Disclaimer: Quest For Glory and its characters do not belong to me, they belong to Sierra On-Line and, more specifically, Lori and Corey Cole.

Chapter 4: Raid and Panic

As the sun set behind the mountains, Rico smiled in glee. It's time! He thought as he started sharpening his dagger in a rock. Always gotta sharpen ol' Slice before every raid, just in case I'm caught. A good Thief can never be too careful.

He brought out one of his lock-picks and looked at it curiously. "Hmm… I wonder…" he said to himself as he carefully stuck the lock-pick into his nose.

After moving it around a bit, he heard a nice little 'click!' and carefully pulled it out with a sniffle. There, now he could breathe better! Why did I never think to do this before? This works great for that stupid allergy to pollen I have. Plus, it'll be good practice too!

Finn wrinkled his nose and Marcus rolled his eyes at him. What next? Sticking it up his… oh, never mind.

Giving Slice a few good slashes and stabs, Rico then gave it a toss. As Slice whistled through the air, Finn ducked just in time, which allowed him only to lose a few strands of hair and for the dagger to be stuck in a tree trunk.

Finn slowly came back up, looked at the dagger and Rico, and said frightened, "You could have killed me!"

Rico walked over to the tree, taking Slice out of it and grinned. "But I didn't because you were smart. I wasn't aiming for you- I was aiming for the tree. You just so happened to be in my way, that's all."

"Well don't do it again, you jerk!" Finn exclaimed, pointing his finger. Rico nodded and tucked Slice into his belt alongside his extra knives.

The stars were coming out now, and as Rico flipped up the hood on his cloak he said, "Well, I don't know what you boys intend to do, but I'm heading back for 'work'," and he dashed off back to town chuckling to himself.

Finn turned to Marcus and asked, "Why are we friends with him again?"

Marcus replied, "Oh, he's a good man at heart, really. If he'd really wanted to kill you, he probably would have slit your throat years ago. Anyway," he said looking at Shamgar again, "I think I could use a bit more training with my sword. And you," he looked at Finn, "might want to work more on those magic spells you have. 'The more you practice, the better you'll get!' as father always told me."

Finn nodded a bit nervously, "I know Marcus, I know. But…" he looked around with widened eyes, "it's getting dark and-"he stopped as he felt that something was watching him from behind, but when he turned around he saw nothing there. "A-and t-there are monsters out here!"

Marcus brought up Shamgar defensively and tried to calm down Finn. "Don't worry, we'll be fine as long as we keep our guard up, and watch where we're walking."

It was at that very moment that the gigantic Mantray decided to reveal itself and rushed at them, electricity crackling from its long stinger tail, as fast as lightning!

Marcus took a slash at it, but the creature was smarter than the Saurus from earlier and dodged. As it swooped past Marcus, it smacked him aside and away from Finn.

Finn launched a nice big Flame Dart at the beast, which made a direct hit! The Mantray let out a screech of pain, and suddenly whipped its tail around and struck Finn right in the chest with a bolt of lightning!

"AAAAGH!" Finn screamed as his body convulsed in pain and tears came to his eyes. Oh God, please just let this end! Please! In desperation, he tried to throw another Flame Dart which hit the Mantray on its underside! The monster reared back and stopped zapping him for a moment, which gave Marcus an opening, and he cut away at the Mantray's back to distract it. The Mantray whirled around, brandishing its stinger threateningly. It tried to electrocute Marcus, but Marcus was quick and with a block and parry was able to slice the dangerous stinger right off!

The now furious Mantray began showing off its sharp teeth and bit Marcus right on the arm that held his sword!

Marcus cried out, and Finn could barely stand up. I have to help him… but I feel so drained…He attempted to conjure up another Flame Dart, but when he saw how small it was, he felt discouraged. He'd used up a lot of his Mana today, unfortunately. Nevertheless, he had to help somehow, and threw the Dart hoping it would do some damage.

It did, but because the Mantray was currently occupied with Marcus it wasn't expecting that, and bit down so hard on Marcus' arm that there was a 'crack!' sound as it broke his forearm! Gritting his teeth and trying to fight back the searing pain in his right arm, Marcus drew back his other arm and punched the Mantray right in the eye!

The monster recoiled and finally let go with a hiss, but still didn't look like it was ready to give up the fight yet. Marcus, though weakened, put up his one good arm to say that he wasn't ready to give up just yet either.

Finn was desperately trying to conjure up more Flame Darts, but all he got was miniscule balls of fire that could barely scorch a rat's hide and just fizzled to ash in a couple seconds. Without magic, he was completely helpless.

It was at this time that the Mantray decided it needed a little help of its own, and as it swooped up into the air, it let out a loud ear piercing screech… and suddenly the ground started to shake beneath their feet as even more Mantrays came out of hiding to join the battle! They were smaller and even faster than the big one was, and like the big one they hit hard too!

Marcus and Finn tried their best to swat them away, but they just wouldn't stop coming! They were both running out of stamina fast and just finally decided to book it!

"RUN!" Marcus shouted, and both ran away from the section of the forest as fast as they could! Unfortunately, they could hear the Mantrays chasing after them and knew they couldn't run forever. Sure enough, they were quickly surrounded by colorful leathery wings and bitten by sharp teeth once more. Not even bothering to fight now, they just shoved them out the way and kept running.

Marcus and Finn were so focused on getting away, that they didn't even watch where they were going…

When it seemed that the Mantrays had given up on them finally, Marcus looked around. Wait- he'd never explored this part of the forest before, had he? "F-Finn? W-Where are we?" Marcus quietly asked shaking.

There was no reply.

Marcus looked around frantically! "Finn?! Where are you?! FINN?!" he screamed, getting silence.

Finn, meanwhile, was still running and tripped over a rock and fell down on his face, pain shooting through his ankle. His strength was spent, and he braced himself for the end.

Nothing happened.

After realizing that he was no longer being chased, he slowly looked up and his blood ran cold. He'd never been in this section of the forest before! "M-M-Marcus? W-Where are we?"

There was no answer.

Finn looked around in a panic! "Marcus?! Where are you?! MARCUS?!" he cried, without a reply from his friend.

Meanwhile, back in Spielburg Town…

Rico had already slipped into his sneak position by the time he'd gotten back to the now closed gates. He looked up at the stone wall and thought This should be an easy climb.

Digging his fingers into the stone, and pressing his boots onto the wall, he carefully started to clamber up the wall. He was quickly at the top, and jumped down into the darkened streets of Spielburg.

Something about this place seemed a little less friendly at night. Rico felt like he was being watched from all around. A shiver went down his spine, but he tried to remain calm yet alert.

He searched all around town, but unfortunately it seemed that most of the doors in town were bolted shut from the inside. How disappointingly annoying! Oh, but it seems that not everyone is this clever, for Rico did spot a locked door that didn't look like it was bolted.

He smiled and brought out his lock-pick, jamming it up into the lock and wiggling it around. After a minute of getting the position just right, he smiled ever wider as he heard that wonderful little 'snick!' that was music to his ears.

Opening the door just a crack, he slipped in quite easily and shut it behind him.

Marcus had been wandering around in the dark forest for what felt like hours. He knew he had to find somewhere safe to rest otherwise he'd never live to see the morning. He'd start searching for Finn after he'd had some rest. He looked down at his right arm that hung limp at his side, but still grasped his sword in a white knuckled grip: he couldn't fight like this! He would just have to be cautious from now on. How could I be so STUPID as to not pack a shield?! I'm an idiot! He thought and punched himself for being so dumb.

Everything in this valley looked the same to him at night, and Marcus was sure he was just walking around in circles. But he wasn't about to give up. He had to reach somewhere eventually…

Not caring where he was even going anymore, he picked a random direction. I'll go… north, I guess. I don't really care where it goes, I'm just hoping for the best.

Heading north, he couldn't have planned this any better if he tried.

Where's a magic map when you need one? Finn thought as he limped through the bushes, looking for something, anything that looked even slightly familiar to him. No such luck and his foot hurt something fierce. Why? Why didn't papa teach me any healing spells? That would have made my life so much easier.

Well, complaining won't help you now Finn. Just need to find somewhere to sleep for the night, is all. Just… calm down there. It'll be alright so long as you're calm, right?

Suddenly, he heard something clopping towards him. Finn tensed up and put up his fists, for although his magic was drained he could still at least try to fight back even if it was futile.

The clopping became louder and louder as it came closer and closer. Finn waited in anticipation and said in the direction of the noise, "Come out and show yourself!"

What revealed itself to Finn was quite unexpected, since he hadn't seen one of them in this forest before- a stag!

The stag towered over him, his white coat and broad antlers shining in the moonlight. He stood proud and strong in front of Finn and in his sorry condition, he could end the lad's life with one swift kick to the head. But, as Finn gazed into his large brown eyes he didn't see what he'd expected- a hatred or fear of mankind or indifference to his situation. Instead, he saw kindness –or perhaps pity- in his eyes.

Finn knew that this was no ordinary stag, but something… magical. Finn bowed his head in respect, and asked while trying not to feel intimidated, "Can… can you help me please? I'm lost, Sir Stag, and I need shelter from these monsters here."

The Stag seemed to understand him, for he motioned his head to the left with a snort and then bounded off in the direction.

I think he wants me to follow him! Excellent! Finn thought gladly. Sorry Marcus, you'll have to wait. I need some sleep. And he followed the Stag as best he could through the thicket.

What he saw in the clearing made him smile.

Rico glanced around the small house and took a deep breath- hmm… scent of lavender, a lot of dust, birdseed and kitty litter. Ugh, this place reminds me of great-aunt Myra's house a bit too much, right down to the décor.

There a red and blue rectangular rug on the floor, with a little round coffee table on it. A couch lay next to the rug, with a purse on the cushion and a basket next to the couch. Behind the couch standing against the wall, was a big desk with two big candlesticks that looked to Rico like they were made of silver. A small wooden chest was next to the desk, and to the right of the desk laid a small staircase which led obviously to the old lady's bedroom which had a potted plant next to the door.

Next to the staircase, there was a stand with a purple quilt on it. Judging from the shape of the cloth, Rico figured it was a birdcage and refrained from touching it. There was a little leather chair next to the birdcage, and next to that was a nice fireplace with an oil lamp on the mantle.

Sitting by the fireplace, staring at him with big green eyes and a red collar, was a black cat. Rico waved innocently to the feline, "Hello little kitty," he whispered. "I'm just… um… an inspector here to check on your mistress's belongings." He sidled over to the couch and picked up the basket, searching through it. "Hmm… yes everything seems to be in order here," as he managed to slip a string of pearls he'd found into a secret pocket in his cloak.

The cat was still eyeing him suspiciously, as he went over to the desk to look closer at the candlesticks. He took one of them, and wiped it with a rag he had. 'If it ain't legit, ain't worth takin'.' That's what mom told me. He looked at the rag- it had black smudges on it. Jackpot! Rico congratulated himself and swiped it.

He looked in the chest and the desk, and found a bunch of old quilts, doilies and several sweaters that even Finn wouldn't wear and one silver coin respectfully. Rico blew a raspberry and took the coin since at least it was something. What a rip-off!

He went back over to the couch and picked up the purse that was still on the cushion. Rico opened it, and peeked inside. The cat, deciding it had had enough with this "inspector", leapt up from its spot by the fireplace and hissed at Rico. The cats' back rose up, and its ears were pinned back, Rico started taking steps backward towards the door and quickly searched through the purse- twenty silvers. Great. Lovely.

The cat hissed again, unsheathing its claws and prepared to pounce on the wannabe purloiner. But thinking quickly, Rico knelt down and petted the cat on the head. He spoke softly, "Now, now kitty. It's okay! I promise not to bother you anymore, alright? There's a good little kitty."

The cat settled down a bit and purred. Rico tossed one of the old lady's yarn balls at the cat, and it chased after it. Now preoccupied with the yarn, the cat completely ignored Rico as he saw himself out.

Marcus was standing in a clearing- a meadow specifically –that was surrounded by mountains still capped with snow. Yet, unlike what he'd expect, the air was comfortably warm. There wasn't much to see in this little patch of heaven except a large tree covered both fruit and blossoms at once, and surrounded by a gorgeous flowerbed.

Finally realizing just how tired he was, Marcus took a few steps inside the hollow and collapsed face down onto the soft grass, letting go of his sword at last. He laid still for a while, breathing in the scent of the beautiful sweet flowers.

Glancing up a bit he noticed a smooth stone with what looked like runes etched into it. Looking closer, Marcus was able to read: "If Thy Will is Magic, so shall I share. Open the stone, and see what is there." Sounded like a job for Finn. On the side of the stone were etched the words "Erana's Peace"

Marcus turned over on his back and looked up at the stars glinting above him. I'm safe here, I know it. She's watching over me- wherever she is.He closed his eyes and smiled, his last thoughts before drifting off to sleep being, Lady Erana… thank you so much for this place. I am forever in your debt.

The Stag had led Finn to a lovely little glade. It was quiet and surrounded by rocks and thickets, but what really stood out was the grand oak tree in front of him. Again, like the Stag, Finn sensed that this wasn't an ordinary tree but that there was something magical about it.

"Hello? Is someone there?" Finn asked the tree. As soon as he spoke, he felt a pair of eyes watching him suspiciously. "Please, I mean no harm. Look at me, I can barely walk let alone try to hurt the majestic Stag who led me here. Please… I'm so tired."

Then, a slender figure walked out of the tree bark. Yes, walked. Judging from the figure, Finn assumed it was female, which was confirmed when it spoke, "I am the Dryad, keeper of the woods. Are you one with the woods, young one?"

"I am."

The Dryad nodded and motioned to the grass. "You may rest here for a while, young one, and you shall tell me why you have come here."

Finn nodded. "Yes ma'am." And as he sat down, he told her everything that had happened this day, from their arrival in town to this very night with getting separated from Marcus. The Stag and the Dryad were quiet and politely listened to Finn talk (not like the Stag could reply anyway) until he had told all that he thought he'd needed to tell.

"This quest of yours… is of a different sort than your friend's, isn't it young one?"

Finn raised his eyebrows in surprise. "How did you guess?"

"Well," the Dryad said, "from what I've heard of these battles you've done… you don't sound like you're very courageous. In fact, I'd call you a coward."

"Hey!" Finn frowned. "I'm not a-"but he stopped and flinched as the Stag glared at him and snorted in his face. Finn sighed and muttered, "Okay, okay… so I am. No thanks to papa…" he looked down at his shoes.

Getting the hint, the Dryad dropped the subject.

Finn suddenly remembered something and looked up, "Oh by the way, a fox I met here told me you knew how to break the curse on the Baron's daughter. Is that true?"

The Dryad nodded. "Yes. I will help you young one, but only if you will do something for me."

Finn rolled his eyes. Reynard had mentioned that earlier. "And that would be what exactly?"

"Bring me a seed from the Spore Spitting Spirea of the North. I need to plant the seed elsewhere, to preserve these plants in the world."

"Alright, I think I can do that." Finn said, starting to get up again. He cringed and sat back down, remembering that he was still injured. "But… maybe I ought to get some rest first."

As Finn closed his eyes, the Dryad softly whispered to the Stag, "Lockhart, keep watch over him, will you?" Lockhart nodded and lay down next to Finn. The Dryad went back inside her tree to concentrate again.

Rico walked back into town with a sigh of relief. He'd done it! His first real raid since he'd left home, all by himself with nary a mishap aside from the cat!

Checking his pockets again just to make sure he had everything, he headed down the path back to where the tavern was… and stopped.

Catching a glint in the corner of his eye, he turned around.

There! He saw it again! It looked like it came from the dark alley next to the tavern. Rico withdrew Slice just in case and got into his sneak position, walking slowly and cautiously on tiptoe into the alley.

Something about this just didn't feel right to him. Rico's eyes darting around quickly, he took note of how small and tight the alley was, with lots of cover in the darkness from all the boxes and sacks lying around.

He went over to see what the glint was and-

There was a "thwip!" sound behind him! Rico ducked and dodged as he knew that sound all too well: the sound of a dagger being thrown at someone! He whirled around to see a cloaked figure standing in front of him with the dagger he'd thrown getting stuck in the wall. Thieves, just great!

Then, he felt something sharp poking him in the back and he froze. He heard one of the thieves, Sneak, laugh behind him. "Heh heh, that 'Coin Light' spell gets 'em every time, doesn't it? See that dagger?" Rico nodded and started to sweat nervously. "Well the next one's centered on your back. You squeal, and it'll just be one little push… heh heh heh! It's a simple trade, kid: your cash for your life. So we got a deal, kid? Or do I have to make a mess in here?"

Rico stammered, "W-w-wait, I'm one of you guys! Here, I can prove it!"

Sneak grumbled disappointedly, "You mean to tell me, that the first person we've had here in months is a thief? And a licensed one at that?" Rico nodded affirmatively and crossed his arms. Sneak growled and pointed his dagger again, "Alright, alright, I get the picture." He pointed outside the alleyway with the knife, "Now get outta our alley, kid! And don't be comin' back unless you have a death wish, got it?"

Rico nodded again and walked out back to the tavern.

"Well, here's some good news for you, fellow dieb," said Boris sounding cheerful. "All that stuff you just fenced? In total, it's worth 600 silvers."

Rico's eyes widened considerably in shock, "T-that much?! Seriously?!" Boris nodded and handed him his money pouch back. "Vielen dank, Boris!" Rico said happily, cheering up quite a bit.

Feeling tired after a very long first day in Spielburg, he left the Thieves Guild with a heavy back, but a light heart.