Lankhmar: Carnival of Swords

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Christian's Story by Christian Brown, aka Vashpin and Torek (Generic Bodyguard #1)

     I had a great time as my primary character, Vashpin. When the "strange energies" around my slave turned out to be a dead end for me, I turned to the other plot-line, which was the curse I had laid upon the grain.
     Phil, as Teraxis, did much diligent snooping on my behalf and came up with contingencies and bits of information while I was looking straight ahead. Had anything gone wrong with my plans, I would certainly have needed that.
     Death's Advocate kept telling me I had enemies, but I never noticed them. If people were suspicious of me, they were polite enough not to call me evil to my face. And no one ever obstructed me in any way that I could see.
     I removed my own curse upon the grain at considerable profit - 10 slaves, and 5 gold rilks for expenses. Teraxis procured the Globe of Newhon for me which cost a paltry four rilks on the way out of Lanhkmar.
     I would happily have stayed and gloated but I had got all this wealth by 10:00 pm, and it was as certain as the tides changing that I would be found out eventually. So teraxis and I left town.
     I decided to abandon my slave, since I knew she was magic and likely to be trouble in the future.
     After Vashpin the Sorcerer, I came back as Torek the Sell-Sword, just in from Illthmar. Again I had a great time. I sat in the Silver Eel and drank wine, insulted and joked with people, and got talked into a ridiculous scheme to invade the thieves guild. Somehow, I survived unscathed. Older and wiser, I went back to the Siver Eel and got a little drunker.
     It was awsome. I could not have asked for more.

A Night at Carnival by R.S., aka Alyx the Pickpocket

Fafhrd and the Mouser unchivalrously refuse to help a lady; the Mouser wins a contest, and enjoys a week of erotic dalliance as his reward.

     (Editorial Note: The author has changed the conclusion of this story from what actually occured in the game based on her contention that, unlike the relatively chivalrous Ian, the real Mouser is a "little sleaze ball" and would have acted quite differently.)

     The first night of carnival in Lankhmar: a cacophony of colors more hypntoic than the fumes in Nillia's temple; a shifting tapestry of voices, speaking in all the accents of Nehwon; a swirl of smells from the loathly stinks of offal coming from the dank alleys of the city to the tempting aromas of the fried sweets, drenched with honey tinctured with essence of poppy, that Lankhmar only produces in this single season.
     Alyx slipped through the crowd. It was late; she had encountered half a dozen acquaintances, sharing thoughts, a passing joke, information. It was time for another drink at the Silver Eel. Alyx's lips curled for a moment at the thought of Kresh, earlier that evening in the Plaza of Dark Delights. It was definitely time for another drink. And besides, she had business to attend to; the plan was falling together. The famed (but currently accursed) Jewel of Kramlech Nar might reside in the safe in the headquarters of the Thieves' Guild, but she felt certain that that situation could be remedied. Largo had a map to the guild. Mara could take the curse off the jewel. And Alyx had an arrangement to return it to the Hierophant of the Seven Black Priests of Kramlech Nar for a sum that could justly be described as princely. All she needed now, was a little assistance in getting the jewel. After all, an expedition into the Thieves' Guild, even on the first night of Carnival when it might justifiably be assumed to be poorly guarded, was not to be undertaken lightly. And that was where the drink at the Silver Eel came in.
     Alyx slipped through the crowd, lightly dancing around a lumbering monstrosity--a seven armed golden elephant (what in Nehwon did he think he was?)--and shouldered through the heavy coarse curtain that kept the black nightfog of Lankhmar out of the tavern. Inside, it was surprisingly well-lit. Usually, the few dim and flickering oil lamps on tables struggled faintly against the prevailing gloom (which the patrons of the Silver Eel enjoyed and which was part of the reason they patronized the tavern) while the corners remained thick with shadows. Yet tonight, the Eel blazed as brightly as Glipkerio's own palace and the hangings of the booths were all thrown open.
     Thanks to the unaccustomed illumination, the group in the corner would have drawn the attention of the new-comer even if it were not for the giggles of the plump blonde dancing girl, perched on the enormous northern barbarian's leather-clad knee. Alyx made her way to the bar and refilled her flask with the heady ruby vintage of Ilthmar. Then she directed her steps toward the corner where a small grey-clad man could now be seen, lounging next to the northerner and his girl. Alyx paused in front of the trio and, with a dismissive jerk of her head, tossed a coin to the girl who promptly leapt up and scampered off (with a small squeal at Fafhrd's parting pinch).
     "That threat I mentioned," began Alyx, unstoppering her flask and sipping at the contents. The northerner and the small grey man exchanged glances. The Mouser raised one hand to his mouth and yawned with theatrical disinterest.
     "Yes?" he inquired, slipping Cat's Claw from its sheath and toying with the point.
     "Your companion," said Alyx, "appears unwilling to engage in the business matter of which we spoke earlier, although, as I said, the entire danger of the curse would be borne by me. And, in any case (despite the fact that the curse is no concern of yours), Mara will, as I assured you, be able to remove it. So you will enjoy considerable profit at negligible personal risk." Fafhrd and the smaller man assumed elaborately casual attitudes.
     "We already know the risks and the rewards," said Fafhrd, "and I told you that we are not interested. Now you seek to convince us with a threat? What is it?"
     Instead of responding to the barbarian, Alyx looked at his companion. "Ah, yes," said Alyx, musingly, "It was the northerner who suggested it to me, in fact. He mentioned that it was not at all a bad thing for the curse to rest on the Thieves' Guild, since it is now they who possess the Jewel. I can see how that point of view comes naturally to those who, shall we say, operate outside the Guild's parameters. Now, the Guild, of course, might have a very different perspective on the matter. I imagine they would be very interested to learn how dangerous the object under discussion is, and even more interested, perhaps, to learn how that perilous item came into the possession of a beggar. They would infer, perhaps, that the persons who gave it to that beggar deliberately intended to imperil their organization in this way. They would not, I imagine, be pleased."
     The responses of the two heros were typically different. "We've tangled with the Guild before," laughed the Mouser lightly, raising his flagon and draining its contents. However the barbarian's bearded visage was suffused by a dark flush while his eyes glinted dangerously and his hand sought the hilt of the massive blade that he wore at his side.
     "Dead men," he grated, "tell no tales, they say. And the same might be said of dead women."
     Alyx smiled coolly. "Be civilized, northerner. This is how we do business in the city. I merely wished to point out that both profit and self interest lie in the direction of rendering me the assistance I seek. And to reiterate that there is not the slightest danger of an...occult...type for you to be concerned about."
     "But," said the Mouser, softly, breaking the tension of the moment, "sadly, we are far too busy."
     Slowly, Fafhrd's hand crept away from the hilt of the dagger.
     Alyx eyed the smaller man calculatingly. "Forget the Northerner. I could make it worth your while, Mouser." The man in grey looked up with assumed casualness from the pattern that he was inscribing with the point of Cat's Claw on the scarred table top. "More worth my while than thirty percent of a princely sum? Now I am interested. What are you offering?"
     "What do you want?"
     "For you to make an offer."
     "A contest," said Alyx. "If I win, you help me get the Jewel. If you win, what is it you want?"
     "You tell me," said the small man, stretching. "After all, you're making the offer."
     Alyx's glance was sardonic. "Whatever you desire."
     The Mouser's eyes were hooded, but the spark of interest remained. "Whatever I desire...hmmm...." his eyes were appraising, "but for how long?"
     "Shall we say a week of my time for a few minutes of yours...if I lose?"
     "Good," said the Mouser. "And what will the contest be?"
     "A contest in what we do best; whoever can obtain the most valuable item in the next fifteen minutes will be judged winner. But it must be stolen, not something either has now, not borrowed from a friend."
     "Done," said the Mouser.
     "Who shall judge?" asked Alyx.
     "What about Fafhrd?"
     "The northerner? I hardly think that would be fair" laughed Alyx, "he is, after all, your companion." Fafhrd, who had been studiously ignoring this interchange, turned back to the Mouser and the slender black-clad woman.
     "I will swear a great oath," he rumbled, "to judge fairly. By the bones of my mother, by Kos, and by the Cold Waste, I will be impartial in this matter." In the barbarian's eyes was a resolve that brooked no disbelief.
     "I accept," said Alyx.


     Fifteen minutes later, the group was gathered once more in the corner of the Silver Eel. Fafhrd and the grey mouser somewhat out of breath, Alyx dishevelled, a blood stain spreading from a cloth tied around her upper arm.
     "Well?" rumbled the barbarian.
     "Four gold pieces, two silver," said Alyx, "have you had better luck?"
     "A little," said the small man in grey, withdrawing his hand from his pouch and displaying on it a small, brightly gleaming gold object, flickering with glints of emerald, ruby, and sapphire.
     "Aaahhh," breathed Alyx, "and what is it worth?"
     "Several times more at least than your haul--though that was, of course, not bad for fifteen minutes work...for a beginner" said the grey man smugly, slipping the trinket back into his pocket, and patting his knee invitingly. With a look of contained rage, Alyx took the proffered seat, wincing slightly as she raised her injured arm to twine it around his neck.
     "Seven days, my sweet, starting now" said the mouser, cheerfully. "Whatever I want, if you recall."
     "Of course, dearest," responded the other, jaw set, "starting now." Then as if resigned to her fate, she twined the other arm around the victor's neck, running her fingers through the Mouser's short black hair, and tracing the curve of his ear, "six days, 23 hours, 59 minutes, and counting," she breathed, her breath tickling his ear delightfully.
     "But business before pleasure," said the Mouser, rising and depositing her on the floor. "I'll see you again...I know you'll be waiting for me."
     Alyx's chin rose. "Of course...and my business still involves the jewel."
     "Even without me?" asked the Mouser in surprise.
     "Even so," said Alyx.


     The night was waning toward dawn when Alyx and the Mouser met again in the Silver Eel. Alyx was slumped at a table, a flagon of wine before her.
     "What, no jewel, sweetness?" said the mouser, sliding his arm possessively arould her waist. Alyx tensed for a moment, resentfully, which the mouser enjoyed almost as much as her relaxation a moment later.
     "Not yet" she answered.
     "I must get a drink" said the mouser, "wait here with my companion, darling."
     As he got up and moved lightly toward the bar, Alyx's hand crept down toward the dagger that she wore in the top of her boot. The barbarian's eye followed the hand musingly as he wiped a foamy mustache from his lip.
     Alyx drew the dagger, and held it clenched in one hand, which shook slightly. Delicately, she pushed back her sleeve, revealing a slender, pale wrist. Then, in a smooth vicious movement, the blade flashed toward the tendons and veins, but it was arrested, barely grazing the skin. A line of blood trickled from a hairlike cut.
     "Ah ah ah," rumbled Fafhrd in Alyx's ear, his enormous fist engulfing the hand that held the knife. "A bargain is a bargain. You keep your promises, don't you, little lady?" Alyx struggled for a moment, vainly.
     "Always," she hissed. "Release my hand, barbarian. When I'm done, he can have my body for a week, and do with it as he likes. I keep my bargains."
     Fafhrd squeezed until she was forced to drop the slim stiletto on the table. "I don't think he'd like that, little one, nor would I," rumbled the northerner; "After all, the Mouser's promised to share you, you know."
     "What's that?" said the Mouser, returning with two flagons of wine.
     "Keep an eye on her, little man," laughed the barbarian. "She says you can have her body as she promised but she proposed to do some damage to it first with this" he picked up Alyx's blade and passed it to the Mouser who looked at it approvingly.
     "But I wouldn't enjoy that nearly as much," he laughed, sliding the dagger into his belt. "If you don't mind, I'll keep this. I promise to return it to you in a week. I have a little further business to attend to, this evening, but if you don't mind, we'll go home first."


     The rooms Fafhrd and the Mouser shared were at the top of a ramshackle flight of stairs in a nearly deserted tenement not far from the Silver Eel. As he led his prize up the stairs, the Mouser thought with satisfaction that it was pleasant that Alyx would not be aristocratically disapproving of the humble quarters that he and Fafhrd shared. No need to put on appearances for her.
     Within, Fafhrd's rooms were surprisingly orderly, while the Mouser's were comfortably sloppy. The Mouser led the unresisting girl to his room. "Now," he said, "we can't have you damaging the prize." He cast his eye over the small items scattered here and there. "Ah yes," he plunged into a pile and withdrew a coil of soft grey cord. With great efficiency, he trussed Alyx to the bed, and stood back, admiring his handiwork. "That should do admirably," he said. "Be here when I come back, darling; there's another lady to whom I've promised my attentions this evening." He planted a light kiss on Alyx's lips and departed, whistling merrily.


     In the next week, the Mouser kept Alyx tied when he was out of the apartment and showed a distressing ability to wake when she tried to slip out of bed at night. He was not worried that she would run--they did, after all, have a bargain. But there were many interesting sharp and dangerous objects that the Mouser collected in his chambers, and it was amusing for him to pretend that with any of these Alyx might intend to "damage his prize" as he put it.
     She did, he had to admit, keep her part of the bargain admirably. When the Mouser was present, she was sardonic, amusing, playful, and helpful as well as most wonderfully inventive in bed. She was scrupulously clean, enjoying long hot scented baths as much as the Mouser did. She read the magical books on his shelves, and seemed to enjoy discussing them with Mouser. She laughed at his stories and told scandalous tales of her own. And it was charming for the Mouser to take the opportunity, on occasion, to refer to her as 'my prize' to feel the angry stiffening of her shoulders...and of course, to have the need to tie her up very tightly whenever he was away.
     The necessity for this last precaution became more apparent on the fourth day, when the Mouser returned to find that Alyx had worked one hand free of its bonds, and was in the process of freeing the second. That evening, the Mouser tied her up even more cruelly and then had his way with her, which was very novel and entertaining in itself. The next day, to punish her, he left the girl with Fafhrd, instructing her that it was 'his desire' that she please his companion.
     Oddly, Fafhrd and the girl got on well--that evening, and in general. The Mouser thought this strange, since the barbarian generally preferred tall plump blonde girls, and Alyx was definitely more the Mouser's type. Yet they got on admirably, and the Mouser occasionally returned from running an errand to find them playing a pleasant game of chess or sharing riotous stories. This fact made the Mouser too jealous to share the girl again with the barbarian, and a curious reserve in the barbarian stopped him from asking. It had been wonderful, Fafhrd thought, and the Mouser certainly was lucky to have seven days with such a girl, but the girl in some ways was almost too much Mouser's type. In bed she was delightful, but Fafhrd had looked at her afterward and for a moment she reminded him of the Mouser. And considering what they had just done, that made Fafhrd feel quite uncomfortable.
     The Mouser, too, found that Alyx reminded him of he had been say seven or eight years earlier, perhaps. Certainly she was no match for him as a thief (though her tales were impressive, and he had to admit that the flexibility that she sometimes displayed would be a useful attribute for a thief), but that was part of her charm. Not a serious challenge, thought the Mouser, complacently. And, unlike Fafhrd, the Mouser had no problem acknowledging that sleeping with a female version of himself had a certain attraction. In fact, at times in the past he had idly wondered what it would be like to switch sides with the women with whom he dallied; at the least it would give him the ability to admire his own accomplishments more perfectly.
     Two days after the day he had lent Alyx to Fafhrd, Alyx and the Mouser slept late, tangled together and exhausted by a longer than usual evening of activity. Rising in the late afternoon, the Mouser looked at the girl lying there so peacefully. A few errands, he thought, and he'd be back. Better safe than sorry, of course. He tied her up, tightly, using a new knot that he had learned only two days earlier from Alyx herself. Then he found his grey hood and slipped out the door.
     As these things will, the errands took longer than Mouser expected--Nattick Nimblefingers the tailor had finished the Mouser's new tunic, but it was all wrong, and the Mouser went to pains to show Nattick in how many ways the tunic was unsatisfactory; then he stopped by the shop of a dealer in magical tomes and perused some of the new wares, making conversation with an elderly man in a drab cloak (obviously a minor wizard of some kind from the country) to impress the fellow with the Mouser's knowledge. In any case, it was quite dark before he climbed the rickety stairs to the apartment. As he reached the top, he paused; was there something on the roof, or was it merely the silhouette of the chimney, blurred by the black nightfog of Lankhmar? The Mouser stared intently. It was only the chimney. He unlocked the door and let himself in, already enjoying the thought of telling Alyx some of the more witty things he had said the Nattick and how impressed the wizard had looked when the Mouser mentioned the Black Book of Alhazred that he had perused once in the library of the temple of the Serpentmen of Kzam.
     But when he opened the door to his room, the bed was empty, the ropes tangled among the grey sheets. And outside, the bells from the temple of Aarth tolled the hour. It had been seven days, one hour, and six minutes. The week was over.