Monthly Archives: August 2009

Feldard Reaches New Heights

The suspense waiting for rescue was far more intense than anything that she had experienced before. Even greater than discovering the fresh vein of gold that in what it seemed liked an eons ago, but in reality had just been last week. How her life had changed in such a short period of time. First, she had freedom and adventure. Then comradeship, and good honest hard Dwarf work teaching the Gnomes how to dig to wealth and glory. She inwardly sighed, this was a damn good mine, rich with wealth and so much potential. But all good things had to come to an end when the Gobbos struck bringing death and her new friends and she had been forced to retreat into an unexplored section of the mine, which unbeknownst to all set free the ‘terror’. Now here she was, waiting bound and trapped praying for deliverance from the one thing that had led her to exiling herself from her clan. Oh how the Immortals loved their little jokes.

* * * * *

“Aha! Phoneutria nigriventer gigantica, or large poisonous spiders, as quite evident here noting the bodies.” observed the mage, “I’d suggest at least one large specimen noting the orc there. Possibly not too dissimilar from the one we encountered amongst the Rahib’s chambers. This one would appear to be more successful, although the ‘larder’ might suggest several of them…”

Feldard grunted out a swear at seeing the wrapped bodies. “Miklos, any chance of any of them still being alive up there?”

Not that the answer mattered. No dwarf, alive or dead, would be left hanging as a meal if Feldard had any say in the matter—which he did. “We need to get them down. Any suggestions on how?” the dwarf asked.

Miklos’s gaze crossed the web-encrusted ceiling. “Getting them down will not be a problem. Getting them down without causing further additional harm may prove more challenging.” He judged the height of descent. “That drop could kill if the subject fell badly. Not to mention the chances that the spiders may be upset that we are stealing their food. Anyone cutting them free would surely be attacked.”

The mage paused a second. “A broad-based sleep spell should suffice and a levitation incantation on a brave soul armed with a torch should have them down in a trice. All we need is a soft landing!”

“A soft landing eh?” Maruc looked doubtfully around at his metal clad friends. “Well I guess we could all get our bedrolls out. “I’ll get the others.”

As Miklos and Maruc discussed options, Feldard moved further away from the two humans and their light source in order to better utilize his dwarven infravision. He peered about for the creature which would be likely lurking nearby ready to pounce—to protect its captured prey.

As he scanned the ceiling and the shadowed corners of the cavern, Feldard switched battle axe for crossbow and loaded up with one of his few well used bolts. Fighting this creature would be best done at a distance; for it was likely, given the dwarven and gnomish bodies above, that his normally stout constitution would do little against whatever poison kept his kinfolk paralyzed and unresponsive.

On the other side of the rocky teeth, Stephan kept his light shining to and fro thinking that at any moment an attack by some dastardly dungeon denizen would come. Through the echoing tunnels, he heard Feldard again call out in dwarven. Whispering to Hasan, “I suppose they’ve not found anything yet. We should probably head back their way soon.”

Hasan was intent on finding the outer rim of the cavern and so continued forward several steps, despite Stephan’s words. “I can’t imagine they found much of anything, if the dwarf is shrieking like that,” he commented.

Stephan and Hasan went through the teeth, and the group was reunited in the spider’s food reserve chamber.

The priest stalked back into the main chamber. “Hasan? Stephan? Ahh good there you are, we’ve discovered some lunch. Spider lunch that is, we’re going to need a soft landing, could I have your bedrolls? Thanks!” Leaving the two to their puzzled expressions he ducked back through the broken-tooth cave mouth then dropped his backpack and rummaged for his own bedroll and added his formal clerical vestments and town clothes the the pile beneath what looked like the ‘dwarf’ shaped bundle.

Miklos added his soft baggage to the pile. “Right, who wishes to volunteer to fly?” The question hung in the air.

Maruc took a smart step backward. Grinning wolfishly.

Miklos raised a questioning eyebrow at Feldard who was busy loading his crossbow. “Willing to risk your dignity for your fellow countrymen? Or would you prefer to stay on terra firma?” The dwarf started to turn on the mage. “Wait! I meant no disrespect, we cannot hope to just shoot through cords that can support two hundred pounds in weight, they must be burnt, and we cannot set the roof alight with mere fire arrows and should we discover a way to ignite the ceiling it would release all the bundles at once and have not enough soft material to couch even two of the victims. Also, the risk the the victims is also too great.”

Stephan and Hasan ducked in from the shadows. “More potential volunteers? Or perhaps bow cover in case the magic fails to have the desired effect?”

Feldard instantly balked at the notion of the mage casting magic on him—one would think that the elf would be better suited to being levitated.. but elf was a better shot with a bow than he… so perhaps that was Miklos’ reasoning.

It took a moment to gather his resolve but in the end, the dwarf nodded his agreement to the plan.

Miklos prepared his levitation spell. A faint nimbus of light encircled Feldard. “This is going to feel strange, in theory you just ‘will’ yourself up and down. You can go quite quickly. Remember you cannot fly side to side. Up and down only, you can push yourself off objects though.”

“In theory?” muttered the dwarf.

“Well. I’ve only done this once before.” admitted Miklos as he brought his hands together and completed the spell. He smiled encouragingly.

He centred the sleep incantation on the thickest part of the web. He pulled at and expertly wove the intangible magic and held it poised at the last command gesture. A flicker of uncertainty crossed the dwarf’s expression. “Light your torch Feldard.”

Miklos released the spell with a dismissive gesture.

“Will yourself up!”

Maruc watched the dwarf bob about uncertainly for a few moments. He was glad he could see his face. “I’d always knew he’d be reaching new heights.” He whispered to Hasan.

The mages’ instructions concerning this magic left a lot to be desired, but Feldard tried to “will” himself up towards the webbed bundles. His face was a mix of shock, fear and wonder as his feet rose off the ground.

Up, up, up he rose. It was an odd sensation. He glanced down and immediately wished he hadn’t. He wanted down and he began to descend—without the cocooned bundle!

The calls from those below recalled him to his task. He had to close his eyes to will himself upward again.

One by one, the dwarf grabbed the bundles, starting with his fellow dwarf. He could not see inside the shroud to make out any features of the captives, but could tell the different races by shape. Something about the enshrouded dwarf seemed familiar though. His fingers and arms were getting increasingly numb. The strongest one of the group, he was glad now that he had undertaken the task.

Finally, the dwarf finished the job and all the spider’s ‘food’ was safely on the ground.

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Troglodyte Teeth

goldmine9Physically she could do nothing trapped as she was, however she willed the voices closer, praying for deliverance. She desperately wished she could warn the approaching voices of the danger lurking in these vast caverns. She believed that the ‘terror’ must have heard these strangers invading and she knew it would strike swiftly to defend its lair.

As she mentally struggled against her entrapment she heard a voice that threw her into even more shock than she was already experiencing. Was that Feldard’s name she heard echoing in these vast caverns? If it was, then truly the Gods had answered her prayers. The thought that Feldard was close both gave her hope for rescue beyond comprehension and also chilled her, because she knew why he was here. Still she thought that was for later. Her thoughts then became full of despair that he might be killed rescuing her, because of her selfish behavior. If that happened then she could never forgive herself.

* * * * *

Stephan accompanied Hasan as directed by Feldard’s natural, subterranean leadership. He kept a vigil to the cardinal directions, as well as directly above, as the elf scryed what he could from the cavern scrapings and debris. Several times, Hasan asked him to keep the light stone more steady. The fighter tried to comply.

Hasan continued to move forward, his own nerves as jumpy as the faint light cast from Stephan’s hand. Every step thwarted the elf’s heartfelt hope that the cavern would end, but this was a cavern such as he had never seen before. While it lacked the dignity of the cave housing the great temple of his own village, the scale was daunting. The elf brushed aside another webbing and found this antagonist no less interesting a second time around, as he experienced the curious loss of sensation in his hair, a sensation—the subtle wave of motion with every step taken—that he had never appreciated before. Again, he was able to dislodge the webbing without incident. But by now his interest in the webmaker was much more than academic.

With the elf and human making their way to the right along the cavern tunnel, Feldard continued on towards broken stalactites, to the north. Taking the mage’s words into consideration, the dwarf was cautious as he passed through the opening in the limestone bars. He avoided the spider webbing that clung to a few of the closer stalagmites.

Miklos shuffled in next to the big priest. He brought up the glowing stone and lit up the gaping maw as Feldard climbed through.

He then leant in passed the damp limestone shards. In the darting light this corner of the cavern reminded him of teeth of some subterranean troglodyte. He placed one foot beyond its broken jaw and squinted into the gloom. ”More light Miklos, thanks.”

Once he and the two humans had passed through, he called out again in dwarven, his voice echoing slightly in the cavern, announcing himself and their offer of help. Once again, he heard nothing.

They looked around. There was an exit at the back of the cavern. Then, they looked up. Suspended from the ceiling were five web-shrouded bodies. It was difficult to tell, but they appeared to be one dwarf, one gnome, two goblins and…an orc?

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Cavern

Through her panic and despair she thought she could hear a sound; voices she thought, yes voices! Not the chitterling that bought the terror that had her trapped and entangled like a trout caught in a net. But whose voices were they? Not the foul Orcs or Goblins. She focused her thoughts and prayed for deliverance so as to have the opportunity to avenge her fallen kin and comrades.

* * * * *

Maruc grinned at Stephan’s quip and tapped his helm. “Keeps the brains in eh?”

The dank sounds of cave echoed vibrantly in the large cavern. Stephan hunkered back against a section of cave wall as much as he could. The light stone he held betrayed his nervousness as it flitted to and fro about the cavern. The light lingered a fraction of a second longer, however, on the odd cave cage structure. Illuminated ever so briefly were chunks of the living cave stone that must have formed the now smashed “bars”.

He looked to see Feldard’s reaction to all this. And waited for the dwarf’s wisdom in how to proceed from here. His sword was held firmly at the ready.

Miklos shone his light around the cavern. “Limestone and more webbing. The spider must frequent this area.”

Hasan held up another torn fragment of dwarf clothing. The dwarves had come this way—voluntarily or not, there was no way of knowing.

“This damage is relatively recent,“ deduced the mage, “and there is much webbing caught in the rocky spikes. See the splinters? They are both inward and outward suggesting traffic in and out. One might suggest a natural prison if it where possible to keep someone inside long enough for the stalagmites to join eh? It seems reasonable to investigate that tunnel first.”

Feldard entered the cavern and noted the broken limestone shards. He listened to Miklos’ assessment as he crossed the cavern towards the “splinters”; as he did so he noted that the cavern continued on towards the right as well. Feldard considered this a moment—the broken limestone could be a diversion or a trap. He paused.

Then motioned to Hasan—pointing towards the right. “Check that direction. 100 paces. Stephan back him up.”

Hasan nodded at the dwarf and moved slowly, softly, to the right, his eyes straining in the night. The big man followed behind.

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A Cavern

goldmine8 “Ah… they went this way,” Hasan called from the right. He pointed to a blue rip of cloth caught on one of the tunnel’s walls’ many rocky outcroppings. “There is no dust on this ripped edge, it is a fresh snag,” the elf reasoned. “This must be the way of the dwarvish retreat.”

But Hasan walked the other way. “One web deserves another, eh, Miklos?” he laughed. And the elf blocked off the entrance–and exit–from the other passageway with magical webstrands. “Remember this passage, Feldard,” Hasan called after the dwarf, who had already stomped off. He himself, the elf knew, would never find his way back to this point in the subterranean maze they found themselves in.

Feldard glanced back towards the elf who had their backs and nodded to himself before continuing on towards the right. The change in tunnel architecture was a surprise. The dwarven and gnomish miners had obviously mined into an older existing tunnel system. It didn’t seem like a wholly natural cavern; however, Feldard was having trouble distinguishing its original inhabitants. It would come to him eventually; he was sure.

Confident of his dwarven friends’ unerring sense of direction in the dark, Miklos continued following him. The light from his stone dances around the low tunnel and he was forced to duck occasionally. Sometimes it was handy being short, he mused.

Miklos watch the elf prince’s magic with interest. There were subtle differences between his technique and the elven one. It was in some ways was more fluid and graceful but fractionally longer in its execution. He could see the logic in the action but he wonder how long the magic would last. But he didn’t question the elf over this. Their magic might be different after all.

Maruc was getting frustrated with the low ceiling. Being one of the taller folk and less flexible in his bulky armour he found himself getting pains in his back with all the stooping. The lights swayed ahead of him and he did his best to keep up, fervently wishing for a taller tunnel so he could stretch for a second or two.

Stephan shuddered at the sound of slimy dripping deep in the tunnels. Most of his warring days had been spent above ground. He noted Maruc’s frustration with the cramped conditions. In a low voice, “Aye. I’m grateful for this helm, at least. Otherwise I’d have bashed my own skull a dozen time already. ‘Tis confined in here. I’ll be glad when we’re out.”

The cramped tunnel opened out into a large natural cavern, where dripping water has formed a legion of stalagmites and stalactites, some of which join up to form slender pillars. Across one part of the cavern a number of these pillars once formed a cage-like screen, but a way has been smashed through.

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Old Tunnels

goldmine7

Maruc skirted the sticky strands on the floor. He glanced nervously around, expecting the chittering of spiders. Memories of Sevastian’s catacombs and the chambers of the Rahib flashed across his vision as his eyes tried to pierce to gloom ahead. He followed on.

Seeing Hasan’s response to the webbing, Miklos knelt down next to it and lightly brushed the back of his hand over it. Hmm, a deadening of the skin possibly some contact poison. Good for taking prisoners. Using the end of his staff Miklos collected some on the end like some giant candy floss stick. You never knew, in a tight corner it could save his life? He took a few moments to see if any unfortunate goblins had been ensnared. If they had, whatever had done the ensnaring had probably made off with them.

So, finding none he rejoined the priest now eye’d his staff with suspicion. “Is that ethical?” He asked.

“It is if its used in defense.” chided the mage.

“It is an interesting substance, Maruc,” murmured Hasan. “It merits further exploration. I will want to study that myself, so try to save some from contaminants, Miklos.” The elf fell in next to the mage and began his efforts to untangle the problem. “Likely arachnid. Perhaps giant in species, but smaller types have developed poisons. Still, those are usually delivered by bite, not embedded on their web. You must know the rumors of the southern frogs, that secrete poison from their skin. Could such a mutation… “

Stephan saw Hasan’s reaction to the webbing and Miklos’s subsequent collection of some of it. He made sure to keep a healthy distance between any of his exposed skin and the sticky mess. Cupping his hand around the light stone, he shined it toward the mine ceiling, searching for additional webs or worse. Seeing that Feldard had the tracking well in hand, Stephan followed, keeping an eye to the sides and above. And occasionally glancing backward.

Feldard suspiciously eyed the left behind weaponry and webbing for a moment before pressing on. His pace if anything increased. Once more, he called out to the miners as he made his way along the passage. This felt wrong.

Like their rear guard, the dwarf kept his eyes roving in the darkness. Tracking the survivors would be harder now with the blood trail dwindling.

A little further on, the dwarves’ neat tunnel broke into an old musty passage, so low that all but Feldard had to stoop as they walked. The sound of water dripping into slimy pools echoed in the darkness. Shortly thereafter, the tunnel broke into two separate directions, each of which seemed to open wider, possibly into larger caverns.

It was difficult to tell, but there were some subtle indications that the dwarves had continued to the right.

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Comfortably Numb

goldmine5 “Good instincts to expect this trap, Feldard,” whispered Hasan, who admired but did not share the dwarf’s braggadocio underground. “Now, though, the survivors would surely think they are safe, no? If they are not here, they must know another exit to the mine and are making quickly for it. We need to take up our own speed.”

The opening was too narrow for the group to pass through, so the dwarf’s engineering knowledge was required. As he rearranged the rocks to widen the goblin-sized passage, Feldard grunted. The lack of response had the dwarf concerned, but he moved with a beautiful controlled power amid the ruble. For his own part, Hasan stumbled over a loose stone. He joined the dwarf and waited for the humans to pass through. The elf munched on an apple taken from Susikyn’s store and tasted the land above. “It is an unhappy forest,” he thought, “but it is good apple country. They should grow grapes.” He could nearly smell the thick, sweet, straw-colored wine that the Elyan made from grapes grown near their apple orchards. Then Stephan began his clatter through the narrow passage, and Hasan’s reverie ended.

Stephan eyed Hasan contentedly munching on an apple. The elven folk, he’d witnessed over time had a strange penchant for nonchalance at the strangest of times. Here we are, he thought, just entered into an unknown darkness of gripping rock and the elf sees fit to have a snack. I’ll bet he’s dreaming of quaffing some of that thick elfin vintage.

Looking at the magically illuminated stone, Stephan was visibly pleased. “Thank you, Miklos. Once before, I had the fortune to use a stone such as this but lost it in battle.” He happily doused the stinking lantern, placing the stone in it instead. The cowl on the lantern allowed the light from the rock to be shut off or narrowed if needed.

“I’ll not keep it in the lantern but it does allow some degree of control over the beam. I wonder…” and Stephan popped the stone in his mouth. Closing his lips shut off the light. Opening them created a stunning effect of streaming light that wavered at the control of his lips. He soon stopped this behavior after noticing some odd looks from his new companions.

Depositing the stone in his hand, “Well, curiosity killed the cat ,but it also lead the great Mensha to discover the lost City of Gold. And this mouth light could stun an enemy at close range.”

The dwarf ignored the antics of both the elf and Stephan and focused his attention on picking his way through the passage.

The elf had a point—the survivors likely were headed to an alternate exit. Feldard may not have been to this mine before, but he was well familiar with mines were laid out. Once out of the caved in passage, Feldard headed for where he guessed the other exit would be located.

Miklos scrambled through the fallen masonry. “Is it still stable?” He muttered to the deftly retreating back of the Dwarf. “I guess its no time to wait to find out.” He scrambled out the other side, picked himself up and followed the others.

Not speaking Dwarven, Maruc had no idea that his services were being freely offered. Not that he would have minded, provided they recipricated with some service to the spirit of King Halav Reborn, naturally.

He looked doubtfully at the narrow hole the others had squeezed through. Well, Stephan had got through so there must be enough space. Maruc elbowed off his shield and thrust it through the gap and then as an afterthought slipped off his backpack and shoved that through. He clambered though himself. “Well I’m glad we’ll not be retreating in a hurry.”

“Why is that pray?” asked Miklos.

“Because you’ll end up with a goblin spear up your posterior if you try to rush through here.” grumbled Maruc.

“You might.” Miklos brushed down his figure hugging robe. “Hurry up, I fear we are being somewhat tardy.”

Maruc grinned. He shouldered his backpack and shield and the two friends joined the others.

On the other side of the rock collapse, on the ground they saw some goblin weaponry on the ground. Nearby, they found fragments of webbing. Hasan bent over to examine it. Touching a stand of the stuff, Hasan’s hand and arm felt numb. He put the webbing back down and the sensation went away.

The path of the dwarves continued down the tunnel, which veered to the left after about 20 feet. There was less dwarven blood on the stony ground—apparently they took some time to staunch their wounds here before moving on.

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No Response

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“Of all the bloody luck,” lamented Hasan. They had been hunting in the forest. Now, it looked that they were earthbound, for at least a while. He lit a miner’s lantern he found amid the furniture; its sturdy, simple construction had stayed whole despite the struggles in the room. The meager jag of light it cast paled against the slivers of sunlight that nicked into this entry chamber, but Hasan knew the humans especially would welcome the light as the party entered further into the mine. For further they would go. That much was clear. The elf waited for the words of the dwarf that would make it so. This time, he kept his Feldard count to himself. “One. Two. Three …”

Stephan felt the adrenalin washing from his veins. He heard Hasan’s lament and was clearly nonplussed. The elf had always seemed so collected. It showed, he thought, that he still had much to learn of his new mates.

Sheathing his blade, Stephan, squinted at the lantern light while wiping some disgusting fluids—a common consequence of goblin slaying—from his cheek. He peered into the darkness of the mine seeing a bit of doorway and rough hewn walls. Sniffing, he nodded at the dwarf acknowledging his partnership in the recent melee. Finding a second lantern, he managed to inflame the wick with a bit of miner’s flint, thereby providing additional illumination for the humans.

Revealed in the additional light were the remains of Feldard’s and Stephan’s handiwork. Crushed in dismaying manner was all sort of goblin flesh and bone. Clearly, the majority of destruction was delivered by the dwarf’s fury but the Dymrakian’s account was no small matter.

Miklos stepped over the fallen Goblins into the main entrance chamber. Watching Stephan for a few moments, he realized that he had something better. Fishing around in his backpack, his hand found what he was after.

Light blazed from the magic users hand as he produced the lightstone. “Here Stephan.” he tossed it over to the astonished warrior. “It produces no heat to ruin our friends’ darksight. Just pop it in your pocket if they ask you to.”

Shadows fled before the Mage as light flooded the chamber, banishing most of the priests claustrophobia with it. He kept the relief from his face, no sense in worrying everybody.

A swift investigation of the chamber and the side room and tunnel to the right revealed there had been around a dozen miners dwelling here. They counted eight demihuman bodies among the carnage, meaning their number had been cut by over half.

“It seems some good miner folk may yet live somewhere in this gloom,” Stephan said. He strode to the door to which the prints seemed to lead. Cocking his head, he attempted to listen for any distant sounds.

Feldard didn’t waste time binding his wounds, nor wasting the cleric’s precious prayers. “Maruc, the survivors will no doubt have need of you. Prepare as best you can. I’ll take lead from here with Hasan’s tracking.”

The priest grinned, “I swear by the reincarnated hand of King Halav you’d probably say that even if you have no limbs left!” Shaking his head he withdrew to allow Hasan into the lead.

Miklos also armed himself with a lightstone and inspected the corpses piled around the chamber. “More Wolfskull. I wonder if they are regretting their sortie yet? Probably not.” He eye’d Feldard and idly wondered who many goblins you’d need to raid a mine? Especially if it was full of the likes of Feldard? Quite a few decided the mage. He stood next to Stephan, the warrior had a resigned looking face. “What’s your problem?”

“No one is staying quiet long enough for me to listen properly.” he snapped.

“Oh.” the mage remained silent.

The dwarf glanced over the group for a moment daring someone to gainsay him. But all seemed to be in accord.

He joined Feldard as he shouldered his way the to northern exit. “Do you need those scratches looking at?” knowing the dwarves reponse before he asked, but he was nothing if not polite.

Feldard strode past the priest, following the tracks that the elf had pointed out. Though the thought of the wounded worried at him, Feldard took care to be sure their route was secure. There was a chance that the survivors had trapped the path behind them to keep goblins from following.

They ventured about fifty feet down the tunnel from the miners’ quarters. Up ahead they saw a pile of rocks that partially blocked the passage. It appeared the miners had engineered a small rock avalanche down upon some of the goblins. Apparently, they had done some preparations in case of being assaulted. Eventually, the goblins had cleared away enough stone to continue their pursuit.

Feldard called out. “I am Feldard Scarredbrow of Rockhome. The goblins have been dealt with. A priest is available to attend your wounded.” He listened for response. He got none.

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