Chapter 6

Beanie grabs his head, several Hashnuks have been asking him questions, all at the same time. Smiling and nodding uncomfortably, Beanie excuses himself. “I really must get back, Enkirash and the others need my help.” He then turns and runs back to the Dancing Donkey. With the mention of Enkirash, all the Hashnuks become silent and watch as Beanie wheels off. Beanie pushes passed several townsfolk and nearly knocks Sweets down at the door.
“Careful there Beanie!” Sweets says when Beanie rushes into the inn. Sweets looks out into the streets and his jaw drops. Clergymen! Dirt covered, clothing in tatters, not so long ago proclaimed dead clergymen! Racing like mad straight towards the inn. Sweets points and shouts to all in the street, “The undead! Flee, flee for your lives!” Then he frantically shuts the inn’s door and bars it shut. Sweets quickly directs the able-bodied to secure all the exits. Beanie arrives at Enkirash’s side to see that he is unconscious again. Ilma Dune, the elderly innkeeper shuffles over to Beanie. “Son, It be time to did something to heal these poor people. Ain’t right to leave them suffering like this if you can do something about it.” Ilma says.

Beanie’s eyes tear up as he looks at the fragile looking woman. “I can’t help them. I have no healing power! I wish I could heal them!” Ilma squints as she sees a strange sparkle quickly pass over Beanie just for a moment. Beanie continues, “I can’t take all this adventure anymore! I wish I had a way to escape!” Beanie stops with a strange look on his face. He puts his hand in his pocket and pulls out the rod that had so recently been sticking through his leg muscles. But instead of a shiny metal rod, it was now black and dull. Light seemed to disappear into it.
A hand reaches out and grabs Beanie’s pants. “Water,” whispers a man on a table, his head wrapped in a blood soaked bandage. Quick to oblige, Beanie helps the man take a drink. Again the sparkle surrounds Beanie, just for milliseconds. The man shudders and sits straight up. “Yeeee haw! That’s some powerful water!” Warmth flows through the man. He starts feeling beneath his bandages. “Quick, help me take these off.” “Oh no, you mustn’t!” Ilma shrieks. The man continues to unwrap the bandages and throws them on the floor. He feels all over his head. “I’m healed! I’m healed!”
There is a clamor all around calling for Beanie to bring water. One by one everyone in the Dancing Donkey is healed. Enkirash questions Beanie, confused as to what has happened. Beanie hands him the blackened rod. While Enkirash studies it there is a loud banging. The inn goes quiet. Again the banging comes, but it isn’t coming from the door, it is coming from the roof.

The sounds of clicking gears fill Beanie’s ears as he struggles to escape the grasp of the dragon’s metal claw. Screaming, he watches the sky vanish as the dragon’s jaws close around him. A heavy clattering chain quickly wraps around his leg and his is quickly pulled towards the mechanical creation’s throat. Then suddenly it releases him. A bright yellow light shines upon him. “Well, Mr. Appleton I presume? Of course you are, what am I talking about. Magic is never wrong. Luck however is a different story. And you seem to have run out of the good sort.”
There is a loud screech followed by distant voices, loud but echoed.
“There he goes Chief Inquisitor, making his escape!”
“Could there be any proof more convicting than this? Surely the work of an evil necromancer! Set up the tents next to the ruined church, I shall go interview the people…”
The voices trail off. Beanie stands up and squints towards the light. He has to steady himself with the nearest surface, the dragon must be in flight.
“Look on the bright side. You have me! Sandor the Master of Momentum, Skipper of the Skies.”
Beanie points and yells incredulously “You are a talking ring?”
Sitting before Beanie, on a pillow topped bronze pedestal is a ring with an animated face.
“And you are a bag of flesh. I rather think you are at the disadvantage.” Sandor says.
“Now quickly, as you have nothing better to do right now, where is Hashnuk? I am ready for my next conquest!”

Beanie walks over to the ring and picks it up. Sandor makes his voice deep and says, “Yes, YES! Feel the power! Be struck with awe! Now place me on… Hey wait a…” Beanie slips the ring into his pocket and climbs the ladder besides Sandor’s stand. He emerges into a small room with two windows, the dragon’s pupils no doubt. There are many levers and contraptions moving unaided here as well. Beanie sticks his head out of the dragon’s eye and can see the town below. The dragon seems to be slowly circling. Beanie also notices that a group below seems to be chasing after the dragon, and behind them a group armed soldiers giving chase, and behind them Sweets and Enkirash struggling to keep up.
Meanwhile, Brother Cancun reaches a lake of iridescent purples and blues. Chumples is up to his haunches in the liquid and it is crystalizing slowly around him, climbing his body. Brother Cancun makes his move.

Beanie, inside an enormous mechanical dragon, circles high above the town of Vermillion. His friends below follow his course on the ground while soldiers pursue them, weapons waving threateningly. Beanie grabs a pair of the largest levers and begins moving them about. The dragon rises and falls, twists and turns, as Beanie fights against the controls. Flailing about he pulls on a chain hanging down from above and a terrible jet of flame shoots from the dragons mouth. “OOO, AHHH” Beanie says as he pulls on the chain a few more times. With some basic understanding of the controls now, Beanie manages to steer the dragon and set it on a course for the soldiers.
“Ha ha ha!” Beanie laughs, “this should scare them off.” Flames shoot forth from the menacing mechanical dragon as Beanie yanks the chain once more. But this time the chain falls from the ceiling, broken. The flames flow endlessly from the mouth of the dragon. The heat in the chamber rapidly increases as the flames begin to lap back towards the dragon.
Panicking, Beanie pulls the talking ring out of his pocket. “Sandor, what do I do? I broke your dragon!” “What the blazes! Quickly, put me on your finger before you are roasted!” Beanie slips on the ring. He begins to feel even hotter, he looks at his hand and notices that he has begun to glow orange, like the hot blacksmith’s poker. The flames vanish, but instead of relief Beanie is filled with horror as the dragon is moments away from crashing into the ground. There is a tremendous crash, earth is heaved up into the air in all directions. When the dust cloud clears only the dragon’s back legs and tail protrude from a large crater, it’s front half buried. The soldiers are nowhere to be seen. Several men arrive, all calling out for Sandor. Enkirash and Sweets also arrive. Sweets begins to tear up. “Oh, poor poor Beanie!”

The group of men, ex-lizard-goat-cultists posing as clergy who were recently killed but somehow resurrected all thinking that they are each a man named Hashnuk, converge on an opening beneath the tail of the dragon and proceed, single file, inside.

Several moments later one of the Hashnuks emerges and approaches Sweets and Enkirash. “My friends. My sadness for your loss. Beanie is dead. But Sandor is alive!” Out of the dragon come two more Hashnuks, supporting a slumping man. He is completely glowing with an orange hue, his head hangs on his chest as he struggles to shuffle along with support. “Please my friends, do not be…” “Freaked out?!” Sweets exclaims, “What is that? Who is Sandor?” “My friends, Sandor is a ring, he is magical, intelligent, and currently bonded to the flesh of Beanie. His attempt to protect Beanie from death failed. But he is able to animate his, um, corpse? My friends, Sandor is in shock and trying to come to grips with his failure. For the time being, it would be best just to go along with whatever he says.”

Enkirash lifts Beanie’s head and examines it. He opens Beanie’s eyes and taking a device from his pouch shines a light into them. Beanie’s jaw begins to move slowly. “Hello, I am Beanie Applesauce, pleased to meat you. Boy am I tired, that was some crash eh? Well, I should get to work getting my ride out of this ditch.” The words obviously flowing from somewhere other than Beanie’s mouth, and with a different accent. “Yes… Of course.” Enkirash acknowledges slowly. Beanie turns to face the dragon and flops to the ground on his back. His head then rises akwardly, his spine and neck arching backwards until his body flops forward. He props himself up with his hands then the glow fades from his body. The tail of the dragon then comes to life an begins scraping away the dirt covering the dragon’s top half.[9:24 AM]Enkirash tells Sweets that he can find no trace of Beanie’s soul. Beanie my indeed be lost forever. But Sweets pushes his sorrow aside. “I am obligated to help my friend in anyway I can. What should I do?”

Sweets, wiping tears from his eyes, lays on his back. Doing so he brushes Beanie’s sword. With blinding speed Sweets grasps the sword and brandishes it above his head. “What has happened to my master!” the sword bellows. Rays of light pour out of it, the color shifting from a brilliant white to a crimson red. Unable to control his body, Sweets swings the sword so that it is parallel with Beanie’s body, just inches above him. A moment later Sweets moves again with blinding speed and places the blade of Forenda against Enkirash’s neck. “Sorcerer, you will remove the ring from my master’s finger lest I remove your head from your neck.”

Chapter 5

Hashnuk leans back in his chair dropping his quill pen he says, “That is it, there is no other possibility. My friends, your earthly vessels were taken down the well.” From the hall the muffled protests of Biggs the Ratman can be heard before the sound of a slamming doors silences them. Moments later Enkirash enters the room. “I have locked him up. Instruct your clockwork minions to feed him and empty his chamber pots. I may have more questions for him.” Hashnuk waves his hand in acknowledgement absently. “Well my friends…” Enkirash and Hashnuk say simultaneously. They shoot each other annoyed looks. “What do we do now?”

The blue light floats forward, “Obviously you must go down into the well and fetch our bodies!” says Bolta Rider.
There is a yawn and a red light floats next to Bolta, “Sorry, I was napping, I think. What in the Grapes of Gringleschmidt is going on?”
“Brother Cancun,” Enkirash begins in exasperation, “We are looking for you lost bodies, that this lunatic has not only stolen-“
“My friend, I saved them!” Hashnuk retorts.
“-but has also allowed to be stolen from him!” Enkirash finishes with an angry look at Hashnuk.
A greyish-white light approaches the group, “What of the young men and their lizard-goat? Where did they go? Were they not assisting us?”
Enkirash’s face reddens as he loses what is left of his temper. “Those two are as useful as a one sided die! It took them less than five minutes from us saving them to them becoming lost again!”
Hashnuk places his hand on Enkirash’s shoulder. With a smile he says, “My friend! Be calm, do not speak so of our friends! They may soon prove their usefulness!”

Hashnuk, Enkirash, Bolta, Tarius, Brother Cancun and the other disembodied souls make their way to the well. Being morning, there are several townsfolk fetching water and standing around gossiping next to it.
“My friend,” laughed Hashnuk, “Do you think these good people will let you take a bath in their drinking water?”

Hashnuk strolls up to the well, arms outstretched. Warmly he calls “My friends! My friends! That a wonderful day today!” As he gets closer he lowers his head and says in a low voice, “What do you think about all this strangeness going on?”
Three townsfolk quickly set out to gossip with Hashnuk.
“Well they way I see it, it’s the races were ruined by those jealous horse mongers from Black Bird. They are always trying to steal our position as the best races in all of realm. Horse racing better than goat racing? Pttt!” The old man spits on the ground.
“It’s a cult! How else could there be ten men and even our chief cleric Malicor missing this morning?” “I’ve seen men coming and going all hours last couple of days at the church. Today, it’s locked and Malicor cannot be found.” Says one of the Dancing Donkey’s maids.
“I’ve seen ratfolk sneaking around, I bet it’s them. Untrustworthy thieves they are!” Says the town bum as he sits against the side of the well.
“I’m no gardener, but don’t those strange weeds that have been popping up scare ya? Theys aint natural! I bet it is all part of a curse.” says a young blacksmith’s apprentice.
Hashnuk nods as he listens, then he adds “I hear there is something nasty down the well.”
At that point they all turn and carefully look over the edge, straining to see the bottom.
At that moment a tremendous roar tears through the air, “GRUALHCCHHHHHHH!” The startled group turn towards the church just in time to see the doors flung open and clear off their hinges and trough the air. Standing there is a horrifying figure. Nine feet tall, it’s face distorted, thick ram horns curling from his head, body covered in fur, arms completely bare with human hands. It’s legs bending sideways at the knees in a most unnatural way as it stands upon foot thick hooves.
It shields it’s eyes from the sun and roars again. It moves slowly towards the well. The town folk flee in terror. Hashnuk retreats a safe distance to observe with Enkirash and the “lights”.
The creature smashes the well’s covering and wooden structure and it attempts to climb down into it.

Enkirash quickly searches his traveling bag and produces a gold flute. Pressing it to his lips he begins to play a slow, soothing melody.
“My friend! That is a lovely song! But now the beast approaches us!” Hashnuk says shakily.
The creature had indeed turned, a large stone from the well wall in each hand and a snarl on its hideous face. Raising the stones above its head it rushes towards the men.
Enkirash stops playing, holds out his hand and shouts “Nebel der Dunkelheit!” A grey mist forms around them, growing darker by the moment until the men can barely see.
“Enkirash! Enkirash! My friend, where are you!” Hashnuk calls.
“Here, I will lead you to safety,” Enkirash responds. Hashnuk follows in the direction of the firm grip around his wrist. “Too fast my friend, MY FRIEND….” Hashnuk’s voice trails off. Then there is a splash.
Hashnuk had tripped over something and now finds himself swimming at the bottom of the well. The grip on his arm still firm, he looks to see nothing. An invisible helper!
“Enkirash!” Hashnuk yells at the top of his lungs. Above him he can see flashes of light and hear growls of the creature. But he can hear Enkirash call, “Quickly! Go through the hidden door and secure it before the beast follows you!”

The twisted creature leans over the top of the well and throws a large stone at Hashnuk. Hashnuk dives under the water to avoid being hit. Emerging from the water he spots a dim glow from a slit in the wall and quickly swims to find a door that is slightly ajar. He successfully opens it and climbs through. He peeks through watching for his pursuer, ready to bar the door should it become necessary. One of the lights floats down to him.
“Quickly my friend,” Hashnuk tells Brother Cancun, “find a way to get that disrespectful wizard down here, we need him!” Brother Cancun’s light quickly flies away.

Hashnuk begins to feel uncomfortable as he stands watch, there is a very strong odor. “What in the name of the one true Churro is that stench?” He checks his clothes, his breath, the room behind him. The stench is everywhere!
At the well above, the creature draws back, visibly distracted. The mist quickly dissipates and Enkirash can be seen retching. The stench is here too, it seems to fill every inch of air. Enkirash cannot concentrate on his casting. Brother Cancun relay’s Hashnuk’s message. Enkirash beings to crawl towards the well when he hears a familiar call.
“GRLLLURGHHHH!” It can be none other than Chumples! Turning towards the church, standing where once the doors hung is Chumples the lizard-goat. But he does not look well, and it seems this stench is emanating from him! The goat-lizard’s body is bloated to double its normal size, fur and skin stretched to their limits. Chumples looks upon the creature and charges.
The creature throws a stone and strikes Chumples! Chumples, in mid-air and flying at the twisted goat-man, takes the hit square in the stomach, and explodes!
A deafening roar fills the air, shockwaves shatter windows, collapse the church and well, and send Enkirash flying off through the air.

When the dust clears….

With a jolt Enkirash awakens. He tries to move and finds he is pinned beneath a felled tree. He cannot move his right arm, nor can he feel it. The white light Belvin the Bold floats before him.
“I could only do so much as I am now, but be sure that you are no longer dying.”
Enkirash takes in his surroundings. Surmising he had been tossed at least three hundred yards, he can see the rubble of the church and well before him. Several surrounding buildings appear intact yet damaged by flying stone from the explosion. A large gathering of men is clearing stone frantically from the church. Horses have been brought in and fitted harnesses connected to nets in an attempt to clear the heavier stones. The men are frantic and calling out to each other.
“I hear a voice over here!” One of them calls.
A group of men join him and assist in pulling a body from the rubble.
On the other side of the well, Enkirash can see the beast. A group of robed men, probably holy men, direct some laborers to lift it onto a waiting cart. Soon the cart is heading South, the robed men driving the horses.
Enkirash winces, just noticing the pain he is in. Looking back to the church, he now sees two figures have been pulled from the collapsed building, and without a doubt it is Beanie and Sweets.
The pain is unrelenting, Enkirash’s head spins. “What… is…” He says, a faint image, as if made of cloud fills his vision. “Chumples?” Enkirash says. The apparition seems to be smiling, then suddenly Enkirash passes out.


Some hours earlier, Beanie and Sweets were beginning to regain their sight. Chumples lay on the ground moaning from his ordeal, Sweets explained that the milking process is exhausting when an experienced milker does it. Chumples must be in bad shape considering Beanie was completely untrained and blind.
They began to search for an exit when they could discern shapes and colors. With reaching hands they encountered the bodies of several men, dead. All but one. This man was very large and hair covered. His breathing deep and loud. Beanie tried to awaken him and awaken he did. The man threw Beanie back, tossing him head over heels. Looking up from his prone position, Beanie could see that it was no man. Twice the size of a man with the head of a goat the creature stood now, issued a “GLRUFFPH!” in Beanie’s direction, and turned to climb the wall behind him.
Sweets had instinctively grabbed and was holding Chumples to protect him. Sweets noticed Chumples was very swollen and shaky, but at the sound of the creature’s shout, Chumples was determined to follow with speed. Chumples lead Beanie and Sweets through a labyrinth of climbing passages. They heard the splintering of wood, the screams of people and the roars of the creature before they finally came to the exit. With light almost blinding them as it shone though the opening where a pair of large doors stood. They recognized they were in the entrance of the church and before they could step out into the light, did witness the horrific explosion that did cause the church to collapse around them. There was no doubt about it. As the walls of the church crashed down to bury the pair, Sweets could not move for he had witnessed the death of his beloved Chumples.

The town folk of Vermilion are a fine and neighborly people. Without hesitation they rush to help when the town is in need. The Dancing Donkey Inn opened it’s doors to the many injured of the town. Once the rooms were filled, the tavern itself was utilized. Tables and benches where once filled with grog and plates of meat were now covered with the hurt or dying. Beanie and Sweets were laid upon the bar counter itself. As they were being tended to, Ilma Dune, the inkeep was approaching them. Behind her five heavily armored royal guards. “Stop!” one of them called. “This one here.” The guard poked Beanie in the shoulder. “You boy, were you at the goat races?”
“Ummm, yeeesss…” Beanie replied hesitantly. He looked over at Sweets. Sweets appeared to be in shock. His eyes wide as could be, his mouth even wider, and his hands clasped to each side of his face.
“I am Captain Decker of the royal guard, you are coming with us. Can you move?”
“I don’t know, ouch!” Beanie winced as he noticed a long piece of metal sticking out of his leg.
He instinctively reached down and grabbed it. When he did so, he wished that the pain would stop. He felt a warm sensation fill his body from head to toe, like he was dunked in a giant vat of Hot Jones. Leaping from the table he felt like a new man! And in his hand he held the piece of metal, looking at it he saw that is was delicately decorated with text in some unknown language.
The captain nodded to his men and two of them took position on either side of Beanie, picked him up by the arms, and began to carry him away.
“Wait, wait! My friend Sweets there! I can’t leave him.” Beanie shouted.
Beanie watched as the rest of the guards picked Sweets straight up. They carried him, flat as a board as if he was lying on an invisible stretcher.
“What have I done? What do you want with me” Beanie cried, but the guards just ignored him as they marched him out of the inn.
Brother Cancun’s disembodied consciousness took a powerful blow of Astral plane energy when the goat-lizard exploded on contact with the creature. His mind tumbles in a void of darkness when he hears a soft whisper calling him. As he concentrates on the voice the world takes form around him. He finds himself standing amongst many vibrantly colored clouds. Before him stands his old master, long since dead. With him are several other monks standing behind, each with a hand on the shoulder of another so that all are connected.
“Brother Cancun, look.” The master points downward. In the distance Chumples jumps from cloud to cloud. However, in his path is a cloud different from all the rest. It is as black as night.
“Go,” rings through Brother Cancun’s head as the world spins into a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes.
Cancun takes a deep breath. A real breath. He opens his eyes, he lifts his hands. Real and real. He is alive! Looking around he discovers that this is not his realm and that this is not his body.
Chumples darts ahead in a world of sharp edges and angles. The sky is pink, the ground purple and black. Rising up are crystals of shimmering colors. Looking behind him, Cancun sees the dark cloud sitting there. Pulsing and churning the cloud sits there just above the surface of this strange ground.
Turning once more towards Chumples he sees a creature made of crystal begin to chase Chumples.

Back in Vermilion:
Beanie is deposited before a lavish carriage, painted in purple and gold, draped in gold fringed red curtains. The curtains part slightly, then fly open and out jumps Princess Jenny smiling broadly. Seeing her startled guards she collects herself. Subduing her smile and slowing her pace, she stops before Beanie, chin raised she says, “This is Beugh, the man who saved and healed me at the racetrack. Beugh, I wish to thank you for your help with a banquet at the royal castle. However, considering the situation in town, I must ask a favor of you first.”
“Um, my name is…” Beanie begins, but stops after receiving a stern look from Captain Decker and a more stern squeeze of his arms by the guards. Beanie returns to silence.
Jennie continues, “We are in need of your healing, the chief priest of Vermilion is missing. Many of his fellow clergy and healers have been found dead amongst the church debris. Please, will you help heal these good people and relieve them of their suffering?”

Back on the unknown “crystal” plane:
Brother Cancun begins the chase. Coming to the end of his cloud he must jump to another. He is faced with two choices, a red cloud upon which is a monk holding out a plethora of glowing weapons. On the other cloud is an transparent image of Brother Cancun as he last remembered his physical self, when he had a body, complete in his fighting gear.

Tarius, Bolta, and the other wandering souls congregate next to the remains of the well. Belvin’s light rises up out of the well to meet them. “There is no sign of Hashnuk, I do not know what has become of him.”
“I am certain he will show up soon.” Tarius says. “Let us make haste, I have seen Beanie, Sweets, and Enkirash carried to the Dancing Donkey.”
The group arrives to see Beanie standing over Sweets, Sweets shirt in his hands, he shakes him violently. “I asked you a question!” Shouts Beanie. Frustrated Beanie drops Sweets and wipes the sweat from his brow. He turns to Princes Jenny, nervously turning the metal rod in his hand.
“I wish you would be of some help once in a while Sweets,” he mumbles.
A slap of the back catches Beanie off guard.
“Of course we will help your majesty! My name is James Beltonbar, assistant to the Great Beanie Appleton, healer of healers! If you will excuse us, we must get to work right away! But if we may, your majesty, have you some token of your commission so that we may proceed with the authority of the crown?”
Princess Jenny nods, “Captain Decker, give Beanie your sash.”
Startled Captain Decker questions, “Your majesty?”
Princess Jenny gives him a stern look.
The captain removes his sash and places it over Beanie with a bow.
“No person will dare question your authority with this sash. When you have completed your work please come to the palace.” Princess Jenny climbs into her carriage and departs towards the castle flanked by her guards.
Decker gives a final disapproving look and turns to join her.
“That was unexpected,” Bolta says. “What just happened?”
“I do not know,” says Tarius. “But more importantly, who is that greyish light, because it is not Brother Cancun.”
The friends group up leaving the grey light by itself. The light expands and begins to take on a wispy shape of…

The wisps slowly comes into focus and begins to speak, “My friends! What is happening? I feel very weak!” The ghost of Hashnuk raises his ghostly hands before his eyes. “Am I dead?” He exclaims.
Bolta can sense Hashnuk’s presence strongly. “Yes, Hashnuk. You have passed into the spirit world. Quickly, we must find Enkirash! He can trap Hashnuk’s soul so we can-.”
There is an earball piercing sound of screeching and electricity. Hashnuk’s ghost splits right down the middle and is pushed aside by a spinning vortex of distorted colors. Stepping out is another spirit, the ghostly form of an Asian man. His dark hair and goatee, fiery eyes, and domineering stance would strike fear in the hearts of many. His cape still flows in his spectral form. It is Kasaman Zurc, leader of the rogue armies of King’s Crossing and the Asian islands of Yonip.
“Hashnuk!” Kasaman screams. “I have you at last! You will give me the location of the Key, or I shall destroy your soul now and forever!”
Belvin and Ivan’s souls fly off in search of Enkirash. Hashnuk’s miasma reforms into two identical shapes. “My friend Kasaman..” One begins as the other starts, “The key! Of course…”
The two Hashnuks square off and begin to argue.
“Enough!” Kasaman shouts and slaps them both with a hand shrouded in black smoke.
The Hashnuks disapate and begin to reform.
Tarius begins to coalesce into a similar apportion as the others. Seeing that he has form he jumps at Kasaman. The two spectral forms wrestle with each other. Tarius takes some hits from the black hand, but quickly reforms around the damage. Tarius notices tendrils leading away from Kasaman into the swirling vortex and he catches a glance at his “father”, Tarius the Mage casting magic keeping the “door” open.
Running down the street towards the action is Beanie, a blue flask in his hands. Belvin and Ivan floating besides him, Ivan calls out “Enkirash sent us with this flask to catch Hashnuk!”
However, as Beanie reaches them, his foot catches on a stone that was once part of the well’s wall. Falling, Beanie tucks into a forward roll and is able to tumble forward and leap to his feet. He triumphantly holds out the flask before him with a smile on his face. But the momentum of his acrobatics causes the flask to fly out of his hand through the air. Everyone watches in disbelief as the flask passes through the magic tendrils of Tarius the Mage’s portal and crashes against another stone shattering into several pieces. Lightning crawls along the ground where the flask fell. Kasaman, the Hashnuks, and the portal vanish instantly. Tarius feels a strong pull on his being but steadies himself, he loses his form but returns to his state as a floating light.
“Sorry.” Beanie says, shrinking back from his companions.
There is a scream. Turning to look, the party see the cause for alarm. Bodies of the dead clergy pulled from the debris of the collapsed church were being laid out and covered under a pavilion next to the church.
The bodies were now getting up, and they were heading quickly towards the group.
A chorus rings out “My friends! You have saved me!” A group of fifteen men look at one another and begin to ask questions. A most distressing sequence of exchanges ensues that sends chills through everyone.
“I am Hashnuk, of course!” “I am your friend Hashnuk!” “I am Hashnuk!”
“No, I am Hashnuk!” “My friend, please, I am Hashnuk.”

Chapter 4

Sweets stops dead in his tracks. “Chumples! I just heard Chumples! Shhh!” Sweets looks around, as he tries to listen for the call of his lost lizard-goat.
Enkirash raises an eyebrow and listens. A sequence or drums can be heard, five beats, pause, five beats pause, over and over. With it the faint chanting of many voices, a foreign language. Biggs starts jumping around his magical prison cube making wild gestures and banging on the walls. A dark figure approaches and utters in a low cold voice, “Revival of vengeance. Sleepless ancients. Unity, fealty, infinity.”

Sweets gasps, “A shadowy figure! Run Beanie!” He and Beanie turn and run behind the church and stop. They both peek around the corner and watch.
Enkirash’s shadow can be seen confronting the other dark silhouette. There are hands waving and finger pointing, but their words cannot be heard. Beanie realizes that this is because the chanting has become much louder here. He turns his head to follow the sound and finds it is coming from a small window behind a shrub. A faint flicker of light can be seen through this 6 x 9 inch window divided by 3 metal bars.
Peeking in he cannot see anything else, but the sound of chanting is definitely coming from within. And there is a familiar smell, the smell of lizard-goat milk.

Enkirash becomes animated in his discussion with the unknown figure. Seemingly irritated he throws his hands in the air and a small globe of red light shoots high into the air. The brightness bathes the area and causes Beanie and Sweets to cover their eyes and turn away. At this point they here a tapping sound behind the church. When they look up they find a masked, frail looking figure holding up a small writing board. On it is scribbled, “You are late, but there is still time.” The mask is a surreal caricature of a kindly old man. But something is off about it. The figure offers Beanie and Sweets two black robes, similar to the one he is wearing.

Sweets, a little frightened begins to sing quietly.
“Green and creamy,
sweet and sour,
I drink and drink for hour upon hour.
Thick and chunky,
chewy and scummy,
Days old milk is most yummy.
Lizard or goat,
no one knows,
this gift from whence the milk flows!

But beware my friend, do not drink,
on full moon nights, you must first think.
For should you drink under the moon,
You may exit this world all too soon.”

The figure, nods when he hears the song and produces from his robe two glasses and a pair of twisted tongs. He motions the pair to a gap behind a stone stair case. The masked man hobbles over pulls aside a heavy stone with ease, a seemingly impossible task for someone so frail looking. A narrow staircase leads downward, the figure motions again.

“We have to go, I am sure Chumples is down there.” Sweets whispers to Beanie. Beanie looks at the glass and tongs. “What do you think he wants us to do with these?”
“I’m sure they want us to milk Chumples for them. There are very few wit the know how to milk a lizard-goat. It’s a difficult and dangerous process. Can you whistle with one leg behind your back while operating tongs with one hand and stroking a lizard-goat’s tongue with the other?”
Beanie stares at Sweets with mouth hanging open.
“Just put on the robes and let’s hurry.” Sweets says.

The pair stumble down the stairs and follow a downward sloping passageway. The passage is a roughly carved tunnel with only enough space for one man to pass through at a time. The tunnel weaves back and forth, and is completely black. Beanie moves slowly, feeling his way ahead. The air is stale and heavy. The echoes of chanting slowly get louder as they continue along. The passageway stops. “I think this is a door,” Beanie whispers, “I have an idea.”
Beanie knocks on the door. The sound of scraping metal fills the small space. A voice asks “What has brought you here?”
Beanie says, “We have brought you the much sought after cookies baked by the fae of the forest. The famed “Wilderness Girl Cookies”. They will compliment your lizard-goat milk most nicely.”
Sweets calls out “I am a lizard-goat milker!”

Bolts are heard sliding and the door opens to a dimmly lit chamber. “We have no need of your confectionery. The chosen await your skills in the milking chamber. Here is your agreed payment.” Says a younger, stronger looking figure, also robed in black and wearing a mask. This mask is made of wood and has been carved with a horrible looking frown. “Also, as agreed, you must drink this first.” He hands them two cups of a clear, foul smelling liquid.” Once taken, the figure folds his hands and says “We are tales in the darkness.”

The man picks up a bag of coins and throws it at Beanie’s feet.

“Oh, thank you!” Sweets says as he takes the cup and raises it to his lips.
Beanie takes the cup, it has the smell of burnt toast and strawberries.
“Sweets, what is this?” Beanie asks.
Sweets finishes his cup. “I don’t know, it isn’t bad. Hey why did it get so dark?”
“What are you talking about?” Beanie asks.
“I can’t see anything!” Sweets retorts.

Beanie waves his hand in front of Sweets face and gets no response. He tries to put the cup down, but he is stopped. The cloaked figure grabs his hand, four more figures step out from the shadows and grab Beanie. “You must drink” one says and they force Beanie to drink. The liquid pours down his face as he struggles to fight them. Despite his struggle, Beanie’s sight leaves him as well.

Unseen hands push along the pair, then suddenly they are gone as a door slams behind them.
The chanting continues to grow louder and faster paced. “Grrahadhsg!”

“That’s Chumples! We must find him!” Says sweets.

“What’s all this business about milking? How are you going to milk HIM?”

“There is a secret to that old song about lizard-goat milk, Beanie. And you must never repeat it to anyone. It is only the milk of the males that possesses dangerous magic. But there are few left who know how it may be obtained. That knowledge has been passed down through my family to me.”

“That they were expecting another ‘milker’ is strange, I know of no others in this area.”

There is a blood curtling scream. And the chanting stops. Beanie and Sweets stop talking and listen. Silence. The lack of visual or audio stimulation allows fear to grip them. A warm breeze touches their faces and fills their nose with a horrible stench.
Something pushes them forward and they stumble forward bracing themselves upon the walls. There is something sticky covering them. Again they are forced forward, wet strands of something hit their faces. The pushes become more frequent, the strands more dense. They begin to move like tentacles, wrapping behind their heads pulling them forward to the unknown.

The squeezing, pulling tentacles increase in number, propelling the protesting Sweets and Benie. When at last they seem completely enveloped in a writhing mass they find themselves free, but also in free fall. The pair wildly flail in an attempt to catch hold of something to stop their descent. Sweets manages to grab a hold of something and hangs dangling in the air.
Beanie’s descent is stopped when he is caught by something or someone. Quickly he is stood up by the unseen force. A loud chant begins, voices boom from all sides.

“Milk! milk! mahfaeraak mu fent lahney ko faal arms se lot gein!”

“Gruglach!” Chumples call, and breath hits Beanie in the face. An object is placed in Beanie’s hand his other places upon Chumples.

“Milk!” He is commanded by an unsceen voice, and the chant renews with vigor.
“Milk! Milk! Milk!”

“Sweets, where are you?”

Filled with panic and fear, Beanie, still blinded by the poison drink of the cultists, begins to focus on the one thing of which he truely cares. What his hope and his heart are tied to may bring him peace and steadiness. Blocking out the rythmic chanting of the cultists, the cries for help of Sweets, and the horrifying bleats of Chumples, Beanie pictures the bag of gold tossed at his feet just moments before. Under his breath he repeats to himself, “Gold, gold, gold, with gold I shall be bold.”
Taking a deep breath he moves closer to Chumples, feeling around until he finds his face. “Chumples, I know we haven’t always been on the best terms, but I need your help. These people want your milk and I want their money. Will you help us?”
“GLUTTERGUURF!” bleats Chumples. Then he rams Beanie straight in the head with his horns and Beanie falls to the floor writhing in pain. But this pain is not normal, it is a headache filled with strange images. A kaleidoscope fills Beanie’s mind. A lizard-goat with a long white beard stands upon a golden boulder, a crown upon his head. Men with lizard-goat heads dancing wildly. A storm where apples fall from the sky. Goblets of milk spilled upon the earth. Flames, stars, leashed men, mountains peaks filled with goats, and over and over the images fill Beanie’s mind. Then in an instant they are gone except for one, the full moon fills his mind and a faint ticking of a clock can be heard within his head.

Beanie stands up, and hears the screaming voice of Sweets rapidly approaching.
Beanie crumples under the weight of Sweets as he breaks Sweets fall. Sweets stands up, placing his food directly on Beanie’s leg. A cracking sound, and then “Owww! My knee!” Beanie writhes in pain. Chumples bleats and the cultists chant, “Milk! Milk! Milk!”
Sweets blindly makes his way towards Chumples. “Sweets,” Beanie calls out, “Take this goblet from me, it is to be filled with the milk!” Sweets stumbles back towards Beanie, accidently kicking him in the face, Beanie looses consciousness. Sweets takes the goblet and begins the milking ritual.
The cultists become silent with the occassional “Ooo and Ahh” escaping their lips.
Several minutes later Sweets announces he is finished. The goblet is quickly stripped from his hand. The sound of pouring is heard.
“Drink my brothers! Drink for the great Tongagik!”
In unison they shout “Tongagik!” and begin to drink.
Sweets cannot tell you what happened next for he remained blind. Chumples did witness the events, but would not tell the tale. For in those moments after they drank there was a great chaos of sound. Retching, whining, garbled screams, panicked yells for help, and unidentified sounds which caused Sweets stomach to knot up with nausea. For half an hour did the cacophony go on, until Sweets and Chumples were left in silence. When Beanie awoke, Sweets described the horror of it. Beanie found he could not walk. Sweets was able to release Chumples from his bonds, but still the two friends were blind, but seemingly completely abandoned in this dungeon. Beanie wept, “My gold, my gold…” he bemoaned.

A slight smell of smoke begins to fill the air, and there is a rythmic sound, could it be something breathing? It would have to be something large if it were.

A lost soul rises from the mud from whence it fell from Beanies shoulder. Just a day before it bore witness to the measure of intelligence held by the young man, and it dealt him such a blow as to knock him unconscious. A strange state for a disembodied soul to experience to be sure.
The soul, seeing that his companions were gone, made way to Hashnuk’s emporium and abode. There he found his fellow lost souls. Hashnuk sits in a chair in his sitting parlor. He is rolling strange polyhedral objects and making notations on a piece of paper. The other souls float above another chair talking amongst themselves.

Chapter 3

Sweets insists they go see if anyone needs help, the help of Beanies healing hands.
Enkirash is hesitant and Hashnuk encourages them saying he will first stop by his shop to get some fire fighting magic items. Sweets and Beanie arrive on the seen of absolute chaos. Some townsfolk are hard at work on the water bucket line trying to douse the inn. Beanie gets straight to work pulling bodies from the carnival ruins. Upon Beanie’s shoulder sits one of the floating souls. Beanie grabs the arm of a motionless person pinned under a barrel. A warm sensation flows down Beanie’s arm. The trapped person begins to move and is able to free themselves.
“Thank you, you have saved my life. I am in your debt.”
Some guards come running.

“Princess, you are safe!”

The guards quickly whisk the Princess to safety, over her shoulder she calls, “What is your name?” Beanie raises his hand and shouts, “My name is Beuuggghhh!” His words turned into a grunt as a goat, finally freeing itself from being lodged through a wooden sign high above, falls on top of Beanie, pinning him to the ground. When he gets up, the princess is gone.

A strange gurgling voice says “Griiiiive us the taaaasty goooooat.” Beanie, still on the ground turns his head, three halfling sized figures, each with the head of a rat, are standing there. Dirty matted rat hair, huge chipped teeth, and patchwork clothes suggest these are not typical townsfolk. Two of them are armed with rusty daggers, the third, taller than the others by a head, holds a shiny short sword and wears leather armor obviously made to fit a man twice his size. One of the rat-men is dragging a blood soaked sack.
Sweets blubbers, seemingly in shock, “RRRRR Rat people? I I I I think we should go now Beanie!”

Beanie gets up for the second time, the ground is slippery here.
“Hello sirs, I am Beanie. Please, please take the goat. But be careful, it seems to be a champion jumper. You guys sure look tough!” Beanie lowers his voice, “Are you one of those city gangs? Is it true you kill people for looking at you the wrong way? You know like this.” Beanie squints with one eye, raises his eyebrow with the other in a very uncomfortable looking way.

The rat-men start to chuckle. “Biggs, go get’r ours goat.” says the taller rat-man.
“I is Scrumb, leader of Claw, the meansest toughsest gang you ever see-ed. Wedge and Biggs be my rights and lefts hands rats. I shoulds cut yer face off for that look.”

Beanie wipes the look off his face. “Oh, you do sound tough! Do you think I could join your gang? I have always thought about pushing people around and threatening them. Could you teach me?”

The blue light jumps off Beanies shoulder and flies over to Sweets. “Beanie, are you crazy? You are allergic to goat meat! A gang diet would kill you!”

The blue light jumps off Sweets shoulder and falls to the ground where it remains motionless.

Biggs points his dagger towards Sweets, “Wat ya got against goat? Is healthy you!”
Wedge pulls on Scrumb’s sleeve and then whispers to him. Scumb tilts his head looking at Beanie, then shrugs. “Tells ya wat, we’s gonna play a game, if ya’s win, we’s gonna train you.”
Beanie nods confidently, “A game, yes, I am game for a game.”
Again Wedge whispers to Scrumb.

“I spy with my little eye, something brown. With sleeves. And pockets. It’s over there.” Scrumb points.
Looking around Beanie goes over and picks up a soiled coat that someone had dropped. “This?”
“Yeah, gives it to me. Okay, I spies with my little eye, two more coats, three wide brimmed hats, and as many change purses as ya can find.”
Determinedly, Beanie runs towards the remains of the goat races, “Come on Sweets! We are gonna be scoundrels!” Sweets runs after still complaining about the poor dietary values of gangs.
Not long after the Claw gang well supplied by Beanie’s efforts.
“Dats good, dats good. Now ya gotta do one more thing for us.”
“Take this sword and drop it in the town well. Now, keeps it hidden, and drop when its dark. We’s going to take these goats to our lair but Biggs here will be following ya to make sure ya do wat we says. Got it?”
Beanie salutes, “Yes sir Mister Scumb!” Beanie takes the sword, it is the finest metal he has ever seen and it seems to be humming. He attempts to shove it down his pants, but only slices them open. Sweets averts his eyes and starts looking for a pair of pants. “Beanie, I found you a new pair of pants sticking out from under this crate, but they still have legs in them.”
Scrumb and Wedge laugh as they head back away from town. Biggs stands there, impatiently tapping his dagger in the palm of his hand.

Biggs: “Hey, hey, hey! Watcha gots theres?”

Sweets: “Look’s like a map for the location of some excellent mushrooms. What do you think it means?”

Beanie: “Obviously it’s a treasure map! Mushrooms must be code for something. Hmmm, mushrooms, mushrooms…. Much-Runes! Must mean there are magical items to be had!”

Biggs: “Lets me see, hmm yes, a map. The Claw always splits it’s findin’s.”
He grabs the map, but Beanie grips hard and the map rips in half. Biggs quickly puts his half in his pocket.
Biggs: “We can shows this to Scrumb when we are done, less you trying to weasel your way out.”

Beanie: “It will be at least two hours before sunset, what are we supposed to do until then?”

The wind shifts, and there is screaming and shouting as the east stone wall of the Sly Fix collapses in a pile of rubble, flaming debris shower the area. Beanie spies an old man clutching a bucket trapped under a burning beam.
Beanie runs to him.
The old man holds out the bucket to Beanie with a shaking hand and begins to mutter, his eyes close. Beanie takes the bucket and tries to hear what the old man says.
Suddenly his is yanked away and is being dragged. Stumbling, Beanie rights himself having to run to stay on his feet. He looks but can see no one pulling him save for the bucket. He tries to release it but he cannot. The bucket pulls Beanie straight to the market square fountain. The bucket plunges into the water and so does Beanie. Moments latter the two are barreling towards the fires. The bucket swings Beanie around several times and launches him over the burning in. Traveling through the air with Beanie the bucket releases a torrent of water over the inn, far beyond its capacity. Beanies body barely hits the ground before he is once again hurtling towards the fountain. This plays out several more times as Beanie calls for help.
Sweets and Biggs, eager to assist, grab two buckets and join Beanie in the firefighting, though their leaps and water delivery are far less dramatic. It isn’t very long before the fire is out. Beanie falls to the ground, bruised and exhausted. He catches a glimpse of the bucket laying besides him. “Product of Hashnuk’s Worlds of Wonder” is stamped on the side. Beanie passes out.

“Pathetic. What exactly are you, a jester in training?”
Opening his eyes Beanie sees a dark shape, its features lost in the brilliance of the sun behind it.
“Listen boy, run home to your mother, for if you-” Before he could finish a splash of water hits Beanie in the face.
“If you continue-” Another splash. The shape raises a long staff and pins the golden bucket to the ground. It actively struggles to break free.
“If you continue this path you will find torture and pain beyond your imagination.”
The figure takes a step back as Beanie begins to levitate. In a blink of an eye he is flying, feet first, through the village at impossible speed. His motions ends without deceleration, his stomach churns. “Ugh, I am going to be sick” Beanie says. Eyes refocusing, Enkirash is standing above him looking down. Shaking his head with a frown, Enkirash raises a hand and slaps Beanie in the face. Beanie flies off again, this time head first. Faintly he hears Hashnuk’s voice, “What about my bucket?”

Beanie stops again without slowing down, spotting the bucket he grabs it and vomits profusely into it. Again Beanie tries to look at the shadowy man.
“Beanie Apple- AHHH!” This time the unknown figure is being splashed by the bucket, but this time it is not filled with water. The figure morphs into a large flying shadow, wings flapping by its sides.
A hissing voice says “Run away boy, or you will feel my acid!” Then the shape flies off.
“You know, he is all talk. We can teach him who’s stronger. Can’t we Beanie?” a voice by Beanie’s side says. “So, why don’t we go get him! You, me, and a bucket full of slice and dice!”
The sword given to Beanie by Scrumb is bouncing around on its tip, a full set of moving lips on its hilt mouths its word as it speaks. “My name is Forenda the Feared, and I do not like being threatened. You and I shall rip that-” Water hits Beanie right in the face.
“Stop it you stupid bucket!” Beanie grabs the sword, swings, and slices the bucket clear in two.
Beanie feels funny, his eyes closed, he opens them to darkness.
Water splashes him in the face and he notices that he is propped up against a stone wall, bushes surrounding him, Sweets, and Biggs. It is night time, a half moon dimly illuminates the landscape.
Sweets is standing there holding a bucket. “Finally, I thought you’d never wake up. Its time to throw the sword down the well, we have been trying to pry it out of your hand but you wouldn’t have it.”

“Git up, git up, Beanie.” Biggs says as he struggles to lift Beanie to his feet. Working his way behind him, he props Beanie up on his back and slowly pushes him out of the shrubbery.
“Yes! Onward, let us slay our enemy.”
“Alls ya gotta do it drop it in the well. Ya ainst slayin’ nobody,” Biggs struggles to say, straining to keep Beanie up and moving.
“Ah, a fine young man you are Beanie, I shall make you a celebrated champion.”
Biggs jumps to the side, allowing Beanie to fall to the ground.
“Uh, who said dat?” Biggs asks in fear.
“It is I Forenda the Feared! Ancient sword of legend, slayer of Vorx, slayer of Hemubtet, the maimer of Wendolf, destroyer of Xylox the Heinous, slayer of…” the sword goes on. Biggs grabs his face in frustration. “Yous woken da sword! Oh poisoned cheese cakes! Wes failed, da boss is not gonna bes happy about dis. Wes can’t deliver da sword likes dis! Gives it here!”
Beanie’s arm raises and starts pointing the sword towards Biggs. “You are no champion my rat faced friend. Your task is complete, go back to your thieving and leave us to our glory.”
Splash! Sweets lowers the bucket, “Did that help?”
Beanie sits up. “I would like you to throw that bucket down the well please.”
“But it’s magic. I would never be so careless. Look.” Sweets places his face above the bucket ant speaks into it. “I would like some milk please.” his voice echoes. The bucket quickly fills with milk, which Sweets begins to drink heartily.
Beanie sighs. “Okay, but I don’t want one more bucket of water splashed on me ever! You got that?”
Sweets nods. Beanie shakes his hand vigorously. “I can’t seem to put this thing down.”
“You shall sheath me when I deem it appropriate,” Forenda announces.
“Now, you must jump into the well so we may find the evil there within and slay it.”
Biggs gives out a scream. “No! No! You mustn do dat!”

A light begins to glow around the sword, illuminating Beanie as it grows in strength. A breeze flows upwards, Beanies hair whisking in the white glow. A vortex of leaves and stones slowly swirl around him. The sound of stirring music sounds can be heard growing from somewhere in town.
Beanie holds Forenda aloft high above his head. In a strange tongue both Beanie and Forenda cry “ᚹᚩᛖ ᛏᚩ ᚦᛖ ᚠᚪᚾᚳᚢᛁᛋᚻᛖᛞ!” With that the music becomes louder and stronger. Beanie crouches down then jumps towards the well, completing a forward roll in midair, and disappears beneath its rim.

“NO!” screams Biggs. “Beanie!” shouts Sweets as the pair rush to the well edge.
The well is filled with a brilliant light and the sound of confident laughter, a geyser of water flies up and blasts the roof off the well. Biggs and Sweets are knocked to the ground and have to fight the flow of water to return to the well. Looking once more down the well, they see Beanie standing in a threatening stance, ready to strike with sword blade at his shoulder. Before him a serpentine shape unwinds, a water serpent of green exceeds Beanie’s height by half and bares its fangs.

Beanie’s brow furrows as he examines the creature before him, not exactly common, but neither exotic, he recognizes a giant water serpent defending its territory.

Looking down on Beanie, the serpent quickly dives down to the water’s surface and darts towards Beanies legs. It bites down with razor sharp teeth. Beanie yells in pain, now bleeding heavily, swings his blade towards the beast but its body slips below the water surface, out of reach.
The snake yanks Beanie off his feet but this time he scores a glancing blow to the snake, barely affecting it. Beanie flounders in the water as the beast releases him for a moment only to get a better grip with a second bite to his leg. Beanie cries out, “What kind of sword are you? Can you fight this thing on your own? Because you are going to have too if this thing drowns me!”
“Once more! Strike again! Focus!”
Beanie lifts the blade again and strikes at the serpent. This time his blow drives the blade deep into the creature. It releases Beanie’s leg and retreats to the well wall, bleeding from its wound.
Beanie lets out an attack yell and drives the blade into the beast once more. Rays of light shine from the sword and spin the serpent hisses as its body looses all color and begins to fade and become translucent. An instant later there is a blinding flash and the serpent is gone.

“Well done lad, however, you are soft. You must begin training to increase your strength and speed. Perhaps some armor will toughen you up as well,” Forenda says.
“What? Sounds like work. Anyway, you defeated your foe.”
“Oh no my lad, that was a lowly beast, our enemy still lies ahead!”
Forenda’s dim glow falters, “I must rest now, do not seek our foe until I have revived and be on your guard, you have been marked.”
“What does that mean? Marked?” Beanie questions, but Forenda is now silent. Beanie sighs and
looking up sees the well is sixty feet deep. He also sees a gap in the wall about five feet up.

A feather slowly falls from the top of well, beanie holds out his hand and catches it. He begins to slowly float up. Soon he passes the gap in the wall, it is a door, slightly ajar. He cannot see inside as he continues slowly to the top of the well. As his head clears the top he sees Enkirash watching him. Besides him Biggs silently beats against the wall of the magic blue cube that he is trapped inside. Sweets is preparing bandages soaked in some liquid within the magic gold bucket.
“Thank you for your help,” Beanie says as Sweets runs over and wraps his wounded leg.
” ‘Thank you, Master’ is how you should address me. And you are welcome, may I examine that blade you hold?”
Beanie gladly hands it over.
Looking at the blade, Enkirash quietly reads. “In this quest for honor, I shall fight for you. Now I’m so much stronger, we have the power of two.” He runs his hand over the blade, and then recoils as if shocked. Enkirash hands the weapon back to Beanie. “It seems this sword is yours alone now. I suggest you conceal it.”

“This town has been beset with robberies. And our friend Hashnuk has been victimized as well. The bodies of my companions have been both turned to stone and shrunken in an attempt to magically preserve them. Those figurines have been stolen as well. Let us retire for the night so Sweets can tend your wounds and that I can question this ruffian here.” Enkirash taps on Biggs’ prison cube. It and Biggs both vanish. Enkirash starts walking away, waving his hand behind him for Beanie to follow. A faint “ghruuragg,” can be heard amongst the sound of crickets in the night.

Chapter 2

“Will you please stop whistling.”
Enkirash, the irritated, directs Sweets.
“Certainly, for I have completed my song!”
Sweets clears his throat.
“This is a tale of an adventuring band.
Begun by a man with healing hands.
He took with him, those he would gage;
One brave, one goat, one woodchuck mage.

They seek a brother long lost,
to provide healing for a cost.
They seek exotic foods plenty
and their pockets never empty!

Beanie, Beanie Appleton!
I shout your name to everyone!
Beanie, Beanie Appleton!
Where be danger, he does not run!”
Sweets voice carries far and wide.

Enkirash turns on Sweets and with blackness in his eyes yells “Silence!”
Sweets freezes in his tracks.
“You guys are so loud today. Must be the weather,” Beanie remarks.
“Yes, quite,” Enkirash says, his voice returning to normal though his look of murder towards Sweets had not. “But I think I smell rain coming.”

“Nonsense,” says Beanie. “The wind is from the North West, definitely going to be a dry day.”

Enkirash turns, with sneer. He takes his staff and taps it on the ground three times. Rain starts to fall, but only on Beanie.
“Well I’ll be,” Beanie says as he tries grab Enkirah’s bag. “You got an umbrella in there?”

“Unhand my bag!”

As they wrestle with the bag, a flask spills out and lands on the ground. Several colored lights swirl around inside. Enkirash gasps, quickly picks up the flask and examines it.
“Oh, no there is a cra…” The flask explodes sending glass into everyone. Chumples is hit in the eye and starts ramming randomly, connecting with each of the three men. There are shouts, cries of pain, and just plain crying as Chumples wrecks havoc upon all.

The lights spin around in the air and voices seem to come from them. All at once they speak in a confusing cacophony.

“Beanie, you idiot!” Says the pink soul. “You broke the flask!”

A blue soul floats around in a circle, and says:
“Wow, it’s been quite a long time since being stored in the flask.”

“Uhh… Not really. I think just a few seconds?”

Enkirash, seemingly embarrassed, says “Um, yes, well it a has been a little time. Don’t worry my friends, we are closer to getting your bodies back. Behold, Beanie Appleton shall deliver us to Hashnuk very soon. Won’t you Beanie.” Enkirash glares at Beanie and mouths something to him.
Beanie, looking confused, says “Bam bam must stick?”

“The idiot speaks gibberish! I doubt he even knows what his own name is.

Sweets interrupts, “Excuse me, Master Enkirash, Beanie, um lights, but there seems to be a parade headed our way.” He points down the road.
In the distance a caravan of white robed figures, many with shaved heads, is solemnly approaching. From a small wagon they pull, one of their number is tossing something to either side of the procession in some kind of ritual. There seem to be about ten men and or creatures
“Isn’t that interesting… I am not sure, but I think I know who they are. Let us approach them.” Enkirash says as he starts marching down the road.

Enkirash approaches the caravan in a confident stride. Beanie, Sweets and Chumples chase after him. “Oh boy! I love parades! Look, I bet that is candy!” shouts Beanie as he breaks into a run. As Beanie rushes past Enkirash, Enkirash raises a hand in protest, but then gives up.

Beanie claps his hands as he passes the parade on the right side and heads towards the cart in the back where things are being thrown by a chubby bald monk in a white robe.
Beanie starts picking up small brown round objects from the ground and stuffs them in his pockets. The monk smiles and tosses him some more.

“Blessings on you! Many blessings!” he says.
Several monks in front of the cart chant the same, raising their hands to the air, then waving them over the ground. They repeat this over and over.

Sweets joins Beanie and examines one of the small brown balls. Sniffing it, he cringes and says “I don’t think this is candy.” “Sure it is!” Beanie says and pops one in his mouth. Immediately his spits it out and starts coughing. “What is this, some kind of joke? What kind of parade throws poison?”

“It is the excreta of the common ācweorna.” Enkirash says as he steps next to Beanie, all the while bowing his head towards the monks.”

“Well this excreta tastes like crap!” Beanie empties his pockets on the ground.
“These are the monks of Sciuridae, they distribute these as blessings in honor of the Great Sciuridae, whom they believe….” Enkirash trails off as the parade finally passes them. Enkirash stares, open mouthed, at the opposite side of the road. Standing there is a stout man, with a orange-red beard, black wide rimmed hat and elaborate clothing. The purple sash that hangs across him is trimmed in silver, by his side is a large sack filled to capacity. Behind him a swirling cloud quickly dissipates as does a glowing blue light in his right hand.

The man smiles widely and beings “Hello my friends! I am, OOF!” The man is knocked to ground mid sentence when Chumples rams him directly in the chest! “No, no! Get off of me you disgusting beast!” The two struggle when Chumples bites the man’s hand causing the man to release a blue glowing stone which flies into the air. Chumples watches it fly up and jumps to chomp on it.
“NO! Bad goat!” the man shouts, but it is too late. Chumples bites down on the stone and a swirl of cloud envelopes him then vanishes in an instant. Chumples is gone.

“Chumples!” Shouts Sweets. “Where, wha…, Where is my goat?”
Beanie rushes over and helps the man up. “Enkirash, it’s him! This is the guy, Hash Book!”

“My friend thank you, Hashnuk, purveyor of fantastic and rare wares, at your service.” Hashnuk says as he makes a grand flourish of a bow.

The lights all swarm around Hashnuk’s head, all speaking at once.
“Yes, yes, I know! Please one at a time. I can explain, I can explain! Why do you think I am here? I have been looking for you! Where have you been?”

Enkirash steps forward and boldly states “I have brought here, we must speak in private.” Enkirash begins waving his hands and speaking foreign words a transparent blue chamber forms around Hashnuk and Enkirash. As they begin to speak their words are hidden from everyone.

“Wait! I can read lips,” says Beanie. “Let me translate.”

Beanie’s face distorts as he squints to observe the pair within the blue cabinet.
“I have been searching for your lemon chives.”
“My friend! You kept my cabins corked up in a scary hampsters! How did you lunge meat fillets?”
“Because you cannot bench chowder. You were there when thirsty worms frothed bow-ties, yet you eradicated and sneaked their lazy booboos.”
“Nonsense! I shaved their bodies! You would rather crowbar have taken hens? No my friend, my stallion was the only way. Come back to my shop and I will show you trout reading, and wading turkey thighs.”

“Wow! That’s amazing Beanie!” sweets remarks. “Those highbrow folks do sure have some fancy talk. I wonder what it means? I sure would like to see a trout read though.”

GULAGGHR GRUGGURAH bleats the frightened Chumples. He tumbles through the air, bright clouds, every color of the rainbow billow around him, swirling and pulsating. Then suddenly he appears in the middle of a field next to a tavern. An area behind the tavern is being prepared for a festival. Bright banners are being hung, temporary seating is being erected. Several burly men are carrying large barrels of ale and setting them up along a fenced off racing track. Above the entrance to the spectator area is a sign that reads “The Sly Fox Goat Race.”

“What ya be doing outa ya pen!” Says a goat handler as he grabs for Chumples neck. Chumples bleats, “GLURPY” and then vanishes, but appears three feet ahead of the man. “Blimey! That’s a magic goat! He a sure’n to win the race!” The man picks up a stone and chucks it at Chumples head. Chumples falls to the ground unconscious.

Chumples wakes to a grubby, one eyed, peg-legged man waving a couple carrots in front of his nose. Chumples eagerly snatches them up.
“There’s a good boy, Oh you are gonna make me a pretty penny aren’t you.” says the peg-legged man. Chumples also has the number 13 painted on his sides.
Soon Chumples is lined up at the starting line with the peg-legged man waiting near the finish line with a pound of carrots behind his back.
There is a ominous glint in Chumple’s eye.

Enkirash glances over his shoulder at Beanie for a second.
“Ouch! My eye!” Beanie shouts and quickly rubs his eyes. Beneath his hands streams of red run down his cheeks.
A few moments later the chamber vanishes and the light rush to continue their conversations with Hashnuk as Enkirash approaches Beanie.
“I’m blind, I’m blind!” Beanie shouts, removing his hands reveals a tomato smashed to each eye. Enkirash smacks them away, “Listen my solanum-eyed friend, we are accompanying this man to his place of business. Do not trust talk to him, he is a liar and a cheat.”
Enkirash goes on to explain that the lights are the souls of brave adventurers. They were on a quest with Hashnuk when disaster over took them. During a battle with a chamelion, their souls were ripped from their bodies. Only I and Hashnuk were unaffected. I was able to escape and later used magical means to collect the disembodied souls. Hashnuk was gone, and so were the bodies of my companions. Hashnuk claims that he salvaged them and they are in safe keeping at his establishment. He claims it was his plan to reunite soul with body after retreat.
“That’s all well and good,” Sweets says, “But where is my goat?”

There is a thunk, a small cloud of smoke rises from the ground. As it clears, a pile of chewed up carrots has appeared at Sweet’s feet.

Meanwhile again….
There is a tuba blast from the main stage area. A man wearing goat pelts and a goat horned helmet raises a cone to his mouth and announces the days events. “Welcome to the 20th annual Sly Fox Inn goat races! This year we are honored with a very special spectator, Princess Jenny!” The large crowd cheers and many shouts of “A toast! A toast!” are heard. The princess sits in a makeshift thrown on the right of the stage. She raises her very large sized grog mug and shouts “Let’s get ready to rumble!”
The crowd goes wild, the sound of beer pouring fills the air, out of barrels, into mugs, into throats. The Princess waves a green flag in her other hand to signal the start of the race. The gates swing open and the goats are off running.
Chumples spies the carrots that his new found friend is waving. He is starving, despite eating several times today.

The first goat to challenge Chumples for position is George, Chumples learned all the goats names while waiting at the gates. There is no way George is getting those carrots, thinks Chumples. A surge of blue energy travels across Chumples horns as he rams them into George’s side. A puff of smoke and George is gone, but not far. One of the large ale barrels explodes! Shrapnel and beer are thrown in every direction. Standing where the barrel once stood is George, soaking wet and dazed.
Chumples continues at a frantic pace, next up is Clover. Plowing straight into her, Chumples horns flash again. Clover’s backend can be seen kicking furiously on stage as her front end is seemingly stuffed inside a tuba. Try as he might, the musician cannot blow the goat out. At this point the crowd begins to panic. “Our ale! We are going to run out of grog!” some of them shout.
Goats are flung straight into the crowds from out of nowhere. The spectators fall like dominos, the ground becomes muddy as more and more steins are toppled. Nelly is shot into a row of barrels causing a chain reaction, they being to roll out into the stands. Weird Beard is sent directly into the Sly Fox Inn’s kitchen, more precisely, the fire. People run screaming from the inn as a flaming Weird Beard runs wild, setting things a blaze everywhere. It isn’t long before the entire inn is engulfed in flames. The sky darkens as thick clouds of black smoke fill the air. Women and children are cowering, grown men are crying. “It’s the end of the world!” is heard shouted amongst the chaos.(edited)

Chumples races on, his friend and the carrots go running off in fear, and Chumples veers off course after him, leaving the course. A few minutes later the voice of a shaken announcer calls out, “The winner of this year’s race is Jasper! Please trample responsibly as you flee! All refunds will be paid as funeral benefits.”

Sometime later Chumples is found at furiously eating from a market vegetable cart of Maxwell Yurnvet, who is currently hanging on for his life to the steeple of a church.
Chumples is frantic, no matter how much he eats, he is not satisfied. Several townspeople are scurrying about attempting to rescue various others from rooftops. A few men, armed with pitchforks watch the goat from a twelve foot distance.
From the church comes Malicor, chief cleric and town magistrate. With dark slicked back hair, square jaw, and meticulously emboirderd, red robes, Malicor is a imposing figure. Brushing the guards aside, he approaches the goat carefully. “Have your sack ready men. I shall nullify the magic, but you must capture it quickly and bring it to the church basement.”.
Malicor produces a necklace from his robes and inches closer to Chumples. “Now!” Calls Malicor, as he quickly lays the necklace over Chumples horns. Five men tackle the goat, tying it’s legs together and placing it in a sack. They hoist the goat and quickly carry it to the church. Malicor follows and clears the church of visitors before shutting the doors.
Malicor thanks the townsfolk and assures them that things are safe now. He urges them to go help put out the fire at the Sly Fox Inn.
“Well now my hungry friend, let’s see if this satisfies you.” Malicor says as he fills a bucket with carrots and potatoes. He uncorks a bottle of brown liquid and pours it over them.
Several hours later strange sounds and groans are barely audible from the street. Eventually they stop and Malicor leaves the church. He returns with a few villagers who then leave with several heavy buckets.

Back with Beanie and company.
Sweets is whining and depressed about his missing lizard-goat.
Enkirash is quiet and has the look of deep thought.
Hashnuk is complaining about having to walk the whole way back to Vermilion after Chumples swallowed his travel stone.
Beanie ceaselessly asks all kinds of questions along the way.
Hashnuk also offers Beanie an amulet of protection, armor made from otyugh hide, and an enchanted short sword. The prices are astonishingly low, but alas Beanie has no money.
At long last, they arrive at the outskirts of Vermilion.
Beanie grasps his nose, “Does it always smell like this?”
Hashnuk strains to look ahead, “Of course not my friends! Oh something is amiss, yes! Yes, something is burning. Look!” He points to the right towards a small billow of smoke in the distance.

Chapter 1

Beanie Appleton is a twenty year old young man who lives on his parent’s farm not far from the town of Vermilion. He toils daily in the fields and tends his father’s few farm animals. Beanie has a creed. When he was ten, a stranger was passing through the area when he stopped and bought a horse from Beanie’s father. The man was dressed in the neatest clothes. He wore a wide brimmed hat edged in silver and a bright purple cape. His detailed gloves, belt and sash shouted that he was a wealthy man. This was proven by the small fortune that he quickly paid for his father’s horse, Clicker. The man took notice of Beanie as he departed and said these words to Beanie, “Don’t work to hard!” Surely the wealthy man was wise, perhaps those words were the secret to becoming like he? So Beanie set forth to live by those words every day!

Today, many years later, Beanie thinks upon the words of that wealthy man as he leans against the barn, picking a lunch of goatlizard cheese out of his teeth. “Beanie! Beanie, come ‘ere!” Beanie’s father motions him to hurry to the old farmhouse from the doorway. Beanie shuffles to the house an says “Whatcha need pop?” “What is wrong with Daisy?” Mr. Appleton asks. On the floor lies their dog, Daisy. She is motionless.

Beanie sighs, “Looks like Daisy’s a gon’r. I’ll go bury her out back.” Bending down to pick up Daisy’s lifeless corpse, the dog suddenly jerks up and bites Beanie on the hand! “My word! My word!” Mr. Appleton cries, “You gots the healin’ hands son!” Mr. Appleton rushes over and grabs Beanies hands and gazes at them in wonder. “You gots to go to town and see the pastor!” Mr. Appleton runs off yelling, “Honey! Beanie’s going to be a holy man!” Rubbing his bitten hand, Beanie glares at Daisy and heads back outside to return to his leaning against the barn when his father returns with a bundle, walking stick and cloak. “No time to loose boy! Best head to town now so you can be healin’ those sick. Her’s a tin cup for d’nations. Make sure you tell ’em the healin’ ain’t free.”

Beanie grudgingly puts on his tattered brown cloak. Tossing the sack over his shoulder he finds it is very light and practically empty. Looking inside he finds an old loaf of bread, a wooden knife, and a set of undergarments. Beanie raises a finger and opens his mouth to speak when his father pushes him out the door. “Goodbye my son, make us rich, um I mean proud!” Tumbling backwards, Beanie falls and lands on top of something lumpy. “Oof! Get off me Beanie!” Comes a cry. James Beltonbar, better known as Sweets, lay in the dirt beneath Beanie. “Spying on our kitchen again, eh Sweets?” says Beanie as he rises and straightens his clothes, declining to offer his friend a hand up. Sweets grins. “Where you going?” He asks, ignoring the question. Beanie shares the story of the miracle. Sweets is truly amazed and decides to join him. “Do we need to gather anything?” Sweets asks.

“Well, my dad gave me some bread and underwear…” Beanie starts. Interrupting Sweets shouts “Right!” and starts running for the road. “I’ll meet you on the road!” He shouts. Beanie sighs and heads out to the road. Sweet’s family farm was just on the other side of the road that lead to Vermilion. Beanie walked with no great speed and spied Sweets patiently waiting for him several minutes later. Sweets had an enormous bag, a halberd, and a lizard-goat on a leash. Still a few hundred feet away, Sweets was met by a man in a black cape wearing a mask with a large curved beak, also black. The discussion the two had was animated and ended with the masked man bowing and taking his leave in a direction opposite of Vermilion. The strange figure pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and was wiping his hands furiously.

“That man says plague has hit Vermilion!” Sweets explains to Beanie. “He said it wouldn’t be sane to travel there. But I says…” Sweets takes Beanie’s hand and places it on his forehead. “We aint got nothing to worry about.” The goat gives out a blood curdling bleat. “GULAGH GULAGH GULATH!”

Beanie crouches down and gives the L’goat a big hug. “Oh it’s good to see you Chumples!” Beanie says at Chumples licks Beanie’s face with his long forked tongue. “GULAAAGGGGCH!” Chumples bleats. The smell of fresh baking fills the air. Beanie raises and eyebrow at Sweets, “What’s in the sack?” He asks. Opening the bag, Sweets says, “My mother’s baked goods, they were for church, but since we are going there I thought I could take’m myself!” The bag held several paper wrapped large cakes, the smell was wonderful. “I also brought all the underwear I could find. I am still not sure what use it will be, but I trust your dad.” Beanie points out that Sweets seems to have brought his mothers underwear. Sweets agrees, smiling obliviously at Beanie. “What are we going to do with them?” Sweets asks. Beanie shrugs. Examining the road both East and West, Beanie finally decides that they will head West to Vermilion.

After two hours on the road, Chumples becomes irritable and they see something moving by the side of the road about a 200 feet ahead.

Beanie raises his hands and places them over his eyes as if they were a pair of looking glasses. “What are you doing?” Sweets asks. Squinting as he looks at the strange object, Beanie says, “There is something moving down there, it looks like some kind of animal thrashing about. Let’s move to the fields and try to go around it. And keep Chumples quiet.” The grass high as they leave the road, Chumples bounds off happily, and vanishes. Sweets shouts “Chumples! Come back!” Beanie frowns at him an says, “Shhhh! We are supposed to be sneaking.” Sweets nods, but continues to call in a whisper, “Chumples, Chumples, come here boy.”

Beanie convinces Sweets that the have to find out what is up ahead and that Chumples can wait. They slowly make their way through the tall grass, crouching low to the ground. A few yards now separate them from the road. Peering through the swaying grass they see what appears to be a woodchuck tangled in vines. It seems to be fighting them. “Glurgahba!” breaks the silence. From behind them Chumples comes running and jumping in a panic. Chumples is caught in some kind of vine that she is trying to break free from. She jumps over Sweets, and crashes into Beanie, knocking him over and entangling him in the vines. Chumples runs on towards the road, now dragging Beanie by the leg. Chumples hits the road, and turns back towards home. Beanie is swung around straight towards the woodchuck. Instinctively he catches the creature. It is almost completely encased in a green, prickly vine, and it is not happy. Snarling it attempts to bite at Beanie as the vine begin to wrap themselves around is hands. All while the pair is being dragged down the bumpy dirt road. Sweet jumps up and shouts, “Hey!”

Wrestling with woodchuck is all Beanie can handle. “Good ground hog, good ground hog! You don’t want to eat me!” Beanie says. The pair continue to be dragged down the road, kicking up a massive cloud of dust as they go. Without warning the groundhog stops moving, closes it’s eyes and begins to expand. Like a sheep’s bladder inflated with air, it’s body grows and stretches. The vines surrounding it pull tighter under the increasing pressure. Larger and larger the woodchuck grows. A horrific scene unfurls before Beanies eyes and he closes his eyes and begins to scream. The front legs elongate and grow fingers, the back legs shoot out, and the fur comes together and migrates to the top of its head. The face of the creature stretches and deforms into that of a person. The transforming creature raises his hands high and makes a motion and snaps his fingers. Suddenly the pair rise up into the air halting their progress and yanking Chumples to a dead stop. “Well, well, don’t you have a good set of lungs. Please, you may stop your screaming now.” Says the woodchuck-elf. “My name is Enkirash, I shall not harm you if you calm yourself.” He turns to look at Chumples and speaks a single foreign word. The lizard-goat then begins to eat the vines that entangle the trio. “That shouldn’t take long,” Enkirash says, “but my research has been ruined.” Beanie is completely amazed. He says, “I have never seen a woodchuck that could turn into an elf before. Um, you know, if you are going to go around parading as an elf, you should probably put some clothes on. I have an extra pair of underwear if you would like them.” Enkirash raises and eyebrow and peers eye to eye with Beanie. Enkirash sniffs him. “You smell… You have the scent of a man whom which I…” Enkirash pauses, thinking. “Whom I need to speak with. Are you an associate of Hashnuk, the trader?”

Seemingly annoyed with the conversation, Enkirash looks about and whistles loudly. From out of the dust cloud kicked up by their dragging comes Sweets. It appears he is struggling with a finely made green silk bag. The bag is yanking, and pulling Sweets towards Enkirash and Beanie. “I found ya, so I keep ya. Stop your wiggling!” Sweets yells at the bag. Enirash moves to take the bag. Sweets gasps at the sight of the naked elf and immediately turns his back. “Um, sir, you are naked as a babies bottom. I have some fine ladies underwear if you are interested.” says Sweets and he begins to rummage through his sack.

“That’s quite alright, I have my own.” Enkirash say. He opens the green bag and pulls out a shirt, pants, cloak, and various other items entirely too large to fit in such a small bag. After a few moments he is fully dressed in an impressive display of nobility and class. “Oooo, Ahhhhh” says Beanie, Sweets, and Chumples. “Glurpbulb!” Bleats the lizard-goat.

“Quite right my fine domesticated beast of burden. But never on a Tuesday.” Quips the wizard. Beanie becomes excited. “Oh, it is so nice to meet such a rich person. I have much appreciation with your ways and customs. I hope to follow in your footsteps.” Says Beanie. “I see, you wish to become my apprentice. This can be arranged, should you follow my every command. First, where can I find Hashnuk?” says Enkirash. Beanie day dreams of the he may one day dress in fine clothes and order others to do his bidding. After a few minutes Sweets smacks him on the back of the head, “He asked you a question.” Sweets whispers. “Hashnuk? I don’t know anyone named Hashnuk. Who is he? What does he look like?” Asks Beanie.

Enkirash winces and says, “He is my brother.” And proceeds to describe the man whom Beanie met as a child. After much debate and head slapping, the quartet eventually set out together towards Vermilion.

But before they set out. Enkirash produces a small dagger. He says, “This dagger, is ‘the way’, it will bind us together. To become my apprentice you must lick it. Taste the steel!” Beanie takes the dagger and looks it over. “What does it taste like?” He asks. “Bitterness, suffering, sweat, toil, failure, and money.” Enkirash answers.

“Money!” Beanie takes the blade and licks it several times.

Grimacing, Enkirash nods slowly. “Yes, your intelligence is beyond question. You shall make a good Cavia porcelus. Now let us be of