53, Summer, Month unknown.

You watch enviously as two children splash themselves with water in
the Akkad fountain. The summer had been unusually hot and humid. Even a
sword demon would find it difficult to call this sort of oppressive heat
'comfortable.' Of course, in these times, others have tried different
approaches to battling the heat. Last month, the Akkadian Enchanter's
guild generously decided lay a rune of Ice instead of the customary
healing rune found in the square. It only helped slightly, and faded in
power as the week passed. But it was better than nothing.
The heat, combined with all of the changes passing within the realm
of late, and all of the new faces that seemed to be appearing--well, it
was no wonder that people seem to be more irritable. The akkadian
librarian, you can't remember his name, said that according to the town
census the population had almost doubled from what it was only a year
ago. Small wonder the traffic at the fountain has grown.
A crowd begins gathering in the southwestern corner of the square. A
man dressed in brightly colored clothes seems to be the center of
attention. You notice the two children are no longer at the fountain.
Peering about, you find them sitting cross-legged at the head of the
crowd listening raptly to the young human.
You begin to wonder why Slim hasn't warded off the crowd (which is
keeping business from passing into his shop.). That's when you see the
shopkeeper listening intenly to the colorful man. Wondering what could
draw anyone from the fountain on such a warm day, you decide to

'...was amazing, I'll tell ye, my friends," said the bard with a
flourish. 'Never in my years have I seen anything like it. Nor am I apt
ta forget it.'

'How big was the king?' asked one of the children.

The young man grinned mischievously and looked about the square,
finally resting his eyes on the Tower of Justice. He pointed to the
structure nonchalantly.

'Oh..I'd say about that height. Praps a tad bit shorter,' he said. He
was no longer smiling, but his eyes were.

'I doubt that, outlander. Not even Storm Giants grow to that height.
And I should know. I do a good deal of business with the Torque,' said
Slim disapprovingly. The crowd murmured in agreement. All knew the
Justicar by sight, and he was clearly the tallest living being in the

The bard shook his head earnestly. 'Believe me, friend. I know because
I saw him myself. King Drin was equal in size to the uppermost window
of your Tower there, or I'm a dwarf.' This was met by a few
grumbles--some dwarven smiths who had stopped to hear the tale. You
notice the crowd has grown a great deal, now, and you are three rows in

The bard blinked, then grinned. 'No offense meant, noble craftsman.'

'He ssspeaks the truth,' came a raspy voice from the other side of the
crowd. 'My magic would allow me to sssense a lie.' A grey gromek. A
mage to be certain. Most of the crowd nodded their heads at that. It
was said some mages had that ability.

The bard blinked again, looked troubled for a moment, then grinned in
the direction of the mage. 'Thank ye, sir, for ensuring the truth of
the story. As I said, Drin was huge. As tall as that tower with bulging
muscles. Despite his tremendous size, he looked perfectly human. A
Titan, I'd say....or some sort of giant I've never seen before. And he
took advantage of his size to carve out a small kingdom to the south.
In the lands beyond the Shadowlands there grow many things ye would
consider fantastical here. Truth be told, I never believed there was
anything that lay beyond the ice barrier. We always thought it ended
there. That's where all our maps end. That's where the world ended, we

The bard paused for a moment to ruffle the hair of the second child, who

'Aye, Drin was master of his kingdom, and ruled with cruelty and a
laen fist. If any crossed him, for any reason 'tall--no pun intended
friends-- he would slay them on the spot. Overtaxed the people were.
And none liked him. But none had the strength to stand up to him.
Once a wandering knight-swordsman of great reknown from a neighboring
duchey heard of the people's dilemna, and arrived in the kingdom to
challenge Drin. The knight stood at the gates Drin's stone fortress and
called the massive tyrant out. Drin crossed the drawbridge to meet the
knight. And the giant had his archers shoot the hero dead.
But that wasn't enough for Drin! Drin carried the body of the fallen
hero to town. He tied the body to the city gates, where it remained for
a full day. Then he called upon his chief advisor, a cleric--do clerics
exist in these parts? I've yet to see one--to call apon the gods to
bring life back into the fallen hero. And when the breath of life
returned to the poor knight, his eyes turned to Drin in fear and
realization...and terror. And Drin cracked the knight on the head so

The bard did something with his hand that made a loud POP--it sounded
nearly as loud as thunder. The crowd quickly glanced around, searching
for any signs of demons. Warriors touched the hilts of their blades
reassuringly. The colorful man chuckled.

'..Well. Suffice it to say I wouldn't want to die like that. And
certainly not eight times, anyways. And that is what Drin did for a
week before he tired of the sport. Every day, he and his cleric would
return and do the same. The swordsman's body slowly...ah..smelling..the
whole time...'

The crowd shuddered involuntarily. The children frowned, not
understanding exactly what had passed, and hoping the strange man would
make the popping sound again.

'And so it went like this for years. Drin would send his taxmen to
collect whatever they wanted from the people, and the people would pay..
Or horrible things would happen. It can never be said that Drin didn't
have a wonderful imagination.'

'Until one day?,' asked one the two children hopefully.

The bard grinned and nodded. 'Aye, milady.' He bowed with a
flourish as if the child were royalty. She giggled.

'Until one day the other came..'

'..But the other was tiny, and walked with a slight limp.' At that the
bard crouched over and began to walk crookedly. He contorted his face
and smiled at the children, showing all of his teeth. They fell over

'It had your accent, but kept repeating things. It called himself a
Nool Rohnikiller, whatever that means, and it said it was searching for
something. We'd never seen anything like it. It was covered in fur.
Its teeth were yellow!!' At this point the other child interrupted,
exclaiming 'Eeew!'

'I confess, he was something of an eyesore. He came in last Winter and
booked a room in a local inn. His coin was good, though. And he was
very quiet. The storms had come, and travel was all but impossible. He
was reading constantly. And when he wasn't reading he was writing. I
used to perform in the common room of that inn once or twice a week..
Sing for my supper, so to speak, and he was always with book in hand in
the corner. He didn't speak much. Folks in my part of the world are
more suspicious of foreigners than you seem to be. At any rate he
stayed at the inn for two weeks. Except for the storms, it all seemed

'Until the tax men came. They always come without warning, so you've no
time to hide anything Drin would consider valuable, you see. And they
decided it was time to collect yearly taxes for the third time this
winter from the inn.

They burst through the doors, dressed in pitch black, with swords and
axes at their sides. Most of the folk, loyal subjects of Drin, gave all
they had on them to make certain they owed nothing. Nool Rohnikiller,
though--he ignored 'em as if they weren't there. He kept on writing.

The tax men didn't like that. No sire. They tore the book from his
furry hands, then two held him down. The other taxmen (they don't
travel in groups of less than ten), learned from the inkeep where the
furry guy's room was. The trudged upstairs and returned moments later
with all of the poor creatures posessions--books, mainly. A staff and a
blue robe too, I recall. After a few kicks, they left the creature in
the corner.
Rohnikiller didn't say much, but his eyes burned. Now that I think
about it, I'd have to say that he had the look of someone who was
thinking hard and long about something. He left the inn, and I didn't
see him again until a week later.'

The bard took a drink from a mug offered to him from a stranger.
Golg, it looked like. You wonder if Golg already had plans to take
advantage of this talespinner for later in the 'eve. After a long drink
of ale, the young man returned the mug gratefully.

'I thank ye, good sire. That hit the spot. Where was I?' he scratched
his head.

'Rohnikiller thinking!!' shouted both of the children and even a few

'Right! So, time passed, as it has a tendency of doing, and I did see
Nool a week later. I had decided it was time to move on. The storms
had passed, and I had had enough of Drin's kingdom. As I walked the
road and passed the tyrant's great castle, I saw his smallish crooked
figure standing in a simple brown robe at the base. He was looking up
at the castle walls and seemed quite calm, I'll admit. He must have
known he was risking an unpleasant death even standing there. Curious
in spite of myself, I quietly made my way behind a tree and watched what
would unfold. Snow quietly began falling.
Nool Rohnikiller said in a incredibly loud voice, 'D-drin! I c-call
y-you out n-now. I w-would l-like m-my b-books returned now, p-please.
And I w-will t-take them b-back if n-needed.'

The children giggled at the talespinner's stutter..

'I couldn't understand how anyone could speak so loudly. I did see,
however, that the guards were at the windows by the closed castle
drawbridge. They found the sight of Nool in the snow very amusing. He
asked again: 'Th-this is y-your l-last c-chance t-to r-return m-my
b-books in a p-peaceful m-manner. I u-urge y-you to r-reconsider.'
The guards responded by sending a volley of arrows at Nool. I
sighed. I gathered my bags. And I would have continued on my travels,
if it had not been for the fact that the arrows did NOT KILL the

An invisible barrier, something like an invisible stone wall, seemed to
surround him! I could only discern its outline there as snow slowly
began to pile around it! The arrows bounced harmlessly off of this
shell. The guards gaped in surprise. Before they had time to react, a
HUGE hand appeared out of nowhere at the gates of the stone fortress.
The hand pulled open and crushed the drawbridge as easily as you or I
would open a door.
NOW Nool had gotten Drin's attention. The Titan stood in the open
gate, armoured in a diamond and jewel-encrusted breastplate and
fierce. Drin shouted in rage at the damage to his property and the
insolence of one so small. I think for a brief moment, the furry
creature smiled in spite of himself. Ducking his head to pass the gate,
Drin took two steps to approach and squash Nool Rohnikiller. He passed
over the moat in one step and only a stone's throw in front of the small
one by the second step.

And it was the last thing Drin ever did.

The whole ground beneath the tyrant erupted in blue-white flame!! The
sound and heat could be felt from where I stood, nearly a mile distant.
I was blinded for a few seconds by the brightness of the flash. And
when I could see again, Nool was gone! A smooth flat hole now existed
where Drin had stepped. Nool told me shortly after it was called a
'crater'. Drin had also dissappeared, except for some diamonds that I
believe must have been part of his breastplate.

I blinked.

In a moment Nool had materialized in the same spot he had been
standing.. But he had reclaimed all of his items!!! His sack with
books lay over his shoulder..His brown robe exhanged for blue. It
must've been magic I tell you.

But the most amazing thing of all was this: The loyal servants to Drin
had rallied to the cleric, and were beginning to file out of the
fortress like ants from a anthill. Nool watched them sadly as they
scrambled toward the gate to make their way towards him and avenge their
leader. Sighing, he gestured with one hand....

And giant creatures (some half the size of Drin) stepped from the
stone walls of the fortress and began to rend the castle block by
block. None escaped. A keystone was removed, causing the gate to crash
down on apon them. The creatures them selves were made of the very
stone of the fortress. They were OF the fortress. And they worked
tirelessly until the entire castle was reduced to rubble on the

Nool, I noticed, was quite close to my hiding place now. He, too, was
leaving the town by the same road I would take. I wondered if they
would change the name of the town from something other than 'Drin's
Kingdom' since Drin and his kingdom no longer existed. I stepped out
from the trees as the furred one passed and congratulated him on a job
well done. I suggested he return to town, where he would receive a
hero's welcome, a warm fire, and a talespinner to render the tale of The
Mighty Drin and the Tiny Nool. He smiled, revealing yellowed teeth. He
told me it would be better to write such things down in a book than to
pass them through word of mouth. Such taless, the creature said, have a
way of warping like wood in water. Written history, he said, is more
Nool said he still had much travelling to do, and many leagues to
cover. He looked thoughtful for a moment, then rummaged in his sack.
He gave me a map of the lands beyond the ice...the Shadowlands. He
suggested I go visit it some day, saying the Shadowlands needed more
bards. And with that, he left, travelling into the snow. I watched his
form dissappear in the distance and the snowflakes and shivvered.
It was getting cold, and it looked like another storm was beginning.
The thought of returning to the inn and telling the story I had just
witnessed with a cup of warm cider in my stomach seemed a great deal
more appealing than travelling.'

'Eventually I left the town. His map was right. And this is where my
journey--and my story ends.'

The bard reached into a pouch at his belt and produced a detailed map.
A breeze catches it for a moment and causes it to ripple in his hand.
You notice two tiny letters on the other side: