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Heroes of Mystara - Chapter 2by Jesper Andersen
Although it was well into the middle of summer, the characteristic blue pinewoods of the mountains of Boldavia were still covered in a thick blanket of snow. This high up, the only sound in the chill night air was the howling of a faraway pack of wolves, their voices intensifying with the fullness of the moon. A lonely white hare was jumping through the snow, quietly trying to get to the leaves and plants underneath it. Suddenly, a bright light flashed some ten feet above the ground and as the hare ducked for cover the air echoed the screams of a man falling to the ground; 'Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiittttttttt!' With a muffled thump, he landed hard in the snow. He had barely had time to put his brown fur cap back on his red-haired head and wipe the snow from his moustache and beard before loud cursing in dwarvish signalled the arrival of the first of his companions above him. In a moment, Whitemane, Thaminor, Petja and Wulfar were all rolling around in the snow on the mountainside, cursing loudly, while Ikaros got to his feet and looked around. 'By the teachings of Rad, I am back', he sighed. 'Crap!'
He had spent the last two years getting as far away from Boldavia as he could, and now he was right back were it all started. He remembered the days of his apprenticeship at the tower of Palando and how the evil old necromancer had tormented him and his fellow apprentices. One by one, they had given up - or disappeared mysteriously in the dark vaults beneath the tower - and only he remained. Ikaros had long suspected his master of trafficking with fiends and leading a decadent and depraved life with lots of wine and the company of succubi for his pleasures. And then, one day, it had apparently been too much for his heart and Ikaros had found the old devil sitting stiffly in a chair, his eyes wide open and a mad grin on his face.
For a few days Ikaros had entertained the idea of claiming the tower for himself but his magic was too weak to bypass Palando's wards to his study and library. Instead, Ikaros set about exploring parts of the lower levels of the tower but quickly learned that some manor of little devils lived down there so he decided to leave that alone as well.
Somehow, word reached Rymskigrad that Palando had died and, unknown to Ikaros, Palando apparently had a lot of debt in different places. For within a week of the old bugger's demise a horde of debt-collectors were at the gates and started taking everything they could. When Ikaros tried to stop them, he was kicked out into the snow with little else than his spellbook and the clothes on his back. Hungry and frightened he had made his way south to Estoniarsk and from there to Bramyra and on to Trintan and later Darokin.
Now he was back and, as his companions rose to their feet, he looked around for trace of his master's ghost. Through the quiet night-time woods, Palando's glowing figure came strolling towards them. He stopped next to Ikaros and pointed into the valley below. 'Below us is the town of Rymskigrad', he said, 'and the house of that greedy swine, Fyodor Ilyaevich, who pillaged my tower'. Ikaros remembered the wine merchant Fyodor, whom Palado apparently had owed a great deal of money. 'When Fyodor's goons looted my study, they took my magical staff', Palando's ghostly visage continued. 'I want it back'.