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With a resounding thwack the bolt hit the target in the next building over. As I put it down, I hear the Gnomish merchant behind me mention a different crossbow that he wants my opinion on.
“I told you, Frootal, I am here to pick up the retracting bow that I paid you two months ago to make. I did not come here to test your inventions for you!”
“Calm yourself, friend, calm yourself. Yes, I have your bow wrapped in a strongbox in my attic. All I wanted you to do is to test some crossbows that I’ll be selling to the Nutgranvar City Guard. If they don’t work properly, I wouldn’t be able to sell them.”
“Fine, then. This will be the last one though. I told Morisill I would meet him at the pub around sundown, so I need the bow NOW! As for your little invention, it should be fine. The mountable knife or dirk attachment is a stroke of genius, as well as the option to replace the bow mechanism with a wand for more accurate fire. You’ll need to work with the Yglasdan Wizard’s Guild, though, for it to work properly.”
“Mmmmmm............I’ll have to do that, yes. Thank you for helping me with that, I will give you a discount on some of my arrows for helping me with that. Here, follow me. Let’s get that bow for you.”
As we were walking up the stairs, I noticed several strange symbols start appearing on the walls as we passed them. Each seemed to possess a small amount of magical power, as if recognizing that I was a guest of the merchant. Wait, I know this one. It summons a minor demon often used as a medium for the darker arts, such as necromancy. Why would Frootal have that in his house?
“Ah! Here we are, good friend. I made it out of the heartwood of one of your Dark-Elven trees and the heartwood of an Elven Yew. This bow will far surpass any you will find on modern adventurers or in tombs. In addition, I made two full quivers of arrows using what I had left of the wood. The darker ones were blessed in a temple to Trevas and these white ones were examined by the Head Magistrar himself to be Enchantable with any magic to an almost extreme degree.”
“But, of course, these arrows are not free, I take it?”
“For twice the price of your precious bow, if you must have them.”
“For the same price as the bow, then and I will add another set of wards to your shop.”
“Deal! Here, you will not go back on this, will you?"
“Well, that shouldn’t be a problem and how long have you known me? You know I wouldn’t lie to you.”
Actually, I would have if he were on my bad side, which most bandits find out really quick that they don’t want to see. Oh well, with what he has set up here, a few ice bolts and a loyal ghoul guardian should do. If I were to add any more, the wards would start to fight themselves. Last time that happened, we lost two hamlets and a port city, as well as my life.
Being dead isn't as bad as it might seem, once you get back out of whatever h*ll you were sent to. In general, most mortal men are sent to the first seven levels, as described by Hiante in his book. The lesser percentage of men are sent to the first fourteen, leaving a small one percent to be sent to the first twenty one. If anyone has accomplished more than that, they have not survived to tell us their tale.
I was lucky enough to only be sent to the fifteenth, a level of h*ll like no other. It could have sent any man who did not recognize it immediately into insanity, it is a realm home to creatures of dreams. Dreams in that realm lived and breathed, making the air thick with sleeping thoughts. The nightmares that ruled that realm were those that made grown men, in the prime of youth, pray to deaf gods for mercy. It takes will equal to that of monks to escape.
The eighth level was what almost stopped me, though. The eighth level is the home of monstrous undead creatures, beings who had been killed in lichedom. Before I continue, please know that invoking lichedom upon yourself is difficult as is, but making a dying dragon a liche has only been accomplished by five individuals in history. To make a dragon a liche, you must already be a liche yourself. You become one with the dragon as the dragon becomes one with you during the process. Now, as I was saying before, there were liches of all kinds there. I even saw The Great Zestoj'dalu, a necromancer who turned to lichedom so as to save his king from his enemies. Liches, good and evil, resided there in seclusion, a nation all it's own. This is what almost stopped me, the wealth of knowledge that they had in their hands and advanced, hidden in that level. However, no matter how I tried, they shared only one secret with me, an enchantment no other could match. After biding my time in there, I was returned to life and the living world by one of the toys they had made. Don’t ask.
As I made my way through the streets, my mind wandered to everything I had done in the past hundred years. Along my way I have ventured into many tombs and raided bandit strongholds with friends beyond count. Daphne, Reginald, Francois, Therese, each of them have lived a long happy life full of adventure. All things must come to an end, though, and all but Reginald have died in their homes with grandchildren running through the house. Good old Reg is still alive, having reached an amazing age of 136. Reg was a monk of the goddess Adimen, who had blessed him with a long life and gave him the task of building and guarding a library devoted to knowledge of the world. Even now, I know that he is out there somewhere, gathering more scrolls and books to add to the great building. Right now, though, I need to get to the Geared Tinker Inn in the Golem District to share a drink with Gwenhuy, Daphne’s eldest son.