ceilings. As do the others.

The glowing blue stairway descends, Vizz and the others enter a chamber about 30' across to the south and 30' wide east and west. There are 10' wide passages to the left and right and ahead, each in the centre of the repsective walls. The stairway likewise enters the chamber in the centre of the north wall.

"What can you see?" asks Oshana, who has not yet entered the chamber.

Vizz replies in hushed tones: "I'm not sure, I don't know if we're going the right way here. I think perhaps I hurt my head more than I realised on that low ceiling."

"I thought you knew where we were going?" chips in Big Lig.

"I fear my level of stupidity has entered a zone synonymous with danger. The perils of this undertaking are perhaps becoming more apparent to me. The floor here is damp and rough, glowing with the faint unearthly blue hue, but I can sense some sort of whistling hiss, a dreadful sibilant echo. Can anyone else feel it? Oshana, you're smiling, you must have a plan!"

Laying down her 10' pole, Oshana rummages through her pack, casting aside her 50' rope, lantern, lantern oil and tinderbox. "Useless tat," she says crossly. "I'm sure it's here somewhere."

Eventually, having found what she is looking for, she whips out a little branch. "Gitcha!" she says in her charming accent as she grasps the ends of the split piece of wood. Holding the third end out, it waves in the air and then, inexplicably, points at the ground. Taking up her ten foot pole once more, she slides it gently along the ground until suddenly it disappears down into the floor and slides clattering away as if down a staircase.

"Whoops!" she breathes into the silence, for the whistling hiss has ceased.

"The plan seems simple, like my brother Volle," observes Vizz. "But unlike Volle, this plan just might work. So, what now? Follow the pole?"

He draws his sword.


Silverquill's head pokes out of the mound of dusty scrolls as he comes up for air. He gives a violent sneeze and shakes his head before diving in again. The elderly sage on duty can hear his muttered curses and muffled quacks as the duck burrows ever deeper into the archives of the temple.

Having reached the centre of the library, the durulz sage momentarily takes a wrong turn amongst the endless bookshelves and in the distance he is surprised to see a large orangutan, eating a banana whilst reading a dusty tome. The orangutan spots Silverquill, wags his finger at the duck and says "Oook!"

Silverquill shrugs his shoulders and quietly walks back to more familiar territory. His pace quickens as he draws closer to his target - floor plans of the buildings of Alda-Chur. He spends the next half hour rifling through the scrolls and yellowing parchments before giving a loud quack of triumph. There! A fairly good overview of the temple, complete with descriptions of the different rooms. The fact that the scroll is spattered with dried-up blood hardly registers with the sage as he peruses the floor plan.

Hmmmm.... yes. If one was to go through that tunnel there, past that grate and then shimmy up that narrow opening, it should be possible to enter the room next to the main hall. Wonder why they put that Death rune there, though?

Silverquill leaves the library with the scroll after showing his library card to the disapproving sage and heads to the Nobody Inn. Skullcleaver is delighted to be in a place that serves beer and orders two large tankards, one for each hand. Together, the duo waits for any other Exiles to show up.


"Yes, proceed!" commands Oshana.

The marching order does not seem established. Vizz is nervous and seems less than keen to follow the pole.

"If someone short were in the front, then I could see over their heads giving us an extra pair of eyes to see any danger. Big Lig, you possess a certain quality that is a perfect fit for this stratagem and it seems sensible to me that you should go first."

Lig is a trifle suspicious, but he makes up for such faults by his courage and tenacity.

"I shall follow the pole, next shall be Vizz then I shall follow,.. now you all gitcha down there before we lose the pole. We shall change the order only if one of us is wounded, lost, or killed."

And so the party proceeds through the illusory floor. No one mentions the fact that the whistling hiss had stopped, seemingly forgotten for the time being. There is indeed a stairway leading down, though of curious dimensions and perhaps best suited to those whose knees are located in a different place to those on human legs. Maybe only 15 steps and then an oval passageway leads of. The glow is dimmer here, the walls still have a glassy appearance, as if great heat had passed through the earth and melted cerulean sand.

Vizz whispers a question to Oshana - "Are we sure this is the route we need to take to rescue Alfons? I mean to say, I thought he was imprisoned within a wall rather than in the second level of a dungeon of newt-dragons" .

"Vizz, this is the secret way through to the imprisonment bubbles. The ground level now is higher on account of the accumulated detritus of an age when ash and human bones piled high on the ruins of the dragon lord cities. When beastmen danced their jigs and made their dung piles on the hated buildings of their former masters. Now, see, the tunnel turns upward..."

The tunnel was by no means flat, had mad sinuous twists and it curved up and down to some degree for a hundred feet or more. This was by no means easy to traverse, being by turns slippery, occasionally sharp where a breakage created a razor edge, and sometimes narrow where the twists constricted the internal dimensions of the tube. Indeed, Vizz had cut his left hand on a sharp protrusion and it was bleeding profusely, although it was nto too painful. But now the task was more daunting still. The tunnel became steep, almost vertical, but still twisting so that one could not see far up it.

"A difficult climb." states Oshana, matter of factly.

"Difficult! I could scamper up there exactly the way a bison bull wouldn't!" remarks Vizz, thinking it a near impossible task. Then a more concerned look passes across his countenance.

"Hush, my bristles are quivering, I think that hisstling whiss is coming back, and this time it means to negotiate with us, I mean to say, this time it means business. "

But this time, as the hiss ever so-slowly increases in volume, Vizz's mustachioes tell him that it is coming from behind them, that is the way they came, where before it came from the way they were going. As the panic rises, they spend an age in unconstructive confusion - the bizarre surroundings helping none - bereft of ideas, and soon buffeted by the wind against one another and the painful walls. Soon it requires a bellow to be heard, but Oshana can only bellow, charmingly, that she has no clue. Exchanging fearful looks at one another and then up at the tube in which they stand, they feel themselves pulled ever so gently off the ground...

"Yaaaarrrrrgh! " explains Vizz to calm the nerves of Big Lig and Oshana, the quavering tone merely a side effect of the extreme velocity of the roaring wind that lifts them upward.

Oshana, more pragmatic in her approach, grabs hold of Big Lig and Vizz, one in each hand, to keep them together.

Big Lig, his voice lost in the maelstrom mouths something that perhaps could be interpreted by those who can lip read as "O caltrops!"

Thoughts rush through Vizz's brain - is this a squall of dragonewt ghosts? Wind daemons imprisoned in the Palace? The movement of air caused by a monstrous and fast moving Underground monster? Some Orlanthi magic? The Hell Roar of Zorak Zoran?

Deposited battered, bruised and bloody after hurtling through the tunnel, the three come to rest a little out of the wind. Once this has died down a little, they lift their heads, and find themselves in what could best be described as a bubble, with but one entrance. The walls are smoother than before and behind their blue translucency can be seen a human form, imprisoned naked within and only capable of a furious blinking.

It is Alfons.





Grunt the three heroes, landing in a pile and slightly rumpled.

"Alfons, now, is that not a coincidence singular?" proclaims Vizz. "The gods of Whoosh are with us. Now, where is that hammer and chisel and I'll soon set this picklement to rights."

Big Lig struggles to his feet, and looks around warily. Vizz already has the hammer and chisel and makes a few tentative taps at the crystal prison.

"Put some muscle into it you lanky snoopster, I for one would rather not be whooshed again by whatever such it was that whooshed us before."

"Mock me not saucy boy! I am, not by Orlanth's blessing, a labouring craftsman, I can do many things, some passing well, some not so well. Chipping infernal glass bubbles is not, alas, within the realm of my past experience, but I am doing as best I can."

And so it is that Vizz chips away at the bubble, Big Lig looks around to assess their position, and Oshana recovers from the ascent.

Chip by chip, Vizz makes slow progress. Tiny shards of blue crystal and powdery dust litter the floor. Finally, the glass cracks away in a large lump and the bubble is burst.

As a viscous liquid emerges, and air reaches the frozen form of Alfons, he begins to move.

"Bah! omph! uhuck, uhuck, uhurrk" and other less articulate noises issue forth from his throat.

Vizz gives him some time to clear his throat by giving a brief explanation:

"Dear friend, fellow trader, I, err, we, that is Big Lig, Oshana and myself, have come to rescue you from your perilous plight, walled, as you were, within this bubble of glass, captured without breath or animation. It was Big Lig and Oshana who planned the escapade, but I was in the area and was pleased to help a friend in need, especially one to whom I am so indebted."

Alfons gradually recovers his senses, feeling returns to his fingers and toes and his eyes become more focused.

"Of all the... Why you swi... gah!" Alfons still seems unable to speak, hindered by some sort of unreasonable grudge against his generous rescuer. Indeed his face, previously pallid and greenish seems to be growing red and swollen as blood and pinkish life pumps back into his veins and through his fleshy jowls.

"Noble Alfons, please try not to upset yourself wih past quiddities. This should be a happy occasion, let's not bicker about who diddled who, or quibble over our reckoning differences when life and freedom and air are free to breathe. In my tally count, we are even, so I do not account you ungenerous if you do not reward me for my part in this"

Finally, Alfons finds his voice: "You brass necked son of a bastard! You twisted lying fustilarian! Where were the promised delights from Balazar, eh? Jolthead! Where the holy grain from the Paps, scurvy cur of a devil dog!? What sort of fool was I to believe there was a food that trolls would not eat? You've ruined me, you gangly headed gnatsnapper!"

Vizz remains calm. "A florid retort indeed, but mere ephemeral spleen. Do you insinuate that I cheated you?"

Which helps calm Alfons not one whit, and a certain type of rage overcomes him as he lunges forward:

"Aaaiie... Die! Pig-dog!"

Big Lig is able to grab Alfons before his fists reach Vizz, the effects of the glass bubble still slowing his limbs.

"Sirs, please," he interjects. "Let us not resort to such childish bickering. We are all merchants here. I thought it was well understood amonst the FWE brethren that 'You're full of shit and you have your head up your ass' was just Trade-speak for 'There are certain aspects of this issue which your argument has neglected to consider.' We are men of words not fists, we use coins that build wealth, not blades that draw blood."

Oshana, however, seems more concerned with the fact that they are still in a haunted, freakish dragon ruin.

"Gentlemen, let's get out of here!" she says, as a fiery blue liquid begins to spurt from the wall at the combatants, threatening to engulf them, drown them, scald them and imprison them all should it revitrify...


"What ho!" comes a voice from the gathering darkness beneath the trees as the sun sets. "Mother!" cries a boy "a stranger approaches!"

"Nay, no stranger I, 'tis but Vizz. With friends." And indeed, it is the tall swarthy figure of Vizz, stooping more than usual and looking rather bedraggled. His companions follow behind.

"Vizz Vollesbrother, what befell?"

"Ah, now, first bring me a drink, as strong as you like, and let me re-light this duck cigar in the fire. I feel like snot..."

The boy looks alarmed at the giant with the blue hair but as Vizz shakes some of the dust out of his hair and mustache he begins to take on a more familiar visage. "But, what's in there?" asks the boy, pointing at Molly, laden as she is with sacks and barrels, and most particularly at the barrels.

"Can we come out now?" says one of the barrels, which has been shaking about a bit and testing Molly's fortitude. Then up pops the lid, scattering barleycorn and blue powder all about, and the diminuitive figure of Big Lig hauls itself out, only reaching in to retrieve Vizz's cloak from the bottom and throw it over to Vizz. "You say that duck was a friend of yours? Well...well, crikey is all I can say. If my head didn't sit squarely on my shoulders, I'd say that was a dragon we were on the insides of and that duck made it cough...on purpose..."

Oshana pats the boy on the head, then slides her hand to his shoulder to stop him from fleeing as Lig turns his attentions to the other barrel. He has to drag his hand for a fair while inside the grains before he finds what he is looking for, then pulls out with a flurry what would best be described as a man, if it weren't folded so exquisitely. The boy looks on all a-quiver as she stoops over the blue object and unfolds it this way and that like it were a fiendish contraption intended to serve as a tent.

"There" she finally says, which is refreshing given the blue language which has been tripping off her tongue in frustration as she unfolds Alfons and pushes him up into an erect frame. As the strange man opens his mouth to speak, she places a finger on his mouth, "Sorry my dear, but it was the only way to get you past the guards. It's but a day or two more and the cattle'll bear you easy enough." She gestures at the pair of cows, also laden with sacks.

Turning to Vizz, she has one more thing to check before she lets the boy lead them to his hearth, "You did say they wouldn't mind a couple more mouths to feed, didn't you Vizz?" With a stern look indicating she doesn't especially wish to hear his reply, she turns on her heel and guides Alfons, scattering dust, towards the hut up the hill.