"Oh look, I won again!!" exclaimed Antonius. His fellow card players scowled and gave the young 'rookie' looks that Ant totally ignored. Scooping the coins toward him, he prepared to deal the next hand.
The Adventures of Antonius
The Adventures Of Antonius Tyrannon
In the year 1003AC
Written by Alastair
It had been a profitable night at the Rusty Halberd, a low grade tavern in a low grade town. The locals were surprisingly gullible, and playing the first half of the night badly had relaxed them even more; "Here's a country boy, come to spend his hard earned wages," they thought. But when that "country boy" had won the last few hands in quick succession, the sour faced dockmen he was playing against had begun to panic. To back out now would mean admitting defeat to a supposed beginner, something no serious gambler would do.
Antonius liked serious gamblers, they were so easy to con! Putting in a minimal stake, Ant carefully lost this hand, just to allay his opponents suspicions. Time for another drink. He excused himself and sauntered up to the barman he had bribed earlier in the night
"Another wine for me please" said Antonius with a wink.
"Of course, sir" said the barman, carefully filling his goblet with water. A clear head is the key to a good night's fun, after all, thought Ant. He reached for his cup, but was stopped by a cry from his table.
I haven't he thought desperately, I Bloody have!!
He turned to see one of the dock workers waving a set of cards in the air "Five Emperors!!!! Cheating B****rd!!" he cried.
Uh oh thought Antonius, what sort of amateur leaves the extra cards on the seat?
The answer was fast approaching him, it would be a dead amateur if these gentlemen had anything to do with it! Time to take a bow.
"Gentlemen, I do believe I have neglected an appointment with a friend of mine, and shall have to depart early. Now if I could just collect my winnings?..."
The look on the faces of the approaching men did not convince Ant that he was going to get his cash back easily, and now that they stood up, he could see that these were not the type of men that he wanted to be fighting.
"Obviously not. In that case good sirs, I bid you Good Day!" and with that he ran for the door.
They were surprisingly fast for big men, but nowhere near as fast as a fleeing Antonius. He ran, it didn't matter where he was running to, just what he was running from! Soon the sounds of pursuing footsteps faded, and Ant found himself wandering the back alleys of the town.
Ah yes, the town, Port Lucinius, Antonius' least favourite part of the Empire. Filthy smelly place, with a none too healthy population of burly dock workers, but the local populous was very willing to part with their cash. The last time he had been in Port Lucinius, he had been in a high stakes game with a Senator, and had won.., well, while not the most valuable treasure in the world, Connor did have his uses, what with the killing thing and all.
There are times I wish I hadn't given Connor his freedom, thought Ant, might have been handy to have a slave, then I could give the orders, rather than take them! Where was Connor, anyway? They had travelled together to Port Lucinius after that business in Thyatis, but the barbarian had gone and disappeared off with his Gladiator friends. Hmm, well, he can take care of himself I suppose, thought Antonius, but pickings are running thin this end of town. Better move on soon.
Now, how to get back to the Inn? Antonius looked around, suddenly realising how lost he was! Ah well, a little jaunt in the night might loosen me up, thought the plucky young adventurer, and set off through the alleys.
I've been here before, thought Ant, as he passed the same beggar for the third time round. I swear, I'm never coming back to this place if I ever get the chance to again! Turning down a different alley, Antonius walked a couple of yards before running into a dead end. Damn! He turned to leave... and was confronted by a horrific sight!
It's a ghost!! thought Ant, A GHOST!!!! Sure enough the apparition approached him with arms outstretched, a silent scream on it's lips. Fumbling through his terror, Antonius groped in his pockets for the one thing that might save him. He pulled out a small Hammer and Anvil symbol, held it in front of the thing, and cried "By the Holy Hammer of Halav, I command you to leave this place!"
The creature continued unabated.
Ant dropped the holy symbol of Halav, fumbled a little more before producing a small talisman - a wooden wheel surrounded by brass flames.
"By the power of Ixion, Lord of the Morning, turn back, creature of the night!!"
This thing really was getting close, now. Antonius produced an array of Holy Symbols.
"Zirchev? Petra? How about Vanya??"
The ghost reached out and grasped Antonius' shoulder. Cold pain shot through him at first, then he realised that he wasn't actually in any pain at all. In fact, the ghost's hand was passing harmlessly through his body. He reached out and poked the spectre in the chest, and with that, the "ghost" vanished into nothingness.
At the same time, powerful arms grabbed Ant and held him tight, he looked around to find two mercenaries holding him fast.
"At last, I've caught up with you, Tyrannon!!" came a high pitched nasal voice from the entry to the alleyway. Antonius groaned.
"Hello Devius," said Ant.
"Hello Antonius, I told you I'd find you!" declared the scarlet robed figure. "Did you think you could cross me and get away with it!?"
"Silence!!" barked the wizard "Ever since you double crossed me and stole my possessions, I've made it my life's quest to track you down and.... what??"
"It's not much of a life's quest if it only takes you a year, is it?"
The wizard stared at Ant as if he were a worm. "That's not the point. Where was I?"
Antonius quickly glanced at his two captors, and surveyed the alley as he answered, "You've tracked me down and...." Ah, that would do nicely......
"Oh yes, and now I'm going to watch, as my good friends here slowly torture and kill you!"
"That's it?" cried Ant, all the while thinking Stall Him!!
"That's the horrific revenge of Devius the Red? Oh, by the way your robes are stained, around the bottom, looks like bile."
"That's yellow trimming!" cried the affronted mage.
"If you want horrific revenge on me, put me in those robes and I'd die a hundred deaths. Red and yellow trim, what were you thinking, man?"
The mage turned a colour to match his robes and took one step closer to Ant. That's it, that's the old Devius! "You know what I've missed the most about you Devius, it's the way small animals run from the immediate vicinity because of the overpowering stench!!"
"Mistake, Tyrannon, big mistake. Hold him still, I'm going to enjoy this!!"
Toe to toe with Ant, Devius reached out and drew a dagger from the scabbard at the rogue's belt. "Mine, I believe, we'll have some fun with that!"
Time to push him over the edge. "You know Devius, I can honestly say that, at this range, you have the worst halitosis known to immortal or man."
The wizards eye's narrowed, as he cuffed Ant around the face with a backhand. Antonius rolled with it, and fell to the ground, feigning great pain. Devius approached and whispered in his ear "scared yet, Antonius? Did I hurt you?"
"Only when you breathed on my face" whispered Ant back.
The mage roared and drew back his dagger hand, ready to end Antonius there and now. NOW! thought Ant, and brought his left foot up into the mage's face, at the same time throwing a rock at the nearest goon, catching him square in the face. The other mercenary drew his sword and charged, but Ant was up in no time and caught the attack on his own swiftly drawn short sword. The warrior pummelled Antonius' blade, trying to batter it from his hand, when suddenly, Ant simply let go of his sword. Following his momentum, the mercenary's weapon went wild, and Antonius slipped past the man's guard, and drove a dagger into his face. Screaming, the goon went down.
The chant of strange words behind Ant reminded him of Devius, and he turned to face the magic user as he spoke the words to his spell. Just as he was about to complete the spell, Ant leaped the distance between the two and opened a small wound on the wizard's arm. Magic flared and died as the dweomer was disrupted, and in the confusion Antonius snatched back his dagger from the mad wizard.
With a flip of a foot, Ant's sword was back in his hand just in time to counter a blade from the remaining goon. Realising the element of surprise was gone, Antonius decided that now was the time to retreat. As the mercenary advanced, Ant holstered his blades, and leapt straight up, catching a beam he had noticed earlier. Another swing brought him onto the rooftop above the alley, looking down at an amazed warrior and an enraged wizard.
"Sorry Devius," called Antonius, "looks like the revenge of the fashion disaster with bad breath is delayed for a while longer, see you around!"
And with that, Ant set off across the rooftops, skipping his way to safety.
Devius let out a scream of inarticulate rage, then turned to his cohort. "Get the others, hunt him down, and NO, I don't care how much it'll cost. I want his head on my bedside table tonight!"
But he knew it was hopeless, the rogue would fade into the background again, his chance was gone! Turning out of the alley, Devius clutched at his wounded arm, another scar from Antonius Tyrannon, another wound to be avenged. One day.... one day........
I'm getting out of Port Lucinius NOW! Thought Ant as he raced over roofs of the town. How did he track me here? I'll find Connor and then we'll get a couple of horses and then back to Kerendas, where a gentleman like me can earn a decent living!
Antonius was stopped short by the thud of pounding feet and a loud voice "he must have gone this way! 10 gold for the man to find him!"
Will this never end!! despaired Antonius. Well, they had laid down the challenge, they thought to best him on his own turf, for even in another city, Antonius had made his living in alleyways like this. Let's find out how much damage one man can do.
Gerad turned to his friend, who was checking a rubbish pile; "'Ere, wot's you fink about this den?"
"I don't know, Gerad, I just do this for the money," replied Atimus.
"Yeah, but dat wizards mad, he is!"
"Aren't they all? Besides there's a hefty wage on this one, and I intend to collect the extra ten gold for finding this man. Have you got anything over there?"
A gurgling noise was his only reply, followed by a thump.
Atimus approached where his friend had been, and stepped back in shock when he saw the neat cut that had ended the mercenary's life.
He didn't even have a chance to draw his sword before a voice whispered in his ear, "Nothing personal," and his lower back exploded with pain. He never collected his extra ten gold pieces.
"I see him!" cried Remus, racing through the alleyways, following a black cape. Left and right the cloak turned, and Remus followed, visions of acclaim clouding his young mind. He stopped at a junction and was just in time to see the dark shape enter a dead end alley!
I've got him now!!, thought the mercenary, as he crept up to the entrance, and rounded the corner just in time to see a door close over. Aha!
Sidling up to the door, he threw it open and burst through, and found himself facing not the shadowy figure he was expecting, but a beautiful young woman, totally naked. Her scream brought not only great pain, but the opening of the other door, through which entered a giant of a man.
"Wot you doin to my wife?!?" roared the man!
Remus backed away from the hulking figure, thinking to escape back into the alley. He reached out for the handle and... locked? How?
He turned to the oncoming man, and began to panic...... Antonius heard the screams from the rooftop.
Rounding the corner, Ant slid to a stop, and waited for his next victim. Sure enough the mercenary rounded the corner, and ran straight onto his dagger. Wiping it clean, Antonius mentally patted his back. Was he good or was he good? Everyone who crossed him fell before his flashing blades, perhaps he should get into more combat during his adventures, he certainly seemed to have the knack for it....
The blow to the back of the head cut short his train of thought and left him sprawled on the ground. His last coherent thought was DAMN!
When Antonius came to he was mildly surprised to find the world bouncing up and down. It took him a while to realise that he was moving, slung over the shoulder of some great oaf with a club, staring down at the floor. An ugly little face came into view.
"Awake at last, hey?"
"I'm beginning to wish I wasn't." replied Ant.
"Oh, no, we couldn't have you missing out on all the fun," exclaimed the little man walking along behind him. "Mister Devius will be very pleased to have you back. What did you do to him anyway."
"Oh, you know, ruined his plans for world domination, publicly humiliated him, stole things from him and burned his spellbook, but apart from that we're the best of friends!" replied Antonius.
"Hunh, well, he does have a bone or two to pick with you, but let's make this easier for all of us, or Gripper here might have to take matters into his own, very deadly, hands, OK?"
"Oh, sure, you'll get no trouble from me" said Ant, thinking of course, please carry me to my death, oh, no, on second thoughts I'll walk!
"Good, it's so difficult to get blood off this shirt."
Antonius was carted around, bound like a chicken for ten minutes, until they reached a small shack in an alley, were his captors apparently resided. I don't think much of the decor, thought Ant, but the local clientele might be just what I need!!
Dumped in the corner, his captors did not notice Antonius close his eyes and concentrate. A nearby rat looked up from nibbling it's morsels, and scurried to Ant's hands, were it started gnawing at his bonds. One of it's fellows similarly worked on his feet. In a couple of minutes, Antonius had his hands free, and a sharp tug would have freed his feet. Time for a distraction, thought the plucky rogue, and turned his concentration once again to his magical Ring of Animal Control.
Suddenly the rat's in the area flocked out of their bolt holes, and began to crawl around the alley, the man called Gripper looked up in alarm, as a sea of rats descended on the pair. The smaller man turned to run, but a bird swooped in and opened a gash on his face with it's talons. Antonius broke his bonds, and ran, once again into the night.
Jogging through the alleyways, Ant noticed that the first rays of light were coming up over the horizon. Better get back to the Inn he thought, and picked up the pace a little. He was moving carelessly now, confident that his enemies were far away, so it was something of a shock when he emerged onto one of the main thoroughfares of the town, mere yards away from where this insane night had all started. The Rusty Halberd stood in front of him, and in front of the Rusty Halberd, stood the three burly men he had conned earlier in the evening.
"There's the little beggar!" cried one of them
"Oh, by the Hairy Hand of Halav," Antonius cursed his luck. "Look, folks, why don't we just go in and I'll buy you all a drink, sort of sorry, eh?"
"No way, you cheat me, I break you" said the largest of the three.
"Listen, I have had a really bad night, and I would really appreciate...."
"There he is!" came a cry from behind.
Sure enough, there emerging from the alley were the remaining four mercenaries, two of them with scratches all over them.
"He'll not get away this time!"
"Hey" called the leader of the three gamblers, "He's ours!"
"No way," called the mercenary, "we're being paid good money to bring him in!"
"Now just you......"
"He's Nobody's!!" came a great cry.
Everyone wheeled round to see a mighty figure of a man striding towards them. Taller than any here, muscles bulged and rippled, visible even through his leather armour, a great two handed axe hung at his side, and on his back was strapped an entire arsenal of weaponry.
Antonius breathed a sigh of relief; "And where have you been?" he asked the gigantic newcomer.
The man walked into the crowd and stood, with arms crossed, in front of Antonius.
"My name is Connor, Son of Fergal, and this man is under my protection." he boomed in a deep hinterlandish accent "Any that wish him harm must first go through ME!"
Two of the Mercenaries disappeared immediately, but the others remained, trying not to notice the considerable swelling in the Barbarians arms.
Hmm, five on one, thought Ant, I'll bet on those odds!
The largest of the three Antonius had wronged stepped up and raised his arm to punch the mighty barbarian. Antonius flinched as the blow landed; the man may as well have bunched a brick wall than Connor's unyielding stomach.
"Get 'im Gripper," came a call from the side, and the giant mercenary lurched forward. Not quite as tall as Connor, he probably weighed the same, except whereas Connor's frame was filled out with nothing but muscle, this man was obese and ungainly.
Gripper stepped up and stood, unarmed, facing the hinterlander. Connor unhooked his axe, and handed it to Antonius, who immediately collapsed under it's immense weight.
"What are you doing, Connor," cried Ant," use the bloody axe!!"
"No, Antonius, this is honourable combat," called back Connor, stepping up to engage his opponent.
"You stupid Barbarian, they want to kill me!" cried the exasperated rogue, quickly dropping Connor's axe and drawing his own blades in preparation for the battle. "Honourable combat!" snarled Antonius in disgust.
And so battle was commenced. Connor was busy with Gripper, which left everyone else for Antonius. The mercenary drew his sword and charged at Ant, but didn't expect the nimble adventurer to leap over him and land behind. Ant turned and pushed his sword into the man's legs. A cry of pain issued forth as the mercenary went down with severe cuts across his legs.
At the cry of his friend, Gripper looked around in horror, giving Connor the momentary advantage, and he used it. The great barbarian shoulder charged the hulking moron, sending his opponent sprawling.
Antonius whirled to see the three men he had initially conned moving towards him, daggers ready. Ant took the time to kneel and retrieve one of his throwing daggers from his boot, which he then hurled at the furthest of the three. The man shrieked with pain as the dagger, aimed with immaculate precision, quickly eliminated his chances of having children.
Then the other two were upon him. Antonius dodged their initial thrusts, and leapt up onto a nearby cart. Again his opponents attacked, but Ant leaped over their thrusts, backflipped in the air, and landed between his two victims. The larger man stabbed deep with his dagger, but by the time it hit home.... Antonius was not there. Instead the burly docksmen drove the dagger deep into his friend's belly, his horrified look frozen on his face.
Ant slipped between his legs and leapt up again behind him, on the way cutting the man's belt.
The dockman turned and spitted Ant with a gaze, before looking in amazement at his purse, held securely in Antonius' hand.
"Well, at least I get to make a profit out of tonight," gloated Ant, as the man's trousers fell down around his ankles.
Enraged, the man shoulder charged the startled Antonius, and the two went down in a jumble of limbs. The struggle was brief, for Ant was no match for the man's brute strength, and was soon pinned to the ground with two strong hands around his throat. The dockworker squeezed harder and harder, but Ant could do nothing, the world began to dim as he lost himself...
Suddenly the pressure was gone, and for some reason, his assailant was levitating above him. How bizarre, thought Antonius, Oh, no, he's hooked on a beam! Hang on, that's no beam, that's an arm!
Sure enough Ant looked up to see his Hinterlander friend effortlessly holding the final opponent at arms length with but one of his mighty limbs, muscles rippling up and down his arm. With a great hurl, Connor tossed the man against a wall, and he crumpled, unconscious to the floor.
"Thanks," said Ant as Connor hefted him onto his feet, "but what happened to your honourable combat?"
Connor nodded towards the sight of Gripper, lying with his head rammed through the side of a hay cart, "It was not so honourable after all," muttered the great barbarian, sounding disappointed to Antonius' ear. Ant stood and contemplated the scene.
"We really ought to bail him out, you know."
Connor said nothing.
"Get it? Bail him out, as in hay bail?"
"Ha," cried Connor, slapping his friend on the back and sending him sprawling to the ground, "that was funny, Antonius!"
"I do try," said Antonius, muffled only slightly by the ground.
Later on that day, the two friends looked back along the road to Port Lucinius, now just a smudge on the Horizon.
"I really hate that place, you know," remarked Antonius.
"I think it's allright," replied Connor,
"But we both know who does the thinking round here don't we?"
Connor shot Ant a dirty look, and spurred his steed on.
"What? It's true!" Don't ride away from me! Connor! Connor?........"
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