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 thing 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.
Seline screamed as she fell into the pit. She soon
landed on a smooth stone slide, that began carrying her down to the gods only
knew where. Raising her staff, she tried to slow her descent by holding it out
against the walls of the pit, although it did her little good.
As she held on tightly to her staff, Seline realized
that the pits and the slides were not meant to kill. They were meant to divide
any invading forces, making it easier for the Bearded Lord’s Hollow’s defenders
to kill them.
That was hardly a comforting thought to the young
Finally, the stone slide dropped Seline into a square room
of worked stone. Landing on her feet, she stood up and glanced around. All four
walls bore torches, and one of them contained the opening to the stone slide.
The wall opposite the one containing the slide opening held a thick wooden
door, while the walls to either side contained small alcoves.
Seline was surprised to see Revafour standing in the
middle of the room, his huge sword in his hands. She realized that Revafour
must have fallen into the same sliding pit she had, landing ahead of her. The
tall Flan glanced over his shoulder at Seline as she came up to join him.
alright?” Seline asked Revafour.
“I’ll live,” Revafour said, his exposed face still red
from the scalding steam they’d been blasted with in the cave above.
Seline realized that her face was likely just as red
as Revafour’s. She 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 said.
“They probably fell through some of the other pit
traps,” Revafour said. “Damn it all! They knew we were coming and they prepared
for us,” he said, shifting his gaze back towards the room’s single door.
“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 without
looking back at her. He swallowed once, as though his throat was dry. His voice
was ice-cold, and for a moment Seline felt a chill of fear run down her spine.
“I will-“ Revafour said, before the door burst open
and three large figures stormed in.
Two of the new arrivals were ugly, hulking things
almost ten feet tall, with dull yellow skin and bright glinting eyes. Clad in
crudely stitched hide clothing, the two creatures each carried a thick club ringed
with sharp, cruel spikes. Seline and Revafour had both fought ogres before, and
they would have been happy to never see the cruel, disgusting creatures again.
The third figure 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. The verbeeg were the smallest race of
giants, but they were just as hateful and sadistic as many of their larger relatives.
“Jus’ the two of you?” the verbeeg said with a sneer.
His voice was 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 weirdly.
Glancing back at Seline, Revafour gestured with his
head to the 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, said, before he laughed
triumphantly. “Plughugh, Bumpahnood, kill’em!” he said.
“Aye, Humding!” the two ogres said, leering as they
Seline now ran full-out for the alcove. She managed to
reach it just before Revafour charged over and stepped between her and the
ogres, preventing them or the verbeeg Humding from reaching her. Concentrating,
Seline began to cast a spell, as Revafour confronted the ogres.
If Revafour felt any fear, he did not show it.
In truth, Revafour wanted to laugh. There were only
three of the monsters, after all-and they thought that they could win against a
Tenha warrior? What kinds of fools were they? He heard Seline chanting, and he
might have told her not to bother, but his throat was already too dry. He felt
the battle-lust rising within him.
Bumpahnood attacked first, swinging its club down at
Revafour, but the Flan warrior easily swung his sword up to deflect it. The
huge broadsword seemed like an extension of Revafour’s arms, moving with
practiced speed as Revafour knocked Bumpahnood’s club aside and struck back. 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.
Plugugh came in from the side, swinging his club at
Revafour’s head. Revafour quickly dodged it and struck back before Plughugh
could get its defenses in line. Plugugh stumbled back, managing to dodge
Revafour’s attack before the Flan warrior’s sword would have cloven it in two.
“You call that an attack?” Humding said to goad his
minions, Revafour and Seline smelling the booze on his breath, 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, Seline quickly completed her spell, conjuring
a sphere of glowing flames in her hand. She threw the flaming sphere past
Revafour and began gesturing to direct it. The sphere burned the ogres’ legs,
causing them to howl in agony. Plugugh swung at the sphere, but Seline quickly
moved it away from his strike, before bringing it back to burn the monster
Bumpahnood ignored the sphere, instead charging at
Revafour. The ogre brought its club down in a brutal strike, but Revafour’s
sword was there to meet it. Pushing back against the ogre, Revafour held his
own against its superior strength, before he suddenly gave way and leapt off to
the side. Bumpahnood had a clear path to attack Seline, but it was stumbling
forward, completely off balance. Revafour struck before Bumpahnood could
recover, bringing his sword down in a vicious slash and taking the ogre’s head
from its shoulders.
Revafour brought his sword back up to meet Plugugh’s
charge. The ogre had given up trying to hit Seline’s sphere, and struck at
Revafour instead. It slammed Revafour in the chest, causing the Flan warrior to
stumble. It raised his club to attack again, but before he could Seline’s
flaming sphere burned its feet yet again. Seline caused her sphere to roll up
Plugugh’s legs, causing it to scream in pain.
Seline’s fiery sphere brought Revafour the time he
needed to recover. Striking at the reeling Plugugh, Revafour nearly cut it in
Revafour barely had time to catch his breath before
Humding suddenly attacked. The verbeeg blocked Revafour’s blow with his axe and
struck back, tearing into Revafour’s abdomen. Seline burned him with her fiery
sphere, but Humding quickly stomped it and snuffed it out. Revafour tried to
strike again, but Humding kicked him aside. The brutish giant turned back towards
Seline, who now found herself trapped in the alcove.
“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 spell. A series of magical bolts streaked from Seline’s
fingers, blasting into Humding and causing him to cry in pain.
No longer amused, Humding sprang to his feet and
turned around. Murder was in his eyes as he raised his axe and charged at
Seline, but her efforts had given Revafour the time he needed to recover.
Stepping between Humding and Seline, Revafour swung his sword at the giant in a
titanic slash. His sword ripped deep into Humding’s torso, before catching on
the giant’s spine.
Humding couldn’t even scream before he fell dead.
Grunting with the effort, Revafour put his foot on the
giant’s chest and tore his sword free. Pained by 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 uncorking the bottle, she poured the
contents down Revafour’s throat. He felt a wonderful soothing sensation flow
through his body, as he realized that his bleeding began to stop. Even the pain
from the steam burns began to fade.
Taking a deep breath, Revafour used Humding’s hair to
clean the blood out of his sword, while Seline went to retrieve her staff.
“Are you alright?” she asked in concern. She was alarmed
by the dangerous look she still saw in his eyes, but fortunately the look soon
began to fade.
“I…I’ll live,” Revafour said. “And you?” he asked.
“Don’t worry about me,” Seline said, 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 said as he headed for the door. “We won’t find them just by
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 said, 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 said. “And
they wouldn’t do lethal traps. Why would they when they could butcher the
invaders in person?”
“And yet we don’t have anyone here to welcome us,”
Amyalla said as she looked around the room. Torches flickered on the walls, and
a large wooden door was fitted into the wall opposite the one containing the opening
to the slide, 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 Amyalla, tightening
his grip on his battleaxe.
“The walls,” Amyalla said, only half-listening to
Weimar. “Do you have a lantern?” she said 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 said to 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. Setting Weimar’s lantern down next to her, she lifted
up her skirt. Weimar was surprised to see a collection of lockpick tools in
padded pockets tied to Amyalla’s garters. The halfling gathered several of the
tools, before she let her skirt fall back into place.
In spite of himself, Weimar swallowed hard.
Looking back at him, Amyalla smiled in amusement.
“I didn’t think you’d be the prudish type,” she said,
taking pleasure in the way Weimar’s cheeks were flushing in embarrassment.
“It’s a suitable hiding place, don’t you think?”
Turning back to the door, Amyalla began picking the
lock. She worked for several minutes, before she stepped back and nodded for
Weimar to take the lead. She put her tools back in her garter pockets as Weimar
reached out to open the door.
“Why were you walking around the room like that?”
Weimar asked Amyalla as they set off down the dimly lit corridor. Weimar led
the way with Amyalla following close behind, Weimar’s 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 said. “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.
“Of course I am,” Weimar said, peering into the gloom
ahead. “I’m just offended that they didn’t send any of their minions to greet
“Oh, I’m sure we’ll get our chance,” Amyalla said.
“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 said,
looking back at the halfling.
“You’ll see soon enough,” Amyalla said with a smirk. 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 said, stepping ahead of Weimar.
“And how did you know that the tripwire wouldn’t have
affected us from where we were standing?” Weimar pointed out, as Amyalla set
his lantern down and lifted her skirt again to retrieve her tools.
“The trap was meant to activate when someone hit the
tripwire,” Amyalla said as she set to work. “It’s hardly likely that a tripwire
would activate a trap for someone standing ten feet behind it, especially
considering how much room we’d have to dodge. I mean, honestly!” she said with
an amused smirk.
Weimar was tempted to shoot something back at her, but
he contented himself with an amused smirk of his own.
When Luna and Airk landed in the passage, it didn’t
take them long to get their bearings. Looking around, they saw that they were
in a corridor of worked stone. The walls were lined with flickering torches
that provided light to see by, although it was dim indeed for Luna.
“Where are we?” Luna 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 where the passages are leading in the same
direction as the cave above,” Airk said in surprise. “Why in the Nine Hells
would they do that?” he said.
The loud stomping sounds and the shadows approaching
on either side gave the woman and the gnome their answer. One of the shadows
belonged to a large, hulking ogre, coming down the corridor ahead of the
companions. The other shadows belonged to yet another huge ogre, as well as a
slim verbeeg with sandy-blonde hair and a refined, almost aristocratic look
“The better to surround you with, I should say,”
Bruddelmort the verbeeg said, as Airk and Luna raised their weapons. “I take it
that you’re not all that pleased at being outnumbered?”
“Not pleased at your being a coward, more like,” Airk said,
gesturing with 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
Suddenly, Luna turned back around to face the ogre she
and Airk had first seen.
“Flee!” she cried, as the holy symbol around her neck
glowed brightly. Immediately, the ogre looked at Seline, and then at Airk, and
retreated screaming down the corridor. Airk’s exchange with Bruddelmort had
given Luna the few seconds she needed to cast a quick spell on the ogre,
causing it to flee down the corridor.
Shouting in anger, Bruddelmort raised his sword. He
charged forward, followed by his lone remaining ogre henchman, as Airk and Luna
came to meet them.
Luna deflected the ogre’s first flail blow with her
shield, quickly striking back and whacking the ogre in the side of the head
with her mace. The heavily built monster hardly seemed to feel it, however,
swinging his flail once again and forcing Luna to duck. She struck back again
with her mace, this time catching the ogre on the hip, but again her blow
didn’t seem to have much effect on the ogre.
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. The gnome swung his
pick at Bruddlemort 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, slashing
Airk managed to avoid the full force of the blow, but Bruddlemort’s
sword tore a nasty gash along his shoulder and arm. Scowling angrily, Airk
struck at Bruddlemort’s hip, ignoring the blood that flowed from his wound.
If Bruddlemort displayed finesse with his sword, the
ogre Boondoo was simply brutal. It swung his flail wildly in its efforts to
crush Luna, but its clumsy strikes left him wide open to her counters.
Unfortunately, although Luna was constantly bruising the big lummox, she could
not seem to bring its 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.
Luna lowered her shield arm long enough for Boondoo to strike her painfully in
the hip, causing her to reel in pain. To make matters worse, Luna could hear
the booming footsteps of the ogre she had force to flee coming back up the
corridor. Unfortunately, the spell she had cast was only good for about a minute,
and even monsters as stupid as ogres would quickly recover from it.
Airk heard the ogre’s footsteps too, and knew he had
to act fast. The gnome smiled inwardly as the blow he aimed at Bruddelmort‘s hip
with was blocked by the verbeeg’s 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, hoping to knock Airk off
balance. Airk’s eyes gleamed as he quickly lashed out with his pick and pierced
Bruddelmort’s foot. The giant howled in pain and pulled his suddenly bloody
foot back, leaving himself vulnerable.
Airk didn’t waste the opportunity. Lashing out again with
his pick, he tore a series of bloody gashes into the giant’s torso. Bruddelmort
reeled 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 turned to flee.
Spadull, the ogre Luna had cast her spell on, caught
up to the melee. Raising its club, it charged at Airk, even as the gnome turned
to face it. Leading with his shield,
Airk blocked Spadull’s club and quickly struck back, piercing the monster’s
foot with his bloodstained pick. The monster cursed in pain and Airk pressed
the attack, this time using his pick to pierce the ogre’s knee. Once again,
Spadull cried out and swung its club at Airk, but the gnome easily ducked under
its pitiful attack and resumed tearing into the ogre with his pick.
Blood and sweat mixed all over Spadull’s body as he
tried one final strike. Airk almost casually blocked it and struck out one
final time with his pick, ripping Spadull’s throat out. The ogre collapsed like
a toppled tree, falling back with a great crash.
Boondoo tried to press his advantage against Luna, but
the young woman stubbornly struck back, praying to Pelor for luck. The sun god
seemed to answer her prayer, as her mace struck the ogre squarely in Boondoo’s
weapon hand. She heard the satisfying crunch of cracking bones, as the ogre
dropped its flail and cried out in pain. Taking a deep breath, she lashed out
once more with her mace. This time, Luna struck the dumb brute square in the
face. Boondoo merely stumbled back before it fell dead, slumping against the
Airk and Luna both leaned against the wall to catch
their breath, weary from their exertions. The injuries they had suffered in the
fight 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 moved
towards Airk, chanting softly as her hands began to glow with a golden light.
“Not me, you,” he said, shaking his head. “You’re the
one with the healing spells, girl-if you go, then there’s not much the rest of
us can do.”
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 said. “It takes a lot more than that
to kill me.”
“Pity about the weather in that upper cave, though,”
Luna said to Airk as they began running down the corridor in pursuit of
Bruddlemort. “No wonder you hate the rain so much. Just as much as I do, I
“More than that,” Airk said with a smile.
“I could do without the confined spaces, though,” Luna
said, frowning at the passage all around them.
“Oh, you’ll get used to it in time,” Airk said, waving
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.
She mouthed her thanks to Airk, who just smiled back.
Ma’non’go looked around as he rose to his feet, and
found 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 with him.
The torches on either side of Ma’non’go 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. 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 said
with a smile. “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 said. “I
suppose it doesn’t matter anyway, not when you’re going to die. Would you like
The slurs angered Ma’non’go by themselves, but the
giant’s arrogant, condescending tone filled him with rage. 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 retaliating. 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 failed to make any headway against Ma’non’go’s resistance.
Finally, Ma’non’go released the pressure and leapt
back, causing Nicknarn to stumble forward. Ma’non’go immediately came forward
again, raking at Nicknarn with his trident and tearing several long gashes into
the giant’s torso. The giant lashed out with his foot, forcing Ma’non’go back. Nicknarn
slashed with his sword, but Ma’non’go surprised the giant with his speed. He
quickly avoided the worst of the blow, suffering only a small gash in each of
his arms. 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 parchment.
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. The Olman’s 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 the floor.
Ma’non’go could only smile to himself at Nicknarn’s
death. He’d occasionally heard similar comments about the color of his skin from
people in the eastern Flanaess. More than one of the speakers had then made
further lewd comments about his relationship with Luna and Seline. Usually,
Ma’non’go only needed to give them a beating 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, come back to
them. Nor were they pleased to see the badly injured Bruddlemort return, either.
The sisters realized that the adventurers intruding on their lair were more
powerful than they had at first expected, and that they needed to make
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 likely.
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 thing 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
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.