Seline had tried to slow her descent by holding her
staff out against the walls of the pit, but to her surprise she was not
falling. Rather, she was sliding, having been dropped by the pit trap into a
smooth stone slide that was taking her to the gods only knew where. The traps
were not meant to kill, she realized, but rather to divide any invading forces
so they could be more easily killed.
That was hardly a comforting thought to the young
Finally, she landed on her feet in a room of worked
stone, with torches on the wall. Looking around in alarm, Seline was surprised
to see Revafour glancing over his shoulder at her, his huge sword in his hands.
“They were waiting for us,” he muttered darkly, “and
we fell for it.” His exposed face was still red from the scalding steam, and
Seline doubted she was much different. She still felt as though she had been
boiled alive, shaking her head as she tried to block out the pain.
“Do you know what happened to the others?” Seline
“They probably fell through some of the other pit
traps,” Revafour muttered, looking back at the door. “Damn it all! They knew we
were coming and they prepared for us.”
“It’s not over yet,” Seline reminded him
determinedly. “If we have to do it alone, then-“
“You don’t need to tell me that,” Revafour said
reproachfully, glancing around the room. He swallowed once, as though his
throat was dry. His voice was ice-cold, as was the look in his eyes, and for a
moment Seline felt a chill of fear run down her spine.
“I will-“ Revafour muttered, before the door at the
other end of the room burst open and several large figures stormed in. Two of
them were ugly, hulking things almost ten feet tall, with dull yellow skin and
bright glinting eyes. Clad in crudely stitched hide clothing, they each carried
a thick club ringed with sharp, cruel spikes. Neither Seline nor Revafour
needed any reminder of what ogres looked like, having crossed paths with the
foul creatures more than once.
The figure that had come in behind the ogres, and who
now came between them to stand at the lead, was a different matter. He
resembled nothing so much as an oversized human, for all that he was nine feet
tall and bore an impossibly large moustache. He reeked of alcohol, his nose was
reddened from excessive drinking, and his armor and clothes were stained with
beer and wine. His eyes also seemed somewhat odd, as his left one was lower
than it should have been and his right one higher. It didn’t take Revafour or
Seline long to recognize him as a verbeeg, one of the smallest races of giants,
for all that they were just as cruel and spiteful as many of their larger
“Jus’ the two of you?” the verbeeg sneered his voice
thick with alcohol, as he hefted his axe in his hand. “Whadda letdown. Maybe I
shouldn’a brought Plughugh-Bumpahnood’d be quite enough, I suppose. Hell, I
coulda taken ya both myself!” he burst out laughing, as his moustache twitched
Glancing back at Seline, Revafour gestured with his
head to an alcove in the wall to their left. Slowly, she began inching towards
it, alarmed by the look in Revafour’s eyes.
“You think it’s that easy, do you?” Revafour replied,
hefting his sword in front of him. “Then why don’t you try and see?” he said,
his voice never losing its icy calm.
“Oh, we will!” the verbeeg laughed triumphantly.
“Plughugh, Bumpahnood, kill’em!” he ordered.
“Aye, Humding!” the two ogres leered, as they charged
Seline now ran full-out for the alcove, managing to
reach it just before Revafour sprang over and stepped in front of her,
preventing the ogres or the verbeeg Humding from reaching her. Reaching within
herself, she began chanting, knowing that Revafour was badly outnumbered.
If he felt any fear, though, he did not show it.
In truth, Revafour wanted to laugh. There were only
three of them, after all-and they thought that they could attack a Tenha
warrior? What kinds of fools were they? He heard Seline chanting behind him,
and he might have told Seline not to bother, but his throat was already too
dry. He felt the battle-lust rising within him.
Bumpahnood charged in first, swinging his club down
at Revafour, but the Flan warrior easily swung his sword up to deflect it. The
huge broadsword seemed like an extension of his arms, swung with practiced
speed as Revafour brought it down. He tore a long gash in the ogre’s arm, his
sword continuing on to cleave into the ogre’s chest. Gasping in pain, the
monster stumbled back, its hide pants suddenly dark with blood, as Plugugh came
in from the side. Revafour quickly dodged it and struck back before Plughugh
could get his defenses in line, forcing the ogre to stumble back before the
sword clove him in two.
“You call that an attack?” Humding goaded his
minions, the booze on his breath even reaching Revafour and Seline, although he
made no move yet to join the fray himself. “Are you ogres, or halflings?”
That taunt enraged Plughugh and Bumpahnood, and they
charged once more at Revafour. However, the rolling sphere of fire that
suddenly flashed to life caught them off guard, badly burning their legs.
Plughugh swatted at it, but the sphere rolled away and came at him again from
behind, scorching him again. Bumpahnood charged ahead on his own, bringing his
club down in a brutal strike, but Revafour’s sword was there to meet it.
Stubbornly refusing to give in, Revafour held his own against the ogre’s
superior strength, before he suddenly gave way and leapt off to the side. Caught
off guard, Bumpahnood stumbled forward, and Revafour’s sword came down
immediately, taking his head from his shoulders.
Seeing his opportunity, Plugugh came in with his
club, slamming Revafour across the back and causing the Flan warrior to stumble.
Quickly following up his advantage, Plugugh dodged Revafour’s next strike and
hit him again, but he was forced to let up his assault when Seline’s flaming
sphere burned him once more. The mage directed her sphere to roll up Plugugh’s
legs, causing him to howl in pain as he lost his advantage. It didn’t take
Revafour, now fully caught up in his battle rage, long to recover and strike
back, this time hacking Plugugh nearly in two.
Revafour barely had time to catch his breath before
Humding suddenly charged in, tearing into Revafour’s abdomen with his axe.
Seline managed to burn him with her flaming sphere, but then Humding suddenly
stomped and snuffed it out. As Revafour reeled from his latest wound, Humding
kicked him aside and stepped towards Seline, who now found herself trapped in
“And wha’do you think yer magic can do, lil’ one?” he
grinned wickedly, briefly licking some of Revafour’s blood off his axe. “D’you
think you can stop me in time?” he leered, as he charged in to strike her down.
Expecting Seline to cast a spell, Humding did not
expect her to stick her staff out to trip him. Stumbling over her weapon,
Humding fell to his knees as Seline quickly darted past him. Turning around,
she hastily chanted a second spell, causing a series of magical bolts to blast
into him and causing the verbeeg to cry in pain.
No longer amused, Humding sprang to his feet. Murder
was in his eyes as he turned around and charged at Seline, raising his axe, but
now Revafour had gotten to his feet. Stepping between Humding and Seline, he
deflected the giant’s axe with his sword, before striking back with a lethal
riposte that tore deep into the giant’s torso, eventually catching the blade on
Howling in pain, Humding collapsed dead as Revafour
planted a foot on the giant’s chest and pulled his sword free. Weary from his
injuries, he staggered as Seline ran up to him in concern. Hastily reaching
into her pocket, she pulled out a bottle of dark-blue crystal. Quickly opening
it, she poured the contents down Revafour’s throat. He felt a wonderful
soothing sensation as the bleeding began to stop, and even the scalding burns
on his skin began to fade. Finally, he caught his breath as Seline went to
retrieve her staff.
“Are you alright?” she asked him in concern, still
alarmed by the dangerous look in his eyes. To her relief, she saw the look
fading away as Revafour began to calm down.
“I…I’ll live,” he nodded slowly, as he wiped his
sword on Humding’s corpse. “And you?” he asked.
“Don’t worry about me,” Seline nodded, although she
winced in spite of herself from the scalding of the steam. “I’m more worried
about the others.”
“They probably fell down some of the same pits we
did,” Revafour pointed out brusquely as he headed for the door. “We won’t find
them just by staying here.”
Seline quickly followed, although the worries she had
felt about the look in Revafour’s eyes continued to linger at the back of her
“Damned clever pit trap,” Amyalla muttered, as she
and Weimar looked around the room the slide had dropped them into. “The orcs
probably rigged it like this so they could divide and kill their foes more
“The old divide-and-conquer trick,” Weimar noted.
“They wouldn’t do lethal traps, of course-why would they when they could fight
invaders on their own terms?”
“And yet we don’t have anyone here to welcome us,”
Amyalla muttered suspiciously as she looked around. Torches flickered on the
walls, and a large iron door was fitted into one wall, but the room seemed
otherwise empty. There were no tripwires or pressure plates on the floor that
she could see, so the walls…
“What do you know?” Weimar asked her, tightening his
grip on his battleaxe.
“The walls,” Amyalla murmured, only half-listening to
Weimar. “Do you have a lantern?” she asked him after a moment. “I need the
extra light for a better look.”
Nodding, Weimar set down his axe and shield to
retrieve the lamp from his backpack. He handed it to Amyalla, who lit it as
Weimar retrieved his axe and shield.
“Keep your eyes on the door,” Amyalla instructed
Weimar as she walked around the perimeter of the room, examining each wall in
turn. Finally, she came to the door itself, and studied it carefully.
“They think they’re clever,” Amyalla said, more to
herself than to Weimar, and reached into one of the pouches hanging from her
belt. Retrieving a set of lockpicks, she immediately set to work on the door,
concentrating intently as she set Weimar’s lantern down next to her. She worked
for several minutes, before she stepped back and nodded for Weimar to take the
lead. She put her tools back in her belt pouch as Weimar reached out to open
“What were you talking about?” Weimar asked Amyalla
as they set off down the dimly lit corridor. Weimar led the way with Amyalla
following close behind, the lantern in one hand and a dagger in the other.
“Some of the stones in the walls of that room were
actually thin panels with spears behind them,” Amyalla explained. “There was a
device in the door that would cause the spears to fire if the door was opened.
I managed to disconnect it from the door before I had you open it.”
Weimar only harrumphed at that.
“What, you’re not grateful that I just saved you from
being impaled?” Amyalla asked ironically.
“Of course I am,” Weimar shot back, peering into the
gloom ahead. “I’m just offended that they didn’t send any of their minions to
“Oh, I’m sure we’ll get our chance,” Amyalla reminded
him. “The torches down here aren’t well maintained-it’s likely that they don’t
come into this part of the complex much, and they deliberately rearmed the
traps. Speaking of which, you’ll want to stop moving.”
“What?” Weimar asked in alarm, as he glanced down the
corridor. He cursed as he saw the tripwires ahead of him.
“Anything else in your bag of tricks?” Weimar looked
back at the halfling.
“Why waste the effort?” Amyalla smirked, as she
picked up a loose stone lying near the wall and tossed it forward. The stone
struck the tripwire and caused it to vibrate violently. Weimar threw his shield
up in alarm, but he found he had no reason to worry. A pair of scything blades
came tearing out of the walls ahead, before sliding back into the slits in the
wall they emerged from.
“If you’ll allow me,” Amyalla grinned, stepping ahead
of him to work on the tripwire.
“And how did you know that the tripwire wouldn’t have
affected us from where we were standing?” Weimar pointed out, as Amyalla pulled
out some of her tools to disconnect the tripwire.
“The trap was meant to activate when someone hit the
tripwire,” Amyalla reminded him. “It’s hardly likely that a tripwire would
activate a trap for someone standing ten feet behind the wire, especially
considering how much room we’d have to dodge. I mean, honestly!” she smirked.
Weimar was tempted to shoot something back at her,
but he contented himself with an amused smirk of his own.
It didn’t take Luna long to recover her bearings
after she landed in the passage, and she was fortunate to get out of Airk’s way
as he came down behind her. They were in a long corridor of worked stone, with
flickering torches on the walls that provided light to see by, although it was
dim indeed for Luna.
“Where are we?” she asked Airk as the gnome got to
his feet and picked up his military pick and shield, which he’d dropped when he
“A corridor,” Airk muttered in surprise, “and the
passages are leading in the same direction as the cave above. Why in the Nine
Hells would they do that?” he asked warily.
The loud stomping sound and the shadows approaching
on either side gave the woman and the gnome their answer. Two large ogres came
stomping out of the shadows down one end of the corridor, even as more
footsteps approached from the other side. These steps belonged to yet another
huge ogre, as well as a slim verbeeg with sandy-blonde hair and a refined,
almost aristocratic look about him.
“The better to surround you with, I should say,”
Bruddelmort the verbeeg grinned at them. “I should assume that you’re not all
that pleased at being outnumbered?”
“Not pleased at your being a coward, more like,” Airk
shot back, raising his pick in a challenge.
“Please,” Bruddelmort smirked, as the ogre standing
next to him raised his flail. “Do you seriously think me vulnerable to such
“Flee!” Luna suddenly shouted, turning her back on
the giant and calling out to the ogre standing on the other side of her and Airk
as the holy symbol around her neck glowed brightly. Immediately, the ogre looked
at one another, back at Seline, and retreated screaming down the corridor.
Airk’s exchange with Bruddelmort had given Luna the few seconds she needed to
mutter a quick chant and cast her spell on one of the ogres, causing it to flee
down the corridor. Shouting in anger, Bruddelmort raised his sword and charged,
followed by his ogre henchman, as Airk and Luna came to meet them.
Luna deflected the first blow with her shield,
quickly striking back and whacking the ogre in the side of the head with her
mace. The big lummox hardly seemed to feel it, however, swinging his flail once
again and forcing Luna to duck. She lashed out again, this time catching the
ogre on the hip, but again her blow didn’t seem to have much effect.
Airk and Bruddelmort were caught in a fierce duel,
with neither one seeming to be able to gain the advantage. Bruddelmort proved to
be remarkably skilled at deflecting Airk’s blows, choosing the best moments for
his strikes. Airk cursed, realizing that the verbeeg was all too aware of the
disadvantages giants often encountered against gnomes. He swung his pick at the
giant in a vicious sideways slash, expecting the giant to deflect the blow with
his shield, but instead Bruddelmort stepped back. As Airk’s blow cut through
the air between them, the giant brought his sword down, catching Airk dead on.
Airk managed to avoid the full force of the blow, but he’d suffered a nasty cut
nonetheless and there was blood all along his shoulder and arm. Snarling
angrily, the gnome kept up the pressure, determined to kill the arrogant
If Bruddlemort displayed finesse with his sword, the
ogre Boondoo was simply brutal, swinging his flail wildly in his efforts to
crush Luna. His clumsy strikes left him wide open to Seline’s blows, and
although she was constantly bruising the big lummox, she could not seem to
bring him down. Once again, she deflected a flail blow with her shield, but the
sheer force of Boondoo’s blows were causing her arm to go numb. Her shield arm
lowered long enough for Boondoo to strike down low and slam her painfully in
the hip, causing her to reel in pain. To make matters worse, she could hear the
booming footsteps of the other ogre coming back up towards them. Unfortunately,
the spell she had cast was only good for about a minute, and even a monster as
stupid as the ogre would quickly recover from it.
Airk heard it too, and knew he had to act fast.
Striking once again with his pick, Airk smiled inwardly as Bruddelmort blocked
it with his shield. Bruddelmort brought his sword down once again, and Airk
raised his own shield to deflect it. Sensing his opportunity, Bruddelmort
lashed out with his foot. Airk only smirked, quickly bringing back his pick and
piercing Bruddelmort’s foot. The giant howled in pain and pulled his suddenly
bloody foot back, and Airk didn’t waste the opportunity. Lashing out with his
pick, he tore a series of bloody gashes into the giant’s torso. Bruddelmort
stumbled in pain, and Airk sprang straight up into the air, lashing out with
his pick and tearing into Bruddelmort’s eye. The gnome’s pick left a long gash
down Bruddlemort’s face, and the giant stumbled back as the other ogre came at
Airk from behind.
Leading with his shield, Airk deflected the ogre
Spadull’s club and quickly struck back, once again piercing the monster’s foot
with his now bloody pick. The monster cursed in pain and Airk pressed the
attack, this time piercing the ogre’s knee with his pick. Once again, Spadull
cried out and tried to strike back at Airk, but the gnome easily ducked under
his clumsy strike and began tearing into the ogre with his pick. Blood mixed
with sweat as the ogre tried one final strike, one that Airk almost casually
deflected with his shield. Soon, Airk’s pick had ripped Spadull’s throat out,
and the ogre collapsed like a toppled tree, falling back with a great crash.
Boondoo tried to press the advantage with Luna, but
the young woman stubbornly struck back, praying to Pelor for luck. She was
indeed fortunate, as her mace struck the ogre squarely in the hand. She could
hear the satisfying crunch of cracking bones, as the ogre dropped his flail and
cried out in pain. Taking a deep breath, she lashed out once more with her
mace, this time striking the dumb brute square in the face.
Airk and Luna both leaned against the wall to catch
their breath, weary from their exertions. Their injuries ached abominably, and
they were still scalded from the burst of magical steam they’d suffered in the
cave above. Luna felt like she was going to faint, but she remembered her duty.
Putting down her shield and mace, she began chanting softly, her hands glowing
as she moved towards Airk.
“Not me, you,” he shook his head. “You’re the one
with the healing spells, girl-if you go, then there’s not much the rest of us
Luna, still chanting, seemed as if she wanted to
refuse, but the angry look on Airk’s face convinced her otherwise. She placed
her glowing hands on her own hips, welcoming the warm feeling of relief as her
injuries healed. Airk looked at her with concern, but she nodded and smiled at
“You’re sure you’re alright?” Luna asked Airk as she
bent down to pick up her mace and shield.
“I’ll live,” Airk assured her. “It takes a lot more
than that to kill me.”
“Pity about the weather in that upper cave, though,”
Luna sighed as they began marching down the corridor. “No wonder you hate the
rain so much. Just as much as I do, I wager.”
“More than that,” Airk smirked.
“I could do without the confined spaces, though,”
Luna frowned at the passage all around them.
“Oh, you’ll get used to it in time,” Airk waved away
her concerns. “You don’t need to worry, my dear-this is all firmly worked stone
that won’t cave in, I can assure you. In fact, I don’t even think this was
built by orcs-more likely it was done by dwarves or gnomes, who the orcs
eventually drove out of here.”
Luna relaxed considerably at that, mouthing her
thanks to Airk, who just smiled back.
Ma’non’go looked around as he rose to his feet,
finding that he was alone. He clenched his trident even more tightly, only
hoping that Luna and Seline would be alright. Somewhat to his surprise, he
found his concern shifting to Weimar, and then to the tall Flan man, the gnome
and the halfling who had joined them on this strange venture. The two women he
had sworn with his life to guard were still his primary concern, but the idea
that any of the others might suffer at these monsters’ hands did not sit well
The torches on either side of him cast long shadows
as he walked down the corridor, looking all around him for traps or threats. His
ears were what alerted him to the threat, however, as he heard the footsteps up
ahead. Raising his trident, Ma’non’go slowed his pace as he saw a large figure
emerge from the shadows up ahead. The figure was a large verbeeg with a tangle
of wild hair and a matching beard, carrying a large sword and clad in chain
mail armor. The giant seemed particularly pleased to see Ma’non’go, and a wide,
evil smile crossed his face at the human’s arrival.
“Just you and me then, darkling?” the giant Nicknarn
smiled. “So much the better that I sent the ogres away-not that I need them to
deal with a darkling, of all things!”
Ma’non’go felt a seething rage at the giant’s slur,
and his eyes gleamed dangerously.
“Got nothing to say, darkling?” Nicknarn continued.
“I suppose it doesn’t matter anyway, not when you’re going to die. Would you
like that, darkling?”
The slurs were bad enough, and the giant’s arrogant,
condescending tone made Ma’non’go all the angrier. He simply gestured with his
trident, beckoning the giant to attack.
Nicknarn whooped eagerly and charged, swinging his
sword wildly. Ma’non’go twisted out of the way and thrust back with his
trident, but Nicknarn quickly stepped back and avoided the worst of the blow.
The glancing blow Ma’non’go struck was absorbed by Nicknarn’s mail, and the
giant wasted no time in striking back. Ma’non’go thrust his trident up this
time, catching Nicknarn’s sword in the tines, and flexed his muscles as he
pushed back. Verbeeg were the weakest of all the giant races, and their
strength could be matched by determined humans. Such was the case as Nicknarn
kept pushing, but Ma’non’go stubbornly refused to give in.
Finally, Ma’non’go released the pressure and leapt
back, causing Nicknarn to stumble forward. The tall southerner immediately came
forward again, raking at Nicknarn with his trident and tearing several long
gashes into Nicknarn’s torso. The giant lashed out with his foot, forcing
Ma’non’go back. Slashing with his sword, he managed to tear a small gash in
each of Ma’non’go’s arms, but Ma’non’go was surprisingly fast for his size and
quickly pulled out of the way of the trident. Charging forward again, he
plunged his trident deep into Nicknarn’s arm and tore a long line of blood,
ripping through the sleeve of his chain mail as if it was made of paper.
Howling in pain, now holding his sword awkwardly, Nicknarn leapt back and tried
another strike, but Ma’non’go was ready.
Raising his trident, Ma’non’go smiled wickedly as he
drove it into the giant’s chest, impaling the monster up to the handle. His
muscles rippled as he forced his trident upwards through Nicknarn’s chest,
tearing a hideous gash that eventually ripped the giant’s throat out. Nicknarn
was already dead by the time he slid off Ma’non’go’s trident and collapsed on
Ma’non’go could only smile to himself at that. He’d
occasionally heard similar comments from people in the eastern Flanaess, more
than one of whom had made further lewd comments about his relationship with
Luna and Seline. Usually, a beating was all it took to make them realize the
error of their ways and apologize for their rudeness. When monsters like giants
or werewolves said similar insults, Ma’non’go was quite willing to resort to a
more permanent solution.
Sprinting silently down the passage, Ma’non’go only
regretted that none of his companions had been there to witness the scene.
The weird sisters were not pleased to see the ogres
Droolord and Hahaduh, sent back by that arrogant fool Nicknarn, nor were they
pleased to see the badly injured Bruddlemort. The sisters realized that these
adventurers were more powerful than they had at first expected, and that they
needed to make preparations.
Nodding to her sisters, Dorbella pulled a scroll from
a pouch at her belt. It was an old scroll, the ultimate prize from one of their
earliest victims. The scroll was scribed with powerful spells, and the sisters
had used almost all of them, save for the most powerful one. This was a crisis,
and the sisters knew that they could not afford to take these new threats
The giants and ogres shivered as the weird sisters
began their chant, feeling as if they were being watched. Something wrong, not
of this oerth, was coming, some horrible something that sent chills
down their spines. They were utterly helpless before it, and they could feel it
looming before them, something that promised infinite menace, attraction and
horror all at once.
Two of the creatures came at their calling, and the
looks on the creatures’ faces showed how eager they were to feed. The monsters
could not stay on this oerth for long, but they would last long enough to be
able to feed. That knowledge made them all the more eager to fight, and even
moreso to kill.
Ma’non’go soon emerged from his passage into a large
circular chamber from which several more corridors branched off. To his
surprise, he saw the rest of his companions emerging from some of those
corridors, and the look of gratitude on his face spoke for itself when he saw
that, while they had seen battle, they were still more than capable of
“That’s the passage, then?” Amyalla asked, pointing
with her dagger at the one tunnel none of her companions had emerged from. “The
only way forward?”
“We can’t go just yet,” Luna interrupted. “I need to
Please, Lord Pelor, she thought
to herself, as she reached into the pocket of her robe. Show us that your
light can shine even down within the recesses of the oerth. Help me help these
people, whose goals are the same as yours and who seek nothing more than to
bring the innocent home.
Please…help me help…my friends,
she continued, as she opened the vial of holy water she had retrieved from her
pocket. Her voice rose in a quiet, gentle chant as she dipped her finger in the
holy water and then touched the wet finger to her forehead. She repeated the
ritual with Seline and Ma’non’go, dipping her finger in the water and then
touching them on the forehead, who both realized what she was doing. Weimar
accepted Luna’s touch with little more than a raised eyebrow, although the
others, the ones who they had first met, seemed wary. The look in Luna’s eyes
did much to dispel their concerns, and Amyalla stepped forward to be blessed as
well. Airk and Revafour followed suit, and the joy they saw on Luna’s face was a
light indeed in the dim underground tunnels.
Once her ritual was done, Luna began chanting again,
this time pointing to Seline’s staff. Its tip suddenly glowed a bright gold in
color, and the glow soon expanded into a flash as bright as the sun itself.
Everything was clear, even as the adventurers steeled themselves for whatever
was coming next and continued on determinedly down the passage. The light of
Luna’s spell all but announced their coming, but that hardly mattered-they knew
the monsters, the villains who had made victims of these children, were waiting
At that moment, the seven people walking down the
corridor all shared the same desire.
To make the monsters pay with