Monthly Archives: October 2009

In The Spider’s Midden

“Aha!” Miklos exclaimed the light from the stone glining off the bones. “Some sort of spider midden. This looks hopeful, perhaps some hapless victim has left something down there. There seems to be little alternative and we cannot hang about. Maruc have you your rope handy still?”

“Of course…somewhere.” replied the priest rummaging about in his pack untill he located his rope. “Here!” he said triumphantly pulling out the cord. “Whats your plan?”

“Simply this.” he said, “As it is my idea to return I shall volunteer to descend into the midden, also I am the least weighty upon a rope. Tie the rope about my waist. Lower me but five feet. I shall use my staff to ensure nothing surprising hides within the corpses by poking around. If I call or someone comes unexpectedly, draw me up. If I instruct you to complete the descent please lower and I shall perform a thorough examination of the refuse.”

Stephan watched carefully as Mikos tied the bowline. He gave a slight grunt and nod at seeing the knot well tied. He moved to the side, holding his light stone up to provide extra light. “I wonder if I could affix this to my helm,” he muttered half to himself.

Without further ado the mage removed his packs and had tied the rope in a loop about himself. He tested the bowline knot he’d used. And his lecturers said that his dalliance with punting about Specularum was a waste of time! Miklos smiled, the knot was secure. Collecting the staff he bade the priest to lower him slowly in. Maruc shed his own pack and looped the rope over his shoulder and braced himself against the weight.

Half way he said, “OK. That will do.” Somewhat awkwardly he poked the the refuse with his staff. and waited a few seconds, shining his light down. he poked again for good measure but nothing untoward happened. “It seems safe enough, lower me down please.”

The priest gently paid out the rope until it went slack. Using his own lightstone he observed the mage’s progress from above. He gathered the slack in case he needed a swift evacuation.

Watching the human descend was sheer boredom, Hasan thought, and to have gone back into the caves worse. He nearly jumped in himself, just to have something to do, but the only way they were headed back into the forestland was if they got through this quickly. So the elf nocked the arrow instead.

Hernane, glanced at Hasan and could tell he was unimpressed at this excursion back into the caves. Having little else to do she retreated 20 paces back up into the tunnel so she could listen and watch for any return of the orcs without the noise and might of the group interfering with her infravision. The sooner they were on their way the better she whispered to herself, the orcs will return soon and no doubt in greater numbers. Kneeling down against the tunnel wall, she held her axe tightly, listening intently for any sign of the black web clan.

Feldard was unfortunately the one to be left with Maruc, hauling the mage up and down. He personally thought this sidetrekking for gain was a little beneath them but perhaps the mage had a point. Maybe this would further their quest but he doubted it.

With his attention focused on the mage below, Feldard hadn’t noticed Hernane’s leaving the group.

Miklos carefully investigated the area with his staff at first then with his hands the contents of the midden. Amongst the refuse of bones and debris. He didn’t find anything of particular note. Apparently the orcs had stripped their sacrifices of any valuables before sending them to their deaths.

Next, the mage looked about in case there is a secret way on. He saw a small opening at the base of the cave wall to his left.

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Back Into The Caves

“Indeed, of course you are right, Miklos,” Hasan acknowledged with a grin. “We should finish our exploration of the caves. I am afraid I don’t share your optimism about the one hour tour, however. We’ll have to see where those orcs came from.”

Feldard glanced first towards Stephan, who was all ready for setting out into the forest, then he looked to Miklos and Maruc – prepping for exploring the mine caves. The dwarf wished the humans would make up their minds which way they wanted to go. In or out!? Bah, he had travelled with the duo of mage and cleric for quite some time now, he should be used to their oddities. Ah and now the elf joined the ranks. That settled the matter.

Feldard hefted his axe with a grunt. “No sense dividing the group now. Lets get this done quick.” He moved to the forefront of the party.

Obviously nonplussed at the turn of decision, and nearly cranially crippled with the nuanced manifestation of group think, Stephan, shrugged and joined the others making their way back into the mine. His lot had been cast with these errant adventures and, despite the looming, stoically judgmental precedent of his ancestors, he found himself enjoying this new haphazard approach to life.

“Maruc,” hissed Hasan as he trooped toward the mine again, resentful of every step but sure his human companions’ instincts were right. “What of the goblin? I would not bring him into danger, deep in the caves. He must be our guide to the lair of the Wolftribe. But dare we leave this prize with Takaryon? What if he slipped his bonds? Dare we risk this fellow’s life as warden?”

The elf stared at the gnome with the same affection all shared, at the industry and generosity and bravery of this small creature who had resolved to stay on and honor his brethren’s legacy in the mine, despite the clear danger. Tekaryon, oblivious, had already turned away from the party and was working away with clear delight at the smashed machinery of the dam. The gnome’s bright stocking cap ducked behind wall of ruined machinery and earthenworks.

“No, I do not know what to do,” Hasan turned away and continued to address Maruc. “That dear boy could not possibly defend himself, but he may not pay the closest watch. And he so lacks appreciation for other beings, it seems impossible … ”

Boom! Water, stone, sticks, steel, and one small gnomebody erupted from the dam. The gnome lay crumpled on the ground.

Hernane ran to her fallen gnome friend and sobbed, clutching the soggy, bloody shoulder, the shock of the last 24 hours finally overcoming even her sturdy dwarven nature. Hasan’s face fell, knowing his quest for Elyas’s knowledge was not worth the death of a friend, even one of duration as short as his with Tekaryon.

“I knew it, a simple clog, the easiest of solutions, really, did you see how that worked, magician?” burst out a familiar, unassailable voice from the pile of rumpled rags and sooty skin Hernane clutched. The assembled adverturers saw the 8 foot wheel strain and begin to gently inch forward.

“A mix my brothers used before, but only deep in the mine, though I told them it would work in fresh air too, it’s simple really, carcoal, brimstone, Salt of Peter, ground and mixed. We thought maybe the heavy air below was better, but you can see it worked just fine in fresh air.” The circular motion of the wooden slats accelerated.

“Wonderful, wonderful. A discovery, not quite of my own, but wonderful still. Let’s call it blasting powder, no? Because that was quite a blast!”

“It is unseemly, Takaryon. Truly, you must stop yourself. I can teach you the simplest forms of energy. This tinkering is a menace to us all,” Hasan turned away, relieved and disgusted all at once. The elf addressed the cleric yet again, pointing at the goblin, which had twisted cowering into the hollow among the roots of the stubby pines the guarded the pathway to the mine. “I cannot leave this poor soul with this gnome. You must decide his fate: with us back into the mine, where he will surely be no help, or luncheon and perhaps a nap with Tekaryon!”

The priest climbed back over the the remains of the rocky cave-in that they’d pulled apart on their inward journey. He was listening with mounting alarm to the elf’s words. He paused letting the surly dwarf move ahead then turned to Hasan when he joined him.

“A ‘goblin’ a poor soul? I’d keep that opinion far from Feldard’s ears.” Maruc said with quiet feeling, ”Goblins and their like are a murderous bunch, as we have seen. Your concern is admirable if somewhat misplaced. Do you think that they for a moment would have thought of our safety were the tables turned? I know that to compromise our principles we’d be no better than them, but if he wanted a quite life he’d have stayed behind and grown crops or hunted food. He made his own bed when he chose to raid, he must accept the consequences. Mighty Halav who guides us is not unjust, but equally He is not a soft fool.”

“My dear Hasan,” grinned Maruc, “Are you suggesting that a walk some 150 yards into a recently explored cave system, spending quarter of an hour or so hunting about then returning constitutes abandoning a prisoner? Not all goblins have the self discipline to be escape artists. And you are not showing much faith that Tekaryon can guard a well trussed goblin. He is not ‘that’ foolish.”

“Perhaps just a little unlucky?” added the priest. He then turned to follow the dwarf. The corpse of the spider lay across the tunnel and Maruc heaved it to one side with his metal gloved hands. The main chamber came into view ahead.

Lightstone in hand Feldard awaited them.

Miklos didn’t get the feeling that the others appreciated his suggestion. But he felt they were missing something. Something, it was hard to describe, something intangible. He was never one for Fate. Perhaps he’d been around the priest too long. He also chambered over the rocks and followed the snaking path back to the spider chamber.

“Is Hasan right?” he muttered to himself, “Is this just a fools errand? I have seen precious little evidence that the goblins have anything to do with the Sons of Night. And what was it that Nicolai had said about his mother? He was steeped in contacts of the seedier side of society perhaps it was more than some homeward plea? And we have been lead astray by…Feldard? No, ridiculous it was brigands and goblins. Easy to hire with enough money. But that suggested that they needed to kill us or at least keep us busy.”

“I need more facts. Somewhere there must be something…” he said aloud. “We’re like blind men searching for illumination.”

Hernane followed the others into the caverns, she was uneasy about leaving Tekaryon alone with the prisoner, but it was quite well trussed up but she hoped her friend would remain safe. Truth be told she was also uneasy about the Orcs, they would be back once their courage returned this she knew they would not take there defeat easily. She wished she had some better armour and weapons, for she anticipated some more combat ahead.

* * * * *

The group carefully made their way back to the spider’s lair. There was no sign of the orcs just yet. At the rear of the chamber, a ten-foot ledge dropped down into a new cavern where piles of bones and remnants of clothing, equipment and other debris were littered the floor.

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Anyone Else Coming?

Feldard soured at the idea of taking gold that Hernane had helped mine. He refused payment from the gnome and kept to watching the mine tunnel.

Hernane’s attempt last night at making peace did little to make him view the situation any better. Yet despite his anger, Feldard couldn’t help but strain to hear her response to the gnome. Maybe if she didn’t go back right away there might be chance to have her see reason and the soundness of their parents plans.

“Thank you, Tekaryon. This is most generous.”

Hasan thanked the gnome Tekaryon for his generosity. “Be well, master gnome, but our paths must separate now.”

The elf then turned to his companions. “We have lost much time against the goblins. There is little choice now, but to head as quickly as possible into the heart of the forest. Let us be off.”

Stephan nodded enthusiastically at Hasan’s goading to be underway. He readied his belongings, checked his boots and hefted his shield to the back.

“Yes, let’s be off.”

Turning to the group Hernane says “I would like to travel with you a while longer if you would have me. Thank you Tekaryon for your offer, but I think I will take my share of the gold. My days here at the mine are over, I have some responsibilities to face up too at home. I will travel with Feldard and his companions until we are closer to Rockhome, and then I will make my way back home. Thank you for all that you have done. (She hugs him). Please come and visit me one day soon”.

Maruc looked at Miklos. “Looks like everyone prefers goblin tracking to pot holing.”

“So know one wants to see if that terrible creature we just slew had anything we might find useful against the goblins?” Miklos asked. “It wouldn’t be too dangerous now and I for one am curious. I’m sure it wouldn’t take too long.”

“Well I’m easy.” said Maruc “I’m no tracker so I can’t judge if another hour or so will make much difference. We know pretty much where they are headed anyway.”

“Look if its that important to you. Give me a lightstone and I’ll dive in there and hunt around the web for stuff.”

Miklos handed him a lightstone and he pulled one out for himself.

“Anyone else coming?” the priest asked.

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Holing Up For The Night

Maruc smiled genuinely as Hernane recovered. He helped her out of the caves into the light of the late evening as it closed over the mountains creating long shadows. He took her to a quite hollow and spoke in low tones, “I don’t know what has passed between you and Master Feldard. I don’t wish to know. But unless you resolve this, he will do something rash. Perhaps something I cannot save him from,” concern flushed across the priest’s face. “He has been reckless in his search for you. He is driven, an obsessive.”

He paused wondering how far to push it. A life was at stake, he had no choice.

“I fear that he will kill himself in some reckless act. I don’t know how to explain this to you in such a way that places some of the responsibility with you, but can you do anything? I can’t lie to you but I’ve seen his recklessness with my own eyes. Help him if you can.”

Maruc wondered at his own conviction. It must be some deep connection with the simplistic image of the world the dwarf presented, something Maruc wanted to capture and hold bah… too hard to understand. All he knew was Feldard needed help and this was the best he could offer. No magic he knew could solve this. He hoped it was enough to save the surly dwarf.

But he doubted himself.

Relieved to be outside in the fresh air Miklos wondered if the spider-cult orcs would seek swift and brutal revenge on them as they slept. “Before we settle out here would it be easier to defend one of the miners chambers with the door just inside the entrance hall?” the Mage felt his stomach rumble and he was quite thirsty, “I need to meditate properly, amongst other things, and I’d rather do it undisturbed.”

Maruc, thanks for your kindness and well meaning words. I would wish no harm to fall upon Feldard, he is always been in my life and we have many fond memories together. He values his pride highly and his duty to his clan he values more than life itself.

I too fear for him, my choice not to wed him has hurt him badly. I will do what I can to sooth his feelings but I fear he will not listen to me, but he had to know the truth for I could not live with myself if he were to fall protecting me out of some misguided sense of duty based on an arrangement between our fathers. I refuse to be treated as commodity. Also he has to grow up and soon he will realisize that he did not love me either and both our lives will be richer and happier because of the events of today. Give him time Maruc, look after him; he needs his comrades now more than ever.

Like Miklos, and indeed everyone save the dwarves who didn’t seem to notice much difference, Stephan breathed deeply of the fresh air.

It was a bit ominous, however, to emerge at dusk. The need to secure “lodgings” for the night was pressing.

“Hurmmm,” Stephan half grunted at Miklos’s suggestion of returning to the mine to stay the night. “The thought does not appeal to me. I’d rather make tracks before night fall and find some place to camp.”

He turned and eyed the setting sun. Then the mine entrance.

“Well, I think you’re right, Miklos. Our safest course is holing up for the night. We can stack some stones to serve as a barrier in the entrance.

“Ugh. That stinking spider won’t be pleasant through the night.”

Feldard guarded the rear of the party as it emerged out into the open. He was grateful for the clerics overseeing of Hernane as they traveled through the mine. After her announcement earlier, Feldard was loath to be even in her company, much less assist her.

He kept watch on the tunnel they just left as the humans talked of resting the night in a miners chamber. He snorted. Humans!

“I’ll take first watch.” And with that said, Feldard moved on back further into the tunnel to keep an eye alert for orcs or more goblins. He’d wait until he was sure SHE was asleep before returning.

Hernane, finding she could not sleep, got up and approached Feldard while he was on watch. She spoke to him in the language of the Rockborn “I think it is about time we talked openly and honestly. I know you are hurt by my announcement; however I have tried before to tell you how I feel and my decision to leave Rockhome I thought would have made my feelings for our arranged marriage quite clear. I am sorry if I have hurt you. That was not what I intended and in time I am sure you will see this. I could see that in time we would both be unhappy in this arranged deal between our families, so even though now you are hurt and yes I know angry with me, I believe that you will feel differently in the future. I shall speak very highly of your bravery to your clan when I return to Rockhome, so that all shall see that this situation is not of your making and fault, I shall tell them how you tracked me down and rescued me, there will be no disgrace on you or your honour I hope in time you will find it in your heart to forgive me Feldard. I know you will make a wonderful brother-in-law”.

Feldard said nothing and Hernane, having said her peace went back to seek sleep.

The night passed uneventfully. Apparently, the orcs had enough of combat and decided to leave well enough alone. Or perhaps they might yet attack at any moment. There was no way of knowing with such a race. In any event, the group was now prepared to resume their mission, to find the lair of the Wolfskull and destroy them. Hopefully, they could find some clue as to the purpose of the attacks on the human settlements. There definitely seemed to be some greater forces at play here that they had yet to understand. This hobgoblin called Vlaak seemed to be their most likely source of information. Now, they just needed to find him.

As they weighed their next move, they heard a loud clank noise from a side cavern, followed by the sound of stone scraping on stone. Where had that gnome gone off to?

Tekaryon had unlocked a secret cache that he and his brother had built in one of the cave’s near the entrance. It had been hidden behind a natural looking wall and was unlocked through a complicated system of rock twisting, tapping and bending. Like most gnome inventions it was overly complicated. In the cache was a store of gold ingots that he and his crew had unearthed. After all that had happened, Hernane had almost forgotten about the gold. She had always wondered where the gnomes were keeping their take.

”Reward for your troubles,” offered Tekaryon, presenting the group a generous portion of his treasure. “I’ll need the rest to hire some new miners and clear out whatever is left of these rotten, hog-faced spider-worshippers.”

“And Hernane, you’re welcome to stay on, of course,” offered the Gnome. “You sound like you might be in a rush to return to your homeland, but if ya’d like to earn some more travel money, I’d like you to be my right hand.”

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Axes versus Arachnid

Upon seeing the spider, Stephan cursed himself for not having a flame ready. He directed his lightstone at the creature.

The priest sidestepped as sticky strands filled the air.

“What’s it doing with its…” was all the fighter was able to vocalize before being engulfed in the numbing webs. He collapsed to the floor, his lightstone still clutched in his left hand; sword in the right. The stone glowed through some webbing that had clotted up around his hand. He feebly struggled, trying to use his sword to cut the bonds. But his struggles soon waned and Stephan lay still on the damp floor.

“Come on now, then,” urged the elf. “We have it now.”. Hasan quickly summoned a magical missile and released it, sighing with satisfaction as it buried itself in the arachnid’s skeletal surface.

Miklos wondered momentarily why the creature hadn’t tried this attack before when surrounded earlier. Everyone seemed to rush past him. There was no room so he grabbed the stricken woodsman and set about pulling the strands from the bound warrior clearing his face, neck and arms. “Come on Stephan, don’t give up. I can’t do this on my own you know.” he urged.

The stuff was hardening as he pulled at the strands and making the sort of sound that cloth makes when you tear it. “There we go! that’s one hand free at least.”

Hernane – as emotionally drained as she was, suddenly felt the fire of righteous anger course through her veins – bellowing out a dwarven battle cry she rushed past Feldard and Stephen and charged the spider determined to finish off the beast once and for all. She thrashed out her frustration and anger onto the creature as her axe rose and bit deep into the spiders thick hide. Hernane felt that if this creature which had caused so much suffering died then some of her problems would die with it. She refused to be seen by Feldard as some poor damsel requiring rescue when she was every bit as capable as he was. “Go for the eyes” she grunted more to herself than to anyone who might be listening “blind it—then decapitate it”.

Feldard was grateful for his quick dwarven reflexes at avoiding the spiders webbing but they weren’t quick enough to grab Hernane from her headlong rush towards the beast that had felled her twice. Did the woman not think? Perhaps she deserved his younger brother – he too was an addle-minded fool with oafish notions. With a deeper scowl than usual, Feldard grunted and moved in to finish off the beast before Hernane could get bit again.

While Hernane went for the eyes, Feldard headed for the side, and swung underhand going for the softer and more vulnerable underbelly of the beast. He unleashed his fury on the creature, again and again. Each strike, each dying shriek of the spider, dissipating some of his anger and tension.

Hernane had been gripped by some dwarven battle lust, and Maruc was not about to interfere. He could tell Feldard was alarmed, if not more angry than usual. If that where possible in the priest’s experience. He’d be too busy to overhear any of their conversations but whatever had gone between them had obviously not gone well.

Still, thought Maruc, its hasn’t dampened their aggressive spirits…. every cloud so they say.

The arachnid was cornered, its was hard to help amongst the churning blades of the dwarven battle axes. But he did his best, whilst avoiding its dripping fangs.

The battle went quickly and predictably. For the third time, Hernane was paralyzed by the spider. The dwarf and cleric benefited from the protection afforded by their armour and put the beastie down. As in the past, after several minutes, both spider victims recovered from the paralysis.

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Squirt!

Miklos clapped with delight. “I see, I see. An interesting argument you pose, Hasan. And worthy of study. But for now…ahh Master Feldard is moving at last. Good. Good. Well I think its time we went our way eh? Excellent, Hernane are you well? Good.”

Maruc turned to Stephan. “Aye, it is pointless and foolish to venture further into the caves with no knowledge of what lies beyond and with no hope of a safe and swift exit. As I believe I have mentioned whilst we investigated the dungeons of Sevastian and Hasan’s Temple. Never leave an enemy behind you. Well that’s my opinion, and stop fussing old chap I’m not about to collapse!”

Miklos collected the lightstones that the Gnome hadn’t used. “Very well we must exit and brave the spider. Maruc is quite right, we must look to our own safety first and investigate second. This is going to sound a touch mercenary, but there may be some value in searching the tunnels later. We cannot live off nothing and Vlaak can wait half a day at least whilst we discover if the mighty spider has any treasure. Because I have no doubt we shall meet it soon.”

It was a relief finally be able to move once more. Feldard’s muscles were stiff and slow to respond at first but after a few good stretches and a bit of time, he was ready to continue on.

While the dwarven warrior wanted to delve deeper into the cavern tunnels following where the orcs had come from, he had Hernane to think of. “I agree with our priest, we should turn back. Head to High Forge and rethink our strategy. Chasing after the goblins hasn’t brought us nearer to solving this mystery. And Hernane and Tekaryon must be brought to safety before we continue.” Did he really just say that? It was a surprise to even himself that he would wish to continue on with this madness of a quest even though he’d just found his betrothed.

Hernane, with her muscles finally reponding slowly gathered herself together. She looked over at Feldard as she searched amongst the Orcs disgared equipment for some adhoc armour and weapons arming herself as best she could. She was not happy about returning to where the beasts was last seen and would rather continue on however she knew Feldards mind was already made up and knew he would not shift his view because of her. Observing that Feldard was relatively unhurt, she approached him “Feldard we need to talk, about us—our future. You deserve to know the truth, I have decided that I will not marry you, for my heart belongs to another. You have risked much and placed yourself in danger too many times for me to stay silent. My heart belongs to Grofnar and it is him that I will marry. I am sorry that your duty has placed in you in this position—I would wish it otherwise. Upon reaching safety, I will return to Rockhome—alone to meet with your family and mine. I release you from this arranged marridge”.

Everyone was uncomfortable at Hernane’s words to Feldard. Stephan watched the male dwarf for his reaction but decided to not let the strange feelings linger.

“Well, I’m glad we’re all on our feet now. I believe this is the way out. But perhaps, Feldard, you can take lead? You’re better in this realm of dark rock. That is only if you can move well enough after those webs. Since we know that spider is ahead, I can follow you up. Hasan, let me know if you’d like me to take over dragging that thing. We should still watch our back too.”

Feldard stood ominously quiet as Hernane shamed both of them with her open admission. His brother, Grofnar!? How long had this been going on? He ached to bellow out his fury at her but this was a family matter and was should not have been brought up in front of others.

He was grateful for the timely intervention by Stephan. Feldard brusquely nodded, grabbed up his axe and strode off to take the lead, without a word said to Hernane.

Hernane quickly wiped away some ‘grit’ in her eyes and then went over to check on Tekaryon to see if he was ok. She looked about the chamber for a weapon more his size, but could not find one amongst the orcs discards.

Hasan had bound the orcs to the spider cave’s teeth. There was nothing to do but leave them behind. He wasn’t happy doing it, as it seemed a likely death sentence, but who in this wilderness could guard a prisoner? Better to leave the orc here, where at least some small chance of rescue by his tribe remains, than to drag it kicking and screaming into the forest, where it would surely perish. The goblin was smaller, weaker, and more willing to be led out of the spider cave, however.

Stephan shone his lightstone about the chambre one last time to be sure they were taking all needed items. And that nothing untoward sought to trail them…Hasan looped the rope around the filthy bonds of the last orc and followed the party out the room.

The group carefully plotted their course back out of the mine. Apparently between the damage inflicted upon the spider and the casualties amassed by the orcs, the Black Web clan decided to leave them well enough alone. Still, there was the matter of the spider. As they navigated through the passages, their eyes darted around, looking for the glowing eyes of the shroud spider.

When they came to the spot where the route had been blocked, just before the exit, they found the thing trying to get through the hole. Cornered and wounded, it immediately turned to the group, squirting out a web.

Feldard short stature was of benefit to him, for he was able to duck out of the way. Unfortunately for Stephan, he caught the stream of webs full on, dropping him to the ground

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On the Exponential Relationship Between Energy and Mass

Feldard lay immobile, unable to move, despite the clerics healing. ‘A lot of good that did me!’ the dwarf silently fumed. The paralysis would eventually wear off—Feldard was certain of that.. but “when?” was the question eating away at him. Being hauled around by his companions like a sack of ore was not appealing to the dwarven warrior. But it seemed he had little choice in the matter.

Then the dwarf had a humorous revelation. Most likely the others would debate what to do at such length that the poison would fade before they even made up their minds. That notion while mollifying in someways was actually quite troublesome to the warrior in Feldard.

Hernane, lay silent waiting for the effects of the spiders venom to wear off, having been in this position before, she knew it would take a bit of time and there was nothing she could do to hurry up the process.

She thought that as soon as she could she would set things straight with Feldard and then hopefully stay with the group until she could safely make her own way back to Rockhome. In the meantime, she had gathered from conversations that the beast was still alive, injured and lurking somewhere nearby. She hoped the group would move in the opposite direction to where ever the spider had last be seen. She hoped that Feldard was ok, and could only inwardly smile at the frustration he must be feeling at his predicament.

Stephan felt the healing waves of Havlav through the works of his faithful servant, Maruc. “Halav be praised,” the gratitude was clear on the fighter’s face.

Considering the predicament, Stephan offered, “We leave the spider snacks here. Except for Hernane and Tekaryon, of course. I say we head out the only way we know. The spider is wounded and won’t seek a fight. And….”, Stephan was speaking as the thoughts came to him. “…we bring the lightest of the spider snacks,” he gestured to the still webbed humanoids, “to use as bait. It may be that the spider will be satisfied to get one back and we can make our retreat while it’s tidying up its food.”

He looked over the dead, web-tattooed orcs for any items they may have had to control the spider.

Stephan took a second look at Maruc. “Maruc, you are gravely wounded! Would that I could channel the healing power of Havlav to you, his trusted servant I see you’ve at least bound your own wounds. Don’t carry that, I can do if for you.”

The group was so diverse, with so many differing ideas on what to do and how to do it; they truly needed leader that would be acceptable to all. A person to make these decisions swiftly – keeping their goals in sight. Of course as Feldard lay unmoving, listening to the discussion unfold, he envisioned himself in such a role.

Stephan looked to Prince Hasan, who seemed to possess the rights of leadership in this group he’d joined. Perhaps this elf would see the logic of his suggestion to proceed out by the only known path. He hoped Hasan would lead them all.

Staring at the stricken Feldard for a moment, he could see a scowl fixed upon the dwarf’s face. ‘He’ll live,’ thought Stephan. But he’ll surely die one day with a scowl on his face. In the short time he’d known the dwarf, he had already started to dislike the low-stature humanoid. Not being one to find fault and pick fights, Stephan couldn’t quite identify what it was about the dwarf that irritated so much. He was glad, strangely, to see him immobile. Especially his mouth. ‘I’m sure he’d have something bitter and impatient to say if he could,’ thought Stephan.

Stephan, upon seeing not much decisiveness in Hasan, looked to Miklos. The mage’s obvious intelligence was magnetic. Surely he would see the wisdom in Stephan’s suggestion and have the sway to lead them out.

Hasan shivered at the human cleric’s warm, healing touch. There was no doubt this man had a strange bridge to the divine. He arose and flexed his arm. Already, the shoulder felt as limber as it had been before.

“Though I would return to see from whence these orcs have come, for now I would go toward the spider as well, Stephen. Fighting one is better than many, no matter how ominous that one may be. But I don’t think we can go anywhere before the dwarfs can move. So in the meantime, let’s enjoy the quiet,” the elf observed. He gathered up one of the lightstones, pulled out his spellbook, and flipped through the familiar pages. “Miklos, have you considered the implications of the creation of a missile from the vacuum? Do you think the energy and mass are substitutes?”

Miklos came over, quickly forgetting his surroundings. The two magicians were quickly knee deep in a discussion of physical theory. Tekaryon joined the conversation, but the mages soon tired of his excited shouting about an exponential relationship between energy and mass. They gave the gnome a lightstone, hammer, dagger and storm lantern, and the gnome happily wandered away, chatting all the while to Stephen, to Maruc, and to nobody in particular, about light refraction and color.

Tekaryon came back, 30 minutes later, from his wanderings. He had plunged the dagger into the lantern and wrapped it in the omnipresent, now luminous webbings of the great spider. The lantern cast a baleful green light, instead of the cool white tones the stone showed before. The gnome grinned at his colleagues, shifted the blade subtly, and cheery yellow sunlight burst forth. The gnome squealed with glee.

The two dwarves were once again able to move, only a bit at first, but it wasn’t long before they were back on their feet.

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