Many years ago in a kingdom far, far away; there lived a knight named Sir Entuda. He was a competent knight, but not attatched to any court, preferring to live in his own small fife. One day while the King was hunting in a forrest near Entuda's fife, the King got separated from his party and chased up a tree by a large bore. Sir Entuda killed the bore, and the King sent his illegitimate son to be squire to the knight (thinking to bind Entuda closer to the Royal Household). The boy was eager to learn the knightly arts, and practiced for hours each day. But, he was totally thumb-fingered and left-footed. Sir Entuda despaired of his ever reaching knighthood. One day, while riding through the forrest, they were attacked by mounted bandits. Sir Entuda slew one with his lance, and two more with his sword before noticing what his squire was doing. The boy had managed to strike one bandit from his horse (with the flat of his blade), but the effort had, as usual, caused him to lose his seat. Fearing the King's wrath should his son be hurt, Entuda ordered the boy to flea. The boy did not wish to, but had been brought up to obey. So, out of the fighting ran Entuda's squire.

Now the squire, as we all know, was left-footed as well as thumb-fingered. So he naturally tripped and fell (fortunately out of danger from the horses' hooves). Right into a melon patch near a would-cutters hut. Well, as luck would have it, his head got stuck in a large gourd. He tried all during the rest of the battle to get it off, but failed miserably. Sir Entuda was eventually knocked unconcious and carried off to the bandits' lair to be held for ransom. "Out of sight, out of mind," the squire was forgotten. Now Max, for that was his name, blundered about in the woulds for several hours, mostly in circles, until the would-cutter returned. "A gourd on the head takes two to be pushed," said he as he helped Max remove the offending vegetable.

After being rescued from his Gourdian Not, Max realized that he had to find help to rescue his master. So, he set off toward the nearest town, stumbling as he went. On his way he met a knight riding slowly toward him, leading a horse bareing an empty saddle. "Oh, Sir Knight, can you help me to rescue my master from bandits?" asked Max. "Mayhap they be the same bandits that hath captured my good cousin, the King of Diac," replied the knight, "I will gladly aid thee. Get thee up on his horse, and away we shall ride." They road on till knightfall when they stopped at an inn for supper. The Innkeeper felt honored to have such distinguished guests, and ordered a huge feast with seven courses. And, as an appetizer, a haunch of roasted hart. "Methinks this innkeeper is a bit rustic," whispered Max to the knight, "Imagine, serving the hart befour the courses!"

After a sumptious supper, Max and the stranger knight went to bed. The next mourning, the innkeeper asked them for aid in putting up a new awning for the inn. The material was a very heavy and large peace of dragon-hide that had to be cut evenly into two peaces. This hide was so strong as to be impervious to any blade in the innkeeper's possession. But, the knight grabbed one side in each gauntlet, and neatly tore the hide down the middle. This greatly surprised both the innkeeper and the squire. The inkeeper said, "Sir, ye be a knight of surpassing strength, for I truly thought that you, like all others befour you, wood try in vein to cut the hide, and thus give up." The knight replied, "I never give up, and as to the tearing of the hide, it is for just such things that I am called Sir Render."

Sir Render and Max took leave of the innkeeper, and road into the forrest to rescue Sir Entuda and the King of Diac. The inn- keeper had given them food and whine to last several weeks, and it was slow going to transport it all. As they road through the forrest they saw a peasent driving an ox-cart a good distance ahead of them. Max shouted for the man to halt and help them with there burdens, but the breeze carried his voice away. Sir Render told him, "Save your voice, we'll boss that drudge when we get to it."

Having overtaken the peasent and enlisted his aid, they discovered that he often purchased provisions and supplies for the bandits to keep them from harming his family. So, he offered to smuggle the knight and squire into the bandits' stronghold. Hidden beneath a pile of straw, they road on through the forrest. They came to a small bog that the peasent pointed out to them as a landmark to locate the bandits' cave. Unfortunately, the straw had made there noses itch so badly that they both went into violent sneezing fits and missed seeing the bog. Quoth Max, "We cannot see the morass for the sneeze."

Having brought there sneezing under control, the knight and the squire remained in the straw for a goodly time, until the ox-cart started to bounce down a very rough part of the path. "Can't you find a better way to get there?" asked Sir Render, "We shall be battered to peaces and unable to fight." The peasent replied, "I'm sorry, Milord, but the woes of any other lane would be as sweet."

So they boar there discomfort in silence for a long while. Finally, Sir Render asked the peasent if he knew the names of the bandits. The peasent replied that the only names he was sure of were those of the leaders, the Ricken Brothers. Max said, "Oh, I've herd of them, the King's Court shall make short work of hanging them, and we shall get the reward." To which Sir Render replied, "Don't count your Rickens befour there catched."

Now, the knight and squire having to hide in the straw to prevent bandit lookouts from spotting them, it became up to the peasent to fix their lunch. Not wishing to use the nobles' provisions, (for that wood look much better than his own to the guard at the cave), he made a gruel of oats and rye with water from a nearby spring. Having a taste for rustic spices, the peasent picked some herbs beside the path and added them to the gruel. This did not please Max and Sir Render, for they did not like the taste, but dared not say so for fear of lookouts hereing there voices. The peasent, however, pleased with his efforts, made an exclamation of his own: "Ah, 'tis a far more bitter swill I've brewed than I've ever done befour."

Upon reaching the cave, Max, ever the bane of his betters, took it upon himself to brake wind in a most obnoxious manner. This, of course, gave them away to the guards. They found it easy to capture the lad, but the strength of Sir Render was more than they could handle. They were on the verge of shooting him with their bows when the Ricken Brothers appeared and called "Hold!" Seeing that Sir Render was pleased with his strength, they offered him a wager. They wood release their prisoners if Sir Render could defeet there champion. If he lost, he too would be bound. Sir Render asked, "Who is thy Champion, and what manner of contest will decide this matter?" Ricken replied, "Well, a man's gnome has to wrestle."

The gnome walked out of the cave, and he was a wide, short, immensely muscled being with eyes like volcanic glass. He said, "To wrestle me and win, you must lift me from the ground where I will be strengthless." Sir Render replied, "But is that not different from all forms of the sport known to man?" His opponent then spake, "but, when a gnome, do as gnomens do."

"If I must wrestle in a manner that I be not accustomed to, then it be only fare that you should have to pin my shoulders to the earth as men do." To this the gnome agreed, and the contest began. The match lasted for many hours for the strength of each was the equal of the other. The bandits and there captives had formed a circle to watch the contest which had started just after dusk. By three am many were asleep. By five, almost all were. At 5:30 Sir Render thought of a plan. He bent over to pick a flower with his back to the gnome, who immediately ran up behind to try a drop kick to the seat of Render's pants. The knight heard him coming and quickly squatted down. The gnome's kick missed and he landed astride the knight's back. Sir Render quickly stood up into a beam of light from the newly risen sun thus turning the defeated gnome to stone. Handing the flower to a lovely captive, the knight then tossed the gnome into the laps of the Ricken Brothers. "A boulder to the heels and a rose to the winsome," quoth he.

The Ricken Brothers, being honorable bandits, knew they had lost the wager, and ordered there men to keep the bargin. This was greeted with cheers from there erstwhile prisoners. But, while heaving the heavy gnome aside, they stumbled (much as Max usually did) and fell into a deep pool beneath a waterfall near the mouth of the cave. When hauled back up again, the knight remarked on this first, and inadequate, episode of bathing that the brothers had been through in many years, "You can make a bandit shower, but it don't kill the stink."

Leaving the bandits' cave (blindfolded & under guard), they headed toward Sir Entuda's castle. That being the nearest of the captives' homes. They were now a farely large party, for the bandits had taken many captives. Among them were, of course, the King of Diac and his favorite mistress; Boul the stout, and his lady; several damsels and maidens; a few luckless knights, and Max and Sir Entuda. Upon arriving at his castle, Sir Entuda ordered a celebration feast. All were stuffed to the gills and the revelry lasted for hours. The first to slide quietly under the benches were Kronda and her stout lover. For, as we all know, a Boul and his honey are soon snockered.

They had been at Entuda's castle for less than a week when a messenger came from the capital with evil news: the King and his entire family had fallen to the plague. This, of course, meant that Max was to be the new King. Not being ready for this awesome responsibility, Max asked all of his companions for counsel, a quick history of the Kingdom, and as much help as they wood give him. He was not happy about the information he received with regard to kingdom history and his ancestors, for they had heavily taxed all folk in the realm. As Boul the stout put it, "With respect to thy family, Majesty, when it reigns, it poors."

Max left for the capital the next day, and on the way the chief counselors for the kingdom were schooling him in the necessary requirements to rain as King. Among these was the idea put forth by Barak Ben Wak, the seneschal of the kingdom, that the King must become a convert to Islam. After all, he was to go through a Koran-ation.

Max wasn't so sure that he wished to submit to the will of Allah, but had almost resigned himself to the idea, when they came within sight of the capital. As they approached, General Quar (of the Turrs family) road out to meet them. "Sire, we must prepare for war!" he shouted, "For the Land of Mango is preparing to invade." Befour Max could reply, the entire party was knocked off of there feat by a severe earthquake. They watched as the city collapsed into rubble, leaving them with only one thought to lighten the gloomy sight. General Quar Turrs voiced it for them all, "It quakes, too, in Mango!"

Picking themselves up and dusting off, the party looked down at the shattered city. "No use going there, between the plague and the quake their can't be above twenty people left alive." said Barak. "But we must search for survivors, and for provisions." said Render, "On we go!" Leaking sewers, shattered cisterns, and many fires greeted the travelers, but no sine of life could be found. And, of provisions, but two bags of coarse grain beginning to swell from moisture. These they carried down the rode to a small village where the mill was miraculously still standing. Handing the sacks to the miller, Barak told him, "Quick, mill it befour it stultifies."

The miller complied, and his wife baked the flour into journey bread. Since they were the only two persons left in the village, they decided to join the King's party to find a new place to live. Further down the rode they overtook a small man carrying a leather case and wearing spectacles. "Hallo, who are you and ware be ye going?" asked Sir Entuda. "I be Snordrel the Scribe and I'm fleaing from my guildmaster," replied the wretch. "Can you help me to escape his anger?" "Why should you run from your master, have you done evil to him?" asked Max. "No, but the book I was copying was ruined during the quake, and you know the old saying: A smudged tome bothers the boss."

"This is now getting to be quite a traveling troop," said Max. "We must find a way to feed ourselves soon, perhaps their are still some fishing boats on the coast that are still servicable." So, off to the coast they went. Once their they saw that it had been washed over by several grate waves after the quake, and most of the boats were battered to peaces. They again despaired until a young lad ran out of a shed and told them that they had a boat and several cattle hidden at the other side of the village. The lad's father was angry with him for giving away the secret, so, he tossed him into the sea, and then set him to work cleaning the cow's barn. Quoth the angry fisherman, "A snitch in brine serves kine."

Upon hearing how poorly the rest of the land fared, the fisherman offered to share his livelyhood with the travlers if they wood help repair and sail some fishing vessels. To this they agreed and by the time two weeks had passed, they were again living well. The young King commanded a feast (mostly fish, of course), for they had just discovered a few barrels of drink in a buried seller. Soon well into his cups, and holding an empty one, Max was herd to shout: "Some whine! Some whine! My Kingdom for some whine!" "DONE!" said a loud voice and they found themselves far out to sea in a large cargo ship loaded with whine. So they did the only thing they could; manned the ship, set the sails and a watch. Three days later they were attacked by pirates and captured because the watchman had fallen asleep. Quoth Sir Render ruefully: "A botched watch never foils!"

The pirates were more interested in the whine and women than anything else, but chained the men below decks to be ransomed; for they obviously were persons of rank. Save for the miller, the fisherman, and the scribe; who were set adrift in the now empty cargo ship. When asked their destination, the pirates replied that they were returning to there own land; the land of giant cattle that have not been seen on Earth for many thousands of years. Upon arrival, they went straight to there favorite tavern which was named for these cattle: the Golden Aurochs. The pirates returned to there ship in high spirits, and soon were snoring loudly. Now Sir Render had managed to break the bar he was chained to loose from the wall, and crept into the Captain's cabin. Their he proceeded to rouse the sot and hit him with his own cat 'o nine tails. It took three strokes before the Captain changed his attitude to one of cooperation. He gave the key to the chains to Render and the drunken crew were locked below. The two Kings and the Knights were now in charge of the ship. When asked by his cousin, the King of Diac, why he had hit the Captain three times lightly instead of once hard. Render replied, "You know what they say about the stiff necks of drunken officers, three beets to the bend."

They were ready to set sail when Boul the stout stopped them. His religious beliefs required the sacrifice of a rooster befour a voyage. So, he went to find one. He came back in about ten minutes with a small scrawny bird tucked under his arm. But, before the sacrifice could be made, the rooster escaped. So, the knights and Boul proceeded to chase the cock around the dock all knight.

Finally succeeding in capturing the errant rooster, its blood was spilled over the stern of the ship as they left the port. "Which way should we go for?" asked Boul at the tiller. "Any which way we can," replied King Max, "For we have no way of knowing where, or in what world, we are anyway." Sailing due east (for that was the fastest way away from land), they sought the rising sun. Two days out to sea they set the pirates adrift with provisions in two small boats. All except for Joe who had been pressed into service unwilling. And, being a navigator and smarter than his erstwhile crewmates, he declared his intention to leave the boat of many dullards.

Joe corrected their course to the northeast, explaining that their was a large mass of chorale and refuse around the eastern coast, and that the quickest and safest passage was to the northeast. "The bashing of reefs is not in our best interest," quoth he. So again they set a watch, and again the watchman snoozed..... The result this time was a near miss with a wreck caught on the reef at a crazy angle. As it was, the masts collided, snapping off several spars. The crash awakened all hands, and the King of Diac came running to the deck, screaming as he came: "Of all the spar-crossed blunders! Who's the idiot on watch? We'll keel-haul the bum!" By scavanging the wreck of the Reever, they managed to repair the spars of the Rhal, and the voyage continued. Barak Ben Wak was not happy about this for he felt that the ghost of the Reever would follow their ship, wanting its yardarms back; but he was overruled by his King, Max. So, it came about that they encountered a severe storm that snapped the spars and the masts, and swamped their ship. As they watched the Rhal sink beneath the waves from its longboats, Barak said morosely, "That's what you get for bobbing Reever to fix Rhal."

Joe told them that the nearest land was three days rowing to the west but shunned by the pirates and their countrymen although he did not know why. Due to contrary currants, they required five days to reach land. Near the shore they found a cart with broken spokes and a half-wild pair of oxen nearby. Beneath the cart, they found the body of its former owner who had been trying to fix one wheel when the other gave way and crushed him beneath the cart. The oxen had been hobbled and so had remained. Repairing the spokes with oar staves, they loaded there scanty provisions and sent off down the road. A few miles further on, seeing a man looking over a rock, they haled him and asked his name and country. He replied that he was Dawado of the Centaur Isles; and, as they rounded the rock, they saw that he was, indeed, a centaur. Since he was carrying grain to market in the nearest town, they went along with him. They offered to help him by carrying the grain in there cart. But, "Who knows what weevils lurk in the carts of men?" Dawado quoth.

Arriving at the market they pooled there money (about 300 gold peaces), and bought lodging, food, and clothing for the twenty-four of them. This left but 100 gold peaces to last until they found work. Max then spent five on a fortune teller to find out what would happen. She didn't want to tell the young King's fortune, so she filled the bowl with cheep and muddy whine instead of clear water. She informed Max that his troubles were far from over, and that she could see no more. Max therefore drank the filthy whine and said, "Guess their's no use scrying over swilled filth." For this his friends gave him a new name: King Max the Gullible.

King Max, as we know, was not fit to be king, let alone work for a living, so he once again assumed the role of squire to Sir Entuda (for the townsmen would not believe that he was a king and they did not wish to attract attention). The King of Diac took on one of his other titles, Duke of Klamn Bayk, and lead the other knights as a mercenary band. They were hired by the town council as a contingent of guardsmen. Working in the city guard didn't pay much of itself, but the opportunities for instituting private fines for lawbreaking supplemented there income. The women, being of high birth, had been demanding servants since the days in the fishing village (all except the miller's wife who was used to fending for herself, and refused to serve the others). So, Max and Sir Render went to the slave market to buy some servants. They were about to start home with there drudges when a motley looking trio was put on the block. They were none other than the fisherman, the miller, and the scribe. They had been captured the day befour, drunk into a stupor on the whine in there skiff. They looked (and smelled) as if they had been plastered at sea for several weeks; which indeed, they had. The auctioneer asked but a farthing for the lot because of it's obvious poor quality. But Sir Render stiffled all opposing bids by declaring, "A guinea for your sots!"

With drudges and drunks in toe, Sir Render and Max returned to there rented hall. The miller's wife was very glad to see him and immediately took charge of his cleaning. The scribe was the least worn of the three and told how they had been captured. The ship that they approached for aid had used a weapon on them that they had never seen before. It resembled a double crossbow that shot weighted cords which effectively bound them from a distance as they quailed in fear. Quoth the scribe: "'Twas a hard thing to realize, but da lesson of the fetter dart is valor. For had we weapons and skill in their use, we might not have been sots catching a little slack."

Since our friends are still longing to go home, (and none too sure where home is), they are spending every spare minute looking for sea charts and conversing with navigators. But nobody has ever heard of the land of Krunni in these parts. For several months there search was fruitless, until an old sea-captain was picked up by the guard for being drunk and disorderly. When questioned about the location of the land of Krunni he simply laughed and asked why anyone would want to go to that land of weaklings. It was then discovered that he was once of the land of Mango, and theirfour an enemy. So, when he sobered up, they decided to trick him into giving them a chart. They told him they were looking for the way to Mango to hire on as mercenaries. But Captain Ka-runk would not give them a map. Instead, he offered to take them to Mango. Quoth he, "Aye, and soon 'twill be over for our foes, for Krunni is the moot of all feeble."

They were hard put to it to avoid expressing there wrath at this comment, but fourbare there indignation at the thought of going home. So, they left the next week aboard the Geotzum for Mango. Most of the crew were endurable aside from there firm conviction of the superiority of Mango over Krunni. However, Mockt-Li, the mongol steersman, was just not to be borne. For he smelled as if he had been sleeping between his horse and his saddle for several years. The rest of the crew was not pleased, either. So, when they stopped at a small island for water, they klocked Mockt-Li and buried a big stink.

When the captain discovered that foul play had removed his steersman, he at first was inclined to blame his mercenary passangers. Until it was pointed out that they hadn't left the ship. Thereupon he sweated the crew to find out who the culprit was. Eventually Ready Throwshimself confessed to the dastardly deed, but claimed it was justifiable odercide. And, with the support of the rest of the ships personnel, he was acquitted. After all, no P.U.'s is good P.U's.

Since they now lacked a steersman, the fisherman took over the job. It was many days befour they sighted land again, and they once again went ashore on a small island to refill there water barrels. Hidden in a small cave, they found what appeared to be several casks of whine which they also took back with them. Upon broaching a cask, it was discovered that the liquid contained within burned severly as one swallowed it, and that it had a much faster effect than whine. The three-leafed plant pictured on the casks conveyed nothing to them, but all agreed that this was a wonderous drink; and they were soon sleeping piecefully. All except for Max and the navigator who couldn't stand the taste. Quoth Max in referrence to the serenity aboard the usually boisterous ship: "Nothing like a barrel swilled by flunkies to bring piece and quiet."

Sir Render and the King of Diac often had similar dreams, for they were much alike and related by blood. But, on this occasion, everyone had a similar experience (for Max and the navigator; after carefully copying Captain Ka-runk's charts; had changed there minds and also drunk themselves into a stupor). But the dream was of a strange game being played by a small people only two to three feat high. Wherein they rolled a ball across open ground into a stack of over-large belaying pins. They had never seen this befour, but soon joined in. This was diverting until they realized that they could not compete with the skill of the small men. So, they wandered off to a hillside where there were others having a great dance. Here they joined in with vigor since there appeared to be no set steps, and they danced until dark. At the feast that followed, Boul acted his usual role, and was soon involved in a tremendous food fight, while Max was off in a corner kissing a young maiden. "A pie for the eye and a smooch for the youth," quoth Sir Render.

Since the dancers were of a like stature to men, the sailors and our adventurers found that dalliance with their hosts was not only possible, but actively encouraged. Thus it was that each had very pleasent memories of their favorite lord or lady when they awoke the next morning. In fact, Max was ever after eager to repeat the dream. The rest of the casks had mysteriously disappeared, so it was a disappointed crew that hoisted sail and left the small island. It was but a matter of days befour they approached the coast of Mango. The Captain was sure that it was the right land, but it looked exceedlingly strange; with many new coastal villages, and new buildings in all of those that he remembered. Upon docking in the main port, he found no familiar faces among the officials, and they expressed amazement at the return of the Geotzum. They said it had not been in port for a hundred and three years. This distressed Ka-runk for he could only reckon up three years at sea. He was also amazed at all the differences in the city, for its buildings looked old and yet had been drastically changed since his last trip home. The mercenaries were surprised to learn that the land of Krunni had vanished from sight leaving a vast new bay in the continent. By now they realized that their night of reverly with the small ball throwers and the dancers had lasted for a hundred years. Boul expressed their amazement: "Them little pitchers sure have long years."

There was still a grate shock in store in that the entire royal family of Mango, root and branch, had died in the earth- quake a hundred years befour. Most of the petty nobles had also died, so the Merchant's Guild stepped into the power vaccuum. Now one of the most prosperous countries on the planet (mainly due to there low tarrifs and high trading volume), Mango no longer sought to conquer other countries. Instead they used there military strength to protect there business interests and establish duty-free ports in other nations. Our friends joined a large mercenary company that had the contract for policing the dock areas. Meanwhile, Max was growing up fast (as were the bellies of three of the women of the household), and was finding himself winded whenever he exerted himself. The town healer informed him that this would be the case until he reached his full growth of manhood. To this Max replied: "Give me puberty, or give me breath!"

Well, things were growing apace when spring arrived and the city held there annual spring festival in honor of there fire goddess. The whole city got loose and well into there spirits. Even including Max's dog, Nerkel. He got into a bowl of rum and lime juice that someone had left on a low table, and was quite smashed. From then on, Max referred to the spring festival in Mango as hound grog day.

With three children on the way, the drudges were set to work making butter and cheese in order to have storable milk products. Max watched them making butter for about an hour and got an idea. That knight he made a new handle for the churn that was connected to a windmill. This grately speeded up the process of butter making by churning the handle with four winds.

One of the expecting women had a reputation as a sorceress for her knowledge of cosmetics and changing the appearance of drab women. When the time of her confinement came to an end, the midwife took one look at the small one after it had started to squall in an exceedingly loud and piercing manner, covered her ears, and said: "Beautician, now squeals thy elf!"

Sir Roke, who was an accomplished musician, decided to compose a ballad in honor of the three half-elven additions to the household. Upon declaring his intentions, the servants asked if they should fetch him an instrument. Sir Roke, reaching behind his chair, informed them that this would not be necessary. "Where their's Roke, their's lyre," quoth he.

It came to pass that several large trolls came down from there mountain homes and created a problem on the rodes out of Mango. Many guards and travellers were killed and eaten. So, the Merchant's Guild offered a large reward for there destruction. Sir Render, the King of Diac, Sir Entuda, and Sir Roke all decided to try for the reward (aided by fire-burst crossbow darts invented by Max from phosphorus, mothballs, and sulphur). Quote Sir Entuda: "We go! Mayhap to our end, or to doom the fjell trolls!"

Since attacking the trolls was by no means the safest thing any of the knights had ever done, they decided to have one last revel rousing good time befour going into battle. Soon well into their cups, a round of bawdy songs soon had the whole block joining in. When at last the moon rose, a waning crescent and small to boot, most of the revelers had gone to their knightly rest. All but Sir Roke who sat with his rather large nose pressed firmly into a pool of beer on the table. Gazing at the reflection of his stein in the beer and waxing philosophical (as he usually did when drunk), he began to speak: "Is this a flagon I see before me, its handle toward my hand? Come! Let me drink thee. I have thee not but I see thee stilllzzzz...."

As they left the city in search of the trolls, a young and impetuous guardsman by the name of Kelly asked to accompany them to share in the glory of defeeting the trolls. This was not looked upon with favor by the knights, for they knew that a brash frontal attack wood be doomed to failure, but they agreed that Kelly should accompany them under the condition that he do exactly as he was told. So a discussion ensued as to the best way of killing trolls. It was generally agreed that it wood be easier to prevail over a well-fed troll than a hungry one (for they tend to be somewhat less active while digesting there victims). So, they took a mute slave with them as a sacrifice (he had been caught steeling and had killed his master's son, and so was condemned to death anyway). They drove the slave into the troll's lair and were pleased when the sound of breaking bones and the clang of the spit told them that the trolls were about to feed. The young guardsman wanted to rush in while they were occupied in the cooking of the slave, but was restrained by Sir Entuda: "Wait 'till the trolls dine, Kelly."

Having waited for a few hours to make sure the trolls were well fed and resting, the knights and Kelly quietly crept into the cave to surprise the trolls. Being confident in there own abilities with weapons, they had forgotten about the fire darts Max had made for them. They attacked and were beaten back with many wounds until they were back to back to back to back defending a small square of ground. The trolls broke off the fight just befour dawn and retreated deep into their cave. 'Twas then that Sir Entuda remembered the crossbows and fire darts. They once again crept into the cave. As soon as the trolls smelled the invaders they rushed to the attack. All of the knights were excellent shots with the crossbow, and for once Max hadn't completely bungled his task. Three trolls dropped with burning sulphur in there eyes, the other two were virtually unharmed since Kelly's dart hadn't burst into flame (the troll that had been shot with it was just very angry over the dart sticking in his nose). Fortunately, the fallen three blocked the tunnel long enough for the knights to reload, and all five were soon dispatched. Quoth the King of Diac: "'Twas a hot time when the old trolls did fight!"

At the banquet when they received the reward for killing the trolls, there were many voices that spoke against giving them the money. After all, they were mercenary guardsmen, that's what they were paid for, and that it should be given to men of the city who themselves would have done the deed. Some even spoke of attacking the outsiders and steeling the gold. Kelly was somewhat disturbed by all the talk, but the King of Diac spake to him: "We have not much to fear from the likes of them. Remember, all that blusters is not bold."

Being the talk of the town for nine days was an interesting experience even though they had to fend off several individuals who wished them to invest in everything from eastrealm twillzy futures to western goathair shirts. The reward wasn't really as grate as it seemed when divided four ways, but that did not faze these enterprising businessmen. In fact, on more than one occasion they had to forcibly escort these wealth brokers from there villa. Finally the word got around not to bother them anymore. This stopped everyone except the local thieve's guild (illegal and underground as it was). They assigned there best burglar to the task of liberating the reward gold. Early one morning, Normat climbed into an upstairs window. Unfortunately, he tripped over a pile of armor in the dark and woke up Sir Roke who made a grab for him. The knight was unsuccessful due to the coating of oil Normat had spread over his body for just such an emergency. So, all Normat got out of his attempt was a severe cold from being out in the knight air. For, as we all know, the oily nerd catches the germ.

After recovering, Normat resolved to try again. Since the villa had once belonged to the Guildmaster, Normat was aware of the secret entrance through the interior well. "Aha!" he thought to himself, "They'll never expect a break-in through the watergate!"

So, the next knight in he crept. This time, however, Max was awake with a case of the flu and saw the thief creeping down a hallway. So Max followed behind him until he entered Sir Entuda's room. Just as Max reached the door, he tripped and fell. This woke up Sir Entuda and startled Normat. Normat also fell, over Max, as he tried to run. "Set a klutz to catch a klutz." said Entuda as they shackeled Normat. To which the thief replied: "It matters not how you pick and choose, but how you wear the chain."

Normat was marched off to jail while boasting that he wouldn't be there long. Of course, nobody took him Siriusly, and felt very pleased with Max and Entuda for capturing the thief. In fact, they were having a celebration to commemorate Normat's incarceration when word reached them that he had, indeed, escaped. "Now we shall have to catch him again!" declared Max, to which the rest of the household agreed. They decided to bait a trap with a collection of large gems, to be sold at auction in a week, and currently on display at the home of Lao the Jeweler. (Based upon the advice of Lao's fortune-teller). For the entire week they waited, but Normat did not show. Another merchant's men finally caught him during an attempted purse-snatching. Before the thief was jailed, Roke asked him why he had not tried for the gems. Normat replied, "You can't catch a cutpurse by listening to Lao's seer."

Normat was again jailed, and this time with wall-mounted manacles in addition to the door locks. However, once again he was gone by the next morning. This time, however, it was not as much of a surprise, being a repeat performance. The headmaster of the Merchant's Guild was not pleased, for he had twice now been called upon to render judgement upon the escaped thief. Theirfore, since escape was viewed as an admission of guilt, he issued a proclamation: "By order of Lord Slimnuv Pryce, Grand Guildmaster and Ruler of Mango, a price of 100 peaces of silver will be paid by the City of Korlan to whomever shall deliver unto the Guard of the City the head of Normat the thief; whether or not it still be attatched to the body of said thief." This disturbed the Krunnian household not at all, but the King of Diac was heard to remark, out of respect for Normat's abilities, "Let the fled dastard carry his head!"

Normat decided that discretion was a very good idea, and made plans to leave the country aboard a visiting merchant ship. He couldn't resist a parting shot, however, so he paid a fairwell visit to Lord Slimnuv on the knight before the ship left. The next morning, the ruler of Mango found a note written on his own parchment, with his own quill, and pinned to the wall above his head with his own jeweled dagger: "In the dark, what wight through yonder window breaks? 'Tis a thief that now be on the run! Sleep well, my Lord, for Death be nigh thee."

This, needless to say, infuriated Lord Slimnuv to the point of sputtering incoherency. When he at last came partially to his senses, he ordered every guard on duty in the guildhall on that night severly punished for derelection of duty. Thirty lashes each with the dreaded cat 'o nine tails. It was discussed in the barracks in simpler terms: "His pomposity wills the Cat."

The guards were none too pleased, and many of them left town before they could be punished. The result was rapid promotion among the ranks of mercenary guardsmen. The Krunnians were thus now placed in positions of considerable power. This particularly pleased Sir Render and the King of Diac, who were looking for a way home with sufficient aid to depose the usurper of the Diacian throne. Over a period of a few months, the Guildmaster was persuaded that good profits could be had by assisting in there adventure. They agreed that Meldar the Usurper and his supporters, the Thar Warriors, should be slain on sight. This was over the objections of Sir Roke, who felt they should be publicly executed rather than slain out of hand. He said, "It's cold to them Thar kills."

The expedition was launched to retake the Throne of Diac. A thousand ships with fifty warriors each set sail. Sir Render and his King were on there way at last. Many days out to sea they sighted a fleet of Diacian warships. Parley was arranged with the Thar commander and his ships' Captains, (many of whom were secretly loyal to the rigtful King). When it became known that the King was returning, they killed the Thar officers and the entire fleet joined with the Mango fleet to regain the Diacian Throne. As they marched on the palace, Meldar the Kern new his cause was lost, so he set fire to the palace, and died amid the flames. Quoth Sir Render, "The Kern burns."

With his throne regained, the King of Diac granted duty-free status to the traders of Mango, and made the Guildmaster a silent partner in several gem and silver mines. So, few died in the reconquest, and virtually all parties that survived were pleased with the outcome. With Sir Render and the King restored to their homeland, the Krunnians were welcomed to Diac, but soon began to long for there own country. This was quite beyond there reach; but Max (who had shown himself to be quicker and more skillful with his mind than with his hands) resolved to study magic and sorcery until he might be able to find his lost kingdom. He enrolled in the College of the Arcane Arts in Diac. The first day he found it hard to concentrate because it seemed that the letters crawled around on the pages of his books. Quoth he that evening: "O give me a tome where the letters don't rome."

Now one of the older wizards took a great interest in educating Max, for he saw himself mirrored in the young man. This was not apparent to Max, however, for Zalamy the Fat was a strict task maker. Max felt he was being pushed too hard, but stuck with it from a fierce desire to go home again. Upon learning that Max was the son of the old King of Krunni by a visiting huntress, Zalamy did a magical probe to discover that Max was his own nephew; for the huntress had been his sister. He took an even grater interest in Max's education. In order to fully understand the natures and abilities of the various animals that a wizard was able to speak with, summons, and control; part of the education process was to spend a day in the form of each animal. Each wizard could only choose 13 animals, so Max was advised to choose carefully. He had no trouble picking out the bear, the eagle, the lion, the wolf, the owl, and the cheetah, for each had characteristics that he could see an immediate use for. At Zalamy's suggestion, he added the housefly, the mouse, the skunk, the porcupine, the mole, and the salmon. Max could choose but one more, and then had to begin his experiences with shapechanging. He chose the otter, and made it the first experience because it seemed that otters had such a good time. The first thing he did was to try and slide down a hill on his belly, which hurt badly. He was in pained confusion until another slid into a pond from a muddy bank. "Aha!" he thought, "Mud slickens the otter!"

Max found the otter's life to be pretty much carefree, except for a brief incident with a rather large and unpleasent wolf. (But the aquatic skills of the otter allowed him to escape unharmed). Raw fish for lunch had given Max problems until the empty feeling in his middle grew unbareable (shape-shifting, after all, uses much energy). But he decided that his taste would never go farther east than the grate mountains. The main thing that Max learned during this day of fun and games was that animals were not as stupid as he had previously believed, and it was with grate reluctance to leave his new friends that Max again met with Zalamy to return to his normal form. The next day Zalamy changed him into a housefly to give him a different perspective on life. Max discovered that in this form he could easily watch whatever was going on near him, but that it took practice to assimilate the multiple images until he learned to focus on one and use the rest merely to detect motion. Again he grew hungry, but being swatted at twice cured him of seeking food while men were about. He found some crumbs on the table after the diners left and ate his fill. This made him less wary than befour, and he found himself caught in a spider's web on the wall. Fortunately it was time to change back; and, as Zalamy entered the room he felt/heard Max's mental cry: "Take me out of the wall game!"

While Max was busy with his studies, the rest of the Krunnians were growing restless living on the hospitality of the King of Diac; and told him that they wished to earn their own way as they had in Mango. So, the knights entered the palace guard, and they looked for a place to live other than the palace guest chambers (to avoid jealousy among the other guards). They looked all around the town for a suitable lodging, but could not find one at a reasonable price that was large enough to hold the entire household. Finally, however, they found a medium sized villa that would serve if they could talk the landlord into lowering the rent. They hoped to do this by offering to take a long-term lease on the villa which would guarantee the landlord continued income without periods of the villa sitting empty. They had hopes of succeeding in the bargining with Lord William Dunders, even though they had been told by some of his other tennants that: "Will Dunders never leases."

Upon hearing their full tail, William Dunders agreed to lease them the villa. (For he had no wish to incur the King's anger). So, once again doing a day's work for a day's pay, the Krunnians settled back into the routine established in Mango. The men worked at their trades (miller, fisherman, knight, scribe); and the women kept the house, cared for the three half-elf children (who matured slowly compared to other children), and oversaw the production and sale of Max's inventions. The burning darts were selling well to the Dwarfs of the Great Mountains, who were attempting to cope with a large band of young trolls recently moving into the high reaches. The windchurns sold well to every farm that produced butter (and a few large inns and bakeries to use as mixers). Things were looking well on all sides. Then in walked a merchant who said he was interested in purchasing both products for export. He contracted large orders, with a penalty cause for late delivery. Everything went fine for a few weeks, then breakage and equipment failure began slowing things down. It seemed that nothing went right. As the deadline approached, they found that the penalties would almost exactly equal the profits. Max, being there on holiday from the school, suspected fowl play. When he checked the workshop he found magic had been involved. The King imprisoned the merchant, and made a new law against using magic to force contracts to be in default. He named it for the merchant: Myrfee's Law.

The affairs of Diac appeared to run well for a few weeks. Max's education proceeded with few remarkable occurances, and all were happy. Until a report reached the King's court that a series of grave robberies were occuring in the countryside. Many means were tried to halt the disturbances, but all failed. This was rather disconcerting, for no weapon would cause dammage, and no ropes would hold against the strange creatures. They did not attack living humans, but were most often seen near dawn shuffling along munching on a pilferred limb. By luck a means was found to destroy them. A startled cleaning woman dropped her pail of lye water on the head of one as he passed beneath her window. He dissolved into an evil smelling cloud that soon blew away. The King called upon Max to devise a new weapon to project the lye solution, which he soon did. When addressing the troops who were to cleanse the Kingdom, Max reminded them that: "Lye guns are a ghoul's worst friend."

As the work of ending the ghoul-days neared its conclusion, the court naturalist expressed a desire to study the few remaining specimens. The King denied his request on the grounds that the Kingdom was better off without them. The naturalist replied that a few could do no harm, and the King sent him away to research the history of the Diacan fur worm, (two were saved for study, they escaped, multiplied, and decimated the heards of sheep befour they could be completely wiped out). The naturalist returned and said, "You are right, your Majesty, slaughter is the best read lesson."

With the countryside pieceful once more, and with Midsummer's Eve arrived, Diac held the usual mad ball. The dancing was accompanied with plays and refreshment, but the seneschal in charge had again decreed a boozeless hall. The Krunians (and, indeed a good number of Diacians) put in their minimal appearances early in the evening to pay there respects befour leaving to find a more traditional celebration for midsummer. (Fortunately, there were several taverns nearby to handle the overflow). The revelry lasted 'till dawn, when the majority of citizens finally sought some slumber. Even the palace guards had joined in the revels (each man stood two two-hour watches so all might join in). Sir Entuda was the only Krunnian guardsman to have any difficulties. A visiting merchant's guard (in fact, his nephew) was well into his cups and had been boasting to the palace maids about his many escapades and duels. (All imaginary, for he was just come into manhood). The wenches were inclined to dump him as a boor, but had no wish to possibly offend a guest of the King. Hence they kept his flagon full in the hope he would pass out. This eventually happened, but not befour he had cornered a young lass in a hallway and was on the verge of forcing his attentions on her. She told him he would have to face the palace guard if he did so. He boasted: "I can handle any three of them!" "Can you, now?" asked Entuda as he sent the young man sprawling, "Perhaps you'd care to face a challange in this lady's behalf at dawn?" "Please, Sir, I do not, for my uncle wood not approve of my actions toward the lady," quoth the craven from the floor.

When the children of the household were approaching their seventh year, they stumbled upon a secret passage leading beneath the villa. At its end was a large chamber with a bottomless pit in the center. They were not inclined to disturb the room for their were many hacked and broken skeletons of an unknown creature scattered about the floor. Further investigation by Max and Sir Entuda disclosed an old and blackened sword held by a human skeleton, and piercing the ribcage of the largest of the creatures. The blade was etched with many signs and symbols. Max could only make out the runes that gave the sword's name: "I be Krim." Max did some research at the school's library to discover the history of the blade. Forged in the dark past by a nameless wizard, it was a magical weapon that always hit what it was swung at. The last known use of it lay in the years befour Diac became a Kingdom. While still under the domination of Oestrealm, Diac had been attacked from beneath the earth by hoardes of evil creatures. One by one, there holes were conquered, cleansed and filled, so that they had but one left. They attacked in grate strength until at last only Tyrbjorn the Barbarian was left on the surface. He slew three hundred of them, including there leader, with Krim while taking mortal wounds himself. Still the oldest bards sing of how Tyrbjorn would not stop, but fought to the rim with Krim.

As Max was the first to see and handle Krim, it was adjudged that it now belonged to him. "At least I can't miss with a sword like this!" said he. "What better weapon could I have than the sword from the bone?" Max and his new weapon were put to the test almost at once by the thieves guild. They set five swordsmen against him as he returned to school. The battle was quick and fierce, with the thieves soon dead or fled. They reported back to the Guildmaster who decided to try stealth instead of brawn. "Piled forces couldn"t drag him away." quoth he.

So, they tried to burglarize the school. Unfortunately for them, the wizard Banduv had enchanted the greatings over the school windows. When the thieves tried to bend the greats, the iron twisted around their hands and held them fast for the arrival of the city guard. Quoth Max to the thieves, "The moral of thy lesson is do not crimp the Banduv great!"

Secure in the possession of Krim, Max turned again to his studies. He had been progressing quickly, and the masters of the school assigned him the task of conjuring the servents for the decannual festival of the Sun. These should have golden flesh, and be dressed in yellow raiment. It was left up to Max to design the ritual necessary to achieve this objective. He wrote one that stated that the servents should be capable of solving any problem, and that they should each have their own names, numbers, and symbols so that their would be no confusion in ordering them about. He prepared a scrol so that they could enter this information as they appeared. Then he spoke the ritual words of command: "Enter into this list, O Yellow Pages!"

Max was very surprised when a large book of yellow paper fell into his workroom (written in a language he could not understand). But, it at least had pictures. Chargrined by his failure, Max leafed through the book trying to discover what had gone wrong. He found a picture of a spirit emerging from a lamp, and decided to conjure it in order to gain information. (For all wizards knew that spirits could translate unknown languages). He carefully copied all of the symbols, and did the standard ritual of summonsing. "Aladin Carpets, 3597223." And received for his efforts a thousand yards of green shag carpeting. Well, a thousand yards of green shag carpet was even more of a shock than the strange looking book. So Max started over compeletely and managed to conjure the servents by reffering to them as golden servents instead of yellow pages. The feast was a grand success, but Max's thoughts kept returning to the mysterious book. He told nobody about it for he disliked to admit how he got it. But he spent many hours looking at it, and tying to discover how to read it. For he had never seen runes such as those. He saw a shape repeatedly in the book that was obviously a bell, and so decided to try another conjuration. "What can come from a bell?" he thought. When a small transparent room appeared with the inscription "Pacific Telephone" at the top, Max was grately puzzled. He tried striking the side to see if it would ring, and was rewarded with a dull klunk! and a shower of broken glass. "So falls bell that ends knell," thought Max ruefully.