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The Adventures of D'Raku

 Chapter One

     D’Raku leaned over the railing of the balcony on the second floor of the tavern, and peered down at the altercation developing below him.  He watched with amusement as the short, stocky, balding man in the green tunic shook his fist at the larger man looming over him.  “I don’t have to pay for this slop”, he screeched at the top of his lungs.  Langht, the owner of the tavern, looked down at him and bellowed, “You ordered-you pay!”  Adengu, the one who held the bowl of stew (or whatever it was, D’Raku couldn’t tell for sure), in his hands, threw it against the side of the building.  The contents of the bowl splattered against the wall and then slowly slid down to the ground, juices and bits of meat and vegetables falling all over.  “There”, he said with satisfaction, “No slop, no pay”.  Langht looked at the mess on the side of his building, turned to his left and from the pile of timbers that were stacked there grabbed one in his massive paw. 

     Raising it high over his head he advanced menacingly towards Adengu. Adengu took one look at Langht, then turned and fled, his short, fat legs pumping up and down as he scurried around the corner and down the street.  Langht watched him fade out of sight, and then throwing the wood down on the ground, went back into his tavern.  D’Raku shook his head and went back into his room, where he noticed that the setting sun was casting shadows on the wall.  Fastening his cloak around his shoulders, he settled his sword belt on his waist, and went out to the stairs, closing the door to his room gently behind him so as not to make a sound.  Going down to the main room, he saw that it was filling up for the evening meal and entertainment.  He made his way to the door and slipped outside, heading down the street to his meeting. D’Raku walked slowly down the street, his thoughts on the meeting tonight with one of Hirakus most prominent citizens-the wealthy merchant Silvus, who had made his fortune in the illicit slave trade, and now had switched to dealing in precious metals to give himself an air of respectability. 

     He skirted piles of garbage in the street without thinking, and soon found himself in front of the gates to Silvus’s mansion, guarded by two men from the north, huge giants with legs the size of tree trunks and arms to match.  They watched him come up to the gates suspiciously, and one came forward to meet him.  D’Raku gave him his name, and the guard pulled a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket and peered at it in the waning light.  Seeing D’Raku’s name on the list of appointments for that day, he grunted approval and opened the gate for him. As D’Raku passed through the gate, the guard pointed at his waist and held out his hand.  D’Raku knew that he wanted his weapons, so he unbuckled his sword belt and handed it over without comment, knowing better than to argue with any of Silvus's guards from the north. 

     Proceeding up the path to the house, he passed several more of the guards, all from the north like the ones at the gate.  Silvus is taking no chances he thought to himself, and then was at the door.  There was a huge silver knocker in the shape of a rearing lion, and when he pulled it up and let it drop, the sound reverberated throughout the house.  A few seconds passed, and then the door slowly opened. D’Raku found himself staring at the oldest, ugliest man he had ever seen.  Scars crisscrossed his face from chin to brow, and there were patches of hair missing from all over the top of his head. 

     The old man’s left eye had been partially removed, and what was left hung down out of the socket, held in place by ribbons of scar tissue.  His left leg was missing from the knee down, and there was a piece of wood in place of it.  Peering at D’Raku with his one good eye, he turned and motioned for D’Raku to follow. Once inside, the floor was strewn with expensive rugs and carpets from the east, decorated in fancy patterns of braided gold and silver.  On the walls hung various tapestries, paintings, and scattered about were vases and small statues on hand-carved tables of ebony and rosewood. 

     The whole place screamed of untold riches, and one who flaunted it.  Shuffling along the hallway, the old man came to a richly carved door, made of solid oak and banded with strips of gold.  Opening it, he stood aside so D’Raku could pass by and go into the room. D’Raku entered the room and stood still for a moment, letting his eyes adjust to the semi-darkness inside.  “Come over here and sit down,” a deep, powerful voice said from the other side of the room. D’Raku made his way to the desk on the far side, and sat down in one of the luxuriously cushioned chairs that were positioned in front of it.  “Drink?” the voice inquired, but D’Raku shook his head no.  Better to keep his wits about him until he found out what this was all about. 

     Silvus leaned back in his chair and looked at D’Raku, running his eyes over him from top to bottom.  He saw in front of him a man about 25 years of age, with short blond hair, hazel eyes, and a strong, firm chin.  Silvus estimated from when D’Raku came in that he was about 6’ 4” tall, and weighed around 180 pounds.  D’Raku seemed to be lithe and muscular, with not an ounce of fat on his body. Satisfied with his appraisal of D’Raku, Silvus leaned forward, and taking a piece of paper off of the desk, tossed it over to D’Raku.  D’Raku caught it and then looked it over.  One side was blank, and on the other he could see that it was written in Hiransbul, the language of a country far to the south, famous for it’s brutal and cruel leaders. 

     Holding it up to the dim light of the single small candle that was lit on the desk, he proceeded to read the letter. It was from Jactal, a slave trader that he knew by reputation, and a former partner of Silvus.  He had written that there was a vast treasure that only he knew the location of, but that there was need of many men and equipment to retrieve it.  For the sake of their relationship, he was inviting Silvus to join with him and bring out the treasure from where it was currently hidden.  Coming to the end of the missive, D’Raku tossed it down on the desk and looked at Silvus inquiringly.  The matter seemed to be a simple one to him, but Silvus had understood his look, and with a shake of his head said “Jactal would never invite someone to split a treasure find with him-not even one that goes back as far as I do.  I think that this is a forgery, but I don’t know who or why”.

      “What enemies do you have that would try to impersonate Jactal?” asked D’Raku. Silvus threw back his head and laughed, “I have garnered so many over the years that it is impossible to count.”  Standing up, he walked around the edge of the desk, and sitting on the corner, looked intently at D’Raku. “That is why I have chosen you, an outsider, to try to unravel this mystery.”

     “But I know nothing of you or your business except for local gossip.” Going back to his chair, Silvus sat down and continued, “Precisely.  That is why you make a perfect choice.  No one knows you, and you have no previous ideas of who or what it might be.”  Opening up a drawer, Silvus pulled out a sack and tossed it across the desk to D’Raku.  “In here you will find enough money to take care of expenses for the next week or two.  If you need more, go to any bank in any city and mention my name.  I will arrange for funds to be made available for you.”

     With that, Silvus stood up and walked over to the door.  Opening it, he turned to D’Raku who had risen and started to walk through the doorway, and clutched his arm.  “Remember,” he hissed, “Tell no one about this.  Anybody can be suspect.” The old man had reappeared, and escorted D’Raku to the door.  As he made his way back to the gates, D’Raku started to think of how best to handle this assignment.  Retrieving his sword belt from the guard, he resumed his course back to the tavern. 

     As he was passing the last corner before coming to the tavern, D’Raku felt the warm caress of an arrow as it flew past his head and thudded into the wall beside him. Leaping closer to the shadows of the wall, he drew his sword and looked about, but could discern no signs of who had shot the arrow at him.  D’Raku stood silently for several minutes, but there was no further activity.  Keeping close to the wall, he made his way around the corner and back to the tavern.  Going inside, he went up the stairs, and when he came to the door or his room, decided he should play it safe.

     Standing to one side, he used the tip of his sword to lift the latch, and push the door open.  When nothing happened, he slipped inside, and looked about.  There was no one waiting for him in the room, so he went over to the bed and gathered up his few belongings.  Going back downstairs, he went out to the stables and saddled his horse. Leading his horse outside, he swung up into the saddle and cantered slowly down the street and out onto the road leading to Searus, the last known home of Jactal.

     The sun was rising by the time the spires of Searus had come into sight, and D'Raku yawned and stretched in the saddle, scratching his chin while pleasant thoughts of a soft bed and a warm meal filled his mind.  A few minutes later he passed slowly through the massive wooden gates of the city, and hailed the first person he saw, asking where the best lodgings were at.  The man grunted and pointed down the street, where D'Raku saw a faded sign that had the words "The Gutted Boar Tavern" painted on it, and what he surmised was supposed to be a rendition of a gutted boar beneath them.

     Waving his thanks to the man, he rode on down the street to the tavern, and dismounting threw the reins of his horse to the stable boy lounging by the door.  "Make sure he's well taken care of" he said, and threw the boy a silver talus coin.  The boy grabbed it out of the air and taking the reins led the horse away.  Stamping the dust off of his boots and settling his sword belt around his waist, D'Raku opened the door and stepped inside.  All heads turned with the sound of the door creaking open, and after a quick glance dismissed him as a threat and turned back to their business.  Spying a vacant table over in the far corner, D'Raku made his way across the room and settled into one of the empty chairs.

     Glancing about, he saw the usual assortment of patrons, but avoided making eye contact with anyone, so as not to jeopardize his mission.  The sound of a footstep drew his eyes upward, and he found himself looking a fairly pretty serving wench.  She had a wooden platter with several empty tankards balanced on one hip, and was looking at him inquiringly.  "What it'll be?" she asked in a melodious voice.  "A pitcher of Flangarian Ale and a thick, well-done steak" he answered.  Nodding her head she moved off, and D'Raku leaned back in his chair and started to relax from the long ride through the night he had just finished.

     His mood of contentment was shattered by the sound of the door being thrown open and the sound of noisy boots stomping into the room.  Looking over to the door he saw several members of the city guard crowding in, with drawn swords waving menacingly around in the air.  The leader stepped up to the bar and asked the tavern owner if he had seen any strangers around.  D'Raku felt that it was time to disappear, so he stood up and started to quietly head towards the stairs. The owner had meanwhile pointed to the corner that he had occupied just a few seconds before, and the officer had turned and started to walk over to the table that D'Raku had just vacated, when a man sitting at one of the tables in the path of the officer carelessly thrust his foot out and tripped him. 

     The officer grabbed onto the shoulder of the person nearest him to keep from falling, a man by the name of Rango, which caused him to spill his tankard of ale down his shirt front.  Bellowing with rage, Rango jumped to his feet and whipped out his dagger, thrusting it at the officer, one Geraldus by name, who leapt back and drew his sword. Hissup, the drunk who had started all of this by accident had meanwhile climbed to his feet and stood there, swaying back and forth slightly, with a puzzled look on his face.  Glancing at the two men who were glaring at each other with weapons waving menacingly about in the air, he put out his arms and tried to push the pair further apart. 

     This however, was the wrong thing to do, for Rango swiped at Hissup with his dagger, and a thin line of red began to well up from a five inch cut on his arm.  D'Raku saw that this distraction would work to his advantage and slipped quietly out the back. Wondering what had happened that would have caused the city guard to be on the lookout for strangers, he paused in the shadows and pondered what his next move should be.  The wisest course of action he decided would be to retrieve his horse and belongings and make his way to the shadier side of town and hide out there, or leave the city and camp out in the countryside while he fulfilled his mission.


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