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Escape Neuburg Keep
Any Port In A Storm
Below Zero Point
Tales From The Bird Islands
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A Knight's Trial
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Riders Of The Storm
Bodies In The Docks
House Of Horror
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Lair Of The Troglodytes
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The Trial Of Allibor's Tomb
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Any Port In A Storm

by Robert Douglas


Introduction
Stormy Sea
Artwork © Alex van der Linde
Blown off-course by a sudden squall, now a raging tempest transforms the ocean into seven foot waves which mercilessly thrash the Moonrunner. You can barely see anything through the relentless spray, struggle to keep your feet on the turbulent deck - yet somehow endeavour to keep yourselves afloat in this maelstrom.

"Light to port-side!" Nick bellows above the roar.

"Where on earth are we?"

"Who cares, Alex!" Tess grins, pale, weary face regaining some of its beauty. "It's land - all that matters right now!"

"Yeah," you nod, "okay."

Decision unanimous - although there's really little choice - Nick pulls on the sail; Moonrunner painfully edges closer and closer. Now, even in this foul night of slashing rain, you can barely make out the familiar shape of a lighthouse. Yet the sheer relief of reaching salvation blinds you to the unnatural eerie glow from its beacon...

After what seems an eternity, you gain the jetty, tie off the sailing boat, then scramble ashore. However, that strange light has suddenly disappeared - and all the stone houses here are dark, silent, locked. Of course, nobody in their right mind would be around at this ungodly hour on such a terrible night. You reckon they must be fast asleep, unable to hear your frantic banging over the howling storm.

A sudden tug at your arm: Nick's found an unlocked outhouse. At least now you'll be able to shelter from the wind and rain, if not the perishing cold. The three of you sit there, huddled, frozen limbs and gloomy thoughts put a damper on any light-hearted conversation. Tess is particularly miserable but makes a valiant effort not to show it. "W-well..." she manages a grin through chattering teeth, "our ch-chances of winning... the B-black Pearl trophy has g-gone for a... b-burton!"

Nick, her fiancÚ, at once recognises such humoured bravado as an attempt to raise flagging spirits, affectionately hugs her close. "Don't worry, hon," he pecks her cheek, "won't be long now 'til someone wakes up - say, Alex, what time is it?"

"Er... 4:30, just gone."

By your waterproof, it's really only four minutes short of 2am, but you don't want to tell poor, shivering, Tess that: there's such a thing as a 'white lie' in your book.

"Brill!" Nick's smile broadens and he rubs her shoulder in reassurance. "Not long to go then, eh?"

You try to settle on the hard earthen floor. "In the meantime I don't think it would hurt to grab some shut-eye..."

You awaken to someone prodding you with a hiker's cane. "What's this, what's this?" fusses an aged voice. "Trespassers, eh? Thieves, perhaps?"

"Wha-? Oh, God, sorry we...!"

"Heh, heh, heh, dorn't worry yeself, laddie. Ye bort - bonnie wee thing - there fer all yon port tae see."

"Moonrunner... right. Thank God she's safe - after that nightmare of a storm!"

"Aye, indeed a blessin', laddie. By the ware, nam's Roy," he offers a gnarled hand with a toothy grin. "Or 'Rob' Roy as they nicknam mae hereaboots. Heh, heh, we all must have oor fun, aye?"

"Right..." you agree nervously.

"Ah, an' I see thorse two sleeping booties yonder still snooring their bonnie heads off. Well, best not disturb them...but what ye say to a wee dram?"

Whisky's not quite your thing, yet to refuse him would be downright rude. Besides, you haven't got any other plans and you want to let Nick and an exhausted Tess rest a bit longer.

Roy follows your gaze, nods understanding. "Aye, dorn't ye worry boot yer friends. We'll cam back oot inna wee while, see hoo they're dooin'... "
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