The Traveler By Lady Faelyn Rose Of Chesapeake Chapter Three Bronson felt the flames from the lich’s spell scorching the back of his grey robe as he ran across the stone bridge. Newly resurrected, he was making his way back to his belongings deep in the belly of the Fire Dungeon. In hind sight, he thought, tea and potted plants may have been a better choice. The molten lava flowing below gave off a much needed red glow enabling him to see his surroundings for a few moments. As he rounded a corner and turned to the west he was plunged into semi-darkness once again. He paused in the gloom of the dungeon tunnel to catch his breath and get his bearings. He could hear the battle echoing off the walls somewhere ahead in the distance… The shouts of men and the roars of their pets mingled with the clang of weapons. As he cautiously continued, his bare foot brushed against the cold still body of some unfortunate warrior. The dead man was probably overwhelmed by a wave of creatures guarding the altar of the Semidar Champion. Or worse, he could have been a victim of the human evil that lurked in the shadows. The tunnels of this Felucca dungeon were crawling with those without honor. In the murky pathways they waited for the chance to murder and loot the unwary adventurer who wandered too far from the group. As if conjured up by the thought Bronson heard the whispers of men just ahead. He inched forward, pressed against the damp stone wall of the tunnel. The murderers laughed quietly at some shared jest before they moved off. Bronson began to advance with renewed wariness. He had not traveled but a few yards further when a strong arm grabbed him around the throat. He threw his weight against his attacker in an attempt to break the murderous hold. But the man was larger than Bronson and soon they were on the ground struggling. The assailant forced him onto his back as they wrestled. And then Bronson saw the flash of steel in the man’s hand. He felt a sharp blade penetrate the flesh of his shoulder. At the same time his fist slammed into the murderer’s face. Bronson heard the satisfying sound of a nose being broken and a muffled grunt of pain. But before he or his opponent could deliver another blow, a voice nearby shouted. “Hold!” The murderer was removed from Bronson chest with a violent kick. His attacker hit the wall and lay on his side groaning. Clutching his wounded shoulder, Bronson rolled away and instantly came to his feet. He staggered for a second in a slightly crouched position, ready to defend his life. From beyond his range of vision a voice which was at once familiar said. “Well, well. A fledgling from the forests of Minoc has been snared in our net.” Bronson squinted into the pitch black of the tunnel. “Jack?” The man cast a spell of night sight upon Bronson. “In Lor” Immediately Bronson could see as if the sun had risen. There before him stood his older brother Jack. He was dressed in black clothing and boots. His head was shaved except for a shock of red hair at the crown of his skull. A top knot. The style favored by scoundrels through out the land of Felucca. Jack was the black sheep of the family. The middle child who’s malicious and dangerous nature had caused him to be an outcast even as a boy. He saluted Bronson. “At your service, brother.” They looked at each other for a moment before Bronson smiled and clasped his sibling’s hand. He had not seen Jack in two years. His wayward brother had left Minoc one morning and none had heard from him since. “You are still in constant need of aid I see.” Jack said as he shook Bronson’s hand. Bronson looked at his attacker on the floor and then at Jack. “And you are still in constant need of reprimanding.” Bronson said, no longer smiling. Jack’s soft laughter echoed off the walls. “Well met, brother, well met.” Bronson’s hand returned to the bloody wound in his shoulder. The reality of his brother’s presence in this place overshadowed the momentary joy of their reunion. “Found your calling, have you?” Bronson asked. “Aye.” Jack said with a smile. “There is no greater thrill than that of hunting the most dangerous creature of all.” His eyes narrowed with an evil glint. “Man.” The groaning assailant started to sit up. But Jack casually strolled over to the man and placed his booted foot upon the criminal’s chest. With little effort he knocked him back down onto the slimy floor. “There is a fair amount of gold to be made.” he continued as he pulled the blade from the murderer’s hand. “But the hunting of men… That is what keeps me coming back for more.” Jack wiped the blade clean on the man’s shirt and tucked the knife into his own belt. “It is a dishonorable profession.” Bronson said in a somber voice. “But it is the life which I have chosen and intend to continue, brother.” Jack answered, walking away from the now disarmed attacker. “Do not waste your breath preaching salvation to one who does not wish to be saved.” Jack smiled again. His expression reminded Bronson of a snake. Bronson shook his head sadly. “The family would like to see you…” he began. But voices echoed in the cavern ahead. A band of warriors were approaching from the west. Jack’s smile faded as he grabbed his injured comrade’s arm hauling him up off the floor. He pushed the groaning wretch into a small side tunnel and started to follow him through. But for a second he looked back at Bronson. Jack held his index finger against his lips, cautioning him to silence. Then with another wicked grin his brother escaped. The spell of night sight wore off quickly and once again Bronson found himself in the dark. He continued his trek through the maze of passageways, but in some areas he could see nothing at all. He felt his way along the wall following the voices of warriors and gargoyles in combat. He was saddened when he thought of Jack’s choice. But he could not afford to be distracted by emotion now. He must concentrate on finding Seamus and his gear. The echoes from the battle were quite loud now. Bronson was weakened by the loss of blood from his wound. Without regents or yellow potions he was unable to heal himself. Suddenly he saw something in the pitch black which made him crouch down close to the wall. Evil red eyes appeared accompanied by harsh and heavy breathing. A creature from the pits of hell was coming directly at him in the darkness. Without a weapon he was at the mercy of whatever monster had cornered him. He was too weak to run. Bronson felt around on the ground for a rock. His hand touched on a piece of sharp stone and he picked it up, gripping it tightly, ready to fight. He raised his arm above his head prepared to crush the skull of the monster. But instead he was knocked onto his back by a heavy blow to his chest. Before he could recover, his face was lipped and snorted upon by the thing standing above him. A thunderous roar erupted from the creature and a hoof slammed against the floor beside his leg. “NOX!!” Bronson laughed. “Mistress Nox!” He grabbed hold of the nightmare’s neck and tried to pull himself up. His legs were unsteady from loss of blood. Bronson got to his feet and leaned against Nox for support. “You came looking for me, for a change.” he said with a shaky laugh. “I may yet survive this journey, my evil beast.” Nox tossed her head and snorted. Bronson gathered the dangling reins. He was about to drag himself up onto the mare’s back, when the squeaking bark of an imp came from only a few feet away. “Nox kill!” he commanded. The nightmare attacked the imp with the full force of her anger. But the imp darted past Nox and hit Bronson with a poisonous spell before succumbing to the deadly hooves. He felt the toxic magic pulsing through his body, paralyzing his lungs. He slid down the wall as he started to suffocate. “Daemon dung” Bronson wheezed with his last breath. “An Nox! In Vas Mani” Seamus’ voice penetrated his foggy brain. Again Bronson floated away from the edge of death and found his brother standing near him. “In Lor!” Bronson could see the moldy walls of the tunnel. He could see Og swaying back and forth not ten feet away. Just behind Og was his own dragon, Bront, crushing a harpy in his jaws. A small army had come to his rescue. “This is getting to be a habit with you, lad.” Seamus said dropping a bottle of cure potion into his lap. “Up on your feet, now. The battle is near over and here you sit resting.” “Hardly resting.” Bronson grumbled. His pack and gear landed beside him on the floor. “How did you know where to find me?” Bronson asked, feeling his shoulder. His wound was totally healed. “Your mare told me.” Seamus answered as he dragged Bronson to his feet. “What?” Seamus chuckled at his brother’s surprised look. “ALL FOLLOW ME!!” he commanded and strode back towards the chamber of the Champion. All of the pets including Nox roared and followed after Seamus, leaving Bronson with a confused look upon his face. He quickly put on his armor and ran to catch up with his rescuers. The scene around the altar was like a vision from hell. Daemons and Succubi lay dead in piles alongside the bodies of the brave warriors and their pets. Those who survived the final wave of monsters were clustered together in small groups. Tamers using bandages on their pets were battling the army of monsters. Warriors who fought with sword and shield huddled close together, healing each other. Their shields formed a steel wall around them. Seamus and Bronson had taken control of a small area south of the altar. They used bandages, healing wands and magic to keep the pets alive. At the same time they tried to stay away from the sharp claws and deadly spells of the attacking monsters. A Succubus targeted Bronson, casting a flame that took most of his life force away. “An Lor Xen!” Seamus made his brother invisible to the creature long enough for her to focus on Og. Quickly Bronson drank a heal potion and cast greater heal on himself as he continued to bandage Bront. His dragon was fighting two daemons and a stone gargoyle while Nox exterminated the Succubus. As a daemon or succubus would fall to the ground another would spring up from the altar to take its place. Three more Succubi began to attack Nox. Bronson tried to help her with a healing wand while using his veterinary skills on Bront. But it was not enough. Nox crumbled to the ground. Her spirit stood calmly beside Bronson waiting to be resurrected. But he could not take time to restore her without losing his dragon. So the mare was left in limbo. All around the altar the ghosts of brave dragons, wyrms and mares stood motionless. Some were resurrected only to be killed again immediately in their weakened state. The hordes of deadly monsters descended upon them tearing their bodies to shreds. Suddenly a cry went up among the warriors. “The Semidar!!” There was a surge of movement towards the altar. A shower of arrows flew at the Champion from every direction. The mages cast their most powerful spells in hopes of killing it and gaining the highest rewards. The Champion began to move through the crowd of fighters and dragons, cutting them down like blades of grass. But still the mages and archers continued their assault. Seamus and Bronson charged forward with the rest of the tamers. The bodies were piled so high that Bronson could not tell where the Semidar was standing. Bront fell with a crash forcing him to leap out of the way. And then mounds of gold appeared on the ground covering the entire area in which the altar stood. A black moongate opened in the middle of the altar. The Champion was destroyed! Chaos erupted. All thoughts of the remaining Daemons and Succubi were lost as the warriors scrambled to claim their share of the gold. Seamus and Bronson scooped up as much as they could carry in their leather packs, healing the surviving wyrm at the same time. Og finished off a pair of daemons and none appeared from the altar to replace them. The gold disappeared quickly. Immediately there was a mad rush towards the black moongate and safety. A red moongate opened near the Luna stables. Seamus and Bronson emerged from it with their pets now fully restored to health. It was early evening and the city was still active. They stabled their pets and headed for the bank nearby. “I saw Jack.” Bronson stated as they climbed the sandstone steps. “Aye.” Seamus said quietly. “It would not surprise me if he were skulking about in that Felucca dungeon. So now you know the truth of our missing brother Jack.” “The truth is difficult to accept. He is lost to the land of Felucca.” Bronson said sadly. “Cheer up, lad.” Seamus told him. “Jack leaves the dirty work to others. He’s far too clever to soil his hands. At least not to the point where he cannot move freely throughout Trammel and Malas. You will see him. We will both see him, no doubt, soon enough.” “You have spoken to him?” Bronson asked. “Of course! He owns the stable next door to my pub.” Seamus relied. “Didn’t you know that?" “I fear there is much I do not know about this family.” The two men entered the bank to deposit the spoils of the dungeon battle. “Well, brother, what do you say we head over to the Tree Fellow Pub for an ale or two.” Seamus said. “Just to wash the taste of dungeon dust out of our mouths.” Bronson looked down at his nearly destroyed cloak and armor. Half of his belongings were missing. And his feet inside his boots were covered in slime from his marathon run through the tunnels. “I think more than my mouth needs washing.” He answered with a good natured grin. “And aren’t you forgetting about our most dangerous adventure, yet to come?" “And what might that be?” Seamus laughed. “Tea and potted plants, brother. And the lady who waits at Mountain View.” “Amanda Rose will understand.” Seamus said without much conviction in his voice. Bronson laughed. “Let us hope so. For both our sakes, brother. She is, after all, a grandmaster mage. And I have been scorched enough for one day.” Seamus and Bronson approached Amanda’s house a few minutes later. It was a large three story sandstone which rose up against a backdrop of Mountains. Graceful arched windows spilled golden light onto the green lawns and manicured potted shrubs which surround the house. Two tall lamp posts flanked the wide steps and walkway leading to the massive front doors. The sound of harp music drifted out into the darkness of a cool evening. “Well, this is it.” Seamus said as he pulled open one side of the double door. “Sounds like the dinner party is already started without us.” Bronson followed him into a wide hallway. A male servant met them just inside the door, taking their filthy cloaks. “Good evening, milord.” He greeted Seamus. “Evening, Owen.Are the dinner guests already seated?” He asked in a low voice. The clink of tableware and the polite laughter of ladies could be heard from somewhere above them. “Aye, milord.” Owen’s eyes traveled over the two extremely foul smelling men. “You will be wanting a bath brought up to the guest room as well, sir?” “As soon as possible, man!” Seamus ordered as he hurried into a small alcove off the main entrance. “Tell my lady we will join them as soon as we are presentable.” “Very good, sir.” Owen said, with a nod. The servant went in the direction of the main staircase. Bronson followed Seamus into the alcove. “We will use the gardener’s teleport to the roof.” Seamus whispered. “No need to disturb the guests.” “Or your wife.” Bronson whispered back with a grin. “Aye, that too.” Seamus answered pulling his brother behind him. Bronson caught a glimpse of a large room with heavy furniture that was lit by candles and a huge fireplace. But before he could see more he was teleported up to the roof of the house. Seamus was already hurrying away from the teleporter to the stairs leading down into the house when Bronson appeared. The rooftop garden was bathed in the golden glow of lamp light and he could see a small pool of water in the center of the roof. The pool was surrounded by green grass and flowering shrubs. Rows of potted plants lined the wall which bordered the stairs leading down. Seamus disappeared into the stairwell. “Make haste, lad.” He called back from the floor below. Bronson did just that. He trotted across the garden. For a moment he was reminded of the many times in his childhood when he and his two older brothers had returned to the family tower through the roof entrance. The trio would sneak out and have amazing adventures all night. Seamus would leave a rope hanging over the side of the building and before the light of dawn the boys would scale the wall. Seamus would lead them down the stairs and safely back to their rooms, undetected. They would be snug in their beds when Mother came to wake them in the morning. Seamus had not changed at all over the years. Bronson laughed at the memory as he entered the elegant sandstone stairwell at full stride. He made his way past arched windows and potted plants. The stairs led down to a landing on the next floor. Just off the landing was the entrance to a large room. Seamus’ voice came from somewhere deep in the room. “This way brother!” Bronson saw that these were the family quarters. The quarters consisted of a cavernous living room with a cheery fireplace and comfortable furniture. The family room was decorated with polar bear rugs, more arched windows and more potted plants. A row of doors on the far side of the family room marked the bedrooms. The sound of Seamus rummaging through chests came from one of the bedrooms. Bronson followed the noises and found his brother throwing clothes out of an armoire onto a large bed. “Something here will fit you, lad.” He said. He pulled his head out of the armoire and looked at Bronson. “Don’t just stand there!!” He barked and went back to his search. Bronson smiled. He had never seen Seamus look so concerned before. Not even three bloods and a poison could rattle his brother like this. The wrath of his wife must be a force to be reckoned with. The rustle of silk announced the arrival of Amanda Rose. She hurried across the family room. A angry frown marred her pretty face. “Seamus!” She said in a harsh whisper. “Where have you been?!” She stopped and drew a lace handkerchief from somewhere in the folds of her yellow dress. She held it to her nose. The lingering stench was familiar. “A dungeon crawl!!” She answered her own question. Seamus stopped his frantic search and smiled sweetly at his wife. “You look lovely tonight my dear.” He told her. “Hmmmphf.” She answered, waving the handkerchief in front of her nose. “Hello, Bronson.” She smiled and made a move towards him, the start of a hug. Amanda stopped halfway and drew back, the handkerchief covering her nose once more. “So good to see you again.” She blinked her eyes as they started to tear up from the odor. Amanda took a couple of steps backwards before continuing. “Well, at least you are both here now. I will have Owen see to the bath water.” She smiled at Bronson again. “Join us downstairs at your leisure.” With another rustle of silk Amanda Rose withdrew. She opened a window on the far side of the family room and fled to the fresh air on the next floor. “There now, brother.” Seamus said looking quite relieved. “That wasn’t so bad after all.” Bronson lay back in the warm water, a wash cloth draped across his face. His arm dangled over the side of the bathtub holding the remains of a mug of ale. He heard the chorus of greetings from the floor below as Seamus made his appearance at Amanda’s dinner party. But he never wanted to leave the spot he was in now. Two days with Seamus and he was ready for a long rest. “Oh well,” he said out loud as he dragged himself out of the tub. “It is just a simple dinner. And then a good night’s rest.” He couldn’t wait to lay down in the large bed of his brother’s guest room. Bronson walked down the stairs to the dinning room. He was dressed in Seamus’ white shirt and black pants. He was groomed and cleaned after his day of adventure. He could hear Seamus’ voice booming. “There was nothing I could do. The lad insisted we go to the Fire Dungeon. I couldn’t let him go alone. I’m his older brother and must protect him.” The dinner guests laughed. Apparently everyone here knew Seamus well enough not to believe that tall tale. Bronson chuckled as he entered the dinning room. Amanda rushed over to him, taking his arm and leading him forward. “Our guest of honor is here at last.” She announced to a table full of guests. “Bronson, I think you know just about everyone here.” She said as she steered him towards his seat. Bronson looked around the room nodding to his cousin Kayla and Katie Rose, Amanda’s sister. But his gaze settled upon the man sitting at the far end of the table facing him. His brother Jack looked at him with that same wicked grin Bronson remembered from their encounter in the dungeon. Bronson’s smile froze on his face. He stopped moving, pulling Amanda to a halt. Sitting right next to Jack was a woman he never thought to see here. She dimpled and blushed as she smiled at him. It was the mysterious lady in blue.